- Signs of the Times for Thu, 02 Mar 2006 -

Editorial: Let Freedom Ring!

By Ted Bohne
28 Feb 06

This is a call to action. It is addressed to every American who can read, most especially Veterans of any sort. We can and must now consider the option of relieving the regime of George Walker Bush of his command. This includes ALL of his associates. We cannot, and MUST not let this situation degenerate any further.

The men who founded this country, despite fear and uncertainty, at some point, had to decide IN SPITE of fear and uncertainty that founding this nation was of such great importance that they had to set these fears aside and ride into battle to form and save it. To make it a bastion of peace, safety, and hope towards an uncertain future. Our HOMELAND. If these men could see what has become of the country they and their progeny handed down to us, I can imagine the tear-stained faces seeing what a small group of miscreants has done to the United States, and the agony of seeing what has happened to long held respect for the same by the rest of the world.

If you’d call yourselves AMERICAN, then we must stop this “cancer” now, and attempt to restore ourselves back on the good road to DEMOCRACY.

There are still a few steps that can be taken to let the Bush Regime know that they are to cease and desist forthwith, and prepare to be boarded.

First. There is the INTERNATIONAL COURT OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE in The Hague. We CAN petition them to enact a trial in abstentia against the Regime of George Walker Bush and ALL of his associates in a brief to be prepared by those skilled in things of a legal nature, perhaps Ramsey Clark. With enough people, we CAN get the necessary signatures and make ourselves known to the ICC ASAP! This might be enough to demonstrate to the Bush Regime that its days of having any influence in the United States are over. That they should, without delay, gather their possessions and depart Washington, the District of Columbia, immediately or without delay. At that time, all orders, directions, and any other form of action directed by these People will be Null and Void.

Second, if this action fails, then we as the OWNERS AND CITIZENRY of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA must then sadly and angrily consider the display and possible use of our collective FIST to these animals, and demand under the pain of force, to cease all activity and depart forthwith.

We stand at an historic crossroad. One never seen before in this land. That fact will not work in our favor because we have never raised a hand to an ELECTED government before. I am sure we’ve seen in hindsight where action was probably indicated, but THIS point DEMANDS ACTION AND NOW. Writing letters to any and everyone you know is required. Further, an effort to forge a union with other bloggers and News sites must be attempted to bring as many people into this union as possible. Our strength WILL ONLY BE IN NUMBERS! So if we can’t persuade the corporate media for assistance in this endeavor, then the many Internet sites must join. It is time to ride out in the name of this quest. Every minute we wait, lives are lost, disparaging changes are made, and probably of most importance, the World’s respect for the United States is now hemorrhaging.

Finally, we must consider our own progeny and theirs. We must leave this world better than when it was handed to us. Other parents, world wide, wish this too. I have no problem taking the fall for this endeavor, or the first bullet. But BY GOD we can offer not one more excuse. Let us be about the business NOW OF TAKING BACK THIS LAND and LET FREEDOM RING!!!

Ted Bohne N96173@msn.com is a Vietnam Vet, and former U.S. Army Ranger, 51 years old, disabled, formerly a paramedic and adjunct faculty at Texas Tech University School of Medicine and tenured faculty at Odessa College, Odessa Texas.

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Editorial: Negroponte: Iraqi Balkanization on Schedule

Kurt Nimmo
1 Mar 06

John Negroponte, Henry Kissinger understudy and death squad ambassador to Honduras, has admitted the Straussian neocon and Jabotinsky Likudite plan to break “all Arab states into smaller units” is on schedule (a plan going back at least to Moshe Sharett, the second Israeli PM, according to Livia Rokach, daughter of Israel Rokach, Minister of the Interior in the Sharett government), thus implementing “balkanization and vassalization,” as Rokach described it in her book, Israel’s Sacred Terrorism and detailed in Oded Yinon’s A Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties.

“A civil war in Iraq could lead to a broader conflict in the Middle East, pitting the region’s rival Islamic sects against each other, National Intelligence Director John Negroponte said in an unusually frank assessment Tuesday,” the Associated Press reports this morning. “The consequences for the people of Iraq would be catastrophic,” Negroponte told the Senate Armed Services Committee. “Clearly, it would seriously jeopardize the democratic political process on which they are presently embarked. And one can only begin to imagine what the political outcomes would be.”

Of course, the Straussian neocons who run U.S. foreign policy imagined long ago what the “political outcomes” would be—an easily manipulated Middle East, broken down into ethnically and religiously divided and antagonist components, led by dictators and monarchs answering to the United States and Israel, and acquiescing to harsh diktat and economic “medicine” passed down from international bankers and venal neolibs determined to suck up all natural resources and impoverish millions of people in the process.

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How Bush has stayed away from soldiers\' funerals

By Andrew Buncombe
1 Mar 06

More than 2,290 US troops have been killed in Iraq. President George Bush has attended none of the funerals - for which he is often criticised by the families of those who have died.
Nadia McCaffrey\'s son Patrick, 34, a member of the Californian National Guard, was killed during an ambush in Iraq in June 2004. She said she had not expected Mr Bush to attend her son\'s funeral in person but thought the government would send someone.

\"It\'s not just me. Many, many people say the same thing,\" she said, speaking from her home near San Francisco. \"He was my only child, but it was not only that. Patrick did not want anything from the military. He joined up out of patriotism. I would have thought that... somebody could have come. Nobody showed up.\"

The White House said that as Mr Bush could not attend every funeral, it would be wrong to pick just one. He has met the families of killed soldiers.

But critics say his behaviour gives the impression he is out of touch. The President has also been criticised for refusing to allow the media to photograph soldiers\' coffins being flown back from Iraq.

The directive was introduced in early 2003. An official said: \"We don\'t want the remains of our service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice to be the subject of any kind of attention that is unwarranted or undignified.\"

© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited

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Video Shows Bush Warned Before Katrina Hit


WASHINGTON - On the eve of Hurricane Katrina\'s fateful landfall, President Bush was confident. His homeland security chief appeared relaxed. And warnings of the coming destruction - breached or overrun levees, deaths at the New Orleans Superdome and overwhelming needs for post-storm rescues - were delivered in dramatic terms to all involved. All of it was captured on videotape.
The Associated Press obtained the confidential government video and made it public Wednesday, offering Americans their own inside glimpse into the government\'s fateful final Katrina preparations after months of fingerpointing and political recriminations.

\"My gut tells me ... this is a bad one and a big one,\" then-federal disaster chief Michael Brown told the final government-wide briefing the day before Katrina struck the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29.

The president didn\'t ask a single question during the briefing but assured soon-to-be-battered state officials: \"We are fully prepared.\"

The footage - along with seven days of transcripts of briefings obtained by AP - show in excruciating detail that while federal officials anticipated the tragedy that unfolded in New Orleans and elsewhere along the Gulf Coast, they were fatally slow to realize they had not mustered enough resources to deal with the unprecedented disaster.

A top hurricane expert voiced \"grave concerns\" about the levees and Brown, then the
Federal Emergency Management Agency chief, told the president and
Homeland Security Secretary
Michael Chertoff that he feared there weren\'t enough disaster teams to help evacuees at the Superdome.

\"I\'m concerned about ... their ability to respond to a catastrophe within a catastrophe,\" Brown told his bosses the afternoon before Katrina made landfall.

The White House and Homeland Security Department urged the public Wednesday not to read too much into the footage.

\"I hope people don\'t draw conclusions from the president getting a single briefing,\" Bush spokesman Trent Duffy said, citing a variety of orders and disaster declarations Bush signed before the storm made landfall. \"He received multiple briefings from multiple officials, and he was completely engaged at all times.\"

Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke said his department would not release the full set of videotaped briefings, saying most transcripts - though not the videotapes - from the sessions were provided to congressional investigators months ago.

\"There\'s nothing new or insightful on these tapes,\" Knocke said. \"We actively participated in the lessons-learned review and we continue to participate in the Senate\'s review and are working with them on their recommendation.\"

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, a critic of the administration\'s Katrina response, had a different take after watching the footage from an AP reporter\'s camera.

\"I have kind a sinking feeling in my gut right now,\" Nagin said. \"I was listening to what people were saying - they didn\'t know, so therefore it was an issue of a learning curve. You know, from this tape it looks like everybody was fully aware.\"

Some of the footage and transcripts from briefings Aug. 25-31 conflicts with the defenses that federal, state and local officials have made in trying to deflect blame and minimize the political fallout from the failed Katrina response:

• Homeland Security officials have said the \"fog of war\" blinded them early on to the magnitude of the disaster. But the video and transcripts show federal and local officials discussed threats clearly, reviewed long-made plans and understood Katrina would wreak devastation of historic proportions. \"I\'m sure it will be the top 10 or 15 when all is said and done,\"
National Hurricane Center\'s Max Mayfield warned the day Katrina lashed the Gulf Coast.

\"I don\'t buy the `fog of war\' defense,\" Brown told the AP in an interview Wednesday. \"It was a fog of bureaucracy.\"

• Bush declared four days after the storm, \"I don\'t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees\" that gushed deadly flood waters into New Orleans. He later clarified, saying officials believed, wrongly, after the storm passed that the levees had survived. But the transcripts and video show there was plenty of talk about that possibility even before the storm - and Bush was worried too.

White House deputy chief of staff Joe Hagin, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Brown discussed fears of a levee breach the day the storm hit.

\"I talked to the president twice today, once in Crawford and then again on Air Force One,\" Brown said. \"He\'s obviously watching the television a lot, and he had some questions about the Dome, he\'s asking questions about reports of breaches.\"

• Louisiana officials angrily blamed the federal government for not being prepared but the transcripts shows they were still praising FEMA as the storm roared toward the Gulf Coast and even two days afterward. \"I think a lot of the planning FEMA has done with us the past year has really paid off,\" Col. Jeff Smith, Louisiana\'s emergency preparedness deputy director, said during the Aug. 28 briefing.

It wasn\'t long before Smith and other state officials sounded overwhelmed.

\"We appreciate everything that you all are doing for us, and all I would ask is that you realize that what\'s going on and the sense of urgency needs to be ratcheted up,\" Smith said Aug. 30.

Mississippi begged for more attention in that same briefing.

\"We know that there are tens or hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana that need to be rescued, but we would just ask you, we desperately need to get our share of assets because we\'ll have people dying - not because of water coming up, but because we can\'t get them medical treatment in our affected counties,\" said a Mississippi state official whose name was not mentioned on the tape.

Video footage of the Aug. 28 briefing, the final one before Katrina struck, showed an intense Brown voicing concerns from the government\'s disaster operation center and imploring colleagues to do whatever was necessary to help victims.

\"Go ahead and do it,\" Brown said. \"I\'ll figure out some way to justify it. ... Just let them yell at me.\"

Bush appeared from a narrow, windowless room at his vacation ranch in Texas, with his elbows on a table. Hagin was sitting alongside him.

\"I want to assure the folks at the state level that we are fully prepared to not only help you during the storm, but we will move in whatever resources and assets we have at our disposal after the storm,\" the president said.

A relaxed Chertoff, sporting a polo shirt, weighed in from Washington at Homeland Security\'s operations center. He would later fly to Atlanta, outside of Katrina\'s reach, for a bird flu event. Officials say he was frequently updated on the road about Katrina.

One snippet captures a missed opportunity on Aug. 28 for the government to have dispatched active-duty military troops to the region to augment the National Guard.

Chertoff: \"Are there any DOD assets that might be available? Have we reached out to them?\"

Brown: \"We have DOD assets over here at EOC (emergency operations center). They are fully engaged. And we are having those discussions with them now.\"

Chertoff: \"Good job.\"

In fact, active duty troops weren\'t dispatched until days after the storm. And many states\' National Guards had yet to be deployed to the region despite offers of assistance, and it took days before the
Pentagon deployed active-duty personnel to help overwhelmed Guardsmen.

The National Hurricane Center\'s Mayfield told the final briefing before Katrina struck that storm models predicted minimal flooding inside New Orleans during the hurricane but he expressed concerns that counterclockwise winds and storm surges afterward could cause the levees at Lake Pontchartrain to be overrun.

\"I don\'t think any model can tell you with any confidence right now whether the levees will be topped or not but that is obviously a very, very grave concern,\" Mayfield told the briefing.

Other officials expressed concerns about the large number of New Orleans residents who had not evacuated.

\"They\'re not taking patients out of hospitals, taking prisoners out of prisons and they\'re leaving hotels open in downtown New Orleans. So I\'m very concerned about that,\" Brown said.

Despite the concerns, it ultimately took days for search and rescue teams to reach some hospitals and nursing homes.

Brown also told colleagues one of his top concerns was whether evacuees who went to the New Orleans Superdome - which became a symbol of the failed Katrina response - would be safe and have adequate medical care.

\"The Superdome is about 12 feet below sea level.... I don\'t know whether the roof is designed to stand, withstand a Category Five hurricane,\" he said.

Brown also wanted to know whether there were enough federal medical teams in place to treat evacuees and the dead in the Superdome.

\"Not to be (missing) kind of gross here,\" Brown interjected, \"but I\'m concerned\" about the medical and mortuary resources \"and their ability to respond to a catastrophe within a catastrophe.\"

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British court ruling due over controversial ports deal

2 Mar 06

LONDON (AFP) - A crunch ruling from London's High Court is expected on whether to allow a takeover bid for British ports and ferries operator P&O by Dubai Ports World.

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SYRIANA AND THE SHIFTING WINDS: Bush, lies & videotape

Richard Neville

When cornered, a stupid leader retreats into platitudes and make believe. He becomes easy to mock. At this moment in history, the whole world is laughing at Bush, but it's no longer so funny. Rage, pain, explosions and fire are melting cities, killing children. No-one knows who's doing what to whom anymore, or why. The lingua franca of today's leadership is The Lie. Brief a President about an imminent hurricane, and he will later say he was never warned. Broadcast the tape of the briefing and his minders will dispute its relevance. In the age of knowledge, the king is ignorant.
Every time I push people to see Syriana, the Arab/Texas oil romp, they emerge impressed, yet bewildered. No-one fully understands the plot, probably not even the writer. It's one of Syriana's many virtues. A geopolitical intrigue touching CIA terror, suicide bombers, spoilt princes, feminist mothers and the rise of China is bound to be murky and complex. Holes in the story are true to life. A furtive achievement is its sympathetic insight into the moulding of a suicide bomber, played by Mazhar Munir, whose performance is gripping, though his chance of an Oscar is slim. While the sweep is global, the metaphoric skyline is Iraq, awash with oil, blood and extracted fingernails.

Another big-picture critique of the West is the book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins, who feels "weighed down with guilt" for the wreckage he and his colleagues have inflicted on the developing world.
A former Peace Corps activist, Perkins was lured by an executive prostitute into Halliburton Heaven, a vortex of Lear Jets, pillage and dodgy statistics. His inflated forecasts of growth served to increase the indebtedness of client states, adding to the poverty of their people and the profits of his employers. Any odd glitch, such as an elected third world leader with good intentions is dealt with by the CIA. The story is almost too evil to be true, and yet Perkins' case is solid. The book reprints his photo/bio from corporate brochures, names, dates, minutes of meetings, corroborating sources. A veteran hit on the New York Times & Washington Post best-seller lists, this expose was largely ignored by mainstream reviewers. Its revelations make Syriana seem soft.

And yet both works slash away the veils of illusion

And now some Christian groups are undertaking kind of radical truth telling that befits the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. As army chaplains bless the stealth fighter-bombers and anoint the torturers, the US branch of the World Council of Churches has made a public confession to the Assembly of its Global Council: "We acknowledge that we are citizens of a nation that has done much in these years to endanger the human family and to abuse the creation .We lament with special anguish the war in Iraq, launched in deception and violating global norms of justice and human rights. We mourn all who have died or been injured in this war; we acknowledge with shame abuses carried out in our name; we confess that we have failed to raise a prophetic voice loud enough and persistent enough to deter our leaders from this path of preemptive war. Lord, have mercy". WCC members include mainline Protestants, Anglicans and Orthodox churches representing more than 500 million followers.

The confession continues: "Rivers, oceans, lakes, rainforests, and wetlands that sustain us, even the air we breathe continue to be violated, and global warming goes unchecked while we allow God's creation to veer toward destruction. Yet our own country refuses to acknowledge its complicity and rejects multilateral agreements aimed at reversing disastrous trends. Christ have Mercy". And so on.

In both the US and Australia, the moral centre of public life is shifting from the political stage. "Of course we don't condone torture", says the White House; "of course you do", says Amnesty International and other NGO's, posting heaps of evidence. "We treat asylum seekers with respect", claims the Australian Immigration Department. "Oh no you don't", chorus the activists, producing case studies of the victims.

Naqib Ahmed Noori, was falsely imprisoned for six years. When he finally won an appeal against this decision, based on mistaken identity, they held him another 4 months out of spite ("police & security checks"). An Iranian boy, Shayan Badraie, was put into an immigration camp at the age of six, where he was isolated from other children and witnessed repeated acts of brutality. Today, aged 14, Shayan is still in the throes of post-traumatic stress syndrome and may never recover. The immigration bullies have even deported and jailed Australian citizens. And yet as a result of campaigning by respectable citizens on all sides of politics, the Government was forced to soften its stance. The department is still renowned for its "culture of malice" and its sinister former Minister, Philip Ruddock, was "punished" with a promotion to Attorney General, where he is now expunging civil liberties.

Australia is a nation with a split personality. While posing as egalitarians, we produce our fair crop of political and corporate monsters, many of whom feed off the poor. Media magnates Rupert Murdoch and his local rival/friend, the late Kerry Packer, turned tax avoidance into an art form. For this and other acts of deviousness, Packer was rewarded with a State Memorial Service at the Sydney Opera House. It was his first visit. Russell Crowe performed the eulogy, Tom Cruise and his entourage upped the celebrity voltage.

Spoiling the wake was a former employee, Richard Walsh, who pointed out in the press that Packer "had utter contempt for politicians, for the arts, for idealism of any kind, for the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake and for those who did not share his world view. His ethics were defined simply as whatever the law allows… In some ways he unfortunately represents all that is wrong with contemporary Australia". .In response to an appreciative email,Walsh, the co-founder of Sydney Oz magazine replied: "I have NEVER had such a tsunami of enthusiasm in all my born days. Clearly I touched a nerve". And that's the nerve that keeps Australia decent.

Am I reading too much into straws? Are we finally watching an awakening in the West? Are Australians, though our swimming pools be full and our global view obscured, becoming aware of an emptiness at heart? Or is it only the emptiness of the landscape that we notice, as featured in the current tourist campaign, SO WHERE THE BLOODY HELL ARE YOU? Lost, perhaps. Appreciating the gifts Australia has to offer, but all too aware of the little shop of horrors at the core of Government. Slightly schizoid, we zoom off to forest and beach.

As I write, John Howard is celebrating ten years as our Prime Minister. During the round of lavish banquets - $10,000 a head – he was asked on air whether he had any regrets about sending our troops to Iraq. TV footage from the area makes it hard to imagine that Satan's hell would be worse than Iraq's. Beaming in his dinner suit, Howard looked puzzled. "Regrets? Not al all. We were told Saddam had weapons." Even today there appears to be no-one in the media with the courage to quiz Bush, Blair or Howard on their true feelings about the deaths and maiming of over a 100,000 Iraqis. Howard now lectures the nation on the "perversions of Islam", without a hint of awareness that our deeds in the terror wars are a perversion of Christianity.

As the credits rolled on Syriana, the three of us felt so flat as we trudged for the exit. Why? An overheard remark from a teenager offers a clue: "Syriana shows how fucked up the world is and there's nothing anyone can do about it". It's disconcerting for a work of art to leave you wiser, but feeling so disempowered. For how long? Perhaps the confessions by economists and Christians, the rebirth of satire and the rise of politically savvy blogs and blockbusters, are yet more signs of a shift in the public mood.

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War on Terrorism – The Real Criminals Remain at Large

2 Mar 06

\"The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against U.S. facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning.\"-- CIA Intelligence Report for President Bush, July, 2001 (60 Days Prior to 9/11)
\"President Bush and his top advisers were informed by the CIA early last August that terrorists associated with Osama bin Laden had discussed the possibility of hijacking airplanes.\" - The Washington Post, May 16, 2002

The cowboy in every one of us, when confronted by an attack by foreigners on American soil, wants to go "kick some ass". Our first response is to get quick and decisive justice against those who have done us harm. So it is indeed frustrating years after the biggest terrorist attack on U.S. soil, to have no demonstrably guilty person or organization charged in the World Trade Center attack in New York on 9/11/2001. Yes, our administration has been active deposing the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, closing Al-Qaeda camps, deposing the Baath regime in Iraq. And yet all these steps, driven by a "lets go kick some ass" attitude toward justice, have yet to reveal the actual organizers behind the attack on 9-11. As Americans, we are taught to rely on our Government to take care of things, while we watch the news for results of our taxes and volunteer military at work.

Some of us join the volunteer force, and risk our lives in the faith that the United States is right and just in its actions throughout the world.

U.S. Intelligence and Pentagon Had Prior Knowledge of 9/11

(1) CIA agents met with and spoke to Osama Bin Laden during his hospital stay in Dubai, July 2001.
(2) FBI agents who pushed for surveillance of suspect Arabs taking flight school backed off under threat of disciplinary measures by their own supervisors.
(3) NORAD and DOD were trained and geared to defend for the use of the domestic airliner as missile. The scenario of hijacked airliners hitting WTC was first written down in the 1980s by a NY state National Guardsman. Exercises to defend against airliner as missile were conducted earlier in 2001, and--most damningly--on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
(4) The 911 Commission failed to investigate one puzzling omission: There was simply no evidence that the \"official\" list of hijackers, released within a week of 9/11, boarded planes that day. Worse, there was no analysis at all of reports in the public domain that seven of the nineteen hijackers are either alive and well or could not possibly have been on one of the hijacked flights that day.
(5) The Bush Administration released a murky video in which a fat person unlike Osama Bin Laden in almost every way discusses with his cohorts how the mission succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. The Bush Administration has never answered reasonable claims that the video does not prove Bin Laden did it, since Bin Laden is not even in the video.

So, in conclusion, it is safe to assume that the U.S. Government, based on its fabrications and outright lies, allowed or even caused the 9/11 massacre. Every action by this government has been in the nature of a cover-up of its own culpability and criminal nature.

Did Osama bin Laden or the group known as "Al-Qaeda" do it?

Osama bin Laden, originally from Saudia Arabia, moved in 1979 to Afghanistan to join the resistance movement (mujahedeen) against the Soviet Union. With his wealth and connections he created the Al-Qaeda organization to supply logistical and humanitarian aid to the mujahedeen, and returned to Saudi Arabia a hero in 1989 after the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan. In 1991 a falling-out with the Saudi monarchy over the alliance with the United States eventually forced bin Laden back to Afghanistan.

There is no evidence in the public domain that bin Laden was behind 9-11; the U.S. government has never charged or even accused him! He is a suspect, but at the same time there are persuasive reasons for his organization to not have been the perpetrators. Typically, a terrorist organization will broadcast its reasons for an attack, and claim responsibility. Such has been Al-Qaeda's track record. From the BBC, Bin Laden himself makes the following statement, \"I have already said that I am not involved in the September 11 attacks in the United States. I had no knowledge of these attacks, nor do I consider the killing of innocent women, children, and other humans as an appreciable act." In no case has Bin Laden or his organization claimed to have an involvement in 9-11. Bin Laden's bombings were confined to military targets, and designed to drive U.S. forces from the Arabian Peninsula, in the same manner as the ejection of Soviet forces in the 1980s.

Did Saddam Hussein do it?

Saddam is credited for executing "fellow countrymen". Amongst these were members of the militant fundamentalist Islamic sects. Saddam's secular Baathist regime tolerated no inroads on its absolute power, and Bin Laden and his like were sent packing, to Sudan, Algeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan amongst other places. The background of 9-11 hijackers shows that not even one of them was an Iraqi. Given no evidence whatsoever linking Iraq to 9-11, and really no motive at all for this dictatorship to create a public spectacle in New York, Iraq can be assumed to be not complicit in the events of 9-11.

But was Iraq a current terrorist threat, even without 9-11 involvement, which would require invasion under the "War on Terror"? When Iraq possessed and used weapons of mass destruction in the 1980s, the secular regime of Saddam Hussein had the support of the United States as a counter to fundamentalist Iran. Iraq was deliberately removed from the terrorist-nations list, and Hussein's emissaries were assured by Secretary of State Shultz that the use of chemical weapons would not interfere in relations with the United States. With the United States in full awareness that Iraq was using the illegal weapons almost daily against Iranians and Kurds, President Reagan's emissary Donald Rumsfeld in December 1983 made an agreement with Hussein that the United States would assist in building an oil pipeline from Iraq to Aqaba, Jordan. But Hussein's Iraq overstepped its welcome when it invaded Kuwait in 1990, and no longer could be tolerated. U.S. bombing raids destroyed many of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, and by 1998 under international pressure Iraq had independently dismantled all remaining programs for their development. Obviously, as a nation which systematically executed or deported terrorists, and which had no weapons of mass destruction, Iraq would not ordinarily be targeted by the United States for invasion.

Perhaps some other Islamic Extremists did it?

Apparently, the month before the 9-11, the attacks were the hot topic in mosques in Egypt. "While on vacation in Cairo last August, Connecticut banker Richard Dennison says a shopkeeper in the bazaar told him in detail about planes that would be flown like bombs into the World Trade Center by Arabs in September or October. Furthermore, according to the shopkeeper, the coming attack was a prime topic of conversation at his mosque." http://www.prisonplanet.com/egyptians_knew_of_planned_911_attacks.htm

"Dennison's unsettling revelations come on the heels of assistant U.S. attorney Kenneth Breen accusing Amr Ibrahim Elgindy, an Egyptian-born stockbroker on trial in San Diego last week, of knowing in advance about 9-11 and capitalizing on insider information by attempting to unload $300,000 worth of shares on Sept. 10, 2001."

"In court Breen charged that on the afternoon of Sept. 10, Elgindy contacted his broker at Salomon Smith Barney and asked him to sell the stock, confiding in the broker that the Dow Jones industrial average, which at the time stood at about 9,600, would soon dive to below 3,000."

The complete list of 9-11 hijackers, complete with photos, which emerged only days after 9-11, was a primarily Saudi-born group. Unfortunately, the source and authenticity of this list which was released to the public is now suspect, since not a single hijacker appears on the passenger manifests, and eight of the nineteen on the list have subsequently identified themselves alive and well in the U.S., Pakistan or Saudi Arabia and unconnected to Al Qaida or other terrorist group.

Lack of Critical Analysis

While the U.S. Government has been active since 9-11, the Bush administration's creation of a "War on Terror" as an appropriate response not only misses the objective of finding and prosecuting the guilty for 9-11, it seems to distract the American people from this goal. The public believes that our government is on top of things, and if we have to invade Iraq, then it must be for the right reasons. History, however, has shown us that a lack of critical analysis of governmental actions yields fewer freedoms both for Americans domestically, and for innocent people abroad.

This chilling interview in 1946 of Herman Goering in his cell during the Nuremberg trials by interviewer Gustave Gilbert reveals the mentality behind an arrogance in those who covet power in government rather than fight to limit government power,

\"Why, of course, the people don\'t want war,\" Goering shrugged. \"Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don\'t want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship.\"

\"There is one difference,\" I pointed out. \"In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.\"

\"Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.\"

Is it possible that Americans have ceded their representative democracy to a dictatorship? Do the American people really have their say through the vehicle of their representatives in Congress, or have they given over their power to a non-representative power in government?

Given the actions of the U.S. military and intelligence agencies, after Congress gave the administration carte blanche to prosecute war overseas, it seems clear that the American people have no idea what the goals are, but at the same time a have great deal of faith that what the President does will be for the best. As a case in point, any talk against president Bush's "War on Terror" is by definition "denounced" as appeasement of terrorism.


If international justice can be compared to domestic justice, the "War on Terror" is being conducted like a lynching. There is no process for determining guilt other than faith and passion. Like a lynching, those with a particular bias against the accused are heard, whereas there is no public defender with sufficient reason to stick their neck out for the presumed guilty. There is no court, and yet the American public watches the drama trusting its leadership to conduct this international lynching in a morally right and just way. In the end, since someone is being lynched, there is no need to find and bring the real perpetrator to justice.

The real criminals, whoever they may be, remain at large.

Comment: Yes, they are at large... right in the White House and Knesset.

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Bush is done for - You don\'t recover from 34%.

by Cenk Uygur
March 1, 2006.

It\'s over. Bush\'s house of cards has just come crumbling down. We suspected it might just be a matter of time, but now it\'s officially over!

No one recovers from a 34% approval rating. I\'ll tell you why -- because even the most inept politician realizes you run away from a 34, not towards it. The entire United States Congress, Democrats and Republicans, have no choice but to run from this President -- as fast as they possibly can (ironically, some of the Democrats will be the slowest to leave this sinking ship -- and Lieberman will be the very last one on board).
George Bush is the quick sand that is pulling the Republican Party underground. If they don\'t realize that now, they soon will when they do the next poll in their home districts. No party can survive trying to pull up a President so universally disliked (let alone a Vice President that is nearly loathed at an 18% approval rating -- I don\'t think Pinochet was ever that low and I know Nixon wasn\'t).

The question the Republicans in Congress have to deal with now is -- do they go down with the ship and risk destroying the party all together or do they finally cut Bush loose like they did with Nixon? Could the Republican Party have survived if they decided to go to the bitter end with Nixon? We never found out because no party has been that suicidal since the Federalists.

I knew they were in trouble when Fox put up the banner: \"All-Out Civil War in Iraq: Could It Be a Good Thing?\" That sounds so pathetically desperate that for the first time I felt sorry for Fox and the Bush administration.

There are some things that are unspinabble. A civil war is one of them.

This long slide downward started with the Terry Schiavo fiasco (politically; policy wise the slide down started when Bush ignored the \"Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside the United States\" PDB and stayed on vacation). The downward spiral built up momentum with the abysmal response to Hurricane Katrina. And it culminated in the Port Debacle. The Republican congressional leaders thought this might be a safe issue to distance themselves from the administration without doing too much damage, but when they pulled their finger out of the dam, the flood rushed in and the levees were breached.

It allowed die-hard Republican voters for the first time to feel that it was okay to criticize the President. Once they opened up to that possibility, the whole edifice of party loyalty (for the sake of party loyalty) started to crumble. And then someone pulled the critical card out of the house of cards ... the Iraqi Civil War.

Ronald Reagan once said, \"Facts are stubborn things.\" It turns out they\'re even more stubborn than Fox News Channel and Karl Rove. It took a long time for facts to wear down spin, but it has, at long last, happened.

Several months ago I said that Bush\'s poll numbers would never recover and would not go back above fifty percent. Now, I think we are beyond that. At this point, there is a chance that this administration does not make it to 2008. The card has been pulled, this house is coming down. And we might all be surprised at how quickly that comes about.

Cenk Uygur is co-host of The Young Turks, the first liberal radio show to air nationwide.

Comment: Oh, Cenk! Don\'t you get it? It\'s NEVER over for a dictator! Not until they put his cold, dead body in the ground.

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Flashback! Bush\'s Mysterious \'New Programs\'

By Nat Parry
Consortium News
February 23, 2006

Not that George W. Bush needs much encouragement, but Sen. Lindsey Graham suggested to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales a new target for the administration\'s domestic operations -- Fifth Columnists, supposedly disloyal Americans who sympathize and collaborate with the enemy.

\"The administration has not only the right, but the duty, in my opinion, to pursue Fifth Column movements,\" Graham, R-S.C., told Gonzales during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Feb. 6.
\"I stand by this president\'s ability, inherent to being commander in chief, to find out about Fifth Column movements, and I don\'t think you need a warrant to do that,\" Graham added, volunteering to work with the administration to draft guidelines for how best to neutralize this alleged threat.

\"Senator,\" a smiling Gonzales responded, \"the president already said we\'d be happy to listen to your ideas.\"

In less paranoid times, Graham\'s comments might be viewed by many Americans as a Republican trying to have it both ways -- ingratiating himself to an administration of his own party while seeking some credit from Washington centrists for suggesting Congress should have at least a tiny say in how Bush runs the War on Terror.

But recent developments suggest that the Bush administration may already be contemplating what to do with Americans who are deemed insufficiently loyal or who disseminate information that may be considered helpful to the enemy. Top U.S. officials have cited the need to challenge news that undercuts Bush\'s actions as a key front in defeating the terrorists, who are aided by \"news informers,\" in the words of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Detention centers

Plus, there was that curious development in January when the Army Corps of Engineers awarded Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root a $385 million contract to construct detention centers somewhere in the United States, to deal with \"an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs,\" KBR said.

Later, the New York Times reported that \"KBR would build the centers for the Homeland Security Department for an unexpected influx of immigrants, to house people in the event of a natural disaster or for new programs that require additional detention space.\"

Like most news stories on the KBR contract, the Times focused on concerns about Halliburton\'s reputation for bilking U.S. taxpayers by overcharging for sub-par services. \"It\'s hard to believe that the administration has decided to entrust Halliburton with even more taxpayer dollars,\" remarked Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif.

Less attention centered on the phrase \"rapid development of new programs\" and what kind of programs would require a major expansion of detention centers, each capable of holding 5,000 people. Jamie Zuieback, a spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, declined to elaborate on what these \"new programs\" might be.

Only a few independent journalists, such as Peter Dale Scott and Maureen Farrell, have pursued what the Bush administration might actually be thinking.

Scott speculated that the \"detention centers could be used to detain American citizens if the Bush administration were to declare martial law.\" He recalled that during the Reagan administration, National Security Council aide Oliver North organized Rex-84 \"readiness exercise,\" which contemplated the Federal Emergency Management Agency rounding up and detaining 400,000 \"refugees,\" in the event of \"uncontrolled population movements\" over the Mexican border into the United States.

Farrell pointed out that because \"another terror attack is all but certain, it seems far more likely that the centers would be used for post-911-type detentions of immigrants rather than a sudden deluge\" of immigrants flooding across the border.

Vietnam-era whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg said, \"Almost certainly this is preparation for a roundup after the next 9/11 for Mid-Easterners, Muslims and possibly dissenters. They\'ve already done this on a smaller scale, with the \'special registration\' detentions of immigrant men from Muslim countries, and with Guantanamo.\"

Labor camps

There also was another little-noticed item posted at the U.S. Army website, about the Pentagon\'s Civilian Inmate Labor Program. This program \"provides Army policy and guidance for establishing civilian inmate labor programs and civilian prison camps on Army installations.\"

The Army document, first drafted in 1997, underwent a \"rapid action revision\" on Jan. 14, 2005. The revision provides a \"template for developing agreements\" between the Army and corrections facilities for the use of civilian inmate labor on Army installations.

On its face, the Army\'s labor program refers to inmates housed in federal, state and local jails. The Army also cites various federal laws that govern the use of civilian labor and provide for the establishment of prison camps in the United States, including a federal statute that authorizes the attorney general to \"establish, equip, and maintain camps upon sites selected by him\" and \"make available … the services of United States prisoners\" to various government departments, including the Department of Defense.

Though the timing of the document\'s posting -- within the past few weeks -- may just be a coincidence, the reference to a \"rapid action revision\" and the KBR contract\'s contemplation of \"rapid development of new programs\" has raised eyebrows about why this sudden need for urgency.

These developments also are drawing more attention now because of earlier Bush administration policies to involve the Pentagon in \"counter-terrorism\" operations inside the United States.

Pentagon surveillance

Despite the Posse Comitatus Act\'s prohibitions against U.S. military personnel engaging in domestic law enforcement, the Pentagon has expanded its operations beyond previous boundaries, such as its role in domestic surveillance activities.

The Washington Post has reported that since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, the Defense Department has been creating new agencies that gather and analyze intelligence within the United States.

The White House also is moving to expand the power of the Pentagon\'s Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), created three years ago to consolidate counterintelligence operations. The White House proposal would transform CIFA into an office that has authority to investigate crimes such as treason, terrorist sabotage or economic espionage.

The Pentagon also has pushed legislation in Congress that would create an intelligence exception to the Privacy Act, allowing the FBI and others to share information about U.S. citizens with the Pentagon, CIA and other intelligence agencies. But some in the Pentagon don\'t seem to think that new laws are even necessary.

In a 2001 Defense Department memo that surfaced in January 2005, the U.S. Army\'s top intelligence officer wrote, \"Contrary to popular belief, there is no absolute ban on [military] intelligence components collecting U.S. person information.\"

Drawing a distinction between \"collecting\" information and \"receiving\" information on U.S. citizens, the memo argued that \"MI [military intelligence] may receive information from anyone, anytime.\"

This receipt of information presumably would include data from the National Security Agency, which has been engaging in surveillance of U.S. citizens without court-approved warrants in apparent violation of the Foreign Intelligence Security Act. Bush approved the program of warrantless wiretaps shortly after 9/11.

There also may be an even more extensive surveillance program. Former NSA employee Russell D. Tice told a congressional committee on Feb. 14 that such a top-secret surveillance program existed, but he said he couldn\'t discuss the details without breaking classification laws.

Tice added that the \"special access\" surveillance program may be violating the constitutional rights of millions of Americans. With this expanded surveillance, the government\'s list of terrorist suspects is rapidly swelling.

The Washington Post reported on Feb. 15 that the National Counterterrorism Center\'s central repository now holds the names of 325,000 terrorist suspects, a fourfold increase since the fall of 2003. Asked whether the names in the repository were collected through the NSA\'s domestic surveillance program, an NCTC official told the Post, \"Our database includes names of known and suspected international terrorists provided by all intelligence community organizations, including NSA.\"

Homeland defense

As the administration scoops up more and more names, members of Congress also have questioned the elasticity of Bush\'s definitions for words like terrorist \"affiliates,\" used to justify wiretapping Americans allegedly in contact with such people or entities.

During the Senate Judiciary Committee\'s hearing on the wiretap program, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., complained that the House and Senate Intelligence committees \"have not been briefed on the scope and nature of the program.\"

Feinstein added that, therefore, the committees \"have not been able to explore what is a link or an affiliate to al-Qaida or what minimization procedures (for purging the names of innocent people) are in place.\"

The combination of the Bush administration\'s expansive reading of its own power and its insistence on extraordinary secrecy has raised the alarm of civil libertarians when contemplating how far the Pentagon might go in involving itself in domestic matters.

A Defense Department document, entitled the \"Strategy for Homeland Defense and Civil Support,\" has set out a military strategy against terrorism that envisions an \"active, layered defense\" both inside and outside U.S. territory. In the document, the Pentagon pledges to \"transform U.S. military forces to execute homeland defense missions in the … U.S. homeland.\"

The Pentagon strategy paper calls for increased military reconnaissance and surveillance to \"defeat potential challengers before they threaten the United States.\" The plan \"maximizes threat awareness and seizes the initiative from those who would harm us.\"

But there are concerns over how the Pentagon judges \"threats\" and who falls under the category \"those who would harm us.\" A Pentagon official said the Counterintelligence Field Activity\'s TALON program has amassed files on antiwar protesters.

In December 2005, NBC News revealed the existence of a secret 400-page Pentagon document listing 1,500 \"suspicious incidents\" over a 10-month period, including dozens of small antiwar demonstrations that were classified as a \"threat.\"

The Defense Department also might be moving toward legitimizing the use of propaganda domestically, as part of its overall war strategy.

A secret Pentagon \"Information Operations Roadmap,\" approved by Rumsfeld in October 2003, calls for \"full spectrum\" information operations and notes that \"information intended for foreign audiences, including public diplomacy and PSYOP, increasingly is consumed by our domestic audience and vice versa.\"

\"PSYOPS messages will often be replayed by the news media for much larger audiences, including the American public,\" the document states. The Pentagon argues, however, that \"the distinction between foreign and domestic audiences becomes more a question of USG [U.S. government] intent rather than information dissemination practices.\"

It calls for \"boundaries\" between information operations abroad and the news media at home, but does not outline any corresponding limits on PSYOP campaigns.

Similar to the distinction the Pentagon draws between \"collecting\" and \"receiving\" intelligence on U.S. citizens, the Information Operations Roadmap argues that as long as the American public is not intentionally \"targeted,\" any PSYOP propaganda consumed by the American public is acceptable.

The Pentagon plan also includes a strategy for taking over the internet and controlling the flow of information, viewing the web as a potential military adversary. The \"roadmap\" speaks of \"fighting the net,\" and implies that the internet is the equivalent of \"an enemy weapons system.\"

In a speech on Feb. 17 to the Council on Foreign Relations, Rumsfeld elaborated on the administration\'s perception that the battle over information would be a crucial front in the War on Terror, or as Rumsfeld calls it, the Long War.

\"Let there be no doubt, the longer it takes to put a strategic communication framework into place, the more we can be certain that the vacuum will be filled by the enemy and by news informers that most assuredly will not paint an accurate picture of what is actually taking place,\" Rumsfeld said.

The Department of Homeland Security also has demonstrated a tendency to deploy military operatives to deal with domestic crises.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the department dispatched \"heavily armed paramilitary mercenaries from the Blackwater private security firm, infamous for its work in Iraq, (and had them) openly patrolling the streets of New Orleans,\" reported journalists Jeremy Scahill and Daniela Crespo on Sept. 10, 2005.

Noting the reputation of the Blackwater mercenaries as \"some of the most feared professional killers in the world,\" Scahill and Crespo said Blackwater\'s presence in New Orleans \"raises alarming questions about why the government would allow men trained to kill with impunity in places like Iraq and Afghanistan to operate here.\"

U.S. battlefield

In the view of some civil libertarians, a form of martial law already exists in the United States and has been in place since shortly after the 9/11 attacks when Bush issued Military Order No. 1 which empowered him to detain any noncitizen as an international terrorist or enemy combatant.

\"The president decided that he was no longer running the country as a civilian president,\" wrote civil rights attorney Michael Ratner in the book \"Guantanamo: What the World Should Know.\" \"He issued a military order giving himself the power to run the country as a general.\"

For any American citizen suspected of collaborating with terrorists, Bush also revealed what\'s in store. In May 2002, the FBI arrested U.S. citizen Jose Padilla in Chicago on suspicion that he might be an al-Qaida operative planning an attack.

Rather than bring criminal charges, Bush designated Padilla an \"enemy combatant\" and had him imprisoned indefinitely without benefit of due process. After three years, the administration finally brought charges against Padilla, in order to avoid a Supreme Court showdown the White House might have lost.

But since the court was not able to rule on the Padilla case, the administration\'s arguments have not been formally repudiated. Indeed, despite filing charges against Padilla, the White House still asserts the right to detain U.S. citizens without charges as enemy combatants.

This claimed authority is based on the assertion that the United States is at war and the American homeland is part of the battlefield.

\"In the war against terrorists of global reach, as the nation learned all too well on Sept. 11, 2001, the territory of the United States is part of the battlefield,\" Bush\'s lawyers argued in briefs to the federal courts.

Given Bush\'s now open assertions that he is using his \"plenary\" -- or unlimited -- powers as commander in chief for the duration of the indefinite War on Terror, Americans can no longer trust that their constitutional rights protect them from government actions.

As former Vice President Al Gore asked after recounting a litany of sweeping powers that Bush has asserted to fight the War on Terror, \"Can it be true that any president really has such powers under our Constitution? If the answer is \'yes,\' then under the theory by which these acts are committed, are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited?\"

In such extraordinary circumstances, the American people might legitimately ask exactly what the Bush administration means by the \"rapid development of new programs,\" which might require the construction of a new network of detention camps.

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Report suggests Al Qaeda has infiltrated the United Arab Emirates government, as early as 2002

by John in DC
1 Mar 06

New evidence has emerged that key agencies of the United Arab Emirates may have been infiltrated by al-Qaeda. In May or June of 2002, al Qaeda officials wrote a letter to the UAE government claiming the emirates were "well aware" of the infiltration.

The letter, translated by the United States Government, is publicly available on the website of the West Point Combating Terrorism Center. ...

The existence of the al-Qaeda letter – known officially as AFGP-2002-603856 – was first reported in a little noticed column by Scripps Howard.

So there you have it. Bush did no review whatsoever for the Dubai ports deal, just like he did no review in picking Harriet Miers for the support court, did no review in picking whats-his-name for the Homeland Security job (remember, Bernie Kerik), just like he does everything.

Bush thinks he knows better than the rest of us, than his own staff, than the experts, so he just plods ahead and screws everything up. Exept now his screw ups are literally risking our lives.

How much longer can this presidency be allowed to continue?

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GOP Unease Spreads to Security Issues

By Peter Baker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 1, 2006

The first heading on the issues page of Rep. Mark Foley\'s Web site brags that he is \"one of President Bush\'s strongest supporters in Congress.\" The Florida Republican voted for the president\'s legislation 90 percent of the time, according to the Web site, \"the 3rd highest ranking among the Florida delegation.\"

Now the Florida delegation\'s third-strongest Bush supporter is on the front lines of the Republican revolt against the president on the deal to turn over key operations at six U.S. ports to a United Arab Emirates company. Republicans who once marched in lock step behind their president on national security are increasingly willing to challenge him in an area considered his political strength.

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Republicans are openly distancing themselves from Bush

by John in DC
1 Mar 06

This is great news. They\'re starting to fall apart. Mostly because of the bad poll numbers for Bush, which are in turn due to George Bush simply not being up to the job as president AND the public now fully realizing that fact.

I\'ve said before that George Bush didn\'t win either presidential election, in 2000 or 2004. And no, I\'m not talking about his stealing the election. I\'m talking about the fact that far from receiving a mandate, most Americans didn\'t vote FOR Bush, they voted, rather, against Gore (to some degree) and against Kerry (to a large degree).
Most Americans have never loved George Bush. He comes across as a nice enough guy - well, he CAME across as a nice enough guy, but now is seemingly increasingly arrogant, and worse yet, much more arrogant than is deserved by someone who is kind of dumb and klutzy. Of course, in Bush\'s case, the klutziness expresses itself in half-baked wars and losing entire American cities.

No one was particularly impressed with Bush the first time around, and they liked him even less in 2004, but again, Al Gore and John Kerry didn\'t give the voters much of an alternative, so they stuck with Bush, even though by 2004 most certainly, most Americans neither liked the guy nor wanted him to continue in office.

Thus the germ of today\'s problem for Bush. The majority of Americans now realize that the emperor has no clothes, and that he doesn\'t have much of a brain either. They were willing to tolerate Bush as a caretaker president of sorts so long as things were going well - in the aftermath of September 11, people wanted comfort, and after initially running and hiding all day, Bush provided that comfort. People wanted revenge, and Bush attacked Afghanistan. Iraq was a bit more nebulous, but people were willing to give Bush the benefit of the doubt. But now that Iraq has become a total disaster, in addition to the public realizing they were pretty much lied to - that, coupled with Bush now having lost an entire American city - people are finally fed up.

Or rather than fed up, they\'re worried.

They finally fully realize that their caretaker isn\'t up to the job. But what do they do? First, they voted for the guy, and as bad as he is, the public is still a bit defensive about taking responsibility for having elected a failure, so they get testy when challenged directly on their vote. But, they very much realize now that even though Bush has 3 more years in office, he\'s now proven he can\'t handle the job and the country is going to go to hell if we have 3 more years of unrestrained George Bush.

Then there\'s the Congress - traditionally the body that provides a check on the presidency. But in this case, both the US House and the US Senate are run by Republicans, they have the majority. And that means, somewhat understandably, that the Republicans in Congress don\'t want to beat up on their own guy in the White House, no matter how bad a job he\'s doing.

Thus the only solution is to get someone in Congress who can provide some checks and balances vis-a-vis the White House - and that means, electing a Democratic majority to the Congress in the fall.

Voting for a Democratic Congress, whether you like it or not, is the only way to put a check on George Bush\'s power and mishaps. At the same time, if you\'re not so keen on Democrats, having a Republican in the White House will also provide a check on Democrats in Congress.

But as things currently stand, Republicans control the White House, Supreme Court (7 of 9 judges are Republican), the US Senate and the US House. There is literally no one able and willing to keep George Bush in line, to stop his hair-brained schemes before they turn into more Katrinas and more Iraqs and more Dubai port deals.

The only way to rein George Bush in, to ensure that he doesn\'t continue to hurt the country more than he already has, is to vote against Republican members of Congress in the coming congressional elections this November. Vote against Republicans, vote for Democrats - it\'s the only chance we have to put a protective bubble around George Bush so he doesn\'t hurt anyone else.

Comment: John in DC is dreaming if he thinks there is any chance of getting anyone in Congress who can do anything. He didn\'t even really get the fact that Bush was not elected not because anyone was voting against Gore or Kerry, but rather because it\'s not who votes, it\'s who counts the votes that decides who gets elected.

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Patriot Act E-Mail Searches Apply to Non-Terrorists, Judges Say

Staff Reporter of the Sun
28 Feb 06

Two federal judges in Florida have upheld the authority of individual courts to use the Patriot Act to order searches anywhere in the country for e-mails and computer data in all types of criminal investigations, overruling a magistrate who found that Congress limited such expanded jurisdiction to cases involving terrorism.
The disagreement among the jurists about the scope of their powers simmered for more than two years before coming to light in an opinion unsealed earlier this month. The resolution, which underscored the government\'s broad legal authority to intercept electronic communications, comes as debate is raging over President Bush\'s warrantless surveillance program and the duties of Internet providers to protect personal data.

A magistrate judge in Orlando, James Glazebrook, first questioned the so-called nationwide-search provision in 2003, after investigators in a child pornography probe asked him to issue a search warrant requiring a \"legitimate\" California-based Web site to identify all users who accessed certain \"password-protected\" photos posted on the site. The Web provider was not named in public court records.

Magistrate Glazebrook said that in passing the Patriot Act, formally known as the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act, Congress made clear its focus was on terrorism. He said there was nothing in the language Congress adopted in the days after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that suggested the nationwide-search provision should apply to garden variety federal cases.

\"The statutory language is clear and unambiguous in limiting district court authority to issue out-of-district warrants to investigations of terrorism, and that language controls this court\'s interpretation. The government has shown no legislative intent to the contrary,\" the magistrate wrote. He also noted that many of the examples given during legislative debate involved terrorism. The then chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Leahy, a Democrat of Vermont, described the nationwide-search language as applying in terrorism cases, the court noted.

Magistrate Glazebrook denied the search warrant, but it was recently disclosed that the government appealed to a federal judge, G. Kendall Sharp, who granted it without explanation.

The scenario played out again late last year, after prosecutors presented Magistrate Glazebrook with an application for a search warrant directed to a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Web portal, Yahoo. The government asked that Yahoo produce web pages, documents, and usage logs pertaining to two e-mail addresses and a Web site allegedly linked to an Orlando man, Earl Beach, under investigation for involvement in child pornography. Magistrate Glazebrook allowed searches of Mr. Beach\'s home and computers, but again rejected prosecutors\' request to acquire data located across the country. \"Congress has not authorized this court to seize out-of-district property except in cases of domestic or international terrorism,\" the magistrate handwrote on the application.

Again, prosecutors appealed. Judge Gregory Presnell took up the question and concluded that \"it seems\" Congress did intend to authorize nationwide search warrants in all cases, not just ones pertaining to terrorism. However, the judge acknowledged that the language Congress used was far from clear. \"The court rejects the assertions made by both the United States here and the magistrate judge... that the statutory language is unambiguous. Although the court ultimately comes to a determination regarding the meaning of this language, by no means is it clearly, unambiguously or precisely written,\" Judge Presnell wrote.

The chief federal defender in Orlando, R. Fletcher Peacock, said the dispute was a straightforward one pitting literal interpretation against legislative intent. \"Judge Presnell was more willing to go behind the language of the statute and look at the statutory intent, and clearly Judge Glazebrook was not,\" the attorney said.

One of the most striking aspects of the dispute is that there appears to be no other published court ruling addressing the nationwide-search provision, known as Section 220. The magistrate involved cited no cases directly on the point and neither did the government.

An attorney with a group that pushes for online privacy, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said yesterday that the lack of published cases on the subject reflects the fact that search warrant applications are presented outside the presence of defense lawyers, often before a defendant even knows he is under investigation. \"It\'s fairly typical that search warrants for electronic evidence would be kept under seal,\" the privacy advocate, Kevin Bankston, said. \"In most cases, they wouldn\'t be reported.\"

Mr. Bankston said there is no question that the Justice Department wanted the Patriot Act to include nationwide-search authority for all crimes, but whether lawmakers accomplished that task is another question. \"I don\'t know that Congress knew what it was voting on,\" he said.

Civil libertarians have objected to the nationwide-search provision on the grounds that it allows prosecutors the discretion to pick judicial districts where judges are seen as more friendly to the government. Critics of the Patriot Act have also warned that allowing search warrants to be filed from across the country will discourage Internet service providers from fighting such requests even when they may be unwarranted.

\"The only person in a position to assert your rights is the ISP and if it\'s in their local court, they are more likely to challenge it if it is bad or somehow deficient,\" Mr. Bankston said.

A spokesman for the prosecutors did not return a call seeking comment for this story. However, the Justice Department has said the nationwide-search provision was \"vital\" to its investigation of the gruesome murder in 2004 of a pregnant Missouri woman, Bobbie Jo Stinnett, whose unborn child was cut from her womb with a kitchen knife. Investigators claim that they used the Patriot Act authority to quickly obtain email evidence from an Internet provider across state lines in Kansas. That data led them to a woman who later confessed to the attack, Lisa Montgomery.

In his ruling, Judge Presnell did not mention that episode, but suggested it was simpler for the courts and prosecutors to issue all warrants in a case from one place.

\"As a matter of judicial and prosecutorial efficiency, it is practical to permit the federal district court for the district where the federal crime allegedly occurred to oversee both the prosecution and the investigation (including the issuance of warrants) thereof,\" he wrote. The government has also complained that the former procedure caused court backlogs and delays in jurisdictions, like northern California, that are home to many Internet companies.

It is unclear whether any charges resulted from the 2003 investigation, but the suspect involved in the disputed 2005 search, Mr. Beach, was indicted earlier this month on charges of possessing and distributing child pornography. He has pleaded not guilty. A trial is set for April.

Magistrate Glazebrook said in a brief interview yesterday that he could not discuss the specific cases that prompted the legal disagreement over the Patriot Act, but that he expects the question to arise again. \"It is certainly something that will come up,\" he said. \"There are a lot of interesting issues surrounding that.\"

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Saudi Group Alleges Wiretapping by U.S.

Carol D. Leonnig and Mary Beth Sheridan, Washington Post

Documents cited in federal court by a defunct Islamic charity may provide the first detailed evidence of U.S. residents being spied upon by President Bush\'s secret eavesdropping program, according to the organization\'s lawsuit and a source familiar with the case.
The al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, a Saudi organization that once operated in Portland, Ore., filed a description of classified government records in a lawsuit Tuesday and immediately asked a judge for a private review.

According to a source familiar with the case, the records indicate that the National Security Agency intercepted several conversations in March and April 2004 between al-Haramain\'s director, who was in Saudi Arabia, and two U.S. citizens in Washington who were working as lawyers for the organization.

The government intercepted the conversations without court permission and in violation of the law, al-Haramain asserts in its lawsuit. It contends that eavesdropping on the conversations bypassed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 law that requires the government to show probable cause that a U.S. resident is an agent of a terrorist group or foreign government and to obtain a warrant from the secret FISA court before monitoring that person\'s calls.

Experts on FISA, while emphasizing that they are unfamiliar with the specifics of the al-Haramain case, said they question whether a FISA judge would agree to allow surveillance of conversations between U.S. lawyers and their client under the general circumstances described in the lawsuit.

In October 2001, Bush ordered the NSA to begin monitoring some telephone calls and e-mails of U.S. residents and contacts abroad if one party was suspected to have links to terrorism. The government has said that FISA did not allow it to move quickly enough to track suspected terrorists after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Several targets of government terrorism prosecutions have challenged the warrantless eavesdropping in courts nationwide since news reports in December revealed the existence of the secret surveillance program. Most of those challenges have centered on suspicion that prosecutors used information from warrantless wiretaps to build cases in terrorism investigations.

This lawsuit appears to be the first to cite the government\'s own documents of intercepted conversations and e-mails as the reason to suspect NSA surveillance. The government has acknowledged that it targeted Iyman Faris, who pleaded guilty in 2003 to plotting to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge, for surveillance under the NSA program. Several convicted members of a group described by prosecutors as Virginia jihad network have said they believe they were targets of surveillance. The government has said it either has no evidence to support the allegation or is still investigating.

Yesterday, Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said authorities will review al-Haramain\'s filing. He declined to comment further.

The lawsuit says that a director of al-Haramain, Suliman al-Buthe, once operated the nonprofit group in Ashland, Ore., but relocated to Saudi Arabia because of U.S. government pressure.

The Treasury Department\'s Office of Foreign Assets Control froze the foundation\'s U.S. assets in February 2004, pending an investigation, and designated it a terrorist organization in September 2004, citing ties to Osama bin Laden. Al-Haramain was indicted in February 2005 on charges of conspiring to defraud the United States in connection with a scheme to funnel money to Chechen fighters. The charges were later dropped because the Oregon branch of the organization had shut down.

The lawsuit contends that al-Buthe\'s conversations with people in the United States were illegally intercepted. In May 2004, the suit says, government officials provided al-Buthe -- apparently by accident -- copies of conversations he had with attorneys Wendell Belew and Asim Ghafoor.

Later in 2004, the FBI demanded the records back, according to a source familiar with the case.

Tom Nelson, an attorney for al-Haramain who filed the suit, declined yesterday to confirm the existence of any classified records or tangible evidence buttressing the suit.

However, court records show, Nelson filed a motion to place material under seal as part of the suit Tuesday, and made a formal request to the judge overseeing the case to review the unspecified documents privately.

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An attack on voters\' rights - I was elected mayor by the people of London and only they should have the power to remove me

Ken Livingstone
Wednesday March 1, 2006
The Guardian

At least one thing can be said about my possible suspension from office, which was put on hold by the high court yesterday: people from across the political spectrum have come to the defence of the basic democratic principle that those elected by the people should only be removed by the voters.

Last week, an adjudication tribunal found that some of my comments to an Evening Standard journalist had been \"unnecessarily insensitive\" and \"offensive\". But those are not grounds for overturning the decision of the voters of London. As far as I am aware, there is no law against \"unnecessary insensitivity\" or even \"offensiveness\" to journalists questioning you as you try to go home.
However, there has been an unstated allegation in this case: the implicit suggestion that my comment was anti-semitic. It is not explicitly stated because it cannot be substantiated. But the innuendo is used to give weight to charges otherwise too trivial to merit this gigantic fuss.

The truth is that I have appointed black, Asian and Jewish people to the highest levels of my administration and waged an unrelenting war on every manifestation of racism, anti-semitism and every other kind of discrimination. Since I have been mayor, racial and religiously motivated incidents in the capital have declined by more than a third. Of course, there is still a problem. A Jewish person is three times more likely to suffer a racist attack than a \"white European\". A person of African, Caribbean or south Asian descent is 10 times more likely to suffer a racist attack. And an Arab person is 11 times more likely to suffer a racist attack in London today. But significant progress has been made against the trend that is taking place elsewhere in Europe.

Associated Newspapers has always led the charge against the policies that confront racism and anti-semitism. It praised the Blackshirts in the 1930s, and admits that as recently as the retirement party of the last editor of the Daily Mail, two of its staff dressed in Nazi uniforms and were not asked to leave.

The Board of Deputies, which referred me to the Standards Board, has at all times protested that this issue is just about how I treated one reporter who happens to be Jewish. I have never believed a word of it. Some time before this incident was blown up out of all proportion, the Board of Deputies asked to meet me to urge me to tone down my views on the Israeli government.

For far too long the accusation of anti-semitism has been used against anyone who is critical of the policies of the Israeli government, as I have been. Even Tony Blair was recently described as a \"common anti-semite\" in an Israeli newspaper. Being Jewish is no defence from this charge. The famous Israeli conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim was recently denounced by an Israeli minister as \"a real Jew hater, a real anti-semite\". Antony Lerman, director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, has said that equating criticism of Israel policies with anti-semitism \"drains the word anti-semitism of any useful meaning\".

There is at least one positive clarification that has come out of this whole affair: Jon Benjamin, the director general of the Board of Deputies, stated last week: \"We\'ve never said the mayor is anti-semitic.\"

The fundamental issue in this whole affair is not whether or not I was \"insensitive\", it is the principle that those whom the people elect should only be removed by the people or because they have broken the law. It\'s because this fundamental principle is at stake that I am going to do everything in my power to have this attack on the democratic rights of Londoners overturned.

· Ken Livingstone is mayor of London.


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Gonzales Seeks to Clarify Testimony on Spying - Extent of Eavesdropping May Go Beyond NSA Work

By Charles Babington and Dan Eggen
Washington Post
1 Mar 06

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales appeared to suggest yesterday that the Bush administration\'s warrantless domestic surveillance operations may extend beyond the outlines that the president acknowledged in mid-December.

In a letter yesterday to senators in which he asked to clarify his Feb. 6 testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Gonzales also seemed to imply that the administration\'s original legal justification for the program was not as clear-cut as he indicated three weeks ago.
At that appearance, Gonzales confined his comments to the National Security Agency\'s warrantless wiretapping program, saying that President Bush had authorized it \"and that is all that he has authorized.\"

But in yesterday\'s letter, Gonzales, citing that quote, wrote: \"I did not and could not address . . . any other classified intelligence activities.\" Using the administration\'s term for the recently disclosed operation, he continued, \"I was confining my remarks to the Terrorist Surveillance Program as described by the President, the legality of which was the subject\" of the Feb. 6 hearing.

At least one constitutional scholar who testified before the committee yesterday said in an interview that Gonzales appeared to be hinting that the operation disclosed by the New York Times in mid-December is not the full extent of eavesdropping on U.S. residents conducted without court warrants.

\"It seems to me he is conceding that there are other NSA surveillance programs ongoing that the president hasn\'t told anyone about,\" said Bruce Fein, a government lawyer in the Nixon, Carter and Reagan administrations.

A Justice Department official who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the program, said, however, that Gonzales\'s letter \"should not be taken or construed to be talking about anything other than\" the NSA program \"as described by the president.\"

In his letter, Gonzales revisited earlier testimony, during which he said the administration immediately viewed a congressional vote in September 2001 to authorize the use of military force against al-Qaeda as justification for the NSA surveillance program. Bush secretly began the program in October 2001, Gonzales\'s letter said.

On Feb. 6, Gonzales testified that the Justice Department considered the use-of-force vote as a legal green light for the wiretapping \"before the program actually commenced.\"

But in yesterday\'s letter, he wrote, \"these statements may give the misimpression that the Department\'s legal analysis has been static over time.\"

Fein said the letter seems to suggest that the Justice Department actually embraced the use-of-force argument some time later, prompting Gonzales to write that the legal justification \"has evolved over time.\"

One government source who has been briefed on the issue confirmed yesterday that the administration believed from the beginning that the president had the constitutional authority to order the eavesdropping, and only more recently added the force resolution argument as a legal justification.

Ranking Judiciary Committee Democrat Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.) said Gonzales\'s letter falls \"far short of helping us focus this picture. Instead, they blur it further with vague responses about their shifting legal analysis for this illegal domestic spying and with unclear clarifications on the scope of the program over the last four years.\"

Also yesterday, the Senate voted 69 to 30 to end a filibuster of the proposed four-year extension of the USA Patriot Act, the sweeping anti-terrorism law enacted in 2001. The Senate plans today to approve the measure, which contains hotly debated modifications.

In a morning Judiciary Committee hearing, hours before Gonzales\'s letter was released, Fein was one of several constitutional experts who sharply challenged the constitutionality of the NSA program. Other scholars and former CIA director R. James Woolsey strongly defended it.

Bush has acknowledged that he authorized the NSA to monitor phone calls and e-mails involving one party in the United States and one abroad, provided that federal agents suspect one party of terrorist ties. The administration contends that the program is not covered by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which established a secret court to consider government requests to wiretap U.S. citizens and residents in terrorism and espionage cases.

Numerous lawmakers, including Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), disagree. Specter says the NSA program violates the FISA law, and he is proposing legislation that would allow the FISA court to rule on the program\'s constitutionality and to oversee aspects of the surveillance operations.

Woolsey, President Bill Clinton\'s first CIA director, defended the eavesdropping program.

\"The one-spy-at-a-time surveillance systems of the Cold War -- including FISA, through courts -- are not designed to deal with fast-moving battlefield electronic mapping\" of today\'s terrorism fight, he said. \"An al-Qaeda or a Hezbollah computer might be captured which contains a large number of e-mail addresses and phone numbers which would have to be checked out very promptly,\" he said, and the FISA warrant process is too cumbersome to allow it.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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Domestic spying more widespread than thought

By Joe Baker, Senior Editor
The Rock River Times
1 Mar 06

Government surveillance of private individuals is more pervasive and detailed than previously thought. Investigative reporter Wayne Madsen tells us that the National Security Agency (NSA), at the center of the wiretap scandal, has expanded its surveillance of journalists that the administration claims have received classified information.
The NSA has built a database, part of the intelligence community's "Denial and Deception" operations that now holds transcripts of phone calls and e-mails among journalists and their sources and associates. The database formerly was known as "Firstfruit" until Madsen exposed it last May.

Sources within the NSA told Madsen the database contains signals intelligence intercepts in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), U.S. Signals Intelligence Directive 18 and the Fourth Amendment. These intercepts involve communications between certain individuals and journalists like James Bamford, James Risen, Seymour Hersh, Bill Gertz, Madsen and several others.

In addition to the NSA wiretap program, it was recently revealed that the Pentagon is running its own eavesdropping operation, and there also is a top-secret wiretap program about which no information is available except a reference to it by a government employee.

Along with these developments, top administration officials have pointed to the need to challenge any news they believe undercuts Bush's actions in attempting to defeat terrorists. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld referred to "news informers."

Add to that the announcement in January that the Army Corps of Engineers gave Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root a contract for $385 million to build detention centers (read concentration camps) at locations in the U.S. These centers supposedly are to deal with "an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development of new programs."

The New York Times later reported "KBR would build the centers for the Homeland Security Department for an unexpected influx of immigrants, to house people in the event of a natural disaster or for new programs that require additional detention space."

Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., commented: "It's hard to believe that the administration has decided to entrust Halliburton with even more taxpayer dollars."

But what might the "new programs" be? What kind of programs would call for a major expansion of detention centers, each able to hold 5,000 people? A spokesman for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement would not elaborate.

Independent journalist Peter Dale Scott speculated that the "detention centers could be used to detain American citizens if the Bush administration were to declare martial law." That could include journalists and dissidents.

Scott recalled that in the Reagan administration, Oliver North, then an aide to the National Security Council, organized a plan that envisioned FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, rounding up and corralling 400,000 "refugees" in the event of what he called "uncontrolled population movements" over the Mexican border into the U.S.

Journalist Maureen Farrell noted that because "another terror attack is all but certain, it seems far more likely that the centers would be used for post-9/11-type detentions of immigrants rather than a sudden deluge" of immigrants flooding across the border.

Daniel Ellsberg, who made public the "Pentagon Papers" in the Vietnam War era, said: "Almost certainly, this is preparation for a roundup after the next 9/11 for Mideasterners, Muslims and possibly dissenters. They've already done this on a smaller scale, with the 'special registration detentions' of immigrant men from Muslim countries, and with Guantanamo."

The U.S. Army also posted a related item on its Web site. The Army posted a notice regarding the Pentagon's Civilian Inmate Labor Program. It furnishes "Army policy and guidance for setting up civilian inmate labor programs and civilian prison camps on Army installations."

The timing of the posting-in the last few weeks-could be just coincidence, but the posting's reference to a "rapid action revision" and the KBR contract's expectation of "rapid development of new programs" has caused questions about the sudden need for such urgency.

More attention is being focused on these developments because of earlier policies of the Bush administration to use the Pentagon in "counter-terrorism" operations inside the U.S. Even though such actions are banned by the Posse Comitatus Act, prohibiting military involvement in domestic law enforcement, the Pentagon has expanded its activities beyond previous limits, such as its part in domestic surveillance operations.

Since 9/11, The Washington Post says, the Defense Department has been setting up new agencies to gather and analyze intelligence inside this country. A 2001 Defense Department memo became public in 2005. In it, the Army's top intelligence officer wrote: "Contrary to popular belief, there is no absolute ban on [military] intelligence components collecting U.S. person information."

The memo made a distinction between "collecting" and "receiving" information and declared: "Military intelligence may receive information from anyone, anytime."

The Pentagon also is pushing for legislation that would make an exception to the Privacy Act, which would allow the FBI and others to share citizen information with the Pentagon, CIA and other intelligence agencies.

On Feb. 15, The Post reported the National Counterterrorism Center's central database contains the names of 325,000 people, said to be terrorist suspects. That's four times as many names as were in the database in the fall of 2003, and includes input from the NSA's wiretap program.

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Senate Advances Patriot Act Renewal

Associated Press Writer
1 Feb 06

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Senate on Wednesday agreed to add to the Patriot Act new curbs on the government\'s power to pry into private records, moving President Bush\'s antiterror law a step closer to renewal before key provisions expire next week.

But even as it progressed on a 95-4 vote, some Democrats complained that the limits would be virtually meaningless in practice and sought to add even stronger privacy protections.

Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., refused to allow more tinkering, pointing out that renewal of the 2001 law is already months overdue.
The measure that passed Wednesday restricts somwhat the government\'s ability to access records in terrorism investigations by allowing court challenges to some demands.

That\'s not enough for Sens. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., and Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., who were invoking several procedural maneuvers to slow down the legislation\'s progress.

``No one has the right to turn this body into a rubber stamp,\'\' said Feingold, the leading opponent of the law in Congress. ``The White House played hardball and the decision was made by some to capitulate.\'\'

The procedural wrangling in the Senate prompted House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., to pull the measure off his chamber\'s schedule for the day. The House was not expected to vote on the matter until next week.

Still, the law appeared headed for passage and Bush\'s desk before 16 major provisions were set to expire on March 10. The Senate this week is expected to pass the second measure in the two-bill package. Both have to be approved by the House before the package is sent to the White House for Bush\'s signature.

Unable to reach accord for months, Congress has twice extended the expiration date. The 2001 anti-terrorism law was originally to have expired Dec. 31.

The war on terror can\'t wait for more debate, Republicans said.

``Civil liberties do not mean much when you are dead,\'\' Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., told the Senate.

The Senate voted 69-30 Tuesday - 60 votes were needed - to limit debate and bring the legislation to a final vote. The Senate is expected to pass the measure as early as Wednesday, barring Democratic procedural maneuvers. The House then is expected to approve it and send the bill to Bush\'s desk next week.

Despite the bill\'s progress, deep misgivings remain even among its chief supporters.

One of them, Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., was in the odd position Tuesday of urging his colleagues to pass a bill so flawed that he planned new legislation and hearings to fix it.

``The issue is not concluded,\'\' said Specter, R-Pa. He said he plans more legislation and hearings on restoring House-rejected curbs on government power.

His bill would make the government satisfy a higher threshold for warrantless wiretaps and would set a four-year expiration date for the use of National Security Letters in terrorism investigations.

However appetizing to Specter\'s colleagues in the Senate, the new bill contains items House Republicans flatly rejected during talks last year.

Sensenbrenner has insisted that once the House approves the renewal and sends it to Bush, his chamber is done with the issue for the year.

That will be none too soon for some lawmakers. The standoff pushed renewing the law into this midterm election year. Senate leaders were forced to find a procedural way of getting the bill to a vote without losing the support of Sensenbrenner, the Bush administration and libertarian-leaning lawmakers - all before March 10.

The solution is a convoluted procedural dance that illustrates the razor-thin zone of agreement when it comes to Bush\'s terror-fighting law.

Congress will extend the Patriot Act by passing two pieces of legislation. The first is the same accord passed last year by the House and filibustered in the Senate by members who said it contained too few privacy protections. The second is, in effect, an amendment to the first that adds enough privacy protections to win over those same libertarian-leaning Republicans.

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NSA\'s Hunt for Terrorists Scrutinizes Thousands of Americans, but Most Are Later Cleared

Barton Gellman, Dafna Linzer and Carol D. Leonnig, Washington Post

Intelligence officers who eavesdropped on thousands of Americans in overseas calls under authority from President Bush have dismissed nearly all of them as potential suspects after hearing nothing pertinent to a terrorist threat, according to accounts from current and former government officials and private-sector sources with knowledge of the technologies in use.
Bush has recently described the warrantless operation as \"terrorist surveillance\" and summed it up by declaring that \"if you\'re talking to a member of al Qaeda, we want to know why.\" But officials conversant with the program said a far more common question for eavesdroppers is whether, not why, a terrorist plotter is on either end of the call. The answer, they said, is usually no.

Fewer than 10 U.S. citizens or residents a year, according to an authoritative account, have aroused enough suspicion during warrantless eavesdropping to justify interception of their domestic calls, as well. That step still requires a warrant from a federal judge, for which the government must supply evidence of probable cause.

The Bush administration refuses to say -- in public or in closed session of Congress -- how many Americans in the past four years have had their conversations recorded or their e-mails read by intelligence analysts without court authority. Two knowledgeable sources placed that number in the thousands; one of them, more specific, said about 5,000.

The program has touched many more Americans than that. Surveillance takes place in several stages, officials said, the earliest by machine. Computer-controlled systems collect and sift basic information about hundreds of thousands of faxes, e-mails and telephone calls into and out of the United States before selecting the ones for scrutiny by human eyes and ears.

Successive stages of filtering grow more intrusive as artificial intelligence systems rank voice and data traffic in order of likeliest interest to human analysts. But intelligence officers, who test the computer judgments by listening initially to brief fragments of conversation, \"wash out\" most of the leads within days or weeks.

The scale of warrantless surveillance, and the high proportion of bystanders swept in, sheds new light on Bush\'s circumvention of the courts. National security lawyers, in and out of government, said the washout rate raised fresh doubts about the program\'s lawfulness under the Fourth Amendment, because a search cannot be judged \"reasonable\" if it is based on evidence that experience shows to be unreliable. Other officials said the disclosures might shift the terms of public debate, altering perceptions about the balance between privacy lost and security gained.

Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the nation\'s second-ranking intelligence officer, acknowledged in a news briefing last month that eavesdroppers \"have to go down some blind alleys to find the tips that pay off.\" Other officials, nearly all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not permitted to discuss the program, said the prevalence of false leads is especially pronounced when U.S. citizens or residents are surveilled. No intelligence agency, they said, believes that \"terrorist . . . operatives inside our country,\" as Bush described the surveillance targets, number anywhere near the thousands who have been subject to eavesdropping.

The Bush administration declined to address the washout rate or answer any other question for this article about the policies and operations of its warrantless eavesdropping.

Vice President Cheney has made the administration\'s strongest claim about the program\'s intelligence value, telling CNN in December that eavesdropping without warrants \"has saved thousands of lives.\" Asked about that Thursday, Hayden told senators he \"cannot personally estimate\" such a figure but that the program supplied information \"that would not otherwise have been available.\" FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III said at the same hearing that the information helped identify \"individuals who were providing material support to terrorists.\"

Supporters speaking unofficially said the program is designed to warn of unexpected threats, and they argued that success cannot be measured by the number of suspects it confirms. Even unwitting Americans, they said, can take part in communications -- arranging a car rental, for example, without knowing its purpose -- that supply \"indications and warnings\" of an attack. Contributors to the technology said it is a triumph for artificial intelligence if a fraction of 1 percent of the computer-flagged conversations guide human analysts to meaningful leads.

Those arguments point to a conflict between the program\'s operational aims and the legal and political limits described by the president and his advisers. For purposes of threat detection, officials said, the analysis of a telephone call is indifferent to whether an American is on the line. Since Sept. 11, 2001, a former CIA official said, \"there is a lot of discussion\" among analysts \"that we shouldn\'t be dividing Americans and foreigners, but terrorists and non-terrorists.\" But under the Constitution, and in the Bush administration\'s portrait of its warrantless eavesdropping, the distinction is fundamental.

Valuable information remains valuable even if it comes from one in a thousand intercepts. But government officials and lawyers said the ratio of success to failure matters greatly when eavesdropping subjects are Americans or U.S. visitors with constitutional protection. The minimum legal definition of probable cause, said a government official who has studied the program closely, is that evidence used to support eavesdropping ought to turn out to be \"right for one out of every two guys at least.\" Those who devised the surveillance plan, the official said, \"knew they could never meet that standard -- that\'s why they didn\'t go through\" the court that supervises the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.

Michael J. Woods, who was chief of the FBI\'s national security law unit until 2002, said in an e-mail interview that even using the lesser standard of a \"reasonable basis\" requires evidence \"that would lead a prudent, appropriately experienced person\" to believe the American is a terrorist agent. If a factor returned \"a large number of false positives, I would have to conclude that the factor is not a sufficiently reliable indicator and thus would carry less (or no) weight.\"

Bush has said his program covers only overseas calls to or from the United States and stated categorically that \"we will not listen inside this country\" without a warrant. Hayden said the government goes to the intelligence court when an eavesdropping subject becomes important enough to \"drill down,\" as he put it, \"to the degree that we need all communications.\"

Yet a special channel set up for just that purpose four years ago has gone largely unused, according to an authoritative account. Since early 2002, when the presiding judge of the federal intelligence court first learned of Bush\'s program, he agreed to a system in which prosecutors may apply for a domestic warrant after warrantless eavesdropping on the same person\'s overseas communications. The annual number of such applications, a source said, has been in the single digits.

Many features of the surveillance program remain unknown, including what becomes of the non-threatening U.S. e-mails and conversations that the NSA intercepts. Participants, according to a national security lawyer who represents one of them privately, are growing \"uncomfortable with the mountain of data they have now begun to accumulate.\" Spokesmen for the Bush administration declined to say whether any are discarded.

New Imperatives

Recent interviews have described the program\'s origins after Sept. 11 in what Hayden has called a three-way collision of \"operational, technical and legal imperatives.\"

Intelligence agencies had an urgent mission to find hidden plotters before they could strike again.

About the same time, advances in technology -- involving acoustic engineering, statistical theory and efficient use of computing power to apply them -- offered new hope of plucking valuable messages from the vast flow of global voice and data traffic. And rapidly changing commercial trends, which had worked against the NSA in the 1990s as traffic shifted from satellites to fiber-optic cable, now presented the eavesdroppers with a gift. Market forces were steering as much as a third of global communications traffic on routes that passed through the United States.

The Bush administration had incentive and capabilities for a new kind of espionage, but 23 years of law and White House policy stood in the way.

FISA, passed in 1978, was ambiguous about some of the president\'s plans, according to current and retired government national security lawyers. But other features of the eavesdropping program fell outside its boundaries.

One thing the NSA wanted was access to the growing fraction of global telecommunications that passed through junctions on U.S. territory. According to former senator Bob Graham (D-Fla.), who chaired the Intelligence Committee at the time, briefers told him in Cheney\'s office in October 2002 that Bush had authorized the agency to tap into those junctions. That decision, Graham said in an interview first reported in The Washington Post on Dec. 18, allowed the NSA to intercept \"conversations that . . . went through a transit facility inside the United States.\"

According to surveys by TeleGeography Inc., nearly all voice and data traffic to and from the United States now travels by fiber-optic cable. About one-third of that volume is in transit from one foreign country to another, traversing U.S. networks along its route. The traffic passes through cable landing stations, where undersea communications lines meet the East and West coasts; warehouse-size gateways where competing international carriers join their networks; and major Internet hubs known as metropolitan area ethernets.

Until Bush secretly changed the rules, the government could not tap into access points on U.S. soil without a warrant to collect the \"contents\" of any communication \"to or from a person in the United States.\" But the FISA law was silent on calls and e-mails that began and ended abroad.

Even for U.S. communications, the law was less than clear about whether the NSA could harvest information about that communication that was not part of its \"contents.\"

\"It\'s the nature of intelligence that many tips lead nowhere, but you have to go down some blind alleys to find the tips that pay off.\" -- Air Force Gen. Michael V. Hayden on Jan. 23. (By Lauren Victoria Burke -- Associated Press)

\"We debated a lot of issues involving the \'metadata,\' \" one government lawyer said. Valuable for analyzing calling patterns, the metadata for telephone calls identify their origin, destination, duration and time. E-mail headers carry much the same information, along with the numeric address of each network switch through which a message has passed.

Intelligence lawyers said FISA plainly requires a warrant if the government wants real-time access to that information for any one person at a time. But the FISA court, as some lawyers saw it, had no explicit jurisdiction over wholesale collection of records that do not include the content of communications. One high-ranking intelligence official who argued for a more cautious approach said he found himself pushed aside. Awkward silences began to intrude on meetings that discussed the evolving rules.

\"I became aware at some point of things I was not being told about,\" the intelligence official said.

\'Subtly Softer Trigger\'

Hayden has described a \"subtly softer trigger\" for eavesdropping, based on a powerful \"line of logic,\" but no Bush administration official has acknowledged explicitly that automated filters play a role in selecting American targets. But Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), who chairs the Judiciary Committee, referred in a recent letter to \"mechanical surveillance\" that is taking place before U.S. citizens and residents are \"subject to human surveillance.\"

Machine selection would be simple if the typical U.S. eavesdropping subject took part in direct calls to or from the \"phone numbers of known al Qaeda\" terrorists, the only criterion Bush has mentioned.

That is unusual. The NSA more commonly looks for less-obvious clues in the \"terabytes of speech, text, and image data\" that its global operations collect each day, according to an unclassified report by the National Science Foundation soliciting research on behalf of U.S. intelligence.

NSA Inspector General Joel F. Brenner said in 2004 that the agency\'s intelligence officers have no choice but to rely on \"electronic filtering, sorting and dissemination systems of amazing sophistication but that are imperfect.\"

One method in use, the NSF report said, is \"link analysis.\" It takes an established starting point -- such as a terrorist just captured or killed -- and looks for associated people, places, things and events. Those links can be far more tenuous than they initially appear.

In an unclassified report for the Pentagon\'s since-abandoned Total Information Awareness program, consultant Mary DeRosa showed how \"degrees of separation\" among the Sept. 11 conspirators concealed the significance of clues that linked them.

Khalid Almihdhar, one of the hijackers, was on a government watch list for terrorists and thus a known suspect. Mohamed Atta, another hijacker, was linked to Almihdhar by one degree of separation because he used the same contact address when booking his flight. Wail M. Alshehri, another hijacker, was linked by two degrees of separation because he shared a telephone number with Atta. Satam M.A. Al Suqami, still another hijacker, shared a post office box with Alshehri and, therefore, had three degrees of separation from the original suspect.

Those links were not obvious before the identity of the hijackers became known. A major problem for analysts is that a given suspect may have hundreds of links to others with one degree of separation, including high school classmates and former neighbors in a high-rise building who never knew his name. Most people are linked to thousands or tens of thousands of people by two degrees of separation, and hundreds of thousands or millions by three degrees.

Published government reports say the NSA and other data miners use mathematical techniques to form hypotheses about which of the countless theoretical ties are likeliest to represent a real-world relationship.

A more fundamental problem, according to a high-ranking former official with firsthand knowledge, is that \"the number of identifiable terrorist entities is decreasing.\" There are fewer starting points, he said, for link analysis.

\"At that point, your only recourse is to look for patterns,\" the official said.

Pattern analysis, also described in the NSF and DeRosa reports, does not depend on ties to a known suspect. It begins with places terrorists go, such as the Pakistani province of Waziristan, and things they do, such as using disposable cell phones and changing them frequently, which U.S. officials have publicly cited as a challenge for counterterrorism.

\"These people don\'t want to be on the phone too long,\" said Russell Tice, a former NSA analyst, offering another example.

Analysts build a model of hypothetical terrorist behavior, and computers look for people who fit the model. Among the drawbacks of this method is that nearly all its selection criteria are innocent on their own. There is little precedent, lawyers said, for using such a model as probable cause to get a court-issued warrant for electronic surveillance.

Jeff Jonas, now chief scientist at IBM Entity Analytics, invented a data-mining technology used widely in the private sector and by the government. He sympathizes, he said, with an analyst facing an unknown threat who gathers enormous volumes of data \"and says, \'There must be a secret in there.\' \"

But pattern matching, he argued, will not find it. Techniques that \"look at people\'s behavior to predict terrorist intent,\" he said, \"are so far from reaching the level of accuracy that\'s necessary that I see them as nothing but civil liberty infringement engines.\"

\'A Lot Better Than Chance\'

Even with 38,000 employees, the NSA is incapable of translating, transcribing and analyzing more than a fraction of the conversations it intercepts. For years, including in public testimony by Hayden, the agency has acknowledged use of automated equipment to analyze the contents and guide analysts to the most important ones.

According to one knowledgeable source, the warrantless program also uses those methods. That is significant to the public debate because this kind of filtering intrudes into content, and machines \"listen\" to more Americans than humans do. NSA rules since the late 1970s, when machine filtering was far less capable, have said \"acquisition\" of content does not take place until a conversation is intercepted and processed \"into an intelligible form intended for human inspection.\"

The agency\'s filters are capable of comparing spoken language to a \"dictionary\" of key words, but Roger W. Cressey, a senior White House counterterrorism official until late 2002, said terrorists and other surveillance subjects make frequent changes in their code words. He said, \" \'Wedding\' was martyrdom day and the \'bride\' and \'groom\' were the martyrs.\" But al Qaeda has stopped using those codes.

An alternative approach, in which a knowledgeable source said the NSA\'s work parallels academic and commercial counterparts, relies on \"decomposing an audio signal\" to find qualities useful to pattern analysis. Among the fields involved are acoustic engineering, behavioral psychology and computational linguistics.

A published report for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said machines can easily determine the sex, approximate age and social class of a speaker. They are also learning to look for clues to deceptive intent in the words and \"paralinguistic\" features of a conversation, such as pitch, tone, cadence and latency.

This kind of analysis can predict with results \"a hell of a lot better than chance\" the likelihood that the speakers are trying to conceal their true meaning, according to James W. Pennebaker, who chairs the psychology department at the University of Texas at Austin.

\"Frankly, we\'ll probably be wrong 99 percent of the time,\" he said, \"but 1 percent is far better than 1 in 100 million times if you were just guessing at random. And this is where the culture has to make some decisions.\"

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\"Imagine a world of no more privacy.\"

1 Mar 06

We speak with Liz McIntyre, author of \"Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track your Every Move with RFID\" that examines radio frequency identification - a technology that uses tiny computer chips to track items at distance. Major corporations are working right now to install RFIDs on all consumer products.
Imagine a world of no more privacy.

\"Where your every purchase is monitored and recorded in a database, and your every belonging is numbered. Where someone many states away or perhaps in another country has a record of everything you have ever bought, of everything you have ever owned, of every item of clothing in your closet -- every pair of shoes. What\'s more, these items can even be tracked remotely.

\"Once your every possession is recorded in a database and can be tracked, you can also be tracked and monitored remotely through the things you wear, carry and interact with every day.

\"We may be standing on the brink of that terrifying world if global corporations and government agencies have their way. It\'s the world that Wal-Mart, Target, Gillette, Procter & Gamble, Kraft, IBM, and even the United States Postal Service want to usher in within the next ten years.

\"It\'s the world of radio frequency identification.

\"Radio frequency identification, RFID for short, is a technology that uses tiny computer chips -- some smaller than a grain of sand -- to track items at distance. If the master planners have their way, every object -- from shoes to cars -- will carry one of these tiny computer chips that can be used to spy on you without your knowledge or consent.\"

Those are the opening words of the book, \"Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track your Every Move with RFID.\" Today we are joined by one of the co-authors of \"Spychips\" - Liz McIntyre.

* Liz McIntyre, a consumer privacy expert and author of \"Spychips: How Major Corporations and Government Plan to Track your Every Move with RFID.\" She serves as the Communications Director for CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering), a grass-roots organization that has been tackling consumer privacy issues since 1999. She also writes about consumer issues as the MoneyMom, a syndicated family money writer and columnist.
- Website: Spychips.com
* Annalee Newitz, freelance journalist. She writes about the intersection of technology science and culture and is a contributing editor at Wired Magazine. She recently had an RFID implanted in her arm.
- Website: Techsploitation.com

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Police state USA and Big Brother\'s most cool tool

By Amy Worthington
Idaho Observer
1 Mar 06

Senate Minority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) calls this Congress the \"most corrupt\" in history.1 U.S. Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) often uses the term \"police state\" to describe our national state of affairs. George Bush is making the most expansive claims to unbridled power since America's War for Independence, according to Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT).2 Former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who proved Bush lied to launch us into war with Iraq, says \"fascist forces have seized control of the levers of power.\"3 Americans are being told that their Republic has become a fascist police state-they just need ears to hear.

In a fascist police state, the dictator secures his power with support from private corporations which are given special privileges and, thus, benefit from doing business with dictators. Continuously bribed by 28,000 corporate lobbyists in D.C.,4 Congress is doing its part to build a fascist state in America.
During President Bush's recent State of the Union speech, these tainted legislators perpetually rose to their feet to applaud the spewing of what a New York Times editorial called \"misleading analogies, propaganda slogans and false choices.\"5 Their bootlicking recalls a by-gone Soviet era when endless rows of robotic Central Party members applauded the likes of Stalin to ensure their next breath of oxygen.

Passing the fascist laws they never read

After passage of the Patriot Act of 2001, Rep. Paul told Insight Magazine that the 2,200-page bill was not made available to Congress to read before the vote.6 So the most corrupt Congress in history rubber stamped the most fascist legislation they had never read. Our constitution enumerates inalienable rights that are emphatically restated in the first 10 amendments commonly known as \"The Bill of Rights.\" Under the Patriot Act, the \"right\" to free speech, peaceable assembly and security in one's person, papers and effects have been relegated to \"privileges\" that government can take away at any time. Patriot Act authority has suspended the right to due process and a prompt and public trial; it even cancelled protection against cruel and unusual punishment. Agents serving the fascist state can freely wire-tap our phones, enter our homes/offices, search and seize without warrant and detain us indefinitely without charges-ostensibly to keep America safe.

As we go to press, the original Patriot Act, which had a sunset clause, is now in the final stages of being amended and passed by Congress as a permanent feature of America's fascist landscape.

The ink had barely dried on the Patriot Act when Congress passed the Homeland Security Act of 2002. Rep. Paul stated that Congress also did not read the 500-page bill that gave birth to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).7 DHS, a creepy intelligence gathering apparatus reminiscent of the Nazi SS, has merged 22 federal agencies and their databases, employing nearly a quarter million workers. The New York Times columnist William Safire told the American people that, under DHS, \"You are a suspect.\"8 Rep. Paul confirms that \"the Department represents a huge new increase in the size and scope of the federal government that will mostly serve to spy on the American people.\"9

Fascist-to the bones

Michael Chertoff was appointed by Bush in 2004 to head DHS. Chertoff appears to be an identical twin of founding Soviet dictator Vladimir Lenin, giving us a stark flashback to the Russian Revolution of 1917. That lucrative Wall Street operation, which unleashed murderous communist tyranny upon hundreds of millions of people for nearly the entire 20thcentury, was funded and directed from New York by a clique of Yale-graduated Skull and Bones members in business with the Averell Harriman family.10 George Herbert Walker, great grandfather of the Skull and Bones fascist now occupying the White House, was a Harriman partner when Lenin granted to Harriman's Wall Street syndicate lucrative Russian resource concessions.11 Lenin also made Harriman partner Max May of Wall Street's Guaranty Trust the first vice president of Russia's Soviet Ruskombank.12

Yale's powerful Skull and Bones network also has a predilection for fascism, as clearly illustrated by the Harriman-Bush involvement in secret funding of the German Nazis during the 1930s.13 Our present commander-in-chief's grandfather, Prescott Sheldon Bush, was a Harriman partner involved in business dealings with Hitler's war machine even after WWII began.14 Prescott shamelessly failed to divest himself of more than a dozen \"enemy national\" relationships that continued as late as 1951.15

As we witness the progression of runaway fascism under the administration of Prescott's grandson, we must recall that the Skull and Bones syndicate, so adept at bringing nations to heel with war and revolution, created the CIA in 1947 under direction of Bonesman Robert A. Lovett.16 Our burgeoning fascist state is a raging metastasis of the syndicate's obsession with power, made possible by it's ritualistic secrecy and iron-fisted control of U.S. intelligence for the last 60 years. Our present generation of ruling Bonesmen is now brazenly merging the hideous Soviet and Nazi models into a hybrid for the new U.S. Homeland Security state.

Congress reforms \"intelligence\"

In 2004, a clueless and/or compromised Congress rubber-stamped the Intelligence Reform Act, a bill weighing in at over 3,000 pages. This Orwellian horror created the Department of National Intelligence (DNI). All 15 U.S. intelligence agencies now report to DNI mega-commissar John Negroponte, a veteran of the Iran-Contra scandal. This shady new law also establishes a counter-terrorism center and provides for a spy satellite network capable of monitoring private communications systems. It mandates that all drivers licenses and birth certificates be standardized, thereby creating a national ID system. Some provisions of the Intelligence Reform Act were classified \"top secret\" and congressmen were not allowed to read them.17 Americans have yet to discover what malignant ramifications the DNI may hold for the future.

In June, 2005, George Bush placed a portion of the FBI under his personal control, creating the National Security Service. This secret police apparatus, to be operated by the White House, will have no congressional oversight.18 In October, 2005, Bush created by executive order the National Clandestine Service, a new sticky arm of the CIA empowered to carry out covert operations, spying and dirty tricks within the United States.19 How many Gestapo units does a Fuhrer need?

Meantime, we saw the true fascist face of Chertoff's Homeland Security megalith last year when he called together some 50 big corporations, including Microsoft, Oracle and Verizon, to enlist their help in watching and tracking the activities of Americans. He told them that Homeland Security was considering hiring a non-profit group to gather information on citizens and send their names for scrutiny to Homeland Security.20

This is the classic fascist formula-corporations invited by Homeland Security to enrich themselves by keeping 300 million Americans under surveillance as suspicious characters. The Department is now collecting a gargantuan amount of information, on every citizen-from every imaginable source- with its new \"dataveillance\" system called \"Analysis, Dissemination, Visualization, Insight and Semantic Enhancement (ADVISE).\" By sifting through mountains of computerized information, Chertoff's Gestapo may now identify our \"critical patterns of behavior\" in order to assess our \"motives and intentions.\"21

An extremely paranoid surveillance state emerges

Homeland Security is grooming law enforcement agencies across the nation to keep a suspicious eye on everyone. A 2004 Homeland Security memo22 sent to police departments and sheriffs' offices all over the nation instructed law enforcement personnel to watch the masses for body language since a scratch here, a twitch there could give away a would-be terrorist attempting to blend into everyday American life while planning an attack. The memo warned of anyone who shows arrogance or expresses \"dislike of attitudes and decisions of the U.S. government,\" implying that dissent is synonymous with terrorism and to consider as suspect an emotionless face or \"a pale face from the recent shaving of a beard.\"

It also warned that a terrorist might find waiting in a grocery store line intolerable. So we learn that to prevent suspicion, good Homeland citizens must refrain from twitching or scratching in public and maintain a happy face at the grocery store.

The Washington Post noted that each of the U.S. military branches is also spying domestically on American citizens. This has been confirmed by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence who was outraged when he told The Washington Post last November, \"We are deputizing the military to spy on law-abiding Americans in America.\"23

One tentacle of this domestic military spy apparatus is the Pentagon's Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), a conglomeration of powerful directorates which collect and analyze names of persons considered a threat to the infrastructure of the fascist state.24

Professor of politics Christopher Pyle explains that the Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF) unite military analysts with law enforcement agents as part of \"one big club effectively destroying the Fourth Amendment against unlimited search and seizure.\"25

Commentator Steve Weissman confirms that the JTTF, FBI and local cops are quietly building their own ad-hoc secret police.26

The Pentagon-with its huge network of intelligence agencies-is reportedly engaged in a power struggle with Congress and the new DNI. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is infamous for trying to make his own foreign policy. 27 He has created a new intelligence apparatus of his very own, the Strategic Support Branch (SSB). According to The New York Times, Rumsfeld's SSB networks, now deployed in nations across the globe, are immune from both congressional oversight and media examination.28

Special operations teams now roam the planet to perpetrate Rumsfeld's personal black ops missions with no records kept and no questions asked.29 Some of these operations are headed up by Lt. General William Boykin30 who calls the U.S. Army the \"House of God\"-war, militarism and coercive surveillance being a sort of fascist religion, you see.

The Pentagon also controls the National Security Agency which was authorized by Bush, in violation of the law, to conduct illegal and warrantless wire-tapping of American citizens before 9/11. About the minute he seized the White House, Bush directed NSA to launch a frenetic illegal domestic spy program, depriving Americans of their Fourth Amendment protection from unjustified government intrusion.31 That was long before he could use the excuse of terrorism. To his credit, Senator Russ Feingold said he felt shame during the 2006 State of the Union speech when his fellow legislators wildly applauded as Bush defended this illegal surveillance. \"Since when do we start to stand up and cheer for breaking the law?\" Feingold asked.32

The New York Times reported that after 9/11, NSA went hysterical, sending the names, addresses and emails of thousands Americans to the FBI for investigation.33 In Idaho (and throughout the nation), law abiding Muslims were harassed and questioned incessantly by the FBI. Finally the ACLU held a seminar to teach these people how to defend themselves during endless interrogations.34 The FBI was overwhelmed with NSA demands-yet we now know that the FBI located no terrorist cells inside the U.S.35 and managed mainly to terrify innocent citizens and invade their privacy.36

The government and its contractors shall be held blameless

Additional police state spawn known as the \"Project Bioshield Act of 2004,\" authorizes the secretaries of the DHS and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to take virtual control of the bodies of all American citizens during a national emergency. Health officials are empowered to compel everyone to receive state-mandated medications or vaccinations and to comply with quarantine orders.37 With lavish Project Bioshield funding, state and local agencies have been drilling for the day when citizens are commanded to line up for the bio-terrorism counter measures being brewed for them by large pharmaceutical companies under lucrative federal contracts.

Absolute liability protection for those companies was inserted into The Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act passed in December, 2005. According to outraged congressional witnesses, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and House speaker Dennis Hastert used devious chicanery to sneak this provision into the language without approval of the House-Senate conference committee responsible for the final draft.38

Now if citizens are sickened or killed by Homeland's compulsory bio-warfare drugs and vaccines, they can neither sue the manufacturer nor seek compensation from the government.

This safety net for the pharmas is vital because the new recombinant vaccines contain deadly squalene adjuvants like MF59, or other lipid-based additives like MPL. These non-soluble lipids cause extreme inflammation as they gradually go rancid in the body. Test animals injected with lipid-based adjuvants always develop incurable auto-immune conditions symptomatic of multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus.39

Hundreds of military personnel injected with experimental lots of squalene-contaminated anthrax vaccines have also developed painful, incurable chronic illnesses.40 When Homeland needle Nazis start forcibly whacking the population with the new lipid-laced vaccines, Americans will truly understand the meaning of \"bioterrorism.\"

The new limits of imagination

Meantime, as Homeland fascism deeply ripens, reports of Gestapo-like surveillance and intrusions are coming from everywhere.

• Doug Thompson, a longtime D.C. reporter with deep connections-whose website Capitol Hill Blue has kept readers apprised of the increasingly bizarre and erratic behavior of George W. Bush-recently discovered that the FBI has collected over 100 pages of trivial information on him since 9/11. A friend in the Justice Department actually showed him the data.41

• Another award-winning news correspondent James Moore, who co-authored a book critical of Bush, went to the airport to catch his reserved flight and was told he is now on the Transportation Security Administration's no-fly list. He has never been given a reason why. If you anger the dictator in a police state, you have no rights. Moore has no recourse; no appeal.42

• Homeland Security is now freely opening private mail.43 Internet providers, universities and city governments across the nation are being forced to overhaul their internet computer networks to make it easier for law enforcement to monitor on-line communications.44 Companies like Yahoo and Google have been pressured to turn over their databases so snoopers can see what websites Americans are visiting.45

• The Washington Post informs us that the FBI is still hand-delivering thousands of national security letters to banks, libraries and commercial enterprises across the nation demanding they turn over their records on their patrons, thus allowing inquisitors to secretly learn every intimate detail of our finances.46

• Anti-war protestors across the nation report that they are being watched and harassed by the National Security Agency and by certain National Guard and local police units working with federal agencies.47

• The most outrageous report is that of a young high school student in North Carolina given an assignment to illustrate his rights under the Bill of Rights. He took a photo of a George Bush poster hanging on the wall next to a \"thumbs down\" sign. A Walmart employee freaked when he developed the photo and called the police, who then called the Secret Service. The Secret Service went ballistic. They grilled the principal and the civics teacher, confiscated the photo poster and threatened to indict the terrified student.48 Now this kid truly understands the new Bill of no Rights in Fascist America.

And the fantasmagorical

horse it rode in on

Especially galling is that all of this lunacy has blossomed since the so-called terrorist attack of 9/11. As millions of Americans now know-the official 9/11 fable violates the laws of natural science.

• A jet liner can't disappear into a hole less than half its size without leaving wreckage (Pentagon).

• Hijackers can't be killed in plane crashes and later be found alive and living lawfully in various locations throughout the world.

• Smoldering fires too cool to bend, let alone melt steel girders can't collapse two skyscrapers simultaneously at the speed of gravity (Twin Towers).

Brigham Young University physics professor Steven Jones has demonstrated mathematically that pre-positioned explosives, detonated in precise sequence, brought the Trade Center buildings down.49

Former German Minister Andreas Von Beulow has explained to the entire world why the complex 9/11 attack was impossible without U.S. government and corporate backing.50

Russian General Leonid Ivashov said recently that the 9/11 attack was faked by government and corporate officials who have invented the war on terror as a tool for global political and economic manipulation.51

Hundreds of 9/11 families know this and in May 2002, they filed suit against the feds for the sacrificial death of their loved ones.52 Their attorney, Stanley Hilton, has stated that he went to school years ago with Paul Wolfowitz and other Bush advisors who even then were planning a fake Pearl Harbor-like attack to grease the skids for a presidential dictatorship.53

Because these sociopaths got away with 9/11, the door remains wide open for them to unleash future fake attacks to leap frog their fascist plans forward.

Keeping a corrupt

Congress in tow

The most corrupt Congress in history has collaborated with 9/11 perpetrators in a shameful cover-up of this horrible genocide project. Perhaps they tolerate treason because they are afraid to end up like the late Senator Paul Wellstone, who died in a suspicious plane crash after leading opposition to the Bush gang's war in Iraq.54 Or they are afraid of getting an anthrax message as did the staffs of Tom Daschle and Pat Leahy after those two sassed the president back in 2001.55

According to research of Dr. Len Horowitz and others, the anthrax strain mailed to enemies of the state originated in a CIA research program. It is apparent that even the anthrax scare was an inside job.56 If America gets the flu, will it be from \"the birds\"-or from \"the boys?\"

Waive Posse Comitatus; suspend habeas corpus

In October 2005, Bush announced that he was considering plans for federal military personnel to enforce quarantines in the event of a bird flu outbreak. Bush believes that he has the power to waive the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, which prohibits federal military personnel from committing law enforcement in the United States. John Brinkerhoff, deputy director of FEMA, has developed martial law implementation plans to be enforced by U.S military personnel.

Bush has reportedly signed executive orders giving himself sole authority to impose martial law and suspend habeas corpus with no checks and balances during a national emergency.57

When implemented, the declaration of martial law will completely trump the sovereign powers of the several states.

In his hands?

The authority to decide what constitutes a national emergency apparently rests solely with this impaired little man who needs antidepressants to control his moods and temper.58 Our cherished Constitution now dangles by a thread from the unstable hand of a man professionally diagnosed as a paranoid meglomanic.59 The lives of our children now depend upon a man who has authorized the Pentagon's use of flesh burning white phosphrous and napalm weapons against the people of Iraq in the name of bringing them \"democracy.\"60

The Pentagon has ordered U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) at Peterson Air Force Base to prepare a series of CONPLANS, super secret strategies designed for rapid military takeover of the USA when the dictator gives the word.61 These are the same planners who, under the command of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld were, \"unable\" to get a single plane off the ground to intercept the attack they launched against their own headquarters to engender the fascism we now suffer. 62

William Arkin, writing for The Washington Post, explains that the CONPLANS have arisen from a series of special authorities given to the Pentagon by the White House. The Pentagon's full scale exercise of CONPLAN 0400 (Granite Shadow) capabilities are slated to begin in April 2006.63 A preview was seen when fully armed Visible Intermodal Protection and Response (VIPER) teams launched exercises in U.S. mass transit facilities late last year. As noted by writer Steve Watson, VIPER exercises involved \"federally brainwashed goons stomping around with machine guns and vicious dogs, getting in everyone's face and randomly grabbing and searching people on the subway.\"64

General Tommy Franks assured us in 2003 that, after a major casualty-producing event anywhere in the Western world, the American people would \"question our own constitution\" and consent to a militarization of the United States for security.65

The Pentagon is said to be a tad worried that a military takeover at home might diminish its ability to kill and torture abroad.66

The fascists and their friends are preparing for martial law

Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root has been awarded a $385 million dollar contract by Homeland Security for construction of detention and processing facilities to be made ready in the event of a national emergency.67 Brown and Root has been part of the Skull and Bones nexus since its inception at the turn of last century.68 Like Halliburton, it has grown fat on blood-money gleaned through decades of perpetual war, including the present conflagration in the Middle East.

If the fascists batten down totalitarian power domestically, Kellogg, Brown and Root will likely profit immensely from the erection and maintenance of such prison camps expected to dot the land of the free if the fascists launch a military takeover.

Homeland Security camps could be bulging at the seams overnight when the U.S. falls under \"emergency\" military rule. Indeed, the foregoing shows the Bush administration is preparing for this eventuality. The U.S. already has the highest per capita incarceration rate in the world. During martial law, when no one is free to move around at will, just about EVERYONE is under a form of \"house\" arrest. Americans got a taste of this grim future when, during the 2004 Republican National Convention protests when 1,806 demonstrators were rounded up, imprisoned without charges and kept in filthy conditions for 24 hours or more.69

New national ID: A totalitarian dream coming true

The grand finale of American fascism is yet to come. No totalitarian ruling structure would be complete without an oppressive identification system that allows the dictator's henchmen to access birth-to-death information on every citizen listed in the national database. It's becoming obvious that no one is intended to escape the dictator's dynamic plans to force upon us national ID cards and, eventually, under-the-skin identification implants and a satellite tracking system able to keep each of us under round-the-clock surveillance.

The CIA admits that for years it has supported the rise of numerous U.S. technology companies for the development of hardware and software useful for surveillance and tracking of the masses.70

Oracle Corporation, the world's largest database software maker, is one of these CIA receptacles.71 As a voice for spooks everywhere, Oracle's billionaire chairman Larry Ellison has long demanded that Americans be encumbered with digital identification cards, complete with biometric markers such hand prints and iris scans.72 Immediately after 9/11, Ellison presented to federal officials his proposal to create a national ID system with Oracle's expertise and technology. This system will provide ruling fascists with utmost efficiency at sucking detailed personal information on every citizen into what Ellison calls a \"single comprehensive national security file.\"73

The U.S. Intelligence Reform Bill of 2004 made a portion of Ellison's proposal into law. It requires that each new U.S. citizen born be issued a Social Security number to be included on his birth certificate along with his DNA biomarkers. All of this information will be stored in the national data base and no child will enroll in public school or receive any entitlement benefit without first presenting his Homeland Security birth certificate.74

The Real ID Act passed by Congress in December 2005 completely solidified Ellison's ID plan. This new law establishes a massive, centrally-coordinated federal ID database. It forces all 50 states to spend millions of dollars to update their equipment so that by 2008, all holders of U.S. drivers licenses and state licensed ID cards will have their biometric data and other personal information fed directly into the national data base. Congressman Paul says the new ID cards will likely contain radio frequency identification tracking technology that can be read by scanners at a distance, allowing the governments of U.S., Canada and Mexico to quickly locate any card-bearing American.75

We are told that banks and credit card companies applaud a national ID system.76 Instead of using bank credit and debit cards, people may eventually make purchases by showing their biometric Homeland ID cards. These transactions will then end up in the federal database, permitting fascists to assess our motives and intentions by monitoring our cashless sales and purchases.

Officials at all levels will also be able to feed a citizen ID number into a wireless handheld or laptop device that connects to the national database. They may then instantly access that person's financial transactions, credit reports, medical and vaccination records, school records, driving records, political and religious affiliations and anything else that might have been inserted into his file by Homeland spies.

If this were 2008, the boy who created the thumbs down poster would likely have his politically incorrect behavior duly recorded in the national data base under his ID number. And conversely, while Americans are being set up to surrender every shard of personal privacy, their fascist government is withholding from them more information than ever and continually expanding ways of shrouding data, according to a coalition of watchdog groups.77

Can you say \"Mooo, baa baa\" and \"oink?\"

National ID cards are only the beginning. America's fascist police state is demonstrably anxious to ensure that each citizen have his identification number permanently attached to his body. For many years, U.S. intelligence agencies have been working with private corporations and covens of scientists from Princeton University and other enclaves to develop subdermal radio frequency devices that can be injected under the skin of humans for identification purposes. Syringe implantable ID transponders were readied years ago, as illustrated by the prototype fully developed in 1995 by CIA-connected Hughes Aircraft Company.78

The corporate gargoyle chosen by the fascists to market ID implant devices for our new security state is Applied Digital Solutions (ADS). With corporate offices in Florida, ADS and its web of subsidiaries are now unleashing upon the world a vast variety of injectable ID chips, plus the sensors and scanners needed to read them.79

A leading ADS backer is IBM, which promotes a global identity system.80 It's a matter of public record that IBM's New York Office provided the German Nazi's with technology and equipment that allowed Hitler to number and track his Nazi concentration camp prisoners as well as others caught in his fascist web.81

If he could he see his old partners now, Adolph might be green with envy, having been consigned to the barbaric practice of simply tattooing ID numbers on his slaves.

While many European nations are also setting up electronic identity systems as a foundation for future ID chip implants, it is especially pertinent that ADS has been given a prestigious award for its sinister implant technology by the World Economic Forum (WEF).82

WEF is a clique of wealthy corporate and political elitists who dictate global agendas. One of its most famous members is Bill Gates of Microsoft. Gates travels the world spending millions to promote injections for people of Third World nations. ID microchip implants are the mother of all injections. Microsoft recently patented a way to use human skin as a power conduit for electronic devices.83

Chipping away

In 2004, Tommy Thompson, at that time the Secretary of Health and Human Services under Homeland Security, invited ADS to a government showcase to promote the implantation of subdermal microchips as part of the U.S. health care system.84 Requiring no medical control studies on the health effects of microchip implantation, the FDA, which also gave us silicone breast implants, aspartame and Vioxx, has approved the marketing of certain ADS chips.85

Tommy Thompson has now joined the ADS board. He told Americans during an interview with CBS Market Watch that ID chips inserted into our bodies will be a giant step towards achieving an electronic medical record for all Americans.86 While ADS is donating to medical facilities expensive scanners required to read its subdermal chips,87 the Department of Health and Human Services is providing grants to medical providers who will help build electronic health records for Americans within a decade.88

ADS and its subsidiaries, including VeriChip Corporation, have developed several kinds of implantable subdermal chips. One type is the FDA-approved VeriChip, that spits out the implantee's ID number when it is scanned by a chip reader.

Another is the VeriPay device which carries financial information and is scanned like a debit card. People in Europe are now being implanted with VeriPay chips in order to enter bars and nightclubs.89

So far, these kinds of chips are passive. That is, they don't beam information continuously. Their transponders have to be awakened by a reader. These chips and their scanners pass kilohertz radio-frequency signals back and forth through the skin. The first step to inducing public acceptance of these ID chips, said San Francisco Gate columnist Mark Morford, is getting the public to accept chip implants as beneficial for health. The next step is to make it all fun and commercial and convenient. The third step is \"whatever the hell they want.\"90

VeriChip Corporation recently announced that already 68 U.S. medical facilities, including 65 hospitals, have now agreed to implement its VariMed system for patient and staff identification and tracking.91 This includes both implantable and wearable ID chips that will tie the health records of patients into Big Brother's electronic national database. In New Jersey, Hackensack University Medical Center and Trinitas Hospital, will be implanting patients in their emergency rooms.92 These crafty hucksters are targeting the most vulnerable people first-- the injured and the sick who are desperate for care, plus the homeless and mentally retarded who can't defend themselves.


As injectable ID chips come on line, Homeland Security is paying numerous corporations to develop a national network of object-mounted wireless sensors that will be able to read implanted human chips.93 This network of sensors will eventually relay information on the whereabouts and activities of implantees to teams of surveillance specialists. Conceivably, every wall socket could become a reader for implanted chips.

To quote University of Kansas professor Jerry Dobson, these devices will ultimately offer \"a new form of human slavery based on location control. They pose the greatest threat to personal freedom ever faced in human history.\"94

The argument that implanted chips will protect people from identity theft recently evaporated when researcher Jonathan Westhues demonstrated on the Internet how easy it is to decode a VeriChip number implanted in a person's arm and then program another chip with that same number.95

Digital Angel: Fascist Big Brother's most cool tool

Passive ID subdermal chips are the \"good news\" compared to grotesque ACTIVE implant chips also developed by ADS. The implantable Digital Angel is a grotesque communication device that can continually relay information wirelessly to either ground stations or to satellite systems.96 Developed to be a true tracking chip like the bulky radio ankle bracelets locked onto prisoners, it is tiny enough to be implanted into human flesh. The Angel has a built-in GPS receiver and a wireless transceiver. In December, 2004, ADS signed an agreement with the satellite telecommunications company ORBCOMM. Such collusion will one day turn implanted citizens into walking radio beacons, trackable by satellite.97

Digital Angel is the ultimate in totalitarian control, to date Big Fascist Brother's most \"cool tool.\"

Cooler tools now in R&D

ADS has also developed a new Bio-Therm chip implant which can read and transmit to monitoring devices a person's temperature. In the works are other chips for identifying blood pressure, disease and hormonal levels.98

Reportedly, these biochips will be capable of relaying information to both satellite and ground stations.

Oracle is backing a powerful new 999 medical biochip that contains a Pentium microprocessor just 2mm square. This computerized sensor is being implanted into diabetics by doctors experimenting in London.99 Text messages from the chip's sensors will travel through flesh to a cell phone tethered to the patient, then on to monitoring stations.

Odorless, colorless-wireless

In 2000, ADS chairman Richard Sullivan said that Digital Angel \"relates directly to the exploding wireless marketplace.\" He added, \"We'll be demonstrating for the first time ever that wireless telecommunications systems and bio-sensor devices-capable of measuring and transmitting critical body function data-can be successfully linked together with GPS technology and integrated with the internet.\"100

Most sinister is the fact that these chips can be \"activated\" by distant monitoring facilities and they can be \"written to\" wirelessly, allowing the fascists to furtively add information that the chip bearer may know nothing about.101

Powerful web-enabled tracking chips which send and receive information at long distances are ultra radiation-intensive. Big Brother's most cool tool is \"hotter\" than Hades. Bodies bearing these chips will be continuously bombarded with incoming and outgoing microwave radiation, most likely in the megahertz or gigahertz range, the same frequencies employed by cell phones. Satellites communicate in microwave frequencies.

Last October, Time magazine gave a plug to implantable ID and bio chips, stating they could save lives.102 But people who have active chips imbedded in their bodies will be dead men walking. The human body is not compatible with microwave radiation and bodies subjected to it 24-7 will ultimately be destroyed.

The fascists know this but, as Sullivan explained, the mighty global surveillance system now under construction is absolutely dependant upon wireless microwave transmissions. This is precisely why Americans have never been told the terrible truth about what hand held wireless devices are already doing to their health, to their fragile memory centers and to their withering immune systems.103

...to keep us \"safe\"

In the Homeland Security state, microchip implants of various kinds will likely become as common as cell phones. Eventually, citizens who refuse to accept identification chips may be denied access to services and benefits by heel-clickers supervising the national ID system. And thus we see how cleverly Americans are being manipulated into this crucible by killers in the White House, and by the most corrupt Congress in history and by the amoral, money-grubbing corporate megalith they all rode in on. In the name of national security and public health-millions of non-discerning citizens will allow themselves to be micro-chipped like dogs, tracked by satellite and stripped of all privacy as they become the virtual slaves of a techno-tyrannical surveillance state.

If we want to know what USA will be like in the near future, we need only look at Tony Blair's Great Britain-surely the most advanced police state in Europe:

• ID cards with facial scans will soon be compulsory throughout U.K.104

• There are over 4 million closed circuit cameras monitoring every move the British people make and all faces caught on camera can be matched with a national data bank.105

• British police are carrying hand held DNA kits linked to national data bases for when they test saliva.106

• People are being pulled off London trains at random and forced to submit to a full body backscatter X-ray to reveal what they have under their clothes.107

• Swipe cards used for transportation and building entry allow police to plot a citizen's every move on a dot map.108

• All moving vehicles in Britain are camera-recorded so that police can analyze, by license number, every journey, and every gas purchase made.109

• People and vehicles are being tracked from cell towers with a new technology called \"Celldar\" (as in radar).110

• The British people are reporting grave illnesses from their exposure to thousands of microwave transmitters which make this metastasizing surveillance nightmare possible.111

Preview of Part 2

and a few helpful hints

In part two of this discussion, we will document the latest scientific information on the devastating health effects that will result from the implanted microwave devices used to track and control slaves of the state.

If you feel a creeping allergy to the fascism we have documented here, you can do something about it now. Make the choice right now to keep microwave-driven wireless devices as far away from your body as you can get them. These devices include all wireless telephones-both cell and household cordless-plus wireless computers, headphones and all other gadgets empowered by megahertz or gigahertz frequencies. If you must use wireless phones for business or emergencies, use speaker phones only. Never put a wireless device on your body, least of all near your precious brain. You are going to NEED a brain to survive-and ultimately defeat-fascist America.

Microwave transmitters are not toys; they are weapons. Brother's wireless revolution has induced millions of fools to voluntarily point these weapons at their own heads. The wireless revolution is not only about money, it is about control. It is about acclimatizing the masses to accept the dehumanizing parameters of Orwellian surveillance.

A police state best flourishes when its citizens are sick, dimwitted cyborgs who are easy to track and control. The \"cool tool\" communications microchip can also be used by the fascists to impose behavior modification. The CIA has decades of experience in using various microwave frequencies to misalign and confound the human brain in order to trigger prescribed behavior patterns.112

As the police state broadens with the help of Homeland's cooperating telcom players, it is conceivable that such devilish frequencies could be used with evil intent against all those who are \"connected.\" These hapless victims, driven to and fro by fascist propaganda, will be oblivious to what is channeled into their sizzling brain neurons, into their internal organs, into their very souls by the deadly wireless transceivers they bear in their flesh.

Peter Zhou, chief scientist for the development of Digital Angel, declared that the subdermal identification/communication implants will make humans \"a hybrid of electronic intelligence and our own soul.\"113

He is right! America's parasitic police state and all of its perversions absolutely ARE a soul thing. So the time has surely come to stand back and scrutinize this illicit monstrosity which so brazenly deceives, swindles, sickens and murders the people to gain power and wealth. Please start thinking about how you and your family are going to exist for a time in a demon-driven world where deadly radio frequency identification implants become mandatory.

The more people who courageously resolve to stand firm against this mighty beast, the safer we will be until we get through this miserable, and hopefully final fascist interlude in human history.


1. \"Senator Reid Calls U.S. Congress the Most Corrupt in History,\" T. Ferraro, Reuters, 12-18-05.

2. \"Alito a Threat to our Fundamental Rights,\" speech on Senate floor by Senator Patrick Leahy 1-24-2006.

3. Wilson quoted in a letter to William Rivers Pit, \"The Bunker Mentality,\" Truthout Perspective, 11-24-05.

4. \"The $4 Billion Industry That is America's Guilty Secret,\" Robert Cornwell, The Independent, UK, 1-4-06.

5. \"The March of the Straw Soldiers,\" New York Times, Op. ed 2-2-06.

6. \"Police State,\" Kelly O'Meara, Insight on the News, 11-9-01.

7. \"The Homeland Security Monstrosity,\" Rep. Ron Paul, Ron Paul Archives, 11-19-02.

8. \"You are A Suspect,\" William Safire, New York Times, Op. ed. 11-14-02.

9. \"The Homeland Security Monstrosity,\" Paul, op. cit.

10. Wall Street and the Bolshevik Revolution, Dr. Antony C. Sutton, Arlington House, 1974; also How the Order Creates War and Revolution, Dr. Antony C. Sutton, 1984.

11. Ibid.

12. Ibid.

13. Wall Street and the Rise of Hitler, Dr. Antony C. Sutton, 1976.

14. \"How Bush's Grandfather Helped Hitler Rise to Power,\" The Guardian, UK., B. Aris and D. Campbell, 8-31-05. Find this article at Rense.com.; also \"The Best Enemies Money Can Buy,\" Michael C. Ruppert, www.fromthewilderness.com, 10-9-2001.

15. \"Bush Nazi Dealings Continued Until 1951-Federal Documents,\" J. Buchanan and S. Michael, The New Hampshire Gazette, Vol. 248, No. 3, 11-7-2003.

16. George Bush: The Unauthorized Biography, Webster Tarpley, Executive Intelligence Review, 1992.

17. \"Intelligence Bill Is A New Agenda, Not Reform,\" World Affairs Brief, Joel Skousen, 12-10-04.

18. \"America Drifts Rapidly Toward A Police State,\" Mike Whitney, Zmag.org 11-5-05. See rense.com.

19. Ibid.

20. \"Chertoff Moves For Total Personal Information Control,\" Siobhan Gorman, rense.com 5-5-05.

21. \"US Plans Massive Data Sweep,\" M. Clayton, The Christian Science Monitor, 2-9-06.

22. \"Feds Warn of People too Antsy, Calm or Pale,\" Spokesman Review, 5-27-2003.

23. \"Pentagon Expanding Its Domestic Surveillance Activity,\" W. Pincus, The Washington Post, 11-27-2005.

24. \"The Other Big Brother,\" Newsweek, January 30, 2006; \"Pentagon's Intelligence Authority Widens,\" Washington Post, 12-19-2005.

25. \"Spying on the Protestors,\" The Nation, August 2005. Professor Pyle, a former investigator for Senator Frank Church's Select Committee on Intelligence, now teaches at Mt. Holyoke College.

26. \"When the Feds Come Knocking,\" Steve Weissman, truthout.org, 8-23-2004.

27. \"Top Officials Say Rumsfeld Trying to Make Foreign Policy,\" Knight Rider, Spokesman Review, May 2005.

28. \"Pentagon Has New Espionage Unit,\" Washington Post 1-24-05.

29. \"Republicans See Signs that Pentagon is Evading Oversight,\" D. Jehl, The New York Times, 9-29-05.

30. \"Paranoia Grips Bush Cabal, Eric Margolis, Toronto Sun, 2-6-05.

31. \"NSA Whistleblower Alleges Illegal Spying,\" ABC News, 1-10-06; also: \"Bush Authorized Domestic Spying Before 9-11,\" Jason Leopold, Truthout Perspective, 1-13-2006; also: \"This is Big Brother Run Amok,\" Knight Rider, Spokesman Review, 12-17-05.

32. \"On the President's Warrantless Wiretapping Program,\" by Senator Russ Feingold, As prepared for delivery from the Senate floor, 2-7-06.

33. \"Spy Agency Data After September 11 Led FBI to Dead Ends,\" L. Bergman, The New York Times, 1-17-2006.

34. \"State's Muslims Being Questioned-ACLU Offers Seminar,\" 9-12-2004.

35. \"Surveillance Net Yields Few Suspects,\" Washington Post, 2-05-2006.

36. Ibid.

37. \"Congress Increases Agency Authority to Mandate Medical Intervention,\" Idaho Observer, 12-16-2005; also \"Projects Bioshield, BioWatch and BioSense-- the Diabolical Creation of a Mandated Marketplace,\" Idaho Observer, 1-18-2005.

38. \"Hastert, Frist Said to Rig Bill for Drug Firms,\" B. Theobald, The Gannett News Service 2-09-2006.

39. Vaccine A-The Covert Government Experiment That's Killing Our Soldiers and Why GI's are Only the First Victims, Gary Matsumoto, Basic Books, 2004.

40. Ibid.

41. \"An Enemy of the State,\" Doug Thompson, www.capitolhillblue.com, 11-7-2005.

42. \"Author of 'Bush's Brain' Put on No-Fly List,\" Maccabee, 1-05-2006, Bio at Huffington Post, www.dailykos.com.

43. \"Homeland Security Opening Private Mail,\" B. Meeks, MSNBC.com, 1-6-06.

44. \"Feds Use ISPs to Spy on Internet Users,\" Nick Parker SLYCK.com 11-13-05; also \"Colleges Protest Call to Upgrade Online Systems,\" S. Dillon, The New York Times, 10-23-05.

45. \"Feds After Google Data,\" H. Mintz, Mercury News, 1-19-06.

46. \"The FBI's Secret Scrutiny,\" The Washington Post, B. Gellman, 11-6-05.

47. \"NSA Used City Police to Track Peace Activists,\" D. Birch, The Baltimore Sun, 1-13-06; also \"California Guard Probed by US--Peace Activists Say Unit is Spying,\" Associated Press, 7-7-05; also \"Look Who's Spying On Your Granny,\" The Sacramento Bee editorial, 6-29-05.

48. \"Wal-Mart Gives Teen's Anti-Bush Poster to Police,\" Matthew Rothschild, The Progressive, 10-8-05. See rense.com.

49. \"Professor Thinks Bombs, Not Planes, Toppled WTC,\" Deseret Morning News, E. Jarvik, 11-10-2005; also 9-11 Demo: \"BYU's Prof. Jones Has Wide Academic Support,\" Greg Szymanski, 11-15-05, see rense.com.

50. \"Former Top German Minister Rejects Official Story of 9-11 Attacks,\" Tagesspiegel, 1-13-2002.

51. \"International Terrorism Does Not Exist,\" General Leonid Ivashov, 1-22-06. See rense.com.

52. Transcript: Alex Jones Interviews Stanley Hilton, The Alex Jones Show3-11-2003.

53. Ibid.

54. Crossing the Rubicon, Michael C. Ruppert, New Society Publishers, 2004.

See Chapter 16, Silencing Congress.

55. Ibid.

56. Ibid.

57. \"US Mulls Federal Troops for Bird Flu Quarantine,\" Reuters, 10-12-2005; also \"Bush Could Seize Absolute Control of U.S. Government,\" Doug Thompson, Capitol Hill Blue, 1-14-06. See Rense.com.

58. \"Bush's Erratic Behavior Worries White House Aides,\" Doug Thompson, Capitol Hill Blue, 6-4-04;also \"Is Bush Out of Control? Said on Anti-Depressants,\" Doug Thompson, Capitol Hill Blue, 8-15-05.

59. Bush on the Couch, Dr. Justin Frank, Regan Books, 2004.

60. \"Pentagon Used White Phosphorus in Iraq\", Associated Press, 11-16005; also \"I Treated People Who Had their Skin Melted,\" Dahr Jamail, The Independent, UK.11-15-05.

61. \"Battlespace America,\" P. Byrne, Mother Jones, May/June 2005.

62. \"Military Unprepared for 9-11 Attacks,\" S. Waterman, United Press International, 5-23-03. Despite two entire squadrons of combat-ready fighter jets at Andrews Air Force Base 10 miles from the Pentagon, and despite ample warning, not a single jet was dispatched to protect D.C. on 9-11.

63. \"Top Secret Pentagon Operation 'Granite Shadow' Revealed,\" W. Arkin, Washington Post, 9-25-05.

64. \"Martial Law No Longer On the Horizon: It's Already Here,\" S. Watson, Prison Planet, 12-15-05.

65. \"Gen. Franks, Doubts Constitution Will Survive WMD Attack,\" J. Edwards, NewsMax.com, 11-21-03. Gen Max interviewed by Cigar Aficionado Magazine, Nov. 2003.

66. \"War Plans Drafted to Counter Terror Attacks in US,\" B. Graham, The Washington Post, 8-8-05.

67. \"Halliburton Detention Camps for Political Subversives,\" Paul J. Watson, Prisonplanet.com, 2-1-06; also \"Bush's Mysterious New Programs,\" N. Parry, Consortium News, 2-21-06.

68. The World Order-A Study in the Hegemony of Parasitism, Eustace Mullins, 1985.

69. \"Videos Challenge Accounts of Convention Unrest,\" Jim Dwyer, New York Times, 4-12-05.

70. \"Mission: Technology-- CIA Backing Promises Technologies to Keep Spies On Top,\" Spokesman Review, 1-21-2002.

71. Softwar-- An Intimate Portrait of Larry Ellison and Oracle, Matthew Symonds, Simon and Schuster, 2003. The CIA became Oracle's first customer after the company was founded in the late 1970's.

72. \"National ID Card Idea Attracting Highest-Level Support,\" Ackerman and Rogers, San Jose Mercury News, 10-18-01.

73. Softwar-- An Intimate Portrait of Larry Ellison and Oracle, op. cit.

74. \"Your Papers Please-- US Adopts National ID: Homeland Security Now in Charge of Regulations for all US States Drivers Licenses and Birth Certificates,\" Jonathan Wheeler 12-9-04. See rense.com.

75. Ron Paul's Freedom Report, June 2005 \"National ID Cards Won't Stop Terrorism or Illegal Immigration.\"

76. \"Your Papers Please,\" Wheeler, op. cit.

77. \"Government Secrecy Swells, Report Says,\" Associated Press, Spokesman Review, 9-4-05.

78. Policy Analysis, A National ID System, Cato Institute, Stephen Moore, 9-7-95.

79. \"Implantable Chip Offers Medical Information, Privacy Worries,\" Associated Press, Spokesman Review, 10-14-04.

80. \"IBM Calls for Global Identity System,\" V. Yeo, ZDNet Asia 11-10-05. To review IBM financial support of ADS, see \"Applied Digital Gets Reprieve From Creditor,\" World Net Daily, 3-28-03.

81. \"How IBM Helped Automate the Nazi Death Machine In Poland,\" E. Black, Village Voice.com 3-27-02.

82. \"Meet the Digital Angel From Hell,\" World Net Daily, 2-14-2000.

83. \"RFID Gets Skin-Deep Alternative,\" J. Best, silicon.com 8-5-04. See rense.com.

84. \"Bio-Chip Featured At Government Health Showcase,\" World Net Daily, 4-29-04.

85. \"FDA Approves Implantable Chip Sales in Humans,\" Wired.com, 10-24-02; also\"Implantable Chip's Medical Dangers,\" World Net Daily, 10-20-04.

86. \"Tommy Thompson Refuses To Get Chipped,\" SpyChips.com, 12-9-05.

87. \"US. To Weigh Computer Chip Implant,\" C. Newton, Associated Press, 2-26-02.

88. \"Implantable Chip Offers Medical Information, Privacy Worries,\" Associated Press, Spokesman Review, 10-14-04.

89. \"Paying for Drinks with Wave of the Hand,\" S. Gossett, World Net Daily 4-14-04.

90. \"Big Brother Under Your Skin,\" M. Morford, sfgate,com, 10-20-04.

91. \"VeriChip Corporation Expands Adoption of VeriMed System for Patient Identification, VeriChip News Release, 12-1-05.

92. \"VeriChip Expands Hospital Infrastructure: Hackensack University Medical Center Becomes the Second Major Medical Center to Adopt the VeriChip System,\" infowars.net, 3-16-05; also \"Trinitas To Test RFID Implants,\" mobilehealthdata.com. 8-22-05.

93. \"Sensor Everywhere-A \"Bucket Brigade\" of Tiny, Wireless Sensors May Be Able to Track Anything, Anytime, Anywhere,\" A. Ricadela, Information Week, 1-24-05.

94. \"Human Tracking Goes Mainstream,\" Jerry Dobson, Directions Magazine, 1-27-05.

95. \"Demo: Cloning a VeriChip,\" http://cq.cx/verichip.pl.; See also \"VeriChip RFID Implant Hacked,\" K. Albrecht and L. McIntyre, Spychips.com, 1-28-06, rense.com.

96. \"Post-9-11 Security Fears Usher In Subdermal Chips,\" World Net Daily, 2-4-02.

97. \"People Tracking Closer to Reality,\" World Net Daily 12-23-04.

98. \"GPS Implant Makes Debut,\" S. Gossett, World Net Daily, 5-14-03.

99. \"Patients Get 999 Chip Implants,\" timesonline.co.uk, 6-12-05.

100. \"Digital Angel Human ID Implant To Be Unveiled in October-2 Months Early,\" J. Kohlbrand and J. Foster, World Net Daily, 8-13-00.

101. \"Mark of the Beast?\" World Net Daily, 1-28-02.

102. \"Biochips for Everyone!\" D. Fonda, Time Magazine, www.time.com, 10-16-05.

103. Cell Phones, Invisible Hazards In the Wireless Age, Dr. George Carlo, Carroll and Graf Publishers, 2001.

104. \"UK ID Cards 'Defeated' Yet Going Ahead,\" S. Watson, infowars.net, 1-24-06.

105. \"Big Brother Britain, 2004--Four Million CCTV Cameras Watch Public,\" Independent, UK. 1-12-04.

106. \"Roadside DNA Tests On Citizen Planned,\" D. Cracknel, Telegraph, UK, 12-10-00. See rense.com.

107. \"New Body Screeners In Use in London: We are Living in a Dystopian Nightmare,\" S. Watson, Inforwars.net, 1-12-06.

108. No Longer Lost In the Crowd: Prospects of Continuous Geosurveillance, M. Dodge and M. Batty, Center For Advance Spatial Analysis, University College London, March 2004.

109. \"Britain Will Be First Country to Monitor Every Car Journey,\" The Independent, UK, 12-21-05.

110. \"How Mobile Phones Let Spies See Our every Move,\" J. Burke and P. Warren, The Observer. UK, 10-14-02.

111. An excellent website for European reports of microwave health effects is: http://www.buergerwelle.com. Check these archives and read for a year!

112. \"Microwave Detection-Remote Mind Control Technology,\" Anna Keeler, reprinted from Secret and Suppressed: Banned Ideas and Hidden History, edited by Jim Keith. This is an excellent history of Operation Pandora, part of the Pentagon's multi-faceted research project using microwave frequencies to induce both physical and mental illness.

113. \"Digital Angel Set To Fly Tomorrow,\" World Net Daily, 6-14-01.

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Truth Suppression: Teacher suspended for \"anti-Bush Rant\"

By Karen Rouse
Denver Post Staff Writer
2 Mar 06

An Overland High School teacher who criticized President Bush, capitalism and U.S. foreign policy during his geography class was placed on administrative leave Wednesday afternoon after a student who recorded the session went public with the tape.

In the 20-minute recording, made on an MP3 player, teacher Jay Bennish described capitalism as a system \"at odds with human rights.\" He also said there were \"eerie similarities\" between what Bush said during his Jan. 28 State of the Union address and \"things that Adolf Hitler used to say.\"

The United States was \"probably the single most violent nation on planet Earth,\" Bennish also said on the tape.
Bennish, who has been part of Overland\'s social studies faculty since 2000, did not return calls seeking comment Wednesday. Cherry Creek School District officials are investigating the incident, but no disciplinary action has been taken, district spokeswoman Tustin Amole said.

Bennish was placed on leave \"to take some of the pressure off of him\" during the investigation, which could wrap up in a week, Amole said.

Superintendent Monte Moses, who received a copy of the recording on Monday from 850 KOA-AM radio show host Mike Rosen, said it appears \"a breach of district policy\" occurred.

\"Our policy calls for both sides to be present ... in the interest of intellectual discourse,\" Moses said. Bennish\'s presentation appeared to be unbalanced, he said.

The district is looking into whether the incident was an isolated one and will ensure that a balanced viewpoint of the president\'s State of the Union address is provided to students, Moses said.

Moses also said the district will be fair to Bennish. \"People in life make mistakes occasionally,\" he said. \"We address them. We learn from them.\"

The 20-minute recording of only a portion of the class was made by 16-year-old sophomore Sean Allen the day after the president\'s speech. The recording has raised questions about what level of academic freedom is acceptable for high school teachers. It also has generated discussions about Bennish on dozens of websites.

Sean, who appeared on Rosen\'s show Wednesday morning, said in an interview he had been disturbed by the \"political rants\" he heard in Bennish\'s class. He added that he wanted to tape the session for his father, who later shared it with the media.

Sean, who described himself as a political independent, said the comments seemed inappropriate for a geography class.

\"If he wants to give an opinion in class, I\'m perfectly OK with that,\" he said. \"But he has to give both sides of the story.\"

James McGrath Morris, an author who has written about academic freedom issues, said Bennish\'s comments are acceptable for an adult audience, but they are hard to defend in a high school classroom.

In a number of legal cases, courts have ruled that \"up until the age of majority, children are easily influenced ... in a way that they don\'t have the faculties to sort out rights from wrongs,\" Morris said.

Staff writer Karen Rouse can be reached at 303-820-1684 or krouse@denverpost.com

Comment: We hope readers will join us in emailing the journalist who wrote this article and the newspaper and reminding them that this teacher has been suspended for speaking the truth. Her email address: krouse@denverpost.com

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Where Are the Good Americans?

The Nation
1 Mar 06

Anyone who sees the photographs of the victims of the Nazi concentration camps must wonder how human beings could ever have allowed such things to happen. They must wonder how people of good will could have stood by while their government committed atrocities in their name. In the wake of that nightmarish era, people often asked, \"Where were the good Germans?\"

After the publication of the long-suppressed pictures of Abu Ghraib victims and the United Nations finding that torture and abuse are still taking place at the US prison in Guantánamo Bay, America has fashioned its own nightmare. We now must ask ourselves, \"Where are the good Americans?\"
After an eighteen-month study, five independent experts appointed by the UN Commission on Human Rights have just concluded that practices currently conducted at the US prison in Guantánamo amount to torture: excessive violence, force-feeding of hunger-striking detainees and arbitrary detention of prisoners that violates their right under international law to challenge the legality of their captivity before an independent judicial body.

The Bush Administration has condemned the publication of the Abu Ghraib photos and has rejected the UN report as \"fundamentally flawed.\" But Americans should be grateful that people in the rest of the world are helping us discover what the Administration is trying to conceal from its own citizens: It is conducting war crimes in our name.

The UN report makes recommendations that are simple and obvious:

§ Immediately allow international inspection and supervision to insure an end to force-feeding and special interrogation techniques approved by the Defense Department but condemned under international law.

§ Bring the detainees to trial or release them without delay.

§ Conduct an investigation by an independent authority of all allegations of abuse to insure that all perpetrators of torture and other crimes are brought to justice--even high-level military and political officials.

§ Close the Guantánamo prison.

The demand to close Guantánamo was quickly seconded by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. And the European Union Parliament voted 80 to 1 to ask the United States to close Guantánamo and give every prisoner \"a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent, impartial tribunal\" without delay.

The Bush Administration has placed the responsibility for prisoner abuse in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere on a few \"bad apples\" in the lowest ranks. But since the Nuremberg Tribunal of Nazi war criminals, international law has maintained the principle of \"command responsibility,\" which makes top officials who ordered the crimes or failed to prevent them accountable.

It\'s not just a question of international law. Administration officials are well aware that the US War Crimes Act makes it a serious crime for any American--including top government officials--to commit any \"grave breach\" of the Geneva Conventions, including \"willful killing, torture, or inhuman treatment\" of detainees. Perhaps that has something to do with the Administration\'s eagerness to discredit the UN report.

If President Bush won\'t halt the abuse of US captives, Congress stands next in line for responsibility. Last December, it passed the so-called McCain amendment, which supposedly abolished all torture by US forces anywhere in the world. But the UN report makes clear that torture is continuing at Guantánamo.

The law\'s sponsor, Senator John McCain, promised that Congress would establish oversight over Guantánamo and other US prisons abroad to assure enforcement. But where\'s Senator McCain now? If he really wants to stop torture, why doesn\'t he fly to Guantánamo immediately and make sure no one is being abused? Isn\'t that what McCain would have wanted US senators to do when he was being tortured in a prison cell in Vietnam?

If Congress won\'t act, then it is up to the people. We must make every family dining table, every house of worship and every town meeting a place to stand up and speak out.

Only then will those who come after us know where the \"good Americans\" were.

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Bomber Kills U.S. Diplomat in Pakistan

ZARAR KHAN, Associated Press

KARACHI, Pakistan - A suicide attacker rammed a car packed with explosives into a vehicle carrying an American diplomat in Pakistan\'s largest city, killing four people - including the diplomat - ahead of President Bush\'s visit to Pakistan.
Bush condemned the attack near the U.S. Consulate and a luxury hotel in Karachi, and said \"terrorists and killers\" would not prevent him from going to Pakistan on the final leg of his tour of South Asia.

\"We have lost at least one U.S. citizen in the bombing, a foreign service officer, and I send our country\'s deepest condolences to that person\'s loved ones and family,\" Bush said at a news conference in neighboring India, without naming the diplomat.

The blast ripped through the parking lot of the Marriott Hotel, about 20 yards from the consulate gate, shattering windows at the consulate and on all 10 floors of the hotel. Ten cars were destroyed, and charred wreckage was flung as far as 200 yards.

Initial investigations showed a suicide attacker deliberately rammed his car into a vehicle carrying the U.S. diplomat, blowing it into the air, across a concrete barrier and into the grounds of the hotel, a Pakistani counterterrorism official and senior investigator said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

The driver of the diplomat\'s car, a Pakistani working for the consulate, also died. The other fatalities were a paramilitary guard and an unidentified woman.

The attacker was also presumed killed in the attack, the two security officials said. His body was not recovered.

The counterterrorism official said the attacker used high-intensity explosives and it was the most powerful blast he\'d seen in Karachi - a hotbed of Islamic militancy.

A Pakistani Foreign Ministry statement said the bombing was a \"horrific terrorist attack\" and it expressed \"deep sadness\" over the deaths of the American diplomat and his local driver.

\"This senseless act today further fortifies our resolve to fight terrorism,\" the statement said. \"We all must work together to eliminate this terrible menace.\"

Police initially said two car bombs had gone off, but provincial police chief Jahangir Mirza said that a single bomb may have triggered a second smaller explosion in a burning car.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. But previous attacks against Westerners in Karachi have been blamed on al-Qaida-linked Islamic militant groups. Several suspects have been convicted while some are still at large.

Some 52 people were injured, including a young Moroccan girl who was hit by debris, said provincial government spokesman Salahuddin Haider. He added that investigators were trying to get video footage from surveillance cameras at the consulate.

Nida Emmons, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, confirmed an American and Pakistani employee of the consulate were killed, but wouldn\'t give their names. He said they were still investigating if any other consulate staff were hurt.

The bombing left a crater 8 feet wide and more than 2 feet deep. It propelled cars into the air and damaged nearby buildings, including a naval hospital. The street was strewn with mangled car parts.

Mohammed Ali, who sells cigarettes nearby, said the first explosion occurred around 9 a.m., knocking him down and flattening his wooden stall.

\"Seconds later there was another explosion. We ran away to save our lives,\" said Ali. \"The explosions set cars on fire and there was smoke all around ... I thought the explosions would burst my ear drums.\"

Mohammed Jameel, a former army colonel who was getting a medical checkup at the naval hospital, said the first explosion was \"very intense\" and the second one was smaller. \"I saw two burning car seats land in the hospital lawn,\" he said.

Officials said the bombing could be timed for Bush\'s visit to Pakistan.

Bush will travel to the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, which lies about 1,000 miles north of Karachi, later this week. He made a surprise visit to
Afghanistan on Wednesday before arriving in India.

\"All international media are eyeing Pakistan at this time, and terrorists are using this to defame Pakistan and Muslims,\" said Ishratul Ibab, the provincial governor.

Islamic militants have targeted the U.S. Consulate in Karachi before.

In June 2002, a car bombing left 14 Pakistanis dead outside the building, which lies in an upscale district of the sprawling city\'s downtown.

In March 2004, police defused a huge bomb less than five minutes before it was timed to explode outside the consulate. The bomb was packed in a small van that was parked on a street near the building.

Marriott Hotel deputy manager Shahzad Ashif said windows were broken on all 10 floors in Thursday\'s attack and balcony door latches were blown in on the first two floors but no guests were injured. The hotel was being evacuated and guests moved to other hotels, he said.

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Conyers used staff as personal servants

Capitol Hill Blue

Three former aides to U.S. Rep. John Conyers say the lawmaker used them as baby sitters and personal servants while they were supposed to be working in his Michigan offices.
The aides said that Conyers had them tutor and care for his two sons; help his wife, now-City Councilwoman Monica Conyers, with law studies; and drive him to political and private events.

The accusations come from Deanna Maher, former chief of Conyers\' office in Southgate; Sydney Rooks, Conyers\' lawyer from 1997 to 2000; and Dean Christian Thornton, a legislative aide fired in January, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Maher said that in 1998, Conyers ordered her to live in his Detroit house while his wife attended law classes in Oklahoma. Maher said she lived there for six weeks, caring for the couple\'s two young sons.

Maher and Thornton have written to the House Ethics Committee. Rooks said she talked to committee staffers on the subject in 1999 and 2004 and plans to make a formal complaint soon.

\"I\'m not going to get into responding to these things,\" said Stanley Brand, an attorney for Conyers.

Brand said Conyers responded to ethics committee questions when it considered some of the same allegations two years ago.

Conyers, 76, has served in the House since 1965. The Democrat is the senior minority member of the House Judiciary Committee.

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Conyers used staff as personal servants

Capitol Hill Blue

Three former aides to U.S. Rep. John Conyers say the lawmaker used them as baby sitters and personal servants while they were supposed to be working in his Michigan offices.
The aides said that Conyers had them tutor and care for his two sons; help his wife, now-City Councilwoman Monica Conyers, with law studies; and drive him to political and private events.

The accusations come from Deanna Maher, former chief of Conyers\' office in Southgate; Sydney Rooks, Conyers\' lawyer from 1997 to 2000; and Dean Christian Thornton, a legislative aide fired in January, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Maher said that in 1998, Conyers ordered her to live in his Detroit house while his wife attended law classes in Oklahoma. Maher said she lived there for six weeks, caring for the couple\'s two young sons.

Maher and Thornton have written to the House Ethics Committee. Rooks said she talked to committee staffers on the subject in 1999 and 2004 and plans to make a formal complaint soon.

\"I\'m not going to get into responding to these things,\" said Stanley Brand, an attorney for Conyers.

Brand said Conyers responded to ethics committee questions when it considered some of the same allegations two years ago.

Conyers, 76, has served in the House since 1965. The Democrat is the senior minority member of the House Judiciary Committee.

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U.S., India Seal Nuclear Deal

Jim VanderHei, Muneeza Naqvi and Fred Barbash, Washington Post

NEW DELHI, March 2 -- President Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh struck what both leaders called an historic agreement Thursday to provide U.S. nuclear power assistance to India in exchange for new inspections of India\'s civilian nuclear facilities.
The agreement, which requires congressional action, is a major break with prior U.S. policy, which barred nuclear assistance to nations, like India, that have refused to sign the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Drawing protests from some politicians in both countries, Bush and Singh agreed that India would separate its civilian and military nuclear programs to gain U.S. expertise and nuclear fuel to meet its rapidly rising energy needs. Under the deal, only 14 of India\'s 22 nuclear plants classified for civilian use will be subject to inspections. The country\'s eight military reactors will be off limits.

The deal, announced in outline in July, was hailed by both leaders as an important breakthrough in U.S.-India relations less than a decade after the two nations were estranged and bitterly divided over India\'s nuclear ambitions.

\"What this agreement says is, things change, times change, that leadership can make a difference,\" bush said at a joint press conference.

\"We have made history today and I thank you,\" said Singh.

Still, the deal must clear several hurdles before it takes effect. Congress must overcome concerns from lawmakers in both parties about rewarding one of only three countries that has refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty and change laws to permit the nuclear assistance. Bush and Singh also must convince the International Atomic Energy Agency -- the U.N. nuclear watchdog unit -- to fashion to India-specific guidelines for new international inspections of its nuclear plants.

China added its voice to these misgivings on Thursday, according to the Reuters news agency. India should sign the NPT and also dismantle its nuclear weapons, a spokesman for China\'s Foreign Ministry, Qin Gang, told a news briefing in Beijing.

\"As a signatory country, China hopes non-signatory countries will join it as soon as possible as non-nuclear weapon states, thereby contributing to strengthening the international non-proliferation regime,\" he said.

Participants in the discussions said there had been debate within the administration about whether the deal with India -- which built its atomic arsenal in secret -- would undercut U.S. efforts to confront Iran and North Korea over their nuclear programs. There were also concerns about how the agreement would be accepted in Pakistan, India\'s regional rival and an ally in the U.S. campaign against al Qaeda.

But supporters of the approach said it was an important part of a White House strategy to accelerate New Delhi\'s rise as a global power and as a regional counterweight to China. As part of the strategy, the administration is also seeking ways to bolster Japan\'s posture in the region.

\"I\'m trying to think differently,\" Bush said, \"not to stay stuck in the past, and recognize that by thinking differently, particularly on nuclear power, we can achieve some important objectives,\" Bush said. In the short term, the deal allowed both leaders to proclaim Bush\'s first-ever visit to India a success since the nuclear pact topped the trip\'s agenda.

Hurried last minute negotiations to pave the way for the signing of the crucial civilian nuclear energy deal and continued protests marked the first day of Bush\'s visit to this capital of over a billion people. It was also reflective of how most Indians view the United States -- either as a useful ally or as an international bully.

A poll in the Hindustan Times, an English language daily said that while 54 percent of Indians think, \"Close ties with the U.S. are a must for India to become a great power\"; 51 percent think that \"India cannot trust the U.S. in the long term.\"

In the build up to this state visit, much of the national focus in India had centered on the nuclear deal, which had been contentious for India\'s powerful leftist political leaders and the Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, both of whom had labeled such a move as acting under duress from the U.S. and endangering the country\'s nuclear deterrent.

The criticism had led to Prime Minister Singh\'s announcement in parliament Monday, that his government would not compromise the country\'s strategic program.

Even if little else of substance emerges from Bush\'s visit, it will be seen as a success by Indian business leaders and the Congress party-led ruling coalition, which has seen the signing of a such an agreement as crucial to ending over three decades of nuclear policy isolation for India despite the fact that India hasn\'t signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Even as the leaders hammered out the final details, a terrorist bombing in neighboring Pakistan killed one American and served as a deadly reminder of the volatility of the region and stubborn persistence of terrorism in South Asia. Bush told reporters the bombings that claimed the life of a U.S. foreign service officer would not effect his weekend stop in Islamabad. \"Terrorists and killers are not going to prevent me from going to Pakistan,\" he said.

On his first day of events in India, Bush was greeted by members of various branches of the Indian military, including cavalry on horseback, at the brilliant sandstone Rashtrapati Bhavan, the presidential residence that once served as the viceregal residence when India was a British colony. Bush reviewed the troops before telling a gaggle of U.S. and Indian reporters,\" I have been received in many capitals around the world but I have never seen a reception as well-organized or as grand,\" Bush said.

Bush and First Lady Laura Bush paid tribute to India\'s independence leader, Mahatma Gandhi, tossing flower petals where he was cremated in 1948 after being assassinated. Bush, well known for short international trips with scant sight-seeing time, was teased at lunch by Singh for claiming his scheduler would not let him visit the Taj Mahal, one of the world\'s most famous landmarks.

In a lunchtime toast, Singh told Mrs. Bush: \"I\'m truly sorry that the president is not taking you to Taj Mahal this time. I hope he will be more chivalrous the next time you are here.\" Bush laughed and promised the would visit the 350-year-old wonder -- next time.

But it was the nuclear deal that dominated the day inside and out of the official meetings. Indian television provided hours of coverage of the deal in the run-up to the midday announcement and afterwards, with commentators talking about new era of U.S.-India relations. Reaction was mixed in the bustling streets here.

Despite the enthusiasm in government quarters, security in New Delhi continued to be heavy as leftist politicians led thousands of people in protesting Bush\'s visit. Communist and socialist party leaders in parliament also held a rally outside the imposing colonial-era building and disrupted all activity within.

\"If the government succumbs to the U.S. pressure on the nuclear deal, they have to face consequences,\" said Sitaram Yechury, a member of parliament from Communist Party of India (Marxist), according to the Press Trust of India news agency. He said the left would \"protest and oppose any erosion of Indian interest.\" Although the leftist parties are not part of the ruling coalition, their support is crucial to the government\'s majority in parliament.

Armed policemen stood on alert and helicopters hovered overhead as thousands of protesters continued to gather in a fairground for a second day. \"Bush -- Killer of Millions of Innocents. Go Back,\" said black posters all along the road that led to the protest site.

\"He wants to control the world and our government is willing to support this. We are here to oppose this American neo-colonialism,\" Shabeg Singh, 64, a member of the CPI (M) who had come to the New Delhi rally from the neighboring Punjab state and carried a red Communist flag. Similar large protests were also held in other parts of the country including Calcutta and Mumbai.

R. Nicholas Burns, the under secretary of state who flew to India fives times to work out the details, said in an interview that India -- unlike Iran and North Korea -- earned special treatment from the United States with it commitment to democracy and international inspections. Burns said one of the most crucial aspects of the pact is that India will subject future civilian plants to inspections.

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After kicking out Cubans, U.S.-owned hotel ordered closed by Mexico City officials

Knight Ridder News Service

MEXICO CITY - City officials ordered the closure of a major U.S.-owned hotel Tuesday in Mexico City, weeks after it became the center of a diplomatic flap when U.S. Treasury Department officials ordered it to expel a delegation of Cuban officials.
Signs posted at the María Isabel-Sheraton, which is across from the iconic Monument to Independence at one of the city\'s most prominent intersections, made no mention of the dispute, instead accusing the 755-room luxury hotel of violating unspecified city codes.

But the official who signed the closure notice, Virginia Jaramillo, the chief of the city\'s Cuahtémoc district, had promised to move against the hotel after the 16-member Cuban delegation was asked to leave Feb. 2.

U.S. Treasury Department officials said the hotel would have been in violation of the U.S. trade embargo of Cuba had it allowed the Cubans to remain, but Mexican officials said the U.S. order infringed on Mexican sovereignty and violated Mexican law.

It was unknown whether city officials had consulted Mexico\'s federal government before ordering the closure.

\'\'Due to the infringement of local law, the Sheraton\'s activities have been suspended,\'\' the notice said in eight languages. ``We are sorry for the inconvenience that this has caused. Thank you for your understanding.\'\'

Large red signs reading \'\'closed\'\' in Spanish were on the hotel\'s doors.

The Sheraton\'s marketing director, Dolores Castillo, said the hotel was still open despite the closure notice. \'\'The hotel is operating at 100 percent,\'\' she said.

Hotel representatives were meeting with officials in an attempt to avoid expelling tourists, and people were allowed to enter the hotel.

Guests who were leaving for the most part declined to talk to reporters. One woman who said she was a member of the hotel\'s health club said managers had told her to call Wednesday to find out if the hotel would be open.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., which owns the hotel, and U.S. Embassy officials had no comment.

The hotel is one of the city\'s best known. Adjacent to the U.S. Embassy, it\'s long been a symbol of American presence here.

That may have heightened Mexican resentment at the news that the Bush administration had pressured the hotel to expel the Cuban officials, who were attending a meeting with American oil-company executives about investment opportunities in Cuba\'s petroleum industry.

Mexican officials denounced the expulsion, and Foreign Minister Luis Ernesto Derbez complained to the State Department.

They didn\'t advocate closing the hotel, however. Jaramillo, who\'s the top administrative official of the district that the hotel is in, first suggested that step in early February, when she said inspections prompted by the expulsion had found violations of city building codes.

Sunday, former Mexico City Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador, campaigning for president in the city\'s main square, made an issue of U.S. policy toward Cuba. He promised that Mexico would return to its tradition of a \'\'noninterventionist\'\' policy, a slap at President Vicente Fox, who\'s sided with the United States by condemning the lack of civil liberties in Cuba.

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Once You\'ve Sanctioned Torture, Anything Else is Possible

1 Mar 06

As journalist Robert C. Koehler remarked, \" Maybe we should be careful about making common cause with born-again free speech advocates who never showed any tolerance for it until it became a handy club for bashing Muslims.\" He added, in the current atmosphere, \"It\'s OK to torture them because they\'ve already been dehumanized en masse. Anything could follow.\"
Those who worry that the world\'s Arab and Muslim populations pose a threat to free speech in Western democracies need not fear. The first Amendment remains intact-particularly, it seems, when it comes to the \"right\" to inflict racial slurs. Indeed, the last few weeks have witnessed a spate of pundits and politicians exercising their right to freely engage in racist demagoguery against Arabs and Muslims without repercussion.

Celebrity hatemonger Ann Coulter did not disappoint the rabid crowd at the annual gathering of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, D.C. last month. The highlight of Coulter\'s address, sandwiched between speeches by Dick Cheney, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Newt Gingrich, was, \"I think our motto should be post-9-11, \'raghead talks tough, raghead faces consequences.\'\" Journalist Max Blumenthal remarked, \"This declaration prompted a boisterous ovation\" from the overflow crowd.

Fifteen minutes later, Blumenthal asked Frist his opinion on the \"raghead\" characterization. Frist responded, \"I wasn\'t there so I better not comment.\" No major newspaper reported on Coulter\'s racial epithet to the more than 1,000 Republican Party stalwarts.

The \"raghead\" comment is consistent with an article Coulter posted on her website, which reads in part, \"Jihad monkey talks tough; jihad monkey takes the consequences. Sorry, I realize that\'s offensive. How about \'camel jockey\'? What? Now what\'d I say? Boy, you tent merchants sure are touchy.\"

Last week, the level of xenophobia surged on Capitol Hill when Democrats Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, along with Frist and House Speaker Dennis Hastert, whipped themselves into a (bipartisan) frenzy to block Dubai Ports World from replacing a British company in running six U.S. ports.

As the Washington Post reported, \"The lawmakers said they feared that national security might be compromised by letting a Middle Eastern firm manage key U.S. ports.\"

Raising the level of melodrama, Clinton argued that the port management deal would \"turn over our sovereignty to another country.\" New York Republican congressman Vito Fossella compared the port deal to an \"announcement that Dubai was to take over security at our airports.\"

Schumer told reporters, \"How can we turn over one of the most vital areas in our nation to a country with a significant nexus of involvement with terrorists?\"

Although Schumer argued in a February 22 USA Today op-ed piece that Congressional opposition \"has nothing to do with the fact that the United Arab Emirates...is an Arab nation,\" the Democrats\' media attack dogs were already cut loose.

That same day, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd called for \"corporate racial profiling,\" quoting Jan Gadiel of 9/11 Families for a Secure America: \"Our borders are wide open. We don\'t know who\'s in our country right now, not a clue. And now they\'re giving away our ports.\"

Even Dowd admitted that election-year politics played a role in the Congressional mutiny. \"Lawmakers, many up for re-election, have learned well from Karl Rove. Playing the terror card works.\"

Wall Street Journal columnist Dan Henninger argued, \"It gave the Democrats an opportunity to get to the right of the president on a terror issue, and attack him for being soft on terror.\"

It is now acceptable-indeed, commonplace-to racially stereotype and denigrate Arabs and Muslims. And there is no outcry against the curtailment of their civil liberties and rights.

A December 2004 Cornell University opinion poll showed 44 percent of Americans approved curtailing some civil liberties for all Muslim Americans-including registering with the federal government, close monitoring of mosques by law enforcement agencies and racially profiling citizens of Muslim or Middle Eastern heritage.

Interestingly, a recent Gallup World Poll of predominantly Islamic countries showed that overwhelming majorities said they favored the right to freedom of speech in their own countries.

As journalist Robert C. Koehler remarked, \" Maybe we should be careful about making common cause with born-again free speech advocates who never showed any tolerance for it until it became a handy club for bashing Muslims.\" He added, in the current atmosphere, \"It\'s OK to torture them because they\'ve already been dehumanized en masse. Anything could follow.\"

Sharon Smith\'s new book is Women and Socialism. She can be reached at: sharon@internationalsocialist.org

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Bush and Indian PM seal 'historic' nuclear deal

2 Mar 06

NEW DELHI (AFP) - US President George W. Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sealed what they hailed as an "historic" nuclear deal, seen as the bedrock of a new strategic partnership.

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Suicide bomb in Pakistan kills US diplomat ahead of Bush visit

2 Mar 06

KARACHI (AFP) - A suicide car bomber rammed a diplomatic vehicle outside the US consulate in Karachi, killing an American diplomat and four other people, but President George W. Bush vowed that "terrorists and killers" would not stop him visiting Pakistan.

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Second UAE Company Confirms U.S. Probe

2 Mar 06

AP - A second United Arab Emirates company, Dubai International Capital LLC, confirmed Thursday that the U.S. has launched a national security investigation into one of its acquisitions.

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Experts Call for Release of 9/11 Evidence

March 1, 2006

Duluth, MN -- A society of experts and scholars has now joined with Judicial Watch in calling for release of videos that are being held by the Department of Defense, which are essential to understanding events at the Pentagon that transpired on September 11, 2001. Scholars for 9/11 Truth, which is dedicated to exposing falsehoods and establishing truths about the events of 9/11, has gone beyond Judicial Watch by calling for the release of other films and evidence that, its officers maintain, are essential to understanding 9/11.
\"It is outrageous that the government is withholding this vital information\", said James H. Fetzer, founder and co-chair of the society. \"This concerns one of the monstrous events of our time and deserves to be in the public domain.\" The group, whose members include such prominent figures as David Ray Griffin, Morgan Reynolds, John McMurtry, Wayne Madsen, Robert Bowman, Webster Tarpley, and Andreas von Buelow, has been speaking out against what its own research suggests has been complicity by elements of the administration in the crime.

They are calling for immediate release of the full Pentagon surveillance tape as well as video tapes seized by
FBI agents minutes after the Pentagon hit; a complete inventory of the plane wreckage and debris from Flights 11, 77, 93, 175 or any other aircraft that crashed or was destroyed on September 11, 2001, including, but not limited to their location (whether warehoused or otherwise), catalog of photographs and videotapes taken of any items from the planes, and results of all tests and examinations conducted concerning any of these items.

Judicial Watch has filed a lawsuit demanding that DoD release its film footage. In addition, the scholars call for the release of a complete inventory of any steel, other metal, or other materials from the World Trade Center, including, but not limited to the location (whether warehouses or otherwise) of all such items, catalog of photographs and videotapes of any items from the scene, and results of all tests and examinations conducted concerning any of those items.

Judy Wood, a professor of mechanical engineering at Clemson University and a full member of the society of scholars, has emphasized the importance of this material for those studying the collapse of the Twin Towers and World Trade Center 7. \"This material has the potential to resolve crucial questions about the forces that were responsible for the buildings\' fall, including the possible use of incendiaries and explosives\", she observed. \"It is of great importance that we have access to it.\"

They also call for release of 6,899 photographs and 6,977 segments of video footage held by NIST; tape recordings of interviews by air traffic controllers, at least some of which were deliberately destroyed while in the possession of representatives of the government; a complete accounting of \"terror drills\" that were being conducted that morning, which may have been used to mask the attack; the cockpit voice recorders and other \"black boxes\", three of four of which are reported to have survived the Twin Towers\' collapse; and other related evidence.

According to Professor Fetzer, the SEC possesses knowledge of \"put options\" on American and United Airlines, which are suggestive of advanced knowledge that the attacks would take place; Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta gave very important testimony to The 9/11 Commission, which it chose not to include in its report; and the Secret Service conducted itself in a manner suggesting that it knew there was no serious threat to the President, even following the attacks in New York, while the Commander-in-Chief ignored the unfolding drama.

\"We are inclined to believe that these events were orchestrated by the Bush administration in order to instill fear in the American people,\" Fetzer said. \"The use of violence and threats of violence to manipulate a populace based on fear,\" he observed, \"is the definition of terrorism. The release of this vital evidence will help to confirm or to dispel our concerns about what happened on 9/11.\" Added Wood, \"The American people are entitled to know the truth about their own history. If the government has nothing to hide, it should have no objections to releasing all this evidence for experts and scholars to study.\"

Fetzer also noted today\'s Zogby International Poll, which shows that 90% of American troops in Iraq believe that they are fighting to avenge Saddam Hussein\'s role in 9/11. \"This would be funny if it weren\'t so sad\", Fetzer said. \"The administration falsely linked Iraq to 9/11 even though it knew better\", he remarked. \"Even the Osama Bin Laden \'confession tape\' appears to have been faked. We want to know the identity of those who perpetrated these despicable acts.\"

Scholars for 9/11 Truth maintains its own public web site at www.st911.org. Documentary support for its request is available at www.st911.org/petition/.

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FDA Shields Drug Companies From Lawsuits

By Evelyn Pringle
February 27, 2006

Last month, the FDA revealed its latest protective policy for drug companies in a statement that said people who believe they have been injured by drugs approved by the FDA should not be allowed to sue drug companies in state courts.
\"We think that if your company complies with the FDA processes, if you bring forward the benefits and risks of your drug, and let your information be judged through a process with highly trained scientists, you should not be second-guessed by state courts that don\'t have the same scientific knowledge,\" said Scott Gottlieb, the FDA\'s deputy commissioner for medical and scientific affairs.

The agency\'s assertion of \"federal preemption\" was included as a preamble to its new drug labeling guidelines.

The claim of preemption was quickly attacked by trial lawyers and members of Congress as another effort by the Bush administration to limit the public\'s ability to bring and win lawsuits, according to the January 19, 2006 Washington Post.

\"Eliminating the rights of individuals to hold negligent drug companies accountable puts patients in even more danger than they already are in from drug company executives that put profits before safety,\" said Ken Suggs, president of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.

\"The fact that the drug industry can get the FDA to rewrite the rules so that CEOs can escape accountability for putting dangerous and deadly drugs on the market is the scariest example yet of how much control these big corporations have over our political process,\" Mr Suggs told the Post.

In response to the FDA\'s announcement, Senator Kennedy issued a statement that said: \"It\'s a typical abuse by the Bush Administration -- take a regulation to improve the information that doctors and patients receive about prescription drugs and turn it into a protection against liability for the drug industry.\"

The National Conference of State Legislatures, a bipartisan group that represents state lawmakers, accused the FDA of trying to seize authority that it did not have.

Over the past several years, lawmakers have been turning up the heat on both the FDA and the pharmaceutical industry in response to their combined failure to reveal problems found during studies conducted on top selling drugs like Vioxx.

At one point, Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, came right out and accused the FDA of suppressing studies in order to protect pharmaceutical industry profits and the careers of certain FDA officials.

\"The Vioxx example showed that the FDA and Merck were too close for comfort,\" Senator Grassely told Health News on March 12, 2005. \"Testimony and documents at our Finance Committee hearing showed that the FDA allowed itself to be manipulated by Merck,\" he said.

Based on a trial that took place in 2000, both the FDA and Merck were aware that heart attacks were five times more likely in patients taking Vioxx than among those taking a similar drug, Sen Grassley pointed out, but the FDA did nothing to change the labeling on the drug for nearly two years, while Merck aggressively marketed its product on nightly TV.

Back on November 18, 2004, he generated enormous media attention when he held hearings on Vioxx, and FDA scientist, Dr David Graham, who works in the FDA Office of Drug Safety, testified that Vioxx may have been responsible for tens of thousands of heart attacks and strokes but that his superiors had pressured him to keep silent about his findings.

\"The estimates range from 88,000 to 139,000 Americans,\" Dr Graham told the committee. \"Of these, 30 to 40 percent probably died,\" he advised.

\"For the survivors,\" he added, \"their lives were changed forever.\"

To put this large number of injuries into perspective, Dr Graham told members of the committee that instead of a serious side-effect of a prescription drug, to think of it as if they were talking about jetliners.

\"If there were an average of 150 to 200 people on an aircraft,\" he said, \"this range of 88,000 to 138,000 would be the rough equivalent of 500 to 900 aircraft dropping from the sky.\"

\"This translates to 2-4 aircraft every week,\" he noted, \"week in and week out, for the past 5 years.\"

\"If you were confronted by this situation,\" Dr Graham asked the committee, \"what would be your reaction, what would you want to know and what would you do about it?\"

He condemned the FDA\'s failure to acknowledge the risks that Vioxx posed to millions of people in the 5 years it was allowed to remain on the market. \"I strongly believe that this should have been, and largely could have been, avoided,\" Dr Graham told the committee.

The Vioxx matter caught the attention of the Senate Finance Committee basically because of the Vioxx related costs to government programs like Medicaid and Medicare. The committee is responsible for oversight of the two programs. At the November 18, 2004 hearing, Senator Max Baucus said:

\"In the 5 years that Vioxx was on the market, Medicaid spent more than $1 billion on the drug.\"

\"And Medicaid bears the cost of any additional medical care necessary when drugs cause injury,\" he pointed out.

The hearings followed a study that estimated between 28,000 and 160,000 deaths may have been caused by the Vioxx since it gained FDA approval in 1999.

By far, the Vioxx debacle is the most serious public health failure to occur since the FDA took on the authority for safety oversight of medical products in 1938.

On September 3, 2005, Shane Ellison, M.Sc, a former pharmaceutical chemist turned whistleblower and author of the book, "Health Myths Exposed," gave an interview to Crusador Magazine and discussed Vioxx and some of the problems within the FDA.

His book which was published before Vioxx began making headlines, referred to Vioxx as the "silent killer."

According to Mr Ellison, the FDA and Merck knew about the dangers associated with Vioxx for at least 4 years before it was taken off the market. \"Instead of removing the drug immediately,\" he said, \"they kept it on the drug market for matters of wealth not health.\"

Mr Ellison says pharmaceutically compliant politicians have \"democratized\" the drug industry. \"This means that drug approval is a matter of 51% telling the other 49% that deadly drugs are safe and necessary,\" he reports. \"Science and choice no longer prevail at the FDA or at pharmaceutical companies,\" he added.

\"To go against the 51% means losing your career,\" Mr Ellison said. \"Therefore, the majority of scientists choose to please drug companies, not the general public.\"

To substantiate this claim, Dr Ellison pointed to Dr Curt Furberg, a member of the FDA\'s drug safety advisory committee.

In the wake of the Vioxx revelations, Dr Furberg went public with findings that Pfizer\'s drug Bextra also caused heart attacks and strokes and said studies "showed that Bextra is no different than Vioxx, and Pfizer is trying to suppress that information," in the British Medical Journal.

\"Immediately thereafter,\" Mr Ellison said, \"Dr. Furberg was barred from serving on the panel that was responsible for considering the safety of cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX 2) inhibitors.\"

\"The end result being more votes in favor of COX 2 inhibitors, the drug company wins by votes – not science,\" he told Crusador.

A little-mentioned fact is that many FDA employees end up working for the pharmaceutical industry. \"The old joke is that the FDA is sort of like a showcase for a future job in the drug industry,\" Robert Whitaker, author of Mad In America, said in an August 2005 interview with Street Spirit.

\"You go there, you work awhile, then you go off into the drug industry,\" he said, \"the progression that people make, in essence they\'re making good old boy network connections, so they\'re not going to be so harsh on the drug companies.\"

Critic say the passage of the Prescription Drug User Fee Act in 1992 contributed to the current problems within the FDA. The Act allows the agency to collect a fee from a drug company seeking approval for a new drug. In return, the FDA is expected complete the review process within 12 months.

User fees now account for about 40% of the approval process, which means the FDA is dependent on drug companies for nearly half of its funding.

This situation is the root of a major conflict of interest according to Dr Graham: \"This culture (at the FDA) views the pharmaceutical industry it is supposed to regulate as its client. It overvalues the benefits of the drugs it approves, and seriously undervalues, disregards and disrespects drug safety,\" he told members of Congress.

Another problem he cited is that even when the FDA does try to take measures to limit harm, the agency lacks the enforcement authority to force drug companies to comply. In the case of Vioxx, Dr Graham said it took more than 2 years to get Merck to add the increased risk of heart attack and stroke to its label.

Then there are the conflicts of interests involving the FDA panels that advise the agency on matters such as which drugs should be approved, what their warning labels should say, and how studies should be conducted.

The 300 experts on the 18 committees make decisions that affect billions of dollars in sales and with few exceptions the FDA follows their recommendations.

Members of the panels are supposed to be free of conflicts of interest relating to products they consider. But the FDA can grant a waiver if a member\'s expertise is deemed to outweigh the risk of a conflict or if the financial interest is minimal. Waivers are liberally granted all the time.

For instance, in February 2005, when the highly publicized hearings were held to determine whether the COX-2 inhibitors, manufactured by Merck and Pfizer, should be permitted to remain on the market, an advisory committee that was mired with conflicts of interest was exposed. Out of the 32 advisers voting on the issue, ten had served as consultants to Merck and Pfizer in recent years.

This revelation prompted Senator Mike Enzi, (R-WY), the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, along with Senators, Edward Kennedy (D-MA), and Richard Durbin (D-IL), to ask the General Accounting Office to look into the FDA\'s practice of letting scientists serve on panels when they have conflicts of interest.

\"We are concerned about the process that supports FDA\'s decisions to waive conflicts of interest rules for scientists with financial ties to the manufacturers of the products under consideration, or their competitors,\" said a letter to the GAO, signed by Senators in September 2005.

\"These practices appear to have undermined the public\'s faith in the objectivity and fairness of FDA\'s advisory committees,\" they wrote. The Senators specifically noted the conflicts among the panels that studied the Cox-2 inhibitors like Vioxx.

According to the Associated Press on January 24, 2006, Merck currently faces 9,200 Vioxx lawsuits, with about 4,050 in federal courts and the rest in state courts. Without state product liability laws, drug companies like Merck will be able to escape liability for injuries and deaths caused by drugs like Vioxx.

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School ban on Sikh daggers not justified, says Supreme Court

Canadian Press
2 Mar 06

Canadian Press - OTTAWA (CP) - A Montreal school board went too far in imposing a blanket ban on the wearing of Sikh ceremonial daggers by students, says the Supreme Court of Canada.

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Libertad? Maybe - Puerto Rican independence activists rally \'round an FBI crackdown

by Jarrett Murphy
February 28th, 2006

On September 23, 1868, a gutsy band of Puerto Rican nationalists launched a revolt against their Spanish rulers. The uprising failed within 24 hours. On September 23, 2005, FBI agents shot and killed a fugitive Puerto Rican independence leader. Now New York\'s independista community is hoping that anger over that death ends Puerto Rico\'s 100-plus years as a U.S. possession.
It\'s not just the killing of Filiberto Ojeda Ríos that has outraged many Puerto Ricans. On February 10, heavily armed FBI agents with search warrants raided six locations on Puerto Rico, citing a terrorist threat from an independence group; at one site, the feds pepper-sprayed reporters. The commonwealth\'s elected government got no advance warning of what the feds were planning. It\'s hard to imagine that happening in, say, Montana with so little hubbub.

Washington dubs Puerto Rico, seized by the U.S. during the Spanish-American War in 1898, a \"commonwealth,\" but some activists call it a colony. Puerto Ricans pay no federal taxes, cannot vote for president, and have no voting representative in Congress. For years, a minority of Puerto Ricans has argued the case for independence but found few takers.

But the furor over the FBI\'s moves seems to have spread beyond New York\'s small, dogged band of independence activists. Now, says assemblyman and Bronx Democratic chairman Jose Rivera, speaking at a meeting last week about the events in the Caribbean, \"because of what happened on February 10, everyone on Puerto Rico is angry.\" At his side at the Burgos Center in East Harlem is Congressman Charles Rangel, who calls the FBI crackdown \"the only thing in recent history to unite the people of this island.\"

\"This could be for all of us a very historic moment,\" Rangel adds. Cheers of \"Yes!\" answer him. Indeed, Congress is considering proposals for a new vote on the future of the island. Rangel has called for a congressional investigation into the FBI actions, and at the very least he promises unofficial hearings run by Democrats. Rivera, who planned to join a march on the island on February 26, has called for the FBI to get off the island ahora.

Ojeda Ríos, a fugitive since 1990, had been sentenced in absentia to 55 years in prison for his role in an armed robbery in Connecticut. Last September the feds finally tracked him down to a safe house in Hormigueros. The FBI says that when its agents first approached Ojeda Ríos, he opened fire first, hitting three of them. The feds fired back and surrounded the house. The next day, the FBI went in and found Ojeda Ríos dead. The feds insist they waited to go in because they feared a bomb, but critics suggest they were obligated to provide medical attention to a man they shot. The FBI\'s inspector general is reviewing the shooting.

The FBI claims the February 10 raids were part of a \"domestic terrorism investigation\" related to Ejército Popular Boricua (Puerto Rican Popular Army), a/k/a Los Macheteros (\"the Machete Wielders\"), an active pro-independence militia. The supposed plot involved bombs \"directed at privately owned interests in Puerto Rico, as well as the general public,\" the FBI says. No one has been arrested. The commonwealth government wasn\'t informed about the raids until the morning they were occurring, says local FBI spokesman Harry Rodriguez, who adds that the inspector general hasn\'t decided yet whether to investigate the February 10 raids.

Whether the IG weighs in or not, the raids pump new blood into the movement to change Puerto Rico\'s status. \"It serves those who want to organize and mobilize and say, \'This is the type of abuse that we suffer as a colony,\'\" says El Diario columnist Gerson Borrero.

Local independence activists have already formed a coalition to try to rally locals around the events back home. The activists say there\'s a buzz. \"We\'re no longer talking to ourselves,\" says Miguel Melendez, a co-founder of the Young Lords and veteran activist. \"Other people are actually coming to events.\" Even mainstream pols like Rangel are on board. New York City councilwoman Melissa Mark Viverito, who organized last week\'s meeting in El Barrio, calls the terrorism story a \"ruse.\"

New York\'s neighborhoods echo with foreign struggles: old Village haunts of radical John Reed, the docks from where volunteers left to fight for Israel, the Staten Island hangout of exiled Italian patriot Giuseppe Garibaldi, the East Side site where Irish nationalist Eamon de Valera was born.

Landmarks of the movement to free Puerto Rico are here, too, if you know where to look. At 336 East 110th Street, a construction company now occupies the site where on December 11, 1974, a New York cop opened a door and was blinded by a booby-trap bomb apparently set by the FALN, a Puerto Rican radical group.

That wasn\'t New York\'s only link to either the peaceful or violent side of the independence struggle. The city was a base for the pioneering revolutionary Eugenio María de Hostos, as well as for the gunmen who tried to kill Harry Truman in 1950. In the \'70s and \'80s there were bombings here; in 2000 there was a peaceful occupation of the Statue of Liberty to protest U.S. target practice on Vieques.

The successful movement to stop the Vieques bombardment is being held up as a model for what has to happen now. \"It was not until we in New York got involved that we were able to foster debate in this nation,\" says Rivera. But the mass media can\'t be counted on. Word of mouth may have to do the trick. \"We are all linked somehow to Puerto Ricans around the planet,\" Rivera notes. Indeed, around him at the Burgos Center are pols in suits and scrappy-looking activists, black and white, old and young. There\'s even a nationalist youth organization, Juventud Nacionalista.

Trouble is, it has about 20 members. The graffiti on 110th Street might shout, \"Todos Boricuas Macheteros!\" but most Puerto Ricans, far from being militants, aren\'t independence supporters at all. In three plebiscites on the island, the vote share for independence has never hit double digits.

Congressman José Serrano, who championed an effort to get the FBI to release 1.9 million pages of files on Puerto Rican movements from the 1930s to the 1990s, says the limited appeal of independence is largely because \"the FBI criminalized it and gave the impression that it was a violent group of people and never let it grow.\"

Blame, however, goes beyond the feds. Some see the independistas as intellectual elites to whom most Puerto Ricans can\'t relate. Others say Puerto Ricans are just as disengaged from politics as most every other U.S. constituency. Harry Rodríguez Reyes, a professor at Hunter College, faults the fragmented independence movement for ignoring issues other than independence and vanishing on the island between elections.

But mostly Rodríguez Reyes blames the effects of colonization itself, which has locked Puerto Rico into dependence on the mainland. The island reports a poverty rate of 45 percent, yet it is the fifth largest market for U.S. exports per capita: People are buying American goods with credit from American banks. Its residents receive $1.5 billion a year in food stamps, which many are afraid of losing if the island becomes an independent state. That federal money, says Rodríguez Reyes, \"plays a role in pacifying the people and reinforces the dependency.\"

It would help if the cause of Puerto Rico\'s status could be wedded to an issue with broader appeal, and the people who are raising a stink over the FBI raids- including those who don\'t necessarily support independence-are attempting to do that. They link the FBI operations to U.S. hostility toward radical regimes in Cuba, Venezuela, and Bolivia. And activists depict Puerto Rico\'s treatment as a chip off the same block as the Patriot Act, the Iraq war, and the extrajudicial detention of \"enemy combatants\" like Jose Padilla.

Independence activists claim to have information that the FBI has 100 or so search warrants-that the six executed on February 10 were just the tip of the iceberg. It\'s unclear whether the feds\' interest is confined to the island. \"We are all feeling under new pressure,\" Vicente \"Panama\" Alba, who was pictured on an August 1977 Village Voice cover as a suspect in a bombing, for which he was later acquitted, says. \"Being targets of operations such as this is definitely a possibility.\"

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Serbia to be first nation charged with genocide

By Stephen Castle in Brussels
27 February 2006

Serbia will come under intense international scrutiny today as it becomes the first nation to defend genocide charges, while separately facing censure for failing to surrender war crimes suspects.

Belgrade will be accused at the International Court of Justice of sponsoring ethnic cleansing in the 1990s which led to the worst massacres on European soil since the Second World War. Previously, only individuals have been charged with genocide, the most serious war crime.
Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers in Brussels will threaten to hold up talks on the creation of a free trade zone with Serbia because of Belgrade\'s failure to arrest the former Bosnian Serb military commander, Ratko Mladic.

This rebuke may not satisfy the UN\'s chief war crimes prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte, who has called on the EU to put pressure on Belgrade and privately pressed for a formal suspension of the negotiations.

The two events underline the extent to which the region\'s bloody past overshadows Belgrade\'s effort to draw closer to the EU.

Today\'s hearing at the World Court comes 13 years after Bosnia and Herzegovina first charged the Serb authorities, accusing them of the worst case of ethnic cleansing since the Nazis\' Final Solution. Though the Serb military was not involved in the war, Belgrade stands accused of backing the Bosnian Serb forces.

Were the case to be proved, the Belgrade could be forced to pay billions of euros in compensation, as well as suffering the disgrace of being labeled a state sponsor of genocide.

Bosnia argues that only by acknowledging Belgrade\'s role in massacres there can reconciliation be achieved.

Genocide was outlawed under the 1948 Genocide Convention, though the first conviction came 50 years later when a UN court on Rwanda sentenced a former mayor, Jean-Paul Akayesu, to life imprisonment.

Since then, hearings at the UN\'s International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague have decided that genocide took place at Srebrenica. The tribunal has convicted the Bosnian Serb military commanders Radislav Krstic and Vidoje Blagojevic of the offence.

But showing that genocide - a difficult crime to prove - was committed by a state will be more difficult. A paper produced by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting argues that genocide \"requires a particular mindset - namely the special intent to destroy a population - which, on the face of it at least, appears difficult to attribute to a state\".

It points out that, because Serbia\'s alleged sponsorship of genocide was through proxies, it will be even harder to prove.

The World Court may decide it does not have legal jurisdiction. A case taken by Serbia against Nato countries was thrown out in 2004 because Yugoslavia was not a member of the UN at the time. Belgrade is likely to argue that, if it cannot initiate a case at the World Court, if cannot be called on to defend one.

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Kenyan police raid media group following controversial report

2 Mar 06

NAIROBI (AFP) - Heavily-armed Kenyan police stormed the headquarters of the country's second biggest media group, shutting down its television station and smashing its printing press, following a report President Mwai Kibaki held secret talks with a political opponent, employees said.

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ECB raises rates as eurozone recovery gathers pace

2 Mar 06

FRANKFURT (AFP) - The European Central Bank (ECB) raised its key interest rates for the second time in three months to keep inflation in check as economic recovery in the 12-country eurozone gathers pace.

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Italian Panel: Soviets Behind Pope Attack

2 Mar 06

AP - An Italian parliamentary commission concluded "beyond any reasonable doubt" that the Soviet Union was behind the 1981 attempt to kill Pope John Paul II, a theory long alleged but never proved, according to a draft report made available Thursday.

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Spanish court looks at Tibetan genocide claims

2 Mar 06

The Christian Science Monitor - When Thubten Wangchen was 4 years old, his mother died in a Chinese work camp. She was pregnant at the time, and according to Mr. Wangchen, the Chinese were rounding up pregnant women and working them to death.

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Generals from Koreas hold talks to ease tensions (Reuters)

2 Mar 06

Reuters - North and South Korean generals began rare talks on Thursday on reducing military tensions and building confidence to help improve cross-border ties, a South Korean official said.

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Vietnam Commutes Aussie's Death Sentence

2 Mar 06

AP - Vietnam announced Thursday it has commuted the death sentence of a convicted Australian drug trafficker to life imprisonment after heavy lobbying by the Australian government.

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Growing Threat Seen In Afghan Insurgency - DIA Chief Cites Surging Violence in Homeland

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post
1 Mar 06

The director of the Defense Intelligence Agency told Congress yesterday that the insurgency in Afghanistan is growing and will increase this spring, presenting a greater threat to the central government\'s expansion of authority \"than at any point since late 2001.\"

\"Despite significant progress on the political front, the Taliban-dominated insurgency remains a capable and resilient threat,\" Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples said in a statement presented to the Senate Armed Services Committee at its annual hearing on national security threats.
Appearing with Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte, Maples said attacks within Afghanistan were up 20 percent between 2004 and 2005, suicide bombings increased \"almost fourfold\" and use of makeshift bombs, similar to those used in Iraq, had \"more than doubled.\"

Negroponte, in his prepared remarks, acknowledged that \"the volume and geographic scope of attacks increased last year,\" but he added, \"the Taliban and other militants have not been able to stop the democratic process\" being undertaken by the central government of President Hamid Karzai.

Unlike at a similar hearing last month before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, when Negroponte read his statement for 90 minutes, he summarized his remarks yesterday in 20 minutes, and turned the floor over to Maples, who took even less time.

As a result, committee members had time to pose questions on a range of issues, covering Afghanistan, security in Iraq, North Korea\'s nuclear programs and the purchase by Dubai Ports World of a British company running terminals at six American ports.

Maples\'s prepared remarks seemed to frame some of the initial questions, including his statements that, \"with over a million Sunni Arab military-aged males in Iraq, insurgents have little difficulty mobilizing enough fighters.\" He also said, \"The elections appear to have heightened tension and polarized sectarian divides.\"

Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the panel, led off by asking Negroponte what the \"benchmarks\" of civil war would be. Negroponte responded he would see it as involving \"a complete loss of central government security control, the disintegration or deterioration of the security forces of the country,\" and \"unauthorized forces . . . getting the upper hand in the situation.\"

Both Negroponte and Maples agreed that the degree to which Shiite and Kurd leaders accommodated Sunni demands would determine the outcome. Failure to broaden the government to include Sunnis in key positions \"would have the effect of prolonging the insurgency,\" Negroponte said. Although they both said Iran was providing military support to the Shiites, Maples said he did not think it was in Iran\'s interest to see a full-scale civil war and Tehran \"would probably act to avoid that.\"

On North Korea, Negroponte declined as he has in the past to provide a specific estimate of the number of nuclear weapons Pyongyang may have. \"We assess that they probably have nuclear weapons as they claim that they do,\" Negroponte said, \"but we don\'t know for a fact that they\'ve got such weapons.\"

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who pressed the issue, noted that CIA Director Porter J. Goss had publicly said the number was \"more than one or two,\" and asked Negroponte what the current unclassified estimate was. \"I\'m just reluctant to pinpoint a specific number because I don\'t want to convey the impression that we know for a fact that they have that many weapons,\" Negroponte said.

Under questioning from Clinton, Maples confirmed the North Koreans are in the process of developing an intercontinental ballistic missile that could deliver a nuclear warhead, though the DIA director added, \"They have not done so yet nor have they tested it.\"

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

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Iran call for nuclear-free region

27 Feb 06

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for the Middle East to be free of nuclear weapons.

Speaking after talks with Kuwaiti leaders, Mr Ahmadinejad said nuclear weapons were a threat to stability.

He said Iran was a good neighbour, and reiterated that its nuclear programme was for peaceful, civilian purposes.
Gulf Arab states, including Kuwait, have said they want an agreement with Iran to keep the Gulf region free of nuclear weapons.

Mr Ahmadinejad\'s brief visit to Kuwait was the first by an Iranian head of state since the Islamic revolution of 1979.

He held talks with Kuwaiti leaders including the new Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad.

Also on Monday, Kuwaiti leaders held talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who is touring Gulf states.

The official Egyptian news agency said the talks focused on recent developments in Iraq and the Palestinian territories.

\'Deteriorating security\'

At a news conference before his departure from Kuwait Mr Ahmadinejad was asked about calls from the Gulf states for the Middle East to become a nuclear-free zone.

He said: \"We too demand that the Middle East be free of nuclear weapons, not only the Middle East, but the whole world should be free of nuclear weapons.

\"We believe that these weapons, possessed by the superpowers and the occupiers in our area, are a threat to stability,\" Mr Ahmadinejad added.

He also criticised the US presence in neighbouring Iraq.

\"The occupation in Iraq is causing the deterioration of security. We believe that when foreign occupation is ended, a large part of the problems would be solved,\" Mr Ahmadinejad said.

He went on to say that relations between Iran and Kuwait were improving all the time.

Iran and Kuwait have been in political and technical talks aimed at demarcating their maritime border for several years, but the dispute continues.

\"There is no problem between us and the brothers in Kuwait which cannot be solved. But it needs some technical studies,\" Mr Ahmadinejad said.

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Syria opposition says US funding counterproductive

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis
Feb 27, 2006

DAMASCUS - Syria\'s liberal opposition has said it will not accept money from a U.S. offer to fund democratic groups in the country, saying that its credibility would be damaged if it took the cash.
A group of a dozen parties, known as the Damascus Declaration, said on Monday they had enough resources on their own to press ahead with a campaign for peaceful change to end a 40-year monopoly by the Baath Party on power.

\"The Damascus Declaration refuses foreign funding, including the $5 million from the U.S. State Department for the Syrian opposition,\" a statement by the group said.

The United Sates imposed several sanctions on Syria in 2004, accusing Damascus of supporting \"terrorism.\" Two weeks ago it announced a $5 million grant to fund what it called \"democratic reformers\" in Syria.

A U.S. State Department official said the money was not aimed at opposition or political groups in Syria.

\"The funds are there to help civil society groups interested in promoting democracy at large. It is not a promotion of direct political parties or views,\" he said in response to whether Washington was disappointed with the Syrian opposition response.

Damascus Declaration founding member Hassan Abdel Atheem told Reuters the United States cannot expect popular support for its policy toward Syria while it maintained sanctions against the country.

\"Support by international powers for democratic change in Syria is welcome. This does not include financing because it means subordination to the funding country,\" he said.

\"Our project is nationalist, independent democratic change in Syria, not through occupation or economic pressure as we see the United states doing,\" he said.


The Damascus Declaration, which does not include the banned Muslim Brotherhood, seeks to promote greater freedoms and usher pluralism in Syria.

Syria has been ruled by the Baath party since 1963. In 1970, Hafez al-Assad, the father of Syria\'s current president took power in a coup d\'etat and ruled until his death in 2000 when his son Bashar succeeded him. Bashar is credited with bringing some liberal reforms to Syrian politics and the economy.

The opposition says opening up the political system is the best way to counter the United States, which is leading international efforts to isolate Syria for its alleged role in the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri a year ago.

Atheem said he does not know of any Syrian who applied for the funding, although the government has been harassing and threatening opposition figures, such as Riad Seif, who was only freed from jail a month ago.

Ayman Abdel an-Nour, a Baathist political consultant who is pushing for reform within the party, said the powerful security apparatus dismisses domestic and international pressure to loosen its grip on power and deal less harshly with dissidents.

\"They feel that the regime is about to escape the aftermath of the Hariri assassination intact,\" Abdel Nour said.

\"They don\'t realize that by opting for change, they could contain the rise of Islamist forces and emerge victors in a multi-party system, similar to some communists in the former Eastern bloc,\" he added.

A U.N. investigation has implicated senior Syrian officials in the Hariri assassination. Damascus denies involvement in the killing and pledged to cooperate with the investigation.

Copyright 2006 Reuters News Service.

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Iran to meet EU envoys for last-ditch nuclear talks

2 Mar 06

VIENNA (AFP) - Iran's top nuclear negotiator is to meet with the British, French and German foreign ministers Friday in a last-minute move ahead of possible UN action over Tehran's atomic program.

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Propaganda Document: Al-Qaida Encourages Oil Attacks

2 Mar 06

AP - Al-Qaida has encouraged its followers to attack oil pipelines and facilities in Muslim countries but not wells, according to a document posted on a Web site by the group that targeted the world's largest oil-processing complex in Saudi Arabia.

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Prisoners loyal to Al-Qaeda seize police hostages in Jordan riots

2 Mar 06

AFP - Rioting inmates held Jordan prison officials hostage demanding to be united with death row convicts and to release an Iraqi would-be suicide bomber linked to Al-Qaeda operative Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

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Jordan foils Al-Qaeda-linked suicide attack (AFP)

Jordanian security forces on guard in front of a billboard that reads in Arabic "Jordan First."  Jordan has foiled an Al-Qaeda-linked suicide attack on "a vital civilian installation" and arrested a Libyan and two Iraqis, state television said, quoting a security official.(AFP/File/Khalil  Mazraawi)AFP - Jordan has foiled an Al-Qaeda-linked suicide attack on "a vital civilian installation" and arrested a Libyan and two Iraqis, state television said, quoting a security official.

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Israel Kills Top Jihad Leader, Arrests Hamas MPs

IslamOnline.net & News Agencies
March 1, 2006

GAZA CITY – An Israeli air strike killed Wednesday, March 1, the military leader of the Islamic Jihad, as Israeli troops detained two Hamas MPs in Al-Quds (occupied East Jerusalem).

Khaled Al-Dahduh, the overall leader of the Al-Quds Brigades who is also known by his nom-de-guerre Abu Al-Walid, was killed instantly when the vehicle in which he was traveling exploded in a ball of flames in Gaza City, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

Witnesses and Palestinian security sources confirmed to AFP that Dahduh was killed in an Israel air strike carried out by an unmanned drone but the occupation army insisted it was not behind the blast.
\"The IDF (the Israeli occupation army) was not involved,\" an army spokeswoman told AFP. \"The IDF had no connection to the incident.\"

Meanwhile, an Israeli working at a service station near a Jewish settlement in the northern West Bank was fatally wounded in a drive-by Palestinian shooting.

Fatah\'s Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades armed wing claimed the attack.

A spokesman for the faction said in a phone call to AFP that the attack was carried out to avenge an Israeli army operation in Nablus last week when three Al-Aqsa members were killed.

The latest death brought to 4,970 the number of people killed since the outbreak of the Palestinian Intifada in 2000. Over three-quarters of the victims are Palestinian.

The violence prompted Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday, February 24, to call for a special UN Security Council session to rein in Israel after its acting premier vowed to press on with a campaign of attacks against resistance groups.

Avi Dichter, a former head of the Shin Beth internal security service and a leading member of Acting premier Ehud Olmert\'s Kadima party, said incoming Palestinian prime minister Ismail Haniya would not be granted any kind of immunity by his new position.

MPs Arrested

Abbas called for a UNSC meeting to rein in Israel\'s aggressions.

Meanwhile, Israeli troops arrested Wednesday two newly elected Members of Parliament for the resistance movement Hamas, which has joined mainstream politics after its landslide parliamentary election victory in January.

Police spokesman Shmuel Ben Rubi said Mohammad Abu Teir and Mohammed Totah were detained while touring Al-Maqassid hospital on the Mount of Olives in Al-Quds.

\"They are not allowed to do any political activities in [occupied] Jerusalem,\" he said.

A Hamas source said Abu Teir and Totah were arrested as they toured the Maqassid hospital as part of an inspection of institutions in Al-Quds.

Since the 1967 Middle East war, Israel has occupied and annexed Al-Quds, which the Palestinians want to make the capital of their promised, future state.

In a bid to stiffen the pressure against Hamas, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni embarked this week on her first trip to Europe where she was due to meet with her counterparts from Britain, France and Austria.

During an interview with France\'s Le Figaro newspaper, Livni reiterated threats to cut all contact with the Palestinian Authority since Hamas is set to form a new government in a matter of weeks.

Earlier in the week, Livni said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas became \"irrelevant\" and Israel would not allow Abbas to be \"a fig leaf for Hamas.\"

Israel\'s decision to freeze the payment of customs duties it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in the wake of Hamas\'s rise to power has triggered warnings that the government could collapse entirely.

The PA is dependent on foreign aid and on tax revenues collected by Israel on its behalf to pay its 140,000 employees and keep its ministries and institutions functioning.

The European Union said Tuesday, February 28, it would release emergency aid to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority after earlier threats to cut off the aid if Hamas had not \"renounced violence\" and recognize Israel.

Hamas has rejected threats of a fund cut-off as blackmail and said it would seek assistance from Arabs and Muslims, both at the grassroots and government levels.

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Made in Israel: A nation of beggars

By Amira Hass

It is not the Palestinians who should be welcoming the European Union\'s decision to hastily donate another $142 million before the Hamas government is formed. It is Israel that ought to be pleased that the Western states will continue compensating the Palestinians for the economic decline that is a product of the Israeli occupation.

For it is not natural disasters that have transformed the Palestinians into a nation that lives on handouts from the world; it is Israel\'s accelerating colonialist process. One facet of this is the continued takeover of Palestinian lands (whether \"private\" or public lands, it is the same thing), expansion of construction only for Jews, and de facto annexation by Israel of extensive tracts of Palestinian territory, while simultaneously breaking up the West Bank into enclaves and enclosures for Palestinians.
Another facet of this colonization is a regime of excessive restrictions imposed by Israel on the movement of Palestinians between their enclosures and enclaves within the West Bank, and between the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The pledged European donation, part of which is intended to pay salaries in the Palestinian public sector, shows that Europe is having a difficult time preventing Israel from robbing in broad daylight Palestinian tax and customs monies, amounting to between $50 million and $65 million a month. It also shows that Europe assesses that the U.S. will not pressure Israel to return the stolen funds - in contrast with the pressure it exerted at the beginning of the intifada, when Israel also blocked the transfer of tax monies.

Indeed, the funds are levied at Israeli ports and within Israel, but on Palestinian private sector transactions. This is Palestinian money, which by every standard of proper administration must not accrue interest in the Israeli treasury when it should be transferred to the Palestinian health or education ministries.

The money constitutes about two-thirds of the income that derives from Palestinian economic activity. One-third - about $35 million a month - are taxes directly levied on economic activity within the West Bank and Gaza Strip. These sums could be much higher, and could help to balance out the donations and handouts to the Palestinian ongoing budget, were it not for the Israeli measures taken against the Palestinian economy and its potential for development.

These measures are not newly imposed on the occasion of Hamas\' ascendance. No - Israel has destroyed and continues to destroy Palestinian agriculture, the two Palestinian national vegetable gardens - in the eastern and in the western sections of the West Bank - by means of the separation fence and de facto annexation of the Jordan Rift. Destruction of lands, prevention of access to cultivated lands and orchards, imposition of marketing impediments, harm to water sources - all of these have made destitute tens of thousands of proud farmers, and reduced their contribution to the national income.

Even before the current intifada, Israel hurt Palestinian industry\'s chances to develop, while channeling it into \"industry regions\" adjacent to Israel. Through its control over most of the West Bank territory (60 percent - all of the Area C - which Israel set aside for expansion of the Jewish settlements), control was achieved through imposition of maximal restrictions: on construction permits, Palestinian developments plans, transfer of factory buildings out of residential neighborhoods, and the upgrading of industrial facilities.

Another method was based on restriction of movement from one region to the other. These restrictions have existed since 1991, but have grown more harsh in the past five years. You don\'t need to be an economist to understand just how unworthwhile it is to manufacture, to employ, to market or to trade when it takes a truck loaded with raw materials or finished goods eight hours to reach its destination, instead of one hour.

Another method of impairing Palestinian development potential is cutting off access to institutions of higher learning. Israel does not permit Gazans to study in the West Bank, where the educational institutions are better, and does not permit East Jerusalem Palestinians to study in the West Bank. The checkpoints and the creation of fenced-off enclosures compel students from the West Bank to live near their university, even if it is only 20 kilometers from home. This is an additional financial burden that many families cannot bear. The thinning out of the universities\' sources of income also affects their level.

There are no lack of economists who can prove the connection between Israeli methods of control and decline of the Palestinian economy. Abundant studies trace the direct line between the draconian restrictions on movement and the transformation of the majority of the Palestinian people into a nation of charity recipients, and it is a safe bet that the initiatives to continue giving them handouts of various sorts will go on unabated.

Therefore, the Palestinians should be worried and concerned, not happy, about Monday\'s announcement by the EU foreign ministers. It signals that the European states are going to continue forfeiting any opportunity to exert political pressure to put a stop to the Israeli policy of colonization, which has systematically sabotaged the economic capability of the Palestinians. By transferring the funds, they are covering up, and will continue to do so, for their political helplessness, and for their decision not to quarrel with the U.S., which supports this Israeli policy.

With the establishment of a Hamas-led government, other formulas will be found to continue providing the Palestinians a safety net of contributions and handouts. The government of Israel will cry foul and scream \"Aid to Hamas!\" but will quietly be pleased at the prospect.

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My Name Is Rachel Corrie: Surely Americans will not put up with this censorship?

Katharine Viner
Wednesday March 1, 2006
The Guardian

The decision by a New York theatre to cave in to pressure over our play shows how the scope for free debate has narrowed
The flights for cast and crew had been booked; the production schedule delivered; the press announcement drafted and approved; tickets advertised on the internet. The Royal Court production of My Name Is Rachel Corrie, the play I co-edited with Alan Rickman, was transferring next month to the New York Theatre Workshop, home of the groundbreaking musical Rent, following two sellout runs in London and several awards.

We always thought that it was a piece of work that needed to be seen in the US. Created from the journals and emails of American activist Rachel Corrie, telling of her journey from her adolescent life in Seattle, Washington, to her death under a bulldozer in Gaza at the age of 23, we considered it, in a sense, to be an American story, which would have a particular relevance for audiences in Rachel\'s home country. After all, she had made her journey to the Middle East in order \"to meet the people who are on the receiving end of our [American] tax dollars\", and she was a killed by a US-made bulldozer.

But last week the New York Theatre Workshop cancelled the production - or, in their words, \"postponed it indefinitely\". The political climate, we were told, had changed dramatically since the play was booked. As James Nicola, the theatre\'s artistic director, said yesterday: \"In our pre-production planning and our talking around and listening in our communities in New York, what we heard was that after Ariel Sharon\'s illness and the election of Hamas in the recent Palestinian elections, we had a very edgy situation.\" Rachel was to be censored for political reasons.

It makes you wonder. If a young, middle-class, scrupulously fair-minded, and dead, American woman, whose superb writing about her job as a mental health worker, ex-boyfriends, troublesome parents, struggle to find out who she wanted to be, and how she found that by travelling to Gaza and discovering the shocking conditions under which the Palestinians live - if a voice like this cannot be heard on a New York stage, what hope is there for anyone else? The non-American, the non-white, the non-dead, the oppressed?

Anyone who sees the play, or reads it, realises that this is no piece of alienating agitprop. One night in London, a group of American students came to a performance and mobbed us afterwards, thrilled that they had seen themselves on stage, and who they might, in a different life, have become. Another night, an Israeli couple, members of the rightwing Likud party, on holiday in Britain, were similarly impressed. \"The play wasn\'t against Israel, it was against violence,\" they told Cindy Corrie, Rachel\'s mother. I was particularly touched by a young Jewish New Yorker, from an Orthodox family, who said that he had been nervous about coming to see My Name Is Rachel Corrie, because he had been told that both she and it were viciously anti-Israel. But he had been powerfully moved by Rachel\'s words and realised that he had, to his alarm, been dangerously misled.

But the director of the New York theatre told the New York Times yesterday that it wasn\'t the people who actually saw the play he was concerned about. \"I don\'t think we were worried about the audience,\" he said. \"I think we were more worried that those who had never encountered her writing, never encountered the piece, would be using this as an opportunity to position their arguments.\" Since when did theatre come to be about those who don\'t go to see it? If the play itself, as Mr Nicola clearly concedes, is not the problem, then isn\'t the answer to get people in to watch it, rather than exercising prior censorship? With freedom of speech now at the top of the international agenda, and George Clooney\'s outstanding Good Night, and Good Luck reminding us of the dangers of not standing up to witch-hunts, Americans should not be denied the right to hear Rachel Corrie\'s words - words that only two weeks ago were deemed acceptable.

I\'d heard from American friends that life for dissenters had been getting worse - wiretapping scandals, arrests for wearing anti-war T-shirts, Muslim professors denied visas. But it\'s hard to tell from afar how bad things really are. Here was personal proof that the political climate is continuing to shift disturbingly, narrowing the scope of free debate and artistic expression. What was acceptable a matter of weeks ago is not acceptable now. The New York theatre\'s claim that the arrangement was tentative is absurd: the truth is that its management has caved in to political pressure, and the reputation of the arts in New York is the poorer for it.

It is surely underestimating the curiosity and robustness of the American public, many of whom would no doubt be interested in an insight into the reality of occupation that led to the Hamas victory. Artistic communities need to resist the censorship of voices that go against the grain of George Bush\'s America, rather than following the Fox News agenda and gagging them before they have even been heard.

· My Name Is Rachel Corrie will now be shown at the Playhouse theatre in London\'s West End from March 28; booking number 0870 060 6631


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Abramoff pushed plan to drill for oil in Israel - Established firm with two Russians

By Michael Kranish
Globe Staff
March 1, 2006

WASHINGTON -- Lobbyist Jack Abramoff worked with Russian partners to establish a company that envisioned a high-risk plan to drill for oil in Israel, which he hoped would bring him riches and reshape the Middle East, according to documents and his former lobbying partners.
The oil drilling plan, which has not been reported among Abramoff\'s many other schemes, casts new light on the scope of the disgraced lobbyist\'s dealings and the possible reach of the federal investigation into links between his clients, business partners, and members of Congress.

Documents reviewed by the Globe show that in November 2001 Abramoff sought a banker\'s letter vouching that his newly created company, First Gate Resources, could undertake a $5 million project. The letter was addressed to the then-Israeli oil commissioner.

A former Abramoff lobbying partner, Ronald Platt, said in an interview that he was shown a brochure about First Gate that listed the company officers as Abramoff and two Russian energy company executives of a Moscow firm called Naftasib.

\'\'They supposedly had some kind of technology for determining oil and gas resources, they had discovered vast oil and gas deposits in the Israeli desert, and [Abramoff believed that] if these were exploited it would change the whole dynamic of the Middle East,\" Platt said.

Abramoff\'s venture never got off the ground, but the plan provides significant new insights into the lobbyist\'s ties to Naftasib and its two senior executives.

Federal agents are probing Abramoff\'s dealings with the Russians as part of the larger investigation into whether he bribed members of Congress into helping his clients and then reaped huge fees and cash for his personal businesses. Federal investigators have sought information about Naftasib\'s interest in congressional support for Russian projects financed through the International Monetary Fund.

Naftasib executives helped arrange a trip Abramoff took to Moscow in 1997 with former House majority leader Tom DeLay, a close Abramoff friend.

Investigators have been trying to connect the dots on Abramoff\'s various activities for more than a year. In January, he pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud, and tax evasion in connection with his representation of Indian tribes, and agreed to cooperate with federal agents probing members of Congress.

His drilling company was set up in a way that shields the names of its officers. A company called First Gate Resources was set up under Delaware incorporation laws on Feb. 6, 2001, and dissolved in 2004, according to records.

E-mails released by a Senate committee probing Abramoff show that he counted on his Russian partners to write a letter to Israeli officials pledging financial support for his plan to drill for oil. The Russians, Alexander Koulakovsky and Marina Nevskaya, were top executives of the Moscow energy giant Naftasib and were connected to a company that paid $2.1 million in lobbying fees to Abramoff and his partners, according to former Abramoff associates.

Abramoff wrote an e-mail to a lobbying partner on Nov. 4, 2001, with the subject line of \'\'first gate,\" saying he needed the letter \'\'mega fast. This is something Alexander and Marina were supposed to get but have not done so. Our permit in Israel depends on it and we are running short of time.\"
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Abramoff then began looking for an alternative way to vouch for his financial standing.

In one e-mail, Abramoff described himself as \'\'the principal of First Gate\" and told his lobbying partner to have a banker write a letter vouching for him, suggesting that the letter say \'\'that my companies are well regarded and have integrity, that I have a fine reputation in Washington, D.C., that they believe I have the means and financial backing to undertake a project/transaction in the $5 million range.\"

When Abramoff\'s colleague responded via e-mail that a bank might be hesitant to write such a letter for a company that has just been established, Abramoff responded that \'\'it\'s really, really important to me to be able to do this.\" The two then discussed by e-mail putting large sums of money into accounts at the bank to smooth the way for the letter to be written.

Abramoff, an Orthodox Jew who frequently expressed a desire to help Israel, then drafted a letter to be sent by a bank to Yehezkiel Druckman, who was Israel\'s oil commissioner at the time.
Senate panel backs more openness on ties to lobbyists
Group sues to get White House logs on lobbyist\'s visits

The draft said that \'\'based on our experience with First Gate Resources Inc. we believe that the company has the means and the financial backing to undertake a project/transaction costing $5 million.\"

The e-mails do not make clear whether the letter was sent or what happened to Abramoff\'s dream of finding oil in Israel. Druckman, who is no longer the oil minister, could not be reached for comment.

The Israeli Embassy in Washington said it had no information on the Abramoff effort.

However, an Israeli oil specialist, Philip Mandelker, said that First Gate Resources did try to get a lease for petroleum.

\'\'My understanding is that First Gate Resources had been in contact with the Israeli authorities in about 2001 about the possibility of acquiring petroleum exploration rights,\" said Mandelker, who works for Zion Oil and Gas, a Texas company with no connection to Abramoff that is looking for oil in Israel.

Mandelker, who has discussed the matter with Israeli officials, said First Gate never got the required permits.

Israel does have significant natural gas resources, but the country imports nearly all of its oil. A report by the US Department of Energy says that about 460 oil wells have been drilled in Israel since the 1940s \'\'with little success.\"

But the report quotes Israeli officials as saying that the country could have large oil reserves beneath natural gas fields.

Within weeks of the effort to establish the oil-drilling plan, Abramoff discussed with the same Russian partners a plan to purchase night-vision equipment for settlers in territory occupied by Israel, according to his e-mails.

One e-mail sent to Abramoff on Oct. 15, 2001, says that it will cost $28,000 to purchase the equipment, and is signed by a person identified as \'\'Vadim, assistant to Mrs. Nevskaya.\" It is from an e-mail account at \'\'naftasib.com,\" the company where Nevskaya worked.

Shortly thereafter, an Abramoff-related group, Capital Athletic Foundation, listed an $18,000 \'\'donation of thermal imager,\" suggesting the equipment was bought and sent to the settlers.

A Washington representative of Naftasib declined comment, and Nevskaya did not respond to an e-mail request for comment. An Abramoff spokesman also declined comment.

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Censorship! Israelis ask Oscars to drop suicide bomb film

1 Mar 06

A group of Israelis who lost children to Palestinian suicide bombings appealed on Wednesday to organizers of next week\'s Academy Awards to disqualify a film exploring the reasoning behind such attacks.

The bereaved parents said they had gathered more than 32,000 signatures on a petition against the nomination in the best foreign film category of \"Paradise Now,\" a drama about two West Bank friends recruited to blow themselves up in Tel Aviv.

The controversial film was made by an Israeli Arab director and actors working with a Palestinian crew and locations. The producer was a Jewish Israeli and the funding was European.
Yossi Zur, whose teenage son Asaf was killed in a bus bombing, accused the film of sympathetically portraying a tactic hailed by many Palestinians waging a 5-year-old uprising.

\"What they call \'Paradise Now\' we call \'hell now\', each and every day,\" Zur told reporters. \"It is a mission of the free world not to give such movies a prize.\"

Film industry experts said it was unheard of for an Oscar nomination to be withdrawn. This year\'s ceremony is on March 5.

Major Israeli cinema chains have shunned \"Paradise Now,\" with distribution experts citing concern that its portrayal of suicide bombers could spell a low box-office turnout and even boycotts.

The film shows Palestinians bemoaning the travails of life under Israeli occupation, yet its characters also debate whether this warrants resorting to violence.

One of the protagonists takes on his deadly mission to exonerate guilt over a relative who spied for Israel, a comment on the complex pressures within Palestinian society.

Palestinians seeking independence in the West Bank and Gaza, which Israel captured in a 1967 war, won limited self-rule under interim accords that formed the Palestinian Authority. Some Jews opposed ceding the land, seeing it as their biblical birthright.

Fighting that erupted in 2000 and last month\'s victory in Palestinian elections of the Islamic militant group Hamas have dimmed hopes for peaceful two-state co-existence.


Despite its controversial subject, \"Paradise Now\" won a Golden Globe prize in January, boosting its Oscar prospects.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is already debating how to present the provenance of the film. The academy\'s Web site had listed it as coming from \"Palestine,\" drawing Israeli complaints as the state does not yet exist.

The controversy around \"Paradise Now\" compounds an already fraught Academy Awards for Israel, thanks to several nominations garnered by Steven Spielberg\'s \"Munich.\"

A thriller about the reprisals the Jewish state launched after 11 of its athletes died in a Palestinian raid on the 1972 Olympic Games, Munich has been accused by pro-Israel groups of skewing history and criticizing Israeli security policies.

Spielberg called the film his \"prayer for peace.\"

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If Cartoonists Have it, David Irving has a right to free speech, too

Jerusalem Post
1 Mar 06

The timing of Austria\'s conviction and imprisonment of David Irving for denying the Holocaust could not have been worse. Coming after the deaths of at least 30 people in Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Libya, Nigeria and other Islamic countries during protests against cartoons ridiculing Muhammad, the Irving verdict makes a mockery of the claim that in democratic countries freedom of expression is a basic right.

We cannot consistently hold that cartoonists have a right to mock religious figures but that it should be a criminal offense to deny the Holocaust. I believe that we should stand behind freedom of speech. And that means that David Irving should be freed.
Before you accuse me of failing to understand the sensitivities of victims of the Holocaust, or the nature of Austrian anti-Semitism, I should say that I am the son of Austrian Jews. My parents escaped Austria in time, but my grandparents did not.

All four of my grandparents were deported to ghettos in Poland and Czechoslovakia. Two of them were sent to Lodz, in Poland, and then probably murdered with carbon monoxide at the extermination camp at Chelmno. One fell ill and died in the overcrowded and underfed ghetto at Theresienstadt. My maternal grandmother was the only survivor.

So I have no sympathy for David Irving\'s absurd denial of the Holocaust - which he now claims was a mistake. I support efforts to prevent any return to Nazism in Austria or anywhere else. But how is the cause of truth served by prohibiting Holocaust denial? If there are still people crazy enough to deny that the Holocaust occurred, will they be persuaded by imprisoning people who express that view? On the contrary, they will be more likely to think that people are being imprisoned for expressing views that cannot be refuted by evidence and argument alone.

In his classic defense of freedom of speech in On Liberty, John Stuart Mill wrote that if a view is not \"fully, frequently, and fearlessly discussed,\" it will become \"a dead dogma, not a living truth.\" The existence of the Holocaust should remain a living truth, and those who are skeptical about the enormity of the Nazi atrocities should be confronted with the evidence for it.

IN THE aftermath of World War II, when the Austrian republic was struggling to establish itself as a democracy, it was reasonable, as a temporary emergency measure, for Austrian democrats to suppress Nazi ideas and propaganda. But that danger is long past. Austria is a democracy and a member of the EU. Despite the occasional resurgence of anti-immigrant and even racist views - an occurrence that is, lamentably, not limited to countries with a fascist past - there is no longer a serious threat of any return to Nazism in Austria.

By contrast, freedom of speech is essential to democratic regimes, and it must include the freedom to say what everyone else believes to be false, and even what many people find offensive. We must be free to deny the existence of God, and to criticize the teachings of Jesus, Moses, Muhammad and Buddha, as reported in texts that millions of people regard as sacred. Without that freedom, human progress will always run up against a basic roadblock.

Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms states: \"Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.\"

To be consistent with that clear statement - and without the vague qualifications of Article 11, which threaten to render it meaningless - Austria should repeal its law against Holocaust denial. Other European nations with similar laws - for example, Germany, France, Italy, and Poland - should do the same, while maintaining or strengthening their efforts to inform their citizens about the reality of the Holocaust and why the racist ideology that led to it should be rejected.

LAWS AGAINST incitement to racial, religious or ethnic hatred, in circumstances where that incitement is intended to - or can reasonably be foreseen to - lead to violence or other criminal acts, are different, and are compatible with maintaining freedom to express any views at all.

Only when David Irving has been freed will it be possible for Europeans to turn to the Islamic protesters and say: \"We apply the principle of freedom of expression evenhandedly, whether it offends Muslims, Christians, Jews or anyone else.\"

The writer, a professor of bioethics at Princeton University, is the author of, among other books, Pushing Time Away: My Grandfather and the Tragedy of Jewish Vienna. This piece was provided through www.project-syndicate.org.

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Iraq: A solution to nothing

By Scott Ritter
Special to The Seattle Times
1 Mar 06

As the United States and Iraq approach the third anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, it might do all Americans well to take some time out and reflect on how we got where we are, as well as where we are going in Iraq and the Middle East as a whole.

Gone forever is any talk of song and flowers, economic recoveries paid for by Iraqi oil, or a blooming democracy in the cradle of civilization. The state of affairs between the Bush administration and the newly elected government of Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari is strained, to say the least, with the United States threatening to cut off aid to Iraq, and Iraq telling the United States to \"butt out.\"
Nearly three months have passed since the \"historic\" elections of December 2005, and the Iraqis have just now selected a prime minister (Jafari, a Shiite Islamic fundamentalist closely allied with Iran), and seemed hopelessly deadlocked on the issue of forming a government that will not promote an immediate outbreak of sectarian violence once formed.

The Sunni insurgency is stronger than ever, and Shiite death squads roam the street in the guise of government police and soldiers. Torture, rape and murder are rampant as official tools of government suppression. And American troops appear to be powerless to stop this mindless slide into the abyss, all the while being killed and maimed for a cause that has always been nebulous.

\"Duty,\" \"honor\" and \"country\" mean little when the majority of the American citizens supposedly being served by the ongoing occupation of Iraq are more interested in \"American Idol\" than the process of bringing peace and stability to ancient Babylon, or when American politicians seem content to continue to allow the men and women who honor our nation through their service to die while those in power grasp for a politically face-saving way to \"solve the Iraqi problem.\" And herein lies the problem: We continue to try to solve a problem we have yet to define, meaning we are seeking a solution to nothing.

America continues to pretend that we are building something of value in Iraq. And yet, common sense dictates that when one seeks to build on a corrupt foundation, whatever it is that is being constructed is doomed eventually to collapse. Our nation\'s involvement in Iraq is based on as corrupt a foundation as imaginable. We didn\'t go to war for sound national-security reasons (i.e., a threat that manifested itself in a form solvable only through military intervention), but rather for domestic political reasons based on ideology that exploited the fear and ignorance of the American people in the post-Sept. 11, 2001, world.

In the topsy-turvy world of domestic American politics, this reality continues to fail to resonate. Those who opposed the invasion of Iraq continue to be demonized and marginalized, while those who supported it are embraced and applauded.

This \"through the looking glass\" quality in the American body politic not only hamstrings the nation collectively on the issue of solving the Iraq problem, but also continues to distort reality when dealing with other emerging problems confronting our country and the world, such as the looming crisis with Iran over its nuclear programs.

Even as we fail to grasp the lessons of our unraveling failure in Iraq, we seem to be moving full steam ahead into a similar catastrophe in Iran, making the same mistakes by embracing a threat model (nuclear weapons) void of any hard evidence, and promoting a solution (democracy) that is undefined.

If the upcoming leather anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq tells us anything as a nation, it is that we are in desperate need of a national \"time out\" when it comes to the issue of Iraq, Iran and the global war on terror. We need to learn the lesson that every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine serving oversees knows only too well - you don\'t reinforce failure.

If our politicians, Republican and Democrat alike, are unable or unwilling to engage in a rancor-free discussion about where we as a nation are heading when it comes to issues of war and peace, then perhaps we the people should engage in one of our own, and in the process establish agreed-upon principles and standards that not only would serve as a solid foundation upon which to build any future endeavors in the Middle East and elsewhere, but also set forward values and ideals that could be used to hold to account those whom we elect to represent us in higher office.

Scott Ritter is a former U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq (1991-1998) and Marine Corps intelligence officer. He is the author of \"Iraq Confidential: The Untold Story of the Intelligence Conspiracy to Undermine the U.N. and Overthrow Saddam Hussein,\" published by Nation Books. He is speaking at Town Hall, Eighth Avenue and Seneca Street in Seattle, at 7:30 p.m. tonight.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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Caught in the Crossfire

By Mike Whitney
1 Mar 06

The events of the last week have created considerable uncertainty among Iraq-watchers about what is actually taking place on the ground. It is increasingly difficult to know who is generating the violence and why. Particularly puzzling, is trying to identify the motives behind the destruction of the Golden Dome Mosque and the massive reprisals which occurred with such astonishing speed that they seemed to be pre-arranged.

Were they?
Were the "grisly attacks and other sectarian violence unleashed by last week's bombing"…"which killed more than 1,300 Iraqis" (Washington Post) merely a spontaneous reaction to the destruction of the Askariya Mosque, or were they part of a broader strategy to incite civil war?

And why were so many of those who were killed …"shot, knifed, garroted or suffocated by plastic bags over their heads". (Washington Post) Many others were killed gangland-style with hands bound behind their backs and a gunshot wound to the head.

Is this the method of killing that we would normally expect from rampaging mobs, or is it more like a deliberate campaign of terror designed to spread fear throughout the community.

In Max Fuller's seminal article, "For Iraq, 'The Salvador-Option, becomes Reality", Fuller points out that the Iraqi Interior Ministry's death squads were, in fact, trained by agents from the CIA who had honed their skills in Vietnam and El Salvador. (Recently even the New York Times has admitted that these groups received American training) Fuller sees the same pattern appearing in Iraq as in other American-backed counterinsurgency operations. He says:

"In Iraq the war comes in two phases. The first phase is complete: the destruction of the existing state, which did not comply with the interests of British and American capital. The second phase consists of building a new state tied to those interests and smashing every dissenting sector of society."

Fuller's observations are consistent with what we already know about the deliberate destruction of Iraqi institutions, infrastructure, trade unions, peasant organizations and academics. The Iraqi state is being systematically decimated to pave the way for the new order.

Fuller states: "Behind every imperialist counter-insurgency war…lurks the reality of exploitation and class war, and, as successive imperialist powers have shown, the bottom line in combating the hopes and dreams of ordinary people is to resort to spreading terror through the application of extreme violence. In Iraq, the Salvador Option may mean returning home to find your entire family seated at a table with their own severed heads served to them and a bowl of blood for relish."

So, how does Fuller's theory square with the reality of this week's violence in Iraq?

Well, for one thing, Iraqi-born novelist, Haifa Zangana, confirms that there is "a systematic assassination-campaign" directed at academics and human rights activists which is designed to "destroy intellectual life in Iraq". (http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m21084&hd=0&size=1&l=e) Hundreds of Iraqi intellectuals have been killed without prompting even one investigation by occupation authorities.

Does that sound intentional?

We also have on record the observations of Construction Minister Jassem Mohammed Jaafar who investigated the site of the bombed-out Askariya Mosque and acknowledged that it "was the work of specialists…..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." (http://www.uruknet.info/?p=m20998)

Who benefits from such a vicious attack on one of the main icons of Islamic identity?

Some observers are suggesting that Muqtada al-Sadr, the defiant adversary of the US occupation, may have been behind the bombing so that his "black-clad" Mahdi Army could sweep through Baghdad purging his Sunni enemies.

Could al-Sadr be operating secretly as an agent of Iran establishing himself as a main-player in a future Iraqi Islamic state?

It's possible.

After all, The Washington Post states that, "Many of the bodies had their hands still bound-and many of them had wound up at the morgue after what their families had said was their abduction by the Mahdi Army, the Shi'ite militia of Muqtada al-Sadr."

Al-Sadr has denied any involvement in the carnage that followed the bombing. But, is he lying? Did agents from the Interior Ministry dress in black so they would look like the Mahdi Army and, thus, connect al-Sadr to the hostilities?

It is impossible to know.

We do know, however, that al-Sadr met the very next day with representatives of the Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars (AMS) and called for an immediate end to the bloodshed.

He also delivered a speech that was suspiciously omitted from western press-coverage where he demanded an end to the violence and an immediate withdrawal of all occupation forces.

He said, "The Iraqi people must not be divided"…"they are one from north to south"….He called for "joint Friday communal prayers with both Sunnis and Shiites" affirming that "there are no Sunni or Shiites mosques, you are a single people."

"Do you want to give aid to the enemy? Do you want to render the occupier victorious? Do you wish to make Satan triumphant or do you wish to help the truth.

No, no to falsehood," he shouted.

"Our Iraq is passing through a big crisis, insofar as our enemies are entering among our brethren and spreading turmoil among you."

"Do not forget the plotting of the Occupation, for if we forget its plots it will kill us all without exception. This series of attacks is not the first and it won't be the last. The attacks will continue. Beware, and be responsible. Religion is your responsibility, mosques are your responsibility, the Muslim people are your responsibility, so do not attack the secure houses of God. Love one another and be brethren of one another so that our Iraq will be secure and stable and independent. We want the expulsion of the Occupier and the American ambassador." (Juan Cole; "Informed Comment")

Is al-Sadr sincere or is this just another political ploy to boost his popularity?

The problem with al-Sadr's speech is that it doesn't fit with the facts as we know them. The relatives of many of the victims of the killing spree spoke only of Sadrists, not of death squads. Also, a number of bloggers have stated unequivocally that it was the Mahdi Army who led the attacks.

What's most damaging to al-Sadr, however, is the fact that over 1,300 Iraqis were killed and 200 mosques destroyed in the rampage. How could the Interior Ministry's meager death squads kill on a scale like that? That would require a small army…. the Mahdi Army. This makes al-Sadr the prime suspect in the Baghdad massacre.

So what does al-Sadr gain from all this?

Well, for the time being he is the most powerful man in Baghdad. He's out-maneuvered the Iraqi Security Forces, the US Army, and Iraq's Prime Minister al-Jaafari. His ruthlessness and political cunning have made him Iraq's newest political powerbroker. Many people now believe that he is more influential than Supreme Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

The ascendancy of al-Sadr demonstrates the inability of the United States to bring either democracy or security to the Iraqi people. Al-Sadr has simply filled a security-vacuum created by the occupation. As political analyst Phyllis Bennis says, "The declared US strategy of training an Iraqi counter-insurgency military force to replace US and 'coalition' troops is a failure."

The Bush plan has completely backfired and put forces in motion that can no longer be controlled. The Iraqi-state has been crushed, but a multi-headed hydra has sprung up in its place making the country ungovernable. The US now faces an intractable resistance on the one hand and militia-violence on the other. Both will continue to gnaw-away relentlessly at America's vulnerabilities.

Iraq's devolution into anarchy does not bode well for the occupation. The factionalized-asymmetrical warfare is best-suited to disparate groups who can strike at will and disappear into the crowd. Guerilla attacks counteract the US military's strongest assets; high-tech weaponry and overwhelming force. We can expect a "long slog" as conditions continue to degenerate.

It's going to be "militia-rule" for quite a while in the new Iraq. America can either withdraw now or prepare to get caught in the crossfire.

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Is this war worth the price? - Look closely at the face of collateral damage in Iraq before you answer

By Sally Kalson
February 26, 2006

Pittsburghers were captivated this week by the 7-year-old Iraqi boy who arrived here for reconstructive facial surgery at Children\'s Hospital, having been badly disfigured in an American bombing raid in 2004.

On a shoestring budget, the American group No More Victims arranged for his medical care, got visas for the child and his father, paid their expenses in Jordan until the documents came through, and is still trying to raise the cash to cover the travel. A Massachusetts philanthropist kicked in $50,000 for the hospital bill. A single mom in Banksville has taken father and son into her home during their stay.

It\'s a story that bores right through peoples\' defenses without regard to politics, position on the war, religious beliefs or lack thereof (the family is Muslim; the U.S. Army veteran who spent six weeks in Jordan working on their visas is an atheist; the host family is Catholic; the philanthropist is Jewish).
No one with a beating heart could look at Abdul Hakim Ismael\'s scarred face and the happy, excited, nervous child behind it, and not be moved. No one could look at the many people who\'ve stepped up to help and not be inspired.

But this story does not begin and end with an injured little boy, or the other wounded children that the group is helping. It begins with the Bush administration\'s prosecution of the Iraq war, and the thousands of innocent civilians it is willing to sacrifice in pursuit of its unintelligible goals. Where it ends, no one knows.

This is not to say the Pentagon is intentionally creating such victims. It is to say that despite its best efforts to minimize the damage, a bomb dropped on a child does the same damage accidentally as it does on purpose, and that, by definition, hundreds of bombs dropped on hundreds of villages have created countless Abdul Hakims already and are going to keep creating more.

Yes, war is hell, and that\'s true for American soldiers as well as the Iraqis. The question for the American public is how much more hell we are willing to inflict in the name of this particular war.

There\'s only one honest way to answer this question, and that is with the human results of U.S. policy right before our eyes. Americans need to see these shattered kids and families up close. Likewise, the U.S. veterans coming home maimed, traumatized or dead. Only then can citizens make an informed decision as to whether this war is worth its weight in carnage, not to mention $200 billion-plus.

U.S. Army Capt. Chad Hetman, 34, doesn\'t think it is. He is the aforementioned veteran who stayed with Abdul Hakim and his dad in Jordan and brought them to Pittsburgh.

The New Jersey native entered the Army through the ROTC program at Rutgers University in 1993. He served in the National Guard, was a 2nd lieutenant in the infantry, served in Korea and trained other soldiers in counter-guerilla warfare. Disenchanted with the military, he left active duty as a captain in 2002 and still holds that rank in the Individual Ready Reserves. Since then he\'s been an activist with Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace and other organizations.

\"I got out of the Army before Iraq but I still feel that as a U.S. citizen, I\'m an accomplice,\" he said. \"Friends of mine have been hurt or killed over there. Soldiers are coming back in bad shape and not getting the treatment they need. Tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis have been hurt. I was feeling helpless, but helping this child has been the greatest medicine for that.\"

Cole Miller, co-founder of No More Victims, said it\'s critical for Americans to show the world they care about the human suffering caused by the war. And, he added, it\'s no coincidence that so many Americans never saw a badly injured Iraqi child until one arrived in their midst, or that the administration has blacked out coverage of flag-draped coffins arriving home.

\"That\'s a tactical decision,\" he said. \"They know that if the American people see what\'s really going on, they won\'t support it and might even try to stop it.\"

That\'s the lesson the Pentagon learned from Vietnam, he said, when searing images like that of the 9-year-old girl running naked and crying after a napalm attack on her village helped turn Americans against the war.

\"When Gen. Tommy Franks said we don\'t count Iraqi casualties, the message is that Iraqis don\'t count. I believe they do count, and so do many other Americans. The response to Abdul Hakim and the others proves it. Given the chance to step up, people will do amazing things.\"There\'s going to be a lot more killing and maiming of innocents in Iraq, especially now that civil war seems increasingly likely if not already under way. What the United States can do about that is an open question.

The growing dilemmas of this war are far too heavy a burden for one little boy. He\'s here to be healed, and that\'s an act of kindness, generosity and hope. At some point he\'ll go home. To what, one fears to ask. But the fact of his presence has done more to inform the citizenry than a thousand presidential speeches. From this point on, we can\'t say we didn\'t know.

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The \"Shock and Awe\" Photo Gallery


If you want \"God\'s View\" of what George Bush and the Neocons are doing, look. But brace yourself for a broken heart - if you have one. The March For Justice is dedicating its "Shock and Awe Gallery" as an authentic historical documentation and evidence of the U.S./British Crime of the Century. As attacks on freedom and the free have become characteristic of contemporary America, we advise and encourage all those who support Truth and Justice, to save our material and to make the utmost use of it, as its intended objective is revealing facts and reality. Should our voice be silenced, we pray that our efforts will contribute to the awakening of the human conscience, yearning for a world of Justice and Peace. To all of the heroes who visited our site, who responded with disagreement or with agreement*, and who care for truth and a world without killing, tyranny or oppression, we remain eternally grateful, for they are the hope for all of us and a sign of good things to come.

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Pentagon dismisses US troop poll

From correspondents in Washington
March 02, 2006

THE Pentagon has dismissed a poll\'s finding that 72 per cent of United States troops in Iraq believe the US should pull out within a year or less.

\"It shouldn\'t surprise anybody that a deployed soldier would rather be at home than deployed, even when they believe what they are doing is important and vital work,\" Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.
The poll by Le Moyne College and Zogby International found that only 23 per cent believed US troops should stay in Iraq \"as long as it takes\", as US President George W. Bush has insisted.

Nearly one in three troops said US forces should withdraw immediately.

Another 22 per cent said US forces should be out within six months, and 21 per cent thought they should exit within a year.

\"I don\'t think anybody is getting alarmed over any one poll, if that\'s what you\'re asking me,\" Mr Whitman said.

He said some of the military\'s highest retention rates had been among frontline units in Iraq and Afghanistan, indicating morale remained strong.

Military recruiters had also met all their goals so far this year, he said.

The survey was conducted among 944 US military personnel at several locations in Iraq. It had a margin of error of 3.3 per cent.

Mr Whitman said the poll was conducted without US Defence Department involvement.

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More Iraq Vets Seek Mental Health Care

1 Mar 06

Thirty-five percent of Iraq veterans received mental health care during their first year home, according to a new Pentagon study. In addition, 12 percent of the more than 222,000 returning Army soldiers and Marines in the study were diagnosed with a mental problem.
The researchers did not find the results surprising, because the military has a new mental health screening program for returning soldiers and is encouraging them to get help early to prevent serious problems later, said study co-author Dr. Charles Hoge, a colonel at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

Because of the new screening program, the findings cannot be compared with those from previous wars, Hoge said.

\"There are psychological consequences of war and we want to address those up front,\" Hoge said. \"The hope is we won\'t have as high rates of mental health consequences as we\'ve seen in prior wars.\"

But CBS News correspondent David Martin reports the actual number of soldiers who need treatment is higher, since other studies have shown that half the soldiers who need treatment are unwilling to admit it.

\"There are individuals who are afraid to come in and get help despite needing it, because of fear that they\'ll be stigmatized,\" Hoge told Martin.

Nineteen percent of those back from Iraq reported mental health concerns, compared with 11 percent of those back from Afghanistan and 8.5 percent of those returning from other places, such as Bosnia.

The study appears Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Veterans\' advocates said the study supports their call for increased spending on mental health care for Iraq veterans.

President Bush\'s budget plan includes a 6 percent increase in spending for the Department of Veterans Affairs. But some in Congress say that is not enough because the increase hinges on more than $1 billion in cuts in other VA spending and the approval of new fees and co-payments for some veterans.

\"This budget would ultimately shortchange veterans who need mental health services,\" said Ralph Ibson, a vice president of the National Mental Health Association. \"This study can and should be a wake-up call in terms of veterans\' mental health needs.\"

Medical authorities first accepted post-traumatic stress disorder as a psychiatric condition in 1980 at the urging of Vietnam veterans. A previous study by Hoge and his colleagues found 15 percent to 17 percent of soldiers returning from Iraq showed signs of the disorder, and many were reluctant to seek help because of the stigma attached to mental illness.

Shortly after starting the ground war in Iraq in 2003, the Pentagon began requiring returning service members to complete a three-page survey that is used to decide who needs additional help.

Among other things, the veterans are asked whether they have had nightmares, whether they are constantly on guard or easily startled, and whether they feel numb or detached from others.

\"In prior wars, mental health issues weren\'t studied until years, sometimes decades, after the soldiers came back,\" Hoge said. \"For this war, we\'re doing it differently. Research is influencing policy and we\'re adjusting policies as the data come in.\"

©MMVI CBS Broadcasting Inc.

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Former US troops rail against war

28 Feb 06

"I joined up the day after September 11, 2001. I saw action in Falluja and Baghdad. My mortar platoon dropped numerous rounds on the town of Samawa during the start of the invasion. I don't know how many innocents I killed with my mortar rounds.

"I was so disgusted by the war that, after we came home in January 2004, I filed for conscientious objector status and received that status in December 2004. I'm a Christian. What was I doing holding a gun to another human being?"
Two former US soldiers will address 18 meetings across Ireland starting this week.

The Irish Anti-War Movement is organising the speaking tour by a veteran of the Vietnam War and a veteran of the US occupation of Iraq.

Iraq veteran Benjamin Hart Viges and his unit were involved in mortar raids during the US siege of Falluja in 2003.
Mr Viges, of the group Iraq Veterans Against the War, and Frank Corcoran of Vietnam Veterans Against the War will address meetings in most major cities and towns as well as every major university on the island.

The meetings are being held in the run-up to the anti-war march planned for Dublin city centre on Saturday, March 18.
Mr Viges said: "I am a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans for Peace. I was with the 82nd Airborne Division as a mortarman when my unit was deployed to Iraq in February 2003.

"I joined up the day after September 11, 2001. I saw action in Falluja and Baghdad. My mortar platoon dropped numerous rounds on the town of Samawa during the start of the invasion. I don't know how many innocents I killed with my mortar rounds.

"I was so disgusted by the war that, after we came home in January 2004, I filed for conscientious objector status and received that status in December 2004. I'm a Christian. What was I doing holding a gun to another human being?"

Frank Corcoran served with the marines in 1968 in Vietnam. Before travelling to Ireland, he said: "I have been a member of Philadelphia Veterans for Peace since 1990. I have also been active in the School of the Americas Watch campaign for ten, 12 years.

"I am a cancer victim because of exposure to Agent Orange while in Vietnam. I am an elementary school teacher for the past 20 years. I'm an Iraq Veterans Against the War board member and a volunteer staff member for IVAW for the past year and a half."

At the March 18 protest, the anti-war movement will also be calling for an end to CIA "torture flights" through Irish airspace and an end to the use of Shannon airport by the US military.

Over the past year, more than 300,000 US troops have passed through Shannon airport in Co Clare. The March 18 demonstration in Ireland will begin at 2pm in Dublin's Parnell Square.

The two men will speak tomorrow in the ATGWU Hall on Dublin's Middle Abbey Street at 7pm. On Thursday, they will speak at 7pm at Transport House, High Street, Belfast.
On Friday, they will speak at Badgers Bar, Orchard Street, Derry.

For a full list of the 18 meetings, go to www.irishantiwar.org.

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Troops\' families call Blair a \'coward\'

Evening Times
1 Mar 06

FAMILIES of service personnel killed in Iraq today called Tony Blair a \"coward\" for refusing to meet them to discuss their campaign for troops to be withdrawn.
Glasgow mum Rose Gentle was among the bereaved relatives who handed in a letter at 10 Downing Street asking the Prime Minister to reconsider keeping troops in Iraq.

They said the deaths of two British soldiers from 2nd Battalion the Parachute Regiment yesterday meant more families would endure \"agony\".

Their letter stated: \"A meeting might give you pause for thought.

\"It is time for you to take us and our views seriously. We believe we speak for the majority in this country in our desire to bring the troops home.\"

The Prime Minister was at the House of Commons when the families walked up Downing Street to deliver the letter.

Mrs Gentle, whose son Gordon, 19, of the Royal Highland Fusiliers died in June 2004, revealed she received a personally signed letter from Mr Blair two weeks ago which said: \"I am afraid a meeting with you will not be possible.\"

She said: \"The boys should be brought home now.

\"I am receiving an increasing number of phone calls and texts from people serving in the army in Iraq supporting our campaign because they want out.

\"There is growing support from military families and Tony Blair is too much of a coward to even meet with us.

\"He should have the decency to meet us for five minutes.\"

Roger Bacon, father of Major Matthew Bacon, 34, who died last September, said he wanted Mr Blair to explain why Britain was involved in the conflict and why troops remained.

He said: \"I don\'t think we should have been involved. We want him to tell us why our sons have been killed.

\"He has not bothered to visit those wounded in Iraq and has had as little as possible to do with troops killed or injured.

\"We are not going to rant and rave at him - we just want to hear his reasons for what has happened.\"

Pauline Hickey, mother of Sergeant Chris Hickey of the 1st Battalion, The Coldstream Guards who died last October only joined the campaign by the military families yesterday following the latest deaths.

She said: \"I want to get justice for my son and I want answers from Tony Blair. He has something to hide. The man has little humanity.\"

Today in Baghdad, at least 23 people have died in a wave of sectarian attacks and suicide bombings.

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A Daily Look at Military Deaths in Iraq - 2,295

2 Mar 06

AP - As of Wednesday, March 1, 2006, at least 2,295 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. The figure includes seven military civilians. At least 1,800 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers.

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Iraq study warned of civil war - White House, Military Dismissed \'03 Analysis

By Warren P. Strobel and Jonathan S. Landay
Knight Ridder
1 Mar 06

WASHINGTON - U.S. intelligence agencies repeatedly warned the White House beginning more than two years ago that the insurgency in Iraq had deep local roots, was likely to worsen and could lead to civil war, according to former senior intelligence officials who helped craft the reports.
Among the warnings, Knight Ridder has learned, was a major study, called a National Intelligence Estimate, completed in October 2003 that concluded that the insurgency was fueled by local conditions -- not foreign terrorists -- and drew strength from deep grievances, including the presence of U.S. troops.

The existence of the top-secret document, which was the subject of a bitter three-month debate among U.S. intelligence agencies, has not been previously disclosed to a wide public audience.

The reports received a cool reception from Bush administration policy-makers at the White House and the office of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, according to the former officials, who discussed them publicly for the first time.

President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Rumsfeld and others continued to describe the insurgency as a containable threat, posed mainly by former supporters of Saddam Hussein, criminals and non-Iraqi terrorists -- even as the U.S. intelligence community was warning otherwise.

Robert Hutchings, the chair of the National Intelligence Council from 2003 to 2005, said the October 2003 study was part of a ``steady stream\'\' of dozens of intelligence reports warning Bush and his top lieutenants that the insurgency was intensifying and expanding.

``Frankly, senior officials simply weren\'t ready to pay attention to analysis that didn\'t conform to their own optimistic scenarios,\'\' Hutchings said.

The NIC is the intelligence community\'s foremost group of senior analysts, and as its chair, Hutchings presided over the drafting of the October 2003 report and other analyses of the insurgency.

Tuesday in Congress, Army Lt. Gen. Michael Maples, the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified that the insurgency ``remains strong and resilient.\'\'

Maples said that while Iraqi terrorists and foreign fighters conduct some of the most spectacular attacks, disaffected Iraqi Sunnis make up the insurgency\'s core. ``So long as Sunni Arabs are denied access to resources and lack a meaningful presence in government, they will continue to resort to violence,\'\' he told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

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Explosions kills more than 20 in Baghdad; Sunni group blasts government for ongoing violence

Associated Press
March 1, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Violence raged unabated in Iraq on Wednesday as bomb attacks killed at least 26 people in Baghdad and mortar rounds fell on homes in a nearby town.
A spokesman for the powerful Association of Muslim Scholars, meanwhile, blasted the government for failing to staunch the deadly sectarian attacks over the past week that have pushed the country toward civil war.

\'\'It is clear that the government and its security forces are incapable of taking any action,\'\' said Abdul-Salam al-Kubaisi, a spokesman for the Sunni clerical group. Government forces, he said, should \'\'do their duty and withdraw to the Green Zone,\'\' the secure region in central Baghdad that houses the U.S. Embassy.

Al-Kubaisi denied Sunnis were behind the latest attacks, saying Shiite politicians and religious leaders were trying to inflame sectarian hatred \'\'to make use of these events and everything in this country to achieve one goal - to serve their future interests.\'\'

Wednesday\'s most dramatic attack - a car bomb near a traffic police office in a primarily Shiite neighborhood in southeast Baghdad - killed at least 23 people and wounded 58, according to police Lt. Thaer Mahmoud.

About an hour earlier, a bomb hidden under a car detonated as a police patrol was passing near downtown Tahrir Square, said Interior Ministry Maj. Falah al-Mohammedawi. Police were unharmed but three civilians died and 15 were injured.

Also Wednesday, mortar shells fell on three houses in the mixed Sunni-Shiite town of Mahmoudiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad, killing three civilians, said police Capt. Rashid al-Samaraie.

The latest blasts occurred one day after Sunnis and Shiites in Baghdad traded bombings and mortar fire against mainly religious targets, killing at least 68 people following an end to curfews and vehicle restrictions that had briefly calmed a series of sectarian reprisal attacks.

At least six of Tuesday\'s attacks hit religious targets, concluding with a car bombing after sundown at the Shiite Abdel Hadi Chalabi mosque in the Hurriyah neighborhood that killed 23 and wounded 55. A separate suicide bombing killed 23 people at an east Baghdad gas station, where people had lined up to buy kerosine.

In addition to those known to have been killed Tuesday, police found nine more bullet-riddled bodies, including a Sunni Muslim tribal sheik, off a road southeast of Baghdad. It was unclear when they died.

Late Tuesday police reported finding the body of Shiite cleric Hani Hadi handcuffed, blindfolded and shot in the head near a Sunni mosque in Baghdad\'s notorious Dora neighborhood.

The surge of violence deepened the trauma of residents already shaken by fears the country was teetering on the brink of sectarian civil war, threatened talks among Iraqi politicians struggling to form a government and raised questions about U.S. plans to begin drawing down troop strength this summer.

Iraq began to tilt seriously toward outright civil war after the Feb. 22 bombing of the important Shiite Askariya shrine in the mainly Sunni city of Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad.

President Bush decried the latest surge in sectarian violence Tuesday and said that for Iraqis \'\'the choice is chaos or unity.\'\'

\'\'The people of Iraq and their leaders must make a choice,\'\' Bush said before leaving for a trip to South Asia. \'\'The choice is chaos or unity, the choice is a free society, or a society dictated by evil people who would kill innocents.\'\'

Later, Bush said conversations with Iraqi leaders representing Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish factions helped reassure him that no larger role for the U.S. military is required and that the situation will not turn into all-out civil war.

The sectarian violence has hit Baghdad the hardest because the population in the capital is about evenly divided between Shiites and Sunnis, more so than in any other region of the country.

Before Wednesday\'s attacks, the government issued a statement declaring that 379 people had been killed and 458 wounded as of 4 p.m. Tuesday in the sectarian violence tied to the Askariya bombing.


Associated Press Writer Alexandra Zavis contributed to this report from Baghdad

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Eight killed as violence rages in Baghdad

Associated Press and Reuters

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq braced for another day of violence on Thursday as attacks in Baghdad killed at least eight. A bus blast in Baghdad\'s Shiite Sadr City killed five people and wounded eight, police said, while earlier that morning a bomb at a market killed three.
The sprawling Shiite slum of Sadr City is a stronghold of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has reached across Iraq\'s sectarian divide and called for Sunni and Shiite solidarity in fighting U.S. occupation. It was not clear what caused the blast.

Mehdi Army militias loyal to Sadr patrol the streets of Sadr City, where violence that has hit other parts of the capital has been rare.

Earlier, a roadside bomb planted near a police station killed three people and wounded 10 in a market in southeastern Baghdad.

This comes after another bloody day on Wednesday, when two bomb attacks killed at least 26 people in Baghdad and mortar rounds fell on homes in a nearby town, killing four people.

And north of Baghdad, gunmen ambushed a police convoy, killing an unspecified number of officers and abducting another 10, police said. Four officers were seriously wounded.

The convoy of five minibuses was returning from a training session in Sulaimaniyah when it was attacked about 45 miles northeast of Tikrit, police Capt. Hakim al-Azzawi said. The assailants drove off in one of the minibuses.

U.S. troop cuts?
Despite the spike in violence, which has heightened worries about civil war there, the Pentagon continued discussing further cutting American forces, defense officials said on Wednesday.

Bryan Whitman, a senior Pentagon spokesman, said Army Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, planned to make a recommendation this spring to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and President Bush on future U.S. troop levels.

The United States has 133,000 troops in Iraq, the Pentagon said, down from about 160,000 in December when they were helping secure Iraq's parliamentary elections. The Pentagon has cut U.S. combat brigades to 15 from 17.

Defense officials previously have said the Pentagon was looking at options for troop levels in Iraq in 2006 including dropping down to about 100,000 if security and political conditions permit, but with other options for smaller cuts or none at all.

A defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said U.S. military commanders believed the U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces did "a tremendous job" containing a rash of sectarian violence triggered by last week's bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra.

That bolsters confidence that the Iraqi forces are capable of handling the load in the event the Pentagon cuts U.S. troop levels, the official said.

Baghdad's surge in attacks after a curfew was lifted Monday also prompted a spokesman for the powerful Association of Muslim Scholars to blast the Iraqi government for failing to staunch the violence between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

"It is clear that the government and its security forces are incapable of taking any action," said Abdul-Salam al-Kubaisi, a spokesman for the Sunni clerical group. Government forces, he said, should "do their duty and withdraw to the Green Zone," the secure region in central Baghdad that houses the U.S. Embassy.

Al-Kubaisi denied Sunnis were behind the latest attacks, saying Shiite politicians and religious leaders were trying to inflame sectarian hatred "to make use of these events and everything in this country to achieve one goal - to serve their future interests."

Political maneuverings
Meantime on Wednesday, non-Shiite leaders mounted a challenge to Shiite-backed Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who has been nominated for a second term.

The call to withdraw that nomination is expected to draw sharp opposition from al-Sadr, whose support enabled al-Jaafari to win the nomination by a single vote in a Feb. 12 caucus of Shiites.

A political battle over al-Jaafari could further complicate efforts to form a national unity government - a key step in the U.S. plan to begin withdrawing its troops this year. Those efforts have been strained by a wave of sectarian violence triggered by the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite shrine.

Wednesday's most dramatic attack - a car bomb near a traffic police office in a primarily Shiite neighborhood in southeast Baghdad - killed at least 23 people and wounded 58, according to police Lt. Thaer Mahmoud.

About an hour earlier, a bomb hidden under a car detonated as a police patrol was passing near downtown Tahrir Square, said Interior Ministry Maj. Falah al-Mohammedawi. Police were unharmed but three civilians died and 15 were injured.

Also Wednesday, mortar shells fell on three houses in the mixed Sunni-Shiite town of Mahmoudiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad, killing three civilians, said police Capt. Rashid al-Samaraie. Another house was hit in Qadisiyah, another religiously mixed neighborhood in western Baghdad, killing a woman, police said.

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Eight killed as violence rages in Baghdad

Associated Press and Reuters

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq braced for another day of violence on Thursday as attacks in Baghdad killed at least eight. A bus blast in Baghdad\'s Shiite Sadr City killed five people and wounded eight, police said, while earlier that morning a bomb at a market killed three.
The sprawling Shiite slum of Sadr City is a stronghold of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who has reached across Iraq\'s sectarian divide and called for Sunni and Shiite solidarity in fighting U.S. occupation. It was not clear what caused the blast.

Mehdi Army militias loyal to Sadr patrol the streets of Sadr City, where violence that has hit other parts of the capital has been rare.

Earlier, a roadside bomb planted near a police station killed three people and wounded 10 in a market in southeastern Baghdad.

This comes after another bloody day on Wednesday, when two bomb attacks killed at least 26 people in Baghdad and mortar rounds fell on homes in a nearby town, killing four people.

And north of Baghdad, gunmen ambushed a police convoy, killing an unspecified number of officers and abducting another 10, police said. Four officers were seriously wounded.

The convoy of five minibuses was returning from a training session in Sulaimaniyah when it was attacked about 45 miles northeast of Tikrit, police Capt. Hakim al-Azzawi said. The assailants drove off in one of the minibuses.

U.S. troop cuts?
Despite the spike in violence, which has heightened worries about civil war there, the Pentagon continued discussing further cutting American forces, defense officials said on Wednesday.

Bryan Whitman, a senior Pentagon spokesman, said Army Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, planned to make a recommendation this spring to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and President Bush on future U.S. troop levels.

The United States has 133,000 troops in Iraq, the Pentagon said, down from about 160,000 in December when they were helping secure Iraq's parliamentary elections. The Pentagon has cut U.S. combat brigades to 15 from 17.

Defense officials previously have said the Pentagon was looking at options for troop levels in Iraq in 2006 including dropping down to about 100,000 if security and political conditions permit, but with other options for smaller cuts or none at all.

A defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said U.S. military commanders believed the U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces did "a tremendous job" containing a rash of sectarian violence triggered by last week's bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra.

That bolsters confidence that the Iraqi forces are capable of handling the load in the event the Pentagon cuts U.S. troop levels, the official said.

Baghdad's surge in attacks after a curfew was lifted Monday also prompted a spokesman for the powerful Association of Muslim Scholars to blast the Iraqi government for failing to staunch the violence between Shiite and Sunni Muslims.

"It is clear that the government and its security forces are incapable of taking any action," said Abdul-Salam al-Kubaisi, a spokesman for the Sunni clerical group. Government forces, he said, should "do their duty and withdraw to the Green Zone," the secure region in central Baghdad that houses the U.S. Embassy.

Al-Kubaisi denied Sunnis were behind the latest attacks, saying Shiite politicians and religious leaders were trying to inflame sectarian hatred "to make use of these events and everything in this country to achieve one goal - to serve their future interests."

Political maneuverings
Meantime on Wednesday, non-Shiite leaders mounted a challenge to Shiite-backed Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who has been nominated for a second term.

The call to withdraw that nomination is expected to draw sharp opposition from al-Sadr, whose support enabled al-Jaafari to win the nomination by a single vote in a Feb. 12 caucus of Shiites.

A political battle over al-Jaafari could further complicate efforts to form a national unity government - a key step in the U.S. plan to begin withdrawing its troops this year. Those efforts have been strained by a wave of sectarian violence triggered by the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite shrine.

Wednesday's most dramatic attack - a car bomb near a traffic police office in a primarily Shiite neighborhood in southeast Baghdad - killed at least 23 people and wounded 58, according to police Lt. Thaer Mahmoud.

About an hour earlier, a bomb hidden under a car detonated as a police patrol was passing near downtown Tahrir Square, said Interior Ministry Maj. Falah al-Mohammedawi. Police were unharmed but three civilians died and 15 were injured.

Also Wednesday, mortar shells fell on three houses in the mixed Sunni-Shiite town of Mahmoudiya, 20 miles south of Baghdad, killing three civilians, said police Capt. Rashid al-Samaraie. Another house was hit in Qadisiyah, another religiously mixed neighborhood in western Baghdad, killing a woman, police said.

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At least 21 killed in Iraq rebel attacks

2 Mar 06

BAGHDAD (AFP) - A string of rebel attacks across Iraq left at least 21 dead and scores wounded in renewed violence after key political groups opposed incumbent Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari's selection as the next premier.

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Turkey says US troops must stay in Iraq

2 Mar 06

Reuters - Turkey's foreign minister said on Thursday U.S. troops should not quit neighboring Iraq prematurely, but denied media reports suggesting he feared such a withdrawal might help Iran stir up militancy in the region.

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Military mulls whether Iraq troop cut possible in face of increasing violence in Iraq

2 Mar 06

Reuters - A spike in violence in Iraq that has heightened worries about civil war has the Pentagon discussing the wisdom of further cutting American forces there, defense officials said on Wednesday.

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Evictions May Foreshadow Iraq Civil War

2 Mar 06

AP - The sectarian cleansing that drove 68-year-old Abbas al-Saiedi from his home may be as alarming a sign of a country on the brink of civil war as the killings that have swept Iraq in the past week.

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In Western Iraq, News Travels Slowly

2 Mar 06

AP - News travels slowly to American troops deployed in the desert plains of western Iraq. Days after the bombing of a Shiite shrine convulsed the country in religious violence, word hadn't reached U.S. Marines some 160 miles away.

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Iraqi Factions Oppose New al-Jaafari Term

2 Mar 06

AP - Leaders of Sunni, Kurdish and a secular political party decided Wednesday to ask the Shiite alliance to withdraw its nomination of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari for another term, political officials said.

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Ex-Official: Iraq Abuses As Bad Now as Under Saddam

2 Mar 06

AP - Human rights abuses in Iraq are as bad now as they were under Saddam Hussein, as lawlessness and sectarian violence sweep the country, the former U.N. human rights chief in Iraq said Thursday.

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Iraqis want Saddam trial over after admission

2 Mar 06

AFP - For many in Iraq, Saddam Hussein has now acknowledged responsibility in his trial and the time has come to wind up a process only serving to feed tensions in the violence-wracked country.

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Hussein admits responsibility, not guilt

The Christian Science Monitor
2 Mar 06

The Christian Science Monitor - Former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, after days of withering testimony about his involvement in the killings of 148 residents of a small farming town, decided he'd had enough.

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Saddam Claims He Had Right to Order Trials (AP)

2 Mar 06

AP - Saddam Hussein said in a defiant courtroom confession Wednesday that he ordered the trial of 148 Shiites who were later executed, and arranged for the flattening of their palm groves and farms. But he insisted he had the right to do so because they were suspected of trying to kill him.

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Pulse reveals beating heart of a supervolcano

Jessica Marshall
New Scientist Print Edition
01 March 2006

\"I DON\'T think visitors appreciate that they\'re standing directly on top of the largest, most dynamic magmatic system on the planet,\" says geologist Daniel Dzurisin. While the supervolcano that is Yellowstone National Park won\'t be erupting any time soon, he and his colleagues have uncovered a surprising source of volcanic activity beneath tourists\' feet, which was probably the reason trails had to be closed in 2003.
The Yellowstone caldera formed 640,000 years ago in an explosion of magma more than 1000 times greater than the Mount St Helens eruption in 1980. While it is common knowledge that the caldera floor rises and falls, the source of the motion remains uncertain. According to a previous popular theory, the accumulation and release of fluid not far beneath the surface is driving the cycles, but Dzurisin, of the David A. Johnston Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Washington, and his colleagues say a deeper source best explains their latest findings.

The team, led by Charles Wicks of the US Geological Survey in Menlo Park, California, used a series of satellite measurements to determine the fluctuations in elevation - up to 120 millimetres - over a seven-year period.

Although the floor of the caldera began subsiding in 1997, the researchers uncovered a new region of activity beneath the north rim of the caldera that continued to swell from 1995 until 2002. Models incorporating the measurements indicate that the source of the upward push was 10 to 16 kilometres beneath the surface in the basaltic magma layer, well below the level of the fluid suggested as the source of the motion (Nature, vol 440, p 72).

The picture is one of magma flow driving the undulation of the surface, flowing upward from beneath the caldera floor towards the northern rim and then down and out from beneath the rim. Seismic activity near the exit acts as a valve, suggests Wicks, blocking or releasing the magma outflow. This explains why the rim and floor can swell and sink at different times.

The idea also explains the rise in thermal activity in the rim area in 2003, Wicks says, when some trails had to be closed because of increased steam releases and a rise in surface temperatures. The swelling magma could have cracked the crust, creating new avenues for steam to escape to the surface, he says.

From issue 2541 of New Scientist magazine, 01 March 2006, page 11

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Global warming bubbles up from the ocean

Kate Ravilious
New Scientist Print Edition
04 March 2006

Around 15 per cent of today\'s global warming is down to methane, but where does all this gas come from? Some at least could be bubbling up from an unlikely source - deep-sea volcanoes.

Until now, such volcanoes were thought to be a negligible source of atmospheric methane because everyone assumed the gas would oxidise long before it reached the surface. However, research on Håkon Mosby, a mud volcano 1250 metres down in the Norwegian Sea, has overturned this assumption.
Eberhard Sauter of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany, and his colleagues found a huge column of gas bubbles rising to the surface from Håkon Mosby. They used an echo sounder to get acoustic images of the plume. Meanwhile, a remote-controlled robot dived down and videotaped the bubbles while a probe sampled the water and took temperature and depth readings.

The gas inside the bubbles turned out to be methane, which was protected from oxidation by a tough skin around the bubbles. \"We found that a gas hydrate membrane enabled them to rise for around 800 metres,\" says Sauter. The bubbles eventually dissolved in surface waters, much of it probably ending up in the atmosphere (Earth and Planetary Science Letters, DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2006.01.041).

\"We estimate that several hundred tonnes of methane are being released from this location every year,\" says Sauter. The atmospheric methane budget is around 600 gigatonnes per year, so this won\'t make a huge difference. However, if every deep-sea volcano turned out to release a similar amount, it would be a different matter.

No one really knows how many of these volcanoes there are. Estimates vary from thousands to tens of thousands, and it is unlikely that they are all active at the same time. \"I\'m not sure if it\'s time to say that deep sea methane is a significant source of atmospheric methane,\" says Alexei Milkov, a petroleum systems analyst for BP America in Houston, Texas. \"The jury is still out.\"

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Say goodbye to cheap chicken

Debora Mackenzie Brussels
New Scientist Print Edition
04 March 2006

DISASTER is looming for Europe\'s poultry. The European Union has just had its first outbreak of H5N1 bird flu in poultry, on a turkey farm in eastern France. It is unlikely to be the last. The virus has now been found in wild birds across Europe, and as spring migrants arrive from Africa virologists predict it could become endemic in European wild birds within two months.

Though effective vaccines exist to protect domestic birds from H5N1, the EU is refusing to allow their general use. Officials say that vaccination just masks the spread of the virus, making it diffcult to monitor and contain. If this policy continues, it will mean that any bird flu outbreak within the EU will have to be handled by culling infected animals and those nearby.
The result could be carnage. An outbreak of H7N7 bird flu in Dutch poultry in 2003 required the slaughter of some 30 million birds - half the country\'s poultry. If, as seems inevitable, H5N1 strikes in a big way the result will be similar devastation.

Yet culling alone may not stop H5N1 spreading. Scientists contacted by New Scientist in the past few days say that the growth of intensive poultry farming and vaccine development have made the EU\'s policy outdated. Farms in the Netherlands and elsewhere are now so crowded that the old methods of controlling outbreaks are likely to fail. In these areas, they say, the most susceptible birds should be vaccinated now, before the disease hits. Only this, they say, will stop outbreaks in these regions from spiralling out of control.

Last week the EU relaxed its policy and allowed some farmers to vaccinate free-range birds. The ruling applies only to the Netherlands and three western departments in France where free-range ducks and geese are used for foie gras production and wetland areas are used by migrating wild birds. Apart from these few exceptions, vaccination remains prohibited.

In most EU countries, the strategy has been to order poultry to be kept indoors. This is supposed to limit their exposure to wild birds infected with the virus, but success is far from guaranteed. When turkeys kept indoors in eastern France started dying of H5N1, Ilaria Capua of Italy\'s national reference lab for bird flu wasn\'t surprised. \"You can infect turkeys by stepping in infected bird poo and tracking it into the barn,\" she says. French investigators suspect the virus probably came in on bales of straw used as turkey bedding.

When such outbreaks occur, the standard response is to slaughter the infected birds and all other poultry within a certain radius. The tactic appears to have worked in eastern France, where 11,000 turkeys at the infected farm were slaughtered, but this part of France was lucky in having relatively few poultry farms. In high-density areas it could be a different story, says Arjan Stegeman of Utrecht University in the Netherlands. When Stegeman and his team analysed what happened during the 2003 Dutch outbreak, they found that such measures were barely able to contain the virus in areas of high poultry density. The country\'s poultry industry was hit hard as a result, and is only just recovering now.

With the recent arrival of H5N1, several other parts of Europe that have poultry densities on a par with those in the Netherlands are similarly threatened. These include the German states of Schleswig-Holstein, where infected wild birds have been found, and Lower Saxony. \"If a non-vaccinated flock is infected in such a region, the probability of an outbreak similar to 2003 is very, very large,\" Stegeman says. There are a many such regions across Europe (see Map).

A mass outbreak in any of these regions will not only affect poultry. The vast amounts of virus that will be shed by the affected birds will put people at risk of infection with the often lethal disease, and increase the chances of the virus mutating to a form that can readily pass from person to person.

Stegeman is one of those who believe the EU\'s decision not to vaccinate birds before an outbreak is wrong. The EU has not ruled out \"ring-vaccination\" of poultry to slow or prevent spread of the virus around the source of an outbreak, but Stegeman says this is useless for flu. It takes two doses of vaccine and four weeks to protect birds, and this is far too long to be effective in an emergency.

So if the case for pre-emptive vaccination is so strong, why do the authorities refuse to consider it? One objection has been that it allows the virus to circulate undetected in vaccinated animals, as such animals show no obvious symptoms. This poses a constant risk to unvaccinated animals and, for viruses like H5N1, to humans.

Moreover, virus circulating in vaccinated chickens can mutate into potentially more dangerous forms. This is known to have happened to H5N2 bird flu in Mexico, and may have encouraged the emergence of the lethal \"Z genotype\" of H5N1 in China.

Supporters of vaccination argue that this would not happen in Europe. Vaccinated chickens would be regularly tested, and culled if they tested positive. Key to this is the use of a marker vaccine that triggers the production of a slightly different set of antibodies to those induced by the wild virus. Antibody tests can then distinguish between infected birds and those that have simply been vaccinated.

These scientists cite the experience of the intensive poultry-rearing region near Verona in northern Italy, which after suffering repeated outbreaks of bird flu has been vaccinating high-risk flocks against H5 and H7 bird flu for more than a year. It has worked. The outbreaks have stopped and Italy now exports the meat. Animals are routinely tested for signs of infection and are safe to eat.

The reason for this success is twofold. First, vaccinated birds are harder to infect. \"If you can infect unvaccinated turkeys by tracking one poo into the barn, you need to track in 100 to infect vaccinated ones,\" Capua says. Secondly, if infection does occur, the birds produce and shed far less virus, so it doesn\'t spread as readily, giving authorities precious time to identify and stop an outbreak in its tracks.

The birds most in need of vaccination are turkeys, which are particularly sensitive to the virus. Laying hens are also at risk as egg trays and trucks collecting the eggs move from farm to farm. Free-range poultry are also at constant risk from exposure to infected wild birds. Broiler chickens raised indoors have far less contact with the outside world, and should not need vaccinating, says Capua. Nor should poultry in low-density areas, where classic culling may stop an outbreak spreading.

Vaccination is not without its problems. If Europe decided to vaccinate all its high-risk birds tomorrow, it would be hard to find enough vaccine. And because no one knows how long H5N1 is likely to persist in resistant resident wild birds such as mallards vaccination might have to continue for years.

Nor would Europe be the only buyer seeking vaccine. UN agencies are already vaccinating poultry in Nigeria, where the virus is spreading out of control, and other countries are likely to follow. \"There definitely won\'t be enough vaccine available,\" Capua says. \"Because there has been so little demand, companies have not invested in the capacity to make more.\"

Europe should start building a vaccine stockpile now, before the return of another wave of infected birds from nesting grounds in Siberia next winter makes things even worse, she says. \"We\'ll really be blind if we don\'t start getting ready now. It could be the destruction of Europe\'s poultry industry.\"

From issue 2541 of New Scientist magazine, 04 March 2006, page 8

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Ark\'s Quantum Quirks




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New asteroid at top of Earth-threat list

Kimm Groshong
NewScientist.com news service
01 March 2006

Observations by astronomers tracking near-Earth asteroids have raised a new object to the top of the Earth-threat list.

The asteroid could strike the Earth in 2102. However, Don Yeomans, manager of NASA\'s Near Earth Object Program at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, US, told New Scientist: \"The most likely situation, by far, is that additional observations will bring it back down to a zero.\"
He adds: \"We\'re more likely to be hit between now and then by an object that we don\'t know about.\"

On 23 February, new observations allowed researchers to more accurately calculate the orbit of the asteroid, named 2004 VD17, which was originally detected by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology\'s LINEAR project. Since the improvement did not rule out a potential collision with the Earth on 4 May 2102, they increased the asteroid\'s rating to level 2 on the Torino Scale, a relatively rare event.
Degrees of danger

The Torino Scale, adopted in 1999, is akin to a Richter scale for asteroid impacts. The vast majority of the 4000 or so near-Earth objects (NEOs) detected so far have been assigned to level zero on the Torino scale, meaning they have \"no likely consequences\".

Level 1, colour-coded green, suggests a possible impact that \"merits careful monitoring\". Beyond that, the risk continues to rise along the scale – levels 2, 3 and 4 are yellow; 5, 6 and 7 are orange; while 8, 9 and 10 earn red.

The highest level ever reached by an asteroid was level 4 by Apophis (2004 MN4) in December 2004, but subsequent calculations downgraded that concern to a level 1. So VD17 currently claims the top spot on NASA\'s online list of potential asteroid impacts.

Despite the rarity of the yellow designation, Yeomans says \"Torino 2 is not very alarming.\" He notes that the scale does not take account of how soon an impact may occur, unlike its rival, the Palermo Scale.

Based on current observations, he says the asteroid has a 1 in 1600 chance of striking the Earth in 2102 and a 1 in 500,000 chance of hitting two years later. But further observations will soon refine the orbit calculation for VD17 – and hopefully ease minds.

NEO hunter, Andrea Milani Comparetti of the University of Pisa, Italy, says VD17 \"is a serious problem, but not for our generation\". He also notes that VD17 is dim and distant and is not projected to pass close by the Earth before 2102. \"You will need fairly powerful telescopes to see it before it arrives,\" he told New Scientist.
Smaller threats

Since 1998, NASA has had a US Congressional mandate to locate 90% of all NEOs of 1 kilometre or larger by 2008. Yeomans says that 830 out of a predicted 1100 have been found so far, along with thousands of smaller objects.

In the NASA Authorization Act of 2005, Congress directed the space agency to study and report back on the best way to cost-effectively locate 90% of all asteroids down to a diameter of just 140 metres. Yeomans says there are likely to be about 100,000 such NEOs.

Yeomans and Bill Bottke of the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, were both members of a team that reported in 2003 that a survey to locate such small asteroids would be cost-effective, considering the damage an impact could cause. Bottke says the group found that to find 90% of the remaining hazard would cost roughly $300 million.

2004 VD17 is estimated to have a diameter of about 580 metres. An asteroid of that size would produce an impact crater about 10 kilometres wide and an earthquake of magnitude 7.4 if it struck land.

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When aliens rained over India

Hazel Muir
New Scientist Print Edition
02 March 2006

I\'VE heard plenty of tales about freak weather that are strange, but nonetheless true. In August 2000, a shower of sprats, dead but conveniently still fresh, fell from the skies onto the English port of Great Yarmouth just after a thunderstorm. A torrent of live toads pelted a Mexican town in June 1997. And in 2001, 50 tonnes of alien life forms rained down from the clouds over India.

Actually, I\'m not sure that the alien story is true. But it is surprisingly persistent. I first saw it in 2003 in a scientific paper written by Godfrey Louis, a physicist working in the Indian state of Kerala, on the country\'s southern tip. He described how, during two months in 2001, red rain fell sporadically right across the state. No one could explain it, but after lengthy studies of red particles in the rainwater, Louis came to the extraordinary conclusion that they were alien microbes that hitched a ride to Earth on a comet.
To most people, that would sound eccentric at the very least. It looked as if the idea would quietly wither on the vine. Then in January this year, it turned out that Louis\'s theory is still alive and kicking, and soon to roll off the press in a reputable peer-reviewed journal. I sent a preprint to several researchers, who despite voicing mixed opinions almost all agreed about one thing: the red particles Louis describes look biological.

\"If they\'re not living cells, I don\'t know what they are,\" said Milton Wainwright, a microbiologist at the University of Sheffield, UK. \"Maybe this is the beginning of something amazing.\" Another scientist simply commented: \"Sounds like bullshit to me.\" That was it - I could resist this weird and controversial story no longer.

The saga dates back to 25 July 2001, when red rain fell in a district of Kerala called Kottayam. Over the following two months, red rain fell sporadically there and in other Kerala districts, gradually tailing off over time. The local newspapers buzzed with eyewitness reports. People found their clothes stained by red raindrops. Although these usually had a mild red tint, sometimes the colour was so strong that witnesses compared it to blood. Usually, the red rain would fall for less than 20 minutes.

Louis, a solid-state physicist at Mahatma Gandhi University in Kottayam, was intrigued and decided to study the rain with his student Santhosh Kumar. The pair compiled more than 120 reports of the rain from local newspapers and other sources, and gathered samples of the red rain from spots more than 100 kilometres apart (see Map).

Under the microscope, they could see red particles 4 to 10 micrometres wide with an average density of about 9 million particles per millilitre. When they dried the samples they found that each cubic metre of rainwater contained about 100 grams of the red stuff. Louis suggests 5 millimetres of red rain would typically have fallen over a square-kilometre area during each of about 100 downpours. That would make 500,000 cubic metres of water in total, containing a staggering 50 tonnes of red particles.

What could they be? One possibility was that fine red sand had blown over Kerala from some distant desert. Sand can travel amazingly far. In July 1968, for instance, fine grit in raindrops left parts of southern England coloured rusty red. The sand had blown from the Sahara inside a massive high-pressure system before falling in a rain shower.

But under the microscope, the red particles that rained on Kerala were clearly not sand. Electron micrographs show that they are shaped like biological cells. \"They don\'t look anything like sand, they look biological,\" says Monica Grady, a meteorite expert at the UK\'s Open University in Milton Keynes. The cells, if that\'s what they are, are mostly cup-shaped and have a thick wall.

One type of analysis shows their chemical make-up is about 50 per cent carbon and 45 per cent oxygen by weight, along with traces of other elements such as sodium and iron. That\'s consistent with the components of a biological cell, according to Jeffrey Walker, a molecular biologist from the University of Colorado in Boulder. But although many of the cells have some kind of detached inner capsule, there is no visible cell nucleus, and tests for DNA that Louis carried out came back negative.

Louis rules out a distant terrestrial source for the mysterious particles, because the red rain was concentrated over Kerala for two months despite changes in climate and wind patterns. Could the cells instead be local pollen or fungal spores washed off trees and houses by the rain? Louis says no, because red rain was collected in buckets placed in wide-open spaces. Equally, he says, the red particles can\'t be pollen or spores from the ground that accumulated in the atmosphere, because the rain would then have been red at the start of a shower; often the colour came later.

Instead, he links the coloured rain to a meteor airburst. During the early hours of 25 July 2001, just hours before the first red rain fell, several people in the Kottayam district heard a loud sonic boom that made their houses rattle. Louis has interviewed some of those who heard it, and concluded that it was too loud to have been an ordinary thunderclap. It\'s possible that an incoming meteor exploded in the atmosphere.

Louis then takes a large leap and suggests the meteor was a fragment of a comet harbouring microbes from space. He thinks that is the only explanation for the red rain pattern. The meteor flew over Kerala from north to south, he suggests, shedding fragments and alien microbes in the upper atmosphere, before finally exploding over Kottayam district. There, some of the red microbes mixed with rain clouds and fell fairly quickly, while the rest gradually settled into the clouds and fell in rain over the following weeks.

\"Yes, it is an extraordinary claim, but I have to report what I observe,\" says Louis. \"We are not able to explain it by assuming a terrestrial object.\" The red particles look like biological cells, he stresses, but contain no DNA. They could therefore be exotic, alien life forms unknown to science.

Far-fetched? Certainly sounds it. But the idea would undoubtedly have appealed to the late University of Cambridge astronomer Fred Hoyle, champion of the \"panspermia\" theory. With Chandra Wickramasinghe of Cardiff University, UK, Hoyle developed the idea that life on Earth evolved from microbes that fell to its surface on a comet. In this picture, primitive life forms could be ubiquitous throughout the universe, peppered among the planets and the stars.

Philosophically, panspermia has a certain appeal. It could resolve the genuine puzzle about why life arose on Earth so fast. The solar system began its life some 4.5 billion years ago as a hostile interplanetary war zone, with rocky missiles pelting everything in sight. Around 3.9 billion years ago, the Earth suffered a particularly violent bombardment that pulverised its crust. Yet carbon isotopes in ancient rocks hint that primitive microbes were thriving just 50,000 years later - a blink of an eye in evolutionary terms. Panspermia allows off-the-shelf microbes to arrive on the newly hospitable Earth. This waves away the apparent paradox that the Earth is the only place in the entire cosmos where we\'ve found signs of life. From experience, astronomers assume that if something has occurred once in the universe, it\'s probably occurred many more times - we just haven\'t seen it yet.

Panspermia developed a touch of giggle-factor when Hoyle and Wickramasinghe blamed extraterrestrial viruses for flu epidemics. But it has come back into fashion of late, and proponents argue there\'s plenty of evidence for it. Experiments have shown that some tough bacteria can survive for years in space, despite the extreme cold and high levels of radiation. Others have proved that some of these bugs could survive the high-speed collisions that they would experience if they slammed into the Earth on a comet.

The idea of primitive microbes flying around the solar system in its early days is not as wild as it seems. \"Most of the rocks near the surface of the Earth are shot through with microbial life. It would be a fairly simple thing for a little piece of the crust to be ejected and life survive and land somewhere else,\" says Walker. On balance, he says, he\'d bet that life began here on Earth. But he wouldn\'t be that surprised if evidence emerged that life started somewhere else and was delivered to Earth by a hunk of space rock.
Extraordinary claims

In 1996, Martian meteorite ALH 84001 caused a furore when some scientists claimed that it harboured fossil bugs. The case was never proved. \"But the most interesting information that we gathered from that meteorite was that when the rock was ejected from Mars and travelled to the Earth, the temperature of the interior never exceeded something like 50 °C,\" says Walker. \"Plenty of microbes can survive that, especially spores.\"

All in all, it seems that panspermia could work. Now Louis thinks the red rain of Kerala provides evidence that it actually does. His new report on the subject, which will appear in Astrophysics and Space Science in the next few months, is impressive in its detail, according to Wainwright. \"Everything in the paper is done correctly, there\'s nothing wacky about it,\" he says. Grady says it is \"very, very thorough indeed\".

However, if scientists have a favourite quote, it\'s this one, popularised by Carl Sagan: \"extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence\". I\'m hearing it a lot in discussions about the red rain of Kerala. Grady thinks Louis and Kumar have jumped to the extraterrestrial conclusion far too quickly. \"They seem to prefer the most bizarre explanation they could find,\" agrees Charles Cockell at the Open University, who studies the microbiology of extreme rocky environments.

What other explanations are there? Wainwright likens the red cells to spores from a rust fungus, or possibly pollen or algae. With Wickramasinghe and others, Wainwright has shown in balloon experiments that winds can carry microbes from the ground to high altitudes. Particles the size of those in the red rain could soar several kilometres above the Earth\'s surface. The dimpled shape could easily have arisen when the cells collapsed in the microscopy process. If that were true, he says, then the only mystery concerns the lack of DNA. \"You wouldn\'t expect spores, microbes or algae not to have any DNA,\" he says. The simplest explanation is that Louis\'s experiments missed it, so Wainwright wants to repeat the tests. If the cells do turn out to contain DNA, then there is no great mystery. \"I\'d kind of relax if there was DNA there,\" says Wainwright.

If there is no DNA, Wainwright argues, the cells might be something extraordinary. He speculates, like Louis, that the lack of DNA might point to some kind of exotic life form, although he admits it would be paradoxical for cells without DNA to be classed as \"living\".

Cockell argues that there could be a simpler explanation - the red particles are actually blood. \"They look like red blood cells to me,\" he says. The size fits just right; red blood cells are normally about 6 to 8 micrometres wide. They are naturally dimpled just like the red rain particles. What\'s more, mammalian red blood cells contain no DNA because they don\'t have a cell nucleus.

It\'s tough to explain, however, how 50 tonnes of mammal blood could have ended up in rain clouds. Cockell takes a wild guess that maybe a meteor explosion massacred a flock of bats, splattering their blood in all directions. India is home to around 100 species of bats, which sometimes fly to altitudes of 3 kilometres or more. \"A giant flock of bats is actually a possibility - maybe a meteor airburst occurred during a bat migration,\" he says. \"But one would have to wonder where the bat wings are.\"

Walker agrees that the particles in the red rain look uncannily like red blood cells. He says a simple test for haemoglobin could resolve this quickly. \"If they believe they aren\'t red blood cells, then they need to explain how they\'ve managed to eliminate that possibility,\" says Cockell. \"I would have thought some more basic biochemical analysis of these cells would be worthwhile, and that should identify it, whatever it is.\"

\"It\'s a pity that they don\'t realise this is interesting without all the extraterrestrial hype,\" Cockell adds. \"How might you get blood into rain? I don\'t think anyone has observed an event where they\'ve seen an animal ripped apart and its blood distributed in clouds. In some ways, that whole process is far more interesting than what Louis is trying to prove.\" For blood cells to survive would be astonishing: normally they would be destroyed within minutes if kept in rainwater, unless the salinity was the same as inside the blood cell.

In the next few weeks, the mystery of Kerala\'s red rain may finally be solved. Louis sent samples to Wickramasinghe\'s lab in Cardiff last month. As New Scientist went to press, he and Wainwright were still analysing them.

If they can\'t explain the origin of the samples, then the suggestion that they are alien life will gain credence. In that case, someone will have to verify an observation that Louis made which even he finds astonishing: that the cells replicate. In earlier unpublished papers, Louis says he cultured the red rain cells in unconventional nutrients, such as cedar wood oil, and showed that these DNA-devoid microbes divide happily at a temperature of 300 °C. Louis admits he left these claims out of his latest paper because he thought they would be considered \"too extraordinary\".

Extraordinary is an understatement: if the cells really do replicate we\'ll have found the first evidence of extraterrestrial life. In the end, though, I didn\'t find any scientist willing to bet that the red rain of Kerala contained aliens. But everyone agreed it\'s a cracking good story that\'s crying out for a proper explanation. \"I think you\'ve got to be intrigued,\" said Wainwright. \"If you\'re not intrigued, then what are you doing in science?\"

From issue 2541 of New Scientist magazine, 02 March 2006, page 34

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