Bush: U.S. Must Get Free of Mideast Oil
By TERENCE HUNT AP White House Correspondent

WASHINGTON - A politically weakened President Bush declared Tuesday night that America must break its long dependence on Mideast oil and rebuked critics of his stay-the-course strategy for the unpopular war in Iraq.

"America is addicted to oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world," Bush said as he sought to drive the election-year agenda in his annual State of the Union address.
Rejecting calls for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, Bush said, "There is no peace in retreat." He also slapped at those who complain he took the country to war on the erroneous grounds that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

"Hindsight alone is not wisdom," Bush said. "And second-guessing is not a strategy."

In an unscripted moment, anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a fallen soldier in Iraq, was taken into custody by police in the House gallery just before Bush spoke to a joint session of Congress. She was escorted from the visitors gallery after she caused a disruption, a Capitol Police official said.

With Congress facing midterm elections in November, there was a partisan mood in the chamber as Bush, hampered by big budget deficits, offered a modest program.

Democrats stood and cheered when Bush said that Congress did not act a year ago "on my proposal to save Social Security." Bush got a bemused look on his face, shook his finger and continued, "yet the rising cost of entitlements is a problem that is not going away."

Switching gears, Bush asked lawmakers to join him in naming a commission to examine the impact of Baby Boom retirements on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid spending.

He declared that the "the state of our union is strong" despite Americans' anxieties about the war in Iraq, the economy and soaring energy costs. Oil prices are inching toward $70 a barrel, throwing a cloud over the economy and pinching Americans' pocketbooks.

Bush called for increased federal research into alternative fuels such as ethanol made from weeds or wood chips instead of corn.

Bush's address came amid a changing of the guard elsewhere in Washington. Conservative judge Samuel Alito was sworn in as a new Supreme Court justice, replacing Sandra Day O'Connor, who has been a moderate swing vote. The Senate also confirmed Ben Bernanke to be chairman of the Federal Reserve, replacing Alan Greenspan after 18 1/2 years in the influential job.

Alito was in the House chamber, alongside new Chief Justice John Roberts, another Bush nominee, and Justices Stephen Breyer and Clarence Thomas. The president was applauded 58 times in a speech that ran slightly more than 50 minutes.

Facing budget deficits that may approach or exceed $400 billion this year, Bush had no room for expensive, new initiatives.

But Bush did call for greater public spending on basic science research and more money for math and science education.

He proposed an initiative to train 70,000 high school teachers to lead advanced-placement courses in math and science. In addition, he urged bringing 30,000 math and science professionals into the classrooms to teach.

"We need to encourage children to take more math and science and make sure those courses are rigorous enough to compete with other nations," the president said.

Bush went before the nation after the toughest year of his administration. His job approval rating is in the anemic high 30s to low 40s.

Health care is a priority for both parties, particularly since nearly 46 million Americans lack insurance. Democrats say that in 2005 alone, the number of uninsured grew by nearly a million.

"Keeping American competitive requires affordable health care," the president said.

Bush proposed greater tax benefits for health saving accounts, the high-deductible health care plan that allows people to contribute money tax-free to 401(k)-like health savings plans, as a way to expand their use. He said lawmakers also must allow workers to take the coverage with them as they change jobs.

Many Republicans cheered Bush when he defended his program of surveillance in the United States without warrants to combat terrorism _ a program whose legality has been challenged by members of both parties. "This terrorist surveillance program has helped prevent terrorist attacks," the president said.

As he has in every State of the Union address to some extent, Bush said the United States must curb its reliance on foreign oil imports.

He called for more research on batteries for hybrid and electric cars and work on alternative fuels.

"Our goal is to make this new kind of ethanol practical and competitive within six years," the president said. "Breakthroughs on this and other new technologies will help us reach another great goal: to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025.

By targeting only Mideast oil, Bush was ignoring the largest sources of American petroleum consumption _ Mexico and Canada. Imports of oil and refined product from the Persian Gulf make up less than a fifth of all imports and 11 percent of total consumption, according to Energy Department statistics.

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, chosen to deliver the response for the Democrats, scolded Bush on the soaring national debt, the frustrated effort to rebuild the hurricane-battered Gulf Coast, Medicaid cuts and other issues. On Iraq, Kaine said that Americans were given "inaccurate information about the reasons for invading" and that troops were given body armor that was inadequate.

"The federal government should serve the American people," the newly elected governor said. "But that mission is frustrated by this administration's poor choices and bad management.

Bush divided his address between problems at home and abroad.

With the war in Iraq about to enter its fourth year and more than 2,240 American troops killed, Bush said the nation must not falter in what he called the central front in the war on terror. Bush did not offer any timetable for bringing American troops home from Iraq. There are about 138,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, down from about 160,000 at the time of the January elections.

Despite recent elections in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories that have given rise to religious-based parties with views sometimes hostile to the West, Bush pressed Saudi Arabia and Egypt _ longtime allies that Washington is loath to challenge too aggressively _ to provide greater freedoms to their citizens.

He urged Hamas to "recognize Israel, disarm, reject terrorism and work for lasting peace."

Bush said the United States and its allies were united in insisting that Iran not develop nuclear weapons. Speaking directly to the Iranian people, Bush looked toward a different future for their country and said the United States "hopes one day to be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran."

The president renewed his oft-stated goal for Congress to make permanent the tax cuts enacted during his presidency.

"If we do nothing, American families will face a massive tax increase they do not expect and will not welcome," he said.
Comment: This speech leaves us ... well, speechless. We seem to remember, not too long ago, the Neocon Congress was offering tax cuts to those who purchased big, gas guzzling SUVs. Now, all of a sudden, everybody who has one of these polluting plants is "addicted to oil." No doubt.

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Bush: 'L'etat, c'est moi'
Albany Times Union January 30, 2006

WASHINGTON -- We are now learning what President Bush considers to be the limits of his power -- nothing.

In public appearances this week, Bush defended his program of domestic spying without court approval, citing the inherent war powers of the presidency under the U.S. Constitution.

The President points to his status as commander-in-chief and the resolution -- approved by Congress three days after the 9/11 attacks -- authorizing him to use "all necessary and appropriate force" against the terrorists. It is an obvious overreach of presidential prerogative; thin justification for what amounts to a snooping foray against Americans and others in the U.S.

It all smacks of France's Louis XIV's famous dictum: "L'etat, c'est moi"-- "I am the state."
The administration is on shaky legal ground. Last week, the Justice Department issued a 42-page analysis declaring the President "will exercise all authority available to him, consistent with the Constitution, to protect the people of the United States."

The Justice Department brief also contended that some presidential powers are simply "beyond congressional ability to regulate."

But the law is the law. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 -- which was enacted after in-depth congressional hearings on domestic spying-- established a special court to issue warrants for electronic eavesdropping on suspected foreign agents inside the United States.

So far, that court has been basically a rubber stamp for government petitions, rarely turning down a request at crisis times. The court permits emergency wiretaps without court approval for up to 72 hours.

If court procedures tie law enforcement's hands, Congress is open to fixing it. "I know of no member of Congress, frankly, who, if the administration came and said, 'Here's why we need this capability,' that they wouldn't get it," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

But the Bush administration wanted unfettered freedom to spy on who they want, when they want, with no legal constraints whatsoever.

The President and his cohorts are engaged in a full court press to justify their dubious legal position.

Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold hearings on domestic spying Feb. 6. But if this GOP-run Congress runs true to form, Bush will have clear sailing.

In an appearance at Kansas State University earlier this week, President Bush claimed that the post-9/11 congressional resolution provided him with all the justification he needed.

"Congress gave me the authority to use necessary force to protect the American people, but it didn't prescribe the tactics," Bush said. "It said, 'Mr. President, you've got the power to protect us, but we're not going to tell you how.' "

Bush's stand is all too reminiscent of former President Richard Nixon who said during the unraveling of the Watergate scandal: "If a president does it, it's not illegal."

Bush might take note that the Supreme Court and Congress said otherwise, leading to Nixon's resignation from the highest office in the land in 1974.

The Democrats, silent for too long, are finally stepping up to the plate, with former Vice President Al Gore leading the charge.

Gore -- who lost out to Bush in the presidential race in 2000 -- is loud and clear, standing with the growing number of critics.

"A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government," Gore said. He called for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate Bush's domestic spying.

Gore called the spying "a shameful exercise of power." Helen Thomas can be reached at (202) 263-6400 or at the e-mail address hthomas@hearstdc.com.

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Bush says only US can secure world peace
By Rupert Cornwell in Washington 01 February 2006

President George Bush insisted last night that, despite its difficulties in Iraq, America would not retreat from the world, arguing that US leadership " is the only way to secure the peace". Isolationism and protectionism, he warned in his annual State of the Union address, led ultimately only " to danger and decline."

Instead, according to excerpts of the speech released in advance by the White House, Mr Bush asked for more money to spend on basic science research, and on education in maths and science, to help the country face the challenge from rising, lower-wage powers like China and India.

"The American economy is pre-eminent," he was to tell Congress on one of the great set-piece occasions of the political year. But in today's " dynamic world economy" the US could not afford to be complacent. He warned how the country's "is addicted" to ever more costly oil, and was expected to urge greater use of nuclear power and alternative energy sources. "The best way to reduce this addiction is through technology," Mr Bush declared, according to the advance text.
A State of the Union address is always an important psychological moment ­ but never more so than this year, as Mr Bush attempts to recover from a disastrous 2005, and boost morale in Republican ranks before this autumn's mid-term elections in which Democrats hope to make major gains.

In recent weeks his approval ratings have hovered around 40 per cent, the lowest at this stage in a presidency for any incumbent since Richard Nixon at the height of the Watergate scandal. But Mr Bush won a significant victory when the Senate confirmed Samuel Alito to the US Supreme Court, tilting the country's highest judicial body to the right.

The vote was highly partisan, as all but one of the Senate's 55 Republicans voted in favour of Judge Alito, and only four of the Democratic minority broke party ranks to support him. He was eventually approved by 58 votes to 42, the tightest margin for a Supreme Court nominee in almost 15 years.

But however narrow, the result was sweet for Mr Bush. Last night the new Justice was in the chamber of the House of Representatives to listen to Mr Bush speak, along with his new colleagues ­ among them John Roberts, who took over as Chief Justice last autumn after the death of William Rehnquist.

Both newcomers are conservatives. As lifelong appointees to a court whose role as arbiter of America's culture wars is steadily increasing, they represent a Bush legacy both longer lasting and more substantial than anything the President was expected to say last night.

Even before the speech, White House officials made clear that given the current $350bn-plus federal budget deficit, the speech would contain no major spending initiatives on the domestic front. But Mr Bush is making a new push for individual health savings accounts, in a bid to impose a measure of control on runaway US health care spending, now accounting for $1.6trn, an unprecedented 16 per cent of GDP.

On the foreign front the most keenly anticipated sections of the speech were to deal with Iran's nuclear programme and the Hamas victory in last month's Palestinian elections.

This fifth State of the Union, marking the start of the President's sixth year in office, is in practice the last in which Mr Bush can hope to impose his will on domestic politics. After the mid-term vote, the focus switches to the battle to succeed him.
Comment: Sorry Dubya, you're a day late and a dollar short. You've made the US so unpleasant that all the brains with any sense have left by now...

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President aims to rally America after dismal year
By Andrew Buncombe in Washington 31 January 2006

After the worst year of his presidency and with a desperate need to regain the political initiative, George Bush will seek tonight to rally Republicans and persuade all Americans that progress is being made on the most crucial issues confronting the nation.

This, his fifth State of the Union speech, will be among his most important yet. With his personal approval rating dismally low and with his party facing a genuine prospect of defeat in the congressional elections later this year, Mr Bush will deliver an upbeat message, short on specifics but swelled with optimism.

He will argue that progress is being made in Iraq as well as in the so-called war on terror. He is also likely to draw attention to the challenge presented by the stand-off with Iran while stressing his administration has no quarrel with the Iranian people.
His Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, dined in London last night with the other foreign ministers of the UN Security Council's veto-holding powers plus Germany. They discussed whether to press ahead with plans to refer Iran to the Security Council for possible sanctions over its nuclear ambitions later this week. President Bush may also talk about the broader issue of peace in the Middle East, and the Palestinian elections that produced the shock Hamas victory.

"The actions we take in our own country or elsewhere help define America to others, and that's why it's important for us to constantly remind people that we have got a wonderful heart and we are a compassionate nation," Mr Bush said in an interview with CBS television looking ahead to his speech.

With opinion polls showing Mr Bush's approval rating at 42 per cent ­ a dozen points lower than it was this time last year ­ the central question remains whether the President has the capacity to turn around public opinion. Crucially for Republican members of Congress, can Mr Bush do anything to help shore up their defences ahead of November's election which could see them lose either ­ or both ­ the House and Senate?

"In terms of politics, it has been his worst year," said Larry Sabato, professor of politics at the University of Virginia. "So many bad things have happened that he has been unable to [handle] ­ Katrina, the decline in Iraq, pieces of the economy that are not working ... Two-thirds of people think the country is on the wrong track. There is a lot of discontent out there, both [about] foreign and domestic [issues]."

Observers say that if Democrats gain control of the House or Senate, they are likely to instigate a series of investigations into issues such as the handling of Hurricane Katrina and the White House's relationship with lobbyists that would all but cripple the administration.

Stephen Hess, who was involved in writing three State of the Union speeches for President Eisenhower and is currently a professor at George Washington University, said: "His main concern has to be retaining Congress, where both houses have just a slim margin. If he loses even one, in political terms he's toast."

When Mr Bush delivered last year's speech he had just been re-elected and his delivery outlined ambitious aims and a vision for his second term. But in the past 12 months he has watched as his plan to privatise social security has crumbled and his purported ambition of spreading democracy around the world has proved to be at best a double-edged sword.

At home, Mr Bush and his administration have been embroiled in various problems, ranging from the outcry over the revelation about the President's authorisation of a domestic spying programme to the indictment of the senior White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby over his alleged involvement in the leaking of the identity of an undercover CIA operative.

At the same time, while many experts say the US economy is performing well, polls suggest few people are giving Mr Bush any credit for that. His personal approval rating is the worst for a president entering his sixth year in office since Richard Nixon was mired in the Watergate scandal, and a recent poll commissioned by ABC/The Washington Post suggests that more than half of voters disapprove of his performance in eight out of nine policy areas, ranging from Iraq to immigration to health care.

On a more positive note for the President, nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the country is safer now than before 11 September 2001, and 53 per cent believe the war in Iraq has improved the nation's long-term security.

Mr Bush is also likely to get a pre-speech boost today with the expected confirmation of his choice for the Supreme Court vacancy, Judge Samuel Alito.

President Bush's previous State of the Union addresses


Buoyed by his re-election to office for a second term, Mr Bush's 2005 State of the Union address strikes a confident and belligerent note. The two main themes are a continuation of his dramatic and idealistic hopes for democracy in the Middle East, and an ambitious domestic agenda.


Mr Bush goes on the defensive over US policy in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the Patriot Act, warning of further terrorist attacks on US soil.


Three months before the invasion of Iraq, Mr Bush lambasts Saddam Hussein's " utter contempt for the UN" and warns Iraq could pass weapons of mass destruction to terrorists.


Mr Bush coins the 'Axis of Evil' for those states that his administration suspects of supporting terrorists - Iran, Iraq and North Korea.

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Angry, skeptical Americans unimpressed with State of the Union speech
By Staff and Wire Reports Feb 1, 2006

"The man is a crook," she said. "He belongs in jail, not the White House."

Seems to be the general concensus.
Americans reacted with skepticism and anger at President Bush's fifth State of the Union address Tuesday night, reflecting a national mood that reflects serious reservations about the controversial war in Iraq, revelations about the administration's secret domestic spying program, and missteps following Hurricane Katrina.

At an Uptown neighborhood bar in New Orleans, both Republicans and Democrats paused to watch with at least one common hope: Rebuilding the Gulf Coast will be a top issue for the federal government.

But neither Tom Short, 75, a Republican and a Korean War veteran, nor attorney Todd Hebert, 38, a Democrat, found much to cheer about in Bush's address.

After Bush mentioned the Gulf Coast in one or two sentences deep into his speech, Short exclaimed, "Did I miss something? I think that's a crying shame."

Hebert was just as dismayed. Throughout the speech, he had been looking at his watch to see how long it would take Bush to mention the wrecked area.

"We are some of the most devastated people in a country right now and we're really feeling left behind. And that speech did nothing to make us not feel left behind."

In Souwest Ohio, the president's description of the economy as "healthy, and vigorous, and growing" didn't sit well with one auto worker, where the financial troubles of General Motors Corp. and parts supplier Delphi Corp. have been keenly felt.

"As an auto worker, no, it's not going OK, because we're losing a lot of jobs," said 49-year-old Dave Shores as Bush's speech competed with classic rock and the crack of pool balls at the Upper Deck Tavern in this Dayton suburb.

Blue jeans and black leather jackets are the fashion of choice at a modest bar in Moraine, which has NASCAR posters on its walls, drifting cigarette smoke and sits in the shadow of a GM plant that cranks out SUVs.

Shores is a union member and registered Democrat who has worked for 30 years at auto parts supplier Delphi, which filed for bankruptcy last year. He said his plant employed 4,000 people a few years ago, but now has just 1,500.

"Can I blame that on George Bush? No, not all of it," he said, before noting that Bush's policies have made it easier for American companies to move jobs overseas.

"George Bush has helped open those gates to let them go," Shores said.

At a private home tucked in a quiet neighborhood in central Orange County, California, about two dozen people gathered to watch over tacos and potato chips.

Julie Carlson, 29-year-old social worker, said she felt "negative" about the overall state of the nation. She said her biggest concern was bringing home U.S. troops from Iraq and had grown more uneasy with the conflict as time passed.

"I don't understand the true reasons for why we're there and I feel like we were mislead. There doesn't seem to be any rational," said Carlson, a Democrat.

Carlson also said she was concerned about health care and Medicare reform because she works primarily with senior citizens. "There seems to be every week something that comes up, something I don't agree with or something that disheartens me," she said.

In Richmond, VA, Bush did nothing to calm the fears of Anne Jowaisas, a 38-year-old nanny who identified herself as an independent and voted for John Kerry in 2004.

"In terms of his speech, it was a good speech and he delivered it pretty strongly," said Jowaisas. "But I had a lot of skepticism what he had to say."

She said that Bush's plan to reduce the deficit by 2009 by cutting programs raised plenty of questions, asking, "how is all this going to balance out?"

Jowaisas said that despite the president's low approval ratings, the country "is going in a Bush direction" and believes the religious right has too much influence in Washington, D.C.

"It's not a democracy anymore. It's special interest groups," she said.

As a retired accountant and a World War II veteran, Joe Benavidez of Albuquerque, NM, has two big worries on his mind: the national budget and the war in Iraq.

"The nation is going broke. We get into debt every day with this war," said Benavidez, 84. "Veterans are not going to get what they want or what they need. They're going to cut veteran benefits. They're going to cut welfare, lots of things."

When it came to Bush talking about reducing the deficit by 2009, Benavidez gave a slight chuckle. He said he's heard that promise before by past presidents with no results.

"He wants to cut taxes and do good on the deficit? How do you do that? He'll cut a lot of programs -- programs people need. Talk is cheap," he said.

In St. Louis, MO, Diana Jenkins watched the speech in a downtown bar and wasn't impressed.

"The man is a crook," she said. "He belongs in jail, not the White House."

© Copyright 2006 by Capitol Hill Blue

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State of the Union: When Bush Talks Straight
Village Voice January 31st, 2006

Speaking before Congress on September 20, 2001, President Bush directly addressed the people of Afghanistan:

"I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the world. We respect your faith. It's practiced freely by many millions of Americans, and by millions more in countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah. The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself. The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends; it is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports them.

"Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated."

On October 7, 2001, President Bush announced that the U.S. military had begun bombing Afghanistan.

In his State of the Union address on January 28, 2003, Bush directly addressed the people of Iraq:

"And tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq: Your enemy is not surrounding your country -- your enemy is ruling your country. And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation."

On March 20, 2003, the U.S. military began bombing Iraq.

And in Tuesday's State of the Union address, Bush directly addressed the people of Iran:

"And tonight, let me speak directly to the citizens of Iran: America respects you, and we respect your country. We respect your right to choose your own future and win your own freedom. And our nation hopes one day to be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran."

The scorekeeping is easy: Three direct addresses, two wars. It's the predicting—will the U.S. take on Tehran and its nuclear ambitions?—that's hard.

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State of the Union: Why Those Terrorists Got Away - Bush skips uncomfortable details on wiretap program
Village Voice January 31st, 2006

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Bush defended his NSA domestic spy program, citing the failure to catch two of the 9-11 hijackers who had been placing international calls to al Qaeda leadership in the days before the attacks.

But as James Ridgeway wrote in December, the problem wasn't that no U.S. intelligence agents knews of the hijackers, but rather that no one did anything with the information the U.S. had.
Wiretaps: Two Who Got Away - President Bush— unawares?— trumpets botched case
by James Ridgeway
December 19th, 2005 2:00 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C.—When President Bush acknowledged ordering the National Security Agency to intercept domestic phone communications between terrorists here and terrorists abroad, he gave as an example the activities of two hijackers who lived in the U.S. prior to the attacks.

"As the 9-11 Commission pointed out, it was clear that terrorists inside the United States were communicating with terrorists abroad before the Sept. 11 attacks,’’ Bush said in his radio broadcast on Saturday. "Two of the terrorist hijackers who flew a jet into the Pentagon, Nawaf al-Hamzi and Khalid al-Mihdar, communicated while they were in the United States, to other members of al Qaeda who were overseas. But we didn’t know they were here until it was too late."

The president left out an essential part of the story. Al-Hamzi and al-Mihdar were known to the CIA, and al-Mihdar, a veteran who had fought for al Qaeda in Bosnia and Chechnya, was living in an al Qaeda safe house in Yemen in 1999-2000. The NSA, through an intercept on this house, learned that al Qaeda would have an important secret meeting in Kuala Lumpur in January 2000, and that al-Mihdar was going to it.

The CIA promptly put al-Mihdar under surveillance, but lost him on the way to Malaysia. There he met up with al-Hamzi. The CIA knew this meeting was important, but didn’t bug it. Agents did spot al-Hamzi and al-Mihdar and another man getting on a plane for Bangkok, but lost them.

The two hijackers easily entered the U.S. and settled in San Diego. By this time, the CIA and NSA had gathered sufficient information on the two to connect them to the African embassy bombings, the attack on the USS Cole, and to Bin Laden himself, according to the Congressional Joint investigation. The Joint Inquiry Report of the Congress found there were at least three occasions when these two should have been put on the State Department’s watch list along with those for INS and Customs.

In San Diego, the two men lived openly, obtained Social Security cards,drivers’s licenses and credit cards. They had contact with a leader of the Saudi community who would be exposed as a possible conduit for money for the hijackings. They moved into an apartment rented to them by Abdussattar Shaikh, an Indian-born Muslim and paid FBI informant charged with monitoring that city’s Saudi population. All of this either never got to the FBI or got buried in its files. (For a detailed chronology of the Shaikh matter, see Paul Thompson’s 9- 11 Timeline.

Al-Hamzi and al-Mihdar eventually left to take up attack positions in the East.

That saga is bad enough. But when the Congressional Joint Inquiry sought to question the FBI informant in San Diego, the Bureau refused to make him available. FBI officials would not accept a subpoena for the informant’s testimony, and they moved him to a undisclosed location. Meetings between top FBI and Justice officials with leaders of the Congressional inquiry came to naught.

So in defending his program of wiretapping phones without a court warrant, President Bush may have unwittingly used an example that shows not the lack of American spy information—but rather illustrates the incompetence of top officials in his own administration to act on it.

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Gore Vidal Delivers State of the Union: "Let the Powers That Be Know There is Something Called We the People of the U.S. and all Sovereignty Rests in Us."
January 31st, 2006

In advance of President Bush’s state of the union address later tonight, author Gore Vidal delivers his own traditional state of the union address.
Today, the 31st of January, in the hallowed year, election year, of ’06, could be a memorable day if we all do our part, which is simply to concentrate, among other things, and do perhaps what a couple of groups have decided would be useful for the President, I guess his State of the Union. We might give him some idea of our state, which is one of great dissatisfaction with him and his regime. And there's talk of perhaps demonstrating in front of the Capitol or here or there around the country to show that the union is occupied by people who happen to be patriots. And patriots do not like this government.

This is an unpatriotic government. This is a government that deals openly in illegalities, whether it is attacking a country which has done us no harm, two countries -- Iraq and Afghanistan -- because we now believe, not in declaring war through Congress as the Constitution requires, but through the President. ‘Well, I think there are some terrorists over there, and I think we got to bomb them, huh? We'll bomb them.’ Now, we’ve had idiots as presidents before. He's not unique. But he's certainly the most active idiot that we have ever had.

And now here we are planning new wars, ongoing wars in the Middle East. And so as he comes with his State of the Union, which he is going to justify eavesdropping without judicial warrants on anybody in the United States that he wants to listen in on. This is what we call dictatorship. Dictatorship. Dictatorship. And it is time that we objected. Don't say wait ‘til the next election and do it through that. We can't trust the elections, thanks to Diebold and S&S and all the electronic devices which are being flogged across the country to make sure that elections can be so rigged that the villains will stay in power.

I think demonstrations across the country could be very useful on this famous Tuesday. Just say no. We've had enough of you. Go home to Crawford. We'll help you raise the money for a library, and you won't even ever have to read a book. We're not cruel. We just want to get rid of you and let you be an ex-president with his own library, which you can fill up with friends of yours who can neither read nor write, but they'll be well served and well paid, we hope, by corporate America, which will love you forever.

So I think it is really up to us to give some resonance to the State of the Union, which will be largely babble. He's not going really try to do anything about Social Security, we read in the papers. He has no major moves, other than going on and on about the legality of his illegal warrantless eavesdroppings and other breakings of the law.

I had a piece on the internet some of you may have seen a few days ago, and there's a story about Tiberius, who’s one of my favorite Roman emperors. He's had a very bad press, because the wrong people perhaps have written history. But when he became emperor, the Senate of Rome sent him congratulations with the comment, “Any law that you want us to pass, we shall do so automatically.” And he sent a message back. He said, “This is outrageous! Suppose I go mad. Suppose I don't know what I'm doing. Suppose I'm dead and somebody is pretending to be me. Never do that! Never accept something like preemptive war,” which luckily the Senate did not propose preemptive wars against places they didn't like. But Mr. Bush has done that.

So this is a sort of Tiberius time without, basically, a good emperor, and he was a good emperor in the sense that he sent back this legislation, which was to confirm anything he wanted to have done automatically. And they sent it back to him again. And then he said, “How eager you are to be slaves,” and washed his hands of the Senate and went to live in Capri, a much wiser choice, just as we can send this kid back to Crawford, Texas, where he'll be very, very happy cutting bushes of the leafy variety.

You know, it’s at a time when people say, ‘Well, it makes no difference what we do, you know, if we march and we make speeches, and this and that.’ It makes a lot of difference if millions of Americans just say, “We are fed up! We don't like you. We don't like what you're doing to the country and what you have done to the country. We don't like to live in a lawless land, where the rule of law has just been bypassed and hacks are appointed to the federal bench, who will carry on and carry on and carry on all of the illegalities which are so desperately needed by our military-industrial corporate masters.”

I think a day dedicated to that and to just showing up here and there around the country will be a good thing to do. And so, let the powers that be know that back of them, there's something called "We the people of the United States,” and all sovereignty rests in us, not in the board rooms of the Republicans.

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Empty Rhetoric from a Vacuous Presidency
by Anthony Wade 1 Feb 06

It is not that the emperor has no clothes; just that he has no credibility left. It often gets so disheartening to cut through the plethora of misdirection and subterfuge in the speeches of George W. Bush. This State of the Union contained more of the same from Bush that we have heard over the past years. Unfortunately, most of his rhetoric does not match his record. You must understand as citizens that it is time to hold this president to his record, not his word.

The Rule of Law – President Bush tonight looked America in the eye, and lied. There is no other way to state his ridiculous position on the NSA spying scandal.
Bush stated that previous presidents had used this power but this is patently false.

In the past, president’s have used the authority to wiretap FOREIGN individuals, NOT Americans.

He further stated that he had the statutory authority to engage in the wiretapping but this is also untrue. He appears to be basing his authority on the Congressional mandate to have him pursue the war on terror.

Congresspersons from both sides of the aisle have denounced this notion is absurd. The fact is that Bush was not given any such mandate to bypass congressional oversight and violate the federal law.

Lastly, to further justify this illegal activity, the president made the erroneous claim that if this wiretapping had existed prior to 9-11, we would have been able to prevent two of the hijackers and possibly thwarted that horrible day.

Playing upon the fear and sadness of a nation, Bush grossly misrepresented the truth on this matter. We knew about these two terrorists prior to 9-11 and it has already been confirmed that it was bureaucratic problems that prevented their detention. Bush himself was also briefed on the al Qaeda’s plans, but went on vacation.

The larger issue though on this point as well as all of Bush’s rhetoric in regards to the NSA spy scandal, is that no one is suggesting al Qaeda spying should be shut down, just that Bush should follow the law.

Prior to the Bush administration, there were over 19,000 requests to the secret FISA court for wiretaps and only FIVE were denied. This court also allows a president to start a wiretap and seek court approval within 36 hours.

No, there is no excuse for why this president chose to violate the federal law and then brag about it to the nation. Faced with the mounting criticism Bush is left with no choice but to wrap up his illegal spying in 9-11 and pray that America falls for it again.

The Economy – Never one to be bothered with facts, the president proceeded to parrot the right-wing talking points about the economy being somehow “robust”. Nonsense.

Job growth under Bush remains the lowest since World War II.

Bush likes to talk about the tax cuts as being helpful, without addressing the fact that the deficits they create negate any potential gains. Further, they are grossly skewed to the richest Americans, a revival of the failed Reagonomics, or “trickle-down” economics, which Bush’s father once correctly referred to as “voodoo economics.” The fact is that rich people do not become rich by giving their money to the poor.

Bush insisted again tonight to make these irresponsible tax cuts permanent, but did not mention that would cost this country 3.4 trillion more dollars over the next ten years. The Urban Institute-Brookings Institution Tax Policy Center has summed up the effect of making these unfair cuts permanent as such, “If Bush’s tax cuts are made permanent, the top one percent of households will gain an average of $71,420 a year when the tax cuts are fully in effect. By contrast, people in the middle of the income spectrum would secure average tax cuts of just $870.” The Bush folks will scream class warfare when presented with these facts. Nonsense again. These are the numbers period, they do not lie.

Real people know this economy is not growing. The jobs touted by the president tonight still are not enough to stem the tide of a collapsing economy. The jobs created today are not comparable to those created in administration’s past and the cost of healthcare has risen to unaffordable rates. Faced with these sobering facts, the president chose to face America tonight and tell you that you are mistaken; the economy is doing just fine. This despite the poverty rate increasing each year under Bush with 12.7% of the population living in poverty today.

Corruption – The president tonight spoke tough on corruption. Nice sound bites to placate a public he thinks will continue to buy the snake oil he sells. The facts are that his administration has repeatedly stalled investigations into the Katrina aftermath, has not cooperated with the Plamegate CIA leak scandal, and not been forthcoming about his own involvement with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. There is a culture of corruption in the Republican Party and Bush is the leader of that culture. His regime has seen cronyism at nauseating levels, which directly resulted in the Katrina aftermath and the loss of life that ensued. Again, it is about saying the right things for the camera, and then having Scott McClellan say “no comment” the next day. America is weary of this nonsense.

Education – Only this president would have the hubris to trumpet his commitment to education only three weeks after he sliced 14 billion from Pell Grants and has devastated the federal student loan program. You must realize that when President Bush brags about cutting programs, these are often vital services that the neediest in this country need. There are real people behind the cuts. His No Child Left Behind initiative has been massively under-funded, leading most localities to speak out against it. This president remains a massive failure on education. His fiscal year 2006 budget called for the first reduction in education spending in a decade.

There were so many other issues tonight the president was misleading on. As well as issues not even addressed like the environment and the growing problems with his failed Medicare prescription drug catastrophe. The numbers however, bear out what this president stands for. In dealing with his war and national security President Bush used the word “terror” nineteen times and “democracy” only three times. A telling statistic for the president who sells himself as a champion of democracy, but only sells us fear. What I am left with however to truly capture this administration is what happened before the president walked into the room. Cindy Sheehan was arrested and removed from the gallery in handcuffs. Cindy Sheehan, who gave the life of her son to this country and was an invited guest of her local Congresswoman, was dragged out of the people’s house in chains. Why? Because she had the temerity to wear a tee shirt that read, “2245, How Many More?” The shirt referenced the amount of dead American soldiers in Iraq. When smiling pretty for the cameras, Bush can’t allow the truth to interfere with the rhetoric of a vacuous presidency that no longer has the credibility to sell us the snake oil we are no longer buying. Don’t hold him to his word America, hold him to his actions.

Anthony Wade, a contributing writer to opednews.com, is dedicated to educating the populace to the lies and abuses of the government. He is a 37-year-old independent writer from New York with political commentary articles seen on multiple websites. A Christian progressive and professional Rehabilitation Counselor working with the poor and disabled, Mr. Wade believes that you can have faith and hold elected officials accountable for lies and excess. Anthony Wade’s Archive: Email Anthony: takebacktheus@gmail.com

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State of the Union: Agitated
By RON FOURNIER AP Political Writer February 1, 2006

``Fellow citizens, we have been called to leadership in a period of consequence. We have entered a great ideological conflict we did nothing to invite,'' Bush said. ``We see great changes in science and commerce that will influence all our lives. And sometimes it can seem that history is turning a wide arc, toward an unknown shore.''

The problem for Bush is that few of these troubles are new. He's had four years to ease people's pain.
WASHINGTON (AP) - The state of the union is fretful. President Bush acknowledged the public's agitated state Tuesday night when he gave voice to growing concerns about the course of the nation he has led for five years.

His credibility no longer the asset it once was, the president begged Americans' indulgence for another chance to fix things.

There is no shortage: the Iraq war, global terrorism, a nuclear Iran, a stingy global economy, skyrocketing health care costs, troubled U.S. schools, rising fuel costs, looming budget deficits and government corruption. All received presidential attention Tuesday night.

In his fifth State of the Union address, Bush sought to balance his usual optimistic message with an odd-fitting acknowledgment that many Americans are suffering beneath a crush of change.

``Fellow citizens, we have been called to leadership in a period of consequence. We have entered a great ideological conflict we did nothing to invite,'' Bush said. ``We see great changes in science and commerce that will influence all our lives. And sometimes it can seem that history is turning a wide arc, toward an unknown shore.''

Unknown and uneasy.

The problem for Bush is that few of these troubles are new. He's had four years to ease people's pain.

Nearly 46 million Americans have no health insurance, up nearly a million in the last year. Health care costs are increasing three or four times the rate of inflation.

One of Bush's first successes of his presidency was the 2002 No Child Left Behind, but parents still wonder about the quality of education in their schools. For the first time in generations, American children could face poorer prospects than their parents and grandparents did.

Calling for less dependency on foreign oil is a State of the Union evergreen. Bush has done so in every address.

The president who promised to be a uniter, not a divider, has presided over the hyper-polarization of Washington.

Osama bin Laden has not been caught.

Weapons of mass destruction were not found in Iraq.

Victory in that war seems elusive, with more than 2,240 American troops killed - and counting.

The solutions Bush offered were relatively small-bore and wrapped in familiar language: tax cuts, health savings accounts, alternative energy research and investments in education to help keep America competitive with emerging democracies; and a stay-the-course approach to fighting terrorism.

In a preview of his November election strategy, Bush accused foreign policy critics of ``defeatism.'' He also took a jab at critics in his own party on immigration and trade.

Bush's goal in the address was to acknowledge the public's concerns, and if not solve their every problem, assure them he will try to do better.

``He's learned that the election is over - and now he's free to acknowledge that course change doesn't necessarily mean a mistake,'' said Republican consultant Rich Galen.

Bush spoke of the global economy and suggested that competitors like China and India are making gains on the United States. ``This creates an uncertainty, which makes it easier to feed people's fears.''

He said violent crime, abortions and teenage pregnancies are down in an era that has seen Americans take more responsibility - ``a revolution of conscience'' he called it. ``Yet many Americans, especially parents, still have deep concerns about the direction of our culture, and the health of our basic institutions,'' he said.

The mood of the nation is unsettled. Nearly 7 of 10 American believes the country is headed in the wrong direction. Bush's job approval ratings are among the lowest of his presidency.

At the core of his political problems is his loss of credibility. Most voters believed he was a strong and principled leader in 2004, leading many to support him despite their opposition to the Iraq war and a sluggish economy.

They are no longer giving him the benefit of the doubt.

The proportion of Americans who credit the president with being honest and straightforward has fallen, as has the percentage who credit him for strong leadership qualities.

Democrats hope those numbers don't change after Bush's address. ``It's an attempt to make himself healthy before the mid-terms,'' said Democratic strategies Dane Strother. Americans may be anxious, he said, ``but they're not dumb.''

EDITOR'S NOTE: Ron Fournier has covered the White House and politics for The Associated Press since 1992.
Comment: The problem with these kinds of analyses is that they don't take into account the pathology of a man like Bush. If he wasn't born a psychopath, he was certainly made one by his psychopathic mother, "Sergeant Barbara."

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Arianna on S.O.T.U.
Arianna Huffington Huffingtonpost.com

Let's take some of these gems as they come...

17 mentions of "freedom" from the guy obsessed with assaulting it here at home.

Did you notice the president had on a purple tie tonight? Very subtle. He could have come up with a purple finger or maybe covered head-to-toe in purple paint.

We also heard him mention "weapons of mass murder". WMM. That's apparently the new WMD.

The president also brought back that old chestnut, the line item veto. This from a man who has yet to veto a single bill. In over five years in office. I guess the line item veto was this year's voyage to Mars.

One of the most heart-warming moments came when Joe Lieberman kissed W. even longer than he did at last year's speech. A salute to "Brokeback Mountain," I guess.
Twenty mentions of "hope" or "hopeful".. which I guess is a shout out to the 58% of Americans who disapprove of him - and who can look hope for the day when we no longer have to listen to him.

Wow, trying to equate "staying the course" in Iraq with Lincoln fighting slavery, Martin Luther King not stopping in Birmingham or Selma, and American surrendering Europe to Communism. Chutzpah, indeed!

I love that the biggest applause line of the night was an unintentional one, the spontaneous clapping that followed his mention of the fact that Congress hadn't acted on his Social Security plan. Bush looked flustered, unsure how to respond. Sitting next to me was actor (and HuffPost blogger) Paul Hipp who said: "Next time I want a president who can improv!"

I'm pretty sure this was the first State of the Union speech with the words "wood chips" and "switch grass,"...but, of course, even those were surrounded by lies, too.

"So we strive to be a compassionate, decent, hopeful society."

It's the Return of the "C" word. Compassion. Too bad Katrina wasn't spelled C-A-T-R-I-N-A

Lots of talk about isolationism (indeed 5 mentions of either "isolationism", "isolating", or "isolation"). He is clearly afraid that the American DNA is so solidly against imperial adventures that protecting the U.S. homeland first is going to become a huge populist issue if only some Democrat would take it up. He calls it "isolationism", we call it minding our own business and there are millions of us in the red states, too.

"Our economy is healthy, and vigorous, and growing faster than other major industrialized nations."

Don't believe the hype. Yes, the GDP grew 3.5 percent in 2005 (though it was only up 1.1 percent in the last quarter). And, yes, productivity is up. But median wages fell, our trade deficit is over $760 billion (80 percent higher than when you took office), inflation is at 3.4 percent, the highest it's been in half-a-decade, and the gap between the Two Nations is wider than ever. Not exactly figures to crow about.

The President just delivered the biggest lie of the speech, claiming a "clear plan for victory" in Iraq. I think I even saw Hastert do a spit take on that one.

"If we were to leave these vicious attackers alone, they would not leave us alone. They would simply move the battlefield to our own shores."

Ah, yes.. the Flypaper strategy: Fight 'em over there, so we won't have to fight 'em over here. But Osama seems intent on moving the battlefield to our shores whether we're in Iraq or not.

"In this decisive year, you and I will make choices that determine both the future and the character of our country. We will choose to act confidently in pursuing the enemies of freedom - or retreat from our duties in the hope of an easier life."

Whoever asked for an easier life? Just the opposite, we've been waiting to be asked to sacrifice -- to help fight the war on terror, to help break our dependence on foreign oil. But the only thing this president has asked us to do is go shopping and go to Disney World. Of course, he has asked for the sacrifice of the troops who have had to go into battle under prepared and under equipped.

"The only way to protect our people ... the only way to secure the peace ... the only way to control our destiny is by our leadership - so the United States of America will continue to lead."

And by leading, he means doing whatever the hell we want, whenever we want... the scorn of the rest of the world be damned.

"Abroad, our Nation is committed to an historic, long-term goal - we seek the end of tyranny in our world... the future security of America depends on it."

Ah, a return to the soaring rhetoric of his inaugural speech. Rhetoric he conveniently forgets about when dealing with those he wants to do business with like the Chinese government.

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Gonzales Is Challenged on Wiretaps - Feingold Says Attorney General Misled Senators in Hearings
By Carol D. Leonnig Washington Post Staff Writer Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) charged yesterday that Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales misled the Senate during his confirmation hearing a year ago when he appeared to try to avoid answering a question about whether the president could authorize warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens.
In a letter to the attorney general yesterday, Feingold demanded to know why Gonzales dismissed the senator's question about warrantless eavesdropping as a "hypothetical situation" during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in January 2005. At the hearing, Feingold asked Gonzales where the president's authority ends and whether Gonzales believed the president could, for example, act in contravention of existing criminal laws and spy on U.S. citizens without a warrant.

Gonzales said that it was impossible to answer such a hypothetical question but that it was "not the policy or the agenda of this president" to authorize actions that conflict with existing law. He added that he would hope to alert Congress if the president ever chose to authorize warrantless surveillance, according to a transcript of the hearing.

In fact, the president did secretly authorize the National Security Agency to begin warrantless monitoring of calls and e-mails between the United States and other nations soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The program, publicly revealed in media reports last month, was unknown to Feingold and his staff at the time Feingold questioned Gonzales, according to a staff member. Feingold's aides developed the 2005 questions based on privacy advocates' concerns about broad interpretations of executive power.

Gonzales was White House counsel at the time the program began and has since acknowledged his role in affirming the president's authority to launch the surveillance effort. Gonzales is scheduled to testify Monday before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the program's legal rationale.

"It now appears that the Attorney General was not being straight with the Judiciary Committee and he has some explaining to do," Feingold said in a statement yesterday.

A Justice Department spokesman said yesterday the department had not yet reviewed the Feingold letter and could not comment.
Comment: What do you mean, "misled?" Can we say "LIED"?

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NSA Expands, Centralizes Domestic Spying
By William M. Arkin Washington Post 31 Jan 06

The National Security Agency is in the process of building a new warning hub and data warehouse in the Denver area, realigning much of its workforce from Ft. Meade, Maryland to Colorado.

The Denver Post reported last week that NSA was moving some of its operations to the Denver suburb of Aurora.

On the surface, the NSA move seems to be a management and cost cutting measure, part of a post-9/11 decentralization. "This strategy better aligns support to national decision makers and combatant commanders," an NSA spokesman told the Denver paper.

In truth, NSA is aligning its growing domestic eavesdropping operations -- what the administration calls "terrorist warning" in its current PR campaign -- with military homeland defense organizations, as well as the CIA's new domestic operations Colorado.

Translation: Hey Congress, Colorado is now the American epicenter for national domestic spying.
In May, Dana Priest reported here in The Washington Post that the CIA was planning to shift much of its domestic operations to Aurora, Colorado.

The move of the CIA's National Resources Division was then described as being undertaken "for operational reasons."

The Division is responsible for exploiting the knowledge of U.S. citizens and foreigners in the United States who might have unique information about foreign countries and terrorist activities. The functions extend from engaging Iraqi or Iranian Americans in covert operations to develop information and networks in their home countries to recruiting foreign students and visitors to be American spies.

Aurora is already a reconnaissance satellite downlink and analytic center focusing on domestic warning. The NSA and CIA join U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) in Colorado. NORTHCOM is post 9/11 the U.S. military command responsible for homeland defense.

The new NSA operation is located at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora, at a facility commonly known as the Aerospace Data Facility.

According to Government Executive Magazine -- thanks DP -- "NSA is building a massive data storage facility in Colorado, which will be able to hold the electronic equivalent of the Library of Congress every two days." This new NSA data warehouse is the hub of "data mining" and analysis development, allowing the eavesdropping agency to develop and make better use of the unbelievabytes of data it collects but does not exploit.

Part of the move to Denver, Government Executive reported, was to expand NSA's base of contractors able to support its increasingly complex intelligence extraction mission.

Contracting documents from 2004 and 2005 obtained by this reporter identify numerous Top Secret and compartmented computing and signals intelligence projects being run by prime contractors Lockheed Martin; Northrop Grumman Mission Systems; and Raytheon on behalf of NSA in Colorado to building the domestic warning hub and data warehouse. The projects have the code names DIAZ, Emergejust, Freedom, Highpoint, PASSGEAR, and Viceroy.

Ironically, the only federal agency seemingly absent from the domestic intelligence trifecta is the Department of Homeland Security, perpetually out to lunch.

Note: A free copy of my book Code Names to any reader who can tell me -- in English -- what any of these programs actually do.

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Activist Cindy Sheehan Arrested at Capitol for wearing Anti-Bush Tee Shirt
By LAURIE KELLMAN Associated Press Writer

Police Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said the charge was unlawful conduct.

Schneider said Sheehan had worn a T-shirt with an anti-war slogan to the speech and covered it up until she took her seat. Police warned her that such displays were not allowed, but she did not respond, the spokeswoman said.
Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a fallen soldier in Iraq who reinvigorated the anti-war movement, was arrested and removed from the House gallery Tuesday night just before President Bush's State of the Union address, a police spokeswoman said.

Sheehan, who was invited to attend the speech by Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D- Calif., was charged with demonstrating in the Capitol building, said Capitol Police Sgt. Kimberly Schneider. The charge was later changed to unlawful conduct, Schneider said. Both charges are misdemeanors.

Sheehan was taken in handcuffs from the Capitol to police headquarters a few blocks away. Her case was processed as Bush spoke.

Schneider said Sheehan had worn a T-shirt with an anti-war slogan to the speech and covered it up until she took her seat. Police warned her that such displays were not allowed, but she did not respond, the spokeswoman said.

Police handcuffed Sheehan and removed her from the gallery before Bush arrived. Sheehan was to be released on her own recognizance, Schneider said.

"I'm proud that Cindy's my guest tonight," Woolsey said in an interview before the speech. "She has made a difference in the debate to bring our troops home from Iraq."

Woolsey offered Sheehan a ticket to the speech _ Gallery 5, seat 7, row A _ earlier Tuesday while Sheehan was attending an "alternative state of the union" press conference by CODEPINK, a group pushing for an end to the Iraq war.

Sheehan, wrapped in a bright pink scarf against the cold, protested outside the White House with a handful of others before heading to the Capitol Tuesday evening. There were no cameras around, but the small band faced the executive mansion and repeatedly shouted, "You're evicted! Get out of our house!"

Sheehan was arrested in September with about 300 other anti-war activists in front of the White House after a weekend of protests against the war in Iraq. In August, she spent 26 days camped near Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he was spending a working vacation.
Comment: If anybody doesn't think we are living in a police state, think again.

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George Bush and Cheney have committed high crimes including treason...
Venezuala's Electronic News 28 Jan 06

THE INTERNATIONAL FORECASTER editor Bob Chapman writes: Mssrs. Bush and Cheney have committed the following high crimes including treason:
1. Mssrs. Bush and Cheney lied to Congress and the American people in order to invade Iraq. Thousands of American servicemen and mercenaries have died in this military action against Iraq. Many times that amount of innocent foreigners have died as well. By needlessly casting the US in the role of an aggressor nation, which has already caused the death of thousands of innocent US military personnel, Mssrs. Bush and Cheney have committed treason. This demonstrates that they are nothing more than war criminals like Hitler and Stalin.

2. Mssrs. Bush and Cheney authorized wide-scale illegal wiretaps on US citizens. They believe that having a “war” authorizes any sort of dictatorial abuse of power. These brazen criminals must be impeached, convicted, and removed from office.

3. Mssrs. Bush and Cheney have either condoned or actively encouraged the torture of prisoners of war and other detainees. The Bush Administration has issued many illegal “signing statements” to void the provisions of the new anti-torture law as well as many other laws passed by Congress. These men are usurping the authority of Congress. They must be impeached, convicted, and removed from office.

4. Mssrs. Bush and Cheney are not safeguarding our national borders, which results in massive illegal immigration. Legal immigration is fine. However, allowing illegal immigration is destroying our society by allowing law-breakers to continue lawless behavior within America and by placing a burden on state and local governments. Logic would indicate that sealing our borders would increase the safety and security of our nation, yet the Bush Administration not only doesn’t adequately enforce immigration laws, but also promotes illegal immigration by proposing amnesty for illegal aliens.

5. Mr. Bush has encouraged a coup against Mr. Chavez, the democratically elected president of Venezuela. Venezuela is a key source of petroleum for America. As a result of Mr. Bush’s foolish behavior, Mr. Chavez is seeking Chinese assistance and investment in the Venezuelan oil industry. Mr. Bush's foolish policies have turned the people and countries of Latin America, such as Brazil, against the US.

6. Mssrs. Bush and Cheney pressured Congress into enacting the PATRIOT Act, which violates many provisions of the Bill of Rights. The rights are guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. But it is essential to remember that these rights are not merely privileges given by government, but, as stated in the Declaration of Independence, are actually “inalienable rights” given to us directly by God. The US Constitution was designed to reflect and guarantee these God-given rights. The PATRIOT Act takes away our God-given and constitutionally guaranteed rights. It is the duty and obligation of Congress to repeal any laws that contradict the Bill of Rights. Mr. Bush has violated his oath of office by failing to follow the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

7. Mr. Bush has illegally violated the basic human right of “habeas corpus.” He has detained US citizens without stating the charges for which they are accused. Would-be dictator Bush acts as if he is above the law. Congress must act to preserve the Constitutional rights of all Americans. No one should be allowed to take away these God-given rights. As our representative, you are obligated to protect these rights. You must do it now. This is the most important thing for you to do. Nothing else is significant.

8. Just as the first Roman dictator Julius Caesar violated Roman law by bringing his legions across the Rubicon River into Italy, Mssrs. Bush and Cheney have violated US law by having the US military involved within the interior of the US to engage in domestic law enforcement. This is the behavior of dictators.

9. These two men have committed many other crimes. They have enriched their cronies through exorbitant no-bid contracts. They cannot account for billions of dollars spent by the Defense Department. Through their negligence Mssrs. Bush and Cheney may have been responsible for not preventing the tragic events of September 11. They may even be responsible for instigating the events of September 11 for their own political benefit. There are numerous inconsistencies and unexplained facts to indicate that a thorough and objective investigation has not been performed. It appears that the public is not aware of the true extent of their many crimes. I am ashamed to call these men Americans.

This is a choice of freedom or tyranny ... we as Americans chose to keep freedom. We chose to keep the US Constitution.

We choose to keep the Bill of Rights.

Therefore, we demand that Congress impeach and convict both Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney of high crimes and misdemeanors.

Bob Chapman

P. O. Box 510518, Punta Gorda, FL 33951, USA
Bob Chapman international_forecaster@yahoo.com

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Feds' wiretapping rules challenged in court
By Declan McCullagh Staff Writer, CNET News.com January 27, 2006,

Universities, libraries and technology companies are asking a federal court to block controversial wiretap rules designed to facilitate police surveillance of the Internet.

In a 71-page brief sent to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, they ask the judges to overturn a wiretap ruling from the Federal Communications Commission that applies to "any type of broadband Internet access service" and many Internet phone services.

The Bush administration claims that last year's FCC rules are necessary to make it easier to catch "criminals, terrorists and spies" that would otherwise be able to evade detection.
But the organizations behind the lawsuit say that Congress never intended to force broadband providers--and private networks at corporations and universities--to build in central surveillance hubs for police convenience. The list of organizations includes Sun Microsystems, Pulver.com, the American Association of Community Colleges, the Association of American Universities, and the American Library Association.

"The brief demonstrates the flaws in the FCC's reasoning and strips away any believability that its legal analysis has any validity," said Albert Gidari, a partner at Perkins Coie in Seattle who co-authored the document.

Even without the FCC rules that are scheduled to take effect in spring 2007, police have the legal authority to conduct Internet wiretaps--that's precisely what the FBI's Carnivore system was designed to do. Still, the FBI says, the need for "standardized broadband intercept capabilities is especially urgent in light of today's heightened threats to homeland security and the ongoing tendency of criminals to use the most clandestine modes of communication."

Unlike most lawsuits that are first heard by a judge, a procedural twist sends this one directly to the appeals court. Thursday's filing was expected; the universities and other groups filed a brief notice of appeal on Oct. 24, and now the Justice Department and the FCC will have a chance to submit their responses.

At issue in this case is the scope of a 1994 called the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA. It required telephone companies to rewire their networks and switches--at taxpayer expense--to guarantee police access to features such as extracting touch tones pressed during a call, conference call information, call waiting data, and so on.

Opponents of the FBI's demands argue that Congress explicitly said CALEA would not apply to the Internet. A House of Representatives committee report prepared in October 1994 says CALEA's requirements "do not apply to information services such as electronic-mail services; or online services such as CompuServe, Prodigy, America Online or Mead Data; or to Internet service providers."

According to the brief filed Thursday, the Bush administration is "relying on an interpretation of CALEA that is contrary to the plain meaning of the statute, arbitrary and capricious, and otherwise not in accordance with law."

In an unusual twist, some of the FCC commissioners who unanimously approved the wiretapping rules have acknowledged that the agency was on shaky legal ground. Commissioner Kathleen Abernathy, for instance, said she had "concern that an approach like the one we adopt today is not without legal risk."

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AT&T sued over NSA spy program
By Declan McCullagh Staff Writer, CNET News.com January 31, 2006

AT&T has been named a defendant in a class action lawsuit that claims the telecommunications company illegally cooperated with the National Security Agency's secret eavesdropping program.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in San Francisco's federal district court, charges that AT&T has opened its telecommunications facilities up to the NSA and continues to "to assist the government in its secret surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans."

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which filed the suit, says AT&T's alleged cooperation violates free speech and privacy rights found in the U.S. Constitution and also contravenes federal wiretapping law, which prohibits electronic surveillance "except as authorized by statute."

Kevin Bankston, an EFF staff attorney, said he anticipates that the Bush administration will intervene in the case on behalf of AT&T. "We are definitely going to have a fight with the government and AT&T," he said.
AT&T said Tuesday that it needed to review the complaint before it could respond. But AT&T spokesman Dave Pacholczyk told CNET News.com last week in response to a query about NSA cooperation: "We don't comment on matters of national security."

A Los Angeles Times article dated Dec. 26 quoted an unnamed source as saying the NSA has a "direct hookup" into an AT&T database that stores information about all domestic phone calls, including how long they lasted.

If the Bush administration does intervene, EFF could have a formidable hurdle to overcome: the so-called "state secrets" doctrine.

The state secrets privilege, outlined by the Supreme Court in a 1953 case, permits the government to derail a lawsuit that might otherwise lead to the disclosure of military secrets.

In 1998, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals elaborated on the state secret privilege in a case where former workers at the Air Force's classified Groom Lake, Nev., facility alleged hazardous waste violations. When requested by the workers' lawyers to turn over information, the Air Force refused.

The 9th Circuit upheld a summary judgment on behalf of the Air Force, saying that once the state secrets "privilege is properly invoked and the court is satisfied as to the danger of divulging state secrets, the privilege is absolute" and the case will generally be dismissed.

The Bush administration also is defending a related lawsuit filed earlier this month by the American Civil Liberties Union, that says the surveillance was unconstitutional and illegal.

AT&T has 30 days to file a response, which could include a request that the case be dismissed or a motion for summary judgment.

CNET News.com's Anne Broache contributed to this report

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Bush Broke the Law
by Charley Reese antiwar.com 28 Jan 06

When The New York Times revealed that President George Bush had authorized warrantless surveillance of Americans, the Bush administration reacted in its usual manner: attack and then stage a public-relations campaign.

The attack was in the usual jingoistic mode, implying that both the Times and its source, a whistle-blower at the National Security Agency, were providing aid and comfort to the enemy and undermining the war on terror.

That's garbage, of course. Any terrorist with more than a two-digit IQ knows that the NSA has the means to intercept any electronic communication. Terrorists don't need to read the Times to figure that out.

The reason it is important for the American people to know is because the president appears to have violated both the law and the Constitution. A recent Zogby poll revealed that 52 percent of Americans think that if this is proven to be true, then the president should be impeached. This is a most serious issue.
It goes to the question, Is the president above the law? The answer, if we wish to maintain our free republic, must be no. Hence, the public-relations campaign, which consists of the president and his minions fanning out to make speeches asserting that what he did was both legal and necessary. The operative word is "asserting." An assertion is not a fact. It is merely a claim. What it all boils down to is, "Trust me." The American people have no way of verifying if, in fact, the surveillance is limited to people actually making contact with actual terrorists.

As to the legality, that's plain. What the president did was illegal. Some act does not become legal just because some hired lawyers say it is. The act must be measured against both the law and the Constitution; Bush's act was illegal and unconstitutional.

Some years ago, Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. It sets up a special court that can issue warrants authorizing surveillance of Americans. This court has routinely issued the warrants and even gives the government 72 hours in which it can get a warrant after the fact. In other words, if what Bush says about only surveilling people with known ties to terrorists is true, then he would have had no problem getting the warrants.

Gen. Michael Hayden, now deputy director of national intelligence and former director of the National Security Agency, was trotted out before the press to justify this and, frankly, made a fool of himself. When someone raised the issue of probable cause, the general petulantly denied that the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution requires probable cause. Then he said that the standard is reasonable, and added that nobody was more familiar with the Fourth Amendment than the NSA.

Well, he's dead, flat wrong.

Here's the text of the Fourth Amendment: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

What the Bush administration is saying is, to hell with the Bill of Rights. We are changing the standard. No probable cause and no oaths or affirmations are needed. All that is needed is if we personally decide that search and seizure is reasonable. By that standard, no police department in the U.S. would need to bother with search warrants.

Sorry, but the Constitution cannot be amended by arrogant public officials who don't wish to bother with it. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land, and if the American people allow it to be violated at will, then they will deserve the loss of liberty that will surely follow. We do not need to become a dictatorship just to catch terrorists. Nor does a declaration of war (which Bush, by the way, doesn't have) suspend the Constitution.

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The Real Danger of Presidential Spying
Jurist 1 Feb 06

JURIST Guest Columnist Brian J. Foley of Florida Coastal School of Law says that the greatest threat posed by President Bush's domestic surveillance program is not to the privacy of ordinary Americans but rather to the independence of potential political rivals, journalists, and activists who would balance, constrain or oppose executive power...

"The virtually undetectable abuses that can result from presidential spying pose an enormous and immediate threat to the viability of our government. Although the issue generally has been framed as a legal issue, perhaps to be decided ultimately by the Supreme Court – while the present administration continues surveillance under its more than four-year-old program – we must recognize that presidential spying is first and foremost a political issue. Congress should not wait for the courts to determine whether the president has broken the law but should act immediately to stop the spying – before this or any future president renders his opponents too scared to do anything but submit to his will."
Most of the complaints about President Bush authorizing NSA phone taps without a warrant focus on the ethereal right to privacy, such as when the New York Times editorialized against spying on “ordinary Americans", and the ACLU warned, “Just knowing that the government is spying without cause on innocent Americans sends a chilling message to all of us that our conversations are not our own.” The predominant fear seems to be that people who have nothing to do with terrorism might be mistaken for terrorists and subjected to intrusive surveillance. This is the thrust of the lawsuits that the ACLU [PDF complaint] and the Center for Constitutional Rights [PDF complaint] have filed to stop the spying.

The most important issue is not, however, whether people feel comfortable talking on the phone or sending emails. The real danger is that electronic surveillance can be used to increase and solidify executive power. A president can collect private information not simply about “ordinary Americans,” but extra-ordinary ones – political rivals, journalists, and activists – and use this information against them. After all, if a president is convinced he is right, he may well view those who disagree with him as dangerous and believe it’s legitimate to use any means available to stop them.

Americans were treated to an extensive description of such abuse 30 years ago, in the aftermath of President Nixon’s harassment of political enemies. A Senate committee chaired by Senator Frank Church of Idaho focused on the activities of several administrations and revealed that officials spied to learn opponents’ plans and to stay a step ahead, to feed opponents’ private information to the press to discredit them, and to blackmail them.

The danger that information gathered through the Bush Administration’s ongoing surveillance program could be used in this way was recently raised by former CIA analyst Ray McGovern in a recent Counterpunch article. Unfortunately, this danger has not yet become a part of our national discussion. It should be. McGovern asks, for example, whether the president could hypothetically use private information to blackmail Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) into deciding not to hold Judiciary Committee hearings to investigate presidential spying.

The danger is even more frightening, however, than McGovern’s brief example suggests. Let’s amplify his point and look at a few other scenarios showing how even a well-intentioned president, believing that he’s acting in the national interest, could neutralize opponents:

* A Senate vote on a controversial presidential appointee is coming up. Administration officials rummage through taped calls from the homes of the politicians who might vote against their nominee. They discover that – take your pick – one of the opponents: has a serious health problem he’s trying to hide; is having an extramarital affair; is in psychotherapy; has a spouse brokering less-than-kosher commercial deals; has a daughter who just had an abortion (perhaps unbeknownst to her parents). Someone from the Administration casually informs the opponent that this bombshell could be publicized if the opponent “pushes too hard” against the nominee. The opponent might simply ask easy questions of the nominee at Senate hearings, or let him off the hook when the questioning gets intense.

* An investigative reporter digs up controversial, perhaps even illegal, activities by the Administration. Administration wiretapping reveals that the reporter has nothing to hide – but that one of the editors at the newspaper the reporter writes for does. A short phone call mentioning the private matter and asking for “cooperation” in dealing with the reporter works wonders. The story never runs. Or, it runs long after it can do any serious harm, such as after an election.

* A candidate is running against the president in an election … Instead of publicly revealing anything scandalous and causing him to quit the race, the president simply lets him know that, well, he knows. The president doesn’t let the rival quit but keeps him in the race, hobbled, afraid of disclosure. Result: He won’t campaign very hard against the president. He won’t challenge close election results.

It would be almost impossible for the administration to get caught: it’s doubtful that the targeted politician or editor would run to the police, or convene a press conference to announce, “The president has threatened to tell you all that I have a drug problem.” The public might wonder why its politicians and journalists aren’t fighting harder or asking tougher questions, but people – if they notice at all – may simply dismiss the apparent lassitude as “spinelessness.”

So why isn’t the danger that the president could easily blackmail opponents part of our national discussion of the spy program? Perhaps it’s too frightening to contemplate. History, however, says that we must take a hard-nosed look at how people with particular motivations are likely to act when they have the means and opportunity. The words of the Church Committee’s report bear repeating:

Electronic surveillance of persons involved in the domestic political process, such as Congressmen, lobbyists, and Congressional aides, also raises special problems. Information is often the key to power; and the ability of high executive officials to use electronic surveillance to obtain information about their political opponents can give the President and his aides enormous influence. Apart from violating the rights of the surveillance targets, wiretapping and bugging on behalf of the President's political interests destroys the Constitutional system of checks and balances designed to limit the exercise of arbitrary power.

Electronic surveillance has been used to serve the interests of Presidents in almost every political arena; it has been a resource for executive power that has tempted administrations of both political parties. Officials succumbed to the temptation with a consistency which demonstrates the immense danger of vesting authority over the use of such techniques solely within the Executive Branch.

Senate Select Comm. to Study Governmental Operations With Respect to Intelligence Activities, Final Report: Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans, S. Rep. No. 755, 94th Cong., 2d Sess., Bk. III, Pt. VII (A)(4) (1976)

The virtually undetectable abuses that can result from presidential spying pose an enormous and immediate threat to the viability of our government. Although the issue generally has been framed as a legal issue, perhaps to be decided ultimately by the Supreme Court – while the present administration continues surveillance under its more than four-year-old program – we must recognize that presidential spying is first and foremost a political issue. Congress should not wait for the courts to determine whether the president has broken the law but should act immediately to stop the spying – before this or any future president renders his opponents too scared to do anything but submit to his will.
Comment: SOTT has been saying this from the beginning - and when we see how the Democrats laid down for Alito, we can easily understand why: Bush was spying for a long time... on who???

Of course, that raises the question of why we have dirty people in Congress to begin with?

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Fox follows Bush's lead, renames domestic spying program as "terrorist surveillance program"
Tue, Jan 31, 2006 1:06pm EST Media Matters

Fox News has adopted the Bush administration's terminology for its warrantless domestic spying program, calling it the "terrorist surveillance program."
Not long after the Bush administration adopted new rhetoric to describe its warrantless domestic surveillance program, Fox News reporters and anchors began using the White House's terminology, referring to it as a "terrorist surveillance program." Beginning on January 25 -- during a week that saw the administration go on the offensive to promote its practice of spying on U.S. residents without obtaining warrants -- Fox News began slipping the term, without qualification, into its news reports and commentary. For example, reporter Harris Faulkner, on the January 25 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, used the term during a news brief when she noted that " '[s]trange and farfetched' ... is what New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is calling President Bush's defense of his terror surveillance program."

During what many in the media have described as the White House's weeklong "blitz" to foster support for the wiretapping program, on the January 24 edition of the Fox News morning show, Fox & Friends, co-hosts E.D. Hill and Steven Doocy used the term "terrorist surveillance program" while discussing the president's January 23 Kansas State University speech in which he began using the term publicly. Hill and Doocy concurred that the White House's terminology "sounds better" and "is more accurate" -- presumably than other descriptions of the program, such as "domestic spy program," "warrantless wiretapping" and "NSA domestic surveillance program." The following day on Fox & Friends First, Doocy and co-host Brian Kilmeade announced their intention to refer to the program as "the terrorist surveillance program."

On January 22, the White House Press press office released a backgrounder -- called "Setting the Record Straight" -- on the NSA spy program, in which the term "terrorist surveillance program" appeared 10 times in reference to the NSA's controversial practice, authorized by the White House, of the warrantless surveillance of people in the United States, including U.S. citizens. The term "terrorist surveillance program" appears to have originated with the right-wing news website NewsMax.com on December 22; operators of right-wing weblogs began to pick up the term on January 20, according to a timeline at the Think Progress blog.

As Media Matters for America has noted, Fox also followed the White House's lead in replacing the terms "suicide bomber" and "suicide bombing" with "homicide bomber" and "homicide bombing" to describe attackers who kill themselves and others with explosives. On April 12, 2002, then-White House press secretary Ari Fleisher adopted the term, and Fox News immediately followed suit in its reporting. According to an April 13, 2002, Associated Press report, "Dennis Murray, executive producer of [Fox News'] daytime programming, said executives there had heard the phrase ["homicide bombing"] being used by administration officials in recent days and thought it was a good idea." In a February 23, 2005, item, Media Matters documented Fox's doctoring of AP articles featured on the Fox News website concerning terrorist attacks in the Middle East to conform to Bush administration terminology -- even altering a quote from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) to fit the White House jargon.

Initially, when using the phrase, "terrorist surveillance program", Fox News reporters and anchors noted that it was the term promoted by the Bush administration. For example, on January 23 broadcast of Your World with Neil Cavuto news update anchor Uma Pemmaraju highlighted the switch:

PEMMARAJU: President Bush on the offensive against critics of domestic wiretapping in the war on terror. The president, speaking at Kansas State University, relabeled his effort the "terrorist surveillance program." He says it was within the law to eavesdrop on people communicating with Al Qaeda associates outside the U.S. after 9-11.

But beginning January 25, use of the phrase began to appear in Fox News reports without any indication that the White House has promoted it.

From Faulkner's news brief during the January 25 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

FAULKNER: "Strange and far-fetched," that's what New York Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton is calling President Bush's defense of his terror surveillance program. For example, President Bush has said Congress gave him the authority as part of a terror fight resolution passed after 9-11. Senator Clinton says she doesn't buy that argument, calling it "a stretch."

From the January 25 broadcast of Fox & Friends First:

KILMEADE: Let's call it the terrorist surveillance program. That would be a lot easier. And right now, if you're--

DOOCY: And more accurate.

KILMEADE: Yeah, more accurate too. If you're for the NSA wiretapping without going to the FISA court, I guess warrantless, then most likely you're Republican. If you are against it, you most likely are a Democrat. Here is what the president is going to be focusing on: the independents.

As Media Matters has previously documented, numerous Republicans and conservatives have expressed concern over the legality of the NSA warrantless spy program.

From the January 24 broadcast of Fox News Channel's Fox and Friends:

DOOCY: I wouldn't be surprised if George W. Bush is looking for a house in Manhattan, Kansas, because the audience yesterday at the Alf Landon Lecture Series at Kansas State University gave him a warm reception. He was talking at great length about the terrorist surveillance program -- that's now how it is being referred to by the White House -- and as we heard the president say at the top of this program just four minutes ago --

HILL: It sounds better, doesn't it? It's more accurate.

DOOCY: It is more accurate, and it tells you what it's about. And he made a good point: He said, "If I wanted to break the law, why was I briefing Congress?"

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Google shares plunge as earnings disappoint
By Richard Waters in San Francisco Published: January 31 2006

A sudden chill fell on Google's red-hot share price on Tuesday as the stock market's latest internet darling unveiled earnings that for the first time failed to far exceed Wall Street expectations.

The search engine company's shares slumped by more than 16 per cent in after-hours trading, wiping more than $20bn from its stock market value.
Despite the sense of disappointment on Wall Street, Google still met most analysts' official forecasts for revenues and pre-tax earnings in the final quarter of last year. However, with investors accustomed to the company blowing away such predictions, the latest results represented the first big earnings disappointment that the company has issued. In its previous five quarterly earnings reports as a public company, Google's revenues beat estimates by between 6-15 per cent.

Google executives also indicated that the company faced big expenses in the future as it continues to spend heavily to build its technology base and expand internationally in a race to take advantage of big new internet advertising markets that are emerging.

"This is a distribution scale business of massive proportions," said Eric Schmidt, chief executive officer. "We're not yet finished getting all the information in Google into the hands of users around the world," a task that would take significant extra investment, he added.

Wall Street's disappointment came despite further signs that Google is taking market share in the fast-growing search-related advertising market away from its closet rival, Yahoo. Leaving aside the commissions it pays to other websites that carry its search results, Google's revenues jumped 97 per cent from a year before, to $1.29bn, though that represented a slowdown from the 109 per cent growth rate of the preceding three months.

Costs rose faster than many analysts had expected as the company spent heavily on expansion. "We've made it very clear we're focused on growing our business, and international growth in particular," said George Reyes, chief financial officer.

Google has broken with Wall Street tradition since it went public by refusing to issue predictions of what its quarterly earnings are likely to be, arguing that this sort guidance encourages companies to take a short-term approach to managing their businesses. It has also warned that its focus on long-term growth could lead to volatile earnings in the short term.

For the final three months of last year, Google reported earnings per share, on the pro-forma basis on which Wall Street judges the company, of $1.54, below the $1.76 that the stock market had expected. The company said that its tax rate had jumped because the proportion of expenses allocated to its international operations was higher than it had expected, accounting for most of the apparent earnings shortfall. Net income for the period rose 82 per cent to $204m, or $1.22 per share.

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Gunmen kill mother, two infants
From correspondents in Baghdad January 31, 2006

THE wife of an Imam of a Sunni mosque was killed with her two infants when gunmen broke into her house and opened fire in Muqdadiya, 100km northeast of Baghdad, hospital sources said.

The sources said the attackers broke into the house of the Imam of Rasoul Allah Mosque in the city, Qasim Daham al-Hamadani, and killed the woman and her two small children, aged two and five.

Witnesses said Mr Hamadani was away when the massacre took place.

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Kraft Foods to Eliminate 8,000 Jobs
By MIKE COLIAS, AP Business Writer Jan 30, 2006

CHICAGO - Kraft Foods Inc., the nation's largest food manufacturer, said Monday it would eliminate 8,000 more jobs, or about 8 percent of its work force, and close up to 20 production plants as it broadens an ongoing restructuring effort.
Kraft said the cuts would save an additional $700 million in annual costs, atop a targeted $450 million in savings it already had hoped to achieve through a restructuring that began in January 2004.

Northfield-based Kraft already had announced closures of 19 production facilities and the elimination of 5,500 jobs. Kraft said Monday that those efforts are on track, but it is expanding the restructuring plans to include more cuts.

The company said it intends to close plants in Broadmeadows, Victoria in Australia and Hoover, Ala., but did not announce the other facilities it plans to close. Kraft also said it would trim 10 percent of its brand portfolio.

Kraft said the additional cuts would cost the company $2.5 billion, bringing the total cost of its overall restructuring to $3.7 billion.

Kraft announced the moves Monday while reporting fourth-quarter earnings results that beat analysts' expectations.

Earnings for the October-December period totaled $773 million, or 46 cents a share, up from $628 million, or 37 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue rose to $9.66 billion from $8.78 billion a year ago.

Excluding 10 cents in restructuring charges, Kraft posted a 56 cent operating profit. Wall Street had expected a profit of 53 cents a share, based on the consensus estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Financial.

When the maker of Kraft cheese, Nabisco crackers, Oscar Mayer meats and Post cereals announced its 2004 restructuring, there had just been a shake-up at top management that followed more than a year of disappointing sales and earnings.

At the time, Kraft executives blamed the poor results on American consumers' increased health concerns, which had put the entire packaged food industry under severe pressure to change quickly. The company's troubles cost marketing expert Betsy Holden her job of co-CEO and head of North American operations in December 2003. That left Roger Deromedi solely in charge.

The job and plant cuts and the earnings were announced after the market closed for the day. Kraft had risen 71 cents, or 2.4 percent, to close at $30 on the
New York Stock Exchange. Its shares added another 75 cents, or 2.5 percent, in after-hours trading.

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Primary care about to collapse, physicians warn
By Maggie Fox Health and Science Correspondent Reuters Jan 30, 06

WASHINGTON - Primary care -- the basic medical care that people get when they visit their doctors for routine physicals and minor problems -- could fall apart in the United States without immediate reforms, the American College of Physicians said on Monday.

"Primary care is on the verge of collapse," said the organization, a professional group which certifies internists, in a statement. "Very few young physicians are going into primary care and those already in practice are under such stress that they are looking for an exit strategy."

Dropping incomes coupled with difficulties in juggling patients, soaring bills and policies from insurers that encourage rushed office visits all mean that more primary care doctors are retiring than are graduating from medical school, the ACP said in its report.
The group has proposed a solution -- calling on federal policymakers to approve new ways of paying doctors that would put primary care doctors in charge of organizing a patient's care and giving patients more responsibility for monitoring their own health and scheduling regular visits.

U.S. doctors have long complained that reimbursement policies of both Medicare and private insurers reward a "just-in-time" approach, instead of preventive care that would save money and keep patients healthier.

"Medicare will pay tens of thousands of dollars ... for a limb amputation on a diabetic patient, but virtually nothing to the primary care physician for keeping the patient's diabetes under control," said Bob Doherty, senior vice president for the


The ACP plan called for innovations such as using e-mail to consult on minor and routine matters, freeing up expensive office visit time for when it is needed. Doctors would be compensated for an e-mail consultation.

The proposals include incentives for doctors to work more efficiently and to provide better care, ACP President Dr. C. Anderson Hedberg told a news conference. "ACP proposals would provide patients with access to care that is coordinated by their own personal physician," Hedberg said.


The ACP cited an American Medical Association survey that found 35 percent of all physicians nationwide are over the age of 55 and will soon retire.

In 2003, only 27 percent of third year internal medicine residents actually planned to practice internal medicine, the group said, with others planning to go into more lucrative specialty jobs.

"Primary care physicians -- the bedrock of medical care for today and the future -- are at the bottom of the list of all medical specialties in median income compensation," the ACP said.

The group, which represents 119,000 doctors and medical students in general internal medicine and subspecialties, joins others that warn the U.S. health care system is untenable.

"If these reforms do not take place, within a few years there will not be enough primary care physicians to take care of an aging population with increasing incidences of chronic diseases," said Dr. Vineet Arora, chair of the College's Council of Associates.

Dr. Sara Walker, a Missouri physician, said she believed doctors were leaving general practice because of drops in Medicare reimbursement to doctors.

"A drop in Medicare payments will not only force me to stop taking Medicare patients but could force me out of business," agreed Dr. Kevin Lutz, a solo practitioner in Denver.

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Katrina’s Paper Trail
By Mark Hosenball Newsweek Jan. 30, 2006

How early did the White House know about the levee damage in New Orleans? A look at the documents detailing the timeline—and why the government says it got ‘confusing’ information.

As Hurricane Katrina battered New Orleans last August 29, White House officials in early evening began to receive messages warning of serious damage to the levees which protected the city, according to documentation obtained by NEWSWEEK. But the White House did not recognize the extent of the damage until the next morning because the message traffic was confusing and contradictory, senior officials claim.

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Oil execs refuse to testify to Senate - How they Jacked Up Oil Prices for Record Profits while Average Americans Go Down the Tubes
Reuters 31 Jan 06

WASHINGTON - Officials from six major oil companies have refused to testify this week at a Senate hearing looking into whether oil industry mergers in recent years have made gasoline more expensive at the pump.

With oil companies reporting record profits from higher energy prices, consumer groups have complained that mergers in the industry have stifled competition.
Exxon Mobil said on Monday it earned $10.7 billion in the fourth quarter of last year and $36.1 billion for all of 2005 -- bigger than the economies of 125 countries.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, which is holding the hearing on Wednesday morning, said it asked representatives from Exxon Mobil, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Valero Energy and the U.S. units of BP and Royal Dutch Shell to tell their side of the story.

"All declined the invitation to testify," the committee said in a statement on Monday, without providing details.

The companies, with the exception of Valero, took a beating at a Senate hearing last November on the industry's soaring profits at the time and high energy prices.

Bill Kovacic, a member of the Federal Trade Commission, is scheduled to testify at Wednesday's hearing.

The FTC is investigation whether oil companies manipulated gasoline prices and oil refining production levels. The agency plans to finish its probe and send its findings to Congress this May.

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal will also testify.

The price for gasoline jumped 2.1 cents over the last week to a national average of $2.36 a gallon, up 45 cents from a year ago, the government said on Monday.

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Satanic Cult members jailed for killings
The Courier-Mail Busto Arsizio, Italy 01 Feb 06

FIVE Satanic cult members received heavy prison sentences today for killing the singer of their amateur rock band and two other women in brutal ritual murders that shocked Italy.

Nicola Sapone, one of the leaders of the Beasts of Satan rock band, was sentenced to life behind bars for the double homicide in 1998 of singer Fabio Tollis and his girlfriend Chiara Marino.

The group had apparently believed that Marino, who was stabbed to death under a full moon, was the personification of the Virgin Mary. She was 19.
Tollis, 16, took a fatal hammer blow to the head after trying to prevent her murder.

Sapone covered Tollis's mouth with a chestnut husk to silence him and also slit his throat in what Italian media called "an orgy" of bloodletting. The band pushed the dead bodies into a pit and urinated on them.

Four other followers of the band received sentences of between 24 and 26 years.

The convictions were the latest for members and followers of Beasts of Satan, and followed the high-profile conviction of band leader Andrea Volpe, who received a lighter, 30-year sentence after leading authorities to the bodies and confessing to the killings.

Band members were also convicted for murdering Volpe's ex-girlfriend Mariangela Pezzotta in 2004. She was shot in the mouth and her body mutilated.

The Satanic killings sparked fears in Italy of a spread of devil cults, and the Vatican last year started a course for Roman Catholic priests on Satanism and exorcism in response to what the Church said was a worrying interest in the occult, particularly among the young.
Comment: There are a number of these dangerous kinds of cults in the US that practice "Satanism" under different names such as "Ophanic Mysteries," or "Golden Dawn Magick", "Aethyrea" and so on.

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The truth is now plainly exposed for all who will see it.

There are 19 senators elected as Democrats who will NOT fight for the people, no matter how we plead, and no matter in what numbers. It is not the job of the resource which sends these alerts to endorse or not endorse any candidate. However, if YOU feel strongly that these senators need to be
replaced as soon as possible with candidates more loyal and true, the way to do that is through primary election challenges.

The immense side benefit of such an action is that by demonstrating that there are immediate repercussions for betraying our interests, perhaps it will put enough of the fear of the electorate into them to get our "representatives" to start to listen to the voice of the people on other votes coming up. If you live in the states of New Mexico, Nebraska, North Dakota, Florida, Connecticut,
Wisconsin, Delaware, Hawaii, or Washington, the next section will give detailed instructions on how YOU can register as a candidate and win. Otherwise watch future alerts for how you can join these and other actions.

If you decide you want to run for U.S. Senate, as a participant of this resource you will have the free use of the most powerful political canvassing tools ever created. As soon as you make your decision to run please CONTACT US IMMEDIATELY and we will set you up for no charge. And remember it is not necessary for everyone to believe on day one. If only YOU will believe, all else will follow.

Comment: That's assuming that there are free elections, which may be a big stretch in the good ole US of A these days. But heck, why not give it a try? Nothing ventured, nothing gained! No guts, no glory!

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Fargo or Bust
by Charley Reese 30 Jan 06

Another idea I've had for solving the corruption problem in Washington is to move the Senate, the House and the president and vice president to Fargo, N.D.

The rest of the bureaucrats could stay in Washington. They would probably benefit from having some distance between them and the politicians, many of whom believe the only purpose of the federal government is to provide jobs and pork-barrel projects for their constituents.

We could build a simple meetinghouse for the legislative branches. I would recommend large Quonset huts with small offices for the members. We could also build barracks for the members and their staffs to live in while Congress was in session.

As part of the Great Relocation Act, we must stipulate that Congress convene on Oct. 1 and conclude all of its business no later than March 31. Any lobbyist who wished to venture to Fargo would have to find his own motel room, his own mad aviator hat and his own snowshoes.
As for the president and vice president, they could be housed in a modest home purchased on the market. I suspect you can get some good real-estate buys in Fargo. It's not one of those places being besieged by tourists and retirees.

In Fargo, free from the temptations of Imperial Washington – with all of its plush accommodations, fancy restaurants and hordes of sycophants and lobbyists – Congress might actually settle down and do some work. It never, by the way, completes its work on time in Washington.

It would also be satisfying just to see the politicians, the vast majority of whom are chicken hawks who avoided military service like the plague, live in conditions at least somewhat similar to those they force upon the military around the world. Moreover, Fargo, which is on the border of Minnesota, is a solid blue-collar city of 75,000 people used to hard work. They would be a far better influence on our public legislators than the rich lawyers and lobbyists who inhabit Washington.

As for communication, well, don't we have Bill Gates' word for it that in this new era of high-tech, people can communicate from anywhere to anywhere?

No need to worry about the Library of Congress, because the politicians don't use it anyway. There is a university in Fargo, so if some politician's mind was suddenly pricked by curiosity, he could snowshoe over to the university and ask a professor.

While I'm sure the relocation would benefit America as a whole, I'm not sure the people of Fargo would welcome the riffraff we have elected to the House, the Senate and the White House. I believe, however, it is the patriotic duty of Americans to share the burden of living with the political riffraff. If things didn't work out in Fargo, we could move them to Butte, Mont. I believe that is the place J. Edgar Hoover used to exile FBI agents who had incurred his disfavor.

Washington has come to resemble Rome – not the Rome of the Republic, which the Founding Fathers admired, but the Imperial Rome, the Rome of Caesars – full of perpetual wars, inflation, circuses, money-changers, lies and corruption. Consequently, too many of our federal officials have lost contact with the real America they are supposed to represent.

In all seriousness, it would be beneficial to get the government out of Washington. Anywhere would do as long as it's isolated, very cold and Walden Pondish in its attractions. I suspect some of our federal politicians have never even seen grass that wasn't on a lawn or a golf course. Brisk, clean air might even clear their heads. Bitterly cold winter nights are very conducive to contemplation.

Who knows? Such isolation and relative hardships might even produce a statesman or two. Now, that would be an accomplishment. We haven't had one of those in several generations.

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Experts Claim Official 9/11 Story is a Hoax - Scholars for 9/11 Truth call for verification and publication by an international consortium.
PRWEB January 30, 2006

Duluth, MN -- A group of distinguished experts and scholars, including Robert M. Bowman, James H. Fetzer, Wayne Madsen, John McMurtry, Morgan Reynolds, and Andreas von Buelow, have concluded that senior government officials have covered up crucial facts about what really happened on 9/11.

They have joined with others in common cause as members of "Scholars for 9/11 Truth" (S9/11T), because they are convinced, based on their own research, that the administration has been deceiving the nation about critical events in New York and Washington, D.C.
These experts suggest these events may have been orchestrated by elements within the administration to manipulate Americans into supporting policies at home and abroad they would never have condoned absent "another Pearl Harbor."

They believe that this White House is incapable of investigating itself and hope the possibility that Congress might hold an unaccountable administration accountable is not merely naive or wishful thinking.

They are encouraging news services around the world to secure scientific advice by taking advantage of university resources to verify or to falsify their discoveries. Extraordinary situations, they believe, require extraordinary measures.

If this were done, they contend, one of the great hoaxes of history would stand naked before the eyes of the world and its perpetrators would be clearly exposed, which may be the only hope for saving this nation from ever greater abuse.

They hope this might include The New York Times, which, in their opinion, has repeatedly failed to exercise the leadership expecedt from our nation's newspaper of record by a series of inexplicable lapses. It has failed to vigorously investigate tainted elections, lies leading to the war in Iraq, or illegal NSA spying on the American people, major unconstitutional events. In their view, The Times might compensate for its loss of stature by helping to reveal the truth about one of the great turning-point events of modern history.

Stunning as it may be to acknowledge, they observe, the government has brought but one indictment against anyone and, to the best of their knowledge, has not even reprimanded anyone for incompetence or dereliction of duty. The official conspiracy theory--that nineteen Arab hijackers under control of one man in the wilds of Afghanistan brought this about--is unsupportable by the evidential data, which they have studied. They even believe there are good reasons for suspecting that video tapes officially attributed to Osama bin Laden are not genuine.

They have found the government's own investigiation to be severely flawed. The 9/11 Commission, designated to investigate the attack, was directed by Philip Zelikow, part of the Bush transition team in the NSA sector and the co-author of a book with Condoleezza Rice. A Bush supporter and director of national security affairs, he could hardly be expected to conduct an objective and impartial investigation.

They have discovered that The 9/11 Commission Report is replete with omissions, distortions, and factual errors, which David Ray Griffin has documented in his book, The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions. The official report, for example, entirely ignores the collapse of WTC7, a 47-story building, which was hit by no airplanes, was only damaged by a few small fires, and fell seven hours after the attack.

Here are some of the kinds of considerations that these experts and scholar find profoundly troubling:

* In the history of structural engineering, steel-frame high-rise buildings have never been brought down due to fires either before or since 9/11, so how can fires have brought down three in one day? How is this possible?

* The BBC has reported that at least five of the nineteen alleged "hijackers" have turned up alive and well living in Saudi Arabia, yet according to the FBI, they were among those killed in the attacks. How is this possible?

* Frank DeMartini, a project manager for the WTC, said the buildings were designed with load redistribution capabilities to withstand the impact of airliners, whose effects would be like "puncturing mosquito netting with a pencil." Yet they completely collapsed. How is this possible?

* Since the melting point of steel is about 2,700*F, the temperature of jet fuel fires does not exceed 1,800*F under optimal conditions, and UL certified the steel used to 2,000*F for six hours, the buildings cannot have collapsed due to heat from the fires. How is this possible?

* Flight 77, which allegedly hit the building, left the radar screen in the vicinity of the Ohio/Kentucky border, only to "reappear" in very close proximity to the Pentagon shortly before impact. How is this possible?

* Foreign "terrorists" who were clever enough to coordinate hijacking four commercial airliners seemingly did not know that the least damage to the Pentagon would be done by hitting its west wing. How is this possible?

* Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta, in an underground bunker at the White House, watched Vice President Cheney castigate a young officer for asking, as the plane drew closer and closer to the Pentagon, "Do the orders still stand?" The order cannot have been to shoot it down, but must have been the opposite. How is this possible?

* A former Inspector General for the Air Force has observed that Flight 93, which allegedly crashed in Pennsylvania, should have left debris scattered over an area less than the size of a city block; but it is scattered over an area of about eight square miles. How is this possible?

* A tape recording of interviews with air traffic controllers on duty on 9/11 was deliberately crushed, cut into very small pieces, and distributed in assorted places to insure its total destruction. How is this possible?

* The Pentagon conducted a training exercise called "MASCAL" simulating the crash of a Boeing 757 into the building on 24 October 2000, and yet Condoleezza Rice, among others, has repeatedly asserted that "no one ever imagined" a domestic airplane could be used as a weapon. How is this possible?

Their own physics research has established that only controlled demolitions are consistent with the near-gravity speed of fall and virtually symmetrical collapse of all three of the WTC buildings. While turning concrete into very fine dust, they fell straight-down into their own footprints.

These experts and scholars have found themselves obliged to conclude that the 9/11 atrocity represents an instance of the approach--which has been identified by Karl Rove, the President's closest adviser--of "creating our own reality."
Comment: QFG decided to have a little "fun" with the New York Times. Laura wrote a letter and included the above article. Her letter and the recipients are as follows:

From: Laura Knight-Jadczyk
To: executive-editor@nytimes.com, managing-editor@nytimes.com,
Subject: An Idea Whose Time Has Come
Copies to: news-tips@nytimes.com,
Date sent: Tue, 31 Jan 2006 22:53:45 +0100

Dear New York Times,

I am an editor of an online "alternative" news page that received 3,441,731 Site Hits for January this year. Our staff created and published the "Pentagon Strike" video that has now been viewed by over 600,000,000 viewers. As you may know, the fact that it landed in the emailbox of the
Washington Post prompted them to interview me about it. Despite the Post's not-so-subtle attempts to depict our work as "conspiracy theory," I should mention that our readership is increasing by leaps and bounds while the well-known and formerly well-loved rags are losing readers in droves.


Because the people in the US are hungry for one thing and one thing only: the truth.

And if the truth is "conspiracy," which I believe it is, then that's what you have to publish to regain your readers and your somewhat tattered reputation (Judy Miller was a real disaster, eh?) [Talk about "conspiracy theory"!]

It's really that simple. Can you imagine it? An American Newspaper actually publishing the unvarnished truth in this day and age; sending real investigative journalists out to really dig up facts and un-tainted information and submit it to critical analysis? What a concept!

Yeah, I know, I won't hold my breath.

But in the meantime, consider this: whether you folks publish the truth or not, other people are. It's getting out there and the repercussions for you "Big Boys" could be serious. The readers will go where they find truth. You
can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but it's getting hard to fool all of them all of the time anymore.

What to do? How to break the ice? Well, I have a simple solution for you: why don't you publish the following article on your front page, with giant headlines and follow it up day after day with more scoops and cliffhangers?
I can guarantee that you will sell more newspapers than you ever dreamed possible. What's more, you could almost single handedly change history. Not a bad idea at present, now is it?

Well, it's up to you, but don't say you didn't receive good advice.


Laura Knight-Jadczyk

Maybe some of our readers will want to send the article to as many newspapers as you can. Just for the heck of it.

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Supreme Court halts second Florida execution
AFP 1 Feb 06

The US Supreme Court stayed the execution of a second Florida convict following a new challenge on whether lethal injections are inhumane, officials said.

A court spokesman in Washington confirmed that the execution for convicted killer Arthur Rutherford had been ordered halted just before he was due to receive a lethal injection.
"There was a stay issued by the Supreme Court until after they have heard the Clarence Hill case," said a spokesman for Florida State Department of Corrections, referring to another convict whose execution was stopped last week.

Rutherford, 56, had been scheduled to die at 6:00 pm (2300 GMT) for the 1985 murder of a woman he beat and drowned in a bathtub.

"We were prepared to proceed" when the stay arrived, the prisons spokesman, Robby Cunningham, told AFP.

Rutherford's lawyer, Linda McDermott, said the Supreme Court called about two minutes after the execution was scheduled to take place to announce its decision.

One week earlier, Hill had been strapped to a gurney with an intravenous tube in his arm when the Supreme Court stopped his execution.

Hill, 47, has argued that the chemicals Florida uses in lethal injections cause pain and therefore constitute cruel and unusual punishment forbidden by the US Constitution.

The Supreme Court will not rule on the legality of the chemicals, just on whether Hill can challenge their legality.

The Supreme Court spokesman in Washington said the stay had been ordered because of the Hill appeal.

The stay was ordered by the whole court and not a single justice, said the spokesman, who added that newly sworn justice Samuel Alito did not participate in the decision.

Rutherford had exhausted all his options of appeal in Florida courts. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Georgia rejected his latest appeal late Monday.

Florida Roman Catholic bishops had called on Governor Jeb Bush to suspend Hill's and Rutherford's executions.

"We, the Catholic bishops of Florida, are disheartened about the scheduling of two executions in one month, and together we implore Governor Bush to reconsider the state-sanctioned killing of Clarence Hill and Arthur Dennis Rutherford," they said in an open letter this month.

Another convict who had contested the legality of lethal injections was executed Friday in Indiana after the Supreme Court refused to reconsider his case.

Marvin Bieghler, 58, was executed for the 1981 murder of a man and his pregnant wife.

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The Farcical Definition at the Heart of the War on Terrorism
By James Bovard Lew Rockwell 31 Jan 06

A recent denunciation of U.S. government foreign policy offers insights into a paradox of the war of terrorism. On January 24, 2006, the East Timor Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation denounced the U.S. government for backing the 1975 Indonesian invasion of East Timor. In the following decades, a quarter million East Timorese residents died as a result of this incursion. The commission declared that U.S. “political and military support were fundamental to the Indonesian invasion and occupation.”
The Indonesian invasion and occupation of East Timor were among the most barbaric actions of the late 20th century. President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger met with Indonesian President Suharto in Jakarta the day before the invasion and gave U.S. approval. The primary concern of U.S. officials seemed to be to get back to Washington before the bloodbath began. Kissinger told Suharto, “We understand your problem and the need to move quickly but I am only saying that it would be better if it were done after we returned.” Kissinger, doing his best imitation of Lady Macbeth, urged Suharto, “It is important that whatever you do succeeds quickly.”

Indonesia used U.S. military weapons to bombard East Timor and to crush resistance. The Indonesian military finally left East Timor in 1999, inflicting one more orgy of burning and killing on the island in the final days before its exit.

More people died as a result of the U.S.-backed invasion of East Timor than were killed by international terrorists in the subsequent 30 years. According to the U.S. State Department, between 1980 and 2005 fewer than 25,000 people were killed in international terrorist incidents around the globe.

The Bush administration, in its war on terror, stresses that anyone who aids and abets a terrorist is as guilty as the terrorist. By this standard, the U.S. government was guilty of enabling the Indonesian government to terrorize the Timorese people. The Timorese victims of U.S.-backed aggression received far less than 1 percent of the attention than have American victims of terrorist attacks.

The U.S. government currently bankrolls and arms many foreign regimes that terrorize their own people, including Colombia, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. Frida Berrigan of the World Policy Institute noted that the State Department’s 2002 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices “lists 52 countries that are currently receiving U.S. military training or weapons as having ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ human-rights records.”

President Bush declared in 2002, “Our mission is to make the world free from terror.” But the only way that Bush’s pledge makes any sense is by relying on a myopic – if not absurd – definition of terrorism.

The United States has long insisted that government agents cannot be terrorists. The FBI defines terrorism as “the unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” Since government action is almost always lawful – or at least not considered criminal by the government itself – governments almost never qualify as terrorists under the U.S. definitions.

A far sounder definition was offered by Israeli National Security Council chairman Major General Uzi Dayan, who defined as terrorist in a December 2001 speech “any organization that systematically harms civilians, irrespective of its motives.” This definition catches all types of terrorism – not just actions that lack political blessings or official sanctions.

If a government systematically attacks civilians, the government is no less culpable than private cabals that blow up planes, buses, or cafés. By this standard, the Indonesian invasion of East Timor was as much a terrorist action as the bombings of Bali nightclubs in October 2002 that killed hundreds of civilians.

The U.S. terrorism definition is the key to the Bush administration claim that the war on terrorism is automatically a war for freedom. Without the “state-exempt” concept of terrorism, fighting terrorism would, in most parts of the world, have little or nothing to do with defending freedom. With an honest definition of terrorism, many governments in the Bush “freedom-loving coalition” are guilty of inflicting more terrorism than they prevent.

Having a “state action” exemption to the concept of terrorism is like having a “mass murder exemption” in the homicide statute. Any action carried out by private citizens that would be considered terrorism should also be considered terrorism if carried out by government agents. The United States should recognize that its bankrolling and support of governments that terrorize their own people make a mockery of Bush's promise to rid the world of evil.

James Bovard is the author of the just-released Attention Deficit Democracy, The Bush Betrayal, and Terrorism & Tyranny: Trampling Freedom, Justice, and Peace to Rid the World of Evil. He serves as a policy advisor for The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Copyright © 2006 The Future of Freedom Foundation

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FBI Agents Back Down When Librarian Refuses to Let Them Seize 30 Computers Without a Warrant
By ANDREA L. FOSTER Chronicle of Higher Education 31 Jan 06

An e-mail threat that prompted the evacuation of more than a dozen Brandeis University buildings on January 18 led to an unusual standoff in a public library in Newton, Mass., a few miles from the Brandeis campus.

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents tried to seize 30 of the library's computers without a warrant, saying someone had used the library's Internet connection to send the threat to Brandeis. But the library director, Kathy Glick-Weil, told the agents they could not take the machines unless they got a warrant first. Newton's mayor, David Cohen, backed Ms. Glick-Weil up.

After a brief standoff, FBI officials relented and sought a warrant from a judge. Meanwhile, Ms. Glick-Weil allowed an FBI computer-forensics examiner to work with information-technology specialists at the library to narrow down which computers might have been used to send the threatening message. They determined that three computers were implicated in the alleged crime.
Late that evening, the FBI received a warrant to cart away the three computers. According to Mayor Cohen, the warrant allows the FBI to view only the threatening e-mail message and the messages sent immediately before and after that message.

Mr. Cohen said in an interview on Monday that he and Ms. Glick-Weil demanded the warrant because the FBI agents did not indicate that anyone at Brandeis faced a "clear and present danger." If there had been such a danger, Mr. Cohen added, agents probably would have seized the computers without even asking for them.

"We were able to both protect public safety and also protect the rights of people, the sense of privacy of many, many innocent users of the computers," he said. "Had we given them the computers, they would have gotten to see e-mails from ordinary citizens doing ordinary things and would not have preserved privacy."

About a half hour before FBI agents arrived at the library, Mr. Cohen had received a call from the U.S. attorney's office in Boston saying that Brandeis had received a credible threat, and that it had come from a computer in a Newton library. Newton and Waltham, where Brandeis is located, are suburbs of Boston.

Ms. Glick-Weil was not available for comment Monday.

Dennis Nealon, a spokesman for Brandeis, declined to disclose details about the e-mail message other than to say that it warned of an impending terrorist attack against the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. The message was sent to the university's office of public safety that day at about 11 a.m.

Local police and FBI agents came to the campus, said Mr. Nealon, and advised the university to evacuate the Heller building and 12 surrounding structures. The buildings, along with a local elementary school, remained empty for six-and-a-half hours.

"Since September 11th, the university's response is to take something like this very seriously," Mr. Nealon said, "and go above and beyond to make sure that there is no threat to anybody on campus."

Gail Marcinkiewicz, a spokesman for the FBI's Boston branch, declined to talk about the investigation into who sent the e-mail message.

But she said the FBI had a right to seize the computers because the agents who went to the Newton library thought Brandeis students, professors, and staff members were in immediate danger. "We could have done this," said Ms. Marcinkiewicz. "It is supported by case law."

Nonetheless, she said, the FBI decided to seek a warrant. By the time agents had determined that they needed to seize only three of the computers, about 5 p.m., they realized that people at Brandeis were not about to be killed, she added.

Michael J. Sullivan, the U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, also said in an interview Monday that the FBI had acted within its authority to ask for the computers without a warrant.

The event prompted talk-show hosts and newspaper columnists in Boston to lash out at Newton officials, arguing that they acted irresponsibly and could have jeopardized people's lives. But Mr. Cohen said he had also received many positive comments from people all over the country supporting his actions.
Comment: A REAL American Heroine! Good for you Kathy Glick-Weil!

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Bush's failures are hurting us all on every front

Nothing is more costly or dangerous than a failed presidency. The powers of the office are without rival. The scope of responsibility spans the globe. When a presidency fails, we all pay the price -- no matter what our politics.

As George Bush serves up his State of the Union address, his presidency is in virtual collapse. None of this will be apparent on the TV screen. The address will be "interrupted" with numerous standing ovations. The pundits will be respectful. The Democratic response will seem muted. As Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton understood, a president never looks better than on these ceremonial nights.
But beneath the bunting and the applause, this president is in trouble. His war of choice in Iraq has gone bad. Our military is near "snapping," according to a report commissioned by the Pentagon. Iraq has become a training ground for international terrorists. The elections have produced a Shiite plurality, led by religious parties that have formed a mutual defense pact with Iran. The Iranian president has called for the destruction of Israel, and the Iraqi leaders that our soldiers are dying to defend stand by his side.

The reconstruction of Iraq is a joke, with literally billions wasted or stolen, while citizens still have no stable source of electricity. We can't leave because a civil war, already started on the ground, will flare up. We can't stay because our presence simply feeds the terror and destabilization. Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz now projects the actual cost of the Iraq war at $1 trillion.

Iraq has undermined the war on terror. Osama bin Laden is still alive, but that matters little. What matters is that the U.S. is more despised across the Muslim world.

The administration has done nothing to move us toward energy independence. And by simply being in denial on global warming, it has isolated us in the world on a clear and increasingly present danger.

At home, it's the same sorry record of catastrophic failure. The administration's trade policies are hollowing out our manufacturing and high-tech sectors. Bush has run up the largest trade deficits in the history of man, while leaving us increasingly dependent on the willingness of the Chinese to finance our spending.

The administration's top-end tax cuts have failed to produce. Take away the jobs produced by government at all levels and by the military buildup, and the United States has lost an estimated 1 million private sector jobs since Bush came into office. Yet those same tax cuts have helped rack up record deficits and staggering national debt.

The prescription drug program confounds seniors and will end up costing many of them more for drugs, even as it prohibits Medicare from negotiating a better price and shovels billions to HMOs. The effort to cut and privatize Social Security was blocked, but that debate blocked any sensible response to the growing crisis of pensions.

The minimum wage has been frozen, while CEO salaries have soared. The administration does nothing to help labor under corporate assault, even as wages stagnate. African Americans and Latinos suffer disproportionately, even as the administration retreats from the commitment to equal opportunity.

And the ticket to the American Dream -- a college education -- is being priced out of reach for more and more working families. The administration and the Republican Congress are about to raise interest rates on student loans, adding to burdens that are already a stretch for most families.

Katrina exposed the administration's incompetence. But the catastrophic failure to reconstruct the Gulf Region is adding to the suffering of those who survived the storm.

And on homeland security, the independent and bipartisan 9/11 commission gives the administration failing grades in area after area.

The president will no doubt condemn corruption and partisanship. But the head of procurement of his budget office has been taken out of office in handcuffs. Vice President Cheney's chief of staff is under indictment for misleading prosecutors in the case concerning the leaking of a CIA agent's name. The president is pretending that he never knew Enron chief Ken Lay, one of his leading donors, or conservative activist Jack Abramoff, a major contributor who partied at the White House.

The list can go on. It is to no one's advantage. This isn't about an election that is nearly a year away. It is about governing. It's not about Republicans and Democrats. It's about the country. This president has three more years in office, and we will all pay dearly if the failures continue.

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Cindy Sheehan: What Really Happened

By Cindy Sheehan
t r u t h o u t
01 February 2006

As most of you have probably heard, I was arrested before the State of the Union address last night.

I am speechless with fury at what happened and with grief over what we have lost in our country.There have been lies from the police and distortions by the press (shocker). So this is what really happened:

This afternoon at the People's State of the Union Address in DC, where I was joined by Congresspersons Lynn Woolsey and John Conyers, Ann Wright, Malik Rahim and John Cavanagh, Lynn brought me a ticket to the State of the Union address. At that time, I was wearing the shirt that said: 2245 Dead. How many more?

After the PSOTU press conference, I was having second thoughts about going to the SOTU at the Capitol. I didn't feel comfortable going. I knew George Bush would say things that would hurt me and anger me, and I knew that I couldn't disrupt the address because Lynn had given me the ticket, and I didn't want to be disruptive out of respect for her. I, in fact, had given the ticket to John Bruhns, who is in Iraq Veterans Against the War. However, Lynn's office had already called the media, and everyone knew I was going to be there, so I sucked it up and went.

I got the ticket back from John, and I met one of Congresswoman Barbara Lee's staffers in the Longworth Congressional Office building and we went to the Capitol via the underground tunnel. I went through security once, then had to use the rest room and went through security again.

My ticket was in the 5th gallery, front row, fourth seat in. The person who in a few minutes was to arrest me, helped me to my seat.

I had just sat down and I was warm from climbing 3 flights of stairs back up from the bathroom so I unzipped my jacket. I turned to the right to take my left arm out, when the same officer saw my shirt and yelled, "Protester." He then ran over to me, hauled me out of my seat, and roughly (with my hands behind my back) shoved me up the stairs. I said something like "I'm going, do you have to be so rough?" By the way, his name is Mike Weight.

The officer ran with me to the elevators, yelling at everyone to move out of the way. When we got to the elevators, he cuffed me and took me outside to await a squad car. On the way out, someone behind me said, "That's Cindy Sheehan." At which point the officer who arrested me said, "Take these steps slowly." I said, "You didn't care about being careful when you were dragging me up the other steps." He said, "That's because you were protesting." Wow, I got hauled out of the People's House because I was "Protesting."

I was never told that I couldn't wear that shirt into the Congress. I was never asked to take it off or zip my jacket back up. If I had been asked to do any of those things ... I would have, and written about the suppression of my freedom of speech later. I was immediately and roughly (I have the bruises and muscle spasms to prove it) hauled off and arrested for "unlawful conduct."

After I had my personal items inventoried and my fingers printed, a nice Sgt. came in and looked at my shirt and said, "2245, huh? I just got back from there."

I told him that my son died there. That's when the enormity of my loss hit me. I have lost my son. I have lost my First Amendment rights. I have lost the country that I love. Where did America go? I started crying in pain.

What did Casey die for? What did the 2244 other brave young Americans die for? What are tens of thousands of them over there in harm's way for still? For this? I can't even wear a shirt that has the number of troops on it that George Bush and his arrogant and ignorant policies are responsible for killing.

I wore the shirt to make a statement. The press knew I was going to be there, and I thought every once in awhile they would show me, and I would have the shirt on. I did not wear it to be disruptive, or I would have unzipped my jacket during George's speech. If I had any idea what happens to people who wear shirts that make the neocons uncomfortable, that I would be arrested ... maybe I would have, but I didn't.

There have already been many wild stories out there.

I have some lawyers looking into filing a First Amendment lawsuit against the government for what happened tonight. I will file it. It is time to take our freedoms and our country back.

I don't want to live in a country that prohibits any person, whether or not he/she has paid the ultimate price for that country, from wearing, saying, writing, or telephoning any negative statements about the government. That's why I am going to take my freedoms and liberties back. That's why I am not going to let BushCo take anything else away from me ... or you.

I am so appreciative of the couple of hundred of protesters who came to the jail while I was locked up to show their support. We have so much potential for good. There is so much good in so many people.

Four hours and 2 jails after I was arrested, I was let out. Again, I am so upset and sore it is hard to think straight.

Keep up the struggle ... I promise you, I will too.

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Some US troops question Woodruff coverage
By PAMELA HESS UPI Pentagon Correspondent Jan. 31, 2006

WASHINGTON -- The American media stood up and took notice when an improvised explosive device grievously injured an ABC News crew Sunday.

In Iraq, and throughout the military, there is sympathy and concern for anchor Bob Woodruff and cameraman Doug Vogt, but there is also this question:

"Why do you think this is such a huge story?" wrote an officer stationed in Baqubah, Iraq, Monday via e-mail. "It's a bit stunning to us over here how absolutely dominant the story is on every network and front page. I mean, you'd think we lost the entire 1st Marine Division or something.
"There's a lot of grumbling from guys at all ranks about it. That's a really impolite and impolitic thing to say ... but it's what you would hear over here."

At least 2,242 troops have died in Iraq since the war's start, 1,753 of them killed in action. Another 16,000 have been injured, half of them seriously enough to require evacuation from the battlefield. According to the Pentagon, 60 percent of the deaths are the result of IEDs. IEDs have injured more than 9,200 troops, nine times more than gunshots.

"The point that is currently being made (is that) that press folks are more important than mere military folks," a senior military officer told UPI Tuesday.

The unavoidable consequence of war is this: People are savagely wounded and killed. Soldiers in Iraq watching the coverage on satellite television and reading the news on the Internet are getting the impression that the press has only just discovered this fact.

It's not quite as simple as that, of course. Military personnel often express frustration that the media harps on military casualty reports at the expense of what they consider their successes in Iraq.

However, as it promoted its story on Woodruff and Vogt Monday evening, the local ABC News affiliate in Washington showed a montage of exploding vehicles in Iraq -- footage culled largely from insurgents, who videotape the attacks and post them on Web sites to advertise or magnify their successes.

The families of the 76 troops killed and 533 wounded in action in Iraq from the District of Columbia, Virginia and Maryland might say the war had already come home.

"It's just a bit frustrating to see something so dramatized that happens every day to some 20-year-old American -- or worse to 10, 30-year-old Iraqi soldiers or cops alongside us. Some of the stories don't even mention the Iraqi casualties in this attack, as if they're meaningless," wrote the officer in Baqubah.

Kathryn Montgomery, a professor at American University's School of Communication, has been thinking the same thing.

"When you see the kind of coverage this story is getting it draws attention to the lack of coverage that hundreds of cases don't get," said Montgomery.

Having a personal connection to someone injured or killed on the battlefield is a relatively rare experience for journalists. Fewer than 1 percent of the U.S. population is part of the military; very few reporters have served. The war is comfortably distant, until a fellow journalist is affected. It could have been me, we think. The full weight of war is hard to comprehend until it happens to you, or someone you know, or someone like you.

Incidents like the serious wounding of Woodruff are rare. It has never before happened to any anchorperson for any of the U.S. television networks. Consequently, the event had significant news value.

But many journalists have been injured and killed covering the current conflict in Iraq: According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 61 have died from hostile action since March 2003, many of them Iraqi or Arab and therefore unfamiliar. That compares to 66 journalists killed during the entire Vietnam War, according to the Freedom Forum.

Modern American celebrity culture has certainly magnified the latest incident: Woodruff is recognizable, relatable, respectable. He was selected for his job as co-anchor not just for his undoubted journalistic credentials but also because ABC decided he was the kind of person Americans would want to welcome into their homes every night. His injury, therefore, feels personal to many viewers.

"He's the kind of celebrity we feel we know. That's the mature of these anchors. But we feel we know these people and we care what happens to them," Montgomery said.

That leaves the uncomfortable question about how much the media, or the American public, cares about the injured who are less well known, but in just as dire straits.

ABC News' national broadcast Monday ran coverage on the extremely well equipped field and manned hospital at Balad Air Base, a transportable emergency room with not one but two neurosurgeons on duty, better than most emergency rooms in the United States.

It was a story ABC News became aware of because that was where Woodruff and Vogt were treated. It was not a story ABC necessarily had reason to do before; there was no news hook. However, this was where hundreds of wounded soldiers and Marines had previously been stabilized before being moved to Landstuhl Air Base.

"As we are hearing the details of Bob Woodruff's medical care and how he was shipped to Germany, and we go inside the operating room, (we realize) it's a part of the war that the press has basically ignored," said Montgomery.

In the midst of a two-month reporting trip in Iraq in 2005, I stopped at the Balad emergency hospital, toured it for an hour and interviewed a dozen doctors and nurses. I couldn't find a news hook to write about it, so I didn't.

Woodruff volunteered for the assignment, and he was where he ought to have been because he wanted to report with authority on Iraq. But reporters' trips to Iraq are brief by comparison to soldiers, and we calculate the risks before going out on a mission. Soldiers and Marines do not have the option of demurring, and they are almost guaranteed to see colleagues maimed and killed during their seven to 12 months deployed there. They are as much volunteers as Woodruff in Iraq, and less well paid.

Here is an incomplete list of American service members who were killed by hostile fire in Iraq that same week that Woodruff and Vogt were hit. The Pentagon does not release the names of the injured.

Spc. Brian J. Schoff, 22, of Manchester, Tenn., died in Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 28, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV.

Sgt. David L. Herrera, 26, of Oceanside, Calif., died in Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 28, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV during combat operations.

Lance Cpl. Billy D. Brixey Jr., 21, of Ferriday, La., died Jan. 27 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, from wounds received as a result of an improvised explosive device while traveling in a convoy in Afghanistan on Jan. 25.

Lance Cpl. Hugo R. Lopez, 20, of La Habra, Calif., died Jan. 27 at Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, from wounds sustained from an improvised explosive device while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Rawah, Iraq, on Nov. 20, 2005.

Staff Sgt. Jerry M. Durbin Jr., 26, of Spring, Texas, died in Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 25, when an improvised explosive device exploded near his dismounted patrol during combat operations.

Sgt. Joshua A. Johnson, 24, of Richford, Vt., died in Ramadi, Iraq, on Jan. 25, when a rocket propelled grenade struck his vehicle during combat operations.

Staff Sgt. Lance M. Chase, 32, of Oklahoma City, Okla., and Pfc. Peter D. Wagler, 18, of Partridge, Kan., died in Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 23, of wounds sustained that day when an improvised explosive device detonated near their M1A2 Abrams tank during patrol operations.

Sgt. Sean H. Miles, 28, of Midlothian, Va., was killed in action Jan. 24 from small arms fire while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Al Karmah, Iraq.

Sgt. Matthew D. Hunter, 31, of Valley Grove, W.Va., died in Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 23, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his dismounted patrol during combat operations.

Sgt. Sean H. Miles, 28, of Midlothian, Va., was killed in action Jan. 24 from small arms fire while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Al Karmah, Iraq.

Tech. Sgt. Jason L. Norton, 32, of Miami, Okla. and Staff Sgt. Brian McElroy, 28, of San Antonio, Texas, were killed Jan. 22, when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device while conducting convoy escort duties in the vicinity of Taji, Iraq.

© Copyright 2006 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Comment: "The point that is currently being made (is that) that press folks are more important than mere military folks," a senior military officer told UPI Tuesday.

Yes, that's the point. The question is "Why?" Well, because the press can use the injury of a newsman to show how evil the Iraqis, but they do NOT want to talk about the offical count of 2,242 troops that have died in Iraq since the war's start, 1,753 of them killed in action, and the other 16,000 that have been injured because that will tend to make the American people upset with Bush. After all, he sent all those guys out there to die based on LIES.

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Calls grow to 'impeach' Blair as 99th soldier dies in Iraq (100 now)
By Colin Brown Deputy Political Editor 31 January 2006

The soldier's death intensified pressure at Westminster for an inquiry by a committee of seven Privy Councillors into the Prime Minister's handling of the Iraq war and the use of intelligence reports to boost public support for the invasion. Leaders of a cross-party group calling for Mr Blair to be impeached will meet tonight at Westminster to discuss their tactics.

They believe they will be able to persuade either the Liberal Democrats or the Conservatives to allocate time for a debate and a vote in the Commons in mid-March, to coincide with the third anniversary of the Commons vote that endorsed military action in Iraq. Among the 122 MPs who have signed the motion are the former international development secretary Clare Short, who resigned from the Cabinet over the war; Peter Kilfoyle, the former defence minister; and the former Conservative minister Douglas Hogg. Adam Price, the Plaid Cymru MP, said 22 Labour MPs and more than 50 Liberal Democrats had signed the motion.
A soldier was shot dead in Iraq yesterday, bringing to 99 the number of British troops who have lost their lives since the invasion.

The soldier was on a multinational patrol in Maysan province in the south of Iraq when he was hit by small arms fire. He was serving with the 1st Battalion, the Highlanders in the 7th Armoured Brigade, which was visited by Tony Blair during a trip to Basra before Christmas. His death prompted renewed demands for Britain to prepare a timetable for early withdrawal of troops and for a fresh inquiry into Mr Blair's conduct over the war.

The Ministry of Defence said: "It is with very deep regret that we can confirm that one UK soldier from the 7th Armoured Brigade serving with the 1st Battalion, the Highlanders, subsequently died of his injuries. There were no other injuries to UK service personnel." The soldier's family has been informed.

The soldier's death intensified pressure at Westminster for an inquiry by a committee of seven Privy Councillors into the Prime Minister's handling of the Iraq war and the use of intelligence reports to boost public support for the invasion. Leaders of a cross-party group calling for Mr Blair to be impeached will meet tonight at Westminster to discuss their tactics.

They believe they will be able to persuade either the Liberal Democrats or the Conservatives to allocate time for a debate and a vote in the Commons in mid-March, to coincide with the third anniversary of the Commons vote that endorsed military action in Iraq. Among the 122 MPs who have signed the motion are the former international development secretary Clare Short, who resigned from the Cabinet over the war; Peter Kilfoyle, the former defence minister; and the former Conservative minister Douglas Hogg. Adam Price, the Plaid Cymru MP, said 22 Labour MPs and more than 50 Liberal Democrats had signed the motion.

"There is a constitutional issue over how we balance the power of the Prime Minister and a small group of people around him, with Parliament. It predates Blair but now is the time for Parliament to stand up and be counted and say we need a full inquiry.

"We have to learn the lessons from this wrong-headed invasion. We have to stop this happening again, whether it is Iran or Syria or somewhere else." He said the calls by General Sir Michael Rose, the British UN commander in Bosnia, for Mr Blair to be impeached had strengthened the campaign for a inquiry.

A former Labour minister said: "If we had not gone into Iraq, we could have put more resources into sorting out Afghanistan. It has been a complete disaster. The sooner we get out the better. We need a clear timetable for withdrawal."

Alex Salmond, leader of the Scottish National Party, said more MPs would put their names to the motion. "It will strengthen the case for impeaching Tony Blair and fully investigating his conduct in the run-up to the war in Iraq," he said.

Mr Blair returned from Basra impressed by the ability of the Iraqi forces to take over their own security. However, he received pessimistic reports about the Iraqi police force, which it is feared has been infiltrated by insurgents.

He gave strong signals while he was there that British troop reductions would begin in the coming months. Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, announced in December that 7,000 US troops would be withdrawn from a total deployment of more than 138,000 personnel. British ministers have resisted setting out a timetable because they fear that it would increase attacks by insurgents.

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Margaret Hassan killed after '$US10m ransom' refused
Correspondents in Rome and Baghdad February 01, 2006

THE kidnappers of Margaret Hassan, the British aid worker murdered in Iraq in 2004, demanded a ransom of $US10million to spare her life, according to a leaked Italian police report.

The main suspect named in the report, Sheik Abdel Salam al-Qubaisi, is a senior official in the ulema, a Sunni hardline clerical group known in English as the Association of Muslim Scholars.

Sheik Qubaisi is still at large in Baghdad, preaching fiery sermons against the US forces and their Iraqi allies.

The British authorities were informed of the kidnappers' demand but no ransom was paid, the report says.
Hassan, who held dual British and Iraqi citizenship and had lived in Iraq for 30 years, was kidnapped on October 19, 2004.

Her death was announced by al-Jazeera on November 16.

According to the Italian police report, extracts from which were published in La Repubblica, the ransom for Hassan, who ran the charity CARE International in Iraq, was demanded by Sheik Qubaisi, with whom the Italian authorities have repeatedly negotiated over the fate of Italian hostages in Iraq.

Negotiations in hostage crises were handled on the Italian side by Maurizio Scelli, special representative of the Italian Red Cross in Iraq, and Nazar Nawar al-Rawas, an Iraqi doctor resident in Italy and a "close collaborator" of Mr Scelli.

La Repubblica quoted from an intercepted telephone call made by Dr Rawas to Sheik Qubaisi in October 2004, just after the release of Simona Torretta and Simona Pari, two kidnapped Italian aid workers.

According to the transcript, Dr Rawas was aghast when Sheik Qubaisi demanded $US10million for the release of Hassan.

"But surely, if they paid five million to get the two girls out, how on earth can you ask 10 million for just one woman?" Dr Rawas asked.

Sheik Qubaisi, contacted in his home in the lawless western Baghdad district of Amariyah, rejected the allegations. "I totally deny this story," he said. "It's an attempt to defame the ulema, just because I'm a leading campaigner against the occupation.

"If I had $US5million, I would be thanking God."

Britain has consistently refused to pay ransoms.

However, the leaked police investigation appears to confirm that Italy has done so, despite official denials.

Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini again denied that Italy had paid for the release of any hostages.

La Repubblica, however, said ransoms had been disguised as "humanitarian aid".

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US soldiers shoot at Canadian ambassador's car in Baghdad
AFP 1 Feb 06

The US military shot at the Canadian ambassador's car in Baghdad but no-one was hurt in the "unfortunate incident," a US State department official said.

"There was an incident involving the (US) military and the Canadian ambassador's car today," a State Department official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. "They shot on it."
"No-one was injured," the official said, calling it an "unfortunate incident" and adding: "We are in close contact with Canadian officials."

The official could provide no further details of the incident.

Four passengers were riding in the vehicle, including Stewart Henderson, Canada's charge d'affaires in Iraq, when US soldiers fired on it "after it reportedly wouldn't stop," Canada's CTV News reported.

The vehicle was apparently travelling alone in the heavily fortified Green Zone when it came across an American military convoy and tried to pass it, the report said.

Members of the US Army's 4th Infantry Divisions gave the driver hand signals to stop. When the car did not, they shot over it, then at it.

"Finally they plugged the car with three rounds. Two went through the hood into the engine block. One shot went through the lower part of the windshield," CTV said.

Canada's ambassador to Iraq, John Holmes, was not in the car, and neither the four passengers nor the driver were injured, the report said.

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Soldiers sue over out-of-pocket costs
By Sara Miller Llana The Christian Science Monitor 1 Feb 06

Members of the Massachusetts National Guard file what is thought to be a first-of-its-kind lawsuit.
BOSTON – After 9/11, hundreds of thousands of America's part-time soldiers answered the call to serve. Along the way, some have asked whether the costs they bear - from insufficient body armor to mounting debt for their families at home - is fair.

Now, Massachusetts National Guard soldiers are taking the question straight to the top. They have filed a class-action lawsuit claiming they are owed $73 million in food, lodging, and commuting expenses they paid out-of-pocket while activated under state orders to protect sites such as military bases and reservoirs from terrorist attacks.

The lawsuit, filed recently in federal court against the Massachusetts National Guard and the US Department of Defense, is believed to be the first of its kind nationally, and raises new questions about what the government owes its men and women in uniform.

For the soldiers' lawyers in the case, the denial to provide or pay room and board represents a diversion from standard practice. "It doesn't make sense, under applicable law, military procedure, or military experience," says John Shek, a Boston-based lawyer representing the plaintiffs. The case currently names four plaintiffs.

Both the Massachusetts National Guard and the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Va., would not comment on the case, they said, because it is pending. But Maj. Winfield Danielson, spokesman for the Massachusetts National Guard, did say that this case has been under investigation since May, before the lawsuit was filed.

The plaintiffs contend that suing was their last resort. When retired Capt. Louis Tortorella was called to serve at Camp Edwards on Cape Cod in December 2001, his orders read: "Government quarters not available, meals not available, per diem not authorized."

But his station was 250 miles round trip from his home in Brookline, N.H. In 21 months, he says, he was forced to spend $14,625 in out-of-pocket expenses. He says when he questioned his superiors, he was told to forget about it, to "drive on," but was never told why per diem was denied.

"Never in 25 years of military service have I experienced a set of orders like that," he says.

The lawsuit comes as other units across the country have faced problems with payments. According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report last year, units in Maryland housed off-post had to pay for meals themselves or hitchhike to their post's dining facilities. In other states, National Guard members in some cases had not been given proper documentation to collect reimbursements, or standard answers about their entitlements.

"There are lots of disputes over reimbursements for meals," says Gregory Kutz, director of Financial Management and Assurance at the GAO. The sheer number of part-time soldiers, he says, was a major reason.

"It's like trying to put a 10-pound sack of sugar into a five-pound bag," he says, "with soldiers spilling into hotels ... or riding bicycles back and forth. There were all kinds of novel situations created because of the unprecedented volume of people that didn't have sufficient on-base housing."

Still, it is unclear whether this lawsuit will have a ripple effect. There have been problems with payments in other states and even cases of appeals, but John Goheen, spokesman at the National Guard Association of the United States, says he has no indication that disputes such as the one in Massachusetts have been widespread.

Mr. Shek maintains that military culture might play a role - that soldiers who were told not to complain would be hesitant to come forward. He says the plaintiffs in this suit had no choice but to obey their orders and pay whatever it took to fulfill their missions. "If they were to, for instance, quit, they would do so under criminal offense under federal law," says Shek. "They would be AWOL."

Captain Tortorella compares the situation to a bank sending an employee on a business trip, and requiring him or her to pay for lodging and meals.

What's more, the plaintiffs say they worked side by side with other units who did receive per diem because they were called up under Title 10, which means they were federalized. Those activated under state command, or Title 32, did not receive such entitlements. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say that up to 1,200 soldiers may not have received reimbursements.

Experts say the fairness issue is compelling. "If soldier A would have gotten per diem as a member of federal services, and soldier B didn't [under state command], that just doesn't seem fair," says Michael Noone, a retired colonel and law professor at Catholic University of America in Washington.

Still, he says, that point will be tough to argue unless laws show they are owed the money.

Sgt. Steven Littlefield of Plymouth, Mass., another named plaintiff, hopes to recover some of the money he lost, but his main motive goes deeper. "In the grand scheme of things, I just don't want this to happen again," he says. "People are volunteering to serve their country, but they also have to make a living."

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Japan to leave Iraq in May
ABC News January 31, 2006

Japan will withdraw its ground troops from southern Iraq by the end of May along with pullouts by the British and Australian forces from the area, Japanese media outlets have reported citing sources in the Japanese Government.
Diplomats and defence officials from Australia, Britain, Japan and the United States reached a basic agreement over the timing of the withdrawals at a secret meeting in London last Monday, the sources told Kyodo.

Citing prospects that Iraq's new government will be established as early as next month, Britain tabled its schedule to withdraw around 4,000 of its 8,000 troops in southern Iraq, including the 500 stationed in and around Samawah where the Japanese are based, by the end of May.

Washington agreed in principle to Britain's plan, on the condition that there are no significant upheavals in Iraq's political process and security condition.

Japan and Australia also agreed to move along with Britain's schedule and withdraw their troops around the same time, Kyodo reports.

The 600 Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force (GSDF) troops stationed in the city of Samawah to help in reconstruction will begin to pack up in mid-March.

Japanese newspaper Sankei Shimbun, which closely covers national security issues, also reported the planned withdrawal, without identifying its sources.

Japanese Defence Agency officials, however, said that nothing has been decided.

The GSDF will be under the protection of British and Australian forces when withdrawing from Iraq, the sources said.

The GSDF camp will not be dismantled and Japan plans to hand the facility over to local residents, according to the sources.

At the same time, Japan is considering expanding the Air Self-Defence Force's Kuwait-based mission in response to Washington's request for more assistance in airlifting US soldiers and supplies to and from US bases in Iraq, the sources said.

Last December, Japan extended its troop deployment into a third year with an eye to beginning to pull out key units in mid-2006.

Until recently, the United States was requesting that Japan maintain GSDF deployment in Samawah.

Washington is now asking Japan, Britain and Australia to send personnel to support a new US reconstruction plan for military-civilian joint efforts to strengthen capabilities of local Iraqi authorities, the sources said.

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Revealed: ambassador tried to kill US hunt for AWB bribes
By Michael Gawenda, Herald Correspondent in Washington and Marian Wilkinson February 1, 2006

THE Australian ambassador to the United States lobbied Congress to drop an investigation into allegations that Australia's wheat exporter paid kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime.

The Federal Government confirmed last night that the then ambassador, Michael Thawley, met the chairman of a US Senate investigations committee in late 2004 to head off the planned inquiry.

The AWB investigation was ultimately dropped, despite the US Government having information that an AWB wheat contract might have been inflated to cover kickbacks to Iraq. This information included a report, seen by the Herald, from the US Defence Contract Audit Agency.
It is understood a Senate sub-committee did not pursue the AWB investigation in the face of the fierce resistance of AWB.

Mr Thawley met Norm Coleman, chairman of the Senate permanent sub-committee on investigations, in the weeks before the Australian general election on October 9, 2004.

A statement to the Herald last night from the office of the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, confirmed Mr Thawley "argued strongly" to Senator Coleman for AWB's case, which was to block a US Senate inquiry.

"The Government was very concerned that because of the strong campaign by American wheat interests, the Senate committee would be used by those interests to damage Australia's wheat interests with Iraq," the statement said.

Mr Thawley had "expressed surprise" to Senator Coleman that his committee was focusing on AWB. The statement said the Government was "very concerned at the time that AWB Ltd would be unfairly treated". It added: "The Government had no reason to believe other than that the AWB Ltd was behaving properly."

Around the time of Mr Thawley's meeting it is understood there was also a meeting involving Australian government officials and the Senate committee staffers during which the US-Australia alliance and Australia's role in the "coalition of the willing" was raised.

Senator Coleman's committee at the time was launching investigations into several companies and individuals accused of paying kickbacks to Iraq in return for lucrative oil, food and equipment contracts. With the information that AWB may have been paying such kickbacks, the committee began negotiating with the company's US lawyers to obtain internal company documents.

It is understood there was a series of meetings in the second half of 2004 between Senate staffers and AWB lawyers, who argued that Senator Coleman's committee had no jurisdiction to investigate the wheat exporter.

Mr Thawley's meeting with Senator Coleman came after these meetings as well as those with Australian government officials.

It is understood that in at least one of those meetings AWB executives were present and emphatically denied AWB had knowingly paid kickbacks.

Senator Coleman's office did not return calls from the Herald. It is unclear whether his committee will reopen investigations into AWB following the revelations in Sydney at the Cole inquiry into the affair.

The Herald has been told Senator Coleman's committee dropped the investigation into the AWB because it had its hands full pursuing the dealings of the British MP George Galloway.

But a check of the congressional records shows the investigation into Mr Galloway did not begin until the beginning of last year. The Galloway investigation made headlines when the rebel MP appeared before the committee and accused it of a politically motivated smear campaign against him because he had opposed the war in Iraq.

The US committee also investigated several foreign companies that had agreed to hand over documents.

The Herald could find no evidence that any officials from any other government made representations to the committee on behalf of companies implicated in the scandal. There is no evidence to suggest any other company refused to co-operate with it. As far back as November 2003, when a group of US senators wrote to the then secretary of state, Colin Powell, expressing "grave concerns" about reports that AWB had been paid inflated prices for wheat by Iraqi, the Australian embassy in Washington was arguing that US wheat interests were trying to blacken AWB's reputation.

When the then Senate minority leader, Tom Daschle, wrote to President George Bush in October 2003 asking him to raise the allegations about AWB with the Prime Minister, John Howard, during his visit to Australia, the Australian embassy wrote to Senator Daschle saying the allegations against AWB were "reprehensible".

Mr Thawley, who finished his five-year stint as US ambassador last year and is now in private business in Washington, could not be contacted for comment.

Denis Richardson, who replaced Mr Thawley last year, said the embassy often made representations to members of Congress. Asked whether he knew of contacts between the embassy and committees of Congress investigating the United Nations oil-for-food program, he said he could not comment, and these questions should be put to Mr Downer's office.

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Iran's Ahmadinejad says Bush should face 'people's tribunal'
AFP 1 Feb 06

Iran's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad labelled George W. Bush a warmonger who should be dragged before a "people's tribunal", the day after the US president called for a "free and democratic Iran".

"God willing, in the near future we will judge you in a people's tribunal," Ahmadinejad said in a speech carried live on state television.

"You who support the Zionist puppet regime, you who support the destruction of Palestinian homes, you have no right to talk about liberty or human rights," Ahmadinejad said in comments directed at the US president.
In his State of the Union address Tuesday, Bush called the Islamic republic "a nation now held hostage by a small clerical elite that is isolating and repressing its people".

But responding to Bush's speech, Ahmadinejad lashed out at "those who are up to their elbows in the blood of the people, who are implicated everywhere where there is war and oppression, who start wars in Asia and Africa, killing people by the million."

The Iranian president also vowed Wednesday his country would not surrender its nuclear ambitions and blasted an agreement between the five permanent members of the UN Security Council to take up the case.

"Those who possess stocks of nuclear arms meet together and take decisions and think that the Iranian people will submit to their decisions," the president said in a speech carried live on state television.

"I tell these countries who want to violate the rights of the Iranian people that the Iranian people will not be influenced by their propaganda," he said, vowing the Islamic republic would "continue on the road to victory".

The foreign ministers of the five permanent Security Council members agreed in London overnight Monday to haul Iran's case to New York after the country resumed sensitive nuclear fuel research work and deepened fears it could acquire the atom bomb.

A referral is likely to come during an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) 35-nation board of governors, which begins on Thursday.

"They believe they are dealing with a second-rate people with no culture. But we will build nuclear power stations everywhere in the country with a capacity of 20,000 megawatts," Ahmadinejad asserted.

"Our people will not bow to a few tyrannical countries who think they are the whole world," he added.

"The language of the Europeans and the West is from the Middle Ages. They live in a colonial dream. The action of the Westerners will have no influence on the decisions of the Iranian people," said the president, who was speaking during a visit to the southern city of Bushehr.

Bushehr is where, with Russian assistance, Iran is building its first nuclear power station. The Islamic regime insists it only wants to generate electricity.

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Iran warns of diplomacy end
From correspondents in Tehran January 31, 2006

IRAN warned today that the referral of a long-running dispute over its nuclear program to the UN Security Council will bring "an end to diplomacy," saying the move had no legal justification.

"Informing the Security Council or referring the Iranian case to it will bring an end to diplomacy and that is not at all positive," state television quoted top national security official Ali Larijani as saying.

Foreign ministers of the five permanent UN Security Council members agreed in London Monday to bring Iran before the council over its nuclear program.
"I do not want to use the term scandalous," Larijani said of the decision, adding that Iran "will use all peaceful means to achieve its nuclear technology rights within the framework of the Non-Proliferation Treaty."

"I still think we can get a good result, but if the Europeans chose a non-peaceful path... it will not be in their interests," he added. "We advise them to continue constructive negotiations with Iran."

The referral is likely to come during an emergency meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board of governors, which begins on Thursday.

But, in a compromise with Russia, the powers agreed to put off UN action until at least March.

The head of Iran's nuclear negotiating team Javad Vaidi said Iran would stick by its January 10 move to resume uranium enrichment research – a sensitive process the West fears will give Iran nuclear weapons know-how.

"The research activities are an inalienable right for Iran" and the decision to resume the work earlier this month – which triggered the latest crisis between Tehran and the West – is "irreversible," he said.

He also inisted that the research work had no links with industrial-scale production of uranium enrichment which "is still suspended."

Iran has already threatened that if referred to New York – or even if the Security Council is merely "informed" – it would retaliate by limiting IAEA inspections and resuming large-scale enrichment.peIran argues that it only wants to generate electricity and has a right to possess nuclear technology as a signatory of the NPT.

Atomic Energy Agency chief Gholamreza Agazadeh told the ISNA news agency there was no legal justification to bring Tehran before the Security Council.

"The Europeans cannot find a legal basis within the rules of the International Atomic Agency to send the Iranian dossier to the UN Security Council, and that is their greatest difficulty," he said.

In a joint statement after a four-hour dinner, foreign ministers from six countries – the permanent five of Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States plus Germany – said they had agreed that the UN nuclear watchdog "should report to the Security Council its decision on the steps required of Iran" when the IAEA board meets in Vienna Thursday.

A move by Iran to cut off cooperation or a push ahead with nuclear fuel work would lead to a further escalation of the crisis.

But Iranian compliance with IAEA demands to cease such work and greater cooperation with IAEA inspectors could defuse the situation.

Iran has been appealing for more time to negotiate with Moscow on a compromise proposal – and it remains unclear if an expected Security Council referral will speed up these talks or prompt Iran to pull out of them.

Russia's idea is for Iran's uranium to be enriched on Russian soil, something that could allay Western fears that the clerical regime will acquire sensitive dual-use technology but at the same time guarantee Iran's access to nuclear energy.

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Is Iran Building Nukes? An Analysis
William O. Beeman and Thomas Stauffer 29 Jan 06

President Bush declared on June 25 that "we will not tolerate" a nuclear armed Iran. His words are empty. The physical evidence for a nuclear weapons program in Iran simply does not exist.
Iran is building a 1,000-megawatt nuclear power plant in Bushehr with Russian help. The existence of the site is common knowledge. It has been under construction for more than three decades, since before the founding of the Islamic Republic in 1979.

Two other nuclear research facilities, now under development, have come to light: a uranium enrichment plant in the city of Natanz and a deuterium ("heavy water") facility in the city of Arak. Neither is in operation. The only question of interest is whether these facilities offer a plausible route to the manufacture of plutonium-based nuclear bombs, and the short answer is: They do not.

The Bushehr plant is only part of the argument that Iran is embarked on a nuclear weapons program, but it is the part that can readily be analyzed. State Department accusations of dangerous Iranian intentions for the Natanz and Arak facilities are based on a patchwork of untestable, murky assertions from dubious sources, including the People's Mujahedeen (Mujahedeen-e Khalq, MEK or MKO), which the United States identifies as a terrorist organization. These sources assert that there are centrifuges for enriching uranium (an alternative to fissile plutonium for bombs) or covert facilities for extracting plutonium. Neither of these claims are especially credible, since the sources are either unidentified or are the same channels which disseminated the stories about Iraq's non-conventional weapons or the so-called chemical and biological weapons plant in Khartoum.

The testable part of the claim -- that the Bushehr reactor is a proliferation threat -- is demonstrably false. There are several reasons, some technical, some institutional.

--The Iranian reactor yields the wrong kind of plutonium for making bombs.

--The spent fuel pins in the Iranian reactor would, in any case, be too dangerous to handle for weapons manufacture.

--Any attempt to divert fuel from the Iranian plant will be detectable.

--The Russian partners in the Bushehr project have stipulated that the fuel pins must be returned to Russia, as has been their practice worldwide for other export reactors.

Just as there are many different kinds of nuclear reactors, there are different forms of plutonium, distinctions that are almost never made in public discussions of nuclear proliferation.

There are two different kinds of reactors, heavy-water or graphite-moderated reactors; and pressurized, or "light water" reactors (PWRs). The Dimona nuclear power plant in Israel is an example of the former. The Bushehr plant is the latter.

The Israeli plant is ideal for yielding the desirable isotope of Plutonium (Pu 239) necessary for making bombs. The Iranian plant will produce plutonium, but the wrong kind. It will produce the heavier isotopes, Pu240, Pu241 and Pu242 -- almost impossible to use in making bombs.

Crucial to extracting weapons-grade plutonium is the type of reactor and the mode in which it is operated. The Israeli-type plant can be refueled "on line," without shutting down. Thus, high-grade plutonium can be obtained covertly and continuously. In the Iranian plant, the entire reactor will have to be shut down -- a step that cannot be concealed from satellites, airplanes and other sources -- in order to permit the extraction of even a single fuel pin.

In the Israeli reactor, the fuel is recycled every few weeks, or at most every couple of months. This maximizes the yield of the highest-quality, weapons-grade plutonium. In the Iranian-type reactor, the core is exchanged only every 30-40 months -- the longer the fuel cycle, the better for the production of power.

For the Iranian reactor at Bushehr, any effort to divert fuel will be transparent because a shutdown will be immediately noticeable. No case of production of bomb-grade material from fuel from an Iranian-type plant has ever been reported.

No one can read the collective mind of a government. But even if Iran proves in the future to have ambitions for developing nuclear weapons, any actual production is years, perhaps decades away. Furthermore, Iran has fully acquiesced to the international inspections process. Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). On June 22, the head of the Iranian Atomic Energy Organization, Gholam-Reza Aghazadeh, reiterated that all of Iran's nuclear facilities are open for inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in compliance with treaty guarantees.

Stauffer is a former nuclear engineer and specialist in Middle Eastern energy economics. Beeman is director of Middle East Studies at Brown University. Each has conducted research in Iran for more than 30 years.

Copyright © 2004 Pacific News Service

Comment: More "WMDs"... more LIES, more American Boys dying. Will it be YOUR son? Your husband? Father? Someone you know? If that is possible, you need to act now to stop this madness.

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Nuclear Iran is not a threat
By William Pfaff Asian Age 31 Jan 06

Paris: Why is all this pressure being mounted against Iran when both Washington and Jerusalem unofficially concede that there is nothing to be done to prevent Iran’s government from continuing along its present course of nuclear development?

The contradictions in Western official and unofficial discourse about Iran and its nuclear ambitions are so blatant that one might suspect disinformation, but it probably is simply the cacophony of single-minded bureaucracies working at cross purposes, and the effect of the multiple lobbies involved and of US domestic political exploitation, and the paradox of the American policy itself, whose nonproliferation efforts actually provoke nuclear proliferation.
The Washington official line seems meant to build pressure at the UN Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran, even while conceding that nothing practical is expected to result, and that nothing can be done about Iran’s resumption of nuclear processing. Iran at present is doing no more than it has a right to do in international law.

The crossfire of public pronouncements draws attention to the inherent criticism of the Western position: the US and the other Security Council members can have nuclear weapons, and Israel, Pakistan and India (non-Security Council members), can have them too, but Iran shouldn’t proceed with its (currently) non-military programme. The US is even in discussion with India to supply nuclear materials (for strictly peaceful purposes, of course).

All of this piles up in righteous Iranian eyes as evidence that Iran needs to go beyond its present programme and actually build nuclear weapons. National prestige and pride are involved, obviously — and nationalism is probably the most powerful of all political forces.

Military strategy is also involved. So far as anyone in the non-Western world can see, Iraq’s mistake in 2003 was not to have a nuclear bomb or two in working order. That would have kept the US at bay, just as uncertainty about North Korea’s nuclear arms inhibits US policy in the Far East.

Iran already possesses non-nuclear deterrents to American attack, which Iraq did not, and they are probably strong enough to keep both the US and Israel away from Iranian nuclear sites.

Iran can close down a major part of Middle Eastern oil shipments by closing the Strait of Hormuz. It has combined Revolutionary Guard and ground forces three times the total of American forces now active in Iraq, where Tehran also has influence on the Shia clerical leadership, which holds the key to Iraq’s future.

Nuclear weapons proliferation in the non-Western world is an old American preoccupation, but it is directly linked to Third World perceptions of the threat of American military intervention. The main, if not the only, advantage that nuclear weapons provide a country such as Iran is the deterrence of intervention by the US or Israel. The urge to possess these weapons is directly reciprocal to American non-proliferation pressures, and the threat of attack.

(The India-Pakistan case is an exception to these generalisations, since there the perceived threats are strictly bilateral, and the two countries have simply replicated for themselves, at great cost, the balance of terror that existed between the US and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.)

Possession of the bomb would also bring comfort and prestige to Iran in dealing with its nuclear-armed neighbours, which include Pakistan and Russia, as well as Israel.

In theory, a threat of aggressive use of nuclear weapons exists, but in the Middle East it is accompanied by certainty of overwhelming Israeli (or even American) retaliation. Warning by American politicians that "rogue states" might attack Israel, the US, British bases on Cyprus, or Western Europe, are manipulation or propaganda. Individual Muslims may welcome martyrdom, but nations, even Muslim nations, do not.

Israel, with its conventional arms and weapons of mass destruction, is amply capable of assuring its own military deterrence and defence, whatever Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, thinks or says. But Israel cannot expect long-term security without resolving its conflict with the Palestinians. As Israeli leaders know, solving the problem is chiefly up to Israel. Forty years of American involvement have mainly enabled the Israelis to avoid doing so.

The danger of terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons exists, if barely. This would be possible only with a nuclear state’s complicity. The political plausibility of any government giving terrorists control of such weapons is next to nil, considering the risks involved for the benefactor state. The technical and logistical complexity of such an operation would also be great.

There are serious problems in international affairs and there are baroque ones. This one is baroque.

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Big companies pulling out of Iran
Middle East Online 31 Jan 06

WASHINGTON - Some major finance and energy companies are cutting commercial ties with Iran as US authorities step up enforcement of existing sanctions and international diplomatic pressure builds over Tehran's nuclear ambitions, a US newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Dutch banking group ABN Amro and the UBS bank of Switzerland announced last week that they would halt business operations in Iran and the US energy services company Halliburton severed links last year.

The US Justice Department is investigating all three firms for possible violations of US sanctions against Iran, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing lawyers, securities filings and unnamed sources familiar with the probe.
ABN Amro last month admitted to improper transactions with Iran through a branch in Dubai and agreed to pay 80 million dollars in fines.

Other major firms still operating in Iran are also under scrutiny, including HSBC bank, Standard Chartered, and BNP Paribas, the paper wrote.

Federal authorities are conducting several sweeping sanctions inquiries, looking at compliance with US sanctions against Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan and Cuba, the report said.

The investigations are examining whether European banks with branches in New York adhered to US sanctions and prohibitions against individuals or firms designated as having links to terrorism.

US enforcement of the sanctions has become stricter following demands from lawmakers in Congress in 2004, the paper reported.

"In the past, they have been lax," said Karim Sadjapour, an analyst with the International Crisis Group told the daily.

Iran faces mounting international concern over its nuclear program, which Western governments suspect is a cover for a weapons project. Tehran insists it is a purely peaceful program designed to generate electricity and has threatened to cut back on oil exports if UN Security Council members choose to impose sanctions.

Foreign ministers from Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States agreed in London on Tuesday to have Iran referred to the UN Security Council over its disputed nuclear program. In a compromise demanded by Russia, UN action would be put off until at least March.

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U.S. Instigated Iran's Nuclear Program 30 Years Ago
Commentary, William O. Beeman, New America Media Jan 30, 2006

White House staff members, who are trying to prevent Iran from developing its own nuclear energy capacity and who refuse to take military action against Iran "off the table," have conveniently forgotten that the United States was the midwife to the Iranian nuclear program 30 years ago.

Every aspect of Iran's current nuclear development was approved and encouraged by Washington in the 1970s. President Gerald Ford offered Iran a full nuclear cycle in 1976. Moreover, the only Iranian reactor currently about to become operative, the reactor in Bushire (also known as Bushehr), was started before the Iranian revolution with U.S. approval, and cannot produce weapons-grade plutonium.

The Bushire reactor -- a "light water" reactor -- produces Pu (plutonium) 240, Pu241 and Pu242. Although these isotopes could theoretically be weaponized, the process is extremely long and complicated, and also untried. To date, no nuclear weapon has ever been produced with plutonium produced with the kind of reactor at Bushire. Moreover, the plant must be completely shut down to extract the fuel rods, making the process immediately open to detection and inspection. Other possible reactors in Iran are far in the future.

The American push for Iran's nuclear development was carried out with great enthusiasm. Professor Ahmad Sadri, chair of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Lake Forest College in Illinois, was a young man in Iran when the United States was touting nuclear power facilities to the government of the Shah. In the 1970s he remembers seeing the American display at the Tehran International Exhibition, which was "dedicated to the single theme of extolling the virtues of atomic energy and the feasibility of its transfer to Iran." Sadri also remembers an encounter with Octave J. Du Temple, executive director emeritus of the American Nuclear Society, who fondly reminisced about half a dozen trips in the early 1970s to Tehran and Shiraz in order to participate in conferences and summits on "transfer of nuclear technology."

Washington international lawyer Donald Weadon, who was active in Iran during this period, points out that after 1972 and the oil crisis, the United States was rabidly pursuing investment opportunities in Iran, including selling nuclear power plants. "The Iranians were wooed hard with the prospect of nuclear power from trusted, U.S.-backed suppliers," he says, "with the prospect of the reservation of significant revenues from oil exports for foreign and domestic investment."

American dissimulation on this point reveals some interesting motives on Washington's part. Iran under the Shah was as much of a threat to its neighbors (including Iraq) as it might be said to be today. Its nuclear ambitions then could have been inflated and denigrated in exactly the same way they are being inflated and denigrated today, but the United States was blissfully unconcerned. The big difference is that Iran is now perceived to be a threat to Israel, and this fuels much of the threat of military action.

Even those who admit that the United States helped start Iran's current nuclear development can produce only two factors that make a difference in how Iran should be treated today as opposed to the 1970s. The most recent factor is President Ahmadinejad's widely denounced remarks attacking Israel. The second, older factor is Iran's alleged concealment of nuclear energy development activities in the past.

President Ahmadinejad's remarks have little or no connection with any probable action on Iran's part regarding Israel. His pronouncements were designed primarily to shore up support from extremist elements among his own revolutionary supporters. Moreover, Ahmadinejad has no control over Iran's foreign policy or its nuclear energy program, and his views are not embraced by Iran's clerical leaders.

The second accusation, that Iran has "regularly hidden information about its nuclear program" is equally specious. Much of what the United States has called "concealment" was never concealed at all, when the reports of the United Nations inspection team are examined. Many of the U.S. charges about removing topsoil and bulldozing material at some of the research sites are unsupported by the United Nations. Moreover, even if one concedes that Iran did conceal some processes, this activity started 18-20 years ago, when the revolution was still young and Ayatollah Khomeini was still alive, under completely different political actors than are in power today.

Indeed, whatever Iran did or didn't do in the past, they are in compliance with the NNPT at present. Indeed, there would be no way to accuse them of anything if they had not been so compliant about responding to NNPT requests for information. The NNPT grants all signatories the right to pursue nuclear research for peaceful purposes of precisely the kind in which Iran is currently engaged.

The mantra "Iran must not get nuclear weapons" has been repeated so often now that most people have come to believe that Iran has them or is getting them. This implication is completely unproven. The tragedy would be that in the end, U.S. hostility may goad Iran into a real nuclear weapons program.

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Leaked MI5 London Bombing report may be disinfo
Steve Watson Prisonplanet January 30 2006

We have tirelessly exposed the inconsistencies and unreported facts surrounding the July London Bombings, this weekend saw a few more emerge.

A supposed leaked MI5 report suggests that the intelligence agencies have no leads and know very little about who was behind the July 7 attacks.

“We know little about what three of the bombers did in Pakistan, when attack planning began, how and when the attackers were recruited, the extent of any external direction or assistance and the extent and role of any wider network.”

This is very convenient for MI5 because it means they have "exhausted their efforts" and are basically conceding that the matter will now be laid to rest.

The report, by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC), also states that MI5 still does not know whether the attacks of July 7 and July 21 were linked and whether there are any Al-Qaeda links.

“We do not know how, when and with whom the attack planning originated. And we still do not know what degree of external assistance either group had... Whilst investigations are progressing, there remain significant gaps in our knowledge... We still have no insight into the degree . . . of command and control of the operation.”

Lets enlighten MI5 a little with what we have found out.
Terror expert John Loftus has gone on record with the fact that one of the key figures behind the July 7 attacks, Haroon Rashid Aswat, was in the services of British Intelligence.

Aswat is a known Al Qaeda operative, yet has been used and protected on both sides of the Atlantic by MI6 and the CIA.

We have previously exposed how the Intelligence agencies funded, trained and armed Al Qaeda operatives.

The London Independent also reported 2 days before the Bombings how MI5 has previously used so called Al Qaeda operatives as informants, allowing them to be left alone as a trade off. This only came to light when Bisher al-Rawi was captured by the CIA and taken to the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay. The original Independent link has now been removed.

We have previously revealed how former MI5 officer David Shayler has alleged, and French intel sources have corroborated, that the MI6 paid a LibyanAl Qaeda cell £100,000 in 1995 to assassinate colonel Qaddafi. The use of the group that has come to be known as "Al Qaeda" as assets by Intelligence services the world over is well documented.

In addition to this perhaps MI5 should investigate just who was behind the drills that were being conducted in the same spots as the bombings at exactly the same times.

Surely this is beyond a coincidence and can be considered "a lead" in any investigation. The company that ordered the drills has still not been named, we only know that those carrying out the drills were in the employ of a Visor Consultants, which bills itself as a 'crisis management' advice company, better known to you and I as a PR firm.

Managing Director Peter Poweris a former Scotland Yard official, working at one time with the Anti Terrorist Branch.

Another lead to follow up would be to ascertain why credible witnesses described the bombs and resulting damage as coming from underneath the trains.

"The policeman said 'mind that hole, that's where the bomb was'. The metal was pushed upwards as if the bomb was underneath the train. They seem to think the bomb was left in a bag, but I don't remember anybody being where the bomb was, or any bag," one witness said.

And one more direction the investigation should take is to ascertain why many had prior knowledge of both the July 7 and 21 attacks and where that prior knowledge came from.

Scotland Yard informed the Israeli Embassy in London before the bombings on the 7th, they also knew the second round of bombings was going to happen. But it seems that somehow Israel already knew about the attacks because they had issued a warning to British intelligence "a couple of days before".

Further indication of prior knowledge can be found in activity on the stock market days before the attacks. Who shorted British pound? The currency fell an unprecedented 6% in 10 days before London terror attacks, suggesting that the perpetrators knew how to fix the market to reap huge profits, or that some traders had inside knowledge.

"This was an almost unprecedented weakness and far too sharp to be a coincidence," one economist with more than 35 years of experience in the investment industry commented.

In a similar vain it seems that Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan also had a feeling terror attacks were imminent.

It is highly likely that the MI5 report has been leaked on purpose in order to dispel rumours of inside involvement. Is it really likely that the world's foremost intelligence agency with all the technology, funding and manpower has absolutely no idea whatsoever about 7/7?

It is not unknown for MI5 to put out disinfo in order to shift the public perspective and possibly use in conjunction with later events.

At the height of the furor over the Princess Diana murder, purported MI5 documents were released that indicated a cover up had been carried out and that implicated the British secret services. It was later reveled that these documents had been carefully prepared to be easily spotted as fakes after some study.

One intriguing aspect of the London Bombing report is the fact that the MI5 codename for the event is "Stepford".

The four "bombers" are referred to as the "Stepford four". Why is this the case?

There is no place in the UK called Stepford, the word HAS to be a reference to the novel and film The Stepford Wives. Of course the plot of this sci-fi film is that the the wives of Stepford are actually completely submissive servants, gynoids created by an elite group of men.

The only entry in the dictionary for the word Stepford has the following description: pertaining to a person with a conforming and compliant attitude, much like a robot .

So does this explain why the four bombers seemed to be completely calm, acting normally, going for Big Macs, buying return tickets, arguing over being short changed before they blew themselves up?

I am NOT suggesting that they were literally robots before that gets taken out of context, yet the MI5 codename is very revealing in that it suggests the operation was a carefully coordinated and controlled one with four compliant and malleable patsies following direct orders.

Now if MI5 has no idea who was behind the operation or whether there were any orders coming from a mastermind, why would they give the event the codename "Stepford"?

We welcome any rational alternative explanations for this.

Perhaps even more intriguing is the codename for the July 21 failed bombings. MI5 refer to this event as "Hat".

What kind of codename is Hat? It describes nothing about the events of 21/7.

The literal meaning of the word hat is "a cover for the head". i don't see any other possible meaning the word hat can have.

If we are to take the first bombing operation as the "head" then are MI5 suggesting 21/7 is some kind of cover for it?

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Choreographed Chaos?
By Mohammed Omer reporting from Gaza City, Occupied Palestine

Norwegian nationals, heeding s strong request from their government, left the Gaza Strip under the protection of the Palestinian security forces on Monday, 30 January. Over the weekend, the Al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigade, the armed wing of the defeated Fatah party, distributed a leaflet in Gaza City demanding that all Norwegians, Swedes, and Danes leave Gaza within 48 hours, pending an apology from the governments of Denmark and Norway for cartoons insulting the Prophet Mohammed published late in 2005.
The offending cartoons, caricaturing the Prophet as a terrorist, first appeared in Denmark's Jylland Posten and were later republished in one Norwegian magazine. The Danish paper, in the wake of the resulting furor throughout the Islamic world, published an "apology" that made matters worse, saying that they had not meant to insult anyone. Since all visual portrayals of the Prophet Mohammed are strictly forbidden to Muslims, and the disrespect in the images was flagrant, the Danish newspaper's statement, coupled with their government's defense of free expression, only inflamed the situation.

A Fatah spokesman, Abu Qusai, explained his position by saying: "We respect other religions and cultures. It's a must that they should respect ours as well." Asked if their insistence that Danish and Norwegian nationals leave Gaza might have an adverse effect on Palestine, both internally and internationally, he replied, "We don't want these Danes and Norwegians to be harmed. We understand they personally had no part in the insult to the Prophet. But we do hope they'll press their governments to apologize to the Islamic world. Actually, we welcome foreigners as our guests, but basic respect for religion is a red line that no one should cross."

The Al Yasser Brigades, another militant faction linked to the defeated Fatah, demonstrated against the Nordic countries over the weekend, while the Popular Resistance Committee, a third armed militant group, staged a second demonstration in which people trampled the Danish flag and burned Danish and Norwegian flags. "The Danish government doesn’t want to apologize to Muslims for what they did to them," one of the demonstrators said. "We belong to Fatah. We defend our religion. So we ban Danes and Norwegians from entering the Gaza Strip until the Danish government apologizes."

The militant groups, however, constitute about 5000 men among the 1.3 million citizens of Gaza. Ordinary Palestinians expressed quite different views from the fiery rhetoric of the Fatah-linked militants. "When Fatah asks Danes and Norwegians to leave Gaza, that doesn’t mean that all Danes and Norwegians are bad. We understand that. We know the insult to the Prophet was the work of only a few," said one Gaza resident, Umm Wael Salam, 45.

The landslide victory of the Islamist movement Hamas in last week's parliamentary elections is not without its ironies. While one might expect the overtly Islamist Hamas members to be the first to take to the streets to demonstrate against an insult to the Prophet, instead the new ruling party distributed a somber, even statesmanlike, press release demanding that the issue could not and should not be resolved by violence against foreigners. Their statement insisted the resolution had to be a diplomatic one via a formal apology. It is, in fact, the militant wings of the defeated secular Fatah party that are creating disorder over the humiliation offered to Islam. Astute observers are wondering if the real humiliation of interest to Fatah is not disrespect to the Prophet, but the embarrassment Hamas may suffer in the international community if it cannot control the unruly militants. So far, though, the demonstrations against the Nordic oountries have been loud, but brief, with no harm done to any Danish or Norwegian citizens.

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Netanyahu compares Hamas election win to rise of Hitler
By Lilach Weissman Haaretz Correspondent 31 Jan 06

While stumping in Netanya on Sunday, Likud Chairman MK Benjamin Netanyahu compared Hamas' victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections last week to the rise of the Nazis in Germany in the 1930s.
"A few days ago, a new foe arose," Netanyahu said at a campaign stop at the Park Hotel. "When Hitler rose to power, it was said that ruling would moderate him, and it was also said in regard to the Ayatollah's regime and the Taliban. There are urgent warning signs that [scream] out a lust for murder and destruction."

"The Likud will not continue transferring territory, [we] need to stop giving them money - neither ours nor the world's - and [we] must prevent them from establishing an army any which way possible," Netanyahu said, adding that the Likud will derail Hamas' continuing ascent.

"We will ratchet up international pressure so that the Palestinian government will change direction and will not threaten us," Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu was accompanied at the event by Likud No. 2 MK Silvan Shalom. Both candidates took to the podium and praised one another in a display of unity.

The former foreign minister assailed the policy of Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, namely his decision to allow Hamas to participate in the elections.

"On our own volition we made a wrong decision and brought about the rise of Hamas," Shalom said. "And now the intelligence services are blamed for not anticipating the result in advance."

"What, does intelligence view the future through coffee?" Shalom said. "Does intelligence [serve as] an astrologist? If so, it should tell us what is going to happen on March 28 (the date of general elections)."

"[People] are looking for someone to blame, but Olmert, with his own hands, brought about the rise of Hamas by allowing elections in east Jerusalem," Shalom said.

In response, Kadima issued a statement saying the State of Israel "remembers very well Benjamin Netanyahu's resounding failure as prime minister."
Comment: Now THAT is rich! If anything, the coup d'etat managed by Bush and the Neocons in the US is EXACTLY like the "Rise of Hitler." Helped by the Zionists, we should add.

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Boycotts Against Denmark Spread
By Hasan Cucuk Copenhagen January 31, 2006

Boycotts and outrage towards Denmark continue to increase after the Danish government announced it would not apologize for the publication of satirical cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed in Danish newspaper, Jyllands Posten.

The scandal has been costly for Denmark and the international dimension of the incident has begun to increase.
EU authorities handled the issue at the General Affairs Council Monday and focused on "respect for beliefs".

After Libya closed down its representative office in the Danish capital Copenhagen, Palestinians protesting the cartoons raided an EU office in Gaza and an Iraqi group demanded attacks be instigated against Danish targets.

Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassadors to Copenhagen and the boycott against Danish products quickly spread to other Gulf countries and Egypt as well.

The boycott negatively affected the Danish economy from the very first day.

The dairy company, Arla Foods, has halted all exports to the Middle East and is considering laying off employees as it is losing around 1.3 million euros a day in lost sales.

Arla, unable to sell goods in the country, was forced to close its factory in Riyadh yesterday and halted the construction of its new factory. The pharmaceutical products of Novo Nordisk, selling 30 million euros annually, were removed from pharmacy shelves. Danish goods were also removed from stands in Kuwaiti markets, and the United Arab Emirates joined the boycott chain yesterday.

The organization of Muslim Brothers, the main opposition in Egypt, called for a boycott against Danish goods.

Marianne Carstenskiold from the Danish Industrialists Association said they are helpless, "We want to conduct dialogue with the region, but even if the problem is solved, it will take time to return to the old days."

The boycott also negatively affects Muslims living in Denmark. Some Danes have demanded via messages sent the local SMS network, "Do not buy anything from the restaurants and shops belonging to Muslims.".

The developments have caused many unwanted incidents.

Two Arla workers were beaten in Saudi Arabia and the EU office in Palestine was over taken by an armed group. The supporters of al-Fatah who raided the office demanded an apology from Denmark and Norway. The armed group called, Jaish al-Mujaheeden, called on its supporters to attack Danish and Norwegian targets. The Norwegian government had apologized when the Norwegian newspaper, Magazinet, reprinted the cartoons from Jyllands Posten. Scandinavian countries have asked their citizens not to travel to the Middle East.

The EU Commissioner for Commerce, Peter Mandelson, emphasized they will seek action from the World Trade Organization (WTO) if Saudi Arabia supports the boycott.

Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik stated after the EU General Affairs Council gathering yesterday, "With the help of freedom of expression and the press, some basic religious values should not be humiliated in order to find a solution."

The EU High Representative, Javier Solana, stressed “religious values should be respected and no religion should be humiliated."

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, backing the insulting cartoons published in Jyllands Posten on the grounds of "freedom of expression," said he did not approve of the cartoons adding, "I would never approve of the portrayal of Prophet Mohammed, Jesus or any other person in a humiliating way."

Rasmussen remarked that the government "will try its best to deal with the unfortunate events," while he continued to avoid making an official apology.

Danish companies make 2 billion euro turnover

The Islamic world produces an income of two billion euros for Denmark.

The country's leading cheese and butter producer, Arla's annual exports to Gulf countries reaches 400 million euros.

The Danish pharmaceutical firm, Novo Nordisk, and Danpo Chick and Grundfoss Water Pump companies export large amounts of goods to the region. Denmark's most fundamental trade partners among Muslim countries include the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Malaysia, Turkey, Egypt, and Indonesia. Saudi Arabia tops the list with 300 million euros in exports; while Turkey imports 280 million euros annually from Denmark.

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Russia Develops Defense-Proof Missiles
By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV Associated Press Writer 31 Jan 06

MOSCOW -- President Vladimir Putin boasted Tuesday that Russia has new missiles capable of penetrating any missile defense system and said he had briefed the French president on their capabilities.

"Russia has tested missile systems that no one in the world has," Putin said. "These missile systems don't represent a response to a missile defense system, but it doesn't matter to them whether that exists or not. 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.

Putin said he had shown the working principles of the missile system to French President Jacques Chirac during a visit to a Russian military facility. "He knows what I'm talking about," Putin said.

In April 2004, Chirac became the first Western leader to visit Russia's top-secret Titov space control center, which controls all of its satellites and is involved in launching its intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Putin said the new missiles were capable of changing both altitude and direction, making it impossible for an enemy to intercept them since "a missile defense system is designed to counter missiles moving along a ballistic trajectory."

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.

Military analysts said Russian forces experimented with a maneuvering warhead during a missile launch several years ago, but voiced doubt about their 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 for the Russian navy, now under development.

Russia opposed Washington's withdrawal in 2002 from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in order to deploy a national missile defense shield, saying the 30-year-old U.S.-Soviet pact was a key element of international security. Putin called the decision a mistake that would hurt global security but not threaten Russia.

The ABM treaty banned missile defense systems on the assumption that the fear of retaliation would prevent each nation from launching a first strike -- a strategy known as mutually assured destruction.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Russia would commission new early warning radars to replace those located in the former Soviet republics. The new radars will "provide an earlier warning on launches of all missiles, including intercontinental ballistic missiles as well as tactical and cruise missiles," Ivanov said, according to Russian news reports.

The Russian military has used Soviet-built early warning radars located in Azerbaijan and Ukraine, and it has been involved in rent and other arguments over the issue. Ivanov said the commissioning of new radars will allow Russia to stop using them.

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Former ADF head issues warning over US alliance
ABC News 31 Jan 06

A former chief of the Australian Defence Force (ADF), retired Admiral Chris Barrie, has delivered a grim prediction on the state of Australia's defence alliance with the United States.

He says in future, the majority of an untrusting Australian community will end up resenting the alliance.
Giving the keynote speech at a Pacific Maritime Conference in Sydney, the retired admiral's scathing assessment of the ANZUS security pact included a prediction that in the next 50 years it would deliver very little of substance.

"It's interesting when you wander around the Australian community today and ask that question," he said.

"I know that things are going to change, I know that politics in the United States invariably swings from one side to the other but I think ordinary Australians are making some serious questions about these things."

He says that in 50 years time Australia will have become an insignificant country in the Asia-Pacific region.

Admiral Barrie also called for a return of conscription or national service as the only way to solve the ADF's recruitment problems.

He retired as the head of the ADF in 2002.

Comment: And if they resent it enough, there could be revolution. That's what the guy is trying to say. Somebody ought to warn Bush and the Neocons about that sort of thing. Americans, even if they are slow to awaken, are a bit tetchy about having their freedoms taken away by lies.

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Perplexed and Angry: Polls Left Alito Filibuster Wide Open to Democrats
Bob Geiger 30 Jan 06

We have watched in dismay over the weekend as too many Democrats remained unwilling to heed Senator John Kerry’s call to filibuster the Samuel Alito Supreme Court nomination. And we know that such political cowardice certainly can’t be the fear of going up against George W. Bush and what the public-relations hit might be from doing that.

A Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll released Friday shows Bush’s national approval rating still in the cellar at 43 percent and no amount of the president saying “war on terror” and “September 11” over and over seems to be changing that. Bush doesn’t look to me like someone the opposition party should be afraid to mess with.

So I decided to look at some polling numbers on the Alito nomination and the Supreme Court, hoping that the exercise might shed some light on why many Democrats won’t show any spine in blocking Bush’s ultraconservative nominee.

What I found left me even more perplexed and angry.
A Fox News poll taken last week shows that 53 percent of Americans believe either that Alito should not be confirmed (32 percent) or have no opinion (21 percent).

In a CBS News/New York Times poll, taken January 20-25, 16 percent of respondents had an unfavorable view of Alito. But most people didn’t have much of an opinion at all, with 23 percent undecided and one-third of all Americans saying they hadn’t heard enough to have an opinion. (But I’d wager a month’s pay that this same 33 percent has very firm opinions on the Natalee Holloway disappearance or the breakup of Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt.)

The same poll asked whether Alito should be confirmed by the Senate and, true to non-committal form, 49 percent responded saying they are “unsure” or “can’t say.”

And the rubber really meets the road with questions like this one asked in a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll taken 10 days ago: "Suppose all or most of the Democrats in the Senate oppose Alito's nomination. Do you think they would be justified or not justified in using Senate procedures, such as the filibuster, to prevent an up-or-down vote on his nomination?"

That question showed us that 53 percent of Americans either flat-out support a filibuster or are unsure.

In early January, the same poll asked respondents what they thought of the political philosophy of the current Supreme Court. Only six percent said they thought the Court was “too liberal” while 29 percent said it’s too conservative. But, as with most issues surrounding Alito and the Supreme Court in general, there was mostly an open mind, with half saying the philosophy of the high court was “about right” or declaring themselves “unsure.”

Finally, a CBS News poll in early 2006 showed that 61 percent of Americans believe Senators voting on a Supreme Court Justice should “...also consider that nominee's personal views on major issues the Supreme Court decides."

No matter what public-opinion survey you look at over the last two months, they all lead to the same fundamental conclusion: That the American people are woefully uninformed about the judicial branch of government and can generally be convinced one way or the other on issues involving the Supreme Court.

What does that mean right now? It means that Senate Democrats sitting on the fence since Friday about filibustering the Alito nomination have missed the boat on a major opportunity to do the right thing for our country and achieve a major political victory at the same time.

One assumes the Democratic leadership has staff paid to look at numbers like I easily uncovered and to make recommendations like I would have made to their bosses – that they get out there, as publicly as possible, and make the case to the American people that Samuel Alito will tilt a judiciary that only a tiny percentage of the country believes is too liberal even farther in the opposite direction.

They should have been told – or had the political sense to see it themselves – that an easy case could have been made that this is yet another example of an arrogant president, drunk with unearned power, once again breaking his old campaign pledge to be a “uniter and not a divider.”

And they certainly could have prepared better to make those arguments in the public forum of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearings, so that blocking the destructive effect that Alito will have on our country would not have come down to a frenzied, last-minute effort.

That could have happened. But I guess it just all sounded like too damn much work.
Comment: We think a lot of people are perplexed and angry, but is it really because standing up for what is right is too damn much trouble? We don't think so. We find it fascinating to note that even the venerable Robert Byrd, total enemy of the Neocons, sold out at the last minute.

Why? What could make such a staunch Constitutionalist as Byrd flop over the fence?

Well, either they know something VERY serious that the rest of us don't know, or somebody knows something about THEM that the rest of us don't know, and they are all willing to toe the line to keep those secrets.

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Senate target: Bush's war powers
By Gail Russell Chaddock The Christian Science Monitor 1 Feb 06

WASHINGTON – Since 9/11, the Bush White House has moved aggressively to expand presidential power in wartime, at the expense of Congress. Until recently, the Republican-controlled Congress went along.

Even bipartisan concern that Samuel Alito would too enthusiastically support broad presidential powers was not enough to block his confirmation to the Supreme Court Tuesday.

But that deference may be ending. The Senate, especially, is gearing up to make the case that power between the executive and legislative branches is unbalanced.

Next week, the Senate begins the first hearings on the president's authorization of eavesdropping without a warrant.

At the same time, Republicans are divided over whether to extend 16 provisions of the USA Patriot Act that are set to expire this Friday. Four Senate Republicans are joining most Democrats to demand more protections for civil liberties.

"The presidency, whoever is in it, has real advantages in the struggle, but we may see that the Congress finally believes that the Bush administration has gone too far," says John Samples, director of the Center for Representative Government at the CATO Institute, a libertarian think tank.

For Sen. Arlen Specter (R) of Pennsylvania, who chairs the Judiciary panel, the two issues of NSA wiretaps and renewal of the Patriot Act are forever linked in time. The first reports of illegal domestic eavesdropping by the National Security Administration (NSA), published in The New York Times on Dec. 16, just before a key vote on the Patriot Act, "hit me like a cannonball between the eyes," he says.

He is asking Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to prepare for a full day of questioning on Feb. 6. Senator Specter wants to hear Mr. Gonzales explain why the Bush administration did not ask Congress to expand executive powers under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), if they were not adequate to protect the country.

"Was it because you thought you couldn't get such an expansion?" the chairman asked Gonzales in a Jan. 24 letter.

Congress, Specter wrote, was "predisposed" to grant the executive additional powers necessary to keep the nation safe. Why, then, not ask for them, or at least use the 72-hour "after-the-fact" authorization provided in the 1978 FISA? he asked.

The issue is looming so large that the White House devoted a full week in the run-up to this week's State of the Union Address to defuse the issue. Instead of "domestic spying" - the term used most often in the press - the White House described the program as "terrorist surveillance." Recent communication from Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, appeared to reinforce the threat.

"The political outcome of this battle will depend on who succeeds in defining the terms of the debate," says Thomas Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

"If it's a straight tradeoff between security and privacy or liberty, security wins. If it's framed as a way of monitoring suspicious characters, it wins overwhelmingly," he says. "But if there is any hint of abuse of power or of the president not telling the truth, of scrutinizing citizens with no evidence of suspicious behavior, then it turns into something else."

If it were just a partisan fight, the White House charge that Democrats are locked in pre-9/11 mentality might carry the day. But four of the 46 senators who blocked a December vote to extend the Patriot Act are Republicans.

Pushback from both sides of the aisle over the president's conduct of the war in Iraq began after controversy over the treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison. Congress responded with an amendment on the FY 2006 Defense Authorization bill - over an initial White House veto threat - that banned the torture of detainees. In a Dec. 15 White House meeting, the president thanked Sens. John Warner of Virginia and John McCain of Arizona, chief sponsors of the amendment, for their "good work on behalf of America."

But in a signing statement two weeks later, the president appeared to carve out a zone of discretion relating to detainees, consistent with "the constitutional authority of the president to supervise the unitary executive branch." The statement alarmed lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, who saw the move as a bid to thwart the intent of the law.

"President Bush continues to believe he's above the law and above the Constitution ... [that the] unitary executive president can pick and choose which laws he will follow," says Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid.

For Sen. Lindsay Graham (R) of South Carolina, who has also consistently challenged the White House on treatment of detainees, excessive claims of executive power could undermine the powers of future presidents, especially during war.

If the president carries the day with his claims that Congress's approval of a use-of-force resolution after 9/11 gave the White House the power to bypass legislation governing national security wiretaps, "the next president will have great difficulty getting a force resolution. Republicans will have diminished the power for future presidents," he says.

For some Republicans, the standoff over executive power recalls the fireworks between the Democrat-controlled Congress and the Reagan White House over the Iran-contra affair in 1987. The ranking Republican on the House Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran was then Rep. Dick Cheney of Wyoming.

"There was no constitutional crisis, no systematic disrespect for 'the rule of law.... No one in the government was acting out of corrupt motives," concluded Republicans in their minority report.

It's an argument some Republicans plan to raise next week. "The president has inherent powers that Congress cannot take away," says Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah.

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Who Voted For Alito?
AP Report ICH 31 Jan 06

Democrats with no spines:

Akaka, Hawaii; Baucus, Mont.; Bingaman, N.M.; Byrd, W.Va.; Cantwell, Wash.; Carper, Del.; Conrad, N.D.; Dorgan, N.D.; Inouye, Hawaii; Johnson, S.D.; Kohl, Wis.; Landrieu, La.; Lieberman, Conn.; Lincoln, Ark.; Nelson, Fla.; Nelson, Neb.; Pryor, Ark.; Rockefeller, W.Va.; Salazar, Colo.

01/31/06 -- -- The Associated Press tallied the 72-25 vote:

On this vote, a "yes" vote was a vote to end the debate and a "no" vote was a vote to filibuster the nomination.

Voting "yes" were 19 Democrats and 53 Republicans.

Voting "no" were 24 Democrats and one independent.!

Democrats Yes

Akaka, Hawaii; Baucus, Mont.; Bingaman, N.M.; Byrd, W.Va.; Cantwell, Wash.; Carper, Del.; Conrad, N.D.; Dorgan, N.D.; Inouye, Hawaii; Johnson, S.D.; Kohl, Wis.; Landrieu, La.; Lieberman, Conn.; Lincoln, Ark.; Nelson, Fla.; Nelson, Neb.; Pryor, Ark.; Rockefeller, W.Va.; Salazar, Colo.

Democrats No

Bayh, Ind.; Biden, Del.; Boxer, Calif.; Clinton, N.Y.; Dayton, Minn.; Dodd, Conn.; Durbin, Ill.; Feingold, Wis.; Feinstein, Calif.; Kennedy, Mass.; Kerry, Mass.; Lautenberg, N.J.; Leahy, Vt.; Levin, Mich.; Menendez, N.J.; Mikulski, Md.; Murray, Wash.; Obama, Ill.; Reed, R.I.; Reid, Nev.; Sarbanes, Md.; Schumer, N.Y.; Stabenow, Mich.; Wyden, Ore.

Democrats Not Voting

Harkin, Iowa.

Republicans Yes

Alexander, Tenn.; Allard, Colo.; Allen, Va.; Bennett, Utah; Bond, Mo.; Brownback, Kan.; Bunning, Ky.; Burns, Mont.; Burr, N.C.; Chafee, R.I.; Chambliss, Ga.; Coburn, Okla.; Cochran, Miss.; Coleman, Minn.; Collins, Maine; Cornyn, Texas; Craig, Idaho; Crapo, Idaho; DeMint, S.C.; DeWine, Ohio; Dole, N.C.; Domenici, N.M.; Enzi, Wyo.; Frist, Tenn.; Graham, S.C.; Grassley, Iowa; Gregg, N.H.; Hatch, Utah; Hutchison, Texas; Inhofe, Okla.; Isakson, Ga.; Kyl, Ariz.; Lott, Miss.; Lugar, Ind.; Martinez, Fla.; McCain, Ariz.; McConnell, Ky.; Murkowski, Alaska; Roberts, Kan.; Santorum, Pa.; Sessions, Ala.; Shelby, Ala.; Smith, Ore.; Snowe, Maine; Specter, Pa.; Stevens, Alaska; Sununu, N.H.; Talent, Mo.; Thomas, Wyo.; Thune, S.D.; Vitter, La.; Voinovich, Ohio; Warner, Va.

Republicans No


Republicans Not Voting

Ensign, Nev.; Hagel, Neb.

Others No

Jeffords, Vt.

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The Democrats' Alito Debacle
By DAVE LINDORFF Counterpunch 31 Jan 06

This means it won't be enough to simply pick up 16 new Democratic seats in the House and six in the Senate in November. Those new seats will have to be filled by people who do stand for something.
The pathetic failure of Democrats in the Senate to stick together and block the appointment of Sam Alito to the Supreme Court -- a man committed to the idea of a president with unchecked, dictatatorial powers, and who favors corporations and the state over the individual -- shows that it won't just do to have Democrats take over Congress in November.

The Democrats who are still in Congress -- especially the leadership, but even the rank-and-file members -- are so spineless and habituated to caving in to Republican threats that they don't even know how to stand on principle.

This means it won't be enough to simply pick up 16 new Democratic seats in the House and six in the Senate in November. Those new seats will have to be filled by people who do stand for something. And the fake Democrats like Max Baucus (D-Montana), Kent Conrad (D-N. Dakota), Joe Lieberman (D-Connecticut) and Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana) -- there were 19 Democrats who voted for cloture, ending the chance of a filibuster, and one, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) who abstained -- need to be challenged in primaries by real progressives, and punished for their betrayal of the Constitution and the hopes of those who sent them to Washington.

Impeachment of the criminal and power-mad President Bush will not even be possible as long as these frauds continue to dominate the Democratic Party. Only a grass-roots revolt among progressives during the primaries in support of candidates like Cindy Sheehan, who has announced plans to challenge Feinstein, will produce the kind of political shift that could turn around the country's slide into authoritarianism.

Notice how as soon as Sheehan mentioned running against Feinstein in a primary, Feinstein, who had been dissing the idea of a filibuster, suddenly became a vote against cloture. There's a lesson here.

And how about Sen. Byrd, who voted with the cowards? Up for election in November, this senator who has written so passionately about the Bush administration's abuse of power and of the Constitution, and who has admonished his colleagues to stand up for the traditions of the Senate, showed himself to be just a coal-company-financed gasbag, endorsing the appointment of a nominee who lied at his confirmation hearing, and whose rulings and writings show he considers Congress to be, at best, a vestigial inconvenience to an all-powerful Executive.

Dave Lindorff is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled "This Can't be Happening!" is published by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net. He can be reached at: dlindorff@yahoo.com

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Search engines challenged on ‘theft’
By Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson Media Editor in London Published: January 31 2006

A group of newspaper, magazine and book publishers is accusing Google and other aggregators of online news stories of unfairly exploiting their content. They are demanding compensation from search engines.

Gavin O'Reilly, the president of the World Association of Newspapers, which is co-ordinating the campaign, said on Tuesday: "We need search engines, and they do help consumers navigate an increasingly complicated medium, but they’re building [their business] on the back of kleptomania."

The group of publishers, which includes the International Publishers’ Association, the European Federation of Magazine Publishers and Agence France Presse, is seeking meetings with Charlie McCreevy, the European Union's internal market commissioner, and Viviane Reding, the commissioner responsible for media. It would not rule out legal action to enforce copyright or "collective action", Mr O'Reilly said. "Ultimately, the aggregators need the content providers."

Services such as Google News link to original news stories on the home pages of newspapers and magazines and display only the headline and one paragraph of the story. 'That’s often enough'for readers browsing the top stories, Mr O’Reilly said.

The initiative follows a decision by the American Association of Publishers to seek an injunction against its project to create a digital archive of millions of library books. The lawsuit was filed late last year on behalf of publishers including Pearson, the owner of the Financial Times.

The growth of online news aggregators has coincided with an acceleration in the long-term trend of declining readership for print newspapers and a shift in advertising spending from print to the internet, much of which is not being captured by the newspapers’ own sites.

"The search engines are increasingly aiming their strategic efforts at traditional content originators and aggregators like newspaper publishers," Mr O’Reilly said. "The irony is that these search engines exist, largely, because of the traditional news and content aggregators and profit at their expense."

The WAN, which represents 18,000 newspapers and 73 national newspaper associations, said it would examine whether new standards and policies could be drafted to create a commercial relationship between publishers, search engines and content aggregators.

Mr O'Reilly singled out Google for criticism, saying: "As a general rule, Yahoo, MSN and Ask Jeeves seem more open to constructive dialogue. It’s only Google which seems to have this absolute view [that all information should be available for free]." Google could not immediately be reached for comment.

Mr O’Reilly likened the initiative to the conflict between the music industry and illegal file-sharing websites and said it was not a sign that publishers had failed to create a competitive online business model of their own.

"I think newspapers have developed very compelling web portals and news channels but the fact here is that we're dealing with basic theft," he said.

RANT: An interesting story, and as of late, we have had less and less love for google; however I do firmly believe in freedom of information, and that those that try to horde information for monetary purposes are entropic.

News is the reporting, in essence the description, of an event that has occurred for parties other than the agent reporting them. Some argument can be made for the fact that a large part of reporting today is mostly fiction, or such a jaded interpretation as to be almost not what happened at all.

As long as news corporations bombast that they transmit un-biased cataloging of naturally occuring phenomena, then it would behoove us to protect our ability to access this information. Naturally occuring phenomena is here defined as: An event in which the observer cannot superficially be linked as a catalyst.

On the subject of editorials, or content that is opinion, and therefore the creative expression of an individual working for a news corporation, the legality should be handled differently, as this certainly falls under currently standing copyright laws.

However, fair use should remain in effect. No person should be permitted to restrict another entity from affirming, quoting, or building upon a stated or written opinion.

Here of course, an opinion would also include any creative worked based on information of any kind, but for which a metamorphosis takes place to the effect that the piece of expression can reasonably considered unique at the time of creation.

There has been a massive explosion of creativity online, and the mainstream sources that are quickly being replaced by the more open and tech savvy webmasters seem to be frantically fighting the expansion of expression. No domain will be left soon, with software patents of the ridiculous variety common, RIAA invading your homes to make sure you aren't stealing their music, and now, CNN will be sending you off to Gitmo for aggregating news.

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The Universe: The new Axis of Evil
Marcus Chown 01 February 2006

Ever since 1965, when two researchers at Bell Telephone Labs in New Jersey stumbled on it by accident, astronomers have known that the Universe is alive with the dim "afterglow" of the big bang fireball.

Now, something unexpected has cropped up in that afterglow - a feature dubbed "the axis of evil". Some think it is being caused by the gravity of a tremendous concentration of 100,000 galaxies in our cosmic backyard. Others say it is telling us there is something wrong with our big bang picture of the Universe.
The axis of evil is the biggest surprise thrown up by Nasa's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP). Launched on 30 June 2001, it has, from its vantage point 150 million kilometres beyond the Earth on the extension of the line joining our planet to the Sun, been taking the temperature of big bang afterglow, known as the "cosmic background radiation". Understanding exactly what WMAP has found requires a little diversion into the technicalities of the background radiation.

It is coming from every direction in the sky and its average temperature is minus 270C. Of key importance are subtle variations in temperature from place to place - "hot spots" that are ever-so-slightly warmer than average, and "cold spots" that are ever-so-slightly cooler.

These arise because the matter in the fireball of the big bang was slightly lumpy. (One lump became your home - the Milky Way.)

The hot spots and cold spots in the big bang afterglow come in all sizes. For instance, there are big blotches that stretch across much of the sky and, superimposed on these, smaller goosepimples.

To make sense of it all, astronomers like to break up their "temperature map" of the sky into manageable chunks they call "multipoles". The simplest is the "dipole" - merely one huge hot spot and one huge cold spot. It has nothing to do with the big bang. Rather, it is caused by the motion of the Milky Way, which is flying through space at about a million kilometres per hour. This makes the afterglow of the big bang appear hotter in the direction the Milky Way is flying and colder in the opposite direction.

The second simplest chunk of the cosmic background radiation is the "quadrupole". This is like the dipole, but is made up of two hot regions and two cold regions. Next comes the "octupole", which is comprised of three hot regions and three cold regions.

The simplest multipole chunks of the big bang radiation correspond to the biggest blotches, the more complex to the smallest freckles.

If the standard big bang picture of the Universe is correct, the blotches and freckles should be scattered randomly about the sky. "The big surprise is they are not," says Chris Vale of the University of California at Berkeley. "The quadrupole and octupole blotches are aligned with each other - along the axis of evil."

Nobody knows why. Could it be that all our preconceived notions about the big bang are wrong, or is it something less challenging? Vale leans towards the latter. He notes that the dipole direction is at right angles to the direction of the axis of evil. Recall that the dipole direction has nothing to do with the big bang, whereas the axis direction does, so their positions should not be related. "The fact that they are hints at an unexpected connection," says Vale.

According to Vale, if there is a giant concentration of mass in the local universe, its tremendous gravity could be distorting the cosmic background. The phenomenon is known as "gravitational lensing". It could cause the big hot spot of the dipole to "spill over" into the smaller hot spots. "The dipole hot spot is several hundred times hotter than the quadrupole," says Vale. "So it is not necessary for much to spill over to explain the axis of evil." Vale claims the best candidate for the local mass concentration is the "Shapley Supercluster" in our cosmic backyard, which contains 100,000 galaxies. It is not visible to the naked eye, despite covering at least 1,000 times the apparent size of the full Moon.

Other astronomers think Vale could be on to something. "Vale's model generates a good match of what we see," says WMAP scientist Gary Hinshaw of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "It's remarkable."

However, some physicists wonder whether the axis of evil requires a rethink of our ideas about the Universe. They include Joao Magueijo at Imperial College in London, who coined the term "the axis of evil". According to Magueijo, there may be something seriously wrong with our big bang models.

Big bang models come out of Einstein's theory of gravity. The only way theorists can apply the hideously complicated theory to the Universe is to make two simplifying assumptions. One is that the Universe is roughly the same in all places, and the other is that it is roughly the same in all directions.

But if the Universe is the same in all directions, as the big bang models require, that means that the hot spots and cold spots in the afterglow of the big bang should be randomly splattered about the sky - the big temperature splotches and the small temperature goose pimples should have no preferred direction. The fact that they are aligned along the axis of evil leads Magueijo to suggest that maybe the assumptions behind the big bang models are wrong. In other words, the Universe is not the same in all places or directions, but has a special direction.

According to Magueijo, there are a number of ways the Universe could have a special direction. One is if we live in a "slab universe". This is a Universe in which space is infinite in two directions but in the other is only about 20 billion light years across - the diameter of the observable universe.

Another possibility is that we live in torus-shaped universe, like a giant ring doughnut. Yet another is that Universe is spinning.But how would could such a weird state of affairs have arisen? "That's the big question," Magueijo says.

So perplexing is the axis of evil that Hinshaw and WMAP's principal investigator, Chuck Bennett, have obtained a grant for a five-year examination of the WMAP data. They hope to explore the possibilities that the WMAP instrument was in error, or that something else went wrong. "There's no question there's stuff that looks unusual," says Bennett.

We will have to wait and see whether the study reveals the axis of evil to be a cosmic mirage, or shows the big bang model to be in serious trouble.

Marcus Chown is author of The Universe Next Door
Comment: "The fact that they are aligned along the axis of evil leads Magueijo to suggest that maybe the assumptions behind the big bang models are wrong." It is evident that they are wrong, why should they be right? And they are just now figuring this out?

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Smoking out photo hoaxes with software
By Michael Kanellos Staff Writer, CNET News.com January 31, 2006

Dartmouth College professor Hany Farid is no fan of Josef Stalin, but he acknowledges that the photo retouching done during the Soviet era was top notch.

"That was impressive work. I've seen some of the originals," Farid said. The Soviets just didn't airbrush their victims out, he added. They painted in new backgrounds on the negatives.

Farid's interest in photo retouching isn't just historical. The professor of computer science and applied mathematics runs the university's Image Science Group, which has emerged as one of the chief research centers in the U.S. for developing software to detect manipulation in digital photographs.
While some of the group's software is now used by the FBI and large media organizations such as Reuters, a version written in Java will come out soon that will be easier to use and thereby allow more police and media organizations to sniff out fraud. The current software is written in Matlab, a numerical computing environment.

"I hope to have a beta out in the next six months," Farid said. "Right now, you need someone who is reasonably well-trained to use it."

Photo manipulation is a lot more common than you might think, according to L. Frank Kenney, an analyst at Gartner. That Newsweek cover of Martha Stewart on her release from prison? It's Martha's head, but a model's body. Some people believe hip hop artist Tupac Shakur remains alive, in part because of the images that have cropped up since his reported death in 1996.

Although it's difficult to estimate the size of the market for fraud detection tools, the demand is substantial, according to Kenney.

"How much is the presidency of a country worth, or control of a company? People tend not to read the retractions," he said. "Once the stuff is indelibly embedded in your memory, it is tough to get out."

The Journal of Cell Biology, a premier academic journal, estimates that around 25 percent of manuscripts accepted for publication contain at least one image that has been "inappropriately manipulated" and must be resubmitted. That means it has been touched up, although in the vast majority of cases, the author is only trying to clean the background and the changes do not affect the scientific efficacy of the results. Still, around 1 percent of accepted articles contain manipulated images that do significantly affect the results, said executive editor Mike Rossner. Those papers get rejected.

"Our goal is to have an accurate interpretation of data as possible," Rossner said. "These (images) are (of) things like radioactivity detected on a piece of X-ray film."

Law enforcement officials have also had to turn to the software to prosecute child pornographers. In 2002, the Supreme Court in Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition overturned parts of the Child Pornography Protection Act for being overly broad, ruling that only images of actual minors, and not computer-generated simulations, are illegal.

Since that decision, a common defense has become that the images found on a hard drive are artificially created.

"The burden is now on the prosecution. These cases used to be slam dunks," Farid said.

How it works
Fraud detection software for images essentially searches for photographic anomalies that the human brain ignores or can't detect.

Humans, for instance, ignore lighting irregularities in two-dimensional images. While the direction of light can be re-adjusted in 3D images from video games, it is difficult to harmonize in 2D photographs. The light in the famous doctored photo that puts Sen. John Kerry next to actress Jane Fonda at a protest rally actually comes from two different directions.

"The lighting is off by 40 degrees," Farid said. "We are insensitive to it, but computers detect it."

Although modern researchers have in clinical studies documented humans' ability to filter out lighting incongruities, 15th-century painters were aware of the way humans process images and exploited that knowledge to create seemingly realistic lighting effects that would have been nearly impossible to replicate in real life.

"The lighting is totally bizarre in some Renaissance paintings," he said.

The software also seeks out areas in photographs where applications like Adobe Photoshop fill in pixels. Every time the photos get mashed together, some modification of one or both of the images is required. Sometimes one person is blown up in size while a second might be rotated slightly. These changes leave empty pixels in the frame.

Photo-retouching applications use probability algorithms to fill in those pixels with colors and imagery and thus make them look realistic. Conversely, Farid's software employs probability to ferret out which of these fringe pixels are fill-ins.

"We're asking, from a mathematical and statistical perspective, can you quantify the manipulation," he said. "There are statistical correlations that don't occur naturally."

The quality of forgeries and touch-up jobs varies widely, but it continually improves. Farid gets consulting requests all the time. Some people call him to see if a photo of an item on eBay has been retouched. Others want advice on the genuineness of photos from online dating services. The Image Science Group has also collaborated with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to determine if certain drawings were actually made by Flemish painter Bruegel or were forgeries.

One of the most recent celebrated cases of fraud--South Korean scientist Hwang Woo-suk's claim that he cloned stem cells--actually didn't need specialized software. Spots and artifacts in the background visible to the naked eye showed that the images of cells that came from the supposedly cloned dog were duplicated, Farid noted.

Farid's interest in fraud detection is somewhat random. As a post-doctoral student at MIT seven years ago, he was meandering through the library looking for something to read. He grabbed the Federal Rules of Evidence, a compendium of laws governing the admission of evidence in trials in federal court.

The rules, at the time, allowed digital images of original photographs to be admitted in court as long as they accurately reflected the original. The footnotes that accompany the rules, however, acknowledged that manipulation was a problem and that government did not yet have a way to deal with it.

When Farid started researching the scientific literature, he found little on fraud detection in digital imagery.

Will you be able to get a copy of the Java-based version of the Image Science Group's applications? Probably not. One of the dilemmas of this type of software is that the more widespread the distribution, the more chance forgers will exploit it to their advantage. Police organizations and news media outlets will likely get access to the application, but he's still unsure of how far he will extend distribution beyond that.

And although Farid charges a fee when asked to serve as a consultant, the software will be made freely available under an open-source license. He doesn't even have plans to form a company around his work. A significant amount of the research, after all, was funded by federal grants.

"Taxpayers," he said, "are paying me to do this research and it needs to go back out."

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Mathematician defines beauty in new exhibition
James Randerson, science correspondent Wednesday February 1, 2006 The Guardian

To most people, getting emotional about mathematics makes about as much sense as being moved by a tax return. But to Justin Mullins, equations can contain a profound personal beauty. An exhibition of his "mathematical photography" opens in London today.

According to Mr Mullins, what mathematicians traditionally call beauty is not visual but a conceptual elegance - for example, an equation that uses few assumptions or gives an original insight. And plenty of others seem to agree. His three-month-old website www.justinmullins.com has already received nearly 2m hits.
His supreme example of mathematical beauty is Euler's identity. Discovered by the 18th century Swiss mathematician Leonhard Euler, it links the five most important numbers in mathematics. It is the special case of a broader equation that links the fields of geometry, the study of space, and algebra, the study of structure and quantity.

"[It captures] for a mathematician something very beautiful, which is the interrelationship between different bits of mathematics," said the Oxford University mathematician Marcus du Sautoy.

The flip side is an "ugly" solution to the so-called four-colour theorem. The problem is simple. Take a map and some coloured pens. Colour each country so that no two touching countries are the same colour, and the lowest number of colours you will need is four.

But why? Mathematicians usually eat these kinds of questions for breakfast, but no one has come up with a neat solution.

The best solution they have so far is a clumsy proof by Robin Thomas, at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, and colleagues. It involves distilling the total number of possible maps to 633 and then checking these separately using a computer.

"No human could realistically check that proof because it would take longer than their lifetime," said Mr Mullins. Instead of insight and panache the solution was brute force and ugliness, he added.

But straying beyond traditional definitions of beauty became a more personal exercise for Mr Mullins. He began giving framed equations as gifts at weddings and christenings. His favourite is the mathematical snapshot of "romance" which he gave to his partner, Sandra, which describes a phenomenon called quantum entanglement discovered by Albert Einstein. It shows how two sub-atomic particles can be "linked in a very deep and fundamental way even though they may be separated by the width of the universe", said Mr Mullins. True love in an equation. "She's now my wife so obviously it worked."

· The exhibition runs until February 12 at Lauderdale House in Highgate, north London

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Podcasting: Publishers and politicians want a word in your ear
Cosima Marriner Wednesday February 1, 2006 The Guardian

Almost in a matter of months podcasting has become the "next big thing" in media, seized on by traditional publishers and broadcasters searching for new ways to attract and retain audiences in the digital age.

Tony Blair, David Cameron, Ricky Gervais and Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles have all become podcasters, recording what are essentially radio programmes which listeners download to a PC or portable music player and listen to at their leisure.
In their quest to reach the so-called "iPod generation", newspaper and magazine publishers, too, are becoming de facto broadcasters. "[Podcasting] is all about updating the brand and creating a buzz around content," says the head of the Association of Online Publishers, Alexandra White. "It's part of a general shift in the way people consume content from passive to more on-demand."

What remains to be seen is if there is any money to be made.

The BBC was one of the first media companies to experiment with the format, trying out Radio Five Live podcasts in 2004. It expanded the pilot scheme last May to offer 20 packages of programme highlights, and this has been so successful - the edited Chris Moyles' breakfast show was downloaded half a million times in December - that it is adding a further 30 podcast packages.

Although some newspaper groups had also been trying out the new technology, it was not until the final months of 2005 that podcasting went mainstream. David Cameron recorded one for the Daily Telegraph, Tony Blair did one for the Sun and Ricky Gervais' weekly podcast for the Guardian surpassed all expectations when it registered 2m downloads, the most popular so far. Meanwhile, Emap has begun monthly podcasts of its Kerrang! music magazine and is considering the same for its Mojo and Q titles. ITV is toying with the idea of making audio-only versions for podcast of popular TV series The Bill, Emmerdale and Coronation Street, possibly charging a fee.

The explosion in the popularity of podcasts is linked directly to the phenomenal success of Apple's iPod. Apple sold 32m of the portable players last year, with 14m bought in the Christmas quarter. As podcasting is the third option on the iTunes menu, many curious consumers have stumbled across the technology. Media companies say at least half their podcast users come via iTunes. "If you're not on iTunes, the vast majority of the world will not know you exist," says Computing magazine technology editor Chris Green. "Get yourself on iTunes and you've instantly got a potential 42-million-plus audience."

Traditional media companies have latched on to the new format as a way to satisfy the growing demand for content people can consume when and where they want. "Since tablets of stone, news has been delivered in a style we call 'push' journalism," says the Telegraph's podcast editor Guy Ruddle. "That world is over. From now onwards it's 'pull'. We have to make news available to listeners, viewers, readers in a variety of formats ... Podcasting gives you the opportunity to pick up which bits you want and when." BBC Radio and Music interactive project manager Sarah Prag agrees: "It's all about control and convenience."

Media companies are also using the medium to broaden their appeal, particularly among younger audiences.

Luckily, podcasting comes cheap - Emap spends just £150 a month on its Kerrang! podcast. But having discovered the demand, companies are trying to work out how to make money from it. Most newspaper publishers and broadcasters doubt consumers would be prepared to pay. For these companies podcasting is more about promoting their brand and reaching new audiences.

One broadcaster that has decided to charge is the Chrysalis-owned radio station LBC 97.3FM. Last month the London talk station began charging £2.50 a month for podcasts of full-length programmes, with the price falling if users sign up for longer. More than 1,000 listeners have signed up to pay, with comedy programmes such as Steve Allen's show proving the most popular.

Niche publishers such as Computing magazine, owned by VNU, are also confident they could charge, given people's willingess to pay for music downloads. "Very niche specialist content is easy to charge a premium for because people see value in it," says White, of the Association of Online Publishers.

All media companies are keen to incorporate advertising into their podcasts, but agree that podcasting will become just part of the branded cross-media package sold to advertisers - alongside print and web. "From a commercial standpoint, this is part of a product. This is not standalone," says Ruddle at the Telegraph.

Rather than sandwich ads between programmes, media companies are more likely to sell podcast sponsorships. Although podcasting has yet to attract serious interest from most traditional TV advertisers, some companies, such as Thomas Cook and Honda, have already begun producing their own podcasts.

Dominic Finney, the head of emerging channels at media buyer BLM Quantum, predicts podcasting will become increasingly attractive to advertisers as they realise it enables them to target customers with clearly defined interests. "They can actually give consumers what they really, really want," he said. "They're very much interested in that very high quality customer."

But big advertisers such as Procter & Gamble are unlikely to embrace the medium until an accurate system of audience measurement is developed. Market research companies AC Nielsen and TGI are looking at the problem, which is crucial if podcasting is to become a mature medium.

Media companies are frustrated by the lack of transparency about Apple's dominant iTunes chart. "We're not quite sure what number one means," says Guardian Unlimited assistant editor Neil McIntosh. "Metrics are going to become very important." Ruddle agrees: "Without proper measurement, how are we ever going to get people to buy into it in a really big way?"

If some suggest podcasting is just another technofad, there are media executives who are quick to disagree, predicting the medium's appeal will grow even faster with the mass availability of video and mobile podcasts. But some also caution against the hype. "Podcasting went into the Oxford English Dictionary last year. The word 'bubble' went in a lot earlier," New Scientist online manager John MacFarlane quips. "It's another delivery channel - it's not going to make a cup of tea or pay the bills."

Be your own broadcast star

Podcasts are simple and inexpensive to record. Virtually anyone can become a podcaster. Most of the 25,000 podcasts on the iTunes directory are home made. Apart from a computer and internet access, all you need is a microphone, a portable MP3 voice recorder, some software and a way with words. If you want a simple podcast software program, try Windows' Sound Recorder. For sophisticated recordings, try the open source Audacity or iPodcast Producer, which lets you add sound effects and music.

Before you begin recording, choose your topic, listen to other podcasts to get a feel for the medium, and write an outline of what you plan to say to avoid long pauses and silences. Podcasts run for 20 to 30 minutes, broken into segments of five to eight minutes and interspersed with music. Do a few test recordings to try out the software, adjust sound levels and make sure it works.

After you've finished your podcast, save it as a WAV file, so you have a back-up in case you have problems exporting to MP3. You can then edit the show, cutting out silences and adding music. When the edit is finished, save your recording as an MP3 file. Now it's time to find a site to host your podcast - ourmedia.org is free and doesn't have a bandwidth limit. The last thing you need to do is create a Really Simple Syndication (RSS) to share your podcast. Sites such as feedburner.com show you how to create an RSS file. To get the best exposure, publish it in the iTunes Music Store at www.itunes.co.uk.

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Haiti: the forgotten occupation
Andrew Taylor SWO issue 1986 4 February 2006

‘We are going to intervene in the coming days. I think there will be collateral damage but we have to impose our force, there is no other way.”

These words could very easily come from a US general in Iraq announcing an attack on an insurgent stronghold. They certainly carry the same tone of callous disregard for innocent lives.

They were, however, spoken by Juan Gabriel Valdes, head of the United Nations (UN) mission to Haiti, referring to the slum of Cité Soleil on the northern outskirts of the capital Port-au-Prince.
The escalating undeclared war in Cité Soleil, which has taken scores of lives in the last couple of months, pits the UN stabilisation force (Minustah) against armed gangs, variously described as supporters of ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, drug traffickers, kidnappers or outside provocateurs.

Whatever the truth, the UN force have long demanded the “aggressive cleansing” of an area that is seen as a stronghold of support for ex-president Aristide and of resistance to the neo­liberal “restructuring” on the Caribbean island.

The impact of these policies has been to make Haiti, in the words of one commentator, “the most open economy in the world”. Agriculture, which most Haitians rely on for subsistence, has all but been destroyed. A country that was once self-sufficient in food is now dependent on aid and remittances from Haiti’s large overseas community to stave off starvation.

The lowering, or outright abolition, of protective tariffs on foodstuffs, demanded as a condition for the granting of financial aid, has meant that the small peasants and sharecroppers who scraped a living off the land now compete with dumped cheap foreign imports and “food aid”.

The outcome of this unequal competition is that the poorest are driven off the land to swell the pools of human misery in the urban slums like Cité Soleil, or attempt the perilous sea trip to an uncertain future in a foreign land – a journey many do not survive. Those who remain are compelled to turn to the cash crop of last resort – cutting down what few trees are left for charcoal production, and making Haiti’s ecological catastrophe worse.

The immediate background to the violence in Cité Soleil, which is mirrored in the rest of the country, is the drive to hold presidential and parliamentary elections, which are currently scheduled for 7 February.

These elections represent an attempt to bring legitimacy to a state that has been run by unelected US-appointed officials since Aristide was forced from office two years ago by an armed revolt by former members of the military.

Shattered dream

Few people, however, believe the elections hold out any hope for an improvement to the desperately miserable lives of the bulk of the population. None of the contending parties or candidates offer a programme that would reverse the damage done by following the neo-liberal plan, nor relieve the phenomenal wealth inequalities and exploitation that characterise Haitian society.

Furthermore, many question the legitimacy of elections that have already been postponed five times due to incompetence, poor infrastructure, corruption, violence and general cynicism.

Elections are seen as a sick joke when the estimated 500,000 inhabitants of Cité Soleil are under siege by an occupying army, or ruled by self-appointed armed thugs, where 40 percent of the population haven’t received polling cards and where some will have to walk for up to six hours to cast their vote.

Finally, a large number of Haitians, despite the disillusionment caused by his time in office, regard the exiled Aristide as the legitimate president and the “missing candidate”. René Préval, his former deputy, is currently seen as a front runner.

How did the Haitian dream turn so sour? Haiti is a country whose history should be close to every socialist’s heart.

Occupying the western third of the Caribbean island of Hispaniola (shared with the Dominican Republic), Haiti emerged from the ashes of the French slave colony of Saint Domingue as the world’s first independent black republic in 1804. Inspired by the French Revolution’s ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity, as well as by their African animist-based religion, the slaves had risen up and taken on their masters.

In the course of a bloody decade-long struggle, armies of freed slaves led by such heroic figures as Toussaint L’Ouverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines defeated armies sent by the world’s then superpowers – France, Spain and Britain – to restore slavery.

In the wake of independence, international isolation and a war-shattered economy kept the new nation in thrall to a succession of vicious despots, culminating in the notorious Duvalier dictatorships (1957-86).

A massive popular uprising in 1986 overthrew the regime of Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier and the feared Tonton Macoutes militia he had inherited from his father, known as “Papa Doc”. Many hoped this episode heralded the dawn of a brave new era for the desperately impoverished nation.

Instead, Haiti today is the shattered dream of those who laid down their lives in those struggles.

By far the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti ranks among the very worst countries in the world in terms of life expectancy, infant mortality, HIV infection, literacy, access to healthcare or clean water, income per capita, debt, corruption and environmental degradation.

Some see the logical extension of the current occupation being to declare Haiti a “failed state” and the establishment of some sort of protectorate. This would indeed be the sad, final nail in the coffin of a heroic enterprise.

The most common approach by so-called development experts is to describe Haiti as the archetypal basket case that is incapable of self-rule and will never be more than a headache for the international community.

Far from being an ill-judged experiment in black self-rule that was always doomed to failure, the post-independence history of Haiti is one of interference, aggression and invasion by foreign powers.

At first the young republic, once it had shown that it could not easily be militarily subjugated, was put in international quarantine by the great powers who feared it might provide a dangerous example to their slaves.

The US did not recognise Haiti for 58 years and only did so during the American Civil War, its own life and death struggle against slavery.

Other powers did not recognise Haiti until 1825, when it was forced to pay a huge indemnity to the former slave power, France. This payment effectively meant that the descendants of slaves were being asked to pay for their forefathers’ freedom. It also represented the beginning of the cycle of debt that still crushes the poor today and keeps the state in hock to foreign and international financial institutions.

The cycle of foreign interference continued into the 20th century, culminating in the US invasion and occupation of 1915-34. Prompted by concern for US interests in the region, the marines were sent in. Their brutal racist approach was summed up by their bemusement at dealing with “niggers who spoke French”.

The main legacy of the US occupation was the creation of the Haitian army, a force whose sole mission has been internal repression and the propping up of grotesque dictatorships sympathetic to US foreign policy goals.

Thus, the otherwise reviled Duvalier dictatorships were seen by the US as embarrassing but steadfast bulwarks against “world Communism” (for which read local liberation movements). This was especially true after Cuba was “lost”.

Haiti’s more recent history is no less replete with examples of foreign interference.

In 1990 former Catholic priest Aristide became Haiti’s first democratically elected president in living memory, carried to power by a landslide after a promise to champion the poor. The US state department saw him as a dangerous leftist and a threat to their policy goals.

Almost immediately, the US embassy in Port-au-Prince began conspiring with the Haitian army top brass and economic elite, who were themselves deeply unhappy at the turn of events.

The result of these machinations was quick to be felt. Aristide was thrown from power and forced into exile by a violent military coup barely eight months after coming to office.


The incredible brutality of the resulting military regime produced an international outcry, compounded by the arrival of thousands of desperate Haitian boat people along the Florida coast.

The then US president, Bill Clinton, was prompted to reassess US policy toward the country, although this did not stop US coastguards holding boat people illegally at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre before “renditioning” them to the mercies of the Haitian military.

The new approach adopted under Clinton meant returning Aristide to office, but only after effectively rendering him incapable of making any substantial changes that would benefit the Haitian masses or impede US goals.

Aristide was forced to accept that his three years in exile should be counted as part of his term in office (the Haitian constitution bars presidents from serving consecutive terms). He was made to agree to the terms set out by the international financial institutions and forced to accept that the bloody activities of the regime would go unpunished.

A suitably de-clawed Aristide was then shipped back to Haiti. Predictably, his government, and that of his successor René Préval, was weakened by the concessions and incapable of reversing the decline in standards of living experienced by Haiti’s poor.

The disillusionment with the “people’s champion” meant that although he was re-elected in 2000, turnout was low and support lukewarm.

This proved crucial in early 2004, when disgruntled former members of the army he had disbanded in 1995 took up arms against him. Unlike previous occasions, Haiti’s poor were not prepared to rise up and defend Aristide. He left the presidential palace for exile once again with an escort of US soldiers, prompting further controversy over the role of the US, as well as with that of France, which fatally weakened him by publicly asking for him to resign.

To those that say Haiti is a basket case and demand more foreign intervention to save it from anarchy, socialists must respond that too much foreign intervention is what has kept the Haiti down.

At every turn, grassroots organisations of Haitian workers, peasants and the urban poor have shown their resilience and will to organise for a better life.

It is solidarity with their fight, not foreign occupation or phoney elections that represent the way forward.

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We turned our back on Haiti - Canada is complicit in region's troubles
ANTONIA ZERBISIAS Toronto Star Jan. 31, 2006

The truth is ugly, is it not?

But I make no apologies for bringing it to you alongside whatever celebrity news we have on the other pages.

In fact, the only thing I regret is not doing so sooner.

Canadians, and the Canadian media in general and in particular, including those who have no trouble bashing the Bushies for their intervention in Iraq, have had this collective see-no-evil, hear-no-evil, speak-no-evil, hands-over-eyes and ears la! la! la! I can't hear you attitude towards our role in the hellhole that is Haiti.
We have much to answer for, starting with that economic strangulation — more politely called the "embargo" — we supported along with the U.S. and France, which was all part of the "resignation" of the democratically elected (with a whopping 91.8 per cent mandate) President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on Feb. 29, 2004.

Said U.S. President George W. Bush (whose father George H.W. Bush was in the White House when Aristide was deposed in 1991, after winning with 67 per cent of the vote): "President Aristide resigned. He has left his country. The constitution of Haiti is working. There is an interim president, as per the constitution, in place.

"I have ordered the deployment of Marines, as the leading element of an interim international force, to help bring order and stability to Haiti. I have done so in working with the international community. This government believes it essential that Haiti have a hopeful future. This is the beginning of a new chapter in the country's history.

"I would urge the people of Haiti to reject violence, to give this break from the past a chance to work. And the United States is prepared to help."

Since then, countless Haitians, men, women and children, whose lives grow more miserable by the minute, have been shot, hacked, imprisoned and subjected to state terror.

There appears to be blood all over Canada's hands: first because it was on board for the removal of Aristide and second because it is supporting, both politically and financially, an illegitimate government that appears dead set on violently crushing any opposition.

It also has a contingent of some 125 police officers who train the Haitian National Police accused of massacring civilians.

And yet, the fate of the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, perfectly situated between Fidel Castro's Cuba and Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, sweatshop armpit to Canadian T-shirt manufacturers, the mine pit to Canadian copper companies, is scarcely discussed or covered by Canadian media. (I should note that the Star has been running extensive reports by freelancer Reed Lindsay.)

To my knowledge, but for a Sue Montgomery column in the Montreal Gazette and an op-ed in the Star by Yves Engler, whose slim volume co-written with Anthony Fenton, Canada in Haiti: Waging War on the Poor Majority, is a primer on our shameful presence there, our role was never raised as an issue during the election campaign.

(That said, foreign policy barely registered at all during the campaign, except when critics accused the Liberals of "anti-Americanism.")

Some Haiti-watchers believe that's because no politicians wanted to upset the Haitian diaspora, much of it educated elite, now resident in Montreal.

Last month, the shooting death of retired Mountie Mark Bourque, in Haiti to help with the repeatedly postponed elections, received a lot of ink, but there was scarcely any discussion of the context.

Next Tuesday, Haiti is yet again scheduled to go to the polls — although the most recent reports are that there will be none in Cité Soleil, the unspeakable slum on the outskirts of Port-au-Prince where an estimated quarter million, and I use this word guardedly, live.

Of course giving them the vote could result in a government that would soon have to "resign" anyway.

Which is not unlike what is going on with Palestinians. You will have democracy but only if the United States approves it.

It can't be easy to cover this. Haiti is a dangerous place, a Baghdad with beaches. But to ignore it from the cushy safety of editorial boards is inexcusable.

If you're interested in learning more about what is happening in Haiti, check out Amy Goodman's very fine reportage at http://www.democracynow.org or, better yet, on Saturday, Feb. 18 at 7, go see Nicolas Rossier's even-handed, decide-for-yourself documentary, Aristide and the Endless Revolution. It's playing at the Earth Sciences Building at the University of Toronto. Tickets are $5 and are available at the Toronto Women's Bookstore or by emailing haitiaction@riseup.net.

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'Meteor' falls on the ground
Unb, Thakurgaon Wed. February 01, 2006 Bangladesh

A 'meteor' from outer space fell with a big bang on a field in Singpara village of sadar upazila yesterday afternoon creating panic and curiosity among people.

No one was reported hurt.

On information Superintendent of Police Khandker Golam Farooq rushed to the spot and asked his companions and villagers to dig the earth near the house of one Fazlur Rahman from where smoke was still emitting.

To their amazement they found a lead-like black material three feet below the earth. Hot and weighing 2.5kg, the triangular material looked like a mortar shell, witnesses said.

The meteor was kept in custody of the Thakurgaon Police Station.

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Studies back fears sea levels are rising rapidly
Matthew Denholm February 01, 2006

THE world's worst fears about global warming and rapid sea-level rise will be realised or exceeded, according to two new reports.

Australian climate change research published yesterday found the average level of the oceans had risen 19.5cm since 1870 and the rate was increasing.
The study provides the first evidence of a 20th-century acceleration in sea-level rise and supports predictions the world's oceans will rise 31cm above 1990 levels by 2100.

A separate report released in Britain paints an ever more alarming picture, suggesting ice sheets may be melting, raising the prospect of sea levels rising by 5m over several centuries.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the research clearly showed that "the risks of climate change may well be greater than we thought".

"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," Mr Blair writes in a foreword to the research.

Published in the report Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change, it warns of large-scale disruption if temperatures rise above 3C - within the range of climate change models for this century.

The author of the Australian research, internationally renowned CSIRO chief research scientist John Church, said it was now clear there would be significant sea-level rise without major changes to human behaviour. "Clearly, sea-level rise will be reported in metres unless we have a substantial decrease in greenhouse gas emissions," Dr Church told The Australian.

He said his study, conducted with CSIRO scientist Neil White using data from tide gauges and satellite measurements, vindicated sea-level rise projections by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

"Although predicted by models, this is the first time a 20th-century acceleration has actually been detected."

The study concludes that sea levels rose an average 16cm during the 20th century, with a rough year-on-year increase of 1.7cm.

It finds that sea level rise began during the first half of the 19th century, when global sea level was about 20cm below current levels. A comparison of sea-level benchmarks carved in rock on the Isle of the Dead, near Port Arthur in Tasmania in 1840, and the height of ancient Roman fish tanks, indicated little sea level increase until 1800.

The study, part of Australia's Climate Change Science Program, is likely to be considered at the IPCC's global climate change assessment next year.

The British research, based on a forum of scientists at Exeter last February, includes a warning from British Antarctic Survey head Chris Rapley that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be starting to melt.

Scientists believe the melting of the ice sheet would eventually raise sea levels around the world by 5m.

"The last IPCC report characterised Antarctica as a slumbering giant in terms of climate change. I would say it is now an awakened giant," Professor Rapley writes. "There is real concern."

The report warns a delay of even five years in reducing greenhouse gas emissions "could be significant".

The federal Opposition said the findings highlighted the need for Australia to sign the Kyoto Protocol.

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Climate Change Report shows scientists' real fear
By Peter Wadhams London Times 31 Jan 06

THE report Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change brings out very clearly just how fast scientific worries about climate change have accelerated, propelled by a new fear — the “tipping point” when change becomes irreversible.
We have already reached one such point in that we cannot go back to a system with no climate change. We know that carbon dioxide continues to act climatically for about 100 years, so if we went back to the Stone Age tomorrow we would still experience another century of warming.

But there are further tipping points where subsystems break down; for example, the Gulf Stream slowing because less cold water is sinking at high latitudes. Eventually a point is reached where the whole climate-regulating system breaks down, producing changes that can never be reversed.

Just recently, for instance, it was realised that as carbon dioxide levels rise the oceans become more acidic and that this will destroy plankton, especially plankton with shells, which absorb and reduce carbon levels. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) concluded in 2001 that the rate of global warming is about one third faster than previously suspected.

It predicted that by the end of this century there will be an average warming of between 2C (3.6F) and 5C, with devastating consequences.

The next IPCC assessment is due, and the new fear is that runaway change could soon be upon us, whatever we do.

Peter Wadhams is Professor of Ocean Physics at Cambridge University

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British scientists warn Greenland ice cap headed for meltdown
Radio New Zealand 30 Jan 06

Scientists advising the British Government have warned the world appears to be on a path to causing the Greenland ice cap to melt.

A report published by the Department for the Environment says many of the risks associated with climate change are more serious than previously thought.
It says there is only a small chance of greenhouse gas emissions being kept below "dangerous" levels.

And it says it fears the Greenland ice sheet is likely to melt, leading sea levels to rise by 7 metres over 1,000 years.

The report, "Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change", collates evidence presented by scientists at a conference hosted by the UK Meteorological Office in February 2005.
NASA greenhouse gas expert says US tried to silence him

NASA's top climate scientist says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out on the threat of greenhouse gases.

The director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, James Hansen, made the claim in an interview with the New York Times newspaper.

He's quoted as saying officials at the space agency's headquarters ordered a review of his lectures, papers, and website postings.

It followed his lecture in December calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases.

A NASA spokesperson has denied any effort to silence Mr Hansen, but says the restrictions apply to all staff that could be seen speaking for the agency.

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Mystery Photos: Sea Serpent or Plesiosaur? Name That Carcass!
cryptomundo 1 Feb 06

One of our readers, CryptoInformant, sent in a link to a website with photos that may, or may not, be an unexplained marine animal. The title of the page is "Sea Serpent? Plesiosaur?"

One day in June, about 1990, my friend Joanne Rauch and I hiked along the central Oregon coast at Cape Meares. We soon spotted a large object on the beach.

I took the pictures, but I can’t remember which camera I used at the time. I believe it was a Minolta 35mm point and shoot.

I paced the length of the "sea serpent" - 13 paces, approximately 33 feet since my pace at the time was a bit over 2.5 feet.

If the bent leg points to the head, the head was missing as far as I could tell, chewed or screwed off by a propeller, or perhaps rotted away.

Unfortunately, some liquid spilled on some of the pictures and efforts to clean them resulted in minimal damage. When that happened, I stopped my efforts to clean the photos. Somewhere in the house I have the negatives and when I get them, I’ll developed them and make better scans.

I called the Hatfield Marine Science center (Newport, OR) and described what we’d seen. Their best suggestion was that this is a gray whale, despite the tapering neck and tail. One woman suggested the bent flipper might be a grotesque penis. She didn’t see the pictures.

I’ve hiked the wilderness strip of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington, a couple of hundred miles north of Cape Mears, and seen 4 dead gray whales over the years. None looked remotely like this-the grays don’t taper nearly so much at the tail and don’t taper at all at the head. The heads are massive.

What the heck is this thing???

Comment: DO click the link and take a look at the photos!!!

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Ark's Quantum Quirks
SOTT February 1, 2006


Warmest Years

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