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Current Topic: Current Events

Life Imitates Art - Again ...
Topic: Current Events 6:07 pm EDT, Jun 10, 2004

Spitting Image, 1984 to 1992: "The influence of American politics on the British scene was apparent in frequent lampoons of Ronald Reagan. American news outlets excerpted a video with Ron and Nancy as Leaders of the Pack, singing "Do Do Ron Ron." The befuddled Reagan also appeared in a serial thriller, "The President's Brain is Missing," and was featured prominently in the Spitting Image-produced video for Genesis' song, "Land of Illusion." In September 1986, NBC aired a two-part original Spitting Image special in which the secret arbiters of fame, including Bill Cosby and Ed McMahon, hatch a clandestine plot to have an over-muscled Sylvester Stallone elected president." It can only be a matter of time...

Life Imitates Art - Again ...

By the River of the BBC's Green Room of Babylon
Topic: Current Events 10:37 am EDT, Jun  7, 2004

What follows is a newsletter from a respected arts "Lord of the Realm" and BBC broadcaster, reflecting on his weekly BBC radio 4 broadcast. It says it all about American Imperialism, though he (like me) loves America and is a supporter of the USA:

Read the website if you wish:


After this morning's programme on Babylon, we spoke in the Green Room as usual but for longer than usual. It was both illuminating and depressing. The main topic was the sadness of the scholars at the destruction of the archaeological sites in present day Iraq, which is largely the area of the ancient Mesopotamia we had been discussing on In Our Time, the Mesopotamia of the first cities, the Mesopotamia of the development of writing, geometry, arithmetic, the invention of the wheel and of the spinning wheel for poetry, the development of religion, the first great literature - that Mesopotamia/Iraq.

Although they were worried about the looting of the museums, they were reconciled to the fact that the objects would have moved onto the blackmarket - in fact, one or two of them seemed certain that they were already swilling around on the black market - and at least they would be intact. Not so on the great archaeological sites. Reports suggest that widespread looting by - and here I hesitate - is it Iraqis or other gangs of thieves from neighbouring/various countries - has done probably irreparable damage to the sites of the oldest civilisations in the world. They explained that to get out the delicate objects from an
archaeological site as old as that of Babylon, for instance, you needed immense care and patience. If you went in with a bulldozer simply to look for bits of gold or lumps with suggestive or sellable-looking figures on them, then in the process you destroyed much of what was of real value. One of the reasons why their area of study - Sumerian, Babylonian - is declining in allure to younger students is that these students cannot get to the sites. (And another reason is the massively competing claims of the not dissimilar age of Egyptian remains which are very easily accessible and massively monumental and often very well
cared for.) But the idea that out there the beginnings of civilised society are being literally dug up and discarded, despoiled and not only by local gangs, but by those who are operating in the place from the West and have themselves become, to some extent, loot hunters - is a very depressing one. It makes you glad that previous looters, with a good eye, got out as much stuff as they did and saw it stored, so much of it, especially the cuneiform tablets, in safety. Best wishes

Melvyn Bragg

Visit the In Our Time website:
and the Radio 4 Homepage:

Journalist Arrested in Israel
Topic: Current Events 1:03 pm EDT, May 27, 2004

Israel: British journalist arrested

Statement by Amnesty International's Donatella Rovera on the arrest in Jerusalem of Peter Hounam, the British journalist who published details in the Sunday Times of Israel's secret nuclear programme in 1986 based on information he received from Mordechai Vanunu:
"At 9:30 last night, I was sitting in the garden of the Jerusalem Hotel with a colleague. Peter Hounam was brought into the garden by five plain-clothes members of the security forces or police. As they were going to take him into the hotel, he broke away from them and ran over to my table. He looked very concerned and just had the time to tell me: 'I am being arrested, please tell the Sunday Times, please let people know.'"

"The five members of the security forces grabbed him and immediately pulled him away. He didn't have the chance to say anything else."

"He was taken upstairs to his room and, after 20 minutes, they brought him back down. They were carrying his bags, they took him outside and there was one police vehicle with security forces in uniform and two plain white cars. Plain-clothes officers put him in one plain car and the three cars drove off."

The Israeli authorities have apparently confirmed to the British Foreign Office that they are detaining a British national.

Donatella Rovera is currently in Israel on a research mission for Amnesty International, collecting information and testimony on alleged human rights violations.


For immediate release May 27 2004


THE NUJ has condemned the Israeli authorities for the arrest of the British journalist who interviewed nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu. The union says Peter Hounam must be released and allowed to continue his work in Israel.

The former award-winning former Sunday Times investigative reporter was held last night (Wednesday). Security officials have given no information about the arrest.

Peter Hounam wrote the Sunday Times story in which Mordechai Vanunu, a former technician at the Dimona nuclear plant at Dimona, gave details of Israel's nuclear weapons programme.

Mordechai Vanunu was released last month after serving an 18-year prison sentence for espionage and treason. Peter Hounam was one of many overseas supporters in Israel to greet him on his release. Under conditions imposed on Mordechai Vanunu he is not allowed to leave the country or to have any contact with foreigners.

NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear has protested to the Israeli Ambassador in London, Dr Zvi Shtauber, demanding an explanation and Peter Hounam's immediate release.

Jeremy Dear said: "The whole episode of Mordechai Vanunu has been shameful for the Israeli government. First they seize him illegally and lock him up for 18 years, most of it in solitary confinement. He has done his time but they are still punishing him.

"Now they are punishing the reporter to whom he gave the story. We must presume Peter Hounam has been arrested for allegedly attempting to be in contact with a source that gave him a major story, whom he has been unable to talk to for 18 years.

"Peter Hounam was and is just doing his job, which is to bring important information to the public's attention. He must be released at once - and not deported from Israel. If he wishes to talk to Mordechai Vanunu he must be allowed to do so."


Jeremy Dear 07855 384 287
Tim Gopsill 0207 843 3701

September 2002 - what didn't we know?
Topic: Current Events 9:38 am EDT, May 27, 2004

This article from 2002 is substantially correct both in its analysis and in its foresight. Sometimes its worth looking back and asking ourselves - "Who warned us?" Perhaps we need to listen to what such people said about the consequences ...

September 2002 - what didn't we know?

Duped or just Bushwhacked?
Topic: Current Events 8:35 am EDT, May 26, 2004

"The (NY) Times and Iraq

Published: May 26, 2004

Over the last year this newspaper has shone the bright light of hindsight on decisions that led the United States into Iraq. We have examined the failings of American and allied intelligence, especially on the issue of Iraq's weapons and possible Iraqi connections to international terrorists. We have studied the allegations of official gullibility and hype. It is past
time we turned the same light on ourselves.

In doing so - reviewing hundreds of articles written during the prelude to war and into the early stages of the occupation - we found an enormous amount of journalism that we are proud of. In most cases, what we reported was an accurate reflection of the state of our knowledge at the time, much of it painstakingly extracted from intelligence agencies that were themselves dependent on sketchy information. And where those articles
included incomplete information or pointed in a wrong direction, they were later overtaken by more and stronger information. That is how news coverage normally unfolds.

But we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed tostand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged - or failed to emerge.

The problematic articles varied in authorship and subject matter, but many shared a common feature. They depended at least in part on information from a circle of Iraqi informants, defectors and exiles bent on "regime change" in Iraq, people whose credibility has come under increasing public debate in recent weeks. (The most prominent of the anti-Saddam campaigners, Ahmad Chalabi, has been named as an occasional source in Times articles since at least 1991, and has introduced reporters to other exiles. He became a
favorite of hard-liners within the Bush administration and a paid broker of information from Iraqi exiles, until his payments were cut off last week.) Complicating matters for journalists, the accounts of these exiles were often eagerly confirmed by United States officials convinced of the need to intervene in Iraq. Administration officials now acknowledge that they sometimes fell for misinformation from these exile sources. So did many news
organizations - in particular, this one.

Some critics of our coverage during that time have focused blame on
individual reporters. Our examination, however, indicates that the problem was more complicated. Editors at several levels who should have been challenging reporters and pressing for more skepticism were perhaps too intent on rushing scoops into the paper. Accounts of Iraqi defectors were not always weighed against their strong desire to have Saddam Hussein ousted. Articles based on dire claims about Iraq tended to get p... [ Read More (0.6k in body) ]

George Bush never looked into Nick's eyes
Topic: Current Events 8:19 am EDT, May 21, 2004

I'm not even sure that I believe the video, but I do believe in the father's demand for peace.

George Bush never looked into Nick's eyes

The sleeping village.
Topic: Current Events 8:05 am EDT, May 21, 2004

Increasingly the Iraq occupation becomes linked in memory to the situation in Israel. Houses demolished and children killed by Israeli soldiers searching for the enemy. Houses demolished and children killed by US soldiers searching for the enemy.,2763,1221658,00.html

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