Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Two-fisted tales of our stop-loss army at work!

Stop the bloodbath in Sri Lanka

A modern day bloodbath is unfolding on the small island of Sri Lanka and the key to stopping this humanitarian disaster lies with Sri Lanka's largest donor and closest partner in the region -- Japan. Let´s send a powerful message to the Japanese Foreign Minister asking for pressure to stop the killing.

Click here to send your message!

A modern day bloodbath is unfolding on the small island of Sri Lanka, where a thousand civilians were reported killed over the weekend and tens of thousands of innocent people are literally at risk of being killed this week, as government and rebel forces battle it out over the last small patch of rebel held territory.

Now that the US has begun to increase its pressure, the solution to stopping this humanitarian disaster lies with Sri Lanka's key donor and closest partner in the region -- Japan. It has powerful political and economic influence over the Sri Lankan government and a swing vote at the UN Security Council, which up until now has turned a blind eye to this mounting catastrophe.

Click here to send a message to the Japanese Foreign Minister, who is deciding his government's next steps. Japan cares about its international reputation and a flood of messages from abroad would encourage them to act. If Japan moves then the Sri Lankan government will be forced to immediately respond to protect civilians:

As last weekend´s carnage testifies, every minute counts for the estimated 50,000 civilians still trapped inside the shrinking conflict zone and for those 200,000 more who are barely surviving in overcrowded camps. The International Committee of the Red Cross, which rarely makes public comment, called this conflict between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil rebels, 'nothing short of catastrophic'.

Until now, the divided UN Security Council has abdicated their responsibility to protect Sri Lankans from war crimes and other atrocities. But in this conflict Japan cannot be ignored – its powerful voice could tip the balance and influence the conflict dynamics, saving lives in the short-term and promoting peace and development in the long run.

Asia's longest-running civil war is entering its final stage – the only question is how many will die before it ends. Let´s send a powerful message urging Foreign Minister Nakasone to act responsibly and lead international efforts to push the Tamil rebels to release the remaining civilians, stop the government bombing and bring sustainable peace to Sri Lanka. Japan's political and economic weight means that they cannot be ignored:

As other donor nations increase the pressure behind the scenes this week, a truly global citizens' outcry can further turn the heat on the Japanese government to use its leverage and push for a robust and concerted international action that stops the bloodshed and protect the Sri Lankan civilian population at risk. Thank you for sending your message today.

With hope

Luis, Brett, Alice, Graziela, Pascal, Ben, Ricken, Paula, Iain, Paul, Raj and the rest of the Avaaz Team

Doctor reports hundreds of bodies being brought to hospital as UN says feared bloodbath has become reality - 11 May 2009 -

Four leading international organisations call on Japan to play a more active role in confronting the unfolding catastrophe in Sri Lanka. Press release:

Full text of the letter at:

The US accuses Sri Lanka of causing "untold suffering" among civilians, and calls on rebels to release civilians stuck in the conflict zone:

For information about the UN Security Council discussions on Sri Lanka:

Paul Krassner: A Response to "Why Did Jon Stewart Apologize?"

In a recent blog on HuffPost, Dennis Perrin criticized Jon Stewart for apologizing the day after he agreed with a guest that President Harry Truman was a war criminal. He wrote that "Stewart did what well-regarded mainstream entertainers do when expressing an unpopular opinion. He groveled for forgiveness....When an American 'satirist' apologizes for stating the truth, you can really appreciate 'free expression' in a corporate-owned culture." Since Perrin stated that, "before The Daily Show, Stewart was not known in a Paul Krassner/Barry Crimmins/Whitney Brown way," I feel especially compelled to disagree with his premise.

As a performer, I was a bundle of paradoxes. I was a hermit, yet I would go out to do shows and talk to a hundred people at once. I was a social critic, yet my spiritual path was trying not to judge others. Irreverence was my only sacred cow, yet I tried not to let victims become the target of my humor. So, there was one particular routine that I stopped using in 1970, when abortion was still illegal and I ran an underground referral service. It called for a "rape-in" of legislators' wives in order to impregnate them so that they would then convince their husbands to decriminalize abortion. But feminist friends objected.

I resisted at first, because it was such a well-intentioned joke. But I reconsidered. Even in a joke, why should women be assaulted because men make the laws? Legislators' wives were the victims in that joke, but the legislators themselves should have been the target. For me to cease doing that bit of comedy wasn't self-censorship, it was conscious evolution. I publicly apologized, in print and on the air. Of course, if you think I was merely kowtowing to political correctness, I hereby grovel for your forgiveness.

Perrin admitted that his take on The Daily Show was "a tad personal," because they had once rejected material he submitted because it was "too dark." Actually, I had a similar experience with Dennis Miller. He had called to invite me to submit material--several jokes and a rant--when he hosted his own TV series. This was when he mistook spouting obscure references for being hip, but before he became such a political reactionary. He never let me know his decision. After a few weeks, I wrote and asked him, but he didn't have the courtesy to respond. I learned from a staff writer that Miller considered my material "too radical." However, I did read it on the radio one Sunday morning when Harry Shearer invited me to substitute for him on Le Show.

I also feel compelled to disagree with Jon Stewart. I think that Harry Truman was indeed a war criminal. Actually, I believe that in most wars, both sides harbor top-level war criminals, but that the victor determines who they are. As Lenny Bruce said in 1962 at the Gate of Horn in Chicago, "If we would have lost the war, they would have strung Truman up by the balls...." Lenny was arrested for obscenity that night. One of the items in the police report complained: "When talking about the war he stated, 'If we would have lost the war, they would have strung Truman up by the balls.'"

CDC's Stop the Towers Hootenanny



Stop the Towers Hootenanny

The California Desert Coalition (CDC) will be holding a benefit dinner and silent auction at historic Pappy & Harriet's Palace in Pioneertown on June 13, 2009, from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m.

Stop the Towers Hootenanny will feature a buffet dinner, great music, no host bar and the opportunity to bid on silent auction items. This festive evening of fun and camaraderie promises to be a real "hoot" and will offer us all the opportunity to hear about the latest progress being made to stop the proposed 500kV power corridor through the Morongo Basin and surrounding communities, including Pioneertown, within sight of Pappy & Harriet's Palace.

Tickets are $50.00 per person and are going fast – reserve by June 5th! Tickets are available online at, by calling MJ (76... and at the Joshua Tree Farmer's Market on May 16, 23 and 30.

Valuable items from local businesses, artists and individuals have been pledged, and more are needed for the auction. Any items big or small are very welcome and all tax-deductible donations will be acknowledged at the party. To give to the auction, call Carol (760) 228-2811.

Don't miss this hootin' hollerin' evening of fun, all to benefit a great cause.

California Desert Coalition




There is some evidence that America could have had an economic motive for replacing the government in Afghanistan. Did this influence America's decision to invade Afghanistan and replace the government? The evidence presented below may be sufficient to raise serious questions about the motivations behind U.S. President Bush's decision to invade Afghanistan, especially in light of Bush's substantial links with the oil industry. Furthermore, recent reports indicate that the September the 11th disaster, which triggered the "war on terror" military campaign, could have been prevented. If there is enough public support, we will issue a formal request for a public statement from the American government. In the meantime, we invite you to consider the evidence below and form your own opinions.


America has wanted a new government in Afghanistan since at least 1998, three years before the attacks on 11 September 2001. The official report from a meeting of the U.S. Government's foreign policy committee on 12 February 1998, available on the U.S. Government website, confirms that the need for a West-friendly government was recognised long before the War on Terror that followed September 11th:

    "The U.S. Government's position is that we support multiple pipelines...
    The Unocal pipeline is among those pipelines that would receive our
    support under that policy. I would caution that while we do support the
    project, the U.S. Government has not at this point recognized any
    governing regime of the transit country, one of the transit countries,
    Afghanistan, through which that pipeline would be routed. But we do
    support the project."
    [ U.S. House of Reps.,
    "U.S. Interests in the Central Asian Republics", 12 Feb 1998 ]

    "The only other possible route [for the desired oil pipeline] is across,
    Afghanistan which has of course its own unique challenges."

    "U.S. Interests in the Central Asian Republics", 12 Feb 1998 ]

    "CentGas can not begin construction until an internationally recognized
    Afghanistan Government is in place."
    "U.S. Interests in the Central Asian Republics", 12 Feb 1998 ]

The Afghanistan oil pipeline project was finally able to proceed in May 2002. This could not have happened if America had not taken military action to replace the government in Afghanistan.


The war on Afghanistan was sold to the public as a reaction to the attacks on 11 September 2001. However, the war was planned before the infamous 9/11 disaster, and the military action began long before the World Trade Center fell.

The conquest of Afghanistan had been planned since at least 12 February 1998, and 9/11 happened just in time to secure public support for the attacks.


3rd November 1998 - attacks stop US oil pipeline:

Up to 80 cruise missiles were fired at Afghanistan and Sudan in August An American-funded training project in Afghanistan has closed down as a result of the US cruise missile attack on the country in August. The programme was funded by the American oil company, Unocal, which was once hoping to be involved in building a gas pipeline across the country from Turkmenistan to Pakistan.

BBC News,
"US attack closes US project", 3 November 1998.

2nd January 1999 - US strikes targets in Afghanistan:

No sooner had the Taleban won a series of victories in the north, than the US launched an attack on camps in Afghanistan run by Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden, who had allegedly masterminded the bombing of US embassies in East Africa.

BBC News,
"Afghanistan: Campaign of conflict", 2 January 1999.

15th March 2001 - allies invade Afghanistan:

India is believed to have joined Russia, the USA and Iran in a concerted front against Afghanistan's Taliban regime.
Military sources in Delhi, claim that the opposition Northern Alliance's capture of the strategic town of Bamiyan, was precipitated by the four countries' collaborative effort.

Janes International Security News,
"India joins anti-Taliban coalition", 15 March 2001.

3rd September 2001 - allies deploy huge task-force for "fictional" conflict:

The aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious has sailed from Portsmouth to lead the biggest Royal Navy and Royal Marine deployment since the Falklands.
HMS Illustrious is the flagship of three groups of warships travelling to the Middle East to take part in exercise "Saif Sareea 2".
More than 24 surface ships from Britain, plus two nuclear submarines, will be completing the 13,000 mile round trip.
The operation, costing nearly £100m, will end with a major excercise before Christmas that will also involve the Army, Royal Air Force and Armed Forces of Oman.
The strike force has been put together to take part in a conflict between the fictional forces of the so-called state of 'Alawham' and those of Oman.

BBC News, Carrier heads for the Middle East, 3 September 2001.

Lunar Leftovers: How the Moon Became a Trash Can

The moon has only been accessible for decades, rather than hundreds of years. However, in the short time available to humanity it is estimated that we have left over one hundred and seventy thousand kilos of debris on the surface of our once pristine satellite. Here are some of the more notable pieces of trash on the moon.

Luna 2 - 1959

If HG Wells and others were correct and there were civilizations on the moon then they would have expelled a communal gasp of horror in 1959 when the first piece of man made technology hit the moon dust. Looking now like some steam punk version of what we regularly send spinning in to space, Luna 2 was launched by the Soviets when the Cold War was at its height. The collision with the moon at least proved on thing - that our nearest neighbor in space has no appreciable magnetic field. To add insult to injury, half an hour after Luna 2 hit the moon, so did the third stage of its rocket.

Luna 9 - 1966

1966 - The Beatles controlled the airways of the planet below but all eyes were looking upwards in anticipation of the first soft lunar landing. Luna 9 did not disappoint. It sent a series of TV and radio signals from the surface and finally proved one thing that had been disquieting scientists for many years. That was that the moon would not simply swallow up anything that landed on it but the surface was able to hold significantly heavy man made objects. After three days contact was lost with Luna 9 and so it joined the rest of the defunct junk beginning to pile up on the lunar landscape.

Apollo 11 - 1969

The list of Lunas and Surveyors continued, some crashing and some making successful landings. Of course the significant date in terms of humanity and the moon is July 21 1969. The Eagle landed and left behind it quite a lot of stuff. Among the objects they left were an American flag and a plaque which reads Here Men From The Planet Earth First Set Foot Upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We Came in Peace For All Mankind. They also left being a memorial bag containing such items as a gold olive branch and a disk carrying messages of greeting from world leaders. After The Eagled ascended back in to space its ascent stage was jettisoned. It is thought that after a few months circling the moon its orbit would have decayed and rejoined the descent stage on the moon.

Moon Buggy - 1971 onwards

Possibly one of the more useful objects left on the moon during the Apollo mission was the Lunar Buggy - if of course it still worked (which it wouldn't). There are three altogether on the surface, gently gathering dust, left over from Apollo 15 through to 17. First used in 1971 it hugely increased the mobility of the astronauts. It provided the most fun experience possible outside of earth's atmosphere - possibly to this very day.

Art Pirates Set Sail for the Venice Biennale

Swimming Cities of Serenissima will set sail tomorrow, May 13, from Slovenia to Trieste and then will be at the Venice Biennale from June 1-14, 2009 (as an unsanctioned exhibition). From the Web site and blog:

The Swimming Cities of Serenissima is a fleet of three intricately hand crafted vessels that will navigate the Adriatic Sea from the Litoral region of Slovenia to Venice, Italy in May of 2009. Designed by the visual artist SWOON, the floating sculptures are descendants of the Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea (Hudson River, 2008) and the Miss Rockaway Armada (Mississippi River, 2006 and 2007).


SWOON's boats are inspired by dense urban cityscapes and thickly intertwined mangrove swamps from her Florida youth. The Swimming Cities of Serenissima are built from salvaged materials, including modified Mercedes car motors with long-tail propellers. The boats' crew is made up of 30 collaborating artists from the United States.

What Swine Flu? Spain Celebrates Cured Ham

About 400 people gathered in the Spanish town of Jabugo's Plaza of Ham for a gala dinner. They ate outdoors beneath an almost full moon, as candles flickered on tables draped with heavy cloths, flamenco guitars thrummed in the background, and liveried waiters served plates of seared tuna and beef tenderloin. But for all that elegance, no one stayed seated for long. Along the edges of the plaza, a dozen of the country's most renowned ham cutters (yes, there is such a thing) carved off glistening slices of jamón ibérico — ibérico ham. And even in these troubled times for pigs, the attendees at the fifth World Congress of Cured Ham, which ended on May 8, found the ruby meat an irresistible draw.

"No, I'm not worried about it," said champion carver José Angel Muãoz, as he served up one plate after another of paper-thin slices to a never-ending line of guests. "These people know ham better than anyone in the world. And you don't see them holding back." (See pictures of Spain's tomato festival.)

The 'it' he was referring to is, of course, swine flu. According to the World Health Organization, the number of people infected worldwide stands, as of Monday morning, at 4,694, of which 95 cases have occurred in Spain. And some evidence seems to point to a factory pig farm in La Gloria, Mexico, as a possible source for the virus. But among the scientists, producers, regulators and distributors who had gathered in Aracena, just down the road from Jabugo, to network and listen to scientists discussing the latest innovations in pig breeding and ham raising, no one was willing to admit concern about what the future might hold for their prized product.,8599,1897373,00.html?xid=newsletter-daily

Art historians claim Van Gogh's ear 'cut off by Gauguin'

Vincent van gogh
'Self-portrait with cut ear' by Vincent Van Gogh. Photograph: Roger-Viollet/Rex Features

Vincent van Gogh's fame may owe as much to a legendary act of self-harm, as it does to his self-portraits. But, 119 years after his death, the tortured post-Impressionist's bloody ear is at the centre of a new controversy, after two historians suggested that the painter did not hack off his own lobe but was attacked by his friend, the French artist Paul Gauguin.

According to official versions, the disturbed Dutch painter cut off his ear with a razor after a row with Gauguin in 1888. Bleeding heavily, Van Gogh then walked to a brothel and presented the severed ear to an astonished prostitute called Rachel before going home to sleep in a blood-drenched bed.

But two German art historians, who have spent 10 years reviewing the police investigations, witness accounts and the artists' letters, argue that Gauguin, a fencing ace, most likely sliced off the ear with his sword during a fight, and the two artists agreed to hush up the truth.

In Van Gogh's Ear: Paul Gauguin and the Pact of Silence, published in Germany, Hamburg-based academics Hans Kaufmann and Rita Wildegans argue that the official version of events, based largely on Gauguin's accounts, contain inconsistencies and that both artists hinted that the truth was more complex.

The News on Nukes

by Frida Berrigan

It's not on the front pages of what is left of U.S. newspapers. The headlines are dominated by violence in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq, by Miss America's semi-nude photo scandal, and by the Chrysler fiasco. But just about everyone who is anyone is talking about nuclear weapons this week.

At the United Nations, representatives from the world's 190 or so nations are meeting (in typical fashion) to prepare to meet. The preparatory meeting of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) is taking place the first two weeks of May to get ready for the Review Conference of the Treaty, which will happen next year. Closer to home this week, Congress heard from its Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States. And the Department of Energy released its budget for 2010 requesting $6.4 billion for nuclear weapons programs out of an overall budget of $26.4 billion.

In all of this nuclear attention, there is good, bad and mixed news, all of which is taking place against the background of President Barack Obama's historic Prague speech, in which he pledged to work for a world free of nuclear weapons. The president also identified immediate, concrete measures toward that goal, including negotiating a new treaty with Russia involving deep cuts in our respective nuclear arsenals; seeking ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT); accelerating spending designed to eliminate "loose nukes" and bomb-making materials (plutonium and enriched uranium) in Russia and beyond; and ending all new production of bomb-making materials worldwide.

Did Blackwater Contractors Attempt to Hide Evidence of a Massacre in Iraq?

by: Scott Horton

photo Private security contractor Xe (formerly Blackwater USA) has fallen on hard times. Iraq has yanked its license, forcing Blackwater out of one of its former operations centers. Last December, five Blackwater employees were indicted on fourteen manslaughter charges and allegations they used automatic weapons in the commission of a crime. A sixth Blackwater agent pleaded guilty to two charges as part of an agreement to testify against his colleagues. Now the company faces more bad news. Bill Sizemore of the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot reports that charges are being brought based on obstruction of justice:

Shortly after a 2007 shooting incident in a Baghdad traffic square that left 17 Iraqi civilians dead, Blackwater contractors allegedly transferred a number of machine guns to another contractor who is now charged with trying to smuggle them out of Iraq. The Blackwater contractors wanted to dispose of the weapons before an investigation of the bloody incident began, according to two confidential government informants. John Houston, the contractor charged in the case, allegedly told one of the informants that after Blackwater "got into trouble," the guards had to get rid of the firearms so they wouldn't be caught with them...

Houston, a retired Special Forces soldier, is charged separately with trying to smuggle eight machine guns and a semi automatic pistol from Iraq into the United States. The indictment was handed down last week by a federal grand jury in Maryland.

Had this occurred in a domestic context in the United States, the criminal case would be fairly straightforward. Given that it happened in Iraq, however, and given the confusion that prevailed immediately after the events at Nisoor Square, establishing the charges is likely to prove far more complicated. But these developments serve to highlight the gross misconduct of the Justice Department in the immediate wake of the shocking events in Iraq.

Canada cannabis industry boom

Canada's booming cannabis industry ranks alongside tourism and forestry as a money earner and employer but the illegal trade has angered its US neighbour.

Canada has a Marijuana Party, allows pot to be smoked in public and barely punishes people who are caught growing it.

Humphrey Hawksley reports from Vancouver.

Blind interpreter detained at Philly airport says he has nightmares from arrest


A BLIND INTERNATIONAL interpreter who says he was dragged off a Belgium-bound flight, arrested and held in custody in Philadelphia for hours without food or water faces an arraignment Thursday.

His crime: He questioned why his U.S. Airways flight was delayed nearly two hours.

Nicola Cantisani, 61, of Brussels, Belgium, a professional translator who has been blind since birth, was charged with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, police said.

"This is taking airplane security to a new and ridiculous level," said his attorney, A. Charles Peruto Jr. "It's pretty crazy."

Cantisani and his wife, Paola, were returning to Brussels April 4 after visiting family in New York. The couple changed planes at Philadelphia International Airport and boarded the 8:32 p.m. flight.

After the plane sat on the tarmac for some time, passengers were told that the flight would be delayed - without explanation, according to Cantisani. They were unable to use phones, receive attendant service or move from their seats.

"That was the straw that unfortunately broke the camel's back," Cantisani said. "It just got to me: They board you and just taxi you around."

Cantisani said he stood up to request a glass of water and to speak with the crew or captain about the delay, but was told to sit down.

In interviews in Philadelphia and later by phone from Brussels, Cantisani described what he called an "indescribable" chain of events that has given him nightmares.

"I felt I was being kidnapped - like I was a hostage," Cantisani said of the wait.

Cantisani said he spoke with the captain, who told him the plane was having mechanical problems. He then returned to his seat.

Shortly afterward, another passenger made a remark about the crew, prompting three Philadelphia Police officers to escort that man off the plane, Cantisani said.

Then, police tried to remove Cantisani as well, he said.

Lt. Frank Vanore, a police spokesman, said the police were called to Gate A-19 because of a disorderly passenger.

"A passenger had become irate over the delay," Vanore said.

Cantisani, unaware of why he was being removed, refused to leave.

He said the officers yanked Cantisani from his seat and dragged him off the plane, injuring his hand, which was gripping his seat belt . Then they forced him into a wheelchair.

At one point, an officer held him "by the throat," he said.

Vanore said that Cantisani had been asked several times to leave the plane but continually refused.

A U.S. Airways representative said Cantisani was an unruly passenger who had refused to exit the plane.

During the struggle with police, Cantisani said, he lost his retractable walking cane, making him unable to navigate.

Officers told him they had done the "blind test" and didn't believe he was blind, he said.

Vanore said he knew of no "blind test" administered by police.

Replacing the Old Man of the Mountain - revisited, with information from the Architect

Shortly after posting about the proposal to replace The Old Man of the Mountain with a glass structure I was contacted by the design's architect, Francis D. Treves. He expressed concern about the way his design was being represented on the web and that the imagery and information that is widely available was not doing his work justice. Of particular concern was that the cropped, low-resolution photographs found on most websites were not giving an accurate depiction of the design - and that little was said about what these photographs were specifically trying to show. In addition, the technical schematics of the plan were largely unpublished.

Mr. Treves has been taking a bit of a beating in public forums over his idea, and the lack of real information about his proposal has not helped. Even while typing up my original article, I had to resist expressing any personal opinions about the plan… I just could not find out enough about it. So I certainly understand his desire to disseminate quality, accurate information. After all, having people reject your idea when they understand it is one thing… having them reject it when their understanding is partial or inaccurate is something else.

After a phone call and several email exchanges, Mr. Treves and I agreed that Towns and Trails would be a good place to present additional images and information about the project.

Copyright Francis D. Treves Architect All Rights Reserved

The schematic above shows a cross-section of the design. In it you can make out the access tunnel to the skywalk, which would allow visitors to walk out into the glass structure and look out over the valley below. You can also see a gallery with a skylight. But one of the more interesting features of this schematic is that it shows how surface water would be redirected into an internal waterfall within the monument.

This is the type of detail that is largely missing from most of the reports available online. For me, it really helps to drive home the scope and vision of the design. This is not some eclectic modern art project, and it is much more than just a glass replica of The Old Man… it is a monument of ambitious proportions.

Copyright Francis D. Treves Architect All Rights Reserved

This photo, which was widely published in news reports (but in poor quality), is a rendition of the mountain as it might look in the spring.

The tee party tax protest


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