B A R E L Y B A D  W E B  S I T E  

    Free Speech    


If Dan Quayle, a presidential candidate, a former United States congressman, a former United States senator, a former vice president of the United States, is in favor of prohibiting the desecration of a piece of fabric, then it seems to me he is also willing to permit the erosion, however slight, of our American right -- our first special right -- to speak freely.

According to an AP article, on March 30, 2000, another politician, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, said in response to the U.S. Senate's vote to reject a flag-burning amendment:

"Burning the flag is not free speech.  It's conduct of the most offensive kind."

Hey, Trent, lemme ask you something.  If burning a flag is conduct of the most offensive kind, how much less offensive is the conduct of, say, an arsonist or a rapist or a murderer?  Accused arsonists and rapists and murderers never claim as a defense that they were only trying to get their fellow citizens' attention, to speak freely.

As between how offended I would be by being arsonized or raped or murdered versus how offended I would be by a flag-burning every once in a while by someone somewhere, I can tell you that the flag-burning would offend me less.  A lot less.  But apparently you feel differently.

Dear reader, I don't want to get any closer than I am now to being liable for a beating and a prison sentence or even death for saying what I want about bad government and bad people.  And you shouldn't either, no matter who you are.

And I don't want you to feel restricted in what you can say either, because if you're keeping mum then maybe I'm missing something.

And I especially don't want our sources of news -- mainly the local newspaper and NPR in my case -- to feel restricted, to feel "chilled," in what they can ferret out on my behalf about bad government and bad people in power.  Indeed, I want them to get rewarded for that ferreting.

There's a reason whenever there's a hostile government takeover, the first thing they commandeer is the radio and television stations and the print press.   I would too.

And one of the benefits of the Internet is that millions of individuals everywhere -- with nothing more than a computer and a modem -- can report what they know to the world.  (Drop down now to see one example on this page.)

One of the reasons America is such a great country is our inherent right -- as set forth so plainly in the Constitution that is our government -- to free speech and a free press.  Free speech and a free press, in concert with the rest of Constitution, are what keep the bad guys at bay.

If you can't complain about the government in power, if you have literally no legal right to elect or unseat a government official, if you are treated less well than other humans because of an accident of birth such as being black or female, then you might suffer for that reason alone at the hands of those who lead you.  In the absence of a popular resistance, which can be snuffed out by suppressing free speech, eventually the most corrupt and tyrannical will crush the most egalitarian.  And the corrupt and tyrannical, it turns out, sometimes tend to be fanatics about it.


Don't Believe It

You've heard the phrase, "Don't believe everything you read," and that's good advice.  In fact, I myself take it further, because I know that the sources of the news I get (almost exclusively from the U.S., the U.K. and Canada) are just as capable of delivering propaganda as any other country's.

The advice I follow is this: "Don't believe anything you read."  Now, I know that seems extreme, and there are exceptions.  For example, I believe that Dan Quayle was vice president of the United States, even though my only source of information for this fact is the press.

But except for obvious, non-controversial facts such as that, I really don't believe anything I read in the newspaper or hear over the airwaves.  I read my local paper every day, and I listen to NPR stations whenever the radio's on, but I pretty much don't believe any of it.

For one thing, there's always at least one side to the story that's missing, or some alleged facts that are missing.  This is called selective reporting, and it's inevitable.

For another, reporters are all the time making flat-out mistakes, which is why there's a "Corrections" column almost every day in big papers.  I know from personal experience, too.  I've been interviewed a few times for publication, and not once was I quoted correctly.  In fact, one time I gave some advice to the publication's readers about how to comply with a certain federal law, and I was quoted in print as saying the exact opposite of what I'd said.

For yet another, often enough the sources reporters use actually lie.  Imagine that.  A good example in a free country is the multitude of lies Americans were told by a submissive American press regarding the Viet Nam War.

A short list of examples of the loss of freedom of expression to the people in power appears below.  But my point in this sidebar is that as you're reading through these articles, keep in mind that they too are incomplete, that they might contain mistakes, and that they might contain reports of lies.


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According to an AP article in The Kansas City Star dated April 18, 1999:

     KABUL, Afghanistan--The Taliban religious militia warned President Clinton on Saturday that his criticism of Afghanistan's human rights record was damaging relations.  Clinton has been a strong critic of the Taliban's treatment of women.
     Since taking control of the Afghan capital of Kabul in September 1996, the Taliban have forced women off the job, closed schools for girls and forced women to wear the all-enveloping burqua, which covers them from head to toe.  They see through a mesh opening that shields their eyes.  In the 90% of Afghanistan ruled by the Taliban, women also are required to be accompanied by a male relative when traveling outside the home.  Women are publicly beaten for fraternizing with a man other than a relative.  A married woman found in the company of a man other than a relative or husband can be stoned to death.
     Afghan Foreign Ministry officials said in a written statement, "Any criticism regarding Afghanistan's Muslims and women's rights should come from a Muslim.  This Clinton is not a Muslim and does not know anything about Islam and Muslims."

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This article appeared in The Kansas City Star dated June 21, 1999.  Just so you'll know, Qatar is its own country.

Station banned

     KUWAIT -- Qatar's Al-Jazeera television has been banned from reporting from Kuwait because a viewer of a live call-in show was allowed to insult the emir and the station did not apologize, the information minister said.
     Information Minister Yousef al-Sumait also urged Kuwaitis not to appear on any of the popular satellite station's shows produced outside Kuwait.  And he called on Al-Jazeera's correspondent in Kuwait, Saad al-Enezi, to stop working for the station.
     Al-Enezi told The Associated Press he would do so.
     The incident occurred June 4, when an Iraqi viewer called a live program on women's rights under Islam, al-Sumait said.
     The viewer criticized a program guest for asking God to save the emir, Sheik Jaber al-Ahmed al-Sabah, who recently granted Kuwaiti women the right to vote and to run for parliament.
     God, the viewer said, should not be asked to protect a man who "embraces atheists and permits foreign armies to enter Kuwait," a reference to American and allied forces that fought Iraq in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

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This is a story from the June 23, 1999, edition of The Kansas City Star.

Taliban edict

     ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Afghanistan's Taliban religious rulers on Tuesday made the publication of anti-Taliban material a crime carrying a five-year jail term.
     The measures were announced by the Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah-Mohammed Omar, on the Taliban-run Radio Shariat, monitored in neighboring Pakistan.
     In disclosing the new penalties, the radio broadcast cited recent reports that the security of foreign aid workers in Afghanistan cannot be guaranteed.
     "Incorrect information that the security of foreigners is not guaranteed in Afghanistan is propaganda of the opposition, and anyone who reports this, whether they are Taliban or non-Taliban, will be sentenced to five years in jail," Omar said.

The group in power in Afghanistan is the Taliban, an ultra-strict batch of rulers and their adherents who govern based on what the say their religion calls for.  According to this article, they will enjail anyone who publishes material that criticizes them.  This is as nearly the exact opposite of the First Amendment as can be imagined.

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From an AP article dated July 10, 1999, in The Kansas City Star.

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Iranian students accuse police of retaliating for protest

Demonstrators say they were attacked at dorm

     DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- Iranian police stormed a Tehran university dormitory hours after student leaders staged a demonstration, provoking clashes Friday that injured at least 20 persons, witnesses and officials said.
     Some 120 students were arrested.  More than 1,000 people were gathered outside the dormitory in a show of solidarity later Friday, witnesses said.
     The trouble began after 200 students held a demonstration late Thursday to protest the Justice Ministry's ban a day earlier of the leading leftist newspaper, Salam.
     . . .
     Iran's government is split between reformists, led by President Mohammed Khatami, and conservatives, who run the police and judiciary.
     Salam, an outspoken daily, is a staunch backer of Khatami.  Its closure was widely expected after it published details of an alleged Intelligence Ministry plot to muzzle the press.
     The agency said the ban was lifted Thursday.

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activist_sentenced.jpg (1700 bytes) According to an article dated September 17, 1999, in the Kansas City Star:

     YANGON, Myanmar -- British activist Rachel Goldwyn, 28, was sentenced Thursday to seven years in prison for protesting Myanmar's military regime by chaining herself to a lamppost and shouting pro-democracy slogans.

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From the "World Watch" section of The Kansas City Star of September 27, 1999, which reads as follows:

"It is unpardonable to disrespect sacred values.   Secondly, it is also illegal.  That's that."
A commentary in the Iran Daily on a student's satirical play that is accused of insulting Islam.

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From an AP article in the December 1, 1999, edition of The Kansas City Star:

Court convicts editor of insulting cleric

     TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's press court has convicted one hard-line editor for insulting a senior cleric and acquitted another, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported Tuesday.
     Masoud Dehnamaki, managing editor of the weekly Shalamcheh, was convicted Monday, the agency said.  The court has 10 days to decide on the sentence.  The managing director of the daily Abrar, Mohammad Safizadeh, was acquitted.
     The editors went on trial Monday after accusations by reformist groups that they were "spreading lies, publishing false reports and insulting people," Tehran television reported.

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Hassan al-Azimi said
he could not understand why
women want to bother
with politics.

From another AP article in that same December 1, 1999, edition:

Kuwaiti women denied right to vote, run for office

     KUWAIT -- Kuwaiti women lost the chance to become part of the political scene in their oil-rich state Tuesday as Parliament rejected a bill to give them the right to vote and run for office.
     The 32-30 vote was the second letdown for women in a week in this conservative society.  On Nov. 23 the all-male legislature killed a decree by the emir granting women political rights.  Most members thought the decree was unconstitutional.
     . . .
     Only men over 21 who have held Kuwaiti nationality for at least 20 years can vote or run for office.  Women and members of the armed forces and police are kept out.
     Suad al-Munayes, a 40-year-old businesswoman, said: "I don't know how we are going to enter the 21st century with this kind of mentality."
     Hassan al-Azimi, a 36-year-old civil servant, said he could not understand why women want to bother with politics.
     "Men are doing a good job at politics," he said.  "Women should stay home and take care of the children."

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From the December 5, 1999, edition of The Kansas City Star:

Mayor's suit dismissed

     MIAMI -- A judge has thrown out a former mayor's suit against The Miami Herald, saying it is a columnist's right to call a politician "loony."
     Florida Circuit Court Judge Amy Dean said Carl Hiassen's characterizations of former Mayor Xavier Suarez as "loony," "deranged," "crazy" and "paranoid" in a December 1997 column were opinion and were not presented as fact.
     Dean, in a decision issued Thursday, also dismissed Suarez's allegations against former Herald political editor Tom Fiedler.  He had written that Suarez "likened the state's control over (Miami) to the Nazi takeover of France in World War II."  Suarez said he never made such a comment.
     Suarez, who was mayor through most of the 1980s, filed the lawsuit this year shortly after The Herald won a Pulitzer Prize for exposing fraud in the 1997 municipal election that renamed him to office.  The scandal led to Suarez's ouster as mayor by a state appeals court.

Now this is how it should work.  Not only does a newspaper with all its investigative might root out bad governors (yay for Miami), its actions get approved by a U.S. court.

Plus which it gets a Pulitzer Prize.

Yay for the U.S. and, more generally, for a free press.

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From an AP article dated December 8, 1999:

China to close
scores of papers

     BEIJING -- Chinese authorities will close about 200 small newspapers in the first half of next year in an attempt to strengthen the Communist Party's control over public opinion, a human rights organization says.
     A central government document last month ordered the closure of some newspapers that have become popular in recent years by emphasizing crime, current events and entertainment, the Information Center of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China reported this week.
     The state-run Xinhua News Agency last month announced a nationwide cutback in the number of newspapers nationwide [sic] but did not say how many would be merged or closed.
     All newspapers in China ultimately are controlled by government agencies and can only report opposition to government policies within officially prescribed limits.

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From an AP article dated December 19, 1999, edition of The Kansas City Star:

Yugoslav publisher raided again

     BELGRADE, Yugoslavia -- Authorities raided the premises of a leading independent publisher again Saturday, seizing equipment worth about $400,000 to collect fines levied after it printed leaflets for President Slobodan Milosevic's political opponents.
     Police and court officials hauled off computers, desks and other equipment of the ABC company, which serves as a contract printer for about 100 publications in Serbia, mostly those opposed to Milosevic.
     The seizure was the second in a week, stemming from the highly controversial court case in which ABC had been ordered to pay $270,000 for printing leaflets for Serbia's leading opposition group, Alliance for Change.
     ABC had refused to pay the fine, saying it was part of a campaign to suppress free speech.
     After taking away equipment last week, which ABC executive Dragan Vlahovic said was "worth more than enough to collect the fine," police and court officials returned Saturday to seize more assets.
     "This is unheard of; this is outrageous . . . and has nothing to do with law," Vlahovic said.
     An ABC subsidiary, the Belgrade daily Glas, and other independent papers and television stations have also been fined repeatedly and heavily under Serbia's Information Law, sometimes only for carrying statements by Milosevic's opponents.  Struggling to pay the fines, some of the media outlets sat they might have to shut down.
     Shortly after the raid Saturday, the company received a new court order demanding $304,000 in further fines, Vlahovic said.
     In a separate case, ABC's chief executive, Slavoljub Kacarevic, has been fined $47,820 for allowing the publishing of material deemed illegal.  He has also refused pay [sic] and faces confiscation of personal property and possible imprisonment
     The company has also been mired in a complex case of alleged tax evasion, which led to another fine of about $87,000.

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From an AP article dated January 13, 2000:

Government critics
arrested in Malaysia

Timing surprises
foes of veteran
prime minister

     KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- In an intimidating move, Malaysian police on Wednesday arrested some of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad's [shown in photo] most vocal critics, including a leading editor, an opposition leader and an attorney for the ousted deputy prime minister.


There's more to this story, and I'm sure there's more than one side, but still.

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From a Kansas City Star article dated January 23, 2000:

Writers sentenced

     KUWAIT -- A court handed down suspended sentences to two Kuwaiti writers Saturday after convicting one of blasphemy and the other of indecency.
     Alia Shuaib, who teaches philosophy at Kuwait University, was found guilty of "publishing opinions that ridicule religion" and blasphemy in a book she published in 1993, Spiders Bemoan a Wound.  Laila al-Othman was convicted of using indecent language in her book The Departure, which had been approved by government censors in 1984.
     The judges did not say what they found offensive in the books.

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From a Washington Post article dated January 27, 2000:

China seeks Internet limits

Controls include
ban on discussing
'state secrets'

     Beijing -- China on Wednesday banned discussions of "state secrets" on the Internet, the latest in a series of attempts to control an information industry that is spinning out of the Communist Party's control.
     The State Bureau of Secrecy issued a circular saying Internet users were prohibited from sending e-mail containing state secrets and from discussing state secrets in Internet chat rooms or on bulletin boards.
     The circular also said Internet content and service providers based in China must undergo a "security certification" before they could operate.
     Under Chinese law, a state secret can be almost anything not officially released to the public, from crop reports to news about an earthquake.   Citing violations of state-secret rules thus has been a handy tool for security personnel to use against journalists, dissidents and other citizens.
. . .
     The ban appeared to be aimed particularly at Internet chat rooms, which have been used by a growing number of Chinese to criticize the government and exchange information about corruption scandals and other sensitive news.
. . .
     Chinese officials have also hinted that local Internet firms that want to list their shares on foreign stock exchanges must obtain government approval.
     Finally, China has moved to control content of Internet sites.   The Shanghai Daily reported Wednesday that the State Press and Publication Administration is crafting content rules that would pose a "major challenge" for domestic Web sites by ensuring that they could publish only state-approved material.

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From an article in The Kansas City Star dated February 5, 2000:

Cartoon draws fire

     QOM, Iran -- Iranian clerics lashed out Friday at President Mohammad Khatami's moderate policies and demanded that the culture minister be executed in a scathing response to a political cartoon.
     The clerics said a caricature portraying hard-liner Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi as a crocodile -- a symbol of treachery and deception -- was encouraged by Culture Minister Ataollah Mohajerani and the Khatami administration's relaxed stance toward the media.

If I'm understanding this correctly, the clerics want a man killed because of a political cartoon.  What kind of religion do they believe in?



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A follow-up from February 13th:

Paper that caused furor
is publishing again

     TEHRAN, Iran -- A newspaper returned to newsstands Saturday after a self-imposed weeklong suspension meant to calm anger generated by its political cartoons satirizing a cleric.
     Azad published cartoons last month that depicted hard-line cleric Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi as a crocodile and a fat thug.  They sparked three days of protests.  The reformist newspaper apologized, saying the cartoons were not intended to be offensive.
     Azad said in an editorial Saturday that its goal was to help push for social reforms -- "a difficult road which requires tolerating hard times and paying a price."
     Protests broke out in the city of Qom, 80 miles south of Tehran, where more than 5,000 theology students and clergymen staged sit-ins.
     They condemned the newspaper and called for the execution of Culture Minister Ataollah Mohajerani, who is responsible for press licenses.
     The cartoonist, Neekahang Kowsar, spent five days in Evin prison before being released Thursday on $33,000 bail.
     Newspapers have been in the vanguard of the reformists' struggle for greater democracy and fewer religious constraints.
     Since the 1997 election of reformist President Mohammad Khatami, hard-liners have closed several pro-reform newspapers.

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A March 12, 2000, article from the Associated Press:

Milosevic opponents
keep stations on air

     BELGRADE, Yugoslavi -- Several hundred opposition supporters gathered Saturday outside an opposition-run radio and television station in western Serbia to prevent police from shutting it down.
. . .
     The station, which is in the Pozega district, 60 miles southwest of Belgrade, is owned and run by municipal authorities.  The municipality is controlled by political parties opposed to Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
     "We have broadcast appeals to citizens, parties, and everybody who is against this regime, to come and defend us.  We won't . . . be silenced like the other stations, said [the station's chief editor] Branko Nikolic.
     He was referring to recent shutdowns, fines and harassment imposed on media not controlled by Milosevic's central authorities.  The government's pressure on privately owned and opposition-run media has intensified amid high political tensions ahead of local elections this year.
. . .
     The station's FM radio covers an area populated by 250,000 people.  Its television programming can be watched by about 100,000.

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From a March 16, 2000, story in The Kansas City Star:

Woman sentenced

     Beijing -- A Chinese court has sentenced a well-known Muslim businesswoman to eight years in prison for mailing newspapers to her husband overseas, an official newspaper reported.
     The account in the Xinjiang Daily was the first official confirmation of Rebiya Kadeer's conviction last Friday.  It was also the first time the government has acknowledged that her case is linked to the activism of her husband, Sidik Rouzi, a well-know critic of Chinese rule in the Muslim northwest.

Imagine that you decide to mail a newspaper to someone -- your own spouse, no less -- and as a result you spend eight years in prison.  Just try to imagine that.

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A prominent quote in The Kansas City Star of March 18, 2000:

"He wants to 'cleanse' all who think differently or all inconvenient witnesses."
-- Gordana Susa, about Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who's cracking down on
the independent media as his popularity and the economy plummet in an election year.

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"Kill them wherever
you find them."

From a story in the April 20, 2000, Kansas City Star:

Cleric blasts reformists

     TEHRAN, Iran -- A hard-line cleric urged his followers to kill pro-reform writers and activists who he says are undermining Iran's revolutionary principles, a newspaper reported Wednesday.
     "They (reformists) insult Islamic sanctities.  They attend a conference to say nonsense.  Kill them wherever you find them.  This is God's unchangeable tradition," the daily Sobh-e-Emrouz quoted Ayatollah Abolqasem Khazall as saying.  He was referring to the "Post-elections Iran" conference held recently in Berlin.

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From a story one day later in The Kansas City Star:

Newspapers condemned

     TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's supreme leader attacked the country's reformist newspapers on Thursday, accusing them of undercutting the Islamic revolution.
     He also warned hard-liners not to take the law into their own hands.
     Speaking to an estimated 100,000 young people in Tehran's Grand Mosque, Ayatollah Ali Khameini said 10 to 15 newspapers were undermining Islamic principles, "insulting" state bodies and creating social discord.

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From a story two days after that in The Kansas City Star:

Journalist arrested

     TEHRAN, Iran -- A journalist investigating the 1998 killings of five dissidents by intelligence agents was arrested Saturday, the latest attempt by Islamic hard-liners to curb Iran's liberal press.
     Akbar Ganji's arrest came as newspaper editors and publishers complained to the culture minister Saturday after Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khameini, condemned the reformist press as "enemies" of the 1979 Islamic revolution.

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This item ran in The Kansas City Star of May 24, 2000.

Iranian newspaper banned

     TEHRAN, Iran -- Iranian hard-liners, stung by the confirmed victory of reformist candidates, shut down a newly launched newspaper Tuesday, the 19th paper closed in a crackdown that began last month.
     The Mellat daily was banned by the hard-line judiciary for "violating press laws," a day after printing its maiden issue Monday.   The violation was failing to print a masthead in the first edition.

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From a Kansas City Star story dated June 19, 2000:

Journalist released

     JERUSALEM -- Palestinian police have released a journalist held for 12 days for speaking out against the Palestinian Authority's violation of press rights.
     Free-lance journalist Maher Alami, 55, said Sunday he was released from the Ramallah prison the night before.
     "My only crime was speaking against the Palestinian Authority's oppression of opinion and the freedom of the press," Alami said.
     Alami said he was never formally charged, but that guards had informed him he was being held for remarks he made on a local television station.   The journalist had spoken out against the recent closing of the Al Nasr TV station, which was shut down for airing a talk show with some of the signers of an anti-corruption manifesto.
     Alami said he was treated well.  He said his jailers never locked the cell he shared with a West Bank teacher.

He was treated well except for the fact he was in jail for 12 days.

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From an article in The Kansas City Star dated July 26, 2000:

Stopping the presses

     TEHRAN, Iran -- Authorities in Iran on Tuesday ordered a reformist newspaper closed, four weeks after the weekly began publishing.
     The newspaper Goonagoon was the latest to be closed after the hard-line judiciary shut down 19 other papers -- all but one pro-reform -- since April amid a power struggle between conservative clerics in Iran's Islamic government and proponents of change.

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From an article in the August 9, 2000, Kansas City Star:

Hard-line protest

     TEHRAN, Iran -- Hard-liners protesting outside parliament called Tuesday for the death and expulsion of reformists who challenged an order from Iran's supreme leader that squelched debate on the country's restrictive press law.
     In a second day of protests outside the legislature, demonstrators called for the execution of lawmaker Mohammad Rashidian, who sought to debate the proposed changes two days ago.

Death and expulsion?

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From a piece in the August 18, 2000, Kansas City Star:

Editor detained

     BEIJING -- Chinese police seized hundreds of copies of an independent literary journal and detained its editor, Boston-based poet Bei Ling, friends said Saturday.
     Bei disappeared Friday after telling friends he planned to hold a discussion forum that afternoon to review the latest issue of his quarterly journal, Tendency, a friend said.  Bei was being held Saturday by police in the university district.

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From an AP story in the August 16, 2000, Kansas City Star:

Women attacked
by Turkish police

     ISTANBUL, Turkey -- Police forced 35 Turkish and Kurdish women activists onto buses Satruday, kicking and punching them, to stop them from telling reporters about a message they had sent to the U.N. secretary-general denouncing violence against women.
     The women had gathered in front of Istanbul's main post office to send a postcard to Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
     "We say no to war; we want peace.  We say no to rape and harassment in prisons," the postcard read.
     Several women were injured, and one was treated at a hospital for a broken arm, said Leman Yurtsever, one of the detained women.
     The demonstration was organized by leftist political parties.

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From an Associated Press story in the August 29, 2000, edition of The Kansas City Star:

Chinese seize
books having
Clinton photo

     BEIJING -- Chinese customs agents have seized 16,000 copies of a book of photographs of President Clinton because one picture showed him holding hands with the Dalai Lama, a company involved in the publishing said Monday.
     The confiscation is an extreme example of China's obsession with denying publicity to the exiled Tibetan leader.
     The Dalai Lama has been vilified for decades by the Chinese government.  He is the target of a 4-year-old campaign to break his influence among Tibet's fervently Buddhist people.
     In Washington, State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said Monday that if the report was accurate, "it is most disturbing."
     "We don't believe books should be seized to impose some political control," Reeker said.
     The book, The Clinton Years, contains more than 200 black-and-white photographs shot by Robert McNeely, Clinton's official photographer from 1992 to 1998.  One of the images showed the Dalai Lama and Clinton at the White House on April 28, 1994.
     China has regarded the Dalai Lama as a potential enemy to its hold on Tibet ever since he fled to India in 1959 amid a failed uprising against Chinese rule.  China's communist leaders routinely pressure foreign governments to shun the Dalai Lama.  In deference to China, he was not invited to the Millennium World Peace Summit this week, a gathering of religious leaders in New York.

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From a Washington Post article in the December 12, 2000, edition of The Kansas City Star:


gets jail time for
mailing clippings

The Washington Post

     BEIJING -- Defying pressure from the U.S. State Department and Congress, China has reportedly rejected the appeal of a prominent businesswoman who was sentenced to eight years in prison for mailing Chinese newspaper clippings to her husband in the United States.
     A Hong Kong-based rights group reported Monday that Rebiya Kadeer, 54, once hailed by the government as a model citizen and a representative of the country's Muslim ethnic minorities in a national congress, was transferred to a women's prison in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi.  A higher court there rejected her appeal on Nov. 28.
     Human-rights groups and some Western governments have been protesting Rebiya's detention since she was convicted in March of "revealing state secrets to foreigners."
     Sending official Chinese press releases abroad is not a crime, but China's security services have used it as a justification before for jailing political dissidents or others they view as troublemakers.
     The U.S. Senate and the House passed nonbinding resolutions demanding that China free Rebiya, and the government might have delayed a decision to avoid upsetting lawmakers preparing to grant China permanent normal trade relations with the United States.
     According to China's state-run media, Rebiya was convicted for sending publicly available newspapers and magazine articles about separatist activity in Xinjiang to her husband, Sidik Rouzi, a prominent critic of Chinese rule in the Muslim northwest.

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From a January 14, 2001, AP story in The Kansas City Star:

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Investigative journalist in Iran sentenced

     TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's leading investigative journalist has been sentenced to 10 years in jail and five years in internal exile for attending a conference in Germany that authorities said harmed Iran's image, his lawyer said Saturday.
     Journalist Akbar Ganji was among 16 persons tried on charges of "undermining Iran's security" for participating in the conference last year on reforms in Iran.
     Dozens of pro-reform activists were detained after returning from Berlin in what they called an attempt by hard-liners to intimidate supporters of President Mohammad Khatami's program of social and political freedoms.
     Eight of those tried received prison sentences of as long as 10 years, and two were fined, defendants said.

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The caption of the small picture at left says, "DiCaprio."

The caption of the main photo, which shows a male barber giving a male customer a haircut, says, "In Kabul, Afghanistan, a barber gave a legal haircut on Thursday rather than the Western-style, Leonardo DiCaprio cut considered offensive because of its long bangs.


From an AP piece in the August 29, 2000, edition of The Kansas City Star:

Taliban fault DiCaprio haircuts

     KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghanistan's Taliban rulers have jailed 22 barbers for giving men Leonardo DiCaprio-style haircuts deemed offensive to Islam because the long bangs interfere with the ability to bow and say prayers.
     The hairstyle, referred to among young men in Kabul as "the Titanic," mimics that of DiCaprio in the blockbuster movie.
     Religious police deployed by the Taliban's Ministry of Vice and Virtue -- responsible for imposing the religious militia's strict brand of Islamic rule -- say the hairstyle is offensive, according to Mohammed Arif, a barber in the capital.
     The cut allows hair on the forehead, which the Taliban say could interfere with a person's ability to say prayers.  Muslim prayers are said while bowing toward Mecca in Saudi Arabia, Islam's holiest site.
     So far, 22 men have been arrested since last Saturday.  It's not clear whether they will be punished, or what the penalty might be.  The Taliban espouses public punishment for most offenses.  None of those arrested have been freed yet.

Imagine you're fresh meat in jail, never been there before, heard horror stories, scared.  You're looking to break the ice, so you say, "What're you in for?"

"Murder and rape.  Muhammad over there's in for armed robbery, and Mohamud next to him is in for arson and aggravated assault.  How about you?"

"Bad hair day."

Anyway, here's what I think.  I think these Taliban leaders aren't really Earthlings at all.  They're aliens who've been sent here to test just how much crap almost a whole country's worth of humans will abide.  Apparently a lot.

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The Kansas City Star ran this Associated Press article on March 2, 2001.

Taliban obliterating
statues in Afghanistan

     KABUL, Afghanistan -- Using everything from tanks to rocket launchers, Taliban troops fanned out across the country Thursday to destroy all statues, including two 5th-century statues of Buddha carved into a mountainside.
     Despite international outrage, troops and other officials began demolishing images, which they say are contrary to Islam, in the capital of Kabul as well as in Jalalabad, Herat, Kandahar, Ghazni and Bamiyan, said Qadradullah Jamal, the Taliban's information minister.
     "The destruction work will be done by any means available to them," he said.  "All the statues all over the country will be destroyed."
     . . .
     In ordering the statues destroyed, the Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, said Monday that they were contrary to the tenets of Islam, which forbids images, such as paintings and pictures.
    . . .
     Omar, in his edict ordering the statues' destruction, said he wanted to ensure that they were not worshipped in the future.

So, for those of you budding artists looking to peddle your paintings of Satan and Santa and Jesus and Zeus door-to-door, you should probably skip Omar's house.  If someone with only one eye answers the bell, that's him.

Before you leave, though, get his e-mail addy for me, please, because I've got a few questions for him, just as I had a question above for Trent Lott.   Neither of them seems to understand that the symbol is not the thing.

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Here's a follow-up article from March 6, 2001.

Taliban chief defends order

     KABUL, Afghanistan -- Dismissing the international outcry over his edict to demolish pre-Islamic relics, the ruling Taliban's reclusive leader Monday called destruction of the relics a tribute to Islam and Afghanistan.
     As the Vatican weighed in for the first time by calling the order the "crazy" result of "fanatic extremism," Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar referred to international criticism as "noise" and described demolition of the relics as a tribute to "the brave Afghan nation."

I'd like to know how the average subject of Omar's reign really feels about all this.  How can I find out?

While I'm at it, if you happen to be Omar then I hereby challenge you: I hereby declare publicly that if what I've shown above about you is true, you are a world-class asshole.  Have someone translate that word, asshole, then come get me, fatwah me.

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The caption reads as follows:

"Kerri Jacks, wearing this sweat suit, was asked to leave the North Kansas City Community Center after her abdomen was exposed as she lifted weights."

The Kansas City Star ran this article on February 20, 2001.

NKC center says 'no' to bare midriffs
The Kansas City Star

     If you work out at North Kansas City's new state-of-the-art community center, don't show off those finely toned abdominals.
     The center has a ban on midriffs that is like few others in the area.  It applies not only to sports bras and bare chests, but to any outfit that shows skin above the waist.
     Just ask Kerri Jacks.  Last week, the 43-year-old Gladstone resident was lifting weights in her gold, long-sleeve sweat suit.  When she lifted the weights above her head, her sweat suit top rose a few inches above her waist, exposing her abdomen.
     A community center employee told Jacks that her attire was inappropriate and that she had to change clothes.  She didn't bring another outfit.   The employee offered a T-shirt.  Jacks refused and was asked to leave.
    . . .
     Greg Hansen, the community center's director, defended the employee's actions and said that Jacks, even though her midriff was only briefly exposed, was in violation of the dress code.
    . . .

If I were Dave Barry I'd have you in stitches about this.   Since I'm not, you're on your own.

Also, I think the reporter overstated the case a bit with regard to how strict the dress code is.  Where it says, "any outfit that shows skin above the waist," I'm pretty sure that includes only the torso, unless everyone else is wearing burquas.

Also, where it says, "her sweat suit top rose a few inches above her waist," I think what is meant is the bottom of her sweat suit top, unless she has a very unusual way of wearing it.

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This article ran in The Kansas City Star of February 1, 2001.

Zero tolerance

     JONESBORO, Ark. -- An 8-year-old boy was suspended from school for three days after pointing a breaded chicken finger at a teacher and saying, "Pow, pow, pow."
     The incident apparently violated the Jonesboro School District's zero-tolerance weapons policy.  The boy was suspended last week.

I admit this isn't exactly an example of bad people taking away citizens' rights to free speech, but it's still interesting.

Jonesboro, of course, was the scene of a "school shooting" on March 24, 1998.  Two high school boys killed four of their classmates and a teacher with guns.

Also, why don't you ever hear about females going on shooting rampages?

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The Kansas City Star ran this article on February 10, 2001.

Protests in Iran

     TEHRAN, Iran -- Police and members of a hard-line paramilitary squad arrested dozens of anti-government protesters Friday and used tear gas to disperse hundreds more from a Tehran park, witnesses said.
     The Islamic Republic News Agency said 300 protesters were demanding freedom of expression.


I've been collecting more of these all along but just haven't gotten them scanned and published yet.

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