Alito Confirmation to Take Heavy Toll on Civil Rights Gains
by Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
31 Jan 06
“Today the U.S. Senate caved and voted for the confirmation of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. Forty two senators put up a good fight but, at the end of the day, it wasn’t enough to keep a serious threat to our rights and freedoms off our nation’s highest court.
With the exception of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee and a few other senators, neither Republicans nor Democrats were willing to address Alito’s record of hostility to civil rights. Particularly troubling are the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, and others who profess a commitment to principles respecting civil rights, who were unwilling even to question, much less challenge Alito’s views.
The American people deserve much better. Today our elected leaders abandoned their obligation to protect those most reliant on an independent judiciary. This is a bitter day that the civil rights community will long remember. We have no doubt that Alito’s confirmation will take a heavy toll on our nation’s hard-won civil rights gains.”
The Leadership Conference on Civil Rights (LCCR) is the nation’s oldest, largest, and most diverse civil and human rights coalition. For more on Samuel Alito, visit www.saveourcourts.org For more information on LCCR visit www.civilrights.org
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Senate set to confirm Alito to Supreme Court
By Thomas Ferraro
Tue Jan 31, 2006 9:03 AM ET
WASHINGTON - Conservative federal appeals court judge Samuel Alito appeared certain to win Senate confirmation on Tuesday as President George W. Bush's second successful nominee to the Supreme Court.
Following several days of debate, the Senate was to vote on Alito, who could move the high court to the right. Alito had a commitment from a required simple majority of senators to be approved.
But the vote was certain to be largely along party lines and closer than the 78-22 tally John Roberts, Bush's first high-court nominee, received in September in being approved as U.S. chief justice.
Alito, 55, would replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, a moderate conservative who often has been the nine-member court's swing vote on abortion, civil rights and other social issues.
Alito was expected to be sworn in before Bush, who promised to put conservatives on the federal bench, gives his State of the Union address to Congress on Tuesday night.
The Senate on Monday soundly defeated a Democratic bid to stop Alito with a procedural hurdle known as a filibuster.
On a vote of 72-25 -- 12 more than the 60 that were needed -- the Senate approved a motion to end debate and move to a confirmation vote.
"I am pleased that a strong, bipartisan majority in the Senate decisively rejected attempts to obstruct and filibuster," Bush said in a statement.
"Judge Alito is extraordinarily well-qualified ... and America is fortunate that this good and humble man is willing to serve," Bush said.
Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, who lost the 2004 White House election to Bush, helped lead the failed effort to mount a filibuster against Alito.
Kerry argued that Alito posed a threat to civil rights and abortion rights and would not be an effective check on presidential powers.
Bush nominated Alito after a rebellion within his conservative ranks led to the withdrawal of an earlier high-court candidate, White House counsel Harriet Miers. Critics voiced concern that she lacked the clout and commitment to make the court more conservative.
Conservatives rallied around Alito, who has served since 1990 as a member of the Philadelphia-based 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Comment: Well folks, it's just about done. The Bush Reich will have full control of the judicial system. Appealing to the nation's highest court on issues of civil liberties and related "anti-terror" laws will be useless. Hitler would be proud.
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Bush's lies can't hide the truth about relationship with Jack Abramoff
by Doug Thompson
President George W. Bush’s ability to lie his way out of trouble is failing him as the White House tries unsuccessfully to hide the truth about the President’s close relationship to scandal-scarred lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Nobody – Republican or Democrat – buys Bush’s ludicrous claims that he didn’t know Abramoff, the well-connected GOP lobbyist who raised more than $100,000 for his campaign, served on his transition team and whose lobbying logs listed more than 200 contacts a year with the White House.
“The president has dug himself into a very deep hole on this one,” says political scientist George Harleigh. “He’s told one lie too many.”
Even Republican now publicly say Bush must come clean on just how many times he and his administration met with Abramoff and what White House action were affected by the influence peddler’s money.
“I'm one who believes that more is better, in terms of disclosure and transparency,”said Sen. John Thune, R-S.Don Fox News Sunday. “So I'd be a big advocate for making records that are out there available."
And while Republicans publicly still support Bush, privately they admit the White House and the party are in serious trouble from the Abramoff affair.
“We came into town promising to clean up the system,” says one GOP Congressman elected in the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994. “Now we’re the very problem we promised to fix.”
Republican attempts to spin the Abramoff scandal as a bi-partisan problem where Democrats also took money from the tainted lobbyists have failed to sell with a public fed up with GOP corruption and abuse of power on Capitol Hill.
Abramoff was a product of a determined GOP effort to put more lobbyists on K Street, the stretch of Washington real estate that is home to many of the rich and powerful sellers of influence. That was former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s job and DeLay is as crooked as Abramoff.
“Fuck the law,” Delay told me in a meeting in 1990. “I don’t give a rat’s ass about the law.” I met with Delay through my role as Vice President for Political Programs for the National Association of Realtors. DeLay wanted us to hire more Republicans.
When I told Delay that I didn’t care whether the folks I hired were Republican or Democrat as long as they did the job, he got mad.
“Listen you cocksucker,” he said, his eyes narrowing. “I’m tired of mealy-mouthed assholes like you kowtowing to the Democrats. We’re keeping a list and you’re on it. Either start supporting Republicans or you’ll find yourself out in the cold.”
I kept good notes on that meeting so I could report back to my boss, Realtor chief lobbyist Stephen Driesler, who laughed and shook his head.
“Yeah, that’s Tom,” he said, “but we have to listen to him because he will be a power someday.”
DeLay became even more of a power when Republicans took control of Congress in 1994. That power intensified with his political buddy George W. Bush took office in 2001 and both DeLay and Bush gladly accepted political largesse from their good buddy Jack Abramoff.
Bush introduced Abramoff to a campaign gathering in Florida in 2004, calling the lobbyist “a great friend to this administration.” Capitol Hill Blue first revealed on January 18 that the lobbyist kept pictures of he and the President today at his office, including one taken at the President’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, and autographed to “My great friend Jack.” Other news sources quickly followed with reports of the photos but the White House refused to release them.
Bush also faces damaging new information that his former chief procurement officer, David Safavian provided "sensitive and confidential information" about four subsidiaries of Tyco International to Abramoff, warning the lobbyist of pending government actions against his clients.
Court records in a pending criminal case against Safavian also show a tight relationship between Abramoff and David Flanigan, a lawyer for Tyco who was nominated by Bush last October to be assistant attorney general under Alberto Gonzales. Bush later withdrew the nomination when questions surfaced over his relationship with Safavian and Abramoff.
“This web of scandal and deceit is ever-widening and Bush cannot escape the fact that he is at the center of it,” says Harleigh, who worked in the Nixon administration. “It is usually the cover up that brings an administration down. The President would do well to remember that.”
Originally published at and © Copyright 2006 by Capitol Hill Blue
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Photogs Slam White House Use of Staged Pictures
By Joe Strupp
30 Jan 06
NEW YORK-- White House photographers aren't looking for a handout these days. In fact, they've gotten far too many.
While the practice of providing news organizations with staged photos of events involving the president goes back decades, veteran shooters at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue say it has become almost a regular occurrence with the Bush Administration. A review of Associated Press archives found that during the entire eight years of the Clinton administration, only 100 handout photos of events were released to the press. During the first five years of Bush's presidency, more than 500 have been distributed.
The key is that each of these events was closed to news photographers.
"They average about two per week," said Susan Walsh, an AP photojournalist and president of the White House News Photographers Association, after directing that review. "The White House staff photographer's role is to document the president. They have now crossed the line and become public relations photographers for the administration."
She added: "I don't know the rationale behind it, but there are [handout] events that could clearly include press coverage. The problem with the [photo] releases is that they are often of events that could accommodate press coverage and that previous administrations had allowed press to cover."
Bush Press Secretary Scott McClellan did not return several calls seeking comment.
Walsh and other photo veterans who criticized the practice said it both limits real news coverage of the president and allows the White House to choose only those images it wants people to see.
"Any handout restricts coverage by the press," said Dennis Brack of Black Star Publications, who has photographed each president since LBJ. "It curtails our access to events we should be covering with an independent eye and it fools the American public into thinking they are news pictures when they are really public relations pictures."
Steve Deslich, managing editor for Knight Ridder Tribune Photo Service in Washington, agreed. "When Clinton was in there, they would let other people in," he said. "But they stick with the handout pictures. We have said, 'thanks, but no thanks'."
Walsh, a five-year WHNPA president who has covered the White House since 1997, acknowledged that some events require strict security that may keep news photographers out. But she cited some recent events, such as a Bush visit to a Smithsonian Institution museum and the re-signing of the Americans With Disabilities Act, that were restricted for no apparent reason.
Then there was Bush's White House get-together last month with those receiving the Kennedy Center Honors, just hours before the event. Walsh said photographers were barred from that meet-and-greet as well. "During the Clinton Administration, we were always allowed to that event," she said. "The Bush Administration never has allowed it."
But the opposition to White House-manufactured images is not just a press access issue, photographers contend. They point out the power such an arrangement gives the White House to literally control news.
"If you put five photographers at an event, you will get five different sets of images - the good, the bad and the ugly," Walsh notes. "One photographer whose images are approved and screened at the highest levels of the White House, you don't know what images are missing." She pointed out that, with today's Photoshop capabilities, images can be doctored any number of ways.
"Would anyone on the word side take a press release and regurgitate it verbatim and publish it in the newspaper as legitimate news," she asked. "Of course not."
There is also the quality aspect, which several Washington photo veterans contend is much worse through the White House's official camera lens. "They are very staged, protective moments and do not have much content interest," said Jeff Franko, director of photography for Gannett News Service. "We use them because we are not around the White House much. But they are not a whole lot of value."
Walsh said that is another danger of the increased use of handouts, when news agencies start to use them as though they are news material. She cited a trip aboard Air Force One last fall, when Bush took one of his first flights over the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.
Although AP, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse were allowed to photograph Bush as he looked out the window at the Gulf Coast ruins, a White House handout photo of him at that moment was also released and used by at least three major newspapers, she said. "Nobody at those papers apparently looked to see where the photo came from," she said.
Walsh took the photographers' concerns to McClellan during a meeting in October and admitted that fewer handouts have been used since. But, she said the problem is still too common and has prompted the WHNPA to begin its own three-month review of the practice, which began Dec. 1 "We will be looking at when access is allowed and how many photos are released," she said. "We want to see if they are of sensitive events or those where we could clearly have been given access."
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Top Ten things Bush won't Tell you About the State of the Nation
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
1. US economic growth during the last quarter was an anemic 1.1%, the worst in 3 years.
2. The US inflation rate has jumped to 3.4 percent, the highest rate in 5 years.
3. The number of daily attacks in Iraq rose from 52 in December, 2004 to 77 in December, 2005.
4. A third of US veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, some 40,000 persons, exhibit at least some signs of mental health disorders. Some 14,000 were treated for drug dependencies, and 11,000 for depression.
5. Increases in American consumer spending come from borrowing.
6. The $320 - $400 bilion deficits run by the Bush administration may push up the cost of mortgages and loans.
7. 58% of Americans think Bush is painting Iraq as rosier than it is. A majority thinks we should never have invaded the country.
8. The US military is at a breaking point.
9. In fact, The US and Iran are tacit allies in Iraq.
10. Mor e money would be needed to finish the US reconstruction projects begun in Iraq.
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By Norman Solomon,
Posted January 30, 2006.
Journalists should be asking Bush hard questions about why he lied -- the way Oprah interrogated James Frey last week.
With great fanfare the other day, Oprah Winfrey asked James Frey a question that mainstream journalists refuse to ask George W. Bush: "Why would you lie?"
Many pundits and news outlets have chortled at the televised unmasking of Frey as a liar. The reverberations have spanned from schlock media to highbrow outlets. On Friday, the PBS "NewsHour With Jim Lehrer" devoted an entire segment to what happened. The New York Times supplemented its page-one coverage with an editorial that concluded "Ms. Winfrey gave the audience, including us, what it was hoping for: a demand to hear the truth."
A key reality of the National Security Agency spying story is: President Bush lied. But routinely missing from media coverage is a demand to hear the truth.
More than two years after he started the NSA's domestic spying without warrants, Bush was unequivocal. During a speech in Buffalo on April 20, 2004, he said: "Any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so."
Frey lied about his personal life in a book, and that infuriated Oprah Winfrey. "It is difficult for me to talk to you, because I really feel duped," she said, confronting him in the midst of the Jan. 26 telecast. "I feel duped. But more importantly, I feel that you betrayed millions of readers."
Yet the journalists who interview Bush aren't willing to question him in similar terms.
The president didn't merely betray millions of readers. He betrayed hundreds of millions of citizens.
Bush lied about basic civil liberties in the United States. Instead of relying on euphemisms, the news media should directly confront him with the question: "Why would you lie?"
During the "Oprah" show, while lecturing a powerful book-publishing executive who had served as an enabler for the author's mendacity, Winfrey declared: "That needs to change." But what about the powerful news-media executives who keep enabling the president's mendacity?
When Frey tried to weasel out of responsibility for concocting a phony story about a root canal without anesthesia, the host interrupted after the words "I've struggled with the idea of it --"
"No, the lie of it," Winfrey said. "That's a lie. It's not an idea, James, that's a lie."
But high-profile journalists are unwilling to confront President Bush on national television with such clarity: "That's a lie. It's not an idea, George, that's a lie."
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Powell, Tenet, others told Bush he was breaking the law by ordering NSA spying
by Doug Thompson
31 Jan 06
Top-level administration officials four years ago told President George W. Bush he as “breaking the law” by ordering the National Security Agency to spy on Americans and warned the President that his actions could bring his administration down.
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Central Intelligence Agency director George Tenet and others begged Bush to reconsider his executive order giving the NSA authority to wiretap phone calls and monitor emails of American citizens but their pleas fell on deaf ears.
“Mr. President, I fear you are heading down a course that could doom your administration,” Powell told Bush in a meeting in early 1992. “I urge you to reconsider.” Powell also argued against Bush’s plans to turn Pentagon spies loose on American antiwar groups, saying “such actions don’t belong in America.”
Powell wasn’t the only one worried about the legality of wiretaps. Then deputy attorney general James D. Comey, acting as attorney general while John Ashcroft was hospitalized, refused to sign off on Bush’s executive order, prompting then White House Counsel, and now attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, to visit Ashcroft at his hospital bed in a failed attempt to get the AG to overturn his deputy.
Ashcroft, however, stood by Comey and told Gonzales that he could not condone the spying, even though he had authored the controversial, and rights-robbing, USA Patriot Act.
“This is not legal and the President is exceeding his authority,” Ashcroft said. “Jim (Comey) is right to oppose it.”
Then CIA director George Tenet, in a stormy meeting with Bush, told the President that use of the NSA to spy on Americans was a direct violation of the agency’s charter.
“This is illegal and a flagrant misuse of the agency and its technology,” Tenet said.
Those who opposed Bush on his actions, which the President claimed were justified under his powers as a “wartime commander-in-chief,” are no longer part of the administration. Bush fired Tenet (publicly, the CIA direction was allowed to resign). Powell and Ashcroft resigned shortly after Bush began his second term. Comey quit in disgust.
Those privy to the contentious White House meetings where all tried in vain to talk Bush out of his reckless course of action say the President’s allies in using the NSA to spy on Americans were Vice President Dick Cheney and White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, the man Bush tapped to replace Ashcroft.
Powell, top aides say privately, considering resigning early in Bush’s first term because of what he considered the President’s “reckless and irresponsible actions,” but stayed on because he still felt he could play a moderating role with the extremists in the administration.
“As a career soldier, Gen. Powell felt a duty to serve is country even when that service meant answering to those he considered wrong,” says a longtime aide who served with the general at the State Department as well as when Powell chaired the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “He was a moral man trapped in an immoral nest of vipers.”
Originally published at and © Copyright 2006 by Capitol Hill Blue
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Bush Speech to Outline Energy Alternatives
By NEDRA PICKLER
30 Jan 06
WASHINGTON (AP) - Trying to calm anxieties about soaring energy costs, President Bush is using his State of the Union address this week to focus on a package of energy of proposals aimed at bringing fuel-saving technologies out of the lab and into use.
In Bush's vision, drivers will stop at hydrogen stations and fill their fuel-cell cars with the pollution-free fuel. Or they would power their engines with ethanol made from trash or corn. More Americans would run their lights at home on solar power.
Bush has been talking about these ideas since his first year in office. Proposals aimed at spreading the use of ethanol, hydrogen and renewable fuels all were part of the energy bill that he signed into law in August, but that hasn't eased Americans' worries about high fuel prices.
Americans were hit with the biggest jump in energy prices in 15 years in 2005, and worries about the cost of gas and heating oil have damped spirits about the economy despite other recent encouraging signs.
Add in the unrest in the Middle East, and energy becomes a major problem for the president to address Tuesday night.
``I agree with Americans who understand being hooked on foreign oil as an economic problem and a national security problem,'' Bush said in a recent interview with CBS.
Eight in 10 Americans surveyed earlier this month by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press said gasoline prices were a big problem.
Home heating fuel and health care were the other major economic concerns. It's not a coincidence that Bush will spend much of his State of the Union reassuring Americans that he has a plan to address energy and medical costs.
House Democrats sought to take the luster off Bush's speech with a television commercial that accuses the president and Republicans of tilting their policies toward the pharmaceutical, oil and investment industries. It shows lawmakers cheering Bush's words from three previous State of the Union addresses, and asks: ``What Special Interest Will the Republican Congress Rubberstamp This Time?''
Officials said the commercial would air only once, on Fox, in the run-up to Bush's speech, making it more like a guerilla-style attack on the GOP than an attempt to mold public opinion.
Bush told CBS that he does not support a big raise in the gas tax, as others have proposed. Instead, he is looking for tax breaks that encourage new technologies, which is popular with farmers, with industry and with consumers of those products.
``We have got to wean ourselves off hydrocarbons, oil,'' Bush explained. ``And the best way, in my judgment, to do it is to promote and actively advance new technologies so that we can drive - have different driving habits.''
For example, he said, the federal government could push more widespread use of corn-based ethanol and spur production from other sources.
Almost all ethanol produced now comes from corn. Although non-corn ethanol from sources like grasses, wood chips and even garbage is widely talked about, a practical and cost-effective process for producing it appears years away.
Bush noted to CBS that about 4.6 million cars on the road in the United States can run on ethanol. The fuel works in more than 30 models, including General Motor's Yukon, Chevrolet's Silverado and Ford's Taurus. However, almost all drivers of those vehicles outside the Corn Belt fill up with gasoline.
Automakers and environmentalists are also excited about the prospect of fuel cells, which would run on hydrogen that would only emit water instead of gas fumes. But fuel cell vehicles are extremely expensive to produce and lack an infrastructure of fueling stations to make them viable. The government has said it hopes hydrogen fuel cell vehicles will be available in car showrooms by 2020.
When it comes to alternative ways to power homes and businesses, very little U.S. electricity now comes from renewables such as wind, solar, geothermal, wood and waste. But that share is expected to increase as the price of fossil fuel rises.
Comment: Another Bush speech, another pack of lies... like he really cares?
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U.S. On High Alert: Bush to speak, but not under oath
Mike Ely's clever Firefox extension, the U.S. Department of Homeland Insecurity Idiocy Level, translates the Bush regime's color-coded alerts into something just as useless, but funnier
If ever we needed a good laugh, the time is ripe, because we're only a few hours away from George W. Bush's State of the Union speech.
For background, check out the History News Network's perspective on past speeches by past presidents. I'm partial to that site anyway. You see, historians tend to sneer at journalists, and journalists tend to sneer at historians, and HNN tries to explain why that separation between journalism and history just won't cut it these days, or any day:
Given how public opinion is shaped today, whipsawed emotionally on talk shows this way and that in response to the egos of the guests, the desire for ratings by the hosts and the search for profits by media companies and sponsors, historians are especially needed now. They can help remind us of the superficiality of what-happens-today-is-all-that-counts journalism.
Among the many duties we assume are these: To expose politicians who misrepresent history. To point out bogus analogies. To deflate beguiling myths. To remind Americans of the irony of history. To put events in context. To remind us all of the complexity of history. & Because we believe history is complicated our pages are open to people of all political persuasions. Left, right, center: all are welcome.
Back to Bush: The POTUS is likely to be more soothing and less bellicose tonight, as I've pointed out, but now he has even more reason to get his handlers to place a twinkle in his eye: The chief investigator of the Wampumgate scandal, Noel Hillman, has just left the building, for a presidentially appointed federal judgeship in New Jersey.
This move may delay the deadly fallout from that massive scandal long enough for the GOP to keep its death grip on Congress in this year's elections. Now another prosecutor will have to get up to speed.
It's enough to make you go postal, but someone in Santa Barbara, California, already beat you to it.
No, Bush won't mention Wampumgate, but he'll probably wax warmly about the Supreme Court, because 19 Democrats have caved in to the GOP. As the Washington Post's Charles Babington writes this morning:
The Senate voted 72 to 25 to end debate on Alito's nomination and to allow a roll call on his confirmation today, shortly before noon. Alito's supporters garnered a dozen more votes than the 60 they needed to choke off a Democratic filibuster effort, which would have allowed debate to continue indefinitely.
Leaders of both parties said Alito, 55, will comfortably win confirmation today, although not by the 78 to 22 margin that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. received last fall. Legal analysts say Alito's 15-year record as an appellate court judge suggests he may be more consistently conservative than Roberts. Moreover, they say, Alito is poised to make a larger impact on the court because he will replace Sandra Day O'Connor, the deciding vote in numerous 5 to 4 decisions over the years. Roberts succeeded a fellow conservative, the late William H. Rehnquist.
All the more reason for those of you who browse via Firefox to install Mike Ely's Homeland Insecurity Idiocy Level extension, which keeps you current with the regime. I couldn't agree more with one Firefox denizen, who wrote, "Useless, but funny!"
Ely, a web brainiac in southern Oregon (check out Taupe Hat Systems), has raised a ruckus, especially among the humorless, with his funny extension. He explains it this way:
Based closely (a rewrite, basically) upon the excellent work of Scott Stroz (www.boyzoid.com), this extension is designed to display, in humorous language, the current threat level at the US Department of Homeland Security.
More seriously, Ely's just one of many smart computer jocks who has questioned the creepy new computerized voting machines purveyed by Bush partisans like Diebold's Walden O'Dell.
But Ely doesn't just speak in code. His extension has generated lots of comment from Firefox users, and he's not afraid of the heat, explaining:
There is a difference between arguing one's point of view and flat-out saying, "You're wrong, I'm right, period." While it's arguably true that referring to George W. Bush as "an idiot" falls within this category, I'd have to say that lampooning our political figures is very much a time-honored tradition in this country. Remember poor Gerald Ford? The public really believed that the man couldn't take two steps without tripping over his feet. Not to mention some of the jokes that went around about John Kerry - I think calling him "Lurch" was pretty funny, personally …
Ely tries to tell die-hard Republicans to get a funny bone and continues:
Bill Clinton tries to lie his way out of a blow job, fails, and you treat him as though he were the Second Coming of Lucifer or some shit. Meanwhile, Bush lies (deliberately, duh) about the reasons for going to war in Iraq, incidentally killing about 2,000 US soldiers so far, at least 27,000 Iraqi civilians, more than half of whom were women and children, and destroying any ounce of credibility, respect, and most importantly, support that we had from our neighbors. So he's a hero? He's got backbone? Doubtful. But let history judge his hubris, and may God forgive him in ways that I cannot.
As I write this, Ely's "idiocy level" extension translates the DHS's fearmongering "elevated" level of "threat" to "scared." Me, I just know that God must have a sense of humor or she wouldn't have scheduled Bush to speak tonight.
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Democracy or Plutocracy?
by Charles Sullivan
Civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich from the poor, or those who have some property against those who have none at all. --Adam Smith (1776) Wealth of Nations
Democratic: Pertaining to or characterized by social equity.
Plutocracy: The rule or power of wealth or the wealthy. A class or group ruling or exercising power by virtue of its wealth.
It is universally assumed by the great majority of citizens that we are living in a free and Democratic society. The idea has been ingrained in us from cradle to grave. In spite of this, I have come to believe that the term ‘Democracy’ is bandied about to our detriment with great recklessness. Its legitimacy is assumed, not proven, because we do not often think deeply about the enormous responsibility that Democracy requires of its practioneers. Democracy is a paradigm that is deeply ingrained in the public conscience, but it is not a fact—a reality—that is verified by the evidence. Our situation reflects a lack of critical thought about things that matter.
In fact, I would argue that Democracy is frequently used against us as a method of self deception and control. Therefore, it behooves us as world citizens to stop applying the term to the form of government we have. We have never lived in a true Democratic society, no matter what pretense we may have about it. Let us aspire to achieve this most worthy of goals.
The Random House Collegiate Dictionary makes the following distinction between Democracy and Plutocracy:
Democracy: Government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system.
Democratic: Pertaining to or characterized by social equity.
Plutocracy: The rule or power of wealth or the wealthy. A class or group ruling or exercising power by virtue of its wealth.
Applying these definitions to ourselves, it is not difficult to see the kind of government we have. In his book: Wealth and Democracy, Kevin Phillips brings forth some important facts that further help to define the issue:
“In 1995 American corporate CEO salaries increased by ninety-two percent; corporate profits rose seventy-five percent, worker layoffs increased thirty-nine percent, consumer prices went up one percent. The highest paid CEO received more than $65 million in 1995. The top one percent in America now own approximately sixty percent of all wealth. Approximately thirty-five percent of American families are living below the poverty line in 1998.”
Clearly, those endowed with wealth and property, especially those born into privilege, have power that those without do not. The question must be asked: How is inequity equivalent to Democracy? In truth, the two cannot be reconciled. So, when we hear George Bush talking about Democracy in the Middle East, we must expose his galling ignorance by exposing the premise of his case, which is based upon fallacy.
I contend that what ails America also ails much of the world. Whatever it is named, it is so deeply ingrained, so profoundly wrong, that it cannot be reformed. If we want to have a free and Democratic society, more powerful forces must be marshaled against the existing infection of Plutocratic rule. Our journey must begin with an understanding of the kind of government we have, as well as who we are as a people.
Whenever populist insurrection occurred in America, the authorities have always protected the agents of injustice—the corporations, the mine owners, the Rockefellers and the Carnegies. Even as the leaders of the civil rights movement were attacked and beaten by angry mobs, the National Guard was called out not to defend them, but to arrest them. It has always been those who upheld the principles of Democracy who were imprisoned—a trend that continues to this day. These are actions that clearly define the form of government we have, as well as who we are as a people. Most assuredly, it is not a democracy. Actions speak louder and more emphatically than words.
A Democratic nation could not have begun with the extermination of the original inhabitants of a continent. It could not have excluded women from participating; it could not have allowed chattel slavery; or the Viet Nam War. It could not allow imperial ambitions or the immense concentration of wealth and power that is in vogue today. The few command the labor and loyalty of the many, even as it exploits them and sends them off to war. These are not the just actions of a Democratic government—they are those of oppressive Plutocracy. We should never confuse the two.
We are living during an amazing time. The events that alternately divide and galvanize us have a verifiable history littered with the bones of those who sought to set things right. We have a history of undermining and destroying legitimate Democracies whenever and wherever we find them. Democracy is the avowed enemy of Plutocracy. The current difficulty is the result of a long pattern of abuse and injustice, so obvious that only the blind or those unwilling to look cannot see them. Nations, like individuals, are judged by their actions more than by the words they espouse.
There is no chance that we can evolve into the people we dream of becoming until we realize who we are now. To move forward will require conscience and spirit, as it always does. It will not occur through conformity and capitulation to power. It is a Herculean task that will test our mettle, try our souls and define our faith. The kind of government we will have is embodied by the actions and the inactions of the people. One wonders how history will judge us. Let us awaken and rise to the occasion, as the times demand.
Charles Sullivan is a furniture maker, photographer, and free lance writer residing in the eastern panhandle of West Virgina. He welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Rewriting history under the dome
By EVAN LEHMANN
Lowell Sun Washington Bureau
01/27/2006 11:37:00 AM
Online 'encyclopedia' allows anyone to edit entries, and congressional staffers do just that to bosses' bios
WASHINGTON -- The staff of U.S. Rep Marty Meehan wiped out references to his broken term-limits pledge as well as information about his huge campaign war chest in an independent biography of the Lowell Democrat on a Web site that bills itself as the "world's largest encyclopedia," The Sun has learned.
The Meehan alterations on Wikipedia.com represent just two of more than 1,000 changes made by congressional staffers at the U.S. House of Representatives in the past six months.
Wikipedia is a global reference that relies on its Internet users to add credible information to entries on millions of topics.
Matt Vogel, Meehan's chief of staff, said he authorized an intern in July to replace existing Wikipedia content with a staff-written biography of the lawmaker.
The change deleted a reference to Meehan's campaign promise to surrender his seat after serving eight years, a pledge Meehan later eschewed. It also deleted a reference to the size of Meehan's campaign account, the largest of any House member at $4.8 million, according to the latest data available from the Federal Election Commission.
"Meehan first ran for Congress in 1992 on a platform of reform," the pre-edited entry said. "As part of that platform Meehan made a pledge to not serve more than four terms, a central part of his campaign. This breaking of the pledge has been a controversial issue in the 5th Congressional District of Massachusetts."
The new entry reads in part: "Meehan was elected to Congress in 1992 on a plan to eliminate the deficit. His fiscally responsible voting record since then has earned him praise from citizen watchdog groups. He was re-elected by a large margin in 2004."
Vogel said, "It makes sense to me the biography we submit would be the biography we write."
The change doubled the length of the entry on Meehan, corrected errors and replaced "sloppy" writing, Vogel said. "Let the outside world edit it. It seemed right to start with greater depth than a paragraph with incorrect data from the '80s."
Wikipedia's online honor system has made it ripe for abuse by vandals. Recently, a user wrote in a Wikipedia bio that Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor "smells of cow dung." Another wrote that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is "ineffective." These statements were traced to the House Internet-protocol (IP) address.
In November and December, The Sun has learned, users of the House's IP address were temporarily blocked from changing content because of violations described by the site as a "deliberate attempt to compromise the integrity of the encyclopedia."
"I'm not denying it," Jon Brandt, a spokesman for the Committee on House Administration, which oversees the House computer network, said when asked to confirm House ownership of the address.
For security reasons, Brandt declined to say to whom the address is assigned.
While vandalism is a problem, deleting factual information raises ethical concerns, said Geoffrey Bowker, director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Santa Clara University.
"The vandalism is just plain childish," Bowker said. "The term-limit pledge (that was changed by Meehan's staff) is a much more serious case. That's someone trying to alter the public record.
"To knowingly remove a truthful statement is just wrong," he added. "It's not the place of any special-interest group to tamper with the facts available to the public."
Most of the 1,000 House changes were meant to enhance various encyclopedia entries. Slurs against Cantor and Frist, which have been removed, are the first examples of abuse that Wikipedia's founder Jimmy Wales has seen derived directly from the legislative branch of the U.S. government.
Wikipedia records every change to its site and who made it. The encyclopedia prefers that editors log in with a user name, but it's not necessary. Many editors make changes anonymously; Wikipedia identifies these users by tracking the number assigned to their Internet entry point, called an IP address.
But Wales said the deletion of factual information goes against the principles of Wikipedia, which promotes a "neutral point of view" policy.
"You don't delete it," Wales said. "If they wanted to put in their side of things, that would seem ethically relevant, rather than just omitting it."
Mistakes were inserted into the Meehan entry at different points of its evolution, according to an examination of the edits. One editor erroneously said Meehan attended Harvard College; another indicated it is likely that Meehan would run for Sen. Edward Kennedy's seat.
Wikipedia reaches around the globe, having 3.1 million articles published in more than 200 languages. The English-language version is the largest category, with more than 910,000 articles and 856 million words. That's more than six times larger than Encyclopedia Britannica -- the largest reference printed in English.
And people read it.
Yesterday, Wikipedia was ranked the 19th- busiest site on the Internet, according to alexa.com, a subsidiary of Amazon.com that tracks Webtraffic.
A new reference to Meehan's term-limit pledge was inserted in the Wikipedia entry in November by a person not using the House address.
On Dec. 27, someone using the House IP address reduced the reference to a single sentence: "(Meehan) also supported term limits, pledging to serve no more than four terms."
Vogel said he did not authorize the change.
No reference to Meehan's top-rated campaign account has been reintroduced.
The changes by Meehan's staff are not as "reprehensible" as inserting derogatory comments in someone else's entry, said Stephen Potts, former director of the federal Office of Government Ethics, which establishes conduct standards for the executive branch.
But the sheer breadth of changes emanating from the House reflects an abuse of public time and equipment, said Potter, now chairman of the Ethics Resource Center.
"That kind of usage, plus the fact that they're changing one person's material, is certainly wrong and ought to be at a minimum the focus of some disciplinary action," he said.
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Barricading the Storm: Why the White House Won't Release Its Katrina Papers
by James Ridgeway
January 31st, 2006
The reason for the government not turning over documents and making available top officials to testify about the Hurricane Katrina debacle before Congress is not just that the documents and testimony would reveal incompetence in evacuating the stranded, bringing in relief supplies, and cleaning up the mess. No, the paper trail is bound to demonstrate in detail that the federal government knew a good 48 hours before the storm hit what was bound to happen, but did virtually nothing to protect lives and property.
There is no secret about any of this. The Washington Post last week said it had obtained a copy of a 41-page report on the hurricane distributed by the Department of Homeland Security before the storm hit. According to the Post, an e-mail containing this report reached the White House Situation Room at 1:47 a.m. on August 29, hours before the full force of the storm raked the Gulf Coast.
The paper also obtained a FEMA document prepared for discussion at a 9 a.m. meeting on August 27, two days before Katrina. This report compared Katrina to Hurricane Pam, the simulated storm federal officials used a year before as an exercise to aid in planning for disaster. The briefing paper pointed out that Katrina could end up being worse than the simulated Pam. It warned that the storm surge from a Category 4 onslaught could "overtop" levees and other flood protection systems, and predicted "incredible search and rescue needs." More than one million residents would be displaced, it said.
So while President Bush vacationed in Texas and top government officials talked airily of federal versus state responsibilities, the operations sections of the federal government must have known precisely what was about to happen.
And, of course, it gets worse. The Army Corps of Engineers, which has been building dams and levees all over the southern stretches of the Mississippi River, routing and rerouting it for well over 100 years, somehow just didn't know that water had been pooling up in yards adjacent to a flood wall for a year before the storm. That pooling should have led to an investigation of whether the levees were leaking. The residents had been complaining to the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board, but nobody told the engineers from the corps, which is responsible for the levee system, what was going on. Why they didn't find out on their own has yet to be explained.
One might have predicted that Donald Rumsfeld, who as secretary of defense oversees the Army Corps of Engineers and is instrumental in ordering both regular troops and federalized National Guard troops into a rescue effort, won't cooperate. The first question anyone would ask him is how come the army corps didn't act years before the storm. The second is whether the Iraq war has so depleted the Guard that it can't fulfill its duties at home.
The one federal agency that seems to have known what was going on was the Coast Guard, which rescued thousands of people during and after the storm. Another was the Weather Bureau, which predicted hour by hour the movement of the storm before, during, and after it made landfall. It is worth noting that right-wing Republicans would love to privatize the Weather Bureau, and during the Reagan years, the right wanted to privatize the perpetually underfunded Coast Guard by handing it over to a big defense contractor like Raytheon. Yet when push came to shove, it was the one federal agency that worked.
Since the rest of the federal government could not, or would not, operate during and after Hurricane Katrina, the job naturally fell to the oft-named list of cronies.
Halliburton, Vice President Dick Cheney's old haunt, has contributed $29,822 to Bush's presidential campaigns, according to the Center for Public Integrity. The political action committee for its subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root contributed $120,784 to "various Republican causes" in 2002 and 96 percent of its $168,277 campaign contributions in 2000.
The payoff? Rumsfeld's Department of Defense has awarded Kellogg, Brown & Root more than $136 million in various Katrina-related contracts, according to the nonprofit Taxpayers for Common Sense.
Another big contributor, the Fluor Corporation, gave $9,900 to President Bush's campaigns. In 2004, 83 percent of Fluor's $356,290 campaign contributions went to Republican candidates, according to Taxpayers for Common Sense. Fluor has received more than $200 million in Gulf Coast contracts since October 2005.
The long and the short of it is that Katrina, like Iraq, has been a cash cow for Bush's entrepreneur buddies. Congress has approved $62.3 billion for Katrina relief efforts so far. And that's only the beginning.
Where there's smoke
In the midst of a congressional hearing on the Sago Mine disaster last week, David Dye, the acting assistant secretary of labor, who runs the Mine Safety and Health Administration, up and left the room. Senator Specter, chair of a House Appropriations subcommittee, had just told Dye his "presence would be required for another hour." To which Dye replied, "Senator, we've still got a mine fire going. We have a rescue team that's in the Sago Mine. They have another mine fire—which no one was hurt—burning in Colorado. . . . We've got some really pressing matters."
Having not heard of the fire in Colorado, the Voice phoned the MSHA field offices in Colorado. There, nobody had heard about any current pressing matters. Finally the United Mine Workers Communications Director Phil Smith explained that Dye was referring to "the ongoing fire in Alma [West Virginia], which is being fought very professionally by the people up there, and a fire [at the West Elk mine in Colorado] that has been burning for two months." That explanation was then confirmed by MSHA staff in Colorado.
When asked why the Colorado fire was such a big deal that it caused Dye to leave the hearing, a Labor Department spokesperson explained, "Certainly, when there's a mine fire going on, for the acting director of MSHA, it's a pressing matter for him." But when asked what was so pressing about the long-smoldering West Elk fire, he responded, "I don't have any more details."
In a way, you can't blame Dye for wanting to hightail it from the senators; he has been stuck in the job of acting assistant secretary for a year. That's because the Bush administration has failed to fill the head office at MSHA. The Department of Labor website lists vacancies for the assistant secretary, a second deputy assistant secretary, and the chief of staff for MSHA. The current candidate to run MSHA, Richard Stickler, nominated September 15, is only now coming before Congress for confirmation.
Neither the government bureaucracy nor the Congress could care less about coal miners, even though coal is the basic fossil fuel that has powered American industry from the industrial revolution on and almost certainly will end up being at the center of U.S. energy policy. So why such scant attention to the mines? Perhaps there is a clue in the following: Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, who has served since 2001, is married to Senate Majority Whip Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky. In the run-up to his 2002 re-election, McConnell received $129,100 from mining firms in campaign donations, topping all other members of Congress benefiting from that industry.
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Gonzales Apparently Lied over Wiretapping to Congress
by Matthew Cardinale
Editor, Atlanta Progressive News
January 30, 2006
(APN) US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales appears to have lied about the President’s approval of illegal domestic wiretapping, a letter from US Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) to Mr. Gonzales suggests.
In Gonzales’s confirmation hearings several months ago, Gonzales advised Feingold, "It is not the policy or the agenda of this President to authorize actions that would be in circumvention of our criminal statutes," according to the letter, released to Atlanta Progressive News today. The conversation was in response to a direct line of questioning of Gonzales by Feingold over Gonzales's views on the ability of the President to approve illegal wiretapping, and more broadly, disregard Congressional laws either actively or through lack of enforcement.
Recently, however, it has come to light that the President has indeed, to quote Mr. Gonzales, "had the policy and the agenda of authorizing actions that would be in circumvention of our criminal statutes."
But there’s more. Gonzales also specifically promised Feingold and the US Senate, to notify Congress if the President makes such a decision "as soon as I reasonably can, yes, Sir."
Gonzales has said recently that he knew about the wiretapping, has attempted to justify it, and that he and the President knew of the likely opposition of Congress to Bush’s policy of domestic wiretapping. The policy had been initially proposed in a draft of legislation which was scrapped as soon as it was leaked to an interest group. Also, Gonzales and President Bush conferred on possibly approaching Congress for the authority to conduct erstwhile illegal wiretapping, and decided it would be unwise to seek such authority from Congress.
"It now appears that the Attorney General was not being straight with the Judiciary Committee and he has some explaining to do," US Senator Feingold said in a prepared statement.
Senator Feingold–a possible contender for President of the United States in 2008–also had some good questions for Mr. Gonzales, which he issued in advance of upcoming Senate hearings on Bush’s domestic wiretapping.
First, Feingold has asked Gonzales to define "the legal standard that the government has used to decide whose telephone calls and emails to intercept within the United States under the NSA program; how that standard compares to the FISA standard; who has been making those determinations; and what oversight and training the Department has provided those individuals on the legal requirements of the program, if any."
Second, Feingold has asked for "the contemporaneous legal advice provided by the Justice Department, or by you [Gonzales] as White House Counsel, throughout the course of the program, and how it may differ from the Administration's current legal justifications." Feingold wrote that any contemporaneous, written, legal analyses had already been requested by US Senator Leahy (D-VT) and others, and should be provided in advance of the upcoming Senate hearings on wiretapping.
Third, Feingold asked, What are "the limits, if any, to the Administration's legal theory that the President has the authority either under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force or as Commander in Chief to violate criminal laws of the United States. What other statutes or treaties are being or might be violated under this legal theory? Would this legal theory permit surveillance of communications by U.S. citizens solely within the United States or the assassination of U.S. citizens within the United States? If not, why not?"
Feingold’s letter, which includes extended text of his exchange with Mr. Gonzales during Gonzales’s Senate testimony .
President Bush also appears to have been dishonest during April 20, 2004, remarks in New York about the Patriot Act. "Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires -- a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we're talking about chasing down terrorists, we're talking about getting a court order before we do so," President Bush said, according to the White House website
For Atlanta Progressive News’s previous coverage of the wiretapping scandal, please see, "Federal Agencies Play Hot Potato over Wiretapping Probe"
Matthew Cardinale is Editor of Atlanta Progressive News. He has written previously for the Sun-Sentinel Newspaper, Shelterforce Magazine, The Advocate Magazine, and the Berkeley Daily Planet Newspaper. He has also written for numerous online publications including OpEdNews, BuzzFlash, CommonDreams, AlterNet, RawStory, and TruthOut. He may be reached at email@example.com
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Qualifications of yet another Bush nominee questioned
By Staff and Wire Reports
Jan 31, 2006
President Bush's nominee to head the federal mine safety agency issued an urgent advisory to Pennsylvania's mine operators to update their maps after the Quecreek mine was flooded in 2002 and almost killed nine workers.
The following year, a grand jury determined the state's underground mine safety agency _ then led by Bush nominee Richard Stickler _ should have identified the mapping problems sooner. At the time, Stickler had been running the mine agency for five years.
Stickler, 61, was appearing Tuesday before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. There will also be a confirmation hearing Tuesday for Edwin G. Foulke Jr., who has been nominated to lead the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
In prepared testimony, Stickler said he's dedicated to mine safety and the mission of the Mine Safety and Health Administration. He recalled working underground in West Virginia in 1968 when a methane gas explosion in an adjacent mine killed 78 workers.
"The sights and sounds of that experience as well as other tragic mine accidents will be with me as long as I live," said Stickler, of Terra Alta, W.Va.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., the committee's ranking Democrat, questioned Stickler's commitment to safety.
"Every human life is precious. We must only confirm nominees to safety and health positions who understand this," Kennedy said. "Mr. Stickler's history is long on coal production experience but short on ensuring worker safety."
Kennedy is among a handful of members of Congress who have called for reform at MSHA after the deaths of 14 West Virginia miners earlier this month. One main criticism of MSHA, which has a 2006 operating budget of $277 million, is that it's been run by mining insiders lax in enforcing fines and opening up documents. It has been without a leader since November 2004.
Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., who is also on the committee, said Stickler has practical experience as an underground manager, superintendent and shift foreman that would benefit the agency.
"He is a man who, for most of his adult life, has wiped the coal dust off his boots every night," Isakson said.
Stickler received a gubernatorial award for his work on the scene at the Quecreek mine in 2002 when the nine trapped miners were rescued. He ran Pennsylvania's agency from 1997 to 2003 after working for 30 years for Beth Energy Mines Inc. in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
The grand jury investigation of Quecreek did not name individuals and no criminal charges were filed. The problems were blamed on miners breaching an abandoned mine that released millions of gallons of water that trapped them until they were rescued 77 hours later.
In his urgent advisory after the disaster, Stickler wrote to the state's mines, "The consequences of inaccurate maps of abandoned workings can be catastrophic," according to documents under reviewed by the Senate committee and obtained by The Associated Press.
Howard Messer, who represents eight of the nine Quecreek miners, has said he opposes Stickler's nomination because of the secrecy surrounding the investigation that followed the disaster.
The United Mine Workers has opposed his nomination to lead the federal agency _ just as it opposed his nomination to the state agency.
In 1997, the United Mine Workers wrote in a letter to then-Gov. Tom Ridge that its evaluation of federal records showed there were incident rates in mines Stickler ran that doubled the national average in six of eight years. It noted that one of the mines he managed for five years had two fatal accidents during that time.
Documents provided to the committee, however, say he was strict in enforcement, which could explain the numbers.
In 1998, one of Stickler's own inspectors complained in a letter to him about a change in policy involving ventilation in mines, documents show. He said the change would make the industry less safe for two-thirds of workers and "this policy is strictly an economical document which neither promotes or extends safety."
After Stickler apparently met with miners in New Stanton, Pa., in 1999, the United Mine Workers' safety officer wrote to the head of the Pennsylvania Department of Environment Protection complaining that Stickler was failing to address miners' safety concerns.
"The continued tenure of Mr. Stickler will have a grave an immediate impact on state's miners," the letter said.
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Sweeping anti-abortion laws proposed
Jan. 31, 2006 at 9:28AM
Legislators in at least five states are proposing bold anti-abortion measures as the Bush administration reshapes the U.S. Supreme Court, a report said.
With the goal of challenging the Roe vs. Wade ruling that ensured a woman's right to an abortion, lawmakers in Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, South Dakota and Tennessee propose banning all abortions except when the woman's life is in danger, Stateline.org reported.
If enacted, legal experts said the laws would be the first absolute abortion bans since the landmark 1973 ruling.
However, some abortion foes worry that state bans could backfire especially since five pro-Roe justices remain in the Supreme Court.
It's as predictable as the sun rising that lower courts would strike down such state bans, said Americans United for Life Director Clarke Forsythe.
It would be better to pass legislation "that can be enforced," such as parental notification requirements and fetal pain warnings, the constitutional lawyer told the state issues organization.
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The Hidden State Steps Forward
When the New York Times revealed that George W. Bush had ordered the National Security Agency to wiretap the foreign calls of American citizens without seeking court permission, as is indisputably required by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), passed by Congress in 1978, he faced a decision. Would he deny the practice, or would he admit it? He admitted it. But instead of expressing regret, he took full ownership of the deed, stating that his order had been entirely justified, that he had in fact renewed it thirty times, that he would continue to renew it and--going even more boldly on the offensive--that those who had made his law-breaking known had committed a "shameful act."
As justification, he offered two arguments, one derisory, the other deeply alarming. The derisory one was that Congress, by authorizing him to use force after September 11, had authorized him to suspend FISA, although that law is unmentioned in the resolution. Thus has Bush informed the members of a supposedly co-equal branch of government of what, unbeknownst to themselves, they were thinking when they cast their vote. The alarming argument is that as Commander in Chief he possesses "inherent" authority to suspend laws in wartime. But if he can suspend FISA at his whim and in secret, then what law can he not suspend? What need is there, for example, to pass or not pass the Patriot Act if any or all of its provisions can be secretly exceeded by the President?
Bush's choice marks a watershed in the evolution of his Administration. Previously when it was caught engaging in disgraceful, illegal or merely mistaken or incompetent behavior, he would simply deny it. "We have found the weapons of mass destruction!" "We do not torture!" However, further developments in the torture matter revealed a shift. Even as he denied the existence of torture, he and his officials began to defend his right to order it. His Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, refused at his confirmation hearings to state that the torture called waterboarding, in which someone is brought to the edge of drowning, was prohibited. Then when Senator John McCain sponsored a bill prohibiting cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners, Bush threatened to veto the legislation to which it was attached. It was only in the face of majority votes in both houses against such treatment that he retreated from his claim.
But in the wiretapping matter, he has so far exhibited no such vacillation. Secret law-breaking has been supplanted by brazen law-breaking. The difference is critical. If abuses of power are kept secret, there is still the possibility that, when exposed, they will be stopped. But if they are exposed and still permitted to continue, then every remedy has failed, and the abuse is permanently ratified. In this case, what will be ratified is a presidency that has risen above the law.
The danger is not abstract or merely symbolic. Bush's abuses of presidential power are the most extensive in American history. He has launched an aggressive war ("war of choice," in today's euphemism) on false grounds. He has presided over a system of torture and sought to legitimize it by specious definitions of the word. He has asserted a wholesale right to lock up American citizens and others indefinitely without any legal showing or the right to see a lawyer or anyone else. He has kidnapped people in foreign countries and sent them to other countries, where they were tortured. In rationalizing these and other acts, his officials have laid claim to the unlimited, uncheckable and unreviewable powers he has asserted in the wiretapping case. He has tried to drop a thick shroud of secrecy over these and other actions.
There is a name for a system of government that wages aggressive war, deceives its citizens, violates their rights, abuses power and breaks the law, rejects judicial and legislative checks on itself, claims power without limit, tortures prisoners and acts in secret. It is dictatorship.
The Administration of George W. Bush is not a dictatorship, but it does manifest the characteristics of one in embryonic form. Until recently, these were developing and growing in the twilight world of secrecy. Even within the executive branch itself, Bush seemed to govern outside the normally constituted channels of the Cabinet and to rely on what Secretary of State Colin Powell's chief of staff has called a "cabal." Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill reported the same thing. Cabinet meetings were for show. Real decisions were made elsewhere, out of sight. Another White House official, John DiIulio, has commented that there was "a complete lack of a policy apparatus" in the White House. "What you've got is everything, and I mean everything, being run by the political arm." As in many Communist states, a highly centralized party, in this case the Republican Party, was beginning to forge a parallel apparatus at the heart of government, a semi-hidden state-within-a-state, by which the real decisions were made.
With Bush's defense of his wiretapping, the hidden state has stepped into the open. The deeper challenge Bush has thrown down, therefore, is whether the country wants to embrace the new form of government he is creating by executive fiat or to continue with the old constitutional form. He is now in effect saying, "Yes, I am above the law--I am the law, which is nothing more than what I and my hired lawyers say it is--and if you don't like it, I dare you to do something about it."
Members of Congress have no choice but to accept the challenge. They did so once before, when Richard Nixon, who said, "When the President does it, that means it's not illegal," posed a similar threat to the Constitution. The only possible answer is to inform Bush forthwith that if he continues in his defiance, he will be impeached.
If Congress accepts his usurpation of its legislative power, they will be no Congress and might as well stop meeting. Either the President must uphold the laws of the United States, which are Congress's laws, or he must leave office.
Comment: We suppose this is what passes for "responsible journalism". The writer can't call Bush a "dictator", or the US a "dictortorship", he can only opine that "The Administration of George W. Bush is not a dictatorship, but it does manifest the characteristics of one in embryonic form."
But then Schell is likely to be among those who believe the cock'n bull story about 19 Arab terrorists and a man in the cave in Afghanistan as the explanation for 9/11. Does he think that the last two elections were stolen through fraudulent vote "counting"? If one's perspective is clouded on these events, then the conclusion that the Bush dictatorship is only "embryonic" might hold water...except...
There is indeed a cabal at work. It is not Bush alone. The cabal has been working in secret for years to take power. The forms of democracy still stand, but their representative content was emptied long ago. The dictatorship has been embryonic for a long time. It came out into the open on 9/11.
The complete collapse of the Democratic Party in the face of Bush's crimes speaks to the bankruptcy of US democracy. But for some people, the forms are more important than the actual content. Only when the face of tyranny appears openly and aggressively, will they recognise their foe. And, by then, it will be too late.
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Land of the McFree
Monday, January 30
Harry Wallop, the Daily Telegraph's retail correspondent, is immersing himself in McCulture after being invited to spend a few days at the global headquarters of McDonald's in Illinois
Oak Brook, Illinois is the home of McDonald's and it's hard to escape the influence of Ronald McDonald in this part of North America. The manager of my hotel is wearing an I'm Lovin' it T-shirt, I'm staying just along the road from McDonald's plaza and my breakfast options stretch from a sausage egg McGriddle to a latte from the McCafe.
McDonald's has had a torrid few years, buffeted by books, TV shows and films, especially Morgan Spurlock's highly entertaining Supersize Me, that have portrayed the company as the source of some of the world's worst ills such as obesity, animal cruelty and employee exploitation. Customers deserted the chain and in 2003 the corporation recorded its first ever quarterly loss.
But things are changing. And I'm part of a delegation of journalists from around the world invited to McDonald's global headquarters to be shown the re-found swagger of the company.
First stop is a brand new McDonald's restaurant with McCafe attached on the main interstate between downtown Chicago and Ronald HQ in Oak Brook. While the open fire, newspapers, proper coffee and cinnamon swirls at the McCafe look appealing, I decide that fried meat is what made Ronald McDonald the second most recognised figure behind Santa Claus and it is only fair to order a sausage egg McGriddle.
Adan, my server, is looking flustered. As part of the new transparency at the company his average serving time is flashed up on the cash register. And thanks to the influx of poncy journalists ordering the complicated apple salad his is reading 37 seconds - a full 11 seconds behind company's best practice. "I'm working on getting it down, I'm working on it," he says. Of course every second he can shave off means extra profit margin for McDonald's, which monitors every restaurant task minutely.
The McGriddle is not a success. It is so soaked in over-sweet maple syrup and other unmentionables that I am forced to abandon it after one mouthful. I feel even more queasy after I examine the nutrition chart, now helpfully printed on the back of every paper tray cover. It comes in at 560 calories, with 32 grams of fat (49pc of my daily recommended value).
As my arteries contract we are ushered (by the uber efficient McDonald's corporate PR women wearing stop-watches around their neck) on to the bus to visit the famous McDonald's Hamburger University. Here workers practice serving Big Macs in mock up kitchens using wooden burgers, with cotton wool standing in for the McFlurry and candy for the French fries. It's like a supersized Early Learning Centre kitchen.
We're shown around by the Diana Thomas, the "Dean of Hamburger University", who has skilfully persuaded the US government to grant the glorified training course a quasi-degree status, giving it 46 college credits (the equivalent of a year and half of a University degree). She warns me that she's working on getting the UK Hamburger University in Finchley recognised by the Government.
The University may look like a glorified play school but it is deadly serious. Every single manager of a US McDonald's trains here, becoming a Bachelor in Hamburgerology (yes, really) and he learns "to walk the talk" as McDonald's chief executive Jim Skinner says.
Skinner is bullish form, after overseeing 32 consecutive months of same-store sales growth. He's the architect of the McDonald's turnaround and while Europe, and the UK particularly is struggling, the rest of the world, especially Asia and Latin America, is Lovin' his salads, rice burgers and coconut water.
Privately, the McDonald's executives are seething about "sneaky" Morgan Spurlock, who they claim hoodwinked the public into thinking McDonald's was poisonous. In public they don't even mention his name, instead emphasising "healthy lifestyle balance" options available to ordinary diners.
Skinner says: "I eat McDonald's every day. I'm not suggesting I'm some example of a specimen. But I'm 61 and I do exercise. You can eat three times a day at McDonald's and be responsible. We're not out here to be proscriptive."
As if to prove the point, we round off the day with perhaps the weirdest meal I've ever eaten - and I've eaten live eel, mind you. It's dubbed McGourmet and it's a 10-course banquet of dishes all prepared using ingredients found in a standard McDonald's. It includes such delicacies as a Big Tasty Meatloaf with cream cheese sauce and a Coca-Cola reduction and a McCrispy Chicken confitted in citrus sauce. It's strangely convincing and yet very, very, odd. A bit like the folk at Oak Brook, Illinois.
Comment: What is fascinating about this account of a visit to Hamburger University is the complete obliviousness of its participants to what a twisted and sick place it really is, the caloriless values it promotes, and the humiliation in having a diploma that says you are a Bachelor in Hamburgerology.
To what depths have people sunk if they can find meaning and accomplishment in making hamburgers out of wooden patties? And feel pride in being rewarded for passing the grade?
And notice how the world of Ronald has interpreted the notion of transparency: the Tayloresque chronometering of tasks is now public! Transparency doesn't have to do with the way decisions are made in the upper echelons, it is about putting the grunt on the front line into a position of open and public competition with his colleagues.
It is often heard abroad that the phrase "American culture" is an oxymoron. It is a long way from Moby Dick or William Faulkner to Ronald McDonald.
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Female former postal worker kills six in rampage
31/01/2006 - 12:37:15
A female ex-postal worker opened fire at a mail processing plant (California), killing six people before committing suicide, authorities said early today.
One other person was listed in critical condition, authorities said.
“We do not believe there is any additional threat to the community,” said Santa Barbara County Sheriff Jim Anderson.
Deputies responding to a call of shots fired late yesterday in Goleta, initially found two people dead outside the plant.
Two others were located inside and were taken to a hospital.
One died upon arrival.
The other was critically wounded with a gunshot wound to the head.
Deputies searching the plant about 2am (10am Irish Time) found the bodies of three victims and the female attacker, who died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, Anderson said.
The postal station is located just a few blocks from the University of California, Santa Barbara, about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles.
Authorities said more than 50 people were working at the plant at the time of the shootings.
March 17, 1996
Q: (T) OK, the question is, is the fellow that just shot three professors in San Diego, I think it was, the University, before they read his thesis, because he was afraid they would throw his thesis away, and make it look bad, and flunk him. Was he a Greenbaum?
Q: (T) Why did they turn him 'on' at that point?
A: Not correct concept. What if: those programmed in the so called "Greenbaum" projects are preprogrammed to "go off" all at once, and some "malfunction," and go off early?
Q: (L) Oh!!! Can you tell us at approximately what time they're programmed to go off? Because it is a program...
Q: (T) No, they can't. Free will!!! (L) OK, can you tell us how many of them there are?
Q: (T) Do you know how many there are?
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Widow of Martin Luther King dies - report
31/01/2006 - 12:49:00
Coretta Scott King, the widow of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, has died, former mayor Andrew Young told NBC today. She was 78.
Young, who also was a civil rights activist and was close to the King family, broke the news during a phone call he made to the Today show.
Asked how he found out about her death, Young said: “I understand she was asleep last night and her daughter tried to wake her up.”
King turned a life shattered by the 1968 assassination of her husband into one devoted to enshrining his legacy of human rights and equality.
Comment: You may remember that Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King were honored at the White House in 2002. You may remember that King's wife presented a portrait of her late husband to President Bush.
You may also remember Bush's opening remarks that included a "joke". You can read and listen to the transcript here.
This was a ceremony to honor Martin Luther King, a man who spent a good part of his life in the attempt to combat years of discrimination by the US government and targetted lynchings by White Supremicist groups. What might you think the opening line of Bush's speech should be at such an occasion?
Here's what Bush said after the portrait was unveiled:
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you all very much for coming. Mrs. King, thanks for this beautiful portrait. I can't wait to hang it. (Laughter.)
Go to the above link and listen to Bush's remarks yourself to get an idea of the nature of this man. If you are not absolutely shocked and disgusted then you are missing the point. Bush made a joke about "hanging" the portrait of King that was a clear reference to hanging in terms of hanging a human being.
Given the occasion, to call this "joke" tasteless would be a massive understatement. Did Bush REALISE what he was saying?? Or is it simply more evidence that Bush is completely unable to empathise with another human being.
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Justice in Vermont (With your Help)
Kisses for Grandma Rosemarie
"A citizen in United States should never expect to gain justice through the judicial system. The system is so corrupted that in the rare case when justice prevails, it is not because of, but it is in spite of, the system.”
We are posting this call to action today because a kind and decent woman needs your help. Rosemarie Jackowski is a 68-year-old grandmother/Air Force Veteran/writer/anti-war activist and an advocacy journalist living in Vermont.
"On March 20, 2003, I participated in a peaceful protest against the war. I was arrested, incarcerated, handcuffed, booked, fingerprinted, photographed, arraigned, tried, convicted and sentenced. My conviction is currently under Appeal in the Vermont State Supreme Court. Courtroom procedure allows the condemned the Right of Allocution. This was the first time that I was allowed to speak freely and openly to the court. Below are my words, as I spoke them, to Judge David Suntag, in Vermont District Court, in Bennington, Vt., on October 7, 2004."
A Courtroom Speech
By Rosemarie Jackowski
To get an idea of where Rosemarie is coming from I would suggest you read the above article as well as:
"Silence is the greatest of all crimes"
An interview with Peace Grandma, Rosemarie Jackowski By author Mickey Z
The details of her protest trial can be found at the
Veterans for Peace website.
The idea of a jury steamrolling a grandmother for committing an act of civil disobedience is, unfortunately, not very surprising in America’s current political climate.
That is not subject of today’s appeal to you. The current injustice facing this amicable woman has to do with her actions as a plaintiff stemming from a traffic accident in Vermont in the year 2000.
While waiting in a line of traffic she was rear ended by a loaded logging truck. Many eyewitnesses reported the truck driver was “distracted” by some young ladies on the roadside and clearly the negligent party in the accident. It would seem like a straightforward case but for the fact that the truck was owned and operated by the state of Vermont. It gets worse. It has taken FIVE YEARS for the government to even begin her deposition.
I urge you to read the horrific details of this matter in her recent article:
The Deposition By Rosemarie Jackowski
Being deposed by a government lawyer for a case where the State is the defendant is, no doubt, a rough ride. It would seem that the State of Vermont had an intimidation card up its sleeve when the lawyer’s questions began to stray far from the case at hand into the realm of Rosemarie’s political beliefs and very personal life. An excerpt from
"The big day arrived. I was taken into a small, windowless room in the state’s attorney’s office complex. I looked around. There was a one-way mirror opposite to where I was seated. There were some metal bookshelves with black garbage bags on them. It reminded me of Abu Ghraib.
I was told to raise my right hand and was sworn in. Then the interrogation by an assistant to the state attorney general began. She asked questions about my political activities… questions about my political writings. She had copied all of them from the Internet and waved them about with great emotion. She seemed excited by the fact that some of my articles had appeared on a web site that has a four-letter word in its name. Obviously, she thought that this would embarrass me. It did not. I calmly explained to her that I do not have a web site and I have no control over what name other people give to their web sites. I don’t know if she believed me or not.
Then the interrogation got even more interesting. She asked questions about my sex life. She asked questions about my marriage that had ended 35 years prior. Then she started to ask detailed questions about the fact that I had been the victim of a brutal rape. The rape, which is irrelevant to this case, had occurred 40, yes 40, years ago during a time when I was working in Florida. By now, it had become very clear to me what was happening. There was no doubt in my mind that this was an attempt to intimidate me."
Whether or not you agree with Rosemarie’s political beliefs they should not hold any bearing in her case against a State-owned trucking company that had caused her much physical anguish and financial devastation. As for the exceptionally private matters of sexual assault or divorce- the representative of the State of Vermont has gone too far!
This is not the progressive State that I have read about over the years. This is brutal.
We are appealing to you, dear reader, to take a few moments to write to one or all of the people listed below and join us in demanding a fair and equitable conclusion to this rather straightforward case of negligence on the part of an employee of the State of Vermont.
The harassment and obfuscation by the assistant to the state attorney general and the dragging out of this otherwise uncomplicated matter are Justice delayed and Justice denied.
Dick Sears, Chairman of the State Judiciary Committee: firstname.lastname@example.org
Speaker of the State House, Gaye Symington: email@example.com
Governor of the State of Vermont, Jim Douglas: http://www.vermont.gov/governor/contact.html
A susinct sentence or two is all we ask. If you are a Blogger we would ask that you perhaps utilize your own space to help spread this appeal with your own article or a link back to this one.
Thank you very much.
Amelopsis and Youngfox.
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Deputy Shooting Of Military Officer Under Investigation
6:27 pm PST January 30, 2006
CHINO, Calif. -- An investigation is under way after a military police officer was allegedly shot by deputies following a police pursuit in Chino.
According to deputies, a chase occured after a driver refused to pull over just before 10:30 Sunday night.
Residents and deputies observed a blue Corvette racing through a Chino neighborhood at more than 100 mph. There was a brief pursuit before the driver crashed into a fence. A resident of the area grabbed his home video camera.
"I don't know exactly what kind of footage he has on his videotape," said Jodi Miller with the San Bernardino County Sheriff Department.
The tape is in the possession of the sheriff's department.
Ilio Carreon, who was a passenger in the car, is recovering Monday from surgery after the confrontation.
Relatives who saw a portion of the tape tell NBC4 that Carreon was calm, in control and cooperating with the deputy.
NBC4 reports that at 10:21 p.m. the sheriff's deputy radio dispatched that he was holding a suspect at gunpoint.
At 10:26 p.m. neighbors say they heard four gunshots.
"He was getting out of the car with his hands up and that's when his friend started running. Since my husband was surrendering, they shot him. They shot him on the shoulder, on the chest and the leg," said the victim's wife Mariela Carreon.
Relatives don't believe Carreon would have carried a weapon, even though he is an MP with the Air Force. Carreon was home on leave from Iraq and had been out with friends Sunday night.
Relatives tell NBC4 that Carreon always carried his military badge and ID with him and he may have been shot reaching for those items in his pocket.
The driver of the car was arrested and charged with felony evading. The deputy who was on patrol was not injured and is on administrative leave.
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UPS Driver Attacked By Middle School Students
Jan 30, 2006 5:59 pm US/Central
BELLWOOD, Ill. - A UPS driver was savagely beaten by middle school students while delivering packages in the western suburbs.
The attack happened in Bellwood along the 3200 block of St. Charles.
In a CBS 2 excusive, Joanie Lum talked to the man who was savagely beaten just trying to do his job.
UPS driver Thomas Murphy says he was beaten by a group of school kids on busy St. Charles Road in Bellwood, the route he has driven for 12 years.
He says a teenager walked out in front of his delivery truck Friday at about 3 p.m. When he stopped the truck, 15 to 20 youths surrounded him.
"Somebody clocked me with a pipe. I took kicks from my right. My eyes caked over. I tried to get up and defend myself as best I could," Murphy said.
He was beaten from his head to his ankles.
"I remember being down on one knee, falling to the ground with kids on top of me," Murphy said.
He thinks a passing motorist called for help.
The Bellwood police believe the attackers came from Roosevelt Middle School, located a couple of blocks away. They have stepped up patrols in the area.
“If other delivery drivers are going to face this, we want our patrols in the area," said Bellwood Police Chief Robert Collins.
“Somebody should be held accountable for these kids. They run wild like a pack of wolves, where's the parents?" Murphy said.
In spite of his trauma, Murphy says he wants to get back to work.
"I have every intention of getting back on my route. I'd like to do it with some sense of security," he said.
Police say an anonymous witness has come forward with the names of several people involved in the attack. Murphy identified a couple of people in a photo lineup Monday afternoon, but no one's been arrested yet.
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A Snapshot of the Right Wing Tactics
By M. Junaid Alam, WireTap. Posted January 30, 2006.
The latest spying on UCLA's faculty by a conservative zealot resembles Germany's fascist anti-intellectual movement of the 1930s.
Andrew Jones is a man on a mission. A 2003 UCLA graduate and former head of the campus Republican organization, Jones is waging a war against the twin evils of women's and ethnic studies. He is also taking aim against specific devious leftist professors who poison the minds of freedom-loving students at UCLA with their anti-American foreign policy critiques.
In a most heroic move, Jones has created the Bruin Alumni Association, which targets 30 "dirty" professors and urges UCLA students to spy on their leftist professors by reporting them for deviant behavior -- anything that lies outside "normal thought," in Jones's words. Those who perform this patriotic service are to be rewarded with the bounties Jones has placed on the professors' heads.
This is all well and good and perfectly cheery. But, there is one serious problem with Jones's scheme: the bounty for handing in a suspect professor's class notes and materials is a mere $100. Such a low figure is a serious insult to a righteous cause.
Surely, Jones and his hardworking staff at the Bruin Alumni Association (namely, Jones, who is the staff) must understand the grave threat the leftist academics pose at UCLA. First, there are the cruel female professors who force young college women to think and reflect about their role in society when we all know - thanks to Republican values - that women are only supposed to exercise their upper body in the kitchen and their lower body in the bedroom. Then, there are Black teachers who tell their students fairy-tales about white-imposed slavery, segregation, disenfranchisement, unequal housing, banking, and state services. Last but not least are those anti-American professors whose detailed writings about the government's illegal wars apparently fuel the activities of terrorists abroad - terrorists who, without UCLA academic research papers, would have absolutely no idea that people in their own countries and of their own faith are always being blown to pieces all around them.
Given this stark reality, I propose to Mr. Jones that he significantly raise the bounties placed on deviant UCLA academics. After all, al-Qaeda leaders and similar terrorist figureheads have multi-million dollar bounties placed on their heads. Why shouldn't those who aid and abet them right here in our universities also be subject to similar treatment?
Similarly, while I must credit Mr. Jones for raising the stakes a notch with intimidation tactics like hit-lists and secret spying operations in the enemy's classrooms, I must say that Mr. Jones is dangerously close to erring on the side of girlie-men tactics. After all, why should we stop with mere spying and intimidating? Higher bounty rewards should be commensurate with even more patriotic, pro-American actions taken against these professors. This should include fly-by airstrikes, precision attacks, and home raids. Only through this comprehensive process of ensuring true academic freedom will the beacon of liberty be secured in the homeland.
It goes without saying, of course, that I have painted the scenarios above not as serious suggestions, but only as a means of illustrating that the "logic" pursued by zealots like Jones can easily lead down the path of insanity if pursued to its ineluctable conclusion -- just as we have already seen happen when it comes to untermenschen (literally: under-people) abroad.
Interestingly, the UCLA graduate's crusade against his university has alienated some fellow hard-right activists. David Horowitz, the leading proponent of the disingenuously named "academic freedom" movement, said Jones used to work under his tutelage, but had to be fired for trying to strong-arm students into filing false reports against leftists. Horowitz also derided Jones's tactics as "baiting people," and accused him of stealing his donor list. Since being reprimanded by Horowitz for going too far in attacking academia is a bit like being lectured on boxing etiquette by Mike Tyson, this is no small matter.
Horowitz, though, is not the only one with reservations. Though Jones's little "alumni" spy organization comprises only himself, it boasts a number of "advisers" (read: wealthy right-wing activists). Three of these "advisers" have defected on grounds that Jones's vigilantism is harming the movement: Harvard historian Stephan Thernstrom, Los Angeles radio talk-show host Al Rantel, and ex-congressman James Rogan. "Now what's happened is that the whole project is discredited. Now it looks like a bunch of crazies who were trying to go after innocent professors…" complained Rantel.
Indeed, as of last Tuesday, Jones himself declared a partial surrender, dropping the bounties but vowing to continue as a "volunteer organization." But neither the hand wringing of conservative activists who opposed the bounty idea for tactical reasons nor Jones's own limited retreat will bring a halt to "the whole project." Jones's venture cannot be written off as an extreme deviation within the conservative movement, for the rationale he provides for his campaign is a mirror-image of the philosophy behind the broader effort to destroy academics whose research exposes Republicans' most cherished ideals: white male privilege and the blowing up of people abroad necessary to sustain it.
Articulating his position a few days ago, Jones echoed the line long touted by his ex-mentor, Horowitz, "Everyone retreats into me-search. 'I'm black so I'm going to study black issues.' White folks don't feel the need to do that." The remarkable idiocy of this statement is almost too much to fathom. Jones seems to believe that, in a country which spent the better part of the 19th century finding scientific rationalizations for theories of black inferiority, which placed blacks in plantation fields, war zones, and rope nooses long before it opened its doors to them in institutions of learning, which exclusively studied the "greatness" of Europe and America alone in classrooms, the educational curriculum was not already oriented toward "white folks." Black studies, in the minds of Jones, exists as some kind of silly, selfish endeavor, instead of as a corrective antidote to two hundred years of an official educational program that has been as contemptuous of blacks as the society that enslaved, segregated, and marginalized them.
Since Jones, is, after all, a graduate of a school "overrun" by "leftist" faculty, it is impossible he could be ignorant of this historical reality. The only plausible explanation is that he is an irredeemable racist, or that UCLA's mental-health facilities are ill-equipped to handle patients suffering from severe memory loss.
Whatever the case, his self-centeredness and goal of silencing opposition is not 'extreme' within the conservative movement, but rather, completely in line with its anti-intellectual politics aimed against academia. One of the latest and most innovative twists on this victim-mentality play of those in power came in 2004, when rabidly conservative pro-Israel pundits and their front groups made hit lists and began compiling notes on academics who were labeled "anti-Semites" for basing their teachings on Israeli archival evidence (dug up by Israeli Jewish historians, no less), which proved that Israel committed massive war crimes -- including forced expulsion of Palestinians -- to create its 1948 borders. Conservative pro-Israel and other movements (spearheaded by Horowitz, among others) urged implementation of state-led mind-control of academia, resulting in congressional passage of bill HR 3077 last year. HR 3077 is designed to weed out teaching deemed "anti-American" and "anti-Israeli," and to bolster education that "better reflect[s] national needs related to homeland security."
Jones's outlook, like that of his right-wing counterparts, is similarly neurotic when it comes to socialism. Before he removed his hit-list of thirty "dirty" professors who made the mistake of not sharing Jones's penchant for stupidity, the number-one target was Professor Peter McLaren, an academic respected in socialist circles, particularly in Mexico and Latin America, where neo-liberalism is the God that failed. Jones's "alumni" website labeled McLaren "a monster" and contained the following, weirdly obsessive description of a McLaren photograph: "He stands before the camera expressionless, long blond hair tousled just so, beady little sunglasses cloaking his knowledge of the evil which lurks in the hearts of men."
I have no idea what "beady little sunglasses" look like, or what special secrets of evil any pair of sunglasses can cloak (can I score a pair?), but the reference to the professor's hair "tousled just so" appears to be a dig related to another one of Jones's objects of hatred: "McLaren, in keeping with the radical left's identity politics, has been a friend to the gay community." Presumably, McLaren would have been a much better academic in Jones's eyes as an enemy of the gay community, bludgeoning their heads with his briefcase and strangling them with his suit-jacket wherever he found them.
With his too-clever-by-half idea of bribing students to report their own teachers and his openly professed irrational hatreds, the UCLA graduate ended up crippling his own little crusade and earning the disapproval of other right-wingers who are trying to purge America of critical thinking in tactically sounder ways. Thus, Jones's methods have backfired for the moment. But his effort is a stern reminder that the line between American conservatism today and Germany's fascist anti-intellectual movement of the 1930s is thinner than a hair on a bald man's head.
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Arsenal Chief: 'Intruders' Likely Wildlife
By DANIEL CONNOLLY
Associated Press Writer
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) -- A guard who reported a security breach inside the nation's second-largest chemical weapons depot may have mistaken wildlife for human intruders, authorities said Thursday.
The commander of the Pine Bluff Arsenal said officials combed the area but found no footprints or other evidence of human intruders.
"There's no doubt in my mind that the officer saw something, but it wasn't human," Col. Brian S. Lindamood said. "At this time I have no idea what it could be."
Lindamood said the officer was patrolling inside a 500-acre secure section of the arsenal where chemical weapons, including nerve agents, are stored.
"He reported that he saw three individuals on foot inside the (secure area) and when he approached in his vehicle they ran into the woods," he said.
Lindamood said the guard was between 70 and 165 feet away at the time and the area was brightly lit. The guard won't face any disciplinary measures.
"In fact, he was commended for the promptness of his report, for the detail contained in his report, and for his diligence in following up until his backup arrived," Lindamood said.
The 13,000-acre Army complex, located a half-hour south of Little Rock, began destroying its chemical weapons stockpile in March to comply with international treaties.
Comment: There is something not quite right about this story. The guard who reported the intruders at America's second largest chemical weapons depot stated that he saw three individuals, at between 70 and 165 feet from him in a brightly lit area. Despite this, Colonel Lindamood dismissed the guard's report and claimed that he had seen animals. How likely is that somone would confuse three animals about 100 feet away in a brightly lit area with three human beings?
We smell a cover up. Are those Israeli spies up to their old tricks again? Are they planning to have "al-Qaeda" carry out at chemical weapon attack on the American heartland? Time will tell, but we'll be archiving this story for good measure.
Thanks to D.J. for spotting this one for us.
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Reforming the Democrats -- Or a Third Party?
by Bernard Weiner
The Crisis Papers
31 Jan 06
The Democratic Party, with its current cast of characters in charge, has refused time after time to stand up and fight for its underlying principles. Its recent incoherent or wimpy positions on the Iraq War, electoral fraud and the Alito nomination make clear that it's stuck in a self-destructive rut and isn't terribly eager (or can't figure out how) to climb out of it.
As I see it, we have two options in dealing with this deficient, bumbling, weak-kneed crew. 1) We get rid of them, work to take over the party from the grassroots up (similar to what the Republicans did after the Goldwater debacle of '64), and eventually bring some coherence and dynamic initiatives back into the party. Or, 2) We give up on the Democrats as an embarrassing joke, and begin thinking seriously about joining with others, similarly disenchanted with the political choices offerred, and found a viable third party.
There is another option: doing nothing, just continuing on as a rag-tag, undisciplined, weak OINO -- that's "Opposition In Name Only." But I think we all know that simply makes no sense. Being rolled regularly by the Republicans, or refusing to fight them in ways other than symbolic, gets old real fast.
OPTION#1: REFORMING FROM WITHIN
The first option, in a sense, is already happening. Folks like Paul Hackett in Ohio and Bernie Saunders in Vermont, both running for Senate, Diane Lawrence in a Florida Congressional district -- plus Cindy Sheehan thinking about a Senate race in California -- are willing to put themselves out there. Good people, good Democrats, willing to step out and step up in an effort to try to change the face of party, and American, politics.
So it's possible that many young, and not-so-young, activists from the Democratic base can start reforming from within -- starting at the precinct and municipal level, emerging from state legislatures, moving into statewide offices, taking the leap to running for Congress and so on.
That kind of activist movement, whether coordinated or run on the fly by individuals, takes a tremendous amount of energy, courage, money, and clear-headed planning. It may require a decade or so to even begin to see demonstrable results. Can the Democratic Party afford the luxury of the decade or more it might take? Can the country handle the amount of Bush-like corruption, authoritarianism, wars, torture, moral lassitude that will transpire during that period while the foundation is being laid for a new, re-energized Democratic Party?
Perhaps more important, will the big bucks (George Soros? Peter Lewis? show-biz wealth?) see what needs to be done and provide the required financing and political infrastructure building? When the conservatives got over their '64 humiliation, they didn't sulk; they started a decades-long campaign to take power by buying or creating media organs to get their message out, established think-tanks where policy and philosophies and strategies could be developed, created ways to get college-age youths involved in conservative politics.
EDUCATION COMES FROM EVERYWHERE
In short, they were dead-serious about changing the system that had locked them out for so long. Their big-buck magnates and foundations (Coors, Scaife, Olin, et al.) footed the bill. And, eventually, as we know, they wound up taking over the Congress, the White House, much of the media -- and now are in the process of locking up the Judiciary as well.
Am I suggesting that we imitate the rightwing tactics and strategies -- and smash-mouth politics -- that brought them to power? No way. But, while not abandoning our morality and principles, we have much to learn from that level of commitment and tenacity and patience.
Are we in the Democratic "base" ready to sign on, to sign up, for that level of work and the dedicated slog it will take? Or will we remain a base that energizes itself every four years and then wonders why we keep getting blind-sided by an organization (Rove Inc.) that thinks, breathes, acts politics every waking second? Take your pick.
I think it's not necessarily too late to make the attempt to reform the party from within. But it is late, and it will require a humongous amount of toil, sweat, and lots of tears to turn this supertanker around and then bring this party back to speed and coherence and courage. We must first make the Democrats into a true party of opposition, and then convince the American people that it's capable of governing.
(We're talking about elections here, which means that the Democratic Party is going to have to step out and point out forthrightly that our current voting system is a corrupted mess. It outsources ballot-counting to private corporations with secret software easily open to manipulation from the companies that own the e-voting machines and vote-counting computers, or to hacking from without. Those corporations are Republican-supporters at present, and key recent elections probably were fiddled with, according to scholars and other experts who have examined the shoddy system. If we can't overhaul the current manner of voting and ballot-counting, taking corruption and partisanship out of it, it won't matter how clean and transparent and dynamic our refurbished party is. We'll still contine to "lose," even when we win.)
OPTION#2: REFORMING FROM WITHOUT
I can't tell you how many liberal friends have expressed the same thought to me in recent months, in variations of these words: The Democratic Party is, and probably will continue to be, an embarrassing disaster, and it's time to at least start thinking tentatively about political life without it. That is, a viable third party.
Obviously, we're talking longer-range here, not about what is likely to happen for the 2006 midterm election, although events and scandals are unfolding at such warp speed these days that in some areas of the country, progressive insurgent candidates might have a real chance.
In 2008, if the choice is between a Bush-type clone (maybe even Jeb) and a middle-of-the-road Democrat, with no electable third-party candidate also in the race, we on the Left -- and even many in the middle -- may once again be put in the position, for the sake of the Republic, of holding our noses and voting and working for the Democratic candidate.
PASSION AND PRIDE IN OUR PARTY
But many of us would rather not have to go the nose-holding route again, preferring to have a party and candidates of which we can be passionately proud.
If it can't accomplished within be a refurbished, restructured Democratic Party, the thinking goes, then perhaps it's time for building a new, citizen-based party from the bottom up -- one that is less beholden to corporate and traditional power- and -financing sources, and therefore more free to speak out and act boldly in support of systematic reform and an adherence to policies and programs that make moral and political sense.
What might some of those principles be? Here are a few, which could apply as well to a renovated Democratic Party, if some of the old baggage can be jettisoned: war only out of of necessity, never a choice; more devotion to most peoples' actual needs (affordable health-care, improving public schools, infrastructure repair, clean air and water, enforcing safety regulations in mines and other workplaces, etc.) and less to giving even more tax breaks to the already wealthy and rapacious corporations; more fiscal responsibility in budgeting; paying down the humongous deficit; paying serious attention to reality (including science) and less to mere belief and political fantasy; going after terrorists without fatally compromising our morality or civil-liberties, etc.
If there were to be a new, viable third party in 2008, it's possible that this potential alliance could field candidates for President and Vice President -- assuming somebody of great character and political savvy emerges to help lead the way. But if the 2008 scenario unfolds something like what is described above, and if we've been busily building a grassroots alternative party from the ground up -- getting candidates elected on the local, district, state and congressional levels -- this new movement will be able to flex its growing political muscle by forcing the Democrats more toward a progressive agenda, all the while it prepares a future national slate of electable candidates for President and Vice-President.
A PROGRESSIVE'S ODYSSEY
Before I go deeper into this possible scenario, and where the starting base for a viable third party might originate, it may be important for readers to know where I'm coming from politically and that I'm not speaking totally off the top of my head. So here's a brief chronological history.
Raised in the South, I was a Democrat up until 1968; along with many other young people, I become more radicalized by events in "The Sixties." Appalled by the Democratic Party's sell-out on the Vietnam War, I joined with Marcus Raskin, Dr. Benjamin Spock and others to help found The New Party, and was active mostly in Washington State, where I was teaching college, in promoting that new, more radical alternative party. When the Vietnam War ended in the mid-'70s, and The New Party demonstrated that it had no legs for the long haul, I returned to the Democratic fold as the electable alternative to the Republicans. I worked as an activist journalist for, among others, Northwest Passage in the Pacific Northwest, and then later as a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle, and as a free-lancer for The Nation, The Progressive, the War Resisters League's WIN magazine and others.
In 1996, I supported Ralph Nader's insurgent candidacy for President. In 2000, even while more closely aligned with Nader's point of view, I supported Al Gore, as the one candidate who had a chance of stopping the Bush juggernaut. After 9/11, I began writing on a free-lance basis for a wide variety of progressive and liberal websites (TruthOut, CounterPunch, BuzzFlash, SmirkingChimp, et al.), and in November of 2002, Ernest Partridge and I founded The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org) as an independent progressive voice. In 2004, despite my deep revulsion at his position on the Iraq War, I worked for the election of John Kerry, as the only viable alternative to a second Bush term, which promised to be one dedicated to even more White House horrors.
As you can see, though I have an long-term affinity for the Democratic Party, that relationship is not set in cement and I have no animus toward the establishment of third parties, though starting one up requires much more difficult work than taking over an existing institutional party. My aim always is to work toward enactment of forward-thinking, progressive legislation and policies, which can be most effectively accomplished by getting honest, dynamic, progressive candidates elected. I believe, along with many others, that a party, Democratic or otherwise, has to be serious and (eventually) electable to justify putting lots of my time, energy and money into it.
A TRUE PARTY, NOT AN EGO-RUN
And that alternative party would have to be organized as a genuine grassroots political organization, around for the long haul, not an election-specific movement dependent merely on the candidate. That was Nader's weakest link; it seemed to be solely about electing him, not in building a true, small-d democratic party. Indeed, virtually all "third-party" movements in recent elections have seemed to have been designed more to garner "protest" votes -- John Anderson, Ross Perot, Nader, et al. -- rather than aimed at building a full-fledged party that could assume power at some point.
So, looking around the liberal-to-progressive political landscape these days, where might a new alternative party come from? Things are much in flux, of course, and what seems reasonable and logical now might not hold true six months or a year from now. (Who knows? Given Bush's Iraq deceits, lies and incompetence, plus the fallout from the Abramoff scandal, plus the likely indictment of Karl Rove, plus the aversion folks have to being spied on by government agents without a court-sanctioned warrant, we may by then be seeing Bush and Cheney in the impeachment well in the Senate.)
THE ALLIANCE'S CHARTER MEMBERS
So who would make up the core of this party? I would guess that the base of a party -- for want of a better name, let's call this entity the New Democratic Party (NDP) -- could be constructed from elements within the Progressive Democrats of America, Green Party, the Change to Win union coalition, angry Guard and military troops and veterans, peace groups, and other similar disenchanted organizations and individuals.
This new alliance might also attract a wide variety of distressed Libertarians and traditional Republicans horrified at how their party was hijacked from them by rightwing extremists. These disenchanted conservatives, unable to bring themselves to vote for Democrats, might be willing to join together with liberals on civil-liberties and sound money-management grounds -- or as a vehicle to defeat the dangerous forces that have captured their party, which would provide an opening for their more moderate conservatism to fight for power in a reconstituted Republican Party.
As you can see, this proposal is the merest outline of the possible. My main objective here is to get some discussion started about the advisability of both staying with and reforming the Democratic Party, and testing the political waters for a third-party movement. If there is genuine and widespread acceptance to either idea, then it will be time to brainstorm about how best and most effectively such a movement can be actualized.
All we know for certain at this stage -- looking at the current badly-warped, deficient Democratic Party -- is: Never Again! We have to move, and quickly, one way or the other.
If you have ideas about either possibility, I'd love to hear your comments, suggestions, alternative scenarios, etc., which will be distilled into a future article to help continue the dialogue and build political momentum. Onward!
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at various universities, worked as a writer-editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org).
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Plane Crash in Suburban Chicago Kills 4
By KAREN HAWKINS
Tue Jan 31, 12:41 AM ET
WHEELING, Ill. - A twin-engine airplane crashed Monday near the Palwaukee Municipal Airport, killing all four people aboard, authorities said.
The plane appeared headed for an arrival when it went down about 6:30 p.m., Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory said.
The aircraft went down in an industrial park near a residential area roughly a mile from the airport.
The plane, a 1974 Cessna 421B, had departed from Olathe, Kansas, the FAA said.
The Cook County medical examiner's office confirmed four people were killed in the crash but could not immediately provide any details.
The plane smashed into a stack of steel and plywood construction material used to build foundations for homes, said Michael Pirron, owner of DeGraf Concrete Construction Inc., the property where the plane crashed.
There were no visible skid marks indicating the plane touched down before it hit, he said.
"It's pretty unrecognizable that it's a plane," Pirron said.
Pirron said his security cameras captured three images of the plane as it crashed. Those images were turned over to investigators, who were still pouring over the wreckage late Monday.
Wheeling is about 24 miles northwest of Chicago.
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Europeans Cover Up for the CIA
Translated By Pascaline Jay
January 26, 2005
European leaders can no longer feign ignorance about covert CIA flights to and from Europe. According to this op-ed article from Canada's Le Devoir, the latest report by Swiss Senator and Council of Europe investigator Dick Marty makes clear that European countries have engaged in a cover-up of their own.
Friday's sentencing of Larry Franklin, the former Pentagon analyst who was convicted of communicating classified information to staffers at the America Israel Public Affairs Association [AIPAC] and to an Israeli diplomat, is only the first of the trials in the case, but it can serve as an indicator to what can be expected when the second begins in late April.
Judge T.S. Ellis of the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Virginia, set forth two important principles when sentencing Franklin to 12 1/2 years in prison: The first was accepting Franklin's claim that he had no intention other than helping what he believed to be American interests, and the second was that no matter what the intentions might have been, the law is the law and whoever breaks it faces harsh punishment.
For former AIPAC staffers, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, this means good news and bad news. The good news is that the court does not seem to see the matter as an espionage case or as an act directed at harming the U.S. or assisting a foreign nation. The bad news is that this perception doesn't really make any difference on the legal level [the question of jail time].
Europe is in an awkward position. The reason is simple. Swiss Senator Dick Marty, who was is charge of investigating the transport of CIA prisoners, asserts that several members of the European Union (E.U.) and the Council of Europe, together with E.U. candidate countries, cannot feign ignorance. Even if it is possible that the leaders of certain countries may have been unaware of what the CIA was up to, the same cannot be said about the intelligence services. Without the collaboration of the latter, indeed the top-ranking officials of some ministries, the American agency would never have been able to act the way it did.
In his preliminary report, Senator Marty asserts that the number of flights is in the hundreds and not the dozens. He also asserts that about 100 of these prisoners, after stopping in Europe, were handed over to a third party, mainly Egypt, where they were tortured for the benefit of the United States. The Europeans who collaborated with American officials on this program knew they were doing so.
What makes matters worse for Europeans is that the Swiss Senator highlighted in his analysis their blatant lack of cooperation [with his investigation]. Indeed, only the day before he published his report did he finally receive copies of documents he had sought from Eurocontrol [Europe's air traffic watchdog [RealVideo] and the E.U. Satellite Center [Agency for space imagery [RealVideo]. Consequently, Marty is asking for an extension of his mandate so that he can check whether or not prisons like Guantanamo Bay, in other words places where human and civil rights aren't respected, existed in Romania and Poland.
Until the next addition, what this report puts forward is the lie of some European leaders who quickly denied the existence of such places, after the revelations in the Washington Post last November. We can say it again: according to the Swiss Senator, they were in on it.
As far as Great Britain is concerned, the Minister of European Affairs had the nerve to belittle Marty's work when one of the most important witnesses in this case is the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray. Before being fired by his bosses from the Foreign Office, this diplomat had the proof that the CIA and his British equivalent, MI6, had collaborated in many occasions.
On the subject, the Swiss politician justly reminded E.U. members of their duties, like to respect the European Conventions on Human Rights, which they must abide by in order to be part of the club. By acting the way they have, some countries have disowned the signatures they had put into these conventions.
Consequently, "it seems important to analyze, and even to improve, national administrative procedures for surveillance and parliamentary control of spy agencies to make sure that abuses can no longer be perpetrated under the cover of confidentiality and standard procedure."
Moreover, Marty denounced the abusive use of the famous excuses "State secrets" and the "superiority of the national interest," to such an extent that he encouraged members of Parliament to engage in a far-ranging and in-depth debate on these issues.
What is beyond doubt is that they ought to give Senator Marty the extension of that he wants, so that the principles so dear to Europeans won't be scorned again.
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Hamas: Victory for Jabotinsky Likudites
January 29th, 2006
It is sincerely disgusting to read the corporate media spun “news” about the “election” victory of Hamas.
First, in the occupied areas of Israel as in the occupied areas of Iraq, it is important for the criminal occupiers to hold “elections” so as to provide a patina of legitimacy for what is essentially a massive felony and crime perpetuated against humanity, not that the Arab-hating Jabotinsky Likudites in Israel and their Straussian neocon fellow travelers in America give a whit about human rights.
Second, it should be noted, but will not be in the corporate media, Hamas was midwifed by Israel, as Richard Sale of the UPI revealed some time ago. Since Israel will never loosen its grip on the so-called occupied territories, a Hamas “victory” in an election designed to allow the Palestinians to pretend they are a sovereign nation (and actually choose the “authority” that will rule over them at the behest of the Likudites), the “election” of Hamas is a custom-made excuse for Israel to harden its apartheid policies, continue to bombard Gaza mercilessly, and never allow the Palestinians to set up their own state.
In fact, it can be argued, the “election” of Hamas will eventually lead to the mass “transfer” of Palestinians to their “real home” in Jordan, as more than half of all Israelis believe ethnic cleansing is a viable solution to the Palestinian “problem,” that is to say the fact a few million Palestinians remain outraged over their dispossession and thousands are engaged in active resistance. For Israel, the “election” of Hamas is the best possible scenario.
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Israeli army kills militants in post-election clash
By Wael al-Ahmad
January 31, 2006
JENIN, West Bank - Israeli troops killed two Islamic Jihad militants on Tuesday in the first deadly clash since a shock victory by Hamas in a Palestinian election that has thrown Middle East peacemaking into turmoil.
Islamic Jihad said its West Bank military commander Nidal Abu Sadi was one of those killed.
The fighting near the city of Jenin in the occupied West Bank raised tensions just a week after the parliamentary vote, in which Hamas trounced Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's long-dominant Fatah movement.
Islamic Jihad, a group that like Hamas is committed to
Israel's destruction and has carried out suicide bombings, urged Hamas and other armed factions to step up attacks on the Jewish state in response.
Israel has called for a boycott of any Palestinian government that includes Hamas, and said on Tuesday it expected to suspend monthly tax payments to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority, a severe financial blow.
Israel collects customs revenue on behalf of the Palestinians and hands it over to the governing Palestinian Authority each month.
The next payment is due on Wednesday, February 1, and was expected to total about $55 million. The salaries of about 140,000 Palestinian employees depend to a large extent on the customs revenue, though Hamas may be able to find alternative sources of funding in the Arab world.
In a bid to keep aid flowing, Hamas leaders have suggested they might not have representatives in the government but rather put unaffiliated technocrats in the cabinet.
CALL TO ARMS
The two Islamic Jihad militants were killed in a raid in the West Bank village of Arrabe, near Jenin, the army said. There was at least one Israeli casualty, Palestinian witnesses said.
After the incident, Nafez Azzam, an Islamic Jihad leader, called for other factions "to resume resistance against the occupation," a reference to attacks scaled back under a truce last year.
The Quartet of major powers trying to broker Middle East peace -- Russia, the European Union, the United States and the United Nations -- said earlier this week that Hamas must reject violence and recognize Israel or risk losing international aid.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday the world should not cut off funding to the Palestinians after Hamas's victory.
Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri called on other Quartet members to follow Russia's lead and "not to punish the Palestinian people for practising their democratic choice."
Jordan's ambassador to the Palestinian Authority also said on Tuesday that Amman "will continue to support the Palestinian people regardless of who is in government."
The Palestinian Authority faces a financial crunch if Israel withholds the tax money.
Unemployment in the Palestinian territories runs high, at 22 percent, and half the Palestinian population lives in poverty. In Gaza, many Palestinians live on an average of $2 a day.
Israel's foreign ministry spokesman, Mark Regev, said the automatic tax payments to the authority would probably stop until the completion of a policy review ordered by interim Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Palestinian Economy Minister Mazen Sonnoqrot decried what he called "an irresponsible and grave decision" and said it would have "negative economic and social consequences for the Palestinians."
Masri accused Israel of "trying to steal Palestinian money."
Fatah leaders have so far rejected joining any coalition with Hamas, whose anti-corruption platform, charity network and strong resistance to Israel since the Palestinian uprising began in 2000 propelled it to victory.
Saeed Seyam, a senior Hamas leader, said the group still hoped Fatah would agree to join a government with Hamas.
"But if they do not, then that is their own business," he said. "The Palestinian area is crowded with experts and qualified people."
Abbas plans to meet Hamas leaders in Gaza within the next two weeks, his chief of staff said, denying an Israeli television report the president would hold talks with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal in Cairo in the next two days.
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Israel holds couple in corporate espionage case
By Dan Williams
Tue Jan 31, 7:11 AM ET
JERUSALEM - An Israeli couple suspected of masterminding a computer virus that set off a major industrial espionage investigation was repatriated for trial on Tuesday under an extradition deal with Britain, police said.
Michael and Ruth Haephrati were arrested in their London home last year over allegations that a "Trojan horse" program they had developed was bought by private investigators who helped top Israeli corporations spy on each other's computers.
Israeli police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said the couple flew in overnight after Britain approved their extradition. Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court ordered them placed in custody for 10 days so that they could be interrogated by police.
Computer hacking carries a maximum 5-year jail term in
Israel, which can be increased if data theft is involved.
Israeli media said the Haephratis had offered to testify against their alleged clients in exchange for a reduced sentence. Their lawyer, Eli Zohar, confirmed only that contacts were under way with prosecutors at the State Attorney's Office.
"As of now, they (Haephratis) are facing a whole package of charges," Zohar told Israel's Army Radio. "Our goal is to narrow down the proceedings as much as possible."
At least 18 other Israelis have been questioned in the Trojan horse case, including corporate executives. Several private investigators have been indicted on related charges.
Among companies probed by police in connection with the case were Israel's top mobile phone operator, Cellcom, and two subsidiaries of phone company Bezeq Israel Telecom -- cellular operator Pelephone and the satellite television provider YES. All of the firms denied any wrongdoing.
Police said the Trojan horse infiltrated the HOT cable television group that competes with YES, as well as foodmaker Strauss-Elite and the Rani Rahav public relations agency, whose clients include Partner Communications, Israel's second biggest mobile phone operator.
"Trojans" refer to malicious software often presented as an innocuous weblink or email attachment that can infect a computer when opened.
Israel's Channel Two television, which interviewed the Haephratis by telephone last week from the British prisons where they were being held, said Michael originally developed the Trojan horse as a prank targeting his ex-wife's family.
According to the report, the Haephratis tried to market the virus to Israel's defense agencies before Ruth decided alone to sell it to private investigators representing corporations.
"I take full responsibility for my mistakes," she told Channel Two. "Michael always told me, 'Don't do it. Don't get in touch with the investigators. I have a feeling they are misusing the system."'
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Putin urges Hamas to renounce violence, recognize Israel
www.chinaview.cn 2006-01-31 22:30:42
MOSCOW, Jan. 31 (Xinhuanet) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday urged the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) to renounce violence and recognize the state of Israel, but he warned against cutting aid to the Palestinians.
Speaking at his annual press conference in the Kremlin, Putin said Hamas "must put an end to its radical rhetoric, recognize Israel and establish contact with the international community. We urge Hamas to opt for such systematic work."
But he also warned that the refusal to provide assistance to the Palestinian people would be a mistake.
In a surprising election victory for Hamas, Hamas won 74 seats in the 132-member Palestinian legislative council while the mainstream Fatah movement secured only 45 seats, according to official results of the Palestinian parliamentary elections.
Putin described Hamas's victory in the vote as "a strong blow" to American diplomacy in the Middle East.
Russia is a member of the quartet mediating for peace in the Middle East which also includes the United Nations, the United States and the European Union.
In a statement issued last Thursday, the quartet called on Hamas to renounce terror, disarm and recognize the existence of Israel.
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VENEZUELA: World Social Forum — Chavez calls for ‘socialism or death’
Jim McIlroy & Chris Kerr, Caracas
From Green Left Weekly, February 1, 2006.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez proclaimed “socialism or death” in finishing his rousing speech to a rally of around 10,000 people at the Polihedro Stadium on January 27. The rally was a feature of the Latin American section of the Sixth World Social Forum held in Caracas on January 24-29.
The forum attracted an audience of up to 100,000 people from all over Latin America and the world, to a feast of more than 2000 public meetings and seminars on themes of anti-imperialist globalisation and the struggle for a better world.
Chavez said that unlike Karl Marx, when he first issued the call for socialism in the 19th century, “we do not have much time left”. The 21st century has now come, “when the dilemma must be finally resolved”.
“Time is short. If we do not change the world now, there may be no 22nd century for humanity. Capitalism has destroyed the ecological equilibrium of the earth. It is now or never!”, Chavez declared. “We should go toward setting up a worldwide anti-imperialist movement. We have already taken steps in this direction”, Chavez told the cheering crowd. He commented that at the previous WSF in Porto Alegre in 2005, “many talks were occurring without conclusions. We are not here to waste our time. We must urgently build a new socialist movement.”
Chavez blasted the US empire. “It is the most perverse empire in history: It talks about freedom while invading and destroying other nations ... The empire is very powerful, but not infallible. This century we will bury the US empire. The empire has to face the people of Venezuela and Latin America. It has failed in Iraq already.”
He urged the audience to “imagine a world in which the US administration declares peace to the world, withdraws its forces, and uses its resources to produce medicines and food for the poor people of the world”.
Chavez contrasted the US’s record to the achievements of the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela, with the help of Cuba, which taught 1.5 million people to read through Mission Robinson in just two years.
“Injustice and inequality are losing: it is now up to us to define the formula of unity for victory. We need unity of all our currents. While respecting the right to autonomy of the movements, including the green movement and the various political and national movements, all of us should get together in a victorious offensive against imperialism.”
Many prominent figures in the international progressive movement were featured on a podium, including Aleida Guevara (Che’s daughter) and Cindy Sheehan (US anti-war leader whose son was killed in Iraq). Huge applause greeted Chavez’s speech, and the rally included a rousing rendition of the workers’ anthem, “The Internationale”.
Chavez’s stress on the need for urgent international political action against global capitalism and oppression was a major theme of the forum. The whole conference was filled with the overwhelming influence of the Venezuelan revolution. The “Bolivarian spirit” was pervasive from the very first day, when around 20,000 activists marched to launch the WSF. The lively and colourful march featured the banners, clothing and chants of the many national contingents, especially from Latin America.
One contingent was a group of around 15 Australians, marching with the banner of the Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network and chanting: “Chavez, friend! Australians are with you!”
A panel with speakers from the National Union of Workers, the worker-managed Alcasa aluminum factory, organisers from participatory budgets in Brazil, and well-known radical intellectuals, discussed how co-management and participatory budgeting were weapons in the struggle against capitalism and in building a democratic socialism of the 21st century. It also featured debate on the strengths and weakness of these various experiments so far.
Another panel of radical Latin American economists discussed how the Latin American integration project known as the Bolivarian Alternative of the Americas (ALBA) was the antithesis of the US-inspired Free Trade Area of the Americas. The panellists discussed how ALBA gave activists a strategic and concrete alternative to struggle for and that it must be a social integration of peoples at every level rather than only of governments and elites.
Another well-attended forum discussed the Marxism of Che Guevara and its relevance. The panel concluded that while Che’s thought didn’t contain all the elements of 21st century socialism, he articulated its essence by arguing that socialism must be centered on developing new human beings liberated from alienation, and that this can only be achieved through their active participation in building a society free from capitalism and all forms of bureaucracy and hierarchy.
Another forum discussed the massive achievements of Venezuela’s social missions in improving the lives of the poor communities, and their role in transforming the communities into organised, conscious and creative social actors in constructing a new socialist Venezuela, thus giving them a revolutionary character in a capitalist society.
Meetings also discussed solidarity work in various countries and plans for coordination of international solidarity activities with the Venezuelan revolution in 2006.
The variety and breadth of topics covered the whole spectrum of debate in the world anti-capitalist globalisation movement. As the WSF draws toward a close, discussion is occurring on the future of the social forum movement and the urgent tasks facing us in the coming year.
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Chavez says Venezuelan agents "infiltrate" US spy group
www.chinaview.cn 2006-01-31 13:49:30
CARACAS, Jan. 30 (Xinhuanet) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Monday that Venezuela's intelligence agencies have "infiltrated" a group of military officials at the U.S. embassy who were allegedly involved in spying.
"The military officials of the U.S. Embassy are involved in espionage and we have them infiltrated," said Chavez, urging the U.S. embassy to stop spying as "we are watching you."
The Venezuelan authorities accused a group of military officials at the U.S. embassy in Venezuela of involvement in a spying case during which several Venezuelan officers allegedly passed sensitive information to Washington.
The espionage allegations by Venezuela have increased tension between Caracas and Washington. Chavez threatened last week to arrest any American officials caught spying on the Venezuelan military.
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Chavez Threatens to Imprison U.S. Officials for Spying
Translated By Carly Gatzert
January 27, 2005
U.S. officials have connections to Venezuelan military officers suspected of spying for the Pentagon, and those officials will be locked up if caught. According to this article from Venezuela's Union Radio, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez also denounced plans by the "most vicious, murderous, genocidal, immoral, and brazen" government in the world [America] to put Venezuela on its list of State-sponsors of terror.
In regard to the anti-imperialist struggle that lays behind the Sixth Annual World Social Forum in Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez warned the U.S. government that he will imprison any U.S. public official, "but above all, [those in the] military" that attempt to obtain information regarding the Venezuelan National Armed Forces.
"The next time we detect military or public officials trying to obtain information regarding our armed forces, they will be imprisoned," Chavez said just after condemning George W. Bush as the biggest violator of human rights and promoter of terrorism in the world.
Chavez accused Washington of "wanting to include" Venezuela on the list of countries that "sponsor terrorism" when that fellow President George W. Bush's government is the "most vicious, murderous, genocidal, immoral, and brazen" of all "empires."
Chavez also demanded that Washington "cease attacks and genocide in Iraq" and that they withdraw U.S. troops from this Arab country.
"They [Washington] want to include Venezuela on the list of countries that sponsor terrorism. The United States has five of our Cuban patriots imprisoned, and [Washington is] guilty of violating every law, from the torture of [detainees] in Guantanamo to the disappearance of individuals in secret CIA prisons around the world!" Chavez said.
Washington "is protecting two notorious terrorists, (Luis) Posada Carriles - and also for a long time Orlando Bosch … both were Venezuelan policemen found guilty of murder and torture [in Venezuela] and Washington is protecting them on U.S. territory," added the leftist head of state.
Caracas has asked Washington to extradite Posada Carriles, who has been detained in the United States since last May. [Posada Carriles] is the prime suspect behind the 1976 bombing of a Cubana Air passenger jet that was traveling from Caracas to Barbados and which caused 73 deaths.
The 77-year-old anti-Castro terrorist, originally from Cuba but naturalized in Venezuela in the 1960's, fled a prison in central Venezuela in 1985 while being tried for "homicide and treason."
With regard to the bombing of the Cuban passenger jet, the Venezuelan judicial system acquitted anti-Castro terrorist Orlando Bosch in August 1987, who was imprisoned in [Venezuela] for 11 years under suspicion of intellectual involvement in the crime.
Chavez insisted that the Bush Government intends to put an end to [Chavez'] "Bolivarian Revolution," and that it associates this objective with a case of "espionage" involving a military attache from the U.S. Embassy in Caracas and at least 24 Venezuelan Marines.
"We have just discovered one more case of espionage here … we would like to say [to the United States] that despite the many tools of power and technology they may bring into play, they will never succeed [in controlling] us," claimed the Venezuelan Chief-of-State.
Venezuelan Vice-President Jose Vicente Rangel, claimed today that the [Venezuelan] Government "has duly verified confidential information that officials under assignment with the North American military are indeed involved" into alleged espionage.
On Thursday, the U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela, William Brownfield, said that Caracas had not informed him of the alleged "espionage" that would involve John Correa, according to local sources, the Embassy's naval attache.
Chavez emphasized that "the fundamental reason" behind Bush's attempts to end the "Bolivarian Revolution" is his desire to take control of Venezuela's natural gas and petroleum, which Washington controlled for 100 years.
Venezuela, the world's fifth-largest exporter of crude oil and home to the eighth-largest natural gas reserves on the planet, is the fourth most important supplier to the United States, where it owns a network of nearly 14,000 service stations.
Caracas and Washington have maintained bitter diplomatic relations, characterized by an unrelenting exchange of accusations against one another, referring to the "imperialist and interventionist" tendencies of Bush's government and the "totalitarian intentions" of Chavez.
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Tearful kidnapped US journalist pleads for life
January 31, 2006
BAGHDAD - Kidnapped US reporter Jill Carroll tearfully pleaded for her life in the latest video released by her captors as
Saddam Hussein's defense team was set to boycott the next hearing of his rocky trial on Wednesday.
In stark contrast to her earlier appeal, Carroll appeared in a bulky white headscarf weeping on the video which was broadcast by Arab satellite television Al-Jazeera on Monday night without any sound.
"The journalist called on her family, her colleagues and Americans throughout the world to ask the US military authorities and the Iraqi interior ministry to free all Iraqi prisoners, saying this could contribute to her release," Al Jazeera's presenter said.
In the tape broadcast on January 17, a tired Carroll had spoken calmly, dressed in a grey sweatshirt, her hair loose.
The trouble-plagued trial of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and seven co-defendants is set to resume Wednesday but without its key defendants or their lawyers.
Defense lawyers have said they have no intention in the near future of returning to the court, which is now run by a much stricter judge who ejected Saddam and three other defendants for their courtroom behavior on Sunday.
One of the defence team, Jordanian lawyer Saleh al-Armuti, told AFP on Tuesday that the boycott would continue until the judge was replaced.
Carroll, who started working in Iraq soon after the fall of Saddam, was freelancing for the US-based Christian Science Monitor and had just visited the headquarters of Sunni politician Adnan al-Dulaimi when she was kidnapped.
"For a third time, I appeal to the kidnappers hoping they will release her as soon as possible," Dulaimi told AFP. "We demand the release of the Iraqi female prisoners in US prisons to defuse the crisis and avoid harming the journalist."
"Her capitivity is bad for the Sunnis," he added, appealing to her captors, "especially those in the western areas like Fallujah and Ramadi, and will only cause them more trouble."
The latest video was widely reported in the United States, but television stations refused to broadcast more than a few seconds of it, calling it too disturbing.
In the past, other young foreign female hostages such as the French and Italian women taken in the past two years appeared weeping and distressed in kidnapper videos. All three were eventually freed.
While US and Iraqi authorities refused to free any prisoners to placate Carroll's kidnappers, more than 400 Iraqi detainees, including five women, were released last week after what the authorities said were normal reviews.
Four Iraqi women are still held in US-administered prisons.
The new tape comes amid a spike in hostage-taking in Iraq, with insurgents releasing tapes of several foreign captives.
A group holding four Western peace activists, captive in Iraq since November, last week issued a new video of their captives, saying it was giving a "last chance" for its demands to be met.
Two German engineers seized in northern Iraq appealed on Friday to Germany to save their lives.
Earlier this month, two Kenyan telecommunications engineers were kidnapped in Baghdad, but no information has been released on their status or whereabouts.
Meanwhile, in northern Iraq, officials in the Kurdish autonomous region were moving to stave off a feared spread of bird flu after a young girl was confirmed Monday to have died of the virus on January 17.
A buffer zone along the Iranian and Turkish borders has been declared and already some half a million birds in these regions have been culled, said Tahseen Nameq, head of the joint Kurdish committee to confront the disease.
"We are suffering from a lack of medicine to combat the virus," Nameq told AFP, revealing that health officials only had enough medecine to treat five patients.
In the battle against insurgents, security officials in the northern town of Samarra reported the launch of a major joint US-Iraqi operation.
Entry to the city has been restricted and a curfew has reportedly been imposed and at least six people have been arrested. The operation follows an attack on a US observation post on Sunday that produced no casualties.
The US military also reported a joint operation with Iraqi forces in Baquba on Sunday that resulted in the arrests of 18 suspected insurgents.
On Monday, US marines in Ramadi resorted to airpower to kill two insurgents who had fired five rocket-propelled grenades at them. The air strike also injured at least one civilian.
A Japanese newspaper reported that Tokyo's first foreign military deployment will end in May when it pulls out of Iraq. Japan has 600 troops in the southern town of Samawa on a humanitarian mission focused on reconstruction.
"The latest video was widely reported in the United States, but television stations refused to broadcast more than a few seconds of it, calling it too disturbing."If showing a kidnapped US reporter on the mainstream news is "too disturbing", just imagine what else they refuse to show!
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Putin Touts Russia's Missile Capabilities
By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV
Associated Press Writer
Jan 31 2006 9:30 AM US/Eastern
MOSCOW - President Vladimir Putin boasted Tuesday that Russia has missiles capable of penetrating any missile defense system, Russian news reports said.
"Russia ... has tested missile systems that no one in the world has," the ITAR-Tass, Interfax and RIA Novosti news agencies quoted him as saying at a news conference. "These missile systems don't represent a response to a missile defense system, but they are immune to that. They are hypersonic and capable of changing their flight path."
Putin said the new missiles were capable of carrying nuclear warheads. He wouldn't say whether the Russian military already had commissioned any such missiles.
He said he had shown the working principles of the missile systems to French President Jacques Chirac during a visit to a Russian military facility.
"He knows what I'm talking about," news agencies quoted Putin as telling reporters after state-run news channels had cut their live broadcast of the news conference.
In April 2004, Chirac became the first Western leader to visit Russia's top-secret Titov space control center, which is also involved in launches of its intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Putin said that the new missiles were capable of changing both the altitude and the direction of their flight, making it impossible for an enemy to intercept them.
"A missile defense system is designed to counter missiles moving along a ballistic trajectory," Putin was quoted as saying.
Putin and other Russian officials have boasted of the new missiles in similar comments in recent years, but they haven't identified them or given any further details other than about their ability to change their flight path on approach to a target.
Most analysts viewed the earlier announcements about "hypersonic" missile systems as Moscow's response to U.S. missile defense plans.
Military analysts have said that the military had experimented with a maneuvering warhead during a missile launch several years ago, but voiced doubt about Russia's ability to deploy such weapons anytime soon.
Analysts said the new warheads, designed to zigzag on their approach to targets, could be fitted to new land-based Topol-M missiles and the prospective Bulava missiles, now under development.
On other topics at the news conference, Putin:
- Urged the militant Palestinian group Hamas to engage in peaceful dialogue, and said Russia's position on the Middle East differed from that of the United States and Europe.
Hamas should "refrain from extremist declarations, acknowledge Israel's right to exist and put its contacts with the international community in order," Putin said. He said "Russia has never declared Hamas a terrorist organization, but it doesn't mean we support and accept everything Hamas has done and all the statements it has made."
- Lashed out at the government of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili for its criticism of Moscow over last week's gas pipeline explosion, which resulted in a weeklong cutoff of Russian gas from the Caucasus Mountains nation.
While repair teams were working to fix the pipeline in freezing temperatures, "we only saw them spitting at us," Putin said. "Georgian citizens must know that such a policy toward Russia won't help to improve conditions of ordinary people."
- Praised his predecessor, Boris Yeltsin, for taking Russia on the democratic path amid the turmoil that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.
"During the time when Yeltsin led Russia, Russian citizens got the most important thing: freedom," Putin said during a wide-ranging annual news conference. "This is a great historic accomplishment of Boris Nikolayevich Yeltsin."
Many Russians hold Yeltsin, who turns 75 on Wednesday, responsible for the post-Soviet economic meltdown that led to a dramatic plunge in living standards. Putin owes his rise to power to Yeltsin, who picked him as his prime minister and then named him acting president.
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Zapatero's smoke-filled room causes a stink
Giles Tremlett in Madrid
Tuesday January 31, 2006
A sneaky smoking session with a fellow politician may have landed Spain's Socialist prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, in trouble a few weeks after his government banned smoking in the workplace.
Opposition politicians said they would raise the subject of Mr Zapatero's smoking habits in parliament after revelations that he and Artur Mas, a prominent Catalan politician, had chain-smoked their way through negotiations on an autonomy bill.
The meeting between Mr Zapatero and Mr Mas was held at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid, which, like No 10 Downing Street, is both home and office to the prime minister.
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Nepali King to address nation Wednesday
www.chinaview.cn 2006-01-31 23:23:47
KATHMANDU, Jan. 31 (Xinhuanet) -- Nepali King Gyanendra is to address the nation at 9 a.m. local time (0315 GMT) on Wednesday, an official announcement said.
The state-run Nepal Television Tuesday quoted the press secretariat to the King as saying that the monarch is addressing the nation upon the completion of the first year of his takeover.
Through a royal proclamation in the morning of Feb. 1, 2005, King Gyanendra dismissed a coalition government led by Sher Bahadur Deuba, jailed hundreds of activists across the country, declared state of emergency and imposed harsh press censorship, cut telephone and mobile services across the country.
The state of emergency was lifted three months later.
The country's municipal polls are scheduled for Feb. 8.
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Russia not to expel British diplomats accused of spying: Putin
www.chinaview.cn 2006-01-31 20:23:38
MOSCOW, Jan. 31 (Xinhuanet) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday Moscow will not expel the British diplomats who were accused of spying and the issue will not hurt Russia's ties with Britain.
Last week, the Russian Federal Security Service said it had uncovered four British diplomats who were engaged in spying activities in Moscow that included use of a communication device hidden in a fake rock and funding of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in Russia.
"As far as the extradition issue is concerned, they may stay here. It is good to feel they are under our control," Putin said at his annual press conference in the Kremlin.
"The problem we have encountered will not lower the level of our cooperation with the United Kingdom," he said.
Meanwhile, Putin used the spy row to defend a new Russian law on NGOs, saying NGOs in the country should not be run by "puppeteers" from outside Russia.
NGOs are needed as a means to check on bodies of power and the state will support them but require their financing to be transparent.
Earlier this month, Putin signed into law a bill on NGOs, which required all domestic NGOs in Russia that receive overseas funds to declare their origins and purpose and regulated the registration procedure for the establishment of branch offices in Russia by foreign NGOs and social groups.
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Iran: Referral Means End of Diplomacy
By ALI AKBAR DAREINI
The Associated Press
Tuesday, January 31, 2006; 10:36 AM
TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran struck back Tuesday at the Big Five's decision to refer the country's nuclear file to the Security Council, saying the move has no legal justification and would be the end of diplomacy.
At a London meeting that lasted into the early hours of Tuesday, envoys of the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia agreed to recommend that the International Atomic Energy Agency report Iran to the U.N. Security Council.
They also decided the Security Council should wait until March to take up Iran's nuclear file after a formal report on Tehran's activities from the U.N. agency, which meets Thursday in Vienna.
"Reporting Iran's dossier to the U.N. Security Council will be unconstructive and the end of diplomacy," said Iran's leading nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani. State television quoted him as sayiny Iran still believes the issue can be resolved peacefully.
Vice President Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who also runs Iran's Atomic Energy Organisation, said it was difficult to predict how the IAEA meeting on Thursday would develop, the semi-official Iranian Students News Agency reported.
"The biggest problem for the West is that they can't find any (legal) justification to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council," ISNA quoted him as saying.
Larijani also reproached Europe for the London decision, which was taken at the home of British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and attended by the foreign minister of Germany and the foreign policy chief of the European Union.
"Europeans should pay more attention. Iran has called for dialogue and is moving in the direction of reaching an agreement through peaceful means," Larijani said.
Hours earlier, British, French and German representatives had met Larijani's deputy, Javad Vaedi, in Brussels for last-ditch talks on the dispute, but failed to make any progress.
Last week, Larijani flew to Moscow and Beijing to seek Russian and Chinese support against the Western drive to refer Iran to the Security Council.
The decision by Russia and China to vote for referral surprised observers as the two nations have consistently counselled caution on Iran's nuclear file. Both have major economic ties with Iran.
A French government official, speaking on the customary condition of anonymity, said the Russian and Chinese ministers had been persuaded of the need to show a united front.
The United States accuses Iran of trying to build atomic weapons. Iran denies this, saying its nuclear program is only for generating electricity.
Iran broke IAEA seals at a uranium enrichment plant Jan. 10 and resumed small-scale enrichment. The decision provoked an outcry as enrichment is a process that can produce material for nuclear reactors or bombs. Britain, France and Germany, who had been negotiating with Iran, said they would press the IAEA to refer the matter to the Security Council.
If the IAEA votes to refer Iran to the Security Council on Thursday, Iran is likely to retaliate immediately.
Iran's parliament has approved a law requiring the government to stop all voluntary cooperation with IAEA in the event of referral. This would mean that Iran stops allowing IAEA inspectors to carry out intrusive searches of its facilities and the country resumes large-scale enrichment of uranium.
Iran insists it has the right as a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to build nuclear power stations and produce their fuel by enriching its own uranium.
But the United States and Europe do not trust that Iran would enrich uranium only for peaceful purposes because the country has concealed significant aspects of its nuclear program in the past.
While the IAEA has said it has found no evidence of Iran's building nuclear weapons, it has refused to give Iran a clean bill of health because of numerous unanswered questions over its atomic program.
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OPEC: Iran Won't Halt Oil Production
Jan 31 9:58 AM US/Eastern
VIENNA, Austria - OPEC President Edmund Daukoru said Tuesday that Iran had reassured the cartel that it would keep its oil production unchanged.
Iran is facing the looming threat of a referral to the U.N. Security Council for economic sanctions because of its nuclear ambitions.
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Oil holds above $68 as pressure mounts on Iran
By Iain Pocock
Tue Jan 31, 6:31 AM ET
LONDON - Oil prices held above $68 on Tuesday as international pressure grew on the world's fourth largest exporter Iran over its nuclear program.
An expected OPEC decision to maintain output near a 25-year high limited gains.
U.S. light crude rose 11 cents to $68.46 a barrel by 11:00 a.m., after climbing 59 cents on Monday. London Brent crude slipped nine cents to $66.50.
The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council agreed on Tuesday that the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog should report Iran to the council over its nuclear program when it meets in an emergency session on Thursday.
Any such action would spell the end of diplomatic efforts to resolve the issue, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator said.
Libya's oil minister said a referral of OPEC's second biggest producer to the council would have a "very big effect" on prices.
Traders have feared such a move could prompt Tehran to consider using its oil as a political weapon.
"It's a volatile situation," said Sam Tilley, head of research at UK brokerage Sucden Ltd. "Until we get a proper resolution on this, I don't see prices dropping."
Even as the dispute over Iran's atomic program escalated, its oil minister said on Tuesday the country had no plans to halt oil exports.
"We are not mixing oil with politics," Karem Vaziri said.
Concern about stability of supplies from Iran, combined with the impact of lost output from Nigeria and a fall in Russian energy exports have helped drive up oil prices more than a tenth so far this year.
NO NEED TO CUT
The standoff over Iran's nuclear program partly overshadowed an expected decision by OPEC ministers meeting in Vienna to keep oil output steady.
Although OPEC remains concerned over a seasonal dip in second quarter demand, Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi told reporters in Vienna that all OPEC ministers were in agreement to leave output unchanged at their Tuesday meeting.
"Since the price is high there is no need to cut," said Libyan Energy Minister Fathi Omar Bin Shatwan.
"(At) the next meeting, if there is a problem, maybe we will have to cut," he told reporters in Vienna on Tuesday.
Naimi said on Sunday he saw absolutely no reason for OPEC to cut output this year, pointing to economic growth in Asia as driving oil prices.
Japan, the world's third-largest oil consumer, imported nearly 8 percent more crude in December than a year earlier, while its kerosene sales were the highest in more than 50 years amid freezing weather, government data showed on Tuesday.
In Nigeria, oil production closed in by militant attacks should be restarted by the middle of February, Minister of State for Petroleum Edmund Daukora said on Tuesday.
Major producer Royal Dutch Shell has partially restarted output at its 115,000 barrel per day (bpd) EA field, but industry sources said it has no immediate plans to resume repairs on the damaged onshore pipeline that has cut the other 106,000 bpd of its production.
Nigerian militants have said they will continue with their attacks with an aim of reducing exports by 30 percent next month.
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China's domestic oil, gas supplies grow steadily
www.chinaview.cn 2006-01-31 11:11:45
BEIJING, Jan. 31 (Xinhuanet) -- China has experienced a stable growth in its domestic oil and gas supplies over the last five years, according to the National Development and Reform Commission(NDRC).
Statistics show that China's crude oil output increased from 165 million tons in 2000 to 183 million tons in 2005, and the output of natural gas rose from 27 billion cubic meters to 47.5 billion cubic meters.
New breakthroughs in oil and gas exploration were made in the past five years as the traditional oil fields in East China, such as Daqing, maintained a steady growth.
Oil fields capable of producing high yields were discovered in west China including Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Ningxia HuiAutonomous Region, and Qinghai, Gansu and Shaanxi provinces, and in offshore China's Bohai Bay.
Between 2000 and 2005, six large-scale natural gas zones were discovered in the Tarim, Ordos, Sichuan and Qaidam basins, in the South China Sea and in the East China Sea.
Petroleum and natural gas began to play bigger roles in China's energy consumption structure.
In 2000, 16.6 percent of China's energy demand was met by petroleum, in 2005 it was 22.7 percent. Consumption of natural gasrose from 2.1 percent in 2000 to 2.6 percent in 2005.
China strengthened infrastructure during this period to support the soaring oil and gas demand of the country.
The great pipeline carrying natural gas from China's energy-rich West to the energy-thirsty East was completed at the end of 2004.
By the end of the following year, China had built up a basic pipeline network for natural gas stretching 24,000 kilometers, with 20,000 kilometers for oil products.
Between 2000 and 2005, China amended relevant regulations for closer cooperation with foreign partners.
By the end of 2005, China had signed a total of more than 200 contracts with foreign petroleum partners, attracting foreign capital of over 9.3 billion U.S. dollars and boasting contracted acreage of over 1.05 million square kilometers.
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Interview With William R. Clark, Author "Petrodollar Warfare: Oil, Iraq and the Future of the Dollar"
The notion that Iraq was invaded to prevent the development of weapons of mass destruction, or to combat terrorism, has long been discredited. But a growing consensus believes that Iraq's oil was surely a prime reason for US actions. However, author William Clark argues convincingly in Petrodollar Warfare that the rationale for intervening was not just for control of the oil fields, but also for control of the means by which oil is traded in global markets.
Petrodollar Warfare discusses the crucial shift in US monetary policy during the 1970s away from the gold standard to becoming the monopoly currency for worldwide oil sales, effectively enabling the US to dominate world trade. It then analyses global Peak Oil as an additional driver of US foreign policy and the parallel growth of political fundamentalism in the current US administration. Tracking the emergence of the euro as an important challenger to dollar supremacy, the book pinpoints Hussein's November 2000 switch to selling oil for euros as the defining moment for Iraq and, perhaps - without an immediate change in governance - for the noble American experiment.
Comment: Click on the link in the title to listen to the interview on Information Clearing House.
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Why the U.S. Probably Won't Attack Iran
By ANDREW COCKBURN
WASHINGTON DC.January 31, 2006
Jimmy Carter presented Iran with 52 hostages. George Bush has done a lot better, sending 130,000 Americans across the ocean as guarantees of his administration's good behavior toward the Islamic Republic. Last week, Tehran reminded us of its ability to make life unpleasant for US forces in Iraq by hosting Moqtada al Sadr for a high profile visit, in the course of which he obligingly pledged that his militia, the Mahdi army, would retaliate for any American attack on Iran. His spokesman quoted him as telling his hosts "If any Islamic state, especially the Islamic Republic of Iran, is attacked, the Mahdi Army would fight inside and outside Iraq."
This warning should be taken seriously. The Jaish al Mahdi, al Sadr's militia, has emerged as a formidable force since its formation in 2003. Fifteen months ago, in November 2004, when it was less well trained and equipped than today, this army held off a determined assault by US Marines for three weeks in Najaf.
But Iranian interest and influence in Iran are by no means confined to the radical Shi'ite cleric and his fighters. SCIRI, the principal party in the dominant Shi'ite coalition that triumphed in the Iraqi elections, was after all originally founded and fostered in Iran. Its first leader was Ayatollah Mohammed Shahroodi, presently head of the Iranian judiciary. SCIRI's military arm, the Badr Army, fought on the Iranian side in the Iran-Iraq war, and was long regarded as the direct instrument of Iranian intelligence. Elsewhere, Iranian intelligence can look to such assets as Abu Mehdi al-Mohandis--"the engineer"--resident in Najaf with mentoring responsibilities for Sadr's militia there.
In the north, in and around the Kurdish enclave, credible sources attest that Iranian intelligence has been providing some measure of support to Sunni insurgents, including the militant Islamic Sunni group Ansar al Islam. Indeed, the dozen or so senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) commanders killed in a plane crash two weeks ago, possibly including Mohammed Sulaimani, the key Guards official involved in Iraqi affairs, were on their way to Oroumieh in north west Iran, the main base for Iranian operations in northern Iraq.
It may seem counter-intuitive for the Shi'ite Iranians to be supporting groups with a militantly anti-Shi'ite agenda, but this same regime sheltered the Afghan fundamentalist Sunni leader Gulbeddin Hekmatyar for many years, despite deep seated mutual antipathy.
Furthermore, power in Iran is diffused. Iraq is a huge prize, and control of this asset, so obligingly proffered to Iran by George Bush when he toppled Saddam Hussein, is inevitably a matter for contention among powerful factions inside the regime. Revolutionary Guards commanders may have a different agenda from that of the "Etalaat"--intelligence services, or the office of Supreme Leader Khamanei, let alone that of the elected President Amahdinejad. Among other imperatives, these various fiefdoms have financial interests at stake in Iraq. Many of the IRGC commanders, for example, are "Moawedun," meaning they are of Iranian descent but born in Iraq, who have property interests in Iraq.
Following the US invasion, the most influential voice in Iranian policy toward Iraq was that of President Hashemi Rafsanjani, who opted for limited cooperation with the occupiers. Despite alarmist rumors circulating in Baghdad that "One million Iranians had infiltrated into Iraq with fake Iraqi ID cards," most of the Iranians on view were pacific pilgrims thronging the shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala. The consensus in Tehran appeared to be that Iraq should be maintained in what officials called "managed chaos;" both to keep the country weak and discourage a prolonged US occupation while avoiding the wholesale disintegration of Iraq into anarchy.
However, the defeat of Rafsanjani by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in the Presidential election and the steadily escalating confrontation with the US over Iran's nuclear program have changed the rules of the game. Ahmadinejad is close to some of the more radical IRGC leaders, and shows little desire to defer to American sensitivities. His outspoken defiance of the west over the nuclear issue, not to mention his remarks about Israel, have only bolstered his political position at home, while his ability to play the Iraq card should certainly give Washington pause. As a close aide to one of the leaders of SCIRI, which is generally considered less violently radical than Moqtada Sadr's group, told me recently "If America attacks Iran, then all bets are off." With such a deterrent at hand, who needs a nuclear weapon?
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PM issues blunt warning on climate change
Monday January 30, 2006
Tony Blair warns that the impact of climate change may be more serious than previously thought in a new government report on global warming published today.
The report raises fears that both the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets are likely to melt, leading to a devastating rise in sea levels.
It warns of large-scale and irreversible disruption if temperatures rise by more than 3C (5.4F) - well within the range of climate change projections for the century.
Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change is published as a book and collates evidence presented by scientists at a conference hosted by the UK Meteorological Office last February.
The conference predicted that greenhouse gases would raise global temperatures by between 1.4C and 5.8C over this century.
"It is clear from the work presented that the risks of climate change may well be greater than we thought," Mr Blair wrote in the forward to the book.
"It is now plain that the emission of greenhouse gases, associated with industrialisation and economic growth from a world population that has increased six-fold in 200 years, is causing global warming at a rate that is unsustainable."
The book includes concerns expressed by the head of the British Antarctic Survey, Professor Chris Rapley, that the huge West Antarctic ice sheet may be starting to disintegrate.
Scientists believe such an event would raise sea levels around the world by almost 5m (16 ft).
Prof Rapley writes that a previous report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change dismissing worries about the ice sheet's stability had to be revised: "The last IPCC report characterised Antarctica as a slumbering giant in terms of climate change. I would say it is now an awakened giant. There is real concern."
The report also warns that the EU may have to adopt tougher climate change targets. It is committed to preventing global temperatures rising by more than 2C, but the report warns that such a rise would trigger the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, prompting the extinction of the polar bear and the walrus.
The environment secretary, Margaret Beckett, said today's report highlighted the "tipping point" beyond which climate change could be expected to become irreversible.
This made it even more urgent to halt the change quickly, and meant that current targets - such as reducing carbon emissions by 60% by the middle of the century - may not be ambitious enough, she said.
"What is disturbing about the Exeter report is that it suggests that what has been a long-term policy framework, maybe even that is something that is going to cause more major difficulties than people imagined," she told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
Mrs Beckett said she hoped to publish the government's climate change strategy - initially pencilled in for last year - in the near future, and certainly by the end of 2006.
She denied that the government had already decided to invest in new nuclear power stations as a way of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, but said the option had to be considered because of the role it could play in meeting the UK's long-term climate change targets.
"The reason we need to look at it very seriously is that the one thing you can say about nuclear power is that, once you have put in all the energy required to construct the nuclear power stations, it is actually a low-carbon form of energy," she said.
Friends of the Earth called for urgent action to cut greenhouse gases.
"Despite Tony Blair's concerns about climate change, UK emissions have risen under Labour," said FoE's climate change campaigner, Roger Higman.
"He should now support mounting calls for a new law requiring the government to make annual cuts in carbon dioxide emissions, and make Britain a world leader in the development of a low-carbon, nuclear-free economy."
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Two Top Papers Ask: Is the Earth Heading for Doom?
By E&P Staff
January 28, 2006
NEW YORK While most Americans remain preoccupied with war, terrorism, high gas prices--or the coming Pitt-Jolie baby--an issue that may dwarf all of those concerns receives major attention on the front page of the Sunday editions of The New York Times and The Washington Post.
One story raises a nightmare global warming scenario for the end of the world, at least as we know it, while the other suggests that the Bush administration doesn't want anyone to know about that.
Here are the opening paragraphs of the two stories.
From The Washington Post article by Juliet Eilperin:
Now that most scientists agree human activity is causing Earth to warm, the central debate has shifted to whether climate change is progressing so rapidly that, within decades, humans may be helpless to slow or reverse the trend.
This "tipping point" scenario has begun to consume many prominent researchers in the United States and abroad, because the answer could determine how drastically countries need to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions in the coming years. While scientists remain uncertain when such a point might occur, many say it is urgent that policymakers cut global carbon dioxide emissions in half over the next 50 years or risk the triggering of changes that would be irreversible.
There are three specific events that these scientists describe as especially worrisome and potentially imminent, although the time frames are a matter of dispute: widespread coral bleaching that could damage the world's fisheries within three decades; dramatic sea level rise by the end of the century that would take tens of thousands of years to reverse; and, within 200 years, a shutdown of the ocean current that moderates temperatures in northern Europe.
The debate has been intensifying because Earth is warming much faster than some researchers had predicted. James E. Hansen, who directs NASA's Goddard Institute of Space Studies, last week confirmed that 2005 was the warmest year on record, surpassing 1998. Earth's average temperature has risen nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit over the past 30 years, he noted, and another increase of about 4 degrees over the next century would "imply changes that constitute practically a different planet."
"It's not something you can adapt to," Hansen said in an interview. "We can't let it go on another 10 years like this. We've got to do something."
From The New York Times article by Andrew C. Revkin:
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."
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Google: Trials of an internet giant
By Ivan Fallon
29 January 2006
It has been the week from hell for Google. Once the much-loved and unblemished hero of the web, the giant internet group has suffered a series of blows that have exposed for the first time its feet of clay. The company that stood for "freedom of the net" is accused of humiliatingly submitting to Chinese censorship, conniving at the suppression of freedom in Tibet, exploiting the work of American writers and of running what is arguably the biggest porn and violence website in the business. The Association of American Publishers joined Agence France-Presse in suing to protect their copyright, and the US government complained that Google's much-praised satellite maps are too spy-friendly.
And that's not all: Google faces a batch of lawsuits from companies that once benefited from its search engine and which were then consumed by it. It also faces suits from the US government. There are disputes over breaches of copyright, trademark infringement and invasion of privacy.
Some of Google's aggressive gambits into new businesses have brought angry responses from incumbents, such as Microsoft and Apple, many of which are now allying to stop the steamroller in its tracks. In media-land last week it was Stop Google time, as newspaper groups began talking seriously about locking their content away from Google's "spiders", which raid their sites many times a day, "stealing" their copy to sell on to someone else.
The biggest worry of all, though, was not commercial: it was the abrupt shift in sentiment among its almost messianic customers, who are suddenly asking awkward questions. Google, founded eight years ago by a couple of geeks (each now worth more than $10bn), had always presented itself as the superb search engine which gloriously spread the internet - and free access to vast amounts of information - across the world. It made finding information simple for even the least computer-literate, introduced speedy access to academic books and papers, the ability to search out the best online bargains and a super-fast email site. And then there was Google Maps, Google Earth, Google Book Search and Google just-about-everything-else.
Google broke all the business rules and ignored all the textbooks. It never spent a penny on promoting itself, but grew by word of mouth and the joy of using its irresistible - and free - systems. As a result, it became the epitome of corporate virtue, the good guy prepared to take on big business, all for the greater good of humanity. Its corporate slogan, as every schoolkid knows, is "Do No Evil", and its concept, pursued with brilliance, captured the world's imagination. One commentator remarked: "As far as the internet ecosystem is concerned, Google is the weather."
But not any more - or not so much. The Chinese episode was in many ways the most damaging blow yet received to its reputation for virtue, integrity and courage. Google's PR machine could have had little idea of the storm it was about to unleash as it made its explosive statement: "In order to operate from China, we have removed some content from the search results available on Google.cn in response to local law, regulation or policy." In other words, Google had agreed to block anything embarrassing to the Chinese regime. For mentions of Tiananmen Square, Tibet or abuse of civil liberties, don't look to Google China.
To be fair, none of its critics seemed to care that Google had actually held out longer against the Chinese than any other media group. Microsoft and Yahoo! surrendered a year ago, CNN is often seen as a Chinese mouthpiece and even Rupert Murdoch, in his search to get his Star TV established in China, sold his highly profitable South China Morning Post for fear it would anger the Chinese. (Even then he had to throw in the towel last year after almost 20 years of trying.)
Google's problem is that the world expects better of it. It had stood up to the US government and championed free speech, but now, in a single move, it has lost the high ground. One freedom of expression advocacy group, Reporters sans Frontières, accused Google of hypocrisy: "They have two standards. One for the US, where they resist government demands for personal information, and one for China, where they are helping the authorities to block thousands of sites." As a result of the cave-in, China now controls the one medium that many thought would elude them. "Google were the only ones who held out," remarked the freedom of speech campaigner Peter Pain last week, "so the Chinese government had to block information itself. But now Google will do it for them."
It seems to Google-watchers that the problems "come not single spies, but in battalions". Its very size and speed of growth already made it a target for those who favour the underdog. The beginnings of the backlash were apparent well before last week, but now it has begun in earnest.
For over a year, media analysts have been warning that, left unchecked, Google has the ability to demolish entire industries wherever it operates: retailers, book publishers (already in dire trouble) and, of course, newspapers and magazines. It would positively wreck the high street as we know it. Google's ambitions, they claimed, knew no bounds, and Google was blithely prepared to prove them right. In recent weeks it announced deals that will quickly grow its new media tentacles, from buying and selling magazine and newspaper ad space to the radio and television advertising market. It has threatened Microsoft (no one will blame it for that), Apple, Sun Microsystems and even the big telephone companies with rival systems and a new way to make internet calls. Google has not yet moved into oil or farming, but other than those no business is out of its reach.
Every company contains the seeds of its own destruction, and it may be that even Google, the miracle of the new media age, has reached the tipping point in the past week. Yahoo! and other rival search engines are getting their acts together and working to out-Google Google with new products and even better sites. From Korea comes the news of a new rival, NHN Corp, which has profits of $86m against Google's $1.7bn, but which has seen off Google in its local market, delivering far more relevant search results. "NHN's user-friendly approach outshined its rivals," said an analyst from Samsung Securities in Seoul. Other local sites are trying to outshine it too, pinpricks in the skin of the giant, but between them adding up to a significant threat.
Until a few weeks ago, Google seemed on track to achieve a mission of world dominance in areas that went way beyond the traditional internet. Its stock market debut in 2004 was the most successful in history and the performance since has been even more breathtaking. Its shares started life on the Nasdaq exchange at $179 each, valuing the company at nearly $100bn - more than the entire American motor industry. Wise old Wall Street hands, who had seen too many bubbles grow and burst, shook their heads in disbelief - no company, they reckoned, could possibly sustain such a valuation on the basis of a mere $4bn of sales. But for every soothsayer of gloom, there were a dozen Google buffs who scrambled into the most successful market debut the world has so far seen. The shares moved up - and up, through $200 and $300 to an extraordinary $471. Even then there were projections of it hitting $600, and one broker projected a price of $1,000. He still does.
And then it stopped. The shares dropped 8.5 per cent in one day last week, knocking $20bn off its market value, the first real setback since the launch. Its fans say it is only a breathing space before the next dizzy climb, and maybe it is. But there are plenty of others who say reality is catching up, it has made too many enemies and has simply grown too unwieldy and arrogant. In other words, Google has experienced, in just a matter of months, the same phenomenon that overtakes all market leaders over decades. Now it has become the number one target for all the littler guys.
By an odd irony, on Thursday General Motors, for many years the biggest company in the world and the symbol of American business and capitalism, announced record losses of $8.6bn and sought relief from a pension fund deficit that totals an unpayable $64bn. The phrase "What's good for General Motors is good for America" has long lost its resonance.
After GM, IBM was the big threat, its control of the emerging computer sector giving it a power far too dangerous for one company. The theory was that IBM engineers were developing computers which in turn would design even bigger computers and eventually create its own form of Big Brother. Two years ago what remained of the IBM personal computer business was sold to the Chinese for a pittance. Even Microsoft, the big bad bogey as recently as two years ago, has run out of steam - and threat. It too produced disappointing profit figures caused by glitches in the global launch of its new Xbox 360 video game system. Bill Gates, too, is fallible.
To Google it must seem that, after the magic honeymoon, the world is ganging up on it. Almost every area of its business is being challenged, every potential victim fighting back, every competitor gearing up and new ones emerging.
The company is still a mighty force, both for good and for evil. But the gloss is off. After last week, Google will never be the same again.
Ivan Fallon is the Chief Executive of Independent News and Media (UK)
How it works
1. Google is used by 82 million people a month, many of whom have it as the internet home page on their laptop or home computer. Keywords are typed into the Google search page: in this case, those being sought are 'China' and 'democracy'
2. The search speeds off to the nearest Google server, which may be in the same country or on the same continent. Google employs 4,183 people. Many of them are engineers who help to service an estimated 100,000 computers at 30 data centres around the world
3. The server sends the query - 'China' plus 'democracy' - to the Google Index, a database containing details of all the web pages on the company records. Instead of using huge mainframe computers, Google stores information a fragment at a time on thousands of linked machines, similar to ordinary PCs
4. The index identifies the pages it needs, and goes off to look for them. Google does not search the internet. It searches one of several copies of the internet which it makes for itself and constantly updates. Each copy contains more than eight billion pages and is stored, again a fragment at a time, on thousands of linked computers
5. Google's copies of the internet are made using its web crawlers, pieces of software that roam all over the net and send what they find back to the company. The pages are evaluated, indexed and ranked according to which words occur where, and how many other sites are linked to them
6. Google generates a summary of each page. It also uses more than 100 criteria to give the page a relevance rating between one and 10. A list is produced, to which Google attaches advertisements bought by companies that want their products to appear beside certain key words
7. The results appear on the Google search page, back at the original computer, usually within half a second. This one took 0.08 seconds to produce 30,600,000 results. Google keeps permanent records of all the searches made
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Panel: Teflon Chemical a Likely Carcinogen
By RANDALL CHASE
Mon Jan 30, 8:47 PM ET
DOVER, Del. - A chemical used in the manufacture of Teflon and other nonstick and stain-resistant products should be considered a "likely" carcinogen, according to an independent scientific review panel advising the Environmental Protection Agency.
The recommendation included in the panel's final draft report is consistent with its preliminary finding, which went beyond the EPA's own determination that there was only "suggestive evidence" from animal studies that perfluorooctanoic acid and its salts are potential human carcinogens.
"The predominant panel view was that the descriptor 'likely to be carcinogenic' was more consistent with currently available data, while a few panel members reached the conclusion that the current evidence fails to exceed the descriptor 'suggestive,' of carcinogenicity," the panel said in a draft report released Monday.
Officials with Wilmington, Del.-based DuPont Co., the sole North American producer of PFOA, took issue with the panel's conclusions.
"We disagree with the panel's recommendation on the cancer classification, and we continue to support the EPA's draft risk assessment," said Robert Rickard, director of health and environmental sciences for DuPont.
"This reflects recommended classification; what's more important is risk, and we are confident that PFOA does not pose a cancer risk to the general public," added Rickard, who said the carcinogenicity classification was based on animal data and does not reflect data from human studies.
PFOA is a processing aid used in the manufacturing of fluoropolymers, which have a wide variety of product applications, including nonstick cookware. The chemical also can be a byproduct in the manufacturing of fluorotelomers used in surface protection products for applications such as stain-resistant textiles and grease-resistant food wrapping.
Besides disagreeing with the EPA on the potential carcinogenicity of PFOA, also known as C-8, a majority of members on the review panel also recommended that the EPA's risk assessment include additional data on PFOA's potential to cause liver, testicular, pancreatic and breast cancers. A majority of panel members also recommended that the chemical's effects on hormones and on the nervous and immune systems be included in the risk assessment, and that studies should not be limited by age, gender or species in assessing human risk.
The findings of the panel, which was established by the EPA's Science Advisory Board, will be reviewed by SAB officials in a Feb. 15 teleconference.
"The real outcome of this is the panel going back and saying `You've got to include this extra stuff here; it wasn't really a rigorous analysis," said Tim Kropp, senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization whose work has prompted increased government scrutiny of PFOA.
While the EPA is free to accept or reject the panel's recommendations, Kropp said it rare for the EPA to dismiss an advisory board's advice.
"They've asked them to do a more rigorous analysis, to do a more scientific method of determining risk, and you can't argue with that," he said. "That's just good science."
EPA officials declined to say how the agency might respond to the report.
"It's sort of what we expected," said EPA deputy administrator Marcus Peacock, adding that he had not read the full report. "There's more we don't know here than what we do know."
Susan Hazen, EPA's acting assistant administrator for the Office of Prevention, Pesticides and Toxic Substances, said much of the work aimed at better understanding PFOA already is underway.
Hazen and Peacock also pointed to an EPA initiative announced last week asking DuPont and seven other companies that manufacture or use PFOA, its precursors, and similar compounds to reduce environmental releases and levels of those chemicals in products by 95 percent no later than 2010, using the year 2000 as a baseline.
The EPA also wants the industry to work toward the elimination of PFOA and related chemicals from emissions and products by no later than 2015.
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Contagious obesity? Identifying the human adenoviruses that may make us fat
Submitted by BJS on Mon, 2006-01-30 05:14.
There is a lot of good advice to help us avoid becoming obese, such as "Eat less," and "Exercise." But here's a new and surprising piece of advice based on a promising area of obesity research: "Wash your hands."
There is accumulating evidence that certain viruses may cause obesity, in essence making obesity contagious, according to Leah D. Whigham, the lead researcher in a new study, "Adipogenic potential of multiple human adenoviruses in vivo and in vitro in animals," in the January issue of the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology published by the American Physiological Society.
The study, by Whigham, Barbara A. Israel and Richard L. Atkinson, of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, found that the human adenovirus Ad-37 causes obesity in chickens. This finding builds on studies that two related viruses, Ad-36 and Ad-5, also cause obesity in animals.
Moreover, Ad-36 has been associated with human obesity, leading researchers to suspect that Ad-37 also may be implicated in human obesity. Whigham said more research is needed to find out if Ad-37 causes obesity in humans. One study was inconclusive, because only a handful of people showed evidence of infection with Ad-37 � not enough people to draw any conclusions, she said. Ad-37, Ad-36 and Ad-5 are part of a family of approximately 50 viruses known as human adenoviruses.
Researchers now must:
- identify the viruses that cause human obesity
- devise a screening test to identify people who are infected
- develop a vaccine
Screening test and vaccine still a long way off
The Whigham et al. study prompted an editorial in the same issue of AJP-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology by Frank Greenway, professor in the Department of Clinical Trials, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge.
"If Ad-36 is responsible for a significant portion of human obesity, the logical therapeutic intervention would be to develop a vaccine to prevent future infections," Greenway wrote. "If a vaccine were to be developed, one would want to ensure that all the serotypes of human adenoviruses responsible for human obesity were covered in the vaccine."
"If one could predict the potential of an adenovirus to cause human obesity by using an in vitro assay or even by animal testing, screening of the approximately 50 human adenoviruses might be accelerated, shortening the time required for vaccine formulation," Greenway wrote. "Human antibody prevalence in obese and lean human populations appears to be the only reliable method to screen adenoviruses for their potential to cause obesity in humans at the present time," he noted.
Obesity contagion theory slow to catch on
The notion that viruses can cause obesity has been a contentious one among scientists, Whigham said. And yet, there is evidence that factors other than poor diet or lack of exercise may be at work in the obesity epidemic. "The prevalence of obesity has doubled in adults in the United States in the last 30 years and has tripled in children," the study noted. "With the exception of infectious diseases, no other chronic disease in history has spread so rapidly, and the etiological factors producing this epidemic have not been clearly identified."
"It makes people feel more comfortable to think that obesity stems from lack of control," Whigham said. "It's a big mental leap to think you can catch obesity." However, other diseases once thought to be the product of environmental factors are now known to stem from infectious agents. For example, ulcers were once thought to be the result of stress, but researchers eventually implicated bacteria, H. pylori, as a cause.
"The nearly simultaneous increase in the prevalence of obesity in most countries of the world is difficult to explain by changes in food intake and exercise alone, and suggest that adenoviruses could have contributed," the study said. "The role of adenoviruses in the worldwide epidemic of obesity is a critical question that demands additional research."
Ad-37 third virus implicated in animal obesity
The theory that viruses could play a part in obesity began a few decades ago when Nikhil Dhurandhar, now at Pennington Biomedical Research Center at LSU, noticed that chickens in India infected with the avian adenovirus SMAM-1 had significantly more fat than non-infected chickens. The discovery was intriguing because the explosion of human obesity, even in poor countries, has led to suspicions that overeating and lack of exercise weren't the only culprits in the rapidly widening human girth. Since then, Ad-36 has been found to be more prevalent in obese humans.
In the current study, Whigham et al. attempted to determine which adenoviruses (in addition to Ad-36 and Ad-5) might be associated with obesity in chickens. The animals were separated into four groups and exposed to either Ad-2, Ad-31, or Ad-37. There was also a control group that was not exposed to any of the viruses. The researchers measured food intake and tracked weight over three weeks before ending the experiment and measuring the chickens' visceral fat, total body fat, serum lipids, and viral antibodies.
Chickens inoculated with Ad-37 had much more visceral fat and body fat compared with the chickens infected with Ad-2, Ad-31 or the control group, even though they didn't eat any more. The Ad-37 group was also generally heavier compared to the other three groups, but the difference wasn't great enough to be significant by scientific standards.
The authors concluded that Ad-37 increases obesity in chickens, but Ad-2 and Ad-31 do not. "Ad-37 is the third human adenovirus to increase adiposity in animals, but not all adenoviruses produce obesity," the study concluded.
There is still much to learn about how these viruses work, Whigham said. "There are people and animals that get infected and don't get fat. We don't know why," she said. Among the possibilities: the virus hasn't been in the body long enough to produce the additional fat; or the virus creates a tendency to obesity that must be triggered by overeating, she said.
Mass screening for these viruses is impractical right now because there is no simple blood test available that would quickly identify exposure to a suspect virus, Whigham et al. said. More work is needed to develop such a test, Whigham said.
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Giving déjà vu a second look
University of Leeds
30 Jan 06
Many of us have experienced déjà vu - the unsettling sensation of knowing that a situation could not have been experienced, combined with the feeling that it has. It is usually so fleeting that psychologists have until recently thought it impossible to study. But for some people, the feeling of having been there before is a persistent sensation, making every day a ‘Groundhog Day’. Psychologists from Leeds’ memory group are working with sufferers of chronic déjà vu on the world’s first study of the condition.
Dr Chris Moulin first encountered chronic déjà vu sufferers at a memory clinic. “We had a peculiar referral from a man who said there was no point visiting the clinic because he’d already been there, although this would have been impossible.” The patient not only genuinely believed he had met Dr Moulin before, he gave specific details about the times and places of these ‘remembered’ meetings.
Déjà vu has developed to such an extent that he had stopped watching TV - even the news - because it seemed to be a repeat, and even believed he could hear the same bird singing the same song in the same tree every time he went out. Chronic déjà vu sufferers are not only overwhelmed by a sense of familiarity for new experiences, they can provide plausible and complex justifications to support this. “When this particular patient’s wife asked what was going to happen next on a TV programme he’d claimed to have already seen, he said ‘how should I know? I have a memory problem!’” Dr Moulin said.
For the first time, those who suffer chronic déjà vu can help provide sustained research into the problem. “So far we’ve completed the natural history side of this condition - we’ve found ways of testing for it and the right clinical questions to ask. The next step is obviously to find ways to reduce the problem,” he said.
PhD student Akira O’Connor, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, is working with Dr Moulin to find ways of creating the phenomenon in the laboratory. Akira has begun inducing déjà vu in Leeds students using hypnosis, asking students to remember words, hypnotising them to forget and then showing them the same word again to induce a feeling that they’ve seen it before. The students are then asked to make subjective reports - how déjà vu actually feels - in addition to the data about what they can and cannot remember.
This new programme of research, the Cognitive Feelings Framework (CFF), is unique to the University, and is being conducted by Dr Moulin with ESRC professorial fellow Martin Conway. “By considering subjective experience - feelings - from a cognitive science perspective, we hope to better understand everyday sensations like déjà vu, and also to help understand cognitive impairment, for example in older adults,” said Dr Moulin.
“People might suffer from chronic déjà vu, but be unwilling to discuss this with their doctor - any hint of ‘mental illness’ is, particularly to older people, a taboo subject. But as soon as we found this first patient, we discovered that if you ask the right questions, you find other people have experienced the same thing.”
Chronic déjà vu can be distressing to the point of causing depression, and some sufferers have been prescribed anti-psychotics. But Dr Moulin’s group believe it is not a delusion, but a dysfunction of memory: “The challenge is to think about what this means. We can use it to examine the relationships between memory and consciousness.
“The exciting thing about these people is that they can ‘recall’ specific details about an event or meeting that never actually occurred. It suggests that the sensations associated with remembering are separate to the contents of memory, that there are two different systems in the brain at work.” Dr Moulin believes a circuit in our temporal lobe fires up when we recall the past, creating the experience of remembering but also a ‘recollective experience’ – the sense of the self in the past. In a person with chronic déjà vu this circuit is either overactive or permanently switched on, creating memories where none exist. When novel events are processed, they are accompanied by a strong feeling of remembering.
A new collaboration launching this month with the University of York’s neuro-imaging lab will provide objective evidence to the subjective reports supplied by the CFF. “When examining someone’s subjective experience, it’s important to have an idea of whether their subjective account is comparable to other people’s,” said Dr Moulin. “The neuro-imaging facilities allow us to see if the same areas of brain are activated in different people when they report certain subjective states. Ultimately, we may even be able to pinpoint the neural areas important for conscious states such as remembering.”
Dr Moulin is keen to develop a network of patients in Leeds and across the globe who experience chronic déjà vu. “We’re finding people all over the world with these problems. Chronic déjà vu sufferers need the reassurance that they’re not alone, and we need them to help us learn more about who has it, what causes it, and why.”
For more information on Dr Moulin’s work
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WAS HITLER A "BRITISH" AGENT?
Greg Hallett's book "Hitler Was A British Agent" depicts war as a ghoulish illusion conjured by occult magicians in order to degrade and eventually enslave humanity in world government.
Hallett's claim that Hitler was a "British" agent is based on the testimony of a shadowy network of retired intelligence agents. While he fails to provide documentary proof, Hallett does offer persuasive circumstantial evidence.
For example, Adolph Hitler was in England in 1912-1913, a fact supported by his sister-in-law's book: "The Memoirs of Bridget Hitler"(1979). Many historians including Hitler biographer John Toland have ignored this startling information. (If Hallett is right, historians like Toland are guilty of sanitizing Hitler and actually making him more credible than he was.)
Hallett says Hitler spent February to November 1912 being brainwashed and trained at the British Military Psych-Ops War School at Tavistock in Devon and in Ireland. "War machines need war and [that means they need] funded, trained and supported double agents to be their patsies, their puppets and their puppet enemies," Hallett writes (38).
His sister-in-law describes Hitler as completely wasted when he arrived at their home baggageless. "I had an idea he was ill, his colour was so bad and his eyes looked so peculiar," she wrote. "He was always reading, not books, little pamphlets printed in German. I don't know what was in them nor exactly where they came from." (pp. 29,35) Hallett says these were Tavistock training manuals.
"Hitler was a British Agent" is useful as an alternative paradigm. (Usually we cannot recognize truth because we have the wrong paradigm, i.e. our "education.") When Hallett says "British", he means Illuminati, the Masonic cult of super rich bankers who control an interlocking network of megacartels. This cult is based in the City of London but uses England and most nations and ideologies, as sock puppets in a the Punch and Judy show called modern history.
Hallett's claim would clarify many improbable events in the Second World War. For example, why did Hitler let 335,000 Allied soldiers escape at Dunkirk? This quixotic gesture was explained as a peace overture, but surely England would have been more attentive if its army were in Nazi POW camps.
The Nazi triumph in Feb. 1940 was like a knock-out in the first round. The Illuminati did not intend for the match to end so soon, nor for the Nazis to win.
In the summer of 1940, when the Nazis was triumphant and Britain prostrate, Nazi Military Intelligence Chief (Abwehr) Admiral Wilhelm Canaris told Romanian Foreign Minister Prince Michael Sturdza to stay neutral because England would win the war. He also gave this message to Spanish dictator Franco.
Hallett's theory also explains why Hitler, supposedly the arch enemy of Jewish bankers, acted like he didn't know the Rothschilds controlled England (and America) when this was practically common knowledge. If Hitler were for real, he wouldn't have tried to accommodate these countries. England would have been invaded and conquered before Russia was attacked.
Hallett's hypothesis explains 1)Why Hitler was able to expand into the Rhineland etc. without fear of retaliation. 2) Why the Nazi war machine was financed and built by the Bank of England and a Who's Who of Anglo American corporations controlled by the Illuminati. 3) Why Hitler never sealed the Mediterranean at Gibraltar; and why the Spanish dictator Franco remained neutral, despite the huge debt he owed the Nazis from the Civil War. 4) Why I.G. Farben headquarters in Frankfurt was never bombed. This became CIA headquarters.
It would explain why Hitler gave his ridiculous racial policies priority over actually winning the war. He could have enlisted millions of Slavs (and even many Jews) in overcoming Communist Russia. Instead, he made them implacable enemies willing to fight to the death.
We could question why Japan attacked the U.S. instead of Russia; why the Nazis never figured out that their communications were compromised; why Hitler didn't conquer the oil fields of Russia and the Middle East when he had the chance etc. but you get the picture. The fix was in.
WHO WAS HITLER?
The biggest improbability of all is that an Austrian tramp, street cleaner and gay prostitute could become the Chancellor of Germany. Hitler joins a long list of obscure blackmailable figures who have been catapulted to world prominence with the aid of an unseen hand.
Hallett writes that Hitler's grandfather was Nathan Meyer Rothschild. Maria Schickelgruber, Hitler's grandmother, was a maid in the Rothschild's Vienna mansion when his father, Alois was conceived "in fear" in a satanic ritual rape. The Rothschilds could only marry within their extended family so they had illegitimate children who functioned as anonymous agents.
(Apparently this is a pattern with the Illuminati. Bill Clinton is rumored to be a Rockefeller.)
His grandmother received child support from a Jewish businessman who was probably an intermediary for his grandfather. Bridget Hitler quotes Hitler's sister Paula: "Since [Adolf] started the race laws we have no grandfather, Adolf and I. Certainly anyone who wished could make a good deal out of that." (Memoirs, p. 175)
Rothschild's son, Alois Hitler's third marriage was to his niece, Klara, who became Hitler's mother. His father was abusive and his mother over- compensated. Hitler became destitute at age 18 when his mother died, and he lived in a Vienna men's hostel that was a haunt for homosexuals.
In 1912, Hitler traveled to England for training as an Illuminati agent which took place in German. This "training" ranged from imbibing a sense of his role in Germany's destiny to learning how to mesmerize audiences.
It also included trauma brainwashing. The "alter's" consciousness is shattered by witnessing savage atrocities and suffering sexual abuse, all of which is filmed. Then the various fragments of consciousness are programmed and can be accessed with special code words. (Read Fritz Springmeier and Cisco Wheeler for a detailed description of Illuminati mind control techniques. )
Hitler returned to Germany in May 1913 and enlisted in the German army. During World War One, he served as a runner and was captured twice by the English. On both occasions, he was spared execution by an "angel" in British intelligence.
According to Hallett, Hitler was a bisexual who enjoyed having women defecate on him. He also had undersized genitals and only one testicle. (Many women whom he courted committed suicide. The love of his life was his 17-year-old half-niece Geli whom he murdered in 1931 when she tried to escape.)
(For more on Nazi Homosexuality, see "The Pink Swastika" online.
History is unfolding according to the Illuminati's long-term plan. Wars are plotted decades in advance and orchestrated to achieve the destruction of nations and natural elites, depopulation, demoralization, and of course power and profit.
The super rich have organized themselves into a satanic cult to prey on mankind and to establish their permanent hegemony. Put yourself in the central bankers' shoes. The nations of the world owe you trillions based on money you printed for the cost of paper and ink. The only way to protect this "investment" is to establish a thinly disguised dictatorship, using sophisticated methods of social and mind control. This is the true meaning of the "War on Terror." It's not directed at "Muslim terrorists." It's directed at you and me.
According to Hallett, Joseph Stalin was another Illuminati "agent of war" who attended the Tavistock Psyche Ops training school in 1907. Clifford Shack has suggested that Stalin was also an illegitimate offspring of a Rothschild.
Hallett says Hitler's death was faked (a double was killed) and Hitler escaped to Barcelona where he lived until 1950, when he died of stomach cancer.
Greg Hallett is a maverick and his rambling book is full of repetition and digressions. I wouldn't swear by any of Hallett's claims as yet. But he deserves our thanks for advancing an alternative view of history that while far- fetched is more plausible than what supposedly transpired. We should be able to entertain speculative views without feeling compelled to accept or reject them.
World War Two achieved all of the Illuminati's goals. Europe and particularly Germany was turned into a wasteland. So was Japan. Sixty million people were slaughtered. The Jewish holocaust motivated Jews to establish the Rothschild's world government headquarters in Israel. Idealists and natural leaders on both sides were slaughtered. Nations were laden with debt. The United Nations rose like a phoenix from the ashes. Hiroshima cast a pall of terror over the world. The stage was set for the next act...the Cold War.
Given the bleak outlook for humanity, there is a tendency to actually idealize Hitler as an opponent of central banker hegemony. I fell into this trap myself. Hallett's book is a useful reminder that like Stalin and Mao, Hitler was a monster; and the Illuminati sponsor "enemies" in order to foment conflict, and keep humanity in its thrall.
"Published originally at EtherZone.com : republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact."
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The Royal Family are bloodsucking alien lizards
30 Jan 06
DAVID Icke, the former sports presenter who once proclaimed himself to be the Son of God, has offered up more of his unusual wisdom, this time claiming that the Royal Family are "bloodsucking alien lizards".
Mr Icke, 53, claims the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh are shape-shifters who drink human blood to look like us.
And the father-of-three says a race of half-human, half-alien creatures has infiltrated all the world's key power positions.
He claims the US president, George W Bush, and his father, the former president, George Bush, are both giant lizards who change into humans.
Mr Icke, a professional speaker who has published 16 books, believes that the alien hybrids were behind the "murders" of Princess Diana and John F Kennedy, as well as the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
He claims the only reason that the public cannot see this is because we are obsessed by popular culture, such as EastEnders and Coronation Street, and Page Three girls.
Mr Icke retired from public life after being ridiculed for appearing on the Wogan TV chat-show in 1991 and claiming he had been chosen as the Son of God. The former Green Party spokesman now lives on the Isle of Wight with his second wife, Pam, and lectures around the world on his theories.
He was speaking about them on The World's Strangest UFO Stories - The Great Alien Conspiracy on the Discovery Channel last night.
Mr Icke said: "When you get back into the ancient world, you find this recurring theme of a union between a non-human race and humans - creating a hybrid race.
"From 1998, I started coming across people who told me they had seen people change into a non-human form. It's an age-old phenomenon known as shape-shifting. The basic form is like a scaly humanoid, with reptilian rather than humanoid eyes."
Comment: That's the problem with disinfo, there's always some truth wrapped in lies.
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Ark's Quantum Quirks
January 31, 2006
The Secret of Chemtrails
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