Who is behind cartoon-provoked violence?
RIA Novosti political commentator Marianna Belenkaya

BEIRUT. (RIA Novosti political commentator Marianna Belenkaya.) -- The wave of demonstrations against the controversial cartoon images of Prophet Mohammed began in Palestine, or at least the demonstrations held there were the first to cause repercussions.

The events took place barely a week after the radical Hamas movement won the parliamentary election there.

It is strange that this wave of Muslim indignation has risen only now, as the cartoons were first published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in late September 2005. At that time, officials and organizations, such as ambassadors of Muslim countries, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, etc., demanded apologies. But Western journalists rejected the demand as an infringement on the freedom of the press.

International journalist organizations called on their colleagues around the world to support the Danish journalists. Their appeal was heard only three and a half months later. In early January a Norwegian magazine reprinted the Danish cartoons, while other European media followed suit only after protest actions broke out across the Islamic world.

Nobody can say why any of this has happened now, as there are too many possible explanations. In some countries the demonstrations serve to distract the people from economic and social problems. Others want to rally society against the external threat and strengthen the regime. Still others aim at destabilizing the situation and framing their political adversaries in power. Each country has its own specifics and its reasons for stirring peaceful demonstrations into violence.

The fiercest protest actions are held in the most conflict-ridden parts of the Islamic world - Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. They are a direct result of the actions of European and American politicians regarding the Broader Middle East, meaning the Muslim world, rather than the policy of European journalists.

Hamas's victory in Palestine showed that a democratic model, which the West is trying to spread to the Broader Middle East at the United States' initiative, does not work there. Or rather, it is not working as its advocates hoped it would. Washington thought democracy would help stop Islam from becoming too radical. Instead, the radical Islamic forces are using free elections to come to power.

The West is scared. The words of U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at the recent 42nd Munich Conference on Security Policy clearly demonstrate this. He has called on allies to strengthen solidarity and increase military spending in order to preclude the creation of a global extremist Islamic empire.

We see glaring proof of the Islamic threat, with European diplomatic offices burning in Muslim states and Muslim protest demonstrations held in Europe. Hamas came to power in Palestine shortly before the Munich conference, the situation around Iran's nuclear dossier is deteriorating, and new explosions claim lives in Iraq. And the memory of the torching of thousands of vehicles by Muslims in France is still fresh.

Is there a "hidden force" behind the current unrest or is it a spontaneous expression of public outrage? There is no answer to this question so far. The cartoon-inspired violence has cast a bright light on relations between Muslims and Christians, which have turned from a political issue into trouble for millions of ordinary people.

The current conflict drew the world's attention to the deep gap that divides the West and the Islamic world. The two sides have become aware that they regard life differently and their opinions are incompatible.

The West is frightened but not surprised. The current events fit the view of Muslims that has developed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. All we've done is published some cartoons, and the Muslims threaten to kill us, the West seems to say. Western journalists complain that the Islamic world does not understand the meaning of freedom of the press.

Their Muslim colleagues say they know what freedom is. They ask why they cannot criticize Jews or express doubts about the Holocaust, if Western journalists deem it possible to offend the religious feelings of Muslims? They say that the West likes to speak about democracy but refuses to talk with Hamas, which has won a democratic election. Why can some countries have nuclear weapons but prohibit others to do the same?

The answers to these questions are obvious to a Westerner, but everything looks different in the Islamic world. Why are some countries always right and others are always wrong?

Moreover, it is the Arab intellectuals who are asking these questions. They are insulted by both the cartoons and the attacks on European embassies. Many Lebanese say protest demonstrations were necessary but their outcome will harm the image of Islam and might destabilize the situation in Lebanon, which is tottering on the edge of a civil war. This is the reason why religious leaders have tried to stop crowds from going too far in Beirut. But the Danish consulate was burned down anyway.

There must be a core reason behind the torching of Western diplomatic missions. Who would want this done and why? Unfortunately, there are too many interested parties, both in the West and in the Islamic world.

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The Trail of Illegal Weapons Sold To Iran And Iraq Starts In Washington And London
Greg Szymanski Arctic Beacon January 30, 2006

The devil's playground in the Arab sand over the last 25 years has provided crooked politicians on both sides of the Atlantic a handsome profit. While hundreds of thousands of innocents have died a bloody death, the "masters of evil" in the illegal arms trade continue to sell their "dirty toys" under the cover of darkness and through a system of secret companies hidden from public scrutiny.

Many have died trying to expose their wicked game, including microbiologist Dr. David Kelly (2003) and Gerald Bull (1990), the former chairman of the Space Research Corporation.

Although both deaths remain suspicious and never thoroughly investigated, Dr. Kelly and Bull were extremely close and casting a dark light on the clandestine, illegal money-raising deals by U.S. and UK politicians in arming Iraq in Iran.

And in the specific case of Bull, he was in the midst of revealing when he turned up dead, the beneficiaries of "commissions," many of the recipients being high level politicians in Washington and London.

Even though observers close to Dr. Kelly and Bull have so solid evidence they were killed, it's interesting to note that most of the pair's damaging information has been redacted from official records, silenced by corrupted courts or kept from public view through a compliant press.

But whatever the sad case may be, it's obvious these "dirty politicians," doing the devil's handy work are hiding "something big and play for keeps."

And it's obvious from the results of the "killing fields" in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, they function only for power and profit with absolutely no conscience, not only killing innocents on the battlefield but killing-off those who get too close to exposing their "dirty games," as these killer-crooks live under the devilish credo of "what's one more drop of blood matter when the whole world is painted a bloody red anyway."

However, for the public record and for the world to know, there is a bulk of evidence showing these "masters of evil" not only include those Middle East leaders in collusion with the West, but those in power in Washington and London. Although some evidence has come forward, much of the incriminating files and documentation have been fiercely protected to this day, as these devilish politicians know all too well that the rancid odor of warm blood and rotting body parts from the illegal arms trade follows curious path right into 10 Downing Street and 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

The Arming of Iraq and Iran

As Saddam Hussein sits rotting in a Baghdad jail awaiting a hangman's noose, the last thing Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush wants is for Hussein to spill the beans, tell the truth and talk.

They want him out of the picture since he could add even more damaging information to the solid body of evidence that over the period of 1982-90 Iraq and Iran were supplied by the U.S. and UK with WMD, including biological cultures and chemical precursors of nerve gases and radioactive material, including caesium-137.

John J. Drewe in 2003, noted the UK and U.S. were the major suppliers of these weapons and that details of the underlying contracts with overseas companies like Allivane International Limited and Astra Holdings PLC, pinning officials to the illegal sales, were beginning to surface in the 1980's, but have since been forgotten, as politicians have been mostly successful in quieting whistleblowers, bribing the courts and controlling the media.

One example Drewe calls attention to, saying it reveals only the tip of the iceberg of how UK/U.S. politicians profited, points to the fact how UK officials denied in 1992 awarding Iraq billions of Pounds of export credits to purchase weapons. But in February 2003 the government was caught lying when certain relevant paper, perhaps inadvertently declassified, disclosed some of the truth behind the illegal arms deals with Iran and Iraq.

An important aside also surfaced in 1999 in the UK saying that Drewe had spent over 18 months in custody awaiting trial. He was later sentenced to six years in prison for art fraud after having his assets frozen and deprived sufficient access to counsel, according to legal observers.

Back then, sketchy reports surfaced and it was alleged that there was an arms scandal behind the art fraud case, which eventually silenced Drewe. Throughout the case, Drewe claimed that he had been set up as fall guy for a widespread conspiracy that included Scotland Yard, the Ministry of Defense and the governments of at least seven nations he helped broker between British weapons manufacturers and Iran, Iraq

As is usual in such cases, the news media jumped to the defense of the State, presenting Drewe in a bad light. However, despite the bad press, he had his vocal supporters.

Gerald James, former Astra chairman, who avoided a long prison sentence in the Matrix Churchill arms-related case by showing that he had acted with the approval of the Ministry of Defense, offered evidence for three hours in Drewe's defense. Geoffrey Scriven also offered to give evidence that the Lord Chancellor secretly briefed judges and the courts have been corrupted regarding the Drewe matter.

And while the legal tensions mounted, the government back then quickly denied Drewe and other whistle blower allegations that Allivane International Limited ever existed, although records clearly showed it was formed in 1982 and traded until 1988.

Drewe also presented documentary evidence proving the existence and that Allivane was a front for British Special Intelligence Services, exporting arms to both Iraq and Iran. The company was also mentioned in the Scott report, most of which suppressed by the government.

Why Did UK and U.S. Partner-Up?

Behind the legal wrangling and government whitewashing, the motive behind selling weapons to the Middle East is simple: war is a profitable game. And the means to distribute, of course, is to then create a system complex, undetectable companies to first manufacture the weapons, then get them safely to the Middle East without UN detection and then, of course, repay politicians through handsome "commissions" with laundered money transferred secretly under the financial radar screen.

But how and why did the U.S. and UK partner-up to make this happen back in the early 1980's?

The plan, according to Drewe and others, originated in Washington as a joint UK/U.S. venture. On Dec. 17, 1983, information surfaced that Donald Rumsfeld delivered a letter from President Ronald Reagan to Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, as an agreement was reached between the two countries whereby Iraq would be supplied with munitions, including biological chemical and WMD, as well as being provided with loans from a U.S. bank.

To verify this trip, Howard Teicher, advisor to the U.S. National Security Council on the Middle East (1982-87), accompanied Rumsfeld and filed a subsequent 1995 affidavit swearing to the trip and the American deal to sell weapons to Iraq.

However, Rumsfeld and Reagan, two of the alleged private beneficiaries of the illegal weapon sales, had a problem. They had a big problem since UN arms embargoes were rigorously being enforced in the U.S., unlike in Europe.

So to avoid public scrutiny, they had to figure out a way to provide an alternative route for the illegal export of American munitions. To reach this diabolical end, the U.S. then set up a number of "front" companies" in Europe, in coordination with the CIA, MI6 and the UK's DTI and Foreign Office.

One such "front company," according to financial researchers silenced by the compliant press, crooked courts and bogus national security claims, was Allivane International Limited, which in 1983 received start-up money in the form of a grant from the British government. Contracts were then awarded to Allivane that in turn supplied Iraq with vast quantities of ammunition and weaponry conveniently manufactured in the U.S.

Drewe and several other financial researchers pointed out around this time a British arms company, Astra Holdings plc, grew as it was awarded lucrative contracts by the American government through the British embassy in Washington.

He added that between 1985 and 1990 Astra was the subcontractor to Allivane for the supply of GB Pounds billions-worth of munitions to both Iraq and Iran.

"Astra was then one of the UK arms companies targeted for destruction as the Iran-Iraq war ended," wrote Drewe in a report that has never surfaced in the mainstream press or in official proceedings concerning the illegal arms sales. Atsra records also show its board was compromised by Stefan Kock, a support agent for both the Security and Intelligence Services (MI6), in his capacity as consultant for the Midland Bank. He orchestrated the supply of armaments through "front" companies in deals of which the board remained ignorant, and which did not appear on the Astra books.

Drewe continued:

"The existing paper trail demonstrates that consignments of munitions, chemicals and radioactive material were sent from America to the Faldingworth depot of Astra Defence Systems, and then on to destinations such as the Al Fao organisation in Baghdad. Gerald James, the former chairman of Astra Holdings, obtained the labels marked Al Fao, with evidence of instructions from Rexon that they should be removed before the shipment left Faldingworth.

"All the Astra files, appropriated in seventeen raids by the Ministry of Defense Police and DTI personnel on the offices of the former chairman, Gerald James, are held secret by the DTI. They show huge "commissions" paid on these off-balance-sheet deals, their amounts and their recipients.

"These files are among a body of documentation which is being fiercely protected by government officials, to this day, from every attempt to bring them into public scrutiny. The government is succeeding in its efforts only because it has the benefit of collusion by the courts. This did emerge in the Scott report. Although the courts were aware that those being prosecuted of breaching the arms embargo were doing so on the instructions of the government, they allowed this information to be withheld "in the public interest".

Former Astra Chairman Speaks Out Backing Drewe: Why Is Nobody Listening?

Before dissecting the complex interrelationships among the "front companies," the many political and private players on both sides of the Atlantic, including the Bush family, Rumsfeld, Reagan, former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, her many level officials, Kock's vital role as MI6 infiltrator and overseer, the suppression of the infamous but little known Scott Report, the role of Peter Levine as former British defense official made chairman of Lloyd's of London, it's wise to look at the public statement made by former Astra Holdings PLC Chairman from 1980-90, Gerald Reaveley James, head of the company which became a leading ammunition and weapons manufacture and supplier to Iraq and Iran.

Much of James' statements regarding the Scott Report and the corrupt British legal system have never been adequately reported by the compliant press or followed up by investigators, as it appears to have fallen into the same "deep black hole" where Dr. Kelly and Bull's illegal arms sales information has also been laid to rest.

Before reading James's lengthy comments, remember the Scott Report he refers to has for the most part been suppressed from the public record, as well as the MI6 and CIA role in overseeing the illegal arms deals and the money trail leading back to the U.S. and UK politicians who put the whole devious plan together.

Although James's statements, made as an invited guest and speaker at a UK conference of the Environmental Law Center, are lengthy and only one man's recollection and experience, they are left with only a few insignificant deletions for clarity due to the past suppression of information on this aspect of the sale of arms to Iran and Iraq and his role as Chairman of the company in the middle of the illegal deals.

A more in depth look story of Astra can be found in James' little known book, published in the UK by Little Brown, called "In the Public Interest."

Here are his statements:

"I am reminded of the very appropriate quote from Edmund Burke (1729-97) "It is necessary only for the good man to do nothing for evil to triumph."

"The Astra case and my case reflect much that has been to the fore in recent years in not only scandals around arms companies like Astra, Matrix Churchill, Ordtec, Forgemasters, Walter Somers, Ferranti and other companies like Polly Peck, BCCI and Maxwell but also in the Scott Inquiry, the BSE Inquiry and the Lloyds of London affair and other scandals. The underlying problem is secret unaccountable government which bypasses Parliament and how the law is administered in the UK, gives aid and succor to such a state of affairs. The most common device is the concealment of evidence and manipulation of cases. There is a tendency when challenged for those in authority to talk of conspiracy theories. My experience is that those who do so are usually part of the conspiracy.

"My company Astra gave rise to much of the circumstances which created the Scott Inquiry, the Supergun revelations (we reported it first), the Aitken affair, the murder of Gerald Bull in Brussels in March 1990 and much else.

"Until March 1990 and between 1980 and 1990 I was chairman of Astra Holdings PLC ("Astra") which became a leading ammunition and weapons manufacturer. By the late 1980's Astra had factories in the United States (9), Canada (2), Belgium (5), United Kingdom (5) and administrative headquarters in Washington Dc, Brussels and London and employed 4,000 personnel.

"Astra became involved in covert weapons and ammunitions operations organised by MI5 and MI6 and the CIA, the MOD, DOD, FCO and the State Department and the DTI. To such an extent was Astra involved with its principal subsidiaries, Walters, Accudyne, Kilgore USA PRB Belgium, BMARC UK; in the covert trade manipulations of Foreign Policy. In 1989/90, following a reappraisal of Foreign Policy in the light of the demise of the Cold War and changing circumstances in the Middle East, where it became apparent the US, UK and EEC had transferred Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical weapons technology as well as conventional weapons to countries like Iran and Iraq, and the discovery Pakistan had the atomic bomb, the whole covert network was reorganized.

"This involved the collapsing of companies like Astra, Ferranti/ISC, Polly Peck, BCCI, Maxwell Group etc and the prosecution of lesser fry Companies and their directors ~ companies like Matrix Churchill, BNJ, Ordtec, Euromac, SRC, Forgemasters, Walter Somers are examples. The directors of Astra were to a large extent ignorant of the full range of covert activities carried out in their name but aware of some of these activities and the likely destination of their goods. As however all operations were sanctioned by the DTI, MOD, FCO, and in the U.S. by the DOD and the State Department and in Belgium by the Belgian Government, not too many questions were raised initially.

"However, in late 1988 and 1989 it became clear to me as Chairmen that the clandestine operations far exceeded anything remotely sanctioned by the full Board and I set out to investigate in depth. I became aware that certain plants were used to secretly store and ship goods; that monies were being transferred to other operations without book records or board approval in secret commission payments; that our paper work and parallel bank accounts were being used to process arms shipments from major UK defense companies like British Aerospace, Royal Ordnance, GEC Marconi, Thorn EMI etc. A leading British Defence Journalist wrote a report which was largely kept secret which indicated 100m was stolen from the Export Credit Guarantee Department ("ECGD") in a fictitious subcontract for propellant which BMARC, an Astra subsidiary, had secretly obtained in 1998 from Royal Ordnance.

"I also became concerned about payments to and business with MI6/CIA front company Allivane which had occurred between 1983 and 1988 via Astra. Is also became clear that all our main operations were involved in covert operations in the USA, Belgium and the UK, and that Astra, when it acquired these companies, had inherited a hard core of MI6, MI5, DIA agents who operated behind the back of the original directors and who treated them as "useful idiots".

"All our main companies were involved with Space Research Corporation ("SRC") and the late Dr Gerald Bull who was behind the Supergun and other secret projects which Astra companies were also involved in. In 1989 I realized we had a hugely dangerous individual on our main Board and the BMARC Board who was an MI6 agent.

"This individual, Stepahnus Adolphus Kock had high level political connections to Thatcher, Hesletine, Younger, Hanley, etc as well as MI5 and MI6 connections. It is now clear to me that he was involved in the murder of Dr Gerald Bull in Brussels on 22nd march 1990 and Jonathan Moyle in Santiago, Chile on 31st March 1990. BMARC was the only company outside the Atomic Weapons research Establishment and Government Arms depots with the capability to store nuclear bombs like Redbeard and WE177.

"By early 1990 my probing had become a major problem and a plot was hatched to remove me as Chairman shortly before the Supergun and other revelations and Bull's murder. A new dummy board was formed in reality by Kock with two MI6/MI5 stooges ran the company into the ground over the next two years. In order to explain away the destruction of the company with a 350m order book and a market capitalization of 120m desperate attempts were made to find evidence of malpractice by the original directors. Gumbley, my Managing Director, who had been with Bull until an hour before he was shot had discussed with Bull suing UK Government and senior civil servants using Bull's extensive knowledge of high level corruption and illegal operations.

"It had been agreed I would return with Gumbley to agree with lawyers how to proceed a week later. I had discussed such matters with Bull some six months previous but no further action had been taken. Gumbley was immediately framed up for corrupting an MOD official and jailed for 9 months and after desperately trying to find something on me and failing, Kock and MI6/MI5 decided to institute through Peter Lilley and the DTI a DTI Inquiry. Lilley was Secretary of state at the DTI at the time.

"The DTI Inquiry lasted three years and cost 2.5m plus (as much as the Scott Inquiry). The announcement of the Inquiry and the misleading press statements issued by the DTI and Government ensured the downfall of Astra. Crooks and MI5, MI6, agents or informers were put in charge of Astra, including Kock, Roy Barber FCA and Tony McCann. Barber and McCann whose managerial and industrial competence and experience were negligible paid themselves 330,000 and 280,000 respectively. Barber took 100,000 in the first month. Barber's annual payment was more than I received in salary and expenses as Chairman over ten years while I built the company. PRB was sold off immediately for 3m to avoid embarrassing revelations. MI5, MI6 and MOD police and Customs launched 17 raids on Astra premises in order to steal any sales and other documentation incriminating Government.

"No new orders were obtained in spite of the Gulf War and the company ran on the 350m order book we had left for two years, before it was put into receivership on 2nd February 1992 on the eve of me giving evidence to the House of Commons Trade and Industry Select Committee re Supergun, Project Babylon and arms to Iraq (and Iran etc). Press coverage was hue and adverse. This facilitated, as clearly city interests like Banks and Astra's main shareholders 3i, Prudential and Clerical and medical cooperated with Government for their own interest and purposes against the interests of smaller shareholders ( a parallel with Lloyds techniques).

"Kock had a cover as a consultant in Midland Bank's secret arms department, Midland and Industrial Trade Services ("MITS"). This was staffed by ex service officers, MI5, MI6, agents and intelligence affiliated bankers. Midland with the Bank of Boston were Astra's main bankers and dominated by MI6 CIA agents. Kock was also said to be head of Group 13, the Government's assassination and dirty tricks squad according to Richard John Rainey Unwin, a close associate of Knock himself who was a contract MI6 agent and Consultant to Astra. Kock and Unwin, with Martin Laing Construction, negotiated the 2bn Malaysian defence deal before George Younger, the Defense Secretary even knew of it.

"The MOD police arrested several of my colleagues, framed Grumbley up. I was subjected to harassment, burglaries; I was arrested by Customs, investigated by the Inland Revenue, subjected to surveillance, threats, bugging, telephone tapping (all documented), a DTI Inquiry which lasted 3 years and a DTI prosecution which lasted 4 years. In addition I had to give copious evidence to the Scott Inquiry over 4 years, 2 DTI Select Committees, Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Defense Select Committee, Public Accounts Select Committee, Public Services Select committee, Police (SOI), a huge law suit in the United States (Dooley case). My family suffered considerably, my two eldest sons army careers suffered, my youngest son's education because of adverse publicity, my brother was killed in an accident never satisfactory explained which could have been intended for me.

In the course of my own experiences I took considerable note and interest in parallel cases like Matrix Churchill, Ordtec, Euromac, Atlantic Commercial, BNJ, SRC, Forgemasters, Walter Somers, Polly Peck, Foxley Ferranti/ISC, BCCI, Maxwell etc. All these cases and others and the Astra case involved the gross abuse of power by Government and its agencies and servants, concealment of key evidence, intimidation, threats, false and selective prosecutions, manipulation of evidence, perversion of the course of justice. It has also been clearly demonstrated that there is no separation of powers within the United Kingdom. Key legal appointments like Lord Chancellor and attorney General, Solicitor General are wholly political.

"It has also been clearly demonstrated that Parliament has no control of knowledge of events and that a vast apparatus of permanent unelected Government exists. This permanent Government consists of senior civil servants, intelligence and security officers, key figures in certain city and financial institutions (including Lloyds of London), key industrialists and directors of major monopolistic companies, senior politicians. The Lord Chancellors Office which is responsible for the appointment of Judges, Clerks of the House of Commons select Committees and approval of Chairmen of such committees and the approval of the Queen's Counsel, holds a total control of the legal administrative framework and has strong connections to the security and intelligence services.

"We have seen from the arms to Iran, Iraq affairs, the Sandline affair and other scandals that politicians and Parliament have little or no control and are more like players in a pantomime put on for the general public and gullible public.

"Secrecy breeds corruption, secrecy is power, information is power particularly confidential information. There is no accountability and the calibre of MP deteriorates with each Parliament. The young politician with no experience outside is naive and powerless and many now have a blind loyalty to their party. Ironically the hereditary peers of the House of Lords provided one of the last vestiges of honesty and independence now largely destroyed by self-important and self-deluding figures like Blair and Baroness Jay.

"It has never been more vital for people to challenge the views of politicians and opinion formers. We live in an age where much if not most of the media is controlled. The legal mechanism and Judges and the court system need to be beyond reproach. Sadly they are not and the chronicle of abuse and manipulation of cases is appalling. Judges are not independent in most government related cases and are no different to salaried and pensioned civil servants. The independence of the Judiciary is an allusion fostered by the Judiciary. Too often a Judicial Inquiry is a system for cover up and concealment. Too often the courts are influenced by political considerations as in the Scott Inquiry and the recent Lloyds of London case. Perhaps with pressure this can be changed."

Editor's Note: Read Part II Part IIIhttp://www.arcticbeacon.com/1-Feb-2006.html and Part IV

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Iran and the jaws of a trap
Asia Times By Paul Levian 07/02/2006

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.

Paul Levian is a former German intelligence officer.

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Hawks have warplanes ready if the nuclear diplomacy fails
By Richard Beeston, Diplomatic Editor UK Times online

It is the option of last resort with consequences too hideous to contemplate. And yet, with diplomacy nearly exhausted, the use of military force to destroy Iran's nuclear programme is being actively considered by those grappling with one of the world's most pressing security problems.

For five years the West has used every diplomatic device at its disposal to entice Iran into complying with strict conditions that would prevent its nuclear programme being diverted to produce an atomic bomb.

Those efforts, however, are now faltering. US leaders are openly discussing the looming conflict. A recent poll showed that 57 per cent of Americans favoured military intervention to stop Iran building a bomb. [...]

Comment: Hmmm... and what exactly is the nature of these diplomatic efforts that have been made over the past 5 years?...

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Neo-cons use Denmark as their latest tool to bring about the "Clash of Civilizations"
Wayne Madsen Report February 5/6 2006

Denmark is at the center of the ongoing neo-con plot to bring about a bloody military confrontation between the West and Islam. This "Clash of Civilizations" is a hallmark of the neo-con philosophy and is most exemplified in the writings of Prof. Samuel Huntington and Daniel Pipes.

This follows a pattern of neo-con activity designed to ratchet up tensions. The latest example was the rapid spread of arson across France and Belgium involving neo-Nazis, skinheads, and false flag agents that was blamed entirely on Muslims upset about the deaths of two Muslim youths in a northern Paris suburb. French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy stoked the flames with his rhetoric about Muslim "scum" just as Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen defended the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed in an offensive manner in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten as a freedom of speech issue.
Rasmussen, who is one of George W. Bush's leading supporters in the war in Iraq (Denmark has sent several hundreds troops), governs with the support of the neo-fascist, xenophobic, and inappropriately-named Danish "People's Party." After riots in Arhus, Denmark (at the same time as the arson attacks spread across France, Belgium, and a few German cities), other newspapers in the West began publishing the same cartoons. Danish embassies in Damascus and Beirut have now been set on fire and tensions (and terrorist alerts) have been raised in many countries where the cartoons have been republished. Coffee mugs, T-shirts, and key chains are now being sold on the Internet depicting the offensive images. Cui bono? Who benefits? These tactics, of course, are very convenient for the neo-cons.

Neo-con media outlets such as The New York Sun, Fox News, and others are having a field day with the Muslim riots that have spread around the world in protest over the cartoons just as they had with the French "Muslim" arson attacks. Two New Zealand papers -- The Dominion Post in Wellington and The Press in Christchurch, have published their own controversial cartoons of Mohammed. The papers are owned by Australia's Fairfax Group, which also owns Melbourne's Age, and which was once financially connected to indicted neo-con Lord Conrad Black's scandal-ridden Hollinger publishing empire, which also includes arch neo-con Richard Perle. The Fairfax Group generally adheres to the neo-con corporatist party line.

The neo-cons ignore and even relish in the offensive nature of the inflammatory cartoons depicting Mohammed as a bomb throwing terrorist and pedophile. Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell have made similar comments about the Prophet that Muslims consider blasphemous. What would the neo-cons say if newspapers published cartoons showing a shady looking Moses stealing gold and silver artifacts from the Pharaoh's palace before high tailing it across the Red Sea in the middle of the night? Or a wine-drunk Jesus cavorting with prostitutes in the red light district of Jerusalem? There is no doubt that rabbis and evangelical preachers would be calling for the heads of the offending cartoonists and editors. They've done so for far less.

Moses: "I grabbed ten of the Pharaoh's best urns. I have a list here." Jesus: "I've got the wine. Where are the Jerusalem girls?" See why Muslims are so outraged by unflattering cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed? The neo-cons relish in constant religious warfare, which they have now re-coined "the Long War."

With so many hotheads in the three Abrahamic tradition religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), such inflammatory speech is like yelling fire in a crowded movie theater. The Danish Prime Minister is wrong when he states that the offensive cartoons are protected speech. He would certainly not defend someone who yelled fire in a crowded Copenhagen theater. And struggling Danish farmers, bakers, and fishermen will now pay the price for the boycott of Danish exports by Muslim countries. Lego stockholders will suffer from a boycott of the toy company's products.

But Rasmussen, like Sarkozy, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Netanyahu, Jack Straw, and Australia's John Howard, is marching to the martial music of the neo-cons. They are the shock troops for the Clash of Civilizations, Project for a New American Century, The Long War, A Clean Break, and all the other neo-con plots, conspiracies, and contrivances. It's clearly time to investigate the neo-cons, their networks, their funding sources, their media ownership and investments, their doctrines, their false flag terrorist operations, and their political contributions. Just as Islamist terrorists, they should be rounded up as dangerous members of society and detained until they no longer pose a threat to public safety and the global commonwealth.

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European Media Provokes Muslims To Inflame Zionist "Clash Of Civilizations"
06.02.2006 Christopher Bollyn American Free Press

Under the guise of free speech, a leading Danish newspaper published a dozen provocative anti-Islamic cartoons clearly designed to offend Muslims. The predictable result has greatly increased the possibility of violence and left Denmark in a costly and dangerous predicament.

Four months after Jyllands-Posten (JP), Denmark's most widely read morning paper, published 12 anti-Islamic cartoons, Danes woke up to the fact that there is a very high price to be paid for promoting the "clash of civilizations."

The fact that the editors behind the anti-Islamic images claim to be exercising free speech while refusing to address Europe's strict censorship laws regarding discussion of the Holocaust and the ongoing imprisonment of historical revisionists reveals the existence of a more sinister agenda behind the provocative cartoons.

"Agents of certain persuasion" are behind the egregious affront to Islam in order to provoke Muslims, Professor Mikael Rothstein of the University of Copenhagen told the BBC. The key "agent" is Flemming Rose, the cultural editor of JP, who commissioned cartoonists to produce the blasphemous images and then published them in Denmark's leading morning paper last September.

The International Herald Tribune, which reported on the offensive cartoons on January 1, noted that even the liberalism of Rose had its limits when it came to criticism of Zionist leaders and their crimes. Rose also has clear ties to the Zionist Neo-Cons behind the "war on terror."

Rose told the international paper owned by The New York Times that "he would not publish a cartoon of Israel's Ariel Sharon strangling a Palestinian baby, since that could be construed as 'racist.'"

Asked why he was protecting Sharon, a known war criminal, while abusing Muslims and their Prophet in the name of free speech, Rose told American Free Press that he had been "misquoted" in the Times article.

Rose traveled to Philadelphia in October 2004 to visit Daniel Pipes, the Neo-Con ideologue who says the only path to Middle East peace will come through a total Israeli military victory. Rose then penned a positive article about Pipes, who compares "militant Islam" with fascism and communism.

In April 2003, President George W. Bush nominated the rabid anti-Muslim Pipes to the board of the United States Institute of Peace, a congressionally sponsored think tank dedicated to "the peaceful resolution of international conflicts."

Ministers from 17 Muslim nations condemned the publication of the cartoons as an egregious "offence to Islam" and called on the Danish government to ensure that it would not be repeated.

When the Danish government, which supports the "war on terror" with more than 500 troops in Iraq, refused to issue an apology for the offensive cartoons, Muslim consumers across the Middle East began a boycott of Danish products.

Within days the boycott had severely affected Danish exporters and the politicians in Copenhagen scrambled to undo the damage. Arla Foods, a large Danish-Swedish dairy company, was badly hit by the boycott. The company, which had annual sales of some $480 million in the Middle East, saw its sales in the region plummet to nil as Muslim shopkeepers pulled Danish products off the shelves.

"We have taken 40 years to build up a very big business in the Middle East, and we've seen it come to a complete stop in five days," company spokeswoman Astrid Gade Niels told the BBC.

"Our sales in the Middle East have come to a complete stop - in all countries in the region," she said. "We have found ourselves in the middle of a game that we have no part in."

As the boycott damaged Danish business and a bomb scare closed the office of his newspaper, Rose continued to defend his decision to commission and publish the offensive cartoons. "We stand by the publication of these 12 cartoons," he said.

Asked if he would have done it knowing what the reaction would be, Rose said: "That is a hypothetical question. I would say that I do not regret having commissioned those cartoons and I think asking me that question is like asking a rape victim if she regrets wearing a short skirt Friday night at the discotheque."

The dangerous "game" that was started by the Danish editor has now been picked up by at least 7 newspapers across Europe. Supposedly in support of the Danes, papers in France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland simultaneously reprinted the cartoons on February 1. The timing suggests that this response was coordinated by a hidden hand.

In Paris, for example, Arnaud Levy, editor-in-chief of the financially-strapped France-Soir, chose to print all 12 of the offensive cartoons. Asked if there had been coordination between European editors about the simultaneous publication of the cartoons, Levy said, "Absolutely not."

The following day, Jacques Lefranc, managing editor of France-Soir, was fired by the paper's owner Raymond Lakah, an Egyptian magnate, according to employees. Chief editor Levy, however, remained on the job.

Peter Mandelson, Trade Commissioner for the European Union, strongly reprimanded the newspapers for pouring "oil on the fire" by reprinting the offensive cartoons.

Robert Ménard, secretary general of Reporters without Borders, a Paris-based media monitor, however, supported the publication of the blasphemous cartoons saying, "All countries in Europe should be behind the Danes and Danish authorities to defend the principle that a newspaper can write what it wishes to, even if it offends people.

"I understand that it may shock Muslims, but being shocked is part of the price of being informed," he told The New York Times.

However, when it comes to discussion of the Holocaust, media monitors like Ménard accept without question the government-imposed censorship laws and imprisonment of historical revisionists. At least 4 well known historians are currently in prison in Germany and Austria for writing and speaking about the Holocaust.

There is clearly a more sinister reason why the Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen refuses to issue a formal apology as demanded by Arab and Muslim governments. The hard-line position taken by Rasmussen, an ally in the "war on terror," has more to do with advancing the "clash of civilizations" than defending free speech in Europe.

It is well known that Islam is an aniconic religion which prohibits depictions of the Prophet in the same way that the Second Commandment prohibits "graven images." The European editors are certainly aware of the fact that Islam prohibits the use of icons or visual images to depict living creatures and that it is blasphemous to publish cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. Yet, they have recklessly and intentionally insulted millions of Muslims and are unwilling to apologize.

"The Danish paper set out to offend and provoke outrage in the Muslim community," a Muslim in Britain wrote to the BBC. "Muslims are able to distinguish between those who wish to debate and those who wish to insult. Trying to camouflage insults under the guise of debate or free speech fools nobody."

There is a deeper reason behind the publication of the offensive cartoons. Given the unapologetic position taken by the Danish government and the editors it appears very likely that tension with Islamic nations will increase and the international crisis will deepen. This is, after all, exactly what the global planners behind the "clash of civilizations" want.

The completely predictable reaction among Muslims sets the stage for violence and "false-flag" terror attacks as Europeans prepare to host the Olympics in Turin, Italy. The Turin-based La Stampa irresponsibly published the cartoons on Feb. 1, two days after Milan's Corriere della Sera.

The anti-Islamic cartoon scandal is no laughing matter. If and when a terror attack does occur and the cartoons and angry Muslims are blamed for being the cause, the reason they were published will become clear. Europeans will become increasingly polarized and hostility to Islam will grow.

A month ago, when I first became aware of the provocative anti-Muslim cartoons published in JP, I immediately contacted the editors and asked why they had allowed their newspaper to be dragged into such a ridiculous and provocative situation.

With Europe already involved in two Middle Eastern wars and with the political tension with Iran increasing daily, I asked the editors, "Do you truly wish to antagonize Muslims?"

"I support freedom of speech and am against self-censorship," Rose, who commissioned the cartoons, wrote in response. It was, however, clearly not simply to exercise Denmark's non-existent freedom of speech that Rose commissioned the anti-Muslim cartoons. The more sinister motive of advancing the "clash of civilizations" among Europeans was evidently behind the offensive images.

"If the issue is really one of free speech, would you publish cartoons making fun of the Jewish Holocaust?" I asked Rose and the editors. "If not, do you at least support the right of newspapers and individuals to raise historical questions about the Holocaust?"

Yet after a month of correspondence with Rose and the editors, they have completely avoided answering my questions about the Holocaust and the right of free speech for historical revisionists in Europe.

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Iran to pay "heavy price" for nuclear weapon ambition: Israel
xinhuanet.com – February 5, 2006

Israeli acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Sunday that Iran would pay "a very heavy price" if the Islamic Republic defiantly resumes full-scale uranium enrichment to build nuclear weapons.

"At the end of the day, it shows that Iran will pay a very heavy price if it continues with its plans to try and enrich its fuel in order to be able to use it as an option to make non-conventional weapons," said Olmert at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting.

He also said that Israel had played an important role in what he described as an intensive and stormy diplomatic effort leading to Iran's referral to the UN Security Council.
Olmert's warning came shortly after Iran announced that it had ended all voluntary cooperative measures with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), including snap checks of its nuclear sites and suspension of uranium enrichment.

The IAEA, the UN's nuclear watchdog, decided on Monday to report Iran's nuclear program to the Security Council, which might lead to sanctions.

Israel, believed to be the only nuclear power in the Mideast region, has accused Iran of secretly developing nuclear weapons under a civilian front, a charge categorically denied by Iran.
Comment: As we have stated many times, the promise of 'mutually ensured destruction' from nuclear war between nuclear warhead-equipped nations has successfully prevented any nuclear conflagrations from occurring up until now. So why would we think that this same preventative mechanism would not apply to any future confrontation between a nuclear-equipped Iran Vs Israel.

Israel's real problem with Iran is that if Iran were to join the big boys's club, Israel would be dethroned as the singular dominant force in the Middle East, a position that has permitted people like Sharon and Netanyahu to disregard the rights of Israel's Arab neighbors and essentially threaten them into submission and acceptance of Israel's expansionist policies. Of course, publicly, Israel cannot go to war on such an rationale, hence the lies and propaganda that are currently issuing from Israel and the US.

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Bush seeks to slash public broadcast funds
Reuters February 07, 2006

WASHINGTON (Hollywood Reporter) - President George W. Bush took a swipe at Big Bird and his ilk Monday as he proposed slashing funds to public broadcasting by more than $150 million.

In the president's 2007 budget request, funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting will be cut by $53.5 million in 2007 and $50 million more in 2008. Those cuts don't reflect others made in funding at the Education and Commerce departments and the elimination of specific programs for digital TV conversion and satellite delivery system. Public broadcasting officials estimate that the entire budget cuts run $157 million over the two-year period.
"Oscar the Grouch has been friendlier to the Sesame Street characters than President Bush, who has chosen to make huge cuts to children's television programming," said Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass. "In a world of fast-and-furious television with ratings-driven content, the public broadcasting system represents the last stronghold of quality child-oriented programming -- we owe this to America's children."

The cuts in public broadcasting are part of an attempt by the White House to reduce the country's red ink as the administration seeks more money for the military and seeks to make Bush's first-term tax cuts permanent.

Attempts by conservative Republicans to cut CPB funds are nothing new. Many conservatives view the public broadcasting as a bastion of liberalism. While there have been attempts to make cuts, the service has wide support in Congress from Republicans and Democrats who like its dedication to public affairs and educational programming.

Last year, an overwhelming majority in Congress voted to restore cuts proposed by the administration. This year, those cuts go even deeper, and it could be more difficult to win the fight in Congress, said John Lawson, president and CEO of the Association of Public Television Stations.

"We've dealt with cuts from this White House every year, but these are the deepest he's ever presented," Lawson said. "We see a clear and present danger here."

It took an advertising campaign from public TV stations to mobilize the service's supporters, something that might not be as effective a second time, he said.

"This is a tough environment in Washington right now, and we're competing with other priorities," Lawson said. "If you don't make your case, you lose," he said. "We won last year, but only after we asked the stations to go on the air and tell their communities what was happening. It's an effort we won't foreclose, but if you do that every year, it loses its effectiveness. We're going to try to win this one on the ground."

In his $2.77 billion budget, Bush asks Congress to sharply cut or eliminate 141 government programs. Almost one-third of the targeted programs are in education, including ones that provide money to support the arts, vocational education, parent resource centers and drug-free schools.

"My administration has focused the nation's resources on our highest priority -- protecting our citizens and our homeland," Bush said in his budget message.

Bush's spending proposals are for the 2007 budget year that begins October 1. The $2.77 trillion in spending would be up 2.3% from projected spending of $2.71 trillion this year.

The administration in its budget documents said the deficit for this year will soar to an all-time high of $423 billion, reflecting increased outlays for the Iraq war and hurricane relief.
Comment: From a recent article on the Signs page:

What’s coming

When all fascisms exhibit the same social and political agendas (the 14 points listed by Britt), then it is not hard to predict where a new fascist uprising will lead. The actions of fascists and the social and political effects of fascism and fundamentalism are clear and sobering. Here is some of what’s coming, what will be happening in our country in the next few years:
- The theft of all social security funds, to be transferred to those who control money, and the increasing destitution of all those dependent on social security and social welfare programs.

- Rising numbers of uninsured people in this country that already has the highest percentage of citizens without health insurance in the developed world.

- Increased loss of funding for public education combined with increased support for vouchers, urging Americans to entrust their children’s education to Christian schools.

- More restrictions on civil liberties as America is turned into the police state necessary for fascism to work.

- Withdrawal of virtually all funding for National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System. At their best, these media sometimes encourage critical questioning, so they are correctly seen as enemies of the state’s official stories. [...]
See full article below.

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Flashback: Living Under Fascism
Davidson Loehr 7 November 2004 First UU Church of Austin

You may wonder why anyone would try to use the word “fascism” in a serious discussion of where America is today. It sounds like cheap name-calling, or melodramatic allusion to a slew of old war movies. But I am serious. I don’t mean it as name-calling at all. I mean to persuade you that the style of governing into which America has slid is most accurately described as fascism, and that the necessary implications of this fact are rightly regarded as terrifying. That’s what I am about here. And even if I don’t persuade you, I hope to raise the level of your thinking about who and where we are now, to add some nuance and perhaps some useful insights.
The word comes from the Latin word “Fasces,” denoting a bundle of sticks tied together. The individual sticks represented citizens, and the bundle represented the state. The message of this metaphor was that it was the bundle that was significant, not the individual sticks. If it sounds un-American, it’s worth knowing that the Roman Fasces appear on the wall behind the Speaker’s podium in the chamber of the US House of Representatives.

Still, it’s an unlikely word. When most people hear the word "fascism" they may think of the racism and anti-Semitism of Mussolini and Hitler. It is true that the use of force and the scapegoating of fringe groups are part of every fascism. But there was also an economic dimension of fascism, known in Europe during the 1920s and '30s as "corporatism," which was an essential ingredient of Mussolini’s and Hitler’s tyrannies. So-called corporatism was adopted in Italy and Germany during the 1930s and was held up as a model by quite a few intellectuals and policy makers in the United States and Europe.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago (in “The Corporation Will Eat Your Soul”), Fortune magazine ran a cover story on Mussolini in 1934, praising his fascism for its ability to break worker unions, disempower workers and transfer huge sums of money to those who controlled the money rather than those who earned it.

Few Americans are aware of or can recall how so many Americans and Europeans viewed economic fascism as the wave of the future during the 1930s. Yet reviewing our past may help shed light on our present, and point the way to a better future. So I want to begin by looking back to the last time fascism posed a serious threat to America.

In Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel "It Can't Happen Here," a conservative southern politician is helped to the presidency by a nationally syndicated radio talk show host. The politician - Buzz Windrip - runs his campaign on family values, the flag, and patriotism. Windrip and the talk show host portray advocates of traditional American democracy — those concerned with individual rights and freedoms — as anti-American. That was 69 years ago.

One of the most outspoken American fascists from the 1930s was economist Lawrence Dennis. In his 1936 book, The Coming American Fascism — a coming which he anticipated and cheered — Dennis declared that defenders of “18th-century Americanism” were sure to become "the laughing stock of their own countrymen." The big stumbling block to the development of economic fascism, Dennis bemoaned, was "liberal norms of law or constitutional guarantees of private rights."

So it is important for us to recognize that, as an economic system, fascism was widely accepted in the 1920s and '30s, and nearly worshiped by some powerful American industrialists. And fascism has always, and explicitly, been opposed to liberalism of all kinds.

Mussolini, who helped create modern fascism, viewed liberal ideas as the enemy. "The Fascist conception of life," he wrote, "stresses the importance of the State and accepts the individual only in so far as his interests coincide with the State. It is opposed to classical liberalism [which] denied the State in the name of the individual; Fascism reasserts the rights of the State as expressing the real essence of the individual." (In 1932 Mussolini wrote, with the help of Giovanni Gentile, an entry for the Italian Encyclopedia on the definition of fascism. You can read the whole entry HERE)

Mussolini thought it was unnatural for a government to protect individual rights: The essence of fascism, he believed, is that government should be the master, not the servant, of the people.

Still, fascism is a word that is completely foreign to most of us. We need to know what it is, and how we can know it when we see it.

In an essay coyly titled “Fascism Anyone?,” Dr. Lawrence Britt, a political scientist, identifies social and political agendas common to fascist regimes. His comparisons of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Suharto, and Pinochet yielded this list of 14 “identifying characteristics of fascism.” (The following article is from Free Inquiry magazine, Volume 23, Number 2.) See how familiar they sound.
1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism

Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights

Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause

The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military

Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism

The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.

6. Controlled Mass Media

Sometimes the media are directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media are indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security

Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined

Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected

The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed

Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts

Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment

Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption

Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections

Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

This list will be familiar to students of political science. But it should be familiar to students of religion as well, for much of it mirrors the social and political agenda of religious fundamentalisms worldwide.

It is both accurate and helpful for us to understand fundamentalism as religious fascism, and fascism as political fundamentalism. They both come from very primitive parts of us that have always been the default setting of our species: amity toward our in-group, enmity toward out-groups, hierarchical deference to alpha male figures, a powerful identification with our territory, and so forth. It is that brutal default setting that all civilizations have tried to raise us above, but it is always a fragile thing, civilization, and has to be achieved over and over and over again.

But, again, this is not America’s first encounter with fascism.

In early 1944, the New York Times asked Vice President Henry Wallace to, as Wallace noted, “write a piece answering the following questions: What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they?”

Vice President Wallace's answer to those questions was published in The New York Times on April 9, 1944, at the height of the war against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan. See how much you think his statements apply to our society today.

“The really dangerous American fascist,” Wallace wrote, “… is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.

In his strongest indictment of the tide of fascism he saw rising in America, Wallace added, “They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.”

By these standards, a few of today’s weapons for keeping the common people in eternal subjection include NAFTA, the World Trade Organization, union-busting, cutting worker benefits while increasing CEO pay, elimination of worker benefits, security and pensions, rapacious credit card interest, and outsourcing of jobs — not to mention the largest prison system in the world.

The Perfect Storm

Our current descent into fascism came about through a kind of “Perfect Storm,” a confluence of three unrelated but mutually supportive schools of thought.

1. The first stream of thought was the imperialistic dream of the Project for the New American Century. I don’t believe anyone can understand the past four years without reading the Project for the New American Century, published in September 2000 and authored by many who have been prominent players in the Bush administrations, including Cheney, Rumsfleid, Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Donald Kagan to name only a few.

This report saw the fall of Communism as a call for America to become the military rulers of the world, to establish a new worldwide empire. They spelled out the military enhancements we would need, then noted, sadly, that these wonderful plans would take a long time, unless there could be a catastrophic and catalyzing event like a new Pearl Harbor that would let the leaders turn America into a military and militarist country. There was no clear interest in religion in this report, and no clear concern with local economic policies.

2. A second powerful stream must be credited to Pat Robertson and his Christian Reconstructionists, or Dominionists. Long dismissed by most of us as a screwball, the Dominionist style of Christianity which he has been preaching since the early 1980s is now the most powerful religious voice in the Bush administration.

Katherine Yurica, who transcribed over 1300 pages of interviews from Pat Robertson’s “700 Club” shows in the 1980s, has shown how Robertson and his chosen guests consistently, openly and passionately argued that America must become a theocracy under the control of Christian Dominionists. Robertson is on record saying democracy is a terrible form of government unless it is run by his kind of Christians. He also rails constantly against taxing the rich, against public education, social programs and welfare — and prefers Deuteronomy 28 over the teachings of Jesus. He is clear that women must remain homebound as obedient servants of men, and that abortions, like homosexuals, should not be allowed. Robertson has also been clear that other kinds of Christians, including Episcopalians and Presbyterians, are enemies of Christ. (The Yurica Report. Search under this name, or for “Despoiling America” by Katherine Yurica on the internet.)

3. The third major component of this Perfect Storm has been the desire of very wealthy Americans and corporate CEOs for a plutocracy that will favor profits by the very rich and disempowerment of the vast majority of American workers, the destruction of workers’ unions, and the alliance of government to help achieve these greedy goals. It is a condition some have called socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor, and which others recognize as a reincarnation of Social Darwinism. This strain of thought has been present throughout American history. Seventy years ago, they tried to finance a military coup to replace Franlkin Delano Roosevelt and establish General Smedley Butler as a fascist dictator in 1934. Fortunately, they picked a general who really was a patriot; he refused, reported the scheme, and spoke and wrote about it. As Canadian law professor Joel Bakan wrote in the book and movie “The Corporation,” they have now achieved their coup without firing a shot.

Our plutocrats have had no particular interest in religion. Their global interests are with an imperialist empire, and their domestic goals are in undoing all the New Deal reforms of Franklin Delano Roosevelt that enabled the rise of America’s middle class after WWII.

Another ill wind in this Perfect Storm is more important than its crudity might suggest: it was President Clinton’s sleazy sex with a young but eager intern in the White House. This incident, and Clinton’s equally sleazy lying about it, focused the certainties of conservatives on the fact that “liberals” had neither moral compass nor moral concern, and therefore represented a dangerous threat to the moral fiber of America. While the effects of this may be hard to quantify, I think they were profound.

These “storm” components have no necessary connection, and come from different groups of thinkers, many of whom wouldn’t even like one another. But together, they form a nearly complete web of command and control, which has finally gained control of America and, they hope, of the world.

What’s coming

When all fascisms exhibit the same social and political agendas (the 14 points listed by Britt), then it is not hard to predict where a new fascist uprising will lead. The actions of fascists and the social and political effects of fascism and fundamentalism are clear and sobering. Here is some of what’s coming, what will be happening in our country in the next few years:
- The theft of all social security funds, to be transferred to those who control money, and the increasing destitution of all those dependent on social security and social welfare programs.

- Rising numbers of uninsured people in this country that already has the highest percentage of citizens without health insurance in the developed world.

- Increased loss of funding for public education combined with increased support for vouchers, urging Americans to entrust their children’s education to Christian schools.

- More restrictions on civil liberties as America is turned into the police state necessary for fascism to work.

- Withdrawal of virtually all funding for National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System. At their best, these media sometimes encourage critical questioning, so they are correctly seen as enemies of the state’s official stories.

- The reinstatement of a draft, from which the children of privileged parents will again be mostly exempt, leaving our poorest children to fight and die in wars of imperialism and greed that could never benefit them anyway. (That was my one-sentence Veterans’ Day sermon for this year.)

- More imperialistic invasions: of Iran and others, and the construction of a huge permanent embassy in Iraq.

- More restrictions on speech, under the flag of national security.

- Control of the internet to remove or cripple it as an instrument of free communication that is exempt from government control. This will be presented as a necessary anti-terrorist measure.

- Efforts to remove the tax-exempt status of churches like this one, and to characterize them as anti-American.

- Tighter control of the editorial bias of almost all media, and demonization of the few media they are unable to control – the New York Times, for instance.

- Continued outsourcing of jobs, including more white-collar jobs, to produce greater profits for those who control the money and direct the society, while simultaneously reducing America’s workers to a more desperate and powerless status.

- Moves in the banking industry to make it impossible for an increasing number of Americans to own their homes. As they did in the 1930s, those who control the money know that it is to their advantage and profit to keep others renting rather than owning.

- Criminalization of those who protest, as un-American, with arrests, detentions and harassment increasing. We already have a higher percentage of our citizens in prison than any other country in the world. That percentage will increase.

- In the near future, it will be illegal or at least dangerous to say the things I have said here this morning. In the fascist story, these things are un-American. In the real history of a democratic America, they were seen as profoundly patriotic, as the kind of critical questions that kept the American spirit alive — the kind of questions, incidentally, that our media were supposed to be pressing.
Can these schemes work? I don’t think so. I think they are murderous, rapacious and insane. But I don’t know. Maybe they can. Similar schemes have worked in countries like Chile, where a democracy in which over 90% voted has been reduced to one in which only about 20% vote because they say, as Americans are learning to say, that it no longer matters who you vote for.


In the meantime, is there any hope, or do we just band together like lemmings and dive off a cliff? Yes, there is always hope, though at times it is more hidden, as it is now.

As some critics are now saying, and as I have been preaching and writing for almost twenty years, America’s liberals need to grow beyond political liberalism, with its often self-absorbed focus on individual rights to the exclusion of individual responsibilities to the larger society. Liberals will have to construct a more complete vision with moral and religious grounding. That does not mean confessional Christianity. It means the legitimate heir to Christianity. Such a legitimate heir need not be a religion, though it must have clear moral power, and be able to attract the minds and hearts of a voting majority of Americans.

And the new liberal vision must be larger than that of the conservative religious vision that will be appointing judges, writing laws and bending the cultural norms toward hatred and exclusion for the foreseeable future. The conservatives deserve a lot of admiration. They have spent the last thirty years studying American politics, forming their vision and learning how to gain control in the political system. And it worked; they have won. Even if liberals can develop a bigger vision, they still have all that time-consuming work to do. It won’t be fast. It isn’t even clear that liberals will be willing to do it; they may instead prefer to go down with the ship they’re used to.

One man who has been tireless in his investigations and critiques of America’s slide into fascism is Michael C. Ruppert, whose postings usually read as though he is wound way too tight. But he offers four pieces of advice about what we can do now, and they seem reality-based enough to pass on to you. This is America; they’re all about money:

- First, he says you should get out of debt.

- Second is to spend your money and time on things that give you energy and provide you with useful information.

- Third is to stop spending a penny with major banks, news media and corporations that feed you lies and leave you angry and exhausted.

- And fourth is to learn how money works and use it like a (political) weapon — as he predicts the rest of the world will be doing against us.

That’s advice written this week. Another bit of advice comes from sixty years ago, from Roosevelt’s Vice President, Henry Wallace. Wallace said, “Democracy, to crush fascism internally, must...develop the ability to keep people fully employed and at the same time balance the budget. It must put human beings first and dollars second. It must appeal to reason and decency and not to violence and deceit. We must not tolerate oppressive government or industrial oligarchy in the form of monopolies and cartels.”

Still another way to understand fascism is as a kind of colonization. A simple definition of “colonization” is that it takes people’s stories away, and assigns them supportive roles in stories that empower others at their expense. When you are taxed to support a government that uses you as a means to serve the ends of others, you are — ironically — in a state of taxation without representation. That’s where this country started, and it’s where we are now.

I don’t know the next step. I’m not a political activist; I’m only a preacher. But whatever you do, whatever we do, I hope that we can remember some very basic things that I think of as eternally true. One is that the vast majority of people are good decent people who mean and do as well as they know how. Very few people are evil, though some are. But we all live in families where some of our blood relatives support things we hate. I believe they mean well, and the way to rebuild broken bridges is through greater understanding, compassion, and a reality-based story that is more inclusive and empowering for the vast majority of us.

Those who want to live in a reality-based story rather than as serfs in an ideology designed to transfer power, possibility and hope to a small ruling elite have much long and hard work to do, individually and collectively. It will not be either easy or quick.

But we will do it. We will go forward in hope and in courage. Let us seek that better path, and find the courage to take it — step, by step, by step.

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The Bush budget is a trillion little pieces of fantasy
Feb. 7, 2006, 11:43PM By LOREN STEFFY Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle

WE will be out of Iraq and, for that matter, Afghanistan, by the end of the next fiscal year. No troops, no economic support of any kind.

The alternative minimum tax, that secret tax system ensnaring more and more middle-class families, will vanish without costing the government a dime in lost revenue.

The tax cuts that have saved some of the wealthiest among us hundreds of dollars a year will continue indefinitely. This, too, will cost the government nothing.

That spiffy alternative energy technology that President Bush said in his State of the Union speech last week will help end our oil addiction? It can be funded on a shoestring.

Those are just a few of the twisted fantasies you have to embrace if you want to follow the president down the rabbit hole of his latest budget proposal.

We have been here before.
It's the parallel universe in which difficult choices are put off in favor of mind-bending assumptions. When those assumptions don't come true, the White House will embrace its familiar retreat: Blame Congress.

The cost of our national debt, according to the little counter that sits on my desk, now tops $8.19 trillion. By the president's own projection, the budget deficit will set a record of $423 billion this fiscal year.

Under Bush's proposed budget, service on our national debt would constitute 9 percent of the $2.77 trillion in spending.

That percentage, like the deficit, will continue to grow.

Mounting debt, though, hasn't swayed federal spending habits. The government is entering its fifth year of paying out more than it brings in, a trend the Congressional Budget Office predicts will continue through 2012. This is what passes for fiscal leadership in 21st century America.

The issue here isn't partisanship. It's choices. Not the ones already made, but the ones we have put off for far too long.

The proposed budget lacks any concern for the nation's financial future. The claim of deficit reduction is an economic parlor trick of understated expenses and overstated revenue.

A budget with blinders

In the short term, though, it takes a hard line on most spending. Bush proposes some significant cuts in education spending and housing programs, reductions in environmental protections and a smaller reduction in overall spending for energy programs.

The president also has taken a swipe at entitlement programs by making more wealthy Medicare recipients pay higher premiums. Total spending will increase 2.3 percent, modest by government standards.

But overall, it's a budget with blinders. It ignores the reality beyond the next fiscal year. We have come to expect nothing less, because year after year this administration has followed the same pattern.

The Concord Coalition, the nonpartisan balanced-budget think tank, notes that Bush's plan to extend the current tax cuts and raise federal spending will add some $400 billion to the deficit by 2011.

The tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, you may recall, came with the promise that their cost would be offset by surpluses generated by the economic stimulus of the cuts. Those surpluses have evaporated, yet the push for the tax cuts remain. That shaves about $285 billion from federal revenue projections over five years.

If Congress doesn't act, the AMT will nail almost 21 million unsuspecting taxpayers next year. Fixing that antiquated provision of the tax code would add $500 billion to the deficit over five years, the Concord Coalition estimates.

That leaves Congress with a looming choice: allow a de facto tax increase on middle America or stoke the already bloated budget deficit by once again borrowing from the future to fund tax cuts in the present.

The problem with debt, as debt counselors would tell you if they weren't too busy dealing with the charade of the new bankruptcy law, is that it takes away choices.

No choices for children

This administration and this Congress offer no commitment, other than hollow words, to preserving our choices or those of our children. They continue to max out the national credit card with abandon. It is, quite simply, fiscal cowardice.

The war on terror? Our addiction to oil? Unfair taxation to a growing percentage of the population? Social Security? Those are someone else's problems.

Choices delayed are choices made. Time is running out.

We can't afford three more years down the rabbit hole.
Comment: And if Bush and the people that pull his strings are aware that in a certain sense "there is no future"? What if they are aware that in ten years the world may be unrecognisable due to climate change and cosmic bombardment, war and "population reduction"?

Time is running out, but maybe not for the reasons that most people belive.

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Army Charges GI for Being Wounded
antiwar.com 7 Feb 06

The last time 1st Lt. William "Eddie" Rebrook IV saw his body armor, he was lying on a stretcher in Iraq, his arm shattered and covered in blood.

Now he is forced to pay for the "missing" body armor. The army charges soldiers for missing equipment. When medics rushed to save Rebrook's life, they neglected to keep track of the bloody and destroyed body armor. "I last saw the [body armor] when it was pulled off my bleeding body while I was being evacuated in a helicopter," Rebrook said. "They took it off me and burned it."

Rebrook decided to leave the army because of his injuries. But he was informed that he could not be discharged until he paid $700 for his "missing" armor. Rebrook scrounged up the cash from his Army buddies and returned home last Friday.

I wonder if we will hear anything on this from the "Support Our Troops" crowd.

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Bush squirms as policies denounced at King funeral
By Andrew Gumbel 08 February 2006

President George Bush led a crowd of 10,000 mourners at yesterday's funeral for Coretta Scott King, one of the icons of the civil rights movement, only to squirm in his seat as one speaker after another invoked Mrs King's spirit to lambast his administration on everything from the Iraq war to the response to last year's Hurricane Katrina.

The lavish occasion, bringing together civil rights veterans, three former presidents, more than a dozen senators, musicians and poets at a megachurch in the suburbs of Atlanta, was both a tribute to the woman who carried on the campaigning legacy of her assassinated husband, Martin Luther King Jr, for almost 40 years and also an opportunity to invoke some of the Kings' passionately outspoken rhetoric.

President Bush called Mrs King, who died 10 days ago at the age of 78, "one of the most admired Americans of our time".

Her nearest and dearest pointedly did not return the compliment. "We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there," said Joseph Lowery, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr King more than 40 years ago, "but Coretta knew and we knew that there are weapons of misdirection right down here."

The Rev Lowery issued a searing indictment of the Bush administration's economic priorities. "For war billions more," he said, "but no more for the poor."

Far better received than President Bush was Bill Clinton, who won an enthusiastic ovation as he described how Mrs King might easily have given up the civil rights struggle after her husband's assassination in 1968. Instead, he said, she asked herself "What am I going to do with the rest of my life?"

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China may eradicate poverty by 2050: report
www.chinaview.cn 2006-02-08 20:33:17

BEIJING, Feb. 8 (Xinhuanet) -- In 2050, 1.3 billion Chinese will live in a moderately developed society, with a minimum monthly income of 1,300 U.S. dollars, an average life-expectancy of more than 80 years and social services available to all, according to a new report.
The blueprint was drawn up by a research team with the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Using statistics provided by national institutes and world organizations, the report said that by then, no one in China will live with an annual income of less than 668 yuan (81 U.S. dollars) per capita, the country's absolute poverty line.

He Chuanqi, head of the research team who compiled the report, told Xinhua that to attain this goal, China should follow two stages of social transformation. It should first turn into a city-based industrialized society from the present agricultural one, and then step into a knowledge-oriented society with rural and urban areas developing at the same rate.

By 2050, 80 percent of the urbanization work in China will have been completed, the researcher said.

He added that the social transformation will also bring great changes to peoples' life-styles, as 80 percent of the population would have access to information industry services, 50 percent could afford overseas travel and 50 percent would own private cars.

However, he was keen to point out that the current situation is still not that optimistic. The economic index of China in 2001 equaled that of the United States 100 years ago. China is lagging far behind developed countries in terms of urbanization, life-expectancy and adult literacy.

He also noted that the social transformation will change peoples' opinions and life-styles, thus evoking controversy and provoking social problems.

"Chinese society is now undergoing the first stage of its transformation towards an industrialized society," He said, adding the economic modernization in China has been faster than the social modernization over the past 50 years.
Comment: Excuse us if we throw cold water on such a rosy scenario. Earthquakes, volcanoes, meteorites, and pandemics, anyone? Not to mention the "Peak Oil" manipulation that will justify cuts in oil production as well as "population reduction".

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WTO says EU broke trade rules by stopping genetically modified food imports
16:07:17 EST Feb 7, 2006

GENEVA (AP) - The WTO has ruled that the EU broke international trade rules by stopping imports of genetically modified foods, officials said Tuesday.

The preliminary judgment by a World Trade Organization panel concluded that the European Union had an effective ban on biotech foods for six years from 1998, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because it is a confidential report.
The report sided with a legal complaint brought by the United States, Canada and Argentina over an EU moratorium on approval of new biotech foods, the officials said. The panel ruled that individual bans in six EU member states - Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg - violated international trade rules.

The decision has been delayed several times and diplomats said they were still studying the details late Tuesday. The ruling, said to be one of the most complex the commerce body has issued, runs to about 1,000 pages.

The complainants claim that there is no scientific evidence for the EU's actions and that the moratorium has been an unfair barrier to producers of biotech foods who want to export to the EU.

An environmental group, Friends of the Earth, says the case undermines the right of governments to decide for themselves what is safe for their citizens, and pressures other countries, especially developing ones, to accept genetically modified foods against their will.

The EU ended its moratorium in 2004 when it allowed onto the market a modified strain of sweet corn, grown mainly in the United States. Washington has said it will continue with its WTO case until it is convinced that all applications for approval are being decided on scientific rather than political grounds.

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A Young Bush Appointee Resigns His Post at NASA
By ANDREW C. REVKIN Published: February 8, 2006

George C. Deutsch, the young presidential appointee at NASA who told public affairs workers to limit reporters' access to a top climate scientist and told a Web designer to add the word "theory" at every mention of the Big Bang, resigned yesterday, agency officials said.

Mr. Deutsch's resignation came on the same day that officials at Texas A&M University confirmed that he did not graduate from there, as his résumé on file at the agency asserted.

Officials at NASA headquarters declined to discuss the reason for the resignation.
"Under NASA policy, it is inappropriate to discuss personnel matters," said Dean Acosta, the deputy assistant administrator for public affairs and Mr. Deutsch's boss.

The resignation came as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration was preparing to review its policies for communicating science to the public. The review was ordered Friday by Michael D. Griffin, the NASA administrator, after a week in which many agency scientists and midlevel public affairs officials described to The New York Times instances in which they said political pressure was applied to limit or flavor discussions of topics uncomfortable to the Bush administration, particularly global warming.

"As we have stated in the past, NASA is in the process of revising our public affairs policies across the agency to ensure our commitment to open and full communications," the statement from Mr. Acosta said.

The statement said the resignation of Mr. Deutsch was "a separate matter."

Mr. Deutsch, 24, was offered a job as a writer and editor in NASA's public affairs office in Washington last year after working on President Bush's re-election campaign and inaugural committee, according to his résumé. No one has disputed those parts of the document.

According to his résumé, Mr. Deutsch received a "Bachelor of Arts in journalism, Class of 2003."

Yesterday, officials at Texas A&M said that was not the case.

"George Carlton Deutsch III did attend Texas A&M University but has not completed the requirements for a degree," said an e-mail message from Rita Presley, assistant to the registrar at the university, responding to a query from The Times.

Repeated calls and e-mail messages to Mr. Deutsch on Tuesday were not answered.

Mr. Deutsch's educational record was first challenged on Monday by Nick Anthis, who graduated from Texas A&M last year with a biochemistry degree and has been writing a Web log on science policy, scientificactivist.blogspot.com.

After Mr. Anthis read about the problems at NASA, he said in an interview: "It seemed like political figures had really overstepped the line. I was just going to write some commentary on this when somebody tipped me off that George Deutsch might not have graduated."

He posted a blog entry asserting this after he checked with the university's association of former students. He reported that the association said Mr. Deutsch received no degree.

A copy of Mr. Deutsch's résumé was provided to The Times by someone working in NASA headquarters who, along with many other NASA employees, said Mr. Deutsch played a small but significant role in an intensifying effort at the agency to exert political control over the flow of information to the public.

Such complaints came to the fore starting in late January, when James E. Hansen, the climate scientist, and several midlevel public affairs officers told The Times that political appointees, including Mr. Deutsch, were pressing to limit Dr. Hansen's speaking and interviews on the threats posed by global warming.

Yesterday, Dr. Hansen said that the questions about Mr. Deutsch's credentials were important, but were a distraction from the broader issue of political control of scientific information.

"He's only a bit player," Dr. Hansen said of Mr. Deutsch. " The problem is much broader and much deeper and it goes across agencies. That's what I'm really concerned about."

"On climate, the public has been misinformed and not informed," he said. "The foundation of a democracy is an informed public, which obviously means an honestly informed public. That's the big issue here."
Comment: May the reader please imagine a very large hall in some old Gothic university building. Many of us gathered there early in our studies in order to listen to the lectures of outstanding philosophers.

We were herded back there the year before graduation in order to listen to the indoctrination lectures which recently had been introduced. Someone nobody knew appeared behind the lectern and informed us that he would now be the professor.

His speech was fluent, but there was nothing scientific about it: he failed to distinguish between scientific and everyday concepts and treated borderline imaginations as though it were wisdom that could not be doubted.

For ninety minutes each week, he flooded us with naive, presumptuous paralogistics and a pathological view of human reality. We were treated with contempt and poorly controlled hatred. Since fun poking could entail dreadful consequences, we had to listen attentively and with the utmost gravity.

The grapevine soon discovered this person’s origins. He had come from a Cracow suburb and attended high school, although no one knew if he had graduated. Anyway, this was the first time he had crossed university portals, as a professor, at that! [Andrew Lobaczewski, Political Ponerology]

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Space rock re-opens Mars debate
Wednesday, 8 February 2006, 12:02 GMT By Paul Rincon BBC News science reporter

A carbon-rich substance found filling tiny cracks within a Martian meteorite could boost the idea that life once existed on the Red Planet.

The material resembles that found in fractures, or "veins", apparently etched by microbes in volcanic glass from the Earth's ocean floor.

The evidence comes from a meteorite held in London's Natural History Museum that was cracked open by curators.

All the processes of life on Earth are based on the element carbon.
Proving carbon in Martian meteorites is indigenous - and not contamination from Earth - is crucial to the question of whether life once arose on the Red Planet.

Initial measurements support the idea that the "carbonaceous material" is not contamination, the scientists say.

Details will be presented at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Houston, Texas, next month. The research team includes scientists who brought evidence for microbial life in another Martian meteorite, ALH84001, to the world's attention in 1998.

The Martian meteorites are an extremely rare class of rocks. They are all believed to have been blasted off the surface of the Red Planet by huge impacts; the material would have drifted through space for millions of years before falling to Earth.

Fresh samples

The latest data comes from examination of a piece of the famous Nakhla meteorite which came down in Egypt, in 1911, breaking up into many fragments.

London's Natural History Museum, which holds several intact chunks of the meteorite, agreed to break one open, providing the researchers with fresh samples.

"It gives people a degree of confidence this had never been exposed to the museum environment," said co-author Colin Pillinger of the UK's Open University.

"I think it's too early to say how [the carbonaceous material] got there... the important thing is that people are always arguing with fallen meteorites that this is something that got in there after it fell to Earth.

"I think we can dismiss that. There's no way a solid piece of carbon got inside a meteorite."

Analysis of the interior revealed channels and pores filled with a complex mixture of carbon compounds. Some of this forms a dark, branching - or dendritic - material when seen under the microscope.

"It's really interesting material. We don't exactly know what it means yet, but it's all over the thin sections of the Nakhla material," said co-author Kathie Thomas Keprta, of Lockheed Martin Corporation in Houston, Texas.

Indigenous component

Previous studies of the forms - or isotopes - of carbon in the Nakhla meteorite found a component of which more than 75% is lacking any carbon-14.

Since all terrestrial life forms contain some carbon-14, this component was thought to be either indigenous carbon from Mars or ancient meteoritic carbon.

Professor Pillinger and colleagues are carrying out direct isotopic analysis of the carbonaceous material, but he admits terrestrial contamination is occurring when thin slices of the meteorite are made for analysis.

However, the ratio of carbon to nitrogen in the epoxy used to prepare the thin sections is very different from that of the carbonaceous material in the meteorite's veins.

If it is indigenous to Mars, the authors say the "carbonaceous material" came either from another space rock that smashed into Mars hundreds of thousands of years ago, or a relic of microbial activity.

A resemblance between the material in the meteorite and features of microbial activity in volcanic glass from our planet's ocean floor further support the idea they are biological in origin, says the paper.

If this were the case, the remains of these organisms and their slimy coatings might provide the the carbon-rich material found in Nakhla, the researchers argue.

Peter Buseck, regent's professor of geological sciences at Arizona State University told the BBC News website that he found no strong evidence of a biological origin for the carbon in the meteorite.

He added that it was difficult to determine the origin of carbon in rocks based on microscopy.

The 37th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference runs from 13-17 March in Houston, Texas.

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Stress 'fuelling early puberty'
Tuesday, 7 February 2006, 12:28 GMT

Unhealthy lifestyles and unstable family environments may be contributing to a fall in the age that girls reach puberty, research suggests.

Psychologist Dr Aric Sigman found girls are reaching puberty 18 months earlier than their mothers, and almost two years earlier than their grandmothers.

He found girls currently start puberty at an average of 10.25 years of age.

His findings echo previous research suggesting 'precocious puberty' is a growing trend.
A study by scientists in Bristol in 2000 suggested one girl in six reaches puberty before the age of eight.

One theory is that puberty is triggered by the hormone leptin, which is produced by fat tissue.

Girls are getting progressively heavier with each generation, and as they carry higher levels of fat, they are also likely to have higher levels of leptin.

Unhealthy lifestyle

Dr Sigman's study focused on three generations of family units, each with a daughter aged 16 to 20, a mother aged 40 to 50, and a grandmother aged 65 to 75.

He found the modern generation eats far more sweets and junk food than its predecessors, but less fresh fruit and vegetables.

Today's young women were also much more likely to travel by car than on foot.

They were also much more to lead a 'coach potato' lifestyle, taking little exercise.

The combination of a poor diet, and an sedentary lifestyle was fuelling obesity rates, said Dr Sigman.

Stress factor

However, he also found evidence that a stressful home life raised the likelihood of an early puberty.

Dr Sigman told the BBC News website that this was possibly an ancient evolutionary response.

"If a girl senses her environment is unstable then it may be that an evolutionary mechanism kicks in to try to ensure that her genes are passed on sooner rather than later," he said.

There is some evidence to suggest that puberty arrives earlier in girls who live with a stepfather.

It is postulated that this might be due exposure to the stepfather's chemical scents, or pheromones, which are likely to have a more profound effect than those associated with a birth parent.

Dr Sigman said it had been assumed that puberty was purely a biological phenomenon influenced by genetics.

"We have not really thought about the possibility that lifestyle factors might influence something so primitive and profound as the arrival of puberty, but it might very well be that they have an impact."

He said early puberty was associated with a number of risks.

Tough time

For instance, girls were vulnerable to emotional disturbances, such as depression, and behavioural problems, such as taking up drinking, smoking or drugs.

Young girls who suddenly started to mature sexually were also less able to control their impulses than those who hit puberty at a later stage, he said. This might in part explain why rates of teenage pregnancy have risen in recent times.

"They tend to work on the hedonistic principle that if it's enjoyable, then it must be right," he said.

Dr Sigman, whos reported was commissioned by Clearasil, said it was important for parents to be aware that puberty might arrive early for their daughters, and to try to talk to them in advance about the changes they would experience.

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Flu Shots and Alzheimer's Disease

According to Hugh Fudenberg, MD, the world's leading immunogeneticist and 13th most quoted biologist of our times (nearly 850 papers in peer review journals): If an individual has had 5 consecutive flu shots between 1970 and 1980 (the years studied) his/her chances of getting Alzheimer's Disease is 10 times higher than if he/she had one, 2 or no shots. Dr. Fudenberg said it was so and that it was due to mercury and aluminum that is in every flu shot. The gradual mercury and aluminum buildup in the brain causes cognitive dysfunction.
Mercury Contributes To Alzheimer's Disease!

Scientists have shown that trace amounts of mercury can cause the type of damage to nerves that is characteristic of the damage found in Alzheimer's disease.

The level of mercury exposure used in the test was well below those levels found in many humans with mercury/silver amalgam dental fillings.

The research conducted at the University of Calgary Faculty of Medicine found that exposure to mercury caused the formation of "neurofibrillar tangles," which are one of the two diagnostic markers for Alzheimer's disease.

Previous research has shown that mercury can cause the formation of the other Alzheimer's disease marker, "amyloid plaques."

The scientists also exposed the test nerves to other elements, including aluminum, but found that only mercury caused the damage consistent with Alzheimer's disease.

The research, published in a peer-reviewed medical journal, is accompanied by a video presentation of the effect. Utilizing digital time-lapse photography, this video shows rapid damage to the nerve cells after introduction of minute amounts of mercury. Funding for this video was provided by the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT).

Dr. Lorscheider produced the visual documentation of the biochemical mechanism by which the introduction of mercury induces hallmark diagnostic markers indistinguishable from those seen in the Alzheimer's diseased brain.

The authors note that, to date, no other material or metal tested, including aluminum, has produced even remotely similar reactions.

The broadcast quality video and animation documenting the biochemical process of mercury on the nerve cells is available to interested members of the press through Miss Karen Thomas, Media Relations, University of Calgary, Faculty of Medicine T: 403-2202945 F: 403-210-8141 Email: thomask@ucalgary.ca

The video can be viewed using Quicktime 4.1 at http://commons.ucalgary.ca/mercury/

The IAOMT was formed to review, support, and disseminate research on the suitability of materials and methodologies used in the dental practice. The IAOMT has funded previous research by Dr. Murray Vimy on the mercury vapors released from mercury amalgam fillings during and after chewing, animal research showing pathophysiological damage to sheep and monkeys from dental amalgam mercury vapor exposure.

Collaborative research with the Calgary authors of this current study and Dr. Boyd Haley at the University of Kentucky demonstrated Alzheimer's disease-like brain damage to rats from inhaled mercury vapor.

Dr. Haley, commenting on the importance of this new documentation, said:

"Seven of the characteristic markers that we look for to distinguish Alzheimer's disease can be produced in normal brain tissues, or cultures of neurons, by the addition of extremely low levels of mercury.

In addition, research has shown that Alzheimer's diseased patients have at least 3 times higher blood levels of mercury than controls. How much more research is necessary before the appropriate regulatory bodies respond with restrictions on the use of mercury-leaking dental amalgam fillings?"

NeuroReport, 12(4):733-737, 2001

This material was copied with permission from http//www.mercola.com.

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Study Finds Low-Fat Diet Won't Stop Cancer or Heart Disease
By GINA KOLATA The New York Times February 7, 2006

The largest study ever to ask whether a low-fat diet reduces the risk of getting cancer or heart disease has found that the diet has no effect.

The $415 million federal study involved nearly 49,000 women ages 50 to 79 who were followed for eight years. In the end, those assigned to a low-fat diet had the same rates of breast cancer, colon cancer, heart attacks and strokes as those who ate whatever they pleased, researchers are reporting today.
"These studies are revolutionary," said Dr. Jules Hirsch, physician in chief emeritus at Rockefeller University in New York City, who has spent a lifetime studying the effects of diets on weight and health. "They should put a stop to this era of thinking that we have all the information we need to change the whole national diet and make everybody healthy."

The study, published in today's issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association, was not just an ordinary study, said Dr. Michael Thun, who directs epidemiological research for the American Cancer Society. It was so large and so expensive, Dr. Thun said, that it was "the Rolls-Royce of studies." As such, he added, it is likely to be the final word.

"We usually have only one shot at a very large-scale trial on a particular issue," he said.

The results, the study investigators agreed, do not justify recommending low-fat diets to the public to reduce their heart disease and cancer risk. Given the lack of benefit found in the study, many medical researchers said that the best dietary advice, for now, was to follow federal guidelines for healthy eating, with less saturated and trans fats, more grains, and more fruits and vegetables.

Not everyone was convinced. Some, like Dr. Dean Ornish, a longtime promoter of low-fat diets and president of the Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, Calif., said that the women did not reduce their fat to low enough levels or eat enough fruits and vegetables, and that the study, even at eight years, did not give the diets enough time.

Others said that diet could still make a difference, at least with heart disease, if people were to eat the so-called Mediterranean diet, low in saturated fats like butter and high in oils like olive oil. The women in the study reduced all kinds of fat.

The diets studied "had an antique patina," said Dr. Peter Libby, a cardiologist and professor at Harvard Medical School. These days, Dr. Libby said, most people have moved on from the idea of controlling total fat to the idea that people should eat different kinds of fat.

But the Mediterranean diet has not been subjected to a study of this scope, researchers said.

And Barbara V. Howard, an epidemiologist at MedStar Research Institute, a nonprofit hospital group, and a principle investigator in the study, said people should realize that diet alone was not enough to stay healthy.

"We are not going to reverse any of the chronic diseases in this country by changing the composition of the diet," Dr. Howard said. "People are always thinking it's what they ate. They are not looking at how much they ate or that they smoke or that they are sedentary."

Except for not smoking, the advice for a healthy lifestyle is based largely on indirect evidence, Dr. Howard said, but most medical researchers agree that it makes sense to eat well, control weight and get regular exercise.

That is also what the cancer society recommends. Dr. Thun, who described the study's results as "completely null over the eight-year follow-up for both cancers and heart disease," said his group had no plans to suggest that low-fat diets were going to protect against cancer.

Others cautioned against being too certain that a particular diet would markedly improve health, and said that whether someone developed a chronic disease might not be entirely under their control — genetics also plays a role.

David A. Freedman, a statistician at the University of California, Berkeley, who is not connected with the study but has written books on the design and analysis of clinical trials, said the results should be taken seriously.

"The studies were well designed," Dr. Freedman said, "and the investigators tried to confirm popular hypotheses about the protective effect of diet against three major diseases in women."

"But," he added, "the diet studied here turned out not to be protective after all."

The study was part of the Women's Health Initiative of the National Institutes of Health, the same program that showed that hormone therapy after menopause might have more risks than benefits.

In this case, the study addressed a tricky problem. For decades, many scientists have said, and many members of the public have believed, that what people eat — the composition of the diet — determines how likely they are to get a chronic disease. But that has been hard to prove. Studies of dietary fiber and colon cancer failed to find that fiber was protective, and studies of vitamins thought to protect against cancer failed to show an effect.

Many cancer researchers have questioned large parts of the diet-cancer hypothesis, but it has kept a hold on the public imagination. "Nothing fascinates the American public so much as the notion that what you eat rather than how much you eat affects your health," said Dr. Libby, the Harvard professor.

The study found that women who were randomly assigned to follow a low-fat diet ate significantly less fat over the next eight years. But they had just as much breast and colon cancer and just as much heart disease. The women were not trying to lose weight, and their weights remained fairly steady. But their experiences with the diets allowed researchers to question some popular notions about diet and obesity.

There is a common belief that Americans get fat because they eat too many carbohydrates. The idea is that a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet leads to weight gain, higher insulin and blood glucose levels, and more diabetes, even if the calories are the same as in a higher-fat diet. That did not happen here.

Others have said the opposite: that low-fat diets enable people to lose weight naturally. But that belief was not supported by this study.

As for heart disease risk factors, the only one affected was LDL cholesterol, which increases heart disease risk. The levels were slightly higher in women eating the higher-fat diet, but not high enough to make a noticeable difference in their risk of heart disease.

Although all the study participants were women, the colon cancer and heart disease results should also apply to men, said Dr. Jacques Rossouw, the project officer for the Women's Health Initiative.

Dr. Rossouw said the observational studies that led to the hypothesis about colon cancer and dietary fat included men and women. With heart disease, he said, researchers have found that women and men respond in the same way to dietary fat.

The most recent study follows a smaller one, reported last year, on low-fat diets for women who had breast cancer. That study hinted that eating less fat might help prevent a recurrence. But the current study, asking if a low-fat diet could protect women from breast cancer in the first place, had findings that fell short of statistical significance, meaning they could have occurred by chance.

Dr. Rossouw said he was still intrigued by the breast cancer data, even though it was not statistically significant. The women on low-fat diets had a 9 percent lower rate of breast cancer; the incidence was 42 per thousand per year in women in the low-fat diet group, compared with 45 per thousand per year in women consuming their regular diet.

That could mean that fat in the diet may have a small effect, Dr. Rossouw said, perhaps in some subgroups of women or over a longer period of time. He added that the study investigators would continue to follow the women to see if the effect became more pronounced.

While cancer researchers said they were disappointed by the results, heart disease researchers said they were not surprised that simply reducing total fat had no effect, because they had moved on from that hypothesis.

Of course, Dr. Libby acknowledged, the latest advice, to follow a Mediterranean diet and get regular exercise, has never been tested in a large randomized clinical trial. "If they did a study like that and it was negative," he said, "then I'd have to give up my cherished hypotheses for data."

The low-fat diet was not easy to follow, said Dr. Rowan T. Chlebowski, a medical oncologist at Harbor-U.C.L.A. Medical Center and one of the study's principal investigators. Women were told to aim for a diet that had just 20 percent of its calories as fat, and most fell short.

The diet they were told to follow "is different than the way most people eat," Dr. Chlebowski said. It meant, for example, no butter on bread, no cream cheese on bagels, no oil in salad dressings.

"If a physician told a patient to eat less fat, that will do nothing," he said. "If you send someone to a dietitian one time, that will do next to nothing." The women in the study had 18 sessions in small groups with a trained nutritionist in the first year and four sessions a year after that.

In the first year, the women on the low-fat diets reduced the percentage of fat in their diet to 24 percent of daily calories, and by the end of the study their diets had 29 percent of their calories as fat. In the first year, the women in the control group were eating 35 percent of their calories as fat, and by the end of the study their dietary fat content was 37 percent. The two groups consumed about the same number of calories.

Some medical specialists emphasized that the study did not mean people should abandon low-fat diets.

"What we are saying is that a modest reduction of fat and a substitution with fruits and vegetables did not do anything for heart disease and stroke or breast cancer or colorectal cancer," said Dr. Nanette K. Wenger, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. "It doesn't say that this diet is not beneficial."

But Dr. Freedman, the Berkeley statistician, said the overall lesson was clear.

"We, in the scientific community, often give strong advice based on flimsy evidence," he said. "That's why we have to do experiments."

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Coincidences boggle mind, ranging from odd to bizarre
Tuesday, feb. 7, 2006

Most of us have experienced odd coincidences that make us wonder.

My most recent experience with how small the world is involved the column I did about a Glen Park man who found an old football in a heating duct in his home.

He had called to speak to someone in our sports department, but none of the writers or editors, who usually work late shifts, were at their desks.

So he followed the phone system prompt to press 0 to speak to someone in the newsroom immediately. I just happened to pick up the phone.

That column ran on a Sunday. On Monday, one of my writing students at Indiana University Northwest told me that the finder of the football was her stepfather, and the duct in which it was found heated the room in which she slept until she moved out of the house shortly before he called the paper.

But this coincidence is cosmically small change in comparison to something that happened recently in Buffalo, N.Y.
Kevin Stephan, 17, was washing dishes in a restaurant when a customer, Penny Brown, began choking. A volunteer junior firefighter, Kevin stepped up and performed the Heimlich maneuver, according to The Associated Press.

Only when Penny had regained the use of her windpipe did Kevin’s mother recognize her as the nurse who performed CPR on Kevin when he was struck on the chest by a baseball bat in 1999.

As strange as this is — Penny says she can’t think about the incident “without being freaked” by it — such things happen.

Call it the hand of God, a manifestation of “The Force,” or an obscure amendment of the laws of probability, coincidence abounds in a range from the simply odd or the truly bizarre.

A similar tale of reciprocal life-saving occurred in Massachusetts in 1973. Roger Lausier, 13, saw a man struggling in the water off a Salem beach and went into the water to save him.

The man he saved was the husband of Alice Blaise, who had saved Roger from drowning when he was 4.

While you’re hearing that “Twilight Zone” music in your head, here are a couple more well-known classics.

Before filming started for “The Girl from Petrovka,” released in 1974, actor Anthony Hopkins spent a day in London bookstores looking for the George Feifer novel upon which the film was based. After a fruitless search, he headed for the train station, where he found a copy of the book on a bench. Years later, he met Feifer, who identified the find as a copy of the book he had loaned to a friend.

And on the dark side of coincidence lives a Bulgarian woman, an Internet legend, named Martha Martika, whose husband was killed by lightning.

She remarried and her second husband also was killed by lightning.

Perhaps figuring that the third time is the charm, she remarried, but, alas, lightning killed that husband, too.

In a case like that, the superstitious would suspect some kind of a curse.

But even those of us who are dubious when it comes to hexes have to admit that strange things happen.

And all we can do is hope than when the fickle finger of fate points in our direction, it isn’t spouting lightning.

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Kiss of life saves Boo Boo the chicken
CNN Wednesday, February 8, 2006

ARKADELPHIA, Arkansas (AP) -- This chicken had lips, just not her own.

A retired nurse saved her brother's chicken, Boo Boo, by administering mouth-to-beak resuscitation last week after the fowl was found floating face down in the family's pond.
Marian Morris said she hadn't had any practice with CPR in years, but she was interested to see if she "still had it."

"I breathed into its beak, and its dadgum eyes popped open," Morris said. "I breathed into its beak again, and its eyes popped open again. I said, 'I think this chicken's alive now. Keep it warm."'

She said she did not know how to find a pulse on a chicken.

Boo Boo's owners, Jackie and Becky Calhoun, put her in a large cardboard box containing a grain feeder and water. They also placed a heater nearby.

The chicken is called Boo Boo because she is easily frightened. The Calhouns thought Boo Boo was startled and flopped into the pond.

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Ark's Quantum Quirks
SOTT February 8, 2006


The Ice Age is coming home
The Ice Age is coming home...

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Strong Leads and Dead Ends in Nuclear Case Against Iran
By Dafna Linzer Washington Post Staff Writer Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Iranian engineers have completed sophisticated drawings of a deep subterranean shaft, according to officials who have examined classified documents in the hands of U.S. intelligence for more than 20 months.

Complete with remote-controlled sensors to measure pressure and heat, the plans for the 400-meter tunnel appear designed for an underground atomic test that might one day announce Tehran's arrival as a nuclear power, the officials said.

By the estimates of U.S. and allied intelligence analysts, that day remains as much as a decade away -- assuming that Iran applies the full measure of its scientific and industrial resources to the project and encounters no major technical hurdles. But whether Iran's leaders have reached that decision and what concrete progress the effort has made remain divisive questions among government analysts and U.N. inspectors.
In the three years since Iran was forced to acknowledge having a secret uranium-enrichment program, Western governments and the United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, have amassed substantial evidence to test the Tehran government's assertion that it plans to build nothing more than peaceful nuclear power plants. Often circumstantial, usually ambiguous and always incomplete, the evidence has confounded efforts by policymakers, intelligence officials and U.S. allies to reach a confident judgment about Iran's intentions and a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Drawings of the unbuilt test site, not disclosed publicly before, appear to U.S. officials to signal at least the ambition to test a nuclear explosive. But U.S. and U.N. experts who have studied them said the undated drawings do not clearly fit into a larger picture. Nowhere, for example, does the word "nuclear" appear on them. The authorship is unknown, and there is no evidence of an associated program to acquire, assemble and construct the components of such a site.

"The diagram is consistent with a nuclear test-site schematic," one senior U.S. source said, noting that the drawings envision a test control team parked a safe 10 kilometers -- more than six miles -- from the shaft. As far as U.S. intelligence knows, the idea has not left the drawing board.

Other suggestive evidence is cloaked in similar uncertainty. Contained in a laptop computer stolen by an Iranian citizen in 2004 are designs by a firm called Kimeya Madon for a small-scale facility to produce uranium gas, the construction of which would give Iran a secret stock that could be enriched for fuel or for bombs. Also on the laptop -- obtained by U.S. intelligence -- were drawings on modifying Iran's ballistic missiles in ways that might accommodate a nuclear warhead. Beyond the computer files, an imprisoned Pakistani arms dealer recently offered uncorroborated statements that Iran received several advanced centrifuges, equipment that would vastly improve its nuclear knowledge.

U.S. intelligence considers the laptop documents authentic but cannot prove it. Analysts cannot completely rule out the possibility that internal opponents of the Iranian leadership could have forged them to implicate the government, or that the documents were planted by Tehran itself to convince the West that its program remains at an immature stage.

CIA analysts, some of whom had been involved only a year earlier on the flawed assessments of Iraq's weapons programs, initially speculated that a third country, such as Israel, may have fabricated the evidence. But they eventually discounted that theory.

British intelligence, asked for a second opinion, concurred last year that the documents appear authentic. German and French officials consider the information troubling, sources said, but Russian experts have dismissed it as inconclusive. IAEA inspectors, who were highly skeptical of U.S. intelligence on Iraq, have begun to pursue aspects of the laptop information that appear to bolster previous leads.

"There is always a chance this could be the biggest scam perpetrated on U.S. intelligence," one U.S. source acknowledged. "But it's such a large body of documents and such strong indications of nuclear weapons intent, and nothing seems so inconsistent."

Bush administration officials, convinced that Iran has a weapons program, believe that the body of documentation is the nearest anyone can expect to "smoking gun" evidence. But even in the U.S. government, the predominant interpretation is more complex. And any step toward uranium enrichment, experts said, is consistent with three competing explanations -- that Iran's program is peaceful, that it aims for a weapon, or that the Tehran government is still keeping its options open.

A presidential commission found in 2004 that U.S. intelligence knows "disturbingly little" about Tehran's capabilities. And at a congressional hearing last Thursday, Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte described Iran as a "hard target" to penetrate.

While it is unknown whether Iran would ultimately decide to build a nuclear bomb, it is clear from evidence gathered by U.S. and foreign intelligence and through U.N. inspections that Iran, mostly through its energy program, is acquiring and mastering technologies that could be diverted to bombmaking.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the IAEA, said that after three years of investigation, he still cannot judge Iran's program "exclusively peaceful." At the same time, Iran is "not an imminent threat," he said in a recent interview. "To develop a nuclear weapon, you need a significant quantity of highly enriched uranium or plutonium, and no one has seen that in Iran."

U.S. intelligence experts who helped craft an assessment of Iran's program last year have based their judgments on just that. Until Iran is able to operate an industrial-scale centrifuge cascade for the production of bomb-grade uranium, the country will remain as much as 10 years away from a weapon.

Those experts have said that none of the drawings -- for the test shaft, the conversion facility or Iran's missile program -- alters those projections. Negroponte made that carefully hedged assessment public last Thursday when he said: "Iran, if it continues on its current path . . . will likely have the capability to produce a nuclear weapon within the next decade."

That assessment, by an intelligence community determined not to repeat the embarrassments of Iraq, is more conservative than views expressed by some policymakers. Some in the Bush administration have begun pushing back, suggesting that the CIA is demanding an unrealistically high standard of evidence before reaching conclusions that the White House believes are obvious.

"Taking into account the assessments made by the intelligence community, and others, I just don't have a lot of confidence in the assessments," said a senior administration official who was heavily involved in guiding the White House's use of intelligence on Iraq's weapons programs.

This examination explores the intelligence and evidence that helped form such judgments, and the gaps in understanding that obscure a full portrait of the program. It draws on interviews with senior Bush administration officials, as well as with government and intelligence sources grappling with the accumulating data and their counterparts from U.N. agencies and governments in Europe and the Middle East. Most of those interviewed would discuss the confidential information on Iran's program only on the condition of anonymity.
Green Salt

In the spring of 2001, a small design firm opened shop on the outskirts of Tehran to begin work for what appears to have been its only client -- the Iranian Republican Guard. Over the next two years, the staff at Kimeya Madon completed a set of technical drawings for a small uranium-conversion facility, according to four officials who reviewed the documents.

Iran has one such conversion plant and opened it to IAEA inspectors, but Tehran has not disclosed or produced the blueprints of a second one.

Over coffee in December in ElBaradei's Vienna office, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator was asked about the drawings, sources said. Ali Larijani called them "baseless allegations."

When IAEA inspectors went to Iraq last month, the CIA agreed to let them confront Iran with some of the evidence. Iranian officials dismissed the material but said they would follow up with clarifications at a later date, according to an IAEA report issued yesterday.

Several sources with firsthand knowledge of the original documents said the facility, if constructed, would give Iran additional capabilities to produce a substance known as UF4, or "green salt," an intermediate product in the conversion of uranium to a gas. Further refined in a large-scale enrichment plant, such as the one Iran says it intends to build for its energy program, the material could become usable for the core of a bomb.

Some of those who described the documents said senior Bush administration officials believe that they offer proof of a covert Iranian effort, under the direction of the military, to acquire nuclear weapons. The documents were found with design modifications for Iran's ballistic missile program, suggesting a link between potential weapons material and delivery systems. "We see this as pretty compelling evidence that they were trying to get a clandestine uranium-conversion facility," said one U.S. official. "At the very least, the Iranians should have reported the work" to IAEA inspectors, the official said.

Other sources with equal access to the same information, which went through nearly a year of forensic analysis by the CIA, were more cautious.

A second facility for uranium gas could have been envisioned as a replacement in the event the United States or Israel bombed the existing one in the city of Isfahan. "It was either their fallback in case we take out Isfahan," one U.S. analyst said. "Or maybe they considered an alternative indigenous plan but they realized it wasn't as good as what they already have, and so they shelved it."

As with the test-shaft drawings, those for the conversion facility were on the laptop allegedly stolen from an Iranian whom German intelligence tried, unsuccessfully, to recruit as an informant. It was whisked out of the country by another Iranian who offered it up to foreign intelligence officials in Turkey as evidence of a nuclear weapons program. Nowhere on any of the laptop documents, however, does the word "nuclear" appear.

"It's a complex-looking thing. You see the drawings but nothing beyond them, and you wonder, 'Can we be sure?' " a foreign official said.

Nowhere are there construction orders, payment invoices, or more than a handful of names and locations possibly connected to the projects. It remains unclear on whose authority the conversion work was done. Fueling suspicion, however, is the fact that the offices mentioned on the laptop documents are connected to an Iranian military officer, Mohsen Fakrizadeh.

Fakrizadeh is believed by U.S. intelligence to be the director of Project 111, a nuclear research effort that includes work on missile development. For years, U.S. intelligence knew of an Iranian endeavor that the Iranians code-named Project 110, believed to be the military arm of the country's nuclear program. U.S. officials believe its sequential successor may be the link between the country's nuclear energy program and its military, but they cannot be certain without more information from Fakrizadeh. "We want him produced for U.N. inspectors," said one U.S. source.

According to information on the laptop, Kimeya Madon appears to have ceased operation in the early spring of 2003, leading U.S. and allied intelligence services to suspect that it was a front company for the Iranian military. The last set of known drawings for the conversion facility are dated February 2003, as U.N. inspectors were making their first trip to Iran and U.S. troops were poised to invade neighboring Iraq.
Shooting Star

When the CIA began poring over thousands of pages of drawings contained in the laptop, the ones that garnered immediate attention were the schematics for Iran's most famous missile, the Shahab -- Persian for "shooting star."

Experts at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico ran the schematics through computer simulations. They determined two things: The drawings were an effort to expand the nose cone of the Shahab-3 to carry a nuclear warhead, and the modification plans, if executed, would not work.

Negroponte appeared to hint as much in his public briefing when he said Iran had not yet acquired the ability to integrate a nuclear weapon into its ballistic missiles.

The missile modifications, at first thought to have been based on a North Korean design, are now believed to be the handiwork of Iranian engineers. "This clearly wasn't done by the A-team of Iran's program," said one nuclear expert who has analyzed the documents. "It might have been given to an outside team or subcontracted out as an assignment or project for the military, though."

The laptop also includes 18 different attempts to perfect the size, weight and diameter of the nose cone in ways that could accommodate an implosion device. There are accompanying scientific notes describing experiments in the detonation of conventional explosives, suggesting to Western analysts that the author was working through the steps required to compress uranium into a critical mass for an atomic explosion.

"It's not hard evidence, but if you want to bring a building down, you don't need this kind of detonation," said one investigator. "So it's either for missiles or for a nuclear detonation."

In a recent meeting with IAEA inspectors, Iranian officials -- who learned 14 months ago that the United States had the documents on the laptop -- dismissed accusations that they reflect planning for a weapons program.
The Khan Network

In a brightly lighted office at police headquarters in the Malaysian capital, Bukhary Syed Tahir sat down recently for his second round of talks with CIA officers since his arrest 20 months ago on the streets of Kuala Lumpur.

Tahir is held in a high-security prison, without charges, for his alleged role as a manufacturer, salesman and partner in Pakistani scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan's nuclear network, which supplied materials to Libya, Iran and North Korea. After more than a year of denials about shipments to Iran in the 1990s, Tahir has changed his story and now claims to have recalled a previously forgotten sale, according to U.S. sources.

In addition to supplies Iran purchased from the network in the late 1980s to begin its nuclear program, Tahir said, Iran was sent in the mid-1990s three advanced, Pakistani-made centrifuges that could be used as models for manufacturing more. Thousands of properly constructed and assembled P-2 generation centrifuges could improve Iran's ability to make bomb-grade uranium. If the P-2s exist in Iran, as Tahir asserted, intelligence officials said the centrifuges could shorten the time needed for Iran to build a weapon.

Iran has told inspectors that it received only drawings of the P-2s, not the centrifuges themselves, and that it did not build any. A recent IAEA report determined that Iran has not been forthcoming on the P-2s or its dealings with Tahir and Khan, who led Pakistan to nuclear success.

Two sources with direct knowledge of Tahir's recent claims said they did not know what led him to offer a new account. They had no information on whether his new claims were made under duress or came after promises of release.

"Some of the individuals involved" in supplying Iran's program, "like Tahir, provide different accounts at different times, which only adds to the confusion," said a Bush administration official.

A 1987 meeting in a dusty Dubai office kick-started Tehran's nuclear efforts and a side business for Khan that made him rich and ultimately infamous. Iran, at war with Iraq then, bought from Khan centrifuge designs and a starter kit for uranium enrichment. The package included instructions for shaping uranium metal into "hemispherical forms," a process that has no other known use except to shield the core of a nuclear bomb.

"I haven't heard -- even from defenders of Iran -- an explanation for a peaceful purpose, that's not a weapons-related purpose," for the uranium metal, a U.S. official said. Iran contends that the uranium metal instructions were thrown in as a freebie and never used.

Khan, who is under house arrest in Islamabad, Pakistan, has provided few details to U.S. intelligence through his Pakistani handlers.

With Khan's help, Iran spent much of the 1990s secretly constructing a facility, partially underground, to house 50,000 centrifuges that it planned to build. That facility in Natanz is the only such known plant, and U.S. intelligence considers it unlikely that Iran has a hidden duplicate. Natanz was exposed in August 2002, at a time when the Bush administration was building support for war with Iraq. The revelations launched an investigation that took IAEA inspectors through Natanz for the first time three years ago this month.

Since then, they have uncovered matters of concern large and small. Some, such as traces of highly enriched uranium once feared to have been produced by Iran, are now known to have come from Pakistani equipment. Others areas of interest include suspicions of military involvement in uranium mining and plutonium tests.

But the history of Iran's P-2s, the laptop documents and the metal casting stand out as the most troubling for IAEA inspectors, the U.S. government and its allies.

For two years, the White House has sought to convince allies of Iran's guilt. "They say, 'Yes, we agree Iran's activities violate treaties, and, yes, it does seem like they are interested in nuclear weapons,' " a senior administration official said. The differences still to be worked out, between Washington and the world, are over "the proper course of action," the official said.

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Iran commander: Merkel 'thinks she's Hitler'
Middle East Online 2006-02-08

‘We cannot expect anything else from people with a Zionist past,’ says Commander Jazayeri.

TEHRAN - A commander in Iran's Revolutionary Guards lashed out at German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday over her remarks on Tehran's nuclear programme, saying she "thinks she's Hitler."

"In her childish dreams, Merkel imagines she's Hitler and thinks that now she occupies the chancellor's seat she can dictate orders to the world and to free countries," Commander Massoud Jazayeri was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.
"We cannot expect anything else from people with a Zionist past," added Jazayeri, the head of the public relations department of the guards, one of Iran's most powerful institutions.

Merkel on Saturday charged that Iran had "overstepped the mark" with its nuclear programme after the International Atomic Energy Agency voted to report Tehran to the UN Security Council, paving the way for possible sanctions.

Iran, which denies Western allegations it is seeking nuclear weapons, retaliated by saying it would begin full-scale uranium enrichment and limit inspections by IAEA officials.

"They way the Europeans have acted towards Iran's nuclear case demonstrates the weakness and inefficiency of countries such as Britain, France and Germany," Jazayeri said.

"The European people should ask why the leaders of Britain, France and Germany have become followers of the American cowboy?" he said, referring to US President George W. Bush.

The three EU countries were involved in talks with Iran aimed at ending the nuclear standoff but negotiations broke off after Tehran resumed uranium conversion work in August.

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Open Letter to the Neocons: We Can See You Squirming
By Anwaar Hussain February 3, 2005

The neocons and their 'mouthpiece,' George W, Bush are in quite a bind over what to do about Iran. In this open letter from a former Pakistan Air Force Officer, America's options in confronting Iran are examined, and with some relish, the author outlines why the neocons are 'squirming' over what to do next.

Dear Neocons,

It is showtime over Iran. You are in a bind of your own making and, boy, am I glad to see it!

Allow me to explain.
Increasing Iranian belligerence vis-à-vis your pressure on Iran's nuclear program indicates that decision time has finally arrived. The words of your spokesman, the President of United States, having earlier included Iran as part of the "axis of evil" in a rush of blood, will not allow you to do nothing. You now must put up or shut up, once and for all.

Let us examine your options.

To start off, you could impose unilateral sanctions on Iran. There is no evidence, however, that unilateral sanctions have ever worked. Your country imposed over 80 unilateral economic sanctions on foreign nations from 1995 to 2001, and those sanctions cost U.S. companies up to $19 billion in 1995 alone. There are few items of international commerce over which your country has a monopoly. Target countries simply buy what they need elsewhere, while big American businesses lose sales to foreign competitors.

The next option involves multilateral sanctions on Iran through the U.N. Multilateral sanctions have a better chance of success, but they are hard to maintain. With China and Russia, Iran's two major trading partners, sitting on the U.N. Security Council, these are unlikely to materialize. Moreover, such sanctions eventually break down, especially when the target country has considerable deposits of tradable commodities like gold, diamonds or oil. Such goods are easily sold on international markets and are difficult to trace.

Not only are sanctions ineffective, they often end up hurting the very people they are meant to help. For example, the only significant effect that your country's sanctions on Iraq produced was, according to a U.N. Children's Fund Report, over 500,000 dead Iraqi children.

Next, you could get Israel to attack Iran's nuclear facilities. There are, however, some deep-seated problems attached to this option too. Based on its known military capabilities, the Israeli Air Force can possibly conduct surgical strikes at the 1000km plus range, but it is incapable of a sustained air campaign against a full range of targets at such a distance. Furthermore, targets that are well-defended, like the Iranian nuclear facilities, must be attacked by a larger aerial force composed of attack aircraft, interceptors that protect them and other support elements. For a long term effect, therefore, any attempt to attack the Iranian nuclear facilities would necessitate sustainable operations on a large number of targets over an extended period of time.

Not having aircraft carriers of its own, taking out Iran's nuclear facilities would entail Israel conducting operations using facilities of a friendly country like Turkey or India. These states also have friendly relations with Iran and are, therefore, not likely to allow Israel to use their territories for such a purpose.

Secondly, the risk of a violent Iranian reaction may prevent Israeli leaders from choosing this option, especially when it might only serve to delay the progress of an Iranian nuclear program. In a nutshell, the option of getting Israel to attack Iranian installations is difficult because the probability of success is low, the risks are high, and reprisals are certain.

That brings us to your next option of using Israel as a part of a larger American effort. This is a non-starter. If your country undertakes joint preemptive strikes with Israel against Iran, it is sure to reinforce the existing perception in the Muslim world of an anti-Islamic Judeo-Christian conspiracy. Additionally, such an attack, particularly if it failed achieve its planned objectives, would have a destabilizing effect on the entire Middle East - the fountainhead of your much cherished substance, oil. It could also lead to a further acceleration of the Iranian program and a chain of violent clashes between Iran and Israel, as discussed in the preceding paragraphs.

Next, you could go it alone in a direct military confrontation.

Remember please that Iran is no Iraq. It is large, populous, rugged, and its nuclear facilities are spread throughout the country, some deep underground. A full-scale invasion would be a too-hot-to-handle venture for you. When one compares Iran to Saddam's Iraq, where you thought you would be greeted as liberators, it's not too difficult to guess the level of ferocity and popularity of a post-invasion Iranian resistance.

That brings us to your final option: a bargain with the Iranians. Here you have really become captives of your own bombast. Bargaining with Iran would mean offering the present regime incentives for disarmament while dropping the mad rhetoric of regime change. However, any overt bargain with Iran will surely be read as a retreat from your much-touted project of democratization and regional transformation.

Moreover, a U.S. bargain with Iran would have global effects. The most serious would not be in France or Germany, whose governments have made it plain that they have no stomach for America's future war parties, but in China and to a lesser degree in Russia. Beijing, Moscow and Tehran share a dislike of the Pax Americana and have a long record of direct and indirect cooperation on nuclear and missile programs. A weak-kneed American deal would invite further aggressive thrusts from China and Russia into this region, and would sound the death knell for your empire-building dreams.

In short, you are in a bind of your own making and we can see you squirming. Yes, your mouthpiece, George Bush, had some harsh words for Iran in his State of the Union address the other night, but gone was the bellicose swagger. His pitch differed sharply from the State of the Union address in 2002, when he stridently hitched together Iraq, Iran and North Korea in an "axis of evil." Now, he says "the world must not permit the Iranian regime to gain nuclear weapons." The world, please note, not the United States. Five years of misrule, a rapidly awakening citizenry and a bloody nose in Iraq does that, I guess.

Now what will you do, dear Neocons?

Yours truly,
Anwaar Hussain

P.S. Were it not for the chance of innocent human beings getting caught in the crossfire, I would have dared you to go for your guns and faster, please.

*Anwaar Hussain is a former Pakistan Air Force F-16 fighter pilot. With a Masters in Defense and Strategic Studies from Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad, he now resides in United Arab Emirates. He has published a series of articles in Defense Journal, South Asia Tribune and a host of other web portals. Other than international affairs, Anwaar Hussain has written extensively on the religious and political issues that plague Pakistan.

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Beware the Ides of March - The Next Act
By WILLIAM S. LIND counterpunch.org 5 Feb 06

Wars, most wars at least, run not evenly but in fits and starts, settling down into sputtering Sitzkrieg for long intervals, then suddenly shooting out wildly in wholly unpredicted directions. The war in Iraq has fallen into a set pattern for long enough that we should be expecting something new. I can identify three factors ­ there may be more ­ which could lead to some dramatic changes, soon
Osama bin Laden's latest message. Most observers, including the White House, seem to have missed its significance. In it, bin Laden offered us a truce (an offer we should have accepted, if only to attempt to seize the moral high ground). The Koran requires Moslems to offer such a truce before they attack. The fact that bin Laden himself made the offer, after a long silence, suggests al Qaeda attaches high importance to it.

Why? My guess is because they plan a major new attack in the U.S. soon. I would be surprised if the plan were for something smaller than 9/11, because that could send the message that al Qaeda's capabilities had diminished. Could this be "the big one," the suitcase nuke that most counter-terrorism experts expect somewhere, sometime? That would certainly justify, perhaps require, a truce offer from Osama himself. Of course, al Qaeda's plan may fail, and it may be for an action less powerful than setting off a nuke on American soil. But the fact that Osama made a truce offer should have set off alarm bells in Washington. So far, from what I can see, it hasn't.

In Iraq, Shiite country is turning nasty. The Brits are finding themselves up against Shiite militias around Basra. Muqtada al Sadr has made it clear he is spoiling for another go at the Americans, saying his militia would respond to any attack on Iran. In Baghdad, the Shiites who run things are finding American interference increasingly inconvenient. We are now talking to at least some Sunni insurgents, as we should be, but that means our utility to the Shiites as unpaid Hessians is diminishing. Put it all together and it suggests the improbable Yankee-Shiite honeymoon may soon end. When it does, our lines of supply and communication through southern Iraq to Kuwait will be up for grabs.

We are moving towards war with Iran. Our diplomatic efforts on the question of Iranian nuclear research and reprocessing are obviously designed to fail, in order to clear the boards for military action. It will probably come in the form of Israeli air strikes on Iran, which, as the Iranians well know, cannot be carried out without American approval and support.

In Israel, it was Sharon who repeatedly refused the Israeli generals' requests for air strikes; he is now out of the picture. His replacement, Olmert, is weak. The victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections gave Olmert's main opponent, Likud's Netanyahu, a big boost. How could Olmert best show the Israeli electorate he is as tough as Netanyahu? Obviously, by hitting Iran before Israel's elections in late March.

In Washington, the same brilliant crowd who said invading Iraq would be a cakewalk is still in power. While a few prominent neo-cons have left the limelight, others remain highly influential behind the scenes. For them, the question is not whether to attack Iran (and Syria), but when. Their answer will be the same as Israel's.

Washington will assume Iran will respond with some air and missile strikes of its own. Those may occur, but Iran has far more effective ways of replying. It can shut down its own oil exports and, with mining and naval action, those of Kuwait and the Gulf States as well. It can ramp up the guerilla wars both in Iraq and in Afghanistan.

It could also do something that would come as a total surprise to Washington and cross the Iran-Iraq border with four to six divisions, simply rolling up the American army of occupation in Iraq. Syria might well join in, knowing that it is only a question of time before it is attacked anyway. We have no field army in Iraq at this point; our troops are dispersed fighting insurgents. A couple dozen Scuds on the Green Zone would decapitate our leadership (possibly to our benefit). Yes, our air power would be a problem, but only until the Iranians got in close. Bad weather could provide enough cover for that. So could the Iranian and Syrian air forces, so long as they were willing to expend themselves. Our Air Force can be counted on to fight the air battle first.

As I said, when a war has been stuck in a rut for a long time, thoughtful observers should expect some dramatic change or changes. Any one of these possibilities would deliver that; together, they could give us a whole different situation, one in which our current slow defeat would accelerate sharply.

Beware the ides of March.

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US Sides With Iran on UN vote against gays
Tue Feb 7, 2006 By Irwin Arieff Reuters

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The Bush administration's support for Iran's proposal to bar two gay rights groups from a voice at the United Nations sparked a demand from U.S. legislators on Tuesday that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice repudiate the action.

The January 23 vote denying "consultative status" at the world body to the Belgium-based International Gay and Lesbian Association and the Danish National Association for Gays and Lesbians was a "drastic reversal" of Washington's previous stand on the issue, the U.S. House of Representatives members wrote.

Nearly 3,000 nongovernmental organizations have such status, which enables them to distribute documents and speak at meetings of some U.N. bodies and conferences.

In voting for Iran's proposal, "the United States joined some of the world's most oppressive regimes, among them China, Cuba, Sudan and Zimbabwe" and demonstrated "a reprehensible inconsistency" in the protection of rights based on sexual orientation, the lawmakers said.

Among the 44 Democrats and one independent signing the letter were Democrats Eliot Engel of New York, Steny Hoyer of Maryland, Tom Lantos of California, Rahm Emanuel of Illinois and Dennis Kucinich of Ohio.

They called on Rice to publicly repudiate the action and support pending applications by three other gay rights groups.

The vote occurred in the U.N. Economic and Social Council's Committee on Nongovernmental Organizations.

U.S. officials said the United States had opposed the Belgian group in January due to its previous ties to the North American Man/Boy Love Association, which condones pedophilia.

But the United States had voted in 2002 to approve U.N. ties to the group. At that time, a U.S. diplomat told the committee Washington was convinced it no longer condoned pedophilia and praised it for its life-saving activities in the struggle against AIDS.

Despite U.S. support, the group failed to win enough votes to win consultative status in 2002, and the January 2006 vote had been its first chance since then to try again.

On January 23, the United States first abstained on a motion to deny a hearing to the two groups. That motion carried.

Washington then voted in favor of Iran's proposal to deny their applications, which carried 10-5 with three abstentions.

Following the vote, German envoy Martin Thuemmel said the committee decision "will haunt us for a long time" because it sent a message that it was acceptable to discriminate on the basis of an individual's sexual orientation.

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Brothers in arms - Israel's secret pact with Pretoria
Tuesday February 7, 2006 The Guardian

During the second world war the future South African prime minister John Vorster was interned as a Nazi sympathiser. Three decades later he was being feted in Jerusalem. In the second part of his remarkable special report, Chris McGreal investigates the clandestine alliance between Israel and the apartheid regime, cemented with the ultimate gift of friendship - A-bomb technology
Several years ago in Johannesburg I met a Jewish woman whose mother and sister were murdered in Auschwitz. After their deaths, she was forced into a gas chamber, but by some miracle that bout of killing was called off. Vera Reitzer survived the extermination camp, married soon after the war and moved to South Africa.

Reitzer joined the apartheid Nationalist party (NP) in the early 1950s, at about the time that the new prime minister, DF Malan, was introducing legislation reminiscent of Hitler's Nuremberg laws against Jews: the population registration act that classified South Africans according to race, legislation that forbade sex and marriage across the colour line and laws barring black people from many jobs.

Reitzer saw no contradiction in surviving the Holocaust only to sign up for a system that was disturbingly reminiscent in its underpinning philosophy, if not in the scale of its crimes, as the one she had outlived. She vigorously defended apartheid as a necessary bulwark against black domination and the communism that engulfed her native Yugoslavia. Reitzer let slip that she thought Africans inferior to other human beings and not entitled to be treated as equals. I asked if Hitler hadn't said the same thing about her as a Jew. She called a halt to the conversation.

Reitzer was unusual among Jewish South Africans in her open enthusiasm for apartheid and for her membership of the NP. But she was an accepted member of the Jewish community in Johannesburg, working for the Holocaust survivors association, while Jews who fought the system were frequently ostracised by their own community.

Many Israelis recoil at suggestions that their country, risen from the ashes of genocide and built on Jewish ideals, could be compared to a racist regime. Yet for years the bulk of South Africa's Jews not only failed to challenge the apartheid system but benefited and thrived under its protection, even if some of their number figured prominently in the liberation movements. In time, Israeli governments too set aside objections to a regime whose leaders had once been admirers of Adolf Hitler. Within three decades of its birth, Israel's self-proclaimed "purity of arms" - what it describes as the moral superiority of its soldiers - was secretly sacrificed as the fate of the Jewish state became so intertwined with South Africa that the Israeli security establishment came to believe the relationship saved the Jewish state.

Afrikaner anti-semitism

Apartheid sought to segregate every aspect of life from the workplace to the bedroom, even though whites in practice were dependent on black people as a workforce and servants. Segregation evolved into "separate development" and the bantustans - the five nominally "independent" homelands where millions of black people were dumped under the rule of despots beholden to Pretoria.

When the Nationalist party government first gained power in Pretoria in 1948, the Jews of South Africa - the bulk of them descendants of refugees from 19th-century pogroms in Lithuania and Latvia - had reason to be wary. A decade before Malan became the first apartheid-era prime minister, he was leading opposition to Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany entering South Africa. In promoting legislation to block immigration, Malan told parliament in 1937: "I have been reproached that I am now discriminating against the Jews as Jews. Now let me say frankly that I admit that it is so."

South African anti-semitism had grown with the rise of Jews to prominence in the 1860s, during the Kimberly diamond rush. At the turn of the century, the Manchester Guardian's correspondent, JA Hobson, reflected a view that the Boer war was being fought in the interests of a "small group of international financiers, chiefly German in origin and Jewish in race". Fifty years later, Malan's cabinet saw similar conspiracies. Hendrik Verwoerd, editor of the virulently anti-semitic newspaper, Die Transvaler, and future author of "grand apartheid", accused Jews of controlling the economy. Before the second world war, the secret Afrikaner society, the Broederbond - which included Malan and Verwoerd as members - developed ties to the Nazis. Another Broederbond member and future prime minister, John Vorster, was interned in a prison camp by Jan Smuts's government during the war for his Nazi sympathies and ties to the Grey Shirt fascist militia.

Don Krausz, chairman of Johannesburg's Holocaust survivors association, arrived in South Africa a year after the war, having survived Hitler's camps at Ravensbrück and Sachsenhausen when much of his extended family did not. "The Nationalists had a strongly anti-semitic platform before 1948. The Afrikaans press was viciously anti-Jewish, much like Der Stürmer in Germany under Hitler. The Jew felt himself very much threatened by the Afrikaner. The Afrikaner supported Hitler," he says. "My wife comes from Potchefstroom [in what was then the Transvaal]. Every Jewish shop in that town was blown up by the Grey Shirts. In the communities that were predominantly Afrikaans, the Jews were absolutely victimised. Now the same crowd comes to power in 1948. The Jew was a very frightened person. There were cabinet ministers who openly supported the Nazis."

Helen Suzman, a secular Jew, was for many years the only anti-apartheid voice in parliament. "They didn't fear there would be a Holocaust but they did fear there might be Nuremberg-style laws, the kind that prevented people practising their professions. The incoming government had made it clear that race differentiation was going to be intensified, and the Jews didn't know where they were going to fit into that," she says.

Many South African Jews were soon reassured that, while there would be Nuremberg-style laws, they would not be the victims. The apartheid regime had a demographic problem and it could not afford the luxury of isolating a section of the white population, even if it was Jewish. Within a few years many South African Jews not only came to feel secure under the new order but comfortable with it. Some found echoes of Israel's struggle in the revival of Afrikaner nationalism.

Many Afrikaners saw the Nationalist party's election victory as liberation from bitterly hated British rule. British concentration camps in South Africa may not have matched the scale or intent of Hitler's war against the Jews, but the deaths of 25,000 women and children from disease and starvation were deeply rooted in Afrikaner nationalism, in the way the memory of the Holocaust is now central to Israel's perception of itself. The white regime said that the lesson was for Afrikaners to protect their interests or face destruction.

"What the Nats were trying to do was protect the Afrikaner," says Krausz. "Especially after what was done to them in the Boer war, where the Afrikaner was reduced almost to a beggar on returning after the war, whether it was from the battlefield or some sort of concentration camp. They did it to protect the Afrikaner, his predominance after 1948, his culture."

There was also God. The Dutch Reformed Church, prising justifications for apartheid out of the Old Testament and Afrikaner history, seized on the victory over the Zulus at the battle of Blood River as confirming that the Almighty sided with the white man.

"Israelis claim that they are the chosen people, the elect of God, and find a biblical justification for their racism and Zionist exclusivity," says Ronnie Kasrils, South Africa's intelligence minister and Jewish co-author of a petition that was circulated amongst South African Jewry protesting at the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

"This is just like the Afrikaners of apartheid South Africa, who also had the biblical notion that the land was their God-given right. Like the Zionists who claimed that Palestine in the 1940s was 'a land without people for a people without land', so the Afrikaner settlers spread the myth that there were no black people in South Africa when they first settled in the 17th century. They conquered by force of arms and terror and the provocation of a series of bloody colonial wars of conquest."

Anti-semitism lingered, but within a few years of the Nationalists assuming power in 1948, many Jewish South Africans found common purpose with the rest of the white community. "We were white and even though the Afrikaner was no friend of ours, he was still white," says Krausz. "The Jew in South Africa sided with the Afrikaners, not so much out of sympathy, but out of fear sided against the blacks. I came to this country in 1946 and all you could hear from Jews was 'the blacks this and the blacks that'. And I said to them, 'You know, I've heard exactly the same from the Nazis about you.' The laws were reminiscent of the Nuremberg laws. Separate entrances; 'Reserved for whites' here; 'Not for Jews' there."

For decades, the Zionist Federation and Jewish Board of Deputies in South Africa honoured men such as Percy Yutar, who prosecuted Nelson Mandela for sabotage and conspiracy against the state in 1963 and sent him to jail for life (in the event, he served 27 years). Yutar went on to become attorney general of the Orange Free State and then of the Transvaal. He was elected president of Johannesburg's largest orthodox synagogue. Some Jewish leaders hailed him as a "credit to the community" and a symbol of the Jews' contribution to South Africa.

"The image of the Jews was that they were following Helen Suzman," says Alon Liel, a former Israeli ambassador to Pretoria. "I think the majority didn't like what apartheid was doing to the blacks but enjoyed the fruits of the system and thought that maybe that's the only way to run a country like South Africa."

The Jewish establishment shied away from confrontation with the government. The declared policy of the Board of Deputies was "neutrality" so as not to "endanger" the Jewish population. Those Jews who saw silence as collaboration with racial oppression, and did something about it outside of the mainstream political system, were shunned.

"They were mostly disapproved of very strongly because it was felt they were putting the community in danger," says Suzman. "The Board of Deputies always said that every Jew can exercise his freedom to choose his political party but bear in mind what it is doing to the community. By and large, Jews were part of the privileged white community and that led many Jews to say, 'We will not rock the boat.'"

Common aims

Israel was openly critical of apartheid through the 1950s and 60s as it built alliances with post-colonial African governments. But most African states broke ties after the 1973 Yom Kippur war and the government in Jerusalem began to take a more benign view of the isolated regime in Pretoria. The relationship changed so profoundly that, in 1976, Israel invited the South African prime minister, John Vorster - a former Nazi sympathiser and a commander of the fascist Ossewabrandwag that sided with Hitler - to make a state visit.

Leaving unmentioned Vorster's wartime internment for supporting Germany, Israel's prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, hailed the South African premier as a force for freedom and made no mention of Vorster's past as he toured the Jerusalem memorial to the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis. At a state banquet, Rabin toasted "the ideals shared by Israel and South Africa: the hopes for justice and peaceful coexistence". Both countries, he said, faced "foreign-inspired instability and recklessness".

Vorster, whose army was then overrunning Angola, told his hosts that South Africa and Israel were victims of the enemies of western civilisation. A few months later, the South African government's yearbook characterised the two countries as confronting a single problem: "Israel and South Africa have one thing above all else in common: they are both situated in a predominantly hostile world inhabited by dark peoples."

Vorster's visit laid the ground for a collaboration that transformed the Israel-South Africa axis into a leading weapons developer and a force in the international arms trade. Liel, who headed the Israeli foreign ministry's South Africa desk in the 80s, says that the Israeli security establishment came to believe that the Jewish state may not have survived without the relationship with the Afrikaners.

"We created the South African arms industry," says Liel. "They assisted us to develop all kinds of technology because they had a lot of money. When we were developing things together we usually gave the know-how and they gave the money. After 1976, there was a love affair between the security establishments of the two countries and their armies.

"We were involved in Angola as consultants to the [South African] army. You had Israeli officers there cooperating with the army. The link was very intimate."

Alongside the state-owned factories turning out materiel for South Africa was Kibbutz Beit Alfa, which developed a profitable industry selling anti-riot vehicles for use against protesters in the black townships.

Going nuclear

The biggest secret of all was the nuclear one. Israel provided expertise and technology that was central to South Africa's development of its nuclear bombs. Israel was embarrassed enough about its close association with a political movement rooted in racial ideology to keep the military collaboration hidden.

"All that I'm telling you was completely secret," says Liel. "The knowledge of it was extremely limited to a small number of people outside the security establishment. But it so happened that many of our prime ministers were part of it, so if you take people such as [Shimon] Peres or Rabin, certainly they knew about it because they were part of the security establishment.

"At the UN we kept saying: we are against apartheid, as Jewish people who suffered from the Holocaust this is intolerable. But our security establishment kept cooperating."

So did many politicians. Israeli cities found twins in South Africa, and Israel was alone among western nations in allowing the black homeland of Bophuthatswana to open an "embassy".

By the 1980s, Israel and South Africa echoed each other in justifying the domination of other peoples. Both said that their own peoples faced annihilation from external forces - in South Africa by black African governments and communism; in Israel, by Arab states and Islam. But each eventually faced popular uprisings - Soweto in 1976, the Palestinian intifada in 1987 - that were internal, spontaneous and radically altered the nature of the conflicts.

"There are things we South Africans recognise in the Palestinian struggle for national self-determination and human rights," says Kasrils. "The repressed are demonised as terrorists to justify ever-greater violations of their rights. We have the absurdity that the victims are blamed for the violence meted out against them. Both apartheid and Israel are prime examples of terrorist states blaming the victims."

There are important differences. Israel faced three wars of survival, and the armed struggle in South Africa never evolved to the murderous tactics or scale of killing adopted by Palestinian groups over recent years. But, from the 1980s, the overwhelming superiority of Israeli military power, the diminishing threat from its neighbours and the shift of the conflict to Palestinian streets eroded the sympathy that Israel once commanded abroad.

White South Africa and Israel painted themselves as enclaves of democratic civilisation on the front line in defending western values, yet both governments often demanded to be judged by the standards of the neighbours they claimed to be protecting the free world from.

"The whites [in South Africa] always saw their fate in a way related to the fate of the Israelis because the Israelis were a white minority surrounded by 200 million fanatic Muslims assisted by communism," says Liel. "Also, there was this analysis that said Israel is a civilised western island in the midst of these 200 million barbaric Arabs and it's the same as the Afrikaners; five million Afrikaners surrounded by hundreds of millions of blacks who are also assisted by communism."

When Israel finally began to back away from the apartheid regime as international pressure on the Afrikaner government grew, Liel says Israel's security establishment balked. "When we came to the crossroads in '86-'87, in which the foreign ministry said we have to switch from white to black, the security establishment said, 'You're crazy, it's suicidal.' They were saying we wouldn't have military and aviation industries unless we had had South Africa as our main client from the mid-1970s; they saved Israel. By the way, it's probably true," he says.

Forgetting the past

Shimon Peres was defence minister at the time of Vorster's visit to Jerusalem and twice served as prime minister during the 1980s when Israel drew closest to the apartheid government. He shies away from questions about the morality of ties to the white regime. "I never think back. Since I cannot change the past, why should I deal with it?" he says.

Pressed about whether he ever had doubts about backing a government that was the antithesis of what Israel said it stood for, Peres says his country was struggling for survival. "Every decision is not between two perfect situations. Every choice is between two imperfect alternatives. At that time the movement of black South Africa was with Arafat against us. Actually, we didn't have much of a choice. But we never stopped denouncing apartheid. We never agreed with it."

And a man like Vorster? "I wouldn't put him on the list of the greatest leaders of our time," says Peres.

The deputy director general of Israel's foreign ministry, Gideon Meir, says that while he had no detailed knowledge of Israel's relationship with the apartheid government, it was driven by a sole consideration. "Our main problem is security. There is no other country in the world whose very existence is being threatened. This is since the inception of the state of Israel to this very day. Everything is an outcome of the geopolitics of Israel."

When apartheid collapsed, the South African Jewish establishment that once honoured Percy Yutar - the prosecutor who jailed Mandela - now rushed to embrace Jews who were at the forefront of the anti-apartheid struggle, such as Joe Slovo, Ronnie Kasrils and Ruth First.

"I received these awards from international Zionist organisations claiming that it was my Judaic roots that had driven me," says Suzman. "When I said I didn't have a Jewish upbringing and that I went to a convent which didn't influence me either, they said it was not actively but instinctively."

For Kasrils, the embrace was short-lived. "They spent years denouncing me for 'endangering the Jews' and then suddenly they pretend they've been at my side all through the struggle. It didn't last long. As soon as I started criticising what Israel is doing in Palestine they dropped me again," he said.

Nowadays, the language of the anti-apartheid struggle has found favour with the Jewish establishment as a means of defending Israel. South Africa's chief rabbi, Warren Goldstein, has called Zionism the "national liberation movement of the Jewish people" and invoked the terminology of Pretoria's policies to uplift "previously disadvantaged" black people. "Israel is an affirmative-action state set up to protect Jews from genocide. We are previously disadvantaged and we can't rely on the goodwill of the world," he said. Rabbi Goldstein declined several requests for an interview.

In 2004, Ronnie Kasrils visited the Palestinian territories to assess the effect of Israel's assault on the West Bank two years earlier in response to a wave of suicide bombings that killed hundreds of people. "This is much worse than apartheid," he said. "The Israeli measures, the brutality, make apartheid look like a picnic. We never had jets attacking our townships. We never had sieges that lasted month after month. We never had tanks destroying houses. We had armoured vehicles and police using small arms to shoot people but not on this scale."

Petition of conscience

More than 200 South African Jews signed a petition that Kasrils co-authored with another Jewish veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle, Max Ozinsky, denouncing Israel's treatment of the Palestinians and drawing a parallel with apartheid. The document, called A Declaration of Conscience, prompted a furious debate within the community. Arthur Goldreich - one of Mandela's early comrades-in-arms who also fought for Israel's independence - was among those who signed but he attached an addendum recognising the impact of the suicide bombings on how Israelis view the Palestinians.

Kasrils acknowledges the effect of the bombers but says that Israel's "apartheid strategy" was under way long before the suicide attacks began. He notes the resemblance of the occupied territories to South Africa's patchwork of homelands - the bantustans - that were intended to divest the country of much of its black population while keeping the best of their land.

Today, about six million Israelis live on 85% of the area that was Palestine under the British mandate. Nearly 3.5 million Palestinians are confined to the remaining 15%, with their towns and cities penned between Israel's ever-expanding settlement blocks and behind a network of segregated roads, security barriers and military installations.

You might say that Israel and the old South Africa were caught out by history. The world of 1948 into which the Jewish state was born and the Afrikaners came to power cared little about the "dark peoples" who stood in the way of grand visions. Neither government was doing very much that others - including British colonists - had not done before them.

And if Israel was fighting for its life and forcing Arabs out of their homes at the same time, who in the west was going to judge the Jews after what they had endured?

But colonialism crumbled in Africa and Israel grew strong, and the world became less accepting of the justifications in Pretoria and Jerusalem. South Africa's white leadership eventually accepted another way. Israel now stands at a critical moment in its history.

With Ariel Sharon in a coma, it is unlikely that we will ever know how far he intended to carry his "unilateral disengagement" strategy after the withdrawal from Gaza and a part of the West Bank. Like FW de Klerk, who initiated the dismantling of apartheid, Sharon might have found he had set in motion forces he could not contain - forces that would have led to a deal acceptable to the Palestinians.

But to the Palestinians, Sharon appeared intent on carrying through a modified version of his longstanding plan to rid Israel of responsibility for as many Arabs as possible while keeping as much of their land as he could.

While Tony Blair was praising the Israeli prime minister for his political "courage" in leaving Gaza in August last year, Sharon was expropriating more land in the West Bank than Israel surrendered in Gaza, building thousands of new homes in Jewish settlements, and accelerating construction of the 400-plus miles of concrete and barbed wire barrier that few doubt is intended as a border.

Palestinians said that whatever emasculated "state" emerged - granted only "aspects of sovereignty" with limited control over its borders, finances and foreign policy - would be disturbingly reminiscent of South Africa's defunct bantustans.

Take the roads. Israel is rapidly constructing a parallel network of roads in the West Bank for Palestinians who are barred from using many existing routes. B'Tselem, the Israeli human rights group, describes the system as bearing "clear similarities to the racist apartheid regime that existed in South Africa".

The army, which describes roads from which Palestinians are forbidden as "sterile", says the policy is driven solely by security considerations. But it is evident that the West Bank road system is a tool, along with the 400-plus miles of barrier, in entrenching the settlement blocks and carving up territory. "The road regime is not by legislation," said Goldreich. "It's by political decision and military orders. When I look at all of those maps and I look at the roads, it's like Alice in Wonderland. There are roads that Israelis can go on and roads Palestinians can go on, and roads Israelis and Palestinians can go on." The roads, the checkpoints, the fence - all "by edict. I look at it and ask, what is the thinking behind this?"

Three years ago, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported the former Italian prime minister, Massimo D'Alema, as telling dinner guests at a Jerusalem hotel that, on a visit to Rome a few years earlier, Sharon had told him that the bantustan model was the most appropriate solution to the conflict with the Palestinians. When one of the guests suggested to D'Alema that he was interpreting, not repeating, Sharon's words, the former prime minister said not. "No, sir, that is not interpretation. That is a precise quotation of your prime minister," he said. With Sharon out of politics, his successor Ehud Olmert has pledged himself to carrying through the vision of carving out Israel's final borders deep inside the West Bank and retaining all of Jerusalem for the Jewish state.

So is it apartheid?

Stepping into modern Israel, anyone who experienced the old South Africa would see few immediately visible comparisons. There are no signs segregating Jews and non-Jews. Yet, as in white South Africa then and now, there is a world of discrimination and oppression that most Israelis choose not to see.

Israeli soldiers routinely humiliate and harass Palestinians at checkpoints and settlers paint hate-filled slogans on the walls of Arab houses in Hebron. The police stop citizens who appear to be Arabs on West Jerusalem streets to demand their identity cards as a matter of routine.

Some Jewish communities refuse to allow Arabs in their midst on the grounds of cultural differences. One Jewish settlement mayor tried to require Arabs who entered to wear a tag that identified them as Palestinians. In the 1990s, rightwingers menaced shopkeepers into sacking Arab workers. Those who complied were given signs declaring their shops Arab-free. Sometimes the hatred is explained away as religious discrimination, but the chants at the football matches go "Death to Arabs" not "Death to Muslims".

The Israeli press largely ignores the routine of occupation despite the fearless reporting of some journalists on the disturbing number of children who die under Israeli guns (more than 650 since the second intifada broke out in September 2000, of which a quarter were younger than 12 years old); the abuse of Palestinians by settlers, and the humiliations meted out at the checkpoints.

The eight-metre-high wall driven through Jerusalem is almost invisible to residents of the Jewish west of the city. Because of the geography, most of the city's Jews do not see the concrete mammoth dividing streets and families, and the demolished homes - just as most of South Africa's whites steered clear of the townships and were blind to what was being done in their name.

Shortly after arriving in Jerusalem, I was invited for dinner at the home of a liberal Israeli family. The guests included an American magazine publisher, a prominent historian and political activists. The conversation turned to the Palestinians and degenerated into a discussion of how they do not "deserve" a state. The intifada and suicide bombings were seen to justify 37 years of occupation and offset whatever crimes Israel may have committed against the Arabs under its rule.

It was all very reminiscent of conversations in South Africa, and indeed the popular Israeli view of Palestinians is not so far from how many white South Africans thought about black people. Opinion polls show that large numbers of Israelis regard Arabs as "dirty", "primitive", as not valuing human life and as violent.

Sharon recruited into his government men who openly called for wholesale ethnic cleansing that would more than match apartheid's forced removals. Among them was the tourism minister, Rehavam Ze'evi, who advocated the "transfer" of Arabs out of Israel and the occupied territories. Even the Israeli press called him a racist. Ze'evi was shot dead in 2001 by Palestinians who said his policies made him a legitimate target.

But Ze'evi's views did not die with him. An influential Likud MP, Uzi Cohen, said Israel and its western allies should demand that a part of Jordan be carved off as a Palestinian state and that Arabs in the occupied territories should be given 20 years to "leave voluntarily". "In case they don't leave, plans would have to be drawn up to expel them by force," Cohen told Israel radio. "Many people support the idea but few are willing to speak about it publicly." Cohen is among 70 Israeli MPs who have backed a bill to establish a national memorial day for Ze'evi and an institute to perpetuate his ideas.

In 2001, Sharon appointed Uzi Landau as his security minister, a position from which he openly advocated that Palestinians should be forced to move to Jordan because they were in the way of Israeli expansion in the West Bank. "For many of us, it's as though they [the Palestinians] are encroaching on our very right to be there [in the occupied territories]," he said.

Sharon rarely objected to the expression of such views, and when he did it was not because they were racist or immoral. The prime minister told Likud party members who pressed him to expel Palestinians that he could not do so because the "international situation wouldn't be conducive".

"We've always had the fanatics talking of greater Israel," says Krausz, the Holocaust survivor in Johannesburg. "There are blokes who say it says in the Bible this land is ours, God gave it to us. It's fascism."

Colonial dispossession

Yossi Sarid, a leftwing Israeli MP, said of a cabinet minister who agitated for the forced removal of Arabs: "His remarks are reminiscent of other people and other lands which ultimately led to the annihilation of millions of Jews." They are also reminiscent of comments by PW Botha, who went on to become South Africa's president. Speaking to parliament in 1964 as minister for coloured affairs, he said: "I am one of those who believe that there is no permanent home for even a section of the Bantu in the white area of South Africa and the destiny of South Africa depends on this essential point. If the principle of permanent residence for the black man in the area of the white is accepted then it is the beginning of the end of civilisation as we know it in this country."

There was a time when large numbers of Israelis agreed with Ze'evi and Cohen, but over the past decade they have come to support the creation of a Palestinian state as a means of ridding themselves of responsibility from the bulk of Arabs. Separation. Apartheid.

But South African apartheid was more than just separation. "Apartheid was all about land," says John Dugard, the South African lawyer and UN human rights monitor. "Apartheid was about keeping the best parts of the country for the whites and sending the blacks to the least habitable, least desirable parts of the country. And one sees that all the time here [in the occupied territories], particularly with the wall, now, which is really a land grab. One sees Palestinians dispossessed of their homes by bulldozers. One can draw certain parallels with respect to South Africa that, during the heyday of apartheid, population relocation did result in destruction of property, but not on the same scale as the devastation in Gaza in particular, [or in] the West Bank."

Arthur Goldreich resists the temptation to use the comparison. "It is a viable, even attractive, analogy. I have in the past been very reluctant, and still am, to make the analogy because I think it's too convenient. I think there are striking similarities in all forms of racist discrimination," he says.

"I think to describe, let us say, the bantustanism which we see through a policy of occupation and separation: they all have their own words and their own implications and it is not necessary to go outside to find them."

Kasrils agrees. "Yes, there are enormous parallels with apartheid, but the problem with making comparisons is it actually distracts from the Palestinian context," he says. "We have to look for another definition. What struck me is dispossession, colonial dispossession. Most colonial dispossession took place over centuries through settlers and forced removals. In South Africa, that was a 300-year process. Here, it's taken place in 50 years; 1948, 1967 and the present in terms of the heightened nature of militarism in the West Bank and Gaza leading to the wall, which I don't see as a wall of security but a wall of dispossession."

Hirsh Goodman emigrated to Israel three decades ago after his national service in the South African army. His son moved to South Africa after completing his conscription in the Israeli military. "The army sent him to the occupied territories and he said he would never forgive this country for what it made him do," says Goodman, a security analyst at Tel Aviv university. He says Israel has a lot to answer for but to call it apartheid goes too far. "If Israel retains the [occupied] territories it ceases to be a democracy, and in that sense it is apartheid because it differentiates between two classes of people and separates and creates two sets of laws which is what apartheid did. It creates two standards of education, health, of dispensing funds. But you can't call Israel an apartheid state when 76% of the people want an agreement with the Palestinians. Yes, there's discrimination against the Arabs, the Ethiopians and others, but it's not a racist society. There's colonialism, but there's not apartheid. I feel very strongly about apartheid. I hate the term being abused."

Daniel Seidemann, the Israeli lawyer who is fighting Jerusalem's residency and planning laws, says that he used to reject the apartheid parallel out of hand but finds it harder to do so nowadays. "My gut reaction: 'Oh, no! Our side? My goodness, no!' I think there's a good deal to be said for that reaction to the extent that apartheid was rooted in a racial ideology which clearly fed social realities, fed the political system, fed the system of economic subjugation. As a Jew, to concede the predominance of a racial world view of subjugating Palestinians is difficult to accept," he says. "But, unfortunately, the fact of the absence of a racial ideology is not sufficient because the realities that have emerged in some ways are clearly reminiscent of some of the important trappings of an apartheid regime."

So perhaps the better question is how Israel came to a point where comparisons with apartheid could even be contemplated. Is it a victim of circumstances, forced into oppression by its need to survive? Or was the hunger for land so central to the Zionist project that domination was the inevitable result?

Krausz worked in Israel for several years soon after the birth of the state. "I recognised the conflict in trying to take land that the Palestinians had lived on for centuries. I realise the 1948 war of independence wasn't a right-and-wrong situation: a lot of Arabs not only fled voluntarily but were also encouraged to do so. What they would have done if there hadn't been a war, I don't know," he says.

"I know that where I drilled for oil was the site of an Arab village. Being South African, I used to go and visit family and friends on a kibbutz that was started by South Africans, including my cousin. I used to go roaming about the countryside there and I went through one abandoned and blown up Arab village after another."

States of fear

In Israel, at least until the late 1970s, the threat from its Arab neighbours was all too real. But fear also played a role among white South Africans, who watched with growing horror, and then terror, the tide of empire receding and black rule sweeping Africa. The accounts of white women raped in newly independent Congo and, years later, the scenes of whites fleeing Angola, Mozambique and Rhodesia, were used by South Africa to terrify its white citizens into accepting increasingly oppressive measures against black people. Nevertheless, the fear among whites was real. They, like Israelis, saw themselves as in a struggle for their very existence.

Israel's critics say that as the threats to the Jewish state receded it came more and more to resemble the apartheid model - particularly in its use of land and residency laws - until the similarities outweighed the differences. Liel says that was never the intent.

"The existential problems of Israel were real," he says. "Of the injustice we did, we're always ashamed. We always tried to behave democratically. Of course, on the private level there was a lot of discrimination - a lot, a lot. By the government also. But it was not a philosophy that was built on racism. A lot of it was security-oriented."

Goldreich disagrees. "It's a gross distortion. I'm surprised at Liel. In 1967, in the six day war, in this climate of euphoria - by intent, not by will of God or accident - the Israeli government occupied the territories of the West Bank and Gaza with a captive Palestinian population obviously in order to extend the area of Israel and to push the borders more distant from where they were," he says.

"I and others like me, active after the six day war on public platforms, tried desperately to convince audiences throughout this country that peace agreements between Israel and Palestine [offer] greater security than occupation of territory and settlements. But the government wanted territory more than it wanted security.

"I am certain that it was in the minds of many in the leadership of this country that what we needed to do was make this place Arab-free. Mandela said to me once at Rivonia, 'You know, they want to make us unpeople, not seen.'"

But, as ordinary Israelis discovered, such a system cannot survive unchallenged. Apartheid collapsed in part because South African society was exhausted by its demands and the myth of victimhood among whites fell away. Israel has not got there yet. Many Israelis still think they are the primary victims of the occupation.

For Seidemann, the crucial issue is not how the apartheid system worked but how it began to disintegrate. "It unravelled because it couldn't be done. Apartheid drained so much energy from South African society that this was one of the compelling reasons beyond the economic sanctions and pressures that convinced De Klerk that this was not sustainable. This is what is coming to Israel."

Or perhaps the conflict will evolve into something worse; something that will produce parallels even more shocking than that with apartheid.

Arnon Soffer has spent years advising the government on the "demographic threat" posed by the Arabs. The Haifa university geographer paints a bleak vision of how he sees the Gaza strip a generation after Israel's withdrawal.

"When 2.5 million people live in a closed-off Gaza, it's going to be a human catastrophe. Those people will become even bigger animals than they are today, with the aid of an insane fundamentalist Islam. The pressure at the border will be awful. It's going to be a terrible war. So, if we want to remain alive, we will have to kill and kill and kill. All day, every day," he told the Jerusalem Post.

"If we don't kill, we will cease to exist. The only thing that concerns me is how to ensure that the boys and men who are going to have to do the killing will be able to return home to their families and be normal human beings."

Comment: Another point of cooperation between Israel and the racist South African state was the development of ethnic specific weapons, that is, arms that could target victims by their DNA.

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Iraqi minister survives assassination in central Baghdad
www.chinaview.cn 2006-02-08 19:01:38

BAGHDAD, Feb. 8 (Xinhuanet) -- Iraqi Minister of Higher Education Sami al-Mudhafar survived an assassination when a car bomb blew up near his convoy in central Baghdad on Wednesday, which killed a policeman and wounded three people, an Interior Ministry source said.
"A booby-trapped car parking by the roadside detonated near Uqba Bin Nafi Square at about 9:45 a.m. (0645 GMT) when the convoy of Sami al-Mudhafar, minister of Higher Education, was passing by," the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.

Mudhafar survived unhurt, but a policeman was killed and three people wounded, including two of the minister's bodyguards, the source said.

Separately, a roadside bomb went off near a police patrol in eastern Baghdad near the al-Mustansriyah fuel station, wounding three policemen, he said.

Insurgents frequently attack Iraqi government employees and security forces in an attempt to cripple the U.S.-backed political process in the country.

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US drone makes emergency landing in Baghdad
www.chinaview.cn 2006-02-08 20:36:30

BAGHDAD, Feb. 8 (Xinhuanet) -- An unmanned U.S. drone made an emergency landing on Tuesday night in the Shiite's Sadr neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, the U.S. military said on Wednesday.
The unarmed plane had lost contact with its base shortly after taking off from Taji, some 30 km north of Baghdad, at about 10:30p.m. (1930 GMT) on Tuesday, the military said in a statement.

The plane was conducting support operation for the Iraqi security forces ahead of Thursday's ceremony of Ashura, the statement added.

Ashura is a major Shiite religious ceremony, which commemoratesthe death of the Imam Hussein.

Iraqi forces were on high alert and stepped up security measures in Baghdad and the southern holy city of Karbala on Wednesday to prevent possible insurgent attacks on a large gathering of Shiite Muslims for the event.

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IRAQ: Children's mental health affected by insecurity, say specialists
07 Feb 2006 13:10:25 GMT Source: IRIN

BAGHDAD, 7 February (IRIN) - The Association of Psychologists of Iraq (API) has released a report stating that the US-led invasion and occupation of the country have greatly affected the psychological development of many Iraqi children.

"Children in Iraq are seriously suffering psychologically with all the insecurity, especially with the fear of kidnapping and explosions," said API spokesman Maruan Abdullah. "In some cases, they're found to be suffering extreme stress."

More than 1,000 children were interviewed countrywide over the past four months for the study, the findings of which were released on 5 February.
According to Abdullah, the survey was undertaken after a noticeable increase in the number of children seeking psychological counselling, many of whom were found to have learning difficulties.

"It was incredible how strong the results were," said Abdullah. "The only things they have on their minds are guns, bullets, death and a fear of the US occupation."

Of the children examined, 92 percent were found to have learning impediments, largely attributable to the current climate of fear and insecurity.

"The fear of kidnapping has been the main reason for learning deficiencies, especially among children whose parents are government employees or high-ranking professionals like doctors and teachers," Abdullah noted.

"About 50 of them are in a critical state of fear that could cause mental retardation if it goes untreated," he added.

The API further found that inaccurate perceptions of psychological services served to compound the problem.

"Many Iraqis believe that psychologists treat crazy people," Abdullah said. "For this reason, they don't bring their children in for treatment."

Last July, the Iraqi Red Crescent Society (IRCS) developed a programme to help children suffering from the trauma of war. The project was frozen a couple months later, however, due to a shortage of funding.

"Previous studies of children confirmed such psychological effects," said IRCS spokeswoman Ferdous al-Abadi. "But, unfortunately, we couldn't continue with studies due to a lack of money and the need to give preference to displacement emergencies."

The API has urged the international community to help establish centres specialised in child psychology and programmes devoted to mental health.
Comment: Remember Madeleine Albright's remark about how the death of over 500,000 Iraqi's, mostly children, was "worth it"? Well, if you can't kill 'em, then drive them nuts. Turn them into the crazy people your media has already convinced the public they are. Then when they start going off, like the crazies in the US, you can say, "look, I told you, they are animals".

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King Funderal Turns Political: Bush Bashed by Former President, Reverend
Drudgereport Feb 07 2006

Today's memorial service for civil rights activist Coretta Scott King -- billed as a "celebration" of her life -- turned suddenly political as one former president took a swipe at the current president, who was also lashed by an outspoken black pastor!

The outspoken Rev. Joseph Lowery, co-founder of Southern Christian Leadership Conference, ripped into President Bush during his short speech, ostensibly about the wife of Martin Luther King Jr.

"She extended Martin's message against poverty, racism and war. She deplored the terror inflicted by our smart bombs on missions way afar. We know now that there were no weapons of mass destruction over there," Lowery said.

The mostly black crowd applauded, then rose to its feet and cheered in a two-minute-long standing ovation.
A closed-circuit television in the mega-church outside Atlanta showed the president smiling uncomfortably.

"But Coretta knew, and we know," Lowery continued, "That there are weapons of misdirection right down here," he said, nodding his head toward the row of presidents past and present. "For war, billions more, but no more for the poor!" The crowd again cheered wildly.

Former President Jimmy Carter later swung at Bush as well, not once but twice. As he talked about the Kings, he said: "It was difficult for them then personally with the civil liberties of both husband and wife violated as they became the target of secret government wiretaps." The crowd cheered as Bush, under fire for a secret wiretapping program he ordered after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, again smiled weakly.

Later, Carter said Hurricane Katrina showed that all are not yet equal in America.

"This commerative cermony this morning, this afternoon, is not only to acknowledge the great contributions of Coretta and Martin, but to remind us that the struggle for equal rights is not over. We only have to recall the color of the faces of those in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi," Carter said, the rest of his sentence drowned out by loud applause. "Those who were most devastated by [Hurricane] Katrina know that there are not yet equal opportunities for all Americans. It is our responsibility to continue their crusade."

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Flashback: Widow of Martin Luther King dies - report
31/01/2006 - 12:49:00

Coretta Scott King, the widow of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, has died, former mayor Andrew Young told NBC today. She was 78.

Young, who also was a civil rights activist and was close to the King family, broke the news during a phone call he made to the Today show.

Asked how he found out about her death, Young said: “I understand she was asleep last night and her daughter tried to wake her up.”

King turned a life shattered by the 1968 assassination of her husband into one devoted to enshrining his legacy of human rights and equality.

Comment: You may remember that Coretta Scott King and Martin Luther King were honored at the White House in 2002. You may remember that King's wife presented a portrait of her late husband to President Bush.

You may also remember Bush's opening remarks included a "joke". You can read and listen to the transcript here.

This was a ceremony to honor Martin Luther King, a man who spent a good part of his life in the attempt to combat years of discrimination by the US government and targetted lynchings by so-called 'white supremist' groups of the black community. What might you think the opening line of Bush's speech should be at such an occasion?

Bush Portrait of King

Here's what Bush said after the portrait was unveiled:
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you all very much for coming. Mrs. King, thanks for this beautiful portrait. I can't wait to hang it. (Laughter.)
Go to the above link and listen to Bush's remarks yourself to get an idea of the nature of this man. If you are not absolutely shocked and disgusted then you are missing the point. Bush made a joke about "hanging" the portrait of King that was a clear reference to hanging in terms of hanging a human being.

Given the occasion, to call this "joke" tasteless would be a massive understatement. Did Bush REALISE what he was saying?? Or is it simply more evidence that Bush is completely unable to empathise with another human being?

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Election officials fear '06 season of the glitch
By Jim Drinkard USA TODAY 6 Feb 06

WASHINGTON — More than 30 million Americans will be looking at new and unfamiliar voting machines when they cast their ballots this year, perhaps the most rapid changeover of voting equipment in history. With that change comes an increased risk of errors and confusion, election officials say.
"When you look at disaster stories, it is usually that first time using a new piece of equipment that something is going to fall apart," says Kimball Brace, president of Election Data Services, which maintains data on voting systems across the country.

Brace's latest update, to be released today, shows that at least 647 of the nation's 3,114 counties will be using new voting machines this year, more than at any time since records began in 1980 and probably ever, he said. Those jurisdictions are home to 30.6 million registered voters, or almost a fifth of the national total.

Voters used to manual machines with levers or punch-card devices could instead be seeing touch screens or optical scanners. "Election administrators have never been through (this) amount of change," says Doug Lewis, director of the Election Center, which helps train election officials. "It would be an absolute miracle if we don't have hiccups."

The rapid change is propelled by the 2002 Help America Vote Act, which mandated upgrades in voting equipment and processes. About one-third of states missed deadlines for upgrading equipment or making it fully accessible to the disabled, says Doug Chapin, president of Electionline.org, a non-profit group that studies voting.

Progress has been made toward eliminating antiquated voting equipment, Brace's data show. Punch cards, which introduced the term "hanging chad" into the nation's lexicon after Florida's troubles in the 2000 presidential election, are being used by one-fifth as many voters as in 2000. The use of lever machines has been cut in half; most are in New York.

Linda Lamone, administrator of the Maryland Board of Elections and president of the National Association of State Election Directors, says widespread worries about glitches include:

• Is there enough time to educate voters and poll workers, many of them older and not proficient with computers, before Election Day?

• Will there be adequate tech support from voting-machine manufacturers?

• How will the 25 states that require a paper backup for their computerized machines handle that — and which record will be the official one for any recount?

"Election officials are worried," Brace says. "A lot of them are saying, 'Why didn't I retire last year?' "
Comment: They are preparing the ground to defraud the American people again with a stolen election.

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Republican Who Oversees N.S.A. Calls for Wiretap Inquiry
By ERIC LICHTBLAU NY Times February 8, 2006

WASHINGTON, Feb. 7 — A House Republican whose subcommittee oversees the National Security Agency broke ranks with the White House on Tuesday and called for a full Congressional inquiry into the Bush administration's domestic eavesdropping program.

The lawmaker, Representative Heather A. Wilson of New Mexico, chairwoman of the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence, said in an interview that she had "serious concerns" about the surveillance program. By withholding information about its operations from many lawmakers, she said, the administration has deepened her apprehension about whom the agency is monitoring and why.
Ms. Wilson, who was a National Security Council aide in the administration of President Bush's father, is the first Republican on either the House's Intelligence Committee or the Senate's to call for a full Congressional investigation into the program, in which the N.S.A. has been eavesdropping without warrants on the international communications of people inside the United States believed to have links with terrorists.

The congresswoman's discomfort with the operation appears to reflect deepening fissures among Republicans over the program's legal basis and political liabilities. Many Republicans have strongly backed President Bush's power to use every tool at his disposal to fight terrorism, but 4 of the 10 Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee voiced concerns about the program at a hearing where Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales testified on Monday.

A growing number of Republicans have called in recent days for Congress to consider amending federal wiretap law to address the constitutional issues raised by the N.S.A. operation.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, for one, said he considered some of the administration's legal justifications for the program "dangerous" in their implications, and he told Mr. Gonzales that he wanted to work on new legislation that would help those tracking terrorism "know what they can and can't do."

But the administration has said repeatedly since the program was disclosed in December that it considers further legislation unnecessary, believing that the president already has the legal authority to authorize the operation.

Vice President Dick Cheney reasserted that position Tuesday in an interview on "The NewsHour With Jim Lehrer."

Members of Congress "have the right and the responsibility to suggest whatever they want to suggest" about changing wiretap law, Mr. Cheney said. But "we have all the legal authority we need" already, he said, and a public debate over changes in the law could alert Al Qaeda to tactics used by American intelligence officials.

"It's important for us, if we're going to proceed legislatively, to keep in mind there's a price to be paid for that, and it might well in fact do irreparable damage to our capacity to collect information," Mr. Cheney said.

The administration, backed by Republican leaders in both houses, has also resisted calls for inquiries by either Congress or an independent investigator.

As for the politics, some Republicans say they are concerned that prolonged public scrutiny of the surveillance program could prove a distraction in this year's midterm Congressional elections, and the administration has worked to contain any damage by aggressively defending the legality of the operation. It has also limited its Congressional briefings on the program's operational details to the so-called Gang of Eight — each party's leaders in the Senate and the House and on the two intelligence committees — and has agreed to full committee briefings only on the legal justifications for the operation, without discussing in detail how the N.S.A. conducts it.

Ms. Wilson said in the interview Tuesday that she considered the limited Congressional briefings to be "increasingly untenable" because they left most lawmakers knowing little about the program. She said the House Intelligence Committee needed to conduct a "painstaking" review, including not only classified briefings but also access to internal documents and staff interviews with N.S.A. aides and intelligence officials.

Ms. Wilson, a former Air Force officer who is the only female veteran currently in Congress, has butted up against the administration previously over controversial policy issues, including Medicare and troop strength in Iraq. She said she realized that publicizing her concerns over the surveillance program could harm her relations with the administration. "The president has his duty to do, but I have mine too, and I feel strongly about that," she said.

Asked whether the White House was concerned about support for the program among Republicans, Dana Perino, a presidential spokeswoman, said: "The terrorist surveillance program is critical to the safety and protection of all Americans, and we will continue to work with Congress. The attorney general testified at length yesterday, and he will return to Capitol Hill twice more before the week ends."

Aides to Representative Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, who as chairman of the full House Intelligence Committee is one of the eight lawmakers briefed on the operations of the program, said he could not be reached for comment on whether he would be open to a full inquiry.

Mr. Hoekstra has been a strong defender of the program and has expressed no intention thus far to initiate a full review. In two recent letters to the Congressional Research Service, he criticized reports by the agency that raised questions about the legal foundations of the N.S.A. program and the limited briefings given to Congress. He said in one letter that it was "unwise at best and reckless at worst" for the agency to prepare a report on classified matters that it knew little about.

But two leading Democratic members of the intelligence committees, Representative Jane Harman and Senator Dianne Feinstein, both of California, wrote a letter of their own Tuesday defending the nonpartisan research service's reports on the surveillance program and other issues, saying its work had been "very helpful" in view of what they deemed the minimal information provided by the administration.
Comment: She oughta be worried. As we wrote yesterday, the object of the illegal spying wasn't really to target innocent Americans as the Neocons would like us all to think.

Does anyone actually think that Bush and Gang would spend their time listening in on conversations between Junior and his granny in Pakistan? Does anyone seriously think that the arrogant Karl Rove is going to waste his time “average Americans?” Do you think he - or ANY of them - really think that there are "terrorists" in America?

Of course not. They know that the whole "terrorist threat" is manufactured. They aren't going to waste their time looking for something that they created in their sick imaginations.

So, WHO are they REALLY spying on? And why did they out themselves as Bush did just before Christmas?

Sure, we read that it was done because the NY Times was going to publish a story that they had withheld for over a year. "President George W. Bush was so desperate to stop The New York Times' secret spy program story he summoned Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and Executive Editor Bill Keller to the Oval Office to try to talk them out of running it, Newsweek reported on its Web site on Monday."
That smacks of smokescreen. Does anyone really believe that if the President wanted the NY Times to keep quiet that there would be a problem? After Judy Miller? Not a chance.

The whole thing stinks of a smokescreen. So, what are they trying to hide? What are they trying to distract attention away from? As Paul Craig Roberts has written:

We have reached a point where the Bush administration is determined to totally eclipse the people. Bewitched by neoconservatives and lustful for power, the Bush administration and the Republican Party are aligning themselves firmly against the American people. Their first victims, of course, were the true conservatives. Having eliminated internal opposition, the Bush administration is now using blackmail obtained through illegal spying on American citizens to silence the media and the opposition party.

Before flinching at my assertion of blackmail, ask yourself why President Bush refuses to obey the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The purpose of the FISA court is to ensure that administrations do not spy for partisan political reasons. The warrant requirement is to ensure that a panel of independent federal judges hears a legitimate reason for the spying, thus protecting a president from the temptation to abuse the powers of government. The only reason for the Bush administration to evade the court is that the Bush administration had no legitimate reasons for its spying. This should be obvious even to a naif.[...]

The years of illegal spying have given the Bush administration power over the media and the opposition. Journalists and Democratic politicians don't want to have their adulterous affairs broadcast over television or to see their favorite online porn sites revealed in headlines in the local press with their names attached. Only people willing to risk such disclosures can stand up for the country.

So, what other journalists, congressmen, judges, various other government officials are they REALLY spying on? After all, considering the nature of these creatures that have taken over the U.S., you have to know that they are only going to expend their energy on things that will bring them the biggest rewards of money and power. The hoopla about spying on innocent Americans to ferret out terrorists is just a smokescreen; it was, purely and simply, to spy on political opponents, journalists, and to obtain material for blackmail so as to completely control the political process.

And that means that all those hundreds of thousands of dollars, millions of dollars even, that are flowing into the coffers of various “Political Action” groups are all going to waste. It’s all for nothing. Nothing will change. They will spend your money, make a big show, make a good living off of it, and nothing, NOTHING, will change.

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Helen Thomas hits McClellan on taps: 'You know what happened to Nixon when he broke the law'
RAW STORY February 6, 2006

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan got in a heated row with a White House correspondent at Monday's press briefing over President Bush's warrantless domestic spying program, RAW STORY has learned.

The questioner, outspoken liberal columnist Helen Thomas, has been covering the White House since President John F. Kennedy, asks McClellan if Bush should obey the law.

The relevant part of transcript follows. RAW STORY has confirmed the questioner was Helen Thomas. Crooks and Liars has the video.
Q: Does the president think he should obey the law? He put his hand on the Bible twice to uphold the Constitution. Wiretapping is not legal under the circumstances without a warrant.

MR. MCCLELLAN: Well, I guess you didn't pay attention to the attorney general's hearing earlier today, because he walked through very clearly the rationale behind this program.

Q There is no rationale --

MR. MCCLELLAN: And Helen, I think you have to ask --

Q -- (inaudible) -- the law.

MR. MCCLELLAN: I think you have ask are we -- well, he's not -- are we a nation at war.

Q That's not the question.

MR. MCCLELLAN: No, that is the issue here.

Q The question is, the point is, there are means for him to go to -- get a warrant to spy on people.

MR. MCCLELLAN: Enemy surveillance is critical to waging and winning war. It's one of the traditional tools of war.

Q But he says he doesn't have running room --

MR. MCCLELLAN: The attorney general outlined very clearly today how previous administrations have used the same authority --

Q That doesn't make it legal.

MR. MCCLELLAN: -- and cited the same -- and cited the very same authority.

Q (Inaudible) -- they broke the law, that's too bad.

MR. MCCLELLAN: And we're going to continue doing everything we can --

Q You know what happened to Nixon when he broke the law.

MR. MCCLELLAN: -- within our power to protect the American people.

This is a very different circumstance, and you know that.

Q No, I don't.

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Congress Has Lost Its Way, If It Doesn't Hold Bush Accountable
By Sen. RUSSELL FEINGOLD As prepared for remarks on the Senate floor. 8 Feb 06

Bush's Warrantless Wiretapping Program is Illegal and Unconstitutional

Last week the President of the United States gave his State of the Union address, where he spoke of America's leadership in the world, and called on all of us to "lead this world toward freedom." Again and again, he invoked the principle of freedom, and how it can transform nations, and empower people around the world.

But, almost in the same breath, the President openly acknowledged that he has ordered the government to spy on Americans, on American soil, without the warrants required by law.

The President issued a call to spread freedom throughout the world, and then he admitted that he has deprived Americans of one of their most basic freedoms under the Fourth Amendment -- to be free from unjustified government intrusion.
The President was blunt. He said that he had authorized the NSA's domestic spying program, and he made a number of misleading arguments to defend himself. His words got rousing applause from Republicans, and even some Democrats.

The President was blunt, so I will be blunt: This program is breaking the law, and this President is breaking the law. Not only that, he is misleading the American people in his efforts to justify this program.

How is that worthy of applause? Since when do we celebrate our commander in chief for violating our most basic freedoms, and misleading the American people in the process? When did we start to stand up and cheer for breaking the law? In that moment at the State of the Union, I felt ashamed.

Congress has lost its way if we don't hold this President accountable for his actions.

The President suggests that anyone who criticizes his illegal wiretapping program doesn't understand the threat we face. But we do. Every single one of us is committed to stopping the terrorists who threaten us and our families.

Defeating the terrorists should be our top national priority, and we all agree that we need to wiretap them to do it. In fact, it would be irresponsible not to wiretap terrorists. But we have yet to see any reason why we have to trample the laws of the United States to do it. The President's decision that he can break the law says far more about his attitude toward the rule of law than it does about the laws themselves.

This goes way beyond party, and way beyond politics. What the President has done here is to break faith with the American people. In the State of the Union, he also said that "we must always be clear in our principles" to get support from friends and allies that we need to fight terrorism. So let's be clear about a basic American principle: When someone breaks the law, when someone misleads the public in an attempt to justify his actions, he needs to be held accountable. The President of the United States has broken the law. The President of the United States is trying to mislead the American people. And he needs to be held accountable.

Unfortunately, the President refuses to provide any details about this domestic spying program. Not even the full Intelligence committees know the details, and they were specifically set up to review classified information and oversee the intelligence activities of our government. Instead, the President says ­ "Trust me."

This is not the first time we've heard that. In the lead-up to the Iraq war, the Administration went on an offensive to get the American public, the Congress, and the international community to believe its theory that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction, and even that he had ties to Al Qaeda. The President painted a dire ­ and inaccurate ­ picture of Saddam Hussein's capability and intent, and we invaded Iraq on that basis. To make matters worse, the Administration misled the country about what it would take to stabilize and reconstruct Iraq after the conflict. We were led to believe that this was going to be a short endeavor, and that our troops would be home soon.

We all recall the President's "Mission Accomplished" banner on the aircraft carrier on May 1, 2003. In fact, the mission was not even close to being complete. More than 2100 total deaths have occurred after the President declared an end to major combat operations in May of 2003, and over 16,600 American troops have been wounded in Iraq. The President misled the American people and grossly miscalculated the true challenge of stabilizing and rebuilding Iraq.

In December, we found out that the President has authorized wiretaps of Americans without the court orders required by law. He says he is only wiretapping people with links to terrorists, but how do we know? We don't. The President is unwilling to let a neutral judge make sure that is the case. He will not submit this program to an independent branch of government to make sure he's not violating the rights of law-abiding Americans.

So I don't want to hear again that this Administration has shown it can be trusted. It hasn't. And that is exactly why the law requires a judge to review these wiretaps.

It is up to Congress to hold the President to account. We held a hearing on the domestic spying program in the Judiciary Committee yesterday, where Attorney General Gonzales was a witness. We expect there will be other hearings. That is a start, but it will take more than just hearings to get the job done.

We know that in part because the President's Attorney General has already shown a willingness to mislead the Congress.

Russell Feingold is the US senator from Wisconsin.

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The Most Dangerous Professor in America? - Making and Unmaking History with General Myers
By STAN COX counterpunch.org 8 Feb 06

Retired Air Force General Richard B. Myers -- who was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2001 to 2005 -- has joined the faculty of Kansas State University as a professor of military history. According to press reports, Myers will continue to live in Virgina and visit the KSU campus three to four times each semester for visits of three to four days. His salary: $100,000 annually.
I know, $100,000 sounds like a lot of money for someone who'll be in the classroom for six work-weeks per year at the very most, but Myers will have other things to fill his time. The university notes that he'll also be "identifying potential speakers", "attending alumni and Foundation events," and "keeping some of his other options open." Nice work if you can get it.

Retiring to soft, lucrative jobs at colleges or think-tanks is, of course, nothing new for ex-government officials. But most often it seems to be the good people of the Washington, DC area, New York, or New England who shoulder the burden of supporting out-to-pasture, high-profile public servants. I guess it's time for those of us in Kansas to step up, do our part, and pay for the general's upkeep; however, we'd really like to know more about what our students, alumni, and taxpayers will be getting for the money.

KSU's president, to whom Myers will report directly, says, "His knowledge of foreign relations, presidential leadership and other topics as they relate to national security, international relations and military preparedness is invaluable." But if Myers is going to be teaching military history at a rate of several thousands dollars per lecture, we can only hope that his grasp of history and current events has improved since his days as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

Adjusting history to fit the future

General Myers became familiar to TV viewers via his Pentagon press conferences and Congressional hearings, usually playing straight man to the irrepressible defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

In those performances and other situations, Myers displayed a steadfast loyalty to the policies of the Bush Administration, regardless of how wildly they diverged from available facts or how quickly they bogged down and ruptured under the weight of political baggage. Such stout persistance in the face of reality may help an ex-military officer land a good job, but it's not generally regarded as the mark of a good history teacher.

Myers was the nation's top military officer through the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. During that period, his chief interest in history appeared to be in re-writing it.

For example, in December, 2001, with the Afghanistan campaign apparently going well, Myers told American Forces Press Service, "It is not just bin Laden we're after. [He] has handfuls of lieutenants we really want to go after ...We know who they are, they already have rewards on their heads, and we'll follow them wherever they go."

Later that same month, a US-Afghan attack on the Tora Bora region netted not a single al-Qaeda leader. Any who might have been in the area appeared to have escaped through a well-known mountain pass that was left unguarded. The following April, feeling no doubt that his pledge of December lay safely forgotten, Myers reassured Washington Post reporters that Tora Bora need not be considered a failure. "The goal there," he said, "was never after specific individuals."

That, along with his famous claim a few days later that "the goal has never been to get bin Laden," helped adjust history to the needs of the future and the coming invasion of Iraq.

"In history, there has never been a more humane campaign"

The following winter, during the buildup to the Iraq invasion, Myers responded to concerns over expected civilian casualties by providing this undeniable but less-than-enlightening observation about the nature of war: "People are going to die."

Military history students at KSU may want to know more than that about how invading armies should handle the issue of noncombatant deaths. Myers may want to describe for them one interesting preemptive strategy that he and Rumsfeld employed a month before the invasion: to blame the enemy for deaths caused by American weaponry.

In a Feb. 19, 2003 briefing, Myers said, "It is a violation of the law of armed conflict to use noncombatants as a means of shielding potential military targets--even those people who may volunteer for this purpose. Therefore if death or serious injury to a noncombatant resulted from these efforts, the individuals responsible for deploying any innocent civilians as human shields could be guilty of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions."

In April, 2004, looking back over a year of war and occupation, Myers the historian told reporters, "I don't think there's ever in the history, the history of warfare, and warfare by its nature is not kind, it's cruel, it's very very cruel, make no mistake about it, but in the history of warfare, there has never been a more humane campaign than the one waged by coalition forces starting on March 19th of last year, and through today. And that goes for the operations in Fallujah."

By December 2005, Myers's "humane campaign" (featuring cluster bombs, white phosphorus, and other such gentle weapons) had, even by President Bush's own estimate, directly or indirectly caused a minimum 30,000 Iraqi civilian deaths. Relying on solid statistical analyses, the CounterPunch editors (in the print edition) have shown how the death toll is likely in the six figures, and perhaps as high as 500,000.

WMDs found: in Pentagon plans

Historians will have the task of sorting through the many and varied rationales that were used to justify the rush to war in Iraq. It will be interesting to see how Professor Myers deals with the question. Throughout the period, from the first drumbeats right up to the bitter end, Myers did his best to support the most prominent claim -- that Saddam Hussein had or was developing "weapons of mass destruction".

He even played a minor role in the Niger uranium drama. In February 2002, Marine Gen. Carlton W. Fulford Jr. went to Niger to check out charges that Saddam Hussein had tried to obtain uranium from that country. (This was around the same time that the CIA sent former ambassador Joseph Wilson on his more well-known mission to Niger.) Fulford, who "came away convinced the country's stocks were secure" submitted his report to Myers.

But, when the Niger scandal broke into the headlines in the summer of 2003, the Washington Post found the general to be of little help in sorting out the mess: "A spokesman for Myers said last night that the general has 'no recollection of the information' [i.e., Fulford's report] but did not doubt that it had been forwarded to him."

The Post went on to convey this deft double-negative explanation provided by Myers's spokesman: "Given the time frame of 16 months ago, information concerning Iraq not obtaining uranium from Niger would not have been as pressing as other subjects."

By the time the war got underway, however, Myers's interest in Iraqi weapons had intensified. In May 2003, after the Army's chief team assigned to search for WMDs -- the 75th Exploitation Task Force -- concluded its work without finding anything, Myers wasn't quite ready to give up on what had been the Bush administration's only effective pretext for the war. Seeming to undercut the conclusions drawn by his own team of experts, he asked, "Are they [WMDs] still perhaps out there somewhere in some sort of bunker?" They weren't.

A couple of weeks later, he was still keeping to the administration line: "Given time, given the number of prisoners now that we're interrogating, I'm confident that we're going to find weapons of mass destruction." But Myers turned out to be as poor a predictor of the future as he was an interpreter of the past.

Throughout that period when the White House and Pentagon were sounding the alarm over possible WMDs in Iraq, their officials, including Myers, were pushing the US not only to develop but to use a new generation of especially devastating WMDs -- so-called "bunker busting" nuclear weapons.

Myers told USA Today in July, 2003, "In terms of anthrax, it's said that gamma rays can ... destroy the anthrax spores, which is something we need to look at. And in chemical weapons, of course, the heat [of a nuclear blast] can destroy the chemical compounds and make them not develop that plume that conventional weapons might do, that would then drift and perhaps bring others in harm's way."

But, noted the paper, "Sidney Drell, a Stanford University physicist, determined that destroying a target dug 1,000 feet into rock would require a nuclear weapon with a yield of 100 kilotons--more than six times that of the Hiroshima bomb. The explosion of a nuclear bomb that big would launch enormous amounts of radioactive debris into the air and contaminate a huge area."

As a military historian, General Myers will probably know a good bit about what happened when we bombed Hiroshima, so he should be able to help his classes visualize what happens to people "in harm's way" when you drop a six-times-bigger bunker-buster.

Trying to keep torture chambers out of the history books

Seymour Hersh revealed in The New Yorker and his 2004 book Chain of Command that cruel treatment of prisoners by US troops in Afghanistan, Guantanamo, and Iraq had its origins in a secret Special Access Program. He wrote that a former intelligence official told him that "fewer than two hundred operatives and officials, including Rumsfeld and General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were 'completely read into the program.' The goal was to keep the operation protected. 'We're not going to read more people than necessary into our heart of darkness,' he said. 'The rules are Grab whom you must. Do what you want.' "

There is no evidence that Myers was concerned about the horrific results of that program until graphic evidence of abuse and torture started seeping into the public sphere. Even then, his main concern seemed to be in keeping the crimes under wraps and out of military history books. He tried to convince CBS's "60 Minutes II" not to reveal the infamous Abu Ghraib pictures to the US public, but managed only to delay their broadcast. (At that point, he claimed, he still had not read a " devastating" report by Major General Antonio M. Taguba on conditions at the prison and had not seen the photos.) He later went to court to stop the release of more such pictures.

Outraged last May at charges by Amnesty International that Guantanamo had become "The gulag of our time," Myers looked to another respected organization for cover, saying, "The ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] has been at Guantanamo since day one. It is essentially a model facility."

He somehow failed to mention that, in the words of a Los Angeles Times columnist, "The ICRC has consistently chastised the U.S. for keeping an unknown number of 'ghost detainees' hidden away from legally mandated monitoring, for its open-ended detentions at Guantanamo Bay, for its 'renditions' of detainees to states using torture and for its use of interrogation techniques that themselves border on torture."

"We're definitely winning"

Myers, more than most other officials, has repeatedly stressed that the war in Iraq will be long and bloody and difficult. Looking at historical precedents, he has warned that insurgencies typically last from 7 to 12 years.

But when optimism is called for, Myers can rise to the occasion.

In April of last year, commenting on an upsurge in insurgent attacks, Myers told reporters, "In terms of the number of incidents, it's right about where it was a year ago." But he added, incongruously, "Almost any indicator you look at, the trends are up. So we're definitely winning."

In July, with the the nation's military actions appearing to be headed in no particular direction and with public support in need of shoring up, Myers and Rumsfeld appeared to decide that a repackaged effort might sell better. Myers told the National Press Club that the term "war on terror" was now out: "If you call it a war, then you think of people in uniform as being the solution." He and Rumsfeld suggested an alternative term: "global struggle against violent extremism".

Being even more vague and clumsy than "war on terror", the appellation "global struggle against violent extremism" has not proven as durable and will likely be lost to history.

Even though the US goal "has never been to get bin Laden", the Pentagon has enthusiastically trumpeted the capture of anyone who could be fingered as one of his high-level associates. In September 2005, Myers's last month as Chairman, US and Iraqi troops killed Abu Azzam, whom Myers identified as the "number two al Qaeda operative in Iraq, next to Zarqawi." Newsweek magazine checked that claim with three US government counterterrorism officials, who said, no, Azzam was in no way Number Two.

Independent counterterrorism consultant Evan Kohlmann told Newsweek, "If I had a nickel for every No. 2 and No. 3 they've arrested or killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, I'd be a millionaire."

That same month, Myers and Rumsfeld emphatically asserted that the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan by US troops did not hamstring the military's efforts to help Hurricane Katrina's victims. But an exhaustive Wall Street Journal investigation showed that just the opposite was true.

As Myers's tenure as Chairman was coming to a close and the occupation of Iraq remained awash in blood, Myers's upbeat assessments and historical rewrites became too much even for Senator John McCain. In Myers's final appearance before a Congressional committee as Chairman, the pro-war Arizona Republican fumed, "General Myers seems to assume that things have gone well in Iraq. General Myers seems to assume that the American people, the support for our conflict there is not eroding."

McCain continued: "General Myers seems to assume that everything has gone fine and our declarations of victory, of which there have been many, have not had an impact on American public opinion. Things have not gone as we had planned or expected, nor as we were told by you, General Myers."

In the academic world, twelve hundred miles from the political pressures of Washington, General Myers may prove to be a good educator. But can he be ten to fifty times as good as other part-time instructors, in keeping with his salary? One thing is clear: Whatever he accomplishes at Kansas State University can never undo the devastation he supervised for four years as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Stan Cox is a plant breeder and writer in Salina, Kansas. He can be reached at t.stan@cox.net.

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State Department sees exodus of weapons experts
By Warren P. Strobel Knight Ridder Newspapers 7 Feb 06

WASHINGTON - State Department officials appointed by President Bush have sidelined key career weapons experts and replaced them with less experienced political operatives who share the White House and Pentagon's distrust of international negotiations and treaties.

The reorganization of the department's arms control and international security bureaus was intended to help it better deal with 21st-century threats. Instead, it's thrown the agency into turmoil and produced an exodus of experts with decades of experience in nuclear arms, chemical weapons and related matters, according to 11 current and former officials and documents obtained by Knight Ridder.
The reorganization was conducted largely in secret by a panel of four political appointees. A career expert was allowed to join the group only after most decisions had been made. Its work was overseen by Frederick Fleitz, a CIA officer who was detailed to the State Department as senior adviser to former Undersecretary of State John Bolton, a critic of arms agreements and international organizations.

Bolton's nomination to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was nearly derailed last year by allegations that he'd harassed and bullied his staff. Some State Department weapons experts from offices that had clashed with Bolton were denied senior positions in the reorganization, even though they had superior qualifications, the officials and documents alleged.

Fleitz, who works for Robert Joseph, Bolton's successor, later telephoned State Department employees who signed a letter protesting the moves and registered his displeasure, one official said.

The political appointees who crafted the shakeup sought and received assurances from the State Department's legal and human resources offices that what they were doing was legal.

But other officials charge that it violated long-standing management and personnel practices.

"The process has been gravely flawed from the outset, and smacks plainly of a political vendetta against career Foreign Service and Civil Service (personnel) by political appointees," a group of employees told Undersecretary of State for Management Henrietta Fore on Dec. 9, according to notes prepared for the meeting.

A dozen State Department employees delivered a rare written dissent to Fore and W. Robert Pearson, the director general of the Foreign Service, on Oct. 11. Some also sought, but failed to get, a stay from the Justice Department to stop the plan.

Joseph, the undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that the changes might have been painful to some but were necessary.

"Reorganizations are never easy. They inevitably mean change," he said. "The reorganization ... was essential to better position us to further the president's strategy against WMD (weapons of mass destruction) proliferation and (Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's) emphasis on transformational diplomacy."

"Yet the reorganization also offers important new professional opportunities for the employees of the State Department," he said.

Much more than personnel disputes are at stake, said the officials who are critical of the changes.

They said they were concerned that Rice, who announced the changes last July but apparently hasn't been deeply involved in their execution, will be deprived of expertise on weapons matters. Among those who have left is the State Department's top authority on the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the cornerstone of the international regime to curb the spread of nuclear arms.

"We had a great group of people. They are highly knowledgeable experts," said former Assistant Secretary of State John Wolf, who frequently clashed with Bolton. "To the extent they now are leaving State Department employ, or U.S. government employ, it's a real loss to State Department. It's a real loss to the government."

A half-dozen current department officials expressed the same view, but spoke on condition of anonymity because, they said, they feared retaliation.

Jonathan Granoff, the director of the Global Security Institute, an arms control advocacy group, said the loss of State Department arms-control expertise was especially worrisome because the only mechanism for verifying U.S. and Russian nuclear arms cuts - the 1991 START I treaty - is due to expire in less than three years.

That also will eliminate the most effective way of verifying that the former rivals are abiding by their Non-Proliferation Treaty commitments to eliminate their nuclear arsenals eventually, he said. "Rather than nurture our experts, the administration seems to have brought in neophytes without a passion for progress in this field and, worse, undermined the international institutions that are most effective in stopping proliferation," he said.

More broadly, the clash is the culmination of a generation-old battle over arms control.

In one corner are specialists who argue that negotiated arms agreements help U.S. security; in the other are those who argue that the United States should rely mostly on the threat of force, sanctions and other unilateral steps to curb the spread of dangerous weapons and maintain a credible deterrent against an attack.

When she announced the reorganization, Rice declared that more than deterrence and arms control treaties are necessary to safeguard America. "We must also go on the offensive against outlaw scientists, black-market arms dealers and rogue state proliferators," she said.

Bush has demanded maximum presidential flexibility on national security matters, avoiding major new arms treaties and pushing the limits of executive power on issues from domestic eavesdropping to the treatment of terrorism suspects.

Many career government experts didn't dispute the need to reorganize U.S. policy offices that deal with weapons of mass destruction. But they said they worried that future administrations with a view different from Bush and Rice's would have to build the expertise they'd need from scratch.

An inquiry by Knight Ridder has found evidence that the reorganization was highly politicized and devastated morale:

-Thomas Lehrman, a political appointee who heads the new office of Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism, advertised outside the State Department to fill jobs in his office. In an e-mail to universities and research centers, a copy of which was obtained by Knight Ridder, he listed loyalty to Bush and Rice's priorities as a qualification.

Lehrman reportedly recalled the e-mail after it was pointed out that such loyalty tests are improper.

-Specialists in the department's old Nonproliferation Bureau, which frequently battled Bolton on policy toward Iraq, Iran and North Korea, largely were frozen out of important jobs when offices in that bureau merged with those in another.

"Bolton had blood in his eyes for the Nonproliferation Bureau," said another official who's still working at the State Department.

One of the government's top experts on the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency, which helps stem the spread of nuclear weapons but disputed the Bush administration's claims about Iraq's weapons programs, returned from two and a half years at IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, and was blocked from assuming an office directorship that had been offered to him, the officials and a complaint document said.

The post, which oversees U.S. diplomacy regarding international efforts to contain suspected nuclear-weapons programs such as those in Iran and North Korea, went to a more junior officer who numerous officials said shared Bolton's views.

Five higher-ranking officers were passed over, the document says, adding that none had negative work histories "aside from intimations that they were not as `trusted' politically by the political management level."

In August 2005, the officer chosen for the job sent an e-mail sarcastically titled: "A Nobel for the IAEA? Please." The agency and its director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October.

-None of the most senior posts in the new organization was filled by a woman, although several highly qualified female candidates were available.

-The effort was at odds with the recommendations of four December 2004 reports by the department's inspector general, also obtained by Knight Ridder.

The reports praised the nonproliferation unit as "having remained center stage following the events of September 11, 2001." The unit it merged with, the Arms Control bureau, was described as "largely in search of work."

A third unit overseen by Bolton - and now Joseph - which deals with overseeing compliance with arms treaties, was recommended for downsizing. Instead, it's been expanded.

Mark Fitzpatrick, a veteran nonproliferation expert who recently left the State Department, said he was worried about what he called an "exodus" of qualified specialists from the department.

"It seems about a dozen or so have left since the merger came about, many out of frustration," said Fitzpatrick, who's now at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. "I'm concerned that the ability of the merged bureaus to provide to Condoleezza Rice the same kind of high-quality advice they provided Colin Powell on the very dire proliferation issues facing the world will be diminished by the exodus."

The American Foreign Service Association, which represents foreign service officers, wrote to Rice on Nov. 28, citing allegations that political considerations drove the reorganization.

Dissidents had a second meeting last month with Fore, the undersecretary of state for management.


Key arms-control issues since President Bush took office:

The Bush administration's arms control policies began with a refusal to submit a global treaty to ban underground nuclear-test blasts indefinitely for Senate ratification.

The administration withdrew the United States from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and blocked international efforts to conclude a pact on verifying compliance with a global biological-weapons ban.

The administration also rejected a mechanism for verifying that the United States and Russia are adhering to a 2002 accord to cut deployed nuclear warheads, has embraced new uses for nuclear arms and is spending billions modernizing and improving the U.S. arsenal.
"Why?" Paul Krugman asks. Why does Dubya fill all the top government posts with incompetent cronies? Well, this is NOT a new thing, Paul. It's history. Andrew Lobaczewski even studied it and wrote about it:

Pathocracy at the summit of governmental organization also does not constitute the entire picture of the “mature phenomenon”. Such a system of government has nowhere to go but down.

Any leadership position - down to village headman and community cooperative mangers, not to mention the directors of police units, and special-services police personnel, and activists in the pathocratic party - must be filled by individuals whose feeling of linkage to such a regime is conditioned by corresponding psychological deviations, which are inherited as a rule.

However, such people become more valuable because they constitute a very small percentage of the population. Their intellectual level or professional skills cannot be taken into account, since people representing superior abilities with the requisite psychological deviations - are even harder to find.

After such a system has lasted several years, one hundred percent of all the cases of essential psychopathy are involved in pathocratic activity; they are considered the most loyal, even though some of them were formerly involved on the other side in some way. Under such conditions, no area of social life can develop normally, whether in economics, culture, science, technology, administration, etc.

Pathocracy progressively paralyzes everything. [...]

The following question thus suggests itself: what happens if the network of understandings among psychopaths achieves power in leadership positions with international exposure? This can happen, especially during the later phases of the phenomenon. Goaded by their character, such people thirst for just that even though it would conflict with their own life interest…

They do not understand that a catastrophe would ensue. Germs are not aware that they will be burned alive or buried deep in the ground along with the human body whose death they are causing.

If the many managerial positions of a government are assumed by individuals deprived of sufficient abilities to feel and understand most other people and who also have deficiencies as regards technical imagination and practical skills - faculties indispensable for governing economic and political matters - this must result in an exceptionally serious crisis in all areas, both within the country in question and with regard to international relations.

Within, the situation shall become unbearable even for those citizens who were able to feather their nest into a relatively comfortable “modus vivendi”. Outside, other societies start to feel the pathological quality of the phenomenon quite distinctly. Such a state of affairs cannot last long.

No, there is no possibility of winning a battle against a gang of fascists that control all the major organs of state AND the media, and who do not hesitate to fix elections. As Stalin said: "It's not the people who vote that count. It's the people who count the votes." What he actually said was "Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide everything," but it's the same thing.

That's what we are up against and anybody who can't see it doesn't have their eyes open.

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No calm in sight as more die in cartoon furor
AFP 8 Feb 06

Appeals for calm in the furor over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed went unheeded as police shot dead four more protestors during rioting in Afghanistan, bringing the worldwide death toll to 13.

Eleven demonstrators have been killed since Friday in Afghanistan, and one each in Somalia and Lebanon.

The re-printing of the 12 offending caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed in a French satirical weekly on Wednesday, along with a fresh batch of similar cartoons, was likely to deepen Muslim anger against what is perceived as an act of blasphemy.
French President Jacques Chirac reacted by condemning "all manifest provocation that might dangerously fan passions," according to a government spokesman.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday also slammed the cartoons -- first published in Denmark and later reproduced in dozens of mainly European papers -- as a provocation, equating them with child pornography.

He called on Denmark to "ask for forgiveness."

In Vienna, the current president of the European Union, Austrian chancellor Wolfgang Schussel, denounced the "spiral of reciprocal provocations and insults" which, he said, fanned the flames of intolerance.

Neither "disparaging caricatures" of Mohammed nor "jokes about the Holocaust have any place in a world where cultures and religions should live side by side in a spirit of mutual respect," he said, alluding to an Iranian newspaper that has launched a contest for cartoons about World War II Nazi campaign to exterminate Jews.

In Pakistan, meanwhile, thousands of protesters burned an effigy of US President George W. Bush Wednesday in a remote Pakistani tribal area, the third day of large-scale demonstrations in different Pakastani cities.

Around 3,000 demonstrators shouting "Allahu Akhbar" (God is great) in Dara Adamkhel, near the Afghan border, accused Bush backing the caricatures.

"Bush is behind this, he heads the gang which is against Islam," Said Wazir, the leader of a local Islamic group called Quami Tehreek, told the crowd.

Bush assured Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen on Tuesday of his "support and solidarity," as had British Prime Minister Tony Blair and French President Jacques Chirac a day earlier.

In the West Bank city of Hebron, scores of Palestinians hurled stones and bottles Wednesday at the offices of a team of international monitors to protest the cartoons.

And in Ankara, some 500 nationalists protested outside the Danish embassy shouting out anti-Danish slogans, according to police.

Denmark, meanwhile, continued to close diplomatic outposts and ensure the safety of its nationals abroad, pulling out 11 Danish members of a peace-monitoring team in the West Bank, officials said Wednesday.

Its embassies and consulates have been fire-bombed and stormed in Tehran, Beirut and Damascus in recent days.

In Ankara, a lawmaker from Turkey's governing party, Vahit Kiler, announced that the 110-store supermarket chain he owns will boycott Danish and Norwegian products.

The latest deaths in Afghanistan occurred as protestors and police clashed in Qalat, the capital of southern Zabul province.

About 400 protestors hurled stones as they tried to storm the police headquarters, before moving to a US-led military coalition base where they torched four fuel tankers, witnesses and an army commander said.

A provincial official said police had opened fire to control the crowd while witnesses said coalition troops had fired into the air.

Separately about 1,500 people demonstrated in eastern Nangarhar province Wednesday, while in Kabul about 200 men torched the flag of Denmark while chanting "Death to Denmark, Death to America," before dispersing.

Meanwhile British NATO troops who were rushed to the northwestern city of Maymana patrolled the streets the day after demonstrators attacked a camp there run by Norwegian peacekeepers, an assault that led to four deaths.

Unrest has continued in Afghanistan and elsewhere despite repeated calls by the United Nations, Western leaders and the Organization of the Islamic Conference for restraint and dialogue in the row over the drawings.

According to Putin, beginning a two-day visit to Spain, the caricatures -- one of which showed Mohammed with a bomb in his turban -- "widen the gulf between religions." He said Denmark should "ask for forgiveness."

"When we condemn child pornography, we don't hide behind freedom of expression," Putin added.

The satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo printed all 12 of the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed on Wednesday, along with an original front-page caricature of its own.

The paper bears the headline "Mohammed stressed out by the fundamentalists" and a cartoon of the prophet with head in hands uttering the words "It's hard to be loved by fools."

Chirac commented later the same day, saying "Anything that can hurt the convictions of another, particularly religious convictions, must be avoided. Freedom of expression must be exercised in a spirit of responsibility," he told his cabinet, according to a government spokesman.

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Chirac slams media 'provocation' in printing Mohammed cartoons
AFP 8 Feb 06

French President Jacques Chirac accused newspapers printing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed of "provocation," after yet another French publication put the contentious caricatures on its pages.

"Anything that can hurt the convictions of another, particularly religious convictions, must be avoided. Freedom of expression must be exercised in a spirit of responsibility," Chirac told his cabinet, according to a government spokesman on Wednesday.

"I condemn all manifest provocation that might dangerously fan passions," he said.
The statements were made after the satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo printed all 12 of the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed first published by a Danish newspaper in September, as well as a new front-page caricature of its own.

The paper bears the headline "Mohammed stressed out by the fundamentalists" and a cartoon of the prophet with head in hands uttering the words "It's hard to be loved by fools."

In addition to the 12 cartoons that have sparked fury in the Islamic world, it publishes other drawings poking fun at different religions.

Charlie Hebdo said the initial 160,000 copies it had printed were selling so fast Wednesday that it would proceed with another print-run.

Its issue hit newsstands the day after a French court refused to grant an injunction to Islamic organisations that tried to have it banned for inciting racial and religious hatred.

Several other French newspapers, including Le Monde, Liberation and France-Soir, have already printed some of the caricatures in a show of solidarity with the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, and as a blow for freedom of expression. Other European publications have done likewise.

France has Europe's biggest Muslim population, estimated at six million of the country's 62 million inhabitants, and Chirac is widely viewed as a sympathetic world leader in many Arab countries, particularly in North Africa.

The French president stressed that his criticism was not an abdication of his country's adherence to freedom of expression but rather a call for the principle not to be abused.

"On the issue of the caricatures and the reactions they have provoked in the Muslim world, I want to say that, if freedom of expression is one of the foundations of the (French) republic, the latter relies also on the values of tolerance and the respect of all beliefs," he said.

Chirac said he "condemned" the violent attacks directed against French, Danish and other European nationals and diplomatic missions in Muslim countries in recent days and noted that "under international law, governments are responsible for the safety of foreign people and property established on their territory."

He also directed his government to be "especially vigilant" as to the safety of French citizens abroad.

Angry Muslim mobs in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Syria, Afghanistan and elsewhere have expressed fury at European representations and cultural offices over the cartoons. In Denmark and France, bomb threats have been made against the offices of newspapers that printed them.

On Wednesday, a team of international observers was forced to pull out of the Palestinian West Bank city of Hebron after its offices came under attack from protesters.

A Paris protest by French Muslims is scheduled to take place on Saturday amid tight police security.

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NATO Insists on Poking Russian Bear
Justin Logan, Ted Galen Carpenter Cato Institute 27.01.2006

Although the fluttering in the West over the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute has ended for now, there is a deeper problem in relations between Russia and the West.

Over the past several months, NATO has steadily crept into Russia’s backyard, romancing the former Soviet republics of Ukraine and Georgia with the prospect of membership in the alliance, and even hinting that NATO may attempt to intervene in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Unfortunately, it seems that poking the Russian bear is back in vogue.
On the heels of “color revolutions” in Georgia and Ukraine, those countries — both of which have prickly relations with Russia — have cozied up to NATO, much to the delight of NATO enthusiasts and Russophobes. NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told Ukrainian leaders in October that NATO’s door “was, is, and remains open” to Ukraine. Less than a week later, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld encouraged the Ukrainian government’s efforts to join the alliance: “Progress has been made [toward accession], and we encourage it.”

By November, Scheffer was using his same line to discuss potential Georgian membership: “Needless to say that NATO’s door is open.” Acknowledging the hot-button dispute between Russia and Georgia over the province of South Ossetia, Scheffer hedged: “NATO is following this, of course, with interest.” Even more brazen, NATO hinted that it would be open to deploying military forces to Nagorno-Karabakh.

NATO boosters ought to close the door of expansion, take a deep breath, and explain what, exactly, NATO’s mission is now. Equally important, they need to justify how it is in America’s self-interest for the alliance to acquire an ever-expanding roster of fragile and unpredictable client states on Russia’s border.

At the end of the Cold War, NATO’s purpose vanished. There was no longer a danger of Russian aggression against the West. Instead of disbanding, however, NATO took up an array of missions entirely unrelated to its original purpose — without bothering to define its new role. Relations between the alliance and Moscow are increasingly testy. NATO antagonized Russia in the late 1990s by circumventing the UN Security Council in attacking Russian ally Serbia. Now the alliance continues to poke at Russia by swallowing up former members of the Soviet bloc as fast as it can.

Advocates of continued NATO expansion express inexplicable surprise when Russia protests. By taking in the Baltic republics as members, NATO is already deeply involved in countries that have historically been well within Russia’s sphere of influence. The alliance seems poised to intrude further, and the Russian bear is beginning to growl. Nikolai Bordyuzha, spokesman for the
Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization, has made Russia’s views plain enough, warning that NATO bases surrounding Russia would constitute “a potential threat to Russia’s security.”

Russia — like any other country — tends to get alarmed when the world’s sole superpower extends security guarantees and military cooperation to countries on its borders. As NATO continues to expand, the United States has been hailing, and in some cases directly supporting, “color revolutions” that have caused instability and chaos in Ukraine, Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan. This is a dangerous mix from Moscow’s perspective.

It is also a dangerous mix from America’s standpoint. NATO is much more than a political club. It is a military alliance with serious obligations for the United States. Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty proclaims that an attack on one member is an attack on all. That means the United States is obligated to defend every member no matter how small, how militarily and economically insignificant, or how strategically exposed that member may be.

And those obligations go on forever. Therein lies the danger. True, there is little risk of a clash with Russia in the near term. Russia’s military is in no condition to challenge the United States, even in Moscow’s backyard. Moreover, Vladimir Putin has adopted a surprisingly accommodating policy in an effort to secure economic and political benefits from the United States and its allies.

But who knows what Putin’s successor might be like? Who would dare predict the political environment in Russia a decade or a generation from now? All that would be required to trigger a crisis is a Russian president who tires of a neighboring state’s treatment of its Russian inhabitants as second-class citizens and decides that Moscow should rectify that situation by force if necessary. Indeed, a crisis could be triggered if a future Russian president concludes that a Western military presence itself is an intolerable intrusion into what should rightfully be Moscow’s sphere of influence. And a Russian president might well conclude that the United States would not really risk war over South Ossetia or a similar obscure conflict.

We don’t need to treat Russia with kid gloves, but reasonable caution and consideration is in order. Russia has a sound right to wonder about NATO’s motives: Whom, exactly, would Georgia, Ukraine, and other potential member-states be allying militarily with NATO against?

The West can continue to press forward with NATO expansion indefinitely, antagonizing Russia and entering into security guarantees with countries on its border. But that course is unreasonable if we expect Russia’s cooperation on nuclear proliferation, terrorism, or other issues vitally important to America. If the United States values those goals, let alone long-term peace with Russia, it needs to engage Moscow, not unnecessarily antagonize it.

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12 Killed in Chechnya’s Blast Blamed on Gas Leak
MosNews 08.02.2006

At least 12 people were killed and 22 more injured when a blast ripped through a Russian military base in Chechnya, local prosecutors said Wednesday.

The reason for the blast, which late Tuesday wrecked a base where Russia’s Vostok battalion was stationed, was as yet unknown, deputy chief of the local emergency ministry’s main administration, Colonel Akhmet Djeirkhanov, said as quoted by the RIA-Novosti news agency.
Local police officials quoted by the agency said the blast occurred in the building’s basement, where the base’s kitchen was located and where “supposedly there were gas containers.” Earlier, officials said it was a gas explosion.

Investigators said that according to preliminary data, the blast that caused the building to collapse was caused by a natural gas leak, said Oleg Ugnivenko, a spokesman for the ministry’s southern regional office, The Associated Press reported.

Backing up that conclusion, there were no immediate claims of responsibility for any attack on the barracks. A news item on a Chechen rebel website reported on the gas explosion theory with skepticism but did not suggest outright that militants had targeted it.

According to an interior ministry source quoted by RIA-Novosti, up to 43 people could have been in the wrecked building at the time of the blast.

Alu Alkhanov, the president of the province, said that gas services were partially to blame for the incident. “I am one hundred percent certain that the district gas services had never visited the site, never checked the operation of the gas supply system. We have not seen a single report on such visits,” Alkhanov said in televised comments while he visited the scene.

The prosecutor’s office has launched a probe into breach of fire safety rules and negligence.

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World's first Sept 11 convict released in Germany
AFP 7 Feb 06

HAMBURG, Germany - The first person to be convicted over the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, Moroccan national Mounir El Motassadeq, was released from a German prison pending a ruling on an appeal, authorities said.
The justice department in the northern city of Hamburg said that the decision to release Motassadeq had been made on the basis of a federal court ruling upholding a complaint by the 31-year-old Moroccan.

Motassadeq left the prison in the company of his lawyer on Tuesday evening, according to journalists at the scene.

He had been found guilty in August in a retrial of belonging to a terrorist organization for plotting holy war with fellow Muslim extremists, including three of the September 11 suicide hijackers in New York and Washington.

He was jailed for seven years but both the prosecution and the defense have appealed the sentence.

His lawyer Gerhard Strate told AFP he filed the suit demanding Motassadeq's release with the federal constitutional court in the southwestern city of Karlsruhe on the grounds that he had been held in custody during the year-long retrial.

He said that since he had not abused the trust the court placed in him at that time, it would be "capricious" to hold him in custody pending the decision on the appeal.

It was not immediately clear when the decision on whether to grant a retrial would be made.

Motassadeq was first found guilty in February 2003 and jailed for the maximum 15 years on more than 3,000 counts of accessory to murder and membership in a terrorist organization in the world's first conviction in connection with September 11.

But a retrial was ordered when a federal court in 2004 quashed the verdict on the grounds that US authorities had refused to allow the court to question top suspects from
Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network in American custody.

During the new trial, the court found there was no evidence to show that Motassadeq had been directly involved in the attacks in New York and Washington, although he was found to be a member of the so-called Hamburg cell at the heart of the plot.

A Spanish court last September jailed Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, alias Abu Dahdah, the Syrian head of an Al-Qaeda cell based in that country, for 27 years for conspiring to commit murder in the attacks in New York and Washington.

Dahdah was jailed for 13 years for complicity in the attacks and 12 for belonging to a terrorist organisation.

"His participation was not proven regarding the execution of the attacks," the judges ruled, but the verdict indicated that he was linked to "Al-Qaeda's macabre designs."

Spain's High Court also jailed 17 other people, including a reporter for the Al-Jazeera television station, for between six and 11 years.

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US slammed for playing up "China military threat"
www.chinaview.cn 2006-02-07 19:29:08

BEIJING, Feb. 7 (Xinhuanet) -- China has expressed firm opposition to a U.S. defence review to play up the "China military threat."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan told a press conference on Tuesday that China has lodged serious representation with the U.S. side on the China-related content in the Quadrennial Defence Review (QDR).

The QDR, issued by the U.S. Department of Defence on Feb. 3, irrationally criticized China's normal defence construction. The move "interfered in China's internal affairs" and could "mislead public opinion," Kong said.
Ruan Zongze, deputy head of the China Institute of International Studies and an expert on China-U.S. relations, said the report criticized China as lacking military transparency.

"The criticism is unacceptable," said Ruan. China has publicized white papers on its national defence annually for many years and issued a first-ever white paper on its peaceful development in December 2005.

Kong said China is taking a straight path toward peaceful development and is adopting a national defence policy of a defensive nature, thus constituting an important force to promote the peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and the world. "China has never threatened any country in the past and at present, and will never do so in the future," he said.

He urged the U.S. side to correct its viewpoints and actions, saying it should "review China's peaceful development from an objective perspective and stop its random and irresponsible remarks on China's normal defence construction."

Instead, the United States "should do more to promote the healthy and steady growth of Sino-U.S. relations," he said.

Ruan noted that compared with the previous report issued in 2001, this QDR specified China's military potential to challenge the United States. The United States is paying more and more attention to China's military issues.

Zhu Feng, a professor of the International Relations Institute of the prestigious Beijing University, said the United States considers China as the biggest competitor and therefore has continuously strengthened its guard against China.

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Talks on Shanghai Disneyland under way
www.chinaview.cn 2006-02-08 12:41:54

BEIJING, Feb. 8 -- Walt Disney Co. is in constant conversation with the Chinese government on building its second China theme park in Shanghai, Hong Kong's Cable TV reported Tuesday, quoting the company's President and Chief Executive Officer Robert Iger.
In a telephone interview with the broadcaster, Iger said the company has been talking about the possibility of building a Disneyland theme park in Shanghai, China's business hub.

"On theme parks, we have ongoing discussions, ongoing and ongoing and ongoing with the Chinese government about a park in Shanghai," Iger was quoted as saying in the interview.

Alannah Goss, director of corporate communications at Walt Disney Company Asia Pacific Ltd. in Hong Kong, said in a statement Tuesday that there is nothing new to report on the progress of Shanghai discussions.

"The Walt Disney Company has not reached an agreement with Shanghai to build a second theme park in China. If we were to reach an agreement for a second park in China, it would not open before 2010.

"China is a priority for the entire company and we have a continuing dialogue about a variety of Disney initiatives, including television, motion pictures and consumer products, of which theme parks are only a part," the statement said.

When Hong Kong was chosen to house Disney's first theme park in China, which opened last September, the city was told that a second one will not be built before 2010.

Hong Kong's Economic Development and Labor Bureau, which oversees the park's management, said last month that Disney has not ruled out a second theme park in China, but that it has also publicly confirmed that a second park will not open before 2010.

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Earthquake shakes mountains, rattles towns
By Diana Dundua

A strong earthquake with a magnitude of 7 hit a mountainous region of western Georgia Monday morning.

The quake struck at 8:08 in the morning and its epicenter was in mountains dividing the regions of Racha and Imereti, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) from the capital.

No serious injuries or deaths have been reported but tremors were felt throughout a wide swath of the country, as far east as Tbilisi and as far west as Kutaisi and Samtredia.

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