Friday, December 31, 2004

DigitalGlobe | QuickBird Images of Tsunami Sites

DigitalGlobe | QuickBird Images of Tsunami Sites: "QuickBird Images of Tsunami Sites"

For those people who STILL have not dipped deep into their pockets, you may contribute to the Tsunamis appeal at


Tuesday, December 21, 2004

'Christmas is taboo in America, but now people are fighting back'

If you think celebrations in Britain are becoming too politically correct then don't go to the US. Philip Sherwell reports

For her son's school "holiday party" last week, Julie West baked a birthday cake for the baby Jesus - a gesture of defiance both against his teachers and the growing campaign in America to remove any trace of Christmas from public life.

Six-year-old Aaron had brought home a note from his school, in Washington state, that asked parents to provide food that their family traditionally enjoyed during the holiday season.

"He asked for the cake I make at Christmas with the words 'Happy Birthday Jesus'," said Ms West. "I called the school to let them know, but a few days later the teacher phoned back to say that I couldn't bring the cake as the party was not a religious event."

Ms West, who attends a non-denominational church in Edmonds, near Seattle, was amazed. "It wasn't an attempt to impose my beliefs on anyone. It was just a cake," she said. "I think all traditions and religions should be celebrated at this time of year."

After researching the issue on the internet she contacted the Rutherford Institute, a mainstream pressure group that defends religious freedom. It assured her that even though the American constitution bans the promotion of religion by the government, simply bringing a cake iced with "Happy Birthday Jesus" into the school broke no laws. "So I took the cake in for the party on Tuesday and none of the other parents or children were offended," she said. "The only comment was how delicious it was.

"I didn't set out to make a point, but now I hope I have helped a few other people understand their rights."

Not everyone is as robust. Across the United States, celebrations for what many Americans now refer to as the "C word" have been all but restricted to churches and private homes.

In Wichita, Kansas, a local newspaper ran an apology after referring to a "Christmas tree", rather than a "community tree" at the city's Winterfest celebration. In Denver, a Christian church float was barred from the city's parade while Chinese lion dancers and German folk dancers were welcomed. In parts of Florida, fir trees have been banned this year from government-owned property.

A mayor in Massachusetts issued a formal apology to anyone offended by a press release that mistakenly described the town of Somerville's holiday party as a "Christmas party". Schools in Florida and New Jersey have banned all carols and elsewhere in Washington state a school principal banned a production of A Christmas Carol mainly because Tiny Tim prays: "God bless us, every one."

In one New Jersey school district, where the singing of Christmas carols has long been abandoned, officials have this year forbidden children's orchestras to play songs such as Silent Night because that might remind people of their Christian content.

Frosty the Snowman and Winter Wonderland have, however, been deemed acceptable as they are devoid of any religious references.

"The majority of people in the towns think that this policy is unnecessary," said William Calabrese, the town president (mayor) of South Orange. "This feels like a slap in the face to diversity, not a symbol of it. They're sterilising the school systems, taking away freedom of choice. It's a type of totalitarianism."

The fightback, however, has begun. Showdowns are taking place across the country as individuals, and conservative and religious groups, come out against the zealous interpretation of the separation of Church and state.

In Chicago, a Nativity scene has been given police protection after a life-sized model of the infant Christ was briefly stolen before being recovered earlier this month.

"This has been getting worse for years and people have finally had enough," said John Whitehead, the founder of the Rutherford Institute, which has issued its own "Twelve Rules of Christmas" setting out people's religious rights.

"Political correctness is all-pervasive here. Christmas has become a taboo in America but now people are fighting back."

In the Oklahoma City suburb of Mustang, voters angered by a school board's decision to remove a Nativity scene from a school play demonstrated their fury at the ballot box last week. They rejected the board's plans to raise $11 million (£5.7 million) by issuing bonds.

Many parents were particularly angry that the play still featured Santa Claus and a Christmas tree in addition to symbols of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah and of Kwanzaa, an African-American celebration established in 1966 as a counter to Christmas. These were deemed "cultural" rather than religious.

Also last week, a court challenge began in New York to overturn a policy that allows the Jewish menorah and Islamic crescent and star to be displayed in schools, but forbids Nativity scenes.

The Catholic League and Thomas More Law Centre are appealing against a lower court ruling that found that the Jewish and Muslim symbols have a secular dimension while the Nativity is "purely religious".

Organisations such as the Americans United (AU) for Separation of Church and State believe that the campaign to put Christ back into Christmas is being pushed by conservative Christian groups buoyed by the victory of President George W Bush and the religious Right in last month's elections. "They are emboldened," said Robert Boston, an AU spokesman.

The Chicago Nativity has been at the centre of controversy since the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Jewish Congress and the American Atheists launched a legal challenge against its location on public property.

Their case was thrown out because the scene was erected by a private group. This year, at least, other expressions of religious freedom are also being allowed in the city.

Pressure groups such as the Rutherford Institute and the Alliance Defence Fund, which hires lawyers to fight perceived anti-Christian bias, say that many teachers and public officials are confused about the law and wrongly believe that any religious displays or symbols are forbidden on government property.

Others have been cowed by a stream of complaints and are just seeking "the easy life", according to Mr Whitehead. Retailers are particularly sensitive to complaints. Several stores, including Macy's, have reportedly banned their staff from referring to Christmas in case they deter non-Christian customers, prompting a group of angry Californians to boycott its outlets.

While President Bush's holiday greetings card, posted to a record two million recipients this year, carries a line from Psalm 95 – "Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song" – there is no mention of Christmas on the White House website. Even Fox News, the conservative television network, cannot bring itself to wish a merry Christmas to its viewers. Instead, "Happy Holidays" is flashed up to the tune – but not the words – of Ding Dong Merrily on High.

The Rutherford Institute despairs. "This is not a Left-Right, Republican-Democrat issue," said Mr Whitehead. "It's about everyone's right to celebrate their religious beliefs as they want. We should be including all religions, not excluding one."

Monday, December 20, 2004

The Oil-for-Food Scandal - What happened, and who's to blame. By Michael Crowley

The Oil-for-Food Scandal - What happened, and who's to blame. By Michael Crowley
Fox News's Fred Barnes calls it "the biggest scandal in human history." American soldiers may be dying in Iraq because of it, says Bill O'Reilly. It proves that the United Nations is a failed, incompetent institution—and that its leader, Kofi Annan, must be sacked, says many a Republican on Capitol Hill.

Conservatives everywhere are in high dudgeon over the U.N. oil-for-food scandal. And certainly, the tale of how Saddam Hussein evaded and exploited U.N. sanctions to reap more than $21 billion in illegal profits from 1990 to 2003 is tawdry and venal. But it's also not quite as simple as Fox News claims. The details are complicated, and pinning blame isn't easy. Here's a guide to the key players and their roles:

Saturday, December 18, 2004


The Labour Party announced today that they is changing the party's emblem from a red rose to a condom. The party chairman explained that the condom more clearly reflects the party's stance today, because a condom accepts inflation, halts production, destroys the next generation, protects a bunch of pricks, and gives you a sense of security while you're actually getting screwed.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Telegraph | News | Exodus as Dutch middle class seek new life

Telegraph | News | Exodus as Dutch middle class seek new life: "Escaping the stress of clogged roads, street violence and loss of faith in Holland's once celebrated way of life, the Dutch middle classes are leaving the country in droves for the first time in living memory."

Holland first Next England.
Rats and ships comes to mind

Friday, December 10, 2004

"Politically Correct" Christmas Greeting

Reuters reports that the mayor of Sydney, Australia, decorated her city's
town hall with just one Christmas tree out of fear of offending
non-Christians. Am I the only one that believes this "Politically Correct"
type of behavior should disappear? Schools can celebrate a winter holiday
that is only about 38 years old, but they cannot celebrate one that is over
2000 years old because "someone" might be offended? "Someone" needs to get
a grip. There is nothing that says we are guaranteed never to be offended
during our lives, and this bending over backwards to prevent people from
being offended by something is pretty offensive to me.

But since there is still time to get those holiday greetings sent (if you do
that sort of thing) I have a message that you can use to insure that the
fewest number of folks will take offense:

Happy Holidays!*

*Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for
an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress,
non-addictive, gender-neutral, celebration of the winter solstice holiday,
practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion
of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the
religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice
not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

We also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically
uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar
year 2005, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other
cultures whose contributions to society have helped make this country great,
and without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability,
religious faith, or sexual preference of the wishee.

By accepting this greeting, you are accepting these terms:
This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal.
It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting.
It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes
for herself/himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law, and is
revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to
perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a
period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting,
whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish
or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher.


IRA Refuse Paisley Photograph Demand

Paisley, Adams Smiling Together
The IRA have said there is absolutely no chance whatsoever of any of its members posing for portraits for Ian Paisley, despite the fact that doing so could restore devolution to Northern Ireland.

Proposals on power sharing set out by the British and Irish governments promised to bring an end to the two year suspension of Northern Ireland's political institutions.

But Mr Paisley, the DUP leader who has been annoyed for over 50 years, made it clear that he would not accept the proposals until he had received a Christmas card from the IRA with a photo of some of its members on the front.

?And I don't want to see balaclavas either,? he said. ?I want faces, smiling faces. I'm not asking for much. I have a large fireplace with a wide mantelpiece at home and I never get enough Christmas cards to fill it. The IRA never send me personalised Christmas cards.?

Asked if he would accept a signed photograph rather than a Christmas card, Mr Paisley said ?Yes.? The IRA, however, said ?No.?

Meanwhile, two ex-IRA members, Sean O'Sullivan and Aodh Byrne, who can't be named for legal reasons, said it was highly unlikely that anyone in the IRA would consent to having his photo taken. ?Let's face it. Very few of us like having our photo taken. Members of the IRA are no different, even when wearing balaclavas. The fact that Mr Paisley wants to see them without balaclavas, well, it's just not going to happen.?

In an attempt to resolve the problem, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said Mr Paisley could have his photograph on a Christmas card if he wanted. He said he'd even wear a Father Christmas costume if that would help move things along.

The DUP leader politely rejected his offer. ?Damn the beast to hell! I'd rather have a photograph of Beelzebub himself on my mantelpiece. No! No! No! No! No! No! No!?

Mr Adams has asked republicans not to take Mr Paisley's words to heart. ?Look, the man isn't getting as many Christmas cards as he'd like. It hurts. Don't be too harsh on him. And remember what all this comes down to ? a large mantelpiece. If only Mr Paisley's fireplace was a little smaller. We'd all be as happy as Larry.?
Taken from