Bush looks to regain momentum via speech
By George E. Condon Jr. COPLEY NEWS SERVICE January 30, 2006

Signs Sick BagWASHINGTON – One year after he delivered a speech meant to ignite a national movement to overhaul Social Security, President Bush has a more modest agenda for the tomorrow's State of the Union address.

This time, there will be little talk of crusades and more appeals to stay the course the president has charted domestically and internationally over the past five years.

This is more of a visionary and directional speech than it is a laundry list of proposals,” White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said Friday, describing the address as “more thematic in nature” than what Bush has offered in his previous trips to Capitol Hill.
In part, that change is a reflection of how poorly Bush's 2005 agenda fared once the applause on the Hill died down and the White House tried to rally public support to fundamentally change Social Security.

“Last year, he came out with a very robust agenda in the State of the Union,” said Stephen Hess of George Washington University.

“There were big, big items, and that was really quite exceptional for one of these speeches,” added Hess, who wrote three of President Dwight D. Eisenhower's annual addresses.

“But life did not work quite as he designed it in the next year. He picked the wrong major item, Social Security. And then the war got worse and he had the hurricane. So now it's not only the sand that has run out of the hourglass but also the political capital has run out of the bank,” Hess said.

The contrast between 2005 and 2006 is stark.

“What a difference a year makes,” marveled Republican strategist Ken Khachigian, who worked on several State of the Union speeches for Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. He said Bush's 2005 agenda was “overtaken by events.”

After the speech, “you had Katrina, you had the war in Iraq and you had another issue that's really moved onto the front burner in immigration,” Khachigian said.

And to the surprise of White House strategists accustomed to peeling off moderate Democrats to push through their programs, there also was an unexpected unity among opposition party lawmakers determined to block Bush's effort to add private accounts to the Social Security system.

“They touched the 'third rail,' and while they didn't get electrocuted, they got beat back,” Khachigian said of the Bush administration.

Stuart Rothenberg, a nonpartisan political analyst, said the president over-reached in his 2005 address because he read too much into his re-election.

“He was a lot weaker than he thought he was then,” Rothenberg said. “As a result he had not just a bad year politically; he had a horrendous year.”

Even though Bush stabilized his political standing toward the end of the year, Rothenberg added, the president has real problems as he prepares to give this year's address.

“His poll numbers are down. His party's standing in the country is dramatically weaker. He just has no reservoir of goodwill to draw on,” Rothenberg said.

“Politically, he is a battered and – for the moment at least – beaten president.”

That is why tomorrow's speech is important for Bush even though it is expected to be bereft of any new major policy initiatives.

“This speech is an opportunity to change some of that and, in a sense, to relaunch the second term,” Rothenberg said.

White House aides acknowledge that there were some missteps in conducting the agenda laid out in last year's speech. But they don't admit to any political weakness today.

“The president will have some new policies that he will talk about, that will reflect the priorities that the American people care most about,” McClellan said.

But those new policies are not expected to include the major overhaul of the tax system that aides once hoped to unveil in this speech. Instead, smaller programs will be featured.

Most talked about has been a presidential push for “health savings accounts” – tax-free 401(k)-style accounts – which would allow people to invest their own money for medical expenses. According to early reports, the administration would require them to be linked to high-deductible health insurance plans and would shift some of the burden for health costs from employers to consumers.

Bush is also expected to talk more than he has in the past about the need to restrain federal spending, control illegal immigration, reduce energy costs and improve health care.

Much of the speech has been written with this year's congressional elections in mind. The White House is keenly aware that the address comes amid a battle within the president's own party over the House leadership, while some Republicans are ensnared in a growing corruption scandal involving lobbyists.

But overshadowing everything else – just as it has since the last State of the Union – is the war in Iraq.

“He is a wartime president. That's what's on his agenda and it's got to be his focus,” Khachigian said.

John Mueller, an Ohio State University expert on wartime public opinion, said the war dominates everything. “His main pitch will be that you're safer with us than with the other guys,” he said.

“Karl Rove has suggested, and he's probably right, that Bush's strong suit is national security,” Mueller said. But he added that the president must appear realistic and not Pollyannaish about the war if he is to retain his credibility.

Mueller said Bush could help himself if he were able to announce any troop cuts in Iraq. “That might be a way to signal there is some light at the end of the tunnel,” he said. “But it still wouldn't say just how long the tunnel is.”
Comment: Get out those Signs sick bags, folks. You're probably goning to need lots of them if Goerge is going to start talking "vision".

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Bush-bashing takes center stage in NY theaters
By Claudia Parsons Reuters 30 Jan 06

NEW YORK - It's not hard to spot the common theme in three New York theater offerings this season that go by the titles "Bush is Bad," "Bush Wars: Musical Revenge" and "Laughing Liberally."

The Web site for "Bush is Bad" features a grand piano falling on the head of President George W. Bush.

"Bush Wars" promises what it calls a counterattack on "the disgraceful agenda of the Bush administration." It features a dance number with Bush and Osama bin Laden taking their mothers to lunch at the same restaurant, and another with New Orleans residents singing as they await help after Hurricane Katrina, in a dig at the Bush administration's slow response.
There is also a spoof romantic duet between Bush and his chief adviser Karl Rove, and a naughty bedroom scene which has Vice President Dick Cheney literally in bed with a pair of scantily-clad women named after oil companies.

Both have been attracting enthusiastic audiences to small venues in Manhattan but in a city renowned for its liberal ways the shows may be preaching to the choir.

The organizers of "Laughing Liberally," a one-off evening of stand-up comedy at the 1,500-seat Town Hall on February 4, say their show has broader ambitions.

"It's not going to be an evening of Bush-bashing because that's very easy to do. Hopefully there will be some actual ideas in it," said Jim David, one of the more established comics on the bill with 19 years in the business.

The comedy night is an extension of a drinking club founded by political campaigner Justin Krebs who now boasts 130 chapters of "Drinking Liberally" in 41 states and Washington, D.C., under the slogan "Promoting democracy one pint at a time."

Krebs' father, Eric, a theater producer who is planning an off-Broadway run and a national tour for "Laughing Liberally," said his motto was "Saving democracy one laugh at a time."

He said the initiative was aimed at countering the likes of Rush Limbaugh, whose brand of conservative humor and anti-liberal commentary is hugely successful.

He was also inspired by "The Blue Collar Comedy Tour," a group of comedians who poke fun at Middle America from the inside, in an act that became a movie and a popular television show, and who are most famous for a series of jokes called "10 Ways to Tell You're a Redneck."

"It's enormous all over America, particularly in the south, but not exclusively so," Eric Krebs said of the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. "My sense of 'Laughing Liberally' was to create the equivalent from a smart, liberal political point of view."

David, who described himself as a moderate rather than a liberal, said he was looking forward to playing to an audience likely to have read the newspaper, unlike some who come to his regular gigs at comedy clubs from New York to Las Vegas.

He said Bush had polarized the country since his election in 2000, but it was time for moderates to make a comeback.

"I used to get booed (in Las Vegas) two or three years ago when I made a George Bush joke. Now they laugh and nobody boos because things have changed," David said.

But he lamented the complexity of current political scandals, noting that it was much easier for comedians to take a shot at Bill Clinton for his Oval Office dalliances.

"A true thing in comedy is you can have the greatest political joke in the world and people are going to laugh if they get it, but if you have a good sex joke the laugh is going to be twice as big," he said.
Comment: "I used to get booed (in Las Vegas) two or three years ago when I made a George Bush joke. Now they laugh and nobody boos because things have changed," David said.

Yeah, things have changed... and that's what worries us. The Neocons are just crazy enough to launch another attack on America to shut up the laughing...

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Bush Backers are more Prejudiced: Study Ties Political Leanings to Hidden Biases
By Shankar Vedantam Washington Post Staff Writer Monday, January 30, 2006

Emory University psychologist Drew Westen put self-identified Democratic and Republican partisans in brain scanners and asked them to evaluate negative information about various candidates. Both groups were quick to spot inconsistency and hypocrisy -- but only in candidates they opposed.

When presented with negative information about the candidates they liked, partisans of all stripes found ways to discount it, Westen said. When the unpalatable information was rejected, furthermore, the brain scans showed that volunteers gave themselves feel-good pats -- the scans showed that "reward centers" in volunteers' brains were activated. The psychologist observed that the way these subjects dealt with unwelcome information had curious parallels with drug addiction as addicts also reward themselves for wrong-headed behavior.
Put a group of people together at a party and observe how they behave. Differently than when they are alone? Differently than when they are with family? What if they're in a stadium instead of at a party? What if they're all men?

The field of social psychology has long been focused on how social environments affect the way people behave. But social psychologists are people, too, and as the United States has become increasingly politically polarized, they have grown increasingly interested in examining what drives these sharp divides: red states vs. blue states; pro-Iraq war vs. anti-Iraq war; pro-same-sex marriage vs. anti-same-sex marriage. And they have begun to study political behavior using such specialized tools as sophisticated psychological tests and brain scans.

"In my own family, for example, there are stark differences, not just of opinion but very profound differences in how we view the world," said Brenda Major, a psychologist at the University of California at Santa Barbara and the president of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, which had a conference last week that showcased several provocative psychological studies about the nature of political belief.

The new interest has yielded some results that will themselves provoke partisan reactions: Studies presented at the conference, for example, produced evidence that emotions and implicit assumptions often influence why people choose their political affiliations, and that partisans stubbornly discount any information that challenges their preexisting beliefs.

Emory University psychologist Drew Westen put self-identified Democratic and Republican partisans in brain scanners and asked them to evaluate negative information about various candidates. Both groups were quick to spot inconsistency and hypocrisy -- but only in candidates they opposed.

When presented with negative information about the candidates they liked, partisans of all stripes found ways to discount it, Westen said. When the unpalatable information was rejected, furthermore, the brain scans showed that volunteers gave themselves feel-good pats -- the scans showed that "reward centers" in volunteers' brains were activated. The psychologist observed that the way these subjects dealt with unwelcome information had curious parallels with drug addiction as addicts also reward themselves for wrong-headed behavior.

Another study presented at the conference, which was in Palm Springs, Calif., explored relationships between racial bias and political affiliation by analyzing self-reported beliefs, voting patterns and the results of psychological tests that measure implicit attitudes -- subtle stereotypes people hold about various groups.

That study found that supporters of President Bush and other conservatives had stronger self-admitted and implicit biases against blacks than liberals did.

"What automatic biases reveal is that while we have the feeling we are living up to our values, that feeling may not be right," said University of Virginia psychologist Brian Nosek, who helped conduct the race analysis. "We are not aware of everything that causes our behavior, even things in our own lives."

Brian Jones, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said he disagreed with the study's conclusions but that it was difficult to offer a detailed critique, as the research had not yet been published and he could not review the methodology. He also questioned whether the researchers themselves had implicit biases -- against Republicans -- noting that Nosek and Harvard psychologist Mahzarin Banaji had given campaign contributions to Democrats.

"There are a lot of factors that go into political affiliation, and snap determinations may be interesting for an academic study, but the real-world application seems somewhat murky," Jones said.

Nosek said that though the risk of bias among researchers was "a reasonable question," the study provided empirical results that could -- and would -- be tested by other groups: "All we did was compare questions that people could answer any way they wanted," Nosek said, as he explained why he felt personal views could not have influenced the outcome. "We had no direct contact with participants."

For their study, Nosek, Banaji and social psychologist Erik Thompson culled self-acknowledged views about blacks from nearly 130,000 whites, who volunteered online to participate in a widely used test of racial bias that measures the speed of people's associations between black or white faces and positive or negative words. The researchers examined correlations between explicit and implicit attitudes and voting behavior in all 435 congressional districts.

The analysis found that substantial majorities of Americans, liberals and conservatives, found it more difficult to associate black faces with positive concepts than white faces -- evidence of implicit bias. But districts that registered higher levels of bias systematically produced more votes for Bush.

"Obviously, such research does not speak at all to the question of the prejudice level of the president," said Banaji, "but it does show that George W. Bush is appealing as a leader to those Americans who harbor greater anti-black prejudice."

Vincent Hutchings, a political scientist at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, said the results matched his own findings in a study he conducted ahead of the 2000 presidential election: Volunteers shown visual images of blacks in contexts that implied they were getting welfare benefits were far more receptive to Republican political ads decrying government waste than volunteers shown ads with the same message but without images of black people.

Jon Krosnick, a psychologist and political scientist at Stanford University, who independently assessed the studies, said it remains to be seen how significant the correlation is between racial bias and political affiliation.

For example, he said, the study could not tell whether racial bias was a better predictor of voting preference than, say, policy preferences on gun control or abortion. But while those issues would be addressed in subsequent studies -- Krosnick plans to get random groups of future voters to take the psychological tests and discuss their policy preferences -- he said the basic correlation was not in doubt.

"If anyone in Washington is skeptical about these findings, they are in denial," he said. "We have 50 years of evidence that racial prejudice predicts voting. Republicans are supported by whites with prejudice against blacks. If people say, 'This takes me aback,' they are ignoring a huge volume of research."

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Poll: Weak Ratings Confront Bush Ahead of State of Union
By GARY LANGER ABC News Jan. 29, 2006

A weakened George W. Bush faces the nation in his fifth State of the Union address beset by war fatigue, persistent discontent on the economy and other domestic issues, ethics concerns and rising interest in Democratic alternatives in this midterm election year.

Bush's bottom-line job rating — 42 percent of Americans approve of his work, 56 percent disapprove — is the worst for a president entering his sixth year in office since Watergate hammered Richard Nixon. And Bush's is not a single-issue problem: More than half disapprove of his work in eight out of nine areas tested in this ABC News/Washington Post poll, from Iraq to immigration to health care.
Some views look better for Bush. Nearly two-thirds of Americans say the country's safer now than it was before Sept. 11, 2001, in many ways the fundamental demand of his presidency. Fifty-three percent still believe the war in Iraq has improved long-term U.S. security, its most basic rationale. And the president has won himself some daylight on the issue of warrantless wiretaps; 56 percent now call them justified.

But his challenges are many. Bush's overall approval rating has failed to sustain a slight gain last month from his career lows last fall — it's 10 points lower than a year ago, on the eve of his second inauguration.

On Iraq, 55 percent say the war was not worth fighting and 60 percent disapprove of how Bush is handling it. On the deficit, 64 percent disapprove of his work; on health care 60 percent; on immigration 57 percent; on ethics 56 percent (see separate Jan. 27 analysis on ethics). Six in 10 say the economy's hurting. Six in 10 don't think Bush understands their problems. Fifty-three percent don't see him as honest and trustworthy.

OPPOSITION — Bush's problems clearly benefit the opposition: Americans — by a 16-point margin, 51 to 35 percent — now say the country should go in the direction in which the Democrats want to lead, rather than follow Bush. That's a 10-point drop for the president from a year ago, and the Democrats' first head-to-head majority of his presidency.

The Republican Party is feeling the pinch as well. The Democrats lead them by 14 points, 51 to 37 percent, in trust to handle the nation's main problems, the first Democratic majority on this question since 1992. And the Democrats hold a 16-point lead in 2006 congressional election preferences, 54 to 38 percent among registered voters, their best since 1984.

Independents — quintessential swing voters — prefer the Democrats' direction over Bush's by 51 to 27 percent, and favor the Democrat over the Republican in congressional races by 54 to 31 percent (the latter result is among independents who're registered to vote.).

Whether this shifts many seats in the elections 10 months off is far from assured. Not only are the powers of incumbency immense, there's also no broad anti-incumbency sentiment in the country; indeed 64 percent approve of their own representative's work.

Still, some underlying shifts may give the Republicans pause, perhaps less for 2006 than for 2008 (admittedly a political lifetime away). The Democrats have narrowed the gap as the party with stronger leaders, now trailing by six points versus 16 points last fall. They lead by 16 points as the party with "better ideas." And they've held or improved their advantage over the Republicans in public trust to handle issues as disparate as the economy (now an 18-point Democratic lead), Iraq and lobbying reform.

Handling the nation's response to terrorism is still the Republicans' best issue — both Bush's and his party's — albeit by far less of a margin than in the past: Fifty-two percent now approve of Bush's work on terrorism (pale compared with his career-average 68 percent) and the Republicans hold a scant five-point lead over the Democrats in trust to handle it (down from a peak 36-point lead three years ago).

Even with these weaker assessments, dealing with terrorism remains the wellspring of the president's support (and it's clearly the issue that got him re-elected). When he addresses the nation Tuesday night — and when his party goes to the people in November — it's certain to be central to their message.

ISSUES — It helps Bush and his party that terrorism continues to be one of the top items on the public's agenda; 59 percent say it should be one of the highest priorities for Bush and Congress, putting it alongside the situation in Iraq, cited by 60 percent.

There are vast partisan differences in those two top issue choices: Seventy-nine percent of Republicans call terrorism a "highest priority" issue; that falls to about half of independents and Democrats alike (53 and 49 percent, respectively). And 70 percent of Republicans call Iraq top priority, compared with 51 percent of Democrats.

Democrats, by contrast, are much more likely than Republicans to give top-priority mention to domestic issues such as social security, education, health care and prescription drug benefits. Lobbying reform, it's worth noting, comes out last on the list. That doesn't mean it's unimportant, just not a "highest" priority, probably because people are less apt to see it as impacting them directly.

IRAQ — In one notable change, approval of Bush's performance on Iraq has dropped back after a short-lived gain following the recent elections there. His approval rating went from 36 percent before the mid-December elections to 46 percent immediately afterward; now it's back down to 39 percent. The change came mainly among Republicans; their approval of Bush's handling of Iraq is down 11 points in this poll.

NSA — A better result for Bush, noted above, is the apparent lack of traction for critics of the warrantless NSA wiretaps. A clear majority now says such wiretaps are acceptable, 56 percent, compared with 43 percent who call them unacceptable. That compares with a closer 51 to 47 percent split earlier this month.

In what may be a related result, there's also been an advance, albeit just to 50 percent, in the number of Americans who express confidence in the government's ability to prevent future terrorist attacks. This confidence is far higher among Republicans (71 percent) than it is among either independents or Democrats (45 and 40 percent, respectively.)

Still, the change on NSA wiretaps came equally among Republicans and independents; both now are eight points more likely to call such wiretaps acceptable. It's a small gain for Bush and his party — but one of the few they have cause to celebrate. [See linked article for tables and methodology]

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White House Official Warned Abramoff
By PETE YOST Associated Press Sun Jan 29, 4:10 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration's former chief procurement official tipped off lobbyist Jack Abramoff that the government was about to suspend the federal contracts of an Abramoff client, newly filed court papers say.

David Safavian provided "sensitive and confidential information" about four subsidiaries of Tyco International to Abramoff regarding internal deliberations at the General Services Administration, say the court papers filed Friday in a criminal case against Safavian.
Abramoff has pleaded guilty to conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud in a burgeoning bribery probe centered on Capitol Hill but also involving the Interior Department.

The White House is refusing to release photographs of
President Bush and Abramoff or to reveal what contact Abramoff had with White House aides.

Acting on the information that Abramoff provided the company in November 2003, Tyco lawyer Timothy Flanigan, a former assistant attorney general in the Bush administration, contacted the general counsel to the GSA and asked for an opportunity to address the suspension.

The company revealed Flanigan's role in a statement.

In October, Flanigan withdrew his nomination to be Bush's deputy attorney general. His confirmation was delayed due to questions about his dealings with Abramoff when Abramoff was a Tyco lobbyist.

The government had planned to suspend Tyco because of alleged criminal conduct by former Tyco executives.

After advising Abramoff about the internal deliberations at GSA, Safavian suggested to Abramoff what arguments Tyco should make when it appealed the suspension decision, the court papers in Safavian's federal court case say.

Once tipped off by Abramoff, Tyco hired an outside law firm and successfully petitioned the government to lift the suspension and allow Tyco to continue to perform on government contracts.

The law firm outlined "the many steps that Tyco had taken, including to bring on a new board of directors, a new CEO and new corporate senior management," Tyco said in its statement.

Safavian faces trial on charges that he lied and obstructed investigations into whether he aided Abramoff in efforts to acquire GSA-controlled property around the nation's capital.

The government said in its court filing Friday that it intends to present the information regarding Tyco at Safavian's upcoming trial. Safavian has pleaded innocent and his lawyers have moved for dismissal of all charges.

Safavian is accused of concealing from federal investigators that Abramoff was seeking to do business with the GSA when Safavian joined the lobbyist on a golf trip to Scotland in 2002. At the time, Safavian was GSA's chief of staff. He became the Bush administration's chief procurement official in November 2004.

In its statement, Tyco said that the information from Abramoff had come in unsolicited, that the corporation did not use Abramoff's services to respond to GSA, and that the company did not contact Safavian directly.

The company said its outside counsel, George Terwilliger, was assured by Justice Department prosecutors that neither the company nor anyone at the company, including Flanigan, is accused, is suspected or is being investigated for any wrongdoing.

In May 2003, Abramoff, then employed by the Washington firm Greenberg Traurig, solicited Tyco for lobbying on a tax issue.

Prosecutors say Abramoff recommended that Tyco hire both him and a public relations and campaign consulting firm called GrassRoots Interactive, but hid from Tyco that GrassRoots Interactive was his business.

In May and June 2003, Tyco paid GrassRoots Interactive, directly and through Greenberg Traurig's bank account, about $1.8 million, of which about $1.6 million went to Abramoff and entities he controlled, prosecutors say.

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Spies, Lies and Wiretaps
NY Times Editorial January 29, 2006

A bit over a week ago, President Bush and his men promised to provide the legal, constitutional and moral justifications for the sort of warrantless spying on Americans that has been illegal for nearly 30 years. Instead, we got the familiar mix of political spin, clumsy historical misinformation, contemptuous dismissals of civil liberties concerns, cynical attempts to paint dissents as anti-American and pro-terrorist, and a couple of big, dangerous lies.

The first was that the domestic spying program is carefully aimed only at people who are actively working with Al Qaeda, when actually it has violated the rights of countless innocent Americans. And the second was that the Bush team could have prevented the 9/11 attacks if only they had thought of eavesdropping without a warrant.

Sept. 11 could have been prevented. This is breathtakingly cynical. The nation's guardians did not miss the 9/11 plot because it takes a few hours to get a warrant to eavesdrop on phone calls and e-mail messages. They missed the plot because they were not looking. The same officials who now say 9/11 could have been prevented said at the time that no one could possibly have foreseen the attacks. We keep hoping that Mr. Bush will finally lay down the bloody banner of 9/11, but Karl Rove, who emerged from hiding recently to talk about domestic spying, made it clear that will not happen — because the White House thinks it can make Democrats look as though they do not want to defend America. "President Bush believes if Al Qaeda is calling somebody in America, it is in our national security interest to know who they're calling and why," he told Republican officials. "Some important Democrats clearly disagree."

Mr. Rove knows perfectly well that no Democrat has ever said any such thing — and that nothing prevented American intelligence from listening to a call from Al Qaeda to the United States, or a call from the United States to Al Qaeda, before Sept. 11, 2001, or since. The 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act simply required the government to obey the Constitution in doing so. And FISA was amended after 9/11 to make the job much easier.

Only bad guys are spied on. Bush officials have said the surveillance is tightly focused only on contacts between people in this country and Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. Vice President Dick Cheney claimed it saved thousands of lives by preventing attacks. But reporting in this paper has shown that the National Security Agency swept up vast quantities of e-mail messages and telephone calls and used computer searches to generate thousands of leads. F.B.I. officials said virtually all of these led to dead ends or to innocent Americans. The biggest fish the administration has claimed so far has been a crackpot who wanted to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch — a case that F.B.I. officials said was not connected to the spying operation anyway.

The spying is legal. The secret program violates the law as currently written. It's that simple. In fact, FISA was enacted in 1978 to avoid just this sort of abuse. It said that the government could not spy on Americans by reading their mail (or now their e-mail) or listening to their telephone conversations without obtaining a warrant from a special court created for this purpose. The court has approved tens of thousands of warrants over the years and rejected a handful.

As amended after 9/11, the law says the government needs probable cause, the constitutional gold standard, to believe the subject of the surveillance works for a foreign power or a terrorist group, or is a lone-wolf terrorist. The attorney general can authorize electronic snooping on his own for 72 hours and seek a warrant later. But that was not good enough for Mr. Bush, who lowered the standard for spying on Americans from "probable cause" to "reasonable belief" and then cast aside the bedrock democratic principle of judicial review.

Just trust us. Mr. Bush made himself the judge of the proper balance between national security and Americans' rights, between the law and presidential power. He wants Americans to accept, on faith, that he is doing it right. But even if the United States had a government based on the good character of elected officials rather than law, Mr. Bush would not have earned that kind of trust. The domestic spying program is part of a well-established pattern: when Mr. Bush doesn't like the rules, he just changes them, as he has done for the detention and treatment of prisoners and has threatened to do in other areas, like the confirmation of his judicial nominees. He has consistently shown a lack of regard for privacy, civil liberties and judicial due process in claiming his sweeping powers. The founders of our country created the system of checks and balances to avert just this sort of imperial arrogance.

The rules needed to be changed.
In 2002, a Republican senator — Mike DeWine of Ohio — introduced a bill that would have done just that, by lowering the standard for issuing a warrant from probable cause to "reasonable suspicion" for a "non-United States person." But the Justice Department opposed it, saying the change raised "both significant legal and practical issues" and may have been unconstitutional. Now, the president and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales are telling Americans that reasonable suspicion is a perfectly fine standard for spying on Americans as well as non-Americans — and they are the sole judges of what is reasonable.

So why oppose the DeWine bill? Perhaps because Mr. Bush had already secretly lowered the standard of proof — and dispensed with judges and warrants — for Americans and non-Americans alike, and did not want anyone to know.

War changes everything. Mr. Bush says Congress gave him the authority to do anything he wanted when it authorized the invasion of Afghanistan. There is simply nothing in the record to support this ridiculous argument.

The administration also says that the vote was the start of a war against terrorism and that the spying operation is what Mr. Cheney calls a "wartime measure." That just doesn't hold up. The Constitution does suggest expanded presidential powers in a time of war. But the men who wrote it had in mind wars with a beginning and an end. The war Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney keep trying to sell to Americans goes on forever and excuses everything.

Other presidents did it. Mr. Gonzales, who had the incredible bad taste to begin his defense of the spying operation by talking of those who plunged to their deaths from the flaming twin towers, claimed historic precedent for a president to authorize warrantless surveillance. He mentioned George Washington, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt. These precedents have no bearing on the current situation, and Mr. Gonzales's timeline conveniently ended with F.D.R., rather than including Richard Nixon, whose surveillance of antiwar groups and other political opponents inspired FISA in the first place. Like Mr. Nixon, Mr. Bush is waging an unpopular war, and his administration has abused its powers against antiwar groups and even those that are just anti-Republican.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is about to start hearings on the domestic spying. Congress has failed, tragically, on several occasions in the last five years to rein in Mr. Bush and restore the checks and balances that are the genius of American constitutional democracy. It is critical that it not betray the public once again on this score.

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Senate continues debate; heads toward filibuster vote
(Capitol Hill-AP) January 30, 2006

Liberal Democrats in the Senate are making a last-ditch effort to block the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Samuel Alito.

The resumption of debate came just a few hours before a key vote that both Republicans and Democrats say Alito will win.
Edward Kennedy told his colleagues he fears Alito's views make clear he will not be part of the "continued march towards progress in this country."

Texas Senator John Cornyn called the filibuster attempt "a last-ditch partisan effort to mollify the lobbyists of the hard left."

Alito supporters, as well as some opponents, say they have more than enough votes to block the filibuster later today.

That would clear the way for a final confirmation vote tomorrow.

Only one Republican, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, has announced that he'll vote against Alito's confirmation.

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OpEdNews.Com/ Zogby People's Poll; 100% of Blacks Oppose Alito and Think Iraq War Unjustified
by Rob Kall January 29, 2006

The poll produced a huge amount of information. It's startling to realize, when you look at the demographic data, how much more information is available in a poll than just the simple percentages in response to the question.

More on that later. The poll came up with some powerful findings which this article will discuss. For starters 85% of Democrats are more likely to support a candidate who supports impeachment.

100% of the African Americans in the poll-- 109-- now believe that the Iraq war was unjustified. Zero percent of the African Americans polled support the appointment of Alito to the Supreme Court. 80.3% oppose it and 19.7 percent are not sure. That helps explain the huge drop in support PA Senatorial candidate Bob Casey sees from African Americans when they learn his positions. How huge?

Casey loses virtually 50% of his African American support (think Philadelphia and Pittsburgh) I was shocked until I checked the poll's issue question demographics and found how strongly the African American Community feels about those two issues.

This gets even more interesting when we consider that Governor Rendell, Casey's biggest supporter, will be running against African American pro-football player Lynn Swann. Philly and Pittsburgh Blacks, who Rendell must retain, to win, will be choking on their vote for Casey, ready to find a way to punish the Democratic Insiders who betrayed them by fielding Casey. I think they'll abandon Rendell and support Swann in damaging numbers. Of course, if there's a solid progressive on the Democratic side, they will be much more likely to support the whole party line ticket. Tough dilemma for Rendell.

The thing is, most poll reports just give the straight answer numbers-- Santorum vs. Casey... period. That's what the pollsters in Pennsylvania have been doing for months (shame on them for practicing polling that supports one candidate!)

My goal was to work with a highly respected pollster who would help me get answers that would go deeper. My Goal for the People's Poll was to get straight answers and to find out how people really think if they don't get information filtered the way the right wing feeds it to the main stream media, and the way the main stream media pay pollsters to ask questions that set up answers which support the echo chamber. [Click HERE to read more]

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Polls Show Many Americans are Simply Dumber Than Bush
By Paul Craig Roberts ICH 01/29/06

Two recent polls, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll and a New York Times/CBS News poll, indicate why Bush is getting away with impeachable offenses. Half of the US population is incapable of acquiring, processing and understanding information.

Much of the problem is the media itself, which serves as a disinformation agency for the Bush administration. Fox "News" and right-wing talk radio are the worst, but with propagandistic outlets setting the standard for truth and patriotism, all of the media is affected to some degree.
Despite the media's failure, about half the population has managed to discern that the US invasion of Iraq has not made them safer and that the Bush administration's assault on civil liberties is not a necessary component of the war on terror. The problem, thus, lies with the absence of due diligence on the part of the other half of the population.

Consider the New York Times/CBS poll. Sixty-four percent of the respondents have concerns about losing civil liberties as a result of anti-terrorism measures put in place by President Bush. Yet, 53 percent approve of spying without obtaining court warrants "in order to reduce the threat of terrorism."

Why does any American think that spying without a warrant has any more effect in reducing the threat of terrorism than spying with a warrant? The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which Bush is disobeying, requires the executive to obtain from a secret panel of federal judges a warrant for spying on Americans. The purpose of the law is to prevent a president from spying for partisan political reasons. The law permits the president to spy first (for 72 hours) and then come to the court for permission. As the court meets in secret, spying without a warrant is no more effective in reducing the threat of terrorism than spying with a warrant.

Instead of explaining this basic truth, the media has played along with the Bush administration and formulated the question as a trade-off between civil liberties and protection from terrorists. This formulation is false and nonsensical. Why does the media enable the Bush administration to escape accountability for illegal behavior by putting false and misleading choices before the people?

The LA Times/Bloomberg poll has equally striking anomalies. Only 43 percent said they approved of Bush's performance as president. But a majority believe Bush's policies have made the US more secure.

It is extraordinary that anyone would think Americans are safer as a result of Bush invading two Muslim countries and constantly threatening two more with military attack. The invasions and threats have caused a dramatic swing in Muslim sentiment away from the US.

Prior to Bush's invasion of Iraq, a large majority of Muslims had a favorable opinion of America. Now only about 5 percent do.

A number of US commanders in Iraq and many Middle East experts have told the American public that the three year-old war in Iraq is serving both to recruit and to train terrorists for al Qaeda, which has grown many times its former size. Moreover, the US military has concluded that al Qaeda has succeeded in having its members elected to the new Iraqi government.

We have seen similar developments both in Egypt and in Pakistan. In the recent Egyptian elections, the radical Muslim Brotherhood, despite being suppressed by the Egyptian government, won a large number of seats. In Pakistan elements friendly or neutral toward al Qaeda control about half of the government. In Iraq, Bush's invasion has replaced secular Sunnis with Islamist Shia allied with Iran.

And now with the triumph of Hamas in the Palestinian election, we see the total failure of Bush's Middle Eastern policy. Bush has succeeded in displacing secular moderates from Middle Eastern governments and replacing them with Islamic extremists. It boggles the mind that this disastrous result makes Americans feel safer!

What does it say for democracy that half of the American population is unable to draw a rational conclusion from unambiguous facts?

Americans share this disability with the Bush administration.

According to news reports, the Bush administration is stunned by the election victory of the radical Islamist Hamas Party, which swept the US-financed Fatah Party from office. Why is the Bush administration astonished?

The Bush administration is astonished because it stupidly believes that hundreds of millions of Muslims should be grateful that the US has interfered in their internal affairs for 60 years, setting up colonies and puppet rulers to suppress their aspirations and to achieve, instead, purposes of the US government.

Americans need desperately to understand that 95 percent of all Muslim terrorists in the world were created in the past three years by Bush's invasion of Iraq.

Americans need desperately to comprehend that if Bush attacks Iran and Syria, as he intends, terrorism will explode, and American civil liberties will disappear into a thirty year war that will bankrupt the United States.

The total lack of rationality and competence in the White House and the inability of half of the US population to acquire and understand information are far larger threats to Americans than terrorism.

America has become a rogue nation, flying blind, guided only by ignorance and hubris. A terrible catastrophe awaits.

Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at: paulcraigroberts@yahoo.com
Why does any American think that spying without a warrant has any more effect in reducing the threat of terrorism than spying with a warrant?
The simple answer is what the author himself points out: the US media is tightly controlled and manipulated to back the Bush administration. But the problem is even deeper than that. Many Americans are arguing not over whether spying on the American population should be allowed at all, but whether it should be done with or without a warrant. No real debate occurs because the Bush gang uses the complicit media to feed the people the debate that deflects attention away from the administration's nefarious activities. Furthermore, many Americans simply don't want to think about what a government that spies on them actually means for their future and that of their children. It is the same problem that we see with the state of the US economy and many people's denial of even the possibility that the whole system could come crashing down - and hard. Wishful thinking is an "illness" that has been transferred by the psychopathic American leadership onto the people. While the people have been engaging in a nice distracting debate that avoids the core issue of a corrupt administration, that same administration has marched on the judicial system and effectively taken it over.
Americans need desperately to comprehend that if Bush attacks Iran and Syria, as he intends, terrorism will explode, and American civil liberties will disappear into a thirty year war that will bankrupt the United States.
An attack on only Iran would certainly have devastating consequences for the US. Iran is no Iraq. It is a far more capable country militarily than Iraq. The only feasible "solution" to the "problem" would involve weapons of mass destruction - and we all know where that will lead.

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Their power derives from us
By Troubled Neighbor ICH 01/29/06

Please take notice that the administrators of our union may be leading us into ruination. Although the ranks of our employ are many, few are able to fulfill the duties required to safeguard the trust left us by our forbearers. In our carelessness, it seems, we have hired mostly those skilled in the art of persuasion, a temperament unsuitable to the promotion of our general welfare.
They say, because we vote for them, they serve our will, but in the words of Justice Jackson - "The very purpose of the Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and establish them as legal principles"-- that such fundamental rights "may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections."

Why surrender the privacy of your home or the pursuit of your well-being on a vote of the people? The vote does not make the public servant saintly, but the power that comes with the public trust is awesome indeed. It is well documented in history and elsewhere that it is easier for a camel to pass through a needle's eye than for a human being not to abuse power when consequence is absent.

Their power derives from us, yet we are subjugated by the authority we have given them. Unaccountable, our public servants have acquired the license of angels and conduct themselves like gods to be obeyed. They have supplanted justice and liberty with standards of their own making.

Without justice, force alone maintains the rule of law, and ours becomes a government of bullies whose every act of unfairness is a blow to peace and goodwill, fomenting rage and terror in its injury.

Every liberty lost is power to those who take it. They tell us it is for our security, but power in the hands of those who abuse is power used to control or destroy. Informed consent, not compliance, makes the individual strong, so, too, it is with the nation. Privacy, not data collecting, is what fosters the boldness of mind that contemplates Constitutions or seeks to shelter the vulnerable from perpetrators of witch hunts, holocausts, and purges.

Perhaps, to those among us, who are not an illness or accident away from bankruptcy or worse, government intrusion is necessary in order to remain in this seeming Garden of almost Eden. But the fruit of the tree we call American democracy is but a scarlet letter -- a governing of lying, spying, snitching, prisons, torture, and war, which, if history is any guide, will inevitably lead us to decline, as is likely to befall a people who blindly trust in others and place their treasure in pursuits not based in truth, justice or regard for human dignity.

Very truly yours,

Troubled Neighbor

The January 29 letter is being presented under the pen name of "Troubled Neighbor," who is exercising free speech in the long-standing and honorable tradition of advocacy and dissent via anonymous publication.

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Cindy Sheehan May Challenge Calif. Senator
By IAN JAMES The Associated Press Jan 29, 2006

CARACAS, Venezuela - Cindy Sheehan, the peace activist who set up camp near President Bush's Texas ranch last summer, said Saturday she is considering running against Sen. Dianne Feinstein to protest what she called the California lawmaker's support for the war in Iraq.

"She voted for the war. She continues to vote for the funding. She won't call for an immediate withdrawal of the troops," Sheehan told The Associated Press in an interview while attending the World Social Forum in Venezuela along with thousands of other anti-war and anti-globalization activists.
"I think our senator needs to be held accountable for her support of George Bush and his war policies," said Sheehan, whose 24-year-old soldier son Casey was killed in Iraq in 2004.

Feinstein's campaign manager, Kam Kuwata, said the senator "doesn't support George Bush and his war policies."

"She has stated publicly on numerous occasions that she felt she was misled by the administration at the time of the vote," Kuwata said by phone from California.

But with troops committed, Feinstein believes immediate withdrawal is not a responsible option, Kuwata said.

"Senator Feinstein's position is, let's work toward quickly turning over the defense of Iraq to Iraqis so that we can bring the troops home as soon as possible," he said.

Sheehan accused Feinstein of being out of touch with Californians on the issue.

She said she would decide whether to run after talking with her three other adult children. The Democratic primary will be held in June, and candidates must submit their statements for the voter guide by Feb. 14.

Kuwata said Feinstein and Sheehan appear to have a fundamental disagreement over whether troops should be pulled out right now. "That's why they have elections, and if she decides to file (paperwork to run), so be it," he said.

Sheehan said running in the Democratic primary would help make a broader point.

"If I decided to run, I would have no illusions of winning, but it would bring attention to all the peace candidates in the country," she said.

Sheehan, 48, who lives in Berkeley, Calif., said she would head to Washington on Sunday for protests against Bush's State of the Union address on Tuesday, and then return to California to discuss her idea of running against Feinstein with her son and two daughters.

"I can't see if they think it's going to help peace that they would be opposed to me doing it," she said.

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THE WAR WITHIN: Marlboro Man has PTSD
Matthew B. Stannard San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer Sunday, January 29, 2006

Pike County, Ky. -- The photograph hit the world on Nov. 10, 2004: a close-cropped shot of a U.S. Marine in Iraq, his face smeared with blood and dirt, a cigarette dangling from his lips, smoke curling across weary eyes.

It was an instant icon, with Dan Rather calling it "the best war photograph in recent years." About 100 newspapers ran the photo, dubbing the anonymous warrior the "Marlboro Man."

The man in the photograph is James Blake Miller, now 21, and he is an icon, although in ways Rather probably never imagined.

He's quieter now -- easier to anger. He turns to fight at the sound of a backfire, can't look at fireworks without thinking of fire raining down on a city. He has trouble sleeping, and when he does, his fingers twitch on invisible triggers.

The diagnosis: post-traumatic stress disorder.

His life in Kentucky, before and after the clicking shutter, says as much about hundreds of thousands of new American war veterans as his famous photograph said about that one bad day in Fallujah -- a photo Miller cannot see as an icon.

"I don't see a whole lot," he said. "I see a day I won't care to remember, but that I'll never forget."
James Blake Miller was born in Pike County in the hills of eastern Kentucky, where Daniel Boone is said to have walked and where moonshine is still consumed. An average family here makes about $24,000; the only decent-paying jobs are down at the coal mine.

Miller got his first name from his father, who got it from his and back into family history. But folks called him Blake, the middle name his parents heard on the television show "Dynasty."

His paternal grandfather was a Marine in '53; a heavy smoker, like most of the men in the family, he died of cancer before he was 40. The man Miller grew up calling "Papaw" was his grandmother's second husband, an Army vet of Vietnam.

Sometimes, Papaw would get crying drunk and start telling the story about the boy who came into the camp in Vietnam one night, and how they had to shoot him. Then he would stop speaking, and look at the little boys hanging on his every word. "You've had enough, Joe Lee," his wife would say then. "It's time to go to bed."

"It wasn't that he liked to drink -- that was how he dealt with it," Miller said.

Miller grew up in Jonancy, a tiny hamlet 20 miles from the county seat of Pikeville. He got his first job -- washing cars at the local auto dealership -- at age 13, about a year after he took up smoking.

Before long, he began working in a body shop, where the owner told him the most extraordinary thing: Miller could get his auto body repair certification for free -- just by joining the military. A Marine recruiter offered more: insurance, housing, college money.

"I thought, 'Well, damn, that's amazing,' " Miller said. "Hell, here I am, 18 years old -- I can have all this in the palm of my hands just by giving them four years."

Following his grandfather's footsteps, he went infantry, and left for boot camp in November 2002. Four months later, the war in Iraq broke out.

"Before I knew it," Miller said, "I was thrown into the mix without even thinking about it."

Miller was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment of the 2nd Marine Division, based in Camp Lejeune, N.C.

"Right before we got ready to leave for Iraq, I guess I was a little nervous. I started smoking more -- I went from about a pack-and-a-half a day to 2 1/2 packs a day," he said. "When we got to Iraq ... I was smoking 5 1/2 packs."
For a while, Iraq didn't seem all that bad. Miller and his fellow Marines settled into a routine in Anbar province in western Iraq, setting up hiding places among the palms and sand, and watching for the white pickups that insurgents would use to plant bombs and fire mortars.

There also was time for candy and laughter with the Iraqi children who came running to see the American troops. Miller felt like he was helping.

Then, on Nov. 5, 2004, in the middle of a sandstorm, the Marines got the word that they might be heading for an assault on Fallujah -- at the time, the capital of the Iraqi insurgency.

No American forces had gone inside the city in months. And now Miller would be among the first. He had been a Marine for less than two years.

"It puts butterflies in my stomach right now," he said. "I don't know if you can describe it. I don't think words can."

The days before the assault were an intense blur of training, preparation and fear. But there was one bright spot, when Miller ran into a good friend in the chow hall -- Demarkus Brown, a 22-year-old from Virginia.

Miller met Brown in infantry school, when the smiling African American introduced himself to the white Kentucky native with a grinning, "What's up, cracker?"

Miller quickly realized Brown didn't mean the word seriously -- didn't mean much of anything seriously. Brown liked to party all hours and go dancing, then call Miller to come pick him up.

"It didn't matter what you told him or how s -- ty it was," Miller said. "He was always the one guy who had a smile on his face."

But one thing Brown took seriously was music: He loved raves and techno music, and Miller played bluegrass on bass and guitar. Their styles somehow harmonized, and they became close friends.

Now they were together outside Fallujah.

The night before U.S. forces went into the city, Miller gathered with his fellow Marines and led them by memory through a passage from the Bible, John 14:2-3.

"In my Father's house, there are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I leave this place and go there to prepare a place for you, so that where I may be, you may be also."

The assault on Fallujah began Nov. 8, 2004, when U.S. planes, using a combination of high explosives and burning white phosphorus, hammered the city in advance of the artillery push. Miller was under fire from the moment he stepped out of the personnel carrier.

It lasted into Nov. 9 -- the day that, for a while, would make Miller's face the most famous in Iraq.

As Miller remembers that day, he was on a rooftop taking fire and calling for support on his radio - a 20-pound piece of equipment that he had to lug around along with nine extra batteries, hundreds of extra rounds of ammunition, and a couple of cartons of cigarettes.

As insurgent bullets from a nearby building pinged off the roof, a horrified Miller heard footsteps coming up the stairs behind him. He raised his rifle -- and barely had time to halt when he saw it was embedded Los Angeles Times photographer Luis Sinco.

Miller returned to his radio, guiding two tanks to his position. When they opened fire, he said, the thunder left his body numb -- but the building housing the attackers had collapsed. Later, he said, they would find about 40 bodies in the rubble.

"I was never so happy in all my life to take that handset away from my head," Miller said. "I lit up a f -- cigarette."

His ear was bleeding from the sound of the tank firing -- Miller still can't hear out of his right ear. His nose bled from a nick he took when his rifle scope and radio got tangled up midfire. He looked at the sunrise and wondered how many more of those he would see.

He was vaguely aware that elsewhere on the rooftop, Sinco was taking pictures.

At a briefing the next day, Miller's gunnery sergeant walked up to him, grinning, and said: "Would you believe you're the most famous f -- Marine in the Marine Corps right now? Believe it or not, your ugly mug just went all over the U.S."

The Marines wanted to pull him out of Fallujah at that point, Miller said, not wanting the very public poster boy to die in combat. But he stayed.

He won't talk about the weeks that followed. He only mentions moments, like still frames from a film. The day his column barely survived an ambush, escaping through a broken door as bullets struck near their feet. The morning he woke up to discover that a cat had taken up residence in the open chest cavity of an Iraqi body nearby, consuming it from within.

The day he discovered that Demarkus Brown had been killed.

"When we found out, I told a couple of my buddies who were close to him, too. We just sat around, and we didn't say much at all," Miller said. "You didn't have the heart to cry."

But it wasn't those terrible benchmarks that affected him the most, Miller said. It was the daily chore of war: the times he had to raise his rifle, peer through the scope and squeeze the trigger to launch a bullet, not at a target, not at a distant white truck, but at another human being.

"It's one thing to be shot at, and you shoot a couple rounds back, just trying to suppress somebody else," Miller said. "It's another thing when you see a human being shooting a round at you, knowing that you're shooting back with the intent to kill them. You're looking through a scope at somebody. It's totally different. You can make out a guy's eyes."
When Miller returned to America, he brought back a big duffel bag packed with numerous letters and gifts from those who had seen his photo. It was only later that he discovered he'd brought home some of the war, too.

None of the Marines talked much about the strain that war puts on one's emotions, Miller said. The "wizards" -- military psychologists -- gave the returning troops a briefing on the subject, but nobody paid much attention. Even guys who were taking antidepressants to help them sleep didn't think much about the long-term consequences.

"What the hell are those people going to do once they get out? They ride it out until they get an honorable discharge, and then they're never diagnosed with anything," Miller said. "How the hell are you going to do anything for them after that? And that's how so many of these guys are ending up on the damn streets."

Miller dismissed the early signs, too. When he and his buddies reacted to a truck backfire by dropping into a combat stance and raising imaginary rifles, well, that was to be expected. And when his wife, Jessica -- the childhood sweetheart whom Miller had married in June -- told him he was tightening his arm around her neck in the night, that was strange, but he figured it would pass. So would the nightmares he began to have about Iraq, things that had happened, things that hadn't.

Then one day, while visiting his wife at her college dorm in Pikeville, Miller looked out the window and clearly saw the body of an Iraqi sprawled out on the sidewalk. He turned away.

"I said, 'Look, honey, I just got to get out of here.' I couldn't even tell her at the time what had happened," he said. "(I thought), 'Well, that's it. That's my little spaz I'm supposed to have that the psychiatrists were talking about ... I'm glad I got it out of the way."

But he hadn't. Jessica, a psychology student, tried to help with a visualization technique. But when he looked inside himself, Miller found a kind of demonic door guarded by a twisted figure in a black cloak. Under the cloak's hood, he spotted the snarling face of the teufelhund, a Marine Corps icon -- the devil dog.

"So I come out again, without closing the door," he said. "After all this happened, my nightmares started getting a lot f -- ing worse."

Finally, Miller went to a military psychiatrist, who diagnosed him with signs of post-traumatic stress disorder. Miller thought that meant he could not be deployed. But in early September, he joined a group of Marines headed to police New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

"I really didn't want to go. ... There was a possibility we would be shooting people," he said. "We could be going into another (urban warfare) environment just like Iraq, except this would actually be U.S. citizens.

"Here we go, Fallujah 2, right here in the states."

Not long after they arrived, as Hurricane Rita bore down on them, the Marines were packed into the amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima to wait out the storm offshore. And one day, as Miller headed for the smoke deck with a Marlboro, a passing sailor made a whistling sound just like a rocket-propelled grenade.

"I don't remember grabbing him. I don't remember putting him against the bulkhead. I don't remember getting him down on the floor. I don't remember getting on top of him. I don't remember doing any of that s -- ," Miller said. "That was like the last straw."

On Nov. 10, 2005 -- the Marine Corps' 230th birthday and one year to the day after the Marlboro Man picture appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Miller was honorably discharged after a medical review. His military career was over.
Miller returned to eastern Kentucky, the place he had spent years trying to escape. He wanted the familiarity and safety of the people and land he'd known since birth.

"Maybe it made me think twice about what I had lost," he said. "What I was really missing."

In a way, though, his family is still missing Blake Miller -- the Miller who left Kentucky for Iraq a couple of years ago.

The man who left was easygoing, quick to laugh, happy to sit in a relative's house and eat and smoke and talk. The man who came back is quick to anger, they say, and is quiet. He still smiles often but does not easily laugh.

And when he takes a seat in his adoptive grandmother's home, amid her collection of ceramic Christ figurines, it is in a chair that faces the door.

Mildred Childers, who owns those figurines, sees Miller's difficulties as a crisis of faith. She still remembers Miller's call just before the assault on Fallujah, and his terrible question: "How can people go to church and be a Christian and kill people in Iraq?"

"He was raised where that's one of the Ten Commandments, do not kill," she said. "I think it's hard for a soldier to go to war and have that embedded in them from small children up, and you go over there and you've got to do it to stay alive."

Recently, some of his Marine buddies have been calling Miller up, crying drunk, and remembering their war experiences. Just like Papaw Joe Lee used to do when Miller was a boy.

"There's a lot of Vietnam vets ... they don't heal until 30, 40 years down the road," Miller said. "People bottle it up, become angry, easily temperamental, and hell, before you know it, these are the people who are snapping on you."

Jessica interrupted. "You're already like that," she said.

She recalled her own first glimpse of the Marlboro Man -- an image seen through tears of relief that he was alive, and misery at how worn he looked.

"Some people thought it was sexy, and we thought, 'Oh, my God, he's in the middle of a war, close to death.' We just couldn't understand how some people could look at it like that," she said. "But I guess for some people it was glory, like patriotism."

She looked at her quiet husband through the smoke drifting from his right hand.

"But when it comes out and there's actually a personality behind that picture, and that personality, he has to deal with all the war, and all he's done, people don't want to know how hard it actually is," she said.

"This is the dark side of the reality of war. ... People don't want to know the Marlboro Man has PTSD."
Miller stood outside his father's home in Jonancy, looking over the beaten mobile homes, the rows of corn, potatoes and cabbage. For a change, he wasn't smoking - he's down to a pack-and-a-half a day.

"There ain't a goddamn thing around here," he said. "My whole life, all I did was watch my old man bust his ass."

It was why he joined the Marines -- why part of him wishes he could go back.

"My whole life, all I've ever known is working on cars, doing body work, cutting grass, manual labor, you know? It was something different," he said. "You always hear those commercials -- it's not just a job, it's an adventure. It was, you know?"

On the other hand, Miller isn't sure he'd want to go back to combat -- nor sure he'd ever let any kid of his enlist. He has mixed feelings about the oversize copy of the Marlboro Man picture proudly displayed in the lobby of the Marine recruiting station in Pikeville.

Some of his relatives and friends are against the war; others see it as a fight against terrorism.

Miller himself seems torn -- proud of the troops fighting for freedom, but wondering whether there was a peaceful way, to find terrorists in Iraq without invading.

There was no time for such questions in Fallujah. But now, at night, when he can't sleep, Miller thinks of the men he saw through his rifle scope, and wonders: Were they terrorists fighting against America? Or men fighting to protect their homes?

"I mean, how would we feel if they came over and started something here?" he asked. "I'm glad that I fought for my country. But looking back on it, I wouldn't do it all over again."

It helps, sometimes, to talk about it -- last week, Miller did what he hopes other veterans do: He had his first visit with a Veterans Administration counselor.

"I've got my whole life ahead of me," he said. "I'm too young to lay down and quit; too young to let anything beat me."

Down the road, Miller hopes to start a business. For now, he is waiting for his disability benefits to kick in. Maybe then, he and Jessica can afford the big wedding they had always wanted. She already has her white wedding dress. He still intends to wear his Marine Corps blues.
Veterans and stress

Post-traumatic stress disorder is an ailment resulting from exposure to an experience involving direct or indirect threat of serious injury or death. Symptoms include recurrent thoughts of a traumatic event, reduced involvement in work or outside interests, hyper alertness, anxiety and irritability.

About 317,000 veterans diagnosed with the disorder were treated at Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers and clinics in fiscal year 2005. Nearly 19,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were seen for the disorder in veterans' medical centers and Vet Centers from fiscal year 2002 to 2005.

A recent study of soldiers and Marines who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan found that about 17 percent met criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, or generalized anxiety disorder. Of those whose responses were positive for a mental disorder, 40 percent or fewer actually received help while on active duty.

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CIA Broadens Assassination Abilities
By Josh Meyer LA Times Staff Writer 01/29/06

WASHINGTON - Despite protests from other countries, the United States is expanding a top-secret effort to kill suspected terrorists with drone-fired missiles as it pursues an increasingly decentralized Al Qaeda, U.S. officials say.
The CIA's failed Jan. 13 attempt to assassinate Al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman Zawahiri in Pakistan was the latest strike in the "targeted killing" program, a highly classified initiative that officials say has broadened as the network splintered and fled Afghanistan.

The strike against Zawahiri reportedly killed as many as 18 civilians, many of them women and children, and triggered protests in Pakistan. Similar U.S. attacks using unmanned Predator aircraft equipped with Hellfire missiles have angered citizens and political leaders in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen.

Little is known about the targeted-killing program. The Bush administration has refused to discuss how many strikes it has made, how many people have died, or how it chooses targets. No U.S. officials were willing to speak about it on the record because the program is classified.

Several U.S. officials confirmed at least 19 occasions since Sept. 11 on which Predators successfully fired Hellfire missiles on terrorist suspects overseas, including 10 in Iraq in one month last year. The Predator strikes have killed at least four senior Al Qaeda leaders, but also many civilians, and it is not known how many times they missed their targets.

Critics of the program dispute its legality under U.S. and international law, and say it is administered by the CIA with little oversight. U.S. intelligence officials insist it is one of their most tightly regulated, carefully vetted programs.

Lee Strickland, a former CIA counsel who retired in 2004 from the agency's Senior Intelligence Service, confirmed that the Predator program had grown to keep pace with the spread of Al Qaeda commanders. The CIA believes they are branching out to gain recruits, financing and influence.

Many groups of Islamic militants are believed to be operating in lawless pockets of the Middle East, Asia and Africa where it is perilous for U.S. troops to try to capture them, and difficult to discern the leaders.

"Paradoxically, as a result of our success the target has become even more decentralized, even more diffused and presents a more difficult target — no question about that," said Strickland, now director of the Center for Information Policy at the University of Maryland.

"It's clear that the U.S. is prepared to use and deploy these weapons in a fairly wide theater," he said.

Current and former intelligence officials said they could not disclose which countries could be subject to Predator strikes. But the presence of Al Qaeda or its affiliates has been documented in dozens of nations, including Somalia, Morocco and Indonesia.

High-ranking U.S. and allied counter-terrorism officials said the program's expansion was not merely geographic. They said it had grown from targeting a small number of senior Al Qaeda commanders after the Sept. 11 attacks to a more loosely defined effort to kill possibly scores of suspected terrorists, depending on where they were found and what they were doing.

"We have the plans in place to do them globally," said a former counter-terrorism official who worked at the CIA and State Department, which coordinates such efforts with other governments.

"In most cases, we need the approval of the host country to do them. However, there are a few countries where the president has decided that we can whack someone without the approval or knowledge of the host government."

The CIA and the Pentagon have deployed at least several dozen of the Predator drones throughout Iraq, Afghanistan and along the borders of Pakistan, U.S. officials confirmed. The CIA also has sent the remote-controlled aircraft into the skies over Yemen and some other countries believed to be Al Qaeda havens, particularly those without a strong government or military with which the United States can work in tandem, a current U.S. counter-terrorism official told The Times.

Such incursions are highly sensitive because they could violate the sovereignty of those nations and anger U.S. allies, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Predator, built by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. of San Diego, is a slender craft, 27 feet long with a 49-foot wingspan. It makes a clearly audible buzzing sound, and can hover above a target for many hours and fly as low as 15,000 feet to get good reconnaissance footage. They are often operated by CIA or Pentagon officials at computer consoles in the United States.

The drones were designed for surveillance and have been used for that purpose since at least the mid-1990s, beginning with the conflict in the Balkans. After the Sept. 11 attacks, President Bush ordered a rapid escalation of a project to arm the Predators with missiles, an effort that had been mired in bureaucratic squabbles and technical glitches.

Now the Predator is an integral part of the military's counter-insurgency effort, especially in Iraq. But the CIA also runs a more secretive — and more controversial — Predator program that targets suspected terrorists outside combat zones.

The CIA does not even acknowledge that such a targeted-killing program exists, and some attacks have been explained away as car bombings or other incidents. It is not known how many militants or bystanders have been killed by Predator strikes, but anecdotal evidence suggests the number is significant.

In some cases, the destruction was so complete that it was impossible to establish who was killed, or even how many people.

Among the senior Al Qaeda leaders killed in Predator strikes were military commander Mohammed Atef in Afghanistan in November 2001 and Qaed Sinan Harithi, a suspected mastermind of the bombing of the U.S. destroyer Cole in Yemen, in 2002. Last year, Predators took out two Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan: Haitham Yemeni in May and Abu Hamza Rabia in December, one month after another missile strike missed him.

The attack on Rabia in North Waziristan also killed his Syrian bodyguards and the 17-year-old son and the 8-year-old nephew of the owner of the house that was struck, according to a U.S. official and Amnesty International, which has lodged complaints with the Bush administration following each suspected Predator strike.

Another apparent Predator missile strike killed a former Taliban commander, Nek Mohammed, in South Waziristan in June 2004, along with five others. A local observer said the strike was so precise that it didn't damage any of the buildings around the lawn where Mohammed was seated. At the time, the Pakistani army said Mohammed had been killed in clashes with its soldiers.

Michael Scheuer, the former chief of the CIA's special unit hunting Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, said he was aware of at least four successful targeted-killing strikes in Afghanistan alone by November 2004, when he left the agency.

In the attack on Zawahiri, word spread quickly that a U.S. plane had been buzzing above the target beforehand. Afterward, villagers reportedly found evidence of U.S. involvement.

The missiles intended for Bin Laden's chief deputy incinerated several houses in Damadola, a village near Pakistan's northwestern border with Afghanistan. But Zawahiri was not there, U.S. officials now believe. Pakistan said it was investigating whether the strikes killed other high-ranking militants.

There were some well-publicized failures before the Zawahiri strike. In February 2002, a Predator tracked and killed a tall man in flowing robes along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The CIA believed it was firing at Bin Laden, but the victim turned out to be someone else.

Before the Sept. 11 attacks, the U.S. government had targeted Bin Laden in at least one Cruise missile strike. But the CIA was reluctant to engage in targeted killings because it said the laws regarding assassinations were too vague and the agency could face criminal charges.

Even today, documents and interviews suggest that the U.S. policy on targeted killings is still evolving.

Some critics, including a U.N. human rights watchdog group and Amnesty International, have urged the Bush administration to be more open about how it decides whom to kill and under what circumstances.

A U.N. report in the wake of the 2002 strike in Yemen called it "an alarming precedent [and] a clear case of extrajudicial killing" in violation of international laws and treaties. The Bush administration, which did not return calls seeking comment for this story, has said it does not recognize the mandate of the U.N. special body in connection with its military actions against Al Qaeda, according to Amnesty International.

"Zawahiri is an easy case. No one is going to question us going after him," said Juliette N. Kayyem, a former U.S. government counter-terrorism consultant and Justice Department lawyer. "But where can you do it and who can you do it against? Who authorizes it? All of these are totally unregulated areas of presidential authority."

"Paris, it's easy to say we won't do it there," said Kayyem, now a Harvard University law professor specializing in terrorism-related legal issues. "But what about Lebanon?"

Paul Pillar, a former CIA deputy counter-terrorism chief, said the authority claimed by the Bush administration was murky.

"I don't think anyone is dealing with solid footing here. There is legal as well as operational doctrine that is being developed as we go along," Pillar said. "We are pretty much in uncharted territory here."

Pillar, who was also the CIA's National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia before retiring in mid-2005, said there had long been disagreement within the intelligence community over whether targeted killings were legally permissible, or even a good idea.

Before Sept. 11, Pillar said, CIA officers were issued vaguely worded guidelines that seemed to give them authority to kill Bin Laden, but only during an attempt to capture him.

The 9/11 commission investigating the attacks in New York and Washington concluded that such vaguely worded laws and policies gave little reassurance to those who might be pulling the trigger that they would not face disciplinary action — or even criminal charges.

Although presidents Ford and Reagan issued executive orders in 1976 and 1981 prohibiting U.S. intelligence agents from engaging in assassinations, the Bush administration claimed the right to kill suspected terrorists under war powers given to the president by Congress after the Sept. 11 attacks.

It is the same justification Bush has used for a recently disclosed domestic spying program that has the National Security Agency eavesdropping on American citizens without warrants, and a CIA "extraordinary rendition" program to seize suspected terrorists overseas and transport them to other countries with reputations for torture.

Strickland, like some other officials, said the Predator program served as a deterrent to foreign governments, militias and other groups that might be harboring Al Qaeda cells.

"You give shelter to Al Qaeda figures, you may well get your village blown up," Strickland said. "Conversely, you have to note that this can also create local animosity and instability."

The CIA's lawyers play a central role in deciding when a strike is justified, current and former U.S. officials said. The lawyers analyze the credibility of the evidence, how many bystanders might be killed, and whether the target is enough of a threat to warrant the strike.

Other agencies, including the Justice Department, are sometimes consulted, Strickland said. "The legal input is broad and extensive," he said.

Scheuer said he believed the process was too cumbersome, and that the agency had lost precious opportunities to slay terrorists because it was afraid of killing civilians.

But others said they had urged the Bush administration to adopt a multi-agency system of checks and balances similar to that used by Israel, which for decades has convened informal tribunals to assess each proposed targeted killing before carrying it out.

Amos N. Guiora, a senior Israeli military judge advocate who participated in such tribunals, said that although the failed Zawahiri strike itself appeared to be justifiable, the result suggested a lack of adequate deliberations on the quality of the intelligence.

"I think [the] attack was a major screw-up, because so many kids died. It raises questions about the entire process," said Guiora, who now a professor at Case Western Law School and director of its Institute for Global Security Law and Policy.

"It shows the absolute need to have a well-thought-through and developed process that examines the action from a legal perspective, an intelligence perspective and an operational perspective. Because the price you pay here is that you are going to have to be hesitant the next time you pull the trigger."
"However, there are a few countries where the president has decided that we can whack someone without the approval or knowledge of the host government." [...]

In some cases, the destruction was so complete that it was impossible to establish who was killed, or even how many people."
Don't you just love how casual US officials are when they talk about murdering a "terrorist suspect" along with a number of other civilians - including women and children?

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Offers to Help Katrina Victims Went Unused
By LARA JAKES JORDAN Associated Press Writer January 29, 2006

WASHINGTON - Hundreds of available trucks, boats, planes and federal officers were unused in search and rescue efforts immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit because FEMA failed to give them missions, new documents show.

Additionally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency called off its search and rescue operations in Louisiana three days after the Aug. 29 storm because of security issues, according to an internal FEMA e-mail given to Senate investigators.
The documents, released by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, are further evidence of lapses in FEMA's response to Katrina. They also detail breakdowns in carrying out the National Response Plan, which was issued a year ago specifically to coordinate response efforts during disasters.

A spokesman for the Homeland Security Department, which includes FEMA, did not dispute the documents. Katrina "pushed our capabilities and resources to the limit — and then some," said spokesman Russ Knocke.

Responding to a questionnaire posed by investigators, Interior Department Assistant Secretary P. Lynn Scarlett said her agency offered to supply FEMA with 300 dump trucks and other vehicles, 300 boats, 11 aircraft and 400 law enforcement officers to help search and rescue efforts.

"Although the department possesses significant resources that could have improved initial and ongoing response, many of these resources were not effectively incorporated into the federal response to Hurricane Katrina," Scarlett wrote in the response, dated Nov. 7.

Scarlett added: "Although we attempted to provide these assets through the process established by the NRP, we were unable to efficiently integrate and deploy those resources."

At one point, Scarlett's letter said, FEMA asked U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services to help with search and rescue in New Orleans, St. Bernard Parish and St. Tammany Parish but that the rescuers "never received task assignments." The agency, a branch of the Interior Department, apparently went ahead anyway, according to the letter, which said that Fish and Wildlife helped rescue 4,500 people in the first week after Katrina.

Other Interior Department resources that were offered, but unused, included flat-bottom boats for shallow-water rescues. "Clearly these assets and skills were precisely relevant in the post-Katrina environment," Scarlett wrote.

Knocke, the Homeland Security spokesman, said up to 60,000 federal employees were sent to the Gulf Coast to response to Katrina. However, "experience has shown that FEMA was not equipped with 21st century capabilities, and that is what (Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff) has committed as one of our top priorities going forward," he said.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, head of the Senate committee that released the documents, called them "the most candid assessment that we've received from any federal agency." Her panel, which is investigating the government's response to Katrina, is scheduled to question a FEMA operations official Monday at a hearing focusing on search and rescue efforts.

"Here we have another federal department offering skilled personnel and the exact kinds of assets that were so desperately needed in the Gulf region in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and there no response that we can discern from FEMA," Collins said in an interview Sunday. "That is incredible to me."

Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, the top Democrat on the panel, said the Interior documents underscore "an outrage on top of an outrage."

Lieberman and Collins both said they also were dismayed by an internal FEMA e-mail, dated Sept. 1, calling a halt to search and rescue task force efforts in Louisiana.

"All assets have ceased operation until National Guard can assist TFs (task forces) with security," said the e-mail, sent from FEMA headquarters.

Knocke said the halt was likely the result of looting, rioting and other security concerns in New Orleans in the days after Katrina hit. It could not be determined Sunday whether FEMA suspended its search and rescue missions indefinitely or just temporarily on Sept. 1.

Knocke said he did not know and that the answer would be determined in the department's own review of the response.

But Lieberman said the e-mail suggests FEMA "left early," noting that personnel from the Coast Guard, and other federal, state and local agencies continued looking for storm victims for days after.

"This is shocking and without explanation," he said.

The documents were among 800,000 pages of memos, e-mails, plans and other papers gathered by investigators for the Senate committee, which plans to issue a report of its findings in March.

Lieberman charged last week that the White House was hindering the inquiry by barring some staffers from answering investigators' questions.

White House counselor Dan Bartlett maintained Sunday that the Bush administration would not give up specific internal documents or information from top presidential advisers.

"We're making sure that they have all the information necessary while we also protect the separation of government," Bartlett said on CNN's "Late Edition." "That's something that everybody recognizes and I think everybody at the end of the day can be satisfied."

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that the federal government will spend "well over $100 billion" to help rebuild the still-reeling Gulf Coast. The government has so far committed about $85 billion, including $67 billion in direct spending approved by Congress.

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New Orleans May Lose 80 Percent of Blacks
By MICHELLE R. SMITH Associated Press Fri Jan 27, 10:23 PM ET

PROVIDENCE, R.I. - The city of New Orleans could lose up to 80 percent of its black population if people displaced by Hurricane Katrina are not able to return to damaged neighborhoods, according to an analysis by a Brown University sociologist.

Professor John R. Logan, in findings released Thursday, determined that if the city's returning population was limited to neighborhoods undamaged by Katrina, half of the white population would not return and 80 percent of the black population would not return.
"There's very good reason for people to be concerned that the future New Orleans will not be a place for the people who used to live there, that there won't be room in New Orleans for large segments of the population that used to call it home," said Logan, who studies urban areas.

The study used maps from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that detailed flood and wind damage and compared them to data from the 2000 U.S. Census to determine who and what areas were affected.

It found the storm-damaged areas had been 75 percent black, compared to 46 percent black in undamaged areas of the city. It also found that 29 percent of the households in damaged areas lived below the poverty line, compared with 24 percent of households in undamaged areas.

More than half of those who lived in the city's damaged neighborhoods were renters, the analysis found.

"The odds of living in a damaged area were clearly much greater for blacks, renters and poor people," the study said. "In these respects the most vulnerable residents turned out also to be at greatest risk."

Elliott Stonecipher, a demographer and political analyst based in Shreveport, La., said the analysis gets to the heart of the debate over how to rebuild New Orleans. Racial tensions have been high with some worried that those in charge of the rebuilding will push black residents out of the city.

"For this storm to suddenly rip that away from them, that feeling is at the heart of this growing racial impasse," Stonecipher said.

The study was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation and is ongoing, Logan said.

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Blair in Secret Plot with Bush to Dupe U.N.
By Simon Walters Mail On Sunday 01/29/06

A White House leak revealing astonishing details of how Tony Blair and George Bush lied about the Iraq war is set to cause a worldwide political storm.

A new book exposes how the two men connived to dupe the United Nations and blows the lid off Mr Blair's claim that he was a restraining influence on Mr Bush.
He offered his total support for the war at a secret White House summit as Mr Bush displayed his contempt for the UN, made a series of wild threats against Saddam Hussein and showed a devastating ignorance about the catastrophic aftermath of the war.

Based on access to information at the highest level, the book by leading British human rights lawyer Philippe Sands QC, Professor of Law at London University, demonstrates how the two men decided to go to war regardless of whether they obtained UN backing.

The revelations make a nonsense of Mr Blair's claim that the final decision was not made until MPs voted in the Commons 24 hours before the war - and could revive the risk of him being charged with war crimes or impeached by Parliament itself.

The book also makes serious allegations concerning the conduct of Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer and Attorney General Lord Goldsmith over Goldsmith's legal advice on the war.

And it alleges the British Government boasted that disgraced newspaper tycoon Conrad Black was being used by Mr Bush's allies in America as a channel for pro-war propaganda in the UK via his Daily Telegraph newspaper.

The leaks are contained in a new version of Sands' book Lawless World, first published last year, when it emerged that Lord Goldsmith had told Mr Blair the war could be unlawful - before a lastminute U-turn.

The new edition, to be published by Penguin on Thursday, is likely to cause a fierce new controversy on both sides of the Atlantic.

It follows recent charges against two British men under the Official Secrets Act after a transcript of another conversation between Mr Bush and Blair, in which the President raised the possibility of bombing the Al Jazeera Arab TV station, was leaked by a Whitehall official.

Both governments will be horrified that the stream of leaks revealing the grim truth about the war is turning into a flood. The most damaging new revelation concerns the meeting between Mr Blair and Mr Bush at the White House on January 31, 2003, during which Mr Blair urged the President to seek a second UN resolution giving specific backing for the war.

The Mail on Sunday has established that the meeting was attended only by Mr Blair, his Downing Street foreign policy adviser Sir David Manning, Mr Bush and the President's then national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, plus an official note-taker.

The top-secret record of the meeting was circulated to a tiny handful of senior figures in the two administrations.

Immediately afterwards, the two leaders gave a Press conference in which a nervous-looking Mr Blair claimed the meeting had been a success. Mr Bush gave qualified support for going down the UN route. But observers noted the awkward body language between the two men. Sands' book explains why. Far from giving a genuine endorsement to Mr Blair's attempt to gain full UN approval, Mr Bush was only going through the motions. And Mr Blair not only knew it, but went along with it.

The description of the January 31 meeting echoes the recent memoirs of Britain's former ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer.

Meyer, who was excluded from the private session between Blair and Bush, claimed the summit marked the culmination of the Prime Minister's failure to use his influence to hold back Mr Bush.

Equally significantly, Meyer was puzzled by Blair's behaviour when the two leaders emerged to join other aides. Meyer writes: "We were all milling around in the State dining room as Bush and Blair put the final touches to what they were going to say to the media."

"Bush had a notepad on which he had written a form of words on the second resolution...He read it out...There was silence. I waited for Blair to say he needed something as supportive as possible. He said nothing. I waited for somebody on the No 10 team to say something. Nothing was said. I cursed myself afterwards for not piping up."

"At the Press conference, Bush gave only a perfunctory and lukewarm support for a second resolution. It was neither his nor Blair's finest performance."

In view of Sands' disclosures, Blair had every reason to look awkward: he knew that despite his public talk of getting UN support, privately he had just committed himself to going to war no matter what the UN did.

When, in due course, the UN refused to back the war, Mr Blair seized on the fact that French President Jacques Chirac said he would not support any pro-war resolution, claiming that the French veto was so 'unreasonable' that a UN vote was pointless. In reality, Bush and Blair had decided to go to war before Chirac uttered a word.

The disclosures will be seized on by anti-war critics in Britain, including Left-wing MPs who say Mr Blair should be impeached for his handling of the war.

However, Ministers will argue that after three major British inquiries into the war, and with thousands of British troops due to be sent home from Iraq this year, it is time to move on.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said last night: "These matters have been thoroughly investigated and we stand by our position."
Both governments will be horrified that the stream of leaks revealing the grim truth about the war is turning into a flood.
The psychopath is never horrified that he has been caught in a lie. True to form, the US and British administrations have simply carried on with their plans to attack Iran and dismantle civil liberties at home.

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Castro Strikes Back at 'The Empire'- ONLY THE TRUTH CAN SAVE THIS SPECIES
By Enrique Montesinos and Alberto Nunez 26 Jan 06

"The world will disappear if it is not courageous enough to reject the warmongering policies of Bush, who used the atrocious attacks of September 11 as an excuse. Emboldened, he spoke of attacking a list of 60 countries, including European nations like The Netherlands; they even spoke of invading The Netherlands."

"Not even Hitler said that; Hitler looked for pretexts, but Bush is attacking more brazenly and has many more weapons; he is crazy, and the world is in real danger. Only the truth can save this species," Fidel said.
"THIS country cannot be conquered or dominated, because as long as there is one patriot alive, he or she will be fighting. We are invulnerable militarily and politically, and we are marching toward economic invulnerability as well."

Those were the comments of President Fidel Castro during a question-and-answer session with reporters near the Jose Marti Anti-Imperialist Tribunal, where construction work is underway to expand that venue, an outgrowth of the current battle of ideas.

In response to a question on how he sees Cuba's relations with the rest of the world, the revolutionary leader said that he could see how The Empire was surrounded by contempt and repugnance because of its many crimes and the torture committed in various countries, and in contrast, how our country is surrounded by growing sympathy and admiration, because of its firmness and ability.

He asserted that these merits are historic and cannot be concealed. "We sow ideas and consciousness. We have means for helping the world; our human capital is growing and is not running out, because it is not gold, or oil or nickel."

Fidel asked for patience from journalists, who, with their typical curiosity, wanted to know what exactly what was being built in front of the offices of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. He confined himself to saying that in the face of the new and insolent provocation by the general staff of the counterrevolution in Cuba, "we were obliged to respond."

[Editor's Note: The U.S. Diplomatic Mission on Havana erected an LED sign to send messages to Cubans who look at the building. In response to this, Fidel has responded in kind, erecting a similar device opposite the U.S. Diplomatic building, beaming its own messages to the Americans.]

"The world is in real danger, because they [the United States] have a monopoly on nuclear weapons, and it bothers them when a country like Iran wants to produce nuclear energy," the Cuban president said.

"They have no right to prohibit that nation from peacefully using nuclear energy," he affirmed. "Under the pretext that doing so is a threat, they are even talking about attacking that country."

He added that they [Washington] have never complained about the nuclear arms in Israeli possession, and noted that in Angola, South Africa considered using those horrific weapons against us.


"The world will disappear if it is not courageous enough to reject the warmongering policies of Bush, who used the atrocious attacks of September 11 as an excuse. Emboldened, he spoke of attacking a list of 60 countries, including European nations like The Netherlands; they even spoke of invading The Netherlands."

"Not even Hitler said that; Hitler looked for pretexts, but Bush is attacking more brazenly and has many more weapons; he is crazy, and the world is in real danger. Only the truth can save this species," Fidel said.

He noted that Cuba had its own experience with nuclear weapons 44 years ago, when a "shadow" was hanging over our country, and we didn't blink; nobody trembled. He is an unbridled crazy man; some people over there might fear him, but we're not at all afraid."

With respect to the imperialist attempt to free murderer Luis Posada Carriles, the Cuban president noted that for 40 years, that individual has maintained contact with the U.S. intelligence services, which are responsible for planning hundreds of assassination attempts against Fidel's person, most recently in Panama, when almost 50 kilograms of explosives were seized from Posada. The blast would have killed hundreds of students. "They tried and convicted him there, but later it was Bush that got him out of jail, and now they won't even dare say how he entered U.S. territory."
RealVideoDeclassified Record of Former CIA Operative, Luis Posada Carriles ]

"By invoking the Convention against Torture, they refuse to return him to Venezuela, even though are no death squads and there is no death penalty in Venezuela. A coup d'état happened there, and its masterminds are still on the loose. If this were about torture, then the first one convicted would have to be Bush, because he has committed torture all over the world."

In addition, Fidel qualified the U.S. Interests Section in Havana as a smuggling enterprise. Last year, that office brought in more than 100 tons of products - cameras, videos, radios, to better receive the broadcasts of the ill-named Radio and TV Martí - using the diplomatic pouch. [Radio Marti is A U.S.-Run Radio and TV Station that Beams News and Information Into Cuba. RealVideo]

After revealing that it is also a place through which enormous sums of money are channeled to promote the counterrevolution and create destabilization in the country, he also emphasized that its employees have increasingly less oxygen.

When he began talking to reporters, Fidel commented that "it was not very intelligent of them to put out their little signboard again," referring to the U.S. Interests Section electronic billboard.

He explained that the Bush government is trying to please the mafia that handed him the presidency, and who are now pressing him to place restrictions on migration and thus promote illegal departures.

[Editor's Note: When discussing "illegal departures" Castro refers to Cubans who attempt to escape to the United States by boat. Under the Cuban Adjustment Act, Cubans who reach the U.S. mainland by boat are offered generous asylum opportunities].

"It's a big mistake to encourage illegal departures, which is something that violates their own laws. One of their own newspapers recently called this 'craziness;' and said that they should get rid of the so-called Cuban Adjustment Act."

It completely contradicts their battle against illegal immigration by Latin Americans who are trying to escape the poverty of their underdeveloped countries, and who harbor illusions about the consumer society." And he pointed out that meanwhile, they are building a giant wall where 500 Mexicans die every year, more than all of those that died trying to pass the Berlin Wall.

He added: "They are making a very big mistake, because they are incapable of understanding the changes that our country is going through at the moment; they thought that Cuba had only a few days left, and although our people have had to make many sacrifices, they have been capable of resisting," he affirmed, adding that the world has changed, and that Latin America had also changed.

"They think that we're still in 1995," he said, "but 10 years have gone by, and today our consciousness is more solid."

"They have tried to prevent U.S. farmers from exporting to Cuba, but what has happened is that Cuba has become one of their main importers. They are trying to create a situation to prevent that trade, but we are prepared for all contingencies," he reiterated.

"Cuba has become a moral fortress. We have the means of helping the world," he declared.


"We'll all be at the Baseball Classic RealVideo, fighting fair and square, even though they have robbed us of some good players, the ones they've offered millions of dollars to, to bribe and corrupt them," Fidel said.

He described as stupidity the attempt to prevent Cuba from attending that tournament, and said it was very positive that many people protested when they found out that Cuba was being denied the possibility of participating.

"We have shown our quality during international competitions, in matches against Major League players, who have even come here," he noted.

"The imperialists feel powerless before us, because they cannot destroy the Revolution."

Further on, the Cuban president affirmed that our currency is strong, while the dollar is at Cuba's mercy and is worth whatever we want it to be worth here.

He reiterated that the revolutionary government will always be ready to assist workers and retirees.


Fidel affirmed that he believes in humanity and in the talent of the human species, which is capable of overcoming the most difficult moments.

Schafik Handal

Remarking on the stature of those who, fervently and with anti-imperialist positions lead their people today, such as Evo Morales and Hugo Chávez, Fidel referred to another recently deceased great revolutionary, Salvadoran patriot Schafik Handal, an impeccable man who never gave in or surrendered.

"All of those values give us life," he concluded.

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MOD accused of hiding real cost of Iraq war
Scotsman.co.uk 30/01/2006 Gethin Chamberlain

Ministry of Defence has admitted that it issued misleading figures for the number of British soldiers injured in Iraq after a Scotsman investigation found that they were wildly inaccurate.

John Reid, the Defence Secretary, last week claimed that about 230 UK personnel had been wounded in action in Iraq since the start of the war in March 2003. The new figure was substantially smaller than previous estimates and would mean British troops had a ratio of deaths to injuries of roughly 1:3, compared with the US ratio of 1:7.
The MoD admitted yesterday that hundreds more may have been injured in combat and that it was unlikely that injuries sustained by soldiers during the war itself had been included in the total. It is now reviewing the information and has promised to issue more figures in the next couple of weeks.

A spokesman said: "At the moment this is the only figure we have got. We simply can't tell you how many people have been injured in Iraq. We have been absolutely clear about this - it is never going to be precise. There will be many, many more injuries that would not require admission to a hospital."

The spokesman said there were problems in defining when a soldier had been injured in combat and he said that during the war itself, staff were too busy to record how many soldiers were treated and in what circumstances.

"These are not great statistics," he said. "We are fully aware that there may have been hundreds of others with superficial injuries but we don't have those figures."

The MoD rarely publicises figures for injuries sustained in operations in Iraq and many of those that have been reported have only come to light because the incidents have involved fatalities.

However, analysis of the MoD's own statements, interviews with senior officers and published reports of casualties from Iraq shows there have been more than 230 injuries. A study of reports from Iraq filed over the past three years found reference to 263 wounded soldiers, but uncovered evidence to suggest that the MoD routinely under-reports casualties. Military analysts believe that the true figure is closer to 800.

In a number of instances it was possible to show that the MoD issued incorrect information about specific incidents in which soldiers were injured.

In August 2003 eyewitness reports from Basra suggested that a number of British soldiers had been injured in rioting. This was denied by the MoD, only for the soldiers' commanding officer, Lt Col Jorge Mendonca, to reveal a few days later in an interview that they had suffered 21 casualties, some with stab wounds.

And the MoD's own figures do not tally with the evidence. In November 2003 Adam Ingram, the armed forces minister, said 145 Britons had been wounded in action, but the Scotsman investigation found that, even using the partial record available through published incidents, there had been at least another 188 casualties since then, giving a total of 333.

Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, demanded to know why the MoD was unable to publish accurate figures.

"This is not good enough," he said. "The British public and our servicemen and women deserve to have a much clearer picture of what is happening in Iraq."

Angus Robertson, the SNP defence spokesman, said:

"Every effort must be taken to establish the true figure so that we can understand the human cost of supporting this unpopular war," he said.

"Otherwise the MoD runs the risk of accusations of a cover-up."

Military experts expressed astonishment at the casualty figure given out by Dr Reid. Charles Heyman, a former British army staff officer and now editor of Armed Forces of the UK, said the MoD was clearly not telling the truth.

"They are being totally disingenuous," he said. "I suspect that they are making a serious mistake here."

Mr Heyman expressed astonishment at the MoD's claim that it did not have details of casualty figures. "You monitor the sick rates as much as you monitor the ammunition," he said.

He revealed that the army routinely recorded details of injuries on NOTICAS (notification of casualty) forms when a soldier received treatment. He said medical facilities then classified the injured as those able to return to duty within 24 hours, within seven days, within 30 days and those who were marked down for indefinite treatment. The MoD claims it only has two categories: wounded in action or disease and non-battle injury.

Mr Heyman said he would expect to see a British casualty rate of approximately 800 wounded in the Iraq campaign.

"The figure that we use for a modern, conventional military operation is that for every guy killed between eight and ten are injured," he said.

Bruce George, Labour MP and former chairman of the Commons defence committee, said he did not believe that the MoD figure could be accurate.

And Clive Fairweather, former second in command of the SAS, said he did not believe the government figures. "It is not good enough," he said. "We need to know this. It seems terribly low. I would be very surprised if that were true."

The MoD has repeatedly rebuffed attempts to establish how many British soldiers have been injured in Iraq, claiming it does not compile such statistics. Military sources claim this is untrue and that casualty figures are readily available to the MoD. The US routinely publishes the number of its soldiers injured in Iraq.

Asked how the MoD evaluated the success of its operations and the effectiveness of its tactics without referring to the number of casualties sustained, a spokeswoman said: "We don't judge whether operations are a success or efficient or not by the amount of people that are injured or killed. We judge success on whether we have achieved specific military aims, and in the case of Iraq, whether the Iraqis have a competent, democratic government and police force."
Comment: So official British casualty figures are just 30% of the real figures. It is likely then that the same deceptive tactics are being used on the death counts. It is also likely that the U.S. government is engaging the same kind of 'cooking' of figures. In this case the reports that U.S. dead from the Iraq invasion total about 8,000 are very likely to be true.

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London police 'faked evidence' on shot Brazilian: report
AFP Sun Jan 29, 7:06 AM ET

LONDON - Undercover London police officers faked vital evidence to cover up their fatal role in the shooting of innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, mistaken for a suicide bomber, a newspaper has alleged.

Special Branch officers from London's Metropolitan Police tried to change a surveillance log detailing the electrician's movements to hide the fact that they had wrongly identified him, the News of the World weekly claimed.
De Menezes, 27, was shot seven times in the head on a London Underground train at Stockwell station in south London.

He was killed on July 22 last year, the day after an alleged attempt to replicate the July 7 attacks by four suspected suicide bombers which killed 52 innocent Underground and bus commuters.

The alleged cover-up meant the blame for the tragedy would have been pinned on senior Met Police commanders or the armed police who fired the bullets -- leaving them open to murder charges, the newspaper said.

The revelations are apparently contained in the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC)'s report into the death, which was delivered to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) 10 days ago.

A Special Branch officer mistakenly reported that De Menezes was Hussein Osman, 27, who is facing charges of conspiracy to murder in connection with the July 21 incident.

However, once they realised their fatal error, the log was altered to read that no positive identification had been made.

A government department source told the tabloid: "It says the log was actually tampered with in a major way.

"In particular the words AND and NOT were inserted about the Osman ID, so it read 'and it was not Osman' rather than 'it was Osman'."

The log was allegedly changed at a debriefing meeting 10 hours after the Brazilian was gunned down.

It had been produced by colleagues of the officers listening to the team's radio messages.

During the debriefing, the officers were allowed to check for errors and amend them -- but crucially, the alterations were not explained and signed as they apparently should have been.

The newspaper quoted the IPCC report as reading: "This looks like an attempt to try and distance Special Branch from the decision (to shoot De Menezes)."

The source said: "It was blatant, it was clumsy."

"By doing that forgery they potentially made their colleagues back at the control room at central command at the Yard (police headquarters), and particularly their firearm officer colleagues, liable to be out in the dock for murder."

An IPCC spokesman said the organisation "would neither confirm nor deny" anything in the alleged leak.

"We do not comment on speculation," he said.

Asad Rehman, who represents the victim's family, said the alleged leak strengthened relatives' demands to see the report.

"From the family's perspective this is just one more in a long line in lies and deception surrounding the circumstances of Jean's death."

"It makes them more adamant to learn how and why he died. The only way that can be done is by a full public inquiry.

"They are at the end of their tether in the manner the whole death has been treated. There has been such a catalogue of disaster surrounding this case."

The IPCC investigates deaths with either direct or indirect police involvement as a matter of course. The CPS handles criminal cases and is expected to take several months to decide whether to bring charges.

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Britain's Blair to hand over power within two years, ally says
AFP Sun Jan 29, 7:00 AM ET

LONDON - British Prime Minister Tony Blair has reached a "new understanding" to hand over power to his finance minister Gordon Brown within two years, a close ally and former minister has said.

"My sense is that there is a new understanding, yes," former work and pensions secretary David Blunkett told BBC television.
"And it is good because anybody with any ounce of understanding of politics knows that when Tony Blair and Gordon Brown work together we are a winner and when they are divided our opponents can divide us and it is as simple as that," Blunkett said.

"So good on them. And whether it is a year or two years, it actually will be a sensible process of combining the talents that we have," said Blunkett, who is blind and whose guide dog sat with him during the interview.

Blair has vowed to serve out his third consecutive term as prime minister, which he began in May 2005, but promised not to run for a fourth.

Blunkett said it was "self-evident" that Brown would take over from Blair.

Brown's allies within the governing Labour Party have been pushing for an early transition of power. Blunkett's comments are the clearest indication yet that Brown could be given the job well before the next election.

Blunkett, who resigned last November amid controversy over his business dealings, is now working as a columnist for Britain's most widely read tabloid, the Sun.

Blunkett was one of the best-known figures in Blair's government, both because of his straight-talking populism and also his rise to prominence from childhood poverty and life-long blindness.

His resignation in November was his second in less than a year. In December 2004, he stepped down as interior minister because of a visa scandal linked to his colourful love life with a glamourous, married magazine publisher.

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Australia's Howard denies knowledge of Iraq bribes
AFP Sun Jan 29, 9:21 PM ET

SYDNEY - Fresh evidence at an official inquiry has forced Australian Prime Minister John Howard to deny personal knowledge of huge bribes paid by the national wheat exporter AWB to Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

The inquiry heard that Howard had written to AWB's chief executive in July 2002 after Baghdad threatened to cut wheat imports because of Australia's bellicose support of the US in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.
"In view of the importance of the matter, I suggest the government and AWB Ltd remain in close contact in order that we can jointly attempt to achieve a satisfactory outcome in the longer term," Howard wrote to CEO Andrew Lindberg.

Shortly afterwards, Lindberg and officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) visited Baghdad and secured the lucrative wheat contracts, allegedly by agreeing to pay increased kickbacks.

"We were in no way involved with the payment of bribes," Howard told national radio Monday. "We didn't condone them, we didn't have knowledge of them, but we did work closely with AWB.

"I make no bones about that. I had no reason to believe that AWB Ltd wasn't just going all out to preserve Australia's wheat sales to Iraq," he said.

A United Nations report last year charged that AWB had paid some 220 million dollars in kickbacks to secure 2.3 billion dollars in wheat contracts with Saddam's Iraq under the now-discredited oil-for-food programme.

The programme allowed Iraq to export a limited amount of oil to buy food and medicine through the UN to lessen the impact of sanctions on civilians.

Howard said he had met with the AWB after Lindberg's return from Baghdad and was "pleased" that the wheat exporter had resolved the problem.

Asked whether he knew how the AWB achieved the favourable outcome, Howard said: "No they didn't go into any detail; we had no suspicion, no suggestion there had been any bribes paid."

Howard established the commission of inquiry into the formerly government-run Australian Wheat Board under former judge Terry Cole in November.

The commission's terms of reference restrict it to examining allegations of wrongdoing by private companies, not the government.

The opposition Labor Party is pressing for the terms of reference to be widened to allow the commission to investigate the government's role in the scandal.

Foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd said the letters tied the government closely to the process of deceiving the UN and funnelling money to the Iraqi dictator's regime.

The documents "provide dramatic new evidence of the close, intimate and systematic contact between the AWB and the Howard government at the highest level during the life of the 300 million (220 million US) dollar scandal," he said.

"Yet the Howard government wants to somehow cause us all to believe that only the AWB and not themselves should be under the scrutiny of an inquiry."

Howard said that in 2002 the government was facing pressure to preserve Australian wheat sales to Iraq while maintaining opposition to Saddam's regime.

"And by writing to AWB Ltd, that's exactly what I was doing and I don't find this letter embarrassing," he said.

Earlier evidence at the Cole inquiry showed the government, through DFAT and its mission to the UN in New York, had been warned that AWB was engaged in activities that flouted UN sanctions.

The commission is due to report by the end of March.

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Spanish policeman injured in bomb blast, ETA blamed
AFP Sun Jan 29, 7:02 AM ET

MADRID - A Spanish police officer has been slightly injured early when a bomb went off in Bilbao, in the Basque region of northern Spain, the regional interior ministry said.

The ministry attributed the explosion to the armed Basque separatist group ETA, although contrary to ETA's usual practice, there was no warning ahead of the blast.
The explosion occurred at around 2:00 am (0100 GMT) Sunday and caused considerable damage to an employment agency,

Police arrived on the scene shortly before the blast, after a citizen reported a suspect rucksack left outside the employment agency.

The bomb was similar to explosives used by ETA in two blasts early Thursday in the Basque region, in which no one was injured.

ETA has been blamed for some 800 deaths in a campaign spanning more than four decades to create an independent Basque state incorporating parts of northern Spain and southwestern France.

But it has been weakened by the arrests of several key leaders on both sides of the Pyrenees.

Two suspected ETA members were arrested Saturday in southwestern France after being chased by police following a traffic accident.

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Chirac tricked by Canadian 'Masked Avengers'
MONTREAL, Jan 27, 2006

MONTREAL, Jan 27, 2006 (AFP) - Two Canadian radio humorists tricked French President Jacques Chirac into taking their telephone call and broadcast it Friday after pretending to be aides to Prime Minister-elect Stephen Harper.

The 'Masked Avengers' — radio station CKOI disc jockeys Marc-Antoine Audette and Sebastien Trudel — added Chirac to their long list of victims when they called his office in Paris saying Harper wanted to speak with him.
"I would like to offer my sincere congratulations for your electoral success," Chirac said as he began the call.

"We have excellent relations and I am certain that they will continue in the best spirit," the French leader said.

Using an exaggerated accent, Audette, posing as the victorious Canadian Conservative Party leader, complained to Chirac that French media had given him a "bad reputation" and hoped this could be improved.

"I do not have any concerns and French leaders have no concerns. You cannot stop the press from saying anything at all. It's true in Canada and it's true in France," Chirac told 'Harper'.

When Chirac added an invitation to 'Harper' to visit France, the fake Canadian prime minister-elect replied that he had already planned to visit France "as the opening act" in a show by Canadian singer Garou.

Told at the end of the conversation that he was talking to Canadian radio, Chirac was philosophical.

"Ah yes, I understand," he said, adding anyway, "Know that my friendship to Canada and to the new Conservative government is a true, unreserved friendship."

Audette told AFP that it only took Chirac's office a half hour to respond to the duo's enquiry with the news that the French president would be calling back momentarily.

Chirac was "very genial at the end of the call," he said.

Chirac was the most recent in a long list of famous people on the receiving end of the 'Masked Avengers' prank calls. The duo have also managed to talk to Irish rock star Bono, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, singers Céline Dion and Britney Spears and flamboyant US tycoon Donald Trump.

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Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him
By ANDREW C. REVKIN The New York Times January 29, 2006

The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

The scientist, James E. Hansen, longtime director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an interview that officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists.

Dr. Hansen said he would ignore the restrictions. "They feel their job is to be this censor of information going out to the public," he said.
Dean Acosta, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs at the space agency, said there was no effort to silence Dr. Hansen. "That's not the way we operate here at NASA," Mr. Acosta said. "We promote openness and we speak with the facts."

He said the restrictions on Dr. Hansen applied to all National Aeronautics and Space Administration personnel. He added that government scientists were free to discuss scientific findings, but that policy statements should be left to policy makers and appointed spokesmen.

Mr. Acosta said other reasons for requiring press officers to review interview requests were to have an orderly flow of information out of a sprawling agency and to avoid surprises. "This is not about any individual or any issue like global warming," he said. "It's about coordination."

Dr. Hansen strongly disagreed with this characterization, saying such procedures had already prevented the public from fully grasping recent findings about climate change that point to risks ahead.

"Communicating with the public seems to be essential," he said, "because public concern is probably the only thing capable of overcoming the special interests that have obfuscated the topic."

Dr. Hansen, 63, a physicist who joined the space agency in 1967, directs efforts to simulate the global climate on computers at the Goddard Institute in Morningside Heights in Manhattan.

Since 1988, he has been issuing public warnings about the long-term threat from heat-trapping emissions, dominated by carbon dioxide, that are an unavoidable byproduct of burning coal, oil and other fossil fuels. He has had run-ins with politicians or their appointees in various administrations, including budget watchers in the first Bush administration and Vice President Al Gore.

In 2001, Dr. Hansen was invited twice to brief Vice President Dick Cheney and other cabinet members on climate change. White House officials were interested in his findings showing that cleaning up soot, which also warms the atmosphere, was an effective and far easier first step than curbing carbon dioxide.

He fell out of favor with the White House in 2004 after giving a speech at the University of Iowa before the presidential election, in which he complained that government climate scientists were being muzzled and said he planned to vote for Senator John Kerry.

But Dr. Hansen said that nothing in 30 years equaled the push made since early December to keep him from publicly discussing what he says are clear-cut dangers from further delay in curbing carbon dioxide.

In several interviews with The New York Times in recent days, Dr. Hansen said it would be irresponsible not to speak out, particularly because NASA's mission statement includes the phrase "to understand and protect our home planet."

He said he was particularly incensed that the directives had come through telephone conversations and not through formal channels, leaving no significant trails of documents.

Dr. Hansen's supervisor, Franco Einaudi, said there had been no official "order or pressure to say shut Jim up." But Dr. Einaudi added, "That doesn't mean I like this kind of pressure being applied."

The fresh efforts to quiet him, Dr. Hansen said, began in a series of calls after a lecture he gave on Dec. 6 at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco. In the talk, he said that significant emission cuts could be achieved with existing technologies, particularly in the case of motor vehicles, and that without leadership by the United States, climate change would eventually leave the earth "a different planet."

The administration's policy is to use voluntary measures to slow, but not reverse, the growth of emissions.

After that speech and the release of data by Dr. Hansen on Dec. 15 showing that 2005 was probably the warmest year in at least a century, officials at the headquarters of the space agency repeatedly phoned public affairs officers, who relayed the warning to Dr. Hansen that there would be "dire consequences" if such statements continued, those officers and Dr. Hansen said in interviews.

Comment: Dire consequences for simply attempting to convey the truth to people to warn them...

Among the restrictions, according to Dr. Hansen and an internal draft memorandum he provided to The Times, was that his supervisors could stand in for him in any news media interviews.

Mr. Acosta said the calls and meetings with Goddard press officers were not to introduce restrictions, but to review existing rules. He said Dr. Hansen had continued to speak frequently with the news media.

But Dr. Hansen and some of his colleagues said interviews were canceled as a result.

In one call, George Deutsch, a recently appointed public affairs officer at NASA headquarters, rejected a request from a producer at National Public Radio to interview Dr. Hansen, said Leslie McCarthy, a public affairs officer responsible for the Goddard Institute.

Citing handwritten notes taken during the conversation, Ms. McCarthy said Mr. Deutsch called N.P.R. "the most liberal" media outlet in the country. She said that in that call and others, Mr. Deutsch said his job was "to make the president look good" and that as a White House appointee that might be Mr. Deutsch's priority.

But she added: "I'm a career civil servant and Jim Hansen is a scientist. That's not our job. That's not our mission. The inference was that Hansen was disloyal."

Normally, Ms. McCarthy would not be free to describe such conversations to the news media, but she agreed to an interview after Mr. Acosta, at NASA headquarters, told The Times that she would not face any retribution for doing so.

Mr. Acosta, Mr. Deutsch's supervisor, said that when Mr. Deutsch was asked about the conversations, he flatly denied saying anything of the sort. Mr. Deutsch referred all interview requests to Mr. Acosta.

Ms. McCarthy, when told of the response, said: "Why am I going to go out of my way to make this up and back up Jim Hansen? I don't have a dog in this race. And what does Hansen have to gain?"

Mr. Acosta said that for the moment he had no way of judging who was telling the truth. Several colleagues of both Ms. McCarthy and Dr. Hansen said Ms. McCarthy's statements were consistent with what she told them when the conversations occurred.

"He's not trying to create a war over this," said Larry D. Travis, an astronomer who is Dr. Hansen's deputy at Goddard, "but really feels very strongly that this is an obligation we have as federal scientists, to inform the public."

Dr. Travis said he walked into Ms. McCarthy's office in mid-December at the end of one of the calls from Mr. Deutsch demanding that Dr. Hansen be better controlled.

In an interview on Friday, Ralph J. Cicerone, an atmospheric chemist and the president of the National Academy of Sciences, the nation's leading independent scientific body, praised Dr. Hansen's scientific contributions and said he had always seemed to describe his public statements clearly as his personal views.

"He really is one of the most productive and creative scientists in the world," Dr. Cicerone said. "I've heard Hansen speak many times and I've read many of his papers, starting in the late 70's. Every single time, in writing or when I've heard him speak, he's always clear that he's speaking for himself, not for NASA or the administration, whichever administration it's been."

The fight between Dr. Hansen and administration officials echoes other recent disputes. At climate laboratories of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for example, many scientists who routinely took calls from reporters five years ago can now do so only if the interview is approved by administration officials in Washington, and then only if a public affairs officer is present or on the phone.

Where scientists' points of view on climate policy align with those of the administration, however, there are few signs of restrictions on extracurricular lectures or writing.

One example is Indur M. Goklany, assistant director of science and technology policy in the policy office of the Interior Department. For years, Dr. Goklany, an electrical engineer by training, has written in papers and books that it may be better not to force cuts in greenhouse gases because the added prosperity from unfettered economic activity would allow countries to exploit benefits of warming and adapt to problems.

In an e-mail exchange on Friday, Dr. Goklany said that in the Clinton administration he was shifted to nonclimate-related work, but added that he had never had to stop his outside writing, as long as he identified the views as his own.

"One reason why I still continue to do the extracurricular stuff," he wrote, "is because one doesn't have to get clearance for what I plan on saying or writing."

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Clinton: Climate change is the world's biggest worry
By DAN PERRY Associated Press Writer January 28, 2006, 2:00 PM EST

DAVOS, Switzerland -- Former U.S. President Bill Clinton told corporate chieftains and political bigwigs Saturday that climate change was the world's biggest problem - followed by global inequality and the "apparently irreconcilable" religious and cultural differences behind terrorism. [...]

"First, I worry about climate change," Clinton said in an onstage conversation with the founder of the World Economic Forum. "It's the only thing that I believe has the power to fundamentally end the march of civilization as we know it, and make a lot of the other efforts that we're making irrelevant and impossible."
Clinton called for "a serious global effort to develop a clean energy future" to avoid the onset of another ice age.

He also said the current global system "works to aggravate rather than ameliorate inequality" between and within nations - including in the United States, where he lamented the "growing concentration of wealth at the top," alongside stagnation for the middle classes and rising poverty.

"I don't think we've found the way to promote economic and political integration in a manner that benefits the vast majority of the people in all societies and makes them feel that they are benefited by it," he said. "Voters usually see ... issues from the prism of their own experience."

Clinton won frequent enthusiastic applause - not a common situation at the annual gathering in the Swiss Alps - for articulating a global vision more conciliatory and inclusive than the one many of the assembled tend to associate with U.S. politics.

People around the world "basically want to know that we're on their side, that we wish them well, that we want the best for them, that we're pulling for them," he said.

Clinton called on current world leaders to seek ways of easing the "apparently irreconcilable religious and cultural differences in the world, that are manifest most stunningly in headlines about terrorist actions but really go far beyond that."

"You really can't have a global economy or a global society or a global approach to health and other things unless there is some sense of global community."

Former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans was listening. "He's a great performer and then he's got the greatest convening power of anyone now in the world, I think, and the greatest capacity to articulate things that matter," said Evans, who now heads the International Crisis Group, a think tank.

Clinton also dispensed advice on the issues of the day.

In Iraq, he said, the United States should not "give this thing up and say it can't work," but should consider "drawing down some of our troops and reconfiguring their components, trying to increase the special forces (and) putting them in places where they're not quite as vulnerable."

Iran, he argued, must not be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons, and neither economic sanctions nor "any other option" should be ruled out as ways of preventing this.
But he warned there would be "an enormous political price to pay if the global community ... looked like they went to force before everything else has been exhausted."

Clinton also suggested the West should be more open to eventual dialogue with Hamas, the radical Palestinian group whose election victory stunned the world this week and clouded the prospects of any resolution to the conflict with Israel.

"One of the politically correct things in American politics ... is we just don't talk to some people that we don't like, particularly if they ever killed anybody in a way that we hate," he said. "I do think that if you've got enough self-confidence in who you are and what you believe in, you ought not to be scared to talk to anybody."

"You've got to find a way to at least open doors ... and I don't see how we can do it without more contact," he said. Hamas might "acquire a greater sense of responsibility, and as they do we have to be willing to act on that."

Klaus Schwab, the forum's founder and organizer, asked Clinton to advise the next U.S. president, noting that this person might either be married to Clinton or listening in the audience _ an apparent reference to Sen. John McCain, seated in the first row along with Microsoft's Bill Gates and other invitees.

"In this world full of culturally charged issues I think we should make it clear that Senator McCain and I are not married," Clinton joked as the audience burst into laughter.

The comment earned Clinton a slap on the back from the Arizona Republican, who fought a crowd to get to the former president after the event.

"Interesting talk," said the beaming possible 2008 presidential contender. "You got us both in trouble!"

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Stark warning over climate change
Monday, 30 January 2006, 09:39 GMT

Rising concentrations of greenhouse gases may have more serious impacts than previously believed, a major new scientific report has said.

The report, published by the UK government, says there is only a small chance of greenhouse gas emissions being kept below "dangerous" levels.

It fears the Greenland ice sheet is likely to melt, leading sea levels to rise by seven metres over 1,000 years.

The poorest countries will be most vulnerable to these effects, it adds.
The report, "Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change", collates evidence presented by scientists at a conference hosted by the UK Meteorological Office in February 2005.

The conference set two principal objectives: to ask what level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is too much, and what are the options for avoiding such levels?

Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett said the report's conclusions would be a shock to many people.

"The thing that is perhaps not so familiar to members of the public... is this notion that we could come to a tipping point where change could be irreversible," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"We're not talking about it happening over five minutes, of course, maybe over a thousand years, but it's the irreversibility that I think brings it home to people."

Vulnerable ecosystems

One collection of scientific papers sets out the impacts associated with various levels of temperature increase.

"Above a one degree Celsius increase, risks increase significantly, often rapidly for vulnerable ecosystems and species," concludes Bill Hare from the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research in Germany, who produced an overview of more than 70 studies of impacts on water resources, agriculture and wildlife.

"In the one to two degree range, risks across the board increase significantly, and at a regional level are often substantial," he writes.

"Above two degrees the risks increase very substantially, involving potentially large numbers of extinctions or even ecosystem collapses, major increases in hunger and water shortage risks as well as socio-economic damages, particularly in developing countries."

The European Union has adopted a target of preventing a rise in global average temperature of more than two Celsius.

That, according to the report, might be too high, with two degrees perhaps being enough to trigger melting of the Greenland ice sheet.

This would have a major impact on sea levels globally, though it would take up to 1,000 years to see the full predicted rise of seven metres.

The western half of the much larger Antarctic ice sheet is also causing concern to the British Antarctic Survey, whose head Chris Rapley describes it as a "sleeping giant".

Previous assessments had concluded the ice here was unlikely to melt in significant amounts in the foreseeable future; but Professor Rapley says that question needs revisiting in the light of new evidence.

Unfeasible targets

A key task undertaken by some scientists contributing to the report was to calculate which greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere would be enough to cause these "dangerous" temperature increases.

Currently, the atmosphere contains about 380 parts per million (ppm) of carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas, compared to levels before the industrial revolution of about 275ppm.

"For achieving the two Celsius target with a probability of more than 60%, greenhouse gas concentrations need to be stabilised at 450 ppm CO2-equivalent or below," conclude Michel den Elzen from the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency and Malte Meinshausen of the US National Center for Atmospheric Research.

"A stabilisation at 450 ppm CO2-equivalent requires global emissions to peak around 2015, followed by substantial overall reductions in the order of 30%-40% compared to 1990 levels in 2050."

But, speaking on Today, the UK government's chief scientific advisor Sir David King said that is unlikely to happen.

"We're going to be at 400 parts per million in 10 years time, I predict that without any delight in saying it," he said.

"But no country is going to turn off a power station which is providing much-desired energy for its population to tackle this problem - we have to accept that.

"To aim for 450 (ppm) would, I am afraid, seem unfeasible."

A rise of two Celsius, researchers conclude, will be enough to cause:

* Decreasing crop yields in the developing and developed world
* Tripling of poor harvests in Europe and Russia
* Large-scale displacement of people in north Africa from desertification
* Up to 2.8bn people at risk of water shortage
* 97% loss of coral reefs
* Total loss of summer Arctic sea ice causing extinction of the polar bear and the walrus
* Spread of malaria in Africa and north America

But Miles Allen, a lecturer on atmospheric physics at Oxford University, said assessing a "safe level" of CO2 in the atmosphere was "a bit like asking a doctor what's a safe number of cigarettes to smoke per day".

"There isn't one but at the same time people do smoke and live until they're 90," he told Today.

"It's one of those difficult areas where we're talking about changing degrees of risk rather than a very definite number after which we can say with absolute certainty that certain things will happen."

Technological hope

On the other question asked at the 2005 conference - what are the options for avoiding dangerous concentrations in greenhouse gas emissions - the report is more equivocal.

Technological options do exist, it concludes, such as ways to increase energy efficiency, renewable energy sources, and "clean coal" processes.

Financial mechanisms which can increase their uptake, such as emissions trading, are also in existence.

The big issue is how quickly they will be adopted, and by what proportion of governments.

"For all stabilisation strategies, the biggest problem does not seem to be the technologies or the costs, but overcoming the many political, social and behavioural barriers to implementing mitigation options," conclude Bert Metz and Detlef van Vuuren of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency.

"There is a multitude of potential obstacles, ranging from lack of awareness, vested interests, prices not reflecting environmental impacts, cultural and behavioural barriers to change and, in the case of spreading technologies to developing countries, the lack of an effective enabling environment for new investments."

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Phoenix ties record of 101 days without rain
By Royal Norman 3TV meteorologist 01.27.2006

PHOENIX - Today marks the day that we've had 101 days straight without a drop of rain in Phoenix. That ties the current record, which was set back in 1999-2000.

The last time it rained here was Oct. 18, 2005. Tomorrow, we will set a new record of 102 days without rain. And the next day, and the next day, we'll keep adding to that unenviable record until we get some rain.
The record keepers like to point out that there is another dry streak that's significantly longer for Phoenix. The "granddaddy" of dry streaks for the Valley is 160 days without "measurable" rain. In other words, how long it's been since we received .01 inches or more of rain. I guess they figure a few drops of rain here and there don't matter.

So we break the first streak, 101 days in a row without any rain, and we set our eyes on the prize of 160 days in a row without measurable rain.

So, 101 days without rain is bad, but it could be worse. Tucson's record dry streak without rain is 114 days. A few years back, San Diego set a new dry streak, more than 180 days without rain.

In the United States, the longest dry streak is 767 days at Bagdad, Calif.

And for the entire planet, the longest dry streak we're aware of is the Atacama Desert, which is near the Andes in Chile. It's said that some parts of that desert haven't seen rain in 400 years!

I'm just trying to figure out how they managed to track that record.

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Cold snap takes its frigid toll across Europe
WARSAW, Jan 29, 2006

WARSAW, Jan 29, 2006 (AFP) - Frigid weather took its toll across Europe over the weekend, as at least 66 people were killed when a roof collapsed in heavy snow in Poland and snow cut off roads and paralysed transport in France, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and Portugal.
The Polish tragedy happened near the southern industrial Polish city of Katowice on Saturday when the roof of an exhibition centre collapsed under the weight of deep, heavy snow, in temperatures of minus 15 degrees Celsius (five degrees F).

Despite a massive rescue operation that ran through the night in icy temperatures that fell to minus 17 degrees C (one degree Fahrenheit), 66 people died and 141 were injured in what Polish President Lech Kaczynski has called the "biggest catastrophe in democratic Poland".

Life started to return to normal in France with snow warnings were lifted in most areas, but with the south west continuing to be battered by ice and snow.

Over the weekend heavy snow had disrupted travel on motorways especially in central France, forcing some roads to be closed. Rail traffic was hampered in southern France, Switzerland and northern Italy, cutting some Alpine villages off altogether.

Four skiers were killed and two missing Sunday in avalanches in the French Alps in eastern France.

Snow and rain also battered much of Portugal and Spain, forcing the closure of roads to traffic.

Spain's national traffic office said some 22 mountain passes and 36 motor routes were affected, with the Catalan region in northeast Spain was especially hard hit.

Even southern Spain has not escaped from the cold snap. In Ecija, known as the "oven of Andalusia" for its extremely hot temperatures during the summer, was partially covered with snow on Sunday for the first time in 30 years.

Two car crashes on Spanish roads Saturday left seven people dead and 42 others injured, rescue services said.

In Portugal, snow fell on the capital Lisbon for the first time in 52 years forcing the closure of five highways in the center of the country, rescue officials there said Sunday.

The icy roads led to several accidents in central and northern Portugal where the mercury fell to minus six degrees Celsius, a rare temperature in the southern European nation.

The weather continued to take its toll in Germany where an elderly man froze to death in the east of the country at the weekend, police said, bringing to eight the death toll in the cold spell.

The temperature dropped to minus 15 degrees Celsius in parts of Saxony, which borders on the Czech Republic, overnight Saturday.

There was relief for citizens in Georgia, as Russian gas supplies resumed a week after a series of mysterious explosions sabotaged the main pipeline between the two countries, leaving people shivering in their apartments.

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Hurricanes Shape New Natural Order
By CAIN BURDEAU Associated Press January 30, 2006

OVER THE NORTHERN GULF COAST - Last year's record hurricane season didn't just change life for humans. It changed nature, too.

Everywhere scientists look, they see disrupted patterns in and along the Gulf of Mexico. Coral reefs, flocks of sea birds, crab- and shrimp-filled meadows and dune-crowned beaches were wrapped up in — and altered by — the force of hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Dennis.

"Nothing's been like this," said Abby Sallenger, a
U.S. Geological Survey oceanographer, during a recent flight over the northern Gulf Coast to study shoreline changes.

For him, the changes are mind-boggling: Some barrier islands are nearly gone; on others, beaches are scattered like bags of dropped flour.
Hurricanes have been kneading the Gulf Coast like putty for eons, carving out inlets and bays, creating beaches and altering plant and animal life — but up to now, the natural world has largely been able to rebound. Trees, marine life and shoreline features tourists and anglers enjoyed in recent years were largely the same types as those 17th century buccaneers and explorers encountered.

But scientists say the future could be different. Nature might not be able to rebound so quickly. The reason: the human factor.

"Natural systems are resilient and bounce back," said Susan Cutter, a geographer with the University of South Carolina. "The problem is when we try to control nature, rather than letting her do what she does."

The seas are rising, the planet is getting hotter and commercial and residential development is snowballing. Add those factors to a predicted increase in nasty hurricanes and what results is a recipe for potentially serious natural degradation, some say.

"It may bring about a situation (in which) the change is so rapid, it's something that's very different from what the ecosystem experienced over the last three, four thousand years," said Kam-biu Liu, a Louisiana State University professor and hurricane paleoscientist. "We may be losing part of our beaches, we may lose our coastal wetlands, and our coastal forests may change permanently to a different kind of ecosystem."

Between 2004 and 2005, "we've basically demolished our coastline from Galveston (Texas) to Panama City, Fla.," said Barry Keim, the state climatologist in Louisiana. "It's getting to the point that we might have to rethink what our coastal map looks like."

The Gulf, scientists say, won't turn into an environmental wasteland, but it could be less rich in flora and fauna.

Surveys of the washed out Chandeleur Islands, an arc of barrier islands off the coast of Louisiana, found nesting grounds for brown pelicans, royal terns, sandwich terns and black skimmers gone.

"Hopefully the birds will be resilient enough to move to other areas," said Tom Hess, a biologist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. "We will have to see."

Salt water spread by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita killed marsh grasses across the Louisiana coast, leaving little left to eat for Louisiana's most hunted bird — the duck.

"Most of the marsh where that salt water sat for a long time looks dead. It looks like it is does extremely late in the winter and you've had several extreme frosts," said Robert Helm, a state waterfowl biologist. "Where we found birds, they seemed to be concentrated in the habitat that was not impacted by the storm."

Duck hunters ask themselves: If Louisiana's abundant wetlands keep getting knocked out, will the ducks head to greener fields?

"You don't go to the restaurant, find it empty, and hang around," said Charlie Smith, a duck hunter.

Katrina and Rita didn't only kill plants. They annihilated more than 100 square miles of wetlands in Louisiana alone, scattering huge chunks of soft marshy earth.

"The hurricanes may have changed habitat in ways that we have not even begun to assess," said Harriet Perry, a fishery expert with the University of Southern Mississippi.

A lot of things are happening under the water, too.

With their towering waves — well over 50 feet high during Katrina — hurricanes move huge volumes of mud and sediment on the ocean bottom, burying clam and oyster beds and seagrass meadows where crabs, shrimps and fish hide and feed. Can the sea plants spring back?

"It depends on the light penetration, how deep they are buried, and factors like that," said John Dindo, a marine scientist and assistant director of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama.

Farther out, where the continental shelf drops off, the wild seas kicked up by the hurricanes damaged the Gulf's coral reefs.

After Rita's 30-plus-foot waves, surveys of the coral at the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary 100 miles off the coast of Louisiana and Texas showed damage to about 5 percent of the reef. Brain and star coral was toppled and smashed into other coral heads. About 3 feet of sand was dispersed on sand flats in the reef where trigger fish and queen conch burrow and nest.

Also, a large plume of contaminated runoff from the mainland's towns and industries befouled the reef for a couple of days, said G.P. Schmahl, the sanctuary's manager.

Coral reefs are resilient, for the most part, but like much else in nature along the Gulf Coast they could be devastated by an onslaught of powerful hurricanes and warming seas. A coral reef near Jamaica, for example, was wiped out by Hurricane Allen in 1980, Schmahl said.

"If they're hit continually with a whole variety of stressors they may not be able to recover, and that's the big concern right now," he said.

Among fish, species shift locations when runoff from towns, septic systems and farms causes algae blooms or storms change salinity levels in coastal bays and channels. Still, not all changes are detrimental: When Gulf commercial and recreational fishermen are knocked out of the water in storms, overfished species like the red snapper get some breathing room.

Nor are the effects confined to the water or the shoreline. Go inland, and millions of trees — cypress, gum, pine, oak — were snapped like toothpicks. Wild fires fueled by fallen timber break out and kill even more trees. And plant diseases like citrus canker and soybean rust can be spread by hurricanes from one region to the next.

The Gulf is in the midst of flux — heavily developed, heavily fished and buffeted by climate change and storms. It's becoming a perfect place for oceanographers, marine biologists, geologists and geographers to study, said Steven F. DiMarco, an ocean researcher Texas A&M University.

"I think," he said, "people are looking to the Gulf of Mexico ever more as a microcosm of the world."

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Scientists Find Frozen Methane Gas Deposit
By ALICIA CHANG AP Science Writer January 28, 2006

LOS ANGELES - Scientists have discovered an undersea deposit of frozen methane just off the Southern California coast, but whether it can be harnessed as a potential energy source is unknown.
In recent years, there has been a growing interest in tapping methane hydrates, ice-like crystals that form at low temperatures and high pressure in seabeds and in Arctic permafrost.

Scientists estimate that the methane trapped in previously known frozen reservoirs around the globe could power the world for centuries. But finding the technology to mine such deposits has proved elusive.

The newly discovered deposit, believed to be substantial in size, was found about 15 miles off the coast at a depth of about 2,600 feet, at the summit of an undersea mud volcano. Scientists were conducting an unrelated study when they came across the volcano, which sits on top of an active fault zone in the Santa Monica Basin.

The discovery is detailed in the February issue of the journal Geology.

The ecosystem surrounding the methane hydrate site was unlike any of the other vast hydrate deposits around the world. Scientists found seashells and clams with unique chemical characteristics, suggesting the area experiences an extreme flux of methane gas mixing with water, said Jim Hein, a marine geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park.

In additional to technical problems standing in the way of mining methane hydrates, Hein said mining this deposit probably would be difficult because of its proximity to shipping lanes from Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Some scientists also worry about the environmental effects of such large-scale gas deposits. Hydrates are estimated to contain about three times as much methane as is currently in the atmosphere, and some scientists say releasing it could lead to global warming and change the world's climate.
Comment: The frozen methane is sitting only 15 miles off the coast of California on top of a mud volcano, which is itself perched upon an active fault zone. Let's just hope the methane remains frozen...

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Canadian miners safely above ground after fire
By Amran Abocar Reuters January 30, 2006

TORONTO - A group of Canadian miners, trapped by a fire in a potash mine for 24 hours in central Canada, were finally brought to the surface after the mine was cleared of fire and smoke, a mine official said on Monday.

The fire, which broke out at 3 a.m. Central Standard Time early on Sunday at the mine in Esterhazy, Saskatchewan, had forced 70 miners to rush to safety in emergency refuge rooms.
It was unclear whether all 70 miners had been brought to the surface or just the first group.

The mine is owned by Minnesota-based Mosaic Co and is near the provincial border with Manitoba. The company will hold a press conference shortly to discuss the incident.

"They're up," said a Mosaic official, manning the company's hotline in Esterhazy. "The ones that there was originally no communication with have come to the surface."

Mine officials had originally said they had lost radio contact with 30 of the miners but later found them safe in a refuge room.

Miners at the site reported smoke almost a little more than a half mile underground early Sunday morning.

The miners had been pinned in several safe rooms as firefighters battled the blaze and then focused on clearing the smoke from the mine so the workers could be safely evacuated.

Company spokesman Marshall Hamilton said a rescue team had reached the refuge rooms, seen the miners and sealed them back in the safe rooms until the fire was being extinguished.

The fire was finally put out and rescuers began the task of ventilating the mine, a process made slower by the size of the mine, about 18.6 miles by 12 miles.

Hamilton said the miners were trained to seek safety in the refuge stations, specifically built and designed for such incidents.

"In those refuge stations, the workers can seal themselves in and be safe with enough oxygen, food and water to be comfortable for 36 hours at the least," he said, adding that the families of the trapped miners had been kept informed.

The mine scare raised memories of a fatal explosion in a West Virginia coal mine earlier this month. Twelve miners were killed and one injured in the blast.

The Canadian mine is the main employer in the small Saskatchewan town. It produces potash, a mineral used in the production of fertilizer.
Comment: Another mine accident...

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Recent Earthquakes
USGS January 30, 2006

A list of recent earthquakes around the world
Magnitude 4.2 - CENTRAL ALASKA 2006 January 30 12:34:22 UTC

Magnitude 4.8 - NIAS REGION, INDONESIA 2006 January 30 04:35:19 UTC

Magnitude 4.2 - OFFSHORE CHIAPAS, MEXICO 2006 January 29 21:49:11 UTC

Magnitude 4.7 - JAN MAYEN ISLAND REGION 2006 January 29 19:49:46 UTC

Magnitude 5.1 - NEAR THE WEST COAST OF COLOMBIA 2006 January 29 17:49:14 UTC

Magnitude 4.2 - SOUTHWESTERN RYUKYU ISLANDS, JAPAN 2006 January 29 17:15:51 UTC

Magnitude 4.3 - FIJI REGION 2006 January 29 14:15:42 UTC

Magnitude 5.2 - FIJI REGION 2006 January 29 11:43:42 UTC

Magnitude 5.0 - SOUTH OF THE FIJI ISLANDS 2006 January 29 08:26:43 UTC

Magnitude 4.0 - FOX ISLANDS, ALEUTIAN ISLANDS, ALASKA 2006 January 29 08:08:28 UTC

Magnitude 4.7 - NEW IRELAND REGION, PAPUA NEW GUINEA 2006 January 29 06:06:08 UTC

Magnitude 4.6 - NORTHERN MID-ATLANTIC RIDGE 2006 January 29 05:57:07 UTC

2006 January 29 05:45:46 UTC

Magnitude 4.7 - MINDANAO, PHILIPPINES 2006 January 29 00:03:08 UTC

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Economy Grows at Slowest Pace in 3 Years
By JEANNINE AVERSA AP Economics Writer Fri Jan 27, 9:36 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The economy slowed to a near crawl in the final quarter of 2005, a listless showing that was the worst in three years. However, growth was respectable for the year and is expected to perk up again soon.

Gross domestic product clocked in at an annual rate of just 1.1 percent from October through December. That marked a loss of speed compared with the third's quarter's brisk 4.1 percent pace, the Commerce Department reported Friday.
Belt tightening by consumers, businesses and the government figured into the fourth-quarter's slowdown.

GDP, which measures the value of all goods and services produced within the United States, is the best barometer of the economy's fitness.

Even with the feeble finish, the economy logged growth of 3.5 percent for all of 2005 — a year when the country coped with fallout from lofty energy prices and the devastating Gulf Coast hurricanes. Analysts called the GDP figure for all of 2005 solid, although it was down from 2004's 4.2 percent gain.

"Considering the impact of the hurricanes and record heating bills last year, the economy continues to show remarkable resilience," said Bill Cheney, chief economist at John Hancock Financial Services.

Looking at the fourth quarter, economists felt the slowdown was more of a temporary setback rather than a harbinger of a sustained period of economic troubles ahead.

"The economy hit a pothole in the fourth quarter. I'm not at all worried about the health of the economy," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com.

Zandi believes the economy in the current January-to-March quarter is already doing better and predicts growth will come in around a 4 percent pace. For all of 2006, analysts project economic growth to top 3 percent.

On Wall Street, stocks surged on a fresh round of strong earnings reports. The Dow Jones industrials gained 97.74 points to close at 10,907.21.

President Bush, in his State of the Union address Tuesday evening, plans to spotlight some pocketbook issues, including high energy prices, tax cuts and expensive health care. Public concern about the economy is still relatively high, polls indicate.

The GDP report gave both Republicans and Democrats something to seize upon.

"We know the economy is not in real good shape. We have the price of oil, which is volatile, going up and down, up and down. We know that the deficit is staggering," said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Treasury Secretary John Snow countered that the "economic fundamentals point to continued strong economic performance in the United States in 2006." He called the fourth-quarter's weak showing "somewhat anomalous" and said he wouldn't read too much into it.

Consumers turned cautious in the final quarter as high energy prices and rising borrowing costs took a toll on their budgets. Their spending grew at a 1.1 percent pace, the slowest since the second quarter of 2001 when the economy was suffering through a recession.

Most of the weakness came as people sharply cut back on purchases of big-ticket "durable" goods, such as cars. This spending dropped by a hefty 17.5 percent rate, the sharpest decline since the first quarter of 1987.

Businesses also were more restrained, boosting spending on equipment and software at a 3.5 percent rate in the fourth quarter, the smallest since the first quarter of 2003.

Another factor restraining overall GDP in the fourth quarter: federal government spending, which fell at a 7 percent rate, the biggest drop since the third quarter of 2000. Analysts, skeptical about this decline, believed it would be reversed, especially given spending related planned for the war in Iraq and hurricane cleanup and rebuilding.

While growth slowed in the fourth quarter, inflation picked up, according to one price measure in the report that is closely watched by the Federal Reserve.

"Core" prices — excluding food and energy costs — rose at a 2.2 percent rate in the fourth quarter, up from a 1.4 percent growth rate in the third quarter. This suggests inflation is filtering into a variety of other prices.

To combat inflation, the Fed is expected to boost interest rates next Tuesday one-quarter percentage point to 4.50 percent.

It will be last meeting for Alan Greenspan, who will retire that day after more than 18 years at the helm of the central bank. Ben Bernanke, who is slated to succeed Greenspan, would lead his first meeting to consider interest rate policy on March 28. The Senate is expected to vote on Bernanke's nomination Tuesday.

"The new Fed chair will be tested right off the bat. The economy is slowing, though clearly not as rapidly as the headline number would have you think. ...At the same time, inflation is slowly accelerating," said Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors.

In a second report, the Commerce Department said new home sales in 2005 climbed to an all-time high, marking the fifth year in a row of record sales. Sales of new single-family homes totaled 1.28 million units last year, a 6.6 percent increase over 2004's sales.

The roaring housing market has helped to bolster the economy, but analysts expect the sector to lose steam this year. They're hoping the slowdown will be moderate. A big drop in home sales and house prices could pose dangers for the overall economy.

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Exxon Profits Biggest In American History While Average American Goes Down the Tubes
By STEVE QUINN AP Business Writer 30 Jan 06

DALLAS - Exxon Mobil Corp. posted record profits for any U.S. company on Monday _ $10.71 billion for the fourth quarter and $36.13 billion for the year _ as the world's biggest publicly traded oil company benefited from high oil and gas prices and demand for refined products. The results exceeded Wall Street expectations and Exxon shares rose nearly 3 percent in morning trading.

The company's earnings amounted to $1.71 per share for the October- December quarter, up 27 percent from $8.42 billion, or $1.30 per share, in the year ago quarter. The result topped the then-record quarterly profit of $9.92 billion Exxon posted in the third quarter of 2005.
Exxon's profit for the year was also the largest annual reported net income in U.S. history, according to Howard Silverblatt, a stock market analyst for Standard & Poor's. He said the previous high was Exxon's $25.3 billion profit in 2004.

Exxon's results lifted the combined 2005 profits for the country's three largest integrated oil companies to more than $63 billion.

ConocoPhillips said last Wednesday that its fourth-quarter earnings rose 51 percent to $3.68 billion, while annual income climbed 66 percent to $13.53 billion. Two days later, Chevron Corp. said its fourth-quarter earnings rose 20 percent to $4.14 billion, while annual income jumped 6 percent to $14.1 billion.

The oil industry's stellar results renewed talk among some politicians for a windfall profit tax that would push companies to invest more in new production and refining capacity.

Sen. Babara Boxer, a California Democrat who sharply criticized oil executives appearing before Congress in November, struck again on Friday. She called on the Bush Administration and the Federal Trade Commission to "put an end to gouging," then suggested that FTC stood for "Friend to Chevron."

But John Felmy, chief economist for the American Petroleum Institute, a Washington-based trade group, said Monday that the political rhetoric was "not a case based on fact."

"We invested somewhere in the order of $86 billion last year," Felmy said. "Then we have to treat investors appropriately otherwise we'd have the Eliott Spitzers of the world coming after us."

The results for Exxon's latest quarter included a $390 million gain related to a litigation settlement. Excluding special items, earnings were $10.32 billion, or $1.65 per share. The result topped Wall Street's expectations. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial predicted earnings of $1.44 per share.

Exxon shares rose $1.87 to $63.16 in morning trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

Quarterly revenue ballooned to $99.66 billion from $83.37 billion a year ago but came in shy of the $100.72 billion Exxon posted in the third quarter, which was the first time a U.S. public company generated more than $100 billion in sales in a single quarter.

By segment, exploration and production earnings rose sharply to $7.04 billion, up $2.15 billion from the 2004 quarter, reflecting higher crude oil and natural gas prices. Production decreased by 1 percent due to the lingering effects of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which battered the Gulf Coast in August and September.

The company's refining and marketing segment reported $2.39 billion in earnings, as higher refining and marketing margins helped offset the residual effects of the hurricanes.

Exxon's chemicals business saw earnings, excluding special items, decline by $413 million to $835 million, as higher materials costs squeezed margins.

For the full year, net income surged to $5.71 per share from $3.89 per share in 2004. Annual revenue grew to $371 billion from $298.04 billion.

To put that into perspective, Exxon's revenue for the year exceeded Saudi Arabia's estimated 2005 gross domestic product of $340.5 billion, according to statistics maintained by the Central Intelligence Agency.
Comment: Now THAT'S obscene. Put that together with the money that has been spent on fighting a war over non-existent WMDs, and divide it up among the U.S. citizens...

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Savings Rate at Lowest Level Since 1933
By MARTIN CRUTSINGER AP Economics Writer 30 Jan 06

WASHINGTON - Americans' personal savings rate dipped into negative territory in something that hasn't happened since the Great Depression. Consumers depleted their savings to finance the purchases of cars and other big-ticket items.
The Commerce Department reported Monday that the savings rate fell into negative territory at minus 0.5 percent, meaning that Americans not only spent all of their after-tax income last year but had to dip into previous savings or increase borrowing.

The savings rate has been negative for an entire year only twice before _ in 1932 and 1933 _ two years when the country was struggling to cope with the Great Depression, a time of massive business failures and job layoffs.

With employment growth strong now, analysts said that different factors are at play. Americans feel they can spend more, given that the value of their homes, the biggest asset for most families, has been rising sharply in recent years.

But analysts cautioned that this behavior was risky at a time when 78 million Americans are on the verge of retirement.

"Americans seem to have the feeling that it is wimpish to save," said David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's in New York. "The idea is to put away money for old age and we are just not doing that."

The Commerce report said that consumer spending for December rose by 0.9 percent, more than double the 0.4 percent increase in incomes last month.

A price gauge that excludes food and energy rose by a tiny 0.1 percent in December, down from a 0.2 percent rise in November. This inflation index linked to consumer spending is closely watched by officials at the Federal Reserve.

The central bank meets on Tuesday, when it is expected it will boost interest rates for a 14th time. However, many economists believe those rate hikes are drawing to a close with perhaps another quarter-point hike at the March 28 meeting as the central bank is starting to see the impact of the previous rate hikes in a slowing economy.

The government reported on Friday that overall economic growth slowed to a 1.1 percent rate in the final three months of the year, the most sluggish pace in three years.

That slowdown was heavily influenced by a big drop for the quarter in spending on new cars, which had surged in the summer as automakers offered attractive sales incentives.

A negative savings rate means that Americans spent all their disposable income, the amount left over after paying taxes, and dipped into their past savings to finance their purchases. For the month, the savings rate fell to 0.7 percent, the largest one-month decline since a 3.4 percent drop in August.

The 0.5 percent negative savings rate for 2005 followed a 1.8 percent rate of savings in 2004. The last negative rates occurred in 1932, a drop of 0.9 percent, and a record 1.5 percent decline in 1933. In those years Americans exhausted their savings to try to meet expenses in the wake of the worst economic crisis in U.S. history.

One major reason that consumers felt confident in spending all of their disposable incomes and dipping into savings last year was that a booming housing market made them feel more wealthy. As their home prices surged at double-digit rates, that created what economists call a "wealth effect" that supported greater spending.

The concern, however, is that the housing boom of the past five years is beginning to quiet down with the rise in mortgage rates. Analysts are closing watching to see whether consumer spending, which accounts for two-thirds of total economic activity, falters in 2006 as Americans, already carrying heavy debt loads, don't feel as wealthy as the price appreciation of their homes would seem to indicate.

For December, the 0.4 percent rise in incomes was in line with Wall Street expectations. It followed a similar 0.4 percent increase in November, with both months lower than the 0.6 percent rise in October.

The 0.9 percent rise in spending with slightly above the expectation for a 0.8 percent increase and was almost double the 0.5 percent increase in November.
Comment: And we all know what happened after 1933, don't we?

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Santa Barbara Realtors 'Refuse' To Share Data
The Housing Bubble 2 January 29, 2006

The Santa Barbara News Press ran this report on area home sales. "Home sales across most of Santa Barbara County fell last month, but median prices appear to be holding steady. On the South Coast, which has ranked as the most overpriced home market in the nation this year by at least two research firms, resales for single-family homes were flat in December compared with a year ago, according to data reported to the Santa Barbara MLS. For all of 2005, sales dropped more than 12 percent."

"Since hitting a high of nearly $1.48 million last September, the South Coast median price has retreated and hovered around $1.25 million in the past three months."

The paper dropped this little bombshell in the fourth paragraph. "Over the past several years, the News-Press has obtained sales and median price data for the South Coast from the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors. The group recently told the News-Press that it now refuses to make this data available to the newsroom. Other associations of Realtors across the county willingly continue to share sales and price information with the paper."

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Iran crisis 'could drive oil over $90'
Heather Stewart, economics correspondent The Observer Sunday January 29, 2006

Prices climb ahead of critical week as nuclear row escalates. Opec says it won't increase quotas to cover for production shutdown

Oil markets are braced for a nail-biting week, as world leaders demand action against Iran over its nuclear ambitions, and analysts warn that crude prices could reach $90 a barrel if the oil-rich state retaliates by blocking supplies.
The International Atomic Energy Agency meets on Thursday to decide whether to refer Iran to the United Nations Security Council. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president, has threatened to respond to any punitive action by cutting off the 2.6 million barrels of oil a day it pumps into the markets - 5 per cent of the world's supply.

Jittery investors sent the price of Brent crude to $67.76 a barrel in New York on Friday night, as fears about the Iranian crisis and rebel attacks on oil facilities in Nigeria rocked confidence in an already tight market.

Kona Haque, commodities editor at the Economist Intelligence Unit, said the worst case scenario of a shutdown of supplies from Iran would be 'absolutely devastating ... I wouldn't be surprised to see the price go over $90 a barrel'. She said fears about Iran are already adding a $10 risk premium to oil prices, which could remain in place for months as the crisis escalates. Davoud Danesh-Jafari, Iran's oil minister, has warned that the result of punitive action against his country would be 'the unleashing of a crisis in the oil sector'.

'The resumption of nuclear research by Iran is currently the market's largest preoccupation,' said BNP Paribas oil analyst Eoin O'Callaghan. He has pushed up his forecast for average oil prices this year to $65 a barrel because of geopolitical risk. He points out that the oil price rose more than 60 per cent in the run-up to the Iraq war; a similar increase now would take prices to $94.

Haque said that with little spare capacity in the market, prices are much more vulnerable to political shocks: 'We need a lot more supply capacity to have a cushion; it's going to take another couple of years until that happens.'

The oil producers' organisation Opec meets in Vienna on Tuesday amid calls from some members, including Iran, to cut back production and push up prices further. But most analysts believe production quotas will be left unchanged. 'There's no pressure on Opec to do anything,' said Rob Laughlin, oil analyst at Man Financial.

He said the Nigerian situation could potentially be worse for oil prices than fears about a supply squeeze from Iran. Production levels in Nigeria have already been lowered by 200,000 barrels a day in an effort to protect facilities from the rebels, who have deliberately targeted foreign oil companies. 'Nigeria is probably as big a problem as Iran for us. We're pretty politically squeezed, between the Nigerian rebels and the Iranian president,' said Laughlin.

The president of Opec, Nigeria's Edmund Daukoru, fuelled market fears on Friday when he told Reuters that his organisation was unlikely to step in with extra supplies if the Iranian crisis worsened. 'If Iran decides to stop production, or is forced to stop production because of a sanction, I don't think Opec necessarily has a role to play there,' he said.

Crude peaked at just over $70 a barrel last autumn after hurricane Katrina, but demand from fast-growing economies such as China and India, together with supply shortages in a number of producing countries, has prevented prices from dropping much below $60.

Investment in Russian oil production has been weak since President Putin's tax raid on the oil giant Yukos, and Iraqi output is well below the levels Washington hoped for before coalition tanks rolled into Baghdad. A cold snap in the US, which has so far had an unusually warm winter, could push prices up further in the weeks ahead. 'Should cold weather return to the US, then we'll really be in trouble,' said Laughlin.

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Pentagon Can Now Fund Foreign Militaries
By Bradley Graham Washington Post Staff Writer 01/29/06

Defense Secretary Pushed for New Powers to Better Deal With Emergencies

Congress has granted unusual authority for the Pentagon to spend as much as $200 million of its own budget to aid foreign militaries, a break with the traditional practice of channeling foreign military assistance through the State Department.

The move, included in a little-noticed provision of the 2006 National Defense Authorization Act passed last month, marks a legislative victory for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who pushed hard for the new powers to deal with emergency situations.
But it has drawn warnings from foreign policy specialists inside and outside the government, who say it could lead to growth of a separate military assistance effort not subject to the same constraints applied to foreign aid programs that are administered by the State Department. Such constraints are meant to ensure that aid recipients meet certain standards, including respect for human rights and protection of legitimate civilian authorities.

"It's important that diplomats remain the ones to make the decisions about U.S. foreign assistance," said George Withers, a senior fellow at the Washington Office on Latin America and a former staff member on the House Armed Services Committee. "They can ensure such decisions are taken in the broader context of U.S. foreign policy."

Many lawmakers, too, were initially cool to Rumsfeld's request. The Armed Services committees in both the House and Senate declined to write the provision into their original defense authorization bills, citing concerns about a lack of jurisdiction and an absence of detail about where the money would be spent.

But the Pentagon pressed its case, with senior commanders joining top officials in weighing in with reluctant members.

"This was the most heavily lobbied we've been by the Pentagon in the several years I've been here," said one Senate staff member. "They really, really wanted this."

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also threw her support behind the measure, overruling lower-ranking staff members who had argued that existing laws were sufficient and who had cautioned against granting the Pentagon such flexibility, department officials said. She joined Rumsfeld last summer in a letter to Congress urging passage of the legislation.

The initiative addresses an issue that both the Pentagon and the State Department have identified as crucial in fighting terrorism and bolstering stability abroad -- namely, "building partnership capacity" in Africa and other developing regions.

Administration officials complain that attempts to provide such security assistance, especially in crisis situations, have often been hampered by a patchwork of legal restrictions and by a division of responsibilities among U.S. government departments. Improving security in a failing foreign nation, for instance, might involve drawing on the Pentagon for military training, the State Department for police training, the Department of Homeland Security for border protection and the Treasury Department for financial enforcement. Cobbling such pieces together can take many months, officials say.

After striking out with the Armed Services committees, Pentagon officials found an ally in Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), who has a particular interest in Africa. Inhofe agreed to propose the new authority on the Senate floor as an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act. To ensure compliance with existing foreign aid rules, language was included saying that funds for the missions would be transferred from the Pentagon to the State Department before being expended and would be subject to limitations of the Foreign Assistance Act.

These conditions were dropped in a later Senate-House conference. But other conditions were added still reflecting congressional reservations.

The final version -- Section 1206 of the authorization act -- says the Pentagon can provide training, equipment and supplies "to build the capacity" of foreign militaries to conduct counterterrorist operations or join with U.S. forces in stability operations. But the section also stipulates that orders for such aid must originate with the president, and it requires the Pentagon to work closely with the State Department in formulating and implementing the assistance.

This new authority cannot be used to provide any assistance banned by other U.S. laws, the provision adds. Further, the measure grants less money than initially requested -- $200 million instead of $750 million. And it expires after two years, far short of the open-ended mandate that Rumsfeld had sought.

"We're calling it a pilot program," said Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Armed Services Committee. "But I think it'll prove its worth."

Defense officials say they are pleased with the outcome. "It's a very good start," said Jeffrey Nadaner, deputy assistant secretary of defense for stability operations. "For the Congress, which hasn't done this before, we think it's a bold, cooperative move."

Reaction at the upper levels of the State Department also has been positive. Under a separate provision approved with the train-and-equip measure, the department is getting $200 million from the Pentagon to bolster a new Reconstruction and Stabilization Office for coordinating civilian assistance. This provision stirred its own controversy among lawmakers, who as a matter of principle have opposed shifting Pentagon funds to the State Department.

Having gained this much, the Pentagon and State Department are now setting their sights on a more ambitious overhaul of foreign assistance rules.

"In the longer run, we need to have our assistance structured in a way that will give us even broader flexibility," said Philip Zelikow, the State Department's counselor. "The president and his advisers must be able to devise a program that can allocate money as needed among whatever agencies have the skill sets to deliver the capabilities, whether State, Defense, Justice or other government agencies."
Comment: Despite all the talk of impeachment, Bush and his gang are just marching right along, hoarding more and more power...

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UN unveils plan to release untapped wealth of...$7 trillion (and solve the world's problems at a stroke)
By Philip Thornton, Economics Correspondent The Independent 30 January 2006

The most potent threats to life on earth - global warming, health pandemics, poverty and armed conflict - could be ended by moves that would unlock $7 trillion - $7,000,000,000,000 (£3.9trn) - of previously untapped wealth, the United Nations claims today.

The price? An admission that the nation-state is an old-fashioned concept that has no role to play in a modern globalised world where financial markets have to be harnessed rather than simply condemned.
n a groundbreaking move, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) has drawn up a visionary proposal that has been endorsed by a range of figures including Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Laureate.

It says an unprecedented outbreak of co-operation between countries, applied through six specific financial tools, would slice through the Gordian knot of problems that have bedevilled the world for most of the last century.

If its recommendations are accepted - and the authors acknowledge this could take years or even decades - it could finally force countries to face up to the fact that their public finance and growth figures conceal the vast damage their economies do to the environment.

At the heart of the proposal, unveiled at a gathering of world business leaders at the Swiss ski resort of Davos, is a push to get countries to account for the cost of failed policies, and use the money saved "up front" to avert crises before they hit. Top of the list is a challenge to the United States to join an international pollution permit trading system which, the UN claims, could deliver $3.64trn of global wealth.

Inge Kaul, a special adviser at the UNDP, said: "The way we run our economies today is vastly expensive and inefficient because we don't manage risk well and we don't prevent crises." She downplayed concerns over up-front costs and interest payments for the new-fangled financial devices. "The gains in terms of development would outweigh those costs. Money is wasted because we dribble aid, and the costs of not solving the problems are much, much higher than what we would have to pay for getting the financial markets to lend the money."

The UNDP is determined to ensure globalisation, which has generated vast wealth for multinational companies, benefits the poorest in society.

It urges politicians to embrace some groundbreaking schemes put in place in the past 12 months to tackle global warning, poverty and disease, based on working with the global markets to share out the risk.

These include a pilot international finance facility (IFF) to "front load" $4bn of cash for vaccines by borrowing money against pledges of future government aid.

The scheme, which is backed by the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was born out of a proposal by Gordon Brown for a larger scheme to double the total aid budget to $100bn a year.

In an endorsement of the report, Mr Brown said: "This shows how we can equip people and countries for a new global economy that combined greater prosperity and fairness both within and across nations."

The UNDP says rich countries should build on this and go further. It proposes six schemes to harness the power of the markets:

* Reducing greenhouse gas emissions through pollution permit trading; net gain $3.64trn.

* Cutting poor countries' borrowing costs by securing the debts against the income from stable parts of their economies; net gain $2.90trn.

* Reducing government debt costs by linking payments to the country's economic output; net gain $600bn.

* An enlarged version of the vaccine scheme; net gain (including benefits of lower mortality) $47bn.

* Using the vast flow of money from migrants back to their home country to guarantee; net gain $31bn.

* Aid agencies underwriting loans to market investors to lower interest rates; net gain $22bn.

Professor Stiglitz, the former chief economist of the World Bank and a staunch critic of the way globalisation harms the poor, said: "Globalisation has meant the closer integration of countries, and that in turn has meant a greater need for collective action.

"One of the most important areas of failure is the environment. Without government intervention, firms and households have no incentive to limit their pollution." He said a global public finance system would force countries to acknowledge the external damage their policies had, "the most important being global climate change".

Solving the environmental crisis tops the UN's $7trn wish-list. It calls for an international market to trade pollution permits that would encourage rich countries to cut pollution and hit their targets under the Kyoto protocol.

But - and the UN admits it is a big "but" - the US would have to sign up to Kyoto and carbon trading to achieve the $3.64trn that it believes the system would deliver over time.

"We are dealing with a global problem as pollution can only be dealt with internationally," Ms Kaul said. Richard Sandor, the head of the Chicago Climate Exchange, added: "Many encouraging signs are emerging. When the business case is clear, private entrepreneurs step forward."

But, the proposal is unlikely to get support from some green groups who believe that action to curb consumption, rather than market incentives, are the way to reduce carbon emissions.

Andrew Simms, director of the New Economics Foundation, said it left unanswered questions over how these markets would be managed and how the benefits and costs would be distributed. "We have nothing against markets so it would be missing the point to get into a pro- or anti-market stance. The point is how you distribute the benefits."

He said the Nineties, the zenith decade for globalisation, had seen just 60 cents out of every $100 worth of growth reach the poorest in society, compared with the $2.20 in the Eighties.

He said a pollution trading regime had the potential to deliver "enormous" benefits to poor countries, but said the UN report failed to show a detailed plan.

"Our view is that you have to cap pollution, allocate permits and then you can trade. But it depends on how it is set up. Because you are dealing with a global commons of the atmosphere, the danger is that you could be effectively dealing in stolen goods."

He said a system set up now to trade in pollution permits could end up permanently depriving poor countries that joined the system further down the road.

International problems - and solutions


Millions of people across the developing world have died from malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/Aids, as well as from other pandemics. Vaccines needed to avert them require much-needed investment.

SOLUTION: An advance commitment by rich countries to buy $3bn (£1.7bn) worth of vaccines would be enough to encourage pharmaceutical giants to invest in finding medicines that would eliminate these pandemics.

SAVING: $600bn

Vaccines are needed but more should be done in the meantime. Extra aid is needed for simple tools such as mosquito nets that would curb spread of malaria.


Big business and global money ignore countries where they see the risk of conflict outweighing their potential profit margins.

Guarantees by international organisations such as the International Monetary Fund to lower the cost of borrowing for poor nations by underwriting investors' loans to conflict-torn states.

SAVING: $22bn

ALTERNATIVE SOLUTION: Sometimes large volumes of cash are needed and this is one. Live8 showed there was huge support among taxpayers for higher aid to countries in distress.

Hitting a commitment made in the 1960s of 0.7 per cent of GDP would unlock $140bn a year.


Once great nations such as Brazil and Argentina were reduced to the status of beggars after poor economic policy combined with debts with national and international lenders.

SOLUTION: A system to enable countries to take loans linked to their average economic growth rate to ensure that they do not have to cut public spending to raise the money to borrow needed funds during the hard times.

SAVING: $600bn

ALTERNATIVE SOLUTION: A system to allow countries to seek protection from their creditors in the same way that US companies can take so-called Chapter 11 bankruptcy.


Poor countries suffer most from swings in investment tastes by the big global investors that means money can leave as soon as it arrives.

SOLUTION: Enable countries to buy "insurance policies" against big swings in growth that would ensure that they did not have to cut public spending every time. In 1997 it wreaked havoc across South-east Asia.

SAVING: $2,900bn

ALTERNATIVE SOLUTION: Curb speculative investment by imposing a tax on foreign exchange transactions aimed at destabilising a currency. It could directly raise funds for development while preventing the worst excesses of the markets.


Scientists believe human activity has led to climate change and disappearing Arctic ice. The world's poor also have to live with lethal storms and floods.

UN SOLUTION: A system of international trading in permits to allow pollution that would encourage countries to cut their emission of greenhouse gases so they can sell their "right to pollute" to other states. UNDP says it is more effective than just setting targets.

SAVING: $3,620bn

ALTERNATIVE SOLUTION: An international approach is needed but one that prevents people from causing harm by setting pollution targets rather than trying to bribe them not to. Also agree global airline tax.


Millions of skilled workers leave their home countries every year in search of a better life in the West. In some states nine out 10 professionals have left.

SOLUTION: Enable countries to borrow on the open markets against the money workers send home. The capital would be used to invest in the country to build infrastructure that would discourage people from leaving.

SAVING: $31bn

ALTERNATIVE SOLUTION: An international code of ethical guidelines overseen by bodies such as the World Health Organisation (for doctors and nurses) to monitor the harm that migration of professionals causes.
Comment: Unfortunately, the UN's "brilliant plan" involves the same problems that got the world into its current mess: corrupt political and economic systems run by psychopaths where debt is an integral component. Guess who will be raking it in?

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The rumor is that Iran will carry out a nuclear experiment in March...
Published: 1/29/2006 TurkishPress.com

Teheran is getting ready to counter a “preemptive strike” by USA and Israel. The Air Force Command of the Revolutionary Guard has ordered its Shahap-3 Missile Units to keep their mobile missile ramps in motion in preparation for such an attack. Responding to this order, in darkness of the night the primary missile ramps have been moved to Kirmanshah and Hamedan, and the reserve ramps to Isfahan and Fars regions.
The above actions are the basis for the efforts of the USA to attract Russia and China, as well as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt to its side, and for commenting that a military intervention is always on the table. These actions are also the basis for Israel’s overt preparation for a possible offensive action and for making authoritative announcements that it “will not permit Iran” to proceed with its nuclear plans. Suddenly, all these activities have created a renewed global atmosphere of war. They are spreading anxiety and paranoia.

Israel is the only nuclear power in the Middle East. It has never accepted any international agreement on nuclear weapons, and has never allowed inspections of its nuclear facilities. Yet, it is aggressively beating the war drums as if Iran is the country involved in nuclear development in the area. What kind of innocence is this?

Attacks to selected centers in Iran are foreseen to take place sometime in March-June.

Even the Pope called upon Russia and China, requesting that they reconsider the subject of Iran. Iran can do what the Arab countries cannot: withdrawing its funds deposited at Western banks and moving them to Asian banks.

Somehow, big steps are seemingly being taken toward a war. According to them, just two months remain. Within the next two months, confusing allegations will resonate as to how much of a threat Iran has become.

So, why was the month of March chosen? What is behind the prediction that Iran will carry out a nuclear experiment in March? In other words, why are the USA and Israel drawing global attention to the month of March? Why are Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia being pushed into a race of weapons build-up by bringing up the possibility that they may also acquire nuclear weapons?

Because, there is another event expected to occur in March, which could have an impact on the economy of the USA equivalent to a nuclear attack: in March, Teheran will implement its 2004 decision that it will start using the Euro instead of the Dollar in its petroleum trade, establishing a petroleum market, and breaking the “petrodollar” monopoly. Iran will open its petroleum market in March. Euro will replace Dollar in the petroleum trade. This will constitute a major attack on a vital component of the American Empire. Once the decision is implemented, a real debate will start on this doomsday scenario for the American economy.

Thereafter, the monopoly of USA/United Kingdom in international petroleum trade will collapse. The petroleum markets in New York and London will receive a heavy blow. The International Petroleum Market in London and the New York Mercantile Exchange controlled by the Americans are in a state of panic.

The Iranian position is being supported by the Chinese. The Japanese are also inclined to switch to Euro; this way, they could lower their Dollar reserves.

What are the implications of the widespread switch to the Euro, and the preference of Russia, European Union, Japan and some of the Arab countries to use the Euro in petroleum trade? What would happen if Russia that has major trade relations with Europe, China and Japan were to start using the Euro in the energy market? What would happen if the petroleum-producing Arab countries would also see the Euro as the alternative to compensate for the loss of Dollar’s value? Indeed, loss of Dollar’s value will force many countries to prefer the Euro.

This scenario will progressively lead to a profitable business.

If these issues were to lead to an escape from the Dollar, and dramatically reduce the flow of money to the USA, what will be the shape of the American economy?

There lies the wisdom of the month of March. This danger hides behind the hullabaloo that Iran will conduct a nuclear experiment in March. An Iranian petroleum market that is indexed on the Euro is more dangerous for the USA than any nuclear weapon.

The USA, which is working on controlling global petroleum markets under the label of “fighting terrorism” is actually fighting an economic war. However, as it becomes more and more aggressive, it is sinking deeper and deeper...

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Ex-Israeli spy chief: Hamas ministers may be hunted
By Adam Entous Reuters 29 Jan 2006

PETACH TIKVA, Israel, Jan 29 (Reuters) - The architect of Israel's policy of assassinating Palestinian militants said on Sunday Israel should hunt down wanted Hamas leaders even if they become ministers in a newly elected Palestinian government.
Avi Dichter, who used to head the Shin Bet security agency and is seen as a frontrunner for a top security post after Israel's March 28 general election, said he doubted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would remain in power, except as a "puppet leader", following Hamas's election victory.

"(Abbas) knows very well that he's going to find himself in a high-noon situation, and I'm sure that he is fully aware of the fact that he is not going to be the last man standing," said Dichter.

He said Abbas may resign, or Hamas leaders could replace him with one of their own or another figurehead.

Dichter no longer holds a policy-making position but he wields clout within the centrist Kadima party, founded by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon before his Jan. 4 stroke.

Speaking to reporters at Kadima's campaign headquarters in the city of Petach Tikva, Dichter said Hamas's crushing victory over Abbas's long-dominant Fatah party in Wednesday's parliamentary election amounted to a "revolution" that caught everyone by surprise.

Dichter warned that violence between Hamas and Fatah gunmen could spread, and said Israel should wait and see what unfolds before deciding how to proceed.

Interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Sunday Israel would boycott a Palestinian government that includes Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state. The militant group was propelled to victory by its anti-corruption platform, charity network and nearly 60 suicide bombings in Israel since a Palestinian uprising began in 2000.

Dichter singled out by name senior Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh when asked whether Hamas leaders-turned-ministers would be targeted for assassination despite their possible new roles in a democratically-elected government.

"If tomorrow Ismail Haniyeh will become the minister of whatever, of health, he'll continue to be the generator of terror attacks from the Gaza Strip," Dichter said.

"If we'll come to arrest him, terrorists will not get any immunity just because he is a minister. It's not going to be a shelter," Dichter said.

Under Dichter's leadership, Israel expanded a policy of assassinating Palestinian militants as a key strategy against an uprising that erupted in September 2000 after failed peace talks.

The killings were widely supported by Israelis. But Palestinians and world leaders condemned the killings, saying they have fuelled violence and undermined peace efforts.

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Israel, Germany Agree on Hamas Refusal
By ARON HELLER Associated Press Sun Jan 29, 4:25 PM ET

JERUSALEM - Israel and Germany agreed Sunday that there should be no contacts with a Palestinian government headed by Hamas, the leaders of the two countries said after meeting in Jerusalem at the beginning of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit.
Merkel's 24-hour trip to Israel and the Palestinian territories makes her the first world leader to visit the region since Hamas won an overwhelming victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections last week.

She has refused to meet Hamas officials and has expressed similar concerns to those of other world leaders regarding the Islamic militant group, which has carried out scores of suicide bombings against Israel and does not recognize the Jewish state's right to exist.

The Merkel visit to Israel is also the first by a major world leader since Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was incapacitated following a massive stroke on Jan. 4.

At a joint news conference after their talk, Merkel and acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert took a tough line against Hamas.

Olmert said they agreed that "there should be no negotiations with a government that consists of terror groups and bodies that deal with terror and do not accept the existence of Israel."

Merkel said Germany would study Hamas' behavior, but she added that it was "unthinkable" for Germany and the European Union to give financial support to a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority that does not recognize Israel or renounce violence.

Merkel also said Iran is a threat not just to Israel, but to democracies across the world, referring to its nuclear programs and its leader's statements calling for destruction of Israel. "We have the common task to make clear to Iran that it has crossed a red line that we will not accept," she said.

She said a broad alliance of countries has to be formed to "reject what Iran does and says."

A wide range of Israeli-German bilateral issues are on the table, including Israel's purchase of two more Dolphin submarines. Israel's navy already has three such submarines, which have the capability of being armed with nuclear weapons. Israel sought the extra submarines due to fears that Iran will soon become a nuclear power. The deal, worth $1.4 billion, was finalized in November with Merkel's predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder.

On Monday, Merkel is to meet other Israeli leaders, including Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Likud Party leader Benjamin Netanyahu before visiting Yad Vashem, Israel's memorial to the Holocaust, as German leaders traditionally do on visits to Israel.

Later, she will cross over to the Palestinian territories and meet with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in the
West Bank city of Ramallah.
"Merkel said Germany would study Hamas' behavior, but she added that it was "unthinkable" for Germany and the European Union to give financial support to a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority that does not recognize Israel or renounce violence."
And yet it is apparently okay for Germany and the EU - among many others - to give financial support to Israel, a nation that does not recognise the Palestinians right to their own state and that certainly does not renounce violence against the Palestinians.

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USA threats after boycott support
Aftenposten 30 Jan 2006

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice threatened Norway with "serious political consequences" after Finance Minister and Socialist Left Party leader Kristin Halvorsen admitted to supporting a boycott of Israeli goods.
The reaction was reportedly given to the Norwegian embassy in Washington DC, and it was made clear that the statements came from the top level of the US State Department, newspaper VG reports.

VG claims that two classified reports promised a "tougher climate" between the USA and Norway if Halvorsen's remarks represented the foreign policy of the new red-green alliance of the Labor, Socialist Left and Center parties.

Norway's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jonas Gahr Støre, responded immediately with written explanations to both Israel and the USA, clarifying the government's stance, while Halvorsen distanced her party's policy from that of the government's.

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Hong Kong confirms another bird dies of H5N1 flu
Reuters Sun Jan 29, 6:07 AM ET

HONG KONG - Hong Kong confirmed on Sunday that an Oriental Magpie Robin, the second this month, died of H5N1 avian influenza and warned people to avoid contact with wild birds for fear the disease could infect humans.
The bird was found dead in a privately owned hut in an area called Sha Tau Kok, not far from the border with China, a government statement said.

Oriental Magpie Robins are common in Hong Kong and often kept as pets. The government said on January 19 another one had tested positive for H5N1.

The virus made its first known jump to humans in Hong Kong in 1997, killing six people. So far, it cannot be passed from human to human, but experts fear the virus could mutate causing a pandemic.

A spokesman with Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department reminded the public to observe good personal hygiene.

"They should avoid personal contact with wild birds and live poultry and clean their hands thoroughly after coming into contact with them," he said.

Bird flu has killed at least 83 people worldwide since it re-emerged in late 2003, according to World Health Organization figures.

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U.N.: Girl Who Died in Iraq Had Bird Flu
By SALAH NASRAWI Associated Press January 30, 2006

CAIRO, Egypt - A 15-year-old girl who died earlier this month in northern Iraq was a victim of the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, the first known case of the disease in the country, a U.N. official and the region's health minister said Monday.
The U.S. Navy Medical Research Unit in the Egyptian capital conducted the tests determining the cause of death, using blood samples from the girl, the U.N. official said. He refused to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

The official had been supervising the examination of samples sent by the government in northern Iraq. He said 30 other samples from northern Iraq were being tested.

The girl died Jan. 17 in a Kurdish area near the border with Turkey and Iran after contracting a severe lung infection. Her hometown of Ranya is just north of a reservoir that is a stopover for migratory birds from Turkey.

Her uncle, who lived in the same home, died Jan. 27.

"Today we started a campaign to kill birds in three towns — Ranya, Dukan and Qaladaza. We formed committees to do so," said Kurdistan Health Minister Mohammed Khoshnow.

Turkey is battling an outbreak of the deadly virus. At least 21 there have contracted the virus, according to preliminary tests. Of those ill with the disease, four children died.

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Scientists discover chemical link that may explain the 'placebo effect'
By Steve Connor, Science Editor Published: 30 January 2006

Scientists may have discovered a possible cause of the "placebo effect", where a sham medical treatment results in a genuine benefit to the patient. A study has found production of a chemical "messenger" in the brain appears to play a critical role.
Jon Stoessl, professor of neurology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, believes the placebo effect could be caused by the production of a chemical in the brain called dopamine, which is involved in triggering the expectation of pleasure and reward.

Professor Stoessl carried out a study on patients suffering from Parkinson's disease, which is known to result from a lowering of normal levels of dopamine.

Normally when Parkinson's patients are given a chemical precursor to dopamine they show an improvement in levels of dopamine produced naturally, which makes them feel better. But when Professor Stoessl injected six of his patients with a simple saline solution he found that they too showed an improvement in levels of dopamine - the average increase was more than double.

The patients given the saline solution were told they were to be given the actual treatment and as a result they were expecting to feel an improvement, Professor Stoessl said.

Details will be shown in Alternative Medicine: the evidence at 9pm on BBC2 tomorrow.

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Failing to teach them how to handle real life
The Sunday Times January 29, 2006

A new report reveals that children today struggle with questions they could have answered 30 years ago, says Sian Griffiths

For a decade we’ve been told that our kids, just as they seem to be getting taller with each generation, are also getting brighter. Every year new waves of children get better GCSE, A-level and degree results than their predecessors. Meanwhile, in primary schools, the standards in national maths and English tests at 11 head in one direction — relentlessly upwards.

Last week came the bombshell that blew a gaping hole in this one-way escalator of achievement.
Far from getting cleverer, our 11-year-olds are, in fact, less “intelligent” than their counterparts of 30 years ago. Or so say a team who are among Britain’s most respected education researchers.

After studying 25,000 children across both state and private schools Philip Adey, a professor of education at King’s College London confidently declares: “The intelligence of 11-year-olds has fallen by three years’ worth in the past two decades.”

It’s an extraordinary claim. But it’s one that should startle parents and teachers out of complacency. Shocked by the findings, experts are questioning our entire exam system and calling for radical changes in the way our children are taught in primary schools.

In their painstaking research project Adey and his colleague, psychology professor Michael Shayer, compared the results of today’s children with those of children who took exactly the same test in the mid-1990s and also 30 years ago. While most exams have changed (been made easier, if you listen to the critics) this one is the same as it was in 1976 when pupils first chewed their pencils over the problems.

In the easiest question, children are asked to watch as water is poured up to the brim of a tall, thin container. From there the water is tipped into a small fat glass. The tall vessel is refilled. Do both beakers now hold the same amount of water? “It’s frightening how many children now get this simple question wrong,” says scientist Denise Ginsburg, Shayer’s wife and another of the research team.

Another question involves two blocks of a similar size — one of brass, the other of plasticine. Which would displace the most water when dropped into a beaker? children are asked. Two years ago fewer than a fifth came up with the right answer.

In 1976 a third of boys and a quarter of girls scored highly in the tests overall; by 2004, the figures had plummeted to just 6% of boys and 5% of girls. These children were on average two to three years behind those who were tested in the mid-1990s.

“It is shocking,” says Adey. “The general cognitive foundation of 11 and 12-year-olds has taken a big dip. There has been a continuous decline in the last 30 years and it is carrying on now.”

But what exactly is being lost? Is it really general intelligence or simply a specific understanding of scientific concepts such as volume and density? Both, say the researchers. The tests reveal both general intelligence — “higher level brain functions” — and a knowledge that is “the bedrock of science and maths” says Ginsburg. In fact it’s nothing less than the ability of children to handle new, difficult ideas. Doing well at these tests has been linked with getting higher grades generally at GCSE.

So why are children now doing so badly? Possible explanations are numerous. Youngsters don’t get outside for hands-on play in mud, sand and water — and sandpits and water tables have been squeezed out in many primary schools by a relentless drilling of the three Rs and cramming 11- year-olds for the national tests.

“By stressing the basics — reading and writing — and testing like crazy you reduce the level of cognitive stimulation. Children have the facts but they are not thinking very well,” says Adey. “And they are not getting hands-on physical experience of the way materials behave.”

Ginsburg says parents too can do their bit. “When did children stop playing with mud, plasticine and Meccano and start playing with Xboxes and computer games?” she asks. Parents should switch off the television and “sit children around the dinner table to debate issues such as ‘What should we have done about the whale in the Thames?’ ” says Adey.

If these experts are right — and our children are losing the ability to think, the burning question is: what is the value of what they are being taught in primary school and of all those test results that every year rise to new heights?
Paul Black, professor of education at King’s College, London is one of the experts so startled by these findings that he now wants ministers to reassess what our children are being taught.

“The decline shown up by this research is big and it is worrying,” he says. “It casts doubt on claims that standards are improving . . . There is not much evidence, in fact I don’t know of any good evidence, that the things tested at the moment in national tests at the age of 11 and 14 are of long-term benefit to learning . . . The government should look at this again.”

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), the exams watchdog, has called in the research. Asked whether it may prompt changes in what is being taught in our schools, a spokesman said: “We are cautious about research where questions never change because times change and the world changes.”

And our children’s knowledge and intelligence is changing too — but not, perhaps, in the direction ministers would have us believe.

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Ark's Quantum Quirks
SOTT January 30, 2006


The Cost of Being Greedy
The Cost of Being Greedy

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