- Signs of the Times for Thu, 23 Feb 2006 -

Editorial: More On The Shrine Bombing

Joe Quinn
Signs of the Times
At least 120 people have now been killed as a direct result of the bombing of the Shia shrine in Iraq. Fifty bullet-riddled bodies were found in Baghdad overnight and 47 factory workers were killed at a roadblock on the outskirts of the capital. Arab TV reporter, Atwar Bahjat, and two of her crew who worked for the Dubai-based al-Arabiya TV were also killed in Samarra.

Juan Cole is reporting that the demolition of the dome of the shrine "was nothing like a hipshot sneaking up bombing by night. It was meticulous, skilful piece of work, taking a lot of time, the guards knowing all about what was going on."

That sounds like the kind of workmanship that is usually beyond the scope of a rag tag bunch of terroists and traditionally a hallmark of intelligence agencies like the Mossad and the CIA. Have a look for yourself.

Shia shrine before

Shia shrine after

But the big mystery about these kinds of attacks in Iraq, is why any Iraqi Sunni group would ever attack a Shia shrine. There is no real history of serious ethnic strife between Sunnis and Shias and the religious differences between them are all but non-existent. The idea that there is any homegrown religious or ethnic basis for civil war between the two groups is absurd and is akin to the idea that there is a religious or ethnic basis for civil war between white American Presbyterians and Methodists.

Needless to say, the White House is seizing on the Shrine bombing and attempting to use it to promote the idea that there is no bargaring with these mysterious "terrorists", they are terminally evil, plain and simple. Yet can anyone explain to me the logic behind 'Islamic terrorists' force Iraqi Muslims to butcher each other? Aren't the "terrorists" meant to be trying to unite the Islamic world against the Americans and Israelis rather than have them kill each other?

Aha!, but there's the rub, the Bush administration tells us. You see, these particular Islamic terrorists "are enemies of all faiths and of all humanity", by which logic we deduce that the Islamic terrorists are enemies of the very religion that they are trying to foist on the entire world! Which also means that we can expect to soon hear reports of Islamic terrorists all over the world committing suicide when they realise that they themselves are Islamics. But wait! Aren't they already doing that? Geez, it's all so confusing and none of it makes any real sense.

Of course it doesn't, because it's all bullshit.

Understanding of the entire messy situation only begins to seep in once we realise that it is Israel and U.S. that are the real beneficiaries of a civil war in Iraq. You see, from the point of view of American and Israeli thinktanks, if Iraqis are occupied (no pun) with fighting each other, they will have less time and energy to attack American forces, which can then be used to finish off Iran and Syrian once Israel has completed a preemptive strike. Israel also benefits from a ethnically and religiously fragmented Iraq because it ensures that a country that was once something of a counter-balance to Israeli (and American) hegemony in the Middle East is transformed into an economically and militarily impotent Arab neighbor. These likely truth of this analysis of the situation is shared, it seems, by most Middle Eastern Arabs who are in the know.

Yesterday, Iranian Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said:

"U.S. and Israeli forces were behind the bombing of a holy Shiite mosque in As Samarra, Iraq. Khamenei labeled the attack a "political crime" and said the "occupiers and Zionists" plotted the bombing to provoke sectarian violence in Iraq."

Stunning only in its predictability, these comments by Ali Khamenei were completely absent from the Western Press. The truth must be denied the Western populace at all costs, as we already know.

Even pro-U.S. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani hinted at the real reason for the Shrine bombing when he said: "we are facing a major conspiracy that is targeting Iraq's unity"

Popular Shia Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called the Iraqi people to express, "unity and solidarity so as to deny any opportunity to those who wish to ignite public turmoil." I wonder who al-Sadr thinks "those who wish to ignite public turmoil" are?

So we see that just about every major political and religious leader in Iraq is calling for Iraqis to unite against attempts by some unnamed force to foment civil war, while the White House is claiming that 'evil terrorists' are in Iraq, which is not exactly helpful, but then who ever said that the American government invaded Iraq to help anyone but themselves - and Israel of course.

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Editorial: Israeli Defense Minister Declares Palestine "Axis of Evil"

By Genevieve Cora Fraser

Call it déjà vu but Israeli television reports are branding Mahmoud Abbas as irrelevant in a move identical to their position toward the late Palestinian president Yasser Arafat. And though Hamas has largely honored the truce established last year, not only has Israel broken that truce over 24,000 times resulting in nearly 200 Palestinians deaths, Shin Bet has rejected an extended truce with Hamas.

IMEMC & Agencies reports that 31 Palestinians have been killed since Hamas won the majority vote in the Palestinian elections on January 25th. These deaths are part of a retaliatory strategy as outlined by Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz. According to Mofaz, the Palestinian people have made their government part of the 'Axis of Evil' along with Syria and Iran. As a result, "punitive measures" will be taken by Israeli forces against all the Palestinian people, he stated.

Making good on the threat, on Monday, February 20th, Israeli Occupation Forces opened fire and threw gas grenades at high school girls in the West Bank city of Nablus. According to the WAFA news agency, Israeli soldiers broke into the high school in the Til village south of Nablus city, and along with extensive shooting, "fired a number of gas grenades towards the school, causing a state of panic and suffocation among students and teachers."

According to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Israeli forces occupied two schools it runs in the Balata Refugee camp. "The Israelis continued to occupy the boys' school after leaving the girls' school today." Agency officials also stated that "Israeli forces continue to block a health clinic, which prevents patients or staff from leaving the building." And in a pre-dawn raid Israeli soldiers swept into Balata refugee camp and Nablus city, arrested six citizens and "fired into the chest of Usama Al-Banna", an unarmed resident of the Balata refugee camp. Foreign born United Nations Relief Work Agency employees were ordered to leave the Balata refugee camp during the Israeli attack.

In other action, Israeli soldiers wounded children and arrested citizens in the West Bank cities of Hebron, Nablus, Jenin and Bethlehem. The attacks and arrests were justified according to the Israelis because the individuals were "resisting the occupation." In Hebron, Israeli soldiers broke into the towns of ad-Dhaheriya, Beit Ummar and Sa'ir, south and north of the city and stormed a number of houses, shooting and tear gassing residents. As a result, five children were wounded and hospitalized. In Jenin, a large contingent of Israeli soldiers stormed into Qabatya town, south of the city, ravaged the contents of homes and conducted a house-to-house search campaign, arresting several residents. In Bethlehem, armored vehicles and jeeps stormed the Al-Nahaleen area and Al-Eza refugee camps firing on residents and homes as they searched houses and arrested residents, leading them to undisclosed locations security forces stated.

In the Gaza Strip Israeli artillery fired several missiles near the towns of Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanuon, north of the Gaza Strip, however no injuries were reported. Meanwhile scores of house demolitions continued in the West Bank "under the pretext of missing permits – a common tool used to expel Palestinians – ensuring the theft of lands for construction of settlements or military zones," WAFA reported.

Along with non-stop military assaults on the Palestinian people, Zionist Israel's success in waging economic warfare on the indigenous people of Palestine may prove to be even more deadly as they seek to put the starving on a diet, as some Israeli officials joked, or as the New York Times reported, have devised a plan to starve Hamas out of power. Israel not only refuses to relinquish the 100s of millions of dollars in tax revenues it generates from the Palestinians on their behalf, but has threatened to block aid money from countries, such as Sweden and the Arab Alliance, from reaching Palestinian banks. These dollars are vitally needed for Palestinian survival. "Palestinian importers are required to pay the Israeli authorities the value-added tax of 17%, as well as whatever custom taxes are due on goods that come in on their way to the West Bank or Gaza. These transactions (along with direct Palestinian transactions with Israeli firms and merchants) last year yielded revenues of $711 million," Amira Hass reported for Haaretz. "According to the Oslo accords (and by any standards of common sense and basic justice), the revenues should serve the people who ultimately buy the goods. These tax receipts are not donations of goodwill from Israel; they are not charity. This is not like, say, Dutch foreign aid money, which is given freely by the Dutch people and can be withheld if the Dutch choose to stop giving it. These are tax revenues that are due to the people in the territories where the goods are headed, and the Israelis have no right to hold them up." Meanwhile the United States and European Union plan to withhold all financial assistance to the Hamas led government. After the U.S. Congress voted to withhold $400 million a year of aid money from the Palestinian Authority, President Bush demanded that $50 million that had already been given be returned. Within days the Palestinian Authority returned the $50 million which further deepened their financial plight. But Israel's control of border crossings may create even greater hardship. "The closure of these crossings will paralyze the economy," Palestine's Minister of Economy Mazen Sinnoqrot stated.

Last year the BBC and other media around the world reported that in Darfur refugees were being systematically starved, black Africans were deliberately being driven off the land and they were being subjected to a "reign of terror" in the region, according to the UN Commissioner for Human Rights. "Militias prevented food deliveries and stopped anyone leaving," the report said. One aid worker in Kailek described what happened there as the "politics of starvation".

If Israel gets its way, how long will it be before Palestine is in a similar situation – especially if, once again, Israel unleashes a reign of terror through unrelenting military assault? For nearly six decades Palestinians have been systematically ethnically cleaned - driven off their land, and Israel has all too often prevented food deliveries as well as access to medicines and water (as documented by hundreds of UN Resolutions against Israel). However, the complete economic deprivation that Israel insists on, in this writer's opinion, is far beyond a slap in the face at democracy by refusing to acknowledge a Hamas-led government, but an attempt to commit genocide against the Palestinian people.

Now that the die is cast, the world watches and waits. Palestine is nearly surrounded by the apartheid, racist wall and is held hostage from within by hundreds of checkpoint and roadblocks and military outposts, the illegal Israeli settlements and Israeli-only roads. There is no escape from the hunger and assault that may ensue – except through the door marked: Upholding Human Rights. If Israel proceeds as planned, it will not only destroy Palestine but itself.

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South Dakota passes abortion ban

Wed Feb 22, 2006

SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota (Reuters) - South Dakota's state senate voted on Wednesday for an abortion ban aimed at giving the conservative-tilting Supreme Court an opening to overturn rulings granting women the right to the procedure.

Only an unlikely veto by Republican Gov. Michael Rounds could prevent the legislation from becoming law, people on both sides of the issue said.

"We hope (Rounds) recognizes this for what it is: a political tool and not about the health and safety of the women of South Dakota," said Kate Looby of Planned Parenthood, which operates the sole clinic providing abortions in South Dakota.
"If he chooses to sign it, we will be filing a lawsuit in short order to block it," she said after attending the afternoon debate at the state capitol in Pierre.

Proponents have said the law was designed for just such a court challenge.

The timing is right, supporters say, given the recent appointments of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito to the high court. The two conservatives could pave the way to a decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling said women have a constitutional right to abortion.

The high court said on Tuesday it will rule on whether the federal government can ban some abortion procedures, a case that could reveal whether the court reshaped by President George W. Bush will restrict abortion rights.

Five states have proposed similar bans, but South Dakota's legislature was the first to pass a law, which threatens to punish doctors who perform abortions with a five-year prison term and $5,000 fine.

Proposed amendments to the law to create exceptions to specifically protect the health of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest, were voted down. Also defeated was an amendment to put the proposal in the hands of voters.

The bill as written does make an exception if the fetus dies during a doctor's attempt to save the mother's life.

Two years ago, Rounds vetoed a similar bill, saying it would wipe out existing restrictions on abortion while it was fought in the courts. A rewritten bill lost narrowly.

Some legislators opposed to abortion rights questioned whether it was premature to challenge Roe v. Wade, and said litigation would prove expensive for the sparsely populated state. An anonymous donor has offered $1 million to the state to defray the costs of litigation.

Comment: Isn't it curious that South Dakota - which apparently has only ONE clinic in the entire state that provides abortions - has become the battleground for overturning Roe v. Wade? With Alito now on the Supreme Court, the abortion law's days may be numbered.

The fundamental problem with a state ban on abortion is that it is a de facto statement by the state that citizens are incapable of making choices about their own bodies - which, of course, the state is only too happy to do. See today's story on mandatory child vaccination for more evidence of this pernicious idea.

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Is the Bush Administration Planning a Nuclear Holocaust?

by Michel Chossudovsky
February 22, 2006
© Copyright Michel Chossudovsky, GlobalResearch.ca, 2006

"We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world. It may be the fire destruction prophesied in the Euphrates Valley Era, after Noah and his fabulous Ark.... This weapon is to be used against Japan ... [We] will use it so that military objectives and soldiers and sailors are the target and not women and children. Even if the Japs are savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic, we as the leader of the world for the common welfare cannot drop that terrible bomb on the old capital or the new. ... The target will be a purely military one... It seems to be the most terrible thing ever discovered, but it can be made the most useful."

(President Harry S. Truman, Diary, July 25, 1945)

"The World will note that the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima a military base. That was because we wished in this first attack to avoid, insofar as possible, the killing of civilians.." (President Harry S. Truman in a radio speech to the Nation, August 9, 1945).

[Note: the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945; the Second on Nagsaki, on August 9, on the same day as Truman's radio speech to the Nation]

(Listen to Excerpt of his speech, Hiroshima audio video)

At no point since the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima on August 6th, 1945, has humanity been closer to the unthinkable, a nuclear holocaust which could potentially spread, in terms of radioactive fallout, over a large part of the Middle East.
All the safeguards of the Cold War era, which categorized the nuclear bomb as "a weapon of last resort" have been scrapped. "Offensive" military actions using nuclear warheads are now described as acts of "self-defense".

The distinction between tactical nuclear weapons and the conventional battlefield arsenal has been blurred. America's new nuclear doctrine is based on "a mix of strike capabilities". The latter, which specifically applies to the Pentagon's planned aerial bombing of Iran,  envisages the use of nukes in combination with conventional weapons. 

As in the case of the first atomic bomb, which in the words of President Harry Truman "was dropped on Hiroshima, a military base", today's "mini-nukes" are heralded as "safe for the surrounding civilian population"

Known in official Washington, as "Joint Publication 3-12", the new nuclear doctrine (Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations , >(DJNO) (March 2005)) >calls for "integrating conventional and nuclear attacks" under a unified and  "integrated" Command and Control (C2).

It  largely describes war planning as a management decision-making process, where military and strategic objectives are to be achieved, through a mix of instruments, with little concern for the resulting loss of human life.

Military planning >focuses on "the most efficient use of force" , -i.e. an optimal arrangement of different weapons systems to achieve stated military goals.  In this context, nuclear and conventional weapons are considered to be "part of the tool box", from which military commanders can pick and choose the instruments that they require in accordance with "evolving circumstances" in the war theater. (None of these weapons in the Pentagon's "tool box", including conventional bunker buster bombs, cluster bombs, mini-nukes, chemical and biological weapons are described as "weapons of mass destruction" when they are used by the United States of America and its coalition partners). 

The stated objective is to:

 "ensure the most efficient use of force and provide US leaders with a broader range of [nuclear and conventional]  >strike options to address immediate contingencies. Integration of conventional and nuclear forces is therefore crucial to the success of any comprehensive strategy. This integration will ensure optimal targeting, minimal collateral damage, and reduce the probability of escalation." (Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations   p. JP 3-12-13)

The new nuclear doctrine turns concepts and realities upside down. It not only denies the devastating impacts of nuclear weapons, it states, in no uncertain terms, that nuclear weapons are "safe" and their use in the battlefield will ensure "minimal collateral damage and reduce the probability of escalation". The issue of radioactive fallout is barely acknowledged with regard to tactical nuclear weapons. These various guiding principles which describe nukes as "safe for civilians" constitute a consensus within the military, which is then fed into the military manuals, providing relevant "green light" criteria to geographical commanders in the war theater. 

"Defensive" and "Offensive" Actions

While the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review sets the stage for the preemptive use of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, specifically against Iran,  The Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations >goes one step further in blurring the distinction between "defensive" and "offensive" military actions:

"The new triad offers a mix of strategic offensive and defensive capabilities that includes nuclear and non-nuclear strike capabilities, active and passive defenses, and a robust research, development, and industrial infrastructure to develop, build, and maintain offensive forces and defensive systems ..." (Ibid) (key concepts indicated in added italics)

The new nuclear doctrine, however, goes beyond preemptive acts of "self-defense", it calls for "anticipatory action" using nuclear weapons against a  "rogue enemy" which allegedly plans to develop WMD at some undefined future date:

 Responsible security planning requires preparation for threats that are possible, though perhaps unlikely today. The lessons of military history remain clear: unpredictable, irrational conflicts occur. Military forces must prepare to counter weapons and capabilities that exist or will exist in the near term even if no immediate likely scenarios for war are at hand. To maximize deterrence of WMD use, it is essential US forces prepare to use nuclear weapons effectively and that US forces are determined to employ nuclear weapons if necessary to prevent or retaliate against WMD use. (Ibid, p. III-1, italics added)

Nukes would serve to prevent  a non-existent WMD program (e.g. Iran) prior to its development. This twisted formulation goes far beyond the premises of the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review and NPSD 17. which state that the US can retaliate with nuclear weapons if attacked with WMD:

"The United States will make clear that it reserves the right to respond with overwhelming force – including potentially nuclear weapons – to the use of [weapons of mass destruction] against the United States, our forces abroad, and friends and allies." ... (NSPD 17)

"Integration" of Nuclear and Conventional Weapons Plans

The Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations outlines the procedures governing the use of nuclear weapons and the nature of the relationship between nuclear and conventional war operations.

The D>JNO states that the:

 "use of nuclear weapons within a [war] theater requires that nuclear and conventional plans be integrated to the greatest extent possible"

(DJNO, p 47 italics added, >italics added, For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, Nuclear War against Iran, Jan 2006 )

The implications of this "integration" are far-reaching because once the decision is taken by the Commander in Chief, namely the President of the United States, to launch a joint conventional-nuclear military operation, there is a risk that tactical nuclear weapons could be used without requesting subsequent presidential approval. In this regard, execution procedures under the jurisdiction of the theater commanders pertaining to nuclear weapons are described  as >"flexible and allow for changes in the situation": 

"Geographic combatant commanders are responsible for defining theater objectives and developing nuclear plans required to support those objectives, including selecting targets. When tasked, CDRUSSTRATCOM, as a supporting combatant commander, provides detailed planning support to meet theater planning requirements. All theater nuclear option planning follows prescribed Joint Operation Planning and Execution System procedures to formulate and implement an effective response within the timeframe permitted by the crisis.>.

Since options do not exist for every scenario, combatant commanders must have a capability to perform crisis action planning and execute those plans. Crisis action planning provides the capability to develop new options, or modify existing options, when current limited or major response options are inappropriate.

...Command, control, and coordination must be flexible enough to allow the geographic combatant commander to strike time-sensitive targets such as mobile missile launch platforms." Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations Doctrine (italics added)

Theater Nuclear Operations (TNO)

While presidential approval is formally required to launch a nuclear war, geographic combat commanders would be in charge of  Theater Nuclear Operations (TNO), with a mandate not only to implement but also to formulate command decisions pertaining to nuclear weapons. ( Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations Doctrine )

We are no longer dealing with "the risk" associated with "an accidental or inadvertent nuclear launch"  as outlined by former Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara , but with a military decision-making process which provides military commanders, from the Commander in Chief  down to the  geographical commanders with discretionary powers to use tactical nuclear weapons.

Moreover, because these "smaller" tactical nuclear weapons have been "reclassified" by the Pentagon as "safe for the surrounding civilian population", thereby "minimizing the risk of collateral damage", there are no overriding built-in restrictions which prevent their use. (See Michel Chossudovsky, The Dangers of a Middle East Nuclear War , Global Research, February 2006) .

Once a decision to launch a military operation is taken (e.g. aerial strikes on Iran),  theater commanders have a degree of latitude. What this signifies in practice is once the presidential decision is taken, USSTRATCOM in liaison with theater commanders can decide on the targeting and type of weaponry to be used.  Stockpiled tactical nuclear weapons are now considered to be an integral part of the battlefield arsenal. In other words, nukes have become "part of the tool box", used in conventional war theaters.

Planned Aerial Attacks on Iran

An operational plan to wage aerial attacks on Iran has been in "a state of readiness" since June 2005. Essential military hardware to wage this operation has been deployed. (For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, Nuclear War against Iran, Jan 2006 ).

Vice President Dick Cheney has ordered USSTRATCOM to draft a "contingency plan", which "includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons." (Philip Giraldi, Attack on Iran: Pre-emptive Nuclear War , The American Conservative, 2 August 2005).

USSTRATCOM would have the responsibility for overseeing and coordinating this military deployment as well as launching the military operation. (For details, Michel Chossudovsky, Nuclear War against Iran, Jan 2006 ). 

In January 2005 a significant shift in USSTRATCOM's mandate was implemented. USSTRATCOM was identified as "the lead Combatant Command for integration and synchronization of DoD-wide efforts in combating weapons of mass destruction."  To implement this mandate, a brand new command unit entitled  Joint Functional Component Command Space and Global Strike , or JFCCSGS was created. 

Overseen by USSTRATCOM, JFCCSGS would be responsible for the launching of military operations "using nuclear or conventional weapons" in compliance with the Bush administration's new nuclear doctrine. Both categories of weapons would be integrated into a "joint strike operation" under unified Command and Control. 

According to Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, writing in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists,

"The Defense Department is upgrading its nuclear strike plans to reflect new presidential guidance and a transition in war planning from the top-heavy Single Integrated Operational Plan of the Cold War to a family of smaller and more flexible strike plans designed to defeat today's adversaries. The new central strategic war plan is known as OPLAN (Operations Plan) 8044.... This revised, detailed plan provides more flexible options to assure allies, and dissuade, deter, and if necessary, defeat adversaries in a wider range of contingencies....

One member of the new family is CONPLAN 8022, a concept plan for the quick use of nuclear, conventional, or information warfare capabilities to destroy--preemptively, if necessary--"time-urgent targets" anywhere in the world. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld issued an Alert Order in early 2004 that directed the military to put CONPLAN 8022 into effect. As a result, the Bush administration's preemption policy is now operational on long-range bombers, strategic submarines on deterrent patrol, and presumably intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)." 

The operational implementation of the Global Strike would be under CONCEPT PLAN (CONPLAN) 8022, which now consists of  "an actual plan that the Navy and the Air Force translate into strike package for their submarines and bombers,' (Japanese Economic Newswire, 30 December 2005, For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, Nuclear War against Iran, op. cit.).

CONPLAN 8022 is 'the overall umbrella plan for sort of the pre-planned strategic scenarios involving nuclear weapons.'

'It's specifically focused on these new types of threats -- Iran, North Korea -- proliferators and potentially terrorists too,' he said. 'There's nothing that says that they can't use CONPLAN 8022 in limited scenarios against Russian and Chinese targets.' (According to Hans Kristensen, of the Nuclear Information Project, quoted in Japanese Economic News Wire, op. cit.)

Nuclear Weapons Deployment Authorization

The planning of the aerial bombings of Iran started in mid-2004, pursuant to the formulation of CONPLAN 8022 in early 2004. In May 2004, National Security Presidential Directive NSPD 35 entitled Nuclear Weapons Deployment Authorization was issued.

The contents of this highly sensitive document remains a carefully guarded State secret. There has been no mention of NSPD 35 by the media nor even in Congressional debates.  While its contents remains classified, the presumption is that NSPD 35 pertains to the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in the Middle East war theater in compliance with CONPLAN 8022. 

In this regard, a recent press report published in Yeni Safak (Turkey) suggests that the United States is currently:

"deploying B61-type tactical nuclear weapons in southern Iraq as part of a plan to hit Iran from this area if and when Iran responds to an Israeli attack on its nuclear facilities". (Ibrahim Karagul, "The US is Deploying Nuclear Weapons in Iraq Against Iran", (Yeni Safak,. 20 December 2005, quoted in BBC Monitoring Europe).

This deployment in Iraq appears to be pursuant to NSPD 35 ,

What the Yenbi Safak report suggests is that conventional weapons would be used in the first instance, and if Iran were to retaliate in response to US-Israeli aerial attacks, tactical thermonuclear B61 weapons could then be launched  This retaliation using tactical nuclear weapons would be consistent with the guidelines contained in the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review and NSPD 17 (see above).

Israel's Stockpiling of Conventional and Nuclear Weapons

Israel is part of the military alliance and is slated to play a major role in the planned attacks on Iran. (For details see Michel Chossudovsky, Nuclear War against Iran, Jan 2006 ).

Confirmed by several press reports, Israel has taken delivery, starting in September 2004 of some 500 US produced  BLU 109 bunker buster bombs (WP, January 6, 2006). The first procurement order for BLU 109 [Bomb Live Unit] dates to September 2004. In April 2005, Washington confirmed that Israel was to take delivery of 100 of the more sophisticated bunker buster bomb GBU-28 produced by Lockheed Martin ( Reuters, April 26, 2005).  The GBU-28 is described as "a 5,000-pound laser-guided conventional munitions that uses a 4,400-pound penetrating warhead." It was used in the Iraqi war theater:

The Pentagon [stated] that ... the sale to Israel of 500 BLU-109 warheads, [was] meant to "contribute significantly to U.S. strategic and tactical objectives." . 

Mounted on satellite-guided bombs, BLU-109s can be fired from F-15 or F-16 jets, U.S.-made aircraft in Israel's arsenal. This year Israel received the first of a fleet of 102 long-range F-16Is from Washington, its main ally. "Israel very likely manufactures its own bunker busters, but they are not as robust as the 2,000-pound (910 kg) BLUs," Robert Hewson, editor of Jane's Air-Launched Weapons, told Reuters. (Reuters, 21 September 2004)

The report does not confirm whether Israel has stockpiled and deployed the thermonuclear version of the bunker buster bomb. Nor does it indicate whether the Israeli made bunker buster bombs are equipped with nuclear warheads. It is worth noting that this stock piling of bunker buster bombs occurred within a few months after the Release of  the NPSD 35¸ Nuclear Weapons Deployment Authorization   (May 2004).

Israel possesses 100-200 strategic nuclear warheads . In 2003, Washington and Tel Aviv confirmed that they were collaborating in "the deployment of US-supplied Harpoon cruise missiles armed with nuclear warheads in Israel's fleet of Dolphin-class submarines." (The Observer, 12 October 2003) . In more recent developments, which coincide with the preparations of  strikes against Iran, Israel has taken delivery of  two new German produced submarines "that could launch nuclear-armed cruise missiles for a "second-strike" deterrent." (Newsweek, 13 February 2006. See also CDI Data Base)

Israel's tactical nuclear weapons capabilities are not known 

Israel's participation in the aerial attacks will also act as a political bombshell throughout the Middle East. It would contribute to escalation, with a war zone which could extend initially into Lebanon and Syria. The entire region from the Eastern Mediterranean to Central Asia and Afghanistan's Western frontier would be affected..

   Year Deployed: 1973
   Dimensions: 10.0 meters length
   Weight: 4,500 kilograms
   Propulsion: Single-stage
   Throw-weight: 500 kilograms
   Range: 500 kilometers
   Guidance: Inertial
   Circular Error Probable: Unknown
   Warhead: Single
   Yield: Conventional, chemical, or nuclear possible
   Locations: Unknown
   Number Deployed: 50-100 missiles
   Primary Contractor: IAI

Israel's Jericho-1 (Luz YA-1) SRBM

The Role of Western Europe

Several Western European  countries, officially considered as "non-nuclear states", possess tactical nuclear weapons, supplied to them by Washington.

The US has supplied some 480 B61 thermonuclear bombs to five non-nuclear NATO countries including Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey, and one nuclear country, the United Kingdom. Casually disregarded by the Vienna based UN Nuclear Watch, the US has actively contributed to the proliferation of nuclear weapons in Western Europe.

As part of this European stockpiling, Turkey, which is a partner of the US-led coalition against Iran along with Israel, possesses some 90 thermonuclear B61 bunker buster bombs at the Incirlik nuclear air base. (National Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Weapons in Europe , February 2005)  

Consistent with US nuclear policy, the stockpiling and deployment of B61 in Western Europe are intended for targets in the Middle East. Moreover, in accordance with  "NATO strike plans", these thermonuclear B61 bunker buster bombs (stockpiled by the "non-nuclear States") could be launched  "against targets in Russia or countries in the Middle East such as Syria and Iran" ( quoted in National Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Weapons in Europe , February 2005) 

Moreover, confirmed by (partially) declassified documents (released under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act):

"arrangements were made in the mid-1990s to allow the use of U.S. nuclear forces in Europe outside the area of responsibility of U.S. European Command (EUCOM). As a result of these arrangements, EUCOM now supports CENTCOM nuclear missions in the Middle East, including, potentially, against Iran and Syria"

(quoted in  http://www.nukestrat.com/us/afn/nato.htm italics added)

With the exception of the US, no other nuclear power "has nuclear weapons earmarked for delivery by non-nuclear countries." (National Resources Defense Council, op cit)

While these "non-nuclear states" casually accuse Tehran of developing nuclear weapons, without documentary evidence, they themselves have capabilities of delivering nuclear warheads, which are targeted at Iran.  To say that this is a clear case of "double standards" by the IAEA and the "international community" is a understatement.

Germany: De Facto Nuclear Power

Among the five "non-nuclear states" "Germany remains the most heavily nuclearized country with three nuclear bases (two of which are fully operational) and may store as many as 150 [B61 bunker buster ] bombs" (Ibid). In accordance with "NATO strike plans" (mentioned above) these tactical nuclear weapons are also targeted at the Middle East.

While Germany is not officially a nuclear power, it produces nuclear warheads for the French Navy. It stockpiles nuclear warheads and it has the capabilities of delivering nuclear weapons.  The European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company - EADS , a Franco-German-Spanish  joint venture, controlled by Deutsche Aerospace and the powerful Daimler Group is Europe's second largest military producer, supplying .France's M51 nuclear missile.

France Endorses the Preemptive Nuclear Doctrine

In January 2006, French President Jacques Chirac announced a major shift in France's nuclear policy.

Without mentioning Iran, Chirac intimated that France's nukes should be used in the form of  "more focused attacks" against countries, which were "considering" the deployment of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). 

He also hinted to the possibility that tactical nuclear weapons could be used in conventional war theaters, very much in line with both US and NATO nuclear doctrine (See Chirac shifts French doctrine for use of nuclear weapons , Nucleonics Week January 26, 2006).

The French president seems to have embraced the  US sponsored "War on Terrorism". He presented nuclear weapons as a means to build a safer World and combat terrorism:

Nuclear weapons are not meant to be used against "fanatical terrorists," nevertheless "the leaders of states which used terrorist means against us, as well as those who considered using, in one way or another, weapons of mass destruction, must understand that they are exposing themselves to a firm, appropriate response on our side...".(Ibid)

Although Chirac made no reference to the preemptive use of nuclear weapons, his statement broadly replicates the premises of the Bush administration's 2001 Nuclear Posture Review , which calls for the use of tactical nuclear weapons against ''rogue states" and "terrorist non-state organizations".

lick on base locations to view satellite image (Akinci not available...yet).

The stockpiled weapons are B61 thermonuclear bombs.  All the weapons are gravity bombs of the B61-3, -4, and -10 types.2 .

Those estimates were based on private and public statements by a number of government sources and assumptions about the weapon storage capacity at each base.

(National Resources Defense Council, Nuclear Weapons in Europe , February 2005)  

Building a Pretext for a Preemptive Nuclear Attack

The pretext for waging  war on Iran essentially rests on two fundamental premises, which are part of the Bush administration's National Security doctrine.

1. Iran's alleged possession of  "Weapons of Mass Destruction" (WMD), more specifically its nuclear enrichment program.

 2. Iran's alleged support to "Islamic terrorists". 

These are two interrelated statements which are an integral part of the propaganda and media disinformation campaign.

The "Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)" statement is used to justify the "pre-emptive war" against the "State sponsors of terror", --i.e. countries such as Iran and North Korea which allegedly possess WMD. Iran is identified as a State sponsor of so-called "non-State terrorist organizations". The latter also possess WMDs and potentially constitute a nuclear threat. Terrorist non-state organizations are presented as a "nuclear power".

"The enemies in this [long] war are not traditional conventional military forces but rather dispersed, global terrorist networks that exploit Islam to advance radical political aims. These enemies have the avowed aim of acquiring and using nuclear and biological weapons to murder hundreds of thousands of Americans and others around the world." (2006 Quadrennial Defense Review ),

In contrast, Germany and Israel which produce and possess nuclear warheads are not considered "nuclear powers".

In recent months, the pretext for war, building on this WMD-Islamic terrorist nexus, has been highlighted ad  nauseam, on a daily basis by the Western media.

In a testimony to the US Senate Budget Committee, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused Iran and Syria of destabilizing the Middle East and providing support to militant Islamic groups. She described Iran as the "a central banker for terrorism", not withstanding the fact amply documented that Al Qaeda has been supported and financed  from its inception in the early 1980s by none other than the CIA. (See Michel Chossudovsky, Who is Osama bin Laden, Global Research 2001).   

"It's not just Iran's nuclear program but also their support for terrorism around the world. They are, in effect, the central banker for terrorism,"  (Statement to the Senate Budget Committee, 16 February 2006)

"Second 9/11": Cheney's "Contingency Plan"

While the "threat" of Iran's alleged WMD is slated for debate at the UN Security Council, Vice President Dick Cheney is reported to have instructed USSTRATCOM to draw up a contingency plan "to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States". This "contingency plan" to attack Iran uses the pretext of a "Second 9/11" which has not yet happened, to prepare for a major military operation against Iran.

The contingency plan, which is characterized by a military build up in anticipation of possible aerial strikes against Iran, is in a "state of readiness".

What is diabolical is that the justification to wage war on Iran rests on Iran's involvement in a terrorist attack on America, which has not yet occurred:

The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing-that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack-but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections. (Philip Giraldi, Attack on Iran: Pre-emptive Nuclear War , The American Conservative, 2 August 2005)

Are we to understand that US military planners are waiting in limbo for a Second 9/11, to launch a military operation directed against Iran, which is currently in a "state of readiness"?

Cheney's proposed "contingency plan" does not focus on preventing a Second 9/11. The Cheney plan is predicated on the presumption that Iran would be behind a Second 9/11 and that punitive bombings would immediately be activated, prior to the conduct of an investigation, much in the same way as the attacks on Afghanistan in October 2001, allegedly in retribution for the role of the Taliban government in support of the 9/11 terrorists. It is worth noting that the bombing and invasion of Afghanistan had been planned well in advance of 9/11. As Michael Keefer points out in an incisive review article: 

"At a deeper level, it implies that "9/11-type terrorist attacks" are recognized in Cheney's office and the Pentagon as appropriate means of legitimizing wars of aggression against any country selected for that treatment by the regime and its corporate propaganda-amplification system....  (Keefer, February 2006 )

Keefer concludes that "an attack on Iran, which would presumably involve the use of significant numbers of extremely 'dirty' earth-penetrating nuclear bombs, might well be made to follow a dirty-bomb attack on the United States, which would be represented in the media as having been carried out by Iranian agents" (Keefer, February 2006 )

The Battle for Oil

The Anglo-American oil companies are indelibly behind Cheney's "contingency plan" to wage war on Iran. The latter is geared towards territorial and corporate control over oil and gas reserves as well as pipeline routes.

There is continuity in US Middle East war plans, from the Democrats to the Republicans. The essential features of Neoconservative discourse were already in place under the Clinton administration. US Central Command's (USCENTCOM) theater strategy in the mid-1990s was geared towards securing, from an economic and military standpoint, control over Middle East oil.

"The broad national security interests and objectives expressed in the President's National Security Strategy (NSS) and the Chairman's National Military Strategy (NMS) form the foundation of the United States Central Command's theater strategy. The NSS directs implementation of a strategy of dual containment of the rogue states of Iraq and Iran as long as those states pose a threat to U.S. interests, to other states in the region, and to their own citizens. Dual containment is designed to maintain the balance of power in the region without depending on either Iraq or Iran. USCENTCOM's theater strategy is interest-based and threat-focused. The purpose of U.S. engagement, as espoused in the NSS, is to protect the United States' vital interest in the region - uninterrupted, secure U.S./Allied access to Gulf oil.

(USCENTCOM, http://www.milnet.com/milnet/pentagon/centcom/chap1/stratgic.htm#USPolicy , italics added)

Iran possesses 10 percent of global oil and gas reserves,  The US is the first and foremost military and nuclear power in the World, but it possesses less than 3 percent of global oil and gas reserves.

On the other hand, the countries inhabited by Muslims, including the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, West and Central Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei, possess approximately 80 percent of the World's oil and gas reserves.

The "war on terrorism" and the hate campaign directed against Muslims, which has gained impetus in recent months, bears a direct relationship to the "Battle for Middle East Oil".  How best to conquer these vast oil reserves located in countries inhabited by Muslims?  Build a political consensus against Muslim countries, describe them as "uncivilized",  denigrate their culture and religion, implement ethnic profiling against Muslims in Western countries, foster hatred and racism against the inhabitants of the oil producing countries.

The values of Islam are said to be tied into  "Islamic terrorism". Western governments are now accusing Iran of "exporting terrorism to the West" In the words of Prime Minister Tony Blair:

"There is a virus of extremism which comes out of the cocktail of religious fanaticism and political repression in the Middle East which is now being exported to the rest of the world. "We will only secure our future if we are dealing with every single aspect of that problem. Our future security depends on sorting out the stability of that region.""You can never say never in any of these situations." (quoted in the Mirror, 7 February 2006)

Muslims are demonized, casually identified with "Islamic terrorists", who are also described as constituting a nuclear threat. In turn, the terrorists are supported by Iran, an Islamic Republic which threatens the "civilized World" with deadly nuclear weapons (which it does not possess). In contrast, America's humanitarian "nuclear weapons will be accurate, safe and reliable." 

The World is at a Critical Cross-roads

It is not Iran which is a threat to global security but the United States of America and Israel. 

In recent developments, Western European governments --including the so-called "non-nuclear states" which  possess nuclear weapons-- have joined the bandwagon. In chorus, Western Europe and the member states of the Atlantic alliance (NATO) have endorsed the US-led military initiative against Iran.  

The Pentagon's planned aerial attacks on Iran involve "scenarios" using both nuclear and conventional weapons. While this does not imply the use of nuclear weapons, the potential danger of a Middle East nuclear holocaust must, nonetheless, be taken seriously. It must become a focal point of the antiwar movement, particularly in the United States, Western Europe, Israel and Turkey. 

It should also be understood that China and Russia are (unofficially) allies of Iran, supplying them with advanced military equipment and a sophisticated missile defense system. It is unlikely that China and Russia will take on a passive position if and when the aerial bombardments are carried out.

The new preemptive nuclear doctrine calls for the "integration" of "defensive" and "offensive" operations. Moreover, the important distinction between conventional and nuclear weapons has been blurred..

From a military standpoint, the US and its coalition partners including Israel and Turkey are in "a state of readiness." 

Through media disinformation, the objective is to galvanize Western public opinion  in support of a US-led war on Iran in retaliation for Iran's defiance of the international community.

War propaganda consists  in "fabricating an enemy" while conveying the illusion that the Western World is under attack by Islamic terrorists, who are directly supported by the Tehran government.

"Make the World safer", "prevent the proliferation of dirty nuclear devices by terrorists", "implement punitive actions against Iran to ensure the peace".  "Combat nuclear proliferation by rogue states"...

Supported by the Western media, a generalized atmosphere of racism and xenophobia directed against Muslims has unfolded, particularly in Western Europe, which provides a fake legitimacy to the US war agenda. The latter is upheld as a "Just War". The "Just war" theory serves to camouflage the nature of US war plans, while providing a human face to the invaders.

What can be done?

The antiwar movement is in many regards divided and misinformed on the nature of the US military agenda. Several non-governmental organizations have placed the blame on Iran, for not complying with the "reasonable demands" of the "international community". These same organizations, which are committed to World Peace tend to downplay the implications of the proposed US bombing of Iran.

To reverse the tide requires a massive campaign of networking and outreach to inform people across the land, nationally and internationally, in neighborhoods, workplaces, parishes, schools, universities, municipalities, on the dangers of a US sponsored war, which contemplates the use of nuclear weapons. The message should be loud and clear: Iran is not the threat. Even without the use of nukes, the proposed aerial bombardments could result in escalation, ultimately leading us into a broader war in the Middle East.  

Debate and discussion must also take place within the Military and Intelligence community, particularly with regard to the use of tactical nuclear weapons, within the corridors of the US Congress, in municipalities and at all levels of government. Ultimately, the legitimacy of the political and military actors in high office must be challenged.

The corporate media also bears a heavy responsibility for the cover-up of US sponsored war crimes. It must also be forcefully challenged for its biased coverage of the Middle East war. 

For the past year, Washington has been waging a "diplomatic arm twisting" exercise with a view to enlisting countries into supporting of its military agenda. It is essential that at the diplomatic level, countries in the Middle East, Asia, Africa and Latin America take a firm stance against the US military agenda.  

Condoleezza Rice has trekked across the Middle East, "expressing concern over Iran's nuclear program", seeking the unequivocal endorsement of  the governments of the region against Tehran. Meanwhile the Bush administration has allocated funds in support of Iranian dissident groups within Iran.

What is needed is to break the conspiracy of silence, expose the media lies and distortions, confront the criminal nature of the US Administration and of those governments which support it, its war agenda as well as its so-called "Homeland Security agenda" which has already defined the contours of a police State.

The World is at the crossroads of the most serious crisis in modern history. The US  has embarked on a military adventure, "a long war", which threatens the future of humanity. 

It is essential to bring the US war project to the forefront of political debate, particularly in North America and Western Europe. Political and military leaders who are opposed to the war must take a firm stance, from within their respective institutions. Citizens must take a stance individually and collectively against war.

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

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

Note: Readers are welcome to cross-post this article with a view to spreading the word and warning people of the dangers of nuclear war. 

Part I of this text was published as a separate article entitled:

The Dangers of a Middle East Nuclear War
New Pentagon Doctrine: Mini-Nukes are "Safe for the Surrounding Civilian Population"
by Michel Chossudovsky

Related Texts by the author:

Nuclear War against Iran, by Michel Chossudovsky,  January 2006

Planned US-Israeli Attack on Iran, by Michel Chossudovsky, May 2005 

Annex A

Five basic types of US Military Plans:  

Campaign Plan (CAMPLAN): A plan for a series of related military operations aimed at accomplishing a strategic or operational objective within a given time and space (e.g., campaign plan for Iraq incorporating a number of subordinate specific plans).

Operations Plan (OPLAN): A completed plan required when there is compelling national interest, when a specific threat exists, and/or when the nature of the contingency requires detailed planning (e.g., North Korea). OPLANs contains all formatted annexes (see below), and Time Phased Force and Deployment Data (TPFDD), a database containing units to be deployed, routing of deploying units, movement data of forces, personnel, logistics and transportation requirements. An OPLAN can be used as a basis for development of an Operations Order (OPORD).

Operations Plan in Concept Form Only (CONPLAN): An operations plan in an abbreviated format prepared for less compelling national interest contingencies than for OPLANs and for unspecific threats. A CONPLAN requires expansion or alteration to convert into an OPLAN or OPORD. It normally includes a statement of Strategic Concept and annexes A-D and K (see below). CONPLANs that do have TPFDDs are usually developed because of international agreement or treaties.

Functional plans (FUNCPLAN): An operations plan involving the conduct of military operations in a peacetime or non-hostile environment (e.g., disaster relief, humanitarian assistance, counter-drug, or peacekeeping operations).

Theater Security Cooperation and Theater Engagement Plans (TSCPs and TEPs): Day-to-day plans to set the initial conditions for future military action in terms of multinational capabilities, U.S. military access, coalition interoperability, and intelligence

SOURCE: Supplement to Code Names: Deciphering U.S. Military Plans, Programs, and Operations in the 9/11 World , by William Arkin   (Copyright William Arkin, 2005)


Timeline  in the Development of US Nuclear doctrine (2002-2006)  [excerpts]

Source The Nuclear Information Project   (copyright Nuclear Information Project, click to see complete and detailed Timeline )


January 8: The Nuclear Posture Review is officially published.

June: White House issues National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 14, "Nuclear Weapons Planning Guidance."

September 14: White House issues National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 17, "National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction."

September 17: White House issues the National Security Strategy of the United States. The document publicly formulates a more proactive preemption doctrine

December 10: White House issues "National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction," the unclassified version of National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 17. The wording in NSPD 17 of using "potentially nuclear weapons" is replaced with "all of our options."

December 16: White House issues National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 23, "National Policy on Ballistic Missile Defense."


January 10: President Bush signs Change 2 to the Unified Command Plan (UCP), which assigns four emerging missions to STRATCOM: missile defense, global strike, information operations, and global C4ISR. (Command and Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Sensors and Reconnaissance). The directive identifies global strike as "a capability to deliver rapid, extended range, precision kinetic (nuclear and conventional) and non-kinetic (elements of space and information operations) effects in support of theater and national objectives."

March: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld issues "Nuclear Posture Review: Implementation Plan, DOD Implementation of the December 2001 Nuclear Posture Review Report to Congress."

April: STRATCOM issues CONPLAN (Concept Plan) 8022-01, Strategic Concept.

June 4: STRATCOM issues CONPLAN 8022-02, Strategic Concept draft.

June: White House issues National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 28, "United States Nuclear Weapons Command and Control, Safety, and Security." The guidance "provides direction on various nuclear issues, to include security."

October 1: OPLAN (Operation Plan) 8044, the first strategic plan not using the name SIOP, is put into effect by STRATCOM.

November: The first CONPLAN 8022 (Global Strike) is completed by STRATCOM.


April 19: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld issues NUWEP (Nuclear Weapons Employment Policy). The document states in part: "U.S. nuclear forces must be capable of, and be seen to be capable of, destroying those critical war-making and war-supporting assets and capabilities that a potential enemy leadership values most and that it would rely on to achieve its own objectives in a post-war world."

May 24: Air Combat Command publishes Global Strike CONOPS.

May: White House issues National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 35, "Nuclear Weapons Deployment Authorization," which authorizes deployment of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe.

July 8: STRATCOM commander General E. Cartwright informs Congress that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "just signed the Interim Global Strike Alert Order, which provides the President a prompt, global strike capability." The Alert Order directs the Air Force and Navy to put CONPLAN 8022 into effect on selected strike platforms including long-range bombers and strategic submarines.

August 17: STRATCOM publishes Global Strike Interim Capability Operations Order (OPORD).

October 1: OPLAN 8044 Revision 01 becomes effective. According to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard B. Myers, "STRATCOM has revised our strategic deterrence and response plan that became effective in the fall of 2004. This revised, detailed plan provides more flexible options to assure allies, and dissuade, deter, and if necessary, defeat adversaries in a wider range of contingencies." (emphasis added)

November: CJCS publishes "Strategic Deterrence Joint Operating Concept."


January 10: CJCS issues Global Strike Joint Integrating Concept, Version 1.

March 1: President Bush signs Unified Command Plan 2004.

October 1: OPLAN 8044 Revision 02 is put into effect by STRATCOM. According to the Pentagon, this was a "major revamping" of the U.S. strategic war plan which, among other issues, included the "integration of conventional strike options into [the] OPLAN."


Early 2006: CJCS is scheduled to publish updated Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations (Joint Pub 3-12). However, this and three other Joint Pub nuclear documents were cancelled.

February 6: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld released the Quadrennial Defense Review.

Source: The Nuclear Information Project   Copyright The Nuclear Information Project 2005

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Neoconservatism has evolved into something I can no longer support

Francis Fukuyama
Wednesday February 22, 2006
The Guardian

The US needs to reframe its foreign policy not as a military campaign but as a political contest for hearts and minds

As we approach the third anniversary of the onset of the Iraq war, it seems unlikely that history will judge the intervention or the ideas animating it kindly. More than any other group, it was the neoconservatives inside and outside the Bush administration who pushed for democratising Iraq and the Middle East. They are widely credited (or blamed) for being the decisive voices promoting regime change in Iraq, and yet it is their idealistic agenda that, in the coming months and years, will be the most directly threatened.
Were the US to retreat from the world stage, following a drawdown in Iraq, it would be a huge tragedy, because American power and influence have been critical to the maintenance of an open and increasingly democratic order around the world. The problem with neoconservatism's agenda lies not in its ends, but in the overmilitarised means by which it has sought to accomplish them. What US foreign policy needs is not a return to a narrow and cynical realism, but rather the formulation of a "realistic Wilsonianism" that better matches means to ends.

How did the neoconservatives end up overreaching to such an extent that they risk undermining their own goals? How did a group with such a pedigree come to decide that the "root cause" of terrorism lay in the Middle East's lack of democracy, that the US had the wisdom and the ability to fix this problem, and that democracy would come quickly and painlessly to Iraq? Neoconservatives would not have taken this turn but for the peculiar way the cold war ended.

The way it ended shaped the thinking of supporters of the Iraq war in two ways. First, it seems to have created an expectation that all totalitarian regimes were hollow and would crumble with a small push from outside. This helps explain the Bush administration's failure to plan adequately for the insurgency that emerged. The war's supporters seemed to think that democracy was a default condition to which societies reverted once coercive regime change occurred, rather than a long-term process of institution-building and reform. Neoconservatism, as a political symbol and a body of thought, has evolved into something I can no longer support.

The administration and its neoconservative supporters also misunderstood the way the world would react to the use of American power. Of course, the cold war was replete with instances wherein Washington acted first and sought legitimacy and support from its allies only after the fact. But in the post-cold-war period, world politics changed in ways that made this kind of exercise of power much more problematic in the eyes of allies. After the fall of the Soviet Union, various neoconservative authors suggested that the US would use its margin of power to exert a kind of "benevolent hegemony" over the rest of the world, fixing problems such as rogue states with WMD as they came up.

The idea that the US is a hegemon more benevolent than most isn't absurd, but there were warning signs that things had changed in America's relationship to the world long before the start of the Iraq war. The imbalance in global power had grown enormous. The US surpassed the rest of the world in every dimension of power by an unprecedented margin.

There were other reasons why the world did not accept American benevolent hegemony. In the first place, it was premised on the idea that America could use its power in instances where others could not because it was more virtuous than other countries. Another problem with benevolent hegemony was domestic. Although most Americans want to do what is necessary to make the rebuilding of Iraq succeed, the aftermath of the invasion did not increase the public appetite for further costly interventions. Americans are not, at heart, an imperial people.

Finally, benevolent hegemony presumed the hegemon was not only well intentioned but competent. Much of the criticism of the Iraq intervention from Europeans and others was not based on a normative case that the US was not getting authorisation from the UN security council, but on the belief that it had not made an adequate case for invading and didn't know what it was doing in trying to democratise Iraq. The critics were, unfortunately, quite prescient.

The most basic misjudgment was an overestimation of the threat facing the US from radical Islamism. Although the ominous possibility of undeterrable terrorists armed with WMD did present itself, advocates of the war wrongly conflated this with the threat presented by Iraq and with the rogue state/proliferation problem.

Now that the neoconservative moment appears to have passed, the US needs to reconceptualise its foreign policy. First, we need to demilitarise what we have been calling the global war on terrorism and shift to other policy instruments. We are fighting counterinsurgency wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and against the international jihadist movement, wars in which we need to prevail. But "war" is the wrong metaphor for the broader struggle. Meeting the jihadist challenge needs not a military campaign but a political contest for the hearts and minds of ordinary Muslims around the world. As recent events in France and Denmark suggest, Europe will be a central battleground.

The US needs to come up with something better than "coalitions of the willing" to legitimate its dealings with other countries. The world lacks effective international institutions to confer legitimacy on collective action. The conservative critique of the UN is all too cogent: while useful for some peacekeeping and nation-building operations, it lacks democratic legitimacy and effectiveness in dealing with serious security issues. The solution is to promote a "multi-multilateral world" of overlapping and occasionally competing international institutions organised on regional or functional lines.

The final area that needs rethinking is the place of democracy promotion in American foreign policy. The worst legacy from the Iraq war would be an anti-neoconservative backlash that coupled a sharp turn toward isolation with a cynical realist policy aligning the US with friendly authoritarians. A Wilsonian policy that pays attention to how rulers treat their citizens is therefore right, but it needs to be informed by a certain realism that was missing from the thinking of the Bush administration in its first term and of its neoconservative allies.

Promoting democracy and modernisation in the Middle East is not a solution to jihadist terrorism. Radical Islamism arises from the loss of identity that accompanies the transition to a modern, pluralist society. More democracy will mean more alienation, radicalisation and terrorism. But greater political participation by Islamist groups is likely to occur whatever we do, and it will be the only way that the poison of radical Islamism can work its way through the body politic of Muslim communities. The age is long gone when friendly authoritarians could rule over passive populations.

The Bush administration has been walking away from the legacy of its first term, as evidenced by the cautious multilateral approach it has taken toward the nuclear programmes of Iran and North Korea. But the legacy of the first-term foreign policy and its neoconservative supporters has been so polarising that it is going to be hard to have a reasoned debate about how to appropriately balance US ideals and interests. What we need are new ideas for how America is to relate to the world - ideas that retain the neoconservative belief in the universality of human rights, but without its illusions about the efficacy of US power and hegemony to bring these ends about.

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Former Bush advisor defends White House spying powers

Thu Feb 23, 2:49 AM ET

WASHINGTON - A controversial constitutional expert defended the White House's powers to authorize warrantless spying on Americans.

Korean-American legal expert John Yoo said that fighting Al-Qaeda type stateless terrorist networks justified an expansive view of presidential powers, including bypassing a special court which regulates domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency.
"We are confronting a new kind of enemy," Yoo said, speaking at the conservative Heritage Foundation. "The war on terror is in many respects a war of information," he said, referring to the spying program.

Yoo, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law, was the Deputy Assistant US Attorney General who co-authored the infamous August 1, 2002 "Torture Memo," a legal justification of President George W. Bush's authorization of treatment of war on terror detainees at odds with statutes and treaties prohibiting torture.

The memo, and other Yoo views on strong presidential power, have been embraced by the White House but objected by many members of Congress, constitutional scholars and civil rights groups.

Critics say that the White House and Yoo position effectively fractures the "checks and balances" by which Congress and courts limit the presidency.

Defending his views, Yoo insisted that not only did the original drafters of the 1789 constitution intend to give the president near-absolute powers -- all but those of budgeting -- in matters of war, but that also the character of the current war on terror necessitated such powers.

Yoo said the same powers allowed Bush to authorize the NSA's secret program to wiretap American citizens without special court warrants, as required by law.

But he added that such programs are necessary because "the best way to beat Al-Qaeda is fast information."

Yoo noted that courts had anyway the power to decide whether the information collected by the NSA was legally admissable in a trial.

Yoo also said the Congress still had the ability to regulate a powerful president by its control of government budgets.

"It is the power of the purse, the power of funding, that will give Congress a check on presidential adventurism."

"Congress could cut off tomorrow funding for the NSA program," he said, noting that Congress essentially stopped the Vietnam War by budget cuts.

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Arab Co., White House Had Secret Agreement

Associated Press Writer
Feb 22, 2006 9:20 PM US/Eastern

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration secretly required a company in the United Arab Emirates to cooperate with future U.S. investigations before approving its takeover of operations at six American ports, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press. It chose not to impose other, routine restrictions.

As part of the $6.8 billion purchase, state-owned Dubai Ports World agreed to reveal records on demand about "foreign operational direction" of its business at U.S. ports, the documents said. Those records broadly include details about the design, maintenance or operation of ports and equipment.
The administration did not require Dubai Ports to keep copies of business records on U.S. soil, where they would be subject to court orders. It also did not require the company to designate an American citizen to accommodate U.S. government requests. Outside legal experts said such obligations are routinely attached to U.S. approvals of foreign sales in other industries.

"They're not lax but they're not draconian," said James Lewis, a former U.S. official who worked on such agreements. If officials had predicted the firestorm of criticism over the deal, Lewis said, "they might have made them sound harder."

The conditions involving the sale of London-based Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. were detailed in U.S. documents marked "confidential." Such records are regularly guarded as trade secrets, and it is highly unusual for them to be made public.

The concessions - described previously by the Homeland Security Department as unprecedented among maritime companies - reflect the close relationship between the United States and the United Arab Emirates.

The revelations about the negotiated conditions came as the White House acknowledged President Bush was unaware of the pending sale until the deal had already been approved by his administration.

Bush on Tuesday brushed aside objections by leaders in the Senate and House. He pledged to veto any bill Congress might approve to block the agreement, but some lawmakers said they still were determined to capsize it.

Dubai Port's top American executive, chief operating officer Edward H. Bilkey, said the company will do whatever the Bush administration asks to enhance shipping security and ensure the sale goes through. Bilkey said Wednesday he will work in Washington to persuade skeptical lawmakers they should endorse the deal; Senate oversight hearings already are scheduled.

"We're disappointed," Bilkey told the AP in an interview. "We're going to do our best to persuade them that they jumped the gun. The UAE is a very solid friend, as President Bush has said."

Under the deal, the government asked Dubai Ports to operate American seaports with existing U.S. managers "to the extent possible." It promised to take "all reasonable steps" to assist the Homeland Security Department, and it pledged to continue participating in security programs to stop smuggling and detect illegal shipments of nuclear materials.

The administration required Dubai Ports to designate an executive to handle requests from the U.S. government, but it did not specify this person's citizenship.

It said Dubai Ports must retain paperwork "in the normal course of business" but did not specify a time period or require corporate records to be housed in the United States. Outside experts familiar with such agreements said such provisions are routine in other cases.

Bush faces a potential rebellion from leaders of his own party, as well as a fight from Democrats, over the sale. It puts Dubai Ports in charge of major terminal operations in New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia.

Senate and House leaders urged the president to delay the takeover, which is set to be finalized in early March. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee 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.

In Saudi Arabia, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the agreement was thoroughly vetted. "We have to maintain a principle that it doesn't matter where in the world one of these purchases is coming from," Rice said Wednesday. She described the United Arab Emirates as "a good partner in the war on terrorism."

Bush personally defended the agreement on Tuesday, but the White House said he did not know about it until recently. The AP first reported the U.S. approval of the sale to Dubai Ports on Feb. 11, and many members of Congress have said they learned about it from the AP.

"I think somebody dropped the ball," said Rep. Vito Fossella, R-N.Y. "Information should have flowed more freely and more quickly up into the White House. I think it has been mishandled in terms of coming forward with adequate information."

At the White House, spokesman Scott McClellan said Bush learned about the deal "over the last several days," as congressional criticism escalated. McClellan said it did not rise to the presidential level, but went through a government review and was determined not to pose a threat.

McClellan said Bush afterward asked the head of every U.S. department involved in approving the sale whether there were security concerns. "Each and every one expressed that they were comfortable with this transaction going forward," he said.

Commerce Secretary Carlos Guiterrez told the AP the administration was being thoughtful and deliberate approving the sale.

"We are not reacting emotionally," Guiterrez said in an interview Wednesday. "That's what I believe our partners from around the world would like to see from us is that we be thoughtful. That we be deliberate. That we understand issues before we make a decision."

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White House Issues Its Own Katrina Report

Associated Press
February 23, 2006

WASHINGTON - A White House report concluded Thursday that inexperienced disaster response managers and a lack of planning, discipline and leadership contributed to vast federal failures during Hurricane Katrina.

The 228-page report by White House homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend urges changes in 11 key areas - mainly in better disaster relief coordination among federal agencies - before the next hurricane season begins June 1. It also found "significant flaws" in the national response plan issued last year by the Homeland Security Department.
"The report says we have to understand when state and locals will be overwhelmed or incapacitated, in this case, where many were victims themselves," White House homeland security adviser Frances Fragos Townsend, who led the review, said Thursday morning before the report's release.

"We also have to make maximum use of the state National Guards," Townsend told ABC's "Good Morning America," saying Guard troops need to be better trained and equipped to respond to disasters.

She said the federal government's response to Katrina suffered from "a failure of various aspects of the system to support the kind of decision making that needed to happen, real time and quickly."

Currently, the Homeland Security Department coordinates federal disaster relief missions under a national response plan it issued last year.

Though some agencies, like the Coast Guard, successfully rescued tens of thousands of storm victims, "there are other areas where all levels of government fell short - the federal, the state and the local," White House spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters on Wednesday.

"What we want to do is take a close look at what worked and what didn't work and apply those lessons to the future," he said.

The report was expected to be less scathing than a House report issued last week.

The House review blamed all levels of government for indifference toward disaster preparations that contributed to deaths and suffering in Katrina's aftermath. That study, by a Republican-led House committee, also found that earlier involvement by President Bush could have spurred a faster response.

Bush, who ordered the White House report, has accepted responsibility for the government's halting response to the Aug. 29 storm. The hurricane killed 1,300 people and forced hundreds of thousands of Gulf Coast residents to abandon their damaged or destroyed homes.

The review offers solutions to only some of the government's shortfalls, according to a senior administration official familiar with a draft of the 125 recommendations. It does not call for any resignations, despite recent demands - mostly by Democrats - for Homeland Security Secretary
Michael Chertoff to step down. It also recommends keeping the beleaguered Federal Emergency Management Agency under Chertoff's control, according to a Bush administration official. Critics have called for the agency to be removed from Homeland Security and answer directly to the president.

Bush will host a Cabinet meeting Thursday morning to discuss the review, which will be released shortly afterward.

The Senate is finishing its own investigation of the failed response, due next month.

Comment: Not surprisingly, Townsend's report doesn't seem to make any mention of how Bush screwed up. Bush can say he "accepts responsibility" for the Katrina fiasco, but if his administration simply points the finger elsewhere, has he really accepted any responsibility?

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Reports Find Dubious Terror Ties at Guantanamo

IPS News
William Fisher

NEW YORK, Feb 21 (IPS) - Last June, U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters, "If you think of the people down there (at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba), these are people, all of whom were captured on a battlefield. They're terrorists, trainers, bomb makers, recruiters, financiers, (Osama bin Laden's) bodyguards, would-be suicide bombers, probably the 20th 9/11 hijacker."

Yet two recent reports, based on the Defence Department's own documentation, reach conclusions that are dramatically different than Rumsfeld's. And amid the millions of words journalists have written about Guantanamo Bay during the past few years, the mainstream press has largely ignored these new reports.

One report, prepared by a team headed by Mark Denbeaux, a law professor at Seton Hall University in New Jersey, and who is a lawyer for two of the Guantanamo detainees, found that more than half of the terror suspects being held have not been accused of committing hostile acts against the United States or its allies.

Compiled from declassified Defence Department evaluations of the more than 500 detainees at the Cuba facility, the report says just eight percent are listed as fighters for a terrorist group, while 30 percent are considered members of a terrorist group and the remaining 60 percent were just "associated with" terrorists.

The evaluations were completed as part of the Combatant Status Review Tribunals conducted during 2004 to determine if the prisoners were being correctly held as enemy combatants. So far just 10 of the detainees have been formally charged with crimes and are headed for military tribunals.

According to the report, 55 percent of the detainees are informally accused of committing a hostile act. But the Defence Department's descriptions of their actions range from a high-ranking Taliban member who tortured and killed Afghan natives to people who possessed rifles, used a guesthouse or wore olive drab clothing.

The report also found that about one-third of the detainees were linked to al Qaeda; 22 percent to the Taliban; 28 percent to both; and 7 percent to either one or the other, but not specified.

Lolita C. Baldor of The Associated Press filed a story on the report on Feb. 7. But few U.S. newspapers have run the story.

The Defence Department documents, which are publicly available, were declassified versions of evaluations that contain additional information about each detainee. Those additional details were not made public. The Pentagon had no comment on the report for the AP, which has filed a lawsuit seeking the release of the classified versions of the documents.

"The government has detained these individuals for more than four years, without a trial or judicial hearing, and has had unfettered access to each detainee for that time," said the Denbeaux report.

Of the approximately 760 prisoners brought to Guantanamo since 2002, the military has released 180 and transferred 76 to the custody of other countries.

The second report, written by Corine Hegland for the fiercely nonpartisan National Journal (NJ), was based on a review conducted by the magazine of files on 132 prisoners who have asked the courts for help, and a thorough reading of heavily censored transcripts from the Combatant Status Review Tribunals conducted in Guantanamo for 314 prisoners.

Its conclusion: Most of the "enemy combatants" held at Guantanamo -- for four years now -- are simply not "the worst of the worst" of the terrorist world.

"...Some, perhaps many, are guilty only of being foreigners in Afghanistan or Pakistan at the wrong time. And much of the evidence -- even the classified evidence -- gathered by the Defence Department against these men is flimsy, second-, third-, fourth- or 12th-hand. It's based largely on admissions by the detainees themselves or on coerced, or worse, interrogations of their fellow inmates, some of whom have been proved to be liars."

NJ reported, "Notwithstanding Rumsfeld's description, the majority of them were not caught by American soldiers on the battlefield. They came into American custody from third parties, mostly from Pakistan, some after targeted raids there, most after a dragnet for Arabs after 9/11."

It added, "Much of the evidence against the detainees is weak. One prisoner at Guantanamo, for example, has made accusations against more than 60 of his fellow inmates; that's more than 10 percent of Guantanamo's entire prison population."

The men in the orange jumpsuits, Pres. George W. Bush said, were terrorists. But according to the magazine, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) didn't see it that way.

"By the fall of 2002, it was common knowledge around CIA circles that fewer than 10 percent of Guantanamo's prisoners were high-value terrorist operatives, according to Michael Scheuer who headed the agency's bin Laden unit through 1999 and resigned in 2004."

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

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

The report called the operations "tantamount to torture." Pentagon officials, meanwhile, were citing the "safe, humane, and professional detention operation at Guantanamo that is providing valuable information in the war on terrorism." And members of Congress were touting the prison's excellent cuisine.

Gabor Rona, international legal director for Human Rights First, told IPS, "If most of these guys are not al Qaeda, i.e., are vanilla flavoured civilians or mere Taliban foot soldiers, then it gives the lie to the single mantra that the administration has left when attempting to defend itself against allegations of abuse in Gitmo: that the 'terrorists' are trained to make false allegations of abuse."

Rona said it reminds him of a story he sees as emblematic of the legal process at Guantanamo. "The story is about a guy who, after relentless interrogation, finally admitted to knowing Osama --'Yes, OK, I know him, I've seen him on Al Jazeera' -- upon which basis the Combatant Status Review Tribunal was informed that 'the individual admits to knowing bin Laden'. And upon this information, he was adjudicated an 'enemy combatant'. "

Some reports disputing the Bush administration's versions of conditions at Guantanamo have received widespread coverage in the U.S. press.

Amnesty International created a media firestorm with a report in which it referred to the prison as a "Gulag". Also widely covered was the recent report from investigators for the United Nations Human Rights Commission, recommending that Guantanamo be closed down.

Comment: WHAT?! You mean Rumsfeld was lying!? Say it ain't so!!

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The Electoral College: A new approach to reform

by Rob Richie and Ryan O'Donnell
February 23, 2006

Polls consistently show that a large majority of Americans favor electing the president through a national popular vote over our dysfunctional Electoral College. The current system makes most Americans irrelevant in presidential elections and is no more accurate for choosing a winner in close contests than a coin flip. No argument in its defense holds up to scrutiny.

Indeed, Congress has considered more amendments to reform the Electoral College than any other subject. One house has given the necessary two-thirds majority for change several times, including in 1969, when more than 80% of House Members voted for direct election and backers included the NAACP, AFL-CIO, Chamber of Commerce, Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon.

But even at a time when the Electoral College causes more harm to the principles of equality, accountability and majority rule than ever before, civic and political leaders almost never talk about it. They've just given up, contributing to a shockingly limited debate about what the problem does to American democracy in the 21st century.
Fortunately, an innovative new effort is about to turn this conventional wisdom on its head. In the coming year, expect a sharp rise in debate about reforming presidential elections - and change to start in a state near you.

National Popular Vote, an informal coalition campaign boosted by FairVote and former Members of Congress from across the spectrum, on February 23rd announced a novel strategy to change the system. The plan doesn't call for abolishing the Electoral College. On the contrary, it recognizes the fact that the Constitution already grants states the power to make the Electoral College work for all Americans.

States have exclusive power over how to choose their electors. In fact, Maine and Nebraska currently allocate electoral votes to the candidate who wins each congressional district. In the 19th century, many legislatures simply appointed electors without holding elections - and in 2000, the Supreme Court pointed out that Florida had the power to do just that.

Today most states allocate electoral votes to the statewide vote winner, but they could just as easily allocate their electoral votes to the nationwide vote winner. Of course, one state on its own is unlikely to make this choice, but if a group of states representing a majority of Americans and a majority of the Electoral College did so, then the nationwide popular vote winner would receive an Electoral College victory every time. Every vote would count equally wherever it is cast.

To ensure the agreement stayed in place through an election, states would enter into a binding agreement called an interstate compacts. Recently, one such compact made the news when several northeastern states joined together to limit their carbon emissions to combat global warming. There are hundreds of such agreements, including Port Authority, which joins together New York and New Jersey in control of waterways.

Under the National Popular Vote plan, states would join the agreement one by one. But it would become active only when the agreement became decisive in electing the president -- that is, when states representing a majority of electoral votes joined it. Legislation to enter into the agreement already has been introduced with the support of Democrats, Republicans and independents in the Illinois state senate, and more bills will follow -- eventually in all 50 states.

FairVote's new report Presidential Election Inequality shows just how urgent it is to establish a national popular vote. The state-based nature of the system ensures an unequal vote for everyone in the country, locks up naturally "purple" states into "red" and "blue," and shuts out most of the country from meaningful participation. We have nothing less than a two-tiered system-a declining number of Americans that matter and a majority that is taken for granted.

Casualities include equal voter participation and racial fairness. In 2004, voter turnout was 8% higher in battleground states than non-battlegrounds and fully 17% among young adults. Expect this division only to grow in future elections as all the resources geared toward affecting presidential campaigns go only into battlegrounds.

These battlegrounds also are disproportionately white. A white person is more than twice as likely to live in a battleground state as an Asian American. The percentage of African Americans in a "swing vote" position (in a state where African Americans are at least 5% of the population and where the presidential division between the parties is within 5%) has plunged from 73% in 1976 to just 17% in 2004.

Furthermore, a state's status as a battleground or spectator is becoming increasingly entrenched. The overall number of truly competitive states is declining. That means fewer and fewer voters will be able to cast a meaningful ballot, have their concerns listened to, and participate in the process.

Candidates for our one national office should have incentives to speak to everyone, and all Americans should have the power to hold their president accountable. Only a national popular vote will do. Now we have a roadmap for change.

Comment: Want a fair vote? Eliminate the electoral college completely - along with electronic voting machines.

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Morrissey Quizzed by FBI

23/02/2006 14:00

Singer Morrissey was quizzed by the FBI and British intelligence after speaking out against the American and British governments.

The Brit is a famous critic of the US-led war in Iraq and has dubbed President Goerge W Bush a "terrorist" - but he was baffled to be hauled in by authorities.
Morrissey explains, "The FBI and the Special Branch have investigated me and I've been interviewed and taped and so forth.

"They were trying to determine if I was a threat to the government, and similarly in England. But it didn't take them very long to realise that I'm not."

"I don't belong to any political groups, I don't really say anything unless I'm asked directly and I don't even demonstrate in public. I always assume that so-called authoritarian figures just assume that pop/rock music is slightly insane and an untouchable platform for the working classes to stand up and say something noticeable.

"My view is that neither England or America are democratic societies. You can't really speak your mind and if you do you're investigated."

"My view is that neither England or America are democratic societies. You can't really speak your mind and if you do you're investigated."
Well, it seems the authorities proved Morrissey's point quite nicely...

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Man's shirt erupts in flames after he is shot with Taser

By Erin Ailworth and Ken Ma
Orlando Sentinel
February 23 2006

DAYTONA BEACH - Dennis Crouch had already slashed himself. And when he refused to drop his knife, Daytona Beach police Officer Betsy Cassidy decided she had no choice.

"Taser! Taser!" Cassidy shouted as she sent a two-pronged wire, packing 50,000 volts, at Crouch's chest. What happened next stunned everyone.

A Taser probe pierced the pocket of his khaki shirt -- and ignited the butane lighter inside. Cassidy's pocket exploded in flames.

"The subject," recounted Sgt. Al Tolley in a subsequent report, "immediately dropped the knife."
Officers grabbed Crouch, threw him to the ground and rolled him around till the flames went out, Tolley said. The Daytona Beach man, 53, was taken to Halifax Medical Center with minor burns and two self-inflicted stab wounds in his stomach and chest.

Speaking by cell phone from his hospital bed Tuesday, Crouch said he had been drinking at the time and didn't remember everything that happened the night before.

"Why did they get into my house?" he asked of police. "I didn't invite them into my house. They come into my bedroom and shot me with the Taser, and it [the lighter] exploded."

The bizarre burning ended an evening that records show began with Cassidy drinking at a friend's house, then apparently becoming depressed over his medical and financial problems. Suddenly, he grabbed a kitchen knife and stabbed himself in the chest and stomach, police records indicate.

The friend got scared and called police about 9:20 p.m. Crouch fled for home on nearby North Grandview Avenue.

"He stuck the knife in his belly, ma'am, so I thought that was the time to call you," the friend told a 911 dispatcher during a 14-minute call. "And he was bleeding, so I said, `Well, I can't put up with this.'"

When he got home, Crouch began arguing with his wife, Cecilia, 54, about going to Las Vegas, according to police reports.

Police say she ran from her home in fear when her husband again went for a knife. Officers had to kick the door down to get into the apartment, according to reports. Crouch stood near a back bedroom with an 8-inch knife to his stomach.

After repeated requests for Crouch to drop the knife, Cassidy went for her Taser. That's when the lighter ignited.

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All US kids under 5 should get flu shot: panel

Wed Feb 22, 2006
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - All children under 5 and older than 6 months should be vaccinated against influenza, a panel of U.S. vaccine advisers said on Wednesday.

The unanimous vote by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's immunization advisory committee in Atlanta delighted pediatricians and infectious disease specialists, who have been pressing for universal flu vaccination standards.
"Starting with the next influenza season we will not only have children 6 to 24 months but all children up to 5 years of age," said Dr. Carol J. Baker, president-elect of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, who asked the panel to expand its recommendations.

Baker had only hoped to persuade the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to recommend better vaccination of children with asthma. But she said the committee members decided to recommend that all children under 5 get a flu shot.

"The reason for (vaccinating) young children is they have the same amount of hospitalizations and illnesses as older groups, excluding the elderly," Baker, a pediatrician at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, said in a telephone interview.

"The infrastructure for vaccinating these young children is in place -- the annual visit to the pediatrician."

The CDC says influenza killed 153 children in the 2003-2004 flu season -- more U.S. children than chicken pox, whooping cough, and measles combined.

Nearly two-thirds of those who died were under age 5, and half were previously healthy. Forty-three percent had asthma.

This year's flu season has stayed well below epidemic levels. Only 12 children have been reported to have died from influenza this season, although not all deaths are reported.

The CDC says 13 states reported widespread influenza activity in recent weeks, and just under 8 percent of influenza-like illness actually tested positive for the flu virus. The rest were likely caused by some other infection.

Many studies have found that adult vaccination rates for influenza fall well short of guidelines in the United States. Fewer than half the 185 million Americans who are supposed to get flu shots actually ever do.

This is complicated by frequent shortages of influenza shots and trouble distributing them. Vaccine makers have dropped out of the market, citing uncertainty, difficulty making the vaccine and fear of lawsuits.

The CDC hopes that by broadening the groups vaccinated, vaccine makers will be encouraged to get back into the business. Baker said vaccinating children may also benefit other people.

"These children are significant spreaders of influenza within the household," she said.

Comment: A perfect test for your democratic rights. Try refusing to allow your child to be injected with mercury (and god knows what else) and see what happens. See our Signs Flu Supplment for some very good reasons why you should, if at all possible, NOT allow your child to be vaccinated against the flu.

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Germans investigate CIA kidnap of innocent citizen

By Tony Paterson in Berlin
22 February 2006

Munich state prosecutors have launched an investigation to determine whe-ther Germany secretly helped the CIA in the abduction of one of its citizens who was held and tortured in a US "renditions" jail in Afghanistan after being mistaken for a terrorist suspect.

The investigation centres on 42-year-old Khaled al-Masri, a German of Leba-nese descent who was kidnapped in Macedonia by the CIA and flown to an American-run prison in Kabul where he was detained for five months and repeatedly beaten in early 2004.
The German government, which strongly opposed the US invasion of Iraq, has denied complicity in the kidnapping. The affair caused outrage in Germany last year and prompted Chancellor Angela Merkel to demand an explanation from US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when she visited Berlin in December.

But Munich state prosecutors confirmed they were investigating Mr Masri's allegation that a German agent interrogated him at the US prison in Kabul. "The investigation is continuing and we are following up all leads," Martin Hoffmann, a prosecutors' spokesman, said yesterday.

Their inquiry was given new impetus on Monday after Mr Masri identified a senior German police official he suspected of being his interrogator from a 10-person line-up conducted in the presence of his lawyer at a police station in his home town of Neu-Ulm in southern Germany. Mr Masri said he was "90 per cent sure" that the man he picked out of the identification parade was a mysterious German-speaking interrogator, known only as "Sam", who had questioned him three times during his detention in Kabul. "The man was very nervous and could not look me in the eye," Mr Masri said after meeting the man he identified. "The hair is different but the voice sounded very similar."

Germany's Interior Ministry has denied that any member of the country's intelligence services visited Mr Masri while he was held in Afghanistan. Police and state prosecutors were refusing to reveal the true identity of the man he suspected of being "Sam".

However, the New York Times yesterday quoted one of the unidentified man's colleagues as saying that the man often took part in undercover operations and helped with "dirty work" for the German foreign intelligence services.

Manfred Gnjidic, Mr Masri's lawyer, said it was extraordinary no one in the German government had tried to interview his client about his ordeal. "Germany stood by like a little schoolboy watching what was going on with my client and doing nothing," he claimed.

The Munich state prosecutors said yesterday that they were also trying to determine whether the German embassy in Macedonia had been informed of Mr Masri's abduction and dispatched an agent to Kabul to question him. Germany has insisted that it knew nothing of the abduction until the American ambassador informed its officials shortly before his release in May 2004.

German MPs were due to examine details of a government report on the affair today. Members of the group said that they had not been able to obtain any information from what was described as "an ominous German-speaking US secret service worker who is said to have taken part in Masri's interrogation in Afghanistan".

But the government report admitted that German Federal Criminal Bureau agents had previously interrogated another US renditions victim, the Syrian-born German terrorist suspect Mohammed Haydar Zammar, who was kidnapped by the CIA in Morocco in 2001 and flown to a prison in Syria where he has been held ever since.

German agents flew to Damascus in 2002 and interrogated Mr Zammar, who is being held in a secret police jail renowned for torture. The government report said that the agents had "crossed a red line" and that Germany's participation in foreign interrogations should cease.

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Slicing Away Liberty: 1933 Germany, 2006 America

By Bernard Weiner
Co-Editor, The Crisis Papers

02/22/06 "ICH" -- -- I must confess that I'm utterly baffled by the lack of sustained, organized outrage and opposition from Democratic officials and ordinary citizens at the Bush Administration's never-ending scandals, corruptions, war-initiations, and the amassing of more and more police-state power into their hands.

And so, facing little effective opposition, the Bush juggernaut continues on its rampage. How to explain this? Certainly, one could point to a deficient mass-media, to the soporific drug of TV, to having to work so hard that for many there's no time for activism, to education aimed at taking tests and not how to think, to the residual fear-fallout from 9/11, to a penchant for fantasy over reality, to the timid and unimaginative Democratic leadership, to scandal-fatigue, etc. But I would suggest that even more disturbing answers can be found by examining recent history.
Just so nobody misunderstands what follows: I am not saying that George W. Bush is Adolf Hitler, or that the rest of his Administration crew are Nazis. What I am saying is that since history often is opaque (making it difficult to figure out the contemporary parallels), when the past does offer a clear lesson for those of us living today, we should pay special attention.

What happened in Germany in the 1920s and '30s can teach us much about how a nation in a few years can lose its freedom in incremental slices as a result of a drumbeat of never-ceasing propaganda, strong-arm tactics, government snooping and harassment, manufactured fear of "the other," and wars begun abroad with the accompanying rally-'round-the-flag patriotism.

In America of the 1980s and '90s, it was extremists on the far-right fringes who believed the country was moving toward "black helicopter" authoritarian rule in Washington, and often blamed big-government liberal Democrats. Now, as a result of just four-plus years of the Bush Administration (supposedly anti-big government, conservative Republicans), huge segments of American society, including many in the mainstream middle, wonder what has happened to our democratic republic, our civil liberties, our time-honored system of government.


The Busheviks defend the Administration's harsh, sweeping actions as necessary in a "time of war." The U.S. was attacked by forces representing fanatical Islam, this reasoning goes, and the old rules and systems simply don't apply anymore -- they are old-fashioned, "quaint." Instead, we are expected to inculcate the "everything-changed-on-9/11" mantra, the effect of which is to excuse and justify all. Defense of the fatherland comes first and foremost, trumping all other considerations, including the Constitution, checks-and-balances in the three branches of government, separation of powers, the Geneva Conventions, international law, etc. etc. (The Busheviks refuse to believe that one can be muscular in going after terrorists and do so within the law and with proper respect for the Bill of Rights and Constitutional protections of due process.)

Not only do the Busheviks pay no attention to modern history, but they seem to have forgotten how our very nation came into existence and why: Our Founding Fathers rebelled against a despotic British monarch, a George who ran roughshod over their rights and privacy and religious beliefs. Learning that hard lesson, they established a system of government that scattered power so that no person or party or religion could easily reinstate authoritarian rule. Politicians and citizens would have to compromise and cooperate in order to get anything done. It's a slow, cumbersome system ("Democracy," said Churchill, "is the worst form of government ever invented, except for all the others"), but the system they devised served this nation well for more than two centuries, making American government a model for much of the rest of the world.

And now, using the fear of terrorism as justification for all their actions, the Bush-Rove-Cheney-Rumsfeld crew within just a few years have moved America closer to a militarist, one-party state, led by a ruler in whom virtually all power is vested. In '30s Germany, this was called the Fuhrer Principe, the principle of blind obedience to the wise, all-powerful Supreme Leader. We've seen other such examples in Stalin's Soviet Union, Kim's North Korea, Mao's China, Saddam's Iraq, etc.


To the Busheviks, there is pure Evil and pure Good, and because we Americans are pure Good, especially blessed by God, we can do anything in the service of fulfilling God's plan, which only we understand. If you're not with us, you're against us; get on board or get out of the way.

And so, under BushCheney, we've become an America that has codified torture in official state policy, that admits it went into a war under false premises but continues to keep our targeted troops there anyway, that spies on its citizens without court orders, that is willing to out a covert CIA agent (one who was probing the extent of Iran's nuclear program) for reasons of political retaliation, that "disappears" American citizens into military jails and doesn't permit them any contact with the outside world, that flies suspects in its care to secret prisons abroad and "renders" others to countries that use even more extreme torture measures, that passes laws permitting police agents to "sneak and peek" into citizens' homes, phone records, computer databases, library requests, e-mails and medical records without permission or even informing those whose privacy had been violated, that neuters the Congress by saying it will listen to "suggestions" but that the ultimate decisions are to be made by the Chief Executive, that emasculates the political opposition in Congress by cutting them out of the key decision-making processes, that declares the president has the right to violate the law whenever he so chooses and Congress and the courts have no role to play in reining in that power-grab, that keeps America on a permanent war footing in a never-ending battle against a tactic (terrorism), and on and on.

Even though much of the above transpired in secret and is only now being revealed, not all of this desecration of the American ideal happened overnight. As in Germany in the 1930s, the extremists placed in charge of the government said one thing in public and did another in private, slowly slicing away at rights of the citizenry, to avoid triggering a popular uprising.


In the beginning of their rule, the Nazis would announce restrictive policies aimed at marginalized citizens (the mentally handicapped, for example), and if no great uproar of objection came from any power centers such as the churches or hospitals or political parties, the Nazis would proceed to the next slice aimed, say, at Communists or homosexuals or Jews or Gypsies. All of these moves were carefully couched in terms of saving the "national security" of the Reich or purging the country of "non-productive" or "destructive/dangerous" elements in society. The Nazi propaganda machine was clever, intense and all-pervasive, using the Big Lie technique masterfully -- endlessly repeating its falsehoods until the drummed-upon populace came to accept them as truths.

Many ordinary "good Germans" and moral arbiters went along with these violations of civil rights and liberties either because they inwardly agreed with the propagandists or because they were afraid to disagree in public. Those few leaders in academia, the church and the press who courageously or even tentatively demurred or asked too many questions tended to be punished -- demoted, fired, their honors revoked, etc. -- and so more and more citizens got the message to "watch what you say." The Nazi juggernaut pushed on, widening its list of what was forbidden, issuing harsher and harsher edicts, and treating any dissidents roughly.

Hitler, leader of the rabidly rightwing Nazi party, was installed as Chancellor in 1933, even though his party was not in the majority, in the hope that he could bring some order and stability to a society still reeling from the horrendous economic/social Great Depression that had devastated the country during the '20s and early-'30s. Given the reins of power, Hitler felt free to unleash policies that most citizens earlier had rejected as way too extreme. He had written about them in his book "Mein Kampf," but many thought he would modify his demented views once he was inside the establishment corridors.

The "Enabling Act" that gave Hitler total control of the organs of power in Germany was passed in 1933, following the burning of the German Reichstag (Parliament), an arson that was blamed on Communist "terrorists." Hitler "temporarily" suspended civil liberties during this "national emergency," which of course never ended. Hitler lied to the Reichstag about his true intentions in order to obtain approval of the Enabling Act. Shortly after its passage, Hitler began rounding up tens of thousands of political enemies and sending them to concentration camps. Democracy was dead in Hitler's Germany.

The corporate titans, seeing that there might be profit to be gained from Nazi economic and military policies, supported Hitler's rise and rule; those who had objections to what he was doing thought they could tame his passions through their immense influence. But slowly, and then quickly, the Nazis took over one institution after another; totalitarianism was in full force. To stamp out any hint of dissent, all citizens were to spy on each other --"each one of us the Gestapo of the others," to use Sebastian Haffner's scary phrase -- and the security forces arrested and tortured at will. (To learn more from Haffner's contemporaneous account, see "Germany in 1933: The Easy Slide Into Fascism").

Arming itself to the teeth, Hitler's military forces carried out lighting-quick wars of conquest ("Blitzkrieg") on weaker nations and the fascist German empire spread over Europe and, in alliance with Japan, in Asia as well. More than 40 million human beings would die in the resulting World War II. Hitler's arrogant belief in his own intuition and infallibility led to his downfall, as, against all common sense and advice and military history, he invaded the Soviet Union and wound up in a destructive quagmire of the worst sort.


Again, what follows here is not to allege one-for-one comparisons to Nazism, but to note certain parallel events and tactics that require special consideration if we are to avoid imitating disastrous history even more fully.

In our time, a Leader (who, we later learned, probably lost the 2000 election) was installed in the White House by a far-right majority faction of the Supreme Court. The HardRight had been laying plans for a restoration of Republican rule after Clinton won re-election; first they made sure Clinton would be unable to concentrate on his political agenda by constant iterations of supposed scandals that, as various probes demonstrated, revealed no illegality. When Clinton handed the Republicans an opening by engaging in a sexual dalliance in the White House, they engineered an impeachment and trial by the Senate; it didn't really matter that Clinton was not convicted, as the requisite damage had been done, with a side benefit -- his Vice President and presumable successor, Al Gore, was tainted by being close to Clinton and thus weakened politically.

The point of all this is that the HardRight restoration forces were planning for a Bush administration far in advance of the actual 2000 election. There was no one person's "Mein Kampf," but other writings had laid out in stark terms what this neo-conservative cabal had in mind for the country's foreign/military policy should they return to power, especially in the reports of The Project for The New American Century: "pre-emptive" wars of conquest, permitting no rivals for influence, control of energy sources, etc. (See "How We Got Into This Imperial Pickle: A PNAC Primer", where PNAC lays out the sole-Superpower strategy for achieving "benevolent hegemony" around the globe.)

Some of that planning included an invasion of Iraq. Even though Cheney still won't reveal which oil executives were part of his secret energy task-force, we do know that at least part of that panel's meetings in early 2001 involved the question of Iraq, with discussion and a map of which companies might get exploration blocks after Saddam was removed from power. Further, former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill revealed how astonished he was that at the first meetings of the Bush Cabinet in early-2001, much time was spent on the need to invade Iraq.

The terror attacks of 9/11/2001 served as the equivalent of the "Reichstag Fire" -- or, seen another way, as a "new Pearl Harbor," the phrase lifted from a 2000 PNAC document. The Bush Administration's "Enabling Act" came in several key bills passed by Congress: the unread and barely-debated Patriot Act, which gave virtually unlimited police powers to the government in rooting out "terrorism," and the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), written so broadly as to give the "commander in chief" authority to take whatever unspecified actions he considered necessary against those responsible for 9/11. Attorney General Gonzales recently claimed that the AUMF, in conjunction with Article 2 of the Constitution, permits Bush to authorize both the torture of prisoners and spying on American citizens, without the need to seek any court warrants, thus over-riding the Fourth Amendment and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that states in no uncertain terms that ALL such eavesdropping requires court permission.


Even though the mainstream, corporate-owned media by and large does the bidding of the Bush Administration, ignoring and playing down bad news and hyping the Administration's spin points, full control of the mass media is still not complete -- even with the Bush Administration spending $1.6 billion tax dollars last year on its own public-relations spin. The few insurgent media outlets and reporters, and the unruly analysts on the internet, are still to be dealt with. (FEMA has contracted with Halliburton and others to build several hundred detention camps around the country, ostensibly to house illegal immigrants but easily convertible for malcontents of one sort or another. See Maureen Farrell's "Detention Camp Jitters".

Likewise, the Judiciary. Bush&Co. have placed nearly two hundred of its HardRight jurists on the federal appeals courts, and got its new Federalist Society justices onto the Supreme Court -- presumably tipping the balance in favor of more rightwing decisions -- but more work needs to be done to lock down total control of the Judiciary.

The democratic institutions that possibly could still backfire on the Bush agenda are approaching terminal weakness: the Republican-controlled Congress has become a rubber-stamp appendage of Karl Rove's political office; the Democrats are essentially marginalized with no real power except to whine and complain and embarrass.

Plus, and most importantly, election votes are counted by the same GOP-friendly corporations that controlled (and appear to have manipulated) the vote-tabulations in 2002 and 2004, that manufacture the computer-voting machines, and that own the secret, proprietary software.

The one dangerous element that cannot be fully controlled are the human beings who are the public face of the HardRight elite. Bush is a simpleton who often says more than he should, giving away the game; Cheney is a callous Rasputin whose penchant for secrecy and power-lust as he runs the government constantly gets the group into hot water; Rumsfeld is a media-savvy incompetent whose dirty fingerprints are all over the Iraq disaster and the torture scandal; Rove, a brilliant dirty-pool tactician (his grandfather reportedly was an active Nazi Party supporter in Germany), is likely to be indicted in the Plamegate scandal. Others Administration heavies, such as Condoleezza Rice and Alberto Gonzales are little more than toadies for the big boys.


So, let's see: a Supreme Leader who has taken his country into blitzkrieg ("shock & awe") attacks on foreign nations, bogging down in an ill-advised invasion quagmire in Iraq; who has traded historic civil rights and liberties for defense of the fatherland; who has destroyed or rendered toothless his nominal opposition party; who has wrapped himself in the flag and questioned the patriotism of those who raise questions about his policies; who has engaged in a Big Lie propaganda strategy to move his agenda; who has demonized internal enemies; who violates the law to get what he wants and claims that he serves a higher power in doing so; who has marginalized the other two branches of government; who effectively controls the voting process; and so on.

What's scary is that it didn't take much verbal stretching to come up with those parallels, even admitting that life in Bush's U.S.A., however comparable in many areas, can scarcely be equated to life in Hitler's Germany.

Even so, history has presented its warnings to us. Will we understand and act in time to return our country to a more moderate balancing point, thus making us better protected in terms of national security? It's up to each of us.

This bungling Bush crew seems to have a reverse Midas touch; virtually everything they touch turns not to gold but to foul-smelling waste matter. They are so out of touch with the American mainstream that they've brought their own poll numbers down into the 30s, and key Republicans in self-defense are racing to separate themselves from BushCheney before the November elections. Bush&Co. may be reckless bumblers, endangering America's national security and economy and environment, but they still wield the levers of power and they're not about to give them up; indeed, it appears they are willing to take us all down with them as they fall.

That's our challenge, to get rid of them as quickly as possible -- by agitating for impeachment hearings now, or moving for impeachment and a Senate trial after taking back the House in November -- and help bring America out from its current dark cave to the bright light of hope and civility and reality-based governance.

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It's Munich In America. There Will Be No Normandy.

By David Michael Green

This is it, folks. This is the scenario our Founders lost sleep over. This is the day they prepared us for.

Outside the Philadelphia convention Benjamin Franklin was asked what sort of government he and his colleagues were crafting. His reply? "A republic. If you can keep it." And that is just the question at issue today. Can we keep it?

Sure, it can sound melodramatic to use the f-word (no, not the one Churlish Cheney hurled at Patrick Leahy), and I have mostly avoided doing so for just that reason. Especially where the politically less informed are concerned, arguing that America is slipping into fascism can be the first and last point they'll hear you make.
But, nowadays, even George F. Will is worried. You know you're in a seriously bad place when that happens.

America may not be a fascist country today, but it's not for want of trying. I have no question but that through Dick Cheney's dark heart courses the blood of Mussolini. No wonder the damn thing's so diseased. And I have no doubt that Karl Rove has only admiration and envy for Joseph Goebbels. Hey, why can't we do that here? (Hint: We are.)

America is not a fascist country (if it was, you wouldn't be reading this), but pardon me if I don't defer to Bush defenders and ringside Democrats who consider me hysterical for worrying about the direction in which we're heading.

These are the same people who've spent the last two decades denying the existence of global warming, while we now learn with each passing week how much worse than we had ever imagined is that environmental wreckage. These are the same people who said Iraq would be a cakewalk, and planned accordingly. These are the same people who prepared us for 9/11, the Iraq occupation, Hurricane Katrina and the prescription drug plan, and who have set new records for ineptitude in responding to those crises. These are the people who can't get body armor on our troops, three years after launching the war, and who are getting flunking grades in terrorism preparation from the 9/11 Commission four years after that attack. These are the same people who have turned a massive surplus into a record-setting debt, and coupled it with equally breathtaking trade deficits. And now they want to cut federal tax revenue even more.

Yes, he is the president, but golly gee, Sargent Carter, he sure seems to make an awful lot of mistakes!

So forgive me if I don't trust their judgement on matters of rather serious importance. Forgive me if I don't stand by hoping they're right as the two hundred year-old experiment in American democracy goes down the toilet. Besides, I thought being a conservative meant taking the prudent course, anyhow. Even if there was only a one in a hundred chance that a grenade was live, would you play with it? Wouldn't it have been better to have acted 'conservatively' with the fate of the planet at stake, and assumed that global warming might be real? And, likewise, shouldn't we worry about what is happening to American democracy now, while we still can?

The truth is, there is a government in office which seeks such complete power and dominance that even some conservatives have started to notice. Too blind to see the true intentions of this bunch, they can at least figure out that an imperial presidency created by George Bush might one day be inherited by Hillary Clinton (complete with her plans for a revolutionary dope-smoking lesbian Marxist state and global UN domination, enforced by an armada of black helicopters), so now even these fools are getting nervous about where this goes. They know that the only difference between the monarchism our Founders so reviled and contemporary Cheneyism is that the technology of our time allows George Bush to turn George III into George Orwell.

It's Munich in America, people. We can dream the pleasant dream that if we just stand by quietly while the Boy King gobbles up some of our liberties, he won't want any more, but that would be a lot like Chamberlain dreaming that a chunk of Czechoslovakia would be enough to appease Hitler. It wasn't, and it won't be.

Do I overstate the concern? The New York Times recently editorialized "We can't think of a president who has gone to the American people more often than George W. Bush has to ask them to forget about things like democracy, judicial process and the balance of powers – and just trust him. We also can't think of a president who has deserved that trust less." The Times should know. Between rah-rah'ing the war for Bush, sitting on the Downing Street Memos as if they were banana import trade policy documents, and covering for Judith Miller while she covered for The Cheney Gang, they have about as much blood on their hands as does Donald Rumsfeld. But if even the Times can work up the concern to print a line like that, we're in a world of hurt.

And we are, in fact, in a world of hurt. Those shreds of parchment on the floor of the National Archives aren't from Mrs. Washington's shopping list, I'm afraid to say.

It is true, of course, that other presidents – even the best of them – have taken enormous liberties with the Constitution, especially during wartime. Lincoln suspended habeas corpus, FDR jailed Americans on the West Coast for the crime of having Japanese ancestry, Truman and Eisenhower stood by while McCarthyism ripped a gaping hole through American civil liberties, and Nixon and his plumbers went to work on his political enemies in the name of national security. Of course, we now look back on those episodes as among the most shameful in American history. But the present crew is even more dangerous for their intentions of creating permanent war to justify permanent repression.

Already they've torn large chunks out of the Constitution.

Article One creates the legislative branch, that which the Founders intended to be the most powerful and consequential. Today, we have a president who makes the stunning assertion that he is the "sole organ for the nation in foreign affairs". This Congress seems mostly to agree, even though the Founders gave them the power to declare war, to fund all governmental activities, to ratify treaties and to oversee the executive. Who, us? Bye-bye Article One.

Article Three creates a Supreme Court to adjudicate disputes (especially over governmental powers) and to protect the Constitution. But BushCo can't be bothered to follow even the Court's tentative interventions into due process concerning Guantánamo and beyond. And why should it? By the time they get done with loading the damn thing up with 'unitary executive' fifth-column shills like Roberts and Alito, it will be a moot court, just like the ones in law school. Once the Supreme Court becomes a wholly-owned subsidiary of the executive branch (about one vote from now), it's bye-bye Article Three.

The First Amendment guarantees the freedom to assemble in protest. But protest is a joke in Bush's America. People are kenneled off into pens so far from the president he is never confronted with any contrary views at all, apart from the odd funeral he has to show up at but Rove can't script. The halls of Congress are ground zero for American democracy, much boasted about at home and jammed down the throat of the world (except when the results don't favor American corporate or strategic interests). But go there and sit in the balcony wearing a t-shirt with the number of dead soldiers in Iraq printed on it and see how fast you get a lesson in Bush's interpretation of the Bill of Rights. And that little display at the state of the union address was no freak event, either. That kind of thing happened all the time during the 2004 campaign. At Bush rallies, people were getting arrested for the bumper-stickers on their cars.

The First Amendment also protects freedom of the press. That freedom has not been eliminated, per se, but it has been effectively neutered beyond effectiveness. Between the White House intimidating most of the press, coopting the rest, stonewalling information requests, planting stories in the American and foreign media, and buying off journalists, today's mainstream media has too often become a pathetic megaphone for White House lies, and that includes those supposed bastions of liberalism, the New York Times and the Washington Post. Bye-bye First Amendment.

The Fourth Amendment guarantees "against unreasonable searches and seizures" and requires that "no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation". Can you say "NSA"? "Guantánamo"? "Abu Ghraib"? It's bad enough that Bush has authorized himself to bug anybody, arrest anybody, convict anybody and silence anybody, but his NSA chief doesn't even appear to have read the Fourth Amendment. That whole thing about probable cause was lost on him, as he and his president simultaneously trampled the separation of powers and checks and balances doctrines by eliminating two out of three branches of government from their little surveillance loop.

Meanwhile, informed estimates repeatedly assert that the majority of detainees rotting away in Guantánamo are there either because they were standing in the wrong place at the wrong time simply and got swept away like so much garbage into a dustpan, or were reported as al Qaeda so that one Afghan clan could use the US military to burn another. And so there they sit, unable to be charged, to be tried, to exercise habeas corpus, to have representation, to confront witnesses – unable now even to starve themselves to death in protest. If this wasn't precisely the fear of the Founders when they put this language into the Constitution, then Dick Cheney is a poster boy for the ACLU. Strike the Fourth Amendment.

And take with it the Fifth (no one shall "be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law"), the Sixth ("the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury", the right "to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense"), and the Eighth, providing against "cruel and unusual punishments"). Boom, boom, boom.

In a disgusting display of legal sophistry, the administration would argue that these provisions don't apply because of jurisdiction, which of course was the entire purpose for putting their gulag in Guantánamo in the first place. As if it is not American territory since we 'lease' it from Cuba. As if Castro could send in the police to clean up the open sore of Bush's human rights travesty there, and the US could do nothing about it, since it is Cuban land. Right.

But even if Fun With Domestic Jurisprudence is to be their game, the actions of the administration also represent a massive breach of international law, since the Geneva Conventions prohibit precisely these sorts of horrors which the Creature from Crawford has visited upon the poor SOBs caught in his dragnet.

Your scissors are probably getting a bit dull by now, but this means that not only is international law in scraps, but you can also go ahead and cut out Article Six of the Constitution as well, which provides that "all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land". Ah, how 'quaint'. How very 'obsolete'.

Such treaties may be the supreme law in some land, but apparently not in Bush Land. Or, at least not if you don't mind another cute legal charade, in which a new category of POWs called "unlawful combatants" is fabricated with the intention of rendering – with disingenuousness extraordinaire – the detainees as falling outside the Geneva provisions.

That's precious, as if a 'lawful' Bush all of a sudden got religion for the fine points of international jurisprudence. Except, of course, when it came to the need for obtaining a Security Council resolution to invade Iraq. Except when it comes to the International Criminal Court, which the Bush junta has been desperately trying to undermine at every opportunity (gee, I wonder why, given the Court's mandate to prosecute war criminals). Except for nuclear nonproliferation. Except for the use of white phosphorus in Falluja. Apparently the only legal distinctions these guys follow are the ones Bush orders Alberto Gonzales, that paragon of legal independence and the rule of law, to create for him out of whole cloth. That international law.

There's not much left of the Constitution now that these guys have tortured it as if it were some personal project in Lynndie England's basement. Of course, they've made damn sure that the Second Amendment is fully protected, to the point where John Ashcroft wouldn't investigate the gun purchase records of the 9/11 hijackers. You gotta love that. I wish they gave the rest of the Bill of Rights a tenth of the attention the Second Amendment gets. Heck, for that matter, I wish they'd even interpret the Second Amendment properly. Maybe in my next lifetime.

Meanwhile, arguably the three most brilliant inventions of the Constitution are separation of powers, the guarantee of civil liberties, and federalism. Even the latter – which has least to do with foreign affairs or checking executive power, and therefore has been least assaulted – is under duress as the Bush Gang attack state power any time it strays from their regressive political agenda, for instance with respect to euthanasia, medical marijuana or affirmative action.

In fact, all three of these key constitutional doctrines are suffering under a brutal assault from a regime which finds democracy and liberty fundamentally inconvenient to their aspirations for unlimited power. The administration absurdly claims to be bringing democracy to the Mid-East. (After that whole WMD thing went MIA, and Saddam's links to al Qaeda proved equally credible, what the hell else were they going to say?). But far from the ludicrous claims that they are agents for the spread of democracy abroad, they are busy unraveling it with furious industry here at home.

It is, I'm afraid, Munich in America, and now we must decide whether to appease the bullies and pray for happy endings, or fight back to preserve a two hundred year-old experiment in democracy. Despite all its flaws and failures, Churchill was still right about it: Democracy is the worst system of governance except for all the others. And that makes it worth fighting for.

But the spot we're in now is actually worse than Munich, because there will be no Normandy in this war, and no Stalingrad. No country with the deterrent threat of a nuclear arsenal can ever be invaded by another country or group of countries, regardless of the magnitude of the latter's own military power.

That means we're on our own, folks. If we flip completely over to the dark side, nobody will be storming our beaches and scrambling up our cliffs to liberate us from our own folly. Hell, if they weren't so worried about the international menace we represent, they'd probably be laughing at us, anyhow, thinking how richly we deserved the government we got.

But there's nothing funny about this situation. Hitler dreamed of a thousand year reich, but didn't count on the resilience of an endless army of Slavs, or the technological prowess of a nation of shopkeepers' great-grandchildren hammering his would-be millennium down to a decade. If the US goes authoritarian (or worse), on the other hand, who will play Russia or America to our Germany? The answer is no one, and it is not apocalyptic paranoia to fear a very, very long period of unrelenting political darkness, once the curtain comes down.

Is this the beginning of the end for American democracy? Maybe. I have no doubt that unchecked Cheneyism intends precisely that. It's therefore up to the rest of us to stop it. It's up to us to say yes to Philadelphia, and no to Munich. Because there will be no Normandy.

Now we find out if we can keep Mr. Franklin's republic, after all.

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Iraq Vet Accused of Stabbing Wife 71 Times

February 23, 2006

FORT LEWIS, Wash. - Army officials have recommended a court-martial for a Purple Heart recipient accused of stabbing his young wife 71 times with knives and a meat cleaver.

Spc. Brandon Bare, 19, of Wilkesboro, N.C., was charged with premeditated murder and indecent acts related to the mutilation of his wife's remains.
On Wednesday, Fort Lewis officials said post commander Lt. Gen. James Dubik agreed with an investigating officer and referred Bare's case to a general court-martial.

Bare remains held in the post's Regional Corrections Facility. No trial date has been set. If found guilty, he faces a maximum of life in prison.

Bare had returned to Fort Lewis from Iraq in April to recuperate from cuts and internal ear injuries in a grenade attack on his Stryker brigade unit in Mosul. He was there as a machine-gunner with the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division.

His wife, Nabila Bare, 18, was killed July 12.

"The murder was premeditated, deliberate and savage," prosecutor Capt. Scott DiRocco said in January during Bare's Article 32 hearing, similar to a preliminary hearing in civilian court. "He did not stop after he killed her."

Bare's lawyer said there was nothing to show the killing was planned.

"What this looks like ... is an act of rage, or some sort of other unexplainable act," defense attorney Capt. Patrick O'Brien said.

Witnesses testified that Bare had enrolled in treatment programs for anger management and combat stress after his return from Iraq. He had said he was having trouble controlling his anger and didn't like his wife going out and partying, said Michael Collins, a nurse and case manager at Madigan Army Medical Center.

A day before his wife was found dead in the couple's kitchen, Bare told his rear detachment commander Capt. Mickey Traugutt that he was taking a new prescription that made it hard to get up and that he had missed a treatment.

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NYC Dance Troupe Leader Exposed to Anthrax

Associated Press
Thu Feb 23, 4:35 AM ET

NEW YORK - A dance troupe leader who makes drums with animal hides was in a Pennsylvania hospital after apparently being exposed to anthrax spores, prompting officials in both states to reassure residents that it was a rare accident unrelated to terrorism.

"We have every reason to believe that this infection is an isolated, accidentally and naturally transmitted case," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Wednesday during a news conference from City Hall.
The drum maker, Vado Diomande, traveled in December to Ivory Coast in West Africa and became ill shortly after he returned, officials said.

Teams of federal and city officials searched the man's workspace in Brooklyn and his Manhattan apartment and said there was no evidence that anthrax was produced in either location. There also was no evidence of any criminal intent or terrorist connection, the mayor said.

Several other people, including a family member of the infected man, also may have been exposed and are being treated with antibiotics, city Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden said.

Diomande, 44, was diagnosed with respiratory anthrax, which can be fatal, but Frieden said he was breathing on his own and appeared to be "doing better than people with respiratory anthrax usually do."

Diomande was in stable condition early Thursday at a Pennsylvania hospital. He had collapsed after performing last week with his dance company, Kotchegna, at the Steadman Theatre in Mansfield, Pa., according to Pennsylvania Department of Health Secretary Dr. Calvin B. Johnson.

Anthrax spores are found in soil in many parts of the world, and livestock become infected from consuming contaminated soil or feed. People then can become infected if they come into contact with the contaminated hides or other parts.

Dr. Lisa Rotz, a medical epidemiologist with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said health officials believe Diomande may have inhaled the spores in a process that includes soaking the hides, stretching them and scraping them to remove hair. She said investigators are seeking samples of the hides to test them for spores.

The nation was on high alert weeks after the 2001 terrorist attacks when anthrax-laced letters popped up in several places, including New York City. Five people died across the country and 17 were sickened. Investigators never determined who was responsible.

Contracting inhalation anthrax from natural sources is rare. The last U.S. case not linked to terrorism occurred in 1976. The victim made wool rugs as a hobby, Rotz said.

At the Pennsylvania university where Diomande performed last Thursday with a dance troupe, students were informed about the anthrax case but were assured they were not in danger. About 100 people attended the performance, according to Terri Day, a university spokesman.

Diomande has been a dancer and drummer since he was a child, according to a Web site for his dance troupe. When he was a teenager he danced with the National Ballet of the Ivory Coast, and toured all over the world. He founded his own dance company in 1989, the web site said.

Student Josh Wolf, who helped Diomande's troupe unload equipment into the theater before last week's show, said he didn't notice any fatigue or any other unusual physical signs with the dancers.

Authorities spent Wednesday afternoon inside the Brooklyn warehouse where Diomande worked, an eight-floor building that houses several small businesses and artists' studios.

The episode caused some apprehension among people who worked there. Lincoln Mayne, 34, a fashion and art designer, said the discovery of anthrax in the warehouse was "surreal."

"People are apprehensive. Nobody is telling us anything," he said.

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Moscow market collapse kills at least 31

February 23, 2006

MOSCOW - The snow-laden roof of a Moscow food market collapsed before dawn as traders toiled inside, killing at least 31 people, injuring 25 and trapping others in the wreckage.

The roof fell in at about 5:00 a.m. (0200 GMT) on a national holiday and before the market was open to the public.
"Everything suddenly caved in," said Oktay Salmanov, a market trader from Azerbaijan.

"I was standing near the main entrance and that's why I managed to get out in time. But my three sisters are dead and so is the man I was working with," he said.

Rescue authorities quoted by Interfax news agency put the toll at 31 dead and 25 injured.

Ambulances rushed the injured to nearby hospitals.

Rescuers, some with sniffer dogs, dug into the wreckage of the Baumansky market to find victims feared to be stuck inside in freezing temperatures.

At one point emergency workers ordered silence to listen for sounds from victims and then began digging urgently at 10 different spots.

"Time is running out," Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu said at the site.

Investigators were considering whether a failure to clear recent heavy snowfall from the roof may have contributed to the cave-in, officials said.

It was the third major building collapse blamed on snow in Europe since last month.

Heavy snow was also blamed in January for the collapse of an exhibition hall in southern Poland that killed 65 people, and the destruction of an enclosed German ice rink that killed 15 including a dozen children.

The Moscow market, in service since 1975, was designed by the same architect who drafted the building plans for the Transval aqua park in the city where a similar roof collapse two years ago left 28 dead and in which structural flaws were also cited as a focus of investigation.

The Moscow market operates around the clock and was used for wholesale trading overnight when dozens of people work inside, officials said.

One trader, a 40-year-old man from Uzbekistan, said he narrowly escaped with his 13-year-old son.

"There was a noise that came from the roof and then everything collapsed," he told AFP. "The electricity went off just before the collapse. I was able to run for the exit with my son."

Interfax news agency quoted a senior official with the emergency situations ministry as saying "dozens" of people could still be trapped in the rubble.

The vast majority of traders in Moscow's markets hail from former Soviet republics in the Caucasus -- specifically Azerbaijan -- and from Central Asia. Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov said most of the victims appeared to be immigrants.

Friends and relatives of market traders gathered at the site and several women were seen crying and throwing themselves to the ground as they awaited news of loved ones thought to be trapped in the building.

The architect who designed the market building, Nodar Kancheli, was also at the scene. He said "incorrect use" of the building's structure may have contributed to the disaster.

Media reports said a platform for housing additional market stalls had been built and attached to the roof in violation of building codes and may have contributed to the collapse.

"The construction of the roof did not plan for this," RIA Novosti news agency quoted Kancheli as saying.

The architect was placed under investigation last year in connection with the Transval aqua park roof collapse on February 14, 2004, but no charges have been brought against him so far.

A report on the Echo Moscow radio station said construction of the Baumansky market was "not standard" and consisted of "a hanging shell of reinforced concrete" that was supported by a system of cables rather than with grounded support columns.

Luzhkov said investigators had ruled out an attack or sabotage.

"The reasons appear to be technical," Luzhkov said, adding that a "very serious" investigation would be conducted by the prosecutor general's office.

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9 earthquakes recorded in Philippine volcano

www.chinaview.cn 2006-02-23 12:18:36

MANILA, Feb. 23 (Xinhuanet) -- Nine volcanic earthquakes were recorded on Thursday in Mayon volcano in Albay, 330 km south east to Manila, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS)
PHIVOLCS director Renato Solidum said in an interview that the agency recorded two minor explosions in the area Thursday morning and observed some small lava flows from Mayon's crater.

Alert level 2 has been declared Tuesday by the agency to make sure nobody enters the six-km danger zone around the Mayon Volcano.

Although PHIVOLCS has not increased the warning to level 3, Solidum said the agency is closely monitoring the volcano.

Solidum said the tests have yet to ascertain if the Mayon would erupt again.

The Mayon is the most active volcano in the country, having erupted around 50 times for the past 400 years. Its last eruption was in July 2001.

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Powerful Quake Sends Thousands Fleeing

Associated Press
Feb 23 10:09 AM US/Eastern

MAPUTO, Mozambique - A powerful earthquake sent thousands of panicking people fleeing from swaying buildings in Mozambique and Zimbabwe soon after midnight Thursday, and killed at least two people.

Thousands of residents slept in the open, fearful of returning to their beds as aftershocks rocked the region.

"It felt like the building was going to fall down and it went on for a long time, the trembling," Johana Neves, manager of the Tivoli Hotel in Mozambique's main port city of Beira, said by telephone. "It felt like you were in a boat, it was shaking everything yet, it's strange, nothing is broken, even the windows."
The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake struck at 12:19 a.m. with a magnitude of 7.5 - one capable of widespread and heavy damage - and was centered 140 miles southwest of Beira. It shook buildings in Beira and Maputo, Mozambique's capital, and the Zimbabwean cities of Masvingo and Mutare. The temblor awoke people hundreds of miles away in Harare, Zimbabwe's capital, and as far away as Durban on South Africa's Indian Ocean coast.

Mozambican and Zimbabwe authorities reported surprisingly little damage, apparently because the epicenter was in remote and sparsely populated farmlands near the border with Zimbabwe.

"That same size earthquake in a populated area would probably cause quite considerable damage," said William Leith of the U.S. Geographic Survey's Earthquake Hazards Program.

Esperanca Dias, Mozambique's minister of mineral resources, told state television some buildings were damaged in Beira and the walls of some buildings collapsed in Chimoyo, north of the quake's center.

Two people were killed in farm towns near the epicenter, she said.

A little girl tripped and fell as she rushed downstairs from a seventh floor apartment in Espungabera, and died of injuries on the spot, Dias said. And a man was buried in rubble when a wall of his home collapsed in Machaze.

She said at least 11 people were injured, one seriously when he panicked and jumped from the third floor window of a Beira hotel.

Beira was without electricity earlier Thursday and so were some suburbs of Maputo, the seaside capital, where the quake uprooted several power pylons.

It shook every corner of Mozambique and was felt strongly in Maputo, in the far south, where tall office and apartment buildings swayed and hundreds of panicked residents fled into the streets.

During the night, national energy director Elias Daudi went on state radio to urge people not to return to buildings because of possible aftershocks.

In Beira, people were so frightened they refused to go back into buildings Thursday morning even as a light rain was falling.

Rosa Silva, governor of Maputo province, said the government was concerned there might be serious aftershocks and had asked South Africa for help monitoring seismic activity.

At least five aftershocks were recorded immediately and more were expected in coming days because of the quake's size, said Rafael Abreu of the Geographic Survey.

President Armando Guebuza broadcast a message to the nation Thursday afternoon saying the government still was taking stock.

The quake was felt in oil fields some 120 miles from the epicenter, but there was no damage, said Johann van Rheede, spokesman for South African company SASOL, which produces natural gas there.

In Tete province, J.J. Constantino of the World Food Program said many people had slept in the fields.

Tete also is home to one of the world's largest hydroelectric dams, the Cabora Bassa which covers 1,095 square miles. A reporter at the dam said the earthquake was felt and people also abandoned their homes to sleep outside, but that there were no immediate reports of damage.

The quake was unusual for Mozambique, one of the world's poorest countries where natural disaster usually takes the form of flooding. Floods killed at least 13 people this month and more than 800 in 2000 and 2001.

The temblor struck near the southern end of the East Africa rift system, a seismically active zone which has produced quakes measuring magnitude 7.6. Thursday's was shallow, which increases the potential for damage, said Dale Grant, a geophysicist with the Geographic Survey.

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At least 2 dead as strong quake shakes Mozambique

Thu Feb 23, 2006
By Mateus Chale

MAPUTO (Reuters) - The strongest earthquake to hit southern Africa in 100 years killed at least two people in northern Mozambique on Thursday and sent residents across the region frightened by strong aftershocks into the streets.

The magnitude 7.5 earthquake was felt as far south as Johannesburg and Durban in South Africa.

Ian Saunders of South Africa's Council for Geosciences said the quake took place on East Africa's rift system.

"It was the largest earthquake to have occurred in the rift system since 1906. ... It's rare for the southern African region. We haven't seen such a thing for a long time," he said.

Mozambique's mines minister said one person was killed and at least 18 others injured when the quake struck just after midnight (2200 GMT on Wednesday) about 160 km (100 miles) southwest of Mozambique's northern port of Beira.

Radio Mozambique reported that another person died, apparently of a heart attack, at a local hospital as the quake hit. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reported at least three significant aftershocks during the night.

Police in Beira denied persistent rumours that a building had collapsed in the city, although local journalists said at least one house had fallen down in the rural district where the quake was centred.

Governor Raimundo Diomba of Manica province said officials were fanning out into the countryside to assess damage, but communications were difficult.

"We have no human or material damage to report yet, we sent teams to make a detailed evaluation of the situation," he said.

Minister of Mineral Resources Esperanza Bias, speaking to reporters after a cabinet meeting convened to discuss the earthquake, said one person died and 13 were injured in largely rural Manica. Four more were injured in Beira, she said.

Bias said the government had asked emergency officials to quickly draw up plans to deal with such big earthquakes, which are rare in the region

Comment: Note that "it was the largest earthquake to have occurred in the rift system since 1906. ... and was rare for the southern African region."

How much longer do we have before 'mother earth' let's us know that she is not happy?

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Suspected bird flu on French farm

Thursday, 23 February 2006, 16:31 GMT

France has found a suspected case of the deadly bird flu virus H5N1 on a poultry farm, the farm ministry says.

If confirmed, it would be the first time a farm bird has been infected in France, where two wild ducks have tested positive in the south-east.
Officials in Germany say further tests carried out on a domestic duck thought to be infected with the H5N1 strain have shown it does not have the virus.

Meanwhile, Slovakia has found its first H5N1 cases in a wild falcon and grebe.

Samples from the two Slovakian birds will now be sent to the European Union laboratory in the UK for further analysis.

In other developments:

* In western India, tests on samples collected from 94 people suspected of being infected with the virus prove negative

* The French health ministry says there is a "strong chance" more wild birds will test positive for H5N1 following Thursday's result on a second wild duck.

Eight EU countries have now confirmed cases of H5N1 in wild birds.

Vaccination plans

The suspected domestic outbreak in France has been detected in a turkey farm in the department of Ain, where the two cases of the disease have already been confirmed in wild ducks.

The farming ministry said a high death rate among turkeys was discovered at the site, which has more than 11,000 birds.

Test results are due on Friday, it added.

The farm has been sealed off and birds will be culled.

The news comes a day after EU officials approved plans by France and the Netherlands - the EU's largest poultry producers - to vaccinate millions of birds against avian flu.

The programme, initially opposed by several countries, will be limited to birds in specific high-risk regions.

Under the plans agreed, vaccination will be allowed in the Netherlands for free-range poultry, those most in danger of contact with wild birds, as an alternative to keeping them indoors.

France will be allowed to vaccinate ducks and geese in three areas in the west and south-west thought to be at high risk, among them the coastal Landes region.

Germany, Austria, Denmark and Portugal had all opposed vaccination in earlier talks.

Poultry sales have plunged in Italy, Greece and France since the confirmation of H5N1 outbreaks.

The lethal H5N1 strain has killed more than 90 people, mostly in Asia, 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.

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India bird flu tests 'negative'

Thursday, 23 February 2006, 12:29 GMT

Indian health officials say 94 out of 95 samples collected from people with flu-like symptoms have tested negative for bird flu.

Results from one final sample are expected on Saturday.

Hundreds of thousands of birds have been slaughtered after the deadly H5N1 bird flu strain was found in Navapur town in Maharashtra state last week.

The authorities have now completely sealed the town, which has a population of 30,000, and 19 nearby villages.

"There is no human case of avian influenza till now," a statement released by India's health ministry said.

It said one sample was still being tested.

"We are testing it further as it does not match any classical profile of the H5N1 strain," Indian Health Secretary PK Hota told the Reuters news agency.

Town 'quarantined'

In Navapur the authorities have set up checkpoints to prevent people from leaving the area and schools have been shut for a fortnight.

Trucks, buses and private vehicles are being stopped outside the town. Trains are also not stopping at Navapur station.

"It's restricted entry and exit so no new people will be allowed to enter Navapur, and people with any symptoms of fever and heavy cough and cold will not be allowed to leave," Bhushan Gagrani, a Maharashtra state official, is quoted as saying by the Associated Press news agency.

On Wednesday, officials completed the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of birds in and around Navapur.

Health workers are now cleaning up the farms in the entire area, burning feathers and bird-droppings, reports say.


The detection of bird flu has led to sharp falls in the sale of poultry and poultry products and some countries have banned poultry imports from India, leaving the poultry industry reeling with heavy losses.

The country's parliament, military, railways and major airlines have also stopped serving chicken and eggs, even as government officials reassured people that they were safe to eat if cooked properly.

The H5N1 virus does not pose a large-scale threat to humans, as it cannot pass easily from one person to another.

Experts, however, fear the virus could mutate to gain this ability, and in its new form trigger a flu pandemic, potentially putting millions of human lives at risk.

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Inflation pickup worries Fed

By Mark Trumbull | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
February 23, 2006

Inflation may not be running out of control, but it's hot enough that the Federal Reserve's campaign of interest-rate hikes may end later rather than sooner.

It's a difficult call. The prevailing expectation in financial markets, largely unchanged by new inflation numbers Wednesday, is that the Fed is nearly done with its current cycle of tightening monetary policy.
But minutes of the most recent Fed meeting, released this week, show that some policymakers remain concerned that inflation levels are above an acceptable level.

The core rate of inflation - a measure of price levels that excludes volatile food and energy costs - has generally hovered above the comfort zone of 2 percent during the past year. And the government's latest report, released Wednesday for the month of January, shows no end to that trend: Core inflation, measured over the most recent quarter, is running at a 2.4 percent annual pace.

Given that, the question is whether the Fed will raise short-term interest rates not only to 4.75 percent in March, as now expected, but also to 5 percent in May and perhaps higher after that.

"There's probably a slightly greater chance that they will go higher than 5 percent, than that they won't go to 5 percent," says Mark Vitner, an economist at Wachovia Corp. in Charlotte, N.C. "I certainly think that the core rate of inflation is going to pick up in the next few months."

The consumer price index rose 0.7 percent in January - a surge driven largely by energy costs. January's jump in core inflation was 0.2 percent.

The pickup in inflation comes at a sensitive time for the economy. After 14 successive interest-rate hikes by the Fed since mid-2004, the combination of rising interest rates and a cooling housing market could dampen the growth of consumer spending. So far consumers, long the driving force of the current economic expansion, have remained buoyant despite the Fed's rate hikes and surging energy costs during the past year.

Against this backdrop, the Fed's goal is a "perfect landing." That would mean its policy tames inflation pressures but doesn't cut economic growth below its potential of 3 percent or more per year.

If the Fed pushes borrowing costs up too far, the result could be a less robust expansion with fewer new jobs. But if the Fed isn't vigilant enough, the result could be a sustained rate of inflation that takes its own toll on the economy by eroding purchasing power, among other problems.

"Reading [the Fed] has been trivially easy over the past year and a half, compared to what's it's going to be," says Richard Berner, who tracks the US economy for Morgan Stanley in New York.

For his part, Mr. Berner says the bond market may be overly optimistic in believing that the Fed is nearly done with its tightening, and that it will be able to cut rates later in the year.

"The fundamentals do, in my view, point to somewhat higher inflation," he says.

This doesn't present a major risk to the economy, but it would mean that tight monetary policy persists until core inflation subsides below 2 percent.

Another Wall Street investment house, Bear Stearns, also sees a risk of inflation surprising on the "up" side. "Markets have been dominated by what we think is an incorrect expectation that the U.S. economy will slow, the Fed will be dovish, inflation is tame, and interest rates are peaking," Bear Stearns economists said in a report earlier this month.

Certainly US consumers haven't slowed down yet. Retail sales surged 2.3 percent in January after a 0.4 percent rise in December.

Moreover, a tightening labor market could fuel expectations of wage inflation. Such expectations, in turn, can make for a self-fulfilling prophecy, ratcheting up inflation and making the Fed's job harder.

While many economists see the job market tightening, some others point to low workforce participation rates as a sign of slack. References by Fed officials, including chairman Ben Bernanke, to concerns about "resource utilization" point especially to the labor market.

Some of Chairman Bernanke's colleagues view core inflation and inflation expectations as "higher than ... desirable," according to the newly released Fed minutes.

"Clearly they feel that they need to be vigilant," says Bank of America economist Peter Kretzmer in New York. That practice has paid off in recent years, he says, by holding inflation expectations down.

In fact, while the core rate of inflation is above where Fed officials prefer, he says what's remarkable is how stable the core rate has held despite last year's surge in oil prices. That's a sharp contrast to the 1970s, but not enough, so far, for the Fed to declare victory in its current efforts.

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Man raped his dying stepdaughter

Thursday, 23 February 2006, 13:24 GMT

A man who raped his unconscious teenage stepdaughter as she lay dying from a head injury has been jailed for nine years at the High Court in Glasgow.

Sentencing Judge Lord Philip told George McKee, 50, he had committed an "appalling crime" which filled members of the public with "horror".
McKee admitted raping Kerry Muchan, 14, in her Paisley home on 23 July, 2005 while she was unconscious.

Kerry died soon after the rape from a head injury caused by a fall.

Lord Philip said: "Any sentence I impose has to reflect the revulsion and horror society feels at this kind of behaviour."

Kerry was drunk and had fallen several times before she was raped.

Lord Philip said: "Instead of looking after her and being concerned for her condition and seeking medical help, you took advantage of her complete helplessness and raped her when she was in a state of complete unconsciousness."

In addition to the nine-year sentence, McKee will be monitored for three years after release.

Stair fall

He pleaded guilty to raping Kerry at her home in Dalskieth Avenue, Paisley.

The court heard Kerry had fallen ill after taking a cocktail of alcohol and drugs.

Her death less than two and a half hours after being raped was caused by head injuries sustained during falls.

These included a fall down stairs after which McKee took her to his bed and raped her.

He was found in bed with his stepdaughter by a relative.

When paramedics arrived, they found a faint pulse.

Extent of injuries

However, she died later in the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

A postmortem examination revealed she was still alive when her stepfather raped her.

It found she had horrific injuries consistent with being raped with considerable force.

The court was told McKee and Kerry's mother Lorna Muchan had lived as man and wife and he treated the girl as his own.

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Over 120 shot dead in Iraq sectarian bloodshed

February 22, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Gunmen have killed at least 127 people in Iraq in sectarian violence that flared after the bombing of a revered Shiite shrine and reprisal attacks on Sunni mosques.

Amid warnings that sectarian violence could spiral further out of control, Iraqi political leaders went into an emergency meeting with President Jalal Talabani.

The bloodshed is likely to complicate the task of Shiite and Sunni political leaders who have pledged to set up a government of national unity in the wake of the December elections which illustrated a deep sectarian split in Iraq.
Eighty bullet-ridden corpses were brought to the Baghdad morgue between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, the deputy director of the morgue, Doctor Kais Mohammed, told AFP.

"I've only been able to carry out autopsies on 25 of them," he said, adding that all had been shot. The bodies, which had been dumped in Baghdad and its suburbs, could not immediately be identified.

Another 47 bodies of men shot to death were discovered along with 10 burned out cars alongside a road near Nahrawan, southeast of Baghdad, police said.

The corpses were found near a brick factory and it was not immediately known if the victims were workers from the factory.

Iraq has already placed its security forces on high alert and cancelled all leave. The night curfew in Baghdad was brought forward from 11:00 pm to 8:00 pm on Wednesday.

The upsurge in killings came after suspected Al-Qaeda linked militants Wednesday morning bombed the 1,000-year-old Imam Ali al-Hadi mausoleum, one of the countries' main Shiite shrines, in the town of Samarra, north of Baghdad.

Early Thursday the police also reported finding the bodies of three Iraqi journalists working for Dubai-based Arabiya satellite television who were kidnapped near Samarra Wednesday evening while reporting on the shrine bombing.

"The bodies of the presenter Atwar Bahjat, of cameraman Adnan Abdallah and of soundman Khaled Mohsen were found early this morning some 15 kilometres (10 miles) north of Samarra," police said.

In other violence, at least 12 people were killed in a powerful roadside bomb attack in Baquba, 60 kilometers (35 miles) northeast of Baghdad, of which eight were Iraqi army soldiers and four other civilians, police said, adding 20 others were wounded.

The shrine bombing prompted global condemnation and appeals for calm, but large-scale demonstrations turned violent with attacks on dozens of Sunni mosques nationwide.

One Sunni was also killed and two wounded in a drive by shooting outside a Sunni mosque in Baquba, police said. On Wednesday, at least six Sunnis were killed in sectarian attacks in Baghdad where one Sunni mosque was set ablaze and others fired upon.

Gunmen also stormed a prison in the southern port city of Basra and lynched 10 suspected Sunni militants. Police said two of those killed were from Egypt, two from Tunisia, one from Saudi Arabia, one from Libya, one from Turkey and four were Iraqis.

Two others were killed in Basra in an attack on offices of a Sunni political party.

The bomb attack on the Samarra shrine destroyed the dome of one of the Shiite Islam's holiest shrines, where the Shiites buried two of their best known imams in the 9th century AD.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari has proclaimed three days of national mourning and decreed that Thursday would be a public holiday.

Jaafari also called on Iraqis to denounce sectarian attacks and "close the road to those who want to undermine national unity".

"They are trying to push us into killing one another," the government said in a statement.

The leader of the Sunni-based Islamic Party, Tareq al-Hashimi, appealed on Shiite religious leaders to control Shiite demonstrations which mushroomed around the country.

"We ask the Marjaiya (Shiite grand ayatollahs) to intervene before it is too late," he told reporters.

Iraq's top Shiite religious authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, has urged his community to remain calm and has forbidden revenge attacks.

But at least 2,000 Shiite demonstrators took to the streets of Kut, 175 kilometres (110 miles) southeast of the capital, Thursday morning shouting "vengeance, vengeance".

A number of Shiite leaders also called for the faithful to rally Friday in Samarra for prayers and a mass demonstration and the government has sent army reinforcements to the town.

The Samarra bombing, carried out by men dressed in police commando uniforms, bore the hallmarks of supporters of Al-Qaeda's Iraq frontman Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who has declared war on the country's Shiites.

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Iraq fury sparks wave of killings

BBC News

Police in Baghdad have recovered the bullet-ridden bodies of 50 people as tensions run high following the bombing of a Shia shrine in Samarra.

A curfew has been called in the Iraqi capital and dozens of Sunni mosques have been attacked across the county.

Three Iraqi journalists working for al-Arabiya TV have been killed near Samarra where they had gone to report on the attack on the shrine.

Iraq's leaders are warning publicly about the dangers of a civil war.
Police said the three journalists were kidnapped and killed after they went to report on Wednesday's attack, which destroyed the golden dome of the al-Askari shrine.

Iraq has seen a wave of violence following the attack on the shrine, which is one of Shia Islam's holiest sites.

"We are facing a major conspiracy that is targeting Iraq's unity," President Jalal Talabani said.

"We should all stand hand in hand to prevent the danger of a civil war."


The journalists for the Dubai-based al-Arabiya TV station had gone to Samarra to report on the bombing and the angry protests that followed.

Their bodies were found early on Thursday about 15km (10 miles) north of the city, police said.

The deaths come amid a wave of anger over the bombing.

Gunmen opened fire on a Sunni mosque in the town of Baquba on Thursday, killing one person and wounding two, police said.

Dozens of Sunni mosques have been attacked and at least 11 people were killed on after gunmen masquerading as police abducted them from a Basra jail on Wednesday.

Police say the victims in the mainly Shia city were suspected Sunni militants, including several foreigners.

Their bodies were later found in the city, amid reports that they had been tortured before being shot.

The killings followed clashes between followers of firebrand Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and Sunnis.

Iraqi political and religious leaders have all called for calm.

But a spokesman for Iraq's top Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said the anger may be hard to contain.

"You wouldn't expect an abrupt or sudden calm, because there are some people whose reaction you can't control," London-based spokesman Fadel Bahar al-Eloum told the BBC.

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Shock over Iraqi reporter's death

Thursday, 23 February 2006, 11:58 GMT

The killing of Atwar Bahjat, who rose to fame reporting from Iraq for both main Arabic satellite news networks, has shocked Arab journalistic circles.

Gunmen kidnapped and killed her and two members of her crew near Samarra where they had gone to cover reaction to Wednesday's shrine bombing.
A member of the al-Arabiya TV team who escaped described how two gunmen showed up as they stood in a crowd of Iraqis.

They dragged Bahjat and her colleagues away and shot them.

Their bodies were found on the outskirts of Samarra, an area racked by sectarian violence since Wednesday's explosion that destroyed the revered Shia Muslim al-Askari shrine.

A spokesman for al-Arabiya said Bahjat, an Iraqi citizen, was a Sunni Muslim. She was one of very few women to work as frontline conflict reporters for Arabic television.

The 26-year-old had only recently moved to Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV from the rival Qatari-owned station al-Jazeera.

The Qatari station has been heavily criticised by US military and political leaders for its coverage in Iraq, including suggestions that correspondents had prior knowledge of insurgency attacks - a charge denied by al-Jazeera.


Al-Arabiya said it lost contact with its team at 1500 GMT, shortly after nightfall. The three bullet-ridden bodies were found the following morning.

Atwar Bahjat filing a report on Wednesday evening, shortly before her murder
Her last report was replayed by al-Arabiya on Thursday morning
The station has been showing the last report Bahjat filed - in fading light beside a road outside Samarra, close to where the team was kidnapped.

They had been about to return to base in the northern city of Kirkuk when two gunmen drove up in a pick-up truck, al-Arabiya correspondent Ahmed al-Saleh reported on the morning news programme.

"The two gunmen started firing their machine-guns in the air, which caused the people to panic and to run away," Saleh said.

"One of them started shouting 'We want the anchorwoman'. Atwar was in the news van and shouted to the crowd to help her.

"The crew tried to speak to the gunmen, but they snatched them and took them an unknown location."

Deadly conflict

The correspondent described Bahjat as a "victim of truth; she loved her country and died because of her impartiality."

The channel named the other dead team members as cameraman Adnan Khairallah and soundman Khaled Mohsen, who both worked for the local Wassan production company.

At least eight employees of al-Arabiya have died in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion, some of them killed by US forces and others by suspected militants.

They are among more than 60 journalists who have fallen in the conflict, making Iraq one of the most deadly and hard-to-cover stories.

In September 2004, al-Arabiya's Mazen al-Tumeizi was killed on camera in Baghdad when a US helicopter opened fire to destroy an abandoned US army vehicle that had been hit by an insurgency attack.

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Bomb attack on Iraq army patrol kills 11

Thu Feb 23, 2006

BAQUBA, Iraq (Reuters) - A bomb targeting an Iraqi army patrol killed 11 people and wounded 21 in the city of Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, on Thursday, an army source said.

Civilians and troops were among the casualties in the blast in the city center. It was not clear what type of bomb was used.

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US military denies Iraq on brink of civil war

Feb 23 10:50 AM US/Eastern

The US military rejected the idea of a brewing civil war in Iraq, saying the number of confirmed major attacks on mosques across the country were only seven.
Major General Rick Lynch, spokesman for the coalition forces in Iraq, said the military had recorded attacks on seven Sunni mosques since the bombing of the revered Shiite shrine in Samarra on Wednesday.

"As of now seven attacks on mosques across Iraq have taken place that resulted in damage to mosques, two Sunni imams (prayer leaders) and one Sunni sheikh were murdered," Lynch told reporters, playing down the sectarian strife.

"Some drive-by shootings against mosques have been reported ... that's where we are. So we are not seeing civil war igniting in Iraq. We are not seeing 77, 80, 100 mosques damaged in Iraq. We are not seeing death on the streets."

But more than 80 bodies of people who had been shot dead were brought to Baghdad's morgue between Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning, according to its deputy director.

In addition, 47 workers from a brick factory were murdered Thursday on the outskirts of the capital, police said.

Iraqi security officials and Sunni leaders said some 30 Sunni mosques were attacked Wednesday following the bombing of the 1,000-year-old Imam Ali al-Hadi mausoleum, a revered Shiite shrine, in the northern town of Samarra.

Lynch said a total of 20 peaceful demonstrations had taken place across Iraq over the past 36 hours, while admitting "there were some demonstrations that were violent."

"We are seeing a confident Iraqi government using capable security forces to calm the storm that was inflammated by a horrendous terrorist attack yesterday against the golden mosque," Lynch added.

He confirmed that all Iraqi security forces were on alert, and "everybody who was on leave has been called back". An overnight curfew has also been extended in Baghdad and Samarra, he said.

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Iran: U.S., Israel Destroyed Iraqi Shrine

Feb 23 3:12 AM US/Eastern

TEHRAN, Iran - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad blamed the United States and Israel on Thursday for the destruction of a Shiite shrine's golden dome in Iraq, saying it was the work of "defeated Zionists and occupiers."
Speaking to a crowd of thousands on a tour of southwestern Iran, the president referred to the destruction of the Askariya mosque dome in Samarra on Wednesday, which the Iraqi government has blamed on insurgents.

"They invade the shrine and bomb there because they oppose God and justice," Ahmadinejad said, referring to the U.S.-led multinational forces in Iraq.

"These passive activities are the acts of a group of defeated Zionists and occupiers who intended to hit our emotions," he said in a speech that was broadcast on state television. Addressing the United States, he added: "You have to know that such an act will not save you from the anger of Muslim nations."

The bombing set off a string of sectarian attacks in Iraq. Angry crowds thronged the streets, militiamen attacked Sunni mosques and at least 19 people were killed.

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Bulgaria returns troops to Iraq

Wednesday, 22 February 2006, 17:23 GMT

Bulgaria's parliament has approved a government decision to send troops back to Iraq for non-combat duties.

The unit, made up of 120 soldiers and 34 support staff, will guard the Ashraf refugee camp north of Baghdad from the middle of next month.
Bulgaria pulled its 400-strong military contingent out of Iraq in December, having lost 13 troops and six civilians since joining US-led forces in 2003.

Strong public opposition had built up to involvement in the Iraq war.

Bulgaria's parliament, which has to endorse any troop deployments, voted by 151 to 15 to approve the new mission.

The Bulgarian unit will be under US control and is expected to remain in Iraq for a year.

The move opens the way for Bulgaria's return to the multinational forces in Iraq, following its military withdrawal in December.

Fellow European nations Bulgaria, Hungary and Ukraine all opted to pull out their forces last year.

But Poland's newly elected conservative government decided in December to extend its military deployment in Iraq until the end of 2006.

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Iran Has No WMD - Russia's Intelligence Chief


Iran has no weapons of mass destruction or material for constructing them, a deputy head of Russia's Foreign Intelligence Service Vladimir Zavershinsky said in an interview with Krasnaya Zvezda daily.

"We have no data that Iran has any nuclear warheads or sufficient amount of plutonium for constructing them," he said
"In our point of view, it is still possible and should be settled in peaceful manner," Zavershinsky stressed. "What is better for world community? If nothing else, there must be a kind of a dialogue with Iran, or it will isolate itself and face sanctions that will make settlement impossible."

"Let's look at the map and think, what will happen if nuclear weapons are used in the region. It will be razed to the ground: problems of Palestine, Israel, Iran and Iraq will be "solved" simultaneously. That is why our diplomats try to keep the Iranian partners within the frames of diplomatic settlement of the problem," Zavershinsky concluded.

However, on Tuesday Iranian nuclear negotiators ended in Moscow without any progress on proposal to enrich Iranian uranium on Russian soil. Tehran 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.

Talks are due to continue in Iran soon.

Comment: What!? You mean the Bushites and Israel are LYING! Please! Say it ain't so!

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Iran nuclear crisis can be resolved, says China

Wed Feb 22, 2006

BEIJING - China, strengthening relations with Iran through trade and energy deals, said there was still room to defuse the international standoff over Tehran's nuclear ambitions through negotiation.

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing appealed to the international community to be calm, restrained and patient and to show flexibility for a resumption of negotiations between Europe and Iran, Xinhua news agency said in an overnight report.

"The days before the March 6 meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) are crucial," Li was quoted as saying after meeting visiting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.
Iran recently announced it was restarting uranium enrichment work but insists it is interested only in civilian nuclear power. The United States and the European Union suspect Iran's program is aimed at eventually making atomic weapons.

The United States and the EU trio of Britain, France and Germany may refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council for sanctions after a March 6 meeting of the IAEA reports on Iran.

China has called on Iran to suspend all uranium enrichment. But it has also repeatedly appealed for a diplomatic solution to the crisis instead of sanctions while deepening economic ties.

China National Heavy-Duty Truck Corp. on Tuesday signed a contract to provide 10,000 trucks to Iran for $350 million, Xinhua said on Thursday.

Booming China became a net exporter of vehicles for the first time last year, mostly through focusing on cheap models focused on developing markets like the Middle East.

Last week, China and Iran were reportedly on the verge of finalizing a multi-billion dollar agreement to develop a major oilfield in Iran.

China is one of Iran's biggest oil export markets, importing roughly 300,000 barrels of Iranian crude a day.

Iran and Russia are discussing a Russian offer to enrich uranium for Iranian power plants on its own soil -- seen by some as a last chance to defuse the row over Iran's nuclear ambitions before Western governments seek sanctions.

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Iran leader faces Holocaust case

Wednesday, 22 February 2006, 21:23 GMT

An Israeli lawyer, Ervin Shahar, says he has asked Germany to charge Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with denying the Holocaust.

Mr Ahmadinejad was widely criticised when he said last year that the Holocaust was a "myth" and that Israel should be "wiped off the map".

Germany passed a law in 1993 forbidding Holocaust denial. It is punishable by up to five years in prison.
Six million Jews were killed by the Nazis during World War II.

Mr Shahar said he wanted the German federal prosecutors' office to take the issue before the constitutional court in the hope that international arrest warrants would be issued against Mr Ahmadinejad.

Correspondents say prosecutors will have to consider whether Germany has jurisdiction and whether President Ahmadinejad enjoys immunity.

International case

"I'm awaiting a response about whether they will file charges but I don't know how long it will take," Mr Shahar told the Reuters news agency.

"It doesn't take days but several months."

On Monday, British historian David Irving was found guilty in Austria of denying the Holocaust and sentenced to three years in prison.

He had pleaded guilty to the charge, based on a speech and interview he gave in Austria in 1989.

Although Mr Ahmadinejad did not deny the Holocaust on German soil, another law passed in 2005 permits the filing of international cases in German courts.

Mr Shahar hopes the case might result in international warrants for Mr Ahmadinejad's arrest, thus preventing the president from entering the US or Europe.

The lawyer believes Germany is the best country in which to file the suit, because it is the "most influential European state" and because the country is directly linked to the case.

The prosecutors' office in Karlsruhe has not yet commented.

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Israeli army kills 2 Palestinians in W. Bank

By Atef Sa'ad
February 23, 2006

NABLUS, West Bank - Israeli soldiers shot dead two Palestinians on Thursday during confrontations in the
West Bank city of Nablus, where the army began an operation against militants five days ago, Palestinian medics said.

Their deaths raised to five the number of Palestinians killed in the Israeli sweep, the army's biggest in the occupied West Bank since the militant Hamas group won a Palestinian election on January 25.
In the latest violence, soldiers shot dead two men after Palestinians threw rocks and petrol bombs, the medics said. One of the men was aged 18 and the other, 24.

The Israeli army said troops fired at Palestinians who either shot at them or threw fire bombs. The Israeli gunfire hit at least three Palestinians, the army added.

Witnesses said the confrontations began after the army expanded the scope of the operation from Balata refugee camp, on the outskirts of Nablus, into the city center, blocking main roads and forcing schools and some businesses to close.

An Israeli military official in Jerusalem said troops were searching the Nablus area for militants suspected of involvement in planning suicide bombings and other attacks. The official did not say how long the operation would last.

The main targets of the raid have been Islamic Jihad, which carried out two suicide bombings in Israel in recent months, and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, a militant group that is part of the mainstream
Fatah movement.

More than two dozen militants have been arrested in the Nablus area and elsewhere in the West Bank since the operation began on Saturday, Israeli military sources said.

Palestinians said more than 50 people had been shot and injured by the army during confrontations, some by live ammunition and others by rubber-coated metal bullets.

In Gaza, Islamic Jihad militants said they fired seven rockets at Israel in response to the Nablus operation, in which a senior commander in the group was killed on Tuesday. The army said five rockets struck in Israel, causing no casualties.

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Israeli general in Jordan apology

Thursday, 23 February 2006, 12:06 GMT

An Israeli general has apologised to Jordanian King Abdullah for saying he might be the last of the Hashemite dynasty to rule Jordan.

Jordan insisted Maj Gen Yair Naveh be reprimanded after he said the king risked being toppled by an "Islamist axis" stretching from Iran to Gaza.

The Israeli government has distanced itself from Gen Naveh's comments.
The Hashemites have ruled since the king's great-grandfather, Abdullah I, became Emir of Trans-Jordan in 1921.

Gen Naveh, the head of the Israeli army's Central Command, sent a letter of apology to his Jordanian counterpart on Thursday morning.

In his letter, he said he was sorry "if my comments upset the Jordanian people and King Abdullah II", Israeli army radio reported.

Speaking at a lecture to journalists and diplomats at the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs on Wednesday, Gen Naveh said an "Islamist axis" was threatening to envelop Jordan.

He said the axis comprised Iran, "which proclaims its desire to destroy Israel", Iraq, "where no one knows what might happen", and the Palestinian territories, where the Palestinian Islamist militant group, Hamas, won last month's legislative elections.

"Given that Jordan is 80% Palestinian, we might - heaven forbid - reach a situation in which Abdullah is the last Hashemite king," he said.

Jordan has a large population of citizens of Palestinian origin who left homes in what is now Israel and the occupied territories, although few observers put the percentage as high as Gen Naveh.

'Promising future'

The Jordanian charge d'affaires in Israel, Omar al-Nadif, criticised Gen Naveh's prediction, warning the remarks would harm relations between Jordan and Israel if "appropriate action" was not taken.

Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz and Israeli army Chief of Staff Dan Halutz have issued a joint statement stressing the comments did not reflect Israel's position and demanding an immediate inquiry into the issue.

"Israel views Jordan as a strong, stable country, with a glorious heritage and promising future," it said.

"Israel wishes to express respect and appreciation for the Hashemite Kingdom's vital contribution to regional stability and peace."

It is not clear if the statement has placated Amman. Correspondents say the Jordanians want Gen Naveh's resignation.

In addition, Gen Naveh said a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority risked becoming an "enemy state".

"One should understand very clearly what the leaders of Hamas say and take them seriously. They have every intention of throwing us into the sea, doing it step by step and getting others to do their dirty work for them."

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They just wanted to go home together

Last update - 09:06 23/02/2006
By Amira Hass

R. had a work meeting in Ramallah. She planned to return home, to East Jerusalem, with M., her partner, who works in Ramallah. They reached the Hizma checkpoint, east of the Pisgat Ze'ev settlement, where there is a permanent Israel Defense Forces post that checks all travelers heading to Jerusalem. You are forbidden to take this route, said the soldiers. Only your husband is allowed. Take the Qalandiyah checkpoint route

R. and M. have been married for about 10 years. He is a Palestinian, born in East Jerusalem, an Israeli resident. She has an ID card from the territories. She has a permit to be in Jerusalem, at home, with her children and spouse.
As soon as they were married they applied to the Israeli Interior Ministry for "family unification." Despite promises, including written promises, she is still waiting for the residency document. They've been through a lot of Kafkaesque travails as a result, but the new prohibition against going home together shocked even them. They thought it might have been a soldier's whim, but a news item in Haaretz last Friday made clear to them that it is a military order, signed by Maj. Gen. Yair Naveh, commander of the IDF in the Judea and Samaria region. The order forbids Palestinians from entering Israel via any route other than 11 special crossings that were allocated only to them - and they can only cross those on foot. Palestinians are not allowed to drive inside Israel. The order also prohibits Israelis from bringing Palestinians into Israel through passages designated for Israelis only.

At the Hizma junction, which is for Israelis only, the "seam administration of the Defense Ministry has not yet hung the signs that it already hung on the road leading from the settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim to Jerusalem. The signs are hung alongside the road and at the military checkpoint, and say, in Hebrew and Arabic, "Passage is for Israelis only. Transporting and/or movement of people who are not Israelis is forbidden through this passage."

The yellow signs explain who is an Israeli. The definition is in the major general's order, and is the standard definition used in military orders declaring "a closed military area" to Palestinians, where only Israelis are allowed to enter. "An Israeli," says the order and the sign, "is a resident of Israel, someone whose residency is in the region [meaning the occupied territory - A.H.] and is an Israeli citizen [a settler - A.H.] or one who is eligible to become an immigrant according to the Law of Return-1950 and someone who is not a resident of the region but has a valid entry permit to Israel [a tourist - A.H.]

A military source confirmed to Haaretz that a decision has been made to allow Palestinians who work for international organizations to travel, with their foreign co-workers, through two passages designated for Israelis only "instead of making them go to the ends of the earth" to passages designated for Palestinians only. The problem with the separate passages is not only that they are remote and distant, as the military source admits; the problem is not only the wasted time involved in reaching those passages, the revolving doors that suddenly are locked, the humiliating crowdedness, the alienating technological devices or that most of the "passages" effectively legitimize more land expropriation and annexation of Palestinian territory to Israel. The problem is that they are another building block in the policy of separate development for Jews and non-Jews, another expression of the mentality that cloaks itself in security but whose real purpose is to preserve the hegemonic privileges of Jews, at the expense of the Palestinians in the territories conquered from them.

This policy of separate development of two demographic groups in the same territorial region - the occupied West Bank, where the Israeli army is the sovereign - began with the first settlement. It continued and deepened as the settlements proliferated and grew into separate demographic-territorial pockets where Israeli law, which does not apply to the original inhabitants of the area, is in force.

The residents of those territorial pockets also won extra rights, which are denied to the native neighbors and the non-Jewish citizens of Israel. Like the right to choose where they want to live, on both sides of the Green Line. Protected by the superiority of the ruling military force, territorial borders were set and bureaucratic limits were placed that a priori limit the separate development of the native Palestinians: The area available to them is gradually shrinking, water quotas are dwindling in comparison with what is made available to Jews, freedom of movement is limited, and economic development is shackled and controlled.

With time, and with international accommodation and the increase in the number of Israelis who benefit from the system, the settlements are being transformed from "Israeli territorial pockets" to Jewish territorial contiguity, in which there are poor, rights deprived, over croweded and inferior "populated pockets" of the Palestinians.

A comparison between flourishing Pisgat Ze'ev on the lands of Hizma and Anata with Hizma and Anata, hemmed in and suffocating behind a horrendous cement wall, proves that the policy of separate development began long before the suicide bombings and the rise of Hamas.

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Hariri probe head meets Syrian FM

Thursday, 23 February 2006, 15:31 GMT

The head of the UN investigation into the killing of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri has met Syria's foreign minister in Damascus, Syria's news agency says.

Talks between Serge Brammertz and Walid al-Muallim on "the means to advance the mission of the commission of inquiry" yielded "positive results", Sana said.

The inquiry has implicated Syrian and Lebanese officials in the killing.
A UN Security Council resolution has threatened further action unless Syria co-operates fully with the probe.

Mr Brammertz's spokeswoman said he had held "a good meeting" with Syrian officials, but did not say who they were.

"He held a working meeting with Syrian officials in which old and new issues of co-operation were discussed," Nasrat Hasan said.

Earlier, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice increased international pressure on Syria by insisting on "full co-operation" with the UN investigation.

"Full co-operation means the Syrians should co-operate in any way the investigators of Mr Brammertz think necessary," she told reporters during a brief visit to the Lebanese capital, Beirut.

Mr Brammertz, the former deputy prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague, replaced German magistrate Detlev Mehlis as head of the UN investigation in January.

Mr Muallim succeeded Farouk al-Sharaa as Syrian foreign minister on 11 February after Mr Sharaa was appointed vice-president.

Comment: While the report supposedly "implicated Syrian and Lebanese officials in the killing", it did so without offering any evidence or proof, kinda like Saddam's weapons of mass cestruction, or even all the "proof" the US has promised but never delivered about Osama's involvement in 9/11.

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Blair: no evidence of rendition flights in UK

Oliver King
Thursday February 23, 2006

Tony Blair insisted today there was "no evidence" that the 200 CIA flights that passed through Britain involved the "extraordinary rendition" of terror suspects to countries where they could face torture.

At his monthly press conference the prime minister dismissed a call by a committee of MPs for the government to investigate whether CIA flights contained any terrorist prisoners.

Mr Blair pointed out that there was a procedure, whereby the US had to ask permission to "render" terror suspects and that they had made it clear they would not send suspects to any country without a guarantee they would not be abused.
He told reporters that people "should not assume" the US was flying terror suspects in and out of Britain without asking permission.

Comment: Uh, why? Because permission had been given?

In their annual human rights report, the Labour-dominated foreign affairs select committee said the government should tell the US administration the "rendition" flights were "completely unacceptable".

The committee wrote: "We conclude that the government has a duty to enquire into the allegations of extraordinary rendition and black sites under the convention against torture, and to make clear to the USA that any extraordinary rendition to states where suspects may be tortured is completely unacceptable."

The Guardian reported this morning that the committee plans to question Jack Straw about the flights, despite the foreign secretary's desire to only talk, in private, to the Commons intelligence committee.

National Air Traffic Services (Nats) confirmed yesterday that two aircraft believed to have been chartered by the CIA made "around 200 journeys" through British airspace within the past five years.

The flights of the two planes, one a Gulfstream, the other a Boeing 737, were identified by the Guardian last September. Britain and the US have not denied reports that the planes were chartered by the CIA. Flight plans do not record the purpose of the flights, a Nats spokesman said yesterday. "They might have been CIA flights taking officials rather than people in orange boiler suits," he added.

Former foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind today accused Mr Straw of "behaving like a dodgy second-hand car salesman" and using "weasel words" in his answers to questions on the flights.

In an article in the Spectator magazine, he wrote: ""As the use of extraordinary rendition has increased enormously since 2001, the obvious explanation is that the Americans have used British airports and airspace but have stopped requesting permission, and the British authorities have acquiesced.

"If he wants to clear the matter up, all that Mr Straw needs to do is ask the United States for an assurance that from now on, no CIA flights landing or refuelling at British airports will carry kidnapped prisoners."

In Brussels a European parliamentary inquiry into CIA "rendition" flights and "secret prisons" in Europe were today told that the US had created "daunting obstacles" to block any investigations.

The New York based Human Rights Watch told a committee of MEPs there was circumstantial evidence indicating the CIA transported suspected terrorists captured in Afghanistan to Poland and Romania, and identified the two countries as possible hosts of secret US-run detention facilities. This allegation was denied by both countries.

Swiss senator Dick Marty, who is leading a Council of Europe investigation, will update MEPs later on his findings so far.

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German court convicts man for insulting Islam

February 23, 2006

DUESSELDORF, Germany - A German court on Thursday convicted a businessman of insulting Islam by printing the word "Koran" on toilet paper and offering it to mosques.

The 61-year-old man, identified only as Manfred van H., was given a one-year jail sentence, suspended for five years, and ordered to complete 300 hours of community service, a district court in the western German town of Luedinghausen ruled.
The conviction comes after a Danish newspaper printed cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad -- sparking violent protests around the world from Muslims who saw the images as sacrilegious and an attack on their beliefs.

Manfred van H. printed out sheets of toilet paper bearing the word "Koran" shortly after a group of Muslims carried out a series of bomb attacks in London in July 2005. He sent the paper to German television stations, magazines and some 15 mosques.

Prosecutors said that in an accompanying letter Manfred van H. called Islam's holy book a "cookbook for terrorists."

He also offered his toilet paper for sale on the Internet at a price of 4 euros ($4.76) per roll, saying the proceeds would go toward a "memorial to all the victims of Islamic terrorism."

The maximum sentence for insulting religious beliefs under the German criminal code is three years in prison.

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Death toll from Nigerian religious riots hits 138

Thu Feb 23, 2006
By George Esiri

ONITSHA, Nigeria (Reuters) - At least 138 Nigerians died in five days of rioting by Muslims and Christians across Africa's most populous nation, where uncertainty over the political future is exacerbating ethnic and religious tensions.

In mainly Christian Onitsha in the southeast, at least 85 people were killed in two days of mob violence, human rights group the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO) said on Thursday.

Christian youths rampaged through the streets attacking Muslims with cutlasses and setting fire to them with petrol to avenge the killing of at least 46 people, mostly Christians, by Muslim mobs in the north.

"Dead bodies were littered in various parts of Onitsha. We counted 60 on Tuesday and 25 on Wednesday," said Emeka Umeh, head of CLO in Anambra state, where Onitsha is located.

"The majority of victims were Hausas but some Ibos were killed too," Umeh said. He gave a detailed breakdown of numbers of bodies sighted in specific areas.

The Hausa are the main ethnic group in northern Nigeria and most of them are Muslims, while the Ibo are the dominant tribe in the southeast and they are almost all Christians.

The Anambra police commissioner declined to give a death toll, but he said about 11,000 people, mostly Hausas, had fled their homes and were camping in army barracks or police stations, too frightened to venture out.

Nigeria's 140 million people are split roughly equally between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south, though sizeable religious and ethnic minorities live in both regions.

Thousands of people have been killed in religious violence since the restoration of democracy in 1999, and killings in one part of the country often trigger reprisals elsewhere.

The killings in Onitsha started when news emerged of Ibo deaths in the north. On Wednesday the tit-for-tat violence spread to Enugu, another Ibo city in the southeast, where seven people were killed.

In Onitsha, Ibo mobs torched mosques and shanty towns where Hausas lived, while thousands of looters invaded Hausa markets.

Comment: The NeoCon orchestrated "clash of civilisations" is progressing well it seems.

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Modern man's trek to Europe revised by 3500 years

By David Keys, London
February 24, 2006

THE ancestors of modern Europeans arrived on the continent up to 3500 years earlier than first thought and colonised it much more rapidly than once believed.

A combination of dating breakthroughs analysed in the latest issue of the science journal Nature is enabling archaeologists to push back the date for Homo sapiens' entry into Europe from 43,000 years to between 44,000 and 46,500 years ago.

The developments also reveal how modern humans crossed the continent from the Balkans to the Atlantic in 2500 years rather than 3500 years, as previously believed.

They would have met stiff resistance from the indigenous Neanderthal population as, generation by generation, they pushed westward as climatic conditions improved, said Paul Mellars, the author of the article.

"The two sides were competing for the same territories, the same animals and fuel supplies and occupying the same cave spaces," said the Cambridge University archaeologist.

"With that kind of competition, the Neanderthals were always going to come out as the losers."

Although other scientists have been pondering the implications of the revised radiocarbon dating, Professor Mellars' work is the first comprehensive review of the subject in a major journal.

For years it was thought that modern humans began arriving in western Europe at least 40,000 years ago and could have competed and mingled with the local population for at least 12,000 years. The revised dating of fossils and artefacts indicates the two species were in close contact for a shorter period.

Humans and Neanderthals, thought to have coexisted for 10,000 years across Europe, are more likely to have lived together for only 6000 years.

The new understanding of when, and how quickly, anatomically modern humans colonised Europe has been made possible by two recent pieces of research that have allowed scientists to push back the limits of chronologically accurate radiocarbon dating to 50,000 years ago, rather than 24,000 years.

Radiocarbon dating is a process of assessing age by counting radioactive decay of carbon in materials.

The studies of stratified radiocarbon in the Cariaco Basin, off Venezuela, and of radiocarbon on fossilised coral formations in the tropical Atlantic and Pacific have given scientists a better idea of the amount of carbon in the atmosphere over the past 50,000 years.

The work allows researchers to more accurately convert carbon years into calendar years.

The developments have also enabled archaeologists to push back the dates for the world's earliest cave paintings, in south-eastern France, from 29,000BC to 34,000BC.

Chris Stringer, human origins researcher at London's Museum of Natural History, said the Nature paper was an important step in the quest to map the spread of human populations.

"This study suggests that the period of potential interaction (between modern humans and Neanderthals) was short, and also favours the idea that the impact of the newcomers was indeed a significant factor in the demise of the Neanderthals, something which has been disputed recently," Mr Stringer said.

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Marines Arrested in Military Gear Thefts

Associated Press Writer
Feb 22 8:37 PM US/Eastern

SAN DIEGO - Several Marines have been arrested on charges of working with a group that stole ballistic vests and other gear from Camp Pendleton and sold it on the Internet, authorities revealed Wednesday.

The investigation unfolded amid widespread criticism that U.S. troops in war zones lacked body armor.
Authorities have arrested nine people so far, including several Pendleton-based Marines, the Department of Homeland Security said in a press release. Additional arrests were expected.

The nine include Erika Jardine, who was sentenced Wednesday to six months in prison by Judge Michael Baylson in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania. The Vista resident and civilian pleaded guilty in November to one count of exporting arms without a license and one count of selling stolen U.S. government property.

The others worked at Pendleton, though it was unclear exactly how many were on military duty and how many were civilian employees at the base north of San Diego, said Dean Boyd, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, part of Homeland Security.

The Marines were arrested last year and were charged in military court with theft of government property, Boyd said.

According to prosecutors, Jardine sold light ceramic plates designed for use inside vests at a time when there were shortages of that part in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Jardine has cooperated extensively with the government and "made great strides in attempting to right her wrongs," prosecutors wrote in a sentencing memorandum.

"(The) government does not believe that (the) defendant engaged in this activity out of any sinister intent to harm the United States; rather, her actions are more likely explained by the same motivation that fuels many - greed," prosecutors wrote.

An ongoing investigation at Camp Pendleton by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service has identified 12 Marines and several civilians as suspects, Homeland Security said. That number includes Marines who were already arrested.

ICE agents in Philadelphia launched an investigation of Jardine in June 2004 and discovered that she was selling illegal gear in Internet auctions on eBay, authorities said. Agents who posed as arms merchants based in Europe allegedly bought 18 ballistic vests from her.

Jardine, who had no previous connection to Pendleton, offered to buy surplus equipment in an ad she placed in a base newspaper, Boyd said. "Someone told her this was a way to potentially make some money," he said.

In one instance, Jardine agreed to send body armor plates to an undercover agent in eastern Pennsylvania with an understanding that the buyer would forward them to Europe, according to court records.

In addition to the vests that undercover agents bought, the investigation has resulted in the recovery of items worth more than $63,100, including 17 vests, 104 lightweight ceramic plates, seven Kevlar helmets, 74 M-16 magazines, two gas masks and 100,766 Iraqi dinars, authorities said.

Comment: Unfortunately for the Bush gang, the amount of hardware these people were selling pales in comparison to the amount required to properly equip all the US troops in Iraq, so it would be awfully hard to use this story to deflect blame away from Bush and his Washington pals.

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Canadian Uni hot under the collar over Wi-Fi safety

By John Leyden
Wednesday 22nd February 2006 15:18 GMT

A Canadian university has limited Wi-Fi networks on campus, not out of information security concerns, but because the long-term safety of the technology is "unproven".

Fred Gilbert, president of Canada's Lakehead University, made the order on the basis of possible health risk from the technology, especially to young people. Inconclusive studies into possible links between radio transmissions and leukemia and brain tumors from, among others, scientists for the California Public Utilities Commission, led Gilbert to make the "precautionary ban".
"All I'm saying is while the jury's out on this one, I'm not going to put in place what is potential chronic exposure for our students. Admittedly that's highest around the locations of the antenna sites and the wireless hot spots, but those are the places people tend to gravitate to because they get the best reception," Gilbert said, Canadian technology website IT Business reports.

The Ontario University makes limited use of WiFi only in areas where fibre-optics links can't reach. Gilbert says he want to see conclusive evidence that the technology is safe before he'll be prepared to approve its wider use.

Robert Bradley, director of consumer and clinical radiation protection at Health Canada, said documents due to be published this year should establish that WiFi networks operating at below current regulatory limits poses no risk to humans. But if the controversy about the possible health risks of mobile phones are anything to go by that's unlikely to reassure everyone.

Jorg-Rudiger Sack, a computer science professor at Carleton University, said that while wireless is useful in environments where people are not likely to be working in fixed locations (such as airport departure lounges) its benefits in campus environments are far more tenuous.

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Ark's Quantum Quirks

February 23, 2006



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