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10/31/2003 Archived Entry: "Making the world safe for oil profits"

A story frightening enough to be worthy of Hallowe'en. "A scientist funded by the US government has deliberately created an extremely deadly form of mousepox, a relative of the smallpox virus, through genetic engineering. The new virus kills all mice even if they have been given antiviral drugs as well as a vaccine that would normally protect them. The work has not stopped there. The cowpox virus, which infects a range of animals including humans, has been genetically altered in a similar way."

Quick...a dose of humor, even if it is cynical, especially if it is cynical. Enjoy "Us good, them bad" -- a universal campaign speech for whatever crossroads America might happen to be at. You've heard a version of this one several times in the recent past.

Making the world safe for oil profits: This just in on Halliburton: The U.S. government is paying Vice President Dick Cheney's former firm Halliburton 'enormous sums' -- $2.65 a gallon -- for gasoline imported into Iraq from Kuwait....Democrats Rep. Henry Waxman of California and Rep. John Dingell of Michigan said this gross overpayment was made worse by the fact that the U.S. government was turning around and reselling the gasoline in Iraq for four to 15 cents a gallon....The Iraqi oil company SOMO is paying only 97 cents a gallon to import gasoline from Kuwait to Iraq, they said." News of Halliburton's huge war profits on a "no bid" contract come in the wake of a request from the military contractor's President for "employees to join a 'Defending Our Company'' campaign by writing to newspapers and lawmakers to counter criticism of the firm...Dave Lesar said in the Oct. 17 memo that he is offended by 'those who are distorting our efforts' to restore Iraq's oil industry and provide other services to the U.S. military there." Halliburton is doing such a fine job in Iraq that there was an announcement this Wednesday re: Halliburton, who still pays Cheney deferred salary -- what one paper called "oodles of boodle". The announcement: the company needs to have its hitherto $1.5 billion contract extended for some undefined number of months and more money! rather than allow it to expire and be put out to bid. Thus -- poof! -- Halliburton's contract extended. What a sugar daddy/good fairy the company has in Cheney, who knows which side his bread is oiled. Even the mainstream media is beginning to use the word 'cronyism.' The Houston Chronicle comments, "Major U.S. companies, including Houston's Halliburton subsidiary KBR, have used insider contacts and political donations to help snag more than $8 billion in contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan, a watchdog group said Thursday. 'There is a stench of political favoritism and cronyism surrounding the contracting process in both Iraq and Afghanistan,' said Charles Lewis, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity, which released a study on wartime contracting. 'These two wars ... have brought out the Beltway Bandit companies in full force'."

Onto a happier topic. Brad and I went to our local cinema on Tuesday night and saw a hootful movie: The School of Rock. (BTW, it occurs to me that readers may think I am a soft touch --- that is, "easily entertained" -- because I give boffo reviews to so many plays and films. My high level of satisfaction actually derives from the high level of pre-attendance research I put into our evenings "out." I eliminated no less than 7 contenders before arriving at TSOR with one of the no-goes being a movie I was originally eager to see: Runaway Jury. I mean, with John Cusack and Gene Hackman both starring, how could you lose? Well...the reviews I read made it clear that the movie was an anti-gun rights diatribe...so *that's* how I could lose. I could become so irritated at the message that the highlight of the theatre experience would be the over-buttered popcorn I love.) TSOR has an absolutely improbable premise and plot for which you totally forgive the film because it is so darned charming. (And, as for improbable, I'm spending most of Hallowe'en with vampire or ghost movies on in the background so I'm obviously a consumer with lotsa practice in the "willing suspension of disbelief.") Jack Black, who virtually stole the movie "High Fidelity" and had a minor but memorable role in "Enemy of the State," has come into his own with the leading role and I cannot remember being so delighted by a performance since Robin Williams in "Dead Poets Society."

Before TSOR, Brad and I did our Hallowe'en DVD shopping and picked up some sca-a-a-arey stuff, along with a movie I've wanted to see for months: Gosford Park. Again, wonderful. I was surprised by how little "space" the murder mystery itself occupied in the film which was, in essence, a marvelously skillful commentary on the class divisions within English society.

All for now and best to all,

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