Burmese demonstrations continue… as does the murder of dissidents

Just a quick post, while I have a spare minute – I’ll post more later on, when I’m home from work – but I thought I’d point anyone who’s interested in the direction of the Democratic Voice of Burma; a site that tells true news about what what’s going on in Burma/Myanmar. The site is based in Norway, so the Burmese government censors have no way of closing it down… as they have done to the media in Burma.
Oh yeah: the link above takes you to the English language version of the site – but from there you can get to other languages too.
See ya soon!
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UPDATE
The Burmese security forces seem to be winning their battle against dissent. They have arrested hundreds of monks – and many of them will probably be murdered by the army. Monasteries have been sealed. And hardly any news is getting out of Burma – nearly all internet links have been severed; and all privately-owned newspapers and magazines have ceased publication rather than carry the propaganda that the authorities ordered them to print, the Democratic Voice of Burma has reported:
“They are forcing us to publish their announcements and propaganda in our publications and we can’t let them do that to us,” said a Rangoon journalist.
The journalist compared the current situation with that during the 1988 uprising.
“In 1988 journals published news about the riots and shootings, but it is not as easy to do that now. The situation has changed – soldiers are shooting at everything now – so we can’t do it,” said the journalist. [from the DVB]
Now that the generals have taken the monks out of the picture, the demonstrators are losing spirit. The monks were a moral beacon, an example, and a form of leadership. But the Burmese civilian population have been ruled over tyrannically for decades – they are subservient by nature, disobedience has been beaten out of them – whereas the crowds numbered tens of thousands before, now just small crowds are gathering – and being savagely attacked by the army.
Horrific images have been shown all round the world. Japanese photographer Kenji Nagai, who worked for AFP, was shot dead by Burmese security forces – and, according to the Guardian, it looks like the army deliberately targetted Mr Nagai.
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AFP photographer Kenji Nagai, murdered in the street by Burmese soldiers.
It looks like the Burmese dictators’ tactics have worked – without the Buddhist monks, the demonstrations are petering out, and soon things may well be back to “normal” – whatever the fuck passes for normal in that fucked up country. The state media have reported 10 deaths – obvious bullshit. Gordon Brown has said he believes the casualty rates are much higher (according to BBC Radio 4 news), and he’s been talking to President Bush about the situation – but the Burmese generals don’t care. They have always ignored international opinion. The only other government they have “friendly” relationships with is the Chinese – and it looks like the army has been careful not to alienate China.
A group of 5,000-10,000 protestors assembled at around 3.30pm in the Chinatown area at the junction of Strand road and Keile road, also cursing government security forces. No government troops, guards or supporters were seen at this location.
“It’s like they’re trying not to upset the Chinese. We’ve seen an army truck passing by Chinatown, but no troops have been deployed.” [as reported by DVB]
So, what are the USA and UK going to do about this? The “free world” always make a big noise about the sanctity of democracy – liberating the Iraqi people from the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein is constantly used as an excuse for the invasion of Iraq. Well, the Burmese generals are worse dictators than Saddam ever worse – so will we invade?
Ha ha ha ha ha!!!
There’s no oil in Burma.  Just poverty and injustice.  Our political leaders may huff and puff, but at the end of the day they’ll do fuck all.  The military dictators of “Myanmar” have nothing to worry about.
Incidentally, what is this “Myanmar” crap all about?  The whole world seems to call Burma Burma.  Maybe by using the other name, the generals think that no one will realise what a shithole the place is.
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Buddhist monks in Burma – they led the demonstrations, now they’re probably dead.

Jack Straw's a "have a go hero"

128x128_labour_2007.gifJack Straw, the UK justice minister, has publicly told how, on four seperate occasions, he has “had a go” when witnessing crime – and twice detained “suspects”!  In the UK that is “false imprisonment” at least – maybe even kidnap!  But no, you can get away with anything if you know the right people – right, Jack? 😉
Now he wants to make sure the law is on the side of people who beat up and torture criminals! Remember that farmer who killed a burglar, shot him in the back with a shotgun? Straw says that man’s a hero!
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Jack Straw, justice minister – and self-confessed vigilante!
It’s weird that, when Blair was PM, Straw was solidly against “have a go heroes” – Blair’s government didn’t want to “give vigilantes a license to kill”.
Well Straw’s changed his mind. So watch it! If you need to go to the all-night shop for some bread at 2 in the morning, you better hope you don’t bump into Straw – he’ll cut your throat as a ne’er-do-well before you can say a word!

More webcomics by Warren Ellis

I was messing around on my computer – searching the web for new webcomics by my fave comics writer Warren Ellis instead of getting down to learning programming in C (my current “project”), when I found this blog entry at www.johnmortell.com. Okay, it’s old – more than a year old! – but it’s new to me, which is what counts.
The first strip, “Superidol”, is a neat bit of SF, commenting on our current “celebrity” worship. Well worth a gawp.
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The second strip linked to, “Shoot”, is, according to Mortell, “a Hellblazer issue that never saw publication owing to the Columbine High School massarcre. Ellis appearently quit Hellblazer owing to the non-publication of this issue.” It’s nice to hear that Ellis has the corage of his convictions.
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Warren Ellis obviously is in the game for the money – he is a professional, after all – but the fact he was prepared to quit Hellblazer (a very popular title) because of cowardly editorial decisions proves to me that he is in the biz for more than just the money. My respect for the guy continues to grow. Check out John Mortell’s blog – and the strips he links to, of course – let’s keep the webcomic steamroller rolling!

Branson pledges £100,000 to defend Madeleine's parents

Echoing public opinion in the UK that the portugese police are on the wrong scent, globe-trotting celebrity billionaire Richard Branson has said that he’ll donate £100,000 to defend Gerry and Kate McCann if they should end up in court accused of being involved in the disappearance of their daughter Madeleine.
Reuters reported Branson’s pledge, which had followed news that the money donated by the public to help find the girl – more than one million pounds – would not be used to pay the McCanns’ legal bills. And they’ve already hired lawyers both in Portugal and here in the UK. Branson hopes that other wealthy individuals will make similar pledges. This is a reflection of the fact that the vast majority of people in the UK believe the police in Portugal should never have declared the McCanns as”official suspects”.
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Gerry and Kate McCann
The press really do need to ease up on their coverage of Madeleine’s parents. Kate and Gerry McCann did invite massive publicity, in the hope that it would help find the four-year old girl – but the way it blew up in their face is most undeserved.
I remember hearing on the radio, not long after the police’s announcement, that seven years ago a portugese mother was jailed after her child went missing – and the same detective who led the case against her is now in charge of the hunt for Maleleine. This all helps create suspicion that the portugese police, having messed up at the start of the case by not treating it as an abduction, and with no leads to follow, will use the McCanns as scapegoats.
I do not share the portugese police’s suspicions. I take the McCanns at face value – as the frantic parents of a missing child. I’ve seen their televised appeals. They can’t be faking those emotions, surely.
But I’m also concerned at the news that they’ve hired a British lawyer. That suggests to me that, if the portugese police want to talk to them again, the McCanns won’t return to Portugal of their own free will – that they are planning to fight any extradition attempt.
They’re innocent, of course – wouldn’t they want to take the opportunity to prove, once and for all, that they are not involved in this horrific crime?
But I’m no expert, I’m just an interested observer. And I share my observations here, with anyone who wants to know. I’ll always tell the truth about what I think of the Madeleine McCann case.
Let’s keep hoping she’ll come home soon.
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UPDATE: Tue 18 Sept 11:36AM
The portugese police do want to interview the McCanns again.  Apparently they went to a Portugese Court to try and get the couple ordered back to Portugal.  But the judge refused, saying that the case is “too flimsy”.
Of course, the case will remain flimsy, if the police can’t gather any more evidence.  And they obviously think that reinterviewing the McCanns is the way to get that evidence.

Microsoft loses Euro court appeal

Ohh man, this is so sweeeet!! If you’re a lover of freedom, that is. If you think the rich and powerful should be allowed to do what they like, when they like, to whoever they like, then you may be dismayed. But the news, which I got from this BBC link, is good news to anyone whose opinion means anything to me.
If you don’t know the details of the case, I’ll give you the basics. In 2004, the European Commission decided that Microsoft was acting in an anti-competitive manner – for instance, if you bought their Windows operating system software, you had to buy their media player too. This made the market ridiculously stacked against the other manufacturers of media players. Player XYZ might be much better than Microsoft’s offering – and Microsoft’s products are notorious for their poor quality – but if you already had Microsoft’s media player (which you would, if you’d bought Windows) then you’d be less keen to shell out for another. If multimedia was of great importance to you, you’d make the sacrifice of effectively paying twice so you’d have a decent experience. But if you were one of the many customers who thought they’d just make do with the crap that had been forced on them rather than pay again… well, it’s obvious. Just as it was to the European Commission.
And if you were one of the discerning consumers who decided to do without any of Microsoft’s crapware… well, Microsoft had a trick up its evil sleeve for you too. Now that so much business is done online, your computer is likely to have to communicate with computers that are running Windows. But if your computer wasn’t running Windows as well, the two systems couldn’t interoperate properly. Microsoft built incompatibilities into its operating system. And Microsoft refused to tell its competitors how they might be able to adapt their own product to interoperate with the Windows rubbish. “Trade secrets,” said Microsoft. “Bullshit,” replied the EC.
So in 2004, after thoroughly investigating Microsoft’s business practices, the EC ordered the software company to stop this anti-competitive behaviour. And the Commission fined Microsoft for every day that the company refused to obey the law – fines that added up to over 280 million euros in six months!
Of course Microsoft appealed. They couldn’t just start obeying the same laws that their competitors had to. Microsoft’s entire business strategy is built on the concept of forcing everyone to buy their products – the infamous “Microsoft lock-in”. So they appealed to the European Court of First Instance. And today that court announced its decision.
They upheld every detail of the EC’s earlier decision, except one minor point. The EC wanted there to be an independent trustee to watch over Microsoft’s future behaviour, to make sure the crooks didn’t fall back into their old habits. The court thought this would be too invasive. Lucky old Microsoft, eh!
But Microsoft have to stop “bundling” software like its media player with the Windows operating system. Microsoft must reveal its technological “secrets” to the other players in the European computing business (this is something that’s standard practice with other companies – they call it “standards”!)
And, ohh, this must be so galling to the miserly “robber barons” in charge of the Microsoft machine – Microsoft must pay a fine of 497 million euros! £343 million! US$690 million! And they even have to pay 80% of the EC’s legal costs! (The EC, in turn, must pay some proportion of Microsoft’s lawyers’ bill – though I’m sure it’s nothing like what the guilty ones must cough up). This massive cost won’t just anger the management – think how the shareholders must feel!!
Do you think Microsoft will learn their lesson from this punishment? Do you think the criminals will be cowed, repentant, rehabilitated? Hah! Even as they reel from the blows of the European Court, Microsoft are dreaming up other ways to impose the lock-in. Their competitors have decided to agree on a common, open format for files like text documents and spreadsheets. Everyone seems happy with a format called .odf (open document format). But Microsoft are trying to impose their own format – OOXML – and appear to be bribing or pressuring everyone they can get at to agree with them. And they’re threatening developers of Linux – the Free Software operating system – with legal action based on software patents that most knowledgeable people agree are phoney.
Now is the time for everyone who uses computers to stand up against the purveyors of lock-in and the threat of litigation. Microsoft’s latest OS – Vista – is widely judged to be amongst the most insecure, unstable and encumbered code they’ve ever released! And to run Vista, you need to buy powerful, expensive hardware! All of Microsoft’s long-suffering victims, whose dependence on legacy formats 20 years out of date has kept them locked-in to this arrogant corporation – now they must say “No more!” There are other software solutions – there’s UNIX – there’s Apple’s OSX, itself based on UNIX – and there’s Linux, the Free version of UNIX – all these operating systems are far more advanced and secure than anything Microsoft can hack together. And, because they all share that common UNIX ancestry, they can interoperate at all levels… something Windows could never do, even if its owners wanted it to.
Today’s decision of the European Court of First Instance has been a heavy blow to the bully of the software world. And it’s a wake-up call to everyone else.

Coming soon – nuclear war with Iran! (maybe)

The world has gone fucking mad!!!   The French (you gotta love ’em) has threatened war with Iran!!!
As  BBC News  reported:
Mr Kouchner has sounded the alarm over Iran’s nuclear programme
French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner says the world should prepare for war over Iran’s nuclear programme.
“We have to prepare for the worst, and the worst is war,” Mr Kouchner said in an interview on French TV and radio.
Mr Kouchner said negotiations with Iran should continue “right to the end”, but an Iranian nuclear weapon would pose “a real danger for the whole world”.
Iran has consistently denied it is trying to acquire nuclear weapons but intends to carry on enriching uranium.

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Bernard Kouchner telling Iran: “This means war!”
Okay, so the French aren’t actually saying “Let’s fry ’em now!”, but remember this – France are the one Western permanent member of the UN Security Council that is ever moderate over Iran.  The USA (and their UK poodles) are usually the ones being all aggressive, and the French usually need to calm them down.  Now France is getting all feisty…. what more encouragement could a fruitcake like George Bush need???
And remember this – the other two permanent members, Russia and China, are far more relaxed about Iran’s nuclear programme – Russia’s actually helping Iran to build one nuclear power station.  Whose side will they be on if Bush goes off on one?????

Northern Rock is screwed either way

Northern Rock, the UK financial lender that had to make an emergency loan from the Bank of England, are in a real mess.  Customers were queuing Friday and Saturday to withdraw their savings, worried that the lender would fail and take their money with it, and people have been queuing yesterday – Sunday 16 September, which is not a banking day in the UK, waiting for branches to open so they can get in quick.
And it’s been admitted that if the rush doesn’t stop, it could kill the lender.
Check this out!  Reuters
So, Northern Link is weak anyway – must be, needing that loan, I don’t believe that bullshit coming out of their boss -and the customers are speeding its destruction!!!
Or, as Reuters suggests, the weakened institution could be picked off by some nasty predator multinational financial organization – which could be okay I guess </lies>
Lucky I’m skint – I won’t lose anything! 😉

Japan shoots for the Moon!

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Yesterday morning, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) launched an unmanned flight which brings Japan’s goal of a manned moon-base by 2025 that much closer.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/space/article/0,,2169428,00.html
The space craft, nicknamed “Kaguya” after the moon princess in a Japanese fairy tale, will release 2 smaller satellites when in the moon’s orbit. These 3 satellites will then survey previously unmapped areas of the Lunar surface and conduct other experiment. This is all part of a plan to build a manned moonbase by 2025.
There seems to be a rush of interest in the moon. India and China have plans for moonshots, and the USA intends to launch a lunar orbiter next year.
It’s a pity that the US Government decided to abandon moon missions after the Apollo programme and focus on the space shuttle instead. Sure, we gained many wonderful technologies thanks to the shuttle and satellites – GPS and satellite TV to name just two – but they would probably have been developed anyway if NASA had pressed on with plans for moon bases and missions to Mars.
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Developing bases on the moon would be very handy in planning missions to Mars and the outer planets. The moon would be an excellent place to site a space ship factory – they could take off much more easily from there than from the earth, as the moon’s gravitational pull is only about a sixth of that here. Of course, such a factory would only be possible if there were some easy way to get raw materials to the moon. But who knows what resources are waiting to be discovered up there? Already there have been reports of water ice in some craters. Beneath the lunar surfaces there could be metal ores and other elements needed for space flight.
Many people think that space exploration is a waste of time and money. They say we should sort out the problems here on earth before reaching for the stars. But I disagree. For one thing, “necessity is the mother of invention” – great technological advances have been made because of war, for example. I think that space exploration is a much better spur to development than world war.
And exploring other worlds will help us to understand more about our own. For example, Venus’s atmosphere contains a high proportion of carbon dioxide – and the greenhouse effect is strikingly evident there.
All in all, I think the launch of Kaguya is A Good Thing. I really do hope that the Japanese manage to get their moonbase built by 2025… and I’d love to go there when it’s done!

How to find *free* music on the web!

There are all these torrents and file-sharing services that everyone uses nowadays. I’m not going to tell you about them, in fact I don’t know very much about them. Never used them in my life. No, I use a much more sinister, arcane method to find music to download, for free, on the internet.
Google Is Your Friend(tm)
I’m being absolutely serious about this. If you use the search method I’m about to explain, you will likely find music files that you want, all for free. Illegal of course, but I won’t tell if you don’t 😉
Okay, let’s assume that you’re an Arctic Monkeys fan and you want to get hold of their album Brianstorm – but you don’t want to buy the CD, and the idea of paying for downloads is just too unnatural to you. Well, fire up Google (it’s at www.google.com, just in case you’ve never used it!), and in the search terms field type the following:
intitle:index.of mp3 arctic monkeys brianstorm
You’ll get a whole heap of search results – as is the Google way, alas – but if you sift through them you will be sure to find a site where some kind soul has posted all the tracks off Brianstorm. I know this, you see, because that’s how I got the album.
Unfortunately it can be a little difficult finding recent music – the mp3s are often out there, but raking through the Google results can be disspiriting. But if you’re like me – a fan of “old” music, like from the ’60s and ’70s, you’re laughing. I found every album ever released by The Doors – loads of Janis Joplin/Big Brother and the Holding Company including tracks that I don’t think were ever officially released – reggae reggae reggae, by Bob Marley of course, and Lee “Scratch” Perry, and hundreds of bands and singers I’d never heard of before. If you’ve got an eclectic, adventurous taste in music, Google will introduce you to stuff that you’ll love til the day you die!
I used to have a half-decent collection of Red Hot Chilli Peppers CDs and cassettes, but they mysteriously disappeared when I moved house. I was gutted… then Google came to the rescue, and now I can keep the neighbours up all night with that heavy funk.
So just remember the simple formula. If you wanted Beatles tracks, you’d search for
intitle:index.of mp3 beatles
If you wanted reggae, no particular artist in mind, you’d type
intitle:index.of mp3 reggae
It’s a real simple formula – takes moments to learn, and will serve you well for years. So go on – fire up Google – see how much royalty money you can scam those stinking-rich rockstars for!!
PS:  I’ve amassed a good collection of tunes thanks to Google, and the many kindly souls who have posted their mp3 collections on the net.  So, one of these days, I swear to the Goddess, I’m gonna stick all my music files on a website so fellow musical adventurers can benefit from the internet’s bounty.  It needn’t cost me anything – there are loads of companies that do free hosting – and if the Recording Artistes Cartel lean on my host to shut me down, I’ll just move my mp3s to another site.  Music, like knowledge, wants to be free!  Let’s make it happen!
PPS: Just in case some droid from the music industry is reading this and planning to do me in court for piracy or copyright violation or whatever they call it – I’ve made it all up!  It’s just a pipe dream, a bit of fiction!  I’d never steal from the poor, impoverished record companies!  😉
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