Saturday, December 11, 2004
In the summer of 1956, Russian poet Boris Pasternak -- a favorite of the recently deceased Joseph Stalin -- delivered his epic "Doctor Zhivago" manuscript to a Soviet publishing house, hoping for a warm reception and a fast track to readers who had shared Russia's torturous half-century of revolution and war, oppression and terror.
Instead, Pasternak received one of the all-time classic rejection letters: A 10,000-word missive that stopped just short of accusing him of treason. It was left to foreign publishers to give his smuggled manuscript life, offering the West a peek into the soul of the Cold War enemy, winning Pasternak the 1958 Nobel in literature and providing Hollywood with an epic film.
These days, Pasternak might not have fared so well.
In an apparent reversal of decades of U.S. practice, recent federal Office of Foreign Assets Control regulations bar American companies from publishing works by dissident writers in countries under sanction unless they first obtain U.S. government approval.
The restriction, condemned by critics as a violation of the First Amendment, means that books and other works banned by some totalitarian regimes cannot be published freely in the United States.
Several groups, led by the PEN American Center and including Arcade Publishing, have filed suit in U.S. District Court in New York seeking to overturn the regulations, which cover writers in Iran, Sudan, Cuba, North Korea and, until recently, Iraq.
Violations carry severe reprisals -- publishing houses can be fined $1 million and individual violators face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
"Historically, the United States has served as a megaphone for dissidents from other countries," said Ed Davis of New York, a lawyer leading the PEN legal challenge. "Now we're not able to hear from dissidents."
Yet more than dissident voices are affected.
The regulations already have led publishers to scrap plans for volumes on Cuban architecture and birds, and publishers complain that the rules threaten the intellectual breadth and independence of academic journals.
Shirin Ebadi, the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner, has joined the lawsuit, arguing that the rules preclude American publishers from helping craft her memoirs of surviving Iran's Islamic revolution and her efforts to defend human rights in Iranian courts.
In a further wrinkle, even if publishers obtain a license for a book -- something they are loathe to do -- they believe the regulations bar them from advertising it, forcing readers to find the dissident works on their own.
"It's absolutely against the First Amendment," fumed Arcade editor Richard Seaver, who hopes to publish an anthology of Iranian short stories. "We're not going to ask permission (to publish). That reeks of censorship."
via The Smirking Chimp
Posted by cuddlefish at 7:14 AM
Friday, December 10, 2004
Now this wounded soldier is being discharged from his company in Fort Hood, Texas, without enough gas money to get home. In fact, the Army says 27-year-old Spc. Robert Loria owes it close to $2,000, and confiscated his last paycheck.
"There's people in my unit right now – one of my team leaders [who was] over in Iraq with me, is doing everything he can to help me .... but it's looking bleak," Loria said by telephone from Fort Hood yesterday. "It's coming up on Christmas and I have no way of getting home."
Loria's expected discharge yesterday came a day after the public got a rare view of disgruntled soldiers in Kuwait peppering Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with questions about their lack of adequate armor in Iraq.
Like many soldiers wounded in Iraq, Loria's injuries were caused by a roadside bombing. It happened in February when his team from the 588th Battalion's Bravo Company was going to help evacuate an area in Baqubah, a town 40 miles north of Baghdad. A bomb had just ripped off another soldier's arm. Loria's Humvee drove into an ambush.
When the second bomb exploded, it tore Loria's left hand and forearm off, split his femur in two and shot shrapnel through the left side of his body. Months later, he was still recuperating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and just beginning to adjust to life without a hand, when he was released back to Fort Hood.
AFTER SEVERAL MORE MONTHS, the Army is releasing Loria. But "clearing Fort Hood," as the troops say, takes paperwork. Lots of it.
Loria thought he'd done it all, and was getting ready to collect $4,486 in final Army pay.
Then he was hit with another bomb. The Army had another tally – of money it says Loria owed to his government.
A Separation Pay Worksheet given to Loria showed the numbers: $2,408.33 for 10 months of family separation pay that the Army erroneously paid Loria after he'd returned stateside, as a patient at Walter Reed; $2,204.25 that Loria received for travel expenses from Fort Hood back to Walter Reed for a follow-up visit, after the travel paperwork submitted by Loria never reached the correct desk. And $310 for missing items on his returned equipment inventory list.
"There was stuff lost in transportation, others damaged in the accident," Loria said of the day he lost his hand. "When it went up the chain of command, the military denied coverage."
Including taxes, the amount Loria owed totaled $6,255.50. The last line on the worksheet subtracted that total from his final Army payout and found $1,768.81 "due us."
"It's nerve-racking," Loria said. "After everything I have done, it's almost like I am being abandoned, like, you did your job for us and now you are no use. That's how it feels."
UPDATE: Lawmakers help wounded soldier get home after dispute with Army
Posted by cuddlefish at 11:12 AM
If Mr. Bush were to say in plain English that his plan to solve our fiscal problems is to borrow trillions, put the money into stocks and hope for the best, everyone would denounce that plan as the height of irresponsibility. The fact that this plan has an elaborate disguise, one that would add considerably to its costs, makes it worse.
And maybe the fact that serious financial experts, the sort qualified to be Treasury secretary, understand all this is the reason why John Snow has just been reappointed.
Posted by cuddlefish at 7:30 AM
Thursday, December 09, 2004
Washington, DC - U.S. veterans from the war in Iraq are beginning to show up at homeless shelters around the country, and advocates fear they are the leading edge of a new generation of homeless vets not seen since the Vietnam era.
"When we already have people from Iraq on the streets, my God," said Linda Boone, executive director of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. "I have talked to enough (shelters) to know we are getting them. It is happening and this nation is not prepared for that."
"I drove off in my truck. I packed my stuff. I lived out of my truck for a while," Seabees Petty Officer Luis Arellano, 34, said in a telephone interview from a homeless shelter near March Air Force Base in California run by U.S.VETS, the largest organization in the country dedicated to helping homeless veterans.
Arellano said he lived out of his truck on and off for three months after returning from Iraq in September 2003. "One day you have a home and the next day you are on the streets," he said.
In Iraq, shrapnel nearly severed his left thumb. He still has trouble moving it and shrapnel "still comes out once in a while," Arellano said. He is left handed.
Arellano said he felt pushed out of the military too quickly after getting back from Iraq without medical attention he needed for his hand - and as he would later learn, his mind.
"It was more of a rush. They put us in a warehouse for a while. They treated us like cattle," Arellano said about how the military treated him on his return to the United States.
"It is all about numbers. Instead of getting quality care, they were trying to get everybody demobilized during a certain time frame. If you had a problem, they said, 'Let the (Department of Veterans Affairs) take care of it.'"
Nearly 300,000 veterans are homeless on any given night, and almost half served during the Vietnam era, according to the Homeless Veterans coalition, a consortium of community-based homeless-veteran service providers. While some experts have questioned the degree to which mental trauma from combat causes homelessness, a large number of veterans live with the long-term effects of post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse, according to the coalition.
Some homeless-veteran advocates fear that similar combat experiences in Vietnam and Iraq mean that these first few homeless veterans from Iraq are the crest of a wave.
"This is what happened with the Vietnam vets. I went to Vietnam," said John Keaveney, chief operating officer of New Directions, a shelter and drug-and-alcohol treatment program for veterans in Los Angeles. That city has an estimated 27,000 homeless veterans, the largest such population in the nation. "It is like watching history being repeated," Keaveney said.
Advocates said seeing homeless veterans from Iraq should cause alarm. Around one-fourth of all homeless Americans are veterans, and more than 75 percent of them have some sort of mental or substance abuse problem, often PTSD, according to the Homeless Veterans coalition.
More troubling, experts said, is that mental problems are emerging as a major casualty cluster, particularly from the war in Iraq where the enemy is basically everywhere and blends in with the civilian population, and death can come from any direction at any time.
Interviews and visits to homeless shelters around the Unites States show the number of homeless veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan so far is limited. Of the last 7,500 homeless veterans served by the VA, 50 had served in Iraq. Keaveney, from New Directions in West Los Angeles, said he is treating two homeless veterans from the Army's elite Ranger battalion at his location. U.S.VETS, the largest organization in the country dedicated to helping homeless veterans, found nine veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan in a quick survey of nine shelters. Others, like the Maryland Center for Veterans Education and Training in Baltimore, said they do not currently have any veterans from Iraq or Afghanistan in their 170 beds set aside for emergency or transitional housing.
Posted by cuddlefish at 2:41 PM
Retiring Senator Zell Miller, a teacher not a lawyer, will join the government affairs practice of one of his home state's major law firms when he leaves his Senate position early next year.
According to a statement from the firm, his employer to be, McKenna Long And Aldridge, provides expertise to clients in such areas as tax policy, international trade, homeland security, health policy and higher education.
Miller will work from the firm's Washington and Atlanta offices.
He had a hard time today describing exactly what his duties will be. Miller said -- quote -- "I haven't been able to talk to anybody very concretely because of the rules of the Senate."
But, he insisted, one thing he won't be is a lobbyist.
(via Raw Story)
Posted by cuddlefish at 8:20 AM
More than half the world's children are suffering the effects of poverty, war and HIV/AIDS, denying them a healthy and safe childhood, Unicef's annual report said Thursday.
The United Nations children's fund report on The State of the World's Children found more than one billion children are growing up hungry and unhealthy, schools have become targets for warring parties and whole villages are being killed off by AIDS.
A failure by governments around the world to live up to standards outlined in 1989's Convention on the Rights of the Child caused permanent damage to children and blocked progress toward human rights and economic advancement, the report said.
“Too many governments are making informed, deliberate choices that actually hurt childhood,” Unicef executive director Carol Bellamy said.
The report found 640 million children did not have adequate shelter; 300 million had no access to information such as TV, radio or newspapers and 140 million children, the majority of them girls, had never been to school.
Poverty was not confined to developing countries, the report said, as the proportion of children living in low-income households in 11 of 15 industrialized nations rose in the past decade.
More than 10 million child deaths were recorded in 2003, with an estimated 29,158 children under 5 dying from mostly preventable causes everyday.
Unicef reported that conflict round the world has seriously injured or permanently disabled millions of children, while millions more endure sexual violence, trauma, hunger and disease caused by wars.
Nearly half of the 3.6 million people killed in conflict during the 1990s were children and around 20 million children were forced from their homes and communities by fighting.
Unicef said almost half a million children under 15 died of AIDS in 2003, while another 630,000 children are infected with HIV.
By 2003 some 2.1 million children under 15 were living with HIV/AIDS, most of whom were infected during pregnancy, birth or through breast-feeding.
Posted by cuddlefish at 8:02 AM
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
An investigation by SmartMoney.com has found that officials in the Bush administration had detailed knowledge of fraudulent practices that allowed energy companies to cheat impoverished Native American Indians out of vast sums over dozens of years. These officials were aware that employees of the federal government were helping oil and gas companies underpay to operate on Indian lands in the state of New Mexico — and did nothing to stop it. This is the first in a two-part series.
Posted by cuddlefish at 7:50 AM
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
In India, the word public is now a Hindi word. It means people. In Hindi, we have sarkar and public, the government and the people. Inherent in this use is the underlying assumption that the government is quite separate from “the people.” However, as you make your way up India’s complex social ladder, the distinction between sarkar and public gets blurred. The Indian elite, like the elite anywhere in the world, finds it hard to separate itself from the state.
In the United States, on the other hand, the blurring of this distinction between sarkar and public has penetrated far deeper into society. This could be a sign of robust democracy, but unfortunately it’s a little more complicated and less pretty than that. Among other things, it has to do with the elaborate web of paranoia generated by the U.S. sarkar and spun out by the corporate media and Hollywood. Ordinary people in the United States have been manipulated into imagining they are a people under siege whose sole refuge and protector is their government. If it isn’t the Communists, it’s al Qaeda. If it isn’t Cuba, it’s Nicaragua. As a result, the most powerful nation in the world is peopled by a terrified citizenry jumping at shadows. A people bonded to the state not by social services, or public health care, or employment guarantees, but by fear.
We must question then: Is “democracy” still democratic? Are democratic governments accountable to the people who elected them? And, critically, is the public in democratic countries responsible for the actions of its sarkar?
If you think about it, the logic that underlies the war on terror and the logic that underlies terrorism are exactly the same. Both make ordinary citizens pay for the actions of their government. Al Qaeda made the people of the United States pay with their lives for the actions of their government in Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. government has made the people of Afghanistan pay in the thousands for the actions of the Taliban and the people of Iraq pay in the hundreds of thousands for the actions of Saddam Hussein. Whose God decides which is a “just war” and which isn’t? George Bush senior once said: “I will never apologize for the United States. I don’t care what the facts are.” When the president of the most powerful country in the world doesn’t need to care what the facts are, then we can be sure we have entered the Age of Empire.
The disturbing thing nowadays is that resistance as spectacle has cut loose from its origins in genuine civil disobedience and is becoming more symbolic than real. Colorful demonstrations and weekend marches are fun and vital, but alone they are not powerful enough to stop wars. Wars will be stopped only when soldiers refuse to fight, when workers refuse to load weapons onto ships and aircraft, when people boycott the economic outposts of Empire that are strung across the globe.
If we want to reclaim the space for civil disobedience, we must liberate ourselves from the tyranny of crisis reportage and its fear of the mundane. We must use our experience, our imagination and our art to interrogate those instruments of state that ensure “normality” remains what it is: cruel, unjust, unacceptable. We must expose the policies and processes that make ordinary things—food, water, shelter and dignity—such a distant dream for ordinary people. The real preemptive strike is to understand that wars are the end result of a flawed and unjust peace.
For mass resistance movements, no amount of media coverage can make up for strength on the ground. There is no alternative, really, to old-fashioned, back-breaking political mobilization.
In the United States, you have the USA PATRIOT Act, which has become a blueprint for antiterrorism laws passed by governments around the world. Freedoms are being curbed in the name of protecting freedom. And once we surrender our freedoms, to win them back will take a revolution.
One does not endorse the violence of militant groups. Neither morally nor strategically. But to condemn it without first denouncing the much greater violence perpetrated by the state would be to deny the people of these regions not just their basic human rights, but even the right to a fair hearing. People who have lived in situations of conflict know that militancy and armed struggle provokes a massive escalation of violence from the state. But living as they do, in situations of unbearable injustice, can they remain silent forever?
No discussion taking place in the world today is more crucial than the debate about strategies of resistance. And the choice of strategy is not entirely in the hands of the public. It is also in the hands of sarkar.
Terrorism is vicious, ugly and dehumanizing for its perpetrators as well as its victims. But so is war. You could say that terrorism is the privatization of war. Terrorists are the free marketers of war. They are people who don’t believe that the state has a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence.
Of course, there is an alternative to terrorism. It’s called justice. It’s time to recognize that no amount of nuclear weapons, or full-spectrum dominance, or “daisy cutters” or spurious governing councils and loya girgas can buy peace at the cost of justice.
The urge for hegemony and preponderance by some will be matched with greater intensity by the longing for dignity and justice by others. Exactly what form that battle takes, whether it’s beautiful or bloodthirsty, depends on us.
From In These Times
Posted by cuddlefish at 3:50 PM
In sworn affidavit, programmer says he devloped vote-rigging prototype for Florida congressman; Congressman's office silent. Read it in the blue lemur.
In the vote fraud prototype that I created things are not what they seem. Hidden on the screen are invisible buttons. A person with knowledge of the locations of those invisible buttons can then use them to alter the votes of everyone before them. By clicking the correct order of invisible buttons the candidate selected by the user is compared to other candidates within that same race. If the candidate they selected is leading the race nothing happens. If the other candidate is leading the race the vote totals are altered so that the selected candidate is now leading the race with 51% of the vote. The other candidates then share the remaining 49% in exact proportion to the totals they had previously. In the prototype supplied to Feeney the vote totals show on the screen. In an actual application the user would receive no visible clues to the fraud that had just occurred. Since the vote is applied by race, any single race or multiple races can be altered. The supervisors or any other voter would never notice this fraud since no visible sign would appear. Additionally, the procedure could be repeated as many times as was necessary to achieve the desired results. No amount of testing or simulations would expose the fraud as its activation and process is completely invisible to everyone except the person programming the vote fraud routine.
The same procedure could be automated to activate without any user intervention whenever the machine detects a certain pattern of voting. The algorithm could also be altered from hidden keys or triggers that would allow the fraudulent user to manipulate both the margins and percentages of any particular race. In most national elections it is not necessary to win every area.
Posted by cuddlefish at 8:36 AM
Case Western Reserve University's Contaceptive Collection.
The Dittrick Medical History Center learned in August that it would receive the Percy Skuy Collection on the History of Contraception. Mr. Skuy, past President of Ortho Pharmaceutical (Canada), assembled the world's most comprehensive collection of historical contraceptive devices, numbering over 650 artifacts. Dittrick Chief Curator Jim Edmonson first saw the collection in 1998, when Janssen-Ortho hosted the Medical Museum Association meeting at their headquarters in Toronto. He found the collection fascinating, but never imagined that it would one day reside at the Dittrick.
Percy Skuy's collecting began in 1965 and encompassed all manner of contraceptive devices, from a broad variety of cultures and time periods, and eventually developed into a "History of Contraception Museum". This Museum traveled the globe in the 1990s, having been displayed at medical meetings from Singapore to Switzerland. In 2000 Mr. Skuy initiated the search for a new permanent home for this collection, where it might be studied, exhibited, and enjoyed by a broader public.
via Boing Boing.
Posted by cuddlefish at 8:15 AM
Finland once again came out top in the OECD’s latest PISA study of learning skills among 15-year-olds, with high performances in mathematics and science matching those of top-ranking Asian school systems in Hong Kong-China, Japan and Korea. But some low-performing countries showed only small improvements or actually did less well, widening the gap between the best and poorest performers.
United States (25th)
United States (12th)
United States (20th)
United States (26th)
Full report here. Learn more about Finland's education system here and here.
Posted by cuddlefish at 7:47 AM
Monday, December 06, 2004
The mere thought of liberal humor in Texas will remind many of that photo that ran for years in Esquire magazine, of Richard Nixon laughing hysterically, over the caption, “Why Is This Man Laughing?” Well hell, as that great philosopher Jimmy Buffett observes, if we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane. Besides, crying and throwing up are bad for you.
Next to cops and doctors, Texas liberals have the darkest sense of humor I’ve ever come across. But like everything else in the beloved state, it comes with a twist. Like normal Texans, Texas liberals love good stories and love language with flavor and bite to it, like a good chili.
Liberals in the Lege have gone under various sobriquets over time: the Gas House Gang, the Shit House Liberals (from their habit of hiding in the Men’s Room during tough votes), the Dirty Thirty, the Gang of Four. To this good day, the advice given to every incoming member is, “Vote conservative, party liberal.” Quite simply, we are always much more fun than the other guys. From Eckhardt and Maury Maverick to Malcolm MacGregor of El Paso and Whiskey Bob Wheeler from Tilden. From Carl Parker (“If you took all the fools out of the Legislature, it would no longer be a representative body”) and Neil Caldwell (founder of the Old Forts, a group of liberal former members who can’t spell real well) to Senfronia Thompson, (who christened the tort defendants’ corner of the gallery “the Owners’ Box”).
Among the Lege’s more blissfully comic moments are its biennial efforts to proceed with more dignity. Speaker Pete Laney (the one who never got indicted) actually made some progress in this regard, but I am pleased to report the House has since lapsed into an awesome degree of asininity. Among other results, this caused the Bolt to Ardmore in the summer of ought-three. The Observer was embedded with the troops in Ardmore and can assure you that it is not a destination-vacation spot. Many in the current Legislature remind us of William Brann’s great line, “The trouble with our Texas Baptists is that we do not hold them under water long enough.”
The Observer has been watching Texas politics for 50 years now and as the sorority girls say, we’re, like, “You think you can top this?” Bring it on. We know pols in other states do foolish things and get caught in hilariously compromising situations. For 40 years, I have been involved in political storytellin’ contests with other political writers in bars all over this country. I can get a close run for my money in Louisiana, New Jersey, Illinois, and (unexpected entry) New Mexico. (Former N.M. Gov. Bruce King, a Texan at heart, was once accused of breaking a promise: “A promise,” said he with dignity, “is not a commitment.”) Hey, Preston Smith could top that any Tuesday, and Bill Clements twice a week. I have never lost a political storytellin’ contest in any category: crooked pols, dumb pols, out-goddamned-rageous pols. We win—and we never have to make up anything. How can I lose with material like the time Rep. Mike Martin paid his Cousin Eddie to shoot him in the arm with a shotgun, and then claimed it had been done by a Satanic and communistic cult.
You think I can find stuff this weird anywhere else? This is why I’m still in Texas.
Posted by cuddlefish at 10:35 AM
I'm hooked on Steve Gilliard's Colonial Warfare posts.
He is now covering the Algerian War.
Keeping Algeria French
The "Phony War"
The Open War
The Question of Torture
The Legacy of Torture
The War of the Algerians
Conduct of the War
The Wars within the War
Posted by cuddlefish at 10:02 AM
Press Routinely Undercounts U.S. Casualties in Iraq
NEW YORK As the toll of Americans killed and wounded in Iraq in November approaches record levels for one month in this war, is the press only telling part of the story?
The Pentagon's latest official count, provided on Wednesday, listed 1,230 American military killed in Iraq and another 9,300 U.S. troops wounded in action. How seriously? More than 5,000 of the wounded were too badly injured to return to duty. More than 850 troops were reported to have been wounded in action in Falluja so far.
But this only scratches the surface of the total toll.
Earlier this week, CBS’s "60 Minutes" revealed that it had received a letter from the Pentagon declaring: "More than 15,000 troops with so-called 'non-battle' injuries and diseases have been evacuated from Iraq."
These include serious injuries that arise from accidents (vehicular and otherwise), trauma, and severe psychiatric problems. The number is in line with estimates offered earlier this year by United Press International, based on arrivals at the main treatment center in Landstuhl, Germany.
More from Raed in the Middle
Posted by cuddlefish at 8:01 AM