By Chris Floyd
It was a largely secret operation, its true intentions masked by pious rhetoric and bogus warnings of imminent danger to the American way of life. Having gained the dazed complicity of a somnolent Congress, U.S. President George W. Bush calmly signed a death warrant for thousands upon thousands of innocent victims: a native population whose land and resources were coveted by a small group of powerful elites seeking to augment their already vast dominance by any means necessary, including mass slaughter.
A flashback to March 2003, when Bush finally brought his long-simmering brew of aggressive war to the boil? Not at all -- it happened just last week. This time, however, the victims were not the Iraqi people, but one of the last remaining symbols of pure freedom left in America itself: the nation's herd of wild horses, galloping unbridled on the people's common lands.
With an obscure provision smuggled without any hearings or public notice into the gargantuan budget bill -- 3,000 pages of pork and chicanery approved, unread, by Bush's rubber-stamp Republicans and that wiggly bit of protoplasm known laughingly as the "Democratic opposition" -- Bush stripped the nation's wild horses of long-standing legal protections against being sold off, slaughtered and shipped overseas for meat. The Bush plan, spearheaded by Montana Senator Conrad Burns -- longtime bagman for Big Cattle interests -- sets a production goal of up to 20,000 wild horse corpses in the coming year, The Associated Press reports.
Why must these magnificent beasts be massacred, after decades of bipartisan protection? If they could speak, no doubt they'd look at the state terrorists of the Bush Regime and say: "They hate us for our freedom." And certainly, anyone cramped within the narrow confines of a harsh, blinkered worldview would be offended, even unmanned, by the sight of such splendid exemplars of liberty. First brought to America by the Spanish conquistadors, these bold rebels broke free of their masters and have roamed wild and unfettered for centuries. Their very existence is a living reproach to crippled souls obsessed with conquest, control and domination. So they must be destroyed.
It's a nice conceit -- but the reality of the situation will hardly bear such tragic grandeur and psychological angst. Like its mirror image, the Iraq atrocity, Bush's horse caper is just a grubby little piece of graft: His fat-cat pals want to get fatter, so they use the federal government as a front for looting the public treasury. Meanwhile -- as with Iraq -- Bush ladles out the BS to cover their tracks.
Here's how it works. The 50,000 remaining wild horses roam on federal land -- land held in common by the American people. Big-time ranchers also use this land to graze millions of their privately owned cattle. Able to buy and sell politicians like so much prime stock, the wealthy ranchers have rigged a long-running sweetheart deal that gives them access to this common pasturage at bargain prices: less than one-tenth of the going market rate for private grazing land. The result is an effective annual subsidy of more than $500 million to some of the richest men in America, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. As always, your rootin', tootin' cowboy capitalists must be protected from the risks of the "free market" at every turn -- even as they impose it, at gunpoint, on others.
But like all good Bushists, they want more. Why do they want more? Simply because it's there, and they want it. Yes, our leaders and elites are that witless. That's not to say they're stupid, of course. Given the manifold imperfections of our still-evolving brainpans, it's possible to be remarkably cunning in pursuing your basest desires while remaining oblivious to their pointlessness and brutality -- and to their origin in the blind electrical firings of those primitive layers of the mind we all share with the rat, the pig and the chicken.
So the ranchers want the horses off public land so they can cram more cows in there and make more money through their sweetheart deals. The resource at issue here is grass, not oil, but the principle is the same as in Bush's witless, pig-layer adventure in Iraq: Me want, they got; kill them, give me.
And as in Iraq, Bush's policy is swaddled with lies and fearmongering. The ranchers say they must be given even more public subsidies, or else the sacred right of all Americans to churn cheap beef through their intestines twice a day might be lost -- and that would mean the terrorists win, right? Meanwhile, Bush says it costs too much to let all the wild horses live out their natural lives. Yet the total cost of the federal horse programs -- $50 million annually -- is a fraction of ranchers' yearly gorging at the public trough. The tiniest increase in grazing fees could cover the programs' costs for decades. Bush also claims the horses are gobbling too much government grass; yet private cattle on federal lands outnumber wild horses by 50-1. Indeed, past government studies recommended reducing cattle numbers to save deteriorating rangeland. Needless to say, the ranchers' prime stock in Congress will never let that happen.
But although they may be witless, you can't say the Bushists don't have a sense of humor when committing their depredations. For example, even as they were consigning 20,000 wild horses to unnecessary slaughter last week, they also declared a new "National Day of the Horse" -- a yearly celebration of the animal's "vital contribution" to American culture.
What yocks, eh? No doubt the dead horses will enjoy this great honor just as much as the 100,000 slaughtered Iraqis enjoy their "liberation."
Sale of Wild Horses to Slaughter Legalized
Associated Press, Dec. 9, 2004
Federal Bill Imperils Drive to Save Wild Horses From Slaughter
Philadelphia Inquirer, Dec. 6, 2004
Bill add-on strips wild horses of protection from slaughter
Salt Lake Tribune, Dec. 9, 2004
Mustangs' Slaughter Feared
Sacremento Bee, Dec. 7, 2004
Burns Amendment Riles Some Animal Lovers
Great Falls Tribune, Dec. 10, 2004
Public Ignored in Wild Horse Law Change
Montana Standard, Dec. 6, 2004
President Bush to Impose Death Penalty on Innocent Horses
PR Newswire, Dec. 2, 2004
The Ultimate Washington Hypocrisy and Flim-Flam
PR Newswire, Dec. 9, 2004
Spending Bill With Wild Horse Slaughter Provision Gets Presidential Nod
Thoroughbred Times, Dec. 12, 2004
The 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act
United States Bureau of Land Managment
By Chris Floyd
HE WAS born in the year the Bolshevik revolution shook the world. At 87, Eric Hobsbawm still displays all the analytical skill and prowess that led him to be counted as one of the most important historians ever. "Hitler came to power when Eric Hobsbawm was on his way home from school in Berlin, and the Soviet Union fell while he was giving a seminar in New York. He translated for Che Guevara in Havana, had Christmas dinner with a Soviet spymaster in Budapest and an evening at home with Mahalia Jackson in Chicago," the cover of his recent autobiography, Interesting Times, says about the man. In addition to The Age of Revolution, The Age of Capital, The Age of Empire and The Age of Extremes, Prof. Hobsbawm, who taught until retirement
Soon after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the Cuban President, Fidel Castro, said that the world was entering a very dangerous phase. Would you agree with such a view?
Prof. Hobsbawm: Yes, and I am afraid what has been happening in the Middle East [West Asia] rather supports this view. My view at the time was that a group of neo-conservative Americans took this opportunity to, in effect, put forward their claim for world hegemony, world domination. They are engaged in pursuing this aim now — limited, at present, only by the fact that it proved much more difficult then they had anticipated. And, that their actual analysis of the facts of the situation was, clearly, very defective.
We see daily reports of violence coming out of Iraq — in this post-invasion phase. Do you feel that the invasion of Iraq demonstrates the limits to American power or do we see this as a demonstration of American power?
About 10 years ago, when I wrote my history of the 20th Century, the situation was such that the developed countries of the North could win any battle they wanted. Translate that into specific terms, the Americans could win any battle that they wanted. The major problem was that of maintaining control on the ground afterwards — largely because the basic stabilising force of empire had become dissipated — namely, the willingness of subjects to accept any effective rule as legitimate rule — which means that even to maintain basic control is much more difficult than it used to be.
A very good example which I then quoted; this was before Iraq, but after the  Gulf war that demonstrated any battle can be won; but not necessarily the peace after that. Compare the situation of Somalia in the imperial period when it produced relatively little problems for the two imperial powers — Great Britain and Italy — you know there were guerrillas, there were people the Brits called mad Mullahs — but, effectively, these were perfectly well-administered colonies largely because the great bulk of the population assumed, if somebody comes in, full of effective power, that's it. But look at Somalia now.
I think that to this extent it demonstrates the limits to American power. That's to say the limits of American capacity to remake the world — not limits to win wars or to create chaos, anarchy, disturbance.
There are different theories about those behind the resistance in Iraq — Al-Qaeda, nationalists, Saddam Hussein's supporters. Would you say that there's a basic force of nationalism at work here?
I don't know. It's perfectly clear that if there's one thing that would probably unite all Iraqis, however they differ among themselves, it is that they don't like to be occupied. To that extent, you might say there is a sort of nationalism, but the thing is that the people that are actually waging an active insurgency, or active resistance, are undoubtedly only a particular part of Iraqis, probably very largely Sunnis in some of the big cities. That doesn't mean that the remainder are in favour of foreign occupation.
In your remarks at the India International Centre, you made some reference to the media. We have the emergence of Al-Jazeera as an alternative means of information, but we also have the embedding of journalists during the Iraq war. One view of the war was provided by the vast majority of the American media — we saw newscasters wearing the American flag on their lapels. Are we largely going to get this one view?
I would say probably not. For one thing, the Internet is relatively uncontrollable. So, to this extent, the ability of people to discover other kinds of views is immeasurably greater than before. You may say that in many parts of the world, the number of people who have access to the Internet is relatively limited although in some countries it is very large. Nevertheless, in fact, the word gets around and, to this extent, modern technology has made it possible to do this. For instance, it was possible in the last days of the Soviet Union for people in Moscow to know what was happening in Moscow simply because people would telephone them, e-mail them from abroad. And, this information could get around ... I think this is a new situation.
You have been reading newspapers, I imagine, at least for 60 years if not more.
Yes. But, of course, newspapers are no longer the central medium.
You think newspapers are in decline?
Oh, yes, at least in the West, they have declined, relatively speaking. As far as the masses are concerned in Western Europe, television is the main news [medium]. That's where the danger lies and, of course, the relative advantage, of having a thing like Al-Jazeera. Dangerous governments say, like, [Silvio] Berlusconi in Italy don't mind having a free press so long as the television isn't free. That's where the real danger is.
Nevertheless, it doesn't mean that news is completely eliminated in the way in which, for instance, it used to be eliminated in old-fashioned authoritarian or totalitarian governments, where you simply could not read anything or hear anything, which was not officially, as it were, permitted.
We have the phenomenon of Islamist terrorism in today's world. Is the threat going to define the next 50 years?
That's what the Americans want. Now that you no longer have the real enemy, you do need an enemy, as it were, in order to be able to mobilise, against whom to mobilise. That was the theory of Huntington, wasn't it? It's going to be a cultural battle till the death of cultures.
I don't believe it. In the first place, Islam is only one part of the world. Islamic problems, the problem of Islamic immigrants or Islamic activities, only affects certain parts [of the world]. For instance, for practical purposes, it simply doesn't arise for most of the American continent.
The element within Islam of, as it were, the feeling that you are no longer subaltern by being a Muslim, that is an element in the situation which has, perhaps, been underestimated.
Do you see Europe emerging as a power that will challenge the United States?
No. In the first place, Europe isn't a military power. It's got a good English and French Army, which are both quite small. In the second place, at the moment, a military counter-weight to the United States is not thinkable in terms of hi-tech.
The most that is thinkable is for somebody to control some of the global communications systems on which the Americans rely and even that, while it is conceivable that the Chinese might be able to do it, at the moment, I don't think anybody is very anxious, in the short run, to confront the United States.
China is a massive and growing economy with a political system that the United States doesn't like. Is there potential for conflict here or do you see them living and working together?
In theory, one could see, so to speak, living together — peaceful co-existence, as the phrase used to be. In practice, it's not very clear. It depends very largely on American policy I think.
People who live in non-European, Third World countries find it increasingly difficult to travel to the West. If you are in the field of information technology, some country might invite you. In a world, which says it is increasingly globalised, do you see people connected by modern means of communication but otherwise boxed in?
It's difficult to know. Europe has very largely been constructed to keep people out or control the influx. Nevertheless, there has been a substantial influx. There are not very many European countries that do not have, for instance, anything up to nine-ten per cent of the population as immigrant. Once you have that, it is not very easy to completely shut the door ...
The other thing is simply the sheer pressure of people from poor countries trying to get to ... rich countries. It's very marked, for instance, from places like Africa or even parts of Latin America to Europe and, certainly, from Latin America to the United States. I think for political or ideological reasons the United States is making it more difficult to travel.
At the same time, the enormous advantage that the United States and one or two other countries, Canada and Australia have had by opening the doors is such that, if you like, there's a conflict here between the ideological and political interests of the regime and even the economic interests of the corporations and economy ...
I think that for political reasons the cross-border flow of immigrants will be far less than the cross-border flow of other things. Nevertheless, I find it difficult to believe that it can be actually governed back.
We've also seen, for instance, refugees in Australia sewing up their lips after being put in detention centres. You had people actually jumping off ships. We've seen all that as well.
You have referred to globalisation beginning in the 16th Century. Would you say that the transport of Indian indentured labour to countries as far away as Fiji was part of this globalising trend?
Well, I suppose, yes, in the sense that the transport of slaves and, eventually, indentured labour after the abolition of slavery, is a form of the creation of a global economy. I think, nevertheless, this is different from the present currents of migration.
In those days, it went, as it were, from one backward place to places, which required imperial development — Guyana, Trinidad, Mauritius.
At the moment, the major thing [migration] is from poor countries to richer countries — let's say from India to England and America. That is the new situation ... I think that this is not so widely appreciated in Asia because the nature of cross-border migration in Asia is of a different kind.
Can you tell us when you last came to India and your impressions about this country?
I've only been to India twice. Once, in 1968 or thereabouts, when I was here for about a month, travelling around the country and, second, about four or five years ago, I came as a tourist, but this time South India, where I had not previously been.
It is impossible for me to compare after about two or three days in Delhi on straightforward impression.
If I had to compare, I would compare by what I read, what people tell me, not by personal impression ...
In your conversations with Antonio Polito, published as The New Century, you refer to India as a regional power and that you didn't see it emerging as world power for the next 50 years ...
It's difficult to tell because, clearly, since that time [the book was published in 1999], India, in terms of economic growth, has done much better. Here again, as a historian, I am in no position to speculate about this. I would have thought, actually, neither India nor China would aim to be world powers in the sense of which the United Kingdom was a world power in the days of the empire and the Americans are now.
I would say that even the Chinese have a long tradition of being, as it were, a leading power in the world. I do not think in terms of world domination in the way in which they may well consider that one of these days it will be the greatest economy in the world ... and that will have a spin-off on the political ...
As for the future of India, it obviously has a great future; a much greater future in the 21st Century even than, I think, most Indians would have dreamed of in the first 30-40 years of independence. That seems to be clear. But, exactly, what the political shape or political implications of this rise of India as an economic, a cultural, and for that matter, simply as the largest state, demographically speaking, is going to be.
As we move ahead in many areas, we've also seen the phenomenon of communalism. Do you see the rise of communal forces in India as threat to its syncretic tradition and its nationhood?
Yes. I think, obviously, the rise of identity groups of one kind or another, is at odds with the development of big, territorial states, which, after all, until recently, were the basic unit of government, of administration, of practically everything ... there are countries in which these, clearly, have threatened the existence of states — firstly, of course, in weak states, which the Americans call the failed or failing states.
But, not only there. At one time, one could honestly say are we absolutely certain, that in 50 years time, there will be single United Kingdom or a single Spain? I don't know. I think the most dangerous issue at the moment isn't so much the revival of nationalism ... but the revival of communalism in the religious sense.
That, I think, is dangerous and it is not confined to any one religion. The extent to which revival of religion is a mass phenomenon is not so clear. In a way, fundamentalists, in a literal sense, are minorities, quite large minorities; but I don't quite think they've actually been majorities.
But fundamentalists have been extremely good at seizing power. And once they've seized power, then a great many things follow. That's where the danger is. Nevertheless, this is a thing that, on the whole, I don't think many of us, or any of us, really predicted, and it's a very worrying phenomenon.
I notice this even in things like Buddhism — in places like Sri Lanka it developed a kind of nationalist, militant edge, which, really, very few people would have thought off.
It was believed that with material progress, religious differences would get reduced. That doesn't seem to have happened.
It's clear that we [historians] underestimated the continued role of religiosity or the belief in rituals and all the rest of it.
One of the reasons why we underestimated it was because we didn't pay enough attention to gender history. Everybody knew, for instance, that women were more pious than men, at least in Europe and continue to be, but because people didn't take this seriously enough ... we didn't really inquire into the role of this kind of motivations not only among particular groups, but generally. Very difficult to overlook it now.
Bugging device found at UN offices
Brian Whitaker and agencies
Saturday December 18, 2004
A secret bugging device has been found behind wooden panels at the UN's European headquarters in Geneva, bolstering claims that the international body is a routine target for eavesdroppers.
"In the course of the renovation of the Salon Français, workmen found what is considered to be a sophisticated listening device," Marie Heuze, the chief UN spokeswoman in Geneva, said yesterday.
She was speaking to reporters after Swiss TSR television obtained photographs of the bug, which it said had been discovered in the autumn.
"An investigation failed to determine who planted the device," Ms Heuze said. "I am not authorised to say anything else."
The discovery echoed allegations by Clare Short, the former British cabinet minister, that Britain had bugged the office of the UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, in 2003 during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. Ms Short said she had seen transcripts of Mr Annan's conversations.
Two former UN weapons inspectors, Hans Blix and Richard Butler, also said they believed their conversations had been bugged.
Although bugging the UN violates international law, the device found by accident in Geneva is likely to be just one of many, a UN security source said yesterday.
"It's like Swiss cheese," the source, who declined to be identified, told Reuters. "If we had the technical means and staff for thorough searches, I'm certain that we would find one microphone after another. The UN in New York and Vienna are the same."
Patrick Eugster, a Geneva-based surveillance expert who examined pictures of the device for TSR, said it appeared to be of Russian or east European origin.
"It uses a very sophisticated listening system where the sound is captured and re-transmitted," he said. Transmissions would be so brief as to be very difficult to detect.
Describing the device, he said: "We have a main transmitter with a small antenna and a data storage element originating from Hungary or Bulgaria. There are also two microphones."
It was probably made three or four years ago because some of its parts are quite large compared with those available today, he said.
The Salon Français adjoins the main council chamber and is sometimes used by the heads of delegations, possibly for private discussions.
Yesterday it was unclear whether the listening device had targeted anyone in particular or whether it had been placed there opportunistically in the hope of picking up useful titbits.
The Salon Français was one of the rooms used in September 2003 when foreign ministers from major powers - the US, Russia, China, Britain and France - held private talks on Iraq. The French delegation, led by Dominique de Villepin, France's then foreign minister, is believed to have made use of it, though other delegations may also have done so.
The room was also used last January during talks on global hunger attended by Mr Annan, the Brazilian president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, and the French president, Jacques Chirac.
Mr Annan met the Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo, and Cameroon's president, Paul Biya, to discuss the disputed Bakassa Peninsula in the same room.
The Salon Français is used every Wednesday for a teleconference meeting between Mr Annan and the head of the UN's Geneva office, Sergei Ordzhonikidze.
Whether the eavesdropping device gleaned anything important is uncertain. UN officials - and probably visiting politicians - generally assume that anything they say may be overheard.
In an interview with the Guardian earlier this year Mr Blix described the lengths he went to to protect his New York office and home from bugs.
"If you had something sensitive to talk about you would go out into the restaurant or out into the streets," he said.
A former secretary-general, Boutros Boutros Ghali, reportedly had his clothes, briefcase and office checked for bugs at the start of every working day.
He later told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "From the first day I entered my office they said, beware, your office is bugged, your residence is bugged and it is a tradition that the member states who have the technical capacity to bug will do it without any hesitation."
The cruellest personification of brutality in recent history is no doubt Pol Pot. Assuming power in Cambodia in 1975, he pronounced it as Year Zero and issued an 8-point edict which abolished all towns, abolished all markets and abolished money. People in towns and cities were force-marched into the countryside. Along the way, those who talked too much or were slow in walking, or cried or protested were executed as they walked. Old people and children who stumbled were shot too. Babies were killed by flinging them against rocks. Marauding soldiers would lynch people and eat their livers in the raw. Some 1.5 million people were butchered in a matter of months.
Okay, so Pol Pot was brutality in human form. Does that make Cambodians a brutal race? That's the kind of generalisation that can make dubious psycho-historians out of otherwise respectable writers. Philip Short is indeed a highly respected researcher/writer. His book Mao: A Life is a classic. He has now written a new biography, Pol Pot: The History of a Nightmare . It is a definitive treatise on the Cambodian tyrant. But it is marred by the author's derivative theory that brutality is built into the cultural character of the Cambodian people.
Actually that is something that can be said about any people. There is a mass of literature, from the book Rape of Nanking to the film Bridge on the River Kwai , that records the unbelievable brutalities committed by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II. Does that make the Japanese people a brutal race of humans _ the Japanese with their kabuki theatre, with their Shinto traditions, their exquisite tea ceremony and the unrivalled grace of their aesthetics.
As coincidence would have it, much of the folklore of brutality is built around kings and conquerors of the East _ from Genghiz Khan to Idi Amin. One reason could be that the chroniclers, whether writers or film-makers, are overwhelmingly from the West; Easterners lag behind in the disciplines of research, study and recording.
In reality the West can teach the East quite a few lessons in despotism and brutality. Is there anything more savage in history than the wholesale decimation of the native population of North America? Poisons and epidemic-spreading germs were used to exterminate entire communities, an early employment of weapons of mass destruction. If there is anything more demonic than this, it can only be the wholesale brutalisation of the black slaves shipped from Africa to the New World.
And where in the scale of human brutality shall we place the more recent cases _ the agonising death of 115,000 Japanese when nuclear bombs were dropped on them; the chemical destruction of a country's soil and water, and the genetic deformation of its populace, when the deadly chemical, dioxin, was sprayed over Vietnam.
For argument's sake, we can say that these extreme measures were resorted to in the heat of war. But what about the savaging of helpless prisoners in Abu Ghraib? A young woman smilingly putting up the `V' sign over a heaped mass of naked prisoners, another woman soldier dragging another naked prisoner with a dog belt attached to his neck _ these are barbarities that compete with Pol Pot's for attention. So do we pronounce that Americans as a race are barbarous?
French statesman Clemencean famously described America as the only nation in history which miraculously went direct from barbarism to degeneration without the usual interval of civilisation. Another generalisation, but the point is made, and Amen to that.
The former general, who has been accused of involvement in killings linked to the ‘Condor’ operation, will be kept under house arrest until his trial
Judge Juan Guzman yesterday indicted former General Augusto Pinochet for his involvement in the ‘Condor’ operation, while he had Chile under military rule between 1973 and 1990. The judge also ruled that Pinochet be kept under house arrest. Last night the former dictator’s defence lawyer was planning to lodge an appeal for legal protection with the Supreme Court.
The judge has indicted Pinochet on charges connected with ordering nine “permanent kidnappings” (disappearances) and one killing as part of the kidnappings and killings carried out during the Condor operation. Condor was set up among a number of South American dictatorships, including Chile, in the 70s and 80s to persecute and wipe out the opposition. Judge Guzman said: “I had no difficulty taking this decision once I had examined all the testimonies and elements in the case as well as the perceptions deriving from them… it was very easy. The difficult part was, of course, to examine and analyse everything.”
The judge said Pinochet was fit to stand trial: “General Pinochet is fit to stand trial in all its different phases including the declarations that form part of the investigation and those face to face with witnesses”. He added that “one of the elements taken into consideration” to indict the former general was the interview he had given to a Miami TV channel in November 2003. Until now doctors have cited mental health problems to declare Pinochet “unfit” to stand trial.
Yesterday the former general’s lawyer gave the following reason for lodging an appeal against the decision: “We’re going to file an appeal right away, because we believe that the decision is a disgraceful abuse and because it is a violation of human rights, claimed so often in this country, and because they want to put a person, who is not in a position to defend himself, on trail.”
This is the second time the 89-year-old Pinochet has been indicted. In 2000 Judge Guzman himself brought charges against him in connection with the “Caravan of Death” but the case had to be dropped in 2001 as a result of the report by two of the three psychiatric experts and neurologists who examined the former leader. Nevertheless, Pinochet is now facing charges in another case in connection with the death of the army chief Carlos Prats and his wife. Not long ago Judge Alejandro Solis decided to strip Pinochet of his immunity and indict him; the Appeal Court in Santiago later upheld the decision.
The multi-million accounts he has with the Riggs Banks are also under investigation. In Spain Judge Baltasar Garzon brought charges against him “in connection with the illegal acquisition of wealth, genocide and state terrorism”.
The Crimes of Augusto Pinochet
A chemical compound that drug developers had shelved as a failed treatment for inflammation has unexpectedly become the most promising new tuberculosis medicine to emerge in 40 years, scientists said yesterday.
The surprise discovery that the drug is a potent antibiotic -- and one that in animals, at least, has many advantages over current TB drugs -- has generated a flurry of excitement among public health specialists struggling to control the growing global scourge.
Among infectious diseases, tuberculosis is the second leading cause of death worldwide, surpassed only by AIDS. Spread easily by coughing, the disease sickens more than 8 million people every year and kills 2 million to 3 million annually. Adding to the problem, a growing number of cases -- as many as 400,000 a year -- are caused by microbial strains that are resistant to currently used drugs.
The new compound, known simply as R207910, has been given to only 50 or so healthy people for safety testing so far. Studies of its effectiveness in people infected with TB will begin "very soon," said lead researcher Koen Andries of Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development in Beerse, Belgium.
But in animal studies, described in today's issue of the journal Science, the compound easily overcame the two biggest hurdles facing TB therapies today: their ineffectiveness against resistant strains and the long period of treatment required to achieve a cure.
TB today is treated with a cocktail of three drugs that must be taken every day for six to nine months -- a daunting commitment that the majority of patients do not keep. When therapy is stopped prematurely, the disease recurs -- often in a form resistant to those drugs.
"The big problem in TB is not that we don't have drugs, it's that people are sick as hell and you give them drugs and after a month they feel good so they stop taking their drugs and they relapse," said Barry Bloom, dean of the Harvard School of Public Health. "Anything that shortens the time to kill off the TB bug would have a huge public health impact, even if it is not any better than other drugs."
In studies of mice infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the slow-growing and difficult-to-kill bacterium that causes TB, the new compound lingered especially in the animals' lungs, where it is most needed, achieving concentrations 10 times higher than in the blood. When used with two of the three drugs commonly used today, R207910 cleared the animals' lungs of TB bacteria after just one month -- half the time needed to achieve that end with the standard three-drug-regimen in mice.
"That's a reason to be optimistic we would be able to shorten treatment duration [in people] by about 50 percent," Andries said.
Tuberculosis was the biggest infectious killer on Earth until AIDS erupted, though the distinction between the death tolls from those two diseases is somewhat artificial. More than 11 million people have both diseases, and TB plays a contributory role in at least 1 million AIDS deaths every year.
Happily, Andries said, the new compound has a particular advantage for those patients infected with both M. tuberculosis and the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS. One of today's three standard TB drugs (the most modern of the three, rifampin, introduced in 1963) speeds the breakdown of several important AIDS drugs in the body, making simultaneous treatment for the two diseases difficult, but R207910 apparently does not.
R207910 is one of a new class of chemicals called diarylquinolines, several of which have been studied for their potential to block inflammation. A Johnson & Johnson scientist created R207910 by accident while trying to create a different diarylquinoline, Andries said, but it was saved for future study anyway.
When recent tests by the company indicated its potential against TB, the scientists there looked into how it works. They found that the compound throws a molecular monkey wrench into the cellular machinery by which the TB bacterium makes adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, the microbe's primary fuel.
That is a different killing mechanism than is found in any other antibiotic, and it explains why R207910 is just as effective against drug-resistant strains of M. tuberculosis as against conventional strains. Moreover, because the mechanism by which humans (and even most bacteria) make ATP is so different than that used by mycobacteria, the compound is expected to be very safe in people.
Volunteers had no significant side effects after taking a variety of doses over two weeks, Andries said, acknowledging that problems could arise with longer treatment.
The drug is not foolproof. Andries's team has already found that about one in every 200 million TB bacterium harbors a genetic mutation that allows it to live even in the presence of R207910. But that is a manageable level of resistance, experts said, as long as the new drug gets used in combination with others.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the new compound looks very promising but warned against raising hopes too soon. "I'm generally a little skeptical about things like this until you get into humans," he said.
Fauci also warned that TB drug development poses notoriously difficult financial challenges, both because human studies must be large to prove efficacy and because those countries that need it the most are least able to pay for it.
The Dirtiest Trick
It's official: opposition leader Yushchenko was poisoned in Ukraine's rigged election. Can he win this time?
BY YURI ZARAKHOVICH | KIEV
The faces of great leaders are weathered by the years, absorbing and reflecting the pain of their people. Viktor Yushchenko, the opposition leader running for President of Ukraine, hasn't had a chance to demonstrate greatness, but almost overnight his handsome face turned into a gray, pitted, suppurating mask — a road map to his anguished and divided country. Now doctors have confirmed the cause of that sudden transformation. "There is no doubt about the fact that Mr. Yushchenko's disease is caused by poisoning and that dioxin is one of the agents," said Dr. Michael Zimpfer, director of Vienna's Rudolfinerhaus clinic, where Yushchenko has been treated off and on since he fell grievously ill Sept. 5. "We have identified the cause. We suspect involvement of a third party."
Yushchenko has no doubt about who that party is. He blames unnamed agents of the Ukrainian government (see interview), the same government that allowed rampant ballot stuffing to throw the Nov. 21 runoff election to Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych — Yushchenko's opponent and President Leonid Kuchma's handpicked successor. Two weeks ago, Ukraine's Supreme Court voided that result and called a new vote for Dec. 26. Since then Yushchenko has continued to gain strength — he says he'll take 60% of the vote — while Yanukovych mutters about a "soft coup d'état," and Kuchma keeps searching for a way out.
The political stakes are extremely high — a nation's fate is at stake — but Zimpfer's announcement on Saturday proved that for Yushchenko, the personal stakes may be even higher. The amount of toxin in his bloodstream is so great that tests could not measure it. Had the dose been any larger, he would likely be dead. And though he is recovering — his intense back pain subsiding, liver function returning, energy rebounding — his long-term prospects are bleak.
"I don't want to scare him or his family," Zimpfer told TIME, "but there will be
Dioxins are a family of toxic chemicals produced in some manufacturing and as an ingredient in weapons of war. One well-known dioxin is the active ingredient in Agent Orange, the infamous defoliant used by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War, which was linked to high rates of lymphoma, soft-tissue sarcomas and cancer of the lung and prostate. People poisoned by dioxins released during industrial accidents, such as the 1976 explosion at a chemical plant in Seveso, Italy, developed the skin disease chloracne, which has ravaged Yushchenko's face and also causes severe joint pain and fatigue. The condition can take years to improve. "There is an increased risk of cancer and other conditions," Professor John Henry, former head of the U.K.'s National Poisons Service, told Nature magazine last month.
While deliberate poisoning hasn't been proven, it isn't unknown in Russia and its former satellites. In Chechnya in March 2002, a rebel commander named Khattab died after handling a letter coated with an unidentified poison; the Russian foreign-intelligence service fsb claimed credit. In July 2003, Russian investigative journalist Yuri Shchekochikin died from a sudden, agonizing disease whose symptoms included blistering; doctors blamed an allergic reaction. In Yushchenko's case, forensic scientists will now try to determine when and how he was poisoned, though fingering a culprit may be next to impossible.
The poisoning has already given him martyrlike status among his supporters, but it also raises questions about whether his health will allow him to serve with sustained vigor. Though he insists it will, those kinds of doubts are dangerous in an unstable environment such as Ukraine.
For weeks, Yushchenko has been sustained by adrenalin and the certainty of making history. "During these 17 days we have built a new country," he told a jubilant crowd in Kiev's Independence Square last Wednesday. Hours before, the Ukrainian parliament, with the backing of Kuchma, had passed a package of electoral and constitutional reforms that boosted Yushchenko's chances in the Dec. 26 vote. "We'll remember [these days,]" Yushchenko predicted, "as the best in our lives."
The struggle isn't over — and Yushchenko knows his life expectancy may be diminished — but he has reason for optimism. He is feeling better, and the electoral reforms met his key demand: reducing the number of absentee ballots from 4% to 0.5% of the electorate, overhauling the Central Electoral Commission, and firing its disgraced chair. The opposition agreed that the President would no longer have the power to appoint his Cabinet, though he retains the right to nominate such key posts as Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and Defense Minister.
Few doubt that Yushchenko will have the votes to prevail, but he still needs to get people to the polls. So he urged the activists in Independence Square to begin working on the campaign, and the crowd thinned out last week. But a hardy band remains, and they say they're staying put until Yushchenko becomes President. Some of the makeshift shelters that popped up in late November have been replaced by large, army-issue tents, and Independence Square even has its own daily newspaper, the Revolution, a leaflet of resistance news.
Yanukovych, the beneficiary of the vote-rigging, broke with his patron Kuchma and denounced the reform package; even some Yushchenko allies were against it. Yulia Timoshenko, a radical opposition leader, refused to vote on it. "This reform strips the President of powers he needs to deliver on his promises to the people," she fumed.
But Mikhailo Svistovich, an activist with the opposition group Pora, has a more positive view. The electoral reforms are incorporated into the law, he says, while the constitutional changes must be reviewed by the next Parliament — and could be modified. "The point is, we've been fighting for honest elections — and it's honest elections we're getting now," says Svistovich.
In Donetsk in the industrial heartland of the east, some 700 km from Kiev, anger about the election's annulment is still rife. Most people here voted for Yanukovych, and for nine nights running, demonstrators gathered in Lenin Square to denounce "the vile Americans who hired their vile agent Yushchenko to split Ukraine and grab it piecemeal," as one recent speaker put it. Leading eastern politicians are threatening to secede and join Russia if Yushchenko wins. Says Alexander Zats, a member of the Donetsk regional legislature: "Should our legitimate concerns be ignored, the people may take matters into their own hands."
In western Ukraine, Yushchenko's ascendancy has ended the region's traditional separatism. For the first time in the history of Ukraine, says Ihor Derzhko, deputy chair of the regional legislature in Lviv, "the orange revolution has fused us with the rest of the country." Derzhko believes the east's succession threats are a political ploy to wrench concessions from the new government.
Those threats are a powerful weapon for the Kremlin, though for now Russian President Vladimir Putin is talking sweet. On Friday, he told visiting Spanish PM José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero that he "could only be pleased" if Ukraine were to be welcomed into the E.U. "Ukraine's turned out to be Putin's worst failure," says one official in Moscow. If Putin fails to install Yanukovych and thus "loses" Ukraine, the official says, his domestic position will be undercut. "Putin will strike back," he says. "But except for encouraging eastern separatism, he does not have a lever to work."
For now, Putin must wait like everyone else for the outcome of the election. The future will depend on how quickly and thoroughly Yushchenko can flush the toxins out of his system — and whether Ukraine's body politic can do the same.
In a land where elections are rigged, election results are fixed, where supreme courts rule that there is "no time" to count votes... Yes, in a country that has George Bush as the president of the Corporate America, which has nothing to do with the 'real people'... how does one expect justice to prevail?
Frances Newton has spent 16 years in jail... 16 years of freedom lost. The 39-year-old was to become the first black woman executed in Texas since the US Civil War ended in 1865.
If the new ballistic results prove that the gunpowder traces found on her skirt was actually not gunpowder... Would the state of Texas be able to give her back her husband, two kids and 16 years of life?
It is a big IF - cause it is in America.
Frances Newton is a poor black woman who would have got 100,000 USD as Insurance Money. Frances Newton is no OJ Simpson, she is not a Michael Jackson, She is not a Colin Powell (International War Criminal - for Powell gave false evidence to United Nations in the run up to Iraqi Invasion)
Two weeks after the murder of her husband and two kids, Frances was arrested. What needs to be investigated is the nexus between the Insurance Company - a few bad cops and a few bad attorneys (including the one who represented Frances in the early trials).
Prosecutors said Newton killed her family to claim $100,000 in life insurance money. How come no one questions the motive of the insurance company? what if they didn't want to pay? (Who wants to pay out a 100,000 USD - when that can be used to fund election fixing or such nefarious activities)
In a country where corporate crimes are already saturated beyond repair - killing an innocent young woman (who has already been killed a few times over in the last 16 years) might please the morally bankrupt religious right and the followers of such a diabolic faith.
Frances Newton Story
Newton was convicted of capital murder in 1988 for the slayings the year before of her husband, Adrian Newton, 23, and the couple's children, Alton, 7, and Farrah Elaine, 21 months, in the family's northwest Harris County apartment.
Newton has always denied killing her husband Adrian, 23, and their children Alton, seven, and daughter Farrah, 21 months. Prosecutors claimed she shot them before dialling emergency services in an effort to claim $100,000 worth of life insurance payouts.
Gov. Rick Perry halted the execution of Frances Newton, one day after the Board of Pardons and Paroles recommended that the punishment be delayed for 120 days.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 5-1 to recommend that Perry delay her execution 120 days after she filed a petition for clemency last week. The petition raised questions about ballistics tests by the Houston Police Department crime lab, which has faced criticism in recent years for providing unreliable evidence in some investigations.
Her attorneys also claim that there are other problems with the investigation and argue that they were not properly investigated because her trial attorney, Ron Mock, was ineffective.
In April 1987, Newton and her cousin returned home from shopping to find her husband and their two children dead. They called police immediately. Her cousin said Newton was surprised and distraught.
When sheriff's deputies arrived, they found Adrian on the couch, shot in the head. They found the couple's children in their beds, each shot in the chest. Police initially had no suspects, but Newton was arrested two weeks after the killings.
Yet, hours after the slayings, tests on Newton's hands showed that she had not recently fired a gun, according to the petition filed by defense attorneys David Dow and John LaGrappe. Blood stains were found in several places in the Newtons' apartment, but none was found on Frances Newton's clothing.
Court records show that tests found traces of possible gunpowder on the dress Newton wore, but her attorneys say that may have been garden manure, which, like gunpowder, has nitrates and can trigger a false positive test result. Initial tests on Newton's hands on the night of the crime found no evidence that she had fired a gun, court records show.
A .25-caliber handgun, the murder weapon, was found in an abandoned house nearby and Newton's cousin testified she had seen Newton put it there sometime after the killings.
Newton explained that she had found the unfamiliar gun at home and removed it as a safety precaution. Her husband sometimes carried a weapon and she did not want him to get into trouble, she said.
Other aspects of the crime, including chronology placing Newton with relatives about the time of the murders, suggest she may have been wrongly convicted, her attorneys said.
The electoral stalemate in Ukraine has received a lot of media attention. There has been a tremendous amount of media spin and doosras in the last week - even suggestions that Ukraine is going to be divided.
Is this just bad politics? Or a case of politics gone bad?
Ukrainians had a choice between blue balls and orange balls. Not a choice between Russia and the West as claimed by many political commentators. To the average poor person in east or west of Ukraine or anywhere in the world (including USA) - feeding their family, a better life prospect - is what they want.
But, then, as the American elections proved to us for the second time in four years - the brute majority of people refuse to indulge in politics and allowed an anti-social man to become the president of the richest nation in the world. The majority of people who are slaves to a consumerist system - watch TV, eat Kentucky Chicken and prefer a life of political impotence?
Impotence it is - in thought and in deeds.
Just because there are male and female prostitutes in this world, would that make sex a crime? If sex is indeed a crime then every parent has to be a criminal. Sex is the process of creation of life. Criminalising sex is a completely different social problem.
Similarly, politics is the lifeline of any civilized democratic society. Who wants to live in the shadow of an authoritarian regime of a Hitler or a Stalin or a Czar? The very idea of 'Equality' and equal rights is what makes democracy worth everything it is. And democracy, to survive, needs politics as its nervous system.
There is a fatigue, a sense of being helpless and frustrated that politics has been criminalised. That is exactly what every citizen in this world has to fight; to reclaim the democratic rights, to reclaim democracy itself from the hands of corporate and religious criminals.
Criminalisation of sex by different mafias - through sex trade and child abuse doesn't make the act of sex between lovers or partners a crime. The difference is very clear. Similarly the difference in bad politics and good politics is also as clear as broad daylight.
Why would an autocrat like Bush bother about democracy in any country? Isn't it a classic case of the The Pot Calling The Kettle Black? For someone who has legitimised the process of stealing elections, of blatantly abusing the secular credentials of democracy itself by openly colluding with the religious right - the results of the Ukrainian elections is not about his love for the Ukranian people. Only a fool would believe in America's perverted version of democracy. Fuck Off Bushies!
'West' reflects a power group of corporate first world - whose only interest is in profits and more profits. Money! Mo and Mo Money! The corporate first world (Not everyone in the West is a greedy capitalist) has always attacked or interfered in countries that are strong in Agriculture.
There is a disturbing pattern that is emerging: Korea, Vietnam, the best part of Africa, Iraq, Afghanistan, South and Central America... and now Ukraine.
With the help of the World Bank and the IMF, the corporate first world convert economies from an Agrarian to a consumerist one - making sure that Agriculture fails and the American/Western agro-products has a market all the time.
Systematically, food crops are destroyed wherever the western multinationals go shopping. They try to introduce other crops - which cannot feed the people. This is a new form of imperialism - slavery.
Think about it, to develop a consumerist culture - where kid wants to eat Big Mac as food and does not want to eat the good ole bread, isn't there something terribly wrong. Such cultural imperialism is squeezing the life out of many millions in this world. The first world wouldn't stop at agricultural produce alone... they play every dirty trick known to the devious mind by se
So, Ukraine should look at Uruguay. Eduardo Galeano’s powerful words are prophetic in nature, "A few days before the election of the President of the planet in North America, in South America elections and a plebiscite were held in a little-known, almost secret country called Uruguay. In these elections, for the first time in the country's history, the left won. And in the plebiscite, for the first time in world history, the privatization of water was rejected by popular vote, asserting that water is the right of all people."
There is only one victor in any democratic election held anywhere in the world: the people. It is ridiculous that the focus of the Presidential election in Ukraine has been diverted away from the real issues of the people and made into a media spectacle; one that resembles a WWE-style fight between Viktor Yanukovych and Viktor Yushchenko.
From an Ukranian point of view it is absurd to think that the President of the country needs to be either pro-West or pro-Russia. There is really no choice at all contrary to what the Spin Doctors from both the camps, from Russia and from the West have been claiming all these days. The only choice the President of Ukraine has is to be pro-People.
Russia cannot claim any moral high ground just because of United States' dubious claims to being the champions of democracy.
In Putin's own backyard, St. Petersburg, governor Valentina Matviyenko said that she was against the republican form of state rule in Russia. “No, this will not suit us, we are not ready for such an experiment. A Russian person’s mentality requires a lord, a czar, a president… authoritarian rule in general.”
The fact that Valentina gets to keep her job after making such a confession of her democratic beliefs says a lot about the real Putin.
The soviet legacy in Ukraine is one that is best forgotten. In 1937, during Stalin’s Great Purge, over 180,000 Ukrainians and Communist Party members were cleansed and dumped in hastily dug mass graves.
There are lessons to be learnt about such authoritarian regimes, may it be Stalin's or Bush's. Lack of respect for human rights, which is at the nerve-centre of democracy, makes these regimes the real axis of evil.
One of my favourite Russian commentators, Yulia Latynina, in her column in The Moscow Times writes, "If Russia had a different president and a different army, the results of the election in Ukraine could have led to a schism between east and west, with Russian troops rolling into the eastern part of the country to the cheers of the local residents. After all, eastern Ukraine from Odessa to Donetsk is basically Russian territory that was artificially annexed to Ukraine in the Soviet era along the line of the Russo-German front in 1918."
West should stop treating Ukraine like a mail-order-bride. Russia should stop treating Ukraine like a stepchild. Let the people of Ukraine make their choice in dignity – not because a few Ukranians want to chase a Western capitalist dream or not because a few Ukranians want to hold on to a nostalgic Soviet scheme. They are real people with real problems and real dreams.
For young democratic nations like Ukraine, their role models should never be USA or Russia… they should learn a lot from the courageous people of Uruguay – who refused to sell their souls for a few dollars.
Bob Dylan sang,
Someone showed me a picture and I just laughed
Dignity never been photographed
I went into the red, went into the black
Into the valley of dry bone dreams
So many roads, so much at stake
So many dead ends, I'm at the edge of the lake
Sometimes I wonder what it's gonna take
To find dignity
Ukraine has to find its dignity in Ukraine, not in an American or a Rasputin dream.
An acquaintance of mine, a world karate champion, once told me that when you're competing on enemy territory the judges will never let you win on points. You've got to win by knockout.
Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko won the election on points and now he's going for a knockout. In the election game, a knockout is known as a revolution.
Russia was predestined to referee this bout between Ukrainian political heavyweights. But President Vladimir Putin opted to be the guy in Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych's corner who hands him the towel and the spit bucket. The trainer can't be the referee. So the Ukrainians called in Javier Solana and Lech Walesa.
Why did Putin choose to work in the corner of a twice-convicted candidate?
If elected, would Yanukovych give preference to Russian businesses? Not likely. During the campaign, the government privatized the crown jewel of the Ukrainian metals industry, VAT Kryvorizhstal. Alexei Mordashov, head of Severstal and a Kremlin favorite, offered $1.2 billion for Ukraine's largest steel producer. But the company was sold to Investment and Steel Union, a company run by President Leonid Kuchma's son-in-law and a Ukrainian businessman, Rynat Akhmetov, for just $800 million.
If we're treated like that during the campaign, imagine what will happen once the election is over.
Perhaps the Kremlin was trying to keep Ukraine from joining the European Union and NATO. Who came up with the idea of cozying up to the West in the first place? Kuchma and Yanukovych, that's who. Every time Russia complained that Ukraine was stealing its natural gas, Kuchma replied: "So that's how it is. Fine. We're joining NATO."
If Russia had a different president and a different army, the results of the election in Ukraine could have led to a schism between east and west, with Russian troops rolling into the eastern part of the country to the cheers of the local residents. After all, eastern Ukraine from Odessa to Donetsk is basically Russian territory that was artificially annexed to Ukraine in the Soviet era along the line of the Russo-German front in 1918.
But that would require a different Kremlin and a different army. As things stand today, if Yushchenko wins, Russia will have backed the loser; if Yanukovych wins, we'll have backed the guy who stabbed us in the back.
So why did Russia put its money on Yanukovych? I have a theory.
You see, Yushchenko's wife is American. And she's not just any American, she's a former U.S. government official. Their first meeting was extremely romantic -- they were seated next to one another on an airplane.
Lots of people meet like this. But Putin, an old KGB man, could be led to believe that any coincidence is in fact a plot hatched by foreign agents. Belief in a CIA conspiracy against Russia runs high in Putin's inner circle. They blame it for everything from downed planes to Beslan. Following this logic, however, the heads of the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service should be the first ones suspected of spying for a foreign power.
You tell Putin that one of the candidates in the Ukrainian election has an American wife, and that they met by chance on a flight somewhere. His natural conclusion: Yushchenko is a CIA agent.
Why plant this idea in Putin's head, you ask? Very simple. The Kremlin has been making a lot of money in the political campaign business for a long time. Now the campaign business is dying in Russia, replaced by the so-called power vertical, or executive chain of command. But these people still have to make a living.
The Ukrainian election presented a huge opportunity. All they had to do was set the process in motion by convincing the higher-ups that a CIA conspiracy was involved.
Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.
us people are just poems
we're 90% metaphor
with a leanness of meaning
and once upon a time
we were moonshine
rushing down the throat of a giraffe
yes, rushing down the long hallway
despite what the p.a. announcement says
yes, rushing down the long stairs
with the whiskey of eternity
fermented and distilled
to eighteen minutes
burning down our throats
down the hall
down the stairs
in a building so tall
that it will always be there
yes, it's part of a pair
there on the bow of noah's ark
the most prestigious couple
just kickin back parked
against a perfectly blue sky
on a morning beatific
in its indian summer breeze
on the day that america
fell to its knees
after strutting around for a century
without saying thank you
and the shock was subsonic
and the smoke was deafening
between the setup and the punch line
cuz we were all on time for work that day
we all boarded that plane for to fly
and then while the fires were raging
we all climbed up on the windowsill
and then we all held hands
and jumped into the sky
and every borough looked up when it heard the first blast
and then every dumb action movie was summarily surpassed
and the exodus uptown by foot and motorcar
looked more like war than anything i've seen so far
so fierce and ingenious
a poetic specter so far gone
that every jackass newscaster was struck dumb and stumbling
over 'oh my god' and 'this is unbelievable' and on and on
and i'll tell you what, while we're at it
you can keep the pentagon
keep the propaganda
keep each and every tv
that's been trying to convince me
in some prep school punk's plan to perpetuate retribution
even as the blue toxic smoke of our lesson in retribution
is still hanging in the air
and there's ash on our shoes
and there's ash in our hair
and there's a fine silt on every mantle
from hell's kitchen to brooklyn
and the streets are full of stories
sudden twists and near misses
and soon every open bar is crammed to the rafters
with tales of narrowly averted disasters
and the whiskey is flowin
like never before
as all over the country
folks just shake their heads
so here's a toast to all the folks who live in palestine
here's a toast to the folks living on the pine ridge reservation
under the stone cold gaze of mt. rushmore
here's a toast to all those nurses and doctors
who daily provide women with a choice
who stand down a threat the size of oklahoma city
just to listen to a young woman's voice
here's a toast to all the folks on death row right now
awaiting the executioner's guillotine
who are shackled there with dread and can only escape into their
to find peace in the form of a dream
cuz take away our playstations
and we are a third world nation
under the thumb of some blue blood royal son
who stole the oval office and that phony election
it don't take a weatherman
to look around and see the weather
jeb said he'd deliver florida, folks
and boy did he ever
and we hold these truths to be self evident:
#1 george w. bush is not president
#2 america is not a true democracy
#3 the media is not fooling me
cuz i am a poem heeding hyper-distillation
i've got no room for a lie so verbose
i'm looking out over my whole human family
and i'm raising my glass in a toast
here's to our last drink of fossil fuels
let us vow to get off of this sauce
shoo away the swarms of commuter planes
and find that train ticket we lost
cuz once upon a time the line followed the river
and peeked into all the backyards
and the laundry was waving
the graffiti was teasing us
from brick walls and bridges
we were rolling over ridges
i dream of touring like duke ellington
in my own railroad car
i dream of waiting on the tall blonde wooden benches
in a grand station aglow with grace
and then standing out on the platform
and feeling the air on my face
give back the night its distant whistle
give the darkness back its soul
give the big oil companies the finger finally
and relearn how to rock-n-roll
yes, the lessons are all around us and a change is waiting there
so it's time to pick through the rubble, clean the streets
and clear the air
get our government to pull its big dick out of the sand
of someone else's desert
put it back in its pants
and quit the hypocritical chants of
cuz when one lone phone rang
in two thousand and one
at ten after nine
on nine one one
which is the number we all called
when that lone phone rang right off the wall
right off our desk and down the long hall
down the long stairs
in a building so tall
that the whole world turned
just to watch it fall
and while we're at it
remember the first time around?
the ryder truck?
the parking garage?
the princess that didn't even feel the pea?
remember joking around in our apartment on avenue D?
can you imagine how many paper coffee cups would have to change their
following a fantastical reversal of the new york skyline?!
it was a joke, of course
it was a joke
at the time
and that was just a few years ago
so let the record show
that the FBI was all over that case
that the plot was obvious and in everybody's face
and scoping that scene
or is it KGB?
committing countless crimes against humanity
with this kind of eventuality
as its excuse
for abuse after expensive abuse
and it didn't have a clue
look, another window to see through
way up here
on the 104th floor
3000 some poems disguised as people
on an almost too perfect day
should be more than pawns
in some asshole's passion play
so now it's your job
and it's my job
to make it that way
to make sure they didn't die in vain
hear the train?
© Ani DiFranco
By TJS George
So the truth is out. All those who have been attacking colas as bad must admit that they were wrong. It has now been conclusively proved that colas are most useful as pesticides.
The proof comes, not from interested lobbies, but from consumers. Farmers of Guntur district in Andhra Pradesh were the first to report their findings. Since then farmers from Maharashtra, Chhatisgarh and northern Karnataka have also been heard from. They all say unanimously that Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola and Thums Up are extremely effective in killing the pests that afflict their cotton and chilli crops.
A tell-tale quote from a Guntur farmer is worth re-quoting. "We found the three colas had uniform effect on the pests. The pests became numb after tasting the concotion and fell to the ground." The discovery thrilled the farmers because now they could make one acre of crop pest-free at a cost of Rs. 270. Branded pesticides would cost four times as much
The boon is by no means confined to debt-plagued farmers. Some city-dwellers have discovered that colas are quite effective as lavatory cleaners. Some others had used colas instead of distilled water in motor car batteries. The batteries functioned far more efficiently.
The message is clear. Colas are a useful ingredient of modern civilisation and ought to be used widely by both urban and rural populations. The problem is when marketing geniuses insist that people can also drink colas. As every child and her Barbie doll knows, the story of colas is the story of marketing. The geniuses who worked on image-building in the early years were so successful that Coca Cola became a national symbol of America and a synonym for democracy.
The strategic brilliance that achieved such a miraculous triumph is brought out in a story about two corporate chiefs from Coca Cola who visited the Pope in Rome. They asked him to change the line in the Lord's Prayer from "Give us this day our daily bread" to "Give us this day our daily coke." They offered a substantial personal contribution to the Holy Father and a separate more substantial contribution to the establishment he headed. The Pope was not amused and asked the visitors to leave. As the Papal guards showed them the door, the Coke representatives were heard asking each other: "I wonder how much the bread people paid him."
In a world where all values are determined by marketing, the cola companies could just as well have dreamed up fabulous marketing strategies to popularise their products as pesticides and cleaning agents. The profits would have still poured in. But that would not have acquired for their companies the glamour and national flag-carrier status they now enjoy.
So we are left to enjoy what the cotton pests enjoy at their peril. Our kids, including middleaged ones, carry on with their coke even after official sources certified the presence of harmful residual pesticides in colas. A BBC study team had taken sludge from a Coca Cola factory in the now famous town of Plachimada and found the toxic chemical cadmium in excess of permissible limits.
But the glamour of colas continues. The greatest asset of the marketeers is human nature. Man is the only animal that is attracted to what is bad for him. The tiger won't touch vegetables, the elephant won't touch meat, but man will smoke and chew gutka even when he knows that it will kill him.
And, even when he knows the truth, he will go on drinking pesticides.
BBC were the first to expose the Cola poisoning in Kerala.
The plant denies that the fertiliser is harmful to health
Dangerous levels of the known carcinogen cadmium have been found in the sludge produced from the plant in the southern state of Kerala.
The chemicals were traced in an investigation by BBC Radio 4's Face The Facts programme and prompted scientists to call for the practice to be halted immediately.
However, Vice-President of Coca-Cola in India, Sunil Gupta, denied the fertiliser posed any risk.
"We have scientific evidence to prove it is absolutely safe and we have never had any complaints," Mr Gupta said.
Face The Facts presenter John Waite visited the plant following complaints from villagers that water supplies were drying up because of the massive quantities of water required by Coca-Cola.
Villagers, politicians, environmentalists and scientists have accused the firm of robbing the community of the area's most precious resource.
They say the area's farming industry has been devastated and jobs, as well as the health of local people, have been put at risk.
As part of the probe, Face The Facts sent sludge samples to the UK for examination at the University of Exeter.
Tests revealed the material was useless as a fertiliser and contained a number of toxic metals, including cadmium and lead.
The lab's senior scientist, David Santillo, said: "What is particularly disturbing is that the contamination has spread to the water supply - with levels of lead in a nearby well at levels well above those set by the World Health Organisation."
According to Britain's leading poisons expert, Professor John Henry, consultant at St Mary's Hospital in London, immediate steps should be taken by the authorities in India to ban the practice immediately.
The levels of toxins found in the samples would, he said, cause serious problems - polluting the land, local water supplies and the food chain.
"The results have devastating consequences for those living near the areas where this waste has been dumped and for the thousands who depend on crops produced in these fields," Professor Henry said.
'Good for crops'
Cadmium is a carcinogen and can accumulate in the kidneys, with repeated exposure possibly causing kidney failure.
Lead is particularly dangerous to children and the results of exposure can be fatal. Even at low levels it can cause mental retardation and severe anaemia.
Professor Henry said: "What most worries me about the levels found is how this might be affecting pregnant women in the area. You would expect to see an increase in miscarriages, still births and premature deliveries."
Mr Gupta said local farmers had been grateful for the fertiliser because many could not afford brand-name products of their own.
"It's good for crops," he said. "It's good for the farmers because most of them are poor and they have been using this for the past three years."Coca-Cola say they will continue to supply the sludge to farmers.
More on Plachimada
Rediff carried this story: Sludge at Coke Factory