Anti-Colonial Agitator

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Using anti-Semitism to justify anti-Palestinianism.

Parents of an American activist killed in Gaza by an Israeli army bulldozer have called for an independent U.S. investigation of her death. Rachel Corrie, 23, was crushed to death while trying to stop a huge army bulldozer from destroying a row of Palestinian homes in a refugee camp near the Gaza-Egypt border. The Israeli military conducted an internal investigation and said that the bulldozer driver could not see Corrie because of the size of the bulldozer and its limited view due to heavy armor plating. Peace activists have disputed that explanation. Corrie belonged to a pro-Palestinian group called International Solidarity Movement, whose members often place themselves between Israeli forces and Palestinians in an effort to block Israeli military activity. At a news conference in Jerusalem, Corrie's parents said that they were not satisfied with the Israeli explanation. Nearly 50 members of the 435-seat U.S. House of Representatives have signed a bill calling for an independent investigation. Two other International Solidarity volunteers were shot shortly after Corrie was killed. Brian Avery, 24, was shot in the face during fighting in the West Bank town of Jenin. Thomas Hurndall, 21, was left brain dead after being shot in the head by Israeli troops as he helped children to safety in the Gaza Strip.

Which country poses the greatest threat to the United States?

Three Jewish settlers have been jailed for attempted murder and for belonging to an anti-Palestinian terror network. An Israeli court sentenced the men to 12-15 years imprisonment for trying to blow up an Arab girls school in East Jerusalem. Two of the men, from the West Bank settlement of Bat Ayin, were arrested near the school with a trailer laden with explosives. The device had been set to explode when students arrived for classes, but police managed to defuse it. Shlomo Zeliger Dvir and Ofer Gamliel were sentenced to 15 years each. The third man, Yarden Morag, was found guilty of helping to prepare the bomb and given a 12-year term. The court heard how the settlers packed the trailer with explosives, cooking gas canisters, a clock, a battery, a detonator and a fuse. Dvir and Morag parked the trailer outside the entrance to the school in A-Tur district, and set the timer for 0725, just as students would be arriving for classes. There have been a number of attacks on Palestinians by Jewish militants since the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada (uprising) in September, 2000. The Israeli human rights group B'Tselem says that up to 15 Palestinians have been killed by Jewish militants over the past three years.

US military intelligence has concluded that almost all the claims made by Iraqi defectors about Saddam Hussein's alleged secret weapons were either useless or false. The assessment by the Pentagon Defensce Intelligence Agency (DIA), leaked to the media, amounts to an indictment of the Iraqi National Congress, which brought the defectors to Washington's attention, adding to the momentum towards invasion. The leak reflects a growing backlash by the US intelligence agencies - principally the CIA, DIA and the State Department's intelligence arm - whose findings and recommendations on Iraq were overruled before the war in favor of far more sensational assessments made by ideologically driven groups in the Pentagon and the vice-president's office. The DIA report strikes at the heart of the Bush administration's justification for going to war: that the Iraqi regime represented an imminent danger to the United States because of its development of weapons of mass destruction. A report by a CIA-led search team, the Iraqi Survey Group, due to be delivered to Congress, is expected to confirm that no stockpiles of such weapons have been found after a six-month hunt.

The Australian dingo probably descended from a single domestic dog brought from what is now Indonesia, according to the latest scientific research. The mother of all dingoes could have been a single pregnant female which travelled to Australia 5,000 years ago. Scientists from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) studied the DNA of more than 200 dingoes across Australia before forming their conclusion. The findings - by UNSW researchers together with colleagues in Sweden and Britain - suggest that all dingoes descend from a very small number of dogs or even just one female. The prototype was likely to have been a breed of domestic dog in or near modern Indonesia. Dogs are believed to have been brought to Australia by human migrants, as hunting animals and for food themselves. But once in Australia, they quickly reproduced and became wild, developing into the modern dingo. The pure dingo is rapidly disappearing from Australia, with an estimated 80% of dingoes being hybrids.

Monday, September 29, 2003

A microbiologist claims that Adolf Hitler survived an assassination attempt in 1944 with the help of Penicillin made by the Allies.

Geneticists studying Jewish ancestry have found an unusual genetic signature that occurs in more than half of Levites of Ashkenazi descent. The signature is thought to have originated in Central Asia. The finding raises the question of how the signature became so widespread among the Levites, an ancient caste of hereditary Jewish priests, whose lineage supposedly dated back to a son of Jacob. The genetic signature occurs on the male or Y chromosome and comes from a few men, or perhaps a single ancestor, who lived about 1,000 years ago, just as the Ashkenazi community was beginning to be established in Europe. Most American Jews are descended from Ashkenazis, one of the two main branches of the Jewish community. The other is the Sephardis, whose ancestors were expelled from Spain. The new report, published in the current issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics, was prepared by population geneticists in Israel, the United States and England, who have been studying the genetics of Jewish communities for many years. They say that 52% of Levites of Ashkenazi origin have a particular genetic signature that originated in Central Asia, although it was also found at low frequency in the Middle East. The genetic signature, a particular set of DNA variations known as R1a1, is relatively common in eastern Europe.

The global recovery is underway and Ireland is emerging from the downturn in good shape, according to Dr Dan McLaughlin, chief economist with the Bank of Ireland. McLaughlin said that the current global growth is being led by the US and Japan with the eurozone lagging behind, despite recent survey evidence pointing to a pick-up in the market. According to McLaughlin, the Irish economy is emerging from the downturn in good shape, while some headline growth measures have sent confusing signals, the key indicator is jobs - and on this measure, Ireland is doing well.

Hundreds of ethnic minority police officers and civilian workers are to take the unprecedented step of marching on Scotland Yard to highlight racist discrimination. The March of Solidarity is being planned for November 2003 by the National Black Police Association. Officers would assemble at a landmark location such as St James's park and march in full uniform. Despite the appointment of Metropolitan police officer Mike Fuller as Britain's first black chief constable, the NBPA says minority staff are being unfairly targeted for disciplinary action and held back in their careers. Its analysis suggests that black staff are five times more likely to be disciplined than their white counterparts. The situation has been brought to a head by the catastrophic failure of Operation Helios, the Metropolitan police's four-year investigation into Supt Ali Dizaei. The officer was originally accused of drug dealing and involvement with prostitutes, but even relatively minor charges that were eventually brought failed to stick and the officer walked free from the Old Bailey. He still faces internal disciplinary proceedings but has denied any wrong-doing.

A unitary Arab-Jewish homeland could bring peace to the Middle East.

Eight cars have been destroyed in a sectarian attack at a Catholic school in north Belfast. Two youths were seen running into the grounds of Our Lady of Mercy school during classes. They poured gasoline over cars, smashed the windscreens and set them on fire. Most children were sent home for the rest of the day.

Does President Bush realize that by listening to the siren's call of the neocons he has put his presidency in peril?

Friday, September 26, 2003

The US economy grew by a faster-than-expected 3.3% annual rate in the April to June 2003 period. The upward revision took many analysts by surprise as they had expected the figure to remain unchanged from the previous estimate of 3.1%. Higher spending on home construction and healthy consumer expenditure helped push the growth figure higher. Economists are now expecting the economy to reach annual growth rates of 4% or more in the second half of 2003.

People with large heads suffer less cognitive decline in old age.

Support for the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister), the Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and the Irish Government has fallen since May 2003, according to a new opinion poll. Just 27% of those questioned said that they were satisfied with the performance of the Fianna Fáil-Progressive Democrats coalition. The poll put Bertie Ahern's rating at 36% and Mary Harney's at 41%. Labor Party leader Pat Rabbitte and Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams were the most popular party leaders, with ratings of 43%. Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny's rating was only 29%.

Humans share three-quarters of their genes with man's best friend, according to the first genetic blueprint of the domestic dog. Scientists have found that the genetic material shared by dogs and humans amounts to more than 650 million of the chemical units, called base pairs, that make up DNA. Analysis showed that for 75% of known human genes - lengths of DNA that provide the building instructions for proteins - there was an equivalent dog gene. A total of 18,473 of the known 24,567 human genes had a canine version. The researchers, who included gene mapping pioneer Craig Venter, used a male standard poodle as their DNA source. They say their dog genome, published in the journal Science, is more of an 80% complete rough sketch than a detailed map. But although fragments were missing from many of the DNA sequences, the scientists say that they've uncovered data which may be useful in identifying genes causing disease in both dogs and humans. One major difference between dog and human genomes lies in their noses. The dog genome encodes for a much greater variety of smell sense proteins than does the human. Dogs have been domesticated for more than 10,000 years. Knowledge of their medical problems is second only to that of humans, and dogs succumb to 360 genetic diseases with human counterparts. The dog genome is smaller than ours, consisting of 2.4 billion base pairs compared with 2.9 billion in humans. Dogs also have 78 chromosomes, the bundles of DNA found in the nucleus of every cell, whereas humans have 46.

Being smart is not always a good thing in the evolutionary race, suggests a new study by Swiss researchers. If intelligence were always a positive attribute, it would always be selected for by natural selection. But it is not - people and animals have their dolts as well as their Einsteins. To evolutionary biologists, that diversity means that theoretically, there must be some cost to being smart. Now for the first time, researchers have shown that in fruit flies at least, it doesn't always pay to be clever. When Frederic Mery and colleagues at the University of Fribourg, pitted fast-learning fruit fly larvae against their more dimwitted cousins in scarce food conditions - the slower fruit flies came out on top. The team first bred a group of fast-learning flies. They allowed fruit flies to lay eggs on gels flavored with either orange or pineapple juice. But one or the other was also spiked with bitter quinine. The next time round the flies were given the juice only - but some remembered which had previously been laced with quinine and laid their eggs on the other flavor. The scientists collected those eggs to breed the next generation of flies, gave those flies the same opportunity to learn, and bred the next generation from those that made the right choice. After 20 generations, most flies from the selected line could learn the task in one go. They were not just better at tasting different juices or more averse to quinine, as ordinary flies could eventually learn to avoid the sabotaged flavor too, but it took them three to five sessions. When the ordinary flies did learn, they also forgot faster than the selected flies. However, when the larvae of the more astute flies were made to compete with ordinary larvae for scarce food, fewer of them survived. Mery speculates that the flies may have to invest more energy in making or re-arranging connections between neurons in their brains, leaving them with less energy to forage when calories are limited. He cautions that the work measures the ability of fruit flies to learn only a particular task, though the group is testing whether their smart flies are also better at learning other things. In principle, it should be possible to look for the costs of intelligence even in primates. The group is now collaborating with molecular geneticists to try and tease out which genetic changes have made their fruitflies so smart.

A Catholic grammar school in north Belfast has been targeted in a bomb attack. British army bomb disposal experts defused a pipe bomb-type device at the gates of Dominican College in Fortwilliam Park. The bomb was most likely planted by loyalist terrorists, who have been engaged in an ongoing campaign of intimidation against Catholic schoolchildren in the north of Ireland. Recently, loyalist pipe-bombs have been planted outside several Catholic schools in Co Derry and Co Antrim.

The renowned Palestinian-American academic Edward Said has died at the age of 67 in New York after a long battle with leukaemia. Said was a tireless spokesman for the Palestinian cause in the West and a fierce critic of Israel. Born in Jerusalem, he made his name as a writer and academic in the United States, where he spent most of his adult life. He was the author of a hugely influential book, Orientalism, published in 1978. In Orientalism, he argued that the entire Western academic discipline of oriental studies was based on imperialist and racist myths about the Middle East. Said took a hard line against Israel, accusing the Jewish state of displaying xenophobia towards the Arabs. When Yasser Arafat signed the Oslo peace accords with Israel, Said accused the Palestinian leader of collaborating with the Israeli military occupation.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Europe's aging population.

A former senior north of Ireland civil servant who arranged to meet a teenage girl for sex in the United States should have his sentence increased, an appeal court has ruled. Judges in Chicago agreed with the prosecution's appeal that the 21 month sentence imposed on Stan Mallon was too lenient. Mallon had been due for release but the case has now been sent back to the trial judge with an instruction that his sentence should be increased. Prosecutors had been appealing for his sentence to be increased by between 41 and 51 months, but details of the recommended jail term will not be made public until the court's decision is published. The father-of-five, from Crumlin in County Antrim, had admitted using an internet chatline to contact a 14-year-old girl who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent. At the original trial, he escaped the maximum sentence of more than four years in prison after the judge ruled that he was suffering a "diminished capacity". Mallon, who is in his 60s, was acting chief executive of the Ulster Scots Agency until his arrest in March 2002 in Chicago. The incident happened when Mallon was on a stopover in Chicago on his way to a White House reception.

A new study conducted in South Korea has found evidence that depressed patients with low cholesterol levels may be more likely to commit suicide. Low levels of cholesterol in patients suffering from depression have previously been linked to suicide and violence. The latest findings were presented at a meeting of the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology by researchers from the psychiatry department at South Korea’s College of Medicine in Ansan City. The team compared cholesterol levels in 149 patients with major depression who were admitted to an emergency room after suicide attempts with those of 149 patients who were also depressed but who did not attempt suicide. There were also 251 healthy controls in the study. Dr Y. Kim told the Prague meeting that depressed patients with blood cholesterol levels of less than 160 milligrams per decilitre appeared to be at increased risk. Further studies were needed but Kim said that the results of his study suggest that total cholesterol level can be used as a predictor for the risk of suicide and violent suicide attempt in depressive patients.

Tony Blair has decisively lost the debate over Iraq with a clear majority of British voters now saying that the war was unjustified, according to the results of a Guardian/ICM poll. The survey shows that British public opinion on Iraq has moved sharply in the face of the Hutton inquiry, the failure to find weapons of mass destruction and the continuing instability in Baghdad. In the immediate aftermath of the war in April 2003, public support for the war peaked at 63%. By July it had slipped to 51% but a majority still said the war was justified. Now for the first time a clear majority are saying that the war was unjustified (53%), and only 38% believe it was right to invade Iraq.

Can Wesley Clark win?

The largest ice shelf in the Arctic has fractured, releasing all the water from the freshwater lake it dammed. The Ward Hunt Ice Shelf is located on the north coast of Ellesmere Island in Canada's Nunavut territory. The huge mass of floating ice, which has been in place for at least 3,000 years, is now in two major pieces. The scientists who report the break-up in the journal Geophysical Research Letters (GRL) say it is further evidence of ongoing and accelerated climate change in the north polar region. The researchers - Warwick Vincent and Derek Mueller of Laval University in Quebec City, Canada; and Martin Jeffries of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, US - have been studying the shelf onsite and through satellite radar imagery and helicopter overflights. They say the fracturing - which has been developing since the spring of 2000 - is the end result of a three-decade-long decline. They warn that major free-floating ice islands could pose a danger to shipping and to drilling platforms in the Beaufort Sea.

Monday, September 22, 2003

A microscopic parasite which cats can pass on to humans may cause personality changes, scientists have discovered. More than a fifth of the British population are infected without knowing it, and there is no way of getting rid of it. Women who are affected spend more on clothes and are consistently rated as more attractive, an international study has shown. They are more confident and less willing to conform to accepted moral standards. In contrast, infected men become more anti-social, suspicious and jealous, more aggressive, scruffier and less attractive to women. The parasite, toxoplasma gondii, moves in a natural cycle between cats and rats. It has long been known that it can also infect humans through contact with cats, and pregnant women have been advised to steer clear of cats because of the damage it can do to unborn babies. But only now have scientists from universities in Britain, America and the Czech Republic begun to realise that the parasite could be subtly interfering with human minds. They believe the problem stems from its need to move from one host to another, in order to spread. Although it can infect any mammal, it can only reproduce itself in the gut of a cat. The obvious way for it to get there is via a mouse or rat which the cat has eaten. So the parasite has evolved to make its host animal more reckless, more aggressive, less scared of new things and less adherent to established behaviour patterns. In mice and rats, this makes them more likely to get caught. Tests on infected rats have shown that they are so reckless that they are actually attracted to the smell of cat urine. Scientists believe it is this recklessness which also manifests in humans, with men and women displaying it in subtly different ways. Professor Flegr, from Charles University in Prague, looked at 394 men and women, testing them for toxoplasma infection and assessing their personalities. Highly significant differences between toxoplasma-infected and uninfected subjects were observed. Other studies have shown that people with toxoplasma have delayed reaction times - and are 2.7 times more likely to be involved in a car accident as a result. There is also some evidence that they are at greater risk of developing schizophrenia and manic depression.

British public support for the euro continues to slip, according to the latest poll from investment bank Credit Suisse First Boston and public relations firm Martin Hamblin GfK. Public support has fallen from 42% in January 2003 to 30% in September, while 59% of British residents oppose entry compared to 46% in January. Robert Barrie, CSFB's chief British economist said that the results are similar in some ways to those of the Swedish referendum. Sweden rejected euro membership in a recent referendum further dampening expectations that British Prime Minister Tony Blair will call for a referendum in Britain during this Parliament. An election is due by mid-2006. Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown said in June that the British Government would make another assessment in the spring of 2004, after considering the impact of certain changes to the British economy, particularly in the housing market.

Friday, September 19, 2003

An American soldier, serving in Iraq, calls for the end of an occupation based on lies.

Goodbody Stockbrokers have predicted that Ireland's public finances will deteriorate sharply when the country becomes a net contributor to the European Union over the coming years. A report compiled by the company said that the days of budget surpluses would be consigned to history once Ireland began to contribute to EU funds rather than benefit from them. The report, based on the impact of EU enlargement in 2004, said that Ireland would become a net contributor by 2007 and politicians must realise that economic recovery on its own will not be enough to offset this development. Goodbody said that the public finances in Ireland would come under severe strain when EU hand-outs in areas such as agriculture dried up and when Ireland would be expected to provide around €1bn every year into EU funds.

The sister of a Belfast teenager murdered by two soldiers has stood in the Brent East parliamentary by-election. Kelly McBride said she was bringing the campaign to have her brother's murderers thrown out of the British Army right to the heart of political debate in Britain. Scots Guards Mark Wright and James Fisher were convicted of the 1992 murder of 18-year-old Peter McBride, but were allowed to stay in the military. McBride was shot after being stopped and searched by the British soldiers while they were on patrol near his home in the New Lodge area of north Belfast on September 4, 1992. The pair were sentenced to life for murder in 1995, but three years later were released from prison and allowed to rejoin their regiment.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

New inquests have been opened into the deaths of six victims of a British loyalist terrorist bombing in the Irish town of Monaghan in 1974. The move follows similar developments over the deaths of 26 people who died in a similar attack in central Dublin on the same night as the Monaghan blasts in May, 1974. All of the inquests have been adjourned for full hearings later in 2003, after the publication of a new report into the two bombings by Irish High Court judge Justice Henry Barron. A fresh investigation of the bombings was directed by the Irish government because of the collusion of the British security forces in the attacks. The Justice for the Forgotten Committee said that the inquiries marked an important part of the process of re-examining the facts and circumstances of the bombings.

British racists cash in on asylum hysteria.

Gay rights campaigners have complained to British police about some of reggae's biggest stars over lyrics that they say incite violence against homosexuals. Beenie Man, Elephant Man and Bounty Killer - all nominated for Mobo Awards - are "reggae bigots", according to Peter Tatchell of the group Outrage! The Mobos should withdraw their nominations, he said - but organizers have refused and denied any homophobia. OutRage! said the singers, who are all Jamaican, have lyrics that tell listeners to do things like "murder dem fast just like a Federal Express". The artists are all nominated in the best reggae category of the Mobos. Tatchell accused the awards of "rewarding bigotry", but organizers said that the artists were not nominated for songs with homophobic lyrics, and banning them would be censorship.

Bomb disposal experts are examining two suspicious devices found near Catholic schools in Belfast and Larne. Pupils at St Comgall's school in Larne were evacuated after an object with wires and batteries attached was found in the car park by a member of staff. A controlled explosion was carried out on a separate device found outside the gates of the Dominican College in the Fortwilliam area of north Belfast. Previously, two pipe bombs were found in the grounds of Catholic schools in County Derry. The bombs are believed to have been planted by British loyalist terrorists as part of their relentless campaign of intimidation against indigenous Irish Catholics.

The European Central Bank (ECB) will need to cut rates again if the eurozone economy is slow to recover or if the euro appreciates sharply, the IMF has said. In its World Economic Outlook, the IMF said that core inflation is on the decline, while high inflation rates in countries such as Ireland, the Netherlands and Portugal are expected to fall. It added that there is even a possibility of a period of mildly declining prices in Germany. The IMF also confirmed new eurozone growth forecasts cited in its report on euro area policies, with growth now seen at 0.5% in 2003 and 1.9% in 2004, compared with 1.1% and 2.3% in the previous Outlook in April 2003.

The US labor market is still weakening with increased layoffs and reduced hirings. The four-week average for first-time claims for state unemployment benefits rose for the fourth straight week, climbing by 2,000 to 410,750 in the week ending September 13, 2003. It's the highest since mid-July and nearly identical to the figure a year ago. Initial claims in the most recent week fell 29,000 to 399,000 after rising four weeks in a row, a hopeful sign should it continue. Economists prefer to watch the trends in the four-week average, which smoothes out one-time events, such as weather and holidays. Continuing claims also rose to the highest level since mid-July. The four-week average for continuing claims gained 11,250 to 3.64 million. The insured unemployment rate - the percentage of covered workers receiving unemployment checks - stayed at 2.9%. The claims figures will do little to cheer policymakers at the Federal Reserve, who held interest rates steady while warning that labor markets were worsening. Fed officials won't breathe easier until they see a sustained drop in initial claims to 350,000 or less, steady declines in continuing claims and real gains in non-farm payrolls.

Brian Feeney on the elections in the north of Ireland.

The case of Rosemary Nelson raises uncomfortable questions about state sponsorship of terrorism.

Former UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix has accused the British Government of using spin in its controversial dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Blix has accused the British and American governments of over-interpreting intelligence in order to justify invading Iraq. Blix has previously criticized British Prime Minister Tony Blair for claiming that Saddam Hussein could deploy weapons of mass destruction in 45 minutes. Blix also believes that Iraq probably destroyed all of its weapons of mass destruction more than a decade ago.

US economic growth is expected to improve in 2003 and 2004, but not enough to give a strong push to the world economy, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has said. The IMF's annual progress report, the World Economic Outlook, indicates that the US recovery may be gaining pace with a projected US economic growth rate of nearly 4% in 2004. It predicted that global economic growth would be 3.2% in 2003, and 4.1% for 2004. The IMF took a positive view of prospects for some of the world's poorer countries in Africa and Asia. But it warned that near-zero growth in Germany would seriously jeopardise the prospects for the whole eurozone. The IMF predicts that there will be zero growth for Germany in 2003, and only 1.5% growth in 2004. It has also reduced the forecast for the whole of the eurozone to just 0.5% in 2003, and 1.9% in 2004. According to the IMF, the British economy will grow by just 1.7% in 2003, down from a previous estimate of 2%.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Is Wesley Clark a war criminal?

Superintendent Ali Dizaei, who was cleared of all criminal charges after a multi-million pound corruption investigation by the British police, said that his ordeal had left him on anti-depressants. After his acquittal following a four-year investigation including extensive phone taps and surveillance, Dizaei demanded that racist senior officers be thrown out of the British Metropolitan Police. Dizaei, once tipped to be Britain's first ethnic minority chief superintendent, said that Asian and black people should not join the British police until the Met's commissioner, John Stevens, demonstrated that he was willing to excise the cancer of prejudice that had blighted his career and those of other Asian and black officers. He called on British ministers to step in to ensure that the force was cracking down on racism and said that he sometimes regrets ever joining the Met. Dizaei was suspended in January 2001 following allegations that included endangering national security and drug abuse which proved to be baseless. A four year investigation which cost up to £7m led to relatively trivial criminal charges, and he was acquitted of all of them.

OECD reports on education:
British schools lagging behind Korea, Greece and Ireland
Report Blames School Failures for Dampening German Economy
Britain below Greece in school league
UK slips down school league table
U.S. No. 1 in school spending, but not in scores, report says
UK drops out of top 20 in table of educational performance

Lesbians are generally fatter and have a higher risk of heart disease compared to other women, a study suggests. Researchers in the United States based their findings on a study of 324 lesbians living in California. They believe that the differences may be linked to the fact that the lesbians they studied were less concerned about their weight compared with other women. They said their findings highlighted the need to encourage lesbians to exercise more and lose weight. Dr Stephanie Roberts and colleagues at the University of California San Francisco questioned an equal number of lesbian and heterosexual women about their weight. They found that on average the lesbians had a higher body mass index, larger waist and bigger waist to hip ratios compared with the other women. A high body mass index - a measure of body fat based on height and weight - is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and severe chest pain. Excess fat around the waist has also been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. In addition, the researchers found that lesbians were more likely to have problems controlling their weight, tending to put on weight, lose it and gain it again quite regularly. This so-called weight-cycling can also lead to heart disease. The researchers said the reasons for these differences were unclear. However, previous studies have found that in addition to being less concerned about their weight, lesbians are also less likely to perceive themselves as being overweight. Roberts said that the findings highlighted the need for health education which targeted lesbians specifically. The study is published in the journal Women's Health Issues.

The growing prosperity gap between east and west in the north of Ireland.

A former senior British civil servant in the north of Ireland who arranged to meet a 14-year-old girl for sex in a hotel room in the United States is to remain in prison even though he is due for release. Stan Mallon was jailed for 21 months after admitting that he used an internet chatline to contact a girl who turned out to be an undercover FBI agent. The father-of-five from Crumlin in County Antrim, escaped the maximum sentence of more than four years in prison after the judge ruled that he was suffering from a "diminished capacity". Prosecutors in Chicago have appealed that his sentence was too lenient, and should be increased to between 41 and 51 months. They have argued that Mallon was a highly-functioning individual when he set up a liaison with a girl he believed was 14. The court ruled that Mallon should stay in jail until the appeal is heard. Mallon was acting chief executive of the of the Ulster Scots Agency until his arrest in Chicago.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

The British Metropolitan police has been plunged into its biggest crisis over race since the damning Macpherson report when its own black officers warned ethnic minorities not to join the police force. The Metropolitan Black Police Association's (MBPA) decision followed the acquittal on all charges of Superintendent Ali Dizaei, 40, once tipped to be the first ethnic minority chief constable. Dizaei was the subject of a four-year investigation by the Metropolitan police into allegations that he endangered national security, abused drugs and used prostitutes. All proved baseless. The MBPA chairman, Chief Inspector Leroy Logan, said that his members will boycott the force's drive to recruit more Asian and black officers until an inquiry establishes who was to blame for bringing the case. Dizaei's supporters accused Scotland Yard of a racist witch-hunt after Dizaei, a vocal critic of the police force, was cleared of corruption following a multimillion-pound investigation involving phone intercepts and surveillance. In April 2003, he was cleared of charges alleging that he had abused his office and perverted the course of justice. The 1999 Macpherson report into the bungled Stephen Lawrence murder investigation branded the Metropolitan police as institutionally racist. Dizaei, suspended since January 2001, still faces disciplinary charges, including an allegation that he accepted money for giving advice. Dizaei is suing the police force for racial discrimination at an employment tribunal and says that some in the force tried to destroy his life and career.

Loyalist terrorists who planted pipe bombs at two Catholic schools in the north of Ireland have plunged to a sickening new low, police have said. With a death threat issued against a Catholic priest and worshippers at a cemetery abused by hundreds of protesters near Belfast, the loyalist terrorists stepped up the intimidation by leaving devices at schools in County Derry. One of the bombs was found in the grounds of St Mary's High in Limavady by a caretaker just before staff and pupils arrived. The second device was discovered 10 miles away at St Patrick's College, Dungiven, where students were kept away during the security alert. As army explosives experts confirmed the devices were live, police accused loyalists of carrying out the attacks. Celine McKenna, principal at St Mary's, was horrified that 900 pupils at her school had been targeted. Nearly 400 pupils were sent home from St Patrick's when another pipe bomb was found at the school. Principal Anne Scott was equally distraught by the attempted bombing. The attacks came as Protestant clergymen in Newtownabbey, County Antrim, hit out at the death threat from loyalists against a parish priest. Father Dan Whyte was warned to step up his personal security after police received anonymous information that his life was in danger. The Catholic priest was also faced by 200 loyalists who hurled abuse and blew horns as he conducted a prayer service at a graveyard.

Monday, September 15, 2003

The threat to Germany from neo-Nazis has risen to a new level, Interior Minister Otto Schily has warned. The discovery of a suspected plot to bomb a Munich Jewish center during a visit by the German president has dramatically confirmed the danger to German society. At least 10 suspects were held and up to 14kg (31lb) of explosives seized in police raids. Officials believe plans were being made to bomb the center on November 9 2003, when its foundation stone is due to be laid at a ceremony attended by President Johannes Rau, Bavarian governor Edmund Stoiber and Jewish leader Paul Spiegel. The suspected attack would have coincided with the anniversary of the Nazis' 1938 Kristallnacht attacks, when thousands of Jewish targets were attacked and dozens murdered. A hit list detailing other possible targets, including mosques, a Greek school and an Italian target, had been recovered, said Bavarian Interior Minister Guenther Beckstein. The explosives included at least 1.7kg of TNT. Weapons, grenades and ammunition were also recovered.

Playing into al-Qaeda's hands.

A new opinion poll shows that satisfaction with the Irish Government is at its lowest in a decade. The Irish coalition government's rating has slipped to 25% - a level not seen since 1993 during the Albert Reynolds led Fianna Fáil-Labor government. Sinn Féin's Gerry Adams is now the most popular political leader with a personal rating of 45%. The Irish Labor party's Pat Rabbitte is at second place with 43%, while Fine Gael's Enda Kenny is in last place with just 26%. Bertie Ahern's popularity is at its lowest level yet - at 37%, it's the lowest rating for a Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) since Albert Reynolds in the early 1990's.

Who are the real terrorists?

Indigenous Irish Catholics remain more likely to be unemployed than British Protestant colonists in the north of Ireland, a former Derry Mayor has said. SDLP Councillor Mary Bradley, underlining the urgent need to press ahead on a wide range of fair employment and equality issues, spoke out after meeting with the North's Equality Commission. Despite some progress being made during the 1990's, an indigenous Irish Catholic is still far more likely to be unemployed than a colonist of British Protestant background. Indigenous Irish Catholics are also underrepresented in many areas, especially in the senior civil service.

British loyalists rioted after a protest at an indigenous Irish Catholic service. Up to 200 British loyalists made indigenous Irish Catholics attending a blessing of the graves service at Carnmoney Cemetery in Newtownabbey run a gauntlet of sectarian hate. The mob, some of whom were waving placards and blowing horns and whistles, gathered at the cemetery to hurl abuse. After the protest broke up, another mob of around 40 people threw bricks and stones on the nearby O'Neill Road. Loyalist youths hijacked two vehicles and set them alight at Doonbeg Drive in the loyalist Rathcoole estate, blocking O'Neill Road. A 16-year-old British loyalist was arrested and charged with disorderly behaviour. Parish priest, Dan Whyte, said that the scenes were a disgraceful exhibition of bigotry and anti-Catholic prejudice. He revealed that police had warned of death threats against him.

A veneer of prosperity is hiding serious weaknesses in the north of Ireland economy. That is the stark warning contained in an economic report published by PricewaterHouseCoopers on the state of the local economy. The 2003 Review and Prospects for the north of Ireland economy paints a worrying picture of an economy whose growth is driven by British Government spending and retail sales, rather than private sector exports and competitiveness. The in-depth report, published annually, says that the north of Ireland has experienced a steady decline in its stock of internationally-competitive companies. It warns that the North of Ireland no longer has enough large firms with the capacity to make the large-scale business investments needed to kick-start the economy. The review forecasts that both export demand and business investment will remain depressed into 2004, with further closures inevitable, particularly in the manufacturing sector. PwC's managing partner, Stephen Kingon, warns that the Six Counties is unlikely to return to the levels of economic growth enjoyed in the late 1990s unless action is taken to combat the underlying structural weaknesses in the economy.

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has said that its measure of global economic growth rose sharply during the second quarter of 2003 but that growth in the eurozone area fell behind the rest of the world. The OECD area GDP grew 0.5% in the second quarter compared with 0.3% in the first quarter, according to the OECD report. GDP grew 1.9% year-on-year in the second quarter compared with a year-on-year rate of 2.0% in the first quarter. Quarter-on-quarter growth accelerated in the US, to 0.8% in the second quarter from 0.4% in the first, and in Japan, which recorded a second quarter GDP increase of 1.0% after 0.6% in the first quarter. The eurozone, however, lagged behind, with GDP contracting 0.1% in the second quarter after being flat in the first quarter.

Friday, September 12, 2003

A foiled neo-Nazi attack on a Jewish community center has emphasized a growing threat of far-right violence in Germany. Police seized explosives and arrested several people with links to the far-right scene, saying that they had planned a bomb attack. A Munich-based Jewish community group said that the suspects were planning to detonate a bomb at the foundation-laying ceremony of a community center on the 65th anniversary of the 1938 Reichskristallnacht pogrom in which 91 Jews were murdered and thousands of their synagogues and shops destroyed. The investigation in Munich, the birthplace of Adolf Hitler's Nazi party, has moved the spotlight away from the economically depressed east Germany, where attacks have been more frequent.

Loyalist terrorists bombed a pensioner's home in the north of Ireland in a bid to frighten a key witness out of testifying at a court trial. The police say that the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) threw a blast device at the house in Larne, Co Antrim. A retired businessman, who runs a Christian mission in the town, his wife and son were all asleep when bedroom windows on the property at Upper Cairncastle Road shattered in the explosion. The attack is understood to be linked to a serious assault on a man in the nearby Newtownabbey area. With at least one man charged in connection with the beating, a series of threats have been issued against the family targeted. Even though police stressed that none of those who lived in the house were involved in the court action, it is understood that prosecutors intend to call a relative to the witness box. Neighbors were stunned that the family, who are well known in the area, had been attacked.

The hole in the South Pole ozone layer has reached a record size. It now stretches over an area of 10 million square miles - about twice the size of Antarctica. Most of the region it covers is uninhabited. But New Zealanders and people living at the southern tip of South America could be at risk. Normally, the ozone layer shields us from the cancer-causing effects of the sun's ultraviolet rays. British Antarctic Survey scientists monitoring its progress are not unduly alarmed - in fact, they see the observations as good news. They believe that the hole is nearing its peak size, and will soon start to shrink as the level of the ozone-depleting CFC pollutants in the atmosphere diminishes. At the British Association Festival of Science, Dr Alan Rodger said it could be another 10 years before scientists knew for sure if the ozone layer was recovering.

Germany and France will come under fire once more for allowing their deficits to balloon above EU limits. EU finance ministers meeting in Italy are expected to slam the eurozone's number one and two economies for failing to take action to curb their growing deficits. The European Central Bank has severely criticized countries that run unsustainable deficits, saying it is fundamental to abide by the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact. French central banker Jean-Claude Trichet, set to take over as head of the ECB, has also issued a sharp rebuke of his native France for its refusal to abide by the rules of the pact. Under the pact, countries must keep their budget deficits below 3% of GDP. But despite the harsh criticism of France and Germany, who could be open to hefty fines if they do not take action to curb their growing deficits, there is speculation that the EU will back down from levying any sanctions on either State. It is expected that the ministers will try to hammer out a compromise deal with the countries, who are demanding exemptions from the EU budget deficit rules.

The US economy may grow at its strongest pace in almost four years in the second half of 2003, according to a new survey. Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the broadest measure of economic growth, is expected to expand at an annualised rate of 4.7% during the third quarter and 4.0% in the fourth quarter, according to a monthly survey of 53 economists conducted by The Wall Street Journal. That would mark a sharp pick-up from the 3.1% growth recorded in the second quarter and 1.4% in the first three months of 2003. The economists say that there is mounting evidence that consumer and business spending has accelerated, pointing to higher sales for new cars and light trucks, improved business at the nation's top retailers and rising orders for durable goods. But a number of analysts believe that the optimism surrounding the US economy is overdone because the rise in unemployment may result in slower consumer spending, which accounts for around two thirds of the economy. The pessimists also say that at least half of the growth in the second quarter was caused by war related spending, while the consumer element was temporarily boosted by the lowest US interest rates in 50 years and tax rebates.

The British Labor Party and Peter McBride.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

9/11 and the American economy.

The European Central Bank (ECB) has warned that most countries in the eurozone are in danger of over-spending and breaking EU budget rules. France and Germany have faced criticism for some time over the size of their budget shortfalls, with both looking likely to breach the budget deficit limit of 3% of gross domestic product for three years in a row. But it is the first time that the bank has indicated that many other countries in the eurozone are in a similar predicament. Meagre economic growth - and recessions in Germany and Italy - are blamed for the disproportionately large deficits.

The high court in Belfast has granted the police permission to freeze almost £1.5m in cash and property which formerly belonged to a loyalist terrorist drug baron. Alan McQuillan, head of the assets recovery agency, now has control of bank accounts and up to a dozen houses that were owned by Jim "Jonty" Johnston who, in May 2003, was shot dead outside his £500,000 home near the village of Crawfordsburn, Co Down. Johnston, 45, was a leading member of the Red Hand Commandos, a loyalist terror group linked to the Ulster Volunteer Force, and his murder was part of a power struggle with rival loyalists for control of the narcotics trade. One security source said that Johnston was a key player in shipping drugs from Spain to the north of Ireland.

Four years after the murder of Rosemary Nelson her killers are at large and the murder hunt has effectively ended. Her family now say a public inquiry is the only way forward.

Brian Feeney on the emperor’s new clothes.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Learning disabilities result from general problems in the brain rather than specific genetic or neurological defects, the British Association Festival of Science in Salford was told. A large but unidentified group of genes, each with very small effects on overall brain function, work together to determine most of mental ability, according to geneticist Robert Plomin of the Institute of Psychiatry in London. If Plomin's theory proves correct, common learning disabilities such as dyslexia will need a dramatic redefinition. Dyslexia is commonly defined as a reading problem in someone who has otherwise normal intelligence. In fact, Plomin disputes the idea of learning disabilities at all, saying instead that these people simply fall at the lower end of the spectrum of cognitive ability. Plomin's theory is likely to be controversial and to be met with scepticism by the education and research communities. Plomin studied 15,000 sets of twins as they grew up. At seven years old, researchers compared rates of learning disabilities in pairs of identical and fraternal twins. They found that identical twins were more likely to be afflicted with the same disorder than were fraternal twins, confirming a genetic root for learning disabilities. But researchers also checked if a child with a problem in maths was likely to have a twin with a reading disability, and vice versa. They found the link was more common in identical than fraternal twins. In fact, genes that affect reading have a 70% chance of also affecting mathematical ability. Any specific differences in learning ability are probably due to environmental effects, according to Plomin. At this point, the implications for children with learning problems, specific or not, are unclear. Scientists do not know which genes, or even how many genes, are involved. Some candidate genes may be those involved in general brain processes such as synaptic plasticity, Plomin says. Furthermore, the individual effect of each gene involves is likely to be so small - accounting for less than one per cent of the variation in general cognitive ability - that studies attempting to find them will have to analyse huge numbers of people.

A controversial claim that a number of disaffected gay men in London are deliberately setting out to infect themselves with HIV has prompted an angry response from AIDS charities. Melissa Parker, a medical anthropologist at London's Brunel University, bases her claim on anecdotal evidence from members of London's gay community. She says the men believe that by contracting the virus they will receive the sense of belonging that they crave. The men frequent backrooms at gay clubs, bars and saunas in London where they have unrestrained and unprotected sex with dozens of partners, according to Dr. Parker. Free condoms and educational literature about the dangers of unprotected sex were a waste of time for these men, who felt marginal, lonely and desperate to belong, she said. AIDS groups say the claim, made at the British Association Festival of Science at the University of Salford in northern England, is unscientific and unhelpful.

Sectarian attacks and abuse directed at little girls during a dispute at a north Belfast primary school has been compared to the treatment of American blacks in Alabama in the 1960s. The comparison was made by a governor at Holy Cross Primary School in Ardoyne at the opening of a judicial review in the High Court in Belfast. The mother of a child at the school is challenging the failure of the secretary of state and the chief constable to provide effective protection to parents and children between June and November 2001. A three-month sectarian protest in 2001 by loyalists at the Ardoyne interface saw pupils of Holy Cross being escorted to and from school by the security forces on a daily basis. The woman bringing the legal action is being referred to as "E" because she fears her life would be in danger if her name was revealed. The woman's lawyer, Seamus Treacy, QC, said the authorities had failed to prevent unlawful and violent protests orchestrated by loyalist terrorists. Treacy said this was borne out in affidavits from impeccable sources including headmasters and headmistresses, priests, school governors, human rights commissioners, doctors and parents. The lawyer referred to an affidavit sworn by Terry Lavery, headmaster of Holy Cross Boys school, who said that he had worked in five schools in Belfast and had witnessed many disturbances, including pupils being killed. But he said he had never experienced anything like the happenings at Holy Cross.

The brave stance of Martin Morgan.

Will the family of Peter McBride ever find justice?

Remember Peter McBride?

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

Thousands of young gay British men are courting death in the hedonistic and newly promiscuous 21st century, flouting safe sex and actively trying to catch HIV in their search for identity, according to a researcher. Melissa Parker of Brunel University said that the gay sex pub, club and sauna scene in London was booming and had been growing steadily since the mid-1990s, with unprotected sex with multiple partners the rule rather than the exception. Catching the AIDS precursor HIV was not just a risk, it was a goal, she told reporters at the annual meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. People diagnosed with HIV were not only admired for championing the cause, but were seen as being pampered by society with better social support, health care and even standard of living. The combinations of therapies now available for people with HIV might even have exacerbated the problem. She said some gay sex clubs, pubs and saunas had a throughput of up to 500 people a day with some men managing 30 to 40 sexual partners a visit. Admitting that she had no figures to support her claim, she said her research consisted of a series of interviews over several years with a large number of sexually active gay men whose stories corroborated each other. She urged the authorities to tackle the issue urgently, reinforcing the call for safe sex and if necessary closing down some of the venues.

Profits of British firms have slumped for the 16th quarter running, a new survey has shown. British companies saw their average return on capital drop to 5.76% in the first three months of 2003, according to the Experian Corporate Health Check. The period of sustained decline in profits is longer than in either of the two previous recessions in Britain, according to the business information company. The health check is compiled from the audited financial results of the 2,000 largest firms in Britain. Meanwhile, a separate survey shows that the British service sector is still far from healthy and that companies in this sector of the British economy seem to be getting no closer to sustainable recovery. Carried out for the Confederation of British Industry by business advisors Grant Thornton, it shows that firms that provide services to consumers are struggling to cope with over capacity.

Health authorities in Singapore said that they have confirmed the world's first SARS case since the global epidemic was declared over in July 2003. Two sets of DNA and blood tests have confirmed that a 27-year-old man is infected with the SARS coronavirus. With no SARS cases in Singapore for three months, it is not obvious how the patient became infected. But he is a post-doctoral student who worked at two microbiology labs. He was studying West Nile Virus, but work on SARS has been carried out at one of the labs - the Environmental Health Institute lab of the National Environment Agency. Twenty-five people who had contact with the patient have been quarantined. The man first suffered symptoms on 26 August and was admitted to hospital on September 3, 2003. He spent the intervening week at home, except for two visits to his GP. Initial tests indicated the SARS virus which were confirmed by a second set of tests. The SARS virus first surfaced in China's southern Guangdong province in November 2002. It rampaged across the globe in spring 2003, killing over 800 people and causing 8400 infections in about 30 different countries. Singapore was declared SARS-free on May 31, and the world clear on July 5, 2003.

EU statistics agency Eurostat has released figures showing that the eurozone economy shrank by 0.1% in the second quarter, after stagnating in the first quarter of 2003. The data - including a downwards revision of first-quarter growth from 0.1% to zero - put the zone on the verge of recession, which is defined as two consecutive quarters of negative growth. Meanwhile the European Commission forecast that growth would pick up in the third and fourth quarters, predicting GDP growth of 0-0.4% and 0.2-0.6% respectively. The acceleration in growth predicted for the fourth quarter stems from the recent improvement in domestic retail confidence, as well as external factors, the Commission said in a statement.

The cost of military occupation.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Singapore became the first country to report a possible return of SARS saying that tests showed one man might have caught the potentially deadly disease, hours after the World Health Organization (WHO) had warned that the virus could reappear. The Singapore Ministry of Health said that initial tests appeared to show one man had tested positive for the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome virus. SARS originated in southern China and was spread early in 2003 to 30 countries by travelers. It infected nearly 8,500 people globally and more than 800 died, including 33 in Singapore where the government imposed strict health controls. The Ministry spokeswoman said that the man, whom she described only as being ethnic Chinese, was picked up by surveillance at Singapore General Hospital. He has been isolated at the city state's Tan Tock Seng Hospital, which treated only SARS patients in the last outbreak. The virus is believed to have jumped from animals to humans in China late in 2002. Only a few hours earlier the head of the World Health Organization had warned health specialists meeting in Manila of a possible resurgence of SARS and urged nations to boost surveillance. WHO officials and other medical experts have said that they are not sure if SARS, which has no known cure, was a disease confined to winter months. Peter Cordingley, WHO's head of public information in the Western Pacific region, said the WHO does not expect a SARS vaccine to be developed soon because the scientific work on where the virus came from and how it spread to humans was not yet complete.

Bush's jobless recovery.

Poll shows Bush failing on economic issues.

The collapse of a failed Israel.

President Bush's call for $87bn for the reconstruction of Iraq could signal problems for the US economy.

The crisis in Ulster Unionism.

The beginning of an imperial retreat?

Friday, September 05, 2003

Justice in Colombia

The war in Iraq: a big misadventure.

Fears that animals carrying SARS-like viruses could trigger another outbreak have been heightened by a testing program. Scientists from hospitals in Hong Kong visited a market in Guangdong province in China - thought to be the source of an illness which killed hundreds. In several animals, reports the journal Science, they found viruses similar to those which caused SARS. The research focused on a live animal market in Shenzhen, and sampled seven wild, and one domestic species. The animals tested included civet cats, raccoon dogs, a ferret and a badger. Scientists have been looking for a reservoir of the coronavirus which is believed to have jumped from animals to humans to cause the first SARS infections. This spread rapidly around south east Asia, causing thousands of cases of a severe pneumonia illness. Dozens of deaths were also caused by SARS in the Canadian city of Toronto. While a massive response by public health experts managed to halt the spread of the virus, there is growing conviction that SARS has not been eradicated. Many expect there will be another outbreak of a SARS-like illness, perhaps starting later in 2003 - and probably starting again in southern China, where conditions are most likely to allow similar viruses to jump from animals into humans. The Hong Kong team managed find coronaviruses in the two palm civets, one raccoon dog and one ferret badger. The civet coronaviruses were genetically sequenced to see if their coronavirus was similar to the one which caused SARS. While there were plenty of similarities, there were clear differences, and the experts are still unsure exactly how viruses such as these - which may be common in wildlife in the area - managed to cross the species barrier and become dangerous viruses for humans.

The anti-Catholic pogrom in Belfast.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Foreign direct investment into Ireland rose in 2002 to just over $19 billion, making Ireland the world's 10th biggest recipient of FDI. The figure compared with $15.7 billion in 2001. A report on global investment from the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) showed that Luxembourg topped the list, with China second, France third and Germany fourth. The UK, Netherlands and Spain were also ahead of Ireland. FDI inflows to central and eastern Europe rose by 15% in 2002 to a record level even though world investment flows were in the worst slump for 30 years. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows in 2002 into the region rose to a record of $29 billion. But UNCTAD said global FDI came to $651 billion, just half of the record volume recorded in 2000 and a 21% drop on the previous year. The secretary general of the UN organization, Rubens Ricupero, said investment would stabilize in 2003, having fallen to a 30-year low point in 2001 and 2002, but was likely to rebound in 2004.

France and Germany reject US Iraq plans.

Security sources in the north of Ireland have claimed that the Ulster Defence Association's new commander in north Belfast is intent on ethnically cleansing indigenous Irish Catholics from a flashpoint area on his turf. A loyalist mob, which included members of the UDA, has forced two Catholic families to leave the Deerpark Road area. The mob was armed with petrol bombs and other missiles and one man was injured by a flying brick during the expulsion. The 33-year-old local UDA leader, who is known as Bonzer, took over the north Belfast UDA after Andre Shoukri, nick-named the Egyptian, was jailed for possessing a loaded gun. Bonzer and Shoukri were both imprisoned several years ago for trying to extort money from a restaurant owner who was forced to flee the Six Counties after giving evidence against the pair. Bonzer was released 15 months later and has now taken over the UDA in north Belfast, where he is allegedly encouraging young loyalists to attack indigenous Irish Catholic homes.

European faith in the global leadership of the United States has plummeted since the Iraq war, according to the Transatlantic Trends 2003 survey. But the findings also suggest that record numbers of Americans back US involvement overseas. The poll of 8,000 people in the United States and seven European countries found that while they shared similar views about global threats, they differed markedly in how to respond to them. In the European countries, majorities expressed disapproval of US foreign policy, with President George W Bush's personal standing in Germany crumbling from 36% to 16% since a similar survey in 2002. The research was carried out in June 2003 by the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Compagnia di San Paolo in Turin, Italy. They conducted interviews in the US, France, Germany, Italy, Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal and Poland. While 84% of Americans interviewed believe that war may be used to achieve justice, only 48% of Europeans agree. Overall, less than half of the Europeans surveyed (45%) wanted to see a strong US presence in the world - down from 64% in the 2002 poll. Among Germans, 81% consider the European Union more important than the United States to their vital interests, compared with 55% in 2002. One of the most striking results was that public support among Americans for the US playing an active role in world affairs is at 77% - its highest since 1947 at the start of the Cold War.

A British Loyalist mob has forced terrified indigenous Irish Catholic families to flee their homes at a flashpoint area of North Belfast. At least one man was injured when the gang, including known members of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), moved into the Deerpark Road area carrying bricks and petrol bombs. Schoolgirls wept in fear as they were driven from their homes and one young man was hit in the face by a brick. Local indigenous Irish Catholics said that the UDA no longer wanted them to live on the road and that they had received a growing number of threats to leave in the past few days. At least four families have already been forced out, some of whom have lived in the once-quiet residential street for a number of years. The few remaining indigenous Irish Catholics fear that they will be forced to leave soon. Locals accuse the PSNI/RUC of standing back and doing nothing.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003

A man has been hit in the face with a brick during trouble in north Belfast. It was the second set of disturbances at the Deerpark Road. The man was attacked by a group of loyalists as an indigenous Irish Catholic family moved out of the area following threats. Recently, loyalist thugs have attacked a number of indigenous Irish Catholic families' homes. Sinn Fein has blamed the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) for orchestrating attacks on indigenous Irish Catholics in the area.

Global Inflation has been vanquished and should remain tame for the next 20 years at least, according to International Monetary Fund chief economist Kenneth Rogoff. He told a Kansas City Federal Reserve Bank conference that by the year 2010, industrialized nations - and most developing economies - will have seen the end of inflation. Such a possibility was almost unthinkable even a decade ago, when inflation in Latin America averaged 230% and ran at 40% in Africa. Inflation in those regions is projected to be down to 10% for 2003. Japan has been battling outright deflation, or falling prices, for several years. In the United States, concerns about deflation reached a peak earlier in 2003. Recently, the International Monetary Fund warned that Germany was at high risk of deflation, while Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan were vulnerable to an accelerating pace of price declines.

A former Stormont Health Minister has been chosen as Sinn Féin's candidate in the north of Ireland for the 2004 European Parliament election. Bairbre de Brun defeated Dungannon counsellor Francie Molloy at a selection convention in Belfast. She is the second woman in the party to be selected for the 2004 European Election. Marylou McDonald was previously chosen to contest the Dublin constituency. De Brun will be bidding for Sinn Féin's first seat in the European Parliament from the three-seater north of Ireland constituency.

Bush's self-fulfilling prophecy.

Tens of thousands of mourners turned the funeral service for the murdered Iraqi cleric Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim into a powerful show of defiance against the US-led military occupation. Crowds of Shia Muslims marched through the holy city of Najaf demanding the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. As the mourners gathered for the funeral of Ayatollah Hakim, who was killed by a car bomb along with 124 others, there was more violence in Baghdad. A bomb exploded near the Iraqi police headquarters, killing a police officer and injuring 15 others. It was the latest in a series of bombings that appear to be targeting those, whether Iraqi or foreign, who are working alongside the US-led occupation force. Mindful of the increase in violence, the US administrator, Paul Bremer, said that the coalition was looking to devolve authority quickly to a new Iraqi cabinet. Ayatollah Hakim's brother, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, who sits on Iraq's US-appointed governing council, laid the blame for his brother's death at the feet of the American-led force. The blast that killed Hakim was so powerful that little of the cleric's body could be recovered. His remains were buried in a plot set aside for those killed in a Shia uprising against the British in 1920.

OECD chief economist Jean-Philippe Cotis has said that economic recovery appears to be well under way in the United States and Japan, but the eurozone is lagging behind. US 2003 economic growth is expected to be at least the 2.5% forecast in the OECD's April 2003 economic outlook. US growth is expected to accelerate to an annualised 3% in the second half of 2003 from 2% in the first half. Japan also grew in the first half, and if it continues on this trend, full year growth would be 2% or slightly higher. In April, the OECD was forecasting annual growth of 1.0% for Japan. Meanwhile, the recovery in the eurozone is taking longer to take shape than expected, and the eurozone is now only expected to grow an annualised 1% in the second half after stagnating in the first half. The OECD forecast eurozone full year growth of 1.0% in April, but said in July that it expected full year growth to be somewhat lower than this figure. Cotis also said that the monetary policy settings of the US Federal Reserve and the Bank of Japan were appropriate to ensure an economic recovery, and worldwide deflation risks are now fading. But the OECD is less sure about European Central Bank (ECB) interest rates, and the ECB may need to cut rates again if the eurozone economy is slow to recover.

The sister of an indigenous Irish teenager murdered by two British soldiers is to stand in a London by-election to raise the profile of the family's campaign to have them dismissed from the Army. Scots Guards Mark Wright and James Fisher were convicted of the 1992 murder of 18-year-old Peter McBride, but were allowed to stay in the military. McBride was shot after being stopped and searched by the soldiers while they were on patrol near his home in the New Lodge area of north Belfast on 4 September, 1992. The pair were sentenced to life for murder in 1995, but three years later were released from prison and allowed to rejoin their regiment. His sister Kelly is to stand in the Brent East parliamentary by-election in an attempt to raise publicity for the family's campaign. She aims to bring her argument right to the heart of the political debate in Britain. The murdered teenager's mother Jean said that although she would rather keep out of the public eye, it was the only way for her family to achieve justice. In another development, Belfast's Lord Mayor has stood by his decision to ban NIO minister John Spellar from his parlor despite a motion passed by the British colonial members of the city council condemning him. SDLP mayor Martin Morgan took the move in protest at Social Development Minister Spellar, who had sat on an Army board which made the decision to retain the guardsmen.

A former British army intelligence agent has questioned if Brian Nelson, a loyalist terrorist and British agent, was dead. Mystery has surrounded the whereabouts of the former Force Research Unit (FRU) agent since he reportedly died of a brain haemorrhage in April 2003. While it was claimed that Nelson had died in Florida, US secretary of state Colin Powell has stated that Nelson was never given permission to live in the USA since his release from jail in the mid 1990s. Despite Nelson’s reported death, no details of his funeral have ever been made public. But a former FRU handler, who uses the pseudonym Martin Ingram, has questioned whether or not Nelson was dead. Ingram believes that reports of Nelson's death have to do with the Stevens report on collusion between the British security forces and loyalist terrorists in the north of Ireland.

Tuesday, September 02, 2003

Iraq war erodes world's post-9/11 sympathy for US.

Who is losing Iraq?

A group of loyalist terrorists linked to the UDA is believed to have been behind two hoax bomb alerts at the Holy Cross girls' primary school in the Ardoyne area of North Belfast. It caused some disruption at the beginning of the new school year, particularly for a group of four year-olds going there for the first time. The school is situated beside the colonial British Protestant Glenbryn area and was previously the focus for a sustained protest by Loyalists, who staged demonstrations in 2001 as indigenous Irish Catholic children and their parents went to and from the school.

Irish workers are the third most productive in the world and are increasing productivity faster than the European average, according to a new report. The International Labor Organization's Key Indicators of the Labor Market (KILM) shows that output per person in Ireland topped USD52,000 (E47,530) in 2002. Only the US and Belgium were ahead in terms of productivity. The average rate of output in the EU was USD43,034, up 1.1% from the previous year. Irish worker productivity grew at 2.2% in 2002, twice the EU average. But the growth was still slower than in the US, where output grew by 2.8% in 2002 to USD60,728. US workers have less annual leave than their European counterparts. Belgium led the way in the EU, at USD54,338, with France and Ireland at USD52,000 and Germany at USD42,463. Over the past seven years, the US has recorded an average growth rate of 2.2%, double the growth rate of 1.2% in the EU and 1.1% in Japan during the same period. The report said that Ireland provides a good example of the changing pattern in working hours that occurs when an economy moves through the development process. Along with the sectoral shift from an agricultural-based economy to manufacturing and services, hours worked by people in Ireland fell from 1,900 annually in the 1980s to 1,668 hours in 2002. This represents a drop of nearly six 40-hour workweeks per employed person. It also meant that productivity per person employed more than doubled between 1980 and 2002.

Ireland needs more graduates for the biotechnology industry if it wants to reap the benefits of the multi-billion euro industry. According to Danny O'Hare, chairman of the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN), Ireland is well positioned to benefit from the anticipated rapid growth in the biotechnology sector worldwide over the coming years. O'Hare says that the European Commission has estimated that the market for biotechnology products in Europe alone could be worth €100 billion by 2005. According to a study carried out for the EGFSN, Ireland has a number of strengths which could facilitate the exploitation of the biotechnology opportunity, including a growing base of industrial activity in two closely related industries - chemicals, pharmaceuticals and medical devices. The study calls on the Irish government to affirm its long-term commitment to the public support of science in general and biotechnology in particular, by the setting of multi-annual targets for the level of funding. It also recommends that capital funding under the HEA-operated Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions (PRTLI) should be restored immediately.