Ed. If Kerry had spoken from the heart during the campaign, instead of letting his managers control him, causing him to fail to slam those curs (The Swift Boaters For Totalitarianism), he'd have won the Election and this bunch of despots would be Lolly Gagging now in their plush corporate offices plotting how to take over the World again tomorrow night...
The glaring failure here is Democrats failed to unanimously stand to support Kerry with one voice...sorry ass, spineless, stupid cowards!!!
Updated: Thursday, 2 November 2006 12:10 AM CST
Living among the dead
By John M. Glionna, Times Staff Writer
October 31, 2006
SOMETIMES on the hottest nights, when the air inside her shanty barely stirs, Mellie Soliman lays her head on the cool, black marble surface of the living-room crypt and finds relief.
Yet the nights are not always restful in this place called Norte. In the quietest hours, spirits emerge. Soliman sees them mostly after midnight, the hour she once found a mother and son standing at her door.
"The woman was all white," she said. "She couldn't talk, but motioned that they were thirsty, so I went to get them water. When I came back, they were gone."
She explains such apparitions with a near-mystical calm: "There are some here in Norte who have left us but still do not think they are dead."
Soliman is familiar with the habits of the deceased. The barefoot grandmother and her extended family are among 50,000 poor but stubborn Filipinos who carve out an unorthodox existence in Norte, or the North Manila Cemetery, which is the country's largest public burial ground and a bustling community where the living share space with the dead.
Each day in Norte is marked by life and death. New family members marry in, old ones die off. Often, as many babies are delivered as people are buried. The children are soon taught respect for the departed, and instructed not to play or make noise near the slow-moving funeral processions.
Life is hard: Without plumbing or running water, the narrow streets overflow with foul effluent dumped from buckets. The bootleg electricity lines rigged amid the gravestones are often cut by city officials.
Yet the alternative is worse — the squalor of itinerant Manila slums such as Tondo. In a metropolitan area where 20% of the 10 million residents are homeless, the most destitute exist atop a sprawling garbage dump in Tondo where crime and disease are rampant.
In Norte, life is safer, and quieter.
"The dead don't scare me so much," said Soliman, 62. "It's the living I'm afraid of."
There are few places on Earth where grinding poverty and overcrowding foster such an unlikely life-and-death arrangement.
In Cairo's 700-year-old City of the Dead, nearly 1 million people live among the ancient tombs. Here on the Philippine archipelago, experts attribute Norte's large number of residents not only to economic necessity, but to the culture's peculiar attitude toward death.
"Many Filipinos don't use the word 'dead,' " historian Alejandro Roces said. "Rather, they're referred to as 'the departed,' the ones who just happened to go ahead of us. For many, they're seen as just as alive as you and I."
Each November, many of the 89 million residents of this largely Roman Catholic country visit cemeteries to observe the religious festivals of All Saints' Day and All Souls' Day. The two-day event includes music and socializing, bringing a festive atmosphere to grounds usually associated with an eerie quiet and calm.
But many disapprove of the living tomb-dwellers. Come campaign season, some Manila politicians repeat the promise to "clean up Norte," which some view as a national disgrace.
"It's not right," city housing officer Deogracias Tablan said. "These people have been tolerated. But this is a sacred place for the dead that has been taken over by the living. Shouldn't the deceased be allowed to rest in peace?"
Manila newspaper columnist Adrian Cristobal dismisses such government complaints.
"It's a solution for the destitute," he said of Norte. "And they may be poor, but these people are all voters. The politicians are afraid to touch them."
Norte resident May Canary insists she's not disturbing anyone.
"Our life here is not a sign of disrespect — it's just the opposite," said the 29-year-old mother, who lives three mausoleums down from the Solimans. "We're here as caretakers of the tombs. Who else would do this?"
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Senator Allen's Staff Tackles Blogger
By Jason Leopold
t r u t h o u t | Report
Tuesday 31 October 2006
A physical confrontation caught on tape broke out Tuesday morning in the lobby of the Omni Hotel in downtown Charlottesville between aides to Republican Senator George Allen and a person identified as Mike Stark, a man who has spent the past several months following Allen around the campaign trail and peppering him with some hard-hitting questions.
Stark, an ex-marine who is currently a law student at the University of Virginia, showed up at a campaign rally for Allen and was tackled and put into a choke hold by aides to the Republican senator for allegedly asking Allen what his staff claims were multiple inappropriate questions about Allen's wife.
In an interview Tuesday afternoon with a reporter for the website TalkingPoints Memo, Stark said he was "within four feet" of Allen when he started firing off questions.
"My question was, 'Senator Allen, Democrats are making this election about accountability. You can shut them up by telling us what was in your police records from the seventies,'" Stark told TalkingPoints Memo. "He kind of muttered to himself, kind of, 'I'm not gonna go there.' Immediately his campaign staff started pushing me around, shoving me around, trying to form a human wall between me and him. I continued to pace him out into the lobby. My next question was, 'Is it true that you spit on your wife?'"
"Then somebody said, 'Now you're getting personal,' and wrestled me to the ground,'" Stark said, adding that he intends to press charges against Allen's staff.
With Tuesday's Allen fracas, Stark has officially ventured into the type of gumshoe reporting where mainstream reporters fear to tread. He's no stranger to Allen's campaign staff.
According to reports on several progressive blogs, Stark launched a website, callingallwingnuts.com, in 2002 to provide the public with an inside view of the horrors of war - something pro-war pundits, Stark said, were leaving out of their coverage. That's when he started to direct his questions squarely at the media he believed was distorting the message.
"I started calling local radio talk shows whenever I had the time and sharing what I knew about the Iraq situation," Stark told a reporter for the website MyDD.com earlier this month. "I wanted people to be careful - I wanted to remind them that they shouldn't believe everything they heard."
But Stark doesn't limit his ire for those solely on the right. There have been a few notable Democrats who have been caught off-guard by Stark's tough questions.
"I love asking politicians questions that they don't want to answer," Stark told MyDD.com "And that includes people on my side. As we've found, a lot of people are prone to being lazy or safe. If they're shocked by a question from someone on their side that they don't want to face, it reminds them that they're going to have to be accountable, that they have to work to keep our support." But Stark is surprised people think that what he's doing takes guts. "I'm thinking, how have I exposed myself to any risk here? There's nothing anyone can do to harm me. I'm just willing to confront people who are doing something I think is wrong. Of course, I know a lot of people are afraid of confrontation. But in this case, they've got it backwards ... because it's the politicians who should be afraid of us. They're the people who, if they're not careful, will make complete asses out of themselves in their effort to keep their power."
Over the summer, the part-time blogger showed up at another event for the embattled senator and asked him whether he has ever used the N-word. Allen, the incumbent from Virginia, came under fire in mid-August for twice using the racial slur "macaca" to refer to S.R.Sidarth, who was filming a campaign event as a "tracker" for Democratic challenger Jim Webb's campaign. Sidarth was born and raised in Fairfax County, Virginia, but is of Indian ancestry.
Stark, in his late-30s, pressed Allen at an event held at the Holiday Inn in Staunton, demanding that the senator respond to questions about the reasons he kept a Confederate Flag and a noose in his district office.
Allen never answered the questions, but Stark was asked to leave the event by Allen aide David Nepp. It's unclear whether Nepp was one of the men caught on tape assaulting Stark. Neither Allen, his spokesperson, or Stark were immediately available for comment. Webb, the Democratic challenger, is reportedly slightly ahead of Allen in the polls, according to local Virginian news reports.
Stark's guerilla-like reporting tactics have also roiled some well-known conservative pundits. He's made numerous phone calls to the Bill O'Reilly show in an attempt to get the Fox News talk show host to respond to tough questions about the domestic and foreign policy issues, resulting in several on-air threats from O'Reilly, and he has pushed Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity's buttons as well.
Stark, the father of a 14-month-old girl, admits, however, that being a vocal activist has its drawbacks.
"Every time I make a decision on whether to go to Washington, or attend any political event, I'm taking time away from being with my daughter," he told MyDD.com
But he said he's driven by a passion to change the political landscape in Washington.
"These are pretty momentous times, and I think the people who are in charge of things right now are pretty close to just plain evil," he told MyDD. "We have a responsibility to our country and each other to get involved. "
FATHERS IN THE MAKING
Shots, eggs, embryos and a big dose of hope
Chad and David put the process in motion with a donor and surrogate, but much could still go wrong
By Kevin Sack, Times Staff Writer
October 30, 2006
FAIRFAX, Va. -- Chad and David Craig fidgeted in the waiting room like expectant fathers, which is, after all, what they were.
Just down the hall, in a sterile surgical suite, a young woman they had met only once had her legs up in stirrups. Dr. Suheil J. Muasher, a fertility specialist, gripped a long silver needle between his right thumb and forefinger and twirled it gently as he guided it through her vaginal wall and into her right ovary.
"It's full of follicles," he said approvingly, glancing at an ultrasound monitor to track the needle's path.
The follicles showed up on the screen as black blobs. Each contained an egg the size of a dust particle. As Muasher punctured the first sac, he stepped on a foot pump and suctioned it until it collapsed and disappeared. Fluid the color of fruit punch streamed through a catheter attached to the needle and into a test tube.
The fluid was spirited into an adjoining lab, decanted into a dish, and examined under high magnification by one of Muasher's embryologists.
"Do you have anything?" the doctor called.
"I have a first egg," his assistant announced. She transmitted an image resembling a star cluster onto a monitor in the operating room. The anesthesiologist, Dr. David C. Yarnall, couldn't resist. "Looks like it's sunny side up," he said.
The date was Oct. 9, 2004, and Chad and David had been awaiting this moment for nearly two years. It was the first significant medical step in their unconventional quest to become fathers, an undertaking that would have been inconceivable a few years earlier.
As gay men trying to produce genetic offspring through a gestational surrogacy arrangement, Chad and David had invested their hopes and their savings in the primacy of technology over biology.
They knew from years of research into assisted reproduction that success was never guaranteed. And their process would have more moving parts than most. They were paying one woman to provide her eggs, and another to carry their artificially inseminated embryos to term. To make it all happen, they had assembled a team of doctors, nurses, embryologists, technicians and lawyers. Things could go wrong at any stage, and Chad and David would have little control over events beyond playing the odds.
At the moment, none of that mattered. After months of planning and anticipation, it felt to them like Christmas morning.
"We are absolutely on the edge of our seats," said Chad. "The process is such a test of patience. Tons of waiting and then quick and short bouts of intense progress. I am guessing it will just hit me all at once that we are finally about to be pregnant."
Their fate now depended on the intricate choreography Muasher had directed by prescribing various fertility drugs to stimulate the egg donor's production, synchronize her reproductive cycle with that of the surrogate, and prepare the surrogate's uterus to accept an embryo.
They knew their egg donor only as Jessica, but their dreams of building a family relied heavily on this near total stranger. She was single and 25, in her egg-producing prime, but she had never been pregnant or donated eggs before.
For the previous three weeks, at Muasher's direction, Jessica had injected herself daily with hormones. Each morning, she numbed one of her hips with an icepack and jabbed it with Lupron, a synthetic formulation that prevented her from ovulating until the desired moment.
At night, she gave herself two shots that stimulated egg production — Follistim (derived from the ovarian cells of Chinese hamsters) and Repronex (extracted from the urine of postmenopausal women). In addition to bruising from the injections, Jessica suffered side effects like sleeplessness, headaches and bloating that sometimes forced her to unbutton her jeans.
Muasher carefully monitored her hormone levels and follicle development through regular blood tests and sonograms, and tweaked the dosages accordingly. The adjustments were critical to warding off a rare but dangerous condition known as hyperstimulation, which could lead to renal failure or blood clots.
"It's more of an art than a science," Muasher explained, "because people respond differently to the medications." Indeed, he had tried to treat Jessica conservatively, but based on her sonograms he projected she would yield at least 20 eggs, well above average.
Precisely 35 hours before Muasher planned to retrieve the eggs, Jessica gave herself a final "trigger shot" of yet another hormone that would prepare her follicles for ovulation. The timing of the procedures was calculated so that the peak of her egg maturation would dovetail with the priming of the surrogate's uterus for maximum receptivity.
That moment did not always coincide with office hours. When Muasher began suctioning Jessica's follicles, it was 7:45 on a Saturday morning. Chad, 33, and David, 36, steeled themselves in the waiting room with coffee and Krispy Kreme doughnuts as the doctor methodically punctured one sac after the next. With a single swift stroke, he guided the needle through three abutting follicles, like a toothpick through cocktail olives.
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It was the Joanne and Truman show
Auction shows the bond between Carson's ex and the exiled Capote.
By Robin Abcarian, Times Staff Writer
October 31, 2006
They were an unlikely pair, Joanne Carson and Truman Capote. She was the plucky, gorgeous wife of the man who would become the undisputed king of late-night television. He was the diminutive literary genius whose rapier wit would eventually force him into a kind of social exile from Manhattan.
In 1971, the year before her divorce became final, she moved home to California, while Johnny Carson stayed in New York, where his show was then taped. She bought a rustic house on Sunset Boulevard, at the western fringe of Bel-Air. Eventually, Capote would take over two of her five bedrooms, making her home his California pied-a-terre, spending months there every year, swimming and writing — and, on Aug. 25, 1984, dying, in his writing room, probably from an overdose of pills.
For more than two decades, in her unpretentious house crammed with mementos of a life at the edge of a certain strata of glamorous L.A., Joanne Carson has lived among the things Capote left her. But now she's decided to part with most of it. On Nov. 9, "The Private World of Truman Capote," comprising 337 lots, will go to auction at Bonhams in New York (with simulcasts at branches in Los Angeles and San Francisco).
Carson, a fit and youthful-looking 75, is capitalizing on the resurgent interest in Capote, who in the last year has been the subject of two films (the Oscar-winning "Capote" and "Infamous") and a book, "Party of the Century: The Fabulous Story of Truman Capote and His Black and White Ball," about the legendary party he hosted at the Plaza Hotel in 1966.
That was the year Capote and Carson met, at a dinner party thrown by publishing legend Bennett Cerf. Capote, who would become a frequent guest on "The Tonight Show," was the toast of the town, thanks to the astonishing success of his nonfiction masterpiece, "In Cold Blood," the year before. Carson hated the social whirl and class consciousness of New York but bonded immediately with Capote, a famous social climber. In him, she said, she saw a "wounded child," someone with whom she, a girl from a broken home who was sent to a convent school, could identify.
"Truman loved celebrity," she said the other day, strolling through the auction preview at Bonhams & Butterfields in West Hollywood. "He crashed and burned because of the bitchiness of New York."
A lover of animals
Carson said she doesn't need cash. For a time she earned a living as a TV talk-show host, and she invested her divorce settlement with Peter Eliades, the well-known stock expert. She later returned to school, earning a doctorate and working as a metabolic therapist. But her passion is animals, and she plans to donate much of the auction proceeds to several pet-related charities, including a pet hospice that a veterinarian friend of hers in Santa Monica is trying to create.
The auction's centerpiece is the last story Capote ever wrote, penned for Carson next to her pool the day before he died. He asked her: What would you like for your birthday? "Truman," she replied, "I just want you to write. If you're writing, I'm happy."
"Remembering Willa Cather" is a 14-page unfinished essay, written on a spiral-bound notebook, about his chance encounter and ensuing dinner with one of his literary heroes at the New York Society Library on a snowy day in the 1940s, when he was a teenager. The story appears, unedited, in the November issue of Vanity Fair, which paid Carson $10,000 for the publishing rights. Its auction value is estimated between $20,000 and $30,000.
"All the critics said that he couldn't write and that it was all over and that he had destroyed his talent," said Carson, alluding both to Capote's well-known substance abuse and to "Answered Prayers," the much-hyped-but-never-finished novel that was excerpted in Esquire and proved his social undoing. "And that's why this last manuscript of his is so important."
Another item features Capote's extensive edits on a never-published 38-page essay by Carson about meeting and falling in love with her future husband in New York City in 1960. She recounts being introduced to Johnny in New York by her father, who'd come on a business trip to visit his daughter, a struggling model, and was introduced by a mutual acquaintance to Carson, then the host of "Who Do You Trust?"
Truly inspired edits
The typed prose is workmanlike, but there are extensive, and truly inspired, edits by Capote. It seems clear (and Carson confirmed) that he made up dialogue and some details, but preserved her feelings and the essential truth of the piece. (There is a very funny scene in which, on one of their first dates, she attempts to weigh a roast beef on her bathroom scale, and Carson unexpectedly walks in. "I think I'll just make myself another drink," he deadpans.)
In addition to knickknacks such as embroidered pillows, pens and many Baccarat decanters, there are Polaroid photos, some taken by Carson, of Capote cavorting in her pool after a face-lift and 80-pound weight loss at a Florida spa. (He gained it all back, she said with a sigh.) There are six collage boxes made by Capote out of snakebite kits, a hobby Carson thinks evolved from his fascination and fear that began when he was bitten by a snake as a child.
The worlds of Hollywood glitz and New York literati collide in one of the auction's offerings, a March 1982 note to Capote from Irving "Swifty" Lazar forbidding the novelist from bringing Carson as a date to Lazar's famous Oscar-night party. "Dear Tru," it began, "Delighted that you can come to our 'bash' … but it would be impossible for you to bring Joanne Carson, since it would create an embarrassment for Johnny which would be intolerable…. Bring someone else if you wish. Or, you can hold hands with Gore Vidal or Howard Austin — or even with me — but not Joanne, the ex. Love, Irving."
Over dinner at Matteo's, Capote and Carson showed the note to Jody Jacobs, The Times' society columnist. She wrote an item and got disinvited herself. "Thud," she wrote in her follow-up. "It's the sound of another Lazar 'Unwelcome Mat' falling into place." But other invitations poured in, and Capote, Carson and Jacobs were given an ovation when they walked into a different Oscar party in Bel-Air.
In her divorce, Carson said, Johnny got most of their friends. "Everyone moved toward Johnny, because that was where the power was," said Carson. "But Truman stood by me like a rock." And his loyalty was repaid some years later when he fell from grace in a most public and unpleasant way.
His New York 'swans'
This occurred in 1975, when Esquire published "La Cote Basque," one of the chapters in "Answered Prayers." It was a thinly veiled story about the sexual peccadilloes of a gaggle of socialites who, until then, were his dearest New York friends. They were his "swans," as he called them: Babe Paley, Slim Keith and Lee Radziwill.
Said Carson: "Before he died, when I asked him about 'Answered Prayers' and how it would be perceived, Truman said to me, 'People will cut their own throats with their own tongues.' A lot of people said how outrageous this piece was and how they wanted nothing to do with it … yet today, it's an important piece of literature. I know people who say to me today, 'Oh, my grandmother was in "Answered Prayers." I'm so proud.' "
She is even forgiving of his recounting of a marital indiscretion on the part of her husband, to whom Capote gave a pseudonym — Bobby Baxter — and called a "sadist … behind that huckleberry grin." (Carson was loath to talk about that, saying she loved Johnny very much and didn't want to dwell on anything that could hurt his reputation. And besides, she said, it was her own fault for telling Capote the story in the first place.)
Among Capote's possessions on the block: the baby blanket made by his Aunt Sook, who raised him; the Courreges jacket he wore to Studio 54; the tuxedo he wore to his famous Black and White Ball; his dancing slippers; and little notes he'd leave around the house, including one that simply reads, "I am a genuis."
"Truman never could spell that word," said Carson.
Aid group head denies Jolie allegations
Tue Oct 31, 1:42 PM ET
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia - The head of a Cambodian aid group denied Tuesday allegations that donations by
Angelina Jolie for a conservation project had been misappropriated.
Trevor Neilson, philanthropic and political adviser for Jolie and her partner
Brad Pitt, told The Associated Press in New York on Monday that "hundreds of thousands of dollars" were missing.
He was responding to allegations by Mounh Sarath, director of Cambodian Vision in Development, that Jolie had reneged on an agreement by stopping funds for his group.
Neilson denied the 31-year-old actress had broken any agreement with Mounh Sarath.
"The sad reality is that this person who made these allegations was fired because we believe (he) stole" Jolie's donations, he said. He didn't elaborate or say whether action would be taken to recover the funds.
Mounh Sarath denied the allegations and said he "will fight any lawsuit to find out the truth and to see if they have any documented proof of the money stolen."
Jolie has promised up to $1.3 million over five years for a forest conservation program that was approved by the Cambodia government in 2003.
She terminated the contract with Cambodian Vision in Development in December, and has set up an independent Cambodian organization to administer the conservation project for remote northwestern areas of Cambodia, Stephan Bognar, executive director of the Maddox Jolie Project, said Monday.
The Maddox Jolie Project is named for Jolie's 5-year-old son Maddox, who was adopted from Cambodia in 2002.
Scenes for her 2001 movie, "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider," were filmed at Cambodia's famed Angkor Wat temple.
Kerry draws Republican fire for Iraq comment
By Thomas Ferraro 59 minutes ago
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Sen.
John Kerry drew Republican fire on Tuesday for saying college students could "get stuck in
Iraq" if they do not study hard but refused to apologize and called on
President George W. Bush and Vice President
Dick Cheney to do so instead.
With the Iraq war a dominant issue in the November 7 congressional elections, Kerry's comment about Iraq on Monday gave Republicans, struggling to maintain control of Congress, a chance to fight back against war critics.
While campaigning in California, Kerry told a college crowd on Monday: "You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."
Kerry initially responded to criticism on Tuesday with a written statement but as the flap mounted he called a news conference in Seattle to further explain himself.
"My statement yesterday -- and the White House knows this full well -- was a botched joke about the president and the president's people, not about the troops," said Kerry.
Kerry served in the Navy in the Vietnam War. Bush was a member of the Texas Air National Guard during that war, spending his time in the United States. Cheney avoid Vietnam with student deferments.
"Let me make it crystal clear, as crystal clear as I know how," Kerry said. "I apologize to no one for my criticism of the president and of his broken policy.
"The White House's attempt to distort my true statement is a remarkable testament to their abject failure in making America safe," Kerry said.
But if the White House misconstrued his comments, apparently do did others, including Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record), an Arizona Republican and a fellow Vietnam vet who has had an amicable relationship with the Massachusetts Democrat.
McCain said Kerry "owes an apology to the many thousands of Americans serving in Iraq, who answered their country's call because they are patriots and not because of any deficiencies in their education."
Other Republican lawmakers and conservative talk-show hosts made similar calls as both parties jockeyed for position in next week's elections.
Kerry said, "If anyone thinks a veteran would criticize the more than 140,000 heroes serving in Iraq -- and not the president who got us stuck there -- they're crazy."
"The people who owe our troops an apology are George W. Bush and Dick Cheney who misled America into war," Kerry said.
White House spokesman Tony Snow called the comments by Bush's 2004 Democratic challenger "an absolute insult" to those who have served in Iraq.
Kerry said in his written statement, "I'm not going to be lectured by a stuffed-suit White House mouthpiece standing behind a podium or doughy (talk-show host) Rush Limbaugh."
Teen shot by police stun gun dies
Tue Oct 31, 12:27 PM ET
JERSEYVILLE, Ill. - A teenager carrying a Bible and shouting "I want Jesus" was shot twice with a police stun gun and later died at a St. Louis hospital, authorities said.
In a statement obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press, police in Jerseyville, about 40 miles north of St. Louis, said 17-year-old Roger Holyfield would not acknowledge officers who approached him and he continued yelling, "I want Jesus."
Police tried to calm the teen, but Holyfield became combative, according to the statement. Officers fired the stun gun at him after he ignored their warnings, then fired again when he continued struggling, police said.
Holyfield was flown to St. Louis' Cardinal Glennon Hospital after the confrontation Saturday; he died there Sunday, police said.
An autopsy was planned for Tuesday.
The statement expressed sympathy to Holyfield's family but said city and police officials would not discuss the matter further.
Calls Tuesday to Jerseyville Police Chief Brad Blackorby were not immediately returned. The department has been using stun guns for about five months, according to the statement.
In a report released in March, international human rights group Amnesty International said it had logged at least 156 deaths across the country in the previous five years related to police stun guns.
The rise in deaths accompanies a marked increase in the number of U.S. law enforcement agencies employing devices made by Taser International Inc. of Scottsdale, Ariz. About 1,000 of the nation's 18,000 police agencies used Tasers in 2001; more than 7,000 departments had them last year, according to a government study.
Police had used Tasers more than 70,000 times as of last year, Congress'
Government Accountability Office said.
Amnesty International has urged police departments to suspend the use of Tasers pending more study. Taser International said the group's count was flawed and falsely linked deaths to Taser use when there has been no such official conclusion.
The city of St. Louis also drew unwanted attention for crime this week when it was named the most dangerous U.S. city by Morgan Quitno Press. The ranking looked only at crime within St. Louis city limits, not its metro area.
On the Net:
Taser International, http://www.taser.com
NASA to go ahead with risky Hubble telescope repair
By Andy Sullivan 2 hours, 39 minutes ago
GREENBELT, Maryland (Reuters) -
NASA said on Tuesday it would undertake a potentially risky shuttle mission to extend the life of the
Hubble Space Telescope until at least 2013.
NASA Administrator Michael Griffin, speaking to cheering scientists who had feared Hubble's earlier demise, said a space shuttle would make one final maintenance trip, tentatively in 2008, to the orbiting telescope.
The trip will go ahead even though the shuttle astronauts would be unable to take shelter on the
International Space Station if something went wrong, Griffin said in announcing the decision at the Goddard Space Flight Center near Washington.
Hubble is considered by some scientists to be the most important astronomical instrument ever. It seized the public's interest as it captured images of star birth and death, detected planets outside our solar system and snapped eye-catching visions of the Milky Way and other galaxies.
It has also examined the atmosphere of an extrasolar planet and helped determine the age of the universe.
Goddard Space Flight Center Director Ed Weiler said Hubble had fundamentally changed what scientists know about the universe. "The universe doesn't read our textbooks," he said. "It has this bad habit of not doing things we say it should."
Scientists say that without repairs the 16-year-old orbital observatory would function for only two or three more years.
NASA had earlier planned a servicing call to the telescope -- the fifth since its launch in 1990 -- to install two new science instruments and replace spent batteries and faulty steering gyroscopes. It canceled that trip after the shuttle Columbia was destroyed as it returned to earth in 2003.
Safety upgrades put in place since then call for shuttle astronauts to stay aboard the International Space Station if they find their shuttle has been damaged. Crews heading to Hubble's orbit, however, cannot reach the station.
Griffin said a second shuttle would be ready to launch if a Hubble repair crew runs into trouble. There are no guarantees a rescue mission would work, however.
"We all as a nation know now that flying the shuttle carries more risk than we would like," Griffin said.
Shortly after it was launched on April 24, 1990 from space shuttle Discovery, Hubble was found to have a flaw in its main mirror that blurred its vision. Astronauts corrected the problem in a shuttle mission in 1993.
The final maintenance trip is tentatively set for May 2008. Astronauts on the 11-day flight will take five separate space walks to add the new equipment.
"We're essentially going to get a new Hubble," said Maryland Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski (news, bio, voting record), who fought to preserve the telescope when NASA decided to cut off support in 2004.
Cancellation of the Hubble servicing drew harsh public criticism and NASA later vowed to reconsider its decision.
Because the shuttle fleet will be retired in 2010, the Hubble mission will mean one less shuttle flight available to finish building the $100 billion space station, a project of the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada.
Activist arrested for Halloween stunt
By JERRY HARKAVY, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 26 minutes ago
SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine - The lawyer who divulged
President Bush's drunken-driving arrest days before the 2000 election was arrested Tuesday after he was spotted on a highway overpass wearing an
Osama bin Laden Halloween costume and holding a toy gun.
Tom Connolly, 49, was charged with criminal threatening, a misdemeanor, and was released after posting $500 bail. He said he intends to plead not guilty.
"There was a First Amendment this morning when I woke up. I don't know how it evaporated with the dawn," Connolly, an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for governor in 1998, told reporters after his release.
Police said the costume included plastic dynamite, grenades, and a replica of an AK-47 assault rifle.
"The whole thing is just incredibly bizarre," said Police Chief Ed Googins. "It just crossed the line."
The chief said there was no way to tell from a distance if the gun was real or fake.
Connolly also was carrying a sign that said "I love TABOR," a reference to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights on the Maine ballot, but at least one person who saw it thought it said "I love the Taliban," Googins said.
The Portland attorney is known for wearing costumes to make political statements, often donning a George W. Bush mask and dancing for passing motorists.
His wife has described him as "marvelously eccentric."
In 2000, Connolly acknowledged that he tipped off reporters about Bush's 24-year-old misdemeanor drunken driving charge at Kennebunkport. Republicans said the release of the information before the election was a Democratic dirty trick.
October 31, 2006
Third and Final Act
by William S. Lind
The third and final act in the national tragedy that is the Bush administration may soon play itself out. The Okhrana reports increasing indications of "something big" happening between the election and Christmas. That could be the long-planned attack on Iran.
An attack on Iran will not be an invasion with ground troops. We don't have enough of those left to invade Ruritania. It will be a "package" of air and missile strikes, by U.S. forces or Israel. If Israel does it, there is a possibility of nuclear weapons being employed. But Israel would prefer the U.S. to do the dirty work, and what Israel wants, Israel usually gets, at least in Washington.
That this would constitute folly piled on top of folly is no deterrent to the Bush administration. Like the French Bourbons, it forgets nothing and it learns nothing. It takes pride in not adapting. Or did you somehow miss George W. Bush's declaration of Presidential Infallibility? It followed shortly after the visit to the aircraft carrier with the "Mission Accomplished" sign.
The Democrats taking either or both Houses of Congress, if it happens, will not make any difference. They would rather have the Republicans start and lose another war than prevent a national disaster. Politics comes first and the country second. Nor would they dare cross Israel.
Many of the consequences of a war with Iran are easy to imagine. Oil would soar to at least $200 per barrel if we could get it. Gas shortages would bring back the gas lines of 1973 and 1979. Our European alliances would be stretched to the breaking point if not beyond it. Most people outside the Bushbubble can see all this coming.
What I fear no one foresees is a substantial danger that we could lose the army now deployed in Iraq. I have mentioned this in previous columns, but I want to go into it here in more detail because the scenario may soon go live.
Well before the second Iraq war started, I warned in a piece in The American Conservative that the structure of our position in Iraq could lead to that greatest of military disasters, encirclement. That is precisely the danger if we go to war with Iran.
The danger arises because almost all of the vast quantities of supplies American armies need come into Iraq from one direction, up from Kuwait and other Gulf ports in the south. If that supply line is cut, our forces may not have enough stuff, especially fuel, to get out of Iraq. American armies are incredibly fuel-thirsty, and though Iraq has vast oil reserves, it is short of refined oil products. Unlike Guderian's Panzer army on its way to the Channel coast in 1940, we could not just fuel up at local gas stations.
There are two ways our supply lines from the south could be cut if we attack Iran. The first is by Shi'ite militias including the Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigades, possibly supported by a general Shi'ite uprising and, of course, Iran's Revolutionary Guards (the same guys who trained Hezbollah so well).
The second danger is that regular Iranian Army divisions will roll into Iraq, cut our supply lines, and attempt to pocket us in and around Baghdad. Washington relies on American air power to prevent this, but bad weather can shut most of that air power down.
Unfortunately, no one in Washington and few people in the U.S. military will even consider this possibility. Why? Because we have fallen victim to our own propaganda. Over and over the U.S. military tells itself, "We're the greatest! We're number one! No one can defeat us. No one can even fight us. We're the greatest military in all of history!"
It's bull. The U.S. armed forces are technically well-trained, lavishly resourced Second Generation militaries. They are being fought and defeated by Fourth Generation opponents in both Iraq and Afghanistan. They can also be defeated by Third Generation enemies who can observe, orient, decide, and act more quickly than can America's vast, process-ridden, PowerPoint-enslaved military headquarters. They can be defeated by strategy, by stratagem, by surprise, and by preemption. Unbeatable militaries are like unsinkable ships. They are unsinkable until someone or something sinks them.
If the U.S. were to lose the army it has in Iraq, to Iraqi militias, Iranian regular forces, or a combination of both (the most likely event), the world would change. It would be our Adrianople, our Rocroi, our Stalingrad. American power and prestige would never recover.
One of the few people who do see this danger is the doyenne of American foreign policy columnists, Georgie Anne Geyer. In her column of October 28 in The Washington Times, she wrote,
"The worst has not, by any means, yet happened. When I think of abandoning a battleground, I think of the 1850s, when thousands of Brits were trying to leave Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass and all were killed by tribesmen except one man, left to tell the story.
"Our men and women are in isolated compounds, not easy even to retreat from, were that decision made. Time is truly running out."
Missing U.S. soldier had married Iraqi
By QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, Associated Press Writer Mon Oct 30, 9:16 AM ET
BAGHDAD, Iraq - A U.S. soldier kidnapped last week in Baghdad was married to an Iraqi college student and was with his wife and her family when hooded gunmen dragged him out of a house, bound his hands and threw him in the back seat of a white Mercedes, a woman who identified herself as his mother-in-law said Monday.
Latifah Isfieh Nasser said several of the soldier's in-laws put up a futile struggle to stop the abduction by men believed to be Mahdi Army militia fighters.
U.S. military regulations forbid soldiers from marrying citizens of a country where American forces are engaged in combat. There was no immediate comment from the military about the account of the soldier's abduction.
The U.S. military has said the soldier, a linguist of Iraqi descent, was visiting family in the central Baghdad's Karadah district when he was abducted. His kidnappers used his cell phone to contact his family, it said.
The military did not identify the soldier or give further details. A massive search for him by U.S. and Iraqi forces has been under way since the Oct. 23 abduction. The in-laws said the soldier's name is Ahmed Qais al-Taayie.
The mother-in-law told The Associated Press in the family's Karadah home that her daughter, 26-year-old physics student Israa Abdul-Satar, met the soldier a year ago. The couple were married in August and spent their honeymoon in Egypt.
She showed an AP reporter photographs of the couple in Cairo, one of them dated Aug. 14.
A photograph of the couple showing the soldier in a gray suit and Abdul-Satar in a red dress was on the wall of the living room in the two-room apartment, where the newlywed couple stayed when the soldier came to visit. The apartment was in a neglected, three-story building on a quiet street.
Nasser, 48, said she has 10 children, several of whom witnessed the abduction. The wife of the U.S. soldier and two of her siblings — a sister and a brother — were later taken by American troops to the heavily fortified Green Zone where they were being kept for their safety. The zone is a large area in central Baghdad that houses the U.S. Embassy, offices of the Iraqi government and parliament, as well as hundreds of American troops.
"She is so upset that she keeps threatening to take her own life when we speak on the telephone every day," Nasser said of al-Taayie's wife, who is in her final year at Baghdad's al-Mustansariyah University.
She said they did not know exactly what al-Taayie did for a living at the beginning, but that he later told his in-laws that he was a translator with the U.S. military in
"We asked him many times not to come to visit us often. The day he was kidnapped, my husband told him not to visit too frequently because he was worried about him."
She said al-Taayie was at the apartment once every two or three months when he and her daughter were engaged. He always came at night, she recalled.
According to Nasser, the abduction of al-Taayie was preceded by an incident on the same day when a neighbor she identified as Abu Rami put a gun to the soldier's head as he was making his way on a motorbike to the nearby home of Nasser's brother, where his wife was visiting.
Abu Rami later said he was suspicious of al-Taayie because he had not seen him before in the neighborhood.
"Ahmed was frightened and his wife was crying," said Nasser. "Fifteen minutes later, a car came and stopped outside my brother's house and four armed men jumped out. They wore black pants, black shirts and white masks. They dragged Ahmed out and slapped handcuffs on him before they bundled him into the back seat of the car.
"My daughters struggled with the kidnappers. One of them broke her hand and another had her hand cut in the struggle. They were begging the gunmen not to take him," said Nasser.
One of her sons, 26-year-old Omar Abdul-Satar, and Abu Rami, the neighbor, followed the kidnappers in another car, but turned back before they could learn where the gunmen were headed. They feared that they too may be kidnapped. Abu Rami has since left the neighborhood with his family and went into hiding, said Nasser.
Cheney links rise in Iraq violence to U.S. election
1 hour, 52 minutes ago
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vice President
Dick Cheney said on Monday insurgents had stepped up attacks in
Iraq to try to sway next week's U.S. elections and they were constantly surfing the Web to keep tabs on American public opinion.
"Whether it's al Qaeda or the other elements that are active in Iraq, they are betting on the proposition they can break the will of the American people," Cheney told Fox News. ."..They're very sensitive to the fact that we've got an election scheduled."
Cheney, a driving force in the decision to invade Iraq in 2003, spoke eight days before congressional elections with polls showing Bush's Republican party at risk of losing control of Congress to the Democrats.
Voter disaffection over Iraq, where the U.S. military death toll for October has reached 100, is seen as a critical factor that could hurt Republican chances in the November 7 ballot.
Cheney said America's enemies in Iraq possessed the Internet savvy to monitor U.S. developments, helping them to time attacks aimed in part at influencing the elections. But he cited no evidence to back the theory.
"There isn't anything that's on the Internet that's not accessible to them. They're on it all the time. They're very sophisticated users of it," he told Fox's "Your World with Neil Cavuto" program.
Polls show growing numbers of Americans want to see U.S. troops start coming home. Bush has refused to set a timetable.
While echoing Bush's recent comments that attacks in Iraq could be aimed at affecting the elections, Cheney also conceded that the Muslim holy month of Ramadan had something to do with it.
Pentagon spokesman Eric Ruff said the insurgents' strategy was to "increase opposition to the war and have an influence against the president."
Some critics say the administration is using the theory to explain away the failure of U.S. policy in Iraq. Some U.S. analysts say the rising bloodshed has stemmed mostly from internal factors such as growing sectarian strife.
Ottawa seeks to deport U.S. man "exiled" to Canada
Fri Oct 27, 8:41 AM ET
OTTAWA (Reuters) - An American sex offender who was sentenced by a U.S. judge to three years "exile" in Canada was arrested by Canadian border guards on Thursday and faces deportation, the government said.
Federal ministers and legislators had expressed deep unhappiness after a New York state judge allowed former teacher Malcolm Watson -- convicted of having sex with a 15-year-old girl -- to live in Canada on probation rather than spending time in a U.S. jail.
Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said the government had officially requested that Watson be deemed inadmissible to Canada because of his conviction. Immigration officials will start examining the case at a hearing on Friday.
"We don't want to see Canada become a haven for pedophiles or any other person committing serious crime," Day told reporters.
"We don't want U.S. courts getting the notion that we just take people here that they would have put in jail but they instead send to Canada."
U.S. authorities say Watson's relationship with the 15-year-old was consensual. The age of consent in Canada is 14 but it rises to 18 if the sex takes place within a relationship of trust or dependency, such as between a teacher and student.
Watson, a U.S. citizen, lives in southern Ontario near the U.S. border with his wife and children. He had commuted to work at a girls' school in nearby Buffalo, New York.
The U.S. judge ruled that Watson could return to the United States only to report to his parole officer.
Statue of Dennis the Menace stolen
Sat Oct 28, 6:59 AM ET
MONTEREY, Calif. - The mischievous Dennis the Menace has gone missing — except this time, he's not hiding because he broke the rules.
A statue of the perennial pint-sized troublemaker that stood for almost two decades in a city park was unbolted and stolen sometime between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, police said.
Police said the statue, which is 3 feet tall and weighs 125 pounds, is worth as much as $30,000. The city is offering a $5,000 reward for its safe return.
The statue was crafted by Carmel artist Wah Ming Chang. It was commissioned by Hank Ketcham, the cartoon character's creator who died in 2001.
Police aren't sure how the thief or thieves got the bulky statue out of the park but are asking the public for any tips about Dennis' whereabouts.
Foreign firms bow to Bolivia energy nationalization
By Eduardo Garcia 2 hours, 35 minutes ago
LA PAZ, Bolivia (Reuters) - Bolivia's leftist president, Evo Morales, took a key step forward in his bold plan to nationalize the country's gas and oil industries on Sunday after foreign energy companies agreed to operate in the country under state control.
Major energy firms including Petrobras and Repsol YPF ended months of talks with the government with last-minute agreements before a deadline set for midnight Saturday, agreeing to new contracts handing over a larger share of their profits to the Bolivian state.
The deals amounted to a political boost for Morales, the country's first indigenous leader, who has faced criticism for months that the process had been slow-moving and clouded with uncertainty.
"With these new contracts we want to generate more economic resources to solve the economic and social problems of our country. That's our great wish," Morales said during a signing ceremony attended by company executives.
A nationalization decree issued by Morales on May 1 gave foreign companies six months to negotiate new contracts handing over a majority stake in their Bolivian operations or abandon the country.
Brazil's Petrobras (PETR4.SA)(NYSE:PBR - news) and Spain's Repsol YPF (REP.MC) are the biggest investors in Bolivia's oil and gas industry, controlling 47.3 percent and 26.7 percent of the proven and probable natural gas reserves in the country.
Petrobras, Brazil's state-owned oil company, also pledged to invest $1.5 billion in Bolivia's energy industry after agreeing to operate in the country under state control, Juan Carlos Ortiz, the head of Bolivia's state-owned energy company YPFB, told Reuters.
On Friday night, France's Total (TOTF.PA) and U.S-based Vintage became the first companies to comply with the nationalization.
Although specific details of the new contracts have not been revealed, the government has said they are designed to give YPFB more control over production and commercialization of oil and gas products.
The government has also said new contracts would contain a clause requiring energy multinationals to invest part of their profits in the country's energy sector.
According to the new deals, the companies will now operate as service providers to Bolivia's YPFB in exchange for between 18 to 50 percent of the revenue.
Morales, wearing his trademark striped sweater, said the agreements will quadruple Bolivia's energy revenues over the next four years from a current $1 billion. He also sought to assure companies their operations would be protected by the law.
"What we are doing here is to exercise our property rights, as Bolivians, over our natural resources, without evicting any one, without confiscating," he said.
The Bolivian leader insists he wants to use the energy revenue to help alleviate poverty in South America's poorest country.
FCC rejects Schwarzenegger rival's Leno complaint
By Dan Whitcomb Thu Oct 26, 9:49 PM ET
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - U.S. broadcast regulators on Thursday rejected a complaint by California Gov.
Arnold Schwarzenegger's Democratic rival, who demanded equal time on NBC TV stations after Schwarzenegger appeared on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."
Federal Communications Commission ruled that, because Schwarzenegger's guest spot on the show qualified as a "bona fide news interview," NBC was not required to extend a similar invitation to Democrat Phil Angelides.
News interviews are an exception to federal rules that generally require broadcast outlets to give opposing political candidates equal time.
A spokesman for Angelides, who is trailing Schwarzenegger in the polls, called the FCC's seven-page ruling politically motivated.
"We are disappointed but not surprised that the Bush-controlled FCC has made a political decision over the use of our public airwaves," said Angelides adviser Steve Maviglio.
President George W. Bush and Schwarzenegger are bothRepublicans.
"The commission's tortured decision to try to certify Jay Leno as a modern day Walter Cronkite is more laughable than one of Leno's monologues," he said.
Angelides had claimed that the "Tonight Show" was not a legitimate news program but an attempt by comedian Leno to "promote his good friend's political campaign" on the public airwaves. The FCC dismissed that contention as "little more than speculation."
The ruling made no reference to porn star turned gubernatorial candidate Mary Carey, who followed the lead of Angelides by demanding that Leno also give her equal time on the "Tonight Show."
Carey, who dropped out of the race this week after her mother injured herself by jumping from a four-story building in Florida, did not file a formal complaint with the FCC.
O'Reilly, Letterman rekindle feud
By DAVID BAUDER, AP Television Writer Sat Oct 28, 9:50 PM ET
NEW YORK - Bill O'Reilly walked out for his appearance on David Letterman's "Late Show" with a plastic shield. He could have used it.
"That's cute, that's nice," Letterman said on Friday night's show. "You come out with toys."
Letterman and the Fox News Channel talk show host renewed their prickly confrontation from January, when Letterman told him "I have the feeling about 60 percent of what you say is crap."
Before O'Reilly even came out, Letterman made his feelings clear.
"I'm secretly hoping when Bill O'Reilly comes out here, I'll have the opportunity to call him a bonehead," Letterman said.
They discussed the
Iraq war and the upcoming midterm election, with O'Reilly saying that Americans are depressed by the progress of the Iraq War, and that they'd rather watch escapist entertainment like "Dancing with the Stars" than the news.
He asked Letterman: "Are you going to be on `Dancing with the Stars'?"
"Ha ha," Letterman said. "You bonehead."
Letterman said that like many Americans, he was so angered in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that he wanted to strike out, and didn't oppose the Iraq War at its beginning. As time has gone on, he said he has realized that was wrong.
Asked by O'Reilly whether he wanted the Americans to win the war, Letterman said he wanted a solution that would result in the least loss of American lives.
As part of their confrontation, O'Reilly said Letterman was guilty of oversimplifying a complicated situation.
"You're putting words in my mouth," he told Letterman at one point.
"You're putting artificial facts in your head," Letterman responded.
O'Reilly didn't get angry with Letterman during his appearance, although at one point he told an apparent heckler in the audience to "knock it off." He told the audience that he and Letterman were really friends. "This whole thing is a big act," he said.
Letterman never agreed with him.
"I have no idea what I'm talking about," Letterman said. "But I don't think you do, either."
Prince's Visit to Pakistan Delays Briton's Execution - Again
Zofeen T. Ebrahim, Inter Press Service (IPS) Fri Oct 27, 4:33 PM ET
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan, Oct 27 (IPS) - Sitting on a red plastic stool behind the iron bars that form a caged courtyard outside Cell 74, Mirza Tahir Hussain, though only 36, looks like an old man. His white untrimmed beard, the long salt-and-pepper hair and a slight shuffle in his gait expose a life of constant worry.
His stress comes from living 18 years with a death sentence over his head for the murder of a taxi driver, which Tahir says was committed in self-defence. Though he was found innocent in criminal court, the native of Leeds, England was sentenced to die by a ruling of the religious Federal Shariat Court in 1988.
Tahir's execution has been postponed four times now. The latest reprieve was announced last week in the wake of mounting international pressure from the highest authorities in the United Kingdom and the
European Union. The most recent plea came from Charles, the Prince of Wales, who is scheduled to arrive in Pakistan with his wife Oct. 29 for a six-day visit.
Tahir was scheduled to be hanged Nov. 1, three days after
Prince Charles was due to arrive. Pressure had been put on the prince by some British parliamentarians to cancel the trip. The prince's spokesman said in a statement that the heir to the British throne expressed his concern for Tahir's fate in a letter to Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and called for Tahir's immediate release.
Prince Charles' letter joins earlier pleas on Tahir's behalf. British Prime Minister
Tony Blair raised the issue with General Pervez Musharraf when the Pakistani president visited London last month. Blair told the House of Commons Oct. 18 that he had raised the issue "constantly with Pakistani authorities" and called on Musharraf to pardon to the Briton.
Instead, Pakistani authorities appear to have simply postponed the hanging. He is now scheduled to be executed Dec. 31. Pakistani authorities denied the decision to extend the stay of execution was a result of foreign pressure. Nor, they add, does the reprieve show of weakening on the part of the president. Instead, it is meant to give relatives time to reach a mutually acceptable compromise, they said. Under Pakistani law, if relatives of the murdered man agree, the accused can go free.
Away from the political maelstrom, Tahir takes it all in his stride as he sits on the stool outside his four-by-three-metre cell and talks with this reporter who has been smuggled in as a family member. During the interview, during the Holy Month of Ramadan, neither Tahir nor the interviewer knew of the president's decision to postpone the execution.
"We're powerless in our choice of death. And it does not matter how we die. What matters is that we have prepared ourselves to face our Creator by our good deeds and if He will be pleased with us or not," says Tahir, with no inkling of irony in his voice.
He is only one prisoner among the 5,000-plus inmates in the Adiala Jail, which was built to accommodate 2,000 prisoners. He is also the only one who is not wearing the rust-coloured shalwar kameeze jail uniform. Instead, he wears white, the colour of purity. It is a concession the guards have made only for him.
"The jail authorities have been very kind and let me wear white. I love white, especially while praying during Ramadan." he says. He speaks politely and gently. He keeps his dignity in spite of his surroundings.
He has come a long way from the raw 18-year-old who, when he first heard the court order, felt as if the "earth had suddenly been pulled away from underneath my feet and that I seemed to be falling into an abyss."
Now, he appears calm, accepting his plight. "I have been preparing for my death," he says. Tahir adds that he has always been religiously inclined, and it is this unwavering faith in God that has helped ward off his fears.
Though formal education for him stopped with the shot of a gun when he was 18, Tahir continues to learn. He bides his time reading the Quran and assimilating the philosophy of his favourite poet Allama Iqbal. He has learnt 15 of the 30 chapters of the Quran by heart, "although I think I'm beginning to forget and need to review them."
Asked if he has ever prayed to God that he die a natural death before he can be taken to the gallows, he does not answer directly, replying, "It does not matter how you die for this sojourn is a mere transit."
Still, he knows well the execution procedure. During his 18-year ordeal, he has lived in two prisons, Kot Lakhpat in Lahore and now in Adiala. In that time, he estimates he has seen more than 50 prisonmates go to the gallows.
"Just two days before you are to be executed, you are taken away and put in a different cell, near the gallows. Right before the execution you are asked to take a bath and pray. The execution always takes place in the thick of the night," he explains calmly, almost without emotion.
He knew most of the executed well, for "we were after all in the same boat." It's depressing, he says, to bid them the final goodbye. Some leave in a dignified manner, others resist and create a ruckus, while some become eerily quiet.
In August, another month during which he had been scheduled to die, he had written a letter to the taxi driver's family begging forgiveness. Two years ago, he met the deceased's uncle Sohbat Khan in the Lahore prison and personally asked for his mercy. So far the family has demanded just one thing -- his death.
Tahir says he can understand their anger. They have suffered these long years just as he has.
That burden -- the fact that he has ended another man's life -- weighs heavily on him. He cannot change the past, he says, adding that it had to happen, as it was ordained by God.
Still, if the victim's family did accept the settlement of blood money, it would ease President Musharraf's political dilemma. One would think that the Pakistani people would be slightly vexed that so much attention was being paid to a British Muslim, when scores of Pakistanis also languish in jails all over the country.
Yet Tahir has managed to retain public sympathy, probably because of the compelling circumstances of the case. Tahir was 18 and visiting his homeland for the first time by himself when he was held up by the taxi driver. Tahir fought back, the driver's gun went off, killing the driver. Tahir, panicked, drove the taxi to the police station to report the incident.
Because Musharraf refused earlier clemency pleas, political analysts believe that if he pardoned Tahir now, it would be seen as bowing to Western international pressure. In his seven-year rule, the president has not once granted clemency to anyone on death row.
Rights activists, however, maintain that appeals for his release should not be granted because Western pressure has been applied, but rather on humanitarian grounds.
For the moment, Musharraf appears to cope with the case by simply moving the execution date each time the deadline approaches.
While each delay brings temporary relief for Tahir's family, it also brings a torment that the nightmare never will end. His brother Amjad Hussain, who has spent 18 years mobilising support, says that with each new date they all die a little.
Constant reprieves are "just not good enough," Amjad says. "He has spent enough years in prison."
Amjad's goal is to persuade Musharraf to commute the sentence to life imprisonment, which typically means spending 11 to 14 years behind bars. Because Tahir already has served 18 years, he would be eligible to be freed, Amjad says.
The years in prison, the constant mental stress and the preparation for his execution have not left Tahir unmarked. In addition to the premature aging, Tahir may well suffer from a sense of alienation, post-traumatic stress syndrome or paranoid tendencies, according to psychologist Asha Bedar.
Tahir has not experienced life or seen what the outside world looks like for half his life. He has learnt what he has by reading books of scholars and the Quran. By choice, he neither reads contemporary literature nor watches TV, "for the filth it churns out." Instead, he tries hard to live with the sin of having killed someone.
Still, Tahir does not appear to have lost hope: He still plans ahead to a life outside of prison.
When asked where he would like to settle if he were to be released, Tahir answers, "If my family agrees, I'd like to stay in Pakistan and look for a way to support myself, although I'm really not qualified."
"Sexsomniacs" puzzle medical researchers
Thu Oct 26, 8:35 AM ET
LONDON, Oct 25 (Reuters Life!) - Researchers are struggling to understand a rare medical condition where sufferers unknowingly demand, or actually have, sex while asleep, New Scientist magazine reported on Wednesday.
Research into sexsomnia -- making sexual advances toward another person while asleep -- has been hampered as sufferers are so embarrassed by the problem they tend not to own up to it, while doctors do not ask about it.
As yet there is no cure for the condition, which often leads to difficulties in relationships.
"It really bothers me that I can't control it," Lisa Mahoney told the magazine. "It scares me because I don't think it has anything to do with the partner. I don't want this foolish condition to hurt us in the long run."
Most researchers view sexsomnia as a variant of sleepwalking, where sufferers are stuck between sleep and wakefulness, though sexsomniacs tend to stay in bed rather than get up and walk about.
While sleepwalking affects two to four percent of adults, sexsomnia is not thought to be as common a problem, according to Nik Trajanovic, a researcher at the sleep and alertness clinic at Canada's Toronto Western Hospital.
But an Internet survey of sexsomniacs carried out in 2005 that drew 219 reliable respondents concluded it was more prevalent than medical case reports alone might suggest.
"Most of the time sleep sex occurs between people who are already partners," Mark Pressman, a sleep specialist at Lankenan Hospital in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, told the New Scientist.
"Sometimes they hate it," added Pressman of the reactions of sexsomniacs' partners. "Sometimes they tolerate it. On rare occasions you have stories of people liking it better than waking sex."
With no cure, addressing triggering factors -- stress or sleep deprivation -- can help, while Michael Mangan, a psychologist at the University of New Hampshire in the U.S. has set up a Web site, www.sleepsex.org, to help sufferers.
Meanwhile Trajanovic is devising a procedure for diagnosing sexsomnia in legal cases where sufferers have been accused of sexual assault.