liz_marcs (liz_marcs) wrote,

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I Read the News Today...

Quick blip in from work...

The New York Times is waaaaay too interesting this morning.

First, a political pisser for the day: I thought the Orwellian "free-speech zones" at the DNC were horrific (not that anyone actually stayed in the cage), but this... To be honest, the tactics used by some of this nation's "security agencies" to keep protestors out of the sight of GeeDubbya is old news if you've been reading the political blogs listed down the right-hand side of this page.

The story finally hits the NYT:

F.B.I. Goes Knocking for Political Troublemakers

August 16, 2004

WASHINGTON, Aug. 15 - The Federal Bureau of Investigation
has been questioning political demonstrators across the
country, and in rare cases even subpoenaing them, in an
aggressive effort to forestall what officials say could be
violent and disruptive protests at the Republican National
Convention in New York.

F.B.I. officials are urging agents to canvass their
communities for information about planned disruptions aimed
at the convention and other coming political events, and
they say they have developed a list of people who they
think may have information about possible violence. They
say the inquiries, which began last month before the
Democratic convention in Boston, are focused solely on
possible crimes, not on dissent, at major political events.

But some people contacted by the F.B.I. say they are
mystified by the bureau's interest and felt harassed by
questions about their political plans.

"The message I took from it," said Sarah Bardwell, 21, an
intern at a Denver antiwar group who was visited by six
investigators a few weeks ago, "was that they were trying
to intimidate us into not going to any protests and to let
us know that, 'hey, we're watching you.' ''

The unusual initiative comes after the Justice Department,
in a previously undisclosed legal opinion, gave its
blessing to controversial tactics used last year by the
F.B.I in urging local police departments to report
suspicious activity at political and antiwar demonstrations
to counterterrorism squads. The F.B.I. bulletins that
relayed the request for help detailed tactics used by
demonstrators - everything from violent resistance to
Internet fund-raising and recruitment.

In an internal complaint, an F.B.I. employee charged that
the bulletins improperly blurred the line between lawfully
protected speech and illegal activity. But the Justice
Department's Office of Legal Counsel, in a five-page
internal analysis obtained by The New York Times,

The office, which also made headlines in June in an opinion
- since disavowed - that authorized the use of torture
against terrorism suspects in some circumstances, said any
First Amendment impact posed by the F.B.I.'s monitoring of
the political protests was negligible and constitutional.

The opinion said: "Given the limited nature of such public
monitoring, any possible 'chilling' effect caused by the
bulletins would be quite minimal and substantially
outweighed by the public interest in maintaining safety and
order during large-scale demonstrations."

Those same concerns are now central to the vigorous efforts
by the F.B.I. to identify possible disruptions by
anarchists, violent demonstrators and others at the
Republican National Convention, which begins Aug. 30 and is
expected to draw hundreds of thousands of protesters.

In the last few weeks, beginning before the Democratic
convention, F.B.I. counterterrorism agents and other
federal and local officers have sought to interview dozens
of people in at least six states, including past protesters
and their friends and family members, about possible
violence at the two conventions. In addition, three young
men in Missouri said they were trailed by federal agents
for several days and subpoenaed to testify before a federal
grand jury last month, forcing them to cancel their trip to
Boston to take part in a protest there that same day.

Interrogations have generally covered the same three
questions, according to some of those questioned and their
lawyers: were demonstrators planning violence or other
disruptions, did they know anyone who was, and did they
realize it was a crime to withhold such information.

A handful of protesters at the Boston convention were
arrested but there were no major disruptions. Concerns have
risen for the Republican convention, however, because of
antiwar demonstrations directed at President Bush and
because of New York City's global prominence.

With the F.B.I. given more authority after the Sept. 11
attacks to monitor public events, the tensions over the
convention protests, coupled with the Justice Department's
own legal analysis of such monitoring, reflect the fine
line between protecting national security in an age of
terrorism and discouraging political expression.

F.B.I. officials, mindful of the bureau's abuses in the
1960's and 1970's monitoring political dissidents like the
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., say they are confident
their agents have not crossed that line in the lead-up to
the conventions.

"The F.B.I. isn't in the business of chilling anyone's
First Amendment rights," said Joe Parris, a bureau
spokesman in Washington. "But criminal behavior isn't
covered by the First Amendment. What we're concerned about
are injuries to convention participants, injuries to
citizens, injuries to police and first responders."

F.B.I. officials would not say how many people had been
interviewed in recent weeks, how they were identified or
what spurred the bureau's interest.

They said the initiative was part of a broader, nationwide
effort to follow any leads pointing to possible violence or
illegal disruptions in connection with the political
conventions, presidential debates or the November election,
which come at a time of heightened concern about a possible
terrorist attack.

F.B.I. officials in Washington have urged field offices
around the country in recent weeks to redouble their
efforts to interview sources and gather information that
might help to detect criminal plots. The only lead to
emerge publicly resulted in a warning to authorities before
the Boston convention that anarchists or other domestic
groups might bomb news vans there. It is not clear whether
there was an actual plot.

The individuals visited in recent weeks "are people that we
identified that could reasonably be expected to have
knowledge of such plans and plots if they existed," Mr.
Parris said.

"We vetted down a list and went out and knocked on doors
and had a laundry list of questions to ask about possible
criminal behavior," he added. "No one was dragged from
their homes and put under bright lights. The interviewees
were free to talk to us or close the door in our faces."

But civil rights advocates argued that the visits amounted
to harassment. They said they saw the interrogations as
part of a pattern of increasingly aggressive tactics by
federal investigators in combating domestic terrorism. In
an episode in February in Iowa, federal prosecutors
subpoenaed Drake University for records on the sponsor of a
campus antiwar forum. The demand was dropped after a
community outcry.

Protest leaders and civil rights advocates who have
monitored the recent interrogations said they believed at
least 40 or 50 people, and perhaps many more, had been
contacted by federal agents about demonstration plans and
possible violence surrounding the conventions and other
political events.

"This kind of pressure has a real chilling effect on
perfectly legitimate political activity," said Mark
Silverstein, legal director for the American Civil
Liberties Union of Colorado, where two groups of political
activists in Denver and a third in Fort Collins were
visited by the F.B.I. "People are going to be afraid to go
to a demonstration or even sign a petition if they
justifiably believe that will result in your having an
F.B.I. file opened on you."

The issue is a particularly sensitive one in Denver, where
the police agreed last year to restrictions on local
intelligence-gathering operations after it was disclosed
that the police had kept files on some 3,000 people and 200
groups involved in protests.

But the inquiries have stirred opposition elsewhere as

In New York, federal agents recently questioned a man whose
neighbor reported he had made threatening comments against
the president. He and a lawyer, Jeffrey Fogel, agreed to
talk to the Secret Service, denying the accusation and
blaming it on a feud with the neighbor. But when agents
started to question the man about his political
affiliations and whether he planned to attend convention
protests, "that's when I said no, no, no, we're not going
to answer those kinds of questions," said Mr. Fogel, who is
legal director for the Center for Constitutional Rights in
New York.

In the case of the three young men subpoenaed in Missouri,
Denise Lieberman, legal director for the American Civil
Liberties Union in St. Louis, which is representing them,
said they scrapped plans to attend both the Boston and the
New York conventions after they were questioned about
possible violence.

The men are all in their early 20's, Ms. Lieberman said,
but she would not identify them.

All three have taken part in past protests over American
foreign policy and in planning meetings for convention
demonstrations. She said two of them were arrested before
on misdemeanor charges for what she described as minor
civil disobedience at protests.

Prosecutors have now informed the men that they are targets
of a domestic terrorism investigation, Ms. Lieberman said,
but have not disclosed the basis for their suspicions.
"They won't tell me," she said.

Federal officials in St. Louis and Washington declined to
comment on the case. Ms. Lieberman insisted that the men
"didn't have any plans to participate in the violence, but
what's so disturbing about all this is the pre-emptive
nature - stopping them from participating in a protest
before anything even happened."

The three men "were really shaken and frightened by all
this," she said, "and they got the message loud and clear
that if you make plans to go to a protest, you could be
subject to arrest or a visit from the F.B.I."

On a somewhat less-happy but somewhat frivolous note, I've been collecting "Africa" news pieces, even if I'm not sure what to do with them quite yet. Since, again, we're talking the NYT, it's all war, death, and destruction. (Note: The fate hinted at for Xander in Ishmael Sings of the White Whale was actually based on early news reports out of Darfur region of Sudan.)

I've been following the continental-wide violence in Africa for seven or eight years, thanks to my obsession with Robert Young Pelton's the World's Most Dangerous Places and his related books. RYP is not the world's greatest writer, but I feel smarter when I read his stuff.

So, for anyone interested in Africa stuff just out of intellectual curiosity or simply to research a post-"Chosen" BtVS fanfic, you can check out these stories:

Crisis in Sudan: Thorny Issues Underlying Carnage in Darfur Complicate World's Response

August 16, 2004

NDJAMENA, Chad, Aug. 15 - There is no disagreement about
the consequences of the war under way in Sudan, Africa's
largest country: tens of thousands killed, cholera
outbreaks, severe malnutrition, more than a million people
forced to flee their homes, many into neighboring countries
like Chad.

Yet there is deep disagreement among world leaders over how
to respond. The stalemate comes from issues underlying the
conflict in Darfur, a region in western Sudan: questions of
racial identity, competition for natural resources and the
imperatives of a powerful sovereign state.

Unfortunately for the victims of the war, the international
response is also complicated by issues that reach beyond
this conflict. First, in pitting Arab herders against black
African farmers, the civil war in western Sudan underscores
a larger struggle for power, land and water that cuts
across borders in this arid part of Africa. Second, efforts
to address the Darfur crisis have become entangled in the
larger grievances of the Arab world - not least, the United
States-dominated war in Iraq.

The result? The Arab Islamist government of Sudan, joined
by its allies in the Arab League, has angrily accused
Western countries of ganging up against an Arab-led
government to exploit its oil and gold reserves. The Bush
administration has dismissed that contention, and the
United States Congress has accused the Arab militias,
backed by Sudan and known as the Janjaweed, of genocide
against Darfur's black Africans. Nearly 150,000 black
Africans have fled to seek refuge on the barren eastern
frontiers of Chad.

The United Nations, meanwhile, has threatened unspecified
penalties if Sudan cannot prove by Aug. 31 that it can
restore stability. Sudan and its allies have resolutely
opposed outside intervention, like the deployment of
foreign peacekeeping forces. And Europe and the United
States have left it to the fledgling African Union, which
represents the continent's governments, to handle matters
on the ground.

The Darfur crisis has presented a stark challenge to
African leaders: How is Africa to live with its diversity,
specifically its Arab and black African mix, and how are
the continent's leaders, in fashioning a response in
Darfur, to balance the claims of a sovereign state and an
emergency facing ordinary Africans? Fortunately, for
African leaders, this conflict has no religious divide:
both sides are Muslims.

The African Union has dispatched monitors to Darfur to
oversee the cease-fire declared in April and has invited
the Sudanese government and the two Darfur rebel groups to
peace talks, starting Aug. 23, in Abuja, the capital of
Nigeria. It is also sending a few hundred peacekeepers to
Darfur, but only to protect its monitors, not Sudanese

On Sunday, about 150 Rwandan troops were en route.
Nigerians are scheduled to arrive in 10 days.

"The Sudan government sees the A.U. as their best option,"
said one Western diplomat here. "Wider international
intervention is a bigger problem for Sudan than the A.U."

Clearly, the biggest potential threat for Sudan is the
United Nations Security Council's deadline and the prospect
of penalties.

With little more than two weeks left, the United Nations
secretary general's special representative for Darfur, Jan
Pronk, described conditions as bleak and dangerous.

"There is no improvement in terms of safety, there is more
fighting, the humanitarian situation is as bad as it was,"
Mr. Pronk said Friday in a telephone interview from his
office in Khartoum, Sudan's capital.

Since February 2003, the war in Darfur, sparked by a rebel
insurgency demanding political and economic rights for the
people of western Sudan, has killed 50,000 civilians and
displaced more than a million Sudanese, the United Nations

Mr. Pronk said he met with Sudanese authorities on Thursday
and laid out a timetable: Instruct local authorities in
Darfur to disarm the Janjaweed in the next 10 days and
demonstrate "a substantial improvement in security" in the
10 days after that.

"Local authorities should be forced to do what the national
government has decided," Mr. Pronk added. "It cannot be
done in Khartoum only. It has to be done in Darfur. No
attacks by the army. Exercise restraint. Even if the army
is attacked by rebels, no retaliation."

Also on Friday, the government ordered tribal leaders in
Darfur's three provinces to start disarming the Janjaweed,
The Associated Press reported.

Mr. Pronk credited President Omar el-Bashir of Sudan with
having ordered the military to refrain from air raids and
other attacks, but blamed the government-allied militias
for violating the April cease-fire.

"There are Janjaweed militia under the influence of the
government," he said. "We do not know how many. However,
they are under influence of government, and they are
continuing attacks."

Sudan has rejected foreign military intervention, saying it
alone is responsible for security within its borders.
Nigeria, the West African nation leading the peace talks,
has already voiced frustration. "What has to be made clear
is that if Sudan will not yield to gentle and African
pressure it will have to succumb to extra-African pressure
that might not be so gentle," Remi Oyo, the spokeswoman for
President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, was quoted as
saying in an Agence France-Presse report.

It is unclear whether the African Union will decide to send
peacekeepers to protect civilians in Darfur - or whether
Sudan, one of the union's member states, will allow it to
do so.

Meanwhile, the most powerful Arab voice in the African
Union, neighboring Libya, summoned both sides to informal
talks late last week. One of those attending, Adam Shogar,
of the Sudan Liberation Army, a Darfur rebel group, said in
an interview here in Chad's capital that Libyan officials
expressed to him their discomfort with the prospect of
Western intervention in the region.

"They don't want the Americans and the others to come in,"
Mr. Shogar said. "I told them, 'Not America alone, if the
devil himself comes in to protect us, we accept him.' ''

The Sudan Liberation Army and the other rebel group, the
Justice and Equality Movement, have agreed to take part in
the Abuja talks. But already, some have voiced cynicism
about their prospects.

"We don't have full trust that the African Union has the
capability of solving this problem because the Sudanese
government is not going to listen to them," Ahmed Tugod
Lissan, coordinator of Justice and Equality Movement, said
in an interview here. "The Sudan government is building up
for a war."

Depending on the role of the African Union on the ground
and in negotiations, the crisis in Darfur will undoubtedly
test its mettle as little else has. It will force the union
to face the racial divide that has long bedeviled the
continent in complicated ways, from a long tradition of
slavery in Mauritania to recurrent clashes over land and
water between Arab nomads against black African farmers
here in Chad and in nearby Niger and Mali. Not least, the
African Union itself must contend with Arab and African
leaders within its ranks.

That delicate balance is being closely watched by those who
are counting on the African Union to take charge of solving
the Darfur crisis. After all, with widespread discontent in
the Arab world over Iraq, neither Americans nor Europeans
are keen to put troops on the ground in another Arab-led
country."If the African Union splits over this issue, then
its capacity to deal with this will diminish," said a
senior European Union official in a recent telephone
interview from Brussels. The Darfur crisis will also test
how the African Union will balance the rights of a
sovereign African nation with the rights of ordinary

U.N. Demands Justice After Massacre of 150 Refugees in Burundi

August 16, 2004

UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 15 (AP) - The United Nations Security
Council on Sunday condemned the massacre of at least 150
Congolese refugees at a United Nations camp in Burundi, and
demanded that those responsible be brought to justice
"without delay."

Reflecting the seriousness of the killings, the Council met
in emergency session at the request of France to denounce
the attack on Friday night at the camp in Gatumba.

A statement approved by the 15 Council members and read by
the Council president, Russia's ambassador to the United
Nations, Andrei Denisov, condemned the massacre "with the
utmost firmness."

A Burundian Hutu rebel group, the National Liberation
Forces, claimed responsibility for the attack on the camp,
which sheltered Congolese Tutsi known as Banyamulenge, who
had fled fighting in their country. Officials said Hutu
extremists from Congo and Rwanda were also suspected of
taking part in the raid.

A spokesman for the rebels said that Burundian soldiers and
Congolese Tutsi militia were hiding in the refugee camp.
But most of those who were killed appeared to be women and

The Security Council statement did not identify the
perpetrators or the victims. Instead, the Council called on
the top United Nations envoy in Burundi, in consultation
with the United Nations representative in Congo, "to
establish the facts and report on them to the Council as
quickly as possible."

A United Nations statement issued in Burundi on Sunday
expressed "outrage" at the massacre, noting that "most of
the victims were women, children and babies who were shot
dead and burned in their shelters."

It also noted that Burundians in the camp were not

The Security Council statement called on authorities in
Burundi and Congo "to cooperate actively so that the
perpetrators and those responsible for these crimes be
brought to justice without delay."

Witnesses said the nighttime assault on the refugee camp
was launched from across the border in Congo, about one
mile away. One group of assailants opened fire on a nearby
Burundian Army post to pin down troops while a second group
raided the camp, they said.

The Security Council asked the United Nations missions in
Burundi and Congo to offer their assistance to authorities
in both countries "with a view to facilitate the
investigation and to strengthen the security of vulnerable

The massacre echoed the killing frenzy in Rwanda in 1994,
in which at least 500,000 minority Tutsi and Hutu moderates
died at the hands of Hutu..

It also raised fears of retaliatory violence that could
undo peace efforts in Congo, where a 10,800-member United
Nations peacekeeping force is working to prevent a return
to war.

At least five countries were drawn into Congo's civil war
from 1998 to 2003. The civil war claimed some three million
lives, mostly through strife-induced hunger and disease.

United Nations officials said at least 150 people were
killed and 108 wounded in the attack Friday, but survivors
said at least 161 people were confirmed dead after more
bodies were found on Sunday near the Congo border.

Burundi has also been engulfed in a civil war since 1993,
when soldiers from the Tutsi minority assassinated the
country's first democratically elected president, a Hutu.

Anyone looking for "African war zones" research for fanfic purposes, I'd be more than happy to help you out. I only started recently saving news stories from Africa that run in the NYT, but I do have a links and information that I'd be willing to forward to you.

And finally, a little something fun and a lot more upbeat for ludditerobot since he showers us with wuv and musik:

Warner's Tryst With Bloggers Hits Sour Note

August 16, 2004

Warner Brothers Records pulled out all the stops recently
to promote a rock band, the Secret Machines, on the
Internet. But there is one stop that might have been better
left unpulled.

Earlier this month, Warner became the first major record
label to ask MP3 blogs to play its music. The blogs - which
are relatively new but increasingly popular - are personal
Web sites that offer music criticism right next to the
actual music, in the form of downloadable MP3 files.

But as is sometimes the case when marketers try to
insinuate themselves into online communities, the company's
approach did not go as planned. Warner - which was part of
the Time Warner media empire until February, when it was
sold to a group of investors led by Edgar Bronfman Jr. -
ran into a culture clash with the small world of MP3 blogs,
annoying some of the very people it wanted to win over,
especially after one or more people at Warner apparently
posted anonymous messages to make it appear that ordinary
music fans were defending the label.

And because many MP3 blogs exist in a legal gray area - to
accompany their musings on the music, bloggers post
complete song files, usually without permission - the
campaign put Warner in the position of currying favor with
people whose views on file sharing are far more liberal
than those of the music industry's lawyers.

Two weeks ago, at least eight MP3 bloggers received an
e-mail message from Ian Cripps, a Warner employee. In the
messages, which were identical and came with an MP3 file
attached, Mr. Cripps told the bloggers that he loved their

"We are very interested in blogs and I was wondering if you
could post this mp3," he wrote. "It's by one of our new
bands - The Secret Machines. They are an indie rock band
and we would love for people to hear the band's music from
your site. Here it is, listen to it and let me know if you
will post it. Thanks!!"

The pitch to MP3 blogs was part of an ambitious online
campaign that was the work of Robin Bechtel, vice president
for new media at Warner Brothers and Reprise Records. The
campaign's first unusual component was a decision to start
selling the Secret Machines album through Apple's iTunes
store and other online outlets last February, nearly four
months before it was available on CD. The move drew
attention to the album, which received strong reviews.

Ms. Bechtel said that the company had contacted many sites
for the Web part of the publicity effort, and that the
messages to MP3 blogs were an experiment. "We're really
progressive in trying things," she said.

The messages from Warner were big news among the bloggers.
Independent labels like SpinArt have been paying attention
to the MP3 blogs for months, sending them music as a way to
get it heard in an age of tightly controlled radio
playlists. Some bloggers saw the message from Warner as a
sign that the major labels might spare their sites while
cracking on illegal file sharing.

"We didn't know if there was a wink that came along with it
that said, 'We don't have a problem with what you're
doing,' " said Mark Willett, a contributor to Music for
Robots (, a popular MP3 blog that
attracts about 2,400 visitors a day.

Ms. Bechtel said the sites chosen by Warner "were promoting
music responsibly" by offering authorized downloads or
linking to online stores. She said that despite their small
audiences, MP3 blogs were a good way to build positive

"Music blogs in general remind me of that friend you had in
high school who would turn you on to the best bands," she

Many of the blogs were ambivalent about Warner's request:
they were flattered by the attention but concerned about
compromising their principles, or appearing to do so. In
the end, Music for Robots was the only blog to post the
track after receiving it from Warner (two others had
already posted Secret Machines tracks independently). In an
almost apologetic blog entry titled "Music for Robots Sells
Out," Mr. Willett wrote that the song was appearing there
not because the band needed the exposure, but to establish
a relationship with Warner and to let readers know what was
going on.

Other sites were less cooperative. Most MP3 bloggers have a
strong independent streak and love to unearth obscure
musical nuggets, so a song like the Secret Machines single
that was already being played on commercial radio was of
little interest to them. And once one had posted it, the
others were even more inclined to steer clear.

Matthew Perpetua, who publishes Fluxblog
(, another popular MP3 blog, said he
decided against posting the song, in part because "I didn't
want to look like the person who was going with anything
the label was sending me."

In the week after the song was posted on Music for Robots,
a message board on the site attracted some thoughtful
commentary on Warner's move. But a few comments, posted
under several different names, stood out because they
looked like something one might read on a teen-pop fan

"I never heard these guys before, but theyre awesome," read
a posting last Thursday under the name Ron. "I went to
their website and you can listen to a lot of ther other
stuff, very cool and very good!" Another post, sprinkled
with casual profanity, asserted that big corporations could
still release good music, and cited the Beatles as an

A check of site records by Mr. Willett revealed that all
four of the suspect comments had been posted from the same
Internet Protocol address, indicating that they came from
the same computer or from a computer within the same
company. That address was also the source of two e-mail
messages that Ms. Bechtel sent to a reporter, as well as
the original messages sent to the bloggers.

The entertainment industry has for some years been going
into chat rooms and message boards to promote its products.
But Ms. Bechtel said this kind of activity was not part of
the Secret Machines campaign. She said the comments could
have been posted independently by fans of the band who
worked at the company.

"We're not sitting here typing in message boards that the
band is great," she said. "But if somebody in the building
loves the band, I can see them doing it. People at record
companies are also huge fans."

Many bloggers found Warner's campaign to be clumsy at best,
and sneaky at worst.

"You can't just dive headfirst into a subculture and expect
it to bend over backwards to cater to your lame attempt at
free advertising," said Andrew Nosnitsky, a senior at
George Washington University who writes about hip-hop on
his blog at Mr. Nosnitsky also
mocked Warner for sending a rock track to a hip-hop site.

Mr. Willett said that it was obvious the favorable comments
on his site had not been left by "real people," and that
they had soured his opinion of Warner Brothers' Internet
efforts. "I know we're dealing in relatively uncharted
territory here, but I'd expect a slightly different level
of participation," he said. "We're not an AOL chat room."

Okay, gotta go back to work now...

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