Better Not Tell Prince Charles

I was prevaricating about the bush whether to run with the second story at all; it did have certain appeals, a bit of insight into another culture never does any harm, and there was one paragraph in particular that evoked all kids of images, most from the archives I add.

The clincher though, was finding this first rather topical story as I wandered through the host site; the two of them making enough to make a post out of.

Time for Beatrix to hand over the crown

Queen Beatrix should step aside and make space for Crown Prince Willem-Alexander to take over the job: that’s the wish of sixty percent of the Dutch public.

Support for the Dutch monarchy is still strong. Two thirds of those questioned feel the level of political power exercised by the monarch is just right. Three out of ten would prefer the monarchy to wield no political influence whatsoever.

Queen Beatrix will turn 75 in 2013 and half of those in favour of her resigning think this would be the perfect moment to hand over the ruling role to Prince Willem-Alexander and Princess Máxima. Princess Ariane, the youngest of the royal couple’s three daughters, turned four this month and is already attending primary school.

The survey - conducted by market researcher TNS NIPO – is based on the opinions of 829 Dutch people older than 18 years. RNW

Planning the perfect Queen's Day

All over the Netherlands, people are gearing up for Queen’s Day, the one day every year that the rules are relaxed and the otherwise straight-laced Dutch let down their hair.

Village squares and city centres turn into huge open air markets. Children play musical instruments in parks and on squares to earn a bit of extra pocket money. Every inch of the pavement is marked “occupied” by hopeful one-day traders. Bewildered tourists find walking even a short distance almost impossible due to the sheer numbers of revellers dressed from head to toe in orange – the Dutch national colour......

"Orange Committees"

Across the country “Orange Committees” (clubs for royal family enthusiasts) have put hours into organising their local event. Just outside Amsterdam in my little village of Schellingwoude, preparations are almost complete.

Since January, the eleven committee members – including myself – have been busy coming up with new children’s games, painting signs, gathering props, organising food, selling advertising, writing and distributing the Queen’s Day newspaper, collecting annual contributions, recruiting volunteers....

....Looking silly is part of the fun

Then the games carrousel will begin – in keeping with our magical theme of course.

Clutching a scorecard, the kids will rush to be first in line to help Little Red Riding Hood collect provisions for grandma, but watch out - it looks like the big bad wolf got to grandma’s house first!

Then they’re off to see who can knock down one of the seven dwarfs. Children will even get the chance to throw soft balls at their parents standing behind a cut-out of the Emperor Without his Clothes.

Looking silly on Queen’s Day is part of the fun. Biting cake suspended on a string is a well-known Queen’s Day tradition, but in Schellingwoude, it will be a chance for kids to get sticky fingers as they decorate slices of sponge cake in Hans and Gretel’s Sweetie House.

And, as if that’s not enough, there is a prize for everyone in the Treasure Trove. more Radio Netherlands

h/t Maren

Unexpected Alphabet No 16

Well, what a day. Everything from the High Victorian visions in Westminster Abbey- red uniforms and internal green trees like it must have been inside the Great Exhibition of 1851- to our village hall with a party for the children- miniature sausage rolls and My Boys (and others, it has to be said) taking it in turns to wear my giant tea cosy that's shaped like a muti-coloured crown. And this sponge cake emblazoned with stencilled castor sugar (I think). It was a little thing, and I expect there were a few thousand like it up and down the bunting-ed and beflagged streets of the nation, but this was one of ours. I loved it all, the care and precision of everything from a military epaulette to a flag stuck in a cake. "I was glad", as Hubert Parry had it for everyone in the Abbey, but particularly for that stunning processing bride. God bless 'em.

Your Head of State (US) Grew Up On Foodstamps, My Head of State (UK) Grew Up On The Postage Stamps

The header taken from a line of Johann Hari, a columnist at The Independent of London, where he talks to Amy Goodman about the politics of the Royal Wedding, Britain's Imperial past and its associated human rights abuses, and much more.

Johann Hari: Frenzy around Britain’s Royal Wedding "Should Embarrass Us All"
April 29, 2011

Up to two billion people around the world tuned in to watch the British royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, a story which has dominated TV news for weeks. The wedding buzz offers a chance to look at the monarchy, Britain’s domestic policy, and how its colonial legacy around the world affects foreign affairs today. While all eyes were on the wedding procession and the first kiss, Democracy Now! spoke with Johann Hari, a columnist at The Independent of London, who says the royal wedding frenzy should be an embarrassment to us all.

AMY GOODMAN: Controversy has also arisen this week over the royal wedding guest list. Syrian ambassador Sami Khiyami was disinvited amidst reports of Syria’s brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters. But the former head of Bahrain’s National Security Agency is in attendance despite allegations he oversaw the torturing of prisoners with electric shocks. Sheikh Khalifa Bin Ali al-Khalifa is the current Bahraini ambassador to Britain. Human rights groups have also criticized the royal family for inviting representatives from Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Burma, Morocco, Equatorial Guinea, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

Joining us here in New York is a British journalist who has openly criticized the wedding hoopla. Johann Hari is a columnist at The Independent of London. One of his most recent columns is titled "This Royal Frenzy Should Embarrass Us All." He’s also the presenter of the Johann Hari podcast.

Johann, welcome to Democracy Now!

JOHANN HARI: It’s great to be with you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, talk about your country. Talk about this royal wedding, all the attention. And most importantly, let’s discuss empire.

JOHANN HARI: Well, I’m here as a refugee from the royal wedding, in New York, so—although it seems you can’t escape it anywhere. But, you know, nobody objects to two people who love each other getting married. You know, that’s a nice thing. It’s nice for anyone to see it. You know, got no problem with that.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, depending on their sexual orientation, some countries do.

JOHANN HARI: Well, that’s a good point, but the—indeed, Elton John was there, and he wouldn’t be allowed to get married. He’s not allowed to get married in Britain.

But the thing we really object to is the institution of monarchy in the family. This has turned into the celebration of the idea that my country’s head of state is selected not by voting but by squelching out of a particular aristocratic womb in a particular golden palace, which doesn’t seem to me to be a very sensible way to select these things. And it causes very serious problems. For all the other flaws of the American political system, your head of state grew up on food stamps. My head of state grew up on the postage stamps. You know, you can tell your kids in most democracies, "If you work really hard, if you appeal to enough people, you can grow up to be the symbol of our country." The fact that the symbol of our country is selected solely through the most snobbish criteria of all, bloodlines, who their parent was, has a disfiguring effect on the whole of British society. It creates a kind of snobbery that emanates out and emanates down. When you’re a British kid, you grow up seeing that people instinctively bow and grovel before someone, just because they happen to have been born in a palace. And I think that does have a deforming effect. More and twenty minute video.

Congratulations to the 2011 Get Ready Scholarship winners!

Six students have been chosen as the recipients of the American Public Health Association’s annual Get Ready Scholarship.

The scholarship, which is awarded in conjunction with APHA’s Get Ready campaign, encourages high school, undergraduate and graduate students to recognize emergency preparedness as a public health issue. Hundreds of students from across the nation applied, but only six were chosen.

Drum roll, please. The winners are:
• Katherine Double: Bear Creek High School, Lakewood, Colo. (High school level)

• Amy Miller: Yukon High School, Yukon, Okla. (High school level)

• Alex Ghenis: University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley, Calif. (Undergraduate level)

• Katelyn Somers: University of Maryland, College Park, Md. (Undergraduate level)

• Alana Massey: Yale University, New Haven, Conn. (Graduate level)

• Leanne Piña: University of Texas, Houston, Texas (Graduate level)

Each of the winners receives a $500 scholarship for school-related expenses and a one-year APHA membership. Winners were determined through an essay contest on various topics ranging from planning a successful Get Ready Day event and assessing their university’s emergency plan to discussing the role of social media as a tool for emergency preparedness.

“We are very pleased that for the third straight year, we have been able to not only help educate these dedicated students about the importance of emergency preparedness in their own communities, but also to provide financial assistance that will allow them to further their education,” said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (E), executive director of APHA.

Excerpts from the winning entries can be viewed online.

CDC Report Highlights Children’s Food Environment in Maine

A report out from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week shows that Maine is doing better than the nation at improving access to healthy foods for its children — one piece of the puzzle in fighting childhood obesity — but that there is still more work to be done. The 2011 Children’s Food Environment State Indicator Report notes that Maine is above the national averages when it comes to providing access to healthy foods in Maine communities.

“States and communities are uniquely positioned to help improve the food environment for children where they live, play, and learn,” said William Dietz, M.D., Ph.D., director of CDC's Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. “If we hope to reverse the trend of childhood obesity, we need to work together at the local, state, and national level to create environments that support healthy eating for children.”

The report looked closely at each state to examine community food environments in order to understand the types of foods most accessible to children and their families on a daily basis. The report looked at the variety of food retailers in each state and categorized them into two different groups: food retailers that typically sell healthier foods such as supermarkets, supercenters and produce stores and those retailers that are less likely to sell healthy food such as fast-food restaurants and convenience stores. Maine and Montana were among the higher scoring states with a score of 15 and 16 respectively, compared to the national average of 10; lower scoring states were Rhode Island at 5 followed by the District of Columbia at a score of 4. A score of 100 would mean all food retailers in a community provide access to healthy foods. It is clear all states need to improve accessibility to healthier foods, but the ideal target score for a state was not given in the report.

The CDC report also shows that as of December 2008, Maine had enacted one of the state child care licensure regulations of three listed in the report as important indicators: limiting screen time (television and video) for all child care facilities. Only one state had enacted all of the regulations, while 13 states and the District of Columbia had enacted none.

Additionally, for the school foods indicator Maine outperformed the national average with respect to the number of middle and high schools that do not allow students to purchase less healthy foods outside the usual school lunch (such as in vending machines and school stores). About 66% of Maine schools do not allow the purchase of less healthy foods; above the national average of 49%. Maine also has more middle and high schools that do not offer sugar drinks — 44% don’t offer sugar drinks compared to the national average of only 36% that don’t.

“It is wonderful to see that our state is performing better than most of the nation to improve access to healthy foods for our children,” said Stephen Sears, M.D., MPH, Acting Director, Maine CDC. “Our progress in this area is due to the commitment, hard work and collaboration of Maine people, local efforts such as Communities Putting Prevention to Work and Healthy Maine Partnerships, and others who partner with the Maine CDC such as the Maine Nutrition Network and the Maine-Harvard Prevention Research Center. However, there is still much to be done if we are to reduce childhood obesity rates in Maine — one out of every three of our children is currently overweight or obese.”

Maine is currently working in many ways to improve access to healthier foods for all residents, particularly children. These efforts include creating positive food and physical activity environments in child care settings, growing already thriving farm-to-school programs in schools and making strides to meet the USDA definition of a healthier school environment in all of Maine’s schools.

The Children’s Food Environment State Indicator Report compiles data from a variety of sources, including Preventing Obesity in the Child Care Setting: Evaluating State Regulations and CDC’s School Health Profiles. To view the full CDC report visit

Guess What? The Cops Tell Lies and Fit You Up. The Lower Echelons Kill People Tell Lies and Fit You Up

You might be astonished to hear.
Justice is impossible if we cannot trust police forces to tell the truth
by George Monbiot
12 April 2011

From Blair Peach to Ian Tomlinson, there is only one remedy for police officers found to have made false statements: sack them

'From the information I had, that is what I believed happened to me." So Simon Harwood, the police officer who pushed Ian Tomlinson to the ground at the G20 protests two years ago, told the inquest into his death. The information Harwood had led him to believe two weeks after the event that he fell to the floor, lost his baton, received a blow to the head and was involved in violent and dangerous confrontations. Last week he admitted that, though he had made these claims in a signed statement, none of it happened. So what was this information? Who gave it to him? Had he been brainwashed?

We have yet to hear John Yates's explanations for the ever-widening gulf between what he told parliament and what appears to have happened in the News of the World phone-hacking case, but they will doubtless be just as persuasive. Yates is acting deputy commissioner of the Metropolitan police. He told a parliamentary committee that there was no evidence that MPs' phones had been hacked; that the Crown Prosecution Service had given the police "unequivocal" advice that the paper had committed an offence only if it picked up messages before its victims did; that the police had contacted everyone targeted by the paper; and that the police had ensured that the phone companies had warned all the suspected victims. It appears none of this is true.

A Scotland Yard briefing paper shows that "a vast number" of people had their phones hacked, including at least eight MPs. The director of public prosecutions has testified that the claims Yates made about CPS advice are false. There are plenty of victims who have not been contacted by the police, and the phone companies say that the police didn't ask them to contact their customers.

Surprised? You shouldn't be. It is hard to think of a case of alleged police misconduct which has not been surrounded by police misstatements. Harwood's claims are the latest of the untrue stories issued by the Met about the events surrounding Tomlinson's death. They claimed, for example, that officers tried to resuscitate him and called an ambulance while a screaming mob pelted them with bottles. In reality, demonstrators helped him and called an ambulance, and there was no hail of bottles.

After Jean Charles de Menezes was shot by the Met, the then commissioner (the head of the force), Sir Ian Blair, claimed that De Menezes "was challenged and refused to obey police instructions". A statement by the police claimed that his clothing and behaviour gave grounds for suspicion. An account that De Menezes' relatives believe originated with the police, and found its way into most newspapers, suggests that he was wearing a heavy jacket, that he fled from the officers when he was challenged and that he vaulted over the ticket barrier into Stockwell underground station. None of this is true. Similarly misleading stories surrounded the killings of Kevin Gately, Blair Peach, Richard O'Brien, Shiji Lapite, Roger Sylvester, Harry Stanley, Mikey Powell and other people killed by officers. The problem appears systemic and widespread: we can't trust the police to tell the truth.

The issue is not confined to killings. Here's a story that has received less attention, but involves a chain of alleged falsehoods that almost deprived an innocent man of his liberty.

In August 2008 Michael Doherty, who lives in Hillingdon, discovered a long series of messages exchanged by his 13-year-old daughter with someone who appeared as if he might be grooming her. The messages were sexually explicit. At one point the person proposed staging a kidnap and whisking her away. Doherty went to the police. He presented them with an 86-page dossier. When he wasn't satisfied with the action being taken, he phoned Hillingdon police station five times to try to speak to a senior officer to complain, and to find out why, in his view, the investigation seemed to have stalled. Then a series of remarkable things happened.

Two plainclothes officers arrived at Doherty's house at seven in the morning, when he was feeding his baby, to arrest him. Among other charges, the police claimed that he had been harassing the commander's secretary. She had produced a witness statement in which, she said, he had phoned 10 times in two days, that he was "raging", "abusive", "rude and aggressive". Doherty offered to get dressed and then present himself at the station – but the officers, after threatening to smash down the door, handcuffed him and dragged him out of the house in his dressing gown.

At the same time the police dropped the grooming investigation. They hadn't looked at his daughter's computer. A note by a detective inspector at the Hillingdon station later justified this decision by maintaining that "there is no evidence of a crime capable of proof". Doherty believes that this conclusion could not be supported without examining the computer; the police maintain that they have established that the correspondent was only 15, had met Doherty's daughter, and was who he said he was.

Doherty had proof that the calls he had made were not rude, abusive, raging or aggressive: he had recorded them. I have listened to the recordings: he remains patient and polite – remarkably controlled for someone faced with alleged police indifference to what was happening to his daughter. The police failed to pass these recordings to the Crown Prosecution Service, so off to court he went. There, though she had signed a legal witness statement, the secretary admitted that her recollection of the calls was hazy, and he was acquitted; but had he not recorded them, and meticulously documented everything else that happened, he might have been convicted.

Having failed to interest the crown prosecutors, Michael Doherty is about to launch a private prosecution for alleged perjury. It's the last hope he has of holding anyone to account.

Justice is impossible if we cannot trust police forces to tell the truth. The remedy I'm about to propose should not be difficult for any government to adopt. It offers, I think, the only chance we have of addressing what seems to be an endemic problem: anyone who works for the police and is found to have made false statements – to the prosecution, the defence, the courts, parliament, public inquiries or the media – should be sacked. No excuses, no mitigation, no delays. It sounds harsh; it's not nearly as harsh as a system in which the police malign both the living and the dead, and use the law against innocent people in order to protect themselves. Gruniad
McCann connection

h/t Steel Magnolia

Food Reward: a Dominant Factor in Obesity, Part I

A Curious Finding

It all started with one little sentence buried in a paper about obese rats. I was reading about how rats become obese when they're given chocolate Ensure, the "meal replacement drink", when I came across this:
...neither [obesity-prone] nor [obesity-resistant] rats will overeat on either vanilla- or strawberry-flavored Ensure.
The only meaningful difference between chocolate, vanilla and strawberry Ensure is the flavor, yet rats eating the chocolate variety overate, rapidly gained fat and became metabolically ill, while rats eating the other flavors didn't (1). Furthermore, the study suggested that the food's flavor determined, in part, what amount of fatness the rats' bodies "defended."

As I explained in previous posts, the human (and rodent) brain regulates the amount of fat the body carries, in a manner similar to how the brain regulates blood pressure, body temperature, blood oxygenation and blood pH (2). That fact, in addition to several other lines of evidence, suggests that obesity probably results from a change in this regulatory system. I refer to the amount of body fat that the brain defends as the "body fat setpoint", however it's clear that the setpoint is dependent on diet and lifestyle factors. The implication of this paper that I could not escape is that a food's flavor influences body fatness and probably the body fat setpoint.

An Introduction to Food Reward

The brain contains a sophisticated system that assigns a value judgment to everything we experience, integrating a vast amount of information into a one-dimensional rating system that labels things from awesome to terrible. This is the system that decides whether we should seek out a particular experience, or avoid it. For example, if you burn yourself each time you touch the burner on your stove, your brain will label that action as bad and it will discourage you from touching it again. On the other hand, if you feel good every time you're cold and put on a sweater, your brain will encourage that behavior. In the psychology literature, this phenomenon is called "reward," and it's critical to survival.

The brain assigns reward to, and seeks out, experiences that it perceives as positive, and discourages behaviors that it views as threatening. Drugs of abuse plug directly into reward pathways, bypassing the external routes that would typically trigger reward. Although this system has been studied most in the context of drug addiction, it evolved to deal with natural environmental stimuli, not drugs.

As food is one of the most important elements of survival, the brain's reward system is highly attuned to food's rewarding properties. The brain uses input from smell, taste, touch, social cues, and numerous signals from the digestive tract* to assign a reward value to foods. Experiments in rats and humans have outlined some of the qualities of food that are inherently rewarding:
  • Fat
  • Starch
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Meatiness (glutamate)
  • The absence of bitterness
  • Certain textures (e.g., soft or liquid calories, crunchy foods)
  • Certain aromas (e.g., esters found in many fruits)
  • Calorie density ("heavy" food)
We are generally born liking the qualities listed above, and aromas and flavors that are associated with these qualities become rewarding over time. For example, beer tastes terrible the first time you drink it because it's bitter, but after you drink it a few times and your brain catches wind that there are calories and a drug in there, it often begins tasting good. The same applies to many vegetables. Children are generally not fond of vegetables, but if you serve them spinach smothered in butter enough times, they'll learn to like it by the time they're adults.

The human brain evolved to deal with a certain range of rewarding experiences. It didn't evolve to constructively manage strong drugs of abuse such as heroin and crack cocaine, which overstimulate reward pathways, leading to the pathological drug seeking behaviors that characterize addiction. These drugs are "superstimuli" that exceed our reward system's normal operating parameters. Over the next few posts, I'll try to convince you that in a similar manner, industrially processed food, which has been professionally crafted to maximize its rewarding properties, is a superstimulus that exceeds the brain's normal operating parameters, leading to an increase in body fatness and other negative consequences.

* Nerves measure stomach distension. A number of of gut-derived paracrine and endocrine signals, including CCK, PYY, ghrelin, GLP-1 and many others potentially participate in food reward sensing, some by acting directly on the brain via the circulation, and others by signaling indirectly via the vagus nerve. More on this later.

Browntail Moths

Browntail moths make their webs in the fall in oak, apple, serviceberry and other trees and shrubs. Hairs from the larvae can cause a rash similar to poison ivy and can also cause respiratory distress in sensitive individuals. The larvae begin to emerge from their webs in late April and feed on the foliage as soon as it appears. Larvae hairs persist for a number of years and can continue to cause problems when mowing or other activities stir them up.

The browntail moth population has intensified in the southern Merrymeeting Bay area, which may mean more people are at risk of exposure to the larvae hairs. The area primarily affected by this insect includes parts of Bath, West Bath, Brunswick, Topsham and Bowdoinham; other affected towns include Augusta, Falmouth, Freeport, Kennebunkport, Lewiston, Lisbon Falls, Turner, and Wiscassett.

Most people developing the rash will do so within hours of outdoor activity. The duration of the rash varies, from hours to days.

For more information from the Maine Forest Service:

A Fairytale Wedding? What Nonsense! Hear Hear Old Chap

A German's eye view of the Wedding and the Windsors

A Fairytale Wedding? What Nonsense!
A German Journalist's Royal Frustration

The wedding of William and Kate on Friday will be a joke, a hopelessly overhyped celebration of an absurdly undemocratic system, writes SPIEGEL London correspondent Marco Evers. He pities the bride for her imminent loss of freedom, and wonders why this eccentric nation continues to worship the Windsors.

The whole thing feels like an aberration of history.

It's wrong if the head of state of a country can only come from one family. It's wrong to furnish this clan with palaces, land and all manner of grants to spare its members the indignity of having to earn their keep and enable them to live in luxury. It is wrong to address the Windsors and, from next Friday the delightful Kate Middleton as well, as Your Royal Highness or even Your Majesty. It is wrong to see them as anything other than people made of flesh and blood, like you and I.

Millions of Britons know that. The Guardian newspaper wants to abolish the monarchy, as does the Independent and the Economist magazine. Many professors, film directors, writers, actors and politicians would like Britain to become a republic -- but they remain in the minority which for years has been constant at around 18 percent of the population.

Cherie Blair, the difficult wife of the former Prime Minister Tony, once refused to curtsey in front of the old Mrs. Elizabeth Windsor, but the majority of Britons enjoy doing that, and much more, for Queen and Country. The Windsors are Europe's most expensive royal family, but the people go on paying, without grumbling, at least as long as Queen Elizabeth remains alive.

The Queen Owns all the Swans, Whales and Sturgeons

But Great Britain is a strange country. It has no written constitution but a rigid class system. The lawyers wear wigs in court and there are no citizens, just subjects. By law, all swans, all whales and all sturgeons are the property of the Queen, but there's no British national football team.

And if the Queen wishes to award an honor to one of her subjects, he can proudly call himself "Officer" or even "Commander of the Order of the British Empire." What on earth do these titles actually refer to? Much in this realm seems at least as antiquated as the London Underground.

British soldiers are fighting for democracy in Afghanistan and Libya, and they fought for it in Iraq. But at home, they defend the absurdly undemocratic idea that nobody but a Windsor can be head of state. As soon as Elizabeth, 85, shuffles off her mortal coil, her son Charles, 62, already worn down by his long wait for the accession, will take the throne, even though opinion polls show the majority of Britons don't want the brooding, esoteric prince to become king.

The pomp and ceremony surrounding the marriage of William and Kate is the latest expression of British eccentricity -- but a large part of the world appears to be succumbing to it as well.

Yes, the carriages of gold and velvet look pretty, the bride's train will be a sight to behold and Westminster Abbey is quite a spectacular backdrop for the ceremony. But is it really worth all the fuss? More than 10,000 journalists are descending on London. The German networks ARD, ZDF, Sat.1, RTL, n-tv and N24 will hardly be broadcasting anything else on Friday. Everyone is pretending that this spectacle is the most important and beautiful event on earth -- but it is not.

Oddly, the British public isn't as interested in the wedding as one might think. Most Britons say they don't really care about the event. Only about a third of them plan to watch the show on TV. And, compared to previous royal nuptials, relatively few of them plan to take part in the traditional street parties. In the center of London, hotels have plenty of spare rooms even though they have been offering discount deals for the weekend.

Millions of British subjects already fled the island on budget airlines before Easter and are now populating the beaches of Turkey, Cyprus, Egypt or the Caribbean. The weather there is guaranteed to be better than in London, where heavy rain is forecast for Friday.

Britain is still mired in its worst economic crisis since World War II. Everyone should be rolling up their sleeves to haul the nation out of the doldrums. But the government declared the wedding day a public holiday, and schools, banks, offices and factories will be closed -- just because the heir to the heir to the throne is getting married. The extra holiday may lead to increased turnover in the nation's pubs, but it will end up costing the economy billions.

A Wedding Dictated by Palace Protocol

In truth, the marriage of William and Kate is a sad spectacle. Two young people aren't getting wed in the way they would like but how the palace, protocol and granny demand it.

William, 28, is accustomed to that because he was born into it. But for Kate, 29, Friday will mark the end of her freedom. For her parents, it will be a bit like the death of their daughter. She won't belong to them anymore -- she will be elevated to some form of distant, aristocratic human being, forever unavailable for that impromptu dinner with Mum and Dad.

Fairytale wedding? No way.

Some friends and relatives will be present in Westminster Abbey, but most of the guests will be strangers, and some of them will be repulsive ones at that. King Mswati, the despot of the impoverished African nation of Swaziland who has 13 wives, will be flying in with his entourage of 50 people. Arab potentates have also been invited, some of whom are currently having pro-democracy demonstrators shot at in their streets. Who would want to get married in such company?

Half the British cabinet is coming, along with opposition Labour leader Ed Miliband, who bears the grand official title "Leader of her Majesty's Loyal Opposition." Former conservative Prime Minister John Major will be present. But the last two Labour prime ministers, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, have not been invited. Is that their punishment for having supported the ban on fox hunting? Why should the autocratic Sultan of Brunei get invited and not the two previous leaders of a democratically elected British government?

The whole world is waiting to admire Kate's wedding dress. The designer will be inundated with work after this. But the wearer of the dress faces a future that shouldn't really be desirable for an intelligent woman in the 21st century. Kate will have only three tasks from now on: serving her husband, looking good and bearing children, preferably boys. Apart from that, all she has to do is shut up.

It's like in the 1950s -- only much worse because she will have to continue curtseying to the Queen and other higher-ranking members of the family she has married in to.

The whole thing feels even worse than just an aberration of history. It's a joke. Spiegel

A report from Oz.

Banning the Chaser and bringing on a Republic

Just when you might have thought that things were looking a bit bleak for the Australian Republic, along comes the Chaser and heavy-handed royal censorship to remind us all why it’s so vital we become a Republic. David Donovan comments.

The royals have been in PR overdrive mode since Prince William visited Australia in early 2010. It is blatantly apparent that they see Prince William as the fresh marketable face of the royals. This is because, apart from the Queen, there is pretty much no-one else suitable to sell. The Queen, of course, is venerable, but she’s also 85 now and slowing down. Prince Harry with his partying and Nazi fancy-dress is probably out of the question. Prince Edward is just not attractive or saleable. Princess Anne, apparently prefers to spend more time with horses than humans; hardly appropriate. Prince Andrew, who is a close friend of tyrants, criminals, abusers, and receipient of Azerberjani largesse. Nope. Prince Phillip, who is a gaffe-prone racist and even older than the Queen. No chance. Or King Charles and Queen Camilla? The monarchists dread that day ever coming, though coming it rapidly is.

No, it is William and this wedding and all the preceding PR is meant to remind us, through him, about how wonderful and “normal” the Windsors are. It is an obvious myth, given the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha clan’s obscene wealth, power and by the alarming fact that William is just about the only decent and respectable one in the entire brood. Nevertheless, this has been the implausible message the Palace’s 130-odd strong PR team have been tasked with getting out into the public domain and they had, in the main, been doing a reasonable job. more

Guantanamo Bay Just Another Prison - Wikileaks - Press TV Video

Press TV presents a twenty five minute in depth report on the recent publication of the Guantanamo/Wikileaks documents. Talking heads from London, New York and Washington include Sara Flounders from New York, where, among other things, she had this to say.

'US prisons, crime against humanity'

An estimated 3,000 people are held and tortured in secret rendition prisons around the world by the US war apparatus of which 95% are reportedly innocent.

Press TV talks with Sara Flounders, Co-Director of the International Action Center from New York who provides insight on the relationship between these prisons and the US-imposed wars in the Middle East.

Press TV: Donald Rumsfeld in a public announcement some years ago said, “Until the conflict is over, even if they're innocent, we're going to keep them in Guantanamo Bay.” Looking at the question of the rights of the detained and the courts, there are some serious differences. Maybe you can share some light between the military court and the normal US law? Should the ones detained wrongfully be tried in a civilian court?

Sara Flounders: It's important to recognize that Guantanamo is just the tip of the iceberg. There are thousands of secretly held prisons; secret rendition; extraordinary rendition -- what are described as black sites all over the world: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Poland, and Romania. You could go on and on over the number of people that the US has held and has tortured in secret prisons.

Guantanamo is the only prison where there has been an accounting, at least numerically, where we know of the terrible torture, the conditions under which were held and the overwhelming number of them for whom there was no evidence -- as a matter of fact there is every evidence of their total innocence -- people who were picked up who were shepherds, who were herders; there were young teenagers even who were held in Guantanamo. It's just the tip of the iceberg in terms of what the US describes as its war on terror.

It's also the tip of the iceberg in terms of the US prison system where more than two million people are held in prison and by the US' own accounting, 30,000 of them are held in total complete isolation -- that's torture -- solitary confinement, they don't hear a human voice. These controlled management units, largely Muslim prisoners, are held in these units.

When there was a world outcry on the conditions and the torture of Bradley Manning the US response was 'it wasn't out of the ordinary'. That was usual prison conditions in the US. So it's important what's exposed in Guantanamo, but we should know that Guantanamo is just an example of the secret prisons and prisons within the US. And all of them are a crime against humanity.

Press TV: What can be done? There is evidence piled on top of evidence and it keeps coming. There are two documents from Guantanamo officials that say they were aware that they had innocent men in captivity and they even put that in writing in the prison files. Isn't it time that some of these officials be questioned or prosecuted? How can these be put forward in the US to make them accountable?

Sara Flounders: In all honesty there won't be any justice on any of this until those US politicians who initiated these wars; that have laid waste to Afghanistan and to Iraq and imprisoned and destroyed so many lives -- these are the ones who should be on trial as war criminals and that is really the truth of it.

Those who are held who are known to be innocent, and the numbers are in the thousands. If you look at the figures they feel they have evidence of some charges of about 157 people and that's out of more than 3,000 that they acknowledge that they have held in secret prisons and in Guantanamo. So 95% of these people they had almost no evidence on.

That is a crime. The entire imprisonment of people as an outgrowth of the wars that the US is engaging in Afghanistan into Pakistan, in Iraq, now into Libya throughout the region and it's not only prisons, it's the use of secret drone attacks that swoop down on unsuspecting civilians in Somalia, in Sudan, in Yemen, country after country.

So those who are held without any evidence whatsoever of course should be released, but the entire prison network should be shut down along with the wars that gave lives to this. Without shutting down the wars themselves, which is a crime against the people of a whole region, there is no end to the prisons.

And this is something that President Obama found. He promised in campaign after campaign during his election run that he would close Guantanamo. He issued an executive order announcing that he would close Guantanamo and just like the wars that he promised he would end, it has continued. It's all broken promises because it's part of a system of war. watch

Chernobyl 25 Years On. Democracy Now Video

Chernobyl is still the ecological disaster area that ever it was, but it is this bit from the transcript that I keep banging on about regarding the criminal cover up and misinformation by those concerned. Those being, the National Government, the local officials of Fukushima Prefecture and Tokyo Electric Power Company.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Dr. Janette Sherman, I want to thank you for being with us, specialist in internal medicine and toxicology, edited the book Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and Nature. And Dr. Jeff Patterson, as you head off to the news conference of Physicians for Social Responsibility, could you just describe Chernobyl to us today, what is it like?

DR. JEFF PATTERSON: Well, it’s an area 30 kilometers in circumference that is totally out of bounds to humans. And no crops are grown there. Some people have moved back in. Large areas of the earth has been scraped off, trees cut down. And all of that earth has been buried in trenches. And now, as they are attempting to build the new sarcophagus, they’re finding high levels of radiation in the ground with machinery that was buried immediately in the area. There are graveyards with tanks, buses, machines, that are highly radioactive, that are just sitting out in the open air. And interestingly enough, a recent report showed that the cesium levels around Chernobyl and in this zone and other zones have not diminished in the way that they predicted that they would. And so, they don’t know whether this is coming from cesium that’s coming up through the soil, whether it’s perhaps coming from new cesium that’s being blown into the area.

But clearly, the unknowns are far greater than the knowns in all of this And this is an experiment that we’re carrying out with the unknowing and unconsenting irradiation of huge populations of people around the world. We’re now seeing, for example, in Japan, raising the bar, allowing children to be exposed to levels of radiation that previously were restricted for nuclear workers. And in my opinion, this is unconscionable. It’s like being in a ball game and in the seventh ining deciding that one team is losing, and so they say they’re going to change the rules in the middle of the game. These levels were set for a reason. And that’s because radiation is not good for you, and there is no safe level of radiation. And so, to now change the rules of the game, again, is another unconscionable part of this terrible, cruel, poisonous experiment that we won’t know the end result of for hundreds of years. Watch read.

Moving The Nuclear Goal Posts Japanese Gov

Fukushima Prefecture Unscientific Optimism

Truth Hurts, Fukushima Will be Permanently Uninhabitable, So Retract It

The Appalling Vista - The Fight Back Against Operation Ore

I have reproduced an important piece of work, The Appalling Vista - The Fight Back Against Operation Ore, here and here.

Iron Filing

In accordance with my New Year resolution to try and stop driving by interesting things without photographing them, I give you the remains of an old cottage in Blaston, Leicestershire. For years it has been covered in ivy, and the ground surrounding it a heaven of tangled undergrowth from which sprouted a few beehives. "I really must hop over the gate and photograph that" I muttered to myself every time I drove by. The thing is it's very near my home, and I see it virtually every day. So there was always another time. Until last week, when I saw that the ground had been cleared and levelled, and an ominous planning application poster was tied to a metal five bar gate. Last chance then, so I saw the other side of the cottage for the first time. It was like seeing an old friend suddenly stripped of their clothing, if you'll forgive my doubtful analogy. Just the bare bones really, but nevertheless an interesting object lesson on various building materials. I'm so glad I stopped and recorded it. For certain it will never be seen like this again.

Anti-War Candidate Announces for President! Don't Talk Daft

He also wants to slash the military budget.

He's also opposed to the war on drugs, and he's never mentioned Jesus once.

Do you want to listen to Bill Hicks, before or after you read?


An Anti-War Candidate Announces for President
by: Robert Naiman
26 April 2011

Last week, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson announced his candidacy for president of the United States.

This was a historic event, because 1) Johnson wants to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and 2) Johnson is a Republican. He also wants to slash the military budget.

Johnson is also opposed to the "war on drugs," which he has called "an expensive bust." Indeed, as The Hill noted:

Last year, he teamed up with singer Melissa Etheridge and actor Danny Glover for a Hollywood rally in favor of Proposition 19 - an initiative that would have legalized marijuana in California.

This suggests that Johnson can play well with others around issues of common concern.

It is tremendously important that there be at least one Republican candidate for president who is against the war in Afghanistan.

Polls show that Republican voters have turned against the war. But the majority of Republican voters who want US troops out of Afghanistan are, so far, almost totally unrepresented by Republican officials in Washington. Johnson's campaign could break through the national Republican wall, because as a candidate for president, Johnson will be able to get into the media and the national Republican Party leadership - "the party's ruling class," as The Hill put it - won't be able to silence him. Even if he doesn't get a dime from Lockheed or Raytheon, they won't be able to keep him off the stage in the early Republican debates, and that will change the discussion.

A Washington Post/ABC News poll in March found that 56 percent of Republicans think the United States should "withdraw a substantial number of U.S. combat forces from Afghanistan this summer." That is, the majority of Republican voters are ahead of the Obama administration, which hasn't yet committed to a substantial withdrawal this summer.

But the high-water mark in the House so far for Republican support on any initiative against the indefinite continuation of the Afghanistan war is nine votes. That's about 5 percent of the Republicans in the House. Five percent versus 56 percent - that's a pretty big gap. The enforcement of the will of the Republican Party's "ruling class" against the will of the majority of Republican voters is a key pillar sustaining the war.

This pillar of the war must be attacked. The candidacy of Johnson is a weapon for doing so.

Of course, Johnson's candidacy faces obstacles. He is not a billionaire. He is not backed by the party establishment - no candidate against the war will be. He will not be backed by the establishment media.

On the other hand, Johnson's candidacy has a potential X weapon: Americans who typically don't vote in Republican primaries and caucuses who want to end the war.

After all, we all want to support democracy in Cairo and Madison. Why not support democracy in the Republican Party on the question of the war?

Now, some may be thinking, what does this have to do with me? I am not a "Republican."

But whether you are a "Republican" or not, you have to live with the consequences of the fact that the national Republican Party is not representing the majority of Republican voters who want to see US troops come out of Afghanistan, because this is a key buttress of the continuation of the war.

Corporations back Republicans and Democrats, as it suits their perceived interests. So do labor unions, environmentalists, women's groups and gay rights groups. Why should peace advocates be any different? What one does in November in one thing; what one does in the primary season is another. If there is no Democratic primary for president, if there is no anti-war primary for Congress where you live, why waste your anti-war vote in an uncontested primary?

Many states have open primaries: any voter can vote in any primary. In other states, you have to register with a given party in order to participate in that party's primary. New Hampshire - a critical, early state, where the Eugene McCarthy campaign showed the Lyndon Johnson administration the depth of anti-war sentiment - is in between: if you register as an "undeclared" voter, you can vote in any primary.

But even if you live in a state with a "closed primary" - check with local authorities for rules and deadlines - political parties in America are squishy things. Who's to say you're not a "Republican"? You are if you say you are. In the future, you can say something else.

Of course, many people will consider the temporary assumption of a "Republican" identity, even for a day, as a bridge too far.

But consider: if you could stop the killing in Afghanistan by temporarily assuming a "Republican" identity, would that not be morally justified?

In Jewish law, the protection of human life takes precedence over all. Therefore, voting in a Republican primary to end the war is a mitzvah.

And what would Jesus do in this situation? Wouldn't Jesus vote in a Republican primary to end the war? As the Bible says:

"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves." Truthout

Hasta la vista, Baby! Telling It Like It Is

I like this fellow, he writes with certain kind of verve.

Hasta la vista, Baby!
Skynet is already here

As Christians in the US and the world over flock to church to celebrate the martyrdom of their lord and savior, American predators are noiselessly cruising the skies above yet another Arab land, holding their hellfire missiles in abeyance until they are sure, damn sure, that the wedding or parade or market convoy or whatever crawls beneath their cold techno-gaze is linked to the terrorists who will destroy our way of life. Whew! That was a mouthful. But then, piss and vinegar are notoriously hard to swallow, much less hold in one’s mouth for any length of time.

And isn’t it way past time for Americans to choke on our own bloated rhetoric, the constant, nauseating peristalsis of Orwellian bullshit that flows from the agents of the Lone Superpower war machine? In one theater after another, as Americans graze blissfully unaware on our diet of hamburgers, housewives and media hash, the empire is sowing the seeds of its own destruction and hastening its own demise.

I would be tempted to say can I get an Amen? And be done with it—it is fully justified and long overdue—if it weren’t for the fact that a dying empire, like a threatened tyrannosaur, is most dangerous on its last legs. And the lies and contradictions that are tearing the country and the global order apart always result in the greatest misery for the forlorn and forgotten, both internally and around the world.

Save the children! Bellow the righteous liberals and tools of empire, as their gadgetry murders poor black and brown kids and the Bringers of Democracy ban street protests in the streets of Baghdad. Why would the heartless air pirates of NATO and its US string pullers—as if there were any difference—why would a new assault from the air be any more precise, any less deadly to civilians than any of its predecessors, whose documented criminality looms like a radioactive cloud of depleted uranium dust over countless victims past. Does anyone seriously still believe the cant about “smart bombs” and “pinprick” strikes? It’s worse than trickle-down economics: decades of devastation later, and no one bothers to question the original premise.

We must intervene to protect human rights, scream the Progressive Internationalists, who have been chomping at the bit for The Good One they can fully support ever since their unrepentant racist hero made the world safe for democracy a century ago. Really? But there is no talk of a no-fly zone over Bahrain where the Fifth Fleet sits just offshore, or over the open air prison that is Gaza, or over the disastrous shooting gallery that is the above mentioned AfPak theater. And, naturally no such call to ban flights from the 800 or so US bases dotting the globe from whom the shooters are launched. Nobody polices the Global Police. Ever the dutiful technocrat, The Obomber epitomizes the infinitely more dangerous potential of the yes man over that of the ideologue.

Welcome to the post racial society, crow the enthusiasts of a rigged and money-drenched electoral system that feigns democracy while undermining it at every possible turn. Americans aren’t interested in genuine democracy, don’t experience it at all in virtually any aspect of our daily lives, and wouldn’t recognize it if it jumped up and bit us in our collective transfat ass.

Besides, civil rights are for silly whiners who still think "democracy" is about being able to protest in the streets. Obviously they missed the memo: It's about being able to choose your favorite brand of sneakers or your choice of which housewives to obsess over. Duh! Way to go: “we” elected a black guy! Big deal—Caligula elected a horse. Is there anything more racist than raining indiscriminate death from the skies upon brown people intent on running their own countries? Or have people actually not caught on to the dynamic George Carlin so eloquently illuminated, bless his immortal soul: “Who were the last white people—the Germans—the only white people we’ve ever bombed! And why?? Because they were trying to cut in on our action. They wanted to rule the world. Bullshit! That’s our fucking job!!” Americans can continue to ignore this at our peril, along with the sad realization that those letting loose the bombs are economic conscripts drawn in overwhelming disproportion from poor, black and brown communities at home.

Orwell and Kafka lost together in the miserable plot(s) of Inception could not have constructed such a horrific nightmare. There is no dystopia yet written that can rival the brave new world in which we are living today. The worst part is that, while drones patrol the skies, from Libya to the Mexican border to the streets of our inner cities where the two million plus inhabitants of our Prison Planet grow—the largest in the world, another American triumph—in the midst of this horror, debate rages on about how to tweak a broken system, about how best to enrich the already-haves, about the values of recycling and gluten-free beer. John Connor is not coming back, folks. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

There may be trouble ahead!

Over 15,000 U.S. servicemen to remain in Iraq beyond 2011 deadline

''My Granny Lives on Mars'' Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

Update below.

Some of the information may have been obtained through torture. US officials waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times at a CIA "black site" in Thailand during his first month of captivity.

Waterboarded six times a day, nice, real nice.

A single star informer at the base won his freedom by incriminating at least 123 other prisoners there.

Guantánamo Bay files: Al-Qaida assassin 'worked for MI6' blah blah

Update: Guardian Newspaper Editor Defends Publishing WikiLeaks’ Secret Guantánamo Files Democracy Now watch. Shitty sound but still worth listening to.

Britain Demands! Has nobody an Ounce of Shame Anymore?

Jesus Christ almighty! and here's me having a go at the Yanks for their rank hypocrisy.

The boy Hague ''demands end to Syria violence'' Fuck me! you couldn't make this shit up.

UK foreign secretary demands end to Syria violence

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has said he "utterly condemns" the violence being used by Syrian forces against pro-democracy demonstrators.

He demanded "accountability for the deaths that have occurred" and said the UK and its partners were considering the use of "further measures" against Damascus, including sanctions.

Activists say more than 20 people were killed on Monday by government forces.

All UK citizens in Syria are being advised to leave as soon as possible.

Mr Hague said there were about 700 British nationals currently living in Syria and registered with the UK Foreign Office.

But he pointed out that some of those would have dual nationality and the government did not assume that all of them would wish to leave.
'Genuine reform'

At least 350 people have reportedly been killed since mid-March in protests calling for political reform. Many demonstrators are demanding that President Bashar al-Assad step down, but those calls have been met with an intensified crackdown in recent days.

In a statement to the Commons , Mr Hague said Syria was "at a fork in the road".

"Its government can still choose to bring about the radical reform which alone can bring about peace and stability... or it can choose ever more violent repression," he said.

William Hague said sanctions may be used against the Syrian government

"If it does so, we will work with our European partners and others to take measures including sanctions that will have an impact on the regime."

The foreign secretary said that from what he had learned at a meeting with President Assad in January, he believed the popular uprising would have "come as a surprise" to the Syrian government.

Earlier, in a written statement issued by the Foreign Office, Mr Hague said the UK was "working intensively with our international partners to persuade the Syrian authorities to stop the violence".

"This includes working with our partners on the United Nations Security Council to send a strong signal to the Syrian authorities that the eyes of the international community are on Syria, and with our partners in the EU and the region on possible further measures."

Mr Hague's intervention came as the UK, France, Germany and Portugal are reported to have drawn up a draft statement condemning the violence, which is being circulated among other United Nations members.

The Foreign Office is advising against all travel to Syria and urging any British nationals in the country to leave.

It is warning those who choose to remain that they are unlikely to receive full consular support from the British Embassy in the event of the situation worsening.

The United States is also advising its citizens to leave Syria and the state department says some non-essential embassy staff and all embassy dependants will be recalled.

US officials also say the Obama administration is considering imposing sanctions on President Assad's government.

On Monday, tanks were sent into Deraa, the town at the centre of protests, and activists say troops opened fire killing more than 25 people - although that claim has not been independently verified.

Security forces also reportedly opened fire in a suburb of Damascus on Monday, and there are unconfirmed reports of further shooting in Deraa on Tuesday. BBfuckingC

Chinese Pot Calls US Kettle on Human Rights

This mighty list, and it is mighty, as mighty as it is undeniable, and this from a nation that has no less than sixty eight capital offences on its books, and in general doesn't give a fuck about anybody or anything. Some of those offences include:

China has the death penalty for 68 crimes including murder, drug trafficking, rape, re-selling VAT receipts, pimping, habitual theft, stealing or dealing in national treasures or cultural relics, publishing pornography, selling counterfeit money, economic offences such as graft, speculation and profiteering and even killing a panda. More, but open up the home page and read about Iran's human rights record if you really want to be appalled.

With the article being so comprehensive it is difficult to decide what to feature, so to avoid having to make that decision, I give you the intro, the subjects covered, and the conclusion.

Human Rights Record of United States in 2010

Editor's note: China's Information Office of the State Council, or cabinet, published a report titled "The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2010" on Sunday. Following is the full text:

The State Department of the United States released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2010 on April 8, 2011. As in previous years, the reports are full of distortions and accusations of the human rights situation in more than 190 countries and regions including China. However, the United States turned a blind eye to its own terrible human rights situation and seldom mentioned it. The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2010 is prepared to urge the United States to face up to its own human rights issues.

I. On Life, Property and Personal Security

The United States reports the world's highest incidence of violent crimes, and its people's lives, properties and personal security are not duly protected.

II. On Civil and Political Rights

In the United States, the violation of citizens' civil and political rights by the government is severe.

III. On Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

The United States is the world's richest country, but Americans' economic, social and cultural rights protection is going from bad to worse.

IV. On Racial Discrimination

Racial discrimination, deep-seated in the United States, has permeated every aspect of social life.

V. On the rights of women and children

The situation regarding the rights of women and children in the United States is bothering.

VI. On US Violations of Human Rights against Other Nations

The United States has a notorious record of international human rights violations.


The above-mentioned facts illustrate that the United States has a dismal record on its own human rights and could not be justified to pose as the world's "human rights justice". However, it released the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices year after year to accuse and blame other countries for their human rights practices. The United States ignores its own serious human rights problems, but has been keen on advocating the so-called "human rights diplomacy", to take human rights as a political instrument to defame other nations' image and seek its own strategic interests. These facts fully expose its hypocrisy by exercising double standards on human rights and its malicious design to pursue hegemony under the pretext of human rights.

We hereby advise the US government to take concrete actions to improve its own human rights conditions, check and rectify its acts in the human rights field, and stop the hegemonistic deeds of using human rights issues to interfere in other countries' internal affairs. China Daily

My new red Kitchen designed by Kabnoury

The Great (Taliban) Escape


How the Taliban Pulled Off a Massive Prison Break

This morning, in a major setback to U.S. efforts in Afghanistan, almost 500 political prisoners--many of them Taliban fighters and commanders--escaped from the Sarposa prison in Kandahar through a tunnel in the second prison break orchestrated by the Taliban since 2008, when the group freed 1,200 prisoners in a suicide attack that killed 15 guards, according to The New York Times. An effort to recapture the escaped prisoners is underway. In the meantime, here's what we know about how the Taliban accomplished today's escape:

Prison guards discovered that prisoners in the institution's political wing were missing around 4 am, according to the Associated Press, but the Taliban claims the guards didn't discover the breach until closer to 7:30 am. In the photo above, an Afghan prison guard points to the hole that inmates used to escape through the tunnel.

The break came from without rather than within, according to the Taliban at least. Spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid explained in a statement that the Taliban worked for five months to dig a 320 meter-long tunnel into the prison that snaked below security checkpoints outside the facility and the Kabul-Kandahar highway (Afghan police, according to the Times, say the tunnel is more than 1,000 meters long). The militants launched the dig from a house "within shooting distance of the prison guard towers," the AP notes, but it's not clear whether they lived in the house as the dig continued. The head of Kandahar's prisons told The Guardian that constructing the tunnel must have been extremely labor-intensive given that the Taliban had to refrain from using heavy machinery that could attract attention to its efforts.

At 11 pm on Sunday night, per the Taliban's account, three Taliban prisoners who'd been informed of the plan ahead of time went from one cell to another, rousing several inmates at a time and escorting them to the tunnel. Mohammad Abdullah, who claimed he helped organize the escape from within the prison, told the AP that he and his associates got copies of cell keys from "friends"--suggesting that some prison guards may have acted as accomplices. The escape took place between 11 pm and 3:30 am, according to the Taliban, and one escapee told the BBC that it took him around 30 minutes to walk the full tunnel. When the prisoners emerged from the underground passageway, Taliban members greeted them and whisked them to waiting vehicles, which transported them to Taliban-controlled locations. As the prisoners boarded the vehicles, Taliban fighters and suicide bombers stood by in case security forces got wind of the scheme and tried to thwart the operation.

Update: The Daily Beast's Ron Moreau and Sami Yousafzai have a fascinating account of their interviews with two Taliban commanders who escaped today. One fighter explains how he feared the tunnel would collapse as he moved through it, while another notes that the prison break organizers confiscated the inmates' cell phones before they entered the tunnel to prevent them from informing people about their escape prematurely. The Daily Beast also learns that the Taliban dug their tunnel using pickups, tractor-pulled trailers, and donkey carts, and that the Taliban's original plan, aborted at the last minute, was for its suicide bombers to enter the jail after all prisoners had escaped and blow themselves up once prison security noticed the breach. "The escapees sounded more committed than ever to rejoin the fight," Moreau and Yousafzai observe. Yahoo

''We’re a nation of laws'' Says Obama As He Declares Manning Guilty

This is just one of the excellent links from Glenn Greenwald's main article at Salon. Another link leads to this irony of ironies where the writer has this to say about Obama's unconstitutional remarks declaring Manning guilty. Here he is talking about a similar gaffe by Nixon in declaring Charles Manson guilty pretrial.

What I didn’t recall from that time was that John Mitchell, easily American history’s crookedest Attorney General ever, was at Nixon’s side when he made that statement in Denver. He recognized right away that there was a serious problem with Nixon’s statement: article

But for the article proper you have to go to Salon where other links abound that shouldn't be ignored. I found the five links embedded in this one paragraph alone more than interesting, for exactly the same reasons as the writer notes.

But even more fascinating is Obama's invocation of America's status as a "nation of laws" to justify why Manning must be punished. That would be a very moving homage to the sanctity of the rule of law -- if not for the fact that the person invoking it is the same one who has repeatedly engaged in the most extraordinary efforts to shield Bush officials from judicial scrutiny, investigation, and prosecution of every kind for their war crimes and surveillance felonies. Indeed, the Orwellian platitude used by Obama to justify that immunity -- Look Forward, Not Backward -- is one of the greatest expressions of presidential lawlessness since Richard Nixon told David Frost that "it's not illegal if the President does it." More Salon President Obama speaks on Manning and the rule of law

All this, and I have never mentioned the ''H'' word once.

Obama on Manning: “He Broke the Law.” So Much for that Trial?
By: Michael Whitney
April 22 2011

President Barack Obama made stunning accusations about accused Wikileaks whistleblower PFC Bradley Manning, directly asserting that Manning “broke the law.” Apparently the President of the United States of America and a self-described Constitutional scholar does not care that Manning has yet to be tried or convicted for any crime.

In a discussion yesterday with Logan Price, a Bradley Manning supporter who was part of a group of activists who sang a song during the President’s San Francisco fundraiser, President Obama flatly stated that Bradley Manning “dumped” documents and that “he broke the law.” A rough transcript follows, provided by UK Friends of Bradley Manning:

OBAMA: So people can have philosophical views [about Bradley Manning] but I can’t conduct diplomacy on an open source [basis]… That’s not how the world works.

And if you’re in the military… And I have to abide by certain rules of classified information. If I were to release material I weren’t allowed to, I’d be breaking the law.

We’re a nation of laws! We don’t let individuals make their own decisions about how the laws operate. He broke the law.

Q: Didn't he release evidence of war crimes?]

OBAMA: What he did was he dumped…

Q: Isn't that just the same thing as what Daniel Ellsberg did?]

OBAMA: No it wasn’t the same thing. Ellsberg’s material wasn’t classified in the same way. (see main article where this particular argument falls apart)

This is the President of the United States speaking about a US military soldier detained for almost a year on charges of leaking classified (but not top secret, the level of files released by Ellsberg) documents. Manning’s lawyer is considering considered (corrected: his transfer made the writ moot) filing a writ of habeus corpus for the length of time and totality of abuse suffered by Manning while in military custody.

President Obama has already made up his mind. He thinks Manning “broke the law.” It’s no wonder he considered Manning’s abuse to “meet our basic standards” when he thinks Manning is already guilty.

This is vile.

As a reminder: the Pentagon plans to hold Manning indefinitely. Might as well, since they think he’s guilty already. source FDL