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11 December 2004


Show me one honest politician and I'll show you a saint.

Santana Lopes Quits

Portugal PM submits resignation
By Ian Simpson

LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal's prime minister says he and his cabinet have submitted their resignations, a move that came a day after a snap election was called.Centre-right Prime Minister Pedro Santana Lopes said he would head a caretaker administration until a new government was named following February 20 election. "Before this address I informed the president of my and the government's decision, taken in the cabinet meeting just held," Santana Lopes said in a televised address on Saturday. The announcement came after a cabinet meeting at Santana Lopes's official residence. He said he would meet Sampaio on Monday to formalise the resignations.

Santana Lopes's Social Democrats and the rightist Popular Party, the junior partner in the coalition government, are well behind the opposition Socialists in opinion polls. The constitution calls for a prime minister who resigns to remain in office until the president names a new one and he or she takes over. Guilherme da Fonseca, a former Constitutional Court judge, said caretaker status would hamper Santana Lopes's powers. "A caretaker government is a government that is limited, in accordance with the constitution, to practices strictly necessary for the oversight of public business," he told private TSF radio. Sampaio dissolved parliament on Friday and scheduled an election, saying instability in Santana Lopes's government threatened to damage Portugal and its institutions.

Santana Lopes's brief tenure was marked by a minister's resignation, slumping polls, a negative outlook from the Standard & Poor's credit rating agency, and charges of government interference with the media. Santana Lopes, then Lisbon mayor and number two in the Social Democrats, took over as prime minister when Jose Manuel Barroso left Portuguese politics in July to head the European Commission. The Socialists, under telegenic new leader Jose Socrates, are considered to have a good chance of taking power in the February election, which will usher in Portugal's fourth government since late 2001. Polls had been scheduled for 2006.


Portugal to return to the ballots

Portugal faces general election

Portuguese President Jorge Sampaio has called an early general election on 20 February, just four months after the centre-right government took office. Mr Sampaio said that dissolving parliament was the only way to solve a crisis of credibility and instability. Prime Minister Pedro Santana Lopes took office when Jose Manuel Barroso become president of the European Commission. Their Social Democratic Party is currently trailing in the opinion polls behind the opposition Socialists. "This government's negative succession of incidents and declarations, contradictions and discoordinations in whole led me to dissolve the parliament as the only solution for a grave crisis of credibility and instability," Mr Sampaio said in a televised address.

The announcement came 11 days after Mr Sampaio had said he intended to dissolve parliament and call an early vote. The brief tenure of Conservative Prime Minister Santa Lopes has been marked by the bitter resignation of a minister, slumping polls and allegations of government interference with the media. The Socialists, under the new leader Jose Socrates, are believed to have a good chance of winning the February election. The Social Democratic Party and Popular Party are to continue as a caretaker government until the election.


Now the Prime Minister has announced that the goverment is quitting, leaving the ball in the President's court. Portugal at the moment seems to be run by a group of petulant kids.

I would of though with the problems facing this country that the politicians would spend less time worrying about themselves and more time worrying about the country. I guess I was wrong...

30 November 2004

Portugal leader calls early poll

Portugal leader calls early poll

Portugal's socialist President, Jorge Sampaio, is dissolving parliament and will call early elections, Prime Minister Pedro Santana Lopes has said. Mr Santana Lopes, who heads a centre-right coalition, made the announcement after meeting the president. His four-month-old administration has faced strong criticism over allegations of media interference and a lack of co-ordination between ministers. Former premier Jose Manuel Barroso left to head the European Commission. President Sampaio said in a statement he would meet leaders of parties in parliament and the advisory Council of State to discuss the situation, Reuters news agency reported. The meetings can be held over a few days and are part of the procedure to dissolve parliament and call an election. Elections had been scheduled for 2006. Mr Santana Lopes said he disagreed with the president's decision as his coalition holds a majority in parliament.


Crisis hits portuguese politics again...

Sampaio: dissolução da Assembleia resulta de "apreciação política global"

A decisão do Presidente de dissolver a Assembleia da República resulta da "apreciação política global" da situação no país, explicou o seu assessor. "Esta decisão não teve a ver com a remodelação do ministro Henrique Chaves, mas com a apreciação política global que o Presidente da República fez da actual situação", explicou João Gabriel, em declarações à Lusa, pouco depois de o primeiro-ministro ter anunciado, no final de uma reunião em Belém, que Jorge Sampaio lhe comunicou que irá dissolver a Assembleia da República. Num lacónico comunicado, emitido ainda decorria a reunião, informa-se que "o Presidente da República, ponderada a situação política actual, comunicou ao primeiro-ministro a sua decisão de ouvir os partidos políticos com representação parlamentar e o Conselho de Estado, nos termos do art. 133º, alínea e) da Constituição da República". No entanto, uma fonte da Presidência da República, não identificada pela Lusa, explica que Jorge Sampaio tomou esta decisão por considerar que o Governo "não dispõe das condições políticas indispensáveis para continuar a mobilizar Portugal e os portugueses, de forma coerente, rigorosa e estável".


This afternoon the State President decided to dissolve Parliament after reaching the conclusion that the current goverment did not show capacity for stable and effective governance.

This after a succesion of problems and crises that have shaken this goverment over the last four months. I for one agree! I have grown tired of seing the current bunch of village idiots leading the country to ruin.

28 November 2004

the sorry state of the Portuguese Goverment


Henrique Chaves demitiu-se este domingo do cargo de ministro do Desporto, Juventude e Reabilitação, quatro dias após ter tomado posse na tutela do novo ministério criado por Pedro Santana Lopes no âmbito de uma remodelação governamental de surpresa.

Henrique Chaves era ministro do Desporto desde a passada quarta-feira. Em comunicado hoje divulgado, Henrique Chaves não alegou as habituais razões pessoais que costumam camuflar os incómodos internos nos governos. O agora ministro demissionário declarou que não concebe "a vida política e o exercício de cargos públicos sem uma relação de lealdade entre as pessoas". Referiu também que não concebe "o exercício de qualquer missão, privada ou pública, sem o mínimo de estabilidade e coordenação".

Four days after being appointed as Minister of Sports, Henrique Chaves has resigned. Now the country waits with baited breathe for the Prime Minister to resign! This Goverment has totally lost its hold on reality.

23 November 2004

Tiny Mimas is dwarfed by a huge white storm and dark waves on the edge of a cloud band in Saturn's atmosphere.

The Cassini-Huygens Mission(

Posted by Hello

NASA's Cassini spacecraft took this image of Saturn and one of its moons, Tethys.

Posted by Hello

AIDS and the figures

Record numbers of women with HIV

Nearly half of 37.2 million adults living with HIV are women, figures show. The steepest increases have been in East Asia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, with rates in women outstripping those in men in some regions. As well as being biologically more vulnerable to infection than men, women are forced to have sex through violence or financial reasons, said UNAIDS. The number of people living with HIV globally has also reached its highest. There is an estimated 39.4 million people living with HIV globally, up from an estimated 36.6 million in 2002, fuelled mainly by unprotected sex and intravenous drug use. Over the past two years the number of women living with HIV has risen in every region of the world.

Global rise

Women now make up nearly half of the 37.2 million adults aged 15-49 living with HIV worldwide. In sub-Saharan Africa about 60% of those with HIV are women. When you look at only young people aged 15-24, this rises to 75%. Over the past two years alone, the number of women infected in East Asia has increased by 56%. In Eastern Europe and Central Asia the number has increased by 48%.


Still seems no end in sight to the rise in AIDS cases. Frightening thing is the lack of political will in many countries to tackle the problem instead of sticking to cosmetic surgery...

Why me, Why here, Why now?

Cosmic Conundrum
The universe seems uncannily well suited to the existence of life. Could that really be an accident?

Dealing with cranks is an occupational hazard for most scientists, but it's especially bad for physicists and astronomers. Those who study the cosmos for a living tend to be bombarded with letters, calls and emails from would-be geniuses who insist they have refuted Einstein or devised a new theory of gravity or disproved the Big Bang. The telltale signs of crankdom are so consistent — a grandiose theory, minimal credentials, a messianic zeal — that scientists can usually spot them a mile off. That's why the case of James Gardner is so surprising. He seems to fit the profile perfectly: he's a Portland, Ore., attorney, not a scientist, who argues — are you ready for this?--that our universe might have been manufactured by a race of superintelligent extraterrestrial beings. That is exactly the sort of idea that would normally have experts rolling their eyes, blocking e-mails and hoping the author won't corner them at a lecture or a conference.

But when Gardner's book Biocosmcame out last year, it carried jacket endorsements from a surprisingly eminent group of scientists. "A novel perspective on humankind's role in the universe," wrote Martin Rees, the astronomer royal of Britain and a Cambridge colleague of Stephen Hawking's. "There is little doubt that his ideas will change yours," wrote Seth Shostak, senior astronomer at the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) Institute in California. "A magnificent one-stop account of the history of life," wrote complexity theorist John Casti, a co-founder of the Santa Fe Institute. Since then, Gardner has been welcomed at major planetariums and legitimate scientific conferences, explaining his ideas to a surprisingly interested public. It's not that anyone actually buys Gardner's theory. He admits it's "farfetched," and even those scientists who find it stimulating think it's wildly improbable. But it does have one thing in its favor. The biocosm theory is an attempt, albeit a highly speculative one, to solve what just might be science's most profound mystery: why the universe, against all odds, is so remarkably hospitable to life.

( Continue reading

Quite logical this one. Excellent Read.

... Last year a Stanford theorist named Shamit Kachru set out with some colleagues to calculate just how many different universes one particular version of string theory could produce. The number he came up with was a 1 followed by something like 100 zeros; roughly a hundred billion billion times the number of atoms in our universe...

21 November 2004

Iraq's Election Date

Iraqis push ahead with elections
Violence in hotspots like Falluja threatens to disrupt the poll

Iraq has set a date of 30 January 2005 for its first nationwide election since the toppling of Saddam Hussein. The announcement came from the independent Iraqi electoral commission in Baghdad. There had been mounting speculation as to whether elections would be feasible given the continuing violence. On Sunday insurgents ambushed a convoy of National Guards in the flashpoint city of Ramadi, west of Falluja, killing at least eight and wounding 18. Meanwhile, US military officials issued a statement on another incident in Ramadi, in which US soldiers fired on a civilian bus, killing at least seven people and wounding 11. A US Marines spokesman said the bus had failed to stop at a checkpoint, even after warning shots, and the Americans had then opened fire for their own protection. In the northern city of Mosul, US troops found at least two more bodies a day after discovering the corpses of nine men shot in the back of the head. All are believed to be Iraqi soldiers killed by insurgents.

Election plans

Iraqi electoral commission spokesman Farid Ayar said areas beset by violence - including insurgent strongholds such as Falluja and Ramadi - would still participate in the elections. "No Iraqi province will be excluded because the law considers Iraq as one constituency and therefore it is not legal to exclude any province," he said, quoted by the Associated Press. Under the Iraqi timetable for democracy, elections for a transitional parliament needed to be held by the end of January. Voters are still being registered, even though some registration centres closed because of attacks. More than 120 parties are said to have registered.


How free and fair will these elections be?

An Interesting read...

The Empire Has No Clothes: US Foreign Policy Exposed by Ivan Eland

Now that George W. Bush has been re-elected president of the United States, neo-conservatives and war hawks, both pundits and policymakers, will likely feel vindicated and even emboldened to continue on their course of enlarging the American empire, all under the rubric of fighting the global "war on terror." As one of the new political slogans puts it, "four more years, four more wars." But, as it turns out, wanting a US empire and benefiting from one are markedly different things. This is something not well appreciated in many of the recent books analyzing the American empire. Most of them assume, regardless of the overall morality of the undertaking, that the US has only to snap its militarized fingers and the deed is done, rather like the slogan "resistance is futile" of the Borg in the Star Trek television series, leaving the rest for historians to debate. Of course, in reality that never happens. All empires, from the Roman to the British, come to an end sooner or later. But the costs are considerable, both to the lands and people absorbed, as well as economically, socially and politically to the imperial country itself. But in a sound-bite age, few people have the time or inclination to ponder the sweep of history. What is needed then is a primer on the subject, a sort of "Empire for Dummies," laying out in detail the follies of America's current course of action, which is taking it steadily further away from its historical roots as a republic.

Fortunately, we have just such a work in The Empire Has No Clothes. It is a worthy tome written by Ivan Eland, who is senior fellow and director of the Center on Peace and Liberty at the Independent Institute in Oakland, California.


19 November 2004

Foi aprovada ontem pelo PSD, CDS-PP e PS a pergunta a colocar aos portugueses no referendo sobre o Tratado de Constituição europeia, com votos contra do PCP, BE e “Os Verdes”, que acusaram maioria e socialistas de fazerem da consulta popular "uma farsa".

Então, aqui vai a pergunta:
"Concorda com a Carta de Direitos Fundamentais, a regra das votações por maioria qualificada e o novo quadro institucional da União Europeia, nos termos constantes da Constituição para a Europa?"

Apetece responder que não, mas sinceramente não sei, se estou a aprovar ou não, a Nova Constituição da Europa...

18 November 2004

Ausência de regionalização é a causa dos atrasos portugueses

Notícia in jornal Público

Miguel Cadilhe diz que ausência de regionalização é a causa dos atrasos portugueses
O presidente da Agência Portuguesa de Investimentos, Miguel Cadilhe, considerou ontem à noite que a inexistência da regionalização é responsável por parte dos atrasos da economia, finanças e administração pública nacionais.

Cadilhe, que falou nos Encontros do Porto, este ano dedicados ao tema Relações Portugal - Espanha, comparou o crescimento industrial de Espanha (oito por cento) e de Portugal (cerca de zero por cento) nos últimos quatro anos e considerou que este diferencial se deve em parte à inexistência da regionalização.

10 November 2004



A quarter of the world’s population, 1.3 billion people, live in severe poverty...

Nearly 800 million people do not get enough food, and about 500 million people are chronically malnourished. More than a third of children are malnourished.

In industrial countries more than 100 million people live below the poverty line, more than 5 million people are homeless and 37 million are jobless.

Of the world’s 23 million people living with HIV/AIDS more than 93% live in developing countries.

More than 840 million adults are illiterate - 538 million of them are women.

Around 2 million children died as a result of armed conflict in the last decade.

In developing countries 160 million pre-school children are underweight.

1.2 billion people live without access to safe drinking water.

110 million landmines lie undetonated in 68 countries.

Today’s society has the resources to eradicate poverty...

The net wealth of the 10 richest billionaires is $ 133 billion , more than 1.5 times the total national income of the least developed countries.
The cost of eradicating poverty is 1% of global income.

Effective debt relief to the 20 poorest countries would cost $ 5.5 billion - equivalent to the cost of building EuroDisney.

Providing universal access to basic social services and transfers to alleviate income poverty would cost $ 80 billion, less than the net worth of the seven richest men in the world.

Six countries can spend $ 700 million in nine days on dog and cat food.

Today’s world spend $ 92 billion on junkfood, $ 66 billion on cosmetics and nearly $ 800 billion in 1995 for defence expenditure.

Extreme poverty can be banished from the globe by early next century...

The proportion of human kind living in poverty has fallen faster in the past 50 years than in the previous 500 years.

Since 1960 child death rates in developing countries have more than halved, malnutrition rates have declined by almost a third, the proportion of children out of primary school has fallen from more than half to less than a quarter.

Over the past three decades the population in developing countries with access to safe water almost doubled - from 36% to nearly 70%.

The extension of basic immunisation over the past two decades has saved the lives of three million children.

In 1960-93 average life expectancy increased by more than a third in developing countries.

Poverty is no longer inevitable and should thus no longer be tolerated.

Is this The World WE want to live in

Poverty Statistics


About 24,000 people die every day from hunger or hunger-related causes. Three-fourths of the deaths are children under the age of five. (United Nations)

Some 800 million people around the globe suffer from hunger and malnutrition. (United Nations)

More than 10 percent of children in developing countries die before the age of five. (CARE)

2.8 billion people live on less that $2 a day, and 1.2 billion people live on less than $1 a day. (World Food Program)

In the next 25 years, an estimated 2 billion people will be added to the world's population--almost all of them in developing countries. (World Food Program)

United States

Nearly 35 million Americans live in hungry or food insecure households. (Tufts University)

A survey of 29 major cities found that emergency food requests are up 16 percent. One in five requests for food can not be filled.

About 40 percent of the households needing food assistance are working families. (Second Harvest)

An estimated 1.1 million senior adults skip meals because there is no food in the house. (Urban Institute)

About 8.6 million children belong to working poor families. (Center on Budget and Policy Priorities)

Where are the huge protest marches anti-poverty, anti-hunger?

Interesting Quote

"We have 50 percent of the world's wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population. . . In this situation we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will allow us to maintain this position of disparity. We should cease to talk about the raising of the living standards, human rights, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better."
-- George Kennan, Director of Policy Planning of the U.S. Dept. of State, 1948

Is the US in decline?

U.S. Moving From First to Third World
Paul Craig Roberts

In the early 1980s, when I was assistant secretary of the treasury, the U.S. trade deficit was due to oil imports. Currently, the U.S. deficit in manufactured goods alone is 3.5 times our oil imports. Our trade deficit in vehicles is nearly equal to our deficit in oil, and our deficit in clothing, ADP equipment, office machines, TV and VCRs is 1.5 times our oil import bill. The United States is ceasing to be a manufacturing country. America has a trade deficit in almost every manufacturing product.


Economy: Economic aid - donor (per capita)

1. Luxembourg $352.30 per person
2. Norway $307.95 per person
3. Denmark $302.72 per person
4. Netherlands $216.71 per person
5. Sweden $191.48 per person
6. Switzerland $150.30 per person
7. France $104.68 per person
8. United Kingdom $74.88 per person
9. Belgium $74.25 per person
10. Finland $73.01 per person
11. Ireland $72.11 per person
12. Japan $71.53 per person
13. Germany $67.96 per person
14. Austria $50.07 per person
15. Australia $45.30 per person
16. Canada $40.36 per person
17. Spain $33.07 per person
18. Portugal $26.82 per person
19. New Zealand $25.23 per person
20. United States $23.76 per person
21. Italy $17.24 per person

09 November 2004

Arafat and the hidden Millions

Will $1 billion be buried with Arafat?
By Paul Martin

LONDON — Palestinian officials who gathered around Yasser Arafat in recent weeks have been anxious to extract from their ailing leader the secret codes and locations of bank accounts they believe contain more than $1 billion diverted from official Palestinian funds. "A huge scramble has been going on to get the codes he holds in his head for various bank accounts he holds in secret," says a senior Palestinian banker. "It's an uphill struggle, and we may never get the bulk of it," says the official, who declined to be identified out of fear for his safety. "It's been his key to holding on to power and influence, and some of it may go to the grave with him. If the numbers die with him, then the Swiss bankers and other bankers worldwide will be rubbing their hands in glee," the Palestinian banker says.

Palestine Liberation Organization Secretary-General Mahmoud Abbas, Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia and Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath were flying to Paris and hoped to see Mr. Arafat today. Mr. Arafat's wife lashed out at his top lieutenants, accusing them of traveling to Paris with plans to "bury" her husband "alive," the Associated Press reported today.

I'm confused : the problem is           a) "the passing" of the revered palestinian leader
                                                                b) "the passing" of over a billion dollars.
That would explain Mrs Arafat's accusations. She worried about her nestegg?

"The money "is enough to feed 3 million Palestinians for one year, and also buy 1,000 mobile intensive care units, as well as to fund 10 hospitals for a decade," the center said."

Bush and his Treaties

Like a confirmed bachelor about to get married, finding a million and one excuses not to commit. Posted by Hello

(From Blogo Social Português)

Global warming is melting the Arctic ice faster than expected

Sea to rise a metre by 2100 says expert
By Alister Doyle, Environment Correspondent

REYKJAVIK (Reuters) - Global warming is melting the Arctic ice faster than expected, and the world's oceans could rise by about a metre (3 feet) by 2100, swamping homes from Bangladesh to Florida, the head of a study says. Robert Corell, chairman of the eight-nation Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), also told a news conference there were some hints of greater willingness by the United States, the world's top polluter, to take firmer action to slow climate change. Speaking at the start of a four-day scientific conference in Reykjavik, Corell said global warming was melting the Greenland ice sheet and Arctic glaciers from Alaska to Norway quicker than previously thought. "Greenland will play a much bigger role in sea level rise than anticipated," said Corell, a scientist at the American Meteorological Society. He said a 2001 U.N. report forecast world ocean levels would rise by 20-90 cms by 2100. He said some U.N. forecasts assumed melting Greenland ice would cause just 4 mm of the rise. "We'll be at the top of the range, about a metre," he said. The ACIA report says that Greenland's melt alone could add 10 cms to global sea levels by 2100. Melting of other Arctic glaciers would also contribute.

About 17 million people in Bangladesh live less than one metre above sea level. Pacific islands like Tuvalu could be swamped and much of Florida south of Miami would be inundated by a one metre rise.


How seriously do world goverments take this?

08 November 2004

The Falluja Offensive Underway

U.S. Marines Launch Offensive on Iraq's Falluja
By Michael Georgy

FALLUJA (Reuters) - Thousands of U.S. Marines and Iraqi troops backed by tanks stormed into Falluja as night fell on Monday, the start of a fierce ground assault to retake the rebel stronghold. Several tanks thrust into the city and guerrillas were putting up some resistance, Marine radio traffic showed. Intense U.S. air strikes, artillery and mortar fire rained down. This reporter heard the crackle of firefights as troops advanced at least four blocks into the militant stronghold, with helicopters flying overhead. Flares lit the night sky as the Marines earlier unleashed a barrage of tank and machinegun fire on a nearby railway station, clearing the way for the ground attack on the Sunni Muslim city.

"We are determined to clean Falluja from the terrorists," Prime Minister Iyad Allawi told a news conference in Baghdad, saying the U.S.-led operation had his authority.

When will peace be returned to Falluja. The faces change but the story stays the same. The innocent pay the price for others.

50 Jornalists to be tried for revealing details of the Case "Casa Pia"

Casa Pia: mais de 50 jornalistas constituídos arguidos

Numa iniciativa sem precedentes em Portugal, o Ministério Público (MP) está a ouvir mais de meia centena de jornalistas de praticamente todos os grandes órgãos de Comunicação Social nacionais. Para já são 53 profissionais – distribuídos por 11 redacções – que estão para ser ou já foram ouvidos pelo procurador-geral adjunto Domingos de Sá, todos pelo mesmo motivo: alegada violação do segredo de Justiça devido às notícias que assinaram sobre o processo Casa Pia.

O CM soube ainda que MP alega que a investigação do caso de pedofilia foi prejudicada com a cobertura noticiosa e pondera pedir indemnizações aos órgãos de Comunicação Social, numa atitude também sem precedentes. Não começou agora o processo do MP para apurar o desrespeito pelo segredo de Justiça junto da Imprensa portuguesa, e tentar assim pressionar os jornalistas a revelarem as suas fontes quebrando o sigilo profissional. No início do ano o procurador-geral da República, Souto Moura, chamou Domingos de Sá do Tribunal de Trabalho da Maia para o Departamento de Investigação e Acção Penal (DIAP) de Lisboa, especificamente para o inspector encabeçar o processo


The jornalists seem to have a huge bulls-eye pasted to their backs. Should Jornalists be forced to reveal their sources when a crime has been comitted, or when their sources have comitted crimes by revealing information?


Durante muito tempo não se investigou e não se quis investigar dentro de casa, logo, torna-se mais fácil fazer uma investigação se o emissário final por punido”, o que leva à existência de um cenário novo “já que antes assobiava-se para o lado”. A explicação é de Carlos Pinto de Abreu, presidente da Comissão de Direitos Humanos da Ordem dos Advogados (CDHOA), questionado sobre a responsabilização dos jornalistas pela publicação de informações fornecidas por terceiros.


07 November 2004


Posted by Hello 2004 US Elections by IQ

06 November 2004

Racism is alive and well in South Africa

'White judges not good enough'

Cape Town - White members of South Africa's legal profession should forget about a career in the country's public service, and instead devote their energies to lucrative commercial practices. This is one of a number of disturbing implications stemming from the "recent pattern of decisions made by the Judicial Service Commission (JSC)", says Democratic Alliance leader Tony Leon. In a speech delivered at the New York University Law School in the United States, he said there was a widespread impression no white judge in South Africa "could possibly be good enough for appointment, no matter how sterling his legal career and political credentials".


South Africa's Timebomb

Landless warn of growing anger

Johannesburg - South Africa's landless people would react "destructively" if the government failed to keep its land reform promises, the National Landless Movement (LPM) warned on Tuesday. LPM vice-chair Patrick Mojapelo said only 3% of the country's land has been redistributed over the past 10 years. "If the government makes promises which they cannot fulfil, the people's anger will break out," Mojapelo told reporters in Johannesburg. "We want the government to fulfil its promises because if they fail, our people will react destructively."


How long before land turns into a major problem for South Africa? Just have a look at Zimbabwe to see what problems could be in store for S.A...

APARTHEID and Israel

Miguel Portas critica muro israelita

Os eurodeputados Ana Gomes, PS, e Miguel Portas, Bloco de Esquerda, integram uma delegação não oficial de membros do Parlamento Europeu que ontem visitou Telavive, Israel. Hoje estarão na Faixa de Gaza. No balanço do primeiro dia, Miguel Portas criticou duramente o muro de segurança que Israel está a erguer para separar o seu território da Cisjordãnia palestiniana. Numa frase, o eurodeputado 'bloquista' resumiu o seu sentimento: "É uma situação de 'apartheid'".


Mister Portas, what do you know about apartheid? Apartheid was the subjugation of +-95% of the population by the other 5%. Is this what is happening in Israel? Though I have to hand it to you, it's a good word to use when your out for headlines!

Portugal perdeu...

Portugal perdeu soberania sobre recursos piscatórios para a UE

Portugal perdeu a soberania sobre a respectiva Zona Económica Exclusiva (ZEE), através da assinatura da Constituição Europeia, a qual atribui a competência exclusiva de exploração e aproveitamento, conservação e gestão dos recursos biológicos do mar à União Europeia, noticia este sábado o Expresso. "É incrível como o Governo português deixou passar esta medida sem qualquer contestação. Em Bruxelas ficaram muito surpreendidos por Portugal não se ter oposto", disse o presidente da associação cívica SEDS, João Salgueiro. Entretanto, Tiago Pitta e Cunha, que presidiu à Comissão dos Oceanos, esclareceu que o tratado envolve os recursos vivos marinhos mas não os minerais.


I find it strange that almost nothing was said in the mass media about this story...

A changing Afghanistan

Afghan tough guys swap guns for gym
Schwarzenegger becomes a role model in Kabul as young men strive to build the beautiful body - Declan Walsh in Kabul

Afghanistan's tough guys used to wear beards and wool caps, study the Qur'an and fight mountain battles. These days an increasing number have waxed chests, cheesy grins and bulging biceps. "People don't want to fight any more," says Temour Shah, a beefy 23-year-old, pumping weights under an Arnold Schwarzenegger poster at Gold's Gym in central Kabul. "They want to look healthy - like in the movies." Bodybuilding is the new craze of postwar Afghanistan, particularly among young urban men. The number of gyms in Kabul has doubled to 46 in the past two years, while a further 30 are scattered across the country. Every day from 5am men crowd into sweaty halls across the city, grappling with clanking weights machines before cracked mirrors. Conditions are spartan - water coolers, neat white towels and showers are unknown luxuries - but enthusiasm runs high. Barely able to afford the £4 monthly membership fee, some enthusiasts work out in their baggy shalwar kameez trousers; others use their work clothes.

(The Guardian)

A question that needs answering - how much of muslim culture is voluntary and how much is imposed?

Brain Power boosted by current

Apply Current, Boost Brain Power
By Amit Asaravala

Sending a weak electrical impulse through the front of a person's head can boost verbal skills by as much as 20 percent, according to a new study by the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. In the study, researchers at the institute asked 103 volunteers to recall as many words that begin with a particular letter as possible. The researchers then passed a 2-milliamp current -- one-tenth of what is needed to power a small LED (light-emitting diode) light -- through electrodes attached to the surfaces of the volunteers' foreheads. When the volunteers were quizzed again while the current was still on, this time with a different letter, they were able to come up with 20 percent more words on average. The findings could lead to new, drugless treatments for the symptoms of brain injuries and diseases, the researchers said. "This could be a very helpful way of boosting brain function in people with brain disorders," said lead researcher Eric Wassermann, a neurobiologist with the National Institute's Brain Stimulation Unit in Bethesda, Maryland. "Drugs have more side effects and addictive potential. This doesn't seem to have those problems, at least at this point."


Hey, I need some Duracell batteries, mine are running out...

Beheadings on the Rise

Beheadings on the Rise Around the World
By LOUIS MEIXLER, Associated Press Writer

ANKARA, Turkey - It was called "Operation Baghdad" and, to be sure, the headless bodies of the three police officers recalled the violence in that city. But these attacks happened in Haiti, not in Iraq The brutal beheadings in Iraq appear to have inspired militants in other parts of the world who are drawn to the shock value of the horrifying attacks and the intense publicity they attract. Thailand and the Netherlands are two other countries where suspected extremists recently beheaded or slit the throats of their victims in what appear to be copycat attacks. Rime Allaf, associate fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, said beheadings are spreading because the practice "has so horrified us in the West." "It achieves results and it makes the headlines," Allaf added. "People are talking about groups that we've never heard about before." The horrifying tactic has spread as far as the Caribbean island nation of Haiti, where loyalists of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide seized on the Iraqi beheadings as a symbol of strength and intimidation. The headless bodies of three police officers were found in Port-au-Prince early last month, and authorities said the militants had launched a terror campaign called "Operation Baghdad."

The veneer of civilisation crumbles, the animal returns...


"É fundamental que as pessoas dominem as linguagens ... Se alguém não compreender uma determinada linguagem dificilmente conseguirá responder a solicitações ou compreender o que lhe é pedido ...

E quais são as linguagens que é fundamental dominar no mundo moderno ?

- Língua Portuguesa – a nossa língua materna que permite a comunicação em Portugal e onde existe actualmente demasiafda iliteracia funcional
- Língua Inglesa – a língua internacional de trabalho e que é algo que as empresas multinacionais procuram, dado vivermos numa sociedade cada vez mais global
- Língua Matemática – a compreensão matemática é fundamental para resolver os problemas científicos, não só ao nível da álgebra, mas também da geometria, etc. Sem raciocínio matemático, dificilmente se poderá desenvolver uma sociedade onde as pessoas sejam capazes de resolver os problemas que se lhes deparam
- Língua Informática – derivada da matemática está a parte de programação, mas é fundamental promover a alfabetização informática, essencialmente ao nível da utilização, visto que as ferramentas informáticas são a base do aumento da produtividade, não sendo compreensível a manutenção de muitas tarefas realizadas manualmente"


Can't agree more...
A democracy is held aloft by 2 pillars, one of which is Education and the other is Law. In Portugal we are sadly lacking in both departments.

Education should serve two basic functions:
1) Prepare tomorrows citizen giving each the capacity to think for himself, the capacity to reason and the capacity to deal with a world, increasingly full of conflicting information.

2) Develop the skills a country needs to power its economy in all it's variations

05 November 2004


Queremos uma Alternativa Real ao Bloco Central. Acreditamos na liberdade. Na liberdade de expressão. Na liberdade de iniciativa. Mas também defendemos a responsabilidade. E defendemos que quem clama por direitos não se pode esquecer dos seus deveres. Não há por aí mais gente desiludida com os partidos de poder, que se posicione ideologicamente ao centro, interessada em criar um movimento político que condicione o actual "bloco central"? Alguém que se preocupe com o futuro do país e que queira fazer algo, levar avante as reformas necessárias, sem objectivos de carreirismo partidário? Como fazer? Vamos a ver. Se fosse fácil, já outros o teriam feito.

I agree, Portugal needs a change!

Canada's Oil Reserves

Canada's Oil Reserves 2nd Only To Saudi Arabia
By Campion Walsh

The U.S. government said Thursday Canada holds the world's second-largest oil reserves, taking into account Alberta oil sands previously considered too expensive to develop.

The Energy Information Administration, the statistical wing of the U.S. Department of Energy, has included recent private sector estimates that an additional 175 billion barrels of oil could be recovered from resources known to exist in Western Canada since the 19th Century. At a briefing on this year's EIA International Energy Outlook, EIA Administrator Guy Caruso cited a December report in the Oil and Gas Journal that raised Canada's proven oil reserves to 180 billion bbls from 4.9 billion bbls, thanks to inclusion of the oil sands - also known as tar sands - now considered recoverable with existing technology and market conditions. "Canada will be producing a lot of oil from the development of these tar sands, but the quality of those reserves differs substantially from the Saudi reserves in terms of cost and ability to bring...the productive capacity on in a meaningful way," Caruso said. "There is a difference in the absolute amount versus the ability to turn that into productive capacity," he said.

The latest estimates put Canada ahead of war-torn Iraq, which the EIA estimates holds 112.5 billion bbls and is constrained from raising production for entirely different reasons. The U.S. agency estimates Saudi Arabia's recoverable oil reserves at 264 billion bbls.


The main reason the U.S. went to war in Iraq was because of the Oil? So when does the U.S. invade Canada?

A new look at Time, Entropy and the End of The Universe

Why Time Might Flow in One Direction

Summary - (Nov 1, 2004) Physicists have puzzled for more than a century about the nature of time. Why does it go in one direction? Time could go backwards, and physics formulas would still work properly. Researchers from the University of Chicago think they might have an answer: we live in a universe of ever increasing entropy. Instead of one Big Bang going off, and then the Universe expands and cools forever, small fluctuations in nearly empty space could set off new Big Bangs - the Universe would never reach equilibrium.

Full Story -

The big bang could be a normal event in the natural evolution of the universe that will happen repeatedly over incredibly vast time scales as the universe expands, empties out and cools off, according to two University of Chicago physicists. “We like to say that the big bang is nothing special in the history of our universe,” said Sean Carroll, an Assistant Professor in Physics at the University of Chicago. Carroll and University of Chicago graduate student Jennifer Chen will electronically publish a paper describing their ideas at Carroll and Chen’s research addresses two ambitious questions: why does time flow in only one direction, and could the big bang have arisen from an energy fluctuation in empty space that conforms to the known laws of physics?

The question about the arrow of time has vexed physicists for a century because “for the most part the fundamental laws of physics don’t distinguish between past and future. They’re time-symmetric,” Carroll said. And closely bound to the issue of time is the concept of entropy, a measure of disorder in the universe. As physicist Ludwig Boltzmann showed a century ago, entropy naturally increases with time. “You can turn an egg into an omelet, but not an omelet into an egg,” Carroll said. But the mystery remains as to why entropy was low in the universe to begin with. The difficulty of that question has long bothered scientists, who most often simply leave it as a puzzle to answer in the future.

Carroll and Chen have made an attempt to answer it now.



Thanks to NewLinks for the code for (On this Day).

04 November 2004

Yasser Arafat - Palestine on the road to change...

Palestinians prepare to grieve
Sophie Claudet | Ramallah, West Bank

As Yasser Arafat lay brain dead in a Paris hospital on Thursday, Palestinians in the town that he left less than a week ago for life-saving treatment were already preparing to mourn their veteran leader. Flags were flying half-mast over Arafat's headquarters compound in the West Bank town of Ramallah in tribute to the United Arab Emirates' founding father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahayan, who died earlier this week. After their iftah meal, which marks the end of fasting during Ramadan, residents of Ramallah were glued to their television sets for the latest news from Paris on their 75-year-old leader. "I can't bear the thought he will die for good. He's our national leader, the one and only," said 33-year-old Mohammed Ribhi as his eyes filled with tears.

But Palestinian officials took to the airwaves to insist that talk of Arafat's death had been grossly exaggerated.


Yasser Arafat is dead or dying. There are a number of confused reports but it seems like Arafat is not going to make it. Will this be the event that brings new hope for a solution in this ravaged part of the world?

President Jorge Sampaio open to the possibility of a future, federal Europe

Sampaio defende construção de uma Europa federal nos próximos 20 anos

O Presidente da República, Jorge Sampaio, manifestou hoje o desejo de que a Europa se transforme numa federação "num prazo de 10 a 20 anos" e afirmou que o referendo sobre a Constituição europeia não deve ser posto em causa devido à falta de informação dos cidadãos. "Ficaria muito feliz por ver uma confederação, ou talvez mesmo uma federação de Estados-nação, [construída] num processo lento de perfeccionismo, o que acontecerá provavelmente, espero, num prazo de 10 a 20 anos. É um grande desafio", sublinhou o Presidente. Jorge Sampaio admitiu esta possibilidade durante um debate com o seu homólogo austríaco, Heinz Fischer, no fórum "Viver a Europa", que decorre no Centro de Congressos de Lisboa.

O Presidente da República assinalou também por várias vezes a necessidade de "uma estratégia para o futuro" da União Europeia, fora da qual disse não conceber Portugal. Sampaio pediu também que o referendo relacionado com o Tratado Constitucional da UE não seja dramatizado pelo facto de os cidadãos não conhecerem o documento em pormenor. "Não vamos dramatizar. Quem sabe o que está no programa do Governo quando vai votar? Dez por cento? E é um voto ilegal por isso? Não, é um voto, uma convicção", defendeu.


I agree, the future of Europe is a federal future... in 20\30 years. I doubt that it will happen any faster.

03 November 2004

The 2004 US Election Map

Posted by Hello

Bush Wins the 2004 elections - It's Over...

Bush wins second term as Kerry concedes
Democrat's team makes decision after looking at Ohio numbers

(CNN) -- President Bush plans to declare victory Wednesday after Sen. John Kerry conceded the election, aides to both men said. As in the 2000 race, the election came down to a single state.Ohio's 20 electoral votes proved decisive when it grew clear Wednesday morning that Bush's lead in the state was unlikely to be erased by provisional and absentee ballots. Those votes are still being counted. A Bush win in Ohio would give the president a projected 274 electoral votes --
270 are needed to win.


With the World looking on, somewhat stunned, George Bush has won his second term. I'm not suprised. Bush was able to hammer his message home far more effectively than Kerry. A message that was simple. 'If you don't vote for me the country will once again be vunerable to terrorists.' I suppose the Americans prefer the devil they know to the one they do not. Then there are also the religious\moral crusaders out to turn the US into some kind of quakers den. Personally I have to wonder how the US could produce two candidates of such average quality.

The Americans must remember, though, the words of one of their Icons:

"Elections belong to the people. It is their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters."
- Abraham Lincoln -

Never has this been more true...


01 November 2004

Bush vs Kerry - Tommorow is E-day

US rivals make closing arguments

George W Bush and John Kerry have begun a frantic last day of a US presidential race that remains too close to call. After campaigning across thousands of miles and scores of rallies, the main rivals will be just three streets and one hour apart in Wisconsin on Monday. It is one of the key states that could be won by either man and that could affect the overall election result. The BBC's Justin Webb in Washington says neither candidate can be sure of a win, and the last day may be decisive.

President Bush started the final day before the vote in Ohio, another state where even a narrow majority would give the winner the state's entire set of Electoral College votes that are used to pick the president. A vote for his ticket, he told an early-morning crowd in Wilmington, was a vote for "a safer America and a stronger America and a better America". Later, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the incumbent president said he had "the finish line in sight".

1. Florida - 27 electoral votes
2. Pennsylvania - 21
3. Ohio - 20
4. Minnesota - 10
5. Wisconsin - 10
6. Iowa - 7
7. Nevada - 5
8. New Mexico - 5
9. New Hampshire - 4

Our correspondent says most respectable commentators have given up trying to predict the outcome of the election, but agree that persuading supporters to go to vote on Tuesday is crucial. The weather could even play a part, with thundery showers predicted for parts of Ohio and elsewhere in the Midwest, where states could yet be won by a few hundred votes.


The question now is... Will the scenes at the end of the 2000 elections be repeated tommorow?

The Whoppers of 2004
Bush and Kerry repeat discredited claims in their final flurry of ads. Here's our pre-election summary of the misinformation we found during the Bush-Kerry presidential campaign.


As election day neared, both candidates continued to twist and falsify in their final TV ads -- and in a blizzard of expensive mail as well. Bush continued to accuse Kerry of proposing government-run health care and more taxes for middle-income persons, and of voting in the past to "slash" spending on intelligence and of opposing mainstream military weapons. Kerry claimed Bush would cut Social Security benefits 45% and that he subsidizes companies that send jobs overseas. And those are just some of the untruths the candidates are feeding to voters. In this article we again take on those claims, and summarize the major misrepresentations made by both sides since the start of the general election campaign last March when Kerry sewed up the Democratic nomination

Truth and Fiction: What they said and what they should have said!

Caught With Their Pants Down
By Julia Scheeres

Eight years ago, Brian Bates got fed up with prostitutes brazenly plying their trade on the streets of his Oklahoma City neighborhood and the apparent indifference of city officials. When a police department representative told him there was nothing law enforcement could do unless officers actually heard a prostitute offer sex for money or saw the sex act itself, Bates decided to gather that hard evidence for them. He picked up his handheld video camera and went on a one-man crusade, filming prostitutes and johns having sex in public spaces, then dialing 911 and placing the copulating couples under citizen's arrest until officers arrived. Faced with this filmic evidence, most of his subjects quickly pleaded guilty. Bates, a baby-faced 34-year-old marketing professional who calls prostitution a "plague of immorality," estimates he's caught several hundred such meretricious exchanges on tape. Over the years, he says he's had local thugs fire shots at him, prostitutes mace him, and johns try to run him down in their cars. He filmed his first coupling in 1996, when he was driving to work and found himself waiting at a stop sign behind three cars, all of whose drivers were being chatted up by prostitutes. He had his video camera ready, so when one of the prostitutes climbed into a small blue hatchback, he followed the car to a dead-end street, then walked up to the side window and taped the woman fellating the driver.

"You're busted, buddy -- I hope you're not married," he yelled in what would become his signature battle cry.


Here's a citizen helping the authorities. Very noble of him?

The City Sinks...

High Tides Put Venice Sites Under Water

VENICE, Italy - Unusually high tides sent sea water sweeping through Venice on Sunday, covering 80 percent of the city by afternoon. St. Mark's Square and other famous locations were inundated, forcing tourists and residents alike to don rubber boots and use elevated walkways. St. Mark's Square, the heart of the city and one of its lowest points, was covered by at least 16 inches of water. A canoeist was spotted in the square. City officials put out raised wooden walkways, but in some places the water rose above them, the ANSA news agency said. Leonardo Cossutta, of the city office that monitors tides, said Venice's waterborne public transportation was suspended for about an hour and some shops reported water damage. Venice is prone to periodic flooding. The government has approved a plan to install mobile barriers on the Adriatic seabed near the entrance to the Venetian lagoon to protect the city when threatened by high tides.


This is enough to break ones heart. One of the most beautiful cities in the world is disappearing while 10 years later the politicians and the scientist still haven't put a solution into practice.

Harry Potters' Witchcraft

Pupil appeals over Harry Potter "witchcraft"

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A South African schoolboy has appealed to education authorities after refusing to answer an exam question on Harry Potter because he believes the best-selling children's' books promote witchcraft.

Eighteen-year-old John Smit did not answer a comprehension question on a review of one of J.K. Rowling's books on the boy wizard, worth 30 percent of his English exam. "He wouldn't answer it because it supports witchcraft, and we're against witchcraft ... the Bible is against witchcraft," Smit's mother, who did not wish to give her first name, told Reuters on Monday. The family has written to provincial director of examinations to complain. Authorities have yet to respond. "I hope they will give him his average mark. This shouldn't happen again," she said. African Christian Democratic Party MP Cheryllyn Dudley said South Africa needed a clear policy to avoid other pupils facing moral dilemmas during exams. "I have read (Harry Potter books), I have researched them thoroughly, and my personal opinion is that they are witchcraft manuals," Dudley told Reuters


Well, I've heard many excuses but this is one of the most original...

29 October 2004

Osama Bin Laden - The dead man speaks...

Excerpts: Bin Laden address

Arabic TV station al-Jazeera has broadcast a videotape of Osama Bin Laden addressing the American people.

"O American people, my talk to you is about the best way to avoid another Manhattan, about the war, its causes and results...

"Security is an important pillar of human life. Free people do not relinquish their security. This is contrary to Bush's claim that we hate freedom...

"Let him tell us why we did not strike Sweden, for example. It is known that those who hate freedom do not have proud souls, like the souls of the 19 people [killed while perpetrating the 11 September 2001 attacks], may God have mercy on them...

"We fought you because we are free and do not accept injustice. We want to restore freedom to our nation. Just as you waste our security, we will waste your security...

"Despite entering the fourth year after 11 September, Bush is still deceiving you and hiding the truth from you and therefore the reasons are still there to repeat what happened."

Bin Laden added that the idea of striking the towers in New York occurred to him when "we saw the injustice of the US-Israeli alliance against our people in Palestine and Lebanon", when, in 1982 "the United States gave permission to the Israelis to invade Lebanon" with, he alleged, the help of the US Sixth Fleet.

He said that these events had generated a "strong determination to punish the "unjust ones". "We did not find it difficult to deal with Bush and his administration, because it is similar to regimes in our countries, half of which are governed by the military and the other half of which are governed by the sons of kings and presidents; and we have a long experience with them. In both categories, you find many who are characterised by hubris, arrogance, greed, and unlawful acquisition of money...

"Your security does not lie in the hands of Kerry, Bush, or al-Qaeda. Your security is in your own hands. Each and every state that does not tamper with our security will have automatically assured its own security."


(The story from
(The story from
(The story from


(Correio da Manha)

Eram 7h00 quando dois agentes da Polícia Judiciária (PJ) de Leiria, acompanhados por um procurador adjunto do Ministério Público (MP), bateram à porta de António Caldeira, autor do blogue ‘Do Portugal Profundo’. Um caso de “censura” e “tentativa de intimidação”, considera o professor universitário de Alcobaça, que tem divulgado na internet pormenores do processo Casa Pia.

O blogue ‘Do Portugal Profundo’ continua ‘on-line’, com vários documentos relativos ao processo Casa Pia “Eles entraram e apreenderam disquetes, CD e o meu computador. Fizeram isso também em casa da minha mãe, de onde levaram um computador que eu já não usava há dez anos”, contou Caldeira ao CM. O professor de Marketing terá sido constituído arguido do crime de desobediência, por ter desrespeitados os autos que proibiram a reprodução das peças processuais ou documentos incorporados no processo Casa Pia. “Sou notificado de desobediência, mas isso pressupõe que eu conhecesse os autos. Como podem eles ter a certeza disso?” Caldeira terá também sido sujeito a termo de identidade e residência.


António Caldeira não tem dúvidas: “há uma rede pedófila de controlo do Estado a tentar silenciar o meu blogue e intimidar a minha acção”, considera, dizendo ter sido essa rede a fazer a denúncia que motivou o MP. O blogue ‘Do Portugal Profundo’ nasceu há mais de um ano como um ‘site’ generalista, e a dada altura passou a dar grande atenção ao processo Casa Pia. “Tomei conhecimento de que a questão era equivalente ao escândalo de pedofilia da Bélgica, só que mais grave. A rede pedófila é semelhante à Máfia de Itália, com a diferença de que ainda não fez mortos”, diz o professor. “Escrevo em nome do País e da democracia. Move-me a necessidade de limpeza do Estado desta rede pedófila.”Apesar daquilo que considera ser uma “tentativa de intimidação e limitação da liberdade de expressão”, António

Caldeira promete continuar a alimentar o seu blogue, que continua activo no endereço “Enquanto eu puder, no cumprimento da lei, continuarei a falar do que acho importante”. Contactado pelo CM, Jorge van Krieken, autor do ‘site’ ‘ReporterX’, que também publica informação de cariz semelhante, não quis revelar se alguma vez foi alvo de acções do MP. “Não vou prestar quaisquer declarações ao vosso jornal”, disse.


Na sua mensagem mais recente o blogue ‘Do Portugal Profundo’ publica na íntegra o relatório do Serviço de Informações e Segurança (SIS), concluído em 1999, intitulado ‘A Pedofilia em Portugal: ponto da Situação’. “Este documento, apresentado no Conselho de Informações e Segurança, foi transmitido à Polícia Judiciária e motivou a investigação consequente”, explica Caldeira. O ‘site’ nunca divulgou os nomes das vítimas.

Another slow step forward

EU leaders sign constitution
Matthew Tempest, political correspondent

The 25 leaders of the European Union today signed the EU's first constitution, in the Rome palace which saw the creation of the original common market 47 years ago. The illustrious ceremony, hosted by the Italian prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi, in the Palazzo dei Conservatori, leaves the treaty with two years to be ratified by each member-state, either through their national parliaments or individual referendums - leaving its eventual enactment in doubt.

The 300-page constitution, if ratified, would give the EU a president, a foreign minister and a charter of fundamental rights - all deeply controversial in many EU nations. The foreign secretary, Jack Straw, today confirmed that a UK referendum on the constitution was "likely" to be in spring 2006 - after both a general election and the UK's rotating presidency of the EU.

The new "rulebook" for the EU replaces over 80,000 pages of legal documentation accumulated through a variety of treaties bonding the original European Economic Community of 1957, and was prompted by the accession this year of 10 new member states, mostly from the former Soviet block.

Good News for those, who like me, believe that the future of Europe is Europe.
Problem is getting it ratified by the indivual states when most europeans have lost faith in Europe, or never had it to begin with.

(the same story from

An interesting scenario

President Edwards?

It's Jan. 20, 2005, and a stunned America watches as John Edwards is sworn in as both vice president and acting president of the United States. Impossible? No, nor is a Bush-Edwards administration.

There are just a few upsets needed in states where the presidential race is very close. Even if President Bush wins Wisconsin and Minnesota - two states he lost in 2000 - Senator John Kerry would force a 269-269 Electoral College tie if he carries Colorado, Missouri, Nevada and New Hampshire, and Al Gore's states. But Colorado's ballot initiative to divide its electoral votes by popular ballot, rather than have them be winner take all, could change all that. If it's approved, and voting in that state splits as it did in 2000, Mr. Bush would pick up four votes, and win 273-265.

If recounts, challenges to provisional ballots and other legal actions don't overturn that result, the Supreme Court could again be called upon to decide the election. Imagine a ruling that applies the results of the Colorado initiative only to future presidential elections, not the 2004 contest.That would reinstate the Electoral College 269-269 deadlock, and send the tied contests to Congress; the House would choose the president and the Senate the vice president.

But so hellishly unlikely...

Microsoft, Others File More Anti-Spam Lawsuits
Thu 28 October, 2004 23:12

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Microsoft Corp. MSFT.O and other Internet access providers filed three new lawsuits on Thursday to stop the spread of unsolicited e-mail messages touting everything from home refinancing to miracle health cures. At the same time, America Online, a unit of Time Warner Inc. TWX.N , filed a lawsuit in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, targeting "spim," or unsolicited messages sent to users of its instant messaging service.

Microsoft, the world's largest software maker, and AOL, EarthLink Inc. ELNK.O and Yahoo Inc. YHOO.O filed the lawsuits "against those who strain our consumers' inboxes with unwanted and deceptive e-mail, many carrying and transmitting malicious code, spyware and links to phishing sites."

"Phishing" is the practice of sending bogus e-mails that try to trick people into revealing private financial information for purposes of identity theft.

My inbox thanks you...

Spain gives the go-ahead for stem cell research

Spain authorises stem cell research
Fri 29 October, 2004 17:22

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain's Socialist government has authorised research with embryonic stem cells, the latest in a string of laws set to rile the Catholic church. Spain's previous right-wing, pro-church Popular Party government passed a law last year to allow stem cell research on embryos but only under a string of conditions. It never took the necessary steps to put the law into effect. But the new government stripped out some of the conditions and issued guidelines on Friday so that scientists can start their work. The move came despite opposition from the Vatican. Ninety percent of Spain's population calls themselves Catholic but liberal views increasingly coexist with traditional Catholic values. "It is not ethical to place obstacles and difficulties in the way of scientists who are using their talent and knowledge to improve our capacity to treat illness," Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega told a news conference.

When will Portugal do the same?

Things do change II

Charter on Women’s Rights Getting Ready
P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News

JEDDAH, 29 October 2004 — The King Abdul Aziz National Dialogue Center in Riyadh is drafting a charter on women’s rights, its President Saleh Al-Hosayn said. The charter will be considered a reference on women in Saudi Arabia. He said the recommendations of the third national dialogue on women in Madinah would be given precedence in the charter. He did not say when the charter would be ready.The Madinah dialogue, which was held in June, ended with a call to respect the equality of sexes granted by Islam. “Islam guarantees equality and does not differentiate between people based on race, sex or color,” Hosayn said while opening the forum.“It is a natural situation achieved by ensuring that people enjoy the same legal rights, dignity and obligations,” he added. But he had warned that women working outdoors would not find enough time to raise their children and demanded a balance between women’s rights and their obligations. Both male and female participants called for a review of the taboo shrouding local customs governing women’s lives. However, defenders said it was such customs that provided a sense of identity to Saudi people.

“The forum lifted a virtual taboo that has existed for years about discussing women’s issues. It initiated a social dialogue and triggered and renewed interest in women’s rights and roles in the future of Saudi Arabia,” says Samar Fatany, a Saudi radio journalist based in Jeddah. “The dialogue reflected the Saudi leadership’s opinion that women are an integral part of the reform process. It conveyed the message very clearly that both men and women are partners in reform,” she added.

Saudi women play an active role in society despite the problems facing them. They own some 20,000 firms — some five percent of all registered businesses — ranging from ordinary retail businesses to various types of industry.


If this leads to change then it is good news!

28 October 2004

Censorship II - Blogger Antonio gets a nasty visit from the cops...

António from the Blog "Do Portugal Profundo" was censored by the Portuguese Cops when they walked into his house with a warrant and ended taking away with them his computer, amongst other things. This happened last night and is related to the "Casa Pia" Child molestation case. For a long time now António has been revealing excerpts from documents pertaining to this case allowing many portuguese (and others) in on details of the case, which is an example of the extreme mess the portuguese legal system is in (This too has been done by some newspapers who have, till now, suffered no midnight raids). Seems recently censorship has become a way of life in Portugal, with cases like "Marcelo Rebelo Sousa" still making headlines. The question is who will be next?

"Sete horas, ainda de noite. Bateram à porta. Sem medo, ainda meio estremunhado, abro. Três vultos. O primeiro diz:

- "Polícia Judiciária de Leiria. Temos um mandado de busca da sua residência".

Franqueio a porta. Entram dois agentes e um procurador-adjunto. Mostram-me o mandado de busca domiciliária, assinado por um juiz, às minhas residências (sic) e veículos (o meu carro e outro que vendi há oito anos)."
(Taken from "Do Portugal Profundo")

Cry the Beloved Country

South Africans 'armed to the hilt'

South Africans own more guns than the police and army. South African civilians own more guns than the police and military combined, according to a study by Gun Free South Africa and Cape Town University. Some 8.4% of the population own a gun, which amounts to 3.7 million firearms, the researchers found. In the region, on average 2.27% of the population own guns, while Mozambique has a rate of 0.04%, the study says. South Africa has one of the world's highest incidences of gun-related crime which has led to new fire arm laws.

Apartheid legacy

According to the legislation, which came into effect in July, gun owners now have to reapply for their licences, undergo stringent checks and sit an exam. South Africa's high rate is a result of the legacy of apartheid where members of the white community were encouraged to own a firearm. The act also raised the legal age for owning a firearm from 16 to 21.

"South Africa's high rate is a result of the legacy of apartheid where members of the white community were encouraged to own a firearm," report author, Guy Lamb, from Cape Town University's Centre for Conflict Resolution, told BBC News Online. He said South Africans widely regard their environment as dangerous and so are looking for ways to protect themselves. Additionally, members of the security forces were previously allowed to keep their firearms when they left the force. He said that gun shops reported that black South Africans now accounted for most of their customers. There are some 500 gun shops in the country.


That's why I left, had guns pointed at me, once too often. Sad though, South Africa is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Pity that humans live there, otherwise it would have been perfect...


Foreigners Blocked From Bush Site

LONDON -- President Bush's official campaign website has blocked access to foreign surfers since Monday, an internet monitoring company said Wednesday. Netcraft, based in Bath in western England, said the site "appears to be rejecting visitors from most points outside the United States, while allowing access from U.S. locations." Netcraft did not report any reason for the blockage. "We can't say precisely, except that it seems to be a decision by the maintainers of the website," said Rich Miller, an analyst at Netcraft. Miller said the company detected a six-hour blackout last week which affected the Bush website and the site of the Republican National Committee. The latter site was accessible Wednesday from Britain.

"Last week's simultaneous outages for and prompted speculation that an electronic attack may have occurred, as the two sites are hosted on separate web servers," Miller said in a statement posted on Netcraft's site. "The Bush campaign told media the outage was 'no big deal' and offered no specific explanation for the outage." Netcraft said it monitors website response times from four locations within the United States and three in other countries. "Since Monday morning, requests to from stations in London, Amsterdam and Sydney, Australia, have failed, while the four U.S. monitoring stations show no performance problems. Web users in Canada report they are able to visit the site," Netcraft said.

(Wired News)

What is George Bush afraid of, that some trigger happy european will hack his site with anti-Bush messages?

26 October 2004

Who is to Blame?

Iraq Blames US-Led Forces for Army Massacre
By Michael Georgy

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Iraq (news - web sites)'s U.S.-backed government said on Tuesday that "major neglect" by its American-led allies led to a massacre of 49 army recruits at the weekend. In one of the bloodiest attacks on Iraq's fledgling security forces, the unarmed recruits were shot in the back of their heads after being stopped by guerrillas posing as policemen as they traveled home for leave. "There was an ugly crime in which a large group of National Guards were martyred," Prime Minister Iyad Allawi told Iraq's interim national council. "We believe this issue was the outcome of major neglect by some parts of the multinational (forces)," he said without elaborating.

Al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the attack. Iraq's Minister of State for national security affairs later softened the government's tone, saying he was not assigning blame but waiting for the findings of that inquiry, which is due in three weeks. "The investigation will seek to determine whether inside information was obtained on the movement of troops and why the troops were unarmed and without armed escort," Minister of State Kassim Daoud told Reuters.


Is this the end of the Honeymoon!

Mais jornais americanos votam em Kerry que em Bush

O "Washington Post" declarou ontem o seu apoio a John Kerry nas presidenciais dos EUA - e, mais importante para o democrata, o "Orlando Sentinel" também. Kerry tem mais jornais a seu favor que Bush - incluindo nos "estados decisivos". O apoio da imprensa terá influência?John Kerry vai à frente de George W. Bush na corrida aos apoios na imprensa. Segundo uma contagem da "Editor & Publisher", 102 jornais americanos apoiam o candidato democrata, contra 70 a favor de George W. Bush; os jornais "pró-Kerry" têm uma tiragem total de 14,2 milhões de exemplares, para 8,6 milhões dos jornais "pró-Bush". No entanto, nem todos os "endorsements" têm o mesmo peso; nestas eleições, mais importantes que jornais nacionais são os dos "estados indecisos" como a Florida ou o Ohio.

( Jornal Público, 25 de Outubro de 2004 )

Shortage of Girls in China

China Offers Parents Cash for Girls
Mail & Guardian (liberal), Johannesburg

China is offering to pay couples a premium for producing baby girls to counter an alarming gender imbalance created by the country's one-child population control policy. Last year, 117 boys were born for every 100 girls in China, compared with a global average of 105 to 100. Faced by a socially destabilising shortage of more than 30-million women by 2020, senior family planning officials said on Thursday that they will offer welfare incentives to couples with two daughters and tighten the prohibition on sex-selective abortions. "China has set the goal of lowering the sex ratio to a normal level by 2010," said Zhao Baige, vice-minister of the National Population and Family Planning Commission. To reverse the trend, pilot programmes are already under way in China's poorest provinces. In some areas, couples with two daughters and no sons have been promised an annual payment of R430 (about $80 US) once they reach 60 years of age. The money, which is a significant sum in areas where the average income is about R5 (less than $1.00 US) a day, will also be given to families with only one child to discourage couples with a daughter from trying again for a boy. Some regions have gone further. In parts of Fujian province, local governments have given housing grants of approximately R11000 ($1700 US) to couples with two girls. The state will expand welfare programmes so poor couples rely less on producing a son to care for them in their old age. It will also push a "caring for girls" propaganda campaign to counter the preference for boys.

But it is far from certain that the measures will be any more successful than previous attempts to reverse the preference for boys. Many families, particularly in rural areas, place greater value on sons, who are considered best suited to continue the family line, generate income and ensure that parents are cared for during their old age. A disproportionate number of female fetuses are aborted and girls are at greater risk than boys of being abandoned or sold.


To all the lonely girls, here's your chance...

25 October 2004

Some Things do Change

Trading their guns for pens
Sat Oct 23, 4:27 PM ET
By Bay Fang

KABUL--They were three years younger then, playing at adulthood with wispy beards and Kalashnikovs. They spent their days sniping at Taliban fighters from trenches along the front line, operating radios from mountaintop bunkers, and serving tea to the local warlord and his guests. For these teenagers living in Dashti Qala, the frontline town in northern Afghanistan (news - web sites), daily life had one focus and one focus only--the enemy outlined on the next hill.

Today their faces are thinner, with age and a student diet, and they talk not of fighting and of the enemy but of their futures. Hedayatullah studies engineering. Osman is preparing for medical school. Mukhtar wants to be a teacher. Jalaluddin harbors hopes of going abroad. In the three years since the Taliban fell, these young men and their lives--as soldiers turned students--are the faces of change in Afghanistan.

Mukhtar was 15 when the Taliban came to the village of Khoja Ghar. Stories of their atrocities -- raping young women and burning the old -- live on in Northern Alliance lore, and most boys of fighting age took up a weapon and joined the local commander. Mukhtar was given a rocket-propelled-grenade launcher--which, his friends laugh, was taller than he was then. "At the time, our feeling was only to defend our nation," says Mukhtar, now 19. "We had no chance to study. No one knew if the Taliban would be there forever. We couldn't think about becoming an engineer, a teacher, a doctor. We only thought about fighting."

Today, nine of them live in one tiny room, above the bus station where passengers headed to Kandahar throng. Mats line the floor, and pieces of clothing hang haphazardly from a rod across the ceiling. The one desk is piled high with notebooks and papers. There are so many young men like them that the university has run out of space in the dormitories. Their fellow students come from all different backgrounds -- some fought with the Northern Alliance, some with the Taliban. Some men are starting the equivalent of middle school in their late 20s, having never before had the chance to study. "No one looks down on anyone else," says Hedayatullah, "because we all know we had no other choice."


At least for some, things seem to be getting better...

Welcome to the Brave, New World

Security for Internet Users Deemed Weak
Mon Oct 25,10:00 AM ET Technology - AP
By TED BRIDIS, AP Technology Writer

WASHINGTON - Internet users at home are not nearly as safe online as they believe, according to a nationwide inspection by researchers. They found most consumers have no firewall protection, outdated antivirus software and dozens of spyware programs secretly running on their computers. One beleaguered home user in the government-backed study had more than 1,000 spyware programs running on his sluggish computer when researchers examined it. Bill Mines, a personal trainer in South Riding, Va., did not fare much better. His family's 3-year-old Dell computer was found infected with viruses and more than 600 pieces of spyware surreptitiously monitoring his online activities. "I was blown away," Mines said. "I had a lot of viruses and other things I didn't know about. I had no idea things like this could happen." The Internet always has had its share of risky neighborhoods and dark alleys. But with increasingly sophisticated threats from hackers, viruses, spam e-mails and spyware, trouble is finding computer users no matter how cautiously they roam online.

The technology industry is feeling the pain, too. Spurred by the high costs of support calls from irritated customers — and fearful that frustrated consumers will stop buying new products — Internet providers, software companies and computer-makers are making efforts to increase awareness of threats and provide customers with new tools to protect themselves. Still, many computer users appear remarkably unprepared for the dangers they face. The study being released Monday by America Online and the National Cyber Security Alliance found that 77 percent of 326 adults in 12 states assured researchers in a telephone poll they were safe from online threats. Nearly as many people felt confident they were already protected specifically from viruses and hackers. When experts visited those same homes to examine computers, they found two-thirds of adults using antivirus software that was not updated in at least seven days.

Two-thirds of the computer users also were not using any type of protective firewall program, and spyware was found on the computers of 80 percent of those in the study.

(Associated Press)

The Internet Jungle is getting wilder all the time. Where will it end?