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Candide’s Latest: December 18, 2006

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Some of the holes from the bullets that killed three sons of a Fatah security official in Gaza last week, as the children rode to school.

Palestine vs. Palestine
Your Civil War of the Week

From the BBC: “Officials of Hamas, which runs the Palestinian government, said they had agreed a truce with Fatah, loyal to Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. Fatah officials also spoke of a deal, but there were reports of heavy gunfire continuing into Sunday night. Gaza City was wracked by fighting throughout the day, with two killed after Mr Abbas called for elections. Hamas described the apparent deal as a "ceasefire to end the violence" between all armed Palestinian groups. They said all armed men were being asked to get off the streets of Gaza and the West Bank. The reports came at the end of a turbulent few days in the Palestinian territories. Gaza City saw running street battles throughout Sunday: mortars were fired at Mr Abbas's office in Gaza City , and a 19-year-old woman was killed as rival Fatah and Hamas supporters clashed in the streets. The full story…


L.A. Story
American Abu Ghraib

From the LATimes: “On a Tuesday in October 2003, Ki Hong entered Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles to serve a five-day sentence for soliciting a prostitute. He didn't survive two hours. Three members of a Korean gang instantly spotted Hong, 34, who authorities allege was a member of a rival gang. The trio had broad freedom to roam the jail because sheriff's deputies had given them jobs as inmate workers — jobs for which they, awaiting trial on murder charges, should have been ineligible. They let themselves into Hong's dormitory using a guard's control button. Then they stabbed Hong repeatedly, strangled him with bed linen and hid his body in a trash bin. Since 2000, 14 inmates have been slain in jails run by the Los AngelesCountySheriff's Department, including four this year. Hundreds more have been injured in jail violence. Taxpayers, who pay more than $500 million a year to operate the jails, paid an additional $6 million since 2004 to compensate inmates and their survivors for errors, negligence and brutality. In addition, a tentative $2.8-million settlement is awaiting county approval. […] In the most notorious case, an inmate wandered unescorted through Men's Central Jail for several hours, finally finding a witness who had testified against him in a murder case and strangling him in his cell.” The full story…


Jeb Bush, 8 Years Too Late
Florida Death Penalty on Hold

From the Miami Herald’s Gary Fineout: “Gov. Jeb Bush halted all Florida executions and ordered a special commission to review lethal-injection policies after a medical examiner Friday suggested Miami killer Angel Nieves Diaz's execution was botched. The order, asking the commission to report its results by March 1, came the same day a federal judge imposed an execution moratorium in California, finding that lethal injection is painful and unconstitutionally cruel. A violent career criminal, Diaz was executed Wednesday for the 1979 killing of a Miami topless-bar manager. It took 34 minutes for him to die -- more than double the average time -- as he grimaced, flexed his jaw and opened his mouth. Diaz was the 21st person executed under Bush, a record high for Florida governors. His death marks a new chapter in the state's troubled history of executions. During the years the state used electrocution, smoke and flames erupted from two inmates' heads, and another man's nose bled profusely while he was strapped in the chair. Those high-profile cases led Florida lawmakers in 2000 to institute the reputedly less painful lethal-injection process. The doctor who performed Diaz's autopsy refused to say if he thought Diaz was in pain. Alachua County Medical Examiner William F. Hamilton said the needles in both arms punctured straight through his veins, dissipating the lethal chemicals.” The full story…


Banzai All Over Again
Japan Apes U.S. Militarism

From AP in the Taipei Times: “Japan's conservative government chipped away at two pillars of the country's postwar pacifism, requiring schools to teach patriotism and upgrading the defense agency to a full ministry for the first time since World War II. The measures, enacted on Friday in a vote by parliament's upper house, form key elements of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's push to bolster Japan's international military role, build up national pride and distance the country from its post-1945 war guilt. […] The education reform bill trig-gered controversy, both because of its sensitive content and because of disclosures this week that the government had planted officials posing as ordinary citizens at "town meetings" discussing the measure. […] The upgrading of the defense agency under the Cabinet Office to a full ministry passed parliament without significant opposition, propelled by deep concern in Japan over North Korean missile and nuclear weapons development. The upgrade, to be effected early next year, gives Japan's generals greater budgetary powers and prestige -- a reversal for a military establishment that has kept a low profile since being discredited by Japan's disastrous wartime defeat. The education measure -- the first change to Japan's main education law since 1947 -- calls on schools to "to cultivate an attitude that respects tradition and culture, that loves the nation and home country."” A Department of Homeland Security next? The full story…


Prohibition’s Toll
Illegal Abortions in Portugal

What we can look forward to if abortion were outlawed: It’s illegal in Portugal. The country is holding a referendum in two months to decide whether to legalize it. Here’s why: Officially, just 73 cases of illegal abortions were reported there in 2005. Unofficially, the figure for clandestine abortions is put closer to 20,000. According to Portugal News, “Additional figures also show that around 20,000 morning after pills are sold each month in Portugal. Meanwhile, latest polls show the Yes vote will enjoy a resounding victory in next Februarys ballot. Those in favour of legalising abortions are said to be 61.2 percent of the population aged 18 and over. Younger generations are firmly in favour of legalising abortions, with 73.7 percent of under-25s saying they will vote Yes. Older generations and residents in the rural north (41.9 percent) are the firmest backers of a No vote. In 1998, a referendum on abortions was declared null and void after failing to attract at least 50 percent of registered voters. During that ballot, 50.5 percent of the electorate voted against decriminalising abortions.”


L’Infâme: Episcopalian Homophobia
Virginia’s Medieval Churches

They scare some churches

From the Washington Post: “Two large and historic Episcopal congregations in Northern Virginia have voted overwhelmingly to break away from the U.S. church and to seek to keep their property, setting up a conflict with their diocese that will be watched closely by other dissident Episcopalians around the country. Officials at The Falls Church in Falls Church and Truro Church in Fairfax City announced the results of the week-long vote following their worship services this morning. Their leadership has been at the forefront of a national conservative movement that has been alienated from the Episcopal Church, the U.S. wing of the worldwide Anglican Communion, since the installation of a gay bishop in New Hampshire in 2003. […]The churches voted to align themselves with a new group that hopes to eventually be home to thousands of dissident Episcopalians, the Convocation for Anglicans in North America, which is led by the Rev. Martyn Minns, the last rector at Truro. CANA is formally under the Church of Nigeria and Archbishop Peter Akinola, who supports a proposed law in Nigeria that would outlaw public and private gay activity. The American dissident churches have not been pushing to outlaw gay activity.” The full story…


Gen. MacArthur in 2006
US Army Considering Strike-Busting in Kansas

What was that about defending democracy, freedom, labor unions, the right to strike? Not in America, please. From the Financial Times via MSNBC: “The US Army is considering measures to force striking workers back to their jobs at a Goodyear Tire & Rubber plant in Kansas in the face of a looming shortage of tyres for Humvee trucks and other military equipment used in Iraq and Afghanistan. A strike involving 17,000 members of the United Steelworkers union has crippled 16 Goodyear plants in the US and Canada since October 5. The main issues in dispute are the company's plans to close a unionised plant in Texas, and a proposal for workers to shoulder future increases in healthcare costs. An army spokeswoman said on Friday that "there's not a shortage right now but there possibly will be one in the future". According to Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House of Representatives armed services committee, the strike has cut output of Humvee tyres by about 35 per cent. Mr Hunter said that the army had stopped supplying tyres to units not related to the Central Command, which is responsible for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Tyres were also not being provided to army repair depots.” The full story…


Democracy in the United Arab Emirates?
A Woman Elected (to a Slightly Insignificant Council)

From Gulf Today: “Six members were elected to the Federal National Council (FNC) on Saturday as the UAE conducted the first phase of its first direct elections smoothly. The Electoral College in Abu Dhabi elected four members including a woman, while Fujairah elected its two members. […] Amal Abdullah Juma Karam Al Qubaisi, the first woman to be elected, said: "This is an honour I will carry all my life. It is proof that the Emirati people are (politically) aware." Amal, who came third among the four winners from Abu Dhabi, said her victory showed that "women participation (in public life) is very important." She was among 14 women candidates in Abu Dhabi.


Your Mozart Fix for the Day
This is the third movement from Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat major. Alfred Brendel is at the piano. The cadenza is his own composition.


M’enfin, Pourqoi Pas?
Paris to Go Wi-Fi

Paris Plage. Wee-Fee next?

From the LATimes: “WOULD Ernest Hemingway approve of Wi-Fi at the Cafe de Flore? If Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe has his way, free wireless internet will soon be on offer in public places throughout the city, including the cafe haunts on the Left Bank where the master of the chiseled phrase used to write longhand in small black notebooks. Though it may be a little hard to imagine Hemingway writing "A Farewell to Arms" on a laptop, Delanoe is betting that "le Wi-Fi" (pronounced "wee-fee" here) is one of many changes in Paris that will attract creative spirits as well as legions of young people who might otherwise flee the tradition-bound city for places closer to the cutting edge. Delanoe, 56, a socialist with strong views about how to make Paris competitive in the 21st century, has been reshaping the city's image since he was elected in 2001. He wants to make Paris greener, more high tech, less uptight, [less “museumified” …]. His goal is both to attract young people, some of whom in recent years have chosen to move to London for employment opportunities, and to attract new business, which increasingly looks to Eastern Europe or the Far East when opening offices. A mayor has little control over some of the policies most needed to assure that young people have prospects, but when it comes to making the face of Paris more inviting and helping the French capitalize on their leisure time, Delanoe is doing all he can. Since his election, the city has launched an impressive array of projects. Paris Plage, the beach on the Seine, complete with brightly colored deck chairs and umbrellas set among 2,000 tons of sand trucked in by the city, has been an international sensation and a hit with Parisians stuck in the city during the dog days of summer. Year-round, roller-bladers and walkers replace cars along the quays on Sundays, and soon it will be possible to rent bicycles at low cost in the Metro subway stations for those who want to bike around central Paris.” The full story…


Peeling the Onion
Christmas Brought to Iraq By Force

Christmas, Goddammit

“On almost every corner in Iraq's capital city, carolers are singing, trees are being trimmed, and shoppers are rushing home with their packages—all under the watchful eye of U.S. troops dedicated to bringing the magic of Christmas to Iraq by force. […] To that end, 25,000 troops from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment and 82nd Airborne Division have been deployed. Their missions include the distribution of cookies and eggnog at major Iraqi city centers, the conscription of bell-ringers from among the Iraqi citizenry, and the enforcement of a new policy in which every man, woman, and child in Baghdad pays at least one visit to 'Twas The Night... On Ice. Immediately following the press conference, high-altitude bombers began to string Christmas lights throughout the greater-Baghdad area, and Wild Weasel electronic-warfare fighter jets initiated 24-hour air patrols to broadcast Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" over the nation. Armored columns struck out from all major allied firebases to erect a Christmas tree in the town square of every city, while foot soldiers placed fully lit, heavily guarded nativity scenes in front of every Iraqi mosque. "Thus far, Operation Desert Santa has gone off without a hitch," said Gen. Stanley Kimmet, commander of U.S. armed reconnaissance-and-mistletoe operations in the volatile Tikrit region of central Iraq. "There has been sporadic house-to-house fighting during our door-to-door caroling, but that's to be expected in a Christmas season of this magnitude." According to Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top American military commander in Iraq, every precaution is being taken to ensure the peaceful enforcement of the Christmas season in occupied Iraq. "All American military personnel have been instructed that the observation of Christmas should be carried out efficiently and tastefully, with minimal emphasis on the season's commercial aspects," said Sanchez, who addressed reporters while a decorations division strung wreaths and garlands outside his headquarters. "We must keep in mind that the reason for the season-oriented campaign is for Iraq to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." The rest of the story…


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