Scroll down to learn about people, places, things, new music releases, live events, current TV reviews, new movies and movie reviews, interesting things on radio.... All sorts of interesting things that have come our way at Issues since our publication date!
Syrian Military Leaves Lebanon
After three decades of occupation the last group of Syrian troops pulled across the borner between Lebanon and Syria today. Taiwan's Opposition Leader Visits China
Lien Chan from the Chaing Kai-shek political party on Taiwan made the first trip to mainland China and is expected to meet with the Chinese President on Friday in a move to help smooth over relations between the two countries.
Taiwan's ruling party, lead by President Chen Shui-bian, has recently been openly talking "formal independence" for Taiwan from China.
In the mid-part of the 20th century Chaing Kai-shek, who was the leader of one of China's earliest "democratic" governments after centuries of rule by a Monarch (Emperor) and Feudal Lords, fled the mainland to the nearby island of Formosa and established their "democratic" government on that piece of land as Mao Zedong was marching successfuly along the mainland with sweeping support for his Communist agenda which as occupied the mainland since the 1940's, although in recent times privitization has become a keyword with the Community agenda who now hosts a wide variety of "outsourcing" companies from the rest of the world, including Eastman Kodak, Sony and McDonald's fast foods. China has always considered Formosa to be a part of the nation, but has made no moves again Taiwan, which, along with the British colony in the city of Hong Kong, has become a highly profitable capitalist venture with strong ties to the West, especially the United States.
In recent times China has threatened invasion if "independence" is declared and the United States has indicated it will support Taiwan, militarily, if necessary.
Train Wreck In Japan Kills 73, Injures Hundreds
A commuter train going around a turn derailed sending several cars into an apartment building that was only 20 feet from the rails. At least 54 are dead and about 400 injured from both the train passengers and building occupants. An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the crash, which some speculate could have been caused by excessive speeds on the turn.
Attempt To Assasinate Iraqi Prime Minster
Caretaker Prime Minister Iyad Allawi escaped an suicide bomber attack on his convoy. He is the outgoing appointed PM who will probably leave office in short order, replaced by a new government due to be formally established tomorrow and headed by new Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari who will be taking over the office in short order.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger Elected As New Pope
Conservative, 78 year old, German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was was the Dean of Cardinals and close advisor to Pope John Paul II, has been elected to fill the void left by the death of John Paul. The choice is being received with mixed reactions from both German, South American and North American Church officials who see the new Pope Benedict XVI, known for his anti-gay and anti-femminist views, as keeping the Church in the 19th Century.
Paris Hotel Fire Kills 20
Described as a "one star" hotel catering to the "hostile" environment with tourists, immigrants and those on state relief, caught on fire late last night Paris time. The blaze started without warning on the lower floors and quickly spread to the one and only stairway the serviced the upper six floors. People were seen jumping from windows to escape the blaze. An investigation has been called for by French authorities, the Communist Party and various anti-racism groups.
While spokespeople for the Communist Party were critical of this hotel and other "living spaces" like it in Frace, it should be noted that this building was probably like many found in current or former Communist countries such as Russia and China where quick pre-fabricated, flimsy housing is often constructed. It also should be noted that very expensive Japanese condo buildings that often rise 50 floors or more quickly fall during the regular Japanese Earthquakes. Similar fires have happened in New York City, Miami and Buenos Aries, also among the poor and immigrants who live in older buildings. Further, those living in buildings like the Chicago Sears towers face death from fire as there is little in the form of escape unless homeowners keep a parachuet to break their frall from several hundred feet.
While this tragedy is sad and could have been lessened or prevented with safer alternative escape routes, such building fires are common world-wide.
U.S. Bankruptcy Reform About To Become Law
A bill the Republicans have been trying to pass for ages (the last time it made it through Congress was 1997, which was then vetoed by President Clinton) cleared both the Senate and House, with a Presidential signature expected to come as early as tomorrow or possibly Monday.
The bill includes a manditory test of income to force repayment of credit card and medical bills.
Organized Labor totally oppossed the bill, which some Democrats say tilts the balance way too much in favor of banks and credit card companies.
In the past people with limited assets were protected and allowed once every 7 years to totally wipe out most of their debt. Under the new bill most of these people will have to pay at least 10 cents on the dollar back to the banks and hospitals. While the bill doesn't abolish Chapter 7, it makes it very difficult for anyone to file under Chapter 7 and forces them to go Chapter 11 or 13. See our look at Bankruptcy, a process which dates back to the Magna Carta (debt forgiveness was a key issue from the Nobles who wrote that document) and can even be traced to Biblical times (Nehemiah 10:31 and Matthew 18:27).
New Iraq Government Set In Stone
The new government in Iraq, formed by the "smoke filled back room" of politians recently elected by the people of Iraq in a somewhat open and free election in which no one got a pluraity, but Shi'ites won the largest majority, followed by the Kurds with the Sunni populists only getting a slim number due to boycotts and fear from insurgents.
The Shi'ites and Kurds got together to form a coalition government and have already named Hachim al-Hassani(a Sunni) as Speaker and are expected to name Jalal Talabani (a Kurd) as President, Adel Abdul Mahdi (a Shi'ite) as a Vice President, the current President Ghazi Yawar (a Sunni) as another Vice President and finally Ibrahim Jaafari (a Shi'ite) as Prime Minister.
The Speaker of Parliament is mostly a moderator who regulates debates. The President is mostly a figure head and head of state who deals with dignitaries and makes speeches. The Vice Presidents have even less power unless the President leaves the country or becomes incapacitated. Clearly the most power lies with the Prime Minister who directs the government and institutes policies on behalf of the "coalition" government of Ministers (heads of the Iraqi governmental departments) who are picked by the smoke filled room based on the total number of party members and worked out as a compromise between the "coalition" which is a plurality of votes made up of primarily Shi'ite and Kurdish representatives who had the largest majority, although this could shift in the future and the Sunni could pick up more people and align with either the Kurds or Shi'ites and change the whole face of government.
In the Muslim world the followers of the Sunni sect have the largest numbers while the Shi'ite sect has the lowest number. In Iraq and Iran the Shi'ites dominate the population. Shi'ites are the sect whose leaders are often called "Ayatollah" (which is a honorary title). Under Saddam (a Sunni) the Sunni sect dominated the government, even though they were a minority in Iraq.
Sunni is considered generally more liberal than Shi'ite which is very conservative or "Orthodox."
Large power in the new Iraq government goes to the Shi'ite majority, while considerable status in visible, though less powerful, figures was given to the Sunni who held very few representatives in the last election, while the Kurds who outnumber them only get one major figure, but that one major figure will be almost as visible as the Shi'ite Prime Minister and able to set a tone in the world, although not necessarily at home.
Pope John Paul II Dies
Born Karol Jozef "Lolek" Wojtyla in the year 1920 just outside of Krakow, Poland in the small town of Widowice.
His father was a retired military man and tailor. His mother was a school teacher. Lolek’s childhood friends included many Jewish children, making him the only Pope to actually know Jewish people personally, which helped him smooth relations with Israel later in history through his childhood friendships.
He was a great student (he speaks 8 languages and holds at least 4 college degrees) and very athletic, standing almost 5’11” tall and weighing into at 175 in his college years. His passions included poetry, religion and theater.
When Hitler invaded Poland he took a job cutting stone in a quarry, later began his priesthood studies in a seminary, worked as a chemical plant, acted in plays and eventually took courses at the University in Krakow where he was awarded two Masters degrees.
Ordained in to the Catholic Church in 1946 he continued his University studies and after getting his Doctorate around 1949 he became a priest in Krakow as well as becoming a Chaplain at the University.
He continued his work teaching even after the Communists took over in the late 1940’s and abolished most of the religious factions and was acting Archbishop for the area in 1962 and in 1967 was named Cardinal for the region.
In a surprising if not shocking moment on October 16, 1978 after seven unsuccessful ballot attempts to replace the one month tenure of frail Pope John Paul the college of Cardinals picked the Archbishop and Cardinal of Krakow, Poland to become the new Pope. The first non-Italian Pope in 500 years.
During his tenure he made 170 visits to 115 countries (he was often known as the “travelling Pope”), including Poland, Cuba, Israel, the United States and Mexico.
He was not without his critics as many found him somewhat ultra-conservative (such as regarding marriage, divorce and contraception), even though he had some liberal tendencies (such as his out reach to the Jewish sector).
In 1981 a Turkish man made an attempted assassination on the Pope, which was said to be part of a KGB initiative, but this was later denied. The Pope visited the assassin in his jail cell after recovering from the bullet wound and forgave the man. Since this time, however, the Pope began travelling in a bullet-proof vehicle affectionately named the “Pope mobile” by the mass media.
The Pope died on Saturday in the evening (Rome time) at the age of 84 due to complications from a urinary infection and bronchial illness.
Palestine Authority Crackdown
Recently elected Palestine President Abbas cracked down on some insurgent activities when his own compound came under attack.
Presidential Invesgtigators Say Agencies Goofed
The group investigating the intellegence gathering and reporting over the Iraq weapons of mass destruction were dead wrong.
Terri Schiavo Dies
The 41 year old women who was declared "brain dead" in 1990 died today, 13 days after a feeding tube was removed. Her fate was the center of controversy that brought attention to and from President Bush, various Republican party members, the U.S. Congress, the Supreme Court and Reverand Jesse Jackson.
She died at a hospice in Florida.
Pakistan Test Fires Missile
Pakistan tested a short range missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads with a range of 100+ miles.
Exiled Irianian Claims Nuke Buy Solicited
An exiled opposition member from Iran claims that the Iranian government allocated almost 3 billon dollars to secure three nuclear warheads, but was not able to verify if any were actually obtained.
Johnnie Cochran Dead At 67
Best known to television viewers as "the" O.J. Simpson attorney died from a brain tumor in Los Angeles.
Besides working on the OJ case, Cochran once prosectuted comic Lenny Bruce for obscentity.
The Great Escape Attempt
Guards, today, found a 600 foot long, 3 foot wide tunnel dug from an Iraqi prison barracks to just outside the perimeter. No one had yet escaped through this tunnel. Guards noticed dirt in the laterines and other areas and found the tunnel hidden under floorboards and covered with dirt.
This situations brings to mind the movie "The Great Escape" in which English prisoners broke out of German camps.
Torture At Mosul Prison
In another ironic report, U.S. Military investigators confirmed that prisoner abuse and even torture was used at the Mosul Prison in Iraq. While not the same prison where the tunnel was found, the two elements have an ironic connection...
K-Mart Officially Buys Sears
The deal closed today making the new K-Mart/Sears operation the third largest retailer in the world.
Minnesota School Shooting
At least 8 are dead and others wounded at an Indian Reservation school near the Canadian border in central Minnesota. Two of the dead are beleived to be the grandparents of the shooter, who is also believed dead but unidentified or confirmed.
Scott Peterson Sentenced To Death
A California Judge today sentenced Scott Peterson, who was convicted of murdering his wife Laci and their unborn, eight month term, baby, to the death penalty.
Robert Blake Found Not Guilty
Actor Robert Blake (star of the TV series Baretta) was found not guilty of murdering his wife by a California jury.
Accuser Says Michael Jackson "Groped" Him
The young male accuser of musical performer Michael Jackson said Jackson "groped" (or mastrubated) him at least twice if not more, according to a police witness.
The boy was 13 years old at the time of the accused molestation and Jackson is being tried for these alleged child sexual abuses.
Iraqi Parlament Sworn-In
The elected members of the new Iraq Parlament were officially sworn in today at a heavily protected cerminony. No other official business was undertaken as the coalition government has still not reached terms on Ministry posts, who will be nominated as President and Prime Minister.
For more information see our piece last on on Parlalmentary government.
Israel Handsover Jericho To Palestine
The Israel military handed over the ancient city of Jericho to Palestinian authority today and is to eventually hand over other cities, including Bethlehem at a later date. This is part of the Middle East peace plan that will eventually lead to a Palestine state.
The handover is apparently conditional on Palestine dealing directly with insurgent agression against Israel in the area.
Defendent Kills Judge and Two Others In Georgia Court
A man being tried for rape, assault, illegal imprisonment and sodomy overpowered a guard, took her gun away, shot her (she is in critical condition) and then killed the Judge hearing his case, the Court Clerk, wounded another Deputy and assulted an Atlanta journalist, carjacking his vehicle. The man, a former computer technician for UPS in Atlanta, is still at large. There is a major manhunt in progress, including FBI support.
30 Killed in Mosque Attack; Police Killed
A Shi'ite Mosque in Northern Iraq was attacked by a suicide bomber killing at least 30 people and injuring others.
Elsewhere two senior Police officials were killed by al Qaeda at a phony checkpoint.
Pakistan Says Scientis Gave Iran and Korea Info
A Pakistan official today announced that a disgraced scientist gave Iran and North Korea nuclear information for making bombs and also gave Iran centrifuges to refine uranium.