Editorial: The Real Enemy and What YOU Can Do
Last week I wrote an editorial to kick off our Semi-annual Fundraiser. In that editorial I quoted a popular political action group's fund-raising report that informs us that, from 6,613 contributors, they were able to raise $389,900 in a single DAY. That averages out to $58.00 per person. Not a big expenditure for everyone, but the total is what is amazing. That total is a result of the large base of supporters they have which they have as a result of early advertising and very public and prominent activities where they make a big splash but actually accomplish zilch. They added that "This generosity gives us a great deal of hope." I, on the other hand, did not express much hope at all that pursuing change via political action within the existing system would accomplish a thing.
As I pointed out, "The hoopla about spying on innocent Americans to ferret out terrorists is just a smokescreen; [Bush's illegal spying is] purely and simply, to spy on political opponents, journalists, and to obtain material for blackmail so as to completely control the political process.
And that means that all those hundreds of thousands of dollars, millions of dollars even, that are flowing into the coffers of various “Political Action” groups are all going to waste. It's all for nothing. Nothing will change. They will spend your money, make a big show, make a good living off of it, and nothing, NOTHING, will change.
Since the SOTT team regularly has "brain-storming" meetings to discuss what we see on the global stage, this issue has naturally been on the table a time or two. As our readers may know, we scour the web for the news, trying, if at all possible, to create the picture of what is really going on from credible sources. We often contrast one mainstream source against another in order to show the reader how things get twisted and distorted and even misrepresented. We utilize flashbacks and special reports on key issues to show the historical development so that the reader may have a broader and deeper view. This approach to "seeing" is founded on our more esoteric work. We believe that if an individual has a philosophy, it ought to manifest in their life and work across the board. We here at SOTT consider the present state of our world as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. Pierre LaPlace wrote:
Consider an intelligence which, at any instant, could have a knowledge of all forces controlling nature together with the momentary conditions of all the entities of which nature consists. If this intelligence were powerful enough to submit all this data to analysis it would be able to embrace in a single formula the movements of the largest bodies in the universe and those of the lightest atoms; for it, nothing would be uncertain; the future and the past would be equally present to its eyes.
Obviously, what LaPlace was proposing is a bit out of reach for most of us, but with a cooperative of researchers who all contribute input to the image of our world we are building, we can go in the direction of such an "intelligence" that can see past, present, and future. And certainly, by seeing past and present in as broad and deep a manner as possible, we are much better equipped to know the future and whether or not we like it, and if we don't like it, to make different choices NOW that will shape that future differently..
And here is where we encounter the BIG PROBLEM.
If knowing the truth about reality can help us to make advantageous decisions and choices and take certain actions based on what IS, then certainly, hiding the truth from us can prevent us from making those decisions, choices, and actions that will lead to a positive future.
Those who control information, those who can conceal from us the data that we need to assemble an accurate picture of our reality seem to be working to create a future favorable to themselves, one that is NOT beneficial to all of humanity. So it has always been. From a historical point of view, the ONLY reality is that of conspiracy. Secrecy, wealth and independence add up to power. ...Deception is the key element of warfare, (the tool of power elites), and when winning is all that matters, the conventional morality held by ordinary people becomes an impediment. Secrecy stems from a pervasive and fundamental element of life in our world, that those
who are at the top of the heap will always take whatever steps are necessary
to maintain the status quo.
And maintaining the "status quo" in our world means controlling information.
We have thought about this a lot here at SOTT. As we comb through hundreds of news articles daily, seeing the twists and turns and outright lies and disinformation, tracing each thread to try to find out what is really wrong here, why can't we get - for God's sake - a single source that isn't playing games, lying and distorting - we realize that the BIG PROBLEM is the MEDIA.
Nothing evil that has been done for millennia would have been possible if people truly had the information they needed. And they don't have it because the MEDIA goes to so much trouble to either hide it or distort it or make a big splash about lies, and put the important truths on the inside back page of section D of the newspaper, if it is reported at all. SPIN is everything. Publicity is everything. The masses of people in the United States and elsewhere who simply don't have the time or energy or wherewithal to investigate for themselves, or the inner will to stand against what is presented to them as the "received truth" of all their peers, their families, neighbors and friends, will continue down the Primrose Path to total destruction as long as the MEDIA continues to conceal, to distort, to twist, and spin information in favor of those at the "top of the heap" who are determined to see that they remain at the top.
So our problem - the problem of everyone - is the MEDIA.
Now, certainly, there are quite a few alternative media sites - such as our our own - that try to bring a more balanced picture. But, you don't think that the folks at the Top of the Heap are going to allow anyone to get out there and do a better job of reporting the truth and get away with it, do you?
Of course not.
How are they going to stop it without appearing to do so?
Why, COINTELPRO, of course.
Now, I've written about this subject to the point that I am sure that some of you are sick of it. The problem is, it's everywhere, and it is well-funded. People like us don't have a chance against the backers of these kinds of operations. Not without your help, we don't. And even with help, it's going to be rough going - as it has been for the past five years.
So, not only do we have the MEDIA and its lies to contend with, we have COINTELPRO.
It's not looking good, is it?
For any new readers, let me just briefly recap and give you some links.
COINTELPRO's main weapon of choice is Slander (including libel) and Defamation. There is a reason for this: smearing a person makes it so that their effectiveness is diminished because those people who have little time, energy or wherewithal to do their own investigating won't take the time to find out if the defamatory statements are true or not, and if there is a well organized campaign, they also won't want to "go against" what their family, friends and neighbors believe. There are many recent examples of this tried and true tactic evident in the activities of the Neocons, including the "Swiftboat" nonsense and Plamegate. Those campaigns were directed against individuals and had to be stitched together in a hurry. A more comprehensive campaign, such as the demonizing of Muslims goes on over a longer period of time. Of course, what they want to do with the Muslims is kill them all so the process must be more thorough and broader in scope than just going after someone's personal reputation.
Nevertheless, the main weapon of COINTELPRO still remains Slander and Defamation. We know it all too well because such a campaign was launched against us back in 2001, which was, of course, curious timing, don't you think? At the very time that the Neocons made their big move to lock-down the flow of information, we became one of the first casualties of the Information War. And it hasn't let up since, I should add. As I wrote on my BLOG:
Now, one of the interesting things we have observed about COINTELPRO is the way it shifts and warps in response to possible exposure. I believe that I was the first to realize the extent and nature of the operation, and I began publishing my speculations about it in the Adventures With Cassiopaea series back in early 2002. Not too long after that, individuals that I KNEW to be "agents" of COINTELPRO began to start ranting about COINTELPRO and pointing the finger this way and that way. Up to this point in time, the lid had pretty much remained shut on the subject - I guess they were hoping that people would forget about it, or think that it was over and done with back in the 70s, nothing to worry about now!
But nope, I saw it and wrote about it and they just had to do something. So, in typical COINTELPRO fashion, they started producing endless noise to obscure the signal. [...
And then, in another Blogpost:
Robin Ramsay, Editor of Lobster, writes in this month's issue of Fortean Times:
"[After 1996 was when] the Internet began to take hold of our intellectual lives and conspiracy theories transferred from TV and magazines onto the Net, where - ever since - they appear to have been something of a worry to our masters in Washington.
"The existence of the Internet means that it is no longer as easy to control public perception as it was during the good old days of the Cold War, when mass media were fewer and more manageable, newspaper and TV editors could be recruited or bought by the authorities and stories planted with ease in the press.
"Recently, the US State Department has begun trying to rebut some of the current conspiracy theories about America. Their first targets were a couple of websites - www.rense.com and Conspiracy Planet - and the late Joe Vialls, an Australian. What a boost for the named sites! Attacked by the State Department![...]
"[Y]ou don't have to be a PR genius to see that what you simply mustn't do is launch official attacks: all they do is amplify and legitimise the theories by announcing that they are deemed to be worth attacking." [Fortean Times 206, February 2006, p. 19] [...]
So certainly, we would expect real COINTELPRO operations to be attacked "officially" in order to legitimize them, but as those who have figured out the real answers will not be martyred. It's way too dangerous. Keep in mind that we aren't dealing with stupid people here; they have "motivation masters" working 24/7 to manipulate the public. One of their ideas was the now well-known COINTELPRO "Third Party Attack Protocol." This includes setting up bogus groups and operations - sometimes at HUGE expense - in order to not only be a "Tar Baby" but also, when needed, to launch attacks against bona fide groups and or individuals with no one ever suspecting that it is a State Supported attack.
And, as I noted above, COINTELPRO shifts and warps in response to possible exposure. Let's look at a typical example here:
Fair and Balanced?: Death Threats Hit Prominent Political Columnists
by Todd Brendan Fahey
February 13, 2006
The headline of the story would make you think that Paul Krugman or Maureen Dowd or some major international journalistic figure was the subject. Keep in mind, as you read the story, that the author, Todd Brendan Fahey, "has served as aide to former Congressman John B. Conlan, former Arizona Governor Evan Mecham, to CIA officer Theodore L. Humes and to the late Defense Intelligence Agency chief, Lt. General Daniel O. Graham."
James Hall publishes as "SARTRE" throughout the Web. Perhaps the most prolific right-wing columnist on the 'net, he keeps to himself in private life. Long retired as a political strategist, Hall is no longer a believer in organized politics--though very much still a believer in and spokesman for Jeffersonian anti-federalist, limited government ideology.
And so he was surprised to answer his unlisted phone number on January 30th, to the question that was asked three times in succession: "Is this SARTRE?" (His response each time: "Who is calling?"). Finally, the caller shouted, "We know who you are!", followed by a death threat that he has divulged only to the New York state police department in his area, which he alerted immediately.
Says Hall, "No one calls for Sartre on my home phone number."
The *64 function on his phone brought back a Toronto, Canada phone number (416-785-4574) owned by Dr. Laurence B. Shiff, 327 Cortleigh Boulevard, Toronto, Ontario MSN 1R2 CA. Friends assisted Hall in some Google sleuthing, and which reveals Dr. Shiff an officer of the Kaspu Corporation. When relaying the events to longtime SARTRE publisher Jeff Rense, Rense said: "That's the same number I've been getting threats from, and two of my other writers."
The morning of Hall's telephone death threat, he had published an incendiary piece titled "Hamas, Israel and the United States," which went 'net-wide and which, later in the week, resulted in his being dropped from New Media Alliance--ostensibly, a start-up conservative news bureau. The article calls for a complete severing of the "USrael alliance," as a danger to American citizens and an affront to the Constitution.
Two weeks before the threat received by James Hall, fellow Rense.com writer Kurt Nimmo closed down his blog entirely, citing an inability to reconcile death threats received, his publishing life and the safety of his family "Zionist Death Threats: Nimmo Closes Down Blog".
"The primary reason I have decided to stop posting the blog has to do with threats. I have received many of them, including death threats. Usually, I am able to brush aside threats, since most are not of a serious nature, but lately I have received several that are not to be taken lightly, especially considering the fact somebody has taken the liberty to post my address and telephone number (information easily attained from the domain registry) in various places on the internet. First and foremost, I have a responsibility to my family and posting political commentary obviously comes in a distant second."
On February 2, Rense.com writer Jim Mortellaro received calls from the same Toronto, Canada phone number:
"Beginning three days ago, two more so-called 'men' began their tirade on this writer. Like the first person, they informed me that I was a Rense supporter and that makes me an anti-Semite. Me. Of all people, with a Jewish side to our family in which 2.15% survived the camps. That would be two out of 93 human beings. You picked the wrong person, guys. ...I now have his name and address. The man lives in Toronto. He is the son of a (I won't go there, not to worry), he is a member of a very wealthy family there, with interest in (major interest) in a very large corporation." Zionist Threats and Harrassment Continue".
Mortellaro received the call on his cell phone, which, as he writes: "is extremely hard to obtain. You must have the *authority* to do so and that authority must be high up the food chain. So, whomever called, did so from a "restricted telephone number" and had *access* to cellphone numbers and their owners. A 'restricted' telephone number, being different from a 'restricted call,' makes the case for a governmental, institutional or large and powerful company as having made the call."
Messrs. Hall, Rense, Nimmo and Mortellaro are now coordinating efforts--with state police, FBI and Canadian authorities--for to bring about a Federal investigation. Each writer has been critical in their writings of US/Israeli entanglements; each has received death threats from the same phone source--which has now been identified. All manner of "special interest groups" have been protected from harrassment and seen perpetrators punished. That this group is comprised of prominent writers who hold what are undoubtedly unpopular beliefs, in the eyes of mainstream media and probably within Washington D.C., will prove a test case for the law being "fair and balanced."
Now, let me give you some backstory here. Somewhere around the time that Kurt Nimmo received his "threats," which were never quite fully explained to me, but since I have a lot of respect for Kurt, I didn't pry; I figured that if he felt threatened, that was good enough for me, we had a little exchange about it. I wrote to Kurt as follows:
I have tremendous sympathy for your wife. God only knows I went through hell having our names and addresses published on hate sites. [Websites were set up to defame us, a gang of cyberthugs cruised the net looking for every open BB they could find where they could post their slanderous filth.] We received death threats in the mail, my daughter was run off the road three times, the third time she hit a power pole and her car was destroyed. If it had not been a Volvo, she would be dead. [Another of our children was poisoned and nearly died. She spent three days on life-support and nobody expected her to recover.] When the dog was poisoned while we ran out to Sam's Club, in broad daylight, that was the living end. That's when we made the decision to leave the country permanently. [...]
Of course, no sooner did we get back online [right after publication of "MOSSAD and Moving Companies: Masterminds of Global Terrorism] than Jeff Rense published that awful defamation on the very day he had invited me to speak on his show. I don't think it was accidental. It took three days for us to get him to remove it.
I should mention that the MOSSAD piece went around the world, and was translated into no less than 6 languages within ONE WEEK of its publication. And it was IMMEDIATELY afterward, that a close associate of Rense - Jay Weidner - purchased "cassiopaea.net" for the purpose of publishing slanderous articles about us.
The above article about threats from Toronto was linked from Michael Rivero's "WhatReallyHappened.com" where he wrote the following remarks:
Larry has been an annoyance to this web site as well. When Larry first started attacking my site, hacking the servers, email bombing me, sending death threats, and other assorted dirty trucks, I reported him to both the FBI and to Interpol. Interpol is still investigating him as of my last contact with them, but interestingly enough the local FBI claims that the US Attorney for Hawaii ordered them not to investigate the case. I am putting that on the public record in case Mssrs Hall, Nimmo, Mortellaro, & Rense run into "bureaucratic resistance" in seeking to prosecute this minor irritation. The FBI has known about Larry for years now, because I tracked him down and reported him to the FBI in 2003, and the FBI failed to act to protect US citizens from what the USAPATRIOT act clearly identifies as terroristic activity.
The ball is in your court FBI. What are you going to do now? Look like total failures yet again?
So Jeff, Sartre, Kurt, ya'll are gonna have to come up with something better than a threatening phone call or two. That ain't COINTELPRO. Heck, that doesn't even qualify as a real "attack." I've been getting death threats by phone since I started publishing my material on alien abductions! When I was able to keep a lecture engagement only by having a bodyguard licensed to carry a gun, I knew it was time to quit speaking in public. What's more, guys, you need to have some evidence. You want to see MINE? Have a look at the stack of stuff I've assembled, all of which has been shipped off to the FBI. You know what the FDLE agent told me? He said that since 9/11, they are way too busy to deal with such "petty squabbles" - get a lawyer or quit doing what I'm doing and the attacks will cease. And I pointed out to him that ole Vinnie Bridges, pal of Jay Weidner, pal of Jeff Rense, pal of Michael Rivero, was just dancing with glee at the collapse of the WTC. Not only that, but he was known to hang out with Arabs in Arab costume! His buddy, Melchizidek, had connections to Mujaheedin. Melchizidek's main sugar-daddy has all the earmarks of a CIA frontman. Was the FBI interested? Nope. So, if they are interested in your guy for making a few phone calls, I can assure you that it's a set-up. Take that to the bank.
Now that the reader has a little bit more of an idea of what we are facing here, perhaps you will also be able to figure out that what we are offering here on SOTT isn't just the usual "bill of fare" of alternative News sites. It is obviously quite threatening to the Powers That Be. Since google regularly "penalizes" us while giving incomprehensible advantages to the "flame sites" set up to smear us, since most of the COINTELPRO alternative sites also "conveniently" fail to link to us, despite (or perhaps because of) the superior quantity and quality of our material, it's pretty clear that we are one HUGE THREAT to the PTB. That's again why we need to do more ADVERTISING.
We need funding to do more than advertising. We need to be able to hire full-time researchers and other support staff so that we don't have to work 16 hour days, 7 days a week, driving our health into the ground. We need to be able to identify those alternative news writers who are sincere and honest and offer them a decent compensation for REAL investigative journalism. In short, we need to completely replace the MEDIA, the true dragon of the Portal to knowledge that can help us change our world, in the minds and hearts of all those who thirst for truth and justice.
It isn't going to be easy. It hasn't been easy. It's been an uphill struggle all the way, and we could not have done it without the support of our readers. We need it now more than ever, and we need MORE of it than ever. Look again at what we have to confront: a group that wastes time and money, yet can raise $389,900 in a single DAY. That's a whole lot more than we have received in the past 5 years.
So please, dig as deep as you can. There is much, much more to what we hope to do than just advertising. We cannot, of course, reveal everything because if we do, COINTELPRO will jump on our plans like a duck on a June bug. Read our websites, examine our archives, decide today if you want to keep this information flowing, and if you want to make sure that it is available to more and more people, and if so, help us to make a Quantum Leap in our operation. You won't regret it, and your help may very well be the critical mass that changes the future for All.
Click here to donate now!
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Editorial: Bush Neocons: Going After Fifth Columnists
Tuesday February 21st 2006, 3:13 pm
David Horowitz, on the paycheck of the reactionary Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and CIA collaborator Richard Scaife's foundation, ranted and raved back at the outset of the Iraqi invasion in early 2003, issuing shrill warnings about a "Fifth Column … preparing to move into action to attempt to defeat America in its war against Saddam." According to Horowitz, the incipient "peace movement is not about peace" but is instead "a fifth column communist movement" determined "to destroy America and give victory to our totalitarian enemies." Horowitz predicted a violent communist revolution in the streets of America-possibly a flashback to earlier times when Horowitz was an antiwar radical responsible for orchestrating an often violent "peace" movement with his high profile Ramparts Magazine (until he decided working for the Straussian neocons was more profitable)-a hateful bedlam that did not occur because the 2003 antiwar movement primarily consisted of average Americans, not "communists" or "America-haters," as Horowitz would have it in his paranoid fantasies.
"On the day after the U.S. military action in Iraq begins, the Fifth Column is preparing to begin its own war at home," Horowitz prognosticated. "The plan is to cause major disruptions-illegal in nature-in cities across the country to disrupt the flow of normal civic life. These actions will tie up Homeland Security forces and create a golden opportunity for domestic terrorists. The Fifth Column left is also planning to invade military bases." Of course, none of this happened because it is no longer 1970 and Horowitz is no longer editorializing for Ramparts or hanging out with the Black Panthers, as he was wont to do in the day.
Nonetheless, paranoids such as David Horowitz have managed to infect influential Congress critters such as Lindsey Graham, Republican from South Carolina, heir apparent of the reactionary reptile Strom Thurmond, and member of the Armed Services and Judiciary committees in the Senate. Earlier this month, during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing "on Wartime Executive Power and the National Security Agency's Surveillance Authority," Graham, in an exchange with AG Alberto Gonzales, declared "the administration has not only the right, but the duty, in my opinion, to pursue fifth column movements" and "I stand by this president's ability, inherent to being commander in chief, to find out about fifth column movements, and I don't think you need a warrant to do that."
In other words the Bill of Rights does not apply to U.S. citizens who "sympathize with the enemy and collaborate with the enemy," even though the idea of Americans collaborating with the resistance in Iraq is nothing short of absurd on its face and, moreover, sympathizing with the victims of Bush's invasion is hardly illegal, although millions of Americans obviously find it offensive. "Senator, the president already said we'd be happy to listen to your ideas," Gonzales enthusiastically responded.
In fact, as we know, the NSA snoop program is not about listening in on "al-Qaeda" phone calls (which do not exist) but rather is more precisely about snooping the email and phone calls of Americans, in particular Americans involved in "a fifth column communist movement," as Horowitz would have it, exercising their one-time constitutional right to petition the government and speak their mind in the commons.
"In less paranoid times, Graham's comments might be viewed by many Americans as a Republican trying to have it both ways-ingratiating himself to an administration of his own party while seeking some credit from Washington centrists for suggesting Congress should have at least a tiny say in how Bush runs the War on Terror," writes Nat Parry. "But recent developments suggest that the Bush administration may already be contemplating what to do with Americans who are deemed insufficiently loyal or who disseminate information that may be considered helpful to the enemy."
For instance, this blog-and thousands of other websites-may be considered outlets disseminating information "considered helpful to the enemy" simply because they do not "support the troops," or rather support the "war effort," in fact an effort to illegally occupy a once sovereign nation. For diehard Straussian neocons and their facilitators such as Lindsey Graham, opposition to the invasion and occupation makes one a direct supporter of Osama bin Laden (or his ghost), Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (or his ghost), and Saddam Hussein (or his many doubles). As we know, Bush and the Straussian neocons live in a Manichean world where polarized black and white is the order of the day-you're either with the neocons, neoliberals, and the Zionists or you're with the terrorists, who consist of millions of Muslims in the Middle East (and possibly a billion or more if you throw in the Muslims of Asia and Africa).
There "was that curious development in January when the Army Corps of Engineers awarded Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root a $385 million contract to construct detention centers somewhere in the United States, to deal with 'an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs,' KBR said," Parry continues.
Later, the New York Times reported that "KBR would build the centers for the Homeland Security Department for an unexpected influx of immigrants, to house people in the event of a natural disaster or for new programs that require additional detention space." [Feb. 4, 2006]
Like most news stories on the KBR contract, the Times focused on concerns about Halliburton's reputation for bilking U.S. taxpayers by overcharging for sub-par services.
"It's hard to believe that the administration has decided to entrust Halliburton with even more taxpayer dollars," remarked Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California.
Less attention centered on the phrase "rapid development of new programs" and what kind of programs would require a major expansion of detention centers, each capable of holding 5,000 people. Jamie Zuieback, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, declined to elaborate on what these "new programs" might be.
Some of us, however, have a pretty good idea what these "new programs" might very well be. Rex-84 Alpha Explan (Readiness Exercise 1984, Exercise Plan) was a "gaming exercise" created specifically by FEMA and DoD-with the participation of other federal agencies, including the CIA, the Secret Service, the Treasury, the FBI, and the Veterans Administration-to "fight subversive activities" and provide "authorization for the military to implement government ordered movements of civilian populations at state and regional levels," "arrest of certain unidentified segments of the population" and impose "martial rule," according to scholar Diana Reynolds. Rex-84 was part of "Operation Garden Plot," or Department of Defense Civil Disturbance Plan 55-2, an outgrowth of the Kerner Commission "study" of "civil disorder" during the Johnson administration in the 1960s. "Garden Plot evolved into a series of annual training exercises based on contingency plans to undercut riots and demonstrations, ultimately developed for every major city in the United States. Participants in the exercises included key officials from all law enforcement agencies in the nation, as well as the National Guard, the military, and representatives of the intelligence community According to the plan, joint teams would react to a variety of scenarios based on information gathered through political espionage and informants. The object was to quell urban unrest," Donald Goldberg and Indy Badhwar wrote for Penthouse Magazine in 1985 (see Frank Morales, U.S. Military Civil Disturbance Planning: the War at Home).
In 2002, a few months after nine eleven, then AG Ashcroft made the Gestapo round-up aspect of REX-84 a frightening reality, although the corporate media buried the story in characteristic fashion. "Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft's announced desire for camps for U.S. citizens he deems to be 'enemy combatants' has moved him from merely being a political embarrassment to being a constitutional menace," Jonathan Turley wrote for the Los Angeles Times. "Ashcroft's plan, disclosed last week but little publicized, would allow him to order the indefinite incarceration of U.S. citizens and summarily strip them of their constitutional rights and access to the courts by declaring them enemy combatants…. The camp plan was forged at an optimistic time for Ashcroft's small inner circle, which has been carefully watching two test cases to see whether this vision could become a reality. The cases of Jose Padilla and Yaser Esam Hamdi will determine whether U.S. citizens can be held without charges and subject to the arbitrary and unchecked authority of the government."
Hamdi's case went before the Supreme Court on June 28, 2004, and, as Justice O'Connor stated, "a state of war is not a blank check for the president when it comes to the rights of the nation's citizens." However, O'Connor has since retired, replaced by the Federalist Society reactionary, Samuel Alito, who will undoubtedly rule in favor of an imperial presidency in the not too distant future. On November 22, 2005, José Padilla was indicted on charges he "conspired to murder, kidnap and maim people overseas" after being held without charge since May 8, 2002, thus suspending the Constitution's Fifth and 14th Amendments ("due process of law") and Sixth Amendment (trial by "an impartial jury") for several years.
"It is clear that the Bush administration is thinking seriously about martial law," Peter Dale Scott wrote earlier this month, following a January announcement Halliburton subsidiary KBR had received the little-known $385 million contract from the Department of Homeland Security to build "temporary detention and processing capabilities." In the wake of nine eleven, "new martial law plans began to surface similar to those of FEMA in the 1980s," Scott explains. "In January 2002 the Pentagon submitted a proposal for deploying troops on American streets. One month later John Brinkerhoff, the author of the 1982 FEMA [continuity of government] memo, published an article arguing for the legality of using U.S. troops for purposes of domestic security" in violation of the Posse Comitatus Act.
"Many critics have alleged that FEMA's spectacular failure to respond to Katrina followed from a deliberate White House policy: of paring back FEMA, and instead strengthening the military for responses to disasters," Scott concludes. "A multimillion program for detention facilities will greatly increase NORTHCOM's [specifically tasked with domestic U.S. military operations] ability to respond to any domestic disorders," apparently including the "disorder" created by "fifth column movements," or people opposed to the invasion and occupation of Iraq and, soon enough, the invasion or at minimum "shock and awe" attack on the next target on the Straussian neocon roster, Iran. "Contrary to popular belief, there is no absolute ban on [military] intelligence components collecting U.S. person information," states a 2001 Defense Department memo that surfaced in January 2005. "MI [military intelligence] may receive information from anyone, anytime," Lt. Gen. Robert W. Noonan Jr., the deputy chief of staff for intelligence, wrote in the memo.
"Despite the Posse Comitatus Act's prohibitions against U.S. military personnel engaging in domestic law enforcement, the Pentagon has expanded its operations beyond previous boundaries, such as its role in domestic surveillance activities," writes Nat Parry. One such operation falls under the Pentagon's Counterintelligence Field Activity (or CIFA; see my CIFA: The Pentagon's COINTELPRO) "The White House is considering expanding the power of a little-known Pentagon agency called the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, which was created three years ago," noted the Washington Post last November. "The proposal, made by a presidential commission-to one that also has authority to investigate crimes within the United States such as treason, foreign or terrorist sabotage or even economic espionage," and more than likely "fifth column" behavior considered treason by at least one senator from South Carolina and no shortage of Straussian neocons, both in the White House and Pentagon.
As the NSA snoop program revealed, "investigating crimes" such as "treason" is not strictly for the likes of CIFA and the Pentagon. "This receipt of information presumably would include data from the National Security Agency, which has been engaging in surveillance of U.S. citizens without court-approved warrants in apparent violation of the Foreign Intelligence Security Act. Bush approved the program of warrantless wiretaps shortly after 9/11," Parry summarizes. "There also may be an even more extensive surveillance program. Former NSA employee Russell D. Tice told a congressional committee on Feb. 14 that such a top-secret surveillance program existed, but he said he couldn't discuss the details without breaking classification laws."
"Tice said he believes it violates the Constitution's protection against unlawful search and seizures but has no way of sharing the information without breaking classification laws," United Press International reported on February 14. "He is not even allowed to tell the congressional intelligence committees-members or their staff-because they lack high enough clearance." As an example to what whistleblowers can expect in the future, the UPI article concludes: "Tice was testifying because he was a National Security Agency intelligence officer who was stripped of his security clearance after he reported his suspicions that a former colleague at the Defense Intelligence Agency was a spy. The matter was dismissed by the DIA, but Tice pressed it later and was subsequently ordered to take a psychological examination, during which he was declared paranoid. He is now unemployed."
Horowitz's reactionary paranoia and mistrust of "communist" antiwar citizens and anti-Bush activists has infected the very highest reaches of the White House and Pentagon, where dissent is considered treason and the Bill of Rights viewed as an impediment to the Straussian neocon plan to destroy Muslim societies and culture. According to Horowitz, "this country was too tolerant toward the treason of its enemies within" and should not repeat the mistake of the Vietnam era, for which he shares partial responsibility. But as Newsweek noted on a sarcastic note, these "seem to be lonely days for the Birkenstock-and-beads set," and for good reason, although unmentioned by the likes of David Horowitz-because the vast majority of people opposed to the invasion and occupation of Iraq are wholly average, not especially radical and certainly not communist, middle class Americans. It is David Horowitz who lives in the past, not the antiwar "movement," which is in fact not even a movement as we understand it, taking the late 60s and early 70s as our yardstick.
Of course, the Straussian neocons running foreign policy and now the national security state out of the Bush White House, Pentagon, Justice and State Departments are not especially concerned with Horowitz's paranoid interior monologue as he chases "communist" ghosts from his antiwar and Black Panther past. Instead, as is the habit of all authoritarians and fascists, the Straussian neocons are simply interested in neutralizing and rendering ineffective any possible opposition-from Code Pink to legions of soccer moms-to their long-held master plan to decimate Islam and establish "American global military supremacy and to thwart the emergence of a rival superpower in Europe, Asia or the former Soviet Union," as spelled out in a 1992 "Defense Planning Guidance" memo crafted under then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, then the Pentagon's Under Secretary for policy, and subsequently adopted by the Project for the New American Century in 1997. In order to run "multiple wars" in "multiple theaters," there will need to be zero tolerance for dissent on the home front-and that is what the Ministry of Homeland Security, the NSA snoop program, and CIFA are all about.
In the months ahead, we will see if the Halliburton camps are little more than another stupendous waste of taxpayer money or if the Straussian neocons sincerely intend to populate them with domestic enemies after some "catalyzing event" such as yet another "new Pearl Harbor" designed to light a fire under Iran or other targets on the neocon hit list. If history serves, chances are the latter will come to pass, and with a vengeance, as even a cursory examination of the Straussian philosophy reveals these guys are playing hardball and their teachers consist of the antediluvian Constitution hater Leo Strauss, the master of deception Niccolò Machiavelli, the "overman" theorist Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, and Nazi jurist and "concept of the political" (belligerent totalitarianism) proponent Carl Schmitt. If you throw these together and mix in a bit of Thomas Hobbes ("war of all against all") you certainly have a recipe for not only a crisis of civilization, but nuclear Armageddon.
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Who "Them" are: You can't tell the players without a scorecard
by Herb Ruhs, MD
Feb. 20, 2006
I expect that all of us dissenters have had the unpleasant occasion to be challenged by some nitwit to specify exactly who we are referring to when we use the pronoun "them" or "they" in some accusatory way.
Peter Phillips, Bridget Thornton and Celeste Vogler, of Sacramento State University's Sociology Department have produced a wonderful academic study of just who exactly "they" are. It is entitled "The Global Dominance Group: 9/11 Pre-Warnings & Election Irregularities in Context," and it is available at the university's Project Censored web site as a pdf file.
A handy appendix, suitable for framing, lists the 236 individuals most involved in promoting the imperial ambitions of the US and its short list of allies. If we put four or five on each card we could make a special deck of playing cards to use for quick reference in the field.
This is not your usual left wing off-the-top-of-someone's-head BS. They describe their methods, provide an abundance of references (the references alone being worth the price of a download) and present supporting data in a very scientific manner. This is a joy to behold in a left political arena that seldom sees fit to do their homework much less describe the methods of arriving at their conclusions.
"We believe that by identifying the most important policy advocates and those corporate heads who have the most to gain from a global dominance policy that we can begin to establish the parameters of the individuals involved in the Global Dominance Group (GDG) among the HCPE [higher circle policy elites]. Knowing the general parameters of the GDG will provide an understanding of who had means, opportunity and motive to have initiated a post-9/11 acceleration of neo-conservative military expansion towards the goal of assuming full spectrum military dominance of the world. At the beginning of 2006 the Global Dominance Group's agenda is well established within higher circle policy councils and cunningly operationalized inside the US Government. They work hand in hand with defense contractors promoting deployment of US forces in over 700 bases worldwide."Eisenhower warned us about these people, but this is not your fathers "military-industrial complex." Eisenhower's complex has been allowed to morph, unmolested over the decades, into a world shattering cabal. Peter and his friends lay out in their paper the visible dimensions of this cabal. There are undoubtedly many more secretive members, such as the leaders of organized crime families and religious groups, but these people are the identifiable agents of the program to destroy our world.
Peter, et al, conclude with a blunt warning:
"Without broad social movements and citizen unrest that threatens the stability of HCPE's socio-economic agendas and corporate profits there will be little if any serious challenge to the GDG."So, be the first one on your block to have an official "enemies of earth" list. Maybe you can persuade grandma to sell off her stock in some of the war profiteering companies listed along with the names in this study. Or maybe think of something even better to do.
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By Gordon Prather02/18/06
Gholamali Haddadadel, "speaker" of Iran's Parliament – in Cuba last week –dismissed the possibility of a U.S. pre-emptive attack against Iran, finding it "impossible" to 'believe" that the U.S. would want "to repeat the experience of Iraq."
"We hope the United States is not so stupid," he said.
Presumably, Haddadadel meant to say, "We hope that President Bush, his vice president, his secretary of state and his ambassador to the United Nations are not so stupid."
Now, some or all of the above may be stupid. But their stupidity is not what Haddadadel and the rest of the world need to concern themselves with.
It's their sanity.
As well as the sanity of a majority of members of Congress.
Up until the eve of Bush's pre-emptive invasion of oil-rich Iran's Islamic neighbor – oil-rich Iraq – Bush et al. repeatedly stressed that "we" wanted to settle – through "diplomatic means, if at all possible" – the international "crisis" triggered by revelations by "Slam-Dunk" Tenet that Iraq had reconstructed its nuclear weapons program.
But, by March 2003, on-the-ground inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency knew – and so reported to the U.N. Security Council – that there was no "indication" whatsoever of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq.
Moreover, polls show that the majority of Americans now know what Tony Blair knew four years ago. Bush was determined to depose Saddam Hussein no matter what the IAEA inspectors found or didn't find.
Well, most Americans are still puzzled about "why."
But, most Americans now realize that Bush lied to them – that he didn't pre-emptively attack Iraq because he believed Saddam had nukes he planned to give to terrorists.
Of course, congressional leaders knew that all along.
And most members of Congress should have at least suspected when they voted overwhelmingly for the Authorization to Use Military Force Against Iraq that the presumption was false that:
Iraq both poses a continuing threat to the national security of the United States and international peace and security in the Persian Gulf region and remains in material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations by, among other things, continuing to possess and develop a significant chemical and biological weapons capability, actively seeking a nuclear weapons capability, and supporting and harboring terrorist organizations.
So, how to explain the adoption this week – by a vote of 404-4 – of House Concurrent Resolution 341 "condemning the government of Iran for violating its international nuclear nonproliferation obligations and expressing support for efforts to report Iran to the United Nations Security Council."
In particular, what "violations" are they talking about?
Whereas Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated, "It is obvious that if Iran cannot be brought to live up to its international obligations, in fact, the IAEA Statute would indicate that Iran would have to be referred to the U.N. Security Council."
OK, what "international obligations" is Condi talking about?
Well, it's not clear. But, Condi does refer to the IAEA Statute. So, the House assumes she must be referring to the safeguards agreement that Iran concluded with the IAEA way back in 1973.
Whereas on Feb. 4, 2006, the IAEA Board of Governors reported Iran's noncompliance with its IAEA safeguards obligations to the Security Council …
But, the House is mistaken. The IAEA Board didn't report any such thing. In fact, the Board didn't "report" anything.
Rather, the IAEA Board "requested" that Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei "report" to the Security Council the absolutely outrageous and discriminatory demands that the Board had made on several occasions, calling on Iran to – among other things – implement "transparency measures" which "extend beyond the formal requirements of the Safeguards Agreement and Additional Protocol, and include such access to individuals, documentation relating to procurement, dual-use equipment, certain military-owned workshops, and research and development as the Agency may request in support of its ongoing investigations."
As of this writing, ElBaradei has made no such report and is unlikely to do so before late March. By then, of course, Bush will probably have already launched a pre-emptive attack against Iran.
What will be his authority?
[Congress] calls on all members of the United Nations Security Council … to expeditiously consider and take action in response to any report of Iran's noncompliance in fulfillment of the mandate of the Security Council to respond to and deal with situations bearing on the maintenance of international peace and security.
What Security Council mandate is Congress talking about?
Apparently the same one Bush didn't have when he 'took action' against Iraq.
Physicist James Gordon Prather has served as a policy implementing official for national security-related technical matters in the Federal Energy Agency, the Energy Research and Development Administration, the Department of Energy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Department of the Army. Dr. Prather also served as legislative assistant for national security affairs to U.S. Sen. Henry Bellmon, R-Okla. -- ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Energy Committee and Appropriations Committee. Dr. Prather had earlier worked as a nuclear weapons physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and Sandia National Laboratory in New Mexico.
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Russia's Putin is optimistic after talks with Iran
Wed Feb 22, 2006 6:08 AM ET7
BAKU - President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday Russia was counting on being able to reach a positive result over the Iranian nuclear issue.
"The negotiations are not easy but we are counting on reaching a positive result," Putin said in the Azerbaijan capital Baku. "We are not losing optimism."
Iranian and Russian officials held two days of talks in Moscow this week on a Russian proposal to enrich uranium for Iran, seen as a way of ensuring Tehran cannot divert nuclear fuel into bomb making.
Tehran has said it will consider a joint venture with Russia, and possibly others, to enrich uranium for power stations. But it reserves the right to pursue enrichment at home as well.
"The proposed Russian variant of resolving this question, by creating a joint venture to enrich uranium on Russian territory, is fully acceptable and can be used as an instrument to solve this problem," Putin said.
In Tehran, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani described the negotiations with Russia as constructive and positive and said they would continue in Iran later this week.
"The Russian proposal is the kind of proposal that could be completed in the future ... We hope this proposal develops the capacity to solve Iran's nuclear case," the official IRNA news agency quoted him as saying.
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Iran was not referred to the Security Council for Noncompliance
By Mike Whitney
How powerful is the corporate information-system we call the mainstream media?
Is it powerful enough, for example, to mislead the public into believing that Iran has been "referred" to the United Nations Security Council for violations to the NPT, thus paving the way for another war on the back of false information?
The IAEA DID NOT report on Iran's "noncompliance" to the Security Council, because there is no evidence that Iran has done anything wrong. In fact, as nuclear physicist Gordon Prather points out in his recent article, "March Madness", "THE BOARD DIDN'T REPORT ANYTHING."
Then why does the media keep insisting that Iran is being called before the Security Council for noncompliance?
Could it be that the media is simply executing an agenda that is deliberately designed to deceive?
There was no "referral" and there will be no "punitive action" because there are no violations. "Rather", as Prather ads, "the IAEA Board 'REQUESTED' that Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei report to the Security Council"…"calling on Iran to-among other things-implement 'transparency measures'".
These "transparency measures" have nothing to do with Iran's obligations under the NPT. They are additional demands made at the behest of the Bush administration (through strong-arm tactics with nations on the IAEA Board) that will force Iran to provide access to "individuals, documentation relating to procurement, dual-use equipment, certain military owned workshops, and research and development as the Agency may request in support of its ongoing investigations".
What does this mean?
It means that the Bush administration, which has already demonstrated its hostile intentions towards Iran, will be able to operate secretly behind its surrogates in the IAEA to locate all of Iran's conventional weapons sites, radar facilities, and military installations so they can easily destroy Iran's defensive capability when the inevitable attack is launched.
Isn't this the same trap that Saddam fell into?
So, why is the IAEA facilitating another war by placating the Bush administration instead of condemning its obvious belligerence?
The IAEA members are well-aware of the propaganda that is currently circulating in the wire-services and newspapers. Why are they playing along?
Do they really believe that war can be averted by capitulation to the superpower?
Iran has not violated the NPT, does not have a nuclear weapons program, and poses no threat to its neighbors or the United States. Never the less, the spurious accusations in the media have precipitated a dramatic shift in public opinion. For more than a decade only 6% of the American people considered Iran the "greatest danger" to the United States. Now (according to a recent Pew Poll) that number has jumped to 27%. Also, the survey showed that "nearly half (47%) said they favored military action, preferably along with European allies, to halt Iran's nuclear program." (Jim Lobe, "Polls: anti-Iran Propaganda Working")
"Military action"? Even while the US is bogged down in an unwinnable war in Iraq?
Can anyone seriously doubt the shocking power of propaganda after seeing these polling results?
The public should not be worried about Iran, rather, it should be concerned about the implications of allowing one nation to arbitrarily repeal internationally-accepted treaties and dictate how the world will be run.
Iran has an "inalienable right" to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes under the terms of its treaty agreement. It should reject the attempt to overturn its legally-binding contract, just to appease its enemies in Washington.
Iran is not a pariah or a rogue-nation. It should fight to be treated equally and with justice.
The United States has steadfastly refused to provide Iran with any security-guarantees that it will not attack if so chooses. In fact, Iran was originally duped into negotiating with the EU-3 (Germany, France, England) because it believed that the talks might deliver a non-aggression pact between themselves and the Bush administration. The administration, however, does not believe in treaties and will not "lower itself" to sign agreements with those it feels are its inferiors.
There is nothing Iran can do to forestall the approaching war. The Washington warlords believe they are entitled to the vast oil wealth of the Caspian Basin and will not be deterred by the facts. Iran would be better off ignoring the ineffectual maneuverings of the feckless United Nations, and preparing itself for the struggle ahead.
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Now running for office: an army of Iraq war vets
By Linda Feldmann | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
WASHINGTON – They call themselves the Band of Brothers, about 50 men - and a few women - all Democrats, all opposed to the Bush administration's handling of Iraq, and all military veterans.
One more thing: They're all running for Congress this year.
Not since 1946 have so many vets from one party come together in a political campaign, they claim. Their wildest dream is to give the Democratic Party the extra edge it needs - by boosting its weak image on defense and patriotism - to end Republican control of the House.
They also know it's a long shot: Many are running against incumbents in safe Republican districts. Many also face competitive primaries against Democratic opponents with more political experience and access to money.
Among the Democratic vet candidates, 10 have served in either Afghanistan or the current Iraq war, or both. Only one - Maj. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, who is competing for the seat of retiring Republican Henry Hyde - was recruited by the national Democratic Party. Political handicappers give her the best shot at making it to Washington of all the Democratic vets running. Handicappers also mention Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania - an Iraq vet trying to unseat a first-term Republican, Mike Fitzpatrick, in a Democratic-leaning district - as having potential, though fundraising has been slow.
The only other Democratic Iraq war vet with a national political profile, Paul Hackett of Ohio, dropped out of his US Senate race Feb. 14 under pressure from party leaders. They wanted to avoid a costly primary and instead steered Mr. Hackett back to a second try at the House seat he almost won last year. His surprise near-victory in a special election for a presumed safe Republican seat earned him national notice - and may have inspired other Democratic war vets to jump into politics.
Mike Lyon, who launched the Band of Brothers political action committee in December, has found the going tough. He's raised only $40,000 so far.
"If resources continue to flow the same way, not many [will win] - I'm being frank," says Mr. Lyon, who is based in Richmond, Va. "But if we can go out and build awareness about their campaigns and provide resources to level the playing field for the November general [election], then I think a lot of these guys will be competitive. We're still getting the lay of the land."
Analysts agree that the novice candidates have their work cut out for them. They have to develop a full congressional agenda, campaigning ability, and networking skills that show they're ready for prime time. Being a Johnny-one-note against the war isn't enough, say political observers.
"They're running for Congress, not commander in chief," says Amy Walter, a specialist in House races for the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. "Obviously, Iraq's an important issue, but at the same time, they need be able to talk about healthcare, the economy, gas prices."
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which recruits and helps candidates the party believes can win, has not made a special effort to recruit Iraq war vets, says spokeswoman Sarah Feinberg. "What we have done is to recruit the best possible candidate in every district," she says.
But as the election year unfolds - including Republican-dominated scandals and low presidential popularity - analysts don't rule out the potential for a national wave that could make some usually safe seats competitive. GOP control of the House remains slim, with 230 Republicans, 202 Democrats, 1 independent, and two vacancies.
"The Democrats' best chance of winning a majority is to expand the playing field beyond the three dozen or so [seats] that have been in play in recent years," says Rhodes Cook, an independent political analyst. Candidates with the Iraq credential could end up being "a twofer for the Democrats. Not only do they have the goodwill of the recent Iraq war vet, but [they] also help offset a party weakness, which is being kind of light on defense."
The Republicans have one Iraq war vet running for Congress, Van Taylor of Texas, who is trying to knock off Rep. Chet Edwards (D). Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican Campaign Committee, says 38 Republicans with military experience are running for Congress. When asked if any of the Democratic vets pose a threat to any Republicans, his answer is simple: "Zero."
Still, "being a vet is a good résumé item to have," says Mr. Forti. "It brings a certain level of approval."
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Pentagon papers offer insight into al-Qa'eda's hidden world of terror
By Anton La Guardia
It could be any employment contract setting out salary, paid holidays, home leave and grievance procedures - except in this case the employer is al-Qa'eda and the recruit's job is "carrying out jihad".
By signing the contract, the recruit commits himself to al-Qa'eda's objectives: "Support God's religion, establishment of Islamic rule, and restoration of the Islamic Caliphate, God willing."
An al-Qa'eda "mujahed brother" is paid a monthly wage of 1,000 Pakistani rupees (about £10 at current rates) if a bachelor, 6,500 rupees (£65) if married, with an additional 500 rupees (£5) for every child. Air fares for home leave are paid for by the firm. Tickets cannot be cashed in but are transferable for performing the Haj pilgrimage.
The contract is one of thousands of documents captured by US forces, mostly in Afghanistan and Iraq during the past four years of the "global war on terror", and stored on a Pentagon database known as Harmony.
An initial sample of 28 have been declassified and published by the Combating Terrorism Centre (CTC), part of the US Military Academy at West Point, with the promise of many more to come.
They provide a fascinating glimpse into the workings of Osama bin Laden's organisation. For example, according to the CTC, the material "provides several tools for identifying and exacerbating existing fissures" within al-Qa'eda.
The declassified Harmony papers include documents that set out the internal structure of al-Qa'eda and illuminate disputes over tactics. They also analyse past failures such as the crushing of an Islamist uprising in Syria in 1982, speculate on new regions for jihad and discuss the use of the internet.
Many were clearly written before the September 2001 attacks and the fall of the Taliban. However, some reveal dismay over the loss of al-Qa'eda's bastion in Afghanistan.
One hitherto unknown writer, Abdel-Halim Adl, wrote to a man identified only as "Mukhtar" in June 2002 complaining of Osama bin Laden's stubbornness and "the capture of a large number of brothers". He said: "We will become the laughing stock of the world."
He urges al-Qa'eda to "stop rushing into action and take time out to consider all the fatal and successive disasters that have afflicted us during a period of no more than six months". All too often little is known about the documents - such as when they were written, who read them and how they were obtained.
Nevertheless, West Point academics argue that they add significantly to the body of knowledge about al-Qa'eda. "The overwhelming majority of the documents, to the best of our knowledge, have not been publicly available," said Jarret Brachman, the CTC director of research.
The Harmony database is also the subject of dispute in Congress over demands that tape recordings of Saddam Hussein be fully released.
The most striking Harmony documents so far are those that reveal al-Qa'eda's personnel policies. The "employment contract" lists many requirements of recruits: obedience, secrecy, avoiding all links to other groups, being physically healthy, having integrity on matters of religion and morality and reciting the pledge to al-Qa'eda. This includes: "I pledge by God's creed to become a Muslim soldier to support God's religion, and may God's word be the most supreme."
The contract is of unknown origin but matches a draft of al-Qa'eda "by-laws".
This stipulates extra pay of 700 rupees a month for each additional wife as well as 20,000 rupees for married members to buy furniture, free health care and rehabilitation for the disabled.
The by-laws describe al-Qa'eda's organisation, headed by an "emir" and a "command council", which in turn oversee an "external relations branch" and "executive council", a military committee", a "security committee" and a "political committee".
Similar documents state that the military committee has a special "nuclear weapons" section, but there are no further details on this.
The job descriptions and qualities of al-Qa'eda members are set out in detail.
To qualify as "emir", the leader (presumably bin Laden) should not be "too anxious to be an emir", must have "adequate knowledge to qualify him to carry out the responsibilities" and must have "comprehension of jihad".
The chairman of the military committee must be, among other things, older than 40 and "a university graduate, preferably from a military academy". The head of the personal guards "must not be one from one of the Gulf countries or from Yemen", perhaps reflecting a fear of penetration by intelligence services.
One bundle of documents includes a long series of questions submitted by recruits to bin Laden, usually referred to as Sheikh Abu Abdallah. They range from appeals for news about jihadi action to requests for religious rulings.
It is unclear how much of this formal structure reflects the reality of al-Qa'eda in its heyday and whether any of it has survived the dispersal from Afghanistan.
If al-Qa'eda was once regarded by western intelligence agencies as a "holding company" for Islamic extremist groups, the leadership hiding along the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan
is now seen merely as a "franchise". The "core" al-Qa'eda no longer directs operations, but splinters, associates and newly-formed groups adopt the "brand".
Al-Qa'eda, meaning "The Base", has recreated its home in cyberspace, from where propagandists motivate recruits and commanders share tactics.
Mr Brachman said he "strongly" believed that some extremist groups, such as al-Qa'eda's branch in Saudi Arabia or Jemaah Islamiya in south-east Asia, still used formal contracts.
Al-Qa'eda's attention to publicity and the potential of the internet are apparent from an early date.
A memo to bin Laden penned by "Abu Huthayfa" in Kandahar in June 2000 stresses the importance of a better propaganda effort. He praises bin Laden as a "star", but complains that al-Qa'eda suffers from "a political vacuum".
He bemoans the lack of information about al-Qa'eda's role in driving the US out of Somalia, the failure to launch the "World Islamic Front against the Jews and Crusaders" and ignorance as to who was behind the 1998 bombing of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
He says al-Qa'eda should copy the tactics of Hamas in recording a video testament before suicide bombings.
Abu Huthayfa highlights a recurring obsession of the jihadi movement: its failure to win popular support and overthrow any Arab regime.
He notes the "failure of the experiment" in holy war in Libya.
Failure is the central theme of Abu Musab al-Suri, the nom-de-guerre of Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, particularly his detailed analysis of the Islamist uprising in Syria that was crushed by the late Hafez al-Assad in 1982.
This document has been seen on the internet, but CTC researchers say its importance has been underestimated.
They use it to recommend a series of counter-measures, from planting disinformation on the internet to supporting al-Qa'eda's ideological rivals.
Al-Suri, who has Spanish citizenship, is reported to have been arrested in Pakistan last November. He was accused of running a training camp in Afghanistan, experimenting with chemical weapons and setting up sleeper cells in Europe.
The Syrian uprising that he describes was crushed when the Ba'athist regime in Damascus levelled parts of the town of Hama in 1982, killing thousands.
But al-Suri identifies many crippling problems, including: leaders engaged in political infighting rather than the jihad; lack of Islamic instruction for fighters; and dependence on outside financing.
"Despite the heroic acts of the mujahideen they failed miserably," he writes. "Their only accomplishment was to prove their readiness for martyrdom."
The challenge for the US, Britain and its allies is to use al-Qa'eda's own documents to ensure the current generation of jihadis also fails.
Comment: The only insight this phony paper, that was drafted by Pentagon employees, offers is an insight into how pathetic and desperate the architects of the "war on terror" have become. We really had a good laugh at this one.
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Reading a Book = Terrorist Threat
By Kathy McCabe
February 16, 2006
US rocker and writer Henry Rollins was reported to the National Security hotline during his recent Australian tour because of a book he was reading on flight to Brisbane.
A furious Rollins was informed he was "nominated as a possible threat" for reading Jihad: The Rise Of Militant Islam In Central Asia.
The incident happened on a flight from Auckland on the recent Big Day Out tour.
Rollins told Australian fans during his tour that he received a letter from a "nice woman" who worked "in one of those government areas that deals with anti-terrorism matters."
He posted the letter on his website.
"Please tell your Government and everyone in your office to go f... themselves. Baghdad's safer than my hometown and your PM is a sissy," he wrote.
Comment: Does anyone need any further proof of just how ridiculous the world has become since 9/11 and just how farcical the war on terror really is? Didn't think so. Of course, there is also the fact that calling someone a terrorist for reading a book in Militant Islam evokes memories of Nazi Germany.
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Ohio Men Accused of Plot to Kill Troops in Iraq
By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 22, 2006; Page A03
The Justice Department accused three Ohio men yesterday of plotting to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq, allegedly by seeking to set up a Middle Eastern terrorism camp where insurgents would be trained and equipped.
One of the men was also charged with threatening to kill or hurt President Bush. It is not clear, however, how close the trio came to carrying out any of their alleged plans or whether they intended to fight in Iraq themselves.
Even so, the case appears to be the first time that suspects on U.S. soil, rather than in Europe or the Middle East, have been charged with attempting to directly aid the insurgency in Iraq.
The men are accused of spending more than a year downloading militant videos, taking weapons training, and trying to acquire or build explosives. They could face life in prison if convicted of the most serious charge, conspiracy to kill Americans abroad. They are also charged with providing material support to terrorists.
The defendants are Mohammad Zaki Amawi, 26, a citizen of the United States and Jordan; Marwan Othman el-Hindi, 42, of Toledo, a U.S. citizen; and Wassim I. Mazloum, 24, of Toledo, a permanent legal resident who co-owns a Toledo auto dealership with his brother. In addition to the terrorism counts, Amawi is also charged with twice making verbal threats against Bush, court documents show.
The three were indicted last week, but the document was not unsealed until yesterday. They were arrested over the weekend and pleaded not guilty yesterday in federal courts in Cleveland and Toledo, according to the Associated Press. Attempts to reach their attorneys were unsuccessful.
The indictment and prosecutors allege that the three men discussed how to build and use improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, which have emerged as the biggest threat to U.S. troops battling the insurgency in Iraq. Amawi explicitly stated that he hoped to target the U.S. military with IEDs, according to the government.
"We cannot wait until an attack happens," Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales said yesterday at a Washington news conference. "We will continue to use our criminal laws as Congress intended, to charge individuals once they conspire to provide support to terrorism or conspire to kill abroad."
Gonzales did not answer directly when asked whether the government's controversial warrantless surveillance program was used in the case.
While Europe has become a major staging ground for radical extremists seeking to join the fight in Iraq, such cases are almost nonexistent in the United States. The U.S. military in Baghdad has detained one U.S.-Jordanian citizen, Shawqi Omar, who is suspected of being a senior associate of insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert who heads Rand Corp.'s Washington office, said the Iraq war is the primary focus of Islamic militants, who aggressively use the Internet, e-mail and cell phones to build a global movement.
"People are swimming in these currents, so it's not surprising that some might get swept along in thinking that they should join this fight," he said.
The case joins a growing list of high-profile prosecutions since Sept. 11, 2001, of people living in the United States charged with working to aid terrorists, here or abroad. Some cases, including several in Northern Virginia, yielded convictions and long prison terms, but others produced acquittals or fell apart because of prosecutorial misconduct or other problems.
The case bears similarities to the successful prosecution in 2003 of six people in Portland, Ore., for attempting to help the Taliban fight U.S. forces in Afghanistan. At yesterday's news conference, FBI Deputy Director John Pistole also compared the case to prosecutions of alleged terrorism suspects in New York and California.
"These individuals are often hiding in plain sight in cities like Lackawanna, Lodi, Torrance and now Toledo," he said.
The 13-page indictment alleges that the Toledo suspects recruited others as early as November 2004 to train for holy war against the United States and its allies in Iraq, and that they engaged in activities such as downloading militant videos and attempting to secure chemical explosives.
In one instance, Hindi is accused of trying to persuade a person with "U.S. military background" -- identified only as "the trainer" in court papers -- to help establish a terrorism training center in the Middle East. The trainer apparently posed as a security expert who was helping the suspects learn about weapons and explosives and even traveled to Jordan with Amawi.
U.S. Attorney Gregory White of Cleveland told reporters that the trainer was "not the only source" of information that led to the indictment. Other officials said the trainer worked with the government from the beginning of the case.
At one point, the trainer allegedly talked with Amawi and Mazloum about setting off practice explosives on July 4, 2005, so the bombs would not be noticed; the indictment does not indicate whether the men followed through. The three suspects practiced target shooting and discussed explosives with the trainer, the indictment says. Mazloum also talked about using his Toledo auto business as cover for traveling in and out of Iraq, according to the charges. Amawi is also accused of twice threatening to kill or injure Bush, but no details are provided about the alleged conversations.
Corporate records in Illinois from 1997 show that Hindi has a connection to another man convicted of conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions against Iraq -- Rafil Dhafir, an Iraqi-born physician in Syracuse, N.Y., who was sentenced to 22 years in prison. Hindi is listed as the registered agent and manager of Royal International LLC of Oak Lawn, Ill., and Dhafir and his wife were listed as members of the travel agency's board.
A law enforcement official said there is no known connection between Dhafir and the Toledo case. Dhafir's attorney was not available to comment. A person who answered Hindi's home telephone in Toledo would not comment.
Gonzales said the investigation was separate from, but coordinated with, a probe of KindHearts, a Toledo-based charity whose assets were frozen on Sunday by the Treasury Department for connections to other charities linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic Resistance Movement, known as Hamas. The indictment alleges that the suspects considered creating a false nonprofit organization to raise money for terrorism.
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Justices May Hear Detainee's Appeal
By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 22, 2006; Page A06
The Supreme Court refused yesterday to dismiss a case that challenges the legality of military trials for terrorism suspects, declining to immediately accept the Bush administration's argument that a new law has stripped the court of its ability to consider the matter.
The justices instead decided to consider whether they have the authority to hear an appeal by Salim Ahmed Hamdan, the alleged driver and bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, at the same time that they hear oral arguments about the constitutionality of the "military commission" trial that Hamdan is slated to face. Those arguments are scheduled for March 28.
Bush administration lawyers filed a brief last month asking the justices to throw out Hamdan's case after Congress passed legislation that strictly limits the access that detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have to U.S. federal courts. The government argued that the measure, written by Sens. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) and Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.) and signed into law, immediately ended federal court jurisdiction over detainees' legal efforts, and the Justice Department quickly filed dismissal requests in cases involving hundreds of detainees who were challenging their detentions and the conditions under which they are held.
Graham and Levin disagreed on the meaning of the law after it was enacted. Graham said the courts should decide whether they could continue to hear previously filed complaints, but Levin said the law was meant to apply only to cases filed after it was enacted. The statute allows a detainee to appeal to federal courts only to challenge a determination that he is an "enemy combatant" or to appeal a military trial verdict.
Neal Katyal, a Georgetown University law professor who represents Hamdan, said he does not think the law applies to his client.
"We think Congress meant what it said in the act and exempted this very case, which challenges not conditions of his detention or access to DVDs, but challenges the most fundamental question of all: Is this tribunal legal?" Katyal said.
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Bush faces split with key allies over UAE port deal
Wed Feb 22, 4:54 AM ET
WASHINGTON - US President George W. Bush faced a split with key congressional allies after he backed a deal that will put an Arab company in charge of operations at six major US ports and threatened to veto congressional measure threatening it.
[...] Unless US lawmakers prevent it, Dubai Ports World's acquisition of the British firm which currently manages the ports is to be finalized on March 2.
Ports affected by the deal are in New York; Miami; New Jersey; Baltimore, Maryland; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. [...]
Answering questions about the risks entailed by allowing US ports to be managed by a Middle Eastern company, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld praised the United Arab Emirates as a reliable ally in the war on terror, "a very, very solid partner in our workings in the Gulf."
But Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey said he believed the Senate would be able to muster the 67 votes needed to override a Bush veto.
The administration's endorsement of the UAE deal put it at odds with a nearly unified bloc of Democratic and Republican lawmakers, who held a succession of press conferences and statements Tuesday condemning the deal. Many criticized what they describe as the UAE's spotty record on combating terror.
Even erstwhile staunch Bush allies complained that the administration did not consult with lawmakers before allowing the sale to proceed.
"This White House did nothing to communicate with Congress about this deal," Republican Representative Curt Weldon (news, bio, voting record) told CNN television on Tuesday. "We're not going to allow this to happen." [...]
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a staunch Republican, said the contract raised "serious questions regarding the safety and security of our homeland."
"The decision to finalize this deal should be put on hold until the administration conducts a more extensive review," Frist said in a statement, adding that the deal could have "a major impact on America's security."
And the most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives, Dennis Hastert, wrote to the White House calling for an "immediate moratorium" delaying the contract.
The US business community also has joined the debate: the Miami, Florida-based Continental Stevedoring and Terminals Inc. -- an affiliate of P and O -- complained in a court filing that the takeover would force it to become an "involuntary partner" with Dubai's government and "may endanger the national security of the United States."
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Bush Shrugs Off Objections to Port Deal
By TED BRIDIS
Feb 21, 11:20 PM (ET)
WASHINGTON - Brushing aside objections from Republicans and Democrats alike, President Bush endorsed the takeover of shipping operations at six major U.S. seaports by a state-owned business in the United Arab Emirates. He pledged to veto any bill Congress might approve to block the agreement.
The president on Tuesday defended his administration's earlier approval of the sale of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. to Dubai Ports World, despite concerns in Congress it could increase the possibility of terrorism at American ports.
The sale - expected to be finalized in early March - would put Dubai Ports in charge of major shipping operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia. "If there was any chance that this transaction would jeopardize the security of the United States, it would not go forward," Bush said.
"It sends a terrible signal to friends around the world that it's OK for a company from one country to manage the port, but not a country that plays by the rules and has got a good track record from another part of the world," Bush said.
To assuage concerns, the administration disclosed some assurances it had negotiated with Dubai Ports. It required mandatory participation in U.S. security programs to stop smuggling and detect illegal shipments of nuclear materials; roughly 33 other port companies participate in these voluntarily. The Coast Guard also said Tuesday it was nearly finished inspecting Dubai Ports' facilities in the United States.
A senior Homeland Security official, Stewart Baker, said this was the first-ever sale involving U.S. port operations to a state-owned company. "In that sense this is a new layer of controls," he said. Baker added that U.S. intelligence agencies were consulted "very early on to actually look at vulnerabilities and threats."
Bush sought to quiet a political storm that has united Republican governors and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee with liberal Democrats, including New York's two senators, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Charles Schumer.
Frist said Tuesday, before Bush's comments, that he would introduce legislation to put the sale on hold if the White House did not delay the takeover. He said the deal raised "serious questions regarding the safety and security of our homeland.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., asked the president for a moratorium on the sale until it could be studied further. "We must not allow the possibility of compromising our national security due to lack of review or oversight by the federal government," Hastert said.
Maryland's Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich, during a tour of Baltimore's port on Tuesday, called the deal an "overly secretive process at the federal level."
Bush took the rare step of calling reporters to his conference room on Air Force One after returning from a speech in Colorado. He also stopped to talk before television cameras after he returned to the White House.
"I can understand why some in Congress have raised questions about whether or not our country will be less secure as a result of this transaction," the president said. "But they need to know that our government has looked at this issue and looked at it carefully."
A senior executive from Dubai Ports World pledged the company would agree to whatever security precautions the U.S. government demanded to salvage the deal. Chief operating officer Edward "Ted" H. Bilkey promised Dubai Ports "will fully cooperate in putting into place whatever is necessary to protect the terminals."
Bilkey traveled to Washington in an effort to defuse the growing controversy.
Bush said that protesting lawmakers should understand his approval of the deal was final.
"They ought to listen to what I have to say about this," the president said. "They'll look at the facts and understand the consequences of what they're going to do. But if they pass a law, I'll deal with it with a veto."
Bush, who has never vetoed a bill as president, said on the White House South Lawn, "This is a company that has played by the rules, has been cooperative with the United States, from a country that's an ally on the war on terror, and it would send a terrible signal to friends and allies not to let this transaction go through."
Lawmakers from both parties have noted that some of the Sept. 11 hijackers used the United Arab Emirates as an operational and financial base. In addition, critics contend the UAE was an important transfer point for shipments of smuggled nuclear components sent to Iran, North Korea and Libya by a Pakistani scientist.
They say a port operator complicit in smuggling or terrorism could manipulate manifests and other records to frustrate Homeland Security's already limited scrutiny of shipping containers and slip contraband past U.S. Customs inspectors.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., and Democrat Schumer said Tuesday they will introduce emergency legislation to suspend the ports deal. King, chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said the government "cannot consider approving this contract until a much more thorough investigation takes place on this security matter."
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Rep. Jane Harman, D-Calif., said they would introduce a "joint resolution of disapproval" when they returned to Washington next week. Collins heads the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Harman is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
Bush's veto threat didn't stop local efforts to block the deal. New Jersey's governor, Jon S. Corzine, said Tuesday the state will file lawsuits in federal and state courts opposing the agreement. Corzine, a Democrat, cited a "deep, deep feeling that this is the wrong direction for our nation to take."
A company at the Port of Miami, a subsidiary of Eller & Company Inc., sued last week to block the deal in a Florida state court. It said that under the sale, it will become an "involuntary partner" with Dubai's government and it may seek more than $10 million in damages.
Frist said Congress should have veto authority over such foreign sales, which are reviewed by a secretive U.S. panel that considers security risks of foreign companies buying or investing in American industry. The panel includes representatives from the departments of Treasury, Defense, Justice, Commerce, State and Homeland Security.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld described the United Arab Emirates as a close ally. "It's a country that's been involved in the global war on terror with us," Rumsfeld said. He added that the United States and the UAE "have very close military-to-miltary relations, as well as political and economic relations."
Separately, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said port security would not be threatened. "This is not a question about port security," Gonzales said. "This is a question about port operation."
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Arab Americans see bigotry behind ports uproar
By Alan Elsner
Tue Feb 21, 2006 3:14 PM ET
WASHINGTON - Arab-Americans contended on Tuesday that bias and bigotry, not security concerns, lay behind the uproar over a deal that would place commercial operations at six U.S. ports in the hands of an Arab company.
The furor centers around the $6.8 billion acquisition by Dubai Ports World, owned by one of the United Arab Emirates, of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. P&O had been running operations at shipping terminals in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami, and Philadelphia.
Citing what they say are fears of lax security, politicians from both parties called on President George W. Bush to cancel the deal and several began drafting legislation to block it. The issue was also increasingly being aired on conservative talk radio stations and in Internet blogs.
"I find some of the rhetoric being used against this deal shameful and irresponsible. There is bigotry coming out here," said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute.
He said politicians were exploiting fears left over from September 11 to gain advantage in a congressional election year.
"Bush is vulnerable so the Democrats jump on it. The Republicans feel vulnerable so they jump on it. The slogan is, if it's Arab, it's bad. Hammer away," Zogby said.
According to some industry analysts, the change in management would have no real effect on security, which would still be carried out by American workers to international standards. The UAE, whose government owns Dubai Ports World, is an international financial hub and close U.S. ally.
"The Emirates have been very pro-active partners in helping our security. They have a solid track record of cooperation," said Peter Tirschwell, publisher of the Journal of Commerce.
Rabiah Ahmed of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said members of her organization also believed anti-Arab bigotry was driving the debate.
"The perception in the Arab-American community is that this is related to anti-Arab sentiment," she said.
Despite the UAE's close ties to the United States, some critics say lax controls allowed some of the September 11 hijackers to exploit its banking sector to transfer funds to support the attacks. Others have suggested its commercial links with Iran are a cause for worry.
"It is obviously an emotional, political and security issue, but I don't see xenophobia involved in this," said Peter Brookes of the conservative Heritage Foundation.
The opposition was reminiscent of a similar controversy last year when China National Offshore Oil Company Ltd. tried to purchase Unocal, a U.S. oil services company. The Chinese company ultimately withdrew its offer in the face of fierce political opposition.
South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham said Americans were not against foreign acquisitions as such but were suspicious when they involved security infrastructure.
"Americans right now want free trade, but when it comes to national security issues, we want to maintain the infrastructure ourselves," he told Fox News Sunday.
"I don't think now is the time to outsource major port security to a foreign-based company," he said.
Daniel Griswold of the libertarian Cato Institute said opposition to the Emirates acquisition had more merit than the opposition to the Chinese energy bid.
"Here, there are legitimate questions of port security. Experts have long warned us that U.S. ports could be an entry point for weapons of mass destruction and we can only search one container in every 20 that come in," he said.
But Griswold conceded anti-Arab feelings were also playing a role. "It's obviously part of the mix and there's also some misunderstanding and a lot of political grandstanding going on," he said.
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U.S. Concedes to Force-Feeding Detainees
By ERIC SCHMITT and TIM GOLDEN
Published: February 22, 2006
WASHINGTON, Feb. 21 - The military commander responsible for the American detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, confirmed Tuesday that officials there last month turned to more aggressive methods to deter prisoners who were carrying out long-term hunger strikes to protest their incarceration.
The commander, Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, head of the United States Southern Command, said soldiers at Guantánamo began strapping some of the detainees into "restraint chairs" to force-feed them and isolate them from one another after finding that some were deliberately vomiting or siphoning out the liquid they had been fed.
"It was causing problems because some of these hard-core guys were getting worse," General Craddock said at a breakfast meeting with reporters. Explaining the use of the restraint chairs, he added, "The way around that is you have to make sure that purging doesn't happen."
After The New York Times reported Feb. 9 that the military had begun using restraint chairs and other harsh methods, military spokesmen insisted that the procedures for dealing with the hunger strikes at Guantánamo had not changed. They also said they could not confirm that the chairs had been used.
On Tuesday, General Craddock said he had reviewed the use of the restraint chairs, as had senior officials at the Department of Defense, and they concluded that the practice was "not inhumane." General Craddock left no doubt, however, that commanders had decided to try to make life less comfortable for the hunger strikers, and that the measures were seen as successful.
"Pretty soon it wasn't convenient, and they decided it wasn't worth it," he said of the hunger strikers. "A lot of the detainees said: 'I don't want to put up with this. This is too much of a hassle.' "
A spokesman for the Southern Command, Lt. Col. James Marshall, said that restraint chairs had been used in the feeding of 35 of the detainees so far, and that 3 were still being fed that way. He said the number of prisoners refusing to eat had fallen from 41 on Dec. 15 - when the restraint chairs were first used on a trial basis - to 5, according to a military spokesman.
Military officials have said the tough measures were necessary to keep detainees from dying. But while many of the strikers lost between 15 and 20 percent of their normal body weight, only a few were thought to be in immediate medical danger, two officers familiar with the strike said.
Lawyers for the detainees and several human rights groups have assailed the new methods used against the hunger strikers as inhumane, and as unjustified by the reported medical condition of the prisoners.
According to newly declassified interview notes, several detainees who had been on hunger strikes told their lawyers during visits late last month that the military had begun using harsher methods more widely in the second week of January. One Yemeni detainee, Emad Hassan, described the chair to lawyers in interviews on Jan. 24 and 25.
"The head is immobilized by a strap so it can't be moved, their hands are cuffed to the chair and the legs are shackled," the notes quote Mr. Hassan as saying. "They ask, 'Are you going to eat or not?' and if not, they insert the tube. People have been urinating and defecating on themselves in these feedings and vomiting and bleeding. They ask to be allowed to go to the bathroom, but they will not let them go. They have sometimes put diapers on them."
Another former hunger striker, Isa al-Murbati of Bahrain, described a similar experience to his lawyer, Joshua Colangelo-Bryan, in an interview on Jan. 28.
On Jan. 10, he said, a lieutenant came to his isolation cell and told him that if he did not agree to eat solid food, he would be strapped into the chair and force-fed. After he refused to comply, he said, soldiers picked him up by the throat, threw him to the floor and strapped him to the restraint chair.
Like Mr. Hassan, Mr. Murbati said he had been fed two large bags of liquid formula, which were forced into his stomach very quickly. "He felt pain like a 'knife in the stomach' " Mr. Colangelo-Bryan said.
Detainees said the Guantánamo medical staff also began inserting and removing the long plastic feeding tubes that were threaded through the detainees' nasal passages and into their stomachs at every feeding, a practice that caused sharp pain and frequent bleeding, they said. Until then, doctors there said, they had been allowing the hunger strikers to leave their feeding tubes in, to reduce discomfort.
Military spokesmen have generally discounted the complaints, saying the prisoners are for the most part terrorists, trained by Al Qaeda to use false stories as propaganda.
In a letter to a British physician and human rights activist, Dr. David J. Nicholl, on Dec. 12, the former chief medical officer at Guantánamo, Capt. John S. Edmondson of the Navy, wrote that his staff was not force-feeding any detainees but "providing nutritional supplementation on a voluntary basis to detainees who wish to protest their confinement by not taking oral nourishment."
General Craddock suggested that the medical staff had indulged the hunger strikers to the point that they had been allowed to choose the color of their feeding tubes.
Two other Defense Department officials said a decision had been made to try to break the hunger strikes because they were having a disruptive effect and causing stress for the medical staff.
That effort was stepped up, one official said, in January, when Captain Edmondson left Guantánamo for a new post after receiving a Legion of Merit Medal for "inspiring leadership and exemplary performance."
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Police Tied to Death Squads
By Solomon Moore, Times Staff Writer
BAGHDAD - A 1,500-member Iraqi police force with close ties to Shiite militia groups has emerged as a focus of investigations into suspected death squads working within the country's Interior Ministry.
Iraq's national highway patrol was established largely to stave off insurgent attacks on roadways. But U.S. military officials, interviewed over the last several days, say they suspect the patrol of being deeply involved in illegal detentions, torture and extrajudicial killings.
The officials said that in recent months the U.S. has withdrawn financial and advisory support from the patrol in an effort to distance the American training effort from what they perceived to be a renegade force.
"We don't train them, we don't give them equipment, we don't conduct site visits over there. They are just bad, criminal people," said a high-ranking U.S. military officer who advises the Interior Ministry. The officer was one of three who each spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they wanted to maintain relationships with Iraqi police officials and avoid retaliation by U.S. military superiors.
Last month, Iraqi army soldiers stopped a 22-member squad of uniformed highway patrol officers at a nighttime checkpoint in northern Baghdad and discovered a man in their custody who told them the police planned to kill him. His contention was supported by confessions of officers in the squad, U.S. advisors said.
U.S. officials have called 2006 "the year of the police" and have placed a renewed emphasis on training officers. The Bush administration repeatedly has said the development of Iraq's security forces must occur before withdrawal of U.S. troops can begin.
The U.S. military works closely with Iraqi army units, conducting joint operations and sharing space on some military bases. By contrast, police forces have evolved far more independently in approximately 11,000 stations and outposts around the nation.
The result is a motley conglomeration of agencies under the Interior Ministry with overlapping jurisdictions and poorly defined functions.
"You've got the facilities protection service, the public order brigades, the commandos, the highway patrol, the regular police, the traffic police, patrol officers," said a second U.S. military official.
"Who knows who they all are? Nobody controls them but the minister," the officer said, referring to Interior Minister Bayan Jabr.
Jabr, a Shiite with close ties to the Badr Brigade, a paramilitary group, has been at the center of allegations of abuse at the hands of Iraqi security forces. The minister's notoriety rose last year as the bodies of hundreds of men - mostly Sunni Arabs - started appearing in sewage treatment plants, garbage dumps and desert ravines. Most of the bodies showed signs of torture and execution-style killings. Many families of the deceased said their kin had last been seen in the back of a police vehicle.
The Shiites, who constitute about 60% of the Iraqi population, were severely repressed under Saddam Hussein's regime, which favored the Sunni minority. The Shiites came to power in the wake of the U.S.-led invasion of March 2003. A Sunni-led insurgency has carried out a campaign of bombings and assassinations against the government.
Over the last two years, Shiite militias within Iraq's security forces have been accused of staging reprisals for the Sunni attacks. Leading Sunni figures have blamed the reprisals on Jabr. Sunni political parties have made his removal from office a key issue in negotiations over whether they will take part in Iraq's Shiite-led government.
In a recent interview, Army Maj. Gen. Joseph Peterson, who is leading the multibillion-dollar effort to train and equip Iraq's police forces, vigorously defended the minister and said he was heartened by Jabr's pledge to investigate the abuse fully.
"Death squads - they're a real issue," said Peterson. "I can tell you, we caught our first death squad," he said, referring to the unit that was apprehended last month. "The minister of Interior is elated that we caught them," he added.
Peterson said U.S. and Interior Ministry officials were investigating the highway patrol squad to determine "where these guys came from and how they were organized and who was leading them and what was their purpose."
Army Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, a U.S. military spokesman, said that the Interior Ministry was leading the investigation into the suspected death squad.
Ali Hussein Kamal, the Interior Ministry's intelligence chief, said in an interview Sunday that investigators were also trying to determine whether the Iraqi general in charge of the highway patrol was linked to the squad.
"If we find that these allegations that he is involved are true, we will be taking very firm measures against him," Kamal said. "But generally speaking, high-ranking officers are usually ignorant of what their lower-ranking officers are doing."
U.S. personnel who have been training Iraqi police officers said they long had suspected the highway patrol of conducting illegal raids and killings but had little oversight of the force.
The black-garbed highway patrol officers rarely attend U.S.-financed police academies aimed at improving professionalism and sensitivity to human rights within Iraq's security forces, police trainers said, and have refused to share information about their activities.
U.S. police advisors said the highway patrol was almost entirely Shiite and included a core of 400 to 800 Badr militia members who make up the patrol's 4th Company, which was created last year.
"The 4th Company is filled by people with unconventional militia ties," said the U.S. military officer who advises the Interior Ministry. "Minister Jabr is very supportive of them. The general in charge [of the highway patrol] is very supportive of them."
After the suspected death squad was stopped last month, U.S. police advisors said, four members of the squad confessed to several sectarian killings.
The highway patrol officers were asked, " 'Who are you doing this for?' " said a third U.S. military officer who is involved in training Iraqi troops and has knowledge of the interrogations of the suspected death squad. "And they're telling us, 'Jabr.' " The rest of the squad, said the advisor, has been released.
Sunni Arab leaders complain that an earlier investigation into alleged police abuse has yet to show results.
In November, a U.S. Army unit discovered a secret detention and torture facility run by police officers affiliated with the Badr militia. In all, 169 people had been detained at the secret prison, and photos showed that some inmates had been severely beaten and malnourished.
Jabr pledged to investigate the origin of the detention facility and the possible existence of other secret prisons, even as he downplayed the abuse that had taken place there.
"OK, there were signs of torture … but there were no killings and no beheadings, as some have said," Jabr told reporters in November.
But inmates at the bunker compiled a list of 18 detainees who they said had been tortured to death.
Two U.S. Embassy officials said Monday that Iraqi authorities were conducting visits of Interior Ministry jails and prisons, but declined to release details about the facilities.
Kamal, the ministry's intelligence chief, said of the detention probe, "we are still investigating this, but it is better if we do this quietly, without any media."
Peterson, the U.S. officer in charge of Iraqi police training, said that so far, no other secret prisons had been discovered. U.S. officials were trying to help the Interior Ministry centralize and upgrade its detention system, he said, so that it would be more transparent and acceptable by international standards.
"I've seen all the reports that say there are secret prisons out there," Peterson said. "So where are they? We have not found them. We have gone out there and looked for them. Can they exist? Well, the bunker existed, so yeah, they can exist. Is the ministry trying to find these things? Well, yes, they are."
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Kidnapped and tortured Canadian's lawsuit against U.S. dismissed by Federal Court
by Tim Harper
Feb. 17, 2006
WASHINGTON -- A U.S. federal court has dismissed a lawsuit against the Bush administration brought by Ottawa engineer Maher Arar, essentially giving Washington the green light to continue its practice of sending terrorist suspects to third countries where they could be tortured.
Brooklyn District Court Judge David Trager cited the need for national security and secrecy in making his decision, but also raised the possibility of Canadian complicity in the decision to send Arar, now 35, to Syria in 2002, where he was tortured for almost a year.
"The need for much secrecy can hardly be doubted," Trager wrote in an 88-page judgment. "One need not have much imagination to contemplate the negative effect on our relations with Canada if discovery were to proceed in this case and were it to turn out that certain high Canadian officials had, despite public denials, acquiesced in Arar's removal to Syria."
Canadian officials have always denied complicity in the decision to send Arar to Syria after he was held in U.S. custody for 13 days, but Arar said yesterday Justice Dennis O'Connor, who is examining the role Canadian officials played in the affair, should make special note of the judge's comments.
He also vowed he would never give up his quest to reverse the "evil" done against him.
The Syrian-born Canadian engineer was detained as a suspected terrorist during a stopover in New York as he returned from a vacation in September 2002.
After being held virtually incommunicado by U.S. officials, he was sent to Syria, where he said he was tortured and held in a tiny cell he likened to a "grave" for nearly a year. He was never charged before Syria returned him to Canada.
O'Connor is expected to issue an interim report next month.
The Arar suit was the first court test of the Bush administration policy of "extraordinary rendition," a practice often referred to as the outsourcing of torture.
Arar's is just one of a number of well-documented cases in which suspects have been shipped to third countries with dubious human rights records where interrogation methods outlawed in the U.S. can be used.
Trager acknowledged Arar's fears of torture in Syria were real and he cited the U.S. State Department's own report on human rights abuses there.
He said such decisions were beyond the realm of his court.
"A judge who declares on his or her own ... authority that the policy of extraordinary rendition is under all circumstances unconstitutional must acknowledge that such a ruling can have the most serious of consequences to our foreign relations or national security or both," Trager wrote.
Arar said that is exactly what courts are for. "If the courts will not stop this evil act, who is going to stop this administration?
"Where do we go? The United Nations? We -- me and others who have been subjected to this -- are normal citizens who have done no wrong.
"They have destroyed my life. They have destroyed other lives. But the court system does not listen to us.
"The court system is what distinguishes the West from the Third World. When a court will not act because of `national security,' there is no longer any difference between the West and the Third World."
His lawyers vowed to continue the fight.
"This ruling sets a frightening precedent," said Maria LaHood, one of a team of lawyers who took up Arar's case at the Center for Constitutional Rights, based in New York.
"U.S. officials sent Maher Arar to Syria to be detained and interrogated through torture. To allow the Bush administration to continue to evade accountability and continue to hide behind the smokescreen of `national security' is to do grave and irreparable damage to the U.S. constitution and the guarantee of human rights that people in this country could once be proud of."
Barbara Olshansky, the center's deputy legal director, said: "We will not accept this decision and are ... continuing our campaign to obtain the truth ... and demand accountability (from) the Bush administration."
Arar's action named U.S. officials who held him and who ran key government departments.
The claims in the lawsuit include violations of Arar's right not to be tortured under foreign law as guaranteed by the Torture Victim Protection Act.
The U.S. government asserted the "state secrets" privilege, arguing the lawsuit must be dismissed because allowing it to proceed would necessarily involve the disclosure of sensitive information that would threaten national security or diplomatic relations if made public.
A justice official said the ruling pleased the government.
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Nearly 100 dead in US custody in Iraq, Afghanistan: Rights group
Wed Feb 22, 1:56 AM ET
LONDON - Nearly 100 prisoners have died in US custody in
Iraq and Afghanistan since August 2002, the Human Rights First organisation said ahead of the publication of their report.
At least 98 deaths occurred, with at least 34 of them suspected or confirmed homicides -- deliberate or reckless killing -- the group of US lawyers told BBC television Tuesday.
Their dossier claims that 11 more deaths are deemed suspicious and that between eight and 12 prisoners were tortured to death.
However, charges are rare and sentences are light, the report said.
The report comes a week after new photographs of alleged prisoner abuse at Baghdad's notorious US-run Abu Ghraib prison emerged.
The report alleged that one person was made to jump off a bridge into the Tigris river in Iraq and another was forced inside a sleeping bag and suffocated.
The number of deaths in custody discounts those due to fighting, mortar attacks or violence between detainees. They were directly attributable to their detention or interrogation in American custody, the BBC's Newsnight programme said.
The report's editor Deborah Pearlstein told Newsnight: "We're extremely comfortable with the veracity and the reliability of the facts here."
"These are documents based on army investigative reports, documents that we've obtained from the government or that have come out through freedom of information act requests in the United States."
Newsnight was told by the US Pentagon: "We haven't seen the report yet. Where we find allegations of maltreatment we take them very seriously and prosecute."
Doctor Zalmay Khalilzad, the US ambassador to Iraq, told the BBC: "There are thousands of prisoners that have been held by the coalition during the past more than two years.
"Some have died of natural causes and there have been charges of abuse. Of course, we always investigate and determine what happened and appropriate punishment is given if the judgment is made that illegal actions took place.
"If those reports are true, of course they would be terrible abuses and they would be illegal things. Those who are responsible for them would be investigated and they will be punished."
However, David Rivkin, a former White House legal adviser, said the numbers had to be put in perspective.
"[If] 10 people were tortured to death out of over 100,000 detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan" that was "a better rate" than in both world wars and "most civilian penal systems".
"It is not a scandal. Bad things happen in detention. A lot of them died for reasons that have nothing to do with it."
Amnesty International UK demanded an investigation into the deaths.
A spokesman said: "We want to see the US and its allies allowing a full independent and impartial investigation into these deaths, as well as mounting incidents of alleged torture and other mistreatment.
"We've also raised with the Americans the question of overly lenient sentences for those found guilty of torturing prisoners to death in Afghanistan."
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Turf Wars in the Delta
By Bret Schulte
NEW ORLEANS--It was a thing marvelous to behold: the future in full color, projected onto twin screens in a hotel convention room where an overflow crowd packed four deep against the walls. Flashing before them was three months of work by the best and brightest in urban design, led by the superstar national planning firm Wallace Roberts & Todd, which resurrected the dying Baltimore waterfront and laid out a master plan for the national Capitol grounds way back in 1983.
What the crowd saw put the "new"back in New Orleans. Canals covered and converted into leafy bicycle and pedestrian paths crisscrossing the city. A gleaming $4.8 billion transit and infrastructure system, including rail links to the airport, Baton Rouge, and the Gulf Coast. For every neighborhood: a school, a park, and a retail zone.
But the dreamy PowerPoint presentation by the Urban Planning Committee of Mayor Ray Nagin's Bring New Orleans Back Commission ended in a cold splash of harsh reality.
Despite Nagin's plea that the meeting be held in a "spirit of peace," police eventually had to handle the line of furious residents gathered at the microphone. Amid cries that the plan was too academic or did too little to help people trying to return, Harvey Bender, a 44-year-old resident of the Lower Ninth Ward, pointed a finger at committee Chairman Joe Canizaro, a prominent local developer. "I hate you, Mr. Canizaro, because you've been in the background scheming to get our land,"he said. "I'm going to die on my land."
In the City That Care Forgot, the plan for a grander future has run headlong into the politics of race, class, and power, which, as in most places, translates to money. Resistance to the commission's plan, even outright defiance, still exists, but that may be the least of its problems. There's been good news, to be sure, some of it just last week. But the Bring New Orleans Back blueprint faces a host of daunting questions--questions about flood protection, about controlling scattershot redevelopment, and about Washington's willingness to foot the bill to bring back the Big Easy. For now, all that seems certain is that the New Orleans of tomorrow will be smaller in size and population, most likely a whiter, wealthier city, and perhaps more of a tourist theme park than the rich cultural gumbo that made the Big Easy a unique American experience.
The future is unfathomable in part because the present is unfathomable. Downtown and the French Quarter are bustling, but of the 480,000 residents who lived here before Katrina, only an estimated 130,000 have returned. Approximately 50,000 homes were swamped by at least 4 feet of water. The twisted ruins of thousands of cars litter neighborhoods like Gentilly and Desire. Scores of schools, public and private, are closed. Mortgage delinquency rates have skyrocketed. Per day, the metropolitan area is losing $15.2 million in tourism revenue alone.
Starting over. While vast swaths of the city still lie in waste, New Orleans also has the feel of a pioneer town, populated by those lucky enough to be spared by last year's hurricanes or those with the insurance or savings to rebuild quickly. On Canal Street and in moneyed Lakeview, hammers and saws provide a steady soundtrack. It's no accident that most of the construction is taking place in the city's wealthiest and, with some exceptions, whitest neighborhoods. Black neighborhoods, many in the lowest and least valuable quarters of the city, were hit disproportionately hard by Katrina. So a city that was once 70 percent black is now closer to 50 percent black. A Los Angeles Times analysis showed that the wealthy and white also stayed closer to New Orleans, making their return much easier.
The slow pace of installing trailers--of the almost 20,000 ordered for New Orleans, fewer than 3,000 were occupied as of late January--has also impeded the return of residents. The lack of White House support for construction of levees able to withstand a Category 5 hurricane (Page 74) is also slowing the city's comeback. "If you want people to return," says Jay Lapeyre, chairman of the New Orleans Business Council, "we have to know we're protected from a Cat 5, at least eventually."
"I'll be home." The hope of the Bring Back New Orleans Commission was that its plan would jump-start the recovery process by providing a rational road map for rebuilding. The plan's first priority is to focus the recovery effort on portions of the city that suffered little or no flooding. Specific pockets of high ground--portions of downtown, New Orleans East, and the Lower Ninth Ward--are targeted for high-density development of both homes and businesses.
Throughout New Orleans, residents would plan their neighborhoods with the assistance of a professional team; neighborhoods with few people left might be consolidated, while low-lying, more flood-prone regions could be converted to green space if planners can persuade homeowners to seek higher ground. The commission's plan gives neighborhoods just four months to prove residents are returning; otherwise, those neighborhoods run the risk of being left out of the city's planned redevelopment. The deadline has sparked outrage and ignited a race against the clock in the black community to get residents to return. While networks of friends and families are reaching out across the country, grass-roots rebuilding efforts are springing up in black neighborhoods, encouraged by a majority-black City Council, which has repeatedly argued that the whole city should be redeveloped. "The footprint of the city has become a civil rights issue," says Susan Howell, a political scientist at the University of New Orleans. "The city was racially polarized before the storm, so these huge decisions are certain to tap race concerns."
Headquartered in a ramshackle office in the Eighth Ward, the New Orleans branch of the community group ACORN is gutting up to 200 homes a day in poor parts of the city--homes they hope can be rebuilt. One of those belonged to 73-year-old Edna Alexander Berkley, who had to chisel through the attic of her home after the 17th Street levee collapsed. She has since relied on ACORN to gut her home and help guide her through the beginnings of the rebuilding process--like getting a permit from the city to rebuild. Now staying with her son, Berkley makes a simple vow: "I'll be home soon." ACORN's head man here, Stephen Bradberry, argues that the commission's plan pushes out African-Americans. "[Tourists] come because of the flavor of the people," Bradberry says. "New Orleans without black people will be Disney World on the river."
By the time the commission's plan is formally accepted by the statewide Louisiana Recovery Authority in coming weeks, as is expected, controlling the upstart construction could prove an all but impossible task. Officials fear a "jack o'lantern effect"--a patchwork of occupied and blighted homes across wide swaths of the city. City services could be scarce in some of these neighborhoods, while other partially rebuilt neighborhoods may be sitting on flood-prone land, like areas of New Orleans East near Lake Pontchartrain, that the city covets as green space.
Even if every resident followed the road map, committed to consolidating neighborhoods and abandoning dangerous parts of the city, the commission's plan of "infill" areas and development zones is still only a best guess of where it makes sense to rebuild. That's because the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be months late releasing new, revised maps showing which parts of the city are most prone to floods; the maps are now expected this summer, at the earliest. The maps will dictate which parts of the city are uninsurable--and difficult to rebuild in, as a practical matter--as opposed to which regions are relatively safe. Surviving homes that don't get grandfathered in under the old maps could be required to elevate, which can cost thousands of dollars. As time wears on, "the more we'll have people make precipitous decisions about rebuilding," says Reed Kroloff, dean of the Tulane School of Architecture, who's codirecting the urban plan. So the more the clock keeps ticking, the less the plan is, well, a plan.
And for the commission plan to work, it needs broad support from the White House and funding from Congress--and that process has been bumpy. To date, Washington has allocated $87 billion in Gulf Coast relief, and the White House requested an additional $19.8 billion for 2006 just last week. Billions more have been spent in federal flood insurance payouts. A relatively scant amount has been spent on housing. "We have 200,000 families that don't have a place to come back to," says Andy Kopplin, the executive director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority.
Limbo. The housing crisis in Louisiana has created a testy, on-again, off-again relationship between Louisiana and Washington. In January, the White House launched a stunning offensive against legislation that was to provide a funding mechanism for much of the commission plan. Authored by Republican Rep. Richard Baker of Baton Rouge, the bill proposes a big government fix: the Louisiana Recovery Corp. Funded by up to $30 billion in treasury bonds, it would buy up property from willing sellers, even those in the flood plain--potentially tens of thousands of parcels. The corporation would clean up contaminants and sell those properties to developers, whose projects would be guided by the commission's master plan. Originally the White House seemed friendly to the proposal, but last month, Don Powell, the federal coordinator for Gulf Coast rebuilding, disavowed the bill as too costly and bureaucratic. Instead, the administration proposed that Louisiana use $6.2 billion in block grants--money the state wanted to pour into infrastructure and small businesses--to focus on the 20,000 uninsured destroyed homes above the flood plain, which the administration says are the most deserving of federal aid. The federal plan, Powell says, would eliminate the proposed LRC's bureaucracy. "Plus," he adds, "it doesn't put the federal government in the real-estate business."
The news sent Louisianians reeling. "It doesn't help the people who to their detriment relied on the levees," says Kopplin of the Louisiana Recovery Authority. The federal government has an acute responsibility to help all homeowners, Louisiana officials argue, because levee failures contributed massively to damage from Katrina--and the levees were built and maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The proposal would have left the poor in particularly tough shape. Owners of homes with mortgages are required to carry flood insurance, but many poor forgo the cost of insurance once the home is paid off. Those who did so and were flooded by Katrina lost a risky bet. But without federal aid, uninsured families are facing an uphill battle.
The White House announcement spurred an intense behind-the-scenes lobbying effort by the Louisiana delegation and a phalanx of bankers and mortgage lenders. The Mortgage Bankers Association has argued that without a mechanism to buy and clean up as many as 200,000 devastated properties--many of which contain contaminants from the flood--the housing market will have little value. If homeowners begin defaulting on their loans, mortgage companies may choose not to foreclose rather than to take on the risk of absorbing polluted or worthless property. "Our guess is that many of these properties will simply be abandoned," says Kurt Pfotenhauer of the association. If that happens, they could remain in a state of legal limbo for years, with local municipalities eventually seizing properties for sale or demolition. As one congressional aide put it, without the Baker bill or something like it, "you'd have ruins. Just like Greece."
Last week, the White House switched course. After a series of meetings with Louisiana leaders, Powell announced that the administration would target $4.2 billion of the new $19.8 billion request toward additional block grants for Louisiana that can be used to repair housing. Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, previously the most vocal of White House critics, took the microphone to give "a special thank you to the president." Theoretically, the state may now have $12.4 billion to direct toward housing: the earlier $6.2 billion block grant, the new $4.2 billion, and about $2 billion in hazard mitigation funds. Officials calculate they can offer homeowners as much as $150,000, minus insurance payouts, to rebuild or remodel devastated houses.
The money won't cover everything included in the Baker bill, notably billions of dollars' worth of commercial property. And the new $4.2 billion is still just a request to Congress, which has been skeptical of everything from New Orleans's geographical viability to Louisiana's long history of political corruption. So it's no sure thing. "The view of most members of Congress,"Baker says, "is 'We've fixed the Louisiana problem.'"
Making plans. If Congress ultimately approves the extra $4.2 billion, state officials hope the pool of money can be used to create its own minirecovery corporation that would provide homeowners with the option of a buyout or funds to elevate homes to new FEMA levels. "This money is going to be directed straight to our citizenry," Blanco said. In the meantime, though, Louisiana is hatching plans for how to best leverage the $6.2 billion it already has in hand. An idea offered by Nagin would use the $6.2 billion as a first phase to the rebuilding process. The cash would target homes across the region that flooded with at least 2 feet of water, offering owners buyouts at 100 percent of their prestorm value (minus insurance payments) or a grant to cover repairs. Owners of less damaged homes, rental units, and small businesses would be left out. If the extra $4.2 billion is blessed by Congress, Nagin says, some of it would flow to less severely damaged homes and rental units.
Whether or not Nagin's plan takes hold, the commission's ambitious blueprint for New Orleans "is going to be scaled back and done in phases," says Mel Lagarde, cochair of the Bring New Orleans Back Commission. His hope, and the hope of many here, is that with a plan in place, city officials can come back to Washington with more ideas--and, of course, more requests for a whole lot more money. Sounds good, in theory at least. But the City That Care Forgot still faces plenty of stormy weather.
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US military planes criss-cross Europe posing as civilian flights
by Jon Swain and Brian Johnson-Thomas,
The Times of London [UK]Feb. 19, 2006
The American military have been operating flights across Europe using a call sign assigned to a civilian airline that they have no legal right to use.
Not only is the call sign bogus -- according to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) -- so, it appears, are some of the aircraft details the Americans have filed with the air traffic control authorities.
In at least one case, a plane identified with the CIA practice of "extraordinary rendition" -- transporting terrorist suspects -- left a US air base just after the arrival of an aircraft using the bogus call sign.
The call sign Juliet Golf Oscar (JGO) followed by a flight number belongs, says the ICAO, to a now bankrupt Canadian low-cost airline called Jetsgo of Montreal.
But for several years and as recently as last December it has been used selectively by both the American air force and army to cover the flights of aircraft to and from the Balkans.
These range from Learjet 35 executive jets to C-130 transport planes and MC-130P Combat Shadows, which are specially adapted for clandestine missions in politically sensitive or hostile territory.
A Sunday Times analysis of flight plans and radio logs has placed these aircraft at locations including Tuzla in Bosnia, Pristina in Kosovo, Aviano, the site of a large joint US-Italian military air base in northern Italy, and Ramstein in Germany, the headquarters of the US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE).
On December 11, 2004, USAFE in Ramstein filed a flight plan for a Learjet 35 to fly from Tuzla to Aviano. The flight plan was copied to 15 addressees including Tuzla airport, Aviano airport and a mysterious recipient labeled "xxxxxxxx".
The aircraft's identity was given as JGO 80, the flight was a Learjet 35 operated by the Department of Defense and the registration was 99999E.
The status of the flight was given as "humanitarian". But it was also given as "state", which means government, and as "protected", which means diplomatic.
During the time the plane was in the air, USAFE changed some of the flight plan timings and at the same time the registration changed. The aircraft metamorphosed into 40112E but continued to be a Learjet 35 and was still JGO 80 and a humanitarian, government and diplomatic flight.
While the Learjet was on the ground at Tuzla, an Ilyushin 76 was loading a cargo of 45 tons of surplus weapons and ammunition sold off by the Bosnian military and destined for Rwanda in defiance of a UN embargo.
The Ilyushin left Tuzla, flew over Italy and headed south in the direction of Africa. The American Learjet took off 55 minutes later.
In a report exposing arms trafficking to war-torn central Africa, Amnesty International has suggested that "US security authorities were engaged in a covert operation to ferry arms to Rwanda in the face of political opposition from the European Union".
Another interesting convergence of flights occurred in February 2004. On February 24, an MC-130P Combat Shadow using the call sign JGO 50 took off from Aviano for an unknown destination.
Two days later, on February 26, the aircraft left Pristina for Tuzla. A short while after that, a Gulfstream 5 executive jet, call sign JGO 47, flew from Tuzla to Aviano, arriving at 23.11 GMT. The next day, a Learjet 35 using the call sign SPAR 92 left Aviano for an unknown destination.
SPAR is short for Special Air Resources, an American military airlift service that transports senior military officers and civilian VIPs.
However, SPAR 92 has been identified as the aircraft which was used by the CIA secretly to transport a Muslim preacher who was kidnapped by CIA agents in Milan in 2003.
A USAFE spokesman last week said American aircraft using the JGO call sign were performing "Joint Guard Operations" for the NATO/European peacekeeping mission in the Balkans.
However, inquiries have shown that the military operation called "Joint Guard" ended in 1998. They also show that none of the US aircraft deployed in it match ones using the JGO call sign.
A spokesman for the ICAO said: "Our records indicate that the designator JGO is still assigned to Jetsgo and the ICAO does not assign the same code to two operators."
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What The US Ambassador Taught Nepalis
By Pratyush Chandra
21 February, 2006
Recently, the United States has been anxiously trying to pre-empt every possible uncomfortable situation in South Asia. Its ambassadors are actively intervening in internal political debates in South Asian countries. Of course, it is nothing new for the US, but in order to understand specific implications of this activism in specific contexts, the peeping tom has to be caught red-handed at the site of the crime and interrogated. The ambassador in India was recently in the dock for threatening Indians to behave well on the Iran issue. Now it is the turn of the ambassador in Nepal, James F. Moriarty. However, for our convenience, Moriarty has been too explicit in his conduct.
In his speech to the Ganesh Man Singh Academy (Kathmandu) on February 15, 2006, Moriarty clearly stated that the US wanted "reconciliation and compromise" between Monarchy and parliamentary parties, and any other arrangement is unacceptable to it. And what is unacceptable to it needs to be checked with all its might. (1) Moriarty cleared away the confusion that the US statement after the royalty's failed attempt to conduct elections to municipal bodies in the beginning of February 2006 engendered among a few people. They thought that the US seemed to be drifting away from its support to monarchy. Moriarty's speech much be welcomed in this regard. He made clear that the US thought the elections could have been a successful exercise; "unfortunately" it was proved "hollow" and "yet another missed opportunity", with the Maoists' violence and parties' boycott being the main culprits. In the Question-Answer session of his speech, in answer to a particular question, Moriarty immediately tried to reinstall the ambiguity. Such kind of ambiguity allows a hegemonic power to opportunistically play various contradictory forces at the same time.(2)
Moriarty presented a comprehensive overview of the American perceptions of the Nepalese crisis. Firstly, for the US, the main task of the Nepalese politicians must be to eliminate the Maoists, not to bring in a stable democracy. The latter could be just an instrument in this regard. The "authoritarian rule" imposed by Monarchy per se was not wrong, If it had eliminated the Maoists, it would have been declared successful. Monarchy proved to be wrong in its "envisioning". Secondly, the US really thinks that the recent agreement between the "parties" and the Maoists is a result of the frustration of the former, who are trying to use the latter as "political leverage against the palace". In fact, within the US' scheme of things, the King and the "parties" are equally obstinate "locked in a circle of mistrust" using the Maoists as "bargaining chip in their ongoing struggle of wills". Thirdly, in this struggle of wills and fancies, of course, "the Maoists will only continue to gain advantage". Fourthly, of course, speaking for the Big Brother (BB), Moriarty feels free to philosophise, "wishing that something were so does not make it that way, as we all learn in life". And with BB watching and judging, how did Nepalese politicians dare to make judgement on their own that the insurgents would renounce violence? BB thinks that the Maoists are "committed to violence to achieve political ends", so they must be; believe it or else you are doomed! Don't talk about the revolutionaries of Nicaragua or El Salvador whose struggles contributed in stabilising democracy in those countries, BB knows better!
To teach the Nepalis, Moriarty makes a list of FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs) and, of course, supplied with answers, too. His first question is: "Are the Maoists truly committed to peace and democracy, as the 12-point understanding suggests?" Moriarty comes out with a "Bushy" style of argumentation. When Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai talks about "absolute democracy" and about attacking the "autocratic monarchy", can't you see what he means? He means "murder, extortion, and intimidation". If you don't see that, Uncle Sam sees that; hence, you must see that. Don't you remember Bhattarai said something about the simultaneity of armed and unarmed struggle to achieve the goal of absolute democracy? Why did he call for an armed struggle to complement the unarmed? What if the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) and the police shoot at your demonstrations and protests? You must never defend yourself because Uncle Sam himself trained them to do that.
The second question, which Moriarty supplies with an answer, is "Are the Maoists committed to joining the political mainstream?" The argumentation is similar. Because he has found "that the insurgents seek to bring the parties further into their sphere, and to the Maoists' advantage", so everybody must see the "common sense". How did he find that? Somewhere Baburam Bhattarai said, "since our working policy [with the parties] is now the same, we have forged this partnership," and also that "tomorrow if the nature of the political intercontradiction changes, the nature of our relations could change as well." So the conclusion is "icy". Actually, the parties didn't have any mind when they signed the 12-point agreement with the Maoists. Look Uncle Sam has done the homework for them, he has "translated" "Maoist thinking" for these illiterate Nepalis, and it is icy because he himself was frozen by its implications. Did you say, even Uncle Sam changes his colours frequently as "the nature of the political intercontradiction changes" - that he supported all kinds of dictatorial regimes to eliminate nationalists, democrats and people's movements all over the world? He fed Pinochet, Talibans, Osama, Saddam, literally everybody against whom he claims to wage the War on terrorism todayOh, boy! You can't even understand that! Firstly, because he is big he can dare to do this; secondly, if you go on telling his own story to him, he might do what he did in Chile, beware!
The last FAQ is "If the parties and Maoists were ever able to topple the monarchy, what then?" Of course, "the answer here is particularly worrisome: The Maoists would be armed; the parties would be unarmed." Here comes a major revelation: "the Royal Nepalese Army" is "the parties' one logical source of defense". So what if all these days it has terrorised you? Once you become the King's compliant little brothers, you will find them handy and playful. Don't listen to the Maoists! In fact, the RNA is the King's private army and it is not professional because it is in the best interest of you and the Nepalese people in general. You all are very innocent and young; you could have misused the Army and its arms. BP Koirala (the first and only prime minister to serve during Nepal's first fling of democracy (1959-60) was overthrown because he dared to support some land reform measures) was not in his mind when he questioned the compatibility of the democratic system in Nepal with the preponderance of the Nepalese Army. You must be happy with the "elections", that's democracy. More regularly you are ousted by the King and his army, you will have more elections, and hence, more democracy You don't understand the logic, boy! Moreover, "we like elections".
Moriarty himself found all these trivial questions "provocative, which is their aim". To "provoke" more he finds that "if ever the phrase 'politics makes strange bedfellows' was appropriate, it is in Nepal in 2006". Did all these provoke you? No, but they must, they were meant to be provocative. Look, Uncle Sam has caught you in bed, too! So what if every night he himself has strange bedfellows! You are still young and struggling. You must not sleep with bedfellows whom he finds strange. Don't sleep with his enemies! Do you know how much you have aggrieved the Big Boy Gyani, because of your "lack of leadership and unwillingness to compromise"? He too was at fault, agreed, but he is the Big Boy. Moreover, you were the one who aligned with "a separate violent force" and isolated the Big Boy, maddening him. Further don't you see Russia, North Korea, China, Cuba and others, the Maoists, Marxists etc found totalitarian states? Don't talk about Allende, Chavez, Ortega and others? It is good that Uncle Sam and his cronies fund local criminals, drug pedlars, mafias to check them or eliminate them before they are successful in building totalitarian states. And that is why you don't find totalitarianism flourishing there. You talk about Pinochet and his ilk, you must understand the logic of tit for tat. Choices are before you - decide what you want to become. Now stop provoking Uncle Sam. But are you provoked, or not?
In the speech, Moriarty clearly comes out with a warning: Behave yourself or you will impair your "democratic credentials" by aligning with the Maoists. It does not matter whether the 'demos' supported your boycott and the Maoists' General Strike, what matters is that you have not behaved according to the 'democratic' recipe that Uncle Sam proposes. Your partnership with the Maoists is "uneasy", because it makes him uneasy. It is wrongheaded, because he has been wronged. Worse for you, Uncle Sam has started believing that what you have done "is fraught with danger"? You know what this means. You have enraged Uncle Sam, and you don't know the results that are in store "for the political parties themselves, and for the future of the Nepalese people". So, start rethinking.
It is clear from the speech that the Maoists' coming out openly in the media and rising popular sympathy and support for them have forced the US to prepare for its last ditch attempt to save monarchy and buy back at least the inconsistent elements in the democracy movement. The US game plan is to downplay the Maoists' genuine stress on an effective Constituent Assembly that can decide upon the nature of the political system for Nepal in a genuinely democratic manner. Moriarty's jugglery with facts and statements by the Maoists taken out of context is meant for this. The US and its allies know quite well that the Nepalese royalty, which they fed for more than 50 years, is almost doomed, if this demand is honestly met. The royalty is their only stable agency that can keep the political economic aspirations of the enlightened Nepalese population in check, from 'harming' foreign interests in Nepal - both security and business. The royalty's doom is Nepal's complete independence, its freedom to decide its own destiny.
Moriarty uses all kinds of attacks that can make the Maoists look like the simple mindless terrorists whom the Americans trained during the Cold War and whom they utilise today to legitimise their invasion of "non-compliant" ("rogue") free nations. In the name of chasing the terrorists they can freely bombard innocent people. Of course, in order to pre-empt the rise of a future 'terrorist', they must slaughter the whole generation, as Herod "slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof" (St. Mathew, 2:16).
They themselves know that the Maoists are not like those terrorists whom they brainwashed for their own Cold War loots. That is why the Ambassador shows his desperation by evoking the logic of "common sense" so many times, without telling what sense it is. Don't you see the common sense that "the King and parties" are natural allies? Don't you see the common sense that the Maoists are violent? Don't you see the common sense that "There is no other practical, workable solution to your constitutional crisis and to effectively face the most immediate, as well as the most serious long-term, threat to your peace and prosperity the insurgency", except that "at some point, for the sake of Nepal, senior party and palace leaders must gather together in a room and begin hashing out the hard details of the way forward. No one else can do it for them". So party leaders must gather in a room, not on the streets, not like Zapatistas in Mexico, who go in thousands when they go for negotiation.
Throughout the speech Moriarty is trying to entice the Democrats and the King to be ready for "hard compromise, tough give and take". "The United States, for one, would look eagerly for ways to assist a new Nepal government that respects and supports democracy, human rights, and freedom. This also could include renewing assistance for the Royal Nepalese Army." So don't you see that Uncle Sam will now onward protect both the Big Boy and the little ones, if you behave well with each other? This is the common sense. And if you don't believe Moriarty's "common sense plea", then you must listen to "the commander of the U.S. Pacific Command". You know, what it means
[Note: Most of the quotes here are from US Ambassador in Nepal, James F Moriarty's speech. Its text and audio versions are available at http://kathmandu.usembassy.gov/. The audio includes the Question-Answer session. A partial transcript of the Q-A session is available on the website of International Nepal Solidarity Network for Democratic Peace (insn.org) at http://188.8.131.52/?p=2772. The Q-A session shows the desperation of US diplomacy in Nepal, as its Ambassador in his answers had the audacity to break the basic diplomatic discursive ethos, using phrases like "with the middle fingers"]
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Abortion Case to Test New Justices
By Charles Lane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 22, 2006; Page A01
The Supreme Court agreed yesterday to decide whether a 2003 federal ban on the procedure that critics call "partial birth" abortion is constitutional, setting the stage for its most significant ruling on abortion rights in almost 15 years.
Without comment or recorded dissent, the court granted the Bush administration's request to review a lower court's ruling striking down the law, which passed Congress overwhelmingly but has yet to be enforced.
The case will test the new balance of abortion opinion on a court whose membership now includes two Bush appointees, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. Given their conservative leanings and the court's past vote count on the issue, the federal ban's chances appear strong.
Arguing that an appeals court's invalidation of an act of Congress was worthy of the court's attention, the Bush administration persuaded the justices to take the case without one usual criterion for doing so -- a division among lower courts. Since the first appeals court struck down the law last year, two other appeals courts have followed suit.
The procedure, performed by fewer than two dozen physicians in the country and known medically as "intact dilation and evacuation," takes place relatively late in pregnancy, generally after the 20th week, when the fetus's head may become lodged in the birth canal. Under those circumstances, the doctors draw the fetus out feet first, then puncture the skull to vacuum out the brain and collapse the head, permitting the rest of the fetus to be removed.
It is unclear how often the procedure is done. Abortion rights organizations say the annual number is in the hundreds; antiabortion groups say thousands. There were 1.3 million abortions in the United States in 2002, of which 88 percent occurred in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
What is clear is that few other issues in American politics trigger stronger emotions. A 2005 poll by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute showed that three-quarters of the public supports a ban, except when a woman's life is at stake.
But some physicians, including the plaintiff in this case, Leroy Carhart of Nebraska, say the procedure is sometimes safer than the alternatives, which may include the dismemberment of the fetus before its extraction.
For the Supreme Court, the issue is whether the constitutional right to have an abortion means that any law regulating this procedure must contain an exception to protect a woman's health.
In a 1992 decision reaffirming the abortion right first announced in Roe v. Wade 19 years earlier, the court barred abortion regulations that pose an "undue burden" on women.
The court applied that ruling in 2000 to a Nebraska ban on the procedure that was similar to laws in 25 states. It struck the law down 5 to 4, ruling that it was so vaguely written that it could also criminalize other procedures, and that it lacked an exception for the woman's health.
The federal Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 was Congress's answer to that ruling. It banned the procedure except when necessary to save the life of the woman. And it deliberately omitted an exception to protect the woman's health. Indeed, as drafted by its Republican sponsors, the law formally declared, based on expert testimony, that such an abortion could never be necessary to preserve health.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit, based in St. Louis, said in July that the lack of a health exception made the law unconstitutional under the 2000 Supreme Court ruling that had required a health exception whenever "substantial medical authority" supports the necessity of the procedure. Congress's findings to the contrary were not sufficient, the 8th Circuit ruled.
But the Bush administration argues that the federal law is more precisely drawn than the Nebraska statute, and that the courts must defer to Congress's findings regarding the medical necessity of the procedure.
Oral argument in the case, Gonzales v. Carhart , No. 05-380, is likely to take place during the run-up to the 2006 congressional elections, and the high political stakes were evident from the statements of organizations on both sides of the abortion issue.
"We fear the new court is ready to further undermine a woman's access to legal abortion," says Jennifer K. Brown, vice president and legal director of Legal Momentum, a women's rights organization.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, said, "Unless the Supreme Court now reverses the extreme position that five justices took in 2000, partly born premature infants will continue to die by having their skulls punctured by seven-inch scissors."
When the court voted 5 to 4 to strike down Nebraska's ban on the procedure in 2000, former justice Sandra Day O'Connor cast the deciding vote.
She is no longer on the court and has been replaced by Alito, who sat on his first oral argument yesterday. As a federal appeals judge, Alito voted to strike down a New Jersey ban on the procedure, saying that his court must follow the Supreme Court's 2000 ruling.
But in 1991, he voted to allow Pennsylvania to require spousal notification before abortion. He said that the state's rule, and its exceptions, did not pose an "undue burden." That view was overruled by the Supreme Court in 1992.
And as a young Reagan administration lawyer, Alito expressed opposition to the court's landmark abortion rights case, Roe v. Wade.
Roberts replaced the late chief justice William H. Rehnquist, a strong foe of abortion rights. Roberts has a thinner abortion record than Alito but has also come up to the court through conservative ranks.
Three dissenters from the court's 2000 ruling, justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas, are still on the court.
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Behind the Curtain
By Sean Gonsalves, AlterNet. Posted February 21, 2006.
I'd like to address a Frequently Asked Question I get from regular column critics.
Why do you almost exclusively focus your critique on conservatives, especially Christian conservatives?
Because that's who's in power.
I take Joseph Pulitzer's exhortation seriously. ''Always fight for progress and reform, never tolerate injustice and corruption, always fight demagogues of all parties, never belong to any party, always oppose privileged classes and public plunderers, never lack sympathy with the poor, always remain devoted to the public welfare, never be satisfied with merely printing news; always be drastically independent; never be afraid to attack wrong, whether by predatory plutocracy or predatory poverty.''
I may never win the prize named in his honor -- the highest honor one can achieve in this profession -- but Joe wasn't speaking only to the best. He was speaking to each and every person in the news business. When President Clinton was in office, I wrote critically of his administration, particularly with regards to U.S. policy in Iraq and welfare reform.
In this unimaginative era of political thought, which operates on a false liberal-conservative dichotomy, you are considered beyond the pale if you utter anything perceived to be ''left'' of liberal. The problem with that is the center has moved rightward, circa the Reagan administration, drifting further through Clinton and accelerating under President Bush.
That's why I think it's important to keep an eye on who society holds up as the poster-child ''liberal,'' whether it's Clinton, Kennedy or Kerry. Whoever offers an analysis ''left'' of those ''liberals'' are considered ''extreme.''
But that's not only anti-intellectual, it's dangerous. Take the WMD debate, for example. Pro-war conservatives discount Scott Ritter and other UNSCOM inspectors' expert analyses, essentially arguing that it's mere coincidence the chief weapons inspector in Iraq for seven years was right on the money, even though he wrote detailed books and gave detailed interviews before the war laying out just how little of a threat Saddam posed after 90 to 95 percent of his WMD had been destroyed by UNSCOM. The ''liberals,'' as conservatives love to point out, thought Saddam had WMD, too.
But Ritter's pre-war intelligence ''coincidentally'' turned out to better than ''everyone'' else in the world who was ''mistaken.''
Why critique fundamentalist Christian politics? Because I come out of that tradition. And like my brothers and sisters in Christ, I believe that Jesus embodied the Word, the Truth and the Suffering Servant spoken of in scripture.
I also believe that a preacher I once heard was right. If Jesus is the Word, the Truth and The Suffering Servant, then it is a condition of truth to allow suffering to speak. In other words, you have to go through suffering to discover the truth.
So when the privileged classes that Pulitzer described theorizes and makes decisions that disproportionately affect the weak and vulnerable, we're not talking about truth. We're talking power politics.
There are countless verses in the Bible that speak of God's eternal concern for ''the least of these,'' which, by comparison, far outnumbers the relatively few references to sexual immorality that seems to be the primary focus of politically engaged conservative Christians.
It's a distortion of both what Jesus taught and what traditional Christianity has been all about to focus on individual sex-related sins while ignoring or downplaying institutional and social sins.
The Rev. Martin Luther King sums it up best for me. ''A religion true to its nature must also be concerned about man's social conditions… Any religion that professes to be concerned with the souls of men and is not concerned with the slums that damn them, the economic conditions that strangle them, and the social conditions that cripple them is a dry-as-dust religion… Such a religion is the kind the Marxists like to see -- an opiate of the people.''
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Scooter Libby’s Home Page
Tuesday 02 21 2006
Should we ever appear on Celebrity Jeopardy, we have our charity all picked out: The Scooter Libby Legal Defense Trust, sure to be topping everyone's year-end lists of Least Important Causes.
Here, you can learn all about America's favorite former senior administration official - it's everything you need to know about Scooter, besides the unimportant matter of why he actually needs a legal defense trust.
And check out the Advisory Committee - a veritable who's who of Washington's indicted, formerly-indicted, and soon-to-be-indicted set. The only person missing is that guy who's automatically your friend when you sign up on Myspace! While you're there, see what others are saying about our friend with the poor penmanship:
World Bank President and Former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz: "He is a kind of perfectionist…I find him extremely valuable. If everybody else is running off to a conclusion, he'll say, 'Wait a minute, have you thought of this?'"
"Of course! 'The British Government has learned…'! Scooter, you're a genius!"
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GOP Achievers Want to Compile $5 Million for Libby Defense
Wednesday, February 22, 2006; Page A13
Carol D. Leonnig
A Who's Who of Republican heavy hitters and Bush administration supporters are lending their names to help raise $5 million for the defense of Vice President Cheney's former top aide in his criminal trial.
Led by Florida real estate magnate and former ambassador Mel Sembler, the group seeking to help I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby avoid jail time includes 26 notable names, many of whom could also be described as "Friends of George and Dick."
Sembler, a longtime party fundraiser, backed Cheney as a presidential candidate in 1996 until he dropped out of the race, and described himself as vindicated and thrilled when George W. Bush chose Cheney as a running mate in 2000.
Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff, was indicted in late October on five felony counts of obstruction of justice, perjury and false statements during an investigation of the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity.
The Libby Legal Defend Fund opened a Web site yesterday ( http://www.scooterlibby.org ) and reported its advisory committee has raised $2 million since it began in November. The names of donors are not being disclosed; officials said most donors limit their gift a non-taxable $12,000.
Among Cheney's longtime friends on the committee are former senator Alan K. Simpson (Wyo.); GOP donor Frederic V. Malek of McLean, chairman of Thayer Capital Partners who served in the Nixon White House at the same time as Cheney; and top communications aide Mary Matalin. Former Bush energy secretary Spencer Abraham and former CIA director R. James Woolsey are also lending a hand.
"These are people who have been involved in political activities for a long while and know things can get pretty rough . . . who are willing to put their good names behind Scooter's good name," Barbara Comstock, Libby defense fund spokesperson, said.
Some -- including lobbyist Wayne Berman, Mercer Reynolds, a gas and oil businessman; Sam Fox, chairman of a business acquisition group; and banker and former Republican National Committee finance chairman Lawrence E. Bathgate II -- also have a proven ability to raise a lot of money for Republican causes, especially the two Bush-Cheney campaigns, the 2000 recount and two inaugurations.
The committee boasts academics, such as Bernard Lewis, Princeton history professor, and Francis Fukuyama of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, who has written critically of the administration's Iraq policy.
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DU SCANDAL EXPLODES
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
The Preventive Psychiatry Newsletter has written to its subscribers telling them that the real reason the former Veterans Affairs Secretary, Anthony Principi, recently resigned was because he has been involved in a massive scandal covering up the fact that Gulf War Syndrome was caused by the use of depleted uranium, according to the SF Bay View.
In the article Arthur Bernklau, executive director of Veterans for Constitutional Law, reportedly wrote that "thousands of our military have suffered and died from, [and depleted uranium] has finally been identified as the cause of this sickness, eliminating the guessing. The terrible truth is now being revealed." Bernklau went on to detail several alarming statistics. The historical disability rate amongst soldiers last century was about 5 percent, although it approached 10 percent during Vietnam. But due to the use of depleted uranium in the battlefield, 56 percent of the 580,400 solders that served in the first Gulf War were on Permanent Medical Disability by 2000. 11,000 Gulf War veterans are already dead. Now 518,739 Gulf War Veterans, almost all of them, are currently on medical disability.
Principi, under the order of the Bush Administration, had been allegedly covering up the disastrous results of using depleted uranium since 2000. However, with so many soldiers having serious health problems it has become impossible to keep secret.
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Rumsfeld Declares War on Bad Press
Analysis by Emad Mekay
WASHINGTON, Feb 21 (IPS) - Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld has signaled that he plans to intensify a campaign to influence global media coverage of the United States, a move that is likely to heighten the debate over press freedom and propaganda-free reporting.
Speaking at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York last week, Rumsfeld said that Washington will launch a new drive to spread and defend U.S. views, especially in the so-called war on terror.
He cited the Cold War-era initiatives of the U.S. Information Agency and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, widely viewed outside the United States as sophisticated propaganda outlets, as a model for the new offensive.
If similar efforts over the past five years are any example, the campaign is likely to take place in two main areas -- the U.S. media and the press in the Arab and Muslim worlds, where Washington sees its strategic influence as pivotal.
On Tuesday, Rumsfeld also said that the Pentagon is "reviewing" its practice of paying to plant good news stories in the Iraqi news media, contradicting a previous assertion that the controversial propaganda programme had been halted.
Critics here say the new media blitz joins a long list of decisions by the George W. Bush administration, such as ordering the National Security Agency to spy on U.S. citizens without warrants, monitoring library records, and compiling databases on U.S. citizens who disagree with the administration's policies, that are leading the country down an authoritarian path -- ironically, one that is not far from those Middle Eastern regimes that have long clamped down on freedom of expression and independent journalism.
And they note that the U.S. mainstream media already tends towards a conservative interpretation of events, with scant regard for opposing views.
According to a study released this month by the U.S.-based media organisation Media Matters for America, conservative voices have considerably outnumbered liberal voices for the past nine years on the Sunday morning television news shows, considered among the pinnacles of U.S. journalism.
The report analysed the content of influential shows such as NBC's Meet the Press, CBS' Face the Nation, and ABC's This Week. It classified each of the nearly 7,000 guests who appeared during the 1997-2005 period as either Democrat, Republican, conservative, progressive, or neutral.
It found that guests opposing the Bush administration's policies, during both terms, were given only enough space to maintain a veneer of fairness and accuracy. Congressional opponents of the Iraq war, for example, were mostly missing from the Sunday shows, particularly during the period just before the war began in March 2003.
"If conservative dominance in this major arena of (U.S.) public opinion-making continues as it has in the past nine years, it may have serious consequences for future policy debates and elections," said David Brock, president of the Washington-based NGO Media Matters for America.
"This study should serve as a wake-up call to anyone who thinks they are seeing balanced discourse on Sunday mornings -- and to those responsible for producing this imbalanced programming," he said.
Rumsfeld's plan would almost certainly seek to bolster such sympathetic reporting. In his speech, the U.S. military chief used war terminology to refer to the media.
He said that "some of the most critical battles may not be in the mountains of Afghanistan or the streets of Iraq, but in newsrooms -- in places like New York, London, Cairo, and elsewhere."
According to Jim Naureckas, editor of Extra!, a magazine put out by the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), "They see the mutilation of information that reaches the public as a key part of their war strategy, and I think that is a very dangerous way for the military to be looking at their job in a democracy."
"When people talk about the 'home front' they do not realise what sinister implications that has. The public is seen as another front that the military is fighting out."
Rumsfeld recommended that the media be part of every move in the so-called war on terror, including an increase in Internet operations, the establishment of 24-hour press operations centres, and training military personnel in other channels of communication.
He said the government would work to hire more media experts from the private sector and that there will be less emphasis on the print press.
The State Department, under Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, is also stepping up its propaganda efforts. Last week, Rice asked for 74 million dollars to expand broadcasting and internet campaigns in Iran, as well as to promote student exchanges, in order to destabilise the regime there.
But to many independent media analysts, the Bush administration has too often confused propaganda with facts and information.
"I think that in the Pentagon world view, facts become instrumentalised," Naureckas said. "The point of putting out information is to achieve your military objectives. It's not to serve truth in some kind of abstract sense. And once you start looking at it this way, the difference between a true statement and false statement really becomes very little."
The Bush administration has had some success in influencing the media at home in the United States, a country with generally sophisticated and discerning media operations.
Last week, U.S. lawmaker Henry Waxman and other senior Democratic leaders released a new study by the Government Accountability Office, a Congressional oversight body, which found that the Bush administration spent a whopping 1.6 billion dollars in public relations and media over the last two and a half years to sway public opinion.
"The government is spending over a billion dollars per year on PR and advertising," said Congressman Waxman. "Careful oversight of this spending is essential given the track record of the Bush administration, which has used taxpayer dollars to fund covert propaganda within the United States."
The opposition Democrats had asked the GAO to conduct that study after evidence emerged last year that the Bush administration had commissioned "covert propaganda" from public relations firms that pushed video news releases that appeared to regular viewers as independent newscasts.
The report found that the administration's public relations and advertising contracts spanned a wide range of issues, including message development presenting "the Army's strategic perspective in the Global War on Terrorism".
The study found that the Pentagon spent the most on media contracts, with contracts worth 1.1 billion dollars. And all that money was before the new Rumsfeld plan. (END/2006)
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U.S. Still Planting Stories in Iraq Media
By ROBERT BURNS
02/21/06 "AP" -- -- Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld was mistaken when he said last week that the U.S. military had stopped the controversial practice of paying to plant stories in the Iraqi news media, a Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday.
Bryan Whitman, a senior spokesman, said Rumsfeld had been incorrect in saying during an TV interview Friday that the practice had been halted in the wake of negative publicity in the United States. Rumsfeld made a similar assertion during a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations that same day.
Whitman noted that Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has said he saw no reason to stop the practice.
An official inquiry into the program by Navy Rear Adm. Scott Van Buskirk has been completed but its results have not been publicly released.
In his speech, Rumsfeld raised the issue as an example of the U.S. military command in Baghdad seeking "nontraditional means" to get its message to the Iraqi people in the face of a disinformation campaign by the insurgents.
"Yet this has been portrayed as inappropriate - for example, the allegations of someone in the military hiring a contractor and the contractor allegedly paying someone to print a story - a true story - but paying to print a story," he said during his speech.
"The resulting explosion of critical press stories then causes everything - all activity, all initiative - to stop, just frozen," he added.
In an appearance Friday on PBS' "The Charlie Rose Show," Rumsfeld said he had not known about the practice of paying for news stories before it became a subject of critical publicity in the United States.
"When we heard about it we said, `Gee, that's not what we ought to be doing,' and told the people down there," he said.
Although "it wasn't anything terrible that happened," Pentagon officials ordered a halt to the practice and "they stopped doing it," he added, according to a transcript provided by the show.
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US media drops Abu Ghraib torture issue
By David Walsh
21 February 2006
Horrifying images of systematic US military abuse of Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison were aired last week on Australian television and also published at Salon.com. The images of prisoners, naked, strapped to apparatuses on the floor, hanging upside down, wounded, threatened by snarling dogs, masturbating for their abusers, draped in women's underwear, forced to sodomize themselves, arranged in the most degrading and painful positions, as well as photographs of dead bodies and blood-smeared cells, have been in the possession of the US military for several years and have been systematically suppressed. The Pentagon has resisted efforts to have the photographs and videos made available to the public.
And for good reason. The Abu Ghraib images demonstrate, in the first place, the depraved and sadistic character of US treatment of detainees. More than that, they help give the lie to the propaganda of the Bush administration and the media about the motives for the Iraq war and occupation and its essential character. How could such barbarism be associated with the effort to spread 'democracy' in the Middle East, to 'liberate' the Iraqi people? The conduct by the US military prison guards is a telltale sign of a brutal, colonial occupation. The occupying power resorts to terror and criminality to suppress a population that opposes and despises its presence.
After a flurry of nervous commentary February 16, the day following the Australian broadcast, the Abu Ghraib horrors have for all intents and purposes been dropped by the American media. A few pious editorials appeared over the weekend (for example, in the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and Baltimore Sun), none of which carried much weight or conviction.
The Times editors commented that the pictures "are a reminder that the Bush administration has yet to account for what happened at Abu Ghraib. No political appointee has been punished for the policies that led to the atrocities. Indeed, most have been rewarded." The newspaper concludes on a pathetic note, urging Republican Sen. John Warner, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and one of those leading the effort over the past two years to hide the images from the American public, to "keep his promise to dig out the truth about Abu Ghraib."
Of course publications like the Times, the Inquirer and the Sun are hopelessly compromised in raising the Abu Ghraib issue by the fact that they defend the occupation and subjugation of Iraq. Their position is self-contradictory and untenable: they support the crime, but object to certain of the criminal methods. This explains the unconvincing and half-hearted nature of their criticism. They will editorialize limply once, perhaps twice, then go silent again.
The US military responded to the appearance of the new images as any powerful and thoroughly guilty party would: it denied, stonewalled, dismissed the images or blamed the abuses on subordinates. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said, "There aren't new allegations; they're old allegations. These aren't new photos; they're old photos." Whitman claimed that the original Abu Ghraib photos, published in April 2004, had provided the impetus for the US military "to take a look at our detention operations in a very broad and deep fashion. And these abuses that have occurred have been thoroughly investigated."
Last Friday, before Congress, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld repeated the claim that the new images of abuse and torture were 'old news.' He declared, "I'm told that these photographs that are coming out now are nothing more than the same things that came out before, if not identical of the same type of behavior. That behavior has been punished. The Department of Defense, from the beginning of this conflict, has had a policy that prohibits torture. It is not permitted, and we do not today. The people are trained to avoid it. And there's no question, but that there was conduct that was improper, and people were court-martialed, and people have been sent to prison, and people have been reduced dramatically in rank, officers have, and punished for the behavior that was unacceptable."
This statement is simply one lie or half-truth piled upon another. First of all, no one in the media will challenge the very framework of Rumsfeld's comments. He and a select group of the political elite have seen the images, while deliberately preventing the rest of the American population from viewing them. He is speaking about suppressed, banned material. It is not for Whitman and Rumsfeld to rule on their content. Decisions to conceal proof of their own crimes-and then declare their conduct irreproachable, without any independent party able to make an evaluation-are made by police-state regimes, not democratic ones.
In any event, the claim that the guards at Abu Ghraib acted against Defense Department orders is a lie and everyone knows it. Torture and abuse of prisoners have become official US policy under the Bush administration.
In December 2002 Rumsfeld personally approved of a list of techniques for the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, that included putting prisoners in "stress positions" for four hours, hooding them and subjecting them to 20-hour interrogations, "fear of dogs" and "mild, non-injurious physical contact." The list was so severe that military officers complained and the defense secretary was obliged to order a high-level review of interrogation policy. In April 2003 Rumsfeld approved a new list, which included the use of at least six techniques-including the use of dogs.
In August and September 2003, General Geoffrey Miller, the officer in charge at the Guantánamo camp, was sent by Rumsfeld to Iraq with orders to increase the brutality of the military's treatment of prisoners there, to "Gitmo-ize" conditions. On one of these visits, Rumsfeld accompanied Miller. On September 14, 2003, General Ricardo Sanchez, at the time the top military commander in Iraq, issued an order authorizing a number of techniques, including "presence of military working dogs" which will "exploit Arab fear of dogs while maintaining security during interrogations."
"The use of dogs, however," as we noted recently on the WSWS, "was only one of a number of new methods introduced into Iraq, some explicitly approved and some implicitly condoned by Sanchez, Rumsfeld and Miller. Stripping prisoners naked and forcing them to wear women's underwear-part of a general policy of deliberate sexual humiliation-were both practiced in Guantánamo Bay before being transferred to Iraq. Miller was specifically cleared of responsibility for the use of these methods in a probe into abuse at Guantánamo Bay, on the grounds that they were approved military practice." (See "Miller takes the Fifth: US general withholds testimony in Abu Ghraib abuse trial")
The interrogators and guards were simply unleashed on the Iraqi prisoners (most of whom were guilty of nothing whatsoever) and encouraged to 'break' them by any means necessary. If some of the guards 'improvised,' it was improvisation from a script written by Rumsfeld, Miller and Sanchez.
The Abu Ghraib images are documentary proof of US government policy. Here is the policy made manifest, in the form of humiliated, bruised, tortured and dead human bodies.
The very fact that thousands of images were recorded of the mistreatment and torture, complete with grinning or nonchalant guards, is one proof of the official character of the conduct at Abu Ghraib. No one thought he or she was breaking the rules; on the contrary, the personnel had been instructed in these techniques.
As for the claims by Whitman and Rumsfeld that the crimes have been investigated and the guilty parties have been punished ... a handful of wretched, backward prison guards have been jailed. Neither Rumsfeld, Miller or Sanchez has ever been the subject of an investigation, much less a criminal charge. As Amnesty International notes, zero is the "[n]umber of high-level military or civilian leaders held accountable for policies or practices that lead to abuse of detainees and deaths in custody."
The practices in the Iraqi detention centers and elsewhere no doubt continue. The occupation hasn't changed its character. The US forces are hated more than ever by the Iraqis. Former army interrogator Tony Lagouranis, for example, in a segment of PBS's "Frontline" program broadcast last October, described his experiences in Iraq from January 2004 to January 2005, well after the first Abu Ghraib photos appeared and the military promised to mend its ways. He commented, "The worst stuff I saw was from the detaining units who would torture people in their homes. They would smash people's feet with the back of an axe-head. They would break bones, ribs, you know. That was serious stuff."
Amnesty International in April 2005 reported that it continued to receive reports of abuse of detained Iraqis. According to testimony received by the group, "US interrogators have participated in questioning prisoners held at the Iraqi Interior Ministry, a location at which detainees have repeatedly alleged torture and ill-treatment."
In any event, if the photographs and videos are 'more of the same,' then why is the US government so ferociously resisting their release? Defeated in court numerous times over the issue, the Bush administration continues to appeal a federal judge's decision last September ordering their release. The government and military are fearful because the images expose the actual, ugly and brutal face of the US occupation of Iraq, the face that the administration, in coordination with the media, is attempting to keep as much as possible from the American public.
The US government claims that it opposes the images' release because, in the words of State Department legal advisor, John Bellinger, they will fan "the flames at a time that sentiments on these issues are raw around the world." No doubt Arab and Muslim public opinion is an issue, although the US could hardly be viewed less favorably than it is at present. Probably of more concern to the administration is preventing the reality of the war from making its way to the population in the US. Why else so assiduously suppress battlefront images and photographs of coffins containing the American dead returning home?
Moreover, even the claim by Rumsfeld and Whitman that these are simply 'old photos' is false. As Mike Carey, executive producer of the "Dateline" television program in Australia that exposed the new images, told the media, "Well, it seems to us that there's a quantum leap in the abuse, in the potential abuse: corpses, really despicable sexual humiliation. As far as I understand, these have not been investigated." One of the corpses is a man who died during a CIA interrogation; no CIA employee have ever been charged in relation to crimes at Abu Ghraib.
Olivia Rousset, reporter for "Dateline," told Amy Goodman of the Democracy Now! radio program: "Obviously, a lot of it [the new imagery] is the same as what was released before, from the same series of events, the same torture and abuse, but there are new cases of abuse that haven't been seen before and some corpses of people who have been either killed in riots or killed from mortars going over the wall into the prison. But, to me, it sort of shows that there was pretty widespread abuse going on."
The lack of outrage in the American media about the Abu Ghraib torture and murder, and the concealment of the images, is entirely predictable, but nonetheless revealing. (Of course, the right-wing media is up in arms-that the material surfaced at all. The thugs at Fox News, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, the ultra-right talk shows, web sites and so forth believe that the American military should be allowed to carry out its crimes unobserved and undisturbed.)
What would be the response if the shoe were on the other foot, and hundreds or thousands of US military personnel or civilians had been systematically abused, tortured and, in some cases, murdered? One can only imagine the blood-curdling headlines for days, weeks and months, backed up by threats and plans for war! Sadism, blood and death in an Iraqi prison, however, counts for very little in the US media, which is a wholehearted accomplice in the invasion and occupation.
As a footnote, it almost goes without saying that leading figures in the Democratic Party have had nothing to say about the new revelations of crimes at Abu Ghraib. A search of the Democratic Party National Committee's official web site returns the revealing result: "No pages were found containing 'Abu Ghraib photos.'" No press release was issued by the Democrats. No statement can be found by John Kerry, Hillary Clinton or Howard Dean's "Democracy for America." These too are accomplices.
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An Upside-Down Media
By Robert Parry
February 18, 2006
The gravest indictment of the American news media is that George W. Bush has gutted the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Charter – yet this extraordinary story does not lead the nation's newspapers and the evening news every day.
Nor does the press corps tie Bush's remarkable abrogation of both U.S. and international law together in any coherent way for the American people. At best, disparate elements of Bush's authoritarian powers are dealt with individually as if they are not part of some larger, more frightening whole.
What's even odder is that the facts of this historic power grab are no longer in serious dispute. The Bush administration virtually spelled out its grandiose vision of Bush's powers during the debates over such issues as Jose Padilla's detention, Samuel Alito's Supreme Court nomination and the disclosure of warrantless wiretaps.
For instance, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has defended the wiretapping program in part by citing the inherent powers of the President to override laws during war time, an argument that the administration also has applied to detentions without trial, abuse of prisoners, launching foreign military operations and committing extra-judicial assassinations.
All Bush has to do, it seems, is deem someone an "enemy combatant" or an "affiliate" of some terrorist group and that person's life and liberty are delivered into Bush's hands, without any impartial evaluation of the evidence.
But what makes Bush's assertion of authority uniquely dangerous in U.S. history is that his claim of "plenary" – or unlimited – powers as the Commander in Chief are not made in the short-term context of a national crisis or a war with a definable end.
Rather these presidential powers have been asserted during what administration officials are calling the Long War against terrorism, a conflict that could well last for decades and quite possibly forever. Instead of the Long War, it could really become the Endless War.
In other words, the American system of government as the world has known it for two-plus centuries – with its "unalienable rights" and its "checks and balances" – has effectively come to an end.
Yet this earth-shaking development is barely a news story in the United States. Even when prominent Democrats and some Republicans draw troubling conclusions about Bush's megalomania, the major news media barely mentions the protests.
For instance, Sen. Russ Feingold observed in
a Feb. 7 speech to the Senate about Bush's warrantless surveillance, "this administration reacts to anyone who questions this illegal program by saying that those of us who demand the truth and stand up for our rights and freedoms have a pre-9/11 view of the world. In fact, the President has a pre-1776 view of the world."
But Feingold's declaration, implicitly comparing Bush to King George III, got far more attention on Internet blogs than in the mainstream news media.
Another of the few political leaders who has sounded the alarm is former Vice President Al Gore, who addressed the issue of presidential power in a largely ignored speech on Jan. 16, the holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr.
"An Executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution – an all-powerful Executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free," Gore said.
"As the Executive acts outside its constitutionally prescribed role and is able to control access to information that would expose its actions, it becomes increasingly difficult for the other branches to police it. Once that ability is lost, democracy itself is threatened and we become a government of men and not laws." [See Consortiumnews.com's "End of Unalienable Rights."]
The Bush administration's obsession with controlling the flow of information also carries a foreboding sense of doom to anyone who believes in a vibrant democracy. It now appears that Bush's concept of a terrorist "affiliate" is sliding inexorably toward covering people who present facts that undermine Bush's "information warfare" goals.
On Feb. 17, in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared that the battle over information will be a decisive front in the War on Terror and juxtaposed "the enemy" and "news informers" as part of the problem.
"We are fighting a battle where the survival of our free way of life is at stake and the center of gravity of that struggle is not simply on the battlefield overseas; it's a test of wills, and it will be won or lost with our publics, and with the publics of other nations," Rumsfeld said.
"We'll need to do all we can to attract supporters to our efforts and to correct the lies that are being told, which so damage our country, and which are repeated and repeated and repeated. …
"Let there be no doubt, the longer it takes to put a strategic communication framework into place, the more we can be certain that the vacuum will be filled by the enemy and by news informers that most assuredly will not paint an accurate picture of what is actually taking place."
Already, Bush's allies in the right-wing news media have taken to accusing "news informers" and other critics of Bush's policies of "aiding and abetting" the enemy and of committing "treason."
At times, the White House has coordinated these right-wing media attacks with government leaks to target critics, such as the disclosure of CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity after her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, challenged Bush's case for war in Iraq.
Throwing Down the Gauntlet
So, in big ways and small, the Bush administration has thrown down the gauntlet to Americans who want to protect individual liberties and preserve the democratic Republic envisioned by the Founding Fathers.
But a major obstacle to any unified resistance to Bush's authoritarian model is the failure of the news media to explain these historic developments to the public. More often, the big newspapers and networks have bowed to the administration's news management.
The New York Times, the Washington Post and other key U.S. news outlets only grudgingly admitted that they let the country down before the Iraq War by swallowing Bush administration claims on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
But little has really changed in the past three years, either in the media's structure or in the pecking order of elite columnists. With only a few exceptions, the commentators who bungled Iraq's WMD have survived and are still shaping – or misshaping – public opinion.
Indeed, most elite columnists are still acting as if all is normal – that it's not so strange that Bush is saying that he or his successors can do whatever they want to anyone in the world for the duration of the so-called Long War.
Even after the WMD debacle, most of these editorial writers and commentators continued to behave as Bush's cheerleaders, for instance, praising his Second Inaugural Address on Jan. 20, 2005, for its endless invocation of the words "freedom" and "liberty."
The pundits also have kept spotting glimmers of hope in the Middle East, even as the U.S. position has grown grimmer and grimmer. A year ago, these commentators were hailing Bush for unleashing the cleansing winds of democracy across the Middle East.
But the pundits missed the fact that many of those regional developments were unrelated to Bush's invasion of Iraq. They also didn't catch the possibility that elections might not bring the blessings of peace and moderation that Bush promised.
Like many of his U.S. press colleagues, New York Times foreign policy columnist Thomas L. Friedman pronounced himself "unreservedly happy" about the Iraqi election of Jan. 30, 2005, adding: "you should be, too."
But there was always a dark potential to the pleasing images of Iraqis voting with stained fingers. Rather than pointing toward an exit for the United States from Iraq, the election actually was a way for the Shiite majority to consolidate its sectarian control of Iraq, further isolating and alienating the rival Sunni minority.
However, this sobering possibility was banished mostly to the Internet and other fringes of American media.
At Consortiumnews.com, we wrote that "if the Sunni-based insurgency doesn't give up in the months ahead, American soldiers could find themselves enmeshed in a long and brutal civil war helping the Shiite majority crush the resistance of the Sunni minority. The Sunnis, who have long dominated Iraq, find themselves in a tight corner and may see little choice but to fight on." [See "Sinking in Deeper."]
But the big media was busy waving its pom-poms.
After those Iraqi elections and several other regional developments, Friedman was perceiving historical "tipping points" that foreshadowed "incredible," positive changes in the Middle East. [NYT, Feb. 27, 2005]
To Friedman, this expected transformation of the Arab world would also be a personal vindication for his endorsement of the bloody Iraq War, which has now killed nearly 2,300 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis.
"The last couple of years have not been easy for anyone, myself included, who hoped that the Iraq war would produce a decent, democratizing outcome," Friedman wrote. [NYT, March 3, 2005]
A lead editorial in the New York Times struck a similar tone, crediting Bush for supposedly inspiring democratic changes in Lebanon and Palestine, not to mention Egypt and Saudi Arabia. "The Bush administration is entitled to claim a healthy share of the credit for many of these advances," the editorial said. [NYT, March 1, 2005]
Over at the Washington Post's Op-Ed page, there was similar applause for Bush and the neoconservative vision of imposing "democracy" on Arab nations by force.
"Could it be that the neocons were right and that the invasion of Iraq, the toppling of Hussein and the holding of elections will trigger a political chain reaction throughout the Arab world?" marveled Post columnist Richard Cohen. [Washington Post, March 1, 2005]
Another influential Post columnist, David Ignatius, also was swept up in the excitement.
"The old system (in the Middle East) that had looked so stable is ripping apart, with each beam pulling another down as it falls," Ignatius wrote. Crediting the U.S. invasion of Iraq for the "sudden stress" that started the collapse, Ignatius wrote, "It's hard not to feel giddy, watching the dominoes fall."
Ignatius hailed what he called "the Middle East's glorious catastrophe" and urged the United States to do what it could to accelerate the process.
"We are careening around the curve of history, and it's useful to remember a basic rule for navigating slippery roads: Once you're in the curve, you can't hit the brakes. The only way for America to keep this car on the road is to keep its foot on the accelerator," Ignatius wrote. [Washington Post, March 2, 2005]
(It's not clear where this Post columnist went to driving school, but few instructors would tell their pupils, who find themselves sliding into an icy curve, to step on the gas.)
Another Washington Post columnist, neoconservative Charles Krauthammer, sounded like a modern-day Trotsky and Robespierre, urging an escalation of Bush's radical strategies. "Revolutions do not stand still," Krauthammer wrote. "They either move forward or die." [Washington Post, March 4, 2005]
This conventional wisdom of Bush bringing democratic enlightenment to the Arab world also permeated the news pages.
"A powerful confluence of events in the Middle East in recent weeks has infused President Bush's drive to spread democracy with a burst of momentum, according to supporters and critics alike," reported the Washington Post in an awestruck page-one article. [March 8, 2005]
Just a year later, however, it is clear how off-the-mark these columns were. Many of the developments – viewed by the pundits as interrelated and inspired by the Iraq War – were actually reactions to distinct local conditions.
The Lebanese protests against Syrian occupation were not influenced by Bush's invasion of Iraq or his "freedom" Inaugural Address, but rather by growing impatience with the longtime Syrian presence. Those tensions were brought to a head by the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and suspicions of Syrian complicity.
A year ago, a brief revival of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks was sparked by the death of Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat and the desire of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to leave behind a more positive legacy. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Neocon Amorality" or "Bush's Neocons Unbridled."
Another giant hole in the conventional wisdom was that elections – which would likely reflect the angry mood of Muslims at this time – could well take the region in the opposite direction, toward greater religious fundamentalism and extremism.
Contrary to Bush's happy rhetoric about how "history has proven that democracies yield the peace," the reality can be the opposite. Historically, voters in democratic societies often have responded to fear, hate, religious fervor or some other irrational stimuli in supporting political demagogues who provoke unnecessary wars.
Historians can trace this pattern from Ancient Athens to the war fever that Bush released in the United States in 2002 before invading Iraq. While democracies have many admirable qualities, moderation and peacefulness are not always among them.
Anyone with a sense of history and an awareness of the animosities in the Islamic world should not have been surprised that some recent elections served to exacerbate sectarian tensions and bring religious fundamentalists to power.
In Iraq, elections indeed did solidify the power of the Shiite majority over the Sunnis. The pro-Iranian Shiite parties and their Kurdish allies also have consolidated their control of the nation's oil riches, leaving the Sunnis without either political power or oil wealth – and thus creating new incentives for them to fight on.
The year-ago optimism about Palestine also proved to be misplaced. Not only have prospects for peace talks foundered, but a stroke removed Sharon from power and a new crisis has emerged after Islamic militants in Hamas defeated the more secular Fatah movement in a Palestinian election.
Now, rather than hailing those blessings of democracy, Israel and the United States are considering ways to isolate, bankrupt and destroy the elected Hamas government.
So, instead of democracy ushering in a new era of peace and moderation in the Middle East, the opposite appears to be occurring.
By pushing for elections while simultaneously stirring up Islamic fury over Iraq and other issues, Bush is opening the door to more violence, more extremism and more anti-Americanism.
All of these possibilities were logical outgrowths of what was occurring a year ago. Indeed, it should have been obvious to U.S. analysts that elections represented a huge risk amid Muslim animosity over the Iraq occupation, the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, and long-term U.S. support for Israel and corrupt Arab leaders.
But many leading U.S. columnists were caught off-guard by these developments, much as they were duped by Bush's claims about Iraq's WMD. Yet these error-prone columnists haven't been fired or replaced.
Now, the danger is the media's failure to react to Bush's unprecedented assertion of power inside the United States.
Just as the nation's elite editorial pages misunderstood the reality in the Middle East, most columnists are missing the extraordinary transformation now underway toward a system of American authoritarianism.
The pundits would rather bathe in the feel-good rhetoric about Bush spreading freedom and democracy around the world than face the harsh reality of Bush eradicating constitutional safeguards at home.
[For more on Consortiumnews.com's reporting on the media crisis and the Middle East, see "Politics of Preemption," "Giving War a Chance," "The Bush Rule of Journalism," "Washington's Ricky Proehl Syndrome," "LMSM – the Lying Mainstream Media," "Iraq & the Logic of Withdrawal," "Explaining the Bush Cocoon," "Alito & the Point of No Return," and "Alito & the Media Mess."]
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Press Can Be Prosecuted for Having Secret Files, U.S. Says
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 22, 2006; Page A03
The Bush administration said that journalists can be prosecuted under current espionage laws for receiving and publishing classified information but that such a step "would raise legitimate and serious issues and would not be undertaken lightly," according to a court filing made public this week.
"There plainly is no exemption in the statutes for the press, let alone lobbyists like the defendants," Justice Department lawyers wrote in response to a motion filed last month seeking to dismiss charges against Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, former lobbyists for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
Last August, the two men were accused of receiving classified information during conversations they had with government officials, one of whom warned Weissman that "the information he was about to receive was highly classified 'Agency stuff,' " according to the government's indictment. That official was Lawrence A. Franklin, who worked at the Pentagon. He recently pleaded guilty to violating the Espionage Act.
One argument made in the defendants' motion was that the two pro-Israeli lobbyists were doing what reporters, think-tank experts and members of congressional staffs "do perhaps hundreds of times every day" in receiving leaked classified information and passing it on to others.
In its Jan. 30 response unsealed this week, the government said Rosen and Weissman, as lobbyists, "have no First Amendment right to willfully disclose national defense information." The government went on to say: "Stating this, we recognize that a prosecution under the espionage laws of an actual member of the press for publishing classified information leaked to it by a government source, would raise legitimate and serious issues and would not be undertaken lightly, indeed, the fact that there has never been such a prosecution speaks for itself."
Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, who first disclosed the government filing on his Web site, http://www.fas.org/sgp , said yesterday, "The idea that the government can penalize the receipt of proscribed information, and not just its unauthorized disclosure, is one that characterizes authoritarian societies, not mature democracies."
Comment: Remember the Judy Miller case at the New York Times? Miller had been used by the neo-cons, and she is herself a neo-con, to funnel out fake info about Saddam and his weapons of mass invisibility. She was becoming a disgrace when her antics became public. Then, last summer, she was ressurected as a hero for refusing to give her sources in the Valerie Plame leak case.
She heroically did her time until "Scooter" Libby admitted that he was her source.
Here we have a case of Israeli spying on the US, something that goes on regularly and consistently. We see the attempt to pull the same switcheroo in a way to white wash Israel's spying on the US.
The Bush regime will attempt to use the case to clamp down yet again on the rights of US citizens while those interested in the freedom of information will be manuevered into supporting the spies!
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We are moving ever closer to the era of mind control
Sunday February 5, 2006
The military interest in new brain-scanning technology is beginning to show a sinister side
Brain scientists are on a roll. Concern about rising levels of mental distress have resulted in unprecedented levels of funding in the US and Europe. And a range of new technologies, from genetics to brain imaging, are offering extraordinary insights into the molecular and cellular processes underlying how we see, how we remember, why we become emotional.
Brain imaging has become familiar. Scanners, known by their initials - CAT, PET, MRI - began as clinical tools, enabling surgeons to identify potential tumours, the damage following a stroke or the diagnostic signs of incipient dementia. But neuroscientists quickly seized on their wider potential. The images of regions of the brain 'lighting up' when a person is thinking of their lover, imagining travelling from home to the shops, or solving a mathematical problem, have captured the imagination of researchers and public alike. What if they could do more?
Recently I published the results of an experiment in which we looked at the regions of the brain that became active when people chose between competing products in supermarkets. Major companies, ranging from Coca-Cola to BMW, are starting to image the brains of potential customers to study how they respond to new designs or brands. They are beginning to speak of 'neuromarketing' and 'neuroeconomics.'
Such trends may be relatively innocuous, but the increasing state interest in what the images might reveal is less so. Specifically, what if brain imaging could predict future behaviour, or indicate guilt or innocence of a crime? There are claims, for example, that it could reveal potential 'psychopathy', that the brains of men convicted of brutal murders show significantly abnormal patterns.
In the current legislative climate, where there have been attempts to introduce pre-emptive detention for 'psychopaths' who have not yet been convicted of any crime, such claims need to be addressed critically. They are and will be resisted by the judiciary, but recent developments suggest that this may be a frail defence against an increasingly authoritarian state.
More seriously, there is increasing military interest in the development of techniques that can survey and possibly manipulate the mental processes of potential enemies, or enhance the potential of one's own troops. There is nothing new about such an interest. In the US, it stretches back at least half a century. Impressed by claims that the Soviet Union was developing psychological warfare, the CIA and the Defence Advanced Projects Agency (Darpa) began their own programmes. Early experiments included the clandestine feeding of LSD to their own operatives and attempts at 'brain-washing'. These were the forerunners of the hoods and white noise used by the British in Northern Ireland - until judged illegal - and more recently in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo, where they inhabit an uncertain borderline between what the US government regards as an acceptable level of violence and the torture that it denies committing.
By the 1960s, Darpa, along with the US Navy, was funding almost all US research into 'artificial intelligence', in order to develop methods and technologies for the 'automated battlefield' and the 'intelligent soldier'. Contracts were let and patents taken out on techniques aimed at recording signals from the brains of enemy personnel at a distance, in order to 'read their minds'.
These efforts have burgeoned in the aftermath of the so-called 'war on terror'. One US company claims to have developed a technique called 'brain- fingerprinting', which can 'determine the truth regarding a crime, terrorist activities or terrorist training by detecting information stored in the brain'. The stress of lying under interrogation is supposed to result in a specific wave form which electrodes measuring the brain's fluctuating electrical signals can detect. We may be sceptical about the validity of such methods, but they indicate the direction in which research is heading. The company claims its procedures have been accepted in evidence in court in the US.
The step beyond reading thoughts is to attempt to control them directly. A new technique - transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) - has begun to generate interest. This focuses an intense magnetic field on specific brain regions, and has been shown to affect thoughts, perceptions and behaviour. There are suggestions it could be used to control obsessive-compulsive behaviour, while some even take seriously the scenario envisaged in the film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, in which TMS was used to erase unwanted memories of a love affair gone wrong. Currently only possible if a subject's head is put inside the relevant machine, TMS at a distance is now under active military investigation. So is chip technology, which might provide implanted prostheses to overcome sensory deficits or control behaviour, and whose potential bioethics committees around Europe have been scrutinising.
It is tempting to dismiss all these as technological fantasies and their proponents as sellers of snake oil, but the fact that a technology is faulty doesn't mean it won't be used. One only has to think of the tens of thousands of lobotomies carried out on schizophrenic patients in the past century. Britain is one of the world's leading examples of a surveillance society, observing its citizens through CCTV cameras and controlling their behaviour with Asbos and Ritalin. The potential for surveillance of citizen's thoughts has moved far beyond the visions of 1984.
Science cannot happen without major public or private expenditure but its goals are set at least as much by the market and the military as by the disinterested pursuit of knowledge. This is why neuroscientists have a responsibility to make their subject and its potentials as transparent as possible, and why the voices of concerned citizens should be heard not 'downstream' when the technologies are already fully formed, but 'upstream' while the science is still in progress. We have to find ways of ensuring that such voices are listened through the cacophony of slogans about 'better brains' - and the power of the military and the market.
- This is an edited extract from Better Humans? The Politics of Human Enhancement and Life Extension, a collection of essays to be published by Demos and the Wellcome Trust on Wednesday. Steven Rose is Professor of Biology at the Open University.
Such trends may be relatively innocuous, but the increasing state interest in what the images might reveal is less so. Specifically, what if brain imaging could predict future behaviour, or indicate guilt or innocence of a crime? There are claims, for example, that it could reveal potential 'psychopathy', that the brains of men convicted of brutal murders show significantly abnormal patterns.
The real problem is that if those in power are psychopaths, they're not going to be pushing technologies that could be used to incriminate them. They would do the exact opposite.
In the current legislative climate, where there have been attempts to introduce pre-emptive detention for 'psychopaths' who have not yet been convicted of any crime, such claims need to be addressed critically. They are and will be resisted by the judiciary, but recent developments suggest that this may be a frail defence against an increasingly authoritarian state.
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House Democrat says White House nixed NSA briefing
By David Morgan Tue Feb 21, 7:34 PM ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A top intelligence official was prepared to brief the House of Representatives intelligence committee about President George W. Bush's domestic spying program last December but was stopped by White House Chief of Staff Andy Card, a leading House Democrat said on Tuesday.
Rep. Jane Harman of California, ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said she and fellow Democrats on the panel sought a briefing from deputy U.S. intelligence chief, Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden, soon after Bush confirmed the existence of the surveillance program.
"Gen. Hayden said he was prepared to brief the full committee but our request was disapproved by White House Chief of Staff Andy Card," Harman said in a statement issued by her office.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said she was not aware of any conversations about a possible intelligence briefing in December. A spokeswoman for Hayden declined to comment.
But Harman's remarks could suggest a previously undisclosed readiness by top intelligence officials to speak about the secret program with a broader audience of lawmakers.
The administration has fully briefed only eight lawmakers in the House and Senate about the program's operations up to now, saying wider disclosure could pose security risks.
Bush acknowledged publicly on December 17 that he authorized the National Security Agency after the September 11 attacks to eavesdrop without a court warrant on international telephone calls and e-mails between Americans and others suspected of ties with al Qaeda.
The program has raised concerns among Democrats and some Republicans that Bush may have overstepped his constitutional authority and even violated federal law by not briefing the full House and Senate intelligence panels about the operation.
Two weeks ago, the White House bowed to mounting pressure in Congress and provided some details of the eavesdropping program to the full House and Senate intelligence committees.
But the White House has also pressed Republican lawmakers to stave off calls for full congressional investigations.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has put off until March 7 a vote sought by Democrats that would authorize such an inquiry. House Republicans have also clashed over the need for Congress to undertake a full-scale probe.
Perino said the White House was open to ideas in Congress, particularly a proposal by Republican Sen. Mike DeWine (news, bio, voting record) of Ohio to create special House and Senate intelligence subcommittees to oversee the program's operations.
"The administration has signaled that it is now shifting course. A senior White House official told me this weekend that it is important to put the program on solid legal footing and improve congressional oversight," Harman said.
"This is welcome news, but it is not a substitute for fully briefing the committees on the operations of the program."
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US 'aware' of Iraq torture
The US is "aware" of torture taking place in Iraqi prisons, according to the outgoing Maltese UN human rights chief in Iraq.
"Yes, torture is happening now, mainly in illegal detention places. Such centres are mostly being run by militia that have been absorbed by the police force," says John Pace, who retired last week as human rights chief for the UN assistance mission in Iraq.
In a frank interview with The Times, Dr Pace says photos and forensic records have proved that torture was rife inside detention centres. Though the process of release has been speeded up, there are an estimated 23,000 people in detention, of whom 80 to 90 per cent are innocent.
He says the Baghdad morgue received 1,100 bodies in July alone, about 900 of whom bore evidence of torture or summary execution. That continued throughout the year and last December there were 780 bodies, including 400 having gunshot wounds or wounds as those caused by electric drills.
Dr Pace expresses deep concern over the progress of the Saddam Hussein trial, saying he would have preferred to see the former dictator tried internationally.
After two years serving in Iraq, Dr Pace says that the non-existence of law and order has left society without any protection, clearly reflecting that the US invasion was not properly planned.
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Struggling for Recruits, Army Relaxes Its Rules
By Douglas Belkin
The Boston Globe
Monday 20 February 2006
Chicopee - Generation XL is having a hard time squeezing into its military fatigues. Just ask Kyle Kimball.
The 18-year-old dreamed of following in his father's footsteps and serving with the Marines. But between his sophomore and senior years at Haverhill High School, Kimball packed on 80 pounds, ballooning up to 250. The cutoff for a 5-foot-10 Marine recruit: 215."There was just no way I was ever going to see that again," said Kimball, who works for his father's scrap-metal business.
But Kimball has another option. Earlier this month, he drove to Westover Joint Air Reserve Base in Chicopee and became one of New England's first would-be soldiers to take a fitness test for overweight recruits. His goal is to gain entrance into his second choice, the US Army.
With more than 2,200 dead and 16,700 wounded, and a large percentage of Americans disapproving of the war in Iraq, the US military is struggling to meet its recruiting goals. With little fanfare, the Army has eased enlistment restrictions, allowing soldiers previously considered too heavy, too old, too sickly, or too uneducated to head off to basic training.
In January, the enlistment age for active-duty Army recruits was raised from 35 to 40. Late last year, a key drug test for recent use of marijuana was softened. Last fall, a high school equivalency program was put in place for high school dropouts. And last spring, a ban on childhood asthmatics was removed.
But in a country where the rate of teenage obesity climbed from 5 percent to 16 percent over the last 30 years, perhaps the most significant revision is a loophole that allows recruits who are too heavy to meet weight or body fat limits to take the fitness test anyway.
"There's just a lot of kids sitting around playing Xbox and eating junk food," said Lieutenant Commander Renee J. Squier, who oversees the fitness test in Chicopee. "We lose a fair amount of people because they're really out of shape."
Kimball and Michael Hawkins, 23, of Malden, both said they undertook tough workouts before heading to Westover. The fitness assessment they took was a variation on the half-century-old Harvard Step Test. Subjects march up and down on a platform - 18 inches high for men, 12 inches for women - and keep pace with a metronome that ticks off a brisk 30 steps per minute. After 5 minutes, they sit and rest for 60 seconds. To pass, their pulse needs to be under 180 - and that's not saying much, according to Gary Skrinar, a professor of exercise physiology at Boston University. "Even if you're at 170, you're in pretty bad shape," he said.
After the step test, male recruits have to do 15 pushups in a minute. Women must do four.
Earlier this month, with his childhood dream on the line, Kimball walked into a sparsely furnished room on the Chicopee base, wearing black sweatpants, a gray T-shirt, and white running shoes. "Five minutes," he told himself. "I can do this." The soldier in charge gave him the signal and he started stepping.
The Army began administering the fitness tests for overweight recruits in six cities last year as a hedge against the increasing number of recruits failing to make weight. To date, more than 800 potential recruits who surpassed the Army's body weight standards have passed the conditioning test and gone on to basic training.
At the beginning of the month, with preliminary results in from those six cities - 73 percent passed - the test was extended to eight additional recruitment centers, including Westover, the first in New England.
The test is not open to everybody. Overweight men must measure below 30 percent body fat. Female recruits must have a body fat measurement of between 32 percent and 36 percent.
"These aren't guys from 'The Biggest Loser,' " said Lieutenant Colonel Dan Weaver, who is overseeing the testing, referring to the reality show where obese people compete to lose the most weight. "These aren't morbidly obese people, and this test isn't a free ticket. It's going to wind you and challenge motivation."
Captain Mark Spear of the North Shore Army Recruiting Company said he has sent about a half-dozen recruits to Westover since the test became available the first week of February.
"There's definitely a lot of out-of-shape people who come in here that are interested in the Army," said Spear, whose offices have two doctor's scales. "Pretty much the first thing we do is weigh them and measure them to see if there's going to be a problem."
The increased age limit, which was put in place on Jan. 6, allows active-duty Army enlistees to ship to basic training until the day before their 40th birthday. A more substantial impact on recruiting, Spear said, has been the GED course. Starting last October, high school dropouts have been able to enroll in an Army-sponsored program to help them earn their equivalency degree. The program has yielded between 20 and 30 new recruits at the North Shore recruiting center, Spear said. Last month, his quota was 42 active-duty recruits and 18 reservists.
Also helpful in recruiting has been the more lenient drug-testing policy. Before last year, a recruit who tested positive for marijuana had to wait six months to retake the test. Last year, that waiting time was knocked down to 45 days, Spear said.
None of those issues were at stake for Kimball, who graduated from Haverhill High School last year and was a sergeant in the Marine ROTC program. For him, the issue was weight.
During his sophomore year, Kimball wrestled at 171 pounds. Then he quit the team - and his training diet - and started lifting weights. Last week, eight months after graduation, a recruiter measured his neck at 17 1/2 inches and his abdomen at 43 inches. Though he said he can bench-press 285 pounds, running 3 miles is a substantial exertion.
After he realized the Marines were out of the question, an Army recruiter showed up at his door and told him about the new conditioning test not available in any other branch of the military.
"I told him, 'Let's do it, I'm ready,'" Kimball said.
An 18-year-old male like Kimball must be able to run 2 miles in 15 minutes, 54 seconds. He also must be able to bang out 53 situps and 42 pushups in 2 minutes each.
The step test measures fitness and assesses whether a recruit has the determination to meet those goals, said Squier, the Chicopee test overseer. A few hours after Kimball took the test, Squier, who is 36 and gave birth 15 months ago, barely broke a sweat while she was doing it. A minute after she stopped, her pulse had dropped to a leisurely 118. Minutes later, she knocked off 41 pushups in 60 seconds, stood up, and announced, "No problem."
Not so for Kimball. Two minutes into the step test, he could no longer keep pace with the metronome. The instructor told him to stop, take a few seconds, and try to match the pace again. After twice failing to keep up, he was out.
"It's horrible," Kimball said after he had a chance to digest the news. "But you can't quit."
Hawkins also failed to finish. At 5-foot-10 and 240 pounds, Hawkins considers himself "big-boned" and not in great shape.
"But I can get there," he said. "I know I can lose the weight."
Kimball said he hopes to take the test again on Sunday. Hawkins plans to retake it next month.
"I'm going to hit the gym even harder," Kimball said. "Whatever it takes, I'll do it."
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Anti-war activists visit schools to counter military recruiters' pitch
by Aamer Madhani
Feb. 19, 2006
Since last spring, Elizabeth Frank has carried her anti-war crusade to the hallways of several northwest suburban high schools. Once a month she sets up a table in the commons stacked with pamphlets and decorated with a shocking pink sign that reads: "Do You Know Enough to Enlist?"
So far, Frank's effort to educate students on the perils of joining the military mostly has been met by a wall of teenage indifference -- few students seem interested in having a serious conversation about the consequences of war.
"We haven't had many problems, but we've gotten a few snide comments from staff," said Frank, a longtime peace activist from Chicago. "Each time I come to Prospect [High School in Mt. Prospect], there is one kid who walks by and flips me off. He never says anything, just walks by and gives me the finger."
Despite an occasional chilly reception, Frank and other "counter-recruiters" opposed to the war in Iraq are trying to persuade one potential soldier at a time to pursue other career options. In recent months, activists say, they have visited 25 high schools in the Chicago area as they expand efforts to preach their message that life in the armed forces isn't what recruiters make it out to be.
Some counter-recruiters complain that the Chicago Public Schools system has been slow to implement a 1984 federal court ruling that gives opponents of the military equal access to students. One peace group, Code Pink, joined anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan outside Amundsen High School in Chicago on Friday to raise awareness about the equal-access provision and call on schools to allow counter-recruiters on campus.
Mike Vaughn, a Chicago schools spokesman, said that administrators were reminded about the equal access provision last spring and that counter-recruiters are allowed to visit schools when they request it. As recently as Tuesday, Senn High School let some activists talk to students in the cafeteria.
The local effort mirrors a national movement to stymie military recruitment in a period when American support for the war has plunged and as the U.S. military comes off a year when it failed to meet recruiting goals.
In San Francisco, voters in November approved a non-binding resolution that called on city officials to create scholarships and training programs that would reduce the military's appeal to young adults. And about 5,000 students in Massachusetts public schools "opted out," or had their names and phone numbers removed from lists that public schools are required to pass on to military recruiters.
In several cities throughout the country, including Chicago, activists have targeted young Hispanic men to educate them about the pitfalls of joining the military.
Bill Kelo, a spokesman for the U.S. Army recruiting efforts in Chicago, suggested that counter-recruiting activity has had no effect locally. In the first quarter of fiscal 2006, Kelo said the number of U.S. Army enlistees in the area has risen by 46 percent compared with the same period the previous year.
The Army has increased signing bonuses and other incentives as well as putting more recruiters on the street and allocating more money to advertising after a difficult recruiting year in 2005.
"We say our piece, and the [counter-recruiters] have a right to say theirs," Kelo said.
The American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization that promotes non-violence, prints literature for counter-recruiters to distribute to young people who may be thinking about enlisting.
The activists warn students to read any contract carefully and to be wary of promises from recruiters that they can join the armed services but avoid combat. Their literature also suggests alternative ways for young people to serve their country such as joining the Peace Corps or running for office.
Earlier this year, two other high schools in Township High School District 214 -- Wheeling and Buffalo Grove -- agreed to allow Frank to talk to students in the commons once a month.
At Wheeling, the school picks the day she can visit, but at Buffalo Grove and Prospect, Frank says she tries to pick a day that comes on the heels of an appearance by a military recruiter, so the topic is still fresh in the minds of students.
A recent visit to Wheeling happened to fall on the same day that a Marines recruiter stopped by.
"I had a nice chat with the guy, but he was a bit defensive," said Frank, who lives in Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood.
During a counter-recruiting session last week at Prospect, most of the students who stopped by Frank's table quickly passed over the literature and seemed more interested in the hard candy she had placed in a basket.
A few teachers and staff members stopped by to say hello to Frank, 57, whose two children graduated from Prospect.
In a different category were the two boys in khakis and button-down shirts who checked out the literature. One of the teens told her that his attitude on Iraq is that "we should kill them all."
A little later a young man with a lip ring told Frank that he hoped to join the Army and become a sniper. Frank suggested that he talk to Rick Davis, 58, a Vietnam War veteran who was manning the table with her that day, about what life at war is like.
With each young person he talks to, Davis suggests that they ask themselves a series of questions: Are you willing to give up all that is near and dear to you for an undetermined period of time? Is this a cause for which you are willing to die? Is it a cause for which you are willing to kill?
"It's the 'Are you willing to kill' question that stops a lot of the kids in their tracks," said Davis, a former Marine sergeant. "If you are not able to answer yes to all three questions, I don't think the military is the place for you."
When Frank arrived for her first counter-recruiting session at Buffalo Grove High School last month, some students were surprised to see a peace activist given the chance to offer an opposing view to the military.
"It was good to hear from someone who wasn't sugar-coating everything," said Paul Thornton, 17, a senior.
Danielle Levin, a senior member of the school's JROTC program, said that initially she was wary of seeing a peace activist in the school. But Levin, 17, concluded that Frank was offering a "fact-based" presentation.
"The decision of whether to enlist is something you need to be well informed about," said Levin. "But I think they need to be careful about how they present their information. Anybody can interpret facts and statistics to make them say what they want. It's really simple for recruiters to put it one way and the [peace activists] to put it another."
Comment: Isn't it kind of nuts that anyone would be "wary" of being in the presence of a peace activist? Everyone - well, almost everyone - wants peace, right? Perhaps part of the problem is that so many "anti-war" movements have been infiltrated by COINTELPRO operations over the years to render them ineffective. That does not mean, however, that intelligent, rational, and truly peaceful anti-war activists don't exist.
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Iraqi blast damages Shia shrine
Wednesday, 22 February 2006, 12:03 GMT
A bomb attack in Iraq has badly damaged one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam, sparking furious protests.
Thousands of Iraqis have gathered at the al-Askari shrine in Samarra, north of Baghdad, where two men blew up the famous golden dome in a dawn raid.
Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the spiritual head of Iraq's Shia Muslims, has called for a week of mourning.
Shias in Baghdad attacked at least five Sunni mosques in reprisal raids, with disturbances reported in other cities.
The BBC's Jon Brain in Baghdad says the attack was almost certainly designed to raise the existing tensions between the majority Shia and minority Sunni populations.
The shrine is one of two tombs in Samarra for revered Shia imams, which attract pilgrims from around the world.
It was attacked one day after at least 22 people died when a car bomb exploded in a market in a Shia neighbourhood of southern Baghdad.
Large crowds quickly gathered outside the shrine to vent their anger.
Angry crowds also gathered in Baghdad, while many in the Shia holy city of Najaf called for revenge.
There were reports of disturbances in the Shia-dominated city of Karbala and in the southern city of Basra.
However, Ayatollah Sistani, who has consistently preached a moderate tone throughout the Iraqi conflict, urged Shias not to attack Sunni Muslims or their holy places.
Firebrand Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr cut short a visit to Lebanon on hearing news of the attack.
Speaking in London, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw called the attack a "criminal and sacrilegious act", but urged all Iraqis to show restraint and avoid retaliation.
The golden dome had dominated the Samarra skyline
Samarra is mainly a Sunni Muslim stronghold and has been a focus of the armed insurgency against US troops and the Shia-dominated Iraqi administration.
The al-Askari shrine, part of the Imam Ali al-Hadi mausoleum, is one of Shia Islam's holiest sites.
The compound contains the remains of the 10th and 11th imams, reputed to be direct descendants of the Prophet Muhammad.
Imam Ali al-Hadi died in 868 AD and his son, Hassan al-Askari, died in 874 AD. The golden dome topping the al-Askari shrine was finally completed in 1905.
The spiral minaret on top of one of the city's other holy sites, the Sunni Great Mosque of Samarra, was damaged in April 2003.
Iraq's Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, a Shia, appeared live on television to declare three days of mourning.
He called on Iraqis to "close the road to those who want to undermine national unity".
National security adviser Muwafaq al-Rubaie, another Shia, blamed Sunni Muslim militants for the attack.
"They will fail to draw the Iraqi people into civil war as they have failed in the past," Reuters news agency reported him saying.
Comment: Ask yourself, who wants civil war in Iraq? This attack is very clearly the work of the black ops boys in the CIA, MI5 and Mossad. See yesterday's editorial for more on this aspect of the phony "war on terror".
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Would Someone Please Interfere in Our Elections?
By PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS
President Bush's Middle East policy is without rhyme or reason.
According to Bush and his neoconservatives, the only way to make America safe from terrorists is to force democracy upon the Middle East. Only ideologues completely ignorant of the Middle East could come to that conclusion.
Bush's invasion of Iraq turned a country with a secular government that suppressed terrorism over to Shia Islamists allied with Iran.
Bush's invasion of Afghanistan turned the country back to warlordism from the unified polity that the Taliban were achieving and revitalized the drug trade that helps to finance terrorism. Bush's interference in the Palestinian election brought Hamas to office. Bush's interference in Egyptian elections achieved gains for the Muslim Brotherhood. Bush's interference in the Pakistani elections put half the country into Islamic hands.
Now secretary of state Condi Rice wants to spend $85 million interfering in the internal affairs of Iran and $5 million "to accelerate the work of reformers in Syria."
What better way to solidify the Iranian and Syrian governments? Both countries are under threat of attack by the Bush regime. Any Iranian or Syrian who accepted American money to work against their own government would be guilty of high treason. With her announcements, Condi Rice has destroyed any opposition that might have existed in either country.
If terrorism is the threat to America that Bush says, why is Bush working so hard to enlarge the power and influence of terrorists and of Islamic politicians hostile to US hegemony in the Middle East?
The terrorist problem arises from the US government's long-term interference in the internal affairs of Middle Eastern countries. In the past the US has overthrown elected leaders, who were considered too radical for Washington's tastes, and replaced them with authoritarian secular strongmen backed by American money.
To avoid answering to mullahs, the strongmen operate secular governments that are not many steps removed from American puppets.
Being secular, these governments lack the authority of Islam. They are further weakened by not being perceived as representative of the aspirations of Muslims. They have held on to power by suppressing Islamic-based political opposition. Fair elections in these countries would bring Islamic leaders to power.
Muslim terrorists are not secular. Their chosen base is Islam, which puts them closer to the people than are the secular rulers.
Terrorist influence has grown primarily because of US actions in the Middle East. The Bush regime hasn't even a pretext of even-handedness in its approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The invasion and occupation of Iraq has been a human rights disaster, with tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed and maimed, the country's infrastructure in ruins, and graphic photographic evidence of Muslims tortured and humiliated by US troops broadcast throughout the world. Undeterred by its accumulated crimes, the Bush regime now threatens more Muslim countries with sanctions, invasion and destruction.
The Bush regime has shown the Muslim world that the US takes for granted that it possesses the right of hegemony over the Middle East. The Bush regime has reaffirmed Washington's right to remove governments, select new ones, interfere in elections, and bomb and invade every country whose rulers Washington can demonize.
By its words and deeds, the Bush regime has confirmed everything that Osama bin Laden has ever said about the "Great Satan." Consequently, the terrorists have grown in influence and organization.
The US invasion of Iraq was a boon for terrorism. The ignorant and incompetent Bush regime expected a "cakewalk" war and an American puppet to do Washington's bidding. The reality is a powerful Iraqi insurgency that has tied down a dozen US divisions and created a training ground and recruits for terrorism and insurgency. Muslims have learned how to violently resist the superior military technology of the invader.
Overthrowing Saddam Hussein, a secular Sunni, was disastrous for American hegemony. Hussein ruthlessly stamped out Islamic-based political opposition and terrorist activity, which he rightly recognized as a threat to himself. With Hussein in power, Iran was isolated as the only Islamic-based government in the Middle East.
Iran was further isolated as Iran is Persian and not Arab, Shia and not Sunni.
The American invasion of Iraq has changed the correlation of forces dramatically in Iran's favor. Thanks to Bush, Iraq is now in the hands of the Shia majority. The Iraqi Shia are allied with Iran, as is Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine, giving rise to the Shia crescent from Iran to Israel.
Iran is the beneficiary of the thousands of American lives and the hundreds of billions of dollars that the Bush regime has squandered in Iraq. The White House Moron turned Iraq from an Iranian enemy into an Iranian ally. Iran could not overthrow Saddam Hussein, but the White House Moron, using American blood and treasure, did it for the Iranian clerics.
With Hizbullah as Lebanon's most powerful faction, nothing can happen in Lebanon without Iran's approval. Bush's invasion of Iraq has served two purposes--Iran's and bin Laden's--at the expense of his own.
Bush cannot learn from his mistakes. Bush lacks the intelligence and education to recognize a mistake. His government is filled with ignorant ideologues who believe their own propaganda. The fools are now proceeding to compound their strategic blunders with plans to attack Iran and Syria.
Washington is accustomed to buying what it wants. Whenever Washington wants a country to do its bidding it buys the country's leaders. This used to work in the Middle East, but no longer. Do you remember the much maligned Yasser Arafat and his Fatah movement?
Arafat was on the American payroll, which made him ineffectual in effectively opposing Israel's illegal dispossession of the West Bank Palestinians. With Arafat's death, Washington found an even more compliant Fatah leader to finance. But the Palestinians themselves had had enough. Israel had forced Palestinians into ghettos while the Bush regime cheered on the right-wing Likud Party. In the Palestinian elections, which the Bush regime thought it had bought, the Palestinians gave a resounding victory to Hamas.
The Bush regime's invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq have made it impossible for anyone in the Muslim world to take Washington's side.
Our puppet governments in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the tiny oil emirates are shaking in their boots. In all of these lands the Shia are oppressed, and the Shia are now emboldened. All of these lands are vulnerable to Osama bin Laden's claim that the governments represent American interests, not the interests of Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudis, Pakistanis. And certainly the American puppets cannot appeal to the prophet Mohammed.
The ignorance and hubris of Americans is extraordinary. The US, a country with a hollowed out industrial and manufacturing base, a country that no longer can produce jobs for university graduates, a country that is dependent on foreigners to finance its consumption and its wars, a country that cannot recruit troops for its wars of aggression, this same weak, collapsing country is enraging the Muslim World, inspiring hatred of America and Israel throughout the Middle East, creating massive openings for China and Russia, against whom US military might is feeble.
Europe is dependent on Russia for energy. War in the MIddle East makes Europe more dependent on Russia.
The US "superpower" is dependent on China for the advanced technology products that the US is no longer able to produce. China is America's second most important banker after Japan. China can destroy the US in a few minutes just by dumping its holdings of US dollar-denominated assets.
China is presently concluding a $100 billion investment in the development of an Iranian oil field. In its insane determination to attack Iran and seize the Iranian oil fields, the Bush regime is going against the interests of China. China holds all the cards, not the Moron in the White House.
As the US has established the precedent for interfering in the internal affairs of other countries and uses organizations such as the International Republican Institute to buy electoral outcomes, how could Washington complain if some other country were to help the American people by financing an American political party that represents American values and civil liberties. It would be wonderful for America to have a party committed to diplomacy, peace, financial soundness, and the best interests of the American people, as opposed to a Jacobin ideology of death that represents the neoconservative agenda of the Bush regime.
To combat the Republican lock on electronic voting machines, the US is in desperate need of the UN to oversee our elections to prevent Republicans with low approval ratings from winning elections that exit polls show they lost.
The Bush regime is wasting huge borrowed sums at a time when job growth in America has collapsed, when tens of millions of Americans are losing their health care, their pensions, and their middle class status. America cannot afford such a moronic regime. Someone, somewhere please rescue us from the ignorant, tyrannical, and war criminal government that has seized America.
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Top Secret American Military Installations in Israel
By Israel Broadcasting Network
02/21/06 "IBN" -- -- "Code Names," by William M. Arkin, exposes information about at least five US Army bases at secret locations throughout the Jewish State, including one at Ben Gurion Airport and another in Herzliya Pituah. The book also provides a long list of code names describing joint military operations between Israel and America.
Arkin is an independent journalist and military commentator for NBC and a former intelligence analyst for US ground forces. A front-page story in "The New York Times," based on one of the book's revelations has given the book broad publicity and granted it wide legitimacy.
Late Republican Senator Jesse Helms used to call Israel "America's aircraft carrier in the Middle East," when explaining why the US viewed Israel as such a strategic ally, saying that the military foothold in the region offered by the Jewish State alone justified the military aid that the US grants Israel every year. The new revelations also act to weaken the argument for Israeli policy decisions based on "American pressure."
Arkin claims that the officially "non-existent" sites across Israel contain $500 million worth of ammunition the United States keeps in Israel for wartime contingencies. The bases, called Sites 51, 53, 54, 55 and 56 don't appear on any maps and their specific locations are classified and highly sensitive.
"It's not just munitions," Arkin wrote in the Washington Post before the release of his book. "The United States has 'prepositioned' vehicles, military equipment, even a 500-bed hospital, for US Marines, Special Forces, and Air Force fighter and bomber aircraft at at least six sites in Israel, all part of what is antiseptically described as 'US-Israel strategic cooperation.'"
Israel is not the only country in the region to host US military bases, though. There are American military facilities in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the Gulf states, as well.
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Jews split on jail term for Irving, Holocaust denier
By Sam Marsden and Kim Pilling in London
February 22, 2006
JEWISH leaders and historians have welcomed the conviction of the British historian, David Irving, on charges of denying the Holocaust, although some believe his three-year jail sentence is too harsh and could turn him into a martyr for the right.
Irving began his sentence yesterday after admitting a criminal charge of denying that the Nazis sent millions of Jews to the gas chambers.
His lawyer, Elmar Kresbach, said Irving would appeal against the sentence. "I consider the verdict a little too stringent. I would say it's a bit of a message trial."
Irving, 67, insisted during the one-day hearing in Vienna on Monday that he had had a change of heart and he acknowledged the slaughter of 6 million Jews during World War II.
He told the jury the Holocaust was "just a fragment of my area of interest" and that "in no way did I deny the killings of millions of people by the Nazis".
But the historian, handcuffed and wearing a navy blue suit, arrived at court carrying a copy of one of his most controversial books - Hitler's War, which challenges the extent of the Holocaust.
In Britain, the chairman of the Holocaust Educational Trust, Lord Greville Janner, said he was pleased by Irving's conviction. "It is the conviction and not the sentence that matters," he said.
"It sends a clear message to the world that we must not tolerate the denial of the mass murders of the Holocaust.
"The Nazis tried to wipe out an entire people. They murdered every one of my family on the continent, except those who lived in Denmark. We must learn the lessons of the past to build a decent society for the future. Irving's conviction, especially in Austria which was a former Nazi country, is important and appropriate."
The director of the Jewish Information and Media Service, Jonathan Romain, questioned if Irving should have been jailed for the crime.
Dr Romain, the rabbi of Maidenhead synagogue in Berkshire, said: "Personally I prefer to treat him with disdain than with imprisonment.
"The real importance of his trial is to reinforce both the terrible reality of the Holocaust and the determination never again to let it happen to any people."
A British military historian, Anthony Beevor, said: "However nauseating, these people should be confronted in debate rather than chucked into jail and turned into martyrs."
The chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Jon Benjamin, said the conviction was a timely reminder at a time when Holocaust denial was gaining currency. "He is a poster boy for many people who have a certain political or philosophical outlook," he said.
Irving was arrested in Austria on November 11 when he arrived to give a lecture to students. He was detained on a warrant issued in 1989 under Austrian laws that make Holocaust denial a crime. The charges stemmed from speeches which Irving delivered that year in Vienna and in the southern town of Leoben.
Irving has faced allegations of spreading anti-Semitic and racist ideas in the past.
He has been quoted as saying there was not one shred of evidence that the Nazis carried out their Final Solution on such a scale, and has challenged the number and manner of Jewish concentration camp deaths.
Irving once famously sued an American historian, Deborah Lipstadt, for libel after she wrote that he was a Holocaust denier. He lost that case. The judge called him an "anti-Semite and racist" who twisted history, and the legal fees of $5.4 million bankrupted him.
Ms Lipstadt said yesterday that while Irving was a poor historian, censorship did not work. "He should be released to return to London and the sound of one hand clapping," she said.
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The Anne Frank Diary Fraud
by Brian Harring
When Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin, she did so prompted by the highest of motives. Yet she, herself, relates the incident that when she first met Abraham Lincoln in 1863, he commented "So you are the little woman who wrote the book that made this great war!"
Few will deny that the printed word in this instance fanned the flames of passion which brought about one of the bloodiest and saddest wars of American history, with brother sometimes pitted against brother, father against son. Perhaps if there had been less appeal to the emotions the problems might have resolved themselves through peaceful means. However, almost universally read at the time, few people then recognized the potency of one small book or the injustice done the South through its wide acceptance as a fair picture of slavery in the South.
Propaganda, as a weapon of psychological warfare is in even wider use today. Communists were masters of the art. Often they used the direct approach; just as often they employed diversion tactics to focus the eyes and ears of the world in directions other than where the real conflict was being waged. For many years, through propaganda alone, the dead threat of Hitler and Nazism had been constantly held before the public in a diversion maneuver to keep attention from being directed against the live threat of Stalin, Khrushchev and Communism.
Such has been the effect, if not the deliberate intention of many who have promoted its distribution, of a book of popular appeal-The Diary Of Anne Frank. It has been sold to the public as the actual diary of a young Jewish girl who died in a Nazi concentration camp after two years of abuse and horror.
Many Americans have read the book or seen the movie version, and have been deeply moved by the real life drama it claims to present. But have we been misled in the belief that Anne Frank actually wrote this diary? And if so. should an author be permitted to produce a work of fiction and sell it to the world as fact, particularly one of such tremendous emotional appeal?
The Swedish journal Frio Ord published two articles commenting on The Diary of Anne Frank. A condensation of these articles appeared in the April 15, 1959 issue of Economic Council Letter, as follows:
"History has many examples of myths that live a longer and richer life than truth. and may become more effective than truth.
The Western world has for some years hem made aware of a young Jewish girl through the medium of what purports to he her personally written story, "Anne Frank's Diary." Any informed literary inspection of this book has shown it to have been impossible as the work of a teenager.
A noteworthy decision of the New York Supreme Court confirms this point of view, in that the well known American writer, Meyer Levin, has been awarded $50.000 lo he paid him by the father of Anne Frank as an honorarium for Levin's work on the "Anne Frank Diary."
Mr. Frank, in Switzerland, had promised to pay to prominent Jewish author, Meyer Levin. not less than $50,000 because he had used the literary creation of author Levin in toto, and represented it to his publisher and the public as his late daughter's original work.
Inquiry of the County Clerk. New York County. as to the facts of the case referred to in the Swedish press, brought a reply on April 23, 1962, giving the name of a New York firm of lawyers as "attorneys .far the respondent." Reference was to "The Dairy of Anne Frank 2203-58."
A letter to this firm brought a response on May 4, 1962 that "Although we represent Mr. Levin in other matters, we had nothing to do with the Anne Frank case."
On May 7, 1962, came the following reply from a member of a firm of New York lawyers to whom the original inquiry had been forwarded:
"I was the attorney for Meyer Levin in his action against Otto Frank and others. It is true that a jury awarded Mr. Levin $50,000 in damages, as indicated in your letter. That award was later set aside by the trial justice. Hon. Samuel C. Coleman. on the ground that the damages had not been proved in the manner required by law. The action was subsequently settled between the litigating parties, while an appeal from Judge Coleman's decision was pending.
I am afraid that the care itself is not officially reported, so far as the trial itself, or even Judge Coleman's decision, is concerned. Certain procedural matters were reported. both in 141 New York Supplement. Second Series 170. and in 5 Second Series 181. The correct file number in the New York County Clerk's office is 2241-1956 and the file is probably a large and full one which must include Judge Coleman's decision. Unfortunately, our file is in storage and 1 cannot locate a copy of that decision as it appeared in the New York Law Journal early in the year 1960."
The Diary Of Anne Frank was first published in 1952 and immediately became a bestseller. It has been republished in paperback, 40 printings. It is impossible to estimate how many people have been touched and aroused by the movie production.
Why has the trial involving the father of Anne Frank, bearing directly on the authenticity of this book, never been "officially reported"? In royalties alone, Otto Frank has profited richly from the sale of this book, purporting to depict the tragic life of his daughter. But is it fact, or is it fiction? Is it truth or is it propaganda? Or is it a combination of all of these? And to what degree does it wrongfully appeal to the emotions through a misrepresentation as to its origin?
School publications for years have recommended this book for young people, presenting it as the work of Anne Frank. Advertising in advance of the movie showing has played up the "factual" nature of the drama being presented. Do not writers of such editorials and promoters of such advertising, "fan the flames of hate" they rightly profess to deplore?
Many American Jews were shocked at the handling of the Eichmann case, the distortions contained in the book Exodus and its movie counterpart, but their protests have had little publicity outside of their own organ, Issues, by the American Council for Judaism. Others who have expressed the same convictions have been charged with anti-Semitism. Yet it is to be noted that both Otto Frank and his accuser Meyer Levin, were Jewish, so a similar charge would hardly be applicable in pursuing this subject to an honest conclusion..
File number 2241-1956 in the New York County Clerk's office should be opened to the public view and its content thoroughly publicized. Misrepresentation, exaggeration, and falsification has too often colored the judgment of good citizens. If Mr. Frank used the work of Meyer Levin to present to the world what we have been led to believe is the literary work of his daughter, wholly or in part, then the truth should be exposed.
To label fiction as fact is never justified nor should it be condoned.
Since actual period documentation does not exist in support of the Holocaust myth, it has always been incumbent on its supporters to create it.
Not only is the "Anne Frank" diary now considered to be a fake, so also is "The Painted Bird" by Jerzy Kosinski. This book, which is a mass of pornographic and sadistic imagery which, had it not been taken so seriously by the Jewish community, would be merely the pathetic manifestation of a self-serving and very sick person.
This was duly exposed as a shabby, though much revered (by the Jewish community) and quoted, fraud. When this was exposed, Kosinski committed suicide. Later, in Kosinski's footsteps we find the next fiction entitled "Fragments, " by a Swiss Protestant named Bruno Dosseker who spent the war in Switzerland as a young child. Dosseker posed as a very young Baltic Jewish concentration camp inmate named Binjamin Wilkomerski. This work consists of allegedly fragmented "memories" and is very difficult to read
Dosseker became the poster boy for the Holocaust supporters and was lionized by the international Jewish community, reaping considerable profit and many in-house awards for his wonderful and moving portrayal of German brutality and sexual sadism.
Another book, allegedly by a Hungarian doctor, concerning his deportation from Budapest in 1944 and subsequent journey by "Death Train" to Auschwitz is another fraud. There was never such a doctor in Hungary during the period involved and the alleged route of the train from Budapest to Auschwitz did not exist.
These sort of pathetic refugees from the back wards seem to be drawn to the Holocausters…and they to them. There are now "Holocaust Survivors" as young as thirty which is an interesting anomaly because the last concentration camp was closed in 1945. Perhaps they consider the last frenzied spring sale at Bloomingdale's department store to be what they survived.
Next we can expect to see a book based on twenty-seven volumes of secret diaries prepared on a modern word processor within the current year by an alleged inhabitant of the Warsaw ghetto, describing the Nazi slaughter of tens of millions of weeping Jews by means that would shame a modern African state.
And, predictably, the publication of these howlers would be greeted with joy on the part of the fund raisers and fanatics, praised in the columns of the New York Times and scripted by Steven Spielberg for a heart-wrenching and guaranteed Oscar-winning film.
Hundreds of thousands of DVD copies will be donated to American schools and the Jewish community will demand that subservient executive and legislative bodies in America create a Day of Atonement as a National Holiday to balance the terrible Christian Christmas and the wickedly Satanic Halloween.
Conservationists must hate these books because so many otherwise beautiful and useful trees are slaughtered for their preparation
Insofar as the Anne Frank diary is concerned, herewith is some background on Anne Frank, her family and her alleged Diary.
The Franks were upper class German Jews, both coming from wealthy families. Otto and his siblings lived on the exclusive Meronstrasse in Frankfurt .Otto attended a private prep school, and also attended the Lessing Gymnasium, the most expensive school in Frankfurt.
Otto attended Heidelberg University. After graduation he left for a long vacation in England.
In 1909, the 20 year old Otto went to New York City where he stayed with his relatives, the Oppenheimers.
In 1925 Anne's parents married and settled in Frankfurt, Germany. Anne was born in 1929. The Frank's family business included banking, management of the springs at Bad Soden and the manufacture of cough drops. Anne's mother, the former Edith Holländer, was the daughter of a manufacturer.
In 1934, Otto and his family moved to Amsterdam where he bought a spice business, Opekta, which manufactures Pectin used in making household jellies.
On May 1940, after the Germans occupied Amsterdam Otto remained in that city while his mother and brother moved to Switzerland. Otto remained in Amsterdam where his firm did business with the German Wehrmacht. From 1939 to 1944, Otto sold Opeka, and Pectin, to the German army. Pectin was a food preservative, and a anti infectant balm for wounds and as a thickener for raising blood volume in blood transfusions. Pectin was used as an emulsifier for petroleum, gelatized gasoline for fire bombing. By supplying the Wehrmacht, Otto Frank became, in the eyes of the Dutch, a Nazi collaborator.
On July 6, 1942 Otto moved the Frank family into the so-called 'Secret Annex'. The annex is a three story, mostly glass townhouse that shares a garden park with fifty other apartments.
While he was allegedly in hiding, Otto Frank still managed his business, going downstairs to his office at night and on weekends. Anne and the others would go to Otto's office and listen to radio broadcasts from England.
The purported diary begins on June 12, 1942, and runs to December 5,1942 . It consists of a book that is six by four by a quarter inches . In addition to this first diary, Anne supplemented it with personal letters. Otto said Anne heard Gerrit Bolkestein in a broadcast say: ~ "Keep a diary, and he would publish after the war", and that's why Anne's father claimed she rewrote her diaries second time in 1944.
In this second edition, the new writer changed, rearranged and occasionally combined entries of various dates.
When Anne allegedly rewrote the diaries, she used a ball point pen, which did not exist in 1945, and the book took on an extremely high literary standard, and read more like a professional documentary than a child's diary. In Anne's second edition her writing style, and handwriting, suddenly matured
The actual diary of Anne Frank contained only about 150 notes, according to The New York Times, of October 2 ,1955.
In 1944, German authorities in occupied Holland determined that Otto Frank had been swindling then via his extensive and very lucrative Wehrmacht contracts. The German police then raided his apartment attic, and the eight Jews were sent to Westerbork work camp and forced to perform manual labor .Otto himself was sent to Auschwitz.. Anne, her sister Margot, and her mother, subsequently died of typhus in another camp.
In 1945, after being liberated from German custody, Otto returned to Amsterdam, where he claimed he found Anne's diary cleverly hidden in the Annex's rafters. However, another version has a Dutch friend, Meip Geis finding Anne's diary of fictional events, which she then gave to Otto Frank.
Otto took what he claimed were Anne's letters and notes, edited them into a book, which he then gave to his secretary, Isa Cauvern, to review. Isa Cauvern and her husband Albert Cauvern , a writer, authored the first diary.
Questions were raised by some publishers as to whether Isa and Albert Cauvern, who assisted Otto in typing out the work used the original diaries or whether they took it directly from Mr. Frank's personal transcription.
American author, Meyer Levin wrote the third and final edition
Meyer Levin was an author, and journalist, who lived for many years in France, where he met Otto Frank around 1949.
Born in 1905, Meyer Levin was raised in the section of Chicago notoriously known in the days of gangster warfare as the "Bloody Nineteen Ward." At the age of eighteen he worked as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News and during the next four years became an increasingly frequent contributor to the national literary magazine, The Menorah Journal. In 1929 he published THE REPORTER, which was the first of his sixteen novels.
In 1933 Levin became an assistant editor and film critic at the newly-created Esquire Magazine where he remained until 1939
Perhaps his best-known work is COMPULSION (1956), chronicling the Leopold and Loeb case and hailed by critics as one of the greatest books of the decade. The compelling work was the first "documentary novel" or "non-fiction novel."
After the enormous success of COMPULSION, Levin embarked on a trilogy of novels dealing with the Holocaust. The first, EVA (1959) was the story of a Jewish girl's experiences throughout the war and her adjustment to life after the concentration camps. This was followed by THE FANATIC (1963), which told the hypnotic story of a Jewish poet dealing with the moral questions that arose from his ordeal at the hands of the Nazis. The last in the triptych, THE STRONGHOLD (1965), is a thriller set in a concentration camp during the last days of the war.
At the outset of World War II Levin made documentary films for the US Office of War Information and later worked in France as a civilian expert in the Psychological Warfare Division. He eventually became a war correspondent for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, with the special mission of uncovering the fate of Jewish concentration camp prisoners. Levin took his role very seriously, sometimes entering concentration camps ahead of the tanks of the liberating forces in order to compile lists of the survivors.
After the war Levin went to Palestine and turned his attention again to the motion picture camera. His film MY FATHER'S HOUSE told the story of a child survivor searching for his family in Palestine. He wrote this story as a novel as well and the book was published in 1947.
Levin also joined the Hagana underground and helped smuggle Jews from the interior of Poland to Palestine, then basically an Arab country under the control of the British..
In 1951 Levin came upon a copy of the French edition of the Anne Frank diary He made a number of attempts to have the work published in English, and conceived it as a play and film. When the diary finally found an American publisher, his play was accepted for production but then suddenly barred, ostensibly for being "unstageworthy," and another writer's version was commissioned.
Levin fought for the rights to perform his version of the play, claiming that the real reason the producers refused to stage his work was because they thought it "too Jewish." He saw the suppression of the play as an extension of the Stalinist attack on Jewish culture and, outraged that even Anne Frank could be censored, he took the producers to court and began an agonizing, prolonged struggle that dragged on for years.
Levin eventually won a jury award against the producers for appropriation of ideas, but the bitterness of the trial made him many enemies in the Jewish and literary communities.
Although Levin's version of the play is still banned by the owners of the dramatic rights, underground productions of the work are frequently staged throughout the world.
Meyer Levin died in 1981
Levin rewrote the various post-war treatments of the Anne Frank diary with an eye toward a Broadway production, but Otto decided to cut him out, refusing to honor his contract or pay him for his work. Meyer Levin sued Otto Frank for his writings, and the New York Supreme court awarded Meyer Levin $50,000, for his 'intellectual work'.
In 1980, Otto sued two Germans, Ernst Romer and Edgar Geiss, for distributing literature denouncing the diary as a forgery. The trial produced a study by official German handwriting experts that determined everything in the diary was written by the same person. The person that wrote the diaries had used a ballpoint pen throughout. Unfortunately for Herr Frank, the ballpoint pen was not available until 1951 whereas Anne was known to have died of typhus in 1944.
Because of the lawsuit in a German court, the German state forensic bureau, the Bundes Kriminal Amt [BKA] forensically examined the manuscript, which at that point in time consisted of three hardbound notebooks and 324 loose pages bound in a fourth notebook, with special forensic equipment.
The results of tests, performed at the BKA laboratories, showed that "significant" portions of the work, especially the fourth volume, were written with a ballpoint pen. Since ballpoint pens were not available before 1951, the BKA concluded those sections must have been added subsequently.
In the end, BKA clearly determined that none of the diary handwriting matched known examples of Anne's handwriting. The German magazine, Der Spiegel, published an account of this report alleging that (a) some editing postdated 1951; (b) an earlier expert had held that all the writing in the journal was by the same hand; and thus (c) the entire diary was a postwar fake.
The BKA information, at the urgent request of the Jewish community, was redacted at the time but later inadvertently released to researchers in the United States.
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Iran Offers Aid for Palestinian Authority
By NASSER KARIMI, Associated Press Writer
TEHRAN, Iran - Iran on Wednesday offered to help finance a
Palestinian Authority run by the Hamas militant group, state radio reported.
The secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, Ali Larijani, announced the offer after a meeting with Khaled Mashaal, the political leader of Hamas, the report said.
Larijani said the decision was taken after the United States said it would not provide aid to an authority governed by Hamas until the group renounces violence, recognizes Israel and agrees to abide by existing agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.
"The United States proved that it would not support democracy after it cut its aid to the Palestinian government after Hamas won the elections. We will certainly help the Palestinians," Larijani said, according to the radio.
The United States and European Union, which consider Hamas a terrorist group, have said they will halt their grants of hundreds of millions of dollars of aid to the Palestinian Authority after a Hamas government takes office unless it changes its attitude toward Israel and violence.
Hamas has long called for the destruction of Israel and has refused to negotiate with the Jewish state. Its leaders have refused to change their policies since the group won last month's Palestinian elections by a landslide.
On Tuesday, a moderate Hamas leader, Ismail Haniyeh, was asked to form a government by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.
Mashaal and his delegation were in Iran in the latest stop of a tour of Arab and Islamic nations aimed at drumming up support as Israel and the United States move to cut off money to the Palestinians.
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Monday called for Muslim nations to provide aid to a Hamas-led government and expressed support for the group's refusal to recognize Israel.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also indicated Monday that Hamas should not fear the West's threat to cut off funds. "Since the divine treasures are infinite, you should not be concerned about economic issues," IRNA quoted Ahmadinejad as saying in an apparent reference to Iran's oil wealth.
Israel and the United States have long accused Iran of giving financial and material support to Hamas. But Iran has always replied it gives only moral backing.
Hamas suicide bombers have killed hundreds of Israelis. But the group has respected an informal cease-fire since early last year.
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Brutal murder was anti-Semitic crime, says Sarkozy
Kim Willsher in Paris
Wednesday February 22, 2006
The French interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, yesterday described the abduction, torture and killing of a young Jewish man as an anti-Semitic crime, amid growing anger at the brutal murder.
Mr Sarkozy told the French parliament that the gang sought for the murder of Ilan Halimi, 23, whose naked body was found by railway tracks eight days ago, three weeks after he had disappeared, had also tried to kidnap other Jews.
The police, who found literature linking some of the suspects to Palestinian and Muslim groups, have insisted the murder was motivated by greed - the gang had demanded a ransom - and not religious motives.
Mr Sarkozy told MPs: "The truth is that these crooks acted primarily for sordid and vile motives, to get money, but they were convinced that 'the Jews have money', and if those they kidnapped didn't have money, their family and their community would come up with it.
"That's called anti-Semitism by amalgam."
He added that four of the six other people the gang had approached and tried to kidnap "were of the Jewish faith" and described the criminals as "barbaric".
The judge overseeing the inquiry into the murder has instructed investigators to look into anti-Semitic motives in the cases of seven of the 13 suspects arrested.
Mr Sarkozy added: "We have a duty to the memory of Ilan Halimi, to his family, his parents, his friends and above all, all the Jews of France, to establish the truth."
Ilan Halimi was snatched on January 21. A young woman, suspected as acting as a lure, has since given herself up. His family received numerous ransom demands. He was found, with 80% of his body burned, naked and handcuffed on February 13. He died on the way to hospital.
Mr Sarkozy said he was releasing details of the inquiry but he hoped they would not arouse hate or fear. "What we don't need now, in addition to this barbarity, is misunderstanding, intolerance and racism," he said.
France's Jewish community numbers around 600,000, the Muslim community around five million, both the largest in Europe.
Two French police officers flew to Ivory Coast yesterday on the trail of Youssef Fofana, the suspected gang leader who had reportedly flown back to his native country after the murder. According to police, Mr Fofana had called himself the "brain of the barbarians".
Police had earlier insisted the murder was not anti-Semitic, but the victim's mother Ruth Halimi accused them of ignoring this motive for fear of upsetting Muslim opinion.
She told the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz that if her son "hadn't been Jewish, he wouldn't have been killed".
"We told the police there were at least three attempted kidnappings of young Jews but they kept insisting that the motives were purely criminal."
Jean-Claude Marin, the Paris public prosecutor, told Le Monde yesterday: "When the legal case was opened the anti-Semitic nature of the crime did not come up at all.
"Then, during the weekend, certain people interviewed let it be known, in an indirect way, that the choice of a Jew guaranteed the payment of a ransom. The judge therefore considered that there was possibly an anti-Semitic motive."
According to Le Parisien the woman who had tried to lure two men into the gang's clutches admitted to police that she was instructed to target Jewish men.
"In the heads of these youngsters the [Jewish] community had the solidarity to rapidly collect a ransom. The gang wanted money so they went out to get it where they thought they'd find it," a source close to the inquiry told the newspaper.
When the kidnapped man's family told the gang they could not find the €450,000 (£315,000) they had demanded they were told to "go and ask in the synagogues", the newspaper added.
Comment: It is strange how certain politicians go to great lengths to promote the idea that anti-semitism is on the rise. Such efforts simply serve to protect Israel from any condemnation for it's brutal policies in Palestine not to mention the illegal war in Iraq (and soon to be Iran and Syria) that is being waged at Israel's behest.
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Rice, on Tour, Finds Egypt Unreceptive to Hamas Aid Cutoff
By JOEL BRINKLEY
Published: February 22, 2006
CAIRO, Feb. 21 - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday began a four-day visit to the Middle East, where she hoped to persuade Arab leaders to cut off financial aid to Hamas. But she ran into trouble on her very first stop.
Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Egypt's foreign minister, told her that Egypt believed funds to the Palestinian government should continue for an indefinite period, to give Hamas "time to develop their own ideas." Egypt gives little if any money to the Palestinians. Still, Washington considers Cairo's view to be influential, one reason Ms. Rice stopped here first.
"The Egyptians," a senior administration official said, "carry significant weight with the Palestinians and are watched by the rest of the Arab world." Administration officials said they had hoped that Egypt would back the American position.
Egypt's refusal to endorse the aid cutoff follows European misgivings and statements of concern late last week about cutting off funds and could significantly complicate Ms. Rice's mission.
Another of Ms. Rice's major goals for this trip - to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - is to lock down commitments from the Arab leaders to stand firm against Iran's nuclear program. But once again, Egypt disappointed her.
Standing next to Ms. Rice at a news conference, Mr. Gheit reiterated a view Egypt offered during talks at the United Nations nuclear agency early this month over reporting Iran to the Security Council. Mr. Gheit said Egypt supported applying the same standard to all Middle East nations, not just Iran. That was a well-understood reference to Israel's secret nuclear weapons program.
The pressure on Israel is likely to be echoed by the other leaders Ms. Rice is to meet this week, including the foreign ministers of six Persian Gulf states who will be attending a Gulf Cooperation Council meeting while she is there. Egypt is the only one of those nations that has diplomatic relations with Israel; the other states generally hold more hostile views toward Israel.
Asked by an obviously sympathetic Egyptian journalist about the Egyptian formula for regional nuclear disarmament, Ms. Rice seemed to tilt her answer toward Israel when she said that "we all hope that one day the Middle East is peaceful enough that no one needs" nuclear weapons.
Hamas, the extremist Palestinian group responsible for dozens of suicide bomb attacks over the last few years, won the Palestinian elections last month and took control of the parliament last weekend. The United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union, which cooperate in the so-called quartet for Middle East peace, agreed last month to demand that Hamas recognize Israel, end terrorist attacks and accept previous diplomatic agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.
The United States is insisting that all financial aid to the Palestinian government end if those conditions are not met by the time Hamas forms a new Palestinian government in the coming weeks. Israel takes an even tougher position. The Israeli government froze its tax and customs payments to the Palestinians, $50 million a month, almost as soon as the new Palestinian legislature met for the first time last weekend.
Mr. Gheit said Egypt believes Hamas should accept the quartet's three conditions but added, "We should give Hamas time." When pressed, he said he meant time beyond when a new government is formed, the American deadline, and he offered no later deadline.
The United States and its European allies have all promised to continue relief aid to Palestinians, delivered by the United Nations and other aid groups, even after a Hamas government takes power.
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Israeli military blocks Palestinian emergency medical aid
Since the incursion in Balata refugee camp started on 1:00 am February 19, medical emergency work has been made impossible by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). At this moment all entrances to Balata refugee camp are blocked. There is only one ambulance left inside the camp. It will bring wounded only to the edge of the camp, out of fear of not being allowed back in. Wounded individuals are carried on stretchers to the entrance of the camp and transported to Nablus hospitals. Normal ambulance traffic has come to a complete halt.
IWPS volunteers are working with ambulance personnel to transport wounded to an emergency field clinic inside the camp and to hospitals in Nablus and other cities. They witnessed all following incidents or heard of them from ambulance personnel of the United Palestinian Medical Relief Committees (UMPRC) and the Palestinian Red Crescent Society (PRCS).
One man, shot in the neck which resulted in a life-threatening tear in his vein, was arrested from an ambulance and was taken to Huwarra detention center for questioning. Afterwards a Palestinian ambulance was called to bring him to the hospital in Nablus, where he underwent two operations. He is still in unstable condition.
In the morning an ambulance carrying an injured person and a woman in complicated labor was ambushed by two jeeps. The jeeps drove into the ambulance from both sides and shot at it. The soldiers forced the ambulance to stand still for half an hour to use it as a shield against youth throwing stones at them.
Around 1:00 pm two ambulances were held up by several jeeps. According to the ambulance team they were detained for already 30 minutes and someone with a bullet wound in the shoulder was beaten inside one of the ambulances. The soldiers forced the ambulance personnel to undress his wound, which had just stopped bleeding. The ambulance was held until the family, with the help of the ambulance team and the IWPS volunteers, brought his ID card. After his ID was checked, the ambulance continued its way, only to be stopped by the next jeep on the road.
Around 1:30 pm the IWPS volunteers arrived inside Balata refugee camp on foot, where they witnessed the shooting of two boys shot in the leg and the side. One of them had a flesh wound and the other's bone was crushed by a bullet. A medical team and the IWPS volunteers ran two kilometers with the two injured boys, because the ambulance that was carrying them was not allowed to move.
Around 2:15 pm, the volunteers were called to the site where Mohammed Ahmad Natur and Ibrahim Ahmad Sheikh Khalil had been shot two or three minutes earlier. One had been shot in the neck and the other in the chest. They were later declared dead. According to the IOF the boys were planting bombs. The volunteers have witnessed no explosions or bomb squads in the area and the army has continued to use the road in question throughout the day.
At 4:20 pm, four soldiers in Vehicle #611388 tried to provoke young Palestinians by cursing their parents in Arabic and telling them they would all be martyrs by the end of the day. As of now, the volunteers have witnessed no armed resistance, only youth throwing stones and building barricades.
Later, the IOF did not allow an ambulance transporting a boy with a rubber bullet in his head to move. They were forced to carry the boy on foot.
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Deadly Bird Flu Hits Seventh EU Nation
By PABLO GORONDI
Associated Press Writer
Feb 21 2:21 PM US/Eastern
BUDAPEST, Hungary - Tests confirmed H5N1 in three birds found dead in Hungary, making the country the seventh EU nation with an outbreak of the deadly strain of bird flu, officials said Tuesday.
Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy, France and Slovenia also are grappling with H5N1 in wild birds, the European Commission said Tuesday. So far, no EU nations have reported bird flu in commercial stocks or in humans.
EU veterinary experts met in Brussels to discuss ways to keep bird flu from infecting domestic fowl as the lethal virus spreads across Europe. But EU governments failed to agree Tuesday on a plan to vaccinate commercial poultry.
Some countries, including France and the Netherlands, are pushing for flu vaccines for domestic poultry. But others, including Britain, say vaccinations are costly and difficult - and provide no guarantee of immunity since the drugs only ward against the flu in general, not H5N1.
"The use of poultry vaccines to guard against the spread of H5N1 will inflict huge costs on poultry farmers, cause undue distress to poultry and, owing to the difficulties of catching free-range poultry, may not act as a blanket solution," Neil Parish, a British Conservative member of the European Parliament, said in Brussels on Tuesday.
H5N1 has devastated poultry stocks and killed at least 92 people, mostly in Asia, since 2003, according to the World Health Organization.
In India, health workers were wrapping up a massive slaughter of chickens Tuesday.
Most human cases have been linked to contact with infected birds. But scientists fear the virus could mutate into a form that is easily transmitted between humans, sparking a human flu pandemic.
Farmers said consumers were shunning poultry amid the bird flu scare.
Germany reported 22 more cases of bird flu on the northern island of Ruegen, raising its total to 103.
Austria said Tuesday that an EU reference laboratory in Britain confirmed that a wild swan found dead last week had H5N1. Preliminary tests in Austria also indicate that three other swans and a duck discovered in the southern province of Styria also have bird flu, said Peter Wagner, the top veterinarian in the province.
Results from the EU laboratory also confirmed H5N1 in three dead swans in Hungary, government spokesman Andras Batiz said in a statement. Hungary is awaiting results from samples taken from four other swans suspected of carrying H5N1.
All seven birds were found some 100 miles south of Budapest, near Hungary's borders with both Serbia and Croatia.
"The government and the competent authorities have already implemented the steps needed to guarantee the population's safety and prevent the spread of the disease to domestic birds," Batiz assured the country.
Greece and Slovakia said more wild birds have tested positive for an H5 subtype of bird flu, and further tests were being conducted to determine the exact strain.
Elsewhere, Croatia on Tuesday reported a new case of H5N1 - in a swan found dead in Ciovo off the country's southern coast, the country's second outbreak since October.
European countries stepped up precautions. In Paris, the Jardin des Plantes park closed its aviary, and the Bois de Vincennes zoo on the capital's outskirts devised duck-proof feeding boxes for their flamingos. A wild duck tested positive in France for H5N1.
In London, the six legendary ravens at the Tower of London were moved indoors. Britain so far has been spared bird flu, but wardens are taking no chances - legend holds that the British monarchy will fall if the ravens ever leave the Tower.
"It's purely precautionary," Derrick Coyle, the tower's Yeoman Raven Master, said Tuesday. "I always said that if bird flu got as far as Germany, I would put the birds inside."
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Austria finds bird flu in chicken
Wednesday, 22 February 2006, 11:38 GMT
Health officials in Austria say a chicken has the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus - the first time the strain has appeared among poultry in the EU.
It comes as EU officials hold a second day of talks on whether to start vaccination programmes - a move favoured by France and the Netherlands.
Seven EU countries have now confirmed cases of H5N1 in wild birds.
Austria's health ministry said the chicken had been kept in a cage where an infected swan was also being held.
Commercial poultry stocks have not been affected, a health ministry spokeswoman said.
The swan had been taken to an animal sanctuary in Graz earlier this month from an area affected by the virus, she added, in breach of regulations imposed after the first H5N1 case was recorded in wild birds in Austria.
Hungary, the latest EU member to confirm the H5N1 virus, said on Tuesday that tests showed the virus in three dead swans found last week.
Croatia also confirmed the H5N1 strain on Tuesday in a swan found dead on Ciovo island, just off the coastal city of Split. Slovakia is testing suspected cases in two wild birds.
The lethal H5N1 strain has killed more than 90 people since late 2003. It can be caught by humans who handle infected birds, but is not yet known to have passed from one person to another.
Scientists have warned that if the virus mutates, it could create a pandemic that could kill millions of people.
In Brussels, EU vets and health experts are hoping to break the deadlock over the first plans presented to the European Commission on bird flu vaccination.
The move towards vaccination is spearheaded by the Netherlands and France, the EU's two largest poultry producers.
They are concerned it will be very difficult to keep all free-range poultry indoors, away from potentially infectious wild birds.
France proposes vaccinating 900,000 ducks and geese in three areas thought to be at high risk, among them the coastal Landes region, starting from 1 April.
But Germany, Austria, Denmark and Portugal all oppose vaccination at this point.
Correspondents say the European Commission fears the relatively complex procedure may leave some birds unprotected - and so at risk of contracting and spreading the disease.
The BBC's Europe correspondent, Tim Franks, says if permission is given to the French and the Dutch it would point to a growing consensus among EU veterinary experts.
It would also suggest that concerns among some members about the cost and efficacy of the vaccinations are being overcome, he says.
EU ministers are also discussing the economic impact on the poultry industry and the issue of compensation for farmers.
Poultry sales have plunged in Italy, Greece and France since the confirmation of H5N1 outbreaks.
EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said the situation was not yet serious enough to warrant compensating farmers.
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Floods and landslides kill 24 in eastern Indonesia
Tue Feb 21, 9:36 PM ET
JAKARTA - Landslides and floods triggered by torrential rain have killed at least 24 people in Indonesia's eastern city of Manado, search and rescue officials said on Wednesday.
The disaster occurred on Tuesday in the North Sulawesi provincial capital, where parts of the city were inundated with one-meter (three foot) high floodwaters after hours of rain.
Most of the dead were buried by mud from landslides in hilly parts of the city.
"Today we found four bodies so the total is now 24," said Rinaldi, a search and rescue official in Manado, about 2,200 km (1,365 miles) northeast of Jakarta.
Another search and rescue official on the scene in the seaside city said rescuers were still searching for survivors.
Floods and landslides are common in Indonesia, especially during the wet season. Many landslides are caused by illegal logging or the clearing of farmland that strips away natural barriers to such disasters.
Landslides killed at least 130 people on Java island last month.
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Five dead in Yemen floods
Tue Feb 21, 12:13 PM ET
SANAA - At least five people were killed in severe flooding brought on by torrential rains in southwestern Yemen.
The five drowned late Monday in the floods that swept through Dhamar, 70 kilometers (45 miles) south of Sanaa, a local official told AFP, requesting anonymity.
Rescue efforts were continuing on Tuesday, and a main road linking Sanaa with cities to the south remained closed, he said Tuesday.
Some 1,900 people were still trapped in around 100 flood-besieged homes, Dhamar's Red Crescent chief Abdul Salam al-Ahsab told reporters.
Rescue teams were trying to reach the trapped residents, he added.
The flooding occurred at the start of Yemen's rainy season. Last April, 10 people were killed in torrential floods.
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Former W.Va. Mine Foreman Indicted
By VICKI SMITH
February 22, 2006
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - A former Sago Mine foreman whose only certification was as a surface truck driver will face federal charges that he falsified inspection reports at the mine in 2004.
The 116-count indictment against Robert L. Dennison is not related to the Jan. 2 explosion that led to the deaths of 12 men at the mine.
Dennison, 35, was hired in May 2004 by the mine's former owner, Anker Energy, and was fired in August of that year after the company learned he was not certified to do safety inspections, according to the indictment.
"This type of allegedly fraudulent activity has no place in the mining environment, especially when the safety of miners is placed at risk," U.S. Attorney Thomas E. Johnston said.
A call to Dennison's home in Wallace went unanswered. A reporter for Bridgeport television station WDTV said Dennison declined to comment to the station until he consulted an attorney.
If convicted, Dennison could face up to five years in prison and $10,000 in fines for each of 113 counts. He could receive up to five years and $250,000 in fines for each of the remaining counts.
Dennison was never issued an underground miner's card. His only certification is as a mining truck driver, according to the West Virginia Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training.
On his first inspection form, Dennison allegedly failed to include his foreman's certification number. On subsequent inspections, the indictment says, he listed a number that belongs to a foreman who does not know Dennison.
The indictment, issued by a grand jury in Elkins, also alleges that Dennison lied to an investigator with the federal Mine Safety and Health Administration who questioned him.
The cause of the blast at the mine about 100 miles north of Charleston has not been determined, but is believed to have occurred in an abandoned section of the mine that had been sealed off.
Survivor Randal McCloy Jr. is recovering at a rehabilitation hospital.
The Sago Mine was cited for 208 alleged safety violations during 2005, at least 17 of which were considered serious. The mine's current owner has said it inherited many of the problems and had been working to correct them.
The mine was purchased last year by Ashland, Ky.-based International Coal Group. ICG formally took control of the mine in November, but started work there as management consultants in June.
ICG officials declined to comment on Tuesday's indictment because the company "neither operated nor owned the mine at the time," spokesman Matt Barkett said.
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Over 30 Earthquakes Hit Alaska
February 22, 2006
More than 30 earthquakes have struck Alaska in the past several days. The quakes ranged from 3.0 to a 5.0 on February 20, 2006.
Click here to see the detailed listing
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Federal Wildlife Monitors Oversee a Boom in Drilling
By Blaine Harden
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 22, 2006; Page A01
PINEDALE, Wyo. -- The Bureau of Land Management, caretaker of more land and wildlife than any federal agency, routinely restricts the ability of its own biologists to monitor wildlife damage caused by surging energy drilling on federal land, according to BLM officials and bureau documents.
The officials and documents say that by keeping many wildlife biologists out of the field doing paperwork on new drilling permits and that by diverting agency money intended for wildlife conservation to energy programs, the BLM has compromised its ability to deal with the environmental consequences of the drilling boom it is encouraging on public lands.
Here on the high sage plains of western Wyoming, often called the Serengeti of the West because of large migratory herds of deer and antelope, the Pinedale region has become one of the most productive and profitable natural gas fields on federal land in the Rockies. With the aggressive backing of the Bush administration, many members of Congress and the energy industry, at least a sixfold expansion in drilling is likely here in the coming decade.
Recent studies of mule deer and sage grouse, however, show steep declines in their numbers since the gas boom began here about five years ago: a 46 percent decline for mule deer and a 51 percent decline for breeding male sage grouse. Early results from a study of pronghorn antelope show that they, too, avoid the gas fields.
Yet as these findings have come in, the wildlife biologists in the Pinedale office of the BLM have rarely gone into the field to monitor harm to wildlife.
"The BLM is pushing the biologists to be what I call 'biostitutes,' rather than allow them to be experts in the wildlife they are supposed to be managing," said Steve Belinda, 37, who last week quit his job as one of three wildlife biologists in the BLM's Pinedale office because he said he was required to spend nearly all his time working on drilling requests. "They are telling us that if it is not energy-related, you are not working on it."
Belinda, who had worked for 16 years as a wildlife biologist for the BLM and the Forest Service, said he came to work in the agency's Pinedale office 20 months ago because of the "world-class wildlife." He has quit to work here for a national conservation group, the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, as its energy initiative manager.
"It is a huge attraction for biologists to work in western Wyoming," he said. "But in this [BLM] office, they want you to look at things in a single-minded way. I have spent less than 1 percent of my time in the field. If we continue down this trend of keeping biologists in the office and preventing them from doing substantive work, there is a train wreck coming for wildlife."
Belinda is not alone in his view that the BLM, in its focused pursuit of increased drilling, is neglecting its congressional mandate to manage federal lands for "multiple use."
For years the BLM has reallocated money Congress intended for wildlife conservation to spending on energy. A national evaluation by the agency of its wildlife expenditures found three years ago that about one-third of designated wildlife money was spent "outside" of wildlife programs.
An internal BLM follow-up study found last year that this widespread diversion of money has caused "numerous lost opportunities" to protect wildlife. The study found that the unwillingness of the agency to use wildlife money for conservation programs has "reduced ability to conduct on-the-ground restoration" and made the BLM unable "to conduct adequate inventory and monitoring of habitats and populations."
The sum effect of these diversions, the study said, has damaged the credibility of land-use planning by the BLM. These findings were echoed last year in a report by the Government Accountability Office, which said that BLM managers order their field staff to devote increasing time to processing drilling permits, leaving less time to mitigate the consequences of oil and gas extraction.
"It has become almost a cultural practice in the BLM to spend money that is appropriated for one purpose for whatever purpose somebody deems is a higher priority," said a senior BLM official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he said he would be fired for speaking publicly. "There is really no penalty for this."
The BLM's Wyoming director, Bob Bennett, disagreed strongly with this assessment. Bennett said that the BLM is "doing our level best to deal with the impacts" of energy development on wildlife.
A pronghorn antelope is fitted with a radio transmitter, and early findings show that the animals -- as well as mule deer and breeding male sage grouse -- avoid the gas fields.
A pronghorn antelope is fitted with a radio transmitter, and early findings show that the animals -- as well as mule deer and breeding male sage grouse -- avoid the gas fields.
"If a wildlife biologist is working on an application for a permit to drill, that doesn't mean he is not doing wildlife work," Bennett said. "The wildlife job is a broad job, and it does involve energy."
Here in Wyoming, what has angered Gov. Dave Freudenthal (D), along with state wildlife managers, environmental groups, many local residents and some oil industry executives is what they describe as growing evidence of a lack of balance in the federal push for more drilling -- even as scientific studies show significant and worrisome declines in wildlife around gas fields. Those studies have been funded by the BLM and the energy industry.
The BLM's pace of issuing new permits to drill in Wyoming and across the West has continued to increase, even though the oil and gas industry -- which is chronically short of drilling rigs and skilled workers -- cannot drill nearly enough holes in the ground to keep up with the permits that have already been granted. In the past two years, the BLM issued a record 13,070 drilling permits on federal land, but industry drilled just 5,844 wells.
"The pressure comes from Washington," said Freudenthal, who said he has assigned more state wildlife biologists to Pinedale and other active drilling areas in an attempt to keep up with the federal push. "As you go up the chain of command of BLM and into the Department of Interior, I am not sure they share our commitment to balance. No matter how large the benefits are from this development, it does not justify turning a blind eye to the environment."
At the BLM state office, Bennett said his agency would like to "take it slow and easy. We are trying to do that to the extent we can." But he said the bureau is under "a lot of national pressure, from industry and from Congress. The demand for gas is a real issue to people."
Pinedale is an especially profitable place to address that demand. With more gas extracted from a smaller footprint than anywhere else on federal land in the West, it produced an estimated $4 billion worth of gas last year.
In the Pinedale BLM office, as in agency offices across the West, monitoring and research on the impact of drilling on wildlife are almost never done by staff biologists, according to Roger L. Bankert, associate field manager for lands and minerals.
"This is an energy office, and our biologists don't have time to do the monitoring," Bankert said. He said it is "done by private consultants who are hired by the energy companies," with BLM approval.
Under a federal law intended to enlist the local community in the planning of oil and gas development, the Interior Department has named an advisory group to study and make recommendations about the impact of drilling here. The chairman of the group, Linda Baker, says she is alarmed by what she describes as the BLM's refusal to listen to her group's advice or adapt its management to findings that drilling is harming wildlife.
"We are seeing the handing over of a multiple-use valley to the energy industry," Baker said. "This is a disaster in the making."
Rather than slowing down to assess wildlife impact and to allow energy companies to catch up to drilling permits already issued, as recommended by Baker's group, state officials and several national environmental organizations, the BLM appears to be stepping on the accelerator. It has just released a proposal that recommends granting permits for drilling 3,100 more wells in nearby Jonah Field -- a sixfold increase over the number of current wells.
Federal management of drilling here has angered a former senior energy executive who lives near Pinedale.
"There is no well-thought-out, overall development plan for this field," said Kirby L. Hedrick, a former vice president at Phillips Petroleum Co. in charge of worldwide exploration and now a member of the board of directors of Noble Energy Inc. in Houston. "The BLM has been approving plans ad hoc."
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Fears raised on ministers' power
Wednesday, 22 February 2006, 10:41 GMT
Ministers have denied fears measures intended to cut red tape could give them wide-ranging powers to change laws without needing Parliament's approval.
Cambridge University law experts say the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill would give ministers the power to do things such as scrap jury trials.
For the Tories Ken Clarke said it could "sweep away parliamentary procedure and debate on an astonishing scale".
But minister Jim Murphy insisted the bill would have safeguards built in.
He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he is thinking of giving House of Commons committees a legal veto over any proposals.
The bill is intended to allow ministers to axe uncontroversial "red tape" without the time-consuming need for full parliamentary scrutiny.
Mr Clarke, chairman of the Conservatives' democracy task force, said legislation was needed to tackle red tape but said there needed to be explicit safeguards, not just verbal promises from ministers.
Law experts at Cambridge University have also voiced concern about the potential impact of the bill.
The Cambridge University academics, headed by Professor John Spencer QC, warned in a letter to The Times newspaper: "If passed, the government could rewrite almost any act and, in some cases, enact new laws that at present only Parliament can make."
In its current form, the planned new law could allow the government to curtail or abolish jury trial, place people under house arrest, rewrite immigration laws or sack judges, they said.
Mr Murphy told Today that previous legislation to streamline the burden of regulation had not worked.
The government was taking action to ensure the UK remained competitive, he said.
"I have given assurances that there are more safeguards on the face of this bill than before, that we will have statutory consultation, we will not do anything that is highly controversial and the relevant select committees of the House of Commons will have a veto on every single proposal," he said.
Mr Murphy said he would look at making the veto plan part of the legislation.
Comment: Gotta stay competitive in the new fascist economy.
We thought that the UK had been doing a good job so far. What with the MI5 organized bombings in London in July, our seasoned race-track afficionado, Ignacious O'Reilly, had put Tony Blair's team in a strong second place behind front-runner George W. and the neo-cons. While other European countries had been reworking their game-plans to move up, and possibly overtake Team Blair, the London bombings certainly certainly gave the Brits a hard-to-overcome lead.
With this new legislation, the Blairites seemed to be giving the death-knell to any hopes of other European countries catching up or overtaking them. O'Reilly cautions the Brits, however, to not get too uppity with their lead because the French may well change captains next year, and if front-runner Nick Sarkozy gets the nod, the playing field will change radically.
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Philippines says it foils coup plot, arrests prime movers
February 22, 2006
MANILA - The Philippine military has foiled a coup plot against President Gloria Arroyo and a number of "prime movers" have been detained, army commander Lieutenant-General Hermogenes Esperon said.
He told reporters the plot, which was uncovered in December, envisaged launching military action either last week or next month.
The army chief did not say when the plotters were detained but added that those who renounced their membership in the plot had not been kept in detention.
Military sources said at least 14 junior officers are under investigation in connection with the plot.
Esperon said some of the ringleaders had been involved in a failed military mutiny in July 2003, when about 200 soldiers seized part of Manila's financial district to demand Arroyo's resignation.
"We are not saying that we have discovered all the participants," Esperon warned Wednesday.
"What we are saying is we have taken possession of a list of names and many more are being confessed and we believe that the primary, the prime movers of these destabilization moves, are now in our hands and under investigation."
Earlier this week armed forces chief of staff General Generoso Senga played down rumors of a fresh coup attempt against Arroyo, who survived an impeachment complaint in parliament last year arising from allegations she stole the May 2004 presidential election.
Esperon said the plot involved establishing a junta and abolishing democratic institutions. It was uncovered in December with the seizure of the conspirators' manifesto entitled "The Last Revolution", he said.
"It outlined the bases of operations of these destabilizers towards the establishment of a revolutionary government that will work in what they called the national recovery program. It will be headed, it will be led by a junta composed of military men and other nominees," Esperon said.
Conspirators met several times in January in different Manila hotels, he said, adding that the operation was to be called "Oplan Hackle".
About 200 detainees are in custody and on trial for the failed 2003 mutiny led by several junior officers. Esperon said the plan was for them to escape from military custody on the day the coup was launched.
Had the group taken power there would have been a "consolidation which would include the abolition of democratic institutions, including the House of Representatives, the Senate, the judiciary, and other democratic institutions."
After the plot was uncovered, "we confronted the leaders of the Magdalo and tried to segregate them from the others," Esperon said, referring to the detained leaders of the July 2003 mutiny.
However, five of them escaped on January 17. Two of the five, Marine Captain Nicanor Faeldon and Army First Lieutenant Lawrence San Juan, have since been recaptured.
Esperon said investigators later discovered a longer list of the other supposed participants and confronted them.
"As a result of that, many officers have confessed participation and have confessed" to attending planning sessions for the coup, he added.
Esperon said several conspirators have confessed that the group took part in ceremonies in which they mixed their blood with wine and drank it.
As for those who refused to renounce their membership in the cabal "we are now restraining them, and probably and most likely will file charges against them."
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New Sri Lanka peace talks begin
Wednesday, 22 February 2006, 09:54 GMT
Sri Lankan officials and Tamil Tiger rebels have begun meeting in the Swiss city of Geneva for their first face-to-face talks in three years.
The focus of two days of talks is to boost a threadbare four-year truce. Mounting violence in recent months has raised fears of a return to civil war.
The talks have been brokered by Norwegian peace envoy Erik Solheim.
The ceasefire agreement in February 2002 preceded several rounds of peace talks, which stalled in April 2003.
The latest talks began with the government's chief negotiator, Nimal Siripala de Silva, and the Tamil Tigers' Anton Balasingham shaking hands, the AFP news agency reports.
"Strengthening of the implementation of the ceasefire itself is an extremely important agenda," Mr Solheim told reporters as he convened the talks at a secluded chateau just outside Geneva.
Ahead of the talks, the Tamil Tigers said six men in military uniforms had attacked one of their posts in eastern Batticaloa district on Wednesday, killing one of their members.
"The attack has raised serious doubts in the minds of Tamil people about the sincerity of the government in taking part in direct talks," the rebels said on their website.
The army denied involvement, calling the allegations "baseless and malicious".
In the northern town of Jaffna, Hindu, Christian and Muslim clergy led prayers for peace at a public hall to coincide with the talks.
The BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Geneva says diplomats are playing down hopes the talks can achieve anything more than restoring some stability in Sri Lanka.
"If they fail, I really do believe there will be war," an unnamed European diplomat is quoted as saying by Reuters.
At least 120 people - including about 80 soldiers and sailors and many civilians - have died in the upsurge of violence, which began soon after Mahinda Rajapakse assumed the presidency in November but has abated since the deal to hold talks was reached last month.
The attacks on the military have been blamed on the rebels, who deny involvement.
Tamil Tiger supporters say more than 40 Tamils have been killed by the security forces in a series of attacks since the start of December. Others blame some of those deaths on the rebels or other armed groups.
The talks are being held in Geneva after the Tigers refused to negotiate in any Asian country.
More than 60,000 people died during two decades of conflict in Sri Lanka.
The Tamil Tigers want autonomy for minority Tamils in the north and east. President Rajapakse has said the solution to the conflict lies in a unitary state.
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Aristide, in Exile, Suggests a Speedy Return to Haiti
By MICHAEL WINES
Published: February 22, 2006
JOHANNESBURG, Feb. 21 - Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide said in a television interview on Tuesday that he hoped to return to Haiti from exile in South Africa "as soon as possible," joining his onetime protégé, René Préval, who was officially declared the country's new president last week.
In an interview on SABC, South African television, his first since Mr. Préval's election, Mr. Aristide gave little indication of when he might return or what role he might play, except to say that he "will continue to invest in education."
While in exile, Mr. Aristide has lectured at the University of South Africa in Pretoria and given frequent speeches.
"I don't have a date, a present date," he said. "It has to be emerging from a dialogue between President Préval, myself, the U.N. and other countries, because all are holding their hands together to keep peace in the country."
Mr. Préval and Mr. Aristide were once close. Mr. Préval was briefly Mr. Aristide's prime minister when the latter was president in the early 1990's, then served as president himself, from 1996 to 2001, until Mr. Aristide was elected again. Many considered Mr. Préval a seat-warmer, holding the office in anticipation of his mentor's re-election.
Both men enjoy broad support among the peasantry in Haiti, one of the poorest nations on earth.
But while Mr. Préval has indicated that he does not oppose Mr. Aristide's return, the relationship is likely to be delicate. Mr. Aristide fled the presidency into exile two years ago during an uprising backed largely by the nation's elite, amid accusations that his government was corrupt and had waged a campaign of violence against its rivals.
American officials pressed Mr. Aristide to leave, and he later claimed that he had been kidnapped by the United States and France - a claim the two governments categorically deny.
In his interview with SABC, Mr. Aristide said he recognized Mr. Préval's legitimate election as his country's leader.
"He is the president of the country," he said. "We have to support him while he will be respecting the will of the Haitian people, because the Haitian people never wanted people to betray them. They voted for the return of democracy."
Haitians voted on Feb. 7, but official results were delayed for more than a week as officials debated allegations of fraud.
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Pakistan Tests Hatf Missile Again
by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Feb 21, 2006
The Pakistani Army announced on Sunday that it has successfully tested a new nuclear-capable short-range missile. In an official statement the Army said its new surface-to-surface Hatf 2/Abdali missile had a range of 120 miles and was capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
It said the missile had been successfully tested but did not reveal the location of the test.
The successful test was announced as Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf began a five-day state visit to China, the Anadolu News Agency reported from Islamabad.
Pakistan previously tested the Hatf II in March 2005, when it announced the missile's range was a slightly shorter 108 miles.
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DNA 'could predict your surname'
By Paul Rincon
BBC News science reporter
Forensic scientists could use DNA retrieved from a crime scene to predict the surname of the suspect, according to a new British study.
It is not perfect, but could be an important investigative tool when combined with other intelligence.
The method exploits genetic likenesses between men who share the same surname, and may help prioritise inquiries.
Details of the research from the University of Leicester, UK, appear in the latest edition of Current Biology.
The technique is based on work comparing the Y chromosomes of men with the same surname. The Y chromosome is a package of genetic material found only in males.
It is passed down from father to son, just like a surname.
"The evidence would not be hanging on the Y chromosome, all it would give you is an investigative tool to prioritise a sub-set of your suspects," said co-author Dr Mark Jobling from the University of Leicester.
Mining the information would require building a database of at least 40,000 surnames and the Y chromosome profiles associated with them.
Dr Jobling emphasises the limitations of the method; it could have some predictive power in just under half the population, after the most common surnames like Smith, Taylor and Williams have been excluded.
But he says it has the potential to cut down on the police workload.
"If you had a big enough database, it would give you from your crime scene sample a list of names," Dr Jobling, from the University of Leicester, told the BBC News website.
"That would help you prioritise your suspect list. Some investigations have very large suspect lists, in the thousands."
The Leicester researcher said police could consult the Y chromosome and surname database to help prioritise their search in cases where a crime scene sample had failed to turn up matches in the national DNA database.
"You might have a situation where the Y chromosome predicts 25 names. So you could go and see in the pool of suspects whether the names are there," Dr Jobling explained.
"If they are... you could then ask them for a DNA sample and do conventional DNA profiling to see if they match the crime scene sample."
Over time, the Y chromosome accumulates small changes in its DNA sequence, allowing scientists to study the relationships between different male lineages.
It follows that men with the same surname might have very similar Y chromosomes. But adoptions, infidelity, name changes and multiple founders for just one surname complicate the picture.
Crime investigations use ever more powerful tools
For the study, Turi King and colleagues from the University of Leicester recruited at random 150 pairs of men who shared a British surname and compared their Y chromosomes.
Across the sample, the authors determined that just under a quarter of the pairs had recent common ancestry.
Given the small sample size and the random recruitment, Dr Jobling said he was surprised at the strength of the signal.
Sharing a surname also significantly raised the likelihood of sharing the same type of Y chromosome, with the link getting stronger as the surname gets rarer.
The researchers used the data to roughly test the predictive power of the method. They found the approach was most useful for less common names, with a 34% chance of prediction in the 80 least common surnames from the 150-name sample.
"This range of surnames makes up 42% of the population. So we're looking at prediction in just under half of the population. We have to exclude the Smiths and Joneses," Dr Jobling said.
The researchers extrapolated their success rate to the 25-65 no-suspect murders and 300-400 no-suspect rapes on the police books each year, and found the method could help in roughly 10 murders and 60 rapes annually.
Max Houck, a former scientist with the FBI Laboratory, and director of the Forensic Science Initiative at West Virginia University, US, commented: "I think by itself it is probably not useful - a single point of evidence - and for most evidence types that's the case.
"But if you have that and other data, it can put you more towards or more away from a particular proposition if you know the person may have an uncommon surname, and, for example, some ethnicity information.
"If it's a bit more cumulative it might push you in a particular direction," he told the BBC News website.
It was at the University of Leicester in 1984 that the technique of "DNA fingerprinting" was first developed.
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Chinese Media Assail Google
By Philip P. Pan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, February 22, 2006; Page A09
BEIJING, Feb. 21 -- A state-run newspaper reported Tuesday that Google Inc. is under investigation for operating without a proper license in China and quoted an unnamed government official as saying the Internet giant needs to cooperate further with the authorities in blocking "harmful information" from its search results.
The report, in the Beijing News, was published the same day that another state newspaper ran a harshly worded editorial about Google. The paper accused the firm of sneaking into China like an "uninvited guest" and then making a fuss about being required to follow Chinese law and cooperate in censoring search results such as pornography.
The unusually bold attacks in the state media suggest that the Chinese government is unhappy with Google's efforts thus far to filter politically sensitive results from its popular search engine in China, and that its ability to do business in the country may be in jeopardy.
Google's cooperation with the Chinese government in censoring the Internet has already sparked outrage from free speech advocates and U.S. lawmakers who accuse it of betraying its corporate motto, "Don't be evil." The firm announced last month that it was launching a censored search engine, Google.cn, to improve its service in China, where its regular site and its search results are sometimes blocked.
Dubbed the "eunuch edition" by some Chinese Internet users, the new search engine withholds results from Web sites the governing Communist Party finds objectionable, and returns limited results when users enter politically sensitive keywords.
Google has defended its decision to launch the censored site, arguing that people in China can continue to use the Chinese version of its regular search engine, Google.com. It has also pointed out that the new search engine is the first in China to inform users when results have been removed because of the government's "laws, regulations and policies."
But it appears Chinese authorities are now pressuring Google to cut off access in China to its regular search engine, and to stop telling users of the new site every time a search is censored.
"Is it necessary for an enterprise that is operating within the borders of China to constantly tell your customers you are following domestic law?" said the editorial published Tuesday in the China Business Times, a financial daily.
Both the editorial and the Beijing News accused Google of operating its new site without an ICP -- or Internet content provider -- license. The editorial also accused Google of starting a debate about censorship in China to draw attention away from its "illegal" activity. "Can Google get away with this?" it asked.
In a written statement, Google spokeswoman Debbie Frost said Google uses a license held by a local Chinese firm, Ganji.com, in an arrangement that is common for foreign Internet firms in China.
A source familiar with the government's position said the Ministry of Information Industries has raised the ICP license issue to put pressure on Google to comply with its demands. He said the government wants Google to make a larger investment in China and do more to censor its search results.
"The main problem isn't the ICP dispute, but the awkward relationship between Google and the Chinese government," the source said. "To be honest, the ICP dispute is a minor thing, and that's not what will get Google into trouble."
Another Chinese source said Google recently rejected an urgent request to remove from its stored Web pages information related to an internal dispute at an influential Chinese agency. That information had been posted on the Internet.
"Foreign-invested search engines must strengthen control and management of how they handle search results with Chinese information," an unnamed government official was quoted as saying in the Beijing News.
He said blocking "harmful information" from search results was a "very practical problem," and added that Google "still needs to strengthen cooperation with the government's relevant functional departments" in this area.
The Beijing News also quoted an unnamed Google official as saying it was "very likely" that all Chinese searches on its regular site would be redirected to the censored search engine because of "pragmatic considerations."
But in congressional testimony last week, Elliot Schrage, Google's vice president for global communications, appeared to rule that out. "We will not terminate the availability of our unfiltered Chinese-language Google.com service," he said.
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Central bank: yuan to remain stable in 2006
www.chinaview.cn 2006-02-22 00:08:07
BEIJING, Feb. 21 (Xinhuanet) -- China's central bank on Tuesday said yuan will stay stable in 2006, while American manufacturers allege the Chinese currency is "undervalued" by as much as 40 percent.
The value of the Chinese currency will stand at a reasonable and balanced level, the People's Bank of China (PBoC) reiterated in a report.
It pledged to upgrade the managed, floating exchange rate system to cater to the need of China's economic development and financial stability, in an "independent, controllable and progressive" way.
American manufacturers argue that the yuan is kept "artificially lower" to make Chinese goods cheaper for American consumers and U.S. products more expensive in China, and the U.S. government says China accounted for a quarter of the country's trade deficit last year.
Pressure on China for another yuan revaluation is reportedly increasing.
But the PBoC report said, "The exchange rate plays a certain role in adjusting international payments, but it is not enough for the exchange rate alone to take that responsibility."
Policies on foreign trade, resource pricing and foreign exchange management should combine to promote the balance of international payments, it added.
The Chinese currency has gained nearly 3 percent against the U.S. dollar since its July 21 revaluation, trading at a central parity rate of 8.0485 versus the dollar on Tuesday.
Early this year, China began a new policy of calculating the yuan's value against the U.S. dollar using a weighted average of the prices given by major commercial banks. The highest and lowest offers are excluded from the calculation.
Giving banks a role in setting the new daily benchmark, or the central parity rate, is seen as a sign that the PBoC is willing to allow market forces a greater role in daily trading, analysts acknowledge.
The market force will play a "fundamental" role in the determination of the yuan's value, the central bank reiterated in its Tuesday report.
A central bank survey last November on 1,113 enterprises with foreign trade rights showed that Chinese enterprises responded positively to the new exchange rate mechanism.
Nearly three-quarters of these enterprises say their exports either rose or kept stable in November.
Earlier figures showed that trade surplus prompted China's foreign exchange reserves to surge to 818.9 billion U.S. dollars by the end of last year, second only to Japan.
The PBoC has stressed that a floating yuan is not simply one that will appreciate, but the prevailing view among industry watchers is that the yuan will strengthen gradually this year.
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China supports talks between Russia, Iran on nuke issue
www.chinaview.cn 2006-02-21 21:43:12
BEIJING, Feb. 21 (Xinhuanet) -- China supports the negotiations on the Iran nuclear issue between Russia and Iran and hopes for a positive outcome, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said here on Tuesday.
China noted that the talks began on Monday and are still going on, Liu told reporters at a regular news briefing.
China holds that Iran should suspend all enrichment-related activities and create favorable conditions for the settlement of the issue, the spokesman said.
"China will, as always, communicate with the parties concerned,and continue to make diplomatic efforts to properly handle the issue within the framework of the International Atomic Energy Agency," he added.
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For Minorities, Signs of Trouble in Foreclosures
By VIKAS BAJAJ and RON NIXON
Published: February 22, 2006
CLEVELAND - Catrina V. Roberts, a single mother of four, joined a new, growing class of minority homeowners when she moved from her subsidized apartment to a two-story house in 1999.
Catrina Roberts, left, with her daughter Sanautica, 12, and granddaughter Neakia, 4. Ms. Roberts's home in Cleveland is in foreclosure and she has declared bankruptcy.
But Ms. Roberts fell behind on her payments and declared bankruptcy last year. Now, as she loses her modest home to foreclosure, Ms. Roberts may represent the vanguard of a worrying trend of retreat.
The housing boom of the last decade helped push minority home ownership rates above 50 percent for the first time in 2004 and the overall foreclosure rate below 1 percent. Social scientists laud these accomplishments because ownership can foster greater neighborhood stability and economic progress. President Bush cites rising minority ownership as a milestone achievement under his "ownership society" programs.
But hidden behind such success stories lies a disturbing trend: in the last several years, neighborhoods with large poor and minority populations in places like Cleveland, Chicago, Philadelphia and Atlanta have experienced a sharp rise in foreclosures, in some cases more than a doubling, according to an analysis of court filings and other housing data by The New York Times and academic researchers.
The black home ownership rate even dipped slightly last year, according to the Census Bureau.
The increase in foreclosures could be the first of a wave of financial distress for many minority homeowners, experts say, because they are twice as likely as whites to have taken out expensive subprime mortgages, most of which will jump to higher interest rates in the next two years, according to an analysis of data that lenders disclose under the federal Home Mortgage Disclosure Act.
Subprime loans, which are made to borrowers with credit histories that the industry considers less than prime, have interest rates that are, on average, three points higher than the prime rate, about 6.2 percent now, and they carry higher fees and prepayment penalties that make it expensive to refinance.
Some housing experts worry that the minority foreclosure rate could worsen if the economy or the housing market, nationally or regionally, hits a rough patch as it has in industrial Midwestern states like Ohio.
"Anybody who is on the edge, those are factors that can tip them over into foreclosure," said William C. Apgar, a lecturer at Harvard who has studied foreclosure patterns in Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles. "That could happen even though foreclosure rates are down."
The example of Ms. Roberts is noteworthy because her loan was not considered subprime. It came from KeyBank, a longstanding Cleveland institution, and carried a relatively low fixed interest rate of 7.4 percent on a principal of $65,000. She never had a credit card, much less a credit record, and put down only $2,000.
Over the years, Ms. Roberts's monthly expenses rose because of repairs to a dilapidated porch and the birth of two grandchildren, but the $880 a month she takes home after taxes from her job as a home health aide did not.
Ms. Roberts, 35, also receives $1,100 in Social Security benefits because two of her younger children have learning disabilities. "I know when you buy a house, eventually you have to put work into it," she said and sighed, "but I didn't know it would lead me here, because if I did I would have never bought it. So, I am at a point right now that I don't want to ever buy a house, ever again."
The Mortgage Bankers Association of America plays down the severity of foreclosures, noting that most new minority homeowners are doing well and that the Midwest is facing unique economic challenges. The trade group estimates that fewer than 1 percent of all loans were in foreclosure in the three months that ended last September, down from 1.5 percent in 2002. For subprime loans, the rate was 3.3 percent, down from 8 percent in 2002.
Trouble in Cuyahoga County
But broad national statistics can obscure hard local realities. In Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, Ms. Roberts's hometown, court filings by lenders seeking to foreclose on delinquent borrowers totaled more than 11,000 in 2005, more than triple the number in 1995.
There were 17 auctions of foreclosed properties for every 100 regular single-family homes sold in the county in 2005, up from 10 in 2004 and 5 in 1995, according to data tabulated by Cleveland State University. (Not all homes that enter foreclosure are sold at auction; sometimes borrowers and lenders settle out of court or the property is sold on the open market.)
There is no way to know how many foreclosures of minority-owned homes have occurred in the Cleveland area, because county filings do not identify people by race. Experts say the closest proxy is the number of auctions of seized homes conducted by a sheriff as a ratio of conventional sales in areas with large minority populations.
In the eastern part of the county, which is 52 percent black and 7 percent Hispanic, the ratio of auctions to regular sales was 23 per 100 last year, up from 9 in 1995. In the west, which is 82 percent white, the ratio was 11 per 100, up from 2.5.
A similar pattern can be seen in Chicago, where foreclosure filings tripled, to 7,576, from 1993 to 2005. Neighborhoods where the population is more than 80 percent non-white account for 65 percent of all cases, up from 61 percent in 1993, according to data compiled by the National Training and Information Center, a housing advocacy and research group based in Chicago. The same trends have been documented in Atlanta and Philadelphia, according to researchers from Harvard and the Reinvestment Fund, a Philadelphia-based investment organization hired by the Pennsylvania Department of Banking to study mortgage foreclosures in the state.
Mr. Apgar and other experts note that foreclosure is the worst, but not the only, negative consequence faced by overextended minority families.
In areas where home prices have appreciated, families that have defaulted on their loan might still be able to sell their homes before they are seized. Though they would lose their homes and damage their credit records, their financial troubles would not register in foreclosure statistics. People who live in the great middle of the country where home prices have not risen rapidly may not have that option because demand there is soft.
At stake are historic gains in minority home ownership rates, which until the mid-1990's had been stagnant for two decades.
Last year, black home ownership fell slightly, to 48.8 percent, from 49.7 percent in 2004, only the second year the rate has declined in the last 10 years. Still, the fact that nearly half of all black households and half of all Hispanic families owned their homes is widely seen as a step forward.
In 1995, fewer than 43 percent of black families and just under 44 percent of Hispanic families owned their own homes. Among all minorities, a group that includes Asians and mixed-race households, the rate was 51 percent in 2005, up from 44 percent a decade ago. By comparison, more than three-quarters of white households owned their own homes in 2005, up from 71 percent.
The Role of Subprime Loans
In addition to lowering crime and revitalizing blighted neighborhoods, home ownership also helps families build wealth that can pay for education and be passed on to the next generation, said Dowell Myers, a professor at the University of Southern California who has studied Hispanic home buying patterns.
Experts attribute the recent increase in minority ownership to income and employment gains, but also to the growth of subprime lending, which provides credit in areas where few lenders and banks operated before. The expansion of credit, particularly to the poorest minorities, has been controversial.
Advocates for the poor say that aggressive lenders and mortgage brokers have given loans to borrowers who are lured by dreams of home ownership but have few savings and little job security. Many families might be better off, and receive less expensive loans, if they saved for a down payment and paid down other debts before buying a home, said Kathleen E. Keest, a senior policy counsel at the Center for Responsible Lending, a housing advocacy and research group based in Durham, N.C.
And for all the talk of expanding opportunities to the less well-off, experts note that the gap between minority and white home ownership remains unchanged from a decade ago at about 25 percentage points.
Loan data that mortgage lenders must disclose show that minorities are far more likely to receive subprime loans than whites. About 30 percent of home purchase loans made to blacks from 1999 to 2004 and 20 percent of home loans made to Hispanics were subprime, compared with 10.4 percent of loans to Asian-Americans, only slightly higher than for white borrowers.
In 2004, the latest year with data available, nearly 27 percent of loans taken out by minorities were subprime, up from 15 percent in 1999.
The disparities persist even when income is taken into account. Among minority borrowers who made $51,000 to $75,000 a year, 23 percent received subprime loans. By comparison, only 10 percent of whites in the same income bracket did. Minorities who made $151,000 to $175,000 were twice as likely to get a subprime loan as whites were.
The Mortgage Bankers Association said lenders used a number of factors like credit scores and the size of down payments, in addition to income, to determine what kind of loan and interest rates are offered to borrowers. For instance, "whites have traditionally had more wealth than minorities, and that's a factor in who gets what kind of loan, as well," said Douglas G. Duncan, the chief economist at the trade group.
Almost 70 percent of subprime loans issued since 2001 will shift from low, fixed introductory rates to higher adjustable rates in the next two years, according to an analysis by Fannie Mae.
Still, Mr. Duncan added, subprime lending has benefited minorities and lower-income borrowers. For every 100 subprime loans made nationally, only 5 end in foreclosure. Some increase in total foreclosures is to be expected simply because the number of mortgages has increased substantially over the last decade, he said.
Mr. Duncan and others in the industry say that higher foreclosure levels in the Midwest should not be seen as worrying signals for the nation because the region's economic problems are unique.
Ohio lost 215,000 jobs from 2001 to 2005, with 63,800 of them coming from the Cleveland metropolitan area. The state unemployment rate was 5.6 percent in December, up from 4 percent in 2000. The jobless rate in Cleveland was 5.5 percent in December, up from 3.8 percent.
James Rokakis, the Cuyahoga County treasurer and an advocate of tighter lending standards, said a 5 percent national foreclosure rate for subprime loans was acceptable to lenders because their profits were greater on those loans than on prime mortgages. But he noted that his county's 17 percent rate is creating blight in many neighborhoods.
In Slavic Village, once a thriving Eastern European enclave where many of Cleveland's steelworkers lived and now an increasingly black and Hispanic neighborhood, about 500 homes, or 5 percent of its properties, are vacant, Mr. Rokakis said. "Who pays for the damage done to these communities?"
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Scandal-hit Vatican banker dies
Tuesday, 21 February 2006, 20:43 GMT
Archbishop Paul Marcinkus, who was involved in one of the biggest financial scandals to hit the Vatican, has died, church officials say.
The 84-year-old American had been living in Sun City, Arizona.
Marcinkus was head of the Vatican Bank at the time of the fraudulent collapse of Banco Ambrosiano in 1982, with which it had close ties.
He denied any wrongdoing. Although he was sought for questioning, he was granted immunity as a Vatican employee.
Archbishop Marcinkus was found dead at his home on Monday evening, a spokeswoman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, in Arizona, said. The cause is unclear.
He retired in 1990, but had remained active in the local ministry.
Born in 1922 in a suburb of Chicago, he was ordained as a priest in 1947 and then as an archbishop in 1969.
An imposing 1.9m (6ft 4in) tall, he acted as a bodyguard to Pope John Paul II during his early foreign travels.
Archbishop Marcinkus was appointed to the Institute for Religious Works, known as the Vatican Bank, in 1971 and worked there until 1989.
The bank was the main shareholder in Banco Ambrosiano.
The head of Banco Ambrosiano, Roberto Calvi, was found hanging under Blackfriars Bridge in London shortly after the bank's collapse with debts of $1.3bn (£750m).
The missing money was traced to loans made to 10 dummy companies in Latin America, and the speculation was that the Mafia were involved.
Five people are currently on trial in Italy for Calvi's murder.
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Ark's Quantum Quirks
February 22, 2006
(Click here for the Simpsomaker)
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