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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The hidden stakes in the Iran crisis

by Thierry Meyssan February 4, 2006 Reseau Voltaire (Translated by Colin Buchanan (endempire.blogspot.com)

The confrontation between the big powers over Iran continues with antagonisms hidden from view. Since December 2002, the USA has accused Iran of seeking nuclear arms in violation of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)
The seizure of Iran by the USA would mean them taking control of both the East bank of the Persian Gulf and the Southern Caspian, including their reserves of oil and gas estimated to be the second largest in the world.

Already the US have military control of part of the Caspian basin and of a corridor enabling them to link this area with the Indian Ocean (Afghanistan and Pakistan). They have also taken control of the key areas of the Gulf (Saudi Arabia and Iraq). At the end of this operation, Washington should have complete control over the world’s main hydrocarbon production and reserves. It will control the world economy without the need to share power.

At the present stage in the conflict, the big powers are divided with regard to US strategy goals. The UK, France and Germany are convinced that Iran has a nuclear arms programme. They base this on briefing by the US intelligence services who have shown them secret documents asserting that Tehran is working on a Green Salt Project aimed at developing a missile system with nuclear warheads. On the other hand, Russia, China and India consider Iran’s programme to be purely civilian in nature. They base themselves on the Fatwa of Ayatollah Khomeiny, decreeing that the production, possession and use of nuclear weapons is contrary to Islamic teaching.

Objectively, the NPT’s distinction between between legitimate civilian and prohibited military programmes is no longer pertinent given the techniques now available. Civilian know-how and facilities can easily be adapted to military use. A rigorous reading of NPT would lead to the prohibition of nuclear programmes for all states, whereas a more lax interpretation would open the door to generalized proliferation. Without dealing with this question it is impossible to resolve the Iranian case, and it is precisely this grey area which the US is exploiting in order to lead the way to war.

There is, however, perhaps one means of clarifying the situation . A special method of enriching uranium, not yet completely developed, would, once again, allow a clear distinction between civilian and military usage. Russia is endeavouring to perfect this method and proposes that it be used not only for Iran’s benefit but for that of the international community as a whole. This is expected to be one of the three major proposals which President Putin will put forward at the G8 summit in St. Petersburg, this summer.

The feasibility of this project remains to be demonstrated. Russia would produce nuclear fuel on its own territory in factories constructed in partnership with the state in question under the control of the International Atomic Energy Authority(IAEA). Detailed procedures still have to be worked out to guarantee the interests of all the protagonists. If this project were to be fully realized international relations as a whole would be turned completely upside down. Russia, as the guarantor of energy provision throughout the world would eclipse the authority of the USA which today satisfies their own energy needs at the expense of the rest of the world.

Iran has made of its nuclear programme a symbol of its independance with regard to Anglo-Saxon colonialism from which it has suffered so much. Contrary to an idea put about for some time now in the atlanticist press, this ambition is not the reserve of a particular faction within Iran but is shared throughout Iranian society. In addition, if the Islamic Republic has abandoned its dream of expansion dating from the Khomeiny revolution, nowadays, it intends to play a leading role in the rejuvenated non-aligned movement.. It also intends to share its demands regarding nuclear power with other countries and reaffirm the right to a peaceful nuclear programme, not just for itself, but for everyone.

Far from being concerned exclusively with Iran, the present diplomatic game will impact on the international balance of power and the intention of the USA, reaffirmed yesterday in the State of the Union Address, to take on unilateral global leadership.

Throughout 2004 and 2005 the various powers have been making increasingly complicated moves. A European Troika was meant to play the role of honest broker between the USA and Iran; they demanded a halt in Iran’s nuclear programme and then leant decisively towards the American camp. Iran, after accepting a two and a half year moratorium on its nuclear research, resumed them on the 10th January 2006, considering that they had waited long enough as a sign of good will without any serious response form the Europeans. The Russian position had become completely opaque, the foreign minister giving to understand that he shared the point of view of the Europeans until being put in his place by Putin who reaffirmed his commitment to a peaceful solution. Finally, a series of diplomatic missions have enabled Russia, China and Iran to develop a common strategy.

The whole question was given a kick-start when Britain organsied, on 30th January, a « private ministerial dinner » bringing together the foreign ministers of Britain, France, Germany, Russia, the USA and China.. In the course of this meeting, Jack straw, British foreign minister proposed that the IAEA refer the question to the Security Council, the first step on the way to war. His Russian and Chinese opposite numbers emphasized that such a decision would have no basis in international law. Confident in the viability of their uranium enrichment project, the Russian Federation wished simply to play for time, the time necessary to put together an agreement with Iran i.e. one or two months according to the experts. The dinner was concluded by setting out a timetable which each side presented as a victory: the IAEA Council of Governors will not be able to refer Iran to the UN Security council next week because it lacks the power to do so, but will demand of the UNSC that it be given the powers to do so at a future date.

This compromise allows the Americans and Europeans to maintain the pressure and the Russians and Chinese to gain time. Working out who came out best depends on whether you consider the glass half-full or half-empty.

In practice, assuming that the Security Council gives the Council of Governors the requisite powers, the latter can only put them into effect at their next meeting on 9th March.

The Iranians make play of resenting this horse trading as a betrayal by their friends the Russians. But, it is quite possible that they have obtained a written guarantee from the Russians that they will veto any vote by the Security council authorizing war.

Whatever the case may be, the Iranians are appealing to their partners in the non-aligned movement for help. President Ahmadinejad received a phone call of support from Thabo Mbeki( South Africa, who had produced nuclear during the apartheid era, along with Israel, later renounced them). Indonesia has repeatedly called for peace, whilst Venezuela and Malaysia are soon to receive the Iranian president.

At the same time, Iran is preparing « a world without Israel and the USA ». Tehran is optimistic about putting in place an oil spot market which doesn’t accept dollars. This is already working at an experimental stage. If no nation has officially announced its participation, many are encouraging participation through private companies acting as intermediaries. Now, the dollar is an overvalued currency whose value is maintained essentially by its role as a petro-currency. Such a spot market, once really up and running, would provoke a collapse of the dollar, comparable to hat of 1939, even if its transactions only amounted to a tenth of the world turnover. US power would be undermined by the falling dollar and, in time, Israel would also find itself bankrupt

Washington is then obliged to apply all its force to ensure that the major world powers break with Tehran. Short of war, the US must at least succeed in imposing economic isolation on Iran. Paradoxically, neither option seems possible. The US and Tsahal can hardly bomb Iran’s nuclear sites, since these are maintained by Russian advisers and technicians. Attacking Iran would imply declaring war against Russia. Furthermore, even if strikes were possible, Iran would not neglect to strike back at Israel with the devastating Thor-1 missiles sold to them by the Russians. The Shiites would make life even harder for the occupation forces in Iraq. If the US choose to use an economic blockade of Iran, this could easily be bypassed through Iran’s special relationship with China. Meanwhile, Iran would deny the West part of its oil supply, bringing about a rise in prices of 300% per barrel and a huge economic crisis.

Quite clearly, the outcome of this confrontation depends on the ability of each protagonist to impose his own timetable on events. Meanwhile, the Bush administration stubbornly drives towards a confrontation which it lacks the means to carry through successfully and in which it risks loosing its authority.

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Americans think Iran may use nukes

By United Press International

A USA Today-CNN-Gallup Poll says Americans not only think Iran will develop nuclear weapons but also use them against the United States.

The poll done over the last weekend also says Americans fear the Bush administration will be "too quick" to order military action against Iran, USA Today reported Tuesday.
The poll said eight out of 10 respondents predicted Iran would provide a nuclear weapon to terrorists to attack the United States or Israel. Six out of 10 respondents said Iran itself would deploy nuclear weapons against the United States.

On Prophet Mohammed cartoons, six out of 10 said the European newspapers that published them acted irresponsibly. But, by a 3-to-1 margin, they blamed the resulting furor on Muslims' intolerance of different points of views, the newspaper said.

The poll said 55 percent showed lack of confidence in the administration's ability to handle the situation in Iran.

President Bush's approval rating dipped to 39 percent, showing the State of the Union address and other subsequent speeches did not help lift the president's ratings.

The majority of the respondents (55 percent) also said the war in Iraq was a mistake. Only 31 percent, the lowest so far, believed the United States and its allies are winning in Iraq.

Comment: The poll shows that the manipûlation of he US public is proceeding apace, that their better instincts are being drowned out by disinfo and propaganda. Look at the figures reported about opinion on the famous cartoon manipulation. 6 out of 10 recognise the newpapers acted irresponsibly, but then they turn around and blame Muslim intolerance for the furor, which was the whole point of the operation: to portray the Muslims as fanatical crazies.

How many Muslim rmies are occupying Western countries?

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Who Will Blow the Whistle Before We Attack Iran?

By Ray McGovern ICH 14 Feb 06

The question looms large against the backdrop of the hearing on whistle blowing scheduled for the afternoon of Feb. 14 by Christopher Shays, chair of the House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations. Among those testifying are Russell Tice, one of the sources who exposed illegal eavesdropping by the National Security Agency, and Army Sgt. Sam Provance, who told his superiors of the torture he witnessed at Abu Graib, got no satisfaction, and felt it his duty to go public. It will not be your usual hearing.
I had the privilege of being present at the creation of the international Truth-Telling Coalition on Sept. 9, 2004 and of working with Daniel Ellsberg in drafting the coalition’s Appeal to Current Government Officials [ http://tompaine.com/Archive/others/appeal_for_truth_telling.php to put loyalty to the Constitution above career and to expose dishonesty leading to misadventures like the wars in Vietnam and Iraq. Whether or not encouragement from the Coalition played any role in subsequent disclosures, we are grateful for those responsible for the recent hemorrhaging of important information—from the “Downing Street Minutes” showing that by summer 2002 the Bush administration had decided to “fix” intelligence to “justify” war on Iraq, to disclosures regarding CIA kidnappings, secret prisons, and state-sponsored torture.

As former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds, who leads the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition, keeps reminding us, “Information is the oxygen of democracy.” And with this administration’s fetish for secrecy and our somnolent Fourth Estate, we would likely all suffocate without patriotic truth-tellers (aka whistleblowers).

Whistle Blowing and Vietnam

There are several times as many potential whistleblowers as there are actual ones. I regret that I never got out of the former category during the early stages of the Vietnam War, when I had a chance to try to stop it. I used to lunch periodically with my colleague Sam Adams, with whom I trained as a CIA analyst and who was given the task of assessing Vietnamese Communist strength early in the war. Sam proved himself the consummate analyst. Relying largely on captured documents, he concluded that there were twice as many Communists (about 600,000) under arms in the South as the US military there would admit to.

Adams learned from Army analysts that Gen. William Westmoreland had placed an artificial cap on the official Army count rather than risk questions regarding the prospects for “staying the course” (sound familiar?). It was a clash of cultures, with Army intelligence analysts following politically dictated orders, and Sam Adams aghast. In a cable dated Aug. 20, 1967 Westmoreland’s deputy, Gen. Creighton Abrams, set forth the rationale for the deception. The new, higher numbers, he said “were in sharp contrast to the current overall strength figure of about 299,000 given to the press.” Noting that, “We have been projecting an image of success over recent months,” Abrams cautioned that if the higher figures became public, “all available caveats and explanations will not prevent the press from drawing an erroneous and gloomy conclusion.”

When Sam’s superiors decided to acquiesce in the Army’s figures, Sam was livid. He told me the whole story over lunch, and I remember a long silence as each of us ruminated on what might be done. I recall thinking to myself, someone should take the Abrams cable down to the New York Times (at the time an independent newspaper). The only reason for the cable’s “SECRET EYES ONLY” classification was to hide the deception.

I adduced a slew of reasons why I ought not to: a plum overseas assignment for which I was in the final stages of language training; a mortgage; the ethos of secrecy; and, not least, the analytic work (which was important, exciting work, and which Sam and I both thrived on). One can, I suppose, always find reasons for not sticking one’s neck out. For the neck, after all, is a convenient connection between head and torso. But if there is nothing for which you would risk your neck, it has become your idol, and necks are not worthy of that. I much regret giving such worship to my own neck.

As for Sam, he chose to go through grievance channels and got the royal run-around, even after the Communist countrywide offensive at Tet in Jan.-Feb. 1968 proved beyond any doubt that his count of Communist forces was correct. When the offensive began, as a way of keeping his sanity, Adams drafted a cable saying, “It is something of anomaly to be taking so much punishment from Communist soldiers whose existence is not officially acknowledged.” But he did not think the situation at all funny.

Dan Ellsberg Steps In

Sam kept playing by the rules, but it happened that—unbeknownst to Sam—Dan Ellsberg gave Sam’s figures on enemy strength to the (then independent) New York Times, which published them on March 19, 1968. Dan had learned that President Lyndon Johnson was about to bow to Pentagon pressure to widen the war into Cambodia, Laos, and up to the Chinese border—perhaps even beyond. Later, it became clear that his timely leak—together with another unauthorized disclosure to the Times that the Pentagon had requested 206,000 more troops—prevented a wider war. On March 25, Johnson complained to a small gathering, “The leaks to the New York Times hurt us...We have no support for the war...I would have given Westy the 206,000 men.”

Ironically, Sam himself played by the rules; that is, until he learned that Dan Ellsberg was on trial for releasing the Pentagon Papers and was being charged with endangering national security by revealing figures on enemy strength. Which figures? The same old faked numbers from 1967! “Imagine,” said Adams, “hanging a man for leaking faked numbers,” as he hustled off to testify on Dan’s behalf.

Ellsberg, who copied and gave the Pentagon Papers—the 7,000-page top secret history of US decision making on Vietnam—to the New York Times and Washington Post, has had difficulty shaking off the thought that, had he released them in 1964 or 1965, war might have been averted.

“Like so many others, I put personal loyalty to the president above all else—above loyalty to the Constitution and above obligation to the law, to truth, to Americans, and to humankind. I was wrong.

And so was I, it now seems, in not asking Sam for that cable from Gen. Abrams. Sam, too, eventually had strong regrets. When the war drew down, he was tormented by the thought that, had he not let himself be diddled by the system, the left half of the Vietnam Memorial wall would not be there, for there would be no names to chisel into such a wall. Sam Adams died prematurely at age 55 with nagging remorse that he had not done enough.

In a letter appearing in the (then independent) New York Times on Oct. 18, 1975, John T. Moore, a CIA analyst who worked in Saigon and the Pentagon from 1965 to 1970, confirmed Adam’s story after Sam told it in detail in the May 1975 issue of Harper’s magazine:

“My only regret is that I did not have Sam’s courage...The record is clear. It speaks of misfeasance, nonfeasance and malfeasance, of outright dishonesty and professional cowardice. It reflects an intelligence community captured by an aging bureaucracy, which too often placed institutional self-interest or personal advancement before the national interest. It is a page of shame in the history of American intelligence.”

Next Challenge: Iran

Anyone who has been near a TV in recent weeks has heard the drumbeat for war on Iran. The best guess for timing is next month.

Let’s see if we cannot do better this time than we did on Iraq. Patriotic truth tellers, we need you! In an interview last year with US News and World Report, Republican Senator Chuck Hagel said that on Iraq, “The White House is completely disconnected from reality...It’s like they’re just making it up as they go along.”

Ditto for an adventure against Iran. But the juggernaut has begun to roll; the White House/FOX News/Washington Times spin machine is at full tilt. This is where whistleblowers come in. Some of you will have the equivalent of the Gen. Abrams cable, shedding light on what the Bush administration is up to beneath the spin. Those of you clued into Israeli plans and US intelligence support for them, might clue us in too. Don’t bother this time with the once-independent congressional oversight committees; you will have no protection, in any case, if you choose that route—CIA Director Porter Goss’ recent claims to the contrary notwithstanding. Nor should you bother with the once-independent New York Times. Find some other way; just be sure you get the truth out—information that will provide the oxygen for democracy.

Better Late Than Never?

Don’t wait until it’s too late—as Dan Ellsberg and Sam Adams did on Vietnam. Any number of people would have had a good chance of stopping the Iraq war, had they the courage to disclose publicly what they knew BEFORE it was launched.

One of them, Paul Pillar, was National Intelligence Officer for the Middle East from 2000 to 2005, and has just published an article in Foreign Affairs titled “Intelligence, Policy, and the War in Iraq.” It is an insider’s account of his tenure and the “disturbing developments” he witnessed on the job. In substance it tells us little more than what we have long since pieced together ourselves, but it provides welcome confirmation.

Sadly, Pillar speaks of the politicization of intelligence as though it were a bothersome headache rather than the debilitating cancer it is. Interviewed on NPR, he conceded without any evident embarrassment that, with respect to Iraq, “intelligence was not playing into a decision to be made. It was part of the effort to build support for the operation.” So, in the vernacular of Watergate, Pillar’s article is a “modified limited hangout,” in which he pulls many punches. Nowhere in Pillar’s 4,450 words, for example, appears the name of former CIA director George Tenet, whom he now joins at Georgetown University.

It should qualify as another “disturbing development” that Pillar parrots the administration’s default explanation for what drove it’s decision to topple Saddam; “namely, the desire to shake up the sclerotic power structures in the Middle East and hasten the spread of more liberal politics and economics in the region.” The word “oil” appears only once in Pillar’s article: “military bases” and “Israel” not at all. He splits hairs to be overly kind to former Secretary of State Colin Powell. “To be fair,” writes Pillar, “Secretary Powell’s presentation at the UN never explicitly asserted that there was a cooperative relationship between Saddam and al-Qaeda.” Pillar seem to have forgotten how Powell used that speech to play up “the potentially more sinister nexus between Iraq and the al-Qaeda terrorist network, a nexus that combines classic terrorist organizations and modern methods of murder,” and spoke of a “Saddam-bin Laden understanding going back to the early and mid-1990s.”

Truly Disturbing

Generally absent is any sense of the enormity of what the Bush administration has done and the urgent imperative to prevent a repeat performance. With no perceptible demurral from inside the government, George W. Bush launched a war of aggression, defined by the Nuremberg Tribunal as “the supreme international crime, differing from other war crimes only in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole”—like torture, for example.

If this doesn’t qualify for whistle blowing, what does? Let us hope that administration officials, or analysts—or both—will find the courage to speak out loudly, and early enough to prevent the “disconnected-from-reality” cabal in the Bush administration from getting us into an unnecessary war with Iran.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in Washington, DC. A veteran of 27 years in the analysis division of the CIA, he now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

This article appeared first on Truthout.com.

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War Pimp! Iran crosses 'red line' in nuclear stand-off

By Simon Freeman and agencies 13 Feb 06

Iran has started to inject uranium feedstock gas into centrifuges at its Natanz nuclear facility, crossing an internationally agreed "red line" on the path to producing the material for atomic weapons.

A senior diplomat from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that researchers at the republic's pilot enrichment plant in central Iran had taken the crucial step, signalling a major escalation in the long-running face-off between Tehran and the West.
Iran has publicly pledged to resume its suspended nuclear programme before the United Nations' watchdog meets in Vienna next month to discuss possible UN Security Council action, which could include sanctions.

The diplomat said Iran had not yet fired up the whole 164-centrifuge cascade but had begun to load some centrifuges with the raw uranium hexafluoride (UF6), which can then be purified into enriched uranium.

He explained that once nuclear scientists had perfected the enrichment technique at the pilot plant, they would be capable of escalating to industrial-scale enrichment with thousands of centrifuges.

Iran says its nuclear program is a peaceful effort to generate electricity and that it only wants to produce low enriched uranium, which is not refined enough for weapons use. The EU and US fear that the programme is a front for weapons development.

Those fears have been heightened by reports that the republic wants to install more than 50,000 centrifuges at Natanz, which could then produce enough enriched uranium for one atom bomb every fortnight.

Inspectors were due to visit the Natanz plant tomorrow for an inspection, following threats that surveillance seals and cameras would be removed.

Iran had suspended its suspect uranium enrichment for three years until talks with an EU-led negotiating team, aimed at winning guarantees that the program is peaceful, broke down last month.

It has, however, been making the feedstock UF6 at a conversion plant in Isfahan since the summer. The West had appeared ready to allow this work, although technically part of nuclear fuel activities, as long as there was no actual enrichment.

Gholam Hossein Elham, a spokesman for the government of President Ahmadinejad, was asked today whether Iran would wait for the IAEA board of governors’ meeting on March 6 to resume industrial-scale enrichment. He replied simply: "No, no."

The IAEA voted last week to report Iran to the Security Council, but left a one-month window for a final attempt to tempt Tehran back to the negotiating table. Proposed talks in Moscow with Russia, which has offered to carry out enrichment on Iran's behalf, today appeared to have been unilaterally cancelled.

Sergei Kislyak, the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, said Moscow still expected the Iranian delegation on Thursday. Mr Elham said that Iran's government was now insisting that enrichment was carried out within its borders.

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Iran says enrichment-related nuclear activity resumed

NewKerala 13 Feb 06

Tehran: Iran Tuesday said it had resumed enrichment-related activity at a nuclear plant even as the foreign minister admitted that Tehran intended to produce nuclear fuel.

"We have started the preliminary phase and related activities of uranium enrichment in Natanz right after the order by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad earlier this month," Javad Vaeidi, international deputy of the Iranian National Security Council, told reporters.

Denying press reports that Iran had begun full-scale uranium enrichment, he clarified that only enrichment-related activities had begun at the Natanz plant in central Iran.
"But this does not mean a full scale as technically it is impossible at this phase to inject uranium into the 60,000 centrifuges in Natanz," Vaeidi said, referring to press reports that the full enrichment process had already started.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki confirmed that Tehran intended to produce nuclear fuel using its own uranium enrichment facilities.

Iran planned to build more nuclear reactors after the completion by Russia of its first plant at the southern Gulf port of Bushehr, Mottaki said during a visit to Armenian capital Yerevan.

"We hope to provide (the new power plants) with nuclear fuel ourselves," he told reporters. Iran was preparing to receive the first shipments of fuel rods from Russia "in the near future".

Mottaki said Russian nuclear power chief Sergei Kiriyenko was expected in Tehran this month to discuss the cooperation.

Vaeidi said negotiations in Moscow over enriching Iranian uranium on Russian territory would be held Feb 20, four days later than initially planned.

He reiterated that Iran would evaluate the Russian plan but insist on at least having parts of the enrichment process inside Iran.

"We have nothing to hide (in our nuclear projects) and continue our commitments within the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) but no longer in line within the Additional Protocol of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)," Vaeidi said.

Following the referral of its nuclear case to the UN Security Council at the Feb 2 IAEA meeting, Iran had announced suspension of all voluntary activities in connection with the IAEA Additional Protocol, including snap inspections and removal of some of the IAEA monitoring cameras.

But Iran said it would stick to NPT commitments.

"We are even ready to continue talks with the European Union let alone Russia and China for finding a formula acceptable for all involved sides, we are not after adventurism but after an agreement," Vaeidi said.

Mohammad Saeidi, deputy of the Iranian Atomic Organisation, told the Khabar news network that recent press reports on full-scale enrichment in Natanz were not only incorrect but "following certain aims" against Iran.

Saeidi said the seals at the Iranian nuclear sites had been removed - "either by the IAEA or under IAEA supervision" - and that the IAEA monitoring cameras had not yet been removed.

Saeidi said as Iran no longer followed the IAEA Additional Protocol the monitoring cameras installed within the framework of the protocol would be removed but not those installed under the NPT.

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Iran sets new date for atomic talks with Russia

By Parisa Hafezi Reuters 14 Feb 06

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran announced on Tuesday it was deferring until next week talks with Russia on its nuclear plans, but gave no sign it was ready to stop enriching uranium on its own soil -- the key element in Moscow's plan.

However, a senior Iranian official said no actual uranium enrichment had yet taken place at the Natanz facility where Iran had halted work during negotiations with the European Union.

"No work has been done on the centrifuges and no gas has been injected yet," said the official, asking not to be named.
"They are preparing the ground. A facility that has been suspended for two and half years cannot become functional in one night."

Centrifuges spin uranium hexafluoride at supersonic speed to make atomic fuel, or if highly enriched, bomb-grade material.

Other officials had said preliminary work to revive a pilot project had begun at Natanz this week, intensifying world concern over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Russia and France called on Iran to cease "all activities connected with enrichment and processing" of nuclear fuel. Their joint statement was issued by the Kremlin during a visit to Moscow by French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.

Russia has offered to enrich uranium on Iran's behalf in a compromise designed to allay world fears that the Iranians might divert nuclear material into bombs.

Iranian nuclear negotiator Javad Vaeedi said talks on the proposal would now start in Moscow on February 20.

"We still want to reach a formula to prove that we will not divert uranium enriched on Iranian soil," he told reporters.

Russia confirmed that Iran had asked to postpone the talks, originally planned for Thursday, and voiced no objection.


Western countries suspect Iran wants nuclear weapons and this month persuaded the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to report it to the Security Council. Iran says it wants atomic fuel only to make electricity.

Diplomats said Iran wanted to drag out talks with Russia, without giving up its right to enrich uranium at home, hoping that diplomatic activity will defer any Security Council action.

Iran has already undercut Moscow's proposal by announcing it was exercising its right to resume uranium enrichment at Natanz.

Officials close to the IAEA in Vienna said inspectors had arrived at Natanz on Tuesday to monitor any activity there.

Vaeedi said earlier in the day that Iran had begun preliminary work to revive small-scale uranium enrichment at Natanz, adding that industrial production was some way off.

"We need some time to reach that level with all centrifuges because of the 2-1/2 year suspension. However, the preliminary phases have been launched," he said.

A Vienna-based European diplomat said "a very few" of the cascade of 164 centrifuges Iran had running at Natanz before the 2003 suspension were now operating again.

"They will have to be tested first but the Iranians' goal is clearly to get all 164 operational again which would effectively revive the pilot fuel enrichment plant at Natanz," he said.

Iran is believed to have the parts to assemble another 1,000-1,500 centrifuges. This task, marking the first step toward commercial-scale enrichment, would take several months or more to accomplish, the diplomat said.

Germany and China called separately for more diplomacy on the nuclear row with Iran.

"The international community should not give up diplomatic efforts under the IAEA's framework," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said.

German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said: "A military solution is not being discussed right now. I hope that if the international community stands together we can find a solution."

An Iranian official said Tehran was halting some IAEA monitoring carried out under the Additional Protocol of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which it had been observing voluntarily. Iran has not ratified the protocol.

"Since the Additional Protocol is not in force any more, some of those cameras should be taken out," said Mohammad Saeedi, deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization.

The European diplomat said non-compliance with the protocol would not affect the IAEA's remote cameras observing declared sites such as Natanz and a uranium processing plant in Isfahan.

The protocol applies mainly to areas such as research and parts assembly centres where the IAEA suspects Iran of failing to declare links to its atomic program as required by the NPT.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei is to report to the agency's board on March 6 on Iran's nuclear program. His report will go to the Security Council ahead of an expected debate on how to curb Iran's atomic work, with sanctions a possible option.

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Iran can progress despite enemies, president says

By Barbara Slavin USA TODAY 12 Feb 06

Iranian President Ahmadinejad, 49, had just given a long, fiery speech to a large crowd in Tehran to commemorate the 27th anniversary of Iran's Islamic revolution. He smiled at the beginning of the interview when the reporter greeted him in the Persian language, but otherwise made little eye contact. He seemed tired and spoke quietly.

The interview was conducted in a receiving room in an ornate building that once belonged to the family of the deposed shah, whose overthrow in 1979 helped provoke the rupture between Iran and the United States that persists to this day.

The son of a blacksmith, Ahmadinejad ran a populist campaign and scored an upset victory in a runoff election last July against Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, one of Iran's richest men.
He has promised to improve the lot of Iran's poor, but Iran's nuclear program and the president's controversial rhetoric — he has called the Holocaust a "fairy tale" and called for Israel to be "wiped off the map" — threaten to further isolate the nation of 70 million people and undermine the president's own political standing in Iran.


Q: You talk a lot about the things that divide our two countries. What about the things we have in common, for example in Iraq?

A: If countries act on the basis of a set of principles, there can be common ground in many areas.


Q: As in Iraq?

A: (He refuses to answer) If everyone is prepared to act on clear principles, there can be the possibility for common interests.


Q: You say you want Iran to progress but some of your comments have only further isolated the country. How can you progress if much of the world is opposed to Iran?

A: We are relying on the strength of our own people. The people of Iran have stood on their own feet throughout history and despite the bad intentions of their adversaries have been able to move forward.


Q: Don't you need Western investment to renovate your oil industry?

A: It is true but we are not going to compromise on our principles. There are many countries that are interested in working with us.


Q: Isn't it possible that you will face more economic sanctions?

A: It is true but these difficulties are the prelude to advancement. I believe those who want to impose limitations on us will lose more than us.


Q: Are you prepared for direct talks with the United States about the nuclear issue and other problems?

A: Iran is an Islamic country and as Muslims, the basis of our conduct is dialogue and rationality. Except for the occupiers of Jerusalem (Israel,) we are prepared to talk to all countries of the world. But the United States has its own conditions. It wants to talk to other countries from a position of overbearing strength and that cannot be a good basis for constructive dialogue.


Q: Is there some signal the United States can send that it wants talks on an equal basis?

A: They have to take a hard look at their own behavior and ask themselves if they were in the place of other nations, what would they do. They choose to threaten us and make false allegations and they want to impose their lifestyle on others and this is not acceptable.


Q: You have made many promises to the Iranian people but how will you keep them? Are handouts sufficient to help the economy?

A: I am among the very rare few politicians that I do not usually give promises. I have promised that I will work and we have a good and very coherent program for the advancement of our nation. Iran is a large country with very good human and financial resources. There is no program for just giving handouts.


Q: Foreign diplomats tell me that the brain drain is increasing and Iranian applications for visas for the West are up 20-50%?

A: The information I have is the contrary. There always has been travel back and forth.


Q: I hear that $200 billion in Iranian funds has fled to Dubai in recent months?

A: Those who have given that figure don't know the magnitude of $200 billion. We have relations with neighboring countries. There is investment back and forth. Dubai is a free trade area. It is natural that many Iranians go there to make investments. What is important is that the result of their work comes back to Iran. Last year, $8 billion was invested in the United Arab Emirates and $11 billion returned.


Q: Why do you say the things you do about Israel and the Holocaust when it only upsets people and further isolates Iran?

A: I don't know who is annoyed by revealing facts. But we know for sure that the people of Palestine are being killed every day with the Holocaust as a pretext and the people of the region have been deprived of peace and security. One day they (the Israelis) used to utter the slogan of the "Nile to the Euphrates." It means they have a larger plan to aggress other nations of the region.


Q: But Israel withdrew from Gaza last September?

A: They had no choice. They were forced to. Isn't the question of Palestine the most important issue in the region?


Q: A lot of Iranians would say no.

A: Apart from those Iranians you mention, the most important problem facing the region is Palestine. This regime (Israel) was founded on the basis of propaganda regarding the Holocaust.


Q: Why don't you go to Auschwitz and see the gas chambers for yourself?

A: My going there will not solve the problem. I cannot take a trip back 60 years but researchers can do that.


Q: Would you accept the testimony of Holocaust survivors in Iran?

A: We accept them but an impartial group should (also) go there and investigate.


Q: But it's established historical fact that all those people died, the same way it is established fact that the CIA overthrew Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1953?

A: If we assume that is true, then the Westerners would have to pay the cost. Why should the people of Palestine pay the cost? If we provide the right answer to this question, the important problem of the region will be solved. We want to find a fundamental solution to the problem. We believe if we can go to the root of the problem, security and peace will come to the region.


Q: I have met several of your childhood friends and they say you were a nice and studious kid and played soccer in a special way. But none of them voted for you. Why?

A: I don't know the background and I can't make a judgment. People are free to vote. We are all friends even those who haven't voted for me.


Q: Are you surprised you were elected president given your background?

A: No. This is Iran. Surprises happen. In this country, people decide and I am part of the people. Any young person if he works hard enough can reach pinnacles.


Q: Are you familiar with our Abraham Lincoln, who also came form a humble background?

A: Yes.


Q: Is there any foreign leader you identify with?

A: I am familiar with the history but I don't make personal statements regarding this.


Q: Do you have any message to Americans beyond the slogans you chant at demonstrations that say "Death to America?"

A: We do not have any problem with the people of the United States. If there was not the obstacle of the U.S. government, we were prepared to send assistance to the victims of Katrina. My government has decided to facilitate travel to the United States for Iranian nationals. I want a direct flight. We want peace and calm for all peoples of the world and human dignity for all people. For us, humanity is important. Nationality is not important. We believe that all humanity has the right to live in peace and dignity. Our criticism is targeted to a limited number in the ruling establishment.

American journalists come to Iran and they don't face any problems and they can meet all Iranian officials. It's not the same in the United States. They do not allow our journalists to go there and they put a lot of limitations on their activities.


Q: Would you allow American diplomats to come here to process visas so Iranians don't have to go to Dubai or Turkey?

A: The question of bilateral relations is dependent on a change of behavior. This is not a question you should ask me; you should ask the U.S. government. You can solve this problem through the interests section of the host country. The problem between the U.S. and Iran will not be solved through such gestures.


Q: Would you speak with our ambassador in Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, who has authority to meet with Iranians?

A: When I said there is a possibility of negotiations, there are certain conditions that need to be realized. If these conditions are met, the form (of negotiations) is not important. The way they have treated our people here has left no ground for talks. They think no one can live without them and this is a wrong notion. We have proved we can live without them. As long as they take that overbearing position of strength and threats, nothing will happen.


Q: Is there anything the U.S. can say or do to change your mind?

A: They think they can solve everything with a bomb. The time for such things is long over. Today we have the rule of rationality and thought. For example, a president has asked a question about the Holocaust. So many questions and publicity that the president is a warmonger. I think the Americans still don't know what's happening in the world. They think in a world manufactured by themselves. They have given support to those who published the cartoons and this is not the right thing to do. This kind of defamation is an insult and will not contribute to the resolution of problems. The wave of disgust toward U.S. policies is increasing. They only recognize their own friends, not others. We have in this world 6 billion people. It's not an American club. The majority are not Americans and are not interested to be Americans.

Why should there be impositions on them? If there are clear principles, the world will be a better place.


Q: What did you think of New York when you were at the United Nations?

A: Unfortunately, I was very busy and I didn't find a time to have private conversation with people. Our comings and goings were limited. If I had an opportunity, I would meet the people.


Q: But didn't you form some impression from looking out the window of your car?

A: It's not the buildings that make the city, it's human relations. You have to see how people live with each other and how much they like and sympathize with each other. What is important is the soul of the city. Unfortunately, I was not able to contact that soul. I saw many tall buildings and cars but they are made of steel and concrete. They do not reflect the sentiments of the people and that only comes from direct encounters. But generally speaking, people are the same everywhere and New Yorkers are no exception. They like peace and justice and tranquility.

© Copyright 2006 USA TODAY

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medialens 9 Feb 06

Writing in the Guardian last month, Timothy Garton Ash observed:

“Now we face the next big test of the west: after Iraq, Iran.”

Garton Ash thus blithely ignored the fact that every last scrap of evidence coming out of Iraq has pointed to only one conclusion - that Iraq’s “big test” was in fact the West’s big lie. Iraq was offering a threat to precisely no one outside its own borders.

Nevertheless, Garton Ash warned: “we in Europe and the United States have to respond. But how?” (Timothy Garton Ash, ‘Let's make sure we do better with Iran than we did with Iraq,’ The Guardian, January 12, 2006)
The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee joined the propaganda chorus demonising Iran:

“Now the mad mullahs of Iran will soon have nuclear bombs, are we all doomed?... Do something, someone! But what and who?” (Toynbee, ‘No more fantasy diplomacy: cut a deal with the mullahs,’ The Guardian, February 7, 2006)

Gerard Baker provided the answer in the Times:

“The unimaginable but ultimately inescapable truth is that we are going to have to get ready for war with Iran”. (Baker, ‘Prepare yourself for the unthinkable: war against Iran may be a necessity,’ The Times, January 27, 2006)

Why might this be?

“If Iran gets safely and unmolested to nuclear status, it will be a threshold moment in the history of the world, up there with the Bolshevik Revolution and the coming of Hitler.”

Readers will recall near-identical propaganda ahead of the assault on Iraq. Baker continued with some fearsome predictions:

“Iran, of course, secure now behind its nuclear wall, will surely step up its campaign of terror around the world. It will become even more of a magnet and haven for terrorists... Imagine how much more our freedoms will be curtailed if our governments fear we are just one telephone call or e-mail, one plane journey or truckload away from another Hiroshima. ”

This is the same Gerard Baker who wrote in the Financial Times in February 2003 that “victory [in Iraq] will quickly vindicate US and British claims about the scale of the threat Saddam poses”.

Baker was positively gleeful:

“I cannot wait to hear what the French, Russians and Germans have to say when the conquering troops begin to uncover the death factories Mr Hussein has been hiding from inspectors for 12 years... And do not be shocked if allied liberators discover all kinds of connections between Baghdad and terrorism around the world”. (Baker, ‘Defeating prejudice with persuasion,’ Financial Times, February 20, 2003)

A year later, Baker had airbrushed his own justification for war from history:

“Saddam Hussein asked for the benefit of the doubt. But that was not something a wise leader could possibly have given him. His actions had shown again and again the threat he represented. This threat lay not in vats of chemicals or nuclear centrifuges but in his ambitions.” (Baker, ‘Freedom from fear is a worthy goal,’ Financial Times, March 18, 2004)

In his February 2003 article, Baker had predicted: “it will become clear, even to the most rabid of anti-Americans just how much better off Iraqi people will be without their current president. The lifting of the yoke of Saddam Hussein will be an act of humanity far greater than the unseating of the Taliban.” (Baker, op. cit)

The New York Times’ Paul Krugman describes the current state of Iraq sans “yoke”:

“In fact, reconstruction has failed. Almost three years after the war began, oil production is well below prewar levels, Baghdad is getting only an average of 3.2 hours of electricity a day, and more than 60 percent of water and sanitation projects have been canceled. So now, having squandered billions in Iraqi oil revenue as well as American taxpayer dollars, we have told the Iraqis that from here on in it is their problem.” (Krugman, ’State of delusion,’ New York Times, February 3, 2006)

According to the Los Angeles Times, America's would-be Marshall Plan in Iraq “is drawing to a close this year“ with “much of its promise unmet and no plans to extend its funding”. (Cited, ibid)

Baker is a signatory to the Statement of Principles posted at the website of The Henry Jackson Society. Patrons include mild-mannered neoconservatives like former US assistant secretary of defence Richard Perle, William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, and James Woolsey, former director of the CIA. Other signatories include former head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, Colonel Tim Collins, Oliver Kamm, Andrew Roberts and Jamie Shea.

The Society declares that it: “Supports a ‘forward strategy’ to assist those countries that are not yet liberal and democratic to become so. This would involve the full spectrum of our ‘carrot’ capacities, be they diplomatic, economic, cultural or political, but also, when necessary, those ‘sticks’ of the military domain.” (http://www.henryjacksonsociety.org)

Serbia, Afghanistan and Iraq know all about the “’sticks’ of the military domain”.

Four of the Society’s eight “Principles” refer to military intervention and military power - another notes that “only modern liberal democratic states are truly legitimate”.

Everyone else, we can presume, is fair game.
Ten Years From A Bomb

When officialdom targets a new ‘deadly threat’, journalists often embarrass themselves in their rush to be ‘on side‘. The January 20, 2005, BBC 1 Lunchtime News saw diplomatic correspondent James Robbins declare that US relations with Iran were "looking very murky because of the nuclear threat". (BBC1, 13:00 News, January 20, 2005)

Four days later, Robbins responded to Media Lens emailers:

“I accept that it would have been better to have said ‘alleged nuclear threat‘. I am sorry that my wording was not as precise as it could have been.” (Email to Media Lens, January 24, 2005)

Similarly, in a front-page article this week, the Guardian reported that Iran's foreign minister had threatened immediate retaliation over a move to refer its "nuclear weapons activities" to the United Nations security council. A correction was printed in the paper two days later:

“We should have said ‘nuclear activities‘, not ‘nuclear weapons activities‘.” (Corrections and clarifications, The Guardian, February 7, 2006)

Although Iran has removed the seals it put in place at its nuclear fuel research sites, experts say it is at least a decade away from being able to produce a nuclear bomb. Consider the current media hysteria in light of the basic facts below.

Atomic weapons can be produced in two ways - either by using highly enriched uranium, or plutonium. Iran is known to have produced reconstituted uranium, "yellow cake", at its conversion facility at Isfahan. However, according to a September 2005 report by The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), this material is contaminated and not currently useable. If Iran were able to overcome the problem of purification, it would then need to enrich the uranium.

Whereas uranium used in nuclear reactors requires only a small amount of enrichment, weapons-grade uranium must be highly enriched. This can be done using gas centrifuges, of which Iran has 164 installed at its plant at Natanz. But this constitutes just 20 per cent of the number required to produce a bomb. Frank Barnaby, of UK think tank The Oxford Research Group, comments:

"They don't currently have enough centrifuges working - so far as we know - to produce significant amounts of highly-enriched uranium or even enriched uranium. They would need a lot more." (Sarah Buckley and Paul Rincon, ‘Iran “years from nuclear bomb“,' www.bbc.co.uk, January 12, 2006)

Given these and other problems, the IISS believes it would take Iran at least a decade to produce enough high-grade uranium to make a single nuclear weapon. Dr Barnaby agrees:

"The CIA says 10 years to a bomb using highly enriched uranium and that is a reasonable and realistic figure in my opinion."

Alternatively, Iran could use plutonium to produce a bomb. But the IISS notes that Iran would need to build a reprocessing plant suited to the fuel used in its Bushehr nuclear reactor - an extremely challenging technical task. Iran is also constructing a heavy-water research reactor at Arak. But, again, this will not be ready until at least 2014, and probably later, according to the IISS.

The West’s hypocrisy and double standards could hardly be clearer but they are off the media agenda. The United States is estimated to be in possession of no less than 10,600 nuclear warheads. Its leading ally in the region, Israel, also has nuclear weapons, as do Russia, Pakistan, India and China. Britain has recently sold nuclear-capable bombers to India, while the United States has sold nuclear-capable bombers to Pakistan. Iran’s is indeed a “tough neighbourhood”.

The media never mention the military coup organised by Britain and the United States to overthrow the democratically elected government of Iran in 1953 to secure the country’s oil. No mention is made of the massive military support subsequently sent to the Shah dictatorship before it was overthrown in 1979. Britain and America were thus directly responsible for a country that had the "highest rate of death penalties in the world, no valid system of civilian courts and a history of torture" which was "beyond belief". It was a society in which "the entire population was subjected to a constant, all-pervasive terror", according to Amnesty International. (Martin Ennals, Secretary General of Amnesty International, cited in an Amnesty Publication, Matchbox, Autumn 1976)

All of this is waved away as inconsequential by journalists. Objections to military action are usually raised on grounds of possible negative consequences for the West. The likely cost in lives to the Iranian people is rarely even discussed.

Last month, the journalist Felicity Arbuthnott described the cataclysm generated by the US-UK 'liberation' of Iraq:

“For Iraq watchers, the daily carnage of liberation, the searing, wailing grief of the bereaved, bombed, bereft, haunt. Neighborhoods, evocative ancient homes reduced to rubble by the 'liberators', the surviving, bewildered, standing on shattered bricks, mortar, toys, belongings, liberated even from home's secure warmth.

“In the distorted horrors of today's Iraq, many never make it home: disappeared, kidnapped, shot by the occupying forces for driving, walking, and playing, in familiar venues. Iraqi lives are the earth's cheapest. 'Government' or occupying troops kill 'insurgents' (even if baby or toddler ‘insurgents’) and few questions are asked.” (Felicity Arbuthnott, ‘Death of Humanity,’ PalestineChronicle.com, January 18, 2006)

Despite even this, despite everything that has happened, Western journalists are once again falling obediently into line as the British and American governments begin the long, arduous process of demonising another oil-rich target.

The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. In writing letters to journalists, we strongly urge readers to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone. Write to one or more of the journalists and editors below. It is more effective to write in your own words.

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Email: tga@timothygartonash.com

Write to the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee
Email: polly.toynbee@guardian.co.uk

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Email: gerard.baker@thetimes.co.uk

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Israeli soldiers kill disabled Palestinian teen who had toy gun

04:28:29 EST Feb 15, 2006

QABATIYEH, West Bank (AP) - Israeli soldiers on Wednesday shot dead a mentally disabled 15-year-old Palestinian boy who was carrying a toy gun, Palestinian security forces said.
The Israeli military, citing preliminary reports from the scene, said soldiers saw an armed man and shot him. Palestinian security said the Israeli soldiers had entered Qabatiyeh, near the West Bank town of Jenin, on Tuesday night to carry out an arrest raid. On Wednesday morning, children went over to one of the houses where the Israeli soldiers had taken up position, and began to throw stones, Palestinian security forces said..

Soldiers opened fire from the house, and shot Mujahed Al Simadi through the chest, they said. He died immediately, they added.

The Israeli military confirmed the stone throwing, but said soldiers also heard explosions and identified an armed person, firing at him from inside a house.

It said it was investigating Palestinian reports that soldiers shot a boy holding a toy gun.

Clashes between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli soldiers broke out after the killing.

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U.S. and Israelis Are Said to Talk of Hamas Ouster

By STEVEN ERLANGER February 14, 2006

JERUSALEM, Feb. 13 — The United States and Israel are discussing ways to destabilize the Palestinian government so that newly elected Hamas officials will fail and elections will be called again, according to Israeli officials and Western diplomats.

The intention is to starve the Palestinian Authority of money and international connections to the point where, some months from now, its president, Mahmoud Abbas, is compelled to call a new election. The hope is that Palestinians will be so unhappy with life under Hamas that they will return to office a reformed and chastened Fatah movement.
The officials also argue that a close look at the election results shows that Hamas won a smaller mandate than previously understood.

The officials and diplomats, who said this approach was being discussed at the highest levels of the State Department and the Israeli government, spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.

They say Hamas will be given a choice: recognize Israel's right to exist, forswear violence and accept previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements — as called for by the United Nations and the West — or face isolation and collapse.

Opinion polls show that Hamas's promise to better the lives of the Palestinian people was the main reason it won. But the United States and Israel say Palestinian life will only get harder if Hamas does not meet those three demands. They say Hamas plans to build up its militias and increase violence and must be starved out of power.

The officials drafting the plan know that Hamas leaders have repeatedly rejected demands to change and do not expect Hamas to meet them. "The point is to put this choice on Hamas's shoulders," a senior Western diplomat said. "If they make the wrong choice, all the options lead in a bad direction."

The strategy has many risks, especially given that Hamas will try to secure needed support from the larger Islamic world, including its allies Syria and Iran, as well as from private donors.

It will blame Israel and the United States for its troubles, appeal to the world not to punish the Palestinian people for their free democratic choice, point to the real hardship that a lack of cash will produce and may very well resort to an open military confrontation with Israel, in a sense beginning a third intifada.

The officials said the destabilization plan centers largely on money. The Palestinian Authority has a monthly cash deficit of some $60 million to $70 million after it receives between $50 million and $55 million a month from Israel in taxes and customs duties collected by Israeli officials at the borders but owed to the Palestinians.

Israel says it will cut off those payments once Hamas takes power, and put the money in escrow. On top of that, some of the aid that the Palestinians currently receive will be stopped or reduced by the United States and European Union governments, which will be constrained by law or politics from providing money to an authority run by Hamas. The group is listed by Washington and the European Union as a terrorist organization.

Israel has other levers on the Palestinian Authority: controlling entrance and exit from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip for people and goods, the number of workers who are allowed into Israel every day, and even the currency used in the Palestinian territories, which is the Israeli shekel.

Israeli military officials have discussed cutting Gaza off completely from the West Bank and making the Israeli-Gaza border an international one. They also say they will not allow Hamas members of the Palestinian parliament, some of whom are wanted by Israeli security forces, to travel freely between Gaza and the West Bank.

On Sunday, Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced after a cabinet meeting that Israel would consider Hamas to be in power on the day the new parliament is sworn in: this Saturday.

So beginning next month, the Palestinian Authority will face a cash deficit of at least $110 million a month, or more than $1 billion a year, which it needs to pay full salaries to its 140,000 employees, who are the breadwinners for at least one-third of the Palestinian population.

The employment figure includes some 58,000 members of the security forces, most of which are affiliated with the defeated Fatah movement.

If a Hamas government is unable to pay workers, import goods, transfer money and receive significant amounts of outside aid, Mr. Abbas, the president, would have the authority to dissolve parliament and call new elections, the officials say, even though that power is not explicit in the Palestinian basic law.

The potential for an economic crisis is real. The Palestinian stock market has already fallen about 20 percent since the election on Jan. 25, and the Authority has exhausted its borrowing capacity with local banks.

Hamas gets up to $100,000 a month in cash from abroad, Israel and Western officials say. "But it's hard to move millions of dollars in suitcases," a Western official said.

The United States and the European Union in particular want any failure of Hamas in leadership to be judged as Hamas's failure, not one caused by Israel and the West.

The officials say much now depends on Mr. Abbas, the Fatah-affiliated president who called for the January elections, has four more years in office and is insistent that Hamas has a democratic right to govern.

But Mr. Abbas has also threatened to quit if he does not have a government that can carry out his fundamental policies — which include, he has said, negotiations with Israel toward a final peace treaty based on a permanent two-state solution. The United States and the European Union have strongly urged him to stay on the job and shoulder his responsibilities, the officials say.

Western diplomats say they expect Mr. Abbas to repeat those positions in his speech on Saturday when the new parliament is sworn in, laying the groundwork for a future confrontation with Hamas.

In preparation for a Hamas-led government, Mr. Abbas is also said to be insisting on reinforcing his position as commander in chief of all Palestinian forces, even though the prime minister and the interior minister also have control over them through a security council that the prime minister chairs.

On Monday the departing parliament made an effort to boost Mr. Abbas's powers by passing legislation giving him the authority to appoint a new constitutional court that can veto legislation deemed in violation of the Palestinians' basic law.

Mr. Abbas would appoint the nine judges to the new court without seeking parliamentary approval. Hamas immediately objected. "The parliament has no mandate and no authority to issue any new legislation," said a Hamas spokesman, Said Siyam, adding that Hamas would try to overturn the decisions once the new legislature convened on Saturday.

Hamas will control at least 74 seats of the 132-member parliament, and it is likely to have the support of six more members on key votes. But more than 10 percent of the new legislators are already in Israeli jails: 10 from Hamas, 3 from Fatah and one from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.

The United States and Fatah believe that the Hamas victory was far less sweeping than the seat total makes it appear, said Khalil Shikaki, a pollster and the director of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

In an interview in Ramallah, Mr. Shikaki said that if Fatah had forced members to withdraw their independent candidacies in constituencies where they split the votes with official Fatah candidates, it might have won the election. Half of the 132 seats were decided by a vote for a party list, and the other half by a separate vote for a local candidate.

Hamas won 44 percent of the popular vote but 56 percent of the seats, while Fatah won 42 percent of the popular vote but only 34 percent of the seats. The reason? "Fatah ran a lousy campaign," Mr. Shikaki said, and Mr. Abbas "did not force enough Fatah independents to pull out."

If only 76 "independent" Fatah candidates had not run, Mr. Shikaki said, Fatah would have won 33 seats and Hamas 33. In the districts, Hamas won an average of only 39 percent of the vote while winning 68 percent of the seats, Mr. Shikaki said.

"Fatah now is obsessed with undoing this election as soon as possible," he said. "Israel and Washington want to do it over too. The Palestinian Authority could collapse in six months."

New Hamas legislators were unimpressed. Farhat Asaad, a Hamas spokesman, and Nasser Abdaljawad, who won a seat in Salfit where two Fatah candidates split the vote, gave the United States "a year or two" to come around to the idea of dealing openly with Hamas.

Mr. Asaad, a former Israeli prisoner, said: "We hope it isn't U.S. policy. Because those who try to isolate us will be isolated in the region."

Hamas will move on two parallel fronts, he said: the first, to reform Palestinian political life, and the second, "to break the isolation of our government." If Hamas succeeds on both fronts, he said, "we will achieve a great thing for our people, a normal life with security and a state of law, where no one can abuse power."

Hamas will find the money it needs from the Muslim world, said Mr. Abdaljawad, who spent 12 years in jail and got a Ph.D. while there. Hamas will save money by ending corruption and providing efficiency. Hamas will break the Palestinian dependency on Israel, he said.

Mr. Asaad laughed and added: "First, I thank the United States that they have given us this weapon of democracy. But there is no way to retreat now. It's not possible for the U.S. and the world to turn its back on an elected democracy."

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Sharon son jailed for nine months over finance probe

AFP Wed Feb 15, 2:30 AM ET

TEL AVIV (AFP) - Omri Sharon, the disgraced son of
Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, has been sentenced to nine months in prison on corruption charges over financing his father's party leadership campaign.

The 41-year-old Omri, the first Israeli politician to be jailed for breaking strict party campaign laws, was handed an additional nine-month suspended sentence and fined 300,000 shekels (65,000 dollars) by magistrates in Tel Aviv.
Edna Bekenstein, the president of the Tel Aviv district court, said Omri could delay the start of his sentence until August 31, giving him the chance to spend time with his seriously ill father.

His lawyers immediately announced their intention to appeal. Omri accused the court of hanging him out to dry merely because he was so high profile.

"It's a severe punishment. Had it not been Omri Sharon it would not have been the same severity," he told reporters outside the court.

Omri pleaded guilty to providing false testimony, falsifying documents and violating the electoral campaigns law last year after a probe into the financing of his father's 1999 campaign for the leadership of the Likud party.

Delivering the sentence, Bekenstein said Sharon tirelessly spun a web of deceit in order to raise unlimited funds for his father's campaign, and insisted that his sentence would serve as a warning and lesson to others.

"He knowingly made his father sign false statements he actively endangered the democratic process.

"This sentence has a very important impact in draining the political swamp. His crimes had an impact on the entire nation which enhances their severity."

The sentence was welcomed by state prosecutor Erez Nurieli who pressed for jail time for the former MP, who was forced to resign his seat in parliament for the right-wing Likud faction.

"This is a happy day. The sentencing befits the severity of the crime. The public and its elected representatives must now make a reckoning. The court accepted our case that this severely damaged democracy," he said.

The defence slammed the verdict and had argued community service would have been sufficient punishment for the contrite defendant, who has been taken into the bosom of the nation since his father suffered a massive stroke last month.

The court case follows a police investigation into allegations of illegal financing of Ariel Sharon's successful 1999 campaign for the leadership of the Likud which has also entangled the prime minister himself.

In early January, a day before Sharon collapsed, police said they had gathered evidence during a raid on one of his associate's houses which they believed would prove his family received a bribe of three million dollars.

Sources close to the premier claimed that the fierce attacks by political opponents following the police claims had contributed to his collapse.

The police inquiry has since been stalled by the prime minister's health crisis, with doubts he will ever regain consciousness.

Omri, who was a key backroom ally of his father, has spent much of the time since his father suffered a brain haemorrhage on January 4 at his bedside at Jerusalem's Hadassah hospital.

Israeli politics has been rocked by a string of corruption scandals.

Another Likud MP, Naomi Blumenthal, was found guilty on Monday of electoral bribery after paying luxury hotel bills for 15 Likud central committee members in return for their vote to secure her a high place on the party's list of parliamentary candidates in the last election.

Israeli Attorney General Menahem Mazuz decided earlier this month to indict Tzahi Hanegi, a cabinet minister who is managing Kadima's campaign for a March 28 general election, for cronyism during his time as environment minister.

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Israeli Ultimatums

February 15, 2006 By SAREE MAKDISI

Israel's acting prime minister, Ehud Olmert, declared last week that his country plans to "separate" from "most of the Palestinian population that lives in the West Bank.” He indicated that Israel will absorb the main settlement blocs in the West Bank and retain all of Jerusalem as well as control over the Jordan valley. "The direction is clear," Olmert concluded. "We are moving toward separation from the Palestinians, toward setting Israel's permanent border."

Of course, Olmert was trying to make it seem that this is a new policy, determined in part by Hamas’s victory in the recent Palestinian elections and the consequent absence of what Israel calls “a partner for peace.”

And, of course, he was being disingenuous.
First of all, Hamas has not yet formed a Palestinian government. And even when it does, there’s nothing to suggest that it would not be willing to negotiate with Israel—indeed, it has repeatedly signaled its intention to do just that. Anyway, governments enter into agreements with each other as governments, not as political parties—so the agreements already signed by the Palestinian Authority in that sense would be more binding on any future Hamas government than Hamas’s own charter, about which we have heard so much in recent weeks. Moreover, Hamas members ran for elections not on the basis of the party’s charter, but rather on the basis of a platform that included neither a call for the destruction of Israel, nor a call for the establishment of a Palestinian state in all of historic Palestine.

Second, Olmert’s announcement does not differ substantively from various pronouncements made by Ariel Sharon in recent years, long before Hamas's electoral victory, including a December 2004 speech in which Sharon claimed that the agreements he’d reached with the US “protect Israel’s most essential interests: first and foremost, not demanding a return to the ‘67 borders; allowing Israel to permanently keep large settlement blocs which have high Israeli populations; and the total refusal of allowing Palestinian refugees to return to Israel.”

In fact, assuming that nothing happens to make Israel change its mind, the future status of the West Bank will be determined according to a formula that pre-existed the Hamas electoral victory by a number of years, even decades.

The outlines of that formula were already being written in concrete and steel in the form of the barrier that Israel has been constructing since 2003. For almost its entire length, the barrier runs not along the 1967 border, but rather deep into the West Bank, depending on Israel’s territorial ambitions.

The parts of the West Bank that have relatively dense Palestinian populations have already been broken into two or three major chunks. Each of these, itself internally further fragmented according to Israeli fiat, will continue to be divided from the others by a network of Israeli army checkpoints, settlements and bypass roads. Jerusalem will continue to be off limits to most Palestinians, including many born there. The ninety percent of east Jerusalem that actually consists of territory illegally annexed by Israel after 1967 will remain off limits to the Palestinians whose land was thus taken from them, who now live not merely on the other side of an imaginary line, but rather on the other side of what is in many areas a 24 foot high concrete wall. Borders, airspace and water will remain firmly under Israeli control.

The real point, however, is not that this formula was devised by Ariel Sharon and repackaged by Ehud Olmert.

For, in substance if not in precise detail (though often in detail too), this is the formula that was on offer at Oslo in 1995 and at Camp David in 2000. Not just that: as the merest glance at a map will show, it is essentially the same unilateral and self-serving formula that Israel first devised when it originally conquered the West Bank, namely, the Allon Plan of 1967.

Over the years, Israel has packaged and repackaged this basic formula. When it had, beginning with Oslo, a Palestinian leadership willing to sign off on its terms, it was happy to negotiate various technicalities—while carrying on expropriating land and building new roads and settlements in the very territories supposedly under negotiation. Whenever Palestinians have balked at granting certain concessions, such as renouncing the rights of refugees driven from their homes in 1948, Israel has called off negotiations and complained vociferously about not having a “partner for peace.”

So what’s happening now is nothing new: Palestinians are being told that they can either accept Israel’s terms and call the shattered fragments of territory they are left with “a state with attributes of sovereignty.” Or they can learn to live with them anyway.

For the vast majority of Palestinians, neither option is acceptable.

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Israeli soldiers shoot student in face

IMEMC & Agencies 14 February 2006

Muhammed Ahmed Al Jabiry, 17, was sitting in his school bus, on his way to school Tuesday morning, when he was shot in the face by an Israeli soldier.

He remains in the hospital in critical condition -- doctors don't know whether Al Jabiry will live or die, but if he lives, his life will be changed forever.

The bus was bringing kids from their homes in Al Arroub Refugee Camp to Beit Amir High School was stopped by Israeli soldiers Tuesday morning for a search. The students were forced to get off the bus and searched one by one, a common occurrence in occupied Palestine, even for small children under the age of 10. Palestinian youth are used to being searched on a daily basis by Israeli soldiers, searches that, while humiliating and degrading, rarely turn deadly.
But Tuesday morning's search of the Beit Amir school bus resulted in a boy being shot in the face. Soldiers claim that the boy opened a window, and when they ordered him to close it, he did not. So he was shot in the face by the soldiers at close range.

Israeli soldiers shot a Palestinian student in the face after searching a school bus Tuesday morning.

The bus was traveling from Al Arroub Refugee Camp north of Hebron to Beit Amir High School.

According to eyewitnesses, Israeli forces at a checkpoint at the entrance of the Camp stopped the school bus and forced students to get off. The soldiers claimed that students had rocks and Molotov Cocktails.

Eyewitnesses said that after a brief search of the vehicles, soldiers allowed students to board the bus and ordered them to close the windows of the vehicle. As the students were doing so, a soldier shot 17 year old Ala' Muhammad Ahmed Al Jabiry in the face.

An Israeli ambulance rushed to the scene and transported the youth to Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem.

Israeli soldiers claim the Jabiry did not follow orders and opened the window rather than closing it.

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Israel threatens to sever all ties with Palestinians

AFP Wed Feb 15, 5:48 AM ET

JERUSALEM - Israel has ratcheted up the pressure on the Palestinian Authority by threatening to cut all ties if a prime minister affiliated to Hamas is chosen after parliament is sworn in this weekend.

But the leader of the militant Islamist movement, which won a landslide victory in last month's general election, said resistance would continue unless Israel ceased "aggression" toward Palestinian territory.
Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz threatened to cut all contacts with the Palestinian Authority if parliament is headed by Hamas leaders.

"If the Palestinians choose a parliament speaker and prime minister who are affiliated with Hamas, Israel will immediately sever all contact with the Palestinian Authority," Mofaz told Wednesday's edition of the top-selling Yediot Aharonot daily.

The hawkish Mofaz has taken an even harder line than Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who has said he wants to work with moderate Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas, who is not a member of Hamas.

"We refuse to have any contacts with any decision-making body that is headed by Hamas," a top-ranking Israeli official from the prime minister's office told AFP.

"This means there will be no transfer of funds (to the Palestinian Authority) and no travel permission for such officials," the source said on condition of anonymity.

Hamas, which has been behind dozens of suicide attacks against Israel, is widely expected to choose two of its own senior members as both premier and speaker at inauguration ceremonies on Saturday.

Olmert, who is standing in for coma-stricken Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon, also stressed in a speech Tuesday that Israel would have no truck with Hamas unless it committed itself to non-violence and recognised Israel's right to exist.

"Israel will not, under any circumstances, negotiate with a terror organization whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel," Olmert told an American-Jewish conference in Jerusalem.

Mofaz added that he did not expect any such change of heart and Israel had to therefore show no compromise.

"From my standpoint, it does not look like Hamas intends to give up its ideology regarding Israel's destruction, and it does not intend to recognise" Israel, added Mofaz.

However, Hamas supremo Khaled Meshaal has set forth conditions of his own, saying that Middle East peace could be achieved if Israel ended its aggression and occupation of the Palestinian territories.

"I want to tell the United States, the international community and all those who speak about peace that... the shortest way for this is that they should work for halting the Israeli aggression and occupation of the Palestinian territories," Meshaal said Tuesday during a visit to Khartoum.

"Otherwise, resistance and steadfastness will continue to be the only option before the movement (Hamas)," he warned during the trip, part of a tour of Muslim countries aimed at mustering support for his movement.

The major players in the peace process, including the United States and European Union, have threatened to cut funding to the Palestinian Authority in the absence of any such commitment from Hamas.

Meshaal, once the target of an assassination bid by Israel, described as "unjustified" the position assumed by the West towards Hamas's victory.

"What have the Palestinian people done other than put up resistance for the sake of their cause while the world stood silent before the Israeli usurpation of the Palestinian territories?" he asked.

Top Israeli and Palestinian leaders have not met for many months, but meetings at a lower level have continued to take place regularly.

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Hamas Assails U.S., Israeli 'interference'

By AMY TEIBEL Associated Press Feb 14, 2006

Hamas protested "interference" by the United States and Israel following reports Tuesday the nations were exploring ways to topple the militants' incoming government unless they renounced their violent ideology and recognized Israel's right to exist.

In Washington, the White House and the Israeli ambassador to the United States denied such a plot. The State Department said it was reviewing U.S. aid to the Palestinians and would make a decision within two weeks.
Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said in Sudan his group had no plans to recognize Israel.

"There will be no recognition of Israel and there will be no security for the occupation and colonization forces," Mashaal told a rally in Khartoum. "Resistance will remain our strategic option."

The New York Times, citing U.S. and Israeli officials it did not identify, reported Tuesday that the United States and Israel were considering a campaign to starve the Palestinian Authority of cash so Palestinians would grow disillusioned and bring down a Hamas government.

Israeli security officials said they were looking at ways to force Hamas from power and were focusing on an economic squeeze that would prompt Palestinians to clamor for the return of President Mahmoud Abbas' ousted Fatah Party. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter with the media.

A Foreign Ministry official said Israel was threatening to dry up funding and isolate the Palestinians internationally in an effort to keep Hamas, which is committed to Israel's destruction, from taking power.

However, Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon told The Associated Press: "There are no ongoing discussions with the U.S. designed to bring down the Palestinian government."

"There is no conspiracy between Israel and the United States to hurt the Palestinian people and there is no plan whatsoever to compromise the well-being of the Palestinian people," he said.

A Hamas official protested the reports, saying attempts to bring down a future Hamas government were hypocritical.

"This is ... a rejection of the democratic process, which the Americans are calling for day and night," incoming legislator Mushir al Masri said. "It's an interference and a collective punishment of our people because they practiced the democratic process in a transparent and honest way."

In Washington, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said, "There's no plot." State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said he was "puzzled" by the report.

"We are not having conversations with the Israelis that we are not having with others, including the Quartet. There is no plan, there is no plot," he said.

He also reiterated the demands of the so-called Quartet of Mideast peace negotiators: that Hamas recognize Israel, renounce terror and accept past agreements reached by the Palestinians. The Quartet — which includes the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia — backs the "road map" peace plan envisioning a Palestinian state side-by-side with Israel.

Hamas trounced Abbas' Fatah Party in legislative elections last month and is poised to form a new government in the coming weeks. Hamas swept to power on the strength of public dissatisfaction with Fatah's failure to eradicate lawlessness and corruption.

Abbas, elected separately last year, will remain in office and has been taking steps in recent days to curb the power of the incoming Hamas legislature.

Mashaal, on a regional tour to generate support for Hamas, said the group still hopes to form a national coalition government with other Palestinian factions, including Fatah.

"By God, Israel will not feel safe and will have no legitimacy," Mashaal said to shouts of "Allahu Akbar!" or "God is great!" while standing before a huge portrait of slain Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin.

"The world should commit Israel to withdraw from our territories and stop occupation and aggression and allow the Palestinian people to establish their independent state, with Jerusalem its capital."

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Tuesday ruled out talks with the militant group.

"We will not negotiate and we will not deal with a Palestinian Authority that will be dominated wholly or partly by a terrorist organization," he said in comments to visiting Jewish American leaders.

Israel has said it will not deal with Hamas until it renounces violence, recognizes Israel's right to exist and accepts current agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.

He also called on Abbas to disarm Hamas.

The reports about U.S. and Israeli interest in undoing the results of Jan. 25 Palestinian elections came a day after the outgoing Fatah parliament empowered Abbas to set up a sympathetic court that would be able to veto Hamas legislation unchallenged.

Abbas also took back control of state-run Palestine TV and radio, denying Hamas yet another tool of power.

The idea of withholding aid is not new. Since Hamas' electoral victory, the West has been threatening to cut nearly $1 billion in annual aid to the Palestinians, though Russia's recent invitation to Hamas to visit Moscow, and France's support for the Russian approach, have cracked what was a united front.

Israel also has threatened to cut off monthly transfers to the Palestinians of about $50 million from taxes and customs it collects for them, once Hamas takes power. The new Palestinian parliament is to convene for its first session Saturday, and a new Cabinet is expected to be appointed within weeks.

What is new is the twist of forcing regime change by impoverishing the Palestinians even further.

Even with the Israeli tax transfers and Western aid, the Palestinian Authority is expected to run a $660 million budget deficit in 2006. Without the tax and aid, the Hamas government could be forced to impose widespread layoffs affecting hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.

Israel has other leverage on the Palestinian Authority, including its control of the movement of people and goods between the noncontiguous West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the entry of Palestinian workers into Israel.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat warned that "speaking of ousting Hamas could backfire."

For one thing, Palestinians could blame the United States and Israel — not Hamas — for their growing misery if funding is cut. Moreover, Hamas certainly would turn to the Muslim world and private donors to try to make up at least some of the Western shortfall.

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Judge: Israeli citizens who marry Palestinians can go live in Jenin

By Yuval Yoaz Haaretz Correspondent 14 Feb 06

During a final debate Tuesday before the High Court was to issue its ruling on a petition calling for the cancellation of an amendment to the Citizenship Law, Justice Mishael Cheshin said Israeli citizens who marry Palestinians should go live in Jenin.

"The Palestinian Authority is an enemy government, a government that wants to destroy the state and is not prepared to recognize Israel," Cheshin said during the debate.

The amendment to the law would prevent the unification of mixed families via the granting of Israeli citizenship to Palestinians married to Israelis. The petition was filed in 2003 by the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, The Adalah Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and other bodies.
Cheshin reproached the petitioners for asking the state to define the security risks entailed in the granting of citizenship. In cases where the granting of Israeli citizenship to a Palestinian spouse would indeed pose a risk to state security, the petitioners asked that such individuals instead be granted entry visas.

"We need to listen to the declarations made by Hamas on a daily basis. The Palestinian people chose Hamas," Cheshin said.

"It's true that the Palestinians are not a hostile people. But are the State of Israel's defensive efforts against terror attacks, against lone individuals carrying out attacks not a sufficient enough reason to prevent their entry? Why should we take chances during wartime? Did England and America take chances with Germans seeking their destruction during the Second World War? No one is preventing them from building a family but they should live in Jenin instead of in [the Israeli Arab city of] Umm al-Fahm. The romance is touching but we are talking about life and death and the right to life takes priority," Cheshin said.

Supreme Court President Aharon Barak raised the possibility of alternate options that would infringe less on human rights.

It is possible, according to Barak, that Palestinians who marry Israelis could remain in Israel but would be granted identity cards visually different from those issued to Israeli citizens. This difference would allow their identification even after their entry into Israel is approved.

The petitioners claim the amendment, which denies citizenship to Palestinians but would grant it to other foreign nationals who marry Israelis, is inherently discriminatory and racist.

"Personal freedom touches on the most basic of human rights: The right to love, to love and be loved by one's partner, to aspire to establish a home and a joint life without any institutional obstacles," the petition said.

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Former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami Debates Outspoken Professor Norman Finkelstein on Israel, the Palestinians, and the Peace Process

Amy Goodman Interview Democracy Now 14 Feb 06

What happens when a former Israeli Foreign Minister debates a scholar known as one of the world's foremost critics of Israeli policy? The answer is not what you may expect. We spend the hour with Shlomo Ben Ami, author of "Scars of War, Wounds of Peace," and Norman Finkelstein, author of "Beyond Chutzpah". They joined us in our firehouse studio for a wide-ranging exchange. We discussed the origins of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, to the Oslo Peace Process, right up to the present.
Shlomo Ben-Ami is both an insider and a scholar. As Foreign Minister under Ehud Barak, he was a key participant in years of Israel-Palestinian peace talks, including the Camp David and Taba talks in 2000 and 2001. An Oxford-trained historian, his new book is "Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli Arab Tragedy." President Bill Clinton says, "Shlomo Ben-Ami worked tirelessly and courageously for peace. His account of what he did and failed to do and where we go from here should be read by everyone who wants a just and lasting resolution."

Norman Finkelstein is a Professor of Political Science at DePaul University. His latest book is "Beyond Chutzpah: On The Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History." Leading Israeli scholar Avi Shlaim of Oxford University calls Beyond Chutzpah "brilliantly illuminating... On display are all the sterling qualities for which Finkelstein has become famous."

We tried to cover as much ground as we could, from the origins of the conflict, to the Oslo peace process, to the present.

AMY GOODMAN: What happens when a former Israeli Foreign Minister debates a scholar known as one of the world's foremost critics of Israeli policy? The answer is not what you may expect. Last week, Shlomo Ben-Ami and Norman Finkelstein joined us our Firehouse studio for a wide-ranging exchange that lasted close to two hours. Today, we bring you an edited version of what they had to say.

Shlomo Ben-Ami is both an insider and a scholar. As Foreign Minister under Ehud Barak, he was a key participant in years of Israel-Palestinian peace talks, including the Camp David and Taba talks in 2000 and 2001. An Oxford-trained historian, his new book is Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy. President Bill Clinton says, quote, “Shlomo Ben-Ami worked tirelessly and courageously for peace. His account of what he did and failed to do and where we go from here should be read by everyone who wants a just and lasting resolution.”

We’re also joined by Norman Finkelstein. He is a professor of political science at DePaul University in Chicago. His latest book is Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. Avi Shlaim, Israeli scholar at Oxford University calls Beyond Chutzpah “Brilliantly illuminating… On display are all the sterling qualities for which Finkelstein has become famous.”

We tried to cover as much ground as we could from the origins of the conflict to the Oslo peace process to the present. I began by asking the former Foreign Minister of Israel, Shlomo Ben-Ami, about the founding of Israel in 1948.

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: In 1948, what was born was a state, but also original superpower in many ways. We have prevailed over the invading Arab armies and the local population, which was practically evicted from Palestine, from the state of Israel, from what became the state of Israel, and this is how the refugee problem was born. Interestingly, the Arabs in 1948 lost a war that was, as far as they were concerned, lost already in 1936-1939, because they have fought against the British mandate and the Israeli or the Jewish Yishuv, the Jewish pre-state, and they were defeated then, so they came to the hour of trial in 1948 already as a defeated nation. That is, the War of 1948 was won already in 1936, and they had no chance to win the war in 1948. They were already a defeated nation when they faced the Israeli superpower that was emerging in that year.

AMY GOODMAN: You have some very strong quotes in your book, of your own and quoting others, like Berl Katznelson, who is the main ideologue of the Labor movement, acknowledging that in the wake of the 1929 Arab riots, the Zionist enterprise as an enterprise of conquest. You also say, “The reality on the ground was that of an Arab community in a state of terror facing a ruthless Israeli army whose path to victory was paved not only by its exploits against the regular Arab armies, but also by the intimidation and at times atrocities and massacres it perpetrated against the civilian Arab community. A panic-stricken Arab community was uprooted under the impact of massacres that would be carved into the Arabs' monument of grief and hatred.” Explain that further.

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Well, you see, there is a whole range of new historians that have gone into the sources of -- the origins of the state of Israel, among them you mentioned Avi Shlaim, but there are many, many others that have exposed this evidence of what really went on on the ground. And I must from the very beginning say that the main difference between what they say and my vision of things is not the facts. The facts, they are absolutely correct in mentioning the facts and putting the record straight.

My view is that, but for Jesus Christ, everybody was born in sin, including nations. And the moral perspective of it is there, but at the same time it does not undermine, in my view, in my very modest view, the justification for the creation of a Jewish state, however tough the conditions and however immoral the consequences were for the Palestinians.

AMY GOODMAN: I did want you to step back, Shlomo Ben-Ami, and give us an overview of the whole peace process, of which you were a part, a critical player in this, the Oslo Peace Accords in 1993. Can you talk about what they entailed, why they failed?

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Well, the Oslo peace process was an agreement -- it started as an agreement between two unequal partners. Arafat conceived Oslo as a way, not necessarily to reach a settlement, but more importantly to him at that particular moment, in order to come back to the territories and control the politics of the Palestinian family. Don't forget that the Intifada, to which Oslo brought an end, started independently of the P.L.O. leadership, and he saw how he was losing control of the destiny of the Palestinians. His only way to get back to the territories was through an agreement with Israel. So in Oslo, he made enormous concessions.

In fact, when he was negotiating in Oslo with us, an official Palestinian delegation was negotiating with an official Israeli delegation in Washington, and the official Palestinian delegation was asking the right things from the viewpoint of the Palestinians -- self-determination, right of return, end of occupation, all the necessary arguments -- whereas Arafat in Oslo reached an agreement that didn't even mention the right of self-determination for the Palestinians, doesn't even mention the need of the Israelis to put an end to settlements. If the Israelis, after Oslo, continued expansion of settlements, they were violating the spirit of Oslo, not the letter of Oslo. There is nothing in the Oslo agreement that says that Israelis cannot build settlements. So this was the cheap agreement that Arafat sold, precisely because he wanted to come back to the territories and control the politics of Palestine.

Now, the thing is that a major problem with Oslo, on top of it, was that it solved very minor issues, such as Gaza, and even people on the far Israeli right were ready to give away Gaza, but it left open the future. The future was unknown. The two sides, the two parties started to embark on a process, when they had diametrically opposed views as to the final objective. There was nothing as to what will happen about Jerusalem. It was only said that we will negotiate Jerusalem. What about refugees? Nothing clear was said, just that we will negotiate the refugees. So the thing that -- the fact that the future was left so wide open was a standing invitation for the parties to dictate -- to try and dictate -- the nature of the final agreement through unilateral acts: the Israelis, by expanding settlements, and the Palestinians, by responding with terrorism. So this symmetry that was created in Oslo persists to this very day, so Oslo could not usher in a final agreement because of the different expectations that the parties had. It was an exercise in make-believe.

The Palestinians didn't even mention self-determination so a leader like Rabin could have thought that, okay, we will have an agreement that will create something which is a state-minus. This was Rabin’s expression. He never thought this will end in a full-fledged Palestinian state. There was a lot of ambiguity, constructive ambiguity might Kissinger say, but I think it was destructive ambiguity. It helped -- this destructive ambiguity helped in clinching the Oslo Agreement, but it was a minefield for those who went to Camp David and later on to Taba to try and solve all the pending issues.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Norman Finkelstein.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: I’m going to try to focus on the key points or issues about the refugees in Jerusalem, which for now I can't get into, but I will be happy to return to them later when we discuss what was the impasse at Oslo -- excuse me, the impasse at Camp David and Taba, but I want to set the context, and I don’t think -- I agree in part with the context that Dr. Ben-Ami set out, but not fully.

The main context, in my opinion, is as follows. Since the mid-1970s, there's been an international consensus for resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict. Most of your listeners will be familiar with it. It's called a two-state settlement, and a two-state settlement is pretty straightforward, uncomplicated. Israel has to fully withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza and Jerusalem, in accordance with the fundamental principle of international law, cited three times by Mr. Ben-Ami in the book, his book, that it's inadmissible to acquire territory by war. The West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, having been acquired by war, it's inadmissible for Israel to keep them. They have to be returned. On the Palestinian side and also the side of the neighboring Arab states, they have to recognize Israel's right to live in peace and security with its neighbors. That was the quid pro quo: recognition of Israel, Palestinian right to self-determination in the West Bank and Gaza with its capital in Jerusalem. That's the international consensus.

It's not complicated. It's also not controversial. You see it voted on every year in the United Nations. The votes typically something like 160 nations on one side, the United States, Israel and Naru, Palau, Tuvalu, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands on the other side. That's it. Now, the Israeli government was fully aware that this was the international consensus, but they were opposed (a) to a full withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza and Jerusalem, of course, and (2) they were opposed to creating a Palestinian state in the Occupied Territories.

Come 1981, as pressure builds on Israel to reach a diplomatic settlement in the Israel-Palestine conflict, they decide to invade Lebanon in order to crush the P.L.O., because the P.L.O. was on record supporting a two-state settlement. As Dr. Ben-Ami's colleague, Avner Yaniv, put it in a very excellent book, Dilemmas of Security, he said, “The main problem for Israel was,” and now I’m quoting him, "the P.L.O.'s peace offensive. They wanted a two-state settlement. Israel did not.” And so Israel decides to crush the P.L.O. in Lebanon. It successfully did so. The P.L.O. goes into exile.

Come 1987, Palestinians in the Occupied Territories despair of any possibility of international intervention, and they enter into a revolt -- the Palestinian Intifada -- basically nonviolent civilian revolt by the Palestinians. And the revolt proves to be remarkably successful for maybe the first couple of years. Come 1990, Iraq invades Kuwait. The P.L.O. supports, ambiguously, but I think we fairly can say, and I agree with Dr. Ben-Ami on this, they lend support to Iraq. The war ends, Iraq defeated, and all the Gulf states cut off all of their money to the P.L.O. The P.L.O. Is going down the tubes.

Along comes Israel with a clever idea. Mr. Rabin says, ‘Let's throw Arafat a life preserver, but on condition.’ And Dr. Ben-Ami puts it excellently, that “the P.L.O. will be Israel's subcontractor and collaborator in the Occupied Territories,” and I’m quoting Dr. Ben-Ami, "in order to suppress the genuinely democratic tendencies of the Palestinians." Now, it's true, exactly as Dr. Ben-Ami said, that Israel had two options after the Iraq war. It could have negotiated with the real representatives of the Palestinians who wanted that full two-state settlement in accordance with the international consensus, or it can negotiate with Arafat in the hope that he's so desperate that he's going to serve as their collaborator and subcontractor in order to deny the Palestinians what they're entitled to under international law. The Israelis chose Arafat, not only because Arafat himself was desperate. They chose him because they thought he would deny them what they were entitled to. He would suppress all resistance to the occupation.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Norman Finkelstein, author of Beyond Chutzpah. More from his debate with former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami after the break.

AMY GOODMAN: We continue today with the debate between Professor Norman Finkelstein and former Israeli Foreign Minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami. Since the outbreak of the latest Palestinian Intifada in the fall of 2000, the subject of what happened during the final round of peace talks at Camp David in July 2000 and at Taba in January 2001 has been the subject of much debate. The Israeli government and its supporters have blamed the Palestinians for rejecting what they say was a generous offer that would have given them a viable state. The Palestinians say Israel never made an offer that even approaches meeting their minimal rights. Each side has used the other's alleged position to assign blame for the violence that’s plunged the conflict into deeper chaos. We begin this part of the debate with Professor Norman Finkelstein, talking about the peace talks at Camp David in July 2000.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: My concern is let's look at the diplomatic record, the factual record. What were the offers being made on each side of the Camp David and in the Taba talks? And the standard interpretation, which comes -- which is -- you can call it the Dennis Ross interpretation, which, I think, unfortunately Dr. Ben-Ami echoes, is that Israel made huge concessions at Camp David and Taba; Palestinians refused to make any concessions, because of what Dr. Ben-Ami repeatedly calls Arafat's unyielding positions; and that Arafat missed a huge opportunity. Now, it is correct to say that if you frame everything in terms of what Israel wanted, it made huge concessions. However, if you frame things in terms of what Israel was legally entitled to under international law, then Israel made precisely and exactly zero concessions. All the concessions were made by the Palestinians.

Briefly, because we don't have time, there were four key issues at Camp David and at Taba. Number one, settlements. Number two, borders. Number three, Jerusalem. Number four, refugees. Let's start with settlements. Under international law, there is no dispute, no controversy. Under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, it's illegal for any occupying country to transfer its population to Occupied Territories. All of the settlements, all of the settlements are illegal under international law. No dispute. The World Court in July 2004 ruled that all the settlements are illegal. The Palestinians were willing to concede 50% -- 50% of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. That was a monumental concession, going well beyond anything that was demanded of them under international law.

Borders. The principle is clear. I don't want to get into it now, because I was very glad to see that Dr. Ben-Ami quoted it three times in his book. It is inadmissible to acquire territory by war. Under international law, Israel had to withdraw from all of the West Bank and all of Gaza. As the World Court put it in July 2004, those are, quote, "occupied Palestinian territories." Now, however you want to argue over percentages, there is no question, and I know Dr. Ben-Ami won't dispute it, the Palestinians were willing to make concessions on the borders. What percentage? There’s differences. But there is no question they were willing to make concessions.

Jerusalem. Jerusalem is an interesting case, because if you read Dr. Ben-Ami or the standard mainstream accounts in the United States, everyone talks about the huge concessions that Barak was willing to make on Jerusalem. But under international law Israel has not one atom of sovereignty over any of Jerusalem. Read the World Court decision. The World Court decision said Jerusalem is occupied Palestinian territory. Now, the Palestinians were willing, the exact lines I’m not going to get into now – they are complicated, but I’m sure Dr. Ben-Ami will not dispute they were willing to divide Jerusalem roughly in half, the Jewish side to Israel, the Arab side to the Palestinians.

And number four, refugees. On the question of refugees, it's not a dispute under international law. Remarkably, even fairly conservative human rights organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, in 2000, during the Camp David talks, they issued statements on the question of the right of return. And they stated categorically, under international law every Palestinian, roughly five to six million, has the right to return, not to some little parcels, 1% of Israel, which Israel is about -- which Israel would swap, return to their homes or the environs of their homes in Israel. That's the law. Now, Dr. Ben-Ami will surely agree that the Palestinians were not demanding and never demanded the full return of six million refugees. He gives a figure of 4-800,000. In fact – I’m not going to get into the numbers, because it’s very hard to pin it down -- other authors have given figures of the tens of thousands to 200,000 refugees returning. That's well short of six million.

On every single issue, all the concessions came from the Palestinians. The problem is, everyone, including Dr. Ben-Ami in his book -- he begins with what Israel wants and how much of its wants it's willing to give up. But that's not the relevant framework. The only relevant framework is under international law what you are entitled to, and when you use that framework it's a very, very different picture.

AMY GOODMAN: If you can bear to make this response brief, Dr. Shlomo Ben-Ami.

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Yes, yes. Okay, the last third part of the book, as Dr. Finkelstein says, there is the diplomat, and this same diplomat still behaves in a way as a historian when he says in this book that Camp David was not the missed opportunity for the Palestinians, and if I were a Palestinian I would have rejected Camp David, as well. This is something I put in the book. But Taba is the problem. The Clinton parameters are the problem, because the Clinton parameters, in my view --

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Maybe you could explain to them what that is. I don't think most people will know the Clinton parameters.

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Well, the Clinton parameters say the following. They say that on the territorial issue, the Palestinians will get 100% of Gaza, 97% of the West Bank, plus safe passage from Gaza to the West Bank to make the state viable. There will be a land swap. The 97%, which I mentioned, takes into account the land swap, where they will get 3% on this side, within the state of Israel, so we will have the blocks of settlements and they will be able to settle refugees on this side of the border.

About Jerusalem, it says what is Jewish is Israeli, and what is Palestinian is -- sorry, and what is Arab is Palestinian. It includes full-fledged sovereignty for the Palestinians on Temple Mount, on the Haram al-Sharif, no sovereignty, no Jewish sovereignty on the Haram al-Sharif, which was at the time and continues to be a major, major problem for Israelis and Jews, that these things mean to them a lot. And then, with the question of refugees, it says that the refugees will return to historic Palestine, to historical Palestine, and that Israel will maintain its sovereign right of admission. That is, it will have to absorb a number of refugees but with restrictions that need to be negotiated between the parties. But the bulk of the refugees will be allowed to return to the state of Palestine. This is the essence of the Clinton parameters.

What Dr. Finkelstein said here about international law, I want to make it clear, it is important, it is vital for a civilized community of nations to have an axis of principles based on international law, around which to run the affairs of our chaotic world. It is very important. It is vital, etc. But at the same time, when you go into political issues, and you need to settle differences, historical differences, differences that have to do with political rights, security concerns, historical memories, etc., it is almost impossible to do things on the basis of international law, but rather, on something that is as close as possible to the requirements of international law. The very fact that, as Dr. Finkelstein rightly says, the Palestinians were ready to make this or that concession is the reflection of them understanding that there is no viability, there is no possibility really to reach an agreement that says let us apply automatically and rigidly the requirements of international law.

AMY GOODMAN: Former Israeli Foreign Minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami, debating Norman Finkelstein in our Firehouse studio. We moved our discussion then to the last time Israelis and Palestinians met for peace negotiations in the Egyptian resort town of Taba in January 2001. This is Norman Finkelstein.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: What actually happened? What actually happened was exactly as what was announced by the White House spokesman on January 3rd, 2001, the official statement was both the Israelis and the Palestinians have accepted the Clinton parameters with some reservations. Both sides entered reservations on the Clinton parameters. Dr. Ben-Ami leaves out in the book both sides. He only mentions the reservations by the Palestinians.

Number two, I was surprised to notice one of the books Dr. Ben-Ami recommends is the book by Clayton Swisher called The Truth at Camp David. I looked in the book. On page 402 of Clayton Swisher's book, when he's discussing the issue of entering reservations to Clinton's parameters, he quotes none other than Shlomo Ben-Ami. You acknowledged -- you call them relatively minor, but you acknowledged that Barak entered -- you called it several pages of reservations. In fact, Barak sent a ten-page letter of reservations to the Clinton parameters. It was exactly symmetrical. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians agreed to the Clinton parameters with some reservations.

Wait, one last point. One last point. Dr. Ben-Ami left out another crucial point in his account. He doesn't tell us why Taba ended. It ended officially when Barak withdrew his negotiators. It wasn't the Palestinians who walked out of Taba. It ended with the Israelis walking out of Taba, a matter of historical record, not even controversial.


SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Okay, well. You see, as somebody who was a part of those who prepared the Israeli document that was submitted to President Clinton, I can say that the bulk of the document was an expression of our – the comparison that we made between our initial positions and what was reflected in the Clinton parameters. It was not a series of reservations. It was basically a mention of the difference, the way that we have gone. This was an attempt to impress the President, more than an attempt to say that these are reservations, sine qua nons. There were no real reservations in our document, whereas in the Palestinian document, there were plenty of them, with the refugees, with the Haram al-Sharif, with what have you. I mean, it was full of reservations from beginning to end. Ours was not a document about reservations, it was a statement, basically, that said these were our positions, this is where we stand today. we have gone a very long way, we cannot go beyond that. This was essentially what we sent.

Now, with regard to Taba, you see, we were a government committing suicide, practically. Two weeks before general elections, the chief of staff, General Mofaz, who is now the Minister of Defense, comes and in a -- I say that in the book -- in something that is tantamount to a coup d’etat, comes and says publicly that we are putting at risk the future of the state of Israel by assuming the Clinton parameters, and we accept them, we assume them. And then I go to Cairo and I meet President Mubarak, and President Mubarak invites Arafat to see me in Cairo, and I say to Arafat, “We are going to fine tune this in a meeting in Taba, if you wish.” And then we go to Taba, and we negotiate in Taba. And in Taba, Prime Minister Barak instructs me to conduct secret negotiations with Abu Alla. Within the negotiations, we had the second track trying to reach an agreement, and he even agrees to all kind of things that he was not very open to before that.

Now, this was the end. We saw that we are not reaching an agreement, and we need to go back, even if for the electoral campaign. I mean, we were a week before the elections. I mean, we were practically nonexistent. Our legitimacy as a government to negotiate such central issues as Jerusalem, as Temple Mount, the temple, etc., was being questioned, not only by the right that was making political capital out of it, but by the left, people from our own government. “Shlomo Ben-Ami is ready to sell out the country for the sake of a Nobel Prize.” This is what Haim Ramon said, one of the labor ministers, so it was unsustainable. We could not go any longer.

AMY GOODMAN: Former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami discussing the breakdown of the peace talks at Taba in January 2001. Israel and the Palestinians have not met for final status peace talks since.

AMY GOODMAN: We return to our debate between the former Israeli Foreign Minister, Shlomo Ben-Ami, and Professor Norman Finkelstein. I asked Finkelstein to discuss a section in his new book called the "Not-So-New New Anti-Semitism."

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, actually, I think it's useful to connect it with the conversation we've just had. Namely, I think when honest and reasonable people enter into a discussion about this topic, you will have large areas of agreement, some area of disagreement, and frankly -- and I’m not saying it to flatter; I say it because I believe it; I don't flatter by nature -- I’m quite certain that if Palestinians -- if representatives of the Palestinians were to sit down with Shlomo Ben-Ami in a room, weren't subjected to the sorts of political pressures that Dr. Ben-Ami describes from Israel, I think a reasonable settlement could be reached, and I think he's reasonable, in my opinion. We can disagree on some issues, but he's reasonable.

The problem is when you get to the United States. In the United States among those people who call themselves supporters of Israel, we enter the area of unreason. We enter a twilight zone. American Jewish organizations, they’re not only not up to speed yet with Steven Spielberg, they're still in the Leon Uris exodus version of history: the “this land is mine, God gave this land to me," and anybody who dissents from this, you can call it, lunatic version of history is then immediately branded an anti-Semite, and whenever Israel comes under international pressure to settle the conflict diplomatically, or when it is subjected to a public relations debacle, such as it was with the Second Intifada, a campaign is launched claiming there is a new anti-Semitism afoot in the world.

There is no evidence of a new anti-Semitism. If you go through all the literature, as I have, the evidence is actually in Europe, which is Dr. Ben-Ami's half-home ground, Spain, but throughout Europe, the evidence is, if you look at like the Pew Charitable Trust surveys, anti-Semitism has actually declined since the last time they did the surveys. They did it in 1991 and 2002. They said the evidence is that it's declined. And the same thing in the United States. What's called the “new anti-Semitism” is anyone who criticizes any official Israeli policies. In fact, my guess is had people not known who wrote Scars of War, Wounds of Peace, that book would immediately be put on the A.D.L.'s list of verboten books, an example of anti-Semitism, because he says things like the Zionists wanted to transfer the Arabs out. That's anti-Semitism. It has nothing to do with the real world. It's a public relations extravaganza production to deflect attention from the facts, from the realities, and I think this afternoon in our exchange, there were some areas of disagreement for sure, but I think a lot of what Dr. Ben-Ami said would not go down well with most of American Jewry, and that’s when they'll soon be charging him with being an anti-Semite.

AMY GOODMAN: On the issue of language, terrorism -- Arafat called terrorist, Hamas called terrorist -- how will you describe the Israeli state when it attacks civilians in the Occupied Territories? Or how would you describe Ariel Sharon?

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Well, let me tell you what is my description of terrorism. Terrorism, in my view, is an indiscriminate attack against civilian population. If I, personally, or my son, God forbid, is being attacked, being in uniform in Palestinian territories, by a Hamas call, I would not define this as terrorism. I will define as terrorism if they go into a kindergarten or a mall, explode themselves and cause injuries and death among civilian population. This to me is –

Now, the problem of the response of a state is much more difficult to define, because a state needs to go not against the civilian population. It needs to go against military targets, ticking bombs. This is what states can do and should do. The problem is that when you have a fight, not against armies, which is the case of Syria, Egypt, we never spoke about terrorism, state -- Israeli state terrorism against the Egyptians. We spoke about wars between two military sides. This is very difficult in the conditions prevailing in places like Gaza or the West Bank, where you have militias, you have arsenals of weapons, etc., and the army attacks them and there is collateral damage to civilian population. To me, this is very difficult to define as state terrorism. It is attacking military objectives or sort of military objectives, an army which is not a real army but can cause damage and you need to fight back and defend your population, and it is very, very unfortunate that civilians are hit. But if Israel targets intentionally civilians, this is a different matter. This can be defined as terrorism. I don't believe that we have done it. Normally, the practice is that things happened collaterally.

AMY GOODMAN: I would like to get your response, Professor Finkelstein, and also if you could include in that, you have a chapter in Beyond Chutzpah called "Israel's Abu Ghraib."

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, on the issue of terrorism, I agree with Dr. Ben-Ami's definition. It's the indiscriminate targeting of civilians to achieve political ends. That's a capsule definition, but I think for our purposes it suffices. What does the record show? Let’s limit ourselves to just the Second Intifada, from September 28 to the present. The period for that period, the record shows approximately 3,000 Palestinians have been killed, approximately 900 Israelis have been killed. On the Palestinian side and the Israeli side -- I’m now using the figures of B’Tselem, the Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories -- on the Palestinian and the Israeli side roughly one-half to two-thirds of the total number were civilians or bystanders. And if you look at the findings of the human rights supports -- B’Tselem, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Physicians for Human Rights in Israel, and so forth -- they all say that Israel uses reckless indiscriminate fire against Palestinians, and B’Tselem says when you have so many civilian casualties, you have, you know, 600 Palestinian children who have been killed, which is the total number of Israeli civilians killed. 600 Palestinian children killed.

They said when you have so much, so many civilians killed -- I don't particularly like the phrase "collateral damage" -- when you have so many civilians killed, B’Tselem says it hardly makes a difference whether you are purposely targeting them or not, the state has responsibility. So, you could say Israel -- using numbers, now -- is responsible for three times as much terrorism in the Occupied Territories as Palestinians against Israel. That's the question of terrorism.

Let's turn to an ancillary issue: the issue of torture. Now, the estimates are, up to 1994-1995, that Israel tortured -- and I’m using the language of Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem -- Israel has tortured tens of thousands of Palestinian detainees. Israel was the only country in the world, the only one, which had legalized torture from 1987 to 1999. The record on torture, on house demolitions and on targeted --

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: 1999 is when we came to office.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, I wish that were -- I wish that were the saving grace, but the fact of the matter is, being faithful to historical record, the record of Labour has been much worse on human rights violations than the record of Likud. It's a fact that the only Israeli government during the period from 1967 to the present which temporarily suspended torture was Begin from 1979 to 1981. On the record of house demolitions, Mr. Rabin used to boast that he had demolished many more homes than any Likud government. Even on the record of settlements, as Dr. Ben-Ami well knows, the record of Rabin was worse in terms of settlement expansion than the record of Yitzhak Shamir, and a fact he leaves out in the book, the record of Barak on housing startups in the Occupied Territories --

AMY GOODMAN: Building more houses?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Yeah -- was worse than the record of Netanyahu. It's a paradox for, I’m sure, American listeners, but the record on human rights, an abysmal record in general, an abysmal record in general, and in particular, the worst record is the record of Labour, not Likud.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Norman Finkelstein, author of Beyond Chutzpah. We move ahead to Shlomo Ben-Ami. In this last part of the debate, I asked the former Israeli Foreign Minister to discuss Israel's human rights record and the allegations it’s tortured tens of thousands of Palestinians.

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: To tell you the truth, I don't know about the numbers, and we have seen different governments in -- the British have done it. What the British did in Palestine in the ‘30s, there is nothing new in what we did that the British didn't do before us, and the Americans now in Iraq and elsewhere -- what I find very, very uncomfortable is really this singling out Israel that lives in a very unique sort of situation in comparison with other countries, but --

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Norman Finkelstein makes the point, "Israel's Abu Ghraib," so that’s making reference to what America did in Iraq.

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Okay, okay. But if you -- if you would come from another planet and examine the resolutions of the U.N., the Security Council, you might reach the conclusion there is only one sinner in this planet, and it’s the state of Israel, and not anybody else.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: But I am quoting your own human rights organizations. You know, B’Tselem is not the United Nations.

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Okay, that’s okay. I mean, I’m not – but it speaks in favor of Israel that we have human rights, we have B’Tselem, and we criticize ourselves.


SHLOMO BEN-AMI: And we want to change things, but the solution –

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: I will agree with that, but then you have to say it doesn't speak too much in Israel's favor that it's the only country in the world that legalized torture. It was also the only country in the world that legalized hostage taking. It was also the only country in the –

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: It wasn’t legalized –

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, yes. As your chief justice called it, “keeping Lebanese as bargaining chips.” Israel was the only country in the world that's legalized house demolitions as a form of punishment. Those things have to also be included in the record.


NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: In addition to -- I totally agree with you, it's to Israel's credit that it has a B’Tselem, an organization for which I have the highest regard and esteem. I agree with that.

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Okay, but the thing is that the conditions where Israel has to operate, this is -- we do not have a Sweden and Denmark as neighbors, and we have neighbors that have taken hostages, and have taken hostages that forced us to exchange things that were not very popular. Rabin himself gave away 1,500 Palestinian and Lebanese prisoners in exchange for three Israeli soldiers, and Sharon gave away 400 Palestinian prisoners in exchange for four bodies of Israeli soldiers. So we are living in that kind of place.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: But that may tell you that's because they take so many people prisoner that they have a lot to give back. Right now, as we speak, there are 9,000 Palestinian political prisoners in Israel.

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: This is because we live in the conditions that we live. We are not, as I said – this is not Scandinavia.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: But, Dr. Ben-Ami, you know, as well as I do, international law does not apply to some countries and not to others and some continents and not to others. Either it applies to everybody, or it applies to nobody. So to use the excuse, "Well, in our neighborhood we don't have to recognize international law," is simply a repudiation of international law.

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: No, I’m not saying – No, no, I’m not saying that we do not have to recognize international law. I say that the conditions --

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, then, it applies --

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: No, no. I mean, there are conditions where you cannot apply these lofty principles, which are very important, but you cannot apply them. And the British -- and the British --

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: The British is an interesting example.

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Well, it’s an interesting example. They didn’t --

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: B’Tselem did a comparison --

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: They did it in Gibraltar --

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: The British – that’s right.

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: They did it in the Falklands. They did – anywhere --

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: B’Tselem did an interesting comparison. It compared the British policies of torture in Northern Ireland with Israeli policies of torture. In the 1970s, there were thousands of terrorist attacks by the I.R.A., and B’Tselem's comparison showed that the Israeli record is much worse than the British on the question of torture. That's the facts.

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Yeah. You face now in this country a challenge of terrorism, so you go to PATRIOT Act and you go to --

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: But you won't find me justifying torture.

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: These are the conditions that can be very dire, very difficult --

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: No conditions justify torture.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me ask Dr. Ben-Ami, on the issue of the United States, as you look here, coming here for a few days, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, do you feel there are problems with the detention of the hundreds of men that are being held at Guantanamo without charge and what happened at Abu Ghraib?

SHLOMO BEN-AMI: Well, I cannot condone that. I mean, I think that, obviously, it is a violation of international norms. There is no doubt about it. But I don't follow the internal American debate. I don't know if this society is scandalized by what happens and what is the degree of civil opposition, civic opposition, and if you have here organizations like not only B’Tselem, even Shalom Achshav, which is a centrist – it’s not a leftwing -- organization that exposes the seams of your own government, I don't know. Maybe yes.

I think we are a society in the middle of a very complicated conflict. As I do admit, in this conflict many atrocities were committed by both sides, however, but I do recognize our own shortcomings, blunders and things. And the only solution to this situation -- the only, the only solution -- is to try and reach a final settlement between us and the Palestinians. There is no other way. There is no other way: to split the land into two states, two capitals, trying to find the best way to end this conflict, because much of the instability of the Middle East has to do with our condition. You don't need to be a bin Laden or a Saddam Hussein, who tried to put on themselves the mantle of the vindicators of the Palestinian cause in order to say that the Palestinian issue is a platform of instability in the region that needs to be solved.

But even when it is solved, let us not fool ourselves. Many of the problems that the West is facing today with the Arab world will persist. The Palestinian issue has been used frequently by many Arab rulers as a pretext for not doing things that need to be done in their own societies. But for the sake of the Israelis, I am not -- I am not -- when I say that we need to make concessions, it is not because I am concerned with the future of the Palestinians or because I am concerned with international law. I want to say it very clearly, it is because I define myself as an ardent Zionist that thinks that the best for the Jews in Israel is that we abandon the territories and we dismantle settlements and we try to reach a reasonable settlement with our Palestinian partners. It's not because I am concerned with the Palestinians. I want to be very clear about it. My interpretation, my approach is not moralistic. It's strictly political.

AMY GOODMAN: That was former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, author of Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy. He is the head of the Toledo Peace Centre in Spain now. Also our guest for the hour, Professor Norman Finkelstein. He is the author of Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History, professor at DePaul University in Chicago. This has been an edited version of the debate they held in our Firehouse studio last week. For the full unedited debate, you can go to our website at DemocracyNow.org.

To purchase an audio or video copy of this entire program, click here for our new online ordering or call 1 (888) 999-3877.

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Congress to unveil blistering report on 'national failure' after Katrina

AFP Wed Feb 15, 1:45 AM ET

WASHINGTON - The US Congress is due to release a blistering assessment of the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina, which flattened a large swathe of the US Gulf Coast.

The 600-page report by a select committee of Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives concludes that emergency planners failed to act on warnings before Katrina laid waste to New Orleans and the surrounding region last August, leaving some 1,300 people dead.
They then failed to provide speedy assistance, the lawmakers said in the document, according to excerpts released earlier this week.

"Our investigation revealed that Katrina was a national failure, an abdication of the most solemn obligation to provide for the common welfare," they said.

"At every level -- individual, corporate, philanthropic and governmental -- we failed to meet the challenge that was Katrina."

US President George W. Bush's administration this week also faced scathing criticism from a Congress watchdog which said millions of dollars in Katrina aid was given to people who provided false identities and addresses.

Excerpts of the report said Bush's White House advisors did not check the incoming information nor react fast enough to the disaster.

It said the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), part of the Homeland Security Department, knew more than two days in advance that 75 percent of New Orleans was probably going to be flooded. It criticized Homeland Security Secretary
Michael Chertoff for not sounding a strong enough alarm.

The US government has spent tens of billions of dollars on aid and reconstruction efforts following the disaster, but even much of that was misplaced, according to the
Government Accountability Office, a Congress watchdog.

Chertoff was due to appear Wednesday before the Senate Homeland Security, where he was likely to flesh out his proposal unveiled earlier this week to overhaul FEMA to make it more responsive in the event of a catastrophic event.

In a speech on Monday, Chertoff said FEMA would upgrade its alert procedure and add hundreds of new staff, to allow it to respond more quickly to catastrophes.

Meanwhile, Bush's homeland security adviser Frances Townsend said Monday that she would release the results of her White House investigation later this month.

Despite the scathing criticism, Democrats in Congress said the report does not go far enough in holding underperforming officials accountable and charting the way forward.

"Thousands are still displaced. There's a stagnation of rebuilding. There's no certainty about what will happen in the impacted areas, particularly in New Orleans and in the surrounding parishes," US Senator Hillary Clinton said at a press conference Tuesday.

"There was a colossal failure of leadership within the White House, the Department of Homeland Security and FEMA," she said.

"No one in this administration was able to tell the American people who was in charge as the waters rose," the former first lady said.

"The president, his senior staff, his cabinet and other officials in his government were a major reason why we had a failed response to the distress caused by Katrina," Clinton concluded, calling for the creation of an independent commission to investigate the lackluster federal response.

Comment: Oh goodie! Another "independent commission" might be formed to bury the truth once and for all.

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Women Hold Fewer State Govt Posts Than Men

By MARK JOHNSON Associated Press Wed Feb 15, 12:17 AM ET

ALBANY, N.Y. - Women hold fewer than a quarter of the top jobs in state governments and have made little progress increasing their representation in the last eight years, a new study found.

From 1998 to 2005, the percentage of women in state government leadership positions rose from 23.1 percent to 24.7 percent, the report by the Center for Women in Government & Civil Society at the University at Albany found.
"After reporting for almost 10 years these very modest gains for women, I have come to believe it is a very persistent social phenomenon," said Judith Saidel, the study's project director. "The problem does not appear to be going away."

The study examined statewide elected officials, state legislators, high court judges, department heads, and top advisers in governors' offices.

Arizona tops the list with 38.6 percent of women in top positions, followed by Nevada, Vermont, Washington and New Mexico. Women in Mississippi held the lowest percentage of top government jobs, just 12.9 percent. Kentucky, South Carolina, Pennsylvania and South Dakota rounded out the five states with the lowest female representation.

Just eight states — Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan and Washington — have female governors. Fifteen of the country's lieutenant governors are women.

The report showed gains for women in the judiciary. Women have two or more judicial leadership posts in more than half the states and serve as the chief justice in 15 states. They hold 27.7 percent of the top judicial positions, up from 22 percent in 1998.

Saidel speculated the demands made by government positions often interfere with family duties, such as caring for children or elderly parents, and discourage women from seeking office.

As more opportunities open up for women in business, philanthropy and other areas, women who may have pursued political opportunities are going elsewhere, she said.

Bob Kearney, the national director of the Political Opportunity Program at Emily's List, a group that helps women run for office as Democrats, said many women want to run but need money and know-how.

Kearney said in states with term limits, such as California, women who have achieved a level of power are forced out in six or eight years. In states without term limits, entrenched incumbents limit the opportunities for new lawmakers.

Politics is "one of the last glass ceilings to exist," Kearney said. "Women are breaking through it, but it only happens with intentional effort."

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These double standards - Satisfaction at seeing Abu Hamza in jail should be offset by concern at how his conviction was won

Faisal Bodi Tuesday February 14, 2006 The Guardian

Few tears were shed at the jailing of Abu Hamza last week. Most Britons were relieved that the cell door had slammed shut on a man who has come to embody every western stereotype about Islam. Notwithstanding the lampooning of Hamza's disabilities to create his caricature, even the Muslim community struggled to find a sympathetic soundbite.

And yet sympathise we must if we are to remain true to the principles of defending the rights of our community and Britain's civil and political liberties. In our satisfaction at seeing Hamza jailed we have given succour to the enemies of freedom. That is out of character for the Muslim community, which has been in the vanguard of opposition to anti-terrorism legislation. While most of their coreligionists in the Commons have supported the measures currently proposed by the government, the grassroots have resisted on the grounds that the proposals cordon off unwarranted areas of expression. Just as importantly, they fear that in the climate of Islamophobia the law will be used against dissenters.
Hamza is a case in point. He was convicted on six counts of soliciting murder under the Offences Against the Person Act 1861. As the date suggests, it's an archaic piece of legislation; the soliciting provisions had, in effect, lain in abeyance for over 100 years until 2003, when they were used to convict another loose-tongued preacher, Abdullah el-Faisal. As the Guardian noted then, it was the first time in over a century that a charge of soliciting murder under the act had been used in a case where the prospective assailant and target were unidentified.

The double standard in this becomes evident when you consider how many people could have been hauled in under this legislation and weren't. Theoretically the rapper Buju Banton could still be prosecuted for advocating the murder of homosexuals in an infamous 1992 track, Boom Bye Bye. Or, for that matter, the poet Tom Paulin, for telling an Egyptian newspaper in 2002 that Jewish settlers should be shot dead.

Hamza was also found guilty of stirring up racial hatred, underlining the point that this legislation has become an anti-Muslim cudgel. El-Faisal was also convicted of the same in 2003 and jailed.

Earlier this month we saw the BNP's Nick Griffin and Mark Collett acquitted of inciting hatred against Muslims, apparently because the statements they made were directed against a faith group, not a racial group. The Commons also voted to defang the government's attempt to outlaw incitement to religious hatred, leaving us with a situation where the offence encompasses a narrower range of behaviour than its racial counterpart, making it more difficult to enforce.

Then there's the dreaded Terrorism Act 2000, Britain's anti-Muslim "sus law". Hamza was convicted of having a handbook of guerrilla warfare originating in Afghanistan. Critics have noted how this act is so broad it can draw in anybody, from the protester sympathising with armed resistance to the occupations of Iraq and Palestine to the downloading of information from the internet. There was no requirement for the jury to be convinced that Hamza had ever used the information - possession was enough.

Our loathing of Hamza and his ilk should not blind us to the price the war on terror is exacting. This week sees the terrorism bill back in the Commons for a vote that seeks to extend the definition of terrorism by outlawing statements that glorify the conduct it already embraces. Why should the law differentiate terrorism from gangsta rap, whose glorification of violence exacts many casualties on our streets?

Even before the war on terror we had started to lose our liberties to politicians who wanted to erect a shield around future iniquities. They are free to wage illegal wars in which the original crime is compounded by abuses and atrocities, but we have to watch what we say. The widening net has caught Hamza, but relief and satisfaction are the wrong responses. None of us is safe.

· Faisal Bodi is news editor at the Islam Channel bodi_fy@yahoo.co.uk

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Senators hear 'shocking examples' of FEMA waste

By Mimi Hall USA TODAY 14 Feb 06

FEMA has let nearly 11,000 unused manufactured homes deteriorate on old runways and open fields in Arkansas, and the agency spent $416,000 per person to house a few hundred Hurricane Katrina evacuees for a short time in Alabama last fall, government investigators told the Senate on Monday.

The allegations that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on a host of bungled efforts to help evacuees were in a pair of reports to senators investigating the government's response to the disaster.
Sen. Susan Collins (news, bio, voting record), R-Maine, chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security committee, called the reports a "fresh indictment" of FEMA. She said investigators uncovered "shocking examples of absent safeguards and wasted tax dollars."

Among them: FEMA spent $878.8 million on nearly 25,000 manufactured homes that the agency is paying to store around the country largely because its own regulations prohibit placing the homes in flood plains, such as New Orleans.

After hearing that FEMA issued thousands of checks and $2,000 debit cards to people whose identities and claims the agency never checked, Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., called it "infuriating."

The reports were issued by the Government Accountability Office and the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security, which runs FEMA.

They came as the White House and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff vigorously defended their response after learning that New Orleans was flooding and people were in peril. (Related story: FEMA reforms unveiled)

On Friday, former FEMA director Michael Brown told Collins' committee that his warnings to the White House about the gravity of the situation in New Orleans went unheeded, and he said Chertoff failed to respond quickly because he was too focused on terrorism. Chertoff will appear before the Senate committee today in the final hearing of a months-long investigation into what went wrong.

On Monday, he lashed out. "I unequivocally and strongly reject this attempt to drive a wedge between our concerns about terrorism and our concerns about natural disasters," he told a meeting of state emergency management directors.

At the same meeting, President Bush's homeland security adviser, Frances Townsend, defended her boss. "I reject outright that President Bush was anything less than fully involved," she said.

She said she will release her own report on the Katrina aftermath by the end of the month, with 100 recommendations for improving government disaster response.

Chertoff announced a few changes Monday. They include plans to:

¢ Use satellites to track trucks carrying emergency supplies such as ice.

¢ Place FEMA employees at shelters so victims can apply for aid in person rather than by phone or the Internet.

¢ Create a database of preapproved contractors so cleanup can start quickly.

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The former GOP fund-raiser was accompanied by his sister and brother-in-law and said nothing during the six-minute hearing.
Tom Noe pleaded not guilty this morning to 53 felony charges that he stole more than $1 million from the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation and laundered more than $2 million from the coin funds he managed for the bureau.

Mr. Noe was taken to the Lucas County jail for processing as he attempted to post the $500,000 bond set by Judge Thomas Osowik.

A grand jury indicted Mr. Noe on 22 counts of forgery, 11 counts of money laundering, eight counts of tampering with records, six counts of aggravated theft, five counts of grand theft, and one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act.

If convicted of all charges and he received the maximum penalty, he could face 172.5 years in prison. But Lucas County Prosecutor Julia Bates said only two of the felony counts have a presumption of incarceration and one, the RICO count, would require a mandatory 10 year prison term.

“We start a whole new chapter now,” Ms. Bates said. “We start the litigation process.”

Also indicted was Timothy LaPointe, Mr. Noe’s partner in Vintage Coins and Collectibles in Monclova Township, which has since been shuttered. He faces one count of engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity under the RICO law and six counts of tampering with records. Mr. LaPointe will receive a summons to appear in court for arraignment.

Mr. Noe, 51, was taken into custody this morning after his attorney, Jon Richardson, entered a plea of not guilty on all charges.

The former GOP fund-raiser was accompanied by his sister and brother-in-law and said nothing during the six-minute hearing.

The charges mark the first state felony charges since mulitple law enforcement agencies began investigating Mr. Noe following The Blade’s revelations in April that he was investing state money in rare coins.

The indictment calls for the forfeit of Mr. Noe’s business Vintage Coins and Collectables and the sale of his shares in Numismatic Guaranty Corp. if convicted.

Mr. Noe was indicted in October in U.S. District Court in Toledo on three felony counts for allegedly laundering more than $40,000 to President Bush’s re-election campaign.

The state invested a total of $50 million with Mr. Noe’s Capital Coin funds, beginning with $25 million in 1998.

According to the indictment, the theft charges allege he stole more than $800,000 and laundered another $2 million.

Prosecutors declined to release details on where they think the money went or on what it was spent. Ms. Bates said she found the evidence in the case “very troubling, I’ve got to be very honest with you.”

Although Mr. Noe traveled from Florida for the hearing, it is unclear if he is cooperating with authorities. Ms. Bates declined comment on whether Mr.
Noe had attempted to negotiate a plea agreement.

She did say, however, that today’s indictment would escalate the activities of the task force looking into Mr. Noe and other aspects of state investments. “I think there are other things the task force will be turning to,” she said.

The indictment against Mr. LaPointe alleged that he “assisted” Mr. Noe in 2002, 2003, and 2004 in getting coins that did not belong to the state’s coin funds or their subsidiaries yet listing them as inventory of the coin funds.

The intent was to “mislead the auditors” about $1 million stolen from the coin funds.

Other BWC managers
The U.S. attorney in Cleveland is looking at problems involving other Workers’ Compensation fund managers, one of which lost $215 million in a Bermuda hedge fund. That loss was not revealed until Noe task force investigators began asking questions following revelations in The Blade.

The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation bureau is the state agency charged with paying medical bills and providing monthly checks to Ohio workers injured on the job.

Before the coin scandal unfolded, Mr. Noe was an extraordinary Republican fund-raiser who received high-level appointments from Governors George Voinovich and Bob Taft.

Today’s indictments came 10 months after The Blade first reported on the state’s $50 million rare-coin investment with Mr. Noe, documenting how the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation continued to invest millions of dollars in Mr. Noe’s Capital Coin Fund despite strong concerns raised by an internal auditor about whether the state’s millions were adequately protected.

Since that April 3 story, the state halted its investment in rare-coin funds controlled by Mr. Noe, and the scandal that ensued has led to four grand jury investigations, high-level resignations and firing in state government, the criminal conviction of Governor Taft and two top aides on ethics violations for failing to report gifts from Mr. Noe, and charges filed last week against two former aides to Mr. Taft for failing to disclose loans that they received from Mr. Noe.

Mr. Taft, who in an interview with The Blade on April 7 defended Mr. Noe and the state’s rare-coin investment with him, by saying “The bottom line is: Is it making money for the state; what’s the problem?’’ could not be reached for immediate comment.

On the day Mr. Noe received his first $25 million from the workers’
compensation bureau, he approved a wire transfer of $1.4 million from the coin fund to his own accounts to pay off previous obligations, officials have alleged.

Several of the counts of theft and money laundering focus on the early days of the coin funds. Within the first week, the indictment alleges that Mr.
Noe either stole or laundered $912,000.

With the first $25 million, Mr. Noe quickly invested money into real estate and his associates’ coin businesses. He brokered multimillion dollar coin deals that made the state little money, but allowed him to unload his own coins for hundreds of thousands to the state, according to rare-coin records released last year by the state after The Blade won a lawsuit filed with the Ohio Supreme Court.


Jeremy Jackson, press secretary for the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, reacted to the indictment of Mr. Noe by saying the agency is “pleased [investigators] are making progress on the criminal front.”

“It will provide greater clarity to what occurred with the coin fund, and we hope it is another step in the right direction to get to the bottom of this information,’’ he said.

Mr. Jackson said the indictment of Mr. Noe is expected to “give us direction in what went wrong on the investment from the perspective of the general partner. Obviously, we have learned a lesson that this investment was not a prudent one.”

The bureau on May 9, 2005 halted the rare-coin investment, saying it had “concerns about the ability of the managers to commit the necessary time and resources to make it profitable.”

The agency made its decision two days after The Blade reported that two rare gold coins purchased for the state probably had been stolen. Mr. Noe had said the coins were “lost in the mail.”

Mr. Jackson said the bureau has taken several steps to prevent what happened with the rare-coin investment that Mr. Noe managed.


Since the scandal erupted in April, 2005, Mr. Noe has sold his Maumee condominium and his million-dollar home on Lake Erie as well as boats and cars.

Last July, Attorney General Jim Petro, a Republican, accused Mr. Noe in a civil lawsuit of stealing at least $4 million of the state’s money from the coin funds. Mr. Petro said some of the money helped Mr. Noe build a home on Catawba Island, improve landscaping at his Florida Keys home, and show an imaginary profit to the state.

Mr. Noe’s campaign contributions to Republicans increased substantially in
1998 after he received the first $25 million payment from the state, and his contributions more than doubled again in 2002, the year after the bureau gave him his second installment of $25 million.

The workers’ compensation bureau was on the verge of investing a third $25 million in his coin funds last spring when The Blade began reporting on problems with the unusual investment. They quickly backed off further investments with Mr. Noe.

Although the indictment does not spell out the specifics of each alleged forgery, it does say that one occurred in April, 2002. Mr. Petro has earlier said that Mr. Noe transferred $150,000 from the coin funds into his personal business, Vintage Coins and Collectibles on April 30, 2002. That same day, he wrote a check from his business account to Gerry Gordon for $110,000. The check, endorsed with a signature, was deposited into the personal bank account of Mr. Noe and his wife, Bernadette, at National City Bank.

Four days earlier, Mr. Noe wrote a check from his personal accounts for
$43,773 for landscaping work on the family’s home in the Florida Keys.

Before transfer of the $110,000 check, the bank had insufficient funds from the Noes to cover the landscaping charge.

But Mr. Gordon, a former member of the Ohio Board of Regents, signed an affidavit swearing that he never received the check from Mr. Noe and that the signature endorsing the check was forged.

The collapse of the state’s rare-coin investment led to the resignation of the bureau’s administrator-CEO James Conrad, and the firing of Jim McLean, the former chief investment officer. Mr. McLean’s predescessor, Terry Gasper, was pressured to resign in October, 2004, after the hedge fund losses were exposed.

The collapse of the rare-coin investment and the $215 million loss in a risky hedge fund led to the bureau’s decision last November to terminate its
69 remaining money managers and invest nearly all of its $15.7 billion portfolio into fixed-income funds.


Today’s indictments are expected to make national news and breathe new life into a scandal that Democrats say gives them the best chance to capture the governor’s office, which the GOP has controlled since 1991. Mr. Noe, who was chairman of President Bush’s re-election efforts in northwest Ohio, gained the elite fund-raising status of Bush Pioneer for raising at least $100,000 for the re-election campaign.

Mr. Noe last year resigned from posts at the U.S. Mint, the Ohio Board of Regents, and the Ohio Turnpike Commission.

Politicians from Washington to California — including President Bush — have sought to return Mr. Noe’s political contributions, which exceeded $200,000 since 1990.

Brian Hicks, who served as Mr. Taft’s chief of staff from 1999 until 2003, was convicted on a first-degree misdemeanor charge for failing to disclose on his state-mandated ethics form that he received a cut-rate vacation at the Florida Keys home owned by Mr. Noe and his wife, Bernadette, a former chairman of the Lucas County Republican Party, as is Mr. Noe.

Mr. Hicks’ executive assistant, Cherie Carroll, was charged with an ethics violation because she accepted expensive meals paid by Mr. Noe that could have influenced decisions she made in her job. Mr. Hicks has a lobbying and consulting firm, and Ms. Carroll is among the employees. Both Mr. Hicks and Ms. Carroll were fined $1,000 each.

Last Friday, Columbus prosecutors filed criminal charges against H. Douglas Talbott and Doug Moormann, lobbyists and former high-ranking aides to Governors Voinovich and Taft.

Mr. Talbott was charged with one misdemeanor count of violating state ethics law for failing to disclose a $39,000 payment he received from Mr. Noe in September, 2002, which Mr. Talbott said was a loan to help buy a vacation home in Lakeside, Ohio. He left the governor’s office in May, 2000, to become a Columbus lobbyist.

He also was charged with failing to disclose meals and other gratuities he received as a member of the “Noe Supper Club” — a group of Columbus insiders who accepted lavish dinners from the coin dealer at Morton’s steakhouse, a popular upscale hangout for the politically connected, including members of Governor Taft’s staff.

It is a first-degree misdemeanor to falsify an ethics form, with a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Mr. Talbott was required to file an annual ethics statement because Mr. Taft had appointed him to the state Board of Cosmetology.

Prosecutors also charged Mr. Talbott, 41, with one count of violating state campaign finance law by funneling money from Mr. Noe to contribute to three Republican state Supreme Court candidates. If convicted, Mr. Talbott could face a fine of up to $10,000.

Mr. Moormann, 39, was charged with one misdemeanor for failing to disclose a $5,000 loan he received from Mr. Noe in 2004 after he had left the governor’
s office, said Lara Baker, chief legal counsel in the Columbus prosecutor’s division.

At the time, Mr. Moormann was a member of the Transportation Review Advisory Council, which reviews transportation projects for the Ohio Department of Transportation. He now is a lobbyist for the Cincinnati Area Chamber of Commerce.

Under state law, public officials must report the source of gifts valued above $75 and must disclose the sources of loans.

Contact Mike Wilkinson at:mwilkinson@theblade.com or 419-724-6104

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Abramoff Said to Claim Close Ties to Rove

By JOHN SOLOMON and PETE YOST Associated Press Writers 14 Feb 06

WASHINGTON -- Three former associates of Jack Abramoff say the now-convicted lobbyist frequently told them he had strong ties to the White House through presidential confidant Karl Rove.

The White House said Monday night that Rove remembers meeting Abramoff at a 1990s political meeting and considered the lobbyist a "casual acquaintance" since President Bush took office in 2001.

New questions have arisen about Abramoff's ties to the White House since a photo emerged over the weekend showing Abramoff with Bush. The White House would not release the photo or any others that Bush had taken with Abramoff. Also surfacing were the contents of an e-mail from Abramoff to Washingtonian magazine claiming he had met briefly with the president nearly a dozen times and that Bush knew him well enough to make joking references to Abramoff's family.

Three former business associates of Abramoff, who worked with the lobbyist in various roles between 2001 and 2004, told The Associated Press that Abramoff routinely mentioned Rove when talking about his influence inside the White House.

One said he was present when Abramoff took a call from Rove's office to confirm a White House meeting had been approved between Malaysia's prime minister and Bush in May 2002. Abramoff was being paid by Malaysia for helping it in Washington, according to evidence the Senate has made public.

All three associates would describe the Abramoff comments only on condition of anonymity, citing the ongoing investigation of Abramoff's work and fears that speaking out could affect their current businesses. At least one said he had been interviewed by the FBI.

Abramoff was a $100,000 fundraiser for Bush and lobbying records obtained by the AP show his lobbying team logged nearly 200 meetings with the administration during its first 10 months in office on behalf of one of his clients, the Northern Mariana Islands.

The contacts between Abramoff's team and the administration included meetings with Attorney General John Ashcroft and policy advisers to Vice President Dick Cheney, the AP reported last year.

Abramoff's former assistant, Susan Ralston, went to work for Rove in 2001. Abramoff's legal team declined comment Monday night.

According to one of the three former associates, frequently Abramoff's cell phone would ring and the lobbyist would tell the associate that the White House was calling. To prove that he wasn't making up what he was telling the associate, Abramoff occasionally would hold up the phone so that the associate could see the incoming call was indeed a White House phone number.

Abramoff has pleaded guilty in a fraud and bribery conspiracy case and is cooperating with the investigation into those in Congress and the administration he used to lobby.

Asked about the three former Abramoff associates' account, the White House said Rove shared a common past with Abramoff as leaders of a young Republicans group decades ago.

"Mr. Rove remembers they had met at a political event in the 1990s," White House spokeswoman Erin Healy said. "Since then, he would describe him as a casual acquaintance."

Healy said Rove has "no recollection" of talking to Abramoff about the Malaysian prime minister's meeting in May 2002. She said Bush first met the prime minister at a foreign summit in October 2001 and that the 2002 meeting in the Oval Office was "another opportunity to get together to discuss the war on terror."

© 2006 The Associated Press.

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Popular Ohio Democrat Drops Out of Race, and Perhaps Politics

By IAN URBINA New York Times 14 Feb 06

Paul Hackett, an Iraq war veteran and popular Democratic candidate in Ohio's closely watched Senate contest, said yesterday that he was dropping out of the race and leaving politics altogether as a result of pressure from party leaders.

Mr. Hackett said Senators Charles E. Schumer of New York and Harry Reid of Nevada, the same party leaders who he said persuaded him last August to enter the Senate race, had pushed him to step aside so that Representative Sherrod Brown, a longtime member of Congress, could take on Senator Mike DeWine, the Republican incumbent.
Mr. Hackett staged a surprisingly strong Congressional run last year in an overwhelmingly Republican district and gained national prominence for his scathing criticism of the Bush administration's handling of the Iraq War. It was his performance in the Congressional race that led party leaders to recruit him for the Senate race.

But for the last two weeks, he said, state and national Democratic Party leaders have urged him to drop his Senate campaign and again run for Congress.

"This is an extremely disappointing decision that I feel has been forced on me," said Mr. Hackett, whose announcement comes two days before the state's filing deadline for candidates. He said he was outraged to learn that party leaders were calling his donors and asking them to stop giving and said he would not enter the Second District Congressional race.

"For me, this is a second betrayal," Mr. Hackett said. "First, my government misused and mismanaged the military in Iraq, and now my own party is afraid to support candidates like me."

Mr. Hackett was the first Iraq war veteran to seek national office, and the decision to steer him away from the Senate race has surprised those who see him as a symbol for Democrats who oppose the war but want to appear strong on national security.

"Alienating Hackett is not just a bad idea for the party, but it also sends a chill through the rest of the 56 or so veterans that we've worked to run for Congress," said Mike Lyon, executive director for the Band of Brothers, a group dedicated to electing Democratic veterans to national office. "Now is a time for Democrats to be courting, not blocking, veterans who want to run."

But Democratic leaders say Representative Brown, a seven-term incumbent from Avon, has a far better chance of toppling Senator DeWine.

"It boils down to who we think can pull the most votes in November against DeWine," said Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. "And in Ohio, Brown's name is golden. It's just that simple."

Mr. Fern added that Mr. Brown's fund-raising abilities made him the better Senate candidate. By the end of last year, Mr. Brown had already amassed $2.37 million, 10 times what Mr. Hackett had raised.

Senator Reid did not reply to repeated requests for comment.

Asked about Mr. Hackett's contention that he had been pressed to leave the Senate race, a spokesman for Mr. Schumer, Phil Singer, said, "We've told both Sherrod Brown and Paul Hackett that avoiding a primary will make it easier to win the Ohio Senate seat, " but he added, "Obviously, the decision to run is Mr. Hackett's and Mr. Hackett's alone."

Mr. Brown declined to comment on Mr. Hackett's candidacy, saying that he was strictly focused on building his own campaign.

Democrats wanted to avoid a drawn-out primary, especially one that could get bruising with a tough-talking outsider like Mr. Hackett.

The Ohio Senate race is regarded as critical to Democratic aspirations to take back Congress in the fall. Aside from focusing on Senator DeWine, the Democrats also hope to win as many as eight House seats in Ohio and the governorship from the Republicans.

Ohio Democrats are hoping to exploit the larger problems plaguing the Republicans. State Republicans have struggled to distance themselves from Gov. Bob Taft, a Republican who cannot run again because of term limits and who was found guilty last summer of four misdemeanor ethics violations. Representative Bob Ney's still-unfolding role in the scandal over the lobbyist Jack Abramoff also looms over the state's Republicans.

Mr. Hackett said he was unwilling to run for the Congressional seat because he had given his word to three Democratic candidates that he would not enter that race.

"The party keeps saying for me not to worry about those promises because in politics they are broken all the time," said Mr. Hackett, who plans to return to his practice as a lawyer in the Cincinnati area. "I don't work that way. My word is my bond."

Jennifer Duffy, who analyzes Senate races for the Cook Political Report, said that part of what made Democratic leaders nervous about Mr. Hackett was what had also made him so popular with voters.

"Hackett is seen by many as a straight talker, and he became an icon to the liberal bloggers because he says exactly what they have wished they would hear from a politician," Ms. Duffy said. "On the other hand, the Senate is still an exclusive club, and the party expects a certain level of decorum that Hackett has not always shown."

Mr. Hackett was widely criticized last year for using indecent language to describe President Bush. Last month, state Republicans attacked Mr. Hackett for saying their party had been hijacked by religious extremists who he said "aren't a whole lot different than Osama bin Laden."

Though Republicans called for an apology, Mr. Hackett repeated the mantra of his early campaign: "I said it. I meant it. I stand behind it."

Copyright 2006The New York Times Company

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MPs vote for blanket smoking ban next year

Michael White, political editor Wednesday February 15, 2006 The Guardian

A total ban on smoking inside offices, pubs, restaurants and "virtually every enclosed public place and workplace" throughout England will come into force in the summer of 2007 after a resounding cross-party majority of MPs yesterday rejected last minute compromises designed to exempt some pubs and private clubs.

Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and the health secretary Patricia Hewitt went with the flow of expert, public and backbench opinion, changed their positions during the day and voted to abandon Labour's manifesto position of less than a year ago.

MPs vote for blanket smoking ban next year

· Majority of 200 rejects private clubs compromise
· Officials proclaim victory for better public health

Michael White, political editor
Wednesday February 15, 2006
The Guardian

A total ban on smoking inside offices, pubs, restaurants and "virtually every enclosed public place and workplace" throughout England will come into force in the summer of 2007 after a resounding cross-party majority of MPs yesterday rejected last minute compromises designed to exempt some pubs and private clubs.

Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and the health secretary Patricia Hewitt went with the flow of expert, public and backbench opinion, changed their positions during the day and voted to abandon Labour's manifesto position of less than a year ago.

Article continues
In the crucial free vote, with neither side certain which would prevail, Ms Hewitt's latest compromise was rejected by 384 votes to 184. The 200-vote majority did not include the defence secretary, John Reid.

Health officials proclaimed the vote a historic victory, to be compared with the 1948 NHS Act or the clean air legislation which ended city smog in the 50s. But some MPs predict a backlash among voters who cherish their right to drink and smoke in working men's clubs and the grand private clubs of Pall Mall.

With smoke-free workplaces becoming "the norm", Ms Hewitt told MPs: "Over time we estimate an additional 600,000 people will give up smoking as a result of this law and millions more will be protected from second hand smoke."

That should cut the 85,000 smoking related deaths a year, pro-ban MPs believe. Scotland and Northern Ireland have already enacted public bans and the Welsh assembly has agreed in principle. Ministers also announced an increase in fines, from a maximum £200 to £1,000 for not displaying ban signs, and from £200 to £2,500 for not enforcing the ban.

Yesterday's votes came after a zealous Commons debate on the government's health bill, which even saw Liberal Democrat leadership candidates Sir Menzies Campbell and Simon Hughes defying their manifesto commitment to a full ban.

Both sides in the dispute - 40 years after Harold Wilson's Labour government first promised such a ban - squabbled to the very end over the right line to draw between between protecting public health and individual liberty. Labour's Steve Pound, a self-styled "ashtray monitor" since primary school, made a witty appeal for tolerance and realism - but in vain. Last night MPs first voted 453 to 125 to replace the 2005 manifesto compromise, fashioned by Ms Hewitt's predecessor, Mr Reid, and backed by the then-cabinet. It would have exempted pubs which sell cooked food from the proposed ban, a halfway house intended to allow both choice and time to build consensus.

The Reid formula was denounced as unworkable and wrong by health professionals and trade unions who warned of the dangers of passive smoking for other customers and employees, not least pub staff. Opinion polls have moved their way.

Last night Mr Reid's no vote was joined by cabinet colleagues John Prescott, Tessa Jowell, Alan Johnson, Ruth Kelly and John Hutton, plus 44 other Labour MPs, many from traditional industrial towns with clubs that will be affected or even put out of business. Most Tory MPs including the past three leaders voted no, though David Cameron was absent as his wife gave birth. Eight Lib Dems also voted no.

A majority of MPs, including Ms Hewitt's Tory shadow, Andrew Lansley - who has also changed his position since 2005 - endorsed a replacement clause to confirm ministerial powers to exempt private and residential homes, hotel rooms, prisons and hostels. It would also have allowed Ms Hewitt to exempt 18,500 private clubs, owned by their members and run on a non-profit basis, and therefore just as entitled to "make their own decisions as [people] in their own homes", she argued during the bill's second reading debate in November.

Yesterday she made the clubs' case again, but defied Conservative taunts that her "voice and vote" in debate should go the same way, admitting she had an open mind. Colleagues told her a clubs exemption would be unfair to pubs.

A second vote, designed to decide the clubs issue separately, saw MPs vote by the thumping 200 majority to reject that option. Ms Hewitt's ministerial team, which had been divided, fell into line.

The smokers' lobby group Forest condemned "a double whammy, an unnecessary and illiberal piece of legislation that ignores public opinion and denies freedom of choice to millions of people".

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Britain has new weapon against loitering youths -- Sonic Teenager Deterrent

Feb 15 8:38 AM US/Eastern

Shopkeepers in central England have been trying out a new device that emits an uncomfortable high-pitched noise designed to disperse young loiterers outside their stores without bothering adults.

Police carrying out the pilot project in Staffordshire say some of those who have tested the "Sonic Teenager Deterrent," nicknamed the mosquito, have talked of buying one of their own.

The device which costs 622 pounds (908 euros, 1,081 dollars) "doesn't cause any pain to the hearer," according to Inspector Amanda Davies, quoted by Britain's domestic Press Association news agency.

"The noise can normally only be heard by those between 12 and 22 and it makes the listener feel uncomfortable," she added.

Once in their early 20s, people lose their capacity to hear sounds at such a high pitch.
"It is controlled by the shopkeepers. If they can see through their window that there is a problem, they turn the device on for a few minutes until the group has dispersed," Davies said.

"Shop owners have reported fabulous results and we've been approached by some who are considering buying their own equipment," she said.

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The propaganda we pass off as news around the world

David Miller Wednesday February 15, 2006 The Guardian

A British government-funded fake TV news service allows mild criticism of the US - all the better to support it
A succession of scandals in the US has revealed widespread government funding of PR agencies to produce "fake news". Actors take the place of journalists and the "news" is broadcast as if it were genuine. The same practice has been adopted in Iraq, where newspapers have been paid to insert copy. These stories have raised the usual eyebrows in the UK about the pitiful quality of US democracy. Things are better here, we imply. We have a prime minister who claimed in 2004 that "the values that drive our actions abroad are the same values of progress and justice that drive us at home". Yet in 2002 the government launched a littleknown television propaganda service that seems to mimic the US government's deceptive approach to fake news.

The British Satellite News website says it is "a free television news and features service". It looks like an ordinary news website, though its lack of copyright protection might raise some questions in alert journalists. Broadcasters can put BSN material "directly into daily news programmes". In fact, BSN is provided by World Television, a company that also makes corporate videos and fake news clips for corporations such as GlaxoSmithKline, BP and Nestlé. It also produced Towards Freedom Television on behalf of the UK government. This was a propaganda programme broadcast in Iraq by US army psychological-operations teams from a specially adapted aircraft in 2003/04.

World Television produces the fake news, but its efforts are entirely funded by the Foreign Office, which spent £340m on propaganda activities in the UK alone in 2001. A comprehensive post- 9/11 overhaul means that this figure has probably markedly increased since then.

According to World Television, by November 2003 BSN "news" was being "used regularly by 14 of the 17 Middle East countries". "Over 400 stations around the world receive BSN stories," it claims. "185 are regular users of the stories, including broadcasters in Russia, Germany, Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and Australia."

The diet of "news" received by viewers of the service includes an endless pageant of government ministers and other official spokespeople. Recent headlines on Iraq refer to happy news such as "Prime minister in surprise visit to Iraq" (December 22 2005) or "Iraqi ambassador upbeat on elections" (December 14 2005). Often Chatham House provides the venue for policy discussions, as in: "The psychology of terror - experts meet" (December 23 2005).

Questioning the occupation is out of the question, but some criticism of US policy is possible. In an extraordinary apologia for the British occupation of Iraq in 1920, the "suggested intro" reads: "This year is not the first time an outside power has sought to construct a modern, democratic, liberal state in Iraq. Britain tried to do the same in the 1920s". The benevolence of the US and the UK is simply assumed: "Today's USled coalition, like the imperial occupiers of 80 years ago, are trying to free Iraq's government and security services from corruption and abuse."

But the clumsy strategy of the US is potentially "alienating a large section of the population". So the question arises of what "useful lessons could be drawn" from the British experience. In reality the 1920 occupation led immediately to a popular revolt that was ruthlessly suppressed. A puppet monarchy was imposed, which was neither "modern" nor "democratic" but was, as argued by the historian Mark Curtis, one of the least popular in Middle Eastern history.

The BSN strategy seems to be to emphasise Britain's cultural diversity. Bulletins regularly highlight ethnicminority contributions to the UK and interview leading moderate Muslims. But it is possible to hear muted criticism of Israel. One item featured "A leading Israeli academic who has questioned both the wisdom and the effectiveness of the controversial 'separation fence'."

A clue to the thinking behind this lies in a 2003 report for the Foreign Policy Centre (FPC) thinktank, coauthored by its then director Mark Leonard. He advised the Foreign Office on its Public Diplomacy Review in 2002 and was later appointed to the resulting Public Diplomacy Strategy Board, which directs Foreign Office propaganda strategy. Leonard wrote in 2002: "If a message will engender distrust simply because it is coming from a foreign government then the government should hide that fact as much as possible." The FPC report suggests the British government should not be afraid of "bloodying the Americans' noses" in its propaganda messages on Israel/Palestine. They must "ensure that the differences between UK and American positions and thinking are emphasised". The point is to tackle the perception that Britain "apishly follows every American lead" so the "usefulness" of "UK support for the US" is increased.

This strategy of criticising the US, in order to support it better, conforms to Blair's wider Iraq strategy. It is clear from documents leaked over the past year (such as the Downing Street memo) that the plan was to use the UN as a device for gaining legitimacy for the invasion of Iraq. All this makes a mockery of Blair's claims to progressive values. Indeed it suggests that such claims are themselves cynical propaganda.

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Compulsory ID cards for UK citizens within five years - Critics warn UK is "sleepwalking towards a surveillance state"

By Andy McCue 14 February 2006

UK citizens will be forced to register for biometric ID cards when applying for a new passport within two years after MPs voted on Monday night to make the controversial scheme compulsory and to not put the costs under independent scrutiny.

In the end Prime Minister Tony Blair's enforced absence from the ID cards vote due to a faulty plane in South Africa didn't matter as the government comfortably defeated a threatened backbench Labour rebellion, albeit with a reduced majority.

A late round of lobbying by Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown in Blair's absence ensured the government won the crucial votes in the House of Commons and overturned amendments made to the ID cards bill last month by peers in the House of Lords.

A halved majority of 31 saw MPs narrowly vote to reject a wrecking amendment that would have made it completely voluntary for citizens to register for an ID card when applying for a passport.

MPs also voted, by a majority of 51, in favour of making it compulsory for citizens to register their personal and biometric details on the National Identity Register when applying for or renewing "designated" documents such as a passport despite warnings from Conservative shadow home secretary David Davies that the UK is "sleepwalking towards a surveillance state".

MPs accepted without a vote a government amendment that requires a separate Act of Parliament to make ID cards officially compulsory. Home Secretary Charles Clarke has indicated the government would move to do this by 2011.

A rebellion over an amendment that would have forced the government to make the full cost calculations of the ID card scheme public before awarding any contracts to IT suppliers was also staved off after Clarke agreed to report to parliament every six months on the costs. That was carried by a majority of 53 votes.

The ID cards bill now returns to the House of Lords where peers will vote on whether to approve the legislation or return it to the House of Commons with more amendments for MPs to vote on.

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325,000 Names on Terrorism List

By Walter Pincus and Dan Eggen Washington Post Staff Writers

The National Counterterrorism Center maintains a central repository of 325,000 names of international terrorism suspects or people who allegedly aid them, a number that has more than quadrupled since the fall of 2003, according to counterterrorism officials.

The list kept by the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) -- created in 2004 to be the primary U.S. terrorism intelligence agency -- contains a far greater number of international terrorism suspects and associated names in a single government database than has previously been disclosed. Because the same person may appear under different spellings or aliases, the true number of people is estimated to be more than 200,000, according to NCTC officials.
U.S. citizens make up "only a very, very small fraction" of that number, said an administration official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of his agency's policies. "The vast majority are non-U.S. persons and do not live in the U.S.," he added. An NCTC official refused to say how many on the list -- put together from reports supplied by the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency (NSA) and other agencies -- are U.S. citizens.

The NSA is a key provider of information for the NCTC database, although officials refused to say how many names on the list are linked to the agency's controversial domestic eavesdropping effort. Under the program, the NSA has conducted wiretaps on an unknown number of U.S. citizens without warrants.

The government has been trying to streamline what counterterrorism officials say are more than 26 terrorism-related databases compiled by agencies throughout the intelligence and law enforcement communities. Names from the NCTC list are provided to the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center (TSC), which in turn provides names for watch lists maintained by the Transportation Security Administration and other agencies.

Civil liberties advocates and privacy experts said they were troubled by the size of the NCTC database, and they said it further heightens their concerns that such government terrorism lists include the names of large numbers of innocent people. Timothy Sparapani, legislative counsel for privacy rights at the American Civil Liberties Union, called the numbers "shocking but, unfortunately, not surprising."

"We have lists that are having baby lists at this point; they're spawning faster than rabbits," Sparapani said. "If we have over 300,000 known terrorists who want to do this country harm, we've got a much bigger problem than deciding which names go on which list. But I highly doubt that is the case."

Asked whether the names in the repository were collected through the NSA's domestic intelligence intercept program, the NCTC official said, "Our database includes names of known and suspected international terrorists provided by all intelligence community organizations, including NSA."

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee last week that he could not discuss specifics but said: "Information is collected, information is retained and information disseminated in a way to protect the privacy interests of all Americans."

The NCTC name repository began under its predecessor agency in 2003 with 75,000 names, and it continues to grow. The center was created as part of a broad reorganization of U.S. intelligence agencies after the failure to disrupt the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. It is the main agency for analyzing and integrating terrorism intelligence and is under direction of Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte.

Its central database is the hub of an elaborate network of terrorism-related databases throughout the federal bureaucracy. Terrorism-related names and other data are sent to the NCTC under standards set by Homeland Security Presidential Directive 6, signed by President Bush in September 2003, according to a senior NCTC official. The directive calls upon agencies to supply data only about people who are "known or appropriately suspected to be . . . engaged in conduct constituting, in preparation for, in aid of, or related to terrorism."

"We work on the basis that information reported to us has been collected in accordance with those guidelines," Vice Adm. John Scott Redd, the center's director, said in a statement.

Analysts at the NCTC review all incoming names and can reject them if they do not have an apparent link to international terrorists, officials said. "That is not common, but it does happen," an NCTC official said, citing as examples a domestic or foreign drug dealer or a member of a U.S.-based extremist group, when neither has any sign of international terrorist connections.

The NCTC then sends a subset of the repository list to the FBI's screening center, and each entry includes a reference "to how the individual is associated with international terrorism," according to a June 2005 report by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn A. Fine. This reference is assigned one of 25 codes such as "Member of a Foreign Terrorist Organization," "Hijacker" or "Has Engaged in Terrorism," according to the report. The report also notes that the codes are split in two categories: "Individuals who are considered armed and dangerous and those who are not."

Fine's office criticized the TSC for including nearly 32,000 records of people in the "armed and dangerous" category but giving them the lowest handling code, which means that no report needs to be sent back to the FBI if they are encountered in the United States by law enforcement officers.

The TSC consolidates NCTC data on individuals associated with foreign terrorism with the FBI's purely domestic terrorism data to create a unified, unclassified terrorist watch list. The TSC, in turn, provides, for official use only, a version giving each person's name, country, date of birth, photos and other data to the Transportation Security Agency for its no-fly list, the State Department for its visa program, the Department of Homeland Security for border crossings, and the National Crime Information Center for distribution to police.

Shannon Moran, a spokeswoman for the FBI screening center, declined to answer detailed questions about the center's work, including how many names are on its list, how many U.S. citizens are included and whether the FBI database includes names linked to the NSA program. Fine's office reported last year that the FBI database contained more than 270,000 names, including a large number of people associated with domestic terrorist movements such as radical environmentalists and neo-Nazi white supremacists.

"If being placed on a list means in practice that you will be denied a visa, barred entry, put on the no-fly list, targeted for pretextual prosecutions, etc., then the sweep of the list and the apparent absence of any way to clear oneself certainly raises problems," said David D. Cole, a Georgetown University law professor who has been sharply critical of the Bush administration's anti-terrorism policies.

The growth of terrorist-related data networks within the U.S. intelligence community has greatly accelerated since Sept. 11, 2001. Before the al Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, there were databases containing terrorist identities at the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, FBI and State Department. In addition there were 13 independent watch lists, but the lists or databases were not interoperable.

Currently, according to an NCTC official, there are 26 classified data networks carrying terrorism material. In a December 2005 interview on Federal News Radio, Redd said his agency "is really the only place in government and certainly in the intelligence community where all counterterrorism intelligence comes together." He also said that analyses of terrorism issues from all 15 intelligence agencies come into the NCTC, which then puts them on its Web site.

"What that means," Redd said, "is about 5,000 analysts around the counterterrorist intelligence community can pull up that Web site and see . . . what every other agency has as well, assuming they have the clearances."

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said the size of the NCTC list and other terrorism-related databases underscores the severity of the "false positive" problem, in which innocent people -- including members of Congress -- have been stopped for questioning or halted from flying because their names are wrongly included or are similar to suspects' names.

"One of the seemingly unsolvable problems is what do you do when someone is wrongly put on this watch list," Rotenberg said. "If there are that many people on the list, a lot of them probably shouldn't be there. But how are they ever going to get off?"

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The American Turkey Is Dead

By Mary Pitt ICH 14 Feb 06

That's right, Buster, I said dead. Our national symbol of peace, prosperity, and plentitude has been slaughtered, cooked and the multi-national ghouls are fighting for the rights to pick its bones! When the rank-and-file American voter rubs the propaganda-induced sleep from his eyes, he will realize that his freedoms are gone, his patriotism is misplaced, and the two buzzards, Democrat and Republican, are picking the lint from his empty pockets. After bellying up to the bar, buying rounds for our Fearless Leaders, and cheering as our children marched off to their death and dismemberment, we are awaking to find that we have been duped, raped, rolled, and left for dead by both political parties in an act of shameful betrayal that will equal the Fall of Rome in its historical aspect.
Think about it. If you aren't mad as hell, you have not yet opened your eyes. Not only has this administration sold you out to the multi-national corporations with their mantra of, "They hate us! They want to kill us!", but they have given lip service to the cause of "democracy" for the Middle East, whether they want it or not, while they cannot accept true democracy when it rears its head, but must pounce upon and destroy it in its nest. At long last, after too many years of the iron-fisted control of Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian people have exercised their inherent rights to self-determination and held a truly democratic election under international supervision. However, their choice is not sitting well with the powers-that-be in Washington and Jerusalem. They have determined that the Palestinian people do not really deserve democracy and their choices must be negated by withholding of funds necessary to rule that beleaguered land.

On the same day we learn of this, news comes out of Ohio that the Dread "Democratic Leadership Council" has again denied the people the right to vote for the candidate of their choice. Many of us are still smarting over the debacle of 2004 when "the people" found several of the political candidates in the field who would satisfy our purpose of supporting someone who would be concerned for our welfare and for whom enough of us could in good conscience assist in their task of booting Bush & Co, out of our once-revered White House. This was not to be, as the DLC and other power groups designated the nomination of John Kerry as "their" candidate, causing many disillusioned Americans to stay away from the polls in droves.

The story of the day which may be enough to cause the long-awaited uprising of the American voters just may be the betrayal of a returned veteran of the War of Choice, Paul Hackett. In 2004, he scared hell out of the Republicans with his campaign of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. His exposure of the lies of the Bush cabal led the people of his district in Ohio, a traditionally strong Republican district, to vote "across party lines" in numbers that almost unseated the entrenched Republican. This year he was attempting to gain the Democratic mandate and to unseat "good Republican" Senator Mike DeWine, and his chances looked good. But no! As usual the Democratic Party could not stand even the faint scent of victory! They went to Ohio and asked Paul Hackett to abandon his cause and step out of the race so that their hand-picked candidate could have a clear field against the senator!

Thus end the political efforts of a true American who would represent The People and tell the voters the naked truth, that THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES! We should be forewarned that this will be the fate of any honest person who tries to run for office within the two-party system in our nation, to be dumped by the very people who claim to represent us and to exemplify our needs and our desires. They are as power-hungry if not as dishonest as their counterparts in the other party and their watchword is to WIN, by whatever method they think may succeed and the people be damned.

What are we who really care about true democracy and have not given up the hope of reinstituting the system in our beloved nation to do? We must cast aside the worn-out mantle of political designation and vote together as Americans, voting in-party, out-of- party, and without regard to party, banding together in support of truth-seekers and truth-tellers, regardless of party, solidifying our support into the juggernaut that will be needed to remove the corruption at the heads of both parties before they totally destroy us. Stop the splintering of effort through numerous third parties with minor agenda and vote for those who seek a true mandate of the people and promise to truly represent the poor, the ill, the elderly. and the middle-class working people who carry the burden of supporting the rest. Failure to do so will bring down our own democracy and destroy any opportunity to construct another, following the Roman Empire into the dust of history.

If we do not have the intestinal fortitude to abandon our old habits and stand up for our rights as American citizens, the most important of which is the right to choose our own leaders, we may as well simply continue to blind ourselves with the idle chatter of the news headlines. "Did you hear that Dick Cheney shot a guy Saturday and nobody knew it until Monday?" "So what? That's what they do! They lie! They cheat! They cover up!" "So who ate the last of the turkey?"

Mary Pitt - - Email mpitt @ cox.net

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PNAC: Rebuilding America's Defenses - A Biopsy on Imperialism

By Sarah Meyer Index Research

PART I: Operation Imperialism: The Enduring Mission

1. Blueprint for Imperialism
2. Operation Imperialism, The ‘Enduring’ Mission
3. Appendix: Signatories to Rebuilding America’s Defenses


A superpower does not have moral imperatives. It has strategic imperatives. Its purpose is not to sustain the lives of other people, but to sustain itself. George Monbiot, The Moral Myth, 25.11.03.

The 19th century’s definitive treatise was Das Kapital (1848) by Karl Marx. The 20th century had two major expositions of principles. Adolf Hitler published Eine Abrechnung (A Reckoning) in 1925, and Die Nazionalosozialistische Bewegung (the National-Socialistic Movement) in 1926. Together, these books became known as Mein Kampf (My Struggle). In 1964, The People’s Republic of China published The Little Red Book, an iconic collection of quotations from the speeches and publications of Mao Tse Tung.

The 20th century ended with a blueprint for imperialism - not a book, but a website called The Project for the New American Century.1

“We aim to make the case and rally support for American global leadership.2” PNAC Statement of Principles, 3 June 1997.

PNAC’s inception, formed by people known as ‘neo-conservatives,’3 was primarily focused on an arms build-up “for the preservation of peace (sic)” (p. 7), following a “decade of defense neglect.” (p. 16).


Within the PNAC website is a statement (2000) called Rebuilding America’s Defenses (pdf)
This document is based upon Vice President Cheney’s Defense Policy Guidance, drafted in 1992 by the Defense Department’s Paul Wolfovitz and Lewis Libby.

Michale Klare writes: “This (1992) document calls for proactive U.S. military intervention to deter and prevent the rise of a contending peer (or equal) competitor, and asserts that the United States must use any and all means necessary to prevent that from happening.” At the time, people were “horrified,” and the document was withdrawn; it is still not available. It was later incorporated into the September 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States of America (pdf)

A forthcoming book,4 Deadly Doctrine No 1 Strike First, subtitled Objectives and Operations of America’s Neoconservative Mafia, investigates the years of effort by Paul Wolfovitz and the “neo-conservative machinations” which culminated in the publication of the 2002 National Security Strategy. The author states that it is still “the country's guiding strategic military document.” The first chapter of this book can be read here

The PNAC thrust, of which Rebuilding America’s Defenses is the key document, is based on this 2002 document. The signatories5 “participated in at least one project meeting or contributed a paper for discussion.” Both Libby (now indicted) and Wolfovitz, (now receiving ‘entourage’ complaints at the World Bank) were founding members of PNAC as well as signatories to Rebuilding America’s Defenses.

This RAD document has recently been receiving more attention. Just as I am putting up this blog, for example, Peter Phillips describes the Global Dominance Group and its connection with PNAC / Rebuilding America’s Defenses.


The United States, says Rebuilding America’s Defenses, faces no global rival. America’s “grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible.” (p. 8)

“If an American peace is to be maintained, and expanded, it must have a secure foundation on unquestioned U.S. military preeminence.” (p. 16)

“To preserve American military preeminence, aggressive experimentation with new technologies, especially information technologies, is essential. The “revolution” in the American military transformation is again stressed. (p. 62)

The Enduring Mission: to “maintain military preeminence that is consistent with the requirements of a strategy of American global leadership with global missile defenses” which protect and control land, sea, air, space and cyberspace. (p. 63)

“Building an effective, robust, layered, global system of missile defenses is a prerequisite for maintaining American preeminence.” (p. 66)

“The price of American preeminence is that, just as it was actively obtained, it must be actively maintained.” (p. 85)

“If the United States is to maintain its preeminence – and the military revolution now underway is already an American-led revolution – the Pentagon must begin in earnest to transform U.S. military forces.” (p. 86)

“The maintenance of the American peace requires that American forces be preeminent when they are called upon to face very different adversaries in the future.” (p. 87)

“Global leadership is not something exercised at our leisure, when the mood strikes us or when our core national security interests are directly threatened; then it is already too late. Rather, it is a choice whether or not to maintain American military preeminence, to secure American geopolitical leadership, and to preserve the American peace.” (p. 88)

2. Operation Imperialism: The Enduring Mission

Brian Bogart, in an excellent essay, wrote: “Our dilemma stems from the postwar adoption of a military-based rather than a people-based economy. This policy, authored by Wall Street's Paul Nitze, is embodied in NSC-68, a document signed by President Truman in 1950.” This, says Bogart, is where America “took the wrong road.” Nitze’s ideas (until he recanted prior to dying) are joined at the hip with Cheney, Wolfovitz, (Darth Vader) Perle, Rumsfeld.

Bogart quotes Dwight Eisenhower, upon leaving office in January 1961:

"In the counsels of Government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the Military Industrial Complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes." –

Eisenhower’s farewell speech is shown in a film Why We Fight, “which examines the modern American military machine and the modern American militaristic mindset.” A ‘Real’ video of this film can be seen here

Gore Vidal recently wrote that he had been “credited” as being the first to “heretically refer” to the United States as an empire. Aged 80, he can now be treasured for his egotism and applauded for his historical awareness. In President Jonah, he discussed, with intelligence and humour, the present Bush administration’s “antipathy toward democracy.”

In case there are still some who balk at the United States being called an ‘empire,’ the OED’s definition of empire is: “From French: imperium; from Latin: imperator. Absolute sway, supreme control; an extensive territory, especially an aggravate of many states.”

The plan for America’s empire is on the web. Anyone can read it. The phrases preserve and extend, as far into the future as possible, expanded, visible expression of the extent of America’s status as a superpower, preeminence … these phrases define America’s intent.

There are other documents to look through, too. Just in case some think all Americans are naïve - unaware of the results their actions - read, for example, Ralph Peter's article, Constant Conflict in the 1997 US Army War College Quarterly.

“There will be no peace. At any given moment for the rest of our lifetimes, there will be multiple conflicts in mutating forms around the globe. Violent conflict will dominate the headlines, but cultural and economic struggles will be steadier and ultimately more decisive.”

The pathological problem with the neoconservatives is that they are myopic - unwilling to see, or hear criticism of, what conflicts with their ambition. They do not care how many people are killed. Morality does not exist in their corporate quest.

In March 2003, George Monbiot wrote: “Those who support the coming war with Iraq refuse to see that it has anything to do with US global domination.”

Ghali Hassan also expresses the thoughts of many in our world.

“The Bush Administration, its vassals and the mass media adopted the cliché of “democracy” to justify the invasion and the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women and children. However, from the outset of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the U.S. objective was conspicuous; to destroy Iraq, install a puppet government and pillage the nation’s resources.”

The new 2006 Quarterly Defense Review (QDR)6 20 year plan (pdf) is presently causing much web discussion. The official issues, statements, debates, and commentaries are found here or one can read the key points here

This ‘QDR’ document opens with the statement, “The United States is a nation engaged in what will be a long war.”

Robert Dreyfus says the new QDR is the “Bush administration’s ultimate Plan for Empire,” which is “generational in scope.” This is not a “reassessment,” nor an “admission that the US has started something it cannot finish,” as suggested by Simon Tisdall in 7 February’s Guardian.

The PNAC document states very clearly, p. 8, “America’s “grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible.” Mr. Rumsfeld has simply found a new jingo-phrase, in true corporate fashion. The "new goals" are discussed in Rebuilding America’s Defenses in various places. The word “transformation” is frequently used, for which the need for more money7 is strongly emphasized.

Picking up on the word “long,” a reporter asked if Iraq would be a “long war” at the press conference, Mr. Rumsfeld said, “No I don’t think Iraq will be a long war.” Brigadier General Kimmitt talked about “reposturing” (not in OED) forces, and said the US would “not maintain any long term bases in Iraq.”8

In January ’06, President Carter said: “What I believe is that there are people in Washington now, some of our top leaders, who never intend to withdraw military forces from Iraq and they're looking for ten, 20, 50 years in the future.”

We must insist on the US Government’s definition of “long” in each instance.

Sohbet Karbuz asks: United States Department of Defense … or Empire of Defense? He gives 5 essential US Department of Defense facts.
Fact 1: The US DoD is one of the world’s largest landlords
Fact 2: If the DoD were a country it would be 17th in the world’s GDP ranking.
Fact 3: The US DoD is the largest oil consumer in the US, and 31st largest in the world.
Fact 4: American GI is the most energy-consuming soldier ever seen on the field of war
Fact 5: The US military is the biggest purchaser of oil in the world.
Dr. Karbuz asked me to add Fact 6: The Department of Defense is the world’s largest employer, (p. 75) directly employing more than three million people. He gives an excellent list of footnote references. The article is a ‘MUST READ,’ here

Q. How ‘long’ will it take to dismantle the present Bush administration’s empire? Will there be a viable future?


Roger Barnett, U.S. Naval War College
Alvin Bernstein, National Defense University
Stephen Cambone10, National Defense University, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence
Eliot Cohen, Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University
Devon Gaffney, Cross Donors' Forum for International Affairs Thomas Donnelly, Project for the New American Century, American Enterprise Institute
David Epstein, Office of Secretary of Defense, Net Assessment
David Fautua, Lt. Col., U.S. Army
Dan Goure, Center for Strategic and International Studies
Donald Kagan, Yale University
Fred Kagan, U. S. Military Academy at West Point
Robert Kagan,11 Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Washington Post writer
Robert Killebrew, Col., USA (Ret.)
William Kristol, The Weekly Standard
Mark Lagon, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
James Lasswell, GAMA Corporation I.
Lewis Libby, Dechert Price & Rhoads, Assistant to the President
Robert Martinage, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment Phil Meilinger, U.S. Naval War College
Mackubin Owens, U.S. Naval War College,
Foreign Policy Research Institute
Steve Rosen, Harvard University, ex-Director of Foreign Policy Issues, awaiting trial
Gary Schmitt, Project for the New American Century, board of directors, U.S. Committee on NATO, author
Abram Shulsky, The RAND Corporation
Michael Vickers, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment Barry Watts, former director of Northrop Grumman Corporation, author of The Military Use of Space: A Diagnostic Assessment
Paul Wolfowitz, Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, now World Bank President
Dov Zakheim, System Planning Corporation, left DoD 2004

[1] See William Rivers Pitt, The Project for the New American Century
[2] Italics throughout are mine unless otherwise noted
[3] For a list of 50 people described as ‘neoconservatives’, see here. Numbers vary from 320 (Bogart) – 400 (Phillips)
[4] Books: Imperial Designs by Gary Dorrien is a recommended book. Rise of the Vulcans, by James Mann, who is, I believe, a member of the PNAC clan.
[5] See Appendix
[6] Earlier QDR reports can be seen at: 1997, 2001 and 2005.
[7] To be discussed in a later PNAC blog.
[8] See upcoming Part II, US bases
[9] For further details on signatories, search name at http://www.sourcewatch.org/ and at http://www.wikipedia.org/
[10] See The Secret World of Stephen Cambone, Rumsfeld’s Sorcerer, by Jeffrey St. Clair, an excerpt from his new book, Grand Theft Pentagon
[11] Author of Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order, from, which comes the famous quote: “Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus: They agree on little and understand one another less and less.” His wife is Victoria Nuland, the present US deputy chief of mission to NATO.

Why the United States “extends” and “expands” will be discussed in Part II: PNAC: REBUILDING AMERICAS DEFENSES. “Special Interests.”

The URL to PNAC: Rebuilding America’s Defenses, Part I is

Sarah Meyer: http://indexresearch.blogspot.com
can be reached at: sarahmeyer@freedom255.com

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Cartoon Protesters Rampage in Pakistan

By ASIF SHAHZAD Associated Press Writer Feb 14 5:06 PM US/Eastern

LAHORE, Pakistan - Thousands rampaged through two cities Tuesday in Pakistan's worst violence against Prophet Muhammad caricatures, burning buildings housing a hotel, banks and a KFC, vandalizing a Citibank and breaking windows at a Holiday Inn and a Pizza Hut.

At least two people were killed in Lahore, where intelligence officials suspected outlawed Islamic militant groups incited the violence to undermine President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's U.S.-allied government.
An Associated Press reporter in Lahore saw crowd members who appeared to be orchestrating the attacks, directing protesters - some of whom were carrying containers of kerosene - toward particular targets. The demonstrators also set the provincial government assembly building on fire.

In the capital, Islamabad, hundreds of students stormed through the main entrance of the tightly guarded enclave that houses most foreign embassies, brandishing sticks and throwing stones. They were dispersed with tear gas, and no foreigners were hurt.

The unruly protests and deaths marked an alarming spike in the unrest in Pakistan over the cartoons, which first appeared in a Danish newspaper in September and have been reprinted by other Western newspapers. One cartoon depicts Muhammad wearing a turban shaped as a bomb with an ignited detonator string.

Many in this conservative Islamic country, as across the Muslim world, regard any depiction of the prophet as blasphemous. They reject the newspapers' explanations that the cartoons have news value and represent free speech.

In southern Iraq, Basra's provincial council demanded the withdrawal of Denmark's 530-member military contingent from the region unless the Danish government apologizes for the cartoons - which it refuses to do, saying it has no influence over the media.

The president of the European Commission backed the Danish government's refusal, saying freedom of speech cannot be compromised. "It's better to publish too much than not to have freedom," President Jose Manuel Barroso told Jyllands-Posten, the paper that first published the drawings.

Demonstrations around Asia and the Middle East have subsided in recent days, including in Afghanistan, where 11 people died in riots last week. But the protests have gathered momentum in Pakistan this week.

In Lahore, the eastern city that is the main commercial hub in prosperous Punjab province, about 15,000 joined the protest organized by a little-known religious group and an Islamic school. The demonstration was also supported by associations representing local traders who shuttered businesses and most markets Tuesday.

Witnesses said a minority of protesters in small groups ran amok down streets lined with old colonial buildings and shopping malls. Television footage showed at least one rioter firing a hand gun.

Security forces fired live rounds into the air, but failed to stop protesters from setting fire to the Punjab provincial assembly and burning down four buildings housing a hotel, two banks, a KFC restaurant and the office of Norwegian cell phone company, Telenor. Two movie theaters were also torched.

Witnesses said rioters also damaged over 200 cars, dozens of shops - many locally owned - and a large portrait of Musharraf. American brands were targeted. Protesters vandalized a Citibank branch and broke windows at a Holiday Inn hotel, a Pizza Hut and a McDonald's restaurants.

A security guard shot and killed two protesters trying to force their way into a bank, said Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao. At least 11 other people were injured in the riots.

A security official said members of the outlawed militant group Sipah- e-Sahaba and others from Jamaat al-Dawat - which is linked to the outlawed Laskhar-e-Tayyaba group - were among the rioters, and were trying to turn the cartoon furor against Musharraf's government.

"People belonging to outlawed militant groups participated in today's rally, and some of them attacked public and private property," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. "They were the ones who stirred up violence."

Sherpao said that some "miscreants" were among the protesters, but refused to give details. He accused organizers of failing to honor a promise to keep the rally orderly.

In Islamabad, about 180 miles northwest of Lahore, police appeared lax in trying to control protesters.

A dozen policemen looked on as 1,000-1,500 people, mostly students, rushed through the main entrance of the diplomatic enclave, smashing street signs and a bank window.

U.S. and British embassy staffers were confined to their compounds until police reinforcements with batons and shields used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators, who shouted "Death to America" and other slogans. About 50 protesters were detained.

Separately, about 50 lawmakers from the federal parliament staged a brief rally by the diplomatic enclave. Cleric Hafiz Hussain Ahmad, a leader of an opposition Islamic coalition, 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."

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Daniel Pipes and the Danish Editor

February 14, 2006By JOHN SUGG

Let me tell you a few things about blasphemy. Been there, done it. Got expelled from high school for it.

That was a few decades ago, and for those seeking titillation, I’ll give you the details at the end of this screed. First I have to tell you about a massive propaganda coup. You’ve been had by some of the most bigoted people in the world -- and I’m not talking about Muslim fundamentalists.
The big news about blasphemy today is in the Muslim world. A Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, in September published 12 cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad. It took four months for that fuse to reach the powder keg of religious sensibilities -- the flame was relentlessly pushed along by the right-wing, neo-conservative press until it exploded. The dumbed-down media depiction was free speech versus intolerant Muslim fanatics. That’s not entirely wrong, just very incomplete. Ultimately, crowds erupted in protests in Muslim cities. The picture of the burning Danish consulate in Beirut is the icon of the day.

I have to admit a severe conflict of principles here. On the one hand, I want to shout: “I am Danish! Cartoons don’t kill, bombs do!” I don’t countenance any prior restraint on freedom of expression, and when I first read of the Muslim outrage over cartoons -- such as one depicting Mohammed’s turban as a bomb -- I sighed a deep sigh of regret. There’s no dialogue in burning embassies.

Should free speech have constraints? Official censorship is anathema to a free society. Self-censorship and spinning for a regime -- a la Fox News -- is just as corrosive. On the other hand, I think the media should be very judicious about gratuitous offense. I’m repulsed at such things as artist Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ.” And, I feel no need to antagonize Muslims, Hindus, Wiccans or any other religious groups by intentionally creating an affront to their faith. I even have respect for the misbegotten gospel of the (un)Christian Coalition.

That the Muslim world reacted with violence to the cartoons is abhorrent. That Christians have done the same thing -- lighting up town centers and hilltops across Europe with flaming heretics and blasphemers -- is just as abhorrent. Indeed, the theocratic movement in America, which would enshrine one narrow view of Christ’s teachings as the law of the land, is simply a variation on the Muslim fundamentalists bellowing hatred at Scandinavian businesses and government offices.

There are other caveats that need to be stated: The Muslim world has been under assault from western, Christian crusaders for a thousand years. We’ve colonized and despoiled their lands. Many in America regard their oil as rightfully ours -- an underlying if not complete explanation for George Bush’s war of conquest. We’ve carved up the Middle East, overthrown democracies (pre-Shah Iran, for example), and fostered despots to suit the West’s imperial whims. And we wonder why THEY don’t like us, and why THEY take insults from us so seriously.

So, let’s look at the guy who started this whole cartoon escapade. He’s Flemming Rose, the cultural editor of the Danish newspaper. In all of the Lexis-Nexis database of stories from the American media on the Mohammed cartoons, there is absolutely no mention of the fact that Rose is a close confederate of arch-Islamophobe Daniel Pipes. Indeed, there is almost no context at all about Rose’s newspaper. On a brief mention in the Washington Post gave a hint at a fact desperately needed to understand the situation. The Post described the affair as “a calculated insult … by a right-wing newspaper in a country where bigotry toward the minority Muslim population is a major, if frequently unacknowledged, problem.”

How bad is Pipes? He wants the utter military obliteration of the Palestinians; indeed, from the Muslim world, his racism is about as blatant as that of the Holocaust denying Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Pipes’ frequent outbursts of racism -- designed to toss gasoline on the neo-cons’ lust for a wholesale conflict of cultures -- earned him a Bush nomination to the U.S. Institute of Peace, a congressionally funded think tank. Rose came to America to commune with Pipes in 2004, and it was after that meeting the cartoon gambit materialized.

It’s also worth noting that Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen wrapped himself in protestations about freedom of speech, and that’s commendable. But he is one of Bush’s few fans in Europe, steeped in the we-versus-them rhetoric, and having sent troops to the Iraqi Crusade.

Is Rose an equal opportunity offender? No way. As the British press reported last week, his newspaper refused in 2003 to run cartoons that ridiculed Jesus. And, of course, free expression in Europe is very relative. Many of the democracies have laws banning certain speech.

Rose gave a rather misanthropic rejoinder to AP when asked about whether he would have published the cartoons in light of the subsequent protests. Rose said: "I do not regret having commissioned those cartoons and I think asking me that question is like asking a rape victim if she regrets wearing a short skirt Friday night at the discotheque."

That, of course, makes the assumption that women are responsible for being raped. It’s just as fallacious as assuming the Muslim world should passively accept an intentional provocation, one that gratuitously attacked one of the religion’s strictest prohibitions.

Was the reaction overwrought? Absolutely. Was it predictable? Absolutely. Was it an intentional scheme to provoke Arab anger, and thereby engender Western disgust with the Muslim world? The involvement of Pipes and Rose argues that that is exactly what happened.

Now, my confession of blasphemy. In 1963, as an art student in Miami, I was assigned to a safety poster, “Cross at the corner.” I (humorously) depicted a crucified Christ at a Miami street corner looking down very sadly at people doing all sorts of horrible things to each other. My principal wasn’t amused, called me sacrilegious and a blasphemer, and tossed me from school. I got back in -- the First Amendment was still alive an well. And, fortunately, none of my supporters (there were quite a few) burned any consulates.

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Dangerous Hypocrisy: World Reactions to the Danish Cartoons

by Roberta Seid, PhD and Roz Rothstein

Westerners are agonizing about whether the twelve Danish cartoons of Mohammed showed unforgivable prejudice against Islam. Enraged Muslims in Europe, the Middle East and Asia are rampaging in protest against the cartoons, demanding apologies, boycotts, blood and even beheadings. But in all this, the real outrage is overlooked: the sheer hypocrisy of these reactions.
These angry Muslims demand that the world honor Islamic symbols and sensitivities, but adamantly refuse to grant the same to other religions. They don't just draw satirical cartoons or limit their insults to words and discriminatory laws. They have intentionally and regularly desecrated and destroyed religious icons, holy sites and houses of worship sacred to other faiths. Yet the world, including progressive democracies whose core ideal is tolerance, has remained silent about these assaults on other religions.

Why was there no effective protest when the Taliban destroyed pre-Islamic masterpieces, including the almost 2000-year-old 165-foot statue of Buddha? Where was the outrage when Muslims destroyed churches in Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Thailand, Iraq and Sudan, and 175 Nigerian churches in 2004?[1] Where was the indignation when armed Palestinian Muslim terrorists forced their way into the Church of the Nativity in 2002 for 38 days and shot bullet holes in the walls and used the pages of Christian holy books as toilet paper?[2] Why was there no outcry when Palestinian Muslims repeatedly attacked Jewish holy sites, such as Rachel's Tomb, or when they destroyed Joseph's Tomb, burned its prayer books, Bibles and religious articles and converted the age- old Jewish holy site into a mosque? Why was the world silent between 1948 and 1967 when Jordanian Muslims destroyed all 57 of Jerusalem?s ancient Jewish temples, libraries and yeshivas and used the sacred stones for urinals and sidewalks?

The world has been strangely silent, too, when Muslims have gone beyond attacking holy symbols and have persecuted and murdered men, women and children for the crime of not being Muslim. The Laskar Jihad movement of Indonesia has killed 5,000 Christians and made a half-million of them homeless. In Egypt, Copts are persecuted and dozens in el- Kusheh were killed in January 2000 alone. Muslim youth rampaged in Nigeria in 2002 and killed 100 Christians and injured 200 others.[3]

How can Muslims demand that their sensibilities be respected when they assault other religions and don't even begin soul-searching to rethink their own intolerance and religious prejudices? Why aren't Western democracies consistently denouncing this violent behavior? Is it because they have double standards and believe Islam must be treated differently than Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and other religions? Is it because they have become so secular that they see no reason to defend or protect the historic religions of the West? Or is it because they are intimidated by the threats of violence against them if they speak out? Do they fear they will share the fate of the brutally murdered Theodore Van Gogh or the fate of Salman Rushdie who was forced into hiding after a fatwa was issued that condemned his novel and called for his execution.

But something far more profound and ominous has been exposed by the cartoon incident. The radical Muslim message is clear: We can insult your religions. We can desecrate and destroy your holy places and kill your co-religionists, but you cannot do something as trivial as publishing satirical drawings of our sacred symbols. Only our religion should be honored and respected. The world must defer to our rules and sensitivities. If you violate them, we will erupt in riots and violence and call for your deaths.

In short, the incident has laid bare radical Islam's impassioned battle to dominate the West and impose Islamist values and a radical Islamist world order. They are trying to get us to respect Islam according to their rules not through persuasion but through intimidation and violence. Those who do not obey will be subject to a savagery and rage that radical Muslims will unapologetically justify in the name of Allah and Mohammed. Anti-Western governments like Iran and Syria and radical Islamists will cynically fan the flames.

We are face-to-face not just with hypocrisy, but also with radical Islamists' stark bid for religious dominance. Let us hope that democracies and moderate Muslims have the clarity, self-confidence and strength to win this battle of the 21st century.

[1] http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/002/36.82. html and http://www.asianews.it/view.php? l=en&art=4609

[2] "'Greedy Monsters' Ruled Church," <> Times, May 15 2002, p. 1

[3] http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/10429.htm

Roberta Seid, PhD is a historian.

Roz Rothsein is the National Director for StandWithUs.

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Eric S. Margolis 13 Feb 2006

One does not know whether to laugh or to cry.

The inflammatory and racist cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed originally published by a sensation-seeking Danish newspaper have turned into a cause célèbre and are producing a firestorm of hysteria and racism around the world.

Mobs of enraged Muslims have rioted from Morocco to Indonesia and burned Danish and Norwegian embassies. Editors of other European newspapers that foolishly ran the offensive cartoons piously insist they did so to defend the sacred right of free speech.

This writer detests any form of censorship, including so-called `hate laws’ that are really modern forms of heresy and blasphemy statutes.

But free speech, as the great American jurist Felix Frankfurter said, does not include the right to scream `fire’ in a crowded movie theater. And that’s just what the European newspapers did. They were trying to boost circulation and pander to anti-immigrant right wingers by attacking Islam.
Nor is it a coincidence these grave insults occurred in Denmark. Its current rightwing government has been close to President George Bush, sent troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, and has not done enough to talk to Denmark’s small Muslim community.

While the Danish government had no direct responsibility for the cartoons, it helped foster a climate of hostility to Muslims and was clearly playing to rightwing voters. In fact, anti-Islamism is becoming a staple for many parties of the right.

This whole ugly cartoon business is really about anti-Islamism – the modern version of 1930’s anti-Semitism. Today, promoting hatred and scorn for Islam and Muslims has become one of the few socially and legally acceptable modern prejudice in western society.

Just questioning the Jewish holocaust in Germany or Austria can result in a jail sentence. The historian David Irving is in an Austrian prison right now for having questioned some details of the Jewish holocaust over a decade ago.

In the west, it’s totally taboo to make claims like homosexuality is wrong, or women are less intelligent than men. No American, Canadian or European newspaper editor would ever dream of running grossly anti-Jewish cartoons. But it’s OK to slander Islam.

The Danish paper that ran the racist cartoons `to defend free speech’ refused in 2003 to run satirical cartoons of Christ, saying `it would provoke an outrage.’ So much for claims of defending free speech.

America’s four leading evangelical Protestant leaders, reverends Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham, Pat Robertson, and Marvin Olasky preached a `crusade’ against Iraq. Graham branded Islam `an evil and wicked religion.’ They called the prophet `a terrorist.’ Among American evangelical Christians, 87% supported invading Iraq and hoped to convert Iraq’s Muslims to Christianity. Yet they condemn Islam as a violent faith.

Italian writer Oriana Fallaci churns out best-sellers calling Islam a dirty, backwards creed of violent thugs.

In Paris, a Jewish newspaper editor, who should know about promoting hate against minorities, ran the Danish cartoons in his newspaper.

In liberal Holland, it’s cool to despise Muslims. In America, pseudo-historians like Bernard Lewis and professional hate-mongers like Daniel Pipes scourge Islam and Muslim movements.

One Danish cartoon of Prophet Mohammed shows him with a long, hooked nose, thick lips, a sinister, malevolent glare on his ugly, semitic face and a curved dagger in his hand. Change the caption `Prophet Mohammed’ to `Jew swine’ and you have the exact double of Nazi anti-Semitic hate cartoons of the 1930’s straight out of `Die Sturmer.’

That’s what this is all about. Modern anti-Semitism, reborn. These cartoons are emblematic for what many Europeans are whispering: `we hate Muslims. We want all Muslims out of Europe. Make Europe Muslimfrei!’ In the 1930’s, Europeans held the same loathing for Jews.

There is no doubt all Muslims and Islam have been gravely offended. But having said this, too many Muslims have been reacting hysterically by rioting and burning embassies. The Prophet Mohammed and Islam don’t need rioters and arsonists to defend them.

In an act of incredible childishness, Iran’s largest newspaper says it will solicit and run cartoons of the Jewish holocaust, proving there is no sickness as contagious as stupidity. Iranian newspaper editors ca be just as idiotic as Danish ones.

Muslims suffered 150 years of the most brutal European imperialism and exploitation. Millions of Muslims were slaughtered by European and Russian colonialists, though we never hear about this green holocaust. Europe’s 20 million Muslims are third-class citizens. Muslims have every right to anger.

But where were all these angry Muslims when Serbs were massacring 250,000 Bosnians, gang-raping thousands of Bosnian Muslim girls and women, and blowing up mosques? Why have there been almost no protests over Russia’s horrifying genocide in Chechnya? Or India’s brutalities in Kashmir. Or the US invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, and Australia’s turning East Timor into a political, economic and military protectorate?

Muslims have shamefully remained silent. Or bought arms and goods from nations oppressing Muslim nations. So why now all the rage over some crass racist cartoons in a Danish newspaper, of all places?

If Muslims are to fly into a rage, let it be over these major violations of human rights, not a nasty insult in far-off Denmark.

At least protesting by boycotting exports of nations that are hostile to Islam or persecuting Muslims is a sensible response against injustice. Rioting and burning are worthy of adolescents and simply reinforce lies being spread by anti-Islamic hate-mongers that Muslims are violent and backwards.

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Protesters Ravage Two Pakistani Cities

By ASIF SHAHZAD LAHORE, Pakistan Feb 14, 2006 (AP)

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 outside Citibank and Metropolitan Bank branches 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.

In Copenhagen, Denmark, Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the uproar posed the biggest foreign policy challenge to his nation since World War II. Fogh Rasmussen said it would take time to defuse the crisis, which he called "a very considerable task."

"We don't see the solution around the corner," he said. "We find ourselves in the biggest foreign policy challenge Denmark has faced since World War II."

The Danish government has said it cannot apologize for the actions of an independent newspaper.

A Danish Muslim leader said his group would accept part of the blame for the international protests, but he insisted the group took its complaints to the Middle East because Denmark's government would not listen.

Ahmad Akkari, 28, told The Associated Press his network was willing to accept one-third of the responsibility for the firestorm, if the government and the Danish paper that first published the drawings shared the rest.

"Let's say we bear one-third of the responsibility. Could the other two parts not take their responsibility?" Akkari said in an interview at a mosque in northern Copenhagen.

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."

Associated Press reporter Karl Ritter in Copenhagen, Denmark, contributed to this report.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press.

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The Cartoons and the Neocon - Daniel Pipes and the Danish Editor

By JOHN SUGG Counterpunch 14 Feb 06

Let me tell you a few things about blasphemy. Been there, done it. Got expelled from high school for it.

That was a few decades ago, and for those seeking titillation, I’ll give you the details at the end of this screed. First I have to tell you about a massive propaganda coup. You’ve been had by some of the most bigoted people in the world -- and I’m not talking about Muslim fundamentalists.

The big news about blasphemy today is in the Muslim world. A Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, in September published 12 cartoons mocking the prophet Muhammad. It took four months for that fuse to reach the powder keg of religious sensibilities -- the flame was relentlessly pushed along by the right-wing, neo-conservative press until it exploded. The dumbed-down media depiction was free speech versus intolerant Muslim fanatics. That’s not entirely wrong, just very incomplete. Ultimately, crowds erupted in protests in Muslim cities. The picture of the burning Danish consulate in Beirut is the icon of the day.
I have to admit a severe conflict of principles here. On the one hand, I want to shout: “I am Danish! Cartoons don’t kill, bombs do!” I don’t countenance any prior restraint on freedom of expression, and when I first read of the Muslim outrage over cartoons -- such as one depicting Mohammed’s turban as a bomb -- I sighed a deep sigh of regret. There’s no dialogue in burning embassies.

Should free speech have constraints? Official censorship is anathema to a free society. Self-censorship and spinning for a regime -- a la Fox News -- is just as corrosive. On the other hand, I think the media should be very judicious about gratuitous offense. I’m repulsed at such things as artist Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ.” And, I feel no need to antagonize Muslims, Hindus, Wiccans or any other religious groups by intentionally creating an affront to their faith. I even have respect for the misbegotten gospel of the (un)Christian Coalition.

That the Muslim world reacted with violence to the cartoons is abhorrent. That Christians have done the same thing -- lighting up town centers and hilltops across Europe with flaming heretics and blasphemers -- is just as abhorrent. Indeed, the theocratic movement in America, which would enshrine one narrow view of Christ’s teachings as the law of the land, is simply a variation on the Muslim fundamentalists bellowing hatred at Scandinavian businesses and government offices.

There are other caveats that need to be stated: The Muslim world has been under assault from western, Christian crusaders for a thousand years. We’ve colonized and despoiled their lands. Many in America regard their oil as rightfully ours -- an underlying if not complete explanation for George Bush’s war of conquest. We’ve carved up the Middle East, overthrown democracies (pre-Shah Iran, for example), and fostered despots to suit the West’s imperial whims. And we wonder why THEY don’t like us, and why THEY take insults from us so seriously.

So, let’s look at the guy who started this whole cartoon escapade. He’s Flemming Rose, the cultural editor of the Danish newspaper. In all of the Lexis-Nexis database of stories from the American media on the Mohammed cartoons, there is absolutely no mention of the fact that Rose is a close confederate of arch-Islamophobe Daniel Pipes. Indeed, there is almost no context at all about Rose’s newspaper. On a brief mention in the Washington Post gave a hint at a fact desperately needed to understand the situation. The Post described the affair as “a calculated insult … by a right-wing newspaper in a country where bigotry toward the minority Muslim population is a major, if frequently unacknowledged, problem.”

How bad is Pipes? He wants the utter military obliteration of the Palestinians; indeed, from the Muslim world, his racism is about as blatant as that of the Holocaust denying Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Pipes’ frequent outbursts of racism -- designed to toss gasoline on the neo-cons’ lust for a wholesale conflict of cultures -- earned him a Bush nomination to the U.S. Institute of Peace, a congressionally funded think tank. Rose came to America to commune with Pipes in 2004, and it was after that meeting the cartoon gambit materialized.

It’s also worth noting that Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen wrapped himself in protestations about freedom of speech, and that’s commendable. But he is one of Bush’s few fans in Europe, steeped in the we-versus-them rhetoric, and having sent troops to the Iraqi Crusade.

Is Rose an equal opportunity offender? No way. As the British press reported last week, his newspaper refused in 2003 to run cartoons that ridiculed Jesus. And, of course, free expression in Europe is very relative. Many of the democracies have laws banning certain speech.

Rose gave a rather misanthropic rejoinder to AP when asked about whether he would have published the cartoons in light of the subsequent protests. Rose said: "I do not regret having commissioned those cartoons and I think asking me that question is like asking a rape victim if she regrets wearing a short skirt Friday night at the discotheque."

That, of course, makes the assumption that women are responsible for being raped. It’s just as fallacious as assuming the Muslim world should passively accept an intentional provocation, one that gratuitously attacked one of the religion’s strictest prohibitions.

Was the reaction overwrought? Absolutely. Was it predictable? Absolutely. Was it an intentional scheme to provoke Arab anger, and thereby engender Western disgust with the Muslim world? The involvement of Pipes and Rose argues that that is exactly what happened.

Now, my confession of blasphemy. In 1963, as an art student in Miami, I was assigned to a safety poster, “Cross at the corner.” I (humorously) depicted a crucified Christ at a Miami street corner looking down very sadly at people doing all sorts of horrible things to each other. My principal wasn’t amused, called me sacrilegious and a blasphemer, and tossed me from school. I got back in -- the First Amendment was still alive an well. And, fortunately, none of my supporters (there were quite a few) burned any consulates.

John Sugg is editor of Creative Loafing.

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Can You Say "Permanent Bases"? - The American Press Can't

By Tom Engelhardt Tom Dispatch 14 Feb 06

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.

Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The End of Victory Culture, a history of American triumphalism in the Cold War. His novel, The Last Days of Publishing, has recently come out in paperback.

Copyright 2006 Tom Engelhardt

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Russian Foreign Minister Says Split Between Muslims and Christians Worse than Cold War

Created: 15.02.2006 16:26 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 16:26 MSK, 2 hours 18 minutes ago MosNews

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has warned of a danger of a split between Christians and Muslims, the RIA-Novosti news agency reported on Wednesday.

“The threat of a split between civilizations could be even more terrible than what we went through in the years of the Cold War,” the minister said while visiting the St Nicholas Cathedral in Vienna.

Lavrov noted that certain problems were now arising between Christianity and Islam.

He said he was certain that the Russian Orthodox Church could make a significant contribution to preventing a split between civilizations.

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U.S. Risks Reporter's Life to Strike Tough Pose

Analysis by Gareth Porter* 13 Feb 06

WASHINGTON - The George W. Bush administration went well beyond refusing to negotiate with terrorists in its handling of the threat by freelance journalist Jill Carroll's abductors to kill her if all female detainees were not released from U.S.-run prisons in Iraq.

According to Iraqi officials, U.S. officials delayed the scheduled release of six female prisoners whom they knew had already been found innocent because of the kidnappers' demand for their release. Then they refused to speed up the review of the files of the five remaining female prisoners, in violation of a policy of giving priority to females in the review of detainee files for release.
Had the normal policy been followed, it is very likely that all the women held by the United States would have been released by now. By delaying the releases of female detainees to strike a tough anti-terrorism pose, the administration has increased the risk to Jill Carroll's life.

Carroll's abductors, who threatened on Jan. 17 to kill Carroll if all female detainees were not released by Jan. 20, did not carry out the threat. But they announced a new deadline of Feb. 26 for the release of all the female detainees in a video aired by a Kuwaiti TV station over the weekend.

When the initial deadline was announced by Carroll's abductors, a major release of hundreds of prisoners had already been planned, and Iraqi officials had expected six female detainees to be included among them.

The Iraqi ministries of justice and human rights revealed to reporters that they had reviewed the cases of the six women brought to them and had recommended to U.S. authorities that all six be released on the grounds that there was no solid evidence against them. Apparently the release had originally been scheduled before the deadline announced by Carroll's captors.

"In my opinion, all of them are innocent," said Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim Ali.

The Pentagon, however, at first refused even to comment on the possible release of the women. When the Jan. 20 deadline was aired by the Al Jazeera television network, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Joe Carpenter of the Central Command was quoted as saying of the female detainees, "There is no expected resolution of their cases in the near future."

But Reuters reported on Jan. 25 that Iraqi officials "have been at odds with their U.S. counterparts" over the release of the women, and that the Iraqis were suggesting that "the delay in releasing the women was linked to the demands of the kidnappers of Carroll..."

Thus U.S. officials -- contrary to the expressed position of the Iraqi authorities involved -- were blocking the release of six female detainees as part of a previously scheduled release. That decision was apparently motivated by a desire to appear tougher on terrorism to the U.S. public.

On Jan. 26, five of the six women were released, along with 419 others. The sixth woman, whom the Iraqi officials had judged innocent, is still being detained without explanation.

Even after that release, a total of six women were still held in U.S. prisons in the country. Jill Carroll's life was still in danger, as nothing had been heard from her captors since the original deadline had been announced on Jan. 17.

But the problem of female detainees could have been resolved quickly under existing U.S. policy. U.S. command spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson alluded to that policy on Jan. 20 when he said, "Of course, we understand the cultural sensitivities in detaining females and pay particular attention to assessing their files."

Reporters understood that Johnson meant that the U.S. military would make special efforts to process the cases of women more quickly than those of men. Dan Murphy of the Christian Science Monitor, for which Carroll had been writing, reported Jan. 26 that the policy of giving priority to releases of women was prompted by the "anger and violence generated by U.S. detention of women".

The six women remaining in prison could have been considered for another release scheduled to take place on Feb. 5. When 50 more prisoners were released on that date, however, none of the six female prisoners was among them. In order to avoid any appearance of being responsive to the kidnappers, the U.S. command had not even followed its own policy on female detainees.

The U.S. command has claimed that all the women who are detained are considered dangerous to security. All detainees are automatically charged with "aiding terrorists or planting explosives".

Based on the record of the first two and a half years of the U.S. system of detention, however, it is almost certain that every one of the women still detained will ultimately be freed because of lack of evidence against them.

Last November, "Raw Story", an alternative web-based news site, reported figures from the U.S. Central Command showing that 35,000 people had been detained for extended periods since the beginning of the war, of whom 21,000 had been released and only 1,259 ever formally accused of illegal activities. Of those who were accused, only 636 were convicted.

Thus, 98.6 percent of the detainees in the U.S. system have eventually been released.

Documents obtained the American Civil Liberties Union and the testimony of former detainees and a U.S. general suggest that most of the female detainees over the past two years were being held because of family ties to suspected insurgents.

Nancy Youssef of Knight-Ridder reported on Jan. 28 that a woman who had been detained at Baghdad International Airport in September 2004 said she found that all eight women in her cell had been detained only because their husbands or fathers were suspected of being in the insurgency.

A memo by a civilian intelligence officer who participated in a raid on the house of suspect near Baghdad in May 2004 recalled that units carrying out the operation were told that, if the wife of the suspect was present, she should be "detained and held in order to leverage the primary target's surrender".

Former Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was the military police commander at Abu Ghraib Prison when the abuse story broke, told the Associated Press that she knew of "perhaps 15 or 20 cases" of detention of wives of suspects in 2003, and that it was the practice for "higher value detainees".

As the Christian Science Monitor's Dan Murphy observed, Iraqis generally assume that U.S. prisons still abuse female detainees, regardless of changes that may have been made in U.S. policy on their treatment.

Iraqi memories of the abuses of women in Abu Ghraib remain an open wound. A letter smuggled out of Abu Ghraib in December 2003 told of multiple rapes of prisoners and of several women who had become pregnant.

The "Taguba report" on the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuses said photographs shot by U.S. guards at the prison included images of both male and female prisoners stripped naked, a male guard in a pose of having sex with a female detainee and naked male and female detainees forcibly arranged in various sexual positions.

(*Gareth Porter is an historian and national security policy analyst. His latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam", was published in June 2005.)

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Al Qaeda establish 'Islamic state' in Pak province

Times of India 14 Feb 06

NEW DELHI: After taking "virtual control" of the entire North Waziristan province of Pakistan, Taliban and Al Qaeda have recently "declared" the establishment of an 'Islamic State' in the area and gained a major base for their operations against the US-led forces in Afghanistan, media reports said.

"The Taliban recently declared the establishment of an 'Islamic State' in North Waziristan, and they now, through the brutal elimination of criminal elements who previously held sway, in effect rule in the rugged territory," a latest report in 'Asia Times' magazine said.
It said that by "taking control of virtually all of Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal area on the border with Afghanistan, the Taliban have gained a significant base from which to wage their resistance against US-led forces in Afghanistan.

..."At the same time, the development solidifies the anti-US resistance groups in Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, which will now fight under a single strategy," the report in the Hong Kong-based magazine said.

In a related report, 'The Friday Times' said "the growing influence of militants and resultant insecurity have forced tribesmen in the restive North and South Waziristan to migrate to adjacent districts of the North West Front Province".

Copyright © 2006Times Internet Limited

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Taleban say attacks will increase, US “helpless”

Khaleej Times 14 February 2006

SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan - Afghanistan’s Taleban guerrillas are gaining strength and will step up attacks against government and foreign troops when spring comes next month, a Taleban commander said on Tuesday.

The Taleban claimed responsibility for a blast on Monday that the US military said killed four troops. The Taleban said nine Americans were killed and US forces were helpless in the face of such attacks.
“Taleban attacks will further increase with a decrease in the winter cold,” a former Taleban governor of Kandahar province, Mullah Mohammad Hassan Rahmani, told Reuters by satellite telephone from an undisclosed location.

Fighting in Afghanistan traditionally eases off during the winter months when mountain passes get snowed under.

But violence has surged in recent months, including 15 suicide blasts since November.

US military officials say the Taleban have changed tactics since suffering heavy losses in clashes last summer and are now increasingly using roadside blasts and suicide bombers against soft targets.

The four US troops were killed when their armoured Humvee vehicle was hit by a blast in the central province of Uruzgan, the US military said.

Suspected Taleban insurgents burned down a school in an eastern province in the latest attack on the US-backed government’s efforts to promote education. One guard was wounded in the Monday night attack, a provincial spokesman said.

The violence comes as the first 150 of about 3,300 British troops were leaving Britain for the southern Afghan province of Helmand.

The 150 Royal Marines commandos are part of an advance party of 850 British troops deploying to Helmand this month to help prepare for the arrival of the full contingent in the summer, a British military spokeswoman said.

“Heavy losses”

Britain, Canada and the Netherlands are leading an expansion of a NATO peacekeeping force into the volatile south while the United States is hoping to withdraw 3,000 of the more than 18,000 troops it has in a separate force battling the insurgency.

Rahmani said the more foreign forces there were, the more targets the Taleban would have to attack.

He said the Taleban had grown stronger since they were ousted by US and Afghan opposition forces after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, and the suicide bombers were helping to drive US forces out.

“American forces have become helpless before the Taleban’s suicide and other attacks,” he said.

“The Taleban are inflicting heavy losses on American forces in men and material and it is to hide the cowardice and failure of their troops that America is reducing its forces.”

While the British forces will be stationed in Helmand, the Dutch will be in neighbouring Uruzgan province. Canada will soon have about 2,000 troops in Kandahar province, another insurgent hotspot in the south.

The Taleban are fighting to expel foreign forces and defeat the government but most Afghans say they need foreign troops in their country to ensure security.

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Padilla Defense Challenges Evidence as Possible Fraud

Julie Kay Daily Business Review 02-14-2006

The jihadist training form that accused terrorist operative Jose Padilla allegedly filled out before heading to an Afghanistan camp may be a fake and requires fingerprint analysis, his defense attorneys say.

In an appeal of a pretrial detention order denying bond, the defense tries to debunk several pieces of prosecution evidence against Padilla and lay out some of its case for the so-called "dirty bomber."
The court papers were filed last week in preparation for the detention appeal to be argued Friday before U.S. District Judge Marcia Cooke. Padilla's defense attorneys are trying to get the accused terrorist released on bond.

Prosecutors were expected to reply in writing to the defense's renewed request for bond before the hearing. Calls to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Miami were not returned before deadline Monday.

The trial of Padilla and co-defendants charged with providing material support, money and fighters for Muslim terrorists around the world is scheduled to start in September before Cooke and may take six months.

Padilla is accused of going to Afghanistan to attend a terrorist training camp. The U.S. citizen was charged in November after spending more than three years in military custody as an "enemy combatant" without any charges filed against him.

In his appeal, lead counsel Michael Caruso, chief deputy federal public defender in Miami, disputes many of the allegations the government is making to prove its case that Padilla supported a Muslin holy war and trained to be a terrorist.

The most dramatic contention made by the defense is that the form produced by prosecutors may be a fraud. The government should have conducted a fingerprint analysis, the defense contends.

"There are several difficulties with the government's reliance upon this form that should trouble this court," Caruso wrote in the court filing.

The government claims Padilla completed the form in July 2000, but the government didn't get a copy until December 2001, Caruso pointed out.

"The chain of custody of this form is thus unknown," he states. "Although the government has had this form for 4 1/2 years and has had Mr. Padilla in custody for 3 1/2 years, the prosecution has yet to submit this form for fingerprint analysis."

Additionally, the government has no proof that Padilla writes or speaks Arabic, although it provided a copy of the form in Arabic to the court.

"The document is meaningless without evidence that Mr. Padilla actually completed the form," the defense maintains.

The government also offered no proof that the name on the form, Abu Abdallah al Mujahir, was adopted by Padilla, Caruso said. The name Abu Abdallah "is a common one," noting that Abu means "father of" in Arabic.

The government also offered no proof that Padilla actually attended a terrorist training camp, Caruso asserts in the court filing.

At Padilla's pretrial detention hearing Jan. 12, Justice Department lawyer Stephanie Pell claimed that the training camp application was authenticated by a cooperating government witness. She also said Padilla's date of birth, Oct. 18, 1970, was on his application.

As evidence that Padilla should be detained in solitary confinement, prosecutors stated they intercepted 50,000 phone calls in the alleged eight-year terrorism conspiracy among the five defendants.

But the defense contends that Padilla is only alleged to have participated in seven of those conversations.

The defense said that limited role was not disclosed to U.S. Magistrate Judge Barry Garber, who denied bond for Padilla Jan. 12 after he was released from a Navy brig.

Caruso also took issue with the content of those conversations. At Padilla's initial detention hearing, the government alleged the callers used code words.

In a July 1999 conversation, Padilla allegedly spoke with co-defendant Adham Amin Hassoun and requested "supplies such as an army jacket and a sleeping bag because there was a rumor that a route had been found to enter into an area of an armed conflict."

The defense said a transcript of the call disclosed that Padilla never said "armed conflict" but used the phrase "the door was open somewhere."

The defense version conflicts with the government's assertions in the indictment that the defendants used words like "tourism" and "travel" to mean jihad.

Similarly, a prosecution claim that Hassoun told Padilla to "prepare himself financially so that he could move to an entry area close to an armed conflict" also is unsupported, the defense says. Hassoun used the phrase "close area."

The government has not substantiated its claim that Hassoun supported Padilla when he lived in Egypt for four years, the defense said.

"The government has failed to show that Mr. Padilla received any significant amount of money from Hassoun," the appeal states.

Caruso also slammed the government for failing to provide final transcripts from its intercepted phone conversations, and only drafts. The drafts "are not entitled to any serious weight," he states in the appeal.

Padilla is not a flight risk and should be released from jail until his trial, Caruso asserted in the appeal, noting his mother lives in Broward County, Florida, and he has a wife in Chicago.

"Mr. Padilla has very strong family ties to the Southern District of Florida and to the United States," states Caruso. "Because of these significant family ties he is not a serious flight risk."

Aside from ties to the community, a judge considering bond also must decide whether a defendant poses a risk to the community.

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U.S. Dollar Hits 6-Week High Against Euro

AP Tuesday February 14, 4:08 pm ET

FRANKFURT, Germany -- The dollar hit a six-week high against the euro Tuesday after new information showed American consumers spent freely in January because of warmer weather and gift cards they received in December.
The 12-nation currency fell to $1.1911 in late trading in New York, down from $1.1909 the night before in New York. Earlier in the day, the euro fell as low as $1.1860, its lowest price since Jan. 4, 2006, when it traded as low as $1.1799.

The U.S. Commerce Department said retail sales, excluding autos, rose 2.2 percent in January, the best showing in that category since late 1999. With autos included, retail sales rose by 2.3 percent, the best showing in 20 months. Overall retail sales had risen by a tiny 0.4 percent in December.

The strong retail performance helped lend support to those in the market who believe that the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates further. Traders were waiting for Chairman Ben Bernanke's appearance before Congress on Wednesday for clues to the direction of U.S. monetary policy.

The British pound fell to $1.7351 late Tuesday from $1.7428 in late Monday trading in New York.

The dollar bought 117.43 yen, down from 117.66 yen on Monday as traders bought back the Japanese currency amid expectations of an imminent change in policy by Japan's central bank.

The Bank of Japan has pledged to start tightening money supply and then raise interest rates when deflation finally stops.

The dollar rose slightly to 1.3078 Swiss francs late Tuesday from 1.3065 in late Monday trading in New York.

The dollar fell slightly to 1.1527 Canadian dollars late Tuesday from 1.1542.

Comment: Meanwhile, the DOW soared past 11,000. So, it looks like there's nothing to worry about when it comes to the US economy, right...?

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Oil Falls Below $60, Gasoline Plunges on Supply-Growth Forecast

Bloomberg Feb. 14, 2006

Crude oil fell below $60 a barrel for the first time in 2006 and gasoline futures dropped to the lowest in almost a year as a warm winter cut fuel needs, leaving inventories plentiful.
An Energy Department report tomorrow will probably show crude oil supplies rose by 1 million barrels and gasoline by 1.6 million barrels last week, according to a Bloomberg survey. U.S. refineries are consuming less crude as they begin maintenance to prepare for summer gasoline demand. January temperatures were the warmest on record this year, according to the government.

"Right now demand is not up to par" with supply levels, said Tom Bentz, an oil broker with BNP Paribas Commodity Futures Inc. in New York. "We're continuing to see builds in inventories."

Crude oil for March delivery fell $1.67, or 2.7 percent, to $59.57 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. That's the lowest price since Dec. 27. Futures have dropped 13 percent from a high of $68.35 reached on Jan. 30. Oil is 26 percent higher than a year ago.

Gasoline for March delivery plunged 4.63 cents, or 3.2 percent, to $1.3849 a gallon on the Nymex, the lowest price since Feb. 28, 2005. Prices are 8.4 percent higher than a year ago. Gasoline has fallen for seven straight sessions.


A blizzard that struck much of the U.S. Northeast this week and dumped a record amount of snow in New York City has not affected prices of crude oil, gasoline, heating oil and natural gas as investors and traders bet that excess supplies built up over the mild winter would meet the temporary demand for heating fuels.

The International Energy Agency last week said that global oil production capacity is growing faster than demand. Capacity held by members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries may increase by 1 million barrels a day this year, while non-OPEC output may climb 1.2 million barrels, the IEA said on Feb. 10.

"The main concern had been that supply wouldn't keep up with demand, but indications are that it will," said Veronica Smart, an analyst with the U.K.-based Energy Information Centre. "High oil prices have facilitated investment" to increase output, she said.

Warmth in U.S.

Most of the northern U.S. was warmer than normal from mid- December through early January, lowering demand for heating fuel. That allowed supplies to build, raising the nation's crude stockpiles 11 percent higher than their five-year seasonal average the week ended Feb. 3. Heating-oil supplies were 18 percent higher.

Stockpiles of distillate fuel, a category that includes heating oil and diesel, probably declined by 1 million barrels last week, according to the median forecast of 13 analysts in the Bloomberg survey. Still, heating demand will remain subdued in the coming week, at 97 percent of normal in the Northeast, Weather Derivatives said.

Hedge funds and other large investors are selling their bets that oil will rise, known as long positions, based on the realization that winter demand for heating oil was less than anticipated, said James Cordier, president of Liberty Trading group in Tampa, Florida.

"We had the mildest January in history, and when you have massive long positions during that time you're going to have disappointed investors," he said. "We definitely had to have a price correction."

Bets on a Decline

Data from the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission show that hedge funds and large speculators last week reversed bets on the New York Mercantile Exchange and now are waging crude prices will slide. Shorts, or bets prices will fall, outnumbered longs by 539 contracts the week ended Feb. 7, compared with net-longs, or bets prices would rise, of 19,970 contracts the previous week.

Heating oil for March delivery fell 2.86 cents, or 1.8 percent, to $1.61 a gallon on the Nymex. That's the lowest price since Nov. 29.

The Energy Department will publish its weekly report on supply tomorrow at 10:30 a.m. Washington time.

Iran and Russia will meet on Feb. 20 to discuss a proposal for breaking a deadlock over the Iranian nuclear program. The International Atomic Energy Agency may formalize Iran's referral to the United Nations Security Council on March 6, which could result in economic sanctions on the world's fourth-largest oil producer.

'Fear Factor'

"Iran seems to have moved away from the front page and people realize this is not going to come to a head" soon, Bentz said. "That fear factor has been taken out of the market."

Brent crude for April fell $1.10, or 1.8 percent, to $59.52 a barrel on London's ICE Futures exchange.

"Certainly, bearish sentiment has entered the market," EIC's Smart said. Still, "refiners are coming into critical maintenance, and that may affect supplies in coming weeks. The risk is that they may have problems after going on for so long after the hurricane season. For some, there may be a delay coming back."

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Oil? America's addicted to everything!

By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch 1:43 PM ET Feb 14, 2006

And our denial is sabotaging the economy and markets

ARROYO GRANDE, Calif. - Addicted to oil? Just oil? You're joking? No, we're a "nation of addicts," doing what addicts do best: Denying reality.

In denial the brain can rationalize anything. The more self-destructive an addict's behavior, the stronger their denial, louder their protests, arrogance, bravado, even optimism: "I'm fine, everything's under control!"

So when a Texas oilman admits 295 million Americans are addicted to oil, as President Bush did in his State of the Union address, that's historic!
I've worked professionally with people in and out of recovery; politicians, doctors, celebrities, rock stars, pro athletes and royalty, some in the Middle East, many from the Betty Ford Center. Addicts will do anything to get the next fix or drink, oblivious of the destruction around them. They create living hells, losing health, family, kids, careers, wealth, and most of all, their freedom.

Nations are no different! This is not news. Two decades ago psychologist Anne Wilson Schaef wrote "When Society Becomes an Addict." Her opening line: "Our society is deteriorating at an alarming rate." The symptoms: Greed, arrogance, ethical deterioration, obsessiveness, rationalism, self-centeredness, tunnel vision. We're out of touch, living with an illusion of control.

Flash forward. New addictions: credit cards, obesity, massive deficits, iPods, plasma HDTV's, McMansions, SUVs, outsourcing to India, buying plastic from China. Go deeper: We have a near-religious addiction to rationality, logic, data, numbers, stock quotes, productivity, interest rates, GDP, etc. Our brains gorge on an endless diet of numbers from cable's talking heads, online breaking news, print reports.

Comment: And therein lies the problem: so many people think they are viewing things "rationally". And yet, they are getting their information from sources that are well-known to serve up twisted and even blatantly false information as "the truth". It is easy to become addicted to the lies, because it requires no effort on our part to verify anything.

Information is our new mind-numbing drug, worse than cocaine and heroin. Often distracted, in a stupor, narrowly focused on immediate gratification, we lose perspective, integrity, even our identity; we're addicts in a myopic bubble, in denial of the real world.

Comment: There is information, and then there is TRUE information.

Paradoxically, America's addiction to rationality and numbers is a major part of our brain's denial mechanism, blinding us to unpredictable risks and irrational dangers that do not fit neatly into our conventional wisdom. Please notice how we've programmed denial into the thinking behind our economic and market forecasting systems:

* First: Economic modeling. Economists use elaborate computer models to simulate how America works. Past performance is projected using complex mathematical formulas. But they cannot predict wars, pandemics, another 9/11. By screening out these high-cost, unpredictable variables, economists build denial into their forecasts, coating over increasing dangers, then feeding us forecasts that are invariably misleading and wrong.

* Second: Market forecasting. Our addiction to rationality and numbers is even more dangerous in market-timing and trading systems. Institutions and individuals use esoteric theories: Elliot Wave, Gann, Fibonacci, Candlesticks, Astro-Harmonics and other systems. They hypnotize "numbers addicts" like drugs, creating a false sense of control, even rationalizing losses. One commodity trader showed me how his models predicted his day-trading, "but I don't have a clue about next week."

We are a nation of addicts, in denial, and our mastery over the economy and markets is an illusion, creating a false sense of security. Wall Street, Washington and Corporate America are all addicted to computer models that minimize or eliminate unpredictable threatening variables: Global wars, pandemics, terrorist attacks on American soil, the very things that could do the most damage to the economy and markets are not included. Meanwhile, Main Street is focused narrowly on getting the next "fix."

Denial blinds us to many dangers. Like the coming Iranian Petro-Euro Bourse threatening the American dollar's position as the world's reserve currency, a threat potentially more catastrophic than a nuclear arsenal. We deny it.

And recently, we learned of an even bigger threat: about World War III. Seriously, a war is being provoked by loose cannons in America as well as abroad. Irrational, absurd and unwanted, fanatics on both sides are prophesizing an all-out war in the next couple years.

For years America has heard religious fundamentalists predict the "End of Days," Armageddon, an Apocalypse, The Rapture, Tribulation, a final battle prophesized for the Holy Land. Prominent evangelists believe it's coming soon. Many are so convinced their rhetoric may be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Until recently this was outside market and economic thinking. That is, until Iranian President Ahmadinejad addressed the United Nations in October. His prophecies mirror those of America's evangelists. Ahmadinejad not only hopes for but is trying to provoke both the free world and Islam into war.

Iran's "End-of-Days:" Ahmadinejad passionately believes that in the next couple years the world will witness the "second coming" of the Mahdi, a messianic "hidden 12th imam" of Shiite Islam, prophesized to appear at the "End of Days." Ahmadinejad even embraces his "divine mission" to "pave the way" for the second coming.

Get it! We have ideological fanatics on both sides, like two alcoholics itching for a bar fight. Both sides want a global war, provoking enemies and allies alike. Both pray for an irrational first blow triggering the "End of Days," a WW III nuclear conflict between the world's greatest cultures. Both expect fulfillment of ancient prophecies. Both want a war to end all wars, and the end of the world as we know it.

Irrational? Probably. But remember, these high-risk variables are not programmed into America's economic models and market forecasting systems that Washington, Wall Street and Corporate America throw at you every day. Yet in the hands of fanatics these variables can trigger events that can easily overwhelm entire economies and markets.

Wake up America! Oil's only one minor symptom. We are a nation of addicts, in denial of so many threats external to our bubble world. Mentally we are at greater risk than with the irrational exuberance of 2000. Except this time the threat is global, systemic and potentially catastrophic, far outside the box of our mega-rational economic models and market forecasting systems. Soon your denial system may no longer work, reality will implode.

So please, be prepared for market losses far greater than the $8 trillion we lost between 2000 and 2002. Plan conservatively. See previous Paul B. Farrell.

Remember, when any addict "hits bottom," the big thing they lose is their freedom ... the same holds true for an entire nation of addicts.

Comment: See comments in article text.

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Senate Kills Fund for Asbestos Victims

By Jonathan Peterson, Times Staff Writer

The bill would have created a $140-billion compensation trust financed by companies and insurers. It met bipartisan opposition.
WASHINGTON — The Senate rejected a new plan Tuesday to compensate asbestos victims, apparently dooming a proposed $140-billion fund that would have handled claims now battled out in court.

Under the legislation, asbestos makers and their insurers would have contributed to a trust fund to pay claims for illnesses in amounts from $25,000 to $1.1 million. But the measure faced attacks on several fronts.

Trial lawyers and their Democratic allies argued that efforts to take claims out of the courts threatened the ability of victims to obtain sufficient restitution.

Fiscal conservatives feared that the approach would set up a federal entitlement program, along the lines of "black lung" compensation, with insufficient limits on payments and a growing bill for taxpayers.

The final vote was 58 to 41, with advocates of the asbestos legislation failing to get the 60 votes needed to beat back a procedural challenge. Proponents of the bill, who initially had 59 votes, said they might try again, but they were sobered by a defeat that included votes of Democrats and Republicans.

"The consequence of the vote tonight is that victims who are in need are not going to receive fair and just compensation," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) said after the vote. "They deserve it. They need it."

At the end, Frist shifted his vote from yes to no, a parliamentary maneuver that he said would enable him to bring the matter up again if he chose.

By all accounts, the outcome was a stinging defeat for advocates of the plan and raised questions about the approach that had been painstakingly established by a coalition of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The vote was over a technical issue — whether the proposed $140-billion fund would exceed budgetary limits. Proponents argued it would not, noting the fund was to be financed by private companies and insurance firms. They also cited a recent analysis by the Congressional Budget Office that the fund would not expand the federal deficit over the long haul.

"It's abundantly clear that this legislation will not be a burden on the United States Treasury," Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said.

Opponents maintained that the fund was insufficient for long-term asbestos claims and could ultimately saddle taxpayers with new costs or leave claimants in limbo if the money ran out.

"In addition to being unfair to victims, the bill is unfair to the federal taxpayer," said Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate minority leader, who led the opposition. The bill, he added, "may be well-intentioned, but it is ill-conceived."

Supporters sought to establish a system for asbestos claims that would be similar to the workers' compensation program for workplace injuries. Workers would not have to prove that their symptoms were caused by a particular exposure to asbestos.

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, had urged senators to keep the bill alive and invited colleagues to address their concerns by amending the measure in the coming days.

"To have it rejected on a technicality is just a terrible waste of so much time and effort," Specter said of the bill that had passed in committee in May.

Afterward, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), an opponent of the measure, tried to sound a conciliatory tone.

"We have to find a reasonable way to help these victims," he said. "I don't know if we can reach an agreement, but I sure want to try."

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Budget axes public health projects

CECI CONNOLLY The Washington Post 14 Feb 06

WASHINGTON - President Bush has requested billions more to prepare for potential disasters such as a biological attack or an influenza epidemic, but his proposed budget for next year would zero out popular health projects that supporters say target more mundane, but more certain, killers.
If enacted, the 2007 budget would eliminate federal programs that support inner-city Indian health clinics, defibrillators in rural areas, an educational campaign about Alzheimer's disease, traumatic brain-injury centers, and a nationwide registry for Lou Gehrig's disease. It would cut close to $1 billion in health care grants to states and would kill the entire budget of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Paralysis Resource Center.

In a $2.8 trillion budget, the amounts involved may seem minuscule, but proponents argue that the health care projects Bush has singled out are the "ultimate homeland security," as Vinay Nadkarni put it. The spokesman for the American Heart Association said he cannot fathom why the administration has recommended eliminating a $1.5 million program that provides defibrillators to rural communities and trains local personnel on how to use the machines to restart hearts that go into cardiac arrest.

"Coronary heart disease is the number one killer in the United States," Nadkarni said. "This is actually something we can arm ourselves with."

To meet his twin goals of taming a rising deficit and increasing spending on national security, Bush proposed $2.2 billion in cuts to discretionary programs elsewhere in the budget. The Department of Health and Human Services would absorb $1.5 billion of that total, in part to direct more money to mandatory programs such as Medicare.

"We had to make hard choices, hard choices about very well-intentioned programs," said HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., said the administration chose "tax cuts for the wealthy and giveaways for the drug industry" over services for needier patients.

Some of the proposed cuts are familiar Bush targets that in previous years were rescued by congressional backers. Others are new and could be harder to restore this year. Leavitt said his team slashed programs that were duplicative or underperforming. But in every case, physicians, patient advocates and policy analysts argue, it will cost taxpayers more in the long run.

The 2007 budget would terminate $12 million in state grants for community-based Alzheimer's care and a $1.6 million "Maintain Your Brain" campaign run out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Today, more than 4.5 million Americans have Alzheimer's, a number expected to rise to 16 million by mid-century, said Stephen McConnell, vice president for public policy at the Alzheimer's Association.

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U.S. Has Royalty Plan to Give Windfall to Oil Companies

By EDMUND L. ANDREWS New York Times 14 Feb 06

WASHINGTON— The federal government is on the verge of one of the biggest giveaways of oil and gas in American history, worth an estimated $7 billion over five years.

New projections, buried in the Interior Department's just-published budget plan, anticipate that the government will let companies pump about $65 billion worth of oil and natural gas from federal territory over the next five years without paying any royalties to the government.

Based on the administration figures, the government will give up more than $7 billion in payments between now and 2011. The companies are expected to get the largess, known as royalty relief, even though the administration assumes that oil prices will remain above $50 a barrel throughout that period.
Administration officials say that the benefits are dictated by laws and regulations that date back to 1996, when energy prices were relatively low and Congress wanted to encourage more exploration and drilling in the high-cost, high-risk deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

"We need to remember the primary reason that incentives are given," said Johnnie M. Burton, director of the federal Minerals Management Service. "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."

But what seemed like modest incentives 10 years ago have ballooned to levels that have alarmed even ardent supporters of the oil and gas industry, partly because of added sweeteners approved during the Clinton administration but also because of ambiguities in the law that energy companies have successfully exploited in court.

Short of imposing new taxes on the industry, there may be little Congress can do to reverse its earlier giveaways. The new projections come at a moment when President Bush and Republican leaders are on the defensive about record-high energy prices, soaring profits at major oil companies and big cuts in domestic spending.

Indeed, Mr. Bush and House Republicans are trying to kill a one-year, $5 billion windfall profits tax for oil companies that the Senate passed last fall.

Moreover, the projected largess could be just the start. Last week, Kerr-McGee Exploration and Development, a major industry player, began a brash but utterly serious court challenge that could, if it succeeds, cost the government another $28 billion in royalties over the next five years.

In what administration officials and industry executives alike view as a major test case, Kerr-McGee told the Interior Department last week that it planned to challenge one of the government's biggest limitations on royalty relief if it could not work out an acceptable deal in its favor. If Kerr-McGee is successful, administration projections indicate that about 80 percent of all oil and gas from federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico would be royalty-free.

"It's one of the greatest train robberies in the history of the world," said Representative George Miller, a California Democrat who has fought royalty concessions on oil and gas for more than a decade. "It's the gift that keeps on giving."

Republican lawmakers are also concerned about how the royalty relief program is working out.

"I don't think there is a single member of Congress who thinks you should get royalty relief at $70 a barrel" for oil, said Representative Richard W. Pombo, Republican of California and chairman of the House Resources Committee.

"It was Congress's intent," Mr. Pombo said in an interview on Friday, "that if oil was at $10 a barrel, there should be royalty relief so companies could have some kind of incentive to invest capital. But at $70 a barrel, don't expect royalty relief."

Tina Kreisher, a spokeswoman for the Interior Department, said Monday that the giveaways might turn out to be less than the basic forecasts indicate because of "certain variables."

The government does not disclose how much individual companies benefit from the incentives, and most companies refuse to disclose either how much they pay in royalties or how much they are allowed to avoid.

But the benefits are almost entirely for gas and oil produced in the Gulf of Mexico.

The biggest producers include Shell, BP, Chevron and Exxon Mobil as well as smaller independent companies like Anadarko and Devon Energy.

Executives at some companies, including Exxon Mobil, said they had already stopped claiming royalty relief because they knew market prices had exceeded the government's price triggers.

About one-quarter of all oil and gas produced in the United States comes from federal lands and federal waters in the Gulf of Mexico.

As it happens, oil and gas royalties to the government have climbed much more slowly than market prices over the last five years.

The New York Times reported last month that one major reason for the lag appeared to be a widening gap between the average sales prices that companies are reporting to the government when paying royalties and average spot market prices on the open market.

Industry executives and administration officials contend that the disparity mainly reflects different rules for defining sales prices. Administration officials also contend that the disparity is illusory, because the government's annual statistics are muddled up with big corrections from previous years.

Both House and Senate lawmakers are now investigating the issue, as is the Government Accountability Office, Congress's watchdog arm.

But the much bigger issue for the years ahead is royalty relief for deepwater drilling.

The original law, known as the Deep Water Royalty Relief Act, had bipartisan support and was intended to promote exploration and production in deep waters of the outer continental shelf.

At the time, oil and gas prices were comparatively low and few companies were interested in the high costs and high risks of drilling in water thousands of feet deep.

The law authorized the Interior Department, which leases out tens of millions of acres in the Gulf of Mexico, to forgo its normal 12 percent royalty for much of the oil and gas produced in very deep waters.

Because it take years to explore and then build the huge offshore platforms, most of the oil and gas from the new leases is just beginning to flow.

The Minerals Management Service of the Interior Department, which oversees the leases and collects the royalties, estimates that the amount of royalty-free oil will quadruple by 2011, to 112 million barrels. The volume of royalty-free natural gas is expected to climb by almost half, to about 1.2 trillion cubic feet.

Based on the government's assumptions about future prices — that oil will hover at about $50 a barrel and natural gas will average about $7 per thousand cubic feet — the total value of the free oil and gas over the next five years would be about $65 billion and the forgone royalties would total more than $7 billion.

Administration officials say the issue is out of their hands, adding that they opposed provisions in last year's energy bill that added new royalty relief for deep drilling in shallow waters.

"We did not think we needed any more legislation, because we already have incentives, but we obviously did not prevail," said Ms. Burton, director of the Minerals Management Service.

But the Bush administration did not put up a big fight. It strongly supported the overall energy bill, and merely noted its opposition to additional royalty relief in its official statement on the bill.

By contrast, the White House bluntly promised to veto the Senate's $60 billion tax cut bill because it contained a one-year tax of $5 billion on profits of major oil companies.

The House and Senate have yet to agree on a final tax bill.

The big issue going forward is whether companies should be exempted from paying royalties even when energy prices are at historic highs.

In general, the Interior Department has always insisted that companies would not be entitled to royalty relief if market prices for oil and gas climbed above certain trigger points.

Those trigger points — currently about $35 a barrel for oil and $4 per thousand cubic feet of natural gas — have been exceeded for the last several years and are likely to stay that way for the rest of the decade.

So why is the amount of royalty-free gas and oil expected to double over the next five years?

The biggest reason is that the Clinton administration, apparently worried about the continued lack of interest in new drilling, waived the price triggers for all leases awarded in 1998 and 1999.

At the same time, many oil and gas companies contend that Congress never authorized the Interior Department to set price thresholds for any deepwater leases awarded between 1996 and 2000.

The dispute has been simmering for months, with some industry executives warning the Bush administration that they would sue the government if it tried to demand royalties.

Last week, the fight broke out into the open. The Interior Department announced that 41 oil companies had improperly claimed more than $500 million in royalty relief for 2004.

Most of the companies agreed to pay up in January, but Kerr-McGee said it would fight the issue in court.

The fight is not simply about one company. Interior officials said last week that Kerr-McGee presented itself in December as a "test case" for the entire industry. It also offered a "compromise," but Interior officials rejected it and issued a formal order in January demanding that Kerr-McGee pay its back royalties.

On Feb. 6, according to administration officials, Kerr-McGee formally notified the Minerals Management Service that it would challenge its order in court.

Industry lawyers contend they have a strong case, because Congress never mentioned price thresholds when it authorized royalty relief for all deepwater leases awarded from 1996 through 2000.

"Congress offered those deepwater leases with royalty relief as an incentive," said Jonathan Hunter, a lawyer in New Orleans who represented oil companies in a similar lawsuit two years ago that knocked out another major federal restriction on royalty relief.

"The M.M.S. only has the authority that Congress gives it," Mr. Hunter said. "The legislation said that royalty relief for these leases is automatic."

If that view prevails, the government said it would lose a total of nearly $35 billion in royalties to taxpayers by 2011 — about the same amount that Mr. Bush is proposing to cut from Medicare, Medicaid and child support enforcement programs over the same period.

Copyright 2006The New York Times Company

Comment: But nothing for the sick and the poor and the elderly but more cuts and more suffering.

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Man Cheney Shot Suffers "Heart Attack"

By RANDOLPH E. SCHMID AP Science Writer Tue Feb 14, 5:31 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Despite the heart problem of the man wounded by Vice President Dick Cheney, doctors say removing the shotgun pellet from his chest probably won't be necessary — and digging it out could do more harm than good.

It's not unusual to live with shrapnel or other foreign objects in the body, even the heart, and specialists said it's likely the pellet will scar over rapidly without causing further problems for Texas lawyer Harry Whittington.

Hospital officials in Corpus Christi announced Tuesday that Whittington had suffered a "minor heart attack" and was returned to the intensive care unit.
It wasn't a traditional heart attack — no artery was blocked. In fact, the 78-year-old Whittington's doctors called his arteries healthy, and he felt no pain or other symptoms.

What apparently happened: Doctors noticed an irregular heartbeat Tuesday morning and took Whittington in for an exam called a cardiac catheterization, threading a wire up from the groin to see an image of exactly what was going on inside his heart.

One of the pellets from the 28-gauge shotgun that Cheney had fired had migrated to the heart, either touching or embedding into the heart muscle near its top chambers, called the atria. That irritated those chambers to cause the irregular heartbeat known as atrial fibrillation.

But doctors also spotted inflammation — which always occurs when something foreign invades the body — that was causing a temporary block in blood flow, by touching or pushing the heart, explained Dr. David Blanchard, chief of emergency care at Christus Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi-Memorial.

That's what he termed a "silent heart attack."

A pellet striking the heart can cause those problems, but it's not normally thought of as a heart attack, said Dr. Samin Sharma, chief of interventional cardiology at New York's Mt. Sinai Medical Center.

"What probably happened is the pellet hit the heart and the heart released some enzymes" associated with a heart attack, he said. "It usually has a very good prognosis. ... It's not as significant as a heart attack."

Anti-inflammatory drugs will soothe the inflammation, and the pellet should scar over in time, he said.

Digging it out could cause more damage, specialists agreed.

Removal probably would be necessary only if the pellet had penetrated a heart chamber, something Whittington's doctors said didn't happen, added Dr. Soumitra Eachempati, a trauma surgeon at New York Presbyterian/Weil Cornell Hospital.

As for the atrial fibrillation, it's not immediately dangerous but must be treated because if left uncontrolled, it can spur blood clots. Most cases can be corrected with medication. Hospital officials didn't say Tuesday whether Whittington's heart was beating normally again, or if he was being medicated.

Until Tuesday's complications, physicians had said Whittington had been progressing well after being struck by birdshot in Saturday's hunting incident — and that they were not concerned about the six to 200 pieces of birdshot that might still be lodged in his body.

Whittington was about 30 yards away from Cheney when shot.

"At this distance he's peppered with lot of small holes," said Dr. J. Wayne Meredith of the Wake Forest School of Medicine, who has seen similar injuries.

A report filed with Texas Parks and Wildlife said the vice president was using size 7 1/2 shot. A three-quarter ounce load of that size shot would normally contain more than 250 pellets. Each pellet is about the size of a small letter "o" in newspaper print.

Birdshot is usually made with steel or lead, but even lead pellets left in the body wouldn't pose a danger of lead poisoning, said Dr. Renae Stafford, a trauma surgeon at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, School of Medicine.

"People speak of lead poisoning, but in reality it's not something we see," agreed Dr. Maurizio A. Miglietta of the New York University School of Medicine.

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White House Livid About Handling Of Cheney Incident -CBS

Dow Jones Newswires 02-14-061941ET

NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- A source described as close to the Bush administration said people inside the White House are "livid" about the way Vice President Dick Cheney's office has handled the hunting accident he was involved in over the weekend, CBS News reported Tuesday.

According to CBS News, the source said the issue was no longer Cheney's view of press management but rather about Iraq, Hurricane Katrina and a range of other issues that play into the public's view of the administration's arrogance.
CBS News reported that private signals were being sent that the matter has been handled badly and Cheney needs to come out and say something.

On Saturday Cheney accidentally shot Harry Whittington, a 78-year-old lawyer, while on a quail hunt in Texas. The news wasn't made public until Sunday, and all this week the White House has been peppered with questions about how slowly the information was made known.

Doctors announced Tuesday that a birdshot pellet is in or touching Whittington's heart and that he had a mild heart attack.

Cheney's office issued a written statement saying the Vice President had called Whittington on Tuesday, wished him well and asked if there was anything he could do.

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Cheney and shooting victim were hunting illegally, officials say

BY DAVE MICHAELS AND TODD J. GILLMAN The Dallas Morning News 13 Feb 06

DALLAS - Vice President Dick Cheney was hunting illegally - without the required $7 stamp on his license for quail - when he accidentally shot one of his hunting partners, Texas Parks and Wildlife officials said Monday.

And so was Harry Whittington, 78, who was recovering Monday from a shotgun blast to the face, neck and chest.

In its report, the state agency that oversees hunting and fishing said it found that neither Cheney nor Whittington had purchased the game bird stamp required to hunt quail in Texas, although both had valid hunting licenses. Both will get warning citations, and there will be no fine or other penalty.
Cheney's office said Monday he hadn't realized he was lacking the proper stamp and has since sent a $7 check to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

"I don't know how they missed it," said Cheney spokeswoman Jennifer Mayfield. A statement from Cheney's office said his staff had asked for applicable permits and would "take whatever steps are needed to comply with applicable rules."

Cheney has not commented publicly about the accident, which took place on the 50,000-acre Armstrong Ranch in Kenedy County on Saturday afternoon.

The incident dominated cable TV, radio and talk shows Monday and provoked heated exchanges between the White House press corps and Bush press secretary Scott McClellan on the nearly 24-hour delay in disclosing the accidental shooting.

McClellan said Cheney's first priority - and that of the White House - was to ensure that Whittington got proper medical care, though he had no ready explanation for why that precluded public disclosure.

He said Bush aide Karl Rove told the president about 8 p.m. Saturday that Cheney had shot someone, and McClellan learned that night from the White House Situation Room "that there had been a hunting accident, and that is was a member of the vice president's hunting party." More details emerged in a 6 a.m. Sunday call from aides, and McClellan said he urged the vice president's office to get the news out "as quickly as possible."

Kenedy County Sheriff Ramon Salinas III said he knew about the incident Saturday evening and decided then not interview witnesses based on information from others that the shooting was accidental.

Bush said nothing about it when he passed reporters at church Sunday morning, and no one from the White House staff discussed it with the national media until that afternoon, nearly 24 hours later.

"The vice president thought that Mrs. Armstrong should be the first one to go out there and provide that information to the public, which she did. She reached out early Sunday morning" to the local newspaper in Corpus Christi, McClellan said.

Joel Goldstein, an authority on the vice presidency and a law professor at St. Louis University, said the incident is ready-made for late-night comics, noting that apart from the famous duel in which Vice President Aaron Burr shot and killed Alexander Hamilton, "you don't think about the vice president going around shooting people."

That alone can hurt both Cheney and the administration, he said, adding, "This is just going to make him more of a lightning rod-slash-laughingstock."

But the real damage, he said, comes from the delay in revealing the incident. The benefit of avoiding mention on the Sunday morning's talk shows, he said, was far outweighed by the fact that it fuels perceptions of a vice president "obsessed with secrecy."

He cited the Cheney-led energy task force, the "time spent in undisclosed locations," the vice president's role in the domestic wiretapping policy and the fact that his chief of staff, Scooter Libby, has been implicated in leaking the name of a CIA officer to discredit her husband.

On Monday, the third hunter in Cheney's hunting party said that she believes Cheney was not at fault.

"We really thought he (Whittington) was way back behind us," said Pamela Willeford, the U.S. ambassador to Switzerland since October 2003.

She was on a brief vacation visiting her husband, Dr. George Willeford, III, a gastroenterologist in Austin. Dr. Willeford was also hunting at the Armstrong ranch but in a different field at the time of the shooting about a mile away.

She said Whittington was perhaps 90 feet away when the vice president shot him, as he was tracking a quail that had flown up and dipped back down, and only she, Cheney and Whittington were hunting at the time.

Two others were waiting in a car nearby - Katharine Armstrong and Serita Hixon - in keeping with a safety rule that limits the number of hunters to three at a time, she said.

"The three of us were out of the vehicle hitting a covey," she said. "Harry Whittington dropped back to pick up a bird he'd shot. The vice president and I moved on to shoot another covey and unbeknownst to us Harry had picked up a bird and caught up with us. He had walked up and we didn't realize that he had caught up with us," she said.

"He was back behind us and we turned off to the left to shoot another covey ... The bird came up and was going back down and you know how you swing on it, with your gun, following a bird," she said.

Mrs. Willeford said she'd hunted once before with Cheney and would do so again.

"Absolutely," Mrs. Willeford said. "He's a great shot. He's very safety conscious. This is something that unfortunately was a bad accident and when you're with a group like that, he's safe or safer than all the rest of us."

She said she was surprised at the hubbub stemming from the delay in putting out word of the incident.

"The focus was on Mr. Whittington and his well being. There was no intention not to share the pertinent info at the proper time," she said, adding that Cheney never consulted with her over how the handle the incident.

Armstrong said she made the decision to inform the Corpus Christi Caller-Times about the accident on Sunday. Armstrong and her mother, Anne Armstrong, were too occupied with tending to Whittington and worrying about his condition to make it public on Saturday, she said.

She said she spoke to Cheney on Sunday and he agreed with her decision.

"I said, `Mommy, this important news. This needs to get out,'" Katharine Armstrong said. "We ran it by the vice president and he was very mindful of his role as a guest. He said something along the lines of, `You all do whatever you are comfortable with.'"

Cheney stayed at the Armstrong Ranch on Saturday night.

"We had dinner and went to bed," Katharine Armstrong said. "We were all very worried about Harry. That was the main thing on our mind."

Sally (Whittington) May said her father does not recall a lot of the incident, nor was he involved in how or if information about the incident was released: "He didn't know at the time if he was going to the hospital or the mortuary."

The doctors were back around Monday morning. They have mostly been concerned with injuries to his throat.

She said her dad is back to joking.

"One of the surgeons said, `We'll get this BB from near the liver, and go ahead and get that other one at the same time.' The surgeon looked at him and said, `that way we'll kill two birds with one stone.' And he said, "I consider that a poor choice of words.'"

Kenedy County investigators on Monday determined that the shooting was an accident after interviewing their last witness and said "there was no alcohol or misconduct on anyone's part."

But questions remained as to why Cheney was not interviewed on Saturday.

Chief Deputy Gilbert San Miguel suggested he always knew where the vice president and the other witnesses were.

"We were always in contact with Secret Service," he said.

Salinas said he decided Saturday night not to send anyone to the ranch and added that he was relying on information from others that it was an accident.

"If I wanted to go in there, we would have gone in there," said Salinas. "If someone called and told me there was a shooting and they didn't think it was an accident, I'd have five or six people on the ranch."

Chief San Miguel returned to the ranch about 8 a.m. Sunday and interviewed Cheney and other witnesses, Salinas said.

"They've cooperated," he said. "They didn't treat us like backdoor law enforcement. They didn't hide anything or try to coerce anybody to say anything."

Cheney "felt kind of bad" about the accident, Chief San Miguel told Sheriff Salinas, but everyone was calm, Sheriff Salinas said.

"It's just another accident," Salinas said. "But of course it' s the vice president. Nobody's perfect."

The other hunters present on Saturday included ranch manager Anne Armstrong; Whittington's wife, Merce; Ambassador Willeford; and her husband, George "Boots" Willeford. Anne Armstrong's two daughters, Katharine Armstrong and Serita Hixon, were there. So was Hixon's husband, Bob.

Whittington shot two birds, which he left to retrieve and put into a truck, Katharine Armstrong said.

As Whittington re-approached the group, he was walking through a low point in the land where they couldn't see him, Ms. Armstrong said.

"The cardinal rule is you stay on line," Katharine Armstrong said.

A Secret Service agent called Salinas on his cell phone "five to 10 minutes" after the shooting occurred, the sheriff said. And San Miguel, the department's chief deputy, went to the scene.

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Fellow Hunter Shot by Cheney Suffers Setback - CHENEY FACES GRAND JURY INVESTIGATION IF MAN DIES...


The 78-year-old lawyer shot by Vice President Dick Cheney in a hunting accident over the weekend suffered a minor heart attack early Tuesday caused by birdshot lodged in his heart, hospital officials in Texas said.

The lawyer, Harry M. Whittington, was moved back into the intensive care unit at Christus Spohn Hospital in Corpus Christi, Tex., to be monitored for up to a week in case the birdshot shifted or additional pellets in his body moved into other organs, the officials said at a televised news conference. Dr. David Blanchard, the emergency room chief, estimated that Mr. Whittington had more than 5 but "probably less than 150 to 200" pellets lodged in his body.
Dr. Blanchard said that the hospital's cardiologists were optimistic that the metallic pellet in Mr. Whittington's heart would not travel farther and that he would be able to function normally. They said they did not consider the other pellets in his body problematic, and they currently have no plans to remove them.

Mr. Cheney's office, in its first official announcement about the incident, released a statement shortly after 2:30 p.m. Eastern time saying that the vice president's "thoughts and prayers are with Mr. Whittington and his family" and that Mr. Cheney had spoken by telephone to Mr. Whittington an hour earlier.

"The vice president wished Mr. Whittington well and asked if there was anything he needed," the statement said. "The vice president said that he stood ready to assist."

The statement added that Mr. Whittington's spirits were "good," but "obviously his situation deserves the careful monitoring that his doctors are providing."

The downturn in Mr. Whittington's health significantly changed the tone of the White House reaction to the hunting accident. In Texas, Carlos Valdez, the district attorney in Kleberg County, said a fatality would immediately spur a new report from the local sheriff and, most likely, a grand jury investigation.

At the White House, Scott McClellan, the president's spokesman, began his day unaware of Mr. Whittington's heart attack. After being battered by reporters on Monday for the delay in the White House's providing information about the accident, Mr. McClellan opened his first briefing on Tuesday making light of the incident, as the late-night comics had done.

Mr. McClellan joked that the Texas Longhorns, the N.C.A.A. football champions who were at the White House to meet with the president, would be in their team color, orange, and "the orange that they're wearing is not because they're concerned that the vice president will be there."

Continuing the play on orange, the color hunters wear as a safety precaution to avoid being shot, Mr. McClellan held up his own orange and gray tie. "That's why I'm wearing it," he said, to laughter.

But by the time of Mr. McClellan's noon briefing, when the press secretary was aware of Mr. Whittington's downturn but did not disclose it to reporters, his tone was serious, even as he was at times impatient with the persistent questions about the shooting. "If you want to continue to spend time on that, that's fine," Mr. McClellan said. "We're moving on to the priorities of the American people."

Mr. Cheney's aides said he first learned of the change in Mr. Whittington's condition when he arrived at his West Wing office about 7:40 a.m. Tuesday, shortly after doctors in Corpus Christi said that they had picked up an irregular heartbeat from Mr. Whittington on their morning rounds.

Doctors said that the pellet, which they had known since the accident was near Mr. Whittington's heart, had evidently moved into the heart muscle, causing "some quivering" called atrial fibrillation. Mr. Whittington, who was shot by Mr. Cheney on Saturday and moved out of intensive care on Monday, was immediately put back into intensive care.

Mr. Cheney was told, his statement said, that Mr. Whittington would need a cardiac catheterization to determine the condition of his heart. The procedure was performed about 10 a.m. Eastern time. The vice president then continued his schedule for the day, but changed his plans when his chief of staff informed him during a Capitol Hill national security briefing that Mr. Whittington's doctors were about to hold a televised news conference.

Senator Trent Lott, who had teased the vice president about the accident during the briefing, said Mr. Cheney immediately returned to the White House to watch the news conference. "He didn't look like he was having a whole lot of fun," said Mr. Lott, Republican of Mississippi.

Local officials have not considered any charges in the shooting because no one in the hunting party, including the victim, has accused Mr. Cheney of wrongdoing.

"Everybody that I've heard so far has said it was an accident," said Mr. Valdez, who holds an elected position and is a Democrat. "The victim probably told the sheriff's department it was an accident."

Mr. Valdez added, "Now, if the worst happens and the man happens to die, we would take an additional step."

Under the law, even an accidental hunting fatality can result in criminal charges. Mr. Cheney could be charged with negligence, defined as failing to understand the dangers involved and disregarding them, or recklessness, defined as understanding the dangers and disregarding them.

After some initial confusion about what steps the local police had taken to investigate the shooting on Saturday, Secret Service officials said on Tuesday that they had offered to make the vice president available for an interview as quickly as possible but that the local sheriff had agreed to wait until Sunday.

Eric Zahren, a Secret Service spokesman, said the shooting occurred at 5:50 p.m. Central time, slightly later than the White House had said at first. After helping Mr. Whittington into an ambulance, the agents in Mr. Cheney's security detail returned to their command post on the hunting ranch by 6:30 p.m. The Secret Service supervisor in McAllen, Tex., had called the sheriff in Kenedy County to tell him about the shooting by 7 p.m., Mr. Zahren said.

The Secret Service supervisor arranged with the sheriff for Mr. Cheney to be interviewed at the ranch at 10 a.m. Sunday, Mr. Zahren said. But the vice president's office changed the time to 8 a.m.

While there were reports, some from the sheriff himself, that a deputy had been dispatched to the ranch on Saturday night and been turned away, Mr. Zahren said that some local police officers had heard about the shooting on a scanner when an ambulance was sent to pick up Mr. Whittington. They showed up at the ranch unsolicited. Private guards, not Secret Service agents, Mr. Zahren said, turned the police away because they did not know anything had occurred.

The White House first learned of the shooting, Mr. McClellan said Tuesday, when someone from the vice president's party called the Situation Room shortly after the accident occurred. But whoever called — Mr. McClellan would not identify the person — said only that there had been a hunting accident involving the vice president, not that Mr. Cheney had himself shot Mr. Whittington.

The Situation Room staff then passed that information to Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff, who contacted President Bush. Mr. Card also called Karl Rove, the deputy chief of staff, who called one of the ranch's owners, Katharine Armstrong. Ms. Armstrong told Mr. Rove that the vice president had shot Mr. Whittington, and Mr. Rove then called Mr. Bush about 8 p.m. Eastern time with that news.

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Secret Service stalls and delays for Cheney Cover-up in progress and Shotgun ballistics don’t match-up!

By Kevin Smith Infowars February 14, 2006

It seems clear that this is a cover-up in progress. The hospital where Whittington was taken after the shooting is a heavily guarded facility where he is being operated upon and monitored by doctors and surgeons close to the President and Vice President. These highly skilled medical professionals would have known instantly by a simple X-Ray if he had suffered from a shot to the heart. These doctors, loyal to the the Bush-Cheney cabal are clearly colluding to conceal information about Whittington's actual condition for their masters.
When initial reports of Vice President Cheney's hunting accident surfaced I must admit that I thought something seemed amiss. Simply put, the scenario as related by the White House violates all the rules of Bird Hunting 101.

Rule Number One: You don’t rotate out of a limited arc of fire when you’re hunting with three or four other hunters. Reports are that Cheney tracked a quail that had flushed, then he quickly swung around and shot. Unfortunately Mr. Whittington and the bird were in the same place at the same time.

"This all happened pretty quickly," Ms. Armstrong, the owner of the property where Cheney and his buddies had been hunting, said in a telephone interview from her ranch. Mr. Whittington, she said, "did not announce — which would be protocol — 'Hey, it's me, I'm coming up,' " she said.

It’s not clear whether or not they were using birddogs, but it seems silly to suggest that hunters would yell out their postions while stalking through fields and brush trying to sneak up on their prey. Furthermore, since hunters wear hearing protection, verbal communication is not the most effective form of identification. That’s why hunters wear bright orange vest and hats, all reports indicate this was the case with Cheney and his hunting party.

"It's incumbent upon the shooter to assess the situation and make sure it's a safe shot," said Mark Birkhauser, President-elect of the International Hunter Education Association and Hunter Education Coordinator in New Mexico. "Once you squeeze that trigger, you can't bring that shot back."

The same basic comment is echoed by Duane Harvey, President of the Wisconsin Hunter Education Instructors Association, who said if Whittington had made his presence known "that would have been a polite thing to do." But, he added, "it's still the fault upon the shooter to identify his target and what is beyond it."

Then comes the delay of Sheriff Ramon Salinas III of Kenedy County access to the Vice President from the time of the shooting at 5:30 p.m. Saturday until an interview at 8 a.m. Sunday morning.

Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren stated that about an hour after the shooting the local Secret Service office notified the Sheriffs' Department of the shooting and arrangements were made for an interview. Saturday night at least one deputy showed up at the ranch's front gate and asked to speak to Cheney but was turned away by the Secret Service, Zahren said. This sort of delaying tactic is indicative of drunk-driving hit and runs by rich kids allowing the necessary time to sober up, contact your attorney and get your story straight.

Numerous reports stated that Mr. Whittington injuries were not life threatening and that he was in good spirits and cracking jokes. Now the story has become that there are pellets lodged in his heart and he’s now had a heart attack.
No one is saying this shooting was intentional or done with any malice whatsoever, but after you look over the ballistic statistics that we complied from the Tactical Shotgun website it will be all too obvious that the story offered by the White House, that Mr. Whittington was peppered with birdshot from 30 yards away is simply false. Remember these statistics are complied for a much more powerful 12 gauge round versus a dainty 28 gauge, and from a distance of only 3 yards (9ft).


Birdshot is typically a poor choice for deployment as a tactical load, owing primarily to it's poor sectional density. It bleeds velocity and energy quickly and as such has limited effectiveness at close range which rapidly erodes to zero effectiveness as range increases. Ironically, people often choose birdshot because of it's poor sectional density/penetrating capability. This choice is often made in consideration of a densely populated urban or family environment where the shotgun operators are concerned about collateral damage as a result of either building material penetration in the event of missed shots and over penetration in the event of a good, solid hit on target.

The simple truth of the matter is that unless contact distances are involved (5 yards or less), most birdshot lacks the penetrating capability required to inflict meaningful wound trauma. Wounds from birdshot tend to be extremely gruesome, yet shallow. They often shred and destroy a large volume of tissue but don't penetrate deep enough to damage critical cardiovascular or CNS structures required for incapacitation. Clothing can further amplify these poor penetration characteristics.

While increasingly difficult to acquire as a result of being banned for waterfowl hunting, lead BB is likely the smallest shot we would elect to use in a tactical application. This choice would only be made in the densely populated family/urban environment mentioned above, and anyone making this choice would be wisely counciled to have more significant ammunition immediately available in the event that the lead BB does not produce the desired effect.

The only way that birdshot could have possibly penetrated into Whittington's heart, given the minimal force impact capacity of the shot is if he was shot from incredibly close range. This then means that the whole event requires a greater level of scrutiny. If they lied about the distance of the shot, its probably one of many lies.

The delay in reporting the event to the authorities and the delay in the White House's release of the information to the press is more evidence of impropriety.

It seems clear that this is a cover-up in progress. The hospital where Whittington was taken after the shooting is a heavily guarded facility where he is being operated upon and monitored by doctors and surgeons close to the President and Vice President. These highly skilled medical professionals would have known instantly by a simple X-Ray if he had suffered from a shot to the heart. These doctors, loyal to the the Bush-Cheney cabal are clearly colluding to conceal information about Whittington's actual condition for their masters.

[Go to linked story for graphics demonstrating the points of this article]

Cheney is powermad and thinks he should be free to get away with anything. He obviously belives that he and his buddies are above the law. The event very well might have been a stupid, drunken hunting accident but it has now become a multi-tiered cover-up to conceal what really happened.

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Australia channel says pictures show Abu Ghraib abuse

AFP Wed Feb 15, 3:51 AM ET

SYDNEY - Australian public broadcaster SBS has released a handful of what it says are previously unpublished photographs of the abuse of prisoners in Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib jail by US soldiers.

The pictures seen by AFP -- which include a man with his throat slit, another with massive head injuries and a third covered in what could be faeces -- were among what SBS said would be dozens shown later Wednesday.

Their release comes amid fury in the Muslim world, where anti-Western sentiment is raging over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, and follows earlier pictures of abuse by US forces at the Baghdad prison.
"These images reveal further widespread abuse including new incidents of homicide, torture and sexual humiliation," SBS said. No US troops were identifiable in any of the images seen by AFP.

"The extent of the abuse shown in the photos suggests that the torture and abuse that occurred at Abu Ghraib in 2004 is much worse than is currently understood," the broadcaster said.

Other photographs released ahead of the broadcast showed one naked man hanging upside down from a bunk bed and another, hooded and bound in an orange jumpsuit, apparently being threatened by a dog.

Another man displayed what looked to be burn marks on his left forearm. One photo showed a man with serious injuries to his head, covered in blood and lying on a stretcher.

The station claims a "world exclusive", saying the pictures have never before been shown publicly. A spokeswoman would not comment on how the photographs had been obtained.

The photographs, to be shown on the "Dateline" programme at 8:30 pm (0930 GMT) on Wednesday, are the subject of a legal battle to prevent their publication in the United States, SBS said.

"When the original Abu Ghraib photographs were leaked to the press, members of Congress were given a private viewing of photographs, including the images which appear in this Dateline programme.

"They were shocked by what these extra images revealed of the full horror of the abuses taking place at Abu Ghraib," SBS said.

The programme would show "dozens of images -- possibly 40 or more," the spokeswoman told AFP, adding that the broadcaster was "confident in the credibility of the source of these new photographs and videos."

Publication of the original photographs -- showing prisoners being beaten, menaced by dogs and sexually abused -- provoked outrage around the world.

Last month, US President George W. Bush said in an interview about the first Abu Ghraib photos: "There's no question ... we were disgraced."

"I know it caused a lot of people who want to like us to question whether they should," Bush said, adding: "Equally importantly, it gave the enemy an incredible propaganda tool."

The Pentagon launched numerous investigations into the abuse, punishing several, mostly low-ranking guards who had worked at the jail, which was a torture centre under former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard is a staunch ally of Washington and provided troops for the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Around 900 Australian soldiers remain in the violence-wracked country.

The executive producer of the SBS programme, Mike Carey, told AFP the pictures would be broadcast "because it is an important matter of public interest that the full story of abuse at Abu Ghraib be told."

Although the Mohammed cartoons were first published in Denmark, many protesters in the Muslim world have used the opportunity to vent their anger at the United States.

Two people, including a child, were killed and dozens injured Wednesday in protests over the cartoon in Pakistan. Demonstrators also torched a US fast food outlet and other western businesses.

Comment: The timing of the release of these photos couldn't have been better if the Powers that Be want to pull off another false flag terrorist attack or provoke certain nations to start a war...

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Two more held over Iraq 'abuse' video

Mark Oliver and agencies Tuesday February 14, 2006

Military police today arrested two more soldiers in connection with the video showing the apparent abuse of Iraqi civilians by British troops.

The arrests - which bring the number detained up to three - came as the fallout from the footage saw the provincial council in Basra suspend relations with the British.

The video, filmed in the restive town of Amara in the Maysan province, just north of Basra, in January 2004 appeared to show defenceless young Iraqis being kicked and attacked with batons, to the apparent amusement of the cameraman.
New footage broadcast by the BBC last night suggested a "snatch squad" of British troops had plucked a number of Iraqi demonstrators from a crowd of protesters.

Military police yesterday arrested a corporal from the 1st Battalion the Light Infantry as part of an investigation into the alleged abuse. He was last night named as Corporal Martin Webster. The Ministry of Defence would not confirm whether he had been arrested as a suspect or a witness.

In a statement tonight to announce the two additional arrests, the MoD said the investigation was still in its early stages but significant progress had been made.

"The Royal Military Police have identified several people in the video and investigations are ongoing to identify all those involved in the alleged incident.

"It is important to get these allegations in proportion. Our armed forces have done and continue to do an outstanding job wherever they are serving." Nadhim al-Jabiri, a Basra council official, said the suspension of ties included ending cooperation with the British consulate in Basra. The police chief, Major-General Hassan Suwadi, said Iraqi security forces would cease joint patrols with British forces in the entire region.

The MoD is concerned at the possibility of a backlash against British troops in Iraq now that the video has been widely played on Arab television stations.

The southern province of Basra is the base for the 8,000 British military in personnel who remain in the country.

A British military spokesman, Captain James St John-Price, said that such decisions "merely work to the detriment of the people of Basra". He added it was unclear whether economic ties were also being suspended, and if police under the control of the national government in Baghdad would also cut ties.

'Those troops humiliated us'

Two Iraqis claimed today they had been among those beaten in Amara, saying they would take legal action against the UK military and seek compensation.

The allegations by Bassem Shaker, 27, and Tariq Abdul-Razzak, 14, were presented to the media at the office of the radical Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who opposes the coalition forces.

Mr Shaker said he was among more than 200 people demonstrating that day in protest at the lack of jobs. The crowd had been "surprised" to encounter British troops and "started throwing stones at them "because we believed that they were behind all our misery", he said.

Mr Shaker said British troops fired volleys of rubber bullets at the protesters in a bid to disperse them.

Witnesses and officials at the time said British troops and Iraqi police had fired at armed, stone-throwing protesters, killing six people and wounding 11.

British soldiers from the 1st Battalion Light Infantry, based in Amara at the time, were seen moving in with armoured vehicles to support the police, according to witness reports at the time.

Assailants in the crowd lobbed three explosive devices at them, believed to be hand grenades, the British military reported later that day. Today Mr Shaker said: "A group of British soldiers then rushed out from their base and arrested nine of us, dragging us for about 30 metres to the governor's office.

"They were beating us with fists and batons and were kicking us. Then they cuffed our hands and also dragged us to their base, which is about 15 metres from the governor's office, where they also beat us and frightened us with dogs before releasing us before sunset."

Mr Shaker said he did not report the abuse initially because he did not believe any officials would deal with their complaints because they involved British troops.

"But when we saw this tape and the amount of anger it caused inside and outside Iraq, we decided to come today to the al-Sadr office because we need them, after God, to help us to sue the British forces and compensate us.

"Those troops humiliated us and violated our rights to demand jobs."

One of Mr Sadr's officials said Mr Shaker and Tariq Abdul-Razzak both claimed they had been beaten, and had requested help to sue the British military and seek compensation.

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The photos America doesn't want seen

By Matthew Moore Sydney Morning Herald 14 Feb 06

MORE photographs have been leaked of Iraqi citizens tortured by US soldiers at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison on the outskirts of Baghdad.

Tonight the SBS Dateline program plans to broadcast about 60 previously unpublished photographs that the US Government has been fighting to keep secret in a court case with the American Civil Liberties Union.
Although a US judge last year granted the union access to the photographs following a freedom-of-information request, the US Administration has appealed against the decision on the grounds their release would fuel anti-American sentiment.

Some of the photos are similar to those published in 2004, others are different. They include photographs of six corpses, although the circumstances of their deaths are not clear. There are also pictures of what appear to be burns and wounds from shotgun pellets.

The executive producer of Dateline, Mike Carey, said he was showing the pictures leaked to his program because it was important people understood what had happened at Abu Ghraib.

Seven US guards were jailed following publication of the first batch of Abu Ghraib photographs in April 2004.

Mr Carey said he could not explain why the photographs had not yet been published, as he thought it was likely that some journalists had them.

"It think it's strange, maybe they think its more of the same."

Copyright © 2006. The Sydney Morning Herald

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For one Marine, torture came home

By ANN LOUISE BARDACH Los Angeles Times 14 Feb 06

ABOUT A YEAR and a half ago, a 40-year-old former Marine sergeant named Jeffrey Lehner, recently returned from Afghanistan, phoned and asked to meet with me. Since his return he had been living with his father, a retired pharmacist, in the Santa Barbara home where he was raised. I first heard about Jeff from an acquaintance of mine who was dating him and who told me that he was deeply distressed about what he had seen on his tours in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Middle East.
We met for lunch at a restaurant on Canon Perdido in downtown Santa Barbara. Jeff was focused, articulate and as handsome as a movie star. He was quite wound-up, but utterly lucid.

There was no way I could have known that day the depths of Jeff's unhappiness, no way I could have predicted the tragedy that would follow. I listened closely to his story and, while I was surprised by what I heard, I had no particular reason to disbelieve him.

He had joined the Marines enthusiastically, he told me, and served as a flight mechanic for eight years. Not long after 9/11, he began helping to fly materials into Afghanistan with the first wave of U.S. troops.

In the beginning, Jeff supported the administration's policies in the region. But over time, that began to change. As we talked, Jeff brought out an album of photos from Afghanistan. He pointed to a series of photographs of a trailer and several huts behind a barbed-wire fence; these were taken, he said, outside a U.S. military camp not far from the Kandahar airport. He told me that young Afghans — some visible in blue jumpsuits in his photos — had been rounded up and brought to the site by a CIA special operations team. The CIA officers made no great secret of what they were doing, he said, but were dismissive of the Marines and pulled rank when challenged.

Jeff said he had been told by soldiers who had been present that the detainees were being interrogated and tortured, and that they were sometimes given psychotropic drugs. Some, he believed, had died in custody. What disturbed him most, he said, was that the detainees were not Taliban fighters or associates of Osama bin Laden. "By the time we got there," Jeff said, "the serious fighters were long gone."

Jeff had other stories to tell as well. He said the CIA team had put detainees in cargo containers aboard planes and interrogated them while circling in the air. He'd been on board some of these flights, he said, and was deeply disturbed by what he'd seen.

Was Jeff telling me the truth? As a reporter who writes investigative articles, I get calls frequently from people with unusual stories — sometimes spot-on accurate ones, sometimes personal vendettas and sometimes paranoid, crazy stories. Jeff seemed truthful, and he had told the same stories almost verbatim to several friends and family members. But I was worried because at the time, I hadn't heard about such abuses in Afghanistan, and Jeff's stories were hard to verify.

More worrisome, Jeff was seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, and I wondered whether he could withstand the scrutiny his allegations would generate.

PTSD's symptoms can include anxiety, deeply frightening thoughts, a sense of helplessness or flashbacks. Jeff's case apparently stemmed, according to Jim Nolan, a fellow veteran and a friend from Jeff's PTSD support group, from witnessing the "unspeakable," and from his inability to stop what he knew to be morally wrong.

His case was compounded, his friends said, by strong feelings of "survivor's guilt" involving the crash of a KC-130 transport plane into a mountain in January 2002 — killing eight men in his unit. He'd been scheduled to be on the flight and had been reassigned at the last minute. As part of the ground crew that attended to the plane's maintenance, he blamed himself. Afterward, he went to the debris site to recover remains. He found his fellow soldiers' bodies unrecognizable. He also told me he was deeply shaken by the collateral damage he saw to civilians from U.S. air attacks — especially the shrapnel wounding of so many Afghan children.

Jeff told me that he often couldn't sleep at night, thinking about what he had seen and heard. He had gone to Afghanistan a social drinker but came home, like so many veterans, a problem drinker. And he admitted self-medicating with drugs. He was seeking help — and just days after we met, he drove 100 miles to enter a treatment program in Los Angeles. But the Veterans Affairs hospital's PTSD ward was full, he told me, so he was placed in a lockdown ward for schizophrenics, which only aggravated his isolation and despair.

Jeff left the hospital after a day. He got in touch with Dr. Sharon Rapp, who is the only psychologist trained in treating post-traumatic stress for all returning veterans who live between L.A. and San Francisco, according to the Santa Barbara VA office. Rapp, who is by all accounts a gifted and dedicated therapist, placed him in a PTSD group with about 10 Vietnam veterans who took Jeff under their wing. But it became increasingly clear that he, like so many veterans, needed far more than outpatient and group therapy.

At the time Jeff told me his story, I didn't quite know what to do with it. Such allegations were not yet being reported — and many Americans would probably have found his accusations unimaginable. For multiple reasons, I put his story on the back burner. I continued to stay in touch with Jeff — and occasionally spoke with his father, Ed, who invariably answered the phone — as I ruminated on his troubling tale.

However, late last year, details about secret prisons began to appear. Human Rights Watch, for instance, reported that a number of men being held at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, had given their lawyers "consistent accounts" of being held and tortured at a secret American-run prison in Afghanistan. I decided it was time to call Jeff and meet again.

It was early December. Jeff was still living in his father's home off Old San Marcos Road. He'd broken up with my friend and another woman to whom he had been briefly engaged, and he was struggling to stay sober.

But by the time I called, it was too late. The day I phoned, Jeff had quarreled with his father. That afternoon, they held an unscheduled counseling session with Rapp. According to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department, Rapp was so concerned after their meeting that she phoned the Lehner house about 6 p.m. Ed answered, spoke with her and then called his son to take the phone. At that point, the line suddenly turned to static. Fearing the worst, Rapp called the police.

The worst proved to be the case. The police found two bodies, and quickly labeled the case a murder-suicide. Ed Lehner, they said, had died from multiple gunshot wounds, and Jeff from a single, self-inflicted wound to the head.

The irony was that after eight years in the military, the first and only person Jeff Lehner killed was his father.

Nolan, who said he returned from Vietnam in emotional tatters, was not entirely surprised by the turn of events. According to Nolan, Jeff's relationship with his father, a soft-spoken man with diabetes, had strains predating his Marine years, and it had deteriorated as Jeff's dependency on him deepened. "He had talked about suicide a couple of times during our meetings," Nolan said, "as all of us had at one time or another. It's about a loss of respect. When you lose respect between family members, there's nothing but anger left, and that's how the rage works in you."

There are ways to deal with the rage, of course, but treatment of returning veterans is woefully inadequate, owing to a lack of funding. Although the VA acknowledges PTSD as a serious problem for returning veterans, VA hospitals around the country have sharply reduced their inpatient psychiatric beds, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Suicide, meanwhile, is an enormous and growing concern. Statistics are hard to come by, but some estimate that although 58,000 veterans died in combat in Vietnam, more than that took their own lives after returning home. In a 1987 CDC study, the suicide rate for Vietnam vets was 65% higher than that of civilians. The Army estimates that the suicide rate among Iraq veterans is one-third higher than the historical wartime average, owing to the psychological strains of no-holds-barred insurgency warfare. That means we're looking at a future blizzard of suicides without an adequate VA program in place to address the crisis.

Without Jeff and the further details he could have provided, I doubt I will ever know for certain whether all his Afghanistan stories are true. But no matter what you believe when you read this, the story of Jeff's life and death raises issues we must grapple with if we're going to continue sending troops into insurgencies and guerrilla war zones. Thirty years after Vietnam, we seem to have learned very little.

Of course, I feel badly now that I didn't spend more time with Jeff or try harder to get his story published while he was alive.

He had such a dazzling smile — the type you knew was destined for great things.

ANN LOUISE BARDACH writes the Interrogation column for Slate and is the author of "Cuba Confidential, Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana." Her article on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's ties to the tabloids was a finalist for last year's PEN USA journalism award.

Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times

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Reuters 15 Feb 06

Australian network SBS broadcasts images of alleged abuse of what it says are prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq.

Previously unpublished images of abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad were screened on SBS television's Dateline program. The footage shows still and video images of the wounds it says were inflicted on the Iraqis by their American captors. SBS alleges that the photos were taken at the same time as those of US soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners inside Abu Ghraib, which sparked international outrage after they were leaked in 2004.

While some of the photographs are similar to the images made public two years ago, the latest photographs apparently reveal further abuse including new incidents of killing, torture and sexual humiliation. The program reports that some prisoners at Abu Ghraib were killed when U.S. soldiers ran out of rubber bullets trying to quell a riot at the jail and resorted to using live rounds.

The images come at a tense time in relations between the West and Muslim countries after cartoons were published in Denmark which satirised the Prophet Mohammad.

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Colombians said to mask civilian deaths

By Hugh Bronstein Reuters February 14, 2006

BOGOTA -- Security forces have killed civilians, and have covered up the killings by dressing up the bodies as Marxist guerrillas, according to testimony in an annual United Nations human rights report released yesterday.

Last year, UN investigators said, they saw an increase in allegations of extrajudicial executions that, the report said, attributed to soldiers and police.

Those officials often presented the killings as deaths of guerrillas in combat, said a report, which was issued by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The report covers the year 2005.

''Cases were recorded in which commanders themselves had allegedly supported the act of dressing the victims in guerrilla garments to cover up facts and simulate combat," the report said.

The government had no immediate response to the report. It has said that any member of its security forces found cooperating with the paramilitaries would be jailed.

Colombia is in a four-decade guerrilla war involving Marxist insurgents and far-right militias.

While President Alvaro Uribe, a US ally whose father was killed, allegedly by the insurgents, has negotiated a peace arrangement with the ''paras" and has reduced crime rates through his tough security policies, the UN report says grave rights violations continue.

''Both the lack of full acknowledgment of the problem by the government, as well as the absence of sufficient relevant actions by authorities, impeded correction," the report said.

More than 22,000 paramilitaries have surrendered guns, in an agreement promising reductions in jail terms of as many as eight years for crimes such as torture and massacre.

But politicians, academics, and human rights groups say the paramilitaries are not dismantling their criminal networks. They say the militias are using violence to influence the outcome of congressional elections in March, in an effort to gain political power and to avoid being extradited to the United States on drug charges.

© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.

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US Called upon to Expel Ex Bolivian President

Prensa Latina 13 Feb 06

La Paz- Presidente of Bolivia Evo Morales called upon his US counterpart George W. Bush to stop protecting former president Gonzalo Sanchez de Losada to be tried in Bolivia for his crimes.

Morales made his call after attending a Catholic mass in memory of the 33 people killed during a crackdown operation in the wake of social turmoil on Feb 12-13, 2003.

I urge Bush to "join hands in doing justice for the people." To that end, Washington "should withdraw the asylum and expel these people, who have brought a lot of confrontation in Bolivia," a demand that is virtually a nationwide clamor.

He was referring to Sanchez de Losada and his associates in exile in the US. Morales said that if both governments are truly democratic, "we should not have any reason to protect criminals."
The Bolivian president was echoing demands of families of the victims of the so-called "Black February", as well as humanitarian activists to punish Sanchez de Losada and other masterminds and perpetrators of the killings.

Leaders of El Alto municipality, where most victims of the massacres of Feb and Oct, 2003 fell, said that if their demand is not met, indigenous community justice has to be applied in a certain way.

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Venezuelan ambassador: Aznar a Yankee tool

Spain Herald 14 Feb 06

Venezuelan ambassador in Madrid Arevalo Mendez said yesterday that former Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar "has no voice, nor thought, nor discourse of his own." When analyzing the Latin American political system, "Aznar is carrying Bush on his shoulders, which limits the vision the US has of the region."
Aznar had committed himself to working to stop "the return to populism" in the area. He said, "Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, maybe Argentina. All those places run the risk."

Méndez said, "I'm surprised that a person with enough intellectual capacity to have his own voice" is agreeing with Bush on Latin American issues. He added, "In analyzing current politics in the region, you can "use the context of internal leadership in Latin America, or the Americanized viewpoint of the US, which Aznar supports."

Mendez added that Aznar was wrong when he called on Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez not to use "petrodollars" in foreign policy, because that would be like "asking Spain not to use the money it receives from tourism to make international policy, or Argentina not to use what it receives from meat to make international policy. This sort of right-wing statements have no validity nor stand up to minimal discourse."

According to Mendez, the US government is not against Latin American left-wing governments, but rather "against those who do not agree to the rights that the US claims." This "populism" which the US is fighting against, he said, "is putting an end to hunger in Venezuela, and building an extraordinary network in the public health field."

Meanwhile, Aznar, who is president of the Foundation for Social Study and Analysis (FAES), yesterday explained his project to improve relations between the US and the EU, at the invitation of former US president Bill Clinton. In his speech, he paid special attention to Euro-American relations and the mechanisms that should be created in order to improve trans-Atlantic relations. As an example, he mentioned his foundation's report on NATO reforms, which has been introduced in international circles, as well as the creation of an Atlantic area of prosperity that will "put an end to the current trade impediments."

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Haiti to review election results


PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — Haiti’s interim government has ordered a review of election results amid accusations of electoral fraud, the country’s interior minister said Tuesday.

“The government wants to make sure that everything with the process is correct,” interim interior minister Paul Magloire said.

“We’re going to review the results because we want to make sure what we have is right.” Earlier Tuesday, leading presidential candidate Rene Preval claimed that “gross errors” and likely fraud marred the vote that could see him fall just short of a first-round victory, and he said he would contest the results.
He also urged supporters to protest peacefully, a day after at least one pro-Preval demonstrator was killed and followers elsewhere occupied a hotel.

Local Telemax TV news showed smashed ballot boxes in a garbage dump, with wads of ballots strewn about. Ballot after ballot was marked for Preval.

“We are convinced that either massive fraud or gross errors stain the (electoral) process” Preval said earlier in the day, adding that the official results “do not correspond with reality.”

White United Nations armoured vehicles shoved aside roadblocks of junked cars, old refrigerators and other debris blocking the streets of the capital Tuesday, and most were clear by mid-afternoon. Businesses remained shuttered, but street markets bustled with shoppers.

Preval, a former protege of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide who enjoys wide support among the poor, called on followers to remove all roadblocks so people can get to work.

The most recent election results, posted Monday, showed Preval had 48.76 per cent of the vote with 90 per cent of ballots counted. He would need 50 per cent plus one vote from the Feb. 7 election to avoid a March run-off.

“If they publish the results as they are now, we will oppose them, the Haitian people will also oppose them, and there will be protests,” Preval told reporters.

The constitution indicates a challenge would go to the Supreme Court, but the interim government recently decreed that any complaints should go to the electoral commission — the same body issuing the results.

UN spokesman David Wimhurst said there was no evidence of fraud in the elections. The UN provided security for the vote and helped ship election returns to the capital but is not directly involved in counting ballots.

“If he believes there have been irregularities, he has the right to request an investigation,” Wimhurst told The Associated Press.

An official with the European Union, which has election observers here, declined comment on the vote count.

“The situation is volatile and difficult, and we do not want to make any declaration,” she said on condition of anonymity because she was not an official EU spokesperson. The Canadian observer group also refused to comment.

Election officials have not said when they will release final results. The UN said pro-Preval demonstrations were preventing election personnel from going to work and many counting centres had closed because of security concerns.

“I ask the Haitian people x .x .x . to be mature, to be responsible, to be nonviolent,” Preval said Tuesday.

The UN Security Council urged Haitians to respect election results and refrain from violence, and it extended the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti for six months, until Aug. 15.

Some 7,300 UN troops and 1,750 international police are in the country under Brazilian command, helping national police maintain order. The UN mission replaced a U.S.-led force that arrived after a three-week uprising toppled Aristide in February 2004.

At least one protester was killed Monday in the Taberre neighbourhood. Witnesses said UN peacekeepers opened fire. Wimhurst first denied that peacekeepers fired any rounds, then later said they had fired in the air and that someone else fired shots afterward in the same area.

Preval, a former president, urged his supporters to “respect people’s belongings” and to be on guard against provocateurs.

He met the top UN official in Haiti and ambassadors from Canada, Brazil, France and the United States late Monday after coming to the capital on a UN helicopter from his rural home in the north.

A run-off would pit Preval against second-place finisher Leslie Manigat, also a former president, who received 11.8 per cent of the vote, according to preliminary results.

Manigat’s wife, Myrlande, declined to say whether anyone had approached her husband about withdrawing. “Our position is to wait until the (electoral council) releases the results,” she said.

Of the 2.2 million ballots cast, about 125,000 have been declared invalid because of irregularities, raising suspicion among Preval supporters that polling officials were rigging the election.

Four per cent of the ballots were blank but were still added to the total, making it harder for Preval to obtain the 50 per cent plus one vote needed.

Jacques Bernard, director general of the nine-member electoral council, has denied that the council voided many votes for Preval.

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Weldon: 'Able Danger' ID'd 9/11 Ringleader

By KIMBERLY HEFLING Associated Press Writer Feb 14 5:33 PM US/Eastern

WASHINGTON - Pre-Sept. 11 intelligence conducted by a secret military unit identified terrorist ringleader Mohamed Atta 13 different times, a congressman said Tuesday.

During a Capitol Hill news conference, Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., said the unit - code-named "Able Danger" - also identified "a problem" in Yemen two weeks before the attack on the USS Cole. It knew the problem was tied into the port of Aden and involved a U.S. platform, but the ship commander was not made aware of it, Weldon said.
The suicide bombing of the Cole killed 17 sailors on Oct. 12, 2000.

If anyone had told the Cole's commander that there was any indication of a problem in Aden, "he would not have gone there," Weldon told reporters. "He had no clue."

Weldon would not say who provided evidence of such intelligence to him.

Since August, Weldon, vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has pushed Congress and the Pentagon to investigate the workings of Able Danger, which used data mining to identify links that might indicate the workings of terrorists. If he is correct, it would change the timeline for when government officials first became aware of Atta's links to al-Qaida.

Former members of the Sept. 11 commission have dismissed Weldon's findings.

Cmdr. Greg Hicks, a Pentagon spokesman, released a statement saying that Pentagon officials welcome the opportunity to address these issues during a hearing scheduled Wednesday before a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.

Comment: See the following flashbacks for more on the USS Cole bombing...

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Flashback: Head investigator of the USS Cole attack John O'Neill dies in WTC Attack

He had been with the FBI for 20 yrs and involved in a number of terrorist cases from the 1993 WTC bombing and others. He was considered the FBI’s top man on terrorism. In the late 1990’s he became very attuned to Israel’s involvement in many terror operation.

Following the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, he had become the foremost expert on the global threat from terrorism. He suspected Abu Nidal as a Mossad operative and openly talked about it with other field agents.

Barbara Bodine, who is Jewish was the ambassador for Yemen. When the USS Cole was attacked the FBI sent a team led by John O’Neill who immediately suspected Israel. Bodine started an intense political battle to oust O’Neill.

Bodine wanted to control the investigation and resented the fact that suddenly there were hundreds of FBI personnel in the country.

Albright provided a handful of State Department personnel to watch the investigation. Albright and Bodine panicked as O’Neill investigation points to Israel

Albright complained to upper echelons of the FBI about O'Neill. Bodine wanted O'Neill to drop bodyguards and he became suspicious of Mossad assassination.

Bodine and Madeleine Albright finally went to the Jewish FBI Director, Louis Freeh, to remove John O'Neill from Yemen.

Then January 2001 came, and O'Neill wanted to go back to Yemen. But Ambassador Bodine wouldn't give him clearance. In July 2001 O’Neill resigned from the FBI.

In Sept he got a job offer from a Larry Silverstein (owner WTC). Oddly O'Neill was missing for two days before 9/11 – miraculously his body was discover in tact in the WTC ruins.

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Flashback: The USS Cole bombing against the backdrop of Israeli "Black Propaganda" Operations

by Michael Gillespie 2000

Many in the Arab and Muslim communities in the United States are inclined to suppose that Israel may be responsible for the terror-bombing of the USS Cole in the Yemen port city of Aden on October 13. Although few Americans would suspect Israel, a trusted U.S. ally, of such a dastardly act, they may well be wrong while better informed and more experienced Arab and Muslim observers may be correct.

The Israeli intelligence agencies have a long history of carrying out what have been called "black propaganda" operations. Such covert actions are designed to create suspicion and inflame animosity between Israel's perceived enemies in the Middle East and Americans.

While Israel's deadly surprise attack on the USS Liberty on June 6, 1967, is now widely viewed as having been carried out for the purpose of keeping the USS Liberty's electronic monitoring capabilities from uncovering and reporting to Washington on the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)'s military preparations in advance of the attack on the Golan Heights, which would have allowed the Johnson administration to apply diplomatic pressure to forestall the IDF's aggression against Syria, there are many other clear examples of Israeli intelligence agencies engaging in "black propaganda" for the purpose of damaging the public image of Arabs and Arab states and organizations and fomenting trouble between Arabs and Arab states and organizations and the U.S. government.
Lets look at just three examples. The hi-jacking of the Italian cruise ship the Achille Lauro by "Palestinian terrorists" was later reliably reported by former IDF arms dealer Ari Ben-Menashe in his 1992 book, Profits of War: Inside the Secret U.S.-Israeli Arms Network, to have been ordered and funded by Mossad.

Ben-Menashe revealed that Israeli intelligence organizations regularly engaged in "black operations," espionage activity designed to portray Palestinians and others in the worst possible light.

"An example," wrote Ben-Menashe, "is the case of the 'Palestinian' attack on the cruise ship Achille Lauro in 1985. That was, in fact, an Israeli 'black' propaganda operation to show what a deadly, cutthroat bunch the Palestinians were."

According to Ben-Menashe, Israeli spymasters arranged the attack through "Abu'l Abbas, who, to follow such orders was receiving millions from Israeli intelligence officers posing as Sicilian dons. Abbas . . . gathered a team to attack the cruise ship. The team was told to make it bad, to show the world what lay in store for other unsuspecting citizens if Palestinian demands were not met. As the world knows, the group picked on an elderly American Jewish man in a wheelchair, killed him, and threw his body overboard. They made their point. But for Israel, it was the best kind of anti- Palestinian propaganda."

It should be noted that in April 1996, Abbas returned to Gaza and in a show of support for Yasser Arafat apologized for the hi-jacking and the killing of the American Jewish passenger Leon Klinghoffer without mentioning him by name, saying, "The hi-jacking was a mistake, and there were no orders to kill civilians." Abbas made no mention of Mossad involvement in the hi-jacking according to the April 23, 1996 Associated Press report.

The attack by over 150 U.S. warplanes on Libya, on April 14, 1986, which caused great destruction and over 40 civilian deaths including that of Col. Qaddafi's adopted daughter, was carried out only after Mossad field agents entered Libya in February of 1986 and placed a "Trojan" radio transmitter there to broadcast false signals, according to former Mossad field officer Victor Ostrovsky writing in The Other Side of Deception: A Rogue Agent Exposes the Mossad's Secret Agenda in 1994. The spurious signals duped American intelligence officials monitoring the broadcasts causing them to believe the Libyan government was sponsoring terrorism in Europe and was responsible for the deadly April 5, 1986, terror-bombing of the La Belle discotheque in Berlin which took the lives of two American soldiers and a Turkish woman.

Reports that Spanish and French intelligence agencies were not fooled by the Israeli "Trojan" transmitter broadcasts lend credence to suggestions that American intelligence officials may have been unable to resist political pressure for retaliation or perhaps exercised judgment that was influenced by Israeli sympathies.

If, as it appears, Libya was not responsible for the bombing of the Berlin night spot and the loss of three lives, the question of who was remains unanswered, as does another obvious question: Was it the Mossad?

Ostrovsky also revealed Israeli espionage that occurred on American soil, in Washington, DC. in 1979. In his scathing 1990 expose, By Way of Deception: A Devastating Insiders Portrait of the Mossad, Ostrovsky reported that Mossad agents bugged the home of a Middle Eastern diplomat during the administration of Jimmy Carter in order to embarrass the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young, after Young sought to establish informal talks with PLO representatives.

When Young met with the unofficial United Nations PLO representative Zehdi Labib Terzi "accidentally" in the home of a friendly diplomat, Kuwaiti Ambassador Abdalla Yaccoub Bishara, listening devices planted surreptitiously and without Terzi's knowledge by Mossad field officers recorded every word of the diplomats conversation.

The incident soon became front-page news in the Zionists' most prominent U.S. propaganda organ, The New York Times, and President Carter caved in to public pressure and asked for Young's resignation. Thus, that early effort to establish relations between the U.S. government and the PLO became a footnote in history when, on September 23, 1979, Young resigned from his position. Young, an African American, has never since served in the upper levels of government.

Quite apparently, the Mossad and other Israeli intelligence organizations have long enjoyed the ability to operate more or less freely in the United States and around the world. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) attempted to rein in Israel's intelligence organizations activities in the USA with an investigation of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in the early 1990s.

The ADL, which is nothing less than the Mossad's right arm in the U.S.A. disguised as a civil rights monitoring organization, was forced to curtail its operations for a period of time during the 1990s following the limited success of the investigation, which the FBI, bowing to political pressures, passed on to the Office of the San Francisco District Attorney. Press accounts of the FBI/SFDA investigation were limited relative to the obvious importance of the story, and some major American news organizations simply ignored the ADL spy scandal altogether.

The remarkable effectiveness of Israel's current propaganda campaign against Palestinians makes it abundantly clear that Israel's intelligence assets in mainstream broadcast news organizations, most of which are subsidiaries of Zionist-owned or managed entertainment industry conglomerates, are able to exert consistent and heavy influence on, if not absolute control over, the public discussion here in the USA and abroad about almost all matters related to Israel, Palestine, and the Middle East.

Sadly, it is all too true, as Charlie Reese, a lonely voice of reasoned outrage at the Orlando Sentinel, recently wrote: "Palestinians won't get their freedom until Americans get theirs."

Let us all hope that the president-elect of the United States, George W. Bush, has not forgotten that renegade Mossad officers cooked up a crack-pot plan to assassinate a former U.S. president--his own father--in 1991 at the Madrid peace conference after the senior Bush was courageous enough to try to pressure the government of Israel to end the establishment of illegal settlements on Palestinian lands by withholding approval of $10 billion dollars worth of loan guarantees for Israel. It is widely reported that the Bush family places a premium on loyalty. Perhaps the new president will have noted that Israel has been anything but a loyal ally of the United States of America and will be able to make some appropriate and long overdue adjustments in U.S. Middle East foreign policy, regardless of what domestic political pressures may demand in the way of a public facade.

Freelance Investigative Journalist and Commentator Michael Gillespie writes about Politics and Media for Media Monitors Network (MMN). His work also appears frequently in the popular Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.

Comment: The final paragraph, written before 9-11, is quite interesting for a number of reasons:

Let us all hope that the president-elect of the United States, George W. Bush, has not forgotten that renegade Mossad officers cooked up a crack-pot plan to assassinate a former U.S. president--his own father--in 1991 at the Madrid peace conference after the senior Bush was courageous enough to try to pressure the government of Israel to end the establishment of illegal settlements on Palestinian lands by withholding approval of $10 billion dollars worth of loan guarantees for Israel. It is widely reported that the Bush family places a premium on loyalty. Perhaps the new president will have noted that Israel has been anything but a loyal ally of the United States of America and will be able to make some appropriate and long overdue adjustments in U.S. Middle East foreign policy, regardless of what domestic political pressures may demand in the way of a public facade.

So much for that hope. It has since become abundantly clear that the son is NOT the father, and if MOSSAD thought that there was any chance of Dubya changing the rules, they sure got him over the barrel on 9-11. Read Laura's new book: 9-11: The Ultimate Truth for the scoop.

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Flashback: USS Cole Attack: Practice run for the coming Iran 'False Flag'


To start the war on Iran, Israel will probably stage a 'False Flag' attack on the US fleet in the Persian Gulf. After the initial attack, the war will quickly escalate.

This website attempts to explain the technique used to attack the USS Cole, and how it was a 'Test Run' for a possible upcoming attack on a carrier that is based in Bahrain.

What happened

On 2000, the USS Cole was sent to Yemen to refuel, and it was struck by a small boat that had a massive explosive charge. Normally, these ships are refueled at sea by oil tankers, but someone in the Pentagon ok'ed this.

Who would send a high-tech ship into Yemen - alone - with anti-American feelings running rampant there?

The Attack Vehicle

A SEPTAR (Sea Borne Powered Target) was used.

Only a sophisticated small craft could attack the USS Cole

Shape Charges

Experts all confirmed that the massive damage, the Cole received, required a shape charge or missile.

Western intelligence operatives feel there is no way that a group of stray terrorists, would have the technical knowledge, the shape charge, or the detailed intelligence on the Cole's arrival, to carry out such an attack like that.

Thus, experts conclude that professional intelligence operatives, were the only ones who could have carried out this operation. The Mossad is the world's foremost intelligence agency, when it comes to staging terror attacks, and they have a long history of doing cunning false-flag terror attacks, that appear to be things other than what they really are.


The amount of damage, implies the boat was specially constructed with the shape charge and barrel built into the hull. This wasn't two Arabs in their backyard. Only a specialist state, like Israel, has the access and specialization to conjure up attack methods like this for terror.


The Cole had just arrived and was docking. This means the attackers had inside intel and the operation was pre-planned.


Defense Sec Cohen sent the USS Cole into Yemen.

Tommy Franks,who is Jewish, was in charge of the area

Franks, head of U.S. Central Command, was called before an angry committee about the Cole. They wanted to know who negotiated the contract to refuel Navy ships at Aden. He said the decision to refuel in Yemen, which is designated as a "safe haven for terrorists" in the State Department's annual report on terrorism, was based on "operational as well as geo-strategic factors and included an assessment of the terrorist and conventional threats in the region."

Yemen's President Ali Abdallah Salih

In an interview President Salih said: ..."That Israel might be responsible for the bombing of the USS Cole."

O'Neill Sent To Investigate

O’Neill was considered a top-notch investigator, and was known for his pugnacity. He was barred by U.S. Ambassador to Yemen, Barbara Bodine, from that country. That dispute reportedly involved a struggle between the State Department, which sought to preserve relations with Yemen, and the FBI, represented by O’Neill, who wanted access to Yemeni suspects.

Bodine blocked investigation

O'Neill was a little too competent of an investigator, and things were pointing to Israel. That's when the US Ambassador to Yemen, Barbara Bodine, had O'Neill barred from that country. from that country.

Albright jumped on the USS Cole bandwagon.

It appeared that Albright helped Bodine, by appealing to Louie Freeh, FBI director, to remove O'Neill.

Obviously, the Cole attack was meant to create animosity towards Arabs, and to also act as a dry run for an upcoming Persian Gulf false flag attack.

Sec. Cohen would have you believe this attack was a couple of angry Arabs that happened to have a box of dynamite in their garage, who decided to take out an Aegis-class cruiser. The Cole attack involved Pentagon moles co-operating with Israel, to carry it out.

With the Cole attack, you needed to be able to direct the ship into Yemen - have the equipment ready - access to shape charges - have an ingenious small high-speed boat that could stand a chance against a very trained crew on a heavily-armed state-of-the-art military vessel, etc.

This leads us to believe that an initial false-flag attack, might be an Israeli attack on the fleet as it is anchored in Bahrain.

As the US retaliates, Iran will be at full alert while the fleet tries to escape. The real battle will be in the Straights of Hormuz and could escalate to a Nuclear retaliation.

Comment: Notice the remarks about "shape charges" and think a minute. If you go to the page linked to view the graphics, you will see the damage done to the USS Cole. Where else have we seen damage of that shape and size???

A nice, deep hole about 13/14 feet in diameter...

Penetrated through a steel hull Navy ship...

Take your time...

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Moscow's Remote-Controlled Heart Attacks

David Hambling

The American military may want to attack the nervous system, with pain rays and laser plasma pulses. But they're not the only ones. The Russians have long studied such systems, too -- including one weapon that could, in theory, remotely trigger heart attacks.
In 2003, at the 2nd European Symposium on Non-Lethal Weapons, Anatoly Korolev and his colleagues from Moscow State University presented a paper with the snappy title "Bioelectrodynamic Criterion of the NLW Effectiveness Estimation and the Interaction mechanisms of the multilayer Skin Tissues with electromagnetic Radiation." This is a study of how radio-frequency weapons -- like the American Active Denial System -- affect the skin. After wading through a mass of technical data showing how complex the interactions are we reach the punch line:

The sensations modality (pricking, touch, pressure, gooseflesh, touch, burning pain etc) depends on the field parameters and individual concrete human being factors. As a matter of fact, we can really choose the non-lethal bioeffect.

The effects include sensations similar to those discussed previously, and more besides. The paper discusses effects on cell membranes and affecting the body’s normal function, including "information transfer to the organs of control."

At the same conference, V Makukhin of the Trymas Engineering Center in Moscow described "Electronic equipment for complex influence on biological objects." And when he says "biological objects," he means you and me.

His laboratory apparatus uses a modulated beam of radio waves to produce what he terms "disorder of autonomic nervous system," put forward as a possible non-lethal weapon. Makhunin notes that there is no general agreement on how EM waves disrupt nerves - he mentions ion channels similar to those in the plasma paper - but he certainly seems to be seeing the same effects as American researchers.

But it need not be a non-lethal weapon. Makhunin also mentions the effects of "change of electrocardiogram" and what he calls "function break of heart muscle."

The vulnerability of the heart to electrical stimulation (including that produced by EM waves) is well documented. A lethal device would interfere with the electrical potentials that keep the chambers of the heart synchronized, producing fibrillation and rapid death. A death ray doesn’t need to be a truck-sized laser that reduces the target to smoking heap; a small device that stops the heart will do the job.

Little has been openly published in this area in the public domain, but this may be the tip of the iceberg. We are likely to be hearing more in future - especially if the Russians manage to find funding.

I don’t think we need tinfoil hats just yet. But a layer of conducting mesh built into body armor might save a lot of heartache in years to come.

Comment: Ah, those Russians. From reading this story, you'd think the Americans, the Brits, and Israelis don't have such weapons in the field. But let's think back to last summer when Robin Cook had a "heart attack" while out walking.

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Flashback: Was He Taken Out?

Truthseeker News Brief Last updated 08/08/2005

Former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, who quit government over the Iraq war, has collapsed on a Scottish mountainside.

Thereafter he was flown by coastguard helicopter to Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, where he died on Saturday evening, police said.

However, the idea is already being mooted that he was, like Dr David Kelly, 'taken out' by covert assassination.
Robin Cook had quit as Commons leader in March 2003, in protest over the war in Iraq. He had been one of the most outspoken and prominent critics of Blair's stance on Iraq.

The Scottish MP, who lived in Edinburgh, was a keen walker and cyclist and until now his health was said to have been in good health.

Mr Cook, who first became an MP for Edinburgh Central in 1974, was appointed the shadow health secretary in 1989 and became the shadow trade and industry secretary in 1992.

In 1997 he became foreign secretary, a position he held until 2001 when he was replaced by Jack Straw after openly oppossing Blair's stance on Iraq.

He had been an outspoken critic of the government's foreign policy from the backbench and speculation is growing that he was seen as an impediment to further moves in the "War on Terror", in particular an expansion of the war into Iran or Syria.

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Flashback: Post mortem tests over Cook death

icRenfrewshire Aug 8 2005

A post mortem examination is expected to be carried out to determine the cause of the death of former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook.

Mr Cook, 59, collapsed while on a walking holiday with wife Gaynor in northern Scotland on Saturday and was pronounced dead after being airlifted to hospital some 90 minutes later.

It is thought that the Livingston MP may have collapsed with a heart attack and then injured himself as he fell.

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Air Force Plan: Hack Your Nervous System


The brain has always been a battlefield. New weapons might be able to hack directly into your nervous system.

"Controlled Effects" (see image, right) is one of the Air Force’s ambitious long-term challenges. It starts with better and more accurate bombs, but moves on to discuss devices that "make selected adversaries think or act according to our needs... By studying and modeling the human brain and nervous system, the ability to mentally influence or confuse personnel is also possible."
LTChallenge-08-IMG2.JPGThe first stage is technology to “remotely create physical sensations.” They give the example of the Active Denial System "people zapper" which uses a high-frequency radiation similar to microwaves as a non-lethal means of crowd control.

Other weapons can affect the nervous system directly. The Pulsed Energy Projectile fires a short intense pulse of laser energy. This vaporizes the outer layer of the target, creating a rapidly-expanding expanding ball of plasma. At different power levels, those expanding plasmas could deliver a harmless warning, stun the target, or disable them - all with pinpoint laser precision from a mile away.

Early reports on the effects of PEPs mentioned temporary paralysis, then thought to be related to ultrasonic shockwaves. It later became apparent that the electromagnetic pulse caused by the expanding plasma was triggering nerve cells.

Details of this emerged in a heavily-censored document released to Ed Hammond of the Sunshine Project under the Freedom if Information Act. Called “Sensory consequence of electromagnetic pulsed emitted by laser induced plasmas,” it described research on activating the nerve cells responsible for sensing unpleasant stimuli: heat, damage, pressure, cold. By selectively stimulating a particular nociceptor, a finely tuned PEP might sensations of say, being burned, frozen or dipped in acid -- all without doing the slightest actual harm.

The skin is the easiest target for such stimulation. But, in principle, any sensory nerves could be triggered. The Controlled Effects document suggests “it may be possible to create synthetic images…to confuse an individual' s visual sense or, in a similar manner, confuse his senses of sound, taste, touch, or smell.”

In other words, it may be possible to use electromagnetic means to create overwhelming 'sound' or 'light', or indeed 'intolerable smell' which would exist only in the brain of the person perceiving them.

There is another side as well. The “sensory consequences” document also notes that the nervous system which controls muscles could be influenced to cause what they call “Taser-like motor effects.” The stun gun’s ability to shock the muscles into malfunction is relatively crude; we might now be looking at are much more targeted effects.

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Fifth of Americans think calls have been monitored

CNN Tuesday, February 14, 2006

WASHINGTON -- About a fifth of Americans think federal agents have listened in on their phone calls, a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll released Tuesday suggests.
Twenty-one percent of the 1,000 adults who replied to the survey conducted Thursday through Sunday said it was very likely or somewhat likely their conversations had been wiretapped, while 52 percent said it was not at all likely.

Twenty-four percent said it was not too likely.

The sampling error for the question was plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Shortly after 9/11, President Bush authorized the National Security Agency to conduct electronic surveillance of communications -- phone calls, e-mails and text messages -- between people inside the United States, including Americans, and terrorist suspects overseas, bypassing a secret court set up to provide warrants for such surveillance.

The Bush administration has said the program is designed to monitor terrorists, while critics say the spying is illegal and may infringe on the civil liberties of Americans.

According to the poll, Americans appear to be split over the legality of the domestic eavesdropping program. About 49 percent of respondents said the president had definitely or probably broken the law by authorizing the wiretaps and 47 percent said he probably or definitely had not. (Poll results)

Those numbers were similar to a question about whether the program is right or wrong -- 47 percent said it was right and 50 percent called it wrong.

The sampling error for those questions was plus or minus 5 percentage points.

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Congressional Probe of NSA Spying Is in Doubt - White House Sways Some GOP Lawmakers

By Charles Babington Washington Post Staff Writer Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Congress appeared ready to launch an investigation into the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program last week, but an all-out White House lobbying campaign has dramatically slowed the effort and may kill it, key Republican and Democratic sources said yesterday.

The Senate intelligence committee is scheduled to vote tomorrow on a Democratic-sponsored motion to start an inquiry into the recently revealed program in which the National Security Agency eavesdrops on an undisclosed number of phone calls and e-mails involving U.S. residents without obtaining warrants from a secret court. Two committee Democrats said the panel -- made up of eight Republicans and seven Democrats -- was clearly leaning in favor of the motion last week but now is closely divided and possibly inclined against it.
They attributed the shift to last week's closed briefings given by top administration officials to the full House and Senate intelligence committees, and to private appeals to wavering GOP senators by officials, including Vice President Cheney. "It's been a full-court press," said a top Senate Republican aide who asked to speak only on background -- as did several others for this story -- because of the classified nature of the intelligence committees' work.

Lawmakers cite senators such as Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) to illustrate the administration's success in cooling congressional zeal for an investigation. On Dec. 20, she was among two Republicans and two Democrats who signed a letter expressing "our profound concern about recent revelations that the United States Government may have engaged in domestic electronic surveillance without appropriate legal authority." The letter urged the Senate's intelligence and judiciary committees to "jointly undertake an inquiry into the facts and law surrounding these allegations."

In an interview yesterday, Snowe said, "I'm not sure it's going to be essential or necessary" to conduct an inquiry "if we can address the legislative standpoint" that would provide oversight of the surveillance program. "We're learning a lot and we're going to learn more," she said.

She cited last week's briefings before the full House and Senate intelligence committees by Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and former NSA director Michael V. Hayden.

"The administration has obviously gotten the message that they need to be more forthcoming," Snowe said.

Before the New York Times disclosed the NSA program in mid-December, administration briefings regarding it were highly secret and limited to eight lawmakers: the top Republican and Democratic leader of the House and Senate, respectively, and the top Republican and Democrat on the House and Senate intelligence committees.

The White House characterized last week's closed-door briefings to the full committees as a significant concession and a sign of the administration's respect for Congress and its oversight responsibilities. Many Democrats dismissed the briefings as virtually useless, but senators said yesterday they appear to have played a big role in slowing momentum for an inquiry.

John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), the Senate intelligence committee's vice chairman, has drafted a motion calling for a wide-ranging inquiry into the surveillance program, according to congressional sources who have seen it. Rockefeller declined to be interviewed yesterday.

Sources close to Rockefeller say he is frustrated by what he sees as heavy-handed White House efforts to dissuade Republicans from supporting his measure. They noted that Cheney conducted a Republicans-only meeting on intelligence matters in the Capitol yesterday.

Senate intelligence committee member Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) said in an interview that he supports the NSA program and would oppose a congressional investigation. He said he is drafting legislation that would "specifically authorize this program" by excluding it from the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which established a secret court to consider government requests for wiretap warrants in anti-terrorist investigations.

The administration would be required to brief regularly a small, bipartisan panel drawn from the House and Senate intelligence committees, DeWine said, and the surveillance program would require congressional reauthorization after five years to remain in place.

Snowe said she is inclined to support DeWine's plan. Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), who also signed the Dec. 20 letter seeking an inquiry, said yesterday that the FISA law should be amended to include the NSA program and to provide for congressional oversight.

As for Rockefeller's bid, Hagel said: "If some kind of inquiry would be beneficial to getting a resolution to this issue, then sure, we should look at it. But if the inquiry is just some kind of a punitive inquiry that really is not focused on finding a way out of this, then I'm not so sure that I would support that."

Comment: Did anyone seriously think there was going to be a probe? Of course not! Especially since the spying was for the purpose of gathering information on government officials so as to completely control the political process. You see it happening right here, in real time. And, since the government ALSO has control of google, ya'll better be bookmarking this page and sharing the link by word of mouth because we are going to disappear rather soon.

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Yahoo makes plea over censorship

BBC 14 Feb 06

Internet giant Yahoo says it is "deeply concerned" over government efforts to impose censorship.

The firm has been pilloried over accusations it has provided information to the Chinese government that led to the jailing of two dissidents.

Ahead of a US Congress hearing on Wednesday to discuss the issue, Yahoo said firms could promote openness.

In a written statement that did not refer to China, it said it was committed to an unrestricted internet.
The Chinese government enforces strict laws on internet use, blocking content it considers a threat, including references to the Tiananmen Square massacre and notable dissidents.

Yahoo has been accused of releasing data that led to the jailing of online writer and corruption critic Li Zhi for eight years in 2003, and to the imprisonment of reporter Shi Tao in a separate case.

The firm said that "knowledge was power" and that firms could be a part of a wider effort to promote a free internet.

"We are deeply concerned by efforts of governments to restrict and control open access to information and communication.

"We also firmly believe the continued presence and engagement of companies like Yahoo is a powerful force in promoting openness and reform.

"If we are required to restrict search results, we will strive to achieve maximum transparency to the user."

Local laws

The firm said companies could not be expected to take a stand on their own.

"Private industry alone cannot effectively influence foreign government policies on issues like the free exchange of ideas, maximum access to information, and human rights reform, and we believe continued government-to-government dialogue is vital to achieve progress on these complex political issues.

"We will work with industry, government, academia and NGOs (non-government organisations) to explore policies to guide industry practices in countries where content is treated more restrictively than in the United States and to promote the principles of freedom of speech and expression."

Microsoft, Google, and Cisco have all been accused of helping China restrict access to the internet.

Yahoo and other firms have defended their positions, saying they have only complied with local laws.

Comment: It's all BS and smokescreen designed to give the illusion that google is good and you really do have freedom. Google is already a well managed tool of the Neocon Elitists.

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Editorial: Jew Gotta' Friend At Google - Hate speech claim laughable, but there's a more serious issue

by Greg Lloyd Smith

Well, last night an un-named member of The Google Team offered an explanation for the most recent removal of OfficialWire from Google News.

Hate Speech.

The Google Team member wrote: "We do not allow articles and sources expressly promoting hate speech viewpoints in Google News".

Hate speech?

I had to read it a couple times before it sunk in... I mean, I'm a Jew, for Christ's sake! I am fairly confident that I have never written what might be considered "Hate Speech". Hate Speech?

The Google message continued...

"For example, a number of the complaints we looked at on your site were found to be holocaust negationism [sic] (a form of hate speech)
NEW YORK, NY -- (OfficialWire) -- 02/14/06 -- As a Jew (my mother was Jewish and so 'am I) I am expected to automatically detest those who might speak against the popular belief associated with the "H" word. We are expected to speak in hushed tones in observance of 'The Holocaust', praise and support those among us who have sought or seek to hunt down and kill anyone with direct knowledge of the horrid events of the Second World War and pass-on the story "so that it never happens again".

Google, Inc. stopped indexing OfficialWire into Google News on January 31, 2006. Despite repeated daily requests for an explanation and or the restoration of 'service'—OfficialWire had been indexed since Google News was launched—no reply was forthcoming.

It's important to point out that the last time Google 'dropped' OfficialWire (one year ago), the eventual reply/excuse was not merely untrue, but not worthy of their purported expertise. The Google Team wrote that the problem was that our newswire's URLs appeared as dates and could not be indexed properly. That was a lie.

Well, last night an un-named member of The Google Team offered an explanation for the most recent removal of OfficialWire from Google News.

Hate Speech.

The Google Team member wrote: "We do not allow articles and sources expressly promoting hate speech viewpoints in Google News".

Hate speech?

I had to read it a couple times before it sunk in... I mean, I'm a Jew, for Christ's sake! I am fairly confident that I have never written what might be considered "Hate Speech". Hate Speech?

The Google message continued...

"For example, a number of the complaints we looked at on your site were found to be holocaust negationism [sic] (a form of hate speech):


To be honest, I couldn't recall any of these articles, but after a minute or two of re-reading them, I was shocked—not by their content—but by the revelation that Google would consider them "Hate Speech". One article merely discusses the ongoing legal problems experienced by Ernst Zundel. I don't think there is anyone on the planet who would deny that his problems were instigated by a small group of Jews. In other words, the article is factual.

The problem with Google executives like Larry Page and Sergey Brin labelling OfficialWire as a "source expressly promoting hate speech viewpoints" is that it's a little like the pot calling the kettle black. All of these links and many millions of others that might represent far worse examples of objectionable points of view (to some people) are found within Google Search and yet they do not filter their search engine's content, except in China.

Shame on Google. OfficialWire's dedication to Free Speech requires me to permit even those who's opinion I may disagree with the opportunity to express themselves. One case in point: OfficialWire has republished Frosty Wooldridge's endless stream of articles on 'the U.S. immigration issue', despite the fact that I personally disagree with his point of view.

Hate Speech?

The truth doesn't need to threaten or bully. The truth does not need to jail or denounce. The truth shouldn't attempt to overwhelm a false statement. The truth is simply the truth and in most cases can be distinguished from a lie without much difficulty. On the other hand, in my opinion, when an alleged truth professes too loudly, it must be questioned. Remember the weapons of mass destruction?

The tendency for the Western world to protect and shield Jews from all criticism I believe is a telling sign. The fact that Google executives would yield to a small group of bullies, I am ashamed to be associated with, is their problem.

Shame on you Google.

Editor's Note:
This just in from the Jewish Defense Organization (JDO):

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Website Message
Date: Tue, 14 Feb 2006 12:51:53 -0500
From: JudeaM@jdo.org
To: admin@officialwire.com


Sender IP:

-------- End Original Message --------

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UK holds Microsoft security talks

Wednesday, 15 February 2006, 09:51 GMT By Ollie Stone-Lee BBC News political reporter

UK officials are talking to Microsoft over fears the new version of Windows could make it harder for police to read suspects' computer files.
Windows Vista is due to be rolled out later this year. Cambridge academic Ross Anderson told MPs it would mean more computer files being encrypted.

He urged the government to look at establishing "back door" ways of getting around encryptions.

The Home Office later told the BBC News website it is in talks with Microsoft.

Unlicensed music

Professor Anderson, professor of security engineering at Cambridge University, was giving evidence to the Commons home affairs select committee about time limits on holding terrorism suspects without charge.

He said: "From later this year, the encryption landscape is going to change with the release of Microsoft Vista."

The system uses BitLocker Drive Encryption through a chip called TPM (Trusted Platform Module) in the computer's motherboard.

It is partly aimed at preventing people from downloading unlicensed films or media.

"This means that by default your hard disk is encrypted by using a key that you cannot physically get at...

"An unfortunate side effect from law enforcement is it would be technically fairly seriously difficult to dig encrypted material out of the system if it has been set up competently."

Guessing passwords

Professor Anderson said people were discussing the idea of making computer vendors ensure "back door keys" to encrypted material were made available.

The Home Office should enter talks with Microsoft now rather than when the system is introduced, he said.

He said encryption tools generally were either good or useless.

"If they are good, you either guess the password or give up," he said.

The committee heard that suspects could claim to have lost their encryption key - although juries could decide to let this count this against them in the same way as refusing to answer questions in a police interview.

A Home Office spokesman said: "The Home Office has already been in touch with Microsoft concerning this matter and is working closely with them."

Increased awareness about high-tech crime and computer crime has prompted the Home Office to talk to IT companies regularly about new software.

Government officials look at the security of new systems, whether they are easy for the general public to hack into and how the police can access material in them.

Preventing tampering

On its Windows Vista website, Microsoft says Bitlocker Drive Encryption "provides considerable off-line data and operating system protection for your computer".

"BitLocker ensures that data stored on a computer running Windows Vista is not revealed if the machine is tampered with when the installed operating system is offline," it says.

The system, part of what is called "trusted computing" mechanisms, is designed to stop malicious programs being installed surreptitiously on computers.

The Trusted Computing Group has been working for some years on a hardware-based system which is built into the motherboards of many Intel-based computers.

But most people will not be able to use its features until Microsoft Windows Vista is launched.

Critics say the companies behind most trusted computing want to use digital rights management to ensure users cannot use programs they have not approved.

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Paramount unit to tell Gore's 'Truth'

Reuters February 13, 2006

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Paramount's new specialty division has acquired worldwide rights to Participant Prods.' global-warming documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," featuring Al Gore.

Helmed by Davis Guggenheim ("Deadwood," "The First Year"), the film, which had its world premiere at last month's Sundance Film Festival, weaves the science behind the issue of global warming with the former vice president's personal history and longtime commitment to communicating the pressing need to reverse the effects of global climate change.
Paramount specialty division president John Lesher called the film "a visually mesmerizing and shocking look at the serious and dire state of our planet." He added, "We are very proud to help Al Gore expose the urgency of global warming to the widest possible audience."

"John Lesher and his team expressed such incredible passion for the subject and the particular importance of getting it out in a timely manner so that it may have an opportunity to make a difference in the world," Participant president Ricky Strauss said.

To coincide with the release of the film -- scheduled for May 26 -- Rodale Books will publish "An Inconvenient Truth," Gore's follow-up to his best-seller "Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit," which was published by Plume Books in 1992.

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Earthquake rocks eastern Indonesia

Canadian Press Published: February 14, 2006

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- A powerful earthquake jolted a 2,000-kilometre swath of Indonesia early Saturday, sending hundreds of panicked residents fleeing to higher ground, but fears of a tsunami did not materialize.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or serious damage from the magnitude-7.7 quake.
The earthquake struck beneath the Banda Sea in the Maluku Islands at 1:58 a.m. Saturday, but its depth of 342 kilometres helped minimize the impact, Indonesian meteorological officials said.

Still, fears of a tsunami - like the 2004 waves that killed more than 130,000 people on the western side of the sprawling archipelago - sparked panic among residents and sent them fleeing from their homes, witnesses said.

The quake was felt in many Maluku cities, on the tourist resort island of Bali, and in towns in East Nusa Tenggara and South Sulawesi provinces, but damage was largely limited to cracks in buildings, said Jusuf, an official at the country's main meteorological agency who uses only one name.

It also was felt in the tiny nation of East Timor, 440 kilometres south of the epicentre.

"We poured into the streets in panic and ran immediately to higher places fearing a tsunami," said Salman Rumalesin, a resident of Bula, a Maluku mining town on Seram island.

The Detikcom news Web site reported that the quake cracked walls of houses and government offices in the town of Masohi.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake had a magnitude of 7.7 and was centred about 195 kilometres south of Ambon city in the Malukus, known in Dutch colonial times as the Spice Islands.

Later Saturday, a magnitude-4.8 earthquake, centred about 30 kilometres southwest of Krui on the western coast of Sumatra, jolted parts of South Sumatra province. There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries from the quake, which hit at 8:53 a.m., the meteorological office said.

Indonesia, the world's largest archipelago, is prone to seismic upheaval due to its location atop a volcanically active region known as the Pacific Ring of Fire.

Three months after the Dec. 26, 2004, earthquake and tsunami in Aceh province, another strong quake in the region killed more than 900 people on Nias and smaller surrounding islands.

Ambon is about 2,600 kilometres east of Jakarta.

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Most Of Arctic's Near-Surface Permafrost May Thaw By 2100

Boulder CO (SPX) Dec 19, 2005

Global warming may decimate the top 10 feet (3 meters) or more of perennially frozen soil across the Northern Hemisphere, altering ecosystems as well as damaging buildings and roads across Canada, Alaska, and Russia.

New simulations from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) show that over half of the area covered by this topmost layer of permafrost could thaw by 2050 and as much as 90 percent by 2100. Scientists expect the thawing to increase runoff to the Arctic Ocean and release vast amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.
The study, using the NCAR-based Community Climate System Model (CCSM), is the first to examine the state of permafrost in a global model that includes interactions among the atmosphere, ocean, land, and sea ice as well as a soil model that depicts freezing and thawing. Results appear online in the December 17 issue of Geophysical Research Letters.

"People have used models to study permafrost before, but not within a fully interactive climate system model," says NCAR's David Lawrence, the lead author. The coauthor is Andrew Slater of the University of Colorado's National Snow and Ice Data Center.

About a quarter of the Northern Hemisphere's land contains permafrost, defined as soil that remains below 32 degrees F (0 degrees C) for at least two years. Permafrost is typically characterized by an active surface layer, extending anywhere from a few centimeters to several meters deep, which thaws during the summer and refreezes during the winter. The deeper permafrost layer remains frozen.

The active layer responds to changes in climate, expanding downward as surface air temperatures rise. Deeper permafrost has not thawed since the last ice age, over 10,000 years ago, and will be largely unaffected by global warming in the coming century, says Lawrence.

Recent warming has degraded large sections of permafrost across central Alaska, with pockets of soil collapsing as the ice within it melts. The results include buckled highways, destabilized houses, and "drunken forests"--trees that lean at wild angles. In Siberia, some industrial facilities have reported significant damage. Further loss of permafrost could threaten migration patterns of animals such as reindeer and caribou.

The CCSM simulations are based on high and low projections of greenhouse-gas emissions for the 21st century, as constructed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In both cases, the CCSM determined which land areas would retain permafrost at each of 10 soil depths extending down to 11.2 feet (3.43 meters).

For the high-emission scenario, the area with permafrost in any of these layers shrinks from 4 million to just over 1 million square miles by the year 2050 and decreases further to about 400,000 square miles (1 million square kilometers) by 2100. In the low-emission scenario, which assumes major advances in conservation and alternative energy, the permafrost area shrinks to about 1.5 million square miles by 2100.

"Thawing permafrost could send considerable amounts of water to the oceans," says Slater, who notes that runoff to the Arctic has increased about 7 percent since the 1930s. In the high-emission simulation, runoff grows by another 28 percent by the year 2100. That increase includes contributions from enhanced rainfall and snowfall as well as the water from ice melting within soil.

The new study highlights concern about emissions of greenhouse gases from thawing soils. Permafrost may hold 30% or more of all the carbon stored in soils worldwide. As the permafrost thaws, it could lead to large-scale emissions of methane or carbon dioxide beyond those produced by fossil fuels.

"There's a lot of carbon stored in the soil," says Lawrence. "If the permafrost does thaw, as our model predicts, it could have a major influence on climate." To address this and other questions, Lawrence and colleagues are now working to develop a more advanced model with interactive carbon.

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'Snow rage' leads to baseball bat attack

UPI Feb. 14, 2006

BRAINTREE, Mass., - A Massachusetts man enraged by last weekend's massive nor'easter snowfall is being held on charges he swung a baseball bat at a neighbor.
Sunday morning, as the huge storm howled and dumped record snowfall in the Northeast, a man brought out a snow blower in Braintree and began clearing a driveway. However, the snow was being directed at a neighbor's driveway, the Boston Herald reported.

When the neighbor came out to complain, the man's 42-year-old son flew into a rage, and emerged from the garage with a baseball bat.

Braintree Police Deputy Russell Jenkins said the man swung and hit the complaining neighbor on the back, causing bruising, but no serious injury.

When police arrived, they took Nicholas Marchione, 42, into custody. Officers said on the way to the station, he also threatened them.

Marchione is being held on $20,000 cash bail, and was arraigned Monday on charges of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and making threats.

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Deadly bird flu spreads to Germany, Austria, Iran

By Karin Strohecker Reuters Tue Feb 14, 2006 5:33 PM ET15

BERLIN - Three more countries said on Tuesday they had detected cases of deadly bird flu in wild swans, with Germany, Iran and Austria the latest to find the virus that has killed 91 people worldwide.

Austria and Germany became the third and fourth European Union countries to report H5N1 bird flu, just three days after the bloc's first instances were confirmed by Italy and Greece.
Germany said its results came from initial tests. Both countries said samples of the dead birds had been sent to the EU's reference laboratory in Britain for confirmation.

Experts had said it was only a matter of time before the H5N1 strain dangerous to humans broke out in Iran, a wintering place for wildfowl that may be carriers. Neighboring Iraq, Azerbaijan and Turkey had already reported outbreaks.

The highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of the virus has killed at least 91 people in Asia and the Middle East, according to the World Health Organization.

Experts fear H5N1 may mutate into a form that can spread between people and cause a pandemic that could kill millions.

New cases of H5 bird flu were found in Romania, Europe's largest wetlands and a major migratory route for wild birds.

Tests were under way in Britain to see if the new samples were H5N1, of which Romania and neighbor Bulgaria have already had cases.

Germany said it would bring forward to February 17 a ban on keeping poultry outdoors, and Italy said police had impounded more than 80,000 chickens and 7,000 eggs from farms in the south that were not respecting health norms.


Across Europe and into Africa, countries have reported sharp drops in poultry sales as the number of outbreaks grows.

"I was buying 150 chickens every day for my stall before the flu appeared," said Hassan Mountacir, a butcher in the central market in the Moroccan capital Rabat. "Now I'm down to 10 or 20 at the most."

The virus could soon spread further into Europe as migrating birds return after wintering in Africa, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.

"We need to be aware that there's a real risk for Europe when the birds migrate northwards this spring," Samuel Jutzi, director of the FAO's Animal Production and Health Division, told reporters in Rome.

Health experts are trying to warn people of the dangers of the virus that is contracted through direct contact with infected birds, but are struggling in countries such as Nigeria where poultry is everywhere -- on the streets and on buses.

International experts are in Nigeria to advise authorities on what preventive measures they should be taking, including closing live-poultry markets and restricting poultry movements.

"Above all it is an animal disease and if one wants to avoid there being any human cases, the virus must really be stamped out in the bird population," World Health Organization spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told reporters in Geneva.

No human cases have been found in Nigeria, the first African country to confirm cases of H5N1, and health officials said on Tuesday that two children suspected of having the virus probably did not have it after all.

Greece also said tests on a man suspected of having bird flu had come back negative.

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France warned of high risk of bird flu contamination

AFP Feb 14 2:04 PM US/Eastern

The French food safety agency AFSSA warned of a heightened risk of the deadly bird flu virus reaching the country, and called for poultry to be kept indoors wherever possible.
The government is expected to announce on Wednesday extra safety measures based on AFSSA's recommendation, after Austria became the latest European country to report the presence of the deadly H5N1 virus.

France is Europe's biggest poultry producer, with free-range birds accounting for 17 percent of its production -- as well as western Europe's main crossroads for migratory birds, potential carriers of the virus.

According to a member of the AFSSA expert panel, it is only a matter of time before bird flu arrives in France.

"We have absolutely no control over the introduction of the virus by migratory birds that are about to start returning from Africa to Siberia, Scandinavia and Greenland. It is unavoidable," Jean Hars told AFP.

"All migratory species either fly over or stop in France," he added, warning that the deadly virus could be carried by pigeons, sparrows or birds of prey as well as by geese and ducks.

AFSSA warned that "French birds now face a heightened risk of contamination," following the appearance of the virus in Nigeria, and the discovery of infected swans notably in Greece and Italy.

The southwestern and western Atlantic coast were at particular risk, AFSSA said, and poultry farmers in those areas were advised to carry out preventive vaccination for any birds left outdoors.

The French agriculture ministry has already ordered free-range birds in more than half of its 96 mainland departments to be kept in shelters to reduce the risk of them catching the deadly H5N1 virus from wild birds.

Live birds have also been banned from all markets and trade fairs, including at a huge annual agricultural fair in Paris at the end of this month.

Austria reported its first confirmed cases of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus on Tuesday.

The virus, which has killed around 90 people in Asia, Turkey and northern Iraq, has already been detected in wild swans in France's neighbor, Italy, as well as in Greece, Bulgaria and Slovenia.

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A&E nurse 'harmed patients to feel thrill of reviving them'

Jacqueline Maley Wednesday February 15, 2006 The Guardian

A nurse killed two patients by deliberately administering fatal overdoses of drugs so he could feel the "thrill" of trying to revive them, a court heard yesterday.

Two people died and 16 were nearly killed by drug-induced respiratory problems while Benjamin Geen was a staff nurse at the accident and emergency unit of Horton general hospital in Banbury, Oxfordshire, the prosecution said.
Suspicions were aroused when nearly every patient who came near the 25-year-old nurse developed sudden breathing problems and deteriorated quickly and unexpectedly, prosecutor Michael Austin-Smith QC told jurors.

Mr Geen appeared before Oxford crown court yesterday charged with the murder of David Onley, 77, of Deddington, between January 20 and 23 2004, and Anthony Bateman, 67, of Banbury, on January 6 2004. He is also accused of causing grievous bodily harm with intent to harm 16 other patients, and 18 counts of administering a noxious thing so as to endanger life. He denies the charges.

Doctors at the hospital were initially bewildered by the rare and unexplained respiratory failures that took place between December 2003 and February 2004. But it then emerged that Mr Geen had been on duty in the A&E on each occasion, the court heard.

"In the course of a nine-week period, he deliberately administered drugs or other substances to patients in order to make them collapse so he could enjoy the excitement of trying to revive them," Mr Austin-Smith told the jury.

"It's the prosecution's submission that this defendant loved these moments of drama. As he was later to tell police in interview, he hated the dullness of the minor side ... He preferred to be where the action is."

There had been "locker room chatter about the increased level of respiratory arrests", Mr Austin-Smith said, and suspicions came to a head when the 18th patient, Timothy Stubbs, went into unexpected respiratory arrest.

Mr Austin-Smith said Stephen Smith, who worked at Horton general, came to the "unpalatable conclusion" with his colleagues that a member of the A&E department had to be responsible.

An internal investigation was launched which found Mr Geen had been on duty on all 18 occasions when a patient suffered an arrest. Once the connection was made, Mr Geen was confronted at work and immediately suspended. He was arrested the same day and police found an empty syringe in his pocket. The pocket in which it was found was wet, and tests later established the liquid contained traces of drugs capable of causing respiratory failure.

Normal procedure was to throw out syringes after use, Mr Austin-Smith said. "You may wish to consider why the defendant was carrying around a syringe which had been used on a number of occasions," he told the jury. "When he realised he was going to be arrested he had plainly emptied that syringe."

The court heard that one of the men alleged to have been killed by Mr Geen was already very unwell when admitted in January 2004.

Anthony Bateman was asthmatic, arthritic, had a heart condition and was thought to have an underlying cancer. But this was not, experts later said, the reason for his respiratory arrest. Had doctors known that a muscle relaxant might have been the cause of the arrest, they would have resuscitated him. "This man was seriously ill and he may have died in any event but that is not the question for you," Mr Austin-Smith told the jury.

The second fatal case was also ill when he was admitted. But doctors said there was "no medical reason" why David Onley should have stopped breathing and lost consciousness - unless he had been given an unauthorised muscle relaxant. They said the respiratory arrest would have made Mr Onley more vulnerable to the heart attack he later had.

The trial continues.

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Ancient Russian Manuscript Describes 19th Century UFO Sightings

Created: 07.02.2006 16:50 MSK (GMT +3), Updated: 16:55 MSK MosNews

Nowadays reports of UFO sightings appear in the media so frequently that they hardly catch anyone’s eye. More often than not the alleged UFOs turn out to be signal rockets, meteorological probes, airplanes or their traces. But this certainly does not apply to sightings registered centuries ago — when no rockets or airplanes existed at all. Moscow daily Komsomolskaya Pravda publishes a document from a personal archive that tells of a UFO spotted over Kremlin back in 1808.
Diagram of a UFO flight over the Kremlin“I found this document in the personal archive of a Moscow senator Peter Poludensky, who worked for the Tsar’s Secret Service and died in the middle of XIX century. Apparently the manuscript attracted his attention for some reason,” says Alexander Afanasyev, an expert of the Russian State History Museum, department of manuscripts.

“Ufology is really not my area, but I am determined that the manuscript describes a UFO.”

“Radiance Over the Kremlin”

“On September, 1, 1808, at 8 o’clock and 7 minutes in the afternoon, in the sky, clear and sown with stars, a phenomenon appeared, incomparable in its beauty and rigor, as well as in radiance and enormous size, to anything seen before. As we noticed it, attracted by the loud cracking sound, it was rising in an arch over the horizon, from 55’ to almost 90’. Having passed this distance in an instant, it stopped among the clouds as if over the Kremlin and looked like a long straight plate some nine arshin (6.35 meter) long and half arshin (0.35 meter) thick.

Then on its front edge, turned to the South-West, an oval flame flared, some two arshin (1.4 meter) long and one and a half arshin (1.4 meter) thick, with a flame that can only be compared to the radiance of burning phosphor.

Floating in a circle without open fire or sparkle, it nonetheless lighted everything around as broad daylight; then the flame went out, the light disappeared, but the bright plate remained and quite smoothly went perpendicularly upwards, reached the stars and still could be seen for some two minutes and then, without disappearing, it became invisible due to the extraordinary height.”

Indeed, the mysterious object described bears resemblance to modern UFOs descroptions by its ability to stop and start off abruptly, radiating light, regular shape. However, Afanasyev rules out the possibility of the manuscript being a fake.

“Impossible. The manuscript is written on authentic paper, produced in 1805. The spelling and the style obviously belong to the beginning of XIX century, and the author must have been an educated person, probably a Moscow State University professor, since the University is just across the street from the Kremlin.”

The researcher turned to astronauts, hoping to find out what the author of the manuscript actually witnessed, but unexpectedly the astronomers helped him identify the author.

“In 1808 at a meeting of Moscow Naturalist Society Andrey Chebotaryov, a 24-year-old professor of chemistry at the Moscow University, made a report on a meteor that he happened to see,” says Galina Ponomaryova, an expert of the State Astronomy University.

“Of course it was not a meteor, but at that time any object in the sky was identified as a meteor.”

The Scheme

The manuscript was accompanied by a sketch, depicting what Chebotaryov saw.

1. September, 13, 1808 at 20:07 at the Moscow State University Chebotaryov hears a cracking noise, and lookin out of the window sees a rectangle object 6.35 meters long and 0.35 meters thick, rising in an arc.

2. The object freezes over the Kremlin at some two or three kilometers’ height. On the lateral part a bright ball of flamó flared, some 1.5 meters in diameter. The radiance continued for five seconds.

3. When the radiance went out, the object smoothly raised vertically upwards and was visible for two minutes.

“The aim of this document still remains a mystery for me,” Afanasyev adds.

“At first I suggested that it was a draft for an article in the paper, but neither the Moscow State University’s newspaper, nor any other Moscow edition published this material.

Chebotaryov could be preparing an article for the Moscow Naturalist Society newsletter, but for some reason it was never published and stayed in the archive until Peter Poludensky discovered it. Finally, the manuscript was rediscovered by modern researchers and couls be published for the broader public.

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Vietnam man handles three decades without sleep

Tuesday, February 14, 2006 12:51:09 Vietnam (GMT+07)Reported by Vu Phuong Thao – Translated by Thu Thuy

As songbirds awaken the early risers at dawn on the farm, one resident is already up; in fact, he never slept – not once in the past 33 years.

You’d think going without sleep for that long may have its drawbacks, but not for the man in central Quang Nam province who has never been ill after decades of insomnia.

His inability to sleep has not only made him famous, but also represents a “miraculous” phenomenon worthy of scientific study.
Sixty-four-year-old Thai Ngoc, known as Hai Ngoc, said he could not sleep at night after getting a fever in 1973, and has counted infinite numbers of sheep during more than 11,700 consecutive sleepless nights.

“I don’t know whether the insomnia has impacted my health or not. But I’m still healthy and can farm normally like others,” Ngoc said.

Proving his health, the elderly resident of Que Trung commune, Que Son district said he can carry two 50kg bags of fertilizer down 4km of road to return home every day.

His wife said, “My husband used to sleep well, but these days, even liquor cannot put him down.”

She said when Ngoc went to Da Nang for a medical examination, doctors gave him a clean bill of health, except a minor decline in liver function.

Ngoc currently lives on his 5ha farm at the foot of a mountain busy with farming and taking care of pigs and chickens all day. His six children live at their house in Que Trung.

“I have tried sleeping pills and Vietnamese traditional medicine but nothing helps, even to sleep for a few minutes,” he said.

Creature of the night

Ngoc often does extra farm work or guards his farm at night to prevent theft, saying he used three months of sleepless nights to dig two large ponds to raise fish.

Neighbor Vu said Ngoc volunteered to help beat a drum during the night and guard the house for the relatives of the dead during funeral ceremonies so that they could take a nap.

Vu also said when the commune was planting sugar cane, several people also asked Ngoc to awaken them at midnight to go to work, since he was up anyway.

On Ngoc’s prolonged insomnia, Phan Ngoc Ha, director of the Hoa Khanh Mental Hospital in Danang said sleep disorders often cause anorexia, lethargy, and irritability.

But, in special cases, some people can handle it and still live and work normally, although this was a very small ratio among insomniacs, Ha added.

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Ark's Quantum Quirks

SOTT February 15, 2006



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