Anti-Colonial Agitator

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

The US military has paid out $1.5m to Iraqi civilians in response to a wave of negligence and wrongful death claims filed against American soldiers. Families have come forward with accounts of how American soldiers shot dead or seriously wounded unarmed Iraqi civilians. In many cases their stories are confirmed by Iraqi police investigations. The US military in Baghdad has admitted that $1,540,050 has been paid out up to November 12, 2003 for personal injury, death or damage to property. A total of 10,402 claims had been filed, but there were no figures given for how many claims had been accepted.

An exit strategy for Iraq.

The United States is cutting nearly $290m from a loan guarantee package to Israel in response to its settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza. Israel is also being penalized for the building of a barrier in the West Bank to separate Israelis and Palestinians. The money comes from a $9bn package of loan guarantees and does not affect Washington's direct aid for Israel. But the move is seen as an important symbolic gesture and evidence of new efforts by the US to calm the conflict. Broadly speaking, the US guideline is to reduce its loan guarantee by an amount equivalent to what the Israelis spend on Jewish settlement expansion in the Palestinian territories. Israel does not make public the figures, however an investigation by daily newspaper Haaretz found that government spending on civilian needs in settlements alone came to $500m a year. The US move means Israel will not be able to raise so much money in loans from foreign banks.

The European Commission has expressed anger that Germany and France have escaped punishment for their over-sized budget deficits. Germany and France argued that the cutbacks needed to bring their deficits in line with European Union budget rules would harm Europe's fragile recovery. The compromise was signed off at a full meeting of all 15 EU member states. But EU economic and monetary affairs commissioner Pedro Solbes said that the deal undermined the Growth and Stability Pact that demands that members of the eurozone should not run up budget deficits of more than 3% of GDP. The finance ministers' leniency with France and Germany over breaking these rules also sparked concern at the European Central Bank (ECB). The ECB's policy council issued a statement urging France and Germany to get their budget deficit's under control.

Place names in English will no longer be recognized in Irish law as the Irish Government has taken its first steps to legally recognize the original Irish Gaelic versions. More than 60 years after Irish Gaelic was named the primary national language, Minister for Gaeltacht Affairs, Eamon O Cuiv, has given legal standing to Irish Gaelic place names in six counties. He highlighted the inconsistent translations certain names were given after being changed into English during British colonial rule. O Cuiv said it was unacceptable that although place names in Irish Gaelic were treated as official, they had no actual recognition in law. The minister has promised to designate place names in all Gaeltacht areas by the end of 2003, but it would may take up to 10 years to formally translate place names in the rest of the Irish Republic.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

A court has declared a priceless 4,000-year-old Welsh gold sun-disc as treasure. Experts say that the Copper Age or early Bronze Age artefact is one of the most exciting finds in years. The National Museums & Galleries of Wales will now try to buy it. Freelance archaeologist Simon Timberlake found it at Cwmystwyth Mines, near Aberystwyth, in a burial plot at the site of a Roman and medieval lead-smelter. It turned out to be one of the earliest kinds of metal object ever created in Britain and Ireland and the first of its kind discovered in Wales. An inquest in Aberystwyth has declared the disc to be treasure after hearing experts detail its importance. It's price will now be assessed by the independent Treasure Valuation Committee.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Why is British unionism shaking its head?

The day of reckoning looms in the north of Ireland.

An Irish nationalist victims' group is seeking a meeting with the United Nations and the Irish government over alleged judicial leniency towards loyalist terrorists after a six-year jail sentence against a notorious UDA gunman was quashed. Relatives for Justice, which campaigns for the families of victims of state collusion and loyalist terrorists, said it's the latest in a string of judicial rulings raising questions about the length of sentences given to loyalist terrorists in the north of Ireland courts. Meanwhile, there was a worrying sign of renewed British loyalist terrorist activity in North Belfast where the UDA, using the cover name Red Hand Defenders, targeted a pipe bomb at the home of the mother of two girls attending Holy Cross school in Ardoyne.

The father of a man murdered in County Antrim has resigned from the Orange Order because he believes that the man who sanctioned his son's killing is also a member. John Allen handed in his letter of resignation at the Order's headquarters in Belfast. Allen's 31-year-old son, also named John, died after being shot in the head and legs by two masked men at a flat at Rashee Park, Ballyclare. The family believes that loyalist terrorists carried out the killing.

Friday, November 21, 2003

It has been a bad day for Tony Blair.

Staying out of the sun completely may increase your chances of developing cancer, say doctors. For years, experts have advised people to cover up in the sun to protect themselves from skin cancer. But a letter in the British Medical Journal warns people against taking this advice to the extreme. Professor Cedric Garland, from the University of California, said that a lack of sun can reduce levels of vitamin D, which may increase the risk of cancer. The sun is a major source of vitamin D. Studies have suggested that this vitamin can protect against colon, breast, prostate and other cancers.

People with a low sense of self worth are more likely to suffer from memory loss as they get older, say researchers. The study, presented at a conference at the Royal Society in London, also found that the brains of these people were more likely to shrink compared with those who have a high sense of self esteem. Dr Sonia Lupien, of McGill University in Montreal surveyed 92 senior citizens over 15 years and studied their brain scans. She found that the brains of those with low self-worth were up to a fifth smaller than those who felt good about themselves. These people also performed worse in memory and learning tests.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of London to protest against Bush and the war on Iraq.

Bush finds few friends in Britain.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Every sixth child in Israel lives in a household devoid of employed parents according to a Central Bureau of Statistics report. Thirteen percent of Jewish children and 26% of Arab children lived in homes with unemployed parents. Children constitute a third of the Israeli population, a figure that positions Israel between western nations, in which children make up 18%-26% of the population, and Arab nations in which children constitute half the population. At the end of 2002, there were 2,219,000 children under the age of 17 living in Israel. Of these, some 1.5 million were Jewish, over 590,000 were Arabs, and the religion of another 27,000 children was undisclosed.

Are we headed for an Arab-American war?

A slender majority of Americans still believe that the situation in Iraq was worth going to war, but most are unconvinced that the war has made the United States safer from terrorist attacks, according to a new poll. At the same time, approval for the way that the United States has handled Iraq since President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1, 2003 has dropped by half from 80% as U.S. tanks rolled into Baghdad in April to 42% in November 2003. Fifty-five percent disapprove of the administration's post-combat management, which is the highest negative measurement on that question since the invasion.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

The American people are evenly divided over the issue of whether or not gays and lesbians can alter their sexual orientation, with white evangelicals the most likely to think that homosexuals can change, according to a new poll. Most Americans (55%) say they feel that homosexuality is a sin, while 33% do not. Nine in 10 highly committed white evangelicals and nearly three-quarters of black Protestants find homosexual behavior to be sinful. The poll also found that opposition to gay marriage has grown since midsummer, with 32% favoring it and 59% opposing it. In July 2003, 53% said that they opposed gay marriage. Roughly half those polled said that they had unfavorable opinions of gays and lesbians, but the survey also found widespread opposition to anti-gay discrimination. The poll of 1,515 adults was taken Oct. 15-19, 2003 by the Pew Research Center on behalf of the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

A former Polish government official has warned that the United States is on the brink of alienating Central European allies who had hoped that their support in Iraq would translate into better treatment overall by America. In an editorial in the Washington Post, Radek Sikorski, former deputy minister for defense and foreign affairs, said that dissatisfaction was welling in Central European nations over a variety of issues, including obtaining U.S. visas, modernizing their militaries and getting a fairer share of the reconstruction work in Iraq. Poland has 2,400 soldiers in Iraq and commands a large part of south-central Iraq where about 9,500 troops of several nations help maintain security.

A fresh confrontation between Madrid and the Iberian regions seems certain after local elections in Catalonia resulted in a rise in support for the pro-independence Catalan Republican Left (CRL). The separatist party doubled its vote to 16% in the elections, winning the balance of power in the region's parliament. The leaders of the main two Catalan parties - the Socialists and the Convergence and Union coalition - have begun wooing the CRL leader, Josep Lluis Carod-Rovira. Carod-Rovira is expected to demand extra money from Madrid and additional powers from both rival parties, which won about 31% of the vote each. The People's party of the Spanish prime minister, José María Aznar, is already battling to prevent the Basque region gaining greater autonomy. The issue of regional autonomy has become so acute under Aznar that it will dominate the general election in 2004.

The European Union plans to get tough with Germany over its huge budget deficit. Under the rules of the EU's Stability Pact, eurozone countries are not supposed to run budget deficits above 3% of GDP (gross domestic product). The European Commission wants Germany to cut its deficit by 0.8% in 2004 and bring it down to 3% by 2005, after 4 years in violation. Germany says that with its economy slowing, it needs more time to comply. Germany is hoping that France, which has also breached the budget rules, will support its stand. But France has already agreed a plan with the Commission to bring its deficit within the rules by 2005. The slowdown in Germany and France is causing serious problems for the whole eurozone economy. The European Commission has cut its 2003 growth forecast for the eurozone to 0.4%, down from its previous estimate of 1%.

Dozens of women are suffering from a condition that makes them have hundreds of orgasms every day. Researchers have identified the condition as Persistent Sexual Arousal Syndrome. Ten victims of the rare condition have been documented by Boston University's Institute of Sexual Medicine. Another expert in New Jersey, claims to have found 40 more cases worldwide.

Monday, November 17, 2003

More than 1,000 people living in the west Highlands of Scotland are to be issued with pills to be taken in the event of a nuclear submarine accident. The potassium iodate tablets are being given to people living near emergency berths designated for the vessels. The move is part of new regulations governing the response to a nuclear accident. Potassium iodate tablets are designed to combat the effects of radiation sickness. They can reduce damage to the thyroid gland if they are taken as soon as possible after exposure.

Interesting poll on Irish unity from a couple of years ago.

Britain is becoming less attractive for business investors, according to a poll of 250 senior executives published by the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). The MORI survey found that 70% of business leaders said that Britain's attractiveness as an investment destination had deteriorated over the last five years and that 60% expect it to get even worse over the next five. CBI director general Digby Jones called on the British government to take action to reverse the slide as 75% of the executives said that British Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labor administration has become less business-friendly since 1998.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Facility 1391 - Israel's secret prison.

Jewish settlers wreck fruit of centuries of toil to force out Palestinians.

Bookmakers in Ireland have installed the Democratic Unionist Party as the favorite to emerge successful after the Assembly election in the north of Ireland. The DUP has been given odds of 1/4 to emerge as the largest party in the north of Ireland following the election. The UUP has been given odds of 5/2, while Sinn Féin are 10/1 and the SDLP 50/1.

The SDLP has slammed the Democratic Unionist Party's continual claims that the Good Friday Agreement will lead to a nationalist-dominated society where unionists are side-lined. The DUP's latest election broadcast showed what the party claimed would be happening in five years if the Good Friday Agreement was not scrapped. The broadcast showed newspaper headlines announcing that Bertie Ahern had officially opened the new Stormont session, that all Orange Order parades had been banned, that the Irish language was compulsory in all schools and that Sinn Féin's Gerry Kelly had inspected police recruits at a passing out ceremony. The SDLP described the broadcast as electronic intimidation showing the DUP as nothing more than a party of hatred. The party also said that the DUP's entire election campaign was based on fear, sectarianism and lies.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

The SDLP will seek a referendum on a united Ireland within the lifetime of the next Assembly in the north of Ireland. Mark Durkan's party said in its Assembly Election manifesto that it would press for a date for a referendum in the forthcoming review of the Good Friday Agreement. The SDLP vowed to campaign for a Yes vote in a referendum on Irish unity, and resist in the review of the Good Friday Agreement any attempts to renegotiate it.

Ireland's soft landing is now a historical reality and GNP growth is on course to rebound to its developed economy trend of 4% in 2004, according to a report from Goodbody Stockbrokers. It also noted that wage and fiscal expectations seem to have adapted to the changed growth environment and pose a significantly reduced threat to medium-term stability. Inflation concerns have eased significantly on the back of the euro's appreciation and increased price sensitivity. Inflation should average 3% in 2004 given likely Budget changes.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Bush's crusade in the Middle East.

Overview of the Irish Economy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

The issue of race in medical research.

A growing number of Americans say that the war in Iraq is not worthwhile. A poll, carried out by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, found that 49% oppose the war, compared to 48% who say it was worthwhile. In October 2003, 52% of Americans polled nationwide said that the situation in Iraq was worth going to war over, while 43% said it was not. The latest survey was conducted between November 1-9, 2003, a period when news of US helicopters being shot down in Iraq gained wide attention.

The real reasons for the war in Iraq.

How Britain and the United States managed to avoid a peaceful solution in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A former Ulster Unionist Party chief executive once stole money from the Electoral Office in the north of Ireland. Alastair Patterson, an ex-returning officer, also forged electoral receipts, it was alleged. Patterson faces a total of 30 charges of theft and false accounting at Omagh Magistrates Court. The one-time senior UUP member, of Parkanaur Road, Castlecaulfield, near Dungannon, Co Tyrone spoke only to confirm his name. The court heard that in December 2000 he allegedly stole cash belonging to the Electoral Office. Between May 1998 and January 2001 he carried out another 16 similar counts of theft, it was claimed. In December 2000 he also allegedly falsified Electoral Office receipts. Another 12 similar offences of falsifying documents between June 1998 and June 1999 have also been made against him. Patterson resigned as Ulster Unionist chief executive after first being questioned by police in July 2003.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Young gay men are much more likely than straight men to take drugs, including ecstasy, cocaine and marijuana, according to two studies in Britain and America. Nearly one-third of men surveyed in the United States who had sex with other men said that they used drugs at least once a week, and lifetime use of cocaine was nearly twice as high as that of the general age-group. Two out of three of the men said that they had used drugs in the previous six months. The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, included 3,492 young men aged between 15 and 22.

The gap between rich and poor in the north of Ireland is increasing and threatening to do significant harm to community and class relations, a new study has found. The St Vincent de Paul Society, which commissioned the survey, has called for immediate cooperation between voluntary organizations and the British government to abolish poverty. The survey was carried out by the University of Ulster over a two-year period and is the most comprehensive of its kind ever conducted in the Six Counties. St Vincent de Paul has said that it comes at a time when the help that is given to those marginalized by circumstance, debt, illness and disability are most exposed and when also a new Assembly may be able to address the need for the action which it defines. One out of four adults and one out of three children are estimated to suffer from the effects of poverty in the north of Ireland. The report calls for immediate action by the British government, local government and voluntary agencies to attack the causes of poverty and to alleviate distress caused either by legislation or its implementation.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

The IMF has said it expects German GDP to stay flat in 2003 and grow by 1.5% in 2004. The IMF's GDP growth forecasts for Germany were identical to those published by the German government in July 2003.

Eurozone unemployment remained at 8.8% in September 2003, unchanged from its August level, according to the EU statistics office Eurostat. Unemployment within the full 15-member European Union was also stable at 8.0%. The lowest jobless rates were recorded in Luxembourg (3.8%) the Netherlands (4.2%), Austria (4.5%) and Ireland (4.7%). Spain showed the highest unemployment at 11.2%, unchanged from August, according to Eurostat's figures. The German (9.4%) and French (9.5%) rates were also stable. By comparison, the United States had a 6.1% unemployment rate in September 2003, while in Japan it hit 5.1%, Eurostat said, citing in all cases data calculated according to the standards of the International Labor Organization.

Britain could be heading for a new Ice Age. It is possible that global warming could switch off the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream continually warms Britain's coast and scientists say that without it, its climate would be like that of Alaska. British winters like the big freeze in 1962-63 would occur all the time and the British would have to live in minus 22C for months and ice storms would batter the land. Greenland is said to be melting at a rate of 100 cubic km every year because of the greenhouse effect. Experts believe that the melt water from the ice could effectively switch off the Gulf Stream.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

The Pentagon, Iraq and the Draft.

Two Icelandic scientists have shot holes in the theory of the missing Norse tribes of the Arctic. Agnar Helgason and Gisli Palsson say their DNA tests have failed to find any evidence that Europeans mingled genetically with Inuit half a millennium ago. Rumors of blue-eyed, blond-haired Inuit have circulated through the Arctic since the turn of the century. They were thought to possibly descend from a group of Norsemen who disappeared from a Greenland settlement 500 years ago. A well-known Canadian Arctic explorer, Vilhjalmur Stefansson, hinted in his diaries that he came across European-featured Inuit in the early 1900s in Western Nunavut. So Helgason and Palsson tested the theory by comparing DNA from 100 Cambridge Bay Inuit with Norse descendants from Iceland. Helgason said his preliminary findings show that there is no match between the Nunavut and Icelandic DNA. Palsson, an anthropologist who translated Vilhjalmur Stefansson's diaries, said that the explorer's claim to have seen the European-featured Inuit could have been a way to get additional funding for his exploration.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

The recent downing of the US army Chinook helicopter in Iraq was the single most devastating incident involving US forces in Iraq since the start of the war. But the media is being denied access to the return to the United States of the bodies of those who died - because of a Pentagon ban on such coverage. The policy has led to some charges of censorship and concern that the decision has been taken because of the mounting death toll in Iraq. Pentagon officials deny the accusations and say that the policy stretches back to 1991, although there have been exceptions over the years. The Pentagon says that the purpose of the policy is to protect the families involved and that it is up to them to decide whether they allow media access at individual funerals. Regardless of the Pentagon's policy, there is no doubt that the mounting death toll in Iraq is having a political impact.

A hard time for the Anglican Church.

Film-making and September 11, 2001.

Senior Israeli figures have voiced anger at a European survey labelling their country the greatest threat to world peace. Nearly 60% of Europeans said yes when asked in the Eurobarometer survey if Israel presents a threat to peace, putting it ahead of Iran, North Korea and the US, each of which polled 53%. The Israeli Minister for the Diaspora affairs, Natan Sharansky, said the results showed that the European Union engaged in "rampant brainwashing". The survey of 7,515 people in the 15 EU countries was carried out between October 8-16, 2003. Respondents were asked to say whether or not each country on the list represented a threat to world peace.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Outrage in Israel as EU poll names it a threat to peace.

Divisions in the Anglican Church.

Europe needs more structural economic reform if European Union enlargement is to succeed, according to IMF managing director Horst Koehler, highlighting that benefits and taxes ought to be reduced. At an annual East-West conference on economic transition within central European countries, Koehler said that benefits systems in Europe were too generous and taxes too high to stimulate employment and growth. He also said that large current account and fiscal imbalances in many central European countries showed that vulnerabilities remained.