Is Iraq over for the US? Barry Everingham writes with a word from his informant: Two of the USA’s largest news organisations — NBC and the White House press organ Fox News — have, it seems, been given the nod from Washington. Journos and commentators are not to take leave and camera crews are at the ready to leave for the Middle East to supplement those already on the ground. Our informant stated the obvious — the intellectually challenged Leader of the Free World is about to speak — the Iraq adventure is all but over, it’s been a disaster and all eyes are on the poppy-rich feifdom of Afghanistan, where the Taliban is daily increasing in numbers and the mayhem it is causing is lethal. George W Bush it seems is determined to leave office looking good — how this latest decision will change the world’s view of him remains to be seen. One thing is certain, he is surrounded by people whose closeness to reality is as acute as his own. The Howard/ Downer mantra about cutting and running is as dead as the political party they helped destroy. Students of Middle Eastern politics have been calling for an Iraq exit from the moment the statue of Saddam was toppled and the President’s premature announcement that the Mission had been accomplished. All that remains to be seen is how Canberra will view this latest policy twist and how our own great leader will react.

There appears to be a bit of underground Protestant activity occurring around World Youth Day. I work in the Sydney CBD and have been handed three different pieces of anti-Catholic material, one by a young guy in a faux WYD08 t-shirt. The most impressive is a little comic book entitled Last Rites. It tells the story of a Catholic man named John who dies after receiving the last rites and then has to front Jesus. He becomes quite distressed when JC reveals that Catholics are lying idolaters. At one stage, John asks Jesus if he loves the Roman Catholic Church. The big guy’s reply is “How could I John? Her false teachings are why you are going into the lake of fire.” On the following page, John says, “I don’t want to burn in hell! Can I receive Jesus and reject the Catholic system now?” Jesus answers “No! It’s too late for you, John …” This nasty number is credited to “Independent Baptists who care for your soul” and readers are referred to here for further info. Also included in my new propaganda collection is a pamphlet entitled Which Highway from the people behind, from the good people at www.thepresenttruth.com.au, The Cosmic Battle for Your Heart CD complete with audio sermons about Satan’s fashion sense and a PDF file that’s more than 700 pages in length and appears use the terms “Pope” and “anti-Christ” fairly close to each other. I’m not at all religious, but think it’s just a bit off.

The Pope, apparently, is a smoker.

Upon reflection, I suppose some of us knew deep down it was too good to be true. The messiah arrives and we throw ourselves at his feet, unaware of the stinking hum that will eventually escape and drift in to our pathetic little collective consciences. And yes, it is happening right now. I work at Parliament House, Canberra and can confirm the messiah is now totally on the nose. Hill workers know that what we wished for has NOT arrived: instead, we have a technocrat who doesn’t give a sh-t about anyone except himself. The place is in chaos, no-one knows what the next panic will be about, but everyone knows the messiah is in charge. Of course, our chiefs are staying mum over the whole charade, but there’s enough people here now who have turned against the little parasite that it won’t be long until sabotage becomes the unofficial order of the day. We are well and truly over this half-witted pretender. If he knew what he was on about it may be different, but most of us here see nothing more than a daily charade of farce, spin and directionless meandering from the wonder kid from Qld. And apparently they tried to warn us…

I’m not sure if this means anything, but my partner leaked an email from Liberal Party headquarters in Barton today that claims two heavies in the Liberal camp have given up on Brendan Nelson and are backing Turnbull for a run in Mid August.

The ACT chief minister is at it again: a colleague says his federal minister is being constantly pestered by Jon Stanhope’s people, almost daily, to review the Chief Minister’s request for an overseas diplomatic posting. He apparently has accepted internal Labor polling that shows he is on the nose in Canberra. Pity, Jon did some good things, such as saving a helicopter pilot from drowing during the bushfires and even promoting gay and lesbian equal rights. But most Canberrans apparently are starting to realise he didn’t do a lot for Canberra, particularly for infrastructure and health, since the town resembles a place in slow decay these days. The question is, what will the Liberal opposition do to improve the lot of ordinary people? That’s not yet clear, but what is clear is this: most Canberrans now feel Stanhope must go.

It is no surprise that Melbourne has a traffic congestion problem. What is a surprise is that the State Government has decided in its wisdom to extend clearway times on arterial roads carrying trams within a 10 kilometre radius of the CBD. The Government hopes to speed up vehicular traffic through flow and yet VicRoads, which has the carry of the issue, has admitted in a leaked confidential report that arterial roads carrying trams have already experienced quicker through flow of cars under existing restrictions. Why then the rush to even harsher restrictions when they are not needed – a picture taken in Bridge Rd Richmond at 8.50a.m. on July 8 when new restrictions would be in force shows one car only moving!- and 20 of the major strip shopping precincts have estimated that they will lose more than $100 million a year if the new conditions are imposed. Sounds like a no brainer!! The traders are disappointed and furious because they were never consulted and it certain that their anger — there are some 150 separate shopping strips involved — will last at least until the next State election.

Broadcasters and journalists at SBS radio are up in arms at management’s decision to drop their individual language programs this weekend so SBS can devote the airwaves to coverage in English of the Pope’s visit. In what is thought to be a first for the network – and for a religious leader significant to less than half their listeners – they are dumping scheduled programs for almost wall-to-wall coverage of World Youth Day. This means that some language communities with only one program a week will have to go a fortnight without news and current affairs in their language. SBS journalists say the decision for saturation coverage has more to do with SBS being the host broadcaster than with any editorial justification for the network’s majority of non-Roman Catholic listeners. Several staff have complained to management that the religious broadcasting contravenes the corporations own Codes of Practice which state: “In broadcasting programs about religion, SBS will not support any particular religion over any other.” They say dropping programs for communities which worship other religions in order to broadcast from WYD shows a clear bias towards Roman Catholicism. SBS’s Editorial Guidelines don’t prohibit the broadcasting of religious services, but they state: “Management must be satisfied that … listeners who may practice other religions are catered for appropriately and not disadvantaged by the broadcast of the service, sermon or pronouncement.” The network’s Hebrew program will be bumped off its regular Sunday morning slot at 11 am on the national network, just the time when SBS radio will be covering the Papal mass from Randwick Racecourse. This will be the second time in as many months that SBS has upset Australia’s Jewish community. In May this year, SBS radio offended them by sacking their Melbourne Hebrew broadcaster and consolidating the program in Sydney.

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