Opinion

The Pied Piper of Vermont

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US Democrats want to use anti-war feelings to boost their ratings.

The rapidly growing list of US casualties from the invasion of Iraq now includes the names John Kerry, Dick Gephardt, Joe Lieberman, John Edwards and Wesley Clark. Not ordinary 'grunts' but official Democratic frontrunners, they were severely wounded, if not outright killed in action, on 9 December in Harlem when Al Gore endorsed the candidacy of Howard Dean, the anti-war insurgent from Vermont.

Gore's embrace of Dean, which seemingly caught the other Democrats by complete surprise, was remarkable in at least two respects.

Music, Dreams and Desire

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Mike Gonzalez commemorates the extraordinary music of the Buena Vista Social Club.

The last time I saw Rubén González play piano he finished one tune with a visual joke: running his fingers up the keyboard, he continued beyond the edge of the piano, playing in the air. It was as if his extraordinary dexterity and skill had conquered what was there and needed some new challenges. Bumping into him a little later in a bar near the theatre, I realized how tiny he was, and how bent and arthritic his hands were. It made his artistry even more astonishing.

Oscar Wild

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Pat Stack stakes out the films likely to impress the Academy.

Usually my Xmas combines the following: overeating, which usually involves half a turkey, a whole Christmas pudding, and god knows how many mince pies; wild drinking sessions involving huge amounts of Guinness and crates of Irish whiskey; or romantic interludes (well, drunken lunges) under the mistletoe. This year, though, the new reformed me spent much time in the cinema looking for likely Oscar nominees. Here are my tips:

Count the Cost

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As the number of Iraqi casualties increases on an almost daily basis, mainstream news coverage on the web seems to be restricted to fairly simplistic reports, barely covering the real events of the war.

So it's interesting that recently Yahoo! news has included in its related links a number of surprising websites.

First, the beautifully simple www.iraqometer.com - a site with a few graphics and some startling facts, including the number of bombs dropped on Iraq (39,600), the number of Iraqi soldiers killed (11,000) and the number of billions of dollars spent (98). Of course those figures increase regularly, but one statistic doesn't change - the number of sites of WMDs (0).

Just Call My Number

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Tales of call centre jobs disappearing to India are not the whole story.

Just how serious is the threat of a call centre jobs stampede to India? Over the past few months the media has been full of stories of a wholesale jobs exodus from British call centres - an ideal cue for film crews to descend on Hyderabad or Bangalore and gush about what a wacky old world we are living in when Asian university graduates need to be clued up about EastEnders and learn to talk like Rex Harrison.

Letter from the US: The Scalping Party

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Mike Davis tells the story of a US army responsible for sickening war crimes in Vietnam.

In his dark masterpiece Blood Meridian novelist Cormac McCarthy tells the terrifying tale of a gang of Yankee scalp-hunters who left an apocalyptic trail of carnage from Chihuahua to southern California in the early 1850s.

Autonomism for the People?

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The demands of the movement require organisation.

'We need new ways of thinking and new ways of organising. We have to break with old ideological formulae of the old left.' You hear such talk repeatedly in the anti-capitalist and anti-war movements today. And for many people it represents a welcome attempt to break from the jaded parliamentarianism of New Labour and the manipulative methods of the Stalinism that collapsed in 1989.

The Language of Resistance

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The vocabulary of anti-capitalism is more than a passing fad.

There is a new language developing in the streets that our growing movement passes through. At the European Social Forum demonstration in Paris, there was a man distributing leaflets recommending Esperanto. The Esperantists are at most demonstrations - as they have always been since their great idea was first mooted by a Pole called Zamenhof in 1887. Their theory was that humanity was divided by language, and that a common tongue - coined out of all the other languages - would create understanding and unity.

Blood, Sweat and Peers

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Can Howard be a man of the centre? Pat Stack doubts it.

How cruelly ironic that within days of Michael Howard's elevation (if that can possibly be the correct term) to leader of the Conservative Party the story should emerge of Joseph Scholes, a 16 year old boy who hanged himself last March at an institution for juvenile offenders.

Joseph's crime was to steal a mobile phone. He had offended before, but this was not the key thing to know about him. Far more important and relevant was that he was a sexually abused and deeply disturbed youngster who had a history of self harm.

Talk isn't Cheap

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The recent decision by MSN, the huge Microsoft-owned internet provider, to stop access to its online chat rooms, made front page news across the globe.

When the internet first started to grow into more mainstream usage, one of the biggest attractions was the ability to talk with people all over the world. This quickly became one of the widest used facilities on the web. Many companies like MSN or Yahoo! offered the chance for users to communicate about any issue under the sun with thousands of others.

More recently, the cheap availability of webcams allowed chat to become more than simple text - now you could see and hear the person you talked with.

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