Saturday, June 18, 2005

Leaked Document: Pre-War Bombing of Iraq Illegal

A sharp increase in British and American bombing raids on Iraq in the run-up to war “to put pressure on the regime” was illegal under international law, according to leaked Foreign Office legal advice.
The advice was first provided to senior ministers in March 2002. Two months later RAF and USAF jets began “spikes of activity” designed to goad Saddam Hussein into retaliating and giving the allies a pretext for war.
The Foreign Office advice shows military action to pressurise the regime was “not consistent with” UN law, despite American claims that it was.

Business Week: Toyota Moves for Product Placement in Magazine Editorial Content

Toyota Motor Corp. has asked at least three major magazine companies to explore product integration -- that's product placement to you and me -- of its cars into magazine editorial pages. Say hello to another indicator of changing media mores.
There's no sign that Hearst Magazines, Meredith, and Advance Publications, the parent of Condé Nast Publications, are going along with what would be a major breach of the traditional wall between magazine editorial and advertising units. Still, it's a time, says Deborah Wahl Meyer, vice-president for marketing at Lexus, in which "ideas can cross between advertising and editorial. It doesn't always need to have the 'advertorial' note on top." Indeed, when Toyota came calling at each publisher, its execs talked up a favorite marketing coup: this year's multimillion-dollar deal that put its vehicles on reality-TV show The Contender. (BusinessWeek sales execs say they are discussing advertorials with the car giant.)

GOP Senator Angered at Bush: "Disconnected from Reality"

Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel is angry. He's upset about the more than 1,700 U.S. soldiers killed and nearly 13,000 wounded in Iraq. He's also aggravated by the continued string of sunny assessments from the Bush administration, such as Vice President Dick Cheney's recent remark that the insurgency is in its "last throes." "Things aren't getting better; they're getting worse. The White House is completely disconnected from reality," Hagel tells U.S. News. "It's like they're just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we're losing in Iraq."
That's strikingly blunt talk from a member of the president's party, even one cast as something of a pariah in the GOP because of his early skepticism about the war. "I got beat up pretty good by my own party and the White House that I was not a loyal Republican," he says. Today, he notes, things are changing: "More and more of my colleagues up here are concerned."

Background on US Use of MK77 Napalm in Iraq

Yesterday we learned that the U.S. may have used – or may still be using – another United Nations banned horror: Napalm. According to The Independent, the U.S. used 30 MK77 firebombs – a new generation of incendiary weapons - during the initial Iraqi invasion between March 31 and April 2 2003.
Like white phosphorus ammunitions, napalm has a strategic role when used against civilian populations. Napalm not only produces a sticky burning gel that adheres to the skin as it burns through, leading to loss of blood pressure and eventually death in a short period of time, but it also releases clouds of carbon monoxide that can kill by asphyxiation.
...Yesterday’s story in The Independent not only confirms that a new generation of incendiary weapons have been used in Iraq, but that U.S. officials also lied about their use to British officials.
In January, the British Defense Minister Adam Ingram offered his assurances to members of Parliament that no new napalm weapons had been used by the U.S. during the Iraq invasion. Indeed, Mr. Ingram made such statements based upon assertions made to him by U.S. officials. But in a letter written to a Labor MP, Ingram wrote:
I regret to say that I have since discovered that this is not the case and must now correct the position.

Google May Start Ranking News Stories by Accuracy and Reliability

What does the truth look like? Google, the company last week confirmed as the biggest media firm on the planet, rather hopes that it reads something like this: WO 2005/029368.
That's the number of one of several patents filed in the US recently by the Californian internet giant. According to that patent, Google is for the first time planning to rank news stories according to their accuracy and reliability as well as their topicality.
Google, and its heavyweight competitors, are pouring billions of dollars and thousands of staff hours into trying to ensure that when you search on the internet, you receive not only exactly the information you want, but also information that is true.
During the early days of the internet boom, it was predicted that search engines would gradually lessen in importance as users latched on to their favourite sites. But the opposite has proved true, with Google and its competitors becoming the way into the web for eight in 10 web users, according to Ask Jeeves.

Justifying the Silence on Downing Street Memos

One of the features of the newfound media interest in the Downing Street Memo is a profound defensiveness, as reporters scramble to explain why it received so little attention in the U.S. press. But the most familiar line--the memo wasn't news because it contained no "new" information--only raises troubling questions about what journalists were doing when they should have been reporting on the gulf between official White House pronouncements and actual White House intentions.

NOW interview with Chris Hedges, author of War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning

Commercial Satellite Imagery: Benefits and Risks

The ongoing battle on shutter control continues between military, commercial and non-profit NGO entities, just as Google Maps finishes adding the rest of the world to its site (even if the detail is lacking). And when Israel restricts the rest of the satellite imagery companies to 2-metre resolution, for whatever reason, should the rest of us expect the same level of privacy as commercial and military satellites continue on an exponential path to greater resolutions? [from]

Declassified nuclear document: The Feasibility of Population Targeting [PDF]

Google Library Digitization Agreement With University Of Michigan Now Available

Just in, news that the agreement between Google and the University Of Michigan for the Google library digitization program has now been posted online. Until now, no details of agreements Google has between libraries have been published.
Michigan Digitization Project is the university hosted page about activities there. The agreement is now listed on that page. You can find it directly here (PDF format).

Village Voice Interviews Steven Aftergood of

The best little secrets aren't kept from Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists. As the man behind that institution's Project on Government Secrecy, he has spent close to 15 years grappling with and defining the many ways the USA hides information. Aftergood has also sued the government to force disclosure of the yearly intelligence budget four times. He won once outright for the 1997 budget but got smaller satisfaction in the most recent suit for fiscal data from 1947 to 1970 when only the numbers for 1963 were released.

Judiciary committee approves bill to disclose FOIA exemptions

The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved legislation Thursday that would force lawmakers to explicitly indicate when they exempt information from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

Gitmo Lawyers Facing "Bizarre" Obstacles

Accustomed to representing clients in less exotic settings, lawyers for prisoners at the military's Guantanamo prison use phrases like "bizarre" and "Alice in Wonderland" to describe the obstacles they face.
In theory, everything is hyper-secure. Interviews with clients are considered classified. Notes must be turned over to the military. They are placed in a pouch and sent by certified mail to a secure Virginia facility, where they are reviewed for threats to national security. That can take weeks. Meanwhile, lawyers must be at the facility to consult the notes and write court motions.
In practice, the story is sometimes different.
..."It's impossible to tell your client you can guarantee the confidentiality of their communications," he said. "I'm leaving my notes in the hands of my clients' jailers."

Mark Felt's Involvement in COINTELPRO

After Mark Felt (photo left) outed himself as the legendary “Deep Throat” in the Watergate case last week, there was a media rush to canonize the FBI’s former Number Two man, and politicians proposed he be given the Presidential Medal of Freedom. But in all this gush to make Felt a hero, there has been little or no mention of Felt’s prime role in COINTELPRO -- the most gigantic domestic political spying and disruption operation ever in American history, illegally conducted by the FBI.
Felt, in fact, was indicted and convicted in federal court in 1980 of directing nine illegal break-ins, aimed at domestic political targets, when he was boss of the COINTELPRO operation. Felt thus became the highest ranking FBI official to be convicted of criminal charges since J. Edgar Hoover (photo right, with Nixon) became head of the Bureau in 1924. (He was later pardoned by Ronald Reagan.) And in the early ‘70s, Felt appeared repeatedly on national TV (on shows like “Meet the Press”) trying to whip up a climate of security hysteria that this country didn’t see until post-9/11, by painting the anti-Vietnam war left as agents of foreign powers.

A Nagasaki Report

American George Weller was the first foreign reporter to enter Nagasaki following the U.S. atomic attack on the city on Aug. 9, 1945. Weller wrote a series of stories about what he saw in the city, but censors at the Occupation's General Headquarters refused to allow the material to be printed. Weller's stories, written in September 1945, is now available.

NY Times: Congress Assaults the Courts, Again

The House of Representatives took a little- noticed but dangerous swipe at the power of the courts this week. It passed an amendment to a budget bill that would bar money from being spent to enforce a federal court ruling regarding the Ten Commandments. The vote threatens the judiciary's long-acknowledged position as the final arbiter of the Constitution. It is important that this amendment be removed before the bill becomes law.
During consideration of an appropriations bill for the Departments of State, Justice and Commerce, Representative John Hostettler, Republican of Indiana, introduced an amendment to prohibit any funds from being used to enforce Russelburg v. Gibson County. In that case, a federal court ruled that a courthouse Ten Commandments display violated the First Amendment and had to be removed. Mr. Hostettler declared that the ruling was unconstitutional, and inconsistent with "the Christian heritage of the United States."

The Art of Contraries: William Pope.L

By Afua Osei-Bonsu

“Hi, I’m The Friendliest Black Artist in America,” began William Pope.L at his Influence lecture at University of Illinois at Chicago’s Gallery 400. His is the art of contraries, employing reversals where high becomes low and the lens through which we consider race becomes obtuse. Pope.L crushes boundaries. A major retrospective of his work, Eracism, spans his 25-year career. It includes sculpture, collage, painting, video, web projects and performance art. Many performances take place in the street and his body serves as the conduit. In Pope.L’s performances he places himself, as the black male signifier, in various engaging and subversive contexts. His performances utilize, deconstruct and extend notions of race.

He comes from the school of Franz Fanon, who wrote Black Skin, White Masks and Wretched of the Earth. The former title, in fact, brings to mind the cover of The Friendliest Black Artist in America, which shows Pope.L with a white plastic bag with holes in it over his face. Fanon described blackness as constructed and unstable, alienation from the self. He writes about anti-colonial revolutionary thought and harmful psychological constructs as well as epidermalized cultural values. Revolutionary art of the poor, according to Fanon may be the antidote to a colonialism that brought about notions of black and white. Pope.L said in his Influence lecture that poor working class folk make significant contributions and that lack is worth having. In his book, he points out that ‘lack’ is actually embedded in the word ‘black’. The title of Pope.L’s book The Friendliest Black Artist in America parodies the good Negro which conjures up the spirit of the plaintive character Steppin’ Fetchit. But there is no mistaking that beneath Pope.L’s sometimes beguiling approach is what can only be described as a radical effort to forthrightly address the pervasive social problems of racism and poverty.

As Superman, he began The Great White Way project (commissioned for the Whitney Biennial). It was a 22-mile crawl through New York City via Broadway. He initially wore a business suit, crawling in the streets of New York City. His crawl performances embodied social struggle and highlights a radical intervention. Crawling from the Statue of Liberty to the Bronx, also, metaphorically suggests the migration of African-Americans from the south to the north. He moves horizontally, through urban debris, placing his personal safety at risk. He also created a piece titled Crawling to Richard Pryor’s House. It is not insignificant that he chose Pryor as his subject, given that Pryor often joked about the underclass, their despair and disillusionment with life in America. Pryor and Pope.L provided commentary on the social condition of the poor using farce, revolutionary humor and absurdity.

As Superman’s alter ego was Clark Kent so, too, does Pope.L have an alter ego. Pope.L underwent theater training at Mabou Mines Re Cher. Chez in New York City and holds an Master of Fine Arts from the Mason Gross School at Rutgers University. He has received widespread recognition and numerous grants, including the National Endowment for the Arts, Creative Capital and Franklin Furnace. He is represented by The Project Gallery in New York City and a professor at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine.

Pope.L’s street performances create metaphors of disenfranchisement that often make him appear homeless. For example he sat on an American flag in the street in Writing/Sleeping/Living on the Flag. In a performance at a Chase Bank ATM, he acted as a reverse panhandler. Wearing a hula style skirt of $1 bills, he beckoned passersby to take the money. He was considered, as is common with the homeless, bad for business and this performance nearly landed him in jail.

He often uses processed foods associated with lack as objects of power. Curator Stuart Horodner has commented, “Pope.L has had over the years, a shopping cart full of consumer items, including underwear, hotdogs, onions, mayonnaise, Pop Tarts, crackers, pizza, and a little bottle of Milk of Magnesia.” These processed foods represent packaged ideas. Pope.L often creates compositions with such foods that decompose over time; separating into their most base ingredients. He acts as a catalyst directing the potency of the consumables to their dispersion, pungency, sprouting, molding and breaking down.

The coloring of many of Pope.L’s food selections like mayonnaise, flour and milk symbolize “manufactured whiteness.” In fact, Pope.L, seems to have attached himself to the legacy of Robert Ryman who created a series of ‘white paintings.’ Though Ryman’s paintings are considered to be in the minimalist style, they have been sold from 2 to 2.5 million dollars. The color white is intended to expose other elements in the painting like the oil, acrylic, canvas, paper or metal. Working in Ryman’s tradition, Pope.L created a black painting titled Black to the Future. He did a series of 8 1/2 by 11 paintings on graph paper that he refers to as black family and white family. One of his paintings includes text that reads “White people are expensive.” He has commented to art dealers who have said to him, “You don’t want to be a black artist,” “well I am.”

Pope.L’s work brings to mind the work of the 16th century writer Rabelais, whose work was distinguished by his imaginative, extravagant use of language, coarseness of humor and satire as tools of social commentary. Again like Pryor’s use of power and virility or the Rabelaisian emphasis on the physical, in the Schlong Journey street performance Pope.L strapped on a white codpiece and walked around Harlem.

Pope.L has also appropriated civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King as a medium. He HeHHHHHprinted on postcards the farcical, iconoclastic and seemingly blasphemous statement, “this is a painting of Martin Luther King’s penis inside my father’s vagina” for his Distributing Martin project. Another component of this project involved enacting the injection of apples with the DNA of Martin Luther King at the MIT Media Lab, packaging the ideologies of Martin Luther King and exploiting them for public consumption.

Afua: I understand you use a series of questions when you begin a project. What kind of questions do you ask yourself?
Pope.L: What is it? Why is it? How is it?
Afua: You often use yourself in your work. How would you describe that process?
Pope.L: It’s not so much a process, as it is a technique. Part of it is practical; it has to do with usually making a choice. If I’m going to suggest a strategy to someone, I should try it first.
Afua: You titled the retrospective of 25 years of your work Eracism. Why?
Pope.L: A number of reasons. First I’m interested in the history of interaction called racism. I’m also interested in the idea of racism as a kind telepathy, something that’s not so much about bodies as about how we think about things. It’s a form of dysfunctional communication. As in cyber jargon, the idea of Eracism, suggests a platform that facilitates communication about racism. Racism is not something that simply belongs to the people who do it. It’s multi-directional, it’s more 3 dimensional. I think when a parent of a child is racist to her neighbor even the child is affected. The action of one effects many others.
Afua: Lets discuss Interventionist art. How would you describe it?
Pope.L: It’s a strategy typically, though I’m not as familiar with the term. What I am after in using intervention as a strategy is similar to when a family conducts an intervention with a family member that has a chemical problem. They’re trying to bring attention to a crisis or something important that the individual needs to pay attention to. I think that’s what an interventionist artist does. The focus, however, is society as opposed to the individual. They’re trying to focus or draw attention to something that needs to be dealt with.
Afua: Your art suggests that art should focus on civic or humanitarian concerns. In what way does art have the power to change things?
Pope.L: I think that art helps draw attention to things. Art enlists people to participate in change both within and outside themselves.
Afua: You pasted suspected al-Qaida terrorists on bologna. I assume that this is a commentary on the war. Explain that.
Pope.L: It’s not a commentary on the war. It’s a commentary on how we see the enemy. Those images came from the cover of the news organ, The New York Times. It constructs al-Qaida as ghosts, as not human. If it does anything for these folks, it objectifies their otherness and reduces them to a product, something to be consumed as the enemy.
Afua: Tell me about Distributing Martin?
Pope.L: Distributing Martin is an ongoing project that has taken primarily the form of a blog. A blog is a web log, a cyber log or a journal. Basically this project tells a story of dispersal of Martin Luther King’s body. How do I do this? Several ways. I will tell you one or two; the blog itself mentions 13, 14 or more. The first is the idea of how we remember King. Lets look at one of the postcard projects. I had printed onto 8000 postcards, “This is a painting of Martin Luther King’s penis inside my father’s vagina.” I sent this card to people I randomly selected from telephone directories and, in this way, the message was scattered throughout the 50 states, plus Guam, the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The phrase itself is a turning inside out of King’s body. Asking us to look at his body in a way that we’re not used to, stretching our idea of who he was in ways which we are not used to. The website is
Afua: Your projects have included laying nude in the Project Gallery in New York on a bedspring, crawling urban streets, and eating and regurgitating the Wall Street Journal. What are your boundaries, where do you draw the line?
Pope.L: It’s like asking what is meaningful to you. It also asks you what would you do to preserve your own life or maybe the lives of those you love. It’s a political question, too. So I think you can also ask, what would you do to protect what is most important to you in terms of ideas or beliefs. Like, for example, would murder ever be a choice to solve a problem? Can murder ever be a choice that an artist would make? I think there might be a case somewhere for that. Didn’t Malcolm X say, “by any means necessary? …”
Afua: In The Great White Way performance you were costumed as Superman yet you were crawling and Superman is associated with flying. How do you explain the irony there?
Pope.L: It’s a simple reversal. That which is high is now low. In the Bible that which is the beginning is the end and that which is the end is the beginning.
Afua: What’s coming up?
Pope.L: I’m working on a project currently, called The Black Factory. It’s a mobile library, a gift shop on wheels. The aim is to take blackness where it is needed most. Needless to say, it will travel the United States.
[Reprinted by permission. Thanks, Afua!]

Music As A Weapon: Thomas Mapfumo Mukanya

By Afua Osei-Bonsu

Thomas Mapfumo Mukanya, is known throughout the world as “The Lion of Zimbabwe.” He is revered for his musical accomplishments as well as his social activism. He is the founder of Chimurenga (which means struggle in his native Shona tongue), music which blends the traditional instrument of his people, the mbira (or thumb piano) and western instruments such as the electric guitar, keyboard, horns and drums with politically charged lyrics and traditional proverbs. The mbira produces cyclic melodic vibrations and is traditionally used for religious or formal ceremonies and social occasions. There is a spiritual quality about Mukanya’s music. It is vital, essential, soulful and, as he describes it, helps him commune with his ancestors. Like Nigerian Afro beat star Fela Kuti, Mukanya is a legendary champion of the rights of the common man, focusing on governmental abuses of power with music that is sublimely hypnotic and precise. As Fela has aptly described, both have used music as “the weapon of the future.” And, both have faced vilification and spent time in prison.

Mukanya’s political struggle began in the 1970’s during the war for liberation against what was then the government of Rhodesia that was run by whites. He is a musician whose resistance to colonial rule involved respect for tradition. In 1977, he was jailed for 90 days because the white Rhodesian government considered his music to be subversive and was threatened by his popularity. Despite independence in 1980 and subsequent black majority rule led by Robert Mugabe for more than two decades, for Mukanya the struggles of Zimbabwe continue. He continues to speak against government corruption and rights violations of his people. After Mugabe came to power, he stripped white farmers of their land, much of which has gone untilled and resulted in widespread famine. It has been widely reported that as economic crises have risen, so has government repression. Some say that Mugabe’s dictatorial rule makes a mockery of the gift of independence. It was recently estimated that seven million Zimbabweans face starvation and that those who oppose the government face torture, arbitrary imprisonment and sometimes, death.

Mukanya currently resides with his family in Eugene, Oregon and travels widely with his band, “The Blacks Unlimited.” They will play a concert in July 2004 at The Hot House located at 31 East Balboa in Chicago. Call 312/362-9707 for more information. Mukanya and The Blacks Unlimited also have an upcoming European tour.

Afua: How does your music reflect the political situation in Zimbabwe today?
Mukanya: Well, the music I’ve been playing reflects the struggle in my country for liberation. When I started, we were fighting for freedom against white rule. Today, we have a black government, but there is no difference. So, when you think about it, sometimes it seems best to write love songs for the rest of the world. Then you think about the conditions under which most of your people live and you have second thoughts. You ask yourself, ‘what am I supposed to be doing for my people?’ I’m talking about poor people who are being harassed, people with whom I have lived and fought along side during the liberation struggle, people who continue to suffer and to struggle, people who have little hope, people who need to unite. I don’t see the needed support for them from the present government.
Afua: Let’s talk about the present government.
Mukanya: The present government is very oppressive. The president of my country, Robert Mugabe, is a dictator. There is an opposition party in our country, but the leader, is not allowed to speak on television or radio. Mugabe doesn’t want him to address the people and tell them what he thinks of him. In fact, once you are identified as a member of the opposition, then you are in trouble and the militia will come after you. But when you read the local paper, which is the government paper, it says there is democracy in Zimbabwe. There is no democracy in Zimbabwe. People are suffering. It’s like a one party state where nobody is allowed to address the people and tell them what he thinks of the country. Only Mugabe and his ministers are allowed to speak on television. So Zimbabwean people are not free. They are struggling. They struggled when they fought against white colonial rule. Today they are fighting against their own men, their own brother. He’s as black as I am and look where we are today. When we became independent we thought everything was going to be fine, but it isn’t. Today our people are still suffering. They need a change. Mugabe has been there for a long time (he just won his 5th six year term). We need a change. We need fresh leadership, somebody who has the people at heart. Mugabe doesn’t represent the people of Zimbabwe. He represents his political party. You cannot call someone like that president of a country because he doesn’t represent the rest of us. Every Zimbabwean citizen needs to be treated like a human being.
Afua: You developed music you call Chimurenga.
Mukanya: That is right. The word Chimurenga is a Shona word. It means struggle. That’s the type music that I will play for the rest of my life. I listened to a lot of other different types of music as a kid-jazz, rock ‘n’ roll and soul music. I decided to identify myself with my own people, which is why I play in Shona. I am trying to promote the culture of my people.
Afua: So what would you say are the primary things that have influenced you as a musician?
Mukanya: Well I’ve been a musician since boyhood. I grew up in the country with my grandparents and I started singing as a very small boy. I was the head boy herding cattle, goats and donkeys. There was music all around in those days. My grandparents were traditional people who did a lot of traditional things, like playing traditional music, singing, playing drums, the mbira, traditional dancing. When I came to stay in the city that was the very first time I listened to international music, music by popular names like Sinatra and Elvis. I really loved many of the old songs. I loved rock ‘n’ roll music. I thought Elvis Presley was somehow very, very good. I also listened to a lot of soul music, by artists like Otis Redding and Aretha Franklin. It was very exciting. As kids, we enjoyed that type of thing. But as time went on and I matured, I realized that our people were oppressed. I looked at my own identity and said to myself, ‘I grew up in the country and I grew up with traditional music. I wanted to start doing my own thing rather than play other peoples music. That thought encouraged me to create Chimurenga music. As a kid I listened to a lot of African music, music from the Congo, music from South Africa, music from Nigeria, Fela Kuti, Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba and the rest of the South African musicians. In the Congo there was Franco, a very good rumba singer. I admire his music. I also listened to a lot of American groups as well, great bands like Chicago Transit Authority, and Blood Sweat and Tears. But, as I said, I started realizing, that this was other people’s music. I questioned myself, ‘what am I supposed to be called? Who is Thomas Mapfumo Mukanya? Where do I come from? I’m from Zimbabwe. Do something Zimbabwean.’ That encouraged me to develop my own music.
Afua: Let’s talk about the mbira.
Mukanya: When I came to stay in the city of Harare with my parents, it was the very first time I listened to radio music. There were no radios in the country. People sang music from their head. The mbira is an instrument of my Shona culture. It is a very sacred instrument. It has something to do with our world of spirits. The spirits of our ancestors possess some people. This instrument provided the ancestor’s music. A long time ago, to be put on record or played on the radio wasn’t allowed. As someone who grew up in the country, I have always felt mbira music was just as good as any music that people dance to today. I decided to fuse mbira with electric guitar, keyboard, drums, and brass instruments and it came out beautifully. My band needed to tune the mbira to the piano to coordinate the pitch. The mbira was just something else. It was really electrifying. It sounded really good, something that evoked memories of our ancestors. People now dance to this music. Yet along time ago, mbira music wasn’t allowed to be recorded. I don’t know what happened, maybe my ancestors have given me their permission. That’s the story of the mbira.
Afua: What happened during the time of your detention?
Mukanya: I started writing songs about the social condition of my people, what was happening to them, what the situation was like in my country. We were under colonial rule and I was against that government. As a result, I was arrested and put into detention
for 3 months because they claimed my music was subversive. Well, I thought they wanted to kill me. They thought I was supporting the guerillas who were fighting from the bush, which meant that I was against the government of that day. But I kept saying that my music was my people’s culture. It had nothing to do with politics. At first they didn’t believe me. I kept saying that my music was the music of my people. My people were oppressed and I needed to stand by my people to liberate my country. So I wrote a liberation song (Hokoya or Watch Out). My music played a very important part in the liberation struggle. They put me in history books. I am a musician who is found in the Zimbabwean books of history. They know who I am. They know what I stood for then and for what I stand for today. I stand for the right things. I don’t want to support the wrong things. I want to support the right thing. We have known about white racism, but at the same time don’t forget there is black racism. We, as black people, also segregate ourselves against the white people. In the eyes of God, we are all the same. We are the same people. We are supposed to live peacefully as the people of God. We are the children of God. So why are we fighting against each other? We have people who are dictators, people who kill, people who haven’t got a heart and people who think they are gods. There is but one God, one love and we are His children.
Afua: What happened after your detention?
Mukanya: In the end, they decided to let me go because I actually had no case to answer. When I was let out of prison, I went straight to meet the other members of the band. We organized ourselves, got down to business writing more music and supporting the struggle. Warring factions decided to unite. There was a cease-fire, the dissidents were called to the table and were given a position with the government. There was another vice president. So there were two vice presidents, with Mugabe as president. They formed a coalition government but the government in our country today is corrupt.
Afua: What do you think is going to happen in Zimbabwe?
Mukanya: Change will come and my fear is it will be violent. Because people have had enough, they will likely fight back. If they dare fight back, there will likely be war. People have been oppressed for a long, long time. They have been denied freedom of movement and freedom of speech. One man is dictating to them like Zimbabwe is a company. Zimbabwe is a people’s country and the people are going to decide their destiny and say we have had enough of Mugabe. If that situation comes, then our country will be in the second liberation war.
Afua: So what is the message you are sending with your music?
Mukanya: The message in my music is about fighting back. The poor people are who I stand for. That has always been my message. We are trying to save the poor, who are being corrupted by the rich. The poor people remain poor and the rich are becoming very, very rich. This is not a good situation. We would like for people to love one another, look after one another. You must look to help the poor because they don’t get what those more privileged get. I always have my meals, my supper in the evening but there are a lot of people out there who actually don’t know what supper is like or what lunch is like. They don’t have a place to sleep or a job. Some people own mansions, while others sleep in the street. No one is doing a thing about it. We have had a lot of government preaching about looking after their people, but today we see a lot of poor people who have nowhere to go.
Afua: What’s the origin of your name?
Mukanya: Mukanya is my totem; that name is really popular back home. Most people in my country don’t call me Thomas Mapfumo. They call me Mukanya. It’s from the Kore Kore people, which is the tribe that I am from. That’s where my father was born and where the rest of my family lives. So I am Shona, that’s exactly what I am.
Afua: I read somewhere that Mapfumo means spear.
Mukanya: That’s true, Mapfumo means spear.
Afua: Now you live in Oregon. How do you find it?
Mukanya: There are very few black people in Oregon, but I like it because it’s peaceful. I now live in the small city of Eugene, where there are peace-loving people. I just love the place and my children are going to school. It’s not so crowded and it gives my children a chance to get on with their studies, which is really good.
Afua: How do you find the United States?
Mukanya: It’s a good place. There’s a bit of democracy in this country, where there’s a peaceful change of government. There’s a lot of power sharing in this country.
[Reprinted by permission. Thanks, Afua!]

The Christian Right and the Rise of American Fascism

by Chris Hedges
Dr. James Luther Adams, my ethics professor at Harvard Divinity School , told us that when we were his age, he was then close to 80, we would all be fighting the "Christian fascists."
The warning, given to me 25 years ago, came at the moment Pat Robertson and other radio and televangelists began speaking about a new political religion that would direct its efforts at taking control of all institutions, including mainstream denominations and the government. Its stated goal was to use the United States to create a global, Christian empire. It was hard, at the time, to take such fantastic rhetoric seriously, especially given the buffoonish quality of those who expounded it. But Adams warned us against the blindness caused by intellectual snobbery. The Nazis, he said, were not going to return with swastikas and brown shirts. Their ideological inheritors had found a mask for fascism in the pages of the Bible.
He was not a man to use the word fascist lightly. He was in Germany in 1935 and 1936 and worked with the underground anti-Nazi church, known as The Confessing Church, led by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Adams was eventually detained and interrogated by the Gestapo, who suggested he might want to consider returning to the United States . It was a suggestion he followed. He left on a night train with framed portraits of Adolph Hitler placed over the contents inside his suitcase to hide the rolls of home movie film he took of the so-called German Christian Church, which was pro-Nazi, and the few individuals who defied them, including the theologians Karl Barth and Albert Schweitzer. The ruse worked when the border police lifted the top of the suitcases, saw the portraits of the Fuhrer and closed them up again. I watched hours of the grainy black and white films as he narrated in his apartment in Cambridge .
He saw in the Christian Right, long before we did, disturbing similarities with the German Christian Church and the Nazi Party, similarities that he said would, in the event of prolonged social instability or a national crisis, see American fascists, under the guise of religion, rise to dismantle the open society. He despaired of liberals, who he said, as in Nazi Germany, mouthed silly platitudes about dialogue and inclusiveness that made them ineffectual and impotent. Liberals, he said, did not understand the power and allure of evil nor the cold reality of how the world worked. The current hand wringing by Democrats in the wake of the election, with many asking how they can reach out to a movement whose leaders brand them "demonic" and "satanic," would not have surprised Adams . Like Bonhoeffer, he did not believe that those who would fight effectively in coming times of turmoil, a fight that for him was an integral part of the Biblical message, would come from the church or the liberal, secular elite.

Effort to Restrict Exports of .50 Caliber Rifles Defeated by NRA

The National Rifle Association and its allies in the House beat back an effort Thursday to restrict gun manufacturers' exports of high-powered, .50-caliber rifles that can bring down jet airliners from a mile away.
By a 278-149 vote, the House killed an amendment by Rep. James Moran to block .50-caliber exports to civilians. He said the guns are dream weapons for terrorists.

Potential New Source of Funding for Public Broadcasting

PBS President Pat Mitchell and other advocates for public broadcasting are trumpeting legislation in Congress that would create a huge trust fund—perhaps as much as $20 billion—to provide a ready pool of cash for noncommercial stations as well as libraries and universities.
The trust would be generated from a portion of revenues raised by the federal government's auction of reclaimed TV channels expected in 2008 and other spectrum sales planned in the future. The legislation, dubbed the Digital Opportunities Investment Trust, is sponsored by Rep. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who has fought for years to build a pool of money for public broadcasting free from the political whims and budgetary pressures of Congress.
...The likelihood Congress will earmark so much money for a socially driven mission at a time of growing deficits and escalating costs of war would appear slim. After all, Congress is still debating whether to commit a much smaller sliver of auction revenue to help TV viewers buy equipment needed to keep their old analog TVs working after stations go all-digital.

Oil discovery adds new twist to Darfur tragedy

Sudan announced in April that its ABCO corporation – which is 37 percent owned by Swiss company Clivenden – had begun drilling for oil in Darfur, where preliminary studies showed there were “abundant” quantities of oil.
The news has prompted some humanitarian experts to wonder whether oil could be guiding Khartoum’s actions in Darfur, where a scorched-earth policy against rebels’ communities has left tens of thousands dead and forced at least 2 million from their homes.
“There’s some speculation that one of the reasons that these land grabs are going on is to get the African tribes off the ground so they can be controlled by the government in Khartoum,” Ken Bacon, president of U.S. advocacy organisation Refugees International, told AlertNet.

Casualties of the oil stampede - The Caspian pipeline

With the recently opened pipeline from the Caspian to the Mediterranean, Big Oil in the guise of BP is showing its determination to get its hands on what seems to be the largest remaining deposits after the Middle East. But human rights abuses and a cavalier attitude to safety have come hand-in-hand with the new pipeline, writes Michael Meacher, former UK Environment Secretary.

The Endangered US Dollar

For decades the US dollar has served as the world's default currency. The phrase "sound as a dollar" has expressed the faith and confidence of generations, not only of Americans, but people worldwide.
That situation is coming to end, and the consequences will be far-reaching.
[Includes very interesting history of currency and the US dollar.]

Critics: US Doing Too Little to Prevent 'Mad Cow'

American cattle are eating chicken litter, cattle blood and restaurant leftovers that could help transmit mad cow disease -- a gap in the U.S. defense that the Bush administration promised to close nearly 18 months ago.
"Once the cameras were turned off and the media coverage dissipated, then it's been business as usual, no real reform, just keep feeding slaughterhouse waste," said John Stauber, an activist and co-author of Mad Cow USA: Could the Nightmare Happen Here?
He contended, "The entire U.S. policy is designed to protect the livestock industry's access to slaughterhouse waste as cheap feed."

Fears of military action on Iraq-Iran border

Tensions between Iran and Iraq have escalated in recent weeks to the extent that threats of military action have been made, a senior member of Iraq’s security forces said.
General Nazim Mohammad, chief of Iraq’s Border Police in Muntheria, told Gulf News he had personally told his Iranian counterparts their soldiers would be shot if they strayed too close to Iraqi fortifications.
Speaking during an interview at his headquarters in Muntheria, on the Iraq-Iran frontier, he claimed his forces had come under small arms fire from the Iranians. Iranian troops had also fired mortars which exploded on Iraqi soil, he said.
Previously: Sleepwalking to Disaster in Iran by Scott Ritter:
Late last year, in the aftermath of the 2004 Presidential election, I was contacted by someone close to the Bush administration about the situation in Iraq. There was a growing concern inside the Bush administration, this source said, about the direction the occupation was going. The Bush administration was keen on achieving some semblance of stability in Iraq before June 2005, I was told.
When I asked why that date, the source dropped the bombshell: because that was when the Pentagon was told to be prepared to launch a massive aerial attack against Iran, Iraq's neighbour to the east, in order to destroy the Iranian nuclear programme.
Why June 2005?, I asked. 'The Israelis are concerned that if the Iranians get their nuclear enrichment programme up and running, then there will be no way to stop the Iranians from getting a nuclear weapon. June 2005 is seen as the decisive date.'

Public Broadcasting Chief Sending Data to White House

[T]he e-mail messages show that a month before the interview, he directed Kathleen Cox, then president of the corporation, to send material to Ms. Andrews at her White House e-mail address. They show that Ms. Andrews worked on a variety of ombudsman issues before joining the corporation, while still on the White House payroll. And they show that the White House instructed the corporation on Ms. Andrews's job title in her new post.
A senior corporation executive who is concerned about its direction under Mr. Tomlinson provided copies of the e-mail messages to The New York Times. Fearing retribution, the executive insisted on anonymity as a condition for providing the copies.
The e-mail messages are part of the evidence being collected in a broad inquiry by the inspector general of the corporation into whether Mr. Tomlinson violated any rules that require that the corporation act as a buffer between politics and programming.
Investigators are examining the role played by the White House in the creation of the ombudsman's office at the corporation, an office Mr. Tomlinson said he advanced as part of a broader effort to ensure balance and objectivity in programming. Executives in public television and radio have said his actions threatened their editorial independence.

Rob Gonsalves

You've seen his images before. Here is a great collection.

GOP Senators to Propose New Tack On Social Security

Key Republican lawmakers, scrambling to keep President Bush's Social Security proposals afloat, plan next week to embrace an idea that many have avoided thus far: funding personal retirement accounts with surplus revenue that now pays for other government programs.
The strategy is controversial because it would create new budget problems. Either the diverted money would have to be replaced with new taxes, or Congress would have to slash programs now funded by Social Security's excess payroll taxes.
[These guys are hell-bent on taking our budget to the casino. -- McLir]

Survey: More Than Half Of Readers Don't Mind Anonymous Sources

The study polled readers from 42 states, revealing a majority did not care if anonymous sources appeared in a story, with some saying they actually made the story more believeable. Part of this may be attributed to the recent flurry of stories about 'Deep Throat' and the positive aspects of confidential sourcing.

The Rise of 'Newsvertisements'

"Don't you love local TV news stories about critical topics like Supernanny, The Apprentice or Survivor?" Cause Communications' Jason Salzman asks in his Rocky Mountain News column. Salzman lists several examples of stories produced by Denver's local TV news programs and finds that most of the stories focused on entertainment programming run by the stations' respective networks. "I think what's more obvious is that journalists at local outlets should give their news judgment an extreme makeover and drop most entertainment news tie- ins," Salzman writes. "[I]f the local TV outlets insist on broadcasting 'news' about entertainment programming, they should inform viewers when they have a financial interest in the success of the show mentioned. Without proper disclosure, these local stories should be seen by viewers as advertisements embedded in the newscasts. I can't decide whether to call them 'advernewsments' or 'newsvertisements.'" [from]

Government Employees Owe Billions in Taxes

The federal government is owed nearly $2 billion by its own employees.
According to an IRS report obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, thousands of federal workers and retirees didn't pay their taxes last year.
The largest employer of tax delinquents -- the United States Postal Service. More than 50,000 of its employees owe more than $290 million. On Capitol Hill, staffers owe more than $10 million and Pentagon employees owe $40 million. Ninety employees at the White House owe nearly $1 million.
[To see a complete list of federal tax deliquents, by department, click here from]

The Army's Rules for Blogging from the Battlezone

Attention bloggers in uniform: the Army is on to you. In April, the Multi-National Corps Command in Baghdad issued a policy memo on the rules governing blogging from the front lines.
The most stringent aspect of the policy is the registration requirement. Military bloggers in Iraq are required to register their sites with the chain of command. Anyone who writes for those sites is required to register as well. That means, in theory, there is a list somewhere of Soldiers’ websites and who contributes to them. I wonder if the rest of us can see that list… I’m always looking for some more raw news from the field.
Unit commanders are required to review the sites on a quarterly basis, but odds are that most sites are subject to closer scrutiny. Former Army SPC Colby Buzzell could tell you from first-hand experience. His fantastic blog, “My War” broke new ground and pushed the legal limits for MilBlogs.

Friday, June 17, 2005

OpTruth: The Pain Our Families Endure

I was talking to my sister on the phone when the bell rang so Lori answered the door. I heard her scream something and then I realized she was saying "NO, NO..." over and over again. I dropped the phone and ran. A man in uniform stood in the doorway. I looked at his face and suddenly it registered. Two more uniforms stood behind him. Lori was still holding her head and screaming something. At that moment things began to happen in slow motion. I realized that they were here to deliver ghastly news. I hoped to God that it wasn't what I thought. I began to bargain in my mind, "Please God let it be an injury, not a fatality." But I knew better. They call if your solider is injured. There is only one reason they come to the door.

Demonstrators Put Up Representatives House "For Sale"

The group chanted slogans and waved homemade signs that accused Cunningham of profiting from the war in Iraq and claiming his vote was for sale. They asked for Cunningham to disclose his financial transactions involving the defense contractor, MZM Inc., and some called for his ouster.
Many of the demonstrators linked their concerns about Cunningham's transaction with a defense contractor to the war in Iraq. Rodney Galloway of Ramona said he attended the noontime rally because he supports pulling the troops out of Iraq and to protest Cunningham's conduct.
"When I saw the news, I thought it was absolutely ridiculous he did something like that," Galloway said. "It is just an indication of how corrupt our politicians are."

Lieberman Satisfied with Base Closing Info Despite Lack of Info

Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., in a letter to acting Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, said that while they haven't gotten all the data requested, the thousands of pages they received helped them better understand how the department made its decisions to close or realign military bases.

Medics Are Ordered to Report Abuse

All medical personnel who treat detainees in U.S. custody must report any suspected inhumane treatment and protect their patients as they would U.S. soldiers, under a new set of guidelines that come in the wake of allegations of medic participation in abuse.

Border Camera System Is Assailed

Members of Congress yesterday denounced a $239 million camera system installed on the Mexican and Canadian borders as a scandal and an embarrassment, citing defective equipment, rampant overcharging by contractors and a failure to properly oversee it.

Tyco's Kozlowski Found Guilty

A Manhattan jury this afternoon convicted former Tyco chief executive L. Dennis Kozlowski and former chief financial officer Mark Swartz on multiple charges of looting their former company, handing prosecutors a big win in their crackdown on corporate crime and concluding a legal drama that stretched across two trials and three years.

Security Breach Could Expose 40 Million Cardholders to Fraud

A security breach of customer information at a credit card transaction company could expose to fraud up to 40 million cardholders of multiple brands, MasterCard International Inc. said Friday.
The credit card giant said its security division detected multiple instances of fraud that tracked back to CardSystems Solutions Inc., which processes credit card and other payments for banks and merchants.
The compromised data included names, banks and account numbers _ not addresses or Social Security numbers, said MasterCard spokeswoman Sharon Gamsin. Such data could be used to steal funds but not identities.
It was the latest in a series of security breaches affecting valuable consumer data at major financial institutions and data brokers in an increasingly database-driven world.

Conyers Fires Back at Washington Post's Coverage of Forum

In an inaccurate piece of reporting that typifies the article, Milbank implies that one of the obstacles the Members in the meeting have is that "only one" member has mentioned the Downing Street Minutes on the floor of either the House or Senate. This is not only incorrect but misleading. In fact, just yesterday, the Senate Democratic Leader, Harry Reid, mentioned it on the Senate floor. Senator Boxer talked at some length about it at the recent confirmation hearing for the Ambassador to Iraq. The House Democratic Leader, Nancy Pelosi, recently signed on to my letter, along with 121 other Democrats asking for answers about the memo. This information is not difficult to find either.
[Here is the article in question. If you are unaccustomed to disdain from the major media over the DSM, brace yourself.]

*Inside How the Pre-War Intelligence was Fixed

Kos Interviews Whistleblower Karen Kwiatkowski from the Office of Special Plans

Excerpt: I can think of no one more qualified to address this matter than Lt. Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski, who blew the whistle on the Pentagon's "Office of Special Plans," [OSP] a cadre of neoconservative planners, operating off-the-books and outside accepted intelligence channels, whose sole mission was to build the case on Iraq's WMD capability. According to repeated statements by Kwiatkowski, members of the OSP - few, if any, of whom had any background in intelligence gathering or analysis whatsoever - were engaged in a coordinated effort to "cherry-pick" data which happened to support their objective, while ignoring any data that might have undermined the goal of war with Iraq.
...Kwiatkowski: We were mandated to use these points verbatim, in their entirety and without modification or supplementation. We were directed by Bill Luti to never use an older set of talking points, but for each paper we wrote for our seniors or others, we were to request the latest set of talking points. Abe Shulsky was the final approving authority on every version of the talking points, and I remember sometimes we had to wait for him to release the current set. They were generally classified SECRET, but of course many of the phrases and points brought out in the talking points were very familiar to all Americans because they were consistently reflected in presidential and vice presidential speeches in the fall and winter of 2002.
...Most came to OSP predisposed as true believers that Iraq was to be forcefully converted to a country we controlled, and many of those believers felt that way because their Israeli law partners, family members, friends, advisors and counterparts all felt that way. Richard Perle, Doug Feith and David Wurmser had drafted the 1996 proposal "A Clean Break: A Strategy for Securing the Realm" in support of Netanyahu's political campaign, and it had called for the replacement of Saddam Hussein for Israeli security interests. The apolitical persons in OSP (if there were any at all) who might have countered the groupthink had no background or knowledge of Iraq, intelligence and the proper uses thereof, and I think perhaps some of them were awestruck to be so close to the decision makers and the Vice President's office.
[For those wanting to know more about doctored pre-war intelligence, this is a MUST READ. -- McLir]
Other Kwiatkowski coverage:
Salon: The New Pentagon Papers
Mother Jones: The Lie Factory
Military Week: Kwiatkowski articles
Lew Rockwell: Kwiatkowski articles
Conscientious Objector by Kwiatkowski

Harry Shearer: What IS a Journalist?

I hate polls. As a matter of fact, a few years ago, the eponymous Ms. Huff and I collaborated on a largely virtual cause, the Partnership for a Poll-Free America. The premise was that, whatever the truth or falsity of individual polls, the reliance on them was corrupting American politics, draining it of balls and leadership. This was before George W. Bush defied public opinion, and, with a few public-opinion-defying overseas pals, started the Iraq thing.
Normally, polls are quoted to show (a) how dumb the American people are, or (b) how the (choose political enemy) ignores the wisdom of the American people. But now comes a report courtesy of the AP, showing whom the American people regard as a journalist. Forty percent say Bill O’Reilly is one, versus 30 percent who so identify Bob Woodward.

Air Force Finds No Trace of Lost Nuke

The first government search in decades for a nuclear bomb lost off the Georgia coast in 1958 found no trace of the sunken weapon, the Air Force said in a report Friday.
The report, released nine months after scientists tested radiation levels off Tybee Island, concluded the 7,600-pound bomb cannot explode and should be left at sea.
"We still think it's irretrievably lost. We don't know where to look for it," Dr. Billy Mullins, an Air Force nuclear weapons adviser who led the search, told a news conference.
A damaged B-47 bomber jettisoned the Mark-15 nuke into a sound about 15 miles from Savannah after colliding with a fighter jet during a training flight.

New Orleans: Activists set rally, forum on Iraq, uranium use

A forum on the use of depleted uranium in military munitions and potential related health problems will be held Wednesday at Sally Dunn Studios in Covington, preceded by an anti-Iraq war rally at Boston and Columbia streets.
Sponsored by the Louisiana Activist Network headed by Covington lawyer Buddy Spell, the rally will begin at 6 p.m. followed by the forum at 7 p.m. at 317 N. Columbia.
The forum will be hosted by Bob Smith, depleted uranium awareness chairman of the Louisiana Activist Network.

Childbirth at Home as Safe as Hospital Delivery: Study

"In this low-risk group of women who had births with midwives at home, we found that the overall safety was similar to what you would find in a hospital in a similar low-risk group," added Johnson, a senior epidemiologist with the Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Control at the Public Health Agency of Canada, in Ottawa.
Moreover, evidence from the study supports the American Public Health Association's recommendation that home deliveries with certified midwives should be increased in the United States, he said.
The study appears in the June 18 issue of the British Medical Journal.

U.S. Pressure Weakens G-8 Climate Plan

Bush administration officials working behind the scenes have succeeded in weakening key sections of a proposal for joint action by the eight major industrialized nations to curb climate change.
Under U.S. pressure, negotiators in the past month have agreed to delete language that would detail how rising temperatures are affecting the globe, set ambitious targets to cut carbon dioxide emissions and set stricter environmental standards for World Bank-funded power projects, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post. Negotiators met this week in London to work out details of the document, which is slated to be adopted next month at the Group of Eight's annual meeting in Scotland.
The administration's push to alter the G-8's plan on global warming marks its latest effort to edit scientific or policy documents to accord with its position that mandatory carbon dioxide cuts are unnecessary. Under mounting international pressure to adopt stricter controls on heat-trapping gas emissions, Bush officials have consistently sought to modify U.S. government and international reports that would endorse a more aggressive approach to mitigating global warming.

Chinese MSN: Microsoft admits to censoring 'list of words'

When asked if it had banned the words 'freedom' and 'democracy' from the web portal, which was launched last month, the company said it had a list of words that kept content within the norms of the country.
In an email sent to, Microsoft said: "We don't disclose the list but we do have the ability to change and update the filter as needed to help ensure we abide by the laws, regulations and norms of China."
Microsoft dodged the question of censorship earlier this week, after an article in the Financial Times accused it of scrubbing the words 'democracy' and 'freedom' from the Chinese version of its MSN website.
According to the FT, the MSN site blocks anti-communist phrases by sending an error message to anyone using the words, to avoid upsetting the Chinese government.

Sci-Fi Thinkers Get NASA Bucks

Defense Tech darlings NIAC (that's the NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts) have handed out their research grants for 2005. And all of 'em are pretty geekalicious. Behold:

* Antimatter Harvesting in Space (Principle Investigator: Dr. Gerald P. Jackson, Hbar Technologies, LLC, Chicago)
* Multi-MICE: A Network of Interactive Nuclear Cryoprobes to Explore Ice Sheets on Mars and Europa (PI: Dr. George Maise, Plus Ultra Technologies, Inc., Stony Brook, N.Y.)
* A Contamination-Free Ultrahigh-Precision Formation Flight Method Based on Intracavity Photon Thrusters and Tethers (PI: Dr. Young K. Bae, Bae Institute, Tustin, Calif.)
* Modular Spacecraft with Integrated Structural Electrodynamic Propulsion (PI: Mr. Nestor Voronka, Tethers Unlimited, Bothell, Wash.)

...And a bunch more. We've covered NIAC before, here, here, here, here, and probably a bunch of other places, too.

Fundamentalists Targeting United Church of Christ

If the proposal were adopted clergy and seminarians would have to declare support for this interpretation of Scripture and tradition.
The Rev. Albert W. Kovacs of Woodbridge told The Record and Herald News that the resolution was needed because in the UCC:

We have significant numbers of clergy who don't believe in God.

I called Rev. Kovacs today and asked him if he could name any UCC pastor or church that didn’t believe in God. He said there might be some “Unitarians up in New England” but he could not name any. His comments are untrue and shameful and cannot be backed up with facts.
What the backers of this resolution are actually after is a fundamentalist interpretation of Scripture and it is true that such an interpretation is widely rejected in our denomination. The UCC is also not a creedal or doctrinal church.

Republican's exit proposal causes a ruckus in his Eastern North Carolina district

The evolution of Jones' position on the war has drawn international attention. It also has stirred hard feelings in Jones' sprawling Eastern North Carolina district, which is home to thousands of troops.
In Onslow County, home to the Camp Lejeune Marine Corps base, a county commissioner initially called on Jones to resign but later said he just wanted Jones to drop requests for a timetable for withdrawal.
John R. McLaughlin, a Republican commissioner from Jacksonville, said Thursday that he was astounded when he heard that Jones had called for a timetable.
"Such a statement would provide encouragement to our enemy and be harmful to our troops," said McLaughlin, a former Army Ranger.
The five-member Board Of Commissioners, all Republicans, will consider a resolution Monday that calls on Jones to drop his efforts.

Onward, Moderate Christian Soldiers

[F]or us, the only absolute standard of behavior is the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. Repeatedly in the Gospels, we find that the Love Commandment takes precedence when it conflicts with laws. We struggle to follow that commandment as we face the realities of everyday living, and we do not agree that our responsibility to live as Christians can be codified by legislators.
When, on television, we see a person in a persistent vegetative state, one who will never recover, we believe that allowing the natural and merciful end to her ordeal is more loving than imposing government power to keep her hooked up to a feeding tube.
When we see an opportunity to save our neighbors' lives through stem cell research, we believe that it is our duty to pursue that research, and to oppose legislation that would impede us from doing so.
We think that efforts to haul references of God into the public square, into schools and courthouses, are far more apt to divide Americans than to advance faith.
Following a Lord who reached out in compassion to all human beings, we oppose amending the Constitution in a way that would humiliate homosexuals.
For us, living the Love Commandment may be at odds with efforts to encapsulate Christianity in a political agenda. We strongly support the separation of church and state, both because that principle is essential to holding together a diverse country, and because the policies of the state always fall short of the demands of faith. Aware that even our most passionate ventures into politics are efforts to carry the treasure of religion in the earthen vessel of government, we proceed in a spirit of humility lacking in our conservative colleagues.

Downing Street memo: Mainstream media cover-up

In the five weeks following its disclosure, both newspapers and the broadcast media in the United States largely ignored the Downing Street memo, a secret British intelligence document indicating that British intelligence officials believed the Bush administration manipulated intelligence to support its case for war in Iraq. Of the papers covering the memo after the Sunday Times (London) broke the story and after Knight Ridder issued a May 6 article, Media Matters identified only three that provided new information concerning the memo's content, authenticity, or events surrounding its creation, and, of these, only a story in the Los Angeles Times reflected any effort to consult with British sources. Read more »
See also: Conason: A press coverup »
Some questions for media dismissing Downing Street Memo as old news »

A Great Nuclear-Age Mystery Solved

One of the great mysteries of the Nuclear Age was solved today: What was in the censored, and then lost to the ages, newspaper articles filed by the first reporter to reach Nagasaki following the atomic attack on that city on Aug. 9, 1945?
The reporter was George Weller, the distinguished correspondent for the now-defunct Chicago Daily News. His startling dispatches from Nagasaki, which might have affected public opinion on the future of the bomb, never emerged from General Douglas MacArthur's censorship office in Tokyo. Carbon copies were found just two years ago when his son, who talked to E&P from Italy today, discovered them after the reporter's death.
Four of them were published today for the first time by the Tokyo daily Mainichi Shimbun, which purchased them from Anthony Weller. He old E&P he hopes to put them and others together into a book.
The articles published in Japan today reveal a remarkable and wrenching turn in Weller's view of the aftermath of the bombing, which anticipates the profound unease in our nuclear experience ever since. "It was remarkable to see that shifting perspective," Anthony Weller says.

BBC to launch free online video system

The BBC is poised to release a free and "open source" internet video delivery system to compete head on with proprietary favourites.
The UK corporation has developed its own video compression algorithm, called Dirac, which will provide an alternative to the video file formats used by Microsoft's Windows Media Player, Apple's Quicktime and RealPlayer from Real.
Private demonstrations of Dirac, given on 9 June at the BBC’s research and development labs in London, UK, show that the technology is almost ready for launch. Dirac can compress standard definition television with similar quality to the latest proprietary codecs - coder/decoder devices that convert analogue signals into digital format - used by Apple and Microsoft. In demonstrations it was used to compress 720 x 576-pixel resolution footage into a 1 million bits per second (Mbps) video stream.

Democrats Link Bolton To Downing Street "Fixing"

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid demanded a full accounting of whether Bolton exaggerated assessments of several countries' weapons programs, a key issue in the long-stalled nomination.
``All over the news the last few days has been concerns about weapons of mass destruction by virtue of the memo that was discovered,'' the Nevada Democrat said, referring to the so-called ``Downing Street memo.''
The July 2002 memo, prepared for British Prime Minister Tony Blair, said President Bush had already decided to invade Iraq and intelligence was being made to fit that policy.
``Concerns about this administration hyping intelligence and Great Britain hyping intelligence cannot be dismissed lightly,'' Reid said, adding that it ``is no small matter for us to learn whether Mr. Bolton was a party to other efforts to hype intelligence.''

Countdown to a Meltdown - America's coming economic crisis

Well, we've been dancing around this one for quite a while, here it is all spelled out for us. America is digging itself an economic grave. Is this how the once mighty U.S. of A. ends up, burned out on the shattered shoals of a wasted dream? Here are some points to ponder: Our country no longer controls it's economic fundamentals. Compared with the America of the past it has become stagnant, classbound and brutally unfair. Compared with the rest of the world it is on it's way down. We think we are a great power; our military is still greater than China's. Everyone else thinks that over the past twenty years we've finally pushed our luck too far. [from]

Halliburton to build new $30 mln Guantanamo jail

Halliburton Co. unit will build a new $30 million detention facility and security fence at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the United States is holding about 520 foreign terrorism suspects, the Defense Department announced on Thursday.
The announcement comes the same week that Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the jail after U.S. lawmakers said it had created an image problem for the United States.
Critics have decried the indefinite detention of Guantanamo detainees, whom the United States has denied rights accorded under the Geneva Conventions to prisoners of war. The prison was called "the gulag of our times" in a recent Amnesty International report.

AP Finally Covers Downing Street Memo

Thursday, June 16, 2005

US lied to Britain over use of napalm in Iraq war

American officials lied to British ministers over the use of "internationally reviled" napalm-type firebombs in Iraq.
Yesterday's disclosure led to calls by MPs for a full statement to the Commons and opened ministers to allegations that they held back the facts until after the general election.
Despite persistent rumours of injuries among Iraqis consistent with the use of incendiary weapons such as napalm, Adam Ingram, the Defence minister, assured Labour MPs in January that US forces had not used a new generation of incendiary weapons, codenamed MK77, in Iraq.
But Mr Ingram admitted to the Labour MP Harry Cohen in a private letter obtained by The Independent that he had inadvertently misled Parliament because he had been misinformed by the US. "The US confirmed to my officials that they had not used MK77s in Iraq at any time and this was the basis of my response to you," he told Mr Cohen. "I regret to say that I have since discovered that this is not the case and must now correct the position."

Conyers Hand-Delivers Whitehouse a Letter on Iraq War Pretext

The White House refuses to respond to a May 5 letter from 122 congressional Democrats about whether there was a coordinated effort to "fix" the intelligence and facts around the policy, as the Downing Street memo says.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan says Conyers "is simply trying to rehash old debates."
Conyers and a half-dozen other members of Congress were stopped at the White House gate later Thursday when they hand-delivered petitions signed by 560,000 Americans who want Bush to provide a detailed response to the Downing Street memo. When Conyers couldn't get in, an anti-war demonstrator shouted, "Send Bush out!" Eventually, White House aides retrieved the petitions at the gate and took them into the West Wing.

Close friends make longer life more likely

While previous research has found that strong social networks help older people live longer, the work had not distinguished between contact with friends or relatives.
The new study followed almost 1500 Australians, initially aged over 70. Those who at the start reported regular close personal or phone contact with five or more friends were 22% less likely to die in the next decade than those who had reported fewer, more-distant friends. But the presence or absence of close ties with children or other relatives had no impact on survival.

Bush Administration Reverses on Chemical Security

Previously the administration supported industry's position that government involvement was unnecessary and that company-sponsored voluntary security measures were sufficient. In a June 15 hearing before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) finally supported federal chemical security legislation.
Robert Stephan, Undersecretary for Intelligence and Infrastructure at DHS, informed the Committee that "it has become clear the entirely voluntary efforts of these companies alone will not sufficiently address security for the entire sector."
For some time, experts from government agencies, research institutes, trade associations, labor unions, and public interest groups have warned that chemical facilities are highly vulnerable to potential terrorist attacks. Despite these warnings and the nearly four years since 9/11, the federal government has not taken any action to minimize the risks associated with these facilities.
While the administration's statement is a step forward, it remains unclear exactly what type of federal requirements it would endorse. As with most legislation, the devil will be in the details.

Chief of 'Millennium' Aid Fund Is Quitting

Two days after a group of African leaders complained that the Bush administration's signature program to aid poor nations had proved slow, the head of the program told his staff on Wednesday that he would resign.
...The program has given final approval for aid to only two countries, Madagascar and Honduras, and has disbursed almost no money. Program officials have said that more approvals are in the pipeline, that the money will soon begin flowing and that, in any case, the program is as much about encouraging good government as about dispensing financial assistance. [thanks, Sharon]

Editing Away Environmental Concerns, Part Two

"A new draft communique on climate change for next month's Group of Eight summit has removed plans to fund research" on clean energy technologies. Other edits "put into question top scientists' warnings that global warming is already under way," by removing references to current weather changes and marking such phrases as "our world is warming" for possible deletion. The new draft also "explicitly endorses the use of 'zero-carbon' nuclear power." In contrast, the May 3rd draft of the document endorsed "ambitious targets and timetables" for reducing carbon emissions from buildings. The editing (reminiscent of former White House staff Philip Cooney's work) bodes ill for Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has "pledged to put the fight against climate change at the heart of Britain's year-long presidency of the G8."

Defense contractor swallows $700,000 loss on purchase of committee member's home, contractor awarded tens of millions in new contracts

A defense contractor with ties to Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham took a $700,000 loss on the purchase of the congressman's Del Mar house while the congressman, a member of the influential defense appropriations subcommittee, was supporting the contractor's efforts to get tens of millions of dollars in contracts from the Pentagon.
Mitchell Wade bought the San Diego Republican's house for $1,675,000 in November 2003 and put it back on the market almost immediately for roughly the same price. But the Del Mar house languished unsold and vacant for 261 days before selling for $975,000.
Meanwhile, Cunningham used the proceeds of the $1,675,000 sale to buy a $2.55 million house in Rancho Santa Fe. And Wade, who had been suffering through a flat period in winning Pentagon contracts, was on a tear – reeling in tens of millions of dollars in defense and intelligence-related contracts. [from]

New Documentary: The God Who Wasn't There

Bowling for Columbine did it to the gun culture.
Super Size Me did it to fast food.
Now The God Who Wasn't There does it to religion.
Holding modern Christianity up to a merciless spotlight, this bold and hilarious new film asks the questions few dare to ask. And when it finds out how crazy the answers are, it dares to call them crazy.
[Here is a review]

Global Warming: How Much Excess Fresh Water Was Added to the North Atlantic in Recent Decades?

Newswise — Large regions of the North Atlantic Ocean have been growing fresher since the late 1960s as melting glaciers and increased precipitation, both associated with greenhouse warming, have enhanced continental runoff into the Arctic and sub-Arctic seas. Over the same time period, salinity records show that large pulses of extra sea ice and fresh water from the Arctic have flowed into the North Atlantic. But, until now, the actual amounts and rates of fresh water accumulation have not been explicitly known.
In a paper to be published June 17 in Science, Ruth Curry of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and Cecilie Mauritzen of the Norwegian Meteorological Institute quantified for the first time how much additional fresh water caused the observed salinity changes in the northern North Atlantic Ocean, how fast it entered the Atlantic circulation, and where that fresh water was stored. They report that patterns of fresh water accumulation over the past four decades suggest that a freshening threshold important to the ocean circulation and its poleward transport of heat could be reached in a century, although future impacts of global warming and glacial melting make prediction imprecise at this time.

USDA plants its own pro-CAFTA fake news

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has churned out three dozen radio and television news segments since the first of the year that promote a controversial trade agreement with Central America opposed by labor unions, the sugar industry and many members of Congress, including some Republicans.
Amid an intense debate over government-funded efforts to influence news coverage, the pre-packaged reports have been widely distributed to broadcast outlets across the country for easy insertion into newscasts.
About a third of the reports deal specifically with the politically powerful sugar industry, which has emerged as the major obstacle to the Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA.

Scientists make blood from human stem cells

Australian scientists say they have found a way to make blood cells in volume out of human master cells, which could eventually lead to production of safe blood cells for transfusions and organ transplants.
Synthetically produced red blood cells would, in theory, overcome the concerns about dangerous infections that can be transmitted from blood donors to patients worldwide.
But researchers said it would probably take years for scientists to get to the stage where blood cells could be made in large enough quantities for transfusions.

Christian Right to Field '08 Candidates

Leaders of conservative Christian organizations plan to jointly interview Republican contenders for the 2008 presidential nomination, perhaps even endorsing one of them - steps that could expand their already considerable political influence.
"We'd like to try to stay together," Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said at a breakfast with reporters Wednesday. The ad hoc group includes "free thinkers" and "strong personalities," he says, but they might unite behind a candidate who "unquestionably" best represented their views and priorities.
Gary Bauer, president of American Values, said in an interview that the sit-down sessions, likely to begin after the 2006 elections, would be "a very effective way to nail down where people are on cultural issues." He said candidates have become "very astute" at answering written questionnaires in ways that avoid making firm commitments.

McClellan Dodges Downing Street Memo

Q Scott, on another topic, has the President or anyone else from the administration responded to the letter sent last month by Congressman John Conyers and signed by dozens of members of the House of Representatives, regarding the Downing Street memo? Has the President or anyone else responded?
MR. McCLELLAN: Not that I'm aware of.
Q Why not?
MR. McCLELLAN: Why not? Because I think that this is an individual who voted against the war in the first place and is simply trying to rehash old debates that have already been addressed. And our focus is not on the past. It's on the future and working to make sure we succeed in Iraq.
These matters have been addressed, Elaine. I think you know that very well. The press --
Q Scott, 88 members of Congress signed that letter.
MR. McCLELLAN: The press -- the press have covered it, as well.
Q What do you say about them?
Q But, Scott, don't they deserve the courtesy of a response back?
MR. McCLELLAN: Again, this has been addressed. Go ahead.

Democrats, Republicans Join Together to Demand US Iraq Exit Strategy

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers has embarked on a new legislative effort to force the Bush administration to set a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. military forces from Iraq. The White House has already rejected the new effort:
The resolution calls on President Bush to begin withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq on or before the first of October of 2006.
Previous efforts, most of them by Democratic members of the House and Senate, have called on the Bush administration to set a timetable for pulling out of Iraq.
A news conference Thursday reflected the bipartisan nature of the new effort, as Congressman Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican, called it entirely reasonable for the United States to begin drawing down troop levels in Iraq.
"Clearly we have given the Iraqis every reasonable chance for democracy. But at some time in the near future the ultimate fight of Iraq will and should rest in the hands of Iraqis," he said. "We will continue to support them in their efforts, but they cannot forever be dependent on America as the primary defense force in Iraq. After 1,700 deaths, over 12,000 wounded, and $200 billion spent, we believe it is time to have this debate and this discussion on this resolution."

C-Span 2 Will Rebroadcast Downing Street Minutes and Pre-War Intelligence at 8:00pm (EDT) this Evening

Newsweek: British Officials Verify Memos

Two senior British government officials today acknowledged as authentic a series of 2002 pre-Iraq war memos stating that Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons program was "effectively frozen" and that there was "no recent evidence" of Iraqi ties to international terrorism—private conclusions that contradicted two key pillars of the Bush administration's public case for the invasion in March 2003.
A March 8, 2002, secret "options" paper prepared by Prime Minister Tony Blair's top national-security aides also stated that intelligence on Saddam's purported weapons of mass destruction (WMD) was "poor." While noting that Saddam had used such weapons in the past and could do so again "if his regime were threatened," the options paper concluded "there is no greater threat now than in recent years that Saddam will use WMD."

Fishy Burglary - Colorado Home of Coin Scandal Suspect Looted of Collectables

The suburban Denver home of a former employee of Tom Noe was burglarized over the weekend, with thieves making off with artwork, guns, jewelry, cars, and $300,000 in wine — possibly purchased with money from the state of Ohio.
Michael Storeim, a suspect in a Colorado criminal probe into Ohio’s missing coins, reported Monday night the valuables had been taken from his Evergreen, Colo., home while he was vacationing with his wife.
Investigators from the Jefferson County, Colo., Sheriff’s Office on June 3 took custody of 3,500 bottles of wine valued at $500,000, and seized hundreds of rare coins, 265 Cuban cigars, computers, and documents from Mr. Storeim’s home and office as part of a criminal investigation.
The wine was left in a locked cellar in the home, but police had changed the locks.
...“There were immediately some red flags when you have a house of a suspect in a high profile case getting burglarized,” [investigator Chris Nelson] said. “We are very aggressively pursuing this in light of the other ongoing investigations.”

Lawmaker Revs Up Fair-Use Crusade

Rep. Rick Boucher is a rarity in Congress when it comes to digital media. He's taken the side of consumers -- not Hollywood and the music industry -- in the sundry controversies surrounding digital entertainment.
When it comes to file sharing, Boucher says he'll fight attempts to stifle it.
He thinks tech companies shouldn't be held liable for products that can be used for unlawful purposes, like pirating media.
He says the balance of copyright law has tipped too far toward the entertainment companies' interests, hampering consumers' rights to use digital media.
And he wants government sponsorship of universal broadband.
While other lawmakers have long-standing relationships with the entertainment industry, whose chief concern is piracy, Boucher sees his pro-technology policies as a way to further education, communication and job creation.

Drag and watch the Senators scurry

State Machine, by Ben Cerveny and Max Carlson, is a very clever flash-based dynamic visualization of the relationship of the members of the United States senate to different sources of campaign funding.
The system extracts information from opensecrets, a database which lists the donations to political campaigns in the USA. The North American political scene in this piece is uncovered as a genuine dance of interests.
Each green + represents a source of lobbyist funding in Washington. The size of the + indicates the relative amount of funding that sector has input into the political process. The collage of dots are representations of US Senators. Their coloring reflects party affiliation, while their size indicates the amount of money they have accumulated in their campaign finance funds.
In this simulation, the Senators are attracted to the lobbyist broups based on the amount of money their campaign has received from that source. By moving one of the funding + around the screen, you can see how much force it exerts on each Senator.

State Machine is part of Randonnée: A Walk Through 21st Century Landscaping, Sonar Festival, Barcelona, Spain, June 16-18. [from]

EPA Reviewing Human Pesticide Experiments

Data from two dozen industry tests that intentionally exposed people to poisons, including one involving a World War I-era chemical warfare agent, are being used by the Environmental Protection Agency in approving and denying specific pesticides.
The controversial data come from 24 human pesticide experiments submitted to the EPA by companies seeking pesticide permits. The data, provided by the EPA to congressional officials, is being studied under a policy the Bush administration adopted last November to have political appointees referee on a case-by-case basis any ethical disputes over human testing.
Aides to two California Democrats, Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Henry Waxman, compiled and reviewed EPA data on 22 of the cases.
"Nearly one-third of the studies reviewed were specifically designed to cause harm to the human test subjects or to put them at risk of harm," the aides concluded in a 38-page report and accompanying documents provided Wednesday to The Associated Press.

Watch Downing Street Memo Testimony OnLine 2:30pm Today (RealMedia)

A "stunning" link between an ingredient in childhood vaccines and autism leads to a cover-up conspiracy

"But instead of taking immediate steps to alert the public and rid the vaccine supply of thimerosal, the officials and executives at Simpsonwood spent most of the next two days discussing how to cover up the damaging data. According to transcripts obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, many at the meeting were concerned about how the damaging revelations about thimerosal would affect the vaccine industry's bottom line." An earlier post (concerned only with fish) asked, "Got mercury?" Why, yes you do - and fish is the least of your problems. Interestingly, hints of this story surfaced in the media in the Spring/Summer of 2005. There may also be a link between thimerosal and Alzheimer's, A.D.D., and Asperger's Syndrome. A thimerosal resource guide. Maybe we'll take notice this time around? [from]

Religious Right, Left Meet in Middle

Schenck [a Conservative Christian] said he plans to tell young evangelicals at a Christian music festival on July 1 that homosexuality is not a choice but a "predisposition," something "deeply rooted" in many people. "That may not sound shocking to you, but it will be shocking to my audience," he said.
Saperstein [a Reform Jewish Rabbi] said he is circulating a paper urging political moderates and liberals to "demonstrate their commitment to reduce abortions" by starting a campaign to reduce the number by half within two years.
Schenck and Saperstein disclosed their plans in separate interviews. They are not working together. The minister remains a die-hard opponent of same-sex marriage; the rabbi staunchly supports a woman's constitutional right to choose an abortion. But both are trying to find common ground between liberals and conservatives on moral issues -- and they are not alone.

The New Blacklist

Spurred on by a biblical injunction evangelicals call "The Great Commission," and emboldened by George W. Bush's re-election, which is perceived as a "mandate from God," the Christian right has launched a series of boycotts and pressure campaigns aimed at corporate America -- and at its sponsorship of entertainment, programs and activities they don't like.
And it's working. Just three weeks ago, the Rev. Donald Wildmon's American Family Association (AFA) announced it was ending its boycott of corporate giant Procter & Gamble -- maker of household staples like Tide and Crest -- for being pro-gay. Why? Because the AFA's boycott (which the organization says enlisted 400,000 families) had succeeded in getting P&G to pull its millions of dollars in advertising from TV shows like "Will & Grace" and "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."

While editors nationwide call for increased scrutiny of Downing Street Memo, biggest editorial pages remain silent

[A] Media Matters for America survey of U.S. newspaper coverage from May 1 to June 15 shows that of the 20 editorial pages across the country that addressed the memo, from large-circulation papers such as The Dallas Morning News to smaller papers such as the Charleston (West Virginia) Gazette, 18 emphasized the importance of the document, many calling for further investigation into the explosive questions it raises. The dissenters were editorials in The Denver Post and The Washington Post, both of which claimed that the memo merely reinforces what was already known from other sources and argued that U.S. attention is best focused on how to win the war in Iraq.
Further, of 12 editorial page editors nationwide who addressed the memo in op-eds, eight asserted the importance of the memo and four took the position that it contains nothing significant or new, though three of those were nonetheless critical of the Bush administration, in some cases, harshly so. In addition, five of the six reader representatives or ombudsmen who addressed coverage of the memo argued the story warrants more coverage than it has received in their own papers or the media at large.

Bands in matching outfits gallery

GOP Seeks Exit Strategy on Social Secutiry

With the Senate Finance Committee at an impasse on Social Security and House leaders anxious about moving forward, Republican congressional leaders have told the White House in recent days that it is time to look for an escape route.
Senate GOP leaders, in discussions with White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and political officials, have made it clear they are stuck in a deep rut and suggested it is time for an exit strategy, according to a senior Senate Republican official and Finance Committee aides.

The Supreme Court Nomination Blog

Turbulence by David Sedaris

On the flight to Raleigh, I sneezed, and the cough drop I’d been sucking on shot from my mouth, ricocheted off my folded tray table, and landed, as I remember it, in the lap of the woman beside me, who was asleep and had her arms folded across her chest. I’m surprised that the force didn’t wake her—that’s how hard it hit—but all she did was flutter her eyelids and let out a tiny sigh, the kind you might hear from a baby.
Under normal circumstances, I’d have had three choices, the first being to do nothing.