Hope springs again in America

WHEN John Kerry came back from Vietnam in 1971, he had an audience with US senators.Kerry, then just 27, was a naval hero with five medals from his service in that grim war.

WHEN John Kerry came back from Vietnam in 1971, he had an audience with US senators.

Kerry, then just 27, was a naval hero with five medals from his service in that grim war. He stood up before the Senate and asked: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

It is no exaggeration to say his words helped bring an end to America's longest, most futile conflict.

Today John Kerry, now 60, has built up an impressive head of steam in the race to be the Democrat candidate against George W Bush in the presidential election later this year.

If Kerry does get the candidacy - indeed, whichever of the contenders gets it - the Democrats won't be hampered in quite the way they were last time.

Bush and his 2000 opponent Al Gore had a tacit agreement to keep their war records off the campaign agenda. Neither could make much of his record, or the other's, since both had been kept safely away from service in Vietnam by their daddies' influence.

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Kerry, on the other hand, the son of a Second World War hero, has a glittering military past.

While Bush knows war from movies, TV, gung-ho speeches and company balance-sheets, Kerry knows the reality.

He knows what it is to fight in a war - and to come to believe that war is wrong.

Crucially, he was opposed to America's great adventure in Iraq, and he is opposed to US troops remaining there.

As far as one can tell, he is a highly educated, highly intelligent, decent, caring man. I just hope he isn't too decent to beat the war-mongering Bush.

US Democrats always face a ticklish dilemma when choosing their presidential candidates. Should they go for the most decent, honest man - or the one who might actually win?

I hope Kerry doesn't turn out to be another George McGovern or Mike Dukakis, good guys who were blown away in the election that mattered.

But why, apart from our TV-induced fascination with all things American, should the choice of president matter to us in little Britain? There are two big reasons.

Firstly, the winner will sit with his finger on the world's biggest trigger.

Secondly, as long as our prime minister is the president's poodle, it must make a difference to us whose hand is holding the choke-chain.


DON'T try to sail round the world. It's flat. You'll fall off the edge.

OK, you're right. The earth's round. It's in the middle of a big glass sphere. The sun and moon are on the surface of the sphere, with the stars on another bigger sphere outside it.

God, of course, made the spheres, along with everything inside them, in six days of intense creativity, just over 4,000 years ago. He planted fossils, dinosaur bones and other seemingly old stuff to fool us.

No, don't laugh - people used to believe all these things. Some people still do (I bet they vote Republican).

These outmoded myths may not be too dangerous - but there are others around that could do enormous damage if too many people fall for them.

Like the myth, much put about lately, that the British National Party is not racist. (No, no, chaps, of course you're not - and some of Adolf Hitler's best friends were Jewish.)

Or some of the bizarre nonsense being put about by Nimby opponents of wind turbines.

One objector claimed magnetic radiation from turbines would cause cancer among people living nearby. Actually, there is some evidence that this might be the case with ordinary electric power-lines, but there is no way a wind turbine could have such an effect.

Neither do they block out the sun, make cattle sterile, cause the sea to rise by increasing atmospheric pressure, or kill fish.

My favourite windmill myth, though, is this: Apparently, in winter, ice will form on the blades of the turbines. Once the ice gets too heavy a strong gust of wind will send a huge, deadly icicle flying off. Ker-pow! Straight towards the nearest passer-by, running them through.

Well, you must admit it's colourful. And presumably someone believed it.

You can find more nonsense of this kind - plus the facts of the matter - at an excellent website set up jointly by Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the WWF: www.yes2wind.com

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