- Signs of the Times for Fri, 10 Mar 2006 -

Editorial: False News More Damaging Than No News At All

Joe Quinn
Signs of the Times
BBC News's "On This Day" report for today carries the following flashback story to this day in 1990:

1990: Observer 'spy' sentenced to die

A court in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, has imposed the death sentence on The Observer journalist Farzad Bazoft.

He has been convicted of spying for Israel while working on a story about an explosion at a weapons complex 30 miles (48km) south of the capital.

The British nurse, Daphne Parish, who is said to have driven him to the site has been jailed for 15 years.

The pair were arrested last September after visiting the military establishment.

Mr Bazoft, who came to live in Britain from Iran in the early 1980s, had written a number of articles on the Middle East for The Observer newspaper. He was subsequently invited by the Iraqi government to join a journalists' trip to examine reconstruction work after the war with Iran.

But on the day he flew out, there were reports of an explosion at the Al-Iskandrai plant, said to be at the centre of Iraq's development of medium-range missiles. Hundreds were reported to have been killed.

The Observer newspaper commissioned Mr Bazoft to write a report. Independent Television News was also interested in the explosion, but a camera crew was stopped from reaching the plant. Mr Bazoft, travelling with Mrs Parish, got through.

He was picked up at Baghdad airport, waiting for a flight back to London.

Observer editor Donald Trelford said: "Farzad Bazoft is not a spy. He is a reporter who went to do a story. He said in advance the story he was going to do.

"He told the Baghdad government where he wanted to go... This is not the action of a spy, this is the action of a reporter."

The so-called spies were tried behind closed doors. Mr Bazoft had earlier been filmed making a confession - his colleagues say it was false.

Foreign Office Minister William Waldegrave met the Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister, Nizar Hamdoun, before today's hearing to demand a full and fair trial. Now he says he will be pressing for clemency.

He said: "Our objective now is to concentrate on the next few hours to try to get the death sentence lifted and to appeal on humanitarian grounds for an urgent review of the sentences."

Sadly, the attempts to get Bazoft's death sentence commuted were not successful and he was hanged by the Hussein government five days later on March 15th 1990. Equally sad is the fact that this story, as presented by the BBC, is so short on the real details of the events surrounding Bazoft's death that it may as well be a complete fabrication.

The following is excerpted from ex-Mossad operative Victor Ostrovsky's book The Other Side of Deception and provides us with a startling insight into just how far from reality the 'official' version of events usually is. It also provides us with a deeper understanding of the 'why', the 'who' and the 'how' of the previously inexplicable, continued resurgence of conflict, death and suffering over the past 100 years of world history.

The Mossad realized that it had to come up with a new threat to the region, a threat of such magnitude that it would justify whatever action the Mossad might see fit to take.

The right-wing elements in the Mossad (and in the whole country, for that matter) had what they regarded as a sound philosophy: They believed (correctly, as it happened) that Israel was the strongest military presence in the Middle East. In fact, they believed that the military might of what had become known as "fortress Israel" was greater than that of all of the Arab armies combined, and was responsible for whatever security Israel possessed. The right wing believed then - and they still believe - that this strength arises from the need to answer the constant threat of war.

The corollary belief was that peace overtures would inevitably start a process of corrosion that would weaken the military and eventually bring about the demise of the state of Israel, since, the philosophy goes, its Arab neighbors are untrustworthy, and no treaty signed by them is worth the paper it's written on.

Supporting the radical elements of Muslim fundamentalism sat well with the Mossad's general plan for the region. An Arab world run by fundamentalists would not be a party to any negotiations with the West, thus leaving Israel again as the only democratic, rational country in the region. And if the Mossad could arrange for the Hamas (Palestinian fundamentalists) to take over the Palestinian streets from the PLO, then the picture would be complete.

The Mossad regarded Saddam Hussein as their biggest asset in the area, since he was totally irrational as far as international politics was concerned, and was therefore all the more likely to make a stupid move that the Mossad could take advantage of.

What the Mossad really feared was that Iraq's gigantic army, which had survived the Iran-Iraq war and was being supplied by the West and financed by Saudi Arabia, would fall into the hands of a leader who might be more palatable to the West and still be a threat to Israel.

The first step was taken in November 1988, when the Mossad told the Israeli foreign office to stop all talks with the Iraqis regarding a peace front. At that time, secret negotiations were taking place between Israelis, Jordanians, and Iraqis under the auspices of the Egyptians and with the blessings of the French and the Americans. The Mossad manipulated it so that Iraq looked as if it were the only country unwilling to talk, thereby convincing the Americans that Iraq had a different agenda.

By January 1989, the Mossad LAP machine was busy portraying Saddam as a tyrant and a danger to the world. The Mossad activated every asset it had, in every place possible, from volunteer agents in Amnesty International to fully bought members of the U.S. Congress. Saddam had been killing his own people, the cry went; what could his enemies expect? The gruesome photos of dead Kurdish mothers clutching their dead babies after a gas attack by Saddam's army were real, and the acts were horrendous. But the Kurds were entangled in an all-out guerrilla war with the regime in Baghdad and had been supported for years by the Mossad, who sent arms and advisers to the mountain camps of the Barazany family; this attack by the Iraqis could hardly be called an attack on their own people. But, as Uri said to me, once the orchestra starts to play, all you can do is hum along.

The media was supplied with inside information and tips from reliable sources on how the crazed leader of Iraq killed people with his bare hands and used missiles to attack Iranian cities. What they neglected to tell the media was that most of the targeting for the missiles was done by the Mossad with the help of American satellites. The Mossad was grooming Saddam for a fall, but not his own. They wanted the Americans to do the work of destroying that gigantic army in the Iraqi desert so that Israel would not have to face it one day on its own border. That in itself was a noble cause for an Israeli, but to endanger the world with the possibility of global war and the deaths of thousands of Americans was sheer madness.

The previous august (1989) a contingent of the Maktal (Mossad reconnaissance unit) and several naval commandos had headed up the Euphrates, their target was an explosives factory located in the city of Al-Iskandariah. Information the Mossad had received from American intelligence revealed that every thursday a small convoy of trucks came to the complex to be loaded with explosives for the purpose of manufacturing cannon shells. The objective was to take position near the base on Wednesday August 23rd and wait until the next day when the trucks would be loaded. At that point, several sharpshooters would fire one round each of an explosive bullet at a designated truck while they were in the process of loading, so that there would be a carry on explosion into the storage facility.

The operation was quite successful and the explosion generated the sort of publicity the Mossad was hoping for in attracting attention to Saddam's constant efforts at building a gigantic and powerful military arsenal. The Mossad shared its "findings" with the Western intelligence agencies and leaked the story of the explosion to the press.

Since this was a guarded facility Western reporters had minimal access to it. However, at the beginning of September, the Iraqis were inviting Western media people to visit Iraq and see the rebuilding that had taken place after the [Iran-Iraq] war, and the Mossad saw an opportunity to conduct a damage assessment.

A man calling himself Michel Rubiyer saying he was working for the French newspaper "le figaro", approached Farzad Bazoft, a thirty one year old reporter freelancing for the British newspaper the Observer. Rubiyer was in fact Michel M. a Mossad agent.

Michel told Farzad that he would pay him handsomely and print his story if he would join a group of journalists heading for Baghdad. The reason he gave for not going himself was that he had been black-listed in Iraq. He pointed out the Bazoft could use the money and the break especially with his criminal background. Michel told the stunned reporter that he knew of his arrest in 1981 for armed robbery in Northhampton England. Along with the implied threat he told Bazoft that he would be able to print his story in the Observer as well.

Michel told Bazoft to collect information regarding the explosion ask questions about it get sketches of the area and collect earth samples. He told the worried reporter that Saddam would not dare harm a reporter even if he was unhappy with him. The worst the Saddam would do was kick him out of the country, which would in itself make him famous.

Why this particular reporter? He was of Iranian background and would make punishing him much easier for the Iraqis and he wasn't a European whom they would probably only hold and then kick out. In fact, Bazoft had been identified in a Mossad search that was triggered by his prying into another Mossad case in search of a story involving an ex-Mossad asset Dr Cyrus Hashemi who was eliminated by mossad in 1986. Since Bazoft had already stumbled on too much information for his own good - or the Mossad's for that matter - he was the perfect candidate for this job of snooping in forbidden areas.

Bazoft made his way to the location as he was asked and as might be expected was arrested. Tragically, his British girlfriend, a nurse working in a baghdad hospital was arrested as well.

Within a few days of his arrest, a Mossad liaison in the US called the Iraqi representative in Holland and said that Jerusalem was willing to make a deal for the release of their man who had been captured. the Iraqi representative asked for time to contact Baghdad, and the liaison called the next day, at which point he told the Iraqi representative it was all a big mistake and severed contact. Now the Iraqis had no doubt that they had a real spy on their hands, and they were going to see him hang. All the Mossad had to do was sit back and watch as Saddam proved to the world what a monster he really was.

On March 15th 1990 Farzad Bazoft, who had been held in the Abu Gharib prison met briefly with the British Ambassador to Iraq.

A few minutes after the meeting he was hanged.

The world was shocked, but the Mossad was not done yet. To fan the flames generated by the brutal hanging, a Mossad sayan in New York delivered a set of documents to ABC television with a story from a reliable Middle Eastern source telling if a plant Saddam had for the manufacturing of uranium. The information was convincing and the photos and sketches were even more so.

It was time to draw attention to Saddam's weapons of mass destruction.

Only three months before, on December 5, 1989, the Iraqis had launched the Al-Abid, a three-stage ballistic missile. The Iraqis claimed it was a satellite launcher that Gerald Bull, a Canadian scientist, was helping them develop. Israeli intelligence knew that the launch, although trumpeted as a great success, was in fact a total failure, and that the program would never reach its goals. But that secret was not shared with the media. On the contrary, the missile launch was exaggerated and blown out of proportion.

The message that Israeli intelligence sent out was this: Now all the pieces of the puzzle are fitting together. This maniac is developing a nuclear capability (remember the Israeli attack on the Iraqi reactor in 1981) and pursuing chemical warfare (as seen in his attacks on his own people, the Kurds). What's more, he despises the Western media, regarding them as Israeli spies. Quite soon, he's going to have the ability to launch a missile from anywhere in Iraq to anywhere he wants in the Middle East and beyond.

After the arrest of Bazoft, Gerald Bull, who was working on the Iraqi big gun project called Babylon, was visited by Israeli friends from his past. The visitors (two Mossad officers) had come to deliver a warning. They were both known to Bull as members of the Israeli intelligence community. The Mossad psychological department had studied the position Bull was in and analysed what was known about his character. It arrived at the conclusion that, even if threatened, he wouldn't pull out of the program but would instead carry on his work with very little regard for his personal safety.

Ultimately, Bull's continuing with the program would play right into the Mossad's hands. Through the bullet riddled body of Gerald Bull the world would be made to focus on his work: the Iraqi giant gun project. The timing had to be right though; Bull's well publicised demise had to come right after an act of terror by the Baghdad regime, an act that could not be mistaken for an accident or a provocation. The hanging of the Observer reporter on March 15 was such an act.

After the reporter's execution in Baghdad, a Kidon (Mossad assassination) team arrived in Brussels and cased the apartment building where Bull lived. It was imperative that the job be done in a place where it would not be mistaken for a robbery or an accident. At the same time, an escape route was prepared for the team and some old contacts in the Belgian police were revived to make sure they were on duty at the time of Bull's elimination so that, if there was a need to call on a friendly police force, they'd be on call. They weren't old of the reason for the alert, but would learn later and keep silent.

When Bull reached the building at 8.30pm, the man watching the entrance signaled the man in the empty apartment on the sixth floor (Bull's floor) to get ready: the target had entered the building. The shooter then left the apartment and hid in an alcove.

Almost immediately after the elevator door closed behind Bull, the shooter fired point blank at the man's back and head. The shooter then walked over to Bull and pulled out of his tote bag a handful of documents and other papers, which he paced in a paper shopping bag he had with him. He also collected all the casings from the floor and dropped the gun into the shopping bag.

In the following weeks, more and more discoveries were made regarding the big gun and other elements of the Saddam war machine. The Mossad had all but saturated the intelligence field with information regarding the evil intentions of Saddam the Terrible, banking on the fact that before long, he'd have enough rope to hang himself.

It was very clear what the Mossad's overall goal was. It wanted the West to do its bidding, just as the Americans had in Libya with the bombing of Qadhafi. After all, Israel didn't possess carriers and ample air power, and although it was capable of bombing a refugee camp in Tunis, that was not the same. The Mossad leaders knew that if they could make Saddam appear bad enough and a threat to the Gulf oil supply, of which he'd been the protector up to that point, then the United States and its allies would not let him get away with anything, but would take measures that would all but eliminate his army and his weapons potential, especially if they were led to believe that this might just be their last chance before he went nuclear. [...]

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Editorial: Iraq Invasion: A Straussian Mistake?

Kurt Nimmo
Thursday March 09th 2006, 10:02 am

In Stuart Rosenberg's classic film, Cool Hand Luke, Strother Martin, playing the Captain of Road Prison 36, tells Luke Jackson, played by Paul Newman: "What we have here is… failure to communicate." As I read the news this morning, I am reminded of the film and this memorable line. Rupert Cornwell, writing for the Independent, tells us "the neo-conservatives who sold the United States on this disastrous war are starting to utter three small words. We were wrong." Cornwell cites the examples of William Buckley, Andrew Sullivan (described as "an influential commentator and blogmeister"), the "patrician conservative columnist" George Will, Francis Fukuyama, Zalmay Khalilzad, and the disgusting William Kristol, all who apparently have second thoughts about the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Cornwell seems satisfied these neocon icons, actually little more than common criminals with expensive educations, have admitted they were "wrong" and have accepted "realistic Wilsonianism," in the words of Fukuyama, or as Cornwell pegs it, neo-realism. "And if that brings a smile to the face of a certain former US high priest of realism with a pronounced German accent, who can blame him?" Cornwell concludes, apparently making reference to the Leo Strauss, the late student of Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger, the former exploited by the Nazis and the latter having collaborated with them directly.

Cornwell fails to communicate the essence of the depth and severity of the Straussian neocon plot and instead concentrates on the "failure" of Iraq-and thus, as the hackneyed old saying runs, Cornwell misses the forest for the trees. Regardless of anything Fukuyama has written as of late, the Straussian neocons will not now "temper the idealism of the neo-conservative doctrine with an acceptance that some things are not so easy to change," viz., the United States cannot deliver democracy to benighted Arabs and Muslims, as we are told, ad nauseam, Bush wants to do, or wanted to do before reality hit him upside the head.

Zalmay Khalilzad warns that the invasion and occupation of Iraq has opened "a Pandora's box," spreading "conflict," as Cornwell describes it, across the Middle East. In fact, this is precisely what the Straussian neocons want-chaos and "conflict" spreading like an uncontrollable wild fire, scorching Muslim and Arab culture, eating away at the very societal cohesion of the region, thus leaving it decimated and malleable to reorganization along the lines envisioned by the Straussian neocons and the original architects of the plan, the racist Jabotinskyites in Israel. Cornwell, lost in the forest of corporate media spin and lies, is unable to see the tree planted by these devious Machiavellian co-conspirators.

Mr. Cornwell does not bother to take into consideration the trouble brewing over Iran's illusory nuclear weapons, simply another pretext for more violence and misery, as a few neocons may step forward and admit "mistakes" over the invasion and occupation of Iraq while their fellows prepare to repeat those "mistakes" in Iran.

As noted above, the actions of the Straussian neocons, following a well-established pattern, are anything but mistakes. Iran realizes this. "The United States may have the power to cause harm and pain but it is also susceptible to harm and pain," Javad Vaeedi, head of Iran's National Security Council, declared as the United Nation's Security Council was manipulated into place, setting it up for a re-run. "So if the United States wishes to choose that path, let the ball roll."

Vaeedi was responding to Dick Cheney's threat of "meaningful consequences" (code words for mass murder and destruction) if Iran continues to refuse to go prostrate. Vaeedi "declined to spell out precisely how Tehran would respond to Security Council pressure but experts told London's Daily Telegraph that Iran's options included driving up oil prices, blocking the passage of tankers through the Gulf, stirring more chaos in Iraq, fomenting violence against Israel or promoting terrorist attacks against the West," in short, exercising its only viable options, since there is absolutely no way Iran can match the military prowess of the United States. Of course, in the weeks ahead, Iran will be vilified for attempting to defend itself, as the Iraqis are now vilified (resistance is not only futile, it is the evil handiwork of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi and the ever useful "al-Qaeda").

It should now be obvious the Straussian neocon plan not only includes an effort to destroy Arab, Persian, and Muslim culture, but American culture as well. "The real question is not whether the American military can topple Hussein's regime, but whether the American public has the stomach for imperial involvement of a kind we have not known since the United States occupied Germany and Japan," Lawrence F. Kaplan, the neocon sidekick of William Kristol, remarked as the invasion of Iraq unfolded. "The theory behind this, developed by Michael Doyle, professor of international affairs at Princeton University, is that democratic governments are reluctant to go to war because they must answer to their citizens. And the history of liberal democracies, though comparatively short in the grand scheme of history, tends to buttress his point," explains Bruce Murphy, writing for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Leo Strauss, the grand daddy of today's Straussian neocons, was opposed to classical liberalism, as defined as the sovereignty of the individual, the very foundation of the philosophy of John Locke and Adam Smith. As Michael Doliner writes in a review of Shadia B. Drury's Leo Strauss and the American Right, Strauss' "vision was of a hierarchical society based on natural inequalities and welded together with the fanatical devotion state religion engenders," an idea planted in his head in part by the Nazi Jurist Carl Schmitt, a doctrine mixed together into a dismal hodgepodge with heaping portions of bellum omnium contra omnes-war of all against all-cynicism extracted from the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes. "Strauss's hatred of liberalism is so virulent that he sees the struggle against it as a war, and in war all is fair. For this reason Straussians will use every dirty trick they can think of in the democratic arena in order to defeat liberalism. While doing so they will corrupt democracy itself. But since democracy is only a tool with which to defeat liberalism in order to institute the true Straussian hierarchical society, this is of little import. In the end they will jettison democracy if to do so is expedient."

In fact, Bush, the useful idiot sock puppet, unelected, court-appointed president of the Straussian neocons, is in the process of jettisoning democracy-or rather, the principles of our once proud constitutional republic-as the NSA "scandal" and repeated attacks against the Bill of Rights make painfully obvious. For the Straussian neocons, those of us alarmed and moved to action by the in-your-face onslaught against the Bill of Rights are considered the enemy. "Opponents of the ruling cabal, whatever their stripe, are 'them.' Indeed, since the cabal of philosophers is deceiving everyone else, even those who have joined the cause out of religious zeal are, in a real sense, 'them.' A small circle of initiates who repel the advances of everyone else is a feature of the Straussian State. These initiates are philosophers who rely on reason, and nihilistic reason tells them there are no rules, none, in this domestic battle," Doliner continues.

In order to construct the Straussian hierarchical society required to wage total, unrelenting, generational war, those opposed to the plan must be systematically eliminated, a process well under way with the illegal use of the NSA's massive high-tech snoop apparatus. Of course, this apparatus is not employed, as we are assured by a complicit corporate media, to ferret out "al-Qaeda" telephone calls and email messages, but rather to locate and compile electronic dossiers on critics of the Straussians, who will be dealt with in coordinated manner after the next "Pearl Harbor" event occurs-and no doubt the Iranians will endeavor to provide this event after their country is brutally invaded, as Javad Vaeedi promises.

It is foolish to consider all of this a "mistake," an unintended result of the over-zealousness on the part of a few "neoconservatives" who are in fact neo-Jacobins, murderous radicals, as Professor Claes Ryn and Paul Craig Roberts note. "More dangerous an enemy of the US and its traditional values than Muslims, neo-Jacobins have seized control of the Bush presidency and US foreign policy. They will stop at nothing to achieve their goal of World War IV in the Middle East," Roberts warns. "The neo-Jacobins are rushing to get America involved in a general Middle Eastern war before Americans have time to think. The terrorist scare which worked the first time is being employed again. Once we have attacked other sovereign Islamic countries, we will have to bring back the draft in order to raise the necessary armies or resort to nuclear weapons…. If the American public falls for the second round of neo-Jacobin propaganda [in the current context, against Iran], neither do they deserve, nor will they have, liberty and democracy."
In fact, we are well on our way to a Straussian hierarchical dictatorship in America. Once the opponents are dealt with, either rounded up and forced into Halliburton constructed concentration camps or slaughtered outright, the Straussians will construct their nihilistic paradise of pseudo-masculinity based on a chicken hawk war ethos, i.e., the bamboozled masses will be used as cannon fodder.

Not unlike Orwell's dystopian world, the New America of Straussian fascism and total war will be unrecognizable to those of us who dream of resurrecting a constitutional republic based on a classical liberalism so reviled by the Straussian neocons, who we are told simply made "mistakes" and now wish to repent, or at least explain themselves. Of course, this fake and criminal contriteness is simply more deception, as one of the primary tenets of Straussian fascism is deception, a tactic used to great effect by Hitler and Nazis. Unfortunately, if we don't get our act together and soon, America will suffer the same consequences of Nazi Germany, or more likely a consequence far worse.
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Psychopathy in Action: US report blames weak Iraq rule for abuses

By Guy Dinmore in Washington
March 8 2006

The US State Department on Wednesday released a damning report on the state of human rights and the security situation in Iraq, describing a weak and corrupt government with little control over its own murderous security forces in the face of a powerful insurgency.

Contained within the department's annual global human rights report, the 50-page section on Iraq represented the Bush administration's most detailed public assessment of the gravity of the crisis.
The report appeared to be more in line with the view of the US ambassador to Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad, who conceded this week that the US had "opened a Pandora's box in Iraq", than Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary, who accused the US and other media on Tuesday of exaggeration.

"Civic life and the social fabric remained under intense strain from the widespread violence, principally inflicted by insurgency and terrorist attacks," the report said.

"Additionally, the misappropriation of official authority by groups – paramilitary, sectarian, criminal, terrorist and insurgent – resulted in numerous and severe crimes and abuses," it added.

Much of the report was devoted to "extra-legal killings", arbitrary detention and torture committed by government forces, both police and military. However it also admitted that insurgents or criminals had killed and kidnapped while wearing official uniforms.

"The vast majority of human rights abuses reportedly carried out by government agents were attributed to the police," it said, describing how the Badr Organisation and Mahdi army militias, both Shia-based, had infiltrated the interior ministry.

The report documented the cases of Sunni inmates tortured in secret prisons, and noted that Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the prime minister, had set up an interagency inspection team to examine all prison facilities and abuses.

There was no mention of the conduct of US forces at the Abu Ghraib prison where abuses and deaths were revealed in 2004, or of US training of Iraqi forces.

But close allies of the US, the Kurdish security forces, were accused of committing abuses against non-Kurdish minorities in northern Iraq.

"Bombings took thousands of civilian lives during the year," the report said. "All sectors of society suffered from the continued wave of kidnappings."

It noted the killing by Islamist extremists of women in the southern city of Basra – under the control of UK troops – for not following strict dress codes.

"Large-scale financial, as well as political, personal corruption in the government remained a severe problem," it said.

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Ex-Iraq ambassador predicts civil war

9 Mar 06

A former Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations has said his country was headed for civil war and blamed the occupation forces for the sectarian violence.

In an interview with CNN, Mohamed Aldouri, Saddam Hussein's representative at the world body, said the occupation forces were acting as a magnet for extremists bent on preventing Iraq from developing into a full democracy.

"I think the occupation plays on the sectarianism problems of Iraq right now," Aldouri said on Wednesday from the United Arab Emirates, where he has been living since the fall of Saddam.
Asked if he thought that civil war could break out in Iraq, he said: "It's very,very likely ... I think that the main problem for Iraq now is the occupation itself.

Opposing occupation

"I am against the occupation. I am against those who are working with the occupation."

He said he thought that Iraq was "very, very capable of governing itself" and that when the occupation forces pulled out, the people who had arrived at the same time would go home too.

He said Iraqis were a "very rational" people and that there might be some trouble from the Kurdish population in the north, but "the other part of Iraq [Sunni and Shia], I think they will stick to their unity. I think this is ... their hope".

Aldouri said the Iraqis were now pinning their hope on "the national resistance, who resist the occupation, who resist the foreign armies".

While he did not condone Iraqi insurgents attacking fellow Iraqis, Aldouri said the attacks against the US-led occupation forces were justified.

"This is legal ... to resist foreigners, the occupation," he said.

With similar reasoning, Aldouri considered Saddam's incarceration and prosecution unjustified.

"It is illegal ... because, you know, he was captured under the occupation ... So [under] international law, he should not [be jailed]."

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ASSESSING IRAQ - "The Country Has Already Collapsed"

Interview conducted by Charles Hawley
9 Mar 06

With sectarian violence on the rise and a stable government nowhere in sight, things are not going well for Iraq at the moment. SPIEGEL ONLINE spoke with Iraq expert Marina Ottaway about chances for government legitimacy, how to establish stability in Iraq and why the police force in Iraq is a fiction.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: Headlines from Iraq seem to be getting progressively worse. Not only are suicide attacks and bombings a daily occurrence, but particularly after the February attack on the Golden Mosque in Samarra -- a Shiite holy site -- deadly sectarian violence has increased. Are we witnessing a country falling apart?

Marina Ottaway: At this point in Iraq, you do not have a central government -- so you don't have a legitimate authority running the country. You don't have a government with the power to establish or maintain order. What you have is a nominal government that can only stay in power because the Americans are there. The government is supposed to have derived legitimacy from the constitution and the elections. But I think the government we end up with, won't have much legitimacy either.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why not? After all, the Iraqis went to the polls and chose their representatives. That seems pretty legitimate, does it not?

Ottaway: It is now almost three months after the elections and there is still no government. The Iraqis continue postponing the opening of parliament because according to the constitution, after they open parliament, they only have two months to form the government. They don't think they can form a government that quickly. A government that takes over five months to form is not a government that is going to have very much legitimacy in the end. The country has already collapsed. Now the challenge is figuring out a way to deal with this fact.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The idea, of course, was that the United States was going to help the Iraqis with security until they could help themselves, hopefully providing an atmosphere in which the Iraqis could build a democratic state. What went wrong?

Ottaway: The process the United States envisaged for putting into place a new legitimate government -- a government that has both authority and power -- is not working. The power component -- training a new military and a new police force -- is not going well. Even the government is now admitting that the police force is not a national police force. Rather it is riddled through and through with the militias and it is fragmented and divided. It's a similar situation with the military. Some of the troops also have split loyalties. In some of the Kurdish units, for example, you have troops who are not only wearing the insignia of the Iraqi army on their sleeves, but also the insignia of the Peshmerga -- the Kurdish militia.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: We have heard a number of conflicting reports about how well the training of the Iraqi military and security forces is going. Is there any hope that the Iraqis may eventually be able to take care of their own security?

Ottaway: The Americans have discovered that there are very few Sunnis in the military and the police force, so they are trying to speed up the recruitment of Sunnis. That effort, in my opinion, will ultimately fail. The last of three groups of recruits -- they take in classes of about 1,200 men -- have been predominantly Sunni; the last one almost completely Sunni. There is a great danger that, rather than creating a more balanced national police force, this will create a Sunni militia alongside a Shiite militia that for all practical purposes already exists.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: You mean to say that the Americans are essentially in the process of training soldiers for an eventual sectarian civil war?

Ottaway: That's a real risk.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is there a clear dividing line between the military forces trained by the Americans and the militias?

Ottaway: During the congressional hearings at the beginning of 2005, the US government said there was a high degree of combat readiness in the Iraqi military. Three months later, though, that readiness had dropped. You have to ask yourself, 'well, what happened?' There is a great danger -- and I have no proof but there certainly is a lot of circumstantial evidence -- that people who have been trained defected, or their officers defected, and that they are now in fact working for the militias. People don't become untrained.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Given such fragmentation, how can power and authority be created for the Iraqi government? Where do we go from here?

Ottaway: We need to start thinking about things radically differently. Rather than trying to impose our own view -- or the American vision -- of what Iraq should be like, it's time to seriously consider doing what was done with Bosnia in the Dayton Accords. The Dayton Accords were not an attempt to impose an American or a European solution. It was an attempt to take into consideration what the various groups wanted. At that point, what they wanted was to not have anything to do with each other -- but the treaty more or less salvaged Bosnia. The time may have come to do the same in Iraq.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is there not any hope that the current way of doing things will bear fruit?

Ottaway: There is absolutely nothing we can do to stop what is currently going on in Iraq and I don't believe that there is really anybody who disagrees on this point. You can't, for example, convince the Kurds to give up on the dream of an autonomous region. That is just impossible. The Kurds have been essentially autonomous for the last 10 years. They are very well armed -- they have probably the strongest militia force in that country. Nobody is going to force the Kurds to do something that they do not want. And convincing the Sunnis and the Shiites to stay together? I'm really not sure about that. The real question is whether an agreement can be reached on a decentralized system without descending into civil war.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: A lot of people think that we are witnessing a civil war already.

Ottaway: It depends on what you mean by civil war. One type is the civil war we know from the United States in the 19th century or Bosnia in the 1990s where factions fought against each other with actual armies in the field. Then you have the civil war that we see in many African countries -- more wars of disintegration. These are fought in a disorganized way where the lines between the government troops and the militias are very unclear. If you accept that as a form of civil war, then Iraq is experiencing civil war.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Which is exactly what the United States wants to avoid. Has the American project of building a democratic country in the Middle East been reduced to preventing an all-out eruption of sectarian violence?

Ottaway: Not really. The United States is trying not to intervene in the conflicts flaring at the moment. Following the blowing up of the Golden Mosque in Samarra and the retaliatory attacks against Sunni mosques, American troops were pretty much confined to barracks. This led to a lot of complaints, but the position taken by the United States was that it was not going to step into the middle of these sorts of conflicts. The American role is to build up the Iraqi national forces so that they can provide security. The problem is, as we said, that the national police force and national military -- but particularly the police force -- are to a large extent fiction.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: But the US continues to rely on this strategy. Why? Is it naivety?

Ottaway: It's not naivety. We have never understood the political situation in Iraq. And don't forget that the American policy in Iraq was driven almost completely by the military. It was not designed by experts on the country. And frankly I'm not sure anybody else could have done better -- it is an extremely complicated situation. There was an honest attempt by the United States to create a new Iraq. But it has failed.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Meanwhile, attempts to create a government in Iraq continue. Might they be successful after all?

Ottaway: I don't doubt that they will be able to put together a government of sorts. But will that government really have legitimacy in the eyes of most Iraqis? US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad wants the Sunnis to be over-represented in the hopes of pacifying the Sunni insurgency. The danger is that he will make the situation worse. There is a real chance that the Sunni insurgency will ignore the government as mere puppets of America -- and that Khalilzad's strategy will alienate the Shiites. That would lead to an enormously dangerous situation. One of the reasons why the United States is still in Iraq is because the Shiites have continued to tolerate their presence. That could change, and at that point the American occupation would be in serious trouble. And the whole of Iraq would be in serious, serious trouble.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So the Americans have to stay?

Ottaway: Whether you believed in the war in the first place or not, at this point, a sudden American withdrawal would result in a mess. Americans should perhaps not be there, but now that they are there, they cannot just pick up and go.

Marina Ottaway is a specialist on democracy and post- conflict resolution with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. She is also the senior associate in the Democracy and Rule of Law Project which analyzes the state of democracy across the globe and looks closely at efforts by the United States to promote democracy. She is currently working on a book about the political transformation in the Middle East and on reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan.

This interview with Ms. Ottaway took place in Berlin at a symposium sponsored by the Heinrich Böll Stiftung on the chances and risks of exporting democracy.

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Carter Urges Troop Withdrawal From Iraq

Associated Press
8 Mar 06

Former President Jimmy Carter criticized the war in Iraq on Wednesday, urging a troop drawdown as the United States enters its fourth year of conflict in Iraq.

"It was a completely unnecessary war. It was an unjust war," said Carter, the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize winner. "It was initiated on the basis of false pretenses. All of those are true, but we can't just pre-emptively withdraw."

He urged the Bush administration to bring home as many troops as possible within the next 12 months.
"The violence is increasing monthly," Carter said. "My prayer is we'll see some kind of democracy eventually evolve."

His comments came at a news conference before a building dedication at the University of Washington.

Carter was the keynote speaker at the dedication of the university's new Genome Sciences and Bioengineering Building in honor of William H. Foege. Foege directed the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during Carter's presidency and later headed The Carter Center, which promotes peace and health programs around the world.

Carter credited Foege with saving the lives of millions of people through his efforts to eradicate smallpox, Guinea worm and river blindness, and by encouraging childhood immunization.

Foege works with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which contributed $50 million for the building.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press.

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You Call This Progress?

By Molly Ivins, AlterNet. Posted March 9, 2006.

Despite Rumsfeld's public rationalizing, Iraq is in a deep pile of poop.
It was such a relief to me to learn we are making "very, very good progress" in Iraq. As the third anniversary of our invasion approaches, I could not have been more thrilled by the news reported by Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on a Sunday chat show. Vice President Dick Cheney's take was equally reassuring: Things are "improving steadily" in Iraq.

I was thrilled -- very, very good progress and steady improvement, isn't that grand? Wake me if anything starts to go wrong. Like someone bombing the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra and touching off a lot of sectarian violence.

I was also relieved to learn -- via Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, so noted for his consistently accurate assessment of this war -- that the whole picture is hunky-dory to tickety-boo. Since the bombing of the mosque, lots of alarmists have reported that Iraq is devolving or might be collapsing into civil war. They're sort of jumping over the civil war line and back again -- yep, it's started; nope, it hasn't -- like a bunch of false starts at the beginning of a football play.

I'm sure glad to get the straight skinny from Ol' Rumsfeld, who has been in Iraq many times himself for the typical in-country experience. Like many foreign correspondents, Rumsfeld roams the streets alone, talking to any chance-met Iraqi in his fluent Arabic, so of course he knows best.

"From what I've seen thus far, much of the reporting in the U.S. and abroad has exaggerated the situation," Rumsfeld said. "We do know, of course, that al Qaeda has media committees. We do know they teach people exactly how to try to manipulate the media. They do this regularly. We see the intelligence that reports on their meetings. Now I can't take a string and tie it to a news report and then trace it back to an al Qaeda media committee meeting. I am not able to do that at all."

No horsepoop? Then can I ask a question: If you're able to monitor these media committee meetings, how come you can't find Osama bin Ladin?

But, Brother Rumsfeld warns us, "We do know that their goal is to try to break the will; that they consider the center of gravity of this -- not to be in Iraq, because they know they can't win a battle out there; they consider it to be in Washington, D.C., and in London and in the capitals of the Western world."

I'm sorry, I know we are not allowed to use the V-word in relation to Iraq, because so many brilliant neo-cons have assured us this war is nothing like Vietnam (Vietnam, lotsa jungle; Iraq lotsa sand -- big differences). But you must admit that press conferences with Donny Rum are wonderfully reminiscent of the Five O'Clock Follies, those wacky but endearing daily press briefings on Southeast Asia by military officers who made Baghdad Bob sound like a pessimist.

Rumsfeld's performance was so reminiscent of all the times the military in Vietnam blamed the media for reporting "bad news'" when there was nothing else to report. A briefing officer once memorably asked the press, "Whose side are you on?" The answer is what it's always been: We root for America, but our job is to report as accurately as we can what the situation is.

You could rely on other sources. For example, the Pentagon is still investigating itself to find out why it is paying American soldiers to make up good news about the war, which it then passes on to a Republican public relations firm, which in turn pays people in the Iraqi media to print the stuff -- thus fooling the Iraqis or somebody. When last heard from, the general in charge of investigating this federally funded Baghdad Bobism said he hadn't found anything about it to be illegal yet, so it apparently continues.

Meanwhile, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told the Los Angeles Times that Iraq is "really vulnerable" to civil war if there is another attack like the al-Askari bombing. By invading, said Khalilzad, the United States has "opened the Pandora's box" of sectarian strife in Iraq.

Could I suggest something kind of grown-up? Despite Rumsfeld's rationalizing, we are in a deep pile of poop here, and we're best likely to come out of it OK by pulling together. So could we stop this cheap old McCarthyite trick of pretending that correspondents who are in fact risking their lives and doing their best to bring the rest of us accurate information are somehow disloyal or connected to al Qaeda?

Wrong, yes, of course they could be wrong. But there is now a three-year record of who has been right about what is happening in Iraq, Rumsfeld or the media. And the score is: Press -- 1,095; Rumsfeld -- zero.

Comment: Hey, Molly. Just when has the media been right on this? Were they right when they allowed Colin Powell to get up and lie in front of the world community and they said nothing?

Were they right when they promoted the idea tht Saddam had WMDs?

Were they right when they ignored the real story of 9/11, that it was carried out by Israel with neocon complicity?

Just where the hell have the media been right in the five years of the Bush Reich?

When they ignored the story of election fraud in 2000 and 2004?

Are they right every time they let Bush and his cronies tell the most blatant lies this side of Nazi Germany and Stalin's Russia and say nothing? What do they put in the water US journalists drink?

Wake up, woman, or you're gonna be toast.

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"Stop or I'll Shoot! We're Here to Help You!"

By Christophe Boltanski
Wednesday 08 March 2006

Bitter or with no particular emotion, American soldiers returning from Iraq publish their first testimonial books.

At the end of the invasion of Iraq, Captain Nathaniel Fick [1] and his Marines enter Muwaffiqiya, a village south of Baghdad, without encountering any resistance. They advance slowly. They are nervous. They've just been warned by radio that fedayin are operating in the area and preparing suicide attacks. They establish a road block to allow the rest of the convoy to advance when a car comes up at an intersection. "Vehicle ahead. Blue car. Three or four passengers," shouts a soldier. "Roger. Ascending force. Don't let it pass!" cries an officer. They proceed to a warning round, then open fire. The car leaves the road, then stops. The driver lies across the steering wheel, his tunic stained with blood.
Every American soldier transformed into an author has his story of mortal blunder at a checkpoint. The victims are neither kamikazes nor combatants. They committed the mistake of not stopping in time or of having just popped up in the wrong place at the wrong time. "Everybody was scared shitless," relates Chief-Sergeant Jimmy Massey in "Kill! Kill! Kill!" [2]: "When the tractor truck turned up, one of his men raised his arm to signal the driver to stop. Without effect. We all opened fire. Without notice ... A man on fire, who is around sixty years old, jumped from the cabin and ran to the highway, trying to put out the flames."

Gore Fest

The first books follow the first discharges. Three years after the beginning of the hostilities, the testimonies of American veterans returning from the Middle East are multiplying. Every conflict generates its own literary genre: epic for the Second World War, tragedy for the Vietnam War. And "junk" for Operation Iraqi Freedom. The material is composed from blogs, personal letters, raw details furtively thrown on paper between two patrols. The combat scenes oscillate between video games and gore fests. Garrison life provides closed-door secrets worthy of a reality show. Question of the times, the culture, and also of the context. Iraq inspires its conquerors to disjointed tales with no message, no direction, no laurels, no praise, and no critique. No diatribe against the US Army or George W. Bush, but no great patriotic couplets either.

The soldiers did not come to establish democracy, liberate a people, or destroy weapons of mass destruction, just to "do their job" and "stay alive." They barely believe the objectives proclaimed by their bosses. The objectives for the war? "Oil and profit," maintains Staff-Sergeant Massey. "The lies that brought us there, which cost some their lives and wounded many others, only the most chauvinistic among us swallowed them," writes Kayla Williams for her part, sergeant in the Military Intelligence Division of the 101st Airborne.

In "Love My Rifle More Than You" [3], this young woman relates her successive disillusions. She denounces the machismo and xenophobia of her comrades in arms, recounts "things" she'd like "to forget." An Arab speaker, she sometimes participates in interrogation sessions. She has to humiliate prisoners who line up naked in front of her. She acquits herself of her task with neither enthusiasm nor talent, but also without protest, by stringing together remarks about the size of their penises: "You think you can satisfy a woman with that?" There are also tortures, beatings, burnings with lit cigarettes, injuries, sometimes even a death. "It wasn't just at Abu Ghraib. That happened elsewhere." She emits timid protests, then falls in line.

These war chronicles allow us to better understand why the American Army has failed to "win the hearts and minds" of those it came to "liberate." From the outset, relations with "the locals" turned septic. The first weeks after Saddam's fall were nothing but a series of abuses, accidents, misunderstandings. The road blocks, often the sole point of contact with the population, became firing ranges. There were no signs in Arabic to order drivers to stop. In "Kill! Kill! Kill!" a squadron opens fire on unarmed demonstrators who are screaming anti-American slogans in a Baghdad suburb. One soldier fired, his companions imitated him. Four died. "Too many soldiers acted like they were out hunting," deplores Sergeant Williams.

Unlike British soldiers, these Marines and GIs had no "peacekeeping" mission experience. Nothing prepared them for what awaited them. Before rushing into Iraq, Captain Fick's men learned two phrases in Arabic: "Stop or I'll shoot!" and "We're here to help you." Twenty-eight-year-old soldier Colby Buzzel got an hour-long lesson. "Today they gave us some ideas about Iraqi customs and Arabic. I slept through half the course," he notes in "My War, Killer Time in Iraq." [4]

"Fucking Terrorist"

This son of a soldier keeps a blog that becomes a book on his return. Unemployed, he signed up for two years with the Army because it offered him a $4,000 signing bonus, two weeks of leave a year and health and dental insurance. He is also looking for adventure and finds it in Baghdad's streets. "I hate to say it because it may seem racist, but everybody looks like a fucking terrorist to me. Everybody. And, guy, they're everywhere. I saw two guys with AK-47s on a bridge; they weren't wearing uniforms, but they must have been police because nobody from my platoon was shooting at them," he writes after his arrival in the Iraqi capital.

These soldiers return to their country disabused, sometimes suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, but not disgusted. Once demobilized, Kayla Williams proclaims her desire to return to Iraq to "finish what we've begun." Nathaniel Fick finishes his work with: "I am proud." Only Jimmy Massey wants to denounce the abuses of power committed in Iraq, confesses to suffering from psychological problems, says he can no longer look at himself in the mirror. He could find no United States publisher for his book.


[1] "One Bullet Away," by Nathaniel Fick. Houghton Mifflin Co., New York 2005.

[2] "Kill! Kill! Kill!" by Jimmy Massey, with Natasha Saulnier. Panama, Paris 2005.

[3] "Love My Rifle More Than You," by Kayla Williams. Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London 2006.

[4] "My War, Killer Time in Iraq," by Colby Buzzel. G.P. Putnam's sons, New York 2005.

Translation: t r u t h o u t French language correspondent Leslie Thatcher.

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'They tried to attach themselves to his virtue; then they wiped their feet with him.'--Mary Tillman

By Robert Scheer
7 Mar 06

Mary Tillman has been a model of patience and fortitude as she doggedly pursues the facts concerning her son Pat's death in Afghanistan two years ago. In that spirit, she welcomed as positive the news that the Pentagon's inspector general has asked the Army to launch an investigation into whether criminal negligence was involved in the "friendly fire" incident that resulted in the death of her football-star son who turned soldier.
That request by the inspector general, made after a review of three previous investigations, implies a clear rebuke of the military's handling of this case to date. But as much as Mary Tillman and the rest of the Tillman family hope this new inquiry will clear up the glaring contradictions and mysterious discrepancies of the previous accounts, she knows it is not prudent to be overly optimistic.

That's because, quite apart from what happened on that afternoon two years ago, there can now be little doubt that the Bush administration quickly and cynically moved to spin the story in ways that would serve its political purposes at the expense of the truth.

"The administration used Pat," Mary Tillman told me in a phone interview on Monday from San Jose. "They tried to attach themselves to his virtue and then they wiped their feet with him."

Her words were chosen carefully, as befits a schoolteacher who spends many hours each week grading the logic and syntax of her students. But over the past two years, she has been fed so many lies by this administration that she now confidently accuses it of something much more sinister than simple incompetence.

As a star safety for the Arizona Cardinals who gave up a contract worth millions of dollars to join the military in a burst of post-Sept. 11 patriotism, Pat Tillman was certainly one of a handful of popularly known American soldiers of his generation - along with the similarly exploited Jessica Lynch and the infamous Abu Ghraib guard Lyndie England. It was the scandal of Abu Ghraib, in fact, that the family believes may have driven the Bush administration and the military to cover up the embarrassing truth of Tillman's pointless death.

First, Pat's relatives were informed that he had been killed by enemy fire, even though it was soon obvious to his superiors in Afghanistan that this was untrue. Soldiers on the scene knew the truth, but were told by higher-ups not to reveal it, even to Pat's brother, Kevin, a professional baseball player who had enlisted alongside his brother. Kevin, who served in the same unit as Pat, was patrolling nearby at the time and accompanied his brother's body home, unaware of the cause of his death.

For more than a month, an investigating officer's determination that friendly fire and possible "gross negligence" had led to Tillman's death was buried so that military press releases and a nationally televised memorial service could sell America on the completely false notion that Tillman had died in a battle with Taliban or Al Qaeda irregulars. The officer also later testified that, in the subsequent investigations, key witnesses were allowed to change their previous testimony.

It is inconceivable that the facts of this publicly revered soldier's death were not transmitted to the top brass at the Pentagon and over to the White House. As Mary Tillman pointed out Monday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had written a letter to her son when he enlisted, congratulating him on his patriotic spirit.

"I'm sure he was on their radar and I'm sure the Army wouldn't do this without the administration knowing. The administration covered it up because they needed to promote the war and it came at the time of the Abu Ghraib scandal," she said. "They spun a fantasy story that made his Silver Star suspect - I know that Pat was heroic and I didn't need their deceptions to confirm it."

When they enlisted in the Army's elite Rangers, serving tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the Tillman brothers became convenient poster boys for a Bush administration eager to exploit the patriotic sensibilities of a wounded nation. What a tragedy that the family's deep sacrifice should come to be treated so shabbily.

Hero is a word easily cheapened by overuse, especially in times of war. Yet it is clear that the Tillman family has provided us with more than one of the real thing. The public should back its request for a full accounting as to the death of Pat Tillman, but that will require more than another perfunctory Army investigation, which their congressional representative, Mike Honda (D-San Jose), has criticized as yet another example of the military "investigating itself." There needs to be a congressional hearing on the role of the administration in exploiting this tragic episode.

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At last, the warmongers are prepared to face the facts and admit they were wrong

Rupert Cornwell
09 March 2006

It has taken more than three years, tens of thousands of Iraqi and American lives, and $200bn (£115bn) of treasure - all to achieve a chaos verging on open civil war. But, finally, the neo-conservatives who sold the United States on this disastrous war are starting to utter three small words. We were wrong.
The second thoughts have spread across the conservative spectrum, from William Buckley, venerable editor of The National Review to Andrew Sullivan, once editor of the New Republic, now an influential commentator and blogmeister. The patrician conservative columnist George Will was gently sceptical from the outset. He now glumly concludes that all three members of the original "axis of evil" - not only Iran and North Korea but also Iraq - "are more dangerous than when that term was coined in 2002".

Neither Mr Buckley nor Mr Sullivan concedes that the decision to topple Saddam was intrinsically wrong. But "the challenge required more than [President Bush's] deployable resources," the former sadly recognises. "The American objective in Iraq has failed."

For Mr Sullivan, today's mess is above all a testament to American overconfidence and false assumptions, born of arrogance and naïveté. But he too asserts, in a column in Time magazine this week, that all may not be lost.

Of all the critiques however, the most profound is that of Francis Fukuyama, in his forthcoming book, America at the Crossroads. Its subtitle is "Democracy, Power and the Neo-Conservative Legacy" - and that legacy, Mr Fukuyama argues, is fatally poisoned.

This is no ordinary thesis, but apostasy on a grand scale. Mr Fukuyama, after all, was the most prominent intellectual who signed the 1997 "Project for the New American Century", the founding manifesto of neo-conservatism drawn up by William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, the house journal of the neo-conservative movement.

The PNAC aimed to cement for all time America's triumph in the Cold War, by increasing defence spending, challenging regimes that were hostile to US interests, and promoting freedom and democracy around the world. Its goal was "an international order friendly to our security, prosperity and values".

The war on Iraq, spuriously justified by the supposed threat posed by Saddam's WMD, was the test run of this theory. It was touted as a panacea for every ill of the Middle East. The road to Jerusalem, the neo-cons argued, led through Baghdad. And after Iraq, why not Syria, Iran and anyone else that stood in Washington's way? All that, Mr Fukuyama now acknowledges, has been a tragic conceit.

Like the Leninists of old, he writes, the neo-conservatives reckoned they could drive history forward with the right mixture of power and will. However, "Leninism was a tragedy in its Bolshevik version, and it has returned as farce when practiced by the United States."

But was it not Mr Fukuyama who claimed in his most celebrated work, The End of History and the Last Man, that the whole world was locked on a glide-path to liberal, free-market democracy? Yes indeed. But that book, he points out, argued that the process was gradual, and must unfold at its own pace.

But not only were the neo-cons too impatient. A second error was to believe that an all-powerful America would be trusted to exercise a "benevolent hegemony". A third was the gross overstatement of the post 9/11 threat posed by radical Islam, in order to justify the dubious doctrine of preventive war.

Finally, there was the blatant contradiction between the neo-cons' aversion to government meddling at home and their childlike faith in their ability to impose massive social engineering in foreign and utterly unfamiliar countries like Iraq. Thence sprang the mistakes of the occupation period.

Some, however, are resolutely unswayed. In the latest Weekly Standard, Mr Kristol accuses Mr Fukuyama of losing his nerve - of wanting to "retrench, hunker down and let large parts of the world go to hell in a handbasket, hoping the hand-basket won't blow up in our faces."

Christopher Hitchens, the one-time Trotskyist turned neo-con fellow traveller and eternal polemicist, derides Mr Fukuyama for "conceding to the fanatics and beheaders the claim that they are a response to American blunders and excesses," and for yearning for a return of Kissingerian realism in foreign affairs.

The fact, however, remains that future Bush policymakers who signed the PNAC nine years ago are now mostly gone. Paul Wolfowitz, the war's most relentless and starry-eyed promoter, has moved on to the World Bank, silent about the mess he did so much to create. Richard Perle, leader of the resident hawks department at the American Enterprise Institute think-tank here, has vanished from the scene. Lewis Libby meanwhile has stepped down as Vice-President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, to focus his energy on staying out of jail.

Yet another signatory was Zalmay Khalilzad, now the US ambassador to Iraq. This week even he - Afghan born and the one original neo-con who had the region in his blood - admitted that the invasion had opened "a Pandora's box" that could see the Iraq conflict spread across the entire Middle East.

Those left in the administration - primarily Mr Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, the Defence Secretary, are not so much neo-conservatives as "Hobbesian unilateralists", concerned to protect and advance US national interests in a lawless and violent world, whatever it takes.

As for Condoleezza Rice, never a signed-up member of the movement but mostly sympathetic to it when she was the President's security adviser - she has metamorphosed from hawk into pragmatist with her move from the White House to the State Department.

It is on George Bush's lips that neo-conservatism most obviously survives - in the commitment to spreading freedom and democracy that he proclaims almost daily, and most hubristically in his second inaugural in 2005 that promised to banish tyranny from the earth.

But even the extravagant oratory of that icy January day cannot obscure the irony of America's Iraq adventure. The application of a doctrine built upon the supposed boundlessness of US power has succeeded only in exposing its limits.

Thus chastened, Mr Fukuyama now wants to temper the idealism of the neo-conservative doctrine with an acceptance that some things are not so easy to change, and that the US must cut its cloth accordingly. He calls it "realistic Wilsonianism". A better description might be neo-realism. And if that brings a smile to the face of a certain former US high priest of realism with a pronounced German accent, who can blame him?

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Academics become casualties of Iraq War

By Waleed Ibrahim
ABC News/Reuters
Mar 9, 2006

BAGHDAD - Gunmen have killed some 182 Iraqi university professors and academics since the U.S. invasion in early 2003 and a group representing Iraqi academia said on Thursday the killings constituted a war crime.

Another 85 senior academics have been kidnapped or survived assassination attempts, according to the Association of University Lecturers in Iraq.

The attacks have led to an exodus of Iraqi academics who are vital to educating and rebuilding the war-damaged country.

"What is going on in Iraq against these professors is a real war crime," said Dr Isam Kadhem Al-Rawi, head of the association and Professor in Earth Sciences at the University of Baghdad.
In the chaos of Baghdad, it was not always easy to establish whether the killings were politically or criminally motivated.

Rawi said the campaign against Iraq's leading intellectuals was being orchestrated by parties inside and outside the country and motivated by perceived allegiance of an individual to one particular religious or secular party.

Addressing a news conference at the association's headquarters in western Baghdad, Rawi appealed to all groups to protect the country's academics.

In recent incidents Ali Hussein al-Khafaj, dean of the college of engineering at Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad was kidnapped as he left for work on Tuesday.

Gunmen shot dead prominent Iraqi academic and political analyst Abdul Razak al-Na'as in his car in January as he left his office at Baghdad University's College of Information, in the center of the capital.

In several kidnap cases, families have paid ransoms only to receive the bodies of the victims, Rawi said.

Rawi said if the situation did not improve university lecturers would strike or organize other traditional protests such as sit-ins.

Copyright 2006 Reuters News Service.

Comment: This is typical "Hitlerian" policy. It bespeaks the plan to create a civil war, to commit genocide, and then to move in and take over the country and its resources. Such was planned for Poland by Hitler:

The transformation of Poland into a German province was to be carried out over a short period of twenty-five or thirty years. Hence, no mercy was to be shown to this population. And, to guarantee the success of this fast despoliation, the intelligentsia was to be liquidated. "It sounds cruel, " Hitler reportedly told Hans Frank, "but such is the law of life."

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I was tortured, says Australian held in Iraq

By Tom Allard
Sydney Morning Herald
March 10, 2006

A SYDNEY man, Ahmed Jamal, imprisoned in northern Iraq for 18 months without charge has told Australian officials he was tortured.

Mr Jamal was finally visited by Australia's consul-general in Iraq, Alan Elliott, on February 27 and found in a distressed state. He said he had been badly mistreated by his captors after his arrest.

His condition was relayed to his father, Mahmoud, and his lawyer, Stephen Kenny, by a consular official based in Canberra, Alex Fraser.
"He has been abused and tortured. Mr Alex told me that he said he has been tortured," Mahmoud Jamal said yesterday. "They told me that he has a lot of rashes on his body and that he has lost his memory … His loss of memory is from torture and electricity."

The Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed that his son said he was tortured but could not comment on the allegation of electrocution.

A spokesman said Mr Jamal asked Australian authorities not to raise his mistreatment with Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq because he feared reprisals.

But he said the Federal Government was pursuing the case, saying it was of "serious concern".

The spokesman also defended the department's inability to visit Mr Jamal for so long, which has enraged his family and Mr Kenny.

The Government found out in November 2004 - after it was informed by the Red Cross - that Mr Jamal, an Australian citizen who was then aged 22, had been detained in northern Iraq for "security-related issues".

He was first detained in September 2004, not long after leaving Australia and telling his family he was visiting the Middle East to find a bride and see the region.

The spokeswoman said "extensive representations" had been made to secure access to Mr Jamal and that logistical issues and a dangerous environment had prevented it from visiting earlier.

But Mr Kenny said this explanation was unacceptable, noting that over the same period scores of dignitaries, including the Prime Minister, had visited Iraq, not to mention executives from AWB.

"The Australian Government has a responsibility to protect Mr Jamal and the length of time they have taken to contact him is of great concern," Mr Kenny said.

"They should have got there much earlier. They failed to protect Mamdouh Habib and David Hicks. Here was a third chance for them to do the right thing."

Mahmoud Jamal said he had been warned that his son may be charged soon for waging jihad.

"This type of young generation, they don't know what they are doing," he said. "He said he would find a beautiful girl but he was tortured and abused."

The Jamal family is no stranger to seeing its members detained on terrorism charges. Ahmed Jamal's older brother, Saleh, is in jail in Lebanon on weapons charges and is accused of plotting terrorist attacks in Lebanon and in Australia.

He escaped from Australia on a false passport while on bail for his alleged role in a drive-by shooting at the Lakemba police station.

Mohammed Omar Jamal, another brother, was arrested in Sydney in December and charged with conspiring to manufacture explosives in preparation for a terrorist act.

The last of the alleged Sydney terrorist cell to be arrested, he allegedly brought large quantities of chemicals which could be used to make a bomb.

A Jamal family member who asked not to be identified further said: "They are treating them like dirt. We are waiting for them to take the other boys as well."

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Abu Ghraib, symbol of America's shame, to close within three months - 4,500 inmates to be moved to other jails

Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
Friday March 10, 2006
The Guardian

Abu Ghraib, the prison which will be forever linked with images of Iraqi detainees stripped naked and humiliated by their American jailors, is to be closed, US military officials said yesterday. The sprawling, low-slung prison in the western suburbs of Baghdad, a torture chamber under Saddam Hussein that gained even more notoriety with the photographs of abuse committed by US troops, is likely to close within three months.

Its 4,500 inmates will be transferred to other jails in Iraq - including Camp Cropper, the facility at the Baghdad airport where Saddam is being held. Lieutenant Colonel Keir-Kevin Curry, the spokesman for US detention operations in Iraq, told Reuters news agency: "No precise dates have been set, but the plan is to accomplish this within the next two to three months." He said the handover would take place in phases, beginning with the training of Iraqi prison guards.
The buildings at Abu Ghraib, built by a British contractor in the 1960s, and the tented camp thrown up by American forces in 2003 to hold the overflow of detainees, are to be handed over to the Iraqi government.

In April 2003, a few days after the fall of the Iraqi regime, the Guardian visited the prison with one of its former inmates under Saddam, and we were led through the punishment units, windowless cinder block cells one metre by 50cm, the yellow holding pen where men fought to sleep next to the stinking latrine because it gave them a few centimetres more space, and the courtyard, where hangings were held on Mondays and Wednesdays.

But, in the Arab world at least, that terrifying reputation has been obscured and obliterated by the horrors perpetrated by US troops on Iraqi detainees that came to light in April 2004 when CBS television and the New Yorker published the searing images of abuse.

It was not immediately clear yesterday how the announcement of Abu Ghraib's handover fitted with a promise by President Bush in May 2004 to demolish Abu Ghraib as "fitting symbol of Iraq's new beginning". A US military spokesman, Colonel Barry Johnson, said the decision to shut the jail had been dictated by security concerns. "Abu Ghraib prison is in a region that has been susceptible to attacks and it is difficult to support logistically, so there has always been the intention the move detainees to a more secure location," he said. But he acknowledged: "There are other associations with Abu Ghraib that are more emotional".

The abuse scandal deeply shocked Americans' sense of mission in Iraq, adding shame to pride at the overthrow of Saddam. In the outside world, the scandal deepened anger at America for the invasion of Iraq, and became a symbol of American disdain for Muslims and their culture. As Mr Bush said in his May 2004 speech to the Carlisle barracks war college: "That same prison became a symbol of disgraceful conduct by a few American troops who dishonoured our country and disregarded our values."

Multiple investigations by the US military produced a mountain of evidence of abuse committed between October and December 2003: thousands of photographs and dozens of video clips showed the ritualised humiliation of Iraqi detainees. Some have become iconic: the figure in a cloak and a hood standing on a box with wires attached to his limbs; the naked human pyramids of Iraqi detainees and their gloating jailors giving the thumbs-up sign; the pixie-like female soldier tugging a detainee on a dog leash.

There were photographs of Iraqis forced to masturbate in front of female prison guards, or simulate sex acts upon each other. There were photographs of Iraqis cowering before prison dogs. There were photographs of Iraqis with women's underwear on their heads.

The Bush administration insists the mistreatment of detainees was the work of a handful of troops, and not part of its policy. To date, seven soldiers have been sent to court martial and convicted of their role in the abuse scandal. Two, widely recognised from the abuse photos, received long jail sentences: Specialist Charles Graner was sentenced to 10 years, while his former girlfriend Lynndie England, who had a child by Graner, received a three-year term. The most senior officer linked to the scandal, the commander of the prison, Brigadier Janis Karpinski, was demoted to the rank of colonel last year.

The Pentagon's insistence that the abuse was confined to a few officers has deepened the perception in the Arab world that Washington was not committed to getting to the bottom of the scandal. That suspicion is unlikely to be allayed by indications that Abu Ghraib is not to be demolished after all.



Built by British contractors


Saddam becomes president of Iraq; prison divided into five separate walled compounds: foreign prisoners, long sentences, short sentences, capital crimes, and 'special' political crimes

January 1994

More than 150 detainees executed over two days

November 1996

Hundreds of government opponents executed

June 1998

60, mostly Shia, executed

October 1999

At least 100 prisoners executed

22 April 2003

US forces take over prison, renamed Baghdad Central Detention Centre

July 2003

Amnesty International publishes first post-war allegations of torture

Nov 24 2004

Twelve prisoners shot, three killed, in prison riot

Jan 14 2004

US army begins inquiry into abuses

Jan 31 2004

Major General Antonio Taguba appointed head of inquiry

March 12 2004

Taguba presents report

April 28 2004

CBS airs first photos of abused detainees

May 6 2004

President Bush apologises to Arab world for abuses

May 24 2004

Bush announces prison will be demolished 'as a fitting symbol of Iraq's new beginning'

March 9 2006

Announcement prison to be closed

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Video: Turkey Shoot At Abu Ghraib - Tales of Murder and Torture

Broadcast: Dateline
SBS Australia
8 Mar 06

The latest chapter in reporter Olivia Rousset's Abu Ghraib revelations. Three weeks ago on Dateline, Olivia revealed new evidence of horrific abuse at Abu Ghraib.

On a recent trip to the US, Olivia managed to track down two former Abu Ghraib guards - one who served time for committing abuses against Iraqi detainees and another who witnessed those shocking events. It's no small irony that both of these former US military policemen now see themselves as being among the victims of Abu Ghraib. Here's Olivia's story. And, as you would expect with this sort of report, be warned - some of what you're about to see is not exactly pretty and could even offend.

Transcript below.
In the eyes of much of the world this man is a torturer.

SHALEEK: The prodigal son has returned! This is him, we love him to death.

But in his hometown of Roselle, New Jersey Javal Davis is a young man who lives with his grandparents and goes to church every Sunday. When he left school he joined the army to serve his country.

Soon after spending several months peacekeeping in Bosnia he was shipped off to Iraq.

JAVAL DAVIS, FORMER MILITARY POLICEMAN: We were trained up before we left, you know, all we were going to do, that we were going to go over there, we were going to fight, fight, fight, fight, kill, kill, kill, you know, the enemy.
Once they're destroyed, then we would go home. It didn't turn out to be exactly that way.

Like other guards at Abu Ghraib Javal Davis put prisoners in stress positions, threw cold water on them and played loud music to keep them awake in preparation for interrogations.
He pleaded guilty to assaulting a group of prisoners and then lying about it to investigators, but he says we shouldn't condemn him.

JAVAL DAVIS: Unless you were there, unless you were there, live it, sleep it, eat it every day, you know, stay open about drawing an opinion. It's easy to draw conclusion or what I would have, should have, could have did from the comforts of your living room, from the couch watching CNN.
If you were actually on the other side of CNN, on the other side of the camera, fighting for your life, that's the only way you'd understand, that's it.

KEN DAVIS, FORMER MILITARY POLICEMAN I hate that I would even know the word Abu Ghraib, I hate it because it hurts. it's like a wound that doesn't heal.

Like Javal, Ken Davis was a military policeman in the 372nd Company. He enlisted on September 11, 2001, wanting to do something for his country, but scarred by his experiences in Iraq he left the army and became a policeman in Maryland.

KEN DAVIS: I went over there believing that I can help Iraqi people be free. I believe in that. But after Abu Ghraib, I wish I had never been a part of it.
When someone will come up to me and say, "Hey, we hear you were in Iraq, what unit were you in?" I have to pick my head up and say, "I was with 372nd MP company."

Last year, in my first story on Abu Ghraib, I interviewed Iraqis who were tortured in the prison. Abu Maan and Haj Ali shared terrible stories with me about months they spent without charge being abused by guards and interrogators.

HAJ ALI, (Translation): They'd load a pistol and put it here and tell me in Arabic, "Execution, Execution, Execution."

ABU MAAN (Translation): What has information got to do with making you drink urine? If his aim was to get information
It's not about information at all, it's about a few Americans in a frenzy of sadism, headed by Rumsfeld, sadist number one. And sadism filtered down to some Americans, not all.

HAJ ALI, (Translation): I can never forget their faces. It's true their features differed but the monster was the same behind the masks they were wearing.

I wanted to find out what had turned ordinary American soldiers into the apparent monsters revealed in the photographs.

According to Ken and Javal, Abu Ghraib was living hell for the guards as well as the prisoners.

JAVAL DAVIS: It was very fearful being alone was, you know, we were out there, we were pretty much on our own at Abu Ghraib.

Like you drive three miles up the street from our prison you're in Fallujah and if you drive a couple miles west, you're in Ramadi. Now if you remember watching television, Fallujah and Ramadi were like the hottest spots in Iraq. We were right there. They would come down from Fallujah, shoot mortars at us and drive back into Fallujah.

The military police from the 372nd Company, like Ken and Javal were never trained to guard prisoners, but at times there were up to 7,000 Iraqis being held in overcrowded conditions for months on end. There were around 75 prisoners to each soldier.

JAVAL DAVIS: We worked seven days straight, you know, 12-, 16-hour days. We didn't have enough people to man all the positions and it was just... it was hard.

REPORTER: And where did you sleep?

JAVAL DAVIS: I slept in the prison cell. It was myself and seven other soldiers, you know, we were seven to a cell. I mean, we slept in the same conditions that the prisoners did.

But the prisoners certainly received different treatment. When I met with Ken and Javal I had already obtained a disc with thousands of previously unreleased photographs taken by MPs who served at the prison. Of the thousands of photos and videos taken at Abu Ghraib most are snapshots of the everyday life of the soldiers. Others reveal how out of control the prison had become.

The most shocking experience for both Javal and Ken, was on November 24, 2003 in the camp compound outside the cellblocks. The prisoners started a riot to protest their living conditions, which official reports say were overcrowded and dangerous.

JAVAL DAVIS: I heard it over the radio, I heard it. All you heard was over the radio "We're out of less lethal, it's not working," you know, "what do we do?"

KEN DAVIS: And the command came back across the radio and it just sent shivers down our backs. They said, "If you're out of non-lethal rounds, we are in a combat zone - you go to lethal rounds."

JAVAL DAVIS: "We're going hot. We're going live." And the next thing you know - boom, boom, brrrr. And you just heard it, like a turkey shoot.

KEN DAVIS: You've got to understand these are Iraqis, unarmed, they might have shanks, spoons that they've sharpened, whatever, tent stakes, rocks, but they're inside of concertina wire, they're not going anywhere. And now they're being shot.

So as I roll up, I have my weapon out, I'm thinking people are breaching the wire, they're coming through. No-one's coming through the wire.

JAVAL DAVIS: Next thing you know, the Medevac chopper's coming in, the helicopters coming in like crazy, they were taking out the wounded ones and the dead ones.

KEN DAVIS: I see them all huddled in a second containment where their tents are and they're dragging a dead guy out and throw him by my feet. So I looked at the chaplain's aide who responded, he had ended up right beside me I said, "What are we doing?" I said, "This guy's dead and he's unarmed."

JAVAL DAVIS: When they went to live ammunition, wow, I mean it's one of those things. I mean, unfortunate a lot of lives were lost that day. Oh, yeah.

These are the corpses of the men killed that day. The US Army told Dateline that the use of live rounds was justified.

KEN DAVIS: And I remember calling home that night and... saying "I can't take this any more because if this is what we're going to do, if this is what we have come to, I'm done." But being done and being able to leave is two different things. So you just have to suck it up, get over it, as they say, and just do what you're told to do.

In the months leading up to the riot, the insurgency had taken hold and the Americans were desperate for intelligence to stop the killing of their troops. In September 2003 General Geoffrey Miller, who was in charge of Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay, was sent to Abu Ghraib to upgrade interrogation techniques. When Javal Davis arrived, soon after Miller's new regime had started, things were already far from normal.

JAVAL DAVIS: When we took over from the 72nd MP Company, you know, the guys were butt naked in the jail cells and had like panties on their head. I'm like, I'd never seen that before. I'm like, "Why are these guys naked?" Our company commander was even like, "What's going on with all the nakedness? Why are all these guys naked?" And they're answering back to them from the other MP company was, "Hey, this is what the MI guys - this is what they want", you know. That's how it goes, so.

Putting MI or military intelligence in charge of the MPs was one of General Miller's recommendations, even though it runs counter to army doctrine.

REPORTER: Who told you to stress the prisoners out or who told you to prepare them for interrogation?

JAVAL DAVIS: The military intelligence personnel, they had an analyst, a linguist and an interrogator, their job, they come up with a list of instructions - "OK, keep this guy up, he can sleep up to two hours, up to 5 hours, sleep for 15 minutes, up. Slam the doors, keep them up." You know, stress positions, things like that.

REPORTER: Nothing inside you thought, "I shouldn't be doing this?"

JAVAL DAVIS: Of course, I mean, it's... I mean who wants to... First off my attitude was I'm tired, I'm the MP, I'm the combat support MP, it's not my job. I don't feel like going around waking everybody up, I want to go to sleep myself.
So some nights I didn't do what they told me to do, that's why I ultimately I was replaced, you know, the story be told correctly.

While he spent several months at Abu Ghraib, Javal Davis only spent one week guarding high value prisoners in Cell Block 1A which is where most of the photos of abuse were taken.

REPORTER: So what did you do in that week you were in Cell Block 1A?

JAVAL DAVIS: Hit the garbage cans, slammed doors, threw cold water, played the radio music loud, stuff like that. That's what I did. I just kept them awake, made life miserable. Put the radio up to the megaphone and play heavy metal music for like four hours straight, you know. That's it.
Some of the younger detainees, you know, they started liking it so you see them playing air guitar out of their cell door, you know, they're like "Yeah." So oh, God, I've got to change this. So I changed all that. I put in rap music one time.

It's like everyone loves hip-hop music, all the youth. So you see them bobbing their heads in the cell, so you're like "Oh, I can't play that." So then I settle with country music. They hate country music. That was the kicker. That worked.

REPORTER: Did you get to... Did you feel that you were turning into a monster?

JAVAL DAVIS: Yeah, I could see... I wouldn't say a monster but, yeah, you could say a monster. I was totally desensitised. It was like after time, over time at being at Abu Ghraib, you know, with your life on the line every day, you just start to not care. I mean, that's pretty much how it went.

The soldier who was seen as the biggest monster of all at Abu Ghraib was the so called ringleader, Charles Graner. This is him on November 8, 2003. The prisoners in these photos are the same people that Javal Davis was convicted of assaulting.

These men were suspected of leading a riot in the outside camp which resulted in a female MP being hit in the face with a brick. This attack infuriated Javal.

JAVAL DAVIS: Everyone was very upset, myself included. That was the last straw. We were eating the same food, living in the same cells, my life sucks just like yours. I'm away from home, you know. You're sitting here, you trying to take our life, that's it. I snapped. And that's what happened.
Your mind frame, your way of thinking is so jaded because, you know, life sucks there. Your life's on the line every day, you lose control. That's what happened. It happened to anyone.

Javal Davis was charged with throwing his bodyweight on the pile of prisoners. According to him it was an isolated 10-second lapse of judgment.

JAVAL DAVIS: If you look at my record of trial, my record of trial, exactly what I'm accused of, exactly what I was charged with, step on the finger and toe of a detainee, landed on them with my body weight, getting up, yelling at them and leaving.

Later that night, when Javal had left the scene, the prisoners were stripped naked and ordered to masturbate. Graner then put the prisoners in formation for a human pyramid.

Ken Davis says that Graner felt he was being compromised and did consult his conscience when he started to torture the prisoners.

KEN DAVIS: Graner actually came to me early in October and had told me that they're making him do things that are legally and morally, he feels are legally and morally wrong.

REPORTER: He said that?

KEN DAVIS: He did, and that was early October. Late October is when all the pictures, a lot of the events started taking place.

When people slate Graner and these seven as monsters, you have to ask yourself who created the environment for this to go on? Who opened the door for these people, these young soldiers to walk through? Those are the monsters.

On November 16, 2003, a few weeks after the torture had begun, Graner got a commendation from his platoon leader, Captain Brinson.

STATEMENT: "Corporal Graner, you are doing a fine job in tier one. You have received many accolades from the military intelligence units here and specifically from Lieutenant Colonel Jordan.

Continue to perform to this level and you will help us succeed at our overall mission".

KEN DAVIS: For someone, after they've done all this, to get a counselling statement praising the work you're doing on Tier 1A in the hard site, you're not going to stop. You're going to keep going and you're going to take it up a notch. You're going to take it up a level, especially when you're getting high fives and that-a-boys and "keep up the great work", you know, from officers of military intelligence and OGA.

Charles Graner is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence.

CHARLES GRANER: I was a soldier and if I did wrong, here I am.

The longest sentence anyone has received for torturing prisoners to death in Iraq is five months.

KEN DAVIS: This is actually my prison cell, that is my bed, where I slept.

Ken Davis came home in early December 2003 to get treatment for an injury. He says he reported the abuses he witnessed to army superiors but no-one took any notice.

KEN DAVIS: At first they're just like "Oh really, see a chaplain, talk to a chaplain about it, talk to the chaplain about it." A lot of people, they use psychology on you, "Well it's all your perception. It's how you perceive things. Maybe it's not as bad as what it really is."

A few weeks later, on January 14, MP Joseph Darby handed investigators a disc containing photos of abuse. Another three months passed before the scandal became public.

JAVAL DAVIS: I was sitting eating in chow hall and I looked up at CNN and I saw a picture of me when I was like 16 years old. I'm like, "What the hell am I doing on television?" And then I saw like the photographs and I couldn't believe it. I'm like, "Oh, my God."

When the torture scandal broke Javal Davis and six other low ranking soldiers were charged for the abuses.

All defended themselves by saying they were acting under direct orders. The army denies this, claiming they acted on their own volition.

JAVAL DAVIS: They tried to say that we were some uneducated, dumb, poor kids from 'Garbagecan' USA when it didn't turn out to be that way. I actually do have a brain, I do have some intelligence and I wasn't going to lay down and let the government run my name into the ground, or my family, or lead people astray. It just isn't going to be that way.

Before Abu Ghraib, Javal Davis had an exemplary record. He was a track and field star at high school, and seeing his leadership potential his coach encouraged him to join the army.
Even though Javal has served his time, he and his family are determined to appeal his conviction. Paul Bergrin is their lawyer.

PAUL BERGRIN, LAWYER: Javal Davis, long time no see!

JAVAL DAVIS: What's going on brother?

Paul Bergrin is pinning his hopes on the upcoming trial of two dog handlers at Abu Ghraib. Sergeants Michael Smith and Santos Cardona who were also charged with abusing prisoners.

PAUL BERGRIN: It's starting to explode from almost the top now.

The former head of military intelligence at Abu Ghraib has been given immunity to testify at the dog handlers' trial. Paul Bergrin is sure this will expose the entire chain of command's responsibility for the abuses.

PAUL BERGRIN: I don't think there's any way in the world anyone wants to know what Rumsfeld told Sanchez, and what Sanchez told Geoffrey Miller, because you know what they told him "We don't care what you do, just get in there and get us information. You can kill 'em for all we care. Treat 'em like dogs". We don't care how you get the information. Your job is to get the information" And I think that is starting to roll down hill.

Javal Davis always saw himself as a proud and dedicated soldier but the way he was treated by the military has left him deeply disillusioned.

JAVAL DAVIS: If I could say something to the decision makers, I'd say, "You stabbed me in the back, you stabbed a whole bunch of soldiers in the back, you know, left a whole lot of soldiers out there to dry, you know." That's what I say to my leadership, "Shame on you."

Ken Davis hasn't lost faith in all of America's institutions, but he thinks that by not telling the truth about Abu Ghraib, the military and the administration will pay the price.

KEN DAVIS: It was said, right in the New Testament, the truth doesn't have to justify itself because the truth will be known, So it's kind of one of those things where OK, if you want to lie, go ahead because the truth will be known and people are going to see it and if that's what you want your legacy based on, fine.

And there are soldiers that know the truth. We battle with what we battle internally, the war isn't over for us because inside is a fight every single day that we live.

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Dateline: Janis Karpinski Interview

8 Mar 06

All this build-up of gruesome detail about events at Abu Ghraib raises, of course, the ultimate question - who bears the responsibility for what went on there? How far up the chain of command do we need to go? The commander of the US military police at Abu Ghraib at the time of the torture and abuse was Brigadier-General Janis Karpinski. It was part of her overall responsibility for 16 prisons in Iraq, but following the photo scandal, and a subsequent army inquiry, Janis Karpinski was relieved of her command and demoted. She's since left the US military and written a book, in which she claims that far from stopping with her, the buck goes all the way to the top - to US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and maybe even the White House. Earlier today, George Negus spoke with now citizen Janis Karpinski, via satellite from Savannah, Georgia.

Transcript below.
GEORGE NEGUS: Janis, thanks very much for your time.


GEORGE NEGUS: The world was actually quite outraged by what happened at Abu Ghraib and now are wanting to know, how in heaven that could possibly do. You are claiming that you are a scapegoat in all of this, and that the whole thing went right to the top. Who do you think is ultimately responsible?

JANIS KARPINSKI: Well, I think if you're looking to find the start, you have to go back to the memorandum that was authored by our now-Attorney-General, Alberto Gonzalez, and John Ewe, from out in California, who was with the current administration at the time, and they did a memorandum, authorising departures from the Geneva Convention.

GEORGE NEGUS: So what you're saying is that people like yourself, as the commander of the prison at the time, had no idea that the American Government was taking no notice whatsoever of any Geneva Convention and therefore, if you like, the gloves were off and anything was OK, so far as torture and interrogation was concerned.

JANIS KARPINSKI: Absolutely. And remember that military police detention operations are separate and apart from military interrogations and they always have been. There are regulations that govern the conduct of soldiers in each of the specialities.
There had never been any discussion of military police personnel working for interrogators or with interrogators or setting the conditions as was happening down in Guantanamo Bay, none of those discussions were held with me or anybody else in the 800th Military Police brigade.

GEORGE NEGUS: Are you saying, and to have said this goes right to the top, you have mentioned Attorney-General Gonzales, but are you saying that the American Government, at the highest level, sanctioned, condoned, if indeed encouraged what we now know to be the abuse of detainees?

JANIS KARPINSKI: The memorandum, which was certainly discussed at length with the Secretary of Defence and the Vice-President, according to sworn statements by people who were there when those conversations took place, that authorised the initial departure.
And yes, there was a memorandum that was posted at Abu Ghraib prison, that I only became aware of, after I heard of this ongoing investigation out at Abu Ghraib, and it was signed by the Secretary of Defence.

GEORGE NEGUS: And it had a note in the margin that said "this must happen"?

JANIS KARPINSKI: Yes, "Make sure this happens".

GEORGE NEGUS: And you attribute that to Donald Rumsfeld?

JANIS KARPINSKI: Well, the signature on the memorandum was over the signature block of the Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, and the ink that was used to sign appeared to be the same ink used for this handwritten note in the margin, "make sure this happens", and it was a list of interrogation techniques that were approved, so he obviously had knowledge of those interrogation techniques.

GEORGE NEGUS: Janis, you have been attributed with the comment that Donald Rumsfeld ordered the torture that occurred in Abu Ghraib, that is a gigantic call. Are you prepared to stick by that, that it went that high?

JANIS KARPINSKI: Absolutely... When the Secretary of Defence, when General Miller, when General Sanchez when General Taguba, when they testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee, they were very careful to say, in response to a question about the photographs, that they knew nothing about the photographs.
However, nobody on the Senate Armed Services Committee asked them "Did you know anything about the actions depicted in those photographs?" Because they would have had to give a truthful answer and the answer would have been yes, in fact they authorised the actions depicted in those photographs.
The Secretary of Defence authorised it, in conversations with General Miller, his Under-Secretary for Intelligence not only authorised those actions but was staying on top of the progress of those actions and those activities.

GEORGE NEGUS: When you found out what had been going on in that block, the abuse that was occurring, we now know from the pictures that we and other networks have shown, what was your reaction? What did you try and do about it?

JANIS KARPINSKI: Well, I'm shocked I was absolutely shocked and when I saw the photographs, I'd heard about the investigation actually 11 days before I saw the photographs, finally, as soon as I heard there was an ongoing investigation at Abu Ghraib, although the prison, Abu Ghraib itself, was no longer under my control, we left the location where we were, very close to the Iranian border, and drove into Baghdad and immediately went out to Abu Ghraib to see what had happened, what was this ongoing investigation, what with the allegations and, of course, all of the people, including the soldiers shown in those photographs, they had already been removed from their positions at Abu Ghraib. And shortly after that, when I try to get access to those soldiers, to ask them what in the world was going on, I was told that they did not work for me and I had no right to have access to any one of them.

GEORGE NEGUS: In November 2003, there was a riot and we have spoken to two of the guards, two of the people under your command, originally, who talked about that riot where unarmed Iraqis were killed, using firstly non-lethal ammunition, plastic bullets, and then live ammunition. Who ordered that?

JANIS KARPINSKI: The battalion commander, who was on-site at Abu Ghraib, ordered the soldiers to go to lethal ammunition, it is actually standard operating procedure. Now when you have several thousand prisoners in confinement and it gets out of control, and it did very quickly, they tried to bring it under control with non-lethal rubber bullets, usually, and because it was a winter month, I believe it occurred in October/November time-frame, and it was cold, so the prisoners had jackets or sweaters on over their clothing, the rubber bullets were not been very effective.

GEORGE NEGUS: The men we have spoken to, under your command, say it was like a turkey shoot. That unarmed Iraqis were gunned down.

JANIS KARPINSKI: I have to tell you, and I have to emphasise this, when you have far too few military police personnel to guard far too many prisoners, and they get out of control, and it is on the verge of them being able to break through the compounds, a battalion commander is authorised to take the action necessary to bring that situation under control.

GEORGE NEGUS: Janis, the irony is that now you're facing a lawsuit with Donald Rumsfeld with Sanchez, with Pappas, as being guilty of legal responsibility for the torture and abuse of detainees in Abu Ghraib.
Now, if you're an innocent party in all this, somebody who has been the scapegoat for these other people, why are you being charged with that same crime?

JANIS KARPINSKI: Well, because they're trying to make it appear... The organisation that filed the lawsuit is the Civil Liberties Union. I believe that Human Rights, is involved in a lawsuit as well, and they included me because the soldiers were assigned to a company, assigned to one of my subordinate battalions. But the truth will come out during that testimony. And it does not make any difference what side I represent, I intend to tell the truth. And the truth is they kept the information from me, we did not discover until long after the photographs were released that these actions were endorsed at the highest levels of our government and were taking place at Guantanamo Bay and in Bagram Airforce Base in Afghanistan long before Abu Ghraib was in anybody's discussion.

GEORGE NEGUS: In all reality though, if you say, you claim you are totally innocent of those sorts of charges, do you really expect that Donald Rumsfeld will be found guilty of those allegations, those charges?

JANIS KARPINSKI: No. And it is my understanding that even as recently as yesterday the attorneys went to court and asked for the case to be dismissed because the Secretary of Defence, apparently, has some protections in his position.

GEORGE NEGUS: The Taguba Report actually said that you showed lack of leadership in all of this and therefore you are partly responsible for what happened. So it is certainly not all over yet for you.

JANIS KARPINSKI: It absolutely is not. But I will tell you this, when they do an investigation with that kind of potential, the rules are very clear, you have to identify an impartial person to do the investigation and General Taguba did not serve one day in Iraq, he spent his deployment time in the safety of Kuwait. And he was, as it came out afterwards, a good friend of General Sanchez.
So if General Sanchez gave the investigating officer specific instructions on what he wanted to see in the conclusions, General Taguba was able and determined to provide and conclude what General Sanchez wanted to see. And he did exactly that.
The findings in the report have been largely discredited because he was not an impartial party and because so much more information has come out.

GEORGE NEGUS: You believe that the Taguba inquiry was a foregone conclusion, a set-up?

JANIS KARPINSKI: Absolutely no doubt in my mind. Because he was not charged with discovering what caused the photographs, General Taguba's instructions were to investigate the 800th Military Police Brigade and discover what was wrong with General Karpinski.

GEORGE NEGUS: No doubt we could talk for a lot longer, it is a shame we haven't got more time. But thank you very much for talking to us now.

JANIS KARPINSKI: Thank you, I appreciate it.

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Human rights in Iraq

Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Left I on the News

The U.S. State Department has just issued its Human Rights report for 2005 and its filled with the usual nonsense. We all know what they have to say about countries they don't like - Cuba, Venezuela, etc. But it's what they have to say about Iraq that is absolutely beyond hysterical.
Here is what the introduction has to say:
In Iraq 2005 was a year of major progress for democracy, democratic rights and freedom. There was a steady growth of NGOs and other civil society associations that promote human rights. The January 30th legislative elections marked a tremendous step forward in solidifying governmental institutions to protect human rights and freedom in a country whose history is marred by some of the worst human rights abuses in the recent past.

But then skip to the country report:
Throughout the year the prime minister renewed the "state of emergency" originally declared in November 2004 throughout the country, excluding Kurdistan. The state of emergency allows for the temporary imposition of restrictions on certain civil liberties.

The following human rights problems were reported:

* pervasive climate of violence
* misappropriation of official authority by sectarian, criminal, terrorist, and insurgent groups
* arbitrary deprivation of life
* disappearances
* torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment
* impunity
* poor conditions in pretrial detention facilities
* arbitrary arrest and detention
* denial of fair public trial
* an immature judicial system lacking capacity
* limitations on freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association due to terrorist and militia violence
* restrictions on religious freedom
* large numbers of internally displaced persons (IDPs)
* lack of transparency and widespread corruption at all levels of government
* constraints on nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)
* discrimination against women, ethnic, and religious minorities
* limited exercise of labor rights

Man, I don't know how much more of that "major progress for democracy, democratic rights and freedom" that those Iraqis can stand.

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Iraq executes 13 insurgents

Associated Press
9 Mar 06

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraq hanged 13 insurgents Thursday, marking the first time militants have been executed in the country since the U.S.-led invasion ousted Saddam Hussein nearly three years ago, the government said.

The Cabinet announcement listed the name of only one of those hanged, Shukair Farid, a former policeman in the northern city of Mosul, who allegedly confessed that he had worked with Syrian foreign fighters to enlist fellow Iraqis to carry out assassinations against police and civilians.
"The competent authorities have today carried out the death sentences of 13 terrorists," the Cabinet said.

It said Farid had "confessed that foreigners recruited him to spread the fear through killings and abductions."

In September, Iraq hanged three convicted murderers, the first executions since the 2003 ouster of Saddam. They were convicted of killing three police officers, kidnapping and rape.

Iraqi authorities reinstated the death penalty after the end of the U.S.-led occupation in June 2004 so they would have the option of executing Saddam if he is convicted of crimes committed by his regime.

He and seven co-defendants are on trial for allegedly massacring more than 140 people in Dujail, north of Baghdad, after an alleged assassination attempt against him in 1982.

Death sentences must be approved by the three-member presidential council headed by President Jalal Talabani, who opposes capital punishment. In the September executions and again in Thursday's hangings, Talabani refused to sign the authorization himself but gave his two vice presidents the authority.

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The Biggest Problem We've Got Is People Don't Study Imaginary History

March 08, 2006

Here's Donald Rumsfeld being interviewed last Friday:
PLUM TV: [How] are people going to change the way they're thinking about this war, and to change the public perception?

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: I think the biggest problem we've got in the country is people don't study history any more. People who go to school in high schools and colleges, they tend to study current events and call it history.

There's never been a popular war...Franklin Roosevelt was one of the most hated people in the country and he was President of the United States. He was Commander in Chief. He did a terrific job.

So, during World War II, "Franklin Roosevelt was one of the most hated people in the country"?

Maybe some history would come in handy here.
FDR's popularity stats

(Source: Roper Center for Public Opinion Research)

As you can see, Roosevelt's lowest approval rating during World War II was 66%. Moreover, before the war his approval rating was generally lower than that, ranging from 55-65%.

The interesting thing is, I doubt Rumsfeld was simply lying. FDR was deeply hated-by people like Donald Rumsfeld. CEO types were constantly fulminating about FDR's traitorous ways, and in fact some of them attempted to stage a coup to overthrow him in 1934.

Thus, Rumsfeld probably has spent his entire life around people who loathed FDR, and so assumes normal people did too. Since this belief fits in nicely with a self-justifying story line, he'll never bother to find out whether it's true.

The funny thing is, I think Rumsfeld's right that people should study more history. Where Don and I part ways is that I think we should study history that actually happened.

UPDATE: The Rumsfeld interview has disappeared from the Defense Department website. It's no longer listed as a recent transcript, and while there's still an html page at the original link, it's completely blank.

I guess that, while it's a good thing for people to learn history, there's no reason to make it easy for them.

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Fall of Empire: Gallup: More Than Half of Americans Reject Evolution, Back Bible

By E&P Staff
8 Mar 06

NEW YORK A Gallup report released today reveals that more than half of all Americans, rejecting evolution theory and scientific evidence, agree with the statement, "God created man exactly how Bible describes it."

Another 31% says that man did evolve, but "God guided." Only 12% back evolution and say "God had no part."
Gallup summarized it this way: "Surveys repeatedly show that a substantial portion of Americans do not believe that the theory of evolution best explains where life came from." They are "not so quick to agree with the preponderance of scientific evidence."

The report was written by the director of the The Gallup Poll, Frank Newport.

Breaking down the numbers, Gallup finds that Republican backing for what it calls "God created human beings in present form" stands at 57% with Democrats at 44%.

Support for this Bible view rises steadily with age: from 43% for those 18 to 29, to 59% for those 65 and older. It declines steadily with education, dropping from 58% for those with high school degrees to a still-substantial 25% with postgraduate degrees.

Newport wraps it up: "Several characteristics correlate with belief in the biblical explanation for the origin of humans. Those with lower levels of education, those who attend church regularly, those who are 65 and older, and those who identify with the Republican Party are more likely to believe that God created humans 'as is,' than are those who do not share these characteristics."

Gallup has asked this question, in different forms, going back to 1982, but has consistently shown support at 45% or higher for the notion that "God created man in present form."

The most recent poll, last September, posed the question this way: "Which of the following statements comes closest to your views on the origin and development of human beings." This produced the 53% who chose "God created man exactly how Bible describes it," the 31% who said man did evolve but "God guided," and the 12% who backed evolution with God playing "no part."

Comment: Well, that tells us why they believe the Bush Conspiracy Theory about 9/11 - they prefer fairy tales.

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FBI admits many spying violations - Justice's inspector general investigates problems administering Patriot Act

Dan Eggen
Washington Post
March 9, 2006

Washington -- The FBI reported more than 100 apparent violations to an intelligence oversight board over the past two years, including cases in which agents tapped the wrong telephone, intercepted the wrong e-mails or continued to listen to conversations after a warrant had expired, according to a report issued Wednesday.
In one case, the FBI obtained the contents of 181 telephone calls rather than just the billing records to which it was entitled.

In another, a communication was monitored for more than a year after eavesdropping should have ended -- although investigators blamed a third-party provider for the mix-up.

The findings were part of a semiannual report by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine on problems related to the USA Patriot Act, the broad anti-terrorism law that is scheduled to be renewed today with President Bush's signature.

The report confirmed that Fine's office is investigating a broad range of issues related to the government's anti-terrorism efforts.

They include investigations of the FBI's role at military prisons in Iraq, in Cuba and elsewhere; the bureau's use of National Security Letters; and its treatment of anti-war protesters.

Fine also reported that the Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating the Justice Department's use of material-witness warrants to detain suspects after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The same office is examining the role of Justice Department lawyers in reviewing the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, said Fine's report "is yet another vindication for those of us who have raised concerns about the administration's policies in the war on terror.

"Despite the Bush administration's attempt to demonize critics of its anti-terrorism policies as advancing phantom or trivial concerns, the report demonstrates that the independent Office of Inspector General has found that many of these policies indeed warrant full investigations."

But Justice spokesman Brian Roehrkasse said the department is "pleased that the inspector general once again confirmed that there have been no substantiated civil liberties violations from the Patriot Act."

Echoing previous reviews, Fine said that most of the hundreds of Patriot Act-related complaints received in the last six months of 2005 did not warrant further investigation and that only four full investigations were opened during that time.

Two of the investigations were pending, and two others were referred to the Bureau of Prisons for further investigation, the report said.

In the cases of intelligence violations at the FBI, the report said the bureau had forwarded 108 possible errors in 2004-2005 to the Intelligence Oversight Board, a secret panel at the White House that reviews such intelligence reports.

The FBI said in a statement that no willful misconduct was found and that "when possible violations are discovered, the FBI acts quickly to correct the error."

Wednesday's report also provided new details about disciplinary action taken against guards accused of mistreating post-Sept. 11 detainees at a federal prison in Brooklyn, N.Y.

The U.S. Bureau of Prisons has fired two officers, suspended six and demoted three, the report said.

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Why Data Mining Won't Stop Terror

Mar, 09, 2006
Wired News
Bruce Schneier

In the post-9/11 world, there's much focus on connecting the dots. Many believe data mining is the crystal ball that will enable us to uncover future terrorist plots. But even in the most wildly optimistic projections, data mining isn't tenable for that purpose. We're not trading privacy for security; we're giving up privacy and getting no security in return.
Most people first learned about data mining in November 2002, when news broke about a massive government data mining program called Total Information Awareness. The basic idea was as audacious as it was repellent: suck up as much data as possible about everyone, sift through it with massive computers, and investigate patterns that might indicate terrorist plots.

Americans across the political spectrum denounced the program, and in September 2003, Congress eliminated its funding and closed its offices.

But TIA didn't die. According to The National Journal, it just changed its name and moved inside the Defense Department.

This shouldn't be a surprise. In May 2004, the General Accounting Office published a report (.pdf) listing 122 different federal government data-mining programs that used people's personal information. This list didn't include classified programs, like the NSA's eavesdropping effort or state-run programs like MATRIX.

The promise of data mining is compelling, and convinces many. But it's wrong. We're not going to find terrorist plots through systems like this, and we're going to waste valuable resources chasing down false alarms. To understand why, we have to look at the economics of the system.

Security is always a trade-off, and for a system to be worthwhile, the advantages have to be greater than the disadvantages. A national security data-mining program is going to find some percentage of real attacks and some percentage of false alarms. If the benefits of finding and stopping those attacks outweigh the cost -- in money, liberties, etc. -- then the system is a good one. If not, you'd be better off spending that capital elsewhere.

Data mining works best when you're searching for a well-defined profile, a reasonable number of attacks per year and a low cost of false alarms. Credit-card fraud is one of data mining's success stories: all credit-card companies mine their transaction databases for data for spending patterns that indicate a stolen card.

Many credit-card thieves share a pattern -- purchase expensive luxury goods, purchase things that can be easily fenced, etc. -- and data mining systems can minimize the losses in many cases by shutting down the card. In addition, the cost of false alarms is only a phone call to the cardholder asking him to verify a couple of purchases. The cardholders don't even resent these phone calls -- as long as they're infrequent -- so the cost is just a few minutes of operator time.

Terrorist plots are different. There is no well-defined profile and attacks are very rare. Taken together, these facts mean that data-mining systems won't uncover any terrorist plots until they are very accurate, and that even very accurate systems will be so flooded with false alarms that they will be useless.

Comment: This report simply provides more evidence that the security measures that have been put in place since 9/11 have nothing to do with catching terrorists and everything to do with tightening the government's control on every aspect of civilian and political life.

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Political bloggers may get federal protection

By Declan McCullagh
Staff Writer, CNET News.com
March 9, 2006, 9:12 AM PST

Bloggers would be largely immunized from hundreds of pages of confusing federal regulations dealing with election laws, according to a bill approved by a House of Representatives panel on Thursday.

Democrats had blocked an earlier effort last November to enact the legislation, which would amend federal campaign finance laws to give Internet publishers many of the same freedoms that newspapers and magazines currently enjoy.
"We don't expect bloggers to check with a federal agency before they go online," said House Administration Committee Chairman Vernon Ehlers, a Michigan Republican, referring to the Federal Election Commission. "They shouldn't have to read FEC advisory opinions (or have) to worry about running afoul of federal election laws."

The FEC is under court order to finalize rules to extend a controversial 2002 campaign finance law to the Internet. Unless Congress acts, the final regulations could cover everything from regulating hyperlinks to politicians' Web sites to forcing disclosure of affiliations with campaigns.

Opponents of Internet reform have warned that the measure would invite "corrupt" activities to take place online, such as cozy relationships between bloggers and political candidates that were not disclosed. The New York Times wrote in an editorial in November that "the Internet would become a free-fire zone without any limits on spending."

"Bloggers should be treated no different from talk radio," said Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, a California Democrat. "Talk radio hosts have protections under the First Amendment. While I may disagree with their positions on the issues of the day, I will nonetheless fight for their right to speak their mind."

Millender-McDonald said she never intended for her vote in favor of the Bipartisan Campaign Finance Reform Act, better known as the McCain-Feingold law, to "squeeze out the voices of people expressing themselves on blogs on the Internet." Because the FEC's Democratic commissioners would not appeal a court order, that 2002 law is forcing the agency to act.

November's floor vote on the same bill, which more than three-quarters of congressional Democrats opposed at the time, took place during a special, accelerated procedure that required a two-thirds majority for approval. Under normal procedures, which are happening now, only a majority is required.

The House reform proposal, only one sentence long, simply says that the portion of federal election law that deals with publications aimed at the general public "shall not include communications over the Internet."

The Center for Democracy and Technology has offered an alternative proposal (click here for PDF) that was not considered on Thursday. In some ways, it would be more censorial than the House bill because it would immunize a self-published political Web site only if the cost remained under $5,000.

But CDT's proposal appears to be less restrictive in other ways. Unlike the House bill, according to an analysis the group prepared, three friends who produce a video for $3,000 attacking a political candidate would not be required to register as a political action committee.

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Tennessee senate wades into abortion fight

Associated Press Writer
March 9, 2006

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The state Senate on Thursday passed a proposal to amend the Tennessee Constitution so that it doesn't guarantee a woman's right to an abortion.

The 24-9 vote was the first step of many toward officially amending the state constitution. The measure would go before voters if the General Assembly approves it twice over the next two years.
The state Supreme Court has ruled that the Tennessee Constitution grants women a greater right to abortion than the U.S. Constitution.

Abortion rights supporters are attacking the measure as a stepping stone to prohibiting all abortions in Tennessee if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the landmark abortion decision in Roe v. Wade.

"The resolution is an all-out attack on the women of Tennessee and seeks to rob women of their right to make choices about their own health, safety and personal welfare," said Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee.

Sen. David Fowler, a Republican sponsor of the bill, proposed a similar resolution last year that cleared the Senate but stalled in a House committee.

"I regret this will cast me as being hardhearted, unsympathetic and unkind but that's not who I am," Fowler said.

Tennessee has a long process for amending its constitution, requiring approval by both chambers in session of the General Assembly, two-thirds approval by both chambers in the next session, and then approval by voters.

Several states are considering restrictions on abortion that eventually could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. South Dakota's governor signed a law Monday that would prohibit all abortions except those necessary to save a mother's life.

Some opponents of abortion rights hope the additions of Justices John Roberts and Samuel Alito will make the court more likely to overturn Roe v. Wade, although a majority of the court still appears to support the 1973 ruling.

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U.S. House panel votes to block Dubai ports deal

8 Mar 06

WASHINGTON - A House of Representatives committee on Wednesday voted to block the Bush administration's plan for allowing a Dubai company to manage six U.S. ports.

By a vote of 62-2, the House Appropriations Committee approved the amendment to stop the state-owned United Arab Emirates company Dubai Ports World from managing terminals at the American ports.

The legislation, which could be voted on by the full House next week, was attached to an emergency spending bill providing more funds for the war in Iraq and rebuilding southern states hit last year by hurricanes.
Comment: Don't be fooled. It's just a smokescreen to give the illusion of democracy. If Bush really wanted to sell the ports to Dubai, he would and every member of Congress would vote in favor of it. After all, Bush wasn't doing all that illegal spying for the past couple of years for nothing!

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Bye-Bye Dubai?

David A. Andelman and Jessica Holzer
9 Mar 06

New York - In what could be a last-ditch effort to salvage its deal to operate East and Gulf Coast ports in the U.S., DP World told Congress that it would agree to transfer control to a "U.S. entity," which could simply mean a subsidiary of the Dubai operation.
In a statement, first read on the floor of the U.S. Senate by Virginia Republican John Warner, DP World said the decision was made to "preserve the strong relationship between the U.S. and the U.A.E." But in fact, it sounded suspiciously like a device carefully crafted by DP World's huge team of lobbyists and lawyers to salvage the deal in some fashion.

The new entity is supposed to have an American board and American managers, but the ownership was still questionable. Or, as New York's Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer observed, "the devil is in the details." If DP World is in fact merely planning to put its U.S. assets under a U.S.-managed subsidiary with oversight from a U.S.-staffed board, it would be following in a long line of foreign suppliers of defense technology to the U.S.

"This looks like a variant of that," says Clyde Prestowitz of the Economic Strategy Group in Washington.

But many experts argue that DP World doesn't threaten national security and that requiring the company to jump through so many hoops sends a bad message.

"I think it's a very negative signal we're sending to the world," says Nouriel Roubini of Roubini Global Economics Monitor. The U.S. needs roughly $900 billion in investment this year to fund its gaping current-account deficit. And investors are increasingly interested in owning real assets rather than stocks and bonds, according to Roubini. "We don't have the luxury to snub the world," he says.

There is the further risk that the compromise setup may not be enough to cool the fury over the deal on Capitol Hill. After all, House lawmakers wanted to torpedo it without even waiting for the results of a 45-day investigation that DP World had accepted. Congress is well within its power to go ahead and force DP World to divest its U.S. assets, according to Barry Carter, an international law expert at Georgetown Law Center. If it is framed correctly, "that law will be upheld," he says.

Still, there were reports that several major private-equity firms were sniffing around the unit, which had been part of London-based Peninsular & Oriental Steam Navigation, which DP World officially acquired earlier this week for $6.8 billion after a London court cleared the way for the takeover.

Indeed, the decision to proceed with the larger P&O takeover, which gives DP World a broad spectrum of ports outside the U.S., left in limbo the question of who is now operating the U.S. port facilities and to whom they are answerable.

The statement by Warner, followed minutes later by an official confirmation from DP World, seemed designed to defuse an explosive confrontation between the White House and the Republican-controlled Senate and House.

On Wednesday night, a House Committee voted 62-2 to block the transfer of the U.S. ports' operations to DP World. President George W. Bush was reportedly told this morning that there were enough votes in both the House and Senate for a measure to block the deal--a law that the president had threatened to veto.

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Arab ally senses Bush no longer has control

By Edward Alden and Holly Yeager in Washington
Financial Times
March 9 2006 22:00

The decision by the United Arab Emirates on Thursday to order state-controlled Dubai Ports World to end its control over US port facilities marks the lowest point yet in the relationship between President George W. Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress.

Mr Bush had warned repeatedly that blocking the deal would send a dangerously discriminatory message to the world. He threatened repeatedly to veto any congressional legislation.

But with his public approval ratings at record lows and his Republican party abandoning him, one of the US's closest allies in the Arab world concluded that he was no longer in control in Washington.
The decision by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al- Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, is likely to avert the political backlash that hit Washington last month and may prevent any further damage to diplomatic and security relations between the countries. But it underscored that Mr Bush, who still has nearly three years to go in his second term, has become perilously weak.

Dennis Hastert, the Republican speaker of the House and one of Mr Bush's most loyal backers in Congress, emerged from a White House meeting on Thursday morning and signalled that he could not hold back the opposition to the deal. "We want to protect the American people and we will continue to do that," he said.

"There's a Republican initiative right now that says, 'Get us the hell out of here'," said Frank Lautenberg, a Republican senator from the port state of New Jersey.

The acquisition of five US port terminals by an Arab company became an unlikely target for an outpouring of American anger and fear. While administration officials and port security experts insisted there were no security concerns raised by the transfer of port facilities from a British company to a Dubai company, members of Congress said they were flooded with calls and letters from ordinary Americans angered by the deal.

The White House promise to reopen a national security investigation into the deal, together with a concerted public relations effort by DP World, seemed only to deepen the anger.

More than four years after the September 11 attacks, it brought together a toxic combination of anxieties over America's place in the world. Traditional protectionists, worried by foreign acquisitions of US assets and the outsourcing of jobs to distant and little-understood countries, lined up alongside security hawks who warned that even a close Arab ally such as the UAE was vulnerable to terrorist infiltration.

Comment: The strange thing is that Americans have flooded their representatives with calls and letters about a great many issues in the past, and the reps barely even noticed. This time, they are claiming that they are doing the will of the people in fighting against the ports deal. So, the question is, why have they started to "listen" now? And is Bush REALLY so weak? After all, he just got the Patriot Act renewed despite widespread opposition amongst the American people...

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N. Korea missiles tested are quantum leap: US general

By Jack Kim
Fri Mar 10, 2006 1:30 AM ET

SEOUL - Missiles test-fired by North Korea this week are "a quantum leap forward" from its previous weapons with greater reliability and precision, the commander of the U.S. military in South Korea said.

Speaking before the U.S. House Armed Services Committee on Thursday in Washington, General B.B. Bell said North Korea was also moving ahead with the development of longer-range ballistic missiles that could hit Alaska and targets in the continental United States.
North Korea's testing of two short-range missiles on Wednesday came during a stalemate in six-country talks aimed at ending its nuclear weapons programs.

Pyongyang says it has nuclear weapons but proliferation experts have questioned its ability to mount them on missiles.

"(They) are, in fact, a quantum leap forward from the kind of missiles that they have produced in the past," Bell told the hearing, referring to the short-range missiles tested this week.

The missiles were boosted by solid fuel, rather than liquid fuel, providing greater reliability, mobility and precision, he said.

"They are routinely testing these," Bell told the hearing, according to an audio recording made available on Friday on the U.S. House committee's Web site.

North Korea test-fired a similar missile in May last year. A senior Bush administration official said the missiles tested this week did not leave North Korean territory.

South Korean daily JoongAng Ilbo said North Korea fired the two missiles from its east coast and they probably dropped into the sea about 100 km (60 miles) away, citing a government source.

Initial reports said the tests were over a shorter distance elsewhere and just on land.

U.S. officials said the missile test proved the North's nuclear programs posed a threat to the region, but neighbors China and South Korea were muted in their reactions.

This week's test was more about checking performance than rattling sabers as regional powers work to resume the stalled nuclear talks, analysts said.

Bell said the North was developing longer-range missiles with ranges "far beyond any requirement that they have for defense".

Pyongyang is ready and willing to sell the technology, posing a great concern about proliferation, Bell said.

"North Korea is a significant threat that still must be deterred," Bell told the committee.

South and North Korea remain technically at war because the 1950-53 Korean War ended in a truce and not a peace treaty.

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Warning to N Korea over missiles

9 Mar 06

The US has urged North Korea to honour an agreement not to conduct missile tests, after it apparently fired two short-range missiles.

The US said North Korea should abide by a moratorium on missile tests which had been agreed during talks last year.

The firings on Wednesday came at a time of stalemate in negotiations aimed at resolving North Korea's nuclear crisis.
The six-nation talks on the North's nuclear ambitions began in 2003, but have yet to achieve much progress.

The short-range tests were originally reported in Asian media but later confirmed by the US State Department.

Some reports suggested the missiles were fired off accidentally during a military drill, while others say they were test-fired toward the Sea of Japan.

"We have consistently pointed out that North Korea's missile programme is a concern that poses a threat to the region and the larger international community," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

No progress

Correspondents say that while much of the world's attention has been focused on Iran's nuclear activities, progress over containing North Korea's nuclear ambitions has stalled.

Last September, North Korea agreed to give up its nuclear goals and return to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

But demands that it be given a civilian nuclear reactor - and a row over financial sanctions imposed by Washington due to alleged money-laundering and counterfeiting - have brought talks to a standstill with no date set for the next round of negotiations.

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Israel sets four year deadline to draw final borders

Chris McGreal in Jerusalem
Friday March 10, 2006
The Guardian

Israel's acting prime minister, Ehud Olmert, has said the country will draw its final borders within four years without consulting the Palestinians if Hamas does not recognise the Jewish state.

Mr Olmert, who is strongly favoured to win a general election in three weeks, told the Jerusalem Post that by 2010 he intended to "get to Israel's permanent borders, whereby we will completely separate from the majority of the Palestinian population and preserve a large and stable Jewish majority in Israel".

He did not specify the route of the new frontier, which he said would be decided after an "internal dialogue inside Israel" and consultations with Israel's foreign allies. But he repeated his intention to annex the main settlement blocks in the West Bank and retain control of the Jordan river area "as a security border", resulting in a Palestinian state entirely surrounded by territory under Israeli control.

Support for Mr Olmert's Kadima party, launched last year by Ariel Sharon before he went into a coma two months ago, has slipped in recent weeks amid corruption allegations and following the Hamas landslide in the Palestinian elections. But with opinion polls still giving Kadima a commanding lead in the parliament, public support for a withdrawal from large parts of the West Bank while holding on to the main settlements remains high.

The plan outlined by Mr Olmert would require the removal of about 60,000 Israelis from settlements deeper inside the West Bank but leave about 350,000 in the main blocks and East Jerusalem.

Mr Olmert said he would give Hamas a "reasonable" amount of time to meet demands to recognise the Jewish state, renounce violence and accept existing agreements signed by the Palestinian Authority (PA). "We will wait, but I don't intend to wait forever," he said. "If after a reasonable time passes it becomes clear that the PA is not willing to accept these principles, we will need to begin to act."

Mr Olmert also said he had no plans to meet Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas because he was not prepared to draw "artificial distinctions" between the Palestinian leader and a Hamas government. "The Palestinian Authority is one authority, the minute the dominant force in the PA is Hamas, then why [meet]?" he said.

The Palestinians' chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, told Reuters that unilaterally imposing a border would not bring peace. "The road to peace and security in the region is not through unilateralism, the building of walls and settlements, but rather through the resumption of permanent status negotiations," he said.

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Life in Prison: Israel will build wall around country if talks with Palestinians fail

23:22:20 EST Mar 9, 2006

JERUSALEM (AP) - Israel will determine its border with the West Bank of the Jordan River if negotiations with Palestinians fail and then it will build a wall and move all Jewish settlers to the Israeli side, acting prime minister Ehud Olmert said in an interview published Friday.

Olmert told the Yediot Ahronot newspaper if the Palestinians "prefer to be dragged into the axis of evil of Iran," then Israel will change the path of its wall on the West Bank by national consensus and "Israelis will not live on the other side of the barrier."
Olmert also threatened to assassinate Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas if he is involved in terrorism.

Olmert, facing elections March 28, said the current wall, still under construction after more than three years, is a "security fence." The new one would be Israel's border with the West Bank, he said. He told the paper he would enter into dialogue with Jewish settler leaders to try and persuade them to agree to the new line, moving settlers from outlying areas into settlement blocs he plans to incorporate into Israel.

In interviews published in other papers Thursday, Olmert said he would keep Gush Etzion and Maaleh Adumim near Jerusalem and Ariel, deep in the West Bank, as well as maintaining control over the Jordan River Valley, the line between Jordan and the West Bank.

He also said he would link Maaleh Adumim, the largest West Bank settlement, with Jerusalem, five kilometres away, with new Jewish housing - a plan Israel shelved last year because of U.S. opposition.

Olmert told Yediot Ahronot he would consult world powers to try and gain support for the new border, which would annex parts of the West Bank to Israel.

"First of all, I will talk to President Bush."

Asked if he would give an order to assassinate Haniyeh, he replied: "Anyone who is involved in planning terror attacks will be a legitimate target for liquidation," noting Israel assassinated Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin and his successor, Abdel Aziz Rantisi.

"If he (Haniyeh) deals with politics, even politics that are unacceptable to me," Olmert added, "and is not involved in terrorism, he will not be a target."

Opinion polls published Thursday, less than three weeks before the March 28 vote, showed Olmert's Kadima party with a wide lead over its two main rivals, Labour and Likud. But since Kadima's founder Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a massive stroke Jan. 4, its numbers have been slowly dropping.

Polls show Kadima winning about 38 seats of the 120 in the legislature, while Labour would win about 19 and Likud 17.

Comment: Israeli leaders can make the most outrageous statements, and they are accepted and unquestioned by the mainstream media. Murder duely elected leaders of another nation? Fine. Build a wall to justify the illegal land grabs made over the last century. Hey, go ahead. "After all, they're only Arabs, the ones that won't allow us to print caricatures of the Prophet while we're imprisoning anyone who wants to raise questions about certain details of the holocaust. Double standars? Hell, no! We're dealing with subhumans here!"

This is what the Israeli discourse boils down to. And we let it pass. It is promoted as being sane and reasonable by other insane and unreasonable commentators on Fox News, the New York Times, and all the other shrines of free speech in the US and elsewhere.

We live in a world turned upside down.

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UN: Israel wall forcing Palestinians out

Thursday 09 March 2006

A UN expert has said that East Jerusalem is undergoing major changes because of a new wall through Palestinian neighbourhoods aimed at reducing the number of Palestinians in the city.

John Dugard, special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, said in a report to the UN Human Rights Commission on Wednesday that the Israeli-built separation wall was causing major humanitarian problems.

"The character of East Jerusalem is undergoing a major change as a result of the construction of the wall through Palestinian neighbourhoods," Dugard said.

"The clear purpose of the wall in the Jerusalem area is to reduce the number of Palestinians in the city by transferring them to the West Bank.

"This causes major humanitarian problems: Families are separated and access to hospitals, schools and the workplace are denied."

Dugard recalled that the wall between Israel and Palestinian territories - described by Israel as a security measure - had gone ahead despite a 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice.

The report to the UN was immediately condemned by the Israeli UN envoy to the UN rights panel, who said the document was pursuing "manifest political ends".

Meanwhile, a report by the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, said the Israeli army had increased the number of roadblocks and barriers in the West Bank by 25% since last summer.

The number of road obstacles rose to 471 in January, from 376 last August at the time of Israel's Gaza pullout, OCHA said, and they tightened travel restrictions for Palestinians and made it harder for them to reach properties, markets and medical services.

Israel says its network of permanent checkpoints, concrete barriers and temporary mobile roadblocks are needed to protect Israeli towns and Jewish settlements from Palestinian attacks.

Comment: The phrase for what Israel is doing in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is "ethnic cleansing".

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Hamas: Olmert's border plan is declaration of war

By Aluf Benn and Yossi Verter
9 Mar 06

Khaled Meshal, the head of Hamas' political bureau, views Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's plan to shape Israel's permanent borders as a declaration of war on the Palestinian people, the French news agency AFP reported Friday.

Meshal said Olmert's plan is not a peace plan, but constitutes "unilateral moves that will allow Israel to remain in most of the West Bank through construction of the fence, leaving in its hands the settlements and Jerusalem and rejecting the right of return," according to the report. Meshal was quoted as saying that "Olmert is repeating Sharon's mistakes."
Israeli politicians from both the right and left also criticized Olmert on Friday and spurned unilateral action.

Olmert told Haaretz on Thursday that if he is elected prime minister, Israel will set down permanent borders within four years, separating itself from the "decisive majority" of the Palestinian population of the West Bank. He also said he will build up the disputed E-1 zone between Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim, despite American opposition.

To read the full interview, click here.

"Olmert's withdrawal plan is the most extreme leftist plan that has ever been presented to the Israeli public," MK Gideon Sa'ar said Friday. "What [Ehud] Barak offered at Camp David, in exchange for a permanent agrement and the end of the conflict, Olmert is planning to give without getting anything in exchange and with no agrement."

MK Uzi Landau, who ran against Benjamin Netanyahu for the Likud chairmanship after leading the campaign against the disengagement plan, said Olmert's proposed borders would not create enough distance from Hamas and told Israel Radio that voting for Olmert "is like letting a small child play with matches."

"This plan explains why Abu Mazen wants Olmert to win the elections," said Landau. He was referring to Landau was referring to an interview Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas gave to an Italian newspaper. He was quoted as endorsing Olmert, but later disavowed the comments.

Labor Party chairman Amir Peretz said Olmert had not stated who he planned to hold negotiations with, and warned that unilateral action would be "a very serious mistake." He called for talks with Abbas.

Olmert said he plans to offer the settlers a deal in in an effort to reach an agreement about Israel's withdrawal line in the West Bank: convergence into the large settlement blocs and the expansion of those blocs in exchange for evacuation of settlements beyond whatever border is set.

"I believe that in four years' time Israel will be disengaged from the vast majority of the Palestinian population, within new borders, with the route of the fence - which until now has been a security fence - adjusted to the new line of the permanent borders," he said.

"It could be that there will be cases in which we move the fence eastward, and it could be that there will be cases in which we move it westward, in accordance with a line that we will agree upon. We will take a crucial step forward in the shaping of Israel as a Jewish state, in which there is a solid and stable Jewish majority that is not at risk."

Olmert will attempt to garner domestic and international support for shaping Israel's permanent border with the Palestinians. He wants to make sure Israel holds on to Ariel, Ma'aleh Adumim, the Jerusalem envelope and Gush Etzion; establish the Jordan Valley as a security border and provide the Israel Defense Forces with freedom of action in the West Bank, similar to the post-disengagement situation in the Gaza Strip.

Olmert also promises to build up the E-1 area linking Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim. The plan was frozen last year due to American opposition, but according to Olmert, Israelis agree there should be contiguity, while the Palestinians and Americans recognize there will be.

"It is completely clear that the contiguity between Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim will be built up," said Olmert. "This is clear both to the Palestinians and to the U.S. In my opinion, on this matter there is a full consensus in Israel."

Meretz-Yachad chairman Yossi Beilin said Friday that while he does support continued Israeli sovereignty over Ma'aleh Adumim - a point Olmert raised in the interview - he completely opposes building up E-1.

"Whoever proposes building up E-1 is essentially preventing a permanent Israeli-Palestinian agreement," Beilin told Israel Radio. "Whoever builds up E-1 is preventing a contiguous Palestinian state."

Olmert said there is now a "window of opportunity" for reaching an international agreement on setting the border, in the wake of Hamas' rise to power and domestic support following the Gaza pullout.

If the Hamas-led Palestinian government accepts the prerequisites of disarmament, recognition of Israel and acceptance of previous agreements, Olmert is prepared to negotiate with Hamas based on the roadmap. But his comments indicate he doesn't think this option has much of a chance.

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UN: Israel wall forcing Palestinians out

09 March 2006

A UN expert has said that East Jerusalem is undergoing major changes because of a new wall through Palestinian neighbourhoods aimed at reducing the number of Palestinians in the city.

John Dugard, special rapporteur on human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, said in a report to the UN Human Rights Commission on Wednesday that the Israeli-built separation wall was causing major humanitarian problems.

"The character of East Jerusalem is undergoing a major change as a result of the construction of the wall through Palestinian neighbourhoods," Dugard said.

"The clear purpose of the wall in the Jerusalem area is to reduce the number of Palestinians in the city by transferring them to the West Bank.
"This causes major humanitarian problems: Families are separated and access to hospitals, schools and the workplace are denied."

Dugard recalled that the wall between Israel and Palestinian territories - described by Israel as a security measure - had gone ahead despite a 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice.

The report to the UN was immediately condemned by the Israeli UN envoy to the UN rights panel, who said the document was pursuing "manifest political ends".

Meanwhile, a report by the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, or OCHA, said the Israeli army had increased the number of roadblocks and barriers in the West Bank by 25% since last summer.

The number of road obstacles rose to 471 in January, from 376 last August at the time of Israel's Gaza pullout, OCHA said, and they tightened travel restrictions for Palestinians and made it harder for them to reach properties, markets and medical services.

Israel says its network of permanent checkpoints, concrete barriers and temporary mobile roadblocks are needed to protect Israeli towns and Jewish settlements from Palestinian attacks.

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The two state solution, a cruel joke - a state cannot live in peace and security by denying it to others.

By Issa Khalaf
Information Clearing House
9 Mar 06

The interminable torment inflicted on the Palestinian people by Zionism is in the active phase of yet another disastrous historical culmination. The Palestinians' role in this karmic dialectic is as the obscenely oppressed victims who progressively lose land, life, and livelihood. 1948 represents the mega catastrophe, preceded by decades of unrelenting militant Zionist intrusion protected by the reigning colonial power of the time. 1967 was of much lesser proportions in terms of its collective consequences, but the decades since have led to that singular Zionist goal supported by the superpower of the day: dispossession of Palestine.

Today, we are witness to an unfolding disaster of gigantic proportions in what is left of historic Palestine and its people. The Israeli goal under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his successors, short of another 1948 or 1967-like event that would provide cover for further mass expulsions, is the complete political and social annihilation of Palestinian will and society, leaving it fragmented, pauperized, disoriented, and demoralized, severely dividing it along geographical, local, factional, and ideological fault lines, destroying its social cohesion, its demographic and geographic continuity, its national identity, its nationalist response.

Even though the much overdue cleanup of the stagnantly corrupt Palestine Authority regime has been democratically realized, Hamas' ability to offer a unified, effective political response to its people's horrific reality is limited by factors that have always dogged the Palestinian people: their own factionalism in the face of severe regional and international pressures that they simply cannot manage; the chronic divisiveness, weakness, and authoritarianism of the surrounding Arab states and their inability to mount a unified, democratic response in support of the Palestinians; the aggressions of colonial and imperial powers allied with pliant clients and Israel; and that unremittingly hostile, exclusivist "political" Zionism that covets land over coexistence, expansion over security, oppression and denial over mutual respect, recognition, and peace.

The humane, "cultural" or socialist Zionism of long ago, informed by thoughts of coexistence in a bi-national state, morally concerned with the colonists' disdain and cruel treatment of the indigenous Palestinians and with the requisite foundations for Israel's long term survival in the region, has been marginalized in today's Israel.

The Israeli plan as it has been unfolding for the past five years is crystal clear: avoid a negotiated settlement, based on international law, relevant UN resolutions, and previous agreements such as Oslo and the Road Map, in an effort to effect a maximum, permanent, non-negotiable territorial annexation of the West Bank (including Arab East Jerusalem), maintain the colonies, and control Palestine's precious water resources. The peace process died some time back; the two state solution, a cruel joke. A viable and meaningful nation-state, enjoying real sovereignty, independence, and self-determination, is in the process of extirpation, its political, social, and physical infrastructure already demolished.

The suffocation of Palestine, that is, the West Bank and its people, its comprehensive divisions into tiny, disconnected population islets whose movement of people and goods is crisscrossed and controlled by Jewish-only roads, bypass highways, tunnels, bridges, walls/barriers, passes, IDs, and checkpoints, is the antecedent to the upcoming unilateral – (but "provisional," to be sure, for this serves a double purpose: it indefinitely protracts Zionism's absolute refusal to define territorial boundaries in the event of future opportunities for full takeover of the West Bank while disguising this unspoken goal with talk of security and missing interlocutors) – withdrawal from the occupied territories. The Gaza Strip, evacuated but economically and territorially throttled, was the minimally sacrificial prelude to this larger, immoral scheme.

Once the (always tentative) West Bank colonial project is secured and withdrawal is effected, then Israel's obligations as an occupying power under international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention will no longer be operative; however, even though Israel the occupier violates these laws with horrific impunity, withdrawal relieves it of any pretense of legal obligation, leaving it free to "retaliate" against Palestine, a neighboring "state," without restraint.

All this is being done with full US, and apparently Western complicity. First came the demand for democracy and free elections. Now that these elections materialized, the freely elected (Hamas), just like Yasser Arafat's PLO in the lead up to the Oslo peace agreements fifteen years earlier, have to jump through endless hoops: recognizing Israel, renouncing violence, accepting a two state solution, and so on.

The drama is already unfolding. American and Israeli policies are actively undermining any genuine, fair, diplomatically symmetrical, and mutually respectful negotiations. The first party is leading the charge of pre-conditions in order to break Hamas' independent will, as it did the will of the Palestine Authority before it, and force the Palestinian people's acceptance of Israel's kind of peace; the second party, under acting PM Ehud Olmert, is implementing this by refusing to talk with Hamas and, in fact, threatening its leaders and mounting attacks on Nablus and Gaza in calculated moves to elicit a violent Hamas response which will then be dubbed terrorism, and to boost the new, Kadima party's standing among Israelis before the coming elections, a game consummately executed by Ariel Sharon.

Never mind that, even until this moment, Israel has not reciprocated what it has demanded, and gotten, from the Palestinians and Arab League: it has not defined or delimited its borders; refuses to unambiguously accept the international consensus on the parameters of a final settlement and the basis for peace as defined by international law, UNSC resolutions (specifically 242 and 338), the US, and the EU; has not recognized the Palestinians' right of national self-determination in a viable state or as equal partners for peace; and has applied obscene levels of force and violence against a defenseless population.

Zionism has not really, even after a century, countenanced or truly accepted the humane or moral or practical reality of the Palestinian people's existence as a national group with legitimate claims over their own land, with legitimate grievances and rights. It wants the land without the people.

And herein lies the tragedy for all concerned. Israel will not achieve the security it craves, the Middle East will be further destabilized, and regional radicalization and terrorism will be energized. To repeat: Israel's current delusional, myopic policies in the occupied territories will render its people even more profoundly insecure, for a state cannot live in peace and security by denying it to others. Herein, too, lies the fundamental issue from its origins: the Zionist enterprise is ideologically animated by an underlying messianic-nationalist impulse, its historical project of a Jewish state over all of historic Palestine (the Land of Israel), free of non-Jews, not yet fulfilled.

And there would be no moral or legal issue had the land indeed been un-peopled. This reality of encounter, of a vital Palestinian people with a well-defined nationalism, simply could not square with Zionist fantasies, leading to a permanent state of denial and violence. To be sure, existential fears are real enough, and were heightened during the early phase of the 1948 war or the initial thrust of Egyptian-Syrian forces in the 1973 war. Too, violence and terrorism perpetrated by both sides is a depressing fact, stereotypes, distortions, and hate, the outcome of decades of conflict.

Yet truer still is the emerging scholarly consensus sustained by voluminous evidence and historical record that largely support the Palestinian narrative: the 1948 dispossession occurred essentially from calculated ethnic cleansing; practically all Arab-Israeli wars, including 1948, 1956, and 1967, were viewed as opportunities for expansion by successive Israeli leaderships who were keenly aware of their military capabilities in relation to their Arab neighbors. The point is negotiations and peaceful relations regionally and with Palestinians are subordinate to territorial expansion and narrow ethno-religious nationalism.

Indeed, to what good, to what end, is this application of massive military power supported by great power patronage and influence in the US and in the western world being used? How are Israel's long-term interests and permanent existence being served by its frenetic drive for annexation of large portions of the West Bank and the imprisoning of the Palestinian people in their own land? The consequences for Israel's future, for Zionism, are ominous.

First and foremost is a continuation of the national security state and attendant deleterious economic, political, and social consequences for Israeli society, including deeply ingrained, widespread, even pathological racist assumptions and attitudes routinely voiced by the highest officials. Furthermore, the institutionalization of such a state is a concomitant to constant wars and distorted perceptions of enemies, including periodic attacks on neighboring states in order to maintain undisputed military primacy and exclusive possession of WMD arsenals.

Second, the permanent state of war will continuously give rise to radicalized movements, whether secular or Islamist, bent on righting the injustice of Palestine and stopping what they see as Israeli aggression. This can only lead to eventual large-scale war and even mass destruction through the use of nuclear weapons, which can escalate into worldwide destruction. The deliberate Israeli destabilization of the Middle East and the successful attempts by Israel and its influential supporters in Washington to drive a wedge between the US and the Middle East is extremely dangerous to US national security and to world peace.

Third, normalization of all aspects of relations with the Arab world, one of the most important factors in Israel's integration into the region, of partnering with the Palestinians as a gate to the movement of goods, ideas, and people, including cooperative social and cultural relations and even potential con-federal arrangements, is the key to Israel's survival. The US and the West will not forever support and finance an aggressive Jewish state when so much economic and geo-strategic interests are at stake.

Fourth, to maintain Jewish demographic purity and preponderance, no solution is acceptable to the Zionist right, not a two-state solution, not a bi-national state, not a unitary state, not a con-federal state. The apartheid plan being implemented in the occupied territories can only mean one thing: continuing mutual violence, though directed disproportionately against the Palestinians, suicide bombings, and simmering frustration and discontent. This obviously is not a recipe for coexistence, but for control, not for security but for war. It is neither moral nor legal nor practical to quash the Palestinian people as a people, to break their tenacity and persistence, short of physical annihilation or expulsion en masse.

Fifth, and most important, Labor Zionists and progressive Israelis fond of talking about Zionism losing its "soul" through the continued occupation and oppression of Palestine are correct but require further self-examination. How far this loss of soul has gone is perhaps gauged by the incredible, copiously documented, phenomenon of Israeli soldiers gratuitously killing Palestinian children and civilians as if they were animals, experiencing no remorse or humanity.

Zionism's mythical soul cannot be regained only by the calculated, pragmatic self-interest of relinquishing the occupied territories, even though this is central to peace. Redemption requires a step that extends outward, towards the sincere acknowledgement of the wrongs and sins committed against the Palestinian people. This releases both Israelis and Palestinians from that recurring death grip. Zionist acknowledgement is a fundamental step towards its liberation and emergence into those humanistic, romantic notions that capture the imagination of many Jews worldwide; it is the path to mutual embrace with the Palestinians and the foundation for Israel's permanent peace and prosperity.

The essential issue of Palestine-Israel is justice for the Palestinians and the realization of their aspirations to live in peace and dignity and freedom. The essential need of Israelis is to live in peace and security. In terms of a practical solution, this means withdrawal of Israel from the occupied territories with minor territorial adjustments, the dismantling of all colonies, the imaginative sharing of Jerusalem in terms of sovereignty and residence, and the integration of Israel into the wider region.

The Palestinians, as long as they are relieved of the oppression of the Israeli occupation and achieve genuine independence and free national and cultural expression, do not mind whether the solution comes via a two state, unitary state, or bi-national state. Which model is implemented, matters little to them in practice and in principle, as long as it extricates them from their current hellish existence.

For the Israeli public, as Jeff Halper of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, rightly maintains, moral imperatives mean very little; they are unmoved whether the Palestinians live in a viable state or an apartheid state or get "transferred" as long as they have security and quiet. ("Beyond Road Maps and Walls," The Link, Vol. 37, Issue 1, Jan.-March, 2004.) Already, polls show a large majority of Israelis support Ehud Olmert's publicly announced plan for unilateral demarcation of borders and his annexation of additional portions of the West Bank (Jordan Valley).

No good will come out of the Holy Land because the key player, the US, captive to the improbable worldview of the neo-conservatives who currently govern it, lacking the will to nudge Israel along in the right direction because of (ever present) domestic political pressures and American public indifference, has integrated Israel's policies into its own foreign policy. Meanwhile, Islamist fanatics and Zionist right wing extremists, now assuming a centrist identity, are busy destabilizing the region, plunging it head long into wars of the nightmarish kind.

Issa Khalaf, author of Politics in Palestine, holds a Ph.D. in political science and Middle East studies from Oxford University.

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Israel to build controversial settlements near Jerusalem

www.chinaview.cn 2006-03-10 10:29:27

JERUSALEM, March 9 (Xinhuanet) -- Israeli Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Thursday that Israel would continue to build settlements in a disputed area near Jerusalem despite U.S. pressure if his Kadima party won the March 28 general elections.

"It is inconceivable that we should speak of Ma'aleh Adumim as a part of the state of Israel while leaving it as an island or an isolated enclave," said Olmert, cited by local newspaper Ha'aretz.

Comment: Of course, dividing Palestine up into tiny, bite-size morsels is hardly "inconceivable". The Palestinians don't bow down to Yahweh.

Olmert said for several times that Israel would retain the major West Bank Jewish settlements, like Ariel, Gush Etzion and Ma'aleh Adumim.
"It's entirely clear that the (territorial) continuity between Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim will be a built-up continuity. This is clear both to the Palestinians and to the Americans. In my view, there is an absolute consensus in Israel on this issue," he said.

Turning to the issues of borders with the Palestinians, Olmert said that if his Kadima party won the March general elections, Israel would set down permanent borders within four years, separating itself from the "decisive majority" of the Palestinian population in the West Bank.

"In four years' time, Israel will be separated from a decisive majority of the Palestinian population, within new borders," hesaid.

The guiding principle for delineating the permanent borders would be "ingathering (isolated residents of outlying settlements) into large settlement blocs and thickening these settlement blocs."

"I don't want to get into their precise definitions now, but everyone knows that Gush Etzion will remain within the state of Israel and the Ariel bloc will remain within the state of Israel, and the Jerusalem Envelope (the city and its environs) will be part of the state, as well as Ma'aleh Adumim," he said.

Israel withdrew from the entire Gaza Strip and four settlements in the northern West Bank last summer, but has vowed to keep largeset tlements in the West Bank in any possible future deals with the Palestinians.

According to the road map peace plan backed by the U.S., Israel should freeze all settlement expansion activities.

Comment: Yeah, right. The road map. What a joke. However, it worked. It provided the smokescreen needed at the time for Israel to continue its murder campaign and its seizure of new land. Remember, any and all Israeli settlement on Palestinian land is illegal.

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9 March 2006

Mike Flugennock, one of the best activist cartoonists in the country (we call him DC's Daumier) has been attacked by the Israeli News Agency as an example of "Islamic racist hate and incitement to violence" because of this well-aimed shot. Since Flugennock's work has appeared from time to time in the Review and since we have always regarded him as a pretty peaceful fellow, we thought we'd better investigate. We asked him a series of hard question trying to uncover his Islamic racist hatred. The results follow.
Sharon cartoon

MIKE FLUGENNOCK - Born 1957 at Fort Belvoir Army Hospital, VA, to middle-class Catholic military family. Attended mass fairly regularly until around 1963, when Dad had a falling out with the church heirarchy over birth control (he favored it). No Islamic fundamentalist influence there.

In junior high school, joined about 95% of American boys at the time in deciding to be astronauts when they grew up after viewing Neil Armstrong's first steps on the Moon. No Islamic fundamentalist influence there either, nor in the Sci-Fi and Astronomy Clubs at my old high school.

After spending most of college watching the 700 Club in the dorm on Sunday mornings for cheap laffs while getting stoned with roommate, became disgusted with authoritarian values and naked buck-hustling of Pat Robertson, became an atheist. All that Big Guy In The Sky crap just got in the way of my relationship with the rest of the Universe. Definite infidel tendencies, no specific Islamic fundamentalist influence, though, but my wife and I both do still belong to the Washington Ethical Society (the "un-church of our choice").

Nothing else I can think of right offhand except my extreme enjoyment of a re-viewing of Peter O'Toole in "Lawrence Of Arabia" on Turner Classic Movies last summer. This one had a few Muslims in it, as I recall, but no actual religious teaching.

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Anti-Zionist Orthodox Rabbis visited iran


A delegation of of Anti-Zionist Orthodox Jewish Rabbis visited the Islamic Republic of Iran, March 2006, where they met with clerics, Imams, and Government Officials.

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The Orthodox Jewish response to the criticism of the Iranian President

Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss
Neturei Karta International
Jews United Against Zionism
28 October 2005

Orthodox Jews the world over, are saddened by the hysteria which has greeted the recent stated desire of the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to see a world free of Zionism. This desire is nothing more than a yearning for a better, more peaceful world. It is a hope that with the elimination of Zionism, Jews and Muslims will live in harmony as they have throughout the ages, in Palestine and throughout the world.
It is a dangerous distortion, to see the President's words, as indicative of anti-Jewish sentiments. The President was simply re-stating the beliefs and statements of Ayatollah Khomeini, who always emphasized and practiced the respect and protection of Jews and Judaism. The political ideology of Zionism alone was rejected. President Ahmadinejad stressed this distinction by referring only to Zionism, not Judaism or the Jewish people, regardless of whether they reside in Palestine or else were.

We concur!!… Orthodox Jews have always prayed and till today, continually pray for the speedy and peaceful dismantling of the Zionist state. As per the teachings of the Torah, the Jewish law, the Jewish people are required to be loyal, upstanding citizens, in all of the countries where-in they reside. They are expressly forbidden to have their own entity or state in any form or configuration, in this Heavenly decreed exile. Furthermore, the exemplification of one-self, with acts of compassion and goodness, is of the essence of Judaism. To subjugate and oppress a people, to steal their land, homes and orchards etc. is of the cardinal sins, of the basics crimes, forbidden by the Torah.

We have long stood together with the suffering Palestinian people in their struggle for self determination and respect. Based on our religious teachings, we believe it is impossible that any lasting peace can be achieved, for so long as the state of Israel exists. It is towards this goal of true reconciliation that religious Jews strive; via Palestinian statehood, so that we can once again reside in harmony and brotherhood.

May we merit to see the fruition of our prayers. Ultimately we pray for the day when all mankind will recognize the One G-g and serve Him in harmony. May this come upon us in the near future. Amen.
Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss
Neturei Karta International
Jews United Against Zionism

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US has 727,304 homeless people nationwide

9 Mar 06

"The United States dubs the world's richest country, however, it maintains the highest poverty rate among developed countries," the report says, given a study of eight advanced countries by London School of Economics in 2005, which found that the United States had the worst social inequality.
Last year, the United States found 727,304 homeless people nationwide, meaning about one in every 400 Americans were without a home, according to the Human Rights Record of the United States in 2005 issued by the Information Office of China's State Council Thursday.

The figures came from The USA Today published on Oct. 12, 2005.

"The Los Angeles County has become 'the homeless capital of America,' with the average number of vagabonds or people in shelters hitting 90,000 a day, including 35,000 people chronically homeless," the report quotes an article of The Los Angeles Times on June 16, 2005 as saying.

"The United States dubs the world's richest country, however, it maintains the highest poverty rate among developed countries," the report says, given a study of eight advanced countries by London School of Economics in 2005, which found that the United States had the worst social inequality.

On the one hand, the report says, in recent years the fortunes of the rich have continued to rise in the United States. According to two new studies by Spectrem Group, a Chicago-based wealth-research firm, and the Boston Consulting Group, millionaire households (excluding the value of primary residences) in the United States controlled more than 11 trillion in assets in 2004, up more than 8 percent from 2003.

Meanwhile, the income of ordinary employees in the United States has seen a sharp decline, causing the increase of poor population. The data issued by the U.S. Census Bureau said that the nation's official poverty rate rose from 12.5 percent in 2003 to 12.7 percent in 2004, with the number of people in poverty rising by 1.1 million from 35.9 million to 37 million, which means one in every eight Americans live in poverty. Poverty rates in cities such as Detroit, Miami and Newark exceeded 28 percent.

These problems indicate that poverty, hunger and homelessness are quite serious in America, worker's economic, social and cultural rights are not guaranteed, the report says.

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U.S. Consumer Confidence Drops, Poll Shows

AP Economics Writer
March 10, 2006

WASHINGTON - Consumer confidence dropped in early March as people fretted about the economy's performance and their own financial fate in the months ahead.

The RBC CASH Index, based on results from the international polling firm Ipsos, showed confidence at 86.2 in early March.

That was down considerably from February's reading of 96.1 - a 16-month high.
But it was in the ballpark with consumers' feelings about economic conditions in March of last year, when the index stood at 84.2.

"Consumers aren't knocking the cover off the ball. Their confidence isn't a grand slam, but they aren't striking out, either," said Richard Yamarone, economist at Argus Research.

Even with the drop, analysts believe consumers are in a generally good frame of mind about the economy, although they are growing more anxious about the future.

Analysts believe that angst is tied to consumer concerns about whether the housing market this year will slow gradually, as most economists predict, or whether it might crash.

Other things also may be coloring consumers' perception about the future, including rising interest rates and energy bills, economists said.

"It is the litany of uncertainty this year - the housing market moderation, worry about energy prices_ that may be factoring into peoples' views about the future," said Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at LaSalle Bank.

A measure looking at consumers' expectations over the next six months, including conditions where they live or work and their own financial positions, showed the most deterioration in March from February.

That expectations gauge fell to 40.7 in March, compared with 59.4 in February. A year ago, the expectations measure stood at 52.6.

Economists track consumer confidence for clues about consumers' willingness to spend, an important force shaping overall economic activity.

Analysts believe economic growth will clock in at 4.5 percent pace or possibly higher in the January-to-March period. That would mark a rebound from the 1.6 percent growth rate in the final quarter of 2005. Belt tightening by consumers was a factor in that weak performance.

Economic growth in the April-to-June quarter is also expected to be solid, analysts said.

"It is a little surprising given the strength of the economy that there is a perception - at least among some of the public - that the economy is not very good," said Edward Lazear, chairman of the White House's Council of Economic Advisers.

When it comes to the economy, what really counts is what consumers do, rather than what they say.

"Are people behaving as if they believe this is a weak economy? I see no indication of that. In fact, I see the contrary," Lazear said.

President Bush, however, continues to cope with sagging job-approval ratings. Just 37 percent approve of his overall performance, the lowest level of his presidency, according to an AP-Ipsos poll.

On the consumer confidence front, attitudes about current economic conditions dipped to 103.9 in March, a still good showing, economists said. That was down from 111.6 in February but better than the reading of 92.9 in March of last year.

Another index tracking consumers' feelings about making a purchase, saving and other investment decisions was 98.6 in March, down from 101.5 in February. A year ago, this measure stood at 88.5.

For nearly two years, the
Federal Reserve has been boosting short-term interest rates to keep the economy and inflation on an even keel. Rates are expected to go up again on March 28.

Borrowers do not like rising rates. Nor do homeowners with short-term adjustable rate mortgages, which have been climbing. But for savers higher interest rates means better returns.

A measure on consumers sentiments about the jobs climate slipped to 118.5 in March, from 119.3 in February. In March of last year, the jobs index was 119.2.

The overall confidence index is benchmarked to a reading of 100 on January 2002, when Ipsos started the gauge.

The RBC consumer confidence index and the AP-Ipsos poll for March were based on results of 1,000 adults surveyed Monday through Wednesday about their attitudes on politics, personal finance and the economy. Results of the survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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World box office dipped 7.9 pct to 23 billion dollars last year : study

Mar 09 4:19 PM US/Eastern

Hollywood movie ticket sales around the world dropped by 7.9 percent last year to 23 billion dollars, with the US box office accounting for nearly 40 percent of the haul, a study showed.

Movie ticket receipts in North America dipped by six percent in 2005 to nine billion dollars, according to a study by the ratings statistics firm Nielsen Entertainment/NRG that comes as movie-goers increasingly stay out of cinemas.
The study, released by the powerful lobby group of the major Hollywood studios, the Motion Picture Association of America, however gave the industry some reason for hope amid sliding ticket receipts, the MPAA maintained.

Most movie-goers were satisfied with their recent experiences at the movies and felt the movies were a "good investment of their time and money," the Nielsen study reported.

"Despite increasing competition for consumers' time and entertainment dollars, theater-going remains a satisfying constant in people's lives," said MPAA chief executive Dan Glickman.

"That said, we can't bury our heads in the sand. We have to do more to attract customers and keep regulars coming back. It is no secret that our industry faces new challenges but with every challenge, there is an exciting opportunity," Glickman added.

The MPAA noted that eight movies had raked in more than 200 million dollars at the box office last year, compared with just five in 2004.

The total number of films released in the United States increased by 5.6 percent from 2004, while new releases by the major motion picture studios grossed an average of 37 million dollars in 2005, an increase of seven percent over the past five years," the industry group said.

Most movie-goers in 2005 went out to catch family films, with movies rated PG-13, meaning that children under 13 must be accompanied by an adult, accounting for 85 percent of the most watched films in 2005.

The MPAA also reported that the average production cost of a movie in 2005 remained below 100 million dollars and dipped slightly to 96.2 million dollars.

Marketing costs however rose by 5.2 percent, while production costs went down four percent from 2004.

The big studios that make up the MPAA spent more on network television and Internet advertising and less on newspapers and local television, the group said.

"Technology has not only changed the way people are able to view movies, it has changed the way our industry produces and advertises movies," said Glickman.

"We are exploring new ways to reach more people using innovative methods of communication and distribution. This data reflects those changes and also demonstrates the strength of the movie industry." MPAA members include the top Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Warner Bros, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Universal Studios Inc, Walt Disney Co. and 20th Century Fox.

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Gates fortune hits 50 billion dollars as megawealth spreads

Thu Mar 9, 10:17 PM ET

NEW YORK - Bill Gates gained ground at the top of the megarich rankings as the world's wealthiest people added 400 billion dollars to their net worth, according to Forbes magazine's annual list.

The number of people whose wealth reached 10 figures stood at a record 793, an increase of 102 from the previous year, with Microsoft founder Gates in first place for the 12th straight year.
His 50 billion dollar fortune marked an increase of 3.5 billion dollars from the 2005 Forbes list.

The magazine said strong markets around the world contributed to the surge in wealth, as the total net worth of the list jumped to 2.6 trillion dollars -- more than the annual GDP of Germany.

"Making a billion just isn't what it used to be," observed Forbes Associate Editor Luisa Kroll, who noted that the number of billionaires had grown by more than 300 in the past three years.

While US names accounted for nearly half the fortunes on the roster, this year's ranking was notable for the influx of newcomers from Brazil, India, Russia and other emerging economies.

Oil baron and Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich jumped 10 places to 11th in the global ranking with a nest egg of 18.2 billion dollars.

"Why is the list growing? The answer is an obvious one -- the global economy is growing," said Forbes editor-in-chief
Steve Forbes.

"In the last few years the global economy has grown at rates not seen since the end of World War II. It is phenomenal and it's been fuelled by a commodities boom," Forbes said.

The summit of the cash mountain had a familiar look with Gates followed by investment wizard and perennial runner-up,
Warren Buffett, with a 42-billion-dollar fortune. Buffett's pile has fallen by two billion dollars, however.

Mexican telecom magnate Carlos Slim jumped a place to third with 30 billion dollars, while Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad of Sweden moved up two spots to fourth with 28 billion dollars.

Indian steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal dropped two places to fifth with 23.5 billion dollars -- down 1.5 billion dollars.

Newcomers to the top 10 chart included the French luxury retailer Bernard Arnault who made seventh spot with 21.5 billion dollars, and Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing in 10th place with 18.8 billion dollars.

Hind Hariri, the 22-year-old daughter of slain Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri, beat out Germany's Prince Albert von Thurn und Taxis by eight months for the title of the world's youngest billionaire.

At the other end of the age spectrum was American John Simplot, 96, who made his fortune processing potatoes.

Thirty-nine people fell off the Forbes list, victims of market forces, dubious ethics and, in 11 cases, death.

Notable disappearances included US lifestyle guru
Martha Stewart, who debuted on the list last year despite serving a five-month prison term, and then found that freedom doesn't pay as her net worth declined to 500 million dollars after her release.

The 2006 roster counted billionaires from 49 countries, with the Czech Republic making its first appearance, and New Zealand and Lebanon both returning after an absence of several years.

The United States boasted 371 names on the list with a collective net worth of 1.1 trillion dollars, while Europe's 196 billionaires enjoyed combined wealth of 802 billion dollars.

Europe's rising star was Russia, with 33 names including seven new faces.

"Russia continues to astound," said Kroll. "For a long time there were questions about where they got their money ... but now the story is just the enormous wealth that is being created from strong commodities markets there."

In the Asia-Pacific region -- home to 115 billionaires -- the standout was India which added 10 new faces to total 23 on the list with a combined worth of 99 billion dollars, 60 percent more than last year.

China saw its presence in the rankings grow from just two billionaires last year to eight.

Of the 793 who made the global list, 452 were self-made billionaires.

The number of women increased by 10 from the previous year to 78 and included US talk show queen Oprah Winfrey who pulled in an extra 100 million dollars over the year to rank 562nd overal with 1.4 billion dollars.

New York has the highest number of resident billionaires with 40, Moscow is second with 25 and London third with 23.

Comment: Wow! More billionaires! The economy MUST be doing wonderfully then, right?

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Illegal Workers: the Con's Secret Weapon - Why Bush & Co. like a cheap and illegal labor force

By Thom Hartmann
9 Mar 06

Conservatives are all atwitter about illegal immigrants. Some want to give them amnesty. Others want to reinstitute the old Bracero program. Others want to build a wall around America, like the communists did around East Berlin. Some advocate all of the above.

But none will tell Americans the truth about why we have eleven million illegal aliens in this nation now (when it was fewer than 2 million when Reagan came into office), why they're staying, or why they keep coming. In a word, it's "jobs." In conservative lexicon, it's "cheap labor to increase corporate profits."
Recently George W. Bush insulted working Americans by saying that we need eleven million illegal immigrants here in the United States because (in a slightly cleaned-up version of the more blatantly racist comments of Vicente Fox) there are some jobs that "American's won't do." As the modern-day Sago miners, and the 1950s Ed Norton character Art Carney played on the old Jackie Gleason show (who worked in the sewers of NYC) prove, the reality is that there are virtually no jobs Americans won't do – for an appropriate paycheck.

It's really all about breaking the back of the most democratic (and Democratic) of American institutions – the American middle class.

One of the tools conservatives have used very successfully over the past 25 years to drive down wages, bust unions, and increase CEO salaries has been to encourage illegal immigrant labor in the U.S. Their technique is transparently simple.

Conservatives well understand supply and demand. If there's more of something, its price goes down. If it becomes scarce, its price goes up.

They also understand that this applies just as readily to labor as it does to houses, cars, soybeans, or oil. While the history of much of the progressive movement in the United States has been to control the supply of labor (mostly through pushing for maximum-hour, right-to-strike, and child-labor laws) to thus be able to bargain decent wages for working people, the history of conservative America has, from its earliest days grounded in slavery and indentured workers from Europe, been to increase the supply of labor and drive down its cost.

In the 1980s, for example, the increasing supply of labor (both from Reagan-allowed consolidations eliminating redundant jobs, and from illegal immigration, which was around 3 million illegals by the time Reagan left office) fed massive union-busting in industry sectors from those directly hit with illegal immigrant labor (like construction and agriculture) to those who only felt its fallout but nonetheless were pressed (like coal mining). In part, because of these national downward pressures on organized labor, the miners who died in the International Coal Group's Sago Mine didn't have union protection.

Indeed, as the International Coal Group's June 2005 form S-A/1 filing notes about one of their other recent mine acquisitions: ".assets are high quality reserves strategically located in Appalachia and the Illinois Basin, are union free, have limited reclamation liabilities and are substantially free of other legacy liabilities." Similarly, it's estimated that the construction industry enhanced their profits last year by over a billion dollars because the availability of illegal immigrant labor has so significantly pushed down the price of construction labor.

"Union free" is good for the CEOs and stockholders of giant corporations. Reagan helped make it possible by reducing enforcement of the Sherman Anti-Trust and similar acts, by making the Labor Department hostile to labor, and by thus producing an environment into which illegal immigrant labor could step. He busted PATCO and popularized anti-union rhetoric, at a time when union membership was one of the primary boundaries that keep illegal labor out of the marketplace.

Today, this fundamental economic rule of labor supply and demand is most conspicuous in the conservative reluctance to stop illegal immigration into the United States. All those extra (illegal) workers, after all, drive up the supply – and thus drive down the cost – of labor. Even in areas where there are not high populations of illegal immigrants, their presence elsewhere in the American workforce drives down overall the cost of labor nationwide. And when the cost of labor goes down, there's more money left over for CEOs and stockholder dividends.

Conservatives can't just come out and say that they are pleased with the estimated eleven million illegal workers in the United States driving down wages. They can't brag that, behind oil revenue, Mexico's second largest source of income is money sent home from illegal "cheap labor" workers in the United States. They can't point out that before Reagan declared war on working people in 1981 we didn't "need a fence" to keep out illegal immigrants from the south, in large part because the high rate of unionization in America at that time, and enforcement of laws against hiring illegal immigrants, served as barriers to the entry of illegals into the workforce. They won't acknowledge the corporate benefits of a workforce whose healthcare is paid for by taxpayers but whose productivity belongs to their corporate masters.

But conservative strategists have noticed that the workers – and the voters – of the United States are getting nervous about nearly 10 percent of our workforce being both illegal and cheap. This has led conservative commentators and politicians to resort to classic "wedge issue" rhetoric, exploiting Americans' fears – while working to keep conditions relatively the same as they are today.

They talk about building fences. They worry out loud about brown-skinned Middle Eastern terrorists slipping in amongst the brown-skinned South- and Central Americans. They warn us of all the social security money we'll lose if illegals have to leave the country and stop paying into a system from which they'll never be able to collect. They even find themselves obligated – catering to both working-class fears and to the bigots among us – to promote the idea of giant fences around the country to keep illegals out. (A fence that would, no doubt, tremendously profit their big contractor friends.)

At the same time, catering to compassionate Americans who don't realize this is all about driving up corporate profits and driving down workers' wages, cons like Arlen Specter are promoting legislation that would decriminalize the illegals currently in the United States, thus making legal our increased workforce. As Rachel L. Swarns reported in The New York Times on February 25, 2006: "Advocates for immigrants said the [Bush/Specter] plan failed to protect the rights of immigrant workers, who they argue deserve a clear path to citizenship. And the AFL-CIO warned that a guest worker program of unlimited scale would depress wages and working conditions while creating a perpetual underclass of foreign workers."

None of the various con proposals – from a fence to amnesty – address the fundamental truth of the situation: Conservatives and the businesses they represent want to maintain a large, illegal or marginally legal, and thus powerless workforce in the United States, to keep down the price of labor and help them finally destroy the union movement – and, thus, that politically pesky middle class.

The reason for all these lies and obfuscations is simple, and found in the core notions of conservatism, articulated from Burke in the late 1700s to Kirk in 1953 and Greenspan over the past two decades. It's all about power, and since wealth equals power, about the control of wealth in society.

Conservatives believe that what John Adams called "the rabble" – you and me – can't really be trusted with governance, and therefore that job should be kept to an elite few. The big difference between the old-line Burke conservatives and modern conservatives is that Burke and the cons of his day felt that an hereditary ruling class was desirable (because it would inculcate rulers with a sense of "noblesse oblige"), whereas modern cons like Adams, McKinley, Kirk, and Bush believe that the ruling class should be more of a meritocracy – rule by the "best."

And – in the finest tradition of John Calvin (who suggested that wealth was a sign of God's blessing) – what better indication of "best" could there be than "richest"? They believe there should be a thin veneer of democracy on these old conservative notions of aristocracy in order to placate the masses, but are quite certain that it would be a disaster should the rabble ever actually have a strong say in running the country.

This is, at its core, why conservatives embrace the idea of eliminating the American middle class and replacing it with a Dickensian "working poor" class, and are working so hard to use illegal immigrant labor as the lever to bring this about.

As the '60's and '70's showed – during the height of the American middle class's economic and political power – a strong middle class will challenge corporate power and assert itself economically and politically. This represents a very real threat to conservative ruling elites. "The people" may even suggest that the most elite of the elites should pay stiffer taxes on the top end of their income, so that money can be used to provide the economically most disadvantaged with an opportunity to become socially and economically mobile. It would reduce the most massive of the wealth and the power of the most elite of our conservative elites.

Offshoring, union-busting, and nurturing a huge population of illegal workers (while pretending to be frantic about it and bleating about building fences, fielding vigilantes, or offering "amnesty") are the core ways to destroy an economic middle class, thus ensuring the ongoing political power of the conservative elite takeover that began with the so-called "Reagan revolution" and continues to this day.

This is why conservatives who complain about illegal immigration in front of the cameras won't lift a finger in the halls of congress to pass legislation that would put employers of illegals into jail. (They may support "tough fines," just so long as they're high enough to sound like a lot of money to the average working stiff but low enough to be a "cost of business" for a corporation that gets caught.)

If Congress were to pass a law that said, quite simply, that the CEO of any business that was caught employing illegal immigrants went to jail for a year – no exceptions – then within a month there would be ten million (more or less) people lined up at the Mexican border trying to get out of the United States. The US unemployment rate would drop close to zero, and wages would begin to rise. The American middle class would begin to return to viability, as would the union movement in this nation.

Legal immigration is a good and healthy thing for a nation, because it is done at a rate and in a way that allows a country to collectively decide what sort of labor/jobs ratios it wants to maintain. Limitless illegal immigration, however, leads to the modern-day equivalent of slavery, benefiting only the conservative corporate elites.

Thus, progressives need to begin a new dialogue about immigration in the United States. (Similar discussions are already underway in many of the countries of Western Europe.) Issues include:

To what extent should the United States bleed its middle class because Mexico is a corrupt oligarchy run by a corrupt former Coca-Cola executive?
How do we work out fair and reasonable options for illegal families living and working here who have birthed "anchor children" in the U.S., now citizens of this nation?
How can we ensure "security" along our southern border in an "age of terrorism"? (A good start may be to stop promulgating policies that cause the world to hate us, but that's another article.)
How do we recalibrate our business and tax laws so businesses – particularly small and middle-sized businesses – can adjust away from depending on a terrified "working-poor-competing-with-even-more-terrified-illegal-labor" workforce and move toward being able to pay a more robust, domestic, unionized workforce?
How can progressives join with the few remaining populist Republicans (like Lou Dobbs and Patrick Buchanan) to forge an alliance to make this an all-American effort and not have it further split the nation?
And how can we all collectively work to prevent Bush and Specter from re-instituting the brutal Bracero "guest worker" program of the last century?

As the anguished mining families in West Virginia show, Bush was wrong when he said there were jobs Americans "won't do." But in the face of massive illegal immigration and the union-busting and wage deflation it spawns, there are increasingly jobs that Americans "can't do" and still maintain a viable lifestyle.

While some geographically-specific industries (like coal mining) don't appear overwhelmed by illegal immigrant labor, its impact on the nation as a whole has made it easier for union-busting to take place from the construction industry in New Mexico to the coal mines of West Virginia. Directly or indirectly, illegal immigration affects all working Americans.

Condemning the frightened working-class white guys organizing citizens' militias along our southern border, or vilifying those who listen to Limbaugh and are convinced that "liberals" are in some sort of collective plot to undermine America may feel good, but it doesn't address the real problem. Progressives will be most effective when we reach across the divides created by Bush, Specter, et al, and point out how this is really all about corporate conservative efforts to replace the American middle class with a workforce of "working poor" Americans and powerless illegal immigrants (or powerless "amnestied" workers) – all so CEOs can fatten their paychecks and further reward the "conservative" investor class.

Only then will Mexico and other countries to our south have an incentive to get their own houses in order, and will our middle class begin to recover decent bargaining power and the living wages that accompany it.

Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk show carried on the Air America Radio network and Sirius. www.thomhartmann.com His most recent books include What Would Jefferson Do? and Ultimate Sacrifice (co-authored with Lamar Waldron). His next book, due out this autumn, is Screwed: The Undeclared War on the Middle Class and What We Can Do About It.

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Pol Tax

by Becky Akers

Mayors across the country increasingly see smokers as God's gift to spendthrift governments. They steal from them accordingly. This is especially true of New York's Michael Bloomberg, whose ambitions along these lines match his outsized city. Let other places diddle around with ten-cent tobacco taxes, as does Hueytown, Alabama, or even a buck (Washington, DC); New York is bigger than that. Mike wants to boost its already-staggering tax on cigarettes by a whopping 50 cents. This will push the price of a pack past $8, with Leviathan grabbing $3.50 of that. New Yorkers will then suffer the dubious distinction of paying the highest tobacco tax nationwide: even Chicago steals only $3.05 per pack.
Mike shrugged off suggestions that he's picking smokers' pockets a tad aggressively. "It's not a revenue source," he announced, and he's right about that. It's a revenue geyser. "We're trying to save the lives of our children."

I won't pretend to understand how bankrupting their parents saves children's lives, but perhaps Mike's onto something here. Can taxing smokers and other dangerous folks really save lives? If so, let's tax politicians.

Smokers and politicians have more in common than you might think. Both blow smoke. Both stink the place up. Both stand around in the cold and solicit strangers, one for a light, the other for votes. Both are addicted, though smokers kick their filthy habit a heck of a lot more easily and often than politicians do.

Think how many lives would be saved had we taxed politicians all along. No more Americans dying of boredom during endless political campaigns and debates. Outraged citizens would never again suffer heart attacks over the latest Congressional scandal. And without politicians' pork larding the budget, government spending should shrink so we're less likely to keel over from shock after figuring our taxes every April.

But the number of lives saved here is modest compared to those spared by our tax's effect on war. I predict this scourge will disappear once politicians are too busy coughing up their tax bills to shove troops at the world's hot spots. With the biggest killer of all time eliminated, life expectancy should zoom.

There are other, less obvious ways that taxing politicians back into the holes they popped out of will save lives. For starters, it should scare the daylights out of their appointees at bureaucracies large and small. Those at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may well be so terrified we'll tax them, too, that they'll release the cures for cancer they're delaying – or at least the remedies for obesity and crow's feet. Perhaps the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) will become too nervous to demonize and regulate alcohol. Red wine could finally prevent as much heart disease here as it does in France.

With any luck, we'll observe the same chastening effect at the other alphabet agencies, including those that may not directly take lives but try their hardest to ruin them. Name your poison – the IRS, FEMA, the TSA, the DEA – and imagine the furor as their employees dive for cover.

Given stakes this high, we want our tax to succeed, so let's take some pointers from Mike the Knife. First, the rate should be exorbitant enough that folks think we're joking. But of course we're not: lives hang in the balance. So don't be shy. Pull a number out of the air and double it. Now triple it. We want politicians to gasp as loudly as smokers have.

Secondly, notice that Mike foists his preposterous tax on an unpopular minority. The minority we're targeting is even more loathed than smokers. Also in our favor is that politicians tend to be millionaires, while smokers cluster at the lower end of the economy. If Mike can justify picking on the poor for their own good, how much more can we justify taxing politicians for ours?

The IRS's sliding scale has snagged trillions of our taxes over the years; I bet it'll work for us, too. We'll tax city councillors at 100% of their paychecks; mayors at 200%; State Assemblymen, 300%; US Congressmen and Senators, 400 and 450%, respectively, and Presidents at 1000% – 2000% if they ask, "What Constitution?"

What will we do with all this loot? The sky's the limit, but we might consider funding preliminary R&D on a PAC patch or governing gum. If those wean politicians from their cravings as well as nicotine patches and gums wean smokers from theirs, we'll research a vacillation vaccine next.

Some might call my tax a pipe dream. But with a bit of tinkering, it should work. So sit back, relax, and get ready to enjoy a politician-free paradise!

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ONE OF THE BEST INTERNET NEWS SERVICES, the Agribusiness Examiner, is back online after several months of computer problems. Al Krebs, the editor, covers one of the most neglected news topics in America: how we get what we eat. Here are a few of his catch-up items:
DATA COLLECTED BY THE U.S. GOVERNMENT show that the nutritional content of America's vegetables and fruits has declined during the past 50 years -- in some cases dramatically. Donald Davis, a biochemist at the University of Texas, said that of 13 major nutrients in fruits and vegetables tracked by the Agriculture Department from 1950 to 1999, six showed noticeable declines --- protein, calcium phosphorus, iron, riboflavin and vitamin C. The declines ranged from six percent for protein, 15% for iron, 20% for vitamin C, and 38% for riboflavin.

WAL-MART WITH NEARLY 2,000 SUPERCENTERS in the United States and plans for 280 more this year, is the country's largest food retailer, according to Retail Forward, a research firm in Columbus, Ohio. Data from food and beverage companies indicates that Wal-Mart represents 14% to 18% of all food and beverage sales.

AD AGE reports that the giant international mega-conglomerate Tyson Foods -- twice as large as any competitor in the meat-and-chicken industry -- is now trying to sell God along with its chickens, beef, and pre-prepared frozen meals. Tyson is distributing "mealtime prayer booklets" for a variety of faiths all over the world. . . Ad Age reports: "What started out as the internal manifestation of Tyson's mission statement --- a set of core values that includes 'striving to be a faith-friendly company . . . and to honor God . . . ' --- has over the last few years morphed into placing 128 part-time chaplains in 78 plants across the country and, now, the external marketing initiative to play a part in mealtime prayer."

AMERICAN CONSUMERS CAN'T GET ENOUGH organic foods with producers unable to meet demand. As a result most sectors of the organic food industry are suffering undersupply, which is stunting market growth. Shortage of organic products is making producers look outbound for raw materials. Increasing volume of organic fruit, vegetables, grains, seeds, beans, and herbs are being imported into the US. Finished products are also imported to meet consumer demand for all things organic. The flood of imports is making the organic food trade gap widen. It is estimated that over U.S. $1.5 billion of organic products are imported into the U.S., compared to about U.S. $150 million in American exports.

FARMERS WILL SEE THEIR INCOMES plunge in 2006 coming off two years of unusually high prices and record crops, the USDA reports. Rising energy costs and interest rates are impacting the bottom line for farmers, analysts say. On average, net income for a farmer should be $48,600 this year, down from $68,300 last year, according to forecasts from the department. The average was $52,500 from 2000 through 2005.

CALIFORNIA'S AGRICULTURALLY rich San Joaquin Valley may be the new Appalachia, a new congressional study suggests. Poverty is high, education is low, and social needs abound. The Congressional Research Service 365-page regional report card concludes: "By a wide range of indicators, the San Joaquin Valley is one of the most economically depressed regions of the United States." Per-capita income is lower in the Valley's eight counties than in the 68-county area known as Central Appalachia. Also the Valley's public assistance rates are higher than Appalachia's. Per-capita federal spending overall was likewise lower in the San Joaquin Valley than in the depressed Central Appalachian subregion, the report added.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, which at one time was the home to a $500-million dairy industry, one of the nation's largest concentrations of dairy farms, is rapidly evaporating as dozens of farmers sell out to real estate developers. In the last two years, more than 160 dairies --- nearly 80% of those operating just a year ago --- have either been sold or are in escrow, according to the Milk Producers Council, a trade association based in Chino. Some dairymen are being offered up to $550,000 an acre --- a strip they may have purchased for $3,000 some 40 or 50 years ago.

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Dubai threat to hit back

By Roxana Tiron
The Hill
Friday March 9, 2006

Dubai is threatening retaliation against American strategic and commercial interests if Washington blocks its $6.8 billion takeover of operations at several U.S. ports.

As the House Appropriations Committee yesterday marked up legislation to kill Dubai Ports World's acquisition of Britain's Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation (P&O), the emirate let it be known that it is preparing to hit back hard if necessary.

A source close to the deal said members of Dubai's royal family are furious at the hostility both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill have shown toward the deal.
"They're saying, 'All we've done for you guys, all our purchases, we'll stop it, we'll just yank it,'" the source said.

Retaliation from the emirate could come against lucrative deals with aircraft maker Boeing and by curtailing the docking of hundreds of American ships, including U.S. Navy ships, each year at its port in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the source added.

It is not clear how much of Dubai's behind-the-scenes anger would be followed up by action, but Boeing has been made aware of the threat and is already reportedly lobbying to save the ports deal.

The Emirates Group airline will decide later this year whether it will buy Boeing's new 787 Dreamliner or its competitor, Airbus A350. The airline last fall placed an order worth $9.7 billion for 42 Boeing 777 aircraft, making Dubai Boeing's largest 777 customer.

Dubai in mid-February also established the Dubai Aerospace Enterprise, a $15 billion investment to create a company that will lease planes, develop airports and make aircraft parts to tap into growing demand for air travel in the Middle East and Asia.

The family-ruled sheikhdom may buy as many as 50 wide-body aircraft from Boeing and Airbus during the next four years, according to Aerospace Enterprise officials.

The UAE military also bought Boeing's Apache helicopters. Meanwhile, Boeing has been in talks with the emirates to try to sell its AWACS planes.

An industry official with knowledge of Boeing's contracts with Dubai said that the company has been involved in the emirate and that it would take a lot "to knock" those relationships.

"Nothing about the [ports] controversy diminishes our commitment to the region," said John Dern, Boeing's corporate spokesman. He added that at this point the company has no indication that there is or will be an impact on the company.

Any repercussion to Boeing could put House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) in a delicate position. Boeing's decision to move its headquarters to Chicago has been seen as calculated to facilitate a close relationship with Hastert. He is against the ports deal, and his office did not return calls by press time.

Several businesses have expressed concern that the controversy over the $6.8 billion ports deal could damage trade with the UAE. Dubai is one of the seven emirates. The United States and the UAE are meeting next week for a fourth round of talks to sign a free-trade agreement. The American Business Group of Abu Dhabi, which has no affiliation with the U.S. government, said that Arabs may hesitate to invest into the United States, according to a report by Reuters.

A Republican trade lobbyist said that because the ports deal is a national-security issue blocking it would not be in violation of World Trade Agreement rules.

"In terms of them retaliating legally against the U.S. ... I don't think there are many options there," the lobbyist said.

But when it comes to the emirates' cooperation in the war on terrorism and in intelligence gathering, there is concern that some help may be pulled.

"If we reject the company in terms of doing the [ports] work, they are going to lose a lot of face. In the Arab culture, losing face is a big deal," a former government official said. "We risk losing that help. It is not an empty threat."

Dubai is a critical logistics hub for the U.S. Navy and a popular relaxation destination for troops fighting in the Middle East. On many occasions since the ports story erupted, the Pentagon has stressed the importance of the U.S-UAE relationship.

Last year, the U.S. Navy docked 590 supply vessels in Dubai, plus 56 warships, Gordon England, deputy secretary of defense, said in a Senate hearing last month. About 77,000 military personnel went on leave in the UAE last year, he added.

During the hearing, he warned about the implications of a negative decision on the ports deal: "So obviously it would have some effect on us, and I'd not care to quantify that, because I don't have the facts to quantify it. It would certainly have an effect on us."

Although owned by the Dubai government, the company at the heart of this controversy, Dubai Ports World, is trying to distance itself from any kinds of threats, said a lobbyist closely tracking the deal.

Another lobbyist monitoring the controversy said K Street still believes there will be a compromise that allows the Dubai deal to go through while meeting congressional security concerns, even though a bill aimed at that result, put forward by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.), was widely repudiated amongst lawmakers Tuesday.

Senate leaders have indicated that they would wait to take action until the new 45-day Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) review is completed.

Meanwhile, in London, DP World cleared the last hurdle for its take over of P&O. The Court of Appeal in London refused Miami-based Eller & Co., which opposed the deal, permission to appeal against clearances for the legal and financial measures necessary to implement the takeover.

P&O said it expects to file the requisite court orders, making the takeover terms binding on DP World, according to the Financial Times.

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Bird Flu Damages EU Economies

By Stefan Nicola
UPI Germany Correspondent
Mar 09, 2006

Kehl Am Rhein, Germany - Bird flu is spreading its ugly wings over Western Europe, causing its first noticeable damage to national economies. Just as the average American does not want to miss out on burgers and good cut of steak, life, for many French, is incomplete without some "poulet roti" (roast chicken) or "foie gras" (duck paté).
This goes far in explaining why the bird flu has caused near-hysteria in and around Paris.

The rooster has been the country's unofficial symbol since Gallic warriors fought Julius Caesar's Roman legions some 2,000 years ago. The bird can be seen on official seals as well as on the chests of national soccer team members.

The bird is also important to its economy: France is the European Union's largest poultry producer and exporter.

Since bird flu cases were first detected on a turkey farm in the southeast Ain region, poultry sales have plummeted by as much as a third in France. Some 40 countries, including Russia and Japan, two of the largest importers of French poultry, have issued an import ban on French birds.

The European Commission earlier this week called on the countries to end the ban, arguing the outbreak has been successfully contained and that exports from the rest of the country are safe -- so far without success. According to French figures, farmers there breed some 900 million chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese and other fowl per year. Their birds are healthy, farmers say, and there is no evidence that cooked poultry poses any health risk at all.

French President Jacques Chirac, in a bid to defend his farmers and restore poultry sales, has said there is an "unjustified panic" spreading across France. The industry remains concerned.

"If the sales slump continues the way it has, we are going to lose 80 million euros ($95 million) a month," Christian Marinov, head of the Confédération Francaise Aviculture, the French poultry farmers' trade union, told United Press International. He added the industry's two foremost goals were to communicate to consumers that cooked poultry is safe, and to lift the import bans.

Next-door in Germany, the virus' deadly H5N1 strain has not yet spread from wild birds to domestic poultry, but has infected several domestic cats, a move that has Agriculture Minister Horst Seehofer concerned.

"The virus has crossed the border to mammals in several cases, so it came significantly closer to the human being," he said Tuesday night on a TV show.

So far, the virus cannot spread between humans. But experts fear it will mutate and turn into a global pandemic with millions of casualties. Ninety-five people have already died of the disease, mostly in Asia.

In Germany, the virus was first detected on the Baltic Sea resort of Ruegen and has since spread to several states across the country.

German poultry farmers have seen sales plummet up to 25 percent.

"We number the current economic damage at roughly 140 million euros ($167 million)," Thomas Janning, spokesman for the ZDG association of German poultry producers, told UPI via telephone. "We are currently in talks with federal and state governments about financial support measures."

He added it was a constant communications war to tell consumers that cooked poultry is safe. Recent reports that gourmet restaurants in Berlin are taking poultry dishes off their menu only spread the hysteria, he said.

In Italy and Greece, poultry-related sales fell by as much as 50 percent. And not only are poultry farmers affected; related companies, such as those that provide machinery or stalls have also been harmed.

German tourist organizations fear travelers may cancel trips to the land of beer and sausage if the virus spreads further. The outbreak on Ruegen has led to several cancelled vacations there.

Moreover, some 1.5 million guests are expected to flock to Germany this summer to attend the FIFA Soccer World Cup. The tournament may create as much as 50,000 additional jobs, according to government figures, and the country's economy is banking on the extra money spent during that time.

And then there is the ultimate horror scenario: if the disease turns into a pandemic, it will cost the European economy up to $1 trillion, said Deutsche Bank in a study published earlier this week.

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Logic out the window at the White House

By Gwynne Dyer
Cyprus Mail
9 Mar 06

The biggest pitfall in predicting the behavior of radical groups like the inner circle of the Bush administration is that you keep telling yourself that they would never actually do whatever it is they're talking about. Surely they must realize that acting like that would cause a disaster. Then they go right ahead and do it.
"(The Iranians) must know everything is on the table and they must understand what that means," U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton told a group of visiting British politicians last week. "We can hit different points along the line. You only have to take out one part of their nuclear operation to take the whole thing down." In other words, he was calmly proposing an illegal attack on a sovereign state, possibly involving nuclear weapons.

Bolton knew his words would be leaked, so maybe it was just deliberate posturing to raise the pressure on Iran. But on Sunday, addressing the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in Washington, Bolton repeated the threat: "The longer we wait to confront the threat Iran poses, the harder and more intractable it will become to solve… We must be prepared to rely on comprehensive solutions and use all the tools at our disposal to stop the threat…" He may really mean it -- and no one in the White House has told him to shut up.

With the U.S. army already mired in Iraq, the Bush administration lacks the ground strength to invade Iran, a far larger country. The National Security Strategy statement of September 2002 declared a new doctrine of "preemptive" wars in which the U.S. would launch unprovoked attacks against countries that it feared might hurt it in the future, and in January 2003 that doctrine was elaborated into the military strategy of "full spectrum global strike."

The "full spectrum" referred specifically to the use of nuclear weapons to destroy hardened targets that ordinary weapons cannot reach. Earth-penetrating "mini-nukes" were an integral part of Conplan 8022-02, a presidential directive signed by Bush at the same time that covered attacks on countries allegedly posing an "imminent" nuclear threat in which no American ground troops would be used. Indeed, the responsibility for carrying out Conplan 8022 was given to Strategic Command (Stratcom) in Omaha, a military command that had previously dealt only with nuclear weapons.

Last May, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld issued an "Interim Global Strike Alert Order" putting Stratcom on high military readiness 24 hours a day. Logic says there is no "imminent" danger of Iranian nuclear weapons: last year's U.S. National Intelligence Estimate put the time needed for Iran to develop such weapons at ten years. But experience says that this administration can talk itself into a "preemptive" attack on a country that really does not pose any threat at all.

So what happens if they talk themselves into unleashing Conplan 8022 on Iran? Thousands of people would die, of course, and the surviving 70 million Iranians would be very cross, but how could they strike back at the United States? Iran has no nuclear weapons, no weapons of any sort that could reach America. Given the huge American technological lead, it can't even do much damage to U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region. But it does have two powerful weapons: its Shia faith, and oil.

Iran is currently playing a long game in Iraq, encouraging the Shia religious parties to cooperate with the American political project so that a Shia-dominated government in Baghdad will turn Iraq into a reliable ally of Iran once the Americans go home. But if Tehran encouraged the Shia militias to attack American troops in Iraq, U.S. casualties would soar. The whole American position there could become untenable in months.

Iran would probably not try to close the Strait of Hormuz, the choke-point through which most of the Persian Gulf's oil exports pass, for U.S. forces could easily dominate or even seize the sparsely populated Iranian coast on the north side. But it would certainly halt its own oil exports, currently close to 4 million barrels a day, and in today's tight oil market that would likely drive the oil price up to $130-$150 a barrel. Moreover, Tehran could keep the exports turned off for months, since recent oil prices, already high by historical standards, have enabled it to build up a large cash reserve. (Iran earned $45 billion from oil exports last year, twice the average in 2001-03.)

So a "preemptive" American attack on Iran would ignite a general insurrection against the American presence in Shia-dominated areas of Iraq and trigger a global economic crisis. The use of nuclear weapons would cross a firebreak that the world has maintained ever since 1945, and convince most other great powers that the United States is a rogue state that must be contained. All this to deal with a threat that is no more real or "imminent" than the one posed by Iraq in 2003.

No American policy-maker in his right mind would contemplate unleashing such a disaster for so little reason. Unfortunately, that does not guarantee that it won't happen.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2006

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War Whore Rice: Iran is major challenge to peace

March 9, 2006

The US may face "no greater" challenge from any country than Iran, US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said today.

Ms Rice made the comments at a congressional hearing in Washington shortly after Iran's president vowed that there would be no retreat over its nuclear ambitions.

Ms Rice, who is pushing the UN security council to start taking action against Iran that could lead to sanctions, also accused Tehran of meddling in Iraq.
She said: "We may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran, whose policies are directed at developing a Middle East that would be 180 degrees different than the Middle East we would like to see developed."

Ms Rice attacked Iran's "terrible human rights record" and urged Congress to approve £43m in extra funds in a "cultural outreach" scheme to normal Iranian citizens.

She said the US had no problem with Iran's citizens, but opposed the government.

Earlier today, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the west would "suffer more" than his country if it keeps trying to stop Tehran developing nuclear technology.

In a speech, he told a crowd of supporters that Iran would not be "bullied" by the West into abandoning its research.

The comments were his first public reaction since the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) decision in Vienna yesterday to formally refer the long-running nuclear row to the UN security council.

Mr Ahmadinejad rejected the IAEA decision and called it "unjust".

"The people of Iran will not accept coercion and unjust decisions by international organisations ... the era of bullying and brutality is over," he said.

"They [western countries] know that they are not capable of inflicting the slightest blow on the Iranian nation because they need the Iranian nation ... they will suffer more and they are vulnerable."

His comments were echoed by the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the ultimate decision-maker in the Islamic state.

Ayatollah Khamenei urged officials not to cave in to pressure from the west and said the security council referral was part of a psychological war against the Iranian clerical regime orchestrated by Washington.

Tensions have been escalating in recent days over the nuclear row, which is expected to be discussed next week by the security council.

On Tuesday, US vice-president Dick Cheney threatened Iran with "meaningful consequences" if it pushed ahead with its nuclear research, which Tehran insists is for civilian energy, not weapons.

Yesterday, Javad Vaeidi, the deputy head of Iran's national security council, said the US had the power to cause "harm and pain", but was also "susceptible to harm and pain".

This morning, newspapers in Tehran published news of the IAEA's decision on their front pages.

One of the papers, the official Persian-language daily Iran, had an opinion piece in which it said the referral to the security council was "a message of weakness and failure" by the IAEA.

George Bush, the US president, has said that Iran will not be allowed to get the nuclear bomb.

The US has demanded that Iran stop developing nuclear fuel, which could be processed further to create weapons.

The US, as well as the UK, France and Germany, which have been negotiating with Iran on behalf of Europe, want Iran to give up uranium enrichment altogether.

Iran has rejected the demand, saying it will never give up its right under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to enrich uranium and produce nuclear fuel.

Iranian officials have failed to agree to a Russian compromise offer to undertake enrichment for Iran.

Mohamed ElBaradei, the IAEA director general, sent a report on Iran to the council yesterday after presenting it to the 35-nation IAEA board of governors.

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White House Linked to Mitch Wade Iran Group?

By Josh Marshall
March 7, 2006

Yesterday at TPM we noted the fact that in April 2004 Mitchell Wade -- the guy who paid off Duke Cunningham for help bagging contracts -- registered as the 'registered agent' for an outfit called the "Iranian Democratization Foundation."

That was on April 5th, 2004.

Now, during 2004, the Federal Procurement Data System lists 444 procurement contracts for the Executive Office of the President (that's the official name for what we colloquially refer to as 'the White House'). Most of those contracts are what you'd expect for a large office complex -- computer services, shipping, office supplies, etc.
But three stand out: three contracts, for a total of $254,437, for unspecified "intelligence services."

Those three contracts were awarded to Mitchell Wade's MZM, Inc.

The first contract was signed only about eight weeks after Wade set up the Iranian Democratization Foundation (IDF). The first was on June 16th, the second on July 23rd and the third on September 30th.

We're not the first ones to report these contracts for "intelligence services." On June 28th, 2005, just as the Duke Cunningham scandal was getting underway, the Washington Post wrote ...

Government procurement records show that MZM, which Wade started in 1993, did not report any revenue from prime contract awards until 2003. Most of its revenue has come from the agreement the Pentagon just cut off. But over the past three years it was also awarded several contracts, worth more than $600,000, by the Executive Office of the President. They include a $140,000 deal for office furniture in 2002 and several for unspecified "intelligence services." (italics added)

But given all that's transpired, this odd fact seems worthy of more scrutiny, especially since Wade was setting up shop in the Iran regime-change game right around then.

Jut how many contracts does the White House give out for "intelligence services"?

And were these three tied to Wade's just-discovered work on the Iran regime-change front?

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US congressmen press for Iran sanctions bill

Friday, March 10, 2006

WASHINGTON: Key US congressmen on Wednesday said that they would push forward with legislation imposing mandatory sanctions on foreign firms working in Iran, despite administration concerns that the bill could split the international coalition against Iran's nuclear programme.

As the United States and its allies prepared to take Iran's case to the UN Security Council – which could eventually consider penalties on Tehran – some lawmakers complained that Washington needs to be more aggressive in confronting the "threat" posed by Iran's pursuit of nuclear technology.
Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns told the US House of Representatives International Relations Committee that the Security Council would begin debate on Iran next Monday and Tuesday, and gradually escalate pressure if Tehran refused to halt uranium enrichment activities.

But Rep Thomas Lantos of California, the panel's senior Democrat, insisted that "Iran's quest for nuclear arms requires us to do two things: squeeze Iran's economy as much as possible and do so without delay".

He said that the committee next week would consider a bill signed by more than 300 lawmakers requiring US sanctions on any company or nation investing more than $20 million in Iran's energy sector.

It would also require US-based pension funds to disclose Iran-related investments. Washington already has long-standing sanctions prohibiting American companies or individuals from doing business with the Islamic republic.

Meanwhile, the White House rejected as provocative Iran's warning that the United States could feel "harm and pain" if the Security Council took up the issue of Tehran's nuclear research. "Provocative statements and actions only further isolate Iran from the rest of the world," spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters travelling with President George W Bush in New Orleans.

Burns said that the administration could support legislation imposing sanctions on foreign firms, which would replace the expiring Iran-Libya Sanctions Act, but it should be modified to give Bush greater flexibility. After a year of intensive diplomacy, the five major nuclear powers – the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China – are united in agreeing that "Iran is seeking nuclear weapons" but the proposed law could blow the coalition apart, he warned.

In recent years, foreign firms have signed more than $100 billion in energy-related deals with Iran but US presidents sidestepped imposing sanctions to avoid a diplomatic or trade row, especially with European allies, lawmakers said. Burns said that the Security Council would start with a statement demanding that Iran halt uranium enrichment and cooperate with the international community.

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Steamroller Bolton at the U.N.

By Mike Whitney
Information Clearing House
9 Mar 06

Watching John Bolton bulldoze the United Nations is mesmerizing. In a matter of months, he's savaged the system that distributes power more equitably and transformed the institution into a fiefdom for western elites and American corporations. Under the banner of "reform", the blustery Bolton has coerced a number of changes that will forever alter the composition of the UN; removing the institution's last vestiges of international legitimacy.
In a year or so the United Nations will be just another American NGO doing the bidding of the world's multinational corporations. That's good news for Bolton and his friends at the American Enterprise Institute, the ideological headquarters for America's ongoing incursions into the third world.

By enlisting Secretary General Kofi Annan, Bolton has advanced an agenda for "radical reform" including "more financial oversight, simplified hiring and reporting procedures, staff buyouts, and a modern information system." (Al Jazeera) The intention is to staff the organization with like-minded people from the business and banking establishment who will cater to the needs of their corporate overlords. This will allow funds to be siphoned off to the usual suspects (Halliburton, Bechtel, Flour etc) who continue their relentless colonization of the developing world.

The New York Times has played a pivotal role in hyping the reform-project. Staff writer, Warren Hoge, has done most of the heavy-lifting (although he was assisted at one point by NYT icon Judith Miller) carping about the fictitious "oil for food" scandal and extolling Bolton's ax-wielding activities. The Times critique of UN failures reads like an extended passage from the "Rubaiyat"; great reading, but mostly hot air.

Kofi Annan, however, agrees with Bolton about the need for change:

"Just as this building after 50 years of ad hoc repair and maintenance, now needs to be fully refurbished from top to bottom, so too our organization, after decades of piecemeal reform, now needs a thorough strategic refit."

So, what's the bottom line?

American plutocrats and corporate big-wigs are looking for an organization that is more responsive to their needs. The UN provides the legitimacy they need as cover for their "humanitarian interventions" (re: wars of aggression) and reconstruction projects, (Sluicing money to the major corporate players) but it requires fine-tuning to better serve their interests.

Bolton has recommended structural changes to the Human Rights Commission so the UN can beat up on the weaker nations while exempting the US from charges of flagrant and systematic prisoner abuse or war crimes. The broader objective is to transform the United Nations into a rubber stamp for American foreign policy.

To that end, Bolton is pushing for a new post of "Chief Operating Officer". This job will be filled by a political-loyalist who can override the decisions of the Secretary-General and ensure that the organization makes prudent, business-friendly decisions. Right now, it looks like the job will go to Mark Malloch Brown, who did a stint with the World Bank; proving he has the proper pedigree for his next assignment.

It appears that the job of Secretary-General will become a meaningless ceremonial role much like that of the President of the United States. Undoubtedly, it will be filled by someone who is capable of expressing great warmth and humanity while carrying out the imperial-mandate.

Does the name Bill Clinton come to mind?

Bolton has worked hard to rebuild the UN from the ground up ignoring the criticism of those who don't share his vision of a less democratic institution. Dismissing their ridicule as sour-grapes, Bolton said triumphantly, "This work is too important to be caught up in procedural wrangles in this body."

Bolton obviously prefers his "one man" version of democracy.

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de la déontologie

Maria Pia

John Bolton, the US ambassador to the United Nations granted a visit, albeit short 22 minutes exactly, to the foreign press corps in New York. John Bolton has never been really fond of journalists. Though today he had a few reasons to rejoice.
He kept mentioning twice that Reporters without borders, like the Bush administration, is rejecting the UN project for the creation of a new human right Council, because it is too lax with repressive countries. As if that was not enough, he underlined that both the Washington Post and the New York Times support the administration,"not something that happens every day, that's for sure". He had a point, obviously, since the project currently submitted by the General Assembly's chairman is clearly not a satisfactory one.

When asked about nuclear cooperation with India though, Bolton refrained to mention today's New York Times editorial. Actually, i find his explanation quite stunning when it came to compare Iran and India nuclear programs. "India never signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty. It never undertook the obligation not to develop nuclear weapons. That's a completely different circumstance than Iran that's been violating the NPT and lying about it for close to 20 years". Hmm...in other words, better never sign any international treaty in order not to have to violate them.

Comment: Bolton suggesting that Iran should be held to honouring signed international agreements is about as hypocritical as it comes. The Bush administration has flouted and ignored international agreements with an in yer face attitude that is flagrant.

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Islamophobia worse in America now than after 9/11, survey finds - Analysts blame politicians and media coverage

Suzanne Goldenberg in Washington
Friday March 10, 2006
The Guardian

More than half of Americans believe there are more violent extremists within Islam than in any other religion and that the faith encourages violence against non-Muslims, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll yesterday.

Negative feelings towards Islam are much more pronounced now than in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 2001 terror attacks, the survey found.

A majority, 58%, of those interviewed now believe that Islam has more violent followers than any other religion. The poll of 1,000 was conducted by phone last week and has a three-point error margin. Since January 2002 the proportion of those who believe mainstream Islam promotes violence against non-believers has risen from 14% to 32%.
Analysts blame the surge on a confluence of factors: the proposed takeover of US ports operations by a Dubai firm (now abandoned); the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; the election of Hamas in the Palestinian territories; and, above all, the riotous protests across the Muslim world against Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. "The coverage of the controversy over the cartoons showed that sort of violent extremist in a way that a lot of Americans found troubling," said Carroll Dougherty of the Pew Research Centre for the People and the Press.

American attitudes towards Islam were not out of step with Europe, Mr Dougherty said, adding that there was more tolerance in the US towards the use of headscarves than in countries such as Germany or France, where there is strong support for a ban.

But nearly half of Americans, 46%, said they held unfavourable attitudes towards Islam - compared with 24% in January 2002. The Post quoted analysts as saying that the demonisation of Islam by politicians and the media during the past four years had led to an erosion of tolerance.

In the immediate aftermath of September 11 2001, George Bush made a number of statements disassociating Islam and the general Arab and Muslim population in America from al-Qaida. He also visited a mosque, a symbolic gesture that helped build a more positive image of Islam.

"It seems counter-intuitive, but from the president on down there was a very strong message from Washington that this was not representative of Islam," Mr Dougherty said. "In the intervening years there has been an absence of this sort of positive message."

James Zogby, president of the Washington-based Arab American Institute, told the Post he was not surprised by the poll's results. Politicians, authors and media commentators have demonised the Arab world since 2001, he said.

"The intensity has not abated and remains a vein that's very near the surface, ready to be tapped at any moment," Mr Zogby said. "Members of Congress have been exploiting this over the ports issue. Radio commentators have been talking about it non-stop."

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Goal on Iran is political, not punitive says France

March 10, 2006

PARIS - France is looking for a political solution to the dispute over Iran's nuclear ambitions rather than seeking to punish Tehran, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said on French radio on Friday.

"Our goal is political, not at all punitive," he told RTL radio when asked whether France backed U.S. demands that the
U.N. Security Council consider sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.
Referring to a recent meeting with Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani, Douste-Blazy said "we made proposals, the hand (of compromise) is extended, negotiations are possible."

On Wednesday, Douste-Blazy criticized Iran for spurning chances to find a solution to the crisis and said France would assume its responsibilities as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

Most diplomats expect the 15-national Security Council, which can impose sanctions, to issue a statement first urging Iran to comply with resolutions by the International Atomic Energy Agency's board (IAEA) that it halt all uranium enrichment activities.

Iran, which concealed its nuclear activities from the IAEA for 18 years, denies it is seeking to build a nuclear bomb and says it is being singled out unfairly over its nuclear activities compared to India, Pakistan and Israel.

Tehran says it wants civilian nuclear power to meet the needs of its booming economy.

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Congress of Arab parties voices support for Iran's nuclear right

8 Mar 06

The fourth session of the General Conference of Arab Parties here Tuesday voiced support for Iran's right to acquire peaceful nuclear technology.

Secretary-General of the Congress of Arab Parties Abdul Aziz al-Seyyed told reporters at a press conference held at the end of the three-day session that Iran was being targeted by big powers because it was a regional power with policies that did not please these powers.
Arab countries treat Iran as a Muslim brother state, the official said, and added that Arab states desired good relations with members of the Islamic world. "And that is why we are trying to establish sustainable relations with Iran."
The fourth session of the General Conference of Arab Parties concluded its work in Damascus Tuesday evening by releasing a statement listing major developments in the Arab world including Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon.

The participants, representing 16 Arab nations, in the statement called for the enactment of a trans-national law punishing the desecration of religious sanctities such as the recent blasphemy committed by a number of European newspapers against the Holy Prophet of Islam (Peace Be Upon Him).

The statement also called for a similar law punishing occupation of a sovereign state by any foreign power, punishment of occupying forces and payment of compensation to victims of foreign occupation.

Expressing support for the Islamic resistance in Palestine and Lebanon as well as the armed operations against occupying forces in Iraq, the participants, in the statement, declared May 25 of every year as `Day of Resistance'.

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Ambassador says Iran ready for uranium enrichment in Turkey

Japan Economic Newswire Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge
9 Mar 06

MOSCOW - Iran is prepared to agree to the enrichment of uranium for its civilian nuclear program and subsequent recycling of spent nuclear fuel in Turkish territory, Russia's Itar-Tass news agency reported Thursday.

"Both countries have commitments under international agreements they are determined to comply with. We plan to discuss some proposals for uranium enrichment and spent nuclear fuel processing in the future," the Iranian ambassador to Turkey, Firuz Devletabadi, was quoted as saying.

Devletabadi explained that all issues were being discussed within the framework of efforts for enhancing security in the region and that "the Iranian nuclear program does not have a military dimension," the report said.

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Judge Warns Prosecutors in Moussaoui Trial

Associated Press
Fri Mar 10, 1:26 AM ET

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - The judge in the death-penalty trial of confessed al-Qaida conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui warned prosecutors Thursday that they were moving their case into shaky legal territory.

"I must warn the government it is treading on delicate legal ground here," U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema said at the conclusion of the day's testimony, after the jury had left the courtroom. "I don't know of any case where a failure to act is sufficient for the death penalty as a matter of law."
The key issue in Moussaoui's sentencing trial has been his failure to disclose his terrorist ties to federal agents when he was arrested in August 2001 on immigration violations. He is the only person ever charged in this country in connection with al-Qaida's attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, on the World Trade Center and the

Both sides agree Moussaoui lied to the FBI, but they differ on what Moussaoui was legally obliged to do given the Fifth Amendment's guarantee against self-incrimination.

Prosecutors argue that once Moussaoui agreed to talk to federal agents, he was required to tell the truth - to confess his ties to al-Qaida and his plans to fly an airplane into the White House.

The defense argues Moussaoui was not required to confess.

The issue is crucial because, to obtain the death penalty, prosecutors must prove that federal agents would have prevented at least one death on Sept. 11 if Moussaoui had not lied. Their case would be much easier if that means Moussaoui also was obligated to disclose his al-Qaida membership and terrorist training.

Brinkema made her comments as she rejected a defense motion for a mistrial. Moussaoui's lawyers were angry because they believed a question from prosecutor David Novak implied to the jury that Moussaoui had an obligation to speak to FBI agents even after Moussaoui had invoked his right to a lawyer two days into questioning by the FBI. Agents immediately stopped questioning him at that point.

Brinkema said she did not feel a mistrial was warranted because she struck Novak's question from the record as soon as he asked it.

The issue developed as the FBI agent who arrested Moussaoui testified he suspected the student pilot from France was a terrorist, but that Moussaoui's lies sent agents on "wild goose chases" away from his links to al-Qaida and
Osama bin Laden.

Harry Samit testified the lies sent agents futilely searching London - the home listed on Moussaoui's passport - for associates he claimed had given him money, but that Moussaoui never mentioned the alias used by Ramzi Binalshibh, an al-Qaida operative, to wire him cash from Germany.

The 37-year-old Frenchman of Moroccan descent did not admit getting money from that operative for almost four years - not until he pleaded guilty last April to conspiring with al-Qaida to fly planes into U.S. buildings.

The jury here will decide whether that guilty plea will put Moussaoui to death or imprison him for life.

Over objections by court-appointed defense lawyer Edward MacMahon, prosecutor Novak asked Samit one by one about Moussaoui's admissions last April and whether he gave any hint of them in 2001. Each time the answer was no.

What if Moussaoui had admitted in 2001 that he was an al-Qaida member who had pledged obedience to bin Laden?

"I would have asked additional questions about his role in al-Qaida and his relation to Osama bin Laden. It would have opened up a whole world of questions," replied Samit, a counterterrorism specialist.

"The answers dictate the logical course of the interview," said Samit, who arrested Moussaoui in Minnesota on Aug. 16, 2001, for immigration violations. "You can't ask logical follow-up questions if he provides misleading answers. It takes you down all sorts of alleys - wild goose chases, essentially."

Samit said that during his initial 90-minute interview of Moussaoui, Moussaoui claimed he was taking commercial flight training lessons in Minnesota "for enjoyment and his own personal ego." Moussaoui claimed the more than $32,000 in cash he brought into the United States was savings from work in an export-import business and from friends and associates.

Agents pressed Moussaoui for the names of the friends and associates who supplied the cash and for a day he supplied only a single name, "Taleal." When Moussaoui a day later said Taleal was Akhmed Atef, Samit immediately asked bureau agents in London to search for that man because the only foreign address they had for Moussaoui was in London.

Samit immediately became suspicious of Moussaoui when executives of a flight school in suburban Minneapolis reported a foreign student training to fly a Boeing 747-400 despite having almost no pilot experience.

One of the flight school's instructors testified he urged his bosses to call the FBI after his new student responded angrily to innocent questions about his religion and paid for his training in $100 bills.

Instructor Clarence Prevost told the jury he first assumed Moussaoui was a rich guy "just fulfilling a dream."

But on the first day of class, when Moussaoui, asked whether he was a Muslim, responded with a terse "I am nothing," Prevost became suspicious.

"I said, 'Should we be doing this?'" Prevost told the court. "'We don't know anything about this guy and we're teaching him to throw the switches on a (Boeing) 747.'"

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Ex-State Department Security Officer Charges Pre-9/11 Cover-Up


A former State Department security officer has given CounterPunch a detailed memoir and documents that point to very curious conduct by the CIA, Secret Service and FBI in the Philippines following warnings of an assassination bid on President Clinton during his November 12/13, 1994 visit to Manila.

The bid was organized by the 1993 WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef, at the direction of, and with financial support from, Osama bin Laden (who was indicted for the plot by a federal grand jury in August 1998).

A Pakistani linked to that Manila plot, and also to Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency may still be at large. The security officer charges a U.S. cover-up of possible involvement by the Pakistani ISI in the 9/11/01 attack on the Trade Towers. Although given these same leads, the Official 9/11 Commission failed to investigate them.

This past December, Sam Karmilowicz finished a 21-year career as an officer in the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Back in 1994 he was working as an Assistant Regional Security Officer at the U.S. Embassy in Manila, when John D. Negroponte was the ambassador. These days, Negroponte is the U.S. Director of National Intelligence.

On the morning of September 18, 1994, Karmilowicz recalls, "the U.S. embassy received a telephone call from an anonymous person (who spoke with a distinct middle eastern accent) concerning his knowledge of an assassination plot against President William Clinton, who was scheduled to visit Manila that coming November."

The embassy switchboard relayed that and a subsequent call to Karmilowicz, and the caller provided him the name of a Pakistani businessman, Tariq Javed Rana, as being one of the leaders of the plot. The source told Karmilowicz that Rana was facilitating the importation of explosives and operatives into the Philippines to complete the mission by paying bribes to Philippine government officials of the Immigration and Customs bureaus. He said the bribes were paid in counterfeit U.S. currency.

The first call was promptly reviewed in the embassy that same day by members of the embassy emergency action committee (EAC) chaired by Raymond Burghardt, the Deputy in Charge of Mission under Negroponte. The FBI, Secret Service, CIA, DEA, and DIA were all members of the committee. At the conclusion of the EAC meeting, embassy law enforcement and intelligence officials were instructed to inform the Philippine authorities and to initiate an investigation to determine the credibility of the threat. (Burghardt went on to become US ambassador to Vietnam and now heads the East-West Center, based in Honolulu.)

"A few weeks afterwards", Karmilowicz says, " high ranking officers of the CIA and Secret Service came into my office and informed me that they had conducted an investigation concerning the threat and concluded that the allegations against the Pakistani, Rana, were a hoax in order to have the police harass him. They offered no motive or information as to why such a 'hoax' would be perpetrated or who might be behind it.

"While all this was going on, I was supervising and managing the embassy's surveillance detection unit responsible for the security of our housing compounds and annexes, including looking for suspicious persons or activity. I was also assigned the task of coordinating and providing protective security arrangements for visiting dignitaries and VIPs. As such, I had a professional responsibility to know whether the Pakistani suspect, and or any of his accomplices, was a credible threat against U.S. persons and/or interests in the Philippines. "The U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies may have dismissed this intelligence data as a hoax while secretly following up the leads ... or they may just have been incompetent and let the future 9-11 terrorist masterminds slip through their fingers. Either way, they seem to have been incompetent because, if they were secretly monitoring these suspected (later confirmed) terrorists, then they obviously did a poor job of it."

A few days before that first call, the Pakistani man named in the plot, Tariq Rana, had been featured in the Philippine press, which reported that he was a suspect in an illegal drug manufacturing ring. In response to these allegations, the public affairs section of the Pakistani embassy in Manila issued a number of statements vigorously denying the allegations against their national, claiming that he was a law-abiding citizen and a close relative of members of Pakistan's parliament and military establishment. Shortly after he issued these statements the Pakistani public affairs officer was recalled to Pakistan.

President Clinton arrived in Manila on November 12, 1994, and his two-day visit passed without incident. Then, one week before Pope John Paul II's visit to Manila in mid-January, 1995, police claimed a fire occurred in Room 603 of the Dona Josefa apartment building in Manila and that they discovered bomb-making chemicals and other evidence during a search of the apartment. Several people of Middle Eastern origin were staying in the apartment at the time of the fire and one of these persons was later identified as Ramzi Yousef, the 1993 World Trade Center bomber. Yousef is the nephew of Khaled Shaikh Muhammad, who was arrested in 2003. Muhammad subsequently disclosed under interrogation that he had planned the 9/11 attacks with Yousef in Manila at that time.

Ramzi Yousef fled the Philippines immediately after the apartment fire, and was arrested in Pakistan a month later. In 1998, Agence France Press (AFP) reported that Yousef confessed to federal authorities while in prison that he had in fact planned to assassinate Clinton when the president was visiting the Philippines but gave up because of tight security. Secret Service sources also report that large sums of counterfeit U.S. currency were entering the Philippines during the time of the plot. Clearly, the information passed to Karmilowicz was accurate and not a hoax as claimed by the CIA and Secret Service.

In conjunction with the fire at Yousef's apartment, the Philippine press also reported that a similar fire occurred at the business establishment of Tariq Rana. An article in the Manila Chronicle indicated that the police found the same chemicals in both fires - chemicals that are used to make nitroglycerin. Yousef used nitroglycerin to bomb Philippines Airlines Flight 434 on December 11, 1994 as a test run for the so-called "Bojinka"plot. The explosion tore out a two square foot portion of the fuselage and ripped almost in half the body of 24-year old Haruki Ikegami, a Japanese businessman occupying the seat under which the bomb was placed. The bomb used on Flight 434 had one-tenth the power of the bombs he planned to use in the first phase of his Bojinka project, which was to simultaneously bomb 11 American aircraft over the Pacific Ocean.

Rana was arrested in April 1995 by Philippine authorities and charged with business fraud, although his current whereabouts are unknown.

Not all the Al Qaeda operatives successfully escaped arrest following the January 6, 1995 fire at the Dona Josefa apartment building.

According to Peter Lance's book Cover Up, Ramzi Yousef instructed one of his accomplices, Abdul Hakim Murad, to return to Dona Josefa during the early morning hours on the day of the fire to retrieve his laptop computer, which contained all the details of the Bojinka plot, plus other incriminating information. The Philippine police, who had staked out the building, subsequently arrested Murad and transported him to Camp Crame, the headquarters of the Philippine National Police Intelligence Group (PNP). During the period of Murad's captivity, Lance says Murad "was harshly treated, perhaps even tortured, forced to ingest massive quantities of water".

Murad remained in Philippine custody until on or about May 11, 1995, when he was rendered to the U.S. to face criminal charges. However, before the rendition, the U.S. embassy sent Karmilowicz to Camp Crame to pick-up an envelope containing evidence that the PNP had collected from Murad. Upon his return to the embassy, Karmilowicz was instructed to transcribe the chain of evidence and to express mail the materials to a U.S. Justice Department Office in New York City. Mike Garcia and Dietrich Snell, the Assistant U.S. Attorneys who prosecuted Murad, almost certainly had access to the materials that Agent Karmilowicz sent to the Justice Department, although it is unknown what, if anything, was done with the evidence.

Pakistan's ISI and, indirectly, the CIA had much closer ties to the Taliban and al Qaeda than the American public was allowed to know. It is common knowledge that Osama bin Laden may be hiding in the rugged Pakistani mountains bordering Afghanistan. However, most Americans probably are not aware or do not remember that major al Qaeda players Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Shaik Mohammed were both hiding in Pakistan when they were captured in 1995 and 2003, respectively, as was Mir Aimal Kasi, the assassin who attacked CIA employees in their cars outside CIA headquarters in Langley, VA in 1993.

Pakistan had been playing a double game until the events of September 11 forced the situation. Pakistan had supported the rise of the Taliban in the power vacuum left by the departure of the Soviet occupation army at the end of the 1980s. Pakistan supported and even used al Qaeda terrorist training camps to train its own operatives for use in the Kashmir dispute. There are other examples of Pakistan's possible links to terrorism and infiltration of the ISI by al Qaeda, such as the alleged funneling of money from ISI director General Ahmad Mehmoud to 9/11's Mohammed Atta. The Wall Street Journal reporter, Daniel Pearl, was kidnapped and murdered in Karachi, Pakistan while he was investigating these al Qaeda-ISI links.

Karmilowicz went on from his tour of duty on Manila to Washington, then Beirut, and a later posting in Quito, Ecuador, where he was involved in a fracas which resulted in the death of an Ecuadorian national. Exonerated after a State Department investigation he served in Washington, finally leaving the service at the end of 2005.

During the spring of 2004, Karmilowicz says, "I contacted Maria Ressa, the CNN Jakarta Bureau Chief after I read a book that she published in December 2003 entitled Seeds of Terror. According to her research, the Pakistani suspected of plotting to kill President Clinton was a close associate of Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed during the time that these persons were hatching the plot to use airline carriers as missiles to attack the U.S." Ressa also told Karmilowicz that her sources in the Philippine intelligence and police bureaus suspected that this Pakistani was an associate of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency. The story has often been told of how a smoky accident in Yousef's apartment happened to draw police attention, and though Yousef escaped, his laptop provided disclosed that this attacks were nearly ready for execution.

The story is true as far as it goes, she told Karmilowicz, but the Philippine authorities were not quite so asleep at the wheel. The explosion aboard Philippine Airlines flight 434 had placed the police on heightened alert with the pope's visit just a few weeks away. Yousef had called the Associated Press, claiming that Abu Sayyaf was responsible, which suggests Filipino suspects, but Avelino "Sonny" Razon of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) tasked with security for the pope's visit was tipped to watch for Middle Easterners. "The PNP (Philippine National Police), particularly the PSG ,was on heightened alert because in December 1994, we received reports that a group of Middle Eastern personalities would be coming over to the Philippines to assassinate the Pope," Razon said. "The PSG had one man in particular under surveillance -- Tareq Javed Rana, a Pakistani suspected of supporting international terrorists with drug money. They were on the right track. He was a close associate of Ramzi Yousef. While under surveillance, Rana's house in Paranque, a suburb of Manila, burned down. An official police report would later say the PSG believed the "conflagration was caused by combustible chemicals such as those used for making an improvised explosive device [IED]."

Ressa's book suggested that the PNP did not begin its surveillance of Rana until December 1994, several months after the U.S. embassy had alerted the Philippine authorities that Rana was named as a suspect to assassinate President Clinton. This raises the question: why wasn't Rana investigated earlier; or, if he was investigated, why do certain people now want to deny this?

In 2004, Karmilowicz and his attorney contacted Richard Ben-Veniste of the official 9/11 Commission, suggesting that the leads from 1994 about Rana pointed to possible ISI complicity and that these leads be followed up. But the Commission never called him to testify.

These days, Karmilowicz (living in Alexandria, VA, and seeking a security job in a Fortune 500 firm), is scathing about the conduct of the interagency taskforce in the U.S. embassy in Manila.
What I think this story reveals is that the 9-11 Commission and the U.S. government deliberately withheld information from the U.S. public (and everyone else for that matter) that linked Al Qaeda operatives to persons who had close ties to Pakistani government officials, including members of Pakistan's ISI. One can only guess whether that was to save embarrassment or to hide illegal conduct.

One thing is for certain, i.e., the FBI, Secret Service, and CIA have deceived, and continue to deceive, the public concerning Rana's connection to Al Qaeda and the facts regarding the 9-11 attack.

One of the standouts in this spin of lies is Neil Herman, a former FBI official who was involved in the Bojinka investigation and a former supervisor of the FBI's Joint Terrorist Task Force in New York. Herman was quoted in an August 5, 2004 New York Times article entitled, Qaeda Strategy is Called Cause for New Alarm by Eric Lipton and Benjamin Weiser, which reported:

Even though the large-scale jetliner attack over the Pacific never happened, it is clear that the elaborate planning was an unappreciated warning of the sophistication and determination of the terrorists.

"It showed the government back in the mid-1990's how detail-oriented these individuals were," said Mr. Herman, the former FBI official, who was involved in the Bojinka investigation. "It also showed that there was an active network, although, of course, we were unable to determine the extent of the network back then."

Another prominent figure suspected of quashing the truth is Dietrich L. Snell, the Senior Counsel and Team Leader of the Official 9-11 Commission. Peter Lance writes extensively in his books Cover Up and 1000 Years for Revenge about Snell's shenanigans in cherry-picking evidence and excluding credible witness testimony, including information collected by the Defense Department's Able Danger Unit concerning pre-9/11 sightings of Mohammed Atta, one of the nineteen suspected hijackers. These allegations are now resurfacing in the news. The Associated Press (AP) reported on February 15, 2005 that U.S. Representative Curt Weldon, the vice Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee advised the public that the Able Danger Unit had identified Atta more than a dozen times before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Weldon also reportedly said the secret team found "a problem" in Yemen two weeks before the deadly Al Qaeda attack on the USS Cole in 2000, of which the ship commander was not told. Former (unidentified) members of the 9/11 Commission reportedly dismissed Weldon's findings.

My experience in the Philippines also appears to overlap Snell's involvement in the Murad case that Snell prosecuted. The Cooperative Research 9-11 Timeline (www.cooperativeresearch.org) contains a very peculiar account entitled: Early 1998:Prosecutors Turn Down Deal That Could Reveal Bojinka Third Plot.

The entry said: "Abdul Hakim Murad, a conspirator in the 1995 Bojinka plot with Ramzi Yousef, Khalid Shaik Mohammed, and others, was convicted in 1996 of his role in the Bojinka plot. He is about to be sentenced for that crime. He offers to cooperate with federal prosecutors in return for a reduction in his sentence, but prosecutors turn down his offer. Dietrich Snell, the prosecutor who convicted Murad, says after 9-11 that he doesn't remember any such offer. But court papers and others familiar with the case later confirmed that Murad does offer to cooperate at this time. Snell claimed he only remembers hearing that Murad had described an intention to hijack a plan and fly it into the CIA headquarters. However, in 1995 Murad had confessed to Philippine investigators that this would have been only one part of a larger plot to crash a number of airplanes into prominent U.S. buildings, including the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a plot that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed later adjusts and turns in the 9-11 plot. While Philippine investigators claim this information was passed on to U.S. intelligence, it's not clear just which U.S. officials may have learned this information and what they did with it, if anything. [New York Daily News, 9/25/01] Murad is sentenced in May 1998 and given life in prison plus 60 years. [Albany Times Union, 9/22/02] After 9-11, Snell goes on to become Senior Counsel and a team leader for the 9-11 Commission. Author Peter Lance later calls Snell "one of the fixers, hired early on to sanitize the Commission's final report." Lance says Snell ignored evidence presented to the Commission that shows direct ties between the Bojinka plot and 9-11, and in so doing covers up Snell's own role in the failure to make use of evidence learned from Murad and other Bojinka plotters. [FrontPage Magazine, 1/27/05].

I know who the intelligence officials were at the U.S. embassy at the time of Murad's arrest and interrogation. These are the same officials who discounted the threat information I received about Rana. Do these people have something to hide? You bet they do!

Peter Lance was entirely correct when he told CNN anchor Lou Dobbs in a December 5, 2005 interview that the 9-11 Commission was essentially "a whitewash" and that it intentionally limited its investigation to 1996-forward. He said the Commission moved the plot's origin "to 1996 from 1994"and in so doing omitted information that linked Mohammed Atta to the terrorists responsible for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Lance said Congress should put Dietrich Snell under oath to find out why the 9-11 staffer prevented the Able Danger information from getting to the 9-11 Commission.

Clearly, the 9-11 Commission's decision to use 1996 as the date that the 9-11 plot originated was also designed to omit the information that I obtained concerning Tariq Rana, and the connection he had with the Al Qaeda operatives who conceived the 9-11 plot.

Given these revelations, how can the American public trust a government that has rationalized its own failure to protect this nation by implementing draconian measures (e.g. the Patriot Act, illegal wiretapping, and abductions and torture) - measures that have stripped its citizens of the rights and protections for which this country was founded. And what have these measures bought us but a seemingly endless war of attrition with an adversary that grows stronger and more lethal everyday.

Karmilowicz says, "my experience in the Philippines shows the U.S. government has compartmentalized information, not so much to protect sources and methods of an investigation or intelligence operation, but in order to cover-up its gross incompetence or its complicity in illegal and questionable activities conducted by, or against, foreign powers."

At some point, (most likely after President Clinton concluded his visit to the Philippines) the CIA and Secret Service realized that Rana and his associates were a threat after all, but they kept this information from Agent Karmilowicz.

Karmilowicz says, "Keeping that information to themselves is a breach of the no-double-standard policy [where one agency can't respond to a perceived threat without notifying the other agencies and the American public]."

And even worse, Karmilowicz believes, "this breach of policy has now become the norm in the post 9-11 world, whereby the State Department has now been co-opted by CIA and the Defense Department to allow people to be abducted and killed rather than apprehended. In one case I suspect that because information was compartmentalized, an attack may have been allowed to proceed ­ in Jeddah in December 2004, ­ and five people were killed." [See Counter Punch 'The Origins of the Rendition Program: Does the CIA Have the Right to Break Any Law, January 2006]. Karmilowicz likes to remind us how John Negroponte, the former Chief of Mission in the Philippines, who directed and approved the efforts of the various agencies at post, "was rewarded for his complicity in this cover-up, appointed the Director of National Intelligence, the person who approves secret renditions, eavesdropping, and the abduction and assassination of terrorist suspects".

Karmilowicz cites AP's Mathew Barakat and Peter Yost as reporting that Rob Spencer, the U.S. prosecutor in the Moussaoui trial in federal court in Alexandria, gave an opening statement to the jury in which he claimed that if Moussaoui had come clean -- i.e., informed the law enforcement establishment of his knowledge of the 9-11 plot -- in 2001, the FBI would have been able to use his records to locate 11 of the 19 September 11 hijackers, including all four pilots. Spencer also said the government would have kept those conspirators off airplanes and would have altered airport screeners to confiscate small knives and boxcutters. "Who in their right mind", Karmilowicz says, "would believe such a statement given what I observed and experienced in the Philippines?"

Comment: We're not sure where CounterPunch wants to take this piece. They have been one of the hardy gatekeepers on the left preventing any serious look at what happened on 9/11, considering, in true Chomsky style, that talk of US involvement, or, heaven forbid, Israeli involvement, is "conspiracy theory". This starlting blindness to the elephant in the room has condemned the left in the US to irrelevancy. Their ideological blinders and social conditioning have turned them into useful idiots of the pathocrats.

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Third elections worker indicted over presidential recount

Associated Press
9 Mar 06

CLEVELAND - The third highest ranking employee at the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections has been indicted on charges of mishandling ballots during the 2004 presidential election recount.

Jacqueline Maiden is the third board worker charged with six counts alleging that Ohio laws were not followed in the selection and review of ballots for the recount.

The most serious charges carry a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison.
The charges stem from a complaint filed by a lawyer who watched over the recount on behalf of two third-party presidential candidates.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason removed himself from the investigation because his office represents the elections board. Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter was appointed special prosecutor.

Maiden, now the board's elections coordinator, was the director of the elections division during the recount in December 2004.

Two other board workers, Rosie Grier and Kathleen Dreamer, were indicted in August and scheduled for trial May 8. Dreamer was the manager of the board's ballot department and Grier was an assistant manager.

Baxter said he has filed a motion to have all three cases consolidated.

All three employees continue to work at the board.

"We're in the process of converting to the electronic voting, and we need our best people," board chairman Bob Bennett said. "We've moved them from any responsibility of recount or responsibility of ballots."

The board released a statement defending the workers.

"These allegations are based on interpretation of procedures, not on any suggestion of fraud. ... We are confident that no employee of the Board of Elections would knowingly or negligently engage in any unlawful conduct regarding the 2004 Presidential Recount," the statement read.


Information from: The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com

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'De-programming' of militants rapped in Australia

Thursday March 9, 2:53 PM

Australia is considering a plan to "de-programme" Islamic militants held in jail despite criticism by a rights group saying it amounted to brainwashing.

Police Commissioner Mick Keelty proposed the idea, saying the technique involved using respected imams or people previously connected with militant organisations to convert extremists to more moderate views.
Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said that while "re-programming isn't the phrase I would use", the idea would be considered as it had been implemented successfully in Europe, the Middle East and Indonesia.

"Those governments have made an attempt to persuade extremists and terrorists who have been held in prison to change their point of view and to understand that it's not the Islamic way to kill, it's not the Islamic way to murder," he told reporters.

"And in some cases that process has been successful. It's something that we will give thought to."

Police chief Keelty told ABC Television's Lateline programme Wednesday the process, which he likened to treatment for drug addicts, had been successful in countries such as Indonesia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Britain.

Indonesia's anti-terrorist squad now had former Jemaah Islamiah (JI) commander Nasir bin Abbas working for them and re-educating arrested JI recruits, he said.

"It's somebody they would have otherwise looked up to as a natural leader, in terms of a terrorist, and they've turned him around and used him to convert the others," Keelty said.

Indonesia had convicted around 200 people of terrorist-related offences since the 2002 Bali bombings and something had to be done with those offenders before they could be released back into the community, he said.

"Two hundred people incarcerated presents a problem if they haven't been reformed by the time they come back out into the community."

Australian police have worked closely with their Indonesian counterparts in the investigation of JI bomb attacks against tourists on the resort island of Bali and against the Australian embassy in Jakarta.

Keelty said he had raised the idea with the government in Australia, where 24 Muslim men are facing terrorism charges, but it would require a major policy shift and had gone no further.

"Essentially, it would be a threshold question in terms of policy as to whether we would engage in something that forces people into some sort of de-programming or de-radicalisation," he said.

Australian Council for Civil Liberties spokesman Terry O'Gorman opposed the plan.

"These countries the police commissioner mentions are involved in torture," O'Gorman said. "This de-programming is part of the same basket of procedures."

O'Gorman said there was no evidence to suggest that the practice, which he said was better described as "brainwashing", was effective in deterring terrorism.

Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network spokesman Waleed Kadous, however, said a voluntary scheme had merit.

"It's important to highlight that already many respected scholars in the Muslim community are informally deconstructing terrorism and condemning terrorism to their congregations already," Kadous said.

"If it's voluntary we have no objection to it, but the problem once you make it compulsory is it just won't work, because religious leaders who do so will be seen as instruments of the government and will lose credibility to those people."

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No Evidence al-Qaida Planned Madrid Attacks


"The intelligence official said authorities had never imagined a group of petty drug traffickers were capable of planning such a massive attack.

"Had we been told a day before (the bombing) that this is what was going on, we would have dismissed it," he said.

MADRID, Spain (March 10) - A two-year probe into the Madrid train bombings concludes the Islamic terrorists who carried out the blasts were homegrown radicals acting on their own rather than at the behest of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network, two senior intelligence officials said.

Spain still remains home to a web of radical Algerian, Moroccan and Syrian groups bent on carrying out attacks - and aiding the insurgency against U.S. troops in Iraq - a Spanish intelligence chief and a Western official intimately involved in counterterrorism measures in Spain told The Associated Press.

The intelligence chief said there were no phone calls between the Madrid bombers and al-Qaida and no money transfers. The Western official said the plotters had links to other Islamic radicals in Western Europe, but the plan was hatched and organized in Spain. "This was not an al-Qaida operation," he said. "It was homegrown."

Both men spoke on condition of anonymity, the first because Spanish security officials are not allowed to discuss details of an ongoing investigation and the second due to the sensitive nature of his job.

The attack has been frequently described as al-Qaida-linked since a man who identified himself as Abu Dujan al-Afghani and said he was al-Qaida's "European military spokesman," claimed responsibility in a video released two days later.

Ahead of Saturday's anniversary of the March 11, 2004 blasts - which killed 191 people and wounded 1,500 - victims' groups have been clamoring for more progress in the investigation.

Gabriel Moris, whose 30-year-old son died in the bombings, said: "These past two years have done nothing to clear up what happened. My questions are simple: Who ordered the massacre? Who killed my son and the other innocent victims?"

The intelligence official said authorities know more than they have revealed, including the suspected ideological and operational masterminds of the attack.

"We haven't explained it well enough to the victims because we can't reveal judicial secrets," he said, adding the investigation is nearly complete.

Authorities believe the ideological mastermind was Serhan Ben Abdelmajid Fakhet, a Tunisian who blew himself up along with six other suspects when police surrounded their apartment three weeks after the bombings, and that Jamal Ahmidan, a Moroccan who also died that day, was the "military planner."

Law enforcement had focused on another man, Allekema Lamari, as the head of the group. But the official said evidence, particularly from wiretapped phone conversations, indicated it was Ahmidan who gave the military orders. Lamari also died in the apartment blast in a Madrid suburb as authorities closed in.

Some 116 people have been arrested in the bombings, and 24 remain jailed. At least three others - Said Berraj, Mohammed Belhadj and Daoud Ouhane - are sought by authorities, though all are believed to have fled Spain long ago. The intelligence official said the top planners are all either dead or in jail.

While the plotters of the Madrid attack were likely motivated by bin Laden's October 2003 call for attacks on European countries that supported the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, there is no evidence they were in contact with the al-Qaida leader's inner circle, the intelligence official said.

Most of the plotters were Moroccan and Syrian immigrants, many with criminal records in Spain for drug trafficking and other crimes. They paid for explosives used in the attack with hashish.

That is a far cry from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States - allegedly planned by al-Qaida leaders like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh and funded directly by the terror network through international wire transfers and Islamic banking schemes.

Paul Wilkinson, chairman of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, said the model used in Madrid, and likely for the July 7 London transport bombings fits in well with al-Qaida's business plan.

"Al-Qaida is not and never was a topdown organization that did everything in terms of attacks around the world. They have a key role in ideological terms ... but they rely on local cells and those that are inspired to carry out these attacks," he said.

After the fact, bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri are happy to claim responsibility because they recognize the carnage as inspired by their movement.

Still, Wilkinson cautioned that just because no direct link has been established between the Madrid plotters and al-Qaida, it doesn't mean none exists. "If security officials knew everything that was going on, we would have caught Osama bin Laden by now," he said.

Both the Spanish intelligence chief and the Western official said there is reason for concern despite the lack of a direct al-Qaida connection.

"There were a lot of moving parts to the March 11 plot, but we were still not able to detect it, and that is scary because a similar thing could happen again," said the Western counterterrorism official. "Since March 11, there have been plans for other significant attacks that the Spanish have disrupted."

Those plans include a scheme in late 2004 to bomb buildings in Barcelona, including the 1992 Olympic village and office towers known as the city's World Trade Center complex. Police also thwarted a 2004 plot by Moroccan and Algerian militants to level Madrid's National Court - a hub for anti-terror investigations - with a 1,100-pound truck bomb.

And agents specializing in Islamic terrorism have arrested dozens of suspects - all allegedly working to recruit potential suicide bombers for the Iraq insurgency.

At least two Spanish citizens - including March 11 suspect Mohammed Afalah - are believed to have blown themselves up in Iraq, and an investigation by the respected El Pais daily revealed some 80 others have traveled to the country in recent months intending to do the same.

The intelligence official said the March 11 attacks were a wakeup call, and authorities are much better prepared now to stop Islamic terrorism. But he said the bombings show how easy it is for those bent on terrorism to carry out attacks.

He said authorities believe the Madrid bombers learned how to construct the bombs - all connected to Mitsubishi Trium T110 mobile phones - from Internet sites linked to radical Islamic groups. The devices were similar to ones used in the 2002 Bali bombing, he said, evidence that militants in both countries got information on the same radical Web sites.

Spanish authorities were monitoring several of the bombers in the months before the attack - and actually stopped Ahmidan's car on a highway in late February, unaware he was leading a caravan of other terrorists transporting the explosives used in the blasts.

The intelligence official said authorities had never imagined a group of petty drug traffickers were capable of planning such a massive attack.

"Had we been told a day before (the bombing) that this is what was going on, we would have dismissed it," he said.

Comment: The fact is that a group of petty drug traffickers were NOT capable of carrying out the Madrid Train Bombing, hence, they DID NOT carry out the train bombing. The most obvious culprit in the bombing was the Israeli Mossad.

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Relatives of dead soldier question Canada's role in Afghanistan

9 Mar 06

The mother and aunt of a Newfoundland soldier who was killed in Afghanistan are calling on the federal government to reconsider Canada's role there.

Cpl. Jamie Murphy died in a suicide bomb attack near Kabul in January 2004. Two years later, Murphy's mother says his death still haunts her.

"I think about every second of every day," said Alice Murphy, who lives in Conception Harbour, N.L.

She said memories of her son's death are revived whenever she hears of new casualties. "It is really hard to know that there's other guys and families in the same situation that we're in, and we are still in it, and it will never go away. Never."
So far this year, 11 Canadian soldiers have been injured in Afghanistan and two have died. As well, a bombing in Kandahar City on Jan. 15 killed Foreign Affairs official Glyn Berry.

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- Murphy's aunt fears for own son -

Murphy's aunt, Eva Skeffington, disagrees with Prime Minister Stephen Harper's decision that there will be no parliamentary debate on the future of Canada's role in Afghanistan.

Skeffington's son, Dale Newbury, is a military mechanic who served in Afghanistan last year and is scheduled to head back to Kandahar in August.

More than 2,000 Canadians will be deployed near Kandahar this year, but Skeffington thinks Canada should instead be withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan.

"I can't imagine my son going over there and then not coming back," said Skeffington, as she fought back tears.

"They did go at first for peace and now it's war. I really don't agree with them being there. It's our sons and daughters."

While Murphy's family has opposed Canada's participation in the Afghanistan effort, others in his home community of Conception Harbour disagree.

"The troops are there. We made a commitment," said Jack Gushue, who intends to build a monument to Murphy in the small town.

"Canadians - and Newfoundlanders especially - once we commit, we are determined to do what we want to do."

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US military expects violent Afghan spring: admiral

Thu Mar 9, 8:49 PM ET

WASHINGTON - U.S. forces in Afghanistan expect violent clashes with al Qaeda-linked insurgents in coming months before security improves later in the year, a senior military officer said on Thursday.

Navy Rear Admiral Robert Moeller, U.S. Central Command director for plans and policy, told a congressional hearing an upsurge in violence could stem from U.S. and NATO forces extending their reach into parts of Afghanistan where the insurgent presence is greater.
"We anticipate that we are going to see a fairly violent spring and summer and then an improvement in overall conditions," he told the House of Representatives Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia.

The 26-member NATO alliance is preparing to expand its International Security Assistance Force mission -- already in the north, west and the capital Kabul -- to the more volatile south and ultimately the east, raising its troop numbers to 16,000 from 9,000.

Some 23,000 U.S. troops in the country are targeting Taliban and al Qaeda forces. U.S.-led forces in 2001 overthrew Taliban rulers who had harbored the al Qaeda network responsible for the September 11 attacks, but failed to extinguish the radical Islamic movement and its al Qaeda allies.

An insurgency that has killed more than 1,500 people since the start of last year has intensified in recent months with a wave of suicide bombings.

Moeller played down the strategic threat posed by al Qaeda, the Taliban and other insurgent groups.

"The overall trend line, though, is positive despite the fact that the data is what the data is with regard to U.S. forces who have been killed in the recent past compared to the first couple years," he told the subcommittee.

Moeller described al Qaeda, its allied Taliban remnants and two other groups as "patient, hidden and dangerous" opponents of the U.S.-led coalition troops and the 26,000-strong Afghan army.

The Taliban "appeared tactically stronger on the battlefield this year and they demonstrate an increased willingness to use suicide bomber and IED (improvised explosive device) tactics," he said.

"The Taliban do not have capability to exercise control over large areas of Afghanistan, but they are disruptive to reconstruction and reconciliation efforts," said the admiral.

Another foe, the Taliban-linked Haqqani Tribal Network, was the "most tactically proficient" insurgent group but its goal was limited to gaining autonomy in eastern Afghanistan and among tribesmen in Pakistan, Moeller said.

A third al Qaeda affiliate, the Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin was heavily involved in narcotics smuggling and "more of a mafia-like organization than an insurgent movement with national goals," he said.

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PNAC: Rebuilding America's Defenses - A Biopsy on Imperialism; Part I: Blueprint for Imperialism

By Sarah Meyer
Index Research

1. Blueprint for Imperialism
2. Operation Imperialism, The 'Enduring' Mission
3.Appendix: Signatories to Rebuilding America's Defenses1. BLUEPRINT FOR IMPERIALISM

A superpower does not have moral imperatives. It has strategic imperatives. Its purpose is not to sustain the lives of other people, but to sustain itself. George Monbiot, The Moral Myth, 25.11.03.

The 19th century's definitive treatise was Das Kapital (1848) by Karl Marx. The 20th century had two major expositions of principles. Adolf Hitler published Eine Abrechnung (A Reckoning) in 1925, and Die Nazionalosozialistische Bewegung (the National-Socialistic Movement) in 1926. Together, these books became known as Mein Kampf (My Struggle). In 1964, The People's Republic of China published The Little Red Book, an iconic collection of quotations from the speeches and publications of Mao Tse Tung.

The 20th century ended with a blueprint for imperialism - not a book, but a website called The Project for the New American Century.

"We aim to make the case and rally support for American global leadership.2" PNAC Statement of Principles, 3 June 1997.
1. Blueprint for Imperialism
2. Operation Imperialism, The 'Enduring' Mission
3.Appendix: Signatories to Rebuilding America's Defenses1. BLUEPRINT FOR IMPERIALISM

A superpower does not have moral imperatives. It has strategic imperatives. Its purpose is not to sustain the lives of other people, but to sustain itself. George Monbiot, The Moral Myth, 25.11.03.

The 19th century's definitive treatise was Das Kapital (1848) by Karl Marx. The 20th century had two major expositions of principles. Adolf Hitler published Eine Abrechnung (A Reckoning) in 1925, and Die Nazionalosozialistische Bewegung (the National-Socialistic Movement) in 1926. Together, these books became known as Mein Kampf (My Struggle). In 1964, The People's Republic of China published The Little Red Book, an iconic collection of quotations from the speeches and publications of Mao Tse Tung.

The 20th century ended with a blueprint for imperialism - not a book, but a website called The Project for the New American Century.

"We aim to make the case and rally support for American global leadership.2" PNAC Statement of Principles, 3 June 1997. PNAC's inception, formed by people known as 'neo-conservatives,'3 was primarily focused on an arms build-up "for the preservation of peace (sic)" (p. 7), following a "decade of defense neglect." (p. 16).


Within the PNAC website is a statement (2000) called Rebuilding America's Defenses (pdf)
This document is based upon Vice President Cheney's Defense Policy Guidance, drafted in 1992 by the Defense Department's Paul Wolfovitz and Lewis Libby.

Michale Klare writes: "This (1992) document calls for proactive U.S. military intervention to deter and prevent the rise of a contending peer (or equal) competitor, and asserts that the United States must use any and all means necessary to prevent that from happening." At the time, people were "horrified," and the document was withdrawn; it is still not available. It was later incorporated into the September 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States of America (pdf)

A forthcoming book,4 Deadly Doctrine No 1 Strike First, subtitled Objectives and Operations of America's Neoconservative Mafia, investigates the years of effort by Paul Wolfovitz and the "neo-conservative machinations" which culminated in the publication of the 2002 National Security Strategy. The author states that it is still "the country's guiding strategic military document." The first chapter of this book can be read here

The PNAC thrust, of which Rebuilding America's Defenses is the key document, is based on this 2002 document. The signatories5 "participated in at least one project meeting or contributed a paper for discussion." Both Libby (now indicted) and Wolfovitz, (now receiving 'entourage' complaints at the World Bank) were founding members of PNAC as well as signatories to Rebuilding America's Defenses.

This RAD document has recently been receiving more attention. Just as I am putting up this blog, for example, Peter Phillips describes the Global Dominance Group and its connection with PNAC / Rebuilding America's Defenses.


The United States, says Rebuilding America's Defenses, faces no global rival. America's "grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible." (p. 8)

"If an American peace is to be maintained, and expanded, it must have a secure foundation on unquestioned U.S. military preeminence." (p. 16)

"To preserve American military preeminence, aggressive experimentation with new technologies, especially information technologies, is essential. The "revolution" in the American military transformation is again stressed. (p. 62)

The Enduring Mission: to "maintain military preeminence that is consistent with the requirements of a strategy of American global leadership with global missile defenses" which protect and control land, sea, air, space and cyberspace. (p. 63)

"Building an effective, robust, layered, global system of missile defenses is a prerequisite for maintaining American preeminence." (p. 66)

"The price of American preeminence is that, just as it was actively obtained, it must be actively maintained." (p. 85)

"If the United States is to maintain its preeminence – and the military revolution now underway is already an American-led revolution – the Pentagon must begin in earnest to transform U.S. military forces." (p. 86)

"The maintenance of the American peace requires that American forces be preeminent when they are called upon to face very different adversaries in the future." (p. 87)

"Global leadership is not something exercised at our leisure, when the mood strikes us or when our core national security interests are directly threatened; then it is already too late. Rather, it is a choice whether or not to maintain American military preeminence, to secure American geopolitical leadership, and to preserve the American peace." (p. 88)

2. Operation Imperialism: The Enduring Mission

Brian Bogart, in an excellent essay, wrote: "Our dilemma stems from the postwar adoption of a military-based rather than a people-based economy. This policy, authored by Wall Street's Paul Nitze, is embodied in NSC-68, a document signed by President Truman in 1950." This, says Bogart, is where America "took the wrong road." Nitze's ideas (until he recanted prior to dying) are joined at the hip with Cheney, Wolfovitz, (Darth Vader) Perle, Rumsfeld.

Bogart quotes Dwight Eisenhower, upon leaving office in January 1961:

"In the counsels of Government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the Military Industrial Complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes."

Eisenhower's farewell speech is shown in a film Why We Fight, "which examines the modern American military machine and the modern American militaristic mindset." A 'Real' video of this film can be seen here

Gore Vidal recently wrote that he had been "credited" as being the first to "heretically refer" to the United States as an empire. Aged 80, he can now be treasured for his egotism and applauded for his historical awareness. In President Jonah, he discussed, with intelligence and humour, the present Bush administration's "antipathy toward democracy."
Listen to the radio broadcast.

In case there are still some who balk at the United States being called an 'empire,' the OED's definition of empire is: "From French: imperium; from Latin: imperator. Absolute sway, supreme control; an extensive territory, especially an aggravate of many states."

The plan for America's empire is on the web. Anyone can read it. The phrases preserve and extend, as far into the future as possible, expanded, visible expression of the extent of America's status as a superpower, preeminence … these phrases define America's intent.

There are other documents to look through, too. Just in case some think all Americans are naïve - unaware of the results their actions - read, for example, Ralph Peter's article, Constant Conflict in the 1997 US Army War College Quarterly.

"There will be no peace. At any given moment for the rest of our lifetimes, there will be multiple conflicts in mutating forms around the globe. Violent conflict will dominate the headlines, but cultural and economic struggles will be steadier and ultimately more decisive."

The pathological problem with the neoconservatives is that they are myopic - unwilling to see, or hear criticism of, what conflicts with their ambition. They do not care how many people are killed. Morality does not exist in their corporate quest.

In March 2003, George Monbiot wrote: "Those who support the coming war with Iraq refuse to see that it has anything to do with US global domination."

Ghali Hassan also expresses the thoughts of many in our world.

"The Bush Administration, its vassals and the mass media adopted the cliché of "democracy" to justify the invasion and the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women and children. However, from the outset of the invasion and occupation of Iraq, the U.S. objective was conspicuous; to destroy Iraq, install a puppet government and pillage the nation's resources."

The new 2006 Quarterly Defense Review (QDR)6 20 year plan (pdf) is presently causing much web discussion. The official issues, statements, debates, and commentaries are found here or one can read the key points here

This 'QDR' document opens with the statement, "The United States is a nation engaged in what will be a long war."

Robert Dreyfus says the new QDR is the "Bush administration's ultimate Plan for Empire," which is "generational in scope." This is not a "reassessment," nor an "admission that the US has started something it cannot finish," as suggested by Simon Tisdall in 7 February's Guardian.

The PNAC document states very clearly, p. 8, "America's "grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible." Mr. Rumsfeld has simply found a new jingo-phrase, in true corporate fashion. The "new goals" are discussed in Rebuilding America's Defenses in various places. The word "transformation" is frequently used, for which the need for more money7 is strongly emphasized.

Picking up on the word "long," a reporter asked if Iraq would be a "long war" at the press conference, Mr. Rumsfeld said, "No I don't think Iraq will be a long war." Brigadier General Kimmitt talked about "reposturing" (not in OED) forces, and said the US would "not maintain any long term bases in Iraq."8

In January '06, President Carter said: "What I believe is that there are people in Washington now, some of our top leaders, who never intend to withdraw military forces from Iraq and they're looking for ten, 20, 50 years in the future."

We must insist on the US Government's definition of "long" in each instance.

Sohbet Karbuz asks: United States Department of Defense … or Empire of Defense? He gives 5 essential US Department of Defense facts.
Fact 1: The US DoD is one of the world's largest landlords
Fact 2: If the DoD were a country it would be 17th in the world's GDP ranking.
Fact 3: The US DoD is the largest oil consumer in the US, and 31st largest in the world.
Fact 4: American GI is the most energy-consuming soldier ever seen on the field of war
Fact 5: The US military is the biggest purchaser of oil in the world.
Dr. Karbuz asked me to add Fact 6: The Department of Defense is the world's largest employer, (p. 75) directly employing more than three million people. He gives an excellent list of footnote references. The article is a 'MUST READ,' here

Q. How 'long' will it take to dismantle the present Bush administration's empire? Will there be a viable future?


Roger Barnett, U.S. Naval War College
Alvin Bernstein, National Defense University
Stephen Cambone10, National Defense University, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence
Eliot Cohen, Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University
Devon Gaffney, Cross Donors' Forum for International Affairs Thomas Donnelly, Project for the New American Century, American Enterprise Institute
David Epstein, Office of Secretary of Defense, Net Assessment
David Fautua, Lt. Col., U.S. Army
Dan Goure, Center for Strategic and International Studies
Donald Kagan, Yale University
Fred Kagan, U. S. Military Academy at West Point
Robert Kagan,11 Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Washington Post writer
Robert Killebrew, Col., USA (Ret.)
William Kristol, The Weekly Standard
Mark Lagon, Senate Foreign Relations Committee
James Lasswell, GAMA Corporation I.
Lewis Libby, Dechert Price & Rhoads, Assistant to the President
Robert Martinage, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment Phil Meilinger, U.S. Naval War College
Mackubin Owens, U.S. Naval War College,
Foreign Policy Research Institute
Steve Rosen, Harvard University, ex-Director of Foreign Policy Issues, awaiting trial
Gary Schmitt, Project for the New American Century, board of directors, U.S. Committee on NATO, author
Abram Shulsky, The RAND Corporation
Michael Vickers, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment Barry Watts, former director of Northrop Grumman Corporation, author of The Military Use of Space: A Diagnostic Assessment
Paul Wolfowitz, Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, now World Bank President
Dov Zakheim, System Planning Corporation, left DoD 2004

[1] See William Rivers Pitt, The Project for the New American Century
[2] Italics throughout are mine unless otherwise noted
[3] For a list of 50 people described as 'neoconservatives', see here. Numbers vary from 320 (Bogart) – 400 (Phillips)
[4] Books: Imperial Designs by Gary Dorrien is a recommended book. Rise of the Vulcans, by James Mann, who is, I believe, a member of the PNAC clan.
[5] See Appendix
[6] Earlier QDR reports can be seen at: 1997, 2001 and 2005.
[7] To be discussed in a later PNAC blog.
[8] See upcoming Part II, US Enduring Special Interests
[9] For further details on signatories, search name at http://www.sourcewatch.org/ and at http://www.wikipedia.org/
[10] See The Secret World of Stephen Cambone, Rumsfeld's Sorcerer, by Jeffrey St. Clair, an excerpt from his new book, Grand Theft Pentagon
[11] Author of Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order, from, which comes the famous quote: "Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus: They agree on little and understand one another less and less." His wife is Victoria Nuland, the present US deputy chief of mission to NATO.

Why the United States "extends" and "expands" will be discussed in Part II: PNAC: REBUILDING AMERICAS DEFENSES. "Special Interests."

The URL to PNAC: Rebuilding America's Defenses, Part I is

Sarah Meyer: http://indexresearch.blogspot.com
can be reached at: sarahmeyer@freedom255.com

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The Secret War Against The Defenseless People Of West Papua

By John Pilger
Information Clearing House
9 Mar 06

In 1993, I and four others travelled clandestinely across East Timor to gather evidence of the genocide committed by the Indonesian dictatorship. Such was the depth of silence about this tiny country that the only map I could find before I set out was one with blank spaces stamped "Relief Data Incomplete". Yet few places had been as defiled and abused by murderous forces. Not even Pol Pot had succeeded in despatching, proportionally, as many people as the Indonesian tyrant Suharto had done in collusion with the "international community".
In East Timor, I found a country littered with graves, their black crosses crowding the eye: crosses on peaks, crosses in tiers on the hillsides, crosses beside the road. They announced the murder of entire communities, from babies to the elderly. In 2000, when the East Timorese, displaying a collective act of courage with few historical parallels, finally won their freedom, the United Nations set up a truth commission; on 24 January, its 2,500 pages were published. I have never read anything like it. Using mostly official documents, it recounts in painful detail the entire disgrace of East Timor's blood sacrifice. It says that 180,000 East Timorese were killed by Indonesian troops or died from enforced starvation. It describes the "primary roles" in this carnage of the governments of the United States, Britain and Australia. America's "political and military support were fundamental" in crimes that ranged from "mass executions to forced resettlements, sexual and other horrific forms of torture as well as abse against children". Britain, a co-conspirator in the invasion, was the main arms supplier. If you want to see through the smokescreen currently around Iraq, and understand true terrorism, read this document.

As I read it, my mind went back to the letters Foreign Office officials wrote to concerned members of the public and MPs following the showing of my film Death of a Nation. Knowing the truth, they denied that British-supplied Hawk jets were blowing straw-roofed villages to bits and that British-supplied Heckler and Koch machine-guns were finishing off the occupants. They even lied about the scale of suffering.

And it is all happening again, wrapped in the same silence and with the "international community" playing the same part as backer and beneficiary of the crushing of a defenceless people. Indonesia's brutal occupation of West Papua, a vast, resource-rich province - stolen from its people, like East Timor - is one of the great secrets of our time. Recently, the Australian minister of "communications", Senator Helen Coonan, failed to place it on the map of her own region, as if it did not exist.

An estimated 100,000 Papuans, or 10 per cent of the population, have been killed by the Indonesian military. This is a fraction of the true figure, according to refugees. In January, 43 West Papuans reached Australia's north coast after a hazardous six-week journey in a dugout. They had no food, and had dribbled their last fresh water into their children's mouths. "We knew," said Herman Wainggai, the leader, "that if the Indonesian military had caught us, most of us would have died. They treat West Papuans like animals. They kill us like animals. They have created militias and jihadis to do just that. It is the same as East Timor."

For over a year, an estimated 6,000 people have been hiding in dense jungle after their villages and crops were destroyed by Indonesian special forces. Raising the West Papuan flag is "treason". Two men are serving 15 and ten-year sentences for merely trying. Following an attack on one village, a man was presented as an "example" and petrol poured over him and his hair set alight.

When the Netherlands gave Indonesia its independence in 1949, it argued that West Papua was a separate geographic and ethnic entity with a distinctive national character. A report published last November by the Institute of Netherlands History in The Hague revealed that the Dutch had secretly recognised the "unmistakable beginning of the formation of a Papuan state", but were bullied by the administration of John F Kennedy to accept "temporary" Indonesian control over what a White House adviser called "a few thousand miles of cannibal land".

The West Papuans were conned. The Dutch, Americans, British and Australians backed an "Act of Free Choice" ostensibly run by the UN. The movements of a UN monitoring team of 25 were restricted by the Indonesian military and they were denied interpreters. In 1969, out of a population of 800,000, some 1,000 West Papuans "voted". All were selected by the Indonesians. At gunpoint, they "agreed" to remain under the rule of General Suharto - who had seized power in 1965 in what the CIA later described as "one of the worst mass murders of the late 20th century". In 1981, the Tribunal on Human Rights in West Papua, held in exile, heard from Eliezer Bonay, Indonesia's first governor of the province, that approximately 30,000 West Papuans had been murdered during 1963-69. Little of this was reported in the west.

The silence of the "international community" is explained by the fabulous wealth of West Papua. In November 1967, soon after Suharto had consolidated his seizure of power, the Time-Life Corporation sponsored an extraordinary conference in Geneva. The participants included the most powerful capitalists in the world, led by the banker David Rockefeller. Sitting opposite them were Suharto's men, known as the "Berkeley mafia", as several had enjoyed US government scholarships to the University of California at Berkeley. Over three days, the Indonesian economy was carved up, sector by sector. An American and European consortium was handed West Papua's nickel; American, Japanese and French companies got its forests. However, the prize - the world's largest gold reserve and third-largest copper deposit, literally a mountain of copper and gold - went to the US mining giant Freeport-McMoran. On the board is Henry Kissinger, who, as US secretary of state, gave the "green light" to Suharto to invade East Timor, says theDutch report.

Freeport is today probably the biggest single source of revenue for the Indonesian regime: the company is said to have handed Jakarta 33 billion dollars between 1992 and 2004. Little of this has reached the people of West Papua. Last December, 55 people reportedly starved to death in the district of Yahukimo. The Jakarta Post noted the "horrible irony" of hunger in such an "immensely rich" province. According to the World Bank, "38 per cent of Papua's population is living in poverty, more than double the national average".

The Freeport mines are guarded by Indonesia's special forces, who are among the world's most seasoned terrorists, as their documented crimes in East Timor demonstrate. Known as Kopassus, they have been armed by the British and trained by the Australians. Last December, the Howard government in Canberra announced that it would resume "co-operation" with Kopassus at the Australian SAS base near Perth. In an inversion of the truth, the then Australian defence minister, Senator Robert Hill, described Kopassus as having "the most effective capability to respond to a counter-hijack or hostage recovery threat". The files of human-rights organisations overflow with evidence of Kopassus's terrorism. On 6 July 1998, on the West Papuan island of Biak, just north of Australia, special forces massacred more than 100 people, most of them women.

However, the Indonesian military has not been able to crush the popular Free Papua Movement (OPM). Since 1965, almost alone, the OPM has reminded the Indonesians, often audaciously, that they are invaders. In the past two months, the resistance has caused the Indonesians to rush more troops to West Papua. Two British-supplied Tactica armoured personnel carriers fitted with water cannon have arrived from Jakarta. These were first delivered during the late Robin Cook's "ethical dimension" in foreign policy. Hawk fighter-bombers, made by BAE Systems, have been used against West Papuan villages.

The fate of the 43 asylum-seekers in Australia is precarious. In contravention of international law, the Howard government has moved them from the mainland to Christmas Island, which is part of an Australian "exclusion zone" for refugees. We should watch carefully what happens to these people. If the history of human rights is not the history of great power's impunity, the UN must return to West Papua, as it did finally to East Timor.

Or do we always have to wait for the crosses to multiply?

For information on how help visit www.freewestpapua.org

First published in the New Statesman - www.newstatesman.co.uk

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Egypt tortures for the US, so why not on its own account?

Ahdaf Soueif
March 9, 2006
The Guardian

The story of Maajid Nawaz, Ian Nisbet and Reza Pankhurst, the three British Muslims who travelled to Egypt with their families, their detention there, their trial and their release now, almost four years later, encapsulates several elements in the "east-west" or "war on terror" story. Media coverage in the UK has focused on the men's Britishness and whether the British government did enough to help them. As usual, events outside the western hemisphere are presented as though in a void. So here's a pencilling in of the local background.
Twenty-six young men were arrested in Cairo and Alexandria on April 1 2002, accused of membership of a banned group. This was not an extraordinary event. Over the past three decades, such arrests, detentions and kidnappings have become fairly common. People disappear. Friends hunt for them. Usually they are in the State Security Investigation Bureau in Laz Oghli Square in Cairo. They are generally held long enough to extract a confession. Their treatment ranges from insults, threats and beatings to fairly evolved methods of torture. Sometimes the person is not required to confess to anything; they are given a warning and let go.

Sometimes the person dies. Mostly, they are sent to jail to await trial. Once in jail, they are generally not ill-treated, but conditions are basic. There are about 15,000 political detainees in Egyptian jails. Some have been found innocent years ago. Some have never been brought to trial. Some have been there more than a decade. The young men arrested in April 2002 were accused of membership of the banned and avowedly non-violent Islamist group, Egyptian Hizb ut-Tahrir. Among them were the three Britons. They were members of British Hizb ut-Tahrir - a group that is not (yet) illegal.

The defence team for the men consisted of 15 Egyptian lawyers from across the political spectrum; from Muntassir el-Zayyat, eminent legal counsel of the Muslim Brotherhood, to Ahmad Sayf, popular leftwing head of the Legal Aid Centre, who served pro bono along with two lawyers from the Civil Liberties Committee of the bar association.

The case was tried in the state security emergency court, part of the apparatus supporting the emergency laws. These laws were first introduced to Egypt by the British occupying power during the first world war. They were reinstated, again by the British, for the second world war - and successive governments have used them as an instrument of oppression ever since. The state security emergency courts allow no further legal recourse - their decisions are not open to appeal, except directly to the president. Some are seen as vulnerable to political pressure. The dismantling of the emergency laws is a central demand of the opposition movements, which made their presence felt in the streets and in elections last year.

The evidence seized from the men's homes took a year to examine. It was mainly books and articles, many published by the prestigious al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, by mainstream publishers and by human rights organisations. Submitted to the court were some 200 reports from the Higher Council for Islamic Affairs, the state adjudicator on religious matters on the religious content of the material - all declaring it innocent.

Sayf (who has himself spent time in jail) is convinced that none of the young men did more than discuss and publicise theoretical ideas about alternative forms of government. I attended a summing-up session at court, in June 2003. Here are the impressions I noted down that night: "Reza Pankhurst's Iranian mother and English father are here. There's a lot of sympathy for them as foreigners and parents - their lad caught up in this mess ... What struck me was the difference between the accused and the rest of us: the security, the relatives, even the lawyers looked worn, dusty and frayed. Inside the cage, the young men were collected and dignified ... Mrs Pankhurst said to me: 'I get my strength from him, from Reza' ... The judge, Ahmad Izzat al-Ashmawi, has clearly lost patience with the prosecution. He declared that he will deliver his verdict on December 25. Everyone believes he will throw the case out."

On December 22, Egypt's foreign minister, Ahmad Maher, paid a highly unpopular visit to Jerusalem. On a visit to the al-Aqsa mosque, shoes and slippers were thrown at him and some of his attackers managed to slap him. The Egyptian media blamed the Palestinian Hizb ut-Tahrir. In Cairo, Judge Ashmawi postponed declaring the verdict for three months. On March 25 2004, he declared the men guilty and handed down sentences ranging from one to five years.

Egypt is an important regional power. It is critical to US and British policy in the region: officially the spreading of democracy. But a real democracy in Egypt may not deliver what people perceive to be US and British aims: to secure strategic and economic interests, push ferocious free-market "reforms" and promote Israel. So the US and Britain support the status quo and its apparatus, while offering patronising lip-service to democracy.

The debate about whether the British government did enough to help its citizens is disingenuous. Why should Egyptian authorities pay heed to British ones? In Britain, we allow extraordinary rendition flights to stop-over in torture trips. The prime minister calls Guantánamo an "anomaly". He appoints to the Foreign Office a lawyer who advised Israel to block a UN investigation into Israeli army activities in Jenin. In Egypt, our government tortures - presumably - at the behest of the US. Why not, then, on its own account?

Egypt's judges are convening on March 17 to demand, yet again, the reinstatement of the judiciary's independence. Opposition voices have called on citizens to hold a vigil in their support.

The 23 Egyptians and Palestinians arrested and jailed along with Nawaz, Nisbet and Pankhurst are still in detention. They remain, according to their lawyers and to precedent, subject to torture. The young sister of one of the Palestinians is dying in a Jerusalem hospital. Her hope of survival is a bone marrow transplant for which the only candidate is her willing brother. And he doesn't even have a Tony Blair to not speak up for him.

Human rights cannot be regional. The rule of law cannot be selective. Guantánamo, Belmarsh, Laz Oghli and Facility 1391 in Israel are part of the same configuration; they stand together or - one hopes - fall together.

© Ahdaf Soueif

· Ahdaf Soueif's latest book is Mezzaterra, Fragments from the Common Ground


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Japan's domestic abuse cases rise - domestic violence was not a crime until October 2001

Justin McCurry in Tokyo
Friday March 10, 2006
The Guardian

The number of reported cases of domestic violence in Japan soared to a record high last year - a sign that victims are overcoming cultural taboos that once forced them to stay silent, campaigners say.

Police received 16,888 complaints of incidents of abuse, a 17% increase on 2005. The national police agency said this included 87 murders and attempted murders, an increase of 16%.
Police have traditionally been reluctant to get involved in disputes between married couples, and domestic violence was not a criminal offence in Japan until October 2001. In May 2004 the law was revised to include psychological as well as physical abuse, but campaigners say it is failing countless victims because it applies only to married or divorced couples.

"When the law is reviewed again we want it to apply to unmarried couples, including those who live together and those who are dating but live apart," said Yaeko Horikoshi of the domestic violence helpline Tokyo Women's Plaza.

For years Japan failed to confront domestic violence; the crime is referred to in the media as "DV" because no satisfactory word exists in the Japanese language. Although the law protects abused women and their children, the country has a shortage of shelters and counselling services for those seeking refuge.

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China's Looming Shadow

By Ambika Behal
Mar 10, 2006

Chinese influence is increasing in Latin America and Africa, a phenomenon that could have substantial bearing on America's foreign policy on these regions, say analysts. "America's influence could be seriously eroded," while Chinese influence will only increase, said Stephen Johnson, senior policy analyst at the Heritage Foundation in Washington.
Referring to the "plantation economy" being created in Latin America as a result of China's substantial influence on the economy, he said that the United States should rely more on competition in order to get a foot back in the door as a major player.

China, the world's fourth largest economy, with the third largest deficit budget and the largest growing population, needs to increase currently insubstantial domestic resources to feed a growing economy.

According to Johnson, Latin America is "ripe to be exploited by some major power," as a result of much social and economic upheaval. "Powerful presidents impose public agendas that are out of touch," he said, "allowing for arbitrary rule with a democratic veneer."

The People's Republic of China, still functioning as a non-market economy, is the United States' second largest trade partner after Canada.

Says Johnson, the advantage of trading with China is that "China makes deals on the spot, without a lot of strings." Additionally, the novelty of frequent visits from high-level Chinese officials elevates a small country into "big leagues" -- while ranking American officials tend to ignore many of the Latin American countries.

"The instrumental nature of Chinese ownership means that many of China's loans are really not direct investment," said R. Evan Ellis, an associate at Booz Allen Hamilton.

"The clash of Chinese management practices and cultural expectations of Latin American workers," is one problem that is already showing face, said Ellis. With the displacement of the manufacturing sector in Latin America -- the region has lost export opportunities to the United States and European Union as China bears increasing influence on domestic markets -- social unrest will be a huge issue.

According to him, the threat to the United States from China may not be a matter of an evolving military threat, but more an undermining of U.S. security needs. This may be played out in the increased cultural migration to the United States from Latin America.

As China looks across the world to secure its economic growth and national security, there will be both advantages and disadvantages of its increased foray into not only Latin America but also Africa.

"No other nation in the world is more in need of economic development than sub-Saharan Africa," said Brett D. Schaefer, Research Fellow in International Regulatory Affairs at the Heritage Foundation, "and commitment to democracy is fairly shallow."

Yet in an era where radical terrorists have an evident foothold in the African subcontinent, the 52 countries that make up the nation suddenly have sizeable relevance. "You can't separate China and Africa out from these overall broad concerns," he said.

China is active in natural resources -- oil, water and timber -- all over the continent. Exemplified by its "protection over rogue states," Schaefer said that military cooperation has grown largely in terms of protecting Chinese investments -- such as majority control over Sudan's oil resources.

"China pursues its own self-interests without regard for a lot of African governments, countering western influences who would like to see improved government and greater transparency," among other things, he said.

However, China is, to some extent, also good for the developing regions of Latin America and Africa, say the analysts. Investment in hard infrastructure and agriculture, among other things, are neglected by the west and much needed. In Africa, China also has peacekeeping operations and a number of doctors serving.

Africa's history with China dates back to colonial times. Josh Eisenman, Fellow in Asia Studies at the American Foreign Policy Council, said that many Chinese made investments have a political basis.

Additionally, Chinese companies are nearly always under state control -- giving them broad leadership powers, which nations find useful in being able to proverbially "kill two birds with one stone." One hand determines investment opportunities and the other discusses matters of state -- such as military cooperation.

This, says Eisenman, is especially helpful for African nations, while also enabling China to "use and leverage its seat on the Security Council." Increasing goodwill has also extended to hosting upcoming leaders in Chinese military academies, providing interpersonal ties for influence at a later time.

"United States policy should make competition a true priority," said Johnson. By increasing trade relations, America can and will open up market access, he said. At the same time, cutting strings on assistance to the greatest extent possible and pressing harder for reforms will enable the United States to dodge the fear of China's looming shadow.

"I think the jury's still out; we don't know if these investments will play out," said Eisenman, "China's values are not U.S. values and we've got to remember that."

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French students revive spirit of 68 - De Villepin refuses to bow to youth pressure

Angelique Chrisafis in Paris
Friday March 10, 2006
The Guardian

From behind the makeshift barricade of tables, desks and chairs that sealed off the amphitheatre of the Sorbonne, a 21-year-old philosophy student crawled out and made his way down to the wall of riot police that kept watch outside one of France's most prestigious faculties yesterday.

Florian had been up all night leading angry philosophical debates among the 150 students holding the first "occupation" of the Sorbonne since student protesters took over the building in Paris's Latin Quarter in 1968. On that occasion, it was Vietnam, Algeria and the antiquated rules of their superiors that spurred students to action. These days, it is something far closer to home: unemployment and a hugely controversial government measure to try to combat it.
The prime minister, Dominique de Villepin, wants to force a measure through France's parliament designed to alleviate unemployment, paradoxically by making it easier to fire workers aged under 26 years. The measure would introduce a new form of work contract, le contrat de première embauche (first employment contract), which gives employers the right to let employees go after two years. The hope is it will spur employers to hire young people safe in the knowledge they are not obliged to retain them.

But the move has provoked a vigorous backlash. More than 400,000 people joined street demonstrations across France earlier this week, and by early yesterday about half of the country's 88 universities had been shut down by student sit-ins. Mr de Villepin's popularity has plummeted, and his refusal to back down could dent his ambitions for next year's presidential elections.

On Wednesday night, the cobbled streets around the Place de la Sorbonne rang out with muffled cries from the university's main lecture theatre as students, enraged that the government was ignoring their street protests, overran the faculty and barricaded themselves in. By midnight, the street was filling up with students shouting their support from outside and police riot vans. Sheets painted with slogans against the "CPE" were unfurled from the windows.

"Everyone should have the basic human right to work," said Florian, who would not give his surname. "But there is no hope for young people in France. The contract is a joke, it protects no one. People are desperate. We feel we have the support of the people in the street but that the government just doesn't care."

Behind the barricades, some were shouting from the platforms of their "occupied" student rooms, others were typing and printing out manifestos from faculty computers. Fears that the riot police would overrun the Sorbonne were calmed when the university's rector ruled that police would have no access. Instead they stood outside - their only act of cruelty being to prevent supporters bringing baguettes inside at 5am. By 9am, they relented and everyone had had a "good protest breakfast".

For more than a decade, France's overall unemployment rate has hovered around 10% - one of the highest in western Europe. But it is the punishing level of youth unemployment that sets the country apart. Nearly one in four young French people is out of work, and unemployment among the under-25s has persisted above 20% for a generation.

Although some EU countries in eastern Europe have higher rates, most of these are moving down. France's rate increased in 2002 and has grown steadily for the past four years. The braindrain is worsening, with desperate young people - including many with good degrees - leaving for other EU countries such as Ireland.

Before lunch yesterday, crowds of anxious, disheartened students had gathered outside the Sorbonne. Many spoke of sending out dozens, sometimes hundreds of CVs and hearing nothing from employers. Others said wearing a Muslim headscarf or not being white considerably reduced job prospects. Those studying political science said they were assured a job for life in France's generous state sector. "But for most people, being young in France is a hopeless nightmare," said David Dominé-Cohn, doing a masters in history on the Duke of Bretagne. "This new contract means an employer can say goodbye to a young person for no reason."

Despite the protests, senators voted 178-127 in favour of the bill yesterday. But even within the ruling conservative party, dissent was stirring. Hervé de Charette, Jacques Chirac's former foreign minister, told the daily Le Parisien that the measure should be suspended.

The leader of France's main student union threatened more protests and demanded that Mr de Villepin withdraw the measure. Bruno Julliard told the television channel i-tele: "The more time passes, the costlier it will become for Villepin to back-pedal when there are hundreds of thousands, even millions, of young people in the streets."

Angry youth

Samir Tris, 22, Tunisian-born, living in Marseilles

I've been looking for a job for five years. It's hell. All my papers are in order, I'm young and hard working if given a chance, but that means nothing here. Sometimes I'll get the odd day's work for Tunisian builders. It's dangerous, it's badly paid and cash in hand - €50 (£34) a day if you're lucky. In the end, last year I went to England and picked strawberries, bent double for hours on end for €1,300 a month, but it was my only hope of keeping myself once I got back to France to carry on walking the streets looking for work.

Marine Payolle, 20, from Herblay, history of art student at the Sorbonne

All I can do is work for my father's business transport business in the holidays. There's no other hope for a job. Because my father has an important job and I'm his daughter, I get my foot in the door. If you're not related to someone, or well-connected, you can forget it in this country. All my friends send out CVs, but what's the point? One sent out 50 and heard nothing back. We have to live at home and save up the money our relatives give us for Christmas and birthday to last us the year. Whenever I can practise my English I do, because I hope to leave and go abroad.

Ibrahima Diop, 25, from Senegal, studying management

It's a nightmare. For three months last year, I printed out and posted off over 200 perfect CVs to companies, listing my experience, details and including a photo. I speak basic English, I'm studying on a good management course, but over 200 applications yielded three interviews. Racism is acute here. When someone sees you're black, that's it. I'm now working two days a week in a food distribution plant and studying two days a week. It's not what I want to be doing but frankly I don't know if I'll ever get the job I want.

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Ex-teacher surrenders, frees hostages at French school

Last Updated Thu, 09 Mar 2006 14:05:04 EST
CBC News

A former teacher surrendered Thursday after holding 23 students and teachers hostage at gunpoint in a French high school for several hours.

Intense negotiations led to the standoff being resolved peacefully, police said.
The 33-year-old hostage-taker was reported to be severely depressed because he hadn't been able to find a job.

From about 2:30 p.m. local time until early evening, he held a handgun on his hostages in an upper-floor study hall at Colbert de Torcy High School in Sable-sur-Sarthe. The town is located about 40 kilometres away from the city of Le Mans in northwestern France.

Police in Le Mans said one of the hostages was a teacher, another was a school employee, and the rest were high school students aged between 16 and 18.

A school receptionist told the Associated Press that the gunman had told school staff he wouldn't harm the students.

He allowed the students to send cellphone text messages and call their relatives during the siege.

One report said the man had asked to talk to the country's education minister, François Fillon.

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France backs down on flat-fee plan for file-sharing

Last Updated Thu, 09 Mar 2006 17:54:46 EST
CBC Arts

France has cut a controversial clause from its copyright bill that would have allowed unlimited file-sharing for a flat monthly fee.

The clause, introduced during a poorly attended Christmas week debate on the bill, was withdrawn on Monday and then reintroduced Wednesday evening in debate on a bill to amend France's copyright laws.
Radical legislators had proposed setting a fee on internet usage that would allow users to download both movies and music for a fee of about eight euros ($11) a month. The fee would be used to reimburse artists.

The idea was heavily opposed by recording studios and film associations around the world who said it would rob them of income.

"If France continues down this road, it could jeopardize the promising growth we're now seeing in the legitimate online market," EMI chairman Eric Nicoli was quoted as saying.

Canada's Heritage Minister Bev Oda is under pressure from the same lobby groups to upgrade Canada's copyright law.

The French government reintroduced the clause only briefly on Wednesday evening to meet constitutional requirements, then forced a vote by deputies that resulted in withdrawal of the flat-fee plan.

That drew protest from legislators and consumer groups who had backed the controversial proposal.

"The internet revolution cannot and must not be knocked aside in haste," said Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, a member of the opposition.

He warned that the freedom currently enjoyed by internet users was under attack from big companies looking to ensure their profitability.

Supporters of the amendment called for the government to put the bill on hold and set up a parliamentary commission to look into the issue. However a vote on the bill has been set for March 15.

UFC-Que Choisir, France's largest consumer organization, urged lawmakers in advance of the debate "not to go against the tide of digital history" by abandoning the legalization of file-sharing.

Instead, France opted to dramatically reduce proposed fines for illegal downloading for personal use. Most fines will be in the 38 to 150-euro ($52-$207) range, while the bill had originally called for penalties of 300,000 euros and jail time.

In a last-minute addition to the law, France has ordered a report on the feasibility of setting up a file-sharing platform for young artists who do not have access to traditional recording contracts or to legal downloading services.

The platform would reimburse artists for their work and allow consumers to see and hear the work of relatively unknown singers, groups and filmmakers.

The French copyright law also makes provision for reproduction of copyright material by handicapped people and libraries and allows news services to quote from copyrighted works.

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Vonnegut: "George W. Bush is the syphilis president"

Harvey Wasserman
Columbus Free Press (Ohio)

On a cold, cloudy night, the lines threaded all the way around the Ohio State campus. News that Kurt Vonnegut was speaking at the Ohio Union prompted these "apathetic" heartland college students to start lining up in the early afternoon. About 2,000 got in to the Ohio Union. At least that many more were turned away. It was the biggest crowd for a speaker here since Michael Moore.
In an age dominated by hype and sex, neither Moore nor Vonnegut seems a likely candidate to rock a campus whose biggest news has been the men's and women's basketball teams' joint assault on Big Ten championships.

But maybe there's more going on here than Fox wants us to think.

Vonnegut takes an easy chair across from Prof. Manuel Luis Martinez, a poet and teacher of writing. He grabs Martinez and semi-whispers into his ear (and the mike) "What can I say here?"

Martinez urges candor.

"Well," says Vonnegut, "I just want to say that George W. Bush is the syphilis president."

The students seem to agree.

"The only difference between Bush and Hitler," Vonnegut adds, "is that Hitler was elected."

"You all know, of course, that the election was stolen. Right here."

Off to a flying start, Vonnegut explains that this will be his "last speech for money." He can't remember the first one, but it was on a campus long, long ago, and this will be the end.

The students are hushed with the prospect of the final appearance of America's greatest living novelist. Alongside Mark Twain and Ben Franklin, Will Rogers and Joseph Heller and a very short list of immortal satirists and storytellers, there stands Kurt Vonnegut, author of SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE and SIRENS OF TITAN, CAT'S CRADLE and GOD BLESS YOU, MR. ROSEWATER, books these students are studying now, as did their parents, as will their children and grandchildren, with a deeply felt mixture of gratitude and awe.

Nobody tonight seems to think they were in for a detached, scholarly presentation from a disengaged academic genius coasting on his incomparable laurels

"I'm lucky enough to have known a great president, one who really cared about ALL the people, rich and poor. That was Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was rich himself, and his class considered him a traitor.

"We have people in this country who are richer than whole countries," he says. "They run everything.

"We have no Democratic Party. It's financed by the same millionaires and billionaires as the Republicans.

"So we have no representatives in Washington. Working people have no leverage whatsoever.

"I'm trying to write a novel about the end of the world. But the world is really ending! It's becoming more and more uninhabitable because of our addiction to oil.

"Bush used that line recently," Vonnegut adds. "I should sue him for plagiarism."

Things have gotten so bad, he says, "people are in revolt again life itself."

Our economy has been making money, but "all the money that should have gone into research and development has gone into executive compensation. If people insist on living as if there's no tomorrow, there really won't be one.

"As the world is ending, I'm always glad to be entertained for a few moments. The best way to do that is with music. You should practice once a night.

"If you want really want to hurt your parents and don't want to be gay, go into the arts," he says.

Then he breaks into song, doing a passable, tender rendition of "Stardust Memories."

By this time this packed hall has grown reverential. The sound system is appropriately tenuous. Straining to hear every word is both an effort and a meditation.

"To hell with the advances in computers," he says after he finishes singing. "YOU are supposed to advance and become, not the computers. Find out what's inside you. And don't kill anybody.

"There are no factories any more. Where are the jobs supposed to come from? There's nothing for people to do anymore. We need to ask the Seminoles: 'what the hell did you do?'' after the tribe's traditional livelihood was taken away.

Answering questions written in by students, he explains the meaning of life. "We should be kind to each other. Be civil. And appreciate the good moments by saying 'If this isn't nice, what is?'

"You're awful cute" he says to someone in the front row. He grins and looks around. "If this isn't nice, what is?

"You're all perfectly safe, by the way. I took off my shoes at the airport. The terrorists hate the smell of feet.

"We are here on Earth to fart around," he explains, and then embarks on a soliloquy about the joys of going to the store to buy an envelope. One talks to the people there, comments on the "silly-looking dog," finds all sorts of adventures along the way.

As for being a midwesterner, he recalls his roots in nearby Indianapolis, a heartland town, the next one west of here. "I'm a fresh water person. When I swim in the ocean, I feel like I'm swimming in chicken soup. Who wants to swim in flavored water?"

A key to great writing, he adds, is to "never use semi-colons. What are they good for? What are you supposed to do with them? You're reading along, and then suddenly, there it is. What does it mean? All semi-colons do is suggest you've been to college."

Make sure, he adds, "that your reader is having a good time. Get to the who, when, where, what right away, so the reader knows what is going on."

As for making money, "war is a very profitable thing for a few people. Jesus used to be so merciful and loving of the poor. But now he's a Republican.

"Our economy today is not capitalism. It's casino-ism. That's all the stock market is about. Gambling.

"Live one day at a time. Say 'if this isn't nice, I don't know what is!'

"You meet saints every where. They can be anywhere. They are people behaving decently in an indecent society.

"I'm going to sue the cigarette companies because they haven't killed me," he says. His son lived out his dream to be a pilot and has spent his career flying for Continental. Now they've "screwed up his pension."

The greatest peace, Vonnegut wraps up, "comes from the knowledge that I have enough. Joe Heller told me that.

"I began writing because I found myself possessed. I looked at what I wrote and I said 'How the hell did I do that?'

"We may all be possessed. I hope so."

He accepts the students' standing ovation with characteristic dignity and grace. Not a few tears flow from young people with the wisdom to appreciate what they are seeing. "If this isn't nice, we don't know what is."

Not long ago we spoke on the phone. I asked Kurt how he was. "Too fucking old," he replied.

Maybe so. But the mind and soul are still there, powerful and penetrating as ever. Just as they'll ever be in his books and stories and the precious records of his wonderful talks.

Thankfully, Kurt Vonnegut is still possessed by the genius of seeing and describing the world as only Kurt Vonnegut can.

He is still sharp and clear, full of love and life and light. May he be with us yet for a long long time to come.

Harvey Wasserman read CAT'S CRADLE, SIRENS OF TITAN and SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE in college, sought Boku-Maru, and has never been the same.

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N.C. Woman Dies of Flesh-Eating Bacteria

Mar 09 8:20 PM US/Eastern

DUNN, N.C. - North Carolina health officials are investigating the death of a woman who died last week of a flesh-eating bacteria three days after accidentally jamming her hand in a wheelchair while working at a nursing home.

Nursing assistant Sharron Bishop, 44, died Feb. 27. A doctor said a rare flesh-eating bacteria may have entered her body through a thumb injury and she turned from healthy to fatally ill.
The culprit was a rare invasive form of group A streptococcal bacteria, said Debbie Crane, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health and Human Services. The noninvasive form is widespread and is commonly known for causing strep throat, she said.

"It's kind of like getting bitten by a shark or struck by lightning," she said. "It's not something that spreads to the community."

North Carolina gets about 125 reports of the invasive form of strep annually, and about 10 percent are fatal, she said.

David Bishop said doctors at UNC Hospitals, where Sharron Bishop died, have told him it's impossible to know how his wife contracted the rare infection.

"The UNC doctors said she could have picked it up at the gas station, at the grocery store, anywhere," he said. "We will never know."

Sharon Bishop complained on Feb. 24 about a swollen thumb. She had jammed it at work and worried that she had dislocated it. David Bishop took her to Betsy Johnson Regional Hospital, where doctors gave her pain medication and sent her home.

The swelling got worse. By the morning of Feb. 27, her arm was twice as large as normal and looked like it would burst, David Bishop said. Fluid leaked from her elbow and wrist. She complained of terrific pain.

Dunn physician Abraham Oudeh diagnosed necrotizing fasciitis, an infection that destroys tissue.

Doctors at UNC Hospitals that evening tried to stop the spreading infection by amputating her arm at the clavicle and removing all the muscle and tissue around her left breast, torso and thigh in a futile effort to save her life.

Harnett County Health Director John Rouse Jr. said Bishop's was one of two confirmed cases of the bacteria that his office investigated in recent days after being notified by state health authorities. He said he believed the other woman, whom he also did not identify, knew Bishop.

Rouse said it would be impossible to determine whether they passed the bacteria to each other. Rouse said the other woman is recovering.

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Water plumes spewing from 'ice volcano' seen on a moon of Saturn

By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Published: 10 March 2006

An unusual "ice volcano" on Enceladus, one of the many moons of Saturn, appears to be spewing out plumes of water, Nasa scientists report.

The Cassini spacecraft, which has been orbiting Saturn since 2004, has taken images of bizarre volcanic features at the moon's southern pole which could indicate bodies of liquid water on the otherwise frozen satellite.
If water is being heated by volcanic activity to its liquid state then there is a slim possibility that life might also exist on Enceladus, said Carolyn Porco, the Cassini imaging team leader at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

"We realise that this is a radical conclusion - that we may have evidence for liquid water with a body so small and so cold," Dr Porco said. "However, if we are right, we have significantly broadened the diversity of solar system environments where we might possibly have conditions suitable for living organisms."

High-resolution images taken by the Cassini space probe show icy jets and towering plumes ejecting huge quantities of particles at high speed.

Nasa scientists have ruled out the idea that the particles are produced or blown off the moon's surface by vapour created when warm water ice converts directly to a gas. Instead, they believe that the jets may be erupting from pockets of liquid water above freezing point at the surface of the moon, like colder versions of the hot volcanic geysers found on Earth.

"Other moons in the Solar System have liquid-water oceans covered by kilometres of icy crust," said Andrew Ingersoll of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California.

"What's different here is that pockets of liquid water may be no more than tens of metres below the surface," Dr Ingersoll said.

The Cassini , which has also flown close to the mysterious rings of Saturn, was inspecting the distinctive "tiger-stripe" pattern that dominates the southern pole of Enceladus' icy surface. The polar region appears to be cracked and littered with house-sized blocks of ice but in one region there is also a "hot spot" generated by volcanic activity. Any liquid water in the plume quickly freezes as it rises, until its ionized material reaches Saturn's atmosphere and replenishes the planet's E-ring. Some of the plume material may fall back to the moon's surface as fresh snow, brightening the plains between the moon's tiger-striped troughs, according to the journal Science where the latest research is published.

"Models of the plume suggest that it may be fed by several smaller jets of material and driven by warmer temperatures below the moon's icy surface," the journal says.

John Spenser, a Cassini scientist at Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said: "We previously knew of at most three places where active volcanism exists - Jupiter's moon Io, Earth and possibly Neptune's moon Triton.

"Cassini changes all that, making Enceladus the latest member of this every exclusive club, and one of the most exciting places in the solar system," Dr Spenser said. There has also been oxygen detected in the moon's atmosphere.

Cassini will get another chance to view Enceladus in the spring of 2008 when it flies within 220 miles of the moon.

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'Mental typewriter' controlled by thought alone

18:35 09 March 2006
NewScientist.com news service
Will Knight

A computer controlled by the power of thought alone has been demonstrated at a major trade fair in Germany.

The device could provide a way for paralysed patients to operate computers, or for amputees to operate electronically controlled artificial limbs. But it also has non-medical applications, such as in the computer games and entertainment industries.
The Berlin Brain-Computer Interface (BBCI) – dubbed the "mental typewriter" – was created by researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute in Berlin and Charité, the medical school of Berlin Humboldt University in Germany. It was shown off at the CeBit electronics fair in Hanover, Germany.

The machine makes it possible to type messages onto a computer screen by mentally controlling the movement of a cursor. A user must wear a cap containing electrodes that measure electrical activity inside the brain, known as an electroencephalogram (EEG) signal, and imagine moving their left or right arm in order to manoeuvre the cursor around.

"It's a very strange sensation," says Gabriel Curio at Charité. "And you can understand from the crowds watching that the potential is huge."
Learning algorithms

Curio says users can operate the device just 20 minutes after going through 150 cursor moves in their minds. This is because the device rapidly learns to recognise activity in the area of a person's motor cortex, the area of the brain associated with movement. "The trick is the machine-learning algorithms developed at the Fraunhofer Institute," Curio says.

John Chapin, an expert in using implanted electrodes to control computers, agrees EEG sensing technology is advancing rapidly. "There's been a lot of progress on the non-invasive side in recent years," he told New Scientist.

The German researchers hope to develop a commercial version of the device as an aid for paralysed patients and amputees.

Chapin adds that brain-computer interfaces could have a range of uses beyond the medical. "Signals from the brain give you a fraction of a second advantage," he says. The device could make a novel game controller and be used in other ways. The researchers have even begun testing the machine as a driving aid, as it can sense a sudden reaction and control a vehicle's brakes before even the driver can.

The next stage is to develop a cap that does not have to be attached directly to the scalp. This should make the device easier to use and cause less skin irritation for the wearer.

Comment: What the users of this technology won't know is that it is two way....

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Ark's Quantum Quirks

March 10, 2006


SOTT is on

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Two die as storms slam Southern US with Baseball-Sized Hail, Tornadoes

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Emergency declared in Arkansas

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (AP) -- Storms moving across the South on Thursday brought winds strong enough to rip off roofs and blow apart barns. At least two deaths were attributed to the weather, and thousands of people lost power.

Southern Oklahoma had baseball-sized hail and surrounding states saw heavy rain as the front moved east across the Mississippi River. Power failures and wind damage were reported in Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.
A tornado struck eastern Arkansas, damaging several homes and businesses, the National Weather Service said.

Around Little Rock, high winds rolled over a mobile home and damaged about a dozen other homes, and trees and power lines were down around the state. Road signs were reported bent in Johnson County, in northwestern Arkansas. A 78-mph gust was reported in the northeastern part of the state.

About 7,600 homes and businesses lost electricity when power lines went out after being hit by trees or other power lines, and the wind kept workers from making immediate repairs.

"It's kind of like a yo-yo out there," Entergy Arkansas spokesman James Thompson said.

In Ashdown, Arkansas, an 83-year-old city councilman died after lightning struck his house and started a fire. His wife was injured but survived.

In Shelby County, Tennessee, a woman died when her vehicle struck a tractor-trailer during heavy rain, officials said.

A couple in Tilton, Arkansas, suffered cuts and bruises after they left their mobile home and took shelter in their vehicle. The storm blew out the vehicle's windows -- but the trailer was destroyed, said Gerald Britton, a deputy emergency coordinator in Cross County.

Other homes in the county were also damaged, Britton said.

Lost shingles and downed fences in Lonoke County may have been caused by a tornado, the weather service said. Another tornado may have touched down in Woodruff County, where trees and power lines were down at Morton, the National Weather Service said.

Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said he will declare five counties disaster areas, entitling them to state money for the cleanup.

In Mississippi, students at Lockard Elementary School in Indianola were ordered into hallways just before a tornado struck, assistant principal Valerie Simpson said. No one was hurt, but the storm caused roof damage to three buildings and blew out windows.

Winds as high as 80 mph took off roofs and otherwise damaged homes in Bolivar and Panola counties, said Lea Stokes, spokeswoman for the state emergency agency. Three people were injured in Lowndes County, where several homes were damaged or destroyed.

Students in several counties were sent home.

"Some of the trees that made it through Katrina might not make it through this," said Ceroy Jefferson, assistant superintendent for Jefferson Davis County Schools. "We just want children to be safe at home."

The storm damaged homes and businesses, toppled trees and caused power failures in parts of Tennessee, where gusts up to 70 mph were reported near Nashville.

The rough weather was caused by a storm system moving from the northwest ahead of a cold front. The main storm system was moving into the rest of the South, and other thunderstorms were possible from another system expected to be centered in Missouri.

Storms were expected through Monday.

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In Phoenix, Even Cactuses Wilt in Clutches of Record Drought

The New York Times
March 10, 2006

PHOENIX - Thursday began like the 141 days before it, sunny and crisp, dust settling everywhere except on the record - set again - for the number of days without rain.

Phoenix knows all about dry weather. It is a place where children are drilled throughout elementary school to conserve water, where hotels boast of covered parking areas not to protect from rain, but to offer a bit of shade. Grown men spread lotion all over their bodies every morning. Noses bleed. Newcomers watch in horror as their hands seem to age right in front of them.

But even the desert suffers droughts, and this winter has brought a strong one, the fickle air currents pushing approaching storm clouds to the east.
Until this year, the record for days without recorded rainfall was set in 2000, a measly 101 days. The recording instrument for rainfall is at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, referred to as "the bucket" by meteorologists, and drier than a Sunday morning during Prohibition.

"People are sort of losing their grip," said Gary Woodard, who, as associate director of the University of Arizona Center for Sustainability of Semi-Arid Hydrology and Riparian Areas, is an expert on the region's water. " 'Did you hear it's going to rain tomorrow?' Well, actually, there's an 80 percent chance it's not going to rain. People are getting very excited about very slim chances of rain."

The drought has wreaked havoc on wildlife, which depend on the scant seven inches of rain that Phoenix gets in an average year, most of it in the three or four winter months.

"We have cactus dying from lack of water," Mr. Woodard said. "We have well-established mesquite trees that are in a lot of trouble."

Small animals are too dried out to do what comes naturally.

"None of the animals, none of the birds are having offspring this spring. No baby quail, no baby bunnies," Mr. Woodard said.

An alarming result of the drought is the condition of the air. On Thursday, Arizona's Department of Environmental Quality posted its 25th pollution advisory of the winter, a remarkable number. Last winter - the opposite of this one, with abundant rainfall - there were no such days. There is no rain to knock the dust and particles out of the air and wash them away.

"We've just had this large, dry, stagnant air mass hanging over the area since November," said Steve Owens, director of the environmental agency. "It used to be, you'd come to Arizona if you had breathing problems because of the air quality. Now, I think you'd have physicians who would say, 'Don't come to Arizona.' "

The drought seems to promise a harsh fire season. Last year, relatively heavy rains fell all winter, prompting fast growth in trees and shrubs that now sit dry and cracked. "I don't think I could have planned a better fire season," said Tom Pagano, a forecaster with the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service. "A lot of people in that business are quite worried."

The drought has not hurt the skin-care industry.

"You have to use lotion right when you're out of the shower, when your skin is still moist," said Mary Low, services manager at Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa. "People wear sandals, so the skin on the heels of your feet get exposed to the dry air. The skin on the feet gets dry and cracked. You have to use a pumice stone and put lotion on your feet."

Another high-end refuge, Spa du Soleil in suburban Scottsdale, uses "medical grade oxygen" to infuse 87 vitamins straight into a customer's face, said the spa's director, Irene Kelly. "It really does keep your skin nice and smooth and plump and supple and hydrated," Ms. Kelly said.

Tourists love the sunshine and high temperatures in the 60's and 70's. Local residents shrug, and click on the humidifier at night.

"You get used to it, and pray every day that it rains," said Justin Hoiby, 27, an event planner overseeing a Western-themed company picnic - Pennsylvania executives racing in little covered wagons - in Scottsdale. It was Wednesday, and to the north, a huge, fat, gray-black rain cloud hung over the mountains, like a blimp over a sold-out stadium.

"I think it's going to stay to the north," Mr. Hoiby said, as the executives competed in a Wild West Olympics. "I've been watching it."

And yet, closer it came, the cloud blocking the sun and kicking up a little dust, irritating some tourists like Mary Green, 67, visiting from Chicago. "Nice for them," she said, looking over her shoulder at the grayness. "Not nice for a visitor who wants sunshine. It's not going to last, that's the nice thing."

But did it ever arrive? A few raindrops hit a forehead and a windshield. A nearby gas station attendant, Robert Roe, saw it: "It came down pretty good for about two seconds."

Jeff Grenfell, 41, a sommelier and chef, was hiking at the time. "I got a few drops," he said later.


Not quite. None hit the bucket at the airport, according to the National Weather Service. The dry streak did not end, and a record-setting 142nd day continued, with no precipitation in the 24-hour forecast.

The record number of days in Phoenix with nothing more than trace amounts of rain (defined as less than 1/100th of an inch, but more than a drop on the forehead) is 160.

Whether that record will be broken in 19 days is unclear. Forecasters are calling for a relatively high chance - 50 percent - of rain this weekend.

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The Coming Resource Wars

Michael T. Klare
March 07, 2006

It's official: the era of resource wars is upon us. In a major London address, British Defense Secretary John Reid warned that global climate change and dwindling natural resources are combining to increase the likelihood of violent conflict over land, water and energy. Climate change, he indicated, "will make scarce resources, clean water, viable agricultural land even scarcer"-and this will "make the emergence of violent conflict more rather than less likely."

Although not unprecedented, Reid's prediction of an upsurge in resource conflict is significant both because of his senior rank and the vehemence of his remarks. "The blunt truth is that the lack of water and agricultural land is a significant contributory factor to the tragic conflict we see unfolding in Darfur," he declared. "We should see this as a warning sign."
Resource conflicts of this type are most likely to arise in the developing world, Reid indicated, but the more advanced and affluent countries are not likely to be spared the damaging and destabilizing effects of global climate change. With sea levels rising, water and energy becoming increasingly scarce and prime agricultural lands turning into deserts, internecine warfare over access to vital resources will become a global phenomenon.

Reid's speech, delivered at the prestigious Chatham House in London (Britain's equivalent of the Council on Foreign Relations), is but the most recent expression of a growing trend in strategic circles to view environmental and resource effects-rather than political orientation and ideology-as the most potent source of armed conflict in the decades to come. With the world population rising, global consumption rates soaring, energy supplies rapidly disappearing and climate change eradicating valuable farmland, the stage is being set for persistent and worldwide struggles over vital resources. Religious and political strife will not disappear in this scenario, but rather will be channeled into contests over valuable sources of water, food and energy.

Prior to Reid's address, the most significant expression of this outlook was a report prepared for the U.S. Department of Defense by a California-based consulting firm in October 2003. Entitled "An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security," the report warned that global climate change is more likely to result in sudden, cataclysmic environmental events than a gradual (and therefore manageable) rise in average temperatures. Such events could include a substantial increase in global sea levels, intense storms and hurricanes and continent-wide "dust bowl" effects. This would trigger pitched battles between the survivors of these effects for access to food, water, habitable land and energy supplies.

"Violence and disruption stemming from the stresses created by abrupt changes in the climate pose a different type of threat to national security than we are accustomed to today," the 2003 report noted. "Military confrontation may be triggered by a desperate need for natural resources such as energy, food and water rather than by conflicts over ideology, religion or national honor."

Until now, this mode of analysis has failed to command the attention of top American and British policymakers. For the most part, they insist that ideological and religious differences-notably, the clash between values of tolerance and democracy on one hand and extremist forms of Islam on the other-remain the main drivers of international conflict. But Reid's speech at Chatham House suggests that a major shift in strategic thinking may be under way. Environmental perils may soon dominate the world security agenda.

This shift is due in part to the growing weight of evidence pointing to a significant human role in altering the planet's basic climate systems. Recent studies showing the rapid shrinkage of the polar ice caps, the accelerated melting of North American glaciers, the increased frequency of severe hurricanes and a number of other such effects all suggest that dramatic and potentially harmful changes to the global climate have begun to occur. More importantly, they conclude that human behavior-most importantly, the burning of fossil fuels in factories, power plants, and motor vehicles-is the most likely cause of these changes. This assessment may not have yet penetrated the White House and other bastions of head-in-the-sand thinking, but it is clearly gaining ground among scientists and thoughtful analysts around the world.

For the most part, public discussion of global climate change has tended to describe its effects as an environmental problem-as a threat to safe water, arable soil, temperate forests, certain species and so on. And, of course, climate change is a potent threat to the environment; in fact, the greatest threat imaginable. But viewing climate change as an environmental problem fails to do justice to the magnitude of the peril it poses. As Reid's speech and the 2003 Pentagon study make clear, the greatest danger posed by global climate change is not the degradation of ecosystems per se, but rather the disintegration of entire human societies, producing wholesale starvation, mass migrations and recurring conflict over resources.

"As famine, disease, and weather-related disasters strike due to abrupt climate change," the Pentagon report notes, "many countries' needs will exceed their carrying capacity"-that is, their ability to provide the minimum requirements for human survival. This "will create a sense of desperation, which is likely to lead to offensive aggression" against countries with a greater stock of vital resources. "Imagine eastern European countries, struggling to feed their populations with a falling supply of food, water, and energy, eyeing Russia, whose population is already in decline, for access to its grain, minerals, and energy supply."

Similar scenarios will be replicated all across the planet, as those without the means to survival invade or migrate to those with greater abundance-producing endless struggles between resource "haves" and "have-nots."

It is this prospect, more than anything, that worries John Reid. In particular, he expressed concern over the inadequate capacity of poor and unstable countries to cope with the effects of climate change, and the resulting risk of state collapse, civil war and mass migration. "More than 300 million people in Africa currently lack access to safe water," he observed, and "climate change will worsen this dire situation"-provoking more wars like Darfur. And even if these social disasters will occur primarily in the developing world, the wealthier countries will also be caught up in them, whether by participating in peacekeeping and humanitarian aid operations, by fending off unwanted migrants or by fighting for access to overseas supplies of food, oil, and minerals.

When reading of these nightmarish scenarios, it is easy to conjure up images of desperate, starving people killing one another with knives, staves and clubs-as was certainly often the case in the past, and could easily prove to be so again. But these scenarios also envision the use of more deadly weapons. "In this world of warring states," the 2003 Pentagon report predicted, "nuclear arms proliferation is inevitable." As oil and natural gas disappears, more and more countries will rely on nuclear power to meet their energy needs-and this "will accelerate nuclear proliferation as countries develop enrichment and reprocessing capabilities to ensure their national security."

Although speculative, these reports make one thing clear: when thinking about the calamitous effects of global climate change, we must emphasize its social and political consequences as much as its purely environmental effects. Drought, flooding and storms can kill us, and surely will-but so will wars among the survivors of these catastrophes over what remains of food, water and shelter. As Reid's comments indicate, no society, however affluent, will escape involvement in these forms of conflict.

We can respond to these predictions in one of two ways: by relying on fortifications and military force to provide some degree of advantage in the global struggle over resources, or by taking meaningful steps to reduce the risk of cataclysmic climate change.

No doubt there will be many politicians and pundits-especially in this country-who will tout the superiority of the military option, emphasizing America's preponderance of strength. By fortifying our borders and sea-shores to keep out unwanted migrants and by fighting around the world for needed oil supplies, it will be argued, we can maintain our privileged standard of living for longer than other countries that are less well endowed with instruments of power. Maybe so. But the grueling, inconclusive war in Iraq and the failed national response to Hurricane Katrina show just how ineffectual such instruments can be when confronted with the harsh realities of an unforgiving world. And as the 2003 Pentagon report reminds us, "constant battles over diminishing resources" will "further reduce [resources] even beyond the climatic effects."

Military superiority may provide an illusion of advantage in the coming struggles over vital resources, but it cannot protect us against the ravages of global climate change. Although we may be somewhat better off than the people in Haiti and Mexico, we, too, will suffer from storms, drought and flooding. As our overseas trading partners descend into chaos, our vital imports of food, raw materials and energy will disappear as well. True, we could establish military outposts in some of these places to ensure the continued flow of critical materials-but the ever-increasing price in blood and treasure required to pay for this will eventually exceed our means and destroy us. Ultimately, our only hope of a safe and secure future lies in substantially reducing our emissions of greenhouse gases and working with the rest of the world to slow the pace of global climate change.

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