Opinion

Power to the Beetle

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A decade on, the Zapatistas still inspire resistance, writes Mike Gonzalez.

In January 1994, some new and unexpected faces joined the public gallery of political images. Actually, the faces were barely visible - just the eyes through the slits in the woollen balaclavas they wore. The Zapatistas, unknown warriors from the Mexican south, had stolen the thunder of the three presidents meeting to announce the North American Free Trade Area (NAFTA) to the world's press corps. But their slick Armani suits made very boring pictures compared with the rough blankets and open sandals of the guerrilla fighters of Chiapas.

Open or Shut?

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Millions of Windows computers infected with the My Doom virus, major security flaws exposed in some systems and the leaking of some sections of the Windows source code will probably mean that among Microsoft executives February 2004 will be remembered as a bad month.

All this will also make many people question what it is about Microsoft‘s software that makes it so vulnerable. The answer lies partly in its practice of rushing software out so flawed that it requires huge updates as soon as it is installed.

This is why later versions of the Windows operating system continually check Microsoft‘s website for automatic updates - errors, bugs and problems are so common that it is simpler for Microsoft to build in a self update system rather than attempt to release better code.

Eat Your Worms

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Public sector reform has problems in store for Blair.

Even though Tony Blair‘s entire demeanour recently smacks of ’nobody likes me‘, it‘s looking as though he might need to eat quite a few more worms before he is eventually put out of his misery. In fact a great writhing bucketful is already waiting in the shape of public sector reform. On the one hand, most members of the general public have no more enthusiasm for further Railtrack-style ’improvements‘ in the NHS, education or the civil service than any of them had for an illegal invasion of Iraq or for university top-up fees.

Inside the Sunshine Gulag

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Allegations of corruption and murder are rocking California‘s penal system.

Khem Singh was little more than a shrivelled skeleton when he died of starvation in early February while on hunger strike in California‘s notorious Corcoran State Prison. The 72 year old Sikh priest, who spoke almost no English, had been given a draconian 23-year sentence in 2001 for ’inappropriately touching a young girl‘.

Although he had been on hunger strike for weeks, and had shrunken to less than 80 pounds, prison staff failed to monitor Singh‘s decline or move him into intensive care. Guards told a reporter that they ’didn‘t notice that the prisoner was wasting away‘.

Developing Neoliberals

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My enemy‘s enemy is not always my friend.

Many activists at the World Social Forum in Mumbai were quite rightly celebrating the blow to the plans of the US and the EU at the Cancun meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). For once, the world‘s most powerful capitalist states suffered a setback in their schemes to write the agenda for the rest of the system.

My Kingdom on a Horse

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Four centuries later, Mike Gonzalez finds Don Quixote a strangely modern tragicomic hero.

’Tilting at windmills‘ - it‘s a phrase you often hear whenever people launch ferocious assaults at imaginary enemies. But perhaps not everyone remembers that the first man to charge at slowly turning sails was an elderly Spaniard wearing a pudding bowl on his head. Don Quixote was his name - and the only witness to this particular attack of lunacy was a plump peasant riding a donkey who found it impossible to convince the old man that these were not giants with flailing arms who needed to be brought down a peg or two. The reluctant witness was his squire, one Sancho Panza.

The Whites of their Lies

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A whitewash has rarely been so misjudged as Hutton‘s.

I find there are few things quite as enjoyable as watching a smug, arrogant bully having the smile wiped from his or her face. Imagine then the pleasure I‘ve had seeing a collection of smug, arrogant bullies watch in amazement as their apparent hour of vindication was greeted with indignation, disbelief and downright hostility by all but their most ardent supporters.

For that has been the tale of the shower of New Labour cabinet ministers and spin doctors, ever since the establishment lackey Hutton produced his repo... er, whitewash.

Speak Like a Blog

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The phenomenon of internet web diaries (blogs) recently hit the news through the activities of the 'Baghdad Blogger'.

Blogs are personal websites which allow a user to put regular comments, news items or stories online - rather like a public diary.

It's predicted that there will be over 5 million such sites by the time you read this.

A quick internet search puts you at the centre of the blogging community. Blogs attract readers through search engines and links from other blogs. So each blog sits at the heart of a spider's web of links to others of similar tastes or interests - forming an 'online community'.

Mind the (Imaginary) Gap

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Gordon Brown revives a Tory idea about regional pay

One of New Labour's more baffling preoccupations over the past few months has been its apparent fixation with the idea of regional pay. Exactly where the impetus for this is coming from seems a bit of a mystery, since none of the major unions have been campaigning in this direction and there hasn't really been any significant business lobby for regional pay variations either.

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