Editorial: The Real Enemy and What YOU Can Do

Laura Knight-Jadczyk

Last week I wrote an editorial to kick off our Semi-annual Fundraiser. In that editorial I quoted a popular political action group's fund-raising report that informs us that, from 6,613 contributors, they were able to raise $389,900 in a single DAY. That averages out to $58.00 per person. Not a big expenditure for everyone, but the total is what is amazing. That total is a result of the large base of supporters they have which they have as a result of early advertising and very public and prominent activities where they make a big splash but actually accomplish zilch. They added that "This generosity gives us a great deal of hope." I, on the other hand, did not express much hope at all that pursuing change via political action within the existing system would accomplish a thing.

As I pointed out, "The hoopla about spying on innocent Americans to ferret out terrorists is just a smokescreen; [Bush's illegal spying is] purely and simply, to spy on political opponents, journalists, and to obtain material for blackmail so as to completely control the political process.

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

Since the SOTT team regularly has "brain-storming" meetings to discuss what we see on the global stage, this issue has naturally been on the table a time or two. As our readers may know, we scour the web for the news, trying, if at all possible, to create the picture of what is really going on from credible sources. We often contrast one mainstream source against another in order to show the reader how things get twisted and distorted and even misrepresented. We utilize flashbacks and special reports on key issues to show the historical development so that the reader may have a broader and deeper view. This approach to "seeing" is founded on our more esoteric work. We believe that if an individual has a philosophy, it ought to manifest in their life and work across the board. We here at SOTT consider the present state of our world as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. Pierre LaPlace wrote:

Consider an intelligence which, at any instant, could have a knowledge of all forces controlling nature together with the momentary conditions of all the entities of which nature consists. If this intelligence were powerful enough to submit all this data to analysis it would be able to embrace in a single formula the movements of the largest bodies in the universe and those of the lightest atoms; for it, nothing would be uncertain; the future and the past would be equally present to its eyes.

Obviously, what LaPlace was proposing is a bit out of reach for most of us, but with a cooperative of researchers who all contribute input to the image of our world we are building, we can go in the direction of such an "intelligence" that can see past, present, and future. And certainly, by seeing past and present in as broad and deep a manner as possible, we are much better equipped to know the future and whether or not we like it, and if we don't like it, to make different choices NOW that will shape that future differently..

And here is where we encounter the BIG PROBLEM.


If knowing the truth about reality can help us to make advantageous decisions and choices and take certain actions based on what IS, then certainly, hiding the truth from us can prevent us from making those decisions, choices, and actions that will lead to a positive future.

Those who control information, those who can conceal from us the data that we need to assemble an accurate picture of our reality seem to be working to create a future favorable to themselves, one that is NOT beneficial to all of humanity. So it has always been. From a historical point of view, the ONLY reality is that of conspiracy. Secrecy, wealth and independence add up to power. ...Deception is the key element of warfare, (the tool of power elites), and when winning is all that matters, the conventional morality held by ordinary people becomes an impediment. Secrecy stems from a pervasive and fundamental element of life in our world, that those who are at the top of the heap will always take whatever steps are necessary to maintain the status quo.

And maintaining the "status quo" in our world means controlling information.

We have thought about this a lot here at SOTT. As we comb through hundreds of news articles daily, seeing the twists and turns and outright lies and disinformation, tracing each thread to try to find out what is really wrong here, why can't we get - for God's sake - a single source that isn't playing games, lying and distorting - we realize that the BIG PROBLEM is the MEDIA.

Nothing evil that has been done for millennia would have been possible if people truly had the information they needed. And they don't have it because the MEDIA goes to so much trouble to either hide it or distort it or make a big splash about lies, and put the important truths on the inside back page of section D of the newspaper, if it is reported at all. SPIN is everything. Publicity is everything. The masses of people in the United States and elsewhere who simply don't have the time or energy or wherewithal to investigate for themselves, or the inner will to stand against what is presented to them as the "received truth" of all their peers, their families, neighbors and friends, will continue down the Primrose Path to total destruction as long as the MEDIA continues to conceal, to distort, to twist, and spin information in favor of those at the "top of the heap" who are determined to see that they remain at the top.

So our problem - the problem of everyone - is the MEDIA.

Now, certainly, there are quite a few alternative media sites - such as our our own - that try to bring a more balanced picture. But, you don't think that the folks at the Top of the Heap are going to allow anyone to get out there and do a better job of reporting the truth and get away with it, do you?

Of course not.

How are they going to stop it without appearing to do so?

Why, COINTELPRO, of course.

Now, I've written about this subject to the point that I am sure that some of you are sick of it. The problem is, it's everywhere, and it is well-funded. People like us don't have a chance against the backers of these kinds of operations. Not without your help, we don't. And even with help, it's going to be rough going - as it has been for the past five years.

So, not only do we have the MEDIA and its lies to contend with, we have COINTELPRO.

It's not looking good, is it?

For any new readers, let me just briefly recap and give you some links.

COINTELPRO's main weapon of choice is Slander (including libel) and Defamation. There is a reason for this: smearing a person makes it so that their effectiveness is diminished because those people who have little time, energy or wherewithal to do their own investigating won't take the time to find out if the defamatory statements are true or not, and if there is a well organized campaign, they also won't want to "go against" what their family, friends and neighbors believe. There are many recent examples of this tried and true tactic evident in the activities of the Neocons, including the "Swiftboat" nonsense and Plamegate. Those campaigns were directed against individuals and had to be stitched together in a hurry. A more comprehensive campaign, such as the demonizing of Muslims goes on over a longer period of time. Of course, what they want to do with the Muslims is kill them all so the process must be more thorough and broader in scope than just going after someone's personal reputation.

Nevertheless, the main weapon of COINTELPRO still remains Slander and Defamation. We know it all too well because such a campaign was launched against us back in 2001, which was, of course, curious timing, don't you think? At the very time that the Neocons made their big move to lock-down the flow of information, we became one of the first casualties of the Information War. And it hasn't let up since, I should add. As I wrote on my BLOG:

Now, one of the interesting things we have observed about COINTELPRO is the way it shifts and warps in response to possible exposure. I believe that I was the first to realize the extent and nature of the operation, and I began publishing my speculations about it in the Adventures With Cassiopaea series back in early 2002. Not too long after that, individuals that I KNEW to be "agents" of COINTELPRO began to start ranting about COINTELPRO and pointing the finger this way and that way. Up to this point in time, the lid had pretty much remained shut on the subject - I guess they were hoping that people would forget about it, or think that it was over and done with back in the 70s, nothing to worry about now!

But nope, I saw it and wrote about it and they just had to do something. So, in typical COINTELPRO fashion, they started producing endless noise to obscure the signal. [...

And then, in another Blogpost:

Robin Ramsay, Editor of Lobster, writes in this month's issue of Fortean Times:

"[After 1996 was when] the Internet began to take hold of our intellectual lives and conspiracy theories transferred from TV and magazines onto the Net, where - ever since - they appear to have been something of a worry to our masters in Washington.

"The existence of the Internet means that it is no longer as easy to control public perception as it was during the good old days of the Cold War, when mass media were fewer and more manageable, newspaper and TV editors could be recruited or bought by the authorities and stories planted with ease in the press.

"Recently, the US State Department has begun trying to rebut some of the current conspiracy theories about America. Their first targets were a couple of websites - www.rense.com and Conspiracy Planet - and the late Joe Vialls, an Australian. What a boost for the named sites! Attacked by the State Department![...]

"[Y]ou don't have to be a PR genius to see that what you simply mustn't do is launch official attacks: all they do is amplify and legitimise the theories by announcing that they are deemed to be worth attacking." [Fortean Times 206, February 2006, p. 19] [...]

So certainly, we would expect real COINTELPRO operations to be attacked "officially" in order to legitimize them, but as those who have figured out the real answers will not be martyred. It's way too dangerous. Keep in mind that we aren't dealing with stupid people here; they have "motivation masters" working 24/7 to manipulate the public. One of their ideas was the now well-known COINTELPRO "Third Party Attack Protocol." This includes setting up bogus groups and operations - sometimes at HUGE expense - in order to not only be a "Tar Baby" but also, when needed, to launch attacks against bona fide groups and or individuals with no one ever suspecting that it is a State Supported attack.

And, as I noted above, COINTELPRO shifts and warps in response to possible exposure. Let's look at a typical example here:

Fair and Balanced?: Death Threats Hit Prominent Political Columnists

by Todd Brendan Fahey
February 13, 2006

The headline of the story would make you think that Paul Krugman or Maureen Dowd or some major international journalistic figure was the subject. Keep in mind, as you read the story, that the author, Todd Brendan Fahey, "has served as aide to former Congressman John B. Conlan, former Arizona Governor Evan Mecham, to CIA officer Theodore L. Humes and to the late Defense Intelligence Agency chief, Lt. General Daniel O. Graham."

James Hall publishes as "SARTRE" throughout the Web. Perhaps the most prolific right-wing columnist on the 'net, he keeps to himself in private life. Long retired as a political strategist, Hall is no longer a believer in organized politics--though very much still a believer in and spokesman for Jeffersonian anti-federalist, limited government ideology.

And so he was surprised to answer his unlisted phone number on January 30th, to the question that was asked three times in succession: "Is this SARTRE?" (His response each time: "Who is calling?"). Finally, the caller shouted, "We know who you are!", followed by a death threat that he has divulged only to the New York state police department in his area, which he alerted immediately.

Says Hall, "No one calls for Sartre on my home phone number."

The *64 function on his phone brought back a Toronto, Canada phone number (416-785-4574) owned by Dr. Laurence B. Shiff, 327 Cortleigh Boulevard, Toronto, Ontario MSN 1R2 CA. Friends assisted Hall in some Google sleuthing, and which reveals Dr. Shiff an officer of the Kaspu Corporation. When relaying the events to longtime SARTRE publisher Jeff Rense, Rense said: "That's the same number I've been getting threats from, and two of my other writers."

The morning of Hall's telephone death threat, he had published an incendiary piece titled "Hamas, Israel and the United States," which went 'net-wide and which, later in the week, resulted in his being dropped from New Media Alliance--ostensibly, a start-up conservative news bureau. The article calls for a complete severing of the "USrael alliance," as a danger to American citizens and an affront to the Constitution.

Two weeks before the threat received by James Hall, fellow Rense.com writer Kurt Nimmo closed down his blog entirely, citing an inability to reconcile death threats received, his publishing life and the safety of his family "Zionist Death Threats: Nimmo Closes Down Blog".

Writes Nimmo:

"The primary reason I have decided to stop posting the blog has to do with threats. I have received many of them, including death threats. Usually, I am able to brush aside threats, since most are not of a serious nature, but lately I have received several that are not to be taken lightly, especially considering the fact somebody has taken the liberty to post my address and telephone number (information easily attained from the domain registry) in various places on the internet. First and foremost, I have a responsibility to my family and posting political commentary obviously comes in a distant second."

On February 2, Rense.com writer Jim Mortellaro received calls from the same Toronto, Canada phone number:

"Beginning three days ago, two more so-called 'men' began their tirade on this writer. Like the first person, they informed me that I was a Rense supporter and that makes me an anti-Semite. Me. Of all people, with a Jewish side to our family in which 2.15% survived the camps. That would be two out of 93 human beings. You picked the wrong person, guys. ...I now have his name and address. The man lives in Toronto. He is the son of a (I won't go there, not to worry), he is a member of a very wealthy family there, with interest in (major interest) in a very large corporation." Zionist Threats and Harrassment Continue".

Mortellaro received the call on his cell phone, which, as he writes: "is extremely hard to obtain. You must have the *authority* to do so and that authority must be high up the food chain. So, whomever called, did so from a "restricted telephone number" and had *access* to cellphone numbers and their owners. A 'restricted' telephone number, being different from a 'restricted call,' makes the case for a governmental, institutional or large and powerful company as having made the call."

Messrs. Hall, Rense, Nimmo and Mortellaro are now coordinating efforts--with state police, FBI and Canadian authorities--for to bring about a Federal investigation. Each writer has been critical in their writings of US/Israeli entanglements; each has received death threats from the same phone source--which has now been identified. All manner of "special interest groups" have been protected from harrassment and seen perpetrators punished. That this group is comprised of prominent writers who hold what are undoubtedly unpopular beliefs, in the eyes of mainstream media and probably within Washington D.C., will prove a test case for the law being "fair and balanced."

Now, let me give you some backstory here. Somewhere around the time that Kurt Nimmo received his "threats," which were never quite fully explained to me, but since I have a lot of respect for Kurt, I didn't pry; I figured that if he felt threatened, that was good enough for me, we had a little exchange about it. I wrote to Kurt as follows:

I have tremendous sympathy for your wife. God only knows I went through hell having our names and addresses published on hate sites. [Websites were set up to defame us, a gang of cyberthugs cruised the net looking for every open BB they could find where they could post their slanderous filth.] We received death threats in the mail, my daughter was run off the road three times, the third time she hit a power pole and her car was destroyed. If it had not been a Volvo, she would be dead. [Another of our children was poisoned and nearly died. She spent three days on life-support and nobody expected her to recover.] When the dog was poisoned while we ran out to Sam's Club, in broad daylight, that was the living end. That's when we made the decision to leave the country permanently. [...]

Of course, no sooner did we get back online [right after publication of "MOSSAD and Moving Companies: Masterminds of Global Terrorism] than Jeff Rense published that awful defamation on the very day he had invited me to speak on his show. I don't think it was accidental. It took three days for us to get him to remove it.

I should mention that the MOSSAD piece went around the world, and was translated into no less than 6 languages within ONE WEEK of its publication. And it was IMMEDIATELY afterward, that a close associate of Rense - Jay Weidner - purchased "cassiopaea.net" for the purpose of publishing slanderous articles about us.

The above article about threats from Toronto was linked from Michael Rivero's "WhatReallyHappened.com" where he wrote the following remarks:

Larry has been an annoyance to this web site as well. When Larry first started attacking my site, hacking the servers, email bombing me, sending death threats, and other assorted dirty trucks, I reported him to both the FBI and to Interpol. Interpol is still investigating him as of my last contact with them, but interestingly enough the local FBI claims that the US Attorney for Hawaii ordered them not to investigate the case. I am putting that on the public record in case Mssrs Hall, Nimmo, Mortellaro, & Rense run into "bureaucratic resistance" in seeking to prosecute this minor irritation. The FBI has known about Larry for years now, because I tracked him down and reported him to the FBI in 2003, and the FBI failed to act to protect US citizens from what the USAPATRIOT act clearly identifies as terroristic activity.

The ball is in your court FBI. What are you going to do now? Look like total failures yet again?

So Jeff, Sartre, Kurt, ya'll are gonna have to come up with something better than a threatening phone call or two. That ain't COINTELPRO. Heck, that doesn't even qualify as a real "attack." I've been getting death threats by phone since I started publishing my material on alien abductions! When I was able to keep a lecture engagement only by having a bodyguard licensed to carry a gun, I knew it was time to quit speaking in public. What's more, guys, you need to have some evidence. You want to see MINE? Have a look at the stack of stuff I've assembled, all of which has been shipped off to the FBI. You know what the FDLE agent told me? He said that since 9/11, they are way too busy to deal with such "petty squabbles" - get a lawyer or quit doing what I'm doing and the attacks will cease. And I pointed out to him that ole Vinnie Bridges, pal of Jay Weidner, pal of Jeff Rense, pal of Michael Rivero, was just dancing with glee at the collapse of the WTC. Not only that, but he was known to hang out with Arabs in Arab costume! His buddy, Melchizidek, had connections to Mujaheedin. Melchizidek's main sugar-daddy has all the earmarks of a CIA frontman. Was the FBI interested? Nope. So, if they are interested in your guy for making a few phone calls, I can assure you that it's a set-up. Take that to the bank.

Now that the reader has a little bit more of an idea of what we are facing here, perhaps you will also be able to figure out that what we are offering here on SOTT isn't just the usual "bill of fare" of alternative News sites. It is obviously quite threatening to the Powers That Be. Since google regularly "penalizes" us while giving incomprehensible advantages to the "flame sites" set up to smear us, since most of the COINTELPRO alternative sites also "conveniently" fail to link to us, despite (or perhaps because of) the superior quantity and quality of our material, it's pretty clear that we are one HUGE THREAT to the PTB. That's again why we need to do more ADVERTISING.

We need funding to do more than advertising. We need to be able to hire full-time researchers and other support staff so that we don't have to work 16 hour days, 7 days a week, driving our health into the ground. We need to be able to identify those alternative news writers who are sincere and honest and offer them a decent compensation for REAL investigative journalism. In short, we need to completely replace the MEDIA, the true dragon of the Portal to knowledge that can help us change our world, in the minds and hearts of all those who thirst for truth and justice.

It isn't going to be easy. It hasn't been easy. It's been an uphill struggle all the way, and we could not have done it without the support of our readers. We need it now more than ever, and we need MORE of it than ever. Look again at what we have to confront: a group that wastes time and money, yet can raise $389,900 in a single DAY. That's a whole lot more than we have received in the past 5 years.

So please, dig as deep as you can. There is much, much more to what we hope to do than just advertising. We cannot, of course, reveal everything because if we do, COINTELPRO will jump on our plans like a duck on a June bug. Read our websites, examine our archives, decide today if you want to keep this information flowing, and if you want to make sure that it is available to more and more people, and if so, help us to make a Quantum Leap in our operation. You won't regret it, and your help may very well be the critical mass that changes the future for All.

Click here to donate now!

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Editorial: Censorship in Modern 'Democratic' America

Signs of the Times

More than likely, you missed the display of public opinion on Bush's illegal wiretapping at Georgetown University, Washington, a few weeks ago. The reason you missed it is the same reason we missed it: the mainstream media more or less ignored it. Don't bother trying to find the story with a google news search either, it simply isn't there. Such is the state of censorship in modern-day America.

Thankfully, there are sites like Signs of the Times to bring you the news that your government feels you should be denied.

Alberto Gonzales spoke before law students at Georgetown January 24th 2006. Gonzales' speech constituted an attempt to justify illegal, unauthorized surveillance of US citizens by the Bush government. During the course of his speech, about a dozen law students did something that the Bush administration would love to eradicate - they protested. They got up from their seats and turned their backs on him.

Georgetown Gonzalez

Later, another group of students wearing black cowls took the opportunity to remind Gonzalez and his bosses about the true nature of "Freedom and Democracy".

Georgetown students Gonzales

As a result of our daily scrutinizing of the news, it is clear to us that censorship in the U.S. is rampant. This fact suggests to us that there are probably many millions of Americans who are extremely frustrated with their government and its policies and who have been exercising their right to make their feelings known. It is probably also true, however, that there are many millions more who resent the utter disregard that the Bush administration exhibits for Democratic principles but who are afraid to express their dissatisfaction.

If the public protests of the sort that took place at Georgetown university were given broad media attention there exists a very real possibility that such acts would serve as galvanizing force, a rallying cry, to the, as yet silent, majority of American citizens.

Such protests, therefore, pose a very real threat to the Bush administration and its hold on power. They realise this, and they employ their mainstream media lackeys to effectively crush the will of a majority of American people.

When Martin Luther King said that for evil to prevail, all it takes is for good men and women to do nothing, he was not talking theoretically, he was talking for experience. He knew it to be true. Remember that there is a silent majority of Americans, and indeed of human beings around the world, who do have the potential to see the reality of the situation but who need you to set the example, to lead the way.

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Editorial: NSA Snoop Fiasco: Democrats Sell the Constitution Down the River

Kurt Nimmo
Monday February 13th 2006, 10:25 am

If we are to believe the corporate media, Bush’s “secret eavesdropping program” is useless and “out-dated” because a shrewd “al-Qaeda” has “undoubtedly has changed its means of communication to avoid Washington’s monitoring,” according to the Associated Press. “Does anyone really believe that, after 50 days of having this program on the front page of our newspapers, across talk shows across America, that al-Qaida has not changed the way that it communicates?” said Rep. Peter Hoekstra, the House intelligence-committee chairman, thus expecting us to believe al-Qaeda once utilized cell phones and email as it planned terrorist attacks. Since “al-Qaeda” is actually al-CIA-duh, it has no need to communicate via cell phone or email, that is unless it wants to leave a conspicuous trail to be used later to frame patsies.

As we know, the massive NSA violation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution at the behest of the Bush neocons is not intended to catch “al-Qaeda” bad guys, but rather monitor and eventually snare Americans who disagree with the Straussian neocons, Machiavellian followers of Leo Strauss and the Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt who hate the Bill of Rights and the very idea of a constitutional republic and are in the process of destroying its last proud vestiges. NSA snooping has nothing to do with preventing rogue intelligence terrorism and everything to do with subverting the liberties of American citizens. In the 1960s and 70s, the NSA compiled intercepts on U.S. peace activists and it was this unchecked and illegal behavior that resulted in the creation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. Bush (or rather his neocon handlers) circumvented the FISA process precisely because they were (and are) snooping on their domestic enemies—it has absolutely nothing to do with the CIA-created fake terrorist group called “al-Qaeda.”

All of this—including the trashing of the Bill of Rights—shall now move forward under a nod and wink provided by spineless Democrats. “Having failed at turning the NSA program to surveil international calls connected with suspected terrorists into a ‘domestic’ spying scandal, Democrats have reversed course and now want the program to continue but under new Congressional rules,” reports Free-Market News Network. “The reversal has shown that President Bush’s offensive against the critics, starting with his immediate acknowledgement of authorizing the program, has once again damaged the Democrats on national security and has pushed them to settle the issue quickly.” In other words, the Democrats—understanding well the NSA snoop scandal is all about domestic opposition—have sold the Constitution down the river, a traitorous act that should not be surprising, and warrentless snooping will soon be considered fine and dandy, so long as Congress makes “rules” on how the Constitution should be violated.

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Israel pushes urgency of UN Iran review

By HERB KEINON Jerusalem Post 14 Feb 06

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni urged German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier Monday to support discussing the Iranian nuclear issue at the United Nations Security Council immediately, part of an Israeli diplomatic drive that could be characterized as "To the Security Council Now."

This push took on more urgency Monday amid reports that Teheran postponed talks with Moscow scheduled for Thursday on a plan to enrich its uranium in Russia, and that Teheran has already begun the small-scale enrichment of uranium.
One Israel official following the Iranian issue closely said that time is running short, and that the diplomatic efforts to get Iran to stop its nuclear program were lagging behind Iranian technological advancements.

Israel, according to the official, would like to see the President of the Security Council, which this month is US Ambassador John Bolton, issue a presidential statement calling on the Iranians to suspend its enrichment-related activity, including research and development, and roll back its nuclear program.

The official said that Israel was worried that nothing had changed on the ground since the International Atomic Energy Agency reported Iran to the UN Security Council earlier this month. A Presidential statement, he said, could be the first step toward taking some concrete action against the Iranians.

As things stand now, however, the Presidential statement itself is unlikely to be made until after yet another IAEA meeting on March 6, which is due to issue a report on Iran.

Both Russia and China, permanent members of the Security Council who have veto power there, have pushed for the issue to be delayed until March, apparently in the hope that the Iranians would accept the Russian compromise to enrich the uranium in Russia - something that looks increasingly unlikely following Iran's decision Monday not to hold talks with Russia at this time.

While Israel has indicated it could live with the enrichment process taking place in Russia, as long as there are firm safeguards that would keep the Iranians from using either the fuel or the know-how for military purposes, the official said that there were some questions about what Russia meant when it said that there should be no uranium enrichment in Iran. While Israel and the US believe that this also means that there should be no research and development inside Iran, the Russian position on this matter is less clear.

The official said, however, that what is clear is that when the issue is raised by the Security Council, Moscow will not stand in the way of sanctions - even with the current cloud hanging over Israeli-Russian relations as a result of Russian President Vladimir Putin's invitation to Hamas to come to Moscow. The official said that China was also unlikely to veto sanctions in the Security Council.

Western diplomatic officials have said that if sanctions are agreed upon, there was a "rich menu" to choose from.

The menu can be divided into three stages.

The first stage, comprised of the least severe sanctions, includes the following:
# Stopping IAEA technical assistance to Iran, which amounts to a few million dollars a year
# Preventing Iranian scientists from participating in IAEA conferences
# Preventing Iranian students from studying abroad any subject that could be related to Weapons of Mass Destruction development or dual-use technology that could be used for these purposes.

Level two of the sanctions menu includes:
# Denying visas to Iranian scientists and the heads of the regime
# Lowering the level of western diplomatic presence in Iran
# Decreasing the number of Iranians allowed to serve at its embassies abroad

And the final level would involve economic sanctions, and could include the following:
# Lowering Iran's credit rating
# Placing an embargo on refined oil products entering Iran (Iran imports 40 % of its refined oil needs).

Western officials said that at the present time there is no international consensus for economic steps. "The task for the countries taking the lead on this issue," one official said, "is to reach agreement about the need to place the economic measures in the tool box."

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War Pimp Gore: Iran 'danger for world'

Agence France Press 12 Feb 06

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AFP) - Former US vice president and defeated presidential hopeful Al Gore lashed out at
Iran's clerical regime, denouncing it as a threat "for the future of the world."

"Iran is ruled by corrupt politicians and clerics," the Democrat said in an address to the Jeddah Economic Forum in Saudi Arabia.
He said the "corrupt leadership" combined with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's anti-Israeli outbursts should raise alarm bells all over the world, including the Arab world and the Gulf region.

"There should be more voices in the region saying this leadership is dangerous for the future of the world," said Gore, who was
President George W. Bush's rival in the 2000 presidential election.

Gore's comments come after Bush said in his State of the Union address on January 31 that the Iranian people were being "held hostage by a small clerical elite that is isolating and repressing its people."

Bush's Republican administration is a leading proponent of allegations that Iran, contrary to its assertions about the peaceful nature of its nuclear programme, intends to develop nuclear weapons.

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) voted on February 3 to report its concerns about Tehran's nuclear programme to the UN Security Council, which could impose sanctions.

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US prepares military blitz against Iran's nuclear sites

By Philip Sherwell in Washington The Telegraph 12 Feb 06

Strategists at the Pentagon are drawing up plans for devastating bombing raids backed by submarine-launched ballistic missile attacks against Iran's nuclear sites as a "last resort" to block Teheran's efforts to develop an atomic bomb.
Central Command and Strategic Command planners are identifying targets, assessing weapon-loads and working on logistics for an operation, the Sunday Telegraph has learnt.

They are reporting to the office of Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, as America updates plans for action if the diplomatic offensive fails to thwart the Islamic republic's nuclear bomb ambitions. Teheran claims that it is developing only a civilian energy programme.

"This is more than just the standard military contingency assessment," said a senior Pentagon adviser. "This has taken on much greater urgency in recent months."

The prospect of military action could put Washington at odds with Britain which fears that an attack would spark violence across the Middle East, reprisals in the West and may not cripple Teheran's nuclear programme. But the steady flow of disclosures about Iran's secret nuclear operations and the virulent anti-Israeli threats of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has prompted the fresh assessment of military options by Washington. The most likely strategy would involve aerial bombardment by long-distance B2 bombers, each armed with up to 40,000lb of precision weapons, including the latest bunker-busting devices. They would fly from bases in Missouri with mid-air refuelling.

The Bush administration has recently announced plans to add conventional ballistic missiles to the armoury of its nuclear Trident submarines within the next two years. If ready in time, they would also form part of the plan of attack.

Teheran has dispersed its nuclear plants, burying some deep underground, and has recently increased its air defences, but Pentagon planners believe that the raids could seriously set back Iran's nuclear programme.

Iran was last weekend reported to the United Nations Security Council by the International Atomic Energy Agency for its banned nuclear activities. Teheran reacted by announcing that it would resume full-scale uranium enrichment - producing material that could arm nuclear devices.

The White House says that it wants a diplomatic solution to the stand-off, but President George W Bush has refused to rule out military action and reaffirmed last weekend that Iran's nuclear ambitions "will not be tolerated".

Sen John McCain, the Republican front-runner to succeed Mr Bush in 2008, has advocated military strikes as a last resort. He said recently: "There is only only one thing worse than the United States exercising a military option and that is a nuclear-armed Iran."

Senator Joe Lieberman, a Democrat, has made the same case and Mr Bush is expected to be faced by the decision within two years.

By then, Iran will be close to acquiring the knowledge to make an atomic bomb, although the construction will take longer. The President will not want to be seen as leaving the White House having allowed Iran's ayatollahs to go atomic.

In Teheran yesterday, crowds celebrating the anniversary of the 1979 Islamic revolution chanted "Nuclear technology is our inalienable right" and cheered Mr Ahmadinejad when he said that Iran may reconsider membership of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

He was defiant over possible economic sanctions.

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'10,000 would die' in A-plant attack on Iran

By Thomas Harding The Telegraph 13 Feb 06

A major American attack on Iran's nuclear sites would kill up to 10,000 people and lead to war in the Middle East, a report says today.

Hundreds of scientists and technicians would be targets in the opening salvos as the attacks focused on eliminating further nuclear development, the Oxford Research Group says in Iran: Consequences of a War.

The research coincides with reports that strategists at the Pentagon are drawing up plans for "a last resort" strike if diplomacy fails. Plans for an assault have taken on "greater urgency" in recent months, The Sunday Telegraph said.
Tacticians at central command and strategic command, who report to Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, have been identifying targets and the weapons needed to hit them.

The Oxford report says that Britain could be drawn into the conflict if the Prime Minister allowed American B2 bombers, which can carry 40,000lb of precision bombs, to use bases at Fairford, Glos, and on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia.

Precision bombing could put Iran's weapons programme back five to 10 years but within a month the situation would become "an extremely dangerous conflict", says Prof Paul Rogers, the report's author.

The attack would result in "a protracted military confrontation" involving Israel, Lebanon and some Gulf states.

More than 100 American bombers, many based on carriers in the Gulf, would take part in a huge simultaneous surprise air attack on 20 key nuclear and military facilities, the report says.

If the targets included the nuclear reactor at Bushehr, which will become fully fuelled this year, a radioactive cloud could spread over the Gulf. Iran's small navy, which includes three submarines, would have to be attacked to negate threats to vital shipping lanes in the Straits of Hormuz.

But Iran could still retaliate with suicide speedboats, possibly leading to crippling rises in the price of oil.

Prof Rogers, professor of peace studies at Bradford University, says that American military action would also have a unifying effect on the rule of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and exacerbate anti-American hostility in the Islamic world.

The report says that a ground offensive in Iran would not be feasible, as it would require at least 100,000 troops - and American forces are already over-stretched with 130,000 soldiers in Iraq and 18,000 in Afghanistan.

Iran would probably withdraw from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and speed up its secret nuclear weapons programme.

The report concludes: "A military response to the current crisis is a particularly dangerous option and should not be considered further. Alternative approaches must be sought, however difficult these may be."

In a similar briefing before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Oxford group predicted that Saddam Hussein's regime could easily be overwhelmed but that the country would become a hotbed of insurgency.

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited

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Iran is prepared to retaliate, experts warn

By Bryan Bender Boston Globe 12 Feb 06

WASHINGTON -- Iran is prepared to launch attacks using long-range missiles, secret commando units, and terrorist allies planted around the globe in retaliation for any strike on the country's nuclear facilities, according to new US intelligence assessments and military specialists.
US and Israeli officials have not ruled out military action against Iran if diplomacy fails to thwart its nuclear ambitions. Among the options are airstrikes on suspected nuclear installations or covert action to sabotage the Iranian program.

But military and intelligence analysts warn that Iran -- which a recent US intelligence report described as ''more confident and assertive" than it has been since the early days of the 1979 Islamic revolution -- could unleash reprisals across the region, and perhaps even inside the United States, if the hard-line regime came under attack.

''When the Americans or Israelis are thinking about [military force], I hope they will sit down and think about everything the ayatollahs could do to make our lives miserable and what we will do to discourage them," said John Pike, director of the think tank GlobalSecurity.org, referring to Iran's religious leaders.

''There could be a cycle of escalation."

President Bush has said military force should be the last resort in international efforts to deter Iran from acquiring a nuclear bomb. Yet Bush has stated unequivocally that the United States would not tolerate an Iranian nuclear arsenal, which the CIA estimates could be in place in three to 10 years. Iran maintains its nuclear program is solely aimed at producing electricity, not weapons.

Israel, which Iran's new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has threatened to annihilate, asserts that Tehran is much closer to going nuclear and has been far more direct with its counter-threats.

The Israel Defense Forces, which destroyed Iraq's nuclear reactor in 1981, has said it is perfecting ways to launch a preventative strike against Iranian nuclear sites, including outfitting its Air Force with American-made, bunker-busting munitions.

US intelligence officials have said that Iran, which fought a war with Iraq from 1980-1988 that cost one million lives, still has the most threatening armed forces in the immediate region. Its combined ground forces are estimated at about 800,000 personnel. The CIA has concluded that Iran is steadily enhancing its ability to project its military power, including by threatening international shipping.

But it is Iran's unconventional weapons and tactics -- rather than its conventional military -- that would pose the greatest threat, according to the intelligence officials.

Bush's new intelligence chief, John D. Negroponte, outlining the conclusions reached by a variety of US spy agencies, warned in his first overall annual threat assessment this month to Congress that Iran is capable of sparking a much wider conflict it comes under threat.

A major worry: newly acquired long-range missiles. Obtained with the assistance of North Korea, the Shahab 3 could strike Israel and perhaps even hit the periphery of Europe, according to a recent report by the Pentagon's National Air and Space Intelligence Center.

The missiles could also be tipped with chemical warheads and threaten US military bases in the region.

Iran is believed to have at least 20 launchers that are frequently moved around the country to avoid detection.

''Iran has an extensive missile-development program and has received support from entities in Russia, China, and North Korea," the Pentagon report said, estimating their range to be at least 800 miles.

New missile designs under development could travel 400 miles farther, it said, while Iran purchased at least a dozen X-55 cruise missiles from Ukraine in 2001 that are capable of carrying a nuclear warhead as far as Italy.

Meanwhile, Iranian agents and members of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, widely believed to have a large presence in Iraq, could attempt to foment an uprising by the their fellow Shi'ite majority in Iraq or join insurgents in directly attacking US troops there, Negroponte warned.

He reported that Tehran has ''constrained" itself in Iraq because it is generally satisfied with the political trends in favor of the Shi'ite majority and to avoid giving the United States another excuse to attack Iran. But that could change if Iran were targeted militarily.

A leading Shi'ite cleric in Iraq, Moqtada al-Sadr, whose militia has clashed with US troops and rival Shi'ite groups, vowed in a visit to Tehran last month to defend Iran if it were attacked.

The assessment presented by Negroponte said the Iranian regime already provides ''guidance and training" to militant groups in Iraq and ''has been responsible for at least some of the increasing lethality of anticoalition attacks by providing Shia militants with the capability to build" improvised explosive devices.

Government and private analysts assert that Iran's intelligence apparatus and Revolutionary Guard Corps could cause serious damage to US efforts to pacify Iraq.

''The Iranian ayatollahs may deploy an 'asymmetric' answer and incite a Shi'ite rebellion in Iraq," the respected Russian military publication ''Defense and Security," warned last month, referring to a military strategy that employs such tactics as guerrilla warfare. ''That would be disastrous for the United States."

Iran, believed to be responsible for the bombing of a US Air Force barracks in Saudi Arabia in 1996, also would be expected to enlist its terrorist allies around the world to come to its aid if attacked, US officials and private specialists contend.

''Tehran continues to support a number of terrorist groups, viewing this capability as a critical regime safeguard by deterring US and Israeli attacks, distracting and weakening Israel, and enhancing Iran's regional influence through intimidation," according to Negroponte's assessment to Congress.

Primary among them is Hezbollah, the Lebanese terrorist group that killed 241 US Marines when it bombed a Beirut barracks in 1983.

''Lebanese Hezbollah is Iran's main terrorist ally, which . . . has a worldwide support network and is capable of attacks against US interests if it feels its Iranian patron is threatened," according to the report.

''They have all kinds of people that would like to embrace martyrdom," Pike said of Iran, raising the specter that a terrorist group allied with Iran would be capable of launching attacks inside the United States to avenge a strike against Iran.

Intelligence officials also point out that Iran controls a small island at the mouth the Strait of Hormuz and could use missiles and gunboats to temporarily shut off access to the economically vital Persian Gulf, sparking an oil crisis.

''Military attack is not the solution to this problem," Mohammad Mohaddessin, chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the leading dissident group, said in a telephone interview from Paris. ''The regime is absolutely focusing on nonconventional responses. Missiles and terrorist operations are the strong points."

© Copyright 2005 The New York Times Company

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Paul Rogers February 2006

This briefing paper provides a comprehensive analysis of the likely nature of US or Israeli military action that would be intended to disable Iran’s nuclear capabilities. It outlines both the immediate consequences in terms of loss of human life, facilities and infrastructure, and also the likely Iranian responses, which would be extensive.

An attack on Iranian nuclear infrastructure would signal the start of a protracted military confrontation that would probably grow to involve Iraq, Israel and Lebanon, as well as the USA and Iran. The report concludes that a military response to the current crisis in relations with Iran is a particularly dangerous option and should not be considered further. Alternative approaches must be sought, however difficult these may be.
Executive Summary

An air attack on Iran by Israeli or US forces would be aimed at setting back Iran’s nuclear programme by at least five years. A ground offensive by the United States to terminate the regime is not feasible given other commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, and would not be attempted. An air attack would involve the systematic destruction of research, development, support and training centres for nuclear and missile programmes and the killing of as many technically competent people as possible. A US attack, which would be larger than anything Israel could mount, would also involve comprehensive destruction of Iranian air defence capabilities and attacks designed to pre-empt Iranian retaliation. This would require destruction of Iranian Revolutionary Guard facilities close to Iraq and of regular or irregular naval forces that could disrupt Gulf oil transit routes.

Although US or Israeli attacks would severely damage Iranian nuclear and missile programmes, Iran would have many methods of responding in the months and years that followed. These would include disruption of Gulf oil production and exports, in spite of US attempts at pre-emption, systematic support for insurgents in Iraq, and encouragement to associates in Southern Lebanon to stage attacks on Israel. There would be considerable national unity in Iran in the face of military action by the United States or Israel, including a revitalised Revolutionary Guard.

One key response from Iran would be a determination to reconstruct a nuclear programme and develop it rapidly into a nuclear weapons capability, with this accompanied by withdrawal from the Non-Proliferation Treaty. This would require further attacks. A military operation against Iran would not, therefore, be a short-term matter but would set in motion a complex and long-lasting confrontation. It follows that military action should be firmly ruled out and alternative strategies developed.

download printable version from OxfordResearchGroup

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Iran resumes enrichment work

Agencies 14 Feb 06

Tehran, Feb 13 Iran has started putting uranium feedstock gas into centrifuges, the first step in manufacturing what can be either nuclear reactor fuel or material for an atom bomb, diplomats told a news agency on Monday.

Earlier Iran announced it would resume uranium enrichment even before the UN atomic watchdog meets next month.
By doing so, Iran raised the stakes in the standoff with the international community over its nuclear activities.

Asked whether Iran would wait for the International Atomic Energy Agency meeting on March 6 to resume industrial-scale enrichment, government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham told reporters "No, No."

The IAEA on February 4 voted to report Iran to the Security Council, but left a one-month window for diplomacy, for Iran to return to a full suspension of enrichment-related work and cooperate more with IAEA inspectors.

So far Iran has reacted by doing the opposite, setting the scene for a major showdown.

The government spokesman also announced that talks between Tehran and Moscow aimed at finding a compromise by having Iranian uranium enriched on Russian soil would not go ahead as planned on Thursday.

The two sides had been set to develop Moscow's proposal for uranium enrichment -- which makes reactor fuel but can be extended to make the core of a nuclear weapon -- to be carried out on Russian soil.

"The negotiations have not been cancelled but the date for the talks is another matter," he said.

However, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak said Moscow was still expecting an Iranian delegation, adding: "Our offer for the 16th still stands."

The Iranian spokesman had said "new elements" were responsible for the delay, notably the fact that the Iranian government "insists that uranium enrichment for peaceful purposes is carried out inside the country."

Russia's idea is to guarantee Iranian access to nuclear fuel needed to generate electricity but at the same time prevent the country from developing fuel cycle technology by itself and therefore the capacity to make a bomb.

The plan has received conditional and cautious support from western powers.

But Iran, which says it only wants to generate electricity and denies any plans to develop weapons, has been reluctant to give up what it sees as a right to enrich on its soil.

Iran's stance has also hardened after the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35-nation board of governors voted on February 4 to report the Iranian case to the UN Security Council, which could impose sanctions.

On Saturday, the Islamic republic's outspoken President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned that Iran could follow the path of North Korea and quit the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

"Iran has continued its nuclear drive within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the NPT, but if we see that you want to deprive us of our right using these regulations, know that the people will revise their policy in this regard," Ahmadinejad said.

The NPT is the cornerstone of the global battle against the spread of nuclear weapons, prohibiting the development of the bomb and subjecting its signatories to IAEA inspections.

"We insist that we should be able to benefit from civil nuclear technology as recognised by the NPT and the West must acknowledge this absolute right," Elham said on Monday. "If they do that, we will stick to it."

Iran is under intense pressure to agree to a moratorium on nuclear fuel work that can be extended to make weapons, but argues that its nuclear ambitions are therefore entirely legal.

Iran's parliament speaker Gholam Ali Hadad-Adel said on Sunday that an IAEA team had arrived in the country to supervise the resumption of nuclear research which he said would start on Sunday or Monday.

The Sunday Telegraph newspaper in London reported that US military strategists were drawing up plans for an attack as a last resort.

In a front-page dispatch from Washington, it said Central Command and Strategic Command planners were "identifying targets, assessing weapon-loads and working on logistics for an operation".

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Sanction the IAEA Board, not Iran

By Gordon Prather WND 12 Feb 06

You probably heard that – as a result of extreme pressure brought by the Bush-Cheney administration – a "special" meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors was convened last week to discuss what to do about the "gravest" threat to develop to "our" national security since the end of the Cold War.

The "threat"?

The announced resumption of certain IAEA Safeguarded programs, voluntarily and temporarily suspended by Iran more than two years ago.
What did the Board decide to do?

Well, you may have heard misleading reports that the Board – unable to satisfy itself that Bush-Cheney allegations that Iran had a nuclear weapons program that IAEA inspectors had been unable to find any trace of, despite almost three years of intrusive inspections were without merit – did "refer" the matter to the Security Council.

The Associated Press even reported – falsely – that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had "ordered" the end of voluntary cooperation with the IAEA "in response to the U.N. agency decision to refer Iran to the Security Council over fears the country is trying to develop a nuclear bomb."

But there was no referral.

Far from turning over the alleged "Iranian nuclear crisis" to the Security Council, the IAEA Board specifically "remains seized with the matter."

The AP did correctly report that "Iran will resume uranium enrichment and will no longer allow snap IAEA inspections of its nuclear facilities – voluntary measures it had allowed in recent years in a gesture to build trust."

But, the AP didn't tell you that Iran's Parliament had passed a law last year that required – in the event the IAEA Board reported Iran to the Security Council – the cessation of all voluntary cooperation with the IAEA above and beyond that required by Iran's Safeguards Agreement. And, a resumption of all Iranian Safeguarded nuclear programs that had been voluntarily suspended.

Now, certain members of the IAEA Board claim to have been unable to "satisfy" themselves of "the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran's program." Hence the Board called on Iran to:

* re-establish full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, to be verified by the Agency;

* reconsider the construction of a research reactor moderated by heavy water;

* ratify promptly and implement in full the Additional Protocol;

* pending ratification, continue to act in accordance with the provisions of the Additional Protocol which Iran signed on Dec. 18, 2003; and

* implement transparency measures, as requested by the director general, including in GOV/2005/67, which extend beyond the formal requirements of the Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol, and include such access to individuals, documentation relating to procurement, dual-use equipment, certain military-owned workshops and research and development as the Agency may request in support of its ongoing investigations.

But then the Board went on to:

Request[s] the director general to report to the Security Council of the United Nations that these steps are required of Iran by the Board and to report to the Security Council all IAEA reports and resolutions, as adopted, relating to this issue.

No referral?

Just a "request" that Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei "report" to the Security Council the absolutely outrageous discriminatory demands that his Board of Governors has made of Iran – an IAEA member in undisputed compliance with its Safeguards Agreement and the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons?

Well, if the Board is lucky, ElBaradei won't make such a report. And if he does, the Board better hope the Security Council will just ignore it
Because, in anticipation of a such a report, the Iranian delegate made these points in a Note Verbale to the Board Feb. 2, 2006:

* The mere fact that some members of the Board – who have no privilege over the others – pre-impose certain decisions on the Board, goes against the legal stance and authority of the Board.

* Furthermore, these developments have revealed the political pressures over the Board and will jeopardize the credibility of its decisions.

* The resumption of R&D activities after two and a half years of suspension cannot provide the ground for taking harsh decisions by the Board and reporting the issue to the Security Council. Those activities are exclusively peaceful and completely within the IAEA legal framework, and their suspension was decided by Iran, voluntarily and provisionally.

* The Board decision to report the issue to the Security Council has no legal and technical basis.

Iran's right; it's the IAEA Board the Security Council should sanction, not Iran.

Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.

© 2006 WorldNetDaily.com

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Outed CIA officer Plame was working on Iran, intelligence sources say

Larisa Alexandrovna RawStory February 13, 2006

The unmasking of covert CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson by White House officials in 2003 caused significant damage to U.S. national security and its ability to counter nuclear proliferation abroad, RAW STORY has learned.

According to current and former intelligence officials, Plame Wilson, who worked on the clandestine side of the CIA in the Directorate of Operations as a non-official cover (NOC) officer, was part of an operation tracking distribution and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction technology to and from Iran.

Speaking under strict confidentiality, intelligence officials revealed heretofore unreported elements of Plame's work. Their accounts suggest that Plame's outing was more serious than has previously been reported and carries grave implications for U.S. national security and its ability to monitor Iran's burgeoning nuclear program.
While many have speculated that Plame was involved in monitoring the nuclear proliferation black market, specifically the proliferation activities of Pakistan's nuclear "father," A.Q. Khan, intelligence sources say that her team provided only minimal support in that area, focusing almost entirely on Iran.

Plame declined to comment through her husband, Joseph Wilson.

Valerie Plame first became a household name when her identity was disclosed by conservative columnist Robert Novak on July 14, 2003. The column came only a week after her husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, had written an op-ed for the New York Times asserting that White House officials twisted pre-war intelligence on Iraq. Her outing was seen as political retaliation for Wilson's criticism of the Administration's claim that Iraq sought uranium from Niger for a nuclear weapons program.

Her case has drawn international attention and resulted in the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, on five counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements. Special Prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who is leading the probe, is still pursuing Deputy Chief of Staff and Special Advisor to President Bush, Karl Rove. His investigation remains open.

The damages

Intelligence sources would not identify the specifics of Plame's work. They did, however, tell RAW STORY that her outing resulted in "severe" damage to her team and significantly hampered the CIA's ability to monitor nuclear proliferation.

Plame's team, they added, would have come in contact with A.Q. Khan's network in the course of her work on Iran.

While Director of Central Intelligence Porter Goss has not submitted a formal damage assessment to Congressional oversight committees, the CIA's Directorate of Operations did conduct a serious and aggressive investigation, sources say.

Intelligence sources familiar with the damage assessment say that what is called a "counter intelligence assessment to agency operations" was conducted on the orders of the CIA's then-Deputy Director of the Directorate of Operations, James Pavitt.

Former CIA counterintelligence officer Larry Johnson believes that such an assessment would have had to be done for the CIA to have referred the case to the Justice Department.

"An exposure like that required an immediate operational and counter intelligence damage assessment," Johnson said. "That was done. The results were written up but not in a form for submission to anyone outside of CIA."

One former counterintelligence official described the CIA's reasons for not seeking Congressional assistance on the matter as follows: "[The CIA Leadership] made a conscious decision not to do a formal inquiry because they knew it might become public," the source said. "They referred it [to the Justice Department] instead because they believed a criminal investigation was needed."

The source described the findings of the assessment as showing "significant damage to operational equities."

Another counterintelligence official, also wishing to remain anonymous due to the nature of the subject matter, described "operational equities" as including both people and agency operations that involve the "cover mechanism," "front companies," and other CIA officers and assets.

Three intelligence officers confirmed that other CIA non-official cover officers were compromised, but did not indicate the number of people operating under non-official cover that were affected or the way in which these individuals were impaired. None of the sources would say whether there were American or foreign casualties as a result of the leak.

Several intelligence officials described the damage in terms of how long it would take for the agency to recover. According to their own assessment, the CIA would be impaired for up to "ten years" in its capacity to adequately monitor nuclear proliferation on the level of efficiency and accuracy it had prior to the White House leak of Plame Wilson's identity.

A.Q. Khan

While Plame's work did not specifically focus on the A.Q. Khan ring, named after Pakistani scientist Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, the network and its impact on nuclear proliferation and the region should not be minimized, primarily because the Khan network was the major supplier of WMD technology for Iran.

Dr. Khan instituted the proliferation market during the 1980s and supplied many countries in the Middle East and elsewhere with uranium enrichment technology, including Libya, Iran and North Korea. Enriched uranium is used to make weaponized nuclear devices.

The United States forced the Pakistan government to dismiss Khan for his proliferation activities in March of 2001, but he remains largely free and acts as an adviser to the Pakistani government.

According to intelligence expert John Pike of GlobalSecurity.org, U.S. officials were not aware of the extent of the proliferation until around the time of Khan's dismissal.

"It slowly dawned on them that the collaboration between Pakistan, North Korea and Iran was an ongoing and serious problem," Pike said. "It was starting to sink in on them that it was one program doing business in three locations and that anything one of these countries had they all had."

After the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Pakistan became the United States' chief regional ally in the war on terror.

The revelation that Iran was the focal point of Plame's work raises new questions as to possible other motivating factors in the White House's decision to reveal the identity of a CIA officer working on tracking a WMD supply network to Iran, particularly when the very topic of Iran's possible WMD capability is of such concern to the Administration.

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Why Hamas won, why Fatah lost: the steps to take in the coming months

Bassam Saleh Translated from Italian by Mary Rizzo 12 Feb 06

The Hamas victory in this election is not only a victory of democracy, but it is also a victory of the determination of the Palestinian people to continue the resistance against Israeli occupation. The Palestinians have rewarded the political and social steadfastness of Hamas. And they have put in a state of crisis the plans of the neo-cons of the USA Administration for the new Greater Middle East, already put in serious difficulty in Iraq.
Now that the drunkenness of the winners and losers is finished, it’s time to get to work. Hamas has to form the new government of the Palestinian National Authority. Fatah has to begin a self-criticism and reconstruct its internal organisation. In the meantime, the other secular forces and those of the left must undertake a profound analysis of Palestinian society, beginning with the victory of Hamas.

The Hamas victory in this election is not only a victory of democracy, but it is also a victory of the determination of the Palestinian people to continue the resistance against Israeli occupation. The Palestinians have rewarded the political and social steadfastness of Hamas. And they have put in a state of crisis the plans of the neo-cons of the USA Administration for the new Greater Middle East, already put in serious difficulty in Iraq.

The Palestinians, after having hoped in vain, for thirteen years, to be able to realise their dreams of independence and freedom, in a sovereign State in their land, still hoped in a State able to assure them work, dignity and peace. This has not come about. On the contrary, the Occupation Army has never stopped, not even when a truce was achieved. The Israeli armed forces and the Security Services have continued, and continue even now, to use deliberate assassination, to engage in the destruction of homes and land, to raise walls and put the Palestinians in ghettos, in a polity that has gone even further than the Apartheid regime in South Africa. And as if all of this was not enough, the settlements and number of Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territories have increased, in total violation of all the accords that have been signed since Oslo. That has weakened and taken legitimacy from the PA.

If we add to this situation the destiny of nine thousand political prisoners in Israeli prisons, the bad governing, the growing poverty and widespread corruption, then we can possibly understand the true meaning of the electoral results of last 25 January. Al Fatah was defeated, not only for its internal divisions, but also for its politics that foresee a negotiated peace and the total abandonment (as theorised by Abu Mazen and the signers of the Geneva Document) of armed resistance. The lack of positive results of this policy depends also upon Israel, which has never conceded a thing to the Palestinians (if one excludes the obligated withdrawal from Gaza, which came about also thanks to the resistance). But even the Quartet (USA, Russia, UN and EU) has its responsibilities, because rather than having put pressure on the Israeli government to lead it towards the respect of the agreements, it accepted the Israeli position and in particular on a concept that is spread directly and systematically by the Israeli authorities: “the lack of a Palestinian partner with whom to deal, the PA must do more to uproot ‘terrorism’ and to disarm the armed groups.” All of this is ignoring the true cause and the central question of Israeli occupation.

The countries of the Quartet (with the exclusion of the US) have deliberately limited their role to merely economic aid, important for the survival of the PA, but now it is being used as a weapon of blackmail and pressure against the Palestinians and the future legitimate government of Hamas.

Now that Hamas has the absolute majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council, it must have the assignment of forming the new government, the question is: based on what program? The Palestinian political system is a presidential system, based on a fundamental Statute, which determines the powers of the President, of the Head of Government and of the Legislative Council. The current situation is very delicate and contradictory: a president elected with his program, but who does not have the majority in a PLC elected with the Hamas program. The government has internal management, police, ministers, while the president controls the security forces, foreign policy and the dealings with Israel and must find an agreement with the government under his management. In awaiting the assignment, Hamas is refusing blackmail and pressure, in as that they are unacceptable interference in internal Palestinian affairs. It is also sending different signals of availability to the American, Israeli and EU governments: offering a truce of 10 – 15 years if Israel withdraws from the Palestinian Territories occupied in 1967, asking Israel to definitively make clear its confines. On the matter of the destruction of Israel Hamas responds: “But is it even possible to destroy with the minimal weapons we have a State that has F16 bombers and 200 nuclear heads?” And, still it addresses the EU, guaranteeing that the economic aid will not be used for armed actions, but only for the needs of the people who work in the structures of the PA. Lastly, Hamas has expressed its willingness to join the PLO, to respect its accords that have been stipulated and its desire for a political partnership, forming a government of National Unity, in particular with al Fatah. But the latter has not yet given an official response, as it is waiting to know the program of the government and the decisions of the summit of the organisation itself, that is currently examining and evaluating the election results and the internal situation.

The formation of the new government needs time, and it is a certainty that it will be a strong government whether it is formed by Hamas alone or with others. The Israeli government and those of the West must respect the democratic will of the Palestinian people that has emerged from the polls and they must deal with it.

Al Fatah must continue the preparation of its General Congress, which must examine a long period of experimentation and struggle:
a) In primis, there is the urgency to distinguish Al Fatah from the PLO, and this from the PA, in consideration that the Palestinian Liberation Organisation is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people – it is the referent of the PA that represents only the Palestinians within the Occupied Territories.
b) There is a problem of reactivating the structures of the PLO, in a way so as to permit all of the Palestinians in the diaspora to elect their representatives, together with those already elected in the PLC, in the National Council.
c) It is necessary to examine all the signed accords from Oslo onwards and to find an alternative, in that these accords have not succeeded in realising the aspirations of the Palestinian people.
d) There is then the question of the role of Al Fatah within the PLO and its political program. Should it be a program that is founded solely upon negotiations or should this be accompanied by popular resistance, even armed resistance, as an army that has the right to self-determination against a foreign military occupation?
e) Reaffirm the inalienable rights of the Palestinian population to their land, as is foreseen in the UN resolutions.
f) Reaffirm that the Palestinian liberation struggle has nothing to do with terrorism, and is an essential part of world resistance against capitalism and imperialism.
g) Lastly, it is necessary to reinforce internal democracy by electing the decisional organs of Al Fatah: the Central Committee and the Revolutionary Council.

It is especially important to return to the dispositions of a great teacher: the masses, and activate all of the structures to regain their trust and their esteem.

Today the Palestinian question is going through a delicate phase of great changes and needs more than ever to be supported, by all the forces of the left, progressives and secular people, as a struggle for national liberation, for a secular and democratic State now. Needing our support are the Palestinian political prisoners in the Israeli prisons, like Marwan Barghouti and Ahmad Saadat, in the jail of Jericho under “custody” of British and American soldiers, like many other lesser-known prisoners of Hamas. To affirm this solidarity with Palestine, we invite everyone to participate in the National Demonstration on 18 February in Rome.

*Palestinian opinionist. Committee “With Palestine in our hearts” (Con la Palestina nel cuore) Rome, Italy.

Translated from Italian by Mary Rizzo, member of Tlaxcala, the network for linguistic diversity (transtlaxcala@yahoo.com). This translation is Copyleft.

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Propaganda Alert! Israel uses Hamas-Chechen link

By HERB KEINON Jerusalem Post 13 Feb 06

[Israeli] Government officials are circulating a document showing Hamas's links to Chechen terrorists in an attempt to influence Russian public opinion against President Vladimir Putin's overtures to Hamas.

The pamphlet, put out by the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies, an information project sponsored by an NGO set up in memory of fallen members of the Israeli intelligence community, opens by stating that "Hamas support for the Chechen separatists and their terrorist tactics did not prevent it from immediately accepting" Putin's recent invitation to visit Moscow.
According to the document, Hamas "is completely hostile to the Russian regime in that it identifies with the Chechen separatists, regarding them as part of the global jihad, and supports them in their terrorist activities."

A government official said that the document was being circulated so that people "understand the real nature of Hamas - that Hamas has supported terrorism in other part of the world, and has supported a radical jihad agenda, not only against Israel, but also around the globe, specifically in Russia."

"We think that it would be a good thing if Russian citizens became aware of that," he said.

To support the claim of a Hamas-Chechen link, the document states that posters, CDs and movies supporting the Chechen terrorists have been found in Hamas offices. According to the document, Hamas has "even allowed the Chechen terrorists to use its Internet site, www.Palestine-info.net, to provide its suicide bombing attacks with religious Islamic sanction."

According to the pamphlet, "Hamas customarily distributes its anti-Russian incitement CDs (full of hate propaganda and incitement to acts of terrorism) in educational institutions in the PA-administered territories as part of the battle for the hearts and minds of the younger Palestinian generation."

The document said that the CDs, entitled "The Russian Hell," were distributed in 2003 and 2004 to the American University in Jenin, the Hebron University and the Hebron Orphan Asylum.

According to the document, Hamas has expressed admiration for Chechen terrorists in its posters and videos, while the Russian army "is blasted and its actions are referred to as 'terrorist activities against the Islamic population in Chechnya.'"

One poster pictured in the document shows a picture of Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin next to those of Ibn al-Khattab, a Chechen leader killed in 2002, Osama bin Laden and Shamil Basayev, a Chechen warlord who claimed responsibility for the Beslan school massacre in September 2004.

Underneath the pictures are the words "Chechnya, Afghanistan, the Balkans, Kashmir, Palestine and Lebanon," as well as a quote attributed to a companion of Muhammad who said Islam would "continue to exist in those regions of the world where Muslims are a minority living in a hostile environment."

Russian officials traditionally bristle at attempts to compare Hamas with the Chechen terrorists, saying that while the international community recognizes Chechnya as an integral part of Russia, the world has never recognized the West Bank as part of Israel.

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Hamas cries foul over Abbas powers

AlJazeera 13 February 2006

The outgoing Palestinian parliament has given new sweeping powers to Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, even as Hamas refused to identify the new prime minister.

At its final session on Monday, the Palestinian parliament empowered Abbas to appoint a new, nine-judge constitutional court that would have the authority to resolve any dispute between him and the incoming Hamas-dominated parliament or cabinet.

Hamas reacted vehemently to the decision, calling it "a bloodless coup".
Also on Monday, an executive decision was issued to place radio and TV broadcasts under the authority of the president's office, the Palestinian Maan News Agency said.

Hamas won 74 of parliament's 132 seats in landmark elections in January, ousting Abbas's long-ruling Fatah and touching off Western threats to cut off hundreds of millions of dollars in needed aid unless the group abandoned violence and recognised Israel's right to exist.

A Hamas prime minister could complicate any Middle East peace effort, because Israel and the United States have said they will not talk to members of the group, whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel.

Abbas, whose Fatah faction was voted out of government, has good relations with Washington and would be expected to take the lead in future negotiations.

Prime minister

Earlier on Monday, a spokesman for Hamas said the group had chosen the future prime minister but declined to disclose the appointee's name.

Several sources close to the Hamas deliberations for a new prime minister said Ismail Haniyeh, head of Hamas's parliamentary group, was a top contender.

Haniyeh is a pragmatist who survived an Israeli air strike in 2003 that targeted Hamas's leadership. But his militant background could be a further provocation to the United States.

Hamas has masterminded more than 60 bombings against Israelis since a Palestinian uprising began in 2000, but has largely adhered to a truce declared last March.

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By such little things is a man betrayed - On 14 February, the anniversary of his assassination, I remember Hariri and the promises we made

By: Robert Fisk The Independent 11 Feb 06

A year ago, I watched an old friend burning on the pavement beside me. No, let us be true, many millions of Lebanese regarded Rafiq Hariri as an old friend. But he was a friend to me, calling me after I was badly beaten on the Afghan border in 2001, offering to fly me home to Beirut on his private jet - "Musharraf is my friend," he had shouted, accurately if somewhat slyly - over the phone line to Quetta.

And, of course, I turned him down; journalists should not take gifts from prime ministers. And so again, this 14 February, on the anniversary of his assassination - along with 21 others on the Corniche not far from my Beirut home - I remember the man and all the solemn promises we made to tell the truth about his murder.
First came a deputy Garda commissioner from Dublin. Then came a pompous prosecutor from Germany. Then there arrived last month a humble lawyer from Belgium. All tasked by the United Nations, no less, to find out the truth. Were the Syrians involved? This was the question.

Four top Lebanese security officers, all "close" (as they say) to Syria, were arrested. The Syrian minister of interior, former army secret police boss Ghazi Kenaan, shot himself in his own office in Damascus. Oh deus ex machina. I knew Ghazi too, an old sparring partner of the 1980s who used to make tasteless jokes about the kidnapping of Terry Waite. Topped, my lords and ladies.

"He knew what it was like to be executed," one of his less pleasant friends was to say later. No doubt.

I didn't even know it was Sheikh Rafiq until I saw the pictures in the paper the next day. I thought the corpse on the Corniche was that of a zaatar seller, one of the big men who sold the rock-hard bread on the seafront, and I should have noticed, of course, the little curl of hair over the collar, the sign that this cremating man was the former prime minister of Lebanon who had called me to help me back in 2001.

Only when I saw the caption - "the martyr Rafiq Hariri" -- did I realise. I had watched him burn, like a spectator at a match. I had been 400 metres from his immolation. Everyone in front of me had been killed or wounded. Saved again.

And so the Lebanese watched the mighty course of justice roll inexorably forward. The UN would find out the truth. One of the Garda officers told me of his deep concern for the Lebanese. "They come up to us - they actually come up to us - and tell us to find out the truth," he said. Of course they did.

The unsolved murders of Lebanon - of Kemal Jumblatt, of Renee Mouawad, of the Grand Mufti, Hassan Khaled, and of Rashid Karami and the rest (let us not speak of Elie Hobeika, who led the Phalange militia into Sabra and Chatila in 1982) - hang like a black curtain over Lebanese history.

Four men were imprisoned - including the general who used to tap my telephone in Lebanon. I even posted the number in The Independent - Beirut 370615 - in case he had got it wrong. Phew. Down at my favourite restaurants, I could now wax forth with friends without looking over my shoulder.

Or could I?

For the other morning, a little bird flew through my bedroom window. My mum, Peggy, always talked about her 'little bird', the tiny sparrow which arrived with bits and pieces of information which she didn't want to hear. And as a correspondent, it is, I suppose, my doleful duty to tell readers what I don't want to hear. So this is what my little bird is telling me.

The Americans, deep in distress in their occupation of Iraq, have hatched a deal with the Syrians. In response to a request that the Iraqi Shia leader Muqtada Sadr keep his distance from the Iraqi Sunni insurgents and play by the ball in the elections, Syria has promised to use its "influence".

In response to an American appeal, Syria has arrested up to 8,000 Iraqi insurgents inside its borders. In response to a plea by Washington, it is cutting back on the assistance that the Iraqi rebels receive from inside Syria.

Aware that the highest levels of the Syrian security apparatus may be impeached by the UN enquiry into Hariri's death, the Syrians are being "responsible". The new and far more humble Belgian investigator gives no press conferences - had you noticed this? - and makes no statements. Silence, gentlemen, please.

Sure, Condi Rice goes on telling us that the truth will out. Wasn't Hariri behind UN Security Council Resolution 1559, which told the Syrians to get out of Lebanon? Wasn't that why he was murdered? I don't think he was behind 1559, though that might have been enough for the Syrian Baathist secret police to assassinate him.

But all the big talk about justice and freedom and the "Cedar Revolution" - an invention of the US State Department which The New York Times obediently adopted - appears to be drifting away. George W Bush, who shook hands with Rafiq's son Saad in the White House only this week, is sliding away from the truth. Getting American boys out of Iraq is more important, I suspect, than finding out who killed Rafiq Hariri.

I still feel deeply sorry for the man I saw burning in front of me a year ago. And I think he is going to be betrayed.

© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited

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Settlers defile Palestinian mosque

AlJazeera 12 February 2006

Jewish settlers have daubed graffiti insulting Prophet Muhammad on a mosque in a Palestinian village in the occupied West Bank, an Israeli military source and local residents said.

After news of Sunday's incident, Palestinians threw stones at Israeli cars driving to nearby Jewish settlements, slightly hurting one woman and sparking clashes with Israeli soldiers who fired tear gas and shot bullets into the air.
The incident is likely to raise tensions still further in the Palestinian territories, where protests have erupted over the publication in European newspapers of cartoons depicting Muhammad.

Many Muslims consider any image of Muhammad as blasphemous.

Two Palestinians were wounded in the violence, medics said.

"During the night, a group of settlers came to a mosque in the village of Nabi Ilyas and spray-painted the graffiti," the military source said. "Soldiers are removing the graffiti."

Residents said the slogan, written in red letters in Hebrew, denigrated Muhammad and said that a Star of David was also daubed on the mosque.

Israeli defacing

The defacing was also reported by Israel Radio and Israeli news websites.

Othman Zimmari, 67, said: "I open the mosque every day for dawn prayers. Today, when I went to open it, I saw a person wearing a skullcap spray-painting at the wall.

"When he saw me, he ran towards a white car with yellow [Israeli] licence plates. I could not tell if there were other people in the car. I rushed inside the mosque and locked the door because I was afraid."

A spokesman for Israeli police in the West Bank said they had opened an investigation.

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Israel cuts Jordan Rift from rest of West Bank

By Amira Hass Haaretz Correspondent 13 Feb 06

While the international community busied itself with the disengagement from the Gaza Strip last summer, Israel completed another cut-off process, which went unnoticed; In 2005, Israel completed a process of sealing off the eastern sector of the West Bank, including the Jordan Rift Valley, from the remainder of the West Bank.

Some 2,000,000 Palestinians, residents of the West Bank, are prohibited from entering the area, which constitutes around one-third of the West Bank, and includes the Jordan Rift, the area of the Dead Sea shoreline and the eastern slopes of the West Bank mountains.

Military sources told Haaretz that the moves have been "security measures" adopted by the Israel Defense Forces and have no connection to any political intentions whatsoever.
Restrictions on the movement of Palestinians in the Jordan Valley were imposed at the start of the intifada and were gradually expanded. But the sweeping prohibition regarding entry into the area by Palestinians was imposed after security responsibility in Jericho was given back to the Palestinians on March 16, 2005.

At the time, Palestinian sources say, Palestinian travelers coming across the Allenby Bridge (the West Bank's only direct link overseas) were banned from passing through the Jordan Valley even if they were heading to the northern West Bank and the villages adjacent to the valley's checkpoints. Instead, the travelers are required to go through Jericho, and from there, the road is long and filled with checkpoints and delays.

Since then, residents of Jericho and the remainder of the West Bank have been banned from passing through the Ouja checkpoint, north of Jericho, in the direction of the Jordan Valley.

The prohibition also applies to thousands of residents of towns and villages in the northern West Bank, like Tubas and Tamun, most of whose lands are in the Jordan Valley, and some with residents who have been living there for many years. The residents of the Jordan Valley villages are tied to the northern West Bank villages through family connections, joint land ownership, work, school, and medical and social services.

Also affected by the ban are people who for years have earned a living by doing seasonal agricultural work for Palestinians in the Jordan Valley, as well as an unknown number (several thousand apparently) of Bedouin and sheep-herders who live in the area permanently in tents and makeshift structures, but are registered as residents of towns and villages a few
kilometers to the east.

Since the start of the intifada, Palestinians have been restricted from using Road 90, the Jordan Valley Road, with use of the road restricted to residents of the Jordan Valley, and only north of Jericho.

This picture of such a large Palestinian area being absolutely cut off from the rest of the West Bank has emerged from tours and talks Haaretz has conducted in the area over a period of a number of weeks, from testimonies gathered by the B'Tselem human rights organization and
reports from officials from the UN Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs.

Four permanent checkpoints ensure that passage is denied to Palestinians whose identity documents do not list them as residents of the Jordan Valley. Entry is permitted only to a few thousand holders of special permits from the Civil Administration, as well as some 5,000
Palestinians who work in the settlements.

Around 1,500 of those who hold the Civil Administration permits (valid for three months and not always extended) are residents of the area around Tubas who own land and work in the Jordan Valley. Several hundred are teachers and health workers; the remainder are primarily traders and drivers.

Special, one-way entry permits are granted for "humanitarian cases"  weddings, other family affairs, funerals and so on and have to be coordinated in advance with the Civil Administration and the military.

To enforce the ban, the Israel Defense Forces conducts frequent nighttime raids in the Jordan Valley villages. Palestinians who are not registered as residents of the area are driven beyond the Tayasir checkpoint and dropped off. The soldiers also confiscate the identity documents of Palestinians who have the "incorrect" address.

An IDF source who confirmed the abovementioned restrictions on Palestinian movement in the Jordan Valley said that the only way to protect an area as large as the Jordan Valley was to impose limitations on movement, checkpoints to control and to direct the traffic to provide protection for the Jewish communities and Road 90, a strategic thoroughfare.

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U.S. support has allowed Israel to violate Palestinian rights repeatedly

Arizona Daily Star Tucson, Arizona 02.13.2006

The existence of settlers, the settlements, and the confiscation of resources are all illegal under international law, namely the Fourth Geneva Convention and U.N. resolutions. The United States, however, has refused to pressure Israel to remove the settlements. Financial, military and diplomatic support from the United States has enabled Israel to grossly violate the human rights of Palestinian Muslims and Christians.
The surprising victory of the Islamic Party Hamas in Palestinian elections was due in part to the corruption of the ruling Fatah Party.

But many Palestinans rejected Fatah because, despite its moderation, it failed to gain recognition of Palestinian rights from Israeli Prime Minster Ariel Sharon, whose hard-line policies undercut Fatah's credibility with Palestinians and gave Hamas a boost.

When Sharon suffered a severe stroke in early January, many U.S. and Israeli politicians and journalists claimed Sharon was the best chance for Israeli-Palestinian peace. He had removed troops and 8,500 Jewish settlers from Israeli-occupied Gaza, as well as hundreds more settlers from four small settlements in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian West Bank.

Columnist Jim Hoagland wrote Jan. 11 in the Star that Sharon's "daring" seemed to promise "significant unilateral withdrawals from the West Bank." Columnist Paul Greenberg, writing in Jan. 13 in the Star, saw Sharon as having "gambled on peace." Both writers blamed Palestinians for the impasse.

Reality differs. Since the Oslo Accords of 1993, Palestinian leaders have been willing to accept a West Bank-Gaza Palestinian State on 22 percent of Palestine/Israel — the area between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea.
Sharon refused to negotiate a final settlement with either Yasser Arafat or Mahmoud Abbas. Instead, he continued Israel's seizure of Palestinian land and water resources for the expansion of Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian West Bank. During 2004, the number of settlers in the West Bank grew by 14,000 — more than the number taken out of Gaza. There are now 400,000 settlers in the West Bank, which includes Arab East Jerusalem.

The existence of settlers, the settlements, and the confiscation of resources are all illegal under international law, namely the Fourth Geneva Convention and U.N. resolutions. The United States, however, has refused to pressure Israel to remove the settlements. Financial, military and diplomatic support from the United States has enabled Israel to grossly violate the human rights of Palestinian Muslims and Christians.

B'tselem, Israel's leading human- rights group, reported that during the 1990s Israel violated 29 of the 30 Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in its treatment of Palestinians under Israeli occupation. Among violations (some war crimes): torture, collective punishment, destruction of thousands of homes and tens of thousands of fruit trees, killing of civilians, and confiscation of land and water resources (www.btselem.org).
In 2005 alone, Amnesty International deplored Israel's unwillingness to stop settler violence against Palestinians; Human Rights Watch accused Israel of failing to protect Palestinian civilians from unlawful attacks by Israeli soldiers; and the European Union criticized Israel's violations of the rights of 200,000 Palestinians living in East Jerusalem (www.aiusa.org; www.hrw.org).

Human Rights Watch condemned the separation wall that Israel is building, since 80 percent of it is in the West Bank rather than on the Israel-West Bank border where the wall would have equally protected Israel from terrorism, been cheaper to build, and legal.

The International Court of Justice has declared the West Bank portions of the wall illegal. The wall limits or denies hundreds of thousands of Palestinians access to jobs, agricultural lands, hospitals, schools, families and friends — even water.

Palestinians trapped on the Israeli side of the wall must obtain special permits from Israel to reside in their own homes.

Washington's support for Israel's occupation and gradual takeover of Palestinian lands prevents the creation of a viable Palestinian state and a just and lasting peace, strengthens hawks and weakens doves on both sides, and means more needless Israeli and Palestinian deaths.
Edmund R. Hanauer is an human-rights activist and director of Search for Justice and Equality in Palestine/Israel, a Boston-based human rights group. Reach him at SEARCH25@aol.com.

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Israel, U.S. Jews lobby Oscar panel against use of 'Palestine'

Reuters 13 Feb 06

Israel and U.S. Jewish groups have lobbied organizers of next month's Academy Awards not to present a nominated film about Palestinian suicide bombers as coming from "Palestine," an Israeli diplomat said yesterday.

With Israeli-Palestinian tensions running high, the provenance of "Paradise Now" is as combustible an issue as its plot in the run-up to the March 5 ceremony, which will be watched by millions worldwide.

A drama about two West Bank men recruited to blow themselves up in Tel Aviv, "Paradise Now" is a contender for the Oscar in the "best foreign film" category.
Many Israelis were irked when the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in publishing the nomination, said that "Paradise Now" came from "Palestine."

While the tag remains on the academy's Web site, the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he expected the film to be described as coming from the "Palestinian Authority" during the awards ceremony.

"Both the Israeli consulate in Los Angeles and several concerned Jewish groups pointed out that no one, not even the Palestinians themselves, have declared the formal creation of 'Palestine' yet, and thus the label would be inaccurate," the diplomat said.

The academy could not immediately be reached for comment.

"Paradise Now" was a broad co-production involving an Israeli Arab director and actors, Palestinian crew and locations, a Jewish Israeli producer and private European funding.

Major Israeli cinema chains have shunned the film, with distributors citing concerns of low audience turnout, given its generally sympathetic portrayal of suicide bombers.

Palestinians have mostly responded well to "Paradise Now," although some voiced misgivings at its depiction of one bomber who undertakes his deadly mission because of social pressure, as well as to avenge the travails of Israeli occupation.

The controversy around "Paradise Now" compounds an already fraught Academy Awards for Israel, thanks to several nominations garnered by Steven Spielberg's "Munich." A thriller about the reprisals Israel launched after 11 of its athletes died in a Palestinian raid on the 1972 Olympic Games, Munich has been accused by pro-Israel groups of skewing history and criticizing Israel's security policies.

Spielberg called the film his "prayer for peace."

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Ex-CIA official rips war case - Says Iraq data distorted to sway public

By Cam Simpson Washington Bureau Chicago Tribune 12 Feb 06

WASHINGTON -- The former CIA official charged with managing the U.S. government's secret intelligence assessments on Iraq says the Bush administration chose war first and then misleadingly used raw data to assemble a public case for its decision to invade.

Paul Pillar, who was the CIA's national intelligence officer for the Middle East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005, said the Bush administration also played on the nation's fears in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks, falsely linking Al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein's regime even though intelligence agencies had not produced a single analysis supporting "the notion of an alliance" between the two.
Instead, Pillar writes in the upcoming issue of the journal Foreign Affairs, connections were drawn between the terrorists and Iraq because "the administration wanted to hitch the Iraq expedition to the `war on terror' and the threat the American public feared most, thereby capitalizing on the country's militant post-9/11 mood."

The specific critiques in Pillar's 4,500-word essay, titled, "Intelligence, Policy and the War in Iraq," are not new. But it apparently is the first time such attacks are being publicly leveled by such a high-ranking intelligence official directly involved behind the scenes--before, during and after the invasion of Iraq nearly three years ago.

Because of his position, Pillar would have had access to, and likely intimate knowledge about, virtually every piece of Iraq-related intelligence maintained across all agencies within the U.S. government.

Pillar also wrote in his essay that the administration went to war without first considering any strategic-level intelligence assessments "on any aspect of Iraq" and that the intelligence community foreshadowed many post-Hussein woes, though the findings were largely ignored before the March 2003 invasion.

Excerpts from Pillar's article were first reported by The Washington Post on Friday. Foreign Affairs released a copy of the essay later in the day.

Pillar, a career intelligence official, retired from the CIA last year and is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University in Washington.

The administration responds

The White House did not respond specifically to Pillar's charges Friday, but Frederick Jones, a spokesman for the National Security Council, did point to previous administration statements defending its use of intelligence.

The administration first went on the offensive last fall in an effort to thwart what President Bush, in a Veteran's Day speech, called a "deeply irresponsible" effort "to rewrite the history of how that war began."

Jones said Friday that the administration's prewar statements "about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein were based on the aggregation of intelligence from a number of sources and represented the collective view of the intelligence community."

But in his essay, the man responsible for coordinating the intelligence community's collective view of Iraq directly challenged the notion that the prevailing wisdom within the nation's spy services supported the decision to invade. In fact, Pillar wrote, "If the entire body of official intelligence analysis on Iraq had a policy implication, it was to avoid war ."

He also wrote that the Bush administration "used intelligence not to inform decision-making but to justify a decision already made"--to topple Hussein's regime.

In making its case, the administration aggressively promoted pieces of "intelligence to win public support for its decision to go to war," Pillar said.

He also said: "This meant selectively adducing data--`cherry-picking'--rather than using the intelligence community's own analytic judgments."

Pillar's allegations about the public use of selective intelligence on Iraq comes in the wake of news that Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff, told a grand jury that he was authorized by his bosses to leak classified information about Iraq in summer 2003 to defend the administration's case for war. The statement about Libby's secret testimony was contained in court papers filed in connection with his obstruction-of-justice case.

Misleading statements

Although he acknowledged the intelligence community was wrong about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities, Pillar said that intelligence "was not what led to the war." And he saved some of his sharpest criticisms for the administration's repeated public statements in 2002 and 2003 about "links" between Iraq and Al Qaeda--statements that have been repeated despite findings from the independent commission that investigated the Sept. 11 attacks that there was no collaborative relationship between the two.

"The issue of possible ties between Saddam and Al Qaeda was especially prone to the selective use of raw intelligence to make a public case for war," Pillar wrote. "In the shadowy world of international terrorism, almost anyone can be `linked' to almost anyone else if enough effort is made . . . . [But] the intelligence community never offered any analysis that supported the notion of an alliance between Saddam and Al Qaeda."

He said the administration constantly pressed for more data to support the purported link, just one way it politically influenced the outcome.

"Feeding the administration's voracious appetite for material on the Saddam-Al Qaeda link consumed an enormous amount of time and attention at multiple levels, from rank-and-file counterterrorism analysts to the most senior intelligence officials," he wrote. "It is fair to ask how much other counterterrorism work was left undone as a result."

Although he acknowledged analysts were not strong-armed by anyone in the administration to bolster the case for war, Pillar said intelligence officials were more subtly influenced.

Analysts, who often measure success by the attention they receive from policymakers, "felt a strong wind consistently blowing in one direction. The desire to bend with such a wind is natural and strong, even if unconscious," he said.

He also said he never received a request from any administration policymaker for any assessments of Iraq "until a year into the war."

Nicholas Cullather, the former official historian for the CIA who now teaches at Indiana University, said the article represents a defense of the longstanding tradition within the CIA of maintaining a strict separation between intelligence analysis and policymaking.

But Cullather said that tradition has long been aggressively opposed by officials who now hold senior positions in the Bush administration.



Copyright © 2006, Chicago Tribune

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Out of Sight, Out of Mind

By Dahr Jamail Iraq Dispatches 12 Feb 06

If one watches corporate media or listens to Cheney Administration propaganda, one is either not getting information about Iraq at all, or hearing that things are looking up as the U.S. approaches another “phase” in the occupation.

Just taking a brief look at the “security incidents” reported by Reuters for today, 12 February, gives a little clue as to how the occupation of Iraq, aside from being immoral and unjust, is a dismal failure.
*RAMADI - Six insurgents were killed and another wounded on Saturday when U.S forces conducted an air strike in the city of Ramadi, 110 km (68 miles) west of Baghdad, the U.S military said on Sunday.

*MUQDADIYA - Clashes between insurgents and Iraqi army soldiers conducting a raid killed one rebel in Muqdadiya, 90 km (50 miles) north east of Baghdad. The army arrested 40 suspected insurgents in the same operation.

*BAGHDAD - A 53-year-old male detainee at Abu Ghraib prison died on Saturday as a result of complications from an assault by an unknown number of detainees, the U.S military said in a statement.

*MAHAWEEL - The bodies of three people, bound and shot in the head and chest, were found in Mahaweel, 75 km (50 miles) south of Baghdad, police said. The bodies showed signs of torture.

*ISKANDARIYA - The bodies of two people, bound and shot in the head and chest, were found in Iskandariya, 40 km (25 miles) south of Baghdad, police said. The bodies showed signs of torture.

*BAGHDAD - Three police commandos and a civilian were killed and four commandos wounded when a suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt blew himself up near a check point in southern Baghdad, police said.

*KIRKUK - Gunmen killed four policemen while they were driving in a civilian car in the main road between Kirkuk and Tikrit, 175 km (110 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

*KIFL - Gunmen wearing police uniforms killed a civilian on Saturday in Kifl, a town about 150 km (100 miles) south of Baghdad, police said.

*NEAR LATIFIYA - Police retrieved the body of a dead person from the river on Saturday near Latifiya, south of Baghdad.

*BAQUBA - A director of sport education of Diyala province was killed by gunmen in the city of Baquba, 65 km (40 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

*YATHRIB - Gunmen kidnapped three truck drivers who were carrying equipment to a U.S military base on Saturday in Yathrib, a region near Balad, 90 km (55 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

*BAIJI - Gunmen blew up a gas station on Saturday near the oil refinery city of Baiji, 180 km (112 miles) north of Baghdad.

BAGHDAD - Twelve civilians were wounded when two roadside bombs exploded in quick succession near an Iraqi police patrol in central Baghdad, police said.

SAMARRA - The Iraqi army found three Iranian Shi'ite pilgrims who were among a group of 12, including an Iraqi driver, kidnapped by gunmen in Samarra on Friday, Iraqi army officials said.

HAWIJA - Gunmen shot dead a doctor and wounded an employee working in the main hospital in Hawija, 70 km south west of the northern city of Kirkuk, on Saturday, police said.

KIRKUK - Four policemen were wounded when a roadside bomb went off near their patrol in the northern city of Kirkuk, 250 km (155 miles) north of Baghdad, police said.

KIRKUK - The corpse of a Kurdish contractor working with the U.S army was found on Saturday in Kirkuk, police said.

KIRKUK - Two civilians were wounded by a roadside bomb near their patrol in Kirkuk, police said.

BAGHDAD - Two civilians were killed, including a child, and three were wounded, when a roadside bomb targeting police commandos exploded in a northern district of the capital, police said.

A brief glance at recent events in Iraq shows that violence only continues to escalate and the infrastructure which U.S. taxpayers supposedly paid billions of dollars to repair is in shambles.

While the Cheney Administration blame Iraqi resistance attacks and sabotage for the lack of reconstruction, I would like to remind people that at least $8.8 Billion of the money meant for reconstruction efforts remains unaccounted for. Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, said this is because “oversight” on the part of the Coalition Provisional Authority “was relatively nonexistent.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. military is over a quarter of the way towards having the 3,000th soldier killed in Iraq, as 2,267 have now been killed. 25 of those deaths have occurred this month.

But as usual, it is the Iraqis who are paying the highest price.

Looking at Arab media outlets, evidence of this abounds.

According to Al-Sharqiyah television:

“The head of the Al-Fallujah Municipal Council was killed by gunshots on February 7, Iraqi Al Sharqiyah TV reported that day. In its 1100 gmt newscast, the TV said: "Unidentified armed men this morning assassinated Shaykh Kamal Shakir Nizal, head of the Municipal Council of Al-Fallujah, western Iraq.”

The U.S. backed puppet Iraqi government continues its state-sponsored civil war. Aside from the numerous bodies found in the aforementioned Reuters report, this past week Sharqiyah also reported:

“Iraqi and US security forces raided the Iraqi Islamic Party’s headquarters in the Al-Amiriyah area in western Baghdad. The Islamic Party, which is one of the Iraqi entities operating under the banner of the Iraqi Al-Tawafuq Front, issued a press statement today saying that last night, Iraqi forces, backed by US troops, assaulted the headquarters’ guards and the party members who were there at the time, destroyed the headquarters’ furniture and contents, seized the licensed weapons carried by the guards, and confiscated sums of money belonging to the party.”

Of course atrocities continue at the hands of occupation forces. Video has been released which shows a group of British soldiers brutally beating and kicking defenseless Iraqi teenagers inside a military compound, and Iraqis recently released from prisons like Abu Ghraib are reporting ongoing torture at the hands of U.S. forces. This, however, should come as no surprise since Secretary of “Defense” Donald Rumsfeld issued a memo over two years ago specifying which types of “harsh interrogation techniques” he wanted used in Iraq.

This is just a brief overview of recent events in Iraq.

When Israeli/U.S. warplanes begin dropping bombs on Iran, will Iraq fade to the back pages of the news as has Afghanistan? With the corporate media coverage of Iraq at this sorry state already, it’s difficult to imagine that not occurring.

(c)2004, 2005 Dahr Jamail.

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Still Cherry-Picking the Facts on Iraq

By Scott Ritter AlterNet February 14, 2006.

Recent revelations about the Bush administration's selective use of prewar intelligence may have finally awakened the U.S. media, but the public is too distracted to notice.
I pulled myself away from the television set recently, enthralled as I was by the ongoing Winter Olympics, and took the time to wade through the massive quantities of information building up in my in box (electronic and otherwise) about the world we live in outside of the sports arena.

One piece of information in particular caught my eye. The revelations made by retired CIA officer Paul Pillar in an article published in the March-April issue of the journal Foreign Affairs should come as a surprise to no one who has been following the disturbing case of Iraq and the missing weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Mr. Pillar is a career intelligence officer with the CIA who served as the deputy chief of the Counterterrorist Center and, most recently, as the national intelligence officer for Near East/Middle East affairs from 2000 to 2005. His essay offers sound analysis to back up his claim that the Bush administration had made the decision to invade Iraq independent of any viable intelligence analysis to sustain the allegation that Iraq possessed undeclared and hidden WMD capability. This capability allegedly not only violated international law but also constituted a threat to the United States and the international community that justified the use of force.

This, of course, is not a news flash, although Mr. Pillar has found his assertions suddenly newsworthy. I found myself puzzled as the collective American news media reacted with stunned fascination over the notion that the Bush administration would have "cherry picked" intelligence in order to justify its decision to invade Iraq.

Mr. Pillar's revelations only reinforced information previously available from such sources as the Downing Street Memo, circa July 2002, which noted that the Bush administration had made the decision to go to war with Iraq using WMD and the link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaida as the justification. The memo further noted that the case was a weak one, and that the Bush administration was busy fixing intelligence around policy in order to bolster its decision.

Of course, I and several other former intelligence officials had been saying the same thing for some time. But Mr. Pillar provided some sugar coating along with his bitter pill of accusation: The CIA, he noted, had believed that there were WMDs in Iraq, but that Iraq was containable, and war, therefore, was not a worthy policy objective.

It was stunning to read Mr. Pillar's critical finger-waving at the Bush administration for cooking the books, all the while defending the CIA's analytical processes, despite the fact that, in the final analysis, the CIA maintained that there were WMDs in Iraq. I guess Mr. Pillar's defense is that the CIA was wrong but not as wrong as the Bush administration. Mr. Pillar rightfully decries the politicization of the CIA's analytical processes, but for the most part limits the scope of his criticism to the Bush administration during the time period leading up to the invasion in March 2003.

Nowhere does Mr. Pillar mention the issue of regime change and the role played by the CIA in carrying out covert action at the instruction of the White House (both Democratic and Republican) to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Because he was the former national intelligence officer for Near East/Middle East affairs, I find this absence both disconcerting and disingenuous. By failing to give due credence to the impact and influence of the CIA's mission of regime change in Iraq on its analysis of Iraqi WMDs, Mr. Pillar continues to promulgate the myth that the CIA was honestly engaged in the business of trying to disarm Iraq. I may not have been the national intelligence officer, but I was plugged into the system well enough to know "Steve," who headed the CIA's Near East Division inside the Directorate of Operations, and helped plan and implement several abortive coup attempts in Iraq. I also knew "Don," who helped run the CIA's Counter Proliferation Center and was well aware of how the CIA interfered with and undermined several investigations and operations run by U.N. weapons inspectors in Iraq. If these operations had reached fruition, the myth of a noncompliant Iraq might have been undone, thereby putting at risk the CIA's primary tasking vis-a-vis Iraq: regime change.

I knew these men and their respective missions, as I knew of many others. Mr. Pillar also did, and his silence on these men and their tasking begs the question: Why? The only answer I can arrive at is that Paul Pillar, for all of his good intentions, strives to defend his own personal legacy and thus remains oblivious to the fact that the actions of professional intelligence officers such as himself have lead to the demise of the CIA as a legitimate tool for the national security of the United States. Paul Pillar is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Curiously, I find myself joined in criticizing Paul Pillar's recent writings by none other than my old nemesis, Stephen Hayes, a highly partisan commentator for the neoconservative flagship, The Weekly Standard. I cite Mr. Hayes not because I find any merit in what he writes about Mr. Pillar, but because the inconsistencies of Mr. Pillar's words open the door for Iraq war apologists like Mr. Hayes to muddy the waters when it comes to more clearly understanding the complete lack of justification that exists for America's invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

I criticize Paul Pillar for his curious defense of CIA analysis of Iraqi WMDs, which was fundamentally wrong, and his failure to acknowledge the existence of a CIA program, directed from the White House, to remove Saddam Hussein from power, and the impact that such a regime-change policy would have on the CIA's analysis of Iraqi WMDs within a process readily acknowledged by Mr. Pillar as being overly politicized. But Stephen Hayes bases his attack on Mr. Pillar's failure to factor in such foundational arguments such as Saddam's alleged assassination attempt against former President George H. W. Bush in April 1993 (allegations that led to the bombing of the Iraqi Intelligence Service Headquarters in June 1993), and the connection between Iraq and the Sudan concerning alleged chemical weapons cooperation, which led to similar bombings in the Sudan in August 1998.

The highly politicized environment of the CIA's analytical and operational branches as far back as 1993 resulted in analysis that was based upon supposition and hearsay more than sound assessment of fact. Mr. Hayes cites an alleged assassination attempt that has long since been shown to be a figment of the Kuwaiti government's mind. None of the data assembled by the U.S. intelligence community to link Saddam Hussein with the alleged Kuwaiti plot has stood the test of time. The plotters, the timing devices and the bomb itself have been shown to have no known link to the Iraqi Intelligence Services, not to mention Saddam Hussein. Today, with all of the potential plotters and organizers of the alleged assassination attempt in U.S. custody, one is struck by the silence of the CIA and American law enforcement when it comes to this case. One would think that bringing the perpetrators of an attempt of a former president's life to justice would be a top priority in this age of "global war on terror." And yet the silence is deafening, only reinforcing the reality that yet another allegation of wrongdoing on the part of Saddam Hussein has fallen by the wayside.

The same holds true regarding Mr. Hayes' assertions concerning Iraqi-Sudanese links in 1998. Not only has the U.S. government all but acknowledged the fact that the Shifa Plant, bombed in August 1998, had no connection with either Iraq or the manufacture of VX nerve agent, but like the situation regarding the alleged assassination attempt, the United States has in its possession all of the key players who would have been involved in any illicit cooperation with the Sudan, including Hayes' cited Emad al Ani, the Iraqi mastermind behind this plot. Once again the silence of the U.S. government on this matter speaks volumes, as does Mr. Hayes' hysteria in once again trotting out baseless allegations produced by the same politicized intelligence process that Mr. Pillar so eloquently decries.

As I reflect on the inconsistency of the Paul Pillars and the rantings of pseudojournalists like Stephen Hayes, I have to chuckle at the incongruous nature of another unfolding drama, that being the trial of Saddam Hussein. We Americans sit back and wave a scolding finger at the former Iraqi dictator, chiding him for the crime of brutally suppressing those who attempted to assassinate him in 1982 in the village of Dujail (an assassination attempt no one has said did not take place), all the while ignoring the fact that we bombed Iraq in June 1993 using as justification an alleged assassination attempt.

If the Kuwaiti government, with the help of some anti-Saddam elements in the U.S. government, cooks up a scheme where they fabricate an assassination attempt against a former president in an effort to keep American policy regarding Iraq "on track," there is not a flicker of concern from the hypermoralistic citizens of the United States. However, woe be it to the dictator who survives an attempt on his life from a village whose leadership had been infiltrated by agents of a nation with which he was at the time locked in a life-or-death struggle and then seeks accountability from those responsible.

This, it appears, is a crime of horrific proportions, so big that it currently stands as the only one Saddam Hussein has been tried for. It doesn't matter much to the "law and order" society in America that the pro-Iranian group, the Dawa Party, which planned and executed the failed assassination attempt in 1982, now occupies the highest position of power in Iraq (Ibrahim Jafari, the current Iraqi Prime Minister, was the president of Dawa) and is responsible for carrying out justice against Saddam. No conflict of interest here, or so it would seem for most Americans.

We, the people of the United States, despite our status as one of the most technologically advanced nations on the face of the earth, remain among the most ignorant about the world we live in. And yet we continue to hold forth that we have some sort of divine right of intervention, where a nation of some 300 million is self-empowered to dictate to billions of others the terms in which we all coexist on the planet. We seem shocked when things don't go as we envisioned (take Iraq, for example, where song and flowers were rapidly replaced by bombs and bullets), but in the end we have only ourselves to blame. Our ignorance of the world we live in seems to be only exceeded by our near total abrogation of our duties and responsibilities as citizens of the world's foremost representative democracy.

I recently spoke before a crowd of around 150 people at an event in Santa Fe, N.M. The topic was the intelligence failure in Iraq and the upcoming war with Iran. It was "Super Bowl Sunday." Santa Fe has a well-deserved reputation as a city with a conscience, populated by mostly progressive-leaning pragmatists who care about their community and the country as a whole. However, this mainstream element was sadly lacking from the audience, which consisted primarily of social activists who could for the most part have cared less about who won the Super Bowl (Pittsburgh did, beating Seattle in what was a mediocre game at best). For a city capable of mobilizing thousands in the cause of peace and justice, the fact that so many chose to spend their Sunday eating chips and drinking beer seated before a TV screen rather than engage in a community dialogue about issues of war and the future direction of our country speaks more to the fact that consumerism has once again trumped basic citizenship.

This is a trend that goes far beyond the environs of Santa Fe, reflecting instead a nationwide tendency to stick our collective heads in the sand, wallowing in fear and ignorance, while those we elect to higher office pursue policies that benefit a distinct minority to the detriment of the masses. Some day in the near future those who turned their back on citizenship in the name of consumerism will find that the latest Super Bowl commercial has been replaced by a TV screen screaming out the breaking news that America is once again at war. Unlike the current debacle in Iraq, where the pain and suffering is only felt by those who have lost a loved one, the Iran war will resonate across the country, wracking up a devastating tally both in terms of human and economic cost.

The American people will act with shock and horror, but by then it will be too late: Once again our fighting men and women who serve us in the armed forces will have been dispatched to a conflict not worthy of the loss of a single American life. Once again the American people will cover their shame concerning their collective failure of citizenship by proudly proclaiming their undying support for the troops, waving the American flag on the street corner and putting colorful magnetic "support the troops" stickers on their cars, all the while those who wear the uniform fight and die in another faraway country.

Such hypocrisy, underscored by the fact that when the American people had a chance to really do something for the troops, like come out on a Sunday night and engage in a public discussion about the Iranian crisis, they chose instead to watch a football game.

Scott Ritter served as chief U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991 until his resignation in 1998. He is the recent author of "Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the UN and Overthrow Saddam Hussein" (Nation Books, 2005).

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Iraqis Remain Starved of Electricity

By HAMZA HENDAWI Associated Press Sun Feb 12, 3:44 PM ET

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Abbas Mutlaq and Thaer al-Mufti live at opposite ends of Iraq, but both have given up on the government to supply electricity, turning instead to private generators to keep the lights on.

And both say the power supply situation has worsened since the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein despite the billions of dollars set aside by the Bush administration for reconstruction.
"Before the fall of the regime, power was three hours on, three hours off," said Mutlaq, an auto parts dealer in the southern city of Basra. "Now it comes on for a total of just eight hours (a day) and maybe less."

For many Iraqis, chronic power problems have become a litmus test of American promises of a better life without Saddam's tyranny.

Iraqis often ask why a superpower that can send thousands of soldiers, tanks and Humvees to fight a war half a world away cannot guarantee that the lights work.

"I should only complain to God, but let me just say that sometimes we don't have electricity for 72 hours," said al-Mufti, a father of five in the northern city of Mosul, some 560 miles north of Basra. "Often, we have one hour of electricity the entire day."

Baghdad, a city of nearly 7 million people, is a city starved for energy. Most streets are not lit at night, when the din of power generators fills the air. Wires connecting neighborhood generators to private homes hang over narrow alleys in poor residential areas.

U.S. officials have acknowledged that the failure to provide power has dogged the American mission in Iraq since the beginning.

In a Senate testimony Wednesday, Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the U.S. special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, blamed insurgent attacks and higher demand for the shortfall and acknowledged that the electricity situation is worse now than under Saddam.

"Often, those commenting on Iraq reconstruction begin by stating that electrical capacity is lower than prewar levels," Bowen told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "They are correct."

Of 425 electricity-related projects, Bowen said only 300 would be completed before the $18.6 billion approved by Congress in November 2003 for reconstruction in Iraq runs out.

"Everyone dreamed of a better life after Saddam went. We wanted more electricity and a generally higher standard of living," Mutlaq said. "We are still shocked that none of our dreams came true. Nothing happened and some people even think life under Saddam was better."

The problem of electricity becomes more unbearable in summer, when temperatures soar to 120 for months. That forces many residents to sleep on their rooftops.

With electricity erratic at best, clean drinking water also has become rare. Even if the water is purified at treatment plants, lack of power often means water cannot be pumped to apartment dwellers.

Renowned for their resilience, most Iraqis cope by drawing power from neighborhood generators run and maintained by businessmen for a fee. But a recent increase in fuel prices means electricity is more expensive.

Iraqis pay an average of about $2 every three months for electricity since the government subsidizes the cost and power outages are frequent. Private power, however, can cost an average of $20 per month - a burden in a country where $200 a month is a common salary.

Insurgent attacks and the ever-present danger of kidnapping mean that up to 22 percent of all reconstruction project funds, including those for electricity, goes to security, according to General Accounting Office figures.

The power supply has been erratic for months in Ramadi, capital of Anbar province and a stronghold of the insurgency, with outages lasting days.

The main telephone exchange caught fire and burned last week during a gunfight between insurgents and U.S. troops in the city west of Baghdad, witnesses said.

"It's been difficult getting people to work because of the security situation," said Marine Lt. Col. Mike Reilly, who works on reconstruction projects in Ramadi that are funded by the U.S. military.

"Here, there's a lot of problems with water and sewage. Some of it may be due to the insurgency, some may be due to neglect."
Iraqis often ask why a superpower that can send thousands of soldiers, tanks and Humvees to fight a war half a world away cannot guarantee that the lights work.
Here's an idea: US leaders simply don't care. While ordinary Iraqis have struggled for years now without electricity, clean water, and a problematic sewage system, companies like Halliburton have raked in extraordinary profits. And don't forget about the profitable private security contractor companies that are tightly linked to the Bush family! No, the Bush administration never planned on making life better for Iraqis. The gang in Washington figured they'd make a buck or two million while feeding the public all sorts of lies about what was really happening in Iraq.

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A Permanent Basis for Withdrawal? Can You Say "Permanent Bases"?

By Tom Engelhardt TomDispatch

We're in a new period in the war in Iraq -- one that brings to mind the Nixonian era of "Vietnamization": A President presiding over an increasingly unpopular war that won't end; an election bearing down; the need to placate a restive American public; and an army under so much strain that it seems to be running off the rails. So it's not surprising that the media is now reporting on administration plans for, or "speculation" about, or "signs of," or "hints" of "major draw-downs" or withdrawals of American troops. The figure regularly cited these days is less than 100,000 troops in Iraq by the end of 2006. With about 136,000 American troops there now, that figure would represent just over one-quarter of all in-country U.S. forces, which means, of course, that the term "major" certainly rests in the eye of the beholder.
In addition, these withdrawals are -- we know this thanks to a Seymour Hersh piece, Up in the Air, in the December 5th New Yorker -- to be accompanied, as in South Vietnam in the Nixon era, by an unleashing of the U.S. Air Force. The added air power is meant to compensate for any lost punch on the ground (and will undoubtedly lead to more "collateral damage" -- that is, Iraqi deaths).

It is important to note that all promises of drawdowns or withdrawals are invariably linked to the dubious proposition that the Bush administration can "stand up" an effective Iraqi army and police force (think "Vietnamization" again), capable of circumscribing the Sunni insurgency and so allowing American troops to pull back to bases outside major urban areas, as well as to Kuwait and points as far west as the United States. Further, all administration or military withdrawal promises prove to be well hedged with caveats and obvious loopholes, phrases like "if all goes according to plan and security improves..." or "it also depends on the ability of the Iraqis to..."

Since guerrilla attacks have actually been on the rise and the delivery of the basic amenities of modern civilization (electrical power, potable water, gas for cars, functional sewage systems, working traffic lights, and so on) on the decline, since the very establishment of a government inside the heavily fortified Green Zone has proved immensely difficult, and since U.S. reconstruction funds (those that haven't already disappeared down one clogged drain or another) are drying up, such partial withdrawals may prove more complicated to pull off than imagined. It's clear, nonetheless, that "withdrawal" is on the propaganda agenda of an administration heading into mid-term elections with an increasingly skittish Republican Party in tow and congressional candidates worried about defending the President's mission-unaccomplished war of choice. Under the circumstances, we can expect more hints of, followed by promises of, followed by announcements of "major" withdrawals, possibly including news in the fall election season of even more "massive" withdrawals slated for the end of 2006 or early 2007, all hedged with conditional clauses and "only ifs" -- withdrawal promises that, once the election is over, this administration would undoubtedly feel under no particular obligation to fulfill.

Assuming, then, a near year to come of withdrawal buzz, speculation, and even a media blitz of withdrawal announcements, the question is: How can anybody tell if the Bush administration is actually withdrawing from Iraq or not? Sometimes, when trying to cut through a veritable fog of misinformation and disinformation, it helps to focus on something concrete. In the case of Iraq, nothing could be more concrete -- though less generally discussed in our media -- than the set of enormous bases the Pentagon has long been building in that country. Quite literally multi-billions of dollars have gone into them. In a prestigious engineering magazine in late 2003, Lt. Col. David Holt, the Army engineer "tasked with facilities development" in Iraq, was already speaking proudly of several billion dollars being sunk into base construction ("the numbers are staggering"). Since then, the base-building has been massive and ongoing.

In a country in such startling disarray, these bases, with some of the most expensive and advanced communications systems on the planet, are like vast spaceships that have landed from another solar system. Representing a staggering investment of resources, effort, and geostrategic dreaming, they are the unlikeliest places for the Bush administration to hand over willingly to even the friendliest of Iraqi governments.

If, as just about every expert agrees, Bush-style reconstruction has failed dismally in Iraq, thanks to thievery, knavery, and sheer incompetence, and is now essentially ending, it has been a raging success in Iraq's "Little America." For the first time, we have actual descriptions of a couple of the "super-bases" built in Iraq in the last two and a half years and, despite being written by reporters under Pentagon information restrictions, they are sobering. Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post paid a visit to Balad Air Base, the largest American base in the country, 68 kilometers north of Baghdad and "smack in the middle of the most hostile part of Iraq." In a piece entitled Biggest Base in Iraq Has Small-Town Feel, Ricks paints a striking portrait:

The base is sizeable enough to have its own "neighborhoods" including "KBR-land" (in honor of the Halliburton subsidiary that has done most of the base-construction work in Iraq); "CJSOTF" ("home to a special operations unit," the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force, surrounded by "especially high walls," and so secretive that even the base Army public affairs chief has never been inside); and a junkyard for bombed out Army Humvees. There is as well a Subway, a Pizza Hut, a Popeye's, "an ersatz Starbucks," a 24-hour Burger King, two post exchanges where TVs, iPods, and the like can be purchased, four mess halls, a hospital, a strictly enforced on-base speed limit of 10 MPH, a huge airstrip, 250 aircraft (helicopters and predator drones included), air-traffic pile-ups of a sort you would see over Chicago's O'Hare airport, and "a miniature golf course, which mimics a battlefield with its baby sandbags, little Jersey barriers, strands of concertina wire and, down at the end of the course, what appears to be a tiny detainee cage."

Ricks reports that the 20,000 troops stationed at Balad live in "air-conditioned containers" which will, in the future -- and yes, for those building these bases, there still is a future -- be wired "to bring the troops Internet, cable television and overseas telephone access." He points out as well that, of the troops at Balad, "only several hundred have jobs that take them off base. Most Americans posted here never interact with an Iraqi."

Recently, Oliver Poole, a British reporter, visited another of the American "super-bases," the still-under-construction al-Asad Airbase (Football and pizza point to US staying for long haul). He observes, of "the biggest Marine camp in western Anbar province," that "this stretch of desert increasingly resembles a slice of US suburbia." In addition to the requisite Subway and pizza outlets, there is a football field, a Hertz rent-a-car office, a swimming pool, and a movie theater showing the latest flicks. Al-Asad is so large -- such bases may cover 15-20 square miles -- that it has two bus routes and, if not traffic lights, at least red stop signs at all intersections.

There are at least four such "super-bases" in Iraq, none of which have anything to do with "withdrawal" from that country. Quite the contrary, these bases are being constructed as little American islands of eternal order in an anarchic sea. Whatever top administration officials and military commanders say -- and they always deny that we seek "permanent" bases in Iraq -– facts-on-the-ground speak with another voice entirely. These bases practically scream "permanency."

Unfortunately, there's a problem here. American reporters adhere to a simple rule: The words "permanent," "bases," and "Iraq" should never be placed in the same sentence, not even in the same paragraph; in fact, not even in the same news report. While a LexisNexis search of the last 90 days of press coverage of Iraq produced a number of examples of the use of those three words in the British press, the only U.S. examples that could be found occurred when 80% of Iraqis (obviously somewhat unhinged by their difficult lives) insisted in a poll that the United States might indeed desire to establish bases and remain permanently in their country; or when "no" or "not" was added to the mix via any American official denial. (It's strange, isn't it, that such bases, imposing as they are, generally only exist in our papers in the negative.) Three examples will do:

The Secretary of Defense: ""During a visit with U.S. troops in Fallujah on Christmas Day, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said ‘at the moment there are no plans for permanent bases' in Iraq. ‘It is a subject that has not even been discussed with the Iraqi government.'"

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmett, the Central Command deputy commander for planning and strategy in Iraq: "We already have handed over significant chunks of territory to the Iraqis. Those are not simply plans to do so; they are being executed right now. It is not only our plan but our policy that we do not intend to have any permanent bases in Iraq."

Karen Hughes on the Charlie Rose Show: "CHARLIE ROSE: …they think we are still there for the oil, or they think the United States wants permanent bases. Does the United States want permanent bases in Iraq? KAREN HUGHES: We want nothing more than to bring our men and women in uniform home. As soon as possible, but not before they finish the job. CHARLIE ROSE: And do not want to keep bases there? KAREN HUGHES: No, we want to bring our people home as soon as possible."

Still, for a period, the Pentagon practiced something closer to truth in advertising than did our major papers. At least, they called the big bases in Iraq "enduring camps," a label which had a certain charm and reeked of permanency. (Later, they were later relabeled, far less romantically, "contingency operating bases.")

One of the enduring mysteries of this war is that reporting on our bases in Iraq has been almost nonexistent these last years, especially given an administration so weighted toward military solutions to global problems; especially given the heft of some of the bases; especially given the fact that the Pentagon was mothballing our bases in Saudi Arabia and saw these as long-term substitutes; especially given the fact that the neocons and other top administration officials were so focused on controlling the so-called arc of instability (basically, the energy heartlands of the planet) at whose center was Iraq; and especially given the fact that Pentagon pre-war planning for such "enduring camps" was, briefly, a front-page story in a major newspaper.

A little history may be in order here:

On April 19, 2003, soon after Baghdad fell to American troops, reporters Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt wrote a front-page piece for the New York Times indicating that the Pentagon was planning to "maintain" four bases in Iraq for the long haul, though "there will probably never be an announcement of permanent stationing of troops." Rather than speak of "permanent bases," the military preferred then to speak coyly of "permanent access" to Iraq. The bases, however, fit snugly with other Pentagon plans, already on the drawing boards. For instance, Saddam's 400,000 man military was to be replaced by only a 40,000 man, lightly armed military without significant armor or an air force. (In an otherwise heavily armed region, this insured that any Iraqi government would be almost totally reliant on the American military and that the U.S. Air Force would, by default, be the Iraqi Air Force for years to come.) While much space in our papers has, of late, been devoted to the administration's lack of postwar planning, next to no interest has been shown in the planning that did take place.

At a press conference a few days after the Shanker and Schmitt piece appeared, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld insisted that the U.S. was "unlikely to seek any permanent or ‘long-term' bases in Iraq" -- and that was that. The Times' piece was essentially sent down the memory hole. While scads of bases were being built -- including four huge ones whose geographic placement correlated fairly strikingly with the four mentioned in the Times article -- reports about U.S. bases in Iraq, or any Pentagon planning in relation to them, largely disappeared from the American media. (With rare exceptions, you could only find discussions of "permanent bases" in these last years at Internet sites like Tomdispatch or Global Security.org.)

In May 2005, however, Bradley Graham of the Washington Post reported that we had 106 bases, ranging from mega to micro in Iraq. Most of these were to be given back to the Iraqi military, now being "stood up" as a far larger force than originally imagined by Pentagon planners, leaving the U.S. with, Graham reported, just the number of bases -- 4 -- that the Times first mentioned over two years earlier, including Balad Air Base and the base Poole visited in western Anbar Province. This reduction was presented not as a fulfillment of original Pentagon thinking, but as a "withdrawal plan." (A modest number of these bases have since been turned over to the Iraqis, including one in Tikrit transferred to Iraqi military units which, according to Poole, promptly stripped it to the bone.)

The future of a fifth base -- the enormous Camp Victory at Baghdad International Airport -- remains, as far as we know, "unresolved"; and there is a sixth possible "permanent super-base" being built in that country, though never presented as such. The Bush administration is sinking between $600 million and $1 billion in construction funds into a new U.S. embassy. It is to arise in Baghdad's Green Zone on a plot of land along the Tigris River that is reportedly two-thirds the area of the National Mall in Washington, DC. The plans for this "embassy" are almost mythic in nature. A high-tech complex, it is to have "15ft blast walls and ground-to-air missiles" for protection as well as bunkers to guard against air attacks. It will, according to Chris Hughes, security correspondent for the British Daily Mirror, include "as many as 300 houses for consular and military officials" and a "large-scale barracks" for Marines. The "compound" will be a cluster of at least 21 buildings, assumedly nearly self-sufficient, including "a gym, swimming pool, barber and beauty shops, a food court and a commissary. Water, electricity and sewage treatment plants will all be independent from Baghdad's city utilities." It is being billed as "more secure than the Pentagon" (not, perhaps, the most reassuring tagline in the post-9/11 world). If not quite a city-state, on completion it will resemble an embassy-state. In essence, inside Baghdad's Green Zone, we will be building another more heavily fortified little Green Zone.

Even Tony Blair's Brits, part of our unraveling, ever-shrinking "coalition of the willing" in Iraq, are reported by Brian Brady of the Scotsman (Revealed: secret plan to keep UK troops permanently in Iraq) to be bargaining for a tiny permanent base -- sorry a base "for years to come" -- near Basra in southern Iraq, thus mimicking American "withdrawal" strategy on the micro-scale that befits a junior partner.

As Juan Cole has pointed out at his Informed Comment blog, the Pentagon can plan for "endurance" in Iraq forever and a day, while top Bush officials and neocons, some now in exile, can continue to dream of a permanent set of bases in the deserts of Iraq that would control the energy heartlands of the planet. None of that will, however, make such bases any more "permanent" than their enormous Vietnam-era predecessors at places like Danang and Cam Rahn Bay proved to be -- not certainly if the Shiites decide they want us gone or Ayatollah Sistani (as Cole points out) were to issue a fatwa against such bases.

Nonetheless, the thought of permanency matters. Since the invasion of Saddam's Iraq, those bases -- call them what you will -- have been at the heart of the Bush administration's "reconstruction" of the country. To this day, those Little Americas, with their KBR-lands, their Pizza Huts, their stop signs, and their miniature golf courses remain at the secret heart of Bush administration "reconstruction" policy. As long as KBR keeps building them, making their facilities ever more enduring (and ever more valuable), there can be no genuine "withdrawal" from Iraq, nor even an intention of doing so. Right now, despite the recent visits of a couple of reporters, those super-bases remain enswathed in a kind of policy silence. The Bush administration does not discuss them (other than to deny their permanency from time to time). No presidential speeches deal with them. No plans for them are debated in Congress. The opposition Democrats generally ignore them and the press -- with the exception of the odd columnist -- won't even put the words "base," "permanent," and "Iraq" in the same paragraph.

It may be hard to do, given the skimpy coverage, but keep your eyes directed at our "super-bases." Until the administration blinks on them, there will be no withdrawal from Iraq.

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Army of Iraq war veterans 'suffering brain damage'

Jonathan Rugman in Palo Alto, California London Times 13 Feb 06

THE hardest part of Jason Poole’s day is his early morning confrontation with the face staring back at him from his bathroom mirror. In the past 18 months, plastic surgeons have rebuilt it five times.

“I used to be handsome, you know,” says the 23-year-old US Marine, who was on foot patrol in western Iraq in June 2004 when he suffered terrible injuries in a roadside bomb blast. He adds: “But hey, c’est la vie.”
He has earned a Purple Heart medal for valour, but the twist to this Marine’s story is that when he fought in Iraq he wasn’t American at all, but British. Born in Bristol, he moved to California with his parents at the age of 12, and signed on the dotted line aged 17 in exchange for help from the Marines with college tuition fees and his application for US citizenship.

Corporal Poole cannot remember the explosion itself. He was in a coma for two months and is permanently brain-damaged. Two Iraqi soldiers and an interpreter were killed, but the Marine’s body armour saved him. He is now deaf in one ear and blind in one eye, and his face is a maze of skin and bone grafts held together with metal plates. Shrapnel was embedded in his skull and his brain injuries were so severe that he has had to learn to walk and talk again.

“We are talking about a brain-injury epidemic,” says Nurse Jill Gandolfi, who cares for Corporal Poole in a rehabilitation unit run by the US Department of Veterans Affairs in Palo Alto. The official number of brain- injured Iraq veterans is more than 1,700, but Harriet Zeiner, Palo Alto’s leading neuropsychologist, believes that well over 6,000 such injuries is a far more realistic estimate.

Pentagon figures indicate that, of more than 16,000 US troops wounded in combat in Iraq, 11,852 were injured by bombs, mortars and grenades.

Improvements in both body armour and battlefield medicine mean that Operation Iraqi Freedom boasts the highest survival rate of any war; up to eight for every death. But survivors such as Jason are coming home with more complicated head injuries caused by shrapnel wounds and shockwaves from bomb blasts; a growing army of brain-damaged servicemen and women, largely hidden from public view.

“It gets missed, they get discharged and go home,” says Dr Zeiner, who complains that brain scans are still not routine for soldiers surviving explosions and that the problem is often never diagnosed.

Lt. Col. Garry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman, said: “There are an awful lot more soldiers alive (after such incidents) than ever before.” He was unable to comment on the figures.

“Basically, it sucks,” says Corporal Poole, as he waits in blinding sunshine for his bus to the Palo Alto unit, one of four specialist “polytrauma” centres created by the US Forces.

About 800 patients have been treated in these centres so far. Researchers at Harvard and Columbia universities calculate that the total cost for treating brain injuries from Iraq will exceed $14 billion (£8 billion) over 20 years.

Though the corporal has had hundreds of hours of therapy, he can barely manage to read more than 20 words a minute. “He can think of things to say but he can’t get them out,” says Nurse Gandolfi.

“Americans need to know what the cost is to the people fighting,” says Dr Zeiner. “It’s not just the dead, but the injured. People like Jason have to reinvent who they are.”

His fiancée left him as a result of his disfiguring injuries and his plans to become a teacher have been abandoned. Corporal Poole shares a flat with a friend, living off military benefits of $2,400 a month. He relaxes by listening to his favourite song, Fix You, by Coldplay. In the evenings he plays a video game called Bomber. The point of the game is to blow up your opponent, though Jason is seemingly unaware of any irony.

His younger brother, Dave, frequently drops by. “People don’t think about the numbers who’ve been hurt,” Dave says. “Because those numbers would be too high, and then people would realise just how bad the war is.”

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Jafari wins by one vote to become Iraqi PM

UPI Baghdad February 14, 2006

The narrow election of Ibrahim Jafari, a Shiite doctor, as Iraqi prime minister is worrying some Iraqis and U.S. officials because of his ties to Iran.
Some Iraqis and U.S. officials have indicated they would have preferred a more secular leader, The Washington Post reports.

Jafari's 64-63 win came after days of wrangling among the coalition of Shiite religious parties that won the largest share of seats in the December parliamentary elections. His opponent was Adel Abdul Mahdi, a secular economist. But Jafari received the crucial support of the popular and fiercely anti-American cleric Moqtada Sadr, the report said.

Jafari, who had headed the interim government prior to his win, will face the same challenges of a crumbling infrastructure and rampant violence during his new four-year term. But his immediate challenge will be to form a new government to include other ethnic groups. A Sunni leader urged Jafari to choose ministers with no ethnic motivation and no background of corruption.

Separately, The New York Times reported Jafari's victory pointed to the growing political power of Sadr, who has led uprisings against U.S. troops.

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Baghdad Embassy Bonanza - Kuwait Company’s Secret Contract & Low-Wage Labor

by David Phinney Special to CorpWatch February 12th, 2006

A controversial Kuwait-based construction firm accused of exploiting employees and coercing low-paid laborers to work in war-town Iraq is now building the new $592-million U.S. embassy in Baghdad. Once completed, the compound will likely be the biggest, most fortified diplomatic compound in the world.

Some 900 workers live and work for First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting (FKTC) on the construction site of the massive project. Undoubtedly, they have been largely pulled from ranks of low-paid laborers flooding into Iraq from Asia's poorest countries to work under U.S. military and reconstruction projects.

Meanwhile, their boss, Wadih al-Absi jets back and forth to the United States, dreaming of magazine covers celebrating his rise to a global player in large-scale engineering and construction.
Raised in Beirut, he says he began his career much like the people he now employs-- as a laborer installing drywall. The Lebanese Christian escaped war in his home country in the late 1970s and moved to Kuwait. The Persian Gulf country welcomes, even recruits, expatriate blue-collar workers like al-Absi once was to do the grunt work and domestic chores in its booming, oil-rich economy. Today glitzy shopping malls, flashy cars and sprawling villas have become the norm and migrants make up the nearly two-thirds of this tiny desert state's 2.3 million population.

Building his own personal fortune, al-Absi, too, relies on migrant labor. His Kuwait City firm, co-owned by a member of one of Kuwait's richest and most powerful families, is one of the larger Middle East companies that collectively ship tens of thousands of cheap day laborers to Iraq's war zones where they are paid just dollars a day.

Fortune Favors a Few

American contractors witnessing the plight of some of these migrants at military camps around Iraq have openly complained that the Asians endure abysmal working conditions, live in cramped housing, eat poor food, and lack satisfactory medical care and safety gear.

Typically, these migrants work 12 hours a day, often seven days a week, and earn just dollars a day performing tasks considered unsuitable for US war fighters. They work construction, drive trucks, run laundries, clean latrines, pick up rubbish and operate stores, dining facilities and warehouses. Without them, and the "body shop" contractors that provide such laborers, the US and coalition military camps -- virtually small cities -- would shut down.

It can be a lucrative business, one that has helped trigger explosive growth of al-Absi's company where he acts as both general manager and co-owner.

Less than three years ago FKTC boasted $35 million in assets. Today, the firm has racked up hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. contracts in Iraq, pushing the company well past the $1 billion mark. With 7,000 employees in Iraq, the company claims to be holding $800 million in construction and supply contracts directly with the Army for military camps, plus more than $300 million under Halliburton 's multibillion dollar contract to perform military logistics for the occupation forces in Iraq.

It's the kind of success that allows al-Absi to enjoy finely tailored suits with French cuff shirts, send his children to American universities and enjoy the fruits of being a newly-minted millionaire. "I love America," he says freely.

Meeting over a morning coffee last September at the posh Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, a legendary Georgetown retreat favored by pampered heads-of-state, Hollywood elite, the Rolling Stones and business executives, al-Absi's eyes widened as he talked about his company's greatest prize – the embassy.

The New Embassy

Indeed, the massive $592-million project may be the most lasting monument to the U.S. occupation in the war-torn nation. Located on a on a 104-acre site on the Tigris river where U.S. and coalition authorities are headquartered, the high-tech palatial compound is envisioned as a totally self-sustaining cluster of 21 buildings reinforced to 2.5 times usual standards. Some walls as said to be 15 feet thick or more. Scheduled for completion by June 2007, the installation is touted as not only the largest, but the most secure diplomatic embassy in the world.

The 1,000 or more U.S. government officials calling the new compound home will have access to a gym, swimming pool, barber and beauty shops, a food court and a commissary. In addition to the main embassy buildings, there will be a large-scale Maine barracks, a school, locker rooms, a warehouse, a vehicle maintenance garage, and six apartment buildings with a total of 619 one-bedroom units. Water, electricity and sewage treatment plants will all be independent from Baghdad's city utilities. The total site will be two-thirds the area of the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Unlike most of Iraq's reconstruction, the embassy is "on time and on budget," according to a December report to U.S. Senate Foreign Affairs Committee which calls the progress an "impressive" feat given that construction is taking place in a country besieged by war.

"Most major construction projects undertaken in Iraq since 2003 have not met these standards," writes Patrick Garvey, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations staff who traveled to Baghdad in November 2005.

With the embassy making a prestigious notch on the company's belt, First Kuwaiti will step onto the world stage, al-Absi beamed. "I dream about what it means," he said. "We have become a global company."

Despite this pride, al-Absi asked to keep the embassy contract a secret until the first floors were built. The dangers of an attack are just too serious, he said. Even his personal residence had been bombed in the past. "I am all for transparency, but this is Iraq," he said.

Despite the new embassy's importance, and its rare on-schedule progress, the State Department has also resisted publicizing the contract. It was only after weeks of inquiries, that it confirmed that FKTC had been selected to construct all but the most classified portion of the project. One day after the web site FedBizOpps posted a standard public notice for the first $370-million in FTKC contracts, it yanked the announcement. Department spokesman Justin Higgins cited security concerns.

Philippino & Nepali Workers

While safety is part of the reason for keeping a profile low, labor conditions for Iraq's migrant workers are nothing to boast about.

When first asked about mistreatment of FKTC's labor force last August, al Absi threatened to sue if the allegations were published. At the time, CorpWatch was investigating the claims of Ramil Autencio and other Philippinos working for FKTC in Tikrit in late 2003 and early 2004. They claimed they were overworked, served poor food, and received less salary than what was agreed to in their contracts.

Originally recruited for employment by MGM Worldwide Manpower in the Philippines, Autencio said he had planned to work at Crown Plaza Hotel in Kuwait for $450 a month. Then his recruitment contract was sold to FKTC when he reached Kuwait where he says he was "forcibly" pressured to work in Iraq.

More recently, an October 10 story in the Chicago Tribune reported on four-dozen other Nepalese workers waiting in Kuwait for jobs on American military bases in Iraq. In September 2004, after watching television reports that 12 Nepalese hostages in Iraq executed at the hands of insurgents, they changed their minds.

A FKTC manager in Kuwait handed the panicked workers an ultimatum, reports the Tribune: either travel to Iraq to fulfill their contracts and they would be released on the streets of Kuwait City to fend for themselves. Undoubtedly, none had the resources to find their way back to Nepal.

"The company was forcing them to go to Iraq," Lok Bahadur Thapa, the former acting Nepalese ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told the Tribune.

Al-Absi, who speaks excellent English occasionally peppered with bluntness of a construction worker, denies the allegations of ill-treatment and trafficking.

"It's bullshit," he said, after emailing electronic documents apparently signed by Autencio and others agreeing to work in Iraq. "Total bullshit."

But stories of mistreatment recently prompted the U.S. State Department to join forces with the Defense Department into possible labor trafficking by Middle East firms doing business in Iraq.

"Our people are investigating the issues," said State Department spokesman Justin Higgins after U.S. Ambassador John Miller, head of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking of Persons, left for the Middle East in late January.

When CorpWatch inquired last July about widespread complaints about the poor working conditions and possible coercion of low-paid Asian laborers in Iraq working under Halliburton 's logistics contract, the Army said an investigation was underway. That inquiry began and ended with the Army raising the issues with Halliburton "for them to address with appropriate action within the terms of the contract," said Army spokeswoman Melissa Bohan in an e-mail this month.

Secretive Contract

The contracts for building the largest, most-strongly fortified embassy in the world is a tale of fits and starts. From the Bush Administration's initial request for more than a billion dollars in emergency funding for the project to the selection of an inexperienced Kuwaiti firm to build it -- to even the small oversight effort is also a tale of secrecy.

Although White House had signaled Congress in early 2004 that it was planning a permanent embassy in Baghdad, it wasn't until spring 2005 that the Bush Administration formally pushed the funding request veiled as an emergency measure. The original proposal for $1.3 billion was almost three times the price of the new embassy in China.

Reeling from overcharges and costs around other Iraq contracts, Congress immediately cut the price tag for the new Baghdad project in half to $592 million and called for strict oversight. Wired with the most up-to-date technology and surveillance equipment, it will still be a super-bunker and the biggest US embassy every built.

Once funding was secured last spring, the U.S. State Department quietly put the project up for competition among seven competitors – including some of the most accomplished US engineering companies. Among the bidders, Framaco, Parsons, Fluor, and the Sandi Group have established track records for building secure embassies or large-scale construction projects.

But the award went to First Kuwaiti, a company with little experience in projects on the scale envisioned for the embassy.

"First Kuwaiti got the embassy job. [It] kinda surprised everyone that a foreign company would win," said an executive of one prominent firm in an email to another, both of whom bid against First Kuwaiti.

But publicly, the losing companies simply shrugged their shoulders and buttoned their lips.

"First Kuwaiti was the lowest bidder," said Gilles Kacha, senior vice president of Framaco. The New York-based firm won a "contractor of the year award" from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for its work on the interim Baghdad embassy, but lost in the competition for the new compound.

There may also be little reason for some of the losing competitors to complain. Some. including Framaco and The Sandi Group of Washington, DC. soon received other State Department contracts. The open-ended contracts call on the companies to work anywhere in Iraq when needed, including on the new embassy project.

The Sandi Group was given notice to prepare for some site clearing and for building temporary housing for the embassy workers, said Sandi's vice president for development, Muge Karsli. Then the order was abruptly suspended in January. "I was supposed to hear more from them in a week, but I didn't," she said matter-of-factly. "Now, it is on hold."

Bill Waldron is one contractor who will talk about the embassy project. He claims his Rocky Mountain Group lost more than $250,000 while preparing a bid to perform engineering oversight for First Kuwaiti and project inspection. Waldron said that his 25-year-old, veteran-owned Colorado company had already been given the word that his company would be the leading contender for the deal, which is why the firm spent so much effort on the proposal, including compiling a 2 inch thick file on the company's personnel experience in Iraq – experience that State Department contract officers said they were looking for.

Then the State Department put the job up for open bid three different times, each time with a new revision. The last solicitation was cancelled after the contracting officer went of vacation, according to Waldron.

Waldron's patience finally burst. Only after doggedly hounding the State Department for reasons why the competition had been cancelled did he find out what happened.

The contract was awarded without competition on an emergency basis to a Maryland company, Mil Vets, Waldron said. "We contacted Mil Vets and asked if they had any experience working in Iraq prior to being awarded the embassy project," Waldron said. "The answer was no."

A-Absi, for his part, views his embassy agreement as based on merit and it is the success of his company that draws fire from his critics.

First Kuwaiti never, ever got any job without offering the best value at the lowest price," he said. "People will never criticize someone who fails."

That, says al-Absi, is a price he is willing to pay.

David Phinney is a journalist and broadcaster based in Washington, DC, whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, New York Times and on ABC and PBS. He can be contacted at: phinneydavid@yahoo.com.

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Do Bush supporters hate their country?

By Jaime O'Neill 11 Feb 06

Sometimes the people who still fervently support George W. Bush seem just plain stupid, and other times it seems they must be dishonest and even malevolent, harboring a hatred for their country that allows them to support misguided ideas and private agendas over the public good.

In more reasonable moods, I want to believe that the Bush supporters are just like me in simply wanting what is best for the country safety, security, fairness and a commitment to a government that observes the principles upon which our nation was founded. When I'm thinking that way, I assume we don't disagree on goals and objectives, just on the most effective way to achieve those goals and objectives.
It's hard to keep that thought, though, when the lies keep piling up higher and deeper, and when so much of the energy of Bush supporters goes into evading reality. Is it really possible for there to be an honest difference of opinion about the calamitous Bush decision to invade Iraq? No weapons of mass destruction there, as we were told there were. No link between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein, as we were told there was, and as we continue to be urged to believe by deceptive administration rhetoric. Almost no likelihood that a stable democracy will be possible in an Iraq rent by ethnic feuds and anti-democratic traditions. Billions upon billions of dollars squandered in Iraq, and billions more stolen by corrupt U.S. contractors. Meanwhile, the Homeland Security entity Bush created has shown itself to be yet another huge government boondoggle, and utterly witless in responding to a national emergency.

Beyond that, we have the shameful spectacle of Americans who call themselves patriots urging a forfeiture of our rights and liberties as U.S. citizens the rights to due process and the protections devised by the founding fathers to guard against abuses of power.

And beyond that, we have breaches of national security in the outing of a CIA agent for no better reason than spite. We have the staffing of all kinds of highly paid and important government jobs with incompetent administration cronies and partners in crime. We have repeated and massive failures of imagination. No one could have imagined a) people flying planes into U.S. skyscrapers, b) a storm of the magnitude of Katrina, or c) a Palestinian militant group like Hamas winning elections in Palestine these being just a few of the things Condoleezza Rice has said the administration couldn't imagine.

Beyond all of that, we have the growing gap between rich and poor, the exportation of American jobs by the hundreds of thousands, the wasteful and exploitive health care system that continues to bankrupt American industries, the packing of the Supreme Court with judges confirmed despite their stonewalling before the congressional oversight committees charged with vetting them before they assumed lifetime appointments. We have been unable or unwilling to secure our borders. We have seen corruption on an unprecedented scale and massive neglect of dozens of urgent national needs. Science has been disregarded whenever it runs afoul of the profit motive, and we have a foreign policy no one, least of all the people in charge of it, seems to understand.

Our actions in Iraq have fueled the most extreme anti-Western views throughout the Islamic world, and the entire Middle East is less stable than it was when the Bush bunch took office.

Meanwhile, we build for our children and grandchildren a legacy of international hatred, plus a huge debt burden as the Bush administration spends and spends as though there is no tomorrow.

We've squandered our good name and our moral authority in the world as we've watched Rumsfeld and Cheney and other spokesmen for our nation argue to justify torture in the interest of our safety.

At a time when it was absolutely essential that the world know unequivocally just who the good guys were, Bush and Co. have sullied the image of America all over the globe, drawing a portrait of a nation that behaves with arrogance, defies world opinion, ignores planetary environmental concerns, and treats other nations with disdain.

All of this harm has come to our nation and to its image, and still a cluster of supporters insist on tarring anyone who might question this ruinous administration. One of the ignorant nimrods who regularly write to this paper to call me a Marxist argues that those who disagree with the president are delighted to see America fail, that people like me take pleasure in anything that gives comfort to our enemies. He argues that people who question the reckless use of the military are "pacifist military haters." There is no truth to such baseless and childish nonsense, but he seems to think it sounds persuasive, or perhaps he thinks it's a kind of logical argument.

That's one of the reasons it's difficult not to think some of these Bush supporters are just willfully stupid.

These people grow more tiresome as they have less and less with which to argue. Their recourse, it seems, is to tag people they disagree with by calling them "leftists" and "liberals," as if those words cancel out all arguments. These people exploit the nation's soldiers to bolster their arguments.

They claim to support the troops, but you never hear a peep from them about cuts to the Veterans Affairs budget or the shameful number of avoidable deaths and injuries suffered by our soldiers because the Bush administration still has not provided frontline troops with the kind of armored vehicles that could have saved them from many of those deaths and injuries.

But to people who are either stupid or malevolent, hatred of those they would label as "liberals" trumps love of country every time and blinds them to the harm being done to our security, our heritage and our well-being.


Jaime O'Neill is a widely published freelance writer.

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The Otherguy Syndrome

Howard A. Rodman Huffington Post 02.13.2006

Blame Saddam for not telling us he didn't have WMDs, thus forcing us to invade. Blame the Democrats for not stopping that invasion when they had the chance.

Blame the deficit on the lack of permanent tax cuts for the rich.

Blame those who articulated Coretta Scott King's philosophy at her own funeral for having the bad manners to do so.

Blame the wiretapped for having been swept up in data mining.

Blame Brownie for not telling the White House about the breach of the levees, even after it turns out, he did. Blame the press for playing "the blame game" when they ask about it.

Blame Joe Wilson's wife for sending her husband to Niger. Blame Joe Wilson for not having found anything there. Blame the CIA for letting Cheney know he didn't find anything there.

Blame John Kerry for not being enough of a war hero. Blame Jack Murtha for his "cut and run" cowardice.

Blame NASA scientists for speaking out on science without using the word "theory."

Blame anyone in the press who dares call Abramoff partisan.

Blame the Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats for making Alito's wife cry.

And oh, while you're at it -- Blame a 78-year-old man in a bright orange vest for getting in the way of Dick Cheney's shotgun.

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Rumsfeld and Cheney Revive Their 70's Terror Playbook

By Thom Hartmann Common Dreams 13 Feb 06

Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney are at it again.

Last week, Rumsfeld told the press we should be preparing for "the Long War," saying of the war this administration has stirred up with its attack on Iraq that, "Just as the Cold War lasted a long time, this war is something that is not going to go away."

The last time Rumsfeld talked like this was in the 1970s, in response to the danger of peace presented by Richard Nixon.
In 1972, President Richard Nixon returned from the Soviet Union with a treaty worked out by Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the beginning of a process Kissinger called "détente." On June 1, 1972, Nixon gave a speech in which he said:

"Last Friday, in Moscow, we witnessed the beginning of the end of that era which began in 1945. With this step, we have enhanced the security of both nations. We have begun to reduce the level of fear, by reducing the causes of fear—for our two peoples, and for all peoples in the world."

But Nixon left amid scandal and Ford came in, and Ford's Secretary of Defense (Donald Rumsfeld) and Chief of Staff (Dick Cheney) believed it was intolerable that Americans might no longer be bound by fear. Without fear, how could Americans be manipulated? And how could billions of dollars taken as taxes from average working people be transferred to the companies that Rumsfeld and Cheney - and their cronies - would soon work for and/or run?

Rumsfeld and Cheney began a concerted effort - first secretly and then openly - to undermine Nixon's treaty for peace and to rebuild the state of fear.

They did it by claiming that the Soviets had a new secret weapon of mass destruction that the president didn't know about, that the CIA didn't know about, that nobody knew about but them. It was a nuclear submarine technology that was undetectable by current American technology. And, they said, because of this and related-undetectable-technology weapons, the US must redirect billions of dollars away from domestic programs and instead give the money to defense contractors for whom these two men would one day work or have businesses relationships with.

The CIA strongly disagreed, calling Rumsfeld's position a "complete fiction" and pointing out that the Soviet Union was disintegrating from within, could barely afford to feed their own people, and would collapse within a decade or two if simply left alone.

As Dr. Anne Cahn, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency from 1977 to 1980, told the BBC's Adam Curtis for his documentary "The Power of Nightmares":

"They couldn't say that the Soviets had acoustic means of picking up American submarines, because they couldn't find it. So they said, well maybe they have a non-acoustic means of making our submarine fleet vulnerable. But there was no evidence that they had a non-acoustic system. They’re saying, 'we can’t find evidence that they’re doing it the way that everyone thinks they’re doing it, so they must be doing it a different way. We don’t know what that different way is, but they must be doing it.'

"INTERVIEWER (off-camera): Even though there was no evidence.

"CAHN: Even though there was no evidence.

"INTERVIEWER: So they’re saying there, that the fact that the weapon doesn’t exist…

"CAHN: Doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist. It just means that we haven’t found it."

But Rumsfeld and Cheney wanted Americans to believe there was something nefarious going on, something we should be very afraid of. To this end, they convinced President Ford to appoint a commission including their old friend Paul Wolfowitz to prove that the Soviets were up to no good.

Wolfowitz's group, known as "Team B," came to the conclusion that the Soviets had developed several terrifying new weapons of mass destruction, featuring a nuclear-armed submarine fleet that used a sonar system that didn't depend on sound and was, thus, undetectable with our current technology. It could - within a matter of months - be off the coast of New York City with a nuclear warhead.

Although Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld's assertions of this powerful new Soviet WMD was unproven - they said the lack of proof proved the "undetectable" sub existed - they nonetheless used their charges to push for dramatic escalations in military spending to selected defense contractors, a process that continued through the Reagan administration.

Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz helped re-organized a group - The Committee on the Present Danger - to promote their worldview. The Committee produced documentaries, publications, and provided guests for national talk shows and news reports. They worked hard to whip up fear and encourage increases in defense spending, particularly for sophisticated weapons systems offered by the defense contractors for whom many of these same men would later become lobbyists.

And they succeeded in recreating an atmosphere of fear in the United States, and making themselves and their defense contractor friends richer than most of the kingdoms of the world.

Trillions of dollars and years later, it was proven that they had been wrong all along, and the CIA had been right. Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Wolfowitz lied to America in the 1970s about Soviet WMDs and the Soviet super-sub technology.

Not only do we now know that the Soviets didn't have any new and impressive WMDs, but we also now know that the Soviets were, in fact, decaying from within, ripe for collapse any time, regardless of what the US did - just as the CIA (and anybody who visited Soviet states - as I had - during that time could easily predict). The Soviet economic and political system wasn't working, and their military was disintegrating.

But the Cold War was good for business, and good for the political power of its advocates, from Rumsfeld to Wolfowitz to Cheney who have all become rich in part because of the arms industry.

Today, making Americans terrified with their so-called "War On Terror" is the same strategy, run for many of the same reasons, by the same people. And by hyping it - and then invading Iraq to bring it into fruition - we may well be bringing into reality forces that previously existed only on the margins and with very little power to harm us.

Most recently we've learned from former CIA National Intelligence Officer for the Middle East and South Asia Paul Pillar that, just like in the 1970s, the CIA disagreed in 2002 with Rumsfeld and Cheney about an WMD threat - this time posed by Iraq - even as Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Wolfowitz were telling America how afraid we should be of an eminent "mushroom cloud."

We've seen this movie before. The last time, it cost our nation hundreds of billions of dollars, vastly enriched the cronies of these men, and ultimately helped bring Ronald Reagan to power. This time they've added on top of their crony enrichment program the burden of over 2200 dead American servicemen and women, tens of thousands wounded, as many as a hundred thousand dead Iraqis, and a level of worldwide instability not seen since the run-up to World War Two.

When Hilary Clinton recently noted that the only political card Republicans are any longer capable of playing is the card of fear, she was spot-on right. They're now even running radio and TV commercials designed to terrorize our children ("Do you have a plan for a terrorist attack?"), the modern reincarnation of "Duck and Cover."

Now that former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has confessed that many of the terror alerts that continually popped up during the 2004 election campaign were, as USA Today noted on 10 May 2005, based on "flimsy evidence" or were >done over his objection at the insistence of "administration officials," it's increasingly clear that the Bush administration itself is the source of much of the "be afraid!" terror inflicted on US citizens over the past 5 years.

It's time for patriotic Americans of all political affiliations, and for our media, to join with Senator Clinton, former CIA official Paul Pillar, and the many others who are pointing this out, and refuse to allow the Bush administration to inflict terror on Americans - and the world - for political gain.

As Franklin D. Roosevelt said in his first inaugural address in 1932, when Americans were terrorized by the Republican Great Depression, the echoes of World War One, and the rise of Communism in Russia:

This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

Indeed, the best hope for the growth of democracy around the world and the survival of individual liberty in the United States is for us to turn away from Rumsfeld's and Cheney's politics of terror and fear, and once again embrace the great vision of this nation, held by her great statesmen and women from 1776 to today. Indeed, they are still among us, as we saw most recently when a brave few senators stood up to filibuster the nomination of Samuel Alito.

In this election year, we must redouble our efforts to swell their ranks, to involve ourselves in local and national political groups, and to return America to her destiny as the world's beacon of courage, liberty, and light.

Thom Hartmann [thom (at) thomhartmann.com] is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author and host of a nationally syndicated noon-3pm Eastern Time daily progressive talk show syndicated by Air America Radio. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent book is "What Would Jefferson Do?"

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Rumsfeld's Hitler Analogy

By DERRICK O'KEEFE February 4 / 5, 2006

The only real surprise is that it took this long.

On Thursday, February 2, the U.S. government's senior hawk, Donald Rumsfeld, stooped to the Hitler 'analogy' in a show of his administration's increasing desperation at the consolidation of the Bolivarian Revolution and the rise of the Left in Latin America. The Secretary of Defense delivered the clumsy slur against the (repeatedly) democratically elected president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez:

"We've got Chavez in Venezuela with a lot of oil money. He's a person who was elected legally, just as Adolf Hitler was elected legally, and then consolidated power, and now is, of course, working closely with Fidel Castro and Mr. [Evo] Morales and others. It concerns me (1)."
Not to be outdone, his even more irrational fellow right-wing septuagenarian renewed his call for the United States to assassinate Chavez. This time using Fox News as his pulpit, Robertson added a half-hearted caveat to the death wish: "not now, but one day". The evangelist closed his comments with a racist boast, "until that [earlier] comment everybody thought Chavez was a fellow having to do with table grapes in California". To close the segment, co-host Sean Hannity concluded with this statement, agreeing with the thrust of Robertson's inciteful remarks:

"I think one thing we could say is, the world would be better off without him where he is, because he is a danger to the United States." (See the full interview transcript to believe it at MediaMatters.org).

It would be gratuitous to dwell on the absurdity of Rumsfeld's flailing and Robertson's fatwa. The more important point is to highlight the real political developments underlying the hysteria. There are a number of key aspects to Venezuela's political and social revolution that are currently haunting not only that South American country's economic elites, but their superiors in Washington, D.C. as well.

First, the Bolivarian Revolution is more entrenched politically and more strident ideologically than ever; Chavez has had his mandate confirmed on a number of occasions since his initial 1998 election, and is all but guaranteed a huge victory in the December 2006 presidential elections. A great number of social programs and investments, fuelled by high oil prices, are bringing tangible improvements to the poor majority in the country. In addition to this redistribution of wealth, increased political participation and grassroots organizing is pushing forward for a more radical transformation of society. And Chavez, especially in the past year, has been every more urgently calling for this process to lead to the development of 'socialism for the 21st century'.

Another extremely threatening consequence of the Bolivarian Revolution, from the point of view of imperial interests, is the way that its message is resonating across Latin America. The December 2005 landslide election of Evo Morales in Bolivia was just the most spectacular example of the recent trend in the region. Morales--also, by implication, ludicrously tarred with the Hitler brush in Rumsfeld's remarks--came to power after years of revolt by Bolivia's indigenous peoples and working class.

The Venezuelan experience stands as both an inspiration to social movements across Latin America and as a standard to which populist and Left leaders can be held accountable, as they inevitably face pressure from national elites and the transnational interests of capital.

Finally, Hugo Chavez has been hitting the United States government hard of late on the home front. This might even be the hardest pill to swallow for Rumsfeld, Bush, Cheney et al. In September, for instance, the Venezuelan government's offer of aid was held up--and Cuba's offer of hundreds of doctors was ignored outright -- while the U.S. government failed to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. In subsequent months, Venezuela announced that CITGO--a wholly owned subsidiary of the country's PDVSA national oil company--would begin providing discounted heating oil to disadvantaged households in the United States. Last month, for instance, Venezuela agreed to give upwards of $5 million worth of heating oil to low-income, homeless and Native people in--of all places--the state of Maine (2). In this and other initiatives, Chavez is turning international solidarity on its head, and intervening on the side of the 'other America' within the United States. The new internationalism of the Bolivarian Revolution is not the kind of 'globalization' that the progenitors of that euphemism for neo-liberal capitalism had in mind.

As if providing all that essential energy and disaster relief to so many citizens of the United States wasn't enough of a poke in the eye to the government in Washington, last week Hugo Chavez played host to the woman who has led the resurgence of the U.S. anti-war movement. Cindy Sheehan was among the honoured guests at the World Social Forum, held in Caracas January 24-29.

Along with over 60 000 participants, Sheehan resolved, among other things, to build huge rallies on March 18 of this year, the third anniversary of Bush's illegal invasion of Iraq. The Venezuelan president urged people in the United States and around the world to bring down the U.S. Empire, even offering a little career advice to Sheehan, the world's most famous activist against the Iraq war: "He said, 'why don't [you] run for president?'" (3)

And that, as much as anything, explains the murderous fury and ridiculous slander of Pat Robertson and Donald Rumsfeld alike.

Derrick O'Keefe is co-editor of Seven Oaks.


(1) February 3, 2005, 'Tit for tat: U.S. and Venezuela trade expulsions and slurs', CBC.ca.

(2) January 11, 2006, 'Maine, Venezuela reach oil deal', Portland Press Herald.

(3) January 30, 2006, 'Chavez backs Sheehan in new Bush protest', CNN.com.
Comment: Ah, yes... the psychopath will always accuse others of what he himself is guilty. If you were to ask people from around the world who they thought was the biggest threat to world peace, somehow we doubt that "Hugo Chavez" would be the popular answer...

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The Number One Problem In America - Imbalanced News Coverage - Can Jack Cafferty Save America?

by Cenk Uygur AlterNet February 13, 2006.

Jack Cafferty can change America. The number one problem in the country right now isn't the Iraq War, the grotesque budget deficits, the NSA Warrantless Spying Scandal or even the rampant corruption running roughshod through Congress. It is the lack of balance on cable news. I'll tell you why.

CNN, MSNBC and Fox News Channel are watched by a tiny amount of the population -- the audience of the worst rated nightly news program on the networks (CBS) triples the audience of the best rated primetime program on cable news (The O'Reilly Factor).

Despite this glaring fact, the cable news stations have an inordinate influence on the country.

Why? Because they are broadcast 24/7 in every other news organization in the country. Every newspaper, magazine, local television news and radio station in America is tuned into these three stations every single minute of the day.
So, what the cable news hosts talk about becomes what the country talks about. All of these newsrooms throughout America are inadvertently led to believe the cable news talk show hosts have a beat on what the average American thinks about.

They drive the conversation. They decide what the topics are, they decide how the issues get framed, what questions get asked, what the controversies are, and ultimately, they decide what is important.

The former head of NBC News, Neil Shapiro, just six months ago, said this on a Dateline story:

"I think we do stories that people care about. And there's no doubt that when a story gets, has, and reaches such talkability that everybody's talking about, that it's on Talk Radio, that it's on cable -- that if we as a network news division feel like we can weigh in, we can advance the story -- we should. "

That's another way of saying the major news networks follow the lead of the talk show hosts on the radio and cable news. And over 90% of those are conservatives. They set the bait and the other news operations fall in line because that's what "everyone is talking about."

No matter how important any issue is or how right the opposition might be, if the cable news guys don't cover it, it gets buried. A couple of papers might run a story about it, a magazine might do a piece, and then it's done. Because there is no "national conversation" about it.

The Republicans just put Tom DeLay on the Appropriations Committee that is charged with doling out money in the House and a subcommittee that overlooks the Justice Department investigation of Jack Abramoff. That should be giant news and completely scandalous. But as long as Fox News Channel doesn't want to cover it, and the other two play along, almost no one will talk about it. And more importantly, the American people for the most part won't even hear about it.

Every issue the Democrats have dies an unceremonious death on cable news. So, all these scandals don't matter worth a lick if you can't get Americans to realize they're happening.

How many Americans know that there was a gay prostitute in the White House posing as a reporter to ask the administration friendly questions? How many Americans realize the Pentagon hired a PR group to sell America and the world on the Iraq War years before they launched an invasion? And the list goes on and on.

So, how can Jack Cafferty change all this? He is a rare truth teller on cable news. He gets a couple of minutes a day on CNN to do "The Cafferty File." And every time it is a breath of fresh air - a man speaking truth to power. If CNN would just give Cafferty his own show in primetime, where he can frame the conversation, he can choose the topics and he can ask the right questions, we can turn this whole thing around.

If Cafferty gets good ratings, there will be ten more like him within the year. And if we could get balance on cable news in America, viewers can finally hear the whole story and make up their minds for themselves.

For the last ten years, Americans have been jury members in a trial where only one side had an advocate. It is no wonder they have made the decisions they have. When the British paper asked how so many Americans could be so dumb after the 2004 election, I think they had it wrong. Most Americans aren't dumb or malicious, they simply have no idea what's happening to them.

Are average Republicans really in favor of Senator Grassley sneaking an extra $22 billion out of their pockets and putting it straight into the pockets of the HMOs? Are average Republicans really in favor of a House Majority Leader who hands out tobacco checks on the House floor? Are average Republicans really in favor of an administration that knew there were no links between Iraq and al-Qaeda and said there were anyway?

I know it might be hard for some of you who are knee-deep in these issues to realize that most Americans are not at all aware of any of these things, but they really aren't. Very few people are willing to hand over their hard earned paychecks to corrupt lobbyists. They just don't know any better.

I think we are making the simplest request of all time - give us one strong voice who is an advocate for 50% of the country that votes Democratic on a regular basis. I don't know Jack Cafferty's politics. I don't know if he's a Democrat, and I suspect he would be uncomfortable being classified as a partisan on either side. But it is clear from his reporting that he at least understands the depths of America's problems and is willing to speak up about the real issues in this country.

Is just one show, from a person who is already employed by CNN, too much to ask for? Why is it okay to have dozens of conservative talk show hosts on cable news and not okay to have just one on the opposite side?

Are Republicans and conservatives afraid that Jack Cafferty could take on and beat Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, Joe Scarborough, Tucker Carlson, Neil Cavuto, John Gibson and all of the rest just by himself? Are they that cowardly? Are they so insecure that they cannot countenance just one dissenting voice? Are their arguments and positions so weak that they could not withstand a challenge from just one strong voice on the opposite side?

I have never met Jack Cafferty in my life and I suspect my call to arms on his behalf will take him by surprise. I have no vested interest in him. In fact, I am a talk show host who might have to compete with him one day. I don't even know where he stands politically. All I know is he speaks the truth, loudly and clearly. And the country desperately needs that at this time.

I ask all other bloggers, others involved in the media, public interest groups, and most importantly, all of you readers to join this fight. It is imperative that we get balance back on cable news, so that we can get balance back in the national conversation.

Please watch these clips of Cafferty on CNN and see if that doesn't sound like a strong voice for justice to you:

Cafferty on the new House Majority Leader, John Boehner.

Cafferty on Hurricane Katrina response.

Cafferty on scandals plaguing the administration.

Please write the head of programming at CNN and ask for balance on their network. They just hired three new conservative talkers in the last month, Glenn Beck, Bill Bennett and J.C. Watts. Ask him to promote just one person on the other side. I nominate Jack Cafferty.

Here's the e-mail to CNN's President, Jonathan Klein: jon.klein@turner.com.

Cenk Uygur is co-host of The Young Turks, the first liberal radio show to air nationwide.
Comment: Cenk is dreaming. The only possibility of getting the truth out there is to come up with a new plan, a cooperative network, and to get funding. That's exactly what Laura's editorial was about yesterday.

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Frog-marching the Media to the Gallows

By Mike Whitney ICH 12 Feb 06

When America’s war of terror finally concludes, the international community will have to determine the culpability of the media in abetting the vast devastation, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. No one should be surprised if the first group frog-marched to the gallows is the editorial staff of the New York Times. Their guilt was already established long before Iran.
No one knows better than the editors of the New York Times that Iran does not have nuclear weapons or a nuclear weapons program. The Times editors comb through mountains of information every day and have not yet produced even a shred of evidence to support their fraudulent claims.


So what’s the game here? Is the Times willing to sacrifice what’s left of its tattered credibility just to pave the way to another unprovoked war?

It seems so.

Apart their from their daily updates, which are invariably skewed against Iran, their February 8 editorial reiterated at least 5 times that Iran was developing nuclear weapons.


According to the Time’s, Iran has continued to pursue “its two-decade long drive to build nuclear weapons”. The editorial suggests that it would be preferable if the Iranian government was “more willing to put the economic future of its people ahead of building nuclear bombs.”

“Nuclear bombs”?

But, where’s the proof? Or is the Times simply circulating the same speculation, hearsay, and gibberish it did prior to the war with Iraq?

If the Times has knowledge of proscribed weapons-programs they should come forward and dispute the findings of the foremost nuclear weapons inspection team in the world (the IAEA), which has consistently found “no evidence” of nuclear weapons programs.

The Times charges are also refuted by the NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) which projects that Iran will not be capable of building nuclear weapons for at least 10 years.

The Times, of course, needs neither evidence nor intelligence to achieve it objective of fabricating a crisis. They simply rely on a steady stream of baseless accusations that contribute to the rising public anxiety.

Judith Miller may have left, but her legacy of deceit still courses through the paper of record like a raging torrent. The strategy for manipulating public opinion never changes. The media settles on a narrative grounded in pure fantasy and simply repeats the same fiction over and over again from its many outlets.

The Times has proved once again that the elite-media is a steadfast partner in mobilizing the masses for unpopular wars. Despite the countless thousands of innocent people who have already been killed by the Time’s fear-mongering coverage of "imaginary" Iraqi WMD, the editors continue to use the corporate-bullhorn to call the nation to arms.

It is truly outrageous.

When America’s war of terror finally concludes, the international community will have to determine the culpability of the media in abetting the vast devastation, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. No one should be surprised if the first group frog-marched to the gallows is the editorial staff of the New York Times. Their guilt was already established long before Iran.

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The War on Privacy - Rumsfeld warns that the enemy can succeed in changing our way of life. It already has.

By Nat Hentoff Village Voice 13 Feb 06

"There was, of course, no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. . . . But at any rate they would plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and except in darkness, every movement scrutinized. "George Orwel
One morning, in his Supreme Court chambers, Justice William Brennan was giving me a lesson on the American Revolution. "A main precipitating cause of our revolution," he said, "was the general search warrant that British customs officers wrote—without going to any court—to break into the American colonists' homes and offices, looking for contraband." Everything, including the colonists, was turned upside down.

He added that news of these recurrent assaults on privacy were spread through the colonies by the Committees of Correspondence that Sam Adams and others organized, inflaming the outraged Americans.

Now, the Congressional Democratic leadership has finally found an issue to focus on—the vanishing of Americans' privacy, as happened before the American Revolution, but currently on a scale undreamed of by Sam Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and the other patriots in the Committees of Correspondence.

The rising present anger around the country, across party lines, is reflected in a February 3 Zogby Interactive poll that "finds Americans largely unwilling to surrender civil liberties—even if it is to prevent terrorists from carrying out attacks. . . . Even routine security measures, like random searches of bags, purses, and other packages, were opposed by half (50 percent) of respondents in the survey. . . . Just 28 percent are willing to allow their telephone conversations to be monitored."

On the other hand, nearly half (45 percent) favored at least "a great deal" of government secrecy in the war on terror. But the public's awareness that the United States has increasingly become a nation under surveillance is indicated by resistance not only to random searches and tapping into our telephone conversations. Zogby says: This is a "public obsessed with civil liberties."

Well, not obsessed yet, but growingly apprehensive.

In 2001, for example, 82 percent of those surveyed by Zogby favored government video surveillance of street corners, neighborhoods, and other public places. By 2006, this approval has dropped to 70 percent, still a formidable figure. But the decline is part of an across-the-board change in public willingness to give up civil liberties from 2001 to the present awakening to the vanishing of the "reasonable expectation of privacy" that used to be in our rule of law.

James Madison, the principal architect of the Bill of Rights, warned: "It is proper to take alarm at the first experiment in our liberties." Because of the continually expanding surveillance technology available to the government, no administration in our history has been engaged in more pervasive "experiments" on our liberties than Bush's regime. And even more penetrating means of surveillance will be available to future presidents who claim that their "inherent powers" in a war on terrorism allow them to ignore laws and the other branches of government. The present and future dangers to Americans' individual liberties have been underscored in a revealing speech by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on February 2 at the National Press Club in Washington. (The ramifications of this analysis of our future are deeper than he may have intended.)

Rumsfeld said flatly that this war to keep us secure from worldwide, dedicated lethal terrorists can last for decades! At last, this crucial difference from all the other wars in which we have been involved is sinking into the American consciousness.

In their February 3 Washington Post coverage of the Rumsfeld address, Josh White and Ann Scott Tyson valuably added this context: "Iraq and Afghanistan are the 'early battles' in the campaign against Islamic extremists and terrorists, who are profoundly more dangerous than in the past because of technological advances that allow them to operate globally, said Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon K. England in an address on Wednesday [February 1]."

At the core of Rumsfeld's own remarks is this admission: "Compelled by a militant ideology that celebrates murder and suicide with no territory to defend, with little to lose, they will either succeed in changing our way of life, or we will succeed in changing theirs." (Emphasis added.)

But our enemies are changing our way of life, beginning with the 2001 Patriot Act that, among other invasions, expanded the FBI's ability to use National Security Letters—without going to judges—to collect personal information about us. This marked the return of the "general search warrant" of our colonial past.

Because the New York Times exposed how the National Security Agency's spying is further changing our way of life, the administration is intent on punishing the Times—with the support of Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

In an afterword to George Orwell's 1984, Eric Fromm emphasized: "Orwell . . . is not a prophet of disaster. He wants to warn and awaken us. He still hopes— but . . . his hope is a desperate one. . . . Books like Orwell's are powerful warnings, and it would be most unfortunate if the reader smugly interpreted 1984 as another description of Stalinist barbarism, and if he does not see that it means us, too."

Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe, in an interview with the New York Times' Bob Herbert, tells how Orwell is indeed speaking to us: "The more people grow accustomed to a listening environment in which Big Brother is assumed to be behind every wall, behind every e-mail, and invisibly present in every electronic communication, telephonic or otherwise—that is the kind of society, as people grow accustomed to it, in which you can end up being boiled to death without ever noticing that the water is getting hotter, degree by degree." (Emphasis added.)

Will the Democrats become a truly serious opposition party before privacy disappears entirely?

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Every move you make ... they'll be watching you

By Joe Burris Baltimore Sun February 6 2006

Ever get the feeling that someone's eyeballing you? You're probably right.

These days, between the news that the National Security Agency has been eavesdropping without warrants and that the Justice Department wants to know what searches have been conducted on Google and elsewhere, it's no wonder you feel under watch.

The real surprise, though, may be how so much of what you do on an everyday basis already gets screened, monitored, tracked, scanned and observed - often without your ever knowing it.
From spyware on your computer to police cameras on your street to GPS devices on your cell phone, how much of your private life is really private any more?

"It's all part of the general evaporation of privacy," said Peter Wayner, a Baltimore-based computer programmer who has written several books about online protocol and safety.

The Justice Department has obtained records of millions of anonymous, random searches made on Microsoft, Yahoo and America Online as it attempts to revive a child pornography law struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. But Google, the world's most popular search engine, refused to comply, and the Justice Department has gone to court to force the company to turn over the data.

"I think the Justice Department isn't looking for personal information. They seem to want to do some research," Wayner said. "But the future may be different."

The issue has sparked privacy debates around the country - and opened the eyes of those who didn't know such records were being kept in the first place. In fact, most people leave a digital trail of personal information behind as they go about their daily life, using an ATM or a grocery savings club card or logging on to their e-mail accounts.

While most of this personal information cannot be released without a subpoena, you might be surprised at how easy it is to track where you've been and what you've done on a typical day. Consider this scenario:

Wake up, shower and dress, then before you go to work, log onto the Internet to check e-mails or a Web site.

No matter how you log onto the Web, all of your Internet activity can be traced because of your computer's Internet Protocol (IP) address, a random number that enables computers on a network to communicate.

"The IP address is like the phone number of a computer," said Wayner. "The companies usually keep the user's physical address bound to each IP address."

IP address information travels along the network of your Internet Service Provider (ISP), which acts as a conduit between your computer and the Web. Information stored by ISPs can be kept indefinitely.

"If you use a search engine for information about a bomb, your local computer has a record [of your search]," said Tim Finin, a computer science professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "Your ISP knows you're the guy who is at the address of that computer," he added, "and that you accessed the file."

Head for work, taking Interstate 95 and going through an E-Z Pass toll lane.

E-Z Pass knows you were there: Its transactions are like credit card purchases. The transponder that was placed on your windshield is read by a sensor as you pass through. Then the sensor calls up your account then verifies that it's in good standing.

"If for some reason it's not read correctly," said Teri Moss, spokeswoman for the Maryland Transportation Authority, "or if you go through an E-Z Pass lane [without a pass], a video image is taken of your license plate."

E-Z Pass would then contact the MTA, which would send you a letter requesting payment.

Just prior to approaching your office, your cell phone rings.

Some cell phones have Global Positioning System chips, enabling you to be tracked if, for example, you call 911 during an emergency.

Yet GPS devices can also alert your mobile carrier of your whereabouts throughout the day.

"If you have your phone turned on, your location is known to the phone company," said Finin. "Your cell phone is constantly communicating with the closest cell tower. Even when you're not using it, it's constantly pinging the nearest tower to say, 'I'm here. This is my number.'"

Arrive at work, swipe an access card to open the locked employees' entrance. Head to your cubicle.

Were your movements tracked from the moment you entered the building? Yes and no.

Andre Mendes, software engineer at Entry Master Systems, a Baltimore-based commercial security and access control company, said most access cards contain a coded, arbitrarily assigned number, but no personal information. Your employer, though, can match the random numbers to specific employees.

But are there surveillance cameras, perhaps inside the dark glass half bubbles you see on some ceilings, once you're inside? Department stores, government buildings, libraries and hospitals are some of the facilities that use such devices.

Officials at Diebold, an Ohio-based systems company, say some images can be stored for three months, and top-of-the-line cameras can zoom in on the minutest objects.

Said Vince Lupe, Diebold director of product management: "If you look at CSI, they zoom in on this guy's face and say, 'Let's see the mole on his left cheek.'"

Lunchtime: Order a salad with light dressing, in line with the diet your wife wants you on. The waiter brings a dessert tray with your favorite indulgence - Key lime pie. You say you shouldn't, then tell him you'll take a slice - no, two. Charge the meal to your credit card. You look around to see that no one's watching.

Yet someone is watching. Among the folks who know about your purchase: the restaurant, your credit card company, the bank that handles the restaurant's credit card account and the bank that issued your card.

Your secret is probably safe, though - unless your wife finds a good, old-fashioned paper copy of the itemized receipt in your coat pocket.

Driving back to the office takes you along city streets with several cameras attached to light posts. Stop for gas at your usual station.

It's possible that Kristen Mahoney, Baltimore City Police Department chief of technical services, is watching from monitors at headquarters, as she did recently when a rumor that some downtown gas stations were closing early prompted a mad dash to the pumps.

Mahoney dispatched nearby officers to the overcrowded stations before tempers flared.

In fact, on many of Baltimore's busiest streets, police are watching: They've set up more than 220 surveillance cameras, mainly in crime hot spots and along downtown infrastructures.

They include:

# Pod cameras with flashing blue lights that are placed in areas known for violence and drug dealing. They're watched by nearby law enforcement officers in their cars, via small, monitoring devices called footballs.

# City Watch cameras that monitor light rail, trauma centers and downtown universities. Funded by a $2 million homeland security grant, they pan, tilt, zoom and record high-quality digital images.

# Downtown Partnership cameras, which the non-profit organization has set up near businesses.

# Port of Baltimore cameras, for port security.

Smile if you find yourself on Pratt Street at the Inner Harbor: It's monitored, Mahoney said, by the last three kinds of cameras.

After leaving work, run some errands on the way home. At the department store, pick up a new dress for your wife, who is four months pregnant and starting not to fit into her old clothes, and charge it to your store credit card. Stop at the grocery store for something to make for dinner, using your frequent shopper card for discounted prices. On your way out, hit the ATM for some cash.

In the coming days, you might receive a $50 gift certificate toward baby furniture from the department store, and coupons from the grocery store.

"If you go into a department store and buy a maternity dress, a red light goes on in the store," said Raymond Burke, a professor at Indiana University's Kelley School of Business, which has worked with retailers to analyze customer loyalty. "They know you're expecting a child and you're likely to spend upward of $5,000 on products. If they're able to analyze those purchases and tie them into the life stages of a consumer, that can be a powerful tool for promotional activity."

Burke said stores also monitor which complementary items you buy (shampoo and conditioner, hot dogs and buns) for product placement in the aisles. And they keep track of how costly it is to do business with you - how often you return purchases, for example, and in what condition.

ATMs not only record the time and amount of your transaction, but take surveillance camera images. If there happens to be a crime in the vicinity around the time you were making a withdrawal, don't be surprised if the police contact you to ask if you saw anything unusual.

Your day ends. Fall asleep with little worry about how you've been "followed" throughout the day.

Surveys have shown that most people aren't losing sleep over this issue: They don't mind forfeiting some privacy it they can see the benefits, Burke says.

Fears of terrorism and crime, for example, can make citizens accept some forms of surveillance in exchange for feeling more secure. Getting discounts, speeding through an E-Z Pass lane rather than waiting in line at the cash-only toll booth and quickly finding what you need on Google are benefits that many would be loathe to give up.

While the Justice Department controversy has raised eyebrows and prompted some search engine users to worry where their queries will end up, some experts predict people won't change their habits.

"You hear people talk about it," said UMBC's Finan, "and when push comes to shove, convenience trumps any fear about privacy."

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Bush Pimp Democrats Say Spying Necessary

By Walter Pincus Washington Post 13 Feb 06

Two key Democrats yesterday called the NSA domestic surveillance program necessary for fighting terrorism but questioned whether President Bush had the legal authority to order it done without getting congressional approval.

Rep. Jane Harman (Calif.), ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and former Senate majority leader Thomas A. Daschle (S.D.) said Republicans are trying to create a political issue over Democrats' concern on the constitutional questions raised by the spying program.

At the same time, the Republican chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees -- Sen. Pat Roberts (Kan.) and Rep. Peter Hoekstra (Mich.), who attended secret National Security Agency briefings -- said they supported Bush's right to undertake the program without new congressional authorization. They added that Democrats briefed on the program, who included Harman and Daschle, could have taken steps if they believed the program was illegal. All four appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Roberts said he could not remember Democrats raising questions about the program during briefings that, beginning in 2002, were given to the "Gang of Eight." That group was made up of the House speaker and minority leader, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, and the chairmen and ranking Democrats of the House and Senate intelligence committees.

At the briefings, Roberts said, "Those that did the briefing would say, 'Do you have questions? Do you have concerns?' " Hoekstra said if Democrats thought Bush was violating the law, "it was their responsibility to use every tool possible to get the president to stop it."

Harman countered that John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), vice chairman of the Senate intelligence panel, had voiced his concerns to Vice President Cheney in a classified letter in July 2003, but "if he had shared that letter publicly, I think he would have been in violation of the Espionage Act, the disclosure of classified information."

Harman said the briefings she received concerned "the operational details of the program," which she supported. "However," she added, "the briefings were not about the legal underpinnings of the program."

She said it was not until Bush publicly spoke about the program, after it was revealed in the New York Times in December, that she was free to discuss it with House staff and constitutional lawyers.

Daschle said he wants the program to continue but maintained that the warrantless wiretapping of calls that came into the United States or calls made overseas, even those involving suspected terrorist sources, violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

He recalled that after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks Bush asked Congress to revise FISA -- to initiate wiretaps and get warrants after 72 hours -- to make it easier to use against terrorists. Those changes were made. But in the authorization to fight al Qaeda, Bush was denied language that would have covered activities on U.S. soil.

Harman noted that the House and Senate intelligence committees were briefed last week on domestic wiretapping. "We're only 36 members total that we're talking about, and those members should decide whether this program fits within the law, and if it does, which I think it does, we should all declare victory. If it does not, then we should be changing the law or changing the program."

The three current intelligence committee members talked about the article in Foreign Affairs by Paul R. Pillar, the former senior CIA intelligence analyst on Iraq. He criticized the Bush administration for "cherry-picking" intelligence to justify a decision it had already reached to go to war, while ignoring assessments that problems would emerge after Saddam Hussein was removed.

Roberts said Pillar did not give his committee that kind of assessment. Hoekstra questioned why Pillar was speaking out now.

Harman said: "He was trying to get everyone's attention. Intelligence was ignored. Yes, everyone agreed there was WMD in Iraq, but the weight of the [intelligence community's] recommendation was Saddam was contained and he wasn't going to use it. And that's the part that the administration never let us hear about."

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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Cheney Authorized Libby to Disclose Classified Documents

Juan Cole 10 Feb 06

Once upon a time, a former agent of Italian military intelligence named Rocco Martino, who had had some experience in the African country of Niger, came into possession of some forged, fraudulent documents.

These alleged Iraqi purchases of yellowcake uranium in 1999. In fact, the signatures were of Nigerien officials who had been in power a decade earlier, in the late 1980s.

So they were clumsy forgeries. Martino passed them on to the Italian magazine Panorama, which passed them to the US embassy.

Tantalizingly, President George W. Bush's chief political adviser, Karl Rove, has an indirect connection to Italian intelligence.
Rove's chief adviser on Iran policy is Neoconservative wildman and notorious warmonger Michael Ledeen, who has a longstanding connection to the darker corners of Italian intelligence.

Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney heard of the alleged uranium purchase. Cheney asked George Tenet to look into the allegation.

The issue went to the Directorate of Operations secret unit on counter-proliferation. Among the field officers there was Valerie Plame Wilson, who had spent her life fighting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction under cover of a dummy corporation.

Valerie Plame Wilson was married to former US Ambassador Joseph Wilson IV, who had served bravely as acting ambassador in Iraq in 1990, and when threatened by Saddam he showed up to a press conference wearing a hanging noose instead of a necktie. President George H. W. Bush highly praised him.

Joe Wilson had not only served in Iraq, he also had been ambassador to the West African countries of Gabon and Sao Tome, and spoke fluent French. When Plame Wilson's superiors brought up the possibility of sending him as a private citizen to look into the plausibility of the report that Saddam had bought Nigerien uranium, she was consulted and agreed (she was not part of the decision loop).

He went, and soon saw that the uranium industry in Niger was actually under the control of French companies and was strictly monitored.

There was no possibility of corrupt Nigerien officials selling it off under the table.

A separate military mission led by Marine General Carlton Fulford, Jr, deputy commander of the United States European Command (EUCOM), went to Niger the same month, February 2002.

Fulford quickly came to the same conclusion as Wilson, that it was implausible that al-Qaeda or anyone else could secretly buy uranium from Niger.

Wilson came back and was orally debriefed by people who wrote a report for Tenet, expecting that Tenet would pass it on to the high officials of the Bush administration.

Wilson was amazed when the Niger uranium story was put into Bush's State of the Union address.

Then Libby wanted Secretary of State Colin Powell to make allegations about Saddam and al-Qaeda before the United Nations Security Council. Powell was also pressed by someone to bring up the Niger uranium story.

Powell is said to have exclaimed, "I'm not reading this bullshit!"

Libby appears to have been a big influence on the speech Powell gave, almost every detail of which was inaccurate, and at which United Nations officials who heard it openly laughed.

After the war, Wilson wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times in which he revealed his mission and again called into question the Bush administration assertion that Iraq had an active nuclear weapons program.

Cheney was extremely upset by Wilson's op-ed. He saw it as an allegation that he had personally sent Wilson and then ignored Wilson's report. Or at least that was the spin. But Wilson had said no such thing in the article. He simply said that Cheney had asked Tenet to look into the story, which Cheney probably did.

Cheney was afraid that if the American public became convinced that there had been no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the war effort would collapse, along with all those billions of no-bid uncompetitive contracts for Halliburton.

Cheney, it has now come out, then authorized Libby to leak the classified 2002 National Intelligence Estimate to the press.

The NIE, which may have been produced under pressure from Cheney himself, had incorrectly suggested that Iraq was only a few years from having a nuclear weapon. In fact, Iraq did not have an active weapons program at all after the early 1990s when it was dismantled by the UN inspectors. The pre-war NIE in any case was just old bad intelligence, which was contradicted by David Kay's team on the ground in post-war Iraq, which just wasn't finding much.

Libby now began telling reporters that Wilson's wife was a CIA operative, itself classified information, since she was an undercover operative.

Karl Rove engaged in the same routine. Apparently Cheney, Rove and Libby (and Bush?) believed that Wilson's credibility would be undermined if the Washington press corps could have it intimated to them that his story was a CIA plant.

Robert Novak used the information given him by the White House staff to out Valerie Plame Wilson as an undercover operative. Her career was ruined. All her contacts in the global South were burned, and their lives put in danger. The CIA's careful project combating weapons of mass destruction collapsed.

The same administration that alleges it should be able to listen to our phone calls at will for national security purposes deliberately undermined US security for petty political purposes, making us all much less safe.

The likelihood is that the crimes of Bush, Cheney, Libby and Rove so far revealed are only the tip of the iceberg.

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The Pentagon’s War on the Internet

By Mike Whitney ICH 13 Feb 06

The Pentagon has developed a comprehensive strategy for taking over the internet and controlling the free flow of information. The plan appears in a recently declassified document, “The Information Operations Roadmap”, which was provided under the FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) and revealed in an article by the BBC.

The Pentagon sees the internet in terms of a military adversary that poses a vital threat to its stated mission of global domination. This explains the confrontational language in the document which speaks of “fighting the net”; implying that the internet is the equivalent of “an enemy weapons system."
The Defense Dept. places a high-value on controlling information. The new program illustrates their determination to establish the parameters of free speech.

The Pentagon sees information as essential in manipulating public perceptions and, thus, a crucial tool in eliciting support for unpopular policies. The recent revelations of the military placing propaganda in the foreign press demonstrate the importance that is given to co-opting public opinion.

Information-warfare is used to create an impenetrable cloud around the activities of government so that decisions can be made without dissent. The smokescreen of deception that encompasses the Bush administration has less to do with prevaricating politicians than it does with a clearly articulated policy of obfuscation. “The Information Operations Roadmap” is solely intended to undermine the principle of an informed citizenry.

The Pentagon’s focus on the internet tells us a great deal about the mainstream media and its connection to the political establishment.

Why, for example, would the Pentagon see the internet as a greater threat than the mainstream media, where an estimated 75% of Americans get their news?

The reason is clear; because the MSM is already a fully-integrated part of the corporate-system providing a 24 hour per day streaming of business-friendly news. Today’s MSM operates as a de-facto franchise of the Pentagon, a reliable and sophisticated propagandist for Washington’s wars of aggression and political subterfuge.

The internet, on the other hand, is the last bastion of American democracy; a virtual world where reliable information moves instantly from person to person without passing through the corporate filter. Online visitors can get a clear picture of their governments’ depredations with a click of the mouse. This is the liberalization of the news, an open source of mind-expanding information that elevates citizen awareness of complex issues and threatens the status quo.

The Pentagon program is just one facet of a broader culture of deception; a pervasive ethos of dishonesty that envelopes all aspects of the Bush White House. The “Strategic Intelligence” Dept is a division of the Defense establishment that is entirely devoted to concealing, distorting, omitting and manipulating the truth.

In what way is “strategic intelligence” different from plain intelligence?

It is information that is shaped in a way that meets the needs of a particular group. In other words, it is not the truth at all, but a fabrication, a fiction, a lie.

Strategic intelligence is an oxymoron; a tidy bit of Orwellian doublespeak that reflects the deeply rooted cynicism of its authors.

The internet is a logical target for the Pentagon’s electronic warfare. Already the Downing Street memos, Bush’s bombing-threats against Al Jazeera, the fraudulent 2004 elections, and the leveling of Falluja, have disrupted the smooth execution of Bush’s wars. It is understandable that Rumsfeld and Co. would seek to transform this potential enemy into an ally, much as it has done with the MSM.

The Pentagon’s plans for engaging in “virtual warfare” are impressive. As BBC notes: “The operations described in the document include a surprising range of military activities: public affairs officers who brief journalists, psychological operations troops who try to manipulate the thoughts and beliefs of an enemy, computer network attack specialists who seek to destroy enemy networks.” (BBC)

The enemy, of course, is you, dear reader, or anyone who refuses to accept their role as a witless-cog in new world order. Seizing the internet is a prudent way of controlling every piece of information that one experiences from cradle to grave; all necessary for an orderly police-state.

The Information Operations Roadmap (IOR) recommends that psychological operations (Psyops) “should consider a range of technologies to disseminate propaganda in enemy territory: unmanned aerial vehicles, "miniaturized, scatterable public address systems", wireless devices, cellular phones and the internet.” No idea is too costly or too far-fetched that it escapes the serious consideration of the Pentagon chieftains.

The War Dept. is planning to insert itself into every area of the internet from blogs to chat rooms, from leftist web sites to editorial commentary. The objective is to challenge any tidbit of information that appears on the web that may counter the official narrative; the fairytale of benign American intervention to promote democracy and human rights across the planet.

The IOR aspires to "provide maximum control of the entire electromagnetic spectrum" and develop the capability to "disrupt or destroy the full spectrum of globally emerging communications systems, sensors, and weapons systems dependent on the electromagnetic spectrum". (BBC)

Full spectrum dominance.

The ultimate goal of the Pentagon is to create an internet-paradigm that corresponds to the corporate mainstream model, devoid of imagination or divergent points of view. They envision an internet that is increasingly restricted by the gluttonous influence of industry and its vast “tapestry of lies”.

The internet is the modern-day marketplace of ideas, an invaluable resource for human curiosity and organized resistance. It provides a direct link between the explosive power of ideas and engaged citizen involvement. (aka; participatory democracy)

The Pentagon is laying the groundwork for privatizing the internet so the information-revolution can be transformed into an information-tyranny, extending to all areas of communications and serving the exclusive interests of a few well-heeled American plutocrats.

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This is the real outrage - Amid the cartoon furore, Danish imams ignore the tragedies suffered by Muslims across the world

By Tariq Ali The Guardian 13 Feb 06

The latest round of culture wars does neither side any good. The western civilisational fundamentalists insist on seeing Muslims as the other - different, alien and morally evil. Jyllands-Posten published the cartoons in bad faith. Their aim was not to engage in debate but to provoke, and they succeeded. The same newspaper declined to print caricatures of Jesus. I am an atheist and do not know the meaning of the "religious pain" that is felt by believers of every cast when what they believe in is insulted. I am not insulted by billions of Christians, Muslims and Jews believing there is a God and praying to this nonexistent deity on a regular basis.
But the cartoon depicting Muhammad as a terrorist is a crude racist stereotype. The implication is that every Muslim is a potential terrorist. This is the sort of nonsense that leads to Islamophobia.

Muslims have every right to protest, but the overreaction was unnecessary. In reality, the number of original demonstrators was tiny: 300 in Pakistan, 400 in Indonesia, 200 in Tripoli, a few hundred in Britain (before Saturday's bigger reconciliation march), and government-organised hoodlums in Damascus burning an embassy. Beirut was a bit larger. Why blow this up and pretend that the protests had entered the subsoil of spontaneous mass anger? They certainly haven't anywhere in the Muslim world, though the European media has been busy fertilising the widespread ignorance that exists in this continent.

How many citizens have any real idea of what the Enlightenment really was? French philosophers did take humanity forward by recognising no external authority of any kind, but there was a darker side. Voltaire: "Blacks are inferior to Europeans, but superior to apes." Hume: "The black might develop certain attributes of human beings, the way the parrot manages to speak a few words." There is much more in a similar vein from their colleagues. It is this aspect of the Enlightenment that appears to be more in tune with some of the generalised anti-Muslim ravings in the media.

What I find interesting is that these demonstrations and embassy-burnings are a response to a tasteless cartoon. Did the Danish imam who travelled round the Muslim world pleading for this show the same anger at Danish troops being sent to Iraq? The occupation of Iraq has costs tens of thousands of Iraqi lives. Where is the response to that or the tortures in Abu Ghraib? Or the rapes of Iraqi women by occupying soldiers? Where is the response to the daily deaths of Palestinians? These are the issues that anger me. Last year Afghans protested after a US marine in Guantánamo had urinated on the Qur'an. It was a vile act and there was an official inquiry. The marine in question explained that he had been urinating on a prisoner and a few drops had fallen accidentally on the Qur'an - as if pissing on a prisoner (an old imperial habit) was somehow more acceptable.

Yesterday, footage of British soldiers brutalising and abusing civilians in Iraq - beating teenagers with batons until they pass out, posing for the camera as they kick corpses - was made public. No one can seriously imagine these are the isolated incidents the Ministry of Defence claims; they are of course the norm under colonial occupations. Who will protest now - the media pundits defending the Enlightenment or Muslim clerics frothing over the cartoons?

It's strange that the Danish imams and their friends abroad ignore the real tragedy and instead ensure that the cartoons are now being reprinted everywhere. How will it end? Like all these things do, with no gains on either side and a last tango in Copenhagen around a mountain of unused butter. Meanwhile, in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine the occupations continue.

· Tariq Ali is the author of Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity. Email: tariq.ali3@btinternet.com

© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

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Europeans' arrogance the cause of Muslim anger

By Rami G. Khouri February 11, 2006

BEIRUT - The whole world has been surprised by the scope and intensity of angry crowds throughout the Islamic realm that are demonstrating against the offensive cartoons about the prophet Muhammad that were published last year in a small, right-wing Danish newspaper. It is perhaps time that we stopped being surprised by a phenomenon that has become routine: the affirmation of Islamic identity as the dominant form of national self-assertion in developing societies whose citizens suffer major grievances against the quality of their own statehood and governance as well as against Western and Israeli policies.
The cartoons, including one depicting the prophet's headdress as a bomb, are only the fuse that set off a combustible mixture of pressures and tensions anchored in a much wider array of problems. These include the cartoons themselves; provocative and arrogant European disdain for Muslim sensitivities about the prophet Muhammad; attempts by some Islamist extremists and criminal-political elements to stir up troubles; the Europeans' clear message that their values count more than the values of Muslims; and, a wider sense by many citizens of Islamic societies that the West in general seeks to weaken and subjugate the Muslim world.

Provocative reprinting

The Danish cartoons only sparked some mild complaints when they first appeared last September. The current wave of intense protests was sparked when half a dozen other newspapers throughout Europe provocatively reprinted the cartoons last month. This was coupled with European political and press leaders flat out telling the Islamic world that Western freedom of press was a higher moral value and a greater political priority than Muslims' concern that their leading prophet not be subjected to blasphemy and insult.

Clearly, some troublemakers in Europe and the Islamic world stirred up Muslims' anger and provoked some of the destructive protests, especially burning embassies and offices in Damascus and Beirut. This is the political equivalent of football hooliganism in Europe - a small minority of unruly criminal thugs that preys on the legitimate sentiments of otherwise peaceful crowds that take to the streets in orderly if lively protests. It would be a huge mistake to focus mainly on the few violent political skinheads, and to ignore the meaning of the vast majority of hundreds of thousands of protesters who marched in earnest and in an orderly way.

This occurs at a time when Islamist political movements throughout the region are winning election after election. Islamist identity repeatedly triumphs where traditional ruling elites have had to open up and make space for others to contest political power democratically and peacefully, including in Arab states, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and elsewhere. The most consistent source of Arab-Islamic angst in the past two centuries - Western colonialism - has now run up against the resistance of the single most consistent form of indigenous identity and anti-imperial opposition: cultural and political Islamism.

A clash of civilizations?

It is too simplistic and easy to categorize this as a clash of civilizations, a very Western perspective that explains political tensions primarily through the lens of cultural and values differences. Most Muslims (and non-Muslim Middle Easterners such as several million Christian Arabs) probably see the current tensions as a political battle, not a cultural one. This is not primarily an argument about freedom of press in Europe, much as our dashing European friends would like to believe it is. It is about Arab-Islamic societies' desire to enjoy freedom from Western and Israeli subjugation, diplomatic double standards and predatory neo-colonial policies.

Muslims have been deeply insulted by much of Europe's behavior regarding the Danish cartoons, but not only the cartoons, because our concerns and fears are much wider and deeper than that. Many ordinary citizens in the Arab-Asian region see the European position on Iran's nuclear industry and the victorious Hamas party in Palestine as moving closer to American-Israeli positions that grossly discriminate against Arabs or Muslims.

Coming after the American-led assault on Iraq, this explains why large majorities of people polled in Arab countries just three months ago believe that the main motives of American policies in the Middle East are "oil, protecting Israel, dominating the region, and weakening the Muslim world."

Editorial cartoons by nature send a message by symbolizing much larger political and social issues. Similarly, the current protests by many Muslims should be understood as reflecting much deeper concerns than only the insulting, blasphemous cartoons in an obscure Danish newspaper.

Rami G. Khouri is editor-at-large of the Beirut-based Daily Star newspaper, published throughout the Middle East with the International Herald Tribune.

© 2006 Rami G. Khouri / Agence Global

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The Slippery Slope of Self-Censorship

By David Morris AlterNet. February 14, 2006.

As the violence over the cartoons expands, we are no closer to defining the boundaries of free speech in an age of growing religious fundamentalism.
Earlier this month, even as the Danish and Norwegian embassy buildings were still ablaze, the New York Times noted a report that a "leader of Hezbollah" had declared that if Salman Rushdie had been killed, the Danes never would have dared to publish their cartoons.

Rushdie, of course, is the author of "The Satanic Verses," published in September 1988. Rushdie's novel contained no visual depictions of Mohammed; in one section of the work, however, a deranged man has a dream in which he mocks Mohammed and the Koran.

"The Satanic Verses" was met with widespread critical acclaim, winning Britain's most lucrative book award, the Whitbread Prize. The Muslim community, however, expressed deep dissatisfaction.

In February 1989, the Iranian Ayatollah Khomeini issued a religious edict. He called for Rushdie's death, for blasphemy. His fatwa extended also to "those publishers who were aware of its contents … I call on all zealous Muslims to execute them quickly, wherever they find them, so that no one will dare to insult Islam again …" Iran offered a $1 million reward to spur Rushdie's execution.

Rushdie went into hiding, protected by the British police. The Japanese translator of "The Satanic Verses" was stabbed to death. The Italian translator was also stabbed, although he survived. The Norwegian publisher was shot; he too survived.

By 2001, Rushdie had begun again to appear in public, although usually without advance notice. That fall, his publisher booked an extensive tour for his new, noncontroversial book. Rushdie had long since apologized for the offensive comments contained in "The Satanic Verses," although the book remained in print. Time seemed to have calmed the waters.

And then came Sept. 11.

In October, Washington University in St. Louis canceled its invitation to Rushdie to deliver a talk as part of the reopening of its International Writers Center. The center's director cited security concerns.

"It must be remembered that people who were killed when the fatwa was issued against Rushdie were translators and publishers," he argued. "In this current climate, people at Washington University were not being at all unreasonable to think that they might be targets after Rushdie left because we had invited him."

Rushdie's publisher canceled the entire book tour. Asked to write an op-ed in the New York Times about the affair, Rushdie counseled, "How to defeat terrorism? Don't be terrorized. Don't let fear rule your life. Even if you are scared."

In 2004, the Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh was murdered two months after the release of his short documentary, "Submission," which was about violence against Muslim women. His film did not caricature Mohammed.

The precipitating cause for the publication of the Danish cartoons occurred in mid-September 2005. An article appeared in Politiken, a Danish newspaper, under the headline, "Profound fear of criticism of Islam."

The article described how one Danish writer was initially unable to find an illustrator willing to illustrate his children's book about Mohammed because they feared violent attacks by Muslims. According to Wikipedia's thorough (and ongoing) coverage of developments, "The refusal of the first three artists to participate was seen as evidence of self-censorship and led to much debate in Denmark, with other examples … soon emerging."

In reaction to that debate, Flemming Rose, the cultural editor of the Jyllands-Posten (Jutland's Post), invited members of the Danish cartoonists union "to draw Mohammed as they see him." In an article accompanying the cartoons, Rose informed the newspaper's readers that he had commissioned the drawings out of concern that a secular society based on freedom of speech was in the process of censoring itself, not out of respect for a religion, but out of fear that if it did anything that was viewed as offensive to a particular religion, violence and even murder could result. "… (W)e are on our way to a slippery slope where no one can tell how the self-censorship will end," Rose warned.

The 12 cartoons were published on Sept. 30, 2005. In the light of the violence they may have stimulated, a non-Muslim like myself must confess they appear remarkably tame.

Several are simple depictions of the Prophet. One shows Mohammed walking alone in the desert, with a donkey far behind. In another his face is composed of the star and crescent moon of Islam.

Two of the drawings don't show Mohammed at all.

The central theme of the rest is clear. They portray fear, not hatred.

The newspaper devoted one full page to the cartoons. On the page was a central cartoon surrounded by 11 smaller ones. The main cartoon depicts what might be the Prophet standing along with six other turban-wearing figures in a police lineup. The witness is saying, "I don't know which one he is."

A smaller cartoon shows the cartoonist crouching over a writing table. On it is a piece of paper with a small drawing of an Arab face wearing a headdress. The table lamp is covered. The artist is clearly fearful.

Another portrays Muhammad looking at a sheet of paper. Presumably the paper contains an image of him. He is holding back two sword-wielding assassins. He says, "Relax, guys, it's just a drawing made by some infidel South Jutlander (i.e., from the middle of nowhere)."

The cartoon that the Western media has talked about the most (but virtually never shown) depicts a very angry-looking Mohammed, his turban in the shape of a bomb with a lit fuse. The cartoon continues the theme of personal fear.

A few of the cartoons poke fun, either at the cartoonist, Danes or Muslims. In one, a schoolboy points to a blackboard on which is written in Farsi, "The editorial team of Jyllands-Posten are a bunch of reactionary provocateurs." As BBC News notes, the boy is labeled, "Mohammed, Valby school 7A," suggesting he is a second-generation Iranian immigrant to Denmark. "The future" is written on his shirt.

In another, Mohammed is standing on a cloud holding back a line of angry suicide bombers trying to get into heaven. "Stop, stop, we have run out of virgins," he says.

When first published, the cartoons did meet with a vigorous, albeit peaceful protest by Danish Muslims. In late October, ambassadors representing 11 Muslim countries complained to the Danish prime minister. The Muslim society brought suit under Danish law, charging that the newspaper and cartoonists had violated the Danish Penal Code.

Denmark protects free speech. Section 140 of the Code prohibits blasphemy, although that law has not been enforced since 1938. And Section 266b of the Code prohibits expressions that threaten, deride or degrade on the grounds of race, color, national or ethnic origin, belief or sexual orientation.

The Danish public prosecutor did investigate. But in early January 2006, he concluded that the cartoons did not violate the law. He may have taken into account that Danish media has not been punished in the past for carrying much more offensive depictions of figures of other religious figures. As Wikipedia notes, "Jesus and other religious figures are often portrayed in Denmark in ways that many other societies would consider illegal blasphemy."

In October, a number of the cartoons were published in an Egyptian newspaper. The paper carried an article denouncing the cartoons. Apparently the act of carrying the cartoons themselves was acceptable to Egyptian Muslims. There was little visible negative reaction toward the newspaper.

In late November, the situation changed dramatically. A group of imams in Denmark put together a 43-page dossier and set out for a tour of the Middle East to present their case and to ask for support. At a Dec. 6 meeting of Arab heads of state, the dossier was handed out. An official communiqué was issued.

The dossier contained at least three cartoons that had never been published in Denmark. These were brutally offensive; indeed, they were incendiary. One shows Mohammed as a pedophiliac demon. Another shows Mohammed with a pig snout. The third shows a praying Muslim being raped by a dog.

Such material spurred the Muslim world to violence. The Norwegian and Danish embassies were burned. Many of the original cartoonists went into hiding. There was an extremely effective boycott of Danish goods, and Danes in Muslim countries were encouraged to leave.

This is when the story began to attract significant coverage in the United States. All U.S. media devoted extensive and ongoing discussion. None, however, showed all of the cartoons. ABC, the bravest of them all, showed its viewers a fleeting glimpse of one. NBC, CBS, CNN and Fox News refused to show any of them. So did virtually all of the nation's newspapers.

Liberal and conservative media were united. The public does not have the right to know.

On the liberal side, Daniel Schorr, commenting on National Public Radio, insisted that in "times of tension," freedom of the press must give ground to other interests. He cited as justification Oliver Wendell Holmes' famous dictum: Free speech should not include someone "falsely shouting fire in a theater."

On the conservative side, State Department spokesman Justin Higgins maintained, "We all fully recognize and respect freedom of the press and expression, but it must be coupled with press responsibility. Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is not acceptable."

Bill Clinton weighed in on the side of the State Department. He called the cartoons "appalling" and "totally outrageous" and likened them to anti-Semitic cartoons.

The difficulty of rationally discussing the issue was brought home to me the other day by my hometown newspaper, the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The Strib, as it's dubbed hereabouts, explained why it would not publish the cartoons: It didn't want to offend Muslims. But then the editors quickly explained to readers that some of the cartoons were bogus, like the one that likened Mohammed to a pig. They urged Muslims and non-Muslims alike to peacefully discuss their differences.

But how can we have such a discussion when we don't know what caused the violence? Was it all or only a few of the original cartoons? Was it the highly inflammatory bogus cartoons? Clinton's comparison of the cartoons to anti-Semitic literature conjures up in most people's minds the most hate-filled and savage types of imagery.

What would I have done if I were a newspaper editor? I'd have begun by publishing a single cartoon, the one of the artist at his drawing table, glancing fearfully over his shoulder as he drew an image of Mohammed. I would have invited discussion by all parties, not only in the pages of the paper but on its website and in other public forums.

It is possible that a cartoon itself would have generated violence, or the threat of it. More probably, it would have generated a healthy discussion. Possibly the Muslim community as a whole would have found that cartoon acceptable. Perhaps the discussion would have brought to light the many examples of the depiction of Mohammed and other important Islamic figures in Islamic societies. And if the first cartoon generated little negative reaction, I'd have published another.

By doing this, we might be able to stimulate an important discussion about the boundaries of good taste and the limits of free speech.

Flemming Rose currently is on extended leave from the Jyllands-Posten. He proved his point. He published a series of very sober cartoons in an attempt to define the boundaries of free speech in a world of religious fundamentalism. He did so out of concern over the West's increasing tendency toward self-censorship around matters of religion.

And when violence broke out, the Western media largely confirmed his worst fears. They reported the violence and the Muslim community's feeling of rage at being disrespected. But they refused to show the images that purportedly so offended them that it led them to condone that violence.

Thus, as the violence expands, we are no nearer to defining the boundaries of free speech in an age of growing religious assertiveness. Was it the bogus, inflammatory cartoons that ultimately caused rioting? Was the boundary breached as soon as the least offensive of any of the original 12 cartoons were published? Is it possible that any comments about Mohammed and Islam, even those expressing a fear for one's personal safety, are sufficient to generate such violence?

This is the conversation we should be having. But that can occur only if we discuss the cartoons themselves.

David Morris is co-founder and vice president of the Institute for Local Self Reliance in Minneapolis, Minn., and director of its New Rules project.

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Protesters Rampage in 2 Pakistani Cities

By ASIF SHAHZAD Associated Press February 14, 2006

LAHORE, Pakistan - Thousands of protesters rampaged through two cities Tuesday, storming into a diplomatic district and torching Western businesses and a provincial assembly in Pakistan's worst violence against the Prophet Muhammad drawings, officials said. At least two people were killed and 11 injured.

Security forces fired into the air as they struggled to contain the unrest in the eastern city of Lahore, where protesters burned down four buildings housing a hotel, two banks, a KFC restaurant and the office of a Norwegian cell phone company, Telenor.
U.S. and British embassy staffers were confined to their compounds until police dispersed the protesters, some of whom chanted, "Death to America!"

Witnesses said rioters also damaged more than 200 cars, dozens of shops and a large portrait of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. Vandals broke the windows of a Holiday Inn, Pizza Hut and McDonald's.

Two movie theaters were torched, and clouds of tear gas and black smoke from burning vehicles drifted through streets in the city center.

A security guard shot and killed two protesters trying to force their way into a bank, Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao said, adding that paramilitary forces were deployed to restore order.

Mohammed Tariq, a doctor at the state-run Mayo Hospital, said three people were being treated for serious bullet wounds, and eight more suffered injuries during clashes with police.

The protest was organized by a little-known religious group supported by local trade associations and one of the main Islamic schools in the city. Intelligence officials, however, suspected that members of outlawed Islamic radical groups may have incited the violence.

Raja Mohammed Basharat, law minister for Punjab province, of which Lahore is the capital, said the organizers promised Monday that the demonstration would be peaceful. No one has been arrested for the violence, but those responsible would be punished, he said.

The unrest began Tuesday in the nation's capital, Islamabad, about 180 miles northwest of Lahore, when between 1,000 and 1,500 people, mostly students, marched into a fenced-off diplomatic enclave through the main gate, as about a dozen police looked on.

The stick-wielding crowd charged about a half-mile down the road to the British High Commission, or embassy, where the students rallied briefly until police fired tear gas.

Outside the enclave, protesters smashed street lights and burned tires while chanting "Death to America!" and other slogans. Police rounded up about 50 protesters and put them in pickup trucks.

Another protest in Islamabad drew about 4,000 people. Separately, about 50 lawmakers from religious and moderate parties marched from Parliament to the diplomatic enclave, where they stood silently for five minutes before dispersing.

Hard-line cleric Hafiz Hussain Ahmad, senior leader of an opposition coalition of six religious parties, said, "We have come to the doors of the embassies to take our voice to the ambassadors. There is anger in the Islamic world. If they do not listen, their problems will increase."

People in this conservative Muslim nation have been enraged by the publications of the drawings, which first appeared in a Danish newspaper in September. Papers in other countries, mostly Europe but including some in the United States, reprinted them.

One of the caricatures depicts Muhammad wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with an ignited detonator string.

Islam widely holds that representations of Muhammad are banned for fear they could lead to idolatry.

There have been a series of mostly peaceful protests across Pakistan against the cartoons, and last week Parliament adopted resolutions condemning the drawing. Lawmakers also called for a nationwide strike on March 3.

But Aitzaz Ahsan, a lawmaker with the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party, said he will propose that the government call off the March 3 protest strike because of the prospect of further violence.

"It's really gotten out of hand," Ahsan said. "The violence is spiraling out of control."
"The violence is spiraling out of control."
Yup. Guess what's coming next??

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The Neocons' Grand Plan: Oil, Israel, Military Bases

February 14, 2006 by Rodrigue Tremblay

There is hardly anyone now who believes that George W. Bush invaded the country of Iraq, in March 2003, to prevent the development of weapons of mass destruction, or to combat Islamist terrorism. Even that 'democracy' thing was an add-on after the fact and only served as a cover when the official reasons for war fell apart. In any case, international law does not permit a country to attack another one in order to change its political regime. Only fascist and totalitarian countries do that, i.e. Hitler's Germany and Brezhnev 's Soviet Union.
History will record that the bogus motives alleged by the Bush administration to initiate an illegal war of aggression against Iraq have all been debuked and discredited. It is well documented that ever since he got into power and fell under the spell of his Likudnik Neocon advisors, GWB set in motion a war policy and everything else (facts, intelligence, diplomacy, speeches, propaganda...etc.) were all disingenuously fixed around that policy. The events of 9/11 only served as a convenient pretext to sell this policy to a gullible American public. The CIA's leading counterterrorism analyst, Paul R. Pillar has confirmed that the Bush administration "cherry-picked" intelligence on Iraq to justify a decision it had already reached to go to war, and ignored expert warnings that the country could easily fall into violence and chaos after an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Bush had decided to attack Iraq whatever. He then proceeded to frame Iraq up for such an attack in order to conceal his hidden neocon agenda.

He said Iraq had weapons of mass destruction; this was false. He said Iraq had mobile chemical labs; it did not. He said Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Niger to build an atom bomb; it had not. He said that Iraq had defied U.N. demands to destroy its stock of weapons of mass destruction; this was a lie. He said that Iraq had refused the U.N. inspectors entry into Iraq; this was false. (In fact, Chief inspector Hans Blix and his inspectors were back in Iraq in November 2002, and were only forced to leave when Bush threatened to bomb the country.) He said that Iraq posed an "imminent" threat to the United States; it did not. —The litany of falsehoods goes on and on. —The American-led war against Iraq is probably the best example of how an aggressor can launch a war based on dishonest assessments, deception, disinformation and lies, and why the world needs international law.

Having lied and manipulated prewar intelligence to launch an illegal war, George W. Bush now attempts to lie about the real (concealed) reasons for his shameful actions. Last January (2006), Bush Jr. denied that he had attacked Iraq "for the oil and for Israel". What he probably meant, is that there was a third reason to subjugate Iraq, i.e. to establish permanent American military bases in this centrally located Middle East country and to turn Iraq into a military logistics hub.

Let us review these motives for Bush's war, all illegal.

It is a well-documented fact that the U.S. government is obsessed with oil. In 1992, the Pentagon issued  a report on "Post-Cold War Strategy", prepared by neocon Paul Wolfowitz.  It said, "Our overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in [the Middle East and Southwest Asia to] preserve U.S. and Western access to the region's oil." In January 2001, as confirmed by former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill

Secretary of Defense Donald  Rumsfeld  tabled plans on "how the world's second largest oil reserve[in Iraq] might be divided among the world's contractors.

It is also true that Saddam Hussein may have lit a fire on his own when, on April 9, 2002, he announced that Iraq was cutting its oil exports for a month to protest Israel's military offensive in the West Bank. Keep in mind that Iraq had switched to selling its oil for euros instead of dollars, in November 2000, and this was considered a direct challenge to the petrodollar financial system. With two oilmen in the White House, it is therefore no surprise that oil was predominant in their minds. It is also par for the course that when American forces took control of Iraq, their first order of business was to secure the oil fields and the buildings of the Iraqi Oil Ministry and leave the other buildings, including hospitals, to be ransacked.

All these realities did no go unnoticed in the Arab world. A recent poll conducted at the University of Maryland among Middle Eastern Arabs, found that a very large majority of Arabs—three out of every four persons—believed that the main motives of American policies in that part of the world were "oil, protecting Israel, dominating the region, and weakening the Muslim world," not the establishment of democracy. It is only in the American corporate media that one finds some semblance of credibility for the bogus motives presented by the Bush administration for its illegal war. This is to be expected because, in Thomas Paine's words, "the greatest tyrannies are always perpetrated in the name of the noblest causes." Lies and wars go together. One would expect that in a totalitarian regime, but not in a democracy.

As to the role played by Israel in that illegal war, it is very large. First, the Israeli government, led by Ariel Sharon, had been lobbying in the U.S. for such a war for a long time. On August 15, 2002, for instance, Sharon publicly urged Bush "not to delay attack against Iraq." Secondly, there were the unrelenting calls for war originating from pro-Israel neocon journalists, such as N.Y. Times' William Safire and Washington Post's Charles Krauthammer, and pro-Israel propaganda machines such as Rupert Murdoch's empire (Fox News, New York Post, Weekly Standard), a few large Washington think tanks (American Enterprise, Heritage, Institute for Near East Policy, etc.), and other right wing publications such as the National Review, the US News & World Report, and occasionally, by national newspapers such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Washington Times and The Wall Street Journal. These tightly controlled corporate media, including the cable media MSNBC and CNN, have poisoned the channels of public information and have knowingly amplified Bush's lies for war by parroting them, while silencing any articulate critics or factual analysis. Thirdly, within the high ranks of the Bush administration itself, information coming from Israeli intelligence, as conveyed by Israel's intelligence service, the Mossad , frequently carried more weight than the advice provided by professional CIA analysts and those at the U.S. State Department.

Finally, the role of the Pentagon and its strategic planning in the Middle East is also all too well documented. The war against Iraq was planned, defended and carried on by the Pentagon. This is also the Amercan government department, aside from the Office of the Vice-president, which counted in its ranks the largest contingent of neocons in the entire U.S. administration. For them, oil-Israel-military bases made a strategic whole that had to be pursued by any means. Their plan was to use the territory of Iraq to control the entire Middle East. For that, they planned building four "super-bases" in Iraq, sort of giant military camps, capable of housing tens of thousands of US soldiers, similar to other sprawling American military facilities around the world. Altogether, the U.S. is planning fourteen major permanent military bases in Iraq.

This grand neocon plan for the Middle East is not secret, but has been outlined in many reports published by the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), an organization created in 1997 and whose many founders, including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, I. Lewis Libby, Abram Shulsky, etc., have been prominent members of the Bush administration.

In 2000, PNAC published its famous report titled "Rebuilding America's Defenses." It plainly cites the objective of an increased U.S. military presence in the Middle East as a rationale for invading Iraq: "While the unresolved conflict in Iraq provides the immediate justification [for U.S. military presence], the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."

In September 2001, the Neocons in the Bush administration got their pretext to implement their long thought-out plan for the Middle East. The rest is history. If you want to learn more about this sordid affair in an historical context, read The New American Empire.

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Cheney might have had better aim if he'd served in Vietnam

Rachel Neumann AlterNet February 13, 2006.

The White House didn't even report the shooting for 24 hours (and forbid Texas officials from talking about it) and then Scott McClellan told reporters, "These kind of...accidents happen from time to time." McClellan might as well have been talking about the administration's casual attitude about the death toll in Iraq. Yes, 16,600 Americans and upward of 200,000 Iraqis have been wounded, but hey, "accidents happen from time to time." We're still winning the war, right?
I'm recovering from throwing a massive three-year-old birthday party, so maybe it's me, but I think it's more disturbing than funny that Dick Cheney shot a 78-year-old friend this weekend and won't even say sorry.

"He didn't do anything he wasn't supposed to do," says his friend and advisor Mary Matilan. Oh, except shoot somebody. The whole thing, Cheney says, is just a reminder to all of us to practice "gun safety" (Thanks, Cheney, I'll make sure to tell my daughter that.)

The White House didn't even report the shooting for 24 hours (and forbid Texas officials from talking about it) and then Scott McClellan told reporters, "These kind of...accidents happen from time to time." McClellan might as well have been talking about the administration's casual attitude about the death toll in Iraq. Yes, 16,600 Americans and upward of 200,000 Iraqis have been wounded, but hey, "accidents happen from time to time." We're still winning the war, right? As Tim Grieve points out, if

I know that nothing bothers Dick Cheney more than being laughed at. He'd rather shoot innocent Texans and cause thousands of unnecessary deaths in Iraq rather than have people laugh at his expense. But all this casual attitude about shooting and killing really isn't funny. When we have a President and the Vice-President who are more concerned with saving face than with doing the right thing or admitting their mistakes, we're in big big trouble. At the very least, Dick Cheney should have a time-out. Any three-year-old could tell you that.

Rachel Neumann is Rights & Liberties Editor at AlterNet.

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More Questions Raised About Delay in Reporting Cheney Misfire

By Greg Mitchell Editor & Publisher February 13, 2006

NEW YORK The more than 18-hour delay in news emerging that the vice president of the United States had shot a man, sending him to an intensive care unit with his wounds, grew even more curious Monday with word from the White House that President Bush had been informed of the incident Saturday but not immediately about Dick Cheney's role.
Earlier, E&P had learned that the official confirmation of the shooting came about only after a local reporter in Corpus Christi, Texas, received a tip from the owner of the property where the shooting occurred and called Vice President Cheney's office for confirmation.

The confirmation was made but it is not known for certain that Cheney's office, the White House, or anyone else intended to announce the shooting if the reporter, Jaime Powell of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, had not received word from the ranch owner.

One of Powell's colleagues at the Corpus Christi paper, Beth Francesco, told E&P that Powell had built up a strong source relationship with the prominent ranch owner, Katharine Armstrong, which led to the tip. Powell is chief political reporter for the paper and also covers the area where the ranch is located south of Sarita, about 60 miles from Corpus Christi. Armstrong did not notify reporters at larger papers in Dallas, Houston, Austin, or other cities.

Armstrong called the paper Sunday morning looking for Powell, who was not at work. When they did talk, Armstrong revealed the shooting of prominent Austin attorney Harry Whittington, who is now in stable condition in a hospital. Powell then called Cheney's office for the confirmation around midday. The newspaper broke the story at mid-afternoon -- not a word about it had appeared before then.

The Cheney spokesman with whom Powell spoke, Lea Anne McBride, would not comment on whether the Cheney office or the White House would have ever released the information had the Caller-Times not contacted them.

"I’m not going to speculate," McBride said, according to Powell. "When you put the call into me, I was able to confirm that account."

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, peppered with questions about the incident at his Monday morning press "gaggle," explained that the White House had deferred to the Vice President's office in the matter, and the latter deferred to the ranch owner.

McClellan said that the first reports that came to the White House only said that a member of Cheney's party had been shot but did not indicate that Cheney was the shooter. Top Bush aide Karl Rove later informed the president of Cheney's involvement but McClellan refused to say precisely when, beyond saying it was "in a relatively reasonable" amount of time.

The New York Times observed Monday that reporters "seemed frustrated that Mr. McClellan could not tell them exactly when Mr. Bush learned that the vice president himself had shot Mr. Whittington." As for McClellan's knowledge--he said that he did not know about Cheney as triggerman until Sunday morning.

Francesco, at the Corpus Christi paper, said she felt it was a bit odd that her newsroom had not received any information about the shooting since "we often call law enforcement in the area, even on weekends. We checked in and didn’t hear anything about it." In some states, all serious shooting incidents must be immediately reported to police.

Hospital officials on Monday continued to offer few details on the victim's condition, but said he was "very stable" and that pellets were possibly still being removed. Sally Whittington told The Dallas Morning News her father was being observed because of swelling from some of the welts on his neck. His face "looks like chicken pox, kind of," she said.

A hospital spokesman said Whittington was in the intensive care unit because his condition warranted it, but he didn't elaborate. Whittington sent word that he would have no comment on the incident out of respect for Cheney.

While E&P was first to raise questions about the delay Sunday afternoon, Frank James, reporter in the Chicago Tribune's Washington bureau, put his own spin on it later in the day, asking, "How is it that Vice President Cheney can shoot a man, albeit accidentally, on Saturday during a hunting trip and the American public not be informed of it until today?"

Indeed, others raised questions as well. "There was no immediate reason given as to why the incident wasn't reported until Sunday," the Dallas Morning News observed. "The sheriff's office in Kenedy County did not respond to phone calls Sunday."

The president, who was at the White House over the weekend, was informed about the incident in Texas after it happened Saturday by Chief of Staff Andrew Card and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove and was updated on Sunday, press secretary Scott McClellan said.

But neither the White House nor the vice president's staff announced the shooting. The Washington Post reported late Sunday that Cheney's office did not make a public announcement.

Asked by The New York Times why it did not make the news known, Cheney spokeswoman McBride said, "We deferred to the Armstrongs regarding what had taken place at their ranch."

Armstrong said later, according to The Associated Press, that everyone at the ranch was so "focused" on Whittington's health Saturday that it wasn't until Sunday she called the Caller-Times to report the accident.

"It was accidental, a hunting accident," Sheriff Ramon Salinas III of Kenedy County told The New York Times, adding that the Secret Service notified him Saturday of the episode. "They did what they had to according to law."

In an odd disparity, Armstrong told the Houston Chronicle that Whittington, 78, was "bruised more than bloodied" in the incident and "his pride was hurt more than anything else." Yet he was airlifted to a hospital and has spent more than a day in an intensive care unit.

The Chronicle also reports Monday that hunting accidents are very rare in Texas. In 2004, it said, the state's one million-plus hunters were involved in only 29 hunting-related accidents (19 involving firearms), four of which were fatal.

Time magazine on its Web site observed that Cheney is scheduled to join President Bush on Monday afternoon when he takes questions from reporters in the Oval Office, following a meeting with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. "White House aides can be expected to say that the Vice President did not shoot Whittington, which suggests a bullet, but rather sprayed him with birdshot, a type of ammunition made up of tiny pieces of lead or steel," Time predicted.

On Sunday, the Chicago Tribune's James wrote on the Washington bureau's blog at the newspaper's site, "When a vice president of the U.S. shoots a man under any circumstance, that is extremely relevant information. What might be the excuse to justify not immediately making the incident public?

"The vice president is well known for preferring to operate in secret. ... Some secrecy, especially when it comes to the executing the duties of president or vice president, is understandable and expected by Americans.

"But when the vice president's office, or the White House, delays in reporting a shooting like Saturday's to the public via the media, it needlessly raises suspicions and questions of trust. And it may just further the impression held by many, rightly or wrongly, that the White House doesn't place the highest premium on keeping the public fully and immediately informed."

The New York Times reported late Sunday that Whittington was commissioner of the state's Funeral Service Commission. In 1999, George W. Bush, then governor of Texas, named Whittington to head the Commission, which licenses and regulates funeral directors and embalmers in the state. "When he was named," the Times revealed, "a former executive director of the commission, Eliza May, was suing the state, saying that she had been fired because she investigated a funeral home chain that was owned by a friend of Mr. Bush.

"The suit was settled in 2001, but the details were not disclosed."

Latest update, Monday p.m.

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan explained Monday that the White House knew about the accidental shooting of a fellow hunter on Saturday night, but deferred to the vice president's office, which did not announce it. The vice president's office in turn deferred to Katharine Armstrong, the ranch owner in Texas where the shooting took place. She called a Corpus Christi reporter at midday Sunday and only then did the news come out.

McClellan also said Monday, according to The Associated Press, that "Bush and senior aides were told Saturday night by the staff of the White House Situation Room that somebody in the Cheney's hunting party was shot, but he said he was not told until Sunday morning that Cheney was the shooter. He said he contacted the vice president's office and everyone agreed they needed to get the information to the public quickly."

Reviewing the late-morning press briefing today, the National Journal's Hotline site said that reporters reacted with "astonishment" to McClellan's admission about not knowing about Cheney's role in the shooting until Sunday. It noted that McClellan did everything possible to imply that the responsibility for any bungling resides in the vice president's office.

McClellan also said he did not know about a report that the Secret Service prevented a deputy sheriff from interviewing Cheney.

Courtesy of USAtoday.com, here is a sampling of the briefing, featuring NBC's David Gregory.

GREGORY: "The vice president of the United States shoots a man, and he feels that it's appropriate for a ranch owner who witnessed this to tell a local Corpus Christi newspaper, not the White House press corps at large or notify the public in a national way."

MCCLELLAN: "Well, I think we all know that once it is made public, then it's going to be news, and all of you are going to be seeking that information. The vice president's office was ready to provide additional information to reporters. There was no traveling White House press corps with the vice president, as there is with the president in a situation like this, so there are some different circumstances. And the other circumstance was here that someone was injured and needed medical care. And the vice president's team was making sure he was getting taken care of, and that he got to the hospital and received additional treatment."

Armstrong told the AP today that her family realized Sunday morning that it would be a story and decided to call the local newspaper, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. She said she then discussed the news coverage with Cheney for the first time.

"I said, Mr. Vice President, this is going to be public, and I'm comfortable going to the hometown newspaper," she told the AP. "And he said you go ahead and do whatever you are comfortable doing."

Earlier Monday morning, McClellan had said, “The first priority… was making sure that Mr. Whittington was getting the medical care that he needed. The first priority Saturday night was making sure he receiving medical care and getting to the hospital and being taken care of, and that’s what happened. The vice president’s office was taking the lead on making sure the information got out, and it did. The vice president’s office worked with Mrs. Armstrong to get that information out.’’

Matt Cooper, the Time magazine reporter, said on CBS's "The Early Show" today, "It's clearly an accident, but the fact that the White House didn't release this information, that it sat around for almost a day is in itself, bizarre."

In an online chat at the Washington Post site, the paper's White House reporter Peter Baker said reporters in D.C. are "flabbergasted" by the shooting. He indicated that the Post was looking deeply into how it was reported to the local sheriff and the exact condition of the victim.

"It sure woke up a lot of folks here in Washington on a quiet, snowy Sunday," Baker said. "Whether the story has legs I suppose remains to be seen." He said the delay question is "being asked a lot in Washington today...

"I'm not sure there is a standard protocol when the vice president shoots someone, but it's fair to say reporters prefer that news be disclosed in a timely fashion."

In response to another query he revealed, "we are looking today into the issue of the local sheriff's office and what involvement they had in this. Stay tuned, more to come."

Asked if knew of any other vice president shooting a man, Baker replied: "Obviously there was Aaron Burr shooting Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804, but that was actually intentional and in that case the victim died."

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Accidents will happen

Monday, February 13, 2006 Jeff Wells Rigorous Intuition

I've lived in this town for thirty years, and to no one I'm a stranger

And I put new bullets in my gun, chamber upon chamber - Nick Cave

I hate the sense that TranceFormation of America makes. I've referenced the book several times here, notably with respect to Dick Cheney's endowment, Bill Bennett's sado-masochism and the ubiquity of Oz programming, and each time I've apologized for doing so. Cathy O'Brien's account of her decades of torture and mind control is a fittingly dissociative jumble of contaminated memory, fantasy and truth, and if the rationality of these times were any less attenuated I'd be inclined to not bother trying to separate the parts:
Dick Cheney, then [assistant] White House Chief of Staff to President Ford...was the reason my family had travelled to Wyoming where I endured yet another form of brutality - his version of "A Most Dangerous Game," or human hunting.... Dick Cheney had an apparent addiction to the "thrill of the sport." He appeared obsessed with playing A Most Dangerous Game as a means of traumatizing mind control victims, as well as to satisfy his own perverse sexual kinks.

It's just out of this world, right? But then Cheney goes and shoots a man, in this world - not the otherworld of O'Brien's narrative - so another suggestive point of unfortunate contact is made, and the weirdness bears down a little more.

Reportedly this was the first occasion for the victim, Austin "millionaire attorney" Harry Whittington, 78, to go hunting with Cheney. Naturally enough he's a Republican, and not surprisingly he's a Bush appointee: a few years ago, then-Governor George Bush named him to the Texas Funeral Services Commission. If that means anything to you, it probably means Funeralgate. TFSC was the investigating body on the case of Service Corporation International, headed by Bush family friend Robert Waltrip, which had been "recycling graves" and throwing corpses in the woods. Eliza May was the director of the TFSC when the investigation began, and was fired, she claimed, on account of pressure from the Governor's office to help his friend at SCI. Her replacement? Harry Whittington. (As we've noted, SCI has gone on to better things, like being tasked to disappear the dead of Louisiana.)

Whittington was shot by the Vice President on the happy Republican hunting grounds of the 50,000 acre Armstrong Ranch of South Texas. The ranch had belonged to late Bush "Pioneer" Tobin Armstrong, who died last October, and is now the property of daughter Katherine. Perhaps the most interesting family biography belongs to Tobin's widow and Katherine's mother Anne, who advised Nixon, served as Ford's British Ambassador, and "approved covert actions on the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board under Reagan." Perhaps also worth noting is that Anne was a Halliburton director when the company first hired Dick Cheney.

This happened on Saturday, but the incident wasn't news until late Sunday. What happened in the interim? I could imagine Cheney calling Wolf, the Harvey Keitel character in Pulp Fiction, to clean up his mess. But in the horror show we can't stop watching, Cheney himself is the cleaner. So how was the missing time spent?

Then, when the shooting was finally reported, it was told as a joke. Dick Cheney puts an elderly man in intensive care, and the newsreaders can't stop grinning. In the blogosphere too, it became a piece from the lighter side. What's that about, but a coping mechanism to keep the absurdity at safe distance. You let it get to close, it can either drive you mad or efface your presumption of the world. We need to be able to cope with the Deep Absurdity, but sometimes we need to stop laughing long enough to do something about it.

It's suggested that Whittington is wholly responsible for getting "peppered"(note: not shot in the face and chest), by his having separated himself from the hunting party and approached them from behind. Cheney, so goes the word picture goes, was tracking a bird, wheeled about, and - whoops.

An accident? Sure; could be. But just as possible is an intentional act, because in so much they do, the Bush Administration and Cheney at the head of its class conduct themselves with the berserking disregard of a thrill kill cult. They've shrugged "It was an accident" over too many bodies. Even those who don't know O'Brien's account of Cheney's love for hunting humans have been given great cause to wonder, what isn't he capable of? Remember, this is a man who attended the Auschwitz memorial ceremony dressed for a duck hunt, wearing a wool cap which read "Staff 2001." Was he enjoying a good, deep-body chuckle, knowing he wouldn't be held to account for it by anyone but people like us, and so could get away with it?

Guy de Maupassant's "Diary of a Madman" tells the posthumous, first person story of a respected judge whom no one would ever suspect of murder, and so he senselessly kills a little boy and a fisherman just because he could. ("Who would ever know? Who would ever suspect me, me, me, especially if I should choose a being I had no interest in doing away with?") Appended to the diary de Maupassant adds this remark: "Alienist physicians to whom the awful story has been submitted declare that there are in the world many undiscovered madmen as adroit and as much to be feared as this monstrous lunatic."

I frequently read remarks such as What will it take for Bush to lose his base? Eat a baby on live TV? Maybe we'll yet find out.

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CIA chief sacked for opposing torture

By Sarah Baxter and Michael Smith The Times 12 Feb 06

Washington -- The CIA’s top counter-terrorism official was fired last week because he opposed detaining Al-Qaeda suspects in secret prisons abroad, sending them to other countries for interrogation and using forms of torture such as “water boarding”, intelligence sources have claimed.

Robert Grenier, head of the CIA counter-terrorism centre, was relieved of his post after a year in the job. One intelligence official said he was “not quite as aggressive as he might have been” in pursuing Al-Qaeda leaders and networks.
Vincent Cannistraro, a former head of counter-terrorism at the agency, said: “It is not that Grenier wasn’t aggressive enough, it is that he wasn’t ‘with the programme’. He expressed misgivings about the secret prisons in Europe and the rendition of terrorists.”

Grenier also opposed “excessive” interrogation, such as strapping suspects to boards and dunking them in water, according to Cannistraro.

Porter Goss, who was appointed head of the CIA in August 2004 with a mission to “clean house”, has been angered by a series of leaks from CIA insiders, including revelations about “black sites” in Europe where top Al-Qaeda detainees were said to have been held.

In last Friday’s New York Times, Goss wrote that leakers within the CIA were damaging the agency’s ability to fight terrorism and causing foreign intelligence organisations to lose confidence. “Too many of my counterparts from other countries have told me, ‘You Americans can’t keep a secret’.”

Goss is believed to have blamed Grenier for allowing leaks to occur on his watch.

Since the appointment of Goss, the CIA has lost almost all its high-level directors amid considerable turmoil.

AB “Buzzy” Krongard, a former executive director of the CIA who resigned shortly after Goss’s arrival, said the leaks were unlikely to stop soon, despite proposals to subject officers to more lie detector tests.

Krongard said it was up to President George Bush to stop the rot. “The agency has only one client: the president of the United States,” he said. “The reorganisation is the way this president wanted it. If he is unwilling to reform it, the agency will go on as it is.”

“History will judge how good an idea it was to destroy the teams and the programmes that were in place.”

Copyright 2006 Times Newspapers Ltd.

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Report: U.S. Is Torturing Captives

By Maggie Farley Los Angeles Times 13 Feb 06

NEW YORK — A draft United Nations report on the detainees at Guantanamo Bay concludes that the U.S. treatment of them violates their rights to physical and mental health and, in some cases, constitutes torture.
It also urges the United States to close the military prison in Cuba and bring the captives to trial on U.S. territory, charging that Washington's justification for the continued detention is a distortion of international law.

The report, compiled by five U.N. envoys who interviewed former prisoners, detainees' lawyers and families, and U.S. officials, is the product of an 18-month investigation ordered by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights. The team did not have access to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Nonetheless, its findings — notably a conclusion that the violent force-feeding of hunger strikers, incidents of excessive violence used in transporting prisoners and combinations of interrogation techniques "must be assessed as amounting to torture" — are likely to stoke U.S. and international criticism of the prison.

Nearly 500 people captured abroad since 2002 in Afghanistan and elsewhere and described by the U.S. as "enemy combatants" are being held at Guantanamo Bay.

"We very, very carefully considered all of the arguments posed by the U.S. government," said Manfred Nowak, the U.N. special rapporteur on torture and one of the envoys. "There are no conclusions that are easily drawn. But we concluded that the situation in several areas violates international law and conventions on human rights and torture."

The draft report, reviewed by the Los Angeles Times, has not been officially released. U.N. officials are in the process of incorporating comments and clarifications from the U.S. government.

In November, the Bush administration offered the U.N. team the same tour of the prison given to journalists and members of Congress, but refused the envoys access to prisoners. Because of that, the U.N. group declined the visit.

Nowak said he did not expect major changes to the report's conclusions and recommendations as a result of the U.S. government's response, though there would be amendments on minor issues.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. J.D. Gordon, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said the Defense Department did not comment about U.N. matters.

The report is not legally binding. But human rights and legal advocates hope the U.N.'s conclusions will add weight to similar findings by rights groups and the European Parliament.

"I think the effect of this will be to revive concern about the government's mistreatment of detainees, and to get people to take another look at the legal basis," said Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch. "There are lots of lingering questions about how do you justify holding these people."

The report focuses on the U.S. government's legal basis for the detentions as described in its formal response to the U.N. inquiry: "The law of war allows the United States — and any other country engaged in combat — to hold enemy combatants without charges or access to counsel for the duration of hostilities. Detention is not an act of punishment, but of security and military necessity. It serves the purpose of preventing combatants from continuing to take up arms against the United States."

But the U.N. team concluded that there had been insufficient due process to determine whether the more than 750 people who had been detained at Guantanamo Bay since January 2002 were "enemy combatants," and determined that the primary purpose of their confinement was for interrogation, not to prevent them from taking up arms. The U.S. has released or transferred more than 260 detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

It also rejected the premise that "the war on terrorism" exempted the U.S. from international conventions on torture and civil and political rights.

The report said some of the treatment of detainees met the definition of torture under the U.N. Convention Against Torture: The acts were committed by government officials, with a clear purpose, inflicting severe pain or suffering against victims in a position of powerlessness.

The findings also concluded that the simultaneous use of several interrogation techniques — prolonged solitary confinement, exposure to extreme temperatures, noise and light; forced shaving and other techniques that exploit religious beliefs or cause intimidation and humiliation — constituted inhumane treatment and, in some cases, reached the threshold of torture.

Nowak said that the U.N. team was "particularly concerned" about the force-feeding of hunger strikers through nasal tubes that detainees said were brutally inserted and removed, causing intense pain, bleeding and vomiting.

"It remains a current phenomenon," Nowak said.

International Red Cross guidelines state: "Doctors should never be party to actual coercive feeding. Such actions can be considered a form of torture and under no circumstances should doctors participate in them on the pretext of saving the hunger striker's life."

One detainee, a Kuwaiti named Fawzi Al Odah, told his lawyer this month that he stopped his five-month hunger strike under threats of physical abuse.

Thomas B. Wilner, a lawyer at Shearman & Sterling in Washington who has represented 12 Kuwaitis held at Guantanamo Bay, said that Odah told him that in December guards began taking away clothes, shoes and blankets from about 85 hunger strikers.

Wilner said Odah described guards mixing laxatives into the liquid formula they gave to about 40 prisoners through the nose tubes, causing them to defecate on themselves.

Wilner said Odah told him that on Jan. 9, an officer read what he said was an order from Guantanamo Bay's commander, Brig. Gen. Jay W. Hood, stating that hunger strikers would be strapped into a restraint chair and force-fed with thick nasal tubes that would be inserted and removed twice a day. After hearing a neighboring prisoner scream in pain and tell him not to go through it, Odah reluctantly ceased his hunger strike, Wilner said.

"I stopped it because they forced me to stop," Wilner quoted Odah as telling him. "They stopped it through torture."

Pentagon officials said the number of hunger strikers had dropped to four.

Officials have been forcefeeding detainees since August, but they started leaving the long nasal tubes in place in September after detainees complained that having them jammed down their noses to their stomachs and removed twice a day caused intense pain, bleeding, vomiting and fainting, Wilner said.

In January, he said, after harsh treatment resumed and hunger strikers were left strapped in the restraint chair in their own excretions, most gave up their protest.

"It is clear that the government used force to end the hunger strike," Wilner said. "It was brutality purposely applied to them to make them stop."

White House spokesman Scott McClellan dismissed Odah's allegations Thursday.

"Well, yes, we know that Al Qaeda is trained in trying to make wild accusations and so forth," McClellan said in response to a question about Odah. "But the president has made it very clear what the policy is, and we expect the policy to be followed. And he's made it very clear that we do not condone torture, and we do not engage in torture."

Wilner said Odah had not been accused of being part of Al Qaeda.

The International Red Cross is the only party allowed by the U.S. government to have access to prisoners and monitor their physical and mental health, but the organization is forbidden from making its findings public.

The five U.N. envoys are independent experts appointed by the U.N. Commission on Human Rights to examine arbitrary detention, torture, the independence of judges and lawyers, freedom of religion, and the right to physical and mental health.

The five had each been following the situation at Guantanamo Bay since it opened in January 2002.

They decided in June 2004 to do a joint report and asked the U.S. government for access to all detention centers.

"This report is not aimed at criticizing," Nowak said. "It is looking at what international human rights law says about Guantanamo. We are hoping that this report will actually strengthen the dialogue."

Staff writer Richard Serrano in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times

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'Mistake' captives languish at Guantanamo

M&C News Feb 13, 2006

MIAMI, FL, United States (UPI) -- Five Chinese Muslims the U.S. military admits were captured by mistake want the U.S. Supreme Court`s help in getting out of the Guantanamo Bay military prison.

Their capture and detention in the Cuban facility for more than four years has created a legal dilemma for the Bush administration, which fears releasing them back to China where they could face torture, yet refuses to grant them asylum for fear of opening floodgates to others.

'These men have been adjudged by the military to be, essentially, mistakes. They are innocent men captured by mistake by U.S. forces abroad,' Neil McGaraghan, a Miami lawyer representing two of the detainees told the Christian Science Monitor.

Besides the Uighur detainees, four other non-enemy combatants are being held at Guantanamo because of human rights concerns if they are returned to their home countries of Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan, the newspaper said.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

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Syria switches to euro amid confrontation with US

Reuters 14 Feb 06

Syria has switched all of the state's foreign currency transactions to euros from dollars amid a political confrontation with the United States, the head of state-owned Commercial Bank of Syria said on Monday.

"This is a precaution. We are talking about billions of dollars," Duraid Durgham told Reuters.

The bank, which still dominates the Syrian market although private banks have been allowed to set up in the last few years, has also stopped dealing with dollars in the international foreign exchange flows of private clients.

The United States has been at the forefront of international pressure on Syria for its alleged role in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri a year ago. Damascus denies involvement in the killing.

"It looks like a kind of pre-emptive action aimed at making their foreign assets safer, preventing them from getting frozen in case of any conflict," said a Middle East economist who requested anonymity.

© Reuters 2006

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Forget Iran, Americans Should be Hysterical About This - Nuking the Economy


Last week the Bureau of Labor Statistics re-benchmarked the payroll jobs data back to 2000. Thanks to Charles McMillion of MBG Information Services, I have the adjusted data from January 2001 through January 2006. If you are worried about terrorists, you don’t know what worry is. ...

Polls indicate that the Bush administration is succeeding in whipping up fear and hysteria about Iran. The secretary of defense is promising Americans decades-long war. Is death in battle Bush’s solution to the job depression? Will Asians finance a decades-long war for a bankrupt country?
Job growth over the last five years is the weakest on record. The US economy came up more than 7 million jobs short of keeping up with population growth. That’s one good reason for controlling immigration. An economy that cannot keep up with population growth should not be boosting population with heavy rates of legal and illegal immigration.

Over the past five years the US economy experienced a net job loss in goods producing activities. The entire job growth was in service-providing activities--primarily credit intermediation, health care and social assistance, waiters, waitresses and bartenders, and state and local government.

US manufacturing lost 2.9 million jobs, almost 17% of the manufacturing work force. The wipeout is across the board. Not a single manufacturing payroll classification created a single new job.

The declines in some manufacturing sectors have more in common with a country undergoing saturation bombing during war than with a super-economy that is “the envy of the world.” Communications equipment lost 43% of its workforce. Semiconductors and electronic components lost 37% of its workforce. The workforce in computers and electronic products declined 30%. Electrical equipment and appliances lost 25% of its employees. The workforce in motor vehicles and parts declined 12%. Furniture and related products lost 17% of its jobs. Apparel manufacturers lost almost half of the work force. Employment in textile mills declined 43%. Paper and paper products lost one-fifth of its jobs. The work force in plastics and rubber products declined by 15%. Even manufacturers of beverages and tobacco products experienced a 7% shrinkage in jobs.

The knowledge jobs that were supposed to take the place of lost manufacturing jobs in the globalized “new economy” never appeared. The information sector lost 17% of its jobs, with the telecommunications work force declining by 25%. Even wholesale and retail trade lost jobs. Despite massive new accounting burdens imposed by Sarbanes-Oxley, accounting and bookkeeping employment shrank by 4%. Computer systems design and related lost 9% of its jobs. Today there are 209,000 fewer managerial and supervisory jobs than 5 years ago.

In five years the US economy only created 70,000 jobs in architecture and engineering, many of which are clerical. Little wonder engineering enrollments are shrinking. There are no jobs for graduates. The talk about engineering shortages is absolute ignorance. There are several hundred thousand American engineers who are unemployed and have been for years. No student wants a degree that is nothing but a ticket to a soup line. Many engineers have written to me that they cannot even get Wal-Mart jobs because their education makes them over-qualified.

Offshore outsourcing and offshore production have left the US awash with unemployment among the highly educated. The low measured rate of unemployment does not include discouraged workers. Labor arbitrage has made the unemployment rate less and less a meaningful indicator. In the past unemployment resulted mainly from turnover in the labor force and recession. Recoveries pulled people back into jobs.

Unemployment benefits were intended to help people over the down time in the cycle when workers were laid off. Today the unemployment is permanent as entire occupations and industries are wiped out by labor arbitrage as corporations replace their American employees with foreign ones.

Economists who look beyond political press releases estimate the US unemployment rate to be between 7% and 8.5%. There are now hundreds of thousands of Americans who will never recover their investment in their university education.

Unless the BLS is falsifying the data or businesses are reporting the opposite of the facts, the US is experiencing a job depression. Most economists refuse to acknowledge the facts, because they endorsed globalization. It was a win-win situation, they said.

They were wrong.

At a time when America desperately needs the voices of educated people as a counterweight to the disinformation that emanates from the Bush administration and its supporters, economists have discredited themselves. This is especially true for “free market economists” who foolishly assumed that international labor arbitrage was an example of free trade that was benefitting Americans. Where is the benefit when employment in US export industries and import-competitive industries is shrinking? After decades of struggle to regain credibility, free market economics is on the verge of another wipeout.

No sane economist can possibly maintain that a deplorable record of merely 1,054,000 net new private sector jobs over five years is an indication of a healthy economy. The total number of private sector jobs created over the five year period is 500,000 jobs less than one year’s legal and illegal immigration! (In a December 2005 Center for Immigration Studies report based on the Census Bureau’s March 2005 Current Population Survey, Steven Camarota writes that there were 7,9 million new immigrants between January 2000 and March 2005.)

The economics profession has failed America. It touts a meaningless number while joblessness soars. Lazy journalists at the New York Times simply rewrite the Bush administration’s press releases.

On February 10 the Commerce Department released a record US trade deficit in goods and services for 2005--$726 billion. The US deficit in Advanced Technology Products reached a new high. Offshore production for home markets and jobs outsourcing has made the US highly dependent on foreign provided goods and services, while simultaneously reducing the export capability of the US economy. It is possible that there might be no exchange rate at which the US can balance its trade.

Polls indicate that the Bush administration is succeeding in whipping up fear and hysteria about Iran. The secretary of defense is promising Americans decades-long war. Is death in battle Bush’s solution to the job depression? Will Asians finance a decades-long war for a bankrupt country?

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

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Bush Admin Spent Over $1.6 Billion on Ads and PR Contracts Since 2003

By Congressional Desk California Chronicle February 13, 2006

"No amount of money will successfully sell the Bush Administration's failed policies, from the war in Iraq, to its disastrous energy policy, to its confusing Medicare prescription drug benefits," said House Democratic Leader Pelosi. "The American people know the Bush Administration is on the wrong track and the White House PR machine won't change that fact."
Washington, D.C. - Congressman Henry A. Waxman, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Congressmen George Miller and Elijah E. Cummings, and other senior Democrats released a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report today finding that the Bush Administration spent more than $1.6 billion in public relations and media contracts in a two and a half year span.

"The government is spending over a billion dollars per year on PR and advertising," said Congressman Waxman. "Careful oversight of this spending is essential given the track record of the Bush Administration, which has used taxpayer dollars to fund covert propaganda within the United States."

"No amount of money will successfully sell the Bush Administration's failed policies, from the war in Iraq, to its disastrous energy policy, to its confusing Medicare prescription drug benefits," said House Democratic Leader Pelosi. "The American people know the Bush Administration is on the wrong track and the White House PR machine won't change that fact."

"The extent of the Bush Administration's propaganda effort is unprecedented and disturbing," said Congressman Miller. "The fact is that after all the spin, the American people are stuck with high prescription drug prices, high gas prices, and high college costs. This report raises serious questions about this Administration's priorities for the country and I would hope that my colleagues on both sides of the aisle would agree that changes need to be made to reign in the President's propaganda machine."

"It is unbelievable that the Administration, on several occasions, has used limited taxpayer dollars to secretly promote initiatives such as No Child Left Behind, while underfunding money for our schools, books, technology, and after school programs," said Congressman Cummings.

Democrats requested that GAO conduct the study after evidence emerged last year that the Bush Administration had commissioned "covert propaganda" from public relations firms. Several federal departments had hired firms to develop "video new releases" to promote department initiatives which appeared to television viewers to be independent newscasts. Other revelations that triggered the GAO report included the disclosure that the Department of Education paid conservative commentator Armstrong Williams to promote the No Child Left Behind Act on the radio and in his columns.

To conduct its study, GAO obtained information from seven federal departments on all public relations, advertising, and media contracts during 2003, 2004, and the first two quarters of 2005. GAO found that during that time:

* The Administration spent $1.6 billion on contracts with advertising agencies ($1.4 billion), public relations firms ($197 million), and media organizations and individual members of the media ($15 million).

* The Department of Defense spent the most on media contracts, with contracts worth $1.1 billion. The Department of Health and Human Services spent more than $300 million on these contracts, the Department of Treasury spent $152 million, and the Department of Homeland Security spent $24 million during this period.

The Administration's public relations and advertising contracts spanned a wide range of issues, including Administration priorities like "marriage-related research initiatives," message development presenting "the Army's strategic perspective in the Global War on Terrorism," and an FDA contract to warn the public of the consequences and potential danger of importing prescription drugs from other nations.

The detailed list of contracts provided by the Air Force demonstrates the wide range of public relations and advertising contracting entered into by the federal government. This list included $179 million for a recruitment advertising campaign, more than $35,000 for promotional materials for a golf program, including "golf towel with embroidered design and golf tees with imprint," and $10,212 for "prize giveaways, such as cruises to Mediterranean and to Canada/New England."

GAO's accounting of the Bush Administration's public relations and advertising contracts is limited. GAO surveyed only seven of the 15 cabinet-level departments, relied on self-reported information from the agencies, and did not include subcontracts, task orders on existing contracts, or public relations work done by government employees.

For a fact sheet on the GAO report and the report itself, visit www.democrats.reform.house.gov

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Government may waive near $7 bln in oil, gas royalties: report

Reuters Tue Feb 14, 2:13 AM ET

NEW YORK - The government may waive up to $7 billion in royalty payments from companies pumping oil and natural gas on federal territory in the next five years, the New York Times reported on Tuesday, citing administration officials and budget documents.

The royalty relief would amount to one of the biggest giveaways of oil and gas in U.S. history, even though the administration assumes oil prices will remain above $50 a barrel throughout that period, the Times report said.
The report cited estimates in the Interior Department's recent budget plan that would allow companies to pump about $65 billion in oil and natural gas without paying royalties.

Administration officials cited by the report said the benefit stems from regulations dating back to 1996, when energy prices were relatively low and lawmakers wanted to encourage exploration in higher cost areas such as the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Much of the oil and gas from such leases is just beginning to be pumped due to the time required to explore deep waters and build large offshore platforms.

"We need to remember the primary reason that incentives are given," said Johnnie M. Burton, director of the federal Minerals Management Service, according to the report. "It's not to make more money, necessarily. It's to make more oil, more gas, because production of fuel for our nation is essential to our economy and essential to our people."
Comment: In other words, oil companies will make even more immense profits.

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France, Russia must show solidarity in world arena: France

www.chinaview.cn 2006-02-14 18:43:19

MOSCOW, Feb. 14 (Xinhuanet) -- French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said Tuesday that France and Russia must show solidarity in the international arena, the Itar-Tass news agency reported.

"Today like never before, France and Russia must speak in the international arena with one voice," Villepin said at a French Embassy ceremony honoring the Russian 18th regiment for its role in the fight against Nazi Germany in World War II.
"In the face of the challenges that the contemporary world throws our way _ terrorism, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, regional crises including, in particular, in the Middle East _ our countries are capable of acting together, uniting their forces and carrying high our common ideals, bravery,tolerance and solidarity," he was quoted as saying.

Villepin arrived here on Monday for a two-day official visit. He was to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday for talks on international issues of common concern, such as Iran's nuclear issue and Hamas.

Villepin's meeting with his Russian counterpart Mikhail Fradkovwould cover trade and economic cooperation and EU-Russia ties.

After his arrival Monday, Villepin visited Russia's NPO Lavochkin space design company that has cooperated with the European Space Agency on several projects.

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Energy deal with Russia is essential: Villepin

MOSCOW, Feb 13, 2006 (AFP)

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said on Monday it was vital to launch talks between Paris and Moscow on security of energy supplies.

"Between Russia, which is the world's top gas producer and the second largest oil producer, and France, which is at the forefront in this sector in Europe, it is essential to have dialogue in order to tackle the long-term challenges," Villepin told a reception for French expats at Paris' embassy in Moscow.
Western powers, which were startled when Moscow turned off natural gas supplies to Ukraine in January to push through a demand for sharply higher prices, are rounding on Russia to get a commitment to secure energy supplies.

The row with Ukraine disrupted gas supplies to several markets in the European Union, which relies on Russia for around a quarter of its natural gas imports.

The dispute was followed by mysterious explosions that damaged Russian pipelines and interrupted gas supplies to shivering Georgia for more than a week, as well as a surge in domestic demand in Russia that has produced nearly daily shortfalls in gas deliveries to Italy.

Under pressure to portray itself as a reliable energy provider, Moscow told its partners in the Group of Eight at the weekend that it wanted to narrow the cracks in the fractured world gas market.

"Russia said it wanted to create a world gas market like the existing world oil market," French Finance Minister Thierry Breton told a news conference after the meeting in Moscow of the G8 — Russia and the world's seven largest industrial powers.

France, which has practically no gas or oil resources on its own territory, is Moscow's ninth largest business partner and the sixth biggest investor in Russia.

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England set to ban smoking in pubs from next year

By Kate Holton Reuters Mon Feb 13, 8:14 AM ET

LONDON - England looks set to follow Ireland's lead and ban smoking in pubs when lawmakers vote on Tuesday after both health and brewing industry groups joined forces to bring it in line with the rest of Britain.

The vote follows a climbdown by Prime Minister Tony Blair's government which had previously proposed merely a partial ban, exempting private clubs and pubs which do not serve food.
That idea had incensed many lawmakers from Blair's own Labour party and prompted the government's chief health adviser Liam Donaldson to consider resigning.

In response, the government said it would allow a free vote, in which Members of Parliament (MPs) vote according to their consciences rather than on party lines.

They will now have three options: a total ban on smoking in pubs and private clubs; a ban in pubs but not private clubs and the original government plan exempting clubs and pubs which do not serve food.

There are some 20,000 private clubs and over 53,000 pubs in England and Wales, according to the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA).

A partial ban would put England at odds with Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales which have either completely banned smoking in indoor public places or have announced plans to do so.

Ian Willmore of the anti-smoking campaign group ASH said he was cautiously optimistic that MPs would adopt a total ban.

"Once you've conceded the health and safety grounds, then it becomes an all or nothing case," he said. "That's why all attempts to come up with half-way houses invariably founder on the rocks of reality."


Blair's government bowed to pressure after the cross-party Health Committee led by chairman Kevin Barron put forward an amendment to remove the exemptions in the law, which is due to take effect in mid 2007.

"It looks very much like there will be a complete ban in all pubs," Barron, a Labour MP, told Reuters. "It is just whether or not the private members clubs are going to be exempt."

After initial concerns about the financial impact, Britain's pub groups said they would support a complete ban as any compromise allowing some clubs to permit smoking would put England's pubs at an unfair disadvantage.

Barron said this had had a big impact on the debate.

"They (pub industry) say an exemption on clubs will threaten local, rural pubs. The intervention of the industry has had a real effect in terms of their (MPs') thinking."

The BBPA has said pubs in Ireland saw a 15 percent drop in trade following their smoking ban and they expect to see a similar, short-term result in England.

The Health Committee had described the initial government proposal as "unfair, unjust, inefficient and unworkable" and argued the law should make all workplaces and enclosed public spaces smoke-free.

Although British scientists were the first to document the health risks of smoking, such as lung cancer, the country has been described has a "tobacco-control time warp" because so little has been done to stamp it out in public spaces.

Barron said the government had been too concerned by public opinion and not health implications.

"We've seen the practicalities of Ireland where people can still go out to the pub and have a smoke but they don't (do it) in a confined space that affects the health of others," he said.

"Ireland looked at it on the basis of the health of bar workers and I think that's what we should have done.

"They (the government) kept thinking we've got to look at public opinion. (But) public opinion ... has moved massively in favor of a comprehensive ban."

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America's masterplan is to force GM food on the world

By John Vidal The Guardian 13 Feb 06

There is little the WTO, the EC or the US can do in face of this coalition of the unwilling. If the US again tries to impose its GM products on Europe - as it did in the 90s, sparking the whole debacle - the attempt will backfire. Europe's biotech industry may now try to force the EC to use the WTO judgment to get the six countries with import bans to repeal anti-GM laws, but it will meet an even broader, more determined movement.
Just a few years ago, World Trade Organisation officials used to act hurt when described by social activists as irresponsible, secretive bureaucrats who trampled over national sovereignty and placed free trade over the environment or human rights. But that was when the global-trade policeman ruled on disputes that had little bearing on Europeans.

The WTO court's latest ruling will greatly increase the number of people who believe the organisation needs radical reform, if not burial. This week three judges emerged after years of secret deliberation to rule that Europe had imposed a de facto ban on GM food imports between 1999 and 2003, violating WTO rules. The court also ruled that Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg had no legal grounds to impose their own unilateral import bans. "Europe guilty!" shouted the US press. "This is glorious news for the Bush administration," said one blogger.

Actually, the judges said much more, but in true WTO style no one has been allowed to know what. A few bureaucrats in the US, EU, Argentina and Canada have reportedly seen the full 1,045-page report, and an edited summary of some of its conclusions has been leaked. But no one, it seems, will take responsibility for the ruling, which may force the EU to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to compensate some of the world's most heavily subsidised farmers, and could change the laws of at least six countries that have imposed GM bans.

In fact the US has mostly won a lot of new enemies. Rather than going away, as the biotech companies and Washington fervently hoped, the opposition to GM foods seems to have been growing since 2004 when the case was brought to the WTO. Europe, its member states and its consumers all rejected the ruling last week, making the WTO look even more out of touch and incompetent to rule on issues about the environment, health and consumer choice.

The European commission, which has been trying to force GM crops into Europe over the heads of its member states, says the ruling is "irrelevant" because its laws have already been changed. Meanwhile, individual countries who dislike being told what to eat or grow by the EC as much as the WTO say they will resist any attempts to make them accept GM.

In the past few days Hungary has declared that it is in its economic interests to remain GM-free, and Greece and Austria have affirmed their total opposition to the crops. Italy has called the WTO ruling "unbalanced" and Poland's prime minister has pledged to keep the country GM-free. Local government is even more opposed: more than 3,500 elected councils in 170 regions of Europe have declared themselves GM-free.

There is little the WTO, the EC or the US can do in face of this coalition of the unwilling. If the US again tries to impose its GM products on Europe - as it did in the 90s, sparking the whole debacle - the attempt will backfire. Europe's biotech industry may now try to force the EC to use the WTO judgment to get the six countries with import bans to repeal anti-GM laws, but it will meet an even broader, more determined movement.

In fact, Washington and the US companies are not that bothered by Europe's predictable reaction. Europe has all but dropped off the world's GM map. The companies and the supermarkets know there is little or no demand for GM crops, and that Europe's subsidised farmers are reluctant to alienate the public further by growing them.

It is now clear that the real reason the US took Europe to the WTO court was was to make it easier for its companies to prise open regulatory doors in China, India, south-east Asia, Latin America and Africa, where most US exports now go. This is where millions of tonnes of US food aid heads, and where US GM companies are desperate to have access, buying up seed companies and schmoozing presidents and prime ministers.

More than two-thirds of exported US corn now goes to Asia and Africa, where once it went to Europe. As the Monsanto man said this week about the WTO ruling: "Our feeling is that it's important for countries other than the EU to have science-based regulatory frameworks."

Like the tobacco industry, GM companies are now focusing almost exclusively on developing countries. But here the industry is meeting stiff opposition from powerful unions and farming groups. Brazil has caved in, but Bolivia may shortly become the first Latin American country to fully reject GM. Some Indian states are deeply opposed, and there have been major demonstrations in the Philippines, Korea, Indonesia and elsewhere. India's largest farmers' organisation this week said the result of the WTO verdict would be that the US would become more aggressive in dumping GM food on to developing countries.

The US maintains that through the WTO it has won a great victory for free trade, and passed a significant milestone in US attempts "to have GM crops accepted throughout the world". Perhaps, but the battle is far from won, and in the meantime anyone opposing the crops is being reclassed as an enemy of America.

Within hours of the WTO decision, José Bové, the French farmer who has led European protests, arrived in New York to give an invited talk to Cornell students about GM food - and was immediately sent back to France by the US government.


© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

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How drug lobbyists influence doctors

By Jerome P. Kassirer Boston Globe February 13, 2006

CONGRESS IS in a stew over lobbyists' influence on political decision-making. The Abramoff fallout is likely to strike many who participated in the money-for-favors game, yet all the churning around is unlikely to yield any long-term effect. The reason? There are hundreds of well-heeled businesses and groups with a large and expensive wish list. The predecessor to illegal behavior is the undue influence of financial deals that create tension between the legal and ethical duty of a legislator to his constituents on the one hand and to his own personal interests on the other. When we learned about flagrantly illegal activities by certain lobbyists, many acted with surprise. Why should they have been surprised? Money begets influence, influence corrupts, and corruption can cross the line into crime.
But I write not about politicians (plenty of people are doing that already), but about similar corruptive influences in medicine. While lobbying groups spend about $2 billion to convince politicians to do their bidding, pharmaceutical companies spend nearly 10 times that much to influence the nation's 600,000 to 700,000 physicians to prescribe the newest and most expensive drugs. I imagine that many people who regularly watch television assume that the companies are spending most of their advertising budget to influence consumers, but no. Nearly 85-90 percent is spent on doctors, for free drug samples, speaker's fees, consultation fees, and ''educational" grants.

The settlement of the $185 million class action lawsuit against Bristol-Myers Squibb announced at the end of January is a lesson in how physicians paid by the pharmaceutical companies as speakers and consultants can be hazardous to your health. While most of the attention of this suit focuses on how company officials defrauded investors by overly flamboyant predictions for the sales of the highly touted ''blockbuster" drug Vanlev, documents prepared for the suit show that behind the scenes, Bristol-Myers Squibb-paid physicians in major medical meetings were shamelessly exaggerating the benefits of the drug for patients with high blood pressure and heart failure and failing to report publicly on substantial numbers of life-threatening drug complications which they knew, from their close relationship to the company, to exist.

Fortunately, the FDA saved hypertensive and cardiac patients from ever receiving Vanlev because it knew about the potentially fatal events, determined that they were excessive, and Bristol-Myers Squibb was eventually forced to withdraw its application to market the drug. A real save by the FDA!

The BMS settlement exposed a well-hidden method of influencing doctors. The biased talks were given in ''symposia" at major national medical meetings of major medical organizations such as the American Society of Hypertension and the American College of Cardiology. Symposia, little known to the public, are special events, usually lectures by leaders in the field, sponsored by drug and device companies and typically held in the morning before the official program or in the evening following the day's usual program. Nice snacks and drinks are often served and sometimes dinner also. As hard as they try to be objective, the speakers' financial ties to the industry often create subtle (or even overt) biases that induce them, either consciously or subconsciously, to adhere to the company line. From the experience with Vioxx, we learned that if they stray from the company's message, they may not last long as a paid speaker. (For perspective, the preliminary program of the American Psychiatric Association's June 2006 meeting in Toronto features at least 46 such symposia, sponsored by the major companies that make the drugs that psychiatrists prescribe.) What the APA gets for this collaboration with industry and what industry gets in return is not public knowledge.

The Senate Finance Committee is aware that the industry is using ''educational grants" to prominent physicians to influence the drugs that doctors prescribe. It is difficult enough to get reliable data on drug benefits and risks from industry-supported studies, but when physicians and physicians organizations, who should know better, knowingly exaggerate the efficacy of new drugs and underplay their complications, the consequences for the health of the public and individuals like you and me are too close for comfort. Lobbyists influence how the government spends your money, but financially conflicted physicians can threaten your well-being.

It's about time that pharmaceutical companies cut back on their massive campaign to influence doctors and to use paid ''experts" to influence other doctors. It's about time physicians, academic medical centers, and professional medical organizations wean themselves away from the deep pockets of companies whose principal goal is not education but marketing.

Dr. Jerome P. Kassirer, a distinguished professor at Tufts University School of Medicine, is author of ''On The Take: How Medicine's Complicity With Big Business Can Endanger Your Health."
© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.

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Archaeologists Find Massive Tomb in Greece

By COSTAS KANTOURIS Associated Press Feb 13 10:46 AM US/Eastern

THESSALONIKI, Greece - Archaeologists have unearthed a massive tomb in the northern Greek town of Pella, capital of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia and birthplace of Alexander the Great.

The eight-chambered tomb dates to the Hellenistic Age between the fourth and second century B.C., and is the largest of its kind ever found in Greece. The biggest multichambered tombs until now contained three chambers.
The 678-square-foot tomb hewn out of rock was discovered by a farmer plowing his field on the eastern edge of the ancient cemetery of Pella, some 370 miles north of Athens, archaeologists said.

"This is the largest and most monumental tomb of its kind ever found in Greece," said Maria Akamati, who led the excavations.

Archaeologists believe the tomb - filled with dozens of votive clay pots and idols, copper coins and jewelry - will shed light on the culture of Macedonia in the period that followed Alexander's conquest of Asia.

Alexander's empire, which stretched from Greece to Asia, broke into separate kingdoms upon his death in 323 B.C., as his generals battled over the remains of the ancient world's greatest empire.

Similar tombs from the same era have been discovered on Crete, Cyprus and Egypt, which was ruled by a Greek dynasty founded by Ptolemy, Alexander's general.

The tomb's size suggests it belonged to a a wealthy Macedonian family, Akamati said.

The tomb, believed to have been used for two centuries, was probably plundered in antiquity as most of the artifacts were strewn by the entrance to the chambers, Akamati said.

The complex is dominated by a central area surrounded by eight chambers colored in red, blue and gold dyes. Three inscribed stone slabs inside bear the names of their female owners _ Antigona, Kleoniki and Nikosrati. A relief on one of the slabs depicts a women and her servant.

The discovery was confirmed on Friday by a senior archaeologist responsible for the Pella site and will be presented at an Archaeological Conference in Thessaloniki that begins Thursday.

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Montserrat: Volcano Shoots Out Ash

Hardbeatnews, NEW YORK, N.Y., Tues. Feb. 14, 2006

Montserrat's Soufriere Hills volcano yesterday shot trails of steam and ash into the air, just days after scientists noted an increase in activity on the northwest side of the mountain.

Associated Press reports indicate that the volcanic ash was sent trailing over the U.S. Virgin Islands and parts of Puerto Rico.

Officials at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory continue to monitor the volcano and post constant reports.
Access to all areas south of Richmond Hill, and south of Jack Boy Hill to Bramble airport and beyond is prohibited at all times. The daytime entry zone, comprising the top part of St. George’s Hill, is open from 6 am to 6 pm. The maritime exclusion zone around the southern part of the island extends 2 km off shore from Pelican Ghaut to Roches Yard on the east side of the volcano, 2 km offshore from O’Garras to Gingoes on the south-west, and 200 m offshore from Plymouth.

After laying dormant for over half a century, the Soufrière Hills Volcano rumbled to life in 1995 and has been active ever since.

Activity increased in 1997, with huge eruptions of lava, rocks and ash changing the face of Montserrat forever. Entire villages were engulfed by pyroclastic flows, and the southern half of the island was evacuated.

The W H Bramble Airport was forced to close and the capital, Plymouth, was abandoned after being buried under layers of volcanic dust. More than half of Montserrat’s inhabitants moved away after their homes and businesses were destroyed.

Plymouth has been compared to a modern day Pompeii. Buried deep in ash, the once thriving business and commercial centre of the island now resembles a dust-covered lunar landscape.

At present, entry to Plymouth is only possible with a police escort. The volcanic exclusion zone covers the entire southern half of the island, as well as extending two kilometers off-shore.

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Villagers flee as earthquake shakes India

February 14 2006 at 06:04AM

A moderate earthquake centred in the Indian mountain state of Sikkim on Tuesday sent people running from their homes in the neighbouring eastern state of West Bengal, officials and witnesses said.
An Indian Meteorological Department official told Reuters that the 5.7-magnitude earthquake's epicentre was over 1 120km north of the eastern city of Calcutta and occurred at 6.25am (00h55 GMT).

"Lots of people panicked and ran out of their homes. But I have not heard of casualties," local journalist Niraj Lama said from the hill town of Darjeeling in West Bengal, which is close to Sikkim.

Witnesses in central West Bengal also felt the earthquake.

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Ark's Quantum Quirks

SOTT February 14, 2006


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