Agam's Gecko
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
I've been away from computers and internets etc. since last week, and haven't got much new stuff to pontificate about. So this time I will be dumping some older links which I'd been meaning to tell you all about before, but hadn't got around to them. We went upcountry last week for a few days, and spent a much quieter time at the new house in Petchaboon. Quieter that is, than the event I described a few weeks ago at the big house warming extravaganza. The house is pretty nice, and comfortable. I think we perhaps bought a little too much teak furniture in Bali last year. It came up by ship to Klong Toei port, and then by truck to the province - nice stuff but where to put it all? I feel more fortunate than I deserve...

And now with the advent of occasional rains at the beginning of the wet season, everything is lush and healthy, bursting with growth. Nice to hear lots of different birds, although even in Bangkok one can hear birds around at dawn and dusk. But the variety is much greater of course in the country. The water level in the pond is coming up as the rain becomes more frequent, and at night the birdsong is replaced by frogsong!

Then this week I made a short trip to Singapore, getting back here late last night. Nothing much to tell here, I'm just making excuses for my bloglessness. One observation though: Thai International definitely has better service than Cathay Pacific (although the latter's personal video units still make them the choice for long hauls).

Curious about the awesome power of journalist upon the public mind? Wondering why the French people seem to hate the United States as a whole, cowboys more specifically, and one particular Texan in particular, with such over-the-top vehemence, that one poll had 70% of Frenchmen hoping for a Saddam Hussein victory to teach the vile Americans a lesson? Puzzled over how these facts should be related in such a manner as to come together in strange and unusual ways?

Wonder no more. This is an old article from February, but still worth not missing: FrontPage Mag writer Nidra Poller interviews Alain Hertoghe, author of "Guerre a` outrances / Comment la presse nous a de'sinforme's sur l'Irak / War of Wor[l]ds: how the [French] press lied about Iraq". Hertoghe is a French journalist himself, who also studied his compatriots' treatment of the issue of the Iraq war, reported on what he found, and was fired from his job as a result. Evidently French journalists have freedom of speech, as long as it doesn't harm his employer's image. Not surprisingly, the French media has been absolutely silent on the whole thing.
My book is based on articles published in 5 major French newspapers--Le Monde, La Croix, Le Figaro, Libe'ration, Ouest-France--during the three week period from the beginning of the war on March 20th to the fall of Baghdad on April 9th. I studied the way these papers covered the war and I concluded that they misinformed their readers. As a result, readers couldn't understand how the Iraqi regime fell in three weeks. I think this misinformation can be explained by an extraordinary atmosphere of nationalism in France at that time, following on the diplomatic crisis in which France and Germany stood against the US and Great Britain. French people were unanimous on three points: they demonized the Bush and Blair administrations, approved the diplomatic line of Jacques Chirac and Dominique de Villepin, and communed with the pacifist movement. And journalists reported the war they would like to see rather than the war that was.

[. . .]

I think the reason why the press didn't report the war the way it was is due to this extraordinary atmosphere--there was no plot, no conspiracy, no collective or individual will to misinform readers. Journalists didn't keep a decent professional distance from what was happening. They were more excited by bad news about the offensive than good news. I think they themselves were totally surprised by the outcome, as were the readers. I see three reasons for this. One is the extraordinary anti-Americanism at that time. I think this has a lot to do with the personality of G. W. Bush and his administration. G. W. Bush is the kind of American the French love to hate. Then there is some kind of nostalgia for a time when France was an important player on the international scene. Jacques Chirac and Dominique De Villepin were able to inflame the French nostalgia for that time. And also there is Arabophilia...in a very bad sense of the term. Arabophilia is not a problem in itself but here it is in a bad sense.
Journalists have immense power in controlling what is enclosed in the "important issues of the day" and what the general population feels about them. I become more and more amazed every day at how much this agenda is managed by the "respectable" media, whose "impartiality" is growing increasingly difficult to find evidence of, and which is increasingly difficult even to type outside of the requisite sneer quotes.

By the way, FrontPage Mag was started by one David Horowitz -- a reformed radical leftist who once worked with the Black Panther Party and was the founder of the 70's radical magazine Ramparts. So FrontPage Mag is also not an impartial source, as Horowitz is now keen to expose phony radical hypocrisy -- perhaps to make amends for his previously being duped by the romantic revolutionary Chomskyite rhetoric which actually hurt people. I can, like, dig where he's coming from, man.

I wrote recently about the day sovereignty was transferred to the new Iraq government, a pre-emptive strike against those who would do all in their power to scuttle Iraqi democracy. I mentioned (and quoted from Iraqi bloggers who described it) how moved many people had been with Paul Bremer's farewell to the Iraqi people. I briefly mentioned that many of the "reliable" media had claimed there had been no such thing, perhaps because the general message of their spin on the events went something like "America Runs Away; Tail Between Legs". In fact this is not much of an exaggeration, as I read the LA Times actually printed something to the effect that Bremer had been too cowardly to face the Iraqi people as he rushed to the airport.

Well, as everyone accepts now, all these "reliable" media were not telling the truth. Some printed grudging retractions or corrections, some did not. Much of the blogosphere, and especially the Iraq contingent itself, was all over this story. Even so, several days after the record had been set straight, some western media were still shamelessly pushing the BS version - like the journalist Hertoghe in the above item might say, "the story they wish existed". Well some of the western bloggers like Patterico and others (Tim Blair got one too) received a rather pathetic explanation from the Washington Post Baghdad bureau chief Rajiv Chandrasekaran. From this and other explanations, we get that "we don't watch the al Iraqiya channel because it's US funded and it plays children's programming", "nobody told us about it", and so on. Apparently the staff at Dr. Ali's hospital didn't suffer from these difficulties. Anyway, the speech wasn't meant for the western press, it was meant for the people to whom it was addressed. That's no excuse for all the authoritative whining that "Bremer is a coward who didn't even say goodbye" without even minimal checking to see if it was actually true. Yet one more reason why reading a few blogs -- especially the Iraqi ones -- can make one better informed than the bloody Washington Post bureau chief.

Well in light of all this I thought it would be opportune to present this little opinion piece by Eric M. Johnson, who is a Washington area writer and who also served recently in Iraq as a reserve force member of the Marine Corps. He is generally very disillusioned by the behaviour of the American media, but he has some specific gripes with the Washington Post -- and in particular their aformentioned Baghdad bureau chief. Having watched Rajiv in action at first hand, how he collected information for his story, and then reflecting on the finished product as it appeared in the Post, Johnson says he will never believe another word coming out of the Baghdad bureau of this journalist. I will not give the details here as I wouldn't want to leave anything out -- read it for yourself.

It is worth passing some quotes of Philip Bennett, the Post's assistant managing editor for foreign news, who admits that "the threat of violence has distanced us from Iraqis." Further, he says that "we have relied on Iraqi stringers filing by telephone to our correspondents in Baghdad, and on embedding with the military. The stringers are not professional journalists, and their reports are heavy on the simplest direct observation." Johnson follows this up:
Translation: We are reprinting things from people we barely know, from a safe location dozens of miles away from the fighting.


Bennett might have added that not only are the reporters "distanced" from Iraqis, they're distanced from Iraq itself. Covering it from Baghdad is like covering California from a secure bunker in south-central Los Angeles.
This is actually a pretty consistent refrain coming from service people over there. They can see how afraid many of the media stars are to actually get close to the people, and get that experience. The service people themselves, many of them, do have close contact every day with ordinary Iraqi people, and I would bet they have a much more accurate picture of what people are feeling and thinking. They often have heartwarming stories of gratitude, and even of ordinary people taking big risks to help them. No wonder they would feel bad about all the one-sided stuff that gets written about them.

Yeah I know, maybe I should change the title of the blog to Lying Media Watch or something, but there's already a slough of those. But this is another link I saved some time ago, and you're going to have it passed to you, like it or not...

This piece by Tom Gross, writing in National Review Online, takes the BBC apart on a number of issues, of which I will mention only the most egregious one as a teaser. Gross is a former Middle East correspondent for the London Sunday Telegraph and the New York Daily News.

If some flaming demagogue hate-monger said stuff like this:
"In the name of Allah, the Jews must be annihilated. They are the scum of the human race, the rats of the world... the murderers of the prophets, and the offspring of apes and pigs."
. . . would an innocent member of the news and information consuming public be justified in feeling cheated, when he or she reads one of the most "respectable" news organisations in the world describing said demagogue in glowing terms as a respected community and religious leader? This is how the BBC describes Sheikh Abdur-Rahman al-Sudais, imam of the Grand Al-Haraam mosque in Mecca - the holiest mosque in Islam. (For more of the great religious leader's thoughts, see translations on the MEMRI site.)

Now, as outrageous as this might seem coming from what most of us are familiar with, and tend to think of as the "reliable" old voice of London, the BBC does in fact broadcast in quite a wide range of languages. So it might also be discouraging to learn that the Arabic language service is really quite extreme in its own right. London Calling ... to the Arab Street ... rabble-rousing, yeah that's exactly what we need here! This is something I have heard previously from Arab media watchers, who noted that al Jazeera had indeed been largely populated originally by ex BBC Arabic service staffers. Tom Gross continues later in his article, with something that I really wish I could claim to be surprised at:
The English-language version of the BBC seems to be just the tip of the iceberg. My friend Kamran al-Karadaghi, an urbane, moderate, and thoughtful Iraqi, who was for a decade the political editor of the Arabic-language newspaper al-Hayat in London, and who until last week served as head of Radio Free Iraq, tells me that the BBC Arabic-language service is not just far worse than the English-language BBC. It is "even worse," he says, than al Jazeera, in the vitriol it pours out against America and Israel.
I still recall John Simpson, in the first days after the liberation of Kabul (he walked into the city with the first anti-Taliban forces to enter the city), having a BBC veteran from either their Pashtun or Dari language service as the guest for his "Simpson's World" program. The fellow impressed me very much with his professional attitude toward the recent events and prospects for Afghanistan. What's wrong with the Arabic service? Heck, what's wrong with the English service lately? Maybe it will take some of the new news organisations taking off in a free speech environment in Iraq now, both electronic and print, to show the way forward for independent Arabic language journalism.

Okay, I know my language beefs with annoyingly silly reporters might be wearing a bit thin, but so what. It's my blog and I'll be tedious if I want to!

Today's example comes from a starry eyed young radical revolutionary ... (*cough*) ... I mean young lady BBC journalist, who only a few days back was telling us about surfing tourism in El Salvador. Now she's in Nicaragua for some anniversary of the Sandinista overthrow of the old dictator Somoza. Now don't get me wrong, I'm quite sure that old Somoza was a real nasty old bugger, and that many if not most of the Sandinistas' supporters were good-hearted campesinos who wanted a more just and fair society. But the fact is, that Nicaraguans by and large, did not actually want communism. They've voted strongly against it ever since the revolution (kudos to the Sandinistas for actually bucking the commie trend, and allowing proper elections). Anyway, if this BBC girl could have been more fawning in her groupie-like admiration for the undying revolutionary spirit and those lovely red flags, I don't see how she could have done it. I mean, come on! This is not news, this is just ... I can't even think of a proper word ... like, if you want to work for Workers of the World Socialist Revolution Website, then just go to work for them already!

But even that's not my beef. I've said before -- and Bernard Lewis, the foremost academic authority in Arabic and Muslim studies actually set me off on this -- that one has to wonder about the legitimacy of (using Prof. Lewis' example) a reporter in Iraq who can't say "Najaf" properly. Or as I ranted about recently, a reporter in Indonesia who pronounces a presidential candidate's middle name as "Bang-Bang". Just. Plain. Dumb. Now this girl is reporting from and about Nicaragua, and she can't even say Nicaragua! It's pathetic! And not only her, but everybody in the newsroom follows her stupid lead, and every single anchor says it the same way. "Nick"... ok fair enough so far. "Nick-are"... ok fine so far again. "Nick-are-agg"... yikes, not so good -- "agg" to rhyme with "bag" -- no good. "Nick-are-agg-you"... oh, no this is getting worse! "Nick-are-agg-you-ah"... man, or I should say, lady... are you or are you not actually in Nicaragua?? And have you actually heard anybody say such an abomination?? Of course you haven't!!

Alright, calm down Agam. English people do talk funny, and at least it wasn't Juliet Dunlop ("Praaaasident Boooooosh!") But really, at least make an effort, eh? The "agua" in "Nicaragua" is exactly like the Spanish word for "water". The BBC girl can go into a store and ask for a bottle of "agg-you-ah" and see how far that gets her! It should sound more like "ah-wah" with the "g" almost glided over, barely sounding. "Ah" like when the doctor puts a popsicle stick in your mouth and says, "Say Ahhh..." Nothing so hard about that, right? She's heard Managuans -- that's the people of Managua where she actually is -- saying either "Managua, Nicaragua" or indeed "Agua, por favor" all the doo dah day. It's been almost 30 years since I was in Central America, and I can still hear it in my inner ear. If I were to write it for an English reader to approach the sound, so you could imagine it fairly close, I would write something like "Knee-Car-Ah'-Wah" with slight emphasis on the third syl. How in the devil these people come up with "Nick-are-agg-you-ah" is just something I cannot fathom. Especially since she is right there in person!

And the most amazing thing? She mispronounces the country's name half a dozen times in her report, and then says "and this is [whatever her name is], in Managua." And she says "Managua" just fine! Very commendable. Excellent. Double You Tee Eff is the problem here??? I don't know, I give up on some of these people. I think they have whole departments to deal with correct foreign language pronunciation, or at least that was my understanding. I believe their scripts are written with foreign names and places spelled phonetically to ensure correctness. And yet the Brits are the only ones who I've ever hears pronounce the President of Russia, Mr. Putin's name as "Pyew Tin".

An update on my passing reference last week, to a mention by a caller to C-SPAN's Washington Journal about a book which explores connections between the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, an Middle Eastern terrorists. I wasn't even sure I heard the title correctly, but jotted it down anyway. I first did a search combining Timothy McVey with Iraq, and found a number of coincidental usages of both terms on pages, but nothing on this book. So I began to wonder if it was another crank call from a loonie of the right. Then I plugged in what I thought was the name of the book, and bingo. I did hear it correctly, and not only has John Lehman mentioned it as worthy of examination, but several other very credible people as well. In fact Lehman, as I learned in subsequent reading, mentioned this case in his questioning of former FBI director Louis Freeh (hope I spelled that right) before the Sept. 11 commission. Because one of the maddening things about this, is that the journalist who has been working on this case with such dedication for 9 years, had tried to give this information -- sworn affidavits from eyewitnesses, etc. -- to the proper authorities to further their investigations, and they refused to accept them. And apparently in his answers to Lehman's questioning, Freeh admitted that his agency probably goofed by not paying attention to this evidence.

The book's full title is "The Third Terrorist: The Middle East Connection to the Oklahoma City Bombing" by Jayna Davis. I found some reader reviews from a site on "20th Century History Books" and on Amazon. There is an interview with Jayna Davis here - and I offer that just because it's formatted a little better than the copy on her own site. Now, this might sound like X-Files stuff, the "truth is out there" and all that ... which is actually somewhat funny because Ms. Davis does bear a striking resemblance to Dana Sculley (there's a picture with the interview link). But I have to give some credence to the people who've been validating her evidence. For example, Larry Johnson, who was a deputy director of the State Department's office of counterterrorism, and Patrick Lang, Mideast expert formerly of the Defense Intelligence Agency. I've seen both of these people in interviews on other subjects, and they're both highly credible people.

And then there is former CIA director James Woolsey, who said about her work:
"When the full stories of these two incidents (1993 WTC Center bombing and 1995 Oklahoma City bombing) are finally told, those who permitted the investigations to stop short will owe big explanations to these two brave women (Middle East expert Laurie Mylroie and journalist Jayna Davis). And the nation will owe them a debt of gratitude."
The caller who I first heard mention this book, caught my ear because he cited John Lehman of the current Sept. 11 Commission as having recommended it - and he has struck me as one of the more honourable members of that panel, in a whole different category from some of the other posturing media attention sluts he had to work with. Anyway, lots more background on Jayna Davis' work can be perused on her own site. But if you have time for only one overview of all this stuff, the one to read would be the piece from the Wall Street Journal, which also gets into Laurie Mylroie's book (which I still haven't got to yet, as it beckons me from my shelf).

So did Saddam have anything to do with the 1993 WTC bombing, and the 1995 OKC bombing? Did al Qaeda? Davis and Mylroie have not constructed water-tight cases, but they've both gone a long way toward that, considering that they don't have any of the legally mandated investigative powers that police, prosecutors and grand juries have. Despite that fact, they've compiled (as I currently understand it, not having yet read either book) an amazing amount of circumstantial evidence which, when looked at as a whole, seems just a little bit too much to be all coincidental.

Ever wondered whether it would be possible for an evil, mass-murdering thug to make you laugh? Wonder no longer! As long as you are not an Iraqi -- I suspect most of the thug's own people have been so traumatised by fear, and most will have trouble remembering a time before that fear, that laughter might be out of the question -- you might enjoy Rock, Paper, Saddam!

UPDATE: I hereby take that categorisation of the "average Iraqi" back -- I hadn't noticed that the actual tip to "Rock, Paper, Saddam" came from Omar, at Iraq the Model -- who is hereby quoted saying, "I think you'll like this. I did." So there. Don't let anybody -- including me -- tell you what Iraqis think!

When I was younger and quite a bit more naive, I was taken in by an Australian physician who loved the Soviet communist system (although she didn't quite say so at the time), and by a documentary film about her called "If You Love This Planet". The doctor was of course, Dr. Helen Caldicott, and she became quite a star. All I can say now is, she should feel damn lucky she was an Australian dissident, and not a Soviet one.

Of course at that time, I had no idea of her infatuation with Marx, Lenin, Brezhnev et al, and trusted the documentary film makers that she was really an altruistic, idealistic, peace-making physician for social responsibility. Indeed, there is a brand new film about her, and she also has a brand new book out as well. I became aware of this first on Aussie blogger Tim Blair's page, and then it was taken up by Newfoundland blogger Damian Penny. And I see from this site that "Helen's War" is being shown by the CBC again this week, for the fourth time in as many months. Indeed, the reason that Tim Blair brought this up earlier this month on his page, was the revelation that the film, although an Australian production, is subsidised and supported by Canadian taxpayers. I don't have Tim's original piece at hand now, but there was an extensive list of Canadian ministries, departments, film promotion subsidies, tax concessions etc. which contributed to this Australian documentary about their amazing dissident. I wouldn't be surprised if the CBC kicked in for it as well.

It would be good if people would find out a little more about Dr. Caldicott's history before being tempted to swallow all the glowing idolisation and hero worship which is bound to be spooned out by this latest film. Some of this background has been compiled in this article in the Australian press. Evidently "Helen's War" was shown on Aussie TV at the beginning of July, and the anti-American, Bush-hating Aussie press generally thought it was fabulous -- prompting Gerard Jackson to pen this rebuttal. It's a surprisingly devastating dissection of Helen's past hypocrisies and her starry eyed admiration for Soviet communism. God, I feel so ashamed that I was once actually fooled by this phony. I had read some damaging stuff a few years ago about how she had manipulated some "scientific facts" and mislead her followers about some environmental problem, and I basically lost trust in her after that. Being dishonest about things like that fundamentally harm all the truly science-based and actual valid problems we have to tackle. Back in the 70's I can remember thinking that she did appear to have a bit of a messiah complex going, but didn't really worry about it that much. Well, that aspect still seems to be going strong for her. As the CBC website page for "Helen's War" gushes, "She's a doctor from Australia who has taken the Hippocratic oath for the entire planet, swearing not to die until all nuclear weapons are destroyed. A profile of the charismatic and pugnacious Helen Caldicott as she tries to make a comeback as an outspoken dissident in George Bush's post 9/11 world." We can certainly see where this is heading, now can't we? Helen is a veritable Boddhisatva -- swearing not to die until she brings enlightenment to all and saves the planet!

At least a Boddhisatva knows that he or she is a mere mortal who cannot avoid the inevitable death, no matter how much enlightenment one attains. For the record, Boddhisatva is an honourific title Buddhists give to one who has attained the supreme liberation from the cycle of life, death and rebirth -- but who willingly chooses to return to us in another life, in order to help other sentient beings. I don't know if it's true, but many Buddhists believe so. If Boddhisatvas do exist, probably the Dalai Lama could be one. Buddhadasa Bhikku, the late abbot of Suan Mokh temple in Surat Thani might have been another (and he might be around somewhere again by now). But I don't see this kind of ego-less-ness in Dr. Caldicott, boasting that she will be immortal until she rids the earth of nuclear weapons. Get real, Helen -- or go tell Brezhnev about it.

To date, Michael Moore's war room lawyers have not contacted Agam, nor the Gecko, regarding legal action against us. Neither have they served notice to the more notable critics who've called the Lumpy one a big, fat liar -- not Christopher Hitchens, not Andrew Sullivan, not those security and intel guys on Newsweek, not Dave Kopel, not White House correspondent Byron York, not anybody. Not even Tom Daschle, heh heh. And not even David T. Hardy, author of the newest book that bookstores don't want to tell you they have in stock because it's hiding on the bottom shelf in the back of the store, "Michael Moore is a Big, Fat, Stupid White Man". And in case anyone thinks, "Gee, that's not very nice," it's entirely appropriate since Moore's latest non-celluloid creation in his pantheon of wealth creation projects, is his own book "Stupid White Men". Naturally that's where he slanders all his own pet hates, whom he groups under that general rubric. By all accounts, the Hardy book is far less polemic than anything Lumpy has ever done in his life.

So anyway, I guess the great (great, geddit?) crockumentarian won't be suing James Lileks for his, shall we say, devastating expose of yet more of Moore's dishonesty? No? I've used "devastating" in the last item and shouldn't use it twice? Too bad. Lileks is devastating. And even if you don't have time to read it all (you really should, though), page down near the bottom of the article, and check out the photo -- which James uses simply on its own without further argument to rebut one of Lumpy's points in a written piece he had published in LA Times (this style of written debate, for the uninitiated, is called "fisking" -- closely related to the Usenet debate format referred to last week -- in honour of the English pseudo-journalist Robert Fisk). The photo shows (as if you still need more teasing to go look) two US servicemen holding up a large painted panel for the camera. The painting depicts Saddam dressed in his military fatigue uniform but wearing the Arab headdress and puffing on a big stogie. He's grinning and looking pretty satisfied. Next to him is the WTC twin towers at the moment of second impact, the huge plumes of flame exploding from mid-way down one tower while the other billows smoke from the first impact. Now of course, all this shows is the apparent mood of celebration by Saddam's admirers at the time the painting was created -- certainly the mood of either those who painted it or those who commissioned it. It doesn't even necessarily mean that Saddam really was that happy on Sept. 11, perhaps only that somebody thought it would please him. I just bet it would have pleased him, and I further bet that he was that happy.

Anyway, the much more interesting facts are contained in the arguments and counter arguments carried in Moore's own words, and Lileks' fisking of same. Well worth the read.

I never thought I'd feel the need to write to you like this, but what I just heard today really, you know, made me mad. So for whatever it's worth, don't pay any attention to those stupid fools. You can listen to your own courts of course, since they belong to a legitimate legal system in a democratic country. If they tell you to move your barrier in some spots to avoid creating undue hardship for certain communities, it's probably a good idea to do it. But you can safely ignore the UN General Assembly, which is for the most part a collection of self-serving representatives of non-democratic countries. Any idiot can see that your unarmed civilians, including so many children, were being blown up at will by terrorists over this never ending "intifada". This same idiot would also be able to recognise that you tried everything to make your citizens safe, to no avail, until you started constructing the barrier as a last resort. And the very same idiot could also be able to see that since the barrier started to have effect, the homicidal/suicidal maniacs are having a much harder time doing their thing. The difference has been astonishing! Those sanctimonious hypocrites purporting to be the "world community" must be so gleeful when they see more of your school kids blown up in their buses, or teenagers in their pizza parlours or dance halls. Just ignore them.

Maybe with any luck, one day there will be a Community of Democracies in which all members will have to meet certain basic standards of humanity and respect for human rights and freedoms, not to mention the consent of the governed. Then you would pretty much have to pay attention to what they said. But as it stands now, you can basically ignore the UNGA, because it really has about as much moral authority as my little gecko here. Just thought you'd like to know. Anyway, just be patient -- it looks like "Ya, sure" is about to self-destruct right about now, and we can see he never wanted to deal anyway. (my little gecko bears a striking resemblance, by the way)

Angelo de la Cruz returns home triumphantly today from his hostage ordeal in Iraq. I'm also very happy for any hostage to get out of a predicament like that intact. I also know that if I were a Filipino, I'd be deeply ashamed of my government. Late word tonight that terrorists in Iraq have sent warnings to representatives of other countries participating in Iraq reconstruction or humanitarian work, threatening to abduct one of their nationals if they don't pull out. I haven't heard if this applies to the Thai contingent, but they fit the profile. In any case, the terrorists' success with the Philippines puts lots of other people -- including the Thais -- at much higher risk than they were previously.

UPDATE: Just in: Islamist terrorists in Iraq have announced the apprehending of two Kenyans, three Indians and one Egyptian hostage, along with the release of some video of them. They threaten, of course, to chop the heads off of these people if their governments don't pull all their people out of Iraq immediately. None of the countries mentioned -- Kenya, India or Egypt -- form part of the "American led coalition". So there you go. Oh! I know! Let's give them what they want! That'll do the trick for sure!

And locally, Prime Minister Thaksin's government squashes freedom of speech for some venerable monks in their traditional weekend radio sermons, carried on Army radio and Public Relations Department facilities including the international service Radio Thailand. Following a sermon last month, respected monks are now expected to submit scripts to the PRD for vetting before being allowed to broadcast. The clergy are attempting to teach people about the benefits of honesty, avoiding corruption, steering away from gambling, and other such dangerous ideas. This is seen to be obliquely critical of any possibly corrupt, dishonest governments who might endeavour to open up lots of gambling paradise enterprises in different parts of the Kingdom. However a government spokesman said the measure was simply to make it easier for the PRD to provide timely transcripts for its faithful listeners.

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