Flotsam & Jetsam
Genetically Engineered Billboards, the Pentagon's Overlooked Strategy for Stopping Nuclear War, George W. Bush Becomes a Comicstrip in India, Big Brother Has Big Plans for Europe.
July 19, 2002
Up in the Air! It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Dubyaman!
© Times of India.
INDIA - In order to undercut criticism of his obvious intellectual shortcomings, George W. Bush likes to poke fun at himself, deflecting complaints by posing as a self-kidding comic figure. In India, this strategy has been carried to its ultimate extension.
Since last September, The Times of India [http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com] has been running a popular - and controversial - comic strip called Dubyaman! The strips author, political humorist Jug Suraiya, explains that he was inspired to cross the American president with Superman to create an American-style superhero
but one who had the knack of tripping over his tonsils every time he opened his mouth. (Dubyaman was dubbed in honor of Bushs Texas alias - Dubya for W).
Despite being endowed with "Dubyastrength" and "Dubyavision," Bushs comic strip doppelganger (drawn by Neelabh Banerjee ) remains, as Suraiya puts it, a deranged superhero destined to skid on the banana peel of his own ineptitude.
© Times of India.
Bushs intemperate performance on the global stage has only cemented the success of the comic character. As Suraiya observes, Dubyaman is no longer an individual but a state of mind: a combination of arrogance, ignorance and intolerance. Dubyamans Duniya can be read daily online at http://203.199.93/today/dubs.html.
The Wild West Looms in the Old East
RUSSIA - The Russian economic model continues its race toward Westernization. In June, Russias lower house approved legislation to permit the privatization of farmland. This would allow private speculators to buy and sell the agricultural commons for the first time since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.
Look at the Lovely Bannerflies!
USA - In the sci-fi blockbuster Minority Report, Tom Cruises futuristic flatfoot is surrounded by interactive cereal boxes, wall posters and billboards that barrage him with personalized ads. But there is one disturbing trend that escaped the futurists who helped Steven Spielberg create his vision of the world in 2054 -- the merging of advertising and genetic engineering.
Scientists at the State University of New York in Buffalo are trying to pierce the mystery that determines the formation of the distinctive patterns of color on butterfly wings.
The goal? To make it possible for advertisers to manipulate the genes in such a way as to imprint commercial logos and messages on butterflies to turn them into flying mini-billboards.
AUSTRALIA - The StatusTests.com website offers visitors a free 53-question quiz to gauge emotional intelligence and a 92-question test to assess emotional agility. What was not immediately apparent to visitors when the site debuted in April was that the company behind the venture, Melbourne-based Kinematic, makes its money by collecting and selling this personal information to corporate marketers.
When San Francisco Chronicle reporter David Lazarus called Kinematics Leigh Kibby in Melbourne, Kibby admitted Were collecting data that will be available to marketers. When Lazarus asked Kibby if it wasnt a bit disingenuous not to tell users up-front that their personal data was being sold to the highest bidder, Kibby paused for a moment and said, You know, maybe we should say that.
A check of the Web indicates that Kibby was as good as his word: The website now admits to the corporate use of data.
Car-born Dioxide: Even Making Cars Pollutes the Planet
EARTH - In the 1950's, there were 50 million cars on the planet. Today, Project Underground [www.moles.org] notes, there are 500 million. The world's car population is increasing five times faster than the human population. About 25 percent of an automobile's overall environmental impact and 40 percent of the energy a car consumes occurs during its manufacture. Cars currently burn half the world's oil and create nearly one-fifth of its greenhouse gases.
China and Russia Bond to Ban Bombs in Space
SWITZERLAND - On June 27, China and Russia made a joint appeal to the Geneva-based Conference on Disarmament to create a new international treaty to ban the placement of weapons in outer space.
The proposal was seen as an attempt to stop George W. Bushs plan to seek US military domination of space in the aftermath of Bushs unilateral abrogation of the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.
Chinese Ambassador Hu Xiaodi explained that the treaty would not only ban the placing of weapons in orbit, it would also ban the installation of weapons on the moon or any other celestial bodies.
UNESCO Sets Its Sites on Preservation
The ancient Mayan city of Calakmul in Mexico..
HUNGARY - In late June, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced the addition of nine cultural treasures to a growing list of World Heritage Sites (WHS). There are now 730 such sites in 120 countries.
The new landmarks include: the minaret and archeological ruins in Jam (Afghanistan); the ancient Mayan city of Calakmul (Mexico); the Saint Catherin Orthodox monastery (Egypt); the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya (India); the historic downtown centers of Stralsund and Wismar (Germany); the inner city of Paramaribo (Suriname); the castles, abbeys, fortresses and the Lorelei rock of the upper Rhine Valley (Germany); the Baroque towns of Val di Noto (Italy); and the Tokaji vineyards (Hungary).
The US is home to 18 WHS ranging from Yosemite National Park in California to the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. For a complete list of the worlds most celebrated cultural landmarks, go to http://whc.unesco.org/nwhc/pages/home/pages/homepage.htm
For 300,000 Kids, War Is Child's Play
SWITZERLAND - United Nations officials estimate that there are more than 300,000 children engaged in armed conflicts around the world. Some of these child soldiers (both boys and girls) are younger than 15.
The Geneva-based Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) is one of the main forces behind the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers. The CSUCS is encouraging world leaders to ratify a UN protocol that would outlaw the deployment or recruitment of soldiers under the age of 18. Some children have been in armed groups since they were eight or nine years old, QUNO's Lori Heninger notes.
In the US, QUNOs goals include convincing the Bush administration to halt military aid and weapons sales to countries that forcibly conscript and/or condone the deployment of children on the battlefront. For more information, see: www.afsc.org/youthmil/childsoldiers.
Big Brother Calling (or Just Listening...Quietly)
EUROPE - Goaded by Great Britain, Europol (the European Unions secret police agency) plans to begin spying on millions of private email, telephone and internet conversations. According to The Observer (London), companies that run internet sites will be required to retain passwords used by individuals, record which website addresses are visited, and keep details of web pages looked at and any credit card or bank details used for subscriptions.
The Cyber Crime: Data Retention plan would monitor land lines and mobile phones to record numbers dialed, when and where they were dialed from and personal details such as the address, date of birth and bank details of the subscriber who paid for the call. Police would be able to track the physical locations and travels of any individuals using cell phones.
Dr. Ian Brown, the director of the Foundation of Information Policy Research and an expert on data-privacy issues, told The Observer: It is typical that such a significant change in the control over private information is being worked out in secret. Brown warned that the potential for abuse was worrisome. There is not enough scrutiny of what is going on.
Sure Cure to Prevent Nuclear War Discovered - and Ignored
PAKISTAN - In early June, when India and Pakistan appeared on the verge of war and the specter of nuclear escalation sent a pall of helpless terror over the planet, the US ordered its diplomats to leave both countries and began plans to remove 7,000 US troops from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Strategically, this was the worst tactic imaginable. Here's why.
It turns out that the presence of US troops in the region was one of the single greatest deterrents to all-out war between the two neighboring states. As Keay Davidson reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, military strategists in India were hesitant to launch "bold strikes against Pakistani military bases" because of the fear that such strikes "might well obliterate US military forces stationed at these bases."
Had US troops been pulled from the region, this restraint would have been removed and India might well have instigated an attack that could have lead to a nuclear conflagration.
This suggests a bold alternative approach to facing such a catastrophe in the future. Whenever one country threatens nuclear war against another, the US should immediately station thousands of its troops in one or both countries.
Similarly, while some people might decide to flee to the safety of bomb shelters or neutral nations, courageous volunteers could tly into the target nations to "put their bodies on ground zero." This would dramatize the reality that there is no such thing as a "local" nuclear war.
This tactic is not without precedent. For years, Witness for Peace [www.witnessforpeace.org] and members of other international solidarity groups [www.palsolidarity.org] have traveled to global trouble spots in an attempt to lower hostilities by monitoring the impact of military actions on civilian populations.
International volunteers were recently in Ramallah and inside Yasser Arafat's compound while it was under bombardment by the Israeli Defense Forces.
Bush, Rumsfeld and Powell Sued as Congress Goes Ballistic
USA - On June 12, 31 members of Congress sued to block the Bush Administration from abrogating the 1982 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The suit, filed by lead plaintiff Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), named three defendants - George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell.
Kucinich pointed out that under US law, no president has the authority to unilaterally withdraw from a treaty. Such action requires the consent of Congress. "The Constitution of the United States is being demolished and we need to challenge that in court," Kucinich stated.
The lawsuit argues that since treaties have the status of "supreme law of the land," they are equivalent to federal law and, as such, can only be amended or repealed by an act of Congress.
Green Watchdogs Put Breaks on Cheap-Ass Plutonium Shipments
USA - What could be a worse idea than shipping nuclear waste on trucks across thousands of miles of US highways? The answer: shipping the waste in 45-gallon DT-22 canisters that have never been certified as safe!
With the aide of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the California-based watchdog group Tri-Valley CAREs (TVC) discovered that the Department of Energy (DOE) planned to use DT-22 barrels to ship plutonium in from its facilities in Rocky Flats, Colorado. The shipments were to have done to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California and to Savannah River, South Carolina.
The FOIA search also revealed that DOE's own engineers had warned that if a truck loaded with DT-22s were struck by a train or hit from behind by a heavy vehicle, "the crush environment would occur." (The phrase, "crush environment" is a euphemism for "bust wide open.")
With the help of lawyers from Earthjustice, TVC sued the DOE on February 13, 2002 for violating the National Environmental Policy Act. On May 15, the DOE announced it was abandoning plans to ship the plutonium because it wished to avoid "costly litigation from environmental groups."
"The DOE's reversal is good news and represents an important win for public health and the environment," TVC Executive Director Marylia Kelly proclaimed. [www.trivalleycares.org]
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