Some companies helped the NSA, but which?
By Declan McCullagh and Anne Broache CNET News.com February 6, 2006,

Under federal law, any person or company who helps someone "intercept any wire, oral, or electronic communication"-- unless specifically authorized by law-- could face criminal charges. Even if cooperation is found to be legal, however, it could be embarrassing to acknowledge opening up customers' communications to a spy agency.
Even after the recent scrutiny of the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance project approved by President Bush, an intriguing question remains unanswered: Which corporations cooperated with the spy agency?

Some reports have identified executives at "major telecommunications companies" who chose to open their networks to the NSA. Because it may be illegal to divulge customer communications, though, not one has chosen to make its cooperation public.

Under federal law, any person or company who helps someone "intercept any wire, oral, or electronic communication" --unless specifically authorized by law--could face criminal charges. Even if cooperation is found to be legal, however, it could be embarrassing to acknowledge opening up customers' communications to a spy agency.

A survey by CNET News.com has identified 15 large telecommunications and Internet companies that are willing to say that they have not participated in the NSA program, which intercepts e-mail and telephone calls without a judge's approval.

Twelve other companies that were contacted and asked identical questions chose not to reply, in some cases citing "national security" as the reason.

Those results come amid a push on Capitol Hill for more information about the NSA's wiretapping practices. On Monday, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is expected to testify at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, and President Bush and his closest allies have been stepping up their defense of the program in preparation for it.

To be sure, there are a number of possible explanations for the companies' silence. In some cases, a company's media department could have been overworked. Another possibility is the company's lawyers were unavailable or chose not to reply for unknown reasons.

Also, some survey recipients, such as NTT Communications, responded with a general statement expressing compliance "with law enforcement requests as permitted and required by law" rather than addressing the question of NSA surveillance.

A lawsuit that could yield more details about industry cooperation is winding its way through the federal courts. Last week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group based in San Francisco, sued AT&T after a report that the company had shared its customer records database--though not its network--with the NSA.

AT&T would not respond when asked whether it participated. An AT&T spokesman, Dave Pacholczyk, said: "We don't comment on matters of national security."

The News.com survey, started Jan. 25, found that wireless providers and cable companies were the most likely to distance themselves from the NSA. Cingular Wireless, Comcast, Cox Communications, Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile said they had not turned over information or opened their networks to the NSA without being required by law.

Companies that are backbone providers, or which operate undersea cables spanning the ocean, were among the least likely to respond. AT&T, Cable & Wireless, Global Crossing, Level 3, NTT Communications, SAVVIS Communications and Verizon Communications chose not to answer the questions posed to them.

The New York Times reported on Dec. 24 that the NSA has gained access to switches that act as gateways at the borders between the United States' communications networks and international networks. But "the identities of the corporations involved could not be determined," the newspaper added.

At the water's edge
Analysts and historians who follow the intelligence community have long said the companies that operate submarine cables--armored sheaths wrapped around bundles of fiber optic lines--surreptitiously provide access to the NSA.

"You go to Global Crossing and say...once your cable comes up for air in New Jersey or on the coast of Virginia, wherever it goes up, we want to put a little splice in, thank you very much, which NSA can do," said Matthew Aid, who recently completed the first volume in a multiple-volume history of the NSA. "The technology of getting access to that stuff is fairly straightforward."

Aid was citing Global Crossing as an example, not singling it out. Global Crossing describes itself as an Internet backbone network that shuttles traffic for about 700 telecommunications carriers, mobile operators and Internet service providers. According to the International Cable Protection Committee, the company has full or partial ownership of several trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific cables.

Global Crossing spokesman Tom Topalian said "99 percent of wiretapping is done at a local phone company level" instead of at backbone providers. Topalian declined to answer questions about NSA access, and added: "All U.S. carriers have to comply with the CALEA act, and Global Crossing complies with CALEA." (CALEA is a 1994 federal law requiring certain telecommunications providers to make their networks wiretap-friendly for domestic law enforcement, not intelligence agencies.)

Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., last month sent a letter (click for PDF) to companies including Google, Yahoo, EarthLink, Verizon and T-Mobile asking them if they cooperated with the NSA. News.com asked similar questions, but expanded the number of companies to include backbone and submarine cable providers.

Among the companies that responded, some offered far more detail than others. Les Seagraves, EarthLink's chief privacy officer, said: "We've never even been asked to give information without the benefit of a subpoena or a court order behind it. And our policy is to require a subpoena or court order, basically to require a court of law behind the inquiry."

"We're very interested in protecting our customers' privacy and balancing that with our duties to comply with the law," Seagraves added. "Our way to balance that is to definitely make sure we have a valid legal request before we release any information."

Comcast spokesman Tim Fitzpatrick said the company "will only provide customer information pursuant to a valid court order and only if Comcast's records contain information sufficient to identify the customer account on the (date or dates) listed in the court order."

A representative of Cox Communications, David Grabert, said: "Cox has never received a request for information or a wiretap that was not accompanied by a warrant."

NSA's history of industry deals
Louis Tordella, the longest-serving deputy director of the NSA, acknowledged to overseeing a similar project to intercept telegrams as recently as the 1970s. It relied on the major telegraph companies including Western Union secretly turning over copies of all messages sent to or from the United States.

"All of the big international carriers were involved, but none of 'em ever got a nickel for what they did," Tordella said before his death in 1996, according to a history written by L. Britt Snider, a Senate aide who became the CIA's inspector general.

The telegraph interception operation was called Project Shamrock. It involved a courier making daily trips from the NSA's headquarters in Fort Meade, Md., to New York to retrieve digital copies of the telegrams on magnetic tape.

Like today's eavesdropping system authorized by Bush, Project Shamrock had a "watch list" of people in the U.S. whose conversations would be identified and plucked out of the ether by NSA computers. It was intended to be used for foreign intelligence purposes.

Then-President Richard Nixon, plagued by anti-Vietnam protests and worried about foreign influence, ordered that Project Shamrock's electronic ear be turned inward to eavesdrop on American citizens. In 1969, Nixon met with the heads of the NSA, CIA and FBI and authorized a program to intercept "the communications of U.S. citizens using international facilities," meaning international calls, according to James Bamford's 2001 book titled "Body of Secrets."

Nixon later withdrew the formal authorization, but informally, police and intelligence agencies kept adding names to the watch list. At its peak, 600 American citizens appeared on the list, including singer Joan Baez, pediatrician Benjamin Spock, actress Jane Fonda and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Details about Project Shamrock became public as part of a Senate investigation of the NSA. Telegraph companies participating in the program initially balked when questioned by Senate investigators. But documents turned over by the NSA "cast doubt on the veracity of the companies' claims that they could find no documentation pertaining to Shamrock," wrote Snider. "After all, this had concerned the highest levels of their corporate management for at least four years."

Another apparent example of NSA and industry cooperation became public in 1995. The Baltimore Sun reported that for decades NSA had rigged the encryption products of Crypto AG, a Swiss firm, so U.S. eavesdroppers could easily break their codes.

The six-part story, based on interviews with former employees and company documents, said Crypto AG sold its compromised security products to some 120 countries, including prime U.S. intelligence targets such as Iran, Iraq, Libya and Yugoslavia. (Crypto AG disputed the allegations.)

"Only a very few top executives"
The extent of the NSA's surveillance project in operation today remains unclear. Attorney General Gonzales has stressed that the program intercepts e-mail and phone conversations only when "one party to the communication is outside the United States."

In his book titled "State of War," New York Times reporter James Risen wrote: "The NSA has extremely close relationships with both the telecommunications and computer industries, according to several government officials. Only a very few top executives in each corporation are aware of such relationships."

Tapping into undersea copper and fiber-optic cables where they make landfall would be one way to create a virtual web of surveillance that can snare Internet packets or voice communications when they traverse U.S. borders. One benefit for the government is that one participant in the conversation is likely to be overseas--permitting Gonzales and the NSA to stress the interception's international nature.

Another method would be to seek the cooperation of backbone providers with networks entirely within the United States. That could be done with a tap hooked up to the switches at a telephone company or backbone provider, said Phill Shade, a network engineer for WildPackets who is the company's director of international support services. WildPackets sells network analysis software.

"The tap essentially splits off a copy of the traffic--it would literally take a copy of all the traffic as it moves through the wire," Shade said. "Picture a capital letter 'Y' in your head...One copy goes back out the regular wire on the right side of the wire, and the copy you're interested in splitting goes off the left side of the Y to you. These are very common networking devices, used in networks all over the world."

The tap's exact location may matter. Sen. Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican who is convening Monday's hearing, has asked Gonzales to respond to a series of questions about the legality of the program. One question Specter is posing: If intercepted calls are "routed through switches which were physically located on U.S. soil, would that constitute a violation of law or regulation restricting NSA from conducting surveillance inside the United States?"


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Bush to say terrorist attack thwarted
AFP 9 Feb 06

US President George W. Bush was to say in a speech that international cooperation helped thwart a terrorist attack on the US west coast, according to White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

McClellan did not provide any details about the plot, or the way it was prevented, but told reporters the purpose of Bush's remarks was to "show the kind of international cooperation that is required" to defeat terrorism.

He also said the goal was not to justify Bush's controversial order, after the September 11, 2001 attacks, to allow spying on Americans without getting a warrant, in a break with past practice.






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Reversing course, White House provides details of surveillance to Congress
AFP 9 Feb 06

The White House has provided details of a controversial domestic eavesdropping program to members of the US Congress, reversing its earlier adamant refusal to do so, legislative officials said.

The decision came as US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Deputy Director of National Intelligence General Michael Hayden held a closed-door briefing for members of the House Intelligence Committee about its secret program to intercept domestic communications without court approval.
The secret electronic wiretapping by the National Security Agency was put in place to intercept terrorist communications, but provoked a storm of opposition from civil libertarians who say the program violates Americans' privacy rights.

The White House about-face came after a leading House Republican whose subcommittee oversees the National Security Agency called for a full congressional inquiry into the domestic spying program.

Republican Representative Heather Wilson of New Mexico, who chairs the House Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence, said said she was pleased that the George W. Bush administration had reconsidered it position.

"The checks and balances in our system of government are very important, and it's those checks and balances that are going on and are being executed now," Wilson said at a press conference Wednesday.

"I had serious concerns and questions about this program when it was initially reported," she said. "We must conduct a complete review of this program.

In a statement, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra called the briefing "a positive first step."

"I appreciate the White House's willingness to inform more members on aspects of this vital NSA program," he said.

Meanwhile, Republican US Senator Arlen Specter said on the floor of the Senate that he soon would introduce legislation requiring the White House to seek approval from a special federal court in order to continue the eavesdropping program.

"The thrust of the legislative proposal that I am drafting ... is to require the administration to take the program to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court," said Specter, chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee, which held hearings into the legality of the program earlier this week.

"We want to be secure and we want to have the military -- and the administration and the president -- have all the tools he needs to fight terrorism, but we also want to maintain our civil liberties," he said.

"What is involved is the equilibrium of the constituional system, and that's a very weighty concept," Specter said.
Comment: Notice that the decision came after a "closed door briefing." In other words, they mapped out a strategy so they would appear to be "investigating" and "cooperating," but nothing significant will ever be revealed.

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Secret Court's Judges Were Warned About NSA Spy Data
By Carol D. Leonnig Washington Post Staff Writer Thursday, February 9, 2006

Twice in the past four years, a top Justice Department lawyer warned the presiding judge of a secret surveillance court that information overheard in President Bush's eavesdropping program may have been improperly used to obtain wiretap warrants in the court, according to two sources with knowledge of those events.

The revelations infuriated U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly -- who, like her predecessor, Royce C. Lamberth, had expressed serious doubts about whether the warrantless monitoring of phone calls and e-mails ordered by Bush was legal. Both judges had insisted that no information obtained this way be used to gain warrants from their court, according to government sources, and both had been assured by administration officials it would never happen.
The two heads of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court were the only judges in the country briefed by the administration on Bush's program. The president's secret order, issued sometime after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, allows the National Security Agency to monitor telephone calls and e-mails between people in the United States and contacts overseas.

James A. Baker, the counsel for intelligence policy in the Justice Department's Office of Intelligence Policy and Review, discovered in 2004 that the government's failure to share information about its spying program had rendered useless a federal screening system that the judges had insisted upon to shield the court from tainted information. He alerted Kollar-Kotelly, who complained to Justice, prompting a temporary suspension of the NSA spying program, the sources said.

Yet another problem in a 2005 warrant application prompted Kollar-Kotelly to issue a stern order to government lawyers to create a better firewall or face more difficulty obtaining warrants.

The two judges' discomfort with the NSA spying program was previously known. But this new account reveals the depth of their doubts about its legality and their behind-the-scenes efforts to protect the court from what they considered potentially tainted evidence. The new accounts also show the degree to which Baker, a top intelligence expert at Justice, shared their reservations and aided the judges.

Both judges expressed concern to senior officials that the president's program, if ever made public and challenged in court, ran a significant risk of being declared unconstitutional, according to sources familiar with their actions. Yet the judges believed they did not have the authority to rule on the president's power to order the eavesdropping, government sources said, and focused instead on protecting the integrity of the FISA process.

It was an odd position for the presiding judges of the FISA court, the secret panel created in 1978 in response to a public outcry over warrantless domestic spying by J. Edgar Hoover's FBI. The court's appointees, chosen by then-Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, were generally veteran jurists with a pro-government bent, and their classified work is considered a powerful tool for catching spies and terrorists.

The FISA court secretly grants warrants for wiretaps, telephone record traces and physical searches to the Justice Department, whose lawyers must show they have probable cause to believe that a person in the United States is the agent of a foreign power or government. Between 1979 and 2004, it approved 18,748 warrants and rejected five.

Lamberth, the presiding judge at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, and Kollar-Kotelly, who took over in May 2002, have repeatedly declined to comment on the program or their efforts to protect the FISA court. A Justice Department spokesman also declined to comment.

Both presiding judges agreed not to disclose the secret program to the 10 other FISA judges, who routinely handled some of the government's most highly classified secrets.

So early in 2002, the wary court and government lawyers developed a compromise. Any case in which the government listened to someone's calls without a warrant, and later developed information to seek a FISA warrant for that same suspect, was to be carefully "tagged" as having involved some NSA information. Generally, there were fewer than 10 cases each year, the sources said.

According to government officials familiar with the program, the presiding FISA judges insisted that information obtained through NSA surveillance not form the basis for obtaining a warrant and that, instead, independently gathered information provide the justification for FISA monitoring in such cases. They also insisted that these cases be presented only to the presiding judge.

Lamberth and Kollar-Kotelly derived significant comfort from the trust they had in Baker, the government's liaison to the FISA court. He was a stickler-for-rules career lawyer steeped in foreign intelligence law, and had served as deputy director of the office before becoming the chief in 2001.

Baker also had privately expressed hesitation to his bosses about whether the domestic spying program conflicted with the FISA law, a government official said. Justice higher-ups viewed him as suspect, but they also recognized that he had the judges' confidence and kept him in the pivotal position of obtaining warrants to spy on possible terrorists.

In 2004, Baker warned Kollar-Kotelly he had a problem with the tagging system. He had concluded that the NSA was not providing him with a complete and updated list of the people it had monitored, so Justice could not definitively know -- and could not alert the court -- if it was seeking FISA warrants for people already spied on, government officials said.

Kollar-Kotelly complained to then-Attorney General John D. Ashcroft, and her concerns led to a temporary suspension of the program. The judge required that high-level Justice officials certify the information was complete -- or face possible perjury charges.

In 2005, Baker learned that at least one government application for a FISA warrant probably contained NSA information that was not made clear to the judges, the government officials said. Some administration officials explained to Kollar-Kotelly that a low-level Defense Department employee unfamiliar with court disclosure procedures had made a mistake.

Kollar-Kotelly asked Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to ensure that wouldn't happen again, government officials said.

Baker declined to comment through an office assistant, who referred questions about his FISA work to a Justice Department spokesman. Pentagon spokeswoman Cynthia Smith also declined to comment and referred questions to Justice officials. Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the department could not discuss its work with the FISA court.

"The department always strives to meet the highest ethical and professional standards in its appearances before any court, including the FISA court," Roehrkasse said. "This is especially true when department attorneys appear before a court on an ex parte basis, as is the case in the FISA court."

Shortly after the warrantless eavesdropping program began, then-NSA Director Michael V. Hayden and Ashcroft made clear in private meetings that the president wanted to detect possible terrorist activity before another attack. They also made clear that, in such a broad hunt for suspicious patterns and activities, the government could never meet the FISA court's probable-cause requirement, government officials said.

So it confused the FISA court judges when, in their recent public defense of the program, Hayden and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales insisted that NSA analysts do not listen to calls unless they have a reasonable belief that someone with a known link to terrorism is on one end of the call. At a hearing Monday, Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the "reasonable belief" standard is merely the "probable cause" standard by another name.

Several FISA judges said they also remain puzzled by Bush's assertion that the court was not "agile" or "nimble" enough to help catch terrorists. The court had routinely approved emergency wiretaps 72 hours after they had begun, as FISA allows, and the court's actions in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks suggested that its judges were hardly unsympathetic to the needs of their nation at war.

On Sept. 12, Bush asked new FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III in a Cabinet meeting whether it was safe for commercial air traffic to resume, according to senior government officials. Mueller had to acknowledge he could not give a reliable assessment.

Mueller and Justice officials went to Lamberth, who agreed that day to expedited procedures to issue FISA warrants for eavesdropping, a government official said.

The requirement for detailed paperwork was greatly eased, allowing the NSA to begin eavesdropping the next day on anyone suspected of a link to al Qaeda, every person who had ever been a member or supporter of militant Islamic groups, and everyone ever linked to a terrorist watch list in the United States or abroad, the official said.

In March 2002, the FBI and Pakistani police arrested Abu Zubaida, then the third-ranking al Qaeda operative, in Pakistan. When agents found Zubaida's laptop computer, a senior law enforcement source said, they discovered that the vast majority of people he had been communicating with were being monitored under FISA warrants or international spying efforts.

"Finally, we got some comfort" that surveillance efforts were working, said a government official familiar with Zubaida's arrest.


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Do You Know What They Know?
by Bob Herbert The New York Times February 6, 2006


Has the National Security Agency referred your name to the F.B.I. as a result of information it picked up from its illegal domestic eavesdropping program?

You don't know, do you? And the Bush administration, which has linked its mania for secrecy with its fetish for collecting data on Americans, is not saying.

The big problem related to this program, as far as the administration is concerned, is not its metastasizing threat to constitutional government, the rule of law, the privacy of innocent Americans, the venerable system of checks and balances, and the American way of life as we've known it.

No, the big problem for Bush & Co. -- the thing that makes the president and his apologists apoplectic -- is the mere fact that this domestic spying program has come to light. Investigations are under way to determine who might have leaked information about the supersecret program to The New York Times, which disclosed its existence, and others.

This is not a time for Congress or the media to bow before the intimidation tactics of a bullying administration. This is a time to heed the words of a federal judge named Damon Keith, who reminded us back in 2002 that "democracies die behind closed doors."

The attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, is scheduled to testify about the N.S.A. program today at a public hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Here are some of the questions that need to be asked:

Who is being spied upon, and why?

How many Americans here in the United States -- or others who were lawfully in the country -- have had their phone conversations or e-mails intercepted without a warrant?

Who determines what calls or e-mails are to be monitored in the U.S. without warrants, and what are their guidelines?

How many of those who were spied upon were found to have been involved in terror-related activities? How many were referred to the F.B.I. or other agencies for further investigation?

Of those who were referred, how many were cleared of wrongdoing?

What kind of information is being collected about people who are spied upon without warrants but are not referred to law enforcement agencies? How is that data being used, and how is it stored?

Is the government collecting information about the political views of the people who are being spied upon? With whom is that information being shared?

What has been the nature and the extent of the objections from people inside the government to the warrantless spying?

Until recently, no one was above the law in the U.S., not even the president. Richard Nixon was threatened with impeachment and run out of town for thumbing his nose at the Constitution. Bill Clinton was impeached for lying under oath about his sex life.

The Bush administration, by exploiting the very real fear of terrorism, and with the connivance of Republican majorities in both houses of Congress, has run roughshod over constitutional guarantees that had long been taken for granted. The prohibition against cruel and inhuman punishment? Habeas corpus? The right to face one's accuser? When it suits the Bush crowd, such protections are simply ignored.

The president would have you believe that the warrantless N.S.A. spy program is a very limited operation, narrowly focused on international communications involving "people with known links to Al Qaeda and related terrorist organizations."

If that were true, there would be no reason not to get a warrant from the secret court set up by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The most logical reason for not getting a warrant is that the president's intelligence acolytes, who behave as though they graduated from the Laurel and Hardy school of data mining, have not been able to demonstrate that the people being spied upon are connected to Al Qaeda or any other terror organization.

The National Security Agency sent so much useless information to the F.B.I. in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks that agents began to joke that the tips would result in more "calls to Pizza Hut." The Times reported that thousands of tips a month came pouring in, virtually all of them leading to dead ends or innocent Americans.

The American public needs to know what's really going on with this spy program. "Liberty," said John Adams, "cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people."
Comment: Herbert sez, "The most logical reason for not getting a warrant is that the president's intelligence acolytes, who behave as though they graduated from the Laurel and Hardy school of data mining, have not been able to demonstrate that the people being spied upon are connected to Al Qaeda or any other terror organization."

Do not for a moment fall into the trap of thinking that the Neocons are Laurel and Hardy. Fact is, the most logical reason for not getting a warrant is that the individual being spied upon is a member of congress, the military, the judiciary, or the media, and that that the reason for spying is not to discover terrorists, but to blackmail political opponents, thus gaining total control over the political process.

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Rothbard on the Fall and Rise and Fall of Liberty
By Ryan McMaken Lew Rockwell 8 Feb 06

George Orwell wrote in 1984 that those who control the present control the past. It would be difficult to prove Orwell wrong, for surely it is not a mere coincidence that the dim picture of history taught in the government schools and the even more vague history repeated incessantly by the public intellectuals, just happen to create a worldview in which governments through the centuries have made possible everything that is good and decent in the world today.
The myth goes something like this: Prior to the rise of the modern States in the modern world, all had been darkness. A backward feudal system existed with bloodthirsty warlords and tyrannical bishops spreading war and despotism across Europe. Then, one day, the Renaissance and the Enlightenment took hold in Europe, breaking the power of the superstitious and ignorant Old Order, and establishing in its place, a rational, enlightened system of States. The States of this new Age of Reason were admittedly not democratic, but they were certainly a vast improvement on the old State of affairs. Over time, the kings gave way to democracy for a few people, and eventually, to democracy for everyone, making the State, at long last, the benevolent servant of "the people." At the same time, the Industrial Revolution took hold, but capitalism exploited the workers and polluted the environment. Fortunately, the State was able to bring the capitalists under control and bring an end to mistreatment of workers, long hours of toil, and widespread environmental degradation. The 20th century provided some challenges to the spread of democracy, but those were conquered, just as we knew they would be, and today, justice, equality, and protection from all enemies of the great democratic order is provided for but a meager sum of tax funds. Civil rights and economic prosperity are improving all the time while foreign enemies are being cleared away, and the day will surely come when the end of history itself arrives, and we will all be thankful that we had such just and powerful governments at our disposal.

Murray Rothbard called this theory of history the State’s "Great March Upward into the Light," and much of his work, especially his newly republished History of Economic Thought, is devoted to debunking it. Always at the center of this march to perfection is the State. For the socialists and the left, the State will bring the society of perfect equality. For the neoconservatives and the right, the State will bring the millennial Pax Americana and the End of History. Few believers of the myth will deny that there have been some minor setbacks, yet they are firm in their contention that there can never be true progress without the State. Without the armies, and agencies, and weapons of the State, humanity would degenerate back into superstition, war, ignorance, and want. Depending on one’s point of view, a world without the State holds the prospect of capitalists, or terrorists, or communists, or Christian theocrats returning humanity to the presumed lowly State of the pre-modern world. The modern defenders of the State never speak in terms of "the State," and they may not even think in such explicit terms. Yet, the end result is the same whether one is explicit about it or not. States are at the center of their world, providing the necessary means to combat the evils of our time, destroying the oppressions of the past, and securing a safe and just future.

Rothbard had little patience for this pat view of human history. The myth of the modern State as freeing mankind from a dark past was particularly insidious to Rothbard. Whether discussing the American Revolution, the Great Depression, or the history of economic thought, we find in Rothbard’s work a thorough insistence that the political and intellectual history of modernity is the history of a battle against the State.

Rothbard’s view of history revolves around at least three central assertions. First, the history of liberty does not begin with the Enlightenment, the Renaissance, or any other modern era claiming to be born out of an earlier, darker age. The foundations of liberty are established much earlier, in an era of increasingly free trade and of weak and decentralized medieval States. The intellectual birth of liberty begins with the foundations of natural law and natural rights laid down by the medieval scholastics. Second, the industrial revolution must be regarded as a good thing. In fact, it should be regarded as one of the best things to ever happen in human history. Third, the material prosperity made possible by the Industrial Revolution, coupled with the ancient ideas of natural law and natural rights, is a potent enemy of the State and the reason that liberty is likely to prevail in the long run.

In his essay "Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty," Rothbard sums up his view of the "Old Order":

The myth held that the growth of absolute monarchies and of mercantilism in the early modern era was necessary for the development of capitalism, since these served to liberate the merchants and the people from local feudal restrictions. In actuality, this was not at all the case; the king and his nation-State served rather as a super-feudal overlord reimposing and reinforcing feudalism just as it was being dissolved by the peaceful growth of the market economy. The king superimposed his own restrictions and monopoly privileges onto those of the feudal regime. The absolute monarchs were the Old Order writ large and made even more despotic than before.



Contrary to the myth, the rise of modernity did not make the State more just or more enlightened. It just became bigger, stronger, and more likely to abuse its power. The States of the Middle Ages had been decentralized, weak, and couldn’t even qualify as "sovereign States." Thanks to overlapping political jurisdiction and the influence of the Church, no king of this era could claim total control over internal affairs. Yet, the absolutist States that heralded the arrival of the modern era were exactly the opposite. They were centralized, vast, powerful, and their rulers could indeed claim total internal sovereignty over their subjects

The political theory of the Middle Ages also constrained the power of the States. In The History of Economic Thought Before Adam Smith, Rothbard focuses on the influence of scholasticism. Associated closely with Thomas Aquinas, scholasticism revolved around theories of natural law that governed all men and all institutions which were in turn expected to adhere to immutable divine laws of justice and governance. Kings and rulers who did not rule according to natural law were subject to morally justified rebellion and even regicide.

Scholasticism, of course was closely associated with the Catholic Church, and as the power of the Church declined in the Late Middle Ages, so did scholasticism and the intellectual rigor it relied on. The rise of the modern State accelerated with the Reformation and with efforts to overturn scholastic critiques of political power. From the German princes in the north to the rulers of the Italian city-states in the south, kings and princes seized on the Reformation as an opportunity to increase their power.

Having abandoned the scholastic tradition, the original Reformers were forced to fall back on proof-texting scripture for guidance on political affairs, concluding that "absolute obedience and non-resistance" was what scripture commanded. At the same time, Niccolò Machiavelli would add to the assault on reason arguing that States and princes should not be restrained by natural law, reason, or any other external force, but only by the arbitrary and often irrational will of the prince himself."

In the wake of this intellectual and political revolution came Absolutism. The new absolute monarchs went to war against the merchant classes that had arisen during the High Middle Ages. Kings used their new bureaucracies to impose taxes, enforce regulations, and wage large-scale wars against their enemies. It was the age of Hobbes’s Leviathan, and it was a great step backward for liberty. Yet, even as the new vast modern States were consolidating their power, theories of natural law and natural rights continued to be developed. Theorists like John Locke and Richard Cantillon would reclaim the natural law tradition and go on to use "rational scholastic methods" and forward compelling defenses of private property, commerce, and human freedom. Thus, by the 18th century, the natural law theories of the scholastics had been revived and were being reworked into liberalism, the new ideology of individualism, liberty, and capitalism.

Meanwhile, the Industrial Revolution was spreading across Europe in spite of State attempts to control trade, knowledge, and even the movement of capitalists themselves. The great enemy of the Industrial Revolution, of course, has always been the State, and mercantilism ruled the day with its price controls, tariffs, taxes, regulations, and endless favors for friends of the ruling regime. The "intellectual" justifications for mercantilism were never anything more than irrational appeals to nationalism and privilege, while the liberals maintained that mercantilism was not only despotic and contrary to natural law, but inefficient and crippling to the economy. Naturally, those who ruled also happened to benefit from the largesse of the mercantilist despotism. But slowly, throughout the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, liberalism gained ground. In "The Meaning of Revolution," Rothbard outlines the struggle:

Theories blended into activist movements, rising movements calling for individual liberty, a free-market economy, the overthrow of feudalism and mercantilist statism, an end to theocracy and war and their replacement by freedom and international peace. Once in a while, these movements erupted into violent "revolutions" that brought giant steps in the direction of liberty: the English Civil War, the American Revolution, the French Revolution. The result was enormous strides for freedom and the prosperity unleashed by the consequent Industrial Revolution.

Eventually, liberalism swept Europe as a mass movement putting forth the natural rights of men against the State. Yet, by the early 20th century, liberalism had retreated. Various forms of nationalism and socialism had begun to overtake liberalism in the 19th century, and by World War I, liberalism had disappeared as the dominant ideology of Europe. Liberalism’s intimate connection with capitalism and the industrial revolution was particularly damaging. Communists, socialists, nationalists, romantics, and primitivists all denounced the Industrial Revolution for being exploitive, for corrupting the morals of society, and for breaking down the alleged virtues of the distant past. The drive against the Industrial Revolution was thoroughly anti-intellectual as well, with the opponents of capital pining for the days of yesteryear when men could live by their wits in the wilderness and not be constrained by the evils of the modern industrial world. Rothbard’s writings exhibit particularly enthusiastic scorn for arguments such as these, unleashing a rhetorical torrent of contempt on the romantics and primitivists who had conveniently forgotten that the real history of subsistence farming and the pre-industrial age was one of famine, toil, and death.

In spite of the political revolutions, the Industrial Revolution, and the growing acceptance of natural rights as an immutable restraint on the power of States, the 20th century was a disaster for liberalism. The rise of National Socialism in Germany, Communism in Eastern Europe, and the militarized welfare-warfare State in America did much to destroy the liberalism that had expanded throughout the previous century. Serious talk of global nuclear war, the continued rise of socialism in Europe and the Americas, and the marginalization of liberal intellectuals had all but relegated liberalism to the dustbin of history.

Yet, even in 1965, before the fall of Soviet communism, before the internet, and before the Chinese government decided it preferred industrial revolutions to cultural revolutions, Rothbard was optimistic. In "Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty," he writes:

"What the Marxists would call ‘objective conditions’ for the triumph of liberty exist everywhere in the world and more so than in any past age; for everywhere the masses have opted for higher living standards and the promise of freedom and everywhere the various regimes of statism and collectivism cannot fulfill these goals."

In spite of his long-range optimism, however, Rothbard was always one to emphasize that history is in no way linear. In the High Middle Ages, the fledgling bourgeoisie might have thought that the benefits of free trade and weak States might have lasted forever. But Absolutism and "Enlightenment" intervened. The liberals of the 19th century might have thought similar thoughts. The disaster of the 20th century certainly put an end to that as well. Today, we are left wondering if the 21st century will be more like the 20th or the 19th. It is still too early to tell, but the problem for defenders of liberty is the same today as it has always been. The choice is between the State and liberty; between a free economy and a controlled economy; between peace and war. The myth that modern kings, and democracies, and armies of freedom secure the blessings of liberty for all has been an obstacle to real liberty for centuries. The real history of the State is one of power, war, and domination. Real freedom has advanced in great salvos against the State from political revolutions and from industrial and technological ones. In spite of the 20th century, and the seemingly insurmountable obstacles the State continues to pose against the cause of liberty, freedom has nevertheless erupted at the most unexpected times. Rothbard, knowing the resilience of liberty through the centuries, undoubtedly agreed with Thomas Paine that although "the flame of liberty may sometimes cease to shine, the coal can never expire."

Ryan McMaken teaches political science in Colorado.

Copyright © 2006 LewRockwell.com
Comment: "Yes, we did produce a near perfect Republic. But will they keep it, or will they, in the enjoyment of plenty, lose the memory of freedom? Material abundance without character is the surest way to destruction."
- Thomas Jefferson

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Deluded Believers in Government
by Bill Bonner February 8, 2006

On paper, people are a lot richer than they were 20 or 50 years ago, but it doesn't seem as though the money has done them much good. Maybe our memory is giving out, but we don't ever remember the area looking so shabby, so crowded, or so disagreeable.
We returned from the United States this morning feeling low. Maybe it was just the effect of so much traveling. It could the delayed effect of attending a memorial for a dear friend. Perhaps it was our drive down to the family farm... or the result of the book we were reading on the plane.

We had not seen the family farm in Maryland in a few years. As we drove to it, we wondered again about this extraordinary period of prosperity in the United States. By the gross numbers, Americans added more to their wealth in the last 20 years than in any equivalent period in history. But something seems wrong. What kind of wealth is this, we wondered? All we could see on our drive was a wealth of opportunities to spend money badly. The countryside is being junked up with strip malls and highways.

You can barely throw a beer can out the window without hitting a collection of Chicken Fil's, WaWas, and Mr. Noodle's...not to mention muffler shops and car dealers. There are more cars and more roads to drive on, but there doesn't seem to be anywhere worth driving. And driving down the road itself is depressing. We remember as a child that our grandparents would get in the car on Sunday afternoon to "go for a drive." It was fun just to drive around and take in the sights. We can hardly imagine doing that now.

On paper, people are a lot richer than they were 20 or 50 years ago, but it doesn't seem as though the money has done them much good. Maybe our memory is giving out, but we don't ever remember the area looking so shabby, so crowded, or so disagreeable.

When we finally got to the farm, we were disappointed to find that even our own place seemed to have fallen into the same junky disrepair as the rest of the neighborhood. The fences are broken. Trees have fallen down and lay on the ground like unburied soldiers. Shutters bang in the wind. We worked for 10 years building it up; now, it seems like a lot of time and effort for nothing.

But maybe that was only our mood and who really knows what causes moods or what our moods cause?

That we have moods, no one denies. They react to the world around us, and then cause us to change the way we think and act.

And they affect entire nations. Of course, we see this in the markets. Sometimes people are buoyant and upbeat about the future. Other times, people are downcast and gloomy.

Sometimes a dollar's worth of earnings can be sold for $20. Other times, investors will turn up their noses even at a $10 price.

Sometimes moods sink – even deeper than stock prices – deep into the heart and soul of a people. Our reading on the flight was a book we found in an airport kiosk. It was a "social history" of the Soviet Army in World War II. Rarely has any group of people been so roughly handled as the Soviet soldiers in the '30s and '40s. If a soldier escaped being slaughtered by the enemy, it was only to be annihilated by his own government. Sometimes he managed to get lucky and get shot or he died from sheer incompetence...with neither proper gear...nor proper food...sans sleep....and sanitation.

And yet, why did these millions of armed men still not turn on their tormentors? Ah, that's where mood – the zeitgeist – of the country plays its part. The people of the Soviet Union were, for the most part anyway, believers. They believed in the Soviet ideology, in rational materialism, and in Stalin himself. That is to say, they believed in things most people today regard as delusions. Even those who survived Stalin's mass murders often still say his name with reverence...as if he were a national saint.

"You know what, I think the mood in the U.S. has changed a lot in the last decade," said a friend at breakfast. "I remember when I went to West Point, we were taught to respect the enemy. He was a worthy opponent. If captured, he should be treated as well as you could treat him. In World War II, that's what we did. That's probably part of the reason so many Germans surrendered to us at the close of the war. They wouldn't surrender to the Russians, because they knew they would be killed. And it's probably why we had a relatively easy time reconstructing our enemies after the war.

"But I have a friend with a son at West Point now. What I hear is that they regard the enemy as though he were inferior...and no longer deserves either respect or the courtesies of the Geneva Conventions. Of course, that could be just his opinion. I don't know...but I can't imagine that we would have put burlap bags over the head of our prisoners in World War II, or had WACs stripping them down and kicking them in their private parts."

How much has the mood of America changed in these last 20 years? In what direction? We know the average American will pay nearly three times as much for the same dollar of earnings. Why does he think it so much more valuable? What else has changed?

We don't know.

• The war in Iraq costs $150 million a day, according to a recent USA Today report. Afghanistan adds another $27 million.

Meanwhile, fears over Iran sent the oil price up last week. And then came Venezuelan President Chavez, with a helpful remark. He said he'd shut down U.S. oil installations in the country and sell his oil to China and India, if America got on his nerves.

And these tensions over Iran's nuclear ambitions didn't only affect oil prices...gold, the "safe-haven metal" traded near 25-year highs today.

"It might even be a calm before the storm. I think we're going to see some further tests higher this week," said James Moore, analyst at TheBullionDesk.com.

"The market is going to remain a bullish trend and we will continue on towards the $600 (an ounce) level, probably over the course of the year," he said.

• "The debt is exploding and the president isn't facing up to it," said Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota, the top Democrat on the Senate Budget Committee.

Dubya may not be facing it, but well-respected bond guru, Bill Gross, certainly is.

At a financial conference at UCLA last week, Gross "expressed concern that the game might be up – that foreign investors would decide that U.S. bonds and other securities weren't worth the money, leaving the American economy suddenly desperate for capital," notes the LA Times.

"In any case, the extent of foreign investor control over the U.S. economy's fortunes is a cold reality," Gross said.

Savings rates are at a 72-year low. Of course, back in the '30s people had lost their jobs. They couldn't save; instead they had to draw down savings simply in order to eat and pay the rent. Now, we just heard that employment is near a record high. So, now people don't save for another reason – because they think they no longer need savings.

There will always be jobs, ATM machines, and home equity lines, right? What a strange public mood! It's almost delusional. People cannot imagine that times could ever get so bad that they would need to draw on their own savings. There will always be someone ready to lend them money, won't there? What they don't consider is where the money will come from. If Americans no longer save, who will have savings to lend?

Well, that must be why God made foreigners.

• Due to soaring deficits, the Bush administration will be forced to ask Congress to raise the national debt limit, which is now at $8.2 trillion...and counting.

But never fear – Bush has made a pledge to cut the U.S. deficit in half by the end of his term in 2009...and how exactly does he plan to do that? After reading a bit about his new proposed budget, to start October 1 of this year, your guess is as good as ours, dear reader.

In his budget proposal, Bush is asking Congress for $120 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, on top of 5 percent increases in the Pentagon and Homeland Security budgets.

With these increases, to meet his goal of cutting the colossal deficit in half in the next three years, the budget plan calls for $36 billion in Medicare cuts over five years, as well as putting "the squeeze on the one-sixth of the budget that funds the nonsecurity operations of government – everything from running the national parks to buying paper clips," CNN.com reports.

• At the memorial service for our friend Thom, we got together as many surviving members of the old 'Ouzilly Band' as we could. Even at its best, the Ouzilly Band was pathetic. Without Thom in the lead, it was worse. Still, it was a time for music, laughter and tears; that's what Thom would have wanted. A performance of the Ouzilly Band accomplished all three. When people heard us play, they laughed, unless they were real music lovers...in which case, they cried.


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US Capitol nerve agent scare a false alarm
AFP 9 Feb 06

Washington authorities said a nerve agent scare, which forced the evacuation of a Senate office building, was a "false alarm" after white powder found in the building was found benign.

Scores of senators and Senate staffers were rushed from their offices after a sensor in the building's attic set off an alarm indicating the suspected presence of a dangerous nerve agent in the building, said Capitol Police sergeant Kimberly Schneider.
"All the test results are actually negative, so that's very good news," Schneider told reporters about three hours after the Russell Senate Office Building was evacuated.

"We have a good outcome tonight, so we are all very happy about this," she said.

The alarm, which was sounded around 6:30 pm (2330 GMT), saw scores of emergency vehicles and hazardous materials teams descend on the building. Police within the congressional complex evacuated senators' offices and ushered workers into a holding area located within a garage. The building is linked by an underground tunnel to the Capitol, which houses the US Congress.

Police said workers, including some senators, had been directed to the garage for their own safety as further tests were being conducted.

"There was an alarm to immediately leave the building," Eileen McMenamin, a spokeswoman for Senator John McCain, told CNN television from the garage area.

"There are guys down here testing the air," she said. "They just used the words 'nerve agent'."

Schneider said no one reported any symptoms that would be consistent with a chemical or biological attack, but could not say what the white powder was that set off the sensors.
Comment: US Congressmen fleeing for their lives... and they don't even stop to think that they have created the world where this humiliating behavior is accepted.

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The terror of President Bush - How one word granted one man so much power and control
By Mike Adams Counter Think 8 Feb 06

Following accelerating criticism that the Bush Administration's domestic spying program violated every possible U.S. law and Constitutional amendment, the Bush Administration has now renamed its blatantly illegal domestic spying program the "terrorist surveillance program." Fox News has already adopted the moniker, resorting to classic Orwellian Newsspeak to convince viewers that since this illegal government operation contains the word "terrorist," it must be okay.

Where would George Bush be today without the word "terror," by the way? That single word, it seems, is solely responsible for Bush's continued popularity among simple-minded Americans. Without the word "terror," Bush would have no war, no foreign policy, no justification for decimating the Constitution, and nothing to talk about in his speeches. His entire presidency since 9/11, a few observant people are realizing, is really based on just two things: terror and tyranny. And he's using the former to achieve the latter.
One word can do a lot for a politician, especially if it is repeated like a political mantra. I'm not exactly sure how many times Bush has used the word "terror" or its derivations, because that would require actually listening to all the Bush speeches -- an act that would almost certainly cause the permanent IQ reduction of anyone foolish enough to engage in such activities.

Without question, Bush has invoked the "terror" word with near religious zealotry in his campaigns to simultaneously overthrow foreign nations and domestic civil liberties. Never before has so much evil sprung from the repeated invocation of a single word.

The Terror of the Masses

The outright evil of one man is not nearly as surprising (nor frightening) as the collective evil of the people who go along with him. Dumbfounded Conservatives all across the country blindly stroll into history along the same well-trodden path followed by Hitler's fascist supporters.
It's a well-worn path: First you create an imaginary enemy to justify war. Then you strip away the civil liberties of your own citizens and launch domestic spying programs to keep everyone in a constant state of fear. Next you manipulate the propaganda to tell everyone what to think. The torturing of "enemy combatants" is already underway, and it won't be long before the clockwork arrest of "dissenting" Americans begins.

None of this talk is even in the realm of conspiracy theories anymore. It's practically a play-by-play account of exactly what the Bush Administration is doing. Under the Clinton Administration, a secret domestic spying program being discovered would have been Conservatives' call to hang the poor man from a tree, but under Bush, Conservatives go right along with any liberty-destroying action, no matter how ludicrous or illegal.

That all this is happening right before our eyes, with such obvious historical parallels to the rise of Hitler, is practically unbelievable. The rhetoric is almost exactly the same, except it's in eighth-grade English rather than German. But warmongering and global imperialism need no language translations, because the message communicated by an imperial soldier shoving a rifle in your face is pretty much universal. Both Hitler and Bush call it "freedom," and both explained their invasions of foreign nations as "liberating their people," but students of history know better. (Does anyone read history anymore?)

Like nearly every empire in the history of human civilization, the Bush empire will eventually fall. And in its wake will be left the horrors of American imperialism. One day the mass hallucinations of the Bush supporters will disappear, and they will wake up and ask themselves, "What have we done?" It will be like the citizens of Germany seeing the Nazi concentration camps for the first time following Hitler's suicide. They could not believe what they had supported. They could not imagine what evils they had tolerated, if not downright participated in.
And after the fall of the Bush empire, the American people will have to get down to the business of repairing what's left of the Constitution. They will have to roll back government powers, pursue criminal prosecutions of the active war criminals currently operating throughout the Bush Administration, and reestablish the rule of law.

The King of Terror

It is precisely the rule of law, by the way, that Bush now imagines does not exist. In an astounding act of tyrannical defiance, Bush actually admitted he not only supported the high crimes of secret domestic spying on American citizens, but he actually intended to EXPAND such actions in direct violation of every law upon which this nation was founded. On that day, King George declared his kingship of the land, and effectively announced that he was now above all laws.
Astoundingly, there was no marching in the streets. Members of Congress did not call an emergency session and impeach the President. Even the press hardly mentioned the unprecedented transition that had just taken place, because of course they were too busy high-fiving each other with the word "terror" to actually say anything useful.

The people, the lawmakers and practically the whole country just went along with King George! Consider the irony. The United States of America, a nation that was founded by revolutionaries who insisted on self-rule and freedom from the tyranny of kings, had just crowned its own new king, with hardly a whimper from the masses. It's as if Americans have no knowledge whatsoever of their own history.

Even now, no one seems to notice. We are marching full-force into history's Hall of Shame, with our new king, our new media, and our new imperial wars. Never has so much been evil achieved by the invocation of a single word: TERROR.

And the terror is by no means over. Americans will be kept in a constant state of fear (by chance or by design) for as long as the Bush family can get away with it. Because terror, after all, is very, very profitable for certain industries and power brokers, most of which happen to be strong supporters of the Bush Administration.

Remember, Americans. Remain afraid. Imagine Islamic enemies in your head when you go to sleep at night. Support your new King and his troops. And tune in to Fox News to be told what to do next.


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Homeland Security Contracts for Vast New Detention Camps
by Peter Dale Scott February 6, 2006 Pacific News Service

A little-known $385 million contract for Halliburton subsidiary KBR to build detention facilities for "an emergency influx of immigrants" is another step down the Bush administration's road toward martial law, the writer says.
A Halliburton subsidiary has just received a $385 million contract from the Department of Homeland Security to provide "temporary detention and processing capabilities."

The contract -- announced Jan. 24 by the engineering and construction firm KBR -- calls for preparing for "an emergency influx of immigrants, or to support the rapid development of new programs" in the event of other emergencies, such as "a natural disaster." The release offered no details about where Halliburton was to build these facilities, or when.

To date, some newspapers have worried that open-ended provisions in the contract could lead to cost overruns, such as have occurred with KBR in Iraq. A Homeland Security spokesperson has responded that this is a "contingency contract" and that conceivably no centers might be built. But almost no paper so far has discussed the possibility that detention centers could be used to detain American citizens if the Bush administration were to declare martial law.

For those who follow covert government operations abroad and at home, the contract evoked ominous memories of Oliver North's controversial Rex-84 "readiness exercise" in 1984. This called for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to round up and detain 400,000 imaginary "refugees," in the context of "uncontrolled population movements" over the Mexican border into the United States. North's activities raised civil liberties concerns in both Congress and the Justice Department. The concerns persist.

"Almost certainly this is preparation for a roundup after the next 9/11 for Mid-Easterners, Muslims and possibly dissenters," says Daniel Ellsberg, a former military analyst who in 1971 released the Pentagon Papers, the U.S. military's account of its activities in Vietnam. "They've already done this on a smaller scale, with the 'special registration' detentions of immigrant men from Muslim countries, and with Guantanamo."

Plans for detention facilities or camps have a long history, going back to fears in the 1970s of a national uprising by black militants. As Alonzo Chardy reported in the Miami Herald on July 5, 1987, an executive order for continuity of government (COG) had been drafted in 1982 by FEMA head Louis Giuffrida. The order called for "suspension of the Constitution" and "declaration of martial law." The martial law portions of the plan were outlined in a memo by Giuffrida's deputy, John Brinkerhoff.

In 1985, President Reagan signed National Security Decision Directive 188, one of a series of directives that authorized continued planning for COG by a private parallel government.

Two books, James Mann's "Rise of the Vulcans" and James Bamford's "A Pretext for War," have revealed that in the 1980s this parallel structure, operating outside normal government channels, included the then-head of G. D. Searle and Co., Donald Rumsfeld, and then-Congressman from Wyoming Dick Cheney.

After 9/11, new martial law plans began to surface similar to those of FEMA in the 1980s. In January 2002 the Pentagon submitted a proposal for deploying troops on American streets. One month later John Brinkerhoff, the author of the 1982 FEMA memo, published an article arguing for the legality of using U.S. troops for purposes of domestic security.

Then in April 2002, Defense Dept. officials implemented a plan for domestic U.S. military operations by creating a new U.S. Northern Command (CINC-NORTHCOM) for the continental United States. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called this "the most sweeping set of changes since the unified command system was set up in 1946."

The NORTHCOM commander, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld announced, is responsible for "homeland defense and also serves as head of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).... He will command U.S. forces that operate within the United States in support of civil authorities. The command will provide civil support not only in response to attacks, but for natural disasters."

John Brinkerhoff later commented on PBS that, "The United States itself is now for the first time since the War of 1812 a theater of war. That means that we should apply, in my view, the same kind of command structure in the United States that we apply in other theaters of war."

Then in response to Hurricane Katrina in Sept. 2005, according to the Washington Post, White House senior adviser Karl Rove told the governor of Louisiana, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, that she should explore legal options to impose martial law "or as close as we can get." The White House tried vigorously, but ultimately failed, to compel Gov. Blanco to yield control of the state National Guard.

Also in September, NORTHCOM conducted its highly classified Granite Shadow exercise in Washington. As William Arkin reported in the Washington Post, "Granite Shadow is yet another new Top Secret and compartmented operation related to the military's extra-legal powers regarding weapons of mass destruction. It allows for emergency military operations in the United States without civilian supervision or control."

It is clear that the Bush administration is thinking seriously about martial law.

Many critics have alleged that FEMA's spectacular failure to respond to Katrina followed from a deliberate White House policy: of paring back FEMA, and instead strengthening the military for responses to disasters.

A multimillion program for detention facilities will greatly increase NORTHCOM's ability to respond to any domestic disorders.


Peter Dale Scott is author of "Drugs, Oil, and War: The United States in Afghanistan, Colombia, and Indochina" (Rowman & Littlefield, 2003). He is completing a book on "The Road to 9/11." Visit his Web site .


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America's Kremlin
Stephen Pizzo February 8, 2006

Yes boys and girls, the US Government has been remodeled, trimmed down, made more efficient. Now there's the Executive branch, which runs the show – the whole show. Then comes the Judiciary branch, which has been turned into a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Executive branch.

The Legislative branch has been reduced to a facade of democracy, a show, a dog and pony show -- often entertaining, but much sound and fury signifying nothing.

If you doubt this you haven't been paying attention.

Did you catch the Attorney General Gonzalez pretend hearings before the pretend Senate Intelligence Committee? Where pretend legislators vowed to get to the bottom of Executive branch spying on Americans, but refused to insist that the witness be put under oath?

And did you listen as the Attorney General of the United State of America responded to pointed questions from the pretend legislators with a curt, “I am not going to answer that.” To which the pretend legislators responded, “Okay,” and moved on to the next pretend question that would also go unanswered.
The first thing we oldsters learned in school about our government was that it was comprised of three, co-equal branches; Executive, Legislative and Judicial.

Thanks to the GOP revolution, and in particular this current administration, future social studies books will have and easier time of explaining how Americans are governed. Because they've trimmed the three branches down to two branches, of which only one has any real power.

Yes boys and girls, the US Government has been remodeled, trimmed down, made more efficient. Now there's the Executive branch, which runs the show – the whole show. Then comes the Judiciary branch, which has been turned into a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Executive branch.

The Legislative branch has been reduced to a facade of democracy, a show, a dog and pony show -- often entertaining, but much sound and fury signifying nothing.

If you doubt this you haven't been paying attention.

Did you catch the Attorney General Gonzalez pretend hearings before the pretend Senate Intelligence Committee? Where pretend legislators vowed to get to the bottom of Executive branch spying on Americans, but refused to insist that the witness be put under oath?

And did you listen as the Attorney General of the United State of America responded to pointed questions from the pretend legislators with a curt, “I am not going to answer that.” To which the pretend legislators responded, “Okay,” and moved on to the next pretend question that would also go unanswered.

Or how about VP Dick's interview with Jim Lehrer? Jim asked the VP Dick if the Executive branch would be willing to entertain legislative changes to domestic spying laws, changes that could make what they are already doing legal. VP Dick, (summoning up the sneer he considers a smile, responded,) “We feel we already have all the authority we need.”

And indeed, they do. How so? Because they say they so. You got a problem with that?

And if you do have a problem with that, don't take it to court, at least not a federal court. Over the past five years the Executive Branch -- with the enthusiastic obediance of the Legislative branch -- has packed the federal judiciary with judges who share the view that the Executive branch should decide which rules should apply to them and which rules were simply too inconvient to be worthy of compliance.

It's hardly an accident that in five year Chief Executive George W. Bush has not vetoed a single piece of legislation. He didn't have to. The GOP-controlled House and Senate have become his Politburo. Remember those old black and white videos we used to see during
the 1960s of sycophantic members of the Soviet Politburo mechancially raising their red voting cards in to pass Kremlin crafted laws? We don't have the same red cards, but we sure as hell have the same stuffed-shirt, pampered breed of lapdog legislators.

Here's a pop quiz: When was the last time either the House or Senate held real investigations into executive branch misbehavior? The kind of hearings where everyone is put under oath? Forget about it.

And, in the best tradition of Kremlin hardball, we learned yesterday that Karl Rove has warned GOP legislators of certain doom should any of them speak harshly of, or support real hearings into executive branch spying on Americans.

"According to Insight, which is published by the Washington Times, Karl Rove & Co are pressuring GOPers to make sure they vote the White House's way on this issue that most assuredly is far more than partisan football:

The White House has been twisting arms to ensure that no Republican member votes against President Bush in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s investigation of the administration's unauthorized wiretapping.

Congressional sources said Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove has threatened to blacklist any Republican who votes against the president. The sources said the blacklist would mean a halt in any White House political or financial support of senators running for re-election in November. (More)

The silence you hear on this subject is the sound of pretend GOP legislators coming to heel.

Oh sure there are Democrats in the legislative branch too, though you'd hardly know it. If the French resistance had been made up of American Democrats the French would eating bratwurst cordon bleu today. Democrats are our pretend loyal opposition party. When we point to the mess being made by this administration Democrats respond that they are “the minority party.” Okay, then at least be the mouse that roars rather than the rat that scurries.

Nope. Get used to it. The American government is now comprised of two branches, not three. And of those two branches, one makes the rules and the other sanctifies them.

The good news is that none of this is yet set in cement. There's a chance next November to revived our currently moribund legislative branch. But time is in short supply. A worthy opponents, Democrat or Republican, are in even shorter supply.


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Guantánamo: A life sentence of suffering and stigmatization
Amnesty International 6 Feb 06

In a new report published today, Amnesty International revealed how the US detention centre at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba is condemning thousands across the world to a life of suffering, torment and stigmatization.

The report “Guantánamo: Lives torn apart – The impact of indefinite detention on detainees and their families”, contains testimonies of a number of former detainees and their relatives and assesses the current state of those who continue to be imprisoned at Guantánamo, including developments in relation to the ongoing hunger strike and suicide attempts.

Five-hundred men from around 35 nationalities are detained in Guantánamo. Dozens are currently on hunger strike and there have been numerous suicide attempts. None of them have had the lawfulness of their detention reviewed in a court of law. Nine continue to be held despite no longer being defined by the US government as “enemy combatants”
“For the detainees and their family members, Guantánamo remains a harsh reality. Despite widespread international condemnation, the US authorities continue in their attempts to strip all detainees of their right to challenge their detention in US courts,” said Susan Lee, Amnesty International Americas Programme Director.

“The demands of the Guantánamo hunger strikers are not controversial, they are asking for their rights under international law to be respected, they are asking to be released if they are not to be charged with internationally recognized criminal offences and they are asking that organizations such as Amnesty International be granted access to them,” said Susan Lee.

According to testimonies collected by Amnesty International, some families, who know that their relatives are or have been detained by the, USA have received little or no communication from Guantánamo. Some do not know the whereabouts of their loved ones, or even if they are alive.

Amnesty International’s report also reveals that the torment and stigma doesn't end in Guantánamo. For some, transfer from Guantánamo has meant nothing more than a move from one place of indefinite, unlawful detention to another. For others it has meant continual harassment, arbitrary arrest and ill-treatment. Even for those who have been returned to their home country to be reunited with their families and friends, the physical and psychological reminders of their time in Guantánamo will remain, and the stigma of having been labelled an ‘enemy combatant’, and ‘the worst of the worst’ by President George W. Bush will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Nina Odizheva, the mother of former Russian Guantánamo detainee Ruslan Odizhev has described how the time spent in US detention had irrevocably affected her son: “It changed him…he is completely ill…he lives on pills for all his major organs…he tries not to show it or tell me details so I don’t get upset...he has no appetite…he is a different person now…”

“The US administration cannot simply ignore the consequences of its actions on those detainees who have been returned home only to face more abuse, illegal detention and the stigma of having been labelled as ‘the worst of the worst’ by US government officials.”

Amnesty International is calling on the US authorities to:

* Publish a list of all those detained by the US in Guantánamo and elsewhere;
* Try or release all Guantánamo detainees;
* Close Guantánamo and open up all US detention facilities to independent scrutiny;
* Investigate all allegations of torture and ill-treatment of detainees in US custody.


For a full copy of “Guantánamo: Lives torn apart – The impact of indefinite detention on detainees and their families

Cruel. Inhuman. Degrades us all. Stop torture and ill-treatment in the "war on terror". For more information on AI's campaign


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US straps down Guantanamo hunger strikers: report
Reuters 9 Feb 06

NEW YORK - U.S. military officials at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, strapped hunger-striking prisoners into restraint chairs for hours to feed them through tubes and isolated them in cold cells, The New York Times said on Thursday.

A Pentagon official said there was no one immediately available to comment on the report.

The Times, citing unnamed military officials, said tougher measures came in recent weeks after authorities concluded some of the prisoners were determined to kill themselves.
The apparent result has been a sharp drop in the number of inmates refusing to eat. Only four hunger strikers remain, down from 84 at the end of December, the chief military spokesman at Guantanamo, Lt. Col. Jeremy M. Martin, told the newspaper on Wednesday.

But lawyers called the treatment abusive.

"It is clear that the government has ended the hunger strike through the use of force and through the most brutal and inhumane types of treatment," Thomas B. Wilner, a lawyer at Shearman & Sterling in Washington, told the newspaper.

"It is a disgrace," said Wilner, who last week visited the six Kuwaiti detainees he represents.

Guards began strapping the detainees into chairs for hours to feed them through tubes and prevent them vomiting afterwards, the Times said, citing unidentified military officials.

Martin said force-feeding was carried out "in a humane and compassionate manner" and only when necessary to keep the prisoners alive. He gave no details.

Hunger strikers have also been put in isolation for extended periods, in highly air-conditioned cells and deprived of such comforts as blankets and books, according to lawyers who visited clients in recent weeks, the newspaper said.

Prisoners began a round of hunger strikes in August to protest their indefinite detention at Guantanamo, which was set up in 2002 to hold foreign terrorism suspects and houses about 500 inmates. Only 10 of them have been charged with a crime.

The number of inmates refusing to eat peaked on September 11, the fourth anniversary of the al Qaeda attacks on America, when 131 prisoners -- more than a quarter of the total -- took part.

A Navy doctor in January told Reuters prisoners were not strapped down during feedings. Martin told the Times in a statement that "a restraint system to aid detainee feeding" was used but he would not answer questions about restraint chairs.


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'Free the forgotten prisoners'
News24 6 Feb 06

London - Amnesty International called on Monday for the release of nine British residents it says are held prisoner by United States authorities in Guantanamo Bay.

Nine British citizens were freed from the Cuban camp for terrorist suspects after pressure from the British government, but Amnesty said another nine people with ties to Britain were still being held. Five have been officially identified as Omar Deghayes, Bisher al-Rawi, Jamil al-Banna, Jamal Abdullah and Shaker Aamer.

Kate Allen, director of Amnesty's British wing, said the government's reluctance to act on behalf of British residents was "shameful".

"These men have become forgotten prisoners," she said.
The prison on the US Navy base in Cuba opened in January 2002 and now holds about 500 prisoners from some 40 countries, many captured during the US-led war in Afghanistan after the September 11 2001 attacks. Many have been held for several years without charge or trial.

Amnesty highlighted the case of Libyan-born Deghayes, 35, who was granted refugee status in Britain with his family in the 1980s. The group said he had been held at Guantanamo for more than three years, and has alleged abuse by his captors. Last year he was identified as one of dozens of inmates holding a hunger strike to protest their detention.

Disappointed

"I'm not looking for any special treatment for my brother. I just want his basic human rights to be respected," said his sister, Amani Deghayes.

"What disappoints me most is the unwillingness of the UK government to lift a finger for my brother."

The British government has said it cannot represent people who are not British citizens.

Amnesty, which was releasing a report on Monday on the effects of detention on prisoners' families, renewed calls for the prison camp to be closed.

"After four years Guantanamo has become a byword for abuse and an indictment of the US government's failure to uphold human rights in the war on terror," Allen said.

"The US authorities should immediately close down Guantanamo and either release prisoners or bring them before proper courts on the US mainland."


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Who Is at Guantanamo Bay?
By Corine Hegland National Journal 3 Feb 06

As a result of the habeas corpus petitions filed by attorneys representing Guantanamo detainees, the Defense Department has had to file court documents on 132 of the enemy combatants, or just under a quarter of the prison's population. National Journal undertook a detailed review of the unclassified files to develop profiles of the 132 men. NJ separately reviewed transcripts for 314 prisoners who pleaded their cases before Combatant Status Review Tribunals at Guantanamo. Taken together, the information provides a picture of who, exactly, has been taken prisoner in the war on terror and is being held in an anomalous U.S. military prison on an island belonging to one of America's bitterest enemies.
Shortly after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, President Bush issued a military order that authorized the Defense Department to detain noncitizens suspected of having ties with Al Qaeda or other terrorists. As a result, hundreds of so-called "enemy combatants" were rounded up and taken to prisons in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Since early 2002, lawyers working on a volunteer basis have filed papers with U.S. courts asking the government to explain why it is holding individual prisoners. These habeas corpus petitions have forced disclosures by the Defense Department that shed light on some of the details surrounding the estimated 500 prisoners currently in U.S. captivity.

The Defense Department declined a request to release comparable statistics for all of the detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.

The first thing that jumps out of the statistics is that a majority of the detainees in both groups are not Afghans -- nor were they picked up in Afghanistan as U.S. troops fought the Taliban and Al Qaeda, nor were they picked up by American troops at all. Most are from Arab countries, and most were arrested in Pakistan by Pakistani authorities.

Seventy-five of the 132 men, or more than half the group, are -- like Farouq Ali Ahmed, the subject of National Journal's accompanying story -- not accused of taking part in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners. (The 75 include 10 detainees whom the U.S. government "no longer" considers enemy combatants, although at least eight of the 10 are still being held at Guantanamo.) Typically, documents describe these men as "associated" with the Taliban or with Al Qaeda -- sometimes directly so, and sometimes through only weak or distant connections. Several men worked for charities that had some ties to Al Qaeda; Farouq lived in a house associated with the Taliban.

Some of the "associated" men are said to have attended jihadist training camps before September 11, an accusation admitted by some and denied by others. The U.S. government says that some of the suspected jihadists trained in Afghanistan, even though other records show that they had not yet entered the country at the time of the training camps. Just 57 of the 132 men, or 43 percent, are accused of being on a battlefield in post-9/11 Afghanistan.

The government's documents tie only eight of the 132 men directly to plans for terrorist attacks outside of Afghanistan.

One of the eight, an Australian fundamentalist Muslim, admitted that he trained several of the 9/11 hijackers and intended to hijack a plane himself; another of the eight, a Briton, is said to have targeted 33 Jewish organizations in New York City. Both men were released to their home governments in January 2005. Neither one is facing charges at home.

The Australian says he falsely confessed while undergoing torture in Egypt; the Australian government, which was watching him well before 9/11, has revoked his passport but has said it lacks sufficient information to press terrorism charges against him. The British man was cleared after a few hours of questioning in London.

The remaining six of the eight were arrested in Sarajevo, Bosnia, after being accused of planning to attack the American Embassy there; the charge was investigated and dismissed by a judge. The country's human-rights chamber issued an order prohibiting the men from being taken out of the country. The Americans seized them anyway.

The Defense Department accusations fall into only two categories -- those who participated in hostilities and those who did not. But the boundaries between the two categories can be fuzzy. In the nonhostile category, for example, is a suspected Qaeda financier picked up in Pakistan. In the hostile group, on the other hand, are a few men whose most direct link to hostilities appears to be getting wounded by one of the thousands of American bombs dropped on Afghanistan.

One hundred and fifteen of the files also note where the detainees were captured. Only 35 percent of the 115 were arrested in Afghanistan; 55 percent were captured by Pakistani forces in Pakistan.

At least 39 of the arrests made in Pakistan came in the border region, where Qaeda fighters, along with civilian Afghan refugees and nonfighting Arabs, were stampeding out of the country in the fall of 2001, desperate to escape the war. Many of the enemy combatants arrested in that region say they fled the sudden chaos of Afghanistan without retrieving their passports and identification papers and that when they asked to be taken to their embassies, they were taken to prison instead. Many of the men who detailed their capture described being taken through one, two, or three Pakistani prisons before they were delivered to the Americans.

Many, though not all, of the remaining 24 arrests made in Pakistan came in targeted raids on senior Qaeda leaders between January and September 2002. The senior suspects captured in these raids immediately disappeared into CIA custody -- they are not at Guantanamo. But their lesser companions, or others arrested in the same town on the same night, were delivered to Cuba.

Also in this group are at least three men who were picked off Pakistani buses in apparently random sweeps for foreigners, and one man who says he answered a knock on the door of the apartment next to his.

The 314 transcripts released to the Associated Press under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit give similar results. The 314 men described there included 97 Afghans who were arrested in Afghanistan. But they also included 211 foreigners, 152 of whom -- or more than 70 percent -- were arrested outside of Afghanistan. And 145 of those men were captured in Pakistan.

Copyright 2006 by National Journal Group Inc


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Guantanamo: Empty Evidence
By Corine Hegland © National Journal Group Inc. Friday, Feb. 3, 2006

"If you think of the people down there, these are people, all of whom were captured on a battlefield. They're terrorists, trainers, bomb makers, recruiters, financiers, [Osama bin Laden's] bodyguards, would-be suicide bombers, probably the 20th 9/11 hijacker." -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, June 27, 2005

The lawyers representing Guantanamo prisoners say the evidence against their clients is weak, indirect, and often based on lies from other detainees. Defense Department documents suggest they are right.
Some of the men Rumsfeld described -- the terrorists, the trainers, the financiers, and the battlefield captures -- are indeed at Guantanamo. But National Journal's detailed review of government files on 132 prisoners who have asked the courts for help, and a thorough reading of heavily censored transcripts from the Combatant Status Review Tribunals conducted in Guantanamo for 314 prisoners, didn't turn up very many of them. Most of the "enemy combatants" held at Guantanamo -- for four years now -- are simply not the worst of the worst of the terrorist world.

Many of them are not accused of hostilities against the United States or its allies. Most, when captured, were innocent of any terrorist activity, were Taliban foot soldiers at worst, and were often far less than that. And some, perhaps many, are guilty only of being foreigners in Afghanistan or Pakistan at the wrong time. And much of the evidence -- even the classified evidence -- gathered by the Defense Department against these men is flimsy, second-, third-, fourth- or 12th-hand. It's based largely on admissions by the detainees themselves or on coerced, or worse, interrogations of their fellow inmates, some of whom have been proved to be liars.

Thomas Wilner, a partner at the Washington law firm Shearman and Stearling who is representing six Kuwaitis at Guantanamo, summarized the evidence against them: "Bullshit hearsay.... The information in some cases is, at best, hearsay allegations [obtained] long after capture."

One thing about these detainees is very clear: Notwithstanding Rumsfeld's description, the majority of them were not caught by American soldiers on the battlefield. They came into American custody from third parties, mostly from Pakistan, some after targeted raids there, most after a dragnet for Arabs after 9/11.

Much of the evidence against the detainees is weak. One prisoner at Guantanamo, for example, has made accusations against more than 60 of his fellow inmates; that's more than 10 percent of Guantanamo's entire prison population. The veracity of this prisoner's accusations is in doubt after a Syrian prisoner, Mohammed al-Tumani, 19, who was arrested in Pakistan, flatly denied to his Combatant Status Review Tribunal that he'd attended the jihadist training camp that the tribunal record said he did.

Tumani's denial was bolstered by his American "personal representative," one of the U.S. military officers -- not lawyers -- who are tasked with helping prisoners navigate the tribunals. Tumani's enterprising representative looked at the classified evidence against the Syrian youth and found that just one man -- the aforementioned accuser -- had placed Tumani at the terrorist training camp. And he had placed Tumani there three months before the teenager had even entered Afghanistan. The curious U.S. officer pulled the classified file of the accuser, saw that he had accused 60 men, and, suddenly skeptical, pulled the files of every detainee the accuser had placed at the one training camp. None of the men had been in Afghanistan at the time the accuser said he saw them at the camp.

The tribunal declared Tumani an enemy combatant anyway.

Guilt by Wristwatch

"It's the Salem witchcraft trials," said Marc Falkoff of Covington and Burling's New York City office, who represents 17 Yemenis, several of them fingered -- falsely, according to Falkoff -- by different accusers. "You get one guy to start making accusations, and whether it's believable or not doesn't matter." Front-line military interrogators might know that the accusations are false, but their superiors reading the files later do not.

The government has given Falkoff access to the complete files for 16 of his clients. Of those men, he says, "you bring them into any court of law right now, and a judge is going to release them. It doesn't matter what the standard of review is going to be -- I'm not even talking about guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."

At least eight prisoners at Guantanamo are there even though they are no longer designated as enemy combatants. One perplexed attorney, whose client does not want public attention, learned that the man was no longer considered an enemy combatant only by reading a footnote in a Justice Department motion asking a federal judge to put a slew of habeas corpus cases on hold. The attorney doesn't know why the man is still in Cuba.

"The people you've been going up against in court have been saying he's the worst of the worst, Osama's right-hand man," said Anant Raut, an attorney with the Washington firm of Weil, Gotshal, & Manges. "Then you go in there, and it's a guy who is as confused as you are as to why he is there." Raut has one client, a Saudi, who is classified as an enemy combatant largely because he spent a couple of weeks on a Taliban bean farm. The man says the Taliban imprisoned him there because they thought he was a Saudi government spy.

National Journal could review only the unclassified parts of detainee files, consisting of memos, a summary of the evidence, and a transcript of the Combatant Status Review Tribunal proceeding. But federal courts ordered the Defense Department to give the volunteer lawyers the classified evidence by which their clients were found to be enemy combatants. The lawyers cannot discuss specifics of that evidence, but they uniformly say that nothing additional is there, just details and sourcing relating to the unclassified evidence.

"There is no smoking gun," said John Chandler, a partner in the Atlanta office of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan. One of his Guantanamo clients, picked up in Pakistan, is designated an enemy combatant in part because he once traveled on a bus with wounded Taliban soldiers in Afghanistan. The prisoner denies it, saying it was only a public bus. But then there's the prisoner's Casio watch. According to the Defense Department files, his watch is similar to another Casio model that has a circuit board that Al Qaeda has used for making bombs. The United States is using the Qaeda-favored Casio wristwatch as evidence against at least nine other detainees. But the offending model is sold in sidewalk stands around the world and is worn by one National Journal reporter. The primary difference between Chandler's client's watch and the Casio in question is that the detainee's model hasn't been manufactured for years, according to the U.S. military officer who was his personal representative at the tribunal.

Guilt by Association

Baher Azmy of Seton Hall Law School represents Murat Kurnaz, a Turk who is at Guantanamo. "The government has no case against him," Azmy says. Kurnaz was plucked off a bus in Pakistan and subsequently accused of being friends with a suicide bomber. The government did not tell Kurnaz's tribunal that his friend is alive and therefore could not be the referenced suicide bomber. In March, Kurnaz's file was accidentally, and briefly, declassified: According to the Washington Post, it consisted of memos from domestic and foreign intelligence sources stating that Kurnaz posed no threat. The file, however, contained one anonymous memo contradicting the rest and claiming he was connected to Al Qaeda. In January 2005, a federal judge singled out Kurnaz's case as evidence of the lack of due process in the Guantanamo tribunals. The judge said that his tribunal had ignored exculpatory evidence and relied instead on the single anonymous memo that was not credible.

Julia Tarver Mason, a partner with Paul, Weiss, a firm based in New York City, represents a number of detainees, including a Saudi -- an amputee -- whom Afghanistan's Northern Alliance turned over to the Americans. The alliance had taken him from a hospital. She says that the classified evidence against the men she represents has "details, but no meat." The evidence might say, for example, that somebody said someone was a member of an aid group, and that aid group has been known to have some links to Al Qaeda, Mason says. "It's all 12 steps removed."

George Brent Mickum, a partner with Washington law firm Keller and Heckman, represents two British residents held at Guantanamo. "I can tell you what's not there," Mickum said of the classified evidence against his clients. "What's not there is any evidence that any of my clients was associated with Al Qaeda in any way." The men were arrested on a business trip to Gambia. According to press reports, British intelligence suspected at the time that the two men intended to establish a terrorist training facility there. But today, the accusation against both men is only that they were associated with Abu Qatada, a radical but popular London cleric who is now in prison in Britain.

Neither man denies the friendship with Qatada: One of the detainees, Bisher al-Rawi, says he served as a liaison between Qatada and British intelligence at the request of the MI-5 domestic intelligence agency. The tribunal for the other man, Jamil el-Banna, met four times before deciding that he was an enemy combatant. Even so, el-Banna's personal representative, who had access to the classified files, objected. The British government was well aware of el-Banna's actions on British soil, the officer wrote, and the record is "insufficient to show [the detainee] should be classified as an enemy combatant for his actions in Gambia."

To Protect the Soldiers

If many of the men held at Guantanamo were not caught in battle, and have not been tied directly to hostilities against the United States, why are they there?

"I think the standards for sending someone to Guantanamo in 2002 and early 2003 were not as high as they should have been," said Mark Jacobson, who was an assistant for detainee policy in Rumsfeld's office from November 2002 through August 2003. When National Journal described some of the men in this story to Jacobson, he said he suspected that there was more information that was not referenced in the classified or the declassified files. But if the files were accurate, he said, "then it's reasonable and likely" that those men were in the batches taken to Guantanamo early on in 2002.

The filtering process for deciding who was sent to Guantanamo wasn't perfect, Jacobson said, nor should it have been. To protect U.S. soldiers still fighting in Afghanistan it was better to err on the side of caution and to send more, rather than fewer, men to Guantanamo. "If it's the other way around, then you're doing it wrong."

But nuance didn't exactly survive the air convoys to Cuba. The men in the orange jumpsuits, President Bush said, were terrorists. They were the most dangerous, best-trained, vicious killers on the face of the earth, Rumsfeld said. They were so vicious, if given the chance they would gnaw through the hydraulic lines of a C-17 while they were being flown to Cuba, said Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But the CIA didn't see it that way. By the fall of 2002, it was common knowledge around CIA circles that fewer than 10 percent of Guantanamo's prisoners were high-value terrorist operatives, according to Michael Scheuer who headed the agency's bin Laden unit through 1999 and resigned in 2004. Most of the men were probably foot soldiers at best, he said, who were "going to know absolutely nothing about terrorism." Guantanamo prisoners might be pumped for information about how they learned to fight, which could help American soldiers facing trained Islamic insurgencies. But the Defense Department and FBI interrogators at Guantanamo were interested more in catastrophic terrorism than in combat practicalities. They kept asking "every one of these guys about 9/11 and when was the next attack," questions most of these low-level prisoners couldn't answer, Scheuer said.

Even as the CIA was deciding that most of the prisoners at Guantanamo didn't have much to say, Pentagon officials were getting frustrated with how little the detainees were saying. So they ramped up the pressure and gave interrogators more license.

The questions to the detainees about 9/11 and Al Qaeda and about each other were so constant, so repetitive, so oppressive that some prisoners, out of exasperation or fatigue or fear, just gave in and said, sure, I'm a terrorist. False confessions and false accusations are rampant, according to the lawyers and the Defense Department records.

One man slammed his hands on the table during an especially long interrogation and yelled, "Fine, you got me; I'm a terrorist." The interrogators knew it was a sarcastic statement. But the government, sometime later, used it as evidence against him: "Detainee admitted he is a terrorist" reads his tribunal evidence. The interrogators were so outraged that they sought out the detainee's personal representative to explain it to him that the statement was not a confession.

A Yemeni, whom somebody fingered as a bin Laden bodyguard, finally said in exasperation during one long interrogation, "OK, I saw bin Laden five times: Three times on Al Jazeera and twice on Yemeni news." And now his "admission" appears in his enemy combatant's file: "Detainee admitted to knowing Osama bin Laden."

By June 2004 conditions were so bad at Guantanamo that the International Committee of the Red Cross, the only civilian group allowed to meet with detainees, sent a furious confidential report to the White House charging that the entire system in Cuba was "devised to break the will of prisoners at Guantanamo," making them "wholly dependent on their interrogators" through "humiliating acts, solitary confinement, temperature extremes, use of forced positions," according to a Defense report leaked to the New York Times. The report called the operations "tantamount to torture."

Pentagon officials, meanwhile, were citing the "safe, humane, and professional detention operation at Guantanamo that is providing valuable information in the war on terrorism."

Wrong Questions, Wrong People

The one question nobody seemed to ask at Guantanamo was whether they were asking the right questions of the right people in the first place. After all, despite the rhetoric, most of the men at Guantanamo, or at least the 132 with court records and the 314 with redacted transcripts, came into American custody by way of third parties who had their own motivations for turning people in, including paybacks and payoffs.

In Afghanistan, from late 2001 through the early months of 2003, local and tribal informers played on America's naivete by reporting their enemies as Qaeda members, according to a former intelligence operative there. The Americans, upon investigating, would find that a man did have weapons and assume that he was, indeed, Al Qaeda. "They wouldn't know the factions," the operative said, "and they wouldn't think, 'This is Afghanistan. Of course he has weapons.' "

Ignorance of local politics might explain how, for example, an Arabic-speaking Iraqi Shiite ended up at Guantanamo accused of serving as the regional intelligence director for the Pashto-speaking Sunni Taliban.

Some of the men at Guantanamo came from targeted, U.S.-guided raids in Pakistani cities, and the cases against those men tend to be fairly strong. But the largest single group at Guantanamo Bay today consists of men caught in indiscriminate sweeps for Arabs in Pakistan. Once arrested, these men passed through several captors before being given to the U.S. military. Some of the men say they were arrested after asking for help getting to their embassies; a few say the Pakistanis asked them for bribes to avoid being turned over to America.

Others assert that they were sold for bounties, a charge substantiated in 2004 when Sami Yousafzai, a Newsweek reporter then stringing for ABC's "20/20," visited the Pakistani village where five Kuwaiti detainees were captured. The locals remembered the men. They had arrived with a larger group of a hundred refugees a few weeks after Qaeda fighters had passed through. The villagers said they had offered the group shelter and food, but somebody in the village sold out the guests. Pretty soon, bright lights came swooping down from the skies. "Helicopters ... were announcing through loud speakers: 'Where is Arab? Where is Arab?' And, 'Please, you get $1,000 for one Arab,' " one resident told Yousafzai.

"The one thing we were never clear of was where they came from," Scheuer said of the Guantanamo detainees. "DOD picked them up somewhere." When National Journal told Scheuer that the largest group came from Pakistani custody, he chuckled. "Then they were probably people the Pakistanis thought were dangerous to Pakistan," he said. "We absolutely got the wrong people."

The sweeps in Pakistan did pick up a few Qaeda members, but most of them were low level. People familiar with Pakistani politics agree that in the chaos of the war, simple foot soldiers or innocent bystanders were more likely to wind up in American custody than were senior operatives. "It was helter-skelter, and it was perfectly possible innocents were arrested, while a lot of guilty guys knew how to evade [capture] and had the means to do so," said Husain Haqqani, an adviser to three former Pakistani prime ministers who now teaches international relations at Boston University.

Tribes in the border region and operatives in Pakistan's intelligence service were historically sympathetic to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Almost certainly, they aided senior Qaeda and Taliban members fleeing Afghanistan. At the same time, Islamabad was eager to strengthen its new alliance with Washington. The Americans wanted prisoners, and nobody was looking too closely at who those prisoners were.

Add a healthy dollop of cash spread around by both hunters and prey, and a U.S. military bureaucracy dedicated to protecting Americans against a threat from an unfamiliar corner of the world, and you have an unsettling formula for determining who got caught and who got away. It was "win-win," Haqqani said. "The Americans get their prisoners, Pakistanis get their praise, the guy who captures the prisoners gets his reward, and Al Qaeda gets its escape."


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Many Guantanamo detainees not tied to 'hostile acts'
AFP 9 Feb 06

[O]nly eight percent of the detainees were characterized in the documents as Al-Qaeda fighters, while 60 "are detained merely because they are 'associated with' a group or groups the (US) government asserts are terrorist organizations".
More than half of the US "war on terror" detainees at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba prison camp never committed any "hostile acts" against the United States, two lawyers said in a report.

Based on an analysis of government documents regarding the more than 500 people held at the US naval prison facility, lawyers Mark Denbeaux and Joshua Denbeaux estimated that 55 percent "are not determined to have committed any hostile acts against the United States or its coalition allies".

Moreover, they said that only eight percent of the detainees were characterized in the documents as Al-Qaeda fighters, while 60 "are detained merely because they are 'associated with' a group or groups the (US) government asserts are terrorist organizations".

The lawyers, who represent two Guantanamo detainees, noted that only seven percent of the 500 detainees had been captured by US and coalition forces.

Of the rest, 47 percent were turned over to the United States by Pakistan and Afghan Northern Coalition forces, and the captors of another 44 percent held were unknown.

The study suggests that at least some of these detainees were turned over to US forces by bounty hunters and reward-seekers without verification of the detainee's status.

In the wake of the October, 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, US forces offered "millions of dollars" for the capture of Al-Qaeda and Taliban members.


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War Pimp BLAIR: 'BRITISH TROOPS IN IRAN? WE CAN NEVER SAY NEVER'
By Bob Roberts Deputy Political Editor Mirror 8 Feb 06

TONY Blair yesterday refused to rule out a British military invasion of Iran.

He told MPs the rogue Middle Eastern state was helping to spread the "virus" of Muslim fanaticism across the world.

It was a problem which needed "sorting", the Prime Minister said.
And asked if the British military option was on the table, he admitted: "You can never say never in any of these situations."

The warning is a significant increase in the language the PM has used against the Tehran-based regime which is also accused of developing nuclear weapons. American military experts have already said war-planes are on standby to attack.

Mr Blair said he would prefer to resolve disputes with Iran through "peaceful and diplomatic means".

But he attacked the regime which has threatened to wipe Israel off the map.

He said: "The concern about Iran is growing very, very substantially - and the more the President of Iran carries on using this type of language and saying what he says about the state of Israel, the more people get worried."

The PM warned the Tehran government would be making a "very serious mistake" if it defied international calls to stop making nuclear weapons, adding: "When they try to export terrorism, it's a problem. When they are trying to meddle in Iraq, it's a problem."

TONY BLAIR YESTERDAY

Blair went on: "There is a virus of extremism which comes out of the cocktail of religious fanaticism and political repression in the Middle East which is now being exported to the rest of the world.

"We will only secure our future if we are dealing with every single aspect of that problem. Our future security depends on sorting out the stability of that region."

The warning comes as an Iranian newspaper announced a contest for cartoons satirising the Holocaust in response to the caricatures of the prophet Mohammed which appeared in Denmark.

Iran said it was cutting trade ties with the Danes - but the EU warned that attempts to boycott Danish goods or stop trading with European countries would lead to further deterioration in relations.

During his session in front of senior MPs on the Commons Liaison Committee, Mr Blair also pledged a police crackdown on Islamic fanatics who brandished hate-filled placards in the UK last week.

DEFENCE Secretary John Reid last night said there could be "significantly fewer British forces" in Iraq within a year - but only if threats from insurgents are reduced and the country has effective local government systems.


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War Pimping: Iran Greatest Threat, Most Americans Think
KWTX TV 9 Feb 06

A new poll finds Americans now think Iran is the biggest threat to the U.S.

As recently as October, Iraq, China, and North Korea ranked as the most threatening.

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, which did the poll, says among people who've been following recent news about Iran, there's even greater concern.
President Bush has been warning about Tehran's nuclear program, which also worries many other countries.

The UN Security Council is taking it up, which prompted Tehran to order UN surveillance gear and seals be removed.

The poll found two-thirds or more of Americans think if Iran develops nuclear weapons, it's likely to attack Israel, Europe, or the U.S.

There's even greater concern Iran would pass nuclear weapons to terrorists.

“The public is clearer in its view of the potential threat posed by Iran than in what to do about it,” the Pew Center said.

“More Americans worry that we will wait too long than act too quickly in dealing with Iran's nuclear problem. However, far more Americans say the United Nations or the European Union rather than the U.S. should take the lead in dealing with the crisis.”


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War Pimps: Iran's missile tech suppliers named
By Louis Charbonneau Reuters 8 Feb 06

BERLIN - Two German businessmen, a former Russian military officer and North Korea are among those helping
Iran develop missiles that the West fears could one day carry nuclear warheads, diplomats and intelligence officials say.

Last month German federal prosecutors formally charged two German citizens with espionage for helping a foreign intelligence agency acquire dual-use "delivery system" technology. The prosecutors announced the charge of espionage last week but did not name the country involved.
The two German men have been accused of "having sold a vibration testing facility in 2001 and 2002 on behalf of a foreign military intelligence procurement entity," the prosecutor's office said in a statement posted on its Web site.

A German official familiar with the case, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the investigation, said the country involved was Iran.

"These missile technology dealers ... appear to have been acting alone and were not part of any organized gang," he said.

The state prosecutor's office in Karlsruhe, Germany did not name the men or the German company they worked for.

The involvement of German citizens in what U.S. and European officials believe is Iran's covert nuclear weapons program will be embarrassing for Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has vowed to prevent Tehran from getting nuclear weapons.

"You really can't separate Iran's nuclear activities from its missile program. The missiles are the delivery system," an EU diplomat familiar with the case said.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for
Israel to be "wiped off the map" and publicly doubted that six million Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War Two.

Recent U.S. intelligence recovered from a stolen laptop computer suggests that Iranian missile experts are trying to develop a missile re-entry vehicle capable of carrying a relatively small nuclear warhead, EU and U.S. officials say.

Last week the governing board of the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear watchdog, voted to report Iran to the
U.N. Security Council, which has the power to impose sanctions, due to fears it is developing atomic weapons.

Iran says it does not want weapons, only nuclear energy.

NORTH KOREAN MISSILES

With the exception of Russia, China and North Korea, few countries sell Iran weapons or dual-use technology that could be used to make atomic, chemical or biological weapons.

To the annoyance of the United States and
European Union, Russia has made it clear that it is willing to sell small-scale defensive missiles to Iran. Late last year, Moscow agreed to sell Iran tactical surface-to-air missiles that could be used to shoot down low-flying aircraft or guided missiles.

However, even Russia says it will not sell medium- and long-range missile technology to the Islamic republic.

But a European and a non-European intelligence official told Reuters that Russian middlemen were helping Iran get missile technology from North Korea that could bring central Europe within the range of Iranian missiles.

An EU diplomat, citing his country's intelligence, said Iran had purchased 18 disassembled BM-25 mobile missiles with a range of around 2,500 km from North Korea. He was confirming a German newspaper report from December that cited Germany's BND foreign intelligence service.

One of the intelligence officials said a former Russian military officer with the first name Viktor had helped Iran get Soviet-made SSN6 missile technology from Russia and North Korea, which Iran could use to improve the accuracy of its newly-bought BM-25s and increase their range to as much as 3,500 km.

"The Russian authorities either don't know about him or don't care," the official said, adding that there was no evidence that Moscow approved of Viktor's activities.

Iranian and Russian officials declined to comment.

Iran's Shahab-3 missiles have a range of some 2,000 km. With a range of 3,500 km, the missiles could reach central Europe.

In December, the United States imposed sanctions on six Chinese, two Indian and one Austrian firm for selling missile or chemical weapons-related supplies to Iran.


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War Pimp Diplomats: Suspected drawings of nuclear test site found in Iran
mediacorp/AFP 9 Feb 06

VIENNA : Iran has design drawings for building a 400-metre (more than 1,300 feet) deep shaft that is clearly for underground, possibly nuclear, weapons testing, diplomats told AFP.

But the diplomats said there were no indications that Iran, which experts believe is years away from being able to build an atomic bomb, has constructed or plans to build such a site.

The document was part of US intelligence which has been made available to the UN nuclear watchdog and which has been presented to Iran, said a diplomat, who asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the issue.
Officials from the Vienna-based watchdog International Atomic Energy Agency refused to comment but an IAEA report on January 31 said the UN watchdog had presented Iran with "information that had been made available to the agency" and which concerned work related to high explosives.

Iran has dismissed this information as "related to baseless allegations," according to the report which did not provide details about the high explosives data.

The report said the IAEA was also looking into "alleged undeclared studies" to build a secret plant for converting uranium, a step in making nuclear reactor fuel that can also be bomb material, and "the design of a missile re-entry vehicle, all of which could have a military nuclear dimension."

A Western diplomat said the design for the underground shaft, with sensors in it to be connected "to a control center 10 kilometres (six miles) away" was "clearly designed for some underground testing," and that this could be nuclear although the design did not indicate that this was for atomic weapons testing.

The diplomat said the IAEA had asked the United States for permission to show the classified document to the Iranians.

The information was part of extensive Farsi-language computer files and reports which the United States has obtained and feels is the best sign yet that Iran seeks to make nuclear weapons.

The IAEA was first briefed on this last July.

US officials are confident the data is genuine, diplomats said, even though some analysts have criticized it as unreliable since it is believed to come from only one source.

The data concerns a program called Project 111 under which the Iranians have also studied how to design a ballistic missile to handle a load that is not named as a possible nuclear warhead. The word "nuclear" is not mentioned in any of the Project 111 documents.

But the "package" could only be for this purpose due to the height at which the missile is set to explode on re-entry, diplomats said.

"The shaft design was part of Project 111," the Western diplomat said.

The IAEA has been investigating Iran for three years after US allegations that it is carrying out secret atomic weapons development under the guise of a nuclear program which Tehran says is a peaceful effort to generate electricity.

The IAEA's 35-nation board of governors voted last week to report Iran to the UN Security Council over unresolved issues in a move that opens the door to punitive action.

The IAEA report of January 31 also said that Iran had handed over a document on how to make uranium hemispheres whose only use would be in making nuclear weapons.

Iran claims not to have used the information for weapons work as it says it was given the document without asking for it by an international nuclear smuggling network which offered it technology and parts in 1987.

The IAEA has also "shared with Iran" new information it has that Iran may have taken deliveries of sophisticated P-2 centrifuges, machines that enrich uranium, despite Tehran saying it has only received P-2 designs.

The Washington Post newspaper Wednesday reported on the alleged underground shaft designs.


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Disinfo! FBI 'gave prior warning to Britain about 7/7 bomber'
By JAMES KIRKUP The Scotsman 8 Feb 06

FURTHER evidence suggesting that British security forces were alerted in advance to the danger posed by the leader of the London suicide bombers emerged yesterday.

Reports in the United States indicated American law enforcement officers had raised concerns with their British counterparts over Mohammad Sidique Khan, believed to have led the 7 July attacks.
According to the New York Daily News, the FBI told British officials well before the bombings that Khan "was trouble" and should be "checked out".

The information passed on by the FBI is said to have come from a Pakistani-born al-Qaeda supergrass, who is currently in protective custody having pleaded guilty to a range of terrorist charges in the US. The informant cannot be named in Britain because he is alleged to be connected to men about to stand trial in London charged with terrorist offences.

Some critics have suggested the British authorities' prior knowledge of Khan shows that the July attacks, which killed 52 people as well as the four bombers, were the result of an intelligence failure.

Chuck Schumer, a US senator, likened the situation to the events before the 11 September, 2001 attacks on American cities by men who were known to the CIA. "This is the British version of pre-9/11, where a country receives a generalised warning and ignores it with terrible consequences," he said.

British security sources say the reality is that Khan was not "ignored". They say that MI5 has already told ministers that officers did, indeed, monitor Khan in 2004, as he was an associate of one of the men about to stand trial in London. At that time, MI5 officers judged the considerable costs of the surveillance operation were not justified by a man whose criminal activities were believed to be limited to shoplifting.

While the US report largely supports previously-known facts about British intelligence before the July attacks, it could also provide clues about how the investigation into those attacks is proceeding.

If proven, a connection between Khan and the US-based informant would be more evidence of the international dimension of the July plot, and the much-theorised role of the al-Qaeda network. MI5's continuing investigation into the July attacks is now firmly focused on Pakistan.

Last night a senior French intelligence chief claimed the UK failed to take action against radical Islamic cleric Abu Hamza for years, despite evidence that he was involved in terrorism.

Christophe Chaboud, director of France's national anti-terrorism co-ordination unit (UCLAT), said evidence implicating Hamza was passed on from French intelligence. He said Hamza sent dozens of people from Finsbury Park mosque to terror training camps in Afghanistan.

He said: "We thought it would have been necessary to take action, to arrest and prosecute him." A report in today's Guardian newspaper claimed France was so concerned that it ran undercover missions with the mosque as the target.

Copyright The Scotsman
Comment: They would certainly like us all to believe that MI5 was not behind the bombing designed to terrorize the British public into accepting draconian legal maneuvers.

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Disinfo! Saudi Arabia alerted Britain of terror attack prior to London bombings
By Richard Tyler 8 February 2006

According to US intelligence sources, British officials received a credible warning months before the July 2005 London bombings, which killed 52 people.

An article in the February 5 Observer cites senior White House sources confirming that very specific information issued by Saudi intelligence authorities in early 2005 was passed on to Britain. Saudi intelligence reported that there was a bomb plot involving four Islamic militants, some of whom would be British citizens. The bombers could target the London Underground within the next six months.
The claim that the Saudis had passed information to London about a bomb plot was first revealed by the Observer in August 2005. At that time, British security sources categorically denied they had received any warnings that might have prevented the July bombings. According to the paper, British sources said “they did not recognise” the specific information in the Saudi claims.

In its latest article, the paper says that high-ranking counterterrorism agents working for the US National Security Council have now confirmed that such a warning was received by American and British officials in early 2005.

According to the Observer, the Saudi security advisor was “convinced” the intelligence transmitted to London was “directly linked” to the July bombings.

A statement issued in August 2005 by Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi ambassador to the UK, confirmed, “There was certainly close liaison between the Saudi Arabian intelligence authorities and the British intelligence authorities some months ago when information was passed to Britain about a heightened terrorist threat to London.”

The Saudi intelligence is said to be based on information obtained from intercepted mobile phone calls from Kareem al-Majati, named as one of Al Qaeda’s leaders in the region, to Mohammed Siddiqui Kahn, who headed the four-man terrorist cell that detonated the London bombs.

According to the Observer, a Saudi official said, “It was clear to us that there was a terror group planning an attack in the UK. We passed all this information on to both MI5 and MI6 at the time. We are now investigating whether these calls were directly to the London bombers. It is our conclusion that either these were linked, or that a completely different terror network is still at large in Britain.”

The revelations in the Observer cast a sharp light over the seemingly inexplicable decision to lower the terrorist threat level in the UK less than a month before the attacks. The terror threat remained lowered despite Britain hosting the G8 conference of the leaders of the world’s most powerful nations—including President George W. Bush—that necessitated a massive security operation.

In January 2006, the Sunday Times reported it had seen a leaked document from Britain’s Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) claiming the secret services still knew very little about the July 7 bombings and the failed July 21 attack.

“We do not know how, when and with whom the attack planning originated. And we still do not know what degree of external assistance either group had,” the 8-page report states.

Further on, the JTAC document says, “How long the 7/7 attack had been planned remains unknown.”

If Saudi intelligence did indeed pass on information to their British counterparts about a possible Al Qaeda plot to bomb the London Underground, why is there no reference to this in the JTAC report?

Last year, on July 7, the US-based Stratfor intelligence web site reported rumours within intelligence services that Israel’s Mossad had also warned MI5 of a possible terror attack.

Further, some of the bombers were known to the security services. One of them, Mohammed Sidique Khan, was scrutinised by MI5 in 2004 as part of an inquiry into an alleged plot to explode a truck bomb outside a London target.

The explanation that this simply reveals extraordinary intelligence failures becomes more and more unconvincing.

If Britain was informed of a threat, why was this ignored at the time? And why did the security services subsequently deny that the information had been sent by Saudi Arabia?

The Bush administration seized on 9/11 as a pretext for the invasion of Afghanistan and then Iraq, as well as an excuse to implement a raft of antidemocratic legislation. There is a substantial body of information pointing to the fact that those responsible for 9/11 were also known to the CIA and that a decision had been taken within the highest levels of the security services and the government to allow a terrorist atrocity to be committed to facilitate this agenda.

The London bombings were also seized upon by the Blair government in order to abrogate longstanding democratic rights and strengthen the powers of the police and secret services—including implementing a “shoot-to-kill” policy for alleged terror suspects that resulted in the police murder of the young Brazilian worker Jean Charles de Menezes.

It appears that on the issue of having prior knowledge of and possibly even collusion with the perpetration of a terrorist crime, London may once again have followed Washington’s lead.
Comment: Right away we notice the "source" of the intell... Need we say more?

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US blames Syria, Iran as prophet cartoons row rages on
AFP 9 Feb 06

The United States hardened its stance in the international uproar over the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, while four more deaths were reported in related violence.

Washington accused Syria and Iran of using the row to incite anti-West sentiment and violence for their own purposes.
Appeals for calm went largely 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.

A top Taliban commander offered a reward of 100 kilograms of gold to anyone who killed the person responsible for the "blasphemous" cartoons, the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported.

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 seen as likely to deepen Muslim anger against what is perceived as an act of blasphemy.

As Washington grappled with anger among Muslims President George W. Bush condemned the violence but admonished the media to be more "thoughtful" of others.

However, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sharpened the political dimension of the controversy by charging Iran and Syria, two frequent targets of the Bush administration, with stoking sectarian feelings.

Emerging from talks with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Rice said some Muslim countries were behaving responsibly but "there are governments that have also used this opportunity to incite violence."

"I don't have any doubt that ... Iran and Syria have gone out of their way to inflame sentiments and to use this to their own purposes. And the world ought to call them on it," she said.

Rice went further than previous US statements which accused Tehran and Damascus of not doing enough to rein in the violent protests over the satirical images of Mohammed first published in a Danish paper.

Observers say the United States has a difficult task in balancing a respect for press freedom with the needs of public diplomacy to reach out to the Muslim world enraged by caricatures of Islam's holiest figure.

US officials privately express frustration with the situation.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin in an interview with Spanish newspapers 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 Schuessel, 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 the Nazi campaign to exterminate Jews.

The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, which first published the offending cartoons last September, said it would not, after all, publish the Iranian counter-cartoons. It arts editor had previouly suggested it would.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana will work to ease tensions during a trip to the Middle East next week, he said, warning that the dispute could seriously strain relations between the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds.

Three United Nations human rights experts, Doudou Diene, UN monitor on racism; Asma Jahangir, expert on freedom of religion; and Ambeyi Ligabo, the world body's watchdog on freedom of expression, slammed the publication of the caricatures, but said violence was the wrong way to protest.

A group of moderate Muslims in Denmark said Wednesday it plans to launch a campaign promoting the Scandinavian country in the Arab world in an attempt to soothe tensions.

The initiative came as the Danish government said it would exclude radical imams from its talks with Denmark's Muslim community on its integration into society.


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The corporate plunder of Iraq
Dave Whyte socialistworker.co.uk

The neo-liberal transformation of Iraq is portrayed as a humanitarian venture. Western corporations and occupying governments now talk of the liberation of Iraq from the “tyranny of Saddam’s planned economy”.

On the day that major hostilities were declared over, Tony Blair told the Iraqi people, “Saddam Hussein and his regime plundered your nation’s wealth. While many of you live in poverty, they have the lives of luxury. The money from Iraqi oil will be yours – to be used to build prosperity for you and your families.”

This has turned out to be another shameless lie. Saddam’s regime was undoubtedly corrupt, in the sense that he established a system of patronage and rewards for the elite that remained closest to him. But the scale and intensity of the corruption and fraud perpetrated by the occupation is unprecedented in modern history.
The largest part of the money spent by the US-British occupation was not US or international donor funds, but oil revenue that belongs to the Iraqi people. During the period of direct rule the US spent, or committed to spend, around £11.3 billion, most of which was disbursed to US corporations.

Of this expenditure, £5 billion is unaccounted for. From the available evidence we know that much of it has vanished into the hands of corporations, corrupt public officials and elite Iraqi deal fixers.

During 14 months of its existence the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) – the body set up to rule Iraq and headed up by Bush favourite Paul Bremer – issued 100 legal orders by decree.

Those orders, implemented without the consent of Iraqi people, represent a pure form of neo-liberal orthodoxy that has had profound and irreversible consequences for the Iraqi economy.

The explicit aim was to promote fast entry into Iraq’s oil rich economy. CPA Order 12, implemented a month after George Bush declared major hostilities over, suspended customs and duty charges on goods entering the country.

Within a few days of the order being passed, mass produced chicken legs were dumped on the Iraqi economy by US companies, forcing the market price of chicken down to 71p a kilogram, below the cheapest price that Iraqi producers could sustain.

Those chicken legs were surplus to the US market because the average American prefers breast meat. Before the invasion, those chicken legs would have most likely been sold as pet food.

Order 39 permitted full foreign ownership of a wide range of state owned assets.

The intention is that over 200 state owned enterprises – including electricity, telecommunications and the pharmaceuticals industry – will be sold off, permitting 100 percent foreign ownership of banks, mines and factories. The decree allowed these firms to move their profits out of the country.

Order 81 created a patent regime to ensure that agriculture would depend on foreign agri-biotech firms. It outlawed the sharing of seeds, forcing farmers to use the protected varieties sold to them by transnational corporations.

There can be no doubt that the occupation has presided over a progressive weakening of Iraq’s industrial and commercial base.

The biggest scandal involves reconstruction contracts.

In one period between 2003 and 2004, more than 80 percent of prime contracts were given to US firms, with the remainder split between British, Australian, Italian, Israeli, Jordanian and Iraqi firms. One source estimates the total received by Iraqi firms during the CPA’s rule at around 2 percent.

The CPA managed to concentrate funds in the hands of US firms by issuing non-competitive bids. From records of expenditure we can estimate that around 66 percent of contracts between April 2003 and April 2004 were issued non-competitively to hand-picked favourite companies.

Smash and grab

The restructuring of the Iraqi economy is best characterised as a “smash and grab” operation.

The “smash” involved the imposition of a set of administrative instruments which established US and other western contractors as the prime agents of reconstruction thus marginalising and undermining Iraqi capital.

The appropriation (the “grab”) of Iraq’s oil wealth ensured that the rapid entry of foreign capital was underwritten by Iraqi revenue. It has been executed with a guarantee of immunity.

On the same day that the CPA came into being, Bush signed Executive Order 13303 which exempted the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) – the agency set up to distribute reconstruction contracts – from all legal proceedings and judicial oversight. The order effectively granted the CPA immunity from prosecution and judicial interference.

The CPA kept no list of companies it issued contracts to, and it had no system for metering the oil that it exported and sold. Officials were authorised to disperse revenue with little or no adequate system of monitoring or accounting.

Very deliberately the US delayed the establishment of auditing bodies and then refused to cooperate with their inquiries. A full 11 months after the CPA took control of the Iraqi economy, they appointed Stuart Bowden, a close associate of Bush, to audit the authority. Bowden served Bush in the Texas ­governor’s office in the early 1990s and latterly as a White House official.

Despite the fact that the dice was loaded in favour of the CPA, the US and UN audit reports that eventually appeared still read like a textbook of corporate accounting fraud.

Iraqi oil revenue was flown in to the CPA in $100 dollar bills, shrink wrapped in $100,000 (£57,000) bundles of “cash bricks”. One CPA official has described how cash was distributed to contractors from the back of a lorry.

The use of cash payments enabled the CPA to distribute the reconstruction funds without leaving a paper trail.

One review found that a payment made by the CPA to the Kurdish regional government for £794 million was entered under the budget heading “transfer payments”.

The Kurdish authorities insisted that the money was not spent but could not provide any evidence to support this. It was widely reported that this payment was delivered by Blackhawk helicopters to a courier in the Kurdish city of Erbil who subsequently disappeared.

Apparently no one even bothered to record the courier’s name.

One audit found 37 contracts totalling more than £105 million for which no contracting files could be located. It noted a case where an unauthorised advance of almost £1.7 million was paid out by a CPA senior advisor, and a case in which the CPA appointed head of the ministry of health could not account for £346,000 worth of spending under his direct control.

A total of £5 billion of Development Fund for Iraq funds cannot be properly accounted for.

Iraqi business people report that they had to pay “middle men” substantial bribes even to be allowed to bid for contracts.

The routine kickbacks and bribes demanded by the CPA officials fuelled a culture of corporate corruption.

The lack of basic record keeping and monitoring, and the culture of cash handouts that emerged inside the CPA, created fertile conditions for corporate crime to flourish.

Bags of cash

In one of the most reported cases, the private military firm Custer Battles collected £8.5 million to provide security for Iraq’s civilian airline.

Custer Battles was one of hundreds of firms that were set up specifically to get a slice of the war spoils. This company was established by Mike Battle and Scott Custer, reputedly a descendant of general George Custer of Little Big Horn fame.

One CPA official giving evidence to a US senate committee, told Custer Battles to “bring a bag” to pick up their cash.

He produced a picture of two company officials smiling to the camera as they loaded up duffel bags with over £1.1 million of Iraqi oil money.

Custer Battles never did the job they were contracted for, but ran off with the cash, using it instead to set up barrack accommodation for cheap imported labourers that they hired out to other Western firms.

Over-charging was routine in reconstruction contracts.

An audit of Kellogg, Brown and Root’s (KRB) contract to restore Iraqi oil fields found £61 million in “unresolved costs” (spending that had not been properly accounted for).

In one incident KBR charged the US army more than £15.3 million for transporting £46,500 worth of fuel from Kuwait.

This was merely one in a long line of audits that uncovered millions of dollars worth of discrepancies.

The firm implicated in the Abu Ghraib tortures, CACI International, was accused by the US General Accounting Office of billing for inflated employee hours and falsely upgrading job descriptions to inflate the wage bill.

Ghost armies of employees are everywhere in Iraq and payrolls are inflated as a matter of routine.

Institutionalised corruption in occupied Iraq has been, purely and simply, a technique of neo-liberal domination. The economic occupation has used fraud and corruption to underwrite the economic occupation in precisely the same way that torture and assassination have been used to perpetuate the military occupation.

The invasion of Iraq was a brutal act of criminal violence on the part of Bush and Blair.

This war crime has been sustained by the systematic economic criminality of the occupying governments and their corporations.

Gatekeepers of Baghdad

The largest part of the billions of dollars in reconstruction funds were disbursed to the US prime contractors.

The prime contractors include Kellogg, Brown and Root (a subsidiary of Hallibuton), Parsons Delaware, Fluor Corporation, Washington Group, Bechtel Group, Contrack International, Louis Berger and Perini.

The prime contractors act as “gatekeepers”, controlling entry into the Iraqi market.

Almost all of the foreign delegates at the Rebuild Iraq 2005 conference held in Jordan were doing business with US prime contractors rather than with Iraqi firms.

According to the British delegations, not one deal was tied up with an Iraqi business over the four days.

When William Lash, the US undersecretary of state for commerce, finished his presentation to the 2005 conference, he was confronted by Assad al-Khudhairi, the head of the Iraqi Contractors Federation.

Al-Khudhairi castigated the occupation for the damage done to the economy and complained that “product dumping” had forced 25,000 local businesses to the wall.

£4.5bn – The value of contracts awarded to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root in Iraq for 2003

£1.4bn – Moeller-Maersk profits for 2004. The Danish company was awarded the contract to run Iraq’s major oil terminal. It sacked the local workers and replaced them with foreign labour

£386m – The value of contracts awarded to the Bechtel Group. The contracts will eventually be worth around £56.7 billion, to be paid from Iraqi oil revenues

Dave Whyte is a lecturer in criminology at the University of Stirling. Read Cash from Chaos, Dave Whyte’s reports on corporate crime in Iraq.


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Congressman Hinchey says Bush didn’t want to capture Bin Laden
Hudson Valley News 6 Feb 06

When the US didn’t capture Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan, it wasn’t by mistake, Congressman Maurice Hinchey of Hurley theorized.

Instead, Hinchey said the Administration had a motive for not capturing him. “Why did we do that? The only logical answer that comes to mind is they didn’t want to capture Bin Laden because if they captured Bin Laden and wiped out the Taliban, which they could have done at that moment, there would have been no justification for going to war in Iraq, and they wanted to use that as a justification for attacking Iraq,” he said.

Hinchey is a critic of the war in Iraq and the Bush administration, who he says lied about the reasons for going into Iraq.



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White House Can't Sweep Aside Abramoff
By JEANNE CUMMINGS THE WALL STREET JOURNAL February 8, 2006

WASHINGTON -- The scandal surrounding disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff has shaken up Capitol Hill. But it still poses significant problems for the Bush White House.

A court hearing scheduled later this month may bring fresh attention to the case of former White House aide David Safavian, who is charged with lying in connection with a golf trip Mr. Abramoff arranged. Justice Department officials haven't closed their review of actions by former Interior Department official J. Steven Griles, who disputes claims that he favored Abramoff clients, such as Native American tribes involved in casinos. Calls for the White House to release photos of Mr. Abramoff with the president -- and details of his contacts with presidential aides including Karl Rove -- haven't abated.
"Their refusal to release information is inexcusable," says Tom Fitton, president of conservative legal organization Judicial Watch. As a result, the scandal "is now in the White House."

The president has said his connections to Mr. Abramoff didn't amount to much. "Having my picture taken with someone doesn't mean that I'm a friend with them or know them very well," Mr. Bush said at a recent news conference, calling Mr. Abramoff one of "thousands" of White House visitors with whom he might have been photographed.

Mr. Rove has known Mr. Abramoff for about two decades, according to White House spokesman Scott McClellan. Both are former top officials of the College Republicans, many of whose alumni have gone on to national prominence within the party.

Mr. Abramoff was an early backer of the president, having been listed as a co-chairman pledged to raise $25,000 for Mr. Bush at a 1999 Washington reception. He gave money to the president's recount committee in 2000 and was in the elite tier of fund-raisers for the president's 2004 re-election committee. An Abramoff aide, Susan Ralston, later went to work as Mr. Rove's executive assistant at the White House.

Mr. Abramoff bragged of his "contact" with Mr. Rove when Tyco International Ltd. sought action on tax legislation in 2002, according to Senate testimony by Tim Flanigan, a former Tyco official. "At some point after he joined the engagement team, Mr. Abramoff told me that he intended to contact Mr. Rove directly or indirectly to communicate Tyco's position" on the tax issue, said Mr. Flanigan, who also once worked as Mr. Bush's deputy White House counsel.

A White House spokesman says Mr. Rove doesn't remember talking to Mr. Abramoff about Tyco. A spokesman for Mr. Abramoff declined to comment on whether he lobbied Mr. Rove on the issue. A Tyco spokeswoman says the company doesn't know what Mr. Abramoff did on its behalf. A tax provision Tyco opposed eventually was defeated.

Messrs. Abramoff and Rove shared a connection to Mr. Safavian. Mr. Safavian lobbied alongside Mr. Abramoff before applying for a job with the General Services Administration. On his GSA job application, Mr. Safavian listed Mr. Rove as a reference who could confirm he brought a group of Arab-Americans to a Bush 2000 outreach program in Austin, Texas.

Prosecutors have accused Mr. Safavian of giving Mr. Abramoff inside information from the GSA at a time when the lobbyist was seeking government leases for a client. They have also accused him of misleading ethics officers and investigators by saying Mr. Abramoff wasn't doing business with the GSA when the two men went to Scotland on a 2002 golfing trip.

Barbara Van Gelder, Mr. Safavian's attorney, dismisses the inside information that prosecutors have seized upon as irrelevant. And she says that Mr. Safavian's statement that Mr. Abramoff wasn't doing business with the GSA at the time of the Scotland golfing trip was accurate, because the lobbyist's clients hadn't formally applied for leases or been awarded any. "Seeking" business with government is different, she explains, from having business with government.

She says the charges against Mr. Safavian are an attempt to pressure him to testify against others. "This case is about the government squeezing David Safavian," Ms. Van Gelder says.

What information Mr. Safavian might have to implicate others isn't clear. But Mr. Abramoff has already sent tremors across Capitol Hill by agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors.

Lawmakers have scrambled to offer proposals for overhauling rules governing lawmakers' dealing with lobbyists. "I support your efforts ... to strengthen the ethical standards of Washington," Mr. Bush declared in last week's State of the Union address. The White House has tried to move beyond ethics controversies after the indictment late last year of former vice-presidential aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby in connection with the Central Intelligence Agency leak case. Mr. Rove hasn't yet been cleared in the investigation by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.

Mr. Griles is waging a vigorous effort to avoid being charged in the Abramoff investigation. He has offered to meet with prosecutors, though so far they have declined. In emails that surfaced in a Senate inquiry, Mr. Abramoff referred to Mr. Griles as his "man" in the department that oversees Native American issues. Another Interior Department official last year told the Indian Affairs Committee that Mr. Griles showed unusual interest in such issues while serving as the department's chief of staff.

Barry M. Hartman, Mr. Griles's attorney, has written the Senate committee, dismissing the idea that Mr. Griles was close to Mr. Abramoff as a lobbyist's boast to his clients. Mr. Hartman said his own review had uncovered only a handful of telephone calls and email contacts between the two men -- none of which resulted in official Interior Department measures that would have benefited Mr. Abramoff's clients. Mr. Hartman also cited a 2003 email by Mr. Abramoff in which he lamented that Mr. Griles "can't (or at least won't) discuss any of my clients with me."


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Ex-FEMA chief: I may tell all about Katrina
CNN 9 FEb 06

WASHINGTON -- Former disaster agency chief Michael Brown is indicating he is ready to reveal his correspondence with President Bush and other officials during Hurricane Katrina unless the White House forbids it and offers legal support.

Brown's stance, in a letter obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, follows senators' complaints that the White House is refusing to answer questions or release documents about advice given to Bush concerning the August 29 storm.

Brown quit as director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency days after Katrina struck. He left the federal payroll November 2.
In a February 6 letter to White House counsel Harriet Miers, Brown's lawyer wrote that Brown continues to respect Bush and his "presidential prerogative" to get candid and confidential advice from top aides.

The letter from Andrew W. Lester also says Brown no longer can rely on being included in that protection because he is a private citizen.

"Unless there is specific direction otherwise from the president, including an assurance the president will provide a legal defense to Mr. Brown if he refuses to testify as to these matters, Mr. Brown will testify if asked about particular communications," the lawyer wrote.

Brown's desire "is that all facts be made public."

White House spokesman Trent Duffy declined to comment on the letter, instead pointing to remarks two weeks ago in which Bush avoided directly including Brown among his advisers.

At the time, Bush defended his administration's stance on withholding some information, saying that providing all the material would chill the ability of presidential advisers to speak freely. The White House said it has given 15,000 documents about the storm response to Senate investigators.

Brown is set to testify Friday at a Senate inquiry of the slow government response to Katrina.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Connecticut., who blasted the White House last month for what he called attempts to stonewall the Senate inquiry, said he expects Brown, now a private citizen, "to answer every question the committee puts to him truthfully."

"I see no basis for him to refuse to answer any of our questions, and I hope the White House will not try to direct him not to answer our questions," Lieberman said.

Contacted Wednesday, Brown referred questions about the letter to Lester. The lawyer described his client as "between a rock and a hard place" between the administration's reluctance to disclose certain high-level communications and Congress' right to demand it.

"Mr. Brown is going to testify before Congress. If he receives no guidance to the contrary, we'll do as any citizen should do -- and that is to answer all questions fully, completely and accurately," Lester said.

The letter set a 5 p.m. EST deadline Wednesday for the White House to reply to Brown. That passed without a response, Lester said.

Some administration officials have refused interviews by Senate investigators or have declined to answer even seemingly innocuous questions about times and dates of meetings and telephone calls with the White House.

The leaders of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee have accused the White House of crippling their inquiry after FEMA lawyers prohibited Brown from responding to some questions during a January 23 staff interview.

At that interview, Brown told investigators he was aware of management problems at the agency that were highlighted in a consultant's report months before Katrina. He attributed some of the problems to the agency's merger with the Homeland Security Department in 2003.

"What I wish I had done was, frankly, just either quit earlier or whatever and gone to certain friends that I can't talk about and said we got to fix this -- I mean, what's going on is nuts," Brown said, according to a Senate transcript of the meeting.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said if the problems been addressed earlier, "the response to Hurricane Katrina could have been better organized and perhaps we could have lessened the devastating impact on the people of the Gulf Coast."


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Paul Bremer - New Canaan's Pontius Pilate
By William A. Collins Minuteman Media 8 Feb 06

His work was precisely laid out in Washington and he performed it with quiet ferocity. His first task was to turn over Iraq’s traditional publicly owned enterprises to foreign investors. He started with electricity. (In California, this was analogous to deregulation.) Next to go was the public water supply, and soon the telephone system. New Canaan can identify with this sort of privatization.

Then came the banks, followed shortly by the insurance companies, all quickly gobbled up by outside money. Now even farmers are not allowed to plant their own seeds, but must buy genetically modified models from Monsanto, Cargill, or the like.
Paul Bremer came to New Canaan the other night to speak. It is, after all, his old hometown. Thus, the visit was, first of all, a case of local boy makes good, which, of course, a lot of New Canaanites do. It was also the tour kickoff for Bremer’s new book, “My Year In Iraq.” His listeners well understood book tours, and publishing, and publicity, and hype.

And colonialism. You’ll recall that President Bush appointed Bremer as the first head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, as soon as the military’s mission in Iraq was “accomplished.” The Romans once called this job “proconsul,” the appointed ruler of a conquered territory. Their most storied incumbent was Pontius Pilate, though our grasp of his actual duties and performance in Judea remain somewhat hazy.

Not so with Bremer’s. His work was precisely laid out in Washington and he performed it with quiet ferocity. His first task was to turn over Iraq’s traditional publicly owned enterprises to foreign investors. He started with electricity. (In California, this was analogous to deregulation.) Next to go was the public water supply, and soon the telephone system. New Canaan can identify with this sort of privatization.

Then came the banks, followed shortly by the insurance companies, all quickly gobbled up by outside money. Now even farmers are not allowed to plant their own seeds, but must buy genetically modified models from Monsanto, Cargill, or the like.

Tariffs, taxes and corporate restrictions were also redrawn for the benefit of foreign businesses and investors. And not only were these investor-friendly rules imposed, they were written into Iraq’s Constitution. Perhaps you wondered why Washington felt so obsessed with Iraq’s need for a constitutional democracy. There’s more, and the oil industry comes next.

One doubts that Pilate was so productive. Or the British governors of the American colonies. This compares more with the Spanish rulers of Peru or Mexico, or the British Raj in India.

Needless to say, Bremer’s was the kind of performance that New Canaan could cheer, and did. But there were complications. His talk was sponsored by the public library, so there were overtones of free speech. At least until the library detected that anti-war folks were planning to attend.

That changed everything. Abruptly the venue was shifted to St. Luke’s private school out in the four-acre zoning wilderness. Names of known protesters who had signed up early disappeared from the approved attendance list. The police blanketed the entrance to keep out dissidents while the Secret Service patrolled inside. The town takes care of its own.

For those who live outside the Gold Coast, you should know that lower Fairfield County is not in fact a total monolith of greed. It only looks that way. Two weeks after the Bremer incident, the Westport library hosted a talk by Victor Navasky, editor of “The Nation” magazine. He basically opposes everything Bremer stands for. No police or Secret Service were needed for that one. And other libraries are also doing their best to undermine the frighteningly intrusive rules of the Patriot Act. Thus it seems to be the New Canaan library alone that stands out as a bulwark of colonialism and avarice.

Columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut.

Distributed by MinutemanMedia.org.



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Iraqi voices are drowned out in a blizzard of occupiers' spin
Sami Ramadani Wednesday February 8, 2006 The Guardian

Three years after invading Iraq, George Bush and Tony Blair are still dipping into the trough of deception and disinformation that launched the war: hailing non-existent progress, declaring sanctimonious satisfaction with sectarian elections and holding out the mirage of early withdrawal.

In reality, the occupation and divide-and-rule tactics have spawned death squads, torture, kidnappings, chemical attacks, polluted water, depleted uranium, bombardment of civilians, probably more than 100,000 people dead and a relentless deterioration in Iraqis' daily lives.
Much of this goes unreported in the British and American media, stripped of context or consigned to the small print. The headlines are reserved for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terrorism, Saddam Hussein's farcical trial and the perennial "exit strategy". We are fed the occupiers' spin, while words of scepticism are deemed jarring. Invited to join a popular BBC radio programme for Iraq's recent elections, I quoted George Bush's accidental brush with reality when he declared: "You can't have free and fair elections in Lebanon under Syrian occupation." An editor politely said: "Sorry Sami, but we are sticking to a positive spin on this one. I am sure we will invite you on other occasions."

A few days ago, a large-scale opinion poll conducted by Maryland University showed that 87% of Iraqis (including 64% of Kurds) endorsed a demand for a timetabled withdrawal of the occupiers. The findings were mostly ignored by the British media.

Admittedly, reports on the ground are difficult and dangerous. But while western media are not averse to revealing deceptions around the WMD scare and pre-war lies, occupier-generated news still takes pride of place, and anti-occupation Iraqi voices of all sects - particularly Shia clergy such as Ayatollahs Hassani, Baghdadi and Khalisi - are ignored.

A few months before US soldiers boasted of using white phosphorus, the BBC's Paul Wood defended his reporting from Falluja in the November 2004 siege, telling Medialens: "I repeat the point made by my editors, over weeks of total access to the military operation, at all levels: we did not see banned weapons being used ... or even discussed. We cannot therefore report their use." Doctors and refugees fleeing US bombardment talked of "chemical attacks" and people "melting to death". But for the BBC, eyewitness testimony from Iraqis is way down the pecking order of objectivity.

It would clearly be wrong to portray victims' claims as uncontested facts, but there is a duty to publish and investigate them. Had, for example, Iraqi families' claims been highlighted shortly after the occupation began, the world would not have waited over a year to learn of torture at US-run jails. It was not until US soldiers gleefully circulated sickening pictures of tortured Iraqis that the media paid attention.

Many Iraqis have persistently accused US-led forces of "controlling" an assortment of death squads or private militias and "turning a blind eye" to many terrorist attacks. Almost every week, handcuffed and blindfolded men are found lying next to one another, each killed by a single bullet to the head. Who is methodically torturing and killing these people? Who has so far assassinated more than 200 academics and scientists? Iraqis not linked to the Green Zone regime are convinced that US forces and US-backed mercenaries are involved.

Support for some Iraqi claims, however, comes from unexpected sources: two US generals have admitted the presence of targeted killing squads, and last February the Wall Street Journal let slip the presence of six US-trained secret militias. In the same month, Lt General William Boykin, the deputy undersecretary of defence for intelligence, told the New York Times: "I think we're doing what the Phoenix programme was designed to do, without all the secrecy." US death squads assassinated about 40,000 people in Vietnam before Congress halted "Operation Phoenix".

A retired general, Wayne Downing, the former head of special operations forces, affirmed that US-led killing squads started operating immediately after the March 2003 invasion. He told a bemused NBC interviewer: "Katie, it's a nasty situation in Iraq right now, and this may help it get better."

But the occupiers' "Sunni v Shia" mantra dictates the agenda and clouds the issues. The daily news intake is moulded by senior occupation forces' PR officers and embassy officials camped in the Green Zone - once Saddam's fortress, now a vast monstrosity housing the occupation authorities and their competing and corrupt Iraqi proteges of all sects.

The lie of WMD embroiled Britain in an immoral, illegal war. Disinformation about the war is the pretext for keeping troops and bases in Iraq. Cosmetic sovereignty and partial withdrawal will not convince Iraqis witnessing the completion of permanent US bases, and US advisers controlling "sovereign" ministries and planning back-door oil privatisation.

Only complete withdrawal will satisfy most Iraqis. And if genuine liberty and independence are not forthcoming, the spiral of violence will intensify from Afghanistan to Palestine.

· Sami Ramadani was a political exile from Saddam's regime and is a senior lecturer at London Metropolitan University sami.ramadani@londonmet.ac.uk


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What Is Plan B?
By Terrence McNally AlterNet February 2, 2006.

Eradicate poverty, reforest the earth, restore fisheries, eliminate overgrazing, protect biological diversity, stabilize climate -- Lester Brown says it's all possible.
Of all the resources needed to build an economy that will sustain economic progress, none is more scarce than time. That is one of the key messages of Lester Brown's new book, "Plan B. 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble." The world may finally be listening.

China now consumes more grain, meat, coal and steel than the United States. If China's income grows as projected, in 2031 its income per person will match incomes in the United States today. At that point, it will be consuming the equivalent of two-thirds of the current world grain harvest, driving 1.1 billion cars (versus 800 million in the world today) and using 99 million barrels of oil per day, well above current world production of 84 million barrels. That's Plan A.

New threats -- climate change, environmental degradation, the persistence of poverty and the loss of hope -- call for new strategies. Brown -- who left World Watch in 2001 to found Earth Policy Institute -- says it's time for Plan B -- a renewable-energy-based, reuse-recycle economy with a diversified transport system: time to build a new economy and a new world. The world is now spending $975 billion annually for military purposes. Plan B -- social goals and earth restoration -- requires an additional annual expenditure of $161 billion.

Brown, founder of the World Watch Institute, was in Europe recently to address the Royal Geographic Society in London, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, and the OECD in Paris. He will speak to the World Affairs Councils of San Francisco and Los Angeles the first week of February.

TERRENCE MCNALLY: For many, environmental issues are local -- the beach, the nearby polluting factory, the smog. Yet you focused on the global environment at a time when few were. Where did that come from?

LESTER BROWN: Well I suppose there were a number of things that contributed to it. One was, when I was farming I was very much aware of the environmental issues that one has to deal with, whether it's water resources or weather or soils or crop diseases or what have you.

Beyond that, after I graduated from Rutgers in 1955 with a degree in agricultural science, I had the chance to spend half of 1956 living in villages in India, and there I was exposed very directly to the food population issue, though India at that time had only 430 million people or so compared with over a billion today.

Then I became a foreign policy adviser to Secretary of Agriculture Orville Freeman during the Kennedy-Johnson administration. The population pressures on resources and the problems associated with that, whether it's deforestation or overgrazing or soil erosion, aquifer depletion, those problems were becoming evident way back then. By 1974 I was convinced not only that these were going to be major issues, but also that we needed a research institute to focus on environmental issues at the global level.

TM: Yet you also make clear that we need a vision of the future, not just the bad news.

LB: No question. If we don't have a sense of where we want to go, we're probably not going to get there. I think one of the things that's lacking in the global environmental movement is a vision. We spend so much time being against things, it's not always clear what we're for.

TM: In the first paragraph of the Preface to "Plan B: 2.0," you write: "If our goal is to sustain economic progress, we have no choice other than to move onto a new path." Two things -- first, you don't mention the word "environment" in that sentence, you're talking about economic progress. Second, why isn't that reality being recognized and acted on?

LB: Two things are driving the recognition of the need for a restructuring of the global economy. One is the knowledge of what's happening to the economy's environmental support systems, whether it's forests or fisheries or rangelands or soils or aquifers or the climate system. Many environmentalists have been clear for some time that we have to restructure the economy if we want progress to continue. If we don't, we're going to be in serious trouble.

In Jared Diamond's book, "Collapse," he looked at earlier civilizations, many of which also got on to an economic path that was environmentally unsustainable. He pointed out was that some of those early civilizations realized they were in trouble and made the needed course corrections to survive. Others either did not understand they were in environmental trouble, or understood it but politically they could not mobilize an effective response.

TM: "Plan B" came out two years ago. Why did you feel the need to deliver "Plan B: 2.0"?

LB: Enough things have changed over the past two years, both in terms of what we can do and the potential of new technologies like gas-electric hybrid cars and advances in wind turbine design, and so forth. But more importantly, the evidence first of all, that China has already overtaken the United States in the consumption of most basic resources.

Ever since you and I can remember, we've been saying that the U.S. with 5 percent of the world's people consumes a third or 40 percent of the world's resources. That was true for a long time. It is no longer true. China is now consuming more of these basic resources. Look at the food sector -- grain and meat, the energy sector -- oil and coal, the industrial sector -- steel. China now consumes more of all of those than the United States except for oil. Their consumption of meat is nearly double that of the United States, and their steel consumption, 258 million tons a year. We consumed 104 million tons a year last year.

TM: India is expected to overtake China in terms of population. We hear about India mostly in terms of outsourcing jobs to India. What's its take on resources?

LB: India has a huge population, but they're still mostly poor; they're a good 20 years behind China. They're probably where China was in 1980 or '85.

TM: Having said that, India still has a middle class of about 300 million, about the size of the entire U.S. population.

LB: That's right and it's growing fast.

Now that China has overtaken the U.S. in the total consumption of resources, we have license to ask the next question: What if China catches up to the U.S. in consumption per person? If their economy, which has been growing at 9 or 10 percent a year in recent years, drops down to 8 percent a year, by 2031, income per person in China will be the same as that in the U.S. today. By 2031 we're probably talking about 1.45 billion Chinese.

TM: 1.45 billion consuming at the rate we consume today is impossible. China alone would consume more than one earth at that point.

LB: Based on those projections, in 2031, China would be consuming two thirds of the current world grain harvest. Their consumption of paper would be double current world production. There go the world's forests. If China in 2031 has three cars for every four people, as we now have in this country, it would have a fleet of 1.1 billion cars.

The current global fleet is 800 million. They would have to pave over an area comparable to the land they now have in rice, and they would be consuming 99 million barrels of oil a day. The world is currently producing 84 million barrels a day and will probably never produce much more than that.

TM: Because we're also close to or about to hit peak oil. We've heard the diagnosis. What's the prescription? What is Plan B?

LB: The Western economic model, the fossil fuel-based, automobile-centered throw-away economy, is not going to work for China. It won't work for India, which by 2031 will have an even larger population, nor will it work for the other three billion people in the developing countries, who are also dreaming the American dream. Most importantly, it will not work for the industrial countries either in a world that is more and more integrated economically and where we all depend on the same oil, grain and iron ore.

So then the question becomes, if the old economy won't work, what will the new economy look like?

We can see this much more clearly than we could even two years ago, and that's exciting. It will be powered by renewable sources of energy. It will have a comprehensive re-use recycle system, and it will have a much more diversified transport system, not as much the automobile-centered system we now have.

We can now see the new economy beginning to emerge in various places around the world. We see it in the wind farms of Western Europe, the solar rooftops of Japan, the bicycle-friendly streets of Amsterdam, the reforested mountains of South Korea and the growing fleet of gas-electric hybrid cars in the United States. It's beginning to take shape, but it's not moving fast enough.

TM: What is it going to take to accelerate that?

LB: It's difficult to say. I play around with scenarios that will wake us up. The situation today reminds me a bit of the United States in the early 1940s when we were trying to ignore the war in Europe and the war in Asia, somehow thinking that we could get through without getting involved -- and then came Pearl Harbor. Overnight literally everything changed, and we mobilized for a war like you've never seen a country mobilize before. It was an extraordinary performance, but it took a very clear, distinct wake-up call.

TM: At the point at which we get a wake-up call that extreme, it may be too late to reverse some of those things, isn't that true?

LB: It's quite possible that the wake-up call will come too late.

TM: I'm an optimist. I look at the negatives that we see right now -- the incompetence in the war and the response to Katrina, the rampant corruption in D.C. -- as perhaps offering a teachable moment. Could Plan B offer the kind of dream -- like Martin Luther King Jr.'s civil rights dream or John Kennedy's Apollo mission -- that could rally people to take on a big challenge that's not a military challenge?

LB: That's an exciting way to put it. I think of King from time to time -- "I have a dream." He kept repeating that theme and described various parts of it, and it became a shared vision of our society.

The wake-up call could come with another disruption in the supply of oil that would drive prices up to, say, $100 a barrel, which is entirely feasible. Another less direct possibility: When the price of oil gets up to $60 a barrel, it becomes profitable to convert many agricultural commodities into automotive fuel. Almost everything that we eat can be converted either into ethanol or bio-diesel to run automobiles. As we develop the ethanol distilling capacity and the bio-diesel refining capacity, the price of oil begins to set the price of food. If the food value of a commodity is less than the fuel value, it will be converted into fuel.

TM: In other words, we would take food out of the mouths of the poor and put it into the fuel tanks of the rich?

LB: That's right. One of the consequences of high oil prices is that it sets up direct competition between supermarkets and service stations for the same commodities. The difference is that, in agricultural terms, the appetite of service stations is basically insatiable.

TM: If the world gets hammered this year and next year as they did last year by weather disasters, the people or the insurance companies are going to say, something has to be done about climate change -- another possible wake-up call. What is Plan B?

LB: Plan B has three components: (1) a restructuring of the global economy so that it can sustain civilization; (2) an all-out effort to eradicate poverty, stabilize population and restore hope in order to elicit participation of the developing countries; and (3) a systematic effort to restore natural systems.

Virtually everything we need to do to build an economy that will sustain economic progress is already being done in one or more countries. In Europe, for instance, which is leading the world into the wind era, some 40 million people now get their residential electricity from wind farms. The European Wind Energy Association projects that by 2020, half of the region's population -- 195 million Europeans -- will be getting their residential electricity from wind.

TM: But it's not just about new technologies, is it?

LB: That's right. Building an economy that will sustain economic progress also means eradicating poverty and stabilizing population -- in effect, restoring hope among the world's poor. Eradicating poverty accelerates the shift to smaller families. Smaller families in turn help to eradicate poverty.

The principal line items in the budget to eradicate poverty are investments in universal primary school education; school lunch programs for the poorest of the poor; basic village-level health care, including vaccinations for childhood diseases; and reproductive health and family planning services for all the world's women. In total, reaching these goals will take $68 billion of additional expenditures each year.

TM: Where does the environment fit in all this?

LB: A strategy for eradicating poverty will not succeed if an economy's environmental support systems are collapsing. This means putting together an earth restoration budget -- one to reforest the earth, restore fisheries, eliminate overgrazing, protect biological diversity and raise water productivity to the point where we can stabilize water tables and restore the flow of rivers. Adopted worldwide, these measures require additional expenditures of $93 billion per year.

Combining social goals and earth restoration components into a Plan B budget means an additional annual expenditure of $161 billion. Such an investment is huge, but it is not a charitable act. It is an investment in the world in which our children will live.

TM: Where's the money going to come from?

LB: The world is now spending $975 billion annually for military purposes. The U.S. 2006 military budget of $492 billion, accounting for half of the world total, goes largely to the development and production of new weapon systems. Unfortunately, these weapons are of little help in curbing terrorism, nor can they reverse the deforestation of the earth or stabilize climate.

If the United States were to underwrite the entire $161 billion Plan B budget by shifting resources from the $492 billion spent on the military, it still would be spending more for military purposes than all other NATO members plus Russia and China combined.

TM: I hardly imagine the slightest move in that direction for at least the next three years of a Bush administration …

LB: Of all the resources needed to build an economy that will sustain economic progress, none is more scarce than time. With climate change we may be approaching the point of no return. Nature is the timekeeper.

Like earlier civilizations that got into environmental trouble, we can decide to stay with business as usual and watch our global economy decline and eventually collapse. One way or another, the decision will be made by our generation. Of that there is little doubt. But it will affect life on earth for all generations to come.

Interviewer Terrence McNally hosts Free Forum on KPFK 90.7FM, Los Angeles (streaming at kpfk.org).


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Following Orders Is No Excuse
By Paul Craig Roberts ICH 7 Feb 06

If Powell had refused three years ago to deliver the Speech of Lies, we would not now be watching an identical duplicity being rolled out against Iran. The ultimate cost of the deception being practiced on the American people will dwarf the terrible price that has already been paid.

Why didn’t Powell do the right thing? His own reputation would have been forever secure as a man of integrity. Why did he sacrifice his integrity to the crooked scheme of his commander in chief?
"A hoax on the American people, the international community, and the United Nations Security Council."

That is how Secretary of State General Colin Powell’s February 2003 Iraq WMD speech to the UN was described last Friday (Feb. 3) on PBS by one who ought to know, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to Secretary Powell.

In a February 2005 interview with Barbara Walters on ABC News "20/20" program, Powell himself declared his UN Iraq speech to be a blot on his reputation.

Since departing the Bush administration, both Wilkerson and Powell have made it completely clear that they had serious doubts about the "evidence" of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and malevolent Iraqi intentions that was loaded by the White House into Powell’s UN speech, a speech designed by neoconservatives to initiate the invasion of Iraq. Both Powell and Wilkerson knew that the "evidence" was greatly overstated if not an outright fabrication.

What if Secretary Powell had shared his doubts with the UN? What if instead of reading the Speech of Lies Powell had addressed the UN as follows:

"As a loyal soldier following orders I came here today intending to deliver the Bush administration’s evidence against Saddam Hussein. Now that I am standing here before you, I find myself caught in conflict between following orders and doing the right thing. I should have resolved this conflict before I arrived. I do so now by delivering the speech to you in its written form – here it is – but I refuse to deliver it out of my mouth. I cannot participate in an act of deception against the United Nations Security Council, the international community, and the American people. I have no confidence in the evidence in the speech. Under the Nuremberg Standard established by the United States in the trials of Nazi war criminals, following orders is no excuse. I will not participate in the war crime of naked aggression against another state. I hereby resign as Secretary of State of the United States."

Powell would have saved the world from a strategic blunder, the disastrous consequences of which are only beginning to unfold. The maelstrom set in motion by the treachery of the neoconservatives, people who Powell has described as "crazy," has already cost tens of thousands of dead and wounded and hundreds of billions of dollars, destroyed America’s reputation, and radicalized Middle East politics.

If Powell had refused three years ago to deliver the Speech of Lies, we would not now be watching an identical duplicity being rolled out against Iran. The ultimate cost of the deception being practiced on the American people will dwarf the terrible price that has already been paid.

Why didn’t Powell do the right thing? His own reputation would have been forever secure as a man of integrity. Why did he sacrifice his integrity to the crooked scheme of his commander in chief?

Alas, that is the way our generals are bred. In the politicized US military, no officer can advance beyond the rank of Lt. Col. unless he toes the political line. The game is played to advance in rank as high as possible, collect the pension, and be rewarded for compliant behavior with consultancies. Real leadership means making waves, and that is not tolerated.

Even in rare instances of a real man, concerned with the honor of his country and the safety of his troops, reaching the top, he is powerless to prevent disastrous mistakes of the ignorant civilian authorities. Consider the fate of US Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki, who correctly informed Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld that the US invasion force was not sufficiently numerous to successfully occupy and subdue Iraq once the pitched battles were over. Shinseki was fired for telling the truth – as was Secretary of the Army Thomas White, Lt. Gen. John Riggs, and four-star general Kevin P. Byrnes. Riggs was framed, demoted, and retired for saying that the US army was overstretched in Iraq and Afghanistan and needed more troops. Byrnes, who was in charge of Army training, was framed on adultery charges for objecting to bottom of the barrel recruitment policies that accepted criminals and immigrants with a lack of English proficiency. Nothing like having an army that can’t understand orders.

The only way a military can constrain their civilian masters from cooking up a war is to resign in mass. If every general and colonel had resigned, there would have been no invasion of Iraq. But this would require a military with leadership and a tradition of sticking together. A military in which promotion is the highest virtue is powerless to prevent disastrous mistakes, such as the invasion of Iraq.

The Bush administration went to war on the basis of its fantasy that if merely a few US troops marched into Iraq, the regime would collapse and the population would welcome Americans as liberators with flowers and kisses. It was to be a "cakewalk war."

No general officer in the US military believed that. Yet few spoke out (Marine General Anthony Zinni was a notable exception). The entire US military command could only produce a handful of men to warn of the looming catastrophe. Who can forget the orchestrated media dismissals of "over-cautious generals" that greeted these few? The reason Colin Powell disgraced himself is that he could not free himself of the conditioning that breeds success in the US military.

Who today will stand up to stop the potential Armageddon of a US attack on Iran?

Dr. Roberts [send him mail] is Chairman of the Institute for Political Economy and Research Fellow at the Independent Institute. He is a former associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, former contributing editor for National Review, and a former assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions.

Copyright © 2006 Creators Syndicate


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An Interview with George Galloway
By Karen Button ICH 8 Feb 06

The British Member of Parliament, George Galloway was in Egypt to testify about Britain’s involvement in Iraq’s invasion at a trial organised by the Arab Lawyers Union. Instead, he spent a sleepless night in a detention room at the Cairo airport, told he was a security risk. His Respect Party negotiated on his behalf; he was finally released, but only after the tribunal had ended.
Tired, but gracious, he gave most of his limited time to interviews. We sat in the restaurant of the Shepheard Hotel, an upscale hotel whose lobby is filled with Africans draped in colorful robes and in suits, Asians clustered in small groups, boisterous Arabs sitting around low tables laughing, and a few Americans—mostly businessmen. Ironically, as we talk about American imperialism, Britain’s participation, and the effects on regional politics in the Middle East, the background music swells into a crescendo of the Star- Spangled Banner and continues with other American march tunes.

George Galloway is an eloquent and passionate man, whether in Parliament, in the US Senate—where he flew last year to personally confront Republicans charging his misconduct in the Oil for Food Programme (his pointed questioning celebrated by the Left who’d been longing for this kind of courage from the Democrats)—or in person. His anti-war stance and 30 year support of Arab peoples has ensured his controversy; he is often in conflict with Prime Minister Tony Blair and doesn’t shy away from criticism of George W. Bush. He has been tireless in his support of the Iraqi people during sanctions and after, visiting the country, he says, over 200 times.

We met just prior to his departure back to the airport, and after he’d given an interview with Iraqi TV excerpts of which are included as they answer some of my own questions.

Q: George Galloway, thank you for making this time. You were detained by Egyptian authorities as you entered to testify at a trial being held here. What happened?

A: Well, first I should say that President Mubarak today sent a personal envoy, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Egyptian Parliament to convey his sincere apologies for what happened to me and that the President was very upset. The envoy was Dr. Mustafa El-Feki. I accepted his apology and I’m grateful for the expression of sympathy from President Mubarak and so I won’t be taking that matter any further. But, you heard me say [last night] what happened to me…it was not a nice experience; it was unprecedented in my 30 years of working in the Arab world and I was very upset about it. But, of course, I accept the apology, which is a gracious one and I will put the matter behind me.

Q: Were you given any reason for your detention? They at first said you were a security threat. Do you think it may have been to prevent you from testifying?

A: They say no. They say it was a security service mistake and that the security service must become more political, must know who is who and what is what. This is what they say.

Q: You know that the Iraqi and Palestinian witnesses were denied visas?

A: Yes. This is inexcusable. I don’t know why Egypt continues to act like this because all Arabs look to Egypt as their model, if you like, that this is the greatest Arab country—it’s the most populous Arab country, it’s the most historical Arab country. Egypt has a role to play as a part of this Nation; it shouldn’t turn its back on the Arab Nation. This isn’t correct. I think the trial was hampered by the refusal of visas of participants, and of course that was added to by my absence.

Q: There have been 20 former tribunals held on Bush and Blair’s invasion and occupation of Iraq. What particular importance do you think this trial had?

A: Well, you won’t really know that until later. The whole story about the straw that broke the camel’s back is that you never really know which is the last straw until it is the last straw. These tribunals are important in themselves, they certainly don’t do the struggle to end the occupation any harm, but their exact weight and importance will vary, but their accumulated weight and strength will only be seen after the event. If I tell you that I’m old enough to remember the Bertrand Russell Tribunal against the Viet Nam war in the 1960s, it didn’t seem like that big of deal at the time, but historically, it has enormous importance and has, indeed, been the model for other such tribunals ever since. A perspective will have to be gained on these events by time.

Q: Was there a significance that this was held in an Arab nation?

A: Yes. It has made a big impact, I think. It’s been very widely covered. It’s been good that it took place here. To be fair to Egypt, there are not many Arab countries, if any, that would have allowed the tribunal to take place there at all.

Q: About the recent cartoons of Islam. In your viewpoint are there any hidden reasons for this; why now? in this campaign?

A: You may have heard me say to the Iraqi TV that, first of all, you don’t have to be a Muslim to be on the receiving end of the imperialist lash. People of Cuba, for more than 40 years, have been in that position. The people of Cambodia and Viet Nam lost millions of people, in our lifetime, under the lash of American imperialism. So, you don’t have to be a Muslim. But, in recent years, after the fall of the Soviet Union, unconquered Islam was the only territory free from the globalisation of capitalism and its imperialist foreign policy. The only people still resisting in the world, other than the Cubans, are the Muslims. This brings them into conflict with the tyrants, because Islam forbids its believers to accept tyranny and injustice. It commands the believers to stand up against injustice. And as Bush and Blair and Co. speak the very language of injustice and are, themselves, establishing tyranny around the world, inevitably this brings them into conflict with Muslims.

Now, the good thing is that there millions of people in non-Muslim countries, millions of non-Muslims, who are equally opposed to globalised capitalism and the imperialist war machine which comes from it. So, the Muslims have allies amongst non-Muslims and this is the phenomenon we have seen over the last few years. The development of a massive anti-war movement around the world where Muslims and non-Muslims were on one hand because they share a rejection of occupation, war, exploitation, despoliation of the earth, its environment.

This alliance is potentially world-changing, because the Muslims alone cannot, their allies alone cannot, but together, we might be able to change the world.

Q: How can we narrow the gap between the West and Islam, the West and the Arabs?

A: Well, there are many things that can be done, for example, the Cairo Conference, which I’m one the founders of, is an attempt to bridge this gap between the Muslim world and the non-Muslim world between these allies that I talk about. This is one way. By Muslims participating in the anti-war movements around the world. This is a way to do it. To reject the separatism of the Islamist extremists who say that voting is haram (forbidden), that working with non-Muslims is haram, calling people kofar (atheist) and so on. This separatism should be rejected and Muslims should throw themselves whole-heartedly into the broad and mass movement in the world. Of course, we are not helped by some of the negative phenomena of Islamist extremism. If young Muslims are so angry that they blow themselves up on the London Underground, killing innocent people, this is a big setback. This drives people apart when we should be bringing them together.

These are things that need to be done, but I want to caution you on this point. The division is not between West and East, certainly not between Christianity and Islam. We believe in the prophets, peace be upon them. George W. Bush believes in the profits and how to get a piece of them!

George Bush is no representative of Christianity or of the West. This is a battle between the "bad" people and the others, and there are many bad people in the Muslim world who are ruling some Muslim countries, who are acting as slaves for the bad people in the West. There is not a clear division between Muslims and non-Muslims. There are many good people in the non-Muslim world and good people in the Muslim world and we need to find each other.

Q: It seems though in the West, the US and the UK in particular, with their project of globalisation, is attempting to use religion as a divide, as a tool to accomplish this.

A: Yes. When George Bush said that it was a "crusade," even if it was a mistake to say it, it is what he meant. It betrayed the thoughts that were in his mind, because Bush has put himself at the head of an army of Christian fundamentalists and Zionist forces in the United States. This apocalyptic language of Armageddon and so on is what they really believe. I don’t think he really believes it. I think Bush didn’t find God, he just found the Party of God, America’s Hezbollah, the Party of Christian Fundamentalism, and he decided to ride it to power. And it’s been, up to a point, very successful.

Q: Many who are working against corporate globalisation think that the Iraqi resistance, the real Iraqi resistance, is in some ways, on the front line of resisting that globalisation. Do you have a response to that?

A: Well, in the sense that the occupation intends to make Iraq just another pawn in the game, subject to the unalterable and irresistible forces of globalised capitalism and the resistance is opposing that, then yes, the resistance in that sense is an anti-globalisation force. If the occupation succeeds in forcing Iraqi farmers to deal with their world-wide conspiracy of patenting of seeds and so on, this will make Iraq just another brick in the wall. The Iraqi resistance does not want to join that wall. The Iraqi resistance wants Iraq to be an independent and sovereign nation, following its own path. Cuba, too, refuses this path to be just another brick in the capitalist wall, so incurs the wrath of the United States likewise.

Q: And, as we’re seeing in Venezuela…

A: Yes, Venezuela. Bolivia will shortly follow suit. Any country which breaks from this consensus, Iran also, to a degree. Iran is insisting on its rights, rights which other countries have and is being openly threatened with war as a result. There are many countries now beginning to break from this pre-determined path. We must all support them as well as we can, even if we have disagreements, as we do in Iran, for example. Even where we have disagreements with Iran, if I have to choose between Iran and George Bush, I choose Iran.

Q: You mentioned Hezbollah…can we speak about Hariri. Do you think Syria is responsible for the assassination of Hariri and for the current chaos in Lebanon?

A: No, I don’t believe that Syria is responsible for the death of Hariri because Syria is the main loser from this crime. States don’t normally commit acts such as that when they know, as any fool could have predicted, that the world will come down on top of them. So, I don’t believe that Syria is responsible at all for this crime. There may have been some Syrians involved, but I don’t believe that President Bashar Assad took a decision to blow up Hariri. This would be madness! Someone else is acting in Lebanon. Who that someone else is, you don’t have to look far, just a few miles. Down the highway, down the south of Lebanon, you see the very power who has both the interest and the capability of fermenting the type of chaos in Lebanon, which we have seen.

It seems there is some type of European-American agreement towards Iran and Syria. What is the interest?

Let’s discuss what the goal is first. The goal is to break the regime in Damascus, not because of anything bad that it’s done, and it has done some bad things, but because of the good things that it does. What are they? Syria will not sign a surrender of peace with Sharon, Syria will not kick out the resistance from Damascus, she will not break her strategic alliance with Hezbollah, she will not—the is the most important thing—she will not open her borders for the United States to use Syria as a military base to crush the Iraqi resistance. She will not allow the United States to use her territory to destroy the Iraqi resistance. For all of the reasons, America wants to either destroy the regime in Damascus or to push them to their knees.

Iran has some of the same elements, but an additional one, Iran is a mighty country, wealthy, populous, with real historic and religious weight. If such a country becomes a nuclear-armed power, this will change the balance of power in the area very considerably. Not just, by the way, to Israel, but to the detriment of America’s puppet regimes in the Arabian Gulf, which is something often missed by commentators. In fact, Iran’s track record indicates that it would seek to use its political power in its own region rather in Israel. It’s more likely Iran would use its new strength on behalf of its co-religionists in Saudi Arabia, for example, or in Bahrain, than it would attack Israel. I think they have no intention of attacking Israel. Hamid Ajahon’s rhetoric is just that, rhetoric. So these are the goals.

Why the Europeans have joined is more problematic? They certainly share the latter fear, but why France, for example, has decided to throw its lot in with America on the Syrian-Lebanese issue is explicable by France’s refusal to accept that it is no longer an imperial force. The reason France is back in Cote de Vor is because it doesn’t accept that it’s no longer an empire and it’s now trying to recover some of its empire in the Levant. If it can increase its influence in Lebanon and Syria, this will be some kind of—you might say small—renaissance in the French imperial power.

Q: About Iran, how do evaluate events there?

A: Well, the Iranian government should insist upon its legal and sovereign rights. No one has the right to bully Iran out of exercising its rights under the Non-proliferation Treaty and its rights as an independent sovereign country; the Iranian regime is to be congratulated for its refusal to bow the knee to these bullies.

The West is in a very difficult conundrum with Iran, not least as have said earlier with Iraqi TV, because Iran is much more powerful than it was before, thanks to Bush and Blair and their invasion of Iraq. If anyone strikes Iran, Iran will answer the strike in Iraq. And who is in Iraq where Iran is strong? Britain. We have 8,000 young men in the south of Iraq at the mercy of 10 million or more Shiite Muslims, many of whom are closely allied with Iran. They want to punish Iran, they want to bully Iran. Iran is standing up to them and Iran now has a card, which it can play in Iraq, which makes it un-invadable. They will never invade Iran because the cost would now be too high, not just because Iran would fight them, but because they would fight them in Iraq and they could make Iraq completely ungovernable for the night if Ayatollah Khomeini were to call for a general uprising in the south of Iraq against the occupation. The occupation would have to leave on the first flight. This is how powerful Iran is now in the south of Iraq.

Q: Do you think the US will attempt the Iraq scenario in Syria?

A: Obviously, Syria is weaker than Iran. It doesn’t have the wealth, it doesn’t have the population, it doesn’t have the homogeneity that Iran largely has. It is much more vulnerable geographically. But, the Syrian regime is not as weak as Bush thinks it is. First of all, Bashar Assad is a very smart guy. He proved the exception to my rule, which is that hereditary leadership is a bad idea. In fact, I think he’s a very good idea, Bashar. And I think the Syrian regime is playing its cards well. Secondly, the main problem about invading Syria is that those who will gain will not be pro-American moderates, but hard-line Islamist forces. In other words, the alternative to Bashar in Damascus is not a slave to the West, it will be someone even more difficult to deal with than Bashar Assad. So I believe they will concentrate on the latter course of action, not trying to destroy the regime in Damascus, but to try and weaken it, to try and force it into bowing the knee on some of these questions that I talked about.

Q: About the court in Cairo, what is the aim of it especially in America and Britain?

A: Ironically, America and Britain would never have heard of it if I had not been held at the airport and stopped from attending it, so in that sense I should be grateful for what happened to me. I will take the verdict of the trial into the British Parliament next week; I will deliver the sentence to Mr. Blair. It’s political theatre, it has a value which will be seen only in retrospect. It will not necessarily change anything today; it might contribute to changing everything in the longer term. So, I congratulate the Arab Lawyers Union in holding this trial. I’m sorry I didn’t attend, but I’m glad that I was a part of it.

Q: Lastly, one thing very different in this trial is that Sharon and Palestine were included; former trials have only been about Iraq. What’s the purpose?

A: Well, it’s quite right that these three war criminals should be on trial together. They are part of the same axis of evil; it’s an axis which begins in Pennsylvania Avenue, it runs through Downing Street and it ends in Occupied Jerusalem in the Capitol Room of Sharon. So, it’s right that these three should be on trial together. They are co-accused of war crimes and they are all enemies of peace in the world, so I’m glad they were all tried together.
***********

Throughout this interview flashes went off as photographers would walk up and snap photos of this man who is an obvious hero in the Arab world, one of the few Westerners who has taken an unequivocal stance on their behalf. Yet, his real position is one that focuses on bringing together the world’s burgeoning movements against war and globalised capitalism, summed up in the motto from the World Social Forum: Another World is Possible.

George Galloway interview with Iraqi TV:

Q:You were to be a public witness in the trial against Bush, Blair and Sharon, what would you have told the court?

A: I would have told the court that the British people can see very clearly that Mr. Blair has committed crimes against Iraq; he also committed a crime against us. He lied to us in Parliament, to the Queen, to his own soldiers; he lied about the reasons for the war and he lied about the consequences of the war. This is treason, because he did it through a conspiracy with a foreign president, George W. Bush, against the knowledge and against the interest of his own people.

Q: Why is British policy linked to American policy?

A: Because Prime Minister Blair is umbilically connected to George Bush, as he was to Bill Clinton before. Once I had a personal meeting with Mr. Blair at the time of the Desert Fox attack on Iraq in 1998. I asked him: why are you allowing this special relationship with Bill Clinton to take our country to these kind of policy disasters? He told me: This special relationship is our foreign policy. We have only one foreign policy, this special relationship with the United States.

But this is a profound mistake. Britain is, first of all, is a proud and ancient, historical nation. We had an empire across the world when the Americans were still cowboys. We know the Middle East better than the Americans will ever do. So, we have our own interests in this region. Second, we are a European country. The European mainland is twenty miles away from us, America is thousands of miles away from us. And because of our special relationship with the United States, we prejudiced our position as a European country. The European regard us as a Trojan horse for American interests. And thirdly, while a warm relationship with Bill Clinton was understandable, no one in Britain understands how anyone can fall in love with George W. Bush. At least Bush has the excuse that he is stupid. What about Mr. Blair? He is an Oxford-educated, highly-skilled lawyer.

Q: What about this kind of marriage between the British and the Americans? What is the effect on the region?

A: The Arabs are paying the highest price. And the broader Muslim world is paying it too, because that is the way the world is divided today. Islam is the last unconquered territory. The Soviet Union is defeated. Socialism is defeated. Nationalism is depressed. But, Islam is unconquered. And because Islam commands the believer to reject injustice and tyranny, this makes Islam automatically in a collision course with these tyrants, Bush and Blair. And, Islam has millions of soldiers. Millions of soldiers to resist this globalisation.

Q: From your talking, we understand that these extremists are not from Islam, but are borne from the American and British policies.

A: This is undoubtedly true. If you look at Iraqis—the best example—the radicalisation of Iraq, the Islamist invasion of Iraq is the result of the policy of Bush and Blair. And so you see the law of 'unintended consequence’. For example, Iran became much more powerful in Iraq as a result of the policy of Bush and Blair. So, now when they threaten Iran, unjustly and illegally threaten Iran, they have to face the fact if they strike Iran, Iran will strike them in Iraq! This is not what they intended to happen. The Chinese have a saying, that sometimes the enemy struggles mightily to lift a huge stone only to drop it on its own feet. And this is what they’ve done in the Muslim world!

Q: We understand the British and the Americans are modern in all kinds of fields. Why have they failed to grasp this strategic fallout?

A: That’s a very good question. How can it be that the United States, this hugely successful country, the most dynamic, the most talented, the most scientifically-advanced people in the world, came to choose twice George W. Bush as their president? Is the greatest man in the United States? This is ridiculous! So there is a disjunction between the importance of countries of like Britain and America and the quality of the leaders they produce.

But, they don’t have the excuse that they weren’t told about this. Mr. Blair told British television a month ago that he had been surprised by the scale of the Iraqi resistance. But, he has no reason to be surprised. I personally told him, man to man, just him and me, close as I am to you right now, I told him: The Iraqis will fight you with their teeth if necessary and they will fight you forever until you leave! I told him that Iraqis are still talking about the British in the 1920s. They can still tell me which families didn’t fight the British in the 1920s! The Iraqis are very tough people ... and when Baghdad falls, it will not be the beginning of the end, it will be the end of the beginning! When Baghdad falls the war will begin! I told him: You will face suicide bombers, car bombers, roadside bombs, and the day will come when the hundreds will become thousands and the thousands will become millions. All of this I told him man to man, face to face before the war! So, he has no reason to be surprised.

Q: Are you reading the Iraqi history or are you just guessing this strategy from any country that would resist an occupation?

A: Well, it’s both. Any dignified people—and nobody is more dignified than the Iraqis — will never accept foreign armies occupying their country, taking away their young men, insulting their women, stealing their wealth. The British would never accept it! If Hitler had landed in our country, when we stood alone, when the Americans were watching the war on the news, every dignified person in Britain would have—day and night—planned in which way they could attack this foreign occupation. They would have cut the throats of any of the occupier they could find!…because the British are a dignified people. The Iraqis are not less dignified than us. But also I knew the specifics of the Iraqi situation. Iraqis know that the imperial powers and Israel want to break Iraq, because they don’t want to see any strong Arab country. An Arab country with a population with water, with oil, with gas, with educated people, with a sense of itself as a nation…they don’t want to see such an Arab country. They want to break Iraq and the Iraqis know this!

If I have one message for the Iraqi people, it’s to stay at one people! Don’t allow the enemy to break Iraq!

Other articles by Karen Button www.insurgent49.com


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Sweden Plans to Be World's First Oil-Free Economy
by John Vidal 8 Feb 06

Sweden is to take the biggest energy step of any advanced western economy by trying to wean itself off oil completely within 15 years - without building a new generation of nuclear power stations.
The attempt by the country of 9 million people to become the world's first practically oil-free economy is being planned by a committee of industrialists, academics, farmers, car makers, civil servants and others, who will report to parliament in several months.

The intention, the Swedish government said yesterday, is to replace all fossil fuels with renewables before climate change destroys economies and growing oil scarcity leads to huge new price rises.

"Our dependency on oil should be broken by 2020," said Mona Sahlin, minister of sustainable development. "There shall always be better alternatives to oil, which means no house should need oil for heating, and no driver should need to turn solely to gasoline."

According to the energy committee of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, there is growing concern that global oil supplies are peaking and will shortly dwindle, and that a global economic recession could result from high oil prices.

Ms Sahlin has described oil dependency as one of the greatest problems facing the world. "A Sweden free of fossil fuels would give us enormous advantages, not least by reducing the impact from fluctuations in oil prices," she said. "The price of oil has tripled since 1996."

A government official said: "We want to be both mentally and technically prepared for a world without oil. The plan is a response to global climate change, rising petroleum prices and warnings by some experts that the world may soon be running out of oil."

Sweden, which was badly hit by the oil price rises in the 1970s, now gets almost all its electricity from nuclear and hydroelectric power, and relies on fossil fuels mainly for transport. Almost all its heating has been converted in the past decade to schemes which distribute steam or hot water generated by geothermal energy or waste heat. A 1980 referendum decided that nuclear power should be phased out, but this has still not been finalised.

The decision to abandon oil puts Sweden at the top of the world green league table. Iceland hopes by 2050 to power all its cars and boats with hydrogen made from electricity drawn from renewable resources, and Brazil intends to power 80% of its transport fleet with ethanol derived mainly from sugar cane within five years.

Last week George Bush surprised analysts by saying that the US was addicted to oil and should greatly reduce imports from the Middle East. The US now plans a large increase in nuclear power.

The British government, which is committed to generating 10% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2012, last month launched an energy review which has a specific remit to consider a large increase in nuclear power. But a report by accountants Ernst & Young yesterday said that the UK was falling behind in its attempt to meet its renewables target.

"The UK has Europe's best wind, wave and tidal resources yet it continues to miss out on its economic potential," said Jonathan Johns, head of renewable energy at Ernst & Young.

Energy ministry officials in Sweden said they expected the oil committee to recommend further development of biofuels derived from its massive forests, and by expanding other renewable energies such as wind and wave power.

Sweden has a head start over most countries. In 2003, 26% of all the energy consumed came from renewable sources - the EU average is 6%. Only 32% of the energy came from oil - down from 77% in 1970.

The Swedish government is working with carmakers Saab and Volvo to develop cars and lorries that burn ethanol and other biofuels. Last year the Swedish energy agency said it planned to get the public sector to move out of oil. Its health and library services are being given grants to convert from oil use and homeowners are being encouraged with green taxes. The paper and pulp industries use bark to produce energy, and sawmills burn wood chips and sawdust to generate power.


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Yahoo accused in jailing of 2nd China Internet user
By Lindsay Beck Reuters 9 Feb 06

BEIJING - Yahoo Inc. provided evidence to Chinese authorities that led to the imprisonment of an Internet writer, lawyers and activists said on Thursday, the second such case involving the U.S. Internet giant.

The latest storm over Western Internet companies in China comes just weeks after Web search giant Google Inc. came under fire for saying it would block politically sensitive terms on its new China site, bowing to conditions set by Beijing.
Writer and veteran activist Liu Xiaobo said Yahoo had co-operated with Chinese police in a case that led to the 2003 arrest of Li Zhi, who was charged with subverting state power and sentenced to eight years in prison after trying to join the dissident China Democracy Party.

Yahoo gave public security agents details of Li's registration as a Yahoo user, Liu said in an article posted on U.S.-based Chinese-language news portal Boxun, citing a defense statement from Li's lawyers.

A spokeswoman for Yahoo said the company was looking into the matter.

"As in most jurisdictions, governments are not required to inform service providers why they are seeking certain information and typically do not do so," spokeswoman Mary Osako said.

"We would not know whether a demand for information focused on murder, kidnapping or another crime," she said by phone from California, adding Yahoo thought the Internet was a positive force in China.

But media watchdog Reporters Without Borders said the argument that Yahoo simply responds to requests from authorities did not hold water.

"Yahoo certainly knew it was helping to arrest political dissidents and journalists, not just ordinary criminals," it said in a statement.

PROFITS AND PRINCIPLES

The group, along with the Committee to Protect Journalists, also called on Yahoo to disclose information on all Internet journalists and writers whose identities it has revealed to Chinese authorities.

The case is the latest in a string of examples that highlight the friction between profits and principles for Internet companies doing business in China, the world's number-two Internet market.

In September, Yahoo was accused of helping Chinese authorities identify Shi Tao, who was sentenced last April to 10 years in prison for leaking state secrets abroad.

Yahoo defended itself at the time, saying it had to abide by local laws.

In December, Microsoft shut down a blog at MSN Spaces belonging to outspoken blogger Michael Anti under Chinese government orders.

The government has also been pressuring mainstream Internet news Web sites in what analysts say is a tightening of the atmosphere for intellectuals.

A notice issued by the Beijing Internet Propaganda Management Office earlier this week listed media sites it said were reprinting information that went beyond what was lawful.

"At present, do not use what they report on political news; especially do not use them for frontpage news on the Internet," the notice warned.

Its list included the Web sites of adventurous newspapers like Guangdong-based Southern Metropolis News, but also the International Herald Leader, which belongs to the state news agency Xinhua, and regional dailies such as the Lanzhou Morning News.

Print editions have also been targeted.

Chen Jieren, the chief editor of the Beijing-based Public Interest Times, was sacked on Wednesday over a report criticizing authorities, the South China Morning Post said.

The case follows the dismissals of the editor of the outspoken Beijing News and the closure of Freezing Point, the weekly supplement of the China Youth Daily known for its critical commentaries and investigative reporting.


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Muttering at the World Bank - Wolfowitz's Appointment of Loyalists Disturbs Some Staffers
By Paul Blustein Washington Post Staff Writer 8 Feb 06

At the World Bank, they are sometimes referred to as "the entourage," "the palace guard," or "the circle of trust," because of their close relationship with bank President Paul D. Wolfowitz. They are Americans with ties to the Bush administration, and the immense clout they wield has sparked a furor in the ranks of the giant development leader.
Their roles have rekindled fears among the staff that Wolfowitz, the former U.S. deputy defense secretary, is bent on imposing a conservative agenda on the bank. Wolfowitz has repeatedly sought to dispel such concerns since he became bank president in June. He has pledged his commitment to the bank's mission of alleviating poverty, and his unassuming manner has charmed many staffers who were averse to his role as a chief strategist of the U.S.-Iraq war.

But after months of seeming tranquillity, the bank is stewing with discontent over Wolfowitz's choice of several confidantes with administration or Republican connections to serve in key bank posts. The most influential is Robin Cleveland, who worked closely with Wolfowitz when she was a senior official at the Office of Management and Budget and is now his top adviser. Two others are Kevin S. Kellems, a former spokesman for Vice President Cheney who last month became the bank's chief communications strategist; and Suzanne Rich Folsom, a former Republican activist named last month to head the Department of Institutional Integrity, the bank's internal watchdog unit. Kellems also holds the title of senior adviser to the president, and Folsom has the title of counselor to the president.

With little development experience, one or more members of that trio advise Wolfowitz on many of his major decisions and act as his conduits to other bank officials. The arrangement, bank veterans said, is unprecedented at the 184-nation institution, which has a multinational staff of 10,000 and lends about $20 billion a year to developing countries for projects ranging from roads and medical clinics to the creation of financial systems.

Top bank officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of offending the new team, said a sense of powerlessness prevails in the bank's upper echelon because of the requirements for important matters to go through the Wolfowitz coterie. Several high-ranking officials have left -- notably Shengman Zhang, the bank's former No. 2, and Roberto Daniño, the general counsel, both of whom told colleagues that they felt cut out of decision-making.

Further fueling the disquiet was the disclosure last week that Ana Palacio, who was foreign minister of Spain when that nation sent troops to Iraq, has received a short-term contract as a bank consultant -- perhaps positioning her for a permanent job.

In an interview, Wolfowitz said the anxiety was understandable, but he scoffed at suggestions that his lieutenants are distancing him from longtime bank staffers. "I can't be 'surrounded' by two-and-a-half people," he said, noting that he has appointed several non-Americans to important posts -- Graeme Wheeler, a New Zealander, as acting managing director; Letitia A. Obeng, a Ghanaian, as his office director; Lars H. Thunell, a Swede, as head of the bank's private-sector investment arm; and Vincenzo La Via, an Italian, as chief financial officer.

"I really like hearing different points of view," Wolfowitz said. "I like to encourage people to disagree with me." With a grin, he added that he has told staffers that they should withhold opposing views only when they are meeting with an official from some foreign government, "and you're agreeing with him, not me."

Kellems observed that Wolfowitz has made extensive efforts to hear from staffers -- including holding "town hall" meetings to answer questions and eating lunch in the cafeteria, where he sits with strangers to ask them what is on their minds.

"He also gave out his personal e-mail address" to a large number of staffers, Kellems said. "The offer was, 'I don't care what rank you are, if you have a concern, or idea, whatever it is, send it to me. I pledge to read it. I do not pledge to answer them all. But I promise you, if you want the contents to remain anonymous, it will.' Then he sometimes sends them to us -- if he wants it acted on, he'll strip off who it is from, and say, 'What do you think of this?' or, 'This looks like it might be a real problem.' "

Although the World Bank president is by tradition a U.S. citizen, no previous president has filled his office with Americans, much less a group of politically kindred spirits, according to bank staffers who have worked there since it was run in the 1970s by former defense secretary Robert S. McNamara. Common as such a staffing approach may be at, say, a U.S. Cabinet agency, it goes down poorly among the bank's international civil servants.

Part of the problem, bank staffers acknowledged, is that many of them don't care for Republican policies. (The party affiliations of Wolfowitz's U.S. aides are not so clear-cut; both Cleveland and Kellems once worked for Democratic senators -- Cleveland for Birch Bayh of Indiana and Kellems for John Glenn of Ohio.)

The political antipathy is evident in the relish with which many staffers call attention to Cleveland's role in a scandal involving Pentagon contracts for aircraft leases. In that case, e-mails showed that Cleveland -- who was overseeing the Defense Department budget at the OMB -- sought help from Air Force Secretary James G. Roche in securing a job for her brother with a defense contractor at the same time as Roche was seeking Cleveland's support for an air-tanker lease deal. Asked for comment, Cleveland said: "The U.S. attorney's office looked into the matter and notified me that there was no basis for any further action."

Wheeler, the acting managing director, sought to soothe the staff in an interview posted on the bank's internal Web site. "It's natural for the President to want to have around him some people who he has worked with in the past and who can help him settle into the new organization," Wheeler said.

The staff gave his comments a thumbs down, as measured by their use of a system allowing them to rate the comments with one star ("not very informative"), two stars ("somewhat informative") and three stars ("very informative"). More than 1,100 of them had responded yesterday with an average rating between one and two stars, a far larger number of respondents and lower rating than is usual for the Web site.

Some of the sharpest criticism has targeted Folsom's appointment to run the Department of Institutional Integrity. A staffer at the Republican National Committee in the 1980s who also worked in the 1989 inauguration of President George H.W. Bush, Folsom went to work for a major law firm in the 1990s, specializing in ethics law. She came to the bank in 2003 as a counselor to Wolfowitz's predecessor, James D. Wolfensohn, who assigned her to help manage the bank's relations with the administration and Congress. Her star has shone brightly under Wolfowitz, who named her acting director of the watchdog unit in October and made the appointment permanent on Jan. 17.

Folsom's detractors note that she had little experience as an investigator. The bank's staff association circulated a letter citing widespread "dismay" over her appointment as well as Kellems's. The letter expressed concern that the bank needs to set a pristine example in its hiring practices, for developing countries that are trying to avoid cronyism.

In an interview, Folsom disputed suggestions that politics played a role in her appointment. "I haven't had a political job since my 20s. I'm in my 40s now," she said, adding that the main reason for her selection by Wolfowitz was his belief that as acting director she invigorated a once-lethargic department with a long backlog of investigations. "Talk to people" in the department, she said. "They're energized."

They are, judging by conversations with staffers who spoke on the condition they would not be identified. "I've been pleasantly surprised," one said. "Things are no longer languishing. We now have street cred within the institution. . . . They're starting to put some teeth in the anti-corruption-speak."

Kellems, who attracted notice in the movie "Fahrenheit 9/11" as the Wolfowitz aide who helped comb the deputy defense secretary's hair, shrugged off concern over the personnel moves. "Anytime there's a transition to a new leader, especially one at a public institution, it's only human nature that that will bring with it varying levels of unease," he said. "There's been far less of that unease to date than many of us expected."

But there is no ignoring the hullabaloo. "At one meeting, someone stood up and said that they heard the reason I got this job was because my son worked for Wolfowitz at the Pentagon," Folsom said. "My son is 9. If he worked at the Pentagon, I want the back pay."


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Russian Ultranationalist Leader Expects U.S. to Attack Iran in Late March
By MosNews 7 Feb 06

A senior Russian parliamentary official and leader of the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Vladimir Zhirinovsky believes that a US attack on Iran is inevitable, he has told Ekho Moskvy radio station. ...

He went on to add that the publication of Prophet Muhammad cartoons in the European press was a planned action by the U.S. whose aim is “to provoke a row between Europe and the Islamic world”.
“The war is inevitable because the Americans want this war,” he said. “Any country claiming a leading position in the world will need to wage wars. Otherwise it will simply not be able to retain its leading position. The date for the strike is already known — it is the election day in Israel (March 28). It is also known how much that war will cost,” Zhirinovsky said.

He went on to add that the publication of Prophet Muhammad cartoons in the European press was a planned action by the U.S. whose aim is “to provoke a row between Europe and the Islamic world”. “It will all end with European countries thanking the United States and paying, and giving soldiers,” he said. Russia should “choose a position of non- interference and express minimal solidarity with the Islamic world”, Zhirinovsky added.

For his part, the head of the Centre for Strategic Studies of Religions and Modern World Politics, Maxim Shevchenko, also believes that a U.S. attack on Iran is very likely although he sees no preconditions for this war. “Iran does not threaten anyone, is not pointing its missiles at anyone. No Iranian leader has ever threatened to carry out a strike against the U.S. Therefore preparations for a war against Iran appear to be a global act of provocation,” he said.

In Shevchenko’s opinion, the reason behind “this barefaced promotion of a world war lies not in a conflict between the West and the Islamic World but in a fight for power in the world between US and European elites”. “The fate of humanity will be decided between a saber-rattling America and an allegedly democratic Europe,” Shevchenko concluded.

Whereas a senior research associate of the World Economy and International Relations Institute, Georgy Mirsky, is confident that “there will be no war”.

“The Americans got so very much stuck in Afghanistan and Iraq that they will not start a new war without definite proof of the fact that Iran poses a threat to the world. Besides, the U.S. has mid-term elections this year and the Republicans, who have suffered a severe blow to their trust, will not be able to win these elections if they drag the country into a new hazardous escapade.

”As for Israel, it can carry out a strike against Iran but only when it knows for certain that only one step remains before an Iranian atomic bomb is created. But that time has not come yet,“ Mirsky said.

Copyright © 2006 MOSNEWS.COM


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AWB chief resigns in Australia-Iraq oil-for-food scandal
AFP 9 Feb 06

An Australian inquiry into alleged kickbacks paid to Iraq under the UN oil-for-food programme claimed its first scalp with the resignation of the chief executive of wheat exporter AWB.
The resignation of AWB boss Andrew Lindberg came in the fourth week of an inquiry which has detailed how the wheat exporter allegedly paid some 220 million dollars in kickbacks to secure 2.3 billion dollars in wheat contracts with the regime of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein under the 1996-2003 oil-for-food programme.

Lindberg will relinquish all executive responsibilities immediately and officially step down from his post on April 30, the AWB, which has been at the centre of the inquiry since it began last month, said in a statement.

"The board thanks Mr Lindberg for his contribution to the company and for making this decision, believing that it is in the best interests of the company," AWB said.

The inquiry was established by Prime Minister John Howard after a UN report into the oil-for-food programme named AWB as one of more than 2,000 companies which had paid kickbacks to Baghdad when ruled by Saddam Hussein.

AWB holds a monoply on Australian wheat exports and was a government owned company until listing on the stock exchange in mid-1999.

It allegedly paid more in kickbacks to Baghdad than any other company named by the UN with sums totalling 220 million US dollars.

However, AWB executives have said they were duped into believing that fees paid to Baghdad were meant to cover the costs of transporting grain to Iraq.

The Sydney inquiry also heard Thursday from the AWB's former global marketing chief Nigel Officer that the UN and Australian government were never told all the details of the contracts involving Iraq.

He said the true nature of deals with the Iraqi Grain Board in 1999 were not disclosed in contracts sent to the UN and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) because it was felt it could jeopardise UN approval.

"We did not go out of our way not to draw it to the attention of DFAT," Officer, who left the AWB in 2000, said.

Under questioning, he agreed the department had been left uninformed adding AWB culture was forged by the knowledge that it operated in some countries where Australian "moral and ethical" business practices were not observed.

"At the end of the day, if there were grey areas it was perhaps left so that sometimes the answers that you might not like to hear weren't heard," he said.

Officer said he had spoken to then chairman Trevor Flugge on one occasion about the "greyness" of trucking fees paid to Alia and suggested AWB not make those payments directly.

"His response would have been along the lines that 'We're in the business of maximising opportunities and sales returns'," he told the inquiry.

Alia, 49 percent owned by the Iraqi government, collected trucking fees from AWB which were channelled through to Baghdad.

Officer said that Flugge and former chief executive officer Murray Rogers approved the "trucking fees" which were never questioned by other executives.

"Without their support and authority the contractual changes could not occur," he said.

"At no stage did either Trevor or Murray disagree with the contractual changes or the payment of the trucking fees that had been proposed and they understood those reasons."

Meanwhile, the AWB board said it was inappropriate to respond to allegations or evidence given to the inquiry before it was completed.

"The board will take all necessary steps to protect AWB and to restore its reputation," it said.

The scandal continued to dominate the national parliament Thursday but the opposition Labor Party leader Kim Beazley was forced to admit there was as yet no "smoking gun" linking Howard's conservative government to the kickbacks.


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Israel unveils plan to encircle Palestinian state
Chris McGreal, Jerusalem Wednesday February 8, 2006

The acting Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said yesterday that he plans to annex the Jordan Valley and major Jewish settlement blocks to Israel in drawing new borders, according to a television station that recorded an interview with him yesterday.

In Mr Olmert's first policy statement since he succeeded Ariel Sharon last month, Channel 2 television said that he made clear he intends to carry through his predecessor's vision of creating an emasculated Palestinian state on Israel's terms.
If the Jewish state were to annex all of the Jordan Valley, which is dotted with small settlements, it would leave a future Palestinian state on the West Bank entirely surrounded by Israel and without a direct link to neighbouring countries.

The interview was to be broadcast late last night. Channel 2's political affairs reporter, Nissim Mishal, told Army radio that Mr Olmert, who is favourite to win next month's general election, also plans further unilateral withdrawals similar to the settler pullout from Gaza last summer.

"He talked about Israel having to maintain a Jewish majority in the state of Israel, meaning that we have to create a new border, what is called final borders. He knows that we can't negotiate with Hamas. So the only conclusion that can be derived from this is that, in order to reach final borders, Israel will have to carry out additional [unilateral] withdrawals," said Mishal.

Mr Olmert said he intends to annex the three main settlement blocks of Ariel, Gush Etzion and Maale Adumim as well as the Jordan Valley, the TV station said. The pressure group Peace Now estimates 185,000 of the 244,000 Israelis in the West Bank outside Jerusalem are resident in the settlements Mr Olmert wants to keep within Israel's border.

That would mean removing about 60,000 settlers, many more than were forced out of Gaza. On Monday the defence minister, Shaul Mofaz, said the government was considering unilaterally imposing the borders of a Palestinian state.

"If we won't be able to reach agreed-upon borders, we will operate in a different way, which it is not appropriate to detail now ... we don't need to wait for someone else to impose our fate," he said. "In the coming years, and I'm talking about a few years, the final borders of the state of Israel will be set down, and the future of most of the settlements in [the West Bank] and the Jordan Valley will be decided in these two years."

Yesterday Mr Mofaz said Israel would keep targeting Palestinian armed groups, hours before an air strike killed two men in Gaza said by the army to be al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades members responsible for firing rockets into Israel.

Israel has killed nine Palestinians this week, mostly Islamic Jihad and al-Aqsa members, in response to rocket attacks, one of which injured a baby. The army also killed an Islamic Jihad activist in Nablus yesterday. Buildings in Israel were damaged yesterday by rockets from Gaza. The army struck a bridge and shelled roads to try to stop rockets being moved to launch sites.


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Protest Against Israel: Church votes to sell off shares in Caterpillar
Stephen Bates, religious affairs correspondent Tuesday February 7, 2006 The Guardian

The Church of England's general synod - including the Archbishop of Canterbury - voted last night to disinvest church funds from companies profiting from Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian territory.
The main target of the plan will be the US earth-moving equipment company Caterpillar which has supplied vehicles used by Israel to demolish Palestinian homes. When the worldwide Anglican communion called for such a move, at a meeting last summer, there followed protests from Israel and Jewish groups. The church currently invests about £2.5m of its £900m share portfolio in Caterpillar and had been engaged in negotiations with the company about its activities. Caterpillar insists it has not provided the earth movers directly to Israel but to the US military which sold them on.

So passionate was the debate that it squeezed out an equally contentious decision last Friday by the Church commissioners, managers of the church's investment and property portfolio, to sell off the century-old Octavia Hill housing estates for more than 1,000 poor tenants in south London to property developers.

On the first day of its meeting in London, the general synod, the church's parliament, heard denunciations of Israel's use of the machines from one of its own bishops and from the Anglican bishop of Jerusalem, who is Palestinian, whose letter was read out.

The Rt Rev John Gladwin, Bishop of Chelmsford, who is chairman of Christian Aid, told the meeting that the problem in the Middle East was the government of Israel rather than Caterpillar but that it was vital that the church should invest only in organisations which behaved ethically.


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Masked Israeli settlers stone Palestinian infants
Irish Sun 7th February, 2006

Four masked men at an Israeli settlement were caught throwing stones at young Palestinian children on the weekend.

Israel Radio reported the incident Tuesday saying it took place at the Ma'on settlement near Mt. Hebron.

According to the report the children, aged between 6 and eight, were stoned by the men as they were making their way home from school.

Israel Radio said the men, who wore masks, pelted the children from close range until an Israeli Army jeep showed up, and soldiers attempted to restrain them.

The men resisted the soldiers and called them "nazis," the radio report said.



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Suppression and Liberty
By Ron Fullwood ICH 7 Feb 06

"President Wilson in World War I authorized the military to intercept each and every cable, telephone and telegraph communication going into or out of the United States."- Attorney General Gonzales before the Judiciary committee 2/6

It's in keeping with the regressive character of this administration that they would have the gall to throw Wilson's repudiated actions against Americans during WWI at the wall of opposition to their own warrantless spying on Americans, hoping the revisionism would stick.
President Woodrow Wilson urged legislative action against those who had "sought to bring the authority and 'good name' of the Government into contempt." He worried in his declaration of war, about "spies and criminal intrigues everywhere afoot" which had filled "our unsuspecting communities and even our offices of government."

During his presidency more than 2,000 American citizens were jailed for protest, advocacy, and dissent, with the support of a compliant Supreme Court.

The Wilson-era assaults on civil liberties; Schenck v. U.S.; Frohwerk v. U.S.; Debs v. U.S, Abrams v. U.S., were ratified by Supreme Court decisions which asserted that free speech in wartime was a hindrance to the efforts of peace.

Justice Holmes, in upholding the 1919 Schnek case, in which leaflets were distributed that expressed opposition to the draft, wrote of the words of protest: "Their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight" (referring to the war), and that "no court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right."

Justices Brennan and Holmes wrote the majority opinion which was phrased as the new "clear and present danger" test in which they argued: "The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree."

Justice Holmes said, "We think it necessary to add to what has been said in Schenck v. United States . . . only that the First Amendment while prohibiting legislation against free speech as such cannot have been, and obviously was not, intended to give immunity for every possible use of language. We venture to believe that neither Hamilton nor Madison, nor any other competent person then or later, ever supposed that to make criminal the counseling of a murder within the jurisdiction of Congress would be an unconstitutional interference with free speech."

The Court wanted to draw a clear line between free speech and harmful speech, but their reasoning was blunt The effect of the ruling was a stifling of protest and dissent.

In the case of Frohwerk, the Supreme Court used the Schnek decision to uphold the convictions of two newspaper workers for publishing articles which condemned the war. The Schnek decision was also used by the Supreme Court in 1919 to uphold the conviction of Eugene Debs under the Espionage Act for giving a public address condemning capitalism, advocating socialism, and speaking in defense of those who had been imprisoned for exercising their free speech rights. Similarly, in the case of Abrams, the Supreme Court upheld the conviction for distributing antiwar leaflets.

Eventually Holmes would move away from his ruling on Schnek in his dissent in the Court's upholding of Abrams. Justice Holmes worried in his minority opinion that, "A patriot might think that we were wasting money on aeroplanes, or making more cannon of a certain kind than we needed, and might advocate curtailment with success."

In the 1917 case of Masses Publishing v Patten, at the beginning of WWI, Masses Publishing had argued against the postmaster general's refusal to allow the distribution of its journal which attacked capitalism. Justice Learned Hand had ruled that the draft violated the First Amendment. Hand said that, ". . . the government may prosecute words that are "triggers to action" but not words that are "keys of persuasion." A reversal promptly followed his decision.

Not until 1969, would the Supreme Court unanimously abandon Schnek standard to overturn the conviction in the case of Brandenburg v. Ohio; in support of the free speech rights of a member of the Ku Klux Klan. The Brandenburg ruling braided the "clear and present danger" standard with Justice Hand's 'incitement test."

A footnote for the majority opinion observes that, "Statutes affecting the right of assembly, like those touching on freedom of speech, must observe the established distinctions between mere advocacy and incitement to imminent lawless action," for, it stated, ". . . the right of peaceable assembly is a right (related) to those of free speech and free press, and is equally fundamental."

The reversal of the Klanman's conviction affirmed the principle that the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force or of law violation except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.

The broad decision in Brandenburg gave future courts room for the passage of the many protections of public expression and advocacy which we rely on today in our dissent and protest. As Justice Douglas wrote in 1958: "Advocacy that is no way brigaded with action should always be protected by the First Amendment. That protection should extend even to the actions we despise."


Gonzales argued in the Judiciary hearing that, "Presidents throughout our history have authorized the warrantless surveillance of the enemy during wartime. And they have done so in ways far more sweeping than the narrowly targeted terrorist surveillance program authorized by President Bush."

That's actually the reason for the creation of the FISA court, as a check on Executive authority. The FISA was sponsored in the ‘60's by Sen. Edward Kennedy and others in an attempt to reign in warrantless surveillance by the government. It was a remedy for abuses. Gonzales wants us to believe that the danger to America now is so great that we should go back to the paranoia and repression of earlier dark periods of our nation's history and strike out at our citizens with the full weight of government, with the hope of felling a handful of potential assailants.

So far, there have been no arrests of any terrorist as a result of the special powers Bush granted himself after 9-11. Not one terrorist has been arrested in the U.S. as a result of the warrantless spying on Americans authorized by this administration. Not that warrants would have necessarily made their actions acceptable.

The FISA court and the Court of Review authorize government wiretaps in foreign intelligence investigations. Under FISA, all hearings and decisions are conducted in secret. The government is normally the only party to FISA proceedings and the only party that can appeal to the Supreme Court.

In an appeal of the FISA's authority the ACLU argued that, "These fundamental issues should not be finally by courts that sit in secret, do not ordinarily publish their decisions, and allow only the government to appear before them."

The ACLU and its supporters have asserted that some of their members and many other Americans are currently subject to illegal surveillance, noting that the FBI has already targeted its members in numerous other ways. Under the FISA statute, a U.S. citizen may be subject to a FISA surveillance order for political statements and views that are determined to be unpopular by the secret Court of Review.

Gonzales also used the actions of President Lincoln to justify his warrantless spying on Americans:

"President Lincoln used the warrantless wiretapping of telegraph messages during the Civil War to discern the movements and intentions of opposing troops." he counseled in his statement.

President Lincoln spoke to the notion of divinity's mandate to vigilance when he remarked on the violence of the abolitionist, John Brown in his Cooper Union address. He said, "An enthusiast broods over the oppression of a people till he fancies himself commissioned by heaven to liberate them."

"Human action can be modified to some extent, but human nature cannot be changed," he continued. "There is a judgment and a feeling against slavery in this nation, which cast at least a million and a half of votes. You cannot destroy that judgment and feeling - that sentiment - by breaking up the political organization which rallies around it."

Lincoln suffered for the success of his war at the point of a terrorist's gun. It would be impossible to argue that he died merely for the defense of territory. The surrender of the southern army brought freedom for the majority of slaves. And, no matter how we judge the immediate impact of Lincoln's proclamation, the victory led to the emancipation and the subsequent empowerment of Africans in America. But, Lincoln believed that adherence to the principles of democracy would distinguish any victory in a manner that would provide for the durability of the Union and foster a national affirmation of the rights of the individual.

"It was that," he said, "which gave promise that in due time the weight would be lifted from the shoulders of all men."

Regrettably, Lincoln would later contradict that sentiment when he set up a military tribunal and suspended the writ of habeas corpus, imprisoning more than 13,000 southerners, who he determined to be agitating unlawfully against the Union. Although he first applied the suspension only to the succeeding states which he regarded as an insurrection, he was rightly condemned for the tyrannical use of the force of government to stifle the opposition. He was wrong even though the suspension was temporary, and most of his efforts were in response to the sabotage of the railroads, and to counter those who were calling for the desertion of his northern forces.

Lincoln's actions in suppressing the rights of the "enemy" southerners reflected the attitudes of the more radical of his supporters who regarded the ascension of their Republican party in the southern statehouses as an inevitable political destiny of the war. And so it is, in all military campaigns, that in the pursuit of our ‘enemies,’ we become so convinced of the rightness of our cause that we detach ourselves from the consequences of the dehumanization of our opponents. When opposing powers war, how do we distinguish between lawful opposition and insurrection?

Lincoln addressed the question of the suspension of the privilege of the writ in a July 4, 1861 message to a wary Congress; clearly torn between defending against subversives who advocated secession, and the application of the absolute power of his Executive presidency.

"Of course," he wrote, "some consideration was given to the questions of power and propriety, before this matter was acted upon. Are all the laws, but one to go unexecuted, and the government go to pieces, lest that one be violated? . . . would not the official oath be broken, if the government be overthrown?"

Thomas Jefferson had no sympathy for a federal government which had violated its compact with the governed. He wrote in opposition to the Alien and Sedition laws that, ". . . whensoever the general government assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void and of no effect."

Jefferson asserted that, "The several states composing the United States of America are not united on the principle of unlimited submission to their general government; but that, by compact, under the style and title of the Constitution of the United States, and of certain amendments thereto, they constituted a general government for general purposes, delegated to that government certain powers."

But Lincoln felt that the preservation of the confederation took precedence over all else; noting that the Constitution was conceived, not only to secure liberty, but to secure the "formation of a more perfect Union"

However, a year after the war ended, the Supreme Court would rule that Lincoln had exceeded his authority. And despite Congress' acquiescence in its subsequent approval of Lincoln's arbitrary actions in its passing of the Habeas Corpus bill of 1863, the court found that the president was not protected by the constitution in his suspension of the citizen's rights, even in wartime.

That opinion has not dissuaded presidents in the centuries thereafter from using the power of government to mandate loyalty, stifle opposition and imprison those they considered enemies of the state. Now, it appears that this legacy of imperial assumptions is being used as a limbo bar as this Bush administration determines just how low they can go.

Ron Fullwood, bigtree_75@msn.com is an activist from Columbia, Md. and the author of the book 'Power of Mischief : Military Industry Executives are Making Bush Policy and the Country is Paying the Price'


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Thousands of Lebanese Shi'ites protest cartoons
By Nadim Ladki Reuters 9 Feb 06

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Hundreds of thousands of Shi'ite Muslims in Lebanon turned a religious ceremony on Thursday into a peaceful protest against a series of cartoons in the Western media lampooning the Prophet Mohammad.

The European Union sought to calm tension, calling for a voluntary media code of conduct to avoid inflaming religious sensibilities, while the United States accused Iran and Syria of deliberately stoking Muslim rage.

The leader of Lebanon's Hizbollah guerrilla group pledged no compromise until there was a full apology from Denmark, where the cartoons first appeared, and European countries passed laws prohibiting insults to the Prophet.
"Today, we are defending the dignity of our Prophet with a word, a demonstration but let (U.S. President) George Bush and the arrogant world know that if we have to ... we will defend our prophet with our blood, not our voices," Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hizbollah, told the crowd.

The annual Shi'ite mourning ceremonies mark the death of the Prophet's grandson, Imam Hussein, killed in Kerbala in Iraq 1,300 years ago. Security sources put the turnout in Beirut at 400,000 and similar processions are due throughout the day in other Shi'ite centres; notably in Iraq and Iran.

Aid workers from Denmark were told to stay away from the ceremonies for fear of reprisals, said the Danish Red Cross, which has some 40 Danish staff in Muslim countries. Denmark's Foreign Ministry warned Danes to stay away from Lebanon.

BLASPHEMY OR FREE SPEECH?

Publication of the cartoons, one of which showed the Prophet wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a fizzing fuse, has incensed Muslims across the world and led to often violent protests in which at least 11 people have been killed.

Muslims consider any portrayal of their Prophet to be blasphemous, but the publishers of the cartoon, reprinted across Europe and in other parts of the world, have insisted they were just exercising their right to free speech.

The 25-member EU called for the media to adopt a voluntary code of conduct to avoid a repeat of the furor.

By doing so, "the press will give the Muslim world the message: We are aware of the consequences of exercising the right of free expression," European Justice and Security Commissioner Franco Frattini told the Daily Telegraph newspaper. "We can and we are ready to self-regulate that right."

The EU's foreign policy chief Javier Solana is to travel to Muslim countries to try to calm some of the anger.

But the United States accused some Muslim countries of pouring petrol on the flames.

"Iran and Syria have gone out of their way to inflame sentiments and to use this to their own purposes," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday.

Both countries are at loggerheads with the West and have witnessed attacks on Western embassy buildings. U.S. President George W. Bush urged governments to stop the violence.

The president of Indonesia, the world's most populous nation, said there was a lesson to be drawn from the cartoons.

"The rights of press freedom are not absolute," said President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. "Whatever the faith, we must respect it."

Indonesian Islamic leaders called on Muslims to avoid violence. "There may be fire in your heart but your head must be cool," said Din Syamsuddin, the leader of Indonesia's second largest Muslim group, the 30-million strong Muhammadiyah.

Two staff at a university in the United Arab Emirates were sacked after one of them, an American, made copies of the cartoons in an attempt to spur debate among her students. Her colleague, a British man, was fired when he defended her.

A Malaysian daily reported on Thursday that the government had decided to suspend the publishing license of the Sarawak Tribune newspaper for publishing the caricatures last weekend apparently to illustrate a story on the global outrage.

The directors of two Algerian television channels were also sacked for showing the cartoons during news coverage.

The cartoons have appeared in publications in Australia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, France, Fiji, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, the United States, Ukraine and Yemen.


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Kill Them All, God will Know His Own


Historian R. I. Moore has noted that the years around 1200 were a turning point that led to the “formation of a persecuting society. Choices were made then that are still reverberating in human society.

It is clear what choice was made then.

We are facing a similar choice today...

When the Corporatist Church and Nobility went after the Democratic Cathars, the people of the Languedoc did not go down without a fight. But, as it is in all times, those who fight for the rights of free will for all are hindered by their very humanity; they are unable to achieve the single-minded rapacity that denies humanity to others so as to be able to mercilessly destroy them.
“Kill them all, god will know his own.”
A chronicler reported that Arnold Amaury, the monk who led the Albigensian Crusade, uttered this catchphrase outside the city of Beziers on July 22, 1209. His crusaders had asked him how to tell the Catholic believers from the Cathar Heretics.

Arnold’s instructions were followed, and the entire population of Beziers - some 20,000 men, women and children - were indiscriminately murdered.
No one really knows if Arnold really said what was reported, but what is known is that such an ideology was the essence of the crusade against the Cathars, and such ideology has arisen among human beings again and again throughout history, even to the present day in the halls of government of the United States. The consequences are always and ever the same - something that the current administration does not seem to realize - proving the saying that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.

There are many parallels between those times and the present that might serve us well to examine.
On the 10th of March 1208, Pope Innocent III issued a summons to all Christian nations to take up arms against fellow Christians. He declared that the destruction of these heretics was not only justified, but that it was a dire necessity because the heretics who inhabited an ostensibly Christian land were “worse than the very Saracens.”

This appeal came four years after a Crusader army had captured and pillaged Constantinople, still another Christian land, though one which claimed to be the true seat of original Christianity. The Eastern church considered the church at Rome to be
an upstart, a Frankish invention of Northern Germanic invaders that had nothing at all to do with the Christianity of the historical Jesus.

The new enemy of the church at Rome was one of the greatest princes in Christendom, Count Raymond VI of Toulouse. Raymond was a feudal sovereign whose authority extended over a very large section of what is now known as France, but was then known as Languedoc.
Raymond’s crime was that he ruled a country where the authority of the church was in decline, and he wasn’t doing anything about it.

The declared aim of the crusade was to overthrow a prince of unquestioned legitimacy, who was more inclined to support his people than the church. The church in Rome saw that its continued existence in the Midi of France depended upon putting the country under the control of an alien, external government that would crush rebellion and would not rebel against the church itself.
The enthusiasm for the Holy Land had died down and the common people and the nobility alike no longer felt that they were fighting on behalf of God, and even if they were, they resented the sacrifices they were being called upon to make for the church.

Considering the spirit of the time, it is hard to understand how a Holy War preached against the Count of Toulouse ever came to the field of battle. What is ironic about the events is that this war, conducted against a Christian people who just happened to hold beliefs different than those authorized by the church, ended up destroying forever the moral authority of the church and undermined forever the foundations on which that authority was built.

What the Pope considered to be a “police action” against heretics, and to gain control of nobles who were fast becoming intractable, ended up becoming a bloodbath of such oppressive horror that, for millions of the very people the Pope hoped to bring firmly under control, the church of Rome became an object of hatred and contempt. This hatred led to the Protestant Rebellion. The powers that the French crown arrogated to itself during the Cathar Crusade (mostly by Blanche of Castile, regent to her son, King Louis IX), led ultimately to the French Revolution.

George W. Bush and the neocons should sit up and take notice.
The territories of the Count of Toulouse had been more or less heretical for over a hundred years. Up to this point in time, ever since the foundation of Christianity, there had existed various enclaves of different “Christianities,” so to say, of greater or lesser influence. At the time of the Crusades, the Slavic countries and the whole of Northern Italy were a constant battleground where Catholics and “heretics” waged war almost without a break. In the Languedoc, though heretics were still a minority, they were a most important section of the population, including much of the nobility.

The Cathars were pacifists who embraced tolerance in a period when tolerance was not what the church needed in its overweening ambition to rule the Western World. The heresy grew during a period of change and experimentation and expansion of horizons. Crusaders to the Holy Land had returned bringing new ideas, understandings that life could be organized differently and that those who lived or worshipped differently were human beings too - and interesting and valuable to an eclectic society at that. The spread of such ideas led to extreme dissatisfaction with the Medieval Catholic Church which was erected on a foundation of large monasteries and churches lording it over huddled masses of cold and hungry peasants and even aristocrats desirous of making it to heaven. The Catholic Church was basically a large corporation selling salvation and everybody else was supposed to be cogs in the wheel of this great mechanical "control of salvation" organization.
Catharism began to thrive in those areas that were growing democratic: merchant cities of Italy, and trading centers of Champagne and the Rhineland, and independent cities of the Languedoc in France. Catharism was ideally suited to the tolerant feudalism of Languedoc, and for that reason, it had to be destroyed.

The Languedoc was an anomaly in the midst of Fascist European Christianity. It shared a culture and language with its cousins, the Kingdom of Aragon, south of the Pyrenees, and Barcelona. It could even be said that Languedoc “belonged” with Aragon, and not with the Frankish northerners with their Salic laws of inheritance.

In the north, women were excluded from inheritance, and everything went to the eldest son. Younger sons and daughters who were unable to marry heiresses or heirs, were grist for the Catholic monastic factories, a system designed to incrementally increase the power of the Church. In the Languedoc, women had rights, could inherit and manage their own properties, and fiefs were divided among children. This naturally led to a more democratic spread of property, and prevented enormous power from being gathered into the hands of any one person or group of persons. It also, in a way, weakened the Languedoc because no one person or small group of persons could mobilize all the men of a region to go to war for personal ambition or greed.
Languedoc is a contraction of langue d’oc, the “language of yes,” which indicated that it was a language in which the word yes was oc, and not oui. As a note to the side, I find it interesting that the Polish word for “yes” is tak which attests to the close affiliation between the indigenous peoples of Eastern Europe and the indigenous peoples of France. Whether this has anything to do with the relationship between Catharism and the gnostic Christianity of Eastern Europe, is an interesting question.

It was in the Occitan language that troubadour poetry flowered. In the fertile lands of Languedoc, love of a spiritual kind was revealed. Troubadours sang of courtly love, games of deferred pleasure, exalted sublimation of physical desires to spiritual goals, and even, in some cases, what seemed to be adulterous fulfillment. The ethos of amorous longing, of exalted spiritual women revealed the different mold of the Languedoc mind.
At the same time, beyond the Loire and the Rhine, the northern nobles were singing about swords dripping with blood, and viscera being scattered and exulted over, all the while masking this barbarity in a strange mix of rapacious piety.

Sounds like George W. Bush and the neocons…
Languedoc was a land where life was much less rigorous, and where the people, from the peasants to the nobility, had a kind of unity of being expressed by a common mode of thought and feeling. The Count of Toulouse was not precisely “master” of the major towns in his domains. These towns formed small autonomous republics that only acknowledged their feudal overlord if he left them alone. Trade flourished in Languedoc and its cities were prosperous. A burgher’s privileges were substantial, and every inhabitant became free the moment he took up residence in the city. Citizenship in a city of the Languedoc was so strong a guarantee of security that no external authority possessed the right to bring him to trial. Though an individual might commit a crime in a distant place, only his own city’s tribunal had the right to pass judgment on him.

The towns of the Languedoc were governed by consuls and Roman law formed the basis of all local legislation. The consuls were elected from among the city nobility and bourgeoisie, and the burgher was the knight’s equal. The Count of Toulouse lacked any legal authority in his own city, and was only obeyed so long as he respected and upheld the local common law. Every burgher had the right to buy, sell, or engage in barter without paying any duties or taxes on such transactions. There were no restrictions placed upon marriages and resident aliens enjoyed full citizens’ rights regardless of their nationality or creed. Such free towns were the centers of the country’s social life and the election of a consul was a great public event with processions, pomp and circumstance.
The Rhone and Garonne rivers carried merchandise and raw materials through the land, and Marseilles, Toulouse, Avignon and Narbonne were major seaports. There was a relaxation of the traditions of caste, and Jews and Arabs mixed freely in the melting pot towns of Languedoc. The spirit of independence from princely power was strong in the Midi.

Being predominantly commercial cities, the towns of the Languedoc were quite opulent and modern compared with the cities of the North such as Paris, Troyes or Rouen. The cities of the south had universities that taught medicine, philosophy, mathematics, astrology, and more. The works of the Arab philosophers were censored in Paris, but available in Toulouse. Arab doctors and merchants came to Languedoc, and the “infidel” was not regarded as a “natural enemy.” Jews were fully integrated into public life and were held in high regard by the general populace. In some towns, Jews were consuls or magistrates.
One thing is certain, life in the Languedoc was more secular than anywhere else, and as a result, life in general flourished to a higher degree than in those places under the jackboot of religious intolerance. The cities of the Languedoc were centers of culture and great industry and prestige.

Poetry, literature, and music also flourished and became a part of daily life as much for the bourgeoisie and the common man as for the nobility. The Poetry of the Languedoc is not only the most ancient in European history, but also the most sublime in terms of inspiration. It seems that the Occitan language was the tongue par excellence of literature. Even today, no one can think of the South of France without recalling the troubadours. The phenomenon of an aristocracy passionately devoted to spiritually inspirational poetry, that dedicated their lives to living out the ideals of that age and milieu, is unmatched by any other group or period of history. The prosaic northerners might have thought the Southerners had gone off their rockers, but then the northern nobility’s highest ambition was to help their king put on his underwear.
The nobility of the Languedoc had a different idea of honor than sacrificing his life for his king, or tying his shoes. In spite of the opulance of their surroundings, the southern aristocrat had a certain disdain for the material things of life, combined with a high regard and even exaltation of personal virtues that was possessed of a great and noble WILL. The adoration of the Lady was a declaration of free will; a proof that, even though one is giving, and giving all, it is being given to a private deity of one’s own free choice.

It is very likely that the Lady of the Languedoc was merely a symbol of something much deeper and was directly related to the knowledge that was held by the Cathar perfecti. One thing for certain is this: the nobility of the Languedoc were not only permitting heresy, but were its most famous and dedicated supporters and defenders.
Although mystery surrounds the origin of Catharism, it is clear that it was connected to the Gnosticism of the Bogomils of the Byzantine Empire. This tradition may relate directly to the tradition revealed by Georges Gurdjieff, P.D. Ouspensky, and Boris Mouravieff, and may actually be a conduit of legitimate transmission of the original teachings of the man around whom the Jesus myth was formed.

The fact is, the so-called Cathar Heresy was really a rival religion that was rapidly gaining ground in Europe, and it claimed to be the original Christianity. These believers were not dissidents; they were fully conscious of belonging to a faith that was more ancient than the Church at Rome itself.
Some modern historians have theorized that Catharism was not a heresy due to the simple fact that it was a completely alien religion that had nothing at all in common with Christianity as we know it.

The so-called Cathar heresy was predicated upon the question of Good and Evil. The irreducible bone of contention between the Cathars and the Catholic Church was the role and power of Evil in the life of human beings.
For the Cathars, the god of Judaism, was an evil Archon of Darkness. They rejected entirely the Old Testament as being the work of this evil god. The Cathars considered worldly authority, based on so-called Divine Sanction such as the Church claimed, to be a fraud.

The Cathar God was a god of light who ruled invisible consciousness and did not meddle in human affairs. The God of the Cathars simply didn’t care if you got into bed before getting married, associated with or intermarried with Jews or Arabs, black or white, and whether or not you were a woman or a man. For the Cathars, it was material life, pursuit of material things, money, power and possessions, that was the hallmark of Idolatry.
The Cathars believed that it was a free choice for every person as to whether or not they wanted to renounce the materialistic life for a life of self-denial so as to purify oneself of material desires and thus “ascend” to a different world - an Edenic like state of purity. The only “hell” the Cathars admitted was that if a person did not choose to purify themselves, they would reincarnate over and over again until their material desires and passions were burned away in the sufferings of material life. In short, to be damned was to live again and again in this vale of tears we call Earthly life.

Good grief! What kind of religion doesn't try to control people with fears of hellfire and damnation?
Such Gnostic Dualism isn’t new; it is a notion that has been shared by other creeds throughout history. For the Cathars, however, the unique crossroads of choice lay within each and every human being. It was in the human consciousness that the divine spark was found - the “Kingdom of Heaven within” - and this spark was a remnant of an earlier, angelic state of existence that had the potential to be redeemed. It was there, in everyone, waiting to be set free from the cycle of reincarnation.

Now, what was so evil about this?
It should be obvious. If such ideas were true, the sacraments of the Catholic Church were null and void, and the Church itself was a fraud, a cruel hoax played by those who were only seeking power. If such ideas were true, the status of human beings could never be looked at the same way again. If everybody believed, as the Cathars did, that a king in one life could be a serving wench in the next, and that women could be highly evolved spiritual beings - even leaders - it put a whole different spin on how humans ought to behave toward one another.

One of the more serious charges against the Cathars was their repugnance against swearing oaths. It’s hard to understand this now, but it can be compared to the idea that a modern earthly contract has no binding power when issues of morality and ethics come into the picture. The swearing of oaths, especially oaths of fealty, was the contractual underpinning of a feudal society. It gave a “sacred weight” to the controllers of the hierarchy, the Catholic Church. If an individual broke an oath, he could be condemned by the authority of the Church to Hell. Kingdoms, estates, bonds of service, all were created, transferred, and maintained by the mediation of the Church. You could say that “swearing oaths” was medieval Corporatism.
The Cathars believed that linking the activities of business and government to the Divine was an exercise in Wishful Thinkingif not out and out blasphemy. From their point of view, god was detached from such things and any idea that he was either interested, or cared about the business and government doings of human beings was a fanciful house of cards. For anyone to claim that they had the power to control human dealings by threatening the wrath of God just on their say-so was hubris in the extreme.

Catharism taught that man and woman were one. A human being was reincarnated over and over again - as peasant, king, boy, girl, master, servant - but what really mattered was one’s divine, immaterial, androgynous - or rather, sexless - spiritual self. That did irreparable damage to the Catholic churche's teachings about the sinful state of women, the exclusion of women from inheritance, the "fall of man" via the temptation of Eve, and so on.
In short, Catharism was one of the greatest threats to the Powers That Be that has ever existed. The church, and kings and rulers who relied on the Church to control people and to give weight to their contracts, could not allow such a heresy to spread. Spurred on by the Catholic Church in its unholy alliance with power seeking aristocrats, the might of Feudal Europe fell upon Languedoc in a righteous fury. In a certain sense, you could say that it was a war between spiritual freedom and spiritual corporatism. Western Civilization had reached a crossroad similar to the crossroad that the Cathars taught existed within the hearts of individual humans: a return to consciousness of Angelic realms, or a new cycle of repeating again and again the pain and suffering of existence in this vale of tears we call Earth.

Historian R. I. Moore has noted that the years around 1200 were a turning point that led to the “formation of a persecuting society. Choices were made then that are still reverberating in human society.

It is clear what choice was made then.

We are facing a similar choice today.

On their side, the Cathars referred to Christianity as created and promoted by the Catholic Church as “the Harlot of the Apocalypse” and the “church of wolves,” in sheep’s clothing, no doubt.

When the Corporatist Church and Nobility went after the Democratic Cathars, the people of the Languedoc did not go down without a fight. But, as it is in all times, those who fight for the rights of free will for all are hindered by their very humanity; they are unable to achieve the single-minded rapacity that denies humanity to others so as to be able to mercilessly destroy them.

Pope Innocent III needed an explosive incident that would fire the public imagination and justify a declaration of war. The Pope had no army, and crusades were, essentially, volunteer operations. The Pope couldn’t force anyone to fight, and so the idea was to persuade the landed nobles with their retinues of soldiers to agree to join in. This incident was provided by the murder of Peter of Castelnau which was blamed on Count Raymond. There are very good grounds, according to the historical experts, to think that Raymond had nothing to do with the murder of the Papal Legate.

A propaganda campaign was launched. Papal emissaries, carrying Peter’s bloodstained habit from place to place, expiated on the tragedy of a country abandoned to the ravages of heresy. Just as we see in the present day - and so it has been throughout history - fantastic slanders were created and spread about the Cathars. They were said to consume the ashes of dead babies and to indulge in incestuous orgies. They were accused of homosexuality and sodomy. The heretics were said to desecrate communion chalices and to declaim blasphemies against the saints, declaring they were all damned. They singled out John the Baptist for particular calumny. You might call it Medieval COINTELPRO.

The propaganda efforts were so successful that volunteers streamed in from all quarters. Not only knights with no lands, and hopes of acquiring a fief of their own, but also peasants and burghers.

Crusades in general had long formed a part of the social structure of the Western European aristocracy. It was a way to grab land and plunder. The thing that made Crusades so popular was the approval of the Church. Those who went to war “for the Church,” were convinced that, by practicing a profession - that of warrior and murderer - that, under different circumstances would contribute nothing to their salvation, they were not only serving God, but were saving their own souls. Crusaders enjoyed indulgences, privileges, and could win forgiveness for the most heinous sins while grabbing property, plunder, fame and fortune.
What a deal! Sounds like the Bushies and Halliburton in Iraq.

Another lure to the Crusades was that it was a handy way of getting out of debt. A Crusader’s goods and property were sacrosanct for the whole period of his absence, and his creditors could touch nothing no matter how much he might owe them.

Sounds like the deals offered to the Bush cronies who stand behind him, eh?

The faith of the Crusaders who could exterminate fellow human beings for the Glory of God may seem contemptible to us now, but is what America is doing in Iraq any different? It seems that, to such minds, ordinary human morality cannot be considered when God’s interests are at stake. Never mind that “god’s interests” are surprisingly blood-thirsty and similar to the interests of whoever happens to be in power. Thus it is when a religion is based on a construct of human imagination.

Catholic Faith in the Middle Ages was deep, sincere, and violent in its attachment to external manifestations. It was a period of “mundane religions,” since the urge to perceive God as more or less human and concrete with a special interest in his chosen human beings was a vigorous movement. When the Church had outlawed the sublime mysticism of the ancient Celts (which was surprisingly similar to the beliefs of the Cathars, by the way), they also took over the related myths and legends, transforming them into Saints and stories of martyrdom for Christianity rather than the other way around which it actually was, in many cases.

The world of the Medieval Christian was filled with the lives of Saints and readings from sacred books which took the place of theatre, cinema, magazines, and what we would call best sellers. Literature that was NOT religious in character, was almost unknown, and generally reserved for the pleasure of a small elite. The creative energy of the entire society was wholly focused on religious life. The frantic urge to incarnate the Divine, to make it concrete, suggests a very deep materialism; a high regard for the values of the physical world mixed with contempt for human life. Those who were listeners to the words of the envoys of the popes undoubtedly thought that a mutilated crucifix was more distressing than a mutilated human body.

And so, a heresy that was opposed to the massive Corporate constructions of faith - cathedrals, churches, monasteries, and royal power granted by that faith - was opposed most strenuously by those who clung most frantically to their religious customs as though they were a national heritage.

In short, the papal emissaries had little trouble working up the anger and indignation of large audiences, and the Cathars became “God’s Enemies.”

The war against the Cathars, then, was a war that symbolized a particular view of God and the Universe that was held by those whose motives of sentiment and passion were peculiarly brutal and Corporatist.

Throughout the merciless Crusade against the Cathars, it seems that it became more and more clear that the presence of heretics in Languedoc was merely an excuse. The real aim of the Church, the French Crown, the Crusaders, was genocide and grabbing of plunder via the destruction of the entire country and its aristocracy. The destruction of Catharism was only achieved by the obliteration of everything that made up the living traditions of the Languedoc.

The story of the crusade against the Cathars is a terrible story of the triumph of the Evil Archon of Darkness over the Light of the Spirit and Freedom. We have lived, ever since, in that persecuting society that was formed by Western Christendom at that time.


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Cartoon Protesters Direct Anger at U.S.
By NOOR KHAN AP 9 Feb 06

QALAT, Afghanistan - Police killed four people Wednesday as Afghans enraged over drawings of the Prophet Muhammad marched on a U.S. military base in a volatile southern province, directing their anger not against Europe but America.

The U.S. base was targeted because the United States "is the leader of Europe and the leading infidel in the world," said Sher Mohammed, a 40-year-old farmer who suffered a gunshot wound while taking part in the demonstration in the city of Qalat.
"They are all the enemy of Islam. They are occupiers in our country and must be driven out," Mohammed said.

Wednesday's violence began when hundreds of protesters tried to storm the U.S. base, said Ghulam Nabi Malakhail, a provincial police chief. When warning shots failed to deter them, police shot into the crowd, killing four and wounding 11, he said.

Flying rocks injured eight police and one Afghan soldier, he said.

Two Pakistanis arrested for allegedly firing at police were being questioned to see whether they were linked to al-Qaida, Malakhail said. Some officials accuse al-Qaida of inciting three days of bloody riots across Afghanistan that have left 11 dead.

Protesters also burned three fuel tankers waiting to deliver gasoline to the base, said Malakhail. He said U.S. troops fired warning shots into the air.

U.S. military spokesman Col. James Yonts said the American forces fired flares above the crowd, but he said it was not clear whether they fired their weapons.

Muslims around the world have demonstrated over the images - including one depicting the prophet wearing a turban shaped as a bomb - printed in Western media. Islam is interpreted to forbid any illustrations of the prophet.

In Baghdad, Iraq's top Shiite political leader criticized attacks on foreign embassies by Muslims.

"We value and appreciate peaceful Islamic protests," said Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. "But we are against the idea of attacking embassies and other official sites."

In the West Bank, about 300 Palestinians overpowered a Palestinian police detail and attacked an international observer mission in the city of Hebron.

Sixty members of the mission were inside, said Gunhild Forselv, spokeswoman for the Temporary International Presence in Hebron. A few protesters forced their way in, where unarmed observers waved clubs in an attempt to drive them off. Police reinforcements eventually restored order.

Muslims also demonstrated in Indian-controlled Kashmir, Bangladesh, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and in Turkey.

In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused Iran and Syria of instigating protests in their countries, and President Bush called upon governments to stop the violence and protect the lives of diplomats overseas.

The United States and other countries were looking into whether extremist groups may be inciting protesters to riot, said Yonts, the U.S. spokesman in Afghanistan.

Iranian vice president Isfandiar Rahim Mashaee rejected Rice's assertion that Iran was inflaming Muslim anger over the cartoons. "That is 100 percent a lie," Mashaee said in Jakarta, Indonesia. "It is without attribution."

Zahor Afghan, editor for Erada, Afghanistan's most respected newspaper, said the riots in his country have surprised him.

"No media in Afghanistan has published or broadcast pictures of these cartoons. The radio has been reporting on it, but there are definitely people using this to incite violence against the presence of foreigners in Afghanistan," he said.

Afghans who rioted Wednesday said they heard about the cartoons on the radio but none questioned had seen printed versions.

"The radio is talking about them all the time. Everybody heard about them this way," said 28-year-old shopkeeper Ramatullah, who uses only name.

Wednesday's riot erupted despite an appeal from Afghanistan's top Islamic organization, the Ulama Council, for an end to the violence.

"Islam says it's all right to demonstrate but not to resort to violence. This must stop," senior cleric Mohammed Usman told The Associated Press. "We condemn the cartoons but this does not justify violence. These rioters are defaming the name of Islam."

In France, President Jacques Chirac asked media to avoid offending religious beliefs as another French newspaper reprinted the caricatures. The satirical French weekly Charlie-Hebdo also printed a new drawing under the headline "Muhammad Overwhelmed by the Fundamentalists" that showed the prophet with his head in his hands, remarking, "It's hard to be loved by idiots."


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CIA Patsy Gets Help in Prison Escape
Kurt Nimmo February 08th 2006

Be afraid of Jamal al-Badawi, al-CIA-duh "mastermind" terrorist - or interchangeably, dim bulb Muslim patsy - who supposedly dug a tunnel out of "a heavily guarded" Yemeni prison and made his escape, thus posing a "clear and present danger to all countries." As it turns out, al-Badawi received the equivalent of a cake with a metal file from Yemeni intelligence officers, according to the Associated Press.
Of course, the Associated Press did not bother to mention that Yemeni intelligence is in the pocket of the CIA, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald in 2002. The CIA has "received tremendous co-operation from the intel services" in Yemen, Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, to name but a few, according to a former CIA employee. So effective was this "tremendous co-operation" between the CIA and Yemeni intelligence, the CIA was able to track down and assassinate American citizen and alleged "al-Qaeda" operative Ahmed Hijazi outside of Sanaa, Yemen, in November, 2002.

Nor did Associated Press mention that Jamal al-Badawi, who was convicted of helping plan the 2000 USS Cole bombing, fought in Bosnia. As the research of the German author Jürgen Elsässer documents, the CIA, NATO, and other intelligence services used "al-Qaeda" jihadists in Bosnia and probably Chechnya. "Aukai Collins, an American Mujahadeen, who fought in Chechnya and had contacts with some of the 9/11 bombers, was at least on the payroll of FBI and CIA," Elsässer told Serbianna. "Al-Qaeda" is not at the "center of all these events, but American secret services, which used Al Qaeda."

In a report that has since found its way to the memory hole, in 2003 NBC aired a videotape of "al-Qaeda Lt. Gen." Muhammad Talal al-Jafar al Tallani Ackbar, who was "involved in noteworthy military operations in the past, serving in covert operations alongside the CIA in Afghanistan and in Bosnia and Kosovo before joining al-Qaeda."

Moreover, according to Macedonian intelligence agencies - as reported by the leading daily Dnevnik, the Russian news agencies Novosti and ItarTass, and the London Independent - the U.S. ran a terrorist camp "near the village of Ropotovo, close to Kosovska Kamenica, in the Yugoslav province of Kosovo" and this camp was managed by Zaiman al-Zawahiri, brother of the Ayman al-Zawahiri, supposedly Osama bin Laden's right-hand man with a $25 million Department of State reward on his head (see Umberto Pascali, U.S. Protects Al-Qaeda Terrorists in Kosovo). Ayman al-Zawahiri's al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, "essentially an al-Qaida organization," according to the GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs Daily, was active in the Balkans and "al-Zawahiri has been closely associated with the Bosnian Islamist leadership."

As well, although you will not read it in the New York Times and the Washington Post, various other "al-Qaeda" luminaries - including Zacarias Moussaoui, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abdullah Azzam, and Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman - fought in Afghanistan and Bosnia at the behest of the CIA.

Jamal al-Badawi, obviously a useful patsy, "escaped" from a Yemeni prison for good reason and no doubt we will be hearing from him soon, as engineered Islamic terrorism is a necessity for the Straussian neocons.

Of course, we have nothing to fear from the likes of al-Badawi, a fanatical dim bulb patsy (as are all "al-Qaeda" operatives more or less dim bulb patsies and nut cases), but even so, the Straussian neocons need to perpetuate the scam of Islamic terrorism and al-Badawi fits the bill, at least until he is once again captured (this is his second "escape") or killed, thus sending the message our government is diligent in its attempt to stem the tide of engineered terrorism.


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Dr. Evil Rove counting heads on the Senate Judiciary Committee
Insight Issue Date: February 6-12, 2006

The White House has been twisting arms to ensure that no Republican member votes against President Bush in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s investigation of the administration's unauthorized wiretapping.

Congressional sources said Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove has threatened to blacklist any Republican who votes against the president. The sources said the blacklist would mean a halt in any White House political or financial support of senators running for re-election in November.
"It's hardball all the way," a senior GOP congressional aide said.

The sources said the administration has been alarmed over the damage that could result from the Senate hearings, which began on Monday, Feb. 6. They said the defection of even a handful of Republican committee members could result in a determination that the president violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Such a determination could lead to impeachment proceedings.

Over the last few weeks, Mr. Rove has been calling in virtually every Republican on the Senate committee as well as the leadership in Congress. The sources said Mr. Rove's message has been that a vote against Mr. Bush would destroy GOP prospects in congressional elections.

"He's [Rove] lining them up one by one," another congressional source said.

Mr. Rove is leading the White House campaign to help the GOP in November’s congressional elections. The sources said the White House has offered to help loyalists with money and free publicity, such as appearances and photo-ops with the president.

Those deemed disloyal to Mr. Rove would appear on his blacklist. The sources said dozens of GOP members in the House and Senate are on that list.

So far, only a handful of GOP senators have questioned Mr. Rove's tactics.

Some have raised doubts about Mr. Rove's strategy of painting the Democrats, who have opposed unwarranted surveillance, as being dismissive of the threat posed by al Qaeda terrorists.

"Well, I didn't like what Mr. Rove said, because it frames terrorism and the issue of terrorism and everything that goes with it, whether it's the renewal of the Patriot Act or the NSA wiretapping, in a political context," said Sen. Chuck Hagel, Nebraska Republican.
Comment: We don't think Rove is JUST threatening to "blacklist" anyone who votes against Bush's powers as dictator... We think that the illegal wiretapping that has been going on for over a year now was done for the express purpose of BLACKMAILING congressional reps, journalists, and anyone else who would stand against the Neocon Power Grab. Yes indeedy, it's hardball all the way!

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DeLay Lands Coveted Appropriations Spot
By ANDREW TAYLOR Associated Press Feb 8 2006

WASHINGTON - Indicted Rep. Tom DeLay, forced to step down as the No. 2 Republican in the House, scored a soft landing Wednesday as GOP leaders rewarded him with a coveted seat on the Appropriations Committee.

DeLay, R-Texas, also claimed a seat on the subcommittee overseeing the Justice Department, which is currently investigating an influence-peddling scandal involving disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his dealings with lawmakers. The subcommittee also has responsibility over NASA _ a top priority for DeLay, since the Johnson Space Center is located in his Houston-area district.

"Allowing Tom DeLay to sit on a committee in charge of giving out money is like putting Michael Brown back in charge of FEMA _ Republicans in Congress just can't seem to resist standing by their man," said Bill Burton, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
GOP leaders also named California Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon as chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee. Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, vacated that post after winning a campaign to replace DeLay.

McKeon is a seven-term conservative who has a generally good relationship with educators. He authored a 2001 law to remove disincentives for workers who would have lost part of their Social Security benefits when switching jobs to become public school teachers.

DeLay was able to rejoin the powerful Appropriations panel _ he was a member until becoming majority leader in 2003 _ because of a vacancy created after the resignation of Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif. Cunningham pleaded guilty in November to charges relating to accepting $2.4 million in bribes for government business and other favors.
Comment: We are, indeed, living in Bizarro World.

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$2.5b aid for Israel in Bush 2007 budget
By Ran Dagoni, Globes 8 Feb 06

Washington -- In its 2007 budget proposal submitted to Congress, the Bush administration is asking for $2.46 billion in aid for Israel: $2.34 billion in military aid, and $120 million in civilian aid.
The amount of aid is calculated under a formula devised by former Minister of Finance Yaakov Neeman and then-Israel’s Economic Minister to Washington Ohad Marani. The Clinton administration and Congress approved the formula. Under the formula, US military aid is increased by $60 million a year, up to a ceiling of $2.4 billion, and civilian aid is cut by $120 million a year, until it is finally eliminated. 2007 will be the last year in which Israel will receive US civilian aid.

The US fiscal year begins on October 1, and Israel receives the full amount of annual aid a few weeks later, assuming there are no legislative delays, which occur almost every year. Israel is the only recipient of US aid that receives it in a single tranche.

The 2007 US budget request includes $150 million in aid for the Palestinians, the same amount as in the 2006 budget. US spokespersons quickly emphasized that aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) would be subject to review, depending on developments in the PA.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said US financing of ongoing PA projects would continue, but each project would be examined on its own merits. The budget proposal states that aid for the Palestinians is intended to promote democracy, the rule of law, and economic recovery.

The 2007 US budget proposal also includes $1.3 billion in military aid and $455 million in civilian aid for Egypt. US civilian aid to Egypt is cut by $40 million a year. Jordan will receive $245 million in civilian aid and $206 million in military aid, the same as in previous years.


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Nicknames - George the Butcher
by Missy Comley Beattie 8 Feb 06

I've heard George Bush is a charming, likeable guy. Frankly, all his gestures--from touching his heart to bobbing his head, giving a thumbs up when he walks across the White House lawn, the waving and grinning, especially when it's just been announced that 14 troops were killed in Iraq--are repulsively offensive to me. So much so that I picture Laura Bush feigning a headache night after night or sleeping in a separate wing of the residence.
That Bush refers to Karl Rove as "Turd Blossom" doesn't make me smile and it's not because I'm uptight about doo-doo. It's just that "Turd Blossom" is too nice a nickname for the diabolical brain responsible for molding a man who should be impeached, cuffed, and, then, shunted off to some place of isolation because his insatiable lust for illegal power is as out of control as Bill Clinton's Jennifer- Paula- Monica - anybody-in-a-skirt-addiction.

George Bush likes nicknames and it's a good thing because he has so many. The moniker "Dubya," created by Molly Ivins is pretty good but "Uncurious George" is more appropriate. On The Simpsons, he was referred to as "Commander Cuckoobananas."

Probably, most presidents have been bestowed with nicknames. I suppose many of their wives have as well. Some of these descriptions are compliments while others are quite unflattering.

Everybody remembers Clinton as "Slick Willy," "Bubba," or his favorite, "The Comeback Kid."

I never thought George H.W. Bush was a mental Goliath, but compared to the fruit of his loins, he is. "Poppy" suits him just fine, but when I look at his Mrs., I'd prefer to call him "Whipped."

Ronald Reagan was "The Gipper" and "The Great Communicator" but what would anybody expect? He was an actor, good at memorizing those lines and his speech writers could turn not just a clever phrase but an inspirational one as well.

Jimmy Carter was known as "Peanut Farmer." I know he's smart but it did make me wince each time he pronounced nuclear, "nukyulur," just as I do when our current occupier of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and Iraq says it the same way.

Gerald Ford was "Mr. Nice Guy" and there's certainly nothing wrong with that. He was so kind that he very generously pardoned Richard "Tricky Dick" Nixon.

Nixon must be smiling from his grave right now since George Bush makes him look like "Mr. Congeniality." But take a good look at "Mommy Dearest." "Barbarian Bush" certainly is one of the reasons "Whipped" is globe-trotting with "Slick." Who'd want to be in her presence after that category five gaffe she made about the Katrina displaced: "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them." I'm sure if I said something that insensitive, my husband would want to take an extended trip away from me with anybody, even a former nemesis. He, in fact, might say that it's time for me to swallow my hemlock cocktail, putting both of us out of our misery.

And imagine Barbarian's wrath when she hears that so many people are calling her son "Hitler."

It's little wonder "Poppy" prefers traveling with the enemy. I'm sure he'd rather be hit by the forces of Mother Nature than by the First Mother's nasty nature.

I've always appreciated the other inspiration by Molly Ivins, "Shrub," but it makes "Dubya" look insignificant and he's anything but. In fact, he's the most significantly evil president we've ever had. Think of his policies of imperialism. The murder of almost 2,300 troops and over 100,000 Iraqis in a war based on lies. White phosphorous. His response to Katrina. The platitudes. The eavesdropping. His "America is addicted to oil" statement when he gave tax breaks to those who purchased Hummers. The deficit and his obscenely stupid bragging about earning "political capital" in the election and his intention to spend it. Calling himself the peace president one week and the war president the next. The slaughter in Iraq. Endless slaughter. Iran. Reflect on his speech at the funeral of Coretta Scott King, a woman whose life was devoted to all that Bush has tried to destroy and continues to crush with his policies that deny freedom and access to so many people here and abroad. Think of the cost of Iraq and Bush's latest domestic budget cuts.

For all these reasons, I'm nicknaming this Crawford cretin "George W. Butcher."

Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She's written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she's a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a novel last year, but since the death of her nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, in Iraq on August 6,'05, she has been writing political articles.


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Fend for yourselves - Another Bush budget that mortgages the future
Editorial Pittsburgh Post-Gazette February 08, 2006

President Bush has dropped another limp and cowardly budget on the American public.

Sure, the $2.77 trillion plan raises spending for defense, security and the Iraq war. But it continues the cuts in domestic programs that have become the hallmark of the Bush administration and the Republican Congress. In short, he wants to spend more on items that have been manipulated to play on people's fears and less on help to those who are vulnerable, powerless and silent -- a politically easy road to take.
The worst part is, while pretending to be fiscally prudent, Mr. Bush still wants to make his tax cuts permanent -- a populist measure that will only fuel annual deficits and raise the national debt on America's next generation. If the president were a true fiscal conservative, he would not spend money he doesn't have -- on Iraq or anything else -- and he would not dump on tomorrow's taxpayers the free-spending ways of his administration.

The whole scheme shows how bogus are the president's entreaties for Americans at home to support the troops abroad. If the war is worth fighting and Middle East democracy worth spreading, then President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney should be the first to argue that Americans must pay for them and that new tax cuts can wait. Instead, they lack the courage of their convictions and seek to spend more on war and defense while requiring Americans to sacrifice nothing.

Call it the feel-good presidency of George Bush, in which only the old and the young face consequences from administration choices -- the old by absorbing cuts in programs like Medicare, the young by inheriting massive debt for adventures long past.

The president and his minions try to mask the domestic cuts by pitching something called an "ownership society." But, in practice, it amounts to a fend-for-yourself nation in which individuals with little or no resources must claw their way to health insurance and retirement savings with little support from government.

This budget and this administration promise all that and less. It would be refreshing to have a president who is brave enough to ask the adult public -- and not Americans being conceived in the womb today -- to pay for his agenda. George W. Bush still doesn't have the spine for it, but maybe the Congress does.


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Capitol Hill Cool to Some Bush Budget Cuts
By DAVID ESPO AP Special Correspondent 8 Feb 06

WASHINGTON - Congressional Republicans on Wednesday shunned
President Bush's election-year call to cut Social Security benefits, and one committee chairman accused the administration of seeking to end "a pittance for widows and widowers."
"I have no plans to pursue these proposals," said GOP Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

The budget that Bush submitted to Congress on Monday proposes eliminating a $255 lump-sum death benefit that has been part of Social Security for more than 50 years. It also urges Congress to cut off monthly survivor benefits to 16- and 17-year-old high school dropouts.

If approved, the two proposals would save a combined $3.4 billion over the next decade, according to administration estimates.

Based on early reaction, or lack of it, prospects for congressional passage seemed remote.

Democrats hastened to criticize the proposals on Tuesday and continued their attack into a second day.

Both Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., and House Speaker
Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., were quick to applaud Bush's overall budget proposals on Monday, but their aides declined repeated requests over two days for comments on the president's suggested change in Social Security.

Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, also offered no reaction.

Sen. Jon Kyl (news, bio, voting record), R-Ariz., a member of the Senate GOP leadership, said, "I haven't looked at that," adding he was unable to offer an opinion.

As the Finance Committee chairman, Grassley has jurisdiction over Social Security, and he made clear the administration's proposals would not be on the year's agenda.

"The administration didn't consult with me on these proposals. Even if someone had, I'd be hard-pressed to give them a second look," he said in a statement.

"I can't see how ending a pittance for widows and widowers, and modest benefits for kids who have lost a parent, would be good policy decisions," Grassley said.

Bush's budget also renewed the president's call for a complete overhaul of Social Security, including creation of personal savings accounts and a reduction in future benefits promised to younger workers.

Despite congressional majorities strengthened in the last elections, Republicans flinched from his proposals a year ago, and legislation failed to make it to the floor of either the House or Senate.

Grassley has said he does not intend to spend time this year on those proposals.

Administration officials have described the $255 death benefit as an administrative burden because it is paid in some cases but not all, and said its elimination is unlikely to cause hardship.

They also say the provision relating to 16- and 17-year-olds is an incentive for them to remain in school.


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Bush calls for sell-off of Western public land
By Mike Soraghan Denver Post Staff Writer 7 Feb 06

Washington - President Bush wants to sell more public land across the West to raise money for schools, conservation and deficit reduction.

Bush's proposed 2007 federal budget, sent to Congress on Monday, calls for granting the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management new authority to sell off land. Those agencies together control hundreds of millions of acres in Western states.

Democrats and environmentalists compare the idea to recent proposals by Tom Tancredo and other Republicans in Congress to sell federal land to pay for hurricane relief and invigorate the mining industry.
Dave Alberswerth of the Wilderness Society dubbed the new sell-off proposal "a billion-dollar privatization program."

And Rep. Mark Udall, D-Colo., sees it as a destructive way to pay for what he considers reckless tax cuts. "It's like selling your homestead to pay your credit cards," he said.

Administration officials, however, say they're merely tinkering with existing programs that let them sell scattered lands with little natural value.

"We have 350,000 acres of small, isolated tracts that are difficult to manage and no longer serve National Forest System needs," said Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, who oversees the Forest Service. He also said the agency adds more than 100,000 acres a year.

The Forest Service proposes selling 150,000 to 200,000 acres to raise $800 million over five years.

The agency is trying to maintain a program that supported rural schools with timber proceeds but ran into financial trouble when logging declined.

The BLM doesn't have an estimate of how many acres it might sell under the plan, but it expects to sell land worth $40 million to $50 million per year. Some of the money


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Addicted to Empire, Not Middle Eastern Oil
by Paul Street Znet February 08, 2006

Bush's supposed super-candid "addicted to oil" statement was more about deception than frankness. This is for two reasons. The first one is simple: the U.S. imports just 20 percent of its petroleum from the Middle East, the obvious geographic meaning (though he may also have had Venezuela in mind) of Bush's phrase "unstable parts of the world."

The second reason is a bit more complex. When it comes to America, Iraq, oil, war, and world geography, the really honest and relevant point regarding U.S. policy is that Uncle Sam is addicted to global dominance and empire. That addiction and not any direct-use reliance on Persian Gulf petroleum is the real reason "we" are in Iraq (against the wishes of "our" own populace not to mention those of the Iraqis) and not likely to leave anytime soon.
I am in the middle of my usual George Orwell-inspired dissection of the George W. Bush's "State of the Union" address (SOUA). A soon-to-be-published ZNet commentary of mine will grace readers with my critical analysis of how Bush's speech took repeated authoritarian liberties with the word "freedom."

In a future essay, I will treat (or perhaps torture) readers with my reflections on other phrases and words the president used last Tuesday night. Among the leading statements and phrases I will interrogate and deconstruct:

"Terrorists like bin-Laden are serious about mass murder."

"Tax relief."

"The United States will not retreat from the world and we will never surrender to evil."

The "men and women who wear our nation's uniform" are making "sacrifices" to "protect" America.

"There is a difference between responsible criticism that aims for success, and defeatism that refuses to acknowledge anything but failure. Hindsight alone is not wisdom, and second-guessing is not a strategy."

"Our economy is healthy and vigorous."

"Human life is a gift from the Creator."

"In New Orleans, as in other places, many of our fellow citizens have felt excluded from the promises of our country."

"Wise policies, such as welfare reform have made a [positive] difference in our country," reflecting "a revolution of conscience" based on the idea that "a life of personal responsibility is a life of fulfillment."

To nobody's surprise, I will attempt (and it won't be hard) to show different ways in which each of these and other Bush statements and phrases were used in deceptive and propagandistic ways carefully constructed to hide more than they reveal and to encourage mass consent to concentrated power.

Today, however, I want to briefly mention a revealing and slightly noted moment of candor in Bush's big speech.

I am not, I repeat NOT, referring to he president's supposedly earth-shattering, headline-making statement (in the third paragraph of the seventh page of the SOUA transcript released to the press on February 1, 2006) statement that "America is ADDICTED TO OIL which is often imported from unstable parts of the world."

Much of Bush's lecture was meant, of course, to address the citizenry's deep concern about the unpopular quagmire in Iraq. In his "addicted to oil" section, Bush was trying, among other things, to calm the people's fears by suggesting that we won't "have" to fight bloody (and illegal) wars in the Middle East forever.

We're over there, he wants us to believe, because, we are just too dependent on all that damn oil beneath the Arabs' "unstable" lands. He gets it, the president wishes us to know, and he's working on it. His solution, by the way, for what it's worth, is all-too simply and typically American: "technology," including nuclear.

But contrary to conventional wisdom in dominant media, Bush's supposed super-candid "addicted to oil" statement was more about deception than frankness. This is for two reasons. The first one is simple: the U.S. imports just 20 percent of its petroleum from the Middle East, the obvious geographic meaning (though he may also have had Venezuela in mind) of Bush's phrase "unstable parts of the world."

The second reason is a bit more complex. When it comes to America, Iraq, oil, war, and world geography, the really honest and relevant point regarding U.S. policy is that Uncle Sam is addicted to global dominance and empire. That addiction and not any direct-use reliance on Persian Gulf petroleum is the real reason "we" are in Iraq (against the wishes of "our" own populace not to mention those of the Iraqis) and not likely to leave anytime soon.

U.S. policymakers have long known that Middle Eastern oil is critical to their dominance in the world. They've long exhibited an obsessive but logical concern with controlling world petroleum supplies, which are disproportionately concentrated in the Middle East. That concern is all about the "critical leverage" (to use President Carter's National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski's telling phrase) such control gives the United States over its major competitor states in Europe and Asia. And as Noam Chomsky observes, U.S. policymakers' determination to guarantee and expand American hegemony in the world system through manipulation of this "critical leverage" goes back to World War II. It would be no less relevant today if the U.S. enjoyed full energy self-sufficiency.

Many serious analysts (including Chomsky, and the prolific Marxian world system writers David Harvey and Giovanni Arrighi), and most of the moderately cognizant world that isn't hopelessly enthralled with and/or beholden to U.S. power understands quite well that this is what the invasion and occupation of Iraq is about. Speaking of the administration's war aims in Iraq, Chomsky says it very well: "anyone with a gray cell functioning knows that [the U.S] invaded to establish control over Middle Eastern oil more firmly."

The bad news for those who oppose the bloody, illegal, immoral, and dangerous U.S. occupation of Iraq (most of the human race) is this: the strategic significance of Iraqi and Middle Eastern oil is so great that a rapid American withdrawal from that nation and region is practically unimaginable. As Chomsky recently explained on this website:

"Now let's talk about withdrawal. Take any day's newspapers or journals and so on. They start by saying the United States aims to bring about a sovereign democratic independent Iraq. I mean, is that even a remote possibility? Just consider what the policies would be likely to be of an independent sovereign Iraq. If it's more or less democratic, it'll have a Shiite majority. They will naturally want to improve their linkages with Iran, Shiite Iran. Most of the clerics come from Iran. The Badr Brigade, which basically runs the South, is trained in Iran. They have close and sensible economic relationships which are going to increase. So you get an Iraqi/Iran loose alliance. Furthermore, right across the border in Saudi Arabia, there's a Shiite population which has been bitterly oppressed bythe U.S.-backed fundamentalist tyranny. And any moves toward independence in Iraq are surely going to stimulate them, it's already happening. That happens to be where most of Saudi Arabian oil is. Okay, so you can just imagine the ultimate nightmare in Washington: a loose Shiite alliance controlling most of the world's oil, independent of Washington and probably turning toward the East, where China and others are eager to make relationships with them, and are already doing it. Is that even conceivable? The U.S. would go to nuclear war before allowing that, as things now stand." (Noam Chomsky, "There is no War on Terror,"http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=9533)

All of which brings me to what I think is the actually most truly candid line in Bush's SOUA. It came when Bush was making the case for not leaving illegally occupied Iraq in what U.S. Senator Barrack Obama (D-IL) calls "too precipitous"a fashion. "A sudden withdrawal of our forces from Iraq," Bush said, "would abandon Iraqis to death and prison, put men like bin-Laden and Zarqawi in charge of a strategic country, and show that a pledge from America means little."

Now put the propaganda aside for a second and read that sentence again.


Notice anything interesting there? Forget for a moment that the U.S. under both Bushes and Clinton has imposed unimaginable death and (directly after March 19 2003) prisons on Iraq.

Forget that Iraqi and Middle Eastern people have good reasons to see Uncle Sam's "freedom" "pledge" as a cynical cover for imperial domination and criminal assault.

Forget that the Bush administration finds it convenient to use the specter of Zarqawi and bin-Laden to cover the fact that they also and especially don't want the nonviolent majority of the Iraqi citizens to be "in charge of [their own] strategic country," for reasons explained by Chomsky (three paragraphs above).

Pull all that (and much more) aside and for a moment and reflect on the fact that Bush II referred (however briefly and off-handedly) to Iraq as "a strategic country."

"Strategic," Mr. President? Would you care to elaborate? Do you mean because it happens to possess the second or ---- in case the title belongs to that other Middle Eastern country that obsesses U.S. policymakers: Iran ----- third largest known oil reserves in the world?


Gee, but could those petroleum reserves be the basic reason why the president is so concerned with something he likes to call "freedom" in Iraq?

Of course they could. Of course they are.

Nothing else makes Iraq so damn "strategic" that "we" "had" to invade and now can't "too precipitously" leave.

But then there's something curious to reflect upon. Ever since the Big Weapons of Mass Destruction Lie (not taken seriously outside the leading imperial state's homeland and that of its British junior partner) was belatedly exposed within the U.S., the Bush administration has actually been asking us to believe that the "land of freedom's" "leaders" would have occupied Iraq even if the latter country's only and primary natural resources were rice, chicory, nutmeg, and/or pineapples.

"Oil war?" That's an "irresponsible" charge, the White House claimed --- a terrible, even "treasonous" thing to say. The real purposes of "Operation Iraqi Freedom," they've been telling us for the last two years, is simply to "end tyranny in the world" and to move the world's nations "from dictatorship to liberation" (to use two phrases from the latest SOUA).

Except in so many other places, like, well feudal and arch-repressive Saudi Arabia, home (by the way) to the world's largest known oil reserves, where "strategic" petro-imperial considerations have long mandated a deep U.S. partnership with tyranny and dictatorship.

Reading between the Orwellian lines of the latest SOUA, we can catch an admittedly small, partial, and fleeting glimpse of truth about the administration's real mission in Iraq. It's fundamentally oil-related occupation of Mesopotamia is about "strategic" considerations that have less to do with America's very real addiction to petroleum than with its "elite" policymakers' addiction to empire.

Paul Street (pstreet@niu.edu) is the author of Empire and Inequality: America and the World Since 9/11 (Boulder, CO: Paradigm Publishers, 2004)


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Addicted to Oil?!! Get a Grip Mr. President!
by Megan Bronson 8 Feb 06

No, Mr. President, we the American people are not addicted to oil. We are dependent on oil to run our cars and heat our homes because our government, (headed by you), has not taken a strong, clear initiative in pursuing and supporting alternative and less polluting sources of energy.

The problem, Mr. Bush, is not that we are addicted to oil; it is that you are addicted to power and control and winning at all costs. How dare you turn this around. This reminds me of the drunk who spends the pay check at the bar and then berates the wife and kids for the bills not being paid or for needing food to eat.
Hybrid engines are not a new invention-they have been around for some time. Five years ago, I rode in a taxi that was run by a hybrid engine-in Vancouver, British Columbia-this city at that time was getting ready to switch to hybrid mass transit buses. Not only do hybrid engines use significantly less gasoline and oil, they are vastly less polluting of the environment. Harnessing the power of the wind and sun has been being developed and used for decades in Norway-in Sweden and other progressive countries as well as a few progressive states in our own country.

Why are you just getting around to the idea of energy producing technology that does not depend on fossil fuels? Where have you been? We, the people, have taken a major financial hit with the cost of home heating and gas prices this year while your administration has supported record profits for big oil. Explain that one to us.

The problem, Mr. Bush, is not that we are addicted to oil; it is that you are addicted to power and control and winning at all costs. How dare you turn this around. This reminds me of the drunk who spends the pay check at the bar and then berates the wife and kids for the bills not being paid or for needing food to eat. Addicted to oil--how could you make such an ignorant and unfounded statement? We are moving into the sixth year of your watch as President and you are just getting around to the fact that we have to look at alternative sources of fuel. Where have you been????

Global warming, caused largely from the emissions that come from burning fossil fuels, is not going to just affect tree huggers-it is going to, and is affecting all of us who inhabit this planet together. Protecting this planet should be the top priority of every country on the planet-we live in and on our lunch box. Where have you been?

I spent four weeks in New Orleans this fall trying to be of a least some small help there. Much of this area looks exactly as it did shortly after the hurricane went through. Your words and your actions do not match Mr. President-your cheerleading speeches in Louisiana and Mississippi about rebuilding this area have not been followed up with action. The greatest natural disaster in our country's history was given token mention at the end of your State of Union speech. Much of this area looks exactly as it did shortly after the hurricane went through. I was stunned that you could actually say in your speech in Tennessee, the day after your State of the Union address, how impressed you were and how proud you were of the American people for reaching out to those made homeless by Hurricane Katrina. Well I am proud of us also, however, I am not proud of, in fact I am deeply ashamed of the slow response by our government to this tragedy, not just initially, but to this day.

The distortion of truth by this administration is an outrage-putting a spin on the facts that leaves itself looking blameless and without fault. It is enough to make a person dizzy. While the people of New Orleans waited and suffered and struggled, while people died, you, the President of the United States were in San Diego pushing your Iraq agenda. No amount of spin can undo that. It is obvious what the priorities of this administration are-this is just one more example of that.

It did not take an expert in emergency response and crisis management in times of disaster to realize that the scope of the disaster along the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina was far beyond the capacity of any local or state government to manage or respond to sufficiently. The American people who watched the images of people crying and begging for help and for evacuation from rooftops and from the Superdome and Convention Center for days knew that. It was also apparent that the local and in some cases regional infrastructure of support and response to disaster had collapsed. We, the American people, watched this live on every news channel in the country-for days. People from around the world watched-saw what was happening for what it was-for days. No amount of spin can undo those painful and compelling images or reframe what happened and what did not happen in a way that makes your or your administration look good or blameless.

The true problem here is the pouring of so much of our natural resources into the black hole that your Iraq agenda has become. I am not talking about just the financial cost; that pales in the face of the cost of lives, both American and Iraqi that have been sacrificed in the service of your Iraq agenda. You started out your first term of office with a large surplus in the budget. Six years into your watch, we are dealing with a staggering deficit that will haunt my grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and yours.

Why was Cindy Sheehan's tee shirt for which she was arrested and thrown out of our Hall of Congress before the State of the Union address considered anti-war or un-American? The tee shirt stated a fact, "2,245 dead", and asked a question. "How many more?" Is a statement of truth and an honest question unpatriotic and un-American? One of the hallmarks of an addictive system is that it is allergic to the truth and to reality. Criticism is perceived as a lack of loyalty or treason.

If there is an addictive process going on here, it lies in you and your agenda in Iraq. An addictive process is never satiated, requires more and more of a system's resources to sustain it, and is powerful, baffling and cunning. An addictive system does not deal with reality or take responsibility. It operates on illusion, delusional thinking and projection of blame. Addictive systems are sustained by denial, distortion of truth, telling of half truths, withholding key information, loyalty to, enabling of, and protection of the addict(s), fear of retribution, slogans, black and white thinking, and preying on people's anxiety and fear. Impression management and the control of information and people's emotions are the modus operandi of an addictive system. Hmmm, I think I have just described your administration Mr. Bush. Be careful who you call an addict; projections have a way of coming home to roost.


Megan Bronson is a mother, grandmother, nurse, psychotherapist and author who has grave concerns regarding the impact of the current administration's decisions on future generations of children, of not only this country, but of the world.

Email: meganbronson@comcast.net



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The Golden Hour
by Steven Barnes 7 Feb 06

During a recent conversation, a formerly svelt young lady said that she had given up on the idea of exercise, because to have a body worth the trouble, it would take three or four hours a day.

Novice writers complain that in order to build their careers, it would take six or seven hours a day…so what is the point!

And more times than I could count, stressed-out acquaintances have said that they would love to meditate, but “don’t have the time.”

It is time we explode these falsehoods. The truth is that misconceptions like the above can completely steal your chances for health, happiness and success.
The truth is that you can get started on a fantastic fitness regimen in only an hour a week. Further, a focused writer can create a novel in a year in only an hour a day. And gigantic strides can be made toward stress relief in only five minutes a day. THAT is the playing field: give yourself five minutes, and you can cut your stress in half. Give yourself an hour a week, and you can have health and fitness. An hour a day can jump-start a career.

1) Five Minutes a day. Five times a day, for just sixty seconds, stop and breathe slowly and deeply from your belly. Go to a local yoga or Tai Chi school and ask to learn a relaxation breathing technique. If you can’t find one, then slow down, get quiet, and feel your heartbeat for sixty seconds. Do this every three hours for sixty seconds, and you will halve your stress levels.

2) An hour a week. Three times a week, perform twenty minutes of the right body-weight or weight exercises. Hindu Squats and Hindu Pushups are wonderful whole-body exercises. Do a Google search for them, and you’ll find multiple sites on the Internet selling or giving away the information for free. For faster results, use “Kettlebell” style whole-body weight exercises. These exercise tools look like little cannon-balls with handles, and they are used in a variety of swinging and yoga-like moves that are unbelievably efficient for developing strength, endurance, flexibility, power and athleticism, all at the same time. You can even use an ordinary dumbbell in the beginning. Again, do a Google search, and you’ll find the information, often for free!

3) An Hour a day. This is what I call the “Golden Hour.” You need to accept the idea that one hour out of every day belongs to you. Not your job, not your husband or wife, or your kids—it belongs to you. During this time, if you plan it properly, you can exercise, practice your art, meditate, read—whatever. If you are a writer, I’d suggest that Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, you “flow”—just create rough draft, with no attempt to edit it. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday you do your editing, polishing the work you did the previous day. If you learn to focus properly, there is no reason in the world you can’t learn to produce 1000 words of rough draft in an hour. That’s enough to produce a novel a year, in just an hour a day.

The “Golden Hour” is a goal, one that might take you a year or two to work toward. But if you will just start with five minutes a day, and a commitment to an hour a week…working TOWARD an hour a day, you have placed your feet on the road toward peace of mind, a healthy body, and a happy heart: a tiny investment for a gigantic reward.

About the Author: NY Times Bestselling Writer Steven Barnes has published over three million words, and is the creator of Lifewriting, the first high-performance system for writers (www.lifewrite.com). He combines this with Scott Sonnon's break-through technology to create The Path, a radical mind-body success system that provides all basic fitness and meditation requirements in only one Golden Hour a week! Join us in Los Angeles on June 24th. Learn more at www.Rmax.tv

www.lifewrite.com

Steven Barnes is a NY Times bestselling author, personal performance coach, and martial artist who has written for The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and Stargate SG-1. He has lectured on story and human consciousness at UCLA, Mensa, the Smithsonian Institute, and USC. Steve created the Lifewriting system of high-performance living for writers and readers. www.lifewrite.com

Comment: If we are going to have to deal with Bush and the Neocons, best to be fit...

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Soldiers Face Debilitating Diseases
NBC February 8, 2006

They served their time in the military in places like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and more recently, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Most returned in good health.

But an NBC 30 investigation has found that for some soldiers, their service has meant a long and debilitating death sentence with mysterious diseases.

"I have good days, I have bad days," said M. Sterry, of New Haven. "There were eight of us that served together. Six of my friends are dead."

She looks healthy, but Sterry is a very sick woman who has no idea how much longer she will live.
"I've had three heart attacks, two heart surgeries. I have chronic headaches, chronic upper respiratory infections. I get pneumonia two or three times a year," she said. "I have chronic fatigue, joint aches, muscle aches. I have a rash that migrates all over my body."

Sterry figures the initial symptoms began in Saudi Arabia in September of 1991 while she was serving with the National Guard. Three years later, after completing her tour of duty and coming back home, the symptoms were still there, but much more severe.

State Sen. Gayle Slossberg said one of the sources of the diseases may be depleted uranium. She was one of those who helped pass legislation last year setting up a health registry in Connecticut, strictly to keep records on our military personnel.

"We'll know where they've served, what they've done, what the scope of the job was," she said. "We'll be able to identify to some extent what they've been exposed to and what their symptoms are."

But it will come too late for David Leighton, of Naugatuck, a Marine who served in Saudi Arabia in Desert Storm. When he came home, the symptoms he had had for quite some time would not go away.

His mother, Gail Leighton, said that for the next 15 years, she saw her once vital and vibrant son slowly dying before her eyes.

"You would have had to have been there during the journey and see him in bed and sweating and in agony," she said.

She said her son was a patriot, that his dad had been a Marine. She said the federal government did not believe that those coming back became sick because of the conditions in which they served.

"That was the hardest part, I think, more than anything, to have the DOD, the Department of Defense, and the VA spending so much time and energy trying to deny and discount and discredit some of the people who were doing research."

State Veterans Commissioner Linda Schwartz told NBC 30 that making the connection between battlefield exposures and diseases has been a long, ongoing process.

She said the use of depleted uranium has to be studied because, as she put it, we're sending our best people into battle and their well-being must be the top priority.


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Babies' Cells Linger, May Protect Mothers
by Robert Krulwich NPR February 8, 2006

Some scientists have proposed that when a woman has a baby, she gets not just a son or a daughter, but a gift of cells that stays behind and protects her for the rest of her life. That's because a baby's cells linger in its mom's body for decades and -- like stem cells -- may help to repair damage when she gets sick. It's such an enticing idea that even the scientists who came up with the idea worry that it may be too beautiful to be true.
Behind the Fetal Cell Research

For those of you who want to know a little more about these fetal cells, I should say, first: Dr. Kirby Johnson works at the Tupper Research Center (supported by Mr. Tupper of Tupperware fame, for those of you who like sealed plastic containers) at Tufts University.

He works very closely with Diana Bianchi, chief of genetics at the New England Medical Center in Boston. Bianchi did some of the pioneering research that discovered that moms carry fetal cells in their blood for years and years.

Carol Artlett has a lab at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and works with Sergio Jimenez there.

There's another fellow, Lee Nelson at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, who has also studied these cells.

Also, just to be honest and fair, there are more than two hypotheses being investigated by all these scientists.

Yes, there is the "Good Hypothesis": that the cells stay in the mom and try to protect her for the rest of her life.

And yes, there is the "Bad Hypothesis”: that the cells gather at inflammation sites and contribute to mom's autoimmune diseases.

But there is also a third hypothesis: that the cells stay in mom all her life and do… nothing. This is the "Bystander Hypothesis": that the cells float around, hang out, rubberneck when at sites where mom gets ill, but neither help or hurt. This third hypothesis has not been disproved, meaning it's still in contention.

Finally, the big question right now is, can scientists find evidence that fetal cells are actually doing repairs when mom is stricken?

It's not a far-fetched idea. These cells may behave like those famous embryonic cells: They can turn themselves into any cell mom needs.

If she's got a bad heart, they can be healthy heart cells.

Bad lungs? No problem, they can be lung cells. Fetal cells may be the ultimate repairmen (or repairwomen).

A cautionary note: The anecdote I mention in the story, about the 30-year-old woman who has liver trouble and seems to heal herself, is not proof of the Good Hypothesis. There are no published studies that definitively show baby cells floating to, say, a liver cancer site and then turning themselves into healthy liver cells. That's the hunch. That's the theory. But we have no hard data -- not yet.

But everybody I talked to is whispering that something like repair is what they are seeing in mice and in humans. Carol Artlett comes right out and says so in our story.

But so far, it's very, very preliminary, and in her mind -- and everybody else's I talked to -- it's too early to know if baby cells are really repairing moms. They hope so. But hope is not proof and these folks are too professional to get ahead of their evidence.

And finally, I want to thank my friend Jonah Lehrer for suggesting this idea to me; he's a wonderful science reporter and a font of fascinating ideas, which he (stupidly) shares with me. And -- since we're all here sharing -- here's what I'd like to know:

If fetal cells really are helping moms, I wonder if women who have babies (and abortions and miscarriages) tend to live longer than women who do not conceive. After all, the Conceivers have an extra gang (the more conceptions, the bigger the gang) of helpful cells inside.

Maybe there's some measurable consequence. And if the Good Hypothesis turns out to be true and every child leaves a posse of good soldiers in their mothers, then no matter how crummy we are to our moms, we are, willingly or unwillingly, still doing something nice for her -- on the inside.


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Bird disease in flu-hit Nigeria "spreading like wildfire"
AFP 9 Feb 06


As Nigeria scrambled to deal with Africa's first confirmed case of deadly bird flu, a farmer's representative said thousands of poultry had died of disease further north.

Identified earlier this week as "fowl cholera", the disease was spreading rapidly through farms in Kano State, killing tens of thousands of chickens, Auwalu Haruna, secretary of the Kano State poultry farmers' association, said.

Nigeria announced Wednesday that Africa's first confirmed case of the H5N1 strain of bird flu -- which can be fatal to humans -- had been found in Sambawa Farm in Kaduna State, 300 kilometres (185 miles) north of Abuja.

The disease in Kano "is spreading like wildfire," Haruna told AFP.

"We have 20,000 new infections reported today, bringing the figure for infected birds to 80,000. What worsens the situation is the movement of infected poultry, in a frantic effort to minimise losses," he said.

Haruna and several market stall holders told AFP that once chickens are infected farmers are killing them and rapidly dumping them on the market in an effort to beat any future quarantine and make a quick profit.

"The announcement by the federal government of bird flu at Sambawa Farm shocked us, but we are just waiting for confirmation from the veterinary institute in Vom for our birds," Haruna said.

Prices of chickens in Kano have dropped by two thirds since thousands of birds began dying of the mystery infection.

International experts from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation were expected to arrive in Nigeria on Thursday following the news of the bird flu outbreak.

Nigeria's Agriculture Minister Adamu Bello promised Wednesday that a massive effort to quarantine farms and cull sick birds would be rapidly put into place to contain the outbreak, but there was no sign of that on the ground.


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The Age of Senescence
By Karen Hopkin The Scientist Volume 20 Issue 2 Page 60

Senescent cells not only exist in vivo but also accumulate in aging tissue. Cultured, these nonreplicating cells are far from inert. They produce a plethora of unpleasant proteins that can, among other things, destroy the structural integrity of the tissue that surrounds them.
It was hormones that drew Judith Campisi to study science: her own hormones, that is. “I went to an all-girl Catholic high school,” she laughs, “and I decided I’d had enough of the girls. I wanted to be where the boys were, and the boys were in the sciences.” But it was the excitement of lab life that kept her there. “Science is always challenging, it’s never dull,” says Campisi, now a researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley Labs and the Buck Institute for Age Research.

“She’s an outstanding scientist,” says Art Pardee, Campisi’s postdoctoral advisor, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School. In Pardee’s lab, Campisi examined the cell-cycle profiles of cancer cells and their normal counterparts. One experiment involved labeling cells with thymidine to track their replication and then collecting samples for several days. “Judy was a machine,” recalls Estela Medrano of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, who worked alongside Campisi at the time. “She brought in her sleeping bag and spent nights working in lab and then slept for a few hours during the day.”

“I have no circadian rhythm,” jokes Campisi, who still has no problem laboring through the wee hours when there’s work to be done. Her diligence has paid off. “Her career has been sprinkled with one key paper after another,” says Ron DePinho, also at Dana-Farber. A large portion of those papers focus on an exploration of cellular senescence, a condition in which aged cells cease to divide. Campisi was the first to identify an enzyme marker unique to senescent cells, a discovery she used to show that these replicatively exhausted cells accumulate in aging organisms, including humans. “Judy really is one of the first to bring rigorous biological thinking to the phenomenology of aging,” says DePinho. “She thinks on the molecular, cellular, and organismal levels and is able to integrate all that information to clarify and address important questions in aging.”


HEEDING THE HAYFLICK LIMIT

Following her stint in Pardee’s lab, Campisi took her studies of the molecular underpinnings of cancer to nearby Boston University, where she’d accepted a position as an assistant professor. There she was approached by fellow faculty members Rich Miller and Barbara Gilchrist. Miller was hoping to study T cell changes with age, while Gilchrist was studying aging skin. They proposed that Campisi study senescence. “They said there’s this weird phenomenon where [cultured] human cells divide for a certain amount of time and then stop. And some people think that has to do with aging.”

“When I presented the idea to her, she looked at me as though I was crazy,” recalls Miller, now at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Campisi felt that replicative senescence – first observed in cultured human cells by Leonard Hayflick, then at the Wistar Institute – had nothing to do with aging. “Barbara and I agreed with her,” says Miller. “But we told her to pretend it had something to do with aging for the duration of the site visit.” Even if senescence did not drive the aging of tissues or organisms, they reasoned, it might provide a powerful mechanism for the prevention of cancer: A cell that won’t proliferate cannot form a tumor or become malignant and colonize other tissues.

“That sounded fascinating,” says Campisi, who chose to play along. That decision would change the course of her career. “We got the grant,” says Miller, and Campisi turned her attention to senescence. “And the more she got into it, the more she became convinced that we had all been wrong,” says Miller, “that [senescence] had something to do with aging after all.” Perhaps the strongest evidence, published when Campisi moved to the West Coast, was her demonstration that senescent cells not only exist in vivo but also accumulate in aging tissue. What’s more, she and her colleagues have found that in culture, these nonreplicating cells are far from inert. They produce a plethora of unpleasant proteins that can, among other things, destroy the structural integrity of the tissue that surrounds them.

The ultimate experiment, however, has yet to be conducted. “The critical test would be to create an organism in which you prevent senescent cells from accumulating,” says Campisi. She and her colleagues are working on devising a system to do that test. They are developing a mouse in which an inducible promoter allows them to activate a gene that will selectively eliminate senescent cells.

Whether senescent cells contribute to aging, notes Miller, “is the kind of scientific question that most people in the field decided not to pay attention to and hoped others would stop asking.” But Campisi thrives on attacking such puzzles. Take, for example, the observation that mouse cells and human cells behave differently in culture. Normal human fibroblasts divide maybe 50 or 60 times before they senesce; mouse cells, on the other hand, divide 5 or 10 times and then either die or become transformed.

“People had known about that phenomenon for 20 years and sort of ignored it,” says Miller. Campisi investigated and found that mouse cells are more sensitive to oxidative damage than human cells and that the oxygen concentration used in the typical incubator (about 20%) is more than mouse cells can handle. The observation raises a tantalizing possibility, says Campisi: “One of the reasons why mice live so much shorter and develop cancer much more readily than humans is because they’re much more oxygen sensitive.”


THE CANCER CONNECTION

At the same time, Campisi has also done more extensive work to shore up the connection between senescence and cancer. In experiments in tissue culture and in mice, she finds that proteins produced by senescent fibroblasts, including proteases, growth factors, and even molecules that promote angiogenesis can fuel malignancy, encouraging premalignant cells to become fully cancerous and form tumors that can kill an animal. “That was a very important observation,” notes DePinho. “Advancing age is, far and away, the most important of all carcinogens, and understanding why that is has been one of the central questions in the aging field.”

In addition to confronting such questions, Campisi spends a good deal of her time mentoring young scientists and advising friends and colleagues. “I always rely on Judy when I have something to publish,” says Medrano. “I get her opinion about our ideas and ask if we were rigorous enough before I submit the paper.”

Campisi offered career advice to Gordon Lithgow, now her neighbor at the Buck Institute, when he met her in a cab as a postdoc attending an aging conference. “Judy was one of my heroes, and she couldn’t have been nicer,” he says. “It was amazing to have someone you held in such high regard trying to get to know your science and where you want to go with it.” And it wasn’t just Lithgow. “She’s incredibly supportive of junior scientists,” he says, particularly those who’ve trained in her lab.

Campisi not only allows postdocs to take their projects with them when they set up their own labs, a situation that former postdoc Pierre-Yves Desprez found “amazing,” but she also continues to offer all sorts of support. When Desprez was setting up his lab at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, he often called Campisi to talk through problems or ask for advice. “Even if she was saturated with work,” he says, “she never told me ‘No, I don’t have time.’ Never.”

When Junko Oshima, another former postdoc, was trying to clone the gene responsible for Werner syndrome, Campisi sent cell lines and a cDNA library. “Today you can make a cDNA library with a kit. But in those days, 15 years ago, building a cDNA library was itself a project,” says Oshima, now at the University of Washington in Seattle. “When I found that gene, the first person I phoned was Judy,” she says. “To this day she’s like my mother. I think a lot of people feel that way. She takes care of people very well after they leave.”

In her spare time, Campisi jets off to meetings, where she harvests information to share with her colleagues and collaborators. “She always comes back with tasty tidbits,” says Lithgow. “She just loves the science so much and doesn’t like to see people wasting their time because of lack of knowledge.”

Being a “major node in this information network,” says Lithgow, helps Campisi to navigate her way through the complicated matrix of molecular and cellular interactions that drive organismal aging, a task that is likely to keep her busy for years to come. “It’s a mistake to imagine that the process is so simple that we’re going to find the aging gene or the aging pathway or the magic bullet to postpone all aging,” says Campisi. “But I wouldn’t be working on aging if I thought it was so hopelessly complex that we’ll never understand it.”


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UFOs Over Madrid - January 2006
WITNESS STATEMENT

Click linked page to see photos.

"I was astonished. I couldn´t believe my eyes. After a chemtrail sprayer plane passed by and then at approximately the same altitude is when I first noticed that there were strange objects flying in two groups overhead that seemed to be neither birds, nor airplanes, nor no object known to the author of the photographs.

"When the strange objects were visible they adopted different forms of appearance. When I first saw them they looked like small dark sticks and after just 3 - 5 seconds they morphed into small circular light balls, some dark and some white. Or did they just seem to be white because of the reflection of the sun? It seemed they had a strange blinking and besides that I didn´t notice any other colors.

"While they were flying they also moved their positions, some objects up went up while some of the other objects went down. They flew from the Northeast East to the Northwest West of the city of Madrid at a fast speed, taking a maximum of 40-50 seconds to pass by. The sun was behind me and I was standing looking to the North oriented between the strange flying objects and the sun and it was almost time for sunset.

"There was high chemtrail activity January the 4th and the next day, January 5th too, and during all the five times I saw them including January the 13th, 20th, and 22nd, there were either long persistent trails or short non-persistent trails in the sky, but there were always trails. So, the trails were there before, during and after I saw the strange flying objects. All photographs were taken with a Kodak DX4330, 3.1 Megapixel digital camera."


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Texas Chupacabras Sighting?
Craig Woolheater Cryptomundo

Was this the real Chupacabras? Not the mangy coyotes that the news stations like to show, but an actual unidentified animal, a cryptid.

This report comes from an associate of mine who lives in El Paso, TX. The original report was posted on her website in the last couple of days. It was submitted on January 24, 2006.

Click link and read the original and view the images!



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Vistors from this world and beyond
By Debra Mayeux The Daily Times Feb 8, 2006

AZTEC -- At 5 a.m. March 25, 1948, an unidentified flying object was spotted on a military radar. It was reportedly flying over Northern New Mexico, before crashing in a field in Hart Canyon north of Aztec.

It was a saucer-shaped ship, 100 feet in diameter, and there were small charred bodies inside, according to eyewitnesses -- military personnel, locals and police officers.
This is the stuff legends are made of. But for some Aztec residents and big-time ufologists, this had the makings of a story that would put Aztec on the map.

Leanne Hathcock, Aztec librarian, and Scott Ramsey, a friend from North Carolina, began the Aztec UFO Symposium nine years ago with the purpose of propagating the story and the small town it hailed from.

This year the symposium will feature big names in the fields of ufology and the paranormal, and it will be held on the 58th anniversary of the purported crash -- March 24-26 at the Aztec Public Library, 319 S. Ash.

Ramsey of Charlotte, N.C., has dedicated all of his spare time to researching this alleged crash. He has 3,400 pages of declassified documents from the U.S. military and the FBI.

"It's all there in black and white," Ramsey said. "That's a lot of (pages) for an event that didn't happen."

Ramsey, who will speak at this year's symposium, said he recently discovered proof of photographs being taken at the crash site.

"According to the FBI file, someone was trying to sell them to the Baltimore Sun," Ramsey said, adding he will share 19 years of his research at the symposium.

"I will take my research and go back 50 years and take every skeptic and critic of the Aztec incident and prove them unequivocally wrong," Ramsey said.

In addition to Ramsey's speech, the symposium will also feature lectures from former State Rep. Andrew Kissner, who will discuss documents that former Congressman Steve Schiff had declassified.

"The public will see documents for the first time ever on the Schiff investigation and other phenomenon," Ramsey said. "He's got some stuff that will blow your mind."

The late Schiff, when in office, urged the federal government to declassify documents pertaining to the famous 1947 UFO crash in Roswell.

Also speaking is Linda Moulton-Howe, an award-winning journalist; Stanton Friedman, a nuclear physicist and renowned ufologist; Dennis Balthaser, a ufologist specializing in the Roswell crash; Frank Feschino, author of the book "Braxton County Monster;" and Scott Littleton, a professor, who has studied UFO sightings in Los Angeles in the 1950s.

Suzanne Ninos-Ramsey, formerly of Farmington, will be the emcee. She became involved with the symposium as an event planner, and then ended up marrying Scott Ramsey after winning a date with him through the symposium.

She said the dedication to research from the speakers is what has impressed her most about this symposium.

"What I have seen with the speakers is if it is not documented, it doesn't exist," Ninos-Ramsey said. "Everything is thoroughly documented."

She has traveled across the country with Ramsey as he attempted to gather evidence from eye witnesses and their families. She said it has been and interesting and eye-opening experience.

"People are interested in getting to the truth," she said.

Those wanting to learn more about the alleged crash and other UFO sightings are invited to attend, Ramsey said, adding that law enforcement and military personnel, firefighters and emergency medical technicians and their families are admitted for free.

Information: (505) 334-7658 or www.aztecufo.com.

Debra Mayeux: dmayeux@daily-times.com


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Coincidences boggle mind, ranging from odd to bizarre
Jim Gordon Chicago Post-Tribune 7 Feb 06

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.
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.

Jim Gordon’s column also runs on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact him at 648-3116 or at jgordon@post-trib.com


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

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."
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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They came to praise King and bury Bush
by Doug Thompson 8 Feb 06

Bush tried his usual plastic smile but his body language clearly showed discomfort as speaker after speaker zeroed in on the hypocrisy of his Presidency – one that talks unity but practices division.
George W. Bush’s pathetic attempt to turn Coretta Scott King’s funeral into a politically-advantageous photo op fell flatter than his State of the Union speech Tuesday – a textbook example of just how out of touch the President has become with the American people.

"This commemorative ceremony this morning and 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," said former President Carter, who remarks brought loud cheers. "We only have to recall the color of the faces of those in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi, those who were most devastated by Katrina, to know that there are not yet equal opportunities for all Americans."

Carter’s comments ring true about Bush and his right-wing Republican followers – a group of rabid racists whose tokenism only deepens the racial divide in this country.

But Carter drew even louder cheers when he compared King’s struggles against FBI harassment and surveillance to Bush’s use of the National Security Agency and other government agencies to spy on Americans.

“It was difficult for them personally,” Carter said of both Kings, “with the civil liberties of both husband and wife violated as they became the target of secret government wiretapping, other surveillance, and as you know, harassment from the FBI."

Bush tried his usual plastic smile but his body language clearly showed discomfort as speaker after speaker zeroed in on the hypocrisy of his Presidency – one that talks unity but practices division.

He offered phony applause when the Rev. Joseph Lowery, King protege and longtime critic, who cited Coretta King's opposition to the war in Iraq and scored the administration’s phony commitment to helping the poor.

"She deplored the terror inflicted by our smart bombs on missions way afar," Lowery said. "We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there. But Coretta knew and we knew that there are weapons of misdirection right down here. Millions without health insurance. Poverty abounds. For war, billions more, but no more for the poor."

When Bush’s turn came, the audience, for the most part, sat on their hands, offering only muted applause for his seven-minute eulogy. It was a pitiful performance by a President whose legacy is marked all too often by shameless self-promotion.

Longtime political scientist George Harleigh, who worked in both the Nixon and Reagan White House, called the President’s appearance at King’s funeral “the equivalent of a walk-on, a token but-failed attempt to show compassion that does not exist for a cause he does not support.

“George Bush has never been a compassionate man,” says Harleigh, “but lately he looks more detached than normal, like someone going through the motions, marking his time and hoping against hope that his time is not up.”

But Bush, despite his clumsy attempts to put on a strong public face, should realize he is living on borrowed time, not only as a lame duck President but as one who could well face impeachment if enough Democrats win seats in this fall’s House and Senate elections.

“The Bush era is coming to an end – in 2008 or perhaps even sooner,” Harleigh says. “It is an era that will not be remembered fondly.”

There is little doubt that George W. Bush will go down in history as one of the most controversial, morally- challenged, dishonest Presidents to serve at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. What remains in doubt is how his Presidency will end and whether or not there will be an America left to put that painful memory behind it.

Originally published at Capitol Hill Blue


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Games face a snow job - 60 degree weather
By Stephen Harris Wednesday, February 8, 2006

TURIN — The organizers of the XX Olympic Winter Games have had six years and eight months to get everything ready in time for Friday’s Opening Ceremony and the start of competition Saturday.

It looks like they could have used six years and nine months, and maybe a little Papal intervention, to ensure better cooperation from Mother Nature.

The undeniable first impression after a day poking around the city and the mountain venues to the north is that much remains to be done and little time remains. And there is one problem beyond the fixing of mere mortals: a lack of snow.
Just over a week ago, 1-2 feet of pristine white stuff fell in the region, prompting one USOC official, in an assessment of preparations last week, to write: “It was like Christmas morning, turning an industrial city into a magical Olympic host and the mountains from a brown, patchy countryside to a virtual whiteout.”

But most of all that golden snow appears gone now, the victim of three days of astonishing weather — the temperature hitting 59 on Feb. 1 — as northern Italy enjoys a mild winter much like New England. The ski venues are making snow like crazy and snow is even getting trucked in from snowier climes.

“It’s like spring already,” said one woman, shaking her head in dismay. “No snow. This year.”

Whether the lack of snow will impact competitions, well, we’ll wait and see. Maybe it’s the warm and sunny weather, but one can’t quite shake the feeling that folks here are almost confused to see visitors starting to flood into town, acting almost as if word never reached them that the Olympics were coming.

“People act surprised that the Olympics are being held here,” said one local computer technician working yesterday in the main press center. “I don’t think they had any idea what was going to happen.”

Everywhere you walk downtown, construction and other touchups are underway — the asphalt for new sidewalks, lines painted on main streets, signs going up, although anyone relying on signage to get where they’re going probably isn’t going to get there.

A journalist who has been here for nearly two weeks watched the mad scramble to finish venues, a task he thinks probably now isn’t possible.

“The people here didn’t want the Olympics, and they don’t like it,” he said. “But now there’s this mad rush to get everything finished. It may be too late.”

Folks who’ve watched one of the final dress rehearsals for the Opening Ceremony say the Olympic Stadium is nowhere near ready for the grand event.

A much-ballyhooed element of these Games is it’s the first at which all venues offer wireless Internet access. But in the press center yesterday, with only a fraction of the reporters who will be here trying to log on, the system overloaded and crashed. It was up and running within a couple of hours, but it did not bode well for the cyberspace crush to come.

On busy Turin streets, lanes are supposed to be limited to Olympic traffic only. But Turin drivers have about the same respect for these traffic laws as Boston drivers do to slowing down at yellow lights.

“I think they look at this, the Olympic lanes, as just sort of a suggestion,” said one visitor.

Still, Olympic veterans can tell you that such early woes are not unusual during the final days before the Games. Things usually get ironed out in time, if barely.

“It’s like an 8 p.m. dinner party,” wrote one USOC official a week ago in an assessment of preparations.

“Don’t show up at 7:55, or you’ll see someone in wet hair vacuuming the living room. It ain’t ready yet, but it will be. The Olympics will begin on time and a couple of guys on skis will race each other, no matter what.”

He’s probably right. But maybe organizers ought to still see what the Pope can do about some snow.


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Olympic Goosesteppers to be Arrested
From NICK PARKER Chief Foreign Correspondent Nuremberg, Germany

GERMAN cops will use sweeping powers to collar England fans doing Basil Fawlty-style Hitler impressions at the World Cup.

Yobs will be instantly banged up for TWO WEEKS if they goose-step like John Cleese in his most famous Fawlty Towers scene.

And hard core louts who give Nazi salutes — like the one jokingly made by Michael Barrymore in Celebrity Big Brother — could be hauled before a judge within 24 hours.
If convicted of inciting hatred they will face jail terms of up to THREE YEARS.

Wearing joke German helmets or any offensive insignia will also result in a stretch behind bars.

The crackdown was revealed by police in Nuremberg, where England will play Trinidad and Tobago in a first-round World Cup match on June 15.

The city is particularly sensitive to World War II jibes.

Its gleaming World Cup stadium stands in the shadow of the parade ground used for Hitler’s notorious Nazi rallies in the 1930s.

The city was carpet-bombed by the Allies during the war.

Cops there say Nazi taunts are NOT funny and will NOT be tolerated.

Police chief Gerhard Hauptmannl, a 59-year-old former judge and Mafia crimebuster, said yesterday:

“We will come down hard on people who use insulting behaviour or make trouble.

We are very sensitive about our history.

England football fans should be aware that the Nazi salute and provocative behaviour like goose-stepping in public will be punished. We will offer the warmest welcome to true football fans. But anyone glorifying extremism here risks arrest.

We are prepared to use our police powers to hold fans for up to two weeks without charge if we feel they are a threat to public safety and order.

This used to be the city of the Nazi rallies but is now famous as the city of human rights. We do not live in the past.”

Around 10,000 England fans will have tickets for the match at the refurbished 44,000-seat Franken Stadium on the outskirts of the rebuilt Bavarian city.

But a similar number of Three Lions followers are expected to travel without tickets — including our nation’s notorious hooligan element.

The city’s police are beefing up CCTV surveillance with a £1.1million space-age computerised control centre.

It has a bank of high-definition flat screen monitors linked to cameras that can zoom in on a single face.

Close-up pictures can then be transmitted to snatch squads who will grab ringleaders in seconds.

A new cell block has been built at Nuremberg’s police HQ, with space for at least 65 prisoners.

Another 230 cells will be available in the area.

Even the stadium has its own lock-up block ready for hooligans and drunks.

More than 3,000 cops will be on red alert, including a rapid reaction force supported by highly-trained riot teams, helicopters, water cannon and dogs.

Uniformed British bobbies will also patrol grounds where England play.

Police station jailer Sergeant Horst Schwarz showed The Sun one of 14 purpose-built steel cages installed in the bowels of the nick.

He declared: “English, German or whatever, I don’t care. If they are hooligans, they will not cause problems once they arrive here.”

Police fear rival yobs who follow teams from the old East Germany may travel to confront English louts.

They are also worried racist Brits will attack black Trinidad and Tobago fans.

Mr Hauptmannl said: “We are co-operating with British police to look for any provocative behaviour in the city which might lead to violence.

“Racist abuse of black people by England fans will also be taken very seriously.

“If such behaviour is seen as a threat to order, my officers will have the power to remove offensive fans from the situation.

“They can then be held for up to two weeks without charge or charged under a fast track system and fined or jailed the next day.

“Either way, we have the power to deal with troublemakers and we will not hesitate to use it.”

More than 3,000 England fans are on a banning order list forbidding them to attend matches.

It is possible another 1,100 names will be added before the World Cup tournament kicks off.

But German authorities are ignoring warnings about booze-fuelled aggro.

Bars will serve strong local beer from 1pm to 1am on match days.


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Jesus Christ in Court
AP Jan. 27, 2006

VITERBO, Italy - An Italian judge heard arguments Friday on whether a small-town parish priest should stand trial for asserting that Jesus Christ existed.

The priest's atheist accuser, Luigi Cascioli, says the Roman Catholic Church has been deceiving people for 2,000 years with a fable that Christ existed, and that the Rev. Enrico Righi violated two Italian laws by reasserting the claim.
Lawyers for Righi and Cascioli, old schoolmates, made their arguments in a brief, closed-door hearing before Judge Gaetano Mautone in Viterbo, north of Rome. They said they expected the judge to decide quickly.

Cascioli filed a criminal complaint in 2002 after Righi wrote in a parish bulletin that Jesus did indeed exist, and that he was born of a couple named Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem and lived in Nazareth.

Cascioli claims that Righi's assertion constituted two crimes under Italian law: so-called "abuse of popular belief," in which someone fraudulently deceives people; and "impersonation," in which someone gains by attributing a false name to a person.

"The point is not to establish whether Jesus existed or not, but if there is a question of possible fraud," Cascioli's attorney, Mauro Fonzo, told reporters before the hearing.

Cascioli says the church has been gaining financially by "impersonating" as Christ someone by the name of John of Gamala, the son of Judas from Gamala.

He has said he has little hope of the case succeeding in overwhelmingly Roman Catholic Italy, but that he is merely going through the necessary legal steps to reach the European Court of Human Rights, where he intends to accuse the church of what he calls "religious racism."

Righi, 76, has stressed substantial historical evidence - both Christian and non-Christian - of Jesus' existence.

"Don Righi is innocent because he said and wrote what he has the duty to say and write," Righi's attorney, Severo Bruno, told reporters.

He said he told Mautone during the hearing that Righi was not asserting a historical fact when he wrote of Jesus' existence, but rather "an expression of theological principles."

"When Don Righi spoke about Christ's humanity ... he was affirming that he needs to be considered as a man. What his name is, where he comes from or who his parents are is secondary," he said.

Fonza said he countered that there have long been questions of Christ's existence and that the matter warranted discussion in the court.

"When somebody states a wrong fact, abusing the ignorance of people, and gains from that, that is one of the gravest crimes," Cascioli told reporters.

Righi's brother, Luigi Righi, attended the hearing and said his brother was "serene but bitter."


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Who's Hormonal? Hillary or Dick?
by Maureen Dowd The New York Times February 8, 2006

The Republicans succeed because they keep it simple, ruthless and mythic.

In 2000 and 2004, G.O.P. gunslingers played into the Western myth and mined images of manliness, feminizing Al Gore as a Beta Tree-Hugger, John Kerry as a Waffling War Wimp With a Hectoring Wife and John Edwards as his true bride, the Breck Girl.

Now, in the distaff version of Swift-boating, they are casting Hillary Clinton as an Angry Woman, a she-monster melding images of Medea, the Furies, harpies, a knife-wielding Glenn Close in "Fatal Attraction" and a snarling Scarlett Johansson in "Match Point." (How many pregnant mistresses does Woody Allen have to kill off in movies before he feels he's reversed Dostoyevsky and proved that if the crime is worth it, there should be no punishment?)

Republicans think that men who already have nagging, bitter women in their lives will not want for president the sort of woman who gave W. a dyspeptic smile or eye-rolling appraisal during State of the Union addresses.
In "Commander in Chief," writers were careful to make Geena Davis's chief executive calm and controlled under pressure -- even when her rival, played by Donald Sutherland, made an insulting menopause crack.

The hit on Hillary may seem crude and transparent. But in the void created by dormant Democrats, crouching in what Barack Obama calls "a reactive posture," crude and transparent ploys work for the Republicans. Just look at how far the Bushies' sulfurous scaremongering on terror, and cynical linkage of Saddam and Osama, have gotten them.

The gambit handcuffs Hillary: If she doesn't speak out strongly against President Bush, she's timid and girlie. If she does, she's a witch and a shrew. That plays particularly well in the South, where it would be hard for an uppity Hillary to capture many more Bubbas than the one she already has.

It's the riddle of the Sphinx that has been floating around since the selection of Geraldine Ferraro. Betty Friedan worried then that a woman seen as a threat to men would not get to the White House. But how can a woman who's not a threat to men get there?

The G.O.P. honcho Ken Mehlman kicked off the misogynistic attack on George Stephanopoulos's Sunday show. "I don't think the American people, if you look historically, elect angry candidates," he said. Referring to Hillary's recent taunts about Republicans, he added, "Whether it's the comments about the plantation or the worst administration in history, Hillary Clinton seems to have a lot of anger."

Hillary did not sound angry when she made those comments -- she's learned since her tea-and-cookies outburst in the '92 campaign. A man who wants to undermine a woman's arguments can ignore the substance and simply dismiss her as unstable and shrill. It's a hoary tactic: women are more mercurial than men; they get depressed more often and pop pills more often. As a top psychiatrist once told me, women are "hormonally more complicated and biologically more vulnerable."

But as the G.O.P. tars Hillary as hysterical, it is important to note that women are affected by lunar tides only once a month, while Dick Cheney has rampaging hormones every day.

Republicans have also labeled men hysterical (from the Greek for "womb"). Howard Dean was skewered on the Scream. And when John McCain was soaring in the 2000 primaries, Bush supporters viciously whispered that his fits of temper signaled that he had come back from Vietnam with snakes in his head.

Senator McCain went over the top again this week in a letter to Senator Obama. Although Mr. McCain tried to cast his "I'm the reformer -- you back off, new guy" letter as "straight talk" after an Obama dis, it was snide and bitchy, more like an angry missive of a spurned lover to an ex-boyfriend than a note from a respected senior senator to a respected junior one.

Mr. McCain could take a lesson from Condi Rice, who gets hyperarticulate and bristly when she's mad, but not bitchy. Or Oprah, whose anger at James Frey had a Mosaic dignity.

Hillary's problem isn't that she's angry. It's that she's not angry enough. From Iraq to Katrina and the assault on the Constitution, from Schiavo to Alito and N.S.A. snooping to Congressional corruption, Hillary has failed to lead in voicing outrage. She's been too busy triangulating and calculating to be good at articulating.

The Republicans can't marginalize Hillary. She has already marginalized herself.


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WHAT'S THIS SLIMY CREATURE IN MY DRAIN?
This is Staffordshire 08 February 2006

Victoria Springitt lifted up the slimy mess blocking her garden drain and screamed after realising it was not just mud and leaves clogging it up. The 37-year-old Staffordshire University student watched in horror as her nine-year-old son Isaac then pulled out what they believe was a dead, black octopus, using fire tongs.
"I saw water flowing from the garden drain, and thought it might be a banana skin covered in leaves," explained the mother-of-two, of Oxford Road, Basford.

"I prodded it with a stick and then I got my nine-year-old son to sort it out."

Neither friends nor neighbours can explain how the muddy salt-water marine mollusc ended up in the garden, although some speculate a passing seagull may have dropped it.

Vicky added: "Isaac wasn't fazed by it at all and has gone back to St Wulstan's Primary School telling everyone he wants to bring it in."

Her sister Becky Springitt, aged 34, who was brave enough to handle the specimen, said: "It definitely looks like an octopus and feels soft and porous - not like a rubber toy.

"If this is someone's exotic pet that they've flushed down the toilet, then I think it is a real shame."

Mature student Vicky, who moved back to North Staffordshire 16 months ago, said: "I just want to know where it came from. I've travelled to many places around the world, but I've never seen anything like this."

Pictures of the creature have puzzled experts at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth. Information officer Douglas Herdson said: "We've had people looking at the photos and there are certain things that look right about the body and certain things that don't.

"It is very difficult to say for certain whether this is an octopus."

He said it was feasible that an octopus owner had flushed a dead specimen down the drain - they cannot last more than 20 minutes in freshwater.

He added: "Some people don't realise it is illegal to release exotic creatures into the wild in Britain."


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