Blocking the Net

Vietnam's communist government knows that it is impossible to monitor the country's 5,000 cyber cafes, so it's forcing the cafe owners to be its eyes and ears. Last July, a government directive informed cafe owners that they will have to take a six-month course so that they can better monitor their cyber customers. The Vietnamese government is justifying its move for reasons of "national security and defense" - that is, to protect itself against online journalists who, it says, "provide sensationalist news and articles while others even publish reactionary and libelous reports and a depraved culture."

Labor Protest

Diverse Anti-war Protests Largest in DC Since Vietnam

Kicking off three days of actions aimed ultimately at pressuring the US government to pull troops out of Iraq, scores of protesters converged on Washington, DC on Saturday, September 24 for an all-day protest that included an array of speakers, a march past the White House and a concert that lasted well into the early morning hours. Estimates of the demonstration's size ranged from 100,000 to 300,000 protesters. Participants from across the country spent long hours riding overnight on buses and in caravans to take part in the largest anti-war event the nation's capitol has seen since the Vietnam War era. Groups began assembling on the Ellipse in front of the White House early yesterday. In preparation for the event, police blanketed the Ellipse, Federal Triangle and the grounds of the Washington Monument with a confusing maze of orange-plastic and wooden fences, closing many roads to both automobile and pedestrian traffic.

No Picture

Venezuela here we come!

Have you wondered what is happening in Venezuela, where the revolutionary president Hugo Chavez is using millions of dollars in oil money to fund social programs?

Have you heard about the World Social Forums that have taken place in Brazil and around the world, whose slogan is "Another World is Possible"?

How about the two together? That is what is going to happen January 24-29 2006 in Caracas, Venezuela, when the World Social Forum gathers there.

I attended the third WSF in Porto Alegre Brazil in 2003, and was thrilled and energized at meeting individuals and groups forging ahead with the creation of a better world. read more


A People’s History of Iraq: 1963 to 2005

The history of Iraq is still being influenced by 138,000 U.S. occupation troops. Yet the mainstream "educational television" stations of the Public Broadcasting Service often appear more eager to broadcast programs about the history of rock music since 1960 than programs about the history of Iraq. But as Rashid Khalidi observed in the introduction to the 2005 edition of his Resurrecting Empire, "the hubris that allowed Pentagon planners to think that they were somehow immune to the lessons of history produced a grossly mismanaged occupation that has become hated by most Iraqis and has engendered fierce resistance." U.S. anti-war activists, however, may find some knowledge of post-December 1963 Iraqi people's history of use in debating with U.S. opponents of an immediate U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq.

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Anti-war lawmakers kept in the basement

WASHINGTON - Polls show that most people in the United States favor withdrawal of at least some troops from Iraq, and Bush's overall approval ratings are at record lows. Yet, when a few dozen House members gathered on Feb. 15 to talk about an exit strategy, they were consigned to a tiny, crowded room in a House office building, and charged that they are being denied a proper forum to air their views.

The House members opposed to the war say they have been stifled in the International Relations and Armed Services Committees and from offering legislation for debate on the House floor, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. "The nearest thing we have to a hearing is a pep rally for the administration's policies, so we are forced into a forum like this," said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-TX.

The hearing's star was Rep. Walter Jones, R-NC, a conservative who made headlines in June when he turned against the war he had initially supported and backed a resolution calling on Bush to devise a withdrawal plan. "I've taken some criticism for doing what I think is right," he said. "But if you don't do what you think is right, you're cheating the American people."

Other legislative efforts remain bottled up in the House, where the rules for debate are much more restrictive than in the Senate. On Sept.14, the International Relations Committee defeated a resolution calling for an investigation into the so-called Downing Street memos, leaked British government documents that indicated the Bush administration may have manipulated intelligence information about Iraq to justify a pre-emptive war.

In June, the House blocked a resolution from House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, that would have directed Bush to lay out a plan that could lead to troop withdrawals.

The testimony before the ad hoc hearing focused on how the United States could gradually withdraw from Iraq without leaving chaos behind. David Mack, a former ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and now a vice president at the Middle East Institute, opposed an abrupt withdrawal, calling instead for "a new strategy for orderly disengagement." He and other witnesses suggested getting a high-ranking, non-American mediator involved in Iraq to work with the various ethnic and religious factions on a new constitutional settlement that could lessen insurgent attacks and bring Iraq back from the brink of civil war.

Rep. Charles Rangel, D-NY, sponsor of legislation to reinstate the military draft, said he knows of a sure-fire way to instantly bring the troops home from Iraq: "We could end this war overnight if we had a draft where everyone had to serve."

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Catholic seminary review points to gay purge

ROME – As Catholics await a ruling on whether homosexuals should be barred from the priesthood, Vatican investigators have been ordered to review each of the 229 Roman Catholic seminaries in the United States for "evidence of homosexuality" and faculty members who dissent from church teaching.

Word of the review, known as an apostolic visitation, leaked out when a priest gave a document prepared to guide the process to The New York Times. Edwin O’Brien, archbishop for the U.S. military and the man supervising the review, confirmed the basic thrust when he told The National Catholic Register that "anyone who has engaged in homosexual activity or has strong homosexual inclinations" should not be admitted to a seminary, a restriction that should apply even to those who have not been sexually active for a decade or more. read more