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Dear Kitty
Tuesday, May 31, 2005
  70% of Dutch students vote No to EU constitution
Madonna Giscard d'Estaing and child Tony BlairIn The Netherlands, tomorrow there will be the referendum on the proposed European Union constitution. Like in France, pollsters expect the majority to vote no.

This already happened today. One day before the official referendum, there was a national "mock" election for secondary school students.

69,9% of students voted no. Source: here.

Tomorrow, Wednesday 1 June, the "real" referendum is in The Netherlands.

I'll try to do live blogging in the evening (Central European time) on the results; at my main blog.

If by any chance there is a ModBlog downtime during that evening, the live blogging will be here, on my backup blog; here.


Wednesday, May 18, 2005
  Live blogging: EU constitution vote 29 May, 1 June
Cartoon of Luxemburg trade union against Bolkestein plan to liberalize the economy of the European UnionAccording to pollsters, there is a big chance that majorities of both Dutch and French voters could reject the proposed European Union Constitution.

On Sunday 29 May, the referendum is in France.

On Wednesday 1 June, the referendum is in The Netherlands.

I'll try to do live blogging in the evenings (Central European time) of both days on the results; at my main blog, [then, in 2005, ModBlog].

If by any chance there is a ModBlog downtime during these evenings, the live blogging will be here, on my backup blog; here.


Tuesday, May 17, 2005
  Why did stegosaurs have plates and spikes?
StegosaurStegosaur plates and spikes for looks only

The bizarre plates and spikes that lined the backbones of the long-extinct stegosaurs were probably extreme examples of the often elaborate and colorful displays developed by animals to recognize fellow members of their species, according to an international team of paleontologists.

The team's analysis of stegosaur plates lends support to a growing consensus among paleontologists that the weird adornments of many dinosaurs - the horns of triceratops, the helmet-like domes of the pachycephalosaurs, and the crests of the duck-billed hadrosaurs - likely served no function other than to differentiate species, akin to birds' colorful feather ornamentation.

"Our studies of bone histology are telling us a lot about dinosaur social behavior and lifestyle," said Kevin Padian, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and a curator in the campus's Museum of Paleontology.

Read more here.


Thursday, May 12, 2005
  US band Audioslave concert in Cuba

This video is Audioslave - Gasoline (Live on David Letterman).

U.S. band plays to 50,000 in Cuba


HAVANA — With an inspired 26-song set, Audioslave made history May 6, playing by far the biggest show for an American band in Cuba.

An estimated 50,000 fans at the sprawling La Tribuna Antimperialista José Martí watched as the band made one of its longtime dreams come true.

Many of the fans were wearing T-shirts of Audioslave and other American rock bands.

Heavy on music and light on banter, the nearly two-and-a-half-hour set included several Rage Against the Machine and Soundgarden songs alongside Audioslave favorites and tracks from the band’s forthcoming second LP, “Out of Exile.”

The group also played a “jam?” (as it was called on the setlist) with the local opening act, singer X Alfonso.

Read more here.


  New research on flying snakes in Asia
Chrysopelea paradisi

Researchers reveal secrets of flying snakes

It seems size does matters after all. But for flying snakes, smaller is better, according to University of Chicago researchers.

In the May 15, 2005, issue of the Journal of Experimental Biology, scientists described the effects of size and behavior of flying snakes, and found that the smaller animals were better gliders.

"Despite their lack of wing-like appendages, flying snakes are skilled aerial locomotors," said lead scientist and author Jake Socha, Ph.D., who has been studying these unique creatures for the past eight years.

With the help of colleagues Michael LaBarbera, professor of organismal biology and anatomy at Chicago, and Tony O'Dempsey, an expert in photogrammetry, Socha used 3-D flight information from the synchronized recordings of two video cameras to digitally reconstruct the trajectories, speed and body postures of Chrysopelea paradisi, or paradise tree snake, and Chrysopelea ornata, golden tree snake.

Chrysopelea ornataIn this study, Socha, who also is a biologist at Argonne National Laboratory, found that paradise tree snakes are true gliders, traveling further horizontally than dropping vertically.

The best flight Socha recorded traveled 13 degrees from the horizon at the end of its trajectory.

Read more here.

See also here.


Monday, May 09, 2005
  Carrie's Bar & Grill
Interesting blog, from Hollywood, USA: Carrie's Bar & Grill


Friday, May 06, 2005
  Latest UK election news. See you tomorrow
I wanted to continue blogging until Bethnal Green and Bow results became known. However, it took longer than expected.

The BBC remarked that Labour had just 36,2% of the vote. Lowest ever for a party of government. They had the luck people don't trust the Conservatives (33%) either. Maybe the beginning of the end of the two party system. Since 1923, Labour plus Conservatives did not have such a low share of the vote.

Liberal Democrats expected to take about 60 seats, best result since 1923. Including their anti war MP of Brent East who had won a bye election in 2003.

Glasgow North East, remarkable result for Socialist Labour Party:

Labour (Speaker) Michael Martin - 15,153 - 53.3% (-13.8%)
Scottish National Party - John McLaughlin - 5,019 - 17.7% (-0.5%)
SOCIALIST LABOUR PARTY - Doris Kelly - 4,036 - 14.2% (+14.2%)
SCOTTISH SOCIALIST PARTY - Graham Campbell - 1,402 - 4.9% (-3.2%)
Scottish Unionist Party - Daniel Houston - 1,266 - 4.5% (+0.3%)
BRITISH NATIONAL PARTY [nazi] - Scott McLean - 920 - 3.2% (+3.2%)
Independent - Joe Chambers - 622 - 2.2% (+2.2%)

(Figures from BBC News website)

And now I have to sleep. See you tomorrow, I hope at Dear Kitty ModBlog, running again after downtime now.

Once Again, Americans Doing Their Bit for Blair
Democratic Strategists Working Behind Scenes

By Dan Balz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 5, 2005; Page A14

LONDON, May 4 -- They toil in relative obscurity, urged by their British minders to stay mostly out of sight and especially away from the voracious British press. Behind the scenes, though, American political consultants are involved in virtually every aspect of the campaign of Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Labor Party, continuing a relationship that began with Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign for president.

The Americans are taking polls, conducting focus groups and helping to shape and refine the Labor message. They have advised Labor officials on techniques for targeting and mobilizing voters, drawn from the intensive ground war in last year's presidential campaign. They have applied expertise gained from the presidential campaigns of Sen. John F. Kerry and former Vermont governor Howard Dean, and from the activities of MoveOn.org, on how to turn the Internet into a potent weapon in political campaigns.

The Americans don't always agree with one another, and not all agreed with Blair and President Bush on the war in Iraq. But as campaign experts, they have come to where the action is this spring, drawn by Blair's quest for a record third term for the Labor Party and the chance to learn as well as advise.

On the eve of Britain's general election, the Americans were attending to the last details of Labor's operation and nervously waiting for the polls to open in the morning.

A year ago at this time, Zack Exley was burrowing into the Kerry campaign as the newly recruited director of online organizing and operations. On Wednesday, he was at Labor's online headquarters pushing out massive numbers of e-mails urging Labor voters, many of them unexcited about Blair, to get out and vote on Thursday.

Karen Hicks spent the day in Rochdale, near Manchester, mobilizing a get-out-the-vote operation in a district where a Labor member of Parliament faces a stiff challenge. Last fall, she directed the ground war operation at the Democratic National Committee after assembling Dean's highly praised but ultimately unsuccessful grass-roots operation in New Hampshire.

Pollster Stan Greenberg spent the morning analyzing the last public and private polls, continuing a relationship with Blair and Labor that began with Clinton's 1992 campaign, which became a template for Blair's victory in 1997, down to the creation of a war room patterned after the one Clinton had in Little Rock.

Mark Penn, who helped guide Clinton to reelection in 1996, was up all night digesting the results of his last poll and offering last-day recommendations to Blair and his team about their closing message. Penn is a relative newcomer to British politics, but he came with impressive recommendations. He was recruited in September as an adviser to Blair on the advice of Clinton and his wife, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

Veteran Democratic strategist Bob Shrum is also here. Although he retired from political consulting after last year's election, picking up and moving north for a teaching position at New York University, he has come to Britain this spring to act as a personal adviser to his longtime friend Gordon Brown, the chancellor of the exchequer, the top economic post in Britain.

The Americans have in no way supplanted Blair's core team of British advisers, who have been with him for years and remain a loyal and tightknit group. Labor Party officials have been skittish about making too much of the presence of the Americans, despite long-standing ties. An e-mail to one of Blair's most senior advisers, inquiring about the Americans, came back with a reply that encouraged no follow-up questions. "Sorry. We never talk about advisors. Sorry not to be of more help."

British and American political parties long have traded information on techniques, message, technology and strategy. During the 1980s, advisers to the Conservative prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, worked closely with Republican Party operatives used by President Ronald Reagan. During the 1992 campaign, Bush's father's team used links to Prime Minister John Major, also a Conservative, for help in gathering negative research on Clinton. That cooperation helped cool relations between Major and Clinton once Clinton was elected.

This year, Britain's Conservative Party has imported the GOP's technology for targeting voters through the use of marketing research, but it has turned to a group of Australians to run the campaign itself. Top Bush advisers said in a series of e-mails that Conservative Party officials had traveled to the United States for consultations. But most said they had little direct contact with Tory leaders, and certainly there is no GOP equivalent to the kind of high-profile Democratic strategists working inside the Blair campaign.

The war in Iraq has caused some strains in old relations between Blair and the Democrats, with some of those on the American team having worked with groups opposed to the war. Ironically, Blair's team has used its ties to the Bush White House to gain insight into the Republican Party's targeted get-out-the-vote operation that was so successful in 2004, although a Bush adviser said no proprietary information was ever discussed, nor was there any effort to offer advice to Blair's team. When it was suggested in jest that Blair's team had drawn as much from the Republicans as from the Democrats, one Blair adviser laughed. "Well, they won," he said.

The Americans and British are respectful of each other's techniques. Laborites say the Americans are far ahead on targeting and mobilizing voters, but Hicks said she has been impressed by what she has seen in the Labor Party. "I'm intrigued with the permanent nature of the infrastructure," she said.

Although Blair and his team have two successful campaigns behind them, they approached this campaign with a fresh sense of curiosity -- driven apparently by Blair himself -- about how to reinvigorate their operations. Blair reached out to Penn for strategic advice and also sought help from Democratic strategist Joe Trippi, who as Dean's campaign manager proved how effective the Internet can be for organizing and fundraising.

Trippi made several trips to London for meetings with Blair and said he spent more time talking about the Internet as a tool in governing than he did about the campaign. Blair "was more interested in whether I thought it was possible for a sitting prime minister to use the Net to get citizens engaged to help do things," Trippi said.

Greenberg said one big difference between this and earlier Blair campaigns is the confidence among the British about their own judgments and strategies. In the 1990s, they looked to the Clinton model for inspiration. Now, he said, "there is much more self-confidence about how they do things here. They turn to the U.S. for much more defined things: getting the new technology; how to use the Internet; how to target individual voters. It's much more instrumental, much less inspirational."



  UK election: independent keeps Wyre Forest
The Independent MP, who won his seat due to anger over hospital cutbacks, keeps Wyre Forest constituency.

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  Reg Keys speech in UK election
Reg Keys in Sedgefield: "I did this, being a candidate, for my son, killed in Iraq. I hope that one day Blair will be able to say he's sorry for this war, against international law and not finding weapons of mass destruction".

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  UK election: anti Blairite wins in London (?)
Vote peace

George Galloway, of anti war party Respect, according to the BBC, won Bethnal Green and Bow (East London) from Blairite Oona King (not yet official).

Respect results service here.


  UK election: anti Blair Labourite wins in Wales
ModBlog is down, so I'll continue here.

Vote against Bush and Blair's wars, posterPeter Law, ex Labour anti Blair rebel, won victory over the official Labour candidate.

In his victory speech, and later BBC TV interview, in Blaenau Gwent constituency in Wales, Law said: "Our message we send to Tony Blair, is that's what you get when you don't listen to the people, but manipulate, as is symptomatic for Blair's "New" Labour. As a Left wing person, I will support Left measures."

Blair himself won Sedgefield, as expected. But he "looked rather battered" the BBC said.


Tuesday, May 03, 2005
  Iraqi painter protests US Abu Ghraib torture
I'll repost this, like most posts here, at my Dear Kitty ModBlog, with more links there; as soon as ModBlog downtime will be over.

torture in IraqNot just famous Colombian painter Botero's works protest torture by US troops in Abu Ghraib prison and elsewhere.

Also works by Iraqi artists, as Middle East Online writes:
Abu Ghraib prison bars: New canvas of Iraqi art

Trauma of US-led occupation of violence-torn has radically changed Iraqi artists’ style.

By Jean-Marc Mojon - BAGHDAD

The subjects in each of Nasir Thamer's works are trapped behind bars, real or painted.

Since the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, the trauma of the occupation has seeped even into Iraq's artistic production.

"I used to paint scenes of traditional Iraqi life, Arab doors, mosques and letters from the Koran," says the 47-year-old artist. "This is a radical change for me but you just can't escape reality."

One of his paintings depicts an Iraqi child running away from a US Apache combat helicopter towards his mother.

The corner of the canvas where the woman was painted is ripped out, revealing black bars in the structure of the frame.

The style is that of Thamer's two favourite painters - Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali - but the heavy symbolism he employs leaves no room for doubt over the message he wants to convey.

The Baghdad-born Sunni Muslim is almost apologetic about the crude metaphors of his latest works which deal with such themes as oppression, betrayal, looting, bereavement and captivity.

"I would've liked to have made an exhibit with more hope, but I felt it was my duty to do something on the suffering everybody is experiencing," says Thamer, one of the most respected Iraqi painters of his generation.

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My diary on peace and wars, arts, sciences, politics, the fight for economic and social justice, the environment, and more. Backup for http://dearkitty1.wordpress.com/

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