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    Free Essay
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    Taliban infiltrates south dakota legislature

     

    Where are the last vestiges of Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders hiding? Are they cowering in caves near the Pakistani border? Perhaps they own a condo complex in Karachi. More likely they are on a Dude Ranch in America’s Heartland. Remember 1994? Religious fundamentalists overtook Afghanistan and trounced on that nation’s women with a vengeance. Being draped in a burga and beaten in the streets was standard fair. Most doctors were banned from treating women, and voting – no way! Is history repeating itself? Last week in South Dakota religious fundamentalists passed a measure making it a felony for doctors to perform any abortion, except to save the life of a pregnant woman. No exceptions are made in cases of rape or incest. There was no state wide vote. Dйjа vu! Help for victims of religious extremism in Afghanistan was slow to come. Ultimately, refugee camps sprang up along the borders and women’s rights organizations broadcasted messages of support into the occupied country via short wave radio. Response to occupied South Dakota’s oppression is already being mounted. Refugee camps are springing up along borders with Dakota’s more open-minded neighbors, such as Mormonville, Nebraska and Laramie, Wyoming. Citizens of Redecktown, Missouri are collection CB radios to airdrop around Mount Rushmore. South Dakota’s female population has had a mixed reaction to this Red States recent horrific legislation. When Republican Kellie Clueless was asked her opinion of legislative leaders forcing their will on the intimate lives of free American women she said, “Ah um da.” Antiabortion activist, Betty Sue Backwoods was interviewed in the bikini wax isle at a Sioux Falls Wal Mart. Betty Sue was quoted as saying, “I think Rep. Roger W. Hunt is a stone-cold fox and I thank God he puts my religion over everyone else’s beliefs. That’s what makes America what it is to day.” Then she tossed her six children into the cart and sprinted off to check the balance on her EBT card. Surprisingly, one well known Democrat supported the bill outright. Dr Wantmoremoney, owner of the Back Alley Abortion and Penicillin Clinic, in Pine Nut, SD made several lucrative donations across party lines to illustrate his new found love of Catholicism and loathing of the US Constitution. As the controversy rages, America’s sons and daughters die and kill in Iraq. For what? To protect America from religious fanatics hell-bent on destroying individual freedoms this country was founded on. At least, that is what we are told. Yet, the US Army has not even begun reconnaissance operations around Deadwood. Meanwhile, in Pierre, Governor Mike rounds added his input. "In the history of the world, the true test of a civilization is how well people treat the most vulnerable and most helpless in their society. The sponsors and supporters of this bill believe that abortion is wrong because unborn children are the most vulnerable and most helpless persons in our society. I agree with them," Rounds said in a statement. When asked if perhaps a pregnant 12-year-old girl raped by her uncle might be a touch more vulnerable than a pin-sized glob of splitting embryonic cells, Rounds responded by trying to sell this reporter a new auto insurance policy. The policy came complete with the new SD mandated Terrorist Assault Vehicle Insurance attachment for an additional $10.00 per month. My own government now has a 78 Yugo better protected than my uterus. As for the money that will be wasted fighting this rights-slapping legislation to the Supreme Court, the legislature has laid out a plan sell off more of the Black Hills to special interest corporations in order to finance this loosing battle. Yes, it would appear the missing Taliban have been found. Religious fanaticism is alive and well in South Dakota. Privacy, individuality and freedom are D. O.A. Perhaps National Guard troops should be searching Jewel Cave in the Black Hills for Osama Bin Laden. It is suspicious that Governor Mike Rounds and Mr. Bin Laden have never been seen together in public. Could they be one in the same? With each mystery answered a new question arises. For example, when wearing our denim burgas would South Dakota’s legislators prefer we women place rodeo buckles on the inside or out?

         
    The awful truth about television fake news and other reasons not to watch tv news

     

    DO touch that dial to avoid fake news Government agencies, corporations, industry groups, and other large organizations contaminate the airwaves with fake news. These organizations produce pre-packaged news segments called VNRs, or Video News Releases. These segments look like real news. In fact, VNRs are little more that propaganda pieces for their producers. Stations have routinely used these fake news segments since at least the 1980s, usually without disclosing their source. There is nothing inherently wrong with the government and other social actors creating interesting audio or video pieces to communicate with the public. The problem is that these propaganda pieces do not properly identify the source. They are made to look and feel like independent news casts with government/corporate actors pretending to be reporters. Government attempts to regulate fake news There have been a few efforts to control this phenomenon. The Government Accountability Office ruled in February 2005 that government-sponsored TV "news" reports are covert propaganda, unless their source is apparent to viewers. The Senate introduced the Truth in Broadcasting Act (S. 967) in 2005 into committee. This act would require all pre-packaged, government-produced audio and video news releases to include a clear disclaimer that the government was the original source. This act would not apply to VNRs produced by corporations, industry groups, or charitable foundations. As of this writing, the full Senate has yet to vote on the bill and the no one has introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives. Media is controlled by only FIVE corporations Looking at the amount of programming available, you might think that there is a wide variety of choice. There are literally hundreds of TV stations with options to choose from sports, news, cartoons, history, painting, and more. On the surface, the amount of options appears staggering. However, only five major corporations control the majority of the media. These five huge corporations—Disney, Time Warner, Bertelsmann of Germany, Murdoch's News Corporation, and Viacom (formerly CBS)—own not only most of the television stations, but now own most of the newspapers, magazines, books, and radio stations in the United States as well. Television puts your logical brain to sleep There is a reason people's eyes glaze over and they assume a zombie-like stare, when they are watching TV. Their brains are in a hynotic, alpha brainwave state. In the Mulholland experiment, 10 children watched their favorite television program, while the researchers monitored their brainwave patterns. The researchers expected that the children would show a preponderance of beta waves. This would indicate that they were involved and responding to their favorite programs. Instead, they stayed in alpha. “They just sat back. They stayed almost the whole time in alpha. That meant that while they were watching they were not reacting, not orienting, not focusing, just spaced out,” said Dr. Eric Peper. Similarly, in the early 1980’s, researchers in Australia found that the left-brain "sort of went to sleep" once TV was switched on, but the right brain was busy "storing information in its memory bank." What these studies show is that the right side of the brain may be dutifully absorbing all the images from your television screen, but the left side is lulled into a stupor by the television’s flicker. This makes analysis of the images difficult. It also makes it difficult to remember exactly what you have been watching. Furthermore, the research suggests that the left side of the brain may remain in a stupor even after you turn the TV off. What is a concerned citizen to do? How to dig for real news 1) The first step is to start reading, instead of watching, your news. Television generally takes a lot of time to get across a little bit of information. With reading you can absorb information much faster. A five minute story on the news can be read online or in the newspaper generally in less than a minute. The spare time can be used to analyze the story. 2) The next step in developing a good picture of the world is to get several good news sources. Begin with a mainstream newspaper or website to simply get an idea of the basic issues that are at stake. Then, select a couple of alternative news sources outside the mainstream. I am not going to recommend a particular source, because I do not wish to become engaged in liberal/conservative partisan discussions. These distinctions start to fall away once you start to analyze the news for yourself anyway. 3) The next step is simply to start critically viewing the material that you read. Does it make logical sense? Are there inconsistencies? Does the story change from one day to the next? Are there any patterns to events? This step is essential. Put that left brain into hyper-drive. Question the news you read, whatever the source. 4) Finally, if there are inconsistencies or notable patterns, it is time to start researching. Whenever possible it is best to go to the source of an issue. For example, if the government passes a new law about security, don’t waste time watching or reading the petty analyses of pundits. Find a copy of the law! Do not rely on someone else to give an interpretation. The internet makes it much easier to find source documents. In short, the good news is that you do not need TV news to become informed about the world. About 'The Awful Truth About Television' Series: What happens when the average American spends 4 hours 32 minutes every day watching television? Trash Your TV's 'The Awful Truth About Television' Series explores the multifaceted problems with TV in eleven hard-hitting articles. Read the full series and you will never look at your television set the same way again. sources: gao. gov/decisions/appro/304272.htm govtrack. us/congress/bill. xpd? bill=s109-967 benbagdikian/ Mander, Jerry. Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television. Morrrow Quill Paperbacks: New York. p. 210 raphaelhouse. school. nz/index. php? pid=59

         
    The cat magic show

     

    The gushing and fawning by Boston columnists over how quickly Governor Mitt Romney mastered the nuts and bolts of Big Dig information is frightening. I think his new found leadership is a diversion. In a slick show of “control” over the Central Artery Tunnel fiasco, Mitt commands respect with a flick of his magic pointer. The media swoon. It looks like a Boston rendition of Chicago; Bechtel as Roxie Hart kept safe and comfy in the lap of master puppeteer Mitt Romney, playing Billy Flynn. Nice guy, cute guy, downright lovable when he is home pretending he cares, great song and dance man, but there is more going on here than screwing in anchor bolts. Much harder questions need to be asked and investigated by the local media and by independent safety engineers to assure that no more 3-ton ceiling slabs land on commuters or travelers. But, as with any good magic show, Mitt has all eyes trained on the anchor bolts while he tries to convince the public jury that the real fault lies with Matt Amarillo and that Bechtel should be free to just walk out the door. Just when we thought it was going to be safe to go back in the Central Artery Tunnels in Boston, the Governor let us know that more anchor bolts were faulty in several lanes of I-90 and perhaps in more tunnels. One of the problems with listening to Governor Romney, Turnpike Chair Matt Amarillo or most CA/T predecessors is that they are lawyers and businessmen, not engineers. So take a minute during Mitt’s Magic Show to visit the CA/T with my tunnel vision because something does not smell right. Even though the laser light is dazzling and the hard hat adds such charm. I’m not ready to clear the deck of the Super Scoop barge for a decisive victory photo-op. First, take a really close look at the failed epoxy holding the anchor bolts that suspend the 3-ton concrete ceiling panels. Here are some of the easy to follow instructions for construction workers regarding epoxy- “Prior to application, all areas must be free of contamination such as waxes, oils, loose concrete, dirt, curing compounds, etc. Acid etching, followed by proper neutralization and rinsing, is usually acceptable if the concrete is in excellent condition, not contaminated.” (emphasis mine). Drum Roll-Mitt shines a laser light into the dark tunnel and we hear the “ooows” and “ahhhs” over the new, shiny anchor bolts, and a slight of hand trick begins. Will the rabbit now stay in the hole or pop out of the hard hat? Wake up. Remove your gaze from the anchor bolts and focus on the other end of the suspension rods within the ceiling panels themselves. We see a concrete ceiling with newly tightened anchor bolts on the top and steel cable rods embedded in 3-ton concrete slabs suspended beneath on the other end of the cable. No steel beams exist in the I-90 connector to create the desirable steel-bolted-to-steel infrastructure. So any suspended cable will only behave as well as the concrete on either end allows it to behave. If I put an anchor bolt in a wad of silly putty and hang a rod embedded in 5 lbs. of modeling clay from it…well it’s hanging there with a limited lifespan, I don’t care how new the anchor bolt might be. Anchor bolts will mean very little if this construction mess in downtown Boston is the result of mixing contaminated dirt and fill into the composition of the concrete ceiling, walls or floor. Here is how the trick might have been done: (1) While most eyes follow the light and focus on anchor bolts, our current investigation shows that there is a global demand for recycled construction products. This demand has increased substantially during the past two decades. The Big Dig produced over 4,000 miles and over 11 million cubic feet of dirt in the early digging stages. Most of this dirt and debris was processed for contamination and recycled into the Big Dig as clay landfill capping material, project backfill and as aggregate (mix) for the tons and tons of concrete needed for the project. The miles of extra dirt came from the demolition at the airport, the dredging of the harbor floor by the Super Scoop for the Ted Williams Tunnel, the digging of the coffer dam, excavation of miles underneath downtown Boston for the Tip O’Neil Tunnel, digging out tunnel entrances, etc. In Big Dig II: Down Under, co-producer Arnie Reisman and I investigated this dirt and decided to follow the good news. The uncontaminated clay portions of this fill were going to be used to cap Spectacle Island and hundreds of Massachusetts landfills, an appropriate reuse of heavier clay materials. We were assured that there was a dirt-testing lab and that all of the contaminated soil was being properly distributed and reviewed by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). We were handed stacks of literature, interagency agreements regarding contaminated materials and many, many press releases about the massive volume of dirt being tested and processed. Occasionally there was other good news on the disposition of the dirt. There were mountains of dirt and any disposition was cause for celebration. After all, any unused dirt was going to cost the project and the managers big money for disposal. (2) Digging back through my Big Dig materials I unearthed a 1992 Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Environmental Protection and the Massachusetts Highway Department about the “contaminated materials” in the soil. This addressed the process for oversight and inspections of the dirt for specific chemicals contaminating the soil that are harmful to humans and wildlife. Of course, those employees at the state DEP who were “overseeing“ the process with the Big Dig were salaried by the Massachusetts Highway Department and the Central Artery Tunnel Project. We won’t even begin to examine that closet. Why? Because right now we are trying to figure out the rabbit in the hat for Mitt’s Magic Show about the anchor bolts. (3) During construction, there seemed to be an ongoing safety process regarding the concrete. Footage in Big Dig IV: Still Working contained a segment on the concrete testing process that was overseen by the Joint Venture of Bechtel and the Massachusetts Highway Department. This footage will soon be available at our web site, PolarisProduction where we will also uncover what we consider to be the design change that is causing continuous leaks in the I-93 tunnel. This past winter, a small Big Dig contractor was accused and indicted for allegedly mixing too much old concrete in with new concrete to create a substandard mix that may be contributing to some leaks in the I-93 tunnel underneath Boston. This was a red flag that something may be NOT O. K. with at least some of the concrete but no one really noticed. (4) By looking carefully at the Memorandum of Agreement it is obvious that the chemical contaminants in the DEP agreement are not the same chemical contaminants that can be harmful to the strength of the concrete or to the tendency of certain chemical contaminants to corrode embedded steel. When certain chemicals are present in the sand and soil used as the “aggregate” or the mixing soil that is added to cement to make concrete they can weaken or affect other properties of the concrete. These effects may happen over time and consequently may not be detected using temperature and slump tests on the not-yet-hardened concrete. The Joint Venture (the state and Bechtel) was required to sample portions of the concrete in all Big Dig contracts for strength. If the aggregate used to make this same concrete contained chemical contaminants that do not affect concrete strength, but can corrode steel fittings rapidly how would we know? Well, obviously we check the standards, right? That way we always mix in aggregate that does not contaminate the concrete in ways that can be disastrous. When I looked for national standards on chemical contaminants and concrete mix, I found only an early attempt in Australia (1994-1996) to develop such construction standards for recycled material used in concrete construction. Many more Internet references attested to a lack of the type of precise testing over time that could lead to such standards. Perhaps the CA/T was following a set of engineering standards of which I am not aware. Of greatest concern is for the public to be informed about which chemical contaminates can affect the strength and durability of the concrete and which were present in what percentages in the recycled fill used throughout the CA/T tunnels. It is particularly important that an independent evaluation team makes a thorough investigation of the chemical properties of the recycled aggregate soil used throughout the project. This could help to identify areas that can be expected to have premature corrosion of steel rods embedded in concrete or that cause the concrete to expand or crumble or leak. So 12 years of Republican controlled reassurances that the harmful soil was being disposed of properly failed to explain to us that the tests were only for the chemicals and soil properties directly dangerous to humans, for example, piles of dirt that contained mercury. The tests and press releases from the CA/T in 1991-1995 did not describe the concentrations of chemical contaminants in fill that could cause premature collapse of the tunnel ceiling or walls from faulty concrete. We have those listed on our web site at our web site, PolarisProduction . We would appreciate hearing from any students, engineers or chemical engineers who can provide clarification on this matter. We will post your information and we will post any established standards for contaminates used in concrete aggregates along with any standards used by the CA/T in disposition of the dirt back into the Artery construction. While we will continue to investigate this potential concrete catastrophe and review the documents and tapes at our disposal, someone with far greater resources, like the mainstream media needs to examine the CA/T deals made with contractors. How much of the previously used dirt and debris from demolition, dredged or excavated material were each of these contractors required to reuse in their concrete? Was it tested for the road salts and other contaminants that may not be immediately harmful to people and therefore ruled usable by the DEP? Were those contaminates in sufficient quantity to pose problems as a concrete aggregate? Does the effort to get rid of over 4,000 miles of soil through recycling and to save money or make money from disposal of the fill now threaten our lives when we drive through 3.8 million cubic feet of weakened or corrosive concrete? Our future could depend upon understanding the nature of these man-made caverns before the Big Dig becomes the Big Tomb. Remember, look beyond Mitt’s Magic Show to see how this rabbit was stuffed into the hole in the first place. Next we look at the design change that may be the primary cause of I-93 tunnel leaks. This one change might have set in motion an on-going set of problems with downtown leaks in Boston’s Central Artery/Tunnel. ©2006, Dale Orlando

         
    The commander in chief has the vapors.... again

     

    The Forty Second (42nd) President of The United States of America and his loving spouse must remember that although they currently reside in New York and rub elbows with high society they are the Clintons from Arkansas - not the Kennedy's from Massachusetts. Bill Clinton having made the point, speaking on the stump in the 2008 Presidential campaign, that he cannot make Hillary younger and that he can't make her male, must surely understand that he can't bequeath her Presidential experience or powers by osmosis or any other means. The lady from Arkansas who would not bake cookies found herself playing a stewardess on "Hill One" and serving donoughts to the press minions. So she may have limited experience as a waitress, and that could serve her well in the future. At least, she has proven herself to be a mediocre actress who just might have the ability to weep on cue. Perhaps it can be put in terms the Clintons can understand if they can visualize the Razor Backs. The Arkansas football team has an equipment manager and a water boy among others, and these kids rub elbows with the coaching staff, the real players, and the quarterback but in the final analysis irrespective of their team and personal pride they are easily replaceable support staff - not the team stars. Occasionally these kids get caught up in the whole heady experience and forget their place. Caught up in the moment they imagine themselves kings and king makers; and thinking they run things, they begin to usurp those titles and powers that belong to others. Finding it easier to usurp work accomplished by others and assume their accolades than to earn your own, they at least try to do just that until the young lady who is unlucky enough to be the object of their affections is forced to put them in their place. Having pushed, intimidated, and bullied their way through life the Clintons apparently actually thought they had replaced the Kennedy's as America's premier political family. They assumed and usurped Jack Kennedy's mantle until his brother Ted Kennedy, the Senator from Massachusetts publicly anointed another. Suddenly the would be Commander In Chief who insists she wears the pants suits in her house suffers from the southern lady syndrome and suffering from the vapors comes out weeping appropriately to evoke the heart stings of any gentleman. It is inconceivable to the Tennessee Mountain Man that one can simultaneously be both the tough experienced Commander In Chief of the earth's only super power and a wilting violent in need of a woman's wiles to get her way. Itis nothing short of illusion and witchcraft. Twenty Eight (28) years of Bush and Clinton are more than enough for the computerman. America is ready for and wants a new direction... new blood... new leadership. If they were running again for the highest office in the land in any other country, America (democrats and republicans alike) would be up in arms. The Computer Man is reminded of the fire storm surrounding the George and Lurleen Wallace comedy hour. Does America want that scenario for the nation? Have we learned nothing? Or, are we simply so politically correct and self loathing that we can't help ourselves? No matter which way the country goes, it is back to the future! The remote help desk team believes the question to be, do we want Kennedy's Camelot or Clinton's chicanery. Does the United States want the visionary Kennedy's hope or Clinton's divisiveness with no inspiration? On the other hand there is a grumpy, angry, old white man for those who don't know who they are or where they stand on any particular issue from day to day. Perhaps if Hillary would just buck up and stop whining to MSNBC and the public. She could take a lesson from the Tennessee Mountain Man's girlfriend who on coming across the Mountain Man in a lounge with another young lady and reading too much into the situation, swayed up to the bar and placing her hands on his leg thrust her tongue into his ear. Then whispered, "Honey, make me jealous. If I get jealous, I get hurt and then I get over it. But, please, don't make me mad. Because if I get angry, I will snatch that bitch off that bar stool and mop up the floor with her. Then I will jerk her up by hair of her head and beat you with what is left." No matter what your politics, that is the "the straight talk express". How many times must the world see Hillary melt in her mint julep suffering the vapors to plead her case and persuade the masses? Surely Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (محمود احمدی‌نژا) and Osama bin Muhammad bin 'Awad bin Laden ( أسامة بن محمد بن عوض بن لادن‎; ) were duly impressed.

         
    The costs of coalition building

     

    Foreign aid, foreign trade and foreign direct investment (FDI) have become weapons of mass persuasion, deployed in the building of both the pro-war, pro-American coalition of the willing and the French-led counter "coalition of the squealing". By now it is clear that the United States will have to bear the bulk of the direct costs of the actual fighting, optimistically pegged at c. $200 billion. The previous skirmish in Iraq in 1991 consumed $80 billion in 2002 terms - nine tenths of which were shelled out by grateful allies, such as Saudi Arabia and Japan. Even so, the USA had to forgive $7 billion of Egyptian debt. According to the General Accounting Office, another $3 billion were parceled at the time among Turkey, Israel and other collaborators, partly in the form of donations of surplus materiel and partly in subsidized military sales. This time around, old and newfound friends - such as Jordan, an erstwhile staunch supporter of Saddam Hussein - are likely to carve up c. $10 billion between them, says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Jordan alone has demanded $1 billion. According to the Knight Ridder Newspapers, in February 2003, an Israeli delegation has requested an extra $4-5 billion in military aid over the next 2-3 years plus $8 billion in loan guarantees. Israel, the largest American foreign and military aid recipient, is already collecting c. $3 billion annually. It is followed by Egypt with $1.3 billion a year - another rumored beneficiary of $1 billion in American largesse. Turkey stands to receive c. $6 billion for making itself available (however reluctantly, belatedly, and fitfully) as staging grounds for the forces attacking Iraq. Another $20 billion in loan guarantees and $1 billion in Saudi and Kuwaiti oil have been mooted. In the thick of the tough bargaining, with Turkey demurring and refusing to grant the USA access to its territory, the International Monetary Fund - thought by many to be the long arm of US foreign policy - suddenly halted the disbursement of money under a two years old standby arrangement with the impoverished country. It implausibly claimed to have just unearthed breaches of the agreement by the Turkish authorities. This systemic non-compliance was being meticulously chronicled - and scrupulously ignored by the IMF - for well over a year now by both indigenous and foreign media alike. Days after a common statement in support of the American stance, the IMF clinched a standby arrangement with Macedonia, the first in two turbulent years. On the same day, Bulgaria received glowing - and counterfactual - reviews from yet another IMF mission, clearing the way for the release of a tranche of $36 million out of a loan of $330 million. Bulgaria has also received $130 million in direct US aid between 2001-3, mainly through the Support for East European Democracy (SEED) program. But the IMF is only one tool in the administration's shed. President Bush has increased America's foreign aid by an unprecedented 50 percent between 2003-6 to $15 billion. A similar amount was made available between 2003-8 to tackle AIDS, mainly in Africa. Half this increase was ploughed into a Millennium Challenge Account. It will benefit countries committed to democracy, free trade, good governance, purging corruption and nurturing the private sector. By 2005, the Account contained close to $5 billion and is being replenished annually to maintain this level. This expensive charm offensive was intended to lure and neutralize the natural constituencies of the pacifistic camp: non government organizations, activists, development experts, developing countries and international organizations. As the war drew nearer, the E10 - the elected members of the Security Council - also cashed in their chips. The United States has softened its position on trade tariffs in its negotiations of a free trade agreement with Chile. Immigration regulations were relaxed to allow in more Mexican seasonal workers. Chile received $2 million in military aid and Mexico $44 million in development finance. US companies cooperated with Angola on the development of offshore oilfields in the politically contentious exclave of Cabinda. Guinea and Cameroon absorbed dollops of development aid. Currently, Angola receives c. $19 million in development assistance. Cameroon already benefits from military training and surplus US arms under the Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program as well as enjoying trade benefits in the framework of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act. Guinea gets c. $26 million in economic aid annually plus $3 million in military grants and trade concessions. The United States has also pledged to cause Iraq to pay its outstanding debts, mainly to countries in Central and East Europe, notably to Russia and Bulgaria. Iraq owes the Russian Federation alone close to $9 billion. Some of the Russian contracts with the Iraqi oil industry, thought to be worth dozens of billions of dollars, may even be honored by the victors, promised the Bush administration. It reneged on both promises. Debt relief reduced Iraq's debt by 90% and all Saddam Hussein era contracts were vitiated. Thus, the outlays on warfare are likely be dwarfed by the price tag of the avaricious constituents of president Bush's ramshackle coalition. New York Times columnist Paul Krugman aptly christened this mass bribery, "The Martial Plan". Quoting "some observers", he wrote: "The administration has turned the regular foreign aid budget into a tool of war diplomacy. Small countries that currently have seats on the U. N. Security Council have suddenly received favorable treatment for aid requests, in an obvious attempt to influence their votes. Cynics say that the 'coalition of the willing' President Bush spoke of turns out to be a 'coalition of the bought off' instead'." But this is nothing new. When Yemen cast its vote against a November 1990 United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force to evict Iraq from Kuwait - the United states scratched $700 million in aid to the renegade country over the following decade. Nor is the United States famous for keeping its antebellum promises. Turkey complains that the USA has still to honor its aid commitments made prior to the first Gulf War. Hence its insistence on written guarantees, signed by the president himself. Similarly, vigorous pledges to the contrary aside, the Bush administration has allocated a pittance to the reconstruction of Afghanistan in its budgets - and only after it is prompted to by an astounded Congress. Macedonia hasn't been paid in full for NATO's presence on its soil during the Kosovo conflict in 1999. Though it enjoyed $1 billion in forgiven debt and some cash, Pakistan is still waiting for quotas on its textiles to be eased, based on an agreement it reached with the Bush administration prior to the campaign to oust the Taliban. Congress is a convenient scapegoat. Asked whether Turkey could rely on a further dose of American undertakings, Richard Boucher, a State Department spokesman, responded truthfully: "I think everybody is familiar with our congressional process." Yet, the USA, despite all its shortcomings, is the only game in town. The European Union cannot be thought of as an alternative benefactor. Even when it promotes the rare coherent foreign policy regarding the Middle East, the European Union is no match to America's pecuniary determination and well-honed pragmatism. In 2002, EU spending within the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership amounted to a meager $700 million. The EU signed association agreements with some countries in the region and in North Africa. The "Barcelona Process", launched in 1995, is supposed to culminate by 2010 in a free trade zone incorporating the European Union, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, Syria and Turkey. Libya has an observer status and Cyprus and Malta have joined the EU in the meantime. According to the International Trade Monitor, published by the Theodore Goddard law firm, the Agadir Agreement, the first intra-Mediterranean free trade compact, was concluded In March 2003 between Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia. It is a clear achievement of the EU. The European Union signed a Cooperation Agreement with Yemen and, in 1989, with the Gulf Cooperation Council, comprising Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Oman. A more comprehensive free trade agreement covering goods, services, government procurement and intellectual property rights is in the works. The GCC has recently established a customs union as well. Despite the acrimony over Iran's not-so-civilian nuclear program, the EU may soon ink a similar set of treaties with Iran with which the EU has a balanced trade position - c. $7 billion of imports versus a little less in exports. The EU's annual imports from Iraq - at c. $4 billion - are more than 50 percent higher than they were prior to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990. It purchases more than one quarter of Iraq's exports. The EU exports to Iraq close to $2 billion worth of goods, far less than it did in the 1980s, but still a considerable value and one fifth of the country's imports. EU aid to Iraq since 1991 exceeds $300 million. But Europe's emphasis on trade and regional integration as foreign policy instruments in the Mediterranean is largely impracticable. America's cash is far more effective. Charlene Barshefsky, the former United States trade representative from 1997 to 2001, explained why in an opinion piece in the New York Times: "The Middle East ... has more trade barriers than any other part of the world. Muslim countries in the region trade less with one another than do African countries, and much less than do Asian, Latin American or European countries. This reflects both high trade barriers ... and the deep isolation Iran, Iraq and Libya have brought on themselves through violence and support for terrorist groups ... 8 of (the region's) 11 largest economies remain outside the WTO." Moreover, in typical EU fashion, the Europeans benefit from their relationships in the region disproportionately. Bilateral EU-GCC trade, for instance, amounts to a respectable $50 billion annually - but European investment in the region declined precipitously from $3 billion in 1999 to half that in 2000. The GCC, on its part, has been consistently investing $4-5 billion annually in the EU economies. It also runs an annual trade deficit of c. $9 billion with the EU. Destitute Yemen alone imports $600 million from the EU and exports a meager $100 million to it. The imbalance is partly attributable to European non-tariff trade barriers such as sanitary regulations and to EU-wide export subsidies. Nor does European development aid compensate for the EU's egregious trade protectionism. Since 1978, the EU has ploughed only $210 million into Yemen's economy, for instance. A third of this amount was in the form of food support. The EU is providing only one fifth of the total donor assistance to the country. In the meantime, the USA is busy signing trade agreements with all and sundry, subverting what little leverage the EU could have possessed. In the footsteps of a free trade agreement with Israel, America has concluded one with Jordan in 2000. The kingdom's exports to the United States responded by soaring from $16 million in 1998 to c. $400 million in 2002. Washington negotiated a similar deal with Morocco. It is usurping the EU's role on its own turf. Who can blame French president Jacques Chirac for blowing his lid?

         
    The gulf between baghdad and doha

     

    On April 8, 2003, in a testimony before the Senate Steel Caucus, industry executives urged legislators to ignore the future decision of a World Trade Organization appeals panel, widely expected to uphold an earlier preliminary ruling that U. S.-imposed steel tariffs flouted international trade law. Several senators called on the United States to withdraw from the multilateral body. Wilbur Ross, chairman of International Steel Group, blamed the burgeoning balance of payments deficit on the rulings and regulations of the WTO. According to Steve Seidenberg in the National Law Journal, defiance of the WTO is a growing trend. Gary Horlick of the Washington DC law firm, Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, reckons that one in seven judgments rendered by the WTO's dispute mechanisms have been hitherto ignored. Nor is the USA alone in its transgressions. Ten polities - including the European Union and Canada - are serial violators. The WTO cannot enforce its decrees. It can only grant complainants permission to retaliate by imposing their own tariffs on products imported from the unrepentant country. This is a blunt and ineffective instrument. Experts warn of a return to unilateralism with the entire edifice of multilateral trade law discredited. Revamping the dispute settlement rules is one item on the agenda of the current phase of trade negotiations, dubbed, in a November 2001 WTO Ministerial Conference, the Doha "Development" Round. Like the rest of the itinerary, it is going nowhere fast. Alarmed by a looming and unrealistic deadline on May 31, 2003 the Chairman of the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB), Peter Balas, proposed to first concentrate on a framework document, followed by a draft text. But, as James Wolfensohn, the former President of the World Bank, observed, with everyone preoccupied with Baghdad, Doha - arguably far more crucial to the global economy - is sidelined. This is unfortunate - and ominous. The 146 members of the WTO - the newest one being Macedonia - failed to agree on the future shape of farm trade by the stipulated deadline of March 31, 2003. The goalposts were then moved again and again with a deadline conference in December 2005. The September 2003 Ministerial Conference convenes in Cancun, Mexico was an abysmal failure. In the meantime, the multilateral regime which bolstered international trade in the past 10 years, is being supplanted by a patchwork of bilateral and regional treaties, albeit subject to WTO rules. Scholars disagree whether, in the absence of a global compact, these are preferable to the status quo. But everyone accepts that international rules are the best option. But divisions run deep. India - an important player and the unofficial spokesperson for the "less privileged" club - joined Cuba, Egypt, Malaysia, Dominican Republic, Honduras and Jamaica in demanding "special and differential developing country provisions". With Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe, it insists on preferential market access for the group's non-agricultural goods. The developing countries regard the previous Uruguay Round as a rip-off perpetrated by the club of developed and industrialized countries at the expense of the indigent. They have sworn not be led down the garden path again. Hence their furious resistance to demands to expand the negotiations to include such issues as animal welfare, food safety and labeling and the protection of geographical trade names. They see these as thinly veiled attempts to introduce trade restraints through the backdoor. Instead, they want to concentrate on their main exports - agricultural produce and textiles - on tariff reductions and preferences, special treatment for certain products and safeguard provisions. Some of them want rich-world farm and export subsidies - totaling more than $300 billion a year - dramatically reduced, or even eliminated altogether. Export credits and state-owned trading enterprises are also contentious topics. The atmosphere is so dour that no one even broaches industrial tariffs and anti-dumping. Poor countries are especially incensed at the United States for having torpedoed an agreement to grant poor countries access to generic drugs to fight AIDS and other diseases - and at the European Union for postponing any serious tweaking of its egregious Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to 2013. The United States - faced with inane European subventions - raised its own farm support by a whopping four fifths in May 2003. Yet, it is still far below EU largesse. America is also the prime driver - together with the Cairns group of agricultural exporters (including Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Brazil) - of a bold initiative to cut subsidies down to 5 percent of production, to slash tariffs to 25 percent and to abolish all export-related aid. Japan, insensitively, is trying to reduce its rice import quota. Together with Norway, India, the EU and South Korea - known as the "friends of multifunctionality" - it is championing an unworkable "linear" formula by which countries should cut subsidies and tariffs equally, irrespective of prevailing levels of farm aid. Even so, the EU would like to slash subsidies by no more than 45 to 55 percent and tariffs by less than 36 percent, as per the WTO's Agreement on Agriculture. Nor is the camp of developing countries either homogeneous or cohesive. African and Caribbean nations enjoy preferential access to markets in the EU and the United States. Others - notably India - are terrified of the inevitable onslaught of efficient competition following farm liberalization. But no country, rich or poor, seems to be preparing its agricultural sector to cope with the impact of a successful Doha round. Time is running out. The term of Pascal Lamy, the EU's capable trade commissioner, ended in 2004 and he was replaced by Peter Mandelson. President George Bush's fast track negotiating authority expires in 2007, if he makes it that far. As The Economist warns, the "peace clause", yielded by the Uruguay Round, elapsed on December 31, 2003. While in force, it prevented a deluge of farm-related litigation from erupting on the scene. A trickle is already evident: Brazil has sued both the USA and the EU over cotton and sugar subsidies, respectively. Textile wars erupted between China and both the EU and the USA and were settled by inconclusive short-term agreements. The crisis at the WTO is part of a global transition from the multilateralism that characterized the Cold War - to unilateralism or, rather, bilateralism. The breakdown of consensus-based alliances strains international institutions and laws. National - or supranational - interests emerge as renewed sources of legitimacy. While the United States may be blamed for the demise of political multilateralism - it is the EU that is largely responsible for the collapse of the international economic order. The Doha Development Agenda falls prey to these geopolitical upheavals as it tries to tackle the most prickly issues. In a presentation in March 2003 to the 3rd International Temperate Rice Conference in Punte del Este, Uruguay, Dan Horovitz, of the Theodore Goddard law firm in Brussels, reminded the participants how uncertain the outcomes are: "Whereas the average non-agricultural worldwide tariff is 4 percent, the average tariff imposed by developed countries on agricultural products is 40 percent, with peaks as high as 500 percent ... The new Round's negotiations are of paramount importance for the very viability and credibility of the WTO system. A failure to provide for proper solutions to the problems of the global agricultural trade would have particularly devastating results not only for trade in agriculture, but for the current trading system as a whole."

         
    The math of the aftermath

     

    Comedian Chevy Chase, when he anchored the first Saturday Night Live faux-news desk, had a running joke that satirized, post-mortem, the endless medical updates provided by the public relations machine of a dying dictator ... "Here's a bulletin from Spain: Doctors are reporting that Generalissimo Francisco Franco is holding fast in his valiant fight to remain dead!" The point, of course, was that neither the Spanish public nor the global public at the time was ever fooled by the propaganda of Franco's terminal condition during his last days. The tweak also carried undertones that no government could overcome the forces of nature, no matter what it announced. That brings us to the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Anyone who has been to the Gulf Coast says that the media images of the devastation there --- no matter how hard they try --- just cannot convey the scope of the disaster. Vast segments of the region have literally been blown back a couple of centuries, to a time when electricity, telephones, running water and the like were either a luxury or a futuristic concept. Usual conveniences such as food shopping are still a major challenge to many. Some jobs may have left with Katrina; like her, they may never return. This doesn't look like it's going to get much better anytime soon, either. I thought of this while taking a second look at the pages on the Longer Life site, all of which include the American Red Cross public service ad which appeals for donations to their hurricane relief fund. The appeals are just as urgent and relevant today as they were when they were first posted. I sometimes wonder, though, if those who view them don't get so accustomed to their presence that they ultimately look past them. I know the plan at the Longer Life site is to keep them in place until all needs are met, which in my opinion, means the Red Cross will be a fixture on their pages for a long time to come. The American government recently released over 100,000 pages of documents which dealt with their handling of the crisis. It's notable in the impression that they didn't give the matter much more attention than they would have if the affected area was a third-world country. Having said that, the sheer volume of funds required to repair and rebuild is staggering. For example, it's been cited in the Los Angeles Times that the costliest public works project to date was the shift of freeways in Boston to an underground route. The price tag was $14.6 billion, the time factor was 14 years and the object of the exercise was to move just under eight miles of roadway into a tunnel. The Gulf Coast reclamation is going to involve much more than eight miles of tunneling. It's been reported that the federal commitment to this task has already exceeded $62 billion. One third of that amount has already been deployed and it can fairly be said that its effects are hardly noticed. This total will be added to the federal deficit, of course, right along with the billions being spent to do whatever it is they currently say they're doing in Iraq. If the current administration holds fast to its pledge against raising taxes, the implication is that a host of cuts in other programs are inevitable. Thus, Americans won't have to be located along the Gulf Coast to somehow share in its devastation. Among other things, some interest groups are now taking a close look at how funds are being utilized and allocated. Allegations of misappropriations and the like are sure to follow. Contrast this state of affairs with the recent earthquake in Pakistan. The magnitude of that disaster was similarly breathtaking. If you missed it, the Richter scale measured the quake at 7.8 and an estimated 87,000 people were killed. Their government already depends upon the USA for much of its additional aid. It may be a while before they see anything significant to assist in this natural tragedy. One city there will have additional help. It's coming in the form of lottery winnings. A gentleman named Ishan Khan hit it big while working in the USA as a taxi driver. He nailed a $55 million jackpot and took his winnings up front, netting over $32 million. Mr Khan moved back to his homeland, where that amount of money can spend like $1 billion and where he instantly became one of Pakistan's most wealthy private individuals. It's obvious to Mr Khan that private assistance is necessary for relief efforts there to have any immediacy. His village, Batagram, lost 4500 citizens in the 8 Oct quake and surely, a good number of those were known to him. Here's the Associated Press account of his response to date: "Just days before the earthquake, Khan was elected district nazim, or mayor, of Batagram. After the quake hit, he helped pull survivors from the rubble, and paid to get the most seriously injured to regional hospitals. He told pharmacists he would pay them later for dispensing all the medicine on their shelves. The bill came to 10 million rupees, almost $200,000. "Khan has bankrolled a program to supply roofing materials to rebuild shattered homes. He bought 150 tents, some of which occupy land just outside his mansion with panoramic views of snowcapped peaks. "Most important, Khan has emerged as a colorful and outspoken critic of local government corruption. In recent days, the blue-eyed nazim — who refers to himself simply as Khan — has dismissed the town's police chief and fired another official. Khan promises to continue the housecleaning. 'We have a calamity and people are lazy, unable to move,' he says. 'So I started firing people.' "Relief workers are impressed. 'He's a take-charge person,' says Aziuddin Ahmad, who works with a Malaysian aid group." With that record, I'm sure there would be a good number of towns along the Gulf Coast that would elect him to public office, too. With so much money required, both public accountability and private incentive are imperative if the effects of these disasters are to be overcome. Let's hope that interest groups in both the USA and Pakistan monitor the former closely and with the greater good in mind. Meanwhile, let's not let those Red Cross ads blend into the background. As Mr Khan has exemplified, there is no more effective actions than those taken by personal incentive. Do whatever you can do to make sure your governmental representatives understand that accountability in dispersing relief funds is important to taxpayers and can shear years from the completion date of reclamation projects. More directly, anytime --- now or whenever, as this effort is going to take years to accomplish --- you have a bit of funds to spare, forsake the costs of a night on the town or its equivalent and click on the Red Cross ad. Perhaps your donation won't come from winning the lottery, but the knowledge that you've helped a disaster victim in need will make it feel like you did.

         
    The moon one small step for man one giant bill for america

     

    Going to the moon again is causing far more controversy today than it could have back in the sixties. Some Americans doubt we can afford it and others are not sure they have seen the “giant leap for mankind” that the first moon shot promised. It depends on who you ask but don’t dare ask me. I didn’t think the first moon landing had much significance for reasons that few people share with me. President Bush announced an ambitious plan to return to the moon by 2013-15 near the birthplace of modern flight, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The centenary of flight celebrations was held in Kill Devil Hills in December of 2003 where the President will announced plans to allow NASA to offer up its best to the effort. With funding from congress to supplement their 15.5 billion dollar existing budget NASA will have to do a great deal of aggressive re-tooling and budget squeezing to pull it off by the proposed deadline. I have talked to MIT and Harvard grads who still think that if a rocket whizzes by you in space it makes a whooshing sound much like a jet craft does in the atmosphere. Someone forgot to tell them there is no sound where there is no air. So what, you say? Some of these grads are aware that even if we could travel at warp 9 (Star Trek’s imaginary multiplication of the speed of light) that it would take about one hundred thousand years to make the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy and upon return, the earth would be about 1.2 million years older than it is today. But why harp on the small stuff. Only once since I began a twenty year fascination with Einstein’s time/light theory have I heard from anyone connected to NASA who dared to address this fact to a sublimely ignorant public. He was hushed up in the slow lane with indifference and a public that couldn’t tell you how the world can make it through the next decade without imploding. With a list of almost infinite problems how can we think of getting people out that far, much less plan for the return of our astronauts after 4000 generations of time. I’m not anti-science, in fact I think our world has only improved because of it. But science should be no less immune from a serious reality check than was the church in the dark ages. I believe in the bible , and I’m sure it gives us only a very short time to the second coming of Christ. But even at that I would never put the bible against science. I am satisfied that science is the book of how, and the bible is the book of why. Being a bible believing Christian I also have another view about space travel. It is hard to believe that every Christian may not agree with me. Until the cost of getting to the moon is more affordable if ever, I think the money could be spent more effectively right here on earth and we could be satisfied with singing the official state song of Vermont which is Moonlight in Vermont. Almost every starving child in the world could be fed and clothed for a decade for the cost of sending up only one moon shot. My bible, my conscience, my common sense and every bone in my body says that would be a far better way to spend the fifteen billion bucks. I know there are those who will think this is a preposterous proposal and perhaps it is. So I will offer yet one more proposal that I think is on the same level as sticking America with a fifteen billion dollar bill just to bring back a few moon rocks. We could look for that cow, you know, the one who jumped over the moon. We could train his aim for a while so he could hit the darned moon next time. He could jump back with the rocks and dust for our scientists to look over and we’d save a bundle of taxpayers cash. “Blue moon I saw you standing alone, without a dream in your heart” Watch out, we’re back!

         
    The princess diana hey wanna buy some pix

     

    Hollywood celebrities were cropping up so often on TV talk shows last week that you would have thought it was Oscar time. They were grieved, of course, over the tragic death of Princess Diana. But they were also eager to gripe about the paparazzi, whose aggressive tactics may have played a role in her death. Elizabeth Taylor called them murderers. Tom Cruise recounted how he and his wife Nicole Kidman had been chased by photographers through the very same Paris tunnel. Everyone from George Clooney to Whoopi Goldberg chimed in; boycotts were advocated; legislation proposed. Some stars reportedly even want to investigate the private lives of tabloid editors, to give them a taste of their own medicine. There was a self-serving side to all this, of course. Hollywood stars would like nothing better than to cow the press into docility, thus clearing the way for nonstop coverage of their thriving careers, happy home lives and unflagging concern for the spotted owl. Yet in this instance, Hollywood perfectly tapped into the public mood. The week of mourning that followed Diana's death also saw an outpouring of revulsion at paparazzi tactics, prompting a fresh round of self-appraisal by publications that use their photos and, tacitly at least, condone their excesses. Paparazzi--the celebrity photographers who trail stars looking for shots of them in unguarded moments--have been around for decades, dogging the tracks of people like Elizabeth Taylor and Jacqueline Onassis. But the game has grown increasingly fierce in recent years, as media outlets devoted to celebrities have proliferated, and new technology, such as digital photo transmission, has come into use. And lately, the absence of wars and other world crises (as well as skimpier budgets for covering foreign news) has forced many photojournalists to do celebrity work just to make a living. There's big money to be made. Two weeks before Diana's death, the Globe tabloid ran eight pages of photos of her and Dodi Fayed on their vacation off the island of Sardinia, and boasted in a note to readers of paying $210,000 for them: "It was a big payday for photog Mario Brenna, who stands to make as much as $3 million worldwide." Lured by such sums, paparazzi are resorting to ever more aggressive tactics--sometimes even provoking confrontations with stars in order to catch their temper tantrums on film. "About a year ago there was a real increase in invasive kinds of pictures," says Valerie Virga, photo editor for the National Enquirer, "people really going over the edge to get the picture--climbing roofs, scaling buildings, super-super long lenses into people's backyards. We've turned down hundreds of pictures over the last year for that reason." U. S. photographers blame their European counterparts for upping the ante. "They are ruthless," says Scott Downie, the owner of Celebrity Photo, an agency that covers official show-biz events. "Those who came here in the '80s laughed at us as babies: 'You don't know how to get a good photo. We're here to get them in a private moment, not in diamonds at an event.'" Yet every paparazzo is familiar with the pressures. "It's a collective hysteria," says Mark Saunders, who has covered Diana for the past five years. "It's the adrenaline flowing and that desperate need to get a photograph. I've seen [U. S. photographers] in action outside John Kennedy Jr.'s house. If America wants a tragedy on the same scale, just allow that to continue." Saunders says Diana's death confirmed a decision he made six months ago--to get out of the paparazzi game altogether. But most other paparazzi, and the agencies that hire them and peddle their photos to magazines, were incommunicado or unrepentant last week. "I feel no responsibility, legal or moral," says Goksin Sipahioglu, director of the Paris-based Sipa agency. "Of course, I'm sad, because someone we all adored is dead. But when you become Princess Di, you are a public person." In a telling irony, several of the agencies representing photographers detained by French police after the accident would not release photos of them to the press. And some agencies supplying pictures of Dodi and Diana to magazines last week specifically asked that they not be given the usual credit line. Yet editors of publications that rely on paparazzi are taking a fresh look at how far their intrusive tactics should be allowed to go. Shortly after the accident, Steve Coz, editor of the National Enquirer, publicly vowed not to buy any photos taken at the scene, while claiming that his tabloid had instituted a policy a year ago of not using so-called stalkerazzi pictures. (The Enquirer issue on the newsstands when Diana was killed, however, featured several candid shots of the princess with Fayed, trumpeted by the cover line DI GOES SEX-MAD. The issue was pulled by a number of newsstands after her death.) Dan Schwartz, editorial director of the more freewheeling Globe, also promised to toughen standards. "We're going to become more conservative about our assessment of what will offend people, because we have to," he said. "People's consciousness of what is paparazzi and what isn't has been raised." Mainstream publications are hardly exempt from the debate. Dozens of publications, including TIME and Newsweek, used paparazzi shots to illustrate their stories on the tragedy last week. A news photo of Diana's two sons glimpsed inside a car after her death--a shot that could easily be regarded as intrusive--ran even in the sober New York Times. Though editors and publishers say clear-cut rules are hard to set, the tragedy has heightened their sensitivity to the issue. "You have to exercise judgment when you know competitive forces are going to exercise less judgment and less taste," says Mort Zuckerman, publisher of the New York Daily News. In a letter to readers in this week's PEOPLE (published by Time Inc.), managing editor Carol Wallace writes that decisions on whether or not to use paparazzi photos are made "on a case-by-case basis, weighing the news value of a picture against a story subject's right to peace and privacy." Such self-policing is unlikely to satisfy the paparazzi's sharpest critics. California legislators like Tom Hayden are planning to introduce legislation to curb paparazzi exploits, such as requiring photographers to maintain a certain distance from their subjects. Such laws, however, might have a tough time passing constitutional muster because of the threat they pose to freedom of the press. (Not to mention the freedom of any grandmother at Disney World to snap pictures of a famous person who passes by.) Legal experts point out, moreover, that most abuses can be dealt with by current criminal laws (against trespassing and assault, for example) or by civil lawsuits, as Jacqueline Onassis brought when she won injunctions against photographer Ron Galella. Both legislation and self-regulation have been tried overseas, with mixed results. A French law enacted in 1970 allows the courts to punish press actions that are deemed an "assault on intimacy or privacy." Actress Isabelle Adjani used the law to win a judgment against the tabloid Voici in 1995 for running photos taken without her permission. Still, French paparazzi are widely perceived to be among the world's most brazen. In Britain, meanwhile, the Press Complaints Commission, established in 1991, has drawn up a code of practice to prevent invasive press tactics. Though hard to enforce, the rules have succeeded in removing at least some paparazzi shots from the raucous British tabloids. The campaign against paparazzi has its dangers. Almost by definition, journalism involves some measure of intrusion--investigating matters that the subject would rather not be publicized. In covering Hollywood, moreover, journalists must battle a sophisticated armada of publicists, who seek to manage every jot and tittle of media coverage of their client. "The paparazzi have become more aggressive because celebrities and their publicists have got so controlling," says Steve Sands, a New York City-based celebrity photographer. Nor are the stars above using the paparazzi for their own purposes. When the Kennedy family gathered for a family outing in Hyannis Port, Mass., two weeks ago, photographers snapped pictures of the happy clan playing touch football. Far from shooing away the nosy cameras, the family clearly welcomed the coverage as a chance to let the world see their togetherness in the wake of recent family troubles. Then there are the people who buy the newspapers and watch the TV shows that keep the paparazzi in business. These consumers of celebrity news got lectured last week by those same celebrities for not curbing their appetites. They may yet listen. But for now, they are too busy paying their last respects to the biggest celebrity of all.

         
    The question is margaret how deep is the recession

     

    : President George Bush is right, the country is "not headed for a recession". It has arrived - Remote Helpdesk 1 knows we are there. Besides politics, recession is the major concern of the common man as the summer vacation season hurdles towards the masses. Winter will soon be a memory and family thoughts will turn to spring break and anticipation of summer vacations. The truth is less Americans than ever before will not be able to take a vacation this year. The number of people finding themselves stranded at home during vacation times and holidays have been trending upward for years now. online helpdesk The economy has slowed according to the White House and has replaced the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the genocide in Darfur as the average American's priority. Republican nominee John Mc Cain promises to address the issue as house prices fall, fuel and food prices increase, home foreclosures soar, the dollar is in free fall, America loses 63,000 jobs in February alone - the most in the last five years and the government now admits January 2008 numbers were also negative, and we find ourselves at an all time high in auto repossessions. The Tennessee Mountain Man wonders why politicians are always promising to fix something while running for office that they already had twenty-five years to correct.Having been a student of business sciences in college, a life time of two ago, the Computer Man recognizes that there must be official definitions of such phenomenon as a recession and a depression, however political correctness be damned.

    When your rent and utilities are past due and you, your children, or your aging parents are hungry and you can do little about it, you are in a depression. The dirty little secret no one wants to address is, when some are in a recession, many are of necessity in a depression.For way too long our elderly have had to choose between medicine and food, and of having to pay a portion of their utilities one month and paying their rent the next while children must eat two meals a day at school or go hungry.Although it is disheartening to watch the wealthy republican establishment decry the less financially secure people of the world who make their life style possible, it was a positive sign when the newly minted world's wealthiest man, Billionaire Warren Buffett, recently said "the U. S. economy is essentially in a recession even if it hasn't met the technical definition of one yet". Perhaps he knows because Kirby vacuum cleaners are harder to move these days and those who want one can't qualify for the financing, and those, like the Tennessee Mountain Man, who use his gecko insurance can barely keep it from lapsing.Most folk of Buffett's stature, those simply suffering from the little man syndrome, and the wanna be lose touch with the average American.

    Even George W. Bush, the President of the United States, who has a cabinet and an army of advisors who are supposed to be in touch with the people and keep him informed recently declared, "I’m ‘focused’ on gas prices but unaware of four dollar a gallon gas".During a recent press conference, a reporter asked President Bush what his “advice” would be to the “average American” who is “facing the prospect of four dollar a gallon gasoline.” Bush replied, “That’s interesting, I hadn’t heard that.” After all he travels in a 20 car motorcade fueled by the Secret Service on our dime, and when his truck needs fuel on the ranch they surely don't let him run down to the local convenience store, refuel, grab a bucket of chicken, and a cold drink.

    Thursday, March the 6th, 2008, fuel hit well over a hundred dollars a barrel and hit a new all time high of $109.00 a barrel Tuesday, March 11th on it's way to two hundred dollars while the value of American Currency continues to fall around the world.When we began to get bombarded with SPAM like this, "Lowest priced homes: foreclosure deals are everywhere!! Beautiful 3-4-5 bedroom homes in all areas - starting at $25,000 - sometimes with nothing down!", hard working Americans - the middle class - are in serious trouble irrespective of what some condescending snob wishes to call it.When your lender shows up for his collateral and leaves you with the parting shot, "we'll see what it brings at auction and then we'll go from there" you know what he means.

    The collateral will be sold quickly and cheaply and then he will be back not with groceries to help you feed your children nor with money to help you pay your doctor bills and buy medicine but to seize any and everything else you possess.A real kick in the teeth while you are down. Just what you need at the moment.

    A recession by any definition remains untoward struggle and pain. Ask the suffering - the lower and middle classes in America. Where does it end? when you lose your job? when you are in bankruptcy?

    when you are homeless?Yes, Margaret, technicalities notwithstanding, the United States is in a recession. The fed can cut interest rates until the bank pays us to borrow money and the world bank can pump all the cash it wants to into the system, but in reality it is not going to get better for the majority of us any time soon.

    Technicalities don't get hungry... technicalities don't become delinquent...technicalities don't worry about sky rocketing medical bills... technicalities don't have to worry about obscene burial costs...

    technicalities don't get sick... technicalities don't lose jobs or take cuts in pay... technicalities don't hurt... technicalities don't get depressed... technicalities don't commit suicide...

    technicalities don't cry... technicalities don't lash out in frustration - but, people made in God's image do.When you lie down tonight - wherever you lie down tonight - please try to remember that there really is someone who is hurting more than you, and say a little prayer for that Child of God.

         
    The rising risk of a terrorist attack could it happen today

     

    You’ve read about it, you’ve seen it: terrorist attacks on trains, in nightclubs and the worst terrorist attack in U. S history on September 11th in New York City. But will the next terrorist attack strike even closer to home – your own hospital’s emergency room. Dr. Paulo J. Reyes, a First Responder in California, ER Doctor, and author of the fiction thriller, Sledgehammer fears there exists a clear and present danger today and has written a book on the possibilities of a biochemical attack with smallpox. It clearly outlines how unprepared our nation is and what could happen if we don’t prepare now. Dr. Reyes contends that our government continually acknowledges that it’s not a matter of “if” we are attacked again, but “when.” He supports voluntary smallpox vaccinations, which the military and President Bush himself have already received, but feels more needs to be more done to educate the nation of the risks involved in order to be adequately prepared for a biochemical attack. Reyes states, “As is evidenced with Hurricane Katrina and the reports that are now publicly known, the government needs to step up its disaster recovery efforts especially for First Responders and Emergency Personnel.” Also of equal importance is the fact that First Responders and medical doctors can be ill equipped to handle such an attack. A study listed in Archives of Internal Medicine showed 631 doctors, mostly medical residents, were given a test prior to completing an online training course. On the pretest, half the doctors misdiagnosed botulism; 84 percent misdiagnosed plague and a case of routine chickenpox was misdiagnosed as smallpox by 42 percent of the doctors. "We've got a dangerous gap here and we need a much clearer strategic game plan," said Shelley Hearne, executive director of Trust for America's Health, which tracks how well states are prepared for bioterrorism or a pandemic. Reyes’ book, Sledgehammer, although a fictional account of a small pox outbreak in a Los Angeles emergency room, is based on extensive research by Reyes and his experience and terrorist training as a First Responder. In Sledgehammer the hospital staff of a Los Angeles emergency room face the daunting challenge of preventing the contagious disease from quickly spreading and affecting their patients and colleagues alike. What adds further drama is the discovery that this particular form of smallpox is an aggressive type – sledgehammer smallpox or a malignant smallpox, which although it starts as non-typical rash, it quickly turns into a life-threatening situation. The terrorist’s threats also expand to several sports arenas, airports and shopping malls. The 5 star review book begs to ask the question, what if? What if this happened today, are we ready? After reading this medical thriller, you’ll want to do everything you can to ensure we are.

         
    The sales boom in diesel motorhomes defies the economic forecasts

     

    Thor Industries Chief Executive Wade Thompson, whose business is the globe's largest allocator of diesel pusher motor coaches and travel trailers, is looking forward to the holiday ramble industry's overall product shipments to ascend in 2005 for the fourth straight yearly performance period. Thompson and chief executives of three rivals pronounced they are projecting to quest after extra product delivery staff and originate industrial facilities to deal with rising demand. They were interviewed while visiting the National Recreational Vehicle Production Convention that was held last week in Louisville, Ky., where the organizations registered sales orders for 2005's first two fiscal quarters. The business leaders far from pesimistic view point discounts a market estimation narrated by the University of Michigan that cites mounting crude rates and costs and rate of interest as negative market indicators for the future. Thor, Fleetwood Enterprises, Winnebago Industries and subsidiary rv loan canada producers anticipate overall product shipments to spring up fourteen percent this season to 364,900 units, the best since 1978, as an increasing number of people between ages 50 and 64 retire from their jobs and as people move around the country side more inside the U. S.A. due to circumstances attributed to cares about terrorism overseas. "We had seen the market start to soften but then November is strong again, and I expect next year to rise 8 percent to 10 percent," Thompson, 64, arrogated from the living room of a Thor travel trailer on location at the Holiday Coach Trade Show. The University of Michigan maket place estimation calls for overall product deliveries next financial year to fall 3.3 percent to 352,700. The market forecast is molded on a pattern that mentions historical references and is researched by Richard Curtin, the Ann Arbor, Michigan based university's directing manager of surveys, who in addition grooms its consumer confidence index. Industry executives and the industry's leaders dealers disregard his market prognosis. "We just don't foresee doing any fewer sales next year," Ted McKay, sales manager at Media Camping Center in Hatfield, Pa., stated. He anticipates sales to spring up from the current 60 newmar diesel motorhomes and go on trips trailers every month with finance cost for recreational based vehicle loans on the vehicles at 5.75 percent, still lower than the 10-year average of 7.5 percent. "Rates just aren't high enough to hurt sales," Barry Vogel, an market data forcaster and analyst while on loacation at Barry Vogel & Associates in White Plains, N. Y., declared. "The industry is still healthy." Fleetwood admitted 1,000 production employees in the past yearly reporting term and probably will add 300 to 400 more while appearing at Pennsylvania and California rVs manufacturing plants in the next year, CEO Ed Caudill, 61, claimed. The Riverside, Calif.-formed commercial enterprise had shed 9,000 product delivery staff from 2000 to 2003 to cut costs. Thor plans to about twice monitary disbursal to $50 million this financial reporting term from $27 million as the Jackson Center, Ohio-molded company constructs at least seven futuristic production facilities, Thompson claimed. Winnebago, which employed 1,000 fresh employees in the endure yearly performance period, likewise doubts gross product deliveries will fall next financial reporting term, CEO Bruce Hertzke said. "We haven't even been able to meet demand three of the last four years," declared Hertzke, 53. "Not only are more people retiring but a wider age group, people as young as 35, are starting to buy recreational vehicles." Coachmen Industries' sales reveunes slacked approaching the prevent of the summer and ricochetted in November, said Chief management leader Claire Skinner, 50. The Elkhart, Ind.-dependent corporate organization received about 400 people in the latter month and very possibly add further next twelve month period if total sales spring up, she announced. The unenmployment conditions in the Elkhart metropolitan area is 3.7 percent as a result of the manufacturing revival, she announced. "A month ago I probably would have said I agreed shipments might fall, but since the presidential election it seems like things are opening again," Skinner proclaimed in an discussion with reporters. A Bloomberg index based on shares of the five most bombastic suppliers of bank of america rv loan has heightened 7.9 percent this season, more than the 7.1 percent gain for the Standard & Poor's 500 Index of big U. S.A. producers.

         
    Third party event organizer third party event organizer

     

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    Time to get out of dodge relocate ahead of the collapse

     

    Peak Oil? Economic Collapse? Maybe the universe is trying to tell you something. Maybe it's Relocation, Relocation, Relocation. With many people predicting a serious economic depression, and others equally--or also--concerned about the approaching depletion of oil production ("Peak Oil" - For full information, see Dry Dipstick at drydipstick), you might consider moving to a quieter, more sustainable, less oil-dependent location. Of course you might be fine living exactly where you are now. It's certainly easier to stay where you are than to move. No one can predict, certainly not with certainty, where the best places might be to deal with the future. Many observers think that large cities are definitely not the best location. Others suggest that any town dependent on water and food that comes from a large distance may not be ideal. They suggest a small town with adequate water and nearby farms. When it comes down to it, no one really has the foggiest idea, so you're on your own. If you wish, you can run off into the hills, create a mountain fortress, and be a dyed-in-the-wool, nobody-come-near-me loner. Others believe that if a true survivalist is someone who wants to survive, the best way to do that in the 21st century is in a community. (If you're really into survivalism, we suggest you check out survivalist. ) The choice is yours. If you still have the time, we can suggest resources for finding a place to live both in the United States and in countries around the world. Inside the United States If you currently live in the United States, you might want to consider simply moving to another state rather than going abroad. Things generally get much cheaper when you move away from the coasts, and the quality of life can be very good. Plus, they speak English there (more or less) and you can usually get all the stuff you're probably used to. (Assuming stuff is still available.) There are a number of excellent web sites to help you in your search for a place to move to. Moving's ( moving) city profiles provide information on hundreds of cities. The profiles include cost of living, taxes, home costs, insurance costs and quality of life factors such as population, crime, weather and education. Moving can also help you find real estate and arrange for moving logistics. You can even compare the profiles of two cities of your choice. BestPlaces ( bestplaces. net) lets you compare two cities from a list of over 3,000 places in the U. S. You'll see a comparison of nearly 100 categories. BestPlaces offers neighborhood profiles for every zip code in the U. S., in-depth profiles on over 85,000 schools, a cost of living calculator that compares cities and determines what salary you'd need at a new location to maintain the same standard of living as you have now. Plus you'll find crime rates for over 2,500 U. S. cities, most and least stressful cities, and climate profiles for 2,000 cities worldwide. You can even take a "Find Your Best Place" quiz to determine your own recommended best places to live. BestPlaces also publishes the book "Cities Ranked and Rated", with detailed information on over 400 metropolitan areas in the U. S. and Canada. You might also find the Most Livable Communities website helpful ( mostlivable. org/). Our favorite resource is FindYourSpot ( findyourspot). It offers a fun quiz (it'll take you less than 10 minutes) with great questions, and it produces a list of two dozen cities that fit your quiz answers. Results for each city include an attractive downloadable four-page report with an insightful overview of the character of the area and information on climate, arts and culture, recreation, education, housing and cost of living, crime and safety, health care, and earning a living. You'll also find links to currently available jobs and housing, roommate services, recommended city-specific books, and travel deals if you'd like to personally visit the city. Outside the U. S. Wondering where the best country is to move to? We suggest that there is actually more than one "best country" for you. You find them by: 1) visiting every possible country and seeing which ones you like best, or 2) researching every possible country, zeroing in on those you feel most attracted to, and then visiting those countries. We suggest that the best way to begin is to use the Web, particularly the sites we list below. Bottom line? Visit a country and spend some time there before making the actual move. Most experienced expatriates suggest living at least six months in your host country before permanently moving there. And remember, you're not going to live in an entire country, just in one specific place in a country. You don't have to love the entire country to be able to find that one special place just for you. You're looking for a region, a city, a town, even a neighborhood where you can find the qualities you want in a new home. Here are some websites that should help in your quest for a new country. Boomers Abroad ( boomersabroad) A website devoted to giving you the best and most comprehensive information available on the Web about beautiful (and affordable) warm coastal countries, how to get there and how to live there. Whether you're looking to be a retiree, a working expatriate, or simply a visitor, Boomers Abroad is your place on the Web for Costa Rica, Cuba, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, and Uruguay. Expat Communities ( expatcommunities) A directory of more than 110 countries with sizeable English-speaking (and usually international as well) expatriate communities. English-language websites, organizations, online forums, meetups, local newspapers, and books of interest to current and potential expatriates. These websites will give you, or link you to, all the information you'll need to decide if a particular country might suit your needs and deserves future exploration. Expat Stuff ( expatstuff) Wherever you end up living as an expat, you'll need stuff. And information. And services. This website is an excellent directory with a focus on the endless variety of information, services and tools you'll need to enjoy life and create your own income while living abroad. You'll also find information on such things as communication, health insurance, obtaining a passport, links to country information, and general expatriate blogs and websites.

         
    Trends for a not so new millennium

     

    We construct maps of the world around us, using cognitive models, organizational principles, and narratives that we acquire in the process of socialization. These are augmented by an incessant bombardment of conceptual, ideational, and ideological frameworks emanating from the media, from peers and role models, from authority figures, and from the state. We take our universe for granted, an immutable and inevitable entity. It is anything but. Only change and transformation are guaranteed constants - the rest of it is an elaborate and anxiety-reducing illusion. Consider these self-evident "truths" and "certainties": 1. After centuries of warfare, Europe is finally pacified. War in the foreseeable future is not in store. The European Union heralds not only economic prosperity but also long-term peaceful coexistence. Yet, Europe faces a serious identity crisis. Is it Christian in essence or can it also encompass the likes of an increasingly-Muslim Turkey? Is it a geographical (continental) entity or a cultural one? Is enlargement a time bomb, incorporating as it does tens of millions of new denizens, thoroughly demoralized, impoverished, and criminalized by decades of Soviet repression? How likely are these tensions to lead not only to the disintegration of the EU but to a new war between, let's say Russia and Germany, or Italy and Austria, or Britain and France? Ridiculous? Revisit your history books. 2. The United States is the only superpower and a budding Empire. In 50 years time it may be challenged by China and India, but until then it stands invincible. Its economic growth prospects are awesome. Yet, the USA faces enormous social torsion brought about by the polarization of its politics and by considerable social and economic tensions and imbalances. The deterioration in its global image and its growing isolation contribute to a growing paranoia and jingoism. While each of these dimensions is nothing new, the combination is reminiscent of the 1840s-1850s, just prior to the Civil War. Is the United States headed for limb-tearing inner conflict and disintegration? 3. The Internet, hitherto a semi-anarchic free-for-all, is likely to go through the same cycle experienced by other networked media, such as the radio and the telegraph. In other words, it will end up being both heavily regulated and owned by commercial interests. Throwbacks to its early philosophy of communal cross-pollination and exuberant exchange of ideas, digital goods, information, and opinion will dwindle and vanish. The Internet as a horizontal network where all nodes are equipotent will be replaced by a vertical, hierarchical, largely corporate structure with heavy government intrusion and oversight. 4. The period between 1789 (the French Revolution) and 1989 (the demise of Communism) is likely to be remembered as a liberal and atheistic intermezzo, separating two vast eons of religiosity and conservatism. God is now being rediscovered in every corner of the Earth and with it intolerance, prejudice, superstition, as well as strong sentiments against science and the values of the Enlightenment. We are on the threshold of the New Dark Ages. 5. The quasi-religious, cult-like fad of Environmentalism is going to be thoroughly debunked. 6. Our view of Western liberal democracy as a panacea applicable to all at all times and in all places will undergo a revision in light of accumulated historical evidence. Democracy seems to function well in conditions of economic and social stability and growth. When things go awry, however, democratic processes give rise to Hitlers and Milosevices (both elected with overwhelming majorities multiple times). The gradual disillusionment with parties and politicians will lead to the re-emergence of collectivist, centralized and authoritarian polities, on the one hand and to the rise of anarchist and multifocal governance models, on the other hand. 7. The ingenious principle of limited liability and the legal entity known as the corporation have been with us for more than three centuries and served magnificently in facilitating the optimal allocation of capital and the diversification of risk. Yet, the emergence of sharp conflicts of interest between a class of professional managers and the diffuse ownership represented by (mainly public) shareholders - known as the agent-principal problem - spell the end of both and the dawn of a new era. 8. As our understanding of the brain and our knowledge of genetics deepen, the idea of mental illness is going to be discarded as so much superstition and myth. It is going to replaced with medical models of brain dysfunctions and maladaptive gene expressions. Abnormal psychology is going to be thoroughly medicalized and reduced to underlying brain structures, biochemical processes and reactions, bodily mechanisms, and faulty genes. 9. As offices and homes merge, mobility increases, wireless access to data is made available anywhere and everywhere, computing becomes ubiquitous, the distinction between work and leisure will vanish. 10. Our privacy is threatened by a host of intrusive Big Brother technologies coupled with a growing paranoia and siege mentality in an increasingly hostile world, populated by hackers, criminals, terrorists, and plain whackos. Some countries - such as China - are trying to suppress political dissent by disruptively prying into their citizens' lives. We have already incrementally surrendered large swathes of our hitherto private domain in exchange for fleeting, illusory, and usually untenable personal "safety". As we try to reclaim this lost territory, we are likely to give rise to privacy industries: computer anonymizers, safe (anonymous) browsers, face transplants, electronic shields, firewalls, how-to-vanish-and-start-a-new-life-elsewhere consultants and so on. 11. As the population ages in the developed countries of the West, crime is on the decline there. But, as if to maintain the homeostasis of evil, it is on the rise in poor and developing countries. A few decades from now, violent and physical property crimes will so be rare in the West as to become newsworthy and so common in the rest of the world as to go unnoticed. 12. In historical terms, our megalopolises and conurbations are novelties. But their monstrous size makes them dependent on two flows: (1) of goods and surplus labor from the world outside (2) of services and waste products to their environment. There is a critical mass beyond which this bilateral exchange is unsustainable. Modern cities are, therefore, likely to fragment into urban islands: gated communities, slums, strips, technology parks and "valleys", belts, and so on. The various parts will maintain a tenuous relationship but will gradually grow apart. This will be the dominant strand in a wider trend: the atomization of society, the disintegration of social cells, from the nuclear family to the extended human habitat, the metropolis. People will grow apart, have fewer intimate friends and relationships, and will interact mostly in cyberspace or by virtual means, both wired and wireless. 13. The commodity of the future is not raw or even processed information. The commodity of the future is guided and structured access to information repositories and databases. Search engines like Google and Yahoo already represent enormous economic value because they serve as the gateway to the Internet and, gradually, to the Deep Web. They not only list information sources but make implicit decisions for us regarding their relative merits and guide us inexorably to selections driven by impersonal, value-laden, judgmental algorithms. Search engines are one example of active, semi-intelligent information gateways. 14. Inflation and the business cycle seem to have been conquered for good. In reality, though, we are faced with the distinct possibility of a global depression coupled with soaring inflation (known together as stagflation). This is owing to enormous and unsustainable imbalances in global savings, debt, and capital and asset markets. Still, economists are bound to change their traditional view of inflation. Japan's experience in 1990-2006 taught us that better moderate inflation than deflation.

         
     
         
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