Radclyffe Hall: Ah, what would we have done without her......? : )

Lesbian novel was 'danger to nation'

David Smith
Sunday January 2, 2005
The Observer

A lesbian novel was banned after official medical advice that it would encourage female homosexuality and lead to 'a social and national disaster'.

In 1928 Radclyffe Hall's The Well of Loneliness, which got no more racy than 'she kissed her full on the lips like a lover', led to an obscenity trial which considered the implications of the national shortage of men and 'two women in bed making beasts of themselves'.

Stanley Baldwin, the Prime Minister, his Chancellor, Winston Churchill, and Home Secretary Sir William Joynson-Hicks went to great lengths to suppress the book.

Hall, a flamboyant lesbian, wrote The Well of Loneliness to 'put my pen at the service of some of the most misunderstood people in the world'. She attended the trial in November 1928 dressed in a leather driving coat and Spanish riding hat. Sir Chartres Biron, the chief magistrate at Bow Street, ruled that the novel was an 'obscene libel' and all copies should be destroyed. Its publisher, Jonathan Cape, launched an appeal which proved abortive.

Documents show how Sir Archibald Bodkin, Director of Public Prosecutions, feared that the publisher would mobilise eminent writers to defend the book. He wrote to several doctors asking for a clinical analysis of what he called 'homo-sexualists'. In a letter to one of them, Sir Farquhar Buzzard, he explained: 'I want to be able to call some gentleman of undoubted knowledge, experience and position who could inform the court of the results to those unfortunate women (as I deem them) who have proclivities towards lesbianism, or those wicked women (as I deem them) who voluntarily indulge in these practices - results destructive morally, physically and even perhaps mentally.'

To Dr J.A. Hadfield of Harley Street, he wrote that a large amount of curiosity had been excited among women, 'and I am afraid in many cases curiosity may lead to imitation and indulgence in practices which are believed to be somewhat extensive having regard to the very large excess in numbers of women over men.'

Bodkin got the testimony he wanted from Sir William Henry Willcox, consulting medical adviser to the Home Office and physician at St Mary's Hospital in London. '[Lesbianism] is well known to have a debasing effect on those practising it, which is mental, moral and physical in character,' he said. 'It leads to gross mental illness, nervous instability, and in some cases to suicide in addicts to this vice. It is a vice which, if widespread, becomes a danger to the well-being of a nation ...'

Publication of the book, he said, would risk its being read 'by a large number of innocent persons, who might out of pure curiosity be led to discuss openly and possibly practise the form of vice described'. The book was finally released in Britain in 1949, after Hall's death.

Special reports
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Useful links - UK
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National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce
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International Gay and Lesbian Association

'If I met Mengele now, I'd forgive what he did to me'

‘If I met Mengele now, I’d forgive what he did to me’

Her face peered out from an iconic image taken on the liberation of the Nazi death camp. Now, six decades on, one survivor tells David Smith her compassion extends even to the most infamous of her torturers

Sunday January 9, 2005

Eva Mozes Kor learnt on her first night at Auschwitz what the smoke billowing from the chimneys meant: that most of her family had been killed.

Later she and her twin sister were subjected to biological experiments by the Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. Yet 60 years after the unprecedented crimes of the Holocaust, she has reached a conclusion: 'If I could meet Dr Mengele today, I would say to him: "I have forgiven you".'

A rare image published in The Observer today shows Eva as a girl at Auschwitz. It is from a film made by Soviet troops after they liberated the camp 60 years ago this month. Not surprisingly, Eva's forgiveness for the people who murdered her family is not shared by all the survivors of Auschwitz and other concentration and extermination camps who will mark the anniversary.

In Posen, Poland, in 1943, Heinrich Himmler told senior members of the SS: 'I want to speak to you frankly about a very grave matter. We can talk about it among ourselves, yet we will never speak about it in public... I am referring to the evacuation of the Jews, the extermination of the Jewish people. Most of you will know what it means when a hundred bodies lie together, when five hundred lie there, or when there lie a thousand. And... to have seen this through... with just a few exceptions of human weakness... to have remained decent, that has made us tough. It is a page of glory in our history that has never been written and is never to be written.'

Two years later, his Führer dead, the war lost and the camps' murderous work finally halted, Himmler killed himself. By then the Holocaust had claimed the lives of an estimated 6 million Jews, between 200,000 and 800,000 gyp sies, 200,000-300,000 disabled people, 10,000-25,000 homosexuals, 2,000 Jehovah's Witnesses, up to 3.5 million non-Jewish Poles, between 3.5 million and 6 million other Slavic civilians, as many as 4 million Soviet prisoners of war and up to 1.5 million political dissidents.

Of all the systematic killing factories, it was a dilapidated former army barracks near a town in south-west Poland which became the scene of the greatest mass murder in history. The camp complex built at Auschwitz, including Birkenau with its infamous railway track, witnessed the deaths of an estimated 1.1 million men, women and children - more than the combined British and American losses in the Second World War. One million of the dead were Jews. Anxious to hide their crimes, the SS blew up the chambers into which the lethal Zyklon B gas had been dispersed before taking flight from the advancing Red Army.

The anniversary on 27 January will be observed at a reception for survivors and liberators with the Queen at St James's Palace, followed by a national event in Westminster Hall, first in a sequence of Second World War commemorations this year. New books, television and radio programmes are also telling a history which becomes more, rather than less, compelling and horrifying every time it is heard. Many of the estimated 500 survivors of the death camps or ghettos who live in Britain have never felt able to share their experiences, but others are, six decades later, defying Himmler by telling their stories.

Among the most notorious Auschwitz atrocities were the medical experiments carried out by Mengele, who took particular interest in twins. If one twin died, he would immediately kill the other and carry out comparative post mortems. Eva Mozes Kor and her sister Miriam, aged 10, were two of his subjects. They arrived with their family at Auschwitz in 1944 at the end of a four-day journey after being deported in cattle carts from a Romanian ghetto.

'It was early morning and still dark outside,' Eva, 70, recalled in an interview with The Observer . 'There were a lot of German voices yelling orders outside and then finally the cattle cart doors slid open. They were yelling throughout: "Raus! Raus! Schnell! Schnell!" Within 10 minutes I realised that my father and my two older sisters had disappeared into the crowd. Miriam and I were pulled away from my mother, who was pulled by SS in the opposite direction. We were crying and she was crying: I remember looking back as we were pulled away and seeing my mother's arms stretched out in despair towards us. That was the last time I saw her.

'My sister and I were all alone. We were put in a transport with 16 sets of twins and taken off for pro cessing. We were tattooed, our hair was cut and our dresses marked with a red star. We were taken to barracks filled with twins aged from one to 13.'

The frightened 10-year-old girls soon discovered they were on their own. 'That first night I learnt that probably most of my family was being burnt in these huge chimneys belching smoke and flames. It was just impossible to comprehend. Later that evening Miriam and I went to the latrine and there were the scattered corpses of three children - naked, their bodies shrivelled and their eyes wide open. It was then I made a solemn pledge that I would do everything in my power for Miriam and I not to end up on the latrine floor. I lived up to it and never let it out of my mind for one single moment.'

The daily routine of the 'Mengele twins' was dehumanising. 'We got up every morning at 5am, and by 6am we were outside for roll call, after which we would go back to the barracks for Dr Mengele's daily inspection. After breakfast we would be taken for experiments. Three times a week we would be put naked in a room for six to eight hours where every part of my body was studied compared to my twin sister and compared to charts.

'Once a week we would be taken to the shower room in the afternoon and given a bar of soap. I washed with that soap from 1944 until May 1946 but of course we didn't know what kind of soap it was. When I found out it was made of human fat it gave me severe nightmares and for years and I couldn't wash with soap.

'Three times a week we were taken to the blood lab and they would tie both my arms, and take a lot of blood from my left arm and, on occasion, so much that I fainted. They wanted to know how much blood a person can lose and still live. At the same time they would give injections: a minimum of five in my right arm. Those were the deadly ones, the content of which I still don't know today.'

Another victim of experiments was Leon Greenman, sent to Auschwitz in 1943 with his wife and infant son. He recalled: 'I was a guinea pig for Horst Schumann, the medical professor. One doctor strapped my arms to the chair, parted my legs and strapped them to the chair. I could not move. The lights were dimmed and a rubber tube attached to a large glass bottle filled with liquid was placed into my penis. I never found out what this experiment was for. Probably sterilisation. I don't think I could make a baby again.'

Now 94 and still campaigning against fascism, Greenman was, almost exceptionally at Auschwitz, British. He explained: 'I ought not to have been there, but the people in Rotterdam looking after our passports became frightened and burnt them. As soon as we arrived in Birkenau the women and men were separated. I found out later my wife and child and most of those people had been gassed within two and a half hours. I didn't know that then. I thought they were still somewhere and that kept me alive until the end.'

The BBC begins a major six-part series this week - Auschwitz: The Nazis and the Final Solution , written and produced by Laurence Rees. One of the most sensitive subjects he explores is the camp's brothel, which Himmler believed would increase productivity by offering 'hard-working' prisoners - excluding Jews - an incentive to work even harder. Ryszard Dacko, a former prisoner, recalls spending time with a girl called Alinka: 'I wanted to be as close as possible to her, to embrace her. It was three and a half years since I was arrested; three and a half years without a woman.'

One day in early January 1945, Eva Mozes Kor went outside to find the Germans had apparently vanished and she could search for food. But two weeks later she heard a car outside the kitchen. 'It looked like an army jeep. Four SS were there with machine guns and they jumped up and began spraying bullets in every direction. The last thing I remember was the barrel of the machine gun pointing at my head and then I faded away.

'I don't know how long I was out but then I woke up, the Nazis were gone and I thought I was in the other world. I tried to feel my arms and legs and couldn't and I thought: "That's the way it is in the other world." But I looked around and saw a lot of people lying on the ground. I reached out and touched one and she was ice cold. I realised that I must have fainted just before a bullet hit me.'

Eva heard explosions as the retreating Germans blew up the gas chambers, and finally they were gone. 'One woman went to the front of the barracks and started yelling: "We are free, we are free, we are free." We all raced to the front. It was a cloudy day, snowing heavily, the visibility was extremely poor. I stood there for about half an hour until I could make out the faces of the people coming. They were in camouflage clothes. They didn't look like Nazis so we ran to them and they gave us hugs and cookies and chocolate. Then they came into our barracks and drank a lot of vodka and there was Russian dancing and everyone seemed to be happy.

'Next day the Russians started registration and told us to put on striped uniforms and march between barbed wire. They had huge cameras and I was fascinated they were making us into movie stars - when I was very young I had been to see a movie of Shirley Temple. Today I am grateful they did that - at least I have a picture of how I looked then.'

After the war Eva and Miriam emigrated to Israel and served in the army. In 1960 Eva married an American and moved to the US, where she had two children and now lives in Terre Haute, Indiana. Miriam died from cancer in 1993. Eva is the founder of Candles (Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiment Survivors) but a rift has developed between her and some other twins because of her willingness to forgive the perpetrators of the crimes.

'In 1993 I met Hans Münch, a Nazi doctor from Auschwitz and a friend of Mengele. I found out that he was a real human being and a very nice man. I really liked him and that was a very strange feeling. He said the nightmare he lived with every single day of his life was watching the people dying in the gas chambers - he had to sign the death certificates when everybody stopped moving.

'I asked if he would go with me to Auschwitz in 1995 to sign a document saying what he did at the ruin of the gas chamber in the company of witnesses, and he said yes. Afterwards I decided to give him a letter of forgiveness. I thought maybe he would like it, but I also discovered that I had the power to forgive, and it was a tremendously empowering and interesting feel ing. So I began writing my letter which ended with a declaration of me forgiving everybody.

'If I could meet Dr Mengele today, I would say to him: "I have forgiven you." Forgiveness has nothing to do with the perpetrator. Forgiveness has everything to do with the victim taking back their life. I don't have to deal with the whole issue of who did what to me and how on earth am I going to punish them and make them pay for it. I am free of all that baggage.'

For thousands of other survivors, however, the search goes on and the questions remain. Sixty years on, the schoolchildren, tourists and researchers who visit Auschwitz, which is remarkably well preserved, find a desolate and cumulatively shattering place, devoid of hope or redemption - and a sense that all of us were diminished on the tracks to Birkenau.

www.auschwitz-muzeum. oswiecim. pl Auschwitz-Birkenau museum and visitor information. Holocaust Encyclopedia run by the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiment Survivors Holocaust Museum. Home Office guide to 27 January. BBC articles and background.

Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005

Shirley Chisholm

AS WITH MOST things in her life, Shirley Chisholm had some pretty definite ideas about how she wanted to be remembered. "I'd like them to say that Shirley Chisholm had guts," she said. Mrs. Chisholm died Saturday at age 80, and her obituaries inevitably led, as she knew they would, with her litany of firsts -- first black woman in the House, first black woman to seek a major party presidential nomination. Yet -- to the surprise of no one who knew her -- the not-always-so-gentlelady from Brooklyn also got her wish: The cascade of remembrances from friends and colleagues reverberates with the common themes of unshrinking independence and fearlessness in the face of power.

"Unbought and Unbossed" was the campaign slogan for her run for the House in 1968, and it proved apt. Upon her arrival, the freshman Democrat took the unheard-of step of balking at her assignment to the Agriculture Committee, which she considered irrelevant to her urban district. Rejecting the speaker's counsel to "be a good soldier," Mrs. Chisholm ended up with a preferable slot on Veterans Affairs. Some years later, having climbed the House rungs to a spot on the powerful Rules Committee, she publicly chastised the chairman, at her first meeting, for referring to her by first name, when the male members of the panel were all called "Mr." Receiving an invitation to the prestigious -- but then all-male -- Gridiron dinner, Mrs. Chisholm fired off the perfect rebuff: "Guess who's not coming to dinner."

Her 1972 presidential run was similarly bold. Mrs. Chisholm knew she stood little chance of winning. But, she said on announcing her candidacy, she wanted "to repudiate the ridiculous notion that the American people will not vote for a qualified candidate simply because he is not white or because she is not a male." As if on cue, Walter Cronkite of CBS duly reported, "A new hat -- rather, a bonnet -- was tossed into the presidential race today." Mrs. Chisholm didn't shy away from taking on those in her own camp either. When candidate George Wallace was wounded in an assassination attempt, Mrs. Chisholm went to visit the former ardent segregationist at the hospital, and, she said, "Black people in my community crucified me."

By the time she retired in 1982, Mrs. Chisholm, an icon of activist liberal politics, said that with the advent of the Reagan administration and a more conservative Congress, "many of us can't be effective at this time. It's not because we're not trying but because the gods seem to be against us." In recent years, said her friend Donna Brazile, "she would call and ask, 'What the hell is going on up there?' " But if the political tides flowed in a different direction than Mrs. Chisholm wanted, she nonetheless charted a course that many others were to follow. Just ask the 14 African American women in Congress today. A modest sign of progress, perhaps, but no one is remarking on their bonnets.

Bereaved father fights Yahoo for dead son's war e-mails

Bereaved father fights Yahoo for dead son's war e-mails
By Jacqui Goddard in Miami
(Filed: 09/01/2005)

At every opportunity, Lance Corporal Justin Ellsworth rattled off despatches from the battle in Iraq, sending them by e-mail to family and friends back in America.

He cherished those that he received in return, vowing that when he got home to Wixom, Michigan, he and his father would go through the correspondence together and paste it into a scrapbook as a family archive.

"I am saving all the e-mails that I get from everyone," wrote the 20-year-old US Marine. "They really brighten my day."

When he finally made the journey home from Iraq, however, it was in a coffin, along with four colleagues killed beside him in a roadside explosion in Fallujah.

To his father, police sergeant John Ellsworth, the scrapbook plan is now all the more important. Yet Yahoo, the internet service provider, is refusing to open L/Corp Ellsworth's e-mail account, saying that it has a duty to protect his privacy even after his death.

The stand-off has raised legal questions as to who is the gatekeeper of the dead's cyber-correspondence, and whether e-mails constitute personal possessions that should be passed on to the families of the deceased.

Mobile telephone accounts, bank details and other personal paperwork, including letters in pen and ink, usually become the property of the estate. The rules of cyberspace, however, are less clear, leaving L/Corp Ellsworth's computer messages locked behind a password Yahoo refuses to share.

"The commitment we've made to every person who signs up for a Yahoo mail account is to treat their e-mail as a private communication and to treat the content of their messages as confidential," said a Yahoo spokesman.

Other service providers including AOL, Hotmail and Earthlink will, on request, transfer a dead person's e-mail account to their next of kin.

In the small print of its terms and conditions set out for its 40 million customers, however, Yahoo states that all rights to its accounts terminate upon the person's death.

Mr Ellsworth has hired lawyers to try to prevent Yahoo erasing his son's digital legacy in mid-January.

"In the same way as a bank owns a person's safe deposit box but does not own its contents, I see that Yahoo owns Justin's account but not the messages that are contained within it," he said.

L/Corp Ellsworth contacted home most days either ringing or sending an e-mail to share his news or to tell his father that he loved him.

In the days leading up to his death on November 13, he had been placed with a special reconnaissance unit to evacuate civilians from Fallujah before the US military onslaught, so was not able to make contact.

Mr Ellsworth, who has spent the past few weeks trying to guess his son's password without success, said: "These writings were not of his exploits with women and booze and carrying on, they documented his experiences of war, of serving his country and the pride he took in that.

"They are messages that passed to and from a soldier who laid down his life."


US deserters flee to Canada to avoid service in Iraq
By Charles Laurence in New York
(Filed: 09/01/2005)

American Army soldiers are deserting and fleeing to Canada rather than fight in Iraq, rekindling memories of the thousands of draft-dodgers who flooded north to avoid service in Vietnam.

An estimated 5,500 men and women have deserted since the invasion of Iraq, reflecting Washington's growing problems with troop morale.

Jeremy Hinzman

Jeremy Hinzman:
a 'wrong career choice'

Jeremy Hinzman, 26, from South Dakota, who deserted from the 82nd Airborne, is among those who - to the disgust of Pentagon officials - have applied for refugee status in Canada.

The United States Army treats deserters as common criminals, posting them on "wanted" lists with the FBI, state police forces and the Department of Home Security border patrols.

Hinzman said last week: "This is a criminal war and any act of violence in an unjustified conflict is an atrocity. I signed a contract for four years, and I was totally willing to fulfil it. Just not in combat arms jobs."

Hinzman, who served as a cook in Afghanistan, was due to join a fighting unit in Iraq after being refused status as a conscientious objector.

He realised that he had made the "wrong career choice" as he marched with his platoon of recruits all chanting, "Train to kill, kill we will".

He said: "At that point a light went off in my head. I was told in basic training that if I'm given an illegal or immoral order, it is my duty to disobey it. I feel that invading and occupying Iraq is an illegal and immoral thing to do.''

Pte Brandon Hughey, 19, who deserted from the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas, said that he had volunteered because the army offered to pay his college fees. He began training soon after the invasion of Iraq but became disillusioned when no weapons of mass destruction were found.

"I had been willing to die to make America safe," he said. "I found out, basically, that they found no weapons of mass destruction and the claim that they made about ties to al-Qaeda was coming up short. It made me angry. I felt our lives as soldiers were being thrown away."

When he was ordered to deploy to Iraq, Hughey searched the internet for an "underground railroad" operation, through which deserting troops are helped to escape to Canada.

He was put in touch with a Quaker pacifist couple who had helped Vietnam draft-dodgers and was driven from Texas to Ontario.

The Pentagon says that the level of desertion is no higher than usual and denies that it is having difficulty persuading troops to fight. The flight to Canada is, however, an embarrassment for the military, which is suffering from a recruiting shortfall for the National Guard and the Army Reserves.

The deaths of 18 American soldiers in a suicide bomb attack in Mosul, northern Iraq, last month, was a further blow to morale. Soon after, the number of American soldiers killed since President Bush declared that large-scale combat operations were at an end passed the 1,000 mark.

Lt Col Joe Richard, a Pentagon spokesman, said that the US government wanted the deserters to be returned from Canada. "If you don't want to fight, don't join," he said.

"The men in Canada have an obligation to fulfil their military contracts and do their duty. If and when they return to this country, they will be prosecuted."

The penalty for desertion in wartime can be death. Most deserters, however, serve up to five years in a military prison before receiving a dishonourable discharge.

In order to stay in Canada, deserters must convince an immigration board that they would face not just prosecution but also "persecution" if they returned to America. Hinzman's hearing has begun in Toronto and a decision is expected next month.

During the Vietnam war an estimated 55,000 deserters or draft-dodgers fled to Canada. There were amnesties for both groups in the late 1970s under President Jimmy Carter, but many stayed.

One who did so is Jeffrey House, a Toronto-based lawyer, who represents some of the deserters. He said that at least 25 had reached Canada in recent months with the help of "railroad" organisations, and believed that the immigration board would back his clients.

Father fights for emails

19 April 2004: US 'soldiers of conscience' take Sixties route to Canada

Are Juarez Murders Really Over?

Women's killers jailed in Mexico

Ciudad Juarez, AP
Saturday January 8, 2005
The Guardian

Two judges in Mexico have found 10 members of two criminal gangs who were already behind bars guilty over the killings of 12 women in the town of Ciudad Juarez, infamous for hundreds of murders in the past 11 years.

Four bus drivers, all thought to be loyal to a criminal gang known as Los Toltecas or the Toltecs, were sentenced to between 40 and 113 years for premeditated homicide, aggravated rape and criminal association in the killings of six women.

Six members of another gang, Los Rebeldes, or the Rebels, received between 24 and 40 years for similar convictions over the deaths of a separate group of six victims, said Rene Medrano, a spokesman for Chihuahua's state attorney general's office.

According to government statistics, more than 300 women have been killed in Ciudad Juarez since 1993, though human rights leaders say the number is higher.

UN Workers Guilty of Sexually Abusing Women as Young as 13.

DR Congo sex abuse claims upheld

By Susannah Price
BBC News, United Nations

A United Nations inquiry has found that UN peacekeepers working in DR Congo sexually abused girls as young as 13.

The report by the UN watchdog, the Office of Internal Oversight Services, investigated abuse allegations in the north-east Congolese town of Bunia.

The probe found a pattern of sexual exploitation of women and children, which it said was continuing.

Head of UN peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno said he was outraged and angered by the abuse.

The report said many of the victims were under 18, with some as young as 13.

They were usually given food or small sums of money in return for sex.

The investigation looked at more than 70 allegations against military and civilian UN personnel in Bunia.

It found seven cases against UN staff, all but one of them peacekeepers, involving sexual exploitation of under-age girls, were fully substantiated.


The report also said that while many of the girls could not identify the individual peacekeepers responsible, their reports of regular sexual contact were detailed and convincing.

The UN mission in Congo has also carried out its own investigations into allegations of abuse by both peacekeepers and civilian staff, and has sent home some soldiers.

Mr Guehenno, the UN's under-secretary-general for peacekeeping, said the abuse destroyed the trust of local people in the UN mission.

"The rules of the UN are crystal clear. Any sex with under-18 years is against the UN rule and whenever we find that, this is just something that needs to be punished," he said.

The UN has jurisdiction over its own civilian staff but no power to punish peacekeepers.

It can only repatriate soldiers responsible and call for them to be brought to justice at home.

Investigations into the abuse in Congo has led to action being taken against two soldiers in one country and the imprisonment of a civilian UN staff member in France.

The UN is looking at ways to follow up whether governments actually take action against soldiers who are repatriated following allegations of misconduct.

Published: 2005/01/08 02:58:28 GMT


Sudan set for historic peace deal

Sudan's government and southern rebels are due to sign a comprehensive peace deal on Sunday to end Africa's longest-running civil war.

East African leaders will attend the signing in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, joined by outgoing US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

The war has pitted the Muslim north against Christians and animists in the south, leaving some 1.5m people dead.

The peace deal does not cover the separate, newer conflict in Darfur.

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has warned of worsening violence in Darfur, in the west of the country, where government-backed militia are accused of killing thousands as part of a campaign against rebels demanding more rights.
  • Both sides will unify into 39,000-strong force if the south does not secede after six years
  • Autonomy
  • The south will have autonomy for six years followed by referendum for secession
Oil wealth
  • To be shared 50:50
  • To be split 70:30 in favour of the government in the central administration
  • To be split 55:45 in favour of the government in Abyei, Blue Nile State and the Nuba mountains
Islamic law
  • To remain in the north
  • Sharia in Khartoum to be decided by elected assembly

On the eve of the southern peace deal, the main rebel leader, John Garang, said he hoped to join peace talks on Darfur once he joins the planned national unity government.

"If I am invited I will come. If I am not invited I will ask to be invited," said Mr Garang, leader of the Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA).

Mr Garang, set to become a vice-president, will sign Sunday's peace deal with President Omar al-Bashir's government.

Starting in July, the south will be autonomous for six years and will then vote in a referendum to decide whether to remain part of Sudan, or become independent.

Sudan's new oil wealth - currently producing about 320,000 barrels a day - is to be split equally between north and south.

Apart from an 11-year period from 1972-1983, southern Sudan has been at war continuously since 1956. Peace talks began in 2002.

In 1983, the government dominated by northern Arabs tried to impose Islamic Sharia law across Sudan, even in areas where the majority is not Muslim.

The peace deal being signed in Nairobi follows the signing of a permanent ceasefire on New Year's Eve.

Published: 2005/01/08 16:00:44 GMT


the horror... the horror... the horror...

Gonzales Text

4:05 PM PST, January 5, 2005

Text of remarks by Attorney General nominee Alberto Gonzales, as prepared for delivery to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday.

It is the highest honor of my professional career to appear before you today as the president's nominee to be attorney general of the United States. I owe a debt of deep gratitude to the president for the trust he has placed in me.

I also want to thank Senator Cornyn for his kind introduction, and for his many years of friendship. Ken Salazar was sworn in as a United States senator just two days ago. Thank you senator for your willingness to extend your hand of friendship across the political aisle to introduce me today. Although Senator Hutchison could not be with us today, I appreciate her many years of support as well.

My family is critical to any measure of success I have had, and if I may, I'd like to introduce them to you now. My wife Rebecca -- thank you, Becky, for your unfailing support. I am immensely proud of our sons, they are hear today: Jared, Graham and Gabriel.

I would be remiss if I failed to acknowledge the support and sacrifices of my parents -- my late father Pablo, and my mother, Maria. My mother is here this morning, as is my brother Tony -- a 20-year veteran of the Houston Police Department. A person could not even begin the journey from Humble, Texas, to the White House to this hearing without the foundation of a fine family, and I want to acknowledge their love and support.

Mr. Chairman, the highest objective of the Department of Justice is the pursuit of justice. This noble objective -- justice -- is reflected in human terms in the hopeful eyes of a new citizen, voting for the first time; in the quiet gratitude of a victim of crime whose rights have been vindicated in the courts; and in the pride of a person given the opportunity to succeed, no matter the skin color, or gender, or disability. For justice, properly understood, cannot in my view be divorced from the individual. It always has a human dimension and if confirmed as attorney general, I pledge that I will always remember that.

If confirmed as attorney general, I will no longer represent only the White House; I will represent the United States of America and its people. I understand the differences between the two roles. In the former, I have been privileged to advise the president and his staff. In the latter, I would have a far broader responsibility: to pursue justice for all the people of our great nation; to see that the laws are enforced in a fair and impartial manner for all Americans.

Wherever we pursue justice -- from the war on terror to corporate fraud to civil rights -- we must always be faithful to the rule of law. I want to make very clear that I am deeply committed to the rule of law. I have a deep and abiding commitment to the fundamental American principle that we are a nation of laws, and not of men. That commitment is the core principle that has guided all of my professional endeavors.

Our government's most basic obligation is to protect its citizens from enemies who would destroy their lives and our nation's way of life. The Department of Justice's top priority is to prevent terror attacks against our nation.

As we fight the war on terror, we must always honor and observe the principles that make our society so unique and worthy of protection. We must be committed to preserving civil rights and civil liberties. I look forward if I am confirmed to working with the committee, the Congress and the public to ensure that we are doing all we can to do so. Although we may have differences from time to time, we all love our country and want to protect it while remaining true to our nation's highest ideals. Working together, we can accomplish that goal.

After the attacks of 9/11, our government had fundamental decisions to make concerning how to apply treaties and U.S. law to an enemy that does not wear a uniform, owes no allegiance to any country, is not a party to any treaties and -- most importantly -- does not fight according to the laws of war. As we have debated these questions, the president has made clear that he is prepared to protect and defend the Untied States and its citizens, and will do so vigorously, but always in a manner consistent with our nation's values and applicable law, including our treaty obligations. I pledge that, if I am confirmed as attorney general, I will abide by those commitments.

Chairman Specter, if I may add a personal note, I want to congratulate you for your chairmanship of this important committee, and I look forward if confirmed to the many occasions we will discuss the important issues facing our country in the months and years ahead. Senator Hatch, I want to thank you for your dedicated service as chairman of this committee, for the good working relationship we have enjoyed, and for all the many kindnesses you have shown me personally. I appreciate the good working relationship I've enjoyed with Senator Leahy during my tenure as counsel to the president. I know him to be a person of good will and dedication and I have great confidence that, if I'm fortunate enough to be confirmed, we will build on that as we reach across the aisle to work together to serve the American people.

Mr. Chairman, it is a distinct honor to appear before the committee today. I appreciate the time and attention that members of the committee and their staffs have dedicated to this hearing and to consideration of my nomination. And I look forward to answering your questions not just at this hearing, but if I am fortunate enough to be confirmed, in the months and years ahead as we work together in the noble and high calling of the pursuit of justice.

yup, and pigs can fly......

Geneva Convention: New Reality Show Makeover?

Geneva Convention Overhaul Considered

By Peter Wallsten
Times Staff Writer

January 7, 2005

WASHINGTON — White House officials considered trying to rewrite the international treaties signed more than half a century ago protecting certain wartime prisoners from mistreatment, senators were told Thursday.

That revelation came during testimony by Alberto R. Gonzales, President Bush's choice as attorney general, whose conclusion as White House counsel that the Geneva Convention did not apply to suspected terrorists has prompted Democrats and human rights advocates to question his suitability as head of the Justice Department.

It marked the first time that an administration official had acknowledged a desire to change the international laws of war following the 2001 terrorist attacks — the same laws that critics accuse the administration of flouting in its pursuit of Al Qaeda.

"We are fighting a new type of enemy and a new type of war," Gonzales said during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, responding to questions from Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). "Geneva was ratified in 1949 … and I think it is appropriate to revisit whether or not Geneva should be revisited.

"Now I'm not suggesting that the principles of Geneva regarding basic treatment — basic decent treatment of human beings — should be revisited," he added. "… That should always be the basis on which we look at this.

"But I am aware there's been some very preliminary discussion as to whether or not — is this something that we ought to look at."

Gonzales' approach to the Geneva treaty has come under fire since he prepared a memo concluding that the prohibitions on torture did not apply to suspected terrorists being questioned by the U.S. military.

He had previously described the Geneva Convention as "quaint" and "obsolete," but under intense questioning Thursday repudiated those remarks.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan later said that Gonzales was referring to "some preliminary staff-level discussions" about recommendations from groups, such as the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks, that the government develop a "new legal standard or new rules for detainees in the war on terrorism."

Gonzales did not elaborate on exactly what changes were considered. He said such discussions were not continuing.

To administration critics, Gonzales' remarks provided a glimpse into U.S. government strategy in a post-Sept. 11 environment, suggesting that the administration was initially concerned that the Geneva Convention could interfere with anti-terrorism efforts.

"It offers you an insight into the core of their early thinking, and does explain why they made some of the decisions that they did," said Alistair Hodgett, a spokesman for the human rights organization Amnesty International. "The debate about whether the Geneva Convention could be revised sprang not out of a desire to improve their protections, but of course to weaken them."

Experts say that global political realities make rewriting the Geneva Convention a near impossibility. Even winning minor changes could take decades.

"It would be mission impossible given how little moral authority the Bush administration has on these questions," said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch.


Times staff writer Warren Vieth contributed to this report.

Sexual Abuse Case against UN workers upheld

DR Congo sex abuse claims upheld

By Susannah Price
BBC News, United Nations

A United Nations inquiry has found that UN peacekeepers working in DR Congo sexually abused girls as young as 13.

The report by the UN watchdog, the Office of Internal Oversight Services, investigated abuse allegations in the north-east Congolese town of Bunia. The probe found a pattern of sexual exploitation of women and children, which it said was continuing.

Head of UN peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno said he was outraged and angered by the abuse.

The report said many of the victims were under 18, with some as young as 13. They were usually given food or small sums of money in return for sex. The investigation looked at more than 70 allegations against military and civilian UN personnel in Bunia. It found seven cases against UN staff, all but one of them peacekeepers, involving sexual exploitation of under-age girls, were fully substantiated.


The report also said that while many of the girls could not identify the individual peacekeepers responsible, their reports of regular sexual contact were detailed and convincing.

The UN mission in Congo has also carried out its own investigations into allegations of abuse by both peacekeepers and civilian staff, and has sent home some soldiers. Mr Guehenno, the UN's under-secretary-general for peacekeeping, said the abuse destroyed the trust of local people in the UN mission.

"The rules of the UN are crystal clear. Any sex with under-18 years is against the UN rule and whenever we find that, this is just something that needs to be punished," he said. The UN has jurisdiction over its own civilian staff but no power to punish peacekeepers. It can only repatriate soldiers responsible and call for them to be brought to justice at home.

Investigations into the abuse in Congo has led to action being taken against two soldiers in one country and the imprisonment of a civilian UN staff member in France.

The UN is looking at ways to follow up whether governments actually take action against soldiers who are repatriated following allegations of misconduct.

Published: 2005/01/08 02:58:28 GMT


Geneva shmendevah, ain't no convention for Gonzalez and shrubby

Promoting Torture's Promoter


If the United States were to look into a mirror right now, it wouldn't recognize itself.

The administration that thumbed its nose at the Geneva Conventions seems equally dismissive of such grand American values as honor, justice, integrity, due process and the truth. So there was Alberto Gonzales, counselor to the president and enabler in chief of the pro-torture lobby, interviewing on Capitol Hill yesterday for the post of attorney general, which just happens to be the highest law enforcement office in the land.

Mr. Gonzales shouldn't be allowed anywhere near that office. His judgments regarding the detention and treatment of prisoners rounded up in Iraq and the so-called war on terror have been both unsound and shameful. Some of the practices that evolved from his judgments were appalling, gruesome, medieval.

But this is the Bush administration, where incompetence and outright failure are rewarded with the nation's highest honors. (Remember the Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded last month to George Tenet et al.?) So not only is Mr. Gonzales's name being stenciled onto the attorney general's door, but a plush judicial seat is being readied for his anticipated elevation to the Supreme Court.

It's a measure of the irrelevance of the Democratic Party that a man who played such a significant role in the policies that led to the still-unfolding prisoner abuse and torture scandals is expected to win easy Senate confirmation and become attorney general. The Democrats have become the 98-pound weaklings of the 21st century.

The Bush administration and Mr. Gonzales are trying to sell the fiction that they've seen the light. In answer to a setup question at his Judiciary Committee hearing, Mr. Gonzales said he is against torture. And the Justice Department issued a legal opinion last week that said "torture is abhorrent both to American law and values and international norms."

What took so long? Why were we ever - under any circumstances - torturing, maiming, sexually abusing and even killing prisoners? And where is the evidence that we've stopped?

The Bush administration hasn't changed. This is an administration that believes it can do and say whatever it wants, and that attitude is changing the very nature of the United States. It is eroding the checks and balances so crucial to American-style democracy. It led the U.S., against the advice of most of the world, to launch the dreadful war in Iraq. It led Mr. Gonzales to ignore the expressed concerns of the State Department and top military brass as he blithely opened the gates for the prisoner abuse vehicles to roll through.

There are few things more dangerous than a mixture of power, arrogance and incompetence. In the Bush administration, that mixture has been explosive. Forget the meant-to-be-comforting rhetoric surrounding Mr. Gonzales's confirmation hearings. Nothing's changed. As detailed in The Washington Post earlier this month, the administration is making secret plans for the possible lifetime detention of suspected terrorists who will never even be charged.

Due process? That's a laugh. Included among the detainees, the paper noted, are hundreds of people in military or C.I.A. custody "whom the government does not have enough evidence to charge in courts." And there will be plenty more detainees to come.

Who knows who these folks are or what they may be guilty of? We'll have to trust in the likes of Alberto Gonzales or Donald Rumsfeld or President Bush's new appointee to head the C.I.A., Porter Goss, to see that the right thing is done in each and every case.

Americans have tended to view the U.S. as the guardian of the highest ideals of justice and fairness. But that is a belief that's getting more and more difficult to sustain. If the Justice Department can be the fiefdom of John Ashcroft or Alberto Gonzales, those in search of the highest standards of justice have no choice but to look elsewhere.

It's more fruitful now to look overseas. Last month Britain's highest court ruled that the government could not continue to indefinitely detain foreigners suspected of terrorism without charging or trying them. One of the justices wrote that such detentions "call into question the very existence of an ancient liberty of which this country has until now been very proud: freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention."

That's a sentiment completely lost on an Alberto Gonzales or George W. Bush.


In my bad novel the administration will use the slogan "support the troops" to suppress criticism of its war policy.

Worse Than Fiction


I've been thinking of writing a political novel. It will be a bad novel because there won't be any nuance: the villains won't just espouse an ideology I disagree with - they'll be hypocrites, cranks and scoundrels.

In my bad novel, a famous moralist who demanded national outrage over an affair and writes best-selling books about virtue will turn out to be hiding an expensive gambling habit. A talk radio host who advocates harsh penalties for drug violators will turn out to be hiding his own drug addiction.

In my bad novel, crusaders for moral values will be driven by strange obsessions. One senator's diatribe against gay marriage will link it to "man on dog" sex. Another will rant about the dangers of lesbians in high school bathrooms.

In my bad novel, the president will choose as head of homeland security a "good man" who turns out to have been the subject of an arrest warrant, who turned an apartment set aside for rescue workers into his personal love nest and who stalked at least one of his ex-lovers.

In my bad novel, a TV personality who claims to stand up for regular Americans against the elite will pay a large settlement in a sexual harassment case, in which he used his position of power to - on second thought, that story is too embarrassing even for a bad novel.

In my bad novel, apologists for the administration will charge foreign policy critics with anti-Semitism. But they will be silent when a prominent conservative declares that "Hollywood is controlled by secular Jews who hate Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular."

In my bad novel the administration will use the slogan "support the troops" to suppress criticism of its war policy. But it will ignore repeated complaints that the troops lack armor.

The secretary of defense - another "good man," according to the president - won't even bother signing letters to the families of soldiers killed in action.

Last but not least, in my bad novel the president, who portrays himself as the defender of good against evil, will preside over the widespread use of torture.

How did we find ourselves living in a bad novel? It was not ever thus. Hypocrites, cranks and scoundrels have always been with us, on both sides of the aisle. But 9/11 created an environment some liberals summarize with the acronym Iokiyar: it's O.K. if you're a Republican.

The public became unwilling to believe bad things about those who claim to be defending the nation against terrorism. And the hypocrites, cranks and scoundrels of the right, empowered by the public's credulity, have come out in unprecedented force.

Apologists for the administration would like us to forget all about the Kerik affair, but Bernard Kerik perfectly symbolizes the times we live in. Like Rudolph Giuliani and, yes, President Bush, he wasn't a hero of 9/11, but he played one on TV. And like Mr. Giuliani, he was quick to cash in, literally, on his undeserved reputation.

Once the New York newspapers began digging, it became clear that Mr. Kerik is, professionally and personally, a real piece of work. But that's not unusual these days among people who successfully pass themselves off as patriots and defenders of moral values. Mr. Kerik must still be wondering why he, unlike so many others, didn't get away with it.

And Alberto Gonzales must be hoping that senators don't bring up the subject.

The principal objection to making Mr. Gonzales attorney general is that doing so will tell the world that America thinks it's acceptable to torture people. But his confirmation will also be a statement about ethics.

As White House counsel, Mr. Gonzales was charged with vetting Mr. Kerik. He must have realized what kind of man he was dealing with - yet he declared Mr. Kerik fit to oversee homeland security.

Did Mr. Gonzales defer to the wishes of a president who wanted Mr. Kerik anyway, or did he decide that his boss wouldn't want to know? (The Nelson Report, a respected newsletter, reports that Mr. Bush has made it clear to his subordinates that he doesn't want to hear bad news about Iraq.)

Either way, when the Senate confirms Mr. Gonzales, it will mean that Iokiyar remains in effect, that the basic rules of ethics don't apply to people aligned with the ruling party. And reality will continue to be worse than any fiction I could write.


Christians flee genocide as fear sweeps Iraq

Christians flee genocide as fear sweeps Iraq
By Jack Fairweather

One of the most ancient monasteries in the world, St Matthew's, stands on a barren mountainside in northern Iraq, its last inhabitant a crusty old Syrian Orthodox priest. Nestled between sandstone crags with views of the hills around ancient Nineveh, now called Mosul, it looks like the final redoubt of the Christian world.

Seven thousand monks used to worship here; now there is just one, Father Ada Qadr al-Kars.

This thinning of the ranks has taken centuries, he said, but in the valleys Iraq's Christian community, targeted with especial ferocity by Islamic extremists for the past year, is disappearing rapidly.

Churches have been bombed, priests kidnapped and Christian neighbourhoods subjected to random shootings, the terrorists' revenge for the community's shared religion with the "Christian" invaders.

According to Church leaders, some 300,000 Christians - roughly a quarter of the population - have fled their homes since the US-led invasion.

It is too early to speak of a humanitarian crisis, with many from the community, one of Iraq's more affluent, able to leave the country in civilised fashion or find shelter in the Kurdish-controlled north. But in the minds of Church leaders there is little doubt as to the nature of the exodus.

"It's genocide. You can see it with your own eyes," said Bishop Putres Harbori, head of the Christian community in Dohuk, near the Turkish border, where 350 families have found sanctuary.

Many fear that Iraq's ancient Christian community is leaving for ever, some nostalgic for better times under Saddam Hussein. Life was good when the Ba'athists were in charge, said Paula Sliwa, 71, one of 60,000 Christians to flee Mosul in recent months.

He belongs to the Assyrian Church, one of several sects in the city tracing their history to Job preaching to the ungodly. He, his wife and five children used to live with 100 other families near the Shaleeka Cunta church on the western bank of the Euphrates.

Iraq's small Christian community has a history of collaboration with the powers-that-be in Baghdad, first with the British in the 1920s, then with Saddam's regime, which boasted the Christian Tariq Aziz as one of its most powerful leaders. Christians often worked in the luxury business, selling alcohol and running beauty parlours.

"I have a large house and two cars," said Mr Sliwa, formerly a well paid government official. "We never had any trouble." But the Christian community in Mosul has been shaken by a wave of vicious attacks, including five car bombs detonated outside churches, killing more than 20, in one month.

Anti-Christian graffiti was daubed on church walls and inflammatory CDs sold in the market. Regular gun attacks began in Christian areas of the city, with several priests kidnapped and told that, as Christians, they were on the side of the American invaders.

"We were used to living in hell," said Mr Sliwa. Then a neighbour told him that his two sons had been killed by the latest attack. "My son's car was 300 metres away. They were slumped in their seats, covered in blood," he said. "The terrorists had shot at any car in the neighbourhood, knowing they would kill Christians."

Mr Sliwa and the rest of his family fled to Angkawr, one of a number of Christian communities in the Kurdish-protected north. That evening his house in Mosul was broken into and ransacked.

Stories like his are common in Angkawr, where 150 families shelter from the oppression and fear that forced them to flee homes in Mosul, Baghdad and Basra.

They say a new breed of al-Qa'eda-inspired terrorists, rather than the former Ba'athists, are behind the attacks. Iraqi police are powerless to protect the community, say families, and US forces rarely intervene, not wanting to be seen to be siding with Christians and thereby exposing the troops to more violence.

For their part, Christian leaders in Iraq oscillate between calling the attacks "ethnic cleansing" and stressing that Christians are suffering along with others in Iraq.

Angkawr, a town of 35,000 people, is defended by guards and concrete barriers. Residents, along with the refugees, want to leave the country as fast as possible, with Syria, Jordan, Europe and America the popular destinations.

Saed Alexis, a local business leader, said: "There is not a person who wouldn't leave Iraq if they could. In five years there will be no one left."


Reputed Klansman pleads innocent of 1964 murders

Associated Press

Jan. 7, 2005 | PHILADELPHIA, Miss. -- Reputed Ku Klux Klan member Edgar Ray Killen responded loudly with "not guilty" three times Friday as he was arraigned on murder charges in the slayings of three civil rights workers more than 40 years ago. The prosecutor said he was the only person indicted in the case.

Killen, handcuffed and dressed in a loosely fitting orange jail jumpsuit, lowered his voice when asked if he could afford an attorney. He was then led off to the Neshoba County Jail pending another hearing Wednesday. He was ordered held without bond until then.

Killen, 79, was arrested Thursday in the 1964 shooting deaths James Chaney, a 21-year-old black Mississippian, and two white New Yorkers, Andrew Goodman, 20, and Michael Schwerner, 24. It was the first time the state has sought criminal charges in the case that outraged a nation.

District Attorney Mark Duncan said prosecutors did not intend to publicly discuss what evidence they had developed or what role authorities believe Killen had in the killings.

While prosecutors had secured the indictment during a one-day grand jury presentation, Duncan said, "it hadn't been fast for us. We've been investigating the case for several years now. It just finally got to the point where we felt like we had done all that we can do."

"It was time to present whatever we had to the grand jury and let them make a decision on the case," he said.

"There will be no other indictments in this case," Duncan said.

At the hearing, Killen told Circuit Judge Marcus Gordon he couldn't afford a lawyer but did own some land. Gordon said he would decide later whether he would appoint an attorney.

Soon after Killen's arraignment, the courthouse was cleared by authorities who said they had received a bomb threat. Nothing suspicious was found, they said later.

Rep. John Lewis, the black Georgia congressman who knew the three slain men, hailed the arrest Friday, telling NBC's "Today" that it was "a tremendous step down a very long road."

In 1967, the Justice Department tried Killen and 18 other men -- many of them also Klan members -- on federal civil rights violations. Seven were convicted and sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to 10 years. Killen was freed after his trial ended in a hung jury.

From her home in New York, Goodman's mother, Carolyn, said she "knew that in the end the right thing was going to happen." She added: "I'm not looking for revenge. I'm looking for justice."

Lewis, elected to Congress from Georgia in 1986, was chairman of a leading civil right group, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, from 1963 to 1966. "It is never, ever too late to bring about justice and send the strongest possible message that bigotry and hate will not be tolerated in our society," he said Friday.

Killen's arrest followed a grand jury session Thursday that apparently included testimony from individuals believed to have knowledge of the slayings.

"After 40 years to come back and do something like this is ridiculous ... like a nightmare," said Billy Wayne Posey said while waiting to testify before the grand jury. One of the men convicted in federal court, Posey refused to say what he expected to be asked.

Calls to Killen's home late Thursday were answered by a recording.

Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner, were killed on a lonely dirt road as they drove to a church to investigate a fire. The trio allegedly was stopped by Klansmen, beaten and shot to death.

They were participating in Freedom Summer 1964, when hundreds of young, mostly white, college students came to the South to register blacks to vote and start educational programs.

Several weeks later, their bodies were found buried in a dam a few miles from the church. The case was dramatized in the 1988 movie "Mississippi Burning."

Killen has always denied a role in the slayings.

Jerry G. Killen, who identified himself as the suspect's brother, said he wasn't aware of the arrest but said he thought it was "pitiful." He said his brother never mentioned the 1964 slayings: "He won't talk about it. I don't know if he did it or not."

Mississippi has had some success reopening old civil rights murder cases, including a 1994 conviction of Byron de la Beckwith for the 1963 assassination of NAACP field secretary Medgar Evers.

But until recently there has been little progress in building murder cases against anyone involved in the slayings -- though the case has remained very much in the public eye.

Attorney General Jim Hood reopened an investigation of the slayings and just last month, an anonymous donor posted a $100,000 reward for information leading to murder charges.

Not everyone was happy with the grand jury's efforts.

"It appears to be a sad day for the state of Mississippi," said attorney James D. McIntyre, who said he was on the defense team during the 1967 trial. "The investigation that has being brought forth -- the prosecutors, news media -- I just hate to see it happen."

Ben Chaney, the younger brother of James Chaney, called the latest investigation a sham that may target one or two unrepentant Klansmen -- but spare the wealthy and influential whites he claims had a hand in the slayings.

What does Germaine Greer think she's doing?

Barbie doll, Bez and co watch and wonder as feminist icon takes on flatulent sexist

Promising start to Big Brother but what does Germaine Greer think she's doing?

Sam Wollaston
Saturday January 8, 2005
The Guardian

You know how it is. You wake up in the morning with a bit of a hangover. Somehow you manage to force open one eye. Hmmm, unfamiliar lime green walls - this doesn't look like home. You open the other eye, and of course the first thing you discover is that not only are you not at home, but neither are you alone. Then, through your hangover fug, you begin to remember ... Oh God, what have I gone and done?

That's probably how it is for Germaine Greer, certainly that's what she should be thinking. And it isn't just one other person she's waking up with, there are seven of them. Hardly top pulls either.

There's a fading DJ; a maniacal, drug-fuelled dancer; an Amazonian former Mrs Sylvester Stallone; a Hollyoaks actor no one's ever heard of who apparently was dumped by his more famous girlfriend, probably for not being famous enough; a Barbie doll; a member of Blazin' Squad; and a sexist, flatulent racing tipster with lots of hair in all the wrong places and no hair in all the right places.

To top it all, the sound of out-of-tune bagpipes is being blasted into the room to get them all up. Normally, Germaine Greer wakes up in a beautiful country house surrounded by books and ducks and things she loves. No wonder she's looking so thunderously cross.

But she's only got one person to blame. What was she thinking? She's a feminist icon, a thinker. Does she really need this? Or think it will help her in any way? And has she forgotten that she once said Big Brother was "as dignified as looking through the keyhole in your teenage child's bedroom door." Is looking through your granny's keyhole any more dignified?

Secret weapon

You've a lot of explaining to do when you come out, Prof Greer. And if you're doing it because you think you're going to win the £50,000 for Save the Australian Jungle or whoever, the bookies don't agree, I'm afraid.

For the programme makers, Greer is an important ingredient, the secret weapon they hope will rescue the show from the groans that usually now follow any mention of Big Brother. They've got their weirdos and their pretty boys and girls and their obnoxious pig, the people who are trying to rescue wilting careers.

Greer will provide the grey matter, perhaps attract a brainier viewer. Who knows, even the odd Guardian reader may now tune in.

And she's also there to go head to head with the racing tipster who said, before going in and before he knew who his housemates were, that his nightmare housemate would be "a flat-chested, bossy woman - someone like Germaine Greer".

It all started quite promisingly. The racing tipster revealed himself not only to be a farter and a Bush supporter, but also a bit seedy.

"Are you the totty?" he asked the Barbie doll. He also confessed to a love of big breasts (his dog is called Double D, his wife Booby, although he claims the latter is after a South American bird.)

So far Greer has scowled rather than exploded, though she did tell him to leave the Barbie girl alone. It won't be long though. Let's just hope that the public don't ruin the show completely by voting one of them off.

None of the others has got much of a word in yet, or shown any signs of being in any way interesting. The Amazon is perhaps the best hope. She sleeps outside and was spotted removing her engagement ring soon after entering the house. Perhaps she will be fighting over the poor boy from Blazin' Squad with Germaine Greer, who was looking quite fondly at him a one point. I wonder if he's read, or is aware of The Boy, Greer's celebration of the beauty of young men.

Back to the morning, and Greer's grumpy look doesn't last long. And she manages to make herself look less like a sheep when she finds a brush. I never thought I'd get to see Germaine Greer first thing in the morning.

Soon she's in charge, bossing the kitchen, and spouting off on everything - birds, Bush, bathing, squirrels, outside loos, water beds, aborigines, the land tenure system in Australia.

Some of them try to keep up and to engage, others don't bother. The tipster automatically disagrees with her on everything, and it's mainly a bickering match between the two of them. And, though I thought this would save the show, it's actually fantastically boring. Quick, give them a task, or some animals, a baby, anything. Spike their drinking water with hallucinogenic drugs.

Because I don't know about the nation, but I'm not sure I've got the appetite to go through all this again, especially so soon after those other so-called celebrities in the jungle too.

Australia, east London, house, camp, it's all the same really. And I think I've had enough, even with a feminist icon in there.

Perhaps the person who reflects the whole thing best is not Germaine Greer, who doesn't appear to be regretting her decision, as she should be, but the maniacal dancer who often has his head buried in his hands, especially when Germaine Greer's rabbiting on. I'm with you Bez.

· Sam Wollaston is the Guardian's television critic

Who's who

Germaine Greer writer and academic

Caprice model

Brigitte Nielsen actor

John McCririck racing expert

Lisa I'Anson DJ

Jeremy Edwards actor

Kenzie of Blazin' Squad

Bez dancer

Talk Show host was paid $240,000 to hype the "no child left behind act"

Pay for play

Armstrong Williams believes in the No Child Left Behind Act so much, it took $240,000 from the Bush administration to get him to say so (over and over again, apparently) on his talk show.

From the USA Today [article shown below]: "The campaign, part of an effort to promote No Child Left Behind (NCLB), required commentator Armstrong Williams 'to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts,' and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show in 2004. Williams said Thursday he understands that critics could find the arrangement unethical, but 'I wanted to do it because it's something I believe in.'"

"The top Democrat on the House Education Committee, Rep. George Miller of California, called the contract 'a very questionable use of taxpayers' money' that is 'probably illegal.' He said he will ask his Republican counterpart to join him in requesting an investigation."

This isn't the first time the Bush administration has produced such propaganda -- last year, the GAO slapped the administration for making bogus "video news releases" featuring fake TV reporters singing the praises of the GOP Medicare prescription drug plan (the one the pharmaceutical industry loves so much). Similar fake news stories were produced promoting No Child Left Behind. The GAO called those news releases an illegal use of taxpayers' dollars.

The deal that padded Armstrong Williams' pockets so long as he lauds the much-maligned education law was part of a deal with the same firm behind those bogus "news stories," Ketchum public relations. The Armstrong set-up is probably illegal, too, Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told the USA Today. "Congress has prohibited propaganda," she said. "And it's propaganda."

-- Geraldine Sealey

[07:19 PST, Jan. 7, 2005]

Education Dept. paid commentator to promote law

Seeking to build support among black families for its education reform law, the Bush administration paid a prominent black pundit $240,000 to promote the law on his nationally syndicated television show and to urge other black journalists to do the same.

The campaign, part of an effort to promote No Child Left Behind (NCLB), required commentator Armstrong Williams "to regularly comment on NCLB during the course of his broadcasts," and to interview Education Secretary Rod Paige for TV and radio spots that aired during the show in 2004.

Williams said Thursday he understands that critics could find the arrangement unethical, but "I wanted to do it because it's something I believe in."

The top Democrat on the House Education Committee, Rep. George Miller of California, called the contract "a very questionable use of taxpayers' money" that is "probably illegal." He said he will ask his Republican counterpart to join him in requesting an investigation.

The contract, detailed in documents obtained by USA TODAY through a Freedom of Information Act request, also shows that the Education Department, through the Ketchum public relations firm, arranged with Williams to use contacts with America's Black Forum, a group of black broadcast journalists, "to encourage the producers to periodically address" NCLB. He persuaded radio and TV personality Steve Harvey to invite Paige onto his show twice. Harvey's manager, Rushion McDonald, confirmed the appearances.

Williams said he does not recall disclosing the contract to audiences on the air but told colleagues about it when urging them to promote NCLB.

"I respect Mr. Williams' statement that this is something he believes in," said Bob Steele, a media ethics expert at The Poynter Institute for Media Studies. "But I would suggest that his commitment to that belief is best exercised through his excellent professional work rather than through contractual obligations with outsiders who are, quite clearly, trying to influence content."

The contract may be illegal "because Congress has prohibited propaganda," or any sort of lobbying for programs funded by the government, said Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "And it's propaganda."

White House spokesman Trent Duffy said he couldn't comment because the White House is not involved in departments' contracts.

Ketchum referred questions to the Education Department, whose spokesman, John Gibbons, said the contract followed standard government procedures. He said there are no plans to continue with "similar outreach."

Williams' contract was part of a $1 million deal with Ketchum that produced "video news releases" designed to look like news reports. The Bush administration used similar releases last year to promote its Medicare prescription drug plan, prompting a scolding from the Government Accountability Office, which called them an illegal use of taxpayers' dollars.

Williams, 45, a former aide to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, is one of the top black conservative voices in the nation. He hosts The Right Side on TV and radio, and writes op-ed pieces for newspapers, including USA TODAY, while running a public relations firm, Graham Williams Group.

Doctors Active Participants in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib Torture

Professional ethics in a time of war

An article in the New England Journal of Medicine alleges that doctors were active participants in prisoner abuse at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

By Suzanne Goldenberg

Jan. 7, 2005 | Doctors at Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib used their medical knowledge to help devise coercive interrogation methods for detainees, including sleep deprivation, stress positions and other abuse, it was reported Thursday. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine provides the most authoritative account so far that doctors were active participants in the abuse of prisoners in America's "war on terror."

"Clearly, the medical personnel who helped to develop and execute aggressive counterresistance plans thereby breached the laws of war," says the article, which is based on interviews with more than two dozen military personnel and recently released official documents. It adds: "The conclusion that doctors participated in torture is premature, but there is probable cause for suspecting it."

The issue that the administration had encouraged the use of coercive interrogation techniques was raised Thursday in the Senate confirmation hearings of Alberto Gonzales, President Bush's nominee for attorney general. Gonzales was attacked for a memo that said only the most severe types of torture were not permissible under U.S. law.

The NEJM article accuses doctors of violating professional ethics by passing detainee health records to military intelligence and by watching interrogation sessions. It also describes collaboration with interrogators in which doctors and medics helped set the parameters for abuse, determining 72-hour "sleep management" schedules for detainees, approving bread and water regimens for those subjected to "dietary manipulation," and sanctioning long periods of isolation.

At Guantánamo and at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, doctors had the final say on the interrogation plan for each detainee. "The medic would screen him and ensure he was fit for interrogation ... After that the medic would watch over the interrogation from behind the glass," the article quotes a military police commander as saying.

Last August an article in British medical journal the Lancet accused medics at Abu Ghraib of failing to report the beating of detainees and of forging death certificates. But the practices described Thursday suggest for the first time that medical practitioners played an active role in abuse. "This is physicians and psychiatrists being involved in the design and implementation of interrogation plans," said Jonathan Marks, a British lawyer and fellow at the Georgetown University Law Center who coauthored the report.

There was no comment from the U.S. military Thursday, but the article includes comments from the deputy assistant secretary of defense for health, David Tornberg, that suggest the Pentagon believes professional ethics do not apply in a time of war. That view has raised concern in the medical community. "You have to protect physicians from being ... used to serve military purposes," said Leonard Rubinstein, director of Physicians for Human Rights.

tax dollars paid for “News Announcement”

Drug Control Office Faulted For Issuing Fake News Tapes

By Ceci Connolly
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 7, 2005; Page A17

Shortly before last year's Super Bowl, local news stations across the country aired a story by Mike Morris describing plans for a new White House ad campaign on the dangers of drug abuse.

What viewers did not know was that Morris is not a journalist and his "report" was produced by the government, actions that constituted illegal "covert propaganda," according to an investigation by the Government Accountability Office.

In the second ruling of its kind, the investigative arm of Congress this week scolded the Bush administration for distributing phony prepackaged news reports that include a "suggested live intro" for anchors to read, interviews with Washington officials and a closing that mimics a typical broadcast news sign off.

Although television stations knew the materials were produced by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, there was nothing in the two-minute, prepackaged reports that would indicate to viewers that they came from the government or that Morris, a former journalist, was working under contract for the government.

"You think you are getting a news story, but what you are getting is a paid announcement," said Susan A. Poling, managing associate general counsel at the GAO. "What is objectionable about these is the fact the viewer has no idea their tax dollars are being used to write and produce this video segment."

In May, the GAO concluded that the Department of Health and Human Services violated two federal laws with similar fake news reports touting the administration's new Medicare drug benefit. When that opinion was released, officials at the drug control office decided to stop the practice, spokesman Thomas A. Riley said.

"Our lawyers disagree with the GAO interpretation," he said. Nevertheless, if the video releases were going to be "controversial or create an appearance of a problem," the agency decided it was not worth pursuing, he said.

The prepackaged news pieces represent a fraction of the anti-drug messages distributed by the office, Riley said. Production and distribution of the video news releases cost about $155,000.

Riley said broadcast stations were fully aware they were receiving materials akin to printed news releases that producers could "slice and dice it however they want."

In one video, titled "Urging Parents to Get the Facts Straight on Teen Marijuana Use," news stations were provided a script for the news anchor. It reads: "Despite the fact that marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug among today's youth, many parents admit they're still not taking the drug seriously. Now, the nation's experts in health, education and safety have joined the Drug Czar to speak directly to parents about the very real risks of teen marijuana use. Mike Morris has more."

After interview snippets with John Walters, who heads the drug control policy office, and other experts, the story closes with the voiceover: "This is Mike Morris reporting."

In another, the announcer appears to be "reporting" on a news conference by drug control officials, when "in reality, they are just paid to say a script," Poling said. "In essence, they're actors."

The drug control agency distributed at least seven prepackaged news reports to 770 TV stations. At least 300 news shows used some portion of the materials, though it was impossible to determine how many aired the full prepackaged story or just portions such as "sound bites," Riley said.

If the videos had been identified as coming from the federal agency, that would have been legal, Poling said. But the television package looks like authentic independent journalism.

"The critical element of covert propaganda is the concealment of the agency's role in sponsoring the materials," GAO wrote to Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), who requested the Jan. 4 report.

"It is illegal to use taxpayer dollars to influence public opinion surreptitiously," Waxman said yesterday. "Unfortunately, this is the second time in less than a year that GAO has caught the Bush administration violating a fundamental principle of open government."