State of the War? U.S. Support Fades
zogby international 31 Jan 06

President Bush is under fire over his Iraq policies, as a majority of likely voters nationwide say they are not pleased with his handling of the war there, a new Zogby Interactive survey shows.
As the President delivers his annual State of the Union message, 55% of the voting public favors a phased withdrawal of troops from Iraq, believing the U.S. has accomplished all it realistically can in the Middle Eastern nation.

Many disagree that the enemy in Iraq is getting worn down and that the U.S. will eventually win the war. Just 40% agree with that statement, while 59% do not. Similarly, while 41% favor escalating the Iraq conflict, using more missiles and heavy artillery against insurgents – but a 56% majority opposes this approach.

The survey finds the nation sharply divided over the Iraq conflict, with 49% agreeing with the proposition that America cannot win the war in Iraq and that Iraqis should be left to sort out their own future without U.S. or allied intervention. However, just as many oppose that view.

Despite the misgivings of many about the war, a 53% majority of voters oppose an immediate withdrawal – although 46% favor this position.

The survey does find that the groups that supported President Bush’s 2004 re-election – including conservatives, rural voters, Protestants and evangelicals, regular churchgoers, men, the investor class and Republicans in general – are much more likely to favor continued involvement in Iraq and are more likely to reject arguments favoring withdrawal from the region. And NASCAR fans – one of the groups closely watched during the 2004 elections – are solid war supporters.

However, the President does not win the hearts and minds of a number of other groups, including moderates and liberals, large city dwellers, Catholics, women, non-investors, and households containing members of a labor union. And among a number of key swing constituencies, including small city residents and suburbanites, there are clear signs of fatigue with the war.

The President may also have his work cut out for him in retaining support on the subject from lawmakers who are eyeing a future White House run. Asked whether they would support a presidential candidate in 2008 who aggressively supports the Iraq War, 36% of poll respondents said they would. By contrast, 43% said they would instead support a 2008 presidential candidate who believes nothing more can be accomplished in the region and that a continued U.S. presence would be counterproductive.

The interactive survey of 13,456 likely voters nationwide was conducted Jan. 27 through 30. It has a margin of error of +/- 0.9 percentage points.

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Bush's whitewashing address
RIA Novosti Vladimir Simonov 2 Feb 06

MOSCOW -- The annual address of the U.S. President to the nation is entitled "State of the Union Address." But the fifth address delivered by President George W. Bush on Tuesday January 31 seemed like an attempt to whitewash his administration's actions.

There was a lady in the audience representing those in whose eyes the president would have liked to look his best. A few minutes before the address, police detained Cindy Sheehan, an anti-war activist and mother of a soldier killed in Iraq. She was handcuffed and taken outside for wearing an anti-war T-shirt.
Americans' rejection of the Bush policy in Iraq is not the only factor behind the critical fall of the president's rating to 41% in the last 12 months. His administration's clumsy efforts following Hurricane Katrina, a series of corruption scandals involving the pillars of the Republican Party, disclosure of a network of secret prisons in Europe, and lastly the president's personal involvement in the anti-constitutional program of telephone tapping provided the background against which the president had to deliver a masterpiece address aimed at giving a new lease on life to his waning popularity.

Bill Clinton managed to appease and charm the enraged country at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Unfortunately, George Bush failed to repeat his predecessor's feat on January 31.

He did not tell Americans anything substantial about the painful Iraqi problem. He again announced an imminent victory of the U.S.-led military coalition. "I am confident in our plan for victory; I am confident in the skill and spirit of our military. Fellow citizens, we are in this fight to win, and we are winning," Bush said. He argued, "A sudden withdrawal of our forces from Iraq would abandon our Iraqi allies to death and prison (...) and show that a pledge from America means little."

In fact, he has said this so many times before that a repetition of these words did not warm the souls of tens of millions of Americans who share Cindy Sheehan's grief.

Worse still, Bush could not explain the shocking failure of the U.S. Middle Eastern policy of the last few days. The idea of spreading the American model of freedom there has resulted in the victory of a terrorist organization at the election in Palestine. Hamas would not have rallied such nationwide support but for the U.S. military campaign in Iraq.

The president called on Hamas to "recognize Israel, disarm and reject terrorism, and work for lasting peace." However, the audience seemed to think that it was too good to become reality soon.

Skeptics say that the U.S. State Department seems to have embraced the teaching of Karl Marx and is waiting for "the social being to determine consciousness." The American administration is waiting for Hamas fighters with portable mine-throwers to change under the weight of responsibility of power into harmless state officials in protective sleeves.

George Bush was fantastically lucky this time: he did not confuse Iraq and Iran. He described the latter as "a nation now held hostage by a small clerical elite that is isolating and repressing its people."

The president deemed it possible to appeal to Iranians over the heads of their leaders, who were elected in a democratic, even if slightly faulty, procedure. He decided to speak directly to Iranian people: "America respects you, and we respect your country," he said. "We respect your right to choose your own future and win your own freedom." Freedom from their current leaders, apparently.

That revolutionary appeal, just as the rest of the address, was broadcast live in Farsi, one of the main languages in Iran. After this faux pas, no one can encourage the Iranian leadership to continue nuclear program talks with the Untied States, Russia and the European Trio.

The rest of Bush's speech was full of generalizations and grandiose but, experts say, unsubstantiated projects. In particular, the president admitted to America's addiction to Middle Eastern oil and suggested replacing "more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025." Market analysts were shocked, as they know that in 20 years from now every fourth barrel of oil will be produced in the Middle East.

Bush praised the American economy, which "is preeminent," he said, "but we cannot afford to be complacent." In a dynamic world economy, we are seeing new competitors, like China and India, he said. Such deliberations sounded out of place at a time of a colossal budget deficit.

The first reactions of Bush's colleagues to his address are super-critical. No matter what he was speaking about - catastrophe in Iraq, the mess he made of the budget or the horrendous cost of corruption that is eating away at the administration - all of this spoke "more of a state of his personal self-denial," said Congressman Lloyd Dogget (D - TX).

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Bush hits the road to take a green message to his nation of oil addicts
Julian Borger in Washington Thursday February 2, 2006 The Guardian

President George Bush yesterday began a three-day tour on a new-found mission to break his country's addiction to oil, but some American environmentalists worried that the initiative could be too little, too late. Speaking in Nashville, Tennessee, Mr Bush repeated many of the themes from Tuesday night's state of the union address, and in particular his plan to reduce dependence on Middle East oil by 75% by 2025.

The proposal, in an otherwise unremarkable speech, was welcomed as a positive step by American environmentalists. But some pointed to the fine print underlying the proposal and warned that it might not prove to be as far-reaching as it appeared. Particular scrutiny was applied to the relatively detailed pledge to make "cellulosic ethanol" - derived from agricultural waste such as woodchips, switch grass (a tall marsh plant) and stalks from grain crops - a competitive and practical car fuel within six years.
The president repeated the proposal yesterday in a speech at the home of country music, the Grand Ole Opry, where he also urged Americans to reject isolationism in the face of global challenges.

"It seems like, to me, if you recognise the fact that being dependent upon oil is a problem for the long term, why don't we figure out how to drive our cars using a different type of fuel?" Mr Bush asked.

Michelle Robinson, the Washington director of the clean vehicles programme at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a watchdog group, said: "That statement is one of the most important things he said. We haven't heard that from the administration before, and it's quite positive."

Reid Detchon, the head of the Energy Future Coalition, a joint pressure group of unions and environmentalists, agreed: "I think that its very significant. If someone raised in an oil patch says the country is addicted and puts ... emphasis on alternative fuels, it's important. I think six years is the right timeframe. It could be more aggressive, but it's reasonable. That's the step that will push ethanol forward as a full competitor with gasoline."

The president's promise to increase federally funded research into ethanol and other forms of clean energy by 22%, as part of a broader investment in the sciences aimed at maintaining America's competitive edge, was also well received by environmentalists. But some voiced concern that the sums of money involved were comparatively small by the standards of the federal budget: $59m (£33m) in extra funding for cellulosic ethanol and $54m for clean coal technologies. Democrats said that even after the 22% rise, the administration would only be spending as much on renewable energy research as the Clinton administration in 2000.

"It's the Bush administration and Washington Republicans who are addicted to oil, and this administration refuses to break the dependence that undermines our economy and threatens our security," Senator John Kerry, the Democrats' presidential candidate in 2004, said.

Mr Detchon said it was not necessarily the amount of money that would prove important, but how it was used. "These technologies are ready to move to a commercial scale. The key will be ... the right incentives to the private sector so these plants will be built," he said. "In six years, if we have eight or 12 plants, then we'll have a great programme."

The president's ultimate target of using alternative fuels to replace 75% of oil imports from the Middle East, may also amount to less than meets the eye, experts said. Only about 20% of US oil consumption comes from the region, so the savings, if the objective was met, would amount to only 15% of overall imports.

"It sounds quite grand," Ms Robinson said. "But there are bills in Congress with much more ambitious targets. And the only concrete thing he says he'll do is research and development. You can't transform transportation by R&D alone. You have to do something by legislation, regulation and concrete requirements."

The Bush administration has consistently resisted using government regulations as a means of cutting oil dependence and greenhouse gas emissions. It walked out of the Kyoto accord on global warming largely for that reason. In 2002 Senate Republicans, with White House backing, blocked a bipartisan bill proposed by Mr Kerry and John McCain, a moderate Republican, which would have imposed stricter fuel efficiency standards on the large SUVs preferred by US motorists.

US greenhouse gas emissions were running about 13% above 1990 levels in 2003, a significantly worse performance than most of the industrialised members of the Kyoto pact.

Dependence on oil imports has risen under the Bush administration from 53% of US consumption to 60%. But most environmentalists said Mr Bush's speech gave reasons for optimism. "He used the words 'oil addiction'", Ms Robinson said. "At least he admits we have a problem."

Explainer: ethanol

It was Henry Ford's original plan to run the Model T on ethanol, but when petrol won the battle for market dominance, America's slide towards oil dependence was perhaps inevitable.

More than 120 years later, the country is being asked to kick the habit, with the help of $59m (about £33m) President Bush has earmarked for research on environmentally friendly biofuels.

Weaning US car owners off petrol will have a significant impact on the environment. Of the 500m cars in the world, 220m are in the US, but only 2% of the nation's transport fuel is bioethanol, a clean alcohol made domestically by fermenting corn.

Research published last week in the US journal Science found that not only could bioethanol replace petrol with big energy savings, it would produce up to 15% less greenhouse gas emissions. The Deparment of Energy's goal to replace 30% of petrol with biofuel by 2025 could be achieved with little effort within a few years, according to researcher Dan Kammen at the University of California, Berkeley.

But the hurdles are significant. Brazil, the world leader in growing biofuels, spent 20 years coaxing industry and the nation towards bioethanol and only last year sold more "flex fuel" cars that run on petrol or ethanol from sugarcane, than conventional cars. Commercial plantations there grow 20 tonnes of biofuel crops per hectare.

In a recent review of biofuels, researchers at Imperial College London, found that the amount of biomass grown for fuel will have to at least double before it can make serious inroads on America's oil addiction.

Research is now aimed at finding ways to tweak the machinery of photosynthesis to make plants grow more efficiently, while genetic modification is being used to make microbes that can rapidly turn the cellulose in plants into ethanol.
Comment: Considering the fact that Bush has single-handedly done more to damage the environment than any other single president in American History, I don't think we can trust this about face for one minute.

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ACLU Chief Calls on President to Shut Down Illegal Spying on Americans
ACLU 31 Jan 06

If the president does not call an immediate end to this illegal spying, Congress must hold thorough hearings. The Justice Department must also appoint a special counsel to investigate the breadth and legality of the NSA spying program.
NEW YORK - The president has an opportunity in his State of the Union address tonight to allay the concerns of millions by abandoning his illegal program of warrantless domestic spying, conducted by the most secretive entity in government -- the National Security Agency.

We hope the president will do that, but we fear he will not. Instead, we expect President Bush to continue to aggressively claim sweeping authority to override congressional statutes and the courts when it comes to invading our privacy.

He has said that this program is legal, not because he or his advisors can point to any particular law authorizing it (and indeed legal scholars and national security experts can point to laws explicitly saying the opposite), but because he has merely assumed the powers as commander in chief. Despite the recent public relations offensive, the president's warrantless and secret spying program has come under attack from Democrats and Republicans alike.

To be clear, this program is not lawful. No matter how many times the president claims his actions are legal, they are not. They violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) as well as the First and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution, and they pose serious threats to the constitutional checks and balances on presidential power that serve to protect our individual liberties.

A great nation rules itself through laws, not people. We need independent judges making sure that domestic spying is actually targeting the right people. We know from history that giving the president a blank check, especially in the context of national security, is a recipe for abuse.

The American people deserve to know how far afield the warrantless NSA surveillance has gone from targeting actual terrorists. Security experts confirm that "collateral" surveillance -- otherwise known as spying on innocent people -- is part of the game when you circumvent judicial oversight in the manner the NSA is said to have done.

We also know that the Justice Department had serious concerns about the program. Top officials, including Deputy Attorney General James Comey, had apparently questioned the legality of the surveillance. Rank-and-file agents reportedly started to joke that the intelligence gleaned from the spying was so unreliable that a new batch of tips meant more "calls to Pizza Hut." It bears noting that the very individuals who now claim that the NSA program is illegal may be the ones who broke the law in the first instance.

The president has repeatedly said that "if al Qaeda's calling you, we want to know why." Surely every American would want the government to track calls from known terrorists. That does not, however, mean we can abandon court review of government surveillance.

In fact, the president had an efficient and secure legal framework, most notably including the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, within which to listen to al Qaeda phone calls or read al Qaeda e-mails. Indeed, that framework is, by law, exclusive: there can be no foreign intelligence surveillance in the United States authorized outside of it.

Worse than the surveillance, however, is the impunity surrounding it and the open disregard for the rule of law. The vice president freely admitted that the White House decided to operate above the law, at the expense of the courts and Congress. For reasons of ideology and expediency, the administration turned its back on the core principle of our democracy: that each branch of government is equal, and should act as a check on the others.

If the president does not call an immediate end to this illegal spying, Congress must hold thorough hearings. The Justice Department must also appoint a special counsel to investigate the breadth and legality of the NSA spying program.

As Americans, we believe that the state of our union cannot be strong if the president continues to violate our Constitution and our most fundamental freedoms. Because the Bush administration has shown its disdain for accountability and its critics, we have taken our case directly to the American people. Today, we ran paid national newspaper advertisements detailing the administration's disturbing record on civil liberties, and calling for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate the NSA spying program. The NSA scandal is merely the culmination of five years of disdain for the Constitution. These practices must end now.

The previous ads and more information on the ACLU's call for an outside counsel are online at

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Official: Army Has Authority to Spy on Americans
By Jeff Stein, CQ Staff Jan. 31, 2006 – 9:21 p.m.

"Contrary to popular belief, there is no absolute ban on [military] intelligence components collecting U.S. person information," the U.S.Army’s top intelligence officer said in a 2001 memo that surfaced Tuesday.

Not only that, military intelligence agencies are permitted to "receive" domestic intelligence information, even though they cannot legally "collect" it," according to the Nov. 5, 2001, memo issued by Lt. Gen. Robert W. Noonan Jr., the deputy chief of staff for intelligence.
"MI [military intelligence] may receive information from anyone, anytime," Noonan wrote in the memo, obtained by Secrecy News, a newsletter from the non-profit Federation of American Scientists in Washington.

Defense Department and Army regulations "allow collection about U.S. persons reasonably believed to be engaged, or about to engage, in international terrorist activities," Noonan continued.

"Remember, merely receiving information does not constitute 'collection' under AR [Army Regulation] 381-10; collection entails receiving 'for use,' " he added. (Army Regulation 381-10, "U.S. Army Intelligence Activities," was reissued on Nov. 22, 2005, but had not previously been disclosed publicly.) "Army intelligence may always receive information, if only to determine its intelligence value and whether it can be collected, retained, or disseminated in accordance with governing policy,"

The distinction between "receiving" and "collecting" seems "to offer considerable leeway for domestic surveillance activities under the existing legal framework," wrote editor Steven Aftergood in Tuesday's edition of Secrecy News.

"This in turn makes it harder to understand why the NSA domestic surveillance program departed from previous practice."

Aftergood was alerted to the existence of the memo by another security expert, John Pike of, who thought that "there is enough ambiguity in the language that with a bit of creativity in managing the U.S. persons files there would have been not too much trouble" applying existing rules to the warrantless eavesdropping by the National Security Agency.

TALON Reports

The Pentagon's Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) was launched in 2002 with the mission of "gathering information and conducting activities to protect DoD and the nation against espionage, other intelligence activities, sabotage, assassinations, and terrorist activities," according to a CIFA brochure. Its TALON program has amassed files on antiwar protesters, according to a Pentagon official.

"More than 5,000 TALON reports" were "received and shared throughout the government" in the program's first year of operation," Carol A. Haave, deputy undersecretary of Defense for counterintelligence and security, told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in May 2004.

"At that rate, about 12,500 Talon reports would have been filed during the approximately 2½ years the program has existed," The Washington Post concluded Tuesday.

• Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence: "Collecting Information on U.S. Persons" (pdf)

Edition of AR 381-10 dated July 1, 1984 (in effect until Dec. 22, 2005) (pdf)

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Justice Alito casts his first vote
CNN February 1, 2006

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Supreme Court's newest justice cast his first vote Wednesday, then was sworn in ceremonially at the White House.

In his first vote, Samuel Alito joined the eight other justices in rejecting Missouri's effort to immediately end a stay of execution for convicted killer Michael Taylor.

The move had little practical effect, because the stay was already set to expire Wednesday afternoon. Further appeals in the case are pending.

Less than an hour after the decision was announced, Alito was at the White House for a ceremonial swearing-in for the cameras. (Watch as Alito becomes Justice Alito -- 7:52)

The justice said he was "overwhelmed by the occasion."

He added, "I simply pledge to do everything in my power to live up to the trust placed in me."

President Bush said he is confident his nominee "will make a superb justice on the United States Supreme Court."

Six justices attend ceremony

Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath, witnessed by Justices Antonin Scalia, David Souter, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

Others attending included Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and White House counsel Harriet Miers, who was originally tapped by Bush to fill the seat of retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

Miers withdrew after criticism from conservatives over her judicial credentials, and went on to help in the Alito selection process. Alito thanked her during the ceremony.

Tuesday also was a whirlwind of activity for the 55-year-old jurist: a 58-42 confirmation vote; a private, official swearing-in at the Supreme Court; an appearance at President Bush's State of the Union address ; and the initial demands of the court's never-ending caseload.

In his first official legal business as an associate justice, Alito backed out of participating in two emergency applications from inmates facing execution in Texas and Florida.

Alito will spend the next few days moving into O'Connor's former office and hiring a staff, including law clerks. The court is in the middle of a four-week recess, and oral arguments do not resume until February 21.

Key cases ahead

In coming weeks, the former federal appeals court judge and the other justices will have several important appeals and cases awaiting them:

  • A request from the Bush administration over a federal ban on a late-term abortion procedure that critics call "partial birth." Several federal courts have struck down the law as unconstitutional and have blocked it from going into effect.
  • A request to review a case testing the president's power to hold U.S. citizens as "enemy combatants" in a wartime setting. Until recently, terrorism suspect Jose Padilla was held in military custody without charges.
  • Oral arguments in several high-profile cases, including congressional redistricting in Texas, the rights of suspected terrorists held overseas facing U.S. military tribunals, restriction of development near environmentally sensitive wetlands and the use of lethal injection for death-row inmates.
  • Alito joins the court in midterm. The court already has heard arguments and issued rulings in a number of cases, creating potential problems. If there is a deadlock in pending cases, Alito may be asked to break the tie, or the cases could be reheard with him in the fall.

    The Senate confirmed Alito Tuesday on a mostly partisan vote after weeks of criticism over his judicial record by Democrats and liberal interest groups. A last-minute attempt by several senators to delay a final vote failed to materialize. (Full story)

    Private ceremony Tuesday

    Bush nominated him October 31 to fill the vacancy when O'Connor announced she would step down. She and several other justices, including Stephen Breyer, were on hand after Tuesday's vote when Alito took the constitutional and judicial oaths in a private ceremony in the court's conference room.

    Chief Justice John Roberts swore in Alito, allowing him to begin his work immediately as a member of the Supreme Court. Alito's wife, Martha-Ann, also attended.

    Wearing their judicial robes, Breyer and Justice Clarence Thomas joined Roberts and Alito at the president's address Tuesday night.

    Bush drew applause when he praised the court's newest justices: "The Supreme Court now has two superb new members, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Sam Alito. I thank the Senate for confirming both of them. And I will continue to nominate men and women who understand that judges must be servants of the law and not legislate from the bench." (Full story)

    On Wednesday, the high court announced new circuit assignments for the justices. Each is assigned at least one of 13 areas of the country and federal government where emergency applications and other appeals originate.

    Alito will hear such cases from the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri and Arkansas. He most recently was a judge on the 3rd U.S. Circuit of Appeals, based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but Justice David Souter will continue to have control over that area.

    Alito will sit on the far right of the bench during oral arguments, the traditional spot for the junior justice. His neighbor will be Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a member of the high court since 1993.

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    US supreme court nears crucial abortion ruling
    Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington Thursday February 2, 2006 The Guardian

    The US supreme court moved a step closer yesterday to taking up its first case on abortion since the appointment of two judges of President George Bush's choosing, after two federal appeals courts ruled that a ban on a termination procedure was unconstitutional.

    The rulings, in courts in California and New York, were handed down on Tuesday, the same day that the deeply conservative Samuel Alito was sworn in as a supreme court justice, and underlined how quickly his appointment could change federal abortion law.
    "This is likely to be the next abortion case before the court and probably the first one Alito will hear," said Lorraine Kenny, a spokeswoman for the American Civil Liberties Union, which fought the case in New York. "We are concerned."

    Both rulings said the ban on the procedure, which involves partly removing an intact foetus from the body after the first trimester before aborting it, was unconstitutional because it failed to provide an exception when alternative methods could endanger the woman's health.

    The ban, which was signed into law by President Bush in 2003 but never enforced because of legal challenges, would make what the anti-abortion movement calls partial birth abortion punishable by up to two years' jail for doctors who carry it out.

    In a unanimous ruling, the court in San Francisco said the law placed an unfair burden on a woman's right to an abortion, and put doctors at risk of criminal liability for virtually all abortion procedures after the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

    The ruling from the New York court was less of a victory for the abortion rights movement, with an unusually sharp dissent from one judge and a rebuke from the chief judge, John Walker. Mr Walker overturned the ban, but called the abortion procedure "morally repugnant". He called on the supreme court to issue a ruling that would require opponents of the ban to demonstrate how it would harm women.

    The twin rulings make it increasingly likely that the federal ban on the procedure would be the next abortion case before the US supreme court, and the first that Justice Alito will hear. The issue is already before the supreme court after a court in Missouri became the first to strike down the ban by Congress last year.

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    The New Geopolitics
    By Michael Klare Monthly Review 1 Feb 06

    The war in Iraq has reconfigured the global geopolitical landscape in many ways, some of which may not be apparent for years or even decades to come. It has certainly altered the U.S. relationship with Europe and the Middle East. But its impact goes well beyond this. More than anything else, the war reveals that the new central pivot of world competition is the south-central area of Eurasia.
    The term “geopolitics” seems at first to come from another era, from the late nineteenth century. By geopolitics or geopolitical competition, I mean the contention between great powers and aspiring great powers for control over territory, resources, and important geographical positions, such as ports and harbors, canals, river systems, oases, and other sources of wealth and influence. If you look back, you will find that this kind of contestation has been the driving force in world politics and especially world conflict in much of the past few centuries.

    Geopolitics, as a mode of analysis, was very popular from the late nineteenth century into the early part of the twentieth century. If you studied then what academics now call international relations, you would have been studying geopolitics.

    Geopolitics died out as a self-conscious mode of analysis in the Cold War period, partly due to echoes of the universally abhorred Hitlerite ideology of lebensraum, but also because there were a lot of parallels between classical geopolitical thinking (which came out of a conservative wing of academia) and Marxist and Leninist thinking, which clashed with the ideological pretensions of Cold War scholars. So it is not a form of analysis that you see taught, for the most part, in U.S. universities today.

    Geopolitics was also an ideology in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—a self-conscious set of beliefs on which elites and leaders of the great powers acted. It was the thinking behind the imperialism of that period, the logic for the acquisition of colonies with specific geographical locations. The incidents leading up to the First World War came out of this mode of thinking, such as the 1898 Fashoda incident over the headwaters of the Nile River that gave rise to a near conflict between Third Republic France and late Victorian Britain.

    In the case of the United States, it became the dominant mode of thinking at the time of Teddy Roosevelt and led very self-consciously to the decision by Roosevelt and his cabal of associates to turn the United States into an empire. This was a conscious project. It was not an accident. The Spanish-American War was an intentional device by which the United States acquired an empire. The Spanish-American War and the occupation of the Philippines were followed quickly by the seizure of Panama, openly justified by geopolitical ideology. To see just how self-conscious this process was, I recommend Warren Zimmermann’s First Great Triumph (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002). The parallels to the current moment are striking.

    Geopolitical ideology was later appropriated by Hitler and Mussolini and by the Japanese militarists to explain and to justify their expansionist behavior. And it was this expansionist behavior—which threatened the geopolitical interest of the opposing powers—that led to the Second World War, not the internal politics of Germany, Italy, or Japan.

    This ideology disappeared to some degree during the Cold War in favor of a model of ideological competition. That is to say, geopolitical ideology appeared inconsistent with the high-minded justifications (in which “democracy” and “freedom” largely figured) given for interventions in the third world.

    But really, if you study the history of the Cold War, the overt conflicts that took place were consciously framed by a geopolitical orientation from the American point of view. The United States had to control the Middle East and its oil. That was the basis of the Truman Doctrine and the Eisenhower Doctrine and the Carter Doctrine. The United States had to control parts of Africa because of its mineral wealth in copper, cobalt, and platinum. That’s why the United States backed the apartheid regime in South Africa. And the reason for both the Korean War and the Vietnam War was understood at the highest levels in terms of the U.S. interest in control of the Pacific Rim.

    Today, we are seeing a resurgence of unabashed geopolitical ideology among the leadership cadres of the major powers, above all in the United States. In fact, the best way to see what’s happening today in Iraq and elsewhere is through a geopolitical prism. American leaders have embarked on the classical geopolitical project of assuring U.S. dominance of the most important resource areas, understood as the sources of power and wealth. There is an ideological consistency to what they’re doing, and it is this geopolitical mode of thinking.

    Perhaps there is some question as to exactly how conscious this is, but you can see this way of thinking in the overt discourse of many contemporary leaders. Dick Cheney and some prominent neoconservatives especially, but also Democrats such as Zbigniew Brzezinski, speak in this manner. They openly state that the United States is engaged in a struggle to maintain its power vis-à-vis other contending great powers and that America must prevail.

    Now, you might ask, what contending great powers? From our point of view it is far from obvious that any exist. But if you read what these folks write and hear what they say, you will find that they are absolutely obsessed by the potential emergence of rival great powers; Russia, China, a European combination of some sort, Japan, and even India.

    This is the essence of the Wolfowitz Doctrine, first articulated in the Pentagon’s Defense Planning Guidance document for 1994–1999, first leaked to the press in February 1992. This document calls for proactive U.S. military intervention to deter and prevent the rise of a contending peer (or equal) competitor, and asserts that the United States must use any and all means necessary to prevent that from happening. At the time this statement was met with such howls of outrage from U.S. allies that then President Bush had to squelch the document, and it was revised to take out this language.

    But this doctrine lingered in the think-tank writings of the 1990s, re-emerging as the official global military policy of the Bush II administration. It has now been incorporated as the core principle of the document known as the National Security Strategy of the United States of America (September 2002), available for download from the White House website. This document states explicitly that the ultimate purpose of American power is to prevent the rise of a competing great power, and that the United States shall use any means necessary to prevent that from happening, including preventive military force when needed, but also through spending so much money on defense that no other peer competitor can ever arise.

    Against this background, it can hardly be questioned that the purpose of the war in Iraq is to redraw the geopolitical map of Eurasia so as to insure and embed American power and dominance in this region vis-E0-vis these other potential competitors.

    Now let us step back for a minute and return to the classical geo-political thinking of the early part of the last century, particularly the views of Sir Halford Mackinder of Great Britain. This perspective held that Eurasia was the most important part—the “heartland” of the civilized world, and that whoever controlled this heartland by definition controlled the rest of the world because of the concentration there of population, resources, and industrial might. In classical geopolitical thinking, world politics is essentially a struggle over who will control the Eurasian heartland.

    The strategists of the turn of the twentieth century saw two ways through which global dominance could arise. One was through the emergence of a continental power (or a combination of continental powers) that dominated Eurasia and was, therefore, the master of the world. It was precisely this fear—that a German-controlled continental Europe and Russia, together with a Japanese-dominated China and Southeast Asia, would merge into a vast continental power and dominate the Eurasian heartland, thereby reducing the United States to a marginal power—that galvanized American leaders at the onset of the Second World War. Franklin D. Roosevelt was deeply steeped in this mode of analysis, and it is this ideological–strategic view that triggered U.S. intervention in the Second World War.

    The other approach to global dominance perceived by early twentieth century geopolitical strategists was to control the “rimlands” of Eurasia—that is, Western Europe, the Pacific Rim, and the Middle East—and thereby contain any emerging “heartland” power. After the Second World War, the United States determined that it would in fact maintain a permanent military presence in all of the rimlands of Eurasia. This is what we know of as the “containment” strategy. And it was this outlook that led to the formation of NATO, the Marshall Plan, SEATO, CENTO, and the U.S. military alliances with Japan and Taiwan. For most of the time since the Second World War, the focus was on the eastern and western ends of Eurasia—Europe and the Far East.

    What is happening now, I believe, is that U.S. elites have concluded that the European and East Asian rimlands of Eurasia are securely in American hands or less important, or both. The new center of geopolitical competition, as they see it, is South-Central Eurasia, encompassing the Persian Gulf area, which possesses two-thirds of the world’s oil, the Caspian Sea basin, which has a large chunk of what’s left, and the surrounding countries of Central Asia. This is the new center of world struggle and conflict, and the Bush administration is determined that the United States shall dominate and control this critical area.

    Until now, the contested rimlands of Eurasia were the base of U.S. power, while in the south-central region there was but a very modest presence of U.S. forces. Since the end of the Cold War, however, the primary U.S. military realignment has entailed the drawdown of American forces in East Asia and Europe along with the buildup of forces in the south-central region. U.S. bases in Europe are being closed, while new military bases are being established in the Persian Gulf area and in Central Asia.

    It is important to note that this is a process that began before 9/11. September 11 quickened the process and gave it a popular mandate, but this was entirely serendipitous from the point of view of U.S. strategists. It was President Clinton who initiated U.S. military ties with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Georgia, and Azerbaijan, and who built up the U.S. capacity to intervene in the Persian Gulf / Caspian Sea area. The U.S. victory in Iraq was not a victory of Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld; it was Clinton’s work that made this victory possible.

    The war against Iraq was intended to provide the United States with a dominant position in the Persian Gulf region, and to serve as a springboard for further conquests and assertion of power in the region. It was aimed as much, if not more, at China, Russia, and Europe as at Syria or Iran. It is part of a larger process of asserting dominant U.S. power in south-central Eurasia, in the very heartland of this mega-continent.

    But why specifically the Persian Gulf/Caspian Sea area, and why now? In part, this is so because this is where most of the world’s remaining oil is located—approximately 70 percent of known petroleum reserves. And you have to think of oil not just as a source of fuel—although that’s very important—but as a source of power. As U.S. strategists see it, whoever controls Persian Gulf oil controls the world’s economy and, therefore, has the ultimate lever over all competing powers.

    In September 1990, then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Saddam Hussein would acquire a “stranglehold” over the U.S. and world economy if he captured Saudi Arabia’s oilfields along with those of Kuwait. This was the main reason, he testified, why the United States must send troops to the area and repel Hussein’s forces. He used much the same language in a speech last August to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. I believe that in his mind it is clear that the United States must retain a stranglehold on the world economy by controlling this area. This is just as important, in the administration’s view, as retaining America’s advantage in military technology.

    Ten years from now, China is expected to be totally dependent on the Persian Gulf and the Caspian Sea area for the oil it will need to sustain its economic growth. Europe, Japan, and South Korea will be in much the same position. Control over the oil spigot may be a somewhat cartoonish image, but it is an image that has motivated U.S. policy since the end of the Cold War and has gained even more prominence in the Bush-Cheney administration.

    This region is also the only area in the world where the interests of the putative great powers collide. In the hotly-contested Caspian Sea area, Russia is an expanding power, China is an expanding power, and the United States is an expanding power. There is no other place in the world like this. They are struggling with one another consciously and actively. The Bush administration is determined to dominate this area and to subordinate these two potential challengers and prevent them from forming a common front against the United States. (For more on the emerging power struggle in the Caspian Sea basin, see my Resource Wars: The New Landscape of Global Conflict [Henry Holt/Metropolitan, 2001].)

    What then are the implications of this great realignment of U.S. geo-political strategy made possible by the Cold War defeat of the Soviet Union?

    It is obviously much too early to draw any definitive conclusions on this, but some things can be said. First, Iraq is just the beginning of a U.S. drive into this area. We will see further extensions and expressions of U.S. power in the region. This will provoke resistance and self-conscious opposition to the United States by insurgent groups and regimes. But the United States will also become enmeshed in local conflicts that arose long before America’s involvement in the region. For example, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and that between Abkhazia and Georgia—both of which have a long history—will come to impact on U.S. security as the United States becomes dependent on a newly-constructed trans-Caucasian oil pipeline. The Chechen and Afghani wars continue and bracket the region. In all such disputes there is a likelihood of indirect or direct, covert or overt intervention by the United States and the other contending powers.

    We are at the beginning, I believe, of a new Cold War in south-central Eurasia, with many possibilities for crises and flare-ups, because nowhere else in the world are Russia and China directly involved and supporting groups and regimes that are opposed to the United States. Even during the height of the Cold War, there wasn’t anything quite comparable to this. American troops will be there for a long time, with a high risk of violent engagement and the potential for great human suffering. It appears, then, that the U.S. and international peace movement will have a lot of work ahead!

    All material © copyright 2003 Monthly Review

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    The US has become a rogue nation
    By Paul Craig Roberts ICH 1 Feb 06

    The state of the nation has never been worse. The Great Depression was an accident caused by the incompetence of the Federal Reserve, which was still new at its job. The new American job depression is the result of free trade ideology. The new job depression is creating a reserve army of the unemployed to serve as desperate recruits for neoconservative military adventures. Perhaps that explains the Bush administration's enthusiasm for globalization.

    The state of the union is disastrous. By its naked aggression, bullying, illegal spying on Americans, and illegal torture and detentions, the Bush administration has demonstrated American contempt for the Geneva Convention, for human life and dignity, and for the civil liberties of its own citizens. Increasingly, the US is isolated in the world, having to resort to bribery and threats to impose its diktats. No country any longer looks to America for moral leadership. The US has become a rogue nation.

    Least of all did President Bush tell any truth about the economy. He talked about economic growth rates without acknowledging that they result from eating the seed corn and do not produce jobs with a living wage for Americans. He touted a low rate of unemployment and did not admit that the figure is false because it does not count millions of discouraged workers who have dropped out of the work force.

    Americans did not hear from Bush that a new Wal-Mart just opened on Chicago's city boundary and 25,000 people applied for 325 jobs (Chicago Sun-Times, Jan. 26), or that 11,000 people applied for a few Wal-Mart jobs in Oakland, California. Obviously, employment is far from full.

    Neither did Bush tell Americans any of the dire facts reported by economist Charles McMillion in the January 19 issue of Manufacturing & Technology News:

    During Bush's presidency the US has experienced the slowest job creation on record (going back to 1939). During the past five years private business has added only 958,000 net new jobs to the economy, while the government sector has added 1.1 million jobs. Moreover, as many of the jobs are not for a full work week, "the country ended 2005 with fewer private sector hours worked than it had in January 2001."

    McMillion reports that the largest sources of private sector jobs have been health care and waitresses and bartenders. Other areas of the private sector lost so many jobs, including supervisory/managerial jobs, that had health care not added 1.4 million new jobs, the private sector would have experienced a net loss of 467,000 jobs between January 2001 and December 2005 despite an "economic recovery." Without the new jobs waiting tables and serving drinks, the US economy in the past five years would have eked out a measly 64,000 jobs. In other words, there is a job depression in the US.

    McMillion reports that during the past five years of Bush's presidency the US has lost 16.5% of its manufacturing jobs. The hardest hit are clothes manufacturers, textile mills, communications equipment, and semiconductors. Workforces in these industries shrunk by 37 to 46 percent. These are amazing job losses. Major industries have shriveled to insignificance in half a decade.

    Free trade, offshore production for US markets, and the outsourcing of US jobs are the culprits. McMillion writes that "every industry that faces foreign outsourcing or import competition is losing jobs," including both Ford and General Motors, both of which recently announced new job losses of 30,000 each. The parts supplier, Delphi, is on the ropes and cutting thousands of jobs, wages, benefits, and pensions.

    If the free trade/outsourcing propaganda were true, would not at least some US export industries be experiencing a growth in employment? If free trade and outsourcing benefit the US economy, how did America run up $2.85 trillion in trade deficits over the last five years? This means Americans consumed almost $3 trillion dollars more in goods and services than they produced and turned over $3 trillion of their existing assets to foreigners to pay for their consumption. Consuming accumulated wealth makes a country poorer, not richer.

    Americans are constantly reassured that America is the leader in advanced technology and intellectual property and doesn't need jobs making clothes or even semiconductors. McMillion puts the lie to this reassurance. During Bush's presidency, the US has lost its trade surplus in manufactured Advanced Technology Products (ATP). The US trade deficit in ATP now exceeds the US surplus in Intellectual Property licenses and fees. The US no longer earns enough from high tech to cover any part of its import bill for oil, autos, or clothing.

    This is an astonishing development. The US "superpower" is dependent on China for advanced technology products and is dependent on Asia to finance its massive deficits and foreign wars. In view of the rapid collapse of US economic potential, my prediction in January 2004 that the US would be a third world economy in 20 years was optimistic. Another five years like the last, and little will be left. America's capacity to export manufactured goods has been so reduced that some economists say that there is no exchange rate at which the US can balance its trade.

    McMillion reports that median household income has fallen for a record fifth year in succession. Growth in consumer spending has resulted from households spending their savings and equity in their homes. In 2005 for the first time since the Great Depression in the 1930s, American consumers spent more than they earned, and the government budget deficit was larger than all business savings combined. American households are paying a record share of their disposable income to service their debts.

    With America hemorrhaging red ink in every direction, how much longer can the dollar hold on to its role as world reserve currency?

    The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, is the cradle of the propaganda that globalization is win-win for all concerned. Free trader Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley reports that the mood at the recently concluded Davos meeting was different, because the predicted "wins" for the industrialized world have not made an appearance.

    Roach writes that "job creation and real wages in the mature, industrialized economies have seriously lagged historical norms. It is now commonplace for recoveries in the developed world to be either jobless or wageless--or both."

    Roach is the first free trade economist to admit that the disruptive technology of the Internet has dashed the globalization hopes. It was supposed to work like this: The first world would lose market share in tradable manufactured goods and make up the job and economic loss with highly-educated knowledge workers. The "win-win" was supposed to be cheaper manufactured goods for the first world and more and better jobs for the third world.

    It did not work out this way, Roach writes, because the Internet allowed job outsourcing to quickly migrate from call centers and data processing to the upper end of the value chain, displacing first world employees in "software programming, engineering, design, and the medical profession, as well as a broad array of professionals in the legal, accounting, actuarial, consulting, and financial services industries."

    This is what I have been writing for years, while the economics profession adopted a position of total denial. The first world gainers from globalization are the corporate executives, who gain millions of dollars in bonuses by arbitraging labor and substituting cheaper foreign labor for first world labor. For the past decade free market economists have served as apologists for corporate interests that are dismantling the ladders of upward mobility in the US and creating what McMillion writes is the worst income inequality on record.

    Globalization is wiping out the American middle class and terminating jobs for university graduates, who now serve as temps, waitresses and bartenders. But the whores among economists and the evil men and women in the Bush administration still sing globalization's praises.

    The state of the nation has never been worse. The Great Depression was an accident caused by the incompetence of the Federal Reserve, which was still new at its job. The new American job depression is the result of free trade ideology. The new job depression is creating a reserve army of the unemployed to serve as desperate recruits for neoconservative military adventures. Perhaps that explains the Bush administration's enthusiasm for globalization.

    Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.He can be reached at:

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    An Interview With William Blum, Author "Rogue State"
    ICH C-Span 28 Jan 06

    William Blum, "Rogue State," on the author’s 2000 book, which was recently cited by Osama bin Laden as one Americans should read.

    First broadcast - C-Span - 28/01/06 - 40 Minutes

    Below: This is a chapter from the book Rogue State: A Guide to
    the World's Only Superpower
    , by William Blum
    War Criminals: Theirs and Ours
    I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as
    a war criminal. Fortunately, we were on the winning side.
    US General Curtis LeMay, commander of the 1945 Tokyo fire bombing operation.[1]

    On December 3, 1996, the US Justice Department issued a list of 16 Japanese citizens who would be barred from entering the United States because of "war crimes" committed during the Second World War. Among those denied entry were some who were alleged to have been members of the infamous "Unit 731", which, said the Justice Department, "conducted inhumane and frequently lethal pseudo-medical experiments -- on thousands of ... prisoners and civilians," including mass dissections of living humans.[2] Oddly enough, after the war the man in charge of the Unit 731 program -- whose test subjects included captured American soldiers -- General Shiro Ishii, along with a number of his colleagues, had been granted immunity and freedom in exchange for providing the United States with details about their experiments, and were promised that their crimes would not be revealed to the world. The justification for this policy, advanced by American scientists and military officials, was, of course, the proverbial, ubiquitous "national security".[3]

    Apart from the hypocrisy of the Justice Department including Unit 731 members on such a list while protecting its leaders, we are faced with the fact that any number of countries would be justified in issuing a list of Americans barred from entry because of "war crimes" and "crimes against humanity". Such a list, of those still alive in 2005, might include:

    William Clinton, president, for his merciless bombing of the people of Yugoslavia for 78 days and nights in 1999, taking the lives of many hundreds of civilians, and producing one of the greatest ecological catastrophes in history; for his relentless continuation of the sanctions and rocket attacks upon the people of Iraq; and for his illegal and lethal bombings of Somalia, Bosnia, Sudan, and Afghanistan.

    General Wesley Clark, Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, for his direction of the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia with an almost sadistic fanaticism ... "He would rise out of his seat and slap the table. ‘I've got to get the maximum violence out of this campaign -- now!'"[4]

    George H. W. Bush, president, for the death of more than a million innocent Iraqi citizens, the result of his 40 days of bombing in 1991, the deliberate ruination of the public water supply, the widespread use of depleted uranium weapons which has brought continuing suffering to many thousands of American servicemen and to many more Iraqis, and for the institution of draconian sanctions against Iraq, which lasted 12 years.

    For his unconscionable bombing of Panama in 1989, producing widespread death, destruction and homelessness, for no discernible reason that would stand up in a court of law or a court of public opinion.

    General Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for his prominent role in the attacks on Panama and Iraq, the latter including destruction of nuclear reactors as well as plants making biological and chemical agents. Hardly more than a month had passed since the United Nations, under whose mandate the United States was supposedly operating in Iraq, had passed a resolution reaffirming its "prohibition of military attacks on nuclear facilities" in the Middle East.[5] In the wake of the destruction, Powell gloated: "The two operating reactors they had are both gone, they're down, they're finished."[6] He was just as cavalier about the lives of the people of Iraq. In response to a question concerning the number of Iraqis killed in the war, the good general replied: "It's really not a number I'm terribly interested in."[7]

    For his part in the cover up of war crimes in Vietnam by troops of the same brigade that carried out the My Lai massacre.[8]

    General Norman Schwarzkopf, Commander in Chief, U.S. Central Command, for his military leadership of the Iraqi carnage in 1991; for continuing the carnage two days after the cease-fire; for continuing it against Iraqis trying to surrender.

    Elliott Abrams, assistant secretary of state under Reagan; a tireless campaigner and propagandist for the vilest of dictatorships, death squads, and torturers in Central America and Pinochet's Chile; a spinmeister for the ages, who wrestled facts into ideological submission. "When history is written," he declared, "the Contras will be folk heroes," he wrote of the terrorists who carried out multiple atrocities against the people of Nicaragua.[9]

    Caspar Weinberger, Secretary of Defense for seven years under Reagan, for his official and actual responsibility for the numerous crimes against humanity perpetrated by the United States in Central America and the Caribbean, and for the bombing of Libya in 1986.

    Lt. Col. Oliver North, assigned to Reagan's National Security Council, for being a prime mover behind the Contras of Nicaragua, and for his involvement in the planning of the completely illegal invasion of Grenada, which took the lives of hundreds of innocent civilians.

    Henry Kissinger (who has successfully combined three careers: scholar, Nobel peace laureate, and war criminal), National Security Adviser under Nixon and Secretary of State under Nixon and Ford, for his Machiavellian, amoral, immoral roles in the US interventions into Angola, Chile, East Timor, Vietnam, and Cambodia, which brought unspeakable horror and misery to the peoples of those lands.

    Gerald Ford, president, for giving his approval to Indonesia to use American arms to brutally suppress the people of East Timor, thus setting in motion a quarter-century-long genocide.

    Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense under presidents Kennedy and Johnson, a prime architect of, and major bearer of responsibility for, the slaughter in Indochina, from its early days to its extraordinary escalations; and for the violent suppression of popular movements in Peru.

    General William Westmoreland, Army Chief of Staff, for the numerous war crimes under his command in Vietnam. In 1971, Telford Taylor, the chief US prosecutor at the post-World War II Nuremberg Tribunal, cited the "Yamashita" case as grounds for indicting Westmoreland. Following the war, a US Army Commission had sentenced Japanese General Tomayuki Yamashita to be hanged for atrocities committed by his troops in the Philippines. The Commission held that as the senior commander, Yamashita was responsible for not stopping the atrocities. The same ruling could of course apply to General Powell and General Schwarzkopf. Yamashita, in his defense, presented considerable evidence that he had lacked the communications to adequately control his troops; yet he was still hanged. Taylor pointed out that with helicopters and modern communications, Westmoreland and his commanders didn't have this problem.[10]

    And the Bush administration, some of them are still at it, even as you read this: George W. Bush, president, Richard Cheney, vice president, Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of Defense, Colin Powell, Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, National Security Advisor, for the awful horrors and grave suffering they deliberately brought down upon the heads of the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, who had done them no harm; for the unending lying they engaged in, in an attempt to enlist American and world support for these atrocities.

    The crime of bombing

    As mentioned in the "Bombings" chapter, the bombing of cities from airplanes goes not only unpunished but virtually unaccused. This is a legacy of World War II. The Nuremberg and Tokyo judgments are silent on the subject of aerial bombardment. Since both sides had played a terrible game of urban destruction -- the Allies far more successfully -- there was no basis for criminal charges against the Germans or Japanese, and in fact no such charges were brought. But as Telford Taylor has asked: "Is there any significant difference between killing a babe-in-arms by a bomb dropped from a high-flying aircraft, or by an infantryman's point-blank gunfire? ... The aviator's act [is described] as more ‘impersonal' than the ground soldier's. This may be psychologically valid, but surely is not morally satisfactory."[11]

    No one ever thinks they're guilty of anything ... they're all just good ol' patriots:

    "Asked whether he wants to apologize for the suffering he caused, he looks genuinely confused, has the interpreter repeat the question, and answers ‘No'. ... ‘I want you to know that everything I did, I did for my country.'"
    Journalist Nate Thayer interviewing a dying Pol Pot, 1997 [12]

    "I tell you how I feel. I would like to be remembered as a man who served his country, who served Chile throughout his entire life on this earth. And what he did was always done thinking about the welfare of Chile."
    General Augusto Pinochet, under house arrest in England, 1998 [13]

    (While Pinochet was being held, George H.W. Bush, the Pope, and the Dalai Lama all called for his release.)

    How to deal with the unthinkable

    At the close of World War II, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East held a trial in Tokyo of former Japanese prime minister Hideki Tojo. His lawyer asked why Tojo's crimes were any worse than dropping the A-bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. At that moment, the prosecution interrupted the Japanese translation and ordered the removal of the remarks in the official trial record and in the press.[14]

    Another unthinkable

    The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide ("Genocide Convention"), adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948: "The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish." The Convention then goes on to define genocide as certain acts, listed therein, "committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such."

    Missing from this list is perhaps the most significant manifestation of genocide in modern times: the extermination of people because of their political ideology. The Nazis became notorious for their slaughter of Jews and Gypsies, but German fascism, as in Italy, Spain, Greece, Chile, Indonesia, and elsewhere, was firstly and primarily directed against socialists and communists, regardless of any other characteristic. (Hitler, in any event, largely equated Jews and communists.)

    As can be seen in the chapter on "Interventions" and in other chapters -- from China and the Philippines in the 1940s to Colombia and Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the United States has long been practicing this politicide. However, the CEOs of The World's Only Superpower can rest easily. There will be no international convention against it, and no American official will ever have to answer to a court for it.

    Yugoslavia -- another war-crimes trial that will never be
    Beginning about two weeks after the US-inspired and led NATO bombing of Yugoslavia began in March, 1999, international- law professionals from Canada, the United Kingdom, Greece, and the American Association of Jurists began to file complaints with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague, Netherlands, charging leaders of NATO countries and officials of NATO itself with crimes similar to those for which the Tribunal had issued indictments shortly before against Serbian leaders. Amongst the charges filed by the law professionals were: "grave violations of international humanitarian law", including "wilful killing, wilfully causing great suffering and serious injury to body and health, employment of poisonous weapons and other weapons to cause unnecessary suffering, wanton destruction of cities, towns and villages, unlawful attacks on civilian objects, devastation not necessitated by military objectives, attacks on undefended buildings and dwellings, destruction and wilful damage done to institutions dedicated to religion, charity and education, the arts and sciences."

    The Canadian suit named 68 leaders, including William Clinton, Madeleine Albright, William Cohen, Tony Blair, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien, and NATO officials Javier Solana, Wesley Clark, and Jamie Shea. The complaint also alleged "open violation" of the United Nations Charter, the NATO treaty itself, the Geneva Conventions, and the Principles of International Law Recognized by the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg.

    The complaint was submitted along with a considerable amount of evidence to support the charges. The evidence makes the key point that it was NATO's bombing campaign which had given rise to the bulk of the deaths in Yugoslavia, provoked most of the Serbian atrocities, created an environmental disaster, and left a dangerous legacy of unexploded depleted uranium and cluster bombs.

    In June, some of the complainants met in The Hague with the court's chief prosecutor, Louise Arbour of Canada. Although she cordially received their brief in person, along with three thick volumes of evidence documenting the alleged war crimes, nothing of substance came of the meeting, despite repeated follow-up submissions and letters by the plaintiffs. In November, Arbour's successor, Carla Del Ponte of Switzerland, also met with some of the complainants and received extensive evidence.

    The complainants' brief in November pointed out that the prosecution of those named by them was "not only a requirement of law, it is a requirement of justice to the victims and of deterrence to powerful countries such as those in NATO who, in their military might and in their control over the media, are lacking in any other natural restraint such as might deter less powerful countries." Charging the war's victors, not only its losers, it was argued, would be a watershed in international criminal law.

    In one of the letters to Arbour, Michael Mandel, a professor of law in Toronto and the initiator of the Canadian suit, stated:

    Unfortunately, as you know, many doubts have already been raised about the impartiality of your Tribunal. In the early days of the conflict, after a formal and, in our view, justified complaint against NATO leaders had been laid before it by members of the Faculty of Law of Belgrade University, you appeared at a press conference with one of the accused, British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, who made a great show of handing you a dossier of Serbian war crimes. In early May, you appeared at another press conference with US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, by that time herself the subject of two formal complaints of war crimes over the targeting of civilians in Yugoslavia. Albright publicly announced at that time that the US was the major provider of funds for the Tribunal and that it had pledged even more money to it.[15]

    Arbour herself made little attempt to hide the pro-NATO bias she wore beneath her robe. She trusted NATO to be its own police, judge, jury, and prison guard. In a year in which General Pinochet was still under arrest, which was giving an inspiring lift to the cause of international law and justice, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, under Arbour's leadership, ruled that for the Great Powers it would be business as usual, particularly the Great Power that was most vulnerable to prosecution, and which, coincidentally, paid most of her salary. Here are her own words:

    I am obviously not commenting on any allegations of violations of international humanitarian law supposedly perpetrated by nationals of NATO countries. I accept the assurances given by NATO leaders that they intend to conduct their operations in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in full compliance with international humanitarian law. I have reminded many of them, when the occasion presented itself, of their obligation to conduct fair and open-minded investigations of any possible deviance from that policy, and of the obligation of commanders to prevent and punish, if required.[16]

    NATO Press Briefing, May 16, 1999:

    Question: Does NATO recognize Judge Arbour's jurisdiction over their activities?

    Jamie Shea: I think we have to distinguish between the theoretical and the practical. I believe that when Justice Arbour starts her investigation [of the Serbs], she will because we will allow her to. ... NATO countries are those that have provided the finance to set up the Tribunal, we are amongst the majority financiers.

    The Tribunal -- created in 1993, with the US as the father, the Security Council as the mother, and Madeleine Albright as the midwife -- also relies on the military assets of the NATO powers to track down and arrest the suspects it tries for war crimes.

    There appeared to be no more happening with the complaint under Del Ponte than under Arbour, but in late December, in an interview with The Observer of London, Del Ponte was asked if she was prepared to press charges against NATO personnel. She replied: "If I am not willing to do that, I am not in the right place. I must give up my mission."

    The Tribunal then announced that it had completed a study of possible NATO crimes, which Del Ponte was examining, and that the study was an appropriate response to public concerns about NATO's tactics. "It is very important for this tribunal to assert its authority over any and all authorities to the armed conflict within the former Yugoslavia."

    Was this a sign from heaven that the new millennium was going to be one of more equal justice? Could this really be?

    No, it couldn't. From official quarters, military and civilian, of the United States and Canada, came disbelief, shock, anger, denials ... "appalling" ... "unjustified". Del Ponte got the message. Her office quickly issued a statement: "NATO is not under investigation by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. There is no formal inquiry into the actions of NATO during the conflict in Kosovo."[17] And there wouldn't be, it was unnecessary to add.

    But the claim against NATO -- heretofore largely ignored by the American media -- was now out in the open. It was suddenly receiving a fair amount of publicity, and supporters of the bombing were put on the defensive. The most common argument made in NATO's defense, and against war-crime charges, was that the death and devastation inflicted upon the civilian sector was "accidental". This claim, however, must be questioned in light of certain reports. For example, the commander of NATO's air war, Lt. Gen. Michael Short, declared at one point during the bombing:

    If you wake up in the morning and you have no power to your house and no gas to your stove and the bridge you
    take to work is down and will be lying in the Danube for the next 20 years, I think you begin to ask, "Hey, Slobo
    [Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic], what's this all about? How much more of this do we have to withstand?"[18]

    General Short, said the New York Times, "hopes that the distress of the Yugoslav public will undermine support for the authorities in Belgrade."[19]

    At another point, NATO spokesman Jamie Shea declared: "If President Milosevic really wants all of his population to have water and electricity all he has to do is accept NATO's five conditions and we will stop this campaign."[20]

    After the April NATO bombing of a Belgrade office building -- which housed political parties, TV and radio stations, 100 private companies, and more -- the Washington Post reported:

    Over the past few days, U.S. officials have been quoted as expressing the hope that members of Serbia's economic
    elite will begin to turn against Milosevic once they understand how much they are likely to lose by continuing to
    resist NATO demands.[21]

    Before missiles were fired into this building, NATO planners spelled out the risks: "Casualty Estimate 50-100 Government/Party employees. Unintended Civ Casualty Est: 250 -- Apts in expected blast radius."[22] The planners were saying that about 250 civilians living in nearby apartment buildings might be killed in the bombing, in addition to the government and political party employees.

    What do we have here? We have grown men telling each other: We'll do A, and we think that B may well be the result. But even if B does in fact result, we're saying beforehand -- as we'll insist afterward -- that it was unintended.

    The International Criminal Court

    Following World War II there was an urgent need for a permanent international criminal court to prosecute those accused of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide, but the Cold War intervened. Finally, in 1998 in Rome, the nations of the world drafted the charter of The International Criminal Court. American negotiators, however, insisted on provisions in the charter that would, in essence, give the United States veto power over any prosecution through its seat on the Security Council. The American request was rejected, and primarily for this reason the US refused to join 120 other nations who supported the charter. The ICC is an instrument Washington can't control sufficiently to keep it from prosecuting American military and government officials. Senior US officials have explicitly admitted that this danger is the reason for their aversion to the proposed new court,[23] although most commonly US government spokespersons speak of "frivolous lawsuits". They know they have no legal or moral argument to explain why the United States and its officials should be exempt from international law and justice, so they insist that all such indictments would be "frivolous" or "politically motivated"; i.e., without sufficient merit to take seriously and undertaken purely out of some perverse anti-Americanism. Their real concern of course is not that charges of war crimes will be made against American civilian and military officials "frivolously", but that they will be made "seriously" and that there are indeed quite a few American officials who would qualify.

    But this is clearly not the problem with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. It's Washington's kind of international court, a court for the New World Order.

    The key human right promoted abroad by the United States is the right to shop. Washington tries to sell the notion that respect for human rights arises organically from free-market economics.

    1. The New Yorker, June 19, 1995, p.48
    2. Washington Post, December 4, 1996, p.1
    3. Leonard A. Cole, Clouds of Secrecy: The Army's Germ Warfare Tests over
    Populated Areas (Maryland, 1990), p.12-14
    4. Washington Post, September 21, 1999, p.1
    5. United Nations General Assembly Resolution: "Establishment of a nuclear-weapon-free
    zone in the region of the Middle East", December 4, 1990, Resolution No. 45/52.
    6. New York Times, January 24, 1991, p.11
    7. Ibid., March 23, 1991
    8. Michael Bilton and Kevin Sim, Four Hours in May Lai (Viking, New York, 1992),
    p.175, 209-13
    9. LA Weekly (Los Angeles), March 9-15, 1990, p.12
    10. New York Times, January 9, 1971, p.3
    11. Telford Taylor, Nuremberg and Vietnam: an American Tragedy(New York, 1970), p.140-43
    12. Far Eastern Economic Review (Hong Kong), October 30, 1997, p.15, 20
    13. Sunday Telegraph (London), July 18, 1999, interview with Pinochet
    14. Washington Post, May 25, 1998, p.B4
    15. This and most of the other material concerning the complaints to the Tribunal
    mentioned here were transmitted to the author by Mandel and other complainants.
    16. Press Release from Chief Prosecutor Louise Arbour, The Hague, May 13, 1999.
    17. The Observer (London), December 26, 1999; Washington Times, December 30 and 31, 1999;
    New York Times, December 30, 1999
    18. Washington Post, May 24, 1999, p.1
    19. New York Times, May 13, 1999, p.1
    20. NATO press conference, Brussels, May 25, 1999
    21. Washington Post, April 22, 1999, p.18
    22. Ibid., September 20, 1999, p.1
    23. New York Times, December 2, 1998, p.1; January 3, 2000 To write to the author:
    Comment: If you wake up in the morning and you have no power to your house and no gas to your stove and the bridge you take to work is down and will be lying in the river for the next 20 years, I think you begin to ask, "Hey, Dubya, what's this all about? How much more of this do we have to withstand?"

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    Resistance grows to US assumption of primacy
    Simon Tisdall Wednesday February 1, 2006 The Guardian

    Stressing the indispensability of American global leadership is standard fare in State of the Union addresses, and George Bush's speech last night was no exception. But a string of foreign policy setbacks has highlighted growing flaws in Washington's long cherished assumption of international primacy.

    China's rapid rise presents the most obvious long-term challenge to American ascendancy. It recently overtook Britain and Italy to become the world's fourth largest economy. And its political clout is growing even faster, as Robert Zoellick, the US deputy secretary of state, was reminded last week.
    Visiting Beijing, Mr Zoellick said the US wanted China to become a "responsible stakeholder" in global good governance. "China could play a very positive role in the international system, from issues dealing with non-proliferation to energy security to counter-terrorism," he said.

    But Mr Zoellick quickly hit trouble when he got down to specifics. His plea for China to back the formal referral of Iran's nuclear activities to the UN security council for possible punitive sanctions was rebuffed. Beijing's stonewalling recalled similar blocking action over Darfur.

    China's simultaneous feting in Beijing of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia meanwhile offered a different, unsettling perspective on the energy security issues raised by Mr Zoellick. Joint agreements on extraction and refining mean increasing amounts of Saudi crude oil will be earmarked for China rather than the US, Riyadh's long-time number one customer.

    China's courting of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-Il, who secretly toured the country last month, may only aggravate another of Mr Zoellick's concerns - how to separate Pyongyang from the nuclear bombs it claims to possess. Adding to American discomfiture, South Korea's president, Roh Moo Hyun, warned Washington not to use or even threaten to use force to achieve regime change and the overthrow of Mr Kim. Such mutinous talk from a traditionally close US ally would once have been quite unthinkable - but not now.

    Similarly jolting rejections of once unquestioned American authority are proliferating. The Palestinian vote for Hamas ignored US pressure and financial string-pulling and left its Middle East peace policy in tatters.

    While they might once have quietly acquiesced, India and Pakistan reacted sharply and publicly to recent US attempts to block trade with Iran and an "unauthorised" attack on a supposed al-Qaida hideout. Flexing its energy muscle, Russia has simply ignored US protests over its treatment of NGOs and its gas pipeline rows with Ukraine and Georgia.

    Despite Condoleezza Rice's bid for a post-Iraq fresh start, European opinion has been alienated all over again by the extraordinary rendition row. In Iraq itself, allies such as Italy are breaking ranks, intent on bringing troops home whether or not Mr Bush deems the job done.

    In his book The Opportunity, Richard Haass suggested that US over-reaching, as seen in Iraq and in Mr Bush's grandiose second term "vision" to set the world free, was partly responsible for the trend towards rejection of American leadership. "It is neither desirable nor practical to make democracy promotion a foreign policy doctrine," Mr Haass, a former US government official, said. "Too many pressing threats in which the lives of millions hang in the balance (threats such as nuclear proliferation and genocide) will not be solved by the emergence of democracy."

    But he argued that US primacy was also increasingly vulnerable to non-military challenges that were beyond the control of any administration. The US should pursue more collaborative, integrated policies - or risk rising "passive resistance" internationally. "For the immediate future, non-cooperation is likely to be a more frequent and bigger problem for US foreign policy than direct opposition."

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    Police Apologize, Drop Charge Vs. Sheehan
    By LAURIE KELLMAN Associated Press February 1, 2006

    WASHINGTON - Capitol Police dropped a charge of unlawful conduct against antiwar activist Cindy Sheehan on Wednesday and apologized for ejecting her and a congressman's wife from President Bush's State of the Union address for wearing T-shirts with war messages.
    Police removed Sheehan and Beverly Young, wife of Rep. C.W. "Bill" Young, R-Fla., from the visitors gallery Tuesday night. Sheehan was taken away in handcuffs before Bush's arrival at the Capitol and charged with a misdemeanor, while Young was not arrested.

    Capitol Police did not explain why Sheehan was arrested and Young was not. However, Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer was asking the U.S. attorney's office to drop the charge against Sheehan, according to Deputy House Sergeant of Arms Kerri Hanley.

    "They were operating under the misguided impression that the T-shirt was not allowed," Hanley said Wednesday. "The fact that she (Sheehan) was wearing a T-shirt is not enough reason to be asked to leave the gallery or be removed from the gallery or be arrested."

    And in a private meeting Wednesday, Gainer apologized and said he planned to issue a statement, Rep. Young told reporters.

    "They apologized," Young said. "They made a serious mistake. What they did had no basis."

    A foreign-born American citizen who was the guest of Rep. Alcee Hastings, D-Fla., also was taken by police from the gallery just above the House floor, Hastings said Wednesday.

    The congressman met with Gainer and said he also requested a meeting with House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., about the incident.

    "I'd like to find out more information," Hastings said in an interview, identifying the man only as being from Broward County in Florida. "He is a constituent of mine. I invited him proudly."

    Sheehan's T-shirt alluded to the number of soldiers killed in Iraq: "2245 Dead. How many more?" Capitol Police charged her with a misdemeanor for violating the District of Columbia's code against unlawful or disruptive conduct on any part of the Capitol grounds, a law enforcement official said. She was released from custody and flew home Wednesday to Los Angeles.

    Young's shirt had just the opposite message: "Support the Troops — Defending Our Freedom."

    The two women appeared to have offended tradition as much as the law, according to several law enforcement and congressional officials. By custom, the annual address is to be a dignified affair in which the president reports on the state of the nation. Guests in the gallery who wear shirts deemed political in nature have, in past years, been asked to change or cover them up.

    Generally, the House's sergeant at arms sets out rules at the House speaker's direction. The Capitol Police enforce them and the Secret Service evaluates any threat to the president.

    Rules dealing mainly with what people can bring and telling them to refrain from reading, writing, smoking, eating, drinking, applauding or taking photographs are outlined on the back of gallery passes given to tourists every day.

    However, State of the Union guests don't receive any guidelines, Hanley said. "You would assume that if you were coming to an event like the State of the Union address you would be dressed in appropriate attire," she said.

    Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, had been invited to the speech and given a ticket by Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Calif.

    Capitol Police Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said police warned Sheehan that displays such as her T-shirt were not allowed.

    Sheehan said she had one arm out of her coat when an officer yelled, "Protester." She said she intended to file a First Amendment lawsuit over the episode.

    Young was removed from the gallery during Bush's address and told she was being treated the same as Sheehan.

    Her husband was angry about the way she was treated.

    "Because she had on a shirt that someone didn't like that said support our troops, she was kicked out of this gallery," Young said on the House floor Wednesday, holding up the gray shirt.

    "Shame, shame," he scolded.

    Beverly Young was sitting about six rows from first lady
    Laura Bush when she was asked to leave. She argued with police in the hallway outside the House chamber.

    "They said I was protesting," she told the St. Petersburg Times. "I said, 'Read my shirt, it is not a protest.' They said, 'We consider that a protest.' I said, 'Then you are an idiot.'"

    Comment on this Article

    RFID subway pass? Sure, New York says
    By Dan Ilett Special to CNET January 31, 2006, 10:43 AM PST

    Citigroup is planning to pilot the use of contactless payment systems in the New York subway.

    Selected customers of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will be able to pay for a train ride at the subway entrance by tapping or waving a payment card at a turnstile reader, much like London's Oyster card scheme allows for the Tube. MTA riders currently pay their fares by sliding credit card-like MetroCards.
    Citigroup has teamed with MasterCard, which has installed its PayPass tag readers in some stations. The readers display a logo so people know which turnstiles accept their cards, embedded with radio frequency identification, or RFID, chips instead of a magnetic stripe.

    "The goal of this trial is to evaluate the speed and convenience that contactless payments can provide to New York's busy commuters," T.J. Sharkey, vice president of business development for MasterCard, said in a statement. "As anyone who has ever commuted through the subway system knows well, time is a critical factor."
    In other news:

    The cards can be used anywhere PayPass is installed, including McDonald's or 7-Eleven stores. The six-month trial is set to begin later this year.

    Tokyo dwellers are also using contactless payments in Japanese railway stations.

    Japan Rail recently launched its Mobile Suica service, which allows people to pay for their journey by swiping a "mobile-phone wallet"--a handset with contactless-payment capabilities--over the turnstile reader.

    London's Oyster card e-money scheme is set to begin this year. It will allow commuters to buy goods or parking time with their travel cards.

    Comment on this Article

    Newspaper error reveals readers' credit card data
    Associated Press in Boston Thursday February 2, 2006 The Guardian

    The Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette have admitted slips containing the names and credit card numbers of 240,000 subscribers were accidentally delivered with bundles of papers last weekend. Officials of the papers, both owned by the New York Times, said they were notifying customers.

    The Telegram & Gazette said the slips also contained information for 1,100 customers who pay by cheque. The financial data was on the back of paper that had been recycled and used for distribution slips in bundles of the Sunday Telegram & Gazette.

    Comment on this Article

    Former U.S. Official in Iraq to Plead Guilty to Corruption
    By JAMES GLANZ Published: February 1, 2006

    A former American occupation official in Iraq is expected to plead guilty to bribery, conspiracy, money laundering and other charges in federal court on Thursday for his actions in a scheme to use sexual favors, jewelry and millions of dollars in cash to steer reconstruction work to a corrupt contractor, according to papers filed with the court.

    The official, Robert J. Stein Jr., served as a comptroller and funding officer in 2003 and 2004 for the Coalition Provisional Authority, which governed Iraq after the American-led invasion. Four Americans, including Mr. Stein and the contractor, Philip H. Bloom, have been arrested in the case. Mr. Stein's plea, apparently with the understanding that he will cooperate with prosecutors, is the first to be made public.

    The court papers depict a sordid exercise in greed and corruption that was spread much more widely that previously known. Including the four people already arrested, the papers indicate that a minimum of three other still unnamed co-conspirators also played a role in the scheme. In order to give more than $8 million in contracts and millions more in stolen cash to Mr. Bloom, the papers say, the conspirators accepted bribes, valuable goods and other favors.

    Two of the Americans already arrested, Lt. Col. Debra Harrison and Lt. Col. Michael Wheeler, are senior Army reserve officers. The court papers indicate that the remaining unnamed co-conspirators are also Army reserve officers, for a total of at least five officers involved. But the papers suggest that others, identified only by opaque designations like "person H," may also have been involved in one way or another.

    The goods included first-class plane tickets, watches and other jewelry, alcohol and cigars, the court papers say. They add that Mr. Bloom kept a villa in Baghdad where women dispensed "sexual favors" in exchange for official actions in his favor or for refraining from exposing the scheme.

    Mr. Stein is accused of stealing outright at least $2 million in cash of American taxpayer money and Iraqi money that had been set aside for the reconstruction of Iraq by the American occupation. He also accepted more than $1 million in bribes and at least $600,000 of additional goods and cash that were the property of the C.P.A., the papers say.

    The actions took place in a vast territory surrounding the Iraqi city of Hilla, south of Baghdad, where Mr. Stein was put in charge of at least $82 million of reconstruction money despite a previous conviction for felony fraud, which his Pentagon background check apparently missed. Mr. Bloom and some of the others wired money back to the United States to buy weaponry like grenade launchers and machine guns that Mr. Stein was prohibited from owning because of his conviction or that were illegal in themselves.

    The court papers indicate that Mr. Stein has agreed to plead guilty in Federal District Court in Washington to counts of conspiracy, bribery, money laundering conspiracy, a felon in possession of a firearm and possession of a machine gun.

    The e-mail exchanges between Mr. Stein and Mr. Bloom, as detailed in the papers, are remarkable in their illustration of the daily business of apparently greed and graft. "I love to give you money," Mr. Stein wrote on Jan. 3, 2004, as he began steering work on an Iraqi police academy to Mr. Bloom.

    At other times, Mr. Stein warns Mr. Bloom about others who are threats to expose their scheme or may want to get in on it themselves. "I will warn you to be very careful what you say around him," Mr. Stein writes on Jan. 27, 2004, about someone identified only as person D. "If he ever knows what we are doing he will want 'his cut!' "

    Other exchanges show the day-to-day realities of doing business in Iraq with Westerners who are far from the routine pleasures of home. "Thanks for the booze," Mr. Stein wrote on Jan. 27. "That will give me some bargaining material here and there."

    Comment on this Article

    White House eyes billions for Iraq maintenance
    By Rowan Scarborough THE WASHINGTON TIMES January 31, 2006

    The Bush administration is considering asking Congress later this year for at least $2 billion in new reconstruction money, primarily for maintaining completed Iraqi facilities.
    Administration officials say the additional funding is needed to prevent completed projects in Iraq from falling into disrepair while the new government tries to establish a steady flow of revenue from oil and other sources to sustain the nation's infrastructure.

    The money would come in an Iraqi emergency, or supplemental, appropriations bill that also would finance military operations, which cost about $6 billion a month. Congress attached an extra $50 billion to this year's Pentagon spending bill for that purpose, but officials say additional money likely will be needed. An administration official declined to comment.

    Congress already has approved $24 billion for Iraq reconstruction, and some speculated that the White House would not ask for more. But in recent weeks, it has become evident that Iraq does not have the financial ability to sustain all its new properties, said officials familiar with the internal discussions.

    The administration plans no more major requests for rebuilding because of deficit pressures and the realization that Congress likely would balk, two administration officials said.

    Stuart Bowen Jr., the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, said the administration should make one last proposal to Congress for $2 billion to fund sustainment and the transfer of operations from the U.S. to the Iraqi government.

    "The bottom line is, I think, we should spend some more money," Mr. Bowen told The Washington Times. "We need to allocate to ensure the success of the Iraqi project from a reconstruction perspective. I think the U.S. government needs to provide some sustainability funds. ... It's being considered."

    The issue of maintaining facilities has added importance in light of a report Mr. Bowen released last week. He said that because of rising security costs and other factors, the U.S. will be able to finish only 49 of 136 planned water projects and 300 of 425 electric projects.

    If Iraq is to complete the U.S. building plan, it will need more money from the World Bank, donor nations and its own sputtering oil industry.

    Mr. Bowen sends auditors as well as engineers to construction sites to determine whether projects are being built correctly.

    "My mandate to those inspection teams is to identify whether there is a plan for sustainability at each project," he said.

    Just like the U.S. military is turning over the counterinsurgency mission to the Iraqis, he said, the State Department is entrusting facilities to locals.

    "This will be the year of transition," Mr. Bowen said. "We have to be ready to turn over operating and effective projects, and that means there has to be sufficient funding in place from both our side and the Iraqi side to secure sustainability."
    Comment: Now, let us get this straight: they want the American people to pay to destroy the place, and then they want the American people to pay to build it again???

    Comment on this Article

    The Future of American Children: Iraq's Babies will soon be America's Babies
    La Voz de Aztlan

    The photographs posted on this website were provided by Dr. Siegwart Horst-Gunther, author of "URANIUM PROJECTILES - SEVERELY MAIMED SOLDIERS, DEFORMED BABIES, DYING CHILDREN" (ISBN: 3-89484-805-7). The book is a documentary record of the depleted uranium ammunition effects on Iraqi babies that were taken between 1993 and 1995. It also includes images of the children born to soldiers that have returned from Iraq after being exposed to Depleted Uranium. The book has (not surprisingly) been censored in the USA.

    Dr. Gunther also has in his possesion additional photographs from his unpublished collection which feature mainly the birth deformities being experienced by USA Iraqi war veterans' children.

    Now, look at these images and KNOW that this is coming to America thanks to George W. Bush and the neocons. These babies will soon be America's babies. Will one of them be yours?

    The deformities are similar to those experienced by both Vietnam war veterans and Vietnamese mothers because of the US Military/Industrial Complex's use of the abominable chemical of mass destruction called "Agent Orange". The Pentagon has swept these American baby deformities and its causes under the rug.

    The USA is presently ruled by extreme evil people who do not care about human life but only in "MONEY". This group includes those who benefit from profits in the "war weapons industry" and cronies in the Bush Administration involved in "OIL". These two groups are utilizing Americas's youths as dupes. Most of the soldiers in Iraq are poor and uneducated. They are merely being utilized by the "USA ruling elite" as "cannon fodder" to protect their wealth and interests. They are being duped by making them believe that they are "heroes" and "patriots".

    Comment on this Article

    Man Jumps to Death From Empire State Bldg.
    AP 2 Feb 06

    NEW YORK - A 21-year-old man jumped to his death from the Empire State Building in an apparent suicide, police said Thursday.
    Dovid Abramowitz, who lived in Manhattan, had bought a ticket to the 86th-floor observation deck, but he found his way to a vacant office on the 66th floor, where he jumped around 3 p.m. Wednesday, said police spokesman Lt. John Grimpel. His body was discovered on a sixth-floor landing.

    Abramowitz did not work in the building, said Detective John Sweeney. Sweeney did not know how the man reached the 66th floor office.

    More than 30 people have committed suicide at the Empire State Building since it opened in 1931. Before Wednesday, the most recent was believed to have been in 2004, when a man jumped from the observation deck.

    The 102-story skyscraper reaches 1,454 feet to the top of its lightning rod.

    Comment on this Article

    New weapon could mean the end of collateral damage
    Insight Posted On: 1/30/2006

    The U.S. military has been developing a gunship that could literally obliterate enemy ground targets with a laser beam.

    The military plans to test the Advanced Tactical Laser, a laser weapon mounted on a C-130H air transport that could destroy any weapon system without collateral damage.
    The laser could have tremendous repercussions on the battlefield, particularly in urban warfare in such countries as Afghanistan and Iraq. "It's the kind of tool that could bring about victory within minutes," an official said.

    The applications of ATL could change military dynamics on the battlefield. Officials envision the laser being able to destroy or damage targets in an urban area with virtually no collateral damage. The range of ATL was expected to be 10 miles.

    The project has been headed by Boeing Missile Defense Systems in a project with the U.S. Air Force. Boeing has already taken delivery of the aircraft and plans to modify the platform for the ATL program.

    Officials said a C-130H transport that belonged to the U.S. Air Force's 46th Test Wing was being modified to contain a high-energy chemical laser. The platform would also contain battle management and beam control subsystems.

    Under the program, Boeing would test the aircraft in July 2006. The aircraft would have all subsystems on board except the high-energy laser. Officials said a low-power surrogate laser would be used instead of the kilowatt-class, high-energy laser.

    At the same time, the high-energy laser would be completed in Albuquerque, N.M. Officials said the first ground tests of the laser would take place in the summer of 2006.

    By 2007, Boeing plans to install the laser on the aircraft and operate the weapon during flight. The laser, designed to be fired through an existing 50-inch-diameter hole in the aircraft's belly, would be demonstrated for military missions.

    Officials said ATL was being developed through the Pentagon's Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration program. Should the tests in 2007 prove successful, the Pentagon was expected to approve full-scale development of the airborne tactical laser.

    The ATL was deemed as complementary to the Airborne Laser program for the Missile Defense Agency. ABL was meant to mount a megawatt-class chemical laser on a Boeing 747-400 freighter aircraft.

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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.

    Comment on this Article

    Angry US slams Iraq bribe denials
    Caroline Overington and Geoff Elliott February 02, 2006

    THE chairman of a powerful US Senate committee is demanding Australian ambassador to Washington Dennis Richardson explain the Howard Government's role in the Iraqi wheat affair, saying he is "deeply troubled" by an apparent attempt to cover up the scandal.

    Republican senator Norm Coleman, who is chairing the Senate's inquiry into "illegal, under-the-table" payments to Saddam Hussein's regime, also wrote to former Washington ambassador Michael Thawley, criticising him for making "emphatic denials" about AWB's role.
    In a letter to Mr Richardson dated January 31, Senator Coleman said he wanted to discuss Mr Thawley's disturbing behaviour during a meeting in Washington in October 2004, where the then ambassador "unequivocally dismissed" claims AWB was involved in making illicit payments to the Saddam government.

    Senator Coleman said evidence presented to the Cole inquiry in Sydney suggested that, on the contrary, officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade may have been "aware of and complicit in the payments of the illegal kickbacks".

    Mr Thawley, a former senior adviser to John Howard, used the meeting to argue for AWB to be left out of an investigation into allegations of kickbacks under the UN's oil-for-food program.

    The revelation has reignited calls for the Cole inquiry's terms of reference to be widened to include the role of government officials in the scandal. AWB is accused of paying almost $300million to Saddam, and hiding the payments from the UN.

    In his letter, Senator Coleman claimed Mr Thawley insisted at the October 2004 meeting that AWB would never be involved in kickbacks. He wrote this week that the revelations in the Cole inquiry were "extremely disconcerting in light of the fact that you came to my office and expressly denied these allegations".

    Senator Coleman asked Mr Richardson, who was appointed ambassador to Washington in July last year, and Mr Thawley to contact his committee to explain why the Australian Government had tried to block an investigation into the kickbacks.

    He asked Mr Richardson for "an opportunity to discuss this matter" and urged him to contact the staff of the subcommittee.

    Neither the Prime Minister nor Foreign Minister Alexander Downer would say whether Mr Richardson would make himself available. Mr Thawley, who is now a private citizen in the US, would not comment.

    Senator Coleman's concerns were echoed in a January 30 letter from seven powerful US senators to Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, in which they demanded AWB be suspended from an export credit program.

    The senators claimed there was evidence that "senior Australian government officials may have agreed to, or at least had advanced knowledge" of AWB's kickbacks to Saddam's regime.

    The seven members of the Senate's agriculture committee also questioned the independence of the Cole inquiry.

    "Given the evidence that some Australian government officials may have agreed to, or had knowledge in advance of the illicit payments, is the Cole inquiry sufficiently independent of the current Government of Australia to be entrusted to investigate the matter?" the letter says.

    In London, Mr Downer told reporters that he was prepared to give testimony to the Cole inquiry in order to "get to the bottom of what was going on". "I think anybody should be happy to appear," Mr Downer said. "I'm absolutely relaxed about it."

    Mr Downer said the Government had established the Cole inquiry after reading the UN's Volker report into corruption, which "was pretty damning".

    However, he added that "common sense" supported the proposition that the Prime Minister, ministers and DFAT officials "were not involved in criminal activity, in breaking Australian law and sanctions-busting and approving kickbacks".

    Last week, inquiry head Terrence Cole said he was considering recommending many criminal charges after hearing two weeks of evidence from AWB officials.

    Treasurer Peter Costello told ABC radio in Melbourne yesterday that Mr Cole had "full powers of a royal commissioner" and would be "calling everybody who is relevant" including government employees.

    Mr Costello said Mr Cole was also free to ask the Government to expand the inquiry, adding: "I am sure of one thing: if he makes a request of the Government it will be very carefully considered.
    Comment: Geez! Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

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    Annexing Khuzestan; battle-plans for Iran
    By Mike Whitney ICH 1 Feb 06

    In less than 24 hours the Bush administration has won impressive victories on both domestic and foreign policy fronts. At home, the far-right Federalist Society alum, Sam Alito, has overcome the feeble resistance from Democratic senators; ensuring his confirmation to the Supreme Court. Equally astonishing, the administration has coerced both Russia and China into bringing Iran before the United Nations Security Council although (as Mohamed ElBaradei says) “There’s no evidence of a nuclear weapons program.” The surprising capitulation of Russia and China has forced Iran to abandon its efforts for further negotiations; cutting off dialogue that might diffuse the volatile situation.
    “We consider any referral or report of Iran to the Security Council as the end of diplomacy,” Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, told state television.

    The administration’s success with Iran ends the diplomatic charade and paves the way for war. Now, UN Ambassador John Bolton will appear before the Security Council making spurious allegations of “noncompliance” that will rattle through the corporate media and prepare the world for unilateral military action.

    The administration has no hope of securing the votes needed for sanctions or punitive action. The trip to the Security Council is purely a ploy to provide the cover of international legitimacy to another act of unprovoked aggression. The case has gone as far as it will go excluding the requisite “touched up” satellite photos and bogus allegations of unreliable dissidents.

    We should now be focused on how Washington intends to carry out its war plans, since war appears to be inevitable.

    Those who doubt that the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld team will attack Iran, while so conspicuously overextended in Iraq, are ignoring the subtleties of the administration’s Middle East strategy.

    Bush has no intention of occupying Iran. Rather, the goal is to destroy major weapons-sites, destabilize the regime, and occupy a sliver of land on the Iraqi border that contains 90% of Iran’s oil wealth. Ultimately, Washington will aim to replace the Mullahs with American-friendly clients who can police their own people and fabricate the appearance of representative government. But, that will have to wait. For now, the administration must prevent the incipient Iran bourse (oil-exchange) from opening in March and precipitating a global sell-off of the debt-ridden dollar. There have many fine articles written about the proposed “euro-based” bourse and the devastating effects it will have on the greenback. The best of these are “Petrodollar Warfare: Oil, Iraq and the Future of the Dollar” by William R. Clark, and “The Proposed Oil Bourse” by Krassimir Petrov, Ph.D.

    The bottom line on the bourse is this; the dollar is underwritten by a national debt that now exceeds $8 trillion dollars and trade deficits that surpass $600 billion per year. That means that the greenback is the greatest swindle in the history of mankind. It’s utterly worthless. The only thing that keeps the dollar afloat is that oil is traded exclusively in greenbacks rather than some other currency. If Iran is able to smash that monopoly by trading in petro-euros then the world’s central banks will dump the greenback overnight, sending markets crashing and the US economy into a downward spiral.

    The Bush administration has no intention of allowing that to take place. In fact, as the tax-cuts and the budget deficits indicate, the Bush cabal fully intends to perpetuate the system that trades worthless dollars for valuable commodities, labor, and resources. As long as the oil market is married to the dollar, this system of global indentured servitude will continue.

    Battle Plans

    The Bush administration’s attention has shifted to a small province in southwestern Iran that is unknown to most Americans. Never the less, Khuzestan will become the next front in the war on terror and the lynchpin for prevailing in the global resource war. If the Bush administration can sweep into the region (under the pretext disarming Iran’s nuclear weapons programs) and put Iran’s prodigious oil wealth under US control, the dream of monopolizing Middle East oil will have been achieved.

    Not surprisingly, this was Saddam Hussein’s strategy in 1980 when he initiated hostilities against Iran in a war that would last for eight years. Saddam was an American client at the time, so it is likely that he got the green-light for the invasion from the Reagan White House. Many of Reagan’s high-ranking officials currently serve in the Bush administration; notably Rumsfeld and Cheney.

    Khuzestan represents 90% of Iran’s oil production. The control over these massive fields will force the oil-dependent nations of China, Japan and India to continue to stockpile greenbacks despite the currency’s dubious value. The annexing of Khuzestan will prevent Iran’s bourse from opening, thereby guaranteeing that the dollar will maintain its dominant position as the world’s reserve currency. As long as the dollar reigns supreme and western elites have their hands on the Middle East oil-spigot, the current system of exploitation through debt will continue into perpetuity. The administration can confidently prolong its colossal deficits without fear of a plummeting dollar. (In fact, the American war-machine and all its various appendages, from Guantanamo to Abrams Tanks, are paid for by the myriad nations who willingly hold reserves of American currency)

    This extortion-scheme is typically referred to as the global economic system. In reality, it has nothing to do with either free markets or capitalism. That is just philosophical mumbo-jumbo. This is the dollar-system; predicated entirely on the ongoing monopoly of the oil trade in dollars.

    Invading Khuzestan

    In a recent article by Zolton Grossman, “Khuzestan; the First Front in the War on Iran?”, Grossman cites the Beirut Daily Star which predicts that the “"first step taken by an invading force would be to occupy Iran's oil-rich Khuzestan Province, securing the sensitive Straits of Hormuz and cutting off the Iranian military's oil supply, forcing it to depend on its limited stocks."

    This strategy has been called the “Khuzestan Gambit”, and we can expect that some variant of this plan will be executed following the aerial bombardment of Iranian military installations and weapons sites. If Iran retaliates, then there is every reason to believe that either the United States or Israel will respond with low-yield, bunker-busting nuclear weapons. In fact, the Pentagon may want to demonstrate its eagerness to use nuclear weapons do deter future adversaries and to maintain current levels of troop deployments without a draft.

    Tonkin Bay Redux

    On January 28, 2006, Iranian officials announced that they would “hand over evidence that proved British involvement in bombings in the southern city of Ahvaz earlier in the week” that killed eight civilians and wounded 46 others. This was just one of the many bombings, incitements, and demonstrations that have taken place in Khuzestan in the last year that suggest foreign intervention. The action is strikingly similar to the 2 British commandoes who were apprehended in Basra a few months ago dressed as Arabs with a truckload of explosives during the week of religious festival.



    But, step by step, Iran is being set up for war. What difference does the provocation make? The determination to consolidate the oil reserves in the Caspian Basin was made more than a decade ago and is clearly articulated in the policy papers produced by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) The Bush administration is one small province away from realizing the its dream of controlling the world’s most valued resource. They won’t let that opportunity pass them by.

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    War Pimping by UPI: Iran building secret nuke tunnel: claim
    UPI 31 Jan 06

    WASHINGTON -- Iran is building a secret tunnel in Tehran for nuclear weapons research and development, an Iranian dissident has claimed.

    The tunnel was being constructed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Alireza Jafarzadeh, president of Strategic Policy Consulting, Inc. told a meeting at the National Press Club in Washington Tuesday. Jafarzadeh has made similar allegations before. It has not been possible to independently verify all of them.
    Jafarzadeh said he had been informed by sources inside the Iranian regime that Iran was constructing a top-secret tunnel as part of its nuclear weapons program.

    "The secret tunnel carries the code name 'Hormuz Tunnel.' It is intended to further the regime's nuclear weapons research and development. The tunnel is located in the vicinity of the Mini-City (Shahrak-e Bazi), northeast Tehran," he said in a statement.

    Jafarzadeh said the tunnel was located next to Tehran-Lashkarak Highway in the vicinity of Mini-City sited in the northeastern part of Tehran in a mountain slope. "This location is close to a residential area so that it might blend in with a community. That is, it would not appear to be a suspect nuclear site in such a place. This location might deceive inspectors who would not imagine a sensitive nuclear site to be located near a neighborhood," he said.

    Jafarzadeh said the design for this tunnel was completed in 2004 and its construction began in March 2005. It was being built by the Hara Company which the IRGC used for secret military programs. "In the past, this same company has built other tunnels for the nuclear activities of Iran's Defense Ministry. This firm is experienced in building anti-radiation walls," he said.

    Jafarzadeh said his sources were "confident that the tunnel is being built for nuclear weapons research and development."

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    War Pimps: British lawmakers rally behind Iran dissidents
    Iran Focus 31 Jan 06

    London, – An array of British parliamentarians and distinguished jurists called on the British government to cease its “policy of appeasement” towards the government of hard-line Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and remove the proscription of Iran’s main opposition group as a terrorist organisation.

    Several dozen speakers addressed a conference organised by the British Parliamentary Committee for Iran Freedom, entitled “Responding to Iran’s Nuclear and Terrorist Threat”, asking the government of Tony Blair to support “democratic regime change in Iran”.
    The speakers, who all spoke in favour of the main Iranian opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organisation (MeK), said that the proscription of the group was the “most important impediment to achieving democracy in Iran” and called on the British government to remove the group’s name from the terrorist list. They described the MeK as a legitimate “resistance movement” fighting for freedom in Iran, adding the group’s original proscription was “politically motivated”.

    “From the evidence that I have considered over the past three to four years, I am surprised that the [MeK] was ever proscribed, as there was no justification for such designation. There is an overwhelming case for the removal of the [MeK] from all terror lists”, Lord Slynn of Hadley, a former Judge in the European Court of Justice, told the conference.

    A statement signed by more than 2,000 British lawyers calling for the removal of the name of the MeK from the list of terrorist groups was unveiled during the conference which took place in the House of Lords. The statement was addressed to the Home Secretary Charles Clarke.

    Former Home Secretary Lord Waddington was among the panellists who defended the demand for the MeK’s de-proscription. “The radical make up of Iran’s present government and the threats from Iran’s president concerning Israel, as well as his vision of the Islamic world becoming one, under the leadership of Iran’s mullahs, and a final war between the Islamic world and the West, sends shudders down one’s spine. It is for this reason that I say that the struggle of the National Council of Resistance of Iran and [MeK] to bring about democracy in Iran is not only crucial, but their struggle will have serious repercussions for the rest of the world. I therefore urge our government to de-proscribe the [MeK]”.

    A number of parliamentarians also spoke in favour of referring Tehran’s nuclear and human rights files to the United Nations Security Council.

    Chair of the meeting Lord Corbett of Castle Vale said, “I congratulate Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia on their decision to refer the Iranian regime’s nuclear weapons programme to the UN Security Council. This step represents an important change in attitude towards the Iranian regime, which should also lead to a change in attitude towards the Iranian Resistance”.

    Among the human rights defenders in the panel was Lord Joffe, former lawyer to South African icon Nelson Mandela. “We must recognise the Iranian Resistance and support the aspirations of the Iranian people. The right signal should be sent to the Iranian people by removing the unjust terror tag on their resistance movement, the [MeK]”.

    Joffe said that he could not differentiate between the African National Congress struggling against Apartheid in South Africa and the MeK struggling against the theocracy in Iran. “There is therefore no justification for the international community to give less support to the [MeK] than it did to the ANC”.
    Comment: Haven't we seen this before? The "Iraqis against Saddam" supporting "regime change" because, as we later learned, they were being paid off by the Neocons? How stupid do they think we are?

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    Iran Incapable of Building Nuclear Bomb — Russian Expert
    By MosNews 1 Feb 06

    Iran is not capable of building its own nuclear weapons, the former head of a nuclear power plant and current regional leader in southern Russia said Wednesday.

    “In reality, the U.S. is provoking Iran, accusing it of aiming, along with the implementation of its peaceful nuclear programs, to create its own nuclear weapons,” Governor of the Saratov Region Pavel Ipatov was quoted by RIA Novosti as saying.
    Ipatov, who was head the Balakovo power plant for almost 20 years, said that currently, in view of the methods in place for controlling the proliferation of nuclear weapons, “Iran is in no state to create a nuclear bomb secretly.”

    The United States, along with the trio of European negotiating with Iran (Great Britain, France and Germany), are employing “double standards” in accusing Iran of attempting to create nuclear weapons, and this greatly complicates the situation in the country, he said.

    If Iran’s nuclear file is referred to the UN Security Council, Russia and China, both veto-wielding permanent members, could block resolutions on Iran, the governor said.

    Ipatov also said that although Iran had adopted an “unconstructive position,” he hoped Russia and China would be able to reach an agreement with the country on creating a peaceful joint project to enrich uranium for Iran on Russia’s territory.

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    Iran vows 'crushing response' if its nuclear facilities are attacked
    ALI AKBAR DAREINI Associated Press February 1, 2006

    Iran would deliver a ''crushing response'' to any nation that attacked its nuclear facilities, its defense minister warned Wednesday.

    Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said the Iranian air force could deal with any aggression, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

    ''Any attack against Iran's peaceful nuclear facilities will meet a swift and crushing response from the armed forces,'' the agency quoted Najjar as saying.

    He spoke while visiting an air base in Bushehr - the site of Iran's only nuclear power plant - where Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad addressed thousands of supporters earlier in the day. Ahmadinejad vowed to resist Western pressures to constrain his country's nuclear program.

    ''Nuclear energy is our right, and we will resist until this right is fully realized,'' he said.

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    Iran's president lashes out at Bush
    AP 1 Feb 06

    TEHRAN, Iran — Iran's president lashed out Wednesday at the United States and vowed to resist the pressure of "bully countries" as European nations circulated a draft resolution urging that Tehran be brought before the U.N. Security Council for its nuclear activities.

    In a speech to thousands of supporters hours after President Bush's State of the Union address, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad derided the United States as a "hollow superpower" that is "tainted with the blood of nations" and said Tehran would continue its nuclear program.

    "Nuclear energy is our right, and we will resist until this right is fully realized," Ahmadinejad told the crowd in the southern Iran city of Bushehr, the site of Iran's only nuclear power plant.

    "Our nation can't give in to the coercion of some bully countries who imagine they are the whole world and see themselves equal to the entire globe," he added.

    The crowd responded with chants of "Nuclear energy is our right!"
    Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, said at a news conference that the Islamic republic would halt intrusive U.N. inspections of its nuclear facilities and resume large-scale enrichment of uranium if it is taken before the U.N. Security Council, which could impose sanctions.

    Larijani also said Iran remains committed to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, despite calls from hard-line newspapers to withdraw from the agreement if the International Atomic Energy Agency reports Iran to the Security Council on Thursday, as expected.

    Iran's main enrichment plant at Natanz "is ready for work," he said.

    "We only need to notify the IAEA that we are resuming enrichment. When we do that is our call," Larijani said. If Iran is reported to the Security Council, we will do it quickly," he added.

    Referring to the IAEA meeting, he added: "In case the issue is reported or referred to the Security Council, we will have to stop implementation of the Additional Protocol" — a procedure that allows IAEA inspectors to carry out intrusive searches of a country's nuclear facilities without warning.

    "The result would be Iran's cooperating with the IAEA at a low level, which is against our wishes. All our suspensions on nuclear activities would be lifted," he said, meaning that Iran would feel free to enrich uranium without hindrance.

    Iran insists its nuclear program is civilian only and has no other purpose than to generate power. Enrichment can produce either fuel for a nuclear reactor or the material needed to build a warhead.

    In Vienna, Austria, a draft IAEA resolution requests agency director general Mohamed ElBaradei "to report to the Security Council" on steps Iran needs to take to dispel fears that it might want to make nuclear arms. It was being circulated among the 35-member IAEA board for comments before being submitted for approval at Thursday's board meeting, and a copy was made available to The Associated Press.

    The development was a boost to Washington, the main proponent of bringing Iran before the Security Council.

    The draft calls on Iran to:

    — Re-establish a freeze on uranium enrichment and related activities.

    — Consider whether to stop construction of a heavy water reactor that could be the source of plutonium for weapons.

    — Formally ratify an agreement it has so far honored as if it were in force allowing the IAEA greater inspecting authority.

    — Give the IAEA more power in its probe of Iran's nuclear program, including "access to individuals" for interviews, as well as to documentation on its black market nuclear purchases, equipment that could be used for nuclear and non-nuclear purposes and "certain military-owned workshops" where nuclear activities might be going on.

    The draft also asks ElBaradei to "convey to the Security Council" his report to the next board session in March along with any resolution that meeting might approve.

    "Iran's many failures of its obligations ... constitute noncompliance" with the nonproliferation treaty, the document said. Although the text is likely to undergo some changes before it is submitted for approval, the countries that authored the draft — Britain, France and Germany — were unlikely to agree to substantive modifications, according to a European diplomat who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing confidential strategy on Iran.

    Ahmadinejad referred to Bush directly and the U.S.-led war in neighboring Iraq.

    "Those whose hands are tainted with blood of nations and are involved in wars and oppression in any part of the world ... we, hopefully, in the near future will put you on trial in courts that will be set up by nations."

    Defense Minister Gen. Mostafa Mohammad Najjar also warned all countries against considering an attack on Iran's nuclear installations. "Any attack against Iran's peaceful nuclear facilities will meet a swift and crushing response from the armed forces," Najjar said, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

    The comments came after Bush increased the pressure on Iran over its nuclear program, saying in his address Tuesday night that "the nations of the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons." He said the United States "will continue to rally the world to confront these threats."

    Bush also said Iran was "held hostage by a small clerical elite that is isolating and repressing its people" and must stop sponsoring terrorists in the Palestinian territories and Lebanon.

    In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin spoke with Bush by telephone about Iran, the Kremlin said in a statement.

    British Prime Minister Tony Blair told the House of Commons on Wednesday it was crucial for the international community to "send a signal of strength" to Iran in the dispute.

    "It is important that they understand ... that we are united in determining that they should not be able to carry on flouting their international obligations," he said.

    The five permanent members of the Security Council agreed Tuesday that Iran should be hauled before the powerful body.

    The top U.N. body has the power to impose economic and political sanctions, but none of those measures is immediately likely. Under the deal agreed to by Moscow and Beijing, the Security Council will likely await a new IAEA report at the next board meeting in March before deciding on substantive action, leaving more time for talks with Iran.

    On Tuesday, the IAEA said Iran obtained documents and drawings on the black market that serve no other purpose than to make an atomic warhead. The findings were contained in a confidential report for presentation to the IAEA board and provided in full to AP.

    A three-year IAEA inquiry has not found firm evidence to back assertions by the United States and others that Iran's nuclear activities are a cover for an arms program but has not been able to dismiss such suspicions either.

    First mention of the documents linked to constructing a nuclear warhead was made last year in a longer IAEA report. At that time, the agency said only that they showed how to cast "enriched, natural and depleted uranium metal into hemispherical forms."

    In the brief report obtained Tuesday, however, the agency said bluntly the 15 pages of text and drawings showing how to cast fissile uranium into metal were "related to the fabrication of nuclear weapon components."

    The report said the documents were under agency seal, meaning that IAEA experts should be able to re-examine them, but Iran has declined to give the agency a copy.

    Iran has claimed it did not ask for the documents but received them anyway as part of other black market purchases.


    Associated Press Writer George Jahn contributed to this report from Vienna, Austria.
    Comment: All of this is SO familiar. Weren't there "shouting matches" and "food fights" between Bush and Hussein leading up to the quagmire in Iraq? Looks the same to us. Do you suppose that it is all a set-up to keep the peasants distracted? A high drama to cover up the impending collapse of the global economy? An excuse to kill millions, or billions, of people before global warming set's in? A drama designed to justify locking the peasants down?

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    Russian Minister sez: Russia, China Have Same Views On Iran
    DowJones Newswire 31 Jan 2006

    Russia and China share the same position regarding Iran's nuclear programs, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency Tuesday.

    Speaking to Russian reporters in London after meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Lavrov said Moscow and Beijing shared the same approach in handling Tehran's ongoing nuclear activities.

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    Russia-China visit to Iran no form of pressure
    RIA Novosti 1 Feb 06

    LONDON - The Wednesday visit of high-ranking Russia and Chinese diplomats to Tehran cannot be viewed as a form of pressure on Iran over its controversial nuclear programs, a spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

    Mikhail Kamynin said a sovereign state could not be subjected to pressure, and added that the diplomats were making the trip to inform the Iranian leadership about the results of talks in the British capital and to express "the concern of the international community once again."
    Representatives of five permanent members of the UN Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States) and Germany gathered in London Monday and agreed to refer the Iranian nuclear file to the Security Council. They also decided that the UN Security Council would refrain from taking any potential measures against Iran before an official report from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN's nuclear watchdog, in March.

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday that the key agreement was that the UN Security Council would not yet make any decision on Iran, but would be kept informed about the issue after a two-day emergency IAEA session starting Thursday.

    Several countries have accused Iran of pursuing a secret nuclear weapons program but the Islamic Republic insists that it only wants nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

    The French Foreign Ministry said the talks with Iran were currently at a deadlock but a diplomatic way to resolve the nuclear problem was still possible if Tehran took steps to diffuse the crisis.

    Meanwhile, Ali Larijani, Iran's top negotiator on the issue, said the referral of Iran's nuclear file to the UN Security Council, which has the power to impose sanctions on the Islamic Republic if it is found to be in breach of its international commitments, would mark "the end to diplomacy."

    Larijani also said the decision to refer the Iranian nuclear file to the UN Security Council would force Tehran to abandon all nuclear moratoria.

    He said the IAEA should continue control of Iran's nuclear facilities in compliance with the additional protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty but should reduce the number of inspections.

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    Uranium enrichment in Russia to cover Iran nuclear needs
    RIA Novosti 2 Feb 06

    VIENNA, February 2 () - A senior Russian diplomat said Thursday that uranium enrichment in Russia for Iran's nuclear power plants would cover the Islamic Republic's atomic energy needs, as the UN's nuclear watchdog convened in Vienna for an emergency session to discuss the brewing crisis.

    Russia's initiative to enrich uranium on its territory for Iran, which broke a two-year moratorium on nuclear research last month, has been seen as a possible compromise with a potential to diffuse the current international tensions around Iran's controversial nuclear program.
    Addressing the Board of Governors of the watchdog, the 35-nation International Atomic Energy Agency, Russian envoy Grigory Berdennikov reiterated President Vladimir Putin's proposal to build uranium enrichment facilities in Russia and other "nuclear club" nations, providing access on a non-discriminatory basis to countries looking for nuclear fuel for power production, under the IAEA's supervision.

    "Once turned into practice, the Russian initiative will make it possible to provide for Iran's nuclear energy needs for years to come, given that a uranium enrichment moratorium is observed," Berdennikov said.

    He added that the current IAEA session would hopefully yield a constructive decision, which would bring closer a resolution to the Iranian nuclear problem through negotiations and allow the IAEA's director general, Mohammed ElBaradei, to report about the progress at the next board session in March.

    The IAEA board is considering Iran's referral to the UN Security Council, a U.S.-led move backed by the other Western nations and Israel that suspect Iran of pursuing a secret nuclear weapons program. The Council has the power to impose sanctions on Iran if it is found to be in breach of its international commitments.

    Earlier, the U.S., the European trio of Britain, France and Germany, and Russia and China met in Brussels and decided in favor of referring Iran to the UN, though only in March at the next scheduled session of the IAEA.

    In response to this decision, Tehran said it would proceed with uranium enrichment if it were referred to the UN Security Council.

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    Palestinians Tortured by Israelis Awarded NIS 2.4 Million
    By Zvi Harel Haaretz 1 Feb 06

    The Defense Ministry a few days ago gave NIS 2.4 million to 28 Palestinians who were tortured by the Israel Defense Forces and the Shin Bet security service. The payment was made after an out-of-court settlement was reached with the plaintiffs, who agreed that suits brought to the Tel Aviv Magistrate and District courts would be turned down.

    One of the plaintiffs, Benan Oudeh, 31, of Qalqilya, arrested a few years ago for throwing stones, told Haaretz yesterday that his testicles were beaten so badly in the interrogation room that they had to be amputated.
    Oudeh's attorney said his client received only NIS 120,000, and was determined to be credited with a urological disability of 20 percent and a psychiatric disability of 10 percent.

    Long negotiations in the case, first brought to court in 1996, ended in a settlement whereby the state would make the payment without admitting to the torture.

    All the plaintiffs testified that they were shaken, tied in painful positions, had their heads covered with sacks and were prevented from sleeping, techniques that were common at the time but have since been outlawed by the High Court of Justice.

    According to their lawyers, some of the plaintiffs were subject to more extreme torture, including the witholding of food and drink, being forbidden to go to the toilet, threats of imprisonment of family members and confinement in a very small cold cell.

    Another plaintiff, Hassin Zid from Qalqilya, who was arrested at age 17 on suspicion of throwing a Molotov cocktail said he was handcuffed, sprayed with tear gas, tied from the ceiling and beaten with clubs and a water pipe.

    The military court determined that he was unfit to stand trial and he was released and hospitalized in a psychiatric facility. Zid was awarded a 30-percent psychiatric disability, according to attorney Bshara Jabaly, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

    Another plaintiff, Ahmad Mar'i, from Nablus, said interrogators humiliated him by showing him pornographic pictures and suggesting they were of his wife and daughters, and on another occasion, when he was unable to stand, an interrogator forced him on his feet, forced his mouth open and spit into it.

    The plaintiffs were divided into two categories: torture victims who were determined not to have incurred permanent disabilities, who were awarded between NIS 15,000 to NIS 38,000 each, and those with permanent disabilities, who received between NIS 50,000 to NIS 435,000 according to the extent of the disability.

    Another attorney for the plaintiffs, Dan Assan, said yesterday that the settlement, although made out-of-court still set an important precedent in that compensation was paid in suits of a class-action type. Moreover, he said that about half the plaintiffs were compensated according to no other evidence than their testimony of torture. Assan added that most of the plaintiffs had not been defined as "ticking bombs" and were released following their interrogation.

    © Copyright 2006 Haaretz.

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    Journalist questions Israel's decision on ex-Yukos owner
    RIA Novosti 2 Feb 06

    TEL AVIV - An Israeli journalist appealed Thursday to the highest judicial authority in the country to investigate the legality of granting Israeli citizenship to an exiled Russian tycoon and Israel's refusal to extradite him to Russia.

    "We ask the Supreme Court to instruct the legal advisor to the government, the Prosecutor's Office and the Justice Ministry to answer why they have not yet taken action on the inquiry of Russian law enforcement authorities about [former Yukos co-owner] Leonid Nevzlin," Yuli Nudelman said.
    Nevzlin, who currently resides in Israel, was charged in absentia with tax fraud and involvement in a number of contract murders and was put on the international wanted list July 21, 2004. Two days later, Moscow's Basmanny Court sanctioned his arrest.

    The second part of Nudelman's appeal questions the legality of granting Israeli citizenship to Nevzlin.

    "We ask that the Supreme Court instruct our Interior Ministry to answer why he [Nevzlin] was granted citizenship and why it has not yet been revoked," the journalist said.

    Russian-language website earlier posted a statement disseminated by Nevzlin's press service explaining the political nature of the accusations against Nevzlin, listing his merits in charitable activities and questioning the reasons behind Nudelman's campaign to extradite the former Yukos co-owner to Russia.

    In response to these statements, Nudelman, who is well known for his books exposing notorious emigres from the Soviet Union, said the appeal was the result of a year-long journalistic investigation into Nevzlin's case.

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    Jewish Riots fail to stop settlement demolition
    Chris McGreal in Jerusalem Thursday February 2, 2006 The Guardian

    Five thousand police and soldiers sent to demolish an illegal Jewish outpost on a West Bank hilltop yesterday faced thousands of young Israeli settlers who had promised a battle over Amona.

    After a bit of pushing and shoving on both sides, the restraint shown by the security forces during last year's Gaza withdrawal quickly gave way to riot police charges on horseback, water cannon and not a few punishment beatings as the police and army spent hours plucking about 3,000 young settlers from roofs and prising them from the condemned buildings.
    The young people - known as "hilltop youth" but frequently resembling hoodies - hurled cinderblocks, boulders and buckets of paint as the police and soldiers scrambled up ladders and were lifted on to the roofs in the buckets of mechanical diggers. Dozens were arrested.

    More than 100 people were injured, including a policeman who was in a serious condition after being hit on the head with a brick. Three Israeli MPs who joined the settlers were hurt, including Aryeh Eldad of the far-right National Union party, who complained that the police would never treat Arabs so harshly.

    For all the fury, the resistance crumbled in the face of the relentless police advance. By mid-afternoon the illegal buildings were evacuated and their demolition had begun.

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    U.S. Congress moves to legislate against Hamas-led PA
    By Shmuel Rosner Haaretz Correspondent 1 Feb 06

    WASHINGTON - Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, from Florida, submitted on Tuesday the first legislative response to Hamas' landslide victory in Palestinian elections last week. The bill, co-sponsored by Democratic Congressman Tom Lantos, from California, includes a number of extremely harsh measures against the radical Islamic movement.

    However, sources in Washington predicted that some of the provisions will not be included in the final draft of the bill. There is reason to believe that the administration will try to moderate its tone during negotiations with legislators, which are expected to last a few weeks.

    Republican Congressman Vito Fossella, from New York, also introduced legislation on Tuesday banning support for the Palestinian Authority.
    "Not one dollar of taxpayer money should go to this terrorist organization," Fossella said. "The Palestinian people have every right to elect a terrorist organization to control their government - and the United States has every right to eliminate any financial assistance for it."

    Read the full draft of the legislation on Rosner's Domain

    The legislation introduced by Ross-Lehtinen and Lantos is broad in reach and scope, and includes measures aimed at strengthening travel restrictions to the U.S. on members or associates of Hamas, integrated into the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), municipalities, and other constituent elements.

    Furthermore, the legislation wants the U.S. to withhold contributions to the UN proportional to the amounts the UN provides to such entities or to UN programs with the PA; call for the Palestinian territories to be designated a "terrorist sanctuary," and eliminating the PLO offices in Washington.

    "Hamas' continuing violence against Israel and refusal to disarm has been a constant and incendiary impediment to U.S. efforts to promote peace and security in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. It is, therefore, critical that we prevent U.S. funds from being manipulated for the benefit of Hamas and other terrorist entities," Ros-Lehtinen said.

    The bill also seeks to prohibit direct assistance to the PA, the PLC, municipalities and other constituent elements that are "governed" by individuals associated with Hamas or other terrorist entities; audit all committees, offices, and commissions focused on the Palestinian agenda at the United Nations and recommend for their elimination.
    Comment: How about a little paraphrase of Fosella's legislation that might go a lot further toward getting the US out of the mess it is currently in:

    "Not one dollar of taxpayer money should go to this terrorist organization," Fossella said. "The Israeli people have every right to elect a terrorist organization to control their government - and the United States has every right to eliminate any financial assistance for it."

    In fact, an even better version would be that not one dollar of taxpayer money should go to the current terrorist Neocon Administration.

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    Putin's Comments on Hamas Spark Row Between Russia, Israel — Paper
    02.02.2006 MosNews

    Russia and Israel are on the verge of a diplomatic row after President Putin stated at a personal press-conference that Russia never viewed Hamas as a terrorist organization.

    According to Moscow Kommersant daily, Israeli officials were shocked by Putin openly supporting Palestinian terrorists.

    Commenting on Hamas recent victory at the Palestinian legislative elections at a press conference Tuesday, Putin said Russia never declared Hamas a terrorist organization, although it never supported its actions. The West should not cut financial aid because of the Hamas’s victory in the elections, he added.
    “Hamas must refrain from radical statements, recognize Israel’s right to exist, and establish contacts with the international community,” Putin said. “We’re calling upon Hamas to consistently work in that direction.”

    However recognizing Israel was just one of the three issues that the international community demands from Hamas in an agreement that Putin has also signed. Hamas has to be committed to three issues — to stop violence, to follow all the agreements signed with Israel and to recognize the existence of Israel.

    Israeli authorities cannot accept a position that assesses terrorism in different countries differently.

    “Hamas terror actions have killed more than 550 Israelis, many of them of Russian origin. We cannot see the difference between a bus explosion in Jerusalem and a terrorist attack in Moscow or Beslan,” unnamed Israely diplomat was quoted by Kommersant as saying.

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    Hamas as the mirror of Palestinian democracy
    Yevgeny Satanovsky RIA Novosti 2 Feb 06

    MOSCOW - Why did the Hamas movement win a landslide victory at the recent election in Palestine? The simple explanation is that the election was democratic. A political religious movement fighting for the liquidation of Israel that created an efficient system of recruiting suicide terrorists was bound to win in the Middle East. The corrupt regime of the late Yasser Arafat was simply a victim on the Islamic theocracy's victorious advance to power.

    Hamas's victory spells out the demise of the American policy of spreading democracy in the Middle East as an alternative to the proliferation of politicized Islam. Western political formulas provided a breeding ground for aggressive radicals who are taking control of regional countries in democratic elections.
    They have defeated generals, leaders of nationalist parties, Marxists and feudal barons, subjugating or liquidating clan chiefs, and forcing out or killing ethnic and religious minorities.

    It is no use trying to keep predators on a vegetable diet. It is likewise useless to hope that killers and terrorists will change their ways after they come to power. International statements and actions show that nothing has changed since the Munich appeasement, which brought Hitler to power in a more legitimate way than the means employed by Arafat.

    The German National Socialist Party won the election no less democratically than Hamas did. The attempts by European politicians to appease the Fuehrer were as naive and helpless as the signals sent by the quartet of international mediators to the new bosses of Palestine the other day.

    Hamas did not stoop to tricks in responding to the world community. It does not intend to recognize Israel and will not stop using terror in its struggle against the Jewish state. Hamas leaders reminded the sponsors that Palestinians accepted American, UN and EU money not as charity but as something that rightfully belongs to them. How can the world expect reasonable behavior or elementary gratitude from people who think that the world owes them?

    On the other hand, Hamas's position is perfectly logical in view of what the world has given to Palestinians in the past decades and what it has received in response. It is a miracle that they talk with the West at all.

    Hamas is not afraid of Israel, the West, or the termination of financing and dialogue. It has the sympathy of Islamists around the world, from the Egyptian Muslim Brothers to the Lebanese Hezbollah, the militants of Sudan's Darfur and al-Qaida fighters. Hamas also has the support of the Iraqi rebels and the drug barons of Afghanistan, as well as Iran.

    If the West denies assistance to Palestine, it will nevertheless thrive on the lavish support of "true believers," because the peace process means nothing to the people who view Tel Aviv as an illegal settlement and Israel as a temporary Zionist entity. Hamas is waging a jihad - religious war - against Israel, a war of extermination. Fanatics who train their children to become "walking bombs" have no respect for international conventions and diplomatic rules. The regional nations consider Hamas's victory as proof that Palestinians were right to wage the uncompromising battle.

    The peace process has long turned from a diplomatic parody and a theater of the absurd into a genuine war. It is a strange war where the stronger side loses, the aggressor pretends to be the victim, and the attacked side supplies the adversary with electricity, water, jobs and money, retreating step by step and thus strengthening the adversary's belief in his eventual victory.

    Israel has not managed to bring about peace by ceding Jerico, Ramallah, Nablus and Gaza to Arafat's control. It has not succeeded in restoring peace by leaving Lebanon and evacuating Israelis from the Gaza Strip. Instead of securing peace, prosperity and future for their children, Palestinians have become hostages to extremists, first secular and now theocratic.

    Anyone who examines the situation soberly can see that diplomats' well-rounded formulas do not conceal the fact that the region is heading for another massacre. How many more Palestinians and Israelis have to die to stop the terrorist war, which international bureaucrats who profit from it present as "the Middle East settlement"?

    Hamas has offered a ten-year truce to Israel. It is not long enough for Islamists to create a state that Arafat and his successors refused to build. But it is sufficient time for building up strength, liquidating or subjugating rivals, assuming control of money flows, and turning terrorists into an army. They believe that in this period Americans and their allies will leave the region or will be glad to have any partner there, especially because the situation in Palestine offers new opportunities to Islamic radicals in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Sudan. It will be a time of another trial for the regional monarchs and authoritarian leaders, who have spent decades keeping theocracy away from power. This is why the conversion of Palestine into Hamasstan is terminally dangerous to more countries than Israel.

    There are many advocates of dialogue with Hamas in Europe, Russia and international organizations and some in the American and Israeli establishments.

    The inertia of political processes, the domination of political correctness over realism, national and international corruption, personal and group interests of officials, lobbying for "Islamic globalization," the Iranian factor, the great powers' battle for influence in the region, as well as party rivalry and political illusions will give the Palestinian Islamists a chance they will most certainly use.

    This means that news from the Middle East will remain alarming.

    Yevgeny Satanovsky is president of the Middle East Institute.
    Comment: Satanovsky's remarks: "Western political formulas provided a breeding ground for aggressive radicals who are taking control of regional countries in democratic elections. ... It is no use trying to keep predators on a vegetable diet. It is likewise useless to hope that killers and terrorists will change their ways after they come to power." apply equally to the United States. It is unfortunate, but true, that those who are the capable of the greatest deceit and aggression against their opponents are the ones that manage to gain the sympathy of an ignorant populace. When Satanovsky further states: "Hamas's victory spells out the demise of the American policy of spreading democracy in the Middle East as an alternative to the proliferation of politicized Islam" He is twisting the reality of the situation. Hamas' victory is in fact the realisation of the American and Israeli policy of spreading politicized Islam throughout the Middle East, or at least the appearance of politicized Islam

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    Punished for Democracy: Israel halts Palestinians' tax payments
    Sydney Morning Herald February 2, 2006

    Israel has halted monthly tax payments to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority one week after the election victory of Hamas, but the militant group said it has been promised financial support from the Arab world.

    The customs revenue collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinians is the main source of funding for their budget and is used to pay an estimated 140,000 government workers.
    Palestinian Economy Minister Mazen Sonnoqrot decried what he called Israel's "illegal decision", saying it amounted to "collective punishment" and estimated that as many as 1 million Palestinians would be affected. "This may cause chaos," he said.

    Top Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, in a Reuters interview, called it "an attack on Palestinian rights".

    The United States and the European Union have also threatened to cut off future funding if Hamas does not reject violence and recognise Israel.

    Hamas has urged foreign donors to maintain aid but says it could still find alternative sources of funding in the Arab world.

    Saudi Arabia and Qatar have pledged to transfer $US33 million ($A43.58 million) to the Palestinian Authority to ease the severe budget crisis, a senior Palestinian government official said.

    Saudi Arabia promised $US20 million ($A26.41 million) and Qatar pledged $US13 million ($A17.17 million) in quick aid to help the Palestinian Authority pay January salaries to 137,000 employees, the official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal has not been finalised.

    Earlier, Israeli officials said they were suspending the monthly transfer of millions of dollars in tax and customs revenues to the Palestinians in light of last week's victory of the Islamic militant Hamas in parliament elections.

    It dispatched a delegation on a tour of Arab countries to urge them to keep the money flowing.

    "The tour will aim to clarify Hamas's position based on its election agenda and to press Arab countries to continue with financial aid to the Palestinian people," said Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas leader in Gaza.

    Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman predicted that Iran would step in to fill any financial gap.

    In a bid to reassure anxious donors, the Palestinian Authority proposed bringing in an outside auditor or a foreign government to monitor the use of aid money.

    Sonnoqrot said talks were also under way with the World Bank and Saudi Arabia about covering the authority's payroll.

    Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Israel did not make its scheduled February 1 payment, estimated by the Palestinian Authority at $US55 million ($A72.64 million).

    Regev said future payments were also suspended pending a policy review ordered by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who took over after Ariel Sharon was incapacitated by a stroke on January 4.

    Olmert has called for a boycott of any Palestinian government that includes Hamas, which is sworn to Israel's destruction and has led a campaign of suicide bombings and attacks against Israel.

    Hamas, which has largely held to a year-long ceasefire, trounced Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's long-dominant Fatah movement in the January 25 parliamentary election.

    In Washington, US President George W Bush demanded that Hamas "recognise Israel, disarm, reject terrorism and work for lasting peace" in his State of the Union address.

    Hamas leaders said the group would stick to its guns. "Our resistance is legitimate self-defence in the face of aggression," said Zuhri.

    An official close to Abbas denied a report from Egypt that he would demand Hamas formally recognise Israel for it join the next government. But the official, who declined to be identified, said the president would insist the new government commit to implementing past agreements with Israel.

    The Palestinian Authority faces a financial crunch if Israel continues to withhold the tax money.

    Unemployment in the Palestinian territories stands at 22 per cent and half the Palestinian population lives in poverty. In Gaza, many Palestinians live on an average of $US2 ($A2.64) a day.

    Israel has long collected customs revenue on behalf of the Palestinians. It is supposed to hand the money over to the governing Palestinian Authority on the first of each month.

    The decision to cut off funding came as Olmert sent riot police into the West Bank to remove part of an unauthorised Jewish settler outpost .

    In scenes of violence reminiscent of Israel's Gaza pullout last year, ultranationalists at the Amona outpost barricaded themselves in houses and on rooftops, throwing stones at police on horseback who responded with clubs and water cannon.

    More than 160 protesters and police were injured before the houses were cleared and demolished.

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    Saudis, Qatar Pledge $33M to Palestinians
    By STEVEN GUTKIN Associated Press 1 Feb 06

    JERUSALEM — Israel has frozen this month's transfer of $45 million in tax rebates and customs payments to the Palestinian Authority, and a senior Palestinian official said Saudi Arabia and Qatar pledged Wednesday to transfer millions to ease the crisis.

    Saudi Arabia promised $20 million and Qatar pledged $13 million in quick aid to help the Palestinian Authority pay January salaries to 137,000 employees, a senior Palestinian official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal has not been finalized.
    Earlier, Israeli officials said they were suspending the monthly transfer of millions of dollars in tax and customs revenues while Israel reviewed the issue in light of last week's victory of the Islamic militant Hamas in parliament elections.

    "There is a concern on our side that the moneys transferred will come back to haunt us in the form of suicide bombings," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said.

    Palestinian officials said Israel's payment for January already is several days overdue and they may not be able to pay the salaries of 137,000 government workers if Israel does not send the money.

    Unemployment in the Palestinian areas runs high, and many Palestinian families depend on a government salary. A failure to pay the January salaries could pose the most difficult test yet for Hamas, which has resisted international demands to recognize Israel, disarm and renounce violence.

    President Bush repeated the demand Tuesday night in his State of the Union address, saying the "leaders of Hamas must recognize Israel, disarm, reject terrorism and work for lasting peace."

    Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of Hamas' political bureau in Syria, told The Associated Press that last year's cease-fire with Israel could be renewed to placate the Western powers.

    But he rejected Bush's call.

    "These conditions cannot be accepted and the U.S. president should accept the reality, because the Palestinian people have exercised their democratic choice, with mechanisms that are basically Western, and they chose Hamas," Abu Marzouk said, adding Bush "should deal with Hamas as it is."

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    EU extends aid to Palestinians in bid to prevent 'mini Iran'
    By Mark Beunderman EU Observer 1 Feb 06

    EU foreign ministers meeting on Monday (30 January) agreed to continue aid to the Palestinian Authority under strict conditions put to election winner Hamas, fearing a complete cut-off of funding will create room for Iran to step in.

    The ministers refrained from quick moves to slash its aid to the Palestinians, amounting to €500m a year, following last week’s shock election victory of the islamist Hamas movement which is on the EU’s list of terrorist organizations.
    The EU is first awaiting coalition-building efforts, which officials said could last as much as three months, while making it clear that any future funding to the Palestinian administration would be made dependent on Hamas backing down on its radicalism.

    A statement read "The [EU] Council expects the newly elected PLC [Palestinian Legislative Council] to support the formation of a government committed to a peaceful and negotiated solution of the conflict with Israel based on existing agreements and the Roadmap as well as to the rule of law, reform and sound fiscal management."

    "On this basis the European Union stands ready to continue to support Palestinian economic development and democratic state building," ministers added.

    Fear of radicalisation and Iran influence

    Diplomats indicated that an immediate stop of EU funding was not an option, as this would mean a break-down of the Palestinian administration, followed by chaos and fresh violence.

    This would undermine EU hopes for a broad coalition government, also involving the moderate Fatah faction led by Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas.

    "We should avoid a situation of chaos, which could lead to an Islamic regime at the heart of the Middle East, or, as someone termed it, a mini-Iran", Dutch foreign minister Bernard Bot told reporters, referring to existing ties between Iran and Hamas.

    German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier suggested according to FT Deutschland that a cut-off of EU funding would create a void for Iran and Saudi Arabia to step in.

    "I definitely see a danger that [other] financers will be found, that will fill the gap," Mr Steinmeier indicated.

    EU external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner stressed that last year, only €70m of the total of €500 EU aid was targeted as direct administrative support to the Palestinian Authority, while the rest did not touch the hands of Palestinian officials and was spent through, for example, United Nations programmes.

    Only half of the allotted €70m was actually handed out, the commissioner added, due to insufficient financial safeguards on the Palestinian side.

    But Mr Bot indicated the budgetary support for the Palestinian Auithority is crucial, as it involves Palestinian officials' salaries.

    Hamas rejects demands

    Ursula Plassnik, the foreign minister of Austria which holds the EU presidency, said there is "no timeframe" for assessing whether Hamas complies with EU demands.

    But Mr Bot and officials indicated that an assessment was planned in around three months, which is the period Mr Abbas estimates coalition talks could last.

    Meanwhile, Hamas on Monday rejected demands by the middle east diplomatic quartet consisting of the EU, the US, Russia and the UN, that it renounce violence and recognise Israel.

    "The quartet should have demanded an end to (Israeli) occupation and aggression ... not demanded that the victim should recognise the occupation and stand handcuffed in the face of the aggression," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said according to Reuters.

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    Fireball streaks across Calgary sky February 01, 2006

    People looking to the sky Wednesday morning got a special treat. A fireball appeared in the sky south of Calgary just before seven o'clock. It moved quickly from east to west before it burned out. Witnesses say it broke into pieces when it flared out.

    Several people have reported the fireball to University of Calgary professor Alan Hildebrand. He's hoping that someone close to where the fireball exploded, saw it, or heard the sonic boom, will call in. That will help locate pieces of the meteorite.

    If you saw the fireball, you can report it to the North American Meteor Network.

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    Mystery over bang which shook district
    Spalding Today 02/02/06

    MYSTERY still surrounds a bang that shook Spalding and the surrounding area.

    The noise was heard at 2.19pm on Wednesday. It caused buildings to shake and the ground to vibrate.
    But Lincolnshire Police, Lincolnshire Ambulance Service and Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue received no reports of any incidents in the area.

    Many people now believe it was a sonic boom, caused when a jet breaks through the sound barrier, but no-one can give a definitive answer and experts say that theory is unlikely.
    David Galloway, assistant seismologist at the British Geographical Survey, said their national and regional monitors would normally trace things such as a sonic boom.
    He added: "I have checked the system for half an hour either side of the time the noise was reported and absolutely nothing came up."

    The "big bang" caused the Lincolnshire Free Press and Spalding Guardian building to shake, while staff at South Holland District Council thought the noise had come from within their building because it was so loud. Press officer Sharon Dabell said: "There is an attic above my head and I thought the noise had come from something heavy being dropped in there."

    Pedestrians in Spalding town centre stopped dead on hearing the noise while several cars in the Sheep Market pulled over.

    The noise was heard by residents in Gedney, Bourne, Baston and even as far away as Eye, although most believe the source of the noise was directly above Spalding. The Lincolnshire Free Press received several calls from concerned residents on Wednesday afternoon as people tried to establish what has happened.

    Noel Pullford heard the bang and saw the ground shake while walking dogs in Deeping High Bank. He said: "There was a huge crack of noise and I could see the vibrations come through the trees, which all moved, and then go right across the field.

    "I would say it actually began in one spot and spread because there were a lot of sheep in a field that ran away from where they were standing as soon as it happened.
    "It is really strange. I did not realise that it had been heard by so many people."

    Margaret Dark, of London Road, Spalding, said: "I thought there had been an explosion or crash outside. It is very strange that no-one knows what it was. "It shook my windows and everyone outside stopped when it happened."

    The force of the bang was so great that it turned off the fridges at Sheep Market newsagent Classic News.
    A local radio station claimed the noise had been caused by RAF Harrier jets but that theory has been dismissed as the aircraft is incapable of travelling faster than the speed of sound.

    While there is a channel for military aircraft to use off the East of England, RAF pilots make every effort not to travel above the speed of sound and try to encourage pilots from other countries to avoid doing so.

    Tony Walsh, of RAF Wittering, said: "I have no idea what might have caused it but it was not us."

    And a Ministry of Defence spokesman said there was no military activity going on in the area which could have been responsible.

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    President Bush Forgets About Global Warming

    Feb. 1, 2006 - President Bush may have broken some ground when he admitted in his State of the Union speech that the country is "addicted to oil," but he did not mention the other massive issue that's tied to oil ... global warming.

    The vast majority of scientists now agree that global warming is real and well under way.

    "It may have sounded new to some, but it wasn't — there was nothing really new there," says American economist Gary Yohe, who has focused for years on the economic challenges and dangers posed by global warming. "As long as they remain voluntary, meaningful cuts in greenhouse gas emissions simply won't happen in the U.S."

    An extremely gloomy assessment of the dangers of global warming was published this week in Britain by prominent Earth systems scientist James Lovelock. In "Gaias's Revenge," Lovelock concludes that catastrophic global warming cannot be avoided; Lovelock does not expect that the United States, China or India will make the necessary emissions cuts over the next few years to avoid catastrophic global warming, and he expects it will occur soon.

    Before the end of the century, says Lovelock, too many climate system tipping points will have passed, taking the planet into a runaway greenhouse effect that will raise temperatures so sharply that people will be "dying by the billions" with only a "few breeding pairs left" at the poles, the only places that will be at all tolerable.

    Leading American climate scientist James Hansen of NASA says there is still time, that planetary catastrophe can be avoided, "but we have to get started with the emissions cuts now ... [get them] well under way within the next 10 years."

    While virtually all climate scientists agree new emissions-free energy technologies are vital if there is to be any chance of averting drastically disruptive climate change, many say that even the most promising new technologies would take years to become effective, and they argue that in the meantime there must be major cuts in greenhouse emissions.

    "There is some new money in the Advance Energy Initiative that Bush announced last night, but it pales in comparison to the tax breaks he's offering the oil companies," says Susan Joy Hassol, an independent climate analyst who has written several major international assessments of global climate change.

    "Compared to the incremental increases Bush is offering for the development of new energy technologies — increases of millions or tens of millions of dollars — in the overall energy bill, the president is giving billions in tax breaks to the oil and gas drillers — and all this at a time when oil company profits are soaring," Hassol says.

    Hassol also points out that the president's speech "made no mention of fuel efficiency, the best and cheapest way to reduce our dependence on foreign oil as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions." Hassol complains that "this administration has consistently stood in the way of raising fuel-efficiency standards."

    The president made no reference in his address to global warming or to curbing greenhouse gas emissions, other than one mention of continuing research in emissions-free, coal-fired energy plants.

    This contrasts sharply with the messages coming from the office of British Prime Minister Tony Blair over the past few days. Blair has tried to draw attention to those new scientific studies that conclude that global warming has accelerated and is much closer to dangerous tipping points than scientists had recently thought.

    This week Cambridge University Press is publishing "Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change," which gathers 41 studies by established scientists from around the world.

    "These studies each quantify, in a variety of ways, the risks we are already dealing with in the global warming that is clearly well under way," says economist Yohe, one of the book's editors.

    "This shows the statements by the president's science adviser to be simply wrong when he states that we can't quantify the risks of global warming," says Yohe.

    President Bush's chief science adviser, John H. Marburger III, was quoted in The Washington Post on Sunday as saying, "We know these things are possible, but we don't have enough information to quantify the level of risk."

    Yohe also says Marburger's quoted statement that "There's no agreement on what it is that constitutes a dangerous climate change" is meaningless.

    Yohe has focused on evaluating numerous studies by scientists who have constructed possible "dangerous climate change" scenarios — scenarios that he says are critical to taking any responsible action in the face of the enormous dangers of accelerating climate change, and which, he points out, are by definition crucial portraits of possible effects of global warming that can never be known precisely until they happen.

    Yohe quoted a famous climetologist's saying: "These are experiments that we really don't want to be trying with the only planet we have."

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    Severe Thunderstorm Hits New Orleans
    AP February 2, 2006

    KENNER, La. - A violent thunderstorm swept through neighborhoods hit hard by Hurricane Katrina, tearing off roofs, knocking down utility poles and collapsing at least one previously storm-damaged house early Thursday, authorities said.
    No serious injuries were reported.

    The storm ripped part of a roof off Louis Armstrong International Airport, then hit the suburb of Kenner and the hurricane-ravaged lakefront area of New Orleans where at least one house collapsed, police said.

    Authorities said a state police communications tower also fell across a roadway.

    At the airport, a piece of roof was torn off a concourse, and a jetway used to load passengers was torn off and slammed into another jetway, said airport spokeswoman Michelle Duffourc. The airport was left on emergency power, grounding passenger service.

    Although ground equipment at the airport was turned over by the high winds, no airplanes were damaged, Duffourc said.

    The National Weather Service had yet not determined whether a tornado had hit. The thunderstorm moved at more than 50 mph across the New Orleans region around 2:30 a.m.

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    Record-breaking cold snap claims 589 lives
    Associated Press in Kiev Thursday February 2, 2006 The Guardian

    Some 589 people died from the cold in Ukraine during record low temperatures from January 16 to 31, the health ministry said yesterday. Nearly 7,000 Ukrainians asked for medical help as temperatures fell to -25C (-13 F) but only about half needed hospital treatment.

    The ministry said the victims were mostly homeless and people who were drunk, and most were from the eastern city of Kharkiv. President Viktor Yushchenko yesterday called for an end to a heating shutdown in the city of Alchevsk, where 60,000 people have been without heat since January 22, following a breakdown.

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    Portland earthquake larger than estimated
    RICHARD L. HILL 2 Feb 06

    Scientists say the energy released by the earthquake that jarred the Portland area Saturday was roughly three times higher than initial estimates.

    Researchers with the Pacific Northwest Seismograph Network at the University of Washington on Wednesday raised the quake's magnitude from a 2.8 to a 3.1 after analyzing data from instruments.

    The higher magnitude gives only a partial explanation why the small quake was felt across such a wide area, said Yumei Wang, a scientist with the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries. "The geology also was involved, and we want to know how."
    The earthquake was centered on a fault about 9 miles below Southeast Portland near Laurelhurst Park, the same site as a magnitude 2.7 quake last June. The latest quake was felt from Hillsboro in the west to Troutdale in the east, and from Ridgefield, Wash., in the north to Oregon City in the south.

    "This felt area was surprisingly large for a small earthquake," Wang said. "This produced much stronger ground motion than similar quakes centered at Swan Island or Kelley Point in North Portland."

    Wang said a new array of seven quake-measuring instruments from Hillsboro to Portland International Airport will give more detailed information about the quake and the area's geology.

    Unlike other Portland-area seismometers that primarily pinpoint a quake's location and size, the new sensors measure ground-shaking.

    Bob Norris, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Seattle, began to download data from his agency's instruments to a laptop Wednesday. His first stop was a sensor atop Rocky Butte.

    "We got a very clear earthquake signal here," said Norris, pointing to sharp zigzag lines on the laptop screen. "With the data from all of the instruments, we will be able to say which areas shake more than other areas," Norris said.

    Engineers eventually will be able to use the information in making buildings more quake-resistant. For now, the small quake's long-distance effects serve as a reminder for "everyone to be prepared for a larger one," Wang said.

    Richard L. Hill: 503-221-8238;

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    Two More Coal Miners Killed in State
    MetroNews 02/01/2006

    Charleston, WEST VIRGINIA - The deaths of two coal miners in separate incidents in Boone County Wednesday is prompting Governor Joe Manchin to call for an immediate mine safety stand down at mines throughout West Virginia.
    "I am calling on the industry to cease production activities immediately and go into a mine safety stand down," said the Governor in a Wednesday afternoon press conference announcing the two coal mining fatalities. "Mine companies, supervisors and the miners themselves are to engage in a thorough review before any work or production is to continue."

    The Governor says the stand down is an order for workers to step back from the mine face for however long it takes for a safety inspection. Additional federal Mine Safety and Health Administration officials have also been called in to help with more thorough reviews in the coming days.

    The Governor's announcement followed three separate mine incidents in a span of a couple of hours Wednesday afternoon at three separate mine sites in West Virginia, two in Boone County.

    A coal miner was killed at Massey Energy's Black Castle Mine, a surface mine when a natural gas line was hit sparking a fire above ground.

    In a state, officials with Massey Energy said the following: "We are saddened to report that the accident resulted in the fatality of a Black Castle surface miner."

    At Long Branch Energy's Number 18 Mine near Danville, a coal miner working underground was killed in a rib fall incident.

    The third incident reported was a roof fall at a separate mine site in another part of the state.

    The two miners killed were not being identified late Wednesday.

    The stand down was just one of the changes the Governor reported after the 15th and 16th mining fatalities in the state so far this year.

    He also bumped up the mine inspection scheduled from three month intervals to immediately. "We will immediately begin the process of inspecting every mine in the state and their equipment, conditions, engineering, engineering plans, safety procedures and safe work practices immediately."

    The Manchin Administration was also working Wednesday night to implement emergency rules that would put the new mine safety and mine rescue measures passed last week in the State Legislature into effect on a faster time schedule.

    "While the last month has been more trying for the state than anyone could ever imagine and than, certainly, I could ever imagine, West Virginia remains committed to putting the safety of each and every one of our miners first and foremost."

    "Our hearts and prayers and the hearts and prayers of every West Virginia, every West Virginian, goes out to two families who have lost their loved ones in the mines," says Governor Manchin who was scheduled to visit those families on Thursday.

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    40m in sub-Saharan Africa need emergency food aid, says UN
    Jeevan Vasagar in Nairobi Thursday February 2, 2006 The Guardian

    Sub-Saharan Africa is in the grip of an extraordinary hunger crisis, with more than 40 million people needing emergency food aid across 36 countries, according to UN figures.

    The crisis has been made worse by east Africa experiencing an unusual drought that has coincided with southern Africa's "hunger gap", or the lean time between one harvest and the next. The number of people being sustained by the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) has risen to 40 million, from 21 million in 1995.
    Kenya, where 3 million need food aid, has seen a steady decline in rainfall during the past decade. In southern Africa, the HIV/Aids pandemic has crippled subsistence farming, leaving adults too sick to work in the fields and others struggling to cope with orphans. In Sudan and Congo, where civil wars continue, the WFP says 6.1 million and 3 million people respectively need emergency aid. The problems have been compounded by the political failures in those countries.

    Care International yesterday issued a renewed appeal for Niger, which is again threatened with starvation, partly because of the knock-on effect of last year's crisis. Fiona Turnbull, a Care spokeswoman, said: "In Niger, our figures show that 60% of people got into debt as a result of the food crisis last year. When the harvest came in, they had to sell most of that to pay off debts. People are getting poorer and poorer, and have less to fall back on."

    The charity is appealing for funds to distribute food to the most needy, as well as to replace lost cattle and set up seed banks in an attempt to ward off further crises.

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    Russian Expert sez: Bird flu virus is of natural not artificial origin
    Olga Vtorova RIA Novosti 2 Feb 06

    ST. PETERSBURG - The deadly bird flu virus originated naturally, and is not a biological weapon, a senior Russian scientist said Thursday. Oleg Kiselyov, the head of the Russian Influenza Research Institute, said: "We have not advanced enough to create such a genetic machine."

    He said if the virus had been created artificially in order to be used as a biological weapon, scientists would have identified this.

    "We know the genealogy of the virus," Kiselyov said. "If the virus was artificial, we would have realized."

    He said international agreements on biological security needed to be signed to effectively fight the spread of avian flu.

    He added that the Russian and Chinese academies of medical sciences had already signed a draft agreement on the issue, and that similar agreements were to be signed with neighboring countries.

    "Work in this area is not keeping up to pace," he said. "We need to have swift information on what is happening in neighboring countries. Monitoring must be global."

    Russia registered its first bird flu cases in Siberian birds last summer, and saw the virus spread west of the Ural Mountains to the European part of the country in October. However, no cases of human infection have been reported.

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    Punxsutawney Groundhog Sees His Shadow
    By DAN NEPHIN Associated Press February 2, 2006

    PUNXSUTAWNEY, Pa.- Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, but it was hard to find a complainer in the crowd on Gobbler's Knob, where the morning temperature was well above freezing and Thursday's high was expected to hit 48 degrees.

    There were a few boos at the groundhog's prediction of six more weeks of winter, but most of the hundreds of revelers instead turned the event into an impromptu Pittsburgh Steelers rally.
    Fans in football jerseys sang ``Here we go Steelers,'' and members of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club's Inner Circle - the top-hat- and tuxedo-wearing businessmen responsible for carrying on the groundhog tradition each year - threw black and gold Steelers ``Terrible Towels'' as they waited to rouse Phil from his burrow.

    The furry forecaster may be popular, but the Pittsburgh Steelers are playing in the Super Bowl on Sunday.

    ``It's been really wonderful. This is just a ball. I'm having so much fun,'' said Nancy Durr, who came from Paxton, Neb., to the small western Pennsylvania town about 65 miles north of Pittsburgh to celebrate her 50th birthday.

    She had been outside awaiting Phil's arrival since about 2:15 a.m., a rub-on Punxsutawney Phil tattoo on each cheek.

    Others latched on to the Phil frenzy for a publicity boost - for just about anything, from global warming to the lottery.

    The National Environmental Trust said it's groundhog-suit-wearing human ``will ignore his shadow and will instead rely on global warming evidence to forecast an early spring.''

    The American Physiological Society was offering experts to discuss ``What Punxsutawney Phil can teach us about surviving massive blood loss, preventing muscle atrophy, and more.''

    The Pennsylvania Lottery even has Gus, ``the second most famous groundhog in Pennsylvania,'' who implores lottery players to ``keep on scratchin'.''

    None of those things are really what Groundhog Day is about, said Mike Johnston, a member of the Groundhog Club's Inner Circle. Punxsutawney Phil is nonpolitical and can't speak anyway, Johnston said.

    Each Feb. 2, thousands of people descend on Punxsutawney for a little midwinter revelry, celebrating what had essentially been a German superstition.

    The Germans believed that if a hibernating animal casts a shadow Feb. 2 - the Christian holiday of Candlemas - winter will last another six weeks. If no shadow is seen, legend says spring will come early.

    According to the Groundhog Club, Phil has now seen his shadow 96 times, hasn't seen it 14 times and there are no records for nine years.

    The last time Phil failed to see his shadow was in 1999.

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    European media show solidarity in Mohammed cartoon row
    By Teresa Küchler EU Observer 2 Feb 06

    Several European newspapers have published caricatures of Islamic holy man Mohammed in an act of solidarity with Danish colleagues, while protests against the Danish caricatures continue to spread like wildfire.

    French daily newspaper France Soir on Wednesday (1 February) published a front page picture showing the Buddhist, Jewish, and Christian gods plus Mohammed floating on a cloud, with the Christian god saying "Don’t complain, Mohammed, we’ve all been caricatured here."

    France Soir, a Parisian daily tabloid struggling with declining readership, said it published the cartoons to show that "religious dogma" had no place in a secular society.
    Die Welt, Berliner Zeitung, La Stampa, El Mundo, NRC Handelsblad and Corriere della Sera were among various European media who decided to publish the pictures, or create their own cartoons of Mohammed.

    Later the same day, reports of internet sites selling mugs, t-shirts, key ring holders or other goods with the caricatures came from around the continent, and in Sweden an extreme right wing party announced that it would print the caricatures in support of neighbouring country Denmark.

    The editor in chief of France Soir, Jacques Lefranc, was quickly fired by the newspaper’s owners however, arguing that the removal of Mr Lefranc was "a powerful sign of respect for the intimate beliefs and convictions of every individual."

    Last autumn, the Danish daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten published drawings of the prophet Mohammed, as "a test of whether fear of Islamic retribution has begun to limit freedom of expression in Denmark."

    The Koran forbids all visual depictions of the prophet, and Muslim anger over the caricatures has grown into both a diplomatic row between European governments and parts of the Muslim world, as well as a tricky situation for Danish trade interests as Danish goods to a large extend is boycotted in Muslim countries.

    Several countries have recalled their ambassadors from Denmark while religious leaders and the Egyptian Parliament have urged a boycott of Danish products.

    Following the publication of the drawings in European media, the Austrian ambassador to Iran was also called to a meeting at the Iranian foreign ministry.

    According to Jyllands-Posten, the Iranian minister expressed his "deepest indignation" at the publication of the cartoons in European media, and urged Austria, currently in lead of the EU presidency, to listen to Muslim complaints.
    Comment: While we agree that "religious dogma" has no place in a secular society, we are appalled at the implications of these cartoons. Cartoons about Jews and their rapacious Yahweh were common during the time that Jews were being exterminated in Nazi Germany. "Polack" jokes became popular at the same time due to the fact that the Nazis had also targeted the Polish population. Irish jokes were popular during the famine in Ireland when many starving Irish families emigrated to the US and could only find jobs as menial laborers. It seems that human beings need to denigrate and poke fun at whoever is suffering at the moment so as to dehumanize them and thus justify the unwillingness to stand up for the rights of all. Such jokes are an appalling display of psychopathic lack of conscience and empathy.

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    Italy stung as northern province moves closer to Austria
    Barbara McMahon in Rome Thursday February 2, 2006 The Guardian

    Deep-rooted resentment over the identity of the northern Italian province of Alto Adige has flared after local politicians made a symbolic move closer to Austria. Some 113 of the 116 German-speaking mayors in the mountainous community signed a petition requesting the "protection and guardianship" of their near neighbour, it was revealed yesterday.

    They asked Austria, which is in the process of drawing up a new constitution, to include clauses undertaking to defend Alto Adige's right to autonomous status and to keep its German language, culture and traditions. The move is part of a territorial dispute that has been simmering since the area was ceded to Italy at the end of the first world war, having previously been part of the Austro-Hungarian empire.
    Local opinion is that the mayors simply want to maintain their historic links with Austria, but Italy has been stung by what it sees as a betrayal and a wish by the province to separate itself from Rome. Italy's minister of regional affairs, Enrico La Loggia, called the situation "serious".

    The controversy is already having diplomatic repercussions after Italy's president, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, unexpectedly pulled out of a planned visit to Vienna, which was due to take place in March. He cited Italy's forthcoming national election as the motive but some political observers have said the Alto Adige controversy was the real reason for the cancelled visit. Austria has so far made no official comment on the matter.

    The petition was compiled by the cultural and political group Schützen, which campaigns for the retention of Alto Adige's original identity as South Tyrol. It was signed by all but three of Alto Adige's mayors and deputy mayors, all of whom belong to the centrist SVP party, and presented to the president of Austria's parliament, Andreas Khol, last weekend. According to Italian news reports, he was taken aback by the number of names on the petition and fully supports a closer relationship with the province.

    Alto Adige is joined with Trentino in the north-east of Italy and the combined region of just under a million people borders Austria to the north, Lombardy to the west and Veneto to the south. Granted autonomous status after the second world war, Alto Adige is predominantly German-speaking, while the official language of Trentino is Italian. Like many other areas of Italy, both pride themselves on having distinct regional identities.

    The subject has provoked heated discussion inside Austrian chatrooms. One correspondent said South Tyrol had been part of Austria until the first world war and said it should have been given back to Austria after the second. "Nobody asked the South Tyrolers," he complained. Another pro-Italy user replied: "You should shut up."

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    Designer of hall attempts suicide after roof collapse
    Associated Press in Katowice Thursday February 2, 2006 The Guardian

    A designer of the Polish exhibition hall whose roof collapsed and killed 63 people attempted suicide two days after the accident. The unidentified man "certainly has information that could help determine the cause" of the catastrophe, said Tomasz Tadla, a spokesman for prosecutors in Katowice.

    About 500 people were in the hall for a pigeon racing show when the snow-covered roof gave way on Saturday. About 160 others were injured. An investigation has found that the hall had some defects before the roof collapsed but it is too soon to determine the cause of the accident.

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    Khodorkovsky faces prison sewing exam
    Nick Paton Walsh in Moscow Thursday February 2, 2006 The Guardian

    Mikhail Khodorkovsky, formerly Russia's richest man and fiercest critic of Vladimir Putin, may have a few million lying around and degrees in engineering and economics. But, in the icy Siberian prison where he has been sent to serve seven years for tax evasion and fraud, such airs and graces can't save anyone from the drudgery of life as a budget tailor.

    Yesterday colony 14/10 near the far-eastern town of Krasnokamensk became the great leveller for the one-time oil billionaire, when the prison authorities informed Khodorkovsky he would have to sit a sewing exam.
    His lawyer, Elena Levina, who has just returned from seeing Russia's most famous inmate, told his website,, that the prisoner had been serving as an apprentice in the colony's clothing factory since November.

    Ms Levina said that Khodorkovsky now has to face a commission to prove his tailoring skills so he can work full-time in the factory, which makes cheap clothes for prisoners.

    Ms Levina said he was considering whether to refuse to sit the exam, as his education qualified him for more intellectual tasks in the prison, such as teaching, studying, writing scientific journals, "or something that would use his considerable knowledge".

    She told the website that a refusal to sit the test could result in further sanctions against Russia's most high profile prisoner.

    Khodorkovsky was recently put into solitary confinement for five days after guards found the ministry of justice's rules for prisoner conduct among documents in his cell, which inmates are not allowed to possess.
    Comment: We here at SOTT admit that reading this story gave us dreams of the same thing happening to the Neocons... imagine Dick Cheney having to sit for a sewing exam?

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    Titanic salvage firm loses bid to own artefacts
    Associated Press in Richmond, USA Thursday February 2, 2006 The Guardian

    The company that has exclusive salvage rights to the wreckage of the Titanic does not own the site or the artefacts recovered from it, a US federal appeals court has ruled. The ruling by the 4th US circuit court of appeals affirmed a decision by the district court in Norfolk, Virginia.

    RMS Titanic Inc had sought full ownership of the nearly 6,000 artefacts it has recovered from the shipwreck, claiming that they are worth some $71m (£40m).
    In 1994, the district court granted it sole salvage rights, allowing it to recover artefacts from the liner to be used in the public interest. The court barred the company from selling the items, including passengers' clothing and part of the ship's hull.

    The company appealed, asking the court to apply the rule of "finders-keepers". In Tuesday's ruling, the appeal court denied RMS Titanic's request to own the artefacts, rather than act as a caretaker for the collection.

    "A free finders-keepers policy is but a short step from active piracy and pillaging," wrote Judge Paul Niemeyer. "How long after a ship runs aground would it take under a free finders-keepers policy before scavengers would be crawling over the wreck for property to deprive the owner of his property rights?"

    But the judge, along with Chief Justice William Wilkins and Judge Robert King, did overturn the Norfolk court's ruling that denied RMS Titanic salvage-in-possession rights over about 1,800 artefacts recovered in 1987 from the Titanic. The appeals court ruled that the lower court did not have jurisdiction in the case. The firm had been given full ownership rights to those items by the French government.

    The luxury liner sank on its maiden voyage on April 14 1912, nearly 400 miles off Newfoundland, Canada, killing more than 1,500. RMS Titanic has conducted seven expeditions at the site since the wreckage was located in 1985. More than 16.5 million people have visited travelling exhibitions of the collection.

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    Ark's Quantum Quirks
    SOTT February 2, 2006


    Winter in Riga
    Winter in Riga

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