Airline CEO Latest Victim Of Airport Gestapo
Paul Joseph Watson Prison February 2 2006

Just when you thought TSA screening horror stories couldn't get any more anathema to common sense, the latest victim of the little Hitler airport Gestapo proves otherwise.

Let's brush aside for the moment the fact that Margaret Jackson is the CEO of a major world airline company and judge whether her appearance would set alarm bells ringing. A blonde haired bespeckled Australian women in her 50's. About as far away from Mohammed Atta as you can possibly imagine.

Yet when the TSA rifled through her bag last year at Los Angeles Airport, their discovery of aircraft diagrams got them salivating. "Why have you got all this this?" one asked. "'I'm the chairman of an airline. I'm the chairman of Qantas," replied Margaret. "But you're a woman," replied the TSA goon.

And so along with pregnant white women, senators and 4-year-old boys, Margaret, a woman who has officially opened airport runways (pictured) became the latest airline terror threat to America.
After a one hour interrogation and with TSA officials unimpressed by Margaret's production of official Quantas letterhead documents, she devised a way out that speaks volumes about the nature of this whole farce.

She simply wrote a note to the TSA official saying that she was CEO of Quantas and signed it.

They let her go.

In this instance she was defining authority. She was giving the goon squad authorization to release her, knowing that kind of mindset only responds to following orders and protocol, even if they completely defy common sense.

Which is why we have a situation where not one item of cargo that enters the plane is inspected but Grandpa has to remove his shoes because he might be a suicide bomber.

This is why we will continue to hear stories about innocent people being unable to remove themselves from no fly lists and bewildered travelers being terrorized and shamed by policies that do nothing to protect America but do everything to bullwhip Americans into thinking it is normal to have their 4th amendment violated every time they leave the house.

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Snappers to defy police ban 18 Jan 06

POLICE directives about what could and could not be photographed were an abuse of power and should be ignored, Liberty Victoria has said.

The civil liberties body made the statement after a report in a Melbourne newspaper said a member of the Geelong Camera Club received a visit from police after he photographed gas storage cylinders at the city's Shell oil refinery.

Club member Hans Kawitski was told not to photograph industrial installations and was ordered to inform members of the camera club to follow his lead.

Liberty Victoria said its advice to photographers would be to ignore the directive.

"The police have got no place making such warnings," president Brian Walters SC said.
"Merely to threaten is exceeding police powers and is an abuse of power.

"If you were a serious terrorist you wouldn't be openly taking photographs. Taking photos of public objects is a normal and quite understandable part of a modern society."

Mr Walters said police had been spooked by politicians and had acquired "an inflated fear of terrorism".

"We currently have thousands of cameras set up to watch citizens, but if citizens themselves take photos, the authorities take that as some sort of risk," he said.

Geelong Camera Club vice-president Frank Sady said the club was having its first meeting tonight after a summer recess.

He said he would be advising them against following the police orders.

"Until such time as there's a law (we won't be doing anything differently)," he said.

"We're not doing any harm and we're not hurting anybody."

Mr Sady said the directive reminded him of visiting Poland when the secret police were stopping photography.

"No terrorist is going to hang around the front gate (of Shell's refinery) taking photos," he said.

"It's just the freedom to do what's reasonable in our pursuit of photography. We take photos for aesthetic purposes, not for ulterior motives."

The Australian Photographic Society said the incident was sad but not surprising.

Senior vice-president Bert Hoveling said he had been taking a series of photos at Eastland Shopping Centre when he was "hauled off by security to management".

"They said, this is company policy that you can't take photos inside Eastland shopping centre," he said.

"We have to run this fine line now between getting the photos we want for enjoying our photography or entering competition and not transgressing local policies or laws."

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R.I. School Essay Brings in Secret Service
AP Feb 02 2:34 PM US/Eastern

WEST WARWICK, R.I. - The Secret Service is investigating a seventh-grader who wrote a school essay that authorities say advocated violence against President Bush, talk show host Oprah Winfrey and others.

The boy's homework assignment for English class was to write what he would do on a perfect day. In addition to the president and Winfrey, the boy wrote that violence should be directed at executives of Coca- Cola and Wal-Mart, police and school officials said.
"His perfect day would be to see the destruction of these people," Schools Superintendent David Raiche said.

The Secret Service investigation is ongoing, but the essay may have been a "cry for help," said Thomas M. Powers, resident agent in charge in Providence. Threatening the president is a felony, he said.

Authorities would not identify the boy or his teacher or release a copy of the essay. He was not arrested, police Detective Sgt. Fernando Araujo said.

"It wasn't any detailed, minute-by-minute plan," Araujo said. "It didn't meet the criteria for a criminal charge."

The boy has been temporarily barred from school, but as a mental health rather than disciplinary precaution, Raiche said.

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Chinese professor hits out at Google
Julia Day in Qatar Wednesday February 1, 2006

A Chinese media professor strongly criticised Google today for caving in to Chinese government demands that it censor its own service, saying it was damaging to the prospects for a freer press in China.

Yuen-Ying Chan said Google's decision to offer a censored service in China was a missed opportunity to help nurture free journalism in the country and was possibly legally suspect.

"It's one thing for China to block the site but another for Google to help block the site. Smart internet users [in China] have a way to get to the [uncensored] site. There was no reason for Google to help [censor]," said Professor Chan, of the Journalism and Media Studies Centre in Hong Kong, and the Cheung Kong School of Journalism and Communication at Shantou University.
"China is a huge market and there is an opportunity for international conglomerates to help build journalism in China," she said, speaking today at an al-Jazeera conference on press freedom.

Prof Chan's comments contradicted statements made earlier at the event by the Google product manager, Nathan Stoll.

Mr Stoll had defended the company's move, saying that agreeing to blank out some search engine subjects was the only way Google could be used by Chinese people.

Prof Chan said that Google could not hide behind the argument that it was simply obeying Chinese law, saying that a challenge to the search engine's censorship could emerge from within the country.

"It's not true that by doing that Google is observing the law. There are no laws in China to say that sites can be blocked. Censors could be challenged within China and that could happen," she said.

She said that the Chinese government is clamping down on journalistic freedoms, at the same time as attempting to begin transforming media organisations into profit-making ventures, leading to huge pressure on journalists and managers ill-equipped for the task.

"The first challenge is managing the transition from state-controlled and state-owned organisations to a market industry.

"All media is still state-controlled and owned and but the managers are asked to make money. The state has cut subsidies so [media organisations] have to sink or swim.

"The second challenge is to create a new culture of professional standards based on credibility, fairness, trust and authenticity, how to do investigative journalism - yes, it does exist in China - and how to use undercover reporting and how to push the limits."

Prof Chan said that one of the fundemental challenges facing Chinese media is "how to do good journalism under state control, under censorship that's been stepping up for the past 18 months".

"I think China will open up, but in the meantime a good journalist is dancing in chains - doing their best in a birdcage."

Prof Chan said that Chinese journalists are looking to colleagues overseas to set benchmarks on how to proceed.

She added that al-Jazeera was seen within the country's media and intellectual elite as "an intriguing phenomenon, as an independent voice standing up to the US media and global powers".

"Chinese journalists are looking up to al-Jazeera to see how we can do it."

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Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid: Is History Repeating Itself? - Excerpt from "They Thought They Were Free"
by Duane Thorin 2 Feb 2006

"What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if he people could understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with _____, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.

"This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter."
From Milton Meyers' famous book, They Thought They Were Free, interviews with those who lived through 1933 to 1945 in Germany. We all know the name in the blank space. It is the book that hoped to help prevent this from occurring again....few have heard of it.

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The Tyranny that follows Economic Collapse
by Mike Whitney 2 Feb 06

Dick Cheney recently opined, “Reagan proved that deficits don’t mean anything.”


In fact, Cheney was part of the Reagan administration when Reagan’s tax cuts produced monstrous $200 billion deficits, up 75% from 1980. The effects were devastating. Unemployment jumped to 10%, the 30 year mortgage skyrocketed to 15%, the economy ground to a standstill, and the nation plunged into the deepest recession since the 1930s.
What do “permanent” tax cuts mean?

The Bush administration has reiterated its support for perpetuating the tax cuts which are currently costing the American people $400 to $500 billion per year. To make these cuts permanent is to make deficit spending an enduring function of government.

Imagine someone stealing your credit card and running up a $450,000 bill year after year and then defending the theft as necessary to “create more jobs” as the “trickle-down” theorists do?

Deficits are theft; and the determination to make these lavish tax cuts for the wealthy permanent proves beyond a doubt that it is part of a larger strategy to precipitate an economic meltdown that will change the political complexion of the country.

What else could it mean?

Dick Cheney recently opined, “Reagan proved that deficits don’t mean anything.”


In fact, Cheney was part of the Reagan administration when Reagan’s tax cuts produced monstrous $200 billion deficits, up 75% from 1980. The effects were devastating. Unemployment jumped to 10%, the 30 year mortgage skyrocketed to 15%, the economy ground to a standstill, and the nation plunged into the deepest recession since the 1930s.

Cheney fully understands the suffering that deficits produce. Now, he wants to continue that misery as a permanent function of government.


Is it really so important to reward the “fortunate 1%” that the administration would risk the economic well-being and solvency of the nation?

And, what is the relationship between the yawning chasm of debt produced by the Bush team and their strengthening of police-state institutions like unlimited spying on Americans, the NSS (Bush’s new Secret Police), the uniform Federal ID program, the Patriot Act, and Halliburton’s $385 million contract from Homeland Security to construct new detention and processing facilities within the United States?

Is the ascendancy of the police-state intended to balance the catastrophic effects of economic destruction? Or, do the new instruments of repression anticipate the “political turmoil” (Warren Buffet’s words) that naturally results from financial collapse?

The Bush master-plan is no different than the economic shock-therapy the United States has directed at the third world for decades. The strategy is simple and straightforward, but virtually foolproof in achieving its objectives; the crushing of the middle class and the subsequent shifting of the nation’s wealth to the “oligarchy of racketeers” who run the system.

The levers of power have all been faithfully assembled while America’s $3 trillion trade deficit looms overhead like the sword of Damocles. As the underpinnings of economic wellbeing continue to deteriorate; causing further job-flight, credit spending, and soaring energy prices; the power-brokers at the head-of-state calmly arrange the instruments of repression they’ll need to maintain order.

Did we really imagine the chickens would never come home to roost?

Regardless of what the public-relation gurus on the business channel say, the state of the union is wretched. Bush has racked up an astonishing $3 trillion of debt in just 5 years; intentionally torpedoing America’s future. Federal Reserve chief, Alan Greenspan cooperatively kept interest rates low so the greatest swindle in history could take place while the drowsy American public snoozed away.

Thanks, Alan.

Americans refuse to believe that bubbles (housing or stock market) are brought about by the deliberate and politically-motivated actions at the Federal Reserve.


Everyone agrees about the effects of high interest rates; why would there be so much uncertainty about low interest rates?

Just as high interest rates slow the economy by making loans on investment more expensive; so too, low interest rates naturally produce increased speculation by making cheap money available to a greater number of people. Greenspan knew as early as 1996 that the stock market was over-inflated when he warned that “there was a stock market bubble at this point” that is “a problem we should keep our eye on”. Still, he accommodated his friends in Washington and Wall Street by waiting until tens of thousands of Americans had lost their savings (and retirement) before ratcheting up interest rates and cooling down the spec-market. The final loss to investors was an estimated $7 trillion dollars, an amount that pales in comparison to the current housing bubble which “The Economist” calls “the largest bubble in history”. Again, it was Greenspan who instigated the housing bubble by dropping rates to a paltry 1.5% following the decline in the stock market. Regrettably, the results will be even more disastrous this time.

Never the less, low interest rates are an effective way of creating bubbles and thereby transferring wealth from one class to another. The other two “tried-and-true” methods are tax cuts and hyperinflation; both parts of the Greenspan legacy. (Expect a weakening dollar as the effects of the massive trade deficit set in)

To argue that the Federal Reserve does not support a political agenda that favors elite interests, is to say that it is not a privately-owned institution (which it is) which operates in conjunction with major investors; particularly the energy giants, the mainstream media, arms-manufacturers, and the political establishment. The Federal Reserve is joined at the hip with the Bush White House. In fact, the administration is merely a reflection of the values and goals of the financial powerbrokers at the central banks.

Don’t expect any complaints from Alan Greenspan about the rough-treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The cadres of elites are of “one mind” on the current global crusade for a new world order.


Now, the stars are suitably aligned and the free ride will soon be over. Gold is skyrocketing as perceptive investors see the cracks and fissures appearing in the economic foundation that binds the debtor-kingdom together. Twitchy investors are watching for news about Iran, rebel attacks in Nigeria, or a sell-off of greenbacks in China. Market analysts may feign equanimity but they are walking barefoot on the knifes-edge expecting the worse.

But, the worse is unavoidable; the country is dead broke. Last year alone Americans not only spent more than they earned for the first time since the great Depression; they also borrowed an additional $600 billion from their home equity to pay off credit card debt and consumer loans! This tells us that the all signs of growth in the economy are the result of credit spending. Home equity has become the new personal ATM card, demonstrating once again that the country is running on fumes.

This quarter’s slow growth of 1.1%, shows that the well has run dry and consumer spending (which accounts for 70% of GDP) is down for the count. Interest rates are going up, the dollar will soon be sinking, energy costs are soaring, and the unemployment line is getting longer.

Time to find a nice comfy spot beneath the freeway on-ramp…and bring your own cardboard.

The Clinton strategy would have made the transition more agreeable, but the result of globalization is roughly the same. Businesses and jobs pack up and leave driving wages through the floor, while the social safety net continues to worsen by congressional edict. The main difference with Clinton is that he strengthened the dollar by balancing the budget and showed little appetite for creating the police-state apparatus that the Bush claque relishes.

The Bush administration is set up for a quick but agonizing transition. They have painstakingly removed whatever laws stood in the way of autocratic government. The courts will brandish the rubber stamp for the supreme executive, the congress will languish as a ceremonial institution, and the compliant media will shower praise on the Dear Leader’s iron-fisted methods of keeping the peace.

Economic disintegration is the requisite catalyst for changing the fundamental institutions of American government. The globalists in the White House have played a role in numerous coups across the planet, all producing the same basic result; a military dictatorship with a strongman at the head of state. This one should be no different.

Mike lives in Washington State with his charming wife Joan and two spoiled and overfed dogs, Cocoa and Pat-Fergie.

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The Panopticon Singularity
Charles Stross 2002

The 18th century utopian philosopher Jeremy Bentham's panopticon was a prison; a circle of cells with windows facing inwards, towards a tower, wherein jailers could look out and inspect the prisoners at any time, unseen by their subjects.

Though originally proposed as a humane experiment in penal reform in 1785, Bentham's idea has eerie resonances today. One of the risks of the technologies that may give rise to a singularity is that they may also permit the construction of a Panopticon society -- a police state characterised by omniscient surveillance and mechanical law enforcement.
Moore's Law states that the price of integrated circuitry falls exponentially over time. The tools of surveillance today are based on integrated circuits: unlike the grim secret policemen of the 20th century's totalitarian regimes they're getting cheaper, so that an intelligence agency with a fixed budget can hope to expand the breadth of its surveillance rapidly. In the wake of the events of September 11th, 2001, the inevitable calls for something to be done have segued into criticism of the west's intelligence apparatus: and like all bureaucratic agencies, their response to a failure is to redouble their efforts in the same direction as before. (If at first you don't succeed, try harder.)

It is worth noting that while the effectiveness of human-based surveillance organizations is dependent on the number of people involved -- and indeed may grow more slowly than the work force, due to the overheads of coordinating and administering the organization -- systems of mechanised surveillance may well increase in efficiency as a power function of the number of deployed monitoring points. (For example: if you attempt to monitor a single email server, you can only sample the traffic from those users whose correspondence flows through it, but if you can monitor the mail servers of the largest ISPs you can monitor virtually everything without needing to monitor all the email client systems. Almost all traffic flows between two mail servers, and most traffic flows through just a few major ISPs at some point.) Moreover, it may be possible to expand an automated surveillance network indefinitely by simply adding machines, whereas it is difficult to expand a human organization beyond a certain point without having knock-on effects on the macroeconomic scale (e.g. by sucking up a significant proportion of the labour force).

Here's a shopping-list of ten technologies for the police state of the next decade, and estimates of when they'll be available. Of necessity, the emphasis is on the UK -- but it could happen where you live, too: and the prognosis for the next twenty years is much scarier.

Smart cameras

Availability: today.

The UK leads the world in closed circuit surveillance of public places, with over two [2004: four] million cameras watching sixty million people. Cameras are cheaper than cops, and act as a force multiplier, letting one officer watch dozens of locations. They can see in the dark, too. But today's cameras are limited. The panopticon state will want cheaper cameras: powered by solar panels and networked using high-bandwidth wireless technology so that they can be installed easily, small so that they're unobtrusive, and equipped with on-board image analysis software. A pilot study in the London borough of Lambeth is already using face recognition software running on computers monitoring the camera network to alert officers when known troublemakers appear on the streets. Tomorrow's smart cameras will ignore boring scenes and focus on locations where suspicious activities are occuring.

(Experience suggests that cameras don't reduce crime -- they just move it to places where there's no surveillance, or displace it into types of crime that aren't readily visible. So the logical response of the crime-fighting bureaucracy is to install more cameras ...)

Peer to peer surveillance networks

Availability: 1-5 years.

Today's camera networks are hard-wired and static. But cameras and wireless technology are already converging in the shape of smartphones. Soon, surveillance cameras will take on much of the monitoring tasks that today require Police control centres: using gait analysis and face recognition to pick up suspects, handing off surveillance between cameras as suspects move around, using other cameras as wireless routers to avoid network congestion and dead zones. The ability to tap into home webcams, private security cameras, and Neighbourhood Watch schemes will extend coverage out of public spaces and into the private realm. Many British cities already require retail establishments to install CCTV: the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (2001) gives the Police the right to demand access to electronic data -- including camera feeds. Ultimately the panopticon society needs cameras to be as common as street lights.

(Looking on the bright side: London Transport is experimenting with smart cameras that can identify potential suicides on underground train platforms by their movement patterns, which differ from those of commuters. So p2p surveillance cameras will help the trains run on time ...)

Gait analysis

Availability: now to 5 years.

Ever since the first slow-motion film footage, it's been clear that people and animals move their limbs in unique ways -- ways that depend on the relative dimensions of the underlying bone structure. Computer recognition of human faces has proven to be difficult and unreliable, and it's prone to disguise: it's much harder to change the length of your legs or the way you walk.

Researchers at Imperial College, London, and elsewhere have been working on using gait analysis as a tool for remote biometric identification of individuals, by deriving a unique gait signature from video footage of their movement.

(When gait analysis collides with ubiquitous peer-to-peer smart cameras, expect bank robbers to start wearing long skirts.)

Terahertz radar

Availability: 2-8 years.

Very short wavelength radio waves can be tuned to penetrate some solid and semi-solid surfaces (such as clothing or drywall), and return much higher resolution images than conventional radar. A lot of work is going into domesticating this frequency range, with funding by NIST focussing in particular on developing lightweight short-range radar systems. Terahertz radar can pick up concealed hard objects -- such as a gun or a knife worn under outer clothing -- at a range of several metres; when it arrives, it'll provide the panopticon society's enforcers with something close to Superman's X-ray vision.

(If they can see through walls, why bother with a search warrant?)


Availability: 3-10 years.

Cellphones emit microwave radiation at similar wavelengths to radar systems. Celldar is a passive radar system that listens to the signals reflected by cellphone emitters. When a solid object passes between a transmitter and a cellphone it reduces the signal strength at a receiver.

Celldar was originally designed as a military system that would use reflected cellphone emissions to locate aircraft passing above the protected area. However, by correlating signal strength across a wide number of cellular transceivers (both base stations and phone handsets) in real time it should be possible to build up a picture of what objects are in the vicinity. Subtract the known locations of buildings, and you've got a system that can place any inhabited area under radar surveillance -- by telephone. (As Rodney King demonstrated, we can already be tracked by cellphone. Now the panopticon society can place us under radar surveillance by phone. And as phones exchange data at ever higher bandwidth, the frequencies will shorten towards the terahertz range. Nude phone calling will take on an entirely different meaning ...)

Ubiquitous RFID 'dust'

Availability: 1-5 years.

Radio Frequency ID chips are used for tagging commercial produce. Unlike today's simple anti-shoplifting tags in books and CD's, the next generation will be cheap (costing one or two cents each), tiny (sand-grain sized), and smart enough to uniquely identify any individual manufactured product, by serial number as well as type and vendor. They can be embedded in plastic, wood, food, or fabric, and by remotely interrogating the RFID chips in your clothing or posessions the panopticon society's agencies can tell a lot about you -- like, what you're reading, what you just ate, and maybe where you've been if they get cheap enough to scatter like dust. More insidiously, because each copy of a manufactured item will be uniquely identifiable, they'll be able to tell not only what you're reading, but where you bought it. RFID chips are injectable, too, so you won't be able to misplace your identity by accident.

(And if the panopticon police don't like the books you're reading or the DVDs you're watching, maybe they can use your tag fingerprint to order up a new you?)

Trusted computing and Digital Rights Management

Availability: now-5 years.

Trusted Computing doesn't mean computers you can trust: it means computers that intellectual property corporations can trust. Microsoft's Palladium software (due in a future Windows release [2004: due in Windows Longhorn, renamed to NGSCB]) and Intel's TPCA architecture are both components of a trusted computing platform. The purpose of trusted computing is to enforce Digital Rights Management -- that is, to allow information providers to control what you do with the information, not to protect your rights.

Disney will be able to sell you DVDs that will decrypt and run on a Palladium platform, but which you won't be able to copy. Microsoft will be able to lease you software that stops working if you forget to pay the rental. Want to cut and paste a paragraph from your physics text book into that essay you're writing? DRM enforced by TCPA will prevent you (and snitch to the publisher's copyright lawyers). Essentially, TPCA will install a secret policeman into every microprocessor. PCs stop being general purpose machines and turn into Windows on the panopticon state. It's not about mere legal copyright protection; as Professor Lawrence Lessig points out, the rights that software and media companies want to reserve go far beyond their legal rights under copyright law.

If the trusted computing folks get their way, to ensure control they'll need to pass legislation to outlaw alternative media. Jaron Lanier predicts that today's microphones, speakers and camcorders could become contraband; and in case this sounds outlandish and paranoid, the US senate has seen more than one bill, (most prominent among them, the Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act) that would require DRM interlocks in all analog-to-digital conversion electronics in order to prevent illicit copying.

(Presumably he wasn't thinking of aircraft instrumentation, cardiac monitors, or machine tools at the time, but under the proposed law they would need copy-prevention interlocks as well ... )

Cognitive radio

Availability: now-10 years.

Radio waves can travel through one another without interacting. Radio 'interference' happens when radio transceivers use dumb encoding schemes that don't let multiple channels share the same wavelength: interference is a side-effect of poor design, not a fundamental limit on wireless communications.

With fast microprocessors it's possible to decode any radio-frequency signal on the fly in software, by performing Fourier analysis on the raw signal rather than by using hard-wired circuitry. Software radios can be reconfigured on the fly to use new encoding schemes or frequencies. Some such encoding schemes work to avoid interference; so-called cognitive radio transcievers take account of other transmitters in the neighbourhood and negotiate with them to allocate each system a free frequency. (The 802.11 wireless networking protocols are one early example of this in action.) SR doesn't sound like a tool of the panopticon society until you put them together with celldar and TCPA. Cellphones and computers are on a collision course. If the PC becomes a phone, and every computer comes with a built-in secret policeman _and_ can be configured in software, the panopticon's power becomes enormous: remote interrogation of RFID dust in your vicinity will let the authorities know who you're associating with, reconfiguration of phones into celldar receivers will let them see what you're doing, and plain old-fashioned bugging will let them listen in. If they can be bothered.

(Invest in tinfoil hat manufacturers; it's the future of headgear!)

Lab-on-a-chip chemical analysers

Availability: now-5 years.

Microtechnology, unlike nanotechnology, is here today. By building motors, gears, pumps, and instruments onto silicon wafers using the same lithographic techniques that are used for making microcircuitry, engineers are making it possible to build extremely small -- and cheap -- analytical laboratories. Devices under development include gas chromatography analysers, mass spectroscopes, flow cytometers, and a portable DNA analyser small enough to fit in a briefcase. The panopticon society is lavish with its technologies: what today would occupy a Police department's forensic lab, will tomorrow fit into a box the size of a palmtop computer.

(And they won't have to send that urine sample to a lab in order to work out that you were in the same room as somebody who smoked a joint two weeks ago.)

Data mining

Availability: -5 years to +10 years

Total Information Awareness. Department of Homeland Security. NSA. ECHELON. This article was emailed to Whole Earth Review's staff; by including these keywords it almost certainly caught the attention of ECHELON, the data mining operation run by the NSA and its associated intelligence agencies. ECHELON has monitored all internet, telephone, fax, telex, and radio traffic for years, hoovering up the data. But analysing electronic intelligence is like trying to drink water from a firehose; the problem is identifying relevant information, because for every Al Qaida operative discussing the next bomb plot, a million internet denizens are speculating and gossiping about the same topic. And if the infoglut seems bad now, wait until your every walk down the high street generates megabytes of tracking data. The Department of Homeland Security is just one of the most obvious agencies trying to tackle the information surplus generated by the embryonic panopticon society. The techniques they propose to use entail linking up access to a variety of public and private databases, from credit rating agencies and the INS to library lending records, ISP email and web server logs, and anything else they can get their hands on. The idea is to spot terrorists and wrongdoers pre-emptively by detecting patterns of suspicious behaviour.

The trouble is, data mining by cross-linking databases can generate false inferences. Imagine your HMO with access to your web browsing records. Your sister asks you to find her some books about living with AIDS, to pass on to a friend; you go look on, researching the topic, and all the HMO knows is that you're looking for help on living with AIDS. And how does the Department of Homeland Society know whether I'm planning a terrorist act ... or doing my research before writing a novel about a terrorist incident? To make matters worse, many databases contain corrupt information, either by accident or malice. The more combinations of possible corrupt data you scan, the more errors creep into your analysis. But to combat these problems, the Office of Information Awareness is proposing to develop new analytical techniques that track connections between people -- where they shop, how they travel, who they know -- in the hope that if they throw enough data at the problem the errors will go away.

(Guess they think they need the panopticon surveillance system, then. After all, if data mining never worked in the past, obviously you can make it work by throwing more data at it ...)

The pressure to adopt these technologies springs from our existing political discourse as we struggle to confront ill-defined threats. We live in a dangerous world: widespread use of high technology means that individuals can take actions that are disruptive out of all proportion to their numbers. Human nature being what it is, we want to be safe: the promise of a high-tech surveillance "fix" that will identify terrorists or malefactors before they hurt us is a great lure.

But acts of mass terror exist at one end of a scale that begins with the parking ticket, the taping of a CD for personal use in a Walkman, a possibly-defamatory statement about a colleague sent in private email to a friend, a mistakenly ommitted cash receipt when compiling the annual tax return ... the list is endless, and to a police authority with absolute knowledge and a robotic compulsion to Enforce The Law, we would all, ultimately, be found guilty of something.

This brings up a first major point: legislators do not pass laws in the expectation that everybody who violates them will automatically be caught and punished. Rather, they often pass new laws in order to send a message -- to their voters (that they're doing something about their concerns) and to the criminals (that if caught they will be dealt with harshly). There is a well-known presumption that criminals are acting rationally (in the economic sense) and their behaviour is influenced by the perceived reward for a successful crime, and both the risk and severity of punishment. This theory is implicitly taken into account by legislators when they draft legislation, because in our current state of affairs most crimes go undetected and unreported. A panopticon singularity would completely invalidate these assumptions.

Furthermore: many old laws are retained despite widespread unpopularity, because a vocal minority support them. An estimated 30 percent of the British population have smoked cannabis, currently an offense carrying a maximum penalty of 6 months' imprisonment (despite rumours of its decriminalization), and an absolute majority of under-50's supports decriminalization, but advocating a "soft on drugs" line was perceived as political suicide until very recently because roughly 25% of the population were strongly opposed.

Some old laws, which may not match current social norms, are retained because it is easier to ignore them than to repeal them. In Massachusetts, the crime of fornication -- any sex act with someone you're not married to -- carries a 3 month prison sentence. Many towns, states, and countries have archaic laws still on the books that dictate what people must wear, how they must behave, and things they must do -- laws which have fallen into disuse, and which are inappropriate to enforce. (There's one town in Texas where since the 19th century it has been illegal for women to wear patent leather shoes, lest a male see something unmentionable reflected in them; and in London, until 1998 all taxis were required to carry a bale of hay in case their horse needed a quick bite to eat. Diesel and petrol powered cabs included.)

These laws, and others like them, highlight the fact that with a few exceptions (mostly major felonies) our legal systems were not designed with universal enforcement in mind. But universal enforcement is exactly what we'll get if these surveillance technologies come together to produce a panopticon singularity.

A second important side-effect of panopticon surveillance is the chilling effect it exerts on otherwise lawful activities. If you believe your activities on the net are being monitored for signs of terrorist intent, would you dare do the research to write that thriller? Nobody (with any common sense) cracks a joke in the waiting line at airport security -- we're all afraid of attracting the unwelcome attention of people in uniform with no sense of humour whatsoever. Now imagine the straitjacket policing of aviation security extended into every aspect of daily life, with unblinking and remorseless surveillance of everything you do and say. Worse: imagine that the enforcers are machines, tireless and efficient and incapable of turning a blind eye.

Surveillance need not even stop at our skin; the ability to monitor our speech and track our biological signs (for example: pulse, pupillary dilation, or possibly hormone and neurotransmitter levels) may lead to attempts to monitor thoughts as well as deeds. What starts with attempts to identify paedophile predators before they strike may end with discrimination against people believed to be at risk of "addictive behaviour" -- howsoever that might be defined -- or of harbouring anti-social attitudes.

We are all criminals, if you dig far enough: we've broken the speed limit, forgotten to file official papers in time, made false statements (often because we misremembered some fact), failed to pay for services, and so on. These are minor offenses -- relatively few of us are deliberate criminals. But even if we aren't active felons we are all potential criminals, and a case can be -- and is being -- made for keeping us all under surveillance, all the time.

A Panopticon Singularity is the logical outcome if the burgeoning technologies of the singularity are funneled into automating law enforcement. Previous police states were limited by manpower, but the panopticon singularity substitutes technology, and ultimately replaces human conscience with a brilliant but merciless prosthesis.

If a panopticon singularity emerges, you'd be well advised to stay away from Massachusetts if you and your partner aren't married. Don't think about smoking a joint unless you want to see the inside of one of the labour camps where over 50% of the population sooner or later go. Don't jaywalk, chew gum in public, smoke, exceed the speed limit, stand in front of fire exit routes, or wear clothing that violates the city dress code (passed on the nod in 1892, and never repealed because everybody knew nobody would enforce it and it would take up valuable legislative time). You won't be able to watch those old DVD's of 'Friends' you copied during the naughty oughties because if you stick them in your player it'll call the copyright police on you. You'd better not spend too much time at the bar, or your insurance premiums will rocket and your boss might ask you to undergo therapy. You might be able to read a library book or play a round of a computer game, but your computer will be counting the words you read and monitoring your pulse so that it can bill you for the excitement it has delivered.

And don't think you can escape by going and living in a log cabin in the middle of nowhere. It is in the nature of every police state that the most heinous offense of all is attempting to escape from it. And after all, if you're innocent, why are you trying to hide?
Comment: Funny how the concept of the Panopticon was readily accepted in the USA: “His design never really caught on in Europe, several prototype prisons were built, but only in America were any panopticon like prisons built” [Green_Manalishi, Signs Forum Member]

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Tape suggests deputy shot airman despite his compliance
By JEREMIAH MARQUEZ Associated Press

CHINO, CALIF. - A videotape released Tuesday shows a sheriff's deputy shooting an unarmed Air Force policeman who recently returned from Iraq as he appeared to obey an order to get up off the ground.

KTLA-TV broadcast a 40-second clip it said came from a Chino resident who videotaped Sunday night's shooting, which followed a 100 mph car chase.

Senior Airman Elio Carrion, 21, was listed in good condition at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton. He was shot three times in the chest, ribs and leg, his father-in-law, Ernesto Paz, told KTLA-TV.
Carrion was a passenger in a Corvette that crashed into a wall following the brief chase, authorities said.

The grainy videotape shows Carrion on the ground next to the car, talking to a silhouetted officer who is pointing a gun at him. Carrion supports himself on one arm and his face is lit by the officer's flashlight. Carrion is heard telling the officer he is unarmed and is in the military. At one point, a voice is heard saying several times: "Get up." Carrion says: "I'm gonna get up." As he rose, at least four shots were fired and he collapsed.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department took the original tape. The deputy, whose name was not released, was placed on paid leave.

Carrion was not charged with a crime, although an investigation continues. The driver of the Corvette, identified as Luis Fernando Escobedo, 21, was arrested for investigation of evading police.

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Asteroids near Jupiter are really comets Observations indicate two orbiting bodies are mostly water ice
By Ker Than MSNBC Feb. 1, 2006

Two objects lurking near Jupiter and once considered rocky asteroids have turned out to be comets made up mostly of ice and dirt.

Using the Keck II Laser Telescope in Hawaii, astronomers found that the two objects, 617 Patroclus and its companion, Menoetius, had a density of only 0.8 grams per cubic centimeters — only a third that of rock.

Most likely, the researchers say, Patroclus and Menoetius are comets, which are typically composed mainly of water ice and therefore much less dense than asteroids.
The findings could mean that many or most of asteroidlike objects hovering around Jupiter and known as Trojans are actually comets that originated much farther from the sun and were captured by the giant gas planet when the solar system was still young.

The findings are detailed in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

Patroclus and Menoetius are the only known binary objects around Jupiter. The two bodies orbit around each other while floating 465 million miles (750 million kilometers) from Jupiter in one of gas planet’s two so-called Lagrange points. At these points, the gravitational field of Jupiter and the sun are perfectly balanced, and objects can be captured and brought to relative rest. Jupiter has two Lagrange points, one in front and the other behind as the planet orbits the sun.

Patroclus and Menoetius are estimated to be about 76 miles (122 kilometers) and 70 miles (112 kilometers) wide, respectively. The two objects are not the first to be mistaken for asteroids: in 1999, astronomers determined that C/199 J3 was also a comet.

Because most comets are thought to form in the Kuiper Belt, a distant region of the solar system outside the orbit of Neptune, the researchers think Patroclus and Menoetius formed about 650 million years after the formation of the solar system.

“It’s our suspicion that the Trojans are small Kuiper Belt Objects,” said study leader Franck Marchis, an astronomer at the University of California at Berkeley.

According to one hypothesis proposed by the researchers, Jupiter captured the comets at a time when the large gas planets were orbiting much closer to the sun.

During this early period in the solar system, the gas planets were enveloped by billions of large asteroids called planetesimals. It’s thought that interactions with planetesimals caused the large gas planets to migrate outwards to their present positions. As the planets migrated, the swarming planetesimals were tossed around like confetti.

The majority of them would have been hurled into the outer reaches of the solar system to form the Kuiper Belt, while a smaller number would have been captured in the Lagrange points of Jupiter and the other gas planets.
Comment: A couple of things worth considering:

a) acknowledgement that comets are being 'captured' by the giants in our solar system, within the (generally speaking) MSM.

b) what caught my eye was that no mention of *when* these objects were first identified. A quick search led me to this site: List of Jupiter Trojans

Speaking strictly for myself, I had *no idea* that there were so many trojans captured by Jupiter. A quick extract of this table into Excel and some pivotable use leads to the following:

1) there are 1,889 Jupiter trojans listed on the Harvard University site.

2) of these 1,889 trojans, over 72 PERCENT have been identified since 1999.

Now, that doesn't mean that these items weren't there decades ago and were just recently found with some of the new, high powered telescopes being utilized. However, I would suggest that almost 1,400 trojans found since 1999 to be orbiting Jupiter -- some of which are now acknowledged to be captured comets -- is an awfully large number. [John, Signs Forum Member]

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Water ice detected on comet's surface
By Ker Than Thursday, February 2, 2006

Scientists have long known that a major ingredient in comets is water ice, but they were unsure whether the ice was contained mainly inside or if it could be found on the surface as well.

A new analysis of data from NASA's Deep Impact mission last year provides the first evidence that water ice can indeed exist on a comet's exterior.
In a new study released Thursday in an online edition of the journal Science, researchers report that the surface of Tempel 1, the comet targeted by Deep Impact, has three small pockets of water ice.

Tempel 1 has a surface area of roughly 45 square miles, or 1.2 billion square feet. The area taken up by the water ice, however, is only 300,000 square feet. The rest of the comet surface is dust.

"It's like a seven-acre skating rink of snowy dirt," said study co-author Peter Schultz of Brown University.

On July 4, 2005, NASA slammed a heavy copper probe called "impactor" into Tempel 1's surface while it was 83 million miles from Earth.

The resulting collision created a stadium-sized crater and flung tons of debris into space. Impactor was one of two Deep Impact spacecrafts; the mothership, responsible for recording and analyzing the blast, was called "flyby".

The researchers believe Tempel 1's surface ice used to reside inside the comet and became exposed over time. It's also thought that occasional geyser-like blasts of dust and vapor, called jets, send the ice outward.

Once ejected, the ice crystals can become incorporated into the luminous coma, a cloud of material surrounding the main body of the comet, or the ice can become part of its tail.

The same team previously reported that Tempel 1's interior also contained an abundance of organic material and suggested the comet may have originated in a region of the solar system now occupied by Uranus and Neptune.

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Author brings theory about a 'lost' star
By THERESA HOGUE Gazette-Times reporter

Cruttenden argues that the precession is not caused by a wobble in the Earth's rotation, as is commonly taught, but may actually be caused by a companion star to our sun, one which currently is far away from the Earth but which would eventually rotate closer to the sun.

This binary companion would cause the sun's orbit to curve, and would explain the Precession of the Equinox by the way in which the Earth's rotation was affected by not one, but two stars.
We have certain assumptions about the world, ones that are so concrete, so obvious, that we never question them. For instance, the Earth revolves around the sun.

That was established as scientific fact centuries ago. Any kindergartner’s depiction of the world clearly indicates one bright sun hovering over the landscape.

But author Walter Cruttenden would argue that not so long ago, most people assumed that the world was flat, and that at some point we could sail right off the edge, into a land of terrible monsters. And according to Cruttenden, the idea that not one, but two suns, exist in our solar system, actually makes scientific sense.

His research is nothing if not controversial, but in his book "Lost Star of Myth and Time" Cruttenden looks at something called the Precession of the Equinox, which is the gradual backward movement of the constellations in the sky over the centuries.

Ancient astronomers were particularly aware of this phenomenon and calculated that it would take about 24,000 years for the constellations to return to their original point.

Cruttenden argues that the precession is not caused by a wobble in the Earth's rotation, as is commonly taught, but may actually be caused by a companion star to our sun, one which currently is far away from the Earth but which would eventually rotate closer to the sun.

This binary companion would cause the sun's orbit to curve, and would explain the Precession of the Equinox by the way in which the Earth's rotation was affected by not one, but two stars.

In addition to this hypothesis, Cruttenden also compares the 24,000-year cycle of precession with ancient beliefs from many cultures regarding the cyclical pattern of existence, which begins and ends with a Golden Age.

According to the author, civilization is much older than is currently believed, and that the myth of a Golden Age of advancement, both spiritually and technologically, is not a myth at all, but stories of a real time period, and one that the world will eventually achieve again. Currently, he says, we're living in a Bronze Age, and gradually heading toward a period of greater enlightenment.

Cruttenden’s book has been turned into a documentary called "The Great Year," narrated by actor James Earl Jones. The film explores ancient beliefs regarding astronomy, and looks at the idea of civilization moving in cyclical patterns, as well as discussing the mathematics behind the binary star theory. The film will be aired during Cruttenden’s presentation Monday in Corvallis.
Comment: As Laura Knight-Jadczyk writes in The Secret History of the World:

Now, did you notice what these two authors have done here? ...they have resorted to Uniformitarianism to explain the great mystery of this worldwide myth of the “unhinging” of the Pole star. They, and many, many others, have followed this path, believing that all the clues from ancient monuments and myths have to do simply with measuring time, “World Ages,” in more or less “cultural” and historical terms. ... These more recent descriptions of “ages” directly contradict the ancient ideas of the Yugas and the decline of human morality. ...

I should also point out right here that if the Precession of the Zodiac was such a great way to measure time and world ages, there wouldn’t be so many opinions about when one began and another ended. As a measure of time that is so “vastly elegant,” it ought to at least work, right? Well, it doesn’t. What is more, the zodiac has been created and altered within recorded history, having at various times ten signs, eleven, twelve and thirteen. So, what’s the point? From this perspective, there isn’t one except for an attempt to deny the possibility that the ancients meant exactly what they said even if later interpreters have assured us that the tales were meant as allegories.

But still, using this Precession as a giant clock, with some fantastic perambulations through archaic lore, a dozen or more authors have produced as many different versions of what a “world age” is, and “when” they begin and end, and how. They then try to link these ages to all sorts of weird theories from the opening of “stargates” to galactic core explosions to “monuments to the end of time.”

The answer is a lot simpler than that. I think those things that point us to the idea that the pole comes “unhinged” do, indeed, point to the Precession. But the important thing about this Precession is that it points us to the fact that the Earth WOBBLES. And I think that the thing the ancients are trying most desperately to point out to us in these stories is that the Earth wobbles for a REASON, and we ought to notice this wobble and ask some questions about the “nine grim goddesses” who “turn the handle” and where and what that “handle” might be that increases friction to the point that fire is produced!

In Snorri’s Gylfaginning, there is a prediction for the future given in the Song of the Sybyl, followed by a dialogue between King Gylfi and the Aesir , disguised as men. King Gylfi asks: “What happens when the whole world has burned up, the gods are dead, and all of mankind is gone? You have said earlier that each human being would go on living in this or that world.” The answer is that there are several worlds for the good and the bad. Then Gylfi asks: “Shall any gods be alive, and shall there be something of earth and heaven?” And the answer is:

The earth rises up from the sea again, and is green and beautiful and things grow without sowing. Vidar and Vali are alive, for neither the sea nor the flames of Surt have hurt them and they dwell on the Eddyfield, where once stood Asgard. There come also the sons of Thor, Modi, and Magni, and bring along his hammer. There come also Balder and Hoder from the other world. All sit down and converse together. They rehearse their runes and talk of events of old days. Then they find in the grass the golden tablets that the Aesir once played with. Two children of men will also be found safe from the great flames of Surt. Their names, Lif and Lifthrasir, and they feed on the morning dew and from this human pair will come a great population which will fill the earth. And strange to say, the sun, before being devoured by Fenrir, will have borne a daughter, no less beautiful and going the same ways as her mother.”

Again, the authors of Hamlet’s Mill take a prosaic view of these matters, pronouncing sagely that it is “just a metaphor.” And again, I have to disagree. I do not think that the point is to “measure time,” in the sense of “world ages” of culture, civilizations, or even “psychic” or occult influences, except in that they relate to something far more important: WHAT IS CAUSING THE WOBBLE AND WHAT CAN BE THE RESULT? And we have a clear answer in Snorri’s tale: The sun will have borne a daughter - which can only occur via a “mating” or Hieros Gamos.

In this sense, the ancients might have supposed, and quite rightly, that if we ever noticed this fact, if we were pointed in this direction, if we were plainly told that there is a handle that turns the axis, that this handle gets hot, that the axis of the planet comes unhinged, that it started out spinning upright and then gradually wobbled out of place and finally FALLS OVER INTO THE SEA, that we would be clever enough to get it. The clue they are pointing out to us is that there is something OUT THERE that is the HANDLE and we ought to be able to figure out, by applying principles of physics to celestial mechanics, exactly what it is and what it does. The repeated references to the “dying and rebirth of the Sun,” in some sort of cosmic hierogamy, and the Sun giving birth to a daughter, or having a Celestial Twin, ought to be pretty plain clues to anybody who is paying attention to these things.

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World's deadliest germs moving to Boston
AP Friday, February 3, 2006; Posted: 9:50 a.m. EST

BOSTON -- Boston University won final federal approval Thursday for a controversial plan to build a research laboratory in the city's South End that would handle some of the world's most dangerous and exotic germs.

The decision by the National Institutes of Health secures $128 million in federal funding for the lab, which will be part of a national group of facilities that will study infectious diseases such as ebola and the West Nile virus.
University officials said the lab will be safe and will provide needed research into contagious illnesses and the risk they might pose in the hands of bioterrorists.

But opponents have criticized the decision to build the lab in a densely populated urban neighborhood.

The controversy escalated in 2004, when three workers at another BU lab became sick after they were exposed to a highly infectious strain of tularemia, or rabbit fever. They recovered.

Construction is scheduled to begin this month and should be complete by 2008.

The university estimates the new lab will create more than 650 permanent jobs and contribute nearly $3 billion to the local economy over the next 20 years.

"We are proud to be part of the national network of dedicated scientists and researchers who will use this state-of-the-art facility to safely find treatments and cures for some of the most dangerous infectious diseases that threaten Boston, the nation and the world," said Dr. Mark Klempner, lead investigator for the new lab.

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Bird flu 'endemic' in Hong Kong
03/02/2006 - 10:00:07

Bird flu has become endemic in Hong Kong after its recent discovery in both local wild birds and chicken, the territory’s health secretary said today.

"Since different kinds of wild birds and chickens have this virus, we can be quite sure that this virus is endemic in our birds," York Chow said.
Chow used a Chinese term to describe bird flu as having become part of the general environment in Hong Kong.

"It's not just Hong Kong. This virus will exist in neighbouring areas, southern China as well as Hong Kong," he added.

Chow’s comments came after the government announced on Wednesday that both a local chicken brought in from China and a dead crested myna tested positive for the H5N1 bird flu virus. In the past year, Hong Kong officials also found avian flu in the oriental magpie robin and heron species.

Previously, bird flu killed six people there in 1997, prompting the government to slaughter the entire poultry population of about 1.5 million birds.

But since then, there have been no major outbreaks. Hong Kong has been largely spared from the recent outbreaks that have killed or forced the slaughter of millions of birds across Asia since late 2003.

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Twisters Add Insult to New Orleans' Injury
By JANET McCONNAUGHEY Associated Press February 2, 2005

KENNER, La. - Tornadoes tore through New Orleans neighborhoods Thursday that had been hit hard by Hurricane Katrina just five months earlier, collapsing at least one previously damaged house and battering the airport, authorities said.

Roofs were ripped off, utility poles came down and a radio tower fell near a major thoroughfare, but no serious injuries were reported.
"Don't ever ask the question, 'What else could happen?'" said Marcia Paul Leone, a mortgage banker who was surveying the new damage to her Katrina-flooded home.

She would go no farther than the front porch of her house Thursday morning. Windows were blown out, and the building appeared to be leaning.

"I've been in the mortgage business for 20 years. I know when something's unsafe," she said.

Electricity was knocked out for most of the morning at Louis Armstrong International Airport, grounding passenger flights and leaving travelers to wait in a dimly lit terminal powered by generators. The storm also ripped off part of a concourse roof, slammed one jetway into another, and flipped motorized runway luggage carts.

"There's more damage to the terminal than I saw during the hurricane," airport spokeswoman Michelle Duffourc said.

Wind tore an exhaust vent off another roof and blew it through a concourse window. A metal ladder was wrapped around a light pole, and part of a glass wall fell and crashed onto the tarmac.

Airlines using the damaged concourse were moved temporarily to other gates.

The line of severe thunderstorms moved across the area several hours before dawn. Tim Destri, of the
National Weather Service, said it appeared the damage was caused by two tornadoes, one that hit the airport and another that moved into New Orleans.

The storm collapsed at least one house in New Orleans' hurricane-ravaged lakefront, police said.

"I cannot believe this. We were hit twice. It's not bad enough we got 11 feet of water," said Maria Kay Chetta, a city grants manager. While her own home was not badly damaged, one across the street lost its roof and another had heavy damage to its front.

Police spokesman Capt. Juan Quinton, who lived in that area, said that gutters were ripped off his already flood-damaged house and that toppled trees blocked the alley behind his house.

A federal trailer was pulled off its moorings and plumbing hookups, he said.

"It's an act of God and there's nothing we can do about it, so I just don't worry about it anymore," Quinton said.

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USGS 2006 February 3 01:47:46 UTC

A minor earthquake occurred at 01:47:46 (UTC) on Friday, February 3, 2006. The magnitude 3.3 event has been located in the SEATTLE-TACOMA URBAN AREA, WASHINGTON. (This event has been reviewed by a seismologist.)

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Boats Prepare to Pull Oil Tanker Off Beach
By DAN JOLING Associated Press Fri Feb 3, 6:13 AM ET

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Tug boats geared up Friday to pull a grounded fuel tanker off a beach on the Kenai Peninsula, after a flat piece of sea ice knocked it from its moorings.

The 575-foot tanker, loaded with 4.9 million gallons of gasoline and other petroleum products, ran aground Thursday. It spilled less than 100 gallons of cargo, officials said.
An ice floe struck the Seabulk Pride and caused its mooring line to break, state officials said. The tanker drifted nearly an hour before running aground a half-mile away, they said.

Petty Officer Steve Harrison said the ship made a soft landing, running aground on silt rather than rocks.

The accident happened as the double-hulled Seabulk was being pumped with cargo in the Cook Inlet port of Nikiski, 80 miles from Anchorage.

No injuries were reported among the 34 crew members.

Agency officials had hoped to try re-floating the vessel after high tide Thursday night. Lynda Giguere, spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, said that plan was delayed when one of the tugs overheated. Officials hoped to try again Friday morning.

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Housing industry set for soft year
The Age 2 Feb 06

The housing industry is set for a weaker year with new figures showing a slump in approvals, led by Victoria and Queensland.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics today reported the building sector has slumped in December, recording a 3.5 per cent fall in approvals for dwelling units.

In the year to December, building approvals fell 8.9 per cent.

The number of private sector homes approved during the month dropped 3.3 per cent to 8,258 and other private sector dwellings approved fell 0.6 per cent, to 3,728.

Housing Industry Association chief economist Harley Dale said while the figures were down, 2006 was looking more like a "softer year than a savage year".
"The profile for building approvals confirms that 2006 will be a weaker year for residential construction," Mr Dale said.

"The orderly pull-back in building activity which began in 2005 is set to continue this year.

"Building approvals are close to bottoming, they haven't tanked along the way, and there is still around $13 billion worth of new building work in the pipeline.

"So 2006 will be a softer year, but not a savage year."

But he said with stable interest rates and tight rental markets, demand for new housing would continue to build.

"So we would expect to see the market find a base by the end of the year," he said.

Master Builders Australia chief economist Peter Jones said the December fall had almost completely offset the rise in November.

"We are seeing a continuation of a sawtooth pattern as dwelling approvals struggle to bottom out after what has been to date a mild downturn in housing," Mr Jones said.

He said the key factor in today's figures was a fall in Victorian approvals linked to strict new environmental regulations introduced last year.

Victoria's total dwelling unit approvals were down 16.4 per cent, as private sector houses fell 10.1 per cent.

Queensland also suffered with total dwelling unit approvals down 6.5 per cent and private sector houses falling two per cent.

RBC Capital Markets senior economist Michael Every said the figures had implications for the housing market and interest rates.

"Clearly the residential housing market is well off its peak now," Mr Every said.

"The RBA (Reserve Bank of Australia) remains on hold for now with domestic demand moderating.

"A further softening and/or a downturn in external demand should see lower rates later in 2006."

The Reserve Bank is due to meet on interest rates in Sydney next week.

The estimate of the value of total building approved fell 6.8 per cent, to $4.6 billion, while the value of new residential building approved fell 1.2 per cent, to $2.427 billion.

The value of alterations and additions fell 8.4 per cent to $412.9 million.

The seasonally adjusted figure for total dwelling units approved in NSW was up 6.2 per cent, while private sector houses fell two per cent over the month.

South Australia's total dwelling unit approvals fell 2.5 per cent, as private sector houses dropped 1.6 per cent.

Total dwelling unit approvals for Western Australia rose 1.4 per cent and private sector houses rose 1.7 per cent.

Tasmania's total dwelling unit approvals rose 1.6 per cent over the month, seasonally adjusted.
Comment: Read between the lines of this one. Note how they are trying to spin it as "close to bottoming" and "soft, not savage". Methinks it's still got quite a bit to fall yet. [Ryan, Signs Forum Member]

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Huge rise in repossession
By Matt Wade and Michael Pelly Fairfax Digital February 2, 2006

THE number of properties repossessed by banks was higher last year than after the recession of the early 1990s, as a growing number of overstretched investors were burned by Sydney's house-price slump.
There were a record 4873 cases lodged in the NSW Supreme Court's Possessions List in 2005 - a 59 per cent rise on 2004, and more than double the number of cases in 2003.

This compares with 3287 cases in 1991 as the economy recovered from deep recession.

The Possession List refers to cases of legal action by lenders against borrowers who default on mortgages secured by land. This includes investment properties, commercial properties and residential properties.

Young investors defaulting on home loans was one factor behind a surge in legal action against borrowers last year, a court spokesman said.

Sydney property prices peaked in the second half of 2003 but have fallen nine to 10 per cent since then. Reserve Bank figures show Sydney house prices fell 4.3 per cent in the year to September.

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Jobless rate drops to 4-1/2 year low
By Glenn Somerville Reuters February 3, 2006

WASHINGTON - U.S. employers added a smaller-than-forecast 193,000 new jobs in January but job growth in each of the five prior months was revised upwards and last month's unemployment rate fell to a 4-1/2-year low of 4.7 percent, the government reported on Friday.

The closely watched monthly report from the Labor Department reflected a relatively vigorous labor market that was likely to fan concern that a tightening labor market could produce stiffer wage demands.
Futures markets immediately began pricing in further interest-rate rises by the Federal Reserve to try to keep inflation pressures bottled up.

Bond prices fell as did stocks but the dollar's value increased.

The labor market has shown particular signs of strength in recent months but, over the course of the full year 2005, produced fewer jobs than had been thought a month ago. Job growth totaled 1.98 million during 2005, some 43,000 fewer than previously thought once the department's annual benchmark revisions of the data were applied.

Economists had forecast 240,000 new jobs would be created in January and that the unemployment rate would be unchanged at 4.9 percent.


The low unemployment rate caught the attention of financial markets and reinforced opinion that interest rates were likely to go higher. "Those who said the Fed has only one or no more increases coming are going to revise their opinions," predicted economist Stanley Nabi of Silvercrest Asset Management in New York.

The U.S. central bank has raised its trend-setting federal funds rate 14 times since mid-2004 in quarter-point increments, most recently on Tuesday when it hiked the rate to 4.5 percent. The low unemployment rate is likely to heighten its concerns about tight labor markets.

"It (the jobless rate) is probably at or slightly below the level the Fed is thinking is full employment, so it will strengthen their resolve to lean against inflation pressures," said economist Elisabeth Denison of Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein in New York. "We expect another quarter-point hike in March."

Average hourly earnings rose to $16.41 in January from $16.34 in December. In the 12 months through January, earnings have risen by 3.3 percent, the largest for any 12-month period in nearly three years, since February 2003.

"These are the kinds of things that raise eyebrows at the Fed," said economist Cary Leahey of Decision Economics in New York. "The implication that this January report has for wage inflation is bothersome to the market and the Fed."

Previously, the department said 108,000 jobs were created in December but it pushed that up to 140,000 and it said that, in November, 354,000 jobs were created rather than the 305,000 it reported a month ago.

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Maytag posts wider loss, may sell Hoover unit
Reuters February 3, 2006

ATLANTA - Appliance maker Maytag Corp., which has agreed to be acquired by larger rival Whirlpool Corp., on Friday reported a wider quarterly loss on weak demand for its Hoover vacuum cleaners.

Maytag, which has suffered eroding profitability in recent years, said it would evaluate the possible sale of the Hoover unit and its vending machine and commercial appliance lines.
"Overall, (Maytag's) competitive position right now is pretty weak," said David MacGregor, an analyst with Longbow Research.

The Newton, Iowa, company, which also makes Amana and Jenn-Air appliances, said its fourth-quarter loss widened to $75 million, or 93 cents a share, from a loss of $14 million, or 18 cents a share, a year earlier.

Excluding restructuring charges and other one-time items, the loss was 31 cents a share, much deeper than the 13 cents expected by analysts polled by Reuters Estimates.

Fourth-quarter sales rose 6.6 percent to $1.24 billion. Higher sales of refrigerators, stoves and washers offset a 1 percent decline in sales of commercial products, which include Dixie-Narco vending machines and the Jade commercial appliance line.

Maytag said Hoover sales were down significantly due to price erosion and continued consumer migration to other brands. Hoover has been a major contributor to Maytag's troubles.

The appliance maker, which is closing some plants and scaling back production at others, said it expects to "evaluate alternative strategies for our floor-care product line and commercial businesses, including their possible sale."

The company agreed last year to be acquired by Whirlpool for $21 a share in cash and stock, or nearly $1.7 billion. Maytag shareholders approved the deal by a wide margin, but the transaction must still be cleared by U.S. Justice Department.

The companies expect the deal to close as early as this quarter.

On Thursday, Whirlpool reported a 30 percent rise in fourth-quarter profit and gave a 2006 earnings forecast that was well ahead of analysts' estimates.

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Inflation pressures rise in Jan: survey
Reuters February 3, 2006

NEW YORK - U.S. inflation pressures rose in January, boosted by gauges of vendor performance, input prices, jobs and interest rates, a report showed on Friday.

The Economic Cycle Research Institute's U.S. Future Inflation Gauge, or USFIG, which is designed to anticipate cyclical swings in the rate of inflation, rose to 122.9 from 121.3 in December.
"The USFIG remains below October's five-and-a-half-year high," the report said, adding that the slight rise was partially offset by a "disinflationary move in a measure of loans." It did not further explain this measure.

October's reading was 124.7.

The index's annualized growth rate, which smoothes out monthly fluctuations, rose to 3.9 percent from an upwardly revised 1.7 percent in December.

"However, in the light of its latest uptick, it is too soon to declare that a cyclical downswing in underlying inflation pressures has already begun," said Lakshman Achuthan, managing director for ECRI.

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Stocks fall after jobs data boosts rate fears
By Emily Chasan Reuters February 3, 2006

NEW YORK - U.S. stocks fell on Friday after the government said more jobs were added late last year than previously reported and the unemployment rate fell to its lowest in 4 1/2 years, feeding concerns that the Federal Reserve would extend its interest-rate hike campaign.
Despite a weaker-than-expected January payrolls number of 193,000, December payrolls were revised upward to 140,000 jobs from 108,000 earlier. The unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent last month, its lowest level since July 2001.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 45.79 points, or 0.42 percent, at 10,806.19. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was down 7.76 points, or 0.61 percent, at 1,263.08. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 17.71 points, or 0.78 percent, at 2,263.86.

On Tuesday, the Federal Reserve lifted the benchmark rate to 4.50 percent and hinted more rate hikes might be needed. Analysts on Friday, said the latest job report makes more rate hikes an almost-certainty.

"The report showed the economy is quite strong and employment costs are rising and that's what the Fed is going to be concerned about," said Edgar Peters, chief investment officer of PanAgora Asset Management said.

"It's much more likely now I think that the Fed will raise the fed funds rate to at least 5 percent," he said.

The prospect of higher interest rates hurt shares of banks and financial companies like Dow component JPMorgan Chase & Co., which was off about 1 percent to $39.59 and Fannie Mae, which fell 2.3 percent to $56.

Tech stocks were also down, as higher borrowing costs could hurt their ability to grow quickly and an earnings miss from online retailer Inc. shares tumbled 11.4 percent to $37.88.

Shares of appliance maker Maytag Corp., which is being bought by Whirlpool Corp., reported a larger fourth-quarter loss on Friday, sending shares down 3.3 percent to $17.43.

The oil sector was also weaker, pressured by a decline in crude oil prices over the last few days. U.S. lead-month crude oil futures were at $64.80 a barrel on Friday. Shares of Marathon Oil fell 2.6 percent to $71.26 after Sanford C. Bernstein cut its rating on the stock.

In other economic news, the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index worsened in January, while another report showed December factory orders rose 1.1 percent.

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Bush Request Would Push War Total to $440B
Friday February 3, 2006 By ANDREW TAYLOR Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Bush administration said Thursday it will ask Congress for $120 billion more for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and $18 billion more for hurricane relief this year.

The White House acknowledges the upcoming requests would cause total spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001, to soar well past the $400 billion mark, while spending for hurricane relief would top $100 billion.

The president also will ask Congress to devote another $2.3 billion to prepare for a bird flu epidemic, congressional aides said.

About $70 billion of the new war money will be requested for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan this year, bringing total spending on the two campaigns to $120 billion for the current budget year. The other $50 billion in new war money will be set aside in the 2007 budget for the first few months of the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. More money will likely be needed in 2007.

The bulk of the funding will go toward military operations, officials said, but the money will also replace damaged, destroyed or worn out equipment. Another part of the request would provide aid to train Iraqi security forces and otherwise combat the insurgency in Iraq.

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that $320 billion has been spent on Iraq and Afghanistan since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, including $50 billion that Congress sent Bush in December.

Administration officials said the new figures were estimates and the totals could change slightly before they are officially presented to Congress.

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said the requests reflect the president's desire to "commit the resources that are necessary to fight and win the war on terrorism."

The requested money would cover troop salaries and benefits, repairing and replacing equipment, supporting U.S. embassies in the two countries and taking on the insurgency. It would cover the costs of continuing to train Iraqi and Afghan security forces and to protect U.S. troops.

Joel Kaplan, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, said the $50 billion request for Iraq and Afghanistan for 2007 is a placeholder. He suggested the combined costs of the two campaigns could be different.

"We're still in the process of working out the details," Kaplan said.

According to senior Pentagon officials and documents obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, next week Bush will request a $439.3 billion Defense Department budget for 2007, a nearly 5 percent increase over this year. That request does not include the $50 billion request for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Meantime, Donald Powell, the coordinator for rebuilding the Gulf Coast, confirmed that the administration would request $18 billion for that effort.

The money would push the total federal commitment for rebuilding the hurricane ravaged coast to more than $100 billion, according to administration tallies. That reflects about $68 billion in emergency appropriations, $18.5 billion in available flood insurance funds and the latest $18 billion figure.

The upcoming request is likely to create tensions between Gulf Coast lawmakers pressing to add to it and conservatives insisting that is be at least partially paid for with spending cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.

Powell said it probably would be the last such spending request for the current budget year and that next year's budget would not contain Katrina relief funds. He said a detailed request would go to Congress within 30 days.

Powell said he does not anticipate additional money for the region in the 2007 budget Bush plans to announce Monday.

Powell provided little detail about specifically what the money would be used for, saying it would include money for housing, roads and levees.

"That's a lot of money," he said, referring to the $100 billion.

Gulf Coast lawmakers, as they did in December, are likely to try to add on to the request and push for more aid for flood control and housing.

"We certainly welcome additional federal assistance,'' said Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La. "But I am highly concerned that the administration's proposal, which lacks details, will put more money into dysfunctional federal bureaucracies like FEMA and won't adequately address urgent needs such as housing, levees and flood protection."

In December, Congress dedicated $29 billion of previously appropriated funds for such purposes as levee repair and construction, emergency funds to compensate homeowners whose hurricane insurance does not cover flood losses, and child care, mental health and other social services.

At that time, Congress exceeded Bush's request by $10.4 billion, mostly by approving $11.5 billion in flexible Community Development Block Grants.

The latest request is also likely to include funding for federal facilities such as military bases and veterans hospitals damaged by the September storm. Congress failed to fully fund several comparable requests last year.

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The President is a dolt – so how can America be such a success story?
Anatole Kaletsky London Times 2 Feb 06

TWO CEREMONIAL events occurred in Washington on Tuesday evening that shone a spotlight on one of the most important but paradoxical features of a modern democratic society.

The more widely reported was President Bush’s State of the Union address, a weak and defensive speech even by his undemanding standards. At the other end of Washington, meanwhile, Alan Greenspan, the retiring chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, was bidding farewell to the institution whose skilful management of US monetary policy made him the dominant figure in the world economy for the past 18 years. What connects these two events is a paradox that has baffled many people, especially in Europe, ever since George W. Bush became President.
For the past five years, America has been led by a president who is clearly not up to the job — a man who is not just inarticulate, but lacking in judgment, intelligence, integrity, charisma or staying power. Yet America as a nation seems to be stronger, more prosperous and self-confident than ever.

As the State of the Union address made clear, President Bush has more or less given up on all the grand goals that were supposed to define his presidency: social security reform, peace in the Middle East, even the axis of evil doctrine, which was supposed to disarm North Korea and Iran. Most embarrassingly, President Bush seems to have given up on capturing Osama bin Laden or bringing to justice the perpetrators of 9/11.

But now comes the paradox. While America has been run by one of the most doltishly ineffectual governments in history, it has forged ever further ahead of Europe in terms of wealth, science, technology, artistic creativity and cultural dominance.

Why does America’s prosperity and self-confidence seem to bear so little relationship to the competence of its government? The obvious answer is that America, founded on a libertarian theory of minimal government, has always had low expectations of politicians. In America, it is not just business that thrives independently of government, perhaps even in spite of government. The same is also true of other areas of excellence which in Britain are considered quintessentially in the public domain — higher education, leading-edge science, culture and academic research. Because Americans expect so little of their government, they are rarely disappointed. They do not slump into German-style angst when their governments fail to find solutions to the nation’s problems.

This anarchic spirit was summed up by Ronald Reagan: “The ten most dangerous words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help you’.” In Europe, by contrast, the public expect government to solve all problems, and the media try to hold politicians accountable for everything. The result is a culture of dependency that extends far beyond the welfare state, to business and to the worlds of education, medicine, arts and science.

The American approach has a powerful advantage rooted in human nature: private sector activity is powered by economic incentives, while the State must operate by rules and sanctions. Since incentives, as Adam Smith observed, are much more likely to stimulate creativity and effort than sanctions, private enterprise tends to achieve ambitious objectives, while government often fails.

But while the weakness of US government may in some ways have helped to widen the gulf of achievement between America and Europe, there is another and opposite side to the story — which is where we must return to Mr Greenspan. American politicians may be incompetent and venal, even by European standards, but this is not true of the public realm as a whole. America has a host of public institutions, ranging from government bodies such as the Federal Reserve and the National Institutes of Health to charities such as the great universities, museums and hospitals, that are driven by a sense of public service that puts British and European bureaucracies to shame.

The American system recognises that a capitalist economy has areas of market failure where incentives alone will not produce socially desirable results. But American public institutions try to maximise private activity and incentives, rather than rein them in, within their realms — whether it is universities encouraging professors to start businesses, or health administrators creating incentives for drugs companies to do medical research. It is in this respect that Mr Greenspan most clearly represented the genius of the American system.

Mr Greenspan realised that his job at the Fed was not just to control inflation, the goal that other central bankers recognise. His real task, he explained last year, was “to achieve the maximum sustainable economic growth, with price stability pursued as a necessary condition to promote that goal”. Although a passionate advocate of small government, he realised that well-judged public intervention was necessary, not just to maintain stable prices but also to create the incentives for private enterprise to accelerate economic growth. He also understood that the best way to deal with the imbalances in the changing world economy was by supporting growth and allowing the greatest possible freedom for financial markets. Private investors, he believed, were more likely to find solutions to the complex challenges created by globalisation than central bankers or politicians.

But while Mr Greenspan believed that private incentives solve economic problems more successfully than government diktats, he also understood that capitalism works at its best if it operates in a sound, simple framework of ambitiously pro-growth monetary policy. His genius was to understand that public policy could be simultaneously minimalist and ambitious. In a sense, this is the genius of the American system. And this is why America does not need a genius in the White House.

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America and the World Are Victims of Greenspan's Success
Analysis By Muriel Motte Translated By Mike Goeden February 2, 2005

On February 1 after 19 years in the driver's seat of the world's largest economy, Alan Greenspan just stepped down as chairman of the Federal Reserve. During his term, he steered the U.S. economy into unprecedented prosperity. But 'every rose has its thorn.' According to this analysis by French newspaper Le Figaro, an economic crisis is approaching that is a direct result of Greenspan's impressive success.
In 1999, Alan Greenspan, who no longer needs any introduction, said during a Congressional hearing that "if we could find some means of predicting or deflating emerging bubbles, we would be much better off." A year later, the Internet bubble burst in the United States, rocking the rest of the world's markets.

The world recovered. But while Greenspan steps down Tuesday as head of the American central bank (the Fed), his detractors criticize him for allowing Americans to become dangerously accustomed to living in excess during his exceptional, 18-year-long mandate. However, the same assessment could be made outside the U.S. The property bubble in Spain, the debt bubble in the United Kingdom, the investment bubble in China, the stock market bubble in Australia, the global energy bubble: prices everywhere seem to have gotten out of control. This past summer, Andy Xie, economist for the Morgan Stanley bank, reckoned, "It's possible that the world economy is in the midst of the greatest bubble in history." And he estimated this price "swelling" to account for over 50% of gross domestic product!

Bubble analysts - it's a popular specialty nowadays - explain that it's conception dates back to the end of the last century. Two phenomena left their mark on the world in the 1990s. Firstly, the information technology revolution increased the productivity of the most developed economies; this is especially true for the United States. Then, the sudden influx onto the world economy of some 3 billion low-wage workers from Eastern Europe, China, and India, disrupted the job market's balance of power. The conjunction of these two events drove inflation down worldwide. Increased competition, spurred on by the Internet, reduced "pricing power," or the ability of company heads to independently fix prices - just as the ability of Western workers to negotiate higher salaries was also weakened.

In view of this evolution, the central banks, which hate nothing more than inflation, gave full vent to their good humor; in other words, they granted generous credit. In this way, the 1990s marked a break with the preceding decades: these liquidities did not engender inflation, which was weakened for structural reasons. They went toward further investments in foreign markets, whose prices soared. This first bubble having exploded a few years later, another rose to take its place: the property bubble, which has filled the pockets of so many Americans and Europeans. Along the way, it strengthened consumer morale and led to a spending frenzy, in both the United States and Great Britain.

Alan Greenspan can rightfully take pride in having offered his fellow Americans an unprecedented period of prosperity. During his long mandate, the United States experienced only two recessions, in 1991 and 2001. An impressive performance. But every rose has its thorn. Apparently certain that the Fed will always be there to ensure economic activity and preserve their capital, Americans no longer save. The notion of risk has practically disappeared from the markets. These past few months, even Greenspan has publicly expressed misgivings with regard to such blind optimism. No, continued stable economic growth is not a guarantee. Yes, we will eventually pay the price for taking too many risks. No, "it is simply unrealistic to depend upon the guardians of monetary policy to both identify speculative bubbles and initiate timely measures to fix price disorders," he warned last September.

For two years now, the Fed has tried to calm the situation by raising its own interest rates. But the bubble continues to swell, fed by the wealth it itself generates. In Great Britain, where the rate of personal debt has reached 157% of household income, economists have calculated that without taking into account the annual increase in private credit, economic growth would have been negative since 2002. In the United States, it would have been half as strong. There, property holdings represent around 160% of the gross domestic product, compared to 120% in the 1990s. The system which allows Americans to correlate their debt with the value of their house has effectively raised the national debt as property prices have increased, worsening the property bubble … In Australia, it's the Market which is currently overheated. Quoted shares were worth less than 40% of GDP between 1985 and 1995, but more than 120% today.

But who's concerned by these warning signs? Liquidities circulating around the globe have exploded, passing from 7.5% of world GDP ten years ago to 13% today. In other words, the world is overflowing with money it doesn't know where to invest. Suddenly, Chili and Malaysia are going into debt at a pace just slightly above the United States, and no one is saying a word. And if Standard & Poor's, a credit rating agency, is worried over the direction of European public accounts, its warnings have so far been unheeded by the markets. For them, there will always be someone willing to generously finance Greece and Italy - if not a European insurer, then China. Thanks to its profitable business with the United States, Beijing's foreign exchange reserves will rise above $1 trillion this year, five times the amount of just five years ago. Unless, that is, Asia grows tired of financing the West …

What do the bubble analysts think of all this? They say that if it explodes, it will happen when the world least expects it. They also say that certain bubbles deflate all by themselves. Carpe diem.

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Custodians Of Chaos
Saturday January 21, 2006 The Guardian

In this exclusive extract from his forthcoming memoirs, Kurt Vonnegut is horrified by the hypocrisy in contemporary US politics

"Do unto others what you would have them do unto you." A lot of people think Jesus said that, because it is so much the sort of thing Jesus liked to say. But it was actually said by Confucius, a Chinese philosopher, five hundred years before there was that greatest and most humane of human beings, named Jesus Christ.

The Chinese also gave us, via Marco Polo, pasta and the formula for gunpowder. The Chinese were so dumb they only used gunpowder for fireworks. And everybody was so dumb back then that nobody in either hemisphere even knew that there was another one.

We've sure come a long way since then. Sometimes I wish we hadn't. I hate H-bombs and the Jerry Springer Show
But back to people like Confucius and Jesus and my son the doctor, Mark, each of whom have said in their own way how we could behave more humanely and maybe make the world a less painful place. One of my favourite humans is Eugene Debs, from Terre Haute in my native state of Indiana.

Get a load of this. Eugene Debs, who died back in 1926, when I was not yet four, ran five times as the Socialist party candidate for president, winning 900,000 votes, almost 6 percent of the popular vote, in 1912, if you can imagine such a ballot. He had this to say while campaigning:

"As long as there is a lower class, I am in it.

"As long as there is a criminal element, I am of it.

"As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free."

Doesn't anything socialistic make you want to throw up? Like great public schools, or health insurance for all?

When you get out of bed each morning, with the roosters crowing, wouldn't you like to say. "As long as there is a lower class, I am in it. As long as there is a criminal element, I am of it. As long as there is a soul in prison, I am not free."

How about Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes?

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.

And so on.

Not exactly planks in a Republican platform. Not exactly George W Bush, Dick Cheney, or Donald Rumsfeld stuff.

For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that's Moses, not Jesus. I haven't heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.

"Blessed are the merciful" in a courtroom? "Blessed are the peacemakers" in the Pentagon? Give me a break!

It so happens that idealism enough for anyone is not made of perfumed pink clouds. It is the law! It is the US Constitution.

But I myself feel that our country, for whose Constitution I fought in a just war, might as well have been invaded by Martians and body snatchers. Sometimes I wish it had been. What has happened instead is that it was taken over by means of the sleaziest, low-comedy, Keystone Cops-style coup d'état imaginable.

I was once asked if I had any ideas for a really scary reality TV show. I have one reality show that would really make your hair stand on end: "C-Students from Yale".

George W Bush has gathered around him upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography, plus not-so-closeted white supremacists, aka Christians, and plus, most frighteningly, psychopathic personalities, or PPs, the medical term for smart, personable people who have no consciences.

To say somebody is a PP is to make a perfectly respectable diagnosis, like saying he or she has appendicitis or athlete's foot. The classic medical text on PPs is The Mask of Sanity by Dr Hervey Cleckley, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the Medical College of Georgia, published in 1941. Read it!

Some people are born deaf, some are born blind or whatever, and this book is about congenitally defective human beings of a sort that is making this whole country and many other parts of the planet go completely haywire nowadays. These were people born without consciences, and suddenly they are taking charge of everything.

PPs are presentable, they know full well the suffering their actions may cause others, but they do not care. They cannot care because they are nuts. They have a screw loose!

And what syndrome better describes so many executives at Enron and WorldCom and on and on, who have enriched themselves while ruining their employees and investors and country and who still feel as pure as the driven snow, no matter what anybody may say to or about them? And they are waging a war that is making billionaires out of millionaires, and trillionaires out of billionaires, and they own television, and they bankroll George Bush, and not because he's against gay marriage.

So many of these heartless PPs now hold big jobs in our federal government, as though they were leaders instead of sick. They have taken charge. They have taken charge of communications and the schools, so we might as well be Poland under occupation.

They might have felt that taking our country into an endless war was simply something decisive to do. What has allowed so many PPs to rise so high in corporations, and now in government, is that they are so decisive. They are going to do something every fuckin' day and they are not afraid. Unlike normal people, they are never filled with doubts, for the simple reason that they don't give a fuck what happens next. Simply can't. Do this! Do that! Mobilise the reserves! Privatise the public schools! Attack Iraq! Cut health care! Tap everybody's telephone! Cut taxes on the rich! Build a trillion-dollar missile shield! Fuck habeas corpus and the Sierra Club and In These Times, and kiss my ass!

There is a tragic flaw in our precious Constitution, and I don't know what can be done to fix it. This is it: only nut cases want to be president. This was true even in high school. Only clearly disturbed people ran for class president.

The title of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 is a parody of the title of Ray Bradbury's great science-fiction novel Fahrenheit 451. Four hundred and fifty-one degrees Fahrenheit is the combustion point, incidentally, of paper, of which books are composed. The hero of Bradbury's novel is a municipal worker whose job is burning books.

While on the subject of burning books, I want to congratulate librarians, not famous for their physical strength, who, all over this country, have staunchly resisted anti-democratic bullies who have tried to remove certain books from their shelves, and destroyed records rather than have to reveal to thought police the names of persons who have checked out those titles.

So the America I loved still exists, if not in the White House, the Supreme Court, the Senate, the House of Representatives, or the media. The America I loved still exists at the front desks of our public libraries.

And still on the subject of books: our daily news sources, newspapers and TV, are now so craven, so unvigilant on behalf of the American people, so uninformative, that only in books do we learn what's really going on.

I will cite an example: House of Bush, House of Saud by Craig Unger, published in early 2004, that humiliating, shameful, blood-soaked year.

In case you haven't noticed, as the result of a shamelessly rigged election in Florida, in which thousands of African-Americans were arbitrarily disenfranchised, we now present ourselves to the rest of the world as proud, grinning, jut-jawed, pitiless war-lovers with appallingly powerful weaponry - who stand unopposed.

In case you haven't noticed, we are now as feared and hated all over the world as Nazis once were.

And with good reason.

In case you haven't noticed, our unelected leaders have dehumanised millions and millions of human beings simply because of their religion and race. We wound 'em and kill 'em and torture 'em and imprison 'em all we want.

Piece of cake.

In case you haven't noticed, we also dehumanised our own soldiers, not because of their religion or race, but because of their low social class.

Send 'em anywhere. Make 'em do anything.

Piece of cake.

The O'Reilly Factor.

So I am a man without a country, except for the librarians and a Chicago paper called In These Times.

Before we attacked Iraq, the majestic New York Times guaranteed there were weapons of mass destruction there.

Albert Einstein and Mark Twain gave up on the human race at the end of their lives, even though Twain hadn't even seen the first world war. War is now a form of TV entertainment, and what made the first world war so particularly entertaining were two American inventions, barbed wire and the machine gun.

Shrapnel was invented by an Englishman of the same name. Don't you wish you could have something named after you?

Like my distinct betters Einstein and Twain, I now give up on people, too. I am a veteran of the second world war and I have to say this is not the first time I have surrendered to a pitiless war machine.

My last words? "Life is no way to treat an animal, not even a mouse."

Napalm came from Harvard. Veritas

Our president is a Christian? So was Adolf Hitler.
What can be said to our young people, now that psychopathic personalities, which is to say persons without consciences, without senses of pity or shame, have taken all the money in the treasuries of our government and corporations, and made it all their own?

© 2005 Kurt Vonnegut Extracted from A Man Without a Country: A Memoir of Life in George W Bush's America, to be published by Bloomsbury on February 6, price £14.99
Comment: Vonnegut is on the money here. He is one of the few public figures that has nailed the reality of the Pathocracy under which Americans, and many others around the world, live, and he has done it simply by observing the situation and calling it as he sees it. Vonnegut references Hervey Cleckley's Mask fo Sanity. You can download the book from our website here, permission has been obtained from the estate of Hervey Cleckley to do this.

Our latest exposé on the world of the psychopath - Political Ponerology by Andrew Lobaczewski - takes the study of the psychopath to all new levels and provides evidence to suggest that the international political arena has been dominated by such types for many decades. See here for more on "Political Ponerology"m it is ESSENTIAL reading.

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The Pestilent Presidency
by Manuel Valenzuela 2 Feb 2006

A Nation Conditioned

The continued dismantling of America’s very essence, the decimation of its founding core and its evolving surface, has been a product of both purposeful malevolence as well as incompetent ignorance. While the lives of hundreds of millions of Americans continue to deteriorate, each day losing more knowledge, freedom, democracy and economic survivability – though with many remaining ignorant or blinded to their actual plight – the other America, that of the elite and the corporate world, has risen in exponential fashion to take the complete reigns of power away from the rest of us. As a result, the America of times past, where the People still ruled, has given way to the America of tomorrow, a corporatist ruled land where citizens are pawns and corporations kings.
In the five years since George W. Bush was anointed to the presidency a pestilence of decrepit efficiency has overtaken the nation, accelerating and magnifying what was already an empire in rapid decline. Since early 2001, very little has gone right in the America of working and middle class citizens, both of progressive and conservative beliefs, young and old, hundreds of millions strong, divided by differing opinion yet bonded by economic and social interests. At the same time, however, the reign of George Bush the Lesser has become a bonanza to the corporate and elite world as the nation is plundered of treasure and altered from deep within the halls of Washington, its wealth and resources reallocated to and misappropriated by the Establishment, thereby transforming a government once of, by and for the People into one strictly and efficiently receptive only to the interests of corporations.

The America born in 2001, first with the ascension of Bush and later with the psychological war on Americans begun on 9/11, has degenerated according to plan, methodically and perniciously engineered by entities intent on corporatist control, molded into an immovable ship on a collision course with a giant iceberg. In order for America to sink its people had to be molded to one day accept the fate awaiting us. Our brains had to be programmed and altered, our minds controlled and conditioned, our beliefs brainwashed and engineered. For years this has been achieved by the systematic evisceration of education, gutting knowledge and reason and learning in schools, transforming young sponge-like brains into rotting grey matter devoid of free thought.

Millions upon millions of citizens never stood a chance as the decrepit state of American education gutted all semblance of knowledge, our innate ability to learn manipulated instead to follow, obey and never question, with schools slowly but surely creating a nation of soldier ants and worker bees, teaching us historical propaganda and patriotic drivel, programming us to place unyielding devotion to flag and country, instructing us about the vast consortium of lies and fictions that comprise American history. We were brainwashed into always placing blind faith and trust in government and leaders, told to never question or dissent or protest the actions rising out of Washington.

Over years of anemic education, lacking the tools that makes the human mind free, devoid of reason, logic and analytical thought, with parental roles having become extinct, indoctrinated, taught and reared by the warm glow of television and the corporate world that controls it, our brain waves reprogrammed to the fictions and fantasy radiating from our monitors, with the brainwashing and controlling manipulations of our church, and with our minds becoming the receptive antennas to the voices and opinion of paid talking heads and media hacks tens of millions of us became, naturally, the very essence of the automatons our upbringing had systemically sculpted.

With schools under funded, subsisting in financial abandonment and teeming with reckless indifference, the state and the corporate world were free to educate us and our children through the monitor at home and propaganda laced schoolbooks, teaching only what was necessary to mold and create an army of unthinking drones through the purposeful evisceration of enlightened classes and curriculum. Over decades of discarded education, parenting and rearing, millions of children became the conduits and tools to power, enabling, through their large numbers, the continued decimation of the nation and giving rise, after years of patient lurking, to the debasement, corruption and corporatism that was resurrected with the appointment to power of the ultimate instrument of corporatist control, George W. Bush.

We became, over a series of subsequent decades, what we had allowed ourselves to become, following the blueprints of corporatist control, from birth mesmerized by the familiar warmth of television, absorbing the sounds and images carefully concocted by the corporate world which, as always, worked its magic, molding, caressing and reprogramming brainwaves along with the eventual destinies of millions of people. Over the years we allowed ourselves to be programmed and conditioned, engineered to become a society more and more willing to serve the interests of the powerful, in the process unknowingly sacrificing our own interests and becoming, by early 2001, a readied army standing silent, prepared, at the sound of corporatist trumpets, to march lockstep towards blind compliance, corporatist control and an ominous future.

Those trumpets calling Americans to arms would sound the last throes of the America of yesterday with the horrific implosion and subsequent destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Like a giant hypnotizing pendulum, 9/11 became the psychological instrument that brought life to an army molded over years of careful manipulation and conditioning. Falling towers and psychological operations thus acted in unison to enthrall millions who instinctively and blindly followed the emotions and behaviors that naturally arise from years of programmed conditioning.

Suddenly sprung to life after years waiting in the wings, millions of engineered Americans began doing what they had been taught to do for decades, becoming the rabidly patriotic and xenophobic citizenry unable to see forward because of myopic views and cloud covered thoughts, becoming the bed-wetting and fright-smeared beings gravitating to the only entity they had been taught was capable of protecting them from the evil bogeymen: the president.

Thus came to pass that George W. Bush, weak in character and in mind, failure in life and born to privilege, unlearned, unwise and incurious, corrupt and incompetent beyond repair, was thrust upon a paradigm shift of time, where differing dimensions crashed into each other, creating parallel universes and alternate realities, transforming America into a nation whose past would never again be allowed to thrive. In the engineered Americans he would find absolute power, along with the ingredients necessary to manipulate the fear and terror that have invariably become the oxygen-rich air feeding his oil thirsty veins. Thus, into the dawn of corporatist America George W. Bush stepped in, assuring the world that nothing would ever be the same again.

Bush’s Past, America’s Present

Upon the trail of tears following in the footsteps of democracy lost, a curse was birthed from Atlantic to Pacific, its dark fog covering the light of enlightenment and reality, replaced instead with the blackness of ignorance and blind faith. Into our lives has risen a most contemptuous figure, a man whose immorality knows no bounds, whose ability to lie in perpetuity is as great as his inability to competently lead a nation.

A man who was destined to become but a small herpes pimple appearing but once on history’s ass was granted a gift that has only kept on giving, becoming, since 9/11, the sustenance springing forth an oasis of political power to Republicans and to George W. Bush in particular. Without the horrific events that transpired on that fateful day, Bush would have been a certain one-term president, remembered more for his stolen election and both his subversion and contempt for democracy than for anything he could have ever done in the Oval Office.

Even before 9/11 his incompetence and lack of intelligence were readily apparent; yet his corruption was growing and evolving; his hunger to appease the corporatist world was evident. Hugely unpopular in his first few months in office, his administration was sinking even before sailing, for tens of millions of informed Americans had quickly realized the criminality of a man willing to selfishly place his stolen election over the interests and will of the People.

Yet his appointment to office was never designed to benefit the People, for inside political theater of compassionate conservatism chicanery festered and deception thrived. His was to be a presidency of, by and for the corporate world, an ascension to absolute power by the elite in control of corporations. He was to become the puppet of corporatism, doing the bidding for the powerful, his last name used as a marketing ploy to manipulate the minds of millions of voters. With a dynastic last name, an ignorant mind and an ever-weakening character, he became the perfect tool for the corporate world to clandestinely insert their powerful tentacles inside the highest office in the land.

Born to wealth and aristocracy, with a silver spoon in his mouth and a dark-skinned maid to acquiesce to his every demand, Bush never learned what life was like to the vast majority of Americans. Protected from the reality of the “real world,” the world of you and me, he never learned the lessons or the harshness of life difficult and unexpected, never suffering hunger, thirst, cold or the uncertainty of living paycheck to paycheck. He never experienced difficulty paying bills or sacrificing happiness for health.

Sequestered in the life of royalty, hidden from reality by his attending elitist prep schools, he was unable to empathize with anything other than the society he was born into. Needing the affirmative action of influence and legacy in order to attend Ivy League universities, he became a complacent and spoiled fraternity boy, growing from male cheerleader to partier extraordinaire, as always looking down upon the rest of America’s social classes with contempt, feeling himself superior by birth, failing to understand our ways of living life and our struggles, our needs and wants, forever devoid of a humanity and an understanding of life at the opposite end of the tracks.

Preferring to dwell in the spirits of the bottle instead of the philosophies of books, yet possessing all the resources needed by which to pursue a truly enlightened age of reason and age of discovery, he instead subsisted trailing behind his much more intelligent father’s footsteps, living off the laurels of his parents, in time branching off on his own, though as always using the vast resources of the family, not to mention the powerful influence of his last name that instantly opens doors and transcends the inertia of business, that would be the envy of any seemingly competent entrepreneur trying to succeed in life.

Yet even with the incredible opportunities granted him throughout his life, Bush could never succeed on his own. Time after time he needed the salvation and money of his father to bail him out of the trouble that usually followed him around. With the powerful influence of Bush the Wiser, Bush the Lesser, in spite of all his shortcomings, inevitably always found partners and business opportunities. It can safely be assumed that these individuals took in the son as a favor or to gain favor with the father, always knowing how incompetent the son was yet wanting to secure friendship with a man whose influence in Washington only grew.

In time, exploiting his last name, his family’s wealth, his father’s influence and the corruption and lack of integrity by which he has become well known today, he amassed a small fortune. Meanwhile, sinister demons lurked about, and over time, a fondness for alcohol developed, haunting him for years until he became a born again Christian, a natural result befalling truly lost souls possessing weak and vulnerable minds. It was in Scripture that he found meaning, it was in the Church structure that he found comfort, needing, like all lost souls, to find meaning to life both through control of his impulses and by placing blind faith in an unseen and unknown god.

His born again belief in the Almighty was in part a consequence of his psychologically fragile mind that had resulted after years of being unable to duplicate the success of his father, knowing that he would never surpass a legacy set in wisdom and intelligence, in better genes and talent. The deep psychological manifestation between an overachieving father and an underachieving son, so full of insecurities, an inferiority complex and internal conflict, resulted for Bush in a contempt for life only drowned either by filling the mind with alcoholic spirits and the high of drugs, or from kneeling down in subservient obedience to a metaphysical god demanding complete control and power over the individual.

One can suspect that it is this deep psychological vacuum – of a desire to be greater than his always competent father – that has driven Bush the Lesser during his presidency, trying desperately in every way possible to become a better president than his father. This quest, however, has been fruitless, resulting in even greater incompetence and in a further fogging of logic, reason, decision making and analytical thought, becoming a growing threat to the Republic, as can be clearly seen over the last five years, for Bush the Lesser is fighting a lost cause, demons that cannot be exorcised, his mental faculty never being able to reach or surpass that of Bush the Wiser.

It was this utterly weak-minded individual, bereft of inner strength and strong will, haunted by the deep insecurities of never being able to surpass the talents and abilities of his father, that would go on to become governor of Texas and later, President of the United States, once again using and exploiting his last name, not to mention the reputation of George Bush the Wiser, to carry him into power. For Bush the Lesser knew that his assets were not his mind or his talent, but something much more superficial, the legacy and reputation established by his father, the human infrastructure loyal to his father, the family wealth and the ever important Bush family name.

Even though he could not carry the weight of his father on his shoulders, Bush nonetheless exploited every mechanism established and left over by his father, knowing that if he could not surpass him, he could at least use his legacy to reach otherwise unattainable heights. Using all these weapons at his disposal, even a complete incompetent and buffoon such as Bush could achieve success. It was this infrastructure of assets established by his father that would eventually condemn America to a Pestilent Presidency and the world to an increased sense of threat and insecurity.

Bush’s Base

Nobody has benefited more from the tragedy of 9/11 than George W. Bush. He has exploited its emotions, its deep scars and its echoing voices from the grave. Without it he would be nothing, an insignificant one term has-been troubled by the psychological fragility his limitations engender. Yet because of his incompetence, and some would say willful negligence, America’s new Pearl Harbor was allowed to occur, as ever under his watch, as ever under his disastrous leadership, or lack thereof, that has followed him since birth. Because of 9/11 tens of millions have become addicted to his existence, to his smirk and his strut, mesmerized at the charade created by marketing geniuses, of a Napoleon-like being leading the herd through the forest of ghosts and goblins, with sword in hand slaying evildoer Arabs trying to destroy the sacred lands of America.

He is perceived by his base, tens of millions of individuals sharing many characteristics, composed of Christian fundamentalists, the conservative, the unenlightened, the selfish, the apathetic, the easily led, the weak-minded, the unthinking, the ignorant, those blinded by flag and cross, those more likely to hate based on race, gender and sexual preference, the xenophobic, the extreme patriotic, the war mongers, the greed addicts, the super wealthy, the corporatists, the neocons and the elite, as the father figure destiny has chosen to protect and defend them and their rights in these most “hideous times of trouble.” It is these individuals who blindly swear allegiance to a man of embarrassing ineptitude for various reasons, voting for him in droves, not wanting to listen to reason or logic even as their nation crumbles from underneath their legs and as their cherished freedoms and liberties vanish right in front of their eyes.

Even as he appeals to this collection of self-destruction and self-exploitation his interests lie in protecting, defending and expanding the powers of those like himself, namely, the elite and corporatists among his base. While courting the rest of his followers, he promises heaven and delivers hell, forever weaving and dealing and conniving in a clear pattern of deception. In Orwellian fashion, Bush uses terms for policies that signify the exact opposite of what he intends to do. He makes the unthinking in his base come to the conclusion that he has their best interests at heart.

Yet the blind and the deaf and those that cannot think for themselves fail to understand that they are but pawns in the game of power, used only for their vote, contribution and political power, never to see the benefits of what the Dear Leader preaches. In time he grants them the morsels and crumbs and bones of what is left over, enough to appease their illogical minds. These bits and pieces keep the base at ease, happy enough to chew on their given bones, content that a small sliver of what they asked for has been given them.

For years they are kept servile to the interests of Bush’s real base, yet they think themselves the true recipients of power. Deluded and easily manipulated, they feverishly support the myriad of policies that will, in the end, be of great detriment to their lives, wallets and future of their children. Blinded by the incapacity to understand or to read policy, knowledgeable only in the ten second sound bites shouted out, thirty second advertisements saturated with lies and the slogans written in cardboard propaganda, and possessing the attention span of a gnat, the majority of those that support Bush will invariably shoot themselves, and their children, in the foot, their lives made worse thanks to the ardent following of a man that undoubtedly sneers behind their backs, pillages their wages, robs them of jobs, increases their many expenses and sends them or their children to war. Even as they blindly follow, even as they sign loyalty pledges, Bush is working to eviscerate their country and their lives.

In reality he cares not an ounce for their plight or their lives, seeing in them only the exploited energy to be used by his corporate allies. The average American is alien to people like George W. Bush, enigmas that never encompassed the elitist lifestyle of families like the Bushes. George W. Bush only saw the masses through a looking glass, in small timeframes where by happenstance two differing social classes would meet. We were the hired help, the fish beyond the six inch compressed glass, the beings represented by television, far removed from the mansions and estates of northeastern aristocracy. To Bush the common man might be seen and touched for periods of time, but we are never understood and never seen as equals. We are the peasants to the ruling class, our lives made better if only someone like Bush would look our way.

The façade of Bush as a Texan cowboy, wearing his hat and his boots, strutting around with his cowboy demeanor, is but a clever public relations campaign designed to give Bush the appearance of normalcy. His Crawford ranch is but a hollow illusion created to make out of this pampered east coast elite a common folk that appeals to the masses. Yet most of his years were spent in Connecticut, living the life of luxury, attending institutions of prestige and landed gentry. It is this group of people that Bush represents, for they have been present throughout his bubble existence. He is them just as much as they are him. The rest of Bush’s followers lie far, far behind, walking where footprints disappear to an approaching wave, to be used and abused, like they have throughout American history, by the upper echelons of America’s hierarchy.

It is the corporate world, and the corporatists that control it, that are Bush’s true constituents. To this group he has been a raving success, one of the greatest presidents to ever take office. Through him they have hijacked the White House and the entire nation, transforming government into a prostitute for the corporate world. He has appointed a multitude of corporate executives, hacks, lackeys and talking heads to the middle and highest levels of governance, creating, inside Washington, a nest of corporatists gorging on a once-proud government of the People from the inside, mutating it into a breadbasket containing the tasty and succulent pastries making obese the bank accounts of both corporations and the elite. The halls of governance are littered with cronies and criminals, inept and talentless individuals whose only abilities are incompetence, donating money and smearing their noses with the fecal matter of power.

Since his anointment, Washington has become a bordello of cheap prostitutes, a red light district where government officials eagerly wait in street corners, ready to exchange money flows, anticipating unbuckling belts, bending over, spreading cheeks and selling their souls to corporate demons. The Beltway has become a city of corruption and debauchery, of greed and love of the Almighty Dollar, a perfect place for corporate interests to prevail. Laws, rules, regulations and appropriations have been written and rewritten, altered or created, amended or clandestinely introduced, the vast majority of which favor in some way, shape or form the corporate world. Science, education, reality and truth are being suppressed in order to grant favor to corporations whose profits rely on truth not being made public.

The nation’s treasure has been pillaged in one of the world’s greatest heists, a highway robbery that has left the nation and its economy close to imminent collapse. Untold billions of dollars have disappeared, given to cronies or to corporatist buddies, their companies made vastly wealthy thanks to the misappropriation of a treasure earned by the blood, sweat and tears of hard working Americans. Meanwhile, Bush has orchestrated, along with the Republican Party, one of the largest tax cuts to the wealthy in our history, at the expense of the middle class, making the rich richer and the poor poorer, leaving the nation without adequate funding and severely compromising the future economic prospects of the nation.

George W. Bush has declared that he is a ‘war president’ and indeed he has become one. The only problem is that he has declared a war against the American people, along with his ill-conceived war in Iraq, in the process inflicting severe damage to both working and middle class citizens, in a preemptive strike against the very foundations of America. This war has been planned for years, becoming a platform for Republican success. By robbing the nation of its treasure, by indebting America so severely, there will come a time when we will be forced, in order to maintain economic stability, to eviscerate the many social programs that are the hallmark of American principles of justice and equality.

With a war that will cost a trillion dollars, with tax cuts for the wealthy and for the corporate world, with almost $500 billion going to the military-industrial complex yearly, the corporatists in power will declare that in order to maintain a reasonable budget, social programs such as education, healthcare, welfare assistance, work assistance and any policy to help the poor will have to be gutted. We are seeing this already. For years social services have been hated by a Republican Party that has no empathy or understanding for the plight of the less fortunate. A party ideology that believes in social Darwinism and in the power of unfettered capitalism has wanted to do away with social safety nets for decades, as usual ignorant or unconcerned to the ramifications to their actions. Bush, ever the Jesus lover and conduit of the Almighty that he is, is helping to destroy these very foundations.

Almost every law and regulation enacted benefits corporations at the expense of average Americans. Today, corporations are free to run unobstructed as they race to make as much profit as possible, caring nothing for the people they harm in the process. Corporate profits today, along with CEO salaries, have become a ridiculous display of arrogance, with some companies earning profits of $10 billion per quarter. Thanks to Bush, war has been declared against average Americans, as corporations do as they wish, lowering wages, raising prices, cutting thousands of jobs, outsourcing their employees to bottom dwelling nations, using cost cutting mechanisms to further exploit workers or compromise customers. Pensions are being cut, healthcare is ever-more expensive, prescription pills are not affordable, gasoline is as expensive as ever and all around, laws are being enacted to further the interests of the corporate world at the expense of hundreds of millions of Americans.

Is it any wonder why companies in the oil/energy, pharmaceutical and defense industries have had some of the highest profits ever recorded? When your representative lives inside the White House, when his job is to empower and enlarge corporate control over America, all the while destroying the middle class and its freedoms and liberties, making hundreds of millions of citizens slaves subservient to the corporate world, you can declare mission accomplished. This, to all who can see clearly, is the reason for Bush’s ascension to the highest office in the land. The most powerful man in the world has as his objective the rise to total control of the corporate world, altering the balance of power away from We the People and towards the direction of corporatist control. This is Bush’s true base and to them, he has been a rousing success, a truly great President.

Rise of the Dictator

Since Bush took the reigns of power, corruption has become endemic in Washington. With the love of the Almighty Dollar running rampant throughout the corridors of governance, with politics becoming more important than policy, with public relations given more precedence than truth and with charlatans, criminals and callous destroyers of human life prevalent and in control, the ingredients exist to make of Washington a putrid cocktail of immorality representing everything that is wrong with America and the rise of unfettered capitalism.

The secrecy of government has never been as noticeable as it is today. With an arrogant contempt for the People’s right to know that has seldom been seen in our history, the Bush administration has sequestered, hidden, whitewashed, trashed, covered up and made to disappear what it does not want known. Whistleblowers are ruined, investigations are squashed, investigators are promoted away from their investigations, reports are quieted, science is trashed and true patriots are prevented from speaking truth. Transparency and accountability have become things of the past, as the activities of the executive have vanished from the public record. They do whatever they want, trash the Constitution when they so feel, creating rules and laws beneficial to their interests, hiding their criminality behind layers of newly concocted opinions and Constitutional interpretations by their hired cronies and lackeys.

Since 9/11 Bush has eroded many civil liberties, freedoms and rights, enveloping the nation into the grip of corporatism, more commonly called fascism. Wherever Bush travels, to give a speech or a fundraiser, is turned into a police state, with so-called “free speech zones,” with mandatory “loyalty oaths” to those attending Bush’s propaganda-laced speech and with a small army of police and secret service bullying and frightening. As opposition to the Iraq war has grown, suppressions of dissent and protest has increased, with police forces becoming the brownshirts and blackshirts of the Administration, intimidating and threatening peaceful protesters. Free speech is a dying right, and inside Bush’s gatherings, where he sits comfortably in his infallible bubble, only those who agree with his policies or support him are allowed inside.

With the arrival of Bush into office thanks to his illegal anointment, the erosion of democracy since 2000 has only accelerated, with questionable election results in 2002 and once again with the presidential election of 2004, where millions of votes, it is now known, were manipulated in favor of Bush. With two stolen presidential elections, easily provable and apparent to anyone with half a brain, American democracy has ceased to exist, becoming an archaic antique in the minds of those still able to remember the last clean election. The use of electronic voting, using Republican controlled machines such as Diebold, has cast an enormous cloud over the continued vitality of American democracy. For now, with electronic voting machines becoming the rule rather than the exception, their numbers growing throughout the nation, what we once knew as democracy has died, buried six feet under the crumbling foundations of what was once America. The question, then, becomes: Why does Bush hate us for our democracy? Why does he fear the principle of one person, one vote?

He has done more damage to America in this so-called war on terror than Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, destroying our freedoms and rights, severely compromising habeas corpus and due process, allowing for arrests without probable cause, surveillance of peaceful anti-war groups and unlawful wiretapping of American citizens. He has granted the right to spy on us as well as the right to enter our homes without warrants or permission or knowledge. Our computers can be hacked, our libraries can be asked to provide private information and private companies, it is now known, are cooperating with the government, providing private information regarding the accounts of Americans. Yet he has failed to adequately protect our ports and borders, our nuclear and chemical plants. The question should now be asked: Why does Bush hate us for our rights and freedoms? Does he want to destroy our way of life?

More importantly, Bush has introduced a reign of terror and fear upon the American people. Like a darkness that does not dissipate he has imported perpetual fear, perpetual war and perpetual terror to our shores. He has become the ultimate terrorist, greater than any Arab bogeyman, greater than any ghoul or goblin lurking in our closets, much more dangerous than any Muslim. Injecting fear into our consciousness, making millions feel insecure and unprotected, making them dependent on him and on government for psychological comfort enables Bush to expand his powers and his dominion over the citizens of the nation. It is the only way he can govern, and the only way he can maintain power. Both he and 9/11 were born on the same day, creatures of symbiotic affection, one unable to survive without the other. September 11, 2001, with its memories, engendered emotions and massive exploitation, is his twin sister.

Thus he, his handlers and his marketers terrorize the American public, manipulating fears and emotions and psychological fragility, eroding our inner strength and confidence, making us willingly sacrifice our remaining freedoms and rights. Through our fear his power grows, through our trust in him our nation is destroyed more each day. Little do they care about our health, our stress and our worries, preferring to continue haunting minds rather than alleviating them. To them, 9/11 remains manna from heaven, the essence of their power, the darkness enveloping and hiding every one of their lies, deceptions and manipulations.

Fear and terror must be maintained in the national spotlight, creating a nation of bed-wetters, underwear-soilers and cry babies asking Father Bush for protection. The Dear Leader belief must be kept alive. It is this fear that sustains and feeds George W. Bush, becoming his opiate, his new drug of choice. Without it he would be finished, his popularity eviscerated, his lies exposed, his ego trampled, his purple robe burned. With it he rules like an emperor, a dictator whose arrogance to ignore checks and balances becomes ever more dangerous the longer absolute power corrupts. The fear of tens of millions of Americans allows him to lie and deceive and manipulate and whitewash and escape all accountability, granting him powers never granted an executive, making him, to millions of rabid and blind supporters, a living god.

It is the terror he exposes and markets that makes submissive to his grip millions of Americans, robbing them of free thought or reason. It is the terror that he manufacturers and exaggerates that suppresses our freedoms and rights. It is the power we cede him that grants him the ability and desire to torture, kidnap, imprison and bomb, killing over 150,000 thousand innocent Iraqis and over 2,200 American soldiers. Our fears and insecurities have allowed him to build a network of gulags around the world, beginning with the concentration camp in Guantanamo. How many people have disappeared in these prisons, never to see daylight again? How many people in Iraq have been tortured, raped and sodomized, with Bush’s silent consent?

It is the terror he unleashes on the Arab world that is making our lives more dangerous, increasing our insecurity and the risk of further attacks. He has contributed in mass murder and devastating destruction, maiming, injuring and causing incredible amounts of suffering. He has completely and utterly destroyed the nation of Iraq. Under international definitions of terrorism, George W. Bush is the greatest terrorist alive today.

The Jesus he claims to follow is not the Jesus that guides him as a politician. Claiming to converse with the Almighty, claiming to be a conduit of the Almighty’s path for humanity, Bush as President has acted more like the God of the Old Testament than the one of the New, unleashing death, destruction and untold suffering on hundreds of thousands of people, most of whom are the descendents of those that first concocted the myth of Bush’s god. He has shown no remorse, no pity, no forgiveness and no love as he has unleashed the instruments and weapons of war upon millions of innocent civilians, waging his own personal jihad against Arabs and Muslims. And people by the millions think him a Christian?

He is an amateur dictator enraptured and corrupted by absolute power, depending on the army of conditioned Americans to continue his devastation, both in the Middle East and in the United States. Nothing he has ever done has been a success, and now he is sending one more business venture, the nation called America, down the precipice of failure. Never succeeding, always failing, forever bailed out by Bush the Wiser, he has never learned what it is like to suffer hardship and pain, never experiencing hunger and struggle. He is a callous and cold-hearted individual with deep psychological problems, weak-minded in character and a bully in spirit. His arrogance and hubris will be the demise of us all. Unfortunately, his father cannot save him, or the nation, any longer. He will fail on his own, becoming a curse upon our land, a pestilence infecting our principles and our virtues, our rivers and lands, our children and future.

Nothing has gone right since the curse called Bush entered office. His is a Pestilent Presidency, a rotting manifestation of corruption and immorality, a fraud and conniver, a most unethical human being incapable of honor or integrity. When we should be running away from scum such as this we instead allow him to steal two elections and remain the pestilence that he is, creating a diseased society devoid of the freedom it once possessed and the civil rights it fought so hard to attain.

George W. Bush is a corporatist without intelligence, an unknowing, incurious, detached and ignorant human being, a puppet to much brighter individuals, a tool for the corporate world. He does not care for the unenlightened souls that see him as Dear Leader, nor the soldiers he sends to either die or sacrifice mental health. In reality, he does not care about America, at least the America of you, me and everyone else. He is changing our lands, our society, giving our government to corporations and the corporatists that run them. In time, and with reflection, after the hypnosis of this most devastating of Presidents has passed, he will be seen for what he presently is, namely, the worst person to ever occupy the White House, becoming, through infamy, the mistake that was and the lesson learned.

The Pestilent Presidency was given all the tools in life to become a success, yet throughout his life, he has failed at everything, only succeeding in politics thanks to his last name and the power of his father. Born to wealth beyond our dreams, he became not a competent and able leader, but a man devoid of talent and ability, a person squandering the opportunity given him. Wrapped inside a bubble of luxury and elitism, he failed to understand the mass of humanity, seeing it as easily exploitable, easily suppressed and easily controlled. In his upbringing can we see the destruction he has unleashed upon our nation. In his failures can we understand today’s most troubled times.

The Pestilent Presidency has been a malignant tumor to the America of you, me and everyone else. He has been a grand success to the corporate world. Who do you think he represents? Whose interests does he help further? Only when he departs and exits our lives will the curse of Bush lift from our country, dissipating like a long, permanent haze, and perhaps only then can we try and reclaim what has been lost, if it is not already too late. The ruins of what George W. Bush will leave behind after he leaves our reality will be strewn all around us, rotting and eroding, the whispers of a better America barely audible, yet its horizon ready to be radiant once again.

With him gone we will finally try to rebuild and move forward, trying to erase memories of the Pestilent Presidency from our midst, trying, desperately, to make right the direction of America, trying, as much as possible, to never again allow a pestilence to destroy what we stand for, in the process inoculating ourselves with the antidote of harsh lessons learned, finally eradicating the diseases and fears that most ail us.

Manuel Valenzuela is a social critic and commentator, international affairs analyst and Internet columnist. His articles as well as his archive can be found at his blog, as well as at other alternative news websites from around the globe. Mr. Valenzuela welcomes comments and can be reached at Mr. Valenzuela is also author of Echoes in the Wind, a novel made available at most online book sellers.

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Astounding Hypocrisy
Editorial Arab News 2 February 2006

Few in the Middle East will have heard George W. Bush’s State of the Union address without feeling exasperation and anger that this belligerent president appears to have no idea of how US policy in the region is riddled with double standards. It is now clear that this astonishingly ill-informed administration had not the slightest inkling that Hamas would win the Palestinian elections — let alone win so decisively.

Coming as it did on the eve of his big set piece speech to the American people, the election was a problem for President Bush. Here was a free and fair democratic election, a model of the political process that he has supposedly committed himself to promoting throughout the region, and it produced winners who were not what Washington would have liked or chosen.
Bush had to square the circle, so he concentrated on Hamas terrorism and its constitutional commitment to the eradication of Israel. America would not deal with the new government chosen by the Palestinian voters until it had disbanded its armed wing, given up violence and acknowledged Israel’s right to exist.

In laying down these requirements, the president demonstrated his inability to appreciate that Israel too is guilty of great violence against Palestinians and continues its program of assassinations, the latest being that of Islamic Jihad leader Nidal Abu-Saada on the very day of Bush’s speech. Israel has also yet to give concrete acknowledgement of the state of Palestine’s right to exist, preferring instead to keep its people huddled in ghettos while Tel Aviv continues to steal their land.

The murders committed by Palestinian suicide bombers who are members of Hamas or who are not members of Hamas are no more acceptable than the murders committed by Israeli security forces. Sending Palestinians to die among innocent Israelis is a terrible act which cannot be justified but can nevertheless be explained; it is the only way that Palestinians can fight back against a clever, strong and hugely manipulative occupying power.

In voting for Hamas, Palestinians were not just rejecting what they saw as the failures of the Fatah years, they were also choosing a government which they hope will stand up more strongly to Israel and produce a just and lasting peace from a position of strength.

In his address, Bush made no attempt to analyze the motives of the majority of Palestinian electors, demonstrated no insight whatsoever into their agonies and frustrations. Instead he made it clear that though they had held a free and fair election, the Palestinians had made the wrong choice and America therefore had no intention of accepting it. Yet in the very same speech, Bush trotted out his hopes for a democratic Iran and a freely elected government with whom Washington would one day be able to work.

Now at least Bush’s perverse vision of the democratic process is patently clear. A democratic election must produce a government that is acceptable to the White House. Anything else will be rejected. The democratic voice of the people will be ignored unless it is singing the song that Washington wants to hear. This astounding hypocrisy undermines everything America says it is trying to achieve in the region and everything that America once stood for.

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What Bush Did Not Say
EDITORIAL Translated by Paula van de Werken February 1, 2005

The 'rise of authoritarianism,' the 'diminishment of liberties and fundamental rights,' the 'systematic use of torture' the 'widespread corruption' and the 'deterioration of influence in South America' are a few of the items Bush left out of his State of the Union speech. According to this op-ed article from Mexico's La Jornada, Bush has constructed a country that doesn't exist except in his speeches, where he can 'take refuge and forget his distressing political situation.'
In his annual (State of the Union) address presented yesterday in the Capitol, President George W. Bush displayed the enormous political, ideological and moral erosion of his government, a lack of any accurate perceptions of reality, or new ideas to confront criticism of his domestic and foreign policies.

On the domestic front, orating from his bully-pulpit, Bush referred to "building our prosperity" which is in contrast to the brutal concentration of wealth that has taken place during his five years in power; to social programs which bear no relation to the growth of poverty in the richest country on the planet; and to his absurd tax breaks.

He received emotional applause with an offer to reform the social security system that was wrapped in charitable sentimentality. He pushed for reinforcing the borders; and he advocated improving education with an educational system on its knees because of budgetary cutbacks, and plagued with anti-science superstition, sometimes coming from Bush himself.

To the rest of the world, the President offered more of the same: the reinforcement of American "Planetary Leadership," a leadership which hasn't diminished under his management; and the promotion of "liberty" and "democracy" in accordance with the perfectly well-known reality of what these words mean in the superpower's traditional foreign policies: the submission and obedience of other governments to Washington.

The leader remained faithful to his personal obsessions on the theme of "international terrorism," and he added a note of urgency toward the current offensive against Iran, because of the nuclear activities which the government of Tehran is developing.

Much more significant of the true "State of the Union" is what Bush did not say in his speech: the rise of authoritarianism, the diminishment of liberties and fundamental rights, the systematic use of torture, the rejection of democratic processes which are not to the liking of Washington, the scandalous and widespread corruption within the government and similarly in private enterprise, the criminal laziness of the federal authorities in facing the disaster of New Orleans, the deterioration of White House influence in South America, the (to date) $200 billion spent on the military adventure in Iraq, the almost 19,000 American casualties in that country (counting the dead and the wounded) and the tens of millions of dollars pilfered or stolen within the context of "reconstruction" in that unfortunate Arabian country. September 11, 2001 continues to be, at this point, the principle grounds and justification (and practically the only foreign policy) of the superpower; for these reasons the Commander-in-Chief called on Congress to ratify the Patriot Act, the tool of a regime exceptionally lacking in proposals.

The abyss between what Bush says and real life is so extensive, that it is opportune to apply a metaphor popular in Mexico to illustrate the tremendous gulf between official statements and reality. Bush has constructed a country that doesn't exist except in his speeches. His verbal concoction could well be called "Bushlandia," a psychological territory in which the occupant of the White House can take refuge and forget his distressing political situation, which is characterized by the fall in his approval ratings, public disapproval of his management, the outbreak of corruption scandals within his government and within his partisan surroundings, by the evidence that Washington cannot win the war which he unleashed in Iraq, by the astronomical and historical fiscal deficit, and by the unjustifiable growth of poverty and inequality within the world's largest economy.

Finally, the gap between Bush's speech and American realities has a worrisome similarity to that of the growing social unrest and the ease with which the political class in Washington, upon hearing the patriotic exhortations and sentiments from the Executive, enters into a type of hypnotic trance. And it is just that proof of their willingness to continue to live in Bushlandia, which the complacent audience in the Capitol gave yesterday.

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Bush Warns of Frightening New Enemy
The Ostroy Report 3 Feb 06

President Bush has now officially progressed beyond simple lies and deception and has graduated to much more complex psychobabble. During his State of the DisUnion address Tuesday, the commander-in-chief warned of a frightening new enemy that could infiltrate American society if left unchecked. The new terrorists. Yes, I'm talking about the dreaded Human-Animal-Hybrid. A beast so threatening it'll make BigFoot seem like Barney.

Our president fears scientists almost as much as he fears Al Qaeda. Oh, these Dr. Frankensteins are a scary bunch indeed, says Bush. Roaming around the lab, in their smug white coats, cooking up all sorts of terror in those pesky little test tubes. No siree. He's not going to let them turn America into a scene from Night of the Living Dead. Not this tough guy from Texas. Not on his watch.
Discussing ethics in science and medicine, Bush asked legislators in a packed House chamber to help him protect our society from these dreaded man-beasts:

"Tonight I ask you to pass legislation to prohibit the most egregious abuses of medical research: human cloning in all its forms, creating or implanting embryos for experiments, creating human-animal hybrids, and buying, selling, or patenting human embryos. Human life is a gift from our creator, and that gift should never be discarded, devalued or put up for sale".

And there you have it. The president once again rushing to protect us from the enemy. And if he also wants to bypass Congress and the courts and start bugging all the lab phones in this country, I say go for it. Look, I've never seen Sasquatch up close and personal, but I've watched countless documentaries featuring those who have. It's a horror they'll never forget. So let me tell you, I never want to encounter one of these nightmarish man-beasts the president warns of. President Bush, I implore you. Please continue to do everything in your power to make America's men, women and children safe from human-animal hybrids. America, be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

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Bush Urges Confidence in His Leadership
By NEDRA PICKLER Associated Press Edited by rs 1 Feb 06

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - President Bush said Wednesday he understands why the nation he has led for five years has become more anxious, and he urged people to have confidence in him [while totally missing the point that a LEADER inspires confidence, a leader does not have to URGE it].

Bush maintained his optimistic message in a lengthy speech at the Grand Ole Opry House that was designed to build momentum from the previous night's State of the Union address. But in a rare acknowledgment of the troubled times on his watch, he tried [but failed abysmally] to show empathy with the public's worries.

"People are uncertain, in spite of our strong union, because of war, and I understand that, [mostly because I caused a great deal of that uncertainty]" Bush said.
Democrats are trying to capitalize at the ballot box this year on uncertainty about Bush's leadership and about ethics scandals in Congress [but lacking both a spine and ethics, they failed].

Bush said he is leading a strong nation that is protecting itself and spreading freedom [by arresting Cindy Sheehan and "spreading" her outside the Capitol building]. He said the economy is "roaring," [like an out-of-control wild fire] despite concerns that people have after being forced to change [high paying] jobs [with good benefits] in the face of competition from China, India and elsewhere [and work without benefits for minimum wage at Wal Mart all the while paying significantly more for a roof over their head].

"My worry is that people see that uncertainty and decide to adopt isolationist policies or protectionist policies [because my rich cronies would never be able to make any money in that kind of environment]," Bush said. "In other words, in uncertain times it's easy for people to lose confidence in the capacity of this country to lead and to shape our future [because in uncertain times that confidence seems all the more misplaced]."

Bush said America's challenge is to stay ahead of competition without withdrawing from the world. He planned to expand his thoughts [to a second thought] on the issue in a tour to Minnesota, New Mexico and Texas on Thursday and Friday.

Bush's laid out his entire agenda in the 57-minute speech, going even beyond his State of the Union address. He touched on everything from war and education to technology in the automobile industry and medical malpractice suits.

The friendly audience [nobody was wearing T-shirts with uncomfortable messages] at the packed Grand Ole Opry House frequently interrupted the president with applause and laughter. Among the crowd were several country music stars, including Barbara Mandrell, Larry Gatlin, Lee Greenwood, Lorrie Morgan and the Oak Ridge Boys. [Boycott their music.]

Bush joked that he should have given the State of the Union at the hall. "How cool would it be to give a State of the Union address in a Porter Wagoner outfit?" he said, referencing the flashy singer who frequently played host on the stage.

Outside, more than 100 protesters held up their own signs that said "No Confidence" and "No warrant, no wiretap, no W." [but were safely sequestered in an out-of-the-way "free speech" area] That [last sign] was a reference to Bush's much-debated secret [illegal] program of eavesdropping on phone calls and e-mails in an attempt to sniff out terrorist plots [that he helps create], which he vigorously defended in his State of the Union address and inside the concert hall.

"Let me put it to you in Texan: If al-Qaida is calling into the United States, we want to know, [because somebody needs to call me to the phone]" Bush said.

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17 US Reps Want Bush Impeachment Probe 20 Now Want Impeachment, Resignation, or Probe
by Matthew Cardinale 3 Feb 2006

The number of Members of US Congress supporting US Rep. John Conyers’s (D-MI) H. Res 635 has now jumped to 17, including Mr. Conyers. The US House bill would create a Select Committee to investigate the grounds for impeaching President Bush.

The two newest co-sponsors are US Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and James Oberstar (D-MN), who signed on yesterday, February 1, 2006. Just yesterday, Atlanta Progressive News exclusively reported that H. Res 635 had reflected 14 total co-sponsors at the time [not including Mr. Conyers in that number].

A total of 20 members of US Congress now support either a probe that could lead to Bush’s impeachment, Bush’s outright impeachment, or Bush’s resignation.

This is edging close to ten percent (10%) of the Democrats in the US House.
As of today, the 17 total co-sponsors of H. Res 635 are Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA), Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN), Rep. Major Owens (D-NY), Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Fortney Pete Stark (D-CA), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).

As reported yesterday, US Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) withdrew her name, whereas she was listed as a cosponsor throughout January 2006, citing a clerical error for her name having been listed in the first place. Lofgren’s Office told Atlanta Progressive News the Representative learned of her being listed as a co-sponsor after an article by APN issued January 01, 2006.

Meanwhile, US Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) said he would support impeaching Bush over the issue of domestic wiretapping in late December 2005. At the same time, US Reps. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) and Bobby Rush (D-IL) have called for Bush to step down by signing on to a "World Can’t Wait" statement issued to Atlanta Progressive News.

"The most basic foundations of our democracy are set forth in our nation's Constitution. For more than two centuries, people around the world have looked to our nation and our Constitution as a beacon of freedom and a model for the world to follow," US Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) told John Nichols of The Capital Times Newspaper (Madison, WI), of her support of H. Res 635.

"The founders of our nation were clear that the most important role of the president is to '... preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.' President Bush has twice taken this oath of office. In the past several years, numerous questions have been raised about President Bush's conduct in relation to some of the most basic elements of our democracy: respect for the rule of law, the principle of checks and balances, and the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Bill of Rights," Baldwin told The Capital Times.

The thing about H. Res. 635 is, it deals with impeaching Bush over a cluster of issues from misleading the public to go to war, to authorizing torture. Wiretapping was not listed as one of the reasons to investigate the grounds for Bush’s impeachment in the bill because the existence of the secret, illegal wiretapping had not come to light yet when the bill was being prepared.

Some Members of Congress such as US Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) appear to see firmer grounds for impeaching Bush over his controversial authorization of illegal wiretapping on Americans, than for the reasons cited in H. Res. 635. Mr. Lewis told a radio station in December he would support impeachment over wiretapping.

It is unclear at this point whether Conyers or another member of Congress is prepared to introduce a new bill which would deal specifically with impeaching Bush over wiretapping.

Meanwhile, the first professional poll commissioned by a progressive news agency found that 54% of all 850 Pennsylvanian respondents supported impeachment of President Bush if his authorization of domestic wiretapping is concluded to be illegal. The poll was conducted by Zobgy International and was commissioned by Rob Kall, Editor of OpEdNews.

US Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) asked four legal scholars to analyze the grounds for Bush’s impeachment in December 2005. Perhaps these scholars’ opinions, in conjunction with US Senate hearings to commence next week, will allow for the spying’s legality or illegality to be concluded with more certainty.

The text of H. Res 635 is as follows:

H. Res 635 reads as its official title: "Creating a select committee to investigate the Administration's intent to go to war before congressional authorization, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, encouraging and countenancing torture, retaliating against critics, and to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment."

"In brief, we have found that there is substantial evidence the President, the Vice-President and other high ranking members of the Bush Administration misled Congress and the American people regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq; misstated and manipulated intelligence information regarding the justification for such war; countenanced torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in Iraq; and permitted inappropriate retaliation against critics of their Administration. There is at least a prima facie case that these actions that federal laws have been violated – from false statements to Congress to retaliating against Administration critics," Rep. Conyers said in a press release on 12/20/05.

Matthew Cardinale is the Editor of Atlanta Progressive News. He may be reached at

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Munich: Movie Review
Lydia Howell Intervention Magazine

Directed by Steven Spielberg
Written by Eric Roth and Tony Kushner
164 minutes, Rated R

"The script by Eric Roth (Forrest Gump) and Tony Kushner (Angels in America) maintains an Israeli point of view, and the shadow of the Holocaust is never far from reach as the "root cause" for the mission. The Munich murders are horrifyingly real, in both archival news footage and Spielberg's recreations, rendered in flashbacks that continue through to the film's final moments. If the viewer begins to question the seemingly endless murders the Mossad commits in retribution, one more shot of Black September on-the-rampage in Munich will shove you back (as it is meant to) into total support for the "terrible necessity" of Israeli violence."
Israeli hardliners have little to fear from Spielberg's excursion into the political thriller genre, a bloody philosophy lesson from which only the most dedicated and sophisticated viewers will be able to discern any worthwhile, deeper meaning.

Drawn from the book Vengeance by Mossad agent George Jonas, Steven Spielberg's Munich takes on terrorism and true events. At the 1972 Olympics in Germany, a Palestinian terrorist group, Black September, took eleven Israeli athletes and their coaches hostage and murdered them. It was one of the first acts of public violence broadcast around the world, a sort of horrible press release meant to call attention to the Palestinian cause, just a few years after the 1967 War, which resulted in the Occupied Territories. The film follows five Israeli agents who are assigned to hunt down those responsible for ordering and planning the Munich attack.

Spielberg borrows heavily from Hitchcock, Peckinpah, Coppola, and Scorsese in a cinematic mayhem that keeps audience adrenalin pumping. He's made a thriller that aspires to a philosophical core, and at times almost succeeds in transcending the action genre. The script by Eric Roth (Forrest Gump) and Tony Kushner (Angels in America) maintains an Israeli point of view, and the shadow of the Holocaust is never far from reach as the "root cause" for the mission. The Munich murders are horrifyingly real, in both archival news footage and Spielberg's recreations, rendered in flashbacks that continue through to the film's final moments. If the viewer begins to question the seemingly endless murders the Mossad commits in retribution, one more shot of Black September on-the-rampage in Munich will shove you back (as it is meant to) into total support for the "terrible necessity" of Israeli violence.

Some Israelis (such as Ehud Danoch, the Israeli Consul-General in Los Angeles) have slammed Spielberg for making Israeli and Palestinian violence seem "equivalent" -- a totally absurd claim to anyone who's actually seen the film. In fact, Munich virtually omits "the Palestinian side" of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. There's just one brief exchange, between the film's lead Israeli agent and a Palestinian, where the Palestinian expresses longing for a "homeland" and makes a fierce declaration that "Israel will eventually lose to the Palestinians, even if it takes a 100 years." It's a startling moment, because it's the only time a Palestinian speaks. Otherwise, Palestinians are portrayed in the usual way: nameless thugs "speaking gibberish" (untranslated Arabic) who commit "senseless" acts of brutality against Jews.

However, what Munich does do is evoke what journalist Robert Fisk has called the endless "dance of death," as each Mossad act of revenge is countered by more (unseen) acts of Palestinian violence. Spielberg is posing thorny questions: Can violence ever end violence? And even if one's cause is "just," can one kill and not become morally, psychologically, and spiritually damaged? What does "security" really look like, and how can it be established in the midst of an ongoing conflict?

These questions are at least as meaningful for Americans in G.W. Bush's post-9/11 "war on terror" as for the Israelis and the Palestinians, maybe even more so. Americans will find it far more useful to apply the ethical and philosophical challenges of Munich to the activities at Abu Graib, the "disappearance" of "detainees" into U.S. secret prisons, and, most recently, a mission to kill a high-level Al Qaeda member in Pakistan -- which killed at least seventeen civilians while failing to get the intended target.

The five Mossad agents have varying reactions to their own violence, as bodies pile up like in one of Coppola's or Scorsese's Mafia movies. Some remain hardened to the task; others begin to question, or even crack. A French "independent," who sells information for huge amounts of money, provides an "amoral" counterpoint to the Mossad agents who enlist his services. As the mission stretches on for years, they become more careless about "collateral damage," and doubt emerges as to whether each and every "target" actually had anything to do with the Munich murders.

Avner (Eric Bana), the lead agent who serves as our primary lens, ultimately takes his wife and child out of Israel and moves them to Brooklyn. He must visit them in secret, and none of them seem "at home" away from Israel. There is the looming irony that perhaps in attempting to avenge his homeland, it is lost to him forever. But most disturbing to this viewer is that, in the film's final scene, it's still not his own violent acts that apparently haunt Avner, only the Palestinians' slaughter of the Israeli Olympic team. This should mollify Spielberg's pro-Israel critics. In a clumsy, ham-fisted display of propaganda, he saves the bloodiest flashback of all for last, with Avner "remembering" Munich, while having sex with his wife in Brooklyn. It would have made more sense, psychologically, dramatically, and morally, if he had been reminded instead of the blood-spattered, bullet-ridden female assassin they deliberately left naked, or the Palestinian couple they shot dead in bed.

In short, Munich is neither the equal of Schindler's List nor Saving Private Ryan, both of which showed more courage and complexity, with memorable characters entangled in moral ambivalence. It is more interesting than most action movies and is still worth seeing, but Munich doesn't do justice to the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. That's too bad, because Steven Spielberg might be the only American filmmaker able to get both the cash and the audience to put a new perspective before the American people.

Lydia Howell is a Minneapolis-based journalist and host of KFAI radio's "Catalyst: Politics & Culture." You can email your comments to

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Are You Buying Into It? How the Dimocrats are Gaming You
by Mark S. Tucker 3 Feb 06

Are you buying into the confirmation vote record of Alito as evidence of the Dimocrat Congress being staunch, firm, fierce, and loyal? Yes? Congratulations, you just got hosed. That little caper, wherein it was made to seem that only four were Party traitors, was merely a mild form of PsyOps (Pyschological Operations). Do you remember what came just before that? That’s right: a 72-to-25 Senate vote to end debate, bring cloture, and vote to confirm Samuel Alito. That was what guaranteed Alito his passage: all those joyously delivered Dimocratic cloture votes. Now, all you have to do is sit back and listen to the machinery endlessly bleating (because the quisling Congressionals will never say it with their own mouths) about “the poor, brave, hard-fighting, disconsolate Dims worrying about re-election chances in Red States”...hence their outrageous ballot-casting.
From there, you start buying into their re-education process. However, if you do accept venality that easily, there’s no reason to read further; this article will make little sense to you. In fact, it’ll probably piss you off.

The way the media - all the media; let me say that again: ALL the media - inferred it, was that there was still a filibuster opportunity after the cloture vote. There never was. There couldn’t be. ‘Cloture’ means ‘a closing’ and it cut off any further procedural possibility of debate and, thus, filibuster. A congressperson can only filibuster while debate is open, not during the actual vote. But, um, you weren’t really told that, were you? Certainly not by the Right press and...not by the Left either. This should be disquieting.

So, the Dims made absolutely sure there would be no filibuster at the very same time they were telling you that it was a wide open possibility. But think about it: most Dims voted for cloture absolutely knowing it would guarantee Alito his spot on the court. No doubt about it. Then they began the theater work, “standing firm”, “supporting the rank and file”, “holding strong to American principals” when it all was absolutely devoid of meaning. Didja fall for it?

Ah, but there was also the fusillade of diversionary role-playing all the while. The Sunday before, Minority Whip Dick Durbin informed the press he had 37 of the 41 votes needed to clinch the filibuster. What happened? No one cared to follow up his allegation, Right or Left. If Durbin’s claim was indeed a truism, yet so jaw-droppingly many Dims voted for cloture - voted against filibuster - what went on there? Might Durbin have been lying? If not, was he being lied to? Without a micron of doubt, blatant prevarications were being told, it only remains to determine exactly where. I know what I think.

Note, too, that all eight Dims on the Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously voted against Alito before the nomination appeared on the floor. That is, the Dimocratic members of a committee totally devoted to jurisprudential candidate fitness overwhelmingly rejected him on all fronts...and yet...the committee’s comrades elsewhere were about evenly split on the question of filibuster. Isn’t that interesting? Were they paying attention at all? The most involved Dim members as much as said “Drop this idiot like a scalding anvil!!!” and they were their own.

John Kerry once again waffled. Early on, he was against filibustering, following the futile hope that his primary silence wouldn’t be broached; then, at the last minute - hmmm, almost at the exact same time the entire PsyOps scheme would have been coming together - he flew in “valorously” to push for something it appears he may well have known hadn't a hope in Hades. Where’d he wing it from? Ah, well that was ignored too, again: by both Right and Left press. It was the Davos Conference, where the richest people on Earth gather to decide the fate of the globe. John Kerry, who married into immense wealth. John Kerry, who wouldn’t raise even the feeblest leg up on a hideously obvious Vote Fraud and who caved in, in what may have been a world’s record in concessions, amidst very public and very heated knowledge that something was criminally amiss in the electoral process...just as...hmmmm...just as Al Gore had also done during the last Vote Fraud. What a coincidence! Are we seeing a pattern here?

But also: John Kerry, who was once an icon, protesting the VietNam War and cracking open the biggest financial scandal in world history (BCCI), and now appears to be no more than an actor with lines written by divers hands, playing a Centrist role to attenuate the malefactions of what may not be a party opposite him, after all.

Oh, and remember “Hot Again, Cold Again” Dianne Feinstein, the corporatist’s dream? You may recall the Dims were quietly, and not so quietly - certainly not on Feinstein’s part - whispering that Alito was a “done deal” and that filibuster was foolish, until public pressure ratcheted up, then suddenly very grudgingly mouthing the public position, saying they’d support a filibuster, simultaneously stating such could never succeed. Say what??? Gentlemen and ladies, movies have been made about the filibuster as the most wildly successful ace-in-the-hole in American history. Does the name “Mr. Smith” ring a bell? How about “Jimmy Stewart”. The Dims were hoping you never saw the flick. Maybe you didn’t.

What, exactly, would be the only thing that could have defeated the confirmation process once it started, and at exactly what point? Filibuster, right at the cloture juncture and nowhere else. Oh, I forgot: neither the Right nor the Left press much cared to state that clearly enough. Odd, no? Well, as exculpatory nonsense currently goes, they probably “didn’t even think of it!”. Are you buying into that? They certainly hope so and, if polls (God help me, now I’m referring to the damn things!) are correct, you did. Or...did you? After all, what’s prompting the polls, who’s being poled [sic], what were the questions, and who are these faceless bastards running them? Doesn’t matter, as any unwillingness to initiate the filibuster at all was a clear signal of collusion with the Repuglican status quo. The rest is horse manure. All the Dims now have to do is obfuscate that fact as much as possible, and that’s what they’re doing.

And by the way, where was “rebel” Howard Dean during all this? Did you like his weak-kneed from-the-closet Dim performance?

Merrily joining the flip-floppers, Barack Obama was said to have criticized filibustering, then, at the very last moment, pledged to vote it in. Note what went on there: one doesn’t vote for a filibuster, one votes against cloture, then a filibuster just occurs. But that’s not what Obama said. He was referring to something that doesn’t exist. Makes for a good excuse later on. Let’s see now, is he a lawyer? Obama didn't like the filibuster at all, instead averring, "There's one way to guarantee that the judges who are appointed to the Supreme Court...reflect [Dimocratic] values and that's to win elections." So, voting for anything but candidates is a mistaken action, is that it, Mr. Obama, and screw anything like, oh, issues, law, Supreme Court Justices, and such trivialities? That’s an alleged verity I find surprising in an American.

Joe Biden was equally cagey, gritting his teeth as he said, "I think a filibuster makes sense when you have a prospect of actually succeeding...I will vote one time to continue the debate." Pardon me? Condescending to follow the will of the time? Because it perhaps goes against one’s own private interests? Let me check again and see what Party Biden belongs to. He, all along, was heralding that "the fact of the matter" was that Alito’s confirmation was - and one has to wonder where this came-from-nowhere sentiment originated - a done deal. Is that a “D” I see next to is name? Must be a typo.

Alito got through because the Dimocrats allowed it and for no other reason. The Repuglican vote was the only “done deal”, and there was a possible several-member dissent there almost from Day One, which means the Dims could still have handily thwarted the necessary 60 vote halt. They didn’t. Why?

You can either listen to their inane blather, delivered pontificatingly as received wisdom (and wisdom is gaining its hoariness in mere nanoseconds nowadays, it appears), amidst welters of hand-wringing, choked-back tears, looks of exhaustion, and other stage effects, or you can look at the facts, decide what’s really going on, and quit regurgitating back the cue lines Dims are feeding you. That’s where the PsyOps can be found - an’ it ain’t jes’ yer down-home Repugs who’re peddling it to ya, Jeeter. It used to be called propaganda...but that’s what propaganda is: PsyOps. Goebbels knew it, Mussolini knew, Rove knows it, and now the Dimocrats know it.

Do you know it?

Mark S. Tucker, a critic, has written for numerous magazines and presently writes for Perfect Sound Forever on-line, as well as this forum. He can be reached at This article is originally published at Copyright Mark S. Tucker, but permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media so long as this credit is attached.

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Armed Teen at Mass. Gay Bar Injures Three
By RAY HENRY Associated Press February 3, 2006

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. - A young man dressed all in black went on a rampage at a gay bar with a hatchet and a gun Thursday, wounding three patrons in what police said appeared to be a hate crime. One victim was in critical condition.

Police searched for 18-year-old Jacob D. Robida, who was wanted on charges of attempted murder, assault and civil-rights violations.
According to court papers, Robida's mother told police that he briefly stopped by the house less than an hour after the brawl and was bleeding from the head. In Robida's bedroom, officers found Nazi regalia and anti-Semitic writings on the wall.

"Obviously we have a man who's dangerous, who's not rational, and he has weapons," said prosecutor Paul Walsh Jr.

A bartender said it was around midnight when a teen wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and black pants walked into Puzzles Lounge, a gay nightspot in this historic seaport city of 94,000 people, about 50 miles from Boston.

He flashed an apparently fake ID and ordered a drink, then asked if the place was a gay bar and was told it was, said the bartender, who asked to be identified only by his first name, Phillip, because of fear for his safety.

The bartender said the teen finished his drink and walked back to where two men were playing pool. He shoved one of them to the ground, then pulled a hatchet from his sweatshirt and began swinging at the man's head, cutting him, Phillip said.

Other patrons tackled the man, sending the hatchet sliding across the floor, the bartender said. Then the attacker pulled a gun, shot a man, and then fired another bullet into the chest of a patron who was leaving the bathroom, the bartender said.

He then ran off into the night.

Police recovered the hatchet and found a knife outside. The knife was not apparently used in the attack.

According to court papers, a woman in the bar recognized Robida as a current or former student at New Bedford High School. School officials would not confirm whether he was enrolled there.

Robida graduated in 2001 from the city's Junior Police Academy, a "boot camp" that teaches discipline to 12- to 14-year-olds, many of whom are referred by juvenile courts or social services agencies, Acting Police Chief David Provencher said.

Police identified the injured men as Robert Perry, Alex Taylor and Luis Rosado. One has a gunshot wound to the chest, another a gunshot wound to the back and severe cuts to his face, and a third suffered multiple cuts, police said. They would not specify which man suffered which injuries.

All three victims remained hospitalized. Police said one was in critical condition, but would not say which man.

A family friend who answered the door at Robida's home said his mother had no comment.

The owner of the bar, Richard F. Macedo, said he planned to be open Thursday night because closing would amount to giving in to homophobia. He said the place and its customers have never been targeted before because of their sexual orientation.

"We've been here almost 15 years," Macedo said. "All it takes is one bad egg."

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Dozens Dead After Egyptian Ship Disaster
By SALAH NASRAWI Associated Press Feb 03 9:46 AM US/Eastern

CAIRO, Egypt - An Egyptian ferry carrying about 1,300 people sank in the Red Sea overnight during bad weather, and rescue ships and helicopters pulled dozens of bodies from the water Friday, an official said. About 100 survivors in lifeboats were rescued.
An Egyptian Embassy spokesman told the British Broadcasting Corp. that "dozens of bodies of victims" had been pulled from the choppy waters between Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

The 35-year-old ship, Al-Salaam Boccaccio 98, went down 40 miles off the Egyptian port of Hurghada, the head of the Egyptian Maritime Authority, Mahfouz Taha Marzouk, told The Associated Press. The cause was unknown, and no distress signal was received. The ship went down between midnight and 2 a.m., a maritime official said.

Britain's top naval officer said he diverted the warship HMS Bulwark to the north Red Sea site, and it will arrive within two days. But the U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain said Egyptian authorities turned down an American offer to divert a U.S. P3-Orion maritime naval patrol aircraft to the area.

An official at the maritime authority control room in Suez said at least 20 bodies had been pulled from the water, and 100 people in five lifeboats were rescued. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

Ayman al-Kaffas, a spokesman for the Egyptian Embassy in London, told the BBC that "a massive search-and-rescue effort" was underway, and "dozens of bodies of victims" had been pulled from the water. The water temperature averages in the upper 60s during February.

Four Egyptian rescue ships reached the scene Friday afternoon, about 10 hours after the ship likely went down.

"We have spotted several lifeboats with live passengers that we are trying to get to," al-Kaffas said. "It's a challenging operation due to the bad weather conditions."

There were high winds and a sandstorm overnight on Saudi Arabia's west coast, where the ship departed from. The ship sailed from the Saudi port of Dubah at 7 p.m. Thursday night and was scheduled to arrive at Egypt's port of Safaga - 120 miles away - eight hours later.

The ship disappeared from radar screens shortly after sailing, maritime officials in Suez said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.

Nizam Siddiqui of Lloyd's of London said he did not believe the ship sank from a collision or terrorist attack because the area was well-patrolled.

"The rough weather must have been the main factor for bringing this vessel down," he told the BBC from Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, adding that the ship was "very well-maintained."

The agent for the ship in Saudi Arabia, Farid al-Douadi, said the vessel was in good condition. The passengers were mostly Egyptians but included Saudis, Sudanese and other nationalities.

Marzouk said the ship - built in 1971 and renovated in 1990 in an Egyptian shipyard - was carrying 1,318 people, including a crew of 96. It also was carrying about 220 vehicles.

"The ship complied with all necessary safety measures," Egyptian Transport Minister Mohammed Lutfy Mansour told Egypt's semi-official Middle East News Agency. "The reasons remain unknown. ... The Coast Guard is doing everything in its power to try to rescue these people."

The passengers included about 1,200 Egyptians, 99 Saudis, three Syrians, two Sudanese and a Canadian, the control room official said. The passengers likely included Muslim pilgrims who had overstayed their visas after last month's hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia to work in the kingdom.

Most of the Egyptians were workers returning home. The passengers also included families of the workers returning home from visiting their loved ones in Saudi Arabia, relatives waiting at Safaga port said.

David Osler of the London shipping paper Lloyds List said the ship passed a structural survey test conducted by the International Safety Management Code in June. However, these so-called "roll-on, roll-off" ferries are not known for their stability.

"It would only take a bit of water to get on board this ship and it would be all over," Osler said. "The percentage of this type of ferry involved in this type of disaster is huge."

Dubah and Safaga lie virtually opposite each other at the northern end of the Red Sea, which is an extremely busy sea route. In addition to east-west traffic between Saudi Arabia and Egypt, there is north-south traffic through the Suez Canal and to and from the Israeli and Jordanian ports of Eilat and Aqaba.

The ship is owned by the Egyptian firm El-Salaam Maritime Transport Co. The company's owner, Mamdouh Ismail, said the ship is registered in Panama. He spoke before the sinking was confirmed and refused to comment further.

A ship owned by the same company, also carrying pilgrims, collided with a cargo ship at the southern entrance to the Suez Canal in October, causing a stampede among passengers trying to escape the sinking ship. Two people were killed and 40 injured.

This was not the first disaster involving Safaga. On Dec. 14, 1991, more than 460 passengers and crew died after a coral reef tore a hole in a ferry's side near the port.

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Chicago Archdiocese to Remove More Priests
By DAVID BRUMMER Associated Press Fri Feb 3, 6:07 AM ET

CHICAGO - The leader of Chicago's Roman Catholic archdiocese vowed to revise a molestation investigation process that "wasn't adequate," saying he should have removed a priest charged with abusing three boys much sooner.

Cardinal Francis George indicated Thursday the archdiocese will announce changes as early as next week to remove priests immediately after allegations are made. Under the current policy, allegations are investigated before priests can be removed.
George said he wants to consult with the state Department of Children and Family Services on how to make sure communities are notified of suspended priests.

"I thought that we had the process ... to take care of these things," he said. "Now it turns out it wasn't adequate, that I wasn't adequate."

George's announcement came at a news conference hours after the Rev. Daniel McCormack was released on $300,000 bond. McCormack, 37, was charged last month with two counts of aggravated sexual abuse and was charged Wednesday with a third count.

After Thursday's hearing, his bond totals $500,000, which was paid by family members.

The case has drawn criticism for the archdiocese because McCormack was not removed from public ministry until months after allegations against him surfaced.

"I should have found some way to take him out (sooner)," George said. "I wasn't vigilant enough in that case. I was too used to following the process."

Before his release, McCormack stood silently before a Cook County judge as his attorney proclaimed his innocence.

The nation's third-largest Catholic archdiocese has said it is investigating the allegations against McCormack, who was removed from public ministry Jan. 21, the day he was charged with molesting the first two boys.

The archdiocese has acknowledged that one of the charges stems from an allegation that was first made in August.

The latest charge against McCormack involve an 11-year-old boy who was not a parishioner at the church where McCormack served as pastor, prosecutor Kathleen Muldoon said.

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Iran poised to retaliate as nuclear standoff worsens
AFP February 3, 2006

TEHRAN - Iran was poised to retaliate against the expected reporting of its nuclear programme to the UN Security Council, with the hardline regime vowing to quickly limit international inspections and kick-start sensitive fuel work.

The defiant measures, which could come as soon as Saturday, would thrust the standoff into uncharted territory and dramatically increase Western fears that the Islamic republic is on a fast track to acquiring nuclear weapons.
The International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) 35-nation board of governors was expected to report Iran to New York later Friday. The West accuses Iran of hiding nuclear work and failing to fully cooperate with a still-inconclusive three-year-old IAEA probe.

But Iran has turned the issue into a question of national pride -- with the regime insisting it only wants to generate atomic energy and unwavering in its view of this as an undeniable right to be pursued at all costs.

"The agency's monitoring would extensively be limited and all the peaceful nuclear activities being under voluntary suspension would be resumed without any restriction," Iran's top national security official, Ali Larijani, has officially warned IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei.

Critically, the threat includes Iran ending a more than two-year-old freeze of industrial-scale uranium enrichment at Natanz in the centre of the country.

The enrichment process is dual-use: when purified to low levels, Iran's large stock of uranium hexaflouride gas can be transformed into reactor fuel, but if the process is extended it can also make the core of a nuclear bomb.

"Natanz is ready for operation. All we have to do is inform the IAEA," Larijani warned on the eve of the agency's meeting. In January, Iran resumed laboratory-scale enrichment, sparking the current crisis.

"Inspections will be restricted," he also vowed. "They will not have the right to go to military sites which we had so far allowed them to go to. Also, some of the cameras will be taken down."

Iranian officials say the regime -- which veered sharply to the right with the shock presidential election win last June of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- is not bluffing, even if the standoff could soon deteriorate into sanctions or worse.

"The government and the Iranian people are determined to defend their rights and the world has to accept Iran having nuclear technology," said Hamid Reza Haji-Babaie, a member of the Iranian parliament's national security commission.

"People are ready to withstand any difficulties in order to defend their rights," he told AFP, saying it was the West that "should be intelligent enough not to put themselves in a difficult position."

Iran's regime, analysts say, is also feeling in a position of strength -- with oil prices riding high and American troops seemingly bogged down in a generally unpopular war next door in Iraq.

Iran's cards also include close ties with the Palestinian militant group Hamas, Lebanon's Hezbollah and Iraqi firebrand Moqtada Sadr, who has already led two rebellions against US troops and has threatened another if his fellow Shiites in Iran are attacked.

Tehran has also brandished its ballistic missile capability, capable of hitting US bases in the region and arch-enemy
Israel -- which Ahmadinejad has said should be "wiped off the map" anyway.

"The IAEA and its member states should resist the diktats of the dictatorships which have atomic weapons," the ISNA news agency quoted Ahmadinejad as saying Friday.

But if Iran is indeed reported to New York, he added, Iran "will take other routes to guarantee its legal rights."

In the immediate term, however, diplomats say the standoff is likely to move into a phase of intensive closed-door diplomacy driven by Russia, and perhaps China.

While being reported to the Security Council, Iran's case is not to be taken up in New York before the next IAEA meeting and ElBaradei report. This is the result of a compromise between the Europeans and Americans on one side, and Russia and China on the other.

Russia is engaged in a billion-dollar contract to build Iran's first reactor and is eyeing future contracts, while energy-hungry China is a major buyer of Iranian crude -- and both are pushing a compromise plan under which Iran's uranium would be enriched abroad.

"Obviously we hope that Iran gets the message that it should return to full suspension and not retaliate. That would be an extremely serious move," a senior Tehran-based Western diplomat commented.

"But there is this window of around one month for Russia and China to put the pressure on and convince Iran that it needs to accept a compromise. The diplomacy is not over yet, it's just getting a lot more robust."

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Iran and the jaws of a trap
By Paul Levian Former German intelligence officer 2 Feb 06

Judging from the rather frantic behind-the-scenes efforts of Russia and China in Iran, they seem to appreciate that the Iranian leadership is in for a big and probably deadly surprise. The Bush administration has not only handled its Iran dossier much more skillfully than Iraq, but also managed to set up Iran for a war it can neither win nor fight to a draw.
If the Iranian leaders think they can deter an attack because the US is bogged down in Iraq they are already between the jaws of a well-set trap. Though a Western war against Iran will be a big geopolitical defeat for Russia and China, they cannot but resign themselves to this outcome if they are unable to convince the Iranians to accept the Russian proposal - ie uranium enrichment in Russia.

The Russians saw the writing on the wall when France, Germany and Britain began to march in lockstep with the United States. In particular, the widely but wrongly discounted nuclear belligerence of President Jacques Chirac last month implied that France was ready to accept the US use of nuclear weapons in a war against Iran if they saw fit to do so.

The Iranian leadership's obvious confidence in its ability to deter the US, Britain and Israel seems to rest on mainly four assumptions. Iran is militarily much stronger than Iraq, much larger, its terrain more difficult, its society more cohesive - thus more difficult to defeat, to occupy and to pacify. In addition, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad seems to take particular comfort from the widely anticipated wave of popular outrage and anti-Western attacks in the wider Middle East if Iran should be attacked.

Moreover, the economic costs of a war against Iran in terms of the price of oil and the interruption of the Iranian supply would propel the world economy into a tailspin. And finally, Iranian leaders seem to accept at face value the US moans over its overstretched military forces and the demoralization of US forces in Iraq.

Certainly, Iranian misconceptions are helped mightily by the defeatism of the Western debate about such a war. "No good options" has become something like the consensus view: an airborne and special forces "surgical strike" (as well as a massive attack) against the Iranian nuclear industry and military targets could at best delay its nuclear program and will be followed by retaliation in Iraq, Lebanon etc; a ground attack is out of the question because most of deployable US ground forces are desperately busy in Iraq.

If such things could be planned, one might be persuaded to consider this debate as an aspect of strategic deception. In fact, the US and British forces in Iraq and in the Persian Gulf as well as the forces in Afghanistan are quite able to redeploy on short notice, for example during the days of an initial air campaign against Iran for large-scale operations against the remaining Iranian forces and can be reinforced during the war. The US military infrastructure at the borders of Iran has a very substantial capability to deal with surge requirements.

The somewhat standard scenario for this war - as indicated by Chinese and Russian war games - has the following features:

An initial Israeli air attack against some Iranian nuclear targets, command and control targets and Shahab missile sites. Iran retaliates with its remaining missiles, tries to close the Gulf, attacks US naval assets and American and British forces in Iraq. If Iranian missiles have chemical warheads (in fact or presumed), the US will immediately use nuclear weapons to destroy the Iranian military and industrial infrastructure. If not, an air campaign of up to two weeks will prepare the ground campaign for the occupation of the Iranian oil and gas fields.

Mass mobilization in Iraq against US-British forces will be at most a nuisance - easily suppressed by the ruthless employment of massive firepower. And Israel will use the opportunity to deal with Syria and South Lebanon, and possibly with its Palestinian problem.

The character of this war will be completely different from the Iraq war. No show-casing of democracy, no "nation-building", no journalists, no Red Cross - but the kind of war the United States would have fought in North Vietnam if it had not had to reckon with the Soviet Union and China.
Comment: This piece strikes us as blatant disinformation. It seems to us far more likely that France, Germany and Britain are hoping the U.S. will go to its own destruction... But then, maybe that's the point of this particular agenda?

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U.S. Intel Chief Doubts Iran Has Nukes
By KATHERINE SHRADER Associated Press Feb 2, 2006

WASHINGTON - National Intelligence Director John Negroponte told Congress on Thursday that Iran probably does not yet have nuclear weapons, nor has it obtained the material central to producing them.

Still, Negroponte called Iran's nuclear program a matter of "highest concern." In prepared testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee, he said that Iran and
North Korea are both major threats to U.S. security.

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23 killed in Afghan fighting, coalition planes called in
AFP February 3, 2006

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - US-led coalition planes bombed an area of southern Afghanistan where a fierce battle had erupted between Taliban-linked militants and police, leaving about 23 dead.
"Coalition ground and air forces are on the ground... they are bombing the Taliban," interior ministry spokesman Yousuf Stanizai told AFP.

"Coalition forces provided close-air support to Afghan security forces during an engagement," coalition spokesman Lieutenant Mike Cody confirmed.

The fighting broke out near southern Helmand province's Sangin district when police began a security sweep in response to several recent attacks on security posts, deputy provincial governor Amir Mohammad Akhundzada told AFP.

Reports from the battlefield said 20 rebels and three policemen had been killed, Akhundzada said.

Nearly 20 insurgents and 10 policemen were also wounded, he said.

"The fighting is ongoing," he said. "The Taliban have hidden in villages; we're worried for the security of civilians."

Akhundzada said he believed the police were up against a force of more than 200 men armed with machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

"I believe they are around 200 to 300 men," he said. He would not say how many police were involved.

A purported Taliban spokesman, Mohammad Hanif, confirmed a massive gunfight was under way but said only 25 Taliban fighters were taking part. Only one Taliban fighter had been killed, he said.

He said the clash came after "our mujahedin (holy warriors) killed several policemen in an ambush."

The fighting erupted in an area straddling Helmand and Kandahar provinces, among the regions worst affected by an insurgency launched after the hardline Taliban government was removed from power in a US-led operation in late 2001.

Helmand is also the biggest contributor to Afghanistan's illicit opium crop, which is responsible for producing more than 80 percent of the world's heroin.

The province has seen several deadly attacks on police, with some observers saying drug dealers could be supporting the Taliban in their campaign against the US-backed Afghan government.

Akhundzada linked the recent Taliban attacks to a counter-narcotics campaign due to start in a few days.

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Rebels kill dozens as Bush seeks emergency funds for Iraq
AFP Fri Feb 3, 5:45 AM ET

BAGHDAD - Iraqi forces maintained a tight grip on security as Shiites continued to observe the 10-day holy festival of Ashura, a day after rebels left a trail of blood killing at least 30 people.

US President George W. Bush, meanwhile, sought 70 billion dollars in emergency funds for further military operations in Iraq.
Insurgents killed at least 30 Iraqis and wounded more than 100 on Thursday, while the US military announced five US troops had been killed in various rebel attacks across the war-torn country.

Two separate car bombings in Baghdad's Al-Amin neighborhood, one near a gas station and the other in a market, resulted in 16 Iraqi deaths. Ninety people were wounded.

"Most of the casualties were from the blast in the market," an interior ministry official said Friday. The other car bomb blew up a parked gas tanker, setting off a huge fireball.

The five US soldiers died Wednesday in separate rebel attacks, the military said.

The latest fatalities take the US military personnel death toll in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion to 2,247, according to an AFP count based on Pentagon figures.

The surge in violence comes as Iraq is observing the Ashura ceremony and has deployed nearly 8,000 security personnel in southern regions.

The ceremony has often been a target of Sunni Arab insurgents as tens of thousands of faithful Shiites visit the mausoleums of their imams.

In 2004, 170 pilgrims were killed in attacks during the ceremonies in Karbala and Baghdad, while last year 44 people were killed and 52 wounded when a man wearing an explosives belt blew himself up in Karbala next to a crowd of pilgrims at the shrine of Imam Hussein.

Ashura, the 10th day of the Islamic month of Moharram, commemorates the death of the Shiite imams Hassan and Hussein in Karbala in 680 AD at the hands of the Sunni ruler.

In Washington, the White House said that Bush had sought an emergency package of 70 billion dollars to meet further military expenses in Iraq and Afghanistan until September 30.

Washington incurs a monthly bill of 4.5 billion dollars for the war in Iraq.

The high-profile trial of Saddam and seven other former regime members has been adjourned to February 13 after the defendants boycotted the proceedings on Thursday.

The defendants and the new chief judge Rauf Rashid Abdel Rahman are at loggerheads, with the eight accused demanding Abdel Rahman be sacked. The judge has in turn demanded an apology from them.

During the first day of the trial under the new judge on Sunday, Saddam walked out of the court, while his half-brother Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti was ejected from the courtroom.

On Friday stormy winds and heavy rains lashed Iraq disrupting vehicle traffic, although the airport functioned normal. A meteorological department official said the storm would continue for the next 24 hours.

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Rocket hits house in southern Israel
Reuters Friday February 3, 11:30 PM

JERUSALEM - A rocket struck a house in southern Israel on Friday, injuring three and causing extensive damage, rescue services said.

Israel blamed Palestinian militants from Gaza for the attack on Kibbutz Karmia. There was no immediate claim of responsibility from militants.
The three injured were former settlers from the Gaza Strip who had been living in temporary housing at Karmia, an ambulance service spokesman said.

Makeshift rockets shot from Gaza seldom cause any damage or injury. Israel often retaliates for those attacks that do cause casualties.

"These repeated rocket attacks, together with the victory of Hamas in the elections, force us to ask ourselves: Does Israel have a partner in peace?" said Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev.

Hamas, a militant group sworn to Israel's destruction, trounced the long-dominant Fatah movement in the Jan 25 parliamentary election.

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U.S. fired on Canadian diplomats without warning, envoy says
CBC News 01 Feb 2006

Canadian officials dispute the U.S. version of an event in Iraq and insist that American soldiers fired without warning on a consular vehicle carrying four Canadian diplomats, CBC News has learned.
The U.S. military issued a statement saying that American troops in a convoy shot a vehicle carrying the Canadian chargé d'affaires to Iraq and three other diplomats in Baghdad on Tuesday.

The U.S. military said that, as the Canadian vehicle approached the convoy on the road, American troops used hand and arm signals ordering it to stop. The statement said the vehicle did not slow down so U.S. troops fired what they called warning shots, fearing a suicide bombing attack.

"The rear guard on a U.S. convoy signalled the vehicle to stay back," the statement said. "After it failed to do so and continued moving toward the convoy from behind, warning shots were aimed at the front of the vehicle, away from the passenger area."

But a Canadian diplomat who was in the vehicle told a very different version of the incident to CBC News reporter Eric Sorensen.

'Kaboom! They don't know what's happened'

The diplomat, who was not named, said no one in the Canadian vehicles remembered seeing anyone signalling to them. The first sign they had of a problem was when they heard a booming sound.

"They just remember kaboom! It happened," said Sorenson, who spoke to the diplomat by telephone from Ottawa.

The incident took place after the Canadians pulled out of the British compound in the Green Zone, a heavily fortified area in the centre of Baghdad where the Iraqi government office and the U.S. military headquarters are located.

The diplomat said the Canadian vehicle – which had a Canadian flag symbol on its dash – waited for a U.S. convoy of five Humvees to pass. Then it followed at a safe distance at about 20 to 25 km/h for about five minutes. She said Canadian officials often share the road with U.S. military vehicles and saw nothing unusual about the situation.

Unlike the version offered by the U.S. military, the Canadian diplomat told CBC News that the American convoy had pulled entirely off the road and into a staging area behind a barrier.

"Again this kind of thing has happened all the time, according to this official, so the Canadian vehicle now carried on down the road after the convoy had pulled all the way over and off to the side," Sorensen said.

That's when they heard a loud noise as dust flew up around their vehicle.

"They don't know what's happened. They feel they've been hit by a bomb," said Sorensen.

"The car comes to a stop. The driver puts his arm outside the car to signal that 'we're not part of whatever blast just happened, we're just stopped here for the moment.' They all ducked down."

One bullet entered passenger compartment, diplomat says

The diplomat said a U.S. soldier came running over to see whether they were all right, and they all got out of the vehicle. It was only at that point that they realized what had happened.

"They realized that two bullets had been fired that hit across the front into the hood of the car, hitting on the passenger side, and one other bullet actually passed across the front of the windscreen and just over the windshield wiper into the front of the passenger compartment," said Sorensen.

U.S., Canadian military launch investigations

The chargé d'affaires, Stewart Henderson, was whisked away while the others were debriefed. They all thought that was the end of the incident.

They only decided to speak up after the U.S. military came out with a different version of events, the Canadian diplomat told CBC News.

Both the Canadian and U.S. military have launched investigations.

"Right now, we're talking to the Canadian government about the incident," Todd Vician, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement issued Wednesday. "It's a regrettable incident and we're going to get to the bottom of exactly what happened."

Canada's incoming prime minister, Stephen Harper, also said the two countries were working together to resolve the incident.

"We're obviously very glad that no one was hurt," he said during a news conference in Ottawa.
Comment: Remember the story of Giuliana Sgrena and Nicola Calipari? Mr. Calipari wasn't so lucky. He was killed by US army fire on their vehicle. Sgrena was badly wounded. The US conducted an iquiry exhonerating its soldiers. Italy complained, but Berlusconi shut up. Will Harper do the same?

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9/11 ATTACKS: Avoiding the hard questions
ROBERT STEINBACK Miami Herald Wed, Feb. 01, 2006

I was 8 years old when President John Kennedy was shot to death in Dallas in 1963. If grace favors me, I'll be 62 when documents related to the assassination are released to the public, and 84 when the Warren Commission's investigative files into the tragedy are finally opened.

That's a long time to wait for a chance to evaluate the purported truth.

It's a blot on the presumed sophistication of the people of the United States that any aspect of an event so dramatic and shocking should be kept from us. Perhaps it's true, to abuse the line from A Few Good Men yet again, that we can't handle the truth. But there cannot be genuine resolution as long as such critical information remains concealed.
Transformed by 9/11

Since Kennedy's assassination, Americans have lurched between demanding to know and plugging their ears: The Pentagon Papers, My Lai, the King assassination, Watergate, Iran-contra, the savings-and-loan debacle, Monicagate. Lately, however, it would seem the public's verdict is in: Don't tell us. Keep us in the dark. We don't want to know.

This is the worst possible time for probe-ophobia to grip us. Our nation was irretrievably transformed by 9/11 -- and yet there remain troubling questions about what really happened before, during and after that day. Rather than demanding a full and fearless vetting to hone in on the truth and silence the conjecture about 9/11, many Americans remain unwilling to peer into the microscope.

An online cottage industry of theorists, theory debunkers and debunker debunkers has flourished since 9/11. Sometimes the flimsy theories are easy to spot -- come on, if the four passenger jets didn't crash where it appears they did, where did they go? More often, though, the cases aren't so obvious.

A group of experts and academicians 'devoted to applying the principles of scientific reasoning to the available evidence, 'letting the chips fall where they may,'" last week accused the government of covering up evidence that the three destroyed New York City buildings were brought down that day by controlled demolition rather than structural failure. The group, called Scholars for 9/11 Truth, has a website,

Unanswered questions

The reflexive first reaction is incredulity -- how, one asks, could anyone even contemplate, never mind actually do such a barbaric thing? But before you shut your mind, check the resumés -- these aren't Generation X geeks subsisting on potato chips and PlayStation. Then look at the case they present.

"I am a professional philosopher who has spent 35 years teaching logic, critical thinking and scientific reasoning," group co-founder and University of Minnesota professor James H. Fetzer told me. "When I come to 9/11, it's not hard for me to determine what is going on. This is a scientific question. And it is so elementary that I don't think you can find a single physicist who could disagree with the idea that this was a controlled demolition."

The group asks, for example,

- How did a fire fed by jet fuel, which at most burns at 1,700 degrees Fahrenheit, cause the collapse of the Twin Towers, built of steel that melts at 2,800 degrees? (Most experts agree that the impact of airliners, made mostly of lightweight aluminum, should not have been enough alone to cause structural failure.) How could a single planeload of burning jet fuel -- most of which flared off in the initial fireball -- cause the South World Trade Center tower to collapse in just 56 minutes?

- Why did building WTC-7 fall, though no aircraft struck it? Fire alone had never before caused a steel skyscraper to collapse.

- Why did all three buildings collapse largely into their own footprints -- in the style of a controlled demolition?

- Why did no U.S. military jet intercept the wayward aircraft?

- Why has there been no investigation of BBC reports that five of the alleged 9/11 hijackers were alive and accounted for after the event?

Our current probe-ophobia is due in part to the political landscape: When one party holds all the cards, any call to investigate an alleged abuse of power or cover-up -- no matter how valid -- will look like a partisan vendetta. Those in power never want to investigate themselves.

Maybe that's politics; he who holds the hammer drives the nails. But the outrage of 9/11 transcends party affiliation.

We need all the outstanding questions answered -- wherever the chips may fall.

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Congressman subpoenaed for 9/11 trial
From Phil Hirschkorn CNN February 2, 2006

NEW YORK -- Attorneys for al Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui have subpoenaed Pennsylvania Congressman Curt Weldon to testify at a trial that will determine whether Moussaoui should be executed.

The defense is seeking Weldon's testimony to try and show that the government knew more about the September 11, 2001, attacks than Moussaoui did.

It's a key point the jury will be asked to address at the death penalty trial that begins next week with jury selection.

Weldon, a Republican, received the subpoena last week. It seeks testimony about issues related to Able Danger, a secret pre-9/11 intelligence operation conducted by the Department of Defense.
What did U.S. know?

Weldon, vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, contends that Able Danger mined computer data to identify four of the 19 hijackers, including leader Mohammed Atta, as al Qaeda operatives a year and a half before the September 11 attacks.

The 9/11 commission, which rewrote the public's understanding of the attacks and revealed numerous missed law enforcement opportunities to intercept the hijackers, did not include Able Danger in its final report.

Weldon has spearheaded the call for Congress to hold public hearings on Able Danger and penned a letter signed by a bipartisan group of 248 members of Congress calling on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to permit military analysts who worked on the program to testify.

"It is an important issue in understanding the full scope of 9/11," said Weldon's communications director, John Tomaszewski. "The venue and the time has not been decided."
Weldon 'inclined to cooperate'

Weldon is discussing the Moussaoui subpoena with legal counsel.

"The congressman certainly wants to cooperate any time a subpoena is issued," Tomaszewski said. "He is inclined to cooperate, but has not made a decision yet."

Mark Zaid, an attorney for Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, one of the Pentagon analysts who has come forward to support Able Danger's findings, said Shaffer had not yet received a subpoena.

Moussaoui's attorneys declined to comment.

The defense has disclosed in court filings it intends to call two expert witnesses, including a former FBI agent, to describe the 19 hijackers and the September 11 plot.

Moussaoui pleaded guilty last year to joining al Qaeda's terror conspiracy to fly airplanes into landmark buildings, But he maintains that he came to the United States in early 2000 for a later plot and was not aware of or involved in the September 11 attacks.
U.S.: Lies led to 3,000 deaths

The government is seeking the death penalty for Moussaoui, saying he contributed to the nearly 3,000 9/11 deaths by lying to FBI agents about what he was doing in the United States after he was arrested in August 2001.

He was taken into custody after arousing suspicion at a Minnesota flight school.

Jury selection begins on Monday at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia.

During first part of his death penalty trial, the jury will consider whether Moussaoui was forthcoming about his al Qaeda connections, whether he would have alerted the government to the plot or whether the government already possessed enough clues to stop it.

After a month for jury selection, testimony is scheduled to begin in March.

Moussaoui, a 37-year-old Arab born to Moroccan parents, will either be sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole or death by lethal injection.

The government has not disclosed its witness list, but prosecutors intend to call family members to tell representative stories of 45 people killed on September 11 and the impact of losing them.

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Blair-Bush deal before Iraq war revealed in secret memo
Richard Norton-Taylor Friday February 3, 2006

Tony Blair told President George Bush that he was "solidly" behind US plans to invade Iraq before he sought advice about the invasion's legality and despite the absence of a second UN resolution, according to a new account of the build-up to the war published today.

A memo of a two-hour meeting between the two leaders at the White House on January 31 2003 - nearly two months before the invasion - reveals that Mr Bush made it clear the US intended to invade whether or not there was a second UN resolution and even if UN inspectors found no evidence of a banned Iraqi weapons programme.
"The diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning", the president told Mr Blair. The prime minister is said to have raised no objection. He is quoted as saying he was "solidly with the president and ready to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam".

The disclosures come in a new edition of Lawless World, by Phillipe Sands, a QC and professor of international law at University College, London. Professor Sands last year exposed the doubts shared by Foreign Office lawyers about the legality of the invasion in disclosures which eventually forced the prime minister to publish the full legal advice given to him by the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith.

The memo seen by Prof Sands reveals:

· Mr Bush told Mr Blair that the US was so worried about the failure to find hard evidence against Saddam that it thought of "flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft planes with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours". Mr Bush added: "If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach [of UN resolutions]".

· Mr Bush even expressed the hope that a defector would be extracted from Iraq and give a "public presentation about Saddam's WMD". He is also said to have referred Mr Blair to a "small possibility" that Saddam would be "assassinated".

· Mr Blair told the US president that a second UN resolution would be an "insurance policy", providing "international cover, including with the Arabs" if anything went wrong with the military campaign, or if Saddam increased the stakes by burning oil wells, killing children, or fomenting internal divisions within Iraq.

· Mr Bush told the prime minister that he "thought it unlikely that there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups". Mr Blair did not demur, according to the book.

The revelation that Mr Blair had supported the US president's plans to go to war with Iraq even in the absence of a second UN resolution contrasts with the assurances the prime minister gave parliament shortly after. On February 25 2003 - three weeks after his trip to Washington - Mr Blair told the Commons that the government was giving "Saddam one further, final chance to disarm voluntarily".

He added: "Even now, today, we are offering Saddam the prospect of voluntary disarmament through the UN. I detest his regime - I hope most people do - but even now, he could save it by complying with the UN's demand. Even now, we are prepared to go the extra step to achieve disarmament peacefully."

On March 18, before the crucial vote on the war, he told MPs: "The UN should be the focus both of diplomacy and of action... [and that not to take military action] would do more damage in the long term to the UN than any other single course that we could pursue."

The meeting between Mr Bush and Mr Blair, attended by six close aides, came at a time of growing concern about the failure of any hard intelligence to back up claims that Saddam was producing weapons of mass destruction in breach of UN disarmament obligations. It took place a few days before the then US secretary Colin Powell made claims - since discredited - in a dramatic presentation at the UN about Iraq's weapons programme.

Earlier in January 2003, Jack Straw, the foreign secretary, expressed his private concerns about the absence of a smoking gun in a private note to Mr Blair, according to the book. He said he hoped that the UN's chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, would come up with enough evidence to report a breach by Iraq of is its UN obligations.

Downing Street did not deny the existence of the memo last night, but said: "The prime minister only committed UK forces to Iraq after securing the approval of the House of Commons in a vote on March 18, 2003." It added the decision to resort to military action to ensure Iraq fulfilled its obligations imposed by successive security council resolutions was taken only after attempts to disarm Iraq had failed. "Of course during this time there were frequent discussions between the UK and US governments about Iraq. We do not comment on the prime minister's conversations with other leaders."

Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat acting leader, said last night: "The fact that consideration was apparently given to using American military aircraft in UN colours in the hope of provoking Saddam Hussein is a graphic illustration of the rush to war. It would also appear to be the case that the diplomatic efforts in New York after the meeting of January 31 were simply going through the motions.

"The prime minister's offer of February 25 to Saddam Hussein was about as empty as it could get. He has a lot of explaining to do."

Prof Sands says Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's UN ambassador at the time, told a foreign colleague he was "clearly uncomfortable" about the failure to get a second resolution. Foreign Office lawyers consistently warned that an invasion would be regarded as unlawful. The book reveals that Elizabeth Wilmshurst, the FO's deputy chief legal adviser who resigned over the war, told the Butler inquiry into the use of intelligence during the run-up to the war, of her belief that Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, shared the FO view. According to private evidence to the Butler inquiry, Lord Goldsmith told FO lawyers in early 2003: "The prime minister has told me that I cannot give advice, but you know what my views are".

On March 7 2003 he advised the prime minister that the Bush administration believed that a case could be made for an invasion without a second UN resolution. But he warned that Britain could be challenged in the international criminal court. Ten days later, he said a second resolution was not necessary.

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Revealed: Bush and Blair discussed using American Spyplane in UN colours to lure Saddam into war.
By: Gary Gibbon 2 Feb 2006

President Bush said: "The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach."

Speaking to Channel 4 News, Mr Sands said:

"I think no one would be surprised at the idea that the use of spy-planes to review what is going on would be considered. What is surprising is the idea that they would be used painted in the colours of the United Nations in order to provoke an attack which could then be used to justify material breach. Now that plainly looks as if it is deception, and it raises some fundamental questions of legality, both in terms of domestic law and international law."
Channel 4 News tonight reveals extraordinary details of George Bush and Tony Blair's pre-war meeting in January 2003 at which they discussed plans to begin military action on March 10th 2003, irrespective of whether the United Nations had passed a new resolution authorising the use of force.

Channel 4 News has seen minutes from that meeting, which took place in the White House on 31 January 2003. The two leaders discussed the possibility of securing further UN support, but President Bush made it clear that he had already decided to go to war. The details are contained in a new version of the book 'Lawless World' written by a leading British human rights lawyer, Philippe Sands QC.

President Bush said that:

"The US would put its full weight behind efforts to get another resolution and would 'twist arms' and 'even threaten'. But he had to say that if ultimately we failed, military action would follow anyway.''

Prime Minister Blair responded that he was: "solidly with the President and ready to do whatever it took to disarm Saddam."

But Mr Blair said that: "a second Security Council resolution would provide an insurance policy against the unexpected, and international cover, including with the Arabs."

Mr Sands' book says that the meeting focused on the need to identify evidence that Saddam had committed a material breach of his obligations under the existing UN Resolution 1441. There was concern that insufficient evidence had been unearthed by the UN inspection team, led by Dr Hans Blix. Other options were considered.

President Bush said: "The US was thinking of flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach."

He went on: "It was also possible that a defector could be brought out who would give a public presentation about Saddams WMD, and there was also a small possibility that Saddam would be assassinated."

Speaking to Channel 4 News, Mr Sands said:

"I think no one would be surprised at the idea that the use of spy-planes to review what is going on would be considered. What is surprising is the idea that they would be used painted in the colours of the United Nations in order to provoke an attack which could then be used to justify material breach. Now that plainly looks as if it is deception, and it raises some fundamental questions of legality, both in terms of domestic law and international law."

Also present at the meeting were President Bush's National Security Adviser, Condoleeza Rice and her deputy Dan Fried, and the Presidents Chief of Staff, Andrew Card. The Prime Minister took with him his then security adviser Sir David Manning, his Foreign Policy aide Matthew Rycroft, and and his chief of staff, Jonathan Powell.

Those present, as documented in Mr Sands' book, also discussed what might happen in Iraq after liberation.

President Bush said that he: "thought it unlikely that there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups."
Comment: Makes you think about another plane that was dummied up to look like a 757 and flew right into the Pentagon. Hmmm... what was it about said Pentagon Strike plane that made it necessary to hide the surveillance camera films?

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Wounded Soldiers Told They Owe Money to Army

Jan. 31, 2006 — It was one of the thousands of roadside bombs in Iraq that paralyzed Staff Sgt. Eugene Simpson.

"My first instinct was to jump farther back into the Humvee, you know, for protection," Simpson said. "But in doing that, I opened my back up to all the scrap metal and debris, which hit my spine and severed my spine, paralyzing me."

He was soon on a plane home.

Fast-working, skilled Army doctors saved his life, as they have so many.

Slow, bumbling Army bureaucrats would make his life miserable, as they have so many.

"And the military basically is, like, they turn their back on you, you kind of feel that you've just been used," Simpson said.
No Pay for Four Months

It started with a phone call from his wife, home with their four children. She didn't have enough money to pay the bills.

"And she was like, well, we haven't been paid," Simpson said. "And you know, instantly I was like, I don't know what to do. You know, I'm still in the hospital. I can't actually get up and go around and talk to these different people."

And until "Nightline" inquired at the Pentagon, Simpson said he could not find out what happened.

"Every day is something different," he said. "Well, this person isn't in. I'll have them call you back, give it a couple days. Couple days go by, I call back, well I got somebody else for you to talk to. And days lead to weeks, and weeks lead to months."

It turns out the Army had mistakenly continued to pay Simpson a combat duty bonus while he was in the hospital.

He had been overpaid thousands of dollars, and the Army wanted the money back.

"By law, he's not entitled to the money," said Col. Richard Shrank, "so he must pay it back."

Shrank said although that is the law, soldiers can apply for debt forgiveness if they believe the debt is a mistake. So far, more than 800 soldiers have done so. More than 600 of those requests have been granted, amounting to more than $600,000.

So, the Army said it withheld the paralyzed soldier's pay until it got back the amount he owed — with no advance notice, Simpson said.

"Four months," he said. "I didn't get paid for four months."

An Ongoing Problem

Simpson is not the only one. A study commissioned by the First Infantry Division estimated that eight out of 10 of its wounded soldiers from Iraq have gone through the same or a similar ordeal.

Capt. Michael Hurst, now out of the Army, conducted the study.

"You have to understand that these soldiers are suffering from incredible injuries, some of them have lost limbs, some of them may never walk again," Hurst said. "And in the midst of that struggle, to then get a paycheck for nothing really hurts morale."

And the Army can play tough to get its money back.

In the case of Sgt. Ryan Kelly, who lost his leg in Iraq, he had just finished going through rehabilitation when the Army sent a letter threatening to ruin his credit and call in debt collectors.

He had been overpaid by $2,200 while in the hospital, but, like most, never realized it.

It took Kelly almost a year to cut through the red tape and get the debt forgiven.

"Soldiers receive a paycheck and reasonably think that this is their accurate pay for the month," Hurst said. "And being in the situation they're in, having just been injured and in some cases spouses have to quit jobs in order to spend time at Walter Reed, many of these families are really hurting for funds. So a lot of that money gets spent right away."

'Failed Test'

The Government Accountability Office described the Army as having failed the test of taking care of its wounded from Iraq.

The report concluded that the soldiers fighting to defend the nation have paid the price for that failure.

Shrank disagreed, however. "No, I would not agree that we have failed the test, because we are making the fixes to bring it up to standard," he told "Nightline."

Shrank took over as commander of the United States Army Finance Command last summer to help fix the problem, a problem the GAO said had been ignored until the soldiers went public.

"Nightline" asked when the problem was first realized and why it took so long to realize it.

"We first realized it was a problem when it came into our view through many different channels," Shrank said. "You see it on [television], read about it in the papers. A soldier without a paycheck is a situation that nobody wants to see."

Shrank was asked if it had happened thousands of times. "I, no, I do not think thousands of times," he said. "It happened, one time is too many."

Shrank could not name an exact number, but the Army told "Nightline" that 5,549 soldiers, or about one out of five soldiers who were removed from battle for medical reasons later had payroll problems.

'Nobody Planned for This to Happen'

"You know, as a West Pointer and as a leader in the Army that one of the main things that we're taught is when you have soldiers that you are responsible, you have to take care of them, you have to take care of their family," Hurst said.

"And that's kind of the exchange that takes place between leaders and soldiers. And for a lot of these soldiers this is just a betrayal really. They feel abandoned, when they're in such a vulnerable position and their leaders aren't taking care of them."

Shrank said the process failed the soldiers, "but the leaders didn't fail the soldiers because we are making the changes to improve the processes to take care of our soldiers and their pay."

Shrank said he is not aware of anyone losing their command over the thousands of incidents. When asked if the problem could not have been anticipated, he said, "As we experienced taking care of pay for our wounded soldiers, we saw that the, what we had in place did not work. As I told you."

"Well," he added, "nobody planned for this to happen."

Shrank said, "It was planning that did not meet the standard and the execution that we wanted to achieve."

Fixing the Problem

Shrank said he's moving fast to fix the problem.

There's still no integrated payroll computer system, but now wounded soldiers are assigned a finance officer once they arrive at the Landstuhl Army Hospital in Germany to help keep track of payroll changes and problems.

And the colonel says wounded soldiers like Kelly will no longer be reported to credit agencies or have debt collectors go after them.

"The soldiers have a right to feel that the system let 'em down," he said. 'And it did let them down. This, we know this. We see this. This is why we fixed the system."

Meanwhile, Simpson gave up trying to rectify the situation. "I mean, I've had people on the phone just flat out tell me, I can't help you, no need for you to call here anymore," he said.

Shrank said for those like Simpson, "I would tell those soldiers that I care about them," he said, adding, "And I want to see that they received their proper pay."

In fact, he told "Nightline," he wants soldiers in this situation to call him. "Yes," Shrank said. "If that's what it takes, yes."
Comment: So, they only decided to do something when they "saw it on television"? How long are the American people going to put up with this kind of crap? Bottom line, young man or woman, do NOT join the military! They'll use you up (if they don't kill you) and toss you aside like a tissue.

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Out of jail, into the Army
By Mark Benjamin Salon 2 Feb 06

Facing an enlistment crisis, the Army is granting "waivers" to an increasingly high percentage of recruits with criminal records -- and trying to hide it.

"We're transforming our military. The things I look for are the following: morale, retention, and recruitment. And retention is high, recruitment is meeting goals, and people are feeling strong about the mission."

-- George W. Bush, in a Jan. 26 press conference
It was about 10 p.m. on Sept. 1, 2002, when a drug deal was arranged in the parking lot of a mini-mall in Newark, Del. The car with the drugs, driven by a man who would become a recruit for the Delaware Air National Guard, pulled up next to a parked car that was waiting for the exchange. Everything was going smoothly until the cops arrived.

"I parked and walked over to his car and got in and we were talking," the future Air Guardsman later wrote. "He asked if I had any marijuana and I said yes, that I bought some in Wilmington, Del., earlier that day. He said he wanted some." The drug dealer went on to recount in a Jan. 11, 2005, statement written to win admission into the military, "I walked back to my car [and] as soon as I got in my car an officer put his flashlight in the window and arrested me."

Under Air National Guard rules, the dealer had committed a "major offense" that would bar him from military service. Air National Guard recruits, like other members of the military, cannot have drug convictions on their record. But on Feb. 2, 2005, the applicant who had been arrested in the mini-mall was admitted into the Delaware Air National Guard. How? Through the use of a little-known, but increasingly important, escape clause known as a waiver. Waivers, which are generally approved at the Pentagon, allow recruiters to sign up men and women who otherwise would be ineligible for service because of legal convictions, medical problems or other reasons preventing them from meeting minimum standards.

The story of that unnamed Air National Guard recruit (whose name is blacked out in his statement) is based on documents obtained by Salon under the Freedom of Information Act. It illustrates one of the tactics that the military is using in its uphill battle to meet recruiting targets during the Iraq war. The personnel problems are acute. The Air National Guard, for example, missed its recruiting target by 14 percent last year. And the regular Army missed its goal by 8 percent, its largest recruiting shortfall since 1979.

This is where waivers come in. According to statistics provided to Salon by the office of the assistant secretary of defense for public affairs, the Army said that 17 percent (21,880 new soldiers) of its 2005 recruits were admitted under waivers. Put another way, more soldiers than are in an entire infantry division entered the Army in 2005 without meeting normal standards. This use of waivers represents a 42 percent increase since the pre-Iraq year of 2000. (All annual figures used in this article are based on the government's fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. So fiscal year 2006 began Oct. 1, 2005.)

In fact, even the already high rate of 17 percent underestimates the use of waivers, as the Pentagon combined the Army's figures with the lower ones for reserve forces to dilute the apparent percentage. Equally significant is the Army's currently liberal use of "moral waivers," which are issued to recruits who have committed what are loosely defined as criminal offenses. Officially, the Pentagon states that most waivers issued on moral grounds are for minor infractions like traffic tickets. Yet documents obtained by Salon show that many of the offenses are more serious and include drunken driving and domestic abuse.

Last year, 37 percent of the Army's waivers (about 8,000 soldiers) were based on moral grounds. Like waivers as a whole, these waivers are proliferating -- they're 32 percent higher than in the prewar year of 2000. As a result, the odds are going up that the soldiers fighting and taking the casualties in Iraq entered the Army with a criminal record.

"The more of those people you take, the more problems you are going to have and the less effective they are going to be," said Lawrence J. Korb, an assistant secretary of defense under Reagan and a senior fellow at the progressive Center for American Progress. "This is another way you are lowering your standards to meet your goals." Retired Lt. Gen. William E. Odom, who was the Army's chief intelligence officer from 1981 to 1985, also called the increase in waivers "disturbing."

He expressed concern that the lower standards would place a burden on military commanders who have to deal with "more lawbreakers and soldiers with anti-social behavior in their units."

Even without the waivers, the Army has lowered its standards for enlistees. The Army has eased restrictions on recruiting high school dropouts. It also raised the maximum recruitment age from 35 to 39. Moreover, last fall the Army announced that it would be doubling the number of soldiers that it admits who score near the bottom on a military aptitude test.

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Pain Ray, Sonic Blaster, Laser Dazzler - All in One Submitted by ShamanSam

For a while, now, I've been hearing about the Defense Department's plans to outfit a fighting vehicle with a pain ray, a sonic blaster, and a laser dazzler, too. I never figured they'd actually send the thing to Iraq, though. Project Sheriff, I assumed, would just be the military equivalent of a concept car -- a chance to see if some whiz-bang gear really worked together.

But the Pentagon may wind up deploying this straight-outta-sci-fi jalopy, after all. The Army just got the OK to spend $31.3 million on three deployable Project Sheriff vehicles, Inside Defense is reporting.
Right now, a "non-deployable Spiral 0 prototype" [Sheriff] is "undergoing environmental testing," according to the newsletter -- and waiting for one of the armed services to adopt the program as its own. That looks like it's happened, now. The "Spiral 1" Sheriff will equip either a Stryker fighting vehicle or a Cougar mine-fighter with the dazzler, the blaster, and the like. Oh, and it'll still have guns, too.

By combining the lethal and nonlethal technologies on a vehicle, [Marine Corps Col. Wade] Hall said a warfighter would be able to discriminate the noncombatants from insurgents by first employing the nonlethal capabilities and then progressing to the use of lethal force.

For example, if a convoy led by a Project Sheriff vehicle was moving through an urban area, a crowd may form to divert the convoy into an “ambush zone,” according to Hall.

If this were to happen, the first thing the crowd would hear is the Long Range Acoustic Device either telling the crowd to move or giving off a noise that would “bother their hearing.” Next, the Lazzer Dazzler would scan the crowd looking for a flicker from the scope of a possible sniper.

If the crowd was still in place, troops would employ the active denial technology [AKA the pain ray].

“If they try and deflect beams then we will kill them because we know what their intentions are,” Hall said. “Now I know what your intent is. I just told you to move, I just flashed some light in you that said ‘hey get away from me.’ I just put some effect on you that said ‘please move or its going to get worse’ and you continue to tell me that you have an ill intent for me and my fellow Marines. So now I will bring some lethal force to bear if it satisfies my [rules of engagement].”

In an April 7, 2005, memo, Army Brig. Gen. James Huggings, the chief of staff for the Multi-National Corps-Iraq, asked the Joint Chiefs of Staff to approve funding for the “time critical” material release, fielding and sustainment of the “Full-Spectrum Effects Weapon Systems,” the technical name for Project Sheriff vehicles.

“This will allow operating forces to exploit the psychological dilemma of adversaries who are faced with advanced precision capabilities having multiple effects mechanism that are collectively more challenging to protect against,” Huggins wrote. “This will serve to transfer the difficulties of operational complexity to the enemy, helping to allow MNC-I forces to regain the initiative in fourth generation warfare.”

Huggins proposes the Army receive eight vehicles -- four for the 18th Military Police Brigade and four for the 42nd Military Police Brigade -- and the Marines receive six.

In an April 19, 2005, response to Huggins, Marine Corps Maj. Gen. John Castellaw, chief of staff for U.S. Central Command, said the request for 14 Project Sheriff vehicles was fully supported by CENTCOM.

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Pentagon sets up robot unit to identify source of nuclear attacks
Julian Borger in Washington Friday February 3, 2006 The Guardian

The Pentagon has set up a special unit complete with robots to conduct forensic tests in the event of a nuclear attack on the US, with the aim of identifying attackers for possible retaliation, a Pentagon official said yesterday.

Major Susan Idziak, a defence department spokeswoman, told The Guardian that the unit was called the the Domestic Nuclear Event Attribution (DNEA) program and that it had been launched in 2000. It is made up of nuclear experts equipped with "specifically modified" robots for collecting and analysing fallout at ground zero of any future attack by a nuclear device or a dirty bomb (radioactive material scattered by conventional explosives).
The programme is principally intended as a contingency in the case of an attack on the US, but the team of experts and specialist robots could also be dispatched abroad in the event of an attack on an American ally.

Whatever the target, it would seek to identify isotopes in the fallout in an attempt to establish the particular "signature" of the radioactive material.

The unit's existence was first reported yesterday in the New York Times, which said the programme was established by a secret presidential directive, "National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction," signed in September 2002.

Major Idziak said the program had been initiated two years earlier and that it "achieved integrated operational attribution capability on December 31, 2005. "

The agency conducted an exercise in October in which hundreds of experts and officials from several agencies tried to identify radioactive samples.

The New York Times obtained a copy of a report on the exercise that claimed it had demonstrated the programme's "capability for accurate and rapid attribution". The document also said that the agency had developed "robot technologies to collect debris samples in high radiation fields".

The programme has dusted off and improved cold war technology for analysis of radioactive fallout. During the cold war, however, the task of identifying an attacker was made easier by the fact that nuclear warheads were mostly mounted on missiles with an identifiable launch point. In the era of the "war on terrorism", a nuclear device or dirty bomb is much more likely to be smuggled to its target.

But the nuclear forensic work is far from straightforward. Scientists at the International Atomic Energy Agency have found it difficult to identify the source of highly enriched uranium found by inspectors in Iran.
Comment: Can you see it? Can you see it coming? Can you see the setup? The US government has already proven itself capable of attacking its own citizens in order to further political and personal goals. When such a government makes references to the likelihood of a nuclear attack on the US, everyone should be very, very worried.

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ProgressTV: No-Spy Video
By Jen Jan 31, 2006

If you have found little to laugh about over President Bush's domestic spying program, well, it's your lucky day.
We here at ProgressTV decided to have some fun. So, we produced a little video for your enjoyment.

However, illegal spying on U.S. citizens is not funny.
That is why we are asking everyone across the nation to sign the "No-Spy" list.

If you don't want the government eavesdropping on your phone calls, emails, and internet searches, Sign the No-Spy List

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Senate Panel Denied Documents on U.S. Spying
By ERIC LICHTBLAU February 2, 2006

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration is rebuffing requests from members of the Senate Judiciary Committee for its classified legal opinions on President Bush's domestic spying program, setting up a confrontation in advance of a hearing scheduled for next week, administration and Congressional officials said Wednesday.

The Justice Department is balking at the request so far, administration officials said, arguing that the legal opinions would add little to the public debate because the administration has already laid out its legal defense at length in several public settings.

But the legality of the program is known to have produced serious concerns within the Justice Department in 2004, at a time when one of the legal opinions was drafted. Democrats say they want to review the internal opinions to assess how legal thinking on the program evolved and whether lawyers in the department saw any concrete limits to the president's powers in fighting terrorism.

With the committee scheduled to hold the first public hearing on the eavesdropping program on Monday, the Justice Department's stance could provoke another clash between Congress and the executive branch over access to classified internal documents. The administration has already drawn fire from Democrats in the last week for refusing to release internal documents on Hurricane Katrina as well as material related to the lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Several Democrats and at least one Republican have pressed the Justice Department in recent days to give them access, even in a closed setting, to the internal documents that formed the legal foundation of the surveillance program. But when asked whether the classified legal opinions would be made available to Congress, a senior Justice Department official said Wednesday, "I don't think they're coming out."

The official said the administration's legal arguments had already been aired, most prominently in a 42-page "white paper" issued last month. "Everything that's in those memos was in the white paper," said the official, who, like other administration and Congressional officials, was granted anonymity because classified material was involved.

While the administration has spent much of the last two weeks defending the legality and necessity of the surveillance program, the Judiciary Committee session will be the first Congressional hearing on it. Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who leads the panel, said Wednesday that he had "a lot of questions" the administration had not yet adequately answered about the program's legal rationale.

Mr. Specter would not address the committee's request for the classified legal opinions, except to say, "that's not a closed matter — we're still working on that."

Several Democrats on the panel have made formal requests for the legal opinions, including Senator Dianne Feinstein of California.

In the interview, Mr. Specter said that he wanted a fuller explanation as to how the Justice Department asserts that the eavesdropping operation does not conflict with the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which set strict and "exclusive" guidelines for intelligence wiretaps.

The operation was approved by President Bush, to allow the National Security Agency to conduct wiretaps on Americans' international communications without a court warrant. Mr. Specter said his view was that the operation "violates FISA — there's no doubt about that."

He also questioned why the administration did not go to Congress or the intelligence court to seek changes in the process before moving ahead on its own with the classified program after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Representative Jane Harman, the California Democrat who was one of the few members of the Congress briefed on the operation, echoed that same theme in a letter sent Wednesday to President Bush.

She said in the letter that with changes made to the foreign intelligence law after the Sept. 11 attacks, the eavesdropping operations of the N.S.A. "can and should" be covered by court-approved warrants, "without circumventing" the process.

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales will be the lone witness at next week's hearing, and his aides said he was entering it with confidence about the program's legal footing, based on both the president's inherent constitutional authority and a Congressional authorization after the Sept. 11 attacks to use military force against terrorists. But both Republicans and Democrats said Wednesday that they planned to question Mr. Gonzales about those assertions.

While the administration has laid out its legal defense repeatedly in the last two weeks, the formal legal opinions developed at the Justice Department to justify the program remain classified. The administration has refused even to publicly acknowledge the existence of the memorandums, but The New York Times has reported that two sets of legal opinions by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel asserted the president's broad power to order wiretaps without warrants in protecting national security.

The first Justice Department opinion is thought to have been written in late 2001 or early 2002 by John Yoo, a strong proponent of expanded presidential powers in wartime. The second opinion, officials said, was drafted by Jack Goldsmith, another senior department official who later left to teach at Harvard. It came in 2004 at a time some senior officials at the Justice Department were voicing concerns about the program's legal foundation and refusing to sign off on its reauthorization.

Those concerns led in part to the suspension of the surveillance program for several months and also appear to have led Mr. Goldsmith and other Justice Department lawyers to revisit the question of its legal underpinnings in order to satisfy those concerns.

Members of the Judiciary Committee have sought access to the memorandums, officials said. Some Democrats speculate that the classified memos may contain far-reaching and potentially explosive legal theories similar to those advocated by Mr. Yoo and others, and later disavowed by the Justice Department, regarding policies on torture.

In a letter sent Wednesday to Mr. Gonzales, Mrs. Feinstein said the legal opinions and other internal documents were needed for Congress to assess whether the president "has the inherent authority to authorize this surveillance."

With two additional hearings scheduled on the program after Mr. Gonzales's appearance, Mr. Specter said he was also considering seeking testimony from former Justice Department officials, and perhaps even input from the FISA court itself.

But Senator Charles E. Schumer, a New York Democrat who also serves on the Judiciary Committee, said the panel should consider issuing subpoenas if the administration is not more forthcoming in providing documents and witnesses.

"Without the Justice Department memos and without more witnesses, it's hard to se how anything other than a rehashing of the administration line is going to happen," Mr. Schumer said Wednesday. "I am worried that these hearings could end up telling us very little when the American people are thirsty to find out what happened here."

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Court filings shed more light on CIA leak investigation
John Byrne and Ron Brynaert February 2, 2006

Third Time reporter, named in filings, says he has not testified in case

A series of striking revelations have emerged after the release of dozens of pages of court files in the CIA leak investigation that have gone unnoticed by the mainstream media, RAW STORY has found.

Some of them have been uncovered by astute bloggers – including the fact that the outed agent’s husband will not testify at a trial, and that a third Time reporter has been fingered as having information potentially relevant to some aspects of the case.
Moreover, the documents reveal that no formal damage assessment has been done with regard to how the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame affected the agency’s operations worldwide. They also hint that Vice President Cheney’s former Chief of Staff I. Lewis Libby may have outed Plame on the orders of his “superiors.”

Fitzgerald’s Jan. 23 letter was penned in response to a series of telephone conversations, letters, and motions filed by Libby, who was indicted for obstructing justice in the Plame investigation. Libby has sought to force the prosecutor to turn over more information about his case to bolster his defense.

In the letter, Fitzgerald notes that a third Time Magazine reporter – who now serves as Slate’s chief political correspondent – had conversations with Administration officials about a trip conducted by Plame’s husband to investigate claims that Iraq had sought to purchase uranium from Niger.

"We also advise you that we understand that reporter John Dickerson of Time magazine discussed the trip by Mr. Wilson with government officials at some time on July 11 or after, subsequent to Mr. Cooper learning about Mr. Wilson’s wife," Fitzgerald writes. "Any conversations involving Mr. Dickerson likely took place in Africa and occurred after July 11."

Matt Cooper, also a Time reporter, testified that Bush's Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove had cautioned him to play down the Wilson trip. Wilson, an ardent Bush critic, said he found no evidence to support claims that Iraq had sought to obtain uranium in order to build a nuclear weapon. Such claims were a keystone in the Administration’s efforts to convince the United States and Congress to support a pre-emptive war.

Reporter says he hasn’t been contacted in case

Dickerson told RAW STORY in an email message Thursday morning that he has not been contacted by the prosecutor.

“I didn't know I was mentioned in the court filings until I saw it on the web,” he said. “I've never been contacted by anyone in Fitzgerald's office.”

From July 8 to July 12, 2003, President Bush took a five-country tour of Africa, accompanied by National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer. A pool of reporters, including Dickerson, accompanied the President’s retinue.

Although the White House correspondent made no mention of any such conversations in his series of articles on the trip (link), Dickerson did contribute to a Time online report published on July 17, 2003.

From A War on Wilson?: "And some government officials have noted to TIME in interviews, (as well as to syndicated columnist Robert Novak) that Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, is a CIA official who monitors the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. These officials have suggested that she was involved in her husband's being dispatched Niger to investigate reports that Saddam Hussein's government had sought to purchase large quantities of uranium ore, sometimes referred to as yellow cake, which is used to build nuclear devices."

Dickerson left Time in May 2005 for Slate. After Libby was indicted, he wrote about conversations he had with Fleischer at the time.

"He walked reporters, including me, up to the fact, suggesting they look into who sent Wilson, but never used her name or talked about her position," Dickerson wrote.

According to Newsday, Dickerson’s name appeared in a January, 2004 subpoena sent to the White House in search of “administrative contacts” with reporters regarding Plame or other elements of the probe.

Regardless, Fitzgerald says he’ll tell Libby by tomorrow which journalists he expects to call at trial.

"We will be providing to you prior to February 3 copies of subpoenas and pertinent correspondence relating to reporters referenced in the Indictment and/or whom we expect to call at trial," Fitzgerald wrote Libby.

Prosecutor won’t call Wilson; Says no CIA damage assessment

In response to Libby's motion to gather more information on Wilson, Fitzgerald said he doesn't "expect" to call the former Ambassador to testify at trial. He advises Libby to instead refer to Wilson's many media appearances and written accounts.

Also of note is the fact that Fitzgerald asserts that the CIA has conducted no formal damage assessment with regard to Plame’s outing.

“A formal assessment has not been done of the damage caused by the disclosure of Valerie Wilson’s status as a CIA employee, and thus we possess no such document,” Fitzgerald writes. “In any event, we would not view an assessment of the damage caused by the disclosure as relevant to the issue of whether or not Mr. Libby intentionally lied when he made the statements and gave the grand jury testimony which the grand jury alleged was false.”

Finally, Fitzgerald alludes to "authorization" by Libby's "superiors" – who may include President George W. Bush or Vice President Dick Cheney – who may have allowed him to disclose information about a then-classified report on Iraq's alleged weapons of mass destruction to the media. Previous reports have indicated that Cheney and Bush are not targets of the probe.

Fitzgerald writes, "As we discussed during our telephone conversation, Mr. Libby testified in the grand jury that he had contact with reporters in which he disclosed the content of the National Intelligence Estimate (“NIE”) to such reporters in the course of his interaction with reporters in June and July 2003 (and caused at least one other government official to discuss the NIE with the media in July 2003). We also note that it is our understanding that Mr. Libby testified that he was authorized to disclose information about the NIE to the press by his superiors."

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Fitzgerald Hints White House Records Lost
By PETE YOST Associated Press 1 Feb 06

WASHINGTON - Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald is raising the possibility that records sought in the CIA leak investigation could be missing because of an e-mail archiving problem at the White House.

The prosecutor in the criminal case against Vice President
Dick Cheney's former chief of staff said in a Jan. 23 letter that not all e-mail was archived in 2003, the year the Bush administration exposed the identity of undercover CIA officer Valerie Plame.
Lawyers for defendant I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby this week accused prosecutors of withholding evidence the Libby camp says it needs to mount a defense.

"We are aware of no evidence pertinent to the charges against defendant Libby which has been destroyed," Fitzgerald wrote in a letter to the defense team.

But the prosecutor added: "In an abundance of caution, we advise you that we have learned that not all e-mail of the Office of Vice President and the Executive Office of the President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system." His letter was an exhibit attached to Libby's demand for more information from the prosecution.

Lea Anne McBride, a spokeswoman for Cheney, said the vice president's office is cooperating fully with the investigation, and referred questions to Fitzgerald's office.

Libby is charged with five counts of perjury, obstruction and lying to the FBI regarding how he learned of Plame's identity and what he did with the information.

The Presidential Records Act, passed by Congress in 1978, made it clear that records generated in the conduct of official duties did not belong to the president or vice president, but were the property of the government.

The National Archives takes custody of the records when the president leaves office.

"Bottom line: Accidents happen and there could be a benign explanation, but this is highly irregular and invites suspicion," said Steve Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists government secrecy project.

"A particular subset of records sought in a controversial prosecution have gone missing," Aftergood said. "I think what is needed is for the national archivist to ascertain what went wrong and how to ensure it won't happen again."
Comment: "Highly irregular" and "invites suspicion"??? How about criminal malfeasance as in erase, delete, reformat?

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Bin Laden Artwork Now Hanging In New York
Morry Alter CBS Feb 2, 2006 4:27 pm US/Eastern

NEW YORK - Is that who we think it is in that picture?

Our interest in this story was sparked by an angry email sent to us here at The writer wasn't angry at us, but rather about what he'd seen at the current National Black Fine Art Show in the Puck Building. This is the 10th anniversary edition of the show which features galleries from across the country selling the works of America's top African American painters, sculptors, and photographers.

But the writer had big problems with a painting by Harlem artist "Tafa". It depicts an upside down Christ-like figure with a face strongly resembling Osama Bin Laden. The email read in part, "This is outrageous. This is an attack against my religion. How can an artist go so low? Most people are outraged, most Christians."
On the phone with me, the artist declined to do an on-camera interview, telling me the work speaks for itself, but adding, the resemblance to Bin Laden was no accident.

The art show's producer Josh Wainwright, insisted he hadn't even made the Bin Laden connection. "Knowing what you know now would you have barred the painting from being part of your show?" I asked. "Absolutely not," he replied. Wainwright says he's a military veteran and despises Bin Laden, but he added, "I don't think it's anyone's job or vocation to limit the expression of artists."

While some at the show did recognize the Bin Laden face on the Christ body, we found none who were offended. Instead most defended "Tafa" the artist's right to speak his mind. The painting is bordered with hand lettered expressions and names including "mujahadin," "McCarthyism," and "Amadou Diallo," a man killed by New York City police in 1999.

You could take the painting out of circulation, or not, for a mere $12,000 and change. You can see the painting, or not, by visiting the show which runs through Sunday. Daily admission is $15.

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Spain's El Pais prints front page Mohammad cartoon
Reuters Fri Feb 3, 2006 3:05 AM ET

MADRID - Spain's leading newspaper El Pais on Friday became part of a growing international row by publishing a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad on its front page.

The cartoon, originally published by France's Le Monde, portrayed the head of the Prophet Mohammad made up of lines which say "I must not draw Mohammad" in French.

Newspapers in France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland and Hungary have reprinted caricatures originally published in Denmark, arguing that press freedom is more important than the protests and boycotts they have provoked.
Muslims consider any images of Mohammad to be blasphemous.

El Pais editors were not immediately available to comment on the decision to publish the cartoon on its front page.

On Thursday, a dozen Palestinian gunmen surrounded European Union offices in the Gaza Strip demanding an apology for the Danish cartoons, one of which showed Islam's founder wearing a bomb-shaped turban.

Afghanistan has condemned the publication of the caricatures and about 400 Islamic students set fire to French and Danish flags in protest in the city of Multan in central Pakistan.

The owner of France Soir, a Paris daily that reprinted the cartoons on Wednesday along with a German paper, sacked its managing editor to show "a strong sign of respect for the beliefs and intimate convictions of every individual".

But the tabloid defended its right to print the cartoons, first published last September in Danish daily Jyllands-Posten.
Comment: Would any of these countries gotten away with publishing similar cartoons that targeted Jews? Of course not. So, why the double standard?

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Bin Laden as Christ
Morry Alter

But the writer had big problems with a painting by Harlem artist "Tafa". It depicts an upside down Christ-like figure with a face strongly resembling Osama Bin Laden. The email read in part, "This is outrageous. This is an attack against my religion. How can an artist go so low? Most people are outraged, most Christians."
Our interest in this story was sparked by an angry email sent to us here at The writer wasn't angry at us, but rather about what he'd seen at the current National Black Fine Art Show in the Puck Building. This is the 10th anniversary edition of the show which features galleries from across the country selling the works of America's top African American painters, sculptors, and photographers.

But the writer had big problems with a painting by Harlem artist "Tafa". It depicts an upside down Christ-like figure with a face strongly resembling Osama Bin Laden. The email read in part, "This is outrageous. This is an attack against my religion. How can an artist go so low? Most people are outraged, most Christians."

On the phone with me, the artist declined to do an on-camera interview, telling me the work speaks for itself, but adding, the resemblance to Bin Laden was no accident.

The art show's producer Josh Wainwright, insisted he hadn't even made the Bin Laden connection. "Knowing what you know now would you have barred the painting from being part of your show?" I asked. "Absolutely not," he replied. Wainwright says he's a military veteran and despises Bin Laden, but he added, "I don't think it's anyone's job or vocation to limit the expression of artists."

While some at the show did recognize the Bin Laden face on the Christ body, we found none who were offended. Instead most defended "Tafa" the artist's right to speak his mind. The painting is bordered with hand lettered expressions and names including "mujahadin," "McCarthyism," and "Amadou Diallo," a man killed by New York City police in 1999.

You could take the painting out of circulation, or not, for a mere $12,000 and change. You can see the painting, or not, by visiting the show which runs through Sunday. Daily admission is $15.
Comment: Seems that its okay to depict Mohammed as a Terrorist, but it is not okay to depict bin Laden as a savior.

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Alert for Friday prayers as prophet cartoons row rages
AFP February 3, 2006

COPENHAGEN - Europe and the Middle East were on high alert as millions of Muslims attended weekly prayers at what appeared to be a critical moment in the international furore over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

Fears of a spasm of violence were widespread after Muslims around the world expressed their fury at the 12 drawings and some religious leaders called for a day of protests against the countries in which they appeared.
In Indonesia a crowd of aroud 100 men stormed the building housing the Danish embassy, chanting "Let's go jihad (holy war), we're ready for jihad", before being ejected by security forces.

Muslims attending Friday prayers in Middle Eastern and European capitals listened to denunciations of the Danish, Norwegian and French newspapers that printed the pictures.

In Jerusalem thousands of angry worshippers demonstrated in the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, shouting: "Condemnations are not enough, you have to reply with fire."

There were scuffles with police but no injuries.

But by early afternoon there were no reports of serious unrest, raising tentative hopes that the crisis could have passed a key test.

What has been widely described as a new battle in the continuing culture wars between Islam and the secular West began in September when the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten commissioned cartoons of Mohammed in a deliberate affirmation of its right to free expression.

The row smouldered for several months before being reignited by republication of the drawings in Norway and France, prompting outrage among Muslim faithful, a campaign of consumer boycotts and on Thursday death threats from militants against nationals of the three countries.

In Europe many newspapers leapt to the defence of their sister publications, insisting on the right to free speech. But others have been more cautious, warning that liberty must be tempered by the duty not to provoke religious sensibilities.

Governments have also been circumspect, stressing the right to free expression but also urging mutual respect. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Friday the decision to republish the cartoons was "insulting ... insensitive ... disrespectful ... and wrong."

In the Middle East there has been universal condemnation of the cartoons, which include one of the prophet in a bomb-shaped turban and another of him telling suicide bombers at the gates of heaven that there were no more virgins.

But there were also calls for a measured response Friday that suggested the anger could be contained.

In Teheran veteran revolutionary cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani condemned the European press, but urged the faithful to respond calmly.

"We need to put forward our calm and compassionate side, our gentleness. It is enough to look at the Koran," he said.

And in Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said: "We are people who by the instructions of religion are bound to take the course of forgiveness... we must have as Muslims the courage to forgive and not make it an issue of dispute between religions or cultures."

In Denmark Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen had an hour-long meeting with 76 foreign diplomats including many from Muslim countries in a bid to defuse the crisis, but insisted at the end that his government could not apologise on behalf of the press.

"I think it's in our mutual interest to calm down the situation. If the protests in the streets escalate further, it may have unpredictable repercussions on all the affected countries, and then the problem can grow to a more global problem," Rasmussen said.

Egypt's ambassador to Denmark Mona Omar Attia who attended the meeting said the Jyllands-Posten would have to issue a clear apology.

In France the centre-left newspaper Liberation reprinted two of the cartoons, describing them as "exhibits in the case".

While criticising the caricatures as "mediocre," the daily said its decision was taken "out of a concern for comprehension and for reaffirming values which... have been damaged in the crisis."

France-Soir newspaper, which printed all 12 cartoons on Wednesday, published a message from the staff in support of editor Jacques Lefranc who was sacked by the paper's Egyptian-French owner Raymond Lakah.

"Let us repeat again and again: there is absolutely no question ... of stigmatising Islam and Muslims. Religion is not the issue but intolerance," it said.

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Fear of an American Internet
By Markus Dettmer and Marcel Rosenbach Spiegel online 1 Feb 06

France is hoping to protect Europe from the growing influence of US Internet companies like Google by creating a rival state-backed search engine. But they're not getting much support from anyone else. Will cyber-dirigisme work?

Even if it's not clear when exactly French President Jacques Chirac blew his stack, he certainly decided at some point that enough is enough. But it wasn't the prospect of cutting European Union farm aid that got him riled up, nor was he railing against rogue states and threatening them with France's ageing nuclear arsenal. No, the target of Chirac's ire this time was much more nefarious: American dominance of the Internet.

Chirac's concern about the growing power of US Web firms such as search engine giant Google has spurned him to redouble French efforts to create a state-backed European cyberspace champion named Quaero. His heart seems set on getting German support for the project -- but his heart may soon be broken.

"We must take up the challenge presented by American giants like Google and Yahoo," he said in his presidential New Year's address to La Grande Nation. "There is the threat that tomorrow, what is not available online will be invisible to the world."

So, is simply just Franco paranoia about France's language and culture becoming overwhelmed in an English-speaking Internet? Without question, America continues to dominate the Web even as more people around the world go online. The five most important Internet companies are all from the United States. But what has really worked the French into a lather is Google's recent announcement it would begin to digitize the complete works of libraries -- including European ones.

Google Print aims to put some 15 million books online by 2015 and several of the world's leading English-speaking universities -- including Harvard, Stanford and Oxford -- have signed on to the ambitious project. But instead of joining Google, the director of France's national library has warned the project could endanger Europe's cultural heritage. He said the Google initiative would Americanize and commercialize culture, science and knowledge.

The Airbus of tomorrow?

Originally part of a Franco-German declaration on greater industrial cooperation, Chirac's latest push comes following a year without direction for the Quaero project. The French leader has even gushed about creating "the Airbus of tomorrow" and in 2005 Paris set up an Agency for Industrial Innovation to back high-tech projects with an annual budget of €1 billion. The French consortium behind Quaero -- which means "I search" in Latin -- is lead by electronics giant Thomson. Paris has begun to put pressure on Berlin to get behind the project, but the Germans don't seem to be all that eager to take part.

While in Paris the issue has taken on presidential importance, in Berlin it's been left to ministerial bureaucrats. A fortnight ago, the German Economy Ministry invited potential commercial partners over for a chat. But finding a major industrial backer remains elusive.

Deutsche Telekom, the company preferred by the French -- says they are watching "the project with interest, however, has no active participation planned." But that's not all that surprising considering the telecom's Internet unit T-Online already cooperates closely with US rival Google.

And Deutsche Telekom isn't the only company to head for the hills as soon as it's suggested as a possible Quaero backer. Regardless if Siemens, SAP or even the less well known media firm Studio Hamburg, they've all begged off. Empolis, a subsidiary of media conglomerate Bertelsmann, even felt it necessary to officially deny it was "taking over leadership" for the German side of the undertaking. Instead, Empolis was merely mulling "whether the Quaero project is of interest for the company."

Dirigisme 2.0

Of course, who's to blame the Germans for perhaps hoping to avoid becoming too deeply involved in a little Franco cyber-dirigisme? Some are sure to point out that France's embrace of the US-developed Internet was stunted in the first place because it was focused on its state-controlled Minitel system. And making matters worse, nobody seems to know what exactly Quaero is supposed to be.Most agree it can't simply try to be a Google copy. Quaero has to be somehow more than that. -- an online toolbox to find, translate, and index sound, video, images as well as text. It's a system that should run on computers, but also on mobile phones and televisions. But trying to rival Google isn't going to be easy. Just ask Yahoo and Microsoft, which have tried for years to do just that and failed. Google spends around $400 million annually on research and development and the firm is constantly coming up with new products.

Following Chirac's chest-thumping routine, the Europeans have apparently decided more discretion might be called for until Quaero really gets off the ground. Thompson sealed off the project's Web page in mid-January with password protection. However, that didn't completely keep it from the public -- parts of the site were still cached on Google.

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The End of the Internet?
Jeff Chester 1 Feb 2006

The nation's largest telephone and cable companies are crafting an alarming set of strategies that would transform the free, open and nondiscriminatory Internet of today to a privately run and branded service that would charge a fee for virtually everything we do online.

Verizon, Comcast, Bell South and other communications giants are developing strategies that would track and store information on our every move in cyberspace in a vast data-collection and marketing system, the scope of which could rival the National Security Agency. According to white papers now being circulated in the cable, telephone and telecommunications industries, those with the deepest pockets--corporations, special-interest groups and major advertisers--would get preferred treatment. Content from these providers would have first priority on our computer and television screens, while information seen as undesirable, such as peer-to-peer communications, could be relegated to a slow lane or simply shut out.
Under the plans they are considering, all of us--from content providers to individual users--would pay more to surf online, stream videos or even send e-mail. Industry planners are mulling new subscription plans that would further limit the online experience, establishing "platinum," "gold" and "silver" levels of Internet access that would set limits on the number of downloads, media streams or even e-mail messages that could be sent or received.

To make this pay-to-play vision a reality, phone and cable lobbyists are now engaged in a political campaign to further weaken the nation's communications policy laws. They want the federal government to permit them to operate Internet and other digital communications services as private networks, free of policy safeguards or governmental oversight. Indeed, both the Congress and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are considering proposals that will have far-reaching impact on the Internet's future. Ten years after passage of the ill-advised Telecommunications Act of 1996, telephone and cable companies are using the same political snake oil to convince compromised or clueless lawmakers to subvert the Internet into a turbo-charged digital retail machine.

The telephone industry has been somewhat more candid than the cable industry about its strategy for the Internet's future. Senior phone executives have publicly discussed plans to begin imposing a new scheme for the delivery of Internet content, especially from major Internet content companies. As Ed Whitacre, chairman and CEO of AT&T, told Business Week in November, "Why should they be allowed to use my pipes? The Internet can't be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment, and for a Google or Yahoo! or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!"

The phone industry has marshaled its political allies to help win the freedom to impose this new broadband business model. At a recent conference held by the Progress and Freedom Foundation, a think tank funded by Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and other media companies, there was much discussion of a plan for phone companies to impose fees on a sliding scale, charging content providers different levels of service. "Price discrimination," noted PFF's resident media expert Adam Thierer, "drives the market-based capitalist economy."

Net Neutrality

To ward off the prospect of virtual toll booths on the information highway, some new media companies and public-interest groups are calling for new federal policies requiring "network neutrality" on the Internet. Common Cause, Amazon, Google, Free Press, Media Access Project and Consumers Union, among others, have proposed that broadband providers would be prohibited from discriminating against all forms of digital content. For example, phone or cable companies would not be allowed to slow down competing or undesirable content.

Without proactive intervention, the values and issues that we care about--civil rights, economic justice, the environment and fair elections--will be further threatened by this push for corporate control. Imagine how the next presidential election would unfold if major political advertisers could make strategic payments to Comcast so that ads from Democratic and Republican candidates were more visible and user-friendly than ads of third-party candidates with less funds. Consider what would happen if an online advertisement promoting nuclear power prominently popped up on a cable broadband page, while a competing message from an environmental group was relegated to the margins. It is possible that all forms of civic and noncommercial online programming would be pushed to the end of a commercial digital queue.

But such "neutrality" safeguards are inadequate to address more fundamental changes the Bells and cable monopolies are seeking in their quest to monetize the Internet. If we permit the Internet to become a medium designed primarily to serve the interests of marketing and personal consumption, rather than global civic-related communications, we will face the political consequences for decades to come. Unless we push back, the "brandwashing" of America will permeate not only our information infrastructure but global society and culture as well.

Why are the Bells and cable companies aggressively advancing such plans? With the arrival of the long-awaited "convergence" of communications, our media system is undergoing a major transformation. Telephone and cable giants envision a potential lucrative "triple play," as they impose near-monopoly control over the residential broadband services that send video, voice and data communications flowing into our televisions, home computers, cell phones and iPods. All of these many billions of bits will be delivered over the telephone and cable lines.

Video programming is of foremost interest to both the phone and cable companies. The telephone industry, like its cable rival, is now in the TV and media business, offering customers television channels, on-demand videos and games. Online advertising is increasingly integrating multimedia (such as animation and full-motion video) in its pitches. Since video-driven material requires a great deal of Internet bandwidth as it travels online, phone and cable companies want to make sure their television "applications" receive preferential treatment on the networks they operate. And their overall influence over the stream of information coming into your home (or mobile device) gives them the leverage to determine how the broadband business evolves.

Mining Your Data

At the core of the new power held by phone and cable companies are tools delivering what is known as "deep packet inspection." With these tools, AT&T and others can readily know the packets of information you are receiving online--from e-mail, to websites, to sharing of music, video and software downloads.

These "deep packet inspection" technologies are partly designed to make sure that the Internet pipeline doesn't become so congested it chokes off the delivery of timely communications. Such products have already been sold to universities and large businesses that want to more economically manage their Internet services. They are also being used to limit some peer-to-peer downloading, especially for music.

But these tools are also being promoted as ways that companies, such as Comcast and Bell South, can simply grab greater control over the Internet. For example, in a series of recent white papers, Internet technology giant Cisco urges these companies to "meter individual subscriber usage by application," as individuals' online travels are "tracked" and "integrated with billing systems." Such tracking and billing is made possible because they will know "the identity and profile of the individual subscriber," "what the subscriber is doing" and "where the subscriber resides."

Will Google, Amazon and the other companies successfully fight the plans of the Bells and cable companies? Ultimately, they are likely to cut a deal because they, too, are interested in monetizing our online activities. After all, as Cisco notes, content companies and network providers will need to "cooperate with each other to leverage their value proposition." They will be drawn by the ability of cable and phone companies to track "content subscriber," and where their online services can be "protected from piracy, metered, and appropriately valued."

Our Digital Destiny

It was former FCC chairman Michael Powell, with the support of then-commissioner and current chair Kevin Martin, who permitted phone and cable giants to have greater control over broadband. Powell and his GOP majority eliminated longstanding regulatory safeguards requiring phone companies to operate as nondiscriminatory networks (technically known as "common carriers"). He refused to require that cable companies, when providing Internet access, also operate in a similar nondiscriminatory manner. As Stanford University law professor Lawrence Lessig has long noted, it is government regulation of the phone lines that helped make the Internet today's vibrant, diverse and democratic medium.

But now, the phone companies are lobbying Washington to kill off what's left of "common carrier" policy. They wish to operate their Internet services as fully "private" networks. Phone and cable companies claim that the government shouldn't play a role in broadband regulation: Instead of the free and open network that offers equal access to all, they want to reduce the Internet to a series of business decisions between consumers and providers.

Besides their business interests, telephone and cable companies also have a larger political agenda. Both industries oppose giving local communities the right to create their own local Internet wireless or wi-fi networks. They also want to eliminate the last vestige of local oversight from electronic media--the ability of city or county government, for example, to require telecommunications companies to serve the public interest with, for example, public-access TV channels. The Bells also want to further reduce the ability of the FCC to oversee communications policy. They hope that both the FCC and Congress--via a new Communications Act--will back these proposals.

The future of the online media in the United States will ultimately depend on whether the Bells and cable companies are allowed to determine the country's "digital destiny." So before there are any policy decisions, a national debate should begin about how the Internet should serve the public. We must insure that phone and cable companies operate their Internet services in the public interest--as stewards for a vital medium for free expression.

If Americans are to succeed in designing an equitable digital destiny for themselves, they must mount an intensive opposition similar to the successful challenges to the FCC's media ownership rules in 2003. Without such a public outcry to rein in the GOP's corporate-driven agenda, it is likely that even many of the Democrats who rallied against further consolidation will be "tamed" by the well-funded lobbying campaigns of the powerful phone and cable industry.

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Pentagon document outlines plan to take down global communications
by Adam Brookes, BBC News Jan. 27, 2006

A newly declassified document gives a fascinating glimpse into the US military's plans for "information operations" -- from psychological operations, to attacks on hostile computer networks.

Bloggers beware.

As the world turns networked, the Pentagon is calculating the military opportunities that computer networks, wireless technologies and the modern media offer.

From influencing public opinion through new media to designing "computer network attack" weapons, the US military is learning to fight an electronic war.
The declassified document is called "Information Operations Roadmap". It was obtained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University using the Freedom of Information Act.

Officials in the Pentagon wrote it in 2003. The Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, signed it.

The "roadmap" calls for a far-reaching overhaul of the military's ability to conduct information operations and electronic warfare. And, in some detail, it makes recommendations for how the US armed forces should think about this new, virtual warfare.

The document says that information is "critical to military success". Computer and telecommunications networks are of vital operational importance.


The operations described in the document include a surprising range of military activities: public affairs officers who brief journalists, psychological operations troops who try to manipulate the thoughts and beliefs of an enemy, computer network attack specialists who seek to destroy enemy networks.

All these are engaged in information operations.

Perhaps the most startling aspect of the roadmap is its acknowledgement that information put out as part of the military's psychological operations, or Psyops, is finding its way onto the computer and television screens of ordinary Americans.

"Information intended for foreign audiences, including public diplomacy and Psyops, is increasingly consumed by our domestic audience," it reads.

"Psyops messages will often be replayed by the news media for much larger audiences, including the American public," it goes on.

The document's authors acknowledge that American news media should not unwittingly broadcast military propaganda. "Specific boundaries should be established," they write. But they don't seem to explain how.

"In this day and age it is impossible to prevent stories that are fed abroad as part of psychological operations propaganda from blowing back into the United States -- even though they were directed abroad," says Kristin Adair of the National Security Archive.

Credibility problem

Public awareness of the US military's information operations is low, but it's growing -- thanks to some operational clumsiness.

Late last year, it emerged that the Pentagon had paid a private company, the Lincoln Group, to plant hundreds of stories in Iraqi newspapers. The stories -- all supportive of US policy -- were written by military personnel and then placed in Iraqi publications.

And websites that appeared to be information sites on the politics of Africa and the Balkans were found to be run by the Pentagon.

But the true extent of the Pentagon's information operations, how they work, who they're aimed at, and at what point they turn from informing the public to influencing populations, is far from clear.

The roadmap, however, gives a flavor of what the US military is up to -- and the grand scale on which it's thinking.

It reveals that Psyops personnel "support" the American government's international broadcasting. It singles out TV Marti -- a station which broadcasts to Cuba -- as receiving such support.

It recommends that a global website be established that supports America's strategic objectives. But no American diplomats here, thank you. The website would use content from "third parties with greater credibility to foreign audiences than US officials".

It also recommends that Psyops personnel should consider a range of technologies to disseminate propaganda in enemy territory: unmanned aerial vehicles, "miniaturized, scatterable public address systems", wireless devices, cellular phones and the internet.

'Fight the net'

When it describes plans for electronic warfare, or EW, the document takes on an extraordinary tone.

It seems to see the internet as being equivalent to an enemy weapons system.

"Strategy should be based on the premise that the Department [of Defense] will 'fight the net' as it would an enemy weapons system," it reads.

The slogan "fight the net" appears several times throughout the roadmap.

The authors warn that US networks are very vulnerable to attack by hackers, enemies seeking to disable them, or spies looking for intelligence.

"Networks are growing faster than we can defend them... Attack sophistication is increasing... Number of events is increasing."

US digital ambition

And, in a grand finale, the document recommends that the United States should seek the ability to "provide maximum control of the entire electromagnetic spectrum".

US forces should be able to "disrupt or destroy the full spectrum of globally emerging communications systems, sensors, and weapons systems dependent on the electromagnetic spectrum".

Consider that for a moment.

The US military seeks the capability to knock out every telephone, every networked computer, every radar system on the planet.

Are these plans the pipe dreams of self-aggrandizing bureaucrats? Or are they real?

The fact that the "Information Operations Roadmap" is approved by the Secretary of Defense suggests that these plans are taken very seriously indeed in the Pentagon.

And that the scale and grandeur of the digital revolution is matched only by the US military's ambitions for it.

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Rewriting history under the dome
By EVAN LEHMANN Lowell Sun Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- The staff of U.S. Rep Marty Meehan wiped out references to his broken term-limits pledge as well as information about his huge campaign war chest in an independent biography of the Lowell Democrat on a Web site that bills itself as the "world's largest encyclopedia," The Sun has learned.

The Meehan alterations on represent just two of more than 1,000 changes made by congressional staffers at the U.S. House of Representatives in the past six month. Wikipedia is a global reference that relies on its Internet users to add credible information to entries on millions of topics.

Matt Vogel, Meehan's chief of staff, said he authorized an intern in July to replace existing Wikipedia content with a staff-written biography of the lawmaker.
The change deleted a reference to Meehan's campaign promise to surrender his seat after serving eight years, a pledge Meehan later eschewed. It also deleted a reference to the size of Meehan's campaign account, the largest of any House member at $4.8 million, according to the latest data available from the Federal Election Commission.

"Meehan first ran for Congress in 1992 on a platform of reform," the pre-edited entry said. "As part of that platform Meehan made a pledge to not serve more than four terms, a central part of his campaign. This breaking of the pledge has been a controversial issue in the 5th Congressional District of Massachusetts."

The new entry reads in part: "Meehan was elected to Congress in 1992 on a plan to eliminate the deficit. His fiscally responsible voting record since then has earned him praise from citizen watchdog groups. He was re-elected by a large margin in 2004."

Vogel said, "It makes sense to me the biography we submit would be the biography we write."

The change doubled the length of the entry on Meehan, corrected errors and replaced "sloppy" writing, Vogel said. "Let the outside world edit it. It seemed right to start with greater depth than a paragraph with incorrect data from the '80s."

Wikipedia's online honor system has made it ripe for abuse by vandals. Recently, a user wrote in a Wikipedia bio that Virginia Congressman Eric Cantor "smells of cow dung." Another wrote that Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is "ineffective." These statements were traced to the House Internet-protocol (IP) address.

In November and December, The Sun has learned, users of the House's IP address were temporarily blocked from changing content because of violations described by the site as a "deliberate attempt to compromise the integrity of the encyclopedia."

"I'm not denying it," Jon Brandt, a spokesman for the Committee on House Administration, which oversees the House computer network, said when asked to confirm House ownership of the address.

For security reasons, Brandt declined to say to whom the address is assigned.

While vandalism is a problem, deleting factual information raises ethical concerns, said Geoffrey Bowker, director of the Center for Science, Technology, and Society at Santa Clara University.

"The vandalism is just plain childish," Bowker said. "The term-limit pledge (that was changed by Meehan's staff) is a much more serious case. That's someone trying to alter the public record.

"To knowingly remove a truthful statement is just wrong," he added. "It's not the place of any special-interest group to tamper with the facts available to the public."

Most of the 1,000 House changes were meant to enhance various encyclopedia entries. Slurs against Cantor and Frist, which have been removed, are the first examples of abuse that Wikipedia's founder Jimmy Wales has seen derived directly from the legislative branch of the U.S. government.

Wikipedia records every change to its site and who made it. The encyclopedia prefers that editors log in with a user name, but it's not necessary. Many editors make changes anonymously; Wikipedia identifies these users by tracking the number assigned to their Internet entry point, called an IP address.

But Wales said the deletion of factual information goes against the principles of Wikipedia, which promotes a "neutral point of view" policy.

"You don't delete it," Wales said. "If they wanted to put in their side of things, that would seem ethically relevant, rather than just omitting it."

Mistakes were inserted into the Meehan entry at different points of its evolution, according to an examination of the edits. One editor erroneously said Meehan attended Harvard College; another indicated it is likely that Meehan would run for Sen. Edward Kennedy's seat.

Wikipedia reaches around the globe, having 3.1 million articles published in more than 200 languages. The English-language version is the largest category, with more than 910,000 articles and 856 million words. That's more than six times larger than Encyclopedia Britannica -- the largest reference printed in English.

And people read it.

Yesterday, Wikipedia was ranked the 19th- busiest site on the Internet, according to, a subsidiary of that tracks Webtraffic.

A new reference to Meehan's term-limit pledge was inserted in the Wikipedia entry in November by a person not using the House address.

On Dec. 27, someone using the House IP address reduced the reference to a single sentence: "(Meehan) also supported term limits, pledging to serve no more than four terms."

Vogel said he did not authorize the change.

No reference to Meehan's top-rated campaign account has been reintroduced.

The changes by Meehan's staff are not as "reprehensible" as inserting derogatory comments in someone else's entry, said Stephen Potts, former director of the federal Office of Government Ethics, which establishes conduct standards for the executive branch.

But the sheer breadth of changes emanating from the House reflects an abuse of public time and equipment, said Potter, now chairman of the Ethics Resource Center.

"That kind of usage, plus the fact that they're changing one person's material, is certainly wrong and ought to be at a minimum the focus of some disciplinary action," he said.

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US media at 'all-time low'
Julia Day in Qatar The Guardian Thursday February 2, 2006

Arabic-language media have an unprecedented chance to take over as the world's premier news source because trust in their US counterparts plummeted following their "shameful coverage" of the war in Iraq, a conference heard today.

The US media reached an "all-time low" in failing to reflect public opinion and Americans' desire for trusted information, instead acting as a "cheerleader" for war, said Amy Goodman, the executive producer and host of US TV and radio news show Democracy Now!, at a news forum organised by al-Jazeera.
Newsweek's Paris bureau chief, Christopher Dickey, said the US media were dying because of cutbacks and weren't interested in covering the world outside America.

But other delegates questioned whether Arabic media were up to the challenge.

"The US media have done a shameful job of reporting on the Arab world. With the rise of al-Jazeera and independent media there is a chance for the Arab media to react back, but instead what we get is a clash," said Ethan Zuckerman, the co-founder of Global Voices Online and research fellow at the Berkman Centre for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School.

"I would urge everyone involved with new Arabic media not just to report on this [Arabic] world more fairly and accurately, but to report on the whole world more fairly and accurately. I challenge al-Jazeera and the new Arabic media players to do a better job that the US in covering the rest of the world," he said.

Ms Goodman said in the run-up to the Iraq war a study of NBC, CBS, ABC and PBS newscasts over a fortnight recorded 393 interviews on the conflict, of which only three reported the anti-war movement.

"This is a media cheerleading for war and does not represent mainstream opinion in the US," she added.

Ms Goodman said she believed the policy of embedding reporters with coalition forces was "a total failure for independent journalism ... western audiences need to see the other side of the story - from communities and hospitals".

"If people in the US had a true picture of war - dead babies, women with their legs blown off, dead and dying soldiers - they would say 'no'," she said.

"There is nothing more important than the media - it is more powerful than any bomb or missile and we have to take it back ... we need a media that is independent and honestly showing us the images, the hell, ugliness and brutality of war, not selling us war."

Mr Dickey, the Middle East regional editor and Paris bureau chief at Newsweek magazine, said US media were "dying".

"After 25 years as a foreign correspondent I know what the US wants from the rest of the world: to forget about it."

"There's this idea that the US media is controlling the agenda. In fact the US media is dying. Resources, money and staff are being cut back. Twenty years ago Newsweek had 25 staff in Paris, today it has one: me," said Mr Dickey.

He added that the gap between what the US and Arabic media reports was widening. with American reports being "all about victory and the Arabic being all about victims".

Faisal al-Kasim, host of al-Jazeera's The Opposite Direction show, said that as a result of a perceived failure of western media to reflect the full picture more people were turning to Arabic media.

"Even Arabs who live in the west are giving up watching western networks and tuning to Arabic networks instead," Mr al-Kasim said.

However, concerns were aired at today's conference about the ability of the Arabic media to operate independently.

Lawrence Pintak, a director of the Adham Centre for Electronic Journalism and a former CBS foreign correspondent, urged delegates against thinking that Arabic media were allowed the freedoms to which western journalists were accustomed.

"I am concerned that someone from the US or Europe who doesn't know the Arabic world will think that all is goodness and light when we know that is not the case," he said, citing the beating of journalists during the Egyptian elections and the detention of journalists in Yemen and Morocco.

However, Mr Pintak there was a "great sense of possibility" about journalism in the Arabic world, likening it to the interest in the profession in the US following Watergate.

Concerns were also aired about the ability of al-Jazeera's soon-to-launch English language station, al-Jazeera International, to reproduce the success of its main Arabic network across the world.

"We might as well buy a new channel in the US," Mahmud Shammam, the bureau chief for the Dar Al Watan newspaper and Newsweek Arabic.

"[Al-Jazeera International] will not have Arabic characteristics and that's a big challenge."

Hugh Miles, a journalist and United Nations media consultant, said al-Jazeera was massively popular in north Africa but because conspiracy theories about its agenda were rife, the new English-language channel would be watched very carefully.

"If al-Jazeera International is perceived to be biased or insensitive to Islam - on the Danish cartoon issues for example - there will be a loss of faith in the al-Jazeera brand," he said.

"The Arabic service has done a tremendous job in establishing al-Jazeera as a trusted name. It would be a terrible shame to see that image jeopardised."

But the director of al-Jazeera's research centre, Mostefa Souag, attempted to allay fears about the new channel, saying the network's managing director, Wadah Khanfar, has confirmed its editorial stance "will not be far away" from its sister station.

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Bush Says Only US Can Secure Whirled Peas
By W. Chimpamongus in Washington 01 February 2006

President George Bush insisted last night that, despite its difficulties in Iraq, America would not retreat from whirled peas, arguing that US leadership "is the only way to secure whirled peas." Isolationism and protectionism, he warned in his annual State of the Union address, led ultimately "to an ability so that, uh, you know, you can't put food on your family."

According to excerpts of the speech released in advance by the White House, Mr Bush asked for more money to spend on basic science research, and on education in maths and science, to help understand whirled peas farming, to more accurately count the peas, and to ensure that "rich folks get their fair share, a bigger share of the, uh, the peas, and the best peas too, because it was our idea."
"The 'Mericun 'conomy is pre-eminenenent, you know, Eminem is an 'Mericun, or whatever," he was to tell Congress on one of the great set-piece occasions of the political year. But in today's "dynamic whirled peas economy" the US could not afford to be complacent. He warned how the country "is addicted to ever more costly corn chips and illegally imported Mex'cun salsa, which taste good on Pabst beer, and on football and on baseball too." Mr. Bush was expected to urge greater use of "nucular pow'r" to grow more whirled peas and to urge the greater use of alternative energy sources, such as "turnin' whirled peas into fuel for your car, in case you got more than you need, you can burn 'em."

"The best way to handle this war on corn chips and illegal salsa is by building a huge wall 'round the country, and through technology, like high-tech whirled peas farmin'" Mr Bush declared, according to the advance text. "And we can put whirled peas everywhere, and give those peas lovers what they keep cryin' -- uh, askin' about."

A State of the Union address is always an important psychopathic moment ­but never more so than this year, as the Presiopath attempts to recover from a disastrous 2005 where whirled peas were completely ignored. He needs to boost morale in Republican ranks before the upcoming invasion of Iran, Syria, and North Korea. In recent weeks the Presiopath's approval ratings hovered in sync with his cronies' take of profits from the war in Iraq--profits estimated at around 40 percent of total money spent--the lowest at this stage in a presidency for any incumbent since Richard Nixon and Vietnam.

Even before the speech, White House officials made clear that given the current $350 billion-plus federal budget deficit, the speech would contain no major spending initiatives on the domestic front, except for the whirled peas farming industry. The Presiopath is also making a new push for individual health savings accounts, "in case some of ya'll don't get the nutritious whirled peas like yer wantin'," he was to say. "Health care costs are a runaway expensive, uh, expense, the costs are costly and, uh, and it's costin' my people lots of money in costs to pay for your health costs with subsidies and stuff. Ya gotta remember, ya know, uh, this is creepin' facis--, uh, a democracy, and you know, we fascis--, uh, elected leaders got elected to get things done. We leaders have some tough choices to make. Like filet mignon or prime rib? See what I mean? It's a call tough, and somebody's gotta make that call. So we can't be distracted with your health care. And b'sides, it's botherin' my wife's beautiful mind."

His Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, dined on whirled peas and carrots in London last night with the other foreign ministers of the UN Security Council's veto-holding powers, plus Germany. They discussed whether to press ahead with plans to refer Iran to the Security Council for possible sanctions over its nuclear ambitions later this week, while Rice silently wondered whether it might be more profitable for the US to invade the country right away since they plan to do that regardless of the stage show with the Security Council. Presiopath Bush will also talk about the broader issue of whirled peas in the Middle East, and the Palestinian elections that produced the Hamas victory.

"The actions I, uh, we, take in our own country or elsewhere help define 'Mericu to others, and that's why it's important for me, uh, us, to constantly push for whirled peas -- with butter from the 'Mericun heartland. We need people to think we leaders have got a wonderful heart and land, and creamy butter, and that we are a compassionate nation, we can't let our mask, uh, flask, uh, our resolve slip," Mr Bush said in an interview with CBS television looking ahead to his speech.

The most keenly anticipated sections of the speech were to deal with "Iran's nucular progrum" and the Hamas victory in last month's Palestinian elections. "Palestinians need to know that we're all for their democracy, so long as I get to be their dictator. But they gotta quit complainin' about Israel, and they gotta stop fightin' back every time Israel kills some more of their women and kids. I mean, you know, uh, the Israelis, they use brand new bullets and bombs. It's not like they're giving the Palestinians old stuff," the Presiopath said. "We intend to give Israel some of our whirled peas. And we're gonna ask them to give some to you. There's gonna be enough whirled peas for ever'body, including you Palestinians. And ya gotta remember the bright side, the less of you there are the more whirled peas there'll be for the rest of you. Sounds kinda good, dudn't it?"

This fifth State of the Union address, marking the start of the Presiopath's sixth year in office, is in practice the last in which he can hope to deliver whirled peas. After the mid-term vote, the focus switches to the battle to succeed him, where Diebold and an iron fist full of ballot box hijackers will ultimately decide who that successor is, assuming of course the fascade of democracy even needs to be maintained by that time.

"In terms of politics, it has been his worst year, and the future looks tough," said Frank Lee, professor of sociopathy at the University of Crawford. "So many bad things have happened that two-thirds of people think the country is on the wrong track. There is a lot of discontent out there, both about foreign and domestic issues. On the foreign front there is Sony Playstation and Nintendo, and on the domestic front there is Microsoft XBox and a slew of really cool educational games, like Halo 2. Toss in Gameboys, the choice between a massive array of cell phone ring tones, the choice between a Hummer or Lexus, and the new season of American Idol, and you can see what people are facing. It's quite a dilema. I vote for the XBox and Hummer, and that gray-haired 20-something from Vegas. He can really sing."

* Note: Ronald Reagon, George Bush Sr., and Bill Clinton contributed to this report

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Manure falls from sky -- for second time

He's heard that it's impossible, but Timothy J. Rohn swears human waste is raining from the sky.

"It doesn't look like friendly stuff," said the 47-year-old Richland Township resident whose home is in the flight path of airplanes going to and from MBS International Airport. "Bird poop is kind of white, but this is a lot of brown. It's a mess."

Tuesday, for the second time in as many months, Rohn found the suspicious substance splattered on the side of his truck and his home, on North Raucholz near Geddes.
"It's in the exact same spot," he said. "Some of it is white, but there are a lot of brown blotches, and it doesn't look like any goose poop to me. Plus, it would be quite a coincidence to have that many birds hit the exact same spot twice."

Even Richland Township Police Officer Gary Wade is perplexed.

"It's manure," Wade said, "and it came from the sky. If it came from some kind of fowl, it had to be one heck of a large flock. To me, it looks like bird droppings but, man, it had to be an awful large flock of birds. It's all over."

Both Rohn and Wade said they know that airplanes cannot discharge waste in flight because the mechanism that opens the hatch is accessible only from the outside of the craft.

Still, Rohn wonders if the holding tank or valve could leak.

"The airplanes turn when they go over our house, so they can line up with the radar on Orr," Rohn said. "What I'm wondering is whether there is a cap that can fall off or leak, because this is the second time it's happened, and I don't want it to happen a third time. What if my 8-year-old daughter was outside when it happened?"

Rohn said the substance definitely is excrement and, from what he could see Tuesday night, it may have contained toilet paper that had broken down in chemicals. He said he did not notice a blue or other chemical tint to the substance.

The material, which appeared between noon and 3 p.m., caused no permanent damage to Rohn's house or truck. The first time it happened, he let rain and snow do the washing for him.

Rohn said he plans to contact airport officials today, just to get more information.

"I was irate at first," he said. "But I took an aspirin and laid down and called it a day."

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A dismembered Arab sheikh raised from the dead after visiting an Orthodox convent
Interfax 2 Feb 2006

Moscow - One of the Saudi Arabia sheikhs ‘rose from the dead’ after visiting Panagia Saidnaya, an old convent near Damascus, the Trud daily writes on Friday.

After being killed and quartered, this man was sewed up anew with the use of some technology unknown to humanity, the newspaper says referring to medics who analyzed this unique occurrence.

The US military medics, who also took part in the experiment, came to the conclusion that it was a result of ‘the UFO interference’ and classified this information as secret.
According to the newspaper, the sheikh and his wife could not have children. They decided to go on their last journey together to Syria to venerate local Muslim shrines. One taxi-driver there advised them to visit the Sidnay Convent with its miracle-working Icon of the Mother of God, which often helped to childless families.

The sheikh promised to donate 80 thousand dollars to the convent and to give 20 thousand dollars to the driver if his prayers were answered. Nine months later, his wife gave birth to a hair. Happy sheikh went immediately to Damascus to fulfil his promise, came in contact with the driver and asked him to meet him at the airport.

The driver came with two ‘bodyguards’. On its way to the convent the car suddenly turned into a deserted place and the three men made a short work of the sheikh by cutting off his legs, arms and head. They took his money and jewels and put the remnants of the poor sheikh into the boot in order to drive him away to a safe place.

After a few kilometers the car suddenly stalled. A man who was driving by offered his help, but it was rudely rejected. But this Syrian felt something was wrong and called to the police, who came and caught the three accomplices unawares.

They all experienced an even greater shock after they opened the boot. The motionless and blooded body suddenly began to stir, then revived and stood up slightly rocking. The first words he said were: ‘This same Panagia has just finished sewing up my neck here…’

After this declaration, the driver and ‘his bodyguards’ went out of their mind.

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Ark's Quantum Quirks
SOTT February 3, 2006


Fear of Flying

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The Core of Zionism
By MICHAEL NEUMANN January 26, 2006

Editors' Note: This month CounterPunch Books publishes Michael Neumann's The Case Against Israel, a bracing and tightly argued counterblast to the nonsense peddled by Alan Dershowitz in The Case For Israel. What follows is Neumann's core thesis. We strongly encourage CounterPunchers to order this book, either through this site or you can Call Becky Grant or Deva Wheeler at 800-840-3683 or email us. AC/JSC.
What matters for an understanding of the Israel/Palestine conflict is what the expression 'a Jewish state' would mean to any reasonable person. What, in particular, could the Palestinians reasonably expect when they heard that such a state was to be established in Palestine?

The state itself--the human community--is, everywhere in the world, an absolute dictator bound neither by morality nor by law. Even in the most impeccable democracy, there are ways to institute anything humans can do to one another. Frequently, as in the case of the democratic Weimar Republic of Germany, just invoking emergency legislation is quite enough to open the gates of hell.

For the Zionists to demand a state, any state, was therefore no small thing for anyone--like the Palestinians--falling within its proposed boundaries. But what the Zionists demanded was a Jewish state. Whether this was racism is not of any immediate concern. For one thing, to say that something is racist is not, for many people, immediately to say that it is unjustified: there are those, for instance, who accept affirmative action as 'reverse' racism yet still defend it. For another, the project might have begun as racist yet outgrown its racism by instituting sufficient protections for non-Jews. Or it might not have outgrown it altogether, but exhibited a form of racism that, though reprehensible, was not particularly virulent. It, therefore, does not seem particularly fruitful to examine whether Zionism was racism.

When a state is described in relation to the territory it controls, its ethnic character is open. The French state is not necessarily a state for some ethnic group called Frenchmen, just as the Belgian or Yugoslav or Jamaican state weren't states for ethnic groups of that name. But a Catholic state would be a state run by Catholics; a black state would be a state run by blacks; a heterosexual state would be run by heterosexuals. This could hardly be clearer: what would be Catholic or black or heterosexual about a state not run by at least some members of those groups?

When, as in the post-World-War-I era, the ideology of self-determination added to the picture, the expectation develops further. Now it is that ethnic states would be run not just by members of their ethnic groups, but in some sense by those ethnic groups themselves. At the very least, such states would be governed in the name of those group members in the area. This would amount to something more than a formality. Thus, an Armenian state would be not simply have Armenian rulers. These rulers would truly govern in the name of Armenians. They would not just claim to act for their Armenian subjects or citizens, but would genuinely rule on their behalf, that is, for their benefit. The Armenian inhabitants might--and from Wilson's standpoint, would--be governed democratically, by themselves. If not, one would hope and expect that they would be governed for themselves, or for, in the interests of, Armenians as a whole.

A Jewish state would, therefore, be a state run by and for Jews. In such a state, Jews would be sovereign. The state would be run in their interests.

For non-Jews to expect as much was and is, therefore, entirely reasonable. Only a consistent, ongoing, highly public campaign to explain that this was certainly not going to happen would be sufficient to dispel this expectation. Nothing remotely like that occurred. So, it is worth reviewing what living under Jewish sovereignty must mean.

It means that Jews have a monopoly on violence in the areas they control. The perceived legitimacy of this monopoly need go no further than a settled expectation familiar to Star Trek fans: resistance is futile. A Jewish state is simply a state where Jews are firmly in control and where that much is recognized. Within its borders, Jews hold the power of life and death over Jews and non-Jews alike. That is the true meaning of the Zionist project.

If that's what the project is and was, there are a lot of things it wasn't. The Jews who came to Palestine as individuals and in small groups had various motives. But the overall direction of the Zionist movement, the ultimate goal to which all these individuals and groups would be directed and the one which it would in fact achieve, is something else again. Most accounts of the settlement do not focus on this ultimate purpose, and are therefore misleading. The Zionists and their camp followers did not come simply to settle. They did not come simply to 'find a homeland', certainly not in the sense that Flanders is the homeland of the Flemish, or Lappland of the Lapps. They did not come simply to 'make a life in Palestine'. They did not come simply to find a refuge from persecution. They did not come to 'redeem a people'. All this could have been done elsewhere, as was pointed out at the time, and much of it was being done elsewhere by individual Jewish immigrants to America and other countries. The Zionists, and therefore all who settled under their auspices, came to found a sovereign Jewish state.

In this state, however tolerant, however easygoing, however joyful, however liberal, Jews would always have the final say, on everything. Affairs would be run in the interests of whatever its rulers or inhabitants considered the interests of the Jewish people. Within that state, the final decision on how much force was to be used to advance those interests was entirely in the hands of its Jewish occupants. This does not have to mean that non-Jews had no representation, no say at all. It does not mean that non-Jews had no civil rights, or that their human rights would necessarily be violated. But it does mean that--since it is the essence of a Zionist state to be Jewish, run by and for Jews--things would always be arranged so that sovereignty remained in Jewish hands. This might be by law or it might be by political manipulation; it might be de jure or de facto. So it would be for Jews alone to decide whether non-Jews had civil rights, whether their human rights would be honored, indeed whether they would live or die. The purpose of establishing a sovereign Jewish state may or may not have been domination; that doesn't matter. That would certainly be the effect of its establishment.

What then of the claims that Zionism wasn't necessarily the demand for a sovereign Jewish state? Certainly, there were people who called themselves Zionists and who demanded something else, though what it was always remained obscure. There was talk of a state; its mechanisms never clearly defined. There was talk of a homeland guaranteed by international powers, or simply a homeland. It would be correct to say that not all Jewish settlers demanded a Jewish state, and that some of these settlers considered themselves Zionists. It would be incorrect to say that the Zionist project or enterprise was anything less than an attempt to establish a Jewish State.

In the first place, we have seen that a Jewish state was the objective of the Zionist leadership and the mainstream Zionist movement. Second, by the time 'nonexclusive' Zionism had become visible, in the 1920s, its notions of cooperation with the Palestinians had already become unworkable. Too much blood had been shed: the 1921 Jaffa riots had taken 200 Jewish and 120 Palestinian lives, followed in 1929 by the killing of 207 Jews and 181 Palestinians in Hebron. A contemporary Jewish comment on the first serious anti-Jewish riots, in 1920, already asserts that in Palestine there was a general understanding that Zionism would mean a Jewish state, and that this understanding ushered in bloodshed:

"...we all know how the [Balfour] Declaration was interpreted at the time of its publication, and how much exaggeration many of our workers and writers have tried to introduce into it from that day to this. The Jewish people listened, and believed that the end of the galush [exile] had indeed come, and that in a short time there would be a 'Jewish state.' The Arab people too... listened, and believed that the Jews were coming to expropriate its land and do with it what they liked. All this inevitably led to friction and bitterness on both sides, and contributed to the state of things which was revealed in all its ugliness in the events at Jerusalem last April [1920]. " (Ahad Ja'Am [Asher Ginzberg], "After the Balfour Declaration", 1920, reprinted in Gary Smith, ed., Zionism: The Dream and the Reality, London 1974.)

The British showed as little capacity or indeed inclination to curb the ethnic violence as they were to show in India and many other possessions. I know of no case in which cooperation between ethnic communities followed anytime soon on massacres of this scale. Third, even most 'nonexclusive' Zionists were not distinguished by an explicit renunciation of a Jewish state, but rather by a commitment to partition Palestine rather than go for the whole thing. By then, the Palestinians correctly saw that the main tendency of Zionism was to create a Jewish state in Palestine, the intentions of a tiny nonexclusive minority with nebulous plans for some implausibly cooperative two-people government had no point of contact with the political realities.

This is probably why the 'nonexclusives' remained, in the words of Norman Finkelstein, "numerically weak and politically marginal."

Michael Neumann is a professor of philosophy at Trent University in Ontario, Canada. Professor Neumann's views are not to be taken as those of his university. His book What's Left: Radical Politics and the Radical Psyche has just been republished by Broadview Press. He contributed the essay, "What is Anti-Semitism", to CounterPunch's book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. This essay is excerpted from Neumann's new book, The Case Against Israel. He can be reached at:

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Hamas and America's Erroneous Grasp of Middle East Reality
By Madbuli 'Uthmaan Translated By Omar Hammami January 30, 2006

Washington's reaction to the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian election demonstrates once again America's ignorance of the reality on the Arab street. According to this op-ed article from Egypt's Al-Gomhoria, it is the Zionist-influenced American attempt to stop Hamas that has chiefly led to its meteoric rise in popularity.
American reactions to the Palestinian election victory of Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, have been hasty and miscalculated. Generally speaking, this has been true for decades in regard to American policies in the region. Policy makers in Washington lack experience for understanding the political changes that have changed the map of the Arab world. The reality is that oppressive American policies that are blindly biased toward Israel, the U.S. occupation of Iraq and its pressure on Syria, are injustices that inflame the people of the region.

The U.S. Congress spearheaded the confrontation with Hamas. It tried to prevent Hamas from participating in the Palestinian Parliamentary elections after it had made such a strong showing in the third stage of local elections. So under the claim that Hamas is a terrorist organization, the Congress passed a resolution shortly before the [previous stage of] elections in December, warning Palestinians of a cut-off in aid if Hamas took part in the final round of voting. The Congressional resolution passed by a sweeping majority (397 for, 7 against, and 17 abstaining).

However, this was rejected by the Palestinians, their government and their people, all stressing their rejection of any interference in Palestinian internal affairs. Rather, American and Israeli pressure on Hamas actually played a role in its rise to popularity in the Palestinian street, where the people have tasted death and destruction at the hands of Israelis armed with their American weapons. Thus, the attempted interference by the American/Zionist conspiracy was a major factor in sparking nearly automatic support [for Hamas].

Furthermore, warnings of a cut-off in aid were given little attention because the amount is so meager. The size of the assistance was exposed by Isma'il Haniyah [SEE VIDEO BELOW], the leader of Hamas, when he said: "It amounts to less than crossing tolls." This reality was driven home by the fact that Palestinians see no sign of this aid on the ground, given that their homes, destroyed by American bomber aircraft, remain destroyed, and Apache missiles continue to fall on their heads on a daily basis.

So recent actions and statements by the U.S. administration carry many dangerous implications, the most import of these being American and Israeli alarm at the rise of Hamas.

Despite the fact that it is a small organization, its widespread popularity demonstrates that the Palestinian people have chosen it as their means of regaining the rights that were stripped from them, and they have chosen it as their means to establishing an independent government on their homeland.

This is especially the case after the failure of all other attempts at a settlement, which were backed by Palestinian groups and Arab organizations over the past half century. Rather, racing to have exchanges with the Israelis has caused the loss of many Palestinian and Arab rights. Alarm over this is also extremely valid, since the Palestinian people never abandoned, not even for a day, the resistance which began after the first Zionist attack a century ago.

Continuing support for the resistance never waned, even in the face of collective hunger, siege, destruction, suppression, murder, slaughter, and every type of hardship. And this I what the American/Zionist Confederacy fears the most: the increasing support for the Palestinian resistance across the rest of the Arab and Islamic world. The American oppressions, including the infringement upon the honor of the Nation, its body politic and its legislated rights, have forced the people to gather around their choice of the resistance.

This move by the American Congress also shows the dual political game that Washington plays with Muslim people in general, but Arab people in particular. So while it claims to be looking after democracy, and that it is trying to initiate peace in the Arab world through democracy, it stands clearly against the choice of the Palestinian people and tries to obstruct their democratic path.

So here, credit must be given to the Palestinian leadership for siding with the choice of the people, for the quickness with which the government spoke up, and for the Palestinian President's clear declaration that he will stick to the law and hand Hamas the duty of forming a new government. Credit is also due to the Egyptian leadership, for rushing to declare its acceptance of the choice of the Palestinian people. The same is also true of the Arabic University [Lebanon] and many governments.

This movement also highlights the ramifications of America's interference in the internal affairs of Arab countries, which is carried out by taking advantage of weak organizations and a lack of civic organizations.

Another dangerous implication of U.S. Congressional resolution is that members of Congress, and every policy maker in the American administration, bows to Zionist propaganda that has succeeded, through hysterical warnings and exhortations, to twist the facts, especially those related to Israel and the struggle in the Middle East region.

It has also made the resistance of the Palestinian People appear like terrorism that has to be confronted. And as for the Israeli terrorism that has impacted all visible signs of life in Palestine and the Arab region, it is regarded as justified self defense. The American President, George W. Bush, mentioned this openly when he said about Palestinian suicide missions, "The Israeli people will continue to be slaughtered by the terrorists and therefore, Israel will continue to defend itself."

Furthermore, some American writers, as well as some lawmakers and Congress people, have acknowledged the terrorism of the Zionist lobby in America. Edward Herman, who co-authored, Manufacturing Consent along with Noam Chomsky, wrote, "The powerful Israeli lobby in America represents the material support and defense of Israel. This lobby is capable of not only controlling the media and making Congress an occupied territory of Israel, but it is able to place people with dual interests in strategic positions and sensitive positions in the Bush Administration."

Also, the Jewish author, Israel Shamir, said in an article entitled, "Ode to Cynthia," found on his Internet site, "Out of every five dollars American taxpayer gives for aid, four dollars land in the coffers of the Jewish state. They appear unstoppable, as the politicians are scared of them and docilely raise their hands and sign the pledge promising to send more money to Israeli generals. Support of Israel is not a foreign policy. It is the covenant of the Mammonites, and you sign it with blood. With Palestinian blood."

Cynthia McKinney, Congresswoman from Georgia, exposed the voting that takes place in Congress. She said, "There are many members of Congress who want to be free. I am one of them. I wanted to be free to vote according to my conscience, but I had been told that if I didn't sign a pledge supporting the military superiority of Israel, no support would come my way. And sure enough, I didn't sign the pledge and no support came my way. I suffered silently year in and year out, because I refused to sign that pledge." The Zionist lobby in America is also not afraid to commit crimes of murder against those who openly express their enmity, like what happened to Senator Paul Wellstone from Minnesota, who was killed in an airplane crash near the end of 2002, because he openly supported the Palestinian struggle.

Moreover, the outcome of the Palestinian and Egyptian elections shows the beginning of a change in the region that is built upon the awareness of the people. This necessitates that other governments and countries change the way they operate and begin accepting the choices of the people.

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Bush's 'Addicted' Nation Will Find Withdrawal Painful
EDITORIAL Translated By Jan de Nijs February 1, 2005

President Bush's push to break America's oil habit 'has come years too late,' both for America's auto companies and especially consumers. According to this editorial from NRC Handelsblad of The Netherlands, kicking the habit now 'is going to be very painful.'
During last night's State of the Union address, American President George W. Bush touched on a sensitive issue regarding his country's energy supply. He stated that America is addicted to oil, and that the best way to shake this addiction is technology. According to Bush, by 2025, 75 percent of the problematic oil imports from countries in the Middle East must be replaced with something else. He called for research into different energy sources for cars; which is remarkable by American standards, because the average car owner in that country could - until recently- top off his gas tank for just a few dollars, unconcerned and enjoying relatively low fuel taxes. But the increases in oil and gas prices have changed all that. The rest of the world realized this before the United States. Therefore the American auto industry is having serious problems.

Ford and General Motors, companies that symbolize that country's focus on prosperity, are incurring unprecedented losses and are closing factories, and laying off workers in the process. Washington is not inclined to financially support this sector. That, despite the unions and powerful car lobbies. Bush stated recently in an interview with the American financial newspaper The Wall Street Journal that the auto industry must produce products that the American public wants. That's what this is all about. American auto companies have insufficiently anticipated the increase in oil prices, which has led to a decrease in demand for gas guzzlers. And that is driven again by a short term vision, which is generally prevalent in the American corporate culture. Grabbing quick (quarterly) profits is more important for a company and their stakeholders than creating a well-balanced long-term strategy.

In his State of the Union, Bush singled out the need for research into hybrid and electric cars. The tragedy is that in this respect, the competition is way ahead of American companies. Japanese car companies Honda and Toyota are successfully selling hybrids, even in the U.S. These hybrids are powered by both electric drives as well as a gasoline engine. In this area as well, the Americans are behind in development. The market, that merciless but healthy mechanism, is taking care of the rest: the Japanese flourish, and American brands are struggling.

By the way, it is not only fuel efficiency that makes Japanese cars so well-liked. The difference between American and European cars and the Japanese ones has little to do with unit price, or even labor cost. Toyota pays its employees relatively well. The difference is quality and the ability to develop the right products at a time when the market wants them, something in which the Japanese excel. And that can again be attributed to the fact that Japanese companies are usually willing to invest in long-term development projects.

President Bush's calls for the car industry and American consumers to change course has come years too late. The oil addiction has progressed to a point where kicking the habit is going to be very painful.

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Bush Has No Intention of Tackling America's Oil Addiction
EDITORIAL Translated By Meta Mertens February 2, 2006

Rather than suggesting ways for Americans to 'kick the habit,' President Bush has plans to reduce his nation's dependence on Middle East oil, not oil in general. But given the reality of America's profligate energy use, this editorial from the Trouw newspaper of The Netherlands suggests that, 'the energy addict participates in the global detoxification program: The Kyoto Treaty.'
Bush accuses Americans of being addicted to oil. But he won't do anything to help them kick the habit. In his annual State of the Union speech, Bush announced that American dependence on Middle East oil must be dramatically curtailed.

These imports from the politically unstable region should be cut by 75% over the next 20 years. Bush would make up the loss of Persian Gulf oil with petroleum from other regions in the world and an accelerated development of alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind.

From his speech it is clear that Bush is talking about independence from the Middle East, not America's energy addiction. The Americans are wholesale users. Nevertheless, they have started a love affair with the hybrid car, which can drive on gas as well as electricity. And in their all-terrain SUVs, which they adore, they want a more efficient engine. However, these are small changes; American oil consumption remains much higher than that of, for example, Europe. The Americans complain about the price of gasoline, but for them the cost is only 50 eurocents [per liter, or €1.75 per gallon]. The addiction could be reduced by imposing a considerable excise tax. But Bush won't do it.

But the consumption is not only focused on cars, but also for example on the air-conditioning mania. Americans use more energy to cool off in the summer than they use in the winter for heating. The result is stores and bars where a normal human being can only survive wearing a sweater, while it is 30 Celsius [86 Fahrenheit] outside. It wouldn't be that difficult for the U.S. government to offer perks and incentives to stop this, if it enunciated a policy on it.

Furthermore, it is recommended that the energy addict participate in the global detoxification program: The Kyoto Treaty and the accompanying (scant) trade in emission rights. It appears that large American companies are starting to become aware of the necessity to participate in the emission trade. However, Bush doesn't want to hear about curtailing emissions. If Bush had touched upon any of these points in his speech, he would have delivered a welcome surprise. But no, Bush only wanted the Middle East to know that he would perhaps find his oil elsewhere.

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Study Strengthens Link between Virus and Weight Gain
David Biello Scientific American January 30, 2006

New study results bolster the controversial hypothesis that certain cases of obesity are contagious. Over the last 20 years, some research has suggested that certain strains of human and avian adenoviruses--responsible for ailments ranging from the chest colds to pink eye--actually make individuals build up more fat cells. Having antibodies to one strain in particular, so-called Ad-36, proved to correlate with the heaviest obese people, and in one study, pairs of twins differed in heft depending on exposure to that virus. Now researchers have identified another strain of adenovirus that makes chickens plump.
Physiologist Leah Whigham of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and her colleagues inoculated young male chickens with three strains of adenovirus--Ad-2, Ad-31 and Ad-37. She and her team then monitored the chickens for three and a half weeks, recording their food intake throughout. Though the infected chickens and noninfected controls consumed the same amount of food and were exposed to the same conditions, chickens carrying Ad-37 were found to have nearly three times as much fat in their guts and more than two times as much fat over their entire body at the end of the three-and-a-half week period. The other two virus strains appeared to have little effect on weight.

"Ad-37 is the third human adenovirus to increase adiposity in animals, but not all adenoviruses produce obesity," Whigham and her fellow authors write in their report presenting the findings in the current issue of the American Journal of Physiology. Although it remains unclear exactly how Ad-37 adds fat, it joins a growing list of such viruses, including canine distemper, Ad-5 and Ad-36.

Ad-36 has been shown in an in vitro study by researcher Nikhil Dhurandhar of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center to help human cells go from having the potential to store fat to actually storing it. "I am not saying that all obesity is caused by viruses," Dhurandhar notes. "Obesity has multiple causes and viruses may be one of those causes."

Next up for study, Dhurandhar says, is the exact mechanism by which a virus could lead to obesity. This, in turn, might lead to a vaccine that could prevent Ad-36 infections. "We hope to identify the gene or genes that could be responsible for its adiposic effect," he explains. "The long-term goal is to see if we can prevent adenovirus-induced obesity."

Whether or not hand-washing will help with weight management remains to be determined. But two researchers shared a Nobel Prize this past year for their work in uncovering the bacterial root of some ulcers after years of consensus that stress caused the uncomfortable stomach affliction. "It makes people feel more comfortable to think that obesity stems from lack of control," Whigham adds. "It's a big mental leap to think you can catch obesity."

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Hormone Transforms Fat Cells from Foes to Friends, Rat Study Suggests
Sarah Graham Scientific American February 10, 2004

Set against the backdrop of an increasingly overweight population, the 1994 discovery of the fat-regulating protein leptin was widely heralded as a boon for obesity research. The hormone continues to be a focus of investigation. Findings published online this week by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences indicate that increasing leptin levels in the body can fundamentally change the nature of fat cells—from idle storage containers to fat-burning machines.
Roger Unger of the Touchstone Center for Diabetes Research at the University of Texas and his colleagues studied rats injected with the leptin gene. Two weeks after the insertion--which raised the creatures’ leptin levels to 50 times that of control animals--the researchers determined that their fat cells had changed substantially. "This is the first careful examination of the fat cells after leptin therapy," Unger remarks. "The structure of the cells change from the normal appearance of a fat cell to a very novel cell that’s really never been seen before."

The team determined that the change resulted from an increase in activity in the mitochondria, the cell’s energy-producing organelles. This increase enabled the cells to burn fat and, as a result, the animals lost about 26 percent of their body weight on average. Although current attempts to use leptin to treat obese people are still very experimental, Unger remarks that "the ability to convert fat cells into fat-burning cells may suggest novel therapeutic strategies for obesity."

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