- Signs of the Times for Tue, 28 Feb 2006 -

Editorial: They Thought They Were Free - The Germans, 1933-45

By Milton Mayer Excerpt from pages 166-73 of "They Thought They Were Free" First published in 1955

But Then It Was Too Late

"What no one seemed to notice," said a colleague of mine, a philologist, "was the ever widening gap, after 1933, between the government and the people. Just think how very wide this gap was to begin with, here in Germany. And it became always wider. You know, it doesn’t make people close to their government to be told that this is a people’s government, a true democracy, or to be enrolled in civilian defense, or even to vote. All this has little, really nothing, to do with knowing one is governing.

"What happened here was the gradual habituation of the people, little by little, to being governed by surprise; to receiving decisions deliberated in secret; to believing that the situation was so complicated that the government had to act on information which the people could not understand, or so dangerous that, even if the people could not understand it, it could not be released because of national security. And their sense of identification with Hitler, their trust in him, made it easier to widen this gap and reassured those who would otherwise have worried about it.

"This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.

"You will understand me when I say that my Middle High German was my life. It was all I cared about. I was a scholar, a specialist. Then, suddenly, I was plunged into all the new activity, as the university was drawn into the new situation; meetings, conferences, interviews, ceremonies, and, above all, papers to be filled out, reports, bibliographies, lists, questionnaires. And on top of that were the demands in the community, the things in which one had to, was ‘expected to’ participate that had not been there or had not been important before. It was all rigmarole, of course, but it consumed all one’s energies, coming on top of the work one really wanted to do. You can see how easy it was, then, not to think about fundamental things. One had no time."

"Those," I said, "are the words of my friend the baker. ‘One had no time to think. There was so much going on.’"

"Your friend the baker was right," said my colleague. "The dictatorship, and the whole process of its coming into being, was above all diverting. It provided an excuse not to think for people who did not want to think anyway. I do not speak of your ‘little men,’ your baker and so on; I speak of my colleagues and myself, learned men, mind you. Most of us did not want to think about fundamental things and never had. There was no need to. Nazism gave us some dreadful, fundamental things to think about—we were decent people—and kept us so busy with continuous changes and ‘crises’ and so fascinated, yes, fascinated, by the machinations of the ‘national enemies,’ without and within, that we had no time to think about these dreadful things that were growing, little by little, all around us. Unconsciously, I suppose, we were grateful. Who wants to think?

"To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it—please try to believe me—unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’ that no ‘patriotic German’ could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.

"How is this to be avoided, among ordinary men, even highly educated ordinary men? Frankly, I do not know. I do not see, even now. Many, many times since it all happened I have pondered that pair of great maxims, Principiis obsta and Finem respice—‘Resist the beginnings’ and ‘Consider the end.’ But one must foresee the end in order to resist, or even see, the beginnings. One must foresee the end clearly and certainly and how is this to be done, by ordinary men or even by extraordinary men? Things might have. And everyone counts on that might.

"Your ‘little men,’ your Nazi friends, were not against National Socialism in principle. Men like me, who were, are the greater offenders, not because we knew better (that would be too much to say) but because we sensed better. Pastor Niemöller spoke for the thousands and thousands of men like me when he spoke (too modestly of himself) and said that, when the Nazis attacked the Communists, he was a little uneasy, but, after all, he was not a Communist, and so he did nothing; and then they attacked the Socialists, and he was a little uneasier, but, still, he was not a Socialist, and he did nothing; and then the schools, the press, the Jews, and so on, and he was always uneasier, but still he did nothing. And then they attacked the Church, and he was a Churchman, and he did something—but then it was too late."

"Yes," I said.

"You see," my colleague went on, "one doesn’t see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone; you don’t want to ‘go out of your way to make trouble.’ Why not?—Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.

"Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows. Outside, in the streets, in the general community, ‘everyone’ is happy. One hears no protest, and certainly sees none. You know, in France or Italy there would be slogans against the government painted on walls and fences; in Germany, outside the great cities, perhaps, there is not even this. In the university community, in your own community, you speak privately to your colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, ‘It’s not so bad’ or ‘You’re seeing things’ or ‘You’re an alarmist.’

"And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can’t prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don’t know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. You are left with your close friends, who are, naturally, people who have always thought as you have.

"But your friends are fewer now. Some have drifted off somewhere or submerged themselves in their work. You no longer see as many as you did at meetings or gatherings. Informal groups become smaller; attendance drops off in little organizations, and the organizations themselves wither. Now, in small gatherings of your oldest friends, you feel that you are talking to yourselves, that you are isolated from the reality of things. This weakens your confidence still further and serves as a further deterrent to—to what? It is clearer all the time that, if you are going to do anything, you must make an occasion to do it, and then you are obviously a troublemaker. So you wait, and you wait.

"But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That’s the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked—if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in ’43 had come immediately after the ‘German Firm’ stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in ’33. But of course this isn’t the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.

"And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self-deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying ‘Jewish swine,’ collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in—your nation, your people—is not the world you were born in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God. The system itself could not have intended this in the beginning, but in order to sustain itself it was compelled to go all the way.

"You have gone almost all the way yourself. Life is a continuing process, a flow, not a succession of acts and events at all. It has flowed to a new level, carrying you with it, without any effort on your part. On this new level you live, you have been living more comfortably every day, with new morals, new principles. You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a year ago, things that your father, even in Germany, could not have imagined.

"Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or, more accurately, what you haven’t done (for that was all that was required of most of us: that we do nothing). You remember those early meetings of your department in the university when, if one had stood, others would have stood, perhaps, but no one stood. A small matter, a matter of hiring this man or that, and you hired this one rather than that. You remember everything now, and your heart breaks. Too late. You are compromised beyond repair.

"What then? You must then shoot yourself. A few did. Or ‘adjust’ your principles. Many tried, and some, I suppose, succeeded; not I, however. Or learn to live the rest of your life with your shame. This last is the nearest there is, under the circumstances, to heroism: shame. Many Germans became this poor kind of hero, many more, I think, than the world knows or cares to know."

I said nothing. I thought of nothing to say.

"I can tell you," my colleague went on, "of a man in Leipzig, a judge. He was not a Nazi, except nominally, but he certainly wasn’t an anti-Nazi. He was just—a judge. In ’42 or ’43, early ’43, I think it was, a Jew was tried before him in a case involving, but only incidentally, relations with an ‘Aryan’ woman. This was ‘race injury,’ something the Party was especially anxious to punish. In the case at bar, however, the judge had the power to convict the man of a ‘nonracial’ offense and send him to an ordinary prison for a very long term, thus saving him from Party ‘processing’ which would have meant concentration camp or, more probably, deportation and death. But the man was innocent of the ‘nonracial’ charge, in the judge’s opinion, and so, as an honorable judge, he acquitted him. Of course, the Party seized the Jew as soon as he left the courtroom."

"And the judge?"

"Yes, the judge. He could not get the case off his conscience—a case, mind you, in which he had acquitted an innocent man. He thought that he should have convicted him and saved him from the Party, but how could he have convicted an innocent man? The thing preyed on him more and more, and he had to talk about it, first to his family, then to his friends, and then to acquaintances. (That’s how I heard about it.) After the ’44 Putsch they arrested him. After that, I don’t know."

I said nothing.

"Once the war began," my colleague continued, "resistance, protest, criticism, complaint, all carried with them a multiplied likelihood of the greatest punishment. Mere lack of enthusiasm, or failure to show it in public, was ‘defeatism.’ You assumed that there were lists of those who would be ‘dealt with’ later, after the victory. Goebbels was very clever here, too. He continually promised a ‘victory orgy’ to ‘take care of’ those who thought that their ‘treasonable attitude’ had escaped notice. And he meant it; that was not just propaganda. And that was enough to put an end to all uncertainty.

"Once the war began, the government could do anything ‘necessary’ to win it; so it was with the ‘final solution of the Jewish problem,’ which the Nazis always talked about but never dared undertake, not even the Nazis, until war and its ‘necessities’ gave them the knowledge that they could get away with it. The people abroad who thought that war against Hitler would help the Jews were wrong. And the people in Germany who, once the war had begun, still thought of complaining, protesting, resisting, were betting on Germany’s losing the war. It was a long bet. Not many made it."

Copyright notice: Excerpt from pages 166-73 of They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 by Milton Mayer, published by the University of Chicago Press. ©1955, 1966 by the University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that this entire notice, including copyright information, is carried and provided that the University of Chicago Press is notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the University of Chicago Press. (Footnotes and other references included in the book may have been removed from this online version of the text.)

Milton Mayer
They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45
©1955, 1966, 368 pages
Paper $19.00 ISBN: 0-226-51192-8

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Editorial: Starving Palestinians to Death

Kurt Nimmo

It should now be obvious Israel fully intends to starve as many Palestinians to death as possible. Palestinian land is divided up into “enclaves,” otherwise known as Bantustans, 300 in the West Bank and three in Gaza, peppered with over 120 checkpoints. “The denial of freedom of movement for Palestinians has made any semblance of normal life impossible,” explains War on Want, part of the Make Poverty History campaign. “Collective punishment of this kind means people are unable to get to work, school or even hospital while the arbitrary and random nature of curfews is designed to make it impossible for people and civil institutions to make any plans.”

According to a United Nations reported presented to the Donors Conference last December, “37% of the estimated 3.7 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip had trouble getting food in 2004. Another 27% were at risk of running into such difficulties,” al-Jazeera reported. Nearly half the “Palestinian population was poor, with poverty rate in the Gaza Strip reaching a staggering 65%,” the report continued. “Up to 16% of Palestinians—550,000—were living on $1.5 a day, with the likelihood that the figure will rise to 35% if aid is not forthcoming.” Now that the Palestinians have elected Hamas to represent them, that aid will not be forthcoming.

As the Christian Science Monitor notes, the Palestinians “are the most foreign-aid dependent society on earth” and the Israeli strangulation of this foreign aid will have deadly consequences. “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger,” Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Israeli PM Ehud Olmert, told the Israeli media, a former adviser to the now comatose Ariel Sharon. Weisglass’ starvation diet (ultimately resulting in death) is a continuation and amplification of the Jabotinsky plan to “freeze the peace process,” which of course has nothing to do with peace.

“The real purpose of the ‘disengagement’ is to block negotiations with the Palestinians for dozens of years and to prevent any discussion about the West Bank, while at the same time extending the Israeli settlements in a way that will put an end to any possibility of a future Palestinian state,” noted Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery in October, 2004. In essence, Weisglass has told the Palestinians they remain in their Warsaw ghetto and slowly starve to death, or they can leave and renounce any idea of every returning. Zionism is all about running Palestinians off the land. “I support compulsory transfer,” or ethnic cleansing, declared David Ben-Gurion in 1937. “I don’t see anything immoral in it.” For Zionists, the Palestinians are “the rocks of Judea, as obstacles that had to be cleared on a difficult path,” as Chaim Weizmann saw it. Weisglass’ mentor, Ze’ev Jabotinsky, believed there was “no choice: the Arabs must make room for the Jews of Eretz Israel.” According to Yitzhak Avira, a Haganah Intelligence Service officer, the Zionist view in 1948 was that “the [Palestinian] Arabs are nothing. Every [Palestinian] Arab is a murderer, all of them should be slaughtered, all the [Palestinian] villages that are conquered should be burned.” Of course, in 2006, it would be impossible to kill every Palestinian and burn every Palestinian village, so instead the Zionist state has decided to slowly asphyxiate the Palestinians.

For the Zionists, the election of Hamas is a gift horse—it allows Israel to increase and extend punitive measures against the Palestinians. Last week, Sharon’s inheritor, Ehud Olmert, told Assistant U.S. Secretary of State David Welch that Israel sees “no separation between Abbas and the authority ruled by Hamas, and this must be understood and emphasized,” even though Mahmoud Abbas is considered a pragmatist, that is to say he will bend over backwards to please the Zionists, and has repeatedly called for an end to the al-Aqsa Intifada. However, the Jabotinsky Likudites in control of Israel will not be pleased until the Palestinians, the “rocks of Judea,” emigrate, are dead, or turn invisible.

On the other hand, the nightmare for the Jabotinsky faction is the possibility Hamas may recognize Israel’s right to exist. Hamas designate-PM Ismail Haniyeh indicated such recognition may be forthcoming. “If Israel declares that it will give the Palestinian people a state and give them back all their rights, then we are ready to recognize them,” Haniyeh reportedly told the Washington Post, although he later denied making the statement. “Haniyeh was also quoted as saying Hamas, whose charter calls for Israel’s destruction, was ready to consider talks with Israel if the Jewish state withdrew from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and recognized the ‘right of return’ for Palestinian refugees who fled in the 1948 war and their descendants,” Haaretz reported. Moreover, a “senior Russian diplomat said Sunday that Moscow expects Hamas to make a clear pledge to recognize Israel…. Hamas leader Khaled Meshal will head a delegation set to arrive in Moscow on March 3, the Islamic militant group said in a statement posted on its Web site Friday.”

Israel will never allow a Palestinian state, as envisioned by Hamas and the Palestinian people, and will certainly never allow the “right of return,” that is to say allow Palestinians forcefully removed from their land, many now living in squalid refugee camps, to reclaim their homes. In order to make sure the Palestinians are radicalized into perpetuity and will never agree to exist side-by-side with Israel, the “architect of Israel’s policy of assassinating Palestinian militants,” former head of Shin Bet, Avi Dichter, said late last month that “Israel should hunt down wanted Hamas leaders even if they become ministers in a newly elected Palestinian government…. Dichter singled out by name senior Hamas leader Ismael Haniyeh when asked whether Hamas leaders-turned-ministers would be targeted for assassination despite their possible new roles in a democratically-elected government,” according to Reuters.

Of course, Haaretz does not bother to mention that Menachem Begin, the 6th Prime Minister of Israel, was a terrorist leader responsible for the bombing of the King David Hotel in 1946, killing over 90 people, mostly civilians. Or that so beloved are Israel’s terrorists they have streets named after them (for instance, Avraham Stern, Nazi collaborator, Mussolini follower, and founder of the Lehi terrorist group, responsible for assassinating Count Folke Bernadotte and Lord Moyne, the British minister for Middle East affairs, has a street named after him in Tel Aviv). Dichter’s call for the assassination of the democratically elected Ismael Haniyeh is of course relegated to the back pages of national newspapers in this country. If, on the other hand, Haniyeh called for the assassination of Ehud Olmert, there would be 72 point headlines on the front page of the New York Times.

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Editorial: When Americans No Longer Own America

Thom Hartmann
27 Feb 06

The Dubai Ports World deal is waking Americans up to a painful reality: So-called "conservatives" and "flat world" globalists have bankrupted our nation for their own bag of silver, and in the process are selling off America.

Through a combination of the "Fast Track" authority pushed for by Reagan and GHW Bush, sweetheart trade deals involving "most favored nation status" for dictatorships like China, and Clinton pushing us into NAFTA and the WTO (via GATT), we've abandoned the principles of tariff-based trade that built American industry and kept us strong for over 200 years.

The old concept was that if there was a dollar's worth of labor in a pair of shoes made in the USA, and somebody wanted to import shoes from China where there may only be ten cents worth of labor in those shoes, we'd level the playing field for labor by putting a 90-cent import tariff on each pair of shoes. Companies could choose to make their products here or overseas, but the ultimate cost of labor would be the same.

Then came the flat-worlders, led by misguided true believers and promoted by multinational corporations. Do away with those tariffs, they said, because they "restrain trade." Let everything in, and tax nothing. The result has been an explosion of cheap goods coming into our nation, and the loss of millions of good manufacturing jobs and thousands of manufacturing companies. Entire industry sectors have been wiped out.

These policies have kneecapped the American middle class. Our nation's largest employer has gone from being the unionized General Motors to the poverty-wages Wal-Mart. Americans have gone from having a net savings rate around 10 percent in the 1970s to a minus .5 percent in 2005 - meaning that they're going into debt or selling off their assets just to maintain their lifestyle.

At the same time, federal policy has been to do the same thing at a national level. Because our so-called "free trade" policies have left us with an over $700 billion annual trade deficit, other countries are sitting on huge piles of the dollars we gave them to buy their stuff (via Wal-Mart and other "low cost" retailers). But we no longer manufacture anything they want to buy with those dollars.

So instead of buying our manufactured goods, they are doing what we used to do with Third World nations - they are buying us, the USA, chunk by chunk. In particular, they want to buy things in America that will continue to produce profits, and then to take those profits overseas where they're invested to make other nations strong. The "things" they're buying are, by and large, corporations, utilities, and natural resources.

Back in the pre-Reagan days, American companies made profits that were distributed among Americans. They used their profits to build more factories, or diversify into other businesses. The profits stayed in America.

Today, foreigners awash with our consumer dollars are on a two-decades-long buying spree. The UK's BP bought Amoco for $48 billion - now Amoco's profits go to England. Deutsche Telekom bought VoiceStream Wireless, so their profits go to Germany, which is where most of the profits from Random House, Allied Signal, Chrysler, Doubleday, Cyprus Amax's US Coal Mining Operations, GTE/Sylvania, and Westinghouse's Power Generation profits go as well. Ralston Purina's profits go to Switzerland, along with Gerber's; TransAmerica's profits go to The Netherlands, while John Hancock Insurance's profits go to Canada. Even American Bankers Insurance Group is owned now by Fortis AG in Belgium.

Foreign companies are buying up our water systems, our power generating systems, our mines, and our few remaining factories. All because "flat world" so-called "free trade" policies have turned us from a nation of wealthy producers into a nation of indebted consumers, leaving the world awash in dollars that are most easily used to buy off big chunks of America. As economyincrisis.com notes, US Government statistics indicate the following percentages of foreign ownership of American industry:

· Sound recording industries - 97%
· Commodity contracts dealing and brokerage - 79%
· Motion picture and sound recording industries - 75%
· Metal ore mining - 65%
· Motion picture and video industries - 64%
· Wineries and distilleries - 64%
· Database, directory, and other publishers - 63%
· Book publishers - 63%
· Cement, concrete, lime, and gypsum product - 62%
· Engine, turbine and power transmission equipment - 57%
· Rubber product - 53%
· Nonmetallic mineral product manufacturing - 53%
· Plastics and rubber products manufacturing - 52%
· Plastics product - 51%
· Other insurance related activities - 51%
· Boiler, tank, and shipping container - 50%
· Glass and glass product - 48%
· Coal mining - 48%
· Sugar and confectionery product - 48%
· Nonmetallic mineral mining and quarrying - 47%
· Advertising and related services - 41%
· Pharmaceutical and medicine - 40%
· Clay, refractory, and other nonmetallic mineral products - 40%
· Securities brokerage - 38%
· Other general purpose machinery - 37%
· Audio and video equipment mfg and reproducing magnetic and optical media - 36%
· Support activities for mining - 36%
· Soap, cleaning compound, and toilet preparation - 32%
· Chemical manufacturing - 30%
· Industrial machinery - 30%
· Securities, commodity contracts, and other financial investments and related activities - 30%
· Other food - 29%
· Motor vehicles and parts - 29%
· Machinery manufacturing - 28%
· Other electrical equipment and component - 28%
· Securities and commodity exchanges and other financial investment activities - 27%
· Architectural, engineering, and related services - 26%
· Credit card issuing and other consumer credit - 26%
· Petroleum refineries (including integrated) - 25%
· Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments - 25%
· Petroleum and coal products manufacturing - 25%
· Transportation equipment manufacturing - 25%
· Commercial and service industry machinery - 25%
· Basic chemical - 24%
· Investment banking and securities dealing - 24%
· Semiconductor and other electronic component - 23%
· Paint, coating, and adhesive - 22%
· Printing and related support activities - 21%
· Chemical product and preparation - 20%
· Iron, steel mills, and steel products - 20%
· Agriculture, construction, and mining machinery - 20%
· Publishing industries - 20%
· Medical equipment and supplies - 20%
Thus it shouldn't surprise us that the cons have sold off our ports as well, and will defend it to the bitter end. They truly believe that a "New World Order" with multinational corporations in charge instead of sovereign governments will be the answer to the problem of world instability. And therefore they must do away with quaint things like unions, a healthy middle class, and, ultimately, democracy.

The "security" implications of turning our ports over to the UAE are just the latest nail in what the cons hope will be the coffin of American democracy and the American middle class. Today's conservatives believe in rule by inherited wealth and an internationalist corporate elite, and things like a politically aroused citizenry and a healthy democracy are pesky distractions.

Everything today is driven by profits for multinationals, supported by the lawmaking power of the WTO. Thus, parts for our missiles are now made in China, a country that last year threatened us with nuclear weapons. Our oil comes from a country that birthed a Wahabist movement that ultimately led to 14 Saudi citizens flying jetliners into the World Trade buildings and the Pentagon. Germans now own the Chrysler auto assembly lines that turned out tanks to use against Germany in WWII. And the price of labor in America is being held down by over ten million illegal workers, a situation that was impossible twenty-five years ago when unions were the first bulwark against dilution of the American labor force.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote of King George III in the Declaration of Independence, "He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitutions and unacknowledged by our laws, giving his assent to their acts of pretended legislation…" he just as easily could have been writing of the World Trade Organization, which now has the legal authority to force the United States to overturn laws passed at both local, state, and federal levels with dictates devised by tribunals made up of representatives of multinational corporations. If Dubai loses in the American Congress, their next stop will almost certainly be the WTO.

As Simon Romero and Heather Timmons noted in The New York Times on 24 February 2006, "the international shipping business has evolved in recent years to include many more containers with consumer goods, in addition to old-fashioned bulk commodities, and that has helped lift profit margins to 30 percent, from the single digits. These smartly managed foreign operators now manage about 80 percent of port terminals in the United States."

And those 30 percent profits from American port operations now going to Great Britain will probably soon go to the United Arab Emirates, a nation with tight interconnections to both the Bush administration and the Bush family.

Ultimately, it's not about security -- it's about money. In the multinational corporatocracy's "flat world," money trumps the national good, community concerns, labor interests, and the environment. NAFTA, CAFTA, and WTO tribunals can - and regularly do - strike down local and national laws. Thomas Paine's "Rights of Man" are replaced by Antonin Scalia's "Rights of Corporate Persons."

Profits even trump the desire for good enough port security to avoid disasters that may lead to war. After all, as Judith Miller wrote in The New York Times on January 30, 1991, quoting a local in Saudi Arabia: "War is good for business."

Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author of over a dozen books and the host of a nationally syndicated noon-3pm ET daily progressive talk show syndicated by Air America Radio. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books are "

"What Would Jefferson Do?" and Ultimate Sacrifice.

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U.S. Is Settling Detainee's Suit in 9/11 Sweep

NY Times
28 Feb 06

The federal government has agreed to pay $300,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by an Egyptian who was among dozens of Muslim men swept up in the New York area after 9/11, held for months in a federal detention center in Brooklyn and deported after being cleared of links to terrorism.

The settlement, filed in federal court late yesterday, is the first the government has made in a number of lawsuits charging that noncitizens were abused and their constitutional rights violated in detentions after the terror attacks.

It removes one of two plaintiffs from a case in which a federal judge ruled last fall that former Attorney General John Ashcroft, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other top government officials must answer questions under oath. Government lawyers filed an appeal of that ruling on Friday.
In the settlement agreement, which requires approval by a federal judge in Brooklyn, lawyers for the government said that the officials were not admitting any liability or fault. In court papers they have said that the 9/11 attacks created "special factors," including the need to deter future terrorism, that outweighed the plaintiffs' right to sue.

"A settlement like this is not a precedent, but it's a form of accountability," said Gerald L. Neuman, a law professor at Columbia University who is an expert in human rights law and was not involved in the case. "When the government finds it necessary to settle, that changes the government's incentives. It doesn't mean the government will settle future cases that it makes different calculations about," like another lawsuit, brought as a class action on behalf of hundreds of detainees, that is pending before the same judge.

A spokesman for the Justice Department said officials would not comment on the agreement. But lawyers who represent both the Egyptian, Ehab Elmaghraby, who used to run a restaurant near Times Square, and the second plaintiff, a Pakistani who is still pursuing the lawsuit, described the outcome as significant.

"This is a substantial settlement and shows for the first time that the government can be held accountable for the abuses that have occurred in Abu Ghraib, Guantánamo Bay and in prisons right here in the United States," said one of the lawyers, Alexander A. Reinert of Koob & Magoolaghan.

The lawsuit accuses Mr. Ashcroft and the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, of personally conspiring to violate the rights of Muslim immigrant detainees on the basis of their race, religion and national origin, and names a score of other defendants, including Bureau of Prison officials and guards at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn.

A 2003 report by the Justice Department's inspector general found widespread abuse of the noncitizen detainees at the Brooklyn center after 9/11, and in recent months, 10 of the center's guards and supervisors have been disciplined.

Mr. Elmaghraby, who spent nearly a year in detention, and the Pakistani man, Javaid Iqbal, held for nine months, charged that while shackled they were kicked and punched until they bled. Their lawsuit said they were cursed as terrorists and subjected to multiple unnecessary body-cavity searches, including one in which correction officers inserted a flashlight into Mr. Elmaghraby's rectum, making him bleed.

In a telephone interview from his home in Alexandria, Egypt, Mr. Elmaghraby, 38, said he had reluctantly decided to settle because he is ill, in debt and about to have surgery for a thyroid ailment aggravated by his treatment in the detention center.

"I wish I come to New York, to stay in the court face to face with these people," he said in imperfect English, adding that he had always expected the courts to uphold his claim. "I lived 13 years in New York, I see a lot of big cases on TV. I think the judges is fair."

The government had argued that the lawsuits should be dismissed without testimony because the extraordinary circumstances of the terror attacks justified extraordinary measures to confine noncitizens who fell under suspicion, and because top officials need governmental immunity to combat future threats to national security without fear of being sued.

The federal judge, John Gleeson of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, disagreed, writing in his decision last September, "Our nation's unique and complex law enforcement and security challenges in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks do not warrant the elimination of remedies for the constitutional violations alleged here."

In all, 762 noncitizens were arrested in the weeks after 9/11, mostly on immigration violations, according to government records. Mr. Elmaghraby and Mr. Iqbal were among 184 identified as being "of high interest" to investigators and held in maximum-security conditions, in Brooklyn and elsewhere, until the F.B.I. cleared them of terrorist links. Virtually all were Muslims or from Arab countries.

That in itself is not evidence of discrimination, government lawyers wrote in the brief they filed on Friday with the Appellate Division, Second Department, because "the Al Qaeda terrorists who perpetrated the Sept. 11 attacks were Muslims from certain Arab countries" who "viewed themselves as conducting a religious war."

"There were no clear judicial precedents in this extraordinary context," the appeal brief said, calling the policy of holding people until they could be cleared "a bona fide response to a national catastrophe."

Unlike the detainees covered by the class-action lawsuit, who were held on immigration violations alone, Mr. Elmaghraby and Mr. Iqbal eventually pleaded guilty to minor federal criminal charges unrelated to terrorism: Mr. Elmaghraby to credit card fraud, Mr. Iqbal to having false papers and bogus checks. But they maintain that they did so only to escape the abuse. They were deported in 2003 after serving prison terms.

Mr. Iqbal was one of several detainees who returned to New York this year to give depositions in their lawsuits under conditions of extraordinary security, including the requirement that they be in constant custody of federal marshals and not call anybody. Mr. Elmaghraby did not come because of his ill health and because the settlement was close, said one of his lawyers, Haeyoung Yoon of the Urban Justice Center.

"His circumstances made it extremely difficult for him to continue," Ms. Yoon said. "But I also feel this is really the beginning of justice for what happened in New York and the United States after Sept. 11, the mass arrests, detention and basically disappearance of an entire community."

Mr. Elmaghraby, who had a weekend flea market stand at Aqueduct Raceway in Queens, was picked up on Sept. 30, 2001, in his apartment in Maspeth, Queens, when federal agents were investigating his landlord, apparently because years earlier the landlord, also a Muslim, had applied for pilot training. Mr. Elmaghraby says his wife, an American citizen, left him after being threatened with arrest by an F.B.I. agent when she arrived at his first court hearing.

Mr. Iqbal was arrested in his Long Island apartment on Nov. 2 by agents who were apparently following a tip about false identification cards. In his apartment they found a Time magazine showing the World Trade Center towers in flames and paperwork showing that he had been in Lower Manhattan on Sept. 11, picking up a work permit from immigration services.

The inspector general's report said that little effort was made to distinguish between legitimate terrorism suspects and people picked up by chance, and that clearances took months, not days, because they were a low priority. Among the abuses described in the report - many of them caught on prison videotape - were beatings, sexual humiliations and illegal recording of lawyer-client conversations.

After the report was released, Mr. Ashcroft said he made "no apologies" for finding every legal way to protect the public. Still, officials pledged to improve the system and punish abuses.

Traci L. Billingsley, a spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, said that its own investigation began in April 2004, after federal officials declined to prosecute.

She would not identify the 10 employees disciplined, but said that two had been fired and two demoted, and that the others had received suspensions ranging from 2 to 30 days. She listed the offenses as "lack of candor, unprofessional conduct, misuse of supervisory authority, conduct unbecoming, inattention to duty, failure to exercise supervisory responsibilities, excessive use of force, and physical and/or verbal abuse."

Because of the secrecy surrounding the cases, however, the taint of suspicion has been almost impossible for former detainees to dispel, their lawyers said. In one of the court hearings leading up to the return of the former detainees for depositions, for example, the federal magistrate asked what made them different from anyone else suing the government, "other than their ethnicity."

Ernesto H. Molina Jr., a Justice Department lawyer representing Mr. Ashcroft, replied, "That they came under the umbrella of a terrorist investigation, your honor."

Comment: How come every time a case comes along that requires any member of the Neocon government to testify under oath, they always do everything they can to get out of it, even to settling out of court??? I mean, what is UP with that? Do you suppose that they can't lie under oath? Or that they know that if they get caught doing it, they will lose the support of the Christians who think swearing on the Bible is the most sacred thing...

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Finnish Military Expert: Why the Towers of the World Trade Center collapsed


The airplanes did not a have true effect on the destruction of towers; they were needed to give an excuse for odd Orwellian wars at the same time when the USA is turned into a police nation, like the German Third Reich, to some extent. The towers took the impacts of crushing Boeing 767's. The towers were originally built to take impacts of Boeing 707's, which are approximately of the same size and was widely used in the 1970's.

Fires that kindled from the fuel in the planes were too shortlasting and weak to be able to severely damage the structure of the skyscrapers. Even in the extreme situation, the heat from a kerosene fire cannot threat the durability of a steel trunk. With the temperature of carbohydrate fires that reaches only 825 °C (approx. 1517 °F) steel weakens at 800 °C (approx. 1470 °F) and melts at 1585 °C (approx. 2890 °F). In the skyscrapers of the WTC the surroundings were not at all ideal as there were far too many steel columns and they led heat away from the burning area. WTC 1 burned for 102 minutes and WTC 2 for 56 minutes only. A fire burning much longer, from 10 to 20 hours, could slowly increase the burning temperature up to perhaps 1100 °C (approx. 2010 °F). Provided there is more substance to burn, such a fire will damage concrete and irons, but not severely damage heavy steel constructions.

In mid-February in Madrid, the Windsor Tower (see above) burned for over 20 hours, which led to a fire stronger and hotter than that in the WTC, but even the collapses of the Windsor Tower caused by the very strong and long-enduring fire were minimal and limited to the upper floors. If either of the WTC tower had started to collapse because of fires the collapse would have been limited to only a few of the floors and then stopped.

The impossibility of a gravitational collapse is closer seen in other documents. A collapse would produce large pieces, and does not explain reports of fine dust from concrete, huge amounts of dust and pieces of steel ejected outwards.

Destruction of the towers by explosions is clear according to the photographs and reports of the eye witnesses. In the picture below, a range of cutting charges have just exploded in the down left sector and a typical white cloud is formed outwards from the wall. Down right, explosions are seen as well. Even a flame is seen.

In video tapes taken of the so-called collapses of the WTC, more explosions of these cutting charges can be seen. The explosions advance quickly, with a gap of a couple of floors, cutting the strong steel pillars in the outer wall. The explosions are timed so that it appears that the tower collapses occur in the same timing as in a gravitational collapse. The explosions are not completely synchronized in timing, probably a few charges are triggered by radio, and other charges explode out of the impulses of one of these charges (infrared, pressure wave).

More challenging problems to the demolition men, however, were the central cores of the buildings and the 47 steel pillars more robust than the ones on the outer rounds. The pillars of the central cores were made of steel even 100 + 100 mm thick, thicker than the side armours of a battle tank. Cutting those, even with explosives, is extremely difficult. One would need to surround the whole pillars, every single pillar on every floor intended to get blasted, with powerful cutting charges. These charges would have needed to be placed in such a way that the users of the skyscrapers could not notice these preparations.

As seen in the following pictures, the cores of the towers were not distracted by thousands of powerful cutting charges but by a modern thermonuclear explosive, a small hydrogen bomb. In the picture below, a hydrogen bomb explosion, the bomb having been placed in the cellar and directed to the core, has reached the roof of the tower and the upper parts of the outer walls. On its way up the waves of fire pressure partially penetrated about 100 floors of concrete and steel. Over ten million degrees of heat caused by a hydrogen bomb sublimised all water within the concrete in a moment. Water exploded extremely quickly into 24-fold volume and totally pulverized the concrete. Even people and computers that were in the buildings disappeared turning into heat and light. That is why almost nothing of them was found in the ruins.

Burning radiation is absorbed in steel so quickly that steel heats up immediately over its melting point 1585 °C (approx. 2890 °F) and above its boiling point around 3000 C (approx. 5430 °F). In the pictures down below, super hot groups of steel pillars and columns, torn from wall by pressure wave, are sublimized. They immediately turn into a vaporized form, binding heat as quickly as possible. Bursts upwards, even visible in the picture below, are not possible for a gravitational collapse or for cutting charges which are used horizontally.

[Go to linked site to view photos and explanations]

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When the ingrates met the hypocrites - Inept American self-interest and Conservative toadying in Washington make an unedifying mixture

Irwin Stelzer
London Times
27 Feb 06

TONY BLAIR only recently learnt something that his critics say should have been obvious to him for years: gratitude is not a virtue that George W. Bush has in abundance. The Prime Minister decided to fight shoulder-to-shoulder with America in Iraq because he believes it was in Britain's interests to do so: Saddam Hussein was a threat to Britain's security and to world order, and nurturing the special relationship with America is essential to the preservation of Britain 's influence in world affairs.

He also believes that Western democracies bear a special burden. Long before Bush signed on to the aggressive foreign policy developed by America's neoconservatives, Blair had pushed for just such a forward thrusting approach to the spread of democracy.
In a speech to an audience in Chicago early in 1999 Blair labelled Saddam Hussein a "dangerous and ruthless" man, argued that genocide "can never be a purely internal matter" and insisted that "armed force is sometimes the only means of dealing with dictators."

When intervention is required: "We cannot walk away once the fight is over; better to stay with moderate numbers of troops than return for repeat performances with larger numbers."

As the Prime Minister once remarked, when it comes to foreign policy: "Neoconservatism is merely progressive politics by another name."

Blair's decision to stay with the US on Iraq in the face of enormous domestic political opposition was only the latest of his demonstrations of solidarity with America. Before that, and immediately after the attack on the World Trade Centre, he flew to America to offer his condolences at a Mass at St Patrick's Cathedral, and attended a joint session of Congress to demonstrate publicly Britain's determination to join America's War on Terror. Bush pledged eternal gratitude. And proceeded to ignore Blair's loyalty and his own pledge.

First came steel tariffs, hardly a proper reward for a trading partner's loyalty. Then came the awarding of contracts for the reconstruction of Iraq, a process in which the Bush Administration made no distinction between nations that had supported the German-French onslaught on American policies and allies such as Britain and Poland.

There is more of this sort of thing - most lately, cancelling plans to purchase Rolls-Royce engines for new fighter planes and refusing to share sensitive technology with Britain - but you get the idea.

Unfortunately, the Bush Administration has not been content with mere inattention to the commercial interests of its most loyal ally. It has been equally inattentive to the Prime Minister's political interests. For more months than was decent, the White House refused to appoint an Ambassador to Great Britain, denying Blair an on-site spokesman to help to defend the Anglo-American position on Iraq. Then, earlier this month, Bush compounded that felony. The Tories are on a political upswing just as Blair is entering one of the most difficult periods of his tenure in Downing Street, during which he has continued his support for Bush's War on Terror by pushing for longer detention periods for suspected terrorists, identity cards and curbs on glorification of terror. In the excruciatingly difficult trade-off between civil liberties and national security, Blair has come down on the side of security, the Tories on the side of civil liberties. While a top Tory contingent was seeking the prestige that a visit to the White House can confer, their colleagues were voting to make America's War on Terror more difficult, and to embarrass the Prime Minister.

Bush, ignoring that prestige for the Tories can do Blair no good, played along with what can only be described as Tory hypocrisy.

Messrs Hague, Fox and Osborne were granted audiences with Administration officials, enabling them to claim that the Bush team recognises them as a future government.

At the same time as the Tory front-benchers were cosying up to the Bush team, they were signalling voters back home that they have no sympathy for Bush's foreign or domestic policies, announcing to the British press (the US press showed no interest in their visit) that they planned to remonstrate with their American hosts for the Administration's failure to sign the Kyoto protocol, and to chastise the Bush team for its inept handling of the occupation and reconstruction of Iraq. The best of all worlds: recognition by the world's sole superpower, from whose leaders the Tory three then distance themselves lest they antagonise the anti-Bush, anti-war voters to whom the newly liberal Conservatives are appealing.

But it takes two to play that game. The Tories' duplicity is matched only by the Bush Administration's ingratitude. Administration officials received the Tory delegation even though its leader, David Cameron, told the Lib Dems "we both agree" on a host of issues, including Iraq. At best, he was unaware of the Lib Dems' preference for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq; at worst, he favours a policy that both the Prime Minister and the President have contended would be a gift to the terrorists.

Of course, the Bush Administration might have been forgiven its insensitivity to Blair's political interests if the visiting Conservatives are as intellectually and politically in tune with their American counterparts as their predecessors once were. But that is far from the case. Bush favours vouchers as a way of improving the education system; Cameron has announced his opposition to such a liberating reform. Bush favours personal healthcare savings accounts as a way to improve the efficiency with which medical care is provided; Cameron specifically rejects the British version, patients' passports, in favour of funnelling more money into the centralised NHS. Bush favours making room in the public square for religion; Cameron does not. Bush instinctively opposes regulations on business; Cameron groups capitalism with communism as two forms of "extremism", and calls for regulation of business to produce more socially responsible behaviour.

Harry Truman once said that, if you want a friend in Washington, buy a dog. Americans who appreciate what Blair has meant to the Anglo-American relationship hope that Bush's ingratitude does not send the Prime Minister or his successors shopping for a French poodle or a dachshund.

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Graduates versus Oligarchs

By Paul Krugman
New York Times
27 Feb 06

What we\'re seeing isn\'t the rise of a fairly broad class of knowledge workers. Instead, we\'re seeing the rise of a narrow oligarchy: income and wealth are becoming increasingly concentrated in the hands of a small, privileged elite.

Ben Bernanke\'s maiden Congressional testimony as chairman of the Federal Reserve was, everyone agrees, superb. He didn\'t put a foot wrong on monetary or fiscal policy.

But Mr. Bernanke did stumble at one point. Responding to a question from Representative Barney Frank about income inequality, he declared that \"the most important factor\" in rising inequality \"is the rising skill premium, the increased return to education.\"

That\'s a fundamental misreading of what\'s happening to American society. What we\'re seeing isn\'t the rise of a fairly broad class of knowledge workers. Instead, we\'re seeing the rise of a narrow oligarchy: income and wealth are becoming increasingly concentrated in the hands of a small, privileged elite.

I think of Mr. Bernanke\'s position, which one hears all the time, as the 80-20 fallacy. It\'s the notion that the winners in our increasingly unequal society are a fairly large group - that the 20 percent or so of American workers who have the skills to take advantage of new technology and globalization are pulling away from the 80 percent who don\'t have these skills.

The truth is quite different. Highly educated workers have done better than those with less education, but a college degree has hardly been a ticket to big income gains. The 2006 Economic Report of the President tells us that the real earnings of college graduates actually fell more than 5 percent between 2000 and 2004. Over the longer stretch from 1975 to 2004 the average earnings of college graduates rose, but by less than 1 percent per year.

So who are the winners from rising inequality? It\'s not the top 20 percent, or even the top 10 percent. The big gains have gone to a much smaller, much richer group than that.

A new research paper by Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon of Northwestern University, \"Where Did the Productivity Growth Go?,\" gives the details. Between 1972 and 2001 the wage and salary income of Americans at the 90th percentile of the income distribution rose only 34 percent, or about 1 percent per year. So being in the top 10 percent of the income distribution, like being a college graduate, wasn\'t a ticket to big income gains.

But income at the 99th percentile rose 87 percent; income at the 99.9th percentile rose 181 percent; and income at the 99.99th percentile rose 497 percent. No, that\'s not a misprint.

Just to give you a sense of who we\'re talking about: the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center estimates that this year the 99th percentile will correspond to an income of $402,306, and the 99.9th percentile to an income of $1,672,726. The center doesn\'t give a number for the 99.99th percentile, but it\'s probably well over $6 million a year.

Why would someone as smart and well informed as Mr. Bernanke get the nature of growing inequality wrong? Because the fallacy he fell into tends to dominate polite discussion about income trends, not because it\'s true, but because it\'s comforting. The notion that it\'s all about returns to education suggests that nobody is to blame for rising inequality, that it\'s just a case of supply and demand at work. And it also suggests that the way to mitigate inequality is to improve our educational system - and better education is a value to which just about every politician in America pays at least lip service.

The idea that we have a rising oligarchy is much more disturbing. It suggests that the growth of inequality may have as much to do with power relations as it does with market forces. Unfortunately, that\'s the real story.

Should we be worried about the increasingly oligarchic nature of American society? Yes, and not just because a rising economic tide has failed to lift most boats. Both history and modern experience tell us that highly unequal societies also tend to be highly corrupt. There\'s an arrow of causation that runs from diverging income trends to Jack Abramoff and the K Street project.

And I\'m with Alan Greenspan, who - surprisingly, given his libertarian roots - has repeatedly warned that growing inequality poses a threat to \"democratic society.\"

It may take some time before we muster the political will to counter that threat. But the first step toward doing something about inequality is to abandon the 80-20 fallacy. It\'s time to face up to the fact that rising inequality is driven by the giant income gains of a tiny elite, not the modest gains of college graduates.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

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The media, politicians, and academics do NOT understand who bloggers, and what blogs, are

by John in DC
27 Feb 06

The problem the media, politicians and pundits make when calling the left side of the blogosphere \"extreme\" or \"far left\" is that they confuse anger and activism with a particular wing of politics. They\'re not the same thing. And in today\'s Democratic party, or rather, in today\'s America, to be angry at the way the country is heading, to think President Bush is a failure as a president, is not the same thing as having a particular political affiliation, let alone one to the \"extreme.\"
Markos goes off, rightly on, on an article that talks about bloggers being \"extreme\" and \"activists.\" The idea that liberal bloggers are mostly far-left blood-throwing loons has been a common misconception that\'s been repeated by the media, politicians, and pundits.

First problem, you\'re mixing up the conservative blogs with the liberal blogs, and lumping them all together, when in fact both sides are quite different.

The top conservative blogs are very conservative, and do represent the far-right of the Republican party.

But on the liberal side of the blogosphere, things are completely different. On average, I\'d say, the top liberal blogs are not far-left, nor are they conservative Democrats. The top bloggers tend to be middle of the road Democrats (or liberals) who occasionally veer left and right of Democratic center depending on the issue (I for example am very pro gay rights, but I also tend to be more hawkish on foreign and defense policy - though I don\'t appreciate being lied to and tricked into unnecessary wars costing $300 billion and thousands of American lives).

The problem the media, politicians and pundits make when calling the left side of the blogosphere \"extreme\" or \"far left\" is that they confuse anger and activism with a particular wing of politics. They\'re not the same thing. And in today\'s Democratic party, or rather, in today\'s America, to be angry at the way the country is heading, to think President Bush is a failure as a president, is not the same thing as having a particular political affiliation, let alone one to the \"extreme.\"

Those who would call us \"extreme\" confuse our extreme anger with extreme politics. And they\'re two entirely different things.

Markos, for example, was a Ronald Reagan Republican as a kid. So was I. Markos is former military, and I even worked for a Republican Senator. Sure, we\'ve both strayed from our political upbringing, but still, it\'s a bit difficult to pigeonhole us as per se \"extreme\" far lefties. I\'m sure if you go through the bona fides of other \"top\" bloggers on the left, you\'ll run the gamut of those with far-left, center left, and perhaps even \"right\" left (i.e., conservative dems).

And in fact, if you look at many of the top folks on the online left nowadays - Markos, me, David Brock, and Arianna, for example - the one thing many of us share in common isn\'t our far left politics, but rather our being former Republicans who grew fed up with far-right politics. And that fed-up-ness, I think, we share with a growing segment of America, left and center.

Once upon a time, to be a liberal activist was, perhaps, to be per se a VERY liberal activist. That just isn\'t the case any more. Certainly there are many VERY liberal activists, and more power to them, and many of them are bloggers. But today\'s Democratic/liberal/independent activist is, I believe, less motivated by a particular ideology as he/she is by a growing horror as to the direction our country is heading. If anything, rather than being \"extreme\" ourselves, we have become activists and bloggers as a RESULT of the extreme turn that Republican politics has taken over the past few decades, and the extreme direction it has taken our country.

I\'m jet lagging massively, so I may not be enunciating this as clearly as I\'d like, but journalists, politicians and pundits are naive and old-thinking if they believe that liberal bloggers are per se \"liberal,\" meaning to the far-left extreme of the Democratic party. I do believe that only a few of us, if any, are to the far right of the Democratic party, and thank God for that - but only because conservative Democrats aren\'t Democrats at all. Conservative Democrats are pretty much akin to far-right Republicans. The mainstream of Democratic activists is (are?) politically mainstream and lefty Democrats (i.e, a mix). Whereas the mainstream of Republican party activists are far-right and Christian-right (no mix at all).

Thus, please don\'t confuse the current make-up of the Republican party and its activists, and its polarization of power to the far-right extreme, with the current make-up of the Democratic and Independent parties and its activists, with its polarization to the very very very angry of all political stripes.

And somewhere down the line, I\'m going to write a second piece about how \"angry\" does not equal \"crazy.\"

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From Cash to Yachts, Convicted Congressman Set Bribery Rates

ABC News
Feb. 27, 2006

Prosecutors call it a corruption case with no parallel in the long history of the U.S. Congress. And it keeps getting worse. Convicted Rep. Randall "Duke" Cunningham actually priced the illegal services he provided.

Prices came in the form of a "bribe menu" that detailed how much it would cost contractors to essentially order multimillion-dollar government contracts, according to documents submitted by federal prosecutors for Cunningham's sentencing hearing this Friday.

"The length, breadth and depth of Cunningham's crimes," the sentencing memorandum states, "are unprecedented for a sitting member of Congress."
Prosecutors will ask federal Judge Larry Burns to impose the statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

The sentencing memorandum includes the California Republican's "bribery menu" on one of his congressional note cards, "starkly framed" under the seal of the United States Congress.

The card shows an escalating scale for bribes, starting at $140,000 and a luxury yacht for a $16 million Defense Department contract. Each additional $1 million in contract value required a $50,000 bribe.

The rate dropped to $25,000 per additional million once the contract went above $20 million.

At one point Cunningham was living on a yacht named after him, "The Dukester," docked near Capitol Hill, courtesy of a defense company president.

'I Broke the Law'

Cunningham was a member of the House Appropriations Committee from 1998 to 2005 and served on the subcommittee that provides funding for the Defense Department.

One of the defense contractors, Mitchell Wade, pleaded guilty Friday to giving Cunningham more than $1 million in bribes of cash, cars and antiques over four years in exchange for more than $150 million in government contracts for his company, MZM Inc., in Washington, D.C. "I take full responsibility for my actions," Wade told Judge Ricardo Urbina. The four corruption charges carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

The government's sentencing memorandum against Cunningham also details, with photographs included, the luxury vehicles, yachts, homes, antique furniture and Persian rugs that Cunningham received as bribes.

"In my life, I have had great joy and great sorrow," Cunningham said after admitting his crimes. "And now I know great shame."

Cunningham pleaded guilty Nov. 28 and apologized in a tearful resignation statement. "I broke the law, concealed my conduct and disgraced my office," he said. "I know that I will forfeit my freedom, my reputation, my worldly possessions, most importantly, the trust of my friends and family."

His lawyers say he has since cooperated fully with the widening government investigation of congressional bribery, and they will ask the judge to go outside the sentencing guidelines and impose a lighter sentence than 10 years.

Comment: We don't think Cunningham's crimes are "unprecedented," he's just one that got caught...

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The World That Dick Built

By Sheila Samples
27 Feb 06

This is the guy who pulled the trigger of the gun that fired the round that hit his friend that ruined the hunt and shed some light on the world that Dick built...

Four days after blasting 78-year-old hunting partner Harry Whittington in the face, neck and chest with birdshot, vice president Dick Cheney emerged from his fortified bunker to make a snarling, unapologetic taped announcement to Fox News' Brit Hume that basically amounted to what he did on his own time was his own business. Dick said shooting Harry the previous Saturday was one of the worst days of his life -- which is quite an admission considering the fate of those who have been in Dick's crosshairs over the years.

Harry, no longer Dick's friend but a mere "acquaintance," emerged from the hospital two days later to apologize to the media for the delay he had caused by having an operation, a heart attack and a shotgun pellet in his heart. Harry begged Dick and his family to forgive him for the trouble he and his family had caused them. "We all assume certain risks in whatever we do, whatever activities we pursue," Harry said. "And regardless of how experienced, careful and dedicated we are, accidents do and will happen -- and that's what happened last Friday..."

Last Friday? Now -- if you're a reporter, wouldn't you be a teeny bit interested in whether the shooting occurred on Friday rather than Saturday? Wouldn't you wonder why it took three hours to get Harry to a hospital 20 minutes away when Dick's ambulance was on the scene, why it took four days -- perhaps five -- for Dick to go public? Perhaps it would even cross your mind that Dick might be waiting to see which story he should peddle. If Harry died, he could send ranch owner Katharine Armstrong out to say she had seen it all and it was poor, dead Harry's fault. If he survived, Dick would suck it in and somberly tell a sympathetic Hume -- "Ultimately I'm the guy who pulled the trigger that fired the round that hit Harry..."

But even then, Dick and Katharine couldn't keep their stories straight. Katharine first said she was sitting in a car and wasn't aware of an accident until she saw the Secret Service guys running toward the group. Then she remembered she was right there at Dick's elbow and saw the whole thing, a bonafide eye-witness and the only one qualified to deal with the media. According to Katharine, there was "zero, zippo" drinking that day, but then she remembered there might have been a "few" beers consumed, and even Dick admitted he "popped a top" at the pre-hunt barbeque.

Members of the press corps might wonder why Dick chose to return to the house and fix himself a cocktail rather than accompany his victim to the hospital. They might also be interested in comments made by Dick's Secret Service agents who say Dick was "clearly inebriated" when he bagged Harry. Capitol Hill Blue's Doug Thompson reports, "According to those who have talked with the agents and others present at the outing, Cheney was drunk when he gunned down his friend and the day-and-a-half delay in allowing Texas law enforcement officials on the ranch where the shooting occurred gave all members of the hunting party time to sober up."

Thompson says the agents reported that members of the hunting party, including Dick, consumed alcohol "before and during the hunting expedition," and their report also noted that "Cheney exhibited 'visible signs' of impairment, including slurred speech and erratic actions."

But reporters don't ask such questions in Dick's world. Those who are not house-broken are, at a minimum, paper-trained. They don't ask questions in the house or even close to the house for fear of tracking the resulting mess in on the rug. Their yapping and barking on-camera at White House press secretary Scott McClellan concerned just one issue -- they should have been told first. "We have cell phones," they wailed. "We have Blackberries! We're the press corps -- we should have been given the story before a local newspaper!"

There's a big difference between being "given" a script to copy and hitting the investigative trail to dig up what really happened. Apparently, no one in the mainstream media dared question Dick's final taped account. Not one questioned the 14-hour delay in the Kenedy County Sheriff's Department getting access to Dick nor wondered why the Sheriff would send a deputy to dutifully jot down Dick's account and take depositions from other parties without asking pertinent questions about alcohol consumption, or why Dick can't get it straight whether he "turned right," as he said several times, or "counter-clockwise" as he is saying now.

While reporters were frenziedly chasing their tails, Internet reporter Joseph Ehrlich wrote an excellent piece wherein he addressed both questions and answers in this tangled affair. Ehrlich meticuously laid out the timeline, the elaborate behind-the-scenes machinations, and Dick and Katharine's ridiculous efforts to cover up what actually occurred, to include having the Secret Service bump the time of the shooting to 5:50 PM to put the sun in Dick's eyes when he pulled the trigger. Ehrlich even quotes Harry's daughter who, in a strange revelation, said that after her father was shot, he lay there for such a long time "he was unsure whether he was being taken to the hospital or the morgue."

Such a ghoulish remark is more than passing strange, yet the media failed to pick up on it. Little attention has been given to poor Harry other than he is a 78-year-old Austin attorney, and the victim of yet another Dick Cheney "accident."

In truth, Harry, like those with whom he cavorts, is a multi-millionnaire, and a major Republican player and donor. Bush appointed Harry to chair the Texas regulatory Funeral Service Commission in 1999, just in time to force the commission to settle a whistleblower lawsuit shortly before the 2000 election. Harry managed to keep Bush out of the courts and out of jail in the burgeoning Funeralgate scandal that theatened to engulf not only Bush but Robert Waltrip, owner of Service Corportion International (SCI), the largest funeral corporation in Texas; Joe Albaugh, Bush crony, campaign manager and former FEMA director; Texas Attorney General (now Senator) John Cornyn; and, of course, Bush counsel (now U.S. Attorney General) Alberto Gonzales.

Dick's world is an incestuous world whose core is Texas power and money -- lots of it. As Sydney Blumenthal writes in Salon, both Dick and Karl Rove literally owe their present positions to Katharine and her family. "Anne Armstrong, Katharine's mother, was on the board of Halliburton that made Dick Cheney its chief executive officer," Blumenthal said. "Tobin Armstrong, Katharine's father, financed Karl Rove & Co., Rove's political consulting firm." Blumenthal says Katharine is a lobbyist for Houston law firm Baker Botts, founded in the 19th Century by the family of James A. Baker, former secretary of state, Poppy Bush's buddy and the architect of the 2000 presidential coup d`etat that gave the presidency to Bush and Dick.

The people who inhabit Dick's world possess such power they can silence an entire White House press corps in mid-yelp -- such arrogance they can turn away law enforcement officers and delay an investigation until a more convenient time, even though a man has been shot in the face. Bill Moyers, formerly of PBS, now President of the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy, very succinctly sums them up...

"It is a Dick Cheney world out there," Moyers writes, "--a world where politicians and lobbyists hunt together, dine together, drink together, play together, pray together and prey together, all the while carving up the world according to their own interests."

Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma writer and a former civilian US Army Public Information Officer. She is a regular contributor for a variety of Internet sites. Contact her at: rsamples@sirinet.net

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It's Usually About Money

By Charley Reese
Lew Rockwell
27 Feb 06

Conflicts are often about money. One factor that might account for the Bush administration's hostility toward Iran is Iran's plan to open a bourse – an oil exchange – in March in which Iranian oil will be sold for euros, not dollars.
Now, a short, oversimplified history of money is in order. At the end of World War II, the Bretton Woods Agreement stipulated that the U.S. dollar would be redeemable in gold – for foreigners. In other words, any foreign government or business that got antsy about the value of the dollar and held a bunch of them could redeem them for gold at a predetermined rate.

Thanks to the spendthrift ways of our federal government, by the Nixon administration Europeans had such large claims against American gold that President Nixon unilaterally abrogated the agreement. No, he said, you can't redeem your dollars in gold, and the value of the dollar will simply float on the open market.

Shortly thereafter, another agreement was made with the oil-producing countries in the Persian Gulf that in exchange for protection, they would always sell their oil for dollars. Thus was born the petrodollar. This allowed the U.S. to continue its spendthrift ways and, in effect, pass on its inflation to the rest of the world. The dollar was and remains the world's reserve currency.

Now, if the Iranian market in euros is successful, then more and more people might decide that they don't need to hang on to their dollars and might start dumping them for euros or some other currency or commodity. That could, in effect, toss inflation back to the U.S. – and not just creep-along inflation, but sudden and painful inflation.

Unlike foreigners, Americans are captive of legal-tender laws. These laws say you have to accept the Federal Reserve note as payment for all debts and goods and services, no matter how worthless it becomes. Remember, a fiat currency like ours, backed up by nothing, has no inherent value. Its value is determined only by its purchasing power. If the U.S. currency is greatly devalued, Americans might find themselves in the same position as the German people in the old Weimar Republic.

If you get a Social Security check for $400 and all of a sudden it will only buy you $50 worth of goods and services, the U.S. government can say to you, "Tough beans, peasant." Remember, the more devalued a currency becomes, the higher the prices people will demand. The poor Germans in the 1920s got to the point where they needed a wheelbarrow to carry enough inflated currency to the market to buy a loaf of bread.

Now, a respected Arab journalist does not believe that America's hostility to Iran has anything to do with the bourse, scheduled to open in March. Her reason for that statement is that she is sure Bush has no understanding whatsoever of world financial affairs. I tend to agree with her. I think our hostility toward Iran is made in the same place our hostility toward Iraq was made – in Israel.

Nevertheless, we as Americans should be more concerned about the fate of the dollar than the fate of Iran or Israel. The present monetary system, based on a fiat dollar and a privately owned central bank misnamed the Federal Reserve System, is a handy way to rob the American people of the fruit of their labor.

Even creeping inflation that we have suffered since World War II in effect steals money from our paychecks, our pension checks, our savings accounts and our insurance policies. Many years ago, when I bought a $10,000 life-insurance policy, $10,000 was a good sum of money. Today it will buy about $2,000 worth of goods and services. The federal process of deficit spending and monetizing the debt has stolen the remaining $8,000.

The federal deficit and the huge trade deficits do mean something. They mean we are heading for big trouble that we won't be able to bomb our way out of.

© 2006 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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US Coast Guard warned about ports

BBC News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

The US Coast Guard aired security concerns over an Arab firm trying to take over six key ports, the Senate hears.

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Gregoire: Port security, not ownership, is troubling

AP News
Tue 28 Feb, 2006

OLYMPIA, Wash. (AP) -- Gov. Chris Gregoire, Democratic governor of one of America's leading port states, said Monday she's more concerned about overall port security than the furor over foreign operators....

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Venezuela oil offer puts heat on a U.S. governor

By Mark Pazniokas
The Hartford Courant
28 Feb 06

Should Gov. M. Jodi Rell accept deeply discounted heating oil for Connecticut's poor if it comes – via a gubernatorial rival – from the government of Venezuela's socialist president, Hugo Chávez?

It is a delicate question that Rell must soon answer thanks to a deal arranged by one of her Democratic opponents, New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr.
DeStefano, whose administration has worked on the deal since December, said Wednesday that Rell shouldn't hesitate, even if Chávez is a harsh critic of the Bush administration.

"She's clearly more concerned about George Bush's politics than about the needs of families in Connecticut," DeStefano said.

But Rell, a Republican who has kept her distance from President Bush, said she is awaiting an opinion from Attor-ney General Richard Blumenthal as to the legality of Connecticut's involvement.

"If there is no problem, if it's perfectly OK, it may be something that we would like to pursue as a state," Rell said. "Anytime we can get reduced oil we would like to take advantage of it."

Rell is the latest elected official in the Northeast to struggle with how to respond to the largesse of Chávez, who since last fall has enjoyed filling a need unmet by the Bush administration – helping the U.S. poor cope with increased oil prices.

Chávez' offer of low-priced oil in Boston, Philadelphia, New York and other cities has been derided as grandstanding by congressional critics, but welcomed by those who oversee dwindling fuel-oil assistance programs.

By consulting the Democratic attorney general, the Republican governor will have some political cover for her eventual decision, which is sure to become a gubernatorial issue no matter what she decides.

If she endorses the oil deal, Rell is setting up DeStefano to claim credit for securing 4.8 million gallons of oil that would help 24,000 families each save a couple hundred dollars this heating season.

A negative response would leave Rell open to criticism that she kept aid from the poor, perhaps for fear of insulting Bush.

DeStefano, who is competing with Stamford Mayor Dannel P. Malloy for the Democratic nomination, is already critical.

"Instead of putting pressure on Big Oil, which is enjoying record profits, she is standing in the way, parroting Bush," DeStefano said. "To me that is inexplicable."

Rell, who called the popularly elected Chávez a "dictator," raised national and international political concerns in her letter requesting a legal opinion from Blumenthal.

"For Connecticut to accept discounted oil from, essentially, the government of Venezuela may be extremely distasteful because of that nation's strident criticism of the United States government," Rell said in her letter. "On the other hand, the U.S. already imports plenty of oil from Venezuela at regular prices."
Chávez led a failed coup attempt in 1992, then was elected president in 1998 – and quickly became antagonistic to the United States. He has courted Cuba, Iraq and Libya and may be best known to the American public as the leader Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson wanted the U.S. to assassinate.

To help with aid to the Connecticut poor, Venezuela would provide the oil at a 40 percent discount to Citizens Energy, the nonprofit corporation run by former U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II in Boston. Citizens would sell the oil at market prices, then use the proceeds to underwrite energy aid to Connecti-cut families. Citizens has done similar deals throughout the Northeast.

Kennedy is poised to come to Connecticut to launch the program with representatives of Citgo, a Vene-zuelan oil subsidiary, said DeStefano's spokesman, Derek Slap.

To administer the aid, they need the participation of 12 private nonprofit agencies that already administer a state energy assistance program. Such participation would be expedited by Rell's endorsement.

DeStefano said Rell's focus should be local, not national or international.

"To start talking about 'dictator Chávez,' I mean it's bizarre," he said. "Rell goes to work every day in a city with the second-highest child poverty rate."

Comment: Of course, if Bush and the Neocons were doing anything to help the poor and middle classes, such opportunities would not exist for Chavez...

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Police reveal how Bush can\'t wave and pedal at same time

By Arifa Akbar
27 February 2006

The police report describes him as a \"falling object\" who lost control of his bicycle after trying to pedal and wave at the same time.

So ends the mystery of how President George Bush collided with a police officer while cycling at Gleneagles on the first day of the G8 summit last year.
Security was tight at the Perthshire resort on 6 July, amid fears that anti-globalisation protesters would try to storm the hotel where the leaders of the world\'s richest countries had gathered. Mr Bush was cycling in the grounds when he waved and shouted to a group of Strathclyde police officers: \"Thanks, you guys, for coming.\" This triggered a serious case of wobbles and he ended up injuring a constable.

The police report, obtained by Scotland on Sunday, gives a blow by blow account of the lead-up to the accident. It reads: \"[The unit] was requested to cover the road junction on the Auchterarder to Braco Road as the President of the USA, George Bush, was cycling through.

\"At about 1800 hours the President approached the junction at speed on the bicycle. The road was damp at the time. As the President passed the junction at speed he raised his left arm from the handlebars to wave to the police officers present while shouting \'thanks, you guys, for coming\'.

\"As he did this he lost control of the cycle, falling to the ground, causing both himself and his bicycle to strike [the officer] on the lower legs. [The officer] fell to the ground, striking his head.\"

The report goes on to divulge how the President skidded five metres along the road, after knocking down the constable, who was off duty for 14 weeks after the accident.

It reads: \"The President continued along the ground for approximately five metres, causing himself a number of abrasions. The officers ... then assisted both injured parties.\" The injured officer received a phone call of apology from President Bush while he was on his way to Perth Royal Infirmary, where he was treated for damage to his ankle ligaments and issued with a pair of crutches. The cause was officially recorded as: \"Hit by moving/falling object.\"

The White House initially claimed that the policeman had recovered within hours of the prang.

The President\'s injuries - including scrapes to his hands - were by comparison, far less severe although his dignity may have suffered a dent. Afterwards, he shrugged off the incident, joking that he should start \"acting my age\".

The collision could have led to President Bush receiving a police fine and Strathclyde Police last year issued three fixed penalty notices as part of a crackdown on rogue cyclists.

While cycling may be one of Mr Bush\'s regular pastimes, this was not the first time he lost control on a bike. In 2004, he fell off his mountain bike on his ranch in Texas, suffering grazes on his face, knees and right hand. This latest incident follows in a series of embarrassing pratfalls by the President. In January 2002, he grazed his cheek after falling when he choked on a pretzel. Then in June 2003, he fell off his hi-tech Segway scooter.

Comment: Not a surprise, he can\'t think and talk at the same time either.

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Poll: Bush Ratings At All-Time Low

Feb. 27, 2006

The latest CBS News poll finds President Bush's approval rating has fallen to an all-time low of 34 percent, while pessimism about the Iraq war has risen to a new high.

Americans are also overwhelmingly opposed to the Bush-backed deal giving a Dubai-owned company operational control over six major U.S. ports. Seven in 10 Americans, including 58 percent of Republicans, say they're opposed to the agreement.

CBS News senior White House correspondent Jim Axelrod reports that now it turns out the Coast Guard had concerns about the ports deal, a disclosure that is no doubt troubling to a president who assured Americans there was no security risk from the deal.

The troubling results for the Bush administration come amid reminders about the devastating impact of Hurricane Katrina and negative assessments of how the government and the president have handled it for six months.
In a separate poll, two out of three Americans said they do not think President Bush has responded adequately to the needs of Katrina victims. Only 32 percent approve of the way President Bush is responding to those needs, a drop of 12 points from last September's poll, taken just two weeks after the storm made landfall.

Mr. Bush's overall job rating has fallen to 34 percent, down from 42 percent last month. Fifty-nine percent disapprove of the job the president is doing.

For the first time in this poll, most Americans say the president does not care much about people like themselves. Fifty-one percent now think he doesn't care, compared to 47 percent last fall.

Just 30 percent approve of how Mr. Bush is handling the Iraq war, another all-time low.

By two to one, the poll finds Americans think U.S. efforts to bring stability to Iraq are going badly – the worst assessment yet of progress in Iraq.

Even on fighting terrorism, which has long been a strong suit for Mr. Bush, his ratings dropped lower than ever. Half of Americans say they disapprove of how he's handling the war on terror, while 43 percent approve.

In a bright spot for the administration, most Americans appeared to have heard enough about Vice President Dick Cheney's hunting accident.

More then three in four said it was understandable that the accident had occurred and two-thirds said the media had spent too much time covering the story.

Still, the incident appears to have made the public's already negative view of Cheney a more so. Just 18 percent said they had a favorable view of the vice president, down from 23 percent in January.

Americans were evenly split on whether or not Cheney's explanation of why there was a delay in reporting the accident was satisfactory.

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Blair Approval Rating Falls to 28% in Britain

Angus Reid Global Scan
February 27, 2006

Few adults in Britain are content with Tony Blair, according to a poll by Ipsos-MORI published in The Sun. 28 per cent of respondents are satisfied with their prime minister's performance, down nine points since November.

In May 2005, British voters renewed the House of Commons. The governing Labour party secured 356 seats, followed by the Conservatives with 197 and the Liberal Democrats with 62. Blair has served as prime minister since 1997.

In October 2004, Blair announced that he would retire at the end of his third term. Current chancellor of the exchequer Gordon Brown has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Blair.

Yesterday, Dennis Healey-a former chancellor of the exchequer considered as one of the Labour party's elder statesmen-suggested that Blair should step down soon, saying, \"I think Tony's showing he is losing his grip, and the sooner Gordon takes over the better.\" 31 per cent of respondents are satisfied with the current government, down two points in three months.

The next election must be held on or before Jun. 3, 2010. Sitting prime ministers can dissolve Parliament and call an early ballot at their discretion.

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Many Americans Urge for Immediate Iraq Withdrawal

Angus Reid Global Scan
24 Feb 06

Many adults in the United States believe the coalition effort should end soon, according to a poll by the Sacred Heart University Polling Institute. 47.8 per cent of respondents think the U.S. should pull out of Iraq now, while 44.1 per cent disagree.
The coalition effort against Saddam Hussein's regime was launched in March 2003. At least 2,286 American soldiers have died during the military operation, and more than 16,800 troops have been injured.

On Jan. 31 during his State of the Union address, U.S. president George W. Bush said a "sudden withdrawal of our forces from Iraq would abandon our Iraqi allies to death and prison." There are currently 132,000 American soldiers in the country.

On Feb. 22, suspected insurgents placed two bombs inside Samarra's Shiite Golden Mosque. The event has led to two days of sectarian violence. More than 130 people have died, and more than 180 Sunni mosques have been destroyed.

Yesterday, Bush appealed for calm, declaring, "The voices of reason from all aspects of Iraqi life understand that this bombing is intended to create civil strife. (...) I do want to assure the Iraqi people that the U.S. government is serious in our commitment in helping to rebuild that holy site. We understand its importance to Iraqi society and we want to stand side-by-side with the government in making sure that beautiful dome is restored."

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Bush is hemorrhaging support of the big boys - The Con, the (former) neo-con, the Con-man and the \'end of neoconservatism.\'

by Evan Derkacz
February 27, 2006.

In the past week, the Bush administration and the neocons have been hemorrhaging bigtime supporters so badly you\'d be forgiven for assuming there\'s another Cheney hunting party in the works.

First, in an upcoming book, Project for a New American Century signatory Francis \"the End of History\" Fukuyama declares that neoconservatism \"should be discarded on to history\'s pile of discredited ideologies.\"

Wow. The Alex Massie article also notes that \"Mr Fukuyama now thinks the war in Iraq is the wrong sort of war, in the wrong place, at the wrong time.\"

Strike one.
Then Bill O\'Reilly advocated for withdrawal from Iraq on his radio show due to Crazy People Underestimation -- the idea that we couldn\'t have known just how crazy \"these people\" really were.

Strike two.

Now, National Review editor at large William F. Buckley believes that \"One can\'t doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed... and the administration has, now, to cope with failure.\"

Strike three.

Each has, of course, found a way to remain at the president\'s side and to actually, with a presumably straight face, blame the very outcome predicted by progressives well before the fighting started as the result of one or two unforseeable hitches in an otherwise noble and practical plan. But the war? On that the con, the former neo-con and the con-man agree... it\'s over.

But what will the reaction be? Well, Glenn Greenwald has the \"tar and feather him\" catalogue of Right Wing reactions to Howard Dean\'s relatively tame statement from two months ago that the war was a failure. Will Michelle Malkin, Ben Shapiro, the Jawa Report (\"Howard Dean Traitor and Ally to Zaqueery\") and the, uh, National Review be so unkind to these three \"traitors\"?

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Thousands to protect Bush in India

27 Feb 06

NEW DELHI - About 5,000 personnel including snipers, commandos and U.S. marines using helicopters, bomb detectors and electronic jammers will protect President George W. Bush during his visit to India this week, officials said on Monday.

The personnel would be part of a three-ring security cordon around the U.S. president and First Lady
Laura Bush who are due to arrive in New Delhi for their maiden visit to the subcontinent on Wednesday, they said.

\"He is a much-threatened VVIP. We are fully geared,\" Manish Agarwal, a top Delhi police officer involved in security operations, told Reuters.

His comments came as Delhi police arrested two suspected militants belonging to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a Pakistan-based militant group fighting Indian rule in disputed
Kashmir, the Press Trust of India news agency said.

Two pistols and 3 kg (6.6 lb) of the explosive material RDX were seized from them, it said.

Islamist militants are frequently arrested or killed in gun battles with police in the Indian capital and it was not immediately known if the men arrested on Monday had anything to do with Bush\'s visit.

Besides the inner-ring of security forces, an outer cordon would be deployed \"as deep as possible\" to thwart any attack by a rocket launcher, Agarwal said.

\"A rocket launcher normally has a 1,000-meter (3,300 ft) range so we would be deployed in forests around venues,\" he said. \"We will have 360-degree rooftop surveillance around all the venues.\"

Agarwal said precautions were also being taken to quell \"snap protests\" by Muslim groups and communist parties who have announced plans to demonstrate against Bush.

Bush is also due to briefly visit India\'s southern IT hub of Hyderabad, where some Muslim groups have launched a signature campaign against his policies.

Hyderabad, which has a sizeable Muslim population, has witnessed big protests against the publication of cartoons lampooning Prophet Mohammad.

Bush would hop around the city in helicopters to take part in events scheduled for him, police said.

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Bush Humiliated in India: Just Not Welcome

By Arundhati Roy
27 Feb 06

On his triumphalist tour of India and Pakistan, where he hopes to wave imperiously at people he considers potential subjects, President Bush has an itinerary that\'s getting curiouser and curiouser.

For Bush\'s March 2 pit stop in New Delhi, the Indian government tried very hard to have him address our parliament. A not inconsequential number of MPs threatened to heckle him, so Plan One was hastily shelved. Plan Two was to have Bush address the masses from the ramparts of the magnificent Red Fort, where the Indian prime minister traditionally delivers his Independence Day address. But the Red Fort, surrounded as it is by the predominantly Muslim population of Old Delhi, was considered a security nightmare. So now we\'re into Plan Three: President George Bush speaks from Purana Qila, the Old Fort.

Ironic, isn\'t it, that the only safe public space for a man who has recently been so enthusiastic about India\'s modernity should be a crumbling medieval fort?
Since the Purana Qila also houses the Delhi zoo, George Bush\'s audience will be a few hundred caged animals and an approved list of caged human beings, who in India go under the category of \"eminent persons.\" They\'re mostly rich folk who live in our poor country like captive animals, incarcerated by their own wealth, locked and barred in their gilded cages, protecting themselves from the threat of the vulgar and unruly multitudes whom they have systematically dispossessed over the centuries.

So what\'s going to happen to George W. Bush? Will the gorillas cheer him on? Will the gibbons curl their lips? Will the brow-antlered deer sneer? Will the chimps make rude noises? Will the owls hoot? Will the lions yawn and the giraffes bat their beautiful eyelashes? Will the crocs recognize a kindred soul? Will the quails give thanks that Bush isn\'t traveling with Dick Cheney, his hunting partner with the notoriously bad aim? Will the CEOs agree?

Oh, and on March 2, Bush will be taken to visit Gandhi\'s memorial in Rajghat. He\'s by no means the only war criminal who has been invited by the Indian government to lay flowers at Rajghat. (Only recently we had the Burmese dictator General Than Shwe, no shrinking violet himself.) But when Bush places flowers on that famous slab of highly polished stone, millions of Indians will wince. It will be as though he has poured a pint of blood on the memory of Gandhi.

We really would prefer that he didn\'t.

It is not in our power to stop Bush\'s visit. It is in our power to protest it, and we will. The government, the police and the corporate press will do everything they can to minimize the extent of our outrage. Nothing the happy newspapers say can change the fact that all over India, from the biggest cities to the smallest villages, in public places and private homes, George W. Bush, the President of the United States of America, world nightmare incarnate, is just not welcome

Arundhati Roy, the Booker Prize-winning author of \'The God of Small Things\' and \'The Ordinary Person\'s Guide to Empire\', lives in New Delhi, India.

© 2006 The Nation

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Iraq makes terror 'more likely'

BBC News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

A global poll for the BBC suggests people believe the Iraq war has increased the likelihood of terrorist attacks.

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Setting sail away from America: The world finds it\'s too hard to do business with the US

By Stephen Foley in New York
26 February 2006

Across the world, friends and free traders are concerned about the course set by the US. They say that while its motives are diverse - national security, energy supply concerns, the protection of investors - there is a single conclusion: it has become riskier, costlier and harder to do business with the US and, unless that changes, fewer people will want to.

Lucrative opportunities taken away on a political whim; the danger of being locked up by an over-mighty government agency; the brick wall of protectionism - the business community expects to do battle with all these things in an emerging market.

Yet this suddenly seems to be a description of doing business in that most developed of all markets, the United States of America.

In the UK, in the cash-rich Gulf states and in fast-growing India, different incidents in the past week have made people ask the same question: is it worth doing business with the US?

Critics say the outcry over the £3.9bn acquisition of P&O by Dubai Ports World, which will transfer the running of five US ports to a state-controlled Middle Eastern company, has exposed the US Congress at its xenophobic worst. But it has also revealed more starkly than ever the protectionist tide that is waxing in America under the guise of national security.

The acquisition was due to close this Thursday, but DP World has had to delay completing the deal as it faces a protracted Congressional and legal fight to keep hold of the US contracts, which account for 6 per cent of the business it is buying.

The refrain is, why can\'t an American company run our ports? Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton is among the senators proposing legislation to guarantee precisely that.

Bill Reinsch, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, says it has been a profoundly depressing episode, and one that could have lasting repercussions if it derails a planned free-trade deal between the United Arab Emirates and the US. \"These are not societies given to a lot of rhetoric - they are not going to hold a press conference and call off negotiations,\" he explains. \"But what would happen is that things would slow down - forms of co-operation would not happen any more.\"

When a firestorm of protest threatens to drive a Middle Eastern company out of the US, it is only business sense to look for opportunities elsewhere. The Dubai government has begun to build up a modest aerospace industry, launching a components business that might, one day, mean it is less reliant on the US for aircraft. Its new airport management business is targeting contracts in India.

Arab businessmen have expressed their concern. The Egyptian billionaire investor Naguib Sawiris says Arabs would be tempted to look away from the US for asset acquisitions, for investment opportunities and for business contracts.

And a country that had a trade deficit of $726bn (£415bn) last year can ill afford the \"paranoia\" about inward investment and foreign trade exposed by the DP World furore, adds Mr Reinsch.

But even supposedly enlightened business media such as The Wall Street Journal and CNBC television are setting up the debate as \"globalisation versus security\" - eliminating the possibility that these might be compatible, perhaps even mutually reinforcing.

Protectionism has already won some significant victories. Last year, the Hong Kong-based oil company Cnooc blamed \"unprecedented political opposition\" in the US for its decision to abandon a $18.5bn bid for the Californian oil firm Unocal - what would have been the biggest Chinese takeover of a US company.

Law makers are now pushing a number of Bills that would impose economic sanctions unless greater efforts are made to narrow a trade deficit with China that hit $202bn last year, the largest bilateral imbalance ever. The US government has promised tougher enforcement of trade laws and created a China enforcement taskforce to try to placate Congress.

Stephen King, managing director of economics at HSBC, says no one should be surprised that US politicians are reacting to the emergence of China and the threat it poses to US manufacturing jobs. \"The employment risk is immediate and it is the workers that vote.\" There have been periods in the past, he adds, where the US has become more protectionist in order to get through a period of economic upheaval - notably against Japan in the late 1980s.

And it is not just Far East and Middle East companies that might be tempted to disengage with the US.

\"Any businessman with any connection with the US, however tenuous, should think very carefully about the potential peril they face. Right here, right now, I would not advise even to engage in a business relationship with the US.\"

These were the warning words of a British man, David Bermingham - one of the \"NatWest Three\" bankers who lost their appeal last week against extradition to the US to face trial for Enron-related fraud.

An Anglo-American treaty agreed in the wake of the 11 September terrorist attacks means prosecutors are no longer required to prove there is a case to answer in order to secure an extradition. It has been used as many times to pursue white-collar suspects as it has terrorists - and only the UK has ratified it. The treaty has been used not only against the three bankers but also the 62-year-old former chief executive of taxi maker Morgan Crucible. Ian Norris faces extradition to answer charges over alleged price fixing.

Douglas McNabb, the Texan lawyer who appeared as an expert witness for the defence at the NatWest hearing, says that law-abiding businessmen have much to lose if they are wrongly accused. \"Maybe the US is wrong and you have to go through the whole process to prove it. My view is that in order to have a chance of winning an international extradition case, you have to have counsel from both countries, and you have to have a lot of money.\"

It is not just law enforcement agencies in the US that are reaching across the seas, but US financial regulators too. Foreign businesses with American shareholders have become subject to the provisions of the onerous Sarbanes-Oxley legislation pushed through after the collapse of Enron. This demands that executives take legal responsibility for the accuracy of their financial results, and insists on upgraded audit procedures that are estimated to cost a minimum $1m per year. Bigger companies with significant operations in the US just have to grin and bear it - BP said it was spending $100m a year on Sarbanes-Oxley compliance - but others have decided to ditch their US shareholders.

In the UK, ITV has engineered a complex financial restructuring to that effect and O2 and Rank have delisted their shares from Wall Street. French media giant Vivendi Universal is doing the same and Mexican and Israeli companies are among dozens to have retrenched to their home stock markets.

This is a trickle that is likely to turn into a deluge. Delisted companies currently remain subject to the reporting rules of Sarbanes-Oxley if they have over 300 US shareholders, so the saving might seem negligible. But US regulator the Securities and Exchange Commission is proposing to ease that rule. BT is among the UK companies to have signalled it would like to delist from the US if it can also escape the clutches of Sarbanes-Oxley.

As significant are the companies that are not now coming to Wall Street at all. Clara Furse, chief executive of the London Stock Exchange, says it has benefited as international companies choose to list in London instead - both on the main market and on AIM, which is attracting growth companies that might once have been Nasdaq bound.

In the insurance industry, the US is demanding that foreign-owned reinsurers deposit big sums in a trust fund to compensate US partners should they fail. This was slammed last week by Lloyd\'s of London chairman Lord Levene as discriminatory and totally unacceptable.

Perceived discrimination in other areas might also damage America\'s economic future. The head of chip maker Intel, Craig Barrett, has complained repeatedly that the US is losing out on international talent because of the tightening of immigration laws after 9/11, which led to lots of hi-tech engineers losing their work permits. Intel, Microsoft and others are channelling investment into India that might otherwise have stayed in the US.

The issue flared up again last week when a prominent Indian scientist was refused a visa for the US because of concern that his work had chemical weapons applications. The case of Goverdhan Mehta, who is president of the International Council for Science, a Paris-based group of national scientific academies, has caused a storm in India.

Mr Reinsch says the Mehta case is another blow to the US\'s attempts to attract the world\'s best scientists. Meanwhile, Tony Blair has been moved to warn US politicians not to use the war on terror as \"a back door route to protectionism\". And the NatWest Three ruling prompted Sir Digby Jones, director-general of the CBI, to call the US \"an ignorant bully\".

Across the world, friends and free traders are concerned about the course set by the US. They say that while its motives are diverse - national security, energy supply concerns, the protection of investors - there is a single conclusion: it has become riskier, costlier and harder to do business with the US and, unless that changes, fewer people will want to.

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Blueprint to give power to the people

By Andrew Grice, Political Editor
27 February 2006

A plan to revive Britain\'s dying democracy is launched today by an inquiry which warns that the parties are \"killing\" politics.

The independent Power commission calls for sweeping changes to prevent a dangerous gulf between politicians and the people becoming even wider. Its ideas include allowing the public to initiate legislation and a shift of power back from the Government to Parliament, following criticism that Tony Blair has neutered it.

The report will make uncomfortable reading for the Prime Minister, whose critics accuse him of eroding trust in politicians by going to war in Iraq on a false prospectus. But it could provide some of the key planks of a drive to re-engage people in politics already planned by Gordon Brown, his most likely successor.
The commission, chaired by the QC and Labour peer Helena Kennedy, calls for an end to the first-past-the post voting system - the goal of The Independent\'s Campaign for Democracy launched last May after Labour won a majority of 67 with only 35 per cent of the votes cast and the support of just 22 per cent of the electorate. The campaign has won the support of almost 40,000 people.

Power to the People, the commission\'s 311-page report, demands a new electoral system \"to ensure that all votes count by having some influence on the final outcome of an election.\" Although it does not propose a specific method, it suggests its goals could be met by the single transferable vote system in which voters mark candidates in order of preference.

However, the inquiry concludes that electoral reform is only \"one part of a wider \'jigsaw\' of change required to re-engage the British people with their political system\".

Other proposals include lowering the voting age to 16; a £10,000 limit on individual donations to parties; decentralising power from central to local government; curbs on the powers of party whips; more powers for select committees to hold ministers to account and tighter rules on media ownership.

It bluntly warns politicians they must learn from the success of single-issue pressure groups which shows that people have disengaged from parties rather than political issues.

Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws said: \"Politics and government are increasingly in the hands of privileged elites as if democracy has run out of steam. Too often citizens are being evicted from decision-making - rarely asked to get involved and rarely listened to. As a result, they see no point in voting, joining a party or engaging with formal politics.

\"Parliament has had many of its teeth removed and government is conducted from Downing Street.\"

Mr Brown, who will speak at the report\'s launch today and at a follow-up London conference on 25 March, believes it is a \"vital contribution\" to the debate on how to empower the British people and intends to drive forward the agenda within government in the run-up to the next election.

The Chancellor believes problems such as low voter turnout, youth disengagement, falling party membership and the long-term decline of trust in politicians owe more to the political system than civic culture.

Mr Brown wants Labour\'s reforms to be based on devolving power from the centre - greater local autonomy over spending, granting people more power over local services and encouraging new forms of involvement such as neighbourhood agreements on service delivery.

He believes that constitutional reform must be a central issue for Labour\'s manifesto - including Lords reform, restricting the power of the executive, and doing more to promote trust in politics and the public realm.

On the eve of the report, the Government moved to head off one of its 30 recommendations - that 70 per cent of the members of the House of Lords should be elected. Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the Lord Chancellor, announced that talks would be held with other parties in the hope of reaching a consensus on the powers and composition of the second chamber. \"Lords reform is unfinished business,\" he said. The move is a U-turn for Mr Blair, who has previously opposed a \"hybrid\" second chamber which is partly elected and partly appointed.

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The Case for Impeachment - Why we can no longer afford George W. Bush

An excerpt from an essay in the March 2006 Harper's Magazine. By Lewis H. Lapham.
February 27, 2006

A country is not only what it does-it is also what it puts up with, what it tolerates. -Kurt Tucholsky

"To take away the excuse," [Conyers] said, "that we didn't know." So that two or four or ten years from now, if somebody should ask, "Where were you, Conyers, and where was the United States Congress?" when the Bush Administration declared the Constitution inoperative and revoked the license of parliamentary government, none of the company now present can plead ignorance or temporary insanity, can say that "somehow it escaped our notice" that the President was setting himself up as a supreme leader exempt from the rule of law.
On December 18 of last year, Congressman John Conyers Jr. (D., Mich.) introduced into the House of Representatives a resolution inviting it to form "a select committee to investigate the Administration's intent to go to war before congressional authorization, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, encouraging and countenancing torture, retaliating against critics, and to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment."

Although buttressed two days previously by the news of the National Security Agency's illegal surveillance of the American citizenry, the request attracted little or no attention in the press-nothing on television or in the major papers, some scattered applause from the left-wing blogs, heavy sarcasm on the websites flying the flags of the militant right.

The nearly complete silence raised the question as to what it was the congressman had in mind, and to whom did he think he was speaking?

In time of war few propositions would seem as futile as the attempt to impeach a president whose political party controls the Congress; as the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee stationed on Capitol Hill for the last forty years, Representative Conyers presumably knew that to expect the Republican caucus in the House to take note of his invitation, much less arm it with the power of subpoena, was to expect a miracle of democratic transformation and rebirth not unlike the one looked for by President Bush under the prayer rugs in Baghdad.

Unless the congressman intended some sort of symbolic gesture, self-serving and harmless, what did he hope to prove or to gain? He answered the question in early January, on the phone from Detroit during the congressional winter recess.

"To take away the excuse," he said, "that we didn't know." So that two or four or ten years from now, if somebody should ask, "Where were you, Conyers, and where was the United States Congress?" when the Bush Administration declared the Constitution inoperative and revoked the license of parliamentary government, none of the company now present can plead ignorance or temporary insanity, can say that "somehow it escaped our notice" that the President was setting himself up as a supreme leader exempt from the rule of law.

A reason with which it was hard to argue but one that didn't account for the congressman's impatience. Why not wait for a showing of supportive public opinion, delay the motion to impeach until after next November's elections? Assuming that further investigation of the President's addiction to the uses of domestic espionage finds him nullifying the Fourth Amendment rights of a large number of his fellow Americans, the Democrats possibly could come up with enough votes, their own and a quorum of disenchanted Republicans, to send the man home to Texas. Conyers said:

"I don't think enough people know how much damage this administration can do to their civil liberties in a very short time. What would you have me do? Grumble and complain? Make cynical jokes? Throw up my hands and say that under the circumstances nothing can be done? At least I can muster the facts, establish a record, tell the story that ought to be front-page news."

Which turned out to be the purpose of his House Resolution 635-not a high-minded tilting at windmills but the production of a report, 182 pages, 1,022 footnotes, assembled by Conyers's staff during the six months prior to its presentation to Congress, that describes the Bush Administration's invasion of Iraq as the perpetration of a crime against the American people. It is a fair description. Drawing on evidence furnished over the last four years by a sizable crowd of credible witnesses-government officials both extant and former, journalists, military officers, politicians, diplomats domestic and foreign-the authors of the report find a conspiracy to commit fraud, the administration talking out of all sides of its lying mouth, secretly planning a frivolous and unnecessary war while at the same time pretending in its public statements that nothing was further from the truth.[1] The result has proved tragic, but on reading through the report's corroborating testimony I sometimes could counter its inducements to mute rage with the thought that if the would-be lords of the flies weren't in the business of killing people, they would be seen as a troupe of off-Broadway comedians in a third-rate theater of the absurd. Entitled "The Constitution in Crisis; The Downing Street Minutes and Deception, Manipulation, Torture, Retribution, and Coverups in the Iraq War," the Conyers report examines the administration's chronic abuse of power from more angles than can be explored within the compass of a single essay. The nature of the administration's criminal DNA and modus operandi, however, shows up in a usefully robust specimen of its characteristic dishonesty.

* * *

That President George W. Bush comes to power with the intention of invading Iraq is a fact not open to dispute. Pleased with the image of himself as a military hero, and having spoken, more than once, about seeking revenge on Saddam Hussein for the tyrant's alleged attempt to "kill my Dad," he appoints to high office in his administration a cadre of warrior intellectuals, chief among them Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, known to be eager for the glories of imperial conquest.[2] At the first meeting of the new National Security Council on January 30, 2001, most of the people in the room discuss the possibility of preemptive blitzkrieg against Baghdad.[3] In March the Pentagon circulates a document entitled "Foreign Suitors for Iraqi Oil Field Contracts"; the supporting maps indicate the properties of interest to various European governments and American corporations. Six months later, early in the afternoon of September 11, the smoke still rising from the Pentagon's western facade, Secretary Rumsfeld tells his staff to fetch intelligence briefings (the "best info fast...go massive; sweep it all up; things related and not") that will justify an attack on Iraq. By chance the next day in the White House basement, Richard A. Clarke, national coordinator for security and counterterrorism, encounters President Bush, who tells him to "see if Saddam did this." Nine days later, at a private dinner upstairs in the White House, the President informs his guest, the British prime minister, Tony Blair, that "when we have dealt with Afghanistan, we must come back to Iraq."

By November 13, 2001, the Taliban have been rousted out of Kabul in Afghanistan, but our intelligence agencies have yet to discover proofs of Saddam Hussein's acquaintance with Al Qaeda.[4] President Bush isn't convinced. On November 21, at the end of a National Security Council meeting, he says to Secretary Rumsfeld, "What have you got in terms of plans for Iraq?...I want you to get on it. I want you to keep it secret."

The Conyers report doesn't return to the President's focus on Iraq until March 2002, when it finds him peering into the office of Condoleezza Rice, the national security advisor, to say, "Fuck Saddam. We're taking him out." At a Senate Republican Policy lunch that same month on Capitol Hill, Vice President Dick Cheney informs the assembled company that it is no longer a question of if the United States will attack Iraq, it's only a question of when. The vice president doesn't bring up the question of why, the answer to which is a work in progress. By now the administration knows, or at least has reason to know, that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, that Iraq doesn't possess weapons of mass destruction sufficiently ominous to warrant concern, that the regime destined to be changed poses no imminent threat, certainly not to the United States, probably not to any country defended by more than four batteries of light artillery. Such at least is the conclusion of the British intelligence agencies that can find no credible evidence to support the theory of Saddam's connection to Al Qaeda or international terrorism; "even the best survey of WMD programs will not show much advance in recent years on the nuclear, missile and CW/BW weapons fronts..." A series of notes and memoranda passing back and forth between the British Cabinet Office in London and its correspondents in Washington during the spring and summer of 2002 address the problem of inventing a pretext for a war so fondly desired by the Bush Administration that Sir Richard Dearlove, head of Britain's MI-6, finds the interested parties in Washington fixing "the intelligence and the facts...around the policy." The American enthusiasm for regime change, "undimmed" in the mind of Condoleezza Rice, presents complications.

Although Blair has told Bush, probably in the autumn of 2001, that Britain will join the American military putsch in Iraq, he needs "legal justification" for the maneuver-something noble and inspiring to say to Parliament and the British public. No justification "currently exists." Neither Britain nor the United States is being attacked by Iraq, which eliminates the excuse of self-defense; nor is the Iraqi government currently sponsoring a program of genocide. Which leaves as the only option the "wrong-footing" of Saddam. If under the auspices of the United Nations he can be presented with an ultimatum requiring him to show that Iraq possesses weapons that don't exist, his refusal to comply can be taken as proof that he does, in fact, possess such weapons.[5]

Over the next few months, while the British government continues to look for ways to "wrong-foot" Saddam and suborn the U.N., various operatives loyal to Vice President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld bend to the task of fixing the facts, distributing alms to dubious Iraqi informants in return for map coordinates of Saddam's monstrous weapons, proofs of stored poisons, of mobile chemical laboratories, of unmanned vehicles capable of bringing missiles to Jerusalem.[6]

By early August the Bush Administration has sufficient confidence in its doomsday story to sell it to the American public. Instructed to come up with awesome text and shocking images, the White House Iraq Group hits upon the phrase "mushroom cloud" and prepares a White Paper describing the "grave and gathering danger" posed by Iraq's nuclear arsenal.[7] The objective is three-fold-to magnify the fear of Saddam Hussein, to present President Bush as the Christian savior of the American people, a man of conscience who never in life would lead the country into an unjust war, and to provide a platform of star-spangled patriotism for Republican candidates in the November congressional elections.[8]

* * *

The Conyers report doesn't lack for further instances of the administration's misconduct, all of them noted in the press over the last three years-misuse of government funds, violation of the Geneva Conventions, holding without trial and subjecting to torture individuals arbitrarily designated as "enemy combatants," etc.-but conspiracy to commit fraud would seem reason enough to warrant the President's impeachment. Before reading the report, I wouldn't have expected to find myself thinking that such a course of action was either likely or possible; after reading the report, I don't know why we would run the risk of not impeaching the man. We have before us in the White House a thief who steals the country's good name and reputation for his private interest and personal use; a liar who seeks to instill in the American people a state of fear; a televangelist who engages the United States in a never-ending crusade against all the world's evil, a wastrel who squanders a vast sum of the nation's wealth on what turns out to be a recruiting drive certain to multiply the host of our enemies. In a word, a criminal-known to be armed and shown to be dangerous. Under the three-strike rule available to the courts in California, judges sentence people to life in jail for having stolen from Wal-Mart a set of golf clubs or a child's tricycle. Who then calls strikes on President Bush, and how many more does he get before being sent down on waivers to one of the Texas Prison Leagues?

The above is a brief excerpt from the complete essay, available in the March 2006 issue of Harper's Magazine.


1. The report borrows from hundreds of open sources that have become a matter of public record-newspaper accounts, television broadcasts (Frontline, Meet the Press, Larry King Live, 60 Minutes, etc.), magazine articles (in The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, The New York Review of Books), sworn testimony in both the Senate and House of Representatives, books written by, among others, Bob Woodward, George Packer, Richard A. Clarke, James Mann, Mark Danner, Seymour Hersh, David Corn, James Bamford, Hans Blix, James Risen, Ron Suskind, Joseph Wilson. As the congressman had said, "Everything in plain sight; it isn't as if we don't know." [Back]

2. In January of 1998 the neoconservative Washington think tank The Project for the New American Century (which counts among its founding members Dick Cheney) sent a letter to Bill Clinton demanding "the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime from power" with a strong-minded "willingness to undertake military action." Together with Rumsfeld, six of the other seventeen signatories became members of the Bush's first administration-Elliott Abrams (now George W. Bush's deputy national security advisor), Richard Armitage (deputy secretary of state from 2001 to 2005), John Bolton (now U.S. ambassador to the U.N.), Richard Perle (chairman of the Defense Policy Board from 2001 to 2003), Paul Wolfowitz (deputy secretary of defense from 2001 to 2005), Robert Zoellick (now deputy secretary of state). President Clinton responded to the request by signing the Iraq Liberation Act, for which Congress appropriated $97 million for various clandestine operations inside the borders of Iraq. Two years later, in September 2000, The Project for the New American Century issued a document noting that the "unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification" for the presence of the substantial American force in the Persian Gulf. [Back]

3. In a subsequent interview on 60 Minutes, Paul O'Neill, present in the meeting as the newly appointed secretary of the treasury, remembered being surprised by the degree of certainty: "From the very beginning, there was a conviction that Saddam Hussein was a bad person and that he needed to go.... It was all about finding a way to do it." [Back]

4. As early as September 20, Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, drafted a memo suggesting that in retaliation for the September 11 attacks the United States should consider hitting terrorists outside the Middle East in the initial offensive, or perhaps deliberately selecting a non-Al Qaeda target like Iraq. [Back]

5. Abstracts of the notes and memoranda, known collectively as "The Downing Street Minutes," were published in the Sunday Times (London) in May 2005; their authenticity was undisputed by the British government. [Back]

6. The work didn't go unnoticed by people in the CIA, the Pentagon, and the State Department accustomed to making distinctions between a well-dressed rumor and a naked lie. In the spring of 2004, talking to a reporter from Vanity Fair, Greg Thielmann, the State Department officer responsible for assessing the threats of nuclear proliferation, said, "The American public was seriously misled. The Administration twisted, distorted and simplified intelligence in a way that led Americans to seriously misunderstand the nature of the Iraq threat. I'm not sure I can think of a worse act against the people in a democracy than a President distorting critical classified information." [Back]

7. The Group counted among its copywriters Karl Rove, senior political strategist, Andrew Card, White House chief of staff, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, and Lewis "Scooter" Libby, Dick Cheney's chief of staff. [Back]

8. Card later told the New York Times that "from a marketing point of view...you don't introduce new products in August." [Back]

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Flashback! Scenes Of Israeli Massacre In Qana 1996



This video of an Israeli Massacre of Palestinian & Lebanese civilians in April of 96 is very graphic and should only be viewed by a mature audience.

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Flashback! Israeli Spotter Plane Seen Over Qana UN Compound

The Independent
5 June 96

Qana: It is a soldier's videotape, recorded -- at the start at least -- as just another incident to remember back home by a United Nations trooper after his six months' tour of duty in southern Lebanon are over.

Indeed, when the camera first records the Israeli shells tearing into the UN base at Qana, the other soldiers who appear in the film, most of them Norwegians in the UN's Force Mobile Reserve opposite Qana, seem unaware of its implications. One of them makes a joke, another looks gawkily into the camera even as it tapes the clouds of smoke obscuring Qana. The camera pans through barbed wire as more brown puffs of smoke emerge from the white-painted buildings of the UN's Fijian battalion headquarters.
The UN officers can be seen at an observation post staring at Qana as the Israeli shells rain onto their colleagues and the helpless refugees across the valley. A group of Norwegian soldiers talk excitedly and the camera, its owner obviously growing aware of the gravity of the situation, moves in close-up towards Qana with a zoom lens until the videotape is filled with drifting smoke. Shortly afterwards, the sound-track picks up the familiar buzzing sound of the Israeli "drone", final and irrefutable evidence that later Israeli denials were false -- until the Israelis changed their story last night.

Refugees and UN officers had all talked of hearing the Israeli artillery "spotter" aircraft before and during the Israeli attack on the UN base. But her at last, in living colour, was the proof: distinct pictures of the small Israeli aircraft over Qana, the plane that the Israelis -- for two weeks -- claimed was never there.

One of the UN soldiers who saw the video being made says that neither he nor his colleagues understood in the first few seconds what was happening at Qana. "We know the Israelis are perfect in their accuracy. The previous day, when Katyushas had been fired a couple of miles away, we saw the Israeli return fire come back on the launch site with complete accuracy. We felt so safe about the Israeli artillery that we never went indoors when shells flew over.

"They knew we were here and so they never hit us. So we didn't even wear flak jackets when there were shell warnings. The Israelis knew what they were doing. And then we saw Qana and by the end, none of us believed it was an accident. Yes, the Israelis knew what they were doing. What do you think the drone' was for?"

A UN officer from a NATO nation who saw the videotape -- a copy of which has been obtained by the Independent -- before it was handed over to UN investigating General Frank van Kappen, was more emotional. "If the UN report is diluted to please the Israelis and the Americans, how is the UN going to live with it? How are we on the ground here supposed to pass by that mass grave [of more than 100 civilians in Qana] with a clear conscience?

"I and many others have risked our lives under constant Israeli shelling. We put up with their lies and the arrogance of their explanations. They blame us because we let unarmed Hizbollah men visit their families in our base. But back in 1984, Israeli soldiers were ambushed near my base and we let them in and protected them. Of course, the Israelis don't mention that now. But even if it means the end of my military career, I'll never say this was an accident. The Israelis knew they were firing at innocent people."

The UN have noted that an Israeli officer is also ensuring that his military career remains unblemished. For although the Israeli Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, denied knowing that more than 800 civilians were sheltering at the UN base at Qana on 18 April, Major General Moshe Yaalon, the Israeli army chief of intelligence, stated on the day of the massacre that the Israel Defense Forces knew of the civilian presence at Qana and that it was the Israeli army's Northern Command under General Amiram Levine -- already reprimanded after his artillery fired into the village of Shaqra last year and killed a young Lebanese woman -- which ignored the intelligence information.

"Yaalon knows something smells and he's keeping himself out of it," a European UN soldier said. "The Israeli investigation that Dan Harel [the brigadier commanding the Israeli Artillery Corp] carried out was cursory. He said they fired at the Katyushas and that only two rounds hit the UN base. This is bullshit. We know that at least 12 rounds hit the base, seven of them fitted with proximity fuses which explode the shells seven metres from the ground and are designed to kill the maximum number of people by inflicting amputation wounds."

Towards the end of the 8-minute videotape that has so transformed the UN's official investigation, the horror of Qana has been understood by the UN soldiers watching from the neighbouring hillside and by the amateur military cameraman. Just after he films the drone, he focuses the camera on a fire that is raging in the heart of the UN compound, the Fijian battalion conference room that was home to dozens of Lebanese refugees.

The flames burn white and red in the centre of the frame -- the Israeli pilotless drone spotter-plane can still be heard on the sound-track -- and then a pall of black smoke rises from the building in which the Lebanese civilians are being burned alive.

On the videotape, the soldier is now recording the UN radio. An Irish voice says: "Fijibatt headquarters is still under shelling." One of the UN soldiers who stood close to the cameraman was to tell me later that in one observation post a colleague could hear -- a mile away across the valley at Qana -- "a sort of chorus of screaming". A set of still photographs of the shelling, which the Independent has also obtained, shows only one shell falling outside the compound -- in the opposite direction to the Katyusha launch site at which the Israelis claim they were firing.

The last sequences of the tape are taken as the cameraman and his colleagues in the UN's Force Mobile Reserve -- including Irish, Norwegian and Fijian soldiers -- race in armoured vehicles to the Qana base amid a convoy of ambulances. In confusion, a medevac team drop an empty stretcher on the ground and then, drip-feed held over a figure on another stretcher, haul a wounded refugee into an ambulance. The camera moves to a hill where a white-painted UN helicopter with wounded on board is preparing to take off. On the ground in front of it stands an injured Lebanese woman, a bandage round her head, holding two small children by their hands.

As the rotor blades swish the air above them, the Italian pilot climbs out of the plane, shooing them away, moving his arms back and forth, ordering them back from the helicopter.

With a kind of desolation, the woman, in a blue dress, half her face in bandages, leads the two children down the hill from the helicopter, accompanied by two shocked Fijian UN solders.

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Hamas "ready to recognise" Israel on conditions

25 Feb 06

JERUSALEM -- Palestinian Prime Minister designate Ismail Haniyeh said on Saturday Hamas is \"ready to recognise\" Israel if it gives the Palestinians their full rights and a state on lands occupied since 1967, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

\"If Israel declares that it will give the Palestinian people a state and give them back all their rights, then we are ready to recognise them,\" Haniyeh told the Washington Post in an interview posted on its web site.

Haniyeh did not say which form the recognition would take.
He also said Hamas was ready to mull over talks with Israel if the Jewish state withdrew from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and recognized the \"right of return\" for Palestinian refugees who fled in the 1948 war and their descendants.

Haniyeh, 42, was officially appointed on Tuesday by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as prime minister to form a new cabinet within five weeks after Hamas won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections last month.

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Hamas lists Israel recognition terms

26 February 2006

The Palestinian prime minister-designate says Hamas is ready to recognise Israel if it gives the Palestinian people their full rights and a state in lands occupied since 1967, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
Hamas chose Ismail Haniya, a 43-year-old Gazan viewed by many Palestinians as a pragmatist, as the new prime minister after sweeping elections on 25 January. The group hopes to complete forming a Palestinian government within two weeks.

\"If Israel declares that it will give the Palestinian people a state and give them back all their rights, then we are ready to recognise them,\" Haniya told the Washington Post in an interview posted on its website on Saturday.

Haniya did not say what form the recognition would take.

Israel on Sunday cautiously welcomed Haniya\'s statement. Meir Sheetrit, a cabinet minister, told Israel\'s Army Radio: \"I wish they would change their positions ... . They (Hamas) may be starting to speak another language.\"

If Hamas were to accept Israel\'s conditions to recognise Israel and renounce violence, \"we won\'t have any trouble speaking to Hamas, and to reach a settlement\", Sheetrit said.

A representative at the US State Department did not immediately return a call seeking official US reaction to Haniya\'s comments.

Ready for talks

Hamas, whose charter calls for Israel\'s destruction, has rejected talks with the Jewish state as a waste of time but it has said lately it could respect some aspects of interim peace deals from the 1990s that it had rejected outright in the past.

Haniya also said Hamas was ready to consider talks with Israel if the Jewish state withdrew from the West Bank and East Jerusalem and recognised the \"right of return\" for Palestinian refugees who fled in the 1948 war and their descendants.

\"Let Israel say it will recognise a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, release the prisoners and recognise the rights of the refugees to return to Israel. Hamas will have a position if this occurs,\" Haniya said.

Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in September after a 38-year occupation but has vowed to hold onto East Jerusalem and major West Bank settlements and never allow millions of Palestinians abroad to flood into Israel.

Israel captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967
Middle East War.

\"If Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders, then we will establish a peace in stages,\" Haniya said. \"We will establish a situation of stability and calm, which will bring safety for our people.\"

Call for review

Asked whether Hamas would abide by interim agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinians, Haniya said: \"We will review all agreements and abide by those that are in the interest of the Palestinian people.

\"The ones that will guarantee the establishment of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital with 1967 borders.\"

Haniya said: \"We do not have any feelings of animosity towards Jews. We do not wish to throw them into the sea. All we seek is to be given our land back, not to harm anybody.\"

Hamas has carried out nearly 60 suicide bombings in Israel since the uprising began, but has largely abided by a ceasefire forged a year ago.

Meanwhile, Mahmud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, has said in an interview to be broadcast on Sunday with Britain\'s ITV1 he will resign if he is no longer in a position to pursue his peacemaking agenda when the new Hamas government takes over.

But he held back from saying directly he would quit if Hamas continued to refuse to recognise Israel\'s right to exist and renounce violence.

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Propaganda! Hamas leaders reject negotiations with Israel

27 Feb 06

Top Hamas figures Mahmoud Zahar and Saed Siyam rejected on Sunday any possible peace negotiations with Israel.

Speaking in Amman, Jordan before parliament members from all over the Arab world, Zahar said that Israel was an enemy, and thus not a partner for negotiations, Israel Radio reported.

He added that Hamas did not plan to renew the failed diplomatic talks with Israel.

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Hamas accuses US media of misinterpreting Haneya\'s statements

26 Feb 06

GAZA -- The Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) on Sunday accused The Washington Post of misinterpreting statements made by Hamas leader Ismael Haneya, who is tasked with forming the next cabinet.

Hamas spokesman in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC)Salah al-Bardaweil denied that Haneya had told the Post that Hamas could recognize Israel under a future deal on condition that Israel withdraws to the pre-1967 borders.

Haneya didn\'t say that Hamas would recognize the state of Israel as it was reported by the Post, the spokesman said, adding that \"we have the recorded interview and it doesn\'t include any of the statements published by the daily.\"

Haneya told the Post that if Israel withdraws to the pre-1967 borders, allows the refugees to return to the Palestinian territories and releases Palestinian prisoners, then the issue will be discussed, al-Bardaweil said.

The spokesman asserted that Hamas is still keeping its positions and will never recognize Israel\'s occupation and abandon the Palestinian national struggle.

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Incoming Palestinian premier says Hamas wants long-term truce

By: Associated Press
26 Feb 06

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- The Palestinians\' incoming prime
minister says Hamas is interested in a long-term truce with Israel.

But, he says, it has no intention of seeking a formal peace
agreement that would recognize the Jewish state.

Ismail Haniyeh -- the incoming Palestinian premier -- denies a Washington Post report saying Hamas would consider peace with Israel under certain conditions.

Haniyeh told reporters his comments had been misunderstood. He said he was not referring to a peace agreement, only a \"political truce.\'\'

Israel and the U.S. consider Hamas, the winner of January\'s
Palestinian elections, a terror group. Hamas does not recognize the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East and has sent dozens of suicide bombers into Israel, killing hundreds.

Copyright 2006 Associated Press,

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Bush and his money can go to hell

By Khalid Amayreh
27 Feb 06

Bush and his money can go to hell. The Palestinian people will not give up their homeland and their rights for a monetary bribe from its tormentors. We will not give up our inalienable right to freedom and justice in return for some financial inducements. A free woman would rather starve to death rather than sell her body to an evil blackmailer. And America and Israel are the evil blackmailers of our times.
Ever since Hamas's resounding electoral victory on 25 January, Israel and her guardian-ally, the United States, have been rattling their sabers, threatening to punish the Palestinians for electing the Islamic movement instead of the corrupt Fatah group, to run the Palestinian Authority (PA) government.

Israel, a manifestly full-fledged apartheid state, has seriously escalated its institutionalized terror against Palestinian civilians by restricting the movement of individuals and flow of goods and services within the West Bank. Moreover, the Israeli government has decided to permanently stop transferring Palestinian tax revenues to the PA in what is being referred to as "silent induced starvation."

For its part, the US is just parroting Israeli threats, even without bothering giving even a scant thought to the Palestinian view point.

The latest drivel from Washington came on Friday (23 February) when President Bush said that it was up to Hamas to decide if the next Palestinian government would receive aid from the international community (who elected him to speak on behalf of the international community). Bush, probably the most ignorant President America has ever had, said Hamas would have to recognize Israel, disarm, and accept all agreements reached between Israel and the PA to qualify for aid.

Well, Bush and his money can go to hell. The Palestinian people will not give up their homeland and their rights for a monetary bribe from its tormentors. We will not give up our inalienable right to freedom and justice in return for some financial inducements. A free woman would rather starve to death rather than sell her body to an evil blackmailer. And America and Israel are the evil blackmailers of our times.

Besides, why on earth should the Palestinians recognize Israel in return for nothing? Has Israel recognized Palestine so that Palestine could recognize Israel? Moreover, which Israel does Bush and cohorts want us to recognize? Is it I948-Israel? 1967-Israel? Israel with the West Bank? Israel with the Golan Heights? Israel with the Shaba'a province? Israel with East Jerusalem? Israel west of the Apartheid wall? Or, indeed, Talmudic Israel extending from the Nile to the Euphrates.

How could the Palestinians possibly recognize a state that has no borders? Indeed, Has Israel determined her borders?

More to the point, recognition is exchanged between sovereign sates, not between a state and a fragile, autonomous entity languishing under foreign occupation. The PA is not a state, it is not even a state in the making, given the continued and unmitigated building of Jewish-only colonies in the West Bank, which has effectively killed any real prospect for a viable Palestinian state.

And the "disarm" demand. Well, if Hamas and Fatah were to disarm, then, for heaven's sake, who would protect Palestinian civilians from the Nazi-like Israeli onslaught? America? We once trusted America to protect our refugees at Sabra and Shatilla near Beirut in 1982, only to see her allow the certified war criminal Ariel Sharon, in concert with Christian militiamen, to slaughter thousands of helpless women and children, very much like the Gestapo and Wehrmacht did in central and Eastern Europe more than sixty years ago.

Furthermore, It is really difficult to comprehend why only one party to the conflict, and specifically the weaker party, is asked to disarm, while Israel, a nuclear power, which also has the US, the only superpower in the world, at her beck and call, is given carte blanche to murder children, assassinate politicians, terrorize innocent civilians, demolish homes, and reduce Palestinian population centers to new, updated brands of Auschwitz, Treblinka and Bergen Belsen.

Indeed, one is prompted to ask whether the Palestinians pose a real threat to Israel, a country that possesses the most formidable military arsenal in the entire Middle East, including some 600 state-of –the –art fighter Jets, some 5000 combat tanks, and thousands of artillery pieces, as well as the estimated 350-400 nuclear bombs and missiles, with all delivery systems.

Is it true that this state feels threatened by the occupied and tormented Palestinians who have a hard time feeding their children and even a harder time reaching their jobs and schools and colleges and hospitals, thanks to these Gestapo-like Jewish roadblocks and checkpoints whose main function is to torment, humiliate and frustrate these helpless people.

And they want us to accept the "past agreements" reached between the PA and Israel. Well, what agreements? The Oslo Accords? Hasn't Israel killed the Oslo Accords? Does the Oslo Agreement allow Israel to build 280 hateful colonies in the West Bank? Does it allow Israel to build this satanic apartheid wall in the depth of the West Bank?

Besides, are we supposed to accept the Oslo Accords according to whose interpretations? Israel considers the West Bank and East Jerusalem "disputed territories" while the PA consider these territories "occupied" rather than "disputed." And the Americans and the Europeans refrain from spelling out their respective interpretations, opting rather to ask the rapist and his victim to sort out things among themselves.

And the so-called "roadmap"? Well, will Mr. Bush and all other world leaders be nice enough and tell us clearly and concisely which "roadmap" they expect us to accept? We say that because we are affronted with multiple "roadmaps" not just one "roadmap."

So, are we supposed to accept the "roadmap" with the fourteen Israeli reservations (each of which is sufficient to corrode document and eviscerate it of substance)? Are we also supposed to accept President Bush's pledges to Ariel Sharon's, namely that Jewish settlements in the West Bank ought to be annexed to Israel?

The Americans and the Europeans, if they can demonstrate independence from Israel, must first address these concerns before hectoring the victims to accommodate the morbid whims of their victimizers.

In fact, We suspect, in fact we are certain, that the real motives behind the American-Israeli pressure on Hamas is to push the Palestinians to capitulation to Israeli insolence.

Israel, to begin with, doesn't need any recognition from Hamas. However, because Hamas is viewed by some international circles as the last Palestinian effort to withstand Israel's designs to liquidate the Palestinian cause, Israel and the US are effectively trying to push Hamas to the corner in order to demonstrate to the Palestinian people that even Hamas wouldn't do them any good.

This is the truth about the present Israeli-American discourse. They don't want a peace settlement based on international law and human rights and UN resolutions, but one that would reflect Israeli hegemony, insolence and bullying.

Indeed, it is this brazen dishonesty on the part of Israel and the US that prevents Hamas and the vast bulk of Palestinians from taking steps toward a possible peaceful settlement with the Zionist state.

Well, Hamas is damn right. The PA recognized Israel in 1993, and what was the result? Did Israel recognize Palestine? Did Israel stop building settlements? Did Israel signal any readiness to give up East Jerusalem or allow the refugees to return home?

Khalid Amayreh, is a Palestinian journalist from Dura near Hebron. He is frequently published in Al-Ahram weekly and Al-Jazeera

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Palestinians hail EU aid deal

BBC News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

An EU aid package worth 120m euros is hailed by Palestinians and the US but condemned by Israel.

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Palestinian cash crisis bites as EU pays utility bills

By Times Online and agencies
27 Feb 06

US envoy says that the Palestinian Authority is facing financial collapse within weeks unless funding crisis is sorted

The European Union today released a limited aid package to the Palestinians which it said would help to stave off a looming financial crisis.

The continuation of EU funding to the Palestinian Authority has been under debate since the Islamist militant group Hamas won elections and appointed a prime minister.

"Today I will announce a very substantial package of assistance to meet basic needs," said Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European External Relations Commissioner.

She spoke as EU foreign ministers gathered for talks on how to respond to the impending formation of a Palestinian government by the movement, which does not recognise Israel's right to exist.

The package would total €120 million euros (£82 million), including €40 million to pay electricity bills and €64 million channelled through the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees, she said.

"In effect we will pay electricity bills for them, direct to the utilities concerned, including in Israel," she said.

The EU is the largest donor to the Palestinian Authority, but its funding has been thrown into doubt by the election of Hamas, which the EU lists as a banned terrorist group.

The move comes after Israel stopped the monthly transfer of $50 million-$55 million (£29 million-£32 million) in tax payments to the Palestinians and US officials warned that Washington could cut off funding.

"The Palestinian Authority cannot achieve balance in its finances without outside help," Ms Ferrero-Waldner said, calling on others, especially Arab countries, to do more to fund it.

She noted that even when Israel transferred the tax revenues which it collects on behalf of the Palestinians, the Authority still runs a deficit.

The EU has also decided to unblock €17.5 million (£12 million) frozen in a World Bank-administered trust fund. The EU originally paid €70 million (£48 million) into this, of which €35 million (£24 million) was disbursed but the remainder stopped over the Palestinian Authority's failure to meet certain benchmarks.

This €17.5 million (£12 million) tranche will be used to pay salaries, and is the only part of the new aid package announced today to be paid directly to the Palestinian Authority.

The Palestinians' financial troubles are growing acute. James Wolfensohn, an international envoy to the Middle East Quartet which is overseeing the peace process, gave warning in a letter released today that the Palestinian Authority is facing financial collapse within two weeks since Israel has cut off tax transfers in response to Hamas's election victory.

Even if the Palestinian Authority survived with emergency funding, the financial crisis could bring violence and chaos unless the Quartet of major peace mediators developed a long-term funding plan once a Hamas-led government is in place, wrote Mr Wolfensohn in his letter, which the Reuters news agency has seen.

He was expected to brief the Quartet, made up of the United States, the EU, the UN and Russia, on his findings later this week.

In the letter, the Quartet's special envoy said that the caretaker Palestinian government faces a funding gap of $100 million (£57 million) this month and up to $70 million (£40 million) in March, mainly because of Israel's decision to withhold $50 million to $55 million (£29 million to £32 million) a month in tax revenue.

"Unless a solution is found, we may be facing the financial collapse of the PA (Palestinian Authority) within two weeks," Mr Wolfensohn wrote.

He said that the Palestinian Authority will need $60 million to $80 million (£34 million - £46 million) next week to begin to pay wages for February.

"I know I do not need to tell each of you that the failure to pay salaries may have wide-ranging consequences - not only for the Palestinian economy but also for security and stability for both the Palestinians and the Israelis," Mr Wolfensohn said.

But any money raised by Wolfensohn at the Quartet's direction would tide the Palestinian Authority over only until the new Hamas-led cabinet is formed, most likely to happen next month.

The Quartet has yet to agree on what to do once Hamas takes over. There are differences of opinion in the mediating group over how to exert pressure on Hamas to renounce violence, recognise Israel and honour interim peace deals.

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Stop scaring us!

By Shulamit Aloni
27 Feb 06

The State of Israel is the strongest state in the region - militarily, economically, scientifically and culturally. It enjoys broad support from the United States and European countries. It has peaceful relations with Egypt and Jordan. We could even have built a peace arrangement with Lebanon and Syria, if we had wanted to, but certainly no threat is hovering over Israel from that direction.

But Benjamin Netanyahu is threatening us that they will throw us into the sea. Who? The Palestinians? Let's say they want to - can they? Netanyahu and his supporters on the right and the extreme right need to scare us so that they can continue eating away at the Palestinians' lands, just as long as everything is ours. This is the right and its doctrine.
But far more worrisome - in words and actions - are our generals, those in active duty and those who once were: Moshe Ya'alon and Shaul Mofaz. They order a strategy of power and more power, from here to eternity. They warn of a threatening future, both in Jordan and in Egypt. They launch provocative acts of aggression on the lands of the West Bank, and continue assassinations while ruining or murdering innocent people (without any ticking time bomb). All of this is to ensure that there will be action and risk, that the army will be given a larger budget, that the arms industry will grow and increase trade and that we will continue to worship our heroes who sacrifice their lives for our security.

Every simpleton knows that there is no existential threat to Israel. Every reasonable person understands that the Israel Defense Forces' excessive operations against the Palestinians stir hatred, anger, fanaticism and a lust for revenge. The aim of the generals' remarks, which were not slips of the tongue, but intentional leaks, is to make us continue to be afraid and continue to allow the killing, destruction, expulsions, roadblocks and apartheid roads, and more and more fresh blows to be delivered, inspired by the vivid imaginations of our generals.

When the past chief of staff - the one who opposed the withdrawal from Lebanon and from Gaza, and destroyed more homes and anything else that stood in his way than anyone else - also joined the group of doomsayers and fear mongers, I was reminded of the speech made by U.S. general and president, Dwight Eisenhower in 1961. In his farewell address to his nation, after serving eight years as president, he warned of the close ties between the army and the huge arms industry (in Israel it combines industry, purchasing and commerce all in one). The huge influence of this industry on all areas of life can lead to the superfluous and dangerous use of unnecessary force. Further on in his address, Eisenhower focused on the need to nurture democracy and conciliation between peoples, and to prevent war and change priorities in the division of manpower and production. The army and military industry are strong and influential, he said, and therefore this influence must be reined in and efforts should be made to build peace, conciliation, freedom and human rights.

The U.S. only realized how right he was after it was too late, when it was becoming mired in the Vietnam War and cultivating the Cold War. In Israel, the IDF became a sacred cow upon the establishment of the state and today the army's top brass is very powerful. The IDF is a conqueror with a free hand on the trigger; everyone salutes it and anyone who criticizes it is marked as a flawed patriot. This army scorns human life and property, mocks the other and abuses injured populations. It is an army that has transformed every village and city into a detention camp for the sake of "our security," while knowing full well that every time it breaks into these places, a response will be provoked that will come at Israel's expense.

The most worrisome thing today is the caution with which people from the peace movement speak about the possibility of reconciliation - even with the Hamas government - lest they be accused of a lack of "nationalism." Also worrisome is the acceptance of the fact that Israel may withhold the Palestinians' money while demanding that they uphold all agreements, at a time when we are the first to violate an agreement.

The hastiness of the criticism, the search for collective punishments and the dispatching of the Palestinians to the Muslim countries, are also a folly that could be dangerous. Apparently our "wise men" will be happy if the Muslim countries once again mobilize against us. Then we will again be able to see ourselves as the ultimate victim of the world, and then - long live the army, long live armaments. And then there will be many festive memorial days.

It does not have to be that way. It can be different. It is possible to try and build conciliation, to try and understand that the Palestinians are also entitled to a state of their own. We have to understand that we are applying a racist, colonialist and contemptible policy that we did not want. Merely saying these things aloud gives us the chills because after all, we thought that we, the Jews, have humanitarian values and that we remember that every person was created in the image of God. If we really do remember this, but continue with our actions against the Palestinians, then all of us are afflicted with split personalities.

Comment: Of course these other states are no threat to Israel. Israel just wants the excuse to commit genocide and grab more land, and they know that if they do, these other countries just MIGHT band together against them...

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America: Utopia Lost - Fifty years ago, America\'s future was limitless. So what happened to optimism?

by Andrew L. Yarrow
February 25, 2006
Los Angeles Times

\"Utopianism\" is often used as a pejorative, but our nation was built on - and flourished on - utopian dreams. We need them now more than ever.
America has never been richer, but it once was much more optimistic - even utopian - about its future.

In 1956, Fortune magazine published \"The Fabulous Future,\" a book of essays by luminaries forecasting a nation of technological and economic wonders by 1980. Adlai Stevenson spoke of \"the most extraordinary growth any nation or civilization has ever experienced.\" George Meany predicted \"ever-rising\" living standards. And David Sarnoff gushed, \"There is no element of material progress we know today that will not seem from the vantage point of 1980 a fumbling prelude.\"

That same year, that wild utopian, Richard Nixon, then vice president in the Eisenhower administration, heralded a 30-hour, four-day workweek \"in the not too distant future.\" Gallup polls found that only 3% of the population questioned whether the nation was enjoying \"good times,\" and just 8% doubted that the good times would keep getting better indefinitely.

From the end of the Korean War to the peak of the Vietnam War, American media trumpeted a utopian future. A 1953 issue of Time predicted that a newborn would be twice as wealthy by her high school graduation and that a worker 100 years in the future would produce in seven hours what he now produced in 40. In 1954, Life magazine predicted a technotopia of jets, computers, color TVs, superhighways and doubled living standards by 1976. In 1959, Newsweek predicted that the 1960s would bring short workweeks, automatic highways and self-operating lawnmowers.

Most Americans and their leaders, from the Eisenhower administration to John Kennedy\'s top advisors to the chattering classes, which wrote such books as \"The Challenge of Abundance,\" believed in a land of milk and honey from New York to L.A. JFK, who challenged us to land on the moon, also declared in his inaugural address that \"man holds in his hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty.\"

According to the National Opinion Research Center, American happiness peaked between the mid-1960s and 1973. Today, nary a politician nor a public intellectual - not even the cybergeeks - dares predict soaring incomes, limitless leisure or technologies to make our lives pure bliss.

Studies show that happiness rises with incomes - up to the point at which basic needs are met, after which it stagnates as aspirations also rise with income. The recent Nobel Prize-winning economist and psychologist Daniel Kahneman calls this a \"hedonic treadmill.\" Like the proverbial rats, we run faster and faster - and so do our aspirations - but the bottom line is the old cliche: Money can\'t buy happiness.

Of course, Western Europeans and Japanese are gloomier than we are. But some of that starry-eyed optimism of late 1950s America can be seen today - on the streets of Shanghai. Meanwhile, Americans find more happiness in marriages, relationships and children. But that fails to explain why we, as a nation, have lost the capacity to dream big. Why does no one talk about doubling living standards, 20-hour workweeks or silly but delightful gadgetry like the personal helicopters envisioned in the 1950s? Why have the Jetsons been succeeded by Homer Simpson?

Of course, one reason is that utopia has not come to pass. Many Americans have a harder time making ends meet; working hours are longer, reversing a 50-year decline; the cool new gadgets come with neuralgic 300-page manuals. But the other reason is the lack of what George Bush pere so eloquently referred to as \"the vision thing\" in politicians who are busy with political catfights, tinkering at the policy margins or raising money.

\"Utopianism\" is often used as a pejorative, but our nation was built on - and flourished on - utopian dreams. We need them now more than ever.

Andrew L. Yarrow\'s \"Visions of Abundance\" will be published in 2007.

© 2005 The Los Angeles Times

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Avian Virus Invades Washington, D.C.

26 Feb 06

An on-going investigation series examines the real life \"core story\" of alien contact, shared by a group of intelligence and military government insiders, and the man that best selling author Jon Ronson inquired about in his book, \"The Men Who Stare at Goats.\"
An on-going investigation series examines the real life \"core story\" of alien contact, shared by a group of intelligence and military government insiders, and the man that best selling author Jon Ronson inquired about in his book, \"The Men Who Stare at Goats.\"

In 1995, the CIA took control of a series of secret government programs from the Defense Intelligence Agency, known collectively as STAR GATE.

Project STAR GATE involved both scientific research and operational intelligence using paranormal phenomena. Although STAR GATE officially ended following CIA declassification of many of the original programs, and despite the release of more than 80,000 pages of previously classified documents, rumors persist that paranormal phenomena are of extreme interest in Washington. Thousands of pages of the original program remain classified to this day.

According to British author and filmmaker Jon Ronson, following the 9/11 attacks, psychic Uri Geller confided that he had been reactivated into the ranks of intelligence agency psychic spies. Ronson claims that Uri told him that the name of the man who reactivated his mental powers for intelligence was called Ron.

More is known about Ron than many of his associates thanks to his brief appearance in the New York Times a few years ago. A MITRE document confirms that Ron is involved with the development of a new kind of radar that uses personal computers. The new radar is a passive system intended to detect unwanted intrusions of stealthy unidentified flying objects.

Ron developed the reputation of being the chief phenomenologist at the CIA: something about a file filled with strangeness called the \"weird desk.\" It is alleged that Ron inherited this assignment from a certain retired CIA officer, who continues as government consultant in the critical area of reviewing advanced technologies with possible military applications. This gentleman holds the distinction of appearing in a photograph in the March, 2006 issue of \"Reader\'s Digest.\"

A Tale of Avian Dreams

Inside the alleged \"weird desk\" is the \"core story\" about visitors not of our world. The extraterrestrial tale has spread with some help from a group of present and former intelligence agents and military types in a loose network popularly known as \"The Aviary.\" Another source with close ties to the alleged members of the Aviary group revealed that the same core story of alien contact had been confirmed by the former Director of Central Intelligence, Richard Helms, just prior to his death in 2002. Recently Starstream Research learned that disclosure of an interest in all things alien by members of the DIA sponsored TIGER committee may have provoked a split between some of the key players. TIGER is the \"standing committee on Technology Insight-Gauge Evaluate Review.\"

In 1993 the DIA STAR GATE project initiated a pilot study into the feasibility of using telepathy for command, control and communication for soldiers behind enemy lines, in situations where normal communication wasn\'t possible. If the government is serious about developing mind to mind com links, then they must also be considering the threat of foreign developments. This is known as C^4: Command, Control, Communication, Computers. Telepathy merely takes this to the next level. It provides a command and control signal line for communication. The computer is the biological material inside the human brain. Wiggle this brain here, and that one over there responds. Wiggle hard enough, and perhaps you have created a remote control system.

Combine the ideas behind passive radar with telepathy, and you have a unique C^4 system capable of distinguishing the flow of unconscious information around the planet. The Aviary is concerned not so much with the hardware of an alien civilization, but with a deeper and more sinister dilemma. Take command and control of the flow of the collective unconscious mind, and you have taken control of the human race. A meme is an idea that spreads like a virus: an idea that replicates, evolves and infects like the common cold, moving from host to host. The Aviary\'s \"core story\" has revealed a virus of unearthly intent set upon the leadership of our planet.

The primary conceptual basis for the Space Time Threat Assessment Reports comes from the reports of anomalous information appearing within human perception. Copies of some of original CIA released STAR GATE documents, including \"Project 911\" and predictions of terror attacks using airplanes can been seen at the Starstream Research website:


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War Corporatism: The New Fascism:

Information Clearinghouse

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

An animated look at the dogs of War Corporatism unleashed upon the world by Bush and the PNAC as stated in the September 2000 document Rebuilding America's Defenses.

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White House Arrogantly Rejects Special Counsel to Investigate Bush\'s Illegal Spying

Associated Press Writer
27 Feb 06

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The White House on Monday rejected the call by more than a dozen House Democrats for a special counsel to investigate the Bush administration\'s eavesdropping program.

President Bush\'s spokesman Scott McClellan said those Democrats should instead spend their time investigating the source of the unauthorized disclosure of the classified program, which \"has given the enemy some of our playbook.\"

\"I really don\'t think there\'s any basis for a special counsel,\" McClellan also said.
In a letter released Monday, 18 House Democrats told Bush that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales should appoint a special counsel. They said the surveillance of terrorists must be done within the bounds of U.S. law, but complained that their efforts to get answers to legal and factual questions about the program have been stymied - \"generally based on the feeblest of excuses.\"

\"If the effort to prevent vigorous and appropriate investigation succeeds, we fear the inexorable conclusion will be that these executive branch agencies hold themselves above the law and accountable to no one,\" wrote the lawmakers, led by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., a member of the Judiciary and Homeland Security committees.

The lawmakers initially asked the independent watchdogs at the Justice and Defense departments to open inquiries. Both declined.

Justice\'s inspector general Glenn Fine said he lacked authority, and deferred to the department\'s Office of Professional Responsibility. That office has said it is investigating the conduct of the department\'s lawyers, but not the program\'s lawfulness.

Congress\' investigative arm, the General Accountability Office, similarly declined to open a review, noting the administration would be expected to designate the necessary documents as foreign intelligence materials and limit access to them.

The Democrats see \"ample precedent\" for a special counsel, citing the Justice Department\'s appointment of U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to investigate the leak of the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame.

After 22 months of investigation, Fitzgerald indicted the vice president\'s chief of staff, I. Lewis \"Scooter\" Libby, for allegedly lying about his role in the disclosure.

\"Indeed, the allegation of a secret NSA spying program conducting warrantless domestic surveillance of U.S. persons is at least as serious\" as the matter Fitzgerald investigated, the Democrats wrote.

In their six-page letter, the Democrats said the special counsel should investigate any possible violation of federal criminal law, noting that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act says the monitoring of U.S. citizens and residents - without a warrant - is punishable by imprisonment.

Bush administration officials have argued the program does not fall within that law. They say Bush was exercising his constitutional authority as commander in chief when he allowed the National Security Agency to monitor - without court approval - the international calls and e-mails of people inside the U.S. when one party may be linked to terrorism.

The administration also maintains the president had the power to order the surveillance under a broad 2001 authorization to use military force in the war on terror.

The 18 lawmakers also want the special counsel to consider any crimes that may be committed to interfere with the investigation, including perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence and witness intimidation.

The request harkens back to Libby, who was not indicted specifically for leaking Plame\'s name, but for an alleged cover-up that included five counts of obstruction of justice, perjury and making false statements to FBI agents.

© 2006 The Associated Press.

Comment: NO ONE may question any decision, any act, of the Bush-Neocon Adminsitration. Don\'t you people get it yet? You\'re going to have to do better than that!

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Miscreants, Murderers, and Malefactors: Imperial Conquest, Torture, and a Little Matter of Genocide

By Jason Miller
Thomas Paine\'s Corner
27 Feb 06

Acting with impunity and wielding the moral authority of pedophiles, Bush and his fellow Neocons have decimated what was left of America\'s good name while severely crippling our nation's capacity for advancing and protecting human rights. Setting a sanguineous course in their reckless pursuit of wealth and power, they have afflicted humankind with their perverse agenda. With alarming consistency, these sociopaths have demonstrated their utter disregard for humanity and the well-being of our planet.

While the US has a history of imperialism, deep cruelty, and mass murder, including slaughtering one million civilians in the conquest of the Philippines, legalizing the institution of slavery, and committing the Native American genocide, by World War II America had arguably begun to demonstrate a reasonable level of commitment to humanitarian ideals. While it was a long, painful process, Abolitionists, Women Suffragists, Populists, Labor Activists, Civil Rights Protestors, and the like forced the United States to strive for truly noble causes. From the end of World War II up until the 1960\'s, one could reasonably conclude that the nation primarily responsible for the defeat of militaristic fascism in both Europe and Asia had earned a degree of moral authority, in spite of its remaining flaws.

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here…

Vietnam marked the beginning of America\'s descent into a fetid moral sewer, high-lighted (or more appropriately low-lighted) by the deaths of 3,000,000 Vietnamese civilians and the devastating after effects of Agent Orange (compliments of Monsanto). America\'s light as a beacon of hope for humanity was rapidly extinguished. Ignoring Eisenhower\'s prescient warning, his successors chose the sword over the plowshare repeatedly. Funneling outrageous percentages of our precious resources into the coffers of the bloated and malevolent military industrial complex, they carried out murderous agendas through direct military intervention, covert CIA operations, and proxies like the Shah of Iran. Sadly, under the last 7-8 presidencies, Democrat and Republican alike, the United States government has evolved into the most powerful terrorist organization on the planet.

Bush and his criminal cohorts have assured US victory in its race to the bottom. Dropping the cloak of altruism, they have come out of the closet and revealed their wicked proclivities. In openly murdering innocent civilians and torturing suspected terrorists under the pretenses of \"pre-emptive\" military action and the nebulous "War on Terror", Israel's Neocon operatives have secured America\'s place in the pantheon of egregious violators of human rights. Despite having stolen the last two elections, these depraved war criminals continue to act in the name of the American people as they repeatedly urinate and defecate on virtually everything that was truly virtuous in our nation.

Perhaps torture and murder are the values of this "Christian nation"…

Human Rights First recently released a particularly damning and extremely well-researched report entitled Command\'s Responsibility. I spent several hours perusing this disturbing analysis of homicides committed by our own government (to further the cause of "spreading freedom and democracy"). A shocking number of alleged enemy combatants have been murdered by the US military and the CIA. Apparently justice vanishes without a trace if one is of Middle Eastern descent and suspected of terrorism.

According to the report, 100 such individuals have died since August of 2002. By the US military's own admission, 34 of those cases were \"suspected or confirmed homicides\". Human Rights First determined that the \"facts suggest death as a result of physical abuse or harsh conditions of detention\" in 11 additional cases. The report also reveals that 8 US detainees \"were tortured to death\".

How is the \"bastion of human rights\" policing itself? \"Only 12 detainee deaths have resulted in punishment of any kind for a US official.\" Human Rights First also uncovered the facts that \"while the CIA has been implicated in several deaths, not one CIA agent has faced a criminal charge\". The harshest sentence issued for those responsible for torture-related deaths? An unbelievable slap on the wrist: five months in jail for homicide! Meanwhile, America\'s \"justice system\" eagerly metes out the death penalty for murder, mostly to our poor and/or black citizens. Just ask California's "Terminator".

Israeli peace of mind and oil are worth the annihilation of millions of human beings, aren't they?

Still high enough on hubris to believe the Bush Regime is righteous in passing judgment and proclaiming that Iraq, Iran, and North Korea form an \"Axis of Evil\"? While you are grabbing stones to cast at this trio for their deplorable records on human rights, consider the acts of barbarism, terrorism, and deceit the United States has committed against the first member of the so-called \"Axis\" over the last two decades. Since Reagan swaggered into office, America has been committing genocide against the Iraqi people in multiple ways. Bear in mind that these \"evil\" Iraqis never attacked the United States or its citizens. Their crime? Ostensibly it was that their tyrannical leader, Saddam Hussein, needed to be deposed, they possessed weapons of mass destruction, they were a threat to the United States, and eventually were complicit in 9/11. But for those who live in reality, the Iraqis' true \"sins\" were possessing vast quantities of oil, daring to sell their oil for Euros instead of the almighty Dollar, and posing a \"threat\" to poor little Israel, a nation bristling with military firepower and enjoying the unflinching support of the most powerful military in the history of humanity.

As an aside, if the "infinitely benevolent" United States bore the responsibility of removing Hussein to "liberate the Iraqis", a question naturally arises. Which nation will liberate the world from Bush and his team of despicable Neocons?

A Little Duplicity, a little hypocrisy…whatever it takes, right?

In 1982, the Reagan Regime removed Iraq from the State Department\'s list of nations sponsoring terrorism. This enabled US corporations, including members of the military industrial complex, to capitalize on the abundant profits to be had in the Iraqi marketplace. In 1983, Ronald Reagan sent special envoy Donald Rumsfeld to meet with US ally Saddam Hussein to \"normalize relations\" which had been terminated during the Arab-Israeli War of 1967. Despite full knowledge that Hussein used chemical weapons against Iran and on the Kurds of his own nation, the United States continued its cozy relationship with Saddam. The United States and its allies in Western Europe provided Hussein with military helicopters and the precursor agents necessary to manufacture the very weapons of mass destruction which later became one of the pretexts for the Neocon invasion of Iraq.

Former US Assistant Secretary of Defense Noel Koch said this about American support of Hussein:

\"No one had any doubts about the Iraqis\' continued involvement in terrorism....The real reason was to help them succeed in the war against Iran.\"

Confirming the initial US acts of genocide against the Iraqi people through its support of Hussein are some quick facts provided by the US State Department. Bear in mind that Hussein was an American ally when these atrocities occurred:

-- Documented chemical attacks by the regime, from 1983 to 1988, resulted in some 30,000 Iraqi and Iranian deaths.

-- Human Rights Watch estimates that Saddam\'s 1987-1988 campaign of terror against the Kurds killed at least 50,000 and possibly as many as 100,000 Kurds.

-- The Iraqi regime used chemical agents to include mustard gas and nerve agents in attacks against at least 40 Kurdish villages between 1987-1988. The largest was the attack on Halabja which resulted in approximately 5,000 deaths.

-- 2,000 Kurdish villages were destroyed during the campaign of terror.

Leave it to American ingenuity to find a better way…

Ongoing US support of Hussein became virtually impossible when he invaded Kuwait, a US ally which had slant-drilled $14 billion worth of oil from Iraq (using equipment supplied by a United States corporation). Despite United States Ambassador April Glaspie\'s assurances to Hussein that the US \"takes no position\" in the conflict (just days before Iraq's invasion of Kuwait), Bush the elder unleashed the US military beast on Hussein. The US war machine defeated Iraq by burying thousands of Iraqi troops alive, employing depleted uranium, and murdering thousands of retreating Iraqis during the Basra Road Massacre.

Research by Beth Osborne Daponte, who ran afoul of \"straight shooter\" and then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney for \"inflating\" body counts related to the Gulf War, and who has since been exonerated, published by two scholarly journals, and awarded a teaching position at Carnegie Mellon University, demonstrates that 205,500 Iraqis died as a result of the Gulf War. Perhaps the rulers of the American Empire tired of committing genocide through their proxy, Hussein. Recasting him as an enemy certainly increased their capacity to eliminate the Iraqi people.

Keeping our hands clean while "killing them softly"

Shortly after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (on August 6, 1990), the United Nations, under intense pressure from the US, imposed severe economic sanctions on Iraq. A year later, with Iraq defeated, the sanctions continued. From the initial implementation of these draconian measures, the United States utilized its powerful influence within the UN to ensure that the sanctions remained in place. The alleged targets of the sanctions were Saddam Hussein and his government. However, the people of Iraq were the ones brutally victimized by this twelve year campaign of economic terror.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, by late 1995, over a million Iraqis (including 567,000 children) had died as a direct result of the economic sanctions. Based on UNICEF\'s research, 4,500 children were dying each month and 825,000 Iraqi children were at risk of suffering acute malnutrition.

Demonstrating the Clinton Regime's complicity in the Iraqi genocide, Secretary of State Madeline Albright appeared on 60 Minutes in May of 1996. When asked about reports of the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children due to the sanctions, she stated:

\"We think the price is worth it.\"

Even the Oil for Food Program (implemented in 1996 to enable Iraq to exchange its oil on the world market for food and humanitarian supplies) failed to stem the tide of suffering and death. Supporters of the American Empire claim that corruption, inefficiency and abuse caused the failure of this \"noble rescue effort\". However, despite the fact that the program did not end the misery for Iraqi civilians (regardless of the reasons), the US saw to it that the sanctions remained in place until Bush II launched his illegal invasion. To protest the ongoing sanctions, United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator Dennis Halliday ended his 34 year career with the UN in 1998.

Noam Chomsky has postulated that the ultimate goal of US foreign policy in Iraq is to reduce it to a sparsely populated nation, providing the American Empire with a readily attainable, strategically located piece of real estate sitting atop one of the largest oil reserves in the world.

Evidence does exist to support Chomsky\'s speculations. Slow Motion Holocaust by Stephanie Reich and The Secret Behind the Sanctions by Thomas Nagy both reference DIA documents which expose US intent with respect to the economic sanctions:

Reich: A series of recently revealed Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) reports show that the US attack on Iraq\'s civilian population was deliberate and calculated. A DIA report of January 1991 stated that sanctions would prevent the import of chemicals and equipment required for the provision of safe drinking water, resulting in epidemics. A second DIA report listed as likely causes of epidemics in urban areas the fact that US bombing had destroyed water, electrical and waste disposal systems, and had largely ended distribution of preventive medicines. The report itemized the predicted disease outbreaks, highlighting those that strike children. A third DIA report dated March 1991 explicitly connected outbreaks of gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases to the war, stated that children in particular were affected, and noted that potable water had been reduced to 5% of prewar supplies.

Nagy: Over the last two years, I\'ve discovered documents of the Defense Intelligence Agency proving beyond a doubt that, contrary to the Geneva Convention, the U.S. government intentionally used sanctions against Iraq to degrade the country\'s water supply after the Gulf War. The United States knew the cost that civilian Iraqis, mostly children, would pay, and it went ahead anyway.

Patience is not a Neocon virtue

Once the Bush Regime seized power, the \"slow motion holocaust\" was no longer satisfactory. In enabling or causing 9/11, they had the Pearl Harbor they needed to launch "full speed genocide\". Spinning incredibly absurd yarns linking Saddam Hussein to Osama bin Laden while \"proving\" that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction (and the means to unleash them), the nefarious ones whipped the American public into a \"patriotic\" fervor. Driven by fear of the \"terrorists\" and the lies of the mainstream media, the American public zealously supported the \"Shock and Awe\" campaign.

Conveniently, the Neocons and their media handmaidens neglected to inform the American public that as a former ally, the US had a degree of complicity in Saddam\'s crimes against humanity. They also failed to mention that our government had committed similar offenses during the Gulf War and had engaged in the passive mass murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis by strong-arming the UN into maintaining the economic sanctions for 12 years. Or perhaps by Neocon moral reckoning, two wrongs do make a right and they decided it would be frivolous to rehash America\'s \"heroic efforts\" to end Hussein\'s tyranny.

In December 2005, George Bush himself publicly admitted that his Regime bears responsibility for at least 30,000 Iraqi civilian deaths since the start of the illegal Occupation in 2003. The Lancet Journal released a study in October 2004 which concluded that the number was closer to 100,000 at that time. A more recent study referenced in an article in The Canadian places the number closer to 250,000. The Neocons certainly have accelerated the pace of the Iraqi genocide.

"Collateral Damage" in the Homeland

Iraqis are not the only victims of the Empire\'s most recent efforts to exterminate them. Americans are reaping the wages of Bush\'s sins against the Iraqi people. Over 2300 Americans have died carrying out the twisted bidding of Rumsfeld and company. Hundreds of billions of wasted US taxpayer dollars, virtually certain federal bankruptcy, and the steady asphyxiation of domestic programs which benefit the poor, the sick, the elderly, the working people, and most importantly, our children, closely parallel the passive mass murder perpetrated through the US-driven UN economic sanctions against Iraq. Want evidence? Look to New Orleans.

In light of the Downing Street Memo, which clearly demonstrates that Bush constructed a false case to justify the invasion of a country that posed no real threat to the United States, based on the accompanying needless deaths of American soldiers, and considering the resulting economic sanctions placed upon the American people, Congress has a sacred obligation to truly represent the interests of its constituents and remove Bush and his fellow criminals from office. It is time to impeach Bush and Cheney. Once removed from office, these two and the rest of the cabal need to face trial at the International Criminal Court for war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

We the People and the Iraqis deserve better

Click the link below to take action:

\"Congressman John Conyers has introduced three new pieces of legislation aimed at censuring President Bush and Vice President Cheney, and at creating a fact-finding committee that could be a first step toward impeachment.\"

Americans are not an evil lot, but we are culpable for having allowed a string of truly despicable human beings to perpetrate the Iraqi genocide that has been taking place since the Reagan Regime. The monstrous psychopaths now infesting the White House have taken malevolence to a whole new level. Let us remind ourselves that The White House belongs to us and that Bush serves us.

Bush and his rotten associates are guests in our home and ultimately, mere public servants. One simple step that you can take toward evicting and firing them is to click on the linked paragraph above to email your Congress Member with a demand that they support Conyers' courageous initiatives. Remember, removal from the White House will put these scoundrels one step closer to the Big House and to suffering the consequences they so richly deserve.

Jason Miller is a 39 year old activist writer with a degree in liberal arts. When he is not spending time with his wife and three sons, researching, or writing, he is working as a loan counselor. He is a member of Amnesty International and an avid supporter of Oxfam International and Human Rights Watch. He welcomes responses at willpowerful@hotmail.com or comments on his blog, Thomas Paine\'s Corner.

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American gulag

By Thomas Wilner
Los Angeles Times
26 Feb 06

THE AMERICAN PRISON CAMP at Guantanamo Bay is on the southeast corner of Cuba, a sliver of land the United States has occupied since 1903. Long ago, it was irrigated from lakes on the other side of the island, but Cuban President Fidel Castro cut off the water supply years ago. So today, Guantanamo produces its own water from a 30-year-old desalination plant. The water has a distinct yellow tint. All Americans drink bottled water imported by the planeload. Until recently, prisoners drank the yellow water.
The prison overlooks the sea, but the ocean cannot be seen by prisoners. Guard towers and stadium lights loom along the perimeter. On my last visit, we were escorted by young, solemn military guards whose nameplates on their shirts were taped over so that prisoners could not identify them.

Very few outsiders are allowed to see the prisoners. The government has orchestrated some carefully controlled tours for the media and members of Congress, but has repeatedly refused to allow these visitors, representatives of the United Nations, human rights groups or nonmilitary doctors and psychiatrists to meet or speak with prisoners. So far, the only outsiders who have done so are representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross - who are prohibited by their own rules from disclosing what they find - and lawyers for the prisoners.

I am one of those lawyers. I represent six Kuwaiti prisoners, each of whom has now spent nearly four years at Guantanamo. It took me 2 1/2 years to gain access to my clients, but now I have visited the prison camp 11 times in the last 14 months. What I have witnessed is a cruel and eerie netherworld of concrete and barbed wire that has become a daily nightmare for the nearly 500 people swept up after 9/11 who have been imprisoned without charges or trial for more than four years. It is truly our American gulag.

On my most recent trip three weeks ago, after signing a log sheet and submitting our bags to a search, my colleagues and I were taken through two tall, steel-mesh gates into the interior of the prison camp.

We interviewed our clients in Camp Echo, one of several camps where prisoners are interrogated. We entered a room about 13 feet square and divided in half by a wall of thick steel mesh. On one side was a table where the prisoner would sit for our interviews, his feet shackled to a steel eyelet cemented to the floor. On the other side were a shower and a cell just like the ones in which prisoners are ordinarily confined. In their cells, prisoners sleep on a metal shelf against the wall, which is flanked by a toilet and sink. They are allowed a thin foam mattress and a gray cotton blanket.

The Pentagon's files on the six Kuwaiti prisoners we represent reveal that none was captured on a battlefield or accused of engaging in hostilities against the U.S. The prisoners claim that they were taken into custody by Pakistani and Afghan warlords and turned over to the U.S. for bounties ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 - a claim confirmed by American news reports. We have obtained copies of bounty leaflets distributed in Afghanistan and Pakistan by U.S. forces promising rewards - "enough to feed your family for life" - for any "Arab terrorist" handed over.

The files include only the flimsiest accusations or hearsay that would never stand up in court. The file on one prisoner indicated that he had been seen talking to two suspected Al Qaeda members on the same day - at places thousands of miles apart. The primary "evidence" against another was that he was captured wearing a particular Casio watch, "which many terrorists wear." Oddly, the same watch was being worn by the U.S. military chaplain, a Muslim, at Guantanamo.

When I first met my clients, they had not seen or spoken with their families for more than three years, and they had been questioned hundreds of times. Several were suspicious of us; they told me that they had been interrogated by people who claimed to be their lawyers but who turned out not to be. So we had DVDs made, on which members of their families told them who we were and that we could be trusted. Several cried on seeing their families for the first time in years. One had become a father since he was detained and had never before seen his child. One noticed his father was not on the DVD, and we had to tell him that his father had died.

Most prisoners are kept apart, although some can communicate through the steel mesh or concrete walls that separate their cells. They exercise alone, some only at night. They had not seen sunlight for months - an especially cruel tactic in a tropical climate. One prisoner told me, "I have spent almost every moment of the last three years, and eaten every meal, here in this small cell which is my bathroom." Other than the Koran, prisoners had nothing to read. As a result of our protests, some have been given books.

Every prisoner I've interviewed claims to have been badly beaten and subjected to treatment that only could be called torture, by Americans, from the first day of U.S. captivity in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They said they were hung by their wrists and beaten, hung by their ankles and beaten, stripped naked and paraded before female guards, and given electric shocks. At least three claimed to have been beaten again upon arrival in Guantanamo. One of my clients, Fayiz Al Kandari, now 27, said his ribs were broken during an interrogation in Pakistan. I felt the indentation in his ribs. "Beat me all you want, just give me a hearing," he said he told his interrogators.

Another prisoner, Fawzi Al Odah, 25, is a teacher who left Kuwait City in 2001 to work in Afghan, then Pakistani, schools. After 9/11, he and four other Kuwaitis were invited to dinner by a Pakistani tribal leader and then sold by him into captivity, according to their accounts, later confirmed by Newsweek and ABC News.

On Aug. 8, 2005, Fawzi, in desperation, went on a hunger strike to assert his innocence and to protest being imprisoned for four years without charges. He said he wanted to defend himself against any accusations, or die. He told me that he had heard U.S. congressmen had returned from tours of Guantanamo saying that it was a Caribbean resort with great food. "If I eat, I condone these lies," Fawzi said.

At the end of August, after Fawzi fainted in his cell, guards began to force-feed him through tubes pushed up his nose into his stomach. At first, the tubes were inserted for each feeding and then removed afterward. Fawzi told me that this was very painful. When he tried to pull out the tubes, he was strapped onto a stretcher with his head held by many guards, which was even more painful.

By mid-September, the force-feeding had been made more humane. Feeding tubes were left in and the formula pumped in. Still, when I saw Fawzi, a tube was protruding from his nose. Drops of blood dripped as we talked. He dabbed at it with a napkin.

We asked for Fawzi's medical records so we could monitor his weight and his health. Denied. The only way we could learn how Fawzi was doing was to visit him each month, which we did. When we visited him in November, his weight had dropped from 140 pounds to 98 pounds. Specialists in enteral feeding advised us that the continued drop in his weight and other signs indicated that the feeding was being conducted incompetently. We asked that Fawzi be transferred to a hospital. Again, the government refused.

When we saw Fawzi in December, his weight had stabilized at about 110 pounds. The formulas had been changed, and he was being force-fed by medical personnel rather than by guards.

When I met with Fawzi three weeks ago, the tubes were out of his nose. I told him I was thankful that after five months he had ended his hunger strike. He looked at me sadly and said, "They tortured us to make us stop." At first, he said, they punished him by taking away his "comfort items" one by one: his blanket, his towel, his long pants, his shoes. They then put him in isolation. When this failed to persuade him to end the hunger strike, he said, an officer came to him Jan. 9 to announce that any detainee who refused to eat would be forced onto "the chair." The officer warned that recalcitrant prisoners would be strapped into a steel device that pulled their heads back, and that the tubes would be forced in and wrenched out for each feeding. "We're going to break this hunger strike," the officer told him.

Fawzi said he heard the prisoner next door screaming and warning him to give up the strike. He decided that he wasn't "on strike to be tortured." He said those who continued on the hunger strike not only were strapped in "the chair" but were left there for hours; he believes that guards fed them not only nutrients but also diuretics and laxatives to force them to defecate and urinate on themselves in the chair.

After less than two weeks of this treatment, the strike was over. Of the more than 80 strikers at the end of December, Fawzi said only three or four were holding out. As a result of the strike, however, prisoners are now getting a meager ration of bottled water.

Fawzi said eating was the only aspect of life at Guantanamo he could control; forcing him to end the hunger strike stripped him of his last means of protesting his unjust imprisonment. Now, he said, he feels "hopeless."

The government continues to deny that there is any injustice at Guantanamo. But I know the truth.

Thomas Wilner is a partner at Shearman & Sterling, which has been representing Kuwaiti prisoners in Guantanamo since early 2002.

Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times

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"Worse" Than Guantanamo: U.S. Expands Secretive Prison Inside Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan

Democracy Now interview
human rights attorneys Clive Stafford Smith and Michael Ratner

The U.S. is holding 500 at the base in wire cages at the Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul in Afghanistan. Some have been detained for up to three years. They have never been charged with crimes. They have no access to lawyers. They are barred from hearing the allegations against them. Officials describe the jail's conditions as primitive.
"While an international debate rages over the future of the American detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the military has quietly expanded another, less-visible prison in Afghanistan, where it now holds some 500 terror suspects in more primitive conditions, indefinitely and without charges."

That is the opening line of a front-page article in Sunday's New York Times detailing the US-run prison at Bagram Air Base, north of Kabul. The Times reports that some of the detainees at Bagram have been held for as long as two or three years. Unlike those at Guantanamo, they have no access to lawyers, no right to hear the allegations against them and only rudimentary reviews of their status as "enemy combatants." One Pentagon official told the Times the current average stay of prisoners at Bagram was 14.5 months.

The numbers of detainees at the base had risen from about 100 at the start of 2004 to as many as 600 at times last year. The paper says the increase is in part the result of a decision by the U.S. government to shut off the flow of detainees to Guantanamo Bay after the Supreme Court ruled that those prisoners had some basic due-process rights. The question of whether those same rights apply to detainees in Bagram has not been tested in court.

While Guantanamo offers carefully scripted tours for members of Congress and journalists, Bagram has operated in rigorous secrecy since it opened in 2002. It bars outside visitors except for the International Red Cross and refuses to make public the names of those held there. The prison may not be photographed, even from a distance.

Citing unnamed military officials and former detainees, the Times reports that prisoners at Bagram are held by the dozen in wire cages, sleep on the floor on foam mats and are often made to use plastic buckets for latrines. Before recent renovations, detainees rarely saw daylight except for brief visits to a small exercise yard. The U.S. military on Sunday defended Bagram air base saying detainees there are treated humanely and provided "the best possible living conditions."

But evidence of abuse of prisoners at Bagram has emerged over the years. In December 2002, two Afghan prisoners were found dead, hanging by their shackled wrists in isolation cells at the prison. An Army investigation showed they were treated harshly by interrogators, deprived of sleep for days, and struck so often in the legs by guards that a coroner compared the injuries to being run over by a bus. No one has been prosecuted for the deaths, though both were ruled homicides and the Army claims the men were beaten to death inside the jail.

We are joined on the line by Clive Stafford Smith, a British-born human rights lawyer who represents 40 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, many of whom passed through Bagram Air Base. He is legal director of the charity Reprieve. We are also joined by Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

* Clive Stafford Smith, a British-born human rights lawyer who represents 40 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, many of whom passed through Bagram Air Base. He is legal director of the charity Reprieve.
* Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

AMY GOODMAN: We're joined on the phone right now from London by Clive Stafford Smith, a British-born human rights lawyer who represents 40 detainees at Guantanamo Bay, many of whom passed through the Bagram Air Base. He is legal director of the charity, Reprieve. He joins us on the phone from London. Welcome to Democracy Now!


AMY GOODMAN: It's good to have you with us. Can you tell us what you know of Bagram?

CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: Yes, and, of course, a lot of it is laid out in the New York Times, but there are some things that are considerably worse than represented there. For example, there is an area of Bagram that is not open to the Red Cross, as one of our clients, Mamdou Habib said. The most frightening moment he had in Bagram was when the Red Cross came and he didn't get to see them. And there's a cellar area in Bagram, a dark -- a place that's kept perpetually dark, which is where a number of prisoners are kept away from the Red Cross itself. And, of course, if you think about being a prisoner in those circumstances, your natural assumption is if the military doesn't want the Red Cross to know you exist, then your fate is probably not going to be a very pleasant one, and naturally a number of those people have been moved off and rendered to other countries, where they have been abused. And some of them we've caught up with again in Guantanamo, but many haven't. They've disappeared.

AMY GOODMAN: We're also joined in our studio by Michael Ratner, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Does the Center represent people at Bagram?

MICHAEL RATNER: Well, like Clive, the Center has many of the similar clients who have been through Bagram on their way to Guantanamo. And Moazzam Begg is another one whose story has just come out, how he was taken to Bagram, beaten, etc., and then went to Guantanamo. We are in contact with people who have family members, who have people in Guantanamo, and as Clive said, a lot of this has been known for a couple – more than two or three years. I mean, the people who were hung and tortured and killed. The underground prison has been known, and what's really incredibly frustrating – you feel like Sisyphus, rolling the stone up the hill, when you think about finally getting some rights for people and visits to Guantanamo, and then what happens is the administration really goes and continues its illegality in other prisons around the world. So what it really says is that, yes, the struggle is around one prison like Guantanamo, but we have to really root out completely what this administration is doing around the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, can you, though, explain? I mean, it sounds like the reason Bagram is growing is because of all of the international outcry around Guantanamo, but also Guantanamo's legal relationship with the United States on a U.S. air base in Cuba. Can you explain the legality of Afghanistan, where Bagram is and Guantanamo, these two detention camps?

MICHAEL RATNER: Well, both Clive and I were in the early case about Guantanamo, in which the U.S. tried to say Guantanamo was like Bagram, that there were no legal rights there. You couldn't go to court for people in Guantanamo. They had no constitutional rights, and the U.S. said it could do what it wanted to people at Guantanamo. We won a big case in the Supreme Court, the Rasul case in June of 2004, that opened the courts to people at Guantanamo and opened them so people like Clive and Center lawyers could go to Guantanamo.

Even with that, those set of rights, the administration, in the Graham-Levin Bill and the Detainee Treatment Act, is trying to eliminate even those rights we won in the Supreme Court. But as far as Bagram is concerned, the legal position of the administration is similar to what it was about Guantanamo. There are no legal rights, but they have the additional argument, that they would make, that because it's not on a U.S. permanent military base like the one in Cuba, that there's even fewer rights.

I don't think they're correct. I think that any person detained anywhere in the world has a right to go into a court, has a right to be visited by an attorney, but the administration's view is whatever Guantanamo rights are, the rights at Bagram are nil, absolutely none, and so what they did, according to the Times report, was a few months after we won the Rasul case, they said they stopped sending people to Guantanamo and started to send them to other places – Bagram is the one that we know the most about at this point – because the administration's view is that no court, no lawyer, no one, has any right to visit anyone in Guantanamo -- anyone in Bagram, and that nobody --and that the people at Bagram have no legal rights at all. An extraordinary statement in today's world.

AMY GOODMAN: Clive Stafford Smith, your response, and also what is the role, if any, of Britain in Bagram?

CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: Well, my response is that I think, as Michael and I and many others have said for a long time, Guantanamo is something of a distraction. That people -- if you think people have been badly treated in Guantanamo, you should see what's happened to them in other places, and what's of real concern, arising out of the New York Times article, is this: The Times mentioned one flight. It was actually September 19, 2004 where ten people were brought to Guantanamo. I represent a couple of those. Of those ten, all of them are extraordinary cases where people were taken and abused horribly in other places.

One of my clients is Binyam Mohammed. He was rendered to Morocco. We've got the flight logs. We know the very names of the soldiers who were on the flight, and he was taken there, and he was tortured for 18 months, a razor blade taken to his penis, for goodness sake, and now the U.S. military is putting him on trial in Guantanamo. Hassin bin Attash, a 17 year-old juvenile who was taken to Jordan and tortured there for 16 months. There is a series of these people.

Now, what that prompts is this question, that the people who have been most mistreated in Guantanamo were mistreated elsewhere, and then the administration took a very small number of them to Guantanamo, but the vast majority of them are either in Bagram or in these secret prisons around the world. And most recently, we heard of Poland. We've heard of Morocco. We've heard of various places.

What I'm afraid is the truth is that the most shocking abuses have yet to come to light, that these people are in Bagram and have yet to talk to anybody, and what the administration is doing is hiding these ghastly secrets. Now, the question is: What are they going to do about that? What are they going to do when it becomes necessary at some point for these prisoners to be given lawyers? There's a lot of horror stories, and the administration is just not going to want those horror stories to come out. So where are these prisoners going to be sent? Are they going to vanish forever?

And unfortunately, the U.S. administration has shown that it is willing to send people to Egypt, where they may disappear, to Morocco, where they get razor blades taken to them, and we've got to find out the names of these people first, because the government won't tell us, and then we've got to prevent them from being rendered to some country where they effectively die after a bit of torture.

I'll be glad to go on to the British part, but I know I have talked too much. I don't want to rant on forever.

AMY GOODMAN: Clive Stafford Smith, I wanted to ask you about a piece that appeared in a paper in your country in the Guardian by Suzanne Goldenberg and James Meek. It says, "New evidence has emerged that U.S. forces in Afghanistan engaged in widespread Abu Ghraib-style abuse, taking trophy photographs of detainees and carrying out rape and sexual humiliation. Documents obtained by the Guardian contain evidence that such abuse took place in the main detention center at Bagram, near the capital, Kabul, as well at a smaller U.S. installation near the southern city of Kandahar. A thousand pages of evidence from U.S. Army investigations released to the ACLU after a long battle, made available to the Guardian."

And then inside, it says, "The latest allegations from Afghanistan fit a pattern of claims of brutal treatment made by former Guantanamo Bay prisoners and Afghans held by the U.S. In December, the U.S. said eight prisoners had died in custody in Afghanistan," and this is according to you, "A Palestinian says he was sodomized by American soldiers in Afghanistan. Another former prisoner of U.S. forces, a Jordanian, describes a form of torture which involved being hung in a cage from a rope for days. Hussein Abdelkader Youssef Mustafa, a Palestinian living in Jordan, told Clive Stafford Smith he was sodomized by U.S. soldiers during detention at Bagram in 2002. He said, 'They forcibly rammed a stick up my rectum – excruciatingly painful. Only when the pain became overwhelming did I think I would ever scream, but I could not stop screaming when this happened.'"

CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: Yeah, you know, Hussein Mustafa, I met with him in Jordan, and he was an incredibly credible person. He is a dignified older gentleman, about now 50 years old, and he wanted to talk about what had happened to him, but he really didn't want to talk about that sexual stuff, and in the end, you know, I said to him, "Look, you don't have to, but it's very important if things happened, that the story get out, so they don't happen to other people," and in the end he did, and it was in front of half a dozen people who were just transfixed as he described how four soldiers took him, one on each shoulder, one bent down his head and then the fourth of them took this broomstick and shoved it up his rectum.

Now there was no one in that room -- and they were from a variety of places -- who didn't believe that what this man was saying was true, but I am afraid, I've got to tell you, that that's far from the worst that's happened. When you talk about Bagram, when you talk about Kandahar, those aren't the worst places the U.S. has run in Afghanistan. The dark prison, sometimes called "Salt Pit," in Kabul itself, which is separate from Bagram, has been far worse than that, and I can tell you stories from there that just make your skin crawl.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, why don't you tell us something about this place?

CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: Yeah, I'll tell you some of the ones, for example, that Binyam Mohammed told me. He was the man who had the razor blade taken to him. He was then taken, and again, we can prove it. We've got the flight logs. He was taken on January 25, 2004, to Kabul, where he was put in this dark prison for five months, and he was shackled. You just get this vision of the Middle Ages, where he's shackled on the wall with his hands up, so he can't quite sit down. It's totally dark in that place.

When the U.S. says that people are being treated nicely in Bagram, you've got to be kidding me. It's the middle of winter, and they're freezing to death, and this man was in this cell, no heating, absolutely freezing, no clothing, except for his shorts, totally dark for 24 hours a day with this howling noise around him. They began with Eminem music, interestingly enough; they played him Eminem music for 24 hours a day for 20 days. Seems to me Eminem ought to be suing them for royalties over that, but then it got worse and they started doing these screeching noises, and this is going on 24 hours a day, and in the mean time they would bring him out very briefly just to beat him, and this is to try to get this man to confess to stories that they now want him to repeat in military commissions in Guantanamo, and they want to say, "Oh, everything's nice now."

And what he went through, he said, was far worse than the physical torture, this psychological torture that some pervert was running in the dark prison in Kabul was worse to him, and he still suffers from it day in, day out, because of what it has done to his mind, and this is the – what we have to remember is there is someone out there who is thinking this stuff up and who is then saying that we need to do it, and this isn't some lowly guard who loses control and does something terrible that's physical. I mean, that's awful. But you've got someone out there who is thinking through how we're going to torture these people with this excruciating noise and these other things, and they're doing this very, very consciously, and the story has a long way before it's going to be out fully.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Michael Ratner, what oversight is there?

MICHAEL RATNER: Well, as Clive is saying, there isn't, and I think, you know, we're putting this huge effort into closing down Guantanamo, which is crucial, obviously, to do. It will be a major victory, but what we're running is these so-called "black sites," torture chambers all around the world, and there isn't any oversight. Our Congress is just sitting on its hands, not doing anything. The most they ask is they say, "Give us a report on black sites." Even that isn't getting through. We have nothing.

This country is running torture chambers around the world right now, and Clive's stories, our clients' stories, are incredibly dramatic, and his point about the psychological torture is crucial. It's what Clive is saying, people have thought about this, but this is something that has been U.S. policy for 40 years of how to really deal with people, not just physically, but with psychological torture, and one of your former guests, I think Al McCoy, had this on in A Question of Torture, saying, this is what really affects people. Physically, yes, hurts them, but the psychological marks of torture, and when you see the pictures from Bagram to Guantanamo, you know that this is stuff that is not just chance or random. This is going by the book.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to talk about this article in the New Yorker that Jane Mayer had written about Colonel Louie Morgan Banks, a senior Army psychologist who played a significant advisory role in interrogations at Guantanamo Bay. Asked to provide details of his consulting work, he said, quote, "I just don't remember any particular cases. I just consulted generally on what approaches to take. It was about what human behavior in captivity is like." Banks has a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Southern Mississippi. A biographical statement for an American Psychological Association Task Force on Psychological Ethics and National Security, which Banks serves on, mentions that he, quote, "provides technical support and consultation to all Army psychologists providing interrogation support." It also notes that starting in November of 2001, Banks was detailed to Afghanistan where he spent four months at Bagram Air Field, quote, "supporting combat operations against al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters."

MICHAEL RATNER: Well, what's remarkable about Banks is he also consulted on Guantanamo. So here you have this guy who is a psychologist, consulting really on how to break people through psychological -- psychological torture is what I would call it, and then he goes from Guantanamo to Bagram. This is not chance. This is not a few bad apples. This is high-level military people working with our military, our C.I.A., in how to break people through torture.

CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: When you're talking "break people," and I think that's a very important word. You know, people bang on about whether it's torture or whether it's coercion. Well our highest officials have said that the purpose of all of this is to, quote, "break" somebody, and we get people to confess to stuff that's absolute drivel. You take, for example, Binyam Mohammed, again. You have a razor blade taken to you, you have the psychological stuff, you're going to say anything.

They got Binyam Mohammed to confess that he had dinner with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramsey bin al-Shaid, Abu Zubaydah, Sheikh al-Libbi, and Jose Padilla all together on April 3, 2002, in Pakistan. Well, you know, quite apart from anything else, two of them, Abu Zubaydah and Sheikh al-Libbi were in U.S. custody at the time when he confessed to that and at the time that he was meant to be having dinner, and you know, this is a guy that didn't speak Arabic who was meant to be hobnobbing with half of al-Qaeda. You get this total drivel out of this breaking of people, and yet, for some reason, the people who are designing Guantanamo think we should carry on breaking them, as did the Spanish Inquisition. It's very odd.

MICHAEL RATNER: That's correct. I mean, it's – they break them; they get drivel; they get false stories, and so what's going on? What's going on, I think, in part, is an attempt to terrorize people, terrorize the Muslim world and say, "You come into U.S. hands, and we will terrorize you." And that's what they're doing.

CLIVE STAFFORD SMITH: Don't you think though, Michael – I tell you, I think there's a slightly bigger danger here, which is the people who are doing this abuse believe the stuff they get. This is what's frightening to me, that we end up making decisions based on this nonsense.

MICHAEL RATNER: You know, it's true. They do believe it. I think, when you talk to your clients or we talk to ours, the people who are interrogating them actually believe what they're telling them, even though it's utterly and complete drivel.

AMY GOODMAN: We're going to have to leave it there. Joining us next is Maher Arar. He is a Canadian citizen who was -- well, the U.S. government calls it "extraordinary rendition," others call it "kidnapped" -- when he was transiting through Kennedy Airport from a family vacation to Canada and sent to Syria, was tortured there and held for almost a year. We have been speaking with Clive Stafford Smith, a British human rights lawyer. Michael Ratner will stay with us, President of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

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Total Information Awareness Lives On Inside the National Security Agency

The National Journal
Democracy Now!
27 Feb 06

More than two years ago Congress halted plans for a controversial plan called Total Information Awareness to create the world's largest surveillance database to track your phone calls, purchases, Internet usage, reading material, banking transactions. The National Journal has now revealed the program has quietly continued inside the NSA.

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From Superpower to Tinhorn Dictatorship

By Paul Craig Roberts
27 Feb 06

America is headed for a soft dictatorship by the end of Bush's second term. Whether any American has civil rights will be decided by the discretionary power of federal officials. The public in general will tolerate the soft dictatorship as its discretionary powers will mainly be felt by those few who challenge it.
The congressional elections this coming November are the last chance for for Americans to reaffirm the separation of powers that is the basis of their civil liberties. Unless the voters correct their mistake of putting both the executive and legislative branches in the hands of the same party and deliver the House or the Senate to the Democrats, there is nothing on the domestic scene to stand in the way of more power, and less accountability, being accumulated in the executive.

The Democrats have been a totally ineffective opposition and might not inspire any voter response other than apathy. Rather than vote for a cowardly party that is afraid to defend the Constitution, voters might simply not vote at all.

In this unfortunate event, the only check on the Bush regime is its own hubris.

Bush's ill-fated invasion of Iraq has set in motion forces beyond his control. On February 23 the Asia Times reported that America's Pakistani puppet, Musharraf, is "losing his grip." Some Pakistani provinces are already beyond Musharraf's control, and the remainder are rioting against "Busharraf" as Musharraf is now known. The infantile American press misrepresents the riots as responses to the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed, but in fact the target of the riots is the American puppet.

By invading Afghanistan and Iraq and by threatening Syria and Iran, Bush has taught Muslims everywhere that they owe their humiliation to the Western controlled secular governments that suppress their aspirations. They are realizing that their power resides in Islam and that this power is suppressed by secular governments. Busharraf is probably dead meat, and when he goes so does the US military adventure in Afghanistan.

When Bush attacks Iran, the US army will be caught between the Iraqi Shia and the Iranian Shia and will be decimated in fourth generation conflict, so aptly described by William S. Lind. If a few thousand Sunni insurgents can tie down 10 US divisions, imagine the fate of US forces trapped in a Shia crescent.

The collapsing power of the US hegemon is everywhere evident. It is evident in the inability to successfully occupy Iraq or even Baghdad. It is evident in the growing military cooperation between North and South Korea, and it is evident it the revolt in the Indian government against Prime Minister Singh's nuclear agreement with the US. Indians say this agreement subjects India to US hegemony and represents America's attempt to block India's pioneering research on thorium as a nuclear fuel. Opposition parties have told Singh that if he signs the agreement, they will bring down his government.

The entire world now recognizes that America has lost its economic power and is dependent on the rest of the world to finance its budget and trade deficits. The US no longer holds the cards. American real incomes are falling, except for the rich. Jobs for university graduates are scarce, and advanced technology products must be imported from China. The US is a rapidly declining power and may soon end up as nothing but a tinhorn dictatorship.

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

Copyright © 2006 LewRockwell.com

Comment: Fact is, there is NO chance of reaffirming the separation of powers or recovering our civil liberties in the upcoming election. Dr. Roberts should know this since, as he pointed out, the only reason Bush is spying illegally is to gain control of the political process by spying on members of congress and other government officials. Why? Congress COULD have gotten rid of the voting system that Bush already controls... But not anymore.

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Brainwashing! Australia mulls car smoking ban

BBC News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

A parliamentary inquiry in the Australian state of New South Wales is to consider a ban on smoking in cars.

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Irving expands on Holocaust views

BBC News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

Historian David Irving, who was jailed for denying the Holocaust occurred, repeats the claim in a BBC interview. Jailed British historian David Irving has again said he does not believe Hitler presided over a systematic attempt to exterminate Jews in Europe. During his trial in Austria, Irving said he had changed his mind over claims the Holocaust did not happen. But, speaking from his cell later, he told BBC News the numbers killed at Auschwitz were smaller than claimed. He is appealing for a reduction in the three-year jail term. Prosecutors are seeking for it to be lengthened. The Austrian state prosecutor's office said it believed Irving's sentence for Holocaust denial was too lenient in light of a possible sentence of up to 10 years.
The prosecutor also deemed the sentence too light because of "Irving's special importance to right-wing radicals", a spokesman for the office said. The historian pleaded guilty in his one-day trial in Vienna on 20 February. In court, the 67-year-old admitted that in 1989 he had denied that Nazi Germany had killed millions of Jews. Speaking from prison, where he is in solitary confinement for 23 hours each day, Irving told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he now believed there had been cases of Jewish people being gassed during World War II. But he said that while he accepted 1.4 million were killed in the so-called "Operation Reinhard" camps which included Treblinka and Sobibor, he did not accept that large numbers were murdered at Auschwitz. He claimed there were two "small" gas chambers there, not the large-scale gas chambers identified by other historians. "Given the ruthless efficiency of the Germans, if there was an extermination programme to kill all the Jews, how come so many survived?" he said. When asked whether there was an organised programme to exterminate the Jews in Europe, overseen by Hitler, Irving told Today: "That is absolutely wrong and nobody can justify that. "Adolf Hitler's own involvement in it has a big question mark behind it." The trial against Irving arose from comments he made in Austria in 1989 denying the existence of gas chambers at Auschwitz. Austria is one of 11 countries with laws against denying the Holocaust. The historian previously said that he doubted the Holocaust's existence until he saw the personal files of Adolf Eichmann, the chief organiser of the Holocaust. Gas chamber 'hoax' "I said that then based on my knowledge at the time, but by 1991 when I came across the Eichmann papers, I wasn't saying that anymore and I wouldn't say that now," Irving told the court. "The Nazis did murder millions of Jews." In the past, he had claimed that Adolf Hitler knew little, if anything, about the Holocaust, and that the gas chambers were a hoax. Irving's lawyer has said his client is unlikely to serve the full three-year term because of various factors, including his age. Speaking on Today, Richard Evans, professor of German history at Cambridge University and a witness against Irving at a libel trial in 2000, dismissed the latest comments. "He was, I think, arrogant enough to believe that he wouldn't be arrested," said Professor Evans. "But having said that, I think the Austrian action is ill-advised. I don't think that law which bans Holocaust denial is really necessary any longer and I think it's really regrettable the vast media circus that's surrounding Mr Irving now [is] just simply giving prominence to his absurd views."

Comment: Not only is the fact that Irving has been arrested for a thought crime giving prominence to his view, it is making anybody who supports such Police State tactics targets of anger and resentment. Israel has sown the wind...

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Should Cuba Bomb the United States?

By Salim Lamrani
27 Feb 06

The United States appears to spare no effort in its "war against terrorism." It has even violated the territory of Pakistan, one of its most faithful allies, and killed its people.
On January 13, 2006, the CIA launched several missiles from a pilotless plane over the Pakistani town of Damadola, 50 kilometers from the Afghan border. The air strike caused a real slaughter: three houses were destroyed and 18 civilians lost their lives, including at least three children and five women, not to mention the numerous injured.

According to the US authorities the murderous aggression launched against that population was targeted at Al Qaeda's number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian-born man who was supposed to be attending a dinner there.

Notwithstanding, Islamabad formally expressed its dissatisfaction, saying that the United States had missed its target. In fact, the body of the Al Qaeda leader was not found among the debris and the local authorities also certified that all the victims were inhabitants of the town.

Pakistan's Prime Minister, Saukhat Aziz, deplored the attack, which came from Afghanistan. This a totally condemnable act," he affirmed, although his statement only sought to calm the people's anger.

Actually, the PM refused to cancel George H. Bush's visit, because although the incident was reprehensible, one must not forget that "Pakistan needs investments," he added.

For his part, Shafqat Mahmood, a former senator, who favors the war against terrorism, stated that the new atrocities exacerbated people's bitterness against the United States. "There is a widespread resentment about Pakistan's territory being violated by an ally. We have been fervent allies in the war against terror, and if our territory is struck, this will obviously create a problem," he said.

The Pakistani media severely chastised the military action against civilians. "The attack would have also been unjustified even if it had hit the targets aimed at," said an editorial by the English-speaking newspaper "The News", which noted that the action would only inflame animosity towards the United States. Thousands of people demonstrated in Karachi, on January 15, 2006 to protest against the lethal bombing, which had followed another one against Pakistani tribal regions a few days before, taking the lives of at least eight people.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, defended the destructive strategies that are being used by the CIA and refused to present her apology for the "collateral damage." "It is not convenient to treat terrorists softly," said Rice. In her opinion, it is totally legitimate to bomb any place that shelters people involved in international terrorism.

If one follows the US logic, then what attitude should Cuba adopt, having been the first victim of international terrorism nearly a half century ago? Should it bomb the "residence" where Luis Posada Carriles is currently living, in El Paso, Texas? Should it launch a missile against Orlando Bosch's house in Miami?

Both men are responsible, among other crimes of the killing of 73 people in the mid-air bombing of a Cuban airliner, on October 6 1976, and they are now enjoying total impunity.

Salim Lamrani is a researcher at the Paris Sorbonne University.

Copyright © PERIÓDICO 26

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China's Hu warns Taiwan it is taking 'dangerous step'


Tue 28 Feb, 2006

BEIJING (AFP) - Chinese President Hu Jintao warned Taiwan that it was taking a "dangerous step" by abolishing an advisory council on unification with the mainland.

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Egypt's bubbling cauldron

BBC News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

The US drive for democracy in the Middle East is likely to boost political Islam, writes Ian Pannell in Cairo.

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Moscow synagogue suspect on trial

BBC News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

A man held after an attack on Jewish worshippers goes on trial accused of attempted murder.

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China warns Taiwan of 'disaster'

BBC News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

China warns Taiwan that its decision to scrap a council on reunification with the mainland may bring disaster.

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Thai protesters issue ultimatum

BBC News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

Leaders of a campaign to oust Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinwatra demand that he resigns by Sunday.

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Pakistani Kids Rally Over Prophet Cartoons

AP News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) -- About 5,000 children chanting "Hang those who insulted the prophet" rallied in Pakistan's largest city on Tuesday in the latest protest in the Islamic nation against the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad....

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Speak for Yourself

By Cindy Sheehan
27 Feb 06

While we were camping out in hot and humid Crawford, Texas last August, trying to meet with George Bush and trying to end the war, a right-wing organization called Move America Forward (to oblivion?) started a bus tour called: Cindy, You Don't Speak for Me.

Move America Forward does some nice things, like sending coffee to our troops. It is unfortunate for the families of the almost 2300 killed troops that the organization doesn't send non-defective body armor, GPS devices, or IED jammers to save the lives of the troops that have been put in harm's way for the politicians' lies and cowardice and corporate greed. I think these things would be a little more useful than coffee.
Move America Forward has every right to exist and to express their views. However, the organization claims to be "...a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization committed to supporting America's efforts to defeat terrorism and supporting the brave men and women of our Armed Forces." When in all actuality MAF supports George Bush's war of terror against the world and against America. And if Move America Forward is non-partisan, then I am the darling of the White House.

I truly don't believe that sending coffee to our troops and putting yellow "Support our Troops" magnets on cars is supporting the troops.

Coffee is good, I love coffee myself. I just don't understand how sending our young and brave people off to die in a war that has been proven over and over again to be based on lies is supporting the troops. I don't understand how cutting the VA budget and closing VA hospitals is supporting our veterans. I don't understand how exposing our brave young people to depleted uranium, white phosphorous and enhanced napalm is supporting them. I don't understand how forcing our troops to use WMD's (and also conventional weapons) against innocent fellow members of the human race is supporting our troops.

Deborah Johns is a member of Move America Forward and as a mom who has a son in the Marines, is a vocal critic of mine and has been telling everyone that I don't speak for her for months. She in fact is planning a new "Cindy doesn't speak for me" event in San Diego where I will be speaking on February 27th at the Thomas Jefferson Law School.

I have news for Deborah and for the rest of America and the world: I never said I spoke for Deborah, or anyone else.

I speak for Cindy Sheehan. Only Cindy Sheehan.

I expect everyone else to speak for themselves. That is each and every one of our duties and responsibilities as Americans and human beings. I wish someone would show me anywhere that I said I ever spoke for anyone but myself.

Whether Deborah likes it or not, I don't want her son to die in this illegal and immoral war. With all my heart and soul, I do not want her to become a Gold Star Mom: Whether one supports the murder and mayhem (on both sides), or not, it is not a good thing. As a matter of fact, it is an indescribably awful and disordered thing to bury a child. I don't want anymore Gold Star Moms to be made by and for the chickenhawks who cower behind their desks and send other people's children off to fight their imaginary battles.

Deborah Johns blames "al Qaeda" for our military deaths (including Casey Sheehan's) in Iraq! Please, trust me, if I did speak for Ms. Johns her opinions would be more informed.

Casey was killed on April 04, 2004 by Shi'ite militia loyal to Moqtada al Sadr in Sadr City, Baghdad. Even George Bush says that most of the killing in Iraq is done by "Saddamists and rejectionists" and the terrorists are the "smallest" group: (Speech given by George Bush in December, 2005 in Philadelphia). There was no al-Qaeda operating in Iraq before the 2003 invasion by American forces. Saddam had no ties to al-Qaeda. As a matter of fact, Osama bin Laden is still on the loose somewhere.

However, Moqtada al-Sadr is another story. He fomented the rebellions in Fallujah and Baghdad in April of 2004 that killed many of our troops, including Casey and 11 others on the 4th. He is a Shi'a cleric who is an Iraqi by birth and citizenship. He is the leader of the Mahdi Army who killed Casey and so many other American soldiers. He is one of the 82% of Iraqi citizens who want the US out of Iraq and apparently one of the 49% who think that it is okay to kill Americans (Recent British Military poll). I don't think it is okay to kill Americans, for God's sake, Casey was killed. But I also don't think that it's okay to kill Iraqis, either. The killing is continuing because George Bush and his band of criminals invaded a country that was no threat to the United States of America. Now the war profiteering, warmongers are forcing our children to occupy a country that is now (thanks to BushCo) in the middle of a very bloody civil war. When is it going to stop?

I believe, along with thousands of members of such organizations as Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and Gold Star Families for Peace, that supporting the troops means bringing them out of this mess alive, whole and healthy.

We peace groups are struggling so hard and so tirelessly so that our brave young men and women walk off of the airplanes bringing them home to their families and not be unloaded from the cargo area in a cardboard box as Casey and so many others have been. Our brave troops that have been killed meaninglessly and senselessly were human beings who deserved to have wonderful, long, and productive lives: not baggage, or cannon fodder for our homicidal, out of control, misleaders.

Accusing the members of our peace organizations of not supporting the troops is patently manipulative and ridiculously false: we are the troops; we have children, spouses, and other relatives that are troops. We love the troops. We support them as we are calling for their immediate and safe withdrawal.

I encourage Deborah Johns and the others who have their own opinions and their own voices to speak for themselves… and not advertise who doesn't speak for them. I could list thousands…even millions of people who don't speak for me, and whom I don't speak for, but that is counter-productive.

Please speak for yourselves.

In these days of the stealing of our freedoms while telling us it keeps us safe, please speak for yourself. In this dark hour of the suppression of our civil rights, please speak for yourself. In these inconceivable and horrifying times of our leaders committing crimes against humanity and inhumane torture, please speak for yourself.

If you speak for peace and justice, please speak louder and more often.

Cindy Sheehan is the mother of Spc. Casey Austin Sheehan who was killed in Iraq on April 04, 2004; Founder and President of Gold Star Families for Peace ( www.GSFP.org ) and author of Not One More Mother's Child. Cindy is also the very proud mother of Carly, Andy, and Janey Sheehan who hold down the fort in Vacaville, California.

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Iraqi Official Says U.S. Reporter Is Alive

AP News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- The Iraqi Interior Minister believes that kidnapped American journalist Jill Carroll remains alive, his office said on Monday, one day after the deadline set by her captors for killing her....

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The Smoking Gun - US-Israel behind Mosque Bombing

By Mike Whitney
27 Feb 06

The AFP is reporting that the bombing of the Golden Domed Mosque "was the work of specialists" and that the "placing of explosives must have taken at least 12 hours."

Construction Minister Jassem Mohammed Jaafar said, "Holes were dug into the mausoleum's four main pillars and packed with explosives. Then charges were connected together and linked to another charge placed just under the dome. The wires were then linked to a detonator which was triggered at a distance."
Clearly, the bombing was not carried out by rogue elements in the disparate Iraqi resistance. This is the work of highly-trained saboteurs and bomb-experts who were executing a precision-demolition to incite sectarian violence. The blast bears all the hallmarks of a covert Intelligence-agency operation.

Who benefits from such a vicious attack on the foundations of Islamic identity and culture?

The AFP's report is consistent with earlier accounts provided by a Baghdad blogger who demonstrates that the destruction of the mosque was a "controlled demolition" which required considerable time and professional expertise. The photographs of the nearby, but untouched, minarets provide a shocking example of the bomber's skill.

Eyewitness accounts have appeared on various web sites claiming that there were "unusual activities" taking place at the mosque the night before the bombing. One witness reported that he heard their "cars the whole night until the next morning". Another witness who lives near to the mosque says that at 8:30 that evening he was told "to stay in your shop and don't leave the area" while Iraqi National Guard and American troops "patrolled the area until the next morning". At 6:30 AM the American troops left.

At 6:40 the first explosion went off.

Almost immediately, the western media swung into high-gear producing over 1,000 stories containing the word "civil war" in the first 24 hours. As always, the media reliably regurgitates the narrative that best serves the interests of management and their political benefactors. In this case, it's clear that 'civil war' is being used to divert attacks from occupation forces and pit Iraqis against Iraqis.

But is this really the plan? After all, how does that make Iraq more governable?

By now, we should realize that the Bush administration has no plan to govern Iraq nor do they care a whit about the suffering of the Iraqi people. The only thing the matters is the extraction of petroleum from Iraqi oil-fields and its unobstructed transfer to the market. The rest is rubbish.

"We don't do body counts", boasted General Tommy Franks.

Franks could have added that we don't do reconstruction, security or governance; all of which are sadly lacking in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The administration has no intention of rebuilding Iraq or establishing order. They'll continue to operate as they have from the onset; blasting away erratically at the resistance while concealing the bloodshed behind an impenetrable wall of propaganda.

The present strategy reflects the growing desperation of the Pentagon planners and the civilian leadership. America is hopelessly mired in an "unwinnable" war. The choices for action have narrowed to either withdrawal or a stepped-up campaign of Black-ops designed to foment sectarian violence. The bombing of the Samarra Mosque fits perfectly into the latter category.

Henry Kissinger summarized the current Iraq strategy when he offered his opinion on the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s. Kissinger callously averred, "I hope they kill each other."

The former National Security Chief's axiom has now been elevated to the level of state-policy. The Iraq strategy replicates the Kissinger Doctrine; manipulating chauvinism and cruelty to advance the imperial agenda.

The demolition of the sacred mosque was a deliberate assault on the foundations of Muslim identity. It was intended to undermine Iraqi tradition and culture and weaken confidence in the resistance.

Neocon Michael Ledeen might refer to this as "creative destruction" but, in fact, it is terrorism writ large; the calculated use of violence directed at civilians to achieve a political objective.

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German Intelligence Gave U.S. Saddam's Defense Plan, Report Says

By Michael R. Gordon
Der Spiegel
27 Feb 06

In providing the document, German officials offered more significant help to the U.S. than their government has publicly admitted.

WASHINGTON - Two German intelligence agents in Baghdad obtained a copy of Saddam Hussein's plan to defend the Iraqi capital, which a German official passed on to American commanders a month before the invasion, according to a classified study by the United States military.
In providing the Iraqi document, German intelligence officials offered more significant assistance to the United States than their government has publicly acknowledged. The plan gave the American military an extraordinary window into Iraq's top-level deliberations, including where and how Mr. Hussein planned to deploy his most loyal troops.

The German role is not the only instance in which nations that publicly cautioned against the war privately facilitated it. Egypt and Saudi Arabia, for example, provided more help than they have disclosed. Egypt gave access for refueling planes, while Saudi Arabia allowed American special operations forces to initiate attacks from its territory, United States military officials say.

But the German government was an especially vociferous critic of the Bush administration's decision to use military force to topple Mr. Hussein. While the German government has said that it had intelligence agents in Baghdad during the war, it has insisted it provided only limited help to the United States-led coalition.

In a report released Thursday, German officials said much of the assistance was restricted to identifying civilian sites so they would not be attacked by mistake. The classified American military study, though, documents the more substantive help from German intelligence.

Reached by telephone, Ulrich Wilhelm, the chief spokesman for the German government, declined to comment on Sunday on the role of the German agents.

The prelude to the Iraq war was a period of intense strain in German-American relations. In his 2002 political campaign, Gerhard Schröder, then the German chancellor, warned against an invasion and vowed that Germany would not participate. President Bush declined to make the customary congratulatory phone call to Mr. Schröder when he won re-election that September. Annoyed by the antiwar stances of Germany and France, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld offended the two nations by labeling them "old Europe" shortly before the war in March 2003.

Longstanding relations between American and German intelligence agencies, however, persisted. As the American military prepared to invade Iraq, the German intelligence agents operated in Baghdad.

Among their tasks, they sought to obtain Mr. Hussein's plan to defend Baghdad, the United States study asserts. For years, the Iraqi military had relied on a strategy that called for deploying Iraqi forces along the invasion route to Baghdad in the hope of bloodying and weakening an invading army before it arrived at the capital.

But on Dec. 18, 2002, Mr. Hussein summoned his commanders to a strategy session where a new plan was unveiled, former Iraqi officers and government officials told American interrogators. Among those attending were Qusay Hussein, the Iraqi leader's son who oversaw the Republican Guard; Lt. Gen. Sayf al-Din Fulayyih Hasan Taha al-Rawi, the Republican Guard chief of staff, and other Republican Guard generals. Mr. Hussein's instructions were to mass troops along several defensive rings near the capital, including a "red line" that Republican Guard troops would hold to the end.

An account of the German role in acquiring a copy of Mr. Hussein's plan is contained in the American military study, which focuses on Iraq's military strategy and was prepared in 2005 by the United States Joint Forces Command.

After the German agents obtained the Iraqi plan, they sent it up their chain of command, the study said.

In February 2003, a German intelligence officer in Qatar provided a copy to an official from the United States Defense Intelligence Agency who worked at the wartime headquarters of the overall commander, Gen. Tommy R. Franks, according to the American military study. Officials at the agency shared the plan with the Central Command's J-2 office, or intelligence division. That division supplied information for the report.

The classified study contains a copy of the sketch supplied by the Germans. "The overlay was provided to the Germans by one of their sources in Baghdad (identity of the German sources unknown)," the study notes. "When the bombs started falling, the agents ceased ops and went to the French Embassy."

That account of German assistance differs from one the German government has provided publicly. After the election of a new government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel in 2005, German officials insisted that they had not provided substantial help to the United States-led coalition. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was Mr. Schröder's chief of staff during the invasion, denounced news media reports last month that German agents had picked targets for American warplanes as "absurd."

On Thursday, the German government released a new report that acknowledged that German agents had provided some intelligence but suggested it was very limited. The 90-page report is the public version of a much longer classified account. The public report, for example, stated that the agents provided information on "civilian protected or other humanitarian sites, such as Synagogues and Torah rolls and the possible locations of missing U.S. pilots." It said that agents also provided the United States with descriptions of "the character of military and police presence in the city" and "descriptions in isolated cases of Iraqi military forces along with geographic coordinates." The report noted that as the war approached, the German diplomatic corps was evacuated, but on March 17, just days before the invasion, the German agents were instructed to remain in Baghdad.

The public report, however, did not mention anything about securing the Baghdad defense plan or passing it to the United States military, nor has the German government released any information about that.

A majority of the German Parliament did not support a call for a formal inquiry into any German intelligence assistance last week. "The issue has been cleared up, and all allegations dispelled," said Norbert Röttgen, chairman of the parliamentary control committee, which reviewed the classified version of the German report. Some opposition politicians, however, have argued that a further investigation is needed.

Germany is not the only case in which a government that warned against the invasion quietly helped United States forces wage the war. The Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, publicly warned that the invasion of Iraqi might lead to a human catastrophe and insisted that Egypt would not provide direct help to a United States-led military coalition. "It is not the case, and it won't be the case," he said in late March 2003.

But Mr. Mubarak quietly allowed United States aerial refueling tankers to be based at an Egyptian airfield, according to a United States military official involved in managing the air war against Iraq, who asked to remain anonymous because he was speaking about delicate diplomatic arrangements.

The tankers were used to refuel Navy aircraft in the Mediterranean and land-based warplanes on their missions to and from Iraq. United States warplanes also flew through Egyptian airspace to carry out missions over Iraq, American military officials said.

United States nuclear-powered vessels were allowed to quickly move through the Suez Canal, and cruise missiles were fired at targets in Iraq from the Red Sea.

The Saudis have played down the extent of their cooperation with the Bush administration. But they allowed the Delta Force and other American Special Operations Forces to mount attacks in Iraq from a secret base at Arar, Saudi Arabia, according to United States commandos who asked not to be identified because their operations were secret. The public Saudi explanation was that the area was being cordoned off for a potential flood of Iraqi refugees.

In the months before the war, military aides to the Joint Chiefs of Staff began to write a classified list of which nations had joined President Bush's "coalition of the willing" to topple Mr. Hussein and soon discovered that they had to add categories. While Germany had loudly opposed the war, it did not obstruct the United States military's efforts and even offered limited cooperation. So Germany was listed as "noncoalition but cooperating," said a Pentagon official who asked to remain anonymous because the list was not public. Saudi Arabia and Egypt were more supportive but did not want to be perceived as facilitating the attack. They were listed as "silent partners."

Besides the support by German intelligence, the German government cooperated with the United States military in other ways.

German ships guarded the sea lanes near the Horn of Africa as part of Task Force 150, an effort to deter terrorist attacks in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, for example. The patrols helped safeguard the waterways the United States used to build up its forces in the Persian Gulf for the invasion of Iraq.

German troops were also part of a "consequence management" team, at the United States military base at Camp Doha, Kuwait, which was charged with protecting Kuwaitis after a chemical attack. The measure was justified as defensive. German personnel also guarded American military bases in Germany, freeing United States soldiers to go to Iraq.

When NATO debated whether to send Awacs radar planes and Patriot missile batteries to Turkey, a move the United States was promoting to help persuade Ankara to open a northern front in Iraq, Germany initially was opposed. But it soon dropped its objections. Germany later provided the missiles for the Patriot batteries sent to Turkey.

The Iraq defense plan passed on to General Franks's command was the subject of considerable debate in the Iraqi military. Some officers contended it did not sufficiently account for terrain or the capabilities of the United States military.

American intelligence thought before the war that crossing the "red line" on the plan would be the trigger for an Iraqi chemical attack. But after the war, United States intelligence determined that the use of chemical or germ weapons had never been contemplated in the plan, according to the Iraq Survey Group, a task force set up by the Central Intelligence Agency to investigate what had happened to Iraq's chemical, biological and nuclear programs.

The Baghdad Defense Plan, the Iraqi Survey Group reported, had its origins in tactics taught to Iraqi officers in Britain in the 1950's and in British-style training in Pakistan.

There is no question, however, that it reflected the thinking of Mr. Hussein and his top aides, according to United States government interviews of senior Iraqi officers. According to the United States military study, an Iraqi general responsible for defending the southern approaches to Baghdad raised concerns about the wisdom of the plan. Qusay Hussein cut off the discussion.

"Qusay said the plan was already approved by Saddam and 'it was you who would now make it work,' " the Republican Guard commander told his American interrogators.


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And Now Come the Death Squads

27 Feb 06

Hundreds of Iraqis are being tortured to death or summarily executed every month in Baghdad alone by death squads working from the Ministry of the Interior, the United Nations' outgoing human rights chief in Iraq has revealed.

John Pace, who left Baghdad two weeks ago, told us on Sunday that up to three-quarters of the corpses stacked in the city's mortuary show evidence of gunshot wounds to the head or injuries caused by drill-bits or burning cigarettes. Much of the killing, he said, was carried out by Shia Muslim groups under the control of the Ministry of the Interior.
Much of the statistical information provided to Mr Pace and his team comes from the Baghdad Medico-Legal Institute, which is located next to the city's mortuary. He said figures show that last July the morgue alone received 1,100 bodies, about 900 of which bore evidence of torture or summary execution.

The pattern prevailed throughout the year until December, when the number dropped to 780 bodies, about 400 of which had gunshot or torture wounds.
"It's being done by anyone who wishes to wipe out anybody else for various reasons," said Mr Pace, who worked for the UN for more than 40 years in countries ranging from Liberia to Chile. "But the bulk are attributed to the agents of the Ministry of the Interior."

Coupled with the suicide bombings and attacks on Shia holy places carried out by Sunnis, some of whom are followers of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, al-Qa'ida's leader in Iraq, the activities of the death squads are pushing Iraq ever closer to a sectarian civil war.
Mr Pace said the Ministry of the Interior was "acting as a rogue element within the government". It is controlled by the main Shia party, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri); the Interior Minister, Bayan Jabr, is a former leader of Sciri's Badr Brigade militia, which is one of the main groups accused of carrying out sectarian killings.

Another is the Mehdi Army of the young cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who is part of the Shia coalition seeking to form a government after winning the mid-December election.

Many of the 110,000 policemen and police commandos under the ministry's control are suspected of being former members of the Badr Brigade. Not only counter-insurgency units such as the Wolf Brigade, the Scorpions and the Tigers, but the commandos and even the highway patrol police have been accused of acting as death squads.

The paramilitary commandos, dressed in garish camouflage uniforms and driving around in pick-up trucks, are dreaded in Sunni neighbourhoods. People whom they have openly arrested have frequently been found dead several days later, with their bodies bearing obvious marks of torture.

Mr Pace, a Maltese-Australian who has now retired from his UN post to his home in Sydney, says the constant violence and utter lack of security in Iraq are creating a vicious circle in which ordinary citizens are turning to extremist sectarian groups for protection.

Fear of anybody in official uniform inevitably strengthens the militias and the insurgents. In Sunni areas people will look to their own defences, and not to the regular army and police.

But ordinary Sunnis are caught between the death squads and the desire of some of the insurgents on their own side to start a civil war - an aim they are now not far from achieving. The so-called Salafi, Sunni fundamentalists, want not only to eject the Americans but also to build a pure Islamic state. They see Iraqi Shias, even though they are 60 per cent of the population, as heretics allied to the US who should be slaughtered.

Last week's attack on the Golden Mosque is only the latest in a long series of outrages against the Shia community. They started in August 2003 when Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim, then leader of Sciri, was killed, along with more than 100 of his followers by a suicide bomber in a vehicle outside the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf. There have been repeated massacres of the Shia ever since - some targeting the security forces, such as the attacks on queues of young men trying to join the police or army, but others, such as the slaughter of Shia day labourers waiting for a day's employment, for no other reason than that they are Shia.

Despite extending a 24-hour curfew into a second day yesterday in Baghdad and other major cities, the authorities were unable to prevent further revenge killings and outrages against holy sites. The current cycle of violence, which began with the bombing of the Azkariya shrine in Samarra on Wednesday, has claimed at least 200 lives so far, including those of 47 factory workers pulled from buses and shot on the outskirts of Baghdad.

This was the sort of killing that touched off Lebanon's civil war in 1975. Already an exchange of populations is taking place in Baghdad as members of each community move to districts in which they are in the majority.

The ability of the US occupiers to influence the situation is not only limited, but some of their actions are seen as making things worse. The Americans have been trying to dislodge Mr Jabr as Interior Minister, accusing him of turning his ministry into a Shia bastion. But the Shia believe that the US and its allies, the Kurds, simply want to prevent the majority community from gaining full power over security despite winning two parliamentary elections in 2005.

One important development over the past few days is that it is clearly becoming very difficult to use American or British troops to keep the peace, undermining the argument that they are the only bulwark against civil war. The occupation forces lack the legitimacy to play the role of UN peacekeepers; it is almost impossible to have US soldiers defend a Sunni mosque against a Shia crowd, because if they open fire they will be seen as having joined one side in a sectarian struggle.

In Mr Pace's view, the violence in Iraq is being made worse by the seizing of young Iraqi men by US troops and Iraqi police as they move from city to city carrying out raids. "The vast majority are innocent," he said, "but they very often don't get released for months.

You don't eliminate terrorism by what they're doing now. Military intervention causes serious human rights and humanitarian problems to large numbers of innocent civilians ... The result is that such individuals turn into terrorists at the end of their detention."

In such circumstances, family members often contacted UN officials asking for help in getting a young man outside of the country and away from the influence of insurgents they had met in jail. They were among many Iraqi citizens fleeing the country as a result of the violence. "Those with money go to Jordan. The poor go to Syria," he said.

Mr Pace, who first made his comments to The Times of Malta newspaper, said the situation in Iraq had "definitely, definitely" got worse over the two years in which he headed the UN human rights team. The interim government and the international community were trying to restart the country's crippled economy, but, he said, they would not succeed "until people are secure".

This article originally appeared in The Independent.

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Prosecutors: Saddam OK'd Shiite Executions

AP News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Prosecutors at Saddam Hussein's trial presented a document Tuesday they said was signed by the former leader approving the executions of more than 140 Shiites in southern Iraq after an assassination attempt in the 1980s....

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'Execution order' presented at Saddam trial


Tue 28 Feb, 2006

BAGHDAD (AFP) - Iraqi prosecutors submitted to the court trying Saddam Hussein what they said was an execution order signed by the former Iraqi dictator, as his lawyers once again stormed out of the tribunal.

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Iran sticks to tough line for crunch nuclear talks in Moscow


Tue 28 Feb, 2006

MOSCOW (AFP) - Iran insisted on its right to nuclear technology, sticking to a tough line ahead of 11th-hour talks in Moscow aimed at heading off fears that the Islamic republic is seeking atomic weapons.

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War Pimp U.S. senator: Iranian nuclear threat is biggest since Cold War

Yitzhak Benhorin
26 Feb 06

"The Iranian threat to the world is the biggest since the Cold War," Senator John Mccain told ABC television on Sunday.

Mccain said the United States is preoccupied with the UAE ports deal while ignoring the most worrying issue of Iran's nuclear ambitions. ()

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Propaganda! Official Ties al-Qaida to Indonesia Terror

AP News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) -- The al-Qaida terror network helped fund suicide bombings in Indonesia over the past four years through a courier system set up by the reputed mastermind behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, a senior police official said Tuesday....

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'The vilification of Iran'

Kate Cunningham
Louisville Courier-Journal
27 Feb 06

. . . Preschoolers are taught not to exclude others (whom they don't like) from their play group. Uncle Sam could learn a lesson here. In the vilification of Iran that is now going on (recall the vilification of Iraq before we started bombing), I see no reference to the fact that the nuclear weapons non-proliferation treaty consists of mutual promises: Non-nuclear nations agree to forego developing nuclear weapons in exchange for the nuclear powers' agreement to disarm their nukes.

The U.S. has a long way to go before all of our nukes are destroyed. As a charter member of the nuclear weapons club, the U.S. can't say to Iran, "You can't play," particularly when Pakistan, India, North Korea and Israel all have nukes.
In the current campaign against Iran, another parallel strikes me: We asked Saddam Hussein to "prove a negative" when we insisted he prove that he did not have weapons of mass destruction. Now we are asking Iran to prove another negative: that it is not developing nukes. Logic and common sense teach us that it is impossible to prove that something does not exist. Tell Congress we don't want another logical fallacy pushing us into bombing Iran.

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Tehran fails to dispel IAEA 'concern'

By Daniel Dombey in Brussels
Financial Times
February 27 2006

Iran has failed to dispel suspicions that it is secretly trying to develop nuclear weapons grade material, and its atomic programme remains "a matter of concern", according to a long-awaited report.
The report, compiled by Mohamed ElBaradei, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog, was circulated to ambassadors on Monday and will be forwarded to the UN Security Council next month.

Western diplomats said it strengthened their case for united international condemnation of Iran, although the Security Council is unlikely to debate sanctions on Tehran in the near future.

"Although the agency has not seen any diversion of nuclear material to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices, the agency is not at this point in time in a position to conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran," the report said.

"Iran's full transparency" was essential in light of "the existence of a generic document related to the fabrication of nuclear weapons components and the lack of clarification about the role of the military in Iran's nuclear programme". It added that Tehran had failed to fully explain its efforts to import, manufacture and use centrifuges for uranium enrichment, the process that can create weapons grade material.

"It is regrettable, and a matter of concern, that the above uncertainties related to the scope and nature of Iran's nuclear programme have not been clarified after three years of intensive agency verification," it said.

The report also noted that Iran had resumed enrichment tests on February 11. Tehran, which insists its programme is purely peaceful, announced last month that it was resuming such research, an action which led the IAEA board to report it to the Security Council. Iran has subsequently scaled down its co-operation with IAEA inspectors. The European Union hopes that by increasing the pressure step by step it can convince Iran to repeat its "tactical" decision to suspend uranium enrichment.

Western diplomats argue their case is strengthened by unity among the five permanent Security Council members, including Russia and China, which have strong energy relationships with Iran, and that Moscow is unhappy with inconclusive talks with Tehran.

They add that the first step once the file reaches New York will be a declaration by Argentina, which holds the Security Council presidency in March, calling on Iran to abide by past IAEA resolutions.

On Sunday Iran said it had reached a "basic agreement" on a joint venture with Russia to enrich uranium, but on Monday it made clear that it would only take such a step if it could continue its research into enrichment in Iran itself.

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War Pimping: IAEA: Iran appears determined to expand uranium enrichment program

By George Jahn
February 27, 2006

VIENNA, Austria – The U.N. atomic watchdog agency said Monday that Iran appears determined to expand its uranium enrichment program – a key international concern because of fears it could use the activity to make nuclear weapons.
The International Atomic Energy Agency, in a confidential report made available to The Associated Press, also suggested that unless Iran drastically increased its cooperation with an agency probe, the agency would not be able to establish whether past clandestine activities were focused on making nuclear arms.

The report, drawn up for next week's 35-nation IAEA board meeting, will play a significant role in determining the international community's next steps as it tries to wrest compromises from Tehran meant to reduce suspicions it may be seeking to make nuclear weapons.

The board already reported Iran to the U.N. Security Council, which has the power to impose economic and political sanctions on Iran. However, the council is waiting for the report and the outcome of the board meeting before taking any concrete action.

The delay was insisted upon by Russia and China, which have vetoes on the Security Council – and strong economic and political ties to Tehran.

Diplomats also told The Associated Press the report details an Iranian secret project linked by U.S intelligence to a possible atomic weapons program. The diplomats spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the timing or details of the report or other aspects of the IAEA probe into Iran's nuclear activities.

Public mention of the "Green Salt Project" – uranium processing efforts that U.S. intelligence has linked to high explosives and warhead design – first surfaced in a report written for the last IAEA board meeting.

The IAEA report voiced concern that under the "Green Salt Project," conversion of uranium – a precursor to enrichment – was linked to suspected tests of "high explosives and the design of a missile re-entry vehicle, all of which could have a military nuclear dimension."

The links included the participation of several Iranian officials in uranium conversion, high explosives and warhead design work, it said.

High explosives can be used to detonate an atomic weapon.

Diplomats familiar with the IAEA report said the agency based its concerns on several pages of recently declassified U.S. intelligence documents.

Iran already has converted tons of uranium using a method that agency officials believe differs from the method believed used in the "Green Salt Program."

Iran's insistence on enriching uranium was a key catalyst in the board's Feb. 2 decision to report it to the Security Council. Enrichment can make nuclear fuel, which Iran insists it has a right to under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

However, it also can produce the fissile core of nuclear warheads. The United States and Europe fear Iran intends to develop atomic weapons.

Also, Russia on Monday dampened hopes of a deal with Iran that would ease concerns about its suspected nuclear weapons program, reminding Tehran that it must first freeze its domestic uranium enrichment.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the Kremlin proposal to set up a joint uranium enrichment facility on Russian soil was contingent on Iran ending its own enrichment activities – something Tehran has so far refused to do.

Russia and Iran agreed in principle to the deal Sunday, but the White House voiced skepticism about it Monday. The Bush administration has supported the Russian proposal, as long as all enrichment activities take place outside of Iran and all spent fuel is returned to Russia.

"We'll have to see what the details of any agreement are," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said. "Given their history, you can understand why we remain skeptical."

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Propaganda! Iran enrichment underway

BBC News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

The UN says Iran has begun using nuclear enrichment machines and is failing to co-operate with inspectors.

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Twin Paths to the Conclusion Climatic Change Is Real

Janet Maslin, New York Times

An irrefutable fact about climate change is this: The subject is heating up at a breakneck pace.
Thanks to giant leaps in research techniques, most notably the extraction (completed in 2004) of a two-mile-long layered sample from the ice sheets covering Greenland, paleoclimatology has moved to the cutting edge of scientific research. This subject rewards close study not only because so little could be proven about it previously but because wild weather is so apparent to the naked eye.
The more intriguing and important this field becomes, the more we need clear, unbiased explications of what its evidence reveals. But writing about advances on this particular scientific frontier is problematic. First of all, the material is complicated: climate science is the study of shifting, interrelated and sometimes paradoxical patterns. For instance, although the melting of Arctic ice alters the salinity of the North Atlantic, it does not signal more warm weather. But the melting can slow down the Gulf Stream in ways that threaten a subsequent freeze.

Second, the subject is loaded: its scientific facts and hypotheses are difficult to separate from their political and religious implications, which are obviously fraught. Analysis of Antarctic ice trumps even Darwin, since it presupposes weather events dating back almost a million years. The phrases \"global warming\" and \"greenhouse gases\" lead directly to debate about government policies. And even for scientific writers caught up in the excitement of new breakthroughs, enthusiasm is difficult to ignite. The overview is simply too bleak.

But two overlapping new books do their best to intrigue and galvanize the armchair climatologist. \"The Weather Makers,\" by Tim Flannery, is the more volatile and flamboyant; \"The Winds of Change,\" by Eugene Linden, is more measured and takes a more penetrating historical view. And their lingering effects are different. While Mr. Linden ponders links between current circumstances and the destinies of earlier civilizations, Mr. Flannery provides much more urgent, specific evidence of imminent peril. He also makes sure that you will never again look at an electric-light switch in quite the same way. In a field of expertise that has already been popularized by writers as different as Jared Diamond (admired by both of these authors) and Michael Crichton (regarded as the Antichrist), some points are staples. Both books refer to James Lovelock\'s vision of Earth as the immense single organism he called Gaia. Both cite the temperature changes that occurred in the few days when airplanes over America were grounded after Sept. 11, 2001. Both discuss El Niño and Hurricane Katrina. Both bring up the ice-coated Hollywood doomsday scenario in \"The Day After Tomorrow.\"

Both deplore the Bush administration\'s reluctance to agree to the Kyoto Protocol limiting carbon dioxide emissions. Both note that 9 of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 1990. For all their common ground, slight discrepancies in some of their statistics and numerical estimates illustrate the difficulty of nailing down any climate-related data with certainty.

Mr. Flannery, a globe-trotting adventurer with much anecdotal knowledge of how climate has affected frogs, eels, krill and salp, gives his material a more impassioned, fiery tone. And he conveys a stronger sense of alarm. Chapters here have titles like \"A Warning From the Golden Toad,\" \"The Last Act of God?\" and \"Last Steps on the Stairway to Heaven?\" With interlocking and sometimes breathlessly delivered sets of data, he builds a galvanizing, intentionally polarizing case for the urgency of altering our patterns of energy use. American readers will find it only dimly comforting that Mr. Flannery considers his own native land, Australia, to be the world\'s worst offender in this regard.

\"The Weather Makers\" works hard to make its points - too hard, at times. When a quotation about carbon use has been translated into English, why show off by identifying the source as \"Arvid Gustav Hobgom, \'Om Sannolikheton FoSekulara Forandringar I Atmosfarens Kolsyrehalt?\' \" When dealing in sweeping generalities, why make them needlessly confusing? \"We must remember,\" he writes, \"that if we act now, it lies within our power to save two species for every one that is currently doomed.\" But in the next sentence: \"If we carry on with business as usual, in all likelihood three out of every five species will not be with us at the dawn of the next century.\" In any case, there is no mistaking his overall point. And \"The Weather Makers\" is detail-packed to the point of terrible fascination. Meanwhile, Mr. Linden\'s common-sense approach finds its own illustrations in larger, more fundamental human certitudes, not least of them the reluctance of editors and television producers to illuminate tough, confusing issues when snap judgments will do. And he appreciates the value of complex, ambiguous data in forging roundabout paths to new discoveries. As one of his sources in oceanography says admiringly of another, \"Republicans would call him a flip-flopper, but he\'s really just a good scientist.\"

\"The Winds of Change\" can be overly levelheaded. (One part of the book studies insurance companies\' fiscal view of increasingly violent weather.) But its scope and seriousness are impressive, even if Mr. Linden insists on characterizing climate as \"a serial killer.\" And its links between areas of study are very valuable. Mr. Linden credits the archaeologist Harvey Weiss \"for breaking down the barriers that previously confined climate scientists and ancient historians to parallel universes that rarely intersected.\"

With that in mind, these studies prompt renewed interest in the mother of all climate-historical synergy: the much-reviled, still dazzling cosmic theories of Immanuel Velikovsky, whose 1950 book \"Worlds in Collision\" postulated that global meteorological cataclysms could be pieced together by analyzing the texts of ancient civilizations. The author\'s weather mysteries, explicated with a scholarly fervor that brings to mind \"The Da Vinci Code,\" remain mind-blowing. There was a time when extrapolating historical events by studying oxygen isotopes trapped in ice bubbles would have seemed just as strange.

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Cold Fusion: A Heated History

Living On Earth

Bruce Gellerman continues his investigation into the future of fusion with a look at the latest research in the field of cold fusion, the science of creating a nuclear reaction at room temperature. Most scientists call sustained cold fusion reactions impossible, but others say their experiments are producing energy.

CURWOOD: It\'s Living on Earth, I\'m Steve Curwood, and our investigation into what could be a major energy source of the future continues at a recent meeting at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

CURWOOD: This seems like any one of the hundreds of gatherings that take place each year on MIT\'s campus.

NAGEL: Just walk in and listen. You cannot tell that you are anywhere but a scientific conference.

CURWOOD: There are some of the best minds in the country discussing cutting edge science.

SWARTZ: I have two doctorates, one in medicine from Harvard and a doctorate in electrical engineering from MIT.

CURWOOD: Presenting their latest research.

NAGEL: These are skilled people who have done careful experiments and calculations, who stand up and tell you what they\'ve done and what they\'ve found, they respond to all your questions. They publish the information, they respond. This is an area of scientific research.

CURWOOD: And, of course, there are venture capitalists investigating the science, seeking to catch the wave on the next big thing in technology.

MALE: Clearly, there have been many advances on both the theoretical level and there are people who have experimental results that require attention.

CURWOOD: But what separates this conference and this crowd is the field they\'re investigating. It\'s cold fusion. And while few scientists are willing to accept it as a proven phenomenon, its advocates say it could provide vast amounts of non-polluting energy.

SWARTZ: It offers a chance to have the United States make the Kyoto agreement moot, and make greenhouse warming moot.

CURWOOD: What has been called \"the most enormous conflict in basic science of the 20th century\" began on March 23, 1989.

ROBERT SIEGEL ON ALL THINGS CONSIDERED: Scientists in Utah today made an extraordinary claim. They announced that they\'ve created fusion energy at room temperature in a simple test tube.

CURWOOD: Cold fusion was soon being hyped and hailed as the greatest discovery since fire, and, almost as soon, it was being assailed by critics as a hoax. Bruce Gellerman reports on what went wrong and what might be right about cold fusion.

GELLERMAN: Looking back, it\'s easy to see how a series of blunders nearly doomed cold fusion from the start. The first mistake, science by media circus.

GELLERMAN: Reporter questions are no match for scrutiny by fellow scientists, but University of Utah officials didn\'t want to follow standard scientific procedures and first publish the discovery in a scholarly journal. They were afraid someone would steal it so they hastily held a press conference. At times, the announcement seemed more like stand-up than scientific method

FLEISCHMANN: It\'s a pretty big kitchen (LAUGHTER)

GELLERMAN: Dr. Martin Fleischmann was clearly enjoying himself. And why not? He was possibly the greatest electrochemist of his day, and after five years of working in secret, in a basement laboratory with Stanley Pons, chairman of Utah\'s chemistry department, cold fusion was easily his greatest discovery.

FLEISCHMANN: Stan and I thought this experience was so stupid that we financed it ourselves.

GELLERMAN: As relaxed as Martin Fleischmann was, Stanley Pons was nervous. He had published 150 scientific papers, but now he didn\'t even have time to prepare notes. At the podium, Pons almost dropped the experimental cold fusion device he and Fleischmann had developed.

PONS: Basically, we\'ve established a sustained nuclear fusion reaction by means which are considerably simpler than the conventional techniques. And with this process there is a considerable release of energy and we\'ve demonstrated it can be sustained on its own. In other words, much more energy is coming out than we\'re putting in.

GELLERMAN: Pons and Fleischmann claimed their fusion device generated four times more energy then they put in. The extra heat they got out was hundreds of times more energy than any chemical reaction could have possibly produced. And all it took, they said, was some basic laboratory equipment. A battery, an electrode made out of the metal palladium, and a test tube filled with heavy water -- that\'s water made from a form of hydrogen called deuterium.

When the scientists passed an electric current through the palladium, the electrode absorbed the deuterium like a sponge. For two months Pons and Fleischmann loaded the palladium with so much deuterium the electrode bulged, squeezing the deuterium nuclei closer and closer together.

FLEISCHMANN: The experiment is very simple, and under those circumstance we have found conditions under which fusion takes place and can be sustained indefinitely. We have run the experiment hundreds of hours...

GELLERMAN: The media was abuzz with stories about \"hot energy from cold fusion.\" Congress and the president wanted answers. The Soviet Academy of Sciences even offered to set up a cold fusion research center. Soon researchers around the world were announcing they, too, were able to create cold fusion...but only once in a while. Sometimes the experiment worked, most of the time it didn\'t. It seemed cold fusion was a fickle phenomenon. Even Pons and Fleischmann could only get it to work one out of ten times.

GARWIN: The more you looked into their results the less there was, unfortunately.

GELLERMAN: Physicist Richard Garwin, IBM fellow emeritus at the Watson Research Center, was one of the first to investigate the cold fusion claims.

GARWIN: If one had that energy, that would be great. And I would be the first one to cheer. But why can those people not reproduce the energy that they get?

GELLERMAN: The ability to reproduce an experiment is the gold standard in science for verifying a discovery. But a large share of the blame why researchers weren\'t able to reproduce the results was Pons and Fleischmann\'s, and accounts for their second and third big mistakes.

The experiment they described as simple to do was anything but, and they had kept critical experimental procedures a secret.

Then there was the fourth and near fatal mistake. In hot fusion, like the sun, the reaction gives off byproducts: high energy neutrons, tritium, and helium. Pons and Fleischmann reported finding these reaction byproducts, but scientists skeptical of their claim said the levels were so low they were beyond belief.

The final blow came when Fleischmann made a sophomoric error. He miscounted the neutrons. One of the first to realize the mistake was Richard Garwin.

GARWIN: It turned out that Fleischmann and Pons didn\'t really understand anything about nuclear measurements, so all that was wrong. Anybody can make a mistake and Fleischmann made several.

GELLERMAN: The official burial came in mid-summer when a committee convened by the Department of Energy concluded there was no convincing evidence Pons and Fleischmann\'s experiment generated extra heat, or was a nuclear reaction, and the committee saw no reason to set up a special fund to investigate the claims.
Their reputations ruined, and their discovery disgraced, cold fusion became the third rail of science. Stanley Pons gave up his American citizenship and joined Martin Fleischmann in self-imposed exile in France.

GELLERMAN: But reports of the death of cold fusion were premature. The field was kept alive by a small community of researchers who meet every 18 months or so. Critics call them a cult, but these true believers are sustained by laboratory results they say prove cold fusion can produce unlimited, safe, non-polluting energy.

NAGEL: People come to me and say \"But Dave, it sounds too good to be true.\" Well, yes, it is too good to be true, but that\'s what the promise is.

GELLERMAN: Dave is David Nagel. Now research professor at George Washington University, Nagel retired as a senior scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory. The U.S. Navy was one of a number of government departments that continued to investigate cold fusion even after it had been all but forgotten in the academic world.

NAGEL: Well, it is a legitimate scientific area. It\'s certainly not alchemy. And the answer to the question about energy production, is emphatically yes. There are over 3,000 papers in this field and hundreds of them have reported net energy gain, and there are a handful that will survive scrutiny by anyone in terms of everything you want in science.

GELLERMAN: Cold fusion advocates say more than 20 laboratories in seven countries have successfully replicated the original Pons and Fleischmann experiment.

ATTENDANT : We\'re standing now outside the door of the principle laboratory...

GELLERMAN: One of the first scientists to try to repeat the experiment was Dr. Michael McKubre.
He\'s director of Energy Research at SRI International in Menlo Park, California. On his first attempt it took McKubre a month just to get the reaction going.

McKUBRE: It was then another month before we had coaxed and tweaked and pushed this experiment to the point that it gave some glimmerings of excess heat. That experiment produced three episodes of excess heat in the two months of operation of that experiment.

GELLERMAN: But it was only after three or four years of doing cold fusion experiments that Michael McKubre says he was convinced the excess energy he was measuring in his experiments was real.

McKUBRE: The heat that we\'re measuring consistently since 1989 is at least ten times, in some cases a hundred times or a thousand times larger than the sum total of all chemical reactions that could take place inside the cells. So on that basis alone you have to say to yourself \"this is probably nuclear\" but you can\'t make a claim for a nuclear effect without having some products in hand. So we set out to look for products.

GELLERMAN: Finding the byproducts of fusion -- such as helium, neutrons and radiation -- has been the holy grail of cold fusion scientists. But researchers have had difficulty detecting them, their results inconsistent and the amounts still way too low, say critics, to be from a fusion reaction.

But Michael McKubre says he has proof-positive fusion is happening. He\'s detected helium in nearly the exact amount theory says should be there, and also tritium, a rare, radioactive form of hydrogen.

GARWIN: They\'ve been very careful there, but there are mistakes.

GELLERMAN: In 1993, Richard Garwin inspected Michael McKubre\'s lab on behalf of the Department of Defense.

GARWIN: The data was not carefully preserved, things were not dated, there were only two positive runs as I recall, and one of them turned out to be a misconnection of the cell. Unless you can reproduce the results, you can\'t say you have them.

GELLERMAN: But now U.S. Navy scientists say they do have them. They claim to have verifiable, irrefutable proof cold fusion is real, despite critics who say it\'s simply impossible.

BOSS: We just keep plugging along. You\'ve gotta have a thick skin to be in this field.

GELLERMAN: Dr. Pamela Boss works at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in San Diego. She and Dr. Stanislaw Szpak have produced some of the most definitive evidence of the cold fusion phenomenon. They fund the research mostly out of their own pocket and, even though he\'s retired, Dr. Szpak still comes in almost every day to conduct cold fusion experiments, perfecting a method that he says speeds up the reaction. Now, instead of waiting weeks for cold fusion to begin, it happens instantaneously.

SZPAK: Now we have 100 percent reproducible results. In other words, we always get to that last step. We are doing that within seconds. But there is one thing that we need to concentrate is what are the conditions that lead to the last step before the nuclear reaction?

GELLERMAN: Like Michael McKubre, Szpak and Boss have measured elevated levels of tritium and have focused on detecting the other radiation byproducts of fusion reactions, gamma and x-rays. Pamela Boss:

BOSS: We work with a lot of physicists here and they, of course, were very skeptical. So then, we borrowed equipment to do gamma ray measurements and x-ray measurement. And you could see they were tracking one another. When the gamma ray detector was going up, so was the x-ray detector. And I pointed this out to the physicist who was helping us and he was a little bit disturbed by that because he made sure that everything was on separate circuits, there was no cross talk.

GELLERMAN: But the most dramatic experimental evidence Boss and Szpak have that cold fusion is a nuclear reaction is a medieval alchemist\'s dream come true. But instead of turning lead into gold, they say they have images of minute nuclear explosions turning parts of their palladium electrodes into aluminum, magnesium and zinc.

SZPAK: We see appearance of elements which weren\'t there to start with. In other words, during the experiment itself these elements have been created. Now, by what mechanism, if you\'re asking me that question, I cannot answer because I simply don\'t know yet.

GELLERMAN: Well, what are the possibilities other then cold fusion?

SZPAK: Oh, no, no, no. It\'s a nuclear reaction at room temperature.

GELLERMAN: Szpak and Boss have published the results of their experiment in a prestigious, peer-reviewed physics journal. And Japanese scientists have reported similar findings. So, how might cold fusion work? Well, few researchers at U.S. universities are investigating the question because it\'s a career destroyer; those who study cold fusion do so at their own peril. One of the few who has from the very beginning is Peter Hagelstein of MIT.

HAGELSTEIN: This experiment implied the existence of some new physics. Hence, if there\'s going to be heat there are going to be neutrons; if there\'s no neutrons hence there\'s no heat, hence it\'s all wrong. It got very confused very quickly.

GELLERMAN: Today, because of his continued work on cold fusion, Peter Hagelstein lives a life of virtual academic exile at MIT. He lost funding for his lab and he never did make full professor.
GELLERMAN: Over the years, Associate Hagelstein has come up with 150 versions of a theory trying to explain how cold fusion could create a nuclear reaction at room temperature without high levels of fusion byproducts. Now, he thinks he has it. On a blackboard in an MIT classroom he slowly sketches what looks like a box spring.

HAGELSTEIN: People drew pictures something like this picture and looked to see where the deuterium was and they calculated how likely it is that one deuteron would talk to a neighboring deuteron.

GELLERMAN: As he maps out the molecular structure of palladium, Dr. Hagelstein seems to stare through the blackboard into space. It\'s as if he had entered the through-the-looking-glass sub-atomic world that is quantum mechanics. It\'s a different universe from the one you and I live in where, theoretically, it\'s possible to be in two places at the same time.

HAGELSTEIN: The corners fit in like so, and there\'s on that fit\'s in the middle here...

GELLERMAN: As Peter Hagelstein sees it, cold fusion is not just a colder version of plasma or hot fusion, but an entirely different phenomenon. His theory doesn\'t violate any of the fundamental laws of nature. But it does require a rethinking of modern physics.

HAGELSTEIN: So, we start out now with a picture of a communication between reactions at different sites, and this is not in the textbooks.

GELLERMAN: When you show this to your colleagues do they go, yeah, I got it, that\'s it.

HAGELSTEIN: No, generally they say \"Hagelstein, you\'re as mad as a mad hatter\" or something. But some are intrigued. But, at the moment, it remains a conjecture.

GELLERMAN: In 2004, 15 years after the Department of Energy first rejected claims of cold fusion, Drs. Hagelstein, David Nagel and Michael McKubre convinced the DOE to reconsider and review the latest laboratory evidence. An anonymous panel of 18 experts was convened. Half of the members concluded there was convincing evidence that excess heat was coming out of cold fusion experiments, and about six of the experts said the phenomenon might well be caused by a nuclear reaction.

Still, half the panel called the claims preposterous, the theories implausible and the phenomenon impossible, requiring multiple miracles to occur.

Over the years, the most outspoken critic of cold fusion has been Robert Park, author of the book \"Voodoo Science.\" He calls cold fusion an illusion -- nothing more than wishful interpretation of data by researchers.

PARK: I\'ve never seen anything quite like cold fusion. It\'s an interesting phenomenon. I don\'t know how to explain it either, but after this much time if they haven\'t come up with anything more convincing than that, if everybody is not bowled over by their experiment this time...I guess I\'m still skeptical.

GELLERMAN: A healthy skepticism is at the heart of the scientific method, but it underscores the fact that while scientists try to impose objective procedures and processes in the way they conduct their experiments, science is fundamentally a human endeavor. That\'s why two skilled scientists can conduct the same experiment, look at the same things, and come to very different conclusions. Even something that\'s seemingly as simple as measuring whether there\'s excess heat coming out of a test tube.

History can offer solace, of sorts, for cold fusion advocates. In 1905, Albert Einstein came up with his revolutionary theory e=mc2, it laid the basis for nuclear energy. But it wasn\'t until 27 years later, in 1932, that scientists in the lab finally confirmed his theory. By that measure, cold fusion still has time before it\'s fully recognized, or finally rejected, by the ultimate arbiter in these matters: the scientific method.

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Neurological Technology Attracts Doctors

AP News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. (AP) -- Don Falk stretched his right arm over his head, past the faint marks where a surgeon sank two wires deep in his brain, to show how uncontrollable tremors in his hand used to slap him awake in the morning....

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Advanced Technology on Display in Geneva

AP News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

GENEVA (AP) -- Companies at the Geneva auto show will be showing off new ways to use technology, like holographic brake lights, voice-controlled music systems and Web-based diagnostic services, to improve the driving experience....

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Survey: Rural Broadband Users Closing Gap

AP News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

NEW YORK (AP) -- The use of high-speed Internet services is growing fast in rural America, partly closing the gap between country and city, a survey shows....

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Microsoft Plans New Windows Products

AP News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

REDMOND, Wash. (AP) -- The most common consumer version of Microsoft Corp.'s new Windows operating system will include tools for things like recording and watching television, along with other functions aimed at using the PC for entertainment purposes....

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Ask Bouncing Butler in Ambitious Makeover

AP News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- After spending the last decade building its brand around a cartoon character named Jeeves, Ask.com wants everyone to forget the dainty butler and remember its long-overlooked Internet search engine as the next best thing to Google....

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Diverse Groups Team Up to Fight E-Mail Fee

AP News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A variety of interest groups have joined forces to fight a proposed bulk e-mailing fee they claim strikes at the heart of online communication - a level playing field for rich and poor....

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'Virtual' Visits Pushed in Several States

AP News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) -- Divorce put David List and his 2-year-old daughter on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, and he worried that she would soon forget him....

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AOL Sues Groups Under Anti-Phishing Law

AP News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

America Online is taking advantage of a first-of-its-kind anti-"phishing" law in Virginia to sue three international groups that allegedly stole information from unsuspecting AOL users by sending e-mail that appeared to be legitimate messages from the company....

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'MySpace' Parody Launches Film Career

AP News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Amateur filmmaker David Lehre first screened his short film "MySpace: The Movie" about a month ago at his 21st birthday party....

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Ark\'s Quantum Quirks




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Destination detox

BBC News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

Caroline Wyatt checks into a German spa which offers a taste of Eastern asceticism and a minimalistic menu.

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Rival writers start last chapter in war of words over Da Vinci Code

By Alan Hamilton
London Times
28 Feb 06

Da Vinci Code: 'THIS is without doubt, the silliest, most inaccurate, ill-informed, stereotype-driven, cloth-eared, cardboard-cutout-populated piece of pulp fiction that I have read. And that's saying something.

"It would be bad enough that Brown has gone into New Age overdrive by trying to draw together the Grail, Mary Magdalene, the Knights Templar, the Priory of Sion, Rosicrucianism, Fibonacci numbers, the Isis cult and the Age of Aquarius. But he's done it so sloppily.'
WHETHER you like the book or not, you have to admit that the zillion-selling The Da Vinci Code is a ripping page-turner of a thriller.

The same could not be said of the opening day yesterday of a hearing to determine whether, and how much, its author had lifted his plot from another book. Instead of getting on with the story, lawyers spent much of the morning bickering over legal technicalities.

But at least, in the small and crowded courtroom at the High Court in London, the principal cast was present.

For an author who has sold 40 million copies of the blockbuster and earned £45 million in a single year, Dan Brown looks like an unexceptional, mild-mannered, middle-aged American. Sitting motionless and largely expressionless, he did not look like a man who would postulate the theory, even as fiction, that Jesus married Mary Magdalene, that the descendants of their progeny are still alive, and that the Roman Catholic Church is trying to hush it up.

At the other end of the court sat two men who claim that Brown did not postulate the theory; he stole it from them, thus infringing their copyright.

Richard Leigh, a hirsute fellow with a bit of the look of a heavy-metal biker about him, sat with his co-author Michael Baigent, more conventional in a suit. In 1982, along with a third author who is not involved in the hearing, they published The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail, a non-fiction work that examined the Jesus theory and which was itself a bestseller. Now the pair are suing their own publishers, Random House, which also published The Da Vinci Code, for infringement of copyright. If they succeed they could delay the film version of The Da Vinci Code, starring Tom Hanks and Sir Ian McKellen, which is due to be released in May.

Brown acknowledges the existence of HBHG, as the work was referred to in court yesterday for the sake of badly needed brevity. One of the main characters in his own DVC is Sir Leigh Teabing, which, it is suggested, is wordplay on the names of the authors bringing the action.

Every lawyer in court yesterday was equipped with copies of both books. Mr Justice Peter Smith, who exhibits both a refreshing northern accent and a magnificent moustache, disclosed that he had read both - but not, he said, in an analytical way. Jonathan Rayner-James, QC, for the claimants, told the judge that Dan Brown had "appropriated" the central theme of HBHG. "The claimants are not alone in this. Many people all over the world have commented to the same effect since The Da Vinci Code was first published." One who noticed was a letter-writer to The Times.

Brown, however, claims that HBHG was "incidental" to the creation of his book and was consulted only at the very end of its making.

"This is an extraordinary claim that would surprise anyone who has read The Da Vinci Code after reading HBHG," Mr Rayner-James said. "HBHG is a book of historical conjecture setting out the authors' hypothesis. The authors' historical conjecture has spawned many other books that developed aspects of this conjecture in a variety of directions. But none has lifted the central theme of the book."

At one point the judge, who appeared intent on keeping a tight grip on the case and on counsel, interrupted Mr Rayner-James to say: "You couldn't blame Mr Brown for reading HBHG and thinking, 'That's a cracking good story'."

Mr Rayner-James said his clients had invested a great deal of time, effort and skill in their book, while Dan Brown had "appropriated its architecture", and had even copied some of the language. The author's copy of HBHG was heavily annotated, it was alleged.

"It is not as though Brown has simply lifted a discrete series of raw facts from HBHG. He has lifted the connections that join the points up."

Mr Rayer-James went on about "levels of abstraction" as though he were talking about drawing water from an aquifer. The implication, however, was that Brown had abstracted so much from HBHG that he should have gone back to original sources, which were largely the Dossiers Secrets in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, containing narratives on, among other topics, the Merovingians, the Knights Templars and the Tribe of Banjamin.

But by this time it had all become too slow for Brown; he left the court at lunchtime as did his heavy-metal opponent.

The hearing continues today, and is expected to last for up to two weeks.

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Conn. Man Sells Holy Hardware on eBay

Journal Inquirer
26 Feb 06

Conn. Man Sees Face of Jesus Christ on Piece of Sheet Metal, Puts the Holy Hardware on eBay
Thomas Haley was unloading supplies for his job at Hardy\'s Hardware when he said something odd caught his eye: the face of Jesus Christ on a piece of sheet metal.

Now, Haley and a co-worker are hawking the holy hardware on eBay, hoping potential bidders will agree that the blurry oil stain on the sheet metal does, indeed, resemble Jesus.

\"I mean, it hasn\'t done anything miraculous as of yet, but seeing it is kind of groovy,\" said Haley, 23. \"Just seeing it brightens people\'s day.\"

Haley said he was unloading a supply truck two weeks ago at the Manchester hardware store when he turned a corner and was awe-struck by the holy likeness gazing back at him from the $15.49 piece of sheet metal.

Since then, Haley and 18-year-old co-worker Jonathan Jackson have shown the piece to a few other workers and customers, and even took it on a short pilgrimage to a nearby hair salon. They say several people agreed with their assessment, although a few suggested it looks more like legendary rock singer Jim Morrison of The Doors.

\"Some people said, \'Are you sure it\'s Jesus?\' and I think, \'Who else would come to give us a sign, Groucho Marx?\' \" Jackson said. \"I think it\'s a good thing. Maybe it\'s trying to give some people hope.\"

The online eBay auction for the potentially pious sheet of metal started Wednesday, but no potential buyers had placed the minimum $19.95 bid as of Saturday afternoon.

The auction is scheduled to end March 1 unless someone pays the \"buy it now\" price: $10,000.

Haley said that whatever money is raised will be split between him, Jackson, another worker, and two customers. But he\'s still a little ambivalent about the sale.

\"I feel kind of bad just pawning off Christ,\" Haley said.

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Mysterious Orbs Of Light At North Texas Church

CBS 11 News

In the world of the paranormal, experts say there are many phenomena that can occur involving light. But one North Texas church has reported not only the appearance of orbs, but other religious manifestations.
Riverwalk Fellowship Church is a charismatic church in Haltom City. The services aren\'t exactly traditional and neither are some of the reported phenomena happening there lately.

The church's senior pastor Steve Solomon, a Messianic Jew (a Jew who believes Jesus is his/her messiah) has reported, among other things, an oil substance manifesting on the balcony and on the baptismal and the pulpit of the sanctuary.

One of the church's prayer intercessors, Velma Alexander, was the first person to discover the oil when entering the sanctuary one day and simply touching one of the columns in the church. She says her initial reaction was, \"Somebody better call Pastor Steve, 'cause oil don\'t come outta wood and brass!\" Alexander said when the pastor first heard about it he thought something had broken, thus their investigation into the matter began.

Solomon said that as people began taking pictures of the oil, something else began to appear in the pictures. He said, \"We\'d started taking pictures at church and almost everyone would just take a picture and these orbs of light would show up.\"

We decided to pay a visit to the church and take our own picture. It revealed a very large blue orb hovering over a woman's head as she was being prayed over.

It all looked very compelling but we needed an expert opinion. Most photography experts said light can reflect in many different ways and there are so many variables, it can be difficult to explain in scientific terms.

One thing that intrigued all the experts was a video shot by a 13-year-old boy at this church. According to the pastor, the teenager was visiting the church and was videotaping the service. The pastor says the power went out during the service, but despite the darkness in the sanctuary, they kept going. Later, when they replayed the boy's videotape, they saw an orb of light moving through a church member. Pastor Solomon said, "…starts at her feet and goes right through her body out her head.\"

We contacted an expert in paranormal psychology and director of the Office of Paranormal Investigations in Berkeley, California. We told Loyd Auerbach about the videotape and about what we had seen at the church. Aurebach said, \"Orbs on video and photography are said to be all kinds of things from energetic effects to ghosts to even UFO\'s." But, he said, this sounded like psychokinetic energy \"...energy from the person or energy between the people; if it\'s a healing situation, affecting the film, the digital media.\" In other words, the orbs might have been that energy caught on tape.

Auerbach said once you eliminate the photographic possibilities like other light sources, dust on the lenses, tampering, etc. – and someone is physically affected, then it bears watching. He said that since, in this case, the power had gone out, we had checked our lens and the tape was viewed immediately, "something is 'probably' going on."

According to Auerbach, there have been many experimental studies on orbs done in the past two decades and they have concluded that some people do exhibit the ability to affect film and other human beings merely with their thoughts or energy.

Pastor Solomon pointed to the orbs of light depicted in very old paintings behind Jesus and the Saints and said, "how did they know to do that; where did that come from?" Solomon added, \"I believe it\'s a sign from the Lord. There\'s nothing wrong with supernatural signs.\"

The feeling seemed to be echoed by Velma Alexander, the woman who discovered the oil in the church. She was still reeling from her experience. She said, \"it was awesome. I haven\'t been the same since…I don't care what they say, I know God is real."

Although there are no true experts on orb photography, experts like Auerbach give us at least a glimpse into the possibilities they might present. There are many Websites devoted to the orb phenomena. One site we found, prairieghosts.com, gives a thorough layout of how to discern between what it terms real orbs-ones that are actually paranormal in nature-and flukes, such as reflections. The Website says that although most orbs are not paranormal in nature it is wise to take a closer look at orbs which "move" while on camera.

Comment: Wanna see some "orbs?" Have a look at Laura's recent photo album of Auch Cathedral. One photo in particular is absolutely studded with orbs.

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Phantom bomber mystery deepens with new sighting

Craven Herald And Pioneer

TWO years after it vanished off the local radar, the phantom bomber of Barnoldswick has returned.

In January 2004, a retired policewoman and her husband reported seeing what looked like a Lancaster bomber flying impossibly low over the Rolls-Royce site at Bankfield.

Eerily, the craft made no noise and the two witnesses were so shocked by what they saw that they almost crashed their car.

Soon after, a Skipton aerial phenomena expert was inundated with phone calls from people all over Craven who reported similar sightings.

Most described what they saw as a low-flying Second World War bomber, grey in colour and with no markings. Several said they had seen it on the same day.

And this week, another man called the Craven Herald to say he had seen exactly the same thing flying towards the site of a small airstrip in Barnoldswick - which is rumoured to have been used for an emergency landing during World War II.

The resident of Sackville Street, Skipton, who asked for his name to be withheld, said: \"I didn\'t think anything about it at the time - it wasn\'t until I remembered the reports in the papers from two years ago that it clicked.

\"I was standing on the canal bank near Gargrave on Saturday and I saw what looked exactly like a Lancaster at around 400 feet. It didn\'t seem to be making a sound and it was heading north towards Gargrave and the Greenberfield strip where they sometimes fly microlights from.\"

At the time of the original sightings, it was suggested that RAF training flights involving large propeller-powered aircraft such as Hercules transporters could be to blame.

However, the 70-year-old man said: \"I saw them during the war so I know what they look like - this wasn\'t a modern plane.\"

It was also suggested the reports could actually be flights of historical aircraft or commemorative events organised by Rolls-Royce, but there is just one airworthy Lancaster left in Europe - based at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire.

A Rolls-Royce source confirmed the company does own and fly a Spitfire, but it is much smaller than a Lancaster and its last flight in the Barnoldswick area was on October 1 2004. However, she added that RAF training and memorial flights in the area were quite common and could well fly over or \"salute\" the Bankfield site because of its aviation connections.

Aviation enthusiast Donald Cooper said the reports followed a familiar pattern and could tie in with theories of \"time slips\" - supposed replays or images of events which have taken place in the past - and could be connected with energy fields around industrial plants.

After an appeal in the Craven Herald in 2004, one man came forward to say he remembered a Lancaster making an emergency landing near Greenberfield Lane in Barnoldswick, adding that the Army and police quickly sealed the area off to prevent curious locals getting a better look.

Another caller believed a landing strip had been reinforced with cork to make it a suitable site for heavy wartime aircraft to use in an emergency.

Mr Cooper said: \"Lancaster bombers make a hell of a racket, but all of these people say they are silent. Was there a Lancaster that landed there during the war or did one try and didn\'t make it?

\"I\'ve shown all the witnesses I\'ve spoken to pictures of modern RAF Hercules aeroplanes and they say it wasn\'t what they saw.

\"They are quite different aircraft - the Hercules\' wings are much higher in the fuselage and it only has a single tail-fin, whereas Lancasters have two. Besides, the RAF can\'t go below a certain altitude due to aviation regulations - especially not over a town of 10,000 people.\"

He added: \"I\'m keeping an open mind, but I have to believe the witnesses who all seem to be balanced, professional people and not people coming out of the pub after one too many.\"

Mr Cooper also has a cutting from a 1956 edition of the Craven Herald which shows a plane landing in Barnoldswick to deliver engineering components to Rolls-Royce.

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Theft accusation cited in killing of three in Tacoma

AP News
Tue 28 Feb, 2006

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) -- Four people have pleaded innocent in the execution-style killing of three people at a house about two blocks from the University of Puget Sound, shootings that police say stemmed from an accusation of theft....

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Propaganda Alert! US economy set to roar back

27 Feb 06

The US economy is set for a strong rebound in the first quarter of 2006, shaking off the hurricane-related weakness of the fourth quarter, a survey of business economists showed.
The survey of the National Association of Business Economists called for the economy to expand at a robust 4.5 percent pace in the current quarter -- the fastest since 2003 -- after a disappointing 1.1 percent annualized rate in the fourth quarter.

"The NABE panel sees the economy roaring back in early 2006 following the fourth quarter's tepid 1.1 percent growth," said Stuart Hoffman, NABE president and chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group.

"Our forecasters expect the economy to shake off the effects of last years hurricanes and surging oil price."

The report based on a survey of 53 economists projected the overall pace of growth for 2006 at 3.3 percent.

This should be strong enough to allow the Federal Reserve to lift its base interest rate to 5.0 percent, the economists conclude.

The NABE panel saw a somewhat uneven pace of growth, with a deceleration in the second half of 2006. They called for an average four percent growth pace in the first half and a three percent expansion in the second half.

In a first look at 2007, the NABE panel expected growth to moderate slightly to 3.1 percent, and the unemployment rate to edge higher, averaging 4.9 percent after a projected 4.8 percent average in 2006.

The panel expects "core" consumer price inflation to edge up to 2.4 percent.

"The NABE panel sees high and rising energy costs as the biggest risk to the expansion," the organization said in a statement. Rising interest rates also had a high rank, followed closely by declining home prices.

Despite these risks, the panel sees only a 15 percent chance the expansion will end in 2006 and 25 percent probability that 2007 will see the cyclical peak in economic activity.

The NABE panel expects payroll employment growth of 2.1 million jobs in 2006 and 1.8 million in 2007, which is just enough to keep the unemployment rate steady at current levels.

The NABE consensus revised upward its expectations for oil prices to nearly 59 dollars a barrel at the end of this year, up from 53 dollars expected in November's survey.

Comment: Believe this? We have some nice oceanfront property in Arizona for sale...

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Bush Rips Off America Again: Veterans May Face Health Care Cuts in 2008

Associated Press
27 Feb 06

WASHINGTON - At least tens of thousands of veterans with non-critical medical issues could suffer delayed or even denied care in coming years to enable President Bush to meet his promise of cutting the deficit in half - if the White House is serious about its proposed budget.

After an increase for next year, the Bush budget would turn current trends on their head. Even though the cost of providing medical care to veterans has been growing by leaps and bounds, White House budget documents assume a cutback in 2008 and further cuts thereafter.

In fact, the proposed cuts are so draconian that it seems to some that the White House is simply making them up to make its long-term deficit figures look better. More realistic numbers, however, would raise doubts as to whether Bush can keep his promise to wrestle the deficit under control by the time he leaves office.
\"Either the administration is proposing gutting VA health care over the next five years or it is not serious about its own budget,\" said Rep. Chet Edwards (news, bio, voting record) of Texas, top Democrat on the panel overseeing the VA\'s budget. \"If the proposals aren\'t serious, then that would undermine the administration\'s argument that they intend to reduce the deficit in half over the next several years.\"

In fact, the White House doesn\'t seem serious about the numbers. It says the long-term budget numbers don\'t represent actual administration policies. Similar cuts assumed in earlier budgets have been reversed.

\"Instead, the president\'s subsequent budgets have increased funding for all of these programs,\" said White House budget office spokesman Scott Milburn. \"The country can meet the goal of cutting the deficit in half and still invest in key programs for vulnerable Americans, and claims to the contrary aren\'t supported by the facts of recent budget history.\"

The veterans\' medical care cuts would come even though more and more people are trying to enter the system and as the number of people wounded in
Iraq keeps rising. Even though Iraq war veterans represent only about 2 percent of the Veterans Administration\'s patient caseload, many are returning from battle with grievous injuries requiring costly care.

The White House budget office, however, assumes that the veterans\' medical services budget - up 69 percent since Bush took office and which would rise by 11 percent next year under Bush\'s budget - can absorb cuts for three years in a row after that.

The cuts are outlined in a 673-page computer printout that has not been officially released by the White House budget office. However, it found its way into the hands of the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning Washington think tank.

The administration insists it makes spending policies one year at a time and that the long-term veterans\' budget figures are therefore subject to change.

\"We don\'t make multiyear discretionary funding requests,\" said Veterans Administration spokesman Scott Hogenson, who declined to speculate on whether long-term cuts were realistic. \"We look at our needs and assess our needs on a year-to-year basis.\"

The rapidly growing budget for veterans\' medical services, funded for the current year at $24.5 billion, would leap to $27.7 billion in 2007 under Bush\'s budget. But the medical services budget faces a 3 percent cut in 2008 and would hover below $27 billion for the next four years, even as increasing numbers of veterans from the Iraq war claim their benefits and the costs of providing care to elderly World War II and Korean War veterans continue to rise.

Those cuts would prove traumatic to the already troubled VA medical system, and would force staff cuts, delay investment in new medical equipment and deny care to hundreds of thousands of veterans.

\"The only way you can do what they want to do in terms of actually cutting the budget is to throw a lot of veterans out who are already in the system and/or redefine who is a veteran,\" said Rick Weidman, director of government relations for the Vietnam Veterans of America.

Even with recent funding increases, cost-cutting moves have locked more than a quarter million veterans out of the system. Those excluded have no illnesses or injuries attributable to their military service and earn more than the average wage in their community.

In Bush\'s proposal to cut the deficit in half by the end of his term, he\'s assuming spending on domestic agency operating budgets can be frozen over the next few years.

\"Each year the budget numbers go up,\" said Jeff Schrade, spokesman for Senate Veterans Affairs Committee Chairman Larry Craig, R-Idaho. \"Speculation beyond 2007\'s budget is, at this point, just speculation.\"

But without the cuts, Bush\'s plan to halve the deficit would be far more difficult to achieve. For example, just freezing the budget for veterans\' medical services below $27 billion understates the deficit for 2009 by perhaps $5 billion.

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Number of Unsold Homes Hits Record High

27 Feb 06

WASHINGTON (AP) - The backlog of unsold new homes reached a record level last month, as sales slipped despite the warmest January in more than 100 years.

The Commerce Department reported Monday that sales of new single-family homes dropped by 5 percent to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.233 million units last month.

That was the slowest pace since January 2005 and left the number of unsold homes at a record high of 528,000.

Analysts viewed the new data as further evidence that the nation's red-hot housing market, which hit record sales levels for five straight years, has definitely started to cool.
"The decline in new home sales in January makes it clear that there is some real softening in the housing market, said Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors.

The 5 percent decline was bigger than expected, dashing hopes that the milder-than-normal January would help to bolster demand. The warm weather had pushed up the level of construction starts last month by 14.5 percent, the fastest rate in three decades.

But the new report showed that with sales lagging, the increase in building activity left a total of 528,000 new homes still for sale at the end of the month, a nine-year high.

Even with the softening in sales, prices were up in January with the median price climbing to $238,100, up 4 percent from December, but below the all-time high of $243,900 set in October.

For the past few years, home prices have been surging at double-digit rates, gains that analysts said will likely slow now that sales are softening and inventories of unsold-homes are rising.

Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics, predicted "real downward pressure on prices over the next few months."

David Seiders, chief economist at the National Association of Home Builders, said surveys showed that the number of builders who are throwing in various amenities for free in order to move homes has risen to 41 percent.

Seiders predicted that home price gains, which were running around 12 percent last year, will slow to about 6 percent this year.

He said a lot of this year's change will reflect less speculative investor activity and more sales spurred by people desiring to live in the homes. "Hopefully, that is all that is developing here," Seiders said.

Some economists are worried that with the inventory of unsold homes rising, there could be significant downward pressure on home prices, triggering a chain-reaction similar to the bursting of the stock market bubble in 2000, a development that contributed to the 2001 recession.

But new Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress earlier this month that for now he was looking for a moderate slowdown in the housing industry, not a crash.

The 5 percent January drop in sales followed a revised 3.8 percent increase in December and was the biggest setback since a 7 percent drop in November.

The biggest decline in sales was a 14.9 percent decrease in sales in the Northeast, which followed an even bigger 23 percent plunge in sales in December. Sales in the Midwest were down 10.8 percent after having risen by 21.2 percent in December.

In the South, sales fell by 10.3 percent in January, following a 1.2 percent gain in December.

Bucking the national trend, sales in the West posted an 11.3 percent increase in January after a 6.3 percent gain in December.

Mortgage rates have been rising gradually with the 30-year mortgage now at 6.26 percent, according to the latest Freddie Mac (FRE) survey. Many analysts believe 30-year mortgages will rise to between 6.5 percent to 7 percent by the end of this year.

They think that increase will be enough to trim sales of both new and existing homes and slow the double-digit gains in prices seen in recent years. The National Association of Realtors reported earlier this month that a record 72 metropolitan areas saw double-digit gains in home prices in the final three months of 2005 compared with price levels at the end of 2004.

Comment: But don't forget the propaganda that the US economy is set to "roar back!" Yeah, right.

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Global credit ocean dries up - The cash machine that sustained a world boom is about to close, and it\'s going to get ugly

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard
The Telegraph
27 Feb 06

One by one, the eurozone, the Swedes, the Swiss and now even the Japanese, are turning off the tap of ultra-cheap credit that has flushed the global system for the past year, keeping the ageing asset boom alive.
The \"carry trade\" - as it is known - is a near limitless cash machine for banks and hedge funds. They can borrow at near zero interest rates in Japan, or 1pc in Switzerland, to re-lend anywhere in the world that offers higher yields, whether Argentine notes or US mortgage securities.

Arguably, it has prolonged asset bubbles everywhere, blunting the efforts of the US and other central banks to restrain over-heating in their own countries.

The Bank of International Settlements last year estimated the turnover in exchange and interest rates derivatives markets at $2,400bn a day.

\"The carry trade has pervaded every single instrument imaginable, credit spreads, bond spreads: everything is poisoned,\" said David Bloom, currency analyst at HSBC.

\"It\'s going to come to an end later this year and it\'s going to be ugly, even if we haven\'t reached the shake-out just yet,\" he said.

\"People have a Panglossian belief in the march of global capitalism but that will change as soon as attention switches back to US financial imbalances,\" he said.

There were early signs of panic this week when the Icelandic krone crashed 8pc in two days, setting off dominoes in high-yielding currencies of New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, Hungary and Brazil.

The debacle was triggered when the rating agency Fitch downgraded Iceland\'s sovereign debt, a move that would not normally rattle markets.

The new skittishness comes against a backdrop of ever more hawkish moves by Japan and Europe.

\"There are several hundred billion dollars of positions in the carry trade that will be unwound as soon as they become unprofitable,\" said Stephen Lewis, an economist at Monument Securities. \"When the Bank of Japan starts tightening we may see some spectacular effects. The world has never been through this before, so there is a high risk of mistakes.\"

Toshihiko Fukui, the Japanese central bank governor, gave a fresh warning yesterday that this day is near, saying the country was pulling out of seven years of deflation. The economy grew at a 5.5pc rate in the fourth quarter of 2005.

In his strongest words yet, he said the bank would act \"immediately\" to curtail its extra injections of liquidity, preparing the way for rate rises above zero in coming months.

\"The moment of truth is approaching,\'\' said Kenichiro Ikezawa of Daiwa SB. In Europe, Sweden raised rates to 2pc this week in the face of an overheated Stockholm property market, while Germany\'s IFO business climate index soared yesterday to its highest level in 14 years.

The European Central Bank will almost certainly raise eurozone rates to 2.5pc in March, with likely moves to 3pc by the end of the year.

Most of the world is now tightening, with no sign of a fresh credit window opening to keep the game going. This is new. Japan has had the tap on continuously as the trade exploded over the past five years, while America itself became the source of funds after it slashed rates to 1pc at the end of the dotcom bubble, and held them there until June 2004.

The US Federal Reserve has since raised rates 14 times to 4.5pc in a belated effort to restore monetary discipline, with at least two more rises priced into the markets.

It is an open question whether the yen, euro, Swiss franc and Swedish krona carry trades have occurred on such a scale that they have led to over-investment in Latin America and beyond, and compressed US yields, fuelling the American housing boom in 2005 despite Fed tightening.

There are other big forces at work: huge purchases of US Treasuries by Asian central banks, and petrodollar surpluses coming back to the US credit markets. Stephen Roach, chief economist at Morgan Stanley, warns that the carry trade is itself, in all its forms, a major cause of dangerous speculative excess. \"The lure of the carry trade is so compelling, it creates artificial demand for \'carryable\' assets that has the potential to turn normal asset price appreciation into bubble-like proportions,\" he said.

\"History tells us that carry trades end when central bank tightening cycles begin,\" he said. Ominously, almost every bank other than the Bank of England is now tightening in unison.

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EU commissioner frowns on Gas de France-Suez merger


Tue 28 Feb, 2006

PARIS (AFP) - The vice president of the European Commission criticised a plan by France for state-run Gaz de France to take over French energy group Suez, saying it violated the spirit of the Europe-wide competition.

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Amazon.com Acquires Fashion Retailer

AP News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

SEATTLE (AP) -- Amazon.com Inc. said Monday it has acquired privately held fashion retailer Shopbop.com, and plans to continue to run the site separately....

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Indian Ocean virus infections climb in Mauritius

By Nita Bhalla
Feb 27, 2006

PORT LOUIS - The number of people in Mauritius infected with a mosquito-borne disease which is ravaging through the Indian Ocean region has risen to 962 from 341 the previous week, the government said.

"Chikungunya" fever, for which there is no known cure or vaccine, has been spreading through islands off the southeast coast of Africa since January, affecting more than 150,000 people in Reunion, Seychelles and Mauritius.
"Cabinet has taken note that 962 cases of Chikungunya have been reported as at 23 February 2006," the cabinet said in a statement after its weekly meeting late on Friday.

The disease, first recognised in Tanzania, is marked by high fever and severe rashes, and while most people recover, it is extremely painful.

The World Health Organization says it does not believe the tropical virus is fatal, but health experts say it can weaken the immune system, allowing other deadly diseases to set in.

The Mauritian government says the situation is under control and is telling the island's 1.2 million people not to panic.

Authorities blame the spread of the disease on heavy rains in recent months and have launched a country-wide public awareness campaign.

Police have also been mobilised to help spray insecticides in areas where cases of the viral infection have been found, and screening is being conducted at the airport.

The island, which is heavily reliant on tourism, has also launched an international campaign to provide information to prospective tourists who may be concerned about the epidemic.

Around 157,000 cases have been detected on the volcanic French island of Reunion, where health officials say there have been 77 deaths directly or indirectly linked to the virus.

French Prime Minister Dominque de Villepin is expected to arrive in Reunion on Sunday to assess the situation first-hand and assure people that it is still safe to go there.

Seychelles, which reported at least 1,000 cases at the beginning of February, says numbers have now started to decline with the end of heavy rains.

There have been no confirmed cases in Madagascar or Comoros.

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Southern Iran hit by strong quake

BBC News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

A powerful earthquake, registering 5.6, hits south-eastern Iran.

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World prepares for long battle with bird flu


Tue 28 Feb, 2006

PARIS (AFP) - France battled the first poultry outbreak of H5N1 bird flu in the European Union and Britain predicted it would soon be hit, as world experts gathered in Paris prepared for a long, hard battle against the deadly virus.

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Niger shuns 'bird flu' chickens

BBC News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

A day after deadly bird flu was confirmed in Niger, there are hardly any chickens on sale in the capital's markets.

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Europe's chill linked to disease

Kate Ravilious, BBC News

Europe\'s \"Little Ice Age\" may have been triggered by the 14th Century Black Death plague, according to a new study.
Pollen and leaf data support the idea that millions of trees sprang up on abandoned farmland, soaking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

This would have had the effect of cooling the climate, a team from Utrecht University, Netherlands, says.

The Little Ice Age was a period of some 300 years when Europe experienced a dip in average temperatures.

Dr Thomas van Hoof and his colleagues studied pollen grains and leaf remains collected from lake-bed sediments in the southeast Netherlands.

Monitoring the ups and downs in abundance of cereal pollen (like buckwheat) and tree pollen (like birch and oak) enabled them to estimate changes in land-use between AD 1000 and 1500.

Pore clues

The team found an increase in cereal pollen from 1200 onwards (reflecting agricultural expansion), followed by a sudden dive around 1347, linked to the agricultural crisis caused by the arrival of the Black Death, most probably a bacterial disease spread by rat fleas.

This bubonic plague is said to have wiped out over a third of Europe\'s population.

Counting stomata (pores) on ancient oak leaves provided van Hoof\'s team with a measure of the fluctuations in atmospheric carbon dioxide for the same period.

This is because leaves absorb carbon dioxide through their stomata, and their density varies as carbon dioxide goes up and down.

\"Between AD 1200 to 1300, we see a decrease in stomata and a sharp rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide, due to deforestation we think,\" says Dr van Hoof, whose findings are published in the journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology.

But after AD 1350, the team found the pattern reversed, suggesting that atmospheric carbon dioxide fell, perhaps due to reforestation following the plague.

The researchers think that this drop in carbon dioxide levels could help to explain a cooling in the climate over the following centuries.

Ocean damper

From around 1500, Europe appears to have been gripped by a chill lasting some 300 years.

There are many theories as to what caused these bitter years, but popular ideas include a decrease in solar activity, an increase in volcanic activity or a change in ocean circulation.

The new data adds weight to the theory that the Black Death could have played a pivotal role.

Not everyone is convinced, however. Dr Tim Lenton, an environmental scientist from the University of East Anglia, UK, said: \"It is a nice study and the carbon dioxide changes could certainly be a contributory factor, but I think they are too modest to explain all the climate change seen.\"

And Professor Richard Houghton, a climate expert from Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts, US, believes that the oceans would have compensated for the change.

\"The atmosphere is in equilibrium with the ocean and this tends to dampen or offset small changes in terrestrial carbon uptake,\" he explained.

Nonetheless, the new findings are likely to cause a stir.

\"It appears that the human impact on the environment started much earlier than the industrial revolution,\" said Dr van Hoof.

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'Pompeii of the East' discovered

BBC News

Tue 28 Feb, 2006

An expedition to the site of the largest volcanic eruption in modern times has uncovered a lost kingdom on a remote Indonesian island.

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Ancient sun temple uncovered in Cairo

NBC News

Archaeologists discovered a pharaonic sun temple with large statues believed to be of King Ramses II under an outdoor marketplace in Cairo, Egypt\'s antiquities chief said Sunday.
The partially uncovered site is the largest sun temple ever found in the capital\'s Aim Shams and Matariya districts, where the ancient city of Heliopolis - the center of pharaonic sun worship - was located, Zahi Hawass told The Associated Press.

Among the artifacts was a pink granite statue weighing 4 to 5 tons whose features \"resemble those of Ramses II,\" said Hawass, head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.
Also found was a 5-foot-high (1.5-meter-high) statue of a seated figure with hieroglyphics that include three tablets with the name of Ramses II - and a 3-ton head of royal statue, the council said in a statement.

The green pavement stones of the temple\'s floor were also uncovered.

An Egyptian team working in cooperation with the German Archaeological Mission in Egypt discovered the site under the Souq al-Khamis, a popular market in eastern Cairo, Hawass said.

\"The market has to be removed\" as archaeologists excavate the entire site, Hawass said.

King Ramses II, who ruled Egypt for 66 years from 1270 to 1213 B.C., had erected monuments up and down the Nile with records of his achievements, as well as building temples - including Abu Simbel, erected near what is now Egypt\'s southern border.
Numerous temples to Egypt\'s sun gods - particularly the chief god Ra - were built in ancient Heliopolis. But little remains of what was one the ancient Egyptians\' most sacred cities, since much of the stone used in the temples was later plundered.

The area is now covered with residential neighborhoods, close to a modern district called Heliopolis, in Egypt\'s packed capital.

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