Monday, 30 April 2007
April Diary
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Verpfuscht. I’m going to start this month’s diary with a math note. Yes, I know this is unorthodox, but, as Tony Manero says in that movie, “I got my reasons.”

the rest is here

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Posted on 04/30/2007 7:56 AM by John Derbyshire
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Monday, 30 April 2007
Democracy + Islam = Islam
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As Islamists political parties continue to rack up gains though democratic methods, the US and the EU back them all the way. Lost on people like Condoleeza Rice and these EU ministers, so smug in their support for "democracy," is the fact that Islam will eventually lay waste to every land where it spreads unless it is constrained through un-democratic means. The massive demonstrations in Turkey attest to the fact that secular pluralism can only flourish when Islam is constrained.

The Observer: Turkey came under mounting pressure from the European Union last night to rein in the influence of its generals, after the country's powerful pro-secular military threatened to intervene in the Islamic-oriented government amid growing turmoil over the election of a new President.

Olli Rehn, the European Union enlargement commissioner, who has been a keen supporter of Ankara's eventual accession to the bloc, warned the military to stay out of politics, saying the election was a 'test case' for the Turkish military's respect for democracy...

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Posted on 04/30/2007 7:06 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Monday, 30 April 2007
Men convicted over UK bomb plot
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From the BBC.
Five men have been convicted of a bomb plot linked to al-Qaeda that could have killed hundreds of people in Britain.
Jurors in the year-long Old Bailey trial heard of plans to target a shopping centre, nightclub and the gas network with a giant fertiliser bomb.
Police smashed the plot in 2004 after MI5 had watched an Islamist extremist network with links across the world.
It has also been revealed some of the plotters met two of the 7 July London suicide bombers. Mohammed Sidique Khan was spotted on four occasions in 2004 with at least one of the fertiliser bomb conspirators. At one point MI5 officers followed Khan back to his home in Leeds but no further action was taken. The link with 7 July was deliberately kept from the Old Bailey jury for fear of prejudicing their deliberations on the fertiliser bomb plot.
The fertiliser bomb plot investigation linked back to senior al-Qaeda figures in Pakistan and Afghanistan, including one who was detained by US forces in Iraq at the weekend.
(Clockwise from top left): Jawad Akbar, Omar Khyam, Salahuddin Amin, Waheed Mahmood and Anthony Garcia
Omar Khyam, 26, from Crawley, West Sussex, was found guilty of conspiring to cause explosions likely to endanger life between 1 January 2003 and 31 March 2004.  Also convicted were Waheed Mahmood, 34, and Jawad Akbar, 23, also of Crawley; Salahuddin Amin, 31, from Luton, Bedfordshire; Anthony Garcia, 24, of Barkingside, east London.
The men, all British citizens, face life sentences.  Read the rest here.
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Posted on 04/30/2007 7:05 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Monday, 30 April 2007
Islamists Demonstrate In London
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Supporters of the arrested Muslim “activists” demonstrated outside the Paddington Green police station on Friday. LGF:

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Posted on 04/30/2007 6:59 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Monday, 30 April 2007
Al-Jazeera Comes To Burlington
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Boston Globe: A cable company is offering the Al-Jazeera network in its cable package, one of only a few in the nation to do so. Burlington Telecom, a city-owned cable company that serves 1,200 households in Vermont's largest city, began offering the Arab-operated network about six months ago.

"We were certainly squeamish about it at first, given its reputation in the United States," said Tim Nulty, director of Burlington Telecom. "But if you look at it, it looks like BBC. I think it's more mainstream and more objective than CNN."

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Posted on 04/30/2007 6:48 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Monday, 30 April 2007
Note to self
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Imagine the Weatherwax/Ridcully household at 12.50 pm last Thursday. We have had our lunch. I’m due at the baby and toddler club shortly after 1pm. Today’s Bible story is Jesus cooks breakfast for his disciples (John 21) and I know that Jean who does our crafts has prepared fish to colour and stick on a paper plate.
All I need is the Scripture Union bible story book to read the story from.
I had it last Thursday. It’s not on the far end of the kitchen table where almost everything else is – homework, paperwork, books, mending, the only reason it doesn’t all fall on the floor is the careful positioning of the sewing machine. 
It isn’t in any of the other usual places, the side of my favourite armchair or under the cat. It must be at church in our cupboard.
It isn’t. “No, you took it home last week, you had it in a carrier bag with the lift-the-flap Easter Story that you lent Jean for her granddaughter. Remember?”
Er yes. It will turn up. I tell the story using a couple of toy fish from the play food box.
Onwards to Saturday morning and I’m rushing to go out again. I’m wearing a brown skirt and automatically push my feet into the red sandals. Hold on, I have a pair of dark brown and another pair of light brown sandals, either of which would go better with this skirt. Where are they? Most of the winter they were in a bag down by the side of the computer, between the scanner and the cat basket. I pull out a bag from down the side of said computer. It contains a Big Bible Storybook and a lift-the-flap Easter Story. That’s a result. I keep the red sandals on and go out.
Sunday morning. Brown skirt still clean from Saturday and smart enough for church, time to spare to look for the 2 pairs of brown sandals last seen in November down by the side of the computer.
And where did I find them? At the bottom of the wardrobe, in a shoebox, next to the shoe rack. How did they get into a proper place?
We are off to Rochester next weekend and our neighbour will be coming in to feed the cats. Her bungalow is immaculate. If I am not posting here on NER much this week you will know why.
I will be tidying my house.
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Posted on 04/30/2007 6:39 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Monday, 30 April 2007
Hadley Seeks War Czar
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National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley was the person who recommended the surge. Here's what New Duranty has to say about his latest initiative:

“What we need,” [Hadley] said in a recent interview, “is someone with a lot of stature within the government who can make things happen.”

Even so, the idea that the national security adviser is subcontracting responsibility for the nation’s most pressing foreign policy crisis — and must recruit someone of stature to get the attention of the cabinet — is provoking criticism of Mr. Hadley himself, and how he has navigated the delicate internal politics of a White House famous for its feuding.

“Steve Hadley is an intelligent, capable guy, but I don’t think this reflects very well on him,” said David J. Rothkopf, author of “Running the World,” a book about the National Security Council. “I wouldn’t even call it a Hail Mary pass. It’s kind of a desperation move.”

Mr. Rothkopf sees the new position as “a tactic to separate the national security adviser from Iraq” — a way to save Mr. Hadley’s reputation...

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Posted on 04/30/2007 6:39 AM by Rebecca Bynum
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Monday, 30 April 2007
Some borders aren't worth protecting
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Time to attend to ours and leave the denizens of Iraq to fend for themselves, says Alan Caruba at ESR:

The U.S. has been "defeated", not by al-Qaida or the "insurgents", but by the ancient tribalism of the Middle East, the vast religious schism between Sunni and Shiite, and by having no insight whatever regarding the role corruption plays in all areas of Middle East governance.

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Posted on 04/30/2007 5:33 AM by Robert Bove
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Monday, 30 April 2007
Defender of the wrong faith
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The Telegraph correspondent Damian Thompson (editor-in-chief of the Catholic Herald and once described by the Anglican Church Times as a "blood-crazed ferret".) writes here (in his blog Holy Smoke) about the barking mad Karen Armstrong’s review of Robert Spencer, and Robert Spencer’s response.
Karen Armstrong is a comically conceited feminist ex-nun who has assumed the duty of defending Islam from its critics. Yesterday’s Financial Times carried her review of an unflattering biography of Mohammed by the American Catholic scholar Robert Spencer.
She accused Spencer of “writing in hatred” and said he “deliberately manipulates the evidence”. By the end of the day, Spencer had hit back online. Very hard. We have the beginnings of a mighty feud here, and I know whose side I am on.
Writing on his website Jihadwatch yesterday, Spencer challenged his readers to find the relevant verse. Someone did. It’s 2:217, and it refers specifically to warfare in the “sacred month”, and then only to say that the prohibition can be set aside. So who is manipulating evidence here?
Armstrong reckons that descriptions of Islam that focus on its warlike origins are like “a description of Christianity based on the bellicose Book of Revelation that failed to mention the Sermon on the Mount.”
That is an unbelievably fatuous and sloppy analogy. The violence of Revelation springs from the imagination: it’s a literary apocalypse. It doesn’t describe any real events. Mohammed was a general whose army beheaded its captives: that’s a fact. The Muslim scriptures urge warfare against unbelievers and apostates; the Christian scriptures preach non-violence.
I really think it’s time someone challenged Karen Armstrong’s credentials as an expert on Islam. How good is her classical Arabic, I wonder? If I was a Muslim, I’d be sick to death of this preachy autodidact constantly representing Islam as a touchy-feely encounter group.
But perhaps the Muslims like her. In which case, please persuade her to convert to Islam, as “a gift to the Christian people”. It would be good to see Karen back in the veil – only, this time, one that covers her mouth.
I like ferrets, engaging intelligent little creatures so long as one doesn’t find them stuffed down ones trousers. The comments so far (8 at time of writing) are also excellent.
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Posted on 04/30/2007 4:23 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Sunday, 29 April 2007
IRAN GIRL 'TO HANG'
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The Sunday Mirror updates last week's story.
AN Iranian judge has rejected the appeal of a young woman who faces public hanging for a murder she did not commit.
The Sunday Mirror has told how Delara Darabi, 20, confessed to a killing by her boyfriend during a burglary three years ago because she had been told she was too young to hang.
To sign Amnesty's petition go to www.amnesty.org.uk/deathpenalty. For more info go to www.stopchildexecutions.com 
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Posted on 04/29/2007 4:30 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Sunday, 29 April 2007
BNP CANDIDATE'S NAZI SHAME
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From the Sunday Mirror.
A BRITISH National Party activist who claims he is a respectable businessman is really a Nazi fanatic who dresses in German uniform and flies a swastika flag.
Window firm boss Karl Newman, 47, a candidate for the far-right BNP in Thursday's local elections, denies he is a racist or Nazi sympathiser in campaign leaflets.
But, in fact, he dresses in World War Two Wehrmacht uniforms and has a sick fascination with Hitler.
He has spent years restoring two wartime troop carriers built by Jewish concentration camp labour. One has a giant swastika on the bonnet and he flies another of the Nazi flags from the back. Newman even takes out six-year-old son William in the vehicle at weekends.
Pictures on his website show him in Nazi uniform. In one a cardboard cut-out of Hitler is driving one of the vehicles, called Kubelwagens.
Confronted by the Sunday Mirror, he said: "I am aware they were built by slave labour - but I can't do anything about that." Newman, standing in Greenlands ward of Redditch Council in the West Midlands, added: "OK - so the BNP is only for white people, but that does not mean I am a racist."
The Sunday Mirror rarely put the photos on their website - these are scanned in from the newsprint. That's my excuse for the poor quality.
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Posted on 04/29/2007 4:00 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Sunday, 29 April 2007
Another Turkish rally - this weekend in Istanbul
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The Australian reports on today’s rally for democracy in Istanbul. To read some reports of the protests in Turkey one would think it was a struggle between a secular military and democratic Islamics. The inference being military bad, democratic good.
This report brings out a different facet.
More than a million Turks took part last night in a mass rally in Istanbul in support of secularism and democracy, amid a tense standoff between the moderate Islamist Government and the army over presidential elections.
The crowd, carrying red and white Turkish flags and portraits of founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, filled Istanbul's sprawling Caglayan Square in a demonstration organised by 600 non-governmental organisations.
"Turkey is secular and will remain secular", "Neither sharia, nor coup d'etat, democratic Turkey", they chanted.
Police said there were well in excess of a million demonstrators. Organisers said the rally drew people from all over Turkey and abroad. The Istanbul demonstration followed a similar one in Ankara on April 14 that attracted up to 1.5million people.
The rest is here. 
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Posted on 04/29/2007 3:40 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Sunday, 29 April 2007
McCain & Coercive Interrogation
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Chris Wallace also asked Senator McCain about coercive interrogation in light of the contention by former CIA Director George Tenet that the interrogation methods used by the CIA on high-value al Qaeda detainees saved countless American lives.  (It must be noted, Tenet insists these methods did not rise to the level of torture regardless of how cavalierly the public discussion suggests otherwise.)

Here is the McCain/Wallace exchange (from a transcript of the entire McCain interview, available at FoxNews.com):

WALLACE: Senator, you talked about torture. Former CIA Director Tenet now says that the intelligence that they got from harsh interrogation techniques against some of these big Al Qaida types, like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed — the intelligence they got from them using, reportedly, things like water-boarding, extreme temperatures, was more valuable than all the other CIA and FBI programs.  Were you wrong? I mean, this is the CIA, former CIA director, saying this. Were you wrong to limit what CIA interrogators could do?

McCAIN: A man I admire more than anyone else, General Jack Vessey, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, battlefield commission, told me once — he said, "John, any intelligence information we might gain through the use of torture could never, ever counterbalance the image that it does — the damage that it does to our image in the world."  I agree with him. Look at the war in Algeria. Look, the fact is if you torture someone, they're going to tell you anything they think you want to know. It is an affront to everything we stand for and believe in.  It's interesting to me that every retired military officer, whether it be Colin Powell or whether it be former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff — everybody who's been in war doesn't want to torture people and think that it's the wrong thing to do. And history shows that.  We cannot torture people and maintain our moral superiority in the world....

WALLACE: But when George Tenet says...

McCAIN: I don't care what George Tenet says. I know what's right. I know what's morally right as far as America's behavior.

WALLACE: But if I may, sir... when George Tenet says we saved live through some of these techniques...

J. MCCAIN: I don't accept it. I don't accept that fundamental thesis, because it's never worked throughout history.  And so again, I know this for a fact, and anyone who's had experience with this, I think, that's — well, the people I respect will tell you that if you inflect enough physical pain on someone, they will tell you anything they think you want to know in order to relieve that pain.  That's just a fundamental fact. And we've gotten a huge amount of misinformation as well as other information from these techniques.

Sure, except now here is McCain in the 2005 essay he penned for Newsweek, addressing the "ticking bomb" scenario (italics is mine):

Those who argue the necessity of some abuses raise an important dilemma as their most compelling rationale: the ticking-time-bomb scenario. What do we do if we capture a terrorist who we have sound reasons to believe possesses specific knowledge of an imminent terrorist attack?

In such an urgent and rare instance, an interrogator might well try extreme measures to extract information that could save lives. Should he do so, and thereby save an American city or prevent another 9/11, authorities and the public would surely take this into account when judging his actions and recognize the extremely dire situation which he confronted. But I don't believe this scenario requires us to write into law an exception to our treaty and moral obligations that would permit cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment. To carve out legal exemptions to this basic principle of human rights risks opening the door to abuse as a matter of course, rather than a standard violated truly in extremis. It is far better to embrace a standard that might be violated in extraordinary circumstances than to lower our standards to accommodate a remote contingency, confusing personnel in the field and sending precisely the wrong message abroad about America's purposes and practices.

So, confronted by the do-or-die starkness of a ticking-bomb, McCain acknowledged in 2005 that it "might well" be necessary to use "extreme measures," and that so doing might in fact "save an American city or prevent another 9/11."  Was his bottom-line position that coercive interrogation doesn't work?  Of course not.  It was that such interrogation might very well work but that it would be a mistake to write an exception permitting it into our law because the exception would be abused. 

That is a perfectly respectable position — there is a serious (though beneath-the-radar) debate about whether the best way to minimize the use of coercion is (a) to regulate it tightly and prosecute all violations, or (b) categorically ban it and assume that interrogators would know enough to ignore the ban in true emergencies.  But, it is just plain bluster to argue, as McCain continues to insist, that coercion never works and he doesn't care what anyone else says.  As his answer on the ticking-bomb demonstrates, even he doesn't believe that.

Common sense tells us it is preposterous to claim that an interrogee will always just tell his interrogator whatever the latter wants to hear.  That claim might have some validity if the purpose of interrogation was to wrangle a confession to be used in some sort of show-trial.  But the point of interrogation for intelligence purposes is to find out what is going on, not to fix blame.  Usually, the interrogator won't know what he wants to hear, and will be asking open-ended questions.  The interrogee will have no way of knowing the "right" answer; if he does not resist, his choice will be to provide true information or false information, and sorting that out is a matter of corroboration. 

Sometimes the information will, indeed, be false — just as criminals who testify in exchange for leniency sometimes provide false information because they know the value of their cooperation to prosecutors (which determines how much leniency they get) calls for them to inculpate other people.  But very often, the information from such criminals proves to be true.  That, of course, is why we permit the government to offer incentives (like generous plea deals, money, relocation, etc.) to get people to cooperate.  Our experience tells us that just because people have an incentive to lie — even a powerful one — does not mean the information they provide will be false.  Often it is true.  That is not an argument for widely permitting coercive interrogation; but it does underscore that McCain and others should stop making the silly claim that coercion never works.

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Posted on 04/29/2007 2:43 PM by Andy McCarthy
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Sunday, 29 April 2007
Trevor banged to rights
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Just heard this on Planet Rock news from Sky.
Radical Muslim Abu Izzadeen will appear in court tomorrow on charges of inciting terrorism and fundraising.
The 32-year-old from east London is one of six men charged under the Terrorism Act 2000 after they were arrested on Tuesday, Scotland Yard said.
Four of the six, including Izzadeen, (His name is really Trevor) were also charged with inciting terrorism overseas.
They will appear in custody at City of Westminster Magistrates Court tomorrow.
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Posted on 04/29/2007 2:08 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Sunday, 29 April 2007
Islam's coming renaissance will rise in the West
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A wave of rationalism is spreading from emigre Muslim intellectuals
This is Ameer Ali,a former chairman of the Muslim Community Reference Group, and visiting fellow at the business school at Murdoch University in Perth writing in The Australian. Unlike Ayaan Hirsi Ali he thinks that Islam can be reformed within the freedom of thought found in the west.
He believes that “A new era of ijtihad (independent thinking) rooted in scientific, objective reasoning is spreading from the West and is beginning to make its mark in the Muslim mind-set.”
Read it all here. If he is sincere I hope that he does not come to a sticky end.
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Posted on 04/29/2007 11:19 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Sunday, 29 April 2007
Protest calls for Darfur action
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Our Hugh Fitzgerald has been saying for a long time that the effort being spent in Iraq would be more effective if spent in the Sudan protecting Christians, animists and black Muslims from the Janjaweed.
He is ceasing to be a lone voice, although I,m not sure that Hugh Grant is quite the companion he hoped for. Mariella Frostrup may be a different kettle of fish? From The BBC.
Thousands of protesters in London have demanded protection for civilians in Darfur on the fourth anniversary of the start of conflict in the Sudan region. At the event in Whitehall, fake blood flowed from a two-metre hourglass to represent the bloodshed.
Protest in LondonDuring a global day of action 10,000 hourglasses will be turned under the slogan: "Time is up..protect Darfur." . . . the fake blood was to highlight that "in certain parts of Darfur blood is running like water".
Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said the world was "looking away as genocide is committed" in Darfur.
An estimated 200,000 people have been killed in the four-year conflict.
Darfur survivor Ismael Jarbo told the protest the situation in the region "has gone from bad to worse. Genocide is really going on today, so we really need to do something now today," he said.  
Mr Jarbo called for the international community to act, possibly with military intervention.  People are relying on aid agencies. "Aid agencies can't operate as it's not safe. I'm here to raise awareness to the international community," he said.  "Women and girls are being raped, young boys are being forced to become child soldiers."
The conflict has led to 16 un-enforced UN resolutions and provoked 60 statements of concern from the EU but, according to campaigners, "zero action". The African Union (AU) peacekeeping force is struggling to halt widespread abuses and violence, but Sudan is rejecting plans for it to hand over to a larger, stronger UN mission.
Sudan's government and the pro-government Arab militias are accused of war crimes against the region's black African population, although the UN has stopped short of calling it genocide.
More than two million people are living in camps after fleeing fighting in the region. 
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Posted on 04/29/2007 10:55 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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Sunday, 29 April 2007
McCain: "I would close Guantanamo Bay"
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This was the Senator's answer, moments ago, when asked by Chris Wallace on Fox how he would fight the war on terror differently.  He added that he would bring the detainees into the U.S., probably someplace such as Ft. Leavenworth.

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Posted on 04/29/2007 10:30 AM by Andy McCarthy
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Sunday, 29 April 2007
If You Are Reading This, You Are Probably A Die-Hard Geopolitical Fantacist
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So says Michael Scheuer, former head of CIA's bin Laden unit — see today's Washington Post review of the Tenet book.

Happily for you, what Scheuer says today is likely to have little bearing on what he says tomorrow.

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Posted on 04/29/2007 10:29 AM by Andy McCarthy
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Sunday, 29 April 2007
Funny names at NER
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Remember Dr Kevin de Cock, World Health Organisation expert on the effect of male circumcision on the rate of HIV infection in heterosexual men?

Perhaps you had momentarily forgotten him, but if I have anything to do with it, nobody will be allowed to forget this man and his very funny name.

Nor should we forget that the Marketing Director of Damart, a company that makes thermal underwear, is the aptly named John Bottomley.

Make a space in your memory for Professor John Studd, consultant gynaecologist at Chelsea and Westminster hospital in London.

More recently we have paid tribute to the late Alan Ball, who played ball, and scoffed at Ed Balls, who talks it.

Today, a writer sniggers at a theatre director, whose name is Tim Supple. The name of the writer-sniggerer is Ferdinand Mount. Perhaps he would have done better to hold his tongue.

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Posted on 04/29/2007 9:53 AM by Mary Jackson
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Sunday, 29 April 2007
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They take the course advertised on line next to another Independent Book Review, that of Iris and Ruby by Rosie Thomas. This is a tale of love in Cairo named romantic novel of the year, described by the chair of the judges' panel as a "stomach-wrenching" read.  Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson may be our finest paralympian and I am sure her opinion on wheelchair athletics is incomparable, but I feel her definition of what makes a good romantic novel leaves a little to be desired if she thinks “stomach-wrenching” is a Good Thing for that genre.
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British Telecom? That explains a lot.
I know quite a few good writers did have to work quickly. Even Shakespeare and Dickens had deadlines. Alexandre Dumas was paid by the line (and unfortunately it shows in some books) but still managed to tell a good yarn. But somehow I don’t think I will shell out $49.95. 
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Posted on 04/29/2007 8:49 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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