- Signs of the Times for Sat, 18 Feb 2006 -

Editorial: The Protocols of the Pathocrats

Laura Knight-Jadczyk
18 Feb 06

In this week's podcast we discuss what we have identified as the very first problem that must be solved in order for positive changes to be undertaken in American and elsewhere in the world: the Media.

Knowledge is power. Those who control information can control the masses; it's that simple.

As we researched the subject of the media, we came across The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. As everyone knows, this is a vicious anti-Semitic hoax. We agree. We do not for a minute think that this represents Judaism or ordinary Jewish people.

What was shocking for us was our realization that the Protocols is being implemented almost line by line by many of the members of the Bush Administration and the various government 'think-tanks' that formulate their policy. In other words, the Protocols is not a hoax because it is nonsense, but rather it is only a hoax because it was attributed to Jews.

Here, we present the text of Protocol 12 from which several excerpts were read on the podcast and which we jokingly referred to as "The Gospel According to Karl Rove."

Read it and understand that this is, indeed, the number one issue that America must deal with before they can do a single other thing.

PROTOCOL No. 12 Control of the Press

1. The word "freedom," which can be interpreted in various ways, is defined by us as follows -

2. Freedom is the right to do what which the law allows. This interpretation of the word will at the proper time be of service to us, because all freedom will thus be in our hands, since the laws will abolish or create only that which is desirable for us according to the aforesaid program.

3. We shall deal with the press in the following way: what is the part played by the press to-day? It serves to excite and inflame those passions which are needed for our purpose or else it serves selfish ends of parties. It is often vapid, unjust, mendacious, and the majority of the public have not the slightest idea what ends the press really serves. We shall saddle and bridle it with a tight curb: we shall do the same also with all productions of the printing press, for where would be the sense of getting rid of the attacks of the press if we remain targets for pamphlets and books? The produce of publicity, which nowadays is a source of heavy expense owing to the necessity of censoring it, will be turned by us into a very lucrative source of income to our State: we shall lay on it a special stamp tax and require deposits of caution-money before permitting the establishment of any organ of the press or of printing offices; these will then have to guarantee our government against any kind of attack on the part of the press.

For any attempt to attack us, if such still be possible, we shall inflict fines without mercy. Such measures as stamp tax, deposit of caution-money and fines secured by these deposits, will bring in a huge income to the government. It is true that party organs might not spare money for the sake of publicity, but these we shall shut up at the second attack upon us. No one shall with impunity lay a finger on the aureole of our government infallibility. The pretext for stopping any publication will be the alleged plea that it is agitating the public mind without occasion or justification. I BEG YOU TO NOTE THAT AMONG THOSE MAKING ATTACKS UPON US WILL ALSO BE ORGANS ESTABLISHED BY US, BUT THEY WILL ATTACK EXCLUSIVELY POINTS THAT WE HAVE PRE-DETERMINED TO ALTER.

4. NOT A SINGLE ANNOUNCEMENT WILL REACH THE PUBLIC WITHOUT OUR CONTROL. Even now this is already being attained by us inasmuch as all news items are received by a few agencies, in whose offices they are focused from all parts of the world. These agencies will then be already entirely ours and will give publicity only to what we dictate to them.

5. If already now we have contrived to possess ourselves of the minds of the GOY communities to such an extent the they all come near looking upon the events of the world through the colored glasses of those spectacles we are setting astride their noses; if already now there is not a single State where there exist for us any barriers to admittance into what GOY stupidity calls State secrets: what will our positions be then, when we shall be acknowledged supreme lords of the world in the person of our king of all the world ....

6. Let us turn again to the FUTURE OF THE PRINTING PRESS. Every one desirous of being a publisher, librarian, or printer, will be obliged to provide himself with the diploma instituted therefore, which, in case of any fault, will be immediately impounded. With such measures THE INSTRUMENT OF THOUGHT WILL BECOME AN EDUCATIVE MEANS ON THE HANDS OF OUR GOVERNMENT, WHICH WILL NO LONGER ALLOW THE MASS OF THE NATION TO BE LED ASTRAY IN BY-WAYS AND FANTASIES ABOUT THE BLESSINGS OF PROGRESS. Is there any one of us who does not know that these phantom blessings are the direct roads to foolish imaginings which give birth to anarchical relations of men among themselves and towards authority, because progress, or rather the idea of progress, has introduced the conception of every kind of emancipation, but has failed to establish its limits .... All the so-called liberals are anarchists, if not in fact, at any rate in thought. Every one of them in hunting after phantoms of freedom, and falling exclusively into license, that is, into the anarchy of protest for the sake of protest....

7. We turn to the periodical press. We shall impose on it, as on all printed matter, stamp taxes per sheet and deposits of caution-money, and books of less than 30 sheets will pay double. We shall reckon them as pamphlets in order, on the one hand, to reduce the number of magazines, which are the worst form of printed poison, and, on the other, in order that this measure may force writers into such lengthy productions that they will be little read, especially as they will be costly. At the same time what we shall publish ourselves to influence mental development in the direction laid down for our profit will be cheap and will be read voraciously. The tax will bring vapid literary ambitions within bounds and the liability to penalties will make literary men dependent upon us. And if there should be any found who are desirous of writing against us, they will not find any person eager to print their productions. Before accepting any production for publication in print, the publisher or printer will have to apply to the authorities for permission to do so. Thus we shall know beforehand of all tricks preparing against us and shall nullify them by getting ahead with explanations on the subject treated of.

8. Literature and journalism are two of the most important educative forces, and therefore our government will become proprietor of the majority of the journals. This will neutralize the injurious influence of the privately-owned press and will put us in possession of a tremendous influence upon the public mind .... If we give permits for ten journals, we shall ourselves found thirty, and so on in the same proportion. This, however, must in no wise be suspected by the public. For which reason all journals published by us will be of the most opposite, in appearance, tendencies and opinions, thereby creating confidence in us and bringing over to us quite unsuspicious opponents, who will thus fall into our trap and be rendered harmless.

9. In the front rank will stand organs of an official character. They will always stand guard over our interests, and therefore their influence will be comparatively insignificant.

10. In the second rank will be the semi-official organs, whose part it will be to attack the tepid and indifferent.

11. In the third rank we shall set up our own, to all appearance, opposition, which, in at least one of its organs, will present what looks like the very antipodes to us. Our real opponents at heart will accept this simulated opposition as their own and will show us their cards.

12. All our newspapers will be of all possible complexions -- aristocratic, republican, revolutionary, even anarchical - for so long, of course, as the constitution exists .... Like the Indian idol "Vishnu" they will have a hundred hands, and every one of them will have a finger on any one of the public opinions as required. When a pulse quickens these hands will lead opinion in the direction of our aims, for an excited patient loses all power of judgment and easily yields to suggestion. Those fools who will think they are repeating the opinion of a newspaper of their own camp will be repeating our opinion or any opinion that seems desirable for us. In the vain belief that they are following the organ of their party they will, in fact, follow the flag which we hang out for them.

13. In order to direct our newspaper militia in this sense we must take special and minute care in organizing this matter. Under the title of central department of the press we shall institute literary gatherings at which our agents will without attracting attention issue the orders and watchwords of the day. By discussing and controverting, but always superficially, without touching the essence of the matter, our organs will carry on a sham fight fusillade with the official newspapers solely for the purpose of giving occasion for us to express ourselves more fully than could well be done from the outset in official announcements, whenever, of course, that is to our advantage.


15. Methods of organization like these, imperceptible to the public eye but absolutely sure, are the best calculated to succeed in bringing the attention and the confidence of the public to the side of our government. Thanks to such methods we shall be in a position as from time to time may be required, to excite or to tranquillize the public mind on political questions, to persuade or to confuse, printing now truth, now lies, facts or their contradictions, according as they may be well or ill received, always very cautiously feeling our ground before stepping upon it .... WE SHALL HAVE A SURE TRIUMPH OVER OUR OPPONENTS SINCE THEY WILL NOT HAVE AT THEIR DISPOSITION ORGANS OF THE PRESS IN WHICH THEY CAN GIVE FULL AND FINAL EXPRESSION TO THEIR VIEWS owing to the aforesaid methods of dealing with the press. We shall not even need to refute them except very superficially.

16. Trial shots like these, fired by us in the third rank of our press, in case of need, will be energetically refuted by us in our semi-official organs.

17. Even nowadays, already, to take only the French press, there are forms which reveal masonic solidarity in acting on the watchword: all organs of the press are bound together by professional secrecy; like the augurs of old, not one of their numbers will give away the secret of his sources of information unless it be resolved to make announcement of them. Not one journalist will venture to betray this secret, for not one of them is ever admitted to practice literature unless his whole past has some disgraceful sore or other .... These sores would be immediately revealed. So long as they remain the secret of a few the prestige of the journalist attacks the majority of the country - the mob follow after him with enthusiasm.

18. Our calculations are especially extended to the provinces. It is indispensable for us to inflame there those hopes and impulses with which we could at any moment fall upon the capital, and we shall represent to the capitals that these expressions are the independent hopes and impulses of the provinces. Naturally, the source of them will be always one and the same - ours. WHAT WE NEED IS THAT, UNTIL SUCH TIME AS WE ARE IN THE PLENITUDE POWER, THE CAPITALS SHOULD FIND THEMSELVES STIFLED BY THE PROVINCIAL OPINION OF THE NATIONS, I.E., OF A MAJORITY ARRANGED BY OUR AGENTUR. What we need is that at the psychological moment the capitals should not be in a position to discuss an accomplished fact for the simple reason, if for no other, that it has been accepted by the public opinion of a majority in the provinces.


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Editorial: 7862 Iraqi Prisoners Murdered In U.S. Custody

Signs of the Times
February 18, 2006

Two days ago, online magazine Salon.com announcedd that they had obtained files and other electronic documents from an internal Army investigation into the Abu Ghraib prisoner-abuse scandal.

The files, from the Army's Criminal Investigation Command contained a total of 1,325 new images of suspected detainee abuse, 93 video files of suspected detainee abuse, 660 images of adult pornography, 546 images of suspected dead Iraqi detainees, 29 images of soldiers in simulated sexual acts, 20 images of a soldier with a Swastika drawn between his eyes, 37 images of Military Working dogs being used in abuse of detainees and 125 images of questionable acts. Based on time signatures of the digital cameras used, all the photographs and videos were taken between Oct. 18, 2003, and Dec. 30, 2003. Some of the images can be seen here.

Over a period of about 10 weeks in 2003 then, the US military and members of the CIA, acting on the orders of the Pentagon and undoubtedly with the knowledge of members of the US government, tortured 546 Iraqi prisoners to death in Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.

That 'higher ups' were well aware of, and indeed were deliberately orchestrating these acts is evidenced by the many testimonies by 'lowly' U.S. soldiers who were forced to carry the can for the depravity of their superiors. One notable example is that of Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Chip Frederick who was interviewed by 60 Minutes in April 2004:

“We had no support, no training whatsoever. And I kept asking my chain of command for certain things...like rules and regulations,” says Frederick. “And it just wasn't happening."

Six months before he faced a court martial, Frederick sent home a video diary of his trip across the country. Frederick, a reservist, said he was proud to serve in Iraq. He seemed particularly well-suited for the job at Abu Ghraib. He’s a corrections officer at a Virginia prison, whose warden described Frederick to us as “one of the best.”

Frederick says Americans came into the prison: "We had military intelligence, we had all kinds of other government agencies, FBI, CIA ... All those that I didn't even know or recognize."

Frederick's letters and email messages home also offer clues to problems at the prison. He wrote that he was helping the interrogators:

"Military intelligence has encouraged and told us 'Great job.'"

"They usually don't allow others to watch them interrogate. But since they like the way I run the prison, they have made an exception."

"We help getting them to talk with the way we handle them. ... We've had a very high rate with our style of getting them to break. They usually end up breaking within hours."

No doubt, how long would it take you to "break" if you were being sodomised with a floresent light tube?

Attorney Gary Myers and a judge advocate in Iraq are defending Frederick. They say he should never have been charged, because of the failure of his commanders to provide proper training and standards.

"The elixir of power, the elixir of believing that you're helping the CIA, for God's sake, when you're from a small town in Virginia, that's intoxicating,” says Myers. “And so, good guys sometimes do things believing that they are being of assistance and helping a just cause. ... And helping people they view as important."

Unfortunately, and contrary to government spin that "torture in U.S. prisons is not widespread", there is no reason to believe that Oct. 18th 2003 was the beginning of these acts of torture and murder, nor can we have any hope that they ended on Dec. 30, 2003. If we take the figure of 546 murdered Iraqi detainess during this 10 week period as an average, we are left with a figure of approximately 7,500 Iraqi detainess that have probably been murdered by US military personnel and members of the CIA (and Mossad) since the beginning of the Iraq invasion. Of course, this figure is likely to be on the low side since there is little doubt that the full extent of these atrocities have been revealed, or will ever be revealed, to the general public.

Given the indsicriminate way in which the US military's goes about arresting Iraqi insurgent suspects, it is very likely that many of the murdered Iraqis were in no way connected with armed resistance to the US military presence in Iraq. The International Red Cross has stated that between 75 and 90% of Iraqis arrested are in fact innocent of any crime. Not that being a member of the Iraqi resistance or defending one's life and family against a ruthless invader can ever be construed as a crime, at least not under any just interpretation of man-made law.

In the face of this evidence, and the observable facts from the past five years, who can disagree that the US government is a brutal regime bent on the destruction of the Middle East and its inhabitants? Who can disagree that the American NeoCons are doing the bidding of the Israeli government and their Zionists taskmasters? The day after the September 11th attacks, former (and soon to be again) Israeli Prime Minister Benjamim Netanyahu wrote an article for the New York Post entitled: "Today We are All Americans", where he stated:

"What is at stake today is nothing less than the survival of civilization... I have absolute confidence that if we, the citizens of the free world, led by President Bush, will marshal the enormous reserves of power at our disposal, harness the steely resolve of a free people and mobilize our collective will to eradicate this evil from the face of the earth.... The international terrorist network is thus based on regimes - Iran, Iraq, Syria, Taleban Afghanistan, Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority and several other Arab regimes such as the Sudan. For the bin Ladens of the world, Israel is merely a sideshow. America is the target"

Does anyone think it is mere coincidence that Netanyahu was able to name the very same countries that have been, or are soon to be, attacked by the US military since that day? The day after the 9/11 attacks, we were told that no one even knew who had carried out the attacks, much less the countries that supported the attackers.

But Netanyahu knew.

Are we to assume that he possesses powers of divination? Or is it that the entire concept of "world-wide Islamic terrorism", the 9/11 attacks and the resulting invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq and now Iran and Syria, are all a part of one giant conspiracy to reshape the world in the likeness of the Pathocrat?

The facts speak for themselves.

See today's stories on torture for more on this topic.

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Editorial: Slow Murder of the Fourth Amendment

Kurt Nimmo

Earlier today, I called Jack Blood’s radio show on GCN and complained loudly and mightily about how the PATRIOT Act was rubber stamped by the Senate yesterday, paving the way for all manner of continued and increasing malfeasance against the people and the now jackboot trampled and seriously bruised (if not comatose) Bill of Rights.

“The Senate voted 96-3 to move toward final passage of new civil liberties protections to the Patriot Act, which the White House negotiated with a handful of Republicans,” reports Knight Ridder. “Some Democrats remain convinced that the post-Sept. 11, 2001, anti-terrorism law gives the federal government too much power to intrude into the lives of innocent Americans. It is set to expire next month unless it is renewed.”

Of course, these are the same Democrats who apparently don’t have a problem with the NSA snooping in on your phone calls and email, almost effortlessly crumbling under “heavy pressure” from the Straussian neocons, according to ranking Senate Intelligence Committee Democrat Jay Rockefeller (the name alone should provide a clue why he has acquiesced).

Instead of protecting the people of the United States from the heavy-handed and authoritarian tactics of the neocons, Pat Roberts has suggested the 1978 FISA law governing electronic “eavesdropping” (basically underwear drawer snooping) be modified to allow “extensive briefings on the closely guarded National Security Agency program,” in other words a select few enemies of the people will be included in the loop.

NSA snooping is nothing new—it has simply taken on a new urgency under the Bushian neocons as they inexorably wend their demented way toward total war and, in the process, strive to silence (if not eliminate) their growing number of critics. General Michael Hayden—the guy who believes the Fourth Amendment contains no requirement for probable cause—made sure to tell us the NSA is operating under Executive Order 12333, signed by Reagan in 1981.

EO 12333 was created to allow the FBI to use intrusive “investigatory” techniques, such as mail openings, wiretaps and burglaries, when there was supposedly probable cause to suspect a “terrorist” threat. “Executive Order 12333, permits the FBI and CIA to surveil individuals even if they are not breaking the law or acting on behalf of a foreign power,” explains Margaret Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights. “Searches need not be limited to offices, or to premises under the control of a suspected agent, nor need they be linked to the alleged commission of an unlawful act.” In short, so-called searches can be conducted in massive, sweeping, and indiscriminate fashion. “Ratner noted with irony that the FBI’s remarkable claim of this unconstitutional inherent authority came after the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ‘turned down an FBI request for a warrant to conduct a black bag job, holding that Congress had given it jurisdiction only over electronic surveillance,’” according to PublicEye (see previous link). FISA was chucked as useless more than two decades ago.

In other words, we have lived under the eye of a fascist and technocratic Panopticon for some time now and the NSA “scandal” is nothing new—instead, under the direction of the Machiavellian neocons, untethered and muscular surveillance has reached a quite natural and logical (under the authoritarian rubric) height. If the technology now currently employed existed in the 1930s, no doubt the Nazis (and Stalin) would have used it in similar fashion.

As the history of COINTELPRO reveals, the idea here is not to monitor Osama’s phone calls placed from an Afghan cave, but instead investigating and disrupting dissident political organizations and individuals (and thus violating the Constitution and the Bill of Rights). First and foremost, the NSA snoop program (and parallel efforts such as CIFA at the Pentagon) is all about psychological warfare, harassment, intimidation, infiltration, black bag jobs, and even so-called extralegal force and violence. COINTELPRO, however, was illegal—but under the newly enshrined PATRIOT, the COINTELPROesque efforts of the Straussian neocons are entirely legal—and will be put to good use.

In the months ahead—as the Straussian neocons shock and awe Iran and other selected enemies—no doubt we will find out how effective massive snooping (and psywar unbound) is against those of us who speak and act out.

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Editorial: How long do you have?

By John Kaminski
Will you wait to be killed, or ID the real perpetrators?

How do you talk to your neighbor when he's right in the middle of killing someone?

What if all your neighbors are doing it, what do you do then? Do you also start killing?

And then there are those who are the real victims, the relatives of suddenly mutilated corpses you now so glibly explain away as facile geopolitical rationalizations, exactly what do you say to those folks?

Remember the words of Madeleine Albright: “We think the price is worth it.”

How do you speak to a nation where half the population can’t read?

They want to kill you for what you've done, you know. Can you blame them? Americans who have murdered innocent darkskinned people with bizarre video games in hightech machines ... all that has been created by the Iraq war is a visceral search for vengeance sweeping the entire world to punish America in the same sadistic manner this phony Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave has punished the world, to reverse the same torture techniques that the United States and its overlords Britain and Israel now flash around the world like squalid semen from the devil himself.

Iraq is bleeding with a fatal wound, and very soon, the cyber sentinels tell us, the nation of Iran, one of the oldest countries on the planet, will suffer the same tortured fate.

For what, may I ask?

The Zionist monster, three nations merged together in a capitalist terror machine run by the same people who ran the killing apparatus in the Soviet Union, merged with the sellouts who created Nazi Germany. All of that has been glued together in an epoxy of evil, with the blackmail, bribery and murder coordinated by the state of Israel. As we speak, it spreads like a cancer around the world and stains humanity with its murderous and conscienceless faux justifications.

Justifications for endless murder and robbery.

From the Hindu Kalachakra to Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain, we have been adequately warned. But the power of money and media are overpowering, and when combined with pharmaceuticals, nutrition, education, medicine and literature all conspiring to turn us into alienated robots, the average joe doesn’t stand much of a chance against the forces of predesigned slavery that are arrayed against him.

Identifying the perpetrators is always the key step. Exactly who is doing what to whom.

How long will you cling to the excuse that this is the way the system is, that I owe allegiance to my country and my cause? How long will you insist that you are not responsible for the psychopathic banking kingpins who run roughshod over phony laws and rob and kill whomever they choose?

Or will you just waltz quietly into the amorphous white noise of your slavery?

When will you reach the inevitable conclusion that it is the very way you think that has created all this carnage, images of fear that have turned our collective social life a nauseating shade of brown and black? And red, for the innocent blood shed like a savior in every family. How is it you came to be such a whimpering coward, too afraid of losing his own stash of gold that you became willing to overlook the crimes for which you accept responsibility — the Palestinians lying bleeding in the dirt of Gaza, and the crushed red shells of children’s skulls in Baghdad.

When we made that choice in our cowardice, we forfeited the future of the human species for a potful of meaningless currency. And now we're paying the price with our children, though most of us are either too drugged or too dumbed down to even notice.

Deny it if you like, but this is what our world has come to. Do you know how to shoot a gun? And will it do any good?

Can you imagine what it must be like to have to use a gun every day in order just to survive? The scenario is coming sooner than you think to America. Although by then (maybe tomorrow), everyone will be so drugged down from the poison they buy in supermarkets (sing it with me — AS-PAR-TAME!) and mentally twisted from the subliminal dumbdown programming on TV that there will be no revolution this time, only a slow, somnambulent walk as in a grey dream right out of the Talmud into the neocon extermination camps now currently under construction by the fine folks at, you guessed it! — Halliburton.

If you don't know who or what Halliburton is by now, then you should make out your will as best you can, and prepare to meet a violent death in the coming months.

I remember from reading dozens of disaster novels back when I was a young turk. And I remember wondering about the calm, unsuspecting narration just before some colossal disaster. It’s always eerie to contemplate what the writer didn’t know about in advance, like some comet from the human subconscious come to wipe out the species.

Very sad to say (and I proceed with advance apologies) but a popular topic of conversation down at your local therapist these days is to consider how each of you reading this story is likely to die in the coming months.

Tops on the list right now is a nuclear strike on Iran that leads to either retaliation and destruction of the United States (a process of advanced decay already proceeding nicely on the financial and legal levels), or some unforeseen tectonic or atmospheric consequence that will kill billions.

But what perhaps is even more frightening is the formidable list of alternative death scenarios that are right behind it.

No. 2 is probably to be thrown into a Halliburton concentration camp for wearing an anti-Bush T-shirt and being tortured to death by teenagers from Connecticut on Prozac and in the Marines, just returned from duty at Abu Ghraib.

Here are some others scenarios.

• Your chemotherapy doctor ups your dose and you’re out of here.

• Some cop decides he doesn’t like the greasiness of your hair, and because he knows he can get away with it, he does, and you’re done.

• You were in the Army, got irradiated in Iraq, and now have infected your wife and kids.

• When you return from Iraq, you realize what you have done to innocent women and children in the name of nothing, and put a gun to your own head.

There are just four random probabilities in your immediate future, in this world of bloody bullshit that you have created for yourself.

Most of us will disappear from the universe very soon without ever knowing who it was that created many of these situations that cause us needless pain and suffering, that have killed so many people needlessly.

And we who finally found out must forever live with the guilt that we knew what we saw but couldn’t stop it.

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Editorial: Redneckville

by Rob Kall

How would you feel if you could travel back in time and visit a rally in Germany, supporting Hitler.

I spent a few hours in Redneckville yesterday, in the Pocono region of Pennsylvania. I took my son skiing (yes, I DID do deep double diamond moguls) and it was difficult, sitting in the lodge, to not glare at the guys who seemed to perfectly fit the profile of the right wingers in the People's Poll. These men were white, blue collar, with a few kids, wives with too much cheap makeup... some wearing patriotic tee shirts. These are the rural, born-again men who make up the strongest base of the right wing. I saw them as people who would, in the 1930's, have rallied behind Hitler. I felt like putting on a tee shirt that said, Still Like Bush, You'd Have Loved Hitler in the Early 1930's

I'd say that I have about a 90% chance of being accurate on my assessments of these right wing rural white men. It gets harder and harder to be quiet around these kool-aid-brainwashed white boys who are hurrying the end of democracy and the blooming of full-fledged fascism in this nation. Like a time traveller seeing Hitler supporters in the 1930's, I see these average to below average intelligence, sports fanatic, gun toting, self righteous, hyper masculinized guys as a major part of THE problem. I see them as unconscious puppets, easily manipulated by the dark, corporate fascist forces that have been shaping the US since Bush stole the presidency. Call me paranoid. Tell me to lighten up. But I am no longer willing to be cheerful and friendly with these failures of democracy, these losers who have sold out our precious freedoms so they can, even if it's at a subconscious level, feel more manly, more tough, by buying into Bush's war, his pseudo tough, stupid, cowboy talk about evildooers, swamps and caves. These men ARE the swamp and cave dwellers, and they are actively helping to send the US into a third world era.

Rob Kall is editor of OpEdNews.com, President of Futurehealth, Inc, and organizer of several conferences, including StoryCon, the Summit Meeting on the Art, Science and Application of Story and The Winter Brain Meeting on neurofeedback, biofeedback, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology.

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China Rushes to Complete $100B Deal With Iran

By Peter S. Goodman Washington Post Foreign Service Friday, February 17, 2006

SHANGHAI -- China is hastening to complete a deal worth as much as $100 billion that would allow a Chinese state-owned energy firm to take a leading role in developing a vast oil field in Iran, complicating the Bush administration's efforts to isolate the Middle Eastern nation and roll back its nuclear development plans, according to published reports.
The completion of the agreement would advance China's global quest for new stocks of energy. It could also undermine U.S. and European initiatives to halt Tehran's nuclear plans, possibly generating friction in Beijing's relations with outside powers.

Caijing, a respected financial magazine based in Beijing, reported on its Web site on Thursday that a Chinese delegation comprised of officials from the National Development and Reform Commission -- a top economic policy body -- intends to visit Iran as early as next month to conclude an agreement. The deal would clear China Petrochemical Corp., also known as Sinopec, to develop the Yadavaran oil field in southern Iran.

Beijing and Tehran are attempting to swiftly conclude a deal in the next few weeks, ahead of the possible imposition of international sanctions against Iran, according to a report published in Friday's editions of The Wall Street Journal. The report relied upon unnamed Iranian government officials. Sanctions could hinder Chinese investments in Iran.

Chinese officials declined to comment, and calls to Sinopec's offices went unanswered. In a written statement, the Iranian Embassy in Beijing asserted that the two nations have been working together on energy development, "following the rule of mutual benefits and respect in all bilateral cooperation."

A deal would cement a memorandum of understanding signed by China and Iran in October 2004. The framework agreement pledges that Sinopec will develop the Yadavaran field in exchange for the purchase of 10 million tons of liquefied natural gas a year for the next quarter-century.

Analysts in China said the deal should primarily be seen as part of Beijing's global reach for new energy stocks to fuel its relentless development -- a drive that has in recent years led Chinese companies to invest in Indonesia, Australia, Venezuela, Sudan and Kazakhstan. China is now locked into a high-stakes competition with Japan for access to potentially enormous oil fields in Russia.

But the speed with which China and Iran are moving to conclude their agreement and begin development appears to signal Beijing's intent to limit the United States-led drive for sanctions against Iran to curb what the Washington describes as Tehran's rogue effort to develop nuclear weapons.

As one of the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, China can veto a sanctions proposal within the international body, or at least threaten to do so to restrict the bite and breadth of such an initiative.

"The timing is really interesting," said Shen Dingli, an international relations expert at Fudan University in Shanghai. "China and Iran appear to be collaborating not only for energy development but also to increase the stakes in case sanctions are imposed. This is a subtle message that even if sanctions are passed, you could have limited sanctions without touching upon oil. China is saying, 'This is my cheese. Don't touch.' "

China's voracious appetite for energy is increasingly guiding its foreign policy. China has used the threat of a Security Council veto to limit sanctions against Sudan, the African nation in which China's largest energy firm, China National Petroleum Corp., is the largest investor in a government-led oil consortium. China is the largest buyer of Sudan's oil, as well as the largest supplier of arms to its ruling regime. The Sudanese government has been accused of massacring villagers to clear land for further energy development and of committing genocide in its efforts to crush separatist rebels in the western region of Darfur.

China's pursuit of an energy deal with Iran comes as Tehran has announced the resumption of its uranium enrichment program. Tehran says this work is merely aimed at generating energy, while the Bush administration asserts it is a precursor to the development of nuclear weapons and has been lobbying its allies to take a hard line while threatening sanctions.

China has joined the international chorus in urging Tehran to halt its nuclear plans. But China's aggressive pursuit of an oil deal with Iran underscores how energy security has become a paramount concern for Beijing at a time of relentless industrial growth. Government forecasts show China's demands for imported crude oil swelling from about one-third of its total needs to about 60 percent by 2020.

Analysts assume that the Iranian field could produce as much as 300,000 barrels of oil per day, making it one of the larger overseas operations for a Chinese company. Sinopec would hold a 51 percent stake in the Yadavaran project, according to the Caijing report, while India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp. would hold 29 percent. The rest of the venture would be divided among Iranian companies and perhaps other outside investors.

Comment: Whoops! There goes the Neocon plan to take over the world. The reactions in Washington ought to entertaining!

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War Whore Rice: Iran is global terror 'banker'

AlJazeera 17 Feb 06

The Iranian government is a "central banker" for global terrorism and working with Syria to destablise the Middle East, the US Secretary of State has said.

Speaking in testimony to the US Senate on Thursday, Condoleeza Rice signaled the US intention to step up the diplomatic offensive against Iran, saying the threat it posed went beyond its controversial nuclear programme.

"It's not just Iran's nuclear programme but also their support for terrorism around the world. They are, in effect, the central banker for terrorism," she told the Senate Budget Committee.
Rice’s comments came a few days before a planned trip to the Middle East, during which she plans to hold talks with regional allies on containing a regime she said was bent on "political subversion, terrorism, and support for violent Islamist extremism."

Claiming success for recent US efforts to haul Iran before the UN Security Council for its nuclear activities, she added that it was not possible just to address Iran’s nuclear program “in a vacuum".

"Perhaps one of the biggest challenges we face is the policy of the Iranian regime, which is a policy of destabilization of the world's most volatile and vulnerable region," she said.

"It is Iran's regional policies that really are concerning as we watch them, with their sidekick Syria, destabilizing places like Lebanon and the Palestinian territories and, indeed, even in southern Iraq."

'Strategic challenge'

The United States has accused Iran of supporting militant groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, as well as Iraqi insurgents and Palestinian movements such as Hamas that are opposed to peace with Israel.

Rice's testimony came a day after she and other US officials signaled Washington's intention to launch a broadened diplomatic offensive against Iran calling it a "strategic challenge" to the world.

Meanwhile the Bush administration is hoping to put the spotlight on Tehran at a meeting of the Group of Eight industrial powers in Moscow next week, with plans also in the works for a NATO session specifically on Iran, officials said.


As its contribution to ratcheting up the pressure on Iran, the US House of Representatives voted 404-4 Thursday to approve a resolution condemning the government of Iran for resuming its nuclear activities.

Iran, which insists its nuclear program is strictly for peaceful purposes, pursued its own diplomatic maneuverings on Thursday to counter the American diplomatic onslaught.

Iranian parliament speaker Gholam Ali Hadad-Adel started a two-day visit to Cuba, proclaiming that Tehran was "facing imperialism in the front lines" and needed the Marxist-ruled island's continued support.

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The Dangers of a Middle East Nuclear War

by Michel Chossudovsky February 17, 2006 GlobalResearch.ca

"Current US nuclear weapons policy as immoral, illegal, militarily unnecessary, and dreadfully dangerous. The risk of an accidental or inadvertent nuclear launch is unacceptably high. Far from reducing these risks, the Bush administration has signaled that it is committed to keeping the US nuclear arsenal as a mainstay of its military power - a commitment that is simultaneously eroding the international norms that have limited the spread of nuclear weapons and fissile materials for 50 years. Much of the current US nuclear policy has been in place since before I was secretary of defense, and it has only grown more dangerous and diplomatically destructive in the intervening years." (Robert McNamara, US Secretary of Defense under the Kennedy and Johnson administrations)

The Bush administration's new nuclear doctrine contains specific "guidelines" which allow for "preemptive" nuclear strikes against "rogue enemies" which "possess" or are "developing" weapons of mass destruction (WMD). (2001 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) and Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations (DJNO) ).

The preemptive nuclear doctrine (DJNO), which applies to Iran and North Korea calls for "offensive and defensive integration". It explicitly allows the preemptive use of thermonuclear weapons in conventional war theaters.

In the showdown with Tehran over its alleged nuclear weapons program, these Pentagon "guidelines" would allow, subject to presidential approval, for the launching of punitive bombings using "mini-nukes" or tactical thermonuclear weapons.

While the "guidelines" do not exclude other (more deadly) categories of nukes in the US and/or Israeli nuclear arsenal, Pentagon "scenarios" in the Middle East are currently limited to the use of tactical nuclear weapons including the B-61-11 bunker buster bomb. This particular version of the bunker buster is a thermonuclear bomb, a so-called Nuclear Earth Penetrator or NEP. It is a Weapon of Mass Destruction in the real sense of the word. Its utilization by the US or Israel in the Middle East war theater would trigger a nuclear holocaust.

History of the B61 Thermonuclear Bomb

The B-61 thermonuclear bomb, first produced in 1966, is described as a light weight nuclear device. Its construction essentially extends the technology of the older version of tactical nuclear warheads. (for further details see, http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Usa/Weapons/B61.html .

The B61-11 earth-penetrating version of the B61 was developed in the immediate wake of the Cold War under the Clinton administration. It was configured initially to have a "low" 10 kiloton yield, 66 percent of a Hiroshima bomb, for (post-Cold War) battlefield operations:

"In October 1993, Harold Smith, Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Atomic Energy, sought approval to develop an alternative to the B53 high-yield nuclear bomb, which was the principal "bunker buster" weapon in the U.S. arsenal. The B53 was also the heaviest payload nuke in use, weighing 8,900 pounds, and only deployable from the B-52 bombers. Under the guise of "weapons modernization," Smith was pushing the development of the B61-Mod 11.

... The B61-11 was developed and put into the stockpile without full-scale nuclear tests. Some critics have maintained that the B61-11 is a new nuclear weapon, but the US has said all along that the B61-11 is not new, but a modification of older B61s to give the weapon an earth-penetrating capability to destroy buried targets...."

http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/systems/b61.htm )

The B61-11 was intended for the Middle East. The Clinton administration had in fact threatened to use it against Libya, suggesting that Libya's alleged underground chemical weapons facility at Tarhunah "might be a target of the then-newly deployed B61-11 earth-penetrating nuclear weapon." ( The Record (Bergen County, NJ) February 23, 2003)

Military documents distinguish between the NEP and the "mini-nuke" which are nuclear weapons with a yield of less than 10 kilotons (two thirds of a Hiroshima bomb). The NEP can have a yield of up to a 1000 kilotons, or seventy times a Hiroshima bomb.

This distinction between mini-nukes and NEPs is in many regard misleading. In practice there is no dividing line. We are broadly dealing with the same type of weaponry: the B61-11 has several "available yields", ranging from "low yields" of less than one kiloton, to mid-range and up to the 1000 kiloton bomb. In all cases, the radioactive fallout is devastating. Moreover, the B61 series of thermonuclear weapons includes several models with distinct specifications: the B61-11, the B61-3, B61- 4, B61-7 and B61-10. Each of these bombs has several "available yields".

What is contemplated for theater use is the "low yield" 10 kt bomb, two thirds of a Hiroshima bomb.

Mini-Nukes in Conventional War Theaters

There are indications that the Bush administration does not exclude using thermonuclear bunker buster bombs in the Middle East war theater. These weapons were specifically developed for use in post Cold War conventional war theater "with third world nations".

In October 2001, in the immediate wake of 9/11, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld envisaged the use of the B61-11 in Afghanistan. The targets were Al Qaeda cave bunkers in the Tora Bora mountains.

Rumsfeld stated at the time that while the "conventional" bunker buster bombs "' are going to be able to do the job', ... he did not rule out the eventual use of nuclear weapons." (Quoted in the Houston Chronicle, 20 October 2001).

The use of the B61-11 was also contemplated during the 2003 bombing and invasion of Iraq. In this regard, the B61-11 was described as "a precise, earth-penetrating low-yield nuclear weapon against high-value underground targets", which included Saddam Hussein's underground bunkers:

"If Saddam was arguably the highest value target in Iraq, then a good case could be made for using a nuclear weapon like the B61-11 to assure killing him and decapitating the regime" (.Defense News, December 8, 2003).

There is no documentary evidence, however, that the B61-11 was used against Iraq.

"Safe for Civilians"

The B61-11 is categorized as a "deep earth penetrating bomb" capable of "destroying the deepest and most hardened of underground bunkers, which the conventional warheads are not capable of doing". The B61-11s can be delivered in much same way as the conventional GBU (gravity bomb), from a B-2. a 5B-2 stealth bomber or from an F-16 aircraft.

"military officials and leaders of America's nuclear weapon laboratories are urging the US to develop a new generation of precision low-yield nuclear weapons... which could be used in conventional conflicts with third-world nations.

Critics argue that adding low-yield warheads to the world's nuclear inventory simply makes their eventual use more likely. In fact, a 1994 law currently prohibits the nuclear laboratories from undertaking research and development that could lead to a precision nuclear weapon of less than 5 kilotons (KT), because "low-yield nuclear weapons blur the distinction between nuclear and conventional war."

... Senate Republicans John Warner (R-VA) and Wayne Allard (R-CO) buried a small provision in the 2001 Defense Authorization Bill that would have overturned these earlier restrictions... Senators Warner and Allard imagine these nuclear weapons could be used in small-scale conventional conflicts against rogue dictators, while leaving most of the civilian population untouched. As one anonymous former Pentagon official put it to the Washington Post last spring, "What's needed now is something that can threaten a bunker tunneled under 300 meters of granite without killing the surrounding civilian population." Statements like these promote the illusion that nuclear weapons could be used in ways which minimize their "collateral damage," making them acceptable tools to be used like conventional weapons." (See http://www.fas.org/faspir/2001 / click v54nl, italics added)

In an utterly twisted logic, the nuclear bunker buster bomb is presented as an instrument of peace-making and regime change, which will enhance global security. It is intended to curb the dangers of WMD proliferation by "nonstate organizations (terrorist, criminal)" and "rogue states". Pentagon propaganda has carefully distorted the nature of this bomb.

The B61-11 is casually described as causing an underground explosion without threatening "the surrounding civilian population".

The Pentagon has blurred the distinction between conventional battlefield weapons and nuclear bombs. Already during the Clinton Administration, the Pentagon was calling for the use of the "nuclear" B61-11 bunker buster bomb, suggesting that because it was "underground", there was no toxic radioactive fallout which could affect civilians.

The Bush administration has gone one step further in defining the use of tactical nuclear weapons, which are now part of America's preemptive arsenal. Essentially they are described defensive weapons. Under the preemptive nuclear doctrine, they are specifically identified for use in conventional war theaters.

The Pentagon claims that the use of the B61-11 minimizes the risks of "collateral damage". According to US. military planners, "potential adversaries" are hiding their WMDs in "fortified bunkers" below more than 100 feet of concrete. Yet test results indicate that the low yield B61-11 has never penetrated more than 20 feet below the ground (See also The Independent. 23 October 2003) :

"The earth-penetrating capability of the B61-11 is fairly limited. ... Tests show it penetrates only 20 feet or so into dry earth when dropped from an altitude of 40,000 feet. ... Any attempt to use it in an urban environment would result in massive civilian casualties. Even at the low end of its 0.3-300 kiloton yield range, the nuclear blast will simply blow out a huge crater of radioactive material, creating a lethal gamma-radiation field over a large area " (Low-Yield Earth-Penetrating Nuclear Weapons by Robert W. Nelson,Federation of American Scientists, 2001 ).

Nuclear Holocaust

According to GlobalSecurity.org , the use of the B61-11 against North Korea would result in extensive radioactive fallout over nearby countries, thereby triggering a nuclear holocaust.

"... In tests the bomb penetrates only 20 feet into dry earth,... But even this shallow penetration before detonation allows a much higher proportion of the explosion to be transferred into ground shock relative to a surface burst. It is not able to counter targets deeply buried under granite rock. Moreover, it has a high yield, in the hundreds of kilotons. If used in North Korea, the radioactive fallout could drift over nearby countries such as Japan" (http://www.globalsecurity.org/wmd/systems/b61.htm )

If it were to be launched against Iran, it would result in radioactive contamination over a large part of the Middle East - Central Asian region, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths, including US troops stationed in Iraq:

"The use of any nuclear weapon capable of destroying a buried target that is otherwise immune to conventional attack will necessarily produce enormous numbers of civilian casualties. No earth-burrowing missile can penetrate deep enough into the earth to contain an explosion with a nuclear yield [of a low yield B61-11] even as small as 1 percent of the 15 kiloton Hiroshima weapon. The explosion simply blows out a massive crater of radioactive dirt, which rains down on the local region with an especially intense and deadly fallout."(Low-Yield Earth-Penetrating Nuclear Weapons, by Robert W. Nelson, op cit )

At present, the B61-11 is slated for use in war theaters together with conventional weapons. (Congressional Report“ Bunker Busters”: Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator Issues , Congressional Research Service March 2005). Other versions of the B61, namely mod 3, 4 and 7, which are part of the US arsenal, involve nuclear bunker buster bombs with a lower yield to that of B61-11).

(For further details see http://nuclearweaponarchive.org/Usa/Weapons/B61.html )

While the US Congress has blocked further research funding in fiscal 2005 on new more robust tactical nuclear weapons, this decision does not affect the existing arsenal of tactical nuclear weapons including the B61-11, developed during the Clinton administration. The B61-11 bunker busters are fully operational, The B61-11 has apparently been tested "resulting in its acceptance as a standard stockpile item". It has been cleared for battlefield use.

Part II of this article is forthcoming on Global Research

Michel Chossudovsky is the author of the international best seller "The Globalization of Poverty " published in eleven languages. He is Professor of Economics at the University of Ottawa and Director of the Center for Research on Globalization, at www.globalresearch.ca . He is also a contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. His most recent book is entitled: America’s "War on Terrorism", Global Research, 2005.

To order Chossudovsky's book America's "War on Terrorism", click here.

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Iran Seeks Allies In Latin America For Nuclear Program

Associated Press 17 Feb 06

CARACAS --Iran is reaching out to Latin American countries from Venezuela to Uruguay, seeking to line up diplomatic allies as it faces increasing scrutiny of its nuclear program.

Touring the region, Iranian lawmakers have turned to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuban President Fidel Castro as key partners against what they call an imperialist U.S. government.
After an initial two-day stop in Venezuela, the delegation traveled to Cuba, where on Thursday National Assembly president Ricardo Alarcon pledged support to Iran in the nuclear dispute.

"No one has the right to deny any people the possibility of the peaceful use of nuclear energy," Alarcon said. "What the world should combat precisely is the monopoly that some have over arms of mass destruction - nuclear ones in particular."

Next, the Iranian delegation headed by parliament speaker Gholam Ali Haddad Adel planned to travel to Brazil and Uruguay, said Hojat Soltani, a spokesman at the Iranian Embassy in Caracas.

"This tour is for further deepening and broadening the relations we have with these counties," Soltani said.

Iran already has loyal backing from Chavez and Castro in the dispute over its nuclear program, but obtaining similar support from other Latin American nations such as Brazil could be difficult, said Larry Birns, director of the Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

Of the International Atomic Energy Agency's 35 members, 27 nations voted last month in favor to referring Iran to U.N. Security Council over fears it aims to build an atomic bomb. Venezuela voted against the referral along with Cuba and Syria, while the remainder abstained.

"I don't think this is going to result in a diplomatic breakthrough for the Iranians. These Latin American nations may simply abstain from voting rather than vote against referring Iran to the council," Birns said.

"Chavez has opened the door for Iran. He's not going to let the White House control his guest list. Some may see this as a bad public relations move, but he genuinely believes in this type of solidarity," said Birns. "I don't think Brazil or Uruguay will be so accommodating."

The U.N. Security Council is to consider Iran's nuclear activities next month. Amid mounting tensions, Iran resumed small-scale uranium enrichment last week. Iran insists the enrichment is for nuclear energy, not arms.

While in Venezuela, Haddad Adel denied that Iran wants to produce nuclear arms but insisted that Tehran has every right to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes - a view strongly shared by Chavez, who has expressed interest in starting a nuclear energy program himself.

The Iranian parliament leader said Tehran had not discussed the possibility of cooperating with Venezuela in nuclear energy technology, but would be willing to consider it. "In the framework of the IAEA, all countries can help each other," he said through an interpreter.

He also proposed joining with Venezuela and other like-minded Latin American countries to help counter U.S. "imperialism."

"Iran and the Mideast and Venezuela and Latin America can act as two convergent axes to neutralize the plans of arrogant world (powers)," Haddad Adel said in a speech to the Venezuelan National Assembly on Tuesday.

Iran has become Venezuela's closest ally in the Middle East, and a range of joint projects include a $200 million development fund and factories to make tractors, auto parts and cement in the South American country.

Before leaving Venezuela, top Iranian and Venezuelan lawmakers signed a document Wednesday saying all nations have a right to peaceful nuclear energy.

They also pledged "joint actions" aimed at "achieving respect for the just cause" of Palestinians, whom they called an "oppressed people."

Venezuela has said it will welcome Palestinian leaders of the Hamas movement on an as-yet-unconfirmed South American tour following their electoral victory.

The United States and Europe consider Hamas a terrorist organization and have refused to deal with a Hamas-led Palestinian leadership.

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Why Iran Can Afford to Be Insane

By Brad Macdonald The Trumpet March 2006 Issue

Although Iran can’t stop the flow of oil, it can reduce the volume of oil flowing onto the global market if it chooses. And any such restriction in oil flow would yield dire results for the economies of America, Europe and Asia—directly affecting transportation, manufacturing, industry, agriculture and the military, with indirect ramifications for every other economic sector. Even a couple of million fewer barrels of oil per day on the market would likely create economic chaos, which would precipitate political crisis.
Is the Iranian president crazy, or canny? Before you answer, consider the ace up his sleeve.

Iran has guts, there’s no doubt about it—what with its pressing forward with nuclear development while threatening to wipe Israel off the map. But these moves aren’t as careless as some people assume, considering the ace Tehran has up its sleeve.

Oil, that is.

The equation is simple. The advanced economies of America and Europe rely heavily on a stable supply of oil, much of it from opec member nations. Iran is the second-largest opec producer and a major contributor to the global oil supply.

In the same manner that nutrient-rich sap is the lifeblood of a tree, furnishing the energy needed to grow, oil provides energy (in many cases, literally) to the largest and most affluent economies on the globe. Oil is absolutely central to our modern lifestyles.

Although Iran can’t stop the flow of oil, it can reduce the volume of oil flowing onto the global market if it chooses. And any such restriction in oil flow would yield dire results for the economies of America, Europe and Asia—directly affecting transportation, manufacturing, industry, agriculture and the military, with indirect ramifications for every other economic sector. Even a couple of million fewer barrels of oil per day on the market would likely create economic chaos, which would precipitate political crisis.

But here is where the analogy breaks down. While a tree wouldn’t respond to a mere threat to reduce its sap flow, with oil it is different. Even the threat of there not being enough oil to meet global demands has an impact.

We experienced this phenomenon in late January. As Europe and America scrambled to drum up support for UN sanctions against Tehran for resuming its nuclear activities, the Iranian oil minister warned that one of the consequences of sanctions will be “the unleashing of a crisis in the oil sector and particularly a price hike” (Agence France Presse, January 19). The news of a potential disruption in the flow of oil from Iran caused oil prices to jump to near four-month highs.

This is quite startling. Iran didn’t actually reduce the amount of oil it contributes to global supply, it just threatened to reduce it—and look what happened.

The amount of influence Iran wields in this scenario is ridiculous. The Iranian oil minister makes a statement to the Middle Eastern press, and you have to pay more at the gas pump. This man is taking more money from your wallet, and there is little you can do to stop him.

Why? Because America, as well as Europe and Asia, absolutely must have a stable flow of oil. Oil has become the Achilles heel of the world’s greatest, most advanced nations. Even though the United States doesn’t receive oil directly from Iran, in the event of Tehran squeezing supply, those nations that do import Iranian oil would have to hunt elsewhere for it. In the end, it affects everyone.

Few Alternatives

As Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad swaggers, endorsing dangerous ideologies, flippantly throwing around offensive remarks that he remains arrogantly unapologetic for, many wonder if this politician isn’t slightly loco—if there aren’t some screws loose in his mind. What else would give him the gall to push around some of the most powerful nations and groups of nations in the world?

But is he crazy, or canny?

It is hard to deny the truth in a threat Ahmadinejad made this past January 14. The Guardian in Britain reported his statement: “Iran had a ‘cheap means’ of achieving its nuclear ‘rights,’ Mr. Ahmadinejad said, adding: ‘You [the West] need us more than we need you. All of you today need the Iranian nation’” (January 16; emphasis mine).

Iranian oil fuels and energizes some of the world’s leading nations. Fully aware of the resultant massive influence it wields on the world scene, Iran believes it can run the risk of pushing around global giants.

Iran is playing for the highest stakes in the global energy game, given that, based on latest figures, that country contains some of the largest proven reserves of hydrocarbons in the world.

That explains the West’s embarrassing timidity in invoking any real penalties on Iran for flouting conventions in its pursuit of nuclear capability. With Iran, regardless of the stridency of the rhetoric from the rest of the world, appeasement is the foreign policy of the day. The major energy-consuming nations dare not risk any move by Iran to further disrupt an already high-priced energy market.

The most ironic aspect of the situation is this: These nations’ response to Tehran’s prestige has gone well beyond mere inattention. In the scramble for energy resources, Germany, having the leading industrial economy in Europe, realized early that the nuclear option would be a prime negotiating tool in gaining favorable access to Iranian energy resources. Even 30 years ago, it ensured an early place in the development of Iran’s nuclear technology by signing its first contract to assist in this project. Since then, it has been joined by Russia and China in aiding and abetting Iran’s development of nuclear power, using various tricks of delay in contractual fulfillment as diplomatic carrots or sticks, depending on the mood reflected by their major Islamic client.

But there is now a stark new threat. The ayatollahs may have been extreme, but Ahmadinejad is truly a volatile, unpredictable customer whose violent vocalizing against Israel, the U.S. and EU members is forcing these nations to reassess their foreign policies toward this rising king of the south. Now Ahmadinejad has ripped the UN seals off Iran’s stalled nuclear program and declared his intention to proceed full-steam ahead with the development of a nuclear capability, despite any global opinion to the contrary.

Sure, UN sanctions would hurt the Iranian economy, and its national income would decrease substantially if it chose to withhold oil from the market. But Tehran knows such measures would hurt America and Europe even more. It could potentially devastate their economies! These facts infuse Iran’s leaders with tremendous confidence.

The Danger of Overconfidence

The Iranians are failing to consider all the ramifications of their flippant behavior, however. They are blinded by arrogance and overconfidence. They operate under the assumption that they can push Europe and America around without serious implications. Time will prove them wrong.

Europe is heavily dependent on outside sources for its energy. The lives and well-being of most Europeans depend heavily on Russian natural gas and opec oil. Threatening Europe’s supply of energy is the same as threatening the lives of Europeans! President Ahmadinejad is foolish for thinking Europe will roll over and acquiesce to Tehran’s wishes. To push at Europe by threatening its energy supply is naive and highly dangerous.

Facing Russian instability to the east and Iranian arrogance to the south, Europe has to secure the flow of oil and natural gas into its borders. And this will not be good news for Iran.

For more than a decade, our editor in chief has foretold of bullying tactics by Iran that would “push” Europe over the edge—inviting a blitzkrieg attack from the Europeans. This is based on a prophecy in Daniel 11 that shows Europe, a resurrection of the old Roman Empire—an outgrowth of Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon—marching into the Middle East, partially to secure its energy supplies.

Europe’s energy issues will play a significant part in bringing this biblical prophecy to pass. Continuing resistance by Ahmadinejad to German-led EU initiatives on the nuclear front, stymieing EU efforts to tap further into Iran’s massive oil and gas reserves, will ultimately awaken the beast in the German breast. With the engines of this formidable global power needing fuel, and present sources proving so unpredictable, we can expect that, quite soon, Europe will rise up and impose its will on this energy-rich nation by force.

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Iraq Attacks Increase

Pakistan Tribune 17 Feb 06

The US military has warned that rebel attacks across Iraq have increased 30 percent over the past few weeks, the statement coming as attacks across the country Thursday wounded 30 people and killed at least eleven.
Three car bombs exploded in the capital Baghdad, killing an Iraqi civilian and wounding 18, an interior ministry source said.

Two of the bombs appeared to target passing police cars.

An army lieutenant-colonel was shot dead in southern Baghdad, while three municipal employees, including an Egyptian, were gunned down while working in the west of the capital.

Two of their colleagues were wounded.

Also in Baghdad, gunmen shot dead the Iraqi driver of a Jordanian embassy car at a petrol station, according to Jordanian government spokesman Nasser Jawdeh.

Outside of the capital two Shiite tribal leaders and a municipal head were shot dead in Khan Abi Saad, 30 kilometres north of Baghdad.

While 10 people were wounded as a roadside bomb and a booby-trapped motorbike blew up in nearby Baquba.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, police said, an army captain and a soldier, acting as his bodyguard, were shot and killed.

Insurgents change targets

"We`re seeing the insurgent move his target away from coalition forces to Iraqi security forces," US Major-General Rick Lynch said.

He attributed the spike to the increased role of Iraqi security forces, as well as the interim period between the December 15 elections and the formation of a new government, which is still pending.

"We have seen over the last several weeks about a 15 percent increase in civilian casualties, and we`ve seen about a 30 percent increase in attacks against security forces," he told reporters.

"The insurgents want to attack because they want to discredit the government in existence, so seeing spikes in attacks during this period in time was not indeed unpredicted." Major General Lynch added.

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Japan plans Iraq troop withdrawal

UPI 17 Feb 06

TOKYO, Japan (UPI) -- Japan will start withdrawing its troops from Iraq in late March, around the same time Britain will begin its pullout, the Yomiuri Shimbun said Friday.
The government`s withdrawal plan includes moving the 600 troops to Kuwait by May as a first step, and recalling them to Japan by July, after cleaning their equipment and vehicles to pass quarantine inspections in Japan.

Although ground troops will be withdrawn, Japan`s air force will maintain and expand its logistic support for multinational forces in Iraq, the report said.

Japan reportedly wants to withdraw its troops around the same time as Britain, which is in charge of security in the Samawah region, where Japanese troops have been carrying out humanitarian tasks such as repairing buildings and providing medical training since early 2004.

Britain is set to start pulling out its troops in March and complete the withdrawal by the end of May.

Japan, Australia, Britain and the United States will hold a working-level meeting in London at the end of next week to discuss detailed withdrawal plans.

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

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Iran calls on UK troops to pull out of Basra

Reuters 17 Feb 06

Prime Minister Tony Blair swiftly rebuffed Tehran, saying British soldiers were in Iraq under a United Nations mandate and warned Iran not to try to divert attention from international concern over its nuclear programme.
Iran's foreign minister called on Britain on Friday to pull its troops out of the southern Iraqi city of Basra, saying their presence was destabilising the city.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran demands the immediate withdrawal of British forces from Basra," Manouchehr Mottaki told reporters through an interpreter during a visit to Lebanon.

"We believe that the presence of the British military forces in Basra has led to the destabilisation of the security situation in the city," he said.

Prime Minister Tony Blair swiftly rebuffed Tehran, saying British soldiers were in Iraq under a United Nations mandate and warned Iran not to try to divert attention from international concern over its nuclear programme.

Mottaki also said the British presence had also negatively affected the security situation in southern Iran itself.

He was apparently referring to a spate of recent bomb attacks in southern Iran.

Iran last month accused the British military in Iraq of cooperating with Arab bombers who attacked targets in the Iranian oil city of Ahvaz, killing eight people. Britain has denied the allegation and condemned the attack.

The minister also denounced what he said were human rights violations by the British forces in Basra.

But Blair, speaking at a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, said it was up to the U.N. and the Iraqi government to decide how long the troops stayed.

"British troops are in Iraq today under a United Nations mandate and with the consent of the Iraqi government. They stay as long as the U.N. mandate is in place and the Iraqi government wishes us to stay," he said.

"What I would say to the Iranians is that there's no point in trying to ... divert attention from the issues to do with Iran by calling into question the British presence in Iraq which is there, as I say, with a U.N. mandate and Iraqi support."

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Bush Administration's War Spending Nears Half-Trillion Dollars - President Asks Taxpayers for Another $65 Billion for Iraq and Afghanistan

ABC News 17 Feb 06

In a single year, it is difficult to measure overall progress in the war on terror. But ABC News has learned today that President Bush will ask Congress for an additional $65.3 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It brings the total funds requested this year to more than $110 billion for those operations.

This is the fourth time in three years that the Bush administration has asked for additional funds for Iraq and Afghanistan, and the $65 billion request is $2 billion higher than expected.
Of that amount, $38 billion will be spent for ongoing military operations, with $11 billion going to repair and replenish war-fighting equipment ravaged by wear and tear.

Another $1.9 billion is allocated for protecting against improvised explosive devices.

The blizzard of numbers boils down to nearly $7 billion a month.

"I'm still stunned that there's no downward motion at all in the monthly costs. And clearly in 2006, the administration plans on no end in sight to that," said Michael E. O'Hanlon, senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution.

This increase would bring the cost of the war thus far to $400 billion — a far cry from the administration's original estimates.

Cost Estimates Were Off the Mark

Just before the invasion of Iraq in 2002, White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsay estimated the cost would be $100 billion to $200 billion.

That estimate was later dismissed by Mitch Daniels, then director of the Office of Management and Budget, who said costs would be between $50 billion to $60 billion.

Today Democratic lawmakers called for the president to provide more information about spending on the war.

"The president has a responsibility," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill. "He has to tell us the true costs of the war."

"I am very concerned that we are going to be asked for a boatload of additional funding," said Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D.

The money from this supplemental request is expected to keep operations going only for the next eight months. The White House has already said an additional $50 billion for Iraq will likely be requested later this year.

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Iraq and the Democratic Empire

by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. This talk was delivered to the Auburn University Libertarians on February 16, 2006.

As all students today know, Iraq is the country that the US invaded with the attempt to convert the state and the people from enemy to friend. On the face of it, this sounds rather implausible, of course. Good fences make good neighbors. Friendship and peace are not usually the result of insults, sanctions, invasions, bombings, killings, puppet governments, censorship, economic controls, and occupations. If this generation learns anything from this period, that would be a good start.
Earlier students thought of Iraq as the country that was forever being denounced by the Clinton administration and by Bush's father when he was president. Why? Iraq, it seems, had some crazy notion that the US might attempt an invasion at some point in the future, and thus thought it had better prepare by spending money on its military. Its weapons program, however, was quickly dismantled under pressure from the UN.

Doubtful that Iraq had really given up the idea of creating a viable national defense, the US cobbled together extreme sanctions against the country, preventing it from trading with the world. The standard of living plummeted. Middle class merchants suffered. The poor died without the essentials of life. The child mortality rate soared. The head of the US State Department told a reporter on national television that even if US sanctions had resulted in 500,000 child deaths, they were “worth it.”

Jumping back earlier, the US had waged another war on Iraq. Bush Senior saw it as the war to end all aggressions, in this case an aggression of Iraq against its neighbor called Kuwait, a name that has been strangely absent from the news for the better part of ten years. What was strange was how the US had given the green light to Saddam to aggress against its neighbor, with the US ambassador having told Saddam Hussein that the US took no position on its long-running border dispute with its former province.

Now, if we jump back still further and consider the Reagan years, students would remember a long and boring but truly bloody conflict between Iraq and Iran. It lasted eight years, between 1980 and 1988. The US favored Iraq in this war. Saddam was a friend of the US, a man on the payroll. The weapons he used in this war on Iran were provided to him courtesy of the US taxpayer, as weapons inspectors in the 1990s were reminded when they went hunting for WMDs. There is a famous photo of one of Reagan’s weapons emissaries, Donald Rumsfeld, smiling broadly as he shakes hands with Saddam.

The war did not fully wreck Iraq, though many of its sons died. The country was secular and liberal by regional standards. There were private schools, symphonies, universities, and a complex and developing economy. Women had rights. They could drive and have bank accounts. They wore Western clothing. You could get a drink at a bar or buy liquor and have it at home. Christians were tolerated. They could worship as they pleased, and send their children to Christian schools. The electricity stayed on. You could buy gasoline. It was an old-fashioned dictatorship but it was, in regional terms, prosperous.

The war between Iran and Iraq was inconclusive. But today, we've come full circle. Iraq is a wreck. The Wall Street Journal ran a story the other day that documented how the prevailing political influence today in Iraq is Iran's ruling Shiite political party, which hopes to add another country to those ruled by Islamic law. So, from the vantage point of twenty-five years, it appears that the winner has finally been decided in the great Iran-Iraq war. The side that the US favored lost.

This is increasingly the pattern in the post-Cold War world. The US spends money, invades countries, sheds blood, and becomes ever more powerful at home and unpopular abroad. In the end, no matter how powerful its weapons or how determined its leaders, it loses. It loses because people resist empire. It loses for the same reasons that socialism and its central plans always fail. Large-scale attempts to force people into predetermined molds founder on the inability of the state to allocate resources rationally and to anticipate change, as well as the ubiquitous and pesky phenomenon called human volition. Mankind was not meant to live in cages.

Why did the US win wars in the past? Because it fought far poorer governments. Today it loses because it fights populations – people acting on their own, forming their own associations, using their brains to outwit bureaucrats, and cobbling together resources from underground markets. The market always outruns the planners for the same reason that guerilla armies usually win over regular armies. Decentralized and spontaneous associations of dedicated individuals are smarter and wiser and more committed than centralized and planned bureaucrats who follow their rule books.

This is a point well elaborated by the Austrian School of economics. The full critique of war would involve an elaboration on the work of F.A. Hayek and Murray Rothbard and their modern disciples. Time and space does not permit, so let me quickly draw your attention to the writings of Mises on this point.

In 1919, he wrote a book called Nation, State, and Economy. One of the many great discoveries of Guido Hulsmann was that Mises's original title is better translated in one word: Imperialism. It is a relentless attack on the idea of democratic empire, and an investigation of the role of the democratic state in foreign policy matters.

In the old world that was then passing, Mises wrote, imperial monarchs had ruled over large-scale, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, and sometimes multi-religious territories with an eye to carefully balancing the relationships among groups and avoiding policies that set group against group. It was the only policy that made their rule viable. If they failed to do this, their rule was threatened. Royal families specialized in linguistic proficiency. They adopted an air of fairness, and tended over time to liberalize economic structures in the interest of harmonizing groups.

Mises welcomed the age of democracy because he believed that political democracy was the closest analogy to applying a market principle to the sphere of civic life. But he made an important proviso. Under a democratic regime, empires would have to come to end. There could be no rule over multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious populations. Every group would need to be permitted self-determination. Democracy meant, in Mises's view, the right of groups and even individuals to choose their own state. There could be no rule over a people or part of a people without their consent.

Mises then observed a dangerous paradox. The onset of the age of democracy was also the age of the rise of socialism. Socialism requires control, not only over economic structures but also over all of civic life, including religions. The most extreme form of socialism was totalitarianism. Mises saw that socialism and democracy were based on incompatible principles. If people are given true choice in regimes, they can also choose the rules under which they live. But socialism is predicated on the supposition that people can be permitted no choice. They must live under a plan as crafted by a dictator.

Mises saw that the attempt to wed socialism and dictatorship would lead to unparalleled calamity, which indeed it did because Mises's pathway out of this problem was ignored. He mapped out his solution in his great book Liberalism, which appeared in 1927. Here he said that the foundation of liberty is private property. If property were protected from invasion, all else in politics follows. The state cannot be imperialistic because it cannot raise the funds necessary to fund adventures in foreign lands. On the other hand, he wrote, the more the state is given control over private property, the more it will be tempted toward imposing its rule via arms and war.

Therefore, he said, war and socialism are both part of the same ideological apparatus. They both presume the primacy of power over property. In the same way, peace and free enterprise are cut from the same cloth. They are the result of a society with a regime that respects the privacy, property, associations, and wishes of the population. The liberal society trades with foreign countries rather than waging war on them. It respects the free movement of peoples. It does not intervene in the religious affairs of people but rather adopts a rule of perfect tolerance.

I don't need to tell you that this is not the kind of regime under which we live in the US. The state is an empire, a democratic empire. It is aggressive internally and externally. Indeed, it is the richest and most powerful government on earth and in all of human history. Along with this has come a cultural change. The founding fathers loathed and feared war. They said that nothing ruins a country quicker than the warlike spirit. It brings bankruptcy, corruption, and tyranny. George Washington warned against war, and called for trade and friendship with all nations.

The ideology of war has infected our rulers. Mises explained it in his book Liberalism. This is an ideology against which rational argument does not work. If you say war leads to suffering, pain, and death, they will say: so be it. Instead, writes Mises, the warmongers claim that "it is through war and war alone that mankind is able to make progress. War is the father of all things, said a Greek philosopher, and thousands have repeated it after him. Man degenerates in time of peace. Only war awakens in him slumbering talents and powers and imbues him with sublime ideals. If war were to be abolished, mankind would decay into indolence and stagnation."

I submit to you that this is precisely the ideology that reigns in such publications as National Review. This is the view propounded from the lecterns at Republican gatherings. Speaker after speaker at conservative conferences echoes this very view. I've heard it again and again in private conversations among diehard Republicans. This view that war is good for us is sheer fantasy, a dangerous and violent fit of utter irrationality. But it persists. It infects. It kills.

What view should replace the ideology of war? Mises again:

"It starts from the premise that not war, but peace, is the father of all things. What alone enables mankind to advance and distinguishes man from the animals is social cooperation. It is labor alone that is productive: it creates wealth and therewith lays the outward foundations for the inward flowering of man. War only destroys; it cannot create. War, carnage, destruction, and devastation we have in common with the predatory beasts of the jungle; constructive labor is our distinctively human characteristic. The liberal abhors war, not, like the humanitarian, in spite of the fact that it has beneficial consequences, but because it has only harmful ones…. Victorious war is an evil even for the victor…peace is always better than war."

The US has already lost the war on Iraq. It should pull out. When? Now. What will happen? I don't know. No one knows. What will people do when you let them out of their cages? What will slaves do when you free them? What happens when you free those who are imprisoned unjustly? I don't know the answer to these questions, and no one does. I will observe that other countries count the day that the US soldiers left as the beginning of a bright future.

I think of Somalia, which – after a Bush Senior invasion – Clinton wisely left in a lurch after violence against American soldiers. Today warlords still compete for control of the capital. The CIA factbook contains a sentence that might have pleased Thomas Jefferson: Somalia has "no permanent national government." But the rest of the country has moved on. It has prospered.

Here is more from the latest CIA factbook:

"Despite the seeming anarchy, Somalia's service sector has managed to survive and grow. Telecommunication firms provide wireless services in most major cities and offer the lowest international call rates on the continent. In the absence of a formal banking sector, money exchange services have sprouted throughout the country, handling between $500 million and $1 billion in remittances annually. Mogadishu's main market offers a variety of goods from food to the newest electronic gadgets. Hotels continue to operate, and militias provide security."

The CIA chooses the word "despite" the seeming anarchy. I would like to replace that with "because" of the seeming anarchy.

If the US leaves Iraq, a big cost will be born by Americans. We have lost freedoms and rights. The military and spying sector has grown enormously. Big government abroad is incompatible with small government at home. To the extent we cheer war, we are cheering domestic socialism and our own eventual destruction as a civilization.

When you consider the full range of social, economic, and international planning on which it has embarked, you can know in advance that staying cannot work. Government is not God, nor are the men who run it impeccable or infallible, nor do they have a direct pipeline to the Almighty. Even if they were angels, they couldn't do it. The method they have chosen to bring about security and order is destined toward failure. But they are not angels. Their power has corrupted them, and the more absolute the power they gain, they more damage they create.

Let me state plainly too that we should end the entire war on terrorism because it cannot work and it is killing us instead of them. The pool of potential terrorists is unlimited, and it has been unleashed by the very means the state has employed. Bin Laden is still on the loose, and everyone knows that there are hundreds or thousands of additional Bin Ladens out there.

But can't the state just kill more, employ ever more violence, perhaps even terrify the enemy into passivity? A bracing comment from Israeli military historian Martin Van Creveld: "The Americans in Vietnam tried it. They killed between two-and-a-half and three million Vietnamese. I don't see that it helped them much." Without admitting defeat, the Americans finally pulled out of Vietnam, which today has a thriving stock market.

Can the US just back out of its war on terror? Wouldn't that mean surrender? It would mean that the state surrenders its role, but not that everyone else does. Had the airlines been in charge of their own security, 9-11 would not have happened. In the same way that the free market provides for all our material needs, it can provide our security needs as well.

The War on Terror is impossible, not in the sense that it cannot cause immense amounts of bloodshed and destruction and loss of liberty, but in the sense that it cannot finally achieve what it is supposed to achieve, and will only end in creating more of the same conditions that led to its declaration in the first place.

In other words, it is a typical government program, costly and unworkable, like socialism, like the war on poverty, like the war on drugs, like every other attempt by the government to shape reality according to its own designs. You can see the results in the fatality figures. You and I paid for those flags on the caskets of the soldiers. We paid for the war that cost them their lives. We paid for the cheaper coffins of the far more numerous Iraqi dead. We didn't do it voluntarily. The state forced us to do so, just as it is forcing Iraq to endure a dreadful occupation.

What is in the past is gone, a cost that is sunk and never to be regained. But we can control the future. Now is the time to end this ghastly undertaking in Iraq.

In American political culture, which is dominated by the competitive interest groups we call the two main political parties and their ideological compatriots, we are asked to choose between two false alternatives.

In the first, as that offered by the Left and the Democrats, we are asked to think of the state as an expansive Good Samaritan who clothes, feeds, and heals people at home and abroad. They completely fail to notice that this Samaritan ends up not helping people but enslaving its clients and leaving the rest of us like the robbery victim on the street.

In the second, as offered by the Right and the Republicans, we are asked to think of the state as an expansive Solomon with all power to right wrong and bring justice and faith to all peoples at home and abroad. They completely fail to notice that Solomon ends up behaving more like Caesar Augustus and his successors, sending all the world to be counted and taxed and then plotting to kill any competitive source of authority.

Are you independent minded? Reject these two false alternatives. Do you love freedom? Embrace peace. Do you love peace? Embrace private property. Do you love and defend civilization? Defend and protect it against all uses of Power, the evil against which we must proceed ever more boldly.

February 17, 2006

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. [send him mail] is president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, editor of LewRockwell.com and author of Speaking of Liberty.

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George Bush’s War Without End

By David Martin 17 Feb 06

Now that the cakewalk that was to be our invasion of Iraq is nearing its third anniversary and the roses that were to be thrown at us have turned into improvised explosive devices, it has become official — we are engaged in a long war. Make that “The Long War.”
Donald Rumsfeld, in a statement before House’s Armed Services Committee, acknowledged the re-branding of the conflict previously known as The Global War on Terror. He told the assembled committee members that we are “nation engaged in what will be a ‘long war.’” It’s a war that will be the central security issue of our time and will transform the way we defend our nation, he said.

The SecDef’s comments underlined a theme sounded by his Commander-in-Chief in the recent State of the Union speech. George Bush, insinuating himself into a pantheon of former presidents that included Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, and Reagan, said, “our own generation is in a long war against a determined enemy.”

So much for setting a timetable for an American withdrawal from Iraq, or Afghanistan for that matter. When other recent remarks from multi-starred generals referring to a long war that could last ten to twenty years are taken in to account, it’s clear that we have achieved George Orwell’s state of perpetual war.

The administration’s depiction of our conflict in Iraq as an open-ended struggle with ever-shifting enemies is another of its deviously brilliant bits of PR chicanery. The adoption of a simple phrase — The Long War — eliminates expectations that there will be an end to the needless deaths of Americans, Iraqis, and Afghanis any time soon. War in distant, dusty places will become a mundane feature of American life just like higher gas prices, warrant less electronic surveillance, and curtailed civil liberties.

Five, ten, twenty years from now when the last American soldier has long been airlifted out of Iraq and someone says, “Tell me again, why are we fighting in Uzbekistan (or Kazakhstan or name your own favorite ‘stan),” the answer will come back, “Don’t you remember? We’re in a Long War against the terrorists who attacked us on Nine-Eleven.”

It is a particular stroke of genius to characterize this Long War as one waged against the nebulous foe of terrorism. With Communism, the last big bogeyman to feed our national nightmares, there was a well-defined dogma to identify who was a Communist and who was not. The problem, however, was that after the fall of the Soviet Union and the liberation of Eastern Europe, there weren’t a lot of Communists left over to get hysterical about. Sure, there was still Castro in Cuba and the Chinese. But Castro alone is hardly worth $400 billion in defense spending, and we’ve come to rely on the Chinese to make all the consumer goods Americans used to make.

Terrorism makes a much better bête noire because it’s a vaguer appellation. The terrorist label can be hung on, well, just about anyone. Terrorists can be desperate men armed with box cutters who fly airplanes into tall buildings. Or they can be radical Moslems who live in caves in Afghanistan. Or they can be Quaker peace groups who conspire to conduct candlelight vigils on village greens or nuns who attack ICBMs with ball peen hammers to demonstrate opposition to an illegal war or VA nurses so upset at the federal government they are moved to write angry letters to newspaper editors.

Soon, thanks to the creative wordsmiths in Boy George’s lawyer pool, terrorism will come to mean any expression against the established order, whether that expression is a car bomb or outraged e-mail to a like-minded friend.

This concept of terrorism is a self-fulfilling one. Wherever we go in search of terrorists, we are sure to find them. If they’re not present when we arrive, they will inevitably appear once American soldiers, in the name of advancing freedom, have kicked in enough doors, recklessly shot enough innocent civilians, and hauled away enough fathers and cousins and friends for questioning (read torturing). When outraged locals begin retaliating with roadside bombs, our leaders will tell us, “See we told you there were terrorists in (insert name of country here). It just took us some time to create them.”

“A Long War” and “Global Terrorism” are malleable phrases that can be applied to any situation in which a local populace seeks redress against the international organizations and multi-national corporations that control the levers of the world economy. They are equally applicable to turban wearing tribesman living in regions known only to readers of National Geographic or a neighbor who checked out the wrong book from the library. As this “Long War” progresses and the definition of terrorist becomes stretched far enough, who knows whom the FBI thugs will come for next.

Hold on a sec, I think I hear a knock at the door.

Copyright David Martin - damrtn48@ntplx.net

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"At Some Point We Have to Take Seriously the Idea of Putting a Very Large Wrench Into the Gears of This War Machine"

Ron Jacobs interviews Mike Ferner Alternative Press Review 17 Feb 06

On Wednesday, February 15, 2006, a group of war resisters began a 34 day liquids only fast in Washington, DC. The fast is sponsored by the Voices for Creative Nonviolence (VCNV)--a nonviolent action group made up of regular citizens who are fed up with the direction of the US government, especially as regards its foreign policy. The name VCNV has given the campaign that this fast is part of is the Winter of Our Discontent.
One of the fast participants is a man named Mike Ferner. I first heard of Mike when he traveled to Iraq in the winter of 2003 just before the US/UK invasion in March of that year. Mike is a Vietnam vet who served as a Navy Corpsman and then received an honorable discharge from the service as a conscientious objector. He is also a union organizer, member of Veterans for Peace, and served on the Toledo, Ohio city council. His book on his trips to Iraq (he went there again in 2004) is titled Inside the Red Zone: A Veteran For Peace Reports from Iraq, and is due out in August, 2006. I have maintained a rather loose email contact with Mike over the past several months and, when I heard he was participating in this fast, decided to ask him a couple questions. The email "conversation" follows.

Ron: Hi Mike, I heard that you were participating in the 34 day fast to protest the war in Iraq and thought I would check in with you. What made you decide to participate? Furthermore, since the administration is unlikely to be affected, whose conscience do you hope to stir with this action?

Mike: I decided to participate because I needed to do something more to up the ante against the war. If you go to the NCNV page and watch the video featuring Jackson Browne singing "Lives in the Balance," you'll get as good an idea as I can give you why we need to do more for peace. There ARE lives in the balance and we in this country are all complicit in the suffering our government is causing.

I agree with you that our fast/vigil/sit-ins won't affect the criminals waging the war. We certainly want to call people's attention to the crimes they are committing, but we know we won't change their behavior by our small presence in Washington over the next month. What will change their behavior (and hopefully impeach and imprison them) however, is if every person in the U.S. who opposes this war will stop and think for a moment about what they can do to up the ante. Those are the people whose hearts we need to reach. We can all do more—every one of us—no matter what our job or station in life. And if every person mad as hell that this war continues will think about what more they can do for peace it will indeed make a difference...and more than just "make a difference" in some abstract way. It will throw a wrench into the gears of the war machine and grind it to a halt. This we can do, if every person of good conscience decides they have to do more than they thought they could do.

Ron: You have a book scheduled to be published in late summer 2006. What is it about and when did you write it?

Mike: We just settled on a title, Inside the Red Zone: A Veteran For Peace Reports from Iraq. It's about my trips to Iraq and the people I met. People in the peace movement, Iraqis, G.I.'s, and journalists. My first trip was just prior to the U.S. invasion when I went with Voices in the Wilderness for a month. The second trip was in early 2004 for two months when I went specifically to report and write. I wasn't thinking at the time of writing a book, actually, but the more I worked at the stories, the more I realized I had experienced something that needed to be told.

Ron: From your involvement in Voices for Creative Nonviolence, it seems apparent that you believe in the power of nonviolent direct action as practiced and preached by Martin Luther King, Jr. What experiences in your life led you to this commitment?

Mike: First off, I don't consider myself a pacifist...yet, anyway. Even though I'm learning more about Gandhi and King and nonviolent principles and I'm getting closer to being a pacifist the older I get, I can still see why people will resort to violence if they're oppressed long enough. What has lead me to a life of activism was, initially, being a hospital corpsman during the Viet Nam war and taking care of the young men who came back in pieces from that conflict. Few things will turn you against war quicker than that kind of work. Then, through life I realized that the Viet Nam war wasn't the only injustice, simply the first one I had experienced directly. I got involved in the environmental movement and the labor movement over the years. So social change has been the constant theme in my life since getting out of the Navy.

Ron: What do you think lies ahead for the people of Iraq?

Mike: While the U.S. continues to occupy it, nothing but violence and suffering. I believe that every political institution created in Iraq since the invasion will be seen as tainted by the invader, and as such, stands a good chance of being torn down once we are finally gone. That is not a pleasant picture to imagine, but it will happen whenever we leave. And until then, the violence and suffering will continue because our presence is fueling the resistance. Withdraw that fuel and the fire will subside. Who knows what will follow, but whatever it is, it will happen when (not if) we leave. Then, the peace movement's mettle in the U.S. will be put to the test to see if we can force our government to make amends for what we've done to the extent that is possible.

Ron: How about the people of Iran?

Mike: Our government leaders will seal the case for their insanity diagnosis if they take military action against Iran. If they do so, however, it won't be anything like the Iraq war. Iran has got military capabilities far in excess of Iraq's. They have missile systems that will inflict terrible damage and casualties to U.S. ships and ground forces in the region. Beyond that, of course, violent reprisals will become the order of the day and we will have succeeded in making the world considerably more unbalanced and frightening.

Ron: The people of the US?

Mike: That's a good question, isn't it? Do we think that except for the relatively small number of military casualties coming back from Iraq we will be unaffected? I'm sure that's what our "leaders" would like to promote, but that's not the reality. Every G.I. that's been killed, and every one of the tens of thousands who've been wounded—physically and mentally—has a family; has a city or town they're from; had hopes and dreams and skills they would have shared fully with their communities and society. Instead, we will bear the financial and emotional costs of dealing with the families of those men and women and everyone their pain has touched, radiating out in ever-larger circles—for the rest of their lives. Say nothing of the opportunities lost, the health care these billions could have provided, the civil liberties we have lost, etc. etc. Just the direct costs, financial and emotional, from this war will be felt for generations. And as a people we will be much less safe when it is finally over. Look at what other countries thought of the U.S. right after September 11, 2001, and what they think of us now. We are making a dangerous world for our children and grandchildren.

Ron: Despite my better judgment, I occasionally get incredibly frustrated with the failure of the antiwar movement to end this damn war. In fact, sometimes I feel like going the route of the Weather Underground. I know I am not alone in this. Indeed, I would imagine that you feel this way sometimes. What do you do to convince yourself to continue the struggle?

Mike: It is most definitely frustrating, without a doubt. Is violence the answer? I can understand what drives oppressed people to it, but I still think it can never really be the answer.

Ron: Last fall before the big antiwar march on Washington you wrote an article calling on people to sit-in around the White House a la the Chinese occupation of Tianamen Square. Do you still think this is a good strategy?

Mike: Actually, my suggestion was that when we were hundreds of thousands strong we sit down then, not two days later in a staged sit-in at the White House, which is what happened. Bless every one of those 400+ people who got arrested there (I was arrested earlier that morning at the Pentagon with 40 others), but at some point we have to take seriously the idea of putting a very large wrench into the gears of this war machine—make the nation simply ungovernable in every way we can. We have to do more.

Ron: Back to the fast—will there be a way for people to keep in touch with this campaign and publish its progress on their email lists and in their local organizations?

Mike: Check out the Voices for Creative Nonviolence website for updates. MORE IMPORTANTLY, organize a fast, or a vigil, or better yet, a sit-in at your local congressional offices, and let us know what you're doing so we can fan the flames of protest.

Ron: As a vet, do you have any special message for women and men who are currently in the service (or considering joining)?

Mike: If you're thinking of joining, don't. It ain't worth it. And I don't just mean you might get killed or wounded. The military is not what we should be using as a tool to protect the holdings of the empire, and that's its basic role no matter what the enlistment commercials say. If you're already in and have come to believe what we're doing is wrong, call the G.I. Hotline 800-394-9544 and find out what you can do to get out.

Ron: Thanks for your time. I'll keep in touch.


Ron Jacobs is author of The Way the Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground (Haymarket Series), just republished by Verso. Jacobs' essay on Big Bill Broonzy is featured in CounterPunch's new collection on music, art and sex: Serpents in the Garden.

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Losing our values in the war on terror

Daily Mail Editorial 18 Feb 06

"I never imagined I would live to see the day... One cannot find strong enough words to condemn what Britain and the United States have accepted... habeas corpus is part of our freedom..."

How humbling that it takes an African churchman from one of our former colonies, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, to warn that Britain is tearing up centuries of civil liberties and squandering its moral authority by the way it conducts the war on terror at home and abroad.

Consider the events of a truly depressing week. Having failed so far in his attempt to tear up habeas corpus and jail suspects for 90 days without charge, Mr Blair is openly playing politics with terrorism.
While the Tories and Lib Dems press for a cross-party consensus on how to deal with the threat, the Prime Minister isn't interested. Instead he insists on ill-judged shows of "toughness" designed to portray the Opposition as soft.

Why, for example, did he push through this week's vote against the "glorification" of terror?Itwasn't because thelaw needed to be changed. After all, Abu Hamza was jailed under existing legislation.

No, a Government that disgracefully ignored his sermons of hate for years just wanted to be seen doing something - the same motive that prompted its plans for ID cards, which probably won't work.

The sadness is that Gordon Brown - who is untainted by the mendacity associated with Tony Blair - is lending his huge authority to this partisan charade. He talks of reviving 90 days' detention, which reminds Archbishop Tutu of the apartheid regime.

These are grim developments at home. But what is happening abroad is infinitely more damaging. Remember how Mr Blair went to war in Iraq under the banner of justice, democracy and human rights? Now those values are flung back in our faces across the Islamic world, after those pictures of British troops abusing rioters and the even more sickening scenes of U.S. guards degrading prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

But these excesses pale to relative insignificance when compared with the contempt for morality and the basic principles of law shown by our American allies at Guantanamo Bay, where hundreds of suspects have been kept in ghastly conditions for four years without charge, trial or independent lawyers.

Britain's response to this monumental aberration has been pitifully ambivalent. And the Bush administration? It just doesn't get it. The cloth-eared Republicans in the White House don't grasp the consequences. They refuse to listen when they are condemned by the UN. They don't understand how they are shaming America. And they don't care about the damage to Britain.

No, they continue to stir up Muslim hatred of the West, make a mockery of democratic values and encourage young hot-heads to flock to the terrorist cause. Osama bin Laden couldn't have been handed a greater propaganda gift.

At least some British politicians see the dangers. In Washington, Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague warned America of the "critical erosion" of its moral authority.

But Mr Blair? The man who misled Britain into a disastrous war might go some way towards redeeming himself if he exerted his influence with the President to insist that America ends the disgrace of Guantanamo Bay.

Yet if influence exists, he doesn't use it. Instead, he feebly suggests something should be done "sooner or later".

So the abuse goes on. Britain is seen to share the shame. Enemies multiply. And the loudest defence of our most fundamental values comes not from politicians, but an African archbishop.

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Conservatives Endorse the Fuhrer Principle - Our leader über alles

By Paul Craig Roberts 17 Feb 06

Last week's annual Conservative Political Action Conference signaled the transformation of American conservatism into brownshirtism. A former Justice Department official named Viet Dinh got a standing ovation when he told the CPAC audience that the rule of law mustn't get in the way of President Bush protecting Americans from Osama bin Laden.

Former Republican congressman Bob Barr, who led the House impeachment of President Bill Clinton, reminded the CPAC audience that our first loyalty is to the U.S. Constitution, not to a leader. The question, Barr said, is not one of disloyalty to Bush, but whether America "will remain a nation subject to, and governed by, the rule of law or the whim of men."

The CPAC audience answered that they preferred to be governed by Bush. According to Dana Milbank, a member of the CPAC audience named Richard Sorcinelli loudly booed Barr, declaring: "I can't believe I'm in a conservative hall listening to him say Bush is off course trying to defend the United States." A woman in the audience told Barr that the Constitution placed Bush above the law and above non-elected federal judges.

These statements gallop beyond the merely partisan. They express the sentiments of brownshirtism. Our leader über alles.
Only a few years ago this same group saw Barr as a conservative hero for obtaining Clinton's impeachment in the House. Obviously, CPAC's praise for Barr did not derive from Barr's stand on conservative principle that a president must be held accountable if he violates the law. In Clinton's case, Barr's principles did not conflict with the blind emotions of the politically partisan conservatives demanding Clinton's impeachment.

In opposing Bush's illegal behavior, Barr is simply being consistent. But this time, Barr's principles are at odds with the emotions of the politically partisan CPAC audience. Rushing to the defense of Bush, the CPAC audience endorsed Viet Dinh's Fuhrer Principle over the rule of law.

Why do the media and the public allow partisan political hacks, like Viet Dinh, to define Bush's illegal actions as a national security issue? The purpose of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is to protect national security. FISA creates a secret court to which the president can apply for a warrant even after he has initiated spying. Complying with the law in no way handicaps spying for national security purposes. The only spying handicapped by the warrant requirement is spying for illegitimate purposes, such as spying on political opponents.

There are only two reasons for Bush to refuse to obey the law. One is that he is guilty of illegitimate spying for which no warrant would be issued by the FISA court. The other is that he is using "national security" to create unconstitutional powers for the executive.

Civil libertarian Harvey Silverglate writing in the Boston Phoenix says that Bush's grab for "sweeping, unchecked power in direct violation of a statute would open a Pandora's box of imperial possibilities." In short, it makes the president a dictator.

For years, the Republican Federalist Society has been agitating for concentrating more power in the executive. The members will say that they do not favor a dictator, just a check on the "imperial Congress" and "imperial judiciary." But they have not spelled out how the president can be higher than law and still be accountable, or, if he is only to be higher than some laws, but not other laws, and only in some circumstances, but not all circumstances, who draws the line through the law and defines the circumstances.

On Feb. 13, the American Bar Association passed a resolution belatedly asking President Bush to stop violating the law. "We cannot allow the U.S. Constitution and our rights to become a victim of terrorism," said bar association president Michael Grecco.

The siren call of "national security" is all the cover Bush needs to have the FISA law repealed, thus legally gaining the power to spy however he chooses, the protection of political opponents be damned. However, Bush and his Federalist Society Justice Department are not interested in having the law repealed. Their purpose has nothing to do with national security. The point on which the regime is insisting is that there are circumstances (undefined) in which the president does not have to obey laws. What those circumstances and laws are is for the regime to decide.

The Bush regime is asserting the Fuhrer Principle, and Americans are buying it, even as Bush declares that America is at war in order to bring democracy to the Middle East.

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

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14 Defining Characteristics of Fascism - Flash


Flash to share with family and friends.

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Bush May Be Crossing the Rubicon From Republic To Dictatorship

Miles Mogulescu Huffingtonpost.com

Through the justifications it has put forth for warrentless wiretapping, the Bush administration is almost literally crossing the Rubicon, beginning the process of transforming the United States from a republic into to a presidential dictatorship.

The warrantless wiretapping is dangerous, illegal and unconstitutional by itself. These are criminal acts by the President, and in and of themselves warrant impeachment and removal from office (whether or not impeachment is politically practical under a Republican Congress.)

But the Administration's feeble rationales justifying this program are even more dangerous. Bush and his surrogates claim that the President has the constitutional right, as part of his inherent powers as Commander-In-Chief during a time of war (an endless war in this case) to do anything he chooses to do if he believes it protects national security. In short, Bush claims the power of a dictator.
Where could this power grab lead? President Bush and his surrogates have proclaimed many times that opposition to the Iraq war is dangerous, demoralizes the troops, encourages the enemy, and threatens America's chances for victory. If Bush believes that opposition to the war threatens national security, why doesn't he have the right to act against opponents to the Iraq war to protect national security?

Apparently government agents have already spied on a small Quaker peace group. Why then shouldn't Bush have the power to wiretap the phones of Iraq war opponents from Rep. Murtha to Cindy Sheehan? Why shouldn't he have the right to infiltrate anti-war groups with government informants? Why can't he place agent provocateurs in anti-war groups to incite violent demonstrations in order to discredit the anti-war movement which is harming national security? Why can't he burglarize the offices of psychiatrists of leading anti-war figures to find information with which to discredit them? Why can't he break into the offices of the Democratic National Committee?

Wait a second; the government has already done all of these things in the recent past. It was called Watergate and the COINTELPRO Program (which lasted from 1956-71. The founding document of COINTELPRO directed FBI agents to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" groups and individuals that opposed U.S. government policy. The COINTELPRO program was investigated by a bi-partisan Senate Select Committee whose final report stated that the FBI "conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence." The Senate investigation led, among other things, to the passage of the FISA act which required a warrant from a special court in order for the government to place domestic wiretaps.

The Administration's rationale for warrantless wiretapping could justify the reinstatement of any or all of the illegal activities of the old COINTELPRO Program and the Watergate burglars. Even Nixon's lawyers never claimed a constitutional power for the President to act unilaterally in war time without regard to the Congress and the Courts (although Nixon once famously said, "If the President does it it's not illegal.") Bush provides the rationale to go even further. Since the President has the right to take all actions he thinks necessary to protect national security, why couldn't he censor newspapers that oppose the Iraq War? Why couldn't he arrest Iraq war opponents, and hold them without charges and without the right to a trial until he decides that the "War on Terror" is over? Taken to the extreme, why couldn't he torture Iraq war opponents based on his signing statement to the McCain anti-torture Amendment which states that the President can bypass this law if he believes doing so protects national security?

I'm not saying that these things will happen. I'm saying that Bush's theory of President's unilateral war time powers could justify such actions and more.

The Bush administration's legal theories are an invitation for denying Americans their basic democratic rights. The American people must be shown the danger. This should not be a Democratic vs. Republican issue nor a liberal vs. conservative issue. It should be an issue for all Americans who care about the survival of our republic. If Bush can't be stopped now from wiretapping Americans without a warrant, then this could be the beginning of the end of democracy in America as we know it. Hopefully Congress and the courts, with pressure from the American people, will overrule Bush's assertion of dictatorial power.

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Despotism & Democracy

Producer: Encyclopaedia Britannica Films - 1946

Measures how a society ranks on a spectrum stretching from democracy to despotism. Explains how societies and nations can be measured by the degree that power is concentrated and respect for the individual is restricted. Where does your community, state and nation stand on these scales?

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The Little-Noticed Order That Gave Dick Cheney New Power

Byron York National Review February 16, 2006

In addition to discussing his hunting accident, Vice President Dick Cheney, in his interview on the Fox News Channel Wednesday, also pointed to a little-known but enormously consequential expansion of vice-presidential power that has come about as a result of the Bush administration's war on terror.
Near the end of the interview, Fox anchor Brit Hume brought up a controversy arising from the CIA-leak case, in which prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald said in court papers that former top Cheney aide Lewis Libby testified he had been authorized "by his superiors" to disclose information about the classified National Intelligence Estimate to members of the press. "Is it your view that a Vice President has the authority to declassify information?" Hume asked.

"There is an executive order to that effect," Cheney said.

"There is?"


"Have you done it?"

"Well, I've certainly advocated declassification and participated in declassification decisions. The executive order — "

"You ever done it unilaterally?"

"I don't want to get into that. There is an executive order that specifies who has classification authority, and obviously focuses first and foremost on the President, but also includes the Vice President."

Cheney was referring to Executive Order 13292, issued by President Bush on March 25, 2003, which dealt with the handling of classified material. That order was not an entirely new document but was, instead, an amendment to an earlier Executive Order, number 12958, issued by President Bill Clinton on April 17, 1995.

At the time, Bush's order received very little coverage in the press. What mention there was focused on the order's provisions making it easier for the government to keep classified documents under wraps. But as Cheney pointed out Wednesday, the Bush order also contained a number of provisions which significantly increased the vice president's power.

Throughout Executive Order 13292, there are changes to the original Clinton order which, in effect, give the vice president the power of the president in dealing with classified material. In the original Clinton executive order, for example, there appeared the following passage:

Classification Authority.
(a) The authority to classify information originally may be exercised only by:
(1) the President;
(2) agency heads and officials designated by the President in the Federal Register...

In the Bush order, that section was changed to this (emphasis added):

Classification Authority.
(a) The authority to classify information originally may be exercised only by:
(1) the President and, in the performance of executive duties, the Vice President;
(2) agency heads and officials designated by the President in the Federal Register...

In another part of the original Clinton order, there was a segment dealing with who was authorized to delegate the authority to classify material. In the Clinton order, the passage read:

(2) "Top Secret" original classification authority may be delegated only by the President or by an agency head or official designated...
(3) "Secret" or "Confidential" original classification authority may be delegated only by the President; an agency head or official designated...

In the Bush order, that segment was changed to read (emphasis added):

(2) "Top Secret" original classification authority may be delegated only by the President; in the performance of executive duties, the Vice President; or an agency head or official designated...
(3) "Secret" or "Confidential" original classification authority may be delegated only by the President; in the performance of executive duties, the Vice President; or an agency head or official designated...

Both executive orders contained extension sections defining the terms used in the order. One of those terms was "original classification authority," that is, who in the government has the power to classify documents. In the Clinton order, the definition read:

"Original classification authority" means an individual authorized in writing, either by the President, or by agency heads or other officials designated by the President...

In the Bush executive order, the definition was changed to read (emphasis added):

"Original classification authority" means an individual authorized in writing, either by the President, the Vice President in the performance of executive duties, or by agency heads or other officials designated by the President...

In the last several years, there has been much talk about the powerful role Dick Cheney plays in the Bush White House. Some of that talk has been based on anecdotal evidence, and some on entirely fanciful speculation. But Executive Order 13292 is real evidence of real power in the vice president's office. Since the beginning of the administration, Dick Cheney has favored measures allowing the executive branch to keep more things secret. And in March of 2003, the president gave him the authority to do it.

— Byron York, NR's White House correspondent, is the author of The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy: The Untold Story of How Democratic Operatives, Eccentric Billionaires, Liberal Activists, and Assorted Celebrities Tried to Bring Down a President — and Why They'll Try Even Harder Next Time.

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Traitorous bitches and bastards


Yes, freedom died this week and just about every one of the bitches and bastards who "serve" in Congress should take a long, hard look at the blood on their hands. They stand guilty of high crimes and treason against the United States of America. They are traitors and should be treated as such.

Those bagpipes you hear playing in the background provide a much-needed funeral dirge for freedom, which died this week at the hands of the United States Congress.

Freedom has been on its deathbed for about five years now, mortally-wounded in the post-9/11 frenzy that put political expediency above the Constitution and gave paranoia supremacy over what used to be guarantees of individual rights for all Americans.

Freedom went on the endangered-species list in the hours following the 9/11 attacks when President George W. Bush turned to attorney general John Ashcroft and said "John, take whatever steps you feel are necessary to make sure something like this never, ever, happens again."

Turning a zealot like Ashcroft loose on the Constitution is like giving Bill Clinton the keys to a sorority house. Someone is going to get screwed big-time and in this case it was, collectively, the whole concept of freedom and individual rights in this country.

Ashcroft crafted his personal vision of a new America, one ruled by a police state reporting to a totalitarian government, and called it the USA Patriot Act. It sailed through a shell-shocked Congress like a fraternity on a panty raid and gave Bush and his gang of thugs all they needed to create a new American Gestapo, detaining this nation's citizens without due course, spying on Americans without warrants and setting the country on a headlong rush to ruin.

The abuses of the Patriot Act proved so onerous that even firebrand conservatives like Bob Barr joined forces with uber-liberals like the American Civil Liberties Union to fight it.

Late last year, spurred by anger over Bush's admission that he authorized the warrantless spying on Americans by the National Security Agency, the Patriot Act appeared to face serious opposition when it came up for renewal. Congress twice granted temporary extensions and promised to add new language to protect the civil liberties of Americans.

But, as happens all too often in Washington, those promises vanished into thin air as the Patriot Act this week cleared hurdle after hurdle and heads for permanent renewal when the goons who call themselves our elected representatives return from the President's Day recess.

In the end, the White House "negotiated" a set of meaningless changes with a handful of Republicans and the so-called compromise sailed through the Senate Thursday on a 96-3 vote. Even worse, the Republican-controlled Senate Intelligence Committee successfully blocked attempts to open an inquiry in Bush's use of the National Security Agency to spy on Americans.

Not that the Democrats did that much to stop it. Even those who spoke out about Bush's spying on Americans said they supported the concept but only opposed how the President went about it. As long as he got warrants, they said, they didn't really care who the NSA snooped on. And a bunch of Democrats joined with Republicans Thursday to keep the rights-robbing USA Patriot Act the law of the land.

Which means virtually no one - Democratic or Republican, conservative or liberal, left or right - can claim the high road when it comes to destroying freedom in the United States. Only Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., seems to realize the dangers of the act, continuing to fight it and saying the law, even as amended, allows "government fishing expeditions" and an outright assault on the Constitution.

For the most part, the rest of Congress sold out the people who elected them to office, all Americans who depend on Congress to serve as a check and balance on the excesses of the White House and the Constitution of the United States.

Yes, freedom died this week and just about every one of the bitches and bastards who "serve" in Congress should take a long, hard look at the blood on their hands. They stand guilty of high crimes and treason against the United States of America. They are traitors and should be treated as such.

© Copyright 2006 by Capitol Hill Blue

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Tipping Toward High Crimes - Terror and Deception as Affairs of State and the Complicity of the Media

Pierre Tristam Candide's Notebooks February 16, 2006

When I asked a former high-level U.S. intelligence official about Bush's comment, he agreed that Bush had overstated the intelligence.”

When were we going to see that corrective splattered on the front pages, the way Bush’s original story was earlier this month? Not in this universe—not with media willing to be stenographers to presidential deceptions first, truth seekers and investigators last.
That terrorist bomb plot against Los Angeles’ Library Tower turns out to be as bogus as a Hollywood movie plot that never made it past the storyboard.

David Ignatius in the Feb. 15 Washington Post: “Bush spoke about four al Qaeda plotters who had planned to use shoe bombs to blow open the cockpit door. But a foreign official with detailed knowledge of the intelligence scoffed at Bush’s account, saying that the information obtained from Khalid Sheik Mohammed and an Indonesian operative known as Hambali was not an operational plan so much as an aspiration to destroy the tallest building on the West Coast.

When I asked a former high-level U.S. intelligence official about Bush's comment, he agreed that Bush had overstated the intelligence.”

When were we going to see that corrective splattered on the front pages, the way Bush’s original story was earlier this month? Not in this universe—not with media willing to be stenographers to presidential deceptions first, truth seekers and investigators last.

That’s where the fetish of objectivity cuffs with the fraud of propaganda, a link the Bush administration nurtures and exploits to the point of glee: Bush’s contempt for the press is based on disrespect, the press being best of show disrespecting itself.

Newspapers would be justly criticized for running a damning story under a banner headline on the front page one day then retracting it with a minuscule correction on an inside page the next. There’s no way the effects of the original story could be reversed by the correction. Words alone don’t matter. Context, intent, calibration: those things matter.

That’s how the Bush administration has been successfully manipulating policy, public and wars for the last five years—by calibrating its manipulative Big Statements for maximum effect on the front page, knowing that when the truth comes out, if it does, the lie will have done its work.

The truth is relegated to corrections with shadowy admissions on inside pages months or years down the line.

Bush is less to blame in this if you assume that his administration will use whatever cynical, dishonest ploy it can to advance its agenda. This one does, consistently. The problem has mostly been the press playing along—doing exactly what it would be ashamed to do itself, when it errs and misleads, but on behalf of the administration.

There are obvious examples. The administration lied about the reliability of the evidence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, relying almost entirely on two Iraqi dissidents who’d been coached to say in in typically Sheheradesque Arabic exaggerations what was imaginatively translated into Starngelove briefings to titillate Bush’s ears and stand in as the “irrefutable documentation” of Saddam’s weapons program passed on to gullible senators and congressmen.

The administration lied on al-Qaida’s connections to Saddam. Big, bold lies based entirely on Mohammed Atta’s rumored trip to Prague, a trip that has been proved to be a fiction worthy of a Kafka subplot many times over. In either case few people asked questions until it was too late. When the deceptions were confirmed, the war was past its point of no return, for a good many thousand American soldiers and Iraqis too, of course.

The corrections ran as mea culpas on Op-Ed pages and cover-you-butt analyses on inside pages, though die-hard shootists like Dick Cheney and his night gallery at the Wall Street Journal editorial board still maintain that the al-Qaeda-Hussein connection was real, and probably have dreams about WMDs buried somewhere in the Iraqi desert.

Same story on the Medicare prescription drug plan: The administration lied about its cost when it claimed it wouldn’t go past $400 billion. A matter of days after Congress approved it, the press revealed that the cost would actually exceed $550 billion, and that the Medicare actuary in charge of putting the numbers together had his job threatened by the Bush administration when he, in turn, had threatened to reveal the true numbers (the question remains: why didn’t he do so before the congressional vote?).

Same story about the plot to bomb the Brooklyn Bridge, that nutty “revelation” John Ashcroft’s Justice Department had no qualms revealing early in the so-called war on terror. This, remember, is the story of the Ohio truck driver who plotted to take a blow torch to the Brooklyn Bridge’s steel cables. He realized long before he gathered up his wares that the idea was as harebrained as its execution (who couldn’t spot a blow torch anywhere on the Brooklyn Bridge, any time of day or night, just as any sixth grader could tell you that the redundancy of steel cables is one of the wonders of the bridge.) The guy ended up in prison anyway, because the administration needs something, anything, to show for its imaginary war.

Unless it was a subplot to “Independence Day,” the plot to bomb the Library Tower couldn’t stand up to scrutiny for very long. Not when even the kids in that class Bush read My Pet Goat to five years ago, now that they’re approaching middle school, are old enough to be asking the sort of 2+2 questions that would add up to 5 in their president’s reckoning.

But facts don’t dictate credibility. The man standing behind the seal of the president of the United States (or the pet goat) does. That was the lesson Bush learned early. The seal’s credibility is soaked in a couple of centuries of history. Plenty of capital there. He’s been splurging on it (the parallel with his splurge at the Treasury’s expense is irresistible), and the press has been letting him splurge, because it’s still an essentially trusting institution. It has to be.

You couldn’t entirely blame the media. We’re talking about the president of the United States, and the impulse to see a lie behind every presidential statement amounts to faithlessness in the very system the press, and we, depend on. Vietnam and Watergate were devastating enough. We neither have the courage nor the strength to face similar consequences yet again. We assume with every lie that it’s the last of them, or couch the lies as “overstatements,” “exaggerations,” “erring on the side of caution.” Bush smirks. The system’s integrity crumbles a little more. The reckoning becomes that much more dire, when it comes.

I used to think that talk of impeachment was so much extremism by the party out of power. But what do you do when lying has become so pathological in a presidential administration—lying on matters of state, of war, of trillion-dollar consequences, not on matters of sperm on dresses and idiotic blow jobs in stately antechambers—that even the press has adopted a method of enabling the lying?

The press and by extension the public are like the spouse of a drunkard just making do with the latest bout of rage and beating by rationalizing it until calm returns.

What do you do when the hemorrhaging credibility of the presidency may itself, worse than global warming, reach a tipping point? And what is that tipping point in a world where the United States has no one to hold it accountable but its own sense of survival?

Waiting for the next election almost three years down the line seems like the democratic option. But it’s increasingly looking like a craven surrender to the cynics, to those who’d claim that rocking the boat that much isn’t worth the price, or that the little dictator’s lies so far haven’t risen to such a level as to warrant what, in the United States, amounts to a coup—a deliberate, legal, magnificently institutional coup, that impeachment clause, but a coup nonetheless. Let’s see if the centrists, the moderates, the civility burghers will still be claiming in 2008 that it was just as well to wait him out.

Pierre Tristam is an editorial writer and columnist at the Daytona Beach, Fla., News-Journal, and editor of Candide's Notebooks. Reach him at ptristam@att.net.

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Judge Orders Action on Spying Documents

By PETE YOST Associated Press Writer 16 Feb 06

A federal judge dealt a setback to the Bush administration on its warrantless surveillance program, ordering the Justice Department on Thursday to release documents about the highly classified effort within 20 days or compile a list of what it is withholding.

U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy said a private group will suffer irreparable harm if the documents it has been seeking since December are not processed promptly under the Freedom of Information Act.
The Justice Department failed to meet the time restraints under FOIA and failed to make a case that it was impractical to deal quickly with the request by the Electronic Privacy Information Center.

Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller said no determination has been made as to what the government's next step will be.

At a court hearing a week ago, Justice Department lawyer Rupa Bhattacharyya said the government would respond starting March 3, but she said she had no information on when the process might be completed.

Timing will depend on complexity, "and in this case there are a lot of complexities," Bhattacharyya said.

Kennedy wrote that "courts have the authority to impose concrete deadlines on agencies that delay the processing of requests meriting expedition."

Routine FOIA requests are to be handled within 20 days while expedited requests have no set time limit under the law, prompting the Justice Department to take the position that the amount of time for expedited requests could be longer than that for the routine 20-day handling.

"Congress could not have intended to create the absurd situation" enabling the government to unilaterally exceed the standard 20-day period, Kennedy wrote.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press.

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A game of chicken on Capitol Hill - Backing away from illegal spying

By DALE McFEATTERS February 18, 2006

Under White House pressure, the Senate Intelligence Committee flinched and backed away from an investigation of the Bush administration's warrantless eavesdropping program.

In return, the committee got not much from the White House other than a vague commitment to provide greater disclosure and to cooperate on legislation affecting the wiretapping, which the White House insists isn't needed in any case.
The administration also played hardball with the Senate Judiciary Committee, rejecting a request by chairman Arlen Specter to have former attorney general John Ashcroft and his former deputy, James Comey, testify about the origins of the secret program, apparently because their testimony might reveal a deep division with the Justice Department about its legality.

The House Intelligence Committee, however, seems to be made of sterner stuff and is pressing ahead with an oversight investigation into the National Security Agency's eavesdropping on the overseas calls and e-mails of U.S. residents.

Congress keeps shying away from the underlying issue in the case _ whether the president can ignore the laws it passes because of the post-9/11 resolution authorizing the use of force and his war-fighting powers under the Constitution. And Congress also doesn't seem to have a great deal of appetite for insuring that Americans' fundamental civil liberties, especially the right to privacy, are respected.

There is an applicable law here, the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, that set up a special court to issue secret warrants for espionage and terrorism wiretaps. The Bush administration elected to skip the warrant process. The public may finally get a look at the administration's reasoning for that after a federal judge ordered the Justice Department to turn over its internal memos and legal opinions on the program. But that's thanks to a suit filed by civil liberties groups and not anything Congress did.

Congress is debating rewriting FISA both to streamline it and state explicitly that it does apply to NSA's eavesdropping. It is also debating exempting the NSA program from FISA altogether. But unless the lawmakers are willing to forcefully exercise their oversight function, and insist on the administration's compliance and disclosure, it won't much matter what Congress does.

(Contact Dale McFeatters at McFeattersD(at)SHNS.com)
© Copyright 2006 by Capitol Hill Blue

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Senate Chairman Splits With Bush on Spy Program

By SHERYL GAY STOLBERG February 18, 2006

WASHINGTON, Feb. 17 — The chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Friday that he wanted the Bush administration's domestic eavesdropping program brought under the authority of a special intelligence court, a move President Bush has argued is not necessary.

The chairman, Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, said he had some concerns that the court could not issue warrants quickly enough to keep up with the needs of the eavesdropping program. But he said he would like to see those details worked out.
Mr. Roberts also said he did not believe that exempting the program from the purview of the court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act "would be met with much support" on Capitol Hill. Yet that is exactly the approach the Bush administration is pursuing.

"I think it should come before the FISA court, but I don't know how it works," Mr. Roberts said. "You don't want to have a situation where you have capability that doesn't work well with the FISA court, in terms of speed and agility and hot pursuit. So we have to solve that problem."

Mr. Roberts spoke in an interview a day after announcing that the White House, in a turnabout, had agreed to open discussions about changing surveillance law. By Friday, with Mr. Roberts apparently stung by accusations that he had caved to White House pressure not to investigate the eavesdropping without warrants, it appeared the talks could put the White House and Congress on a collision course.

White House officials favor a proposal offered by another Republican senator, Mike DeWine of Ohio, whose bill would exempt the eavesdropping from the intelligence court. Mr. DeWine wants small subcommittees to oversee the wiretapping, but Mr. Roberts said he would like the full House and Senate Intelligence Committees to have regular briefings.

"I think it's the function and the oversight responsibility of the committee," he said, adding, "That might sound strange coming from me."

Mr. Roberts's comments were surprising because he has been a staunch defender of the program and an ally of White House efforts to resist a full-scale Senate investigation. On Thursday, he pushed back a committee vote on a Democratic push to conduct an inquiry, saying he wanted to give the White House time to negotiate on possible legislation. On Friday, he dismissed accusations that he had bowed to pressure.

"The irony of this is that it is portrayed now as administration pressure brought to bear on us, meaning the Republicans on the committee and basically me," Mr. Roberts said Friday. "It's just the reverse. It's the Republicans on the committee, my staff and myself, who have been really — I don't want to say pressuring, but trying to come up with a reasonable compromise that will settle this issue. It was our activity that brought them along to this point, plus the possibility of an investigation."

The eavesdropping, authorized in secret by President Bush soon after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has allowed the National Security Agency to monitor the international telephone and e-mail communications of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people within the United States — without warrants — when the authorities suspect they have links to terrorists.

Democrats and a growing number of Republicans say the program appears to violate the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Some Republicans are also skeptical of the Bush administration's assertion that it has the inherent constitutional authority to conduct the eavesdropping, and that Congress authorized the program when it passed a resolution after Sept. 11 giving Mr. Bush authority to use military force to defend the nation.

In the House, Republicans on the Intelligence Committee have agreed to open an inquiry prompted by the surveillance program and are debating how broad it should be. Mr. Roberts said he had not spoken to Representative Peter Hoekstra, the Michigan Republican who is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, about what the House panel is doing.

Representative Heather A. Wilson, Republican of New Mexico and chairwoman of the House Intelligence subcommittee that oversees the National Security Agency, has pressed for a broad investigation, but Mr. Hoekstra's aides have said that any inquiry would be limited to an examination of the FISA law.

The Senate intelligence chairman, Mr. Roberts, said he believed the administration had the constitutional authority for the program, but added, "We would be much more in concert with the Congress and everybody else and the FISA court judges" if the court oversaw the program.

As panel chairman, Mr. Roberts holds great sway. An aide to the senator said he had some specific ideas that he had been privately discussing with committee members and other lawmakers. But neither the senator nor the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicate nature of the negotiations, would make those ideas public.

Nor will Mr. Roberts have final say over what form legislation will take; rather, his ideas are circulating in an environment that one Congressional aide, referring to the Winter Olympic Games, said was "sort of like snowboardcross, with four proposals shooting out of the gate, jockeying for position."

Another senior Senate Republican, Arlen Specter, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, has proposed legislation that would allow the FISA court to pass judgment on the program's constitutionality. And Senator Olympia J. Snowe, Republican of Maine and a member of the intelligence panel, said Friday that she believed the eavesdropping must come under the purview of the judiciary.

"I think we do have to have judicial review," she said, adding, "Whether it's the FISA approach or not I think remains in question, but it can't go on in perpetuity, and it can't be unfettered warrantless surveillance."

Whether Republicans can agree remains to be seen. "People are all over the place," Mr. DeWine said. "We don't have a consensus."

The White House has been in talks with Mr. DeWine, who said Harriet E. Miers, the White House counsel, called him on Wednesday night, on the eve of the Senate Intelligence panel's scheduled vote, to discuss his legislation.

"What we have talked about with some Congressional leaders is codifying into law what his authority already is," Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman said in an interview Friday, referring to the president. He added, "Senator DeWine has some good ideas, and we think they're reasonable ideas."

Since the program's inception, the White House has provided information about it to members of the "Gang of Eight," the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, and the senior Democrat and Republican on the intelligence panels in both chambers. Last week, the Bush administration went further, revealing details of the program to all members of the House and Senate intelligence panels.

Mr. DeWine said his proposal called for an intelligence subcommittee with "professional staff" to have oversight. "It would be fundamentally different than doing it by the Gang of Eight, where there's really no staff," he said, adding, "The key is oversight."

Comment: It's all show, people. They are just pretending to debate the issue to make you think America is still a democracy.

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Specter calls for probe of his office to clear doubt on $48 million directed to groups that employed an aide's husband.

By Steve Goldstein Inquirer Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON - Sen. Arlen Specter said yesterday that he would ask the Senate ethics committee to investigate whether any rules were violated when he directed almost $50 million to companies and institutions that employed the husband of one of his top aides as a lobbyist.

Specter (R., Pa.) told reporters that he did not believe that he or anyone in his office had done anything wrong. He acknowledged that he had not sorted out all the actions of his aide in the approval of the spending.

His office later issued a statement saying the senator was asking for the ethics investigation "to satisfy all conceivable concern."
His comments came in response to a USA Today article yesterday reporting that companies employing lobbyist Michael Herson - the husband of a senior Specter aide - had been the recipients of $48.9 million in funding "earmarked" by Specter.

Specter used earmarking 13 times in the last three years to allocate funds to clients of Herson's firm, American Defense International, the newspaper reported.

Herson is the husband of Vicki Siegel Herson, Specter's legislative assistant for appropriations. USA Today reported that she handles Specter's work on the Senate Appropriations Committee and its defense subcommittee, where the earmarks in question originated.

Herson's lobbying firm has collected $1.8 million in fees from the clients since 2002, the paper reported. In a statement, Specter said that Herson never lobbied him or his office and that others from the companies and institutions - including Drexel University - had asked for the money.

"If you take a look at the facts, there is no violation of either law or ethics," the statement said.

Siegel Herson's role, if any, in the earmarking remains unclear.

Siegel Herson, who uses just Siegel professionally, has declined to talk to reporters. Specter said he spoke with her yesterday but had been unable to determine precisely her involvement in the allocations that went to her husband's clients.

"I'm going to check it out further," he said yesterday.

He added, "There's no indication from anything I know that this occurred."

Specter said that Siegel Herson never disclosed to him that her husband was working for the recipients of his earmarks - nor did she suggest to him that she should recuse herself from any earmark decisions involving clients of her husband's.

Specter said he did not know whether Herson had spoken to his wife about his clients that received the funding.

Citing her child-care obligations, Specter said, as of six months ago Siegel Herson had stopped doing appropriations and was working only one day per week.

Specter said she told him that he might have been in the same room with Herson three times, all in large gatherings. The senator said he would be unable to recognize Herson.

The largest of the earmarks went to Drexel - a total of $17.5 million in the last two fiscal years - for an initiative to link the military's computer systems.

Other firms receiving significant earmarked appropriations were Power+Energy Corp. of Ivyland, Bucks County; 3e Technologies International of Maryland; Gestalt L.L.C. of Camden; Gentex Corp. of Carbondale, Pa.; and California-based Universal Space Network Inc.

Specter reviewed the lists and said he had met only "infrequently" with officials of Drexel among all the firms on the list.

All of the earmarks paid for defense-related purchases of research, software and oxygen masks.

In each case, the senator's office said, someone other than Herson sought the earmarking. He released a statement naming the lobbyists and others who asked for the money.

In a December news release announcing $56 million worth of earmarks, including $17 million for these firms, Specter said: "These projects, key to our nation's defense, will be invaluable in our continuing war on terror."

Earmarks have been controversial because the directed spending is rarely challenged. Defense earmarks played a role in the recent bribery conviction of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R., Calif.).

"Earmarks usually are slipped into appropriation bills without a vote, without debate and without notice," said Roberta Baskin, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit watchdog group that monitors lobbying. "That's why a seat on the Appropriations Committee is so coveted."

"If these projects had been debated on the floor," Baskin said, "there's a good chance someone would have checked the sponsor of the projects and checked who would benefit from it. But that's not how the earmarking process works. It's all done in secrecy."

Specter argued that he had "long-standing concern" about earmarks.

"In my capacity as chairman of the appropriations subcommittee for labor, health and human services, and education, last year I eliminated all earmarks, which amounted to $1 billion."

The senator added that he took that step because there were insufficient funds in the budget, not because he objects to earmarks, which he said produced jobs in Pennsylvania.

Evolution of Earmarking

The dictionary definition of an earmark refers to identification marks on livestock, and in politics the important animal is the "steer."

Earmarks in politics are legislative provisions that target, or steer, benefits to a particular company, organization or locality. Thousands of such projects are threaded into the annual spending or appropriations bills.

For example, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R., Ill.) earmarked $200,000 to Paw Paw, Ill., in a fiscal 2005 spending bill to replace the town's 100-year-old water- storage tower.

Earmarks have grown exponentially in the last decade, from 1,439 in 1995 to 13,997 last year, according to Citizens Against Government Waste.

A key criticism of earmarks is that they are usually inserted into appropriations bills without a vote and can be hidden in a larger bill. The earmark, unlike the tag on a steer's ear, then becomes invisible and can pass without debate.

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Partisan political pukes


Republicans are corrupt. So are Democrats. Republicans abuse power. So do Democrats. Republicans put their own narrow-focus, special-interest fed agenda ahead of the welfare of America. Got a newsflash for you. So do Democrats.
It always happens. We publish a column by someone who expresses a point-of-view that runs counter to someone else's political leanings and the emails flow over the electronic transom like diarrhea: Most of them saying something like "boy, if (insert name of politician here) were President or (insert name of political party here) were running Congress this wouldn't have happened."

That's the way life is for partisans. They just can't think outside the political box.

As soon as someone starts a conversation with "I'm a Republican" or "I'm a Democrat," I usually stop listening. If they say "I'm an American," then my ears stay open. Trying to reason with partisans is a waste of time. They, as a rule, see things from a limited perspective and that perspective is seldom their own. It is a party-fed line of bullshit tailored by a political hack in Washington whose only goal is further the agenda of an organization whose selfish interests only undermine the American system of government.

Democrats blame Republicans for the mess we're in these days. Republicans blame Democrats. In fact, both sides share the blame and neither side presents any real solutions because they can't get beyond their own partisan agendas that are more about control than what's good for the country.

Republicans are corrupt. So are Democrats. Republicans abuse power. So do Democrats. Republicans put their own narrow-focus, special-interest fed agenda ahead of the welfare of America. Got a newsflash for you. So do Democrats.

It is not one party or another that is destroying America. It's the political system itself - a self-perpetuating monster that feeds on money, lust for power and self-interest. Republicans tolerate a crook like Tom DeLay in their midst. Democrats have Corrine Brown. Republicans had Duke Cunningham. Democrats had Jim Trafficant. Both parties have their crooks, their cheats, their swindlers and their con-artists. And both parties try and protect them.

George W. Bush uses the power of the White House to go after his enemies. So did Bill Clinton. Abuse of power by a President, Democrat or Republican, is nothing new.

Democrats and Republicans voted to authorize the war in Iraq. Democrats now say they were misled by Bush. They were. We expect our elected officials to ask the hard questions before voting to send young American men and women to die in a war based on lies but the sad truth is few on Capitol Hill - Republican or Democrat - raised a serious objection before giving Bush permission to wage war.

Both Democrats and Republicans voted for the right-robbing USA Patriot Act, a single piece of legislation that gutted the Constitution and destroyed the American way of life. And Democrats stood alongside Republicans in the Senate this week and voted to reauthorize that act.

On Meet the Press last week, Jane Harman, the ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, said she and other Democrats supported using the National Security Agency to spy on Americans but did not like the fact that the President didn't fully brief Congress about it.

"I support the program," she said. "I've never flinched from that."

In other words, she and her fellow Democrats are not upset that the United States government is using all its technology to eavesdrop on Americans. They're just mad that she wasn't in the loop.

What all this tells me is that neither party gives a damn about the Constitution or the freedoms that used to define this country.

It tells me that both have sold out their country in the name of politics.

It tells me Republicans and Democrats have one thing in common: They are all traitors to the United States of America.

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Impeaching Bush Is 'Cause Worth Fighting for,' Actor Says

By Randy Hall CNSNews.com Staff Writer/Editor February 17, 2006

Richard Dreyfuss, the actor who starred in movies ranging from "Jaws" to "Mr. Holland's Opus," told an audience in Washington, D.C., on Thursday that "there are causes worth fighting for," and one of those is the impeachment of President George W. Bush.
"There are causes worth fighting for even if you know that you will lose," Dreyfuss said during a speech at the National Press Club. "Unless you are willing to accept torture as part of a normal American political lexicon, unless you are willing to accept that leaving the Geneva Convention is fine and dandy, if you accept the expansion of wiretapping as business as usual, the only way to express this now is to embrace the difficult and perhaps embarrassing process of impeachment."

Noting that the process was established by the country's "founders, who we revere to check executive abuse with congressional balance," Dreyfuss said impeachment "is a statement that we refuse to endorse bad behavior."

"If we refuse to debate the appropriateness of the process of impeachment, we endorse that behavior, and we approve the enlargement of executive power," regardless of whoever may occupy the White House in the future, he said.

"And don't kid yourselves: No one ever gives up power, ever," Dreyfuss added.

"Now, it is not your job as the press to impeach George Bush," the actor stated. However, people in the media should "maintain the integrity of that debate" by not dismissing the topic out of hand as partisan or unpatriotic.

During his address on the subject of Hollywood's view of contemporary news media, Dreyfuss said he is not a cynic or a liberal, but is instead a "'libo-conservo-middle-of-the-roado,' and I have been for many years."

"I'm deeply in love with my country," he added. "As a matter of fact, I'm deeply in love with the country that I was taught about in school, the land of the free and the home of the brave."

Nevertheless, Dreyfuss charged that "people can sometimes be pretty thoughtless, pretty terrified and do some pretty impressive damage" when they are wrong or "are the victims of political hypnosis."

In the past, "time and distance played an amazing part in keeping the human race from killing itself," the actor noted. The need for revenge after an attack "inevitably weakened because it took a lot of time to get men into ships and move them to the right battlefield. Only those truly staunch of heart and truly zealous could keep up that hatred.

"But now, people in Kansas see the [Twin] Towers fall at the exact instant as people in Nigeria or Cairo," he said. "Instantaneous knowledge leads to instantaneous reaction, which creates a demand for an instantaneous, reflexive response."

Dreyfuss blamed part of that reaction on television newscasters, who "fill the air with the same terrible clips, the same blaring intro music, the same screaming fonts, and then the same clips again and the same screaming fonts again and again to fill up these news cycles."

"Television did this. Television created the sound bite and then shrunk it," the actor said. "Television replaced words with images so that people make extraordinary decisions based not on prose or any attempt at analysis," but on pictures instead. See Video

The actor saved his harshest tone for those who accuse critics of the government and its officials of having a more serious motive.

"Watch me lose my sense of humor if people accuse me of treason," Dreyfuss said before mocking two of the Fox News Channel's most popular hosts. "'That's not very O'Reilly of you, Mister Smarty-Pants,' or 'What would Sean Hannity have to say about that, Mister Too-Complex-for-Your-Own-Good?'" See Video

However, "none of this happened because of any conspiracy," he stated. "This happened because we have not paid attention to the new rules of the electronic media."

To restore true American values, the actor called for children to be taught "the tools of debate and dissent," as well as a return to the principle of civility, which he called "the oxygen that democracies require else they become poisoned and die, as this democracy will."

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Espionage and the First Amendment Spycraft, free speech, and the AIPAC espionage case

Justin Raimondo 17 Feb 06

Is there a First Amendment right to steal and transmit vital U.S. secrets to a foreign power? Viet Dinh, the intellectual author of the PATRIOT Act – and a rising star among the neoconservative legal theorists who have commandeered the Justice Department in the service of presidential omnipotence – thinks so.

In the latest development in the AIPAC spy case, in which two longtime employees of one of the most powerful lobbies in the Washington are charged with passing classified information to Israeli officials, Dinh has submitted a legal brief [.pdf] that, in so many words, asserts exactly that.

Dinh starts out by citing none other than Patrick J. Fitzgerald, who, at his press conference announcing the indictment of Scooter Libby, explained why he did not prosecute under the terms of the Espionage Act. The context is in response to a question about Valerie Plame's covert status:
"And all I'll say is that if national defense information which is involved because her affiliation with the CIA, whether or not she was covert, was classified, if that was intentionally transmitted, that would violate the statute known as Section 793, which is the Espionage Act.
"That is a difficult statute to interpret. It's a statute you ought to carefully apply.
"I think there are people out there who would argue that you would never use that to prosecute the transmission of classified information, because they think that would convert that statute into what is in England the Official Secrets Act.
"Let me back up. The average American may not appreciate that there's no law that's specifically just says, 'If you give classified information to somebody else, it is a crime.' There may be an Official Secrets Act in England. There are some narrow statutes, and there is this one statute that has some flexibility in it.
"So there are people who should argue that you should never use that statute because it would become like the Official Secrets Act. I don't buy that theory, but I do know you should be very careful in applying that law because there are a lot of interests that could be implicated in making sure that you picked the right case to charge that statute."
I have bolded the portions omitted by Dinh, in hopes of underscoring what are really Fitzgerald's key points. The important phrase here, of course, is "I don't buy that theory" – and neither, we hope, will the jury in the AIPAC case. Dinh's brief in favor of dismissing all charges against the AIPAC defendants is basically an argument calling for the abolition of the relevant sections of the Espionage Act. In which case it would be perfectly legal to release documents or hearsay "respecting the national defense with intent or reason to believe that the information is to be used to the injury of the United States, or to the advantage of any foreign nation," as the language of the Act puts it.
Furthermore, the presentation of the citation in its complete context ought to make clear that Dinh is distorting and even reversing not only the true significance of what Fitzgerald said, but also what the special counsel's investigation portends. For clearly Fitzgerald was and perhaps still is gunning to get the vice president's chief of staff – and others in the administration – on violating the same provisions of the Espionage Act of which Rosen and Weissman stand accused. The problem for Fitzgerald is that, as he put it, what Libby and his cohorts have done is throw sand in the umpire's eyes, preventing investigators from ascertaining the facts in the case and establishing a conspiracy to "out" Plame. No such problem exists for the prosecutors in the AIPAC spy case.
As revealed in the indictment of the AIPAC defendants – Steve Rosen, the lobby's longtime director, and Keith Weissman, a top policy analyst – the FBI was watching their every move as they milked Pentagon Iran specialist Larry Franklin for every drop of classified information to which he had access, including top-secret intelligence relating to al-Qaeda as well as Iran. The FBI's counterintelligence unit listened as the conspirators arranged assignations and watched as they engaged in furtive meetings: "On or about March 10, 2003," the indictment informs us,
"Franklin, Rosen, and Weissman met at Union Station early in the morning. In the course of the meeting, the three men moved from one restaurant to another restaurant and then finished the meeting in an empty restaurant."
Hardly the sort of behavior one might expect from a group supposedly engaged in, as Dinh puts it, "a core First Amendment activity" – unless spying is now constitutionally protected. Dinh's brief characterizes the accused as a couple of public-spirited guys whose only crime is exercising the "public's right to associate, advocate, and speak in an effort to shape foreign policy." What this fanciful version of events conveniently ignores is the central role played by Israeli "diplomats," including Naor Gilon, the Washington embassy's chief political officer. Franklin repeatedly met with Gilon and others and handed over classified information, in addition to indirectly transmitting U.S. secrets via the Rosen-Weissman tag team. Neither Gilon, nor any reference to specific foreign officials as described in the indictment, is so much as mentioned in Dinh's brief.
Dinh goes so far as to cite Attorney General Clark, who, when the relevant sections of the Espionage Act were amended, declared:
"Nobody other than a spy, saboteur, or other person who would weaken the internal security of the nation need have any fear of prosecution."
Rosen and Weissman have been charged with espionage because they are spies and were acting on behalf of a foreign power, just like the Rosenbergs and Alger Hiss before them. They cultivated Franklin, who, convinced that U.S. policy in the Middle East is insufficiently pro-Israel, approached Rosen and Weissman, who put them in touch with Israeli agents. The pair then proceeded to act as a conduit for top-secret information gleaned from Franklin, which was passed directly to the Israelis.
How is it that someone who had a hand in drafting legislation – the PATRIOT Act – that permits the indefinite detention of American citizens, the surveillance of phone calls, e-mail, and other communications on an unprecedented scale, and otherwise represents the most invasive incursion into our civil liberties since the Alien and Sedition Acts, is now posing as a champion of the First Amendment rights of these two spies caught red-handed?
This will have to remain one of the murkiest mysteries of recent times, one that defies all explanation but this one: that this former assistant to Attorney General John Ashcroft and head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Policy believes that there ought to be one standard for lobbyists on behalf of a foreign country – in this case, Israel – and another for us hoi polloi who owe no foreign country our allegiance or bias. There is to be one standard for AIPAC and another for the rest of us.
Now, this imputation may seem like an unfair stretch of the facts, but ask yourself this: what if, instead of Rosen and Weissman, the two accused were named Abdullah and Mohammed? And what if the organization they worked for was, say, the Muslim American Political Action Council (MAPAC), and the two of them had been caught handing over sensitive intelligence to employees of the Iranian embassy? One has the right to wonder if Dinh – author of legislation that empowers the government to conduct surveillance of mosques and detain thousands of individuals of Middle Eastern descent, including American citizens – would be quite so forthcoming in his call for dismissing all charges.
Somehow, I doubt it.
An interesting side note: The Franklin-AIPAC indictment dates the time-span of the AIPAC spy conspiracy as being "Between in or about April 1999 and continuing until on or about August 27, 2004." At around this time, in 1998, the U.S. rejected Israeli demands that their citizens be included in the visa waiver program: they would now have to undergo an interview and be fingerprinted. Why the change in policy, coming from the most ostensibly pro-Israel administration in memory? The AIPAC spy case is just the tip of the iceberg, as this UPI dispatch by Richard Sale makes all too clear.

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The Making of a Zombie Culture

By Charles Sullivan 17 Feb 06

It is difficult to know what the public thinks when they watch the major media networks. My mother is a devotee of the CBS evening news that was anchored by Dan Rather. I do not know who anchors the program now. If my mother does not hear about something on the CBS evening news, she does not believe it. On the other hand, I get none of my news from the televised media, because I know they are not telling us the truth either by content or by omission. When I discuss the issues with my mother she is often incredulous about what I tell her, doubting my authenticity. Like millions of other Americans, my mother fails to grasp the extent of the propaganda that is used to manipulate and misshape her views.
The effectiveness of the corporate propaganda campaign in accomplishing this end is demonstrated by the following example. Millions of viewers refuse to believe that the US engages in a world wide campaign of torture and prisoner abuse. These viewers summarily reject the documented evidence to the contrary, and the graphic testimony of the gulag survivors themselves. This is news that CBS does not report.

Propaganda appeals to the emotional side of the human brain, while circumventing the side that evokes critical thinking. Therefore, the systematic torture of captives is a non-event for the consumers of the corporate news, whose minds have been deftly manipulated to reach this conclusion without their knowledge. This is only one of many incidents that explain the appalling ignorance that characterizes the American public. It is this kind of ignorance that allows the public to believe the most horrendous lies, while coaxing them to act against their own self interest. None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who think they are free.

If we are to understand the current media crisis, it is necessary to comprehend who the commercial media serves. The corporate media exists to serve the status quo, not to inform the people, as is widely assumed by its consumers. It serves the private sector, the bottom line, not the public interest, or the Commonwealth. The commercial media cooperates with those in power to program the public mind by creating propaganda that in essence engenders specific emotional responses, and creates a belief system favorable to the status quo. In essence, the consumer’s mind is programmed to accept the ‘official version’ of events, without consideration of any and all contradictory evidence. Well crafted propaganda compels the people to act in the corporate interest, even as they operate in ways harmful to themselves and the public interest.

Rather ingeniously, the corporate media furtively programs the American mind to consume goods and services, while simultaneously dumbing them down by withholding relevant information. If this information were presented in context it might induce the people to act in ways that are public spirited, rather than selfish. An ignorant citizenry is easily controlled and manipulated, while a well informed citizenry is not. The result is that we have evolved into an intellectually lazy and spiritually shallow culture of mindless consumers—mere automatons who cannot think critically, or act to save ourselves.

This explains why the multitudes appear to be in a state of perpetual somnolence, while the world is collapsing around them. Their capacity for critical thinking and self examination has been utterly subverted through prolonged exposure to commercial television and radio. Their minds remain receptive to the message of capitalism and empire—programmed to believe whatever they are told; and to consume goods and services in abundance.

It can be exasperating to those of us still in possession of our mental faculties to witness the zombie-like state of indifference that afflicts our fellow citizens, even while the sky is falling upon them. Their minds truly are not their own.

During the height of revolutionary unionism early in the previous century, Eugene Debs and other prominent organizers had the astonishing ability to turn out hundreds of thousands of people to protect workers from the tyranny of their employers. This was done without sophisticated electronic media. Large scale work stoppages were quickly organized to disrupt the flow of goods and services, which in turn affected corporate profits. The bottom line is the soft underbelly of capitalism that leaves it vulnerable to economic disruption through the general strike.

Now we are blessed with an immense and sophisticated electronic media that is capable of informing and organizing billions of people in ways that Eugene Debs could only have dreamed of. Yet the people remain in a state of stupor and somnolence. Far from being a tool used for the public good, commercial media exists solely to promote corporate interests, even as it usurps the public owned airwaves for the masked purposes of accumulating privatized wealth. The commercial media thus persuades the multitudes to behave in ways that are self destructive; that foster ignorance while spreading fear as a method of mind control, and promote the copious consumption of goods and services.

Like public lands, the air waves are the property of the people and they should be used to serve the public, not to program our minds. However, corporate influence over the political process has resulted in a massive giveaway of the airwaves to a homogenized and concentrated media conglomerate that does not serve the people. We must take them back.

Accomplishing this will require that we think about the public airwaves differently. We must think in terms of the public good rather than privatized wealth. Contrary to popular belief, most private wealth was not earned; it was stolen from the public domain without providing any benefit to the public in return. So it is with the public airwaves. Massive corporate profits are being realized, while doing great and irreparable harm to the public that owns them. Thinking in terms of the Commonwealth, rather than privatized wealth, will be a major step toward ending Plutocratic rule while simultaneously implementing democracy.

By now it should be clear that the corporate media serves empire by turning truth on its head. It provides those who control the government the means by which to coerce and to deceive the masses by creating its own fictionalized version of reality. Thus if George Bush says that up is down, up becomes down. If Bush says that global warming is not real, it is not real, even as the planet warms beyond the tipping point. This is relativism in its purest form; and it does not serve truth. Under relativism, the familiar points of reference such as up and down, black and white lose their traditional, reality-based meaning. They become whatever the emperor proclaims them to be. If we allow this to occur we will lose our ability to make sense of the world.

The atmosphere of indifference and apathy that prevails so widely in America is no accident. It is the result of well designed and deliberately ambiguous messages crafted by psychologists employed by the commercial media industry. Thus, public perception is as far removed from truth and reality as the miasma induced by powerful mind altering drugs. Because of the effectiveness of this subtle brain washing, the people are unable to think critically, and thus are unable to act to save themselves from the emerging Gestapo state that is enveloping the nation. Their only hope for salvation is to withdraw from the reality altering drugs of commercial television and radio, to which they do not even know they are addicted.

A great awakening must precede revolution.

Charles Sullivan is a photographer and free lance writer living in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. He can be reached at earthdog@highstream.net

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The secret to soap opera addiction

Mairi Macleod 18 February 2006 New Scientist Print Edition

WE REMEMBER juicy gossip about our friends and acquaintances far more readily than more mundane details about their lives - which may explain why people become so addicted to gossipy media such as soap operas.
To find out whether gossip spreads through groups of people better than other information about them, UK-based researchers Alex Mesoudi and Andrew Whiten of the University of St Andrews and Robin Dunbar of the University of Liverpool used a method akin to "Chinese whispers".

They gave 10 people four different passages to read and then asked them to write down what they could remember. Their efforts were passed to another set of volunteers as passages for them to learn, and the process was repeated four times.

The researchers then tried to tally the original passages with the final results. They found that gossip-like information involving deception and infidelity, and details involving general information about the interactions of third parties, were remembered and transmitted in greater quantity and with greater accuracy than purely descriptive information about individuals or their environment.

"Humans are an intensely social species, and other people are a highly salient aspect of the environment in which we live and grow up," Mesoudi says. This makes the behaviours of others vitally important, which may explain why we are particularly adept at recalling such social information, he suggests.

The researchers say their findings, to be published in the British Journal of Psychology, also lend support to the idea that primate intelligence, especially human intelligence, originally evolved in response to social pressures rather than non-social demands such as finding food or using tools.

"If primate intelligence originally evolved to solve complex social problems, such as keeping track of shifting coalitions or countering against deception, then it's possible that present-day human intelligence carries a legacy of this selection history, here expressed as a bias in memory for social information," says Mesoudi.

Nick Emler of the University of Surrey in Guildford, UK, suggests the groups would have been even more adept at recalling the gossip had the experiment involved information about real people that the participants knew.

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FDA may reject safety warning for ADHD drugs

18 February 2006 New Scientist Print Edition

DRUGS used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder may put people at risk of sudden death through heart failure. That's the fear of advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration, who on 9 February recommended that the drugs carry a prominent health warning. Controversially, the FDA is likely to reject this advice.

Nearly 4 million Americans with behavioural or learning difficulties are prescribed amphetamine-based stimulants such as Ritalin. The FDA asked its Drug Safety and Risk Management Advisory Committee to investigate 25 reports of sudden deaths among people taking the drugs, 19 of them children.
The panel voted eight to seven to recommend adopting the most serious type of health warning that can be used in the labelling of a prescription medicine. In an unusual move, the FDA then held a press conference and argued that the current labelling is adequate.

Yet the panel heard that the stimulants might be as dangerous as other drugs that the FDA last year ruled should carry the most prominent safety warnings. "There's an inconsistency here," says Arthur Levin, director of the Center for Medical Consumers in New York and a member of the advisory committee.

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'Natural' cure found for attention deficit disorder

By Jerome Taylor Published: 16 February 2006

A British millionaire has announced that he may have discovered a way of curing children suffering from the worst form of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) without resorting to drugs.

Wynford Dore said yesterday that years of painstaking research have shown that, by using space-age technology normally reserved for testing astronauts returning from space, doctors may be able to rebalance the brains of those suffering from such disorders.
The treatment could help revolutionise how children in Australia - where Mr Dore now lives - and millions of others worldwide are treated for chronic learning difficulties.

Children with ADHD are thought to have problems with the cerebellum, a part of the brain that controls the organisation and direction of thought and behaviour. Mr Dore's new theory gives rise to hopes that stimulating the dormant parts of the cerebellum, using a series of balance and eye exercises, could expand it and encourage it to work better without needing to use chemical treatment.

Mr Dore, who originally made his money selling fire-resistant paint, said that the new findings were discovered by accident.

"These are wonderful, incredible results and yet we didn't even try and do this," he said at a press conference in Sydney. "By accident, we stumbled on something that could have the most dramatic effect on individuals' lives."

The battle against ADHD became something of a personal crusade for Mr Dore after his daughter tried to commit suicide because of her chronic learning difficulties. But the new treatment does not come cheap. The therapy costs £1,700 and takes up to 15 months to complete.

As many as one in every 20 children suffers from some form of attention disorder and the problem, scientists believe, has dramatically increased over the past 50 years.

Statistically, boys are three times more likely to suffer from the condition. ADHD is usually treated by a group of drugs known as psychostimulants which, while effective, can have unpleasant side effects.

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Get ready for 24-hour living

Graham Lawton 18 February 2006 New Scientist Print Edition

A new wave of drugs will make it a breeze to go days without sleep, and give you a good night's shut-eye in two hours - are you ready for 24-hour living?
SO MUCH to do, so little time. Between a hectic work schedule and a thriving social life, Yves (not his real name), a 31- year-old software developer from Seattle, often doesn't have time for a full night's sleep. So he swallows something to make sure he doesn't need one. "If I take a dose just before I go to bed, I can wake up after 4 or 5 hours and feel refreshed," he says. "The alarm goes off and I'm like, let's go!"

Yves is talking about modafinil, a stimulant that since its launch seven years ago has acquired a near-mythical reputation for wiring you awake without the jitters, euphoria and eventual crash that come after caffeine or amphetamines. Yves has been popping modafinil on and off for the past three years and says it is "tremendously useful". "I find I can be very productive at work," he says. "I'm more organised and more motivated. And it means I can go out partying on a Friday night and still go skiing early on Saturday morning."

Modafinil is just the first of a wave of new lifestyle drugs that promise to do for sleep what the contraceptive pill did for sex - unshackle it from nature. Since time immemorial, humans have structured their lives around sleep. In the near future, we will, for the first time, be able to significantly structure the way we sleep to suit our lifestyles.

"The more we understand about the body's 24-hour clock the more we will be able to override it," says Russell Foster, a circadian biologist at Imperial College London. "In 10 to 20 years we'll be able to pharmacologically turn sleep off. Mimicking sleep will take longer, but I can see it happening." Foster envisages a world where it's possible, or even routine, for people to be active for 22 hours a day and sleep for two. It is not a world that everyone likes the sound of. "I think that would be the most hideous thing to happen to society," says Neil Stanley, head of sleep research at the Human Psychopharmacology Research Unit in the University of Surrey, UK. But most sleep researchers agree that it is inevitable.

If that sounds unlikely, think about what is already here. Modafinil has made it possible to have 48 hours of continuous wakefulness with few, if any, ill effects. New classes of sleeping pills are on the horizon that promise to deliver sleep that is deeper and more refreshing than the real thing. Further down the line are even more radical interventions - wakefulness promoters that can safely abolish sleep for several days at a stretch, and sleeping pills that deliver what feels like 8 hours of sleep in half the time. Nor is it all about drugs: one research team even talks about developing a wearable electrical device that can wake your brain up at the flick of a switch.

To some degree, we are already adept at controlling sleep. Most people in full-time work deprive themselves of sleep during the week, deliberately or otherwise, and catch up at the weekend. We often augment our sleep-suppressing powers with caffeine, nicotine or illegal stimulants such as cocaine and amphetamines. We are also highly dependent on substances that help us sleep. According to some estimates, 75 per cent of adults suffer at least one symptom of a sleep problem a few nights a week or more. In 1998, a team from the Henry Ford Health Sciences Research Institute in Detroit, Michigan, published a study revealing that 13 per cent of adult Americans had used alcohol to help them get to sleep in the previous year, and 18 per cent had used sleeping pills (Sleep, vol 21, p 178).

Despite the enormous resources that we pour into getting good sleep and wakefulness when we want them, most of the drugs at our disposal are crude instruments at best. The vast majority of sleeping pills - known in the business as hypnotics - are simply "knockout drops" that put you in a state almost like sleep but without its full restorative properties. "Hypnotic-induced sleep is better than no sleep, but it isn't natural sleep," says Stanley. With their addictive nature, the drugs we use to keep us awake, such as coffee and amphetamines, are even worse. In combination with our clock-watching lifestyles, these sleep and wake aids are driving ever more people into what Foster calls the "stimulant-sedative loop" where they need nightly help getting to sleep and daily help staying awake.

Modafinil has changed the rules of the game. The drug is what's known as a eugeroic, meaning "good arousal" in Greek. It delivers natural-feeling alertness and wakefulness without the powerful physical and mental jolt that earlier stimulants delivered. "There are no amphetamine-like feelings," says Yves. And as Yves' way of taking it shows, being on modafinil doesn't stop you from falling asleep if you want to.

In fact, its effects are so subtle that many users say they don't notice anything at all - until they need to. "I wouldn't say it makes me feel more alert or less sleepy. It's just that thoughts of tiredness don't occur to me," says Yves. "If there's a job at hand that I should be doing, I'm focused, but if I'm watching a movie or something, there is no effect."

People who take modafinil for medical reasons usually take just enough of the drug in the morning to see them through the day, but it also seems to be able to deliver sustained wakefulness - for a couple of days at least. "The military has tested sequential dosing," says Jeffrey Vaught, president of R&D at Cephalon, modafinil's Pennsylvania-based manufacturer. "It works for 48 hours or so, but eventually you need to sleep."

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about modafinil is that users don't seem to have to pay back any "sleep debt". Normally, if you stayed awake for 48 hours straight you would have to sleep for about 16 hours to catch up. Modafinil somehow allows you to catch up with only 8 hours or so. Well before Cephalon took an interest in the drug, French researchers discovered this effect in cats back in the early 1990s (Brain Research, vol 591, p 319), and it has since been found to apply to humans too.

So how does modafinil work? "No one really knows," admits Vaught. He says that Cephalon thinks it understands the drug, but is keeping the details under wraps. What is clear is that, like other stimulant drugs, modafinil prevents nerve cells from reabsorbing the excitatory neurotransmitter dopamine once they release it into the brain. The difference is that it somehow does so without producing the addictive highs and painful crashes associated with most stimulants. A number of independent studies suggest that this might be because it also interferes with the reuptake of another neurotransmitter, noradrenalin.

However it works, modafinil is proving hugely successful. Since it hit the market in 1998, sales have been climbing steadily - from $25 million in 1999 to around $575 million in 2005. Cephalon insists that the drug is for treating "medical" sleepiness caused by diseases such as narcolepsy and sleep apnoea.

Even so, it's clear that modafinil is becoming a lifestyle drug for people like Yves who want off-the-peg wakefulness. "At first I got it from a friend, and then I got diagnosed as a narcoleptic online," says Yves.

All the indications are that modafinil is extremely safe. The drug can have side effects, most commonly headaches, but up to now there have been no severe reactions, says Vaught. In fact, it is hard to find anyone with a bad word to say about modafinil, except that there may be unseen problems down the line as the drug becomes more widely used. "I think it's unlikely that there can be an arousal drug with no consequences," says Foster. In the long run, it is possible that casual users might have to keep upping their dose to get the same effect. Stanley has similar worries. "Is it a potential drug of abuse?" he asks. "Will it get street value? We'll see."

Cephalon does not seem to be worried. Modafinil's success has spurred it to develop a successor, armodafinil. The company is also developing other eugeroics - one experimental drug called CEP-16795 switches off the H3 histamine receptor, which appears to be one of the molecular switches that controls the sleep-wake cycle. However, Vaught claims that the original will be a tough act to follow. "Modafinil is very effective and very safe," he says. "How do you beat it?"

There are ideas as to how. Last year, Sam Deadwyler of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, reported the results of an experiment with a drug called CX717. The findings suggest that modafinil won't have the field to itself forever.

Deadwyler kept 11 rhesus monkeys awake for 36 hours, throughout which they performed short-term memory and general alertness tests (Public Library of Sciences Biology, vol 3, p 299). At that level of sleep deprivation, a monkey's performance would normally drop to the point where it could barely function at all, but Deadwyler found that CX717 had remarkable restorative powers. Monkeys on the drug were doing better after 36 hours of continual wakefulness than undrugged monkeys after normal sleep. When Deadwyler imaged their brains with functional magnetic resonance imaging, (fMRI), he found that the drug maintained normal activity even in severely sleep-deprived individuals. The results build on those of an earlier, small-scale trial on 16 men that found CX717 could largely reverse the cognitive decline that comes with 24 hours of sleep deprivation (New Scientist, 14 May 2005, p 6).
Soldiers get high

CX717 belongs to a class of drugs called ampakines, which subtly ramp up brain activity by enhancing the action of its main excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamate. Cortex Pharmaceuticals of Irvine, California, which developed CX717, originally saw the drug as a cognitive booster for people with Alzheimer's, but it is its potential to counter the effects of sleep deprivation that is attracting the most attention.

Later this year, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), based in Arlington, Virginia, will put CX717 through its paces as a wakefulness promoter for combat. In an experiment designed to mimic the harsh demands of special ops, investigators will push 48 volunteers to the limit - four consecutive nights of hard work with only 4 hours of recovery sleep in between. "They'll go from being tired to exhausted to crashing," says Roger Stoll, Cortex's chief executive. For some of them, however, the ordeal will be softened by regular doses of CX717. DARPA hopes the drug will counteract the sleep deprivation.

The trial should help answer some outstanding questions about CX717's potential. "We don't know yet if it eliminates feelings of sleepiness," says Stoll. "The early signs are that people function better, their brain is a little more hyped. But we haven't tested sleepiness directly." As with modafinil, the evidence suggests that people struggle to tell if they're on the drug or not, and that hasn't turned out to be much of a problem for modafinil.

Whatever the outcome of the DARPA trial, CX717 won't be the last word on eugeroics. Stoll says Cortex has similar but more powerful molecules up its sleeve. Thought they are being developed mainly as memory enhancers, some may turn out to be powerful wakefulness promoters too. Industry giants GlaxoSmithKline and Eli Lilly have ampakine programmes of their own, and at least one other company, Arena Pharmaceuticals of San Diego, California, has declared an interest in wakefulness promoters, though it hasn't released any details of its research.

When and if those drugs come through, the US military is sure to be interested. DARPA is one of the most active players in the drive to conquer sleep, setting up and funding much of the basic research on wakefulness. The army and air force have research programmes too.

It's easy to see why DARPA is interested. "We make the assumption that soldiers are going to be sleep-deprived," says DARPA neuroscientist Amy Kruse, who runs the agency's sleep-deprivation research programme. "We want to know what we can do to bring them back up to the level they would be at if they had a good night's sleep."

When DARPA talks about sleep deprivation, it really means it. Soldiers on special ops sometimes have to be awake, alert and active for 72 hours at a stretch with only minimal rest. That's like starting work on Monday morning and not stopping until Thursday. "Three days, that's when they really start hurting," says Kruse.

The military has a long history of using caffeine and amphetamines to get its people through. It has now added modafinil to the list, and is clearly interested in CX717. And Kruse says she is confident that there is lots of room for further improvement.

Last year, a DARPA-funded team led by Giulio Tononi at the University of Wisconsin Madison discovered a strain of fruit flies that gets by on just a third the normal amount of sleep. The "minisleep" mutant carries a change to a single gene, encoding a protein involved in potassium transport across cell membranes. Intriguingly, defects in potassium channels are associated with reduced sleep in humans, particularly in the autoimmune disease Morvan's syndrome, one symptom of which is chronic sleeplessness. What that suggests, says Kruse, is that new drugs designed to latch onto potassium channels in the brain could radically alter the need for sleep. There are also likely to be other molecular targets in the brain just waiting to be exploited, she says.

DARPA is meanwhile pursuing other strategies to conquer sleep deprivation. At Yaakov Stern's lab at Columbia University in New York, DARPA-funded neuroscientists have used fMRI to image the brains of sleep-deprived people, to find out which regions are affected when you are very tired. Then they used a transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) machine - routinely used to switch localised brain regions on and off - to switch off those areas and see if that reversed the effects.

"This is all proof of concept," says Stern. "It's hard to imagine a sleep deprived pilot using TMS," not least because the machines are too bulky to fit in a cockpit. "The next step is to apply TMS before or during sleep deprivation to see if it blunts the effect. That has more of a shot at a lasting effect." Stern says his team is also looking into a new technique called DC brain polarisation, which has similar brain-boosting effects to TMS but uses DC current instead of magnetism. The beauty of this "poor man's TMS" is that the equipment is significantly smaller and cheaper - it could even be incorporated into headgear that gives you a jolt of wakefulness at the flick of a switch. And then there's always neurofeedback - training people to activate the brain regions that get hit by sleep deprivation, effectively willing themselves awake.

The military isn't just interested in wakefulness. It also has a keen interest in the other side of the coin. John Caldwell works at the US Air Force Research Laboratory in San Antonio, Texas. He has spent most of his career testing the effects of stimulants, including modafinil, on pilots. "I'm the guy who puts sleep-deprived pilots in a plane, gives them drugs and says, did it work?" he says. He has also done a handful of studies on sleep aids - testing the best way to help night pilots sleep well during the day, for example. In recent months Caldwell has become aware that there is a quiet revolution going on in sleep medicine. "There's a new idea out there," he says. "Drugs that change sleep architecture."

Sleep researchers have known for over 50 years that sleep isn't merely a lengthy period of unconsciousness, but consists of several different brain states (see Diagram). How those states are put together to build a full night's sleep is called sleep architecture.
Catching the slow waves

In the past, says Caldwell, sleeping pills were designed not to mess with sleep architecture, although they generally do, suppressing the deepest and most restorative "slow-wave" sleep in favour of shallower stage 2 sleep. Now, though, modifying sleep architecture is seen as the way forward. There are two new drugs in the offing that significantly increase the amount of slow-wave sleep. One of them, gaboxadol, made by Merck, is in phase III clinical trials and could be on the market next year. To Caldwell these drugs hold out the promise of a power nap par excellence. "Maybe you can make a short period of sleep more restorative by filling it with up with slow-wave sleep," he says.

Much like modafinil, gaboxadol and the other slow-wave sleep promoter - Arena Pharmaceuticals' APD125, currently in phase II - are the start of something bigger. For more than 35 years, sleeping pills have been a one-trick pony. If you wanted to send someone to the land of nod, there was only one way of doing so - targeting the neurotransmitter GABA, which is the brain's all-purpose dimmer switch. Old-fashioned hypnotics such as barbiturates and benzodiazepines work by making neurons more sensitive to the soporific effects of GABA. It's also why alcohol makes you sleepy. Even the newer, cleaner sleeping pills, such as the market leader Ambien, work through the GABA system.

Manipulating the GABA system is a sure-fire way of putting people to sleep, but it has its problems. One is that the brain adapts to the drugs, which means that most cannot be taken for more than a few days without losing their potency. The effects often linger well into the morning, making people feel groggy and hung over. Many are also addictive.

What's more, sleep quality has rarely been considered. "In the past we would take a hypnotic and say, does it put you to sleep?," says Stanley. "That's a pretty inexact way of dealing with it. In that respect, alcohol is a good hypnotic." Now, however, there is a recognition that there is much more to sleep than the GABA system. Last year the first non-GABA sleeping pill came onto the market - the first new class of hypnotic for 35 years. Rozerem, made by Japanese firm Takeda, mimics the effects of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin. Nor is it the only one. There are at least three other new classes of hypnotic that don't go anywhere near the GABA system. And though gaboxadol works through GABA, it hits a type of receptor that has never been targeted by drugs before.

According to Stanley, there is even more scope for improvement. "It is possible that pharmaceuticals will allow you a condensed dose of sleep," he says, "and we are not that far away from having drugs that put you to sleep for a certain length of time." He predicts you could soon have tablet combining a hypnotic with an antidote or wakefulness promoter designed to give you a precise number of hours' sleep. "A 4, 5 or 6-hour pill."

We seem to be moving inescapably towards a society where sleep and wakefulness are available if not on demand then at least on request. It's not surprising, then, that many sleep researchers have nagging worries about the long-term impact of millions of us using drugs to override the natural sleep-wake cycle.

Stanley believes that drugs like modafinil and CX717 will tempt people to overdose on wakefulness at the expense of sleep. "Being awake is seen to be attractive," he says. "It's not cool to be asleep." Foster has similar worries. "It seems like that technology will help us cope with 24/7, but is coping really living?" he asks. Others point out that there are likely to be hidden health costs to overriding our natural sleep-wake cycles. "Pharmaceuticals cannot substitute for normal sleep," says Vaught.

Still, even the doubters admit that to all intents and purposes we are already too far down the road of the 24-hour society to turn back. For millions of people, good sleep and productive wakefulness are already elusive, night work or nightlife a reality, and the "stimulant-sedative" loop all too familiar. As Vaught puts it, "We're already there." So why not make it as clean and safe as possible?

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Ecstasy and loud music are a bad mix

Andy Coghlan 16 February 2006 New Scientist Print Edition

PARTYGOERS who take the recreational drug ecstasy may face a greater risk of long-term brain damage if they bombard themselves with loud music all night long.
The warning follows experiments in rats that were simultaneously exposed to loud noise and MDMA, aka ecstasy. The noise both intensified and prolonged the effects of the drug on the animals' brains.

Michelangelo Iannone of Italy's Institute of Neurological Science in Catanzaro and his colleagues gave rats varying doses of MDMA while bombarding them with white noise for 3 hours at the maximum volume permitted in Italian nightclubs.

Those given the highest dose of ecstasy, equivalent to the average amount taken by a partygoer on a night out, experienced a slump in electrical power of the cerebral cortex for up to five days after the noise was switched off. Previous studies suggest that such loss of power is related to brain hyperactivity and can ultimately lead to depression.

Rats on high doses that were not exposed to noise, and those exposed to noise but given lower doses of MDMA, experienced equally large slumps in brain power, but these only lasted for about one day (BMC Neuroscience, DOI :10.1186/1471-2202-7-13).

Since the experiments were in rats, it is hard to work out what the results mean for humans, but they do suggest that we need to know more about how ecstasy users are affected by their environment. "The most important finding is that the effects of MDMA can be strengthened by common environmental factors, such as noise in discotheques," says Iannone.

His findings echo previous research by Jenny Morton of the University of Cambridge, who discovered that a combination of methamphetamine (or speed) and loud, pulsing music is much more damaging to mice than either stimulus alone (New Scientist, 3 November 2001, p 17). White noise had no effect on the mice in her experiments. "If Iannone's team had used loud, pulsing noise, their effects would probably have been even stronger," she says.

She agrees that more research into the combined effect of music and drugs on humans is needed. "It would be tragic to find that taking ecstasy in clubs as a teenager significantly increased the risk of mental illness in later life," she says.

Andy Parrott at the University of Wales in Swansea, UK, has carried out an analysis of the combined effects of ecstasy and environmental factors, which is expected to be published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology in April. "From the long-term health perspective, dances and raves may well be the worst venues in which to take MDMA," he says. "Dancing, heat and noise may all boost the acute effects of MDMA, but these same factors will also exacerbate the long-term adverse effects."

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Why Dawkins' Ideas May be Wrong

NewScientist 18 Feb 06

The cherished idea, first suggested by Charles Darwin, that life on Earth emerged billions of years ago from a warm prebiotic soup may not be correct after all. Scientists at a meeting of the Royal Society in London on Tuesday said that when DNA molecules and amino acids form in warm volcanic puddles they bind strongly to clay particles and can take no further part in reactions.

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Smoking banned in DC, but not in Congress

The Nation By ANNE E. KORNBLUT February 12, 2006

WASHINGTON - WHEN the citywide smoking ban takes effect here next month, at least one workplace in town will be spared: Congress, the beneficiary of a kind of diplomatic immunity for federal lawmakers.

That is excellent news for John A. Boehner of Ohio, the new Republican majority leader, who regularly smokes cigarettes between votes in the House. And for Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat, who sits and smokes cigars while reading the newspaper in the speaker's lobby. And for Sherwood Boehlert, the New York Republican, who is struggling to quit but can be seen inhaling in weaker moments during the workday.

Because while the rest of the country has turned against smoking with great zeal, Congress has stubbornly — some would say proudly — refused to bend.
Smoking is still allowed in numerous indoor spaces in the Capitol, most noticeably in the gilded reception area where lawmakers crowd together during the long yeas and nays. Standing ashtrays, usually partly filled with cigar and cigarette butts, are strategically placed in the corridors. In a time when the "smoke-filled room" is more metaphor than fixture, its literal incarnation in Congress can seem almost quaint.

Members are uncharacteristically shy about discussing their smoking habits in a public domain where smoking is supposedly taboo. Not one smoker-lawmaker contacted for this article returned the call. Photographs of lawmakers smoking are virtually impossible to come by (as the blog Wonkette discovered last week when it put out a public call for photographs of Mr. Boehner smoking).

Yet in private, some lawmakers have shown little desire to tamp down the addiction. In some corners, the right to smoke in Congress is seen as a last stand against political correctness, a bulwark against the antismoking fervor that swept the political universe during the Clinton years. (The Clintons famously banned smoking from the White House, reportedly to the annoyance of smokers from the other party who had to attend long meetings there.)

"What will happen is someone will come along and ruin this last bit of fun," said Christopher Buckley, whose satiric novel, "Thank You for Smoking," has been made into a movie.

"As sure as night will follow day, now some aging senator or Congressional page will come down with lung cancer and sue the United States government because of this very room," Mr. Buckley said. "And that last bit of fun will be foreclosed."

Except it's not the last, as it turns out. Against a tide of frantic smoking-ban legislation from coast to coast, the industry has fought to keep smoking permissible everywhere, succeeding mostly in casinos and airport lounges, particularly in the South, and the like. Gambling interests even have their own smoking lobby, and some of the airport lounges were paid for by Philip Morris. Some factory assembly lines, including those at General Motors, allow workers to smoke on the job, partly because of old agreements with labor unions that wanted to keep workers comfortable. Newer union agreements have focused on worker health, and are beginning to phase smoking out.

And even in states that ban smoking altogether in public places, there have been tobacco tussles around statehouses, which are mostly subject to the lawmakers and not the laws. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California put up a tent outside the smokefree capitol in Sacramento so he could conduct business over cigars.

In Mr. Buckley's novel, the protagonist is a publicist for the tobacco industry who nicknames friends in the alcohol and firearms industries merchants of death. Antismoking advocates are all too willing to attribute the tobacco zone in Washington to similarly sinister forces, arguing that the Republican leadership is in the pocket of tobacco behemoths.

Cigarette companies, after all, have poured more than $55 million into campaigns over the last 15 or so years. Representative Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas and the former majority leader, borrowed the corporate planes of R.J. Reynolds at least nine times in the last seven years. One of Mr. Boehner's most famous acts — handing out checks to lawmaker colleagues on the House floor in 1995 — involved donations from tobacco lobbyists.

But if the tobacco lobby was at work in keeping Congress a nicotine refuge, it probably could have saved itself the trouble. A confluence of more potent cultural and demographic forces seems to be at play on Capitol Hill, with lawmakers indulging in a familiar hubris.

"Congress generally has rules for us and rules for them, and the rules for them are very often more pleasant than the rules for us," Mr. Buckley said.

"They exist on their own island," said Vincent Morris, a spokesman for the district's mayor, Anthony A. Williams, who declined to veto the new city council ban on smoking in restaurants and bars. "We would not be able to enforce the smoking ban in the speaker's lobby," Mr. Morris said, referring to the reception area. The Congress, he said, "is kind of old school in that sense."

Representative Henry A. Waxman, Democrat of California, a nonsmoker who has written letters urging the House leadership to revise the internal rules, said, "I think some Republicans in the leadership smoke and feel they have a right to smoke wherever they want to smoke."

"If I want to sit in the speaker's lobby outside the House chambers I have to breathe in tobacco smoke, from cigarettes and cigars," Mr. Waxman said. "And it's sometimes unbearable."

But Washington's antismoking advocates seem resigned. "We recognize Congress does what it wants and has always done what it wants," said Angela Bradbery, a founder of Smokefree DC. "We don't have the capacity to do anything about it. And we're not going to try to get them to change their ways."

Comment: In what is perhaps yet another indication that certain senior political leaders know more than they are letting on regarding the fate awaiting the rest of the world, Congress has exempted itself from the citywide DC smoking ban recently enacted.

Thanks to Signs Forum Member, John, for this one!

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Climate change: On the edge - Greenland ice cap breaking up at twice the rate it was five years ago, says scientist Bush tried to gag

By Jim Hansen 17 February 2006

A satellite study of the Greenland ice cap shows that it is melting far faster than scientists had feared - twice as much ice is going into the sea as it was five years ago. The implications for rising sea levels - and climate change - could be dramatic.

Yet, a few weeks ago, when I - a Nasa climate scientist - tried to talk to the media about these issues following a lecture I had given calling for prompt reductions in the emission of greenhouse gases, the Nasa public affairs team - staffed by political appointees from the Bush administration - tried to stop me doing so. I was not happy with that, and I ignored the restrictions. The first line of Nasa's mission is to understand and protect the planet.
This new satellite data is a remarkable advance. We are seeing for the first time the detailed behaviour of the ice streams that are draining the Greenland ice sheet. They show that Greenland seems to be losing at least 200 cubic kilometres of ice a year. It is different from even two years ago, when people still said the ice sheet was in balance.

Hundreds of cubic kilometres sounds like a lot of ice. But this is just the beginning. Once a sheet starts to disintegrate, it can reach a tipping point beyond which break-up is explosively rapid. The issue is how close we are getting to that tipping point. The summer of 2005 broke all records for melting in Greenland. So we may be on the edge.

Our understanding of what is going on is very new. Today's forecasts of sea-level rise use climate models of the ice sheets that say they can only disintegrate over a thousand years or more. But we can now see that the models are almost worthless. They treat the ice sheets like a single block of ice that will slowly melt. But what is happening is much more dynamic.

Once the ice starts to melt at the surface, it forms lakes that empty down crevasses to the bottom of the ice. You get rivers of water underneath the ice. And the ice slides towards the ocean.

Our Nasa scientists have measured this in Greenland. And once these ice streams start moving, their influence stretches right to the interior of the ice sheet. Building an ice sheet takes a long time, because it is limited by snowfall. But destroying it can be explosively rapid.

How fast can this go? Right now, I think our best measure is what happened in the past. We know that, for instance, 14,000 years ago sea levels rose by 20m in 400 years - that is five metres in a century. This was towards the end of the last ice age, so there was more ice around. But, on the other hand, temperatures were not warming as fast as today.

How far can it go? The last time the world was three degrees warmer than today - which is what we expect later this century - sea levels were 25m higher. So that is what we can look forward to if we don't act soon. None of the current climate and ice models predict this. But I prefer the evidence from the Earth's history and my own eyes. I think sea-level rise is going to be the big issue soon, more even than warming itself.

It's hard to say what the world will be like if this happens. It would be another planet. You could imagine great armadas of icebergs breaking off Greenland and melting as they float south. And, of course, huge areas being flooded.

How long have we got? We have to stabilise emissions of carbon dioxide within a decade, or temperatures will warm by more than one degree. That will be warmer than it has been for half a million years, and many things could become unstoppable. If we are to stop that, we cannot wait for new technologies like capturing emissions from burning coal. We have to act with what we have. This decade, that means focusing on energy efficiency and renewable sources of energy that do not burn carbon. We don't have much time left.

Jim Hansen, the director of the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York, is President George Bush's top climate modeller. He was speaking to Fred Pearce

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Global warming '30 times quicker than it used to be'

By Steve Connor 17 February 2006

Greenhouse gases are being released into the atmosphere 30 times faster than the time when the Earth experienced a previous episode of global warming.

A study comparing the rate at which carbon dioxide and methane are being emitted now, compared to 55 million years ago when global warming also occurred, has found dramatic differences in the speed of release.

James Zachos, professor of earth sciences at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said the speed of the present build-up of greenhouse gases is far greater than during the global warming after the demise of the dinosaurs.
"The emissions that caused this past episode of global warming probably lasted 10,000 years," Professor Zachos told the American Association for the Advancement of Science at a meeting in St Louis. "By burning fossil fuels, we are likely to emit the same amount over the next three centuries."

He warned that studies of global warming events in the geological past indicate the Earth's climate passes a threshold beyond which climate change accelerates with the help of positive feedbacks - vicious circles of warming.

Professor Zachos is a leading authority on the episode of global warming known as the palaeocene-eocene thermal maximum, when average global temperatures increased by up to 5C due to a massive release of carbon dioxide and methane.

His research into the deep ocean sediments suggests at this time about 4.5 billion tons of carbon entered the atmosphere over 10,000 years. This will be the similar amount of carbon released into the atmosphere from cars and industrial emissions over the next 300 years if present trends continue, he said.

Although carbon can be released suddenly and naturally into the atmosphere from volcanic activity, it takes many thousand of years for it to be removed permanently by natural processes. The ocean is capable of removing carbon, and quickly, but this natural capacity can be quickly overwhelmed, which is probably what happened 55 million years ago.

"It will take tens of thousands of years before atmospheric carbon dioxide comes down to pre-industrial levels," the professor said. "Even after humans stop burning fossil fuels, the effects will be long-lasting."

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Sea levels likely to rise much faster than was predicted

By Steve connor, Science Editor in St Louis 17 February 2006

Global warming is causing the Greenland ice cap to disintegrate far faster than anyone predicted. A study of the region's massive ice sheet warns that sea levels may - as a consequence - rise more dramatically than expected.

Scientists have found that many of the huge glaciers of Greenland are moving at an accelerating rate - dumping twice as much ice into the sea than five years ago - indicating that the ice sheet is undergoing a potentially catastrophic breakup.

The implications of the research are dramatic given Greenland holds enough ice to raise global sea levels by up to 21ft, a disaster scenario that would result in the flooding of some of the world's major population centres, including all of Britain's city ports.
Satellite measurements of the entire land mass of Greenland show that the speed at which the glaciers are moving to the sea has increased significantly over the past 10 years with some glaciers moving three times faster than in the mid-1990s.

Scientists believe that computer models of how the Greenland ice sheet will react to global warming have seriously underestimated the threat posed by sea levels that could rise far more quickly than envisaged.

The latest study, presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in St Louis, shows that rather than just melting relatively slowly, the ice sheet is showing all the signs of a mechanical break-up as glaciers slip ever faster into the ocean, aided by the "lubricant" of melt water forming at their base.

Eric Rignot, a scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, said that computer models used by the UN's International Panel on Climate Change have not adequately taken into account the amount of ice falling into the sea from glacial movements.

Yet the satellite study shows that about two-thirds of the sea-level rise caused by the Greenland ice sheet is due to icebergs breaking off from fast-moving glaciers rather than simply the result of water running off from melting ice.

"In simple terms, the ice sheet is breaking up rather than melting. It's not a surprise in itself but it is a surprise to see the magnitude of the changes. These big glaciers seem to be accelerating, they seem to be going faster and faster to the sea," Dr Rignot said.

"This is not predicted by the current computer models. The fact is the glaciers of Greenland are evolving faster than we thought and the models have to be adjusted to catch up with these observations," he said.

The Greenland ice sheet covers an area of 1.7 million sq km - about the size of Mexico - and, in places, is up to 3km thick. It formed over thousands of years by the gradual accumulation of ice and snow but now its disintegration could occur in decades or centuries.

Over the past 20 years, the air temperature of Greenland has risen by 3C and computer models suggested it would take at least 1,000 years for the ice sheet to melt completely. But the latest study suggests that glaciers moving at an accelerating rate could bring about a much faster change.

"The behaviour of the glaciers that dump ice into the sea is the most important aspect of understanding how an ice sheet will evolve in a changing climate," Dr Rignot said. "It takes a long time to build and melt an ice sheet but glaciers can react quickly to temperature changes. Climate warming can work in different ways but, generally speaking, if you warm up the ice sheet, the glacier will flow faster," he said.

The ice "balance sheet" of Greenland is complex but - in simple terms - it depends on the amount of snow that falls, the amount of ice that melts as run-off and the amount of ice that falls directly into the sea in the form of icebergs "calving" from moving glaciers.

Satellites show that the glaciers in the south of Greenland are now moving much faster than they were 10 years ago. Scientists estimate that, in 1996, glaciers deposited about 50 cubic km of ice into the sea. In 2005 it had risen to 150 cubic km of ice.

Details of the latest study, published in the journal Science, show that Greenland now accounts for an increase in global sea levels of about 0.5 millimetres per year - compared to a total sea level rise of 3mm per year.

When previous studies of the ice balance are taken into account, the researchers calculated that the overall amount of ice dumped into the sea increased from 90 cubic km in 1996 to 224 cubic km in 2005.

Dr Rignot said that there are now signs that the more northerly glaciers of Greenland are beginning to adopt the pattern of movements seen by those in the south. "The southern half of Greenland is reacting to what we think is climate warming. The northern half is waiting, but I don't think it's going to take long," he said.

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Disappearing deltas could spell disaster

Jeff Hecht 18 February 2006 From New Scientist Print Edition

HURRICANE Katrina, which ravaged New Orleans and left more than half a million people displaced, showed just how dangerous living in a flood-prone delta can be. For some researchers this came as no surprise. They think that by 2050, millions more living in low-lying river deltas will be equally vulnerable to rising sea levels, sinking land and storms.

Jason Ericson of the University of New Hampshire in Durham, now at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation in Richmond, and his colleagues identified five other deltas that could face similar, if not more devastating, disasters: the Bengal delta in Bangladesh, the Yangtze delta in China, the Mekong delta in Vietnam, the Nile delta in Egypt and the Godavari delta in India.

At a delta, "the shoreline is a balance between sea level and sedimentation", says Daniel Stanley, an expert on the marine geology of deltas at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC. Any reduction in the amount of sediment reaching the deltas can alter this balance, causing deltas to subside.
While deltas are naturally vulnerable because they form in low-lying coastal regions, human activity is adding to the risk. "The subsidence issue is related to population," says Robert Nicholls of the Tyndall Centre at the University of Southampton, UK. It matters because the people live there, but their very presence adds to the risk.

Most deltas are subsiding because dams and canals upstream are preventing sediment from reaching the deltas. To make matters worse, people are also pumping out water and petroleum from beneath the deltas, causing the sediment-starved land to settle further. This is causing the waterline in most deltas to rise faster than the average rise in global sea level of about 1.5-2 millimetres per year.

Ericson and his colleagues found that all 40 of the major deltas they studied were at risk: 68 per cent of them were sinking because they were being starved of sediment, 20 per cent were subsiding, mainly because of the pumping of water and oil, and in 12 per cent of the deltas, rising sea level was the biggest problem.

Five of the six deltas most threatened by rising sea level are also at risk from storms, the only exception being the Nile delta. Storm surges can overwhelm an already low-lying region. In the Bengal delta, for instance, storm surges can go right over the hurricane shelters, says Greg O'Hare of the University of Derby, UK.

The deltas in greatest danger lie in the arc from China to India, where populations are high, and powerful typhoons and tropical cyclones are common. Geologically active mountains and heavy rains make south-east Asia the source of half the world's sediment supply, making large deltas commonplace in the region, says Janok Bhattacharya of the University of Texas in Dallas. Intense development has robbed some deltas of water as well as sediment. For instance, extensive damming meant that no water flowed from the mouth of the Yangtze on 230 days of the year in 1998, compared with just 20 days in 1992, he says.

Ericson's study, which will appear in the journal Global and Planetary Change, calls for an increased surveillance of the river deltas using technology such as remote sensing to prevent unprecedented displacement of people. "Greater awareness of potential threats to such systems is a precursor to the design of responses that maximise the protection of life, infrastructure and economic development," the researchers say.

Bengal delta, Bangladesh: 3,430,000 at risk

Residents of this densely populated delta are pumping out so much groundwater that in some areas the land is subsiding by almost 25 millimetres a year. Submarine geology amplifies storm surges at the northern end of the Bay of Bengal, some of which have exceeded 10 metres. Such problems and a lack of warning made the Bengal delta the site of the two deadliest storms of the last century: a storm killed about 300,000 people in 1970 and 138,000 were killed in 1991.

Mekong delta, Vietnam: 1,910,000 at risk

Also densely populated, this sediment-starved delta is on the southern fringe of the Asian typhoon zone and on average is hit once a decade by a typhoon. These storms can be devastating. Typhoon Linda, which developed rapidly over the South China Sea in 1997, was blamed for more than 3000 deaths as it passed along the southern edge of the Mekong delta. The storm flattened villages, wiped out crops, and left tens of thousands of people homeless.

Nile delta, Egypt: 1,300,000 at risk

Though it is not at risk from storms, the Nile delta suffers heavily from human activity. The completion of the Aswan High dam in 1964 has had even more devastating consequences. The dam stopped the delivery of silt carried by the river's seasonal floods and the silt now lies trapped in the dam's reservoir. And beyond the dam a dense network of drainage and irrigation canals is preventing much of the remaining sediment from reaching the coast.

Yangtze delta, China: 484,000 at risk

Shanghai, a coastal city on the delta, has records of typhoons dating back to the 7th century, though their frequency increased rapidly over the 20th century. "Shanghai's defences are as good as London's - one of the best in the world," says Robert Nicholls of the University of Southampton, UK. They are also better maintained than the defences that failed in New Orleans. This extensive protection does not extend into rural parts of the deltas, however.

Mississippi delta, USA: 480,000 at risk

Hurricane Katrina showed just how vulnerable this low-lying region is. The delta also scores high on another measure of risk: 20 per cent of the delta could be lost to subsidence and rising sea levels by 2050. Tens of square kilometres of wetlands to the south of New Orleans were turning to open water each year even before Katrina hit, as petroleum pumping combined with sediment starvation was causing the land to sink and subsidence within New Orleans has left large areas of the city below sea level.

Godavari delta, India: 453,000 at risk

This delta on the east coast of India could lose an even larger fraction of land than the Mississippi delta - about 23 per cent by 2050. Groundwater pumping is a major cause of subsidence, and storms are a constant threat to a region that has few coastal defences. More than a thousand people died when a tropical cyclone hit the delta in November 1996. In the Mahanadi delta, further north along the coast, some 10,000 people died in 1999 when hit by a "super cyclone".

Note: populations at risk by 2050

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Waterworld: how life on Earth will look 1,000 years from now

By Nigel Hawkes London Times 17 Feb 06

By the next millennium the global map will have been redrawn by disastrous climate changes, according to a new forecast
AN APOCALYPTIC vision of life 1,000 years from now has been painted by a team of scientists studying the effect of global warming.

If mankind does not put its house in order, temperatures could have risen by 15C (27F) by the year 3000 and sea levels by more than 11 metres (36ft), flooding much of London, the team, from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, says in a report for the Environment Agency. Abrupt changes could make Britain much hotter, or even — such is the uncertainty of the predictions — first colder and then hotter.
This could happen if the North Atlantic current system collapsed, denying Britain the warming effect of the Gulf Stream. Ocean surface temperatures would fall by 3C (5.4F), but as the Arctic sea ice melted, they would rise again by 8C (14.4F) in an abrupt turnabout over a period of no more than about 20 years.

Climate Change on the Millennial Timescale is the first study to examine comprehensively the impacts of global warming beyond the end of this century. It calls for continued efforts to cut the emission of global-warming gases to prevent the changes from getting out of control.

Baroness Young of Old Scone, the chief executive of the Environment Agency, said: “We are running out of road on decision-making. Unless we dramatically change the use of fossil fuels then we will be committing future generations to the most severe impacts of climate change.”

By the year 3000, the report says:

# Global warming could have more than quadrupled, with temperature rises of as much as 15C, if we continue burning fossil fuels

# Sea levels will still be rising at the end of this millennium and the total increase could reach 11.4 metres. This dwarfs estimates made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that sea levels will rise by between 16cm and 69cm by the 2080s

# Anything more than a two-metre rise would flood large areas of Bangladesh, Florida and many low-lying cities, and displace hundreds of millions of people

# Abrupt climate changes are possible even after emissions cease because changes may be set in motion that cannot be stopped

# The acidity of the oceans will fall significantly, posing a threat to marine organisms such as corals and plankton. That, in turn, would affect the whole marine ecosystem

# The changes could be even greater than this if the climate turns out to be more sensitive to greenhouse gas emissions than the study assumes.

The solution, the team says, is to reduce emissions to zero by 2200.

Tim Lenton, lead author of the study, said: “While most studies stop at year 2100 with temperatures and sea level rising, we explored where they are heading into the next millennium. Only by starting to reduce carbon dioxide emissions now can we avoid dangerous climate change.”

The message is that the world can afford to burn only about a quarter of its known reserves of fossil fuels. This implies a small increase in global emissions up to 2025, and reducing and eliminating them by 2200.

“If we follow business-asusual then we will commit future generations to dangerous climate change,” Dr Lenton said. The risk was that of returning the Earth to a hot state it had not been in since 55 million years ago.

Baroness Young said: “Tough decisions are needed soon. Many of our coastal towns could be in jeopardy and immediate action needs to be taken if we are to avoid many of these impacts.

“We need to get tough on energy efficiency. This means much tighter standards for buildings and government providing proper incentives for businesses from the transport sector if we are to meet our 2010 target of 20 per cent carbon reduction and tackle more strenuous targets for 2020.”

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Watching the North Pole wobble

Stephen Battersby 18 February 2006 New Scientist Print Edition

IF YOU'RE planning a spot of polar exploration, here's something you might want to consider. When, after that arduous trek across the ice sheet, you pose at the pole for a snapshot, you might be standing in the wrong place. In fact, the pole could be up to 10 metres from where it was only six months before.

Implausible as it sounds, the Earth's surface is constantly shifting relative to its axis so that the geographical poles wander all over the place. It may only be a few metres a year, and it's certainly not noticeable from day to day, but this polar wobble has been enough to puzzle stargazers for more than 100 years.
To add to the confusion, there are actually three types of wobble. Two of them were discovered and measured in the 19th century, though only explained in the last decade: the Chandler wobble takes 14 months to complete a cycle, while the annual wobble, as the name suggests, takes exactly a year. Both are driven largely by weather and ocean currents.

In 1960, William Markowitz of the US Naval Observatory in Washington DC noticed what appeared to be another, subtler form of polar wander, which moved the poles by about a metre on what seemed to be a 24-year cycle. Nobody could explain it.

Now a young geologist at the UK's University of Leeds says he has found an explanation for the Markowitz wobble. If he's right, studying the wobble could reveal some of the secrets of the most mysterious part of the Earth - its inscrutable inner core.

The first clear evidence that the Earth's poles were moving came in the 1890s, when astronomers at the International Latitude Service began to monitor the position of six small observatories around the Earth, by watching the movements of the stars overhead. They found that the latitude of all these stations was changing very slightly, by just a few metres a year. The only way to explain it was if the entire crust of the Earth was slipping relative to its axis, moving some observatories to higher latitudes and others lower. The result was the discovery of the Chandler and annual wobbles and, much later, the wobble identified by Markowitz and named after him.

From the 1970s onwards, the evidence for the Markowitz wobble became less and less convincing. Advances in technology allowed the Earth's rotation to be measured in relation to quasars billions of light years away and in relation to artificial satellites, and when GPS with its fleet of satellites came along it made measuring ground position relatively simple. All the new measurements conflicted with the old ones, and many researchers wrote off the Markowitz wobble as an illusion caused by unreliable methods of measuring the Earth's spin. "It was kind of dismissed 10 to 15 years ago," says David Crossley, a geophysicist at Saint Louis University in Missouri.

Even though the Markowitz wobble as he described it was later shown to be a mistake, as further space-based readings came in, something very interesting emerged. There is indeed some kind of long-term movement of the pole - not the periodic wobble that Markowitz saw, but something less easy to pin down, some kind of motion that may go back and forth, or may change speed on timescales of a few decades.

"We still call it the Markowitz wobble to honour him," says Richard Gross of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. Crossley, however, is less keen on the name. "Nobody knew what that was in the first place. I'm surprised to see the term come back." Whatever you like to call it, it's a rather puzzling phenomenon. Something must be dragging the planet's crust and mantle around. But what?

Perhaps deep forces are at work, emanating from the Earth's inner core. That's the idea behind a new explanation for the Markowitz wobble, developed by Mathieu Dumberry at the University of Leeds in the UK. Beneath the Earth's crust lies the solid, rocky mantle. Beneath that is a molten metal outer core, and at the centre of the Earth is the inner core: a sphere 2500 kilometres across that is thought to be made of solid iron. Despite the core being isolated from the mantle and crust, and so well lubricated by the liquid outer core that surrounds it, Dumberry thinks he has found a way for it to get a grip on the outer parts of the Earth.
Inner turmoil

Although the mantle and the inner core are solid, their high temperature softens them so that they become more like the consistency of very stiff Silly Putty. If you were to hit mantle rock with a hammer it would crack, but if you squeezed it patiently for thousands of years it would ooze. In fact the mantle is convecting, like a pan of water in ultra-slow motion: over millions of years warm plumes of rock rise from hotspots on the core, and cool slabs of ocean crust fall down from subduction zones on the Earth's surface. It is these plumes and slabs that Dumberry thinks are responsible for the Markowitz wobble.

Cold slabs are denser than their surroundings, so compared to the mantle, they exert a stronger gravitational pull on the core. Assuming the inner core is soft enough to be deformed by this pull, Dumberry says the effect of this gravity is to slowly cause a hump to rise in the surface of the inner core. "It's like a permanent tide, as if the moon were fixed overhead at one place, raising a permanent hump in the ocean," he says. Likewise, where plumes rise from the edge of the outer core, there should be a corresponding dip in the inner core's surface, since the plume exerts less gravity than the surrounding mantle rock.

This effect would have no impact on the poles, except that the inner core is not fixed in place. Seismic studies show that it is spinning slightly faster than the rest of the planet, rotating under our feet by up to half a degree a year. As a result, those bumps and dips should slowly move out of alignment with the slabs and plumes, so that a bump might find itself tugged at in a different direction by a different mantle slab. Some of the extra gravitational attraction would then be acting from the side rather than vertically, exerting a torque on the mantle. The net result of many such mismatches could be a tug on the mantle and crust that is sufficient to change the axis of rotation, and shift the poles.

So far the numbers seem to add up. When Dumberry plugged seismic readings showing the density of different areas of the mantle into his model, they produced about the same amount of tilt as the Markowitz wobble - a maximum polar motion of about a metre.

The timescale of the Markowitz wobble also fits Dumberry's model. The magnetic field deep within the Earth twists slowly back and forth with an irregular beat of a few decades, oscillations that show up in measurements of the field at the Earth's surface. Dumberry thinks that this twisting magnetic field drags the inner core along with it. If he is right, the inner core's rotation should also change on a timescale of decades. And if this rotation in turn drives the Markowitz wobble, then you'd expect the wobble to have a similar timescale, as space-based observations of the past 30 years seem to show.

So, wobble solved? Dumberry is confident. Since he presented his ideas in November 2005 at a meeting in London, reactions from the earth-science community have been positive. "It is probably one of the best explanations we've got," says Gross.

One fly in the ointment is the orientation of the wobble. The measured motion is a gentle side-to-side rocking, and it is aligned along a bearing roughly 30 degrees east/150 degrees west, nodding alternately towards Egypt and Alaska. Dumberry's model does produces a side-to-side motion, but it is closer to 90 degrees east/90 degrees west (Bangladesh and New Orleans). This is clearly a huge discrepancy, but Dumberry says that the orientation depends on exactly where in the mantle the plumes and slabs are found, and that's something seismologists still disagree on. Dumberry plans to plug different published maps of the mantle into his model, to see if any of them provide a better fit.

Dumberry's is not the only possibility. Recent polar motions could have been generated by melting ice, which would change the weight distribution of the crust, rebalancing the Earth. That would mean it is not a wobble at all, but more of a glitch. We don't know if ice mass has changed enough to do this, but over the next few years satellite measurements of gravity over Antarctica and other ice-bound areas could settle the question.

For direct confirmation of Dumberry's theory we might have to wait a while longer, to look for a correlation between the wobble and the small variations in Earth's magnetic field over decades that are thought to be linked to inner-core motion. The wobble, magnetic field fluctuation and core rotation should all follow one another; if one were to reverse, so should the other two.

If the figures do add up and Dumberry's model turns out to be correct, it could tell us something profound about the Earth's inner core. Because of its rather inconvenient location, the inner core is the least understood part of the Earth, and although scientists have a fairly good idea that it is mostly made of crystalline iron, they don't know what properties the metal has at the high pressures nearer the centre of the Earth. In fact that is an understatement: calculations of the inner core's viscosity - the extent to which it can be deformed - vary by a factor of a trillion. The stuff could feel like toffee or, well, like iron.

One measure of this is relaxation time: if you were to put a dent in the stuff, would it smooth out in minutes or millions of years? "We don't have a clue," says Dumberry.

Experiments are no help. By squeezing material on an anvil made of diamond, or sending explosive shock waves through it, it is just possible to reproduce the kind of pressure felt in the mantle, but no deeper. The inner core is out of reach.

Dumberry's model only works if the inner core's viscosity is within a rather narrow range. If it is too fluid, the tidal bumps would stay in the same position as the core rotates; too rigid, and the repeated gravitational tugs would make the inner core wobble wildly with a period of about seven years. That seven-year wobble just isn't seen.

So if the Markowitz wobble is indeed generated as Dumberry describes, then the viscosity of the inner core has to be just right, with a relaxation time of about 10 years. That's not exactly rock-hard, but it is far from soft. The question is, will we all find the Earth's core as exciting and mysterious if it turns out to be the consistency of Silly Putty?

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Europe braces for bird flu outbreak as human toll rises

Agence France Presse 18 Feb 06

Europe's largest poultry producer braced for a battle with deadly bird flu as Indonesia confirmed its 19th victim and UN experts warned the disease could deprive millions of Africans of food.

Britain too warned the H5N1 strain of the virus blamed officially for the deaths of more than 90 people since 2003 could arrive on its soil after French officials said they suspected it had killed more than a dozen birds.

Europe will need a year to be fully prepared for an eventual pandemic that experts fear could end up killing 142 million people worldwide, according to the director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
"Europe is very well prepared but I hope there will not be a pandemic in the coming months," Zsuzsanna Jakab told Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet on Saturday.

She said the centre was working systematically with each of the 25 European Union members on contingency plans. Six had been completed while the remainder should be finalised within a year.

Confirming its 19th death from bird flu, Indonesia vowed to boost stockpiles of Tamiflu, a general anti-viral medicine seen as the most effective at present, amid a steadily climbing number of cases.

The world's fourth most populous nation has reported eight fatalities from H5N1 this year alone, the highest figure globally as the virus continues its march from Asia into Europe and Africa.

A 23-year-old chicken vendor who died in hospital a week ago had tested positive for the virus at a World Health Organisation-certified laboratory in the United States, the Indonesian health ministry said.

With the virus raging through chicken farms in Nigeria and established in Egypt, the United Nations food safety agency has warned of dramatic consequences for west Africa if the pattern of the Nigerian outbreak is repeated.

"The effects on a region already facing severe malnutrition would be devastating," said the Food and Agriculture Agency (FAO).

"If a poultry epidemic should develop beyond the boundaries of Nigeria the effects would be disastrous for the livelihoods and the food security of millions of people," said veterinary official Joseph Domenech.

After tests revealed a wild duck found dead in a marsh in central France was probably infected by H5N1, the agriculture ministry said Saturday it was examining the carcasses of more than a dozen birds found across the country.

"For some days were have been expecting animals carrying the virus to be found," official Didier Houssin told radio station Europe 1.

"From the moment the hypothesis of the role of migratory birds in carrying the virus great distances was evoked ... we were able to foresee in a way what is happening now."

A three-kilometre (two-mile) safety cordon has has been set up around the spot where the duck was found, near the town of Joyeux, and wildlife surveillance stepped up across a 10-kilometre area.

Britain warned the discovery increased the likelihood bird flu could cross the Channel.

"It is more likely now than it was, but it is not inevitable," Animal Health Minister Ben Bradshaw said on Friday.

"It's still only in wild birds. It hasn't been found in any poultry so far in EU countries this time," he told the BBC. "But clearly the closer it gets to us the risk grows."

The British government has drawn up plans to set up one-mile (1.6 kilometre) exclusion zones if any wild bird is found in Britain to be infected with H5N1.

Inside the zone, all poultry movements would be halted, and if any poultry was found to be infected the entire flock would face slaughter.

So far in Europe, the H5N1 virus has been detected in poultry and wild birds, mostly swans, in Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Italy, Romania, Slovenia, Ukraine and Russia.

In Egypt, the virus has been detected in domestic poultry in Cairo and in the Minya region, 250 kilometres (155 miles) south of the capital.

Tests were being carried out on chickens in the southern governorate of Qena, where the popular tourist areas of Luxor and Thebes are located, after the mysterious deaths of some 130 birds in a village, a government spokesman said Friday.

H5N1 kills about half the humans it infects. Since 2003, 93 people, all of whom had come into direct contact with the carcasses of infected fowl, have died, most of them in China and Southeast Asia, but also in Iraq and eastern Turkey, according to WHO figures.

Health experts fear the virus could mutate into a form that can pass between humans, leading to a global pandemic.

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Hopes fade for 1,800 feared dead in mudslide

John Aglionby, south-east Asia correspondent Saturday February 18, 2006 The Guardian

Rescuers embarked on the seemingly hopeless task this morning of digging for survivors of a devastating landslide that buried an entire Philippines village, leaving as many as 1,800 people dead.

Drenching rain and high winds aggravated the already wretched task of digging through the barrage of mud that swept down a mountain and engulfed Guinsaugon on the central Philippine island of Leyte yesterday morning.
A senior military officer, Lt Col Raul Farnacio, said that 19 bodies had been recovered and 57 survivors located. But the rest of the population of 1,857 was unaccounted for, with scant prospects for further recoveries. "We presume that, more or less, 1,800 are feared dead," he told local reporters.

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Television footage showed only a few tin roofs and bits of mangled debris, some of which had been carried hundreds of metres, visible above the sludge. The village primary school was obliterated, with schoolchildren inside. The mud was 10 metres (30ft) deep in places.

"So many died," said a resident, Eugene Pilo, on local television. "Our village is gone, everything was buried in mud. All the people are gone."

Local relief teams were resuming their grim task early today, with dog teams augmenting the effort. A US warship conducting exercises with the Philippines navy was diverted to help. Relief efforts were hampered by the very soft mud which caused rescuers to sink up to their chests.

"The troops pulled out because big boulders are cascading down the mountain," said Col Farnacio, who is in charge of the military's relief operations.

Captain Edmund Abella, part of the relief operation, said the search was extremely treacherous. Heavy equipment was almost impossible to use. "It's very difficult. We're digging by hand, the place is so vast and the mud is so thick. When we try to walk, we get stuck in the mud."

The disaster is being blamed on two weeks of heavy rain and the replacement of the deep-rooted hillside forests with coconut plantations, which have shallower roots and cannot hold soil.

Illegal logging is rampant across much of the Philippines, but it is unclear whether the clearances in this area were carried out illegally.

Some 3,000 people from other villages spent last night in municipal buildings in the nearby town of St Bernard as heavy rain continued to lash the region.

The provincial governor, Rosette Lerias, said that, as well as the inhabitants living in Guinsaugon, which covers an area of about one square kilometre (250 acres), another 1,150 lived nearby.

"I'm really afraid the death toll is going to be very high," she told the Guardian. "There are no homes left. It is a tragedy, and we can't do much - because even the rescuers' lives are in danger."

Survivors said that they were unable to do anything to stop the disaster, which struck at about 10am. "It sounded like the mountain exploded, and the whole thing crumbled," Dario Libatan told radio station DZMM. "I could not see any house standing any more."

Didita Kamarenta told Reuters: "I felt the earth shake and a strong gust of wind, then I felt mud at my feet. All the children, including my two children, are lost. They might have been buried."

The president of the Philippines, Gloria Arroyo, said in a national television address that she was mobilising "the full resources of the government" to help with the relief effort. "They will come from land, sea and air," she said. "Hopefully you will soon be out of harm's way."

Local people reported an earthquake just before the landslide, but experts said that its magnitude of 2.9 was too small to have triggered the disaster alone.

Deadly landslides are not uncommon on Leyte island. In 1991 more than 5,000 people were killed in floods and landslides triggered by a typhoon.

Some 133 people died in similar circumstances in 1993.

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Denmark closes embassy, Pakistan recalls envoy over cartoons

Agence France Presse 18 Feb 06

Denmark temporarily shut its embassy in Islamabad and Pakistan recalled its envoy from Copenhagen as fresh protests against cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed sparked a diplomatic row.

An Islamic cleric added fuel to the fire on Friday by offering a one-million-dollar reward and a car for anyone who killed the cartoonists behind the drawings, first published in a Danish newspaper in September.
Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets for a fifth straight day in Pakistan, with police firing tear gas and waving batons at protesters in the southern city of Karachi and the central city of Multan.

Pakistani police arrested nearly 300 people and put a firebrand Islamic leader under house arrest in a bid to clamp down on the unrest that has left five people dead this week.

Meanwhile former US president Bill Clinton said during a visit to Pakistan that printing the cartoons was a mistake but that the violent protests by Muslims have wasted a chance to build bridges with the West.

Copenhagen said its embassy staff would remain in Pakistan but not in the embassy and denied that diplomatic ties were affected.

"We decided on Friday to shut our embassy for security reasons, because we believe it is not responsible to keep it open at the moment," said Lars Thuesen, head of the Danish foreign ministry's crisis centre.

Danish ambassador Bent Wigotski told AFP: "I am still in Pakistan so there is no talk of breaking relations."

Denmark has consistently attracted the fury of protesters in Pakistan and around the world, who have repeatedly burned effigies of Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasumussen and torched and trampled on the country's flag.

It has already temporarily closed its embassies in Tehran, Damascus and Jakarta and its consulates in Beirut and Tunis.

Pakistan cited the cartoons issue in its decision to recall its ambassador but did not explicitly link it to the shutdown of the Danish mission.

"Pakistan's ambassador in Copenhagen, Mr Javed A. Qureshi, has been called to Islamabad for consultations over the cartoon controversy," foreign ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam told AFP.

Several European ambassadors attended the foreign office to be informed of the situation, a diplomatic source said.

But the unrest continued Friday with police battling around 2,000 protesters who blocked a major highway and threw stones at buses in Karachi. The city was largely shut down by a general strike called by religious parties.

Another 1,000 demonstrators chanting "Death to Denmark" gathered in northwestern Peshawar city, where Maulana Yousaf Qureshi, prayer leader at the historic Mohabat Khan mosque, offered the reward for killing the cartoonists.

A boy was shot and wounded near Lahore when protesters scuffled with police, while some 2,000 Islamists burned Danish, US and Norwegian flags in the southwestern city of Quetta.

Meanwhile Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, founder of the militant Lashkar-e-Taiba outfit fighting Indian rule in Kashmir, was detained in Lahore to stop him giving a sermon on the controversy after Friday prayers, his spokesman said.

Around 70 people were held in Multan, 30 in Karachi, 24 in Faisalabad and more than 150 in Lahore in a crackdown, according to police.

Weeks of small protests in Pakistan recently snowballed into violent displays of anger at the West and discontent with the government of military ruler President Pervez Musharraf.

The unrest flared Tuesday when students stormed a diplomatic enclave in Islamabad and rioters rampaged through Lahore, trashing US fast food outlets and leaving two people dead.

On Wednesday 50,000 demonstrators in Peshawar torched a KFC restaurant and the offices of a Norwegian mobile phone firm. Two people died there and another in Lahore that day.

Around 35,000 rallied in Karachi on Thursday but the protest was mostly peaceful.

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10,000 protest in London against cartoons

Associated Press Saturday February 18, 2006

More than 10,000 people joined an angry but peaceful protest in central London today against the Prophet Muhammad cartoons that have infuriated many in the Muslim world.

"Free speech = cheap insults," read some placards. "How dare you insult the blessed Prophet Muhammad?" asked another.

Buses brought participants from cities around Britain to gather in Trafalgar Square, and they later marched through central London toward Hyde Park.

Speakers shouted from the podium and the crowd yelled back as the demonstration grew increasingly angry. Police said about 10,000 people were present, and there were no reports of violence or arrests.
The Muslim Action Committee, which organized the protest, estimated 20,000 people were there.

"Every Muslim understands this basic concept of the centrality in importance of Muhammad to their lives," said Taji Mustafa, a spokesman for the committee. "So when he is demonised, the young and old are deeply affected. As long as the abuse is ongoing we will continue to rise up in protest."

Mustafa said Muslims' anger had been fuelled by several European newspapers' decisions to reprint the cartoon, which first appeared in a Danish paper in September, and recently by an Italian cabinet minister's decision to wear a T-shirt showing the cartoons.

Reforms minister Roberto Calderoli's appearance in the shirt was blamed for sparking clashes that killed at least 10 people at an Italian consulate in Libya yesterday.

Mustafa said the cartoons were reminiscent of attacks on Jews in European publications in the 1930s.

"Now there is a demonisation of the Muslim community, so we have to speak up to prevent something like the Holocaust from happening," he said.

The protesters postponed their departure from Trafalgar Square to Hyde Park by nearly an hour so participants could take turns kneeling and praying on mats in a designated prayer area.

Some demonstrators wore traditional Muslim garb, while many others were in Western dress, such as jeans and sweatshirts.

"What happened should not have happened," said Younas Yousas, 33, a protester from east London.

"Their freedom of speech should be restricted because it hurts our religion. At the end of the day everyone needs to respect others' religions. And we should strive for peace."

Demonstrators carried placards reading "Europe lacks respect for others," and "Don't they teach manners in Denmark?"

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Enlightened values - Comment on Cartoon Debacle

Francesca Klug Saturday February 18, 2006 The Guardian

I have a cartoon at home that I think might win a prize. It shows a hook-nosed man, hands dripping with blood and the world in his grasp. The caption is "Le Peril Juif". It might do well in the Holocaust cartoon competition, launched by Iran's bestselling newspaper, Hamshahri.

This sinister-looking caricature bears a striking resemblance to some of the images in the cartoons published in September by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. While some seem benign, others appear designed to stereotype Muslims as (literally) sabre-rattling terrorists. Any serious debate about religious belief or doctrine is entirely absent.
Hamshahri might have done better to compare these two sets of cartoons with each other and the distress they have caused their respective targets. Instead, the newspaper cited the European Jewish Holocaust, not as an illustration of where pictorial denigration of minorities can ultimately lead, but as an example of western hypocrisy over free speech.

Confusion and obfuscation have clouded every element of this morass. Torrid debates about the right to mock belief systems versus the obligation to respect religious sensitivities camouflage the essentially racist nature of the cartoons in question. Take the publication by a German newspaper this week of a cartoon depicting the Iranian football team as suicide bombers. Analogies with the Rushdie and Behzti affairs, in this sense, are misleading.

Liberal secularists cite Enlightenment heroes such as Voltaire, Kant and Mill to underline their cause. But they fail to distinguish between free speech as an essential means to challenge state or church monopoly power and stigmatising vulnerable religious or ethnic minorities in the name of a free press.

Critics such as the philosopher Onora O'Neill (in the Media section of this paper) argue that human-rights values are part of the problem. Charters such as the European convention on human rights (ECHR), she says, have failed to distinguish between the free-expression rights of powerless individuals and those of powerful organisations, including the media, who have inequitable opportunities to defame others.

The eminent law professor Ronald Dworkin took the opposite view on these pages this week. He called for a new understanding of the ECHR. Holocaust-denial and similar laws that exist in many European states should be struck down. They are violations of free speech that should remain unfettered.

This Atlanticist belief in the pre-eminence of free expression, reflected in the US bill of rights, was deliberately rejected by the founding parents of the postwar human rights movement. They had experienced first hand the power of the pen to denigrate minorities and incite mortal hatred. Enlightenment laws that enshrined individual freedoms had proved unequal to the task of ending tyranny and upholding democracy. Drawing on many philosophies and religions, these pioneers sought to bind a fractured world through values that underlined human dignity and equal worth - values that would set strong limits to state power but also encourage everyone to "act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood". They called this the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Of all the freedoms enshrined in rights conventions it is free expression, alone, which directly entails "duties and responsibilities". This includes "protection of the reputation or rights of others". As a result, the distinction between the powerful and powerless that O'Neill rightly calls for is generally recognised in European and international human-rights law. Freedom of expression is valued as an essential foundation of a democratic society; applicable as much to ideas that offend as inform. But the principles of tolerance that define such societies also provide the basis for necessary and proportionate limitations on free speech.

Individuals are prohibited from citing their own human rights as grounds for destroying the rights of others under the ECHR. The European court of human rights has said there is no case to answer to the Dworkinian charge that Holocaust denial laws breach free expression. The specific context in which they operate in the post-Nazi countries, and the vulnerability of the communities targeted, are crucial factors in such judgments.

Who could deny that in the context of modern Europe it is Muslims who have reason to feel vulnerable when mass circulation newspapers publish images that deny their individuality and associate them with terrorism?

This is not to call for new laws to outlaw such images or for courts to ban them. Human-rights values should not become a byword for endless legislation and litigation. They are intended to provide a framework for democratic societies to help us decide what we stand for and how to act, especially in times of tension.

The European editors who published the cartoons sought to make a stand against self-restraint in the name of free expression. But self-restraint can be necessary to prevent the denigration of minorities while maintaining a free press. With this realisation, could a new enlightenment dawn?

·Francesca Klug is a professorial research fellow at the LSE

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Volgograd journalists resist closing paper after cartoon scandal

Irina Ilyicheva RIA Novosti 17 Feb 06

The Gorodskye Vesti newspaper in Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad, the site the largest battle of WWII), carried an article entitled: "No room for racists in power". The article was accompanied by an illustration depicting Jesus Christ, Moses, Buddha and Mohammed in front of a television showing two groups of people about to start a fight. The caption read "We didn't teach you this."
VOLGOGRAD - Journalists in Volgograd, a major city in southern Russia, protested Friday against closing a local newspaper embroiled in a controversy over the publication of a religious cartoon.

"The decision of the Volgograd administration to close down the Gorodskiye Vesti newspaper for publishing a religious illustration casts doubts on the main principle of a democratic state - freedom of speech," journalists said in an open letter.

The Gorodskye Vesti newspaper in Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad, the site the largest battle of WWII), carried an article entitled: "No room for racists in power". The article was accompanied by an illustration depicting Jesus Christ, Moses, Buddha and Mohammed in front of a television showing two groups of people about to start a fight. The caption read "We didn't teach you this."

The authors of the letter said the publication had not caused a negative reaction among believers, but had become a political matter.

According to Volgograd media, the closing of Gorodskye Vesti is an attempt to find culprits in an "artificially sparked scandal, is presented an incitement of inter-religious discord."

Volgograd Deputy Mayor Andrei Doronin said the City Hall, as the founder of the newspaper, would close down Gorodskye Vesti.

"We have carefully studied the article and decided to close down the newspaper in order not to inflame ethnic hostilities," he said.

On Wednesday, prosecutors announced that they were launching a probe into the matter after local politicians and representatives of public organizations voiced their concerns in the wake of the recent wave of protests that engulfed the Muslim world after satirical cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed were published in a Danish newspaper and reprinted internationally.

Gorodskiye Izvestia Editor Tatyana Kaminskaya apologized for any offense that may have been caused, but added that she had received no complaints from religious or ethnic communities. She justified the article by saying that it was a protest against religious and ethnic intolerance.

"I can't understand why anyone could come to such conclusions," she said. "The piece is against religious and ethnic intolerance. A caricature is something comical but with a malicious depiction of reality - there was nothing of that sort in our newspaper."

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Libya suspends interior minister after cartoon riots

Associated Press Saturday February 18, 2006

Libya's parliamentary secretariat today suspended the interior minister and referred him for investigation over yesterday's riots that resulted in the deaths of at least 10 people.

Meanwhile, the Italian cabinet minister blamed for sparking the riots is reported to have resigned.

"We condemn the excessive use of force and the inappropriate way that went beyond the limits of carrying out the duties of the police," said the Libyan statement announcing the suspension of Nasr al-Mabrouk.
The secretariat said all those involved "and the officials responsible for them" should be referred to investigations and to court.

"Those who have a relation to the incident and are responsible for security in Benghazi have been suspended and referred to investigations," the statement said.

It declared Sunday a day of mourning for "our martyr sons."

At least 10 people died in the six-hour riot outside the Italian consulate, where more than 1,000 demonstrators gathered in an angry protest, apparently in reaction to an Italian cabinet minister who said he would wear a T-shirt printed with the cartoons satirising Prophet Muhammad that have provoked protests across the Muslim world.

The crowd hurled rocks and bottles before storming the compound and setting fire to the building and cars parked nearby. Police with Kalashnikov rifles fired live ammunition and tear gas to disperse them.

Roberto Calderoli, the Italian cabinet minister blamed for sparking the riots handed in his resignation today, the news agency ANSA reported.

The reforms minister said he had offered his resignation to Silvio Berlusconi to stop "the shameful exploitation which in these hours has been directed against me," ANSA reported.

Calderoli had been under increasing pressure to step down after his intention to wear the T-shirt was blamed for the protests, resulting in the highest death toll of any of the riots held against the caricatures in the Muslim world.

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Europe's contempt for other cultures can't be sustained

Martin Jacques Friday February 17, 2006 The Guardian

A continent that inflicted colonial brutality all over the globe for 200 years has little claim to the superiority of its values

Old attitudes of superiority and disdain - dressed up in terms of free speech, progress or whatever - are still very powerful. Nor - as many liberals like to think - are they necessarily in decline. On the contrary, racial bigotry is on the rise, even in countries that have previously been regarded as tolerant. The Danish government depends for its rule on a racist, far-right party that gained 13% of the seats in the last election. The decision of Jyllands-Posten to publish the cartoons - and papers in France, Germany, Italy and elsewhere to reprint them - lay not so much in the tradition of free speech but in European contempt for other cultures and religions: it was a deliberate, calculated insult to the beliefs of others, in this case Muslims.
Is the argument over the Danish cartoons really reducible to a matter of free speech? Even if we believe that free speech is a fundamental value, that does not give us carte blanche to say what we like in any context, regardless of consequence or effect. Respect for others, especially in an increasingly interdependent world, is a value of at least equal importance.

Europe has never had to worry too much about context or effect because for around 200 years it dominated and colonised most of the world. Such was Europe's omnipotence that it never needed to take into account the sensibilities, beliefs and attitudes of those that it colonised, however sacred and sensitive they might have been. On the contrary, European countries imposed their rulers, religion, beliefs, language, racial hierarchy and customs on those to whom they were entirely alien. There is a profound hypocrisy - and deep historical ignorance - when Europeans complain about the problems posed by the ethnic and religious minorities in their midst, for that is exactly what European colonial rule meant for peoples around the world. With one crucial difference, of course: the white minorities ruled the roost, whereas Europe's new ethnic minorities are marginalised, excluded and castigated, as recent events have shown.

But it is no longer possible for Europe to ignore the sensibilities of peoples with very different values, cultures and religions. First, western Europe now has sizeable minorities whose origins are very different from the host population and who are connected with their former homelands in diverse ways. If European societies want to live in some kind of domestic peace and harmony - rather than in a state of Balkanisation and repression - then they must find ways of integrating these minorities on rather more equal terms than, for the most part, they have so far achieved. That must mean, among other things, respect for their values. Second, it is patently clear that, globally speaking, Europe matters far less than it used to - and in the future will count for less and less. We must not only learn to share our homelands with people from very different roots, we must also learn to share the world with diverse peoples in a very different kind of way from what has been the European practice.

Europe has little experience of this, and what experience it has is mainly confined to less than half a century. Old attitudes of superiority and disdain - dressed up in terms of free speech, progress or whatever - are still very powerful. Nor - as many liberals like to think - are they necessarily in decline. On the contrary, racial bigotry is on the rise, even in countries that have previously been regarded as tolerant. The Danish government depends for its rule on a racist, far-right party that gained 13% of the seats in the last election. The decision of Jyllands-Posten to publish the cartoons - and papers in France, Germany, Italy and elsewhere to reprint them - lay not so much in the tradition of free speech but in European contempt for other cultures and religions: it was a deliberate, calculated insult to the beliefs of others, in this case Muslims.

This kind of mentality - combining Eurocentrism, old colonial attitudes of supremacism, racism, provincialism and sheer ignorance - will serve our continent ill in the future. Europe must learn to live in and with the world, not to dominate it, nor to assume it is superior or more virtuous. Any continent that has inflicted such brutality on the world over a period of 200 years has not too much to be proud of, and much to be modest and humble about - though this is rarely the way our history is presented in Britain, let alone elsewhere. It is worth remembering that while parts of Europe have had free speech (and democracy) for many decades, its colonies were granted neither. But when it comes to our "noble values", our colonial record is always written out of the script.

This attitude of disdain, of assumed superiority, will be increasingly difficult to sustain. We are moving into a world in which the west will no longer be able to call the tune as it once did. China and India will become major global players alongside the US, the EU and Japan. For the first time in modern history the west will no longer be overwhelmingly dominant. By the end of this century Europe is likely to pale into insignificance alongside China and India. In such a world, Europe will be forced to observe and respect the sensibilities of others.

Few in Europe understand or recognise these trends. A small example is the bitter resistance displayed on the continent to the proposed takeover of Arcelor by Mittal Steel: at root the opposition is based on thinly disguised racism. But Europe had better get used to such a phenomenon: takeovers by Indian and Chinese firms are going to become as common as American ones. A profound parochialism grips our continent. When Europe called the global tune it did not matter, because what happened in Europe translated itself into a global trend and a global power. No more: now it is simply provincialism.

When Europe dominated, there were no or few feedback loops. Or, to put it another way, there were few, if any, consequences for its behaviour towards the non-western world: relations were simply too unequal. Now - and increasingly in the future - it will be very different. And the subject of these feedback loops, or consequences, will concern not just present but also past behaviour.

For 200 years the dominant powers have also been the colonial powers: the European countries, the US and Japan. They have never been required to pay their dues for what they did to those whom they possessed and treated with contempt. Europeans have treated this chapter in their history by choosing to forget. So has Japan, except that in its case its neighbours have not only refused to forget but are also increasingly powerful. As a consequence, Japan's present and future is constantly stalked by its history. This future could also lie in wait for Europe. We might think the opium wars are "simply history"; the Chinese (rightly) do not. We might think the Bengal famine belongs in the last century, but Indians do not.

Europe is moving into a very different world. How will it react? If something like the attitude of the Danes prevails - a combination of defensiveness, fear, provincialism and arrogance - then one must fear for Europe's ability to learn to live in this new world. There is another way, but the signs are none too hopeful.

· Martin Jacques is a senior visiting research fellow at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore

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Afghan TV screens gruesome Taleban video

By Simon Freeman and agencies London Times

Disturbing video footage of beheaded bodies being paraded through the streets of southern Pakistan, in front of powerless police, has been broadcast today in Afghanistan.

Tolo TV, a private Afghan network, said that the men were killed a month ago in the tribal district of South Waziristan as a punishment for their opposition to the Taleban and al-Qaeda militias.

It would not reveal the source of the footage, whose authenticity has not been verified.
In one segment of the film, three decapitated heads are held up to cheers from a gathered crowd. Later, a number of bodies are seen being dragged behind a pick-up truck.

Crowds are heard chanting "long live Osama bin Laden" and "long live Mullah Omar", respectively the leaders of al-Qaeda and the Taleban.

The lawless, mountainous region neighbours the volatile Helmand provice of Afghanistan, where the first of 3,300 British troops arrived this week to begin setting up camp as part of a two year Nato deployment.

The footage underlines the struggle the troops face when they join a Nato peacekeeping force of 16,500 in the area to tackle

The Army is on high alert for a backlash over video footage of British troops attacking youths in Basra, Iraq. The region has also seen some of the more extreme protests in the 'on-going cartoon wars' against the pictures of Muhammad in which more than a dozen people have died.

Last week, in a show of strength, 200 Taleban militants surrounded provincial government offices in the area killing more than 20 people in a failed attempt to capture the deputy governor. The beheaded bodies of two Afghan intellingence agents were found two days ago in a desert near the border with Iran.

The Taleban, toppled from power in a US-led military campaign in late 2001, regrouped on the border of Aghanistan and Pakistan was last year blamed for the deaths of 1,700 people in the area.

Tolo TV launched in Jalalabad last August and claims to be Afghanistan's largest private broadcaster. Although its production values have been compared unfavourably to those of American public access TV, it prides itself on reflecting the diversity of the nation's contemporary culture.
# Thousands joined street rallies in Pakistan today to protest at the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. An imam in Peshawar declared a $1 million bounty on the head of offending Danish cartoonists, as Danish flags were ritually burned.

Pakistani police put an Islamist leader under house arrest in a vain attempt to prevent more unrest after Friday prayers. Five people have been killed in Pakistan this week, and a further 10 in violent protests in Afghanistan.

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Abu Ghraib leaked report reveals full extent of abuse

Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington Friday February 17, 2006 The Guardian

· 1,325 images of suspected detainee abuse
· 93 video files of suspected detainee abuse
· 660 images of adult pornography
· 546 images of suspected dead Iraqi detainees
· 29 images of soldiers in simulated sexual acts

Nearly two years after the first pictures of naked and humiliated Iraqi detainees emerged from Abu Ghraib prison, the full extent of the abuse became known for the first time yesterday with a leaked report from the US army's internal investigation into the scandal.
The catalogue of abuse, which was obtained by the online American magazine Salon, could not have arrived at a worse time for the Bush administration, coinciding with yesterday's United Nations report on abuse of detainees at Guantánamo, the release of a video showing British troops beating up Iraqi youths, and lingering anger in the Muslim world over cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.

Bush administration officials had already been fending off a new wave of anger about the torture of detainees - following the airing of graphic images from Abu Ghraib on Australian television - when Salon posted a story on its website yesterday saying it had obtained what appears to be the fullest photographic record to date of the abuse.

It said the material, gathered by the army's criminal investigation division, included 1,325 photographs and 93 video clips of suspected abuse of detainees, 546 photographs of suspected dead Iraqi detainees, as well as 660 images of adult pornography, and 29 pictures of US troops engaged in simulated sex acts. Based on date stamps, all were recorded between October 18 and December 30 2003, the same timeframe as the original scandal.

The website published 18 pictures from the prison. Aside from the ritualised images of humiliation - naked Iraqi men kneeling or lying on the ground alone or in a heap or wearing women's underwear on their heads - they also reveal the apparent normality of those bizarre scenes within Abu Ghraib. One of the pictures shows an army sergeant standing calmly to fill out paperwork on a wall. Behind him is a hooded, naked detainee. Another photograph shows Staff Sergeant Ivan Chip Frederick - who was tried for his role in the abuse scandal - trimming his fingernails beside an Iraqi who is standing on a box wearing a hood and electrical wires.

There are also images of physical violence: a blood-streaked cell, and a picture of the battered face of a corpse packed in ice. "The DVD also includes photographs of guards threatening Iraqi prisoners with dogs, homemade videotapes depicting hooded prisoners being forced to masturbate, and a video showing a mentally disturbed prisoner smashing his head against a door. Oddly, the material also includes numerous photographs of slaughtered animals and mundane images of soldiers travelling around Iraq," Salon said.

The magazine said it thought the material included all of the pictures that originally surfaced when the abuse became known in April 2004, as well as the pictures aired on Australian television. Human rights organisations have been fighting for months for the army to release a full record of the abuse at Abu Ghraib. Salon said it received the material from a member of the military who had spent time at the jail and was familiar with the investigation.

The first official response from Washington as well as Baghdad was concerned as much with the impact these new pictures of abuse could have in the Middle East at a time when anger against the west is high. A Pentagon spokesman said the release of additional images of abuse "could only further inflame and possibly incite unnecessary violence in the world".

Iraq's prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, while condemning the abuse at Abu Ghraib, noted that US soldiers had already been punished for it.

Mr Jaafari's government was also on the defensive about torture yesterday after the first direct evidence emerged that death squads had operated from within the interior ministry.

The US general in charge of training the Iraqi police, Major General Joseph Peterson, told the Chicago Tribune that the death squads that had been arresting and killing Sunnis had been operating from within the police force although they wore commando uniforms. "We have found one of the death squads," Gen Peterson told the paper. "They are a part of the police force of Iraq."

In another development, ABC television on Wednesday night aired audio tapes of Saddam Hussein's cabinet meetings during the mid-1990s, including a segment in which he says he warned Washington of a terror attack. "Terrorism is coming. I told the Americans," Saddam is heard saying, adding that he "told the British as well". However, he adds: "This story is coming, but not from Iraq."

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Judge's anger at US torture

Richard Norton-Taylor and Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington Friday February 17, 2006 The Guardian

A high court judge yesterday delivered a stinging attack on America, saying its idea of what constituted torture was out of step with that of "most civilised nations".

The criticism, directed at the Bush administration's approach to human rights, was made by Mr Justice Collins during a hearing over the refusal by ministers to request the release of three British residents held at Guantánamo Bay.

The judge said: "America's idea of what is torture is not the same as ours and does not appear to coincide with that of most civilised nations." He made his comments, he said, after learning of the UN report that said Guantánamo should be shut down without delay because torture was still being carried out there.
The report, by five inspectors for the UN human rights commissioner, refers to shackling, hooding and forcing detainees to wear earphones and goggles. In particular, it refers to interrogation techniques and excessive violence used to forcefeed prisoners on hunger strike. Based on interviews with detainees' lawyers, former inmates and written exchanges with US officials, it calls on the US to put the 490 inmates on trial or release them.

Last night, the secretary general, Kofi Annan, said: "Sooner or later there will be a need to close the Guantánamo [camp]." He added that though he did not agree with everything in the report, he opposed holding people "in perpetuity".

The UN inspectors refused a US offer to tour Guantánamo after they were barred from visiting the prisoners. The 40-page document is the UN's first to address Guantánamo. Scott McClellan, the White House press secretary, dismissed its findings as a "rehash of old allegations" and "a discredit to the organisation". "The detainees are being treated humanely," he said. "Remember these are terrorists."

But in one of the strongest remarks yet by a British cabinet minister, Peter Hain said last night that the government believed the camp should be shut. Asked on the BBC's Question Time programme whether Tony Blair supported that view he said "I think so, yes".

The Bush administration has defined torture in narrow terms, referring to intense physical injury and organ failure. Controversy about the definition goes to the heart of allegations that the US has secretly used Britain to transport detainees to interrogation centres in countries where torture occurs, in the practice known as "extraordinary rendition".

Ministers have relied on US assurances that senior British lawyers have repeatedly questioned. In a law lords judgment last year, Lord Bingham referred to US techniques, including sensory deprivation and inducing a perception of suffocation, which, he said, would be defined as torture in British law.

Mr Justice Collins said three British residents in Guantánamo could now seek a court order requiring the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, to petition for their release. The case, brought by Bisher al-Rawi, Jamil el-Banna, and Omar Deghayes, and relatives living in Britain, could be heard as early as next week.

Responding to the judge's remarks about the US definition of torture, Rabinder Singh QC, counsel for the three detainees and their families, said Britain and the European court of human rights would "undoubtedly condemn" many of the practices at Guantánamo. Mr Rawi is an Iraqi who has lived in the UK since 1985. His business partner, Mr Banna, is a Jordanian refugee, and Mr Deghayes is a Libyan refugee. All three were taken to Guantánamo via Afghanistan.

Mr Rawi and Mr Banna were seized by CIA agents in Gambia in 2002. Chris Mullin, a former Foreign Office minister for Africa, says British agents helped the Americans seize the two men. They are alleged to have had contacts with al-Qaida because of a connection with the radical cleric Abu Qatada.

Mr Deghayes was detained in Pakistan. His name was said to be on the FBI's "most wanted" list yet the photograph in his file was of a different person, the court heard. Mr Deghayes was almost blind in one eye through the use of pepper spray and gouging during his detention, yet is still being constantly subjected to bright light.

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Close Guantanamo, says Peter Hain

By Andrew Woodcock, PA 17 February 2006

Pressure to close the US detention camp in Guantanamo Bay grew today after Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain backed its shutdown.

His comments came after a United Nations report - backed by the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan - called for the immediate closure of the controversial site in Cuba.

Mr Hain was believed to be the first Government minister explicitly to demand the closure.

He also said he believed that Prime Minister Tony Blair shared his view.
Mr Hain said on BBC1's Question Time: "I would prefer that it wasn't there. I would prefer it was closed, yes."

Asked if it was Government policy that Guantanamo should be shut down, he replied: "That's what I think."

And challenged on whether Mr Blair agreed with him, he said: "I think so, yes."

The camp was opened in 2002 to hold terror suspects seized during the Afghanistan war and is currently believed to contain around 500 inmates.

Mr Blair told MPs last November that Guantanamo Bay was "an anomaly that sooner or later has to be dealt with".

Mr Hain said that the British Government accepted that useful information had been obtained from detainees at Guantanamo, but had always been uncomfortable with its existence.

"What we've said all along is, we don't agree with that," he said last night. "(The Prime Minister) has said that, as a matter of fact, some of the information that came from there was of importance, but that doesn't mean to say that he thinks the place should have been set up in the first place. There's a distinction there.

"We've made clear our position. We've made it absolutely clear. (Foreign Secretary) Jack Straw's made it clear, so has the Prime Minister."

He added: "We've always said that Guantanamo Bay was something that shouldn't have happened."

Yesterday's UN report, ordered by the body's Commission on Human Rights, called on the US government to refrain from any practice "amounting to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" at Guantanamo.

It said all detainees should be brought to trial or released "without further delay" and the facility closed.

Some aspects of prisoners' treatment, including force-feeding hunger strikers, amounted to torture, it said.

Mr Annan said: "I think sooner or later, there will be a need to close Guantanamo, and I think it will be up to the (US) Government to decide, hopefully, to do it as soon as is possible."

Following the report's publication, the US administration dismissed its findings as "largely without merit".

The five UN investigators who compiled it had refused an invitation to visit Guantanamo Bay, said a spokesman, because the US would not allow them interview detainees.

They relied instead on interviews with former detainees, public documents, media reports, lawyers and a questionnaire filled out by the US Government.

Nine British nationals who had been detained there have now been flown back to the UK and released without charge.

None of the current inmates at Guantanamo are British, but Amnesty International believes that eight have previously been resident in the UK and that some have relatives here.

Yesterday, three long-term UK residents - although not British citizens - were given the go-ahead to seek a High Court order requiring Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to petition for their release from Guantanamo.

A judge in London said allegations of torture being practised at the facility meant the detainees, and their families living in the UK, had an arguable case that the British Government was under an obligation to act on their behalf.

Lawyers for the three men, Bisher al-Rawi, Jamil el-Banna and Omar Deghayes, and their families, were told there was "no guarantee" they would win the case, expected to be heard in full in mid-March.

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Federal judge dismisses Canadian extraordinary rendition suit

Krista-Ann Staley Jurist Legal News and Research 17 Feb 06

US District Judge David G. Trager has granted the US Justice Department's request for dismissal of a civil rights lawsuit filed by Maher Arar, in what is believed to be the first suit filed challenging US extraordinary rendition practices.
The Syrian-born Canadian was detained in 2002 during a layover at New York's JFK airport on a flight home to Canada from Tunisia; he was detained by US immigration officials and then deported to Syria, where he was born. Arar alleged he was deported so that he could be tortured in Syria, where he eventually made false admissions of terrorist activity. Referring to information linking Arar to al Qaeda, the Justice Department said that deporting him was "in the best interest of the United States." Syria has denied the allegations of abuse.

Arar's lawyers argued that the Torture Victim Protection Act provides the US court with jurisdiction over cases involving civil rights abuses committed abroad, but Judge Trager dismissed the case citing "the national security and foreign policy considerations at stake" and held that Arar, as a non-citizen, could not raise a constitutional right to due process. The New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights has a press release on the ruling and background on the case.

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The Human Cost of War

By Cindy Sheehan and Sam Bostaph 17 Feb 06

The whole world is watching a human drama that is both tragedy and travesty. As if the lessons of Vietnam had been presented to dull students and needed repeating, Americans and peoples of all nations watch as President George W. Bush's preemptive and unconstitutional war in Iraq continues. The cradle of civilization is being turned into its grave by a president whose undefined "noble cause" has thus far cost the lives of almost 3,000 American soldiers, wounded and maimed almost 20,000 more, and killed tens of thousands of Iraqis. The land that nourished the first written language and the roots of civilized political order has become a charnel house.
The defeated Iraqi army of Saddam Hussein is no longer the enemy in George Bush's unjust war; its place has been taken by insurgent forces, as well as by al Qaeda and other groups who use the country as a battlefield and guerrilla training ground for their own troops. Added to the tragedy in Iraq is the travesty of Bush's "War on Terror" -- a formless justification for the growth of federal government power and the steady erosion of our Bill of Rights through warrantless searches, illegal spying, kidnapping and torture, and imprisonment without either trial or conviction.

American soldiers -- courageous, dedicated and trained to fight to preserve our freedoms, and raised to believe in the importance of a virtuous life -- are fighting under Rules of Engagement that permit the use of such destructive retaliatory force that they cannot avoid the commission of atrocities against helpless civilians. American Marines -- always prepared to be "the first to fight" and whose motto is "semper fidelis" -- are being used for immoral ends by an administration that has proven faithless to the people of the country it pretends to represent.

And what has this corruption of the best of our youth in an immoral military debacle cost? In trying to answer this question, we submit that the least significant costs are those that can be quantified. The most recent and most general attempt to estimate both the direct and indirect costs of George Bush's war is that of economists Linda Bilmes and Joe Stiglitz, who summarized their estimate in a paper presented at the January 2006 meetings in Boston of the American Economic Association.

Bilmes and Stiglitz present a "moderate" estimate of $1.3 trillion for past and expected federal budget outlays related to this unnecessary war. This includes military operations, reconstruction, foreign aid and enhanced base security for the military bases in Iraq. Currently, the monthly average cost of military operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan is $7.1 billion -- enough in one year of expenditure to rebuild the city of New Orleans, including levees that would withstand category 5 hurricanes.

In calculating their estimate of the total of direct and indirect costs of the war, Bilmes and Stiglitz include an estimate of the economic value of American soldiers killed and wounded, and the estimated future costs of caring for those wounded, while excluding any calculations of similar costs for other countries, including Iraqi soldiers, civilians and insurgents killed or wounded. They include the direct and indirect costs of the American military arms and equipment used and destroyed, but not that of the destruction to the land and economy of the Iraqis. They include the increased costs of providing greater security for military bases, but not the costs of increased counter-intelligence activities by the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Bilmes and Stiglitz admit that they were unable to include most of the economic costs associated with Bush's war; for instance, they omit the damage to international trade and the standard of living in the world as a consequence of the increased trade barriers imposed in the "War on Terror". They omit the economic damage caused by higher prices for oil because of decreased production in the Middle East, and the consequent lower production of other goods and services as energy expenditures replace others in budgeting. They omit the loss of investment expenditures in the American economy as military spending replaces domestic spending and interest payments on debt from deficit spending on the war crowd out business borrowing.

If all economic costs could be included, Bilmes and Stiglitz speculate that their estimate of the Iraq war costs would rise to $2.2 trillion. We submit that this is still too low because it fails to allow for the fact that military expenditures are expenditures for destruction, not for the creation of value and increases in the standard of living. Resources wasted in the destruction of human life and property, are resources that cannot be used for building houses or feeding the hungry. It also fails to allow for the demoralization and destruction of the whole American military establishment that is one of the seldom-mentioned results of fighting this immoral, pointless and savage war.

To reach their cost estimates, Bilmes and Stiglitz had to make a number of restrictive assumptions, a change in any one of which would greatly change the results of their calculations. The only unimpeachable fact and undeniably true statement in their entire paper is a concluding remark that "the most important things in life -- like life itself -- are priceless." And what do they recommend for the future? Like a slap in the face of all that is moral and good in humankind and its potential for greatness, Bilmes and Stiglitz urge BETTER COST BENEFIT ANALYSIS before undertaking future wars!

How does one react to the recognition that life is priceless, but a price should be put upon it for the purpose of deciding whether to make war? It can only be with outrage. We are outraged that a war should be considered as anything but a last resort, fought in defense and after an attack by an organized and dangerous enemy bent on our destruction or conquest. We are outraged that a pre-emptive and poorly thought-out invasion of a foreign country was undertaken under a pretense that was subsequently revealed to be a pack of lies. We are outraged at the incalculable human cost of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. We are outraged that human and other resources desperately needed to respond to the Gulf Coast disaster last fall were instead in Iraq, being used for the wasting and occupation of that country.

Outrage is what Cindy was feeling when she toured the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans in mid-February. Outrage, sorrow, horror and sickness over the destruction she saw there. A destruction that is both complete and profound. A destruction that was made worse by poor preparation at all levels of government. Miles and miles of collapsed houses, overturned cars and toys alike flung far and wide: miles and miles of proof of the incompetence and callousness of government.

Cindy was in New Orleans as people were being kicked out of their subsidized FEMA housing while hundreds of millions of dollars of "FEMA trailers" sat in lots and on railroad cars waiting for a place to be parked. She listened to Richard Skinner of Homeland Security say on CNN that FEMA is spending "eight to ten million dollars" to spread gravel on a lot in Arkansas so that the 11,000 trailers that should be in the Gulf States, but are parked on that lot, won't sink into the mud while they sit. She saw hundreds of units of low income housing in St. Bernard's Parish that could be rehabilitated with some sheetrock and paint, but are sitting empty and useless. Hundreds of residents could return to their homes for what it would cost for 18 months use of two of those empty trailers -- each of which is estimated by the Times-Picayune to cost as much as $120,000.

Cindy left New Orleans depressed and missing her son, Casey, even more. Like other American soldiers, Casey was raised to understand the importance of a virtuous life. He neither sought, nor wanted, to kill innocent people in Iraq, and he voiced this often during his last visit home at Christmas, 2003. On April 4, 2004, he was killed while on a rescue mission to retrieve wounded comrades in arms. Casey came home to be buried, as have almost 3000 others in the last three years.

But, what of those soldiers who come home wounded or unscathed? To what do they return? They come home to a Veterans Administration that is inadequately funded for the job it has to do. Too many come home to divorce, to become homeless, to die by their own hands. Iraq War veterans come home to a VA that has failed even to provide the benefits due veterans of the Vietnam War -- a war that has since claimed more veterans through suicide than were killed fighting.

Like the water that poured over the weak and compromised levees in New Orleans, the human lives and money that are being poured into the sands of distant Iraq are harming our very humanity. Rather than accolades, the American people are receiving worldwide hatred in return. Rather than greater security, they are receiving less. Rather than expanding freedom in the world, they are losing their own to a mindless expansion of federal government power.

Life is priceless. The present value of all the future income Casey Sheehan might have earned is miniscule compared to the value he had to himself, to Cindy, to his father, to his brother and sisters -- to all his family and friends. Multiply that way of valuing Casey by 3000 killed, 20,000 wounded, and thousands mentally damaged or embittered for life and you get an obscenity. This is the human cost of war.

Cindy Sheehan is the proud mother of Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan who was 24 when he was KIA in Sadr City, Iraq on 04/04/04. She is also the author of Not One More Mother's Child available at www.koabooks.com. Cindy is the founder and President of Gold Star Families for Peace. Cindy is above all the very proud mother of Carly, Andy, and Janey Sheehan who hold down the fort in California.

Sam Bostaph, Ph.D., is Pofessor of Economics and Chairman, Department of Economics, University of Dallas. He is the author of numerous scholarly articles on topics in intellectual history, economic theory and economic theory. A former Marine, who later served as a U.S. Army intelligence staff officer during the Vietnam War era, he is the proud father of Katie and Megan Bostaph and prays that they may never go to war themselves.

First published at michaelmoore.com

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'The Americans are breaking international law... it is a society heading towards Animal Farm' - Archbishop Sentamu on Guantanamo

By Ian Herbert and Ben Russell 18 February 2006

The Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, has launched a passionate attack on President George Bush, saying his administration's refusal to close the notorious Guantanamo Bay camp reflected "a society that is heading towards George Orwell's Animal Farm".

Dr Sentamu, the Church of England's second in command, urged the UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) to take legal action against the US - through the US courts or the International Court of Justice at The Hague - should it fail to respond to a report, by five UN inspectors, advising that Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay should be shut immediately because prisoners there are being tortured.
The report was published on Thursday, as a senior High Court judge, Mr Justice Collins, stated that American actions over Guantanamo's Camp Delta do not "appear to coincide with that of most civilised nations". As a result of his ruling, three of eight British inmates held in the camp are to appeal to the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to intervene with the Bush administration on their behalf.

Archbishop Sentamu's comments will strengthen the increasingly insistent international pressure for Guantanamo to be closed. Archbishop Desmond Tutu called for its closure, after similar appeals by Peter Hain, the Northern Ireland Secretary, and the UN secretary general Kofi Annan.

Dr Sentamu said the UNHRC should seek a writ of habeas corpus, compelling the US to bring those being detained at Guantanamo to court, to establish whether they are imprisoned lawfully and if they should be released.

"The American Government is breaking international law," he told The Independent. "The main building block of a democratic society is that everyone is equal before the law, innocent until proved otherwise, and has the right to legal representation. If the guilt of the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay is beyond doubt, why are the Americans afraid to bring them to trial? Transparency and accountability are the other side of the coin of freedom and responsibility. We are all accountable for our actions in spite of circumstances. The events of 9/11 cannot erase the rule of law and international obligations.

"The US should try all 500 detainees at Guantanamo, who still include eight British residents, or free them without further delay. To hold someone for up to four years without charge clearly indicates a society that is heading towards George Orwell's Animal Farm."

The Government has already managed to secure the release, in March 2004, of the four British nationals who were detained at Guantanamo ­ Moazzam Begg, Feroz Abbasi, Martin Mubanga and Richard Belmar ­ although only after guarantees they would be constantly monitored and face an investigation to ascertain whether they can be charged in this country.

Washington had claimed all four were "enemy combatants" who trained at camps run by al-Qa'ida. But they were released after UK police concluded there was not enough evidence to charge them with any offence. The men said they had been tortured at Guantanamo, allegations the US denied.

So far the Prime Minister appears unmoved by the growing sense of indignation brought on by the UNHRC report. He reiterated a statement first made a year ago that the base in Cuba was "an anomaly".

Sir Menzies Campbell, the acting Liberal Democrat leader, said: "This is not an anomaly which needs to be sorted sooner or later. This is an outrage that needs to be sorted out now. Guantanamo Bay has damaged the reputation of the US and its allies across the globe, and particularly in the Middle East."

The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, told the BBC the military tribunals proposed by Washington to try detainees at the base did not amount to a fair trial "by standards we would regard as acceptable". But last night, Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, rejected Mr Annan's calls.

"He's just flat wrong. We shouldn't close Guantanamo," he said. " We have several hundred terrorists, bad people, people who if they went back out on the field would try to kill Americans ... To close that place and pretend that really there's no problem just isn't realistic."

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The Shootist - What is Dick Cheney Covering Up?

By Ted Rall ICH 17 Feb 06

Talking to the media doesn't come naturally to a vice president who hasn't held a press conference for the last three and a half years, but what about the White House PR machine? Why did they wait so long to let the news out?

Attorney Alan Dershowitz speculates that Cheney may have stalled to cover up drunkenness. "One possibility is that it takes approximately that period of time for alcohol to dissipate in the body and no longer be subject to accurate testing," Dershowitz writes. "It is fairly common for people involved in alcohol-related accidents to delay reporting them until the alcohol has left the body." Cheney has a history of public intoxication, having been twice convicted of DUI.
NEW YORK--If you haven't anything done wrong you have nothing to hide. Or does that only apply to victims of government wiretapping?

On February 11 Dick Cheney shot one of his quail hunting companions, 78-year-old lawyer Harry Whittington, in the face, neck and chest on the Armstrong Ranch in south Texas. What happened next was astonishing. What happened next was nothing.

No public statement, no press conference, no mention that the world's most powerful politician had blasted a guy with more than 250 shotgun pellets--for nearly 24 hours. Finally Katharine Armstrong, part owner of the ranch and a participant in the hunting party (though not a witness to the shooting), called Cheney for directions.

"Mr. Vice President," she told him, "this is going to be public, and I'm comfortable going to the hometown newspaper."

"You go ahead and do whatever you are comfortable doing," she says he replied. Remember, Cheney is the man 2000 Bush supporters counted on to be the grown-up.

Armstrong reported the incident to the local Corpus Christi Caller-Times, whose story became national after being picked up by the Associated Press wire service.

Talking to the media doesn't come naturally to a vice president who hasn't held a press conference for the last three and a half years, but what about the White House PR machine? Why did they wait so long to let the news out?

Attorney Alan Dershowitz speculates that Cheney may have stalled to cover up drunkenness. "One possibility is that it takes approximately that period of time for alcohol to dissipate in the body and no longer be subject to accurate testing," Dershowitz writes. "It is fairly common for people involved in alcohol-related accidents to delay reporting them until the alcohol has left the body." Cheney has a history of public intoxication, having been twice convicted of DUI.

Sirius Radio's Alex Bennett says that "Cheney and Whittington went hunting with two women (not their wives), there was some drinking, and Whittington wound up shot." Bob Cesca alleges that one of the two women, U.S. ambassador to Switzerland Pamela Willeford is rumored to be "Cheney's Lewinsky." (Major difference: Lewinsky is hot.) Cesca elaborates: "The vice president's Secret Service detail had to decide what to do with Willeford by way of perhaps covering up her relationship with Cheney, and thus the delay in reporting the news."

Or maybe the cover-up was motivated by something more prosaic than getting plastered or getting laid: Cheney knew the shooting was his fault. Statements that he was "focused on the quail" indicate a phenomenon hunters call "target fixation"--when a shooter is so concentrated on shooting his target that he loses awareness of what's going on around him. Moreover, quail hunters are supposed to wait until the birds take flight before firing their guns. Cheney's victim was about 30 yards away, indicating that he shot his 28-guage straight across the ground.

Cheney probably didn't blow away his friend on purpose (although, without an investigation, we can't know for sure). But the story still matters, particularly because he waited so long to tell it. In 1969 Senator Ted Kennedy drove Mary Jo Kopechne off a bridge at Chappaquiddick Island, near Martha's Vineyard. The fact that Kennedy waited nine hours to report the accident to the police, more than the accident itself, prompted the endless speculation that ensured that he will never become president. Cheney should be held to the same standard.

What should we do? What should we say? They're typical questions after things go wrong. Logic dictates that, if he had nothing to hide, Cheney would have told his companions to tell the truth. There's only one reason to let hour after hour slip away, knowing full well that your delay will add chum to the media feeding frenzy: you need time to make sure everyone gets their story--your story--straight.

As usual for the Bush Administration, the Cheney shooting raises more questions than answers. The Secret Service wouldn't let Cheney run down to Connecticut Avenue to buy pizza. So why do they let him play with guns? If he likes killing things, why did he apply for five draft deferments during the Vietnam War? And most pressing: how stupid does White House press secretary Scott McClellan think we are?

"Why is it that it took so long for the president, for you, for anybody else to know that the vice president accidentally shot somebody?" asked a reporter.

"You know what [Cheney's] first reaction was? His first reaction was, go to Mr. Whittington and get his team in there to provide him medical care." McClellan went on to suggest that the media focus on Bush's healthcare savings account plan.

If a millionaire like Whittington was forced to wait 24 hours to see a doctor, our healthcare system is in even bigger trouble than I thought.

Ted Rall, Is America's hardest-hitting editorial cartoonist for Universal Press Syndicate, is an award-winning commentator who also works as an illustrator, columnist, and radio commentator. Visit his website http://tedrall.com

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Shoot First, Avoid Questions Later

By Sidney Blumenthal 17 Feb 06

The White House's secretive response to Cheney's misfire cannot be understood apart from the society of Texas royalty.

In the original account authorized by Vice President Dick Cheney of his shooting of Harry Whittington, given by Katharine Armstrong, heiress and hunting companion, to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times and later elaborated on to other news outlets, the 11 members of the hunting party set off on the morning of Feb. 11 in two trucks for the wilds of the 50,000-acre Armstrong Ranch in search of quails. After lunch, whose menu was described as antelope, jicama salad, bread and Dr Pepper, the hunters divided into two groups. Cheney went off with Armstrong; Pamela Pitzer Willeford, the U.S. ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein; and Whittington.
At dusk, Whittington, a 78-year-old Austin lawyer and local Republican fixer, shot a bird and went to retrieve it behind the others. Hearing rustling in the bushes, Cheney, who has lately been using a cane in public and wearing two different shoes for comfort, reportedly quickly swiveled 180 degrees, 28-gauge shotgun in hand, and fired at what he believed were quails, but instead hit Whittington, 30 yards distant. "He got peppered pretty good," Armstrong said. "There was some bleeding, but it wasn't horrible. He was more bruised." The circumstances of this hunt were different from Cheney's previously celebrated 2003 hunt at the Rolling Rock Club in Pennsylvania, where he, Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and eight others killed 417 pheasants and an unknown number of mallard ducks specifically raised for the purpose of being herded before the hunters to shoot. At that time, Cheney released to the press the information that he had personally killed 70 pheasants. In the less controlled environment of the Armstrong Ranch, the only known target he hit was Whittington.

"There may have been a beer or two"

The details of the story related by Armstrong, however, defied practical experience and were contradictory. Armstrong told NBC News that while she believed that no one was drinking alcohol, beer may have been served at lunch. "There may have been a beer or two in there," she said, "but remember not everyone in the party was shooting." Armstrong's statement about beer appeared on the MSNBC Web site, but was subsequently and inexplicably scrubbed. Dr Pepper replaced beer in later versions of Armstrong's telling. On the Hunting Accident and Incident Report Form of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the shooter, Richard B. Cheney, checked the "No" box for the question, "Under the apparent influence of intoxicants or drugs?" But in an interview with Fox News Wednesday, Cheney admitted to having a beer earlier in the day, contrary to his statement to Texas officials.

The murky method by which Cheney decided to handle the disclosure of the shooting was guaranteed to raise questions about the incident. He behaved secretly, evaded standard protocol and brushed aside his obligations to the law. Unless Whittington dies, precipitating a grand jury probe, requiring witnesses to testify separately under oath, the true story may never be known, despite Cheney's Fox interview.

Whether or not the exact facts of the case are ever conclusively established, what happened at twilight in the south Texas brush has revealed the hierarchy of power within the Bush White House and the interests of those who wield that power. The surreptitious handling inside the White House of the shooting, moreover, cannot be understood apart from the society of Texas royalty and the ambitions of those, like Cheney and Karl Rove, who aspire to it. None of it is metaphoric.

Managing Bush

About an hour after the shooting, an unidentified traveling aide of the vice president's called the White House Situation Room, which put him in touch with Chief of Staff Andrew Card. Why a call would be routed through the Situation Room, which receives and transmits only national security information, rather than the very capable and secure White House switchboard, remains mysterious. Card was deliberately misled, told only that there was an accident in Cheney's party, not that Cheney was involved. The vice president's staff obviously felt no need to inform the president's chief of staff of the true facts of the matter. Why Card was deceived is also mystifying, except insofar as it reflects the vice president's instinctive view of him as someone to be routinely stepped over and around. Card, acting responsibly, promptly called President Bush, who as a result was momentarily kept in the dark. Confusing Card was a way of managing Bush, and yet ...

Enter Rove. Within minutes of the call to Card, the president's chief political advisor and deputy chief of staff spoke with Katharine Armstrong, an old friend of his, who told him that Cheney had shot Whittington. Who initiated this conversation is unknown. In any case, Rove, not the duped Card, informed the president of what had actually transpired.

White House press secretary Scott McClellan was left out of the loop until the next morning. Instead, Armstrong, not anyone from the White House, disclosed the news that the vice president had shot Whittington to her local newspaper. It seems fair to infer that Cheney left Rove the task of coaching her. Twenty hours after the accident, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times printed its report; then it slowly filtered to the national press corps, which was never alerted by the White House.

Armstrong's account blaming the victim bore the mark of a classic Rove-engineered statement. No one at the White House had yet to say a word. The president, though he was well aware, made no query that would have ensured that in this extraordinary event the White House was operating properly and according to the letter of the law. Whether ignorant or informed, he remained passive, deferring to Cheney and Rove.

The royal family

Both the vice president and the deputy chief of staff, as it happens, owed their previous, lucrative jobs in the private sector to their relationships with the Armstrong family. Anne Armstrong, Katharine's mother, was on the board of Halliburton that made Dick Cheney its chief executive officer. Tobin Armstrong, Katharine's father, had financed Karl Rove & Co., Rove's political consulting firm. Katharine herself is a lobbyist for Houston law firm Baker Botts, a major Texas power broker since it was founded in the 19th century by the family of James A. Baker III, the former secretary of state and close associate of George H.W. Bush's.

Katharine Armstrong took up lobbying after her recent divorce. Her contracts include Parsons, a construction firm that has done work in Iraq, among others. Her business partner, Karen Johnson, a close friend of Rove's, does extensive business with the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and defense contractors. But Armstrong's protestations to news media that she does not lobby Cheney should probably be taken at face value given her background.

Katharine Armstrong is linked to two family fortunes -- those of Armstrong and King -- that include extensive corporate holdings in land, cattle, banking and oil. No one in Texas, except perhaps Baker, but certainly not latecomer George W. Bush, has a longer lineage in its political and economic elite. In 1983, Debrett's Peerage Ltd., publisher of "Debrett's Peerage and Baronetage," printed "Debrett's Texas Peerage," featuring "the aristocrats of Texas," with the King family noted as the "Royal Family of Ranching." The King Ranch, founded by Richard King in 1857, is the largest in Texas, and its wealth was vastly augmented by the discovery of oil on its tracts, making the family a major shareholder of Exxon. The King Ranch is the model for Edna Ferber's novel of Texas aristocracy, "Giant."

John B. Armstrong, a Texas Ranger and enforcer for the King Ranch, founded his own neighboring ranch in 1882, buying it with the bounty of $4,000 he got for capturing the outlaw John Wesley Hardin. In 1944, almost inevitably, the two fortunes became intertwined through marriage. Tobin Armstrong's brother John married the King Ranch heiress, who was also a Vassar classmate of Tobin's wife, Anne, who came from a wealthy New Orleans family.

"Royalty relief" for oil

The Armstrong Ranch developed far-flung holdings in Australia and South America. Meanwhile, President Ford appointed Anne, a major Republican activist, U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom, and President Reagan appointed her a member of the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison is reportedly Anne's best friend, and Anne was instrumental in launching her political career. Tobin, for his part, worked as an advisor to Texas Republican Gov. William Clements, where he first encountered the young Karl Rove and decided to give him a helping hand when Rove struck out in the political business on his own.

The Armstrong family's Republican connections have continued and strengthened down to the latest generation of Bushes. Gov. George W. Bush appointed Anne a regent of Texas A&M University and Katharine a commission member of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the agency that filed the report on the Cheney shooting. At Tobin's funeral last year, Cheney delivered the eulogy.

While the incident continues to unfold, the Bush administration is pressing a new budget in which oil companies would receive what is called "royalty relief," allowing them to pump about $65 billion of oil and natural gas from federal land over the next five years without paying any royalties to the government, costing the U.S. Treasury about $7 billion. For Texas royalty like the Armstrongs, it would amount to a windfall profit.

The curiosities surrounding the vice president's accident have created a contemporary version of "The Rules of the Game" with a Texas twist. In Jean Renoir's 1939 film, politicians and aristocrats mingle at a country house in France over a long weekend, during which a merciless hunt ends with a tragic shooting. Appearing on the eve of World War II, "The Rules of the Game" depicted a hypocritical, ruthless and decadent ruling class that made its own rules and led a society to the edge of catastrophe.

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Why It's Still Cheney's Chappaquiddick

RJ Eskow 16 Feb 06

After trying to get me to say that Cheney and Pamela Willeford had an affair (which I wouldn't - I stick with what I know), Tucker Carlson confronted me on "The Situation" tonight* about the fact that Willeford's husband was apparently on the ranch at the time of the incident. It seems that he and others think that my comparison of the Whittington shooting and Chappaquiddick must be all about sex. That, and the fact that my opening paragraph reciting the facts (as we knew them yesterday morning) included the fact that Cheney and Whittington were with two women to whom they're not married.
Did it look suspicious to me that these four were together? Sure - I admit it. All the secrecy and evasion about the event, and about who was there, couldn't help but raise suspicions. But if the facts show that there was no funny business between Cheney and either of the women, that's fine with me. This Administration has already generated so many scandals it's exceeded my absorptive capacity.

There were more important factors than sex behind my Chappaquiddick analogy. (That analogy seems to drive conservatives insane, by the way. The hate mail and even threats I've received are beyond anything I've ever seen. I guess the word's been such a treasured icon of hate for them that the possible loss of it drives them into a frenzy.)

Here are some of the "C" (for Chappaquiddick) factors in the Cheney shooting:

1. Someone with a documented history of drinking problems causes a serious accident, and then avoids the authorities for a period of time - one that happens to be long enough to get the alcohol out of his system.

2. The first stories of the accident are confusing and self-contradictory. (In this case, since Cheney didn't speak himself, the most glaring inconsistencies are Armstrong's. Specifically, she - and now Cheney - describe her as an eyewitness, although she told the Associated Press she thought at first Cheney had suffered a heart attack. That would mean she never saw the shooting.)

3. A powerful figure holds himself out as being above the law, and - at least for a time - appears to get away with it.

4. When the powerful person finally speaks, allegedly to 'come clean,' there are still inconsistencies and glaring contradictions in his story.

It's about power, drinking, irresponsibility, and dishonesty. If there was no romance going on, the issues are still the same. As the song says: What's love got to do with it?

I had a little off-the-air discussion with Tucker about whether this story is important. He, along with many conservatives and a few liberals, have said it's been overblown. I disagree.

I think conservatives got one thing right during the Clinton years: Character matters. Not as in "let's spend $40 million to investigate a sex act," but as in: Are the people running the country honest? Will they lie to officers of the law? Break the rules? Mislead the public? And - most critically in this case - is someone with an active drinking problem helping to lead the most powerful nation on earth?

I don't know all the answers, but I consider them damned good questions. It's time the press took them more seriously.

The suggestion's also been made that I and others are trafficking in "unfounded allegations." Unfortunately, it's the local Sheriff's Office and the national media that have been caught trafficking in unfounded allegations.

On Cheney's say-so alone, the Sheriff's Office issued a report saying no drinking was involved in the incident. Now the Vice President allows that he had "one beer" a few hours earlier. One is not none - meaning that by Cheney's word alone the Sheriff's report is wrong. (And we just have his word about the "one beer" - that being one of the liquored-up world's most notoriously untrustworthy phrases.)

As Talk Left has reported, the Kleberg County DA says he may have to convene a Grand Jury should Mr. Whittington die. What would he have for an accident report now, should that unfortunate need arise? He'd have a partially discredited work product from investigators who didn't see the shooter until the next day.

As for the media, they repeated the words "pepper" and "spray" so much it sounded like they were ordering a steak salad at the Ivy. That, and "superficial wounds" - until the heart attack, that is. They insisted that no drinking was involved, too - but today the Vice President said otherwise.

Now we have Cheney's Brit Hume interview. Have our questions been answered? About as much as the questions about Ted Kennedy were answered when he first described the swimming he did that night. To be fair, Hume was a little tougher than I - and probably Cheney - expected. Yet he never asked him the most critical question of all: Why the delay in meeting with law enforcement?

Tucker wanted to know if I regretted the Chappaquiddick analogy, now that they've said that the Ambassador's husband was in town. My answer: I regret that there's been so much evasion, deception, and covering up over this incident that any of us have been forced to collect the facts on our own. America deserves better from its leaders. And I regret bringing up painful memories for the Kennedy and Kopechne families.

Ted Kennedy eventually came clean on his accident, and by all reports he's straightened his life out. All of our leaders should do the same. It's about character. It matters.

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Cheney's wayward aim: A guide to Quailgate

Andrew Gumbel, Rupert Cornwell, David Usborne 17 February 2006

When the Vice-President of America shot a hunting companion in the face and chest, it was at first just seen as an unfortunate accident. However, because of poor news management and some questionable recounting of events, the story has become a political scandal, a chance to bash the Republicans, and a wealthy source of humour for many comedians. Here's why...

Hunting, for Dick Cheney, is more than an idle pastime. It's usually a chance to get together with high-level friends and fundraisers and do so on exclusive private estates where there is no danger of contact with the great unwashed public.

Unfortunately for him, it's also rapidly turning into a political liability - and not just because he was unable to shoot straight last weekend.

In December 2003, animal rights activists and conventional hunters were incensed when he participated in a kill of pen-raised pheasants at the Rolling Rock Club in Pennsylvania. Up to 500 birds were released directly in front of the Vice-President and his 10-strong party. Together, they shot 417 of them in minutes - including 70 reportedly shot by Mr Cheney.

Then, while the hunters moved on to duck and other fowl, underlings plucked and vacuum-packed the pheasant for Mr Cheney to take them back on his flight to Washington. "We're appalled so many animals were killed - for target practice essentially," the Humane Society said. The following month, Mr Cheney was in trouble again - for taking Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on a waterfowl-hunting expedition to Louisiana at a time when the Supreme Court was ruling on whether Mr Cheney could keep secret the names of the energy lobbyists who visited him while he was drawing up a major new energy policy initiative. Both men denied any impropriety but the episode did no good to either of their reputations.

The whole style of hunting favoured by the Vice-President has been ridiculed as a rich man's parody of what hunting is supposed to be. Granted, Mr Cheney has to travel with a security detail and a large staff of medical personnel watching for signs of recurring cardiac trouble. That makes it hard for him to brave the great outdoors, even if he wanted to.

But the notion of driving around a private estate in four-wheel-drive cars and emerging periodically to fire off a round or two of shotgun pellets has opened Mr Cheney to widespread ridicule.

Andrew Gumbel


Harry Whittington is, pardon the expression, a rare bird: a liberal Texas Republican. He is not a religious fanatic, nor is he a "string-'em-up" law and order man. On the contrary, he's been campaigning for years to clean up the Texas prison system and prevent the execution of the mentally disabled. He's a reformer all round - an old-fashioned social activist whose distaste for government corruption crosses the usual party lines.

From his law office on the top floor of an office building next to the state capitol in Austin, he has been dispensing advice and serving on state boards for decades. He was a Republican already at the tail end of the racial segregation period when Texas was a de facto one-party state run by the Democrats. His politics were defined, in fact, by his visceral mistrust of the Democratic establishment. And he has remained a Republican even as the state party has been taken over by the Christian right.

So what was he doing out shooting with Dick Cheney, an altogether harder brand of ideologue? Mr Whittington's links to the Bush administration go back to 1999, when George Bush was governor of Texas and Mr Whittington was appointed to service on the state Funeral Services Commission - another opportunity to sniff out official corruption. He then became a fundraiser in Bush's two presidential election campaigns.

The extent of his friendship with Cheney is hard to assess - especially now - but the two have moved in very similar elite circles in Texas for several years. By all accounts, Mr Whittington, 78, was in good shape, keeping trim, eating plates of vegetables for lunch every day, and sticking to his old-fashioned habits. Not only does his office not run on computers but he still hasn't got used to the idea of lawyers billing their clients by the hour.

It is not known what he has said to Cheney or how he feels about the incident. Katharine Armstrong, the owner of the ranch where the shooting occurred, assured the local paper a lawsuit was out of the question. "I bet this would deepen their friendship," she gushed.

Andrew Gumbel


The Armstrong Ranch, a 50,000-acre spread in a remote part of the Rio Grande River Valley, was founded in the 1880s by John Armstrong III, a lawman most famous for bagging the outlaw John Wesley Hardin. Since then, the Armstrong family has mingled the rough ways of Texas ranch life with elite university educations, high-flying corporate careers and high-level Republican Party politics.

Tobin Armstrong, who died last year, was one of the Bush-Cheney presidential campaign's top fundraisers in 2004. (Dick Cheney delivered the eulogy at his funeral.) His widow, Anne Armstrong, served as Ambassador to the Court of St James under President Ford - making friends with Prince Charles, who has played polo at the ranch. Their daughter Katharine, who first broke the news of the shooting, is a lobbyist who has quickly climbed the ladder of her chosen profession thanks to her impeccable high-level contacts in Washington.

She has slept at the White House and was at President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, last summer while Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, and her anti-war protester friends were camped outside.

Hunting is a big ritual at the Armstrong Ranch, one of a number of exclusive private properties where hunting for birds and game has increasingly become restricted in recent years. We don't know exactly how the ranch operates, but birds are typically raised in pens and then released for special occasions - such as last weekend - so visiting luminaries can descend from their four-wheel-drives and start shooting pretty much immediately.

For quail hunting, Katharine Armstrong explained that the protocol is for hunters to move in groups of three, keeping track of each other at all times. Harry Whittington appears to have fallen behind at one stage to bag a bird he had shot. But hunting rules also make it clear - as Vice-President Cheney himself has acknowledged - that the shooter needs to know what he is aiming at all times.

Ironically, the hunting party could hardly have found itself in a spot with fewer people around. Kennedy County is larger than the state of Rhode Island but has a population of barely more than 400 - an average of 0.3 people per square mile. It is, in fact, one of the 10 most sparsely populated counties in the whole of the United States.

Andrew Gumbel


When Dick Cheney repaired to Republican-friendly Fox News to publicly take responsibility for the shooting slip-up, he said he was sorry, defended the delays in informing the press of the shooting and said no one had been drinking. Then he let slip one small detail: he had consumed "a beer at lunch".

The beer revelation doesn't mean Cheney was inebriated. (Though we don't know whether mixing beer with all the medicines he takes is a good idea.) But, yet again, the impression was left that, aside from Mr Whittington, the other victims of this have been candour and truth.

First there was the 20-hour gap between the time of the shooting and the news reaching the American public.The White House was told the same night but said nothing the next morning. Cheney had agreed to allow his host, Katharine Armstrong, to disseminate the news. She called her local paper, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. It put the news on its website only on Sunday afternoon. On Monday, there was uproar in the White House press corps. Nobody could accuse Cheney of a cover-up exactly but there was outrage that mainstream news organisations had not learned of the accident immediately. The conclusion many reached was that Cheney was, at best, hoping to downplay the accident.

Two more things came to light on Monday, which kept this story alive for the best part of a week. Cheney's office revealed the Vice-President had not paid for a $7 "upland bird" stamp required. And asked in an interview if alcohol had been served, Ms Armstrong said flatly, "No, zero, zippo." Really? And then, at about 9.30am on Tuesday news arrived at the White House that Whittington had suffered a minor heart attack. Again it was hours before the rest of America knew. Scott McClellan, above, was informed before his noon briefing to White House reporters. Did he tell them of it? Somehow, he omitted to.

David Usborne


In his novel, 'A Man in Full', Tom Wolfe describes quail as "the aristocrat of American wild game ... what the grouse and the pheasant were in England and Scotland and Europe only better." His protagonist, wealthy Atlanta businessman Charlie Croker, goes on: "With the grouse and the pheasant you had your help literally beating the bushes and driving the birds toward you. With the quail, you had to stay on the move. You had to have great dogs, great horses, and great shooters. Quail was king. Only the quail exploded upward into the sky and made your heart bang away so madly in your rib cage."

That may not be an entirely accurate description of what Dick Cheney and friends were experiencing last weekend - it appears they were driven to areas where the quail were pleasantly thick on the ground - but that pulsing sensation of seeing them spread out in the air for a few crucial seconds certainly squares with descriptions of the ill-fated hunting party. The impulse to fire impulsively in all directions is a big part of the reason why quail hunters usually wear bright orange jackets to identify themselves. Accidents are now relatively rare, thanks to toughened hunter training rules in Texas but the risk is still ever-present.

It used to be that quail were relatively abundant in Texas, and across much of the American South. Over-hunting has cut those numbers drastically. The Texas Parks and Wildlife department's forecast puts the average number of bobwhite quail in the region around the Armstrong ranch at 4 per route - the number a hunting party is likely to see in a day - down from 19.5 in the 1980s. The numbers for scaled quail, which appears to be what Cheney was hunting, are even lower - no more than 1.55 birds per route.

The sport is almost entirely restricted to private ranches that can raise birds and hold special weekends. At 50,000 acres, the Armstrong Ranch is therefore one of the few locations in the US fit to serve a Vice-President and his friends pretty much any time they want.

Andrew Gumbel


For the Vice-President, it was "one of the worst moments of my life." But for comedians, Democrats and legions of Cheney-haters, the "shot heard around the world" made it one of the best in a long while. Of late, there hasn't been much to laugh about in Washington but the winging of the unfortunate lawyer changed that. "Good news, ladies and gentlemen," said David Letterman, right, on CBS: "We have finally located weapons of mass destruction: It's Dick Cheney." The bad news though for Whittington: "Donald Rumsfeld didn't issue him with body armour."

On the late night shows, the blogs, on Capitol Hill and around the legendary office water-cooler, it was open season on "Deadeye Dick." Hunting small wild animals, noted one Washington Post blogger "is what passes for military service in the top echelons of the Bush administration".

"You know who's doing a 'there but for the grace of God go I'? Scalia," the comedian Al Franken wrote on his website, referring to Cheney's duck-hunting pal, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

There were jokes against Mr Whittington too (at least until it was disclosed on he suffered a minor heart attack). "Dick Cheney accidentally shot a fellow hunter, a 78-year-old lawyer," said Jay Leno, host of The Tonight Show. "In fact, when people found out he shot a lawyer, his popularity is now at 92 per cent." The next day, even the White House tried to get into the act. For safety reasons, hunters normally wear bright orange jackets. That morning, the University of Texas football champions were invited to drop in by the president, wearing their orange colours. "But that's not because they fear Dick Cheney is in the audience," quipped Mr Bush's spokesman Scott McClellan. Republicans have sought partisan advantage in the affair. T-shirts are available bearing the logo "I'd rather go hunting with Dick Cheney than driving with Ted Kennedy."

Rupert Cornwell

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In the Woods With Dick Cheney and a Gun - The master of mass destruction for a hunting buddy

by Stephen Elliott February 13th, 2006

And then Dick Cheney shot someone. It was Saturday, February 11. He didn't do it on purpose. He thought he was shooting at quail. But there wasn't any quail, there was just a 78-year-old lawyer in a bright orange vest. Dick Cheney shot him in the face.
They were on a 50,000-acre ranch, one of the largest private properties in Texas. Katharine Armstrong, who owns the ranch, said Harry Whittington, who was shot in the face, did not announce, did not say, "Hey, it's me, I'm coming up." Which is protocol. So as the lawyer stepped out of the brush the birds flew and Dick Cheney turned and fired. There was no time for diplomacy, no time to wait, take a good look at the vest, colored by blood lust and spackled in sunlight. Because if you wait too long you don't get the bird. There are consequences for not firing your weapons; those tasty little beasts might fly away.

If Cheney is right, and he shoots the bird, there are feathers and pieces of beak and the stringy innards caught in the branches, but that's not what happened. He did not achieve his objective.

Here's the weird thing. Katharine Armstrong is presenting the evidence that Harry Whittington didn't follow protocol. But how the hell would she know? Who told Katharine that Harry didn't announce? Who is complicit in this narrative? Why would we take her at her word without knowing where she received her information? Harry leaves the group. He is between the other hunters and the vice president. Maybe Cheney hears him, maybe he doesn't. Only Harry knows whether he announced or did not. It seems unlikely that he didn't.

There was an ambulance there and medical technicians. They were with the vice president. They always are. Harry was airlifted to the Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital where he is listed in stable condition but housed in intensive care.
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It's scary and obvious how similar this is to America's invasion of Iraq. We had to go into Iraq immediately because they could mobilize their nuclear weapons within hours and their secret programs were moments away from completing an arsenal of radioactive invasion deterrent. When it turned out there were no weapons of mass destruction it wasn't our fault. After all, everybody thought Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. After all, Harry didn't follow protocol. We had to go in right away. There was no time to let the weapons inspectors finish their work. Guide those missiles into Baghdad, burn down the sky, turn quickly and fire or you will miss the bird. And when tens of thousands of people die because of a mistake don't ever take responsibility for it. After all, he didn't follow protocol. How were we to know Saddam didn't have weapons of mass destruction? Saddam was not cooperating. Harry brought it on himself.

Let's say you are responsible for more than 2,000 American casualties; should you be allowed to walk armed through the woods? At what point do you lose your hunting license? The worst thing is that a person who has responsibility for a blunder that has already caused so much death is allowed to carry a shotgun. A shotgun! I don't believe that Harry didn't follow protocol. I see no reason why I should. I won't accuse Harry of not following protocol. But I will accuse him of not reading the news. Did he have any idea the danger he was in? He was wearing a bright orange vest. He was in the woods with Dick Cheney and Dick Cheney had a gun.

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Hit Refresh? Why Bush may be thinking about replacing Cheney.

Peggy Noonan February 16, 2006

The Dick Cheney shooting incident will, in a way, go away. And, in a way, not--ever. Some things stick. Gerry Ford had physically stumbled only once or twice in public when he became, officially, The Stumbler. Mr. Ford's stumbles seemed to underscore a certain lack of sure-footedness in his early policies and other decisions. The same with Jimmy Carter and the Killer Rabbit. At the time Mr. Carter told the story of a wild rabbit attacking his boat he had already come to be seen by half the country as weak and unlucky. Even bunnies took him on. Same with Dick Cheney. He's been painted as the dark force of the administration, and now there's a mental picture to go with the reputation. Pull! Sorry, Harry! Pull!
Can media bias be detected in the endless coverage? Sure, always. But it's also a great story. A vice president of the United States shot a guy in a hunting accident, and no one on his staff told the press. That's a story.

But as a scandal I'm not sure it has a big future. The vice president yesterday offered the facts as he observed and experienced them. "I'm the guy who pulled the trigger that fired the round that hit Harry" is a pretty direct statement. His recounting of the decision on how to handle it in the press seemed to reflect only incompetence, not malevolence.

Right now in the White House they're discussing how to help the vice president get through his problem. They've already tried the wearing of orange ties, an attempt to take the sting out of the incident by showing they don't feel the sting. Duck! Ha ha!

But what are they thinking that they're not saying? Here's a hunch, based not on any inside knowledge but only on what I know of people who practice politics, and those who practice it within the Bush White House.

I suspect what they're thinking and not saying is, If Dick Cheney weren't vice president, who'd be a good vice president? They're thinking, At some time down the road we may wind up thinking about a new plan. And one night over drinks at a barbecue in McLean one top guy will turn to another top guy and say, "Under the never permeable and never porous Dome of Silence, tell me . . . wouldn't you like to replace Cheney?"

Why would they be thinking about this? It's not the shooting incident itself, it's that Dick Cheney has been the administration's hate magnet for five years now. Halliburton, energy meetings, Libby, Plamegate. This was not all bad for the White House: Mr. Cheney took the heat that would otherwise have been turned solely on George Bush. So he had utility, and he's experienced and talented and organized, and Mr. Bush admires and respects him. But, at a certain point a hate magnet can draw so much hate you don't want to hold it in your hand anymore, you want to drop it, and pick up something else. Is this fair? Nah. But fair has nothing to do with it.

This is a White House that likes to hit refresh when the screen freezes. Right now the screen is stuck, with poll numbers in the low 40s, or high 30s.

The key thing is Iraq. George Bush cares deeply about Iraq and knows his legacy will be decided there. It has surely dawned on the White House that "Iraq" will not be "over" in the next two years. Iraq is a long story. What Dick Armitage or Colin Powell said about the Pottery Barn rule was true: If you break it, you own it, at the very least for the next few years.

George Bush, and so the men and women around him, will want the next Republican presidential nominee to continue the U.S. effort in, and commitment to, Iraq. To be a candidate who will continue his policy, and not pull the plug, and burrow through.

This person will not be Dick Cheney, who has already said he doesn't plan to run. So Mr. Bush may feel in time that he has reason to want to put in a new vice president in order to pick a successor who'll presumably have an edge in the primaries--he's the sitting vice president, and Republicans still respect primogeniture. They will tend to make the common-sense assumption that a guy who's been vice president for, say, a year and a half, is a guy who already knows the top job. Anyway, the new guy will get a honeymoon, which means he won't be fully hated by the time the 2008 primaries begin.

This new vice president would, however, have to be very popular in the party, or the party wouldn't buy it. Replacing Mr. Cheney would be chancy. The new veep would have to get through the Senate, which has at this point at least three likely contenders for the nomination, at least two of whom who would not, presumably, be amused.

Plus there's more quiet anti-administration feeling in the party than is generally acknowledged, and the president's men know it. A lot of people would find such a move too cute by half. The contenders already in line--and their supporters, donors, fans, staff and friends in the press--would resent it. Big time.

People wouldn't like it . . . unless they liked it. How could they be persuaded to like it?

It would have to be a man wildly popular in the party and the press. And it would have to be a decision made by Dick Cheney. If he didn't want to do it he wouldn't have to. If he were pressed--Dick, we gotta put the next guy in here or we're going to lose in '08 and see all our efforts undone--he might make the decision himself. He'd have to step down on his own. He's just been through a trauma, and he can't be liking his job as much now as he did three years ago. No one on the downside of a second term does, hate magnet or not.

Of course, all this is exactly like the sort of thing people blue-skied about in 1992, when George H.W. Bush was in trouble and a lot of people urged him to hit refresh by dumping Dan Quayle. He didn't. George W. Bush loves to do what his father didn't.

Who would it be? Someone who's a strong supporter of Iraq, and, presumably, the Bush doctrine.

Who would that be? That's what I suspect the president's men are asking themselves. But silently.

Ms. Noonan is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal and author of "John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father," (Penguin, 2005), which you can order from the OpinionJournal bookstore. Her column appears Thursdays.

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IDF bars Palestinians from some West Bank crossings

By Amira Hass Haaretz 17 Feb 06

A military order that took effect last week bars Palestinians in the West Bank from entering Israel via the roads that Israelis use, even if they are transported by Israelis. Instead, Palestinians must use one of 11 crossing points earmarked for them.

The military order refers to Palestinians with valid permits to enter Israel. Until now, Israelis could ferry Palestinians with valid entry permits without going through one of these special crossings.
The Defense Ministry's Seam Line Administration has posted signs at access roads from the West Bank into Israel warning that non-Israelis may not use these crossings. However, the signs explicitly define "Israelis" not only as citizens or residents of the state, but also as tourists or anyone entitled to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return - that is, Jews, or people with certain Jewish relatives.

"The IDF was forced to change its deployment because of the exploitation of the crossings by terrorist elements to carry out terrorist acts inside Israel," the Israel Defense Forces spokesman said. The spokesman also stressed that transporting Palestinians via an "Israeli-only" crossing is against the law, and will be punished accordingly.

The order was signed by Major General Yair Naveh, the commander of the IDF forces in the West Bank, on December 15. It authorized the Civil Administration to determine which crossings could be used by non-Israelis, and also to determine "the arrangements that will apply at these crossing points." In addition, it defined who is an Israeli, using
the same language that is now posted on the signs at the various crossings.

On January 3, Brigadier General Kamil Abu Rokun, the head of the Civil Administration, signed the list of 11 crossings that Palestinians would be allowed to use, and stated that the order would take effect a month from that date. Eight of these 11 crossings are not on the Green Line, but either within the West Bank or inside territory annexed to Jerusalem in 1967.

The order does contain one exception: Palestinians employed by
international organizations - a few hundred people - will be able to enter Israel via two routes that are otherwise reserved for Israelis. One of them is the Tunnel Road, which connects the Gush Etzion settlements to Jerusalem from the south, and the other is via the Hizma Checkpoint, which is used by the settlements north and east of Jerusalem.

Haaretz has learned that international organizations based in East Jerusalem had protested to the Civil Administration that their Palestinian workers, who travel with their foreign colleagues into Israel, would have to pass through separate border crossings. Following the protest, Palestinian laborers have been permitted to enter Jerusalem via the Tunnel Road and Hizma Checkpoint (east of Pisgat Ze'ev), which are reserved for Israelis only.

A Civil Administration spokesman said the border crossing issue "is being examined and a final decision has not been made yet. Meanwhile the laborers are permitted to use those two crossings, to enable them to continue working regularly."

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Bush Faces Big Choices as Hamas Takes Reins

Analysis by Jim Lobe IPS 16 Feb 06

WASHINGTON - On the eve of Hamas' takeover of the Palestinian parliament, the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush still appears uncertain about how hard a line to take with the movement it has long considered a terrorist organisation.
Pressed by its own strongly pro-Zionist Congress, the administration has effectively ruled out providing direct aid to a Palestinian Authority (PA) in which the Islamist party plays a leading role, unless it amends its Covenant to recognise Israel's right to exist and renounce violence.

At the same time, the administration has strenuously denied a New York Times report earlier this week that it was working with the government of Israeli Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert to destabilise a Hamas-led government through diplomatic isolation and economic strangulation in hopes of forcing new elections that would bring more moderate forces to power.

In the administration's clearest statement to date, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday that the administration intended to maintain support for humanitarian and related projects administered through non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and multilateral agencies in the Palestinian authorities, at least for the time being.

But precisely how much and what kind of assistance Washington will be willing to provide under what conditions -- and what it will encourage its European and Middle Arab allies to do -- remains unclear just two days before the new Legislative Council and with its 16-seat Hamas majority is sworn in.

For the administration, which has staked its foreign policy legacy on the democratic transformation of the Middle East world, the stakes could not be much higher.

By its own account, the Jan. 25 elections won by Hamas were the freest and fairest to have taken place in the Palestinian territories, if not the entire Arab world. To punish and try to bring down the winner would expose Washington to charges of rank hypocrisy -- a view that is already widely held throughout the Arab world, according to recent survey data.

It would also risk further radicalising the region, particularly those Islamist groups that, like Hamas, have demonstrated their popular support in recent elections from Iraq to Morocco.

Some two dozen Arab and humanitarian aid organisations, including the Arab American Institute, the American Task Force for Palestine, and American Near East Refugee Aid, are sending a letter to Secretary Rice Friday that says, "U.S. disengagement as a punishment for the results of a democratic election it actively supported could cause a breakdown in civil society. This vacuum could lead to civil war or increased interference from regional players."

Marina Ottaway, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) here, believes that, "The greatest consequence of an uncompromising U.S. position on Hamas could be a change in the internal balance of power between hard-liners and reformists inside the growing number of Islamist organisations that have renounced violence."

"The hard U.S. response to the victory of Hamas -- particularly the decision to penalise the entire Palestinian Authority by suspending aid to it -- could well tilt the balance back in favour of the hard-liners," she warned.

That point was echoed as well by Robert Malley, a top Middle East adviser to former President Bill Clinton (1993-2001) and current head of the Middle East and North Africa programme of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG).

"If the attitude of the U.S. and the international community is to say 'we're going to punish the Palestinians,' it will send a devastating message to the rest of the region," he told a recent Congressional forum. "You want to get radical forces into the political process. Now, we're just at the beginning of that experiment. Let's give it a chance."

Moreover, according to Malley, who encouraged Washington and other donors to set realistic conditions on aid, such as an indefinite ceasefire similar to one Hamas has largely observed unilaterally over the past year and the appointment of moderates to head key ministries, cutting off aid to the PA risks driving it into the arms of more powerful adversaries.

"Hamas' ideal is not to become dependent on Iran," he said. "But that may change if it has no option. They will turn to whoever gives them money."

The PA, which is already on the brink of bankruptcy, relies for over half of its two-billion-dollar annual budget on foreign aid, of which Washington last year provided nearly 250 million dollars and this year earmarked 150 million dollars -- almost all of it to support development projects overseen by NGOs and private contractors.

In addition to foreign aid, it also relies on some 50 million dollars a month in customs duties and taxes that are collected by Israel on its behalf. In recent days, Olmert has suggested that his government will suspend those transfers when the new assembly is seated this weekend. Withholding that money could plunge the PA into an immediate fiscal crisis, even before a new government is put together.

His Washington-based supporters, including Washington's former top envoy to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations under both Clinton and Bush's father, Dennis Ross, are also urging a hard line.

The House of Representatives this week voted 418-1 for a non-binding resolution, opposing all U.S. assistance for the PA as long as any party calling for the destruction of Israel controlled its parliament. The same resolution, which is directed specifically against Hamas' charter, was approved two weeks ago by the Senate.

Other legislation backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of Capitol Hill's most powerful lobbies, and currently working their way through Congress, would be much tougher.

One measure introduced after deny all aid to the PA unless the president certified that all of its branches had been completely purged of individuals tied to terrorism and that it disarmed and arrested suspected terrorists, and halted all anti-Israeli rhetoric in Palestinian media. Yet another would require Hamas to amend its covenant to delete all statements hostile to Israel in order for the PA to receive U.S. assistance.

Those conditions are highly unrealistic, according to the ICG's Malley and other analysts who fear that approval of such measures will make it far more difficult for the president to encourage Hamas to make positive gestures, such as extending its ceasefire or accepting the 2002 Saudi plan that calls for normalising ties with Israel pending withdrawal to its 1967 borders.

"What the administration needs to do is condition aid in a positive way, and not simply use it as a threat," according to Stephen Cohen, president of the Institute for Middle East Peace and Development.

"Congress needs to decide it its goal is to punish Hamas and the Palestinian peple or to move the new Palestinian government away from violence and toward accommodation with Israel," he said. "Legislation that cuts off economic assistance and imposes impossible conditions for the resumption of aid is counterproductive if the goal is stability and security -- rather than more violence -- for both Israel and the Palestinians."

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U.S. asks Palestinians to return $50 million in aid

By Shmuel Rosner, Aluf Benn and Amos Harel Haaretz Correspondents and Reuters 17 Feb 06

WASHINGTON - The United States has asked the Palestinian Authority to return $50 million in U.S. aid because Washington does not want a Hamas-led government to have the funds, the State Department said on Friday.

The money is being demanded as part of a review of all U.S. aid for the Palestinians which began soon after the militant group Hamas' surprise win in elections last month. The State Department expects to finish the review in the next few weeks.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said the caretaker government of PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas had agreed to return the $50 million, which was given to the PA last year for infrastructure projects after Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank.
"In the interests of seeing that these funds not potentially make their way into the coffers of a future Palestinian government (made up of Hamas) ... we have asked for it to be returned and the Palestinian Authority has agreed," McCormack told reporters.

Over the past decade, the United States has given about $1.5 billion in aid to the Palestinians. Most of that was channeled via non-governmental organizations.

If passed, new legislation introduced to Congress a number of weeks ago will enforce a halt of all U.S. funding to organizations and institutions related to the PA.

Israel blocking Hamas members from PLC swearing-in
Israel decided on Friday to block Hamas members of the Palestinian parliament from traveling from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank city of Ramallah for Saturday's swearing-in ceremony, Israel Radio reported. The ceremony will instead be conducted via video conference.

The decision was made during Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Friday meeting with senior figures from the defense establishment, the Foreign Ministry, the National Security Agency and the intelligence community.

Meanwhile, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the European Union on Friday that Hamas is making a serious effort to get funding from Iran and is asking Tehran for guidance on how to run the Palestinian Authority, Israel Radio reported.

In a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Solana in Jerusalem, Mofaz emphasized the importance of international support of Israel's positions on Hamas and said there should be no negotiations with Hamas unless it recognizes Israel and puts a halt to terrorism.

Olmert approved on Friday the defense establishment's advice to begin taking punitive steps against the PA as of Sunday, the day after the Hamas-led Palestinian parliament takes office. The suggested measures include freezing further transfers of the tax revenues that Israel collects on behalf of the PA and banning the entry of workers from the Gaza Strip into Israel.

The government will decide whether to approve the plan on Sunday.

In Gaza, Hamas' choice for prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, accused Israel of inflicting collective punishment and said that "our people will not ... kneel before such Israeli measures."

Mofaz: Israel will provide humanitarian assistance
Mofaz told Solana on Friday that Israel would provide the Palestinians with humanitarian assistance, but Israel has rejected Solana's request to hold off on freezing the tax revenues.

Solana asked Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on Thursday to continue transferring tax monies to the Palestinians and refrain from freezing the funds at least until the new Palestinian government is formed. However, Livni said that once the new Hamas-led parliament is sworn in, the PA will essentially have become "a terrorist entity" even if the new government has not yet been formed.

Other steps the defense establishment advocates include banning the movement of Palestinians between Gaza and the West Bank; preventing transfers of military equipment to the PA from foreign countries, such as donations of armored personnel carriers and communications gear; and freezing plans to upgrade the crossing points between the territories and Israel as well as plans to build a port and airport in Gaza.

MK Zahava Gal-On (Meretz-Yahad) objected to the restrictive measures Friday, calling them "collective punishment."

According to the plan, Palestinian merchants would continue to be allowed into Israel, and the Erez and Karni crossings between Israel and Gaza would remain open. However, the defense establishment would begin preparations for turning these crossings into full-fledged borders, and removing Gaza from its joint customs envelope with Israel.

In addition, the defense establishment plans to present proposals for further reductions in ties every week. However, Mofaz said that none of these steps should interfere with humanitarian activity by international organizations or with the supply of water, electricity or medical equipment.

A team headed by the prime minister's special adviser, Dov Weissglas, also presented its recommendations on how Israel should respond to Hamas' electoral victory at Thursday's meeting called by Mofaz. Weissglas proposed that Israel issue an ultimatum to PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, demanding that he fulfill his promise to disarm the terrorist organizations and that the new PA government abjure violence, recognize Israel, and accept the road map peace plan and all signed Israeli-Palestinian agreements. The ultimatum would expire either after 60 days or upon occurrence of a "Hamas event," such as the establishment of a Hamas-led government that did not accept the three conditions posed by Israel and the international community. Upon expiry of the ultimatum, Israel's measures to cut ties with the PA would become more stringent.

Major General Yosef Mishlav, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, told the meeting that Abbas has the power to insist that whoever he appoints to form the next PA government include these three conditions in the government guidelines.

The heads of the intelligence agencies warned at the meeting of a "honey trap" in which Hamas would present a moderate front to lull the international community, while building up its forces for a violent confrontation with Israel. The defense establishment also warned that the defeated Fatah party was liable to take out its anger in the form of terror attacks against Israelis.

All of these proposals and assessments, as well as an alternative proposal prepared by National Security Council Chairman Giora Eiland, were presented to Olmert at Friday's meeting.

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Don't punish Palestinians for electing Hamas: Abbas

Agence France Presse 18 Feb 06

Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas told the new Hamas-dominated parliament that he would continue working towards a negotiated Middle East peace agreement while urging the international community and Israel not to "punish" voters for electing the radical Islamists.
In his speech at the Ramallah-based parliament, Abbas told the new intake of deputies that there was no military solution to the conflict with Israel -- a state whose right to exist Hamas refuses to recognise.

And he also told the Islamist movement, which is expected to head up a new government in the coming days, that they should respect all previous international agreements signed with Israel.

Ismail Haniya, widely expected to become the new prime minister, responded by noting "differences" between Hamas and Abbas's political programmes but vowed to resolve any disputes through dialogue.

The swearing-in of only the second ever Palestinian parliament is set to trigger a series of Israeli sanctions, including a halt to the payment of customs duties owed to the Palestinian Authority and new travel restrictions.

In an early sign of how Israel intends to make life as difficult as possible for the new regime, all Hamas's deputies from the Gaza Strip had to view proceedings in Ramallah via videolink after they were refused permission to travel to the West Bank for the ceremony.

Hamas's sensational election win has also led to threats by the United States and European Union to cut funding after Hamas forms a new government unless the Islamists commit themselves to non-violence, respect Israel's right to exist and recognise previously signed agreements with the Jewish state.

However Abbas said that both Israel and the international community should respect the outcome of the January 25 election.

"The internal change which has come about as a result of the elections with a majority for Hamas should not serve as a pretext for new aggressions against our people," Abbas said.

"The Palestinian people should not be punished for making their democratic choice. The Palestinian leadership, and I personally, reject this blackmail and appeal to the international community to renounce it."

But he also stressed that he would continue working towards a peace agreement with Israel regardless of the apparent electoral endorsement of Hamas's hardline approach.

"The Palestinian Authority presidency and the government remain committed to negotiation as a realistic strategic option," he said.

Abbas said Hamas should respect agreements such as a stalled peace plan known as the roadmap which calls for the creation of a Palestinian state living in peace alongside a secure Israel.

The blueprint was drafted by the "quartet" of the European Union, United States, Russia and the United Nations.

But Abbas also stressed that Israel should accept that peace could only come about through negotiations amid expectations that the next Israeli government will try to unilaterally fix the borders.

"We totally reject (Israel's) unilateral approach and exhort the peace-loving world, namely the quartet and American administration, to make serious, immediate efforts to restart negotiations on the basis of the signed agreements, namely Oslo and the roadmap," Abbas declared.

"At time when they are preparing to hold legislative elections (on March 28), I say to our Israeli neighbours that the route to security lies in just peace.

"There is no military solution to our conflict. Only negotiations between equal partners are able to end the cycle of violence," Abbas said.

Haniya acknowledged the contradiction between Abbas's approach and that of Hamas, which has carried out dozens of suicide attacks since the Palestinian uprising began in 2000 although none in the last year.

"These differences about our positions and political programme will be resolved by dialogue and through coordination, in the interests of the Palestinian people," Haniya told AFP.

While Haniya has yet to be confirmed as prime minister, parliament did choose Hamas MP and university professor Aziz Duweik as the new speaker.

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US says has "inoculation" strategy to curb Chavez

By Saul Hudson Reuters 17 Feb 06

Washington wants to curb Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's anti-American influence by lobbying allies to try to expose any anti-democratic policies, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Thursday.

The United States has tried different strategies to counter Chavez, ranging from confronting him to ducking a fight.

In what she termed an "inoculation" strategy, Rice said she had sought support from Europe and other Latin American nations to highlight U.S. charges that the populist Chavez abuses his power to target political opponents and business leaders.
"The international community has just got to be much more active in supporting and defending the Venezuelan people," Rice told a congressional hearing.

She said she had urged governments to go public with criticism of a treason trial against leaders of a movement, Sumate, that failed to oust Chavez in a recall referendum. "This kangaroo trial of Sumate is a disgrace," she said.

And she urged labor movements to back striking workers.

Speaking late on Thursday night, Chavez questioned what he called the confused signals in Washington's policy toward Caracas and dismissed attempts by Rice to isolate his government in the world's No. 5 oil exporter.

"She's calling foreign ministers, she's called Spain, she has called Brazil, good friends of ours, and Austria, to warn them about Venezuela, to form a block against Venezuela," Chavez told reporters outside Miraflores Presidential Palace.

"What could be more aggressive? All we can do is resist this imperialist abuse and defeat it," he said.

Flush with revenues from high-priced oil exports and allied with Cuba, Chavez has thrived, is popular in Latin America and has come to symbolize much of the anti-American sentiment in a region that has increasingly opposed U.S. economic policies.

That regional popularity has undercut Rice's efforts to use neighboring nations to curb Chavez, who has used strengthened ties with leftist governments to reject America's free trade ambitions for the hemisphere.

His outspoken criticism of the Bush administration has also angered some U.S. lawmakers.

Rep. Dan Burton, an Indiana Republican, and influential player on U.S. policy toward Latin America, said Chavez may give $50 million to the Palestinian group Hamas, which the United States considers a terrorist organization.

Venezuelan Foreign Ministry officials were not available to comment on those remarks.

Such a move would further strain deteriorating ties between the United States and one of its top oil suppliers after the countries each expelled diplomats this year in a dispute over alleged U.S. espionage.

Chavez has said the United States wants to put sanctions on Venezuela for being a state sponsor of terrorism.

(Additional reporting by Patrick Markey in Caracas)

© Reuters 2006.

Comment: Want to know what is really happening in Venezuela and WHY Condi is so annoyed?
Good Things Happening in Venezuela

Monday, Apr 04, 2005

Michael Parenti

Even before I arrived in Venezuela for a recent visit, I encountered the great class divide that besets that country. On my connecting flight from Miami to Caracas, I found myself seated next to an attractive, exquisitely dressed Venezuelan woman. Judging from her prosperous aspect, I anticipated that she would take the first opportunity to hold forth against President Hugo Chavez. Unfortunately, I was right.

Our conversation moved along famously until we got to the political struggle going on in Venezuela. "Chavez," she hissed, "is terrible, terrible." He is "a liar"; he "fools the people" and is "ruining the country." She herself owns an upscale women's fashion company with links to prominent firms in the United States.

When I asked how Chavez has hurt her business, she said, "Not at all." But many other businesses, she quickly added, have been irreparably damaged as has the whole economy. She went on denouncing Chavez in sweeping terms, warning me of the national disaster to come if this demon continued to have his way.

Other critics I encountered in Venezuela shared this same mode of attack: weak on specifics but strong in venom, voiced with all the ferocity of those who fear that their birthrights (that is, their class advantages) are under siege because others below them on the social ladder are getting a slightly larger slice of the pie.

In Venezuela over 80 percent live below the poverty level. Before Chavez, most of the poor had never seen a doctor or dentist. Their children never went to school, since they could not afford the annual fees. The neoliberal market "adjustments" of the 1980s and 1990s only made things worse, cutting social spending and eliminating subsidies in consumer goods.

Successive administrations did nothing about the rampant corruption and nothing about the growing gap between rich and poor, the growing malnutrition and desperation. Far from ruining the country, here are some of the good things the Chavez government has accomplished:

- A land reform program designed to assist small farmers and the landless poor has been instituted. Just this month (March 2005) a large landed estate owned by a British beef company was occupied by agrarian workers for farming purposes.

- Education is now free (right through to university level), causing a dramatic increase in grade school enrollment.

- The government has set up a marine conservation program, and is taking steps to protect the land and fishing rights of indigenous peoples.

- Special banks now assist small enterprises, worker cooperatives, and farmers.

- Attempts to further privatize the state-run oil industry - 80 percent of which is still publicly owned---have been halted, and limits have been placed on foreign capital penetration.

- Chavez kicked out the U.S. military advisors and prohibited overflights by U.S. military aircraft engaged in counterinsurgency in Colombia.

- "Bolivarian Circles" have been organized throughout the nation, neighborhood committees designed to activate citizens at the community level to assist in literacy, education, vaccination campaigns, and other public services.

- The government hires unemployed men, on a temporary basis, to repair streets and neglected drainage and water systems in poor neighborhoods.

Then there is the health program. I visited a dental clinic in Chavez's home state of Barinas. The staff consisted of four dentists, two of whom were young Venezuelan women. The other two were Cuban men who were there on a one-year program.

The Venezuelan dentists noted that in earlier times dentists did not have enough work. There were millions of people who needed treatment, but care was severely rationed by the private market, that is, by one's ability to pay. Dental care was distributed like any other commodity, not to everyone who needed it but only to those who could afford it.

When the free clinic in Barinas first opened it was flooded with people seeking dental care. No one was turned away. Even opponents of the Chavez government availed themselves of the free service, temporarily putting aside their political aversions.

Many of the doctors and dentists who work in the barrio clinics (along with some of the clinical supplies and pharmaceuticals) come from Cuba. Chavez has also put Venezuelan military doctors and dentists to work in the free clinics.

Meanwhile, much of the Venezuelan medical establishment is vehemently opposed to the free-clinic program, seeing it as a Cuban communist campaign to undermine medical standards and physicians' earnings. That low-income people are receiving medical and dental care for the first time in their lives does not seem to be a consideration that carries much weight among the more "professionally minded" practitioners.

I visited one of the government-supported community food stores that are located around the country, mostly in low income areas. These modest establishments sell canned goods, pasta, beans, rice, and some produce and fruits at well below the market price, a blessing in a society with widespread malnutrition.

Popular food markets have eliminated the layers of middlemen and made staples more affordable for residents. Most of these markets are run by women. The government also created a state-financed bank whose function is to provide low-income women with funds to start cooperatives in their communities.

There is a growing number of worker cooperatives. One in Caracas was started by turning a waste dump into a shoe factory and a T-shirt factory. Financed with money from the Petroleum Ministry, the coop has put about a thousand people to work. The workers seem enthusiastic and hopeful.

Surprisingly, many Venezuelans know relatively little about the worker cooperatives. Or perhaps it's not surprising, given the near monopoly that private capital has over the print and broadcast media. The wealthy media moguls, all vehemently anti-Chavez, own four of the five television stations and all the major newspapers.

The man most responsible for Venezuela's revolutionary developments, Hugo Chavez, has been accorded the usual ad hominem treatment in the U.S. news media. An article in the San Francisco Chronicle (12 September 2004) described him as "Venezuela's pugnacious president." An earlier Chronicle report (30 November 2001) quotes a political opponent who calls Chavez "a psychopath, a terribly aggressive guy."

The London Financial Times (12 January 2002) sees him as "increasingly autocratic" and presiding over something called a "rogue democracy."

In the Nation (6 May 2002), Marc Cooper---one of those Cold War liberals who nowadays regularly defends the U.S. empire - writes that the democratically-elected Chavez speaks "often as a thug," who "flirts with megalomania." Chavez's behavior, Cooper rattles on, "borders on the paranoiac," is "ham-fisted demagogy" acted out with an "increasingly autocratic style." Like so many critics, Cooper downplays Chavez's accomplishments, and uses name-calling in place of informed analysis.

Other media mouthpieces have labeled Chavez "mercurial," "besieged," "heavy-handed," "incompetent," and "dictatorial," a "barracks populist," a "strongman," a "firebrand," and, above all, a "leftist." It is never explained what "leftist" means.

A leftist is someone who advocates a more equitable distribution of social resources and human services, and who supports the kinds of programs that the Chavez government is putting in place. (Likewise a rightist is someone who opposes such programs and seeks to advance the insatiable privileges of private capital and the wealthy few.)

The term "leftist" is frequently bandied about in the U.S. media but seldom defined. The power of the label is in its remaining undefined, allowing it to have an abstracted built-in demonizing impact which precludes rational examination of its political content.

The leftist Hugo Chavez whose public talks I attended on three occasions proved to be an educated, articulate, remarkably well-informed and well-read individual. Of big heart, deep human feeling, and keen intellect, he manifests a sincere dedication to effecting some salutary changes for the great mass of his people, a man who in every aspect seems worthy of the decent and peaceful democratic revolution he is leading.

Millions of his compatriots widely and correctly perceive him as being the only president who has ever paid attention to the nation's poorest areas. No wonder he is the target of calumny and coup from the upper echelons in his own country and from ruling circles up north.

Chavez charges that the United States government is plotting to assassinate him. I can believe it.

Michael Parenti's recent books include Superpatriotism (City Lights) and The Assassination of Julius Caesar (New Press) which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. His forthcoming book, The Culture Struggle will be published by Seven Stories Press in the fall of 2005. For more information on Parenti, visit his website: www.michaelparenti.org.

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Chavez Warns U.S. on Oil Exports

By CHRISTOPHER TOOTHAKER Associated Press 17 Feb 06

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez warned on Friday he could cut off oil exports to the United States if Washington goes "over the line" in what he has said are attempts to destabilize his left-leaning government.

Chavez made his threat a day after Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that the Venezuelan government posed "one of the biggest problems" in the region and that its ties to Cuba were "particularly dangerous" to democracy in Latin America.

"The government of the United States should know that if they go over the line, they are not going to have Venezuelan oil," Chavez said.
"I have already taken measures regarding this. I'm not going to say what because they think that I can't take these measures because we would not have any place to send the oil," Chavez said.

Chavez has threatened to halt oil exports to U.S. ports before, but Friday was the first time the former paratroop commander mentioned having made contacts with other crude buyers as part of a contingency plan.

"Many countries ask us for more oil and we have had to tell many countries we can't send them more" because Venezuela, the world's fifth largest oil exporter, ships 1.5 million barrels of oil a day to the United States, he told supporters at the presidential palace.

Relations between Chavez and the Bush administration hit new lows in recent days after Washington expelled a Venezuelan diplomat in response to Chavez's expulsion of a U.S. embassy official for alleged spying.

Venezuela on Friday also demanded an explanation from Washington for being labeled one of Latin America's biggest threats as a visiting State Department delegation aimed to ease tensions between the governments.

Chavez has repeatedly accused the U.S. government of trying to discredit his government and orchestrate his ouster. American officials deny those charges but accuse him of authoritarian tendencies.

Chavez, who refers to President Bush as "Mr. Danger," said U.S. officials would fail in their attempts to turn Latin American nations against Venezuela.

"You create your front Mr. Danger, we will create ours," Chavez said. "We are going to defeat the empire."

Chavez said Rice's statements were aimed at creating chaos and political upheaval in this oil-rich yet poor South American nation ahead of presidential elections in December.

Chavez, who was elected to a six-year term in 2000, has vowed to win the next election and govern until 2013 - or longer.

© 2006 The Associated Press.

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Nigeria oil 'total war' warning

BBC 17 Feb 06

A Nigerian militant commander in the oil-rich southern Niger Delta has told the BBC his group is declaring "total war" on all foreign oil interests.

The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta has given oil companies and their employees until midnight on Friday night to leave the region.

It recently blew up two oil pipelines, held four foreign oil workers hostage and sabotaged two major oilfields.

The group wants greater control of the oil wealth produced on their land.
The warning came as militants and the army exchanged fire after a government helicopter gunship attacked barges allegedly used by smugglers to transport stolen crude oil.

Correspondents say the militants provide security for the smugglers.

Nigeria is Africa's leading oil exporter and the fifth-biggest source of US oil imports, but despite its oil wealth, many Nigerians live in abject poverty.


It is the first time the military leader of the Mend movement, Major-General Godswill Tamuno, has spoken publicly of his group's aims.

He refused to be interviewed on tape or for his location to be disclosed.

He told the BBC's Abdullahi Kaura Abubakar that they had launched their campaign, called "dark February", to ensure that all foreign oil interests left.

He said that they had had enough of the exploitation of their resources and wanted to take total control of the area to get their fair share of the wealth.

Our correspondent says the movement brings together a variety of local Ijaw groups that had been operating in the Niger Delta before.

The group enjoys considerable local support and it is difficult to pinpoint exactly who is a member, he says.

Mend's leaders tend to like to be faceless, our reporter says, and they usually send statements to the media via email.

Shell, one of the oil companies operating in the Niger Delta, told our reporter that security measures were being taken to secure their staff and property, but would not give details.

Well armed

The Niger delta has been the scene of a low-level war in recent months and the government has increased its military presence in the region.

After a government raid on oil barges earlier this week, Mend released a statement saying the helicopter gunship had fired rockets and machine-guns at targets on land and accused the military of targeting civilians.

It warned that its fighters were capable of shooting down military helicopters and accused Shell of helping out the security forces by allowing them use of an airstrip it operates.

The military has denied it used the facility.

According to AFP news agency, Shell has not confirmed or denied that its airstrip was the base for the attack.

The smugglers are believed to exchange oil for weapons from eastern Europe.

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Fire razes Shell oil well As death toll in gunship attack on bunkerers rises to 30

By Jimtota Onoyume, Simon Ebegbulem, Paul Bebenimibo & Emma Arubi Friday, February 17, 2006

PORT HARCOURT—AN oil well operated by Shell 30 kilometres south of Port Harcourt caught fire yesterday 24 hours after militant youths threatened revenge against it for making its facility available for an attack on an Ijaw community in Delta State.

Ijaw leaders said yesterday that the death toll in Wednesday’s helicopter gunship attack on Perezouweikore-gbene had risen to 30, and asked the Federal Government to call the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta to order.
Shell, defending itself on the allegation of allowing its Osubi airstrip in Warri to be used by the military as base for the attack said it had no control over the use of the airfield.

Fire-fighters were battling the blaze on a well head in the Cawthorne Channel, near Port Harcourt last night, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant said.

“The cause of the incident is not known and the company’s fire crew and oil spill control as well as technical intervention teams are being mobilised to the site,” Shell’s Public Affairs Manager, Don Boham said.

While the fire continued, a nearby plant, the Cawthorn Channel-1 flow station, was shut, cutting production equivalent to 37,800 barrels per day. Shell was forced to close down four of its Niger Delta flow stations last month, following violent attacks, and was already losing 106,000 barrels per day in production before yesterday’s fire.
“We have informed the relevant government agencies. The cause of the fire, volume of oil spilled and the effects are being investigated,” Boham said.

However, it was not immediately clear whether the blaze was the result of sabotage or an accident.

On Wednesday, a military helicopter gunship strafed barges belonging to oil smugglers in the Delta. Militants accused Shell of allowing the army to use the firm’s Warri airstrip as a base for the strike and threatened revenge.

Death toll rises to 30

Meanwhile, tension heightened in the Niger Delta yesterday after Ijaw leaders said 30 people died in Wednesday’s attacks on Perezouweikore-gbene community by military men attached to the Joint Task Force (JTF) led by Brigadier General Elias Zamani.

The leaders under the aegis of the Warri Ijaw Peace Monitoring Group (WIPMG) described the attack as unacceptable and asked the Federal Government to call General Zamani to order, adding that the action of his men was capable of plunging the Niger Delta into a fresh crisis, which according to them, “may be worse than what we have experienced in the past.”

The JTF had, through its spokesman, Major Said Hameed, said the gunship attacked eight barges used by illegal bunkerers to store crude oil but WIPMG dismissed the allegations, pointing out that the attack was deliberate and a war against the Ijaw nation.

Spokesman for WIPMG, Chief Patrick Bigha, said: “We condemn in its entirety the recent air bombardment of Ijaw community in Gbaramatu Kingdom in which 30 persons are confirmed dead. We the leaders visited the scene of the incident today (yesterday) and understand that the action was a deliberate military offensive against innocent and law-abiding civilians. That must be condemned by all right-thinking Nigerians.

“It beats the imagination of the Ijaw that the JTF led by Zamani would carry out such a callous act in the guise of fighting illegal bunkering of which the same security agencies are the worst accomplices. This is just a war against the Ijaw that we had been hearing the rumour. But it is very unfortunate for the military to unleash such mayhem on our people. This is unacceptable.

“The Federal Government and Delta State government should call Zamani to order or he should be held responsible for any crisis that may erupt in the Niger Delta.
“Their recent action has punctured the prevailing peace in the Niger Delta. We also see this as another grand design to deny the Ijaw of Warri to peacefully participate in the forth-coming democratic dispensation in 2007. And such move may be grave for the state.

“If truly the action of the JTF was to destroy barges used by illegal oil bunkerers, then it would not have been this manner as the Navy used to seize barges and vessels without using aerial attack and rockets. It shows that the air raid was not against bunkerers but against the people.”

FNDIC reacts

Also yesterday, President of Federated Niger Delta Ijaw Communities (FNDIC), Chief Oboko Bello, said the attack would only serve to spur them into more militant actions. He also described the aerial bombardment as “phenomenal and too severe” and urged the government to employ dialogue to resolve the Niger Delta problems once and for all.

Speaking to Vanguard in Warri yesterday on telephone, the FNDIC president said if military force was the solution to the situation, the killing of Isaac Boro, Ken Saro Wiwa and the sacking of Odi village would have helped the situation, noting: “We have not seen or heard of such magnitude of response to oil bunkering activities in the country as alleged in this case. Why is it being visited on us now? Dialogue and political solutions to our numerous problems are the best options opened to the government especially now that some measure of peace has been achieved in the region.”
Chief Bello advised President Obasanjo to tow the path of democratic principles.

We are helpless over airstrip —SHELL

Shell said yesterday it had no control over the use of its airfield in Warri by the Nigerian military as a base from which to launch air strikes.

Following the raid, a militant organisation accused the army of targeting civilians and threatened violent reprisals against Shell to punish the firm for allowing its airstrip to be used for military operations.

“Armed intervention is always a decision for the proper authorities and not for private companies such as Shell,” a Shell spokeswoman said. “As in any other part of the world, the government has a duty and an obligation to uphold the rule of law, while at the same time respecting the human rights of its people.

“Any questions about military operations and their use of airstrips during their operations in the Niger Delta should be raised with the appropriate authority,” she said.

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Search on for 10 missing crew after US choppers crash off Djibouti

Agence France Presse 18 Feb 06

The CH-53 helicopters went down around 5:30 pm (1430 GMT) Friday in the waters of the Gulf of Aden near Ras Siyuan in northern Djibouti while on a two-hour training mission around the Godoria mountain range.

The military said the weather at the time of the crashes was partly cloudy with light to variable winds and "unlimited visibility."
A joint US, French and Djiboutian rescue operation searched frantically Saturday for 10 missing crew from two US Marine Corps helicopters that crashed off the coast of Djibouti.

The US military's Djibouti-based Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa headquarters said the status of the missing was unclear as was the cause of Friday's crashes but that two rescued crew were in stable condition.

"Search and rescue operations are ongoing," it said in a statement. "The status of the remaining 10 crewmembers is still unknown at this time."

"The cause of the crash is unknown at this time and an investigation into the accident is underway," it said.

The CH-53 helicopters went down around 5:30 pm (1430 GMT) Friday in the waters of the Gulf of Aden near Ras Siyuan in northern Djibouti while on a two-hour training mission around the Godoria mountain range.

The military said the weather at the time of the crashes was partly cloudy with light to variable winds and "unlimited visibility."

The choppers were part of a squadron based at the Marine Corps' New River Air Station in the southern US state of North Carolina, it said.

The two rescued crew were expected to be evacuated to the US military's Landstuhl Army Hospital in Germany on Saturday, the statement said.

One of the crew suffered a knee injury and underwent surgery at Camp Lemonier, the Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa's base, while the second suffered significant muscular and skeletal bruising and "may have inhaled contaminated sea water," it said.

Djibouti is home to France's largest overseas military base and the only US military base in Africa.

It currently hosts some 1,700 American troops and several hundred Dutch, German and Spanish soldiers participating in the US-led anti-terrorism operation known as "Enduring Freedom."

British soldiers are expected to be deployed in the near future to Djibouti, which is a key staging post at the southern end of the Red Sea on the Gulf of Aden.

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Belafonte's absence at King funeral is noticeable


Where was Harry Belafonte? Where was the entertainer, civil rights activist and humanitarian last week when funeral services were held for Coretta Scott King?

Why wasn't he present? Mrs. King's husband, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Belafonte were very close before King was assassinated April 4, 1968 as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.
Look at some of the photos taken on the day of MLK's funeral services, and you will see Belafonte walking alongside Mrs. King and three of her children, Yolanda, Dexter and Martin III.

So why wasn't Belafonte in attendance at Mrs. King's funeral? He had planned to be there:

"Due to a recent tragic unfolding, the death of Mrs. Martin Luther King Jr., I have been requested by the family and my fellow leaders from the civil rights movement to deliver a part of the eulogy on the occasion of her burial on Tuesday, February 7, 2006 in Atlanta, Ga.,'' the news center at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, reported on the school's Web site on Feb. 6 as to why Belafonte postponed a scheduled speech at Case Western.

"The loss of Mrs. King is profound. My relationship to Dr. King and Mrs. King and with their children since the time of their birth has always been evident. I could not imagine being required to speak in the church at her service and not be in attendance,'' the Case Western email quoted Belafonte as saying.

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Know when your time is up

18 February 2006 NewScientist.com news service

If someone could tell you when you were going to die, would you want to know? It's no longer such a hypothetical question now that a "death index" can predict with 80 per cent accuracy whether or not someone over 50 is likely to die within four years.
Sei Lee, a geriatric specialist at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, California, designed a 12-question form based on data from nearly 20,000 people aged 50 and over, who took part in the US-wide Health and Retirement Survey between 1998 and 2002. Lee's team looked at who had died by the end of 2002, and calculated which variables might predict their death.

They compiled a "death index" based on three classes of questions covering: gender and age; illnesses, such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease; and the ability to perform everyday activities, such as dressing and shopping. A score of 0 means there is a less than 1 per cent chance of death in the next four years. A score of 14 or over indicates a 65 per cent chance of dying. The study appears this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (vol 295, p 801).

Lorna Layward of London-based charity Help the Aged says the index could be a vital tool for improving the health of older people, but worries that those judged likely to die soon might be refused vital treatment. "This is direct ageism and will only increase already growing health inequalities. It suggests that if you haven't got long left to live, then you are fit only for the scrap heap."

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Tutankhamen liked his wine white

16 February 2006 New Scientist Print Edition

IT SEEMS that Tutankhamen, the teenage king of ancient Egypt, sloped off to the afterlife with a good supply of fine white wine. It's a surprising discovery, considering there is no record of white wine in Egypt until the 3rd century AD, 1600 years after the young pharaoh died.

Rosa Lamuela-Raventós and her colleagues from the University of Barcelona, Spain, used liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry to analyse the residue from six of the jars in Tutankhamen's tomb. All contained tartaric acid, a chemical characteristic of grapes, but only one contained syringic acid, found in the skin of red grapes. It's this skin that gives red wine its colour.

The absence of the chemical in the other five jars suggests the wine in them was white. Because it is unlikely Egyptian wine makers would have removed red grape skins to create white wines as modern wine makers do, white grapes probably did exist in Tutankhamen's time.

In ancient Egypt, red wine was placed in tombs to accompany people into the afterlife. Now it appears that white wine was on the menu too.

"It must have been considered a very good drink," says Lamuela-Raventós, whose findings are reported in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

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