- Signs of the Times for Sat, 11 Mar 2006 -

Editorial: Governments, Conspiracies and You

Joe Quinn
Signs of the Times
There are approximately 6 billion of us on this planet, the lives and fortunes of whom are directed in various ways by a relatively small group of elected, or unelected, individuals who together make up what is called 'government'.

No individual or group alive today can lay claim to having come up with the idea that an individual or a small group should possess inordinate power over the majority of humanity. Almost all peoples throughout recorded history were born into a world where some form of government or another already existed, including those individuals who, during their lifetime, became part of this ruling class.

There are two possible explanations as to why some form of government or other - a ruling class in opposition to the masses of humanity - has existed now for countless generations.

The first explanation is that it is fundamental to human nature to look to a leader or leaders to take and enact decisions on behalf of the rest. The argument goes that, due to another fundamental aspect of human nature - the tendency towards service to self - leadership by an individual or small group is necessary to ensure that a structured society, even the most primitive, can succeed without descending into anarchy, violence and survival of the fittest, and that even those humans who wish that it were not so, innately understand this and therefore willingly embrace a hierarchy as a necessary evil. Leadership, or government, then, is a structure that is put in place essentially to protect the people from themselves while maintaining the structure of society for the benefit of all, and places power into the hands of the few who present themselves as most able to do the job.

Let us notice this important fact: by and large in recent history, those that have presented themselves, or have been presented by others, as being fit for the job of leadership, have been elected or selected as a result of their own claims, or the claims of their associates, as to their competence rather than due to any apparent and innate leadership qualities that could be verified by the citizens to be governed. That is to say, society is too large for direct contact and intimate knowledge of the leaders by all of the people, so we end up having to trust the leaders' claims or the claims of their associates, as to their eligibility to hold positions of power over us.

This problem of who will protect the people from the leaders and regulate their actions if such a need arises does not seem to be provided for in any practical or rational way, and the 'governees' are left to hope that the leaders somehow possess, or will develop, the benevolent qualities befitting those who aspire to positions of power.

The paradox is, of course, in the fact that the lack of these benevolent qualities in humans in general, including the leaders, is what creates the need for leaders in the first place.

The second explanation, while accepting that human beings tend towards self service, proclaims that there exists also an innate altruistic aspect to human nature. Furthermore, it is proposed that the degree to which self centeredness and altruism are manifested can vary greatly from person to person. It is further argued that there exists the possibility that, if the human potential for altruism were to be cultivated (specifically by those elected to govern) a very different social structure might have a chance to develop. With this as its basis, the second explanation asserts that the concept that a few must naturally govern the many is not necessarily true and, in fact, is most often promoted by those in whom the service to self nature is strongest and who desire to attain to positions of power over others.

Indeed, it can be convincingly argued that, for those people of a predominantly self-serving nature, the first explanation is in fact very true, but only for them, and it is in this idea that a foundational problem of our existence arises.

In a world where some people (perhaps even a large majority) possess an innate tendency towards altruism, and some (perhaps even a small minority) do not, those that do not will, by their very nature, be able to provide false evidence that the first explanation is the truth, that anarchy does indeed result from a lack of leaders, which then precludes the possibility that anything other than a hierarchical structured society based on the self-interest of the few can ever exist. Furthermore, and again as a result of their predominating self-serving nature, we see that it is from the ranks of these people that the few that rule the many are most often drawn. Some might also call such a scenario "catch 22".

Of course, once in power, this small elite are well aware of the fact that, if they are to remain in power, their self-serving tendencies must be kept hidden from the rest of the population. To this end, such individuals will generally publicly espouse the second theory - that compassionate, responsible leadership is the key to a peaceful co-existence - while privately pursuing their self-serving agendas. Unsurprisingly, the result of such a configuration is government duplicity on a massive scale, and a gaping chasm between what our leaders say and what they do. We see these games of deception going on every day in the news. The invasion of Iraq and the lies used to justify this act - criminal under international law - are but one example. The lies told by the Israeli government to justify the murder of Palestinian children is another horrifying example.

By the beginning of the 21st century, the process of electing leaders and the governing of the masses by the few has become so refined as to be virtually an automated procedure (the 2000 and 2004 U.S. presidential elections being a case in point). Those predisposed to self-serving ideals join, and rise up through, the ranks of the existing ruling parties and continue the job of governing the many. A 'natural' and closed clique among the leaders results, and today's citizenry, whose ancestors long ago relinquished power to what has today become a self-perpetuating organism, must simply sit, wait, hope, and ultimately lie to themselves in order to believe that their leaders will act in the best interests of all.

The people however are not completely denuded of all resources to search for and uncover the truth about the real intention of their leaders. Deception is only an attempt to hide an already existent truth, it does not wipe out the existence of that truth. As such, those citizens of a diligent and truth-loving disposition can, with enough effort and desire, still discover evidence to corroborate the truth of the idea that was lost to our ancestors - that those who actively seek and attain political or government office are, by their nature, generally unfit for it.

Democracy, as opposed to dictatorship, merely serves to provide a cover of legitimacy for that small section of humanity that seem incapable of even conceiving of the idea of compassionate government to ascend to positions of power. The Democratic form of government, with its widespread popular representation, also seems particularly effective in providing a broader pool from which such psychopaths and self-centred people can be identified and vetted by their peers and brought into the ruling elite.

The fact that all that I have said above is eminently observable in current and historical world events, if we will only take the time to look, can be used to relive us of the burden of the constant wrangling over whether or not our leaders 'would do that'. Having been in this way abundantly furnished with the proof of logical reasoning which shows us that, by their very nature, our leaders would indeed and always have 'done that', we are then in a position to objectively confront events of global significance, like the attacks of September 11th, 2001 and it's aftermath, and draw the logical and entirely rational conclusion that we - the global population - are being set up to walk blindly along the path to our own destruction. More importantly, we would realise that we can do something about our predicament, if we will only recognise the somewhat unsavoury truth about our society, the way it is structured and the type of people who, up until now, we have misguidedly looked to for guidance.

As Dresden James said:

"The ideal tyranny is that which is ignorantly self-administered by its victims. The most perfect slaves are, therefore, those which blissfully and unawaredly enslave themselves."

But rather than ask the reader to rely on my testimony alone as to the reality of the general nature of those that rise to positions of power over us, I have included below details of historical events that provide objective evidence for the truth of what I say.

Pentagon Proposed Pretexts for Cuba Invasion in 1962

National Security Archive

In his new exposé of the National Security Agency entitled Body of Secrets, author James Bamford highlights a set of proposals on Cuba by the Joint Chiefs of Staff codenamed OPERATION NORTHWOODS. This document, titled “Justification for U.S. Military Intervention in Cuba” was provided by the JCS to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara on March 13, 1962, as the key component of Northwoods.

Written in response to a request from the Chief of the Cuba Project, Col. Edward Lansdale, the Top Secret memorandum describes U.S. plans to covertly engineer various pretexts that would justify a U.S. invasion of Cuba. These proposals - part of a secret anti-Castro program known as Operation Mongoose - included staging the assassinations of Cubans living in the United States, developing a fake “Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington,” including “sink[ing] a boatload of Cuban refugees (real or simulated),” faking a Cuban airforce attack on a civilian jetliner, and concocting a “Remember the Maine” incident by blowing up a U.S. ship in Cuban waters and then blaming the incident on Cuban sabotage. Bamford himself writes that Operation Northwoods "may be the most corrupt plan ever created by the U.S. government."

(Ed: Since then, 9/11 has taken the place of Operation Northwoods as the most corrupt plan ever created and implemented by a U.S. government)

30-Year Anniversary: Tonkin Gulf Lie Launched Vietnam War

Fair.org By Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon July 27, 1994

Thirty years ago, it all seemed very clear.

"American Planes Hit North Vietnam After Second Attack on Our Destroyers; Move Taken to Halt New Aggression", announced a Washington Post headline on Aug. 5, 1964.

That same day, the front page of the New York Times reported: "President Johnson has ordered retaliatory action against gunboats and 'certain supporting facilities in North Vietnam' after renewed attacks against American destroyers in the Gulf of Tonkin."

But there was no "second attack" by North Vietnam -- no "renewed attacks against American destroyers." By reporting official claims as absolute truths, American journalism opened the floodgates for the bloody Vietnam War.

A pattern took hold: continuous government lies passed on by pliant mass media...leading to over 50,000 American deaths and millions of Vietnamese casualties.

The official story was that North Vietnamese torpedo boats launched an "unprovoked attack" against a U.S. destroyer on "routine patrol" in the Tonkin Gulf on Aug. 2 -- and that North Vietnamese PT boats followed up with a "deliberate attack" on a pair of U.S. ships two days later.

The truth was very different.

Rather than being on a routine patrol Aug. 2, the U.S. destroyer Maddox was actually engaged in aggressive intelligence-gathering maneuvers -- in sync with coordinated attacks on North Vietnam by the South Vietnamese navy and the Laotian air force.

"The day before, two attacks on North Vietnam...had taken place," writes scholar Daniel C. Hallin. Those assaults were "part of a campaign of increasing military pressure on the North that the United States had been pursuing since early 1964."

On the night of Aug. 4, the Pentagon proclaimed that a second attack by North Vietnamese PT boats had occurred earlier that day in the Tonkin Gulf -- a report cited by President Johnson as he went on national TV that evening to announce a momentous escalation in the war: air strikes against North Vietnam.

But Johnson ordered U.S. bombers to "retaliate" for a North Vietnamese torpedo attack that never happened.

Prior to the U.S. air strikes, top officials in Washington had reason to doubt that any Aug. 4 attack by North Vietnam had occurred. Cables from the U.S. task force commander in the Tonkin Gulf, Captain John J. Herrick, referred to "freak weather effects," "almost total darkness" and an "overeager sonarman" who "was hearing ship's own propeller beat."

One of the Navy pilots flying overhead that night was squadron commander James Stockdale, who gained fame later as a POW and then Ross Perot's vice presidential candidate. "I had the best seat in the house to watch that event," recalled Stockdale a few years ago, "and our destroyers were just shooting at phantom targets -- there were no PT boats there.... There was nothing there but black water and American fire power."

In 1965, Lyndon Johnson commented: "For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there."

But Johnson's deceitful speech of Aug. 4, 1964, won accolades from editorial writers. The president, proclaimed the New York Times, "went to the American people last night with the somber facts." The Los Angeles Times urged Americans to "face the fact that the Communists, by their attack on American vessels in international waters, have themselves escalated the hostilities."

An exhaustive new book, The War Within: America's Battle Over Vietnam, begins with a dramatic account of the Tonkin Gulf incidents. In an interview, author Tom Wells told us that American media "described the air strikes that Johnson launched in response as merely `tit for tat' -- when in reality they reflected plans the administration had already drawn up for gradually increasing its overt military pressure against the North."

Why such inaccurate news coverage? Wells points to the media's "almost exclusive reliance on U.S. government officials as sources of information" -- as well as "reluctance to question official pronouncements on 'national security issues.'"

Daniel Hallin's classic book The "Uncensored War" observes that journalists had "a great deal of information available which contradicted the official account [of Tonkin Gulf events]; it simply wasn't used. The day before the first incident, Hanoi had protested the attacks on its territory by Laotian aircraft and South Vietnamese gunboats."

What's more, "It was generally known...that `covert' operations against North Vietnam, carried out by South Vietnamese forces with U.S. support and direction, had been going on for some time."

In the absence of independent journalism, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution -- the closest thing there ever was to a declaration of war against North Vietnam -- sailed through Congress on Aug. 7. (Two courageous senators, Wayne Morse of Oregon and Ernest Gruening of Alaska, provided the only "no" votes.) The resolution authorized the president "to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression."

The rest is tragic history.

Nearly three decades later, during the Gulf War, columnist Sydney Schanberg warned journalists not to forget "our unquestioning chorus of agreeability when Lyndon Johnson bamboozled us with his fabrication of the Gulf of Tonkin incident."

Schanberg blamed not only the press but also "the apparent amnesia of the wider American public."

And he added: "We Americans are the ultimate innocents. We are forever desperate to believe that this time the government is telling us the truth."

Do Freedom of Information Act Files Prove FDR Had Foreknowledge of Pearl Harbor?

An Interview with Robert B. Stinnett by Douglas Cirignano

On November 25, 1941 Japan’s Admiral Yamamoto sent a radio message to the group of Japanese warships that would attack Pearl Harbor on December 7. Newly released naval records prove that from November 17 to 25 the United States Navy intercepted eighty-three messages that Yamamoto sent to his carriers. Part of the November 25 message read: “…the task force, keeping its movements strictly secret and maintaining close guard against submarines and aircraft, shall advance into Hawaiian waters, and upon the very opening of hostilities shall attack the main force of the United States fleet in Hawaii and deal it a mortal blow…”

One might wonder if the theory that President Franklin Roosevelt had a foreknowledge of the Pearl Harbor attack would have been alluded to in this summer’s movie, Pearl Harbor. Since World War II many people have suspected that Washington knew the attack was coming. When Thomas Dewey was running for president against Roosevelt in 1944 he found out about America’s ability to intercept Japan’s radio messages, and thought this knowledge would enable him to defeat the popular FDR. In the fall of that year, Dewey planned a series of speeches charging FDR with foreknowledge of the attack. Ultimately, General George Marshall, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, persuaded Dewey not to make the speeches. Japan’s naval leaders did not realize America had cracked their codes, and Dewey’s speeches could have sacrificed America’s code-breaking advantage. So, Dewey said nothing, and in November FDR was elected president for the fourth time.

Now, though, according to Robert Stinnett, author of Simon & Schuster’s Day Of Deceit, we have the proof. Stinnett’s book is dedicated to Congressman John Moss, the author of America’s Freedom of Information Act. According to Stinnett, the answers to the mysteries of Pearl Harbor can be found in the extraordinary number of documents he was able to attain through Freedom of Information Act requests. Cable after cable of decryptions, scores of military messages that America was intercepting, clearly showed that Japanese ships were preparing for war and heading straight for Hawaii. Stinnett, an author, journalist, and World War II veteran, spent sixteen years delving into the National Archives. He poured over more than 200,000 documents, and conducted dozens of interviews. This meticulous research led Stinnet to a firmly held conclusion: FDR knew.

“Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars,” was Roosevelt’s famous campaign statement of 1940. He wasn’t being ingenuous. FDR’s military and State Department leaders were agreeing that a victorious Nazi Germany would threaten the national security of the United States. In White House meetings the strong feeling was that America needed a call to action. This is not what the public wanted, though. Eighty to ninety percent of the American people wanted nothing to do with Europe’s war. So, according to Stinnett, Roosevelt provoked Japan to attack us, let it happen at Pearl Harbor, and thus galvanized the country to war.

Many who came into contact with Roosevelt during that time hinted that FDR wasn’t being forthright about his intentions in Europe. After the attack, on the Sunday evening of December 7, 1941, Roosevelt had a brief meeting in the White House with Edward R. Murrow, the famed journalist, and William Donovan, the founder of the Office of Strategic Services. Later Donovan told an assistant the he believed FDR welcomed the attack and didn’t seem surprised. The only thing Roosevelt seemed to care about, Donovan felt, was if the public would now support a declaration of war. According to Day Of Deceit, in October 1940 FDR adopted a specific strategy to incite Japan to commit an overt act of war.

Part of the strategy was to move America’s Pacific fleet out of California and anchor it in Pearl Harbor. Admiral James Richardson, the commander of the Pacific fleet, strongly opposed keeping the ships in harm's way in Hawaii. He expressed this to Roosevelt, and so the President relieved him of his command. Later Richardson quoted Roosevelt as saying: "Sooner or later the Japanese will commit an overt act against the United States and the nation will be willing to enter the war."

(Ed: Four years ago, what percentage of American citizens would have utterly rejected the idea of an unprovoked war on Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention an endless 'war on terror' leading, inexplicably, to a clamp down on civil liberties at home? After 9/11, of course, they had no choice, they were 'victims' of an 'unprovoked' and 'surprise' attack by 'Arab terrorists', just as American citizens were 'victims' of an 'unprovoked' and 'surprise' attack by the Japanese.)

The Lavon Affair

By David Hirst

Excerpts from his book: The Gun and the Olive Branch, 1977, 1984, Futura Publications

In July 1954 Egypt was plagued by a series of bomb outrages directed mainly against American and British property in Cairo and Alexandria. It was generally assumed that they were the work of the Moslem Brothers, then the most dangerous challenge to the still uncertain authority of Colonel (later President) Nasser and his two-year-old revolution. Nasser was negotiating with Britain over the evacuation of its giant military bases in the Suez Canal Zone, and, the Moslem Brothers, as zealous nationalists, were vigorously opposed to any Egyptian compromises.

It therefore came as a shock to world, and particularly Jewish opinion, when on 5 October the Egyptian Minister of the Interior, Zakaria Muhieddin, announced the break-up of a thirteen-man Israeli sabotage network.

The trial established that the bombings had indeed been carried out by an Israeli espionage and terrorist network. This was headed by Colonel Avraharn Dar --alias John Darling-- and a core of professionals who had set themselves up in Egypt under various guises. They had recruited a number of Egyptian Jews; one of them was a young woman, Marcelle Ninio, who worked in the offices of a British company. Naturally, the eventual exposure of such an organization was not going to improve the lot of the vast majority of Egyptian Jews who wanted no-thing to do with Zionism. There were still at least 50,000 Jews in Egypt; there had been something over 60,000 in 1947, more than half of whom were actually foreign nationals.

The welfare of Oriental Jewry in their various homelands was, as we have seen, Israel's last concern. And in July 1954 it had other worries. It was feeling isolated and insecure. Its Western friends-let alone the rest of the world-were unhappy about its aggressive behaviour. The US Assistant Secretary of State advised it to 'drop the attitude of the conqueror'.53 More alarming was the rapprochement under way between Egypt, on the one hand, and the United States and Britain on the other. President Eisenhower had urged Britain to give up her giant military base in the Suez Canal Zone; Bengurion had failed to dissuade her. It was to sabotage this rapprochement that the head of Israeli intelligence, Colonel Benyamin Givli, ordered his Egyptian intelligence ring to strike.

On Givli's instructions, the Egyptian network was to plant bombs in American and British cultural centres, British-owned cinemas and Egyptian public buildings. The Western powers, it was hoped, would conclude that there was fierce internal opposition to the rapprochement and that Nasser's young regime, faced with this challenge, was not one in which they could place much confidence. Mysterious violence might therefore persuade both London and Washington that British troops should remain astride the Canal; the world had not forgotten Black Saturday, 28 January 1951, in the last year of King Farouk's reign, when mobs rampaged through downtown Cairo, setting fire to foreign-owned hotels and shops, in which scores of people, including thirteen Britons, died.

The first bomb went off, on 2 July, in the Alexandria post office. On 11 July, the Anglo-Egyptian Suez negotiations, which had been blocked for nine months, got under way again. The next day the Israeli embassy in London was assured that, up on the British evacuation from Suez, stock-piled arms would not be handed over to the Egyptians. But the Defence Ministry activists were unconvinced. On 14 July their agents, in clandestine radio contact with Tel Aviv, fire-bombed US Information Service libraries in Cairo and Alexandria. That same day, a phosphorous bomb exploded prematurely in the pocket of one Philip Natanson, nearly burning him alive, as he was about to enter the British-owned Rio cinema in Alexandria.

His arrest and subsequent confession led to the break-up of the whole ring-but not before the completion of another cycle of clandestine action and diplomatic failure. On 15 July President Eisenhower assured the Egyptians that 'simultaneously' with the signing of a Suez agreement the United States would enter into 'firm commitments' for economic aid to strengthen their armed forces.55 On 23 July --anniversary of the 1952 revolution-- the Israeli agents still at large had a final fling; they started fires in two Cairo cinemas, in the central post office and the railway station. On the same day, Britain announced that the War Secretary, Antony Head, was going to Cairo. And on 27 July he and the Egyptians initiated the 'Heads of Agreement' on the terms of Britain's evacuation.

The trial lasted from 11 December to 3 January. Not all the culprits were there, because Colonel Dar and an Israeli colleague managed to escape, and the third Israeli, Hungarian-born Max Bennett, committed suicide; but those who were present all pleaded guilty. Most of them, including Marcelle Ninio, were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment. But Dr Musa Lieto Marzuk, a Tunisian-born citizen of France who was a surgeon at the Jewish Hospital in Cairo, and Samuel Azar, an engineering professor from Alexandria, were condemned to death. In spite of representations from France, Britain and the United States the two men were hanged. Politically, it would have been very difficult for Nasser to spare them, for only seven weeks before six Moslem Brothers had been executed for complicity in an attempt on his life. Nevertheless Israel reacted with grief and anger. So did some Western Jews. Marzuk and Azar 'died the death of martyrs', said Sharett on the same day in the Knesset, whose members stood in silent tribute. Israel went into official mourning the following day. Beersheba and Ramat Gan named streets after the executed men. Israeli delegates to the Egyptian-Israeli Mixed Armistice Commission refused to attend its meeting, declaring that they would not sit down with representatives of the Cairo junta. In New York there were bomb threats against the Egyptian consulate and a sniper fired four shots into its fourth-floor window.56

This whole episode, which was to poison Israeli political life for a decade and more, came to be known as the 'Lavon Affair', for it had been established in the Cairo trial that Lavon, as Minister of Defence, had approved the campaign of sabotage. At least so the available evidence made it appear. But in Israel, Lavon had asked Moshe Sharett for a secret inquiry into a matter about which the cabinet knew nothing. Benyamin Givli, the intelligence chief, claimed that the so-called 'security operation' had been authorized by Lavon himself. Two other Bengurion proteges, Moshe Dayan and Shimon Peres, testified against Lavon. Lavon denounced Givli's papers as forgeries and demanded the resignation of all three men. Instead, Sharett ordered Lavon himself to resign and invited Bengurion to come out of retirement and take over the Defence Ministry. It was a triumphant comeback for the 'activist' philosophy whose excesses both Sharett and Lavon had tried to modify. It was con-summated, a week later, by an unprovoked raid on Gaza, which left thirty-nine Egyptians dead and led to the Suez War Of 1956. 57

When the truth about the Lavon Affair came to light, six years after the event, it confirmed that there had been a frame-up-not, however, by the Egyptians, but by Bengurion and his young proteges. Exposure was fortuitous. Giving evidence in a forgery trial in September 1960, a witness divulged on passant that he had seen the faked signature of Lavon on a document relating to a 1954 'security mishap'.58 [...]

But Lavon was not the only real victim. There were also those misguided Egyptian Jews who paid with their lives or long terms of imprisonment. It is true that when, in 1968, Marcelle Ninio and her colleagues were exchanged for Egyptian' prisoners in Israel, they received a heroes' welcome. True, too, that when Miss Ninio got married Prime Minister Golda Meir, Defence Minister Dayan and Chief of Staff General Bar Lev all attended the wedding and Dayan told the bride 'the Six-Day War was success enough that it led to your freedom'.61 However, after spending fourteen years in an Egyptian prison, the former terrorists did not share the leadership's enthusiasm. When Ninio and two of her colleagues appeared on Israel television a few years later, they all expressed the belief that the reason why they were not released earlier was because Israel made little effort to get them out. 'Maybe they didn't want us to come back,' said Robert Dassa. 'There was so much intrigue in Israel. We were instruments in the hands of the Egyptians and of others ... and what is more painful after all that we went through is that this continues to be so.' In Ninio's opinion, 'the government didn't want to spoil its relations with the United States and didn't want the embarrassment of admitting it was behind our action'.62

But the real victims were the great mass of Egyptian Jewry. Episodes like the Lavon Affair tended to identify them, in the mind of ordinary Egyptians, with the Zionist movement. When, in 1956, Israeli invaded and occupied Sinai, feeling ran high against them. The government, playing into the Zionist hands, began ordering Jews to leave the country. Belatedly, reluctantly, 21,000 left in the following year; more were expelled later, and others, their livelihood gone, had nothing to stay for. But precious few went to Israel.


49. Jerusalem Post, 12 December 1954.
5O. 13 December 1954.
51. 13 December 1954.
52. Berger, op. cit., p. 14.
53. love, Kennett, Suez: The Twice-Fought War, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1969, P. 71.
54. Ibid., p . 73.
55. Ibid., p. 74.
56. Love, op. cit., P. 77.
57. See p. 198.
58. New York Times, 10 February 1961.
59. Ibid
60. Jewish Chronicle, London, 17 February 1971.
61. Ha'olam Hazeh, 1 December 1971
62. Associated Press, 16 March 1975.

(Ed:: Right here, dear readers, we have concrete evidence that the concept of a 'false flag' operation formed a central part of Israeli intelligence operations over 50 years ago. Yet even before that, certain factions within the movement known as 'Zionism' were already selling out their 'own people' while maintaining that they were acting in the best interests of all.

Zionism Convicts Itself

51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration with the Nazis by LENNI BRENNER

On June 21, 1933, the German Zionist Federation sent a secret memorandum to the Nazis:

"Zionism has no illusions about the difficulty of the Jewish condition, which consists above all in an abnormal occupational pattern and in the fault of an intellectual and moral posture not rooted in one's own tradition. Zionism recognized decades ago that as a result of the assimilationist trend, symptoms of deterioration were bound to appear, which it seeks to overcome by carrying out its challenge to transform Jewish life completely.

"It is our opinion that an answer to the Jewish question truly satisfying to the national state can be brought about only with the collaboration of the Jewish movement that aims at a social, cultural and moral renewal of Jewry--indeed, that such a national renewal must first create the decisive social and spiritual premises for all solutions.

"Zionism believes that a rebirth of national life, such as is occurring in German life through adhesion to Christian and national values, must also take place in the Jewish national group. For the Jew, too, origin, religion, community of fate and group consciousness must be of decisive significance in the shaping of his life. This means that the egotistic individualism which arose in the liberal era must be overcome by public spiritedness and by willingness to accept responsibility."

By 1936, the Post ran a news flash, "German Zionists Seek Recognition":

"A bold demand that the German Zionist Federation be given recognition by the Government as the only instrument for the exclusive control of German Jewish life was made by the Executive of that body in a proclamation today. All German Jewish organizations, it was declared, should be dominated by the Zionist spirit."

Zionist factions competed for the honor of allying to Hitler. By 1940-41, the "Stern Gang," among them Yitzhak Shamir, later Prime Minister of Israel, presented the Nazis with the "Fundamental Features of the Proposal of the National Military Organization in Palestine (Irgun Zvai Leumi) Concerning the Solution of the Jewish Question in Europe and the Participation of the NMO in the War on the Side of Germany."

Avraham Stern and his followers announced that

"The NMO, which is well-acquainted with the goodwill of the German Reich government and its authorities towards Zionist activity inside Germany and towards Zionist emigration plans, is of the opinion that:

1. Common interests could exist between the establishment of a new order in Europe in conformity with the German concept, and the true national aspirations of the Jewish people as they are embodied by the NMO.

2. Cooperation between the new Germany and a renewed folkish-national Hebraium would be possible and,

3. The establishment of the historic Jewish state on a national and totalitarian basis, bound by a treaty with the German Reich, would be in the interest of a maintained and strengthened future German position of power in the Near East.

Proceeding from these considerations, the NMO in Palestine, under the condition the above-mentioned national aspirations of the Israeli freedom movement are recognized on the side of the German Reich, offers to actively take part in the war on Germany's side."

They hanged people all over Europe after WW II for notes to the Nazis like these. But these treasons against the Jews were virtually unknown in the run up to the creation of the Zionist state in May 1948

(Ed: We note in the above that the "Zionists" were essentially stating that they agreed with Hitler's stance on the Jewish question, and in veiled language were proposing a 'renewal' or rebirth of Jewish society and identity. It was a clear reference to the Zionist desire to create a Jewish 'homeland' in Palestine and their intention to co-operate with the Nazi regime in creating the conditions that would facilitate this. One of those 'conditions', of course, was the understanding among Jews that Europe was an extremely hostile environment for them, and that they should flee or accept deportation to their new 'homeland'. One has to wonder in this case just where and with whom the 'Jewish question' originated.)

"51 Documents: Zionist Collaboration with the Nazis"

Review by William Hughes

History can be deceptive. It's fair to say that some of the sensational never-published-before documents, in this book, will shock those who have accepted Zionism and its supposed history, at face value, as a political movement that was the hope of the Jews. Lenni Brenner, the intrepid author of “Zionism in the Age of Dictators,” reveals disturbing new evidence in his latest effort, that suggest just the opposite. In fact, he makes a compelling case that the Zionist record was “dishonorable.” You can consider this excellent tome as a worthy sequel to his first expose’ on the myopic Zionist zealots of that bygone era.

For openers, Brenner showed how the Zionists had a long history of shameless cooperation with the Nazis, especially after the dictator Adolph Hitler had came to power in 1933. The Zionists were also in bed, to some extent, with the other members of what later became known as WWII’s “Axis of Evil,” that included Benito Mussolini’s Italy, and Tojo Hideki’s Japan. For example, on March 29,1936, Zionists praised Il Duce, and his regime, at the opening of a maritime school, funded by the Fascist government, at Civitavecchia. This is where a Zionist youth group, the “Betar,” trained its sailors for the future Revisionist state. The speakers ignored the fact that on Oct. 3, 1935, Italian troops had invaded Abyssinia.

The Zionist also had a trade plan with the Berlin government by which German Jews could redeem their property in Nazi goods exported to then British-occupied Palestine. And to top it all off, the infamous SS-Hptscharf. Adolf Eichmann, had visited Palestine, in October, 1937, as the guest of the Zionists. He also met, in Egypt, with Feivel Polkes, a Zionist operative, whom Eichmann described as a “leading Haganah functionary.” The chain-smoking Polkes was also on the Nazis’ payroll “as an informer.”

Brenner isn’t the first writer to address the mostly taboo subject of how the Zionist leadership cooperated with the Nazis. Rolf Hilberg’s seminal “The Destruction of European Jews”; Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem”; Ben Hecht’s “Perfidy”; Edwin Black’s “The Transfer Agreement”; Francis R. Nicosia’s “The Third Reich and the Palestine Question”; Rudolf Vrba and Alan Bestic’s “I Cannot Forgive”; and Rafael Medoff’s “The Deadening Silence: American Jews and the Holocaust,” also dared, with varying public success.

After the Holocaust began in 1942, Eichmann dealt regularly with Dr. Rudolf Kastner, a Hungarian Jew, whom he considered a “fanatical Zionist.” Kastner was later assassinated in Israel as a Nazi collaborator. At issue then, however, was the bargaining over the eventual fate of Hungary’s Jews, who were slated for liquidation in the Nazi-run death camps. Eichmann said this about Kastner, the Zionist representative, “I believe that [he] would have sacrificed a thousand or a hundred thousand of his blood to achieve his political goal. He was not interested in old Jews or those who had become assimilated into Hungarian society. ‘You can have the others,’ he would say, ‘but let me have this group here.’ And because Kastner rendered us a great service by helping keep the deportation camps peaceful. I would let his groups escape.”

Readers, too, will be surprised to learn, that after the Nuremberg Anti-Jewish Race Laws were enacted in Sept., 1935, that there were only two flags that were permitted to be displayed in all of Nazi Germany. One was Hitler’s favorite, the Swastika. The other was the blue and white banner of Zionism. The Zionists were also allowed to publish their own newspaper. The reasons for this Reich-sponsored favoritism was, according to the author: The Zionists and the Nazis had a common interest, making German Jews emigrate to Palestine.

(Ed: Those tasked with the job of leading the people seem to believe that the very fact that they find themselves in a position of power, proves that they 'deserve', or possess some innate right to be in such a position - a self-fulfilling prophecy if you will, and it matters not what they had to do to get there. In fact, the 'resourcefulness' that they exhibited to climb the ladder of success is simply further proof for them that they are eminently deserving of their positions.

By this thinking, it follows then that if the great unwashed find themselves in a position of powerlesness, they also 'deserve' to be there. It is an ideology based on survival of the fittest, or, rather, the most ruthless. In short, the scum always rises to the top.
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Editorial: Iran Shock & Awe Spin Moves into Hyperdrive

Kurt Nimmo
9 Mar 06

Another Day in The Empire

It is interesting to follow the corporate media’s take on Iran’s response to threats of military action, most recently amplified by John Bolton and Dick Cheney in speeches delivered to the primary constituency of the United States government, AIPAC. Iran’s “President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s [comments about retaliating if his country is attacked] came as Tehran struck an increasingly threatening tone, with the top Iranian delegate to the U.N. atomic watchdog agency warning a day earlier that the United States will face ‘harm and pain’ if the Security Council becomes involved,” according to ABC News. “Some diplomats saw the comments as a veiled threat to use oil as a weapon, though Iran’s oil minister ruled out any decrease in production. Iran also has leverage with extremist groups in the Middle East that could harm U.S. interests.”

Of course, the “veiled threats” of Cheney and Bolton do not merit such commentary from these anonymous diplomats, more than likely neocons. ABC simply characterizes U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns’ threat to “seek a so-called [United Nations] Chapter 7 resolution, which can be enforced with military action” as the “toughest talk so far has come from Washington.”

It would be perfectly natural for Iran to use oil as a weapon if attacked by the United States, Israel, and any nation that supports a Chapter 7 resolution resulting in a military attack. It also makes perfect sense for Iran to leverage “terrorist” organizations during an attack (Iran allegedly supports Hamas, the PIJ and Ahmad Jibril’s PFLP-GC in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon; it should be noted that both Hamas and Hezbollah are democratically elected political organizations).

Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei was spot on when he declared: “This time they have used nuclear energy as an excuse. If Iran quits now, the case will not be over. The Americans will find another excuse” as a pretext to shock and awe his country, as they went through several excuses in the lead-up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

In addition to the United States, several European countries are lining up behind the Straussian neocon threat to attack Iran, as most recently demonstrated by Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, who indicated the “USA, Russia, China and Europe are in agreement on” preventing Iran’s nascent nuclear program, completely legal under Article IV(1) of the 1968 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, signed by Iran in 1970.

“Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes,” the article states. Iran claims its nuclear program is for energy purposes.

Meanwhile, in the House of Corporate Whores, otherwise known as the House of Representatives, Thomas Lantos of California, senior Democrat whore on the International Relations Committee, has declared his intention to “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,” in other words such a bill may jeopardize the impending Straussian neocon effort to shock and awe Iran.

“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,” averred Lantos. Of course, an effort to “squeeze Iran’s economy” will result in misery and privation for the Iranian people, but then this does not bother Democrats. It should be remembered that the “feel your pain” Democrat Bill Clinton was responsible for most of the human misery inflicted under the medieval siege-like Iraq sanctions.

“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,” Nicholas Burns warned. For the Straussian neocons, such a blow-out would be unfortunate, although it certainly wouldn’t put a kink in their effort to target Iran, as they have held this threat dear for more than a decade.

Finally, Condi Rice has thrown in her two cents. “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 develop,” Rice told a Congressional hearing in Washington. “This is a country that is determined, it seems, to develop a nuclear weapon in defiance of the international community which is determined that they should not get one.”

Never mind that the above mentioned countries are not about to give up their nukes and the sanctimonious United States is the only country to actually ever use nukes—not against a true adversary, mind you, but an all-but defeated enemy, or rather its civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“Rice also alleged that Iran was the ‘central banker for terrorism” in the Middle East, accusing the Islamic Republic of supporting terrorist attacks in Iraq, the Palestinian territories and Lebanon,” reports al-Jazeera. Of course, Condi did not offer any evidence that Iran supports attacks against the occupiers in Iraq—never mind that Iran’s support of the Sunni and Ba’athist resistance would be absurd, considering the country fought a horrific war against the secular Saddam Hussein in the 1980s.

No mention either of Israel’s terrorist attacks against thousands of people in “the Palestinian territories,” the vast majority innocent civilians (according to the Palestine Red Crescent Society and the IDF, or rather IOF, since September 29, 2000, 3,821 Palestinians and 1,084 Israelis have been killed; see this chart). Nor did Condi bother to mention that in fact the “terrorist” group in Lebanon is Hezbollah, a legitimate resistance organization formed when Israel illegally invaded Lebanon and supported by most Lebanese.

As the shock and awe campaign against Iran unfolds before our eyes, such details are irrelevant. However, it appears the United Nations is no longer irrelevant, as Bush claimed it was in the lead-up to the invasion of Iraq, and Europe is eager to put to rest its stigmatization as a passel of wimps, irresolute in the face of Islamic terrorism, never mind that much of this terrorism was created by the United States, Britain, and their various clients.

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Editorial: Cheney's Got a Gun: Part 2

March 10, 2006
Dave McGowan
Center or an Informed America

Aspects of Vice President Dick Cheney's quail hunt make ethical hunters and hunter safety instructors cringe. From reports, we know that this hunting party consisted of three hunters and, thus, three guns. This is highly unusual and generally seen as unsafe. Nearly every hunting preserve I know of here in the Southeast restricts upland bird hunt parties to two guns, for obvious reasons: one hunter takes the left side, one the right side. There is generally a dog and a guide (the dog handler), who is very careful to stay behind the guns after the dogs go on point ... Reports say the hunters were hunting by car. Too old and feeble to walk? Too lazy? An upland bird hunt by car is an offensive idea to any honest, ethical hunter. This sounds like irresponsible cruising for easy shooting, rather than the time-honored tradition of slowly walking the fields and brush, watching the dogs work, and -- if you're lucky -- finding a covey or two of quail ... The idea of hunting from a car is bad. It's dangerous because hunters would be getting in and out, guns pointing every which way, losing track of the wind, the weather, the angle of the sun, the energy level of the dogs. Hunting from a car is, for able-bodied hunters at least, completely antithetical to honest, ethical hunting. One of the cardinal rules of any bird hunt: Don't shoot low birds. Why? It is more difficult to see birds against the ground than against the sky. It is possible that something besides a bird might be on the ground, and thus in the way; generally this would be the dog ... As a hunter and conservationist, I feel misrepresented by Cheney and his ilk. They portray hunting as a sport for the rich, carried out on vast private lands, where pulling the trigger takes priority over everything else. (http://www.charlotte.com/mld/observer/news/opinion/13866143.htm)

Quail hunting for years has been called the sport of aristocracy ... Quail hunting is a gentleman's game and is often a spectator and participator sport at the same time ... most quail hunts involve a pair of dogs and a pair of hunters in the field at the same time. Each dog is competing to see which one can locate a covey of quail first. Once one of the dogs zeros in on his quarry, he will freeze on "point." The other dog is trained to "honor" the pointing dog by actually freezing and pointing that dog. This is when the excitement builds in anticipation of an explosion of whirring wings known as the covey flush. An awareness of all of the gunners responsibilities and location of each prior to the flush is an absolute necessity. Strict gun discipline is required. While wind conditions and proximity of escape cover for the flushing birds may alter what I am about to say, as a rule of thumb the hunters should approach their dogs from behind the dogs. The gun muzzles should be oriented skyward and the shotgun needs to remain on safety until mounted to one's shoulder. The two hunters should approach the dogs, one on either side, and in a straight line with one another. This straight line is very important for the safety of each hunter. Prior to moving on up and allowing the birds to flush, each hunter should visibly and mentally locate: each other, both dogs, the hunting rig, and the hunting guide if on a guided hunt. Each hunter should know in advance where he can and cannot swing the muzzle of his gun to follow an escaping quail. Each hunter's range of gun swing should be from the mid-point between him and his partner and out to his side. He should never cross the mid-point to shoot at a quail flying on his partner's side. Not only is this poor shotgunning etiquette, it is dangerous. Additionally, a quail hunter should never take a shot at a low flying quail that would cause him to lower the muzzle of his shotgun below a horizontal plane with the ground. Taking a shot at a low-flying quail has ended the life of many fine pointing dogs since the inception of this great sport. If each hunter places safety and sportsmanship at a much higher priority than actually pulling the trigger, quail hunting is truly a unique hunting experience.
(http://www.riverviewplantation.com/Quail_Hunting_Tips/quail_hunting_tips.html )

(The first quote above is from an op/ed piece that was published by the Charlotte Observer in response to the Cheney shooting incident. The second is from the website of the "Riverview Plantation," a private hunting reserve in Georgia that "Specializ[es] in Quail Hunting for the Corporate Account." In other words, it is a place not unlike the Armstrong Ranch in south Texas. While the above quote reads very much like a commentary on the Cheney shooting, and a condemnation of Cheney's stated actions, it actually is not. In an attempt to prompt some direct commentary on the incident, I sent an e-mail inquiry to the owners of the plantation. I'm still waiting for a response. I forgot to ask them, by the way, if they would consider hunting with Dick Cheney to be a good "spectator sport.")

One of the most amazing things about this case is that even if we accept without question the tale told by Cheney and Armstrong - if we accept that this 'accident' occurred exactly as we have been told it happened - it is perfectly obvious that the consensus media opinion that there was no misconduct or negligence is simply untrue. By his own account, Cheney was hunting by vehicle, a decidedly unsafe, and unethical, practice. By his own account, he was out in a three-man hunting party. By his own account, he made no effort to ascertain the whereabouts of anyone else in his party before firing away. By his own account, he was firing at a bird that would have had to have been flying ridiculously low. By his own account, he swung his gun far beyond "the mid-point" to take his shot. By his own account, he had been drinking that day (undoubtedly far more than he has admitted to). By his own account, he was hunting in flat terrain with a party that included a hostess, two other hunters, several guides and outriders (scouts on horseback), a medical team, and a Secret Service team -- and yet he swung his gun around blindly a full 180º to take a shot at an alleged bird that was supposedly flying just a few feet off the ground.

By his own account, Cheney actions were, without question, criminally reckless. And yet, remarkably enough, the media machine has beat a hasty retreat from this story, implying that there is really nothing left to talk about.

Every gun-enthusiast organization in the country, including the venerable National Rifle Association, knows full well not only that Cheney's story cannot possibly be true, but that even if it were true, it would expose Cheney as a recklessly irresponsible gunman who certainly should be held accountable for his actions. All of these groups, nevertheless, have chosen to put their partisan, knee-jerk politics ahead of any sort of search for the truth of what happened that day. Cheney and company have insulted the intelligence of every responsible hunter and sport shooter in the country, and yet the groups representing these gun owners have conspicuously chosen to remain silent.

As previously discussed, there are unanswered questions about both the angle of the shot and the distance between the shooter and victim. In addition, there is yet another problem with the official story -- a problem that no one in the media, to my knowledge, has yet commented upon. This problem was brought to my attention by Mr. Lester Gregg, Jr., a conscientious hunter from east Texas with more than 35 years experience. Commenting on Cheney's claim that he was tracking a bird in flight as he swung his weapon around, Gregg had this to say:

When taking a wing shot, you are swinging the barrel and leading the bird. This causes the shot to form a "string," roughly a long narrow oval in the air. The almost circular shot pattern reported on Whittington is typical of a stationary shot, point and shoot! This is a very important fact completely overlooked or misrepresented in the media. On CNN I heard a person from Field & Stream magazine glossing over the details and never remarking on this. There is no way he could not know this simple fact known by hunters and shooters.

So now we have at least three major problems with the official story: the angle of the shot is entirely inconsistent with accepted quail hunting practices; the tightness of the pattern and the depth of penetration are incompatible with the stated shooting distance; and the outline of the shot pattern is not consistent with Cheney's claimed 'wing shot.' And yet another problem with the official story was raised by the Charlotte Observer, which posed the following question: "Why was the hunter, Harry Whittington, looking for a downed bird? Were there no dogs? A quail hunt without a dog? Absurd. If there were dogs, why not have them go after the dead bird." A perfectly reasonable question, but one which Brit Hume didn't bother to ask. (Scott Denham "Cheney Ignored Safe Hunting Procedures," Charlotte Observer, February 14, 2006)

By Cheney's own account, there were indeed dogs along on the hunt: "There were three of us who had gotten out of the vehicle and walked up on a covey of quail that had been pointed by the dogs. Covey is flushed, we've shot, and each of us got a bird. Harry couldn't find his, it had gone down in some deep cover, and so he went off to look for it. The other hunter and I then turned and walked about a hundred yards in another direction … away from him – where another covey had been spotted by an outrider." (http://msnbc.msn.com/id/11373634/)

According to published accounts, in addition to the guide and the outriders, the hunting party also brought along hired help to dress and pack their downed birds. In other words, these gentlemen hunters' participation in the hunt involved little more than pulling the trigger. Though they were too lazy to actually walk the terrain in search of prey, or to perform such menial tasks as dressing their own kills, we are supposed to believe that gentleman hunter Harry Whittington, at nearly 79 years of age, ventured off alone into some rough terrain in search of his downed bird, while the dogs and various hired hands busied themselves, I presume, with dodging wild shots taken by Dick Cheney.

But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that Whittington really did venture off to fetch his own kill. That would, alas, raise yet another problem with the official story. According to the Cheney/Rove/Armstrong version of events, Cheney was unaware of Whittington's position because Harry had been approaching Dick (shouldn't there be a Tom in this story?) from behind, unannounced. Leaving aside the fact that it would have clearly been Cheney's responsibility to know Whittington's position prior to taking his shot, since even a novice hunter knows that you never, ever pull the trigger without knowing exactly what is in your line of fire, there is an obvious problem with this scenario. This was not, you see, your run-of-the-mill hunting party; this was a hunting party that included Dick Cheney, Vice President of the United States and possibly the most well-guarded man on the planet.

Though only the World Socialist Web Site seems to have noticed, it is simply inconceivable that someone with a loaded shotgun could walk up behind the Vice President without Cheney and his security personnel being aware of it. And if Whittington was close enough to catch a full load of birdshot in his chest and face, then he was obviously close enough to deliver one as well, and normally Cheney's army of security personnel keep tabs on such things.

The Charlotte Observer, alone among the media, took note of yet another troubling aspect of the official story: "Cheney shot Whittington at 5:15 p.m. on Saturday [5:30 p.m., according to official reports] -- way too late to be hunting quail. Good hunters hunt early in the day, when the light is good, the birds are active, and the dogs are fresh. One should generally not be out for quail this late in the day." (Scott Denham "Cheney Ignored Safe Hunting Procedures," Charlotte Observer, February 14, 2006)

Yet another curious fact: this incident occurred very late in the hunting season, and as any hunter knows, locating and flushing coveys of birds becomes progressively more difficult as the season wears on, as the population of birds is reduced and the remaining quail become savvy to the ways of the hunters pursuing them. Flushing two coveys in rapid succession so late in the season, and so late in the afternoon, would be extremely unlikely, and yet that is exactly what the official story claims to be the case.

The preceding paragraph, it should be noted, would not apply if Cheney's party was shooting at pen-raised quail on a controlled-release 'hunt,' as he has done in the past. But Cheney claimed otherwise during his chat with Hume, stressing that they had been hunting "wild quail." Of course, that could be just another of Dick Cheney's numerous lies, one he constructed so as to avoid the same sort of mild criticism he has received in the past for his participation in what amount to turkey shoots.

Here's yet another curious fact: according to all reports, Whittington was purportedly wearing hunting gear at the time of the shooting. But it's difficult to believe that he actually was. According to Cheney, Whittington "was wearing hunting glasses, and that protected his eyes." But during Whittington's brief media appearance, it certainly appeared as though his right eye had sustained damage from the shot. Reports also hold that Whittington was wearing a blaze orange hunting vest over three layers of street clothes. But it is difficult to believe that #7½ birdshot fired from a 28-gauge gun could penetrate four layers of clothing and still plow through a considerable amount of skin, muscle and various other bodily tissues, even from a much shorter distance than 30 yards.

It should be noted here that, as shotguns go, a 28-gauge gun is not a particularly powerful weapon. The most popular shotgun sizes, in descending order of magnitude, are 10-gauge, 12-gauge, 16-gauge, 20-gauge, 28-gauge, and 410-gauge. None of these guns - and particularly the smaller caliber weapons, which are typically loaded with lightweight birdshot - are designed for maximum penetration. The intent is not to shred the bird, but to bring it down with a minimal amount of damage to the meat. It is therefore extremely unlikely that a weapon designed to barely penetrate the flesh of a bird could propel birdshot through four layers of clothing and then through the skin, muscle and bone of the human chest wall. It is even more unlikely that a piece of shot could 'migrate' through the chest wall and into the heart muscle. A reasonable conclusion to draw then is that Whittington was probably not attired as reports would have us believe.

So what do we have here? We have Harry Whittington supposedly being shot while returning from performing a duty that is entirely incompatible with this aristocratic group's hunting philosophy, we have a shot pattern that is wholly incompatible with both the alleged shooting distance and the type of shot that was supposedly being taken (a wing shot), we have a shooting angle that appears to contradict the notion that Cheney was shooting at a bird, we have a hunting party having phenomenal luck despite being out late in the day and late in the season, and we have a shooting victim who was likely attired in some manner other than what has been reported.

Most of the questions surrounding the shooting would have been answered had a routine investigation taken place. We would know, for example, the exact distance between shooter and victim. Had the gun and ammunition been taken into custody, ballistics tests could have been performed that could pinpoint that distance through comparisons of test patterns with the actual shot pattern imprinted on Whittington's torso. And we know that taking such actions is standard procedure -- and we know that because the Hunting Accident Report Form advises officers quite explicitly on how to proceed with a hunting incident investigation:

If possible, firearms, archery tackle, ammunition/powder or other equipment involved in a hunting accident/incident should be taken into the custody of the investigating officer for testing and/or evaluation.

Needless to say, that did not happen, so we do not know the precise distance from which the shot was fired. We know that "Whittington was hit with as many as 200 birdshot pellets." (Nedra Pickler "Experts: Cheney Violated Cardinal Rule of Hunting," Charlotte Observer, February 14, 2006) Doctors who tended to Whittington steadfastly avoided discussing the number of pellet wounds, though they did ultimately offer a ludicrously vague estimate of "between 5 and 200," leading many to conclude that the actual number was far closer to 200 than to 5.

We also know that a 28-gauge shell loaded with the size birdshot that Cheney was using "would normally contain about 260 pellets." (Ian Urbina "Cheney Account Questioned," International Herald Tribune, February 16, 2006) And we know, from the diagram included in the Accident Report, that roughly 200 of those birdshot pellets were tightly clustered within a fairly small, roughly circular area -- with one portion of the circle missing, from which we can deduce that the 25% or so of the pellets that missed their target likely passed over Whittington's right shoulder (though the illustration in the accident report erroneously shows the injuries on his left side).

We also know, from this photo and others, that Cheney appears to favor a shotgun with a fairly short barrel -- and likely with an open choke as well (the more open the choke, the larger the diameter at the end of the barrel). And we know that the shorter the barrel, and the more open the choke, the more quickly the shot will scatter after exiting the barrel.

From all this we reach the inescapable conclusion that the shot that hit Harry Whittington was fired from considerably less than 30 yards. We cannot pinpoint the exact distance, but we know that it wasn't even close to the official claim. Alex Jones (who is not one of my preferred sources of information) has conducted a test that he claims proves the shot was fired from 15-18 feet away. Such a claim, however, overstates the conclusions that can be drawn from his test. Ideally, the test should utilize the very same gun and ammunition that Cheney was using -- or at least the exact same make and model of weapon, outfitted with a barrel of the same length and choke, and loaded with ammunition from the same manufacturer and with the same load and shot characteristics. Also, photographic or other evidence of the true extent of Whittington's wounds is required so that the shot pattern that the test is trying to match can first be ascertained.

Despite the problems with the test (and in fairness to Jones, there is obviously no way that he could have satisfied the second condition, since no such evidence has been, or ever will be, released), it does illustrate, rather convincingly, that it is inconceivable that any 28-gauge shotgun firing #7½ birdshot from anywhere near 30 yards away could have caused Harry Whittington's wounds. Both the concentration of pellets, and the depth of penetration, testify to the fact that the shot was fired from a much shorter distance.

Another hard and fast conclusion we can draw from the available evidence is that, contrary to media reports and White House spin, hunting 'accidents' of this nature are virtually unheard of. According to the graphic to the right (provided by Time Magazine), there were only 850 hunting accidents throughout the country in 2002, and only 26 of those - a mere 3% - involved quail hunters. So we know that quail hunting accidents, in general, are quite rare. And this was no run-of-the-mill quail hunting accident. The Charlotte Observer has claimed that "hunting accidents like Cheney's happened 34 times last year" in the state of Wisconsin. (Robert Imrie "Hunting Accidents Like Cheney's Happened 34 Times Last Year," Charlotte Observer, February13, 2006) The title of the Observer article, however, is very misleading, for the truth is that it is extremely unlikely that there were any hunting accidents "like Cheney's" last year in Wisconsin -- or in any of the other 49 states.

Of the three representative examples of "accidents like Cheney's" cited by the Observer, none bears the slightest resemblance to Cheney's incident. James Manzke, for example, was hit in the hand with "one pellet that traveled 3 inches into the meaty part of his hand," while Gregory Horton "was wounded in the hand, arm, nose and head from eight 12-gauge shotgun pellets while pheasant hunting," and Joe Crosby "struck his father in the head, neck, chest and shoulder" with 15 pellets. These are the types of accidents that, while statistically not nearly as common as the White House spin team would have us believe, could reasonably be expected to occur from time to time. But there is, alas, an enormous difference between getting sprayed with a few pieces of stray shot, and getting blasted in the face and chest from short range with nearly a full load of shot. That type of 'accident,' we can safely conclude, is an exceptionally rare event, enough so that should such an 'accident' occur, it would, under virtually any other conceivable circumstances, certainly be looked upon by law enforcement officials as a probable crime.

In this case, however, authorities didn't even bother to pretend that they had any intention of investigating the incident, as a quick read through the two-page Texas Parks and Wildlife Report readily reveals. Instructions to investigating officers included right on the form were willfully ignored. The weapon and ammunition, as previously noted, were not seized for examination and testing. A recommendation that "a copy of local law enforcement/hospital report" be attached to the form was likewise ignored. Other attachments are curiously absent as well, including a "Shooter's Statement," "a "Victim's Statement," and "Witness' Statements." Instead, all we find is a very brief summary of the incident that is simply a rote repetition of the official cover story. That story was supplied by the one and only witness listed on the form - Katharine Armstrong of Armstrong, Texas.

The shooter, Richard B. Cheney, was obviously a witness to the event as well, but it appears quite likely that he was not actually interviewed. In the brief section of the report reserved for information about the shooter, "Years hunting experience" is left blank and "Hunter Education Certified?" is marked "Unknown," although such mundane information could have been quickly and easily gathered had the shooter actually been even briefly questioned.

The Kenedy County Sheriff's Department also made no effort to actually investigate the shooting. And the department seemed to have a little trouble keeping its story straight initially, offering varying versions of the initial law enforcement response to the shooting. Sheriff Ramon Salinas III first told the New York Times that his deputy had questioned Cheney Saturday night, not long after the shooting. But other reports held that a deputy responding to reports of the shooting had in fact been turned away at the gates of the property (I wasn't even aware that I apparently have the option of turning away investigating officers should a shooting ever occur on my property. Is the LAPD aware of this?)

Secret Service agents later claimed that they had promptly notified the sheriff of the shooting, and had, at that time, arranged an interview with Cheney for Sunday morning. Salinas then quickly changed his story and claimed that he had made the decision not to send a deputy on Saturday night. But on February 14, the Washington Post reported the following: "Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren said at least one deputy was turned away shortly after the shooting because security personnel at the ranch were not aware of the agreement between the sheriff and the Secret Service." That statement, it should be noted, was more than a little bizarre, given that the turning away of law enforcement personnel only makes sense if the "security personnel" were aware of the supposed agreement and had relayed that information to the investigating officer.

The next day, Zahren added a few more modifications to the story, telling the New York Times that "some local police officers had heard about the shooting on a scanner when an ambulance was sent to pick up Mr. Whittington. They showed up at the ranch unsolicited. Private guards, not Secret Service agents, Mr. Zahren said, turned the police away because they did not know anything had occurred." So now it was private security guards turning away police officers, rather than Secret Service agents turning away sheriff's deputies, with the added caveat that the officers learned of the shooting independently when an ambulance was dispatched. That's a nice story, I suppose, except for the fact that Cheney has claimed that the hunting party didn't need to call an ambulance, since they already "had an ambulance at the ranch, because one follows me around wherever I go." And then, of course, there is the decidedly dubious claim that real cops would defer to the authority of rent-a-cops.

Sheriff Salinas' final report on the incident, issued on February 15, offered yet another version of events:

On February 11, 2006 at approximately 5:30 p.m., I, Ramon Salinas, III, and Sheriff of Kenedy County received a telephone call at my home from Captain Charles Kirk in reference to a possible hunting accident that had occurred at the Armstrong Ranch. Captain Kirk stated that he was on his way to the Armstrong gate to get more information.

About 8 to 10 minutes later, I received another call from a United States Secret Service Agent; I believe his name was Martinez. He said the purpose of the call was to officially notify the Kenedy County Sheriff's Office of a hunting accident that had just occurred on the Armstrong Ranch and that it involved Vice-President Cheney.

After I hung up, Captain Kirk called me back and said that he'd made contact with a Border Patrol agent at the Armstrong gate and that the Agent told him that he didn't know anything about the accident. I then told Captain Kirk that it was fine and that I would contact someone on the Ranch.

After speaking with Captain Kirk I contacted Constable Ramiro Medellin Jr., former Sheriff of Kenedy County and asked him if he had any information about the accident. Constable Medellin stated that he would call me right back.

Constable Medellin returned my call and said, "This in fact is an accident." He stated that he had spoken with some of the people in the hunting party who were eyewitnesses and that they all said it was definitely a hunting accident. I also spoke with another eyewitness and he said the same thing, that it was an accident.

After hearing the same information from eyewitnesses and Constable Medellin, it was at this time that I decided to send my Chief Deputy first thing Sunday morning to interview the Vice-President and other witnesses.

A few minutes later, I received another call from the Secret Service asking if I was going to send someone to the Ranch. I told him that someone would be there first thing in the morning. The Secret Service said they would be at the gate waiting.

At approximately 6:15 p.m. I contacted Chief Deputy San Miguel and advised him of the incident and to be at the gate at approximately 8:00 a.m.

There is certainly no shortage of irregularities in the sheriff's brief, poorly written report. First of all, we now find that Salinas was first informed of the shooting - and I couldn't make this stuff up if I wanted to, folks - by Captain Kirk. And the phone call from Kirk to Salinas came in at 5:30 p.m., which just happens to be the exact time that Whittington was shot, according to all official accounts. So what happened was that Whittington was shot, his wounds were tended to at the scene, an ambulance was summoned (even though there was already one there), which Captain Kirk picked up on via a scanner, after which he headed out towards the ranch while phoning Salinas. And all of that happened, of course, instantaneously, so that Salinas actually knew about the shooting the very second that the shot was fired.

By 5:40 p.m., just ten minutes after the shot was fired, a Secret Service agent had already contacted Salinas to again inform him of the shooting, but Salinas didn't bother to note the agent's name, because when someone calls to report a shooting involving the Vice-President of the United States, it's not really important to make a note of who that person is.

Immediately after that call, Captain Kirk called back to say that he had arrived at the Armstrong gate, where he encountered not a Secret Service agent, and not a private security officer, but rather a Border Patrol agent, who was, I'm guessing, patrolling the borders of the Armstrong Ranch. That agent did not, however, turn Captain Kirk away, as previously reported. Instead, Kirk was called off by Sheriff Salinas, who then called Constable Medellin to see if he just happened to have any information on a shooting that had taken place just minutes before.

Constable Medellin then promptly called back to confidently inform Salinas that "This in fact is an accident," even though nobody that I've ever known actually talks like that, and even though Constable Medellin couldn't possibly have known the details of the shooting less than half an hour after it had taken place. Nevertheless, he boldly claimed to have spoken to multiple eyewitnesses, and Salinas added that he had also spoken to an eyewitness, though none of these alleged witnesses are named, undoubtedly because they don't actually exist.

By 6:15 p.m., just 45 minutes after the shot was fired - and while the hunting party was still focused on tending to Whittington, according to Cheney's account, and not yet concerned with notifying authorities or the media - both the Sheriff and the Constable had spoken to multiple witnesses and were satisfied that this was nothing more than a routine hunting accident. And they had, remarkably enough, talked to all those witnesses a full 45 minutes before the hunting party had even made it back to the house! That, I have to say, is some pretty impressive police work.
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Editorial: Cheney's Got a Gun: Part 3

March 10, 2006
Dave McGowan
Center for an Informed America
According to the report filed by Gilberto San Miguel Jr., the sheriff's deputy who allegedly questioned Cheney the day after the incident, potential witnesses to the shooting included: Richard Cheney, the current Vice-President of the United States; Pamela Pitzer Willeford, the current US ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein; Harry Whittington, a wealthy Texas attorney and Republican Party operative; Katharine Armstrong, the hunting party's hostess and the daughter of the owner of the ranch; Sarita Armstrong Hixon, some random member of the Armstrong family; Michael Andrew "Bo" Hubert, the hunting guide; and Oscar and Gerardo "Jerry" Medellin, the outriders.

Curiously, there is no mention in the deputy's report of the Secret Service agents or the medical personnel who accompanied the hunting party, though they obviously were all potential witnesses as well. And even more curiously, no report on the incident has been released by the Secret Service, though you would think that they would weigh in on a shooting involving the Vice-President that occurred on their watch.

It's hard not to notice, by the way, that two alleged members of the hunting party just happen to have the same last name as the police constable who determined in record time that "this in fact is an accident." Small world, isn't it? It's also hard not to notice that the name of another member of the party contains the names of two of the handful of towns that make up Kenedy County, Texas: Armstrong and Sarita. One wonders if Kenedy County is little more than the Armstrong family's private fiefdom. Perhaps this is a good time to take a quick look at some Armstrong family history.

The 50,000-acre Armstrong Ranch was established by John Barclay Armstrong, great-grandfather of star witness Katharine Armstrong. As Wikipedia tells it, "Armstrong was born in Tennessee, and moved to Texas in 1871. After a short experience as a lawman, in 1875 he joined the Special Force under Captain Leander H. McNelly, a newly created quasi-military branch of the Texas Rangers that was to operate in southern Texas. His role as McNelly's second in command and right hand earned him the promotion to sergeant and the nickname 'McNelly's Bulldog.'"

The Handbook of Texas Online provides some additional context to the story: "American settlement in the region [that was to become Kenedy County] was slow but increased after the Mexican War. New settlers were generally welcomed by the Mexican rancheros, and a number of the newcomers married into prominent local families. Ethnic relations began to change during the second half of the nineteenth century, however, when steadily growing numbers of Anglo-Americans began to settle in South Texas. Increasingly, Mexican landholding families found their titles in jeopardy in the courts or were subjected to violence. The so-called 'skinning wars' of the early 1870s were indicative of mounting ethnic and racial tensions in the area. Because of rising prices for hides and the large number of mavericks, or free-ranging cattle, some ranchers went on skinning raids, killing the animals and taking their hides, a practice that often pitted Mexican and Anglo ranchers against each other. Tensions grew in 1875 after a group of Anglos attacked several ranches in the future Kenedy County in retaliation for raids made by Mexican ranchers. Vigilantes and outlaws from Corpus Christi raided the area, killing virtually all of the adult males on four ranches-La Atravesada, El Peñascal, Corral de Piedra, and El Mesquite-and burning the stores and buildings; many of the remaining Mexican rancheros were forced out."

Elsewhere in the Handbook, we find that "in 1874 the state Democrats returned to power, and so did the rangers. Texas was 'overrun with bad men,' with Indians ravaging the western frontier, with Mexican bandits pillaging and murdering along the Rio Grande. The legislature authorized two unique military groups to meet this emergency. The first was the Special Force of Rangers under Capt. Leander H. McNelly. In 1874 he and his men helped curb lawlessness engendered by the deadly Sutton-Taylor Feud in Dewitt County. In the spring of 1875 they moved into the Nueces Strip (between Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande) to combat Cortina's 'favorite bravos.' After eight months of fighting, the rangers had largely restored order, if not peace, in the area. In 1875 the Special Force enhanced its fearful reputation by stacking twelve dead rustlers 'like cordwood' in the Brownsville square as a lethal response to the death of one ranger." (http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/TT/met4.html)

(Before moving on, a quick clarification is in order here: when The Handbook of Texas Online says that Indians were "ravaging the western frontier" and Mexicans were "pillaging and murdering along the Rio Grande," what they really mean, in a politically correct sort of way, is that indigenous peoples were doing their best to defend their land and their way of life from brutal and barbaric foreign invaders, much as the people of Iraq are trying to do today.)

Julian Borger, writing for the Guardian, informs us that "the Armstrong Ranch ... [was] founded in 1877 by John Barclay Armstrong." Borger adds that Tobin Armstrong, Katharine's recently deceased father, "helped get Cheney his job running the oil services company, Halliburton, and his backing ensured Karl Rove's fledgling political consultancy became a success." Other sources, it should be noted, claim that the Armstrong Ranch was established in 1881 or 1882. My guess is that the land was acquired in 1877 and the ranch was built on that land a few years later.

Let's briefly review what we have learned here thus far. In 1875, John Barclay Armstrong joined a Special Forces unit of the Texas Rangers (which was itself formed as something of a Special Forces unit, tasked with 'protecting' the Western frontier from 'marauding' Mexicans and Native Americans). Armstrong's unit proved to be a particularly brutal one, engaging in psy-war tactics such as building gruesome displays of dead bodies (can you say Phoenix Program?). In the spring of 1875, the unit was operating in the Nueces Strip, which just happens to be where Kenedy County is now located. That very same year, a group of unnamed Anglo terrorists laid waste to what would become Kenedy County, wantonly slaughtering the native residents and destroying their homes. Just two years later, John Barclay Armstrong took possession of a 50,000-acre chunk of that very same bloodstained plot of land.

Now, I'm not suggesting here that the Armstrong land was acquired through an act of mass murder ... well, actually, if we're to be perfectly honest, that is exactly what I am suggesting. There isn't likely to be any documentation in the official record to prove that the "vigilantes and outlaws from Corpus Christi" were in fact elements of John Armstrong's Special Forces unit, but the pieces of the puzzle certainly seem to fit together nicely.

Armstrong was certainly no stranger to the ways of the gun. During his checkered law enforcement career, he killed or assisted in the killing of at least a half dozen men, and probably considerably more. His biggest claim to fame was the capture of the nearly mythical figure of John Wesley Hardin in 1877, for which he reportedly received a $4,000 reward, a considerable bounty in those days. It was with that money that he reportedly built the Armstrong Ranch.
(http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/AA/far10_print.html and John Cloud "Inside the Shooting at the Ranch," Time Magazine, February 27, 2006)

Who John Wesley Hardin really was is difficult to determine, though we do know that he was also no stranger to the ways of the gun. As with other Western 'outlaws,' the true story of Hardin undoubtedly bears little resemblance to the grandiose legend. The fact that there was more to the Hardin story than what is revealed in the fictionalized accounts that pass for history was strongly hinted at when Hardin, credited with some 30-40 murders, including the killing of numerous soldiers and law enforcement officers, was ultimately pardoned and released from prison, after which he promptly was admitted to the bar and magically transformed himself into a successful attorney. But here, alas, I have digressed.
(http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/HH/fha63_print.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Wesley_Hardin)

Returning to The Handbook of Texas Online, we find that "most of the land [in Kenedy County] still remains in the hands of the Armstrong, King, Kenedy, and Yturria interests." Reading on, we find that these four families are closely interwoven through marriages and business partnerships. The King Ranch was "founded in 1847 by Mifflin Kenedy and his partner Richard King, who acquired their vast holdings by both legal and questionable means. In the early 1880s, for example, Kenedy reportedly fenced in a lake that by tradition belonged to Doña Euliana Tijerina of the La Atravesada grant. To enforce their rule the Kings often called on the Texas Rangers, whom locals sometimes referred to as los rinches de la Kineña - the King Ranch Texas Rangers. Commenting on such practices, an anonymous newspaper article in 1878 averred that it was not unusual for King's neighbors 'to mysteriously disappear whilst his territory extends over entire counties.'" (http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/KK/hck4_print.html)

So we see that the Kenedy and King families have been business partners for more than a century and a half. And so it is with the Yturria family as well: "Mexican-born Don Francisco Yturria founded the [Yturria] ranch and Brownsville's first private bank in the mid-Nineteenth Century. A Confederate war profiteer, Francisco Yturria formed a shipping company with several partners, including legendary King Ranch founder Richard King. The company monopolized the region's Civil War trade by registering ships in Yturria's name, sailing under Mexican flags and thereby moving through Union blockades."

In 1944, so as not to feel left out, Katharine Armstrong's uncle (Tobin's brother) "wed an heir of legendary King Ranch, linking two of the biggest ranches in Texas. The Armstrong Ranch has since gone global, with tracts in Australia and South America." (http://www.whitehouseforsale.org/ContributorsAndPaybacks/pioneer_profile.cfm?pioneer_ID=509) Thus we see that the four families that own Kenedy County are essentially just one big, happy family. And one extremely wealthy family. Among the "Armstrong, King, Kenedy, and Yturria interests" is oil; "between 1947 and January 1, 1991, a total of 31,800,494 barrels was produced" from wells in Kenedy County. At today's prices, that's roughly $2 billion worth of oil. Not too shabby. (http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/KK/hck4_print.html)

Some other interesting facts about this most unusual Texas county emerge on a website run by a guy who apparently has an obsession with visiting the highest point of land in each of Texas' 254 counties. Why? I have no idea, but here is a portion of his report on Kenedy County: "Kenedy County is one of those peculiar counties created at the behest of wealthy ranchers (in this case, the King Ranch) so that the county can be run as a sort of fiefdom. About 400 people live in the county, most of them in the little town of Sarita. Only one paved highway enters the county: US-77, which makes a straight shot north-south. Aside from the few roads in Sarita, the entire county is essentially company land, and access is not permitted anywhere without permission. The maps show virtually no realistic road network near the Kenedy highpoint from within Kenedy County ... One other interesting side note: Kenedy County is the only county out of the 254 in Texas not to have any secondary Farm to Market (FM) highways within its boundaries. Somewhere (I forget where) I read that there are only 7 miles of paved road in the entire county, not counting US-77." (http://www.surgent.net/highpoints/tx/txattempts.html)

And now, after that lengthy digression, it is time to return to where we left off with our story. In case you have forgotten, we were discussing the Sheriff Department's official report, as co-authored by Sheriff Ramon Salinas III and Chief Deputy Gilberto San Miguel, Jr.. And when we left off, Deputy San Miguel had just finished identifying for us the members of the alleged hunting party, whom he claims to have deposed, although no such written statements have ever seen the light of day and probably don't actually exist.

There is little information of value in San Miguel's 2½-page "Incident Report." The first page contains an account of his arrival at the ranch, his greeting by Secret Service and Border Patrol agents, his meeting of Dick Cheney, and Cheney's one-paragraph account of the shooting, including the bizarre claim that "Mr. Whittington was standing on ground that was lower than the one he [Cheney] was standing on." (http://www.caller2.com/2006/pdf/kcsr.pdf)

On page two, San Miguel briefly describes the weapon Cheney was using. He then claims that he spoke briefly with Katharine Armstrong, "who told [him] pretty much the same story" as Cheney. San Miguel then parenthetically advises readers to "See her written statement for further details," which is, of course, rather difficult to do since no such statement is actually attached to the report.

San Miguel next describes his visit the following day with the hospitalized victim, Harry Whittington. The deputy claims, rather preposterously, that he "asked Mr. Whittington if we could record our conversation and Mr. Whittington requested not to be recorded due to his voice being raspy. It was then I requested a written affidavit be done and Mr. Whittington gladly agreed to do one as soon as he returned back to his office." There is, needless to say, no indication that such a statement has ever been taken.

According to San Miguel, "Whittington did speak of the incident and explained foremost that there was no alcohol during the hunt and everyone was wearing the proper hunting attire of blaze orange." Before Whittington could discuss how the shooting occurred, however, "a nurse came in the room and asked Lt. [Juan J.] Guzman and I to kind of hurry up so Mr. Whittington could rest. Mr Whittington again reiterated that this incident was just an accident." So Whittington apparently had enough energy to preemptively deny that there was any misconduct involved, but not enough to discuss what actually happened.

On the final page of the report, San Miguel gives a very brief description of his alleged visit to "the area were [sic] the incident occurred." The deputy reveals nothing of significance about the shooting site, offering only that he "was able to understand more how Mr. Cheney and Katharine Armstrong described the area in their statement." There was no need, of course, to take any photographs at the scene or attempt to gather any sort of evidence.

San Miguel ends his report with the claim that he had obtained, or planned to obtain, sworn statements from each of the named witnesses. But as we know, no such statements have ever been released, just as no sworn statements by the shooter and victim have ever been released, no Secret Service report has ever been released, no medical report on the victim's condition upon admission to the hospital has ever been released, and no evidence has ever been gathered and analyzed. There has been no mention by anyone, for example, of what became of Whittington's alleged hunting garb and other clothing, though such items would obviously contain evidence of the shot pattern and the amount of blood shed by the victim.

The report authored by San Miguel, and the supplemental report added by his boss, Salinas, are quite obviously tailored to accomplish several goals: absolve Dick Cheney of any responsibility for the shooting; deny that the Secret Service overstepped its authority by denying an investigating officer access to a potential crime scene; deny that the Sheriff's Department offered preferential treatment to the shooter; downplay the gravity of Whittington's wounds; and, finally, do all that while revealing as little as possible about the actual shooting.

There is little doubt that even if all the witnesses had been questioned, none of them would have deliberately contradicted the official account. In the vernacular of organized crime (which seems appropriate when dealing with members of the Bush Administration), these were all "made men." We know this because we know that only Cheney's most trusted friends and associates can get anywhere near him with a loaded weapon. So it seems a pretty safe bet that none of the alleged witnesses would openly contradict the tall tale told by Cheney and Armstrong. However, the official story is so sketchily defined, and so fundamentally absurd, that it is a given that if it were to be told in sworn statements by multiple parties, those witness accounts would contain numerous obfuscations and unintentional contradictions.

Unfortunately, we don't have access to those statements, which in all likelihood don't even exist. But from what little evidence is available, we can safely conclude that the official story of the shooting incident is yet another web of transparent lies being sold to the American people. Harry Whittington was not shot from 30 yards away and he almost certainly wasn't shagging a downed bird, and Dick Cheney wasn't likely shooting at a bird. Considering that Whittington was shot at fairly close range, and that the shot was apparently centered approximately on his right collarbone, it is inconceivable that Cheney could have thought he was firing at a quail at the time he pulled the trigger.

And yet, strangely enough, it seems safe to assume that Dick Cheney did not intend to shoot Harry Whittington. We know this because if he had intentionally shot Whittington in the face and chest from close range, it is a foregone conclusion that Harry would have never made it to the hospital alive. You just don't normally shoot someone with the intent to kill and then shuttle them off to the hospital to recover and tell their tale. It's considered bad form among criminals of the caliber of Dick Cheney.

So what really did happen at the Armstrong Ranch that day? How are we to explain a shooting that is difficult to interpret as being accidental, and yet doesn't appear to have been intentional, and that has been presented to the American people through a tapestry of obvious lies?

The most prevalent theory that briefly circulated in alternative media circles adds the consumption of alcohol to the equation. And to be sure, there are clear indications that the boys were doing some drinking that day. As with all other aspects of this story, the alcohol question has elicited contradictory answers from the 'witnesses.' Armstrong first claimed that there was no alcohol involved, "zero, zippo," and then later allowed that maybe some members of the party were drinking, but that the drinkers weren't doing the shooting. Cheney was initially said to have not been drinking at all, but he later acknowledged knocking back a beer at lunch, which of course contradicted both of Armstrong's versions of events. References to alcohol consumption mysteriously went missing from posted media reports and interview transcripts. Both the Parks and Wildlife Report and the Sheriff's Department Report proclaim Cheney to have been alcohol free, but he was not even questioned for more than twelve hours after the incident, so he was obviously never tested for drug or alcohol consumption, or even observed for signs of intoxication. And doctors, as previously noted, have refused to release the results of Whittington's blood-alcohol tests.

So was alcohol involved? There is little doubt that it was, possibly along with other intoxicants as well. And it is tempting to conjure up the mental image of a hopelessly drunk Dick Cheney recklessly swinging his shotgun around and blasting poor Harry Whittington in the face ... and then possibly slurring out orders for someone to clean up his mess while he stumbled off in search of more phantom prey. Alternately, some have suggested that Cheney didn't actually shoot Whittington at all, but rather drunkenly dropped his gun, causing it to accidentally discharge.

Both of those are possibilities, I suppose, but I suspect that something darker and more sinister lies beneath this hastily assembled cover-up. If Cheney were inclined to get so drunk on hunting excursions that he could accidentally shoot a partner in the face and chest from close range, then you would think that he might have a bit of trouble finding hunting partners -- as well as guides, hosts, security personnel, and medical attendants. And if he had dropped the gun and it accidentally discharged, wouldn't it have been much easier to just go with that story, rather than cooking up an obviously fraudulent one? Would dropping the gun have cast Cheney in a worse light than spinning around and shooting someone in the face? After all, you don't have to be drunk to drop a gun -- just careless, which is certainly no worse than being reckless.

The fact that "Cheney was drunk" theories got a considerable amount of play on obviously fraudulent 'progressive' websites (Arianna Huffington's blog being a prime example) tends to indicate, to skeptics such as myself, that the alcohol angle is a classic case of a "limited hang-out." (I've probably explained this before, but as a courtesy to new readers, I'll do so once again: within the intelligence community, a "limited hang-out" is a damage-control tactic that basically involves pleading guilty to jaywalking in the hopes that the judge won't notice that you are also a mass murderer.)

So again we must ask: what really happened at the Armstrong Ranch that day? Perhaps what we need to do here in order to answer that question is think 'outside the box.' Perhaps we need to look beyond those aspects of the official story that have been universally accepted as true. Perhaps we need to question the basic premise that this shooting occurred while some gentleman hunters were out on a quail hunting expedition.

I have never quite believed that Dick Cheney has any real interest in hunting quail (and I have an even harder time picturing Karl Rove out on a quail hunt, though he is also said to hunt at the Armstrong Ranch). And though no one seems to have noticed, the official cover story spun by Cheney and Rove tends to strongly indicate that neither of the two knows the first thing about quail hunting. In fact, it would appear that I have learned more about the sport of quail hunting by spending a couple of afternoons on the Internet than Cheney has learned by allegedly spending a lifetime out in the brush.

Let's be honest here: Dick Cheney is a good-ole-boy quail hunter from Wisconsin in the same way that George W. Bush is a good-ole-boy Texas rancher. Like Bush, Richard Cheney was born a blue-blood elite. The media-crafted public persona has no basis in reality; it exists only in the collective mind.

Consider that Cheney and Rove had almost an entire day to craft some sort of credible cover story for the shooting. And they were free to invent virtually any scenario they saw fit to invent, since all the witnesses were going to go along with the charade, and the fully-owned Keystone Cops of Kenedy County were ready to close the case before Whittington had even hit the ground. And yet the Seasoned Hunter, working hand-in-hand with The Great Spinmeister, concocted what has to be about the lamest possible story they could have come up with. And incredibly enough, the pair actually thought that the fable they had constructed completely exonerated Cheney!

In fact, it is safe to say that portraying Cheney as blameless was the primary concern of our two script writers. And yet the story they produced, after mulling it over for quite some time, failed miserably in achieving that goal. The most likely reason for that failure is that the dynamic duo have virtually no knowledge of safe, time-honored hunting practices.

But if the party wasn't out on a quail hunt, then what were they doing that day, and how did Whittington end up with a chest full of birdshot? The best we can do is take an educated guess based on the following, which are the most reasonable conclusions that can be drawn from the available evidence.
The scenario that best fits these facts, although it is an entirely speculative one, is that Dick Cheney shot Harry Whittington accidentally when he thought he was taking aim at someone else. As Whittington would have had to be directly involved in the activities being pursued, it was obviously in his best interests to go along with the Cheney/Rove story and discourage anyone from looking too closely at the facts of the case.

And that, my friends, is my best guess as to what occurred on the Armstrong Ranch at approximately 5:30 PM on February 11, 2006. Not that it matters, of course. As Time Magazine opined, "What took place in the hours before and after the shooting is a largely mundane tale that became extraordinary" only because Cheney, for several days, "seemed unwilling to tell it." Of course, there is, as Time acknowledged,"a small and geeky but persistent debate over whether Cheney might have been closer to Whittington than 30 yds., the figure in the sheriff's report." Luckily though, 'real' reporters don't engage in "geeky" debates, so the American people have been spared from exposure to such trivialities.
(John Cloud "Inside the Shooting at the Ranch," Time Magazine, February 27, 2006)

After the passing of just a few short weeks, the shooting incident has become little more than an obscure historical footnote. It may provide fodder for an occasional late night joke, but it hardly merits any serious discussion. There is, however, one final observation that can be made here: if Cheney was destined to have such a hunting 'accident,' he could at least have had the decency to let it happen a couple of years ago, when he was out on an alleged duck hunt with a certain Supreme Court justice. Quack, quack.
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30 US Reps for Bush Impeachment Inquiry - APN Interviews Conyers, Swanson, and Goodman

By Matthew Cardinale, Editor
Atlanta Progressive News
March 10, 2006

ATLANTA – 30 US House Representatives have signed on as sponsors or co-sponsors of H. Res 635, which would create a Select Committee to look into the grounds for recommending President Bush's impeachment, Atlanta Progressive News has learned.

"There has been massive support for House Resolution 635 from a very vigorous network of grassroots activists and people committed to holding the Bush Administration accountable for its widespread abuses of power," US Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) said in a statement prepared for Atlanta Progressive News.
The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) also released a book, Articles of Impeachment Against President Bush. The Center is extremely influential in high-profile court fights over issues such as wiretapping, the treatment of detainees by the US, and felon voting rights.

"We have the book, we are calling for the impeachment of the President, and we're supporting Conyers's resolution," Bill Goodman, CCR Legal Director, told Atlanta Progressive News.

"The fraudulent basis on which the President got us into the war in Iraq; the obvious criminality of the warrantless wiretapping; indefinite detention in violation of the Constitution; torture as a part of indefinite detention and other ways; special rendition and torture, which is the outsourcing of torture... All of these violate various laws of the US, and they also violate his oath office which he swears to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, and he's doing just the opposite, he's undermining the Constitution and attempting to destroy certain parts of it," Goodman said.

Meanwhile, at least eight (8) US cities, including Arcata, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco, each in California; and Brookfield, Dummerston, Marlboro, Newfane, and Putney, each in Vermont, have passed resolutions calling for Bush's impeachment.

The recent city resolutions in Vermont have directly led to US Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) having signed H. Res 635 on March 09, 2006, David Swanson, 36, Washington DC Director of ImpeachPAC, asserted in an interview with Atlanta Progressive News.

"One of the big stories here is the town resolutions helped someone sign on the resolution that could move us in the direction of impeachment. Even though getting your city or town to pass a resolution doesn't legally force the house to impeach, it can compel your congress member to get on board," Swanson said.

Sanders's Office did not provide a statement about his co-sponsoring H. Res 635, prior to deadline, and referred this writer to an official statement on Sanders's website.

"I can very well understand why the citizens of Newfane, Putney, Dummerston, Marlboro, and Brookfield voted yesterday to support the impeachment of President Bush and ask me, as Vermont's Congressman, to introduce those articles. It is my view that President Bush's Administration has been a disaster for our country, and a number of actions that he has taken may very well have been illegal," Sanders said. Sanders, the only Independent, or non-Democrat, currently co-sponsoring H. Res 635, is current for US Senate to replace retiring US Senator Jim Jefforts (I-VT).

However, Sanders stopped short of saying he would introduce outright articles of impeachment, saying citizens should focus on getting Republicans out of power in the 2006 election if they want to end Bush's disastrousness. Signing H. Res 635 indicates Sanders's support for a more exploratory investigation.

Mr. Swanson, along with Bob Fertik of Democrats.com, have been perhaps the most prominent citizen activists on this issue. ImpeachPAC was featured in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week. "Bob has been pushing for impeachment since Gore won the election. This is Bob's moment now after five years," Swanson said.

US Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) was the other latest member of US Congress to sign on to the bill. Capuano's Office did not immediately return calls from Atlanta Progressive News.

Over 14% of US House Democrats now support the impeachment probe; almost 7% of all US House Representatives now support the probe. In December 2005, there were 231 Republicans in the US House, 202 Democrats, 1 Independent, and 1 vacancy, a clerk for the US House of Representatives told Atlanta Progressive News.

The best represented states on H. Res 635 are California (7), New York (6), Massachusetts (3), Georgia (2), Minnesota (2), and Wisconsin (2).

The current 30 total co-sponsors are Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-HI), Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA), Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA), Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA), Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA), Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Rep. James Oberstar (D-MN), Rep. John Olver (D-MA), Rep. Major Owens (D-NY), Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), Rep. Martin Sabo (D-MN), Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Rep. Fortney Pete Stark (D-CA), Rep. John Tierney (D-MA), Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), and Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).

"I have a Citizen Co-sponsorship page on my website, http://johnconyers.com, where over 42,000 people have added their names to the 30 Members of Congress calling for the creation of a special committee to investigate possible impeachable offenses. My website also has a form for people to write a letter-to-the-editor for their local newspaper. It is grassroots activity like this, and the efforts of thousands of others, that has led to greater awareness of and support for my resolution," Rep. Conyers told Atlanta Progressive News.

"What a lot of activists group want is the next step, which is Articles of Impeachment. You don't have to pass this type of bill first. I think there's a fair chance that if the list of co-sponsors grows dramatically, Conyers and others will take that next step of introducing articles of impeachment," Swanson said.

At least two members of Congress are prepared to sign such a bill if it were to be introduced, sources tell Atlanta Progressive News. One of them is US Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), whose office clarified earlier Associated Press reports, by saying Lewis would indeed sign such a bill, assuming that any bill of impeachment would of course be introduced as a result of a thorough process, such as one including the investigation called for in H. Res 635.

Shocking allegations appeared in The Baltimore Chronicle today. Dave Lindorff writes that he and Barbara Olshansky (also an attorney at CCR) will reveal in an upcoming book that "members of Congress–even firebrands like Maxine Waters (D-CA) and Cynthia McKinney (D-GA)–have been strong-armed behind the scenes by the Democratic National Committee not to introduce an impeachment bill in the House."

Conyers's bill was initially referred to the US House Rules Committee, which has not taken action. None of the US House Democrats on the Rules Committee have signed on as co-sponsors. The Ranking Democrat on the Committee is US Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY). Democratic members of the Committee are Alcee Hastings (D-FL), Doris Matsui (D-CA), and James McGovern (D-MA). Republicans currently outnumber Democrats on the committee by about a two-to-one ratio.

The US House Rules Committee would need to take action on H. Res 635 because it calls for the creation of a Select Committee, in other words the creation of a new committee that is not a standing committee, Jonathan Godfrey, Communications Director for US Rep. Conyers, told Atlanta Progressive News. Such a Committee would need to be staffed, Godfrey noted.

If the Democratic Party is able to retake the US House of Representatives, Rep. Conyers would become Chairman Conyers of the House Judiciary Committee, whereas he is currently the Ranking Democrat on the Committee. The Judiciary Committee would oversee any actual impeachment investigation.

If not acted on this session, the bill would have to be reintroduced next session. It is possible that a new bill could include new language regarding Bush's approval of illegal NSA domestic wiretapping.

For now, however, sources in Washington DC tell Atlanta Progressive News that H. Res 635 is a venue for coalition among members of Congress who are willing to consider impeachment for a variety of reasons.

Even though H. Res 635 does not specifically reference the NSA domestic wiretapping issue, some Members of US Congress have found the wiretapping issue to be a compelling reason to sign on as a co-sponsor, sources say.

In other words, why introduce separate legislation to address a single issue when momentum has been built with H. Res 635?

The thing about H. Res. 635 is, it deals with impeaching Bush over a cluster of issues from misleading the public to go to war, to authorizing torture. Wiretapping was not listed as one of the reasons to investigate the grounds for Bush's impeachment in the bill because the existence of the secret, illegal wiretapping had not come to light yet when the bill was being prepared.

US Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) withdrew her name from H. Res 635 last month, whereas she had been listed as a cosponsor throughout January 2006. Lofgren cited a clerical error for her name having been listed in the first place. Lofgren's Office told Atlanta Progressive News the Representative learned of her being listed as a co-sponsor after reading an exclusive article by Atlanta Progressive News issued January 01, 2006.

H. Res 635 reads as its official title: "Creating a select committee to investigate the Administration's intent to go to war before congressional authorization, manipulation of pre-war intelligence, encouraging and countenancing torture, retaliating against critics, and to make recommendations regarding grounds for possible impeachment."

Atlanta Progressive News has provided near-exclusive–and during most times, exclusive–coverage of the progress of H. Res 635. We will continue to follow this story and any related developments.


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About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the Editor and National Correspondent of Atlanta Progressive News. He may be reached at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com

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Soldiers Back From Iraq, Unable to Get Help They Need

ABC News

DONNA, Texas, March 9, 2006 - Eugene Simpson doesn't like to complain. Paralyzed in a bomb attack in Iraq, his initial care was excellent, but ever since then he has felt adrift.

"There are thousands of soldiers in worse condition than I am, and they're OK," he said. "They're making it."

Getting to the nearest Veterans Administration hospital that can best treat his paralysis means a three-hour roundtrip, and the VA isn't paying for therapists closer to home. So he does without.
The numbers of war veterans enrolled in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has continued to grow, and many feel the strain.

"I want to excel and advance and get stronger," said Simpson. "But at the same time, I don't want to pull a muscle or do the wrong exercise that can hurt a certain part of my body, because then I'll be helpless."

In Texas, a group of veterans staged a protest march covering the distance to the nearest VA hospital: 250 miles.

"[It takes] four-and-a-half to five hours .. one way," said Vietnam War vet Polo Uriesti.

Uriesti said his father, a veteran of World War II, suffers a greater hardship. But he said the headaches and flashbacks of post-traumatic stress still flare up without warning.

"I just … it chokes me up," said Uriesti.

The VA acknowledged some veterans suffer those problems but said most do not.

"Last year, 97 percent of veterans who came to us for a primary care appointment got that appointment within 30 days, and 95 percent of those who came for an acute care appointment got it within 30 days," said R. James Nicholson, secretary of Veterans Affairs.

Audit: VA Fudged Reports

But an inspector general's audit found real problems with the way the VA has come up with those numbers. The audit found that some VA staff, feeling "pressured," actually fudged the numbers, and error rates were as high as 61 percent.

In Atlanta, one veteran who the VA said got an appointment within a week actually waited nearly a year.

Another veteran in Boston who reported seeing a VA doctor within hours actually waited 472 days.

The VA said it has been steadily improving the system, but many veterans' groups worry the situation will only get worse as new Iraq veterans keep pouring in.

"The numbers are simply going to overwhelm them, and they are not going to have the proper funds to deal with these folks on a long-term, chronic basis," said David Gorman of the advocacy group Disabled American Veterans.

Uriesti worries what his two sons, set to serve again in Iraq, may face if they need care, given the gaps in the VA system so many veterans now face.

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Join The ExxonMobil War Boycott - Buy Citgo - VOTE WITH YOUR DOLLARS

Consumers for Peace

ExxonMobil has been selected for boycott because of its apparent active involvement in U.S. policy in the Middle East in general and Iraq in particular, and its power to help change these policies.

Campbell Soup, Carlson Companies (Radisson Hotels, TGI Friday's), Corning Inc., Metlife, Novartis, Pfizer, Verizon, Wells Fargo and Wyeth are also selected for boycott because these firms can influence ExxonMobil through board members they share in common with ExxonMobil.
When governments and/or corporations perpetrate gross injustice and war - or do nothing to stop it - we, the people, must take action to end the violence and exploitation.

Through the power of information and boycott, Consumers For Peace offers you a non-violent way, every day, to act on behalf of justice and peace. Our focus is the Iraq War.

We propose a boycott of ExxonMobil Corporation products and the products and services of nine firms that are in a position to influence ExxonMobil through its board of directors to achieve these goals:

1. Immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops and mercenaries from Iraq; and reparations for the loss of Iraqi lives and property.

2. Impeachment of George W. Bush; and criminal prosecution of executive branch officials who have lied to congress about the war and/or have commited war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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Bush's Approval Rating Falls to New Low - fewer Americans consider Bush likable, honest, strong and dependable

AP Political Writer
10 Mar 06

More and more people, particularly Republicans, disapprove of President Bush's performance, question his character and no longer consider him a strong leader against terrorism, according to an AP-Ipsos poll documenting one of the bleakest points of his presidency.

Nearly four out of five Americans, including 70 percent of Republicans, believe civil war will break out in Iraq - the bloody hot spot upon which Bush has staked his presidency. Nearly 70 percent of people say the U.S. is on the wrong track, a 6-point jump since February.

"Obviously, it's the winter of our discontent," said Rep. Tom Cole (news, bio, voting record), R-Okla.
Republican Party leaders said the survey explains why GOP lawmakers are rushing to distance themselves from Bush on a range of issues - port security, immigration, spending, warrantless eavesdropping and trade, for example.

The positioning is most intense among Republicans facing election in November and those considering 2008 presidential campaigns.

"You're in the position of this cycle now that is difficult anyway. In second term off-year elections, there gets to be a familiarity factor," said Sen. Sam Brownback (news, bio, voting record), R-Kan., a potential presidential candidate.

"People have seen and heard (Bush's) ideas long enough and that enters into their thinking. People are kind of, `Well, I wonder what other people can do,'" he said.

The poll suggests that most Americans wonder whether Bush is up to the job. The survey, conducted Monday through Wednesday of 1,000 people, found that just 37 percent approve of his overall performance. That is the lowest of his presidency.

Bush's job approval among Republicans plummeted from 82 percent in February to 74 percent, a dangerous sign in a midterm election year when parties rely on enthusiasm from their most loyal voters. The biggest losses were among white males.

On issues, Bush's approval rating declined from 39 percent to 36 percent for his handling of domestic affairs and from 47 percent to 43 percent on foreign policy and terrorism. His approval ratings for dealing with the economy and Iraq held steady, but still hovered around 40 percent.

Personally, far fewer Americans consider Bush likable, honest, strong and dependable than they did just after his re-election campaign.

By comparison, Presidents Clinton and Reagan had public approval in the mid 60s at this stage of their second terms in office, while Eisenhower was close to 60 percent, according to Gallup polls. Nixon, who was increasingly tangled up in the Watergate scandal, was in the high 20s in early 1974.

The AP-Ipsos poll, which has a margin of error of 3 percentage points, gives Republicans reason to worry that they may inherit Bush's political woes. Two-thirds of the public disapproves of how the GOP-led Congress is handling its job and a surprising 53 percent of Republicans give Congress poor marks.

By a 47-36 margin, people favor Democrats over Republicans when they are asked who should control Congress.

While the gap worries Republicans, it does not automatically translate into GOP defeats in November, when voters will face a choice between local candidates rather than considering Congress as a whole.

In addition, strategists in both parties agree that a divided and undisciplined Democratic Party has failed to seize full advantage of Republican troubles.

"While I don't dispute the fact that we have challenges in the current environment politically, I also believe 2006 as a choice election offers Republicans an opportunity if we make sure the election is framed in a way that will keep our majorities in the House and the Senate," said Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Stung by criticism, senior officials at the White House and the RNC are reminding GOP members of Congress that Bush's approval ratings may be low, but theirs is lower and have declined at the same pace as Bush's. The message to GOP lawmakers is that criticizing the president weakens him - and them - politically.

"When issue like the internal Republican debate over the ports dominates the news it puts us another day away from all of us figuring out what policies we need to win," said Terry Nelson, a Republican consultant and political director for Bush's re-election campaign in 2004.

Bowing to ferocious opposition in Congress, a Dubai-owned company on Thursday abandoned its quest to take over operations at several U.S. ports. Bush had pledged to veto any attempt to block the transaction, pitting him against Republicans in Congress and most voters.

All this has Republican voters like Walter Wright of Fairfax Station, Va., worried for their party.

"We've gotten so carried away I wouldn't be surprised to see the Democrats take it because of discontent," he said. "People vote for change and hope for the best."

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Americans take their ringside seats for the great conservative crack-up

Gerard Baker
The Times
10 Mar 06

Nothing loosens the ties of loyalty like the prospect of losing power. After a brief and tepid recovery at the start of the year, President Bush's approval ratings are back in the 30s. Almost two thirds of Americans think their country is on the wrong track. Republicans in Congress are about as popular as Asian ducks on a chicken farm.
RONALD REAGAN'S Eleventh Commandment famously ordered his party: Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.

For ambitious and bitchy politicians, it was always a demanding precept and in practice they have obeyed it about as assiduously as they've kept the seventh (or for that matter the sixth) of the decalogue of Moses. But the great unwieldy and shifting coalition of the Republican Party has somehow managed to hold itself together rather better than the infamously feuding Democrats, whose favourite form of assembly has long been the circular firing squad.

Not any more. Republicans are falling out among themselves like the starving Israelites in the desert. The political din in Washington is dominated by members of the ruling party shouting at each other. Just this week you could have heard it across town everywhere Republicans were gathered. At the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank, was Bruce Bartlett, a dyed-in-the-wool conservative, explaining to a large and sympathetic audience why his criticism of President Bush's economic policies had led him to be fired from a conservative research institute. In the pages of conservative journals a furious fight among neoconservatives was sparked by the apostasy of Francis Fukuyama. In a new book, the man who declared the End of History has denounced the Iraq war and his erstwhile neocon friends who supported it.

And up on Capitol Hill the loudest noise of all came from Republican members of Congress rushing to distance themselves from President Bush. They ignored Mr Bush's pleas not to reject the transfer of half a dozen US ports to a company owned by the Dubai Government and in the process sent warning that they have passed the point where loyalty to the President was compatible with their own electoral success.

These skirmishes are part of a broader war now raging within the Republican Party. In its ferocity this internecine strife is worse than anything seen in Washington since the first Bush Administration ended so disastrously in 1992. Traditional conservatives are bashing neoconservatives; free-market Republicans are attacking big business Republicans; fiscal conservative are furious with big-spending conservatives; national security, America-first Republicans are in open warfare with free-trading, open-immigration Republicans.

The obvious reason is that the party is in a slump in electoral fortunes. Nothing loosens the ties of loyalty like the prospect of losing power. After a brief and tepid recovery at the start of the year, President Bush's approval ratings are back in the 30s. Almost two thirds of Americans think their country is on the wrong track. Republicans in Congress are about as popular as Asian ducks on a chicken farm.

The disparate and proximate causes of the Republican implosion are obvious: Iraq, first and foremost; the continuing slow response to Hurricane Katrina (bewilderingly, most of the money that Congress authorised for reconstruction has still not got anywhere near New Orleans); a growing tide of corruption scandals; and, most recently, the Dubai ports debacle.

A run of events like this would make even the most loyal of partisans feel just a little fractious. But the deeper reason for Republican unease is that linking these apparently unconnected disasters is a common thread: a suggestion that Republicans have lost quite a bit of their soul.

In Congress the party has presided over the biggest increase in the federal government since Lyndon Johnson. The Clinton Administration and previous Democrat-controlled congresses were niggardly by comparison. Doubts about Iraq have set in not just about the conduct of the war but over the very idea behind the effort in the first place. Conservatives who have always harboured deep suspicions about the wisdom of government getting involved in people's lives are scratching their heads as to how they could have signed on to a project that has the US Government trying to remake an entire region of the world.

The corruption scandals also demonstrate how far Republicans have wandered from their faith. Supposedly conservative politicians have grown to enjoy the pleasures of office, and have become even more zealous than the Democrats in protecting them.

If Iraq shows what happens when conservatives go wrong abroad, Katrina illustrates the disasters they can produce at home. Michael Brown, the infamous head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was not the only political hack with no experience of or real interest in government to be put in charge of a vast government bureaucracy. He just happened to be one who was found out. The Dubai ports sale farrago has even undermined the Bush Administration's reputation for keeping the nation secure from external threats.

When it comes to spending money, waging "nation building" wars or responding to natural disasters, putting Republicans in charge of an expanding government is like putting teetotalers in charge of a brewery - you shouldn't really be surprised if things don't work out as you might hope.

The conventional wisdom in Washington as the November mid-term elections approach is that the Republicans are in serious but not catastrophic trouble; that thanks to the vicissitudes of the electoral arithmetic and a Democratic Party that can outdo the Republicans in every category for ineptitude, the expectation is that the party will hold on to its control of congress with a slimmed-down majority.

But that might be even worse news for the Republicans. Holding on to power in Congress by a slim margin for the last two years of an unpopular President's term might just set the stage for a genuine disaster in the much more important presidential and congressional elections of 2008.

To reinvigorate their own fortunes, a growing number of Republicans are secretly hoping the Democrats get a chance to screw things up for a change.


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House votes to dump state food safety laws

Zachary Coile
Chronicle Washington Bureau
March 9, 2006

Washington -- The House approved a bill Wednesday night that would wipe out state laws on safety labeling of food, overriding tough rules passed by California voters two decades ago that require food producers to warn consumers about cancer-causing ingredients.

The vote was a victory for the food industry, which has lobbied for years for national standards for food labeling and contributed millions of dollars to lawmakers' campaigns. But consumer groups and state regulators warned that the bill would undo more than 200 state laws, including California's landmark Proposition 65, that protect public health.
"The purpose of this legislation is to keep the public from knowing about the harm they may be exposed to in food," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Los Angeles, a chief critic of the measure.

Several critics argued that the bill was rushed through the House without complete hearings as a favor to a specific industry -- at the same time that members are talking about the evils of lobbying and proposing stricter ethical rules.

Under the bill, any state that wanted to keep its own tougher standards for food labeling would have to ask for approval from the Food and Drug Administration, which has been criticized by food safety groups as slow to issue consumer warnings.

The measure was approved after a debate in which House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco accused the Republican majority of "shredding the food safety net that we have built in this country."

The measure passed 283 to 139, with the support of many Democrats. The Bay Area's 12 Democratic members opposed the bill, while Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, supported it. The legislation faces a tougher battle in the more evenly divided Senate, and there are signs of growing opposition to the measure.

California's two Democratic senators are threatening to block the bill from coming to the Senate floor. A group of 39 state attorneys general, including many Republicans, has warned of the consequences of the measure. State food and drug regulators and agricultural officials also are urging the Senate to reject the bill.

A major target of the legislation is Prop. 65, which was approved by two-thirds of California voters in 1986 and requires labeling of substances that may cause cancer or birth defects. The law has inspired other states to follow suit with their own rules on food labeling that are more stringent than federal standards.

Critics say the laws have added costs for food manufacturers and distributors, who must comply with different rules in different states. The industry's backers claim the different warning labels confuse consumers.

"There is no reason nor is there any excuse to allow regulatory inconsistency to drive up costs and keep some consumers in the dark on matters that may affect their health," said Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga.

But California officials said the new legislation would reverse the gains made through Prop. 65. Many companies, fearing the warning labels, have changed their food to meet the state's tougher standards. Bottled water companies have cut arsenic levels, and bakers have taken potassium bromate, a potential carcinogen, out of many breads, doughnuts and other bakery goods.

"We've had a lot of success in getting them to reformulate," said California Attorney General Bill Lockyer.

Opponents of the bill complained that it was rushed to the House floor without a public hearing, where state regulators and food safety advocates could have testified against it.

"That is the job of Congress, to hold hearings, to introduce facts, to listen to debate," said Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., who co-sponsored the bill but opposed it on the floor, saying it needed a thorough public debate. "I am wondering right now what the food industry is afraid of. Why are they trying to ram this piece of legislation through the House?"

Critics of the measure also have been frustrated that California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has not taken a position on the bill despite being urged to do so by Waxman and Rep. Mary Bono, R-Palm Springs, early last month.

"Your silence on this legislation is inexplicable," Waxman wrote in a letter to the governor. "It not only rolls back essential existing laws, but it takes away your ability, and the ability of the California Legislature, to respond to future public health issues."

A spokeswoman for the governor said Schwarzenegger may still jump into the debate.

"The office is reviewing it," said spokeswoman Margita Thompson. "Once the determination is made if the governor should weigh in and how, we will."

The vote Wednesday was a sign of the tremendous power of the food industry in Congress. Corporations and trade groups that joined the National Uniformity for Food Coalition, which backed the bill, have contributed more than $3 million to members in the 2005-06 election cycle and $31 million since 1998, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

The industry also has many top lobbyists pushing the bill, including White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card's brother, Brad Card, who represents the Food Products Association.

A leading fundraiser for the bill's chief sponsor, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., has also been lobbying on the bill. Matt Keelen, a Republican consultant whose fundraising firm raised more than $315,000 in political action committee donations for Rogers in 2001, is now a lobbyist for the Grocery Manufacturers of America, which has led the charge for the measure.

"The food industry wants to take the states out of the picture because they can't control them," said Andy Igrejas of the National Environmental Trust, which opposes the bill. "This is how they do it. They make campaign contributions, and they hire people close to members of Congress."

But Rogers denied there was a backroom deal with the food industry. He said supporters of the bill simply believe federal standards work better than state standards on food safety.

"A chicken grown in Louisiana is going to end up on a plate in Michigan. Peas grown in Florida are going to end up in Louisiana," Rogers said. "This is an interstate matter."

The House passed an amendment late Wednesday allowing states, including California, to continue to issue warnings about the heath effects of mercury in fish and shellfish.

But the House defeated an amendment by Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, that would have let states keep laws that warn consumers about exposure to substances that could cause cancer, birth defects, reproductive health problems or allergic reactions associated with sulfites.

The House also rejected a proposal to allow states to label meat that has been treated with carbon monoxide. The gas is used to keep meat looking a healthy red or pink for longer, but consumer groups say it allows stores to sell potentially dangerous meat that has already spoiled.

E-mail Zachary Coile at zcoile@sfchronicle.com.

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'Washington Post' To Cut 80 Newsroom Jobs, Sources Say

By Joe Strupp
March 10, 2006

NEW YORK The Washington Post plans to cut at least 80 newsroom jobs through attrition and buyouts, according to sources at the paper who said editors began giving staffers the bad news on Thursday in meetings and continued today.

"My understanding is that the editors and managing editors brought this up with other issues of downsizing, but with no layoffs," said one source in the metro staff, which got first word of the news in a meeting Thursday. "It looks like through attrition and buyouts."
A source in the national staff said a meeting was held this morning to give them the bad news, with similar gatherings throughout the day. "Eighty through attrition and buyouts," the source said. "They are going staff by staff."

The paper has more than 800 editorial employees, many represented by the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild. Rick Weiss, a Post reporter and Guild unit chair at the paper, could not be reached for comment this morning.

Another national staff writer, who attended this morning's meeting, said editors raised the issue of travel costs as well, saying the paper would continue to travel with major government figures, but hinting that other travel may be curtailed. The reporter said people were unsurprised by the announcement. "There was no slash and burn, no doom and gloom," the source said. "They said the model is changing."

Other cost cuts also are being rumored, including the eventual closing of at least two foreign bureaus and changes to some other overseas bureaus that would have staffers working out of their homes.

Sources said editors explained that some of the foreign cuts were the result of high costs covering the Iraq war, up to $1 million per year. But they stressed that war coverage would not be reduced, at least for the moment.

Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. and Publisher Bo Jones did not return calls from E&P seeking comment.

Post spokesman Eric Grant offered no comment when asked about the pending cuts or any official announcement, saying only, "not at this point."

Joe Strupp (jstrupp@editorandpublisher.com) is a senior editor at E&P.

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Vote spike blamed on program snafu - Adds 100 K Phantom Votes


An undetected computer glitch in Tarrant County led to inflated election returns in Tuesday's primaries but did not alter the outcome of any local race, elections and county officials said Wednesday.

The error caused Tarrant County to report as many as 100,000 votes in both primaries that never were cast, dropping the local turnout from a possible record high of about 158,103 voters to about 58,000.
Because the errors added votes equally for each candidate, the glitch did not change the outcome of Tarrant County races but narrowed the margin of victory in some statewide races. In the close Republican primary race for Texas Supreme Court, for example, incumbent Don Willett edged past former Justice Steve Smith by only about 1 percentage point with the corrected vote tallies.

Questions about possible problems were raised by election staff late Tuesday night, as it became apparent to some that the county would far exceed the 76,000 votes cast in the 2002 primary elections.

But elections officials did not look into the discrepancies that night because they were dealing with a new system, new procedures and some new equipment, said Gayle Hamilton, Tarrant County's interim elections administrator.

"We didn't think there was a problem," Hamilton said. "We should have stopped right then.

"But we didn't question it at that time."

The problem stemmed from a programming error by Hart InterCivic, which manufactured the equipment and wrote the software for the local voting system. The system is designed to combine electronic early voting results and totals from paper ballots on Election Day.

The error caused the computer to compound the previous vote totals each time the election totals were updated throughout the night, rather than keep a simple running total, officials said.

"The system did what we told it to do," said John Covell, a vice president with Hart. "We told it incorrectly."

The program was designed specifically for Tarrant County, and no other counties reported similar problems, elections officials said.

By 7 a.m. Wednesday, campaign officials for Robert Higgins, who ran against Republican state Rep. Anna Mowery in state House District 97, showed up at election headquarters wanting to know how more than 20,000 people could have voted in that race.

"We were watching the results and we knew what the universe of numbers should be," Higgins said. "We expected about 8,000 in our race and got about 21,000."

Election officials then began reviewing the results and discovered errors. Hart officials were called in and spent much of Wednesday reviewing election results.

By late Wednesday, officials were still running reports showing precinct-by-precinct totals -- about 5,000 pages in all -- to examine and compare the data with information collected by election judges countywide.

"Then we will feel very comfortable that the information is correct," County Administrator G.K. Maenius said. "We're going to be working on this continuously."

Democratic Party Chairman Art Brender said he had been on the verge of calling elections officials to get precinct-by-precinct data when he was told that there had been a problem with totals on election night.

"I was concerned about the results when I saw them," he said. "I thought there were too many."

Republican Party Chairwoman Stephanie Klick also said she was skeptical of the results when she saw that some GOP races had 114,000 voters turning out to cast ballots.

"That would have been a record turnout," she said.

Brender said the glitch drives home the need for a paper trail for the next election. Officials hope by the May elections that a device will be added to the electronic eSlate machines used in early voting to record paper copies of ballots cast. The Texas secretary of state's office must first give its approval.

For the ongoing review of Tarrant County data, printouts kept by election judges are being matched to the recording tape in the voting machines.

"I'm not concerned about the accuracy of data when it came in and was preserved," Brender said. "I'll be comfortable with electronic voting when there's a verifiable paper trail."

County officials say they don't know how much it will cost to correct the numbers. Hamilton said the county will waive the usual charge for candidates who want a recount.

In 2002, Tarrant County election officials did not report final tallies for more than a day after polls closed because of a different programming error that caused machines to ignore votes for individual candidates when a voter cast a straight-party ballot.

Republican and Democratic party officials are responsible for canvassing the election returns, which makes them official, by March 18. The returns will then be turned over to the state, party officials said.


Voting glitch

A sample of the vote tallies illustrates the computer glitch in Tarrant County that led to overcounting of votes for Tuesday's primaries. The results listed below were taken from the Republican governor's primary in Tarrant County. The computer erred by adding previous totals to the running vote total, compounding the number of votes cast each time election officials tallied the totals throughout election night.

Time Vote counts Ballots cast Phantom votes
8:27 p.m. 1,352 1,352 0
9:04 p.m. 6,398 5,046 1,352
9:35 p.m. 14,129 7,731 6,398
10:15 p.m. 20,176 6,047 14,129
10:55 p.m. 27,895 7,719 20,176
12:30 p.m. 28,374 479 27,895

Source: Tarrant County Elections Center

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Man Votes for Himself, Machine Flips Vote to Opponent!

Times Staff Writer
Published March 8, 2006

And on Election Day Cook charged that the voting machines malfunctioned in several precincts, including his own precinct at Skyview Recreation Center. When Cook tried to vote for himself, the machine defaulted to a vote for Taylor. A precinct worker finally moved Cook to a different booth.

Later in the day, Cook said he had other reports of voting machines malfunctioning in similar ways.
PINELLAS PARK - Mayor Bill Mischler and council member Ed Taylor won re-election Tuesday by massive landslides.

Both Mischler and Taylor won their races with a 4 to 1 majority.

Mischler polled 3,000 votes, or 80.3 percent of the vote, to Randy Heine's 735 votes, or 19.7 percent.

Taylor received 2,948 votes, for 80.5 percent. Opponent Marshall Cook received 715 votes, for 19.5 percent.

"I'm glad to get back and work with Ed Taylor and the rest of council," Mischler said. "I think we're on the move and we've got some horizons (to reach) in the next few years."

Mischler and Taylor both said they wanted to thank their supporters.

"Marshall was a friend yesterday. He'll be a friend tomorrow. Nothing's changed there," Taylor said. "I'll see him at council meetings."

Mischler and Taylor had both campaigned on their records and the recent growth in the city.

Heine and Cook ran campaigns that touted the opportunity for change.

The race was notable for its rancor that began about 21/2 years ago when Heine began appearing at City Council meetings to comment on issues. Heine, a long-time political foe of the mayor, also used the time to dog Mischler and challenge him to answer charges and questions.

As the election neared, Cook complained about the placement of Mischler's signs, saying they were illegally placed on public rights of way although city officials traditionally allow political signs there during the last week or so of the election season.

And on Election Day Cook charged that the voting machines malfunctioned in several precincts, including his own precinct at Skyview Recreation Center. When Cook tried to vote for himself, the machine defaulted to a vote for Taylor. A precinct worker finally moved Cook to a different booth.

Later in the day, Cook said he had other reports of voting machines malfunctioning in similar ways.

Nancy Whitlock, communications director for the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Office, said there had been a problem at Cook's precinct. One machine, she said, registered a different answer when voters touched it. Poll workers recalibrated it to fix the problem.

Whitlock said she did not know how many people had voted before the problem was caught. But the machines, she said, allow voters to look at their votes before finalizing them.

No one else complained, so it is unlikely the problem affected many, if any, other votes, she said.

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Bush Jokes are No longer Funny

by Gerald Rellick
10 Mar 06

There was time when Bush jokes and cartoons were funny. I still maintain a large collection of them myself. But it's difficult to look at them now or those in the papers. It would be like a decent German citizen looking at Hitler cartoons in the Berlin newspapers in 1945, if such were allowed, as Germany was turned into rubble day by day.
Bush humor-if there ever was any -- is long gone. It represents a dilemma of sorts for political cartoonists. What more can they do? George Bush is a totally failed president - without doubt the worst president in American history, and he is doing his best-albeit probably unconsciously – to bring the country slowly, but inexorably, to ruin. The Republican Congress is totally spineless, trying nothing more to cling to some concept they call "power," although they too realize at bottom that "Bush is the worst." How does one poke fun at all this dreadfulness? Humor, which always clings precariously to truth, has lost its edge, overpowered by gruesome reality.

I, along with countless other writers have catalogued the Bush failures, his ineptness, his total inability to govern. But to what end? Yes, his poll numbers are in now in the mid 30's, unprecedented for a second term president just reelected. And his vice President, the loathsome Dick Cheney, is somewhere in the vicinity of 18%. As one writer pointed out, this is less than believes in space aliens and ghosts – which is about a third of the population. How can one govern when being totally out of sync with America's values ands standards? Is democracy now on the decline in the U.S.? Have greed, self interest and spin won the day? Has the American public been made fools of by the clever machinations of Karl Rove, the Dr. Frankenstein of American politics, the man who took this half-brained creature, this pseudo-moron, George Bush, and transformed him into president of the U.S.?

I have a writer friend who argues that Bush has reached the end, that he is now road kill. No longer is congress rejecting him, but he believes that the "military elite" will stop Bush before his madness leads to another military debacle. I find little comfort in this view.

What military elite?

Consider the military "men" who have served Bush over the course of his presidency. Colin Powell, Army general, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and Vietnam combat veteran, may well go down in history as America's Neville Chamberlain, a man with the backbone of jello, who as secretary of state couldn't bring himself to stand up for his own convictions to a pathetic weakling, George Bush, but chose, rather, to "obey orders" like a toy soldier. I hope Powell lives long enough to see his disgrace recorded in the history books. Children of the next generation will grow up seeing Powell in the same light as our generation saw Neville Chamberlain upon his return from Munich in 1938 with paper in hand, signed by Herr Hitler, that "peace was at hand." These children will learn of the disgrace of Colin Powell, one of America's greatest failures, as he went before the United Nations in February, 2003, waving his own papers-those from George Tenet -- to present George Bush's drummed-up, bogus case for war with Iraq. It will take some time, but truth and justice will prevail. To paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous line, "The arc of history is long but it bends toward [truth and justice]. Colin Powell will die with his cowardice – not his medals -- clutched to his chest.

Look at another Vietnam combat veteran, John McCain, and you see much the same thing, a physical hero who endured years of captivity and torture in a North Vietnamese prison camp, but in the end, just another moral coward, unable to lead, a man who stands for nothing -- nothing, that is, except the insatiable desire to be president. There is not an ass in Washington McCain won't kiss to be president. I saw McCain on Jay Leno a few months ago trying to act like a cool dude. He was truly pathetic. You would really have to be sick to vote for John McCain for president.

And look again at another Vietnam fighter pilot, "top gun" Randy "Duke" Cunningham, Congressman from California, just convicted of fraud and tax evasion and sentenced to eight years in federal prison. As a young man he was "full of piss and vinegar," but as a real adult, faced with real responsibilities, he was a total failure. Like George W. Bush, he never grew up. He never learned what real life was all about.

All three "heroes" have at the end of the day disgraced themselves and disgraced their country. What are we to make of this? For one, they are all Republicans. And in one way or another closely associated with George Bush. Is that a coincidence? Perhaps.

Only two members of Congress have ever worn the Congressional Medal of Honor, Sen. Daniel Inyoue of Hawaii and former Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, both Democrats.

But it's not hopeless for the GOP in the courage/cowardice category. Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is a Vietnam combat veteran, wounded in action. And Hagel opposes most of George W.'s Iraq war policies. And then there is Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a 37-year Marine Corps veteran of two wars, who like Hagel has little use for the cowardly George Bush.

And on the subject of cowardice, consider this. In a recent hunting escapade, Dick Cheney accidentally shot one of his hunting comrades. There may have been negligence involved, but that is up to the local district attorney to decide. But more importantly, I think, is the nature of the hunt. These were not wild birds. The birds were bred in captivity. They had spent their lives in pens, and then on hunting day, were released for the sole purpose of being killed by Dick Cheney and cohorts for pure sport as they flew into the open sky for their only moments of brief freedom. Whether you are an animal lover or not, there is something disgusting and degrading about this kind of hunt and something less than human about those who participate in it.

All this brings to mind words from Kurt Vonnegut from his book of essays, "Palm Sunday," when he addressed the graduating class of his alma mater, Cornell, in May 1980.

"I pity you people of today for not having truly great leaders to write about---Roosevelt and Churchill and Chiang Kai-Shek….Oh, sure, we [may] have another war coming, and another great depression, but where are the leaders this time? All you have is a lot of ordinary people standing around with their thumbs up their ass."

So, America, these are the leaders you elected. You chose them. Now, what are you going to do about it?

Gerald S. Rellick, Ph.D., worked in aerospace industry for 22 years. He now teaches in the California Community College system. He can be reached at grellick@hotmail.com

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Typical political arrogance - George W. Bush has managed to make us miss Bill Clinton.

by Doug Thompson
10 Mar 06

Saw this bumper sticker while driving to Richmond Thursday:

I prefer a President who only screws interns

Yep. George W. Bush has managed to make us miss Bill Clinton.

New polls show Dubya's job approval and personal ratings in the dumpster. His own party revolted against him in the "lets give our ports to the Arabs" deal and we're heading into another hurricane season while still trying to clean up his mess from the last one.

As a reporter is said to have asked another President's wife: "Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?"
We already know the Bush administration is the gang that can't shoot straight. Just ask Texas attorney Harry Whittington. He's still recovering from wounds at the hands of a wayward shotgun blast from Dick Cheney.

But you have to wonder just how Bush's Teflon presidency from the first term turned into such a mismanaged public relations disaster the second time around.

Three words: Typical political arrogance.

Typical political arrogance is a bipartisan Washington disease. It infects those in power, Republican or Democrat, with the belief they are above the law and do not have to answer to the forces of truth, justice or the American way.

In reality, Bill Clinton screwed a lot more than just an intern but the downhill slide of America into a fascist state causes many to overlook that fact and long for the good old days when we worried more about who was noshing on the First Member than thinking about 2500 dead American military men and women in a useless war.

Clinton, like Bush, is a mean, venal little man who thought nothing of using the power of the White House to ride roughshod over enemies and destroy if they got in the way. Unlike Bush, Clinton is a charming rogue, a Peck's bad boy who causes us to shake our heads in disbelief but still admire his ability to get away with things.

You could dump Bush's charm into a thimble and still have room left for a shot of bourbon. He's a shallow, humorless man who lacks the charm of a Bill Clinton or the humor of a Ronald Reagan. Both Reagan and Clinton overcame scandals to leave office as popular Presidents. Bush may well leave office as one of the most distrusted and despised Presidents in modern times.

Yet no President in modern times is, or was, an honorable man. Clinton's presidency will be remembered more for scandal than anything else and the Monica Lewinsky scandal wasn't the only case of questionable conduct in office. His associated attorney general, Webster Hubbell, went to jail for tax evasion and defrauding the government. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy took bribes and resigned in disgrace. Clinton lost his license to practice law for lying to a federal grand jury. And he lied about American involvement in Somalia, a "peacekeeping" operation that cost too many American lives.

Reagan's legacy is marred by Iran-Contra and a conservative agenda that still haunts the country today. Courts convicted a dozen members of his administration for misconduct or malfeasance in office. Jimmy Carter's credibility took a hit when Bert Lance, his director of the Office of Management and Budget, was indicted for financial misconduct and his brother signed on as a paid consultant to Libya. He recently has been linked to the UN oil-for-food scandal.

Yet Republicans still talk about the good old days when Reagan was President and Democrats say Clinton only lied about sex.

Sadly, both sides of the political spectrum suffer from selective myopia that allows them overlook failings of their own party while lambasting the same conduct by their opponents.

Presidents and Congressmen aren't the only ones who suffer from Typical political arrogance So do the party faithful, Republican and Democrats, who follow blindly and avoid the truth about failure.

Originally published at and © Copyright 2006 by Capitol Hill Blue

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260 Doctors Call for End to Force-Feeding at Guantanamo

By Al Pessin
10 March 2006

More than 260 doctors from around the world have called on the U.S. military to stop force-feeding detainees at the Guantanamo detention center who are on a hunger strike. The doctors signed a letter published Friday in the respected British medical journal "Lancet." But at the Pentagon, a spokesman says there is no plan to review what he calls the "involuntary" feeding, which he says is done only when "appropriate or medically necessary."
The doctors' letter says force-feeding is a violation of declarations by the World Medical Association, documents it says the American Medical Association has signed.

The American Medical Association is the largest association of physicians in the United States, and it is generally recognized as the arbiter of medical ethics issues for American doctors. The association's own ethical guidelines say doctors should respect a person's decision to refuse to eat, as long as that person is mentally competent and understands the consequences of the decision.

"The law is that prisoners have a right to refuse any treatment, and physicians have to respect that informed decision that those individuals have consented to," said Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet journal. "So anything that breaches that informed decision is not defensible in law."

The letter in Lancet calls on the U.S. government to end force-feeding and allow independent physicians to assess the condition of the Guantanamo detainees. Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman says there is no plan to review the policy.

"The policy of the department is unchanged," he said. "And it is to support the preservation of life by appropriate clinical means, and to do that in a humane manner."

Lawyers for detainees say the few remaining on hunger strike have been subjected to inhumane treatment. The lawyers say their clients have been strapped to chairs and had feeding tubes forced through their noses and down their throats. The lawyers claim that the doctors at Guantanamo changed their approach earlier this year, removing and re-inserting the tubes for each feeding, making the process much more painful for the detainees, and causing many of them to abandon the hunger strike. A senior U.S. general acknowledged last month that chairs are used to restrain detainees who resist the tube feeding.

According to the U.S. military, the hunger strike began last August and reached a high of 84 detainees in December. Detainees were demanding freedom, or at least some indication of when and under what circumstances they might be released. Officials say there is a review process for that, but lawyers for the detainees say it is not a legal process.

By January, officials said the number of detainees on hunger strike was down to 15. Spokesman Bryan Whitman says there are now six men on hunger strike, and three of them are being fed against their will. Officials say only those whose health deteriorates significantly are force fed.

Still, Whitman acknowledges the issue of force-feeding is a difficult one.

"I think it's fair to say that these are difficult issues," he said. "They're difficult moral, ethical, legal issues. And one would not expect that everyone would come to a consensus on this. The department has not come by this policy without a lot of deliberate consideration, deliberation and has determined that this is the appropriate way forward at this time."

But the Lancet editor, Richard Horton, says if the U.S. government ignores calls to end the force-feeding, it is violating international law.

"They have an international legal obligation to take notice of this," he said. "If they choose not to, they're breaking international law."

The letter in Lancet says the appropriate medical governing bodies should discipline U.S. doctors who participate in force-feeding. U.S. military doctors at Guantanamo say they provide "compassionate and consistent" care to the detainees, and that resistance to the tube feeding has eased as a result.

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The Gitmo Documents - Four Characters in Search of a Prosecutor: Miller, Boykin, Cambone and Feith

10 Mar 06

A year of stonewalling a Freedom of Information lawsuit by the Associated Press and now the Pentagon releases documents (Friday, March 3, 2006) with the names of hundreds of detainees held at Guantanamo.

The more than five thousand pages give us a flavor of the eclectic--ragtag, might be a better word--mix of prisoners in the Cuban camp and the equally varied treatment they received. The British Guardian-- from a keen sense of fair play, one supposes--devotes a column to telling us that after all, yes, there were two young boys who actually had a good time of it-- said good time running to movies, books, and soccer games. That wipes the slate clean on Abu Ghraib, see?

It would be interesting to know more about those two .... and about the many more boys who didn't exactly get such Eagle Scout treatment, but what we'd really like to know is why we get a breathless column devoted to this reassuring anomaly but no one sees fit to give equal time to any of the three hundred other prisoners who testify to goings on a tad less pleasant.
The hitherto nameless three hundred turn into recognizable characters in these new documents. There are goat herds and shopkeepers; there is the Taliban cook carrying a radio and hand grenades, the Iraqi millionaire who worked for MI5--only they deny it--and the Afghan farmer clinging to his rifle and his frontier freedom like a Montana militiaman cornered by the Feds. There are the metals cages made from discarded shipping containers --six by six, exposed to sun and rain--in which the prisoners were caged 24/7 and let out, shackled, only to use the toilet. There were the regular and severe punishments doled out for infractions as senseless as having an extra cup in the cage. (1)

But--except for one--the most important characters in this squalid drama are a no-show in the press. And that exception--Major Geoffrey Miller--doesn't get the star billing he deserves, either.

One: Miller

It was Miller who was behind the aggressive psychological tactics used at Gitmo between 2002 and 2004--where military interrogators posing as FBI agents, gift-wrapped suspects in the Israeli flag and forced others to watch homosexual porn under strobe lights in 18 hour interrogation sessions (Feb. 23, 2006).

It was Miller who overrode FBI warnings that information gathered by illegal techniques would be inadmissible in court.

It was also Miller who was sent from Cuba to Iraq to "Gitmoize" interrogation. It was only after Miller's first visit to Abu Ghraib in August 2003 that the guards began siccing the dogs on prisoners, torturing them sexually, and attacking their religious beliefs. (2)

Here's Jack Reed (D-RI) on the timeline:

"General Miller came to Iraq in August...He also recommended the establishment of a theater joint interrogation and detention center...That's August, and then October we start seeing a series of abusive behaviors, which the accused [the military police and their commander, Janis Karpinski] suggest were a result of encouragement or direction from these intelligence people in this theater joint interrogation and detention center." (3)

Even after the Abu Ghraib report broke and we were told piously by Mr. Rumsfeld that the system would be fixed ASAP, it was Miller who was sent back again to take care of things.

Doesn't the man merit at least one fawning newspaper column for his original contributions to moral suasion? Or for his well-documented animus against Muslims?

Take Muslim prison chaplain, Capt. James "Yousef" Yee. In 2002 Miller accused Yee of espionage and detained him for 76 days in shackles and solitary confinement for the most part. When no evidence of guilt turned up, the charges were first reduced to mishandling classified information and lying to investigators, and then dropped completely, but instead of apologizing, Miller rapped Yee on tangential charges of adultery and possession of pornography--charges meant only to humiliate him and his family. They were also finally overturned. (4)

Who would put such a spiteful bigot in charge of interrogating Muslim prisoners?

Two: Boykin

The same folks, apparently, who picked General William "Jerry" Boykin to be Deputy Under Secretary for Defense in October 2003, precisely around the time the Abu Ghraib abuses were taking place.

What does Boykin, a militant evangelical Christian think of Muslims?

Let's see:

In dress uniform and polished jump boots, he told a religious group in Oregon in June that same year that radical Islamists hate the United States "because we're a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian ... and the enemy is a guy named Satan."

Recounting a Special Ops mission against a Muslim warlord in Somalia, he informed another audience, "I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol."

In 2002, he stated, "We in the army of God, in the house of God, kingdom of God have been raised for such a time as this," and at least once said of President Bush: "He's in the White House because God put him there." (5)

Add to this a resume studded with every rash Special Ops mission in recent memory--from the hunt for Columbian drug kingpin, Pablo Escobar, to the bungled Iran hostage rescue, and you get the picture of a man who likes death- or-glory escapades. Especially ones signed off on by Jehovah and aimed at Muslims.

In fact, a Crusader--and not a very competent one.

Is there any proof that Boykin had anything to do with Abu Ghraib?


Boykin played a key role in the counter-insurgency campaign that escalated from 2003 on and is known to have reviewed Israeli tactics used in the assault on the Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin in 2002. Any resemblance between American actions in Iraq and Israeli actions in Palestine is, of course, completely coincidental and not even remotely related to the question of why we might have a broad policy of detaining Muslims and subjecting them to futuristic forms of torture

Boykin was also one of the key planners of the new Special Forces group--Task Force 121- intended to wipe out the Iraqi resistance through targeted assassinations similar to the Phoenix Program in Vietnam.

Nice prep work for the man who also just happens to be the person responsible for briefing Undersecretary for Defense Stephen Cambone on what Miller was upto at Abu Ghraib. (6) Boykin is Cambone's top aide.

Three: Cambone

Which brings us to Cambone. What did he know?

Nothing much, according to his testimony at the Senate Hearings.

On issue after issue, the man saw no evil and heard no evil:

"Until the pictures began appearing in the Press, sir, I had not sense of that scope or scale." [about the torture photos which the Army began investigating in January, five months before the story broke]

And about the extent to which the CIA was involved in interrogations:

"I didn't make a connection in the sense there was a significant issue here....Furthermore, I still don't know that there is a significant issue here.."

Cambone also claimed not to have seen Red Cross reports or repeated complaints to Bremer and Rice in 2003. Nor was he briefed by General Miller on his August visit to Iraq.

The mantra is always the same--"I am not aware," "as best I know," "that's about the extent of my knowledge." (7)

And since we presume a minimum of intelligence in our defense officials, we can't even chalk this up to imbecility.

Then why the stone-walling?

Simple. Military Intelligence and the CIA (both operating extensively through creme de la creme special forces units and out of control private contractors) are at the heart of the torture policy.... which is itself at the heart of the entire counter-terrorist strategy.... which is in turn the lynch pin of the war on terror. Counter terrorism today--from what we know of such units as Rumsfeld's P2OG (Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group)--is modeled after the Gladio-type forces that ran the so-called "Strategy of Tension in Europe" in the aftermath of the Cold War and were used extensively to stage covert provocations and false-flag operations meant to discredit socialism.

So, trace Abu Ghraib back to MI and the CIA and Cambone knows you trace right it back to the people running the new Strategy of Tension....against the Muslim world. The people who have reframed real (and staged) terrorist acts as part of an endless World War IV --- while, not incidentally, standing to profit substantially from the reframing. You trace it back to defense contractors. You trace it back to the black heart of the Defense-Intelligence octopus.

And where does Cambone fit in the octopus?

As Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (USD-I), the civilian boss directly in charge of the entire system of information gathering, he's part of the brain. A big part. The position was created by Rumsfeld as recently as 2003 for the sole purpose of wrenching control of intelligence away from independent outfits (the DIA, the NSA, each armed service's intelligence unit) and housing it in the Pentagon under one roof.

Moreover, Cambone, a ballistics missile and space weapons fanatic, had no background in intelligence and was hated by those who did. He was Rumsfeld's point man on RMA (Revolution in Military Affairs)--the Don's controversial transformation of the military. He was picked to steam roll any opposition by military men--and there was plenty of opposition. (8)

As part of the RMA, raw (unanalyzed) intelligence is made available to the military--supposedly with rules governing its use....but who really believes that rules like that don't quickly fold when needed? The intelligence is gathered through "persistent surveillance" and uses such new technologies as Space-Based Radar. Turns out "persistent surveillance" is suspiciously similar to what goes on under Rumsfeld's little false-flag franchise, P20G. Indeed, in April 2003, Rumsfeld placed Cambone in charge of the counter-terrorism initiative coded "Grey Fox." Here are Cambone's own words with my emphasis in italics:

"For the war fighter, it [Space-Based Radar] could support predictive battlespace awareness and could be equally predictive for the intelligence analyst. In other words, by finding the anomalous event, what you do is you get out ahead of activities. Your refresh rate, if you will, is such that you're not looking at history, you're looking at current events, and once you start looking at current events, as opposed to the history, your ability to start drawing those trend lines and anticipate how the subject of your inquiry is going to act and respond increases dramatically." (9)

Preemptive intelligence, like preemptive war. Pick up people who might commit terrorist acts, not those who actually have. A perfect recipe for show trials and random street sweeps like the ones that gave us Abu Ghraib. And completely contradictory to the practice or theory of professional intelligence analysts. But, of course, Cambone, a graduate of the neo-conservative hotbed Claremont College, is not an analyst but an ideologue.

An ideologue, who as USD-I gets his clammy hands on 85% of the intelligence budget versus the mere 12% under the director of central intelligence. Frankly, Cambone would had to have been consulted just for the money needed to insert private contractors and military intelligence into interrogation.

Yet, at the Senate Hearings this all powerful czar swore up and down he knew nothing--nada, zip, zero, zilch--about Miller, about the Red Cross, about MI, about the dogs, about the pictures.....

And a hypnotized media has never called him on that outrageous performance.

Four: Feith

Nor has there been a solitary twitter about the role of the enigmatic Douglas Feith, though he deserves it as much as Cambone. Until he left in early 2005, Feith was Cambone's opposite number at Defense as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (USD-P), a post Cambone himself held earlier.

If Cambone had the means to tamper with intelligence-gathering and interrogation, Feith had the motive.

A vocal advocate of regime change in the Middle East long before 9-11, a hard-line Zionist hawk and member of ZOA (Zionist Organization of America), Feith's publicly expressed views are incendiary. He has stated that Oslo should be repudiated and the West Bank and Gaza reoccupied even if "the price in blood would be high" as "a necessary form of detoxification." (10)

And his actions in government match. In 1982, he was investigated over allegations that he had handed over secret documents to the Israeli embassy and left the National Security Council under a cloud. Later, he was hired back by Richard Perle. On leaving the Pentagon in 1986, he promptly started a law firm in Israel. His partner at the time, Marc Zell, is a spokesman for the Jewish settlers' movement on the occupied West Bank. Yes--those settlers. (11) The ones several parasangs to the right of Ariel Sharon. Naturally--that would have nothing whatsoever to do with any opinions Feith might hold on Arabs, Iraq, or the proper way to chat with a manacled Muslim.

In 2001, with the US economy in recession and financial crisis looming in the markets and neo-conservatives ensconced in power, friends began helping friends: Wolfowitz as Deputy Secretary of State brought Feith in at DOD, while Feith brought Perle to the Defense Policy Board and hired another favorite ideological hit man, Michael Ledeen, who also has a documented history of siphoning classified information to Israeli intelligence and selling sensitive military technology to China. Ledeen was hired by Feith at OSP to handle material requiring high-level security clearance. (12)

And what does this cozy arrangement have to do with Abu Ghraib? Well--for a start, it blows a hole in the theory that rounding up a few Semitic goat-herds and housewives has anything to do with national security--at least in the common meaning of that term, to wit., refraining from selling out the interests of the nation-state to which one belongs by accident of birth, choice, or lack of initiative. Because it's quite clear from the action-packed resumes of the crew of transnational wheelers and dealers above, that national--or even international- security is the last thing on their minds.

Feith has also been up to more institutionalized shenanigans:

First, he was active in the controversial Defense Policy Board, whose former head Richard Perle resigned when conflicts of interest between his board duties and his business affairs came to light. Then, he was also boss at the Office of Special Plans, which "stove-piped" un-vetted or raw intelligence on Iraq directly (outside the normal channels, that is) to the White House. The objective was to buttress the administration's flimsy case for war. Which means that Feith was grasping for any wisp of straw when it came to intelligence. And so, had every incentive to get it for us whole-sale where he could most easily--on the Iraqi street. (13)

And an important point. OSP, set up by Wolfowitz, had direct responsibility for detainee operations in Iraq. By dismissing the advice of Middle Eastern experts at the State Department on post-war planning, it contributed hugely to the failure of prison policy. OSP also oversaw reconstruction contracts--with all their outrageous bid-rigging and profiteering. And it did all of this through an institutional end-run around government.

Yet, at the Senate Hearings, Cambone swore up and down that Feith was in the dark about Abu Ghraib and the Taguba report, although when the report actually came out, here's what Daniel Dunn, the top computer security officer in Feith's office had to say in an urgent email memo to Pentagon staff:

"Information contained in this report is classified; do not go to FOX News to read or obtain a copy." (14)

Sounds like at least one person knew that Feith had something to fear.

And Feith himself quietly resigned last year, some say, because of yet another scandal--the Larry Franklin case. Franklin, convicted of espionage this year, worked for Feith at OSP in 2002 and 2003 and was sent abroad on sensitive missions--involving Iran-Contra figures-- aimed at pushing through the Iraq WMD hustle. Franklin pleaded guilty in January to passing information to Israel about U.S. policy towards Iran through the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the foremost pro-Israel lobbying organization in the U.S. (15)

So there you have it.

Take two rancid Christian zealots and a half-pint of frothing Zionist fanaticism. Add to it a well-curdled neo-conservative ideologue and stir until bubbling in a Middle Eastern cauldron. Top with a generous helping of psycho-sexual sadism. And voila, Torture Imperial. Serves several thousands at a time.

Miller, Boykin, Cambone, and Feith.

Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld also, of course. Possibly, Rice and President Bush.

But for now, these four will do.

Lila Rajiva is a free-lance journalist and author of "The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the American media," (Monthly Review Press). She can be reached at: lrajiva@hotmail.com


(1) "In Guantanamo Bay Documents, Prisoners Plead for Release
U.S. Makes First Public Accounting Of Detainees," Josh White and Julie Tate, Washington Post, March 5, 2006; Page A08. See also "Pentagon discloses names of Gitmo detainees," Miranda Leitsinger and Ben Fox, AP, March 4, 2006.

(2) See "The Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the American Media," Lila Rajiva, MR Press, December 2005, p. 51.

(3) Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing, May 11, 2004.

(4) "How Dubious Evidence Spurred Relentless Guantánamo Spy Hunt," Tim Golden, New York Times, December 19, 2004. See also "Who Is Geoffrey Miller: Is the Man from Guantánamo the Right Man for Iraq?" Peter Ogden, Center for American Progress, May 17, 2004.

(5) "General Casts War in Religious Terms," Richard T. Cooper, Los Angeles Times, October 16, 2003.

(6) "Moving Targets: Will the counter-insurgency plan in Iraq repeat the mistakes of Vietnam?" Seymour Hersh, New Yorker, December 13, 2003. See also "US Israel trains US assassination squads in Iraq," Julian Borger, Guardian, 9 December 2003.

(7) Senate Armed Services Committee Hearing, May 11, 2004.

(8) In "The Secret World of Stephen Cambone: Rumsfeld's Enforcer," (Counterpunch, February 7, 2006), Jeffrey St. Clair writes that a Republican staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee told CounterPunch that the little-known Cambone rivals Paul Wolfowitz in power at the Pentagon. "Cambone is a truly dangerous player," said the staffer." He is Rumsfeld's guard dog, implacably loyal. While Wolfowitz positions himself to step into the top spot should Rumsfeld get axed, Cambone has dug in and gone to war against the insurgents in the Pentagon. Cambone's fingerprints are all over the occupation and the interrogation scandal. For him, there's no turning back." St. Clair contends credibly that "Cambone's real mission was to keep tabs on Feith, a notorious hothead and Cheney loyalist whom Rumsfeld distrusts."

(9) "Intelligence on demand: An interview with Stephen Cambone, undersecretary of defense for intelligence," Glenn W. Goodman, Jr., ISR Journal, December 1, 2003.

(10) "A Dangerous Appointment," James Zogby, Washington Watch, April 16, 2001

(11) "Loss of Feith in Douglas," Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service, November 7, 2003. (Reprinted in Asia Times).

(12) "Serving Two Flags: Neo-Cons, Israel and the Bush Administration," Stephen Green, Counterpunch, February 28/29, 2004. Again, one has to clearly distinguish between acceptable information sharing between two very close allies and the fine point at which something crosses that boundary.

(13) "The new Pentagon papers: A high-ranking military officer reveals how Defense Department extremists suppressed information and twisted the truth to drive the country to war," Karen Kwiatkowski, Salon.com, March 10, 2004.

(14) "The Israeli Torture Template: Rape, Feces and Urine-Dipped Cloth Sacks,"
Wayne Madsen, Counterpunch, May 10, 2004.

(15) "Pentagon analyst indicted for leaks to Israel: a subterranean power struggle in Washington," Patrick Martin, World Socialist Web, 10 May 2005.

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Why Data Mining Won't Stop Terror

by Bruce Schneier
Wired News
Mar, 09, 2006

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.

All data-mining systems fail in two different ways: false positives and false negatives. A false positive is when the system identifies a terrorist plot that really isn't one. A false negative is when the system misses an actual terrorist plot. Depending on how you "tune" your detection algorithms, you can err on one side or the other: you can increase the number of false positives to ensure you are less likely to miss an actual terrorist plot, or you can reduce the number of false positives at the expense of missing terrorist plots.

To reduce both those numbers, you need a well-defined profile. And that's a problem when it comes to terrorism. In hindsight, it was really easy to connect the 9/11 dots and point to the warning signs, but it's much harder before the fact. Certainly, many terrorist plots share common warning signs, but each is unique, as well. The better you can define what you're looking for, the better your results will be. Data mining for terrorist plots will be sloppy, and it'll be hard to find anything useful.

Data mining is like searching for a needle in a haystack. There are 900 million credit cards in circulation in the United States. According to the FTC September 2003 Identity Theft Survey Report, about 1 percent (10 million) cards are stolen and fraudulently used each year.

When it comes to terrorism, however, trillions of connections exist between people and events -- things that the data-mining system will have to "look at" -- and very few plots. This rarity makes even accurate identification systems useless.

Let's look at some numbers. We'll be optimistic -- we'll assume the system has a one in 100 false-positive rate (99 percent accurate), and a one in 1,000 false-negative rate (99.9 percent accurate). Assume 1 trillion possible indicators to sift through: that's about 10 events -- e-mails, phone calls, purchases, web destinations, whatever -- per person in the United States per day. Also assume that 10 of them are actually terrorists plotting.

This unrealistically accurate system will generate 1 billion false alarms for every real terrorist plot it uncovers. Every day of every year, the police will have to investigate 27 million potential plots in order to find the one real terrorist plot per month. Raise that false-positive accuracy to an absurd 99.9999 percent and you're still chasing 2,750 false alarms per day -- but that will inevitably raise your false negatives, and you're going to miss some of those 10 real plots.

This isn't anything new. In statistics, it's called the "base rate fallacy," and it applies in other domains as well. For example, even highly accurate medical tests are useless as diagnostic tools if the incidence of the disease is rare in the general population. Terrorist attacks are also rare, any "test" is going to result in an endless stream of false alarms.

This is exactly the sort of thing we saw with the NSA's eavesdropping program: the New York Times reported that the computers spat out thousands of tips per month. Every one of them turned out to be a false alarm.

And the cost was enormous -- not just for the FBI agents running around chasing dead-end leads instead of doing things that might actually make us safer, but also the cost in civil liberties. The fundamental freedoms that make our country the envy of the world are valuable, and not something that we should throw away lightly.

Data mining can work. It helps Visa keep the costs of fraud down, just as it helps Amazon alert me to books I might want to buy and Google show me advertising I'm more likely to be interested in. But these are all instances where the cost of false positives is low (a phone call from a Visa operator or an uninteresting ad) in systems that have value even if there is a high number of false negatives.

Finding terrorism plots is not a problem that lends itself to data mining. It's a needle-in-a-haystack problem, and throwing more hay on the pile doesn't make that problem any easier. We'd be far better off putting people in charge of investigating potential plots and letting them direct the computers, instead of putting the computers in charge and letting them decide who should be investigated.

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Watch What You Say - How the telephone company listens in on your calls and what they tell the government.

By Tim Shorrock
The Nation
March 9, 2006.

Two months after the New York Times revealed that the Bush Administration ordered the National Security Agency to conduct warrantless surveillance of American citizens, only three corporations--AT&T, Sprint and MCI--have been identified by the media as cooperating. If the reports in the Times and other newspapers are true, these companies have allowed the NSA to intercept thousands of telephone calls, fax messages and e-mails without warrants from a special oversight court established by Congress under the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Some companies, according to the same reports, have given the NSA a direct hookup to their huge databases of communications records. The NSA, using the same supercomputers that analyze foreign communications, sifts through this data for key words and phrases that could indicate communication to or from suspected terrorists or terrorist sympathizers and then tracks those individuals and their ever-widening circle of associates.

"This is the US version of Echelon," says Albert Gidari, a prominent telecommunications attorney in Seattle, referring to a massive eavesdropping program run by the NSA and its English-speaking counterparts that created a huge controversy in Europe in the late 1990s.
So far, a handful of Democratic lawmakers--Representative John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, and Senators Edward Kennedy and Russell Feingold--have attempted to obtain information from companies involved in the domestic surveillance program. But they've largely been rebuffed. Further details about the highly classified program are likely to emerge as the Electronic Frontier Foundation pursues a lawsuit, filed January 31, against AT&T for violating privacy laws by giving the NSA direct access to its telephone records database and Internet transaction logs. On February 16 a federal judge gave the Bush Administration until March 8 to turn over a list of internal documents related to two other lawsuits, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, seeking an injunction to end the program.

Despite the President's rigorous defense of the program, no company has dared to admit its cooperation publicly. Their reticence is understandable: The Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation of the government officials who leaked the NSA story to the Times, and many constitutional scholars and a few lawmakers believe the program is both illegal and unconstitutional. And the companies may be embarrassed at being caught--particularly AT&T, which spent millions advertising its global services during the Winter Olympics. "It's a huge betrayal of the public trust, and they know it," says Bruce Schneier, the founder and chief technology officer of Counterpane Internet Security, a California consulting firm.

Corporations have been cooperating with the NSA for half a century. What's different now is that they appear to be helping the NSA deploy its awesome computing and data-mining powers inside the United States in direct contravention of US law, which specifically bans the agency from collecting information from US citizens living inside the United States. "They wouldn't touch US persons before unless they had a FISA warrant," says a former national security official who read NSA intercepts as part of his work for the State Department and the Pentagon.

This is happening at a time when both the military and its spy agencies are more dependent on the private sector than ever before, and an increasing number of companies are involved. In the 1970s, when Congress acted to stop domestic spying programs like Operation Shamrock, in which the NSA monitored overseas telegrams and phone calls, the communications industry was in its infancy. "It was basically Western Union for cables, and AT&T for the telephone," says James Bamford, who revealed the existence of the NSA in his famous book The Puzzle Palace and is a plaintiff in the ACLU lawsuit. "It's much more complicated now." In fact, today's global telecom market includes dozens of companies that compete with AT&T, Sprint and MCI for telephone and mobile services, as well as scores of Internet service providers like Google, Yahoo! and AOL that offer e-mail, Internet and voice connections to customers around the world. They are served by multinational conglomerates like Apollo, Flag Atlantic and Global Crossing, which own and operate the global system of undersea fiber-optic cables that link the United States to the rest of the world. Any one of them could be among the companies contacted by intelligence officials when President Bush issued his 2002 executive order to obtain surveillance without FISA approval.

Nobody's talking, though. Asked if AT&T, which was recently acquired by SBC Communications, is cooperating with the NSA, AT&T spokesman Walt Sharp said, "We don't comment on national security matters." He referred me to a recent AT&T letter to Representative Conyers, which stated that AT&T "abides by all applicable laws, regulations and statutes in its operations and, in particular, with respect to requests for assistance from governmental authorities." MCI, which was acquired in January by Verizon, and Sprint, which recently merged with Nextel Communications, declined to comment. Attorney Gidari, who has represented Google, T-Mobile, Nextel and Cingular Wireless (now part of AT&T), believes that "some companies, both telecom and Internet," were asked to participate in the NSA program. But he suggests that only a limited number agreed. "The list of those who said no is much longer than most people think," he says.

The NSA, some analysts say, may have sought the assistance of US telecoms because most of the world's cable operators are controlled by foreign corporations. Apollo, for example, is owned by Britain's Cable & Wireless, while Flag Atlantic is owned by the Reliance Group of India. Much of the international "transit traffic" carried by the cable companies flows through the United States (this is particularly true of communications emanating from South America and moving between Asia and Europe). The NSA could get access to this traffic by sending a submarine team to splice the cables in international waters, as the agency once did to the Soviet Union's undersea military cables. But that is an extremely expensive proposition, and politically dicey to boot--which is where the US telecoms come in. "Cooperation with the telcos doesn't make NSA surveillance possible, but it does make it cheaper," says Schneier, the technology consultant.

According to Alan Mauldin, a senior research analyst with TeleGeography Research in Washington, DC, it would be possible for US intelligence operatives to gain access to transit traffic from anywhere in the country with the cooperation of a US company. "You could be inland, at an important city like New York or Washington, DC, where networks interconnect, and you could have the ability to tap into the whole network for not only that city but between that city and the rest of the world," he says. Foreign-owned cable operators, says Gidari, are also required by US law to maintain security offices manned by US citizens, with background checks and security clearances at the landing sites in Oregon, Florida, New Jersey and other states where fiber-optic cables come ashore.

The government has gone to great lengths to insure law-enforcement access to foreign-owned telecom companies. Take the example of Global Crossing, which owns several undersea cable systems and claims to serve more than 700 carriers, mobile operators and ISPs. Three years ago, as Global Crossing was emerging from one of the largest bankruptcies in US history, it was purchased by ST Telemedia, which is partly owned by the government of Singapore. As part of the US approval process (which occurred at a time when Global Crossing was being advised by Richard Perle, then-chairman of Donald Rumsfeld's Defense Policy Board), the company signed an unprecedented Network Security Agreement with the FBI and the Defense Department. Under the agreement, which is on file with the Federal Communications Commission, Global Crossing pledged that "all domestic communications" would pass through a facility "physically located in the United States, from which Electronic Surveillance can be conducted pursuant to lawful US process." (Global Crossing declined to comment.) Legal experts say the wording is significant in the context of the NSA spying flap, but cautioned not to read too much into it. "These agreements are not uncommon in the industry," says James Andrew Lewis, director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "They provide assurances that US interests won't suffer damage with foreign ownership."

History proves a good guide to how the NSA would go about winning cooperation from a telecom company. When telephone and telegraph companies began assisting the NSA during the 1940s, only one or two executives were in on the secret. That kind of arrangement continued into the 1970s, and is probably how cooperation with the NSA works today, says Kenneth Bass III, a Justice Department official during the Carter Administration. "Once the CEO approved, all the contacts [with the intelligence agencies] would be worked at a lower level," he says. "The telcos have been participating in surveillance activities for decades--pre-FISA, post-FISA--so it's nothing new to them." Bass, who helped craft the FISA law and worked with the NSA to implement it, adds that he "would not be surprised at all" if cooperating executives received from the Bush Administration "the same sort of briefing, but much more detailed and specific than the FISA court got when [the surveillance] was first approved."

For US intelligence officials looking for allies in the industry, AT&T, MCI and Sprint have a lot to offer. In 2002, when the spying program began, AT&T's CEO was C. Michael Armstrong, the former CEO of Hughes Electronic Corp. At the time, Armstrong was also chairman of the Business Roundtable's Security Task Force, where he was instrumental in creating CEO COM LINK, a secure telecommunications system that allows the chief executives of major US corporations to speak directly to senior members of Bush's Cabinet during national emergencies. Randall Stephenson, a former SBC Communications executive who is now AT&T's chief operating officer, is a member of the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, a group of executives from the communications and defense industries who advise the President on security issues related to telecom.

Those executives, all of whom hold security clearances, meet at the White House once a year--Vice President Cheney was the speaker at their last meeting--and hold quarterly conference calls with high-ranking officials. (Asked if the NSA surveillance was ever discussed at these sessions, committee spokesman Stephen Barrett said, "We do not participate in intelligence gathering.") AT&T also makes no bones about its national security work. When SBC was preparing to acquire the company last year, the two companies underscored their ties with US intelligence in joint comments to the FCC. "AT&T's support of the intelligence and defense communities includes the performance of various classified contracts," the companies said, pointing out that AT&T "maintains special secure facilities for the performance of classified work and the safeguarding of classified information."

MCI, too, is a major government contractor and was highly valued by Verizon in part because of its work in defense and intelligence. Nicholas Katzenbach, the former US Attorney General who was appointed chairman of MCI's board after the spectacular collapse of its previous owner, WorldCom, reiterated MCI's intelligence connections in a 2003 statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee. "We are especially proud," he wrote, "of our role in supporting our national-security agencies' infrastructure, and we are gratified by the many positive comments about our service from officials at the US Department of Defense and other national-security agencies." MCI's general counsel--who would presumably have a say in any decision to cooperate with the NSA--is William Barr. He is a former assistant general counsel at the Central Intelligence Agency and served as Attorney General during the Administration of President George H.W. Bush.

Sprint Nextel is top-loaded with executives with long experience in national security and defense. Chairman and CEO Gary Forsee is a member of Bush's telecom council (as is Lawrence Babbio, the vice chairman and president of Verizon). Keith Bane, a company director, recently retired from a twenty-nine-year career with Motorola, which has worked closely with US intelligence for decades. William Conway Jr. and former FCC chairman William Kennard are managing directors of the Carlyle Group, the Washington private equity fund that invests heavily in the military and has extensive contacts in the Bush Administration.

There's another group of companies, largely overlooked, that could also be cooperating with the NSA. These are firms clustered around the Beltway that contract with the agency to provide intelligence analysts, data-mining technologies and equipment used in the NSA's global signals-intelligence operations. The largest of them employ so many former intelligence officials that it's almost impossible to see where the government ends and the private sector begins. Booz Allen Hamilton, the prime contractor for Trailblazer, a huge NSA project updating its surveillance and eavesdropping infrastructure, employs several NSA alumni, including Mike McConnell, its vice president, who retired as NSA director in 1996. (Ralph Shrader, the company's CEO, joined Booz Allen in 1978 after serving in senior positions with Western Union and RCA, both of which cooperated with the NSA on Operation Shamrock.) SI International, a software and systems engineering company with NSA contracts, recently hired Harry Gatanas, the NSA's former director of acquisitions and outsourcing, to oversee its $250-million-a-year business with US intelligence and the Pentagon. Science Applications International Corporation, another big NSA contractor, is run by executives with long histories in military intelligence, including COO Duane Andrews, a former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence.

Are firms that cooperate with the NSA legally culpable? Bamford, who is not a lawyer but probably knows more about the NSA than any American outside government, says yes. "The FISA law is very clear," he says. "If you don't have a warrant, you're in violation, and the penalty is five years and you can be sued by the aggrieved parties." Kevin Bankston, an attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, adds that US law "not only prohibits unauthorized wiretapping; it also prohibits unauthorized disclosure or use of illegally wiretapped information. As long as you were doing that, you're potentially liable." Schneier, the technology consultant, harbors no doubts either. "Arguing that this is legal is basically saying we're in a police state."

But Gidari, the Seattle telecom attorney, believes that companies would be insulated from legal challenges if they had assurances from the government that the program was within the law. He also says Congress has passed legislation granting immunity to companies operating under "statutory grants of authority" from the government. "It's not a slamdunk, but it is a good-faith defense," he says. Former Justice Department official Bass agrees but says reliance on oral requests from US officials is another matter: "If they didn't get the type of legal assurances the FISA provides for"--such as a written statement from the Attorney General--"there could be some legal exposure." But a full airing of the legal issues raised by the surveillance program may be a long time coming. "The likelihood of any enforcement absent a change in administration is zero," Bass says.

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Pentagon admits errors in spying on protesters

MSNBC and NBC News
March 10, 2006

The Department of Defense admitted in a letter obtained by NBC News on Thursday that it had wrongly added peaceful demonstrators to a database of possible domestic terrorist threats. The letter followed an NBC report focusing on the Defense Department's Threat and Local Observation Notice, or TALON, report.

Acting Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Roger W. Rogalski's letter came in reply to a memo from Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., who had demanded answers about the process of identifying domestic protesters as suspicious and removing their names when they are wrongly listed.

"The recent review of the TALON Reporting System ... identified a small number of reports that did not meet the TALON reporting criteria. Those reports dealt with domestic anti-military protests or demonstrations potentially impacting DoD facilities or personnel," Rogalski wrote on Wednesday.
"While the information was of value to military commanders, it should not have been retained in the Cornerstone database."

Threats directed against Defense Department
In 2003, the Defense Department directed a little-known agency, Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), to establish and "maintain a domestic law enforcement database that includes information related to potential terrorist threats directed against the Department of Defense." Then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz also established TALON at that time.

The original NBC News report, from December, focused on a secret 400-page Defense Department document listing more than 1,500 "suspicious incidents" across the country over a 10-month period. One such incident was a small group of activists meeting in a Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth, Fla., to plan a protest against military recruiting at local high schools.

In his Wednesday letter, Rogalski said such anomalies in the TALON database had been removed.

"They did not pertain to potential foreign terrorist activity and thus should never have been entered into the Cornerstone database. These reports have since been removed from the Cornerstone database and refresher training on intelligence oversight and database management is being given," Rogalski wrote.

Rogalski said only 43 names were improperly added to the database, and those were from protest-related reports such as the Quaker meeting in Florida.

"All reports concerning protest activities have been purged," the letter said.

TALON reports provide "non-validated domestic threat information" from military units throughout the United States that are collected and retained in the Cornerstone CIFA database. The reports include details on potential surveillance of military bases, stolen vehicles, bomb threats and planned antiwar protests. In the program's first year, the agency received more than 5,000 TALON reports.

Nearly four dozen antiwar meetings listed
The Defense Department document provides an inside look at how the U.S. military has stepped up intelligence gathering since 9/11. The database includes nearly four dozen antiwar meetings or protests, including some that have taken place far from any military installation, post or recruitment center, according to NBC News' Lisa Myers, who first wrote about the story in December.

Among those listed were a large antiwar protest in Los Angeles in March 2004 that included effigies of President Bush and antiwar protest banners, a planned protest against military recruiters in December 2004 in Boston, and a planned protest in April 2004 at McDonald's National Salute to America's Heroes - a military air and sea show in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

The Fort Lauderdale protest was deemed not to be a credible threat, and a column in the database concludes: "U.S. group exercising constitutional rights." Two-hundred and forty-three other incidents in the database were discounted because they had no connection to the Department of Defense - yet they all remained in the database.

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US found guilty of violating Shoshone human rights

by Spero News
10 Mar 06

Bernice Lalo says the Shoshone Nation is being "threatened by extinction." But a landmark decision Friday by a UN committee is causing some Western Shoshone's to have hope,

The United States was urged to "freeze", "desist" and "stop" actions being taken or threatened to be taken against the Western Shoshone Peoples of the Western Shoshone Nation, in a Friday decision by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). The U.S. has until July 15, 2006 to provide the UN committee with information on the action it had taken.
This action challenges the US government's assertion of federal ownership of nearly 90 percent of Western Shoshone lands.

"The mines are polluting our waters, destroying hot springs and exploding sacred mountains-our burials along with them--attempting to erase our signature on the land," says Lalo. "We are coerced and threatened by mining and Federal agencies when we seek to continue spiritual prayers for traditional food or medicine on Shoshone land."

According to Lalo, "We have endured murder of our Newe people for centuries, as chronicled in military records, but now we are asked to endure a more painful death from the U.S. governmental agencies -- a separation from land and spiritual renewal."

The decision expressed particular concern that the U.S.' basis for claiming federal title to Western Shoshone land rests on a theory of "gradual encroachment" through a "compensation" process in the Indian Claims Commission.

Joe Kennedy, also a Western Shoshone insists that "we have rights to protect our homelands and stop the destruction of our land, water, and air by the abuses of the United States government and the multinational corporations. He says "the situation is outrageous and we're glad the United Nations Committee agrees with us."

"Our people have suffered more nuclear testing than anywhere else in the world and they're continuing underground testing despite our protests. Yucca Mountain is being hollowed out in order to store nuclear waste. We cannot stand for it," Kennedy claims, adding "this earth, the air, the water are sacred. People of all races must stop this insanity now in order to secure a safe future for all."

The decision is historic in that it is the first time a United Nations Committee has issued a full decision against the U.S. in respect to its highly controversial Federal Indian law and policy.

CERD stressed the "nature and urgency" of the Shoshone situation informing the U.S. that it goes "well beyond" the normal reporting process and warrants immediate attention under the Committee's Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedure.

The land base covers approximately 60 million acres, stretching across what is now referred to as the states of Nevada, Idaho, Utah and California.

Western Shoshone rights to the land -- which they continue to use, care for, and occupy today -- were recognized by the United States in 1863 by the Treaty of Ruby Valley. The U.S. now claims these same lands as "public" or federal lands through an agency process and has denied Western Shoshone fair access to U.S. courts through that same process.

The land base has been and continues to be used by the United States for military testing, open pit cyanide heap leach gold mining and nuclear waste disposal planning. The U.S. has engaged in military style seizures of Shoshone livestock, trespass fines in the millions of dollars and ongoing armed surveillance of Western Shoshone who continue to assert their original and treaty rights.

"While others are allowed the freedom of religion, we are kept from the very same right. The Newe (people) use this ancestral land for sacred ceremonies. The federal agencies prevent our access to some of these important areas. Our ancestors' burials are being dug up and placed into local museums' basement storage areas because of surge of gold mines and nuclear developments. This is an outrage to our people," said Judy Rojo. "We pray for the healing of our peoples, the land and the harassment and destruction to stop."

Steven Brady, also a Western Shoshone, said that "this battle has been going on for quite some time, but we've seen a dramatic increase in the federal government and the companies' rush to finalize what they consider a settlement in order to get a hold of our lands for activities that are contaminating our water and our air."

Based upon these actions and a dramatic escalation of new actions threatening irreparable harm to Western Shoshone and their environment, last year, with the support of the Univ. of Arizona Indigenous Law and Policy Program, the Western Shoshone filed a renewed legal action at the United Nations CERD.

In addition to evidence, the Western Shoshone delegation also delivered over 13,000 signatures from citizens across the United States of America supporting the Western Shoshone action to CERD. This petition was a result of a campaign organized by the rights-based development organization Oxfam America to demonstrate the widespread concern for the Western Shoshone peoples to the United Nations.

CERD rejected the U.S.' argument that the situation was not "novel" and therefore should wait to be reviewed until the U.S. submits its Periodic Report -- past due since 2003.

The Committee informed the U.S. that "(a)lthough these are indeed long-standing issues...they warrant immediate and effective action... (and) should be dealt with as a matter of priority." The United States was "urged to pay particular attention to the right to health and cultural rights of the Western Shoshone...which may be infringed upon by activities threatening their environment and/or disregarding the spiritual and cultural significance they give to their ancestral lands."

CERD presented its decision to the Western Shoshone this morning. The decision details the U.S.' actions against the Western Shoshone and calls upon the United States to immediately:

-- Respect and protect the human rights of the Western Shoshone peoples;

-- Initiate a dialogue with the representatives of the Western Shoshone peoples in order to find a solution acceptable to them, and which complies with their rights;

-- Adopt the following measures until a final decision or settlement is reached on the status, use and occupation of Western Shoshone ancestral lands in accordance with due process of law and the U.S.' obligations under the Convention;

-- Freeze all efforts to privatize Western Shoshone ancestral lands for transfer to multinational extractive industries and energy developers;

-- Desist from all activities planned and/or conducted on Western Shoshone ancestral lands;

-- Stop imposing grazing fees, livestock impoundments, hunting, fishing and gathering restrictions and rescind all notices already made.

The decision highlights that this same process was found by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to violate "international human rights norms, principles and standards that govern determination of indigenous property interests."

When the U.S. last appeared before the Committee in 2001, Committee members expressed alarm and concern that U.S. laws regarding indigenous peoples continue to be based on the outdated, colonial era "doctrine of discovery."

The decision issued today demonstrates a solid commitment by the United Nations human rights system to make the Western Shoshone's struggle a priority. Whereas indigenous peoples have been active at the United Nations for several decades, the decision today also brings a breath of hope to indigenous communities across the U.S. and globally where the negative effects of U.S. policy and influence reach. In its decision, the Committee drew particular attention to its General recommendation 23 (1997) on the rights of indigenous peoples, in particular their right to own, develop, control and use their communal lands, territories and resources.

"The Western Shoshone Nation is very thankful to the Committee members for their decision affirming U.S. discrimination and destructive policies do not go on unaccounted for. Truth is what it is -- that can never change," said Judy Rojo.

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The Most Powerful Weapon In The World - Strategic Communication Laboratories and the war for your mind

Steve Watson
March 8 2006

In a world where the perception is the reality, all countries need to have the capability to manage their own perceptual alignment – otherwise someone else will. We live in a global village, which is reliant on communication and perception. Every country needs the tools to be part of that game.

A direct quote from the website of Strategic Communication Laboratories, a London based company that offers "the most powerful weapon in the world", the ability to manage every aspect of a conflict from one operation centre.

Take a look around their website and witness sickening quote after quote explaining how their vision is to allow the total control of citizens by their government or their military, to keep it that way, and to facilitate conflicts with and the takeover of other countries and the execution of total control over their citizens.

The idea put across by SCL is that if you can control the perceptions people have of reality, then you can control reality itself.
As the world moves further away from the 20th century concept of the Cold War, it becomes increasingly clear that the very nature of warfare itself has changed. The old style conflicts were about overpowering the enemy and winning ground. The new wars are about ideas, belief systems and ideologies. The battle is no longer about winning territory; it is about winning minds.

George Orwell was right on the money when he envisaged the coming 21st century as a battle based on the PERCEPTION of reality. in 1984, his classic warning to the world, Orwell told us that we would have to face this threat:

The Party said that Oceania had never been in alliance with Eurasia. He, Winston Smith, knew that Oceania had been in alliance with Eurasia as short a time as four years ago. But where did that knowledge exist? Only in his own consciousness, which in any case must soon be annihilated. And if all others accepted the lie which the Party imposed -if all records told the same tale -- then the lie passed into history and became truth. 'Who controls the past,' ran the Party slogan, 'controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.' And yet the past, though of its nature alterable, never had been altered. Whatever was true now was true from everlasting to everlasting. It was quite simple. All that was needed was an unending series of victories over your own memory. 'Reality control', they called it: in Newspeak, 'doublethink'.
- George Orwell, 1984, Chapter 3 (1948)

SCL's vision is no different from the constructed artificial reality designed to house the minds of the human race portrayed in the feature film The Matrix. If you present all the people with a fabricated collective illusion of reality, and enough meaningless distractions, they may stop questioning that reality when things don't seem to add up.

Formed in 1993, SCL's customers include NGOs, police departments, military forces, municipal authorities, and the UN. According to the website, funding for SCL has been provided by a number of "private high net worth individuals" all based in the UK.

The company has invested nearly $20 million into research at what they call the Behavioural Dynamics Institute (BDi), the world's leading authority on persuasion, communication psychology and public diplomacy. Given that they are the "World's leaders" it is strange that they do not have a website.

SCL is about selling to the military and Governments, or those that wish to control the military and the Government, the tools that they need to fight and the win the information war for people's minds.

Within its OpCentres are all the tools needed to initiate an elite full spectrum police state takeover - reality control. The SCL website makes the following chilling statement:

The last 5 years have seen a flurry of Homeland Security scenarios enacted and re-enacted on the streets of our cities. What if there is a biological attack, or the detonation of multiple explosive devices?

However, a major flaw has emerged in many of the scenarios - the unmanageability of civilians. They do not behave as they are supposed to. When a virus hits a city, civilians do not line up for vaccination: they run for the hills. When terrorists are looking for a target, it is the predictability of civilian behaviour that makes the terrorists' job easier. What if there was a way to control civilian behaviour when it counts? Imagine the benefits of having civilians as cooperating partners.

Strategic Communication makes the people part of the solution, not part of the problem.

But how do the so-called OpCentres provide the ability to do this? Well according to SCL:

An Opcentre puts influence, control and power back into the hands of the government and military, giving them greater power to influence the enemy in time of conflict and enhanced access to their citizens during a crisis. For instance, an Opcentre can be designed to override all national radio and TV broadcasts, allowing the government and military to communicate with the public as the need arises.

The OpCentres allow for powerful PSYOP campaigns to be conducted, which can engender support within the national community for proposed military action or more bone chillingly, "develop national resilience and behavioural compliance for homeland security issues".

They also allow for the takeover and control of Financial markets, health ministries, and foreign affairs.

Modules within the Opcentres can range from "Word-of Mouth Units" to "Cultural Alignment Units" and previous projects SCL have undertaken for clients include to "Design and develop a permanent military strategic communication
facility capable of delivering strategic and operational psyop campaigns for a South Asian country." and to "Design, build and install a Homeland Security Centre for an Asian country. The Opcentre can override all national radio and TV broadcasts in time of crisis."

Internal security issues are covered too, with the ability within the OpCentre to quell public unrest, manage large crowds or riot situations, prevent insurgency and other such public affairs crises under the umbrella of a "counter-terrorism programme."

Almost every country suffers from some problematic faction within its citizens. These disaffected groups may be driven by religious fervour, self-importance or just greed. In all cases, their ability to operate and recruit new members depends on the perceptual environment and the levels of tolerance of the state and its citizens. SCL specialises in producing solutions for governments so that they can significantly increase their control and management of disaffected groups as part of a wider counter-terrorism programme.

According to SCL, although it offers solutions for all departments of government, it "makes sense" to give total control of of their installations to the Head of State because other ministers of government may be "over zealous" or may not share the same vision.

Perhaps there may be some ministers who are not hell bent on destroying the freedoms of everyone and perpetuating endless psy-war on people and nations all over the planet? hmmm? Perhaps?

This is the future of the globalist police state takeover, they have the infrastructure in place, they have the ability to initiate the takeover NOW. However, they recognise that perception is everything and we are engaged within an INFOWAR.

They could not takeover tomorrow because not enough people would believe the perception of reality that they are transmitting. Currently we are in the majority, they still have a long way to go before their PSYOPS campaigns and "word of mouth units" can do an effective enough job.

Of course the main task currently assigned to the "Cultural Alignment Unit" is to create the perception that we are the minority, and that anyone who is not with the Government is with the "disaffected groups" more widely referred to as "the terrorists"

We are holding them off by spreading the truth and defending our freedoms in our own peaceful revolution of information. It is our reality that is at stake, they want to control our reality with conflict and disharmony and therefore they must continue to create the perception that that is the way the world is.

As SCL puts it on their own website:

We live in a world of communication, where perception is very often the reality. Those individuals that control the perceptions are the ones that control virtually everything. Most modern conflicts are based on misaligned perceptions, ideologies, opinions about religion, etc. If a government does not have the tools to manage the perceptions which effect security, defence, finance, tourism, health and foreign relations, then it may well find itself at the mercy of those that do.

We respond with the words of Orwell in 1984:

Being a minority, even a minority of one, did not make you mad. There was truth and there was untruth, and if you clung to the truth even against the whole world, you were not mad. The obvious, the silly, and the true had to be defended. Truisms are true, hold on to that! The solid world exists, its laws do not change. Stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported fall towards the earth's centre. With the feeling that he was speaking directly to O'Brien, and also that he was setting forth an important axiom, Winston wrote:

Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.

Contact SCL here

Here is what it says in the company overview:

Strategic Communication Laboratories is the leading supplier of strategic communications, information operations and public diplomacy to governments and military clients around the world.

The company is the exclusive licence holder of the BDi strategic communication methodology, which is the most advanced and effective persuasion methodology for social and group communication.

The company provides solutions mainly for defence, internal security and foreign affairs governmental departments, but also provides solutions for tourism, financial markets & investment and health programmes.

SCL operates throughout the world and is based in London, UK. The Head Office employs about 30 people and there maybe as many as 2000 specialists employed on projects worldwide.

The company was formed in 1993 and produced a number of projects for the Behavioural Dynamics Institute, which was undergoing development trials for its methodology. The successful outcome of the trials led to the permanent association of SCL and BDi.

Today SCL is not only the unique licence holder of the BDi methodology, but more importantly, after 12 years, it is the only team fully trained in its operation.

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G.O.P. Senators Say Accord Is Set on Wiretapping

March 8, 2006

WASHINGTON - Moving to tamp down Democratic calls for an investigation of the administration's domestic eavesdropping program, Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee said Tuesday that they had reached agreement with the White House on proposed bills to impose new oversight but allow wiretapping without warrants for up to 45 days.
The agreement, hashed out in weeks of negotiations between Vice President Dick Cheney and Republicans critical of the program, dashes Democratic hopes of starting a full committee investigation because the proposal won the support of Senators Chuck Hagel of Nebraska and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine. The two, both Republicans, had threatened to support a fuller inquiry if the White House did not disclose more about the program to Congress.

"We are reasserting Congressional responsibility and oversight," Ms. Snowe said.

The proposed legislation would create a seven-member "terrorist surveillance subcommittee" and require the administration to give it full access to the details of the program's operations.

Ms. Snowe said the panel would start work on Wednesday, and called it "the beginning, not the end of the process."

"We have to get the facts in order to weigh in," she said. "We will do more if we learn there is more to do."

The agreement would reinforce the authority of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which was created in 1978 to issue special warrants for spying but was sidestepped by the administration. The measure would require the administration to seek a warrant from the court whenever possible.

If the administration elects not to do so after 45 days, the attorney general must certify that the surveillance is necessary to protect the country and explain to the subcommittee why the administration has not sought a warrant. The attorney general would be required to give an update to the subcommittee every 45 days.

Democrats called the deal an abdication of the special bipartisan committee's role as a watchdog, saying the Republicans had in effect blessed the program before learning how it worked or what it entailed.

"The committee is, to put it bluntly, basically under the control of the White House," said Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who is vice chairman of the panel.

The House Intelligence Committee said last week that it would seek limited briefings for some panel members so that they could weigh changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, but the Republican leaders of the House committee stopped far short of proposing the kind of continuing oversight and rules changes that the Senate committee has settled on. A spokeswoman for the White House, Dana Perino, called the Republican senators' proposal "a generally sound approach."

"We're eager to work with Congress on legislation that would further codify the president's authority," Ms. Perino said. "We remain committed to our principle, that we will not do anything that undermines the program's capabilities or the president's authority."

Republicans on the committee, however, emphasized the administration's resistance to the accord. Senator Pat Roberts, the Kansas Republican who is chairman of the Intelligence Committee and helped broker the deal, called it "the agreement we insisted upon."

Ms. Snowe said the proposal had met "considerable reluctance" from the White House in negotiations.

The committee had scheduled a vote on a full investigation for Tuesday afternoon if there was no accord with the White House to disclose more about the program. As of midday, no resolution had been reached.

Mr. Hagel said the group worked out the last-minute deal in long telephone calls with Mr. Cheney; the White House counsel, Harriet E. Miers; and Stephen J. Hadley, the assistant to the president for national security.

The proposed bill would allow the president to authorize wiretapping without seeking a warrant for up to 45 days if the communication under surveillance involved someone suspected of being a member of or a collaborator with a specified list of terrorist groups and if at least one party to the conversation was outside the United States.

The administration has provided some information in confidential briefings to a "Gang of Eight" lawmakers made up of the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House and the Senate, as well as their respective Intelligence Committees. Republican sponsors of the proposal said the new subcommittees would greatly improve lawmakers' ability to obtain digest information because the staffs for the first time would have access to it.

Senator Mike DeWine, the Ohio Republican who helped draft the proposal, said it would bring the program "into the normal oversight of the Senate intelligence committee."

But Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, compared the proposed bill to a doctor's diagnosis of an unexamined patient.

"Congress doesn't have that great a history in reforming programs it knows a lot about," Mr. Wyden said. "Here Congress is trying to legislate in the dark."

Senator Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee, the majority leader, issued a statement supporting the proposal.

It is not clear whether all the Republican critics will back the deal. Senator Arlen Specter, the Pennsylvania Republican who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has said Congress should seek a court ruling on the legitimacy of the program in addition to new oversight.

In a separate Senate committee hearing on Tuesday, Mr. Specter said, "We're having quite a time in getting responses to questions as to what has happened with the electronic surveillance program."

He said he put the administration "on notice" he might seek to block its financing if Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales did not give more information.

Mr. Specter said in statement later that he hoped for a solution that would avoid resorting to such an extreme action.

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By John Leo
5 Mar 06

Law professor Eugene Volokh calls it "censorship envy." Muslims in Europe want the same sort of censorship that many nations now offer to other aggrieved groups. By law, 11 European nations can punish anyone who publicly denies the Holocaust. That's why the strange British historian David Irving is going to prison. Ken Livingstone, the madcap mayor of London, was suspended for four weeks for calling a Jewish reporter a Nazi. A Swedish pastor endured a long and harrowing prosecution for a sermon criticizing homosexuality, finally beating the rap in Sweden's Supreme Court.
Much of Europe has painted itself into a corner on the censorship issue. What can Norway say to pro-censorship Muslims when it already has a hate speech law forbidding, among other things, "publicly stirring up one part of the population against another," or any utterance that "threatens, insults or subjects to hatred, persecution or contempt any person or group of persons because of their creed, race, color or national or ethnic origin ... or homosexual bent"? No insulting utterances at all? Since most strong opinions can be construed as insulting (hurting someone's feelings), no insults means no free speech.

It's not just Europe. In Canada, a teacher drew a suspension for a letter to a newspaper arguing that homosexuality is not a fixed orientation, but a condition that can be treated. He was not accused of discrimination, merely of expressing thoughts that the state defines as improper. Another Canadian newspaper was fined 4,500 Canadian dollars for printing an ad giving the citations -- but not the text -- of four biblical quotations against homosexuality. As David Bernstein writes in his book "You Can't Say That!": "It has apparently become illegal in Canada to advocate traditional Christian opposition to homosexual sex."

Many nations have set themselves up for Muslim complaints by adopting the unofficial slogan of the West's chattering classes: Multiculturalism trumps free speech. Sensitivity and equality are viewed as so important that the individual right to speak out is routinely eclipsed. Naturally enough, Muslims want to play the same victim game as other aggrieved groups. The French Council of Muslims says it is considering taking France Soir, which reprinted the Danish cartoons, to court for provocation.

In truth, Muslims have been playing the game for some time. Michel Houellebecq, a French novelist, said some derogatory things about the Quran. Muslim groups hauled him into court, but the novelist was eventually exonerated. Actress Brigitte Bardot, an animal rights activist, criticized Muslim ritual slaughter and was fined 10,000 francs for the offense. Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci wrote an angry anti-Muslim book, meant to waken the West to the gravity of the threat posed by Islam. Muslims pressed for her prosecution in France. The case was thrown out of court on a technicality in 2002, but she is scheduled to go on trial again this coming June.

In Australia, a state tribunal found two pastors guilty of vilification of Muslims. They had argued that Islam is inherently a violent religion, and that Islam plans to take over Australia. To avoid a fine of up to 7,000 Australian dollars or three months in jail, they were ordered to apologize and to promise not to repeat their remarks anywhere in Australia or over the Internet. The pastors refused to comply and are appealing to the Supreme Court. The case has become a major cause, with churches and Christian leaders fighting to overturn the law, and Muslims pushing for a broad hate-speech law.

An obvious thing to say about laws that limit speech is that we have no evidence that they work to meet their stated goal -- reducing bigotry and increasing tolerance. Banning Holocaust denial, on grounds that it is inherently anti-Semitic, has no track record of improving respect for Jews. If anything, hatred of Jews appears to be on the rise in these nations. Setting up certain groups as beyond criticism is bound to increase resentment among those not similarly favored. (Yes, we know all groups are supposed to be treated alike, but that is not the way these laws work.) In real life, the creation of protected classes sharpens intergroup tensions and leads to competition for victim status.

An even more obvious point: We are very lucky to have the First Amendment. Without it, our chattering classes would be falling all over themselves to ban speech that offends sensitive groups, just like many Eurochatterers are doing now. We know this because our campus speech codes, the models for the disastrous hate-speech laws in Europe, Canada and Australia, were the inventions of our own elites. Without a First Amendment, the distortions and suppressions of campus life would likely have gone national. No more speech codes, please. In America, we get to throw rocks at all ideologies, religious and secular, and we get to debate issues, not have them declared off limits by sensitivity-prone agents of the state.

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Illegal Spying, Spineless Congress: Oversight by Capitulation

by Robert Perry
10 Mar 06

Despite a dip in his opinion polls, George W. Bush's transformation of the United States into an authoritarian society continues apace, with new "compromises" with Congress actually consolidating his claims to virtually unlimited executive power.

Bush's latest success came as part of a supposed "concession" to Congress that would grant two new Republican-controlled seven-member subcommittees narrow oversight of Bush's warrantless wiretapping of Americans.
While "moderate" Republican senators – Mike DeWine of Ohio, Olympia Snowe of Maine, and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska – hailed the plan as a retreat by the White House, the deal actually blesses Bush's authority to bypass the courts in spying on Americans and imposes on him only a toothless congressional review process.

Indeed, the congressional plan may make matters worse, broadening the permissible scope of Bush's wiretaps to include Americans deemed to be "working in support of a terrorist group or organization."

Given Bush's record of stretching words to his advantage – and his claim that anyone who isn't "with us" is with the terrorists – the vague concept of "working in support" could open almost any political critic of the Bush administration to surveillance.

Plus, the only check on abuses would be the closed-door oversight work of the seven-member panels, which would only be informed of a warrantless wiretap after it had been in place for 45 days. Republicans also would have four of the seven seats on each subcommittee and any dissent from the minority Democrats would be kept secret.

In other words, the plan would let Bush and his Republican congressional loyalists conduct wiretaps of anyone whose activities might be called supportive of terrorists, while any Democratic critic would be muzzled from saying anything publicly under penalty of law.

Chilling Powers

Under such an arrangement, it would not be difficult to envision the wiretapping of journalists writing critical articles about the abuse of terrorism suspects, or of disarmament experts who disagree with Bush's claims about some "rogue" state's weapons of mass destruction, or of a political rival who challenges Bush's interpretation of his Commander-in-Chief powers.

Indeed, many Bush supporters have lobbed accusations of "treason" against the likes of journalist Seymour Hersh, weapons inspector Scott Ritter and former Vice President Al Gore – because they have presented information that clashes with Bush's agenda.

Other influential Republicans, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have urged Bush to move aggressively against suspected "fifth columnists" inside the United States who supposedly sympathize with the enemy.

Graham also has called on Bush to use high-tech surveillance techniques to "map the battlefield electronically," which in the Internet Age means going beyond assessing the physical battlefield to examine the political connections among potential enemies so they can be neutralized at a time of crisis.

"Here's where I think I'm your biggest fan," Graham told Attorney General Alberto Gonzales during Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Feb. 6. "During the time of war, the administration has the inherent power, in my opinion, to surveil the enemy and to map the battlefield electronically – not just physical, but to electronically map what the enemy is up to by seizing information and putting that puzzle together.

"And the administration has not only the right, but the duty, in my opinion, to pursue Fifth Column movements," Graham said. "I stand by this President's ability, inherent to being Commander in Chief, to find out about Fifth Column movements, and I don't think you need a warrant to do that."

Though the Bush administration has denied abusing its four-year-old warrantless wiretapping program, it has been unwilling to give details about the numbers of people swept up in the surveillance or define the precise criteria for who's wiretapped.

Bush has insisted that the wiretaps are limited to the international communications of people in the United States who have gotten calls from al-Qaeda or its affiliates.

Newspaper investigations, however, indicate the spying is much more extensive than Bush has admitted. The New York Times and the Washington Post have reported that the wiretapping by the National Security Agency has scooped up communications from thousands of innocent Americans. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Talkin' Texan Means Lyin' Big."]

Investigation Blocked

Congressional Democrats have called for an investigation to ascertain the scope of the warrantless wiretaps before addressing the administration's assertion that the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act doesn't give the nation's spy agencies the flexibility they need.

But congressional Republicans and the White House torpedoed plans for an investigation and instead began drafting legislation that would effectively endorse Bush's claim to an unfettered right to bypass the Fourth Amendment's requirement of a court order before a legal search can be conducted.

The new legislation, sponsored by Sen. DeWine, would permit the N.S.A. to intercept international phone calls and e-mails of U.S. residents if the administration saw "probable cause to believe that one party to the communication is a member, affiliate, or working in support of a terrorist group or organization." [NYT, March 9, 2006]

After 45 days, the law would require the Attorney General to take one of three steps: end the wiretap, get a warrant from the secret FISA court, or inform the new oversight panels about the wiretap.

White House spokesman Dana Perino said the administration was willing to give the new seven-member panels information about the wiretaps but that the members would be prohibited from divulging what they learn. [Washington Post, March 9, 2006]

Congressional Democrats have criticized the DeWine plan as insufficient to prevent violations of civil liberties.

Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV of West Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Congress first needed to exercise its responsibility to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch.

"It is 'undersight' when they tell us what they want us to know," Rockefeller told the Washington Post. "It's 'oversight' when we know enough to ask our own questions."

However, with hard-line Republicans like Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas joining with more moderate Republicans like Snowe and Hagel, the Democrats appear to have been out-flanked and out-muscled again.

A similar process occurred in December 2005 when Congress passed legislation outlawing cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of detainees in U.S. custody. But an amendment, promoted by Graham and co-sponsored by Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., limited legal appeals that Guantanamo Bay inmates could make in U.S. courts.

Bush administration lawyers have since gone into federal court, citing the Graham-Levin amendment to prevent Guantanamo detainees from stopping alleged torture. In other words, the anti-torture law is being interpreted as granting Bush the sole right to decide how to interpret its provisions and when to enforce them. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com's "Bush Flummoxes Kafka, Orwell."]

The legislation on warrantless wiretaps now promises to be the next White House "concession" that will, in reality, consolidate Bush's autocratic power in what looks like an inexorable march toward an end of the American democratic Republic.

Originally published at (c) www.consortiumnews.com

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book, Secrecy & Privilege: Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq, can be ordered at secrecyandprivilege.com. It's also available at Amazon.com, as is his 1999 book, Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & 'Project Truth.'

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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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Int'l organizations balk at Israel's demands on seam-line workers

By Amira Hass
Haaretz Correspondent

An Israeli demand that Palestinians working for international organizations request a permit to enter the seam-line area between the West Bank separation fence and the Green Line has generated tension between the security establishment and the international groups.
At the end of February, international organizations received an e-mail from Lieutenant Colonel Offer Mey-Tal, head of the Civil Administration's foreign relations and international organizations branch, saying that as of March 1, all organizations that have not submitted a list of Palestinian employees for 2006 and a list of authorized employees requesting permits "will not be able to receive permits for their Palestinian staff, no exceptions."

It appears that all the international organizations that assist the Palestinian population - which has suffered particularly in the seam-line area - have rejected the demand. They say that obeying the order would be a sort of recognition that Israel has in effect annexed parts of the West Bank.

The international organizations said they think Israel has backed down from its demand for a list of the employees, but continues to insist that the approximately 1,700 Palestinians employed by the organizations submit requests to enter the seam-line area. The Israel Defense Forces has declared the entire area a closed military zone, meaning that Palestinians are allowed to pass through the gates and roadblocks manned by soldiers only if they have entry permits provided by the Civil Administration. Until the last few weeks, delegations from international organizations - foreigners as well as Palestinians - were permitted to enter the area without permits.

According to the Civil Administration, the international organizations in the territories include 35 governmental organizations and 74 non-governmental organizations (among them about a dozen United Nations groups).

A member of one of the organizations told Haaretz that his group understands the Israeli security establishment to be relating to the seam-line area as Israeli territory: Just as entry into Israel requires authorization for Palestinian workers, so too for entry into the seam-line zone. The organizations - the largest of which is UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East  regularly submit requests for their Palestinian workers to enter Israel (including East Jerusalem) or to travel between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

"There is a contradiction between the public declarations of their desire to make our humanitarian work easier and help out, and the limitations that hamper our ability to work," said an official from one of the organizations.

The Civil Administration spokesman said its request for updated lists of the organizations' Palestinian workers who regularly receive permits to enter Israel was intended "for the purposes of increasing the efficiency and improving the work we do with the organizations."

The demand for permits is one of several steps that Israeli authorities have taken to curb the freedom of movement of Palestinians who work for international organizations and limit the number of people who can enter East Jerusalem, where most of the organizations' main offices are located.

Israel is also demanding that the international organizations note who on their lists of Palestinians seeking permits to travel from Gaza to the West Bank and East Jerusalem is a "senior" employee and who isn't. The organizations are refusing to make this distinction and said they will continue to submit their requests for permits on the basis of work needs and not on the basis of seniority. The organizations are well aware that the Civil Administration could refuse to issue permits to those not considered "senior."

The security establishment has also asked the organizations to select "essential workers" who live in the West Bank, with the intention that only these workers will be authorized to enter East Jerusalem when the army imposes a total closure on the territories.

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Israelis Want Aipac-Backed Bill Softened

By Ori Nir
March 10, 2006

WASHINGTON - Israeli interests in the West Bank and Gaza could be hurt by a bill being pressed by the pro-Israel lobby that would restrict American assistance to the Palestinians, several Israeli officials and representatives of international aid organizations told the Forward.

In an attempt to isolate any Palestinian government led by the terrorist organization Hamas, pro-Israel activists are backing a bill - the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 - that bans all non-humanitarian American assistance to the Palestinian Authority and prohibits official American contacts with the P.A. unless Hamas recognizes Israel and renounces terrorism. Thousands of lobbyists with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee flooded Capitol Hill Tuesday, holding almost 500 meetings with legislators and their staff, in which they urged members of Congress to endorse the bill.

But Israeli officials told the Forward that it could be a serious mistake to pass the bill before a Palestinian government has been formed and before the March 28 Israeli elections. They argued that at this point the bill could end up limiting the diplomatic flexibility of the new Israeli government in dealings with the new P.A. regime. In addition, Israeli officials said, the bill may place the onus of providing for the wellbeing of the Palestinian population on Israel, the occupying power in the territories. The bill could also result in the cancellation of several internationally funded aid programs in which Israel has a vital interest, in fields such as public health, water and sewage.

"Israel has not decided what to do yet. An elected government will have to do that," said an Israel official who attended Aipac's annual policy conference this week, speaking on condition of anonymity. "It's really too early to make such decisions," the official said. "Israel, the U.S., the international community all need to wait and see what Hamas does and how things play out, and then decide if to engage with the Palestinian government and on what level."

Rather than openly oppose the efforts of their allies in Washington, however, Israeli officials are operating under the assumption that the Bush administration, along with some lawmakers, will work to scale back some of the proposed restrictions.

In the first sign of such softening, the Senate version of the bill, introduced Tuesday by Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell and Delaware Democrat Joseph Biden, makes a distinction between Hamas and the P.A., allowing interaction with non-Hamas members of the Palestinian government. It also makes some of the sanctions on the P.A. discretionary rather than mandatory.

Gidi Greenstein, director of the Israeli think tank Reut and a former adviser to Labor prime minister Ehud Barak, was more outspoken. "We are at a moment of tremendous change," Greenstein told a crowd at the Aipac conference, in response to a question on whether the legislation serves Israel's interests. "Things change from one minute to another, which is why every side needs to maintain maximum flexibility. Of all the tools that a government has, legislation is the most rigid, and there needs to be a way for a government to respond to a constantly changing reality."

The bill, introduced in the House of Representatives last month and in the Senate on Tuesday, sets tougher benchmarks for engaging with a Hamas-led Palestinian government than the ones set by Israel's transitional government.

It calls for the president to certify that a set of conditions are met before federal money can be appropriated to the P.A. Those include institutional changes such as the promotion of peaceful coexistence in Palestinian media and textbooks. Another condition for engaging with a Hamas-led government is that the Palestinian government recognize Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state, a demand never posed by Israel or the international community to the Palestine Liberation Organization, Egypt or Jordan when they signed peace agreements with Israel.

The bill is not the only area where Aipac seems to be taking a harder line than Israel on future relations with the Palestinians. At Aipac's conference this week, the organization's director for legislative strategy and policy, Ester Kurz, participated in a panel discussion on the question of whether to dismantle the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the U.N. body that provides services to Palestinian refugees.

Panel participants, including Rep. Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican, accused Unrwa of being bloated, corrupt, anachronistic and acquiescing to anti-Israeli violence. Despite such criticisms, Israel opposes dismantling the U.N. agency - a point acknowledged by Kurz during the session. She said that Israel does not want to see the U.N. agency dissolved out of fear that Jerusalem would end up inheriting the responsibility for the welfare of about 1.5 million refugees in the West Bank and Gaza.

Aipac leaders say that no daylight exists between the organization and Israel on the strategy toward the P.A. Asked by the Forward if Aipac was lobbying for an agenda that does not reflect Israel's interests, a former president and board member, Melvin Dow, said: "I don't think there is any incompatibility between the interests of the United States and the interests of Israel.... I think we all share common interests."

Israeli officials said that Israel has coordinated its positions on Hamas and the P.A. with Aipac, but could not say whether Israel had consulted regarding specific provisions of the bill. The measure, according to several congressional staffers who followed its development, was drafted with the active involvement of Aipac's staff. Israeli officials would not say whether they suggested to Aipac that the bill be softened.

Regardless of the bill, most projects funded by the American government in the West Bank and Gaza have already been frozen. According to executives with non-governmental organizations that are contracted by the American government to carry out projects in the West Bank and Gaza, all initiatives that require interaction with representatives of the Palestinian government have been put on hold. The executives said that the United States Agency for International Development is conducting a thorough reassessment of its programs in the territories and wants all potentially problematic ones frozen during the review. Also, in anticipation of the formation of a Hamas-led Palestinian government, the American agency does not want to put NGO workers in a legally problematic position of dealing with members of a terrorist organization and does not want to be seen as assisting or cooperating with one.

Conversations with several officials with American NGOs indicate that the distinction made by the proposed Aipac-backed legislation between humanitarian aid that is permitted and assistance for economic development or infrastructure that is forbidden is not always clear. "NGOs are very much in the dark as to what will and what will not be funded," said Theodore Kattouf, president of America Mideast Educational and Training Services, an organization that is mainly involved in education and training.

America's aid money to the territories is funneled through the USAid, a federal body responsible for the disbursement of most non-military foreign aid worldwide. The agency's budget for the West Bank and Gaza for 2006 is $150 million. More than half of that amount is slated for economic growth projects, which the administration has signaled will be suspended once a Hamas government takes office.

The administration's position and the proposed congressional legislation both allow for humanitarian aid to continue, as long as the assistance does not go through a Hamas-led government. The problem is, according to officials familiar with the delivery of such aid, that almost any aid project requires dealing with Palestinian government officials, on one level or another, and almost any project relies on Palestinian government institutions to deliver the aid. As it turns out, a good deal of the billions in foreign-aid dollars sent to the territories from the international community, including the United States, have been invested in recent years in enhancing these P.A. institutions.

For the most part, USAid contracts charitable and other non-governmental organizations, which typically interact with Palestinian organizations or sub-contractors, and with the Palestinian government. USAid has frozen all projects that involve contact with the P.A., which account for about 80% of all the projects in the territories funded by the agency, according to officials with the NGOs in question.

One example, according to Peter Gubser, president of the American Near East Refugee Aid, is a USAid-funded program to rebuild, train and improve well-baby care clinics in the territories. "We were told [by USAid] to drop the government clinics and move to NGO and Unrwa clinics," Gubser said.

Most clinics in rural Palestinian communities are P.A.-run, which means that the majority of Palestinian newborns and their mothers in more than 500 villages in the West Bank won't have easy access to such clinics.

Another example is a new USAid-funded project to prevent avian flu, which involves cooperation between Palestinian and Israeli scientists. "We have been working on doing some prevention and detection. That is also now on hold," said Liz Sime, West Bank and Gaza director at Care, a charitable organization fighting poverty worldwide that has signed a two-year contract with USAid to deliver services in the territories costing $10 million.

The anti-flu project cannot proceed because it necessitates contacts with Palestinian health ministry officials, Sime said in a phone interview from her office in East Jerusalem. "You can't do proper surveillance without working through an official national body," Sime said, adding that Israeli public health officials "have communicated their concern" to Care over the freezing of this project.

Representatives of NGOs that contract with USAid have recently met at least twice with senior State Department officials to discuss ways to continue their projects, the Forward has learned. In both meetings, NGO representatives told administration officials that almost any type of assistance project to the Palestinian population - whether humanitarian or not - involves interacting on some level with Palestinian government officials.

Sources familiar with the meetings said that while the administration promised that the American government would not go after NGO staffers who deal with P.A. officials affiliated with Hamas in the course of delivering humanitarian aid, administration officials pointed out that "third parties" might try to take legal action against them.

NGO representatives will ask the administration, the Forward has learned, to issue a legal opinion making a distinction between P.A. politicians affiliated with Hamas and P.A. workers, or "civil servants," with whom working-level contacts could be permissible. But legal advisers have warned NGO executives that this approach could not be legally sustained if the Palestinian Anti-Terrorism Act of 2006 is passed.

Aipac spokesmen say that passing the legislation sooner rather than later is important in order to send a strong message to Hamas and to the international community. They also argue that it is important to set clear markers for America's policy before the resolve in Washington to isolate Hamas erodes. Larry Garber, the former USAid mission director in the West Bank and Gaza and current executive director of the New Israel Fund, said that Aipac's push for the legislation could in practice preempt not only the administration but the Israeli government as well.

"It's not smart to push in an unequivocal way yet," he said. "It really would be useful to ask Aipac: 'Do you really want people to be going up to the Hill [urging members of Congress] to support that legislation when the administration has not yet come up with a policy and the Israelis have not come up with a policy yet?'"

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From AIPAC to Check Point - Is Check Point's problem over Sourcefire caused by a hostile Washington bureaucracy?

Ran Dagoni
9 Mar 06

However, mingling in the crowded hallways of the Washington convention center that hosted the event gave one the impression that the threat of a mushroom cloud in Middle Eastern skies in the coming years bothered the thousands of participants far less than the clear and present danger to AIPAC: the pending trial of two senior officials, Steven J. Rosen, who was responsible for foreign affairs and was a strong figure in the lobby, and Keith Weissman, a former Middle East analyst.
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) held its Policy Conference in Washington this week. There were long speeches and discussions about the problems of the day (nuclear proliferation, Iran, and the rise of Hamas), as well as about the "strong alliance" between Israel and the US.

As in the past, this strength was seen in the impressive presence of senior administration official and Congresspersons, including Vice President Richard Cheney, who praised Israel's contribution to US security interests, and promised reciprocation in the form of constant support.

However, mingling in the crowded hallways of the Washington convention center that hosted the event gave one the impression that the threat of a mushroom cloud in Middle Eastern skies in the coming years bothered the thousands of participants far less than the clear and present danger to AIPAC: the pending trial of two senior officials, Steven J. Rosen, who was responsible for foreign affairs and was a strong figure in the lobby, and Keith Weissman, a former Middle East analyst.

Rosen and Weissman are suspected of "receiving classified information" without being authorized to do so, and passing it onto Israeli and other diplomats, as well as other crimes. They are not actually being charged with espionage, but these are still crimes could put them into federal prison for many years.

In an act of self-preservation, AIPAC fired the two men last year, shortly after they were exposed as supporting actors in a bureaucratic drama about the leak of information in the Bush administration, known as the "Pentagon mole affair". The mole was Defense Department Iran analyst Lawrence Franklin, who leaked to Rosen and Weissman juicy details from a presidential document about Iran and the threat that Iranian agents might kill Israelis in northern Iraq.

AIPAC feared that Rosen and Weissman would refuse to fall on their swords for the sake of the lobby, even though AIPAC offered them generous six-figure sums to finance their defense. The road the two men are expected to take is the one paved by Franklin. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison, but his sentence was slashed in exchange for cooperating with the prosecution.

If Rosen and Weissman decide to buy their freedom with confidential information about goings-on at AIPAC - and Washington sources believe that they will do so - AIPAC as we know it is liable to disappear, and this could have a decisive effect on US-Israeli relations.

However, beyond AIPAC's real distress, the affair reveals another worrying problem in US-Israeli relations. What exactly led to the capture of Rosen and Weissman? Is AIPIC under surveillance? Not necessarily. Former and current intelligence officials told "The New York Times" says, "The two men may have stumbled into an American intelligence operation involving electronic monitoring of Israeli interests in the US". The working assumption in Washington is that all embassies in the capital are exposed to surveillance, but it is not clear whether the surveillance of "Israeli interests" was limited to the embassy.

Some say that the entire affair is another sign that beneath the tight US-Israeli ties bubbles a constant US fear about Israeli espionage. Former AIPAC director of legislative affairs Douglas Bloomfield says this fear existed even before the Jonathan Pollard affair, but Pollard's arrest in 1985 almost certainly drove US defense establishment figures to view Israel not only as an ally, but also as an adversary.

Flare-ups between Israel and the US over Washington's allegations that Israel sold weapons and technology, some including US inputs, to China merely fanned the coals of hostility of these officials.

You don't have to be excessively paranoid to see a link between the way Israel is perceived in some corners in Washington and the bureaucratic obstacles placed in the way of the acquisition of Sourcefire by Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: CHKP) last week. One of the Maryland-based IT security company's products, Snort, is part of the intrusion prevention and detection technology systems used by the US Department of Defense and other entities in the US.

Ostensibly, the obstacles are anchored in national interest security considerations: a (rare) 45-day investigation into the security aspects of the transfer of control of sensitive technology to foreign hands. But when one examines the obstacle in light of well-publicized accusations spread by anonymous government sources against a few Israeli technology companies a few years ago, fear arises that Check Point ought to prepare not only to allay the regulator's legitimate concerns, but also to deal with in-built hostility on the part of certain administration officials towards Israel, especially towards a particular sector of Israeli technology companies.

In May 2000, reports began appearing in the US media linking Amdocs Ltd. (NYSE: DOX) to the wiretapping of government communications. "Insight", a magazine of the right-wing "Washington Times" group, cited "scores" of sources, including intelligence sources, who claimed that the FBI was convinced that Amdocs, a contractor for upgrading the White House's telephony system, had listed to conversations in the president's residence.

The reports was echoed widely, until "The New York Times" quoted two FBI sources as saying that Amdocs was clear of all suspicion. Nonetheless, the conclusion about Amdocs's innocence only came after a year-long investigation. There were enough FBI officials to whom the allegations against the Israeli technology company seems likely enough to warrant such a lengthy investigation.

In December 2001, two months after the September 11 terrorist attacks, reports reemerged, again citing "federal sources", about the involvement of Israeli technology companies in US espionage activities. In a series of shows, "Fox News" correspondent Carl Cameron claimed that, in the late 1990s, the FBI and other agencies had investigated Amdocs "more than once". In 1999, the US National Security Agency (NSA) warned that electronic records telephone calls in the US had reached Israeli hands, according to Cameron.

In another report, Cameron said Comverse Technology Inc. (Nasdaq: CMVT) subsidiary Comverse Infosys, a provider of surveillance equipment to US law enforcement agencies, was itself conducting secret wiretapping through a back door in the equipment it installed.

This was not a marginal report or a loony medium. Fox is the leading television news channel, with twice as many viewers as CNN. Nor is Cameron small fry. He is now "Fox News" chief White House correspondent. Nor is "Fox News" hostile towards Israel; on the contrary, it is considered the most pro-Israel television news channel in the US. This may explain why it erased Cameron's reports from its website a few days after they were broadcast. The reports can now only be found in electronic archives.

The reports disquieted Israeli diplomats at the time. They believed that there was a hard core of officials at the Defense Department, FBI, and other agencies, who bore bitter resentment of what they saw as Israeli intelligence operations in the US, rightly or wrongly. This assessment has not changed, and the same figures are probably involved.

As for Israel's Embassy in Washington, embassy spokesman David Segal said on Friday, "We have no comment on the matter."

Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes.co.il - on March 9, 2006

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2006

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Hamas attacks Israel border plan

10 Mar 06

A senior Hamas leader has described as a declaration of war an Israeli plan to set new borders unilaterally by annexing Palestinian land.

The militant group's political leader in exile, Khaled Meshaal, told the AFP news agency the plan was intended to meet only Israel's security needs.

Mr Meshaal said the plan would not bring about peace.

Acting Israeli PM Ehud Olmert said he planned to set permanent borders for Israel within four years.
But he said he would give Hamas time to reform, disarm and embrace past interim peace agreements before pursuing a unilateral solution.

Hamas, which won elections in January, is in the process of forming the next Palestinian administration.

"Israel's unilateral disengagement from the Palestinian territories is a declaration of war against the Palestinian people," Mr Meshaal told AFP.

He said the plan would "permit Israel to stay in the largest section of the West Bank, to maintain their wall and settlements, to refuse all concessions on Jerusalem and to reject the Palestinians' right of return".

Mr Meshaal said that Mr Olmert was "in the process of committing the same errors toward the Palestinians that [Israeli PM Ariel] Sharon did".

Mr Olmert, whose ruling centrist Kadima party is leading in the polls ahead of the 28 March election, outlined his disengagement plan in an interview with the Jerusalem Post newspaper on Thursday.

He said that as part of such moves, Israel would build more Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land between Jerusalem and its largest settlement, Maaleh Adumim.

Palestinians say the Maaleh Adumim plans would cut East Jerusalem off from the West Bank and wreck their aim of establishing a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem.


Correspondents say the four-year deadline is the first timescale set by an Israeli leader for what is expected to be a large-scale pullback from parts of the West Bank.

Mr Olmert took over the Israeli government after Ariel Sharon suffered a stroke in January and he has promised to carry on Mr Sharon's work.

Mr Sharon pulled Israeli settlers and troops out of the occupied Gaza Strip in 2005 as part of a unilateral plan that circumvented stalled negotiations with the Palestinians.

The US has said borders between Israel and the Palestinian territories should be determined through negotiations with the Palestinians and has warned Israel not to annex parts of the occupied West Bank.

The international community considers all settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.

Israel says the West Bank barrier is designed to stop suicide bombers from entering, but Palestinians see it as an attempt to grab West bank territory.

The International Court of Justice issued an advisory ruling in 2004 that the barrier breached international law where it is built on occupied territory and should be dismantled.

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West Bank settlements: Wrong from the start

Gershom Gorenberg
The New York Times
MARCH 10, 2006

With Israel's national election approaching, each day's news emphasizes a clear political shift: The settlement enterprise has lost the support of Israel's mainstream voters.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the front- runner in the March 28 vote, plans to evacuate more West Bank settlements unilaterally, a top figure in his party said this week. Olmert himself announced he would stop decades of investment in infrastructure for settlements.

These promises reflect a change not only in Olmert, a lifelong rightist, but in the electorate. Polls show that a strong majority supports parties ready to part with the settlements.
The pattern is a familiar one from other countries. An endeavor once considered the epitome of patriotism leads to a quagmire - in this case, that to keep the West Bank will require Israel either to cease being democratic or to cease being a Jewish state.

As an Israeli who has pored over the documentary record of the settlement project, I know there is one more painful, familiar element to this story: The warnings were there from the start and were ignored, kept secret or explained away. So begin national tragedies.

Here is one critical example. In early September 1967, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol was considering granting the first approval for settlements in the West Bank and Golan Heights, conquered three months earlier in the Six-Day War.

An Arab summit meeting in Khartoum had rejected peacemaking. The prime minister believed that the Golan and the strip of land along the Jordan River would make Israel more defensible. He also wanted to re-establish the kibbutz of Kfar Etzion near Bethlehem, which had been lost in Israel's 1948 war of independence.

The legal counsel of the Foreign Ministry, Theodor Meron, was asked whether international law allowed settlement in the newly conquered land. In a memo marked "Top Secret," Meron wrote unequivocally: "My conclusion is that civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention."

Meron explained that the convention, to which Israel was a signatory, forbade an occupying power from moving part of its population to occupied territory. The Golan, taken from Syria, was "undoubtedly 'occupied territory,'" he wrote.

Meron took note of Israel's diplomatic argument that the West Bank was not "normal" occupied territory because the land's status was uncertain. The prewar border with Jordan had been a mere armistice line, and Jordan had annexed the West Bank unilaterally.

But he rejected that argument for two reasons. The first was diplomatic: The international community would regard settlement as showing "intent to annex the West Bank to Israel." The second was legal: "In truth, certain Israeli actions are inconsistent with the claim that the West Bank is not occupied territory." For instance, he noted, a military decree said that military courts must apply the Geneva Conventions in the West Bank.

In treating the West Bank as occupied, Israel may simply have been recognizing legal reality. But doing so had practical import: If the land was occupied, the Arabs who lived there did not have to be integrated into the Israeli polity, in contrast to Arabs within Israel, who were citizens.

Eshkol and other Israeli leaders knew that granting citizenship to the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza Strip would quickly turn Israel into a binational state. In effect, the Meron memo told Eshkol: You cannot have it both ways. If the West Bank was "occupied" for the Arab population, then neither international law nor Israel's democratic norms permitted settling Jews there.

The memo did note, however, that settlement was permissible if done "by military bodies rather than civilian ones" in bases that were clearly temporary.

A week after receiving the memo, Eshkol informed the cabinet that Kfar Etzion would be re-established, through a branch of the army called Nahal, which created paramilitary outposts.

By the end of September, settlers arrived at Kfar Etzion. Publicly they were described as "Nahal soldiers." In fact, they were civilians. The ruse acknowledged Meron's opinion. It also showed a sadly mistaken confidence that the legal, ethical and diplomatic difficulties of settlement could somehow be avoided.

Meron left Israel's foreign service a decade later to teach at New York University. A child survivor of the Holocaust, he became one of the world's leading experts on the laws of war - and, more recently, a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Meanwhile, it did not take long before explicitly civilian settlements were established in land occupied in 1967. Israel's diplomats and supporters reverted to the argument Meron discounted - that the Geneva rules on occupied territory did not apply to the West Bank.

Today a quarter-million Israelis live in the West Bank. Legal arguments cannot undo 38 years of settlement-building.

Yet the contradiction between keeping Palestinians under military occupation while settlers enjoy the rights of Israeli citizens has become glaring, even to the Israeli center-right.

Today it is clear that Israel's future as a Jewish state depends on ending its rule of the West Bank. Settlements have shackled Israel rather than served it. Thirty-eight years after the missed warning, we must find a way to untie the entanglement.

Gershom Gorenberg is the author of "The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements."


With Israel's national election approaching, each day's news emphasizes a clear political shift: The settlement enterprise has lost the support of Israel's mainstream voters.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the front- runner in the March 28 vote, plans to evacuate more West Bank settlements unilaterally, a top figure in his party said this week. Olmert himself announced he would stop decades of investment in infrastructure for settlements.

These promises reflect a change not only in Olmert, a lifelong rightist, but in the electorate. Polls show that a strong majority supports parties ready to part with the settlements.

The pattern is a familiar one from other countries. An endeavor once considered the epitome of patriotism leads to a quagmire - in this case, that to keep the West Bank will require Israel either to cease being democratic or to cease being a Jewish state.

As an Israeli who has pored over the documentary record of the settlement project, I know there is one more painful, familiar element to this story: The warnings were there from the start and were ignored, kept secret or explained away. So begin national tragedies.

Here is one critical example. In early September 1967, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol was considering granting the first approval for settlements in the West Bank and Golan Heights, conquered three months earlier in the Six-Day War.

An Arab summit meeting in Khartoum had rejected peacemaking. The prime minister believed that the Golan and the strip of land along the Jordan River would make Israel more defensible. He also wanted to re-establish the kibbutz of Kfar Etzion near Bethlehem, which had been lost in Israel's 1948 war of independence.

The legal counsel of the Foreign Ministry, Theodor Meron, was asked whether international law allowed settlement in the newly conquered land. In a memo marked "Top Secret," Meron wrote unequivocally: "My conclusion is that civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention."

Meron explained that the convention, to which Israel was a signatory, forbade an occupying power from moving part of its population to occupied territory. The Golan, taken from Syria, was "undoubtedly 'occupied territory,'" he wrote.

Meron took note of Israel's diplomatic argument that the West Bank was not "normal" occupied territory because the land's status was uncertain. The prewar border with Jordan had been a mere armistice line, and Jordan had annexed the West Bank unilaterally.

But he rejected that argument for two reasons. The first was diplomatic: The international community would regard settlement as showing "intent to annex the West Bank to Israel." The second was legal: "In truth, certain Israeli actions are inconsistent with the claim that the West Bank is not occupied territory." For instance, he noted, a military decree said that military courts must apply the Geneva Conventions in the West Bank.

In treating the West Bank as occupied, Israel may simply have been recognizing legal reality. But doing so had practical import: If the land was occupied, the Arabs who lived there did not have to be integrated into the Israeli polity, in contrast to Arabs within Israel, who were citizens.

Eshkol and other Israeli leaders knew that granting citizenship to the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza Strip would quickly turn Israel into a binational state. In effect, the Meron memo told Eshkol: You cannot have it both ways. If the West Bank was "occupied" for the Arab population, then neither international law nor Israel's democratic norms permitted settling Jews there.

The memo did note, however, that settlement was permissible if done "by military bodies rather than civilian ones" in bases that were clearly temporary.

A week after receiving the memo, Eshkol informed the cabinet that Kfar Etzion would be re-established, through a branch of the army called Nahal, which created paramilitary outposts.

By the end of September, settlers arrived at Kfar Etzion. Publicly they were described as "Nahal soldiers." In fact, they were civilians. The ruse acknowledged Meron's opinion. It also showed a sadly mistaken confidence that the legal, ethical and diplomatic difficulties of settlement could somehow be avoided.

Meron left Israel's foreign service a decade later to teach at New York University. A child survivor of the Holocaust, he became one of the world's leading experts on the laws of war - and, more recently, a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Meanwhile, it did not take long before explicitly civilian settlements were established in land occupied in 1967. Israel's diplomats and supporters reverted to the argument Meron discounted - that the Geneva rules on occupied territory did not apply to the West Bank.

Today a quarter-million Israelis live in the West Bank. Legal arguments cannot undo 38 years of settlement-building.

Yet the contradiction between keeping Palestinians under military occupation while settlers enjoy the rights of Israeli citizens has become glaring, even to the Israeli center-right.

Today it is clear that Israel's future as a Jewish state depends on ending its rule of the West Bank. Settlements have shackled Israel rather than served it. Thirty-eight years after the missed warning, we must find a way to untie the entanglement.

Gershom Gorenberg is the author of "The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements."


With Israel's national election approaching, each day's news emphasizes a clear political shift: The settlement enterprise has lost the support of Israel's mainstream voters.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the front- runner in the March 28 vote, plans to evacuate more West Bank settlements unilaterally, a top figure in his party said this week. Olmert himself announced he would stop decades of investment in infrastructure for settlements.

These promises reflect a change not only in Olmert, a lifelong rightist, but in the electorate. Polls show that a strong majority supports parties ready to part with the settlements.

The pattern is a familiar one from other countries. An endeavor once considered the epitome of patriotism leads to a quagmire - in this case, that to keep the West Bank will require Israel either to cease being democratic or to cease being a Jewish state.

As an Israeli who has pored over the documentary record of the settlement project, I know there is one more painful, familiar element to this story: The warnings were there from the start and were ignored, kept secret or explained away. So begin national tragedies.

Here is one critical example. In early September 1967, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol was considering granting the first approval for settlements in the West Bank and Golan Heights, conquered three months earlier in the Six-Day War.

An Arab summit meeting in Khartoum had rejected peacemaking. The prime minister believed that the Golan and the strip of land along the Jordan River would make Israel more defensible. He also wanted to re-establish the kibbutz of Kfar Etzion near Bethlehem, which had been lost in Israel's 1948 war of independence.

The legal counsel of the Foreign Ministry, Theodor Meron, was asked whether international law allowed settlement in the newly conquered land. In a memo marked "Top Secret," Meron wrote unequivocally: "My conclusion is that civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention."

Meron explained that the convention, to which Israel was a signatory, forbade an occupying power from moving part of its population to occupied territory. The Golan, taken from Syria, was "undoubtedly 'occupied territory,'" he wrote.

Meron took note of Israel's diplomatic argument that the West Bank was not "normal" occupied territory because the land's status was uncertain. The prewar border with Jordan had been a mere armistice line, and Jordan had annexed the West Bank unilaterally.

But he rejected that argument for two reasons. The first was diplomatic: The international community would regard settlement as showing "intent to annex the West Bank to Israel." The second was legal: "In truth, certain Israeli actions are inconsistent with the claim that the West Bank is not occupied territory." For instance, he noted, a military decree said that military courts must apply the Geneva Conventions in the West Bank.

In treating the West Bank as occupied, Israel may simply have been recognizing legal reality. But doing so had practical import: If the land was occupied, the Arabs who lived there did not have to be integrated into the Israeli polity, in contrast to Arabs within Israel, who were citizens.

Eshkol and other Israeli leaders knew that granting citizenship to the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza Strip would quickly turn Israel into a binational state. In effect, the Meron memo told Eshkol: You cannot have it both ways. If the West Bank was "occupied" for the Arab population, then neither international law nor Israel's democratic norms permitted settling Jews there.

The memo did note, however, that settlement was permissible if done "by military bodies rather than civilian ones" in bases that were clearly temporary.

A week after receiving the memo, Eshkol informed the cabinet that Kfar Etzion would be re-established, through a branch of the army called Nahal, which created paramilitary outposts.

By the end of September, settlers arrived at Kfar Etzion. Publicly they were described as "Nahal soldiers." In fact, they were civilians. The ruse acknowledged Meron's opinion. It also showed a sadly mistaken confidence that the legal, ethical and diplomatic difficulties of settlement could somehow be avoided.

Meron left Israel's foreign service a decade later to teach at New York University. A child survivor of the Holocaust, he became one of the world's leading experts on the laws of war - and, more recently, a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Meanwhile, it did not take long before explicitly civilian settlements were established in land occupied in 1967. Israel's diplomats and supporters reverted to the argument Meron discounted - that the Geneva rules on occupied territory did not apply to the West Bank.

Today a quarter-million Israelis live in the West Bank. Legal arguments cannot undo 38 years of settlement-building.

Yet the contradiction between keeping Palestinians under military occupation while settlers enjoy the rights of Israeli citizens has become glaring, even to the Israeli center-right.

Today it is clear that Israel's future as a Jewish state depends on ending its rule of the West Bank. Settlements have shackled Israel rather than served it. Thirty-eight years after the missed warning, we must find a way to untie the entanglement.

Gershom Gorenberg is the author of "The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements."


With Israel's national election approaching, each day's news emphasizes a clear political shift: The settlement enterprise has lost the support of Israel's mainstream voters.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the front- runner in the March 28 vote, plans to evacuate more West Bank settlements unilaterally, a top figure in his party said this week. Olmert himself announced he would stop decades of investment in infrastructure for settlements.

These promises reflect a change not only in Olmert, a lifelong rightist, but in the electorate. Polls show that a strong majority supports parties ready to part with the settlements.

The pattern is a familiar one from other countries. An endeavor once considered the epitome of patriotism leads to a quagmire - in this case, that to keep the West Bank will require Israel either to cease being democratic or to cease being a Jewish state.

As an Israeli who has pored over the documentary record of the settlement project, I know there is one more painful, familiar element to this story: The warnings were there from the start and were ignored, kept secret or explained away. So begin national tragedies.

Here is one critical example. In early September 1967, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol was considering granting the first approval for settlements in the West Bank and Golan Heights, conquered three months earlier in the Six-Day War.

An Arab summit meeting in Khartoum had rejected peacemaking. The prime minister believed that the Golan and the strip of land along the Jordan River would make Israel more defensible. He also wanted to re-establish the kibbutz of Kfar Etzion near Bethlehem, which had been lost in Israel's 1948 war of independence.

The legal counsel of the Foreign Ministry, Theodor Meron, was asked whether international law allowed settlement in the newly conquered land. In a memo marked "Top Secret," Meron wrote unequivocally: "My conclusion is that civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention."

Meron explained that the convention, to which Israel was a signatory, forbade an occupying power from moving part of its population to occupied territory. The Golan, taken from Syria, was "undoubtedly 'occupied territory,'" he wrote.

Meron took note of Israel's diplomatic argument that the West Bank was not "normal" occupied territory because the land's status was uncertain. The prewar border with Jordan had been a mere armistice line, and Jordan had annexed the West Bank unilaterally.

But he rejected that argument for two reasons. The first was diplomatic: The international community would regard settlement as showing "intent to annex the West Bank to Israel." The second was legal: "In truth, certain Israeli actions are inconsistent with the claim that the West Bank is not occupied territory." For instance, he noted, a military decree said that military courts must apply the Geneva Conventions in the West Bank.

In treating the West Bank as occupied, Israel may simply have been recognizing legal reality. But doing so had practical import: If the land was occupied, the Arabs who lived there did not have to be integrated into the Israeli polity, in contrast to Arabs within Israel, who were citizens.

Eshkol and other Israeli leaders knew that granting citizenship to the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza Strip would quickly turn Israel into a binational state. In effect, the Meron memo told Eshkol: You cannot have it both ways. If the West Bank was "occupied" for the Arab population, then neither international law nor Israel's democratic norms permitted settling Jews there.

The memo did note, however, that settlement was permissible if done "by military bodies rather than civilian ones" in bases that were clearly temporary.

A week after receiving the memo, Eshkol informed the cabinet that Kfar Etzion would be re-established, through a branch of the army called Nahal, which created paramilitary outposts.

By the end of September, settlers arrived at Kfar Etzion. Publicly they were described as "Nahal soldiers." In fact, they were civilians. The ruse acknowledged Meron's opinion. It also showed a sadly mistaken confidence that the legal, ethical and diplomatic difficulties of settlement could somehow be avoided.

Meron left Israel's foreign service a decade later to teach at New York University. A child survivor of the Holocaust, he became one of the world's leading experts on the laws of war - and, more recently, a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Meanwhile, it did not take long before explicitly civilian settlements were established in land occupied in 1967. Israel's diplomats and supporters reverted to the argument Meron discounted - that the Geneva rules on occupied territory did not apply to the West Bank.

Today a quarter-million Israelis live in the West Bank. Legal arguments cannot undo 38 years of settlement-building.

Yet the contradiction between keeping Palestinians under military occupation while settlers enjoy the rights of Israeli citizens has become glaring, even to the Israeli center-right.

Today it is clear that Israel's future as a Jewish state depends on ending its rule of the West Bank. Settlements have shackled Israel rather than served it. Thirty-eight years after the missed warning, we must find a way to untie the entanglement.

Gershom Gorenberg is the author of "The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements."


With Israel's national election approaching, each day's news emphasizes a clear political shift: The settlement enterprise has lost the support of Israel's mainstream voters.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the front- runner in the March 28 vote, plans to evacuate more West Bank settlements unilaterally, a top figure in his party said this week. Olmert himself announced he would stop decades of investment in infrastructure for settlements.

These promises reflect a change not only in Olmert, a lifelong rightist, but in the electorate. Polls show that a strong majority supports parties ready to part with the settlements.

The pattern is a familiar one from other countries. An endeavor once considered the epitome of patriotism leads to a quagmire - in this case, that to keep the West Bank will require Israel either to cease being democratic or to cease being a Jewish state.

As an Israeli who has pored over the documentary record of the settlement project, I know there is one more painful, familiar element to this story: The warnings were there from the start and were ignored, kept secret or explained away. So begin national tragedies.

Here is one critical example. In early September 1967, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol was considering granting the first approval for settlements in the West Bank and Golan Heights, conquered three months earlier in the Six-Day War.

An Arab summit meeting in Khartoum had rejected peacemaking. The prime minister believed that the Golan and the strip of land along the Jordan River would make Israel more defensible. He also wanted to re-establish the kibbutz of Kfar Etzion near Bethlehem, which had been lost in Israel's 1948 war of independence.

The legal counsel of the Foreign Ministry, Theodor Meron, was asked whether international law allowed settlement in the newly conquered land. In a memo marked "Top Secret," Meron wrote unequivocally: "My conclusion is that civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention."

Meron explained that the convention, to which Israel was a signatory, forbade an occupying power from moving part of its population to occupied territory. The Golan, taken from Syria, was "undoubtedly 'occupied territory,'" he wrote.

Meron took note of Israel's diplomatic argument that the West Bank was not "normal" occupied territory because the land's status was uncertain. The prewar border with Jordan had been a mere armistice line, and Jordan had annexed the West Bank unilaterally.

But he rejected that argument for two reasons. The first was diplomatic: The international community would regard settlement as showing "intent to annex the West Bank to Israel." The second was legal: "In truth, certain Israeli actions are inconsistent with the claim that the West Bank is not occupied territory." For instance, he noted, a military decree said that military courts must apply the Geneva Conventions in the West Bank.

In treating the West Bank as occupied, Israel may simply have been recognizing legal reality. But doing so had practical import: If the land was occupied, the Arabs who lived there did not have to be integrated into the Israeli polity, in contrast to Arabs within Israel, who were citizens.

Eshkol and other Israeli leaders knew that granting citizenship to the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza Strip would quickly turn Israel into a binational state. In effect, the Meron memo told Eshkol: You cannot have it both ways.

If the West Bank was "occupied" for the Arab population, then neither international law nor Israel's democratic norms permitted settling Jews there.

The memo did note, however, that settlement was permissible if done "by military bodies rather than civilian ones" in bases that were clearly temporary.

A week after receiving the memo, Eshkol informed the cabinet that Kfar Etzion would be re-established, through a branch of the army called Nahal, which created paramilitary outposts.

By the end of September, settlers arrived at Kfar Etzion. Publicly they were described as "Nahal soldiers." In fact, they were civilians. The ruse acknowledged Meron's opinion. It also showed a sadly mistaken confidence that the legal, ethical and diplomatic difficulties of settlement could somehow be avoided.

Meron left Israel's foreign service a decade later to teach at New York University. A child survivor of the Holocaust, he became one of the world's leading experts on the laws of war - and, more recently, a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Meanwhile, it did not take long before explicitly civilian settlements were established in land occupied in 1967. Israel's diplomats and supporters reverted to the argument Meron discounted - that the Geneva rules on occupied territory did not apply to the West Bank.

Today a quarter-million Israelis live in the West Bank. Legal arguments cannot undo 38 years of settlement-building.

Yet the contradiction between keeping Palestinians under military occupation while settlers enjoy the rights of Israeli citizens has become glaring, even to the Israeli center-right.

Today it is clear that Israel's future as a Jewish state depends on ending its rule of the West Bank. Settlements have shackled Israel rather than served it. Thirty-eight years after the missed warning, we must find a way to untie the entanglement.

Gershom Gorenberg is the author of "The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements."


With Israel's national election approaching, each day's news emphasizes a clear political shift: The settlement enterprise has lost the support of Israel's mainstream voters.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the front- runner in the March 28 vote, plans to evacuate more West Bank settlements unilaterally, a top figure in his party said this week. Olmert himself announced he would stop decades of investment in infrastructure for settlements.

These promises reflect a change not only in Olmert, a lifelong rightist, but in the electorate. Polls show that a strong majority supports parties ready to part with the settlements.

The pattern is a familiar one from other countries. An endeavor once considered the epitome of patriotism leads to a quagmire - in this case, that to keep the West Bank will require Israel either to cease being democratic or to cease being a Jewish state.

As an Israeli who has pored over the documentary record of the settlement project, I know there is one more painful, familiar element to this story: The warnings were there from the start and were ignored, kept secret or explained away. So begin national tragedies.

Here is one critical example. In early September 1967, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol was considering granting the first approval for settlements in the West Bank and Golan Heights, conquered three months earlier in the Six-Day War.

An Arab summit meeting in Khartoum had rejected peacemaking. The prime minister believed that the Golan and the strip of land along the Jordan River would make Israel more defensible. He also wanted to re-establish the kibbutz of Kfar Etzion near Bethlehem, which had been lost in Israel's 1948 war of independence.

The legal counsel of the Foreign Ministry, Theodor Meron, was asked whether international law allowed settlement in the newly conquered land. In a memo marked "Top Secret," Meron wrote unequivocally: "My conclusion is that civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention."

Meron explained that the convention, to which Israel was a signatory, forbade an occupying power from moving part of its population to occupied territory. The Golan, taken from Syria, was "undoubtedly 'occupied territory,'" he wrote.

Meron took note of Israel's diplomatic argument that the West Bank was not "normal" occupied territory because the land's status was uncertain. The prewar border with Jordan had been a mere armistice line, and Jordan had annexed the West Bank unilaterally.

But he rejected that argument for two reasons. The first was diplomatic: The international community would regard settlement as showing "intent to annex the West Bank to Israel." The second was legal: "In truth, certain Israeli actions are inconsistent with the claim that the West Bank is not occupied territory." For instance, he noted, a military decree said that military courts must apply the Geneva Conventions in the West Bank.

In treating the West Bank as occupied, Israel may simply have been recognizing legal reality. But doing so had practical import: If the land was occupied, the Arabs who lived there did not have to be integrated into the Israeli polity, in contrast to Arabs within Israel, who were citizens.

Eshkol and other Israeli leaders knew that granting citizenship to the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza Strip would quickly turn Israel into a binational state. In effect, the Meron memo told Eshkol: You cannot have it both ways. If the West Bank was "occupied" for the Arab population, then neither international law nor Israel's democratic norms permitted settling Jews there.

The memo did note, however, that settlement was permissible if done "by military bodies rather than civilian ones" in bases that were clearly temporary.

A week after receiving the memo, Eshkol informed the cabinet that Kfar Etzion would be re-established, through a branch of the army called Nahal, which created paramilitary outposts.

By the end of September, settlers arrived at Kfar Etzion. Publicly they were described as "Nahal soldiers." In fact, they were civilians. The ruse acknowledged Meron's opinion. It also showed a sadly mistaken confidence that the legal, ethical and diplomatic difficulties of settlement could somehow be avoided.

Meron left Israel's foreign service a decade later to teach at New York University. A child survivor of the Holocaust, he became one of the world's leading experts on the laws of war - and, more recently, a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Meanwhile, it did not take long before explicitly civilian settlements were established in land occupied in 1967. Israel's diplomats and supporters reverted to the argument Meron discounted - that the Geneva rules on occupied territory did not apply to the West Bank.

Today a quarter-million Israelis live in the West Bank. Legal arguments cannot undo 38 years of settlement-building.

Yet the contradiction between keeping Palestinians under military occupation while settlers enjoy the rights of Israeli citizens has become glaring, even to the Israeli center-right.

Today it is clear that Israel's future as a Jewish state depends on ending its rule of the West Bank. Settlements have shackled Israel rather than served it. Thirty-eight years after the missed warning, we must find a way to untie the entanglement.

Gershom Gorenberg is the author of "The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements."


With Israel's national election approaching, each day's news emphasizes a clear political shift: The settlement enterprise has lost the support of Israel's mainstream voters.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, the front- runner in the March 28 vote, plans to evacuate more West Bank settlements unilaterally, a top figure in his party said this week. Olmert himself announced he would stop decades of investment in infrastructure for settlements.

These promises reflect a change not only in Olmert, a lifelong rightist, but in the electorate. Polls show that a strong majority supports parties ready to part with the settlements.

The pattern is a familiar one from other countries. An endeavor once considered the epitome of patriotism leads to a quagmire - in this case, that to keep the West Bank will require Israel either to cease being democratic or to cease being a Jewish state.

As an Israeli who has pored over the documentary record of the settlement project, I know there is one more painful, familiar element to this story: The warnings were there from the start and were ignored, kept secret or explained away. So begin national tragedies.

Here is one critical example. In early September 1967, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol was considering granting the first approval for settlements in the West Bank and Golan Heights, conquered three months earlier in the Six-Day War.

An Arab summit meeting in Khartoum had rejected peacemaking. The prime minister believed that the Golan and the strip of land along the Jordan River would make Israel more defensible. He also wanted to re-establish the kibbutz of Kfar Etzion near Bethlehem, which had been lost in Israel's 1948 war of independence.

The legal counsel of the Foreign Ministry, Theodor Meron, was asked whether international law allowed settlement in the newly conquered land. In a memo marked "Top Secret," Meron wrote unequivocally: "My conclusion is that civilian settlement in the administered territories contravenes the explicit provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention."

Meron explained that the convention, to which Israel was a signatory, forbade an occupying power from moving part of its population to occupied territory. The Golan, taken from Syria, was "undoubtedly 'occupied territory,'" he wrote.

Meron took note of Israel's diplomatic argument that the West Bank was not "normal" occupied territory because the land's status was uncertain. The prewar border with Jordan had been a mere armistice line, and Jordan had annexed the West Bank unilaterally.

But he rejected that argument for two reasons. The first was diplomatic: The international community would regard settlement as showing "intent to annex the West Bank to Israel." The second was legal: "In truth, certain Israeli actions are inconsistent with the claim that the West Bank is not occupied territory." For instance, he noted, a military decree said that military courts must apply the Geneva Conventions in the West Bank.

In treating the West Bank as occupied, Israel may simply have been recognizing legal reality. But doing so had practical import: If the land was occupied, the Arabs who lived there did not have to be integrated into the Israeli polity, in contrast to Arabs within Israel, who were citizens.

Eshkol and other Israeli leaders knew that granting citizenship to the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza Strip would quickly turn Israel into a binational state. In effect, the Meron memo told Eshkol: You cannot have it both ways. If the West Bank was "occupied" for the Arab population, then neither international law nor Israel's democratic norms permitted settling Jews there.

The memo did note, however, that settlement was permissible if done "by military bodies rather than civilian ones" in bases that were clearly temporary.

A week after receiving the memo, Eshkol informed the cabinet that Kfar Etzion would be re-established, through a branch of the army called Nahal, which created paramilitary outposts.

By the end of September, settlers arrived at Kfar Etzion. Publicly they were described as "Nahal soldiers." In fact, they were civilians. The ruse acknowledged Meron's opinion. It also showed a sadly mistaken confidence that the legal, ethical and diplomatic difficulties of settlement could somehow be avoided.

Meron left Israel's foreign service a decade later to teach at New York University. A child survivor of the Holocaust, he became one of the world's leading experts on the laws of war - and, more recently, a judge on the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.

Meanwhile, it did not take long before explicitly civilian settlements were established in land occupied in 1967. Israel's diplomats and supporters reverted to the argument Meron discounted - that the Geneva rules on occupied territory did not apply to the West Bank.

Today a quarter-million Israelis live in the West Bank. Legal arguments cannot undo 38 years of settlement-building.

Yet the contradiction between keeping Palestinians under military occupation while settlers enjoy the rights of Israeli citizens has become glaring, even to the Israeli center-right.

Today a quarter-million Israelis live in the West Bank. Legal arguments cannot undo 38 years of settlement-building.
Yet the contradiction between keeping Palestinians under military occupation while settlers enjoy the rights of Israeli citizens has become glaring, even to the Israeli center-right.

Today it is clear that Israel's future as a Jewish state depends on ending its rule of the West Bank. Settlements have shackled Israel rather than served it. Thirty-eight years after the missed warning, we must find a way to untie the entanglement.

Comment on this Article

How Britain helped Israel make the bomb

By Hannah K. Strange
August 4, 2005

LONDON -- Britain secretly sold Israel a key ingredient for its nuclear program in 1958, recently declassified documents have revealed.

Official government papers released by the British National Archives detail a deal to export 20 tons of heavy water for around $2.7 million. The ingredient was vital to plutonium production at the top secret Dimona nuclear reactor in Israel's Negev desert.

The British government did not place any " peaceful use only" condition on the sale of the heavy water. It would be somewhat overzealous for us to insist on safeguards," a civil servant explained.

Ministers in then Prime Minister Harold Macmillan's government were unaware of the deal, which was apparently conducted entirely by civil servants. It was also kept secret from the Americans.
In one of the documents Foreign Office official Donald Cape concluded: "On the whole I would prefer not to mention this to the Americans."

When questioned about his involvement by the BBC, Cape said he could remember nothing about the episode. Washington had previously refused Israeli requests to purchase heavy water without a guarantee it would be used for exclusively peaceful purposes.

The heavy water was surplus from a consignment bought by Britain from Norway. Though shipped to Israel from a British port, it was presented as a deal between Israel and Norway.

Robert McNamara, U.S. secretary of defense from 1961, said he was "astonished" by the cover-up.

"It is very surprising to me we were not told because we shared information about the nuclear bomb very closely with the British.," he told the BBC.

Former Conservative defense and foreign office minister Lord Gilmour said the revelations were "quite extraordinary." The civil servants involved must have known Israel intended to use the heavy water to develop a nuclear bomb, he added. They seemed to have no idea of the political or foreign policy implications of what they were doing, he said.

"They just seemed to be concerned with making a bit of money."

Experimentation with heavy water -- as opposed to light water -- is considered to be a sign of a military rather than a civilian nuclear program.

In February, a senior Foreign Office official said, in reference to Iran, that there was no reason for a country to engage in heavy water research unless it was aiming for a nuclear weapons program. Heavy water reactors produce byproducts which are used in military programs, he added.

Heavy water production reactors can be designed to turn uranium into bomb-usable plutonium without requiring enrichment facilities. Due to its potential for use in nuclear weapons programs, heavy water is subject to government control in several countries and safeguards by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog.

By the time Israel requested more heavy water in 1961, the existence of the Dimona reactor had been exposed by the media, as had Israel's probable weapons program.

With the issue fixed in public attention, the British Foreign Office refused a further sale, the documents reveal.

Sir Hugh Stephenson of the Foreign Office wrote: "I am quite sure we should not agree to this sale. The Israeli project is much too live an issue for us to get mixed up in it again."

Israel has never admitted nor denied having nuclear weapons, and has not publicly conducted any nuclear tests.

However it refuses to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, saying it will not do so as long as it feels threatened by other Middle Eastern countries such as Iran. The IAEA is therefore unable to inspect Israeli nuclear facilities or impose sanctions.

But few international experts question Israel's nuclear capabilities; the Jewish state is widely estimated to have as many as 200 nuclear warheads. In comparison, India and Pakistan are thought to have around 20 warheads each. Israel's nuclear program is arguably one of the most secretive in the world, a fact that contributes in no small way to its value as a deterrent.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres said in the late 1980s: "A certain amount of secrecy must be maintained in some fields. The suspicion and fog surrounding this question are constructive, because they strengthen our deterrent."

Israel began showing an interest in acquiring nuclear weapons shortly after its creation in 1948, as the ultimate deterrent after the horrors of the Holocaust. In 1952 it formed the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission, which began working closely with the Israeli military.

Construction of the Dimona facility began in the late 1950s as the result of a secret agreement with France, which provided assistance with reactor design and construction, according to Washington based website GlobalSecurity.org.

It was in 1958, the year that Britain's secret deal took place, that flights by U.S. U-2 spy planes confirmed Demon's construction.

U.S. inspectors visited Dimona several times during the 1960s, but while they reported that there was no scientific research or civilian nuclear power program justifying such a large reactor, they found no evidence of weapons-related activities.

However in 1968, a CIA report concluded Israel had begun to produce nuclear weapons. But it was not until 1986 that the international community was afforded a glimpse of the true extent of the Israeli program.

Mordechai Vanunu, who had worked as a technician at Dimona, gave the Times of London detailed information about Israel's nuclear program, on the basis of which analysts concluded Israel had up to 200 warheads. However before he could reveal more, he became the victim of a "honey trap" operation by Israeli intelligence service Mossad, and was imprisoned for 18 years as a traitor.

Israel's nuclear program is a source of much anger in the Arab world. The West's tolerance of its existence, contrasted with the denunciation of other suspected nuclear states such as Iran, Syria and pre-war Iraq as a threat to global security, is frequently held up as an example of double standards.

Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the IAEA, told Israel's Haaretz newspaper in 2003 its nuclear program was "a continued incentive for the region's countries to develop weapons of mass destruction to match the Israeli arsenal."

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Britain gave Israel plutonium, files show

By Richard Norton-Taylor
The Guardian
10 Mar 06

Britain secretly supplied Israel with plutonium during the 1960s despite a warning from military intelligence that it could help the Israelis to develop a nuclear bomb, it was disclosed last night. The deal, made during Harold Wilson's Labour government, is revealed in classified documents released under the Freedom of Information Act and obtained by BBC2's Newsnight programme.

The documents also show how Britain made hundreds of shipments to Israel of material which could have helped in its nuclear weapons programme, including compounds of uranium, lithium, beryllium and tritium, as well as heavy water.
Israel asked Britain in 1966 to supply 10mg of plutonium. Israel would have required almost 5kg of plutonium to build an atomic bomb, but British defence intelligence officials warned that 10mg had "significant military value" and could enable the Jewish state to carry out important experimental work to speed up its nuclear weapons programme.
Documents show that the decision to sell plutonium to Israel in 1966 was blocked by officials in both the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign Office, who said: "It is HMG's policy not to do anything which would assist Israel in the production of nuclear weapons." But the deal was forced through by a Jewish civil servant, Michael Michaels, in Tony Benn's Ministry of Technology, which was responsible for trade in nuclear material, according to Newsnight.

Peter Kelly, who was British defence intelligence's expert on the Israeli nuclear weapons programme, knew Mr Michaels. He told Newsnight he believed Mr Michaels knew that Israel was trying to build an atomic bomb, but that he had dual loyalties to Britain and Israel.

Mr Benn told the programme that civil servants in his department kept the deals secret from him and his predecessor, Frank Cousins.

He had always suspected that civil servants were doing deals behind his back, but he never thought they would sell plutonium to Israel. He told Newsnight: "I'm not only surprised, I'm shocked. It never occurred to me they would authorise something so totally against the policy of the government.

"Michaels lied to me, I learned by bitter experience that the nuclear industry lied to me again and again." He thought Wilson may not have known that Britain was helping Israel to get the bomb.

Last year Newsnight showed that in the late 1950s Harold Macmillan's Conservative government provided Israel with 20 tonnes of heavy water to start up its Dimona reactor. Newsnight said it learned that Jack Straw had admitted to the Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, that Britain knew the heavy water was destined for Israel, and that in 1961, Macmillan even made a failed attempt to get it back.

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War Pimps and Whores: The 48 Hour Media-blitz for War with Iran

By Mike Whitney
Information Clearing House
10 Mar 06

Bush, Cheney, Bolton, Rice, Rumsfeld, Burns, Congress, and Israel.

Whoa! That's quite a line-up.

All in the last 48 hours!

Was it spontaneous or a calculated public-relations campaign?

In the last 48 hours all the major players in the Bush administration have issued statements warning of the impending danger of Iran.

Cheney blasted the Islamic regime saying there would be "meaningful consequences" if it refuses to comply with international demands to stop its nuclear program.

Condoleezza Rice said, "We face no greater challenge from a single country than Iran… This is a country that seems determined, it seems, to develop a nuclear weapon in defiance of the international community that is determined that they should not get one."

Donald Rumsfeld warned at a press conference on Wednesday, "I will say this about Iran. They are currently putting people into Iraq to do things that are harmful to the future of Iraq. We know it, and it is something that they, I think, will look back on as having been an error in judgment."

Bush chimed in too, "Iran must not have a nuclear weapon. The most destabilizing thing that can happen in this region and in the world is for Iran to have a nuclear weapon."

And then there was Bolton, the most vehement of all, saying that the Security Council should issue a "vigorous response" to Iran's nuclear ambitions or the United States might have to consider other steps.

Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said, "It's going to be incumbent on our allies around the world to show that they are willing to act."

Congress also added their support led by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA) "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." Lantos claims that more than 300 lawmakers will support sanctions.

Israel's Defense Minister joined the chorus as well," If the UN Security Council is incapable of taking action to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, Israel will have no choice but to defend itself."

Bush, Cheney, Bolton, Rice, Rumsfeld, Burns, Congress, and Israel.

Whoa! That's quite a line-up.

All in the last 48 hours!

Was it spontaneous or a calculated public-relations campaign?

Beyond the political speechmaking are literally hundreds of articles, full of the same predictable fictions and demagoguery which have mischaracterized Iran's nuclear program from the get-go; fueling the hysteria for another preemptive war.

Did Iran become nuclear superpower overnight?

Apparently, so. But, just for the sake of argument, let's remember that according to the IAEA there is "no evidence of a nuclear weapons program or any diversion of nuclear material."

That is the judgment of the Nobel Prize-wining chief of the UN nuclear watchdog agency, Mohammad ElBaradei. ElBaradei warned that there were no nuclear weapons programs in Iraq and he has drawn the very same conclusion in Iran.

"No evidence" still means "no evidence" except in Washington, DC, where it is a mere stumbling block for a massive media-blitz to manipulate public perceptions and whip the masses into war-fever.

It's hard not to be impressed by the sudden ratcheting-up of inflammatory statements and spurious claims that blast from every media-soapbox across the country. Who could have imagined 4 years ago how utterly corrupted our media really is?

Try this: do a Google search through the 2,400 articles on Iran right now on and see what you find.

You'll find that all 2,400 articles reiterate the same bland deceptions and wearisome lies as all the others. You'll see that the forth estate provides neither facts, nor context, nor analysis, just the endless, repetitive fear-mongering of administration officials.

That's it; just manipulation through state-sponsored demagoguery 24-7.

You won't find anything about the IAEA inspection team that rummaged through Iran's nuclear sites for the passed two years in the most thorough examination of any country in the history of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) You won't hear anything about the "go anywhere, see anything" inspections that allowed officials from the IAEA to investigate any location or facility they felt was suspicious. You won't hear that the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) predicted that it would take 10 years for Iran to build a nuclear weapon. (If, in fact, that is even their intention) You won't hear that Iran temporarily sacrificed its legal right to enrich uranium and accepted "additional protocols" because it trusted the EU-3 (Germany, France and England) who, it turns out, were simply acting as Washington's agents. You won't find one single article that clarifies the most fundamental issue of the entire confrontation; that Iran has an "inalienable right" to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes unless it can factually established that it has not complied with the terms of its agreement.

It has complied. There is no violation. That is why there will be no "punitive action".

Instead, the United States is hoping for a "presidential statement"; a bogus "slap on the wrist" from the Security Council because the individual members can't muster the courage to do their duty and defy the US.

Perhaps, the Security Council could offer a "supplemental presidential statement" at the same time, condemning the Bush administration, for developing a new regime of low-yield, bunker-busting "usable" nukes, and for its involvement in poisoning the groundwater and great swaths of the Iraqi countryside with Depleted Uranium; ensuring environmental devastation, cancer and birth defects will continue into perpetuity.

Will the Security Council have time to reprimand the real nuclear terrorist or will it limit itself to the imaginary villain who refuses to prostrate itself to Washington?

Iran has weathered this farce with great dignity. They understand the gravity of the situation when the media begins swarm to their victim. They know that there are Carrier groups in the Gulf and AC-130s in bases in Iraq. They know that Israeli commandoes have infiltrated the countryside and are scoping out potential targets. They know that satellites and unmanned drones have mapped out every square inch of territory from Iraq to Pakistan and the B-52s are tucked away close by where they can "liberate" another 100,000 or so Iranians.

How do they know?

Because it is the same lame script that was used in the lead up to the war in Iraq.

The Iran Bourse

On March 20 the Iran Bourse will formally open and allow countries to break to US monopoly on oil purchases in petrodollars. The central banks across Europe and Asia will trade in part of their stockpiles of greenbacks for euros, and dollars will come flooding back to the homeland. $3 trillion of American cash and securities are owned by people or institutions outside of the United States. If just a small portion of them pour back into the US, Depression will follow.

Is the impending war with Iraq merely an effort to shore up the debt-ridden greenback? (which is now underwritten by $8.2 trillion in debt)

If not, then how do we explain the Federal Reserve's surprise announcement that it would stop releasing the M-3 in late March, 2006 coinciding with the opening of the bourse? (The M-3 provides the aggregate statistics on US dollars around the world)

Don't you think the American people would like to know when the central banks begin tossing their stockpiles of greenbacks overboard?

And won't this "weakening of the dollar" curtail Washington's ability to print unlimited amounts of money to fund a powerful standing army and provide lavish tax cuts to the wealthy?

The Iran bourse is a direct threat to the present economic system of extorting labor and resources from the developing world for worthless paper.

The Bush administration will do everything in its power to defend that system.

Berkshire-Hathaway chief, Warren Buffet recently noted, "Right now, the rest of the world owns $3 trillion more of us than we own of them. In my view, it will create political turmoil at some point. …Pretty soon, I think there will be a big adjustment."

"Political turmoil"?"big adjustment"?…"Pretty soon, I think"?

'nuff said.

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War Whore US Beefs Up Iran Dossier

By Simon Tisdall
10 Mar 06

George W Bush's explanation of his volte-face over a proposed Iran-India gas pipeline project appeared slightly disingenuous. "Our beef with Iran is not the pipeline," the United States president said recently after withdrawing previous objections and giving the go-ahead to Washington's new friends in Delhi. "Our beef with Iran is the fact that they want to develop a nuclear weapon."

But US fears about Iranian nukes are hardly the whole story. Washington is compiling a dossier of grievances against Tehran similar in scope and seriousness to the pre-war charge-sheet against Iraq. Other complaints include Iranian meddling in Iraq, support for Hamas in Palestine and Hizbullah in Lebanon, and human rights abuses.
Bush regularly urges Iranians to seize the "freedom they seek and deserve". In Tehran's ministries, that sounds like a call for regime change. He has ignored past Iranian offers of talks and tightened US economic sanctions.

Official Washington's quickening drumbeat of hostility is beginning to recall political offensives against Libya's Moammar Gadaffi, Panama's Manuel Noriega and Saddam Hussein, which all ended in violence. Rightwing American media are urging action, deeming Iran "an intolerable threat" that is the "central crisis of the Bush presidency".

As was the case with Iraq, administration tub-thumping is influencing public opinion -- notwithstanding subsequent debunking of many of its Iraq claims. Polls suggest many Americans are now convinced Iran is the new public enemy No 1. Forty-seven percent told Zogby International they favoured military action to halt its nuclear activities.

While hopes of avoiding confrontation are not yet dead, warnings by John Bolton, the US ambassador to the United Nations, that Iran could face "painful consequences" over its nuclear activities were a reminder of Bush's repeated refusals to eschew armed force. Iranian officials believe the US is determined to undermine and if possible overthrow Iran's theocracy and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government -- regardless of whether a nuclear compromise is reached. That helps explain Tehran's hardline negotiating stance.

They cite a US decision to spend $75-million on funding potential Iranian opposition forces, including NGOs, trade unions and human rights groups, and local language propaganda broadcasts -- tactics pioneered in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine. Iran accuses the US of stirring discontent among its Kurdish, Baluch and Azeri minorities, suspicions fed by a US marine corps investigation to gauge the strength of opposition to the central government among non-Persian groups. Tehran also believes the US is using the People's Mujahideen, an anti-regime group once backed by Hussein and blamed for many terrorist attacks, for intelligence-gathering and destabilisation.

It recently demanded that British troops quit Basra after linking them to unrest among Arab Iranians in Khuzestan, abutting south-east Iraq. Britain has rejected the claims.

The "EU three" -- Britain, France and Germany -- remain focused on the nuclear controversy rather than on broader Iran-related issues. A senior British official said they would, if necessary, support "graduated" pressure on Iran via the UN Security Council, which meets in New York next week, "possibly leading to trade restrictions or more likely, travel and financial sanctions on individuals". But the official said the Europeans "do not have a clear view of what we will do at a later stage" should Iran refuse to bend.

This lack of an agreed strategy may encourage US hawks, egged on by Israel, to seize the initiative -- even at the risk of an Iraq-style split with Europe. They have been biding their time for three years. Now they want action. For starters, Bolton is expected to seek a 30-day UN deadline for Iran to back down or face counter-measures.

And on Wednesday the American ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency, Greg Schulte, called for "special inspections'' by the UN nuclear teams in Iran, in effect giving them carte blanche in their detective work. The mechanism has been used only once before, unsuccessfully, in North Korea 13 years ago.

Resorting to special inspections would be "much more intrusive'' than the IAEA's ongoing inspections in Iran, said a diplomat. But was up to the IAEA to decide.

Spinning a web for India
A world away from its self-declared international war on terror, Washington has spied greater and more potent threats on the horizon, argues Randeep Ramesh. India's nuclear programme -- built in isolation, from scratch, after American-imposed sanctions in the 1970s -- is such a threat.

Not only has a poverty-stricken country, without outside help, built a nuclear industry, but its scientific community has also mastered the technically difficult reprocessing cycle and achieved a series of unique breakthroughs in nuclear technology. India might one day be "free'' to assemble as large an atomic arsenal as possible and, even more problematic for Washington, end up with a monopoly on an energy source of the future.

By comparison, the United States has not built a nuclear reactor for three decades. Conscious of being dependent on oil in a time of rising prices, George W Bush decided to reactivate the country's nuclear programme and capture the benefits of the labour of others. It is this that informs American thinking on how to deal with incipient risks to its global dominance, not some fuzzy talk of a special relationship with India built on a sense of shared values.

Yet US propaganda continues. Condoleezza Rice neatly encapsulated the Bush policy as a "balance of power that favours freedom'', which also appeals to Indians' view of their country as a moral force in the world. Casting India as a friend and Iran as a foe can also be conveniently justified in such terms. However, American bullying of smaller states undermines this moral consensus around democracy and freedom. India's size, geography and economic clout mean it is less susceptible to the kind of tactics used to intimidate Tehran.

The US is determined to ensure that the rise of India, and its neighbour China, will not mean the decline of the US. Washington may be prepared to concede that there might be bigger economies in the world, but aims to remain pre-eminent in industrial power.

To do so it is willing to restrict access to capital markets and technology, promoting its national interest under the guise of a moral foreign policy. The blocking of a Chinese oil company's bid for a US rival last year is one example of this new policy, and Indian potential could be restrained by similar means. As Bush's own nuclear negotiating team has made clear in testimony to Congress, the administration wants to "lock in'' India to a deal before moving to tie down and restrain the country's nuclear potential in non-proliferation discussions.

Unlike the cold war, where the US shut out its rivals from the world market, its policy in the coming decades is to entangle rising powers in a web of rules designed to favour itself. As India may find to its cost, getting into a hot embrace with Washington is easy; getting out may be much harder. --

© Guardian Newspapers 2006

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War Pimping US congressmen press for Iran sanctions bill

Daily Times
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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War Pimp Israel sez 'US not doing enough to stop Iran'

Jerusalem Post
10 Mar 06

The United States has until now not done enough to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, a senior Defense Ministry official has told The Jerusalem Post while expressing hope that Wednesday's referral of the Iranian issue to the United Nations Security Council would prove to be effective.

"America needs to get its act together," the official said. "Until now the US administration has just been talking tough but the time has come for the Americans to begin to take tough action."
The only real way to stop Teheran's race to obtain the bomb apart from military action was through tough economic sanctions that caused the Iranian people to suffer. "Once the people understand that their government is bringing upon them a disaster will they realize that the [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad's regime needs to be replaced," the official said.

Iran, the official said, was doing all it could to stall for time, including holding "pointless" talks with Russia concerning the enrichment of its uranium. "They are just trying to get more time and they will continue lying and deceiving the international community while simultaneously trying to obtain nuclear power," he said.

While it was complicated to overthrow the current regime in Teheran, "it is not impossible," the official said. If the world stopped refining Iranian oil, the official said as an example, the country would not have gas for its cars. "If the people start to suffer then they will understand that a change in government is needed." But if the diplomatic course failed, Israel and the US needed to be prepared, the official said, to take military action against Teheran. "This option may be needed but it should only be used as a last resort," he said.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told reporters in Germany on Wednesday that Israel had all it needed to defend itself against Iran. Asked by reporters if Israel had a military plan handy in a desk drawer to strike Iran, Mofaz said: "Israel has many drawers containing everything it needs to defend its citizens." Israel, Mofaz told senior German officials, would not stand by idly while its very existence was at risk. "We do not plan to turn a blind eye to these threats and we will do everything possible to make sure they do not materialize."

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War Whore Bush: Iran 'grave' security concern

10 Mar 06

U.S. President Bush called Iran an ''issue of grave national security concern'' during a press conference to a national newspapers group.
This after the U.N. Security Council, which has the power to impose sanctions, sent in a report this week saying it could not verify that Iran's atomic activities were purely peaceful.

''We want the Iranians to see that the world is speaking with one voice when it comes to their capacity to develop a nuclear weapon,'' Bush said.

Bush also said he was concerned about the message being sent to Middle Eastern allies by the collapse of efforts by a Dubai company to manage major U.S. ports. ''UAE is a committed ally, in the war on terror. They are a key partner for our military in a critical region,'' Bush said.

Speaking to the newspaper group a day after the DP World ports deal fell apart, Bush also pledged to work with members of Congress on how to improve the process that led his administration to approve the transaction.

''I'm concerned about a broader message this issue could send to our friends and allies around the world, particularly in the Middle East,'' Bush said.

© Reuters 2006. All rights reserved.

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War Pimp Ex-Israel Military Chief:West Can Cripple Iran Nuclear Program

Associated Press
10 Mar 06

JERUSALEM --A retired Israeli military chief said Friday that Western nations and Israel have the ability to launch a military strike that will set back Iran's nuclear program for many years.

Israel TV reported Thursday that Moshe Yaalon, who retired in June after a 37- year military career, told an audience in Washington that Israel has the capacity to carry out a military strike against Iran by itself.
Yaalon told Israel TV on Friday that he stood by his earlier comments, but he didn't repeat his reported assertion that Israel had the capacity to attack Iran's nuclear program alone.

"I spoke about the military option of the West, whether it's U.S. forces, NATO, also the Israeli army that deal with the Iranian capability," Yaalon said. "There is a military capability that will set back the program for many years."

Israel considers Iran one of its top enemies and says Iran's nuclear program is meant to produce weapons. Tehran says the nuclear program is for energy production. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be wiped "off the map."

Although Israel has backed international efforts to get a resolution against Iran's nuclear plans passed in the U.N. Security Council, it has tried to maintain a low profile, preferring to let its main ally, the U.S., take the lead.

Yaalon reportedly made the initial comments Thursday in a question and answer session after a speech he gave at the Hudson Institute, a Washington-based think tank. Several calls to the institute requesting a transcript of Yaalon's comments were not returned Friday.

The reported comments caused an uproar in Israel.

"This is a very sensitive period in which the matter of Iran is being referred to the (U.N.) Security Council," Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told the TV. "As soon as Israel jumps forward and says this is our issue and we will attack ... this is so needless to say now."

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz called Yaalon's remarks "unnecessary" and said Yaalon should have been more responsible when speaking publicly about matters key to Israel's security.

In response to the criticism, Yaalon said from the U.S. that he didn't understand "what all the fuss is about in Israel.

"In the West and in many places there is a baseless claim, in my eyes, that allegedly there isn't an (military) ability, and thus it was important for me to make these remarks clearly," Yaalon said.

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Media Whore Bill O'Reilly: Blowing Iran "off the face of the earth ... would be the sane thing to do"

Media Matters
10 Mar 06

On his radio program, Bill O'Reilly stated: "You know in a sane world, every country would unite against Iran and blow it off the face of the Earth. That would be the sane thing to do."
On the March 8 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Bill O'Reilly stated: "You know, in a sane world, every country would unite against Iran and blow it off the face of the earth. That would be the sane thing to do." O'Reilly made the remark during a discussion of Iran's recent threat to cause "harm and pain" to the U.S. if it pursues sanctions against Iran in the U.N. Security Council because of Iran's developing nuclear program.

As Media Matters for America has documented, O'Reilly recently declared that "it's just a matter of time ... before we have to bomb" Iran.

From the March 8 edition of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

O'REILLY: And let's do the No-Spin News. In Vienna, Iran has threatened the U.S.A. with, quote, "harm and pain" for its role in trying to get the United Nations to discipline Iran over the nuke issue. OK. It's the usual saber-rattling. You know, we'll hurt you, we'll do this, that, and the other thing. Now, what Iran is doing is they perceive that America is weakened because of the conflict in Iraq and the division at home, OK? So they're saying, "Hey, we'll just push the envelope as far as we can push it and see what happens. So we think that Bush is a damaged president, his approval ratings are low, Iraq is chaos -- we're helping that out, by the way." Iran is helping Iraq to be in chaos by allowing the terrorists to go through that country and arming them and teaching them how to make bombs and all of that.

You know, in a sane world, every country would unite against Iran and blow it off the face of the earth. That would be the sane thing to do, just go in and remove the government, because this is a terrorist state. But we can't do that, and now, the U.S.A. is basically has to take this kind of rhetoric. I mean, there's nothing else we can do but go to the United Nations and say to the Security Council, "Look, you can't let these people have nuclear weapons. If you do, there's going to be a war." So it's between war and sanctions.

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The Physics of Friendship

By Lisa Zyga
March 10, 2006

By comparing people to mobile particles randomly bouncing off each other, scientists have developed a new model for social networks. The model fits with empirical data to naturally reproduce the community structure, clustering and evolution of general acquaintances and even sexual contacts.
Applying a mathematical model to the social dynamics of people presents difficulties not involved with more physical – and perhaps more rational – applications. The many factors that influence an individual's fate to meet an acquaintance and decide to become a friend are impossible to capture, but physicists have used techniques from physical systems to model social networks with near precision.

By modeling people's interactions based on how particles bounce off each other in an enclosed area, physicists Marta Gonzalez, Pedro Lind and Hans Herrmann found that the characteristics of social networks emerge "in a very natural way." In a study recently published in Physical Review Letters, the scientists compared their model to empirical data taken from a survey of more than 90,000 U.S. students regarding friendships, and found similarities indicating that this model may serve as a novel approach for understanding social networks.

"The idea behind our model, though simple, is different from the usual paradigmatic approaches," Gonzalez told PhysOrg.com. "We consider a system of mobile agents (students), which at the beginning have no acquaintances; by moving in a continuous space they collide with each other, forming their friendships."

After a collision, a particle moves in a different direction with an updated velocity, just as how an individual's chance of meeting a new person depends on their most recent acquaintances.

At a critical point, the system reaches a quasi-stationary state, for the first time allowing the scientists to reproduce several features of social networks in a single model and in a natural way. Specifically, this technique accurately describes social clustering, the way friendships evolve over time, the shortest path length in a large group, and some features related to group structure.

"With this new framework, we show that specific velocity and collision rules are able to reproduce the statistical and structural features of empirical social networks," said Gonzalez. "Therefore, this model seems to have the novelty of bringing together all the previous developments for collision theory with the empirical results of socio-dynamics."

The scientists were also able to apply this model to describe specific types of contacts to produce a distribution that again closely resembles real-life acquaintances. For example, to separate sexual contacts from all social contacts, the scientists assigned to the sexual contacts an intrinsic property that could then be used to model these distinct networks. In this case, the model reproduced the real sexual contact network found in a tracing study of HIV tests.

Although this particle motion does not literally model human motion, it represents connections among people – and it's these links that contain the most significance for social networking theories. For example, links can represent the flow of information traveling through a community. By knowing the shortest path, communicators can optimize the information flow and improve productivity in a business. With the ability to determine hot hubs or holes in a community, business managers can identify leaders or points that require an organizational change.

As Gonzalez sees it, statistical physics and human behavioral studies have a history of inspiring each other, which makes physicists' desire to understand social networks a natural interest.

"As Philip Ball [Nature Editor] remarks," said Gonzalez, "'by seeking to uncover the rules of collective human activities, today's statistical physicists are aiming to return to their roots: Social statistics also guided Maxwell and Boltzmann towards the utilization of probability distributions in the development of the kinetic theory of gases – the foundation of statistical mechanics' (Physica A 314 (2002) 1-4)."

Citation: Gonzalez, Marta C., Lind, Pedro G. and Herrmann, Hans J. System of Mobile Agents to Model Social Networks. Physical Review Letters. 96, 088701 (2006).

Copyright 2006 PhysOrg.com

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Blessing of Da Vinci date error

By Alan Hamilton
London Times
10 Mar 06

DAN BROWN got a date wrong in The Da Vinci Code. The error may well prove to his advantage.

According to him the Priory of Sion, alleged keeper of the secret of Christ's wife and children, was founded in Jerusalem during the Second Crusade in the reign of Baldwin II. But according to the authors of The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail, who are suing Brown for stealing their plot, the Priory was founded in 1099 during the First Crusade, and Baldwin did not ascend the throne of the ancient city until 1118.
Rarely has medieval Christian history had such a field day in court, but then Mr Justice Smith, who is hearing the Chancery Division case alleging infringement of copyright, is equal to the task.

Having done his homework, he knows that the Second Crusade lasted from 1147 to 1149.

In his third day in the witness box Michael Baigent, co-author of The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail, was being cross-examined on his claim that Mr Brown had lifted his book wholesale. John Baldwin, QC, for the defendant, Random House, which published The Da Vinci Code, suggested that Mr Brown had got his information from an entirely different book, a history of the Knights Templar.

The judge turned to Mr Baigent: "Well, he certainly didn't get it from you, because you wouldn't have made the date error that he has." Mr Baigent has been having a tough time at the hands of his inquisitor, and has been forced to concede that numerous details of his case are wrong. But there are moments when he fights back gamely, and is even conciliatory towards Mr Brown, who sits silently absorbing every word and awaiting his turn in the witness box next week.

"I don't hold it against Mr Brown, as he is not writing a work of history," Mr Baigent said of the thriller writer's getting the wrong Crusade. "But I don't feel it's up to me to correct his creative use of history."

Mr Baigent was beaten into retreat on his assertion - a vital plank of his case - that all the historical conjectures in The Da Vinci Code were lifted from The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail. "I concede that 'all' is far too strong, and that we should have said 'most'; I confess we over-egged that one," he said after Mr Baldwin had pointed out that Jesus having children, Lazarus being his brother-in-law and Mary Magdalene and Mary Bethany being the same person, all postulated in The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail, did not figure in The Da Vinci Code.

"Does it not trouble you that you claim Mr Brown reached all the same historical conjectures when he plainly didn't?" Mr Baldwin asked. Mr Baigent refused to take that entirely lying down. "Mr Brown is writing a novel; he doesn't need to go through all the arguments. We agree that Mr Brown uses the marriage of Jesus in DVC; that is a development of our researches."

Another major theme of The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail is that the Holy Grail is not a chalice but the bloodline of Christ and his descendants. "None of the situations you develop in HBHG in connection with the Grail romances is in DVC, is it?" Mr Baldwin challenged.

"But our conclusion [about Jesus's bloodlines being continued through the early Merovingian kings of France] forms an integral part of DVC. The novel is using the fruits of our conjecture," Mr Baigent said.

The judge, who adjourned the hearing for six days so that he could absorb both books, is sitting without a jury. He told the claimants yesterday that the part of their case that relied on similarities of language between the books was "extremely peripheral", and that "casting a Nelsonian eye" over selected passages was unlikely to get them very far.

Sales of The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail, first published in 1982, have increased sevenfold since the hearing began last week - 3,000 copies - and a few days ago British sales of The Da Vinci Code passed 4 million to add to worldwide sales of 40 million.

The hearing continues.

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Key to Strong Memory in Old Age: Just Believe

By Robert Roy Britt
LiveScience Managing Editor
08 March 2006

"Our study shows that the more you believe there are things you can do to remember information, the more likely you will be to use effort and adaptive strategies and to allocate resources effectively, and the less you will worry about forgetting," she said.
If you don't believe you'll have a good memory when you get older, then you might as well forget about this article.

But if you can just believe, then it might come true.

So says Margie Lachman, professor of psychology at Brandeis University. Lachman and her colleagues asked 335 adults, ages 21 to 83, to recall a list of 30 words that could be categorized as types of fruit, flowers and so on. Among the middle-aged and older people, those who had more confidence in their ability to control their cognitive functioning did better on the test.

Belief in your ability to retain a good memory helps make it happen, Lachman concludes.

"Our study shows that the more you believe there are things you can do to remember information, the more likely you will be to use effort and adaptive strategies and to allocate resources effectively, and the less you will worry about forgetting," she said.

Memory problems in youth get blamed on distraction or some other factor. But older people tend to blame their mental lapses on age. Many see memory decline as an "inevitable, irreversible, and uncontrollable part of the aging process," Lachman said today. "These beliefs are detrimental because they are associated with distress, anxiety, and giving up without expending the effort or strategies needed to support memory."

Lachman and her colleagues, writing in the Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, say preventing memory decline should involve interventions that target conceptions of control over memory.

And if nothing else, remember these tips: Mental exercises can cut your risk for dementia almost in half, another study showed, and just two weeks of memory training and improved diet and exercise can boost your recall abilities.

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'Phoenix Lights' mystery still debated

Diana Balazs
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 10, 2006

Dr. Lynne Kitei doesn't know what it was, but she knows that the Phoenix Lights event of March 13, 1997, did occur, and, in her mind, remains unexplained.

In addition to a string of bright lights that hung over the Valley, witnesses locally and throughout the state saw a V-shaped formation of lights. Some estimated it was the size of a football field and shimmered like black satin as it moved silently.

Explanations were offered by military sources: The string of lights comprised training flares, and the large object actually was a formation of military airplanes.
Whether Arizonans saw flares and airplanes, a top-secret government project or something otherworldly, Kitei said interest about that night has not faded after nearly a decade.

In fact, the curious can relive it all at an exclusive showing on Sunday of an updated documentary.

Kitei, a physician and health educator from Paradise Valley, wrote a book about the subject in 2004, chronicling what she and others saw.

She also co-produced an award-winning documentary with cinematographer Steve Lantz that debuted last March in Scottsdale. She will host Sunday's showing at the same theater, Harkins Shea 14, 7354 E. Shea Blvd.

The revamped documentary includes new footage Kitei shot last summer of large amber-colored orbs in the night sky, plus additional witness interviews, including several with children.

"It's just been amazing how this has really opened up people. I didn't believe when the book came out how much positive response I got," she said.

"People have really thanked me for coming forward and know they can share. That's the most gratifying thing for me."

It has become her life's mission to get the word out about the lights. Kitei has traveled extensively, talking about the Phoenix Lights. She will be a keynote speaker at a conference in Riccione, Italy, on March 25.

"It has been such a joy. People have really embraced this. I guess they're ready for it, the idea that we are not alone," she said.

"It's time we move forward and acknowledge it, and accept it and study it."

Kitei said people should keep an open mind about the subject.

"This is available for anybody who chooses to read it or see it. The data speaks for itself," she said.

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'UFO sighting really took my breath away'

Borough News
By Carron Taylor

Was it a bird? Was it a plane? No, it was a shining silver pyramid, according to two colleagues who spotted a UFO in the skies of Putney last week.

Michelle Medhat was sitting at her office desk last Wednesday morning when she glanced out of the window and spotted a glimmering silver object in the sky.

"I thought what the hell is that?' There were no clouds in the sky at all and 100 per cent visibility.

"The sun was hitting the object and you could see it was turning very slowly.
"I did get a feeling there was something strange about the thing," she said.

Entranced, Michelle signalled to her colleague Peter Gardiner, 53, to take a look.

He said: "At first I thought it was a big piece of rubbish or a clear tarpaulin sheet.

"But then it glistened and it was shiny. It had a strange pattern of movement. It was a significant size, possibly the size of a roof or even a house."

The pair watched it for a couple of minutes, rotating in the distance and heading towards Wandsworth Town. Then, as soon as it had appeared it vanished.

Michelle said if it was a piece of rubbish it would have caused severe damage when it came down, because of its size and density.

"I can't explain it and therefore I'm calling it a UFO. It took my breath away. It did feel weird.

"The more I looked at it I realised there was something not quite right. It wasn't moving like anything I've ever seen before," she said.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it had not been notified of any sighting of the pyramid.

"The MoD does not have any expertise or role in respect of UFO/flying saucer' matters or to the question of the existence or otherwise of extraterrestrial lifeforms, about which it remains totally open-minded."

He said it examined the reports of UFO sightings it received solely to establish whether what was seen might have some defence significance, namely whether there was any evidence the UK's airspace might have been compromised by hostile or unauthorised air activity.

Michelle and Peter said there has been a lot of activity in the skies over Putney recently.

Michelle said they had seen several Chinook helicopters over the past week and believes something must be happening.

Chinooks are used to transport troops, artillery, supplies and equipment, but also used for operations such as medical evacuation, disaster relief and search and rescue.

When travelling to Putney, our reporter saw what looked to be three Apache helicopters travelling east.

A spokesman for the MoD said the helicopters were probably part of general aviation traffic over London and there was no specific activity or event they were involved in. He added such movements were "not unusual".

Did you see the flying silver pyramid? Call the newsdesk on 020 8254 5409.


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View of Easter Island Disaster All Wrong, Researchers Say

By Ker Than
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 09 March 2006

The first settlers on Easter Island didn't arrive until 1200 AD, up to 800 years later than previously thought, a new study suggests.

The revised estimate is based on new radiocarbon dating of soil samples collected from one of oldest known sites on the island, which is in the South Pacific west of Chile.

The finding challenges the widely held notion that Easter Island's civilization experienced a sudden collapse after centuries of slow growth. If correct, the finding would mean that the island's irreversible deforestation and construction of its famous Moai statues began almost immediately after Polynesian settlers first set foot on the island.
The study, conducted by Terry Hunt of the University of Hawaii, Manoa and Carl Lipo of California State University, Long Beach, is detailed today in the online version of the journal Science.

The conventional story

According to one widely held view, a small band of Polynesian settlers, perhaps no more than a few dozen people, arrived on the Easter Island sometime between 400 and 1000 AD.

The settlers lived in harmony with the environment for hundreds of years and the population slowly grew. Some scientists estimate that at its height, Easter Island's population may have been as much as 20,000 people.

Around 1200 AD, the story goes, the inhabitants began cutting down the island's subtropical trees and giant palms in large numbers to build canoes and to transport the giant stone statues, which started going up around this time.

The large-scale deforestation led to soil erosion and over a span of several centuries, the island's ability to support wildlife and farming was compromised. People began to starve. In a last ditch effort at survival, they became cannibals.

The collapse of both the island's ecology and civilization was so complete that by the time the Dutch arrived in the 1700s, Easter Island was a sandy grassland void of nearly all its native wildlife; its human inhabitants were reduced to a starving population of 3,000 or less.

This is the story pieced together by researchers over the past several decades, but Hunt and Lipo think it is wrong.

No Garden of Eden

Crucial to the conventional account of events on Easter Island is the time when settlers first arrived. If colonization didn't begin until 1200 AD, then the island's population wouldn't have had time to swell to tens of thousands of people.

"You don't have this Garden of Eden period for 400 to 800 years," Hunt said in an accompanying Science article. "Instead, [humans] have an immediate impact."

Also, the few thousand people Europeans encountered when they first arrived on Easter Island might not have been the remnants of a once great and populous civilization as widely believed. The researchers think a few thousand people might have been all the island was ever able to support.

"There may not have actually been any collapse," Lipo told LiveScience. "With only 500 years, there's no reason to believe there had to have been a huge [population] growth."

Europeans and rats to blame

The researchers also dispute the claim that Easter Island's human inhabitants were responsible for their own demise. Instead, they think the culprits may have been Europeans, who brought disease and took islanders away as slaves, and rats, which quickly multiplied after arriving with the first Polynesian settlers.

"The collapse was really a function of European disease being introduced," Lipo said. "The story that's been told about these populations going crazy and creating their own demise may just be simply an artifact of [Christian] missionaries telling stories."

At a scientific meeting last year, Hunt presented evidence that the island's rat population spiked to 20 million from the years 1200 to 1300. Rats had no predators on the island other than humans and they would have made quick work of the island's palm seeds. After the trees were gone, the island's rat population dropped off to a mere one million.

Lipo thinks the story of Easter Island's civilization being responsible for its own demise might better reflect the psychological baggage of our own society than the archeological evidence.

"It fits our 20th century view of us as ecological monsters," Lipo said. "There's no doubt that we do terrible things ecologically, but we're passing that on to the past, which may not have actually been the case. To stick our plight onto them is unfair."

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Satellite Sleuth Closes in on Noah's Ark Mystery

By Leonard David
Senior Space Writer
09 March 2006

High on Mt. Ararat in eastern Turkey, there is a baffling mountainside "anomaly," a feature that one researcher claims may be something of biblical proportions.

Images taken by aircraft, intelligence-gathering satellites and commercial remote-sensing spacecraft are fueling an intensive study of the intriguing oddity. But whether the anomaly is some geological quirk of nature, playful shadows, a human-made structure of some sort, or simply nothing at all-that remains to be seen.
Whatever it is, the anomaly of interest rests at 15,300 feet (4,663 meters) on the northwest corner of Mt. Ararat, and is nearly submerged in glacial ice. It would be easy to call it merely a strange rock formation.

But at least one man wonders if it could be the remains of Noah's Ark-a vessel said to have been built to save people and selected animals from the Great Flood, the 40 days and 40 nights of deluge as detailed in the Book of Genesis.

The Genesis blueprint of the Ark detailed the structure as 6:1 length to width ratio (300 cubits by 50 cubits). The anomaly, as viewed by satellite, is close to that 6:1 proportion.

Newfound optimism

Identifying the Ararat anomaly has been a 13-year-long quest of Porcher Taylor, an associate professor in paralegal studies at the University of Richmond's School of Continuing Studies in Virginia.

Taylor has been a national security analyst for more than 30 years, also serving as a senior associate for five years at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C.

"I've got new found optimism ... as far as my continuing push to have the intelligence community declassify some of the more definitive-type imagery," Taylor told SPACE.com/LiveScience. He points to a "new and significant development," a high-resolution image taken by DigitalGlobe's impressive QuickBird satellite and shown here publicly for the first time [alternate version with no annotation].

"I'm calling this my satellite archeology project," Taylor said. It's an effort that has now included use of QuickBird, GeoEye's Ikonos spacecraft, Canada's Radarsat 1, as well as declassified aerial and satellite images taken by the various U.S. intelligence agencies.

Making the mountain transparent

Taylor said his goal is straightforward: Combining this imagery to make the Ararat anomaly transparent to the public, as well as to the discerning, dispassionate eyes of scientists, imagery analysts, and other experts.

"I had no preconceived notions or agendas when I began this in 1993 as to what I was looking for," Taylor said.

As for the saga of Noah's Ark, he is quick to note that there are those who say it is fable while some take it as truth.

Nevertheless, the anomaly may not be a ridge line of ice, snow and possibly rock, but an artificial ridge line, Taylor said. "I maintain that if it is the remains of something manmade and potentially nautical, then it's potentially something of biblical proportions."

While chiding the intelligence communities to release more of their closely guarded satellite imagery, Taylor said that soon-to-fly commercial remote sensing spacecraft are sure to help his archeological undertaking.

"We've got three new birds that are going up. I'm using all my clout, rapport and lobbying to, hopefully, have them at least fly calibration runs over Mt. Ararat," Taylor said. Those images would make the mountain even more transparent, he said.

Will it float?

Meanwhile, Taylor has an ever-expanding network of experts to help tease out the truth about the anomaly.

For example, satellite imagery analyst Rod Franz of SunTek Media Group/RiteImage, Inc., located in Henderson, Nevada, has taken a look at imagery provided by Taylor of the Ararat anomaly and carried out additional analysis of the area. As director of training for the firm, Franz sharpened his skills by serving nearly 25 years as a military intelligence imagery analyst.

For the anomaly assessment, the same software tools used for studying government and commercial remote sensing data were employed, Franz told SPACE.com/LiveScience. Ground distances and scales of the anomaly were determined. That software also has the ability to adjust brightness, haze, sharpness, contrast and other factors of the area of interest, he said.

"Along with many other image manipulation functions ... I also used the pseudo-color function trying to determine if I could detect anything under the ice and snow," Franz said.

The face of the anomaly measured 1,015 feet (309 meters) across, Franz said. "I also found the shape of the anomaly appears to fit on a circle. I am not sure what this means, if anything, but I find it curious."

Given that length, Taylor pointed out, the anomaly dwarfs the Titanic and Bismarck in size, and equals the size of the largest modern aircraft carrier. That analysis would seem to call into question whether the anomaly is a wooden ship and raises a key question: If a boat were truly that huge, would it float?

There are also experts in remote sensing who offer a skeptical view.

"Image interpretation is an art," said Farouk El-Baz, Director of the Boston University Center for Remote Sensing.

"One has to be familiar with Sun lighting effects on the shape of observed features," El-Baz said. "Very slight changes in slope modify shadow shapes that affect the interpretations. Up to this time, all the images I have seen can be interpreted as natural landforms. The feature that has been interpreted as the 'Ararat Anomaly' is to me a ledge of rock in partial shadow, with varied thickness of snow and ice cover.

Visual truth serum

Thanks to more satellite imagery in the offing, as well as other studies underway, Taylor said his remote archeological research is on the upswing.

There is an ultimate end-game. That is, on-the-spot ground truth ... and Taylor hopes his research findings will catalyze a top-notch expedition to the area. "It is whatever it is," he said.

But for now, satellite remote sensing to carry out archeological "digs" from space will fill in for an in-the-field expedition.

Just a few weeks ago, for example, NASA scientists utilizing space- and aircraft-based remote sensing hardware and techniques uncovered Maya ruins hidden in the rainforests of Central America for more than 1,000 years.

"For explorers, imagery from GeoEye's Ikonos satellite married with Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite data has become as indispensable as water and freeze dried food for any expedition. One does not want to leave home without it," said Mark Brender, GeoEye Vice President for communications and marketing, headquartered in Dulles, Virginia.

For researchers, imagery from space like those provided by GeoEye provides "the ultimate high shot" and a contextual view you could never get from observations on the ground or even from a plane, Brender told SPACE.com/LiveScience. "It's visual truth serum."

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Three cosmic enigmas, one answer

ISSUE: 11 MARCH 2006

DARK energy and dark matter, two of the greatest mysteries confronting physicists, may be two sides of the same coin. A new and as yet undiscovered kind of star could explain both phenomena and, in turn, remove black holes from the lexicon of cosmology.

The audacious idea comes from George Chapline, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, and Nobel laureate Robert Laughlin of Stanford University and their colleagues. Last week at the 22nd Pacific Coast Gravity Meeting in Santa Barbara, California, Chapline suggested that the objects that till now have been thought of as black holes could in fact be dead stars that form as a result of an obscure quantum phenomenon. These stars could explain both dark energy and dark matter.
This radical suggestion would get round some fundamental problems posed by the existence of black holes. One such problem arises from the idea that once matter crosses a black hole's event horizon – the point beyond which not even light can escape – it will be destroyed by the spacetime "singularity" at the centre of the black hole. Because information about the matter is lost forever, this conflicts with the laws of quantum mechanics, which state that information can never disappear from the universe.

Another problem is that light from an object falling into a black hole is stretched so dramatically by the immense gravity there that observers outside will see time freeze: the object will appear to sit at the event horizon for ever. This freezing of time also violates quantum mechanics. "People have been vaguely uncomfortable about these problems for a while, but they figured they'd get solved someday," says Chapline. "But that hasn't happened and I'm sure when historians look back, they'll wonder why people didn't question these contradictions."

While looking for ways to avoid these physical paradoxes, Chapline and Laughlin found some answers in an unrelated phenomenon: the bizarre behaviour of superconducting crystals as they go through something called "quantum critical phase transition" (New Scientist, 28 January, p 40). During this transition, the spin of the electrons in the crystals is predicted to fluctuate wildly, but this prediction is not borne out by observation. Instead, the fluctuations appear to slow down, and even become still, as if time itself has slowed down.

"That was when we had our epiphany," Chapline says. He and Laughlin realised that if a quantum critical phase transition happened on the surface of a star, it would slow down time and the surface would behave just like a black hole's event horizon. Quantum mechanics would not be violated because in this scenario time would never freeze entirely. "We start with effects actually seen in the lab, which I think gives it more credibility than black holes," says Chapline.

With this idea in mind, they – along with Emil Mottola at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, Pawel Mazur of the University of South Carolina in Columbia and colleagues – analysed the collapse of massive stars in a way that did not allow any violation of quantum mechanics. Sure enough, in place of black holes their analysis predicts a phase transition that creates a thin quantum critical shell. The size of this shell is determined by the star's mass and, crucially, does not contain a space-time singularity. Instead, the shell contains a vacuum, just like the energy-containing vacuum of free space. As the star's mass collapses through the shell, it is converted to energy that contributes to the energy of the vacuum.

The team's calculations show that the vacuum energy inside the shell has a powerful anti-gravity effect, just like the dark energy that appears to be causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate. Chapline has dubbed the objects produced this way "dark energy stars".

Though this anti-gravity effect might be expected to blow the star's shell apart, calculations by Francisco Lobo of the University of Lisbon in Portugal have shown that stable dark energy stars can exist for a number of different models of vacuum energy. What's more, these stable stars would have shells that lie near the region where a black hole's event horizon would form (Classical Quantum Gravity, vol 23, p 1525).

"Dark energy stars and black holes would have identical external geometries, so it will be very difficult to tell them apart," Lobo says. "All observations used as evidence for black holes – their gravitational pull on objects and the formation of accretion discs of matter around them – could also work as evidence for dark energy stars."

That does not mean they are completely indistinguishable. While black holes supposedly swallow anything that gets past the event horizon, quantum critical shells are a two-way street, Chapline says. Matter crossing the shell decays, and the anti-gravity should spit some of the remnants back out again. Also, quark particles crossing the shell should decay by releasing positrons and gamma rays, which would pop out of the surface. This could explain the excess positrons that are seen at the centre of our galaxy, around the region that was hitherto thought to harbour a massive black hole. Conventional models cannot adequately explain these positrons, Chapline says.

He and his colleagues have also calculated the energy spectrum of the released gamma rays. "It is very similar to the spectrum observed in gamma-ray bursts," says Chapline. The team also predicts that matter falling into a dark energy star will heat up the star, causing it to emit infrared radiation. "As telescopes improve over the next decade, we'll be able to search for this light," says Chapline. "This is a theory that should be proved one way or the other in five to ten years."

Black hole expert Marek Abramowicz at Gothenburg University in Sweden agrees that the idea of dark energy stars is worth pursuing. "We really don't have proof that black holes exist," he says. "This is a very interesting alternative."

The most intriguing fallout from this idea has to do with the strength of the vacuum energy inside the dark energy star. This energy is related to the star's size, and for a star as big as our universe the calculated vacuum energy inside its shell matches the value of dark energy seen in the universe today. "It's like we are living inside a giant dark energy star," Chapline says. There is, of course, no explanation yet for how a universe-sized star could come into being.

At the other end of the size scale, small versions of these stars could explain dark matter. "The big bang would have created zillions of tiny dark energy stars out of the vacuum," says Chapline, who worked on this idea with Mazur. "Our universe is pervaded by dark energy, with tiny dark energy stars peppered across it." These small dark energy stars would behave just like dark matter particles: their gravity would tug on the matter around them, but they would otherwise be invisible.

Abramowicz says we know too little about dark energy and dark matter to judge Chapline and Laughlin's idea, but he is not dismissing it out of hand. "At the very least we can say the idea isn't impossible."

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Nipple piercing may have caused fatal infection in Newfoundland 17-year-old

Canadian Press
10 Mar 06

A 17-year-old Newfoundland girl is believed to have died from toxic shock syndrome - and the infection that killed her may have resulted from a nipple piercing, the province's chief medical examiner says.

Dr. Simon Avis said in an interview from St. John's that the teenage girl, who died Thursday, had been admitted to hospital earlier this week "with medical problems that were quite complex." Her name has not been released.
Avis said it is too early to say for certain that the apparent toxic shock syndrome was caused by infection at the site of the piercing. An anatomical autopsy was performed, but other microscopic tests need to be conducted before the source of the staphylococcus infection can be pinpointed, he said.

"We're still in the process of investigating," he said. "We can't be absolutely sure that body piercing had anything to do with the infection."

Still, Avis conceded that of the many possible origins of the toxic shock syndrome, "I think it would be fair to say that we're suspicious that that (body piercing) was the source of the infection, yes."

Toxic shock syndrome is characterized by sudden fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea, muscle aches and rash, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The cause is usually toxins produced by strains of Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium commonly found on the skin and on mucous membranes, such as the mouth.

Toxic shock can occur as a complication of skin abscesses or surgery. In females, it has been linked to the use of tampons and intravaginal contraceptive devices.

Avis said his office is now investigating the circumstances surrounding the teen's nipple piercing.

"This girl came to hospital almost moribund," he said. "All we know is she had a piercing recently. We are now trying to investigate when that was done."

Part of that investigation will involve talking to the grieving family of the teen, who was a senior at Booth Memorial High School in St. John's.

Avis said her death might be "an extreme example" of what can occur when people have lips, tongues, eyebrows, genitals and other body parts punctured in the name of fashion.

"This is health dollars that are essentially wasted treating infections that shouldn't have occurred because of some desire to have a piece of metal sticking out of your body. It doesn't make much sense to me."

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Ark's Quantum Quirks

March 11, 2006


Quantum Time

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U.S. More Intent on Blocking Chavez - Venezuela's leader seeks to rally opposition to Washington as elections near in the region.

By Paul Richter
LA Times Staff Writer
10 Mar 06

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration is stepping up efforts to counter leftist Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as he builds opposition to U.S. influence in Latin America.

U.S. diplomats have sought in recent years to mute their conflicts with Chavez, fearing that a war of words with the flamboyant populist could raise his stature at home and abroad. But in recent months, as Chavez has sharpened his attacks - and touched American nerves by increasing ties with Iran - American officials have become more outspoken about their intention to isolate him.

Signaling the shift, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Congress last month that the United States was actively organizing other countries to carry out an "inoculation strategy" against what it sees as meddling by Chavez.
U.S. officials believe Chavez uses his oil wealth to reward governments that share his anti-American views and to foment change in those that don't.

"We are working with other countries to make certain that there is a united front against some of the things that Venezuela gets involved in," said Rice, who called Venezuela a "sidekick" of Iran.

Rice leaves today on an eight-day trip to Latin America, Indonesia and Australia, including a stop in Chile for the inauguration of President-elect Michelle Bachelet. Rice said pointedly Thursday that she did not plan to see Chavez, who is expected to attend the inauguration Saturday.

As part of the administration's new view of Venezuela, U.S. defense and intelligence officials have revised their assessment of the security threat Venezuela poses to the region. They say they believe Venezuela will have growing military and diplomatic relationships with North Korea and Iran, and point with concern to its arms buildup. Of equal worry to them is Venezuela's overhaul of its military doctrine, which now emphasizes "asymmetric warfare" - a strategy of sabotage and hit-and-run attacks against a greater military power, much like that used by Iraqi insurgents.

The U.S. government's revived interest in Latin America comes at a time when Congress has been pressing the Bush administration to define its strategy amid a growing number of clashes with the Chavez government.

Last month, the United States and Venezuela engaged in a diplomatic tit-for-tat reminiscent of the Cold War, trading espionage accusations against each other's diplomats, then expelling them. The two countries have also clashed on airspace and landing rights for civilian and military aircraft, as the United States has sought to block Venezuela's bid to become a nonpermanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Venezuela has threatened to end the oil sales that provide the United States with about 12% of its imports, and begun rewriting its contracts with U.S. oil companies.

The tougher U.S. approach also reflects an administration interest in trying to head off any further leftist inroads in upcoming elections in the region. A number of governments face elections this year in Latin America, and Chavez has made known his support for opposition candidates in several of the countries, including Mexico, which will elect its president in July.

"There is some concern that if the United States doesn't play its cards right, there could be a major policy shift in the region that favors Venezuela's interests over the United States," said Daniel P. Erikson of the Inter-American Dialogue, a research organization in Washington.

Since taking office in 1999, Chavez has been trying to build a left-leaning alliance and has offered cut-rate oil and other inducements through a foreign aid program some believe to be worth billions of dollars annually. His stated aim is to push an alternative development model that eases the sting of globalism and favors the interests of the poor, who make up about 40% of the region's population.

Bernardo Alvarez, Venezuela's ambassador to the United States, defended his country's policies, saying they respond to failed economic models that have increased poverty and social exclusion. "Chavez and [Bolivian President] Evo Morales are not accidents of history," Alvarez said.

In a recent interview, Alvarez defended Venezuela's relationship with Iran, saying the two nations had forged strong ties as co-founders of OPEC in 1960. He said his government's repeated efforts to improve relations with Washington have been met with indifference.

"Any time we try to open a dialogue, there are people who act to sabotage it," Alvarez said.

Many observers are skeptical that Chavez has much appeal beyond Fidel Castro's Cuba and impoverished Bolivia, but U.S. officials are concerned that his efforts could foment violence in unstable countries and weaken Latin American support for the American program of free market economics and U.S.-style governance.

Rice said U.S. officials were trying to build international pressure to address what they see as Venezuelan abuses of democratic institutions at home. This year, she called European Union officials to draw their attention to the trial of a Venezuelan opposition group, Sumate, whose leaders face treason charges for accepting a $31,000 grant from the Washington-based National Endowment for Democracy, a private group funded by Congress.

"This kangaroo trial is a disgrace," she said. The EU, a key trading partner of Venezuela, signaled its concern by sending observers to the trial, she noted.

Chavez reacted strongly to Rice's criticism, saying it amounted to plans for an "imperialist attack" that he would resist.

Some State Department officials continue to emphasize that they do not want to be confrontational. Assistant Secretary of State Thomas A. Shannon, the top U.S. diplomat for Latin America, has said he is not looking for a quarrel with Chavez.

"We don't want to exaggerate his role or presence in the region," Shannon said in an interview. "We want to stay focused on a positive agenda for the region."

Military and intelligence officials have been more blunt.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld last month likened Chavez to Hitler, noting that both leaders were elected legally. At the same time, Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte, appearing before the Senate last week, said Chavez was spending "very extravagantly" to build alliances and seeking to strengthen ties with Iran, North Korea and Cuba.

Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel said this week in Caracas, the capital, that the recent tough talk by U.S. officials "represents a victory of the hawks in U.S. foreign policy," the official Cuban News Agency reported.

Whether the United States' tough talk will resonate among Latin American leaders is uncertain. Thus far, only Mexico, not an immediate neighbor of Venezuela, has persisted in criticizing Chavez. Mexican President Vicente Fox, who is in the final nine months of his presidential term and hails from a conservative party strongly committed to free trade, exchanged angry words with Chavez late last year over Mexico's U.S. ties.

In the widening spat, the Bush administration might be able to enlist countries that are heavily dependent on the U.S., or badly want the benefits of better ties with the north, one senior Latin American diplomat said.

But others, "even the ones who don't like Chavez, don't want to be out front," said the envoy, who declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject. "They don't want trouble."

Times staff writer Chris Kraul in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times

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The Coming Resource Wars

By Michael T. Klare
10 Mar 06

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.

Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author of Resource Wars and Blood and Oil, both available in paperback from Owl Books.

© 2006 TomPaine.com

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Berlusconi faces corruption charge

10 Mar 06

Prosecutors in Milan say they have requested that Italian Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi be indicted on charges of corruption.

Berlusconi is accused of ordering the payment of at least $600,000 to British lawyer David Mills - whose indictment also was being sought - in 1997 in exchange for the lawyer's false testimony in two trials against Berlusconi.

Both men deny the allegations.
A spokesman for the prime minister rejected on Friday as "false theories" the prosecutors' accusations.

Fabio De Pasquale, a prosecutor, said Mills, who is married and formally separated from British Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell, was accused of giving false testimony in two hearings, in 1997 and 1998.

Pasquale declined to release details, but according to news reports, Mills was accused of failing to mention a 1995 phone call with Berlusconi in which the two discussed alleged illicit payments from Berlusconi to former Socialist prime minister Bettino Craxi.


Mills also was accused of failing to tell a court that two offshore companies involved in buying US film rights were linked to Berlusconi.

The accusations surrounding Mills' testimony stem from a separate case in which Berlusconi, Mills and 12 others were accused of tax fraud and embezzlement over the purchase of US movie rights by Mediaset, Berlusconi's media empire. All the defendants deny wrongdoing.

Prosecutors have said they had rushed to complete the investigation and to try to bring the case to trial after Parliament passed a reform, backed by Berlusconi's government, which reduced the statute of limitations on the charges.

The conservative prime minister has repeatedly accused Milan prosecutors of waging a political vendetta against him following years of investigations and prosecution against him. He says they sympathise with the left.

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UK cited for 'obsessive' anti-Semitism

Hilary Leila Krieger

It turns out that joining the EU hasn't been the only thing to draw England closer to continental Europe.

For the first time since the Middle Ages, England is exhibiting classic "obsessive" anti-Semitism until now reserved for its neighbors across the channel, according to a British anti-Semitism expert.

Robert Wistrich, who heads the Hebrew University's Sassoon International Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism, pointed to recent characterizations of Jews as the cabal behind the Iraq war and anti-Israel rhetoric leading to activities such as boycotts.
Historically, Wistrich explained at a lecture Wednesday night, British Jew-hatred has been less ideological, less violent and less successful in influencing government policies than in places such as Germany, Russia and Poland.

And, he stressed, "you cannot say that the British government was anti-Semitic in the 20th century," calling Prime Minister Tony Blair "one of the better or best friends Israel has in the outside world."

He attributed England's less "compulsive" anti-Semitism in part to British "self-confidence" as a prosperous empire with no need to feel threatened by a small minority, which started to change in the 20th century as the empire began to fall apart.

Yet Wistrich noted that even when that minority was so small it disappeared entirely - during the 350 or so years of medieval Jewish exile that preceded the reign of Oliver Cromwell - anti-Semitic tropes survived and found their way into high literature as well as popular culture.

Wistrich, who grew up in England, recalled that "every single author I had to read for advanced-level English literature - Chaucer, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Dickens - could be described at least as contributing to the corpus of anti-Semitism, even if unintentionally." Even as a doctoral student in the 1970s, Wistrich told of anti-Zionist sentiment on campus and bans - later rescinded - on Jewish organizations.

"The main difference between then and now [is that] it was not mainstream," he said of these sentiments. He described multi-culturalism, among other developments as a "sea-change" which paradoxically seemed like it might worsen the position of Jews.

Now, according to Brenda Katten, chair of the Israel, Britain and the Commonwealth Association, the demonization of Israel at British universities is so prevalent that "our biggest problem on campus today is that students are being asked to justify Israel's right to exist."

"We're back to square one," she told the crowd packing the small hall holding Wednesday's symposium on "The New Anti-Semitism? The Case of Great Britain." She said that members of the Jewish community, who face regular anti-Semitism, were beginning to blame themselves.

An audience member challenged the panelists' depiction of widespread anti-Semitism in Britain, but Katten countered that she knows of first-hand experiences proving the opposite.

She mentioned that a group of Jewish students she spoke to recently related being taunted with anti-Semitic jeers when they congregated in Golders Green, a heavily Jewish neighborhood in London.

She said they told her: "We think it's our fault, because the girls dress a little loud and we talk a little loud."

Katten lamented that "the victim had suddenly become the perpetrator, and I couldn't help thinking if this is the problem we are facing in the academic world, where so many Jewish professors criticize Israel." She referred to several instances in which Jews and even Israelis lead protests against Israel and boycott drives.

Members of the British embassy attended Wednesday's event. Public Affairs Officer Karen Kaufman said that anti-Semitism in the UK is "obviously still a problem" and that it is "an issue that is very, very important to the British government."

Comment: There's an old saying... "if the shoe fits..."

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De Menezes Case: Senior officers: we knew wrong man was shot

Vikram Dodd
Thursday March 9, 2006
The Guardian

An official inquiry into the Stockwell tube station shooting has received evidence from senior police officers raising questions about Sir Ian Blair's account of the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes and its aftermath, the Guardian has learned.

The commissioner of the Metropolitan police has repeatedly said that he was unaware that the victim was not a suicide bomber until 24 hours after the Brazilian was shot on July 22 2005, a day after several attempted attacks on the London transport system by terrorists. But several witnesses have told the Independent Police Complaints Commission inquiry that senior officers feared within hours of the shooting that the wrong man had been killed after being mistaken for a terrorist.
The witnesses, who were inside Scotland Yard's headquarters on July 22, have told the IPCC that on the day of the shooting planning and discussion took place based on the assumption that an innocent man had been killed.

The IPCC is carrying out an inquiry into the conduct of Sir Ian - its second investigation into the Stockwell events - in response to a complaint by Mr de Menezes's family, who allege that the commissioner and others in the force tried to mislead the public about the shooting. Central to the inquiry is the accuracy of Sir Ian's statements after the shooting.

The revelations come as Brazil's president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, visits Britain and after yesterday's backing for Sir Ian's shoot-to-kill policy by the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Mr de Menezes was killed on a tube train at around 10am on Friday, July 22, by officers who believed that he was a terrorist who had tried to attack London's transport system the day before. But one senior police source told the IPCC that by that afternoon, top officers were working on the assumption that "we got the wrong person ... we better plan around this being a mistake." Another source inside the Met's headquarters that day said every senior officer he spoke to believed that Mr de Menezes was not a terrorist: "I don't know how Ian could not have known."

The IPCC will now assess if the accounts from the witnesses are accurate and can be reconciled with Sir Ian's assertions and any evidence backing him.

Around midday on July 22, Sir Ian tried to block the IPCC investigation, writing to the Home Office to say that he feared an inquiry would hamper the hunt for the bombers. Just after 3.30pm that day, Sir Ian addressed a press conference and told reporters: "This operation was directly linked to the ongoing terrorist investigation ... the man was challenged and refused to obey police instructions."

The IPCC has been told that before Sir Ian's press conference fears were mounting among senior officers that the wrong man had been killed. By 4pm that Friday, key senior officers were being called into meetings to plan what to do. IPCC investigators have been told that early that evening, the Met deputy commissioner, Paul Stephenson, was at a meeting where it was said the wrong man had been shot.

Privately Sir Ian stands by his account about what he knew and when, and believes he will not be questioned by the IPCC. He has insisted that the first inkling he had that the wrong man had been killed was on the Saturday morning. He told the News of the World: "The key component was that at that time, and for the next 24 hours, I and everybody who advised me believed the person shot was a suicide bomber."

Harriet Wistrich, a solicitor for the de Menezes family, said what Sir Ian knew and when was a "key point" of the inquiry. "He made statements on the Friday afternoon and later which were misleading. Was he telling the truth, did the Met give out misleading information to make things look less bad for themselves."

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Revealed: Maxwell was under investigation for war crimes - Police files cast new light on mystery of tycoon's death

By Robert Verkaik, Legal Affairs Correspondent
Published: 10 March 2006

Robert Maxwell was being investigated for war crimes and was to be interviewed by police just before he mysteriously drowned 15 years ago.

Revelations that Maxwell, a captain in the British Army, knew he faced a possible life sentence for murdering an unarmed German civilian in 1945 lend support to the theory that he took his own life in 1991.

A Metropolitan Police file released to The Independent under the Freedom of Information Act shows that, weeks before he died, detectives had begun questioning members of Maxwell's platoon and were preparing a case for the Crown Prosecution Service.

Maxwell would have been told about the inquiry and knew that, if found guilty, he would be the first Briton to be prosecuted for war crimes. The War Crimes Act 1991 was enacted just six months before Maxwell's body was found floating in the Atlantic on 5 November after disappearing from his yacht, the Lady Ghislane.
No one has been able to explain how he came to die. But the police file shows that, by that time, officers had been able to establish the location in Germany where Maxwell was alleged to have killed an unarmed civilian. The shooting, which is said to have happened on 2 April 1945, was first disclosed by Maxwell's authorised biographer, Joe Haines, in 1988. Maxwell is quoted in the book describing how he tried to capture a German town by threatening the population with a mortar bombardment, a tactic that had proved successful on a nearby village hours earlier.

In a letter to his wife, published in the book, Maxwell recounts how he asked some Germans to fetch the mayor. He ordered the mayor to go back to town and tell the soldiers defending it to surrender or face destruction. One hour later the mayor returned, saying the soldiers had agreed to his demands. "But as soon as we marched off a German tank opened fire on us," Maxwell wrote. "Luckily, he missed, so I shot the mayor and withdrew."

The Met's file says: "The reported circumstances of the shooting gave rise to an allegation of War Crimes. To some extent, the reporting of the shooting incident was confirmed by Mr Maxwell in an interview he gave in 1988 to the journalist Brian Walden [30th October 1988]."

But the police could do nothing until Parliament had enacted the war crimes legislation which had been specifically designed to prosecute Nazi war criminals living in this country.

It was only when a member of the public made a complaint under the new legislation that an official investigation could begin. Two officers from the Met's historic war crimes unit began tracing members of his platoon but had been unable to find a witness to the alleged shooting of the mayor.

Maxwell is presumed to have fallen overboard from Lady Ghislane, which was cruising off the Canary Islands. The official verdict was accidental drowning, though many people, including members of his own family, believe he took his own life. It did not emerge until after his death that he had plundered the Mirror Group pensions' funds to bail out his ailing media empire.

Shortly after he was buried in Jerusalem, the police passed the conclusions of their investigation to the Crown Prosecution Service. The file obtained under the Freedom of Information Act says "it was determined that the case could be progressed no further, and it was closed in March 1992". The file also shows that although a lot of work had gone into the case the police had not been able to find a reliable witness to corroborate the account in Haines's biography. They had also raised concerns about having to rely on the quotes attributed to Maxwell in the book. But Maxwell would not have known this and he may have felt that the net was closing.

Maxwell was immensely proud of his war record. He fought his way across Europe from the Normandy beaches to Berlin, winning the Military Cross in January 1945. He had a hatred for Germans that stemmed from his earlier life, most of his family in Czechoslovakia having been killed by the Nazis. Later in life, he was reported to have said that the two things he hated most were Germans and taxes.

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Slobodan Milosevic Found Dead in Cell

Associated Press
11 Mar 06

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands - Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav leader, who was branded "the butcher of the Balkans" and was on trial for war crimes after orchestrating a decade of bloodshed during the breakup of his country, was found dead Saturday in his prison cell. He was 64.

Milosevic, who suffered chronic heart ailments and high blood pressure, apparently died of natural causes and was found in his bed, the U.N. tribunal said, without giving an exact time of death.
He had been examined by doctors following his frequent complaints of fatigue or ill health that delayed his trial, but the tribunal could not immediately say when he last underwent a medical checkup. All detainees at the center in Scheveningen are checked by a guard every half hour.

The tribunal said Milosevic's family had been informed of his death, which came nearly five years after he was arrested, then extradited to The Hague.

His wife, Mirjana Markovic, who was often accused of being the power behind the scenes during her husband's autocratic rule, has been in self-imposed exile in Russia since 2003. His son, Marko, also lives in Russia, and his daughter, Marija, lives in Serb-controlled half of Bosnia.

Borislav Milosevic, who lives in Moscow, blamed the U.N tribunal for causing his brother's death by refusing him medical treatment in Russia.

"All responsibility for this lies on the shoulders of the international tribunal. He asked for treatment several months ago, they knew this," he told The Associated Press. "They drove him to this as they didn't want to let him out alive."

Milosevic asked the court in December to let him go to Moscow for treatment. But the tribunal refused, despite assurances from the Russian authorities that the former Yugoslav leader would return to the Netherlands to finish his trial.

Milosevic has been on trial since February 2002, defending himself against 66 counts of crimes, including genocide, in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. But the proceedings were repeatedly interrupted by Milosevic's poor health and chronic heart condition.

He was accused of orchestrating a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing against non-Serbs during the collapse of the Yugoslav federation in an attempt to link Serbia with Serb-dominated areas of Croatia and Bosnia to create a new Greater Serbia.

Milosevic had spent much of the time granted to him by the U.N. court for his defense dealing with allegations of atrocities in Kosovo that took up just one-third of his indictment. He also faced charges of genocide in Bosnia for allegedly overseeing the slaughter of 8,000 Muslims from the eastern enclave of Srebrenica - the worst massacre on European soil since World War II.

The trial was recessed last week to await his next defense witness. Milosevic also was waiting for a court decision on his request to subpoena former President Bill Clinton as a witness.

Steven Kay, a British attorney assigned to represent Milosevic, said Saturday that the former Serb leader would not have fled, and was not suicidal.

"He said to me: 'I haven't taken on all this work just to walk away from it and not come back. I want to see this case through,'" Kay told the British Broadcasting Corp.

Milosevic's death came less than a week after the star witness in his trial, former Croatian Serb leader Milan Babic, was found dead in the same prison. Babic, who was serving a 13-year prison sentence, committed suicide.

His testimony in 2002 described a political and military command structure headed by Milosevic in Belgrade that operated behind the scenes.

Milosevic's death will be a crushing blow to the tribunal and to those who were looking to establish an authoritative historical record of the Balkan wars.

Though the witness testimony is on public record, history will be denied the judgment of a panel of legal experts weighing the evidence of his personal guilt and the story of his regime.

"It is a pity he didn't live to the end of the trial to get the sentence he deserved," Croatian President Stipe Mesic said.

The European Union said Milosevic's death does not absolve Serbia of responsibility to hand over other war crimes suspects.

The death "does not alter in any way the need to come to terms with the legacy of the Balkan wars," Austrian Foreign Minister Ursula Plassnik, whose country holds the rotating EU president, said in Salzburg.

Milosevic was due to complete his defense at the war crimes tribunal this summer.

A figure of beguiling charm and cunning ruthlessness, Milosevic was a master tactician who turned his country's defeats into personal victories and held onto power for 13 years despite losing four wars that shattered his nation and impoverished his people.

Milosevic led Serbia, the dominant Yugoslav republic, into four Balkan wars during the 1990s. The secret of his survival was his uncanny ability to exploit what less adroit figures would consider a fatal blow.

He once described himself as the "Ayatollah Khomeini of Serbia," assuring his prime minister, Milan Panic, that "the Serbs will follow me no matter what." For years, they did - through wars which dismembered Yugoslavia and plunged what was left of the country into social, political, moral and economic ruin.

But in the end, his people abandoned him: first in October 2000, when he was unable to convince the majority of Yugoslavs that he had staved off electoral defeat by his successor, Vojislav Kostunica, and again on April 1, 2001, when he surrendered after a 26-hour standoff to face criminal charges stemming from his ruinous rule.

Milosevic was born Aug. 20, 1941, in Pozarevac, a drab factory town in central Serbia best known as the home of one of the country's most notorious prisons.

His father was a defrocked Orthodox priest and sometime teacher of Russian. His mother was also a teacher. Both parents eventually committed suicide.

In high school, he met his future wife, the daughter of a wartime communist partisan hero. Markovic also was the niece of Davorjanka Paunovic, private secretary and mistress of Josip Broz Tito, the communist guerrilla leader who seized power in Yugoslavia at the end of World War II.

Milosevic became president of Serbia in 1989 elections widely considered rigged. His rise alarmed the other peoples of former Yugoslavia - Slovenes, Croats, Macedonians, Albanians and others - who feared that the hard-line nationalist would allow Serbs to dominate the country.

In 1991, Croatia and Slovenia declared their independence from Yugoslavia. Milosevic sent tanks to Slovenian borders, triggering a brief war that ended in Slovenia's secession.

Serbs in Croatia, encouraged by Milosevic, took up arms. Milosevic responded by sending the Serb-led Yugoslav army to intervene, triggering a conflict that left at least 10,000 people dead and hundreds of Croatian villages and towns devastated before a U.N.-patrolled cease-fire was arranged in January 1992.

Three months later, Bosnia-Herzegovina declared its independence, too. Milosevic bankrolled the Bosnian Serb rebellion, triggering an even bigger war that killed an estimated 200,000 people before a U.S.-brokered peace agreement was reached at Dayton, Ohio, in 1995.

During those conflicts, Yugoslavia was ostracized worldwide and the United States called Milosevic "The Butcher of the Balkans." Strict international sanctions and government mismanagement devastated the economy and left its people impoverished.

Realizing that the conflicts could not continue, Milosevic agreed to the Dayton talks, accepting a deal that abandoned Croatia's rebel Serbs, who were driven from their homes when the Croatian army recaptured almost all the land the Serbs had seized there in 1991.

The Dayton agreement also meant giving up the nationalist goal of a Serb state in Bosnia. Nevertheless, it bought Milosevic time and transformed his image from Balkan villain to benign peacemaker.

Milosevic's term as Serbian president ended in 1997 and the constitution prevented him from running again. However, he exploited legal loopholes in the constitution to have parliament name him president of Yugoslavia, which by then included only the republics of Serbia and Montenegro.

It was the thorny problem of Kosovo, the majority Albanian province that had served as his springboard to power, which finally set the stage for his downfall. In February 1998, Milosevic sent troops to crush an ethnic Albanian uprising there.

The United States and its allies responded by imposing some of the sanctions that were lifted after the Bosnian war. In 1999, after Milosevic refused to sign a Western-dictated peace agreement at Rambouillet, France, NATO launched 78 days of punishing air strikes against Yugoslavia.

Milosevic refused to back down and instead ordered his troops to crack down on Kosovo Albanians even harder. More than 800,000 Albanians fled into neighboring Albania, Montenegro and Macedonia before Milosevic finally accepted a peace plan and handed over the province to the United Nations and NATO in June 1999.

Before the conflict ended, the U.N. tribunal indicted Milosevic and four of his top aides for war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Kosovo. Milosevic became the first sitting head of state ever to be indicted for such crimes. Later, they broadened the charges against him to include genocide.

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New world relationships

By Noam Chomsky
Khaleej Times
10 Mar 06

THE prospect that Europe and Asia might move toward greater independence has troubled US planners since World War II. The concerns have only risen as the 'tripolar order' - Europe, North America and Asia - has continued to evolve. Every day, Latin America, too, is becoming more independent. Now Asia and the Americas are strengthening their ties while the reigning superpower, the odd man out, consumes itself in misadventures in the Middle East.
Regional integration in Asia and Latin America is a crucial and increasingly important issue that, from Washington's perspective, betokens a defiant world gone out of control. Energy, of course, remains a defining factor - the object of contention - everywhere. China, unlike Europe, refuses to be intimidated by Washington, a primary reason for the fear of China by US planners, which presents a dilemma: Steps towards confrontation are inhibited by US corporate reliance on China as an export platform and growing market, as well as China's financial reserves, reported to be approaching Japan's in scale.

In January, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia visited Beijing, which is expected to lead to a Sino-Saudi memorandum of understanding calling for "increased cooperation and investment between the two countries in oil, natural gas and investment," The Wall Street Journal reports. Already, much of Iran's oil goes to China, and China is providing Iran with weapons that both states presumably regard as deterrent to US designs. India also has options. India may choose to be a US client, or it may prefer to join the more independent Asian bloc that is taking shape, with ever more ties to Middle East oil producers. Siddarth Varadarajan, deputy editor of The Hindu, observes that "if the 21st century is to be an 'Asian century,' Asia's passivity in the energy sector has to end."

The key is India-China cooperation. In January, an agreement signed in Beijing "cleared the way for India and China to collaborate not only in technology, but also in hydrocarbon exploration and production, a partnership that could eventually alter fundamental equations in the world's oil and natural gas sector," Varadarjan points out. An additional step, already being contemplated, is an Asian oil market trading in euros. The impact on the international financial system and the balance of global power could be significant. It should be no surprise that President Bush paid a recent visit to try to keep India in the fold, offering nuclear cooperation and other inducements as a lure.

Meanwhile, in Latin America, left-centre governments prevail from Venezuela to Argentina. The indigenous populations have become much more active and influential, particularly in Bolivia and Ecuador, where they either want oil and gas to be domestically controlled or, in some cases, oppose production altogether. Many indigenous people apparently do not see any reason why their lives, societies and cultures should be disrupted or destroyed so that New Yorkers can sit in their SUVs in traffic gridlock.

Venezuela, the leading oil exporter in the hemisphere, has forged probably the closest relations with China of any Latin American country, and is planning to sell increasing amounts of oil to China as part of its effort to reduce dependence on the openly hostile US government. Venezuela has joined Mercosur, the South American customs union, a move described by Argentine President Nestor Kirchner as 'a milestone' in the development of this trading bloc, and welcomed as a "new chapter in our integration" by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Venezuela, apart from supplying Argentina with fuel oil, bought almost a third of Argentine debt issued in 2005, one element of a region-wide effort to free the countries from the controls of the International Monetary Fund after two decades of disastrous conformity to the rules imposed by the US -dominated international financial institutions. Steps towards Southern Cone integration advanced further in December with the election of Evo Morales in Bolivia, the country's first indigenous president. Morales moved quickly to reach a series of energy accords with Venezuela.

The Financial Times reported that these "are expected to underpin forthcoming radical reforms to Bolivia's economy and energy sector" with its huge gas reserves, second only to Venezuela's in South America. Cuba-Venezuela relations are becoming ever closer, each relying on its comparative advantage. Venezuela is providing low-cost oil, while in return Cuba organises literacy and health programmes, sending thousands of highly-skilled professionals, teachers and doctors, who work in the poorest and most neglected areas, as they do elsewhere in the Third World.

Cuban medical assistance is also being welcomed elsewhere. One of the most horrendous tragedies of recent years was the earthquake in Pakistan last October. Besides the huge death toll, unknown numbers of survivors have to face brutal winter weather with little shelter, food or medical assistance. "Cuba has provided the largest contingent of doctors and paramedics to Pakistan," paying all the costs (perhaps with Venezuelan funding), writes John Cherian in India's Frontline, citing Dawn, a leading Pakistan daily.

President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan expressed his 'deep gratitude' to Fidel Castro for the 'spirit and compassion' of the Cuban medical teams -reported to comprise more than 1,000 trained personnel, 44 per cent of them women, who remained to work in remote mountain villages, "living in tents in freezing weather and in an alien culture" after Western aid teams had been withdrawn. Growing popular movements, primarily in the South, but with increasing participation in the rich industrial countries, are serving as the bases for many of these developments towards more independence and concern for the needs of the great majority of the population.

Noam Chomsky, the author, most recently, of Imperial Ambitions: Conversations on the Post-9/11 World, is a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachussets

© 2005 Khaleej Times

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Feds Order U.S. Banks to Sever Syria Ties

AP Economics Writer
10 Mar 06

WASHINGTON - Acting to crack down on terrorist financing, the Treasury Department on Thursday ordered all commercial banks in the United States to end their relationships with two Syrian banks.

The order covers the state-owned Commercial Bank of Syria and its subsidiary, the Syrian Lebanese Commercial Bank.

The department said that all U.S. banks must close any accounts they have with the two banks.
"Today's action is aimed at protecting our financial system against abuse by this arm of a state-sponsor of terrorism," said Stuart Levy, Treasury's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence.

"The Commercial Bank of Syria has been used by terrorists to move their money and it continues to afford direct opportunities for the Syrian government to facilitate international terrorist activity and money laundering," Levy said.

A message left Thursday with a spokesman for the Syrian Embassy was not immediately returned.

The order makes final a preliminary order against the two banks that Treasury issued last May.

At that time, Treasury issued a finding that the Commercial Bank of Syria was a "primary money laundering concern" under provisions of the Patriot Act that allow the department to cut off dealings of U.S. banks with foreign banks that receive such a designation.

"As a state-owned entity with inadequate money laundering and terrorist financing controls, the Commercial Bank of Syria poses a significant risk of being used to further the Syrian government's continuing support for international terrorist groups," Levy said.

He said that the serious risks posed by the Syrian bank "have not been adequately mitigated" by the Syrian government's limited efforts to address problems in its financial system.

With the announcement, the Treasury has moved to shut down U.S. activities of nine foreign banks under provisions of the Patriot Act.

The action against the banks does not freeze their funds in the United States. It prohibits U.S. banks from holding accounts of those banks. Such accounts are used by foreign banks to do business in the United States if they do not have subsidiaries in this country.

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Dr Strangedeal - Congress should veto George Bush's nuclear agreement with India

10 Mar 06

TEN years from now, will George Bush's determination to rewrite nuclear rules for preventing the bomb's spread be judged to have been courageously right or dangerously wrong? In striking his deal with India, allowing it to import nuclear fuel and technology despite its weapons-building, Mr Bush has not for the first time seemed readier to favour a friend than to stick to a principle. He is gambling that the future benefits of accepting a rising India in all but name as a member of the nuclear club will outweigh the shock to the global anti-proliferation regime, already under severe strain from the nuclear dealings of North Korea and Iran. His gamble is a dangerous one. Meanwhile, in his rush to accommodate India, Mr Bush is missing a chance to win wider nuclear restraint in one of the world's tougher neighbourhoods.
New thinking is needed in the anti-proliferation game. North Korea has broken every rule of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and boasts proudly of its bomb. Iran claims to have no use for one, yet demands the "right" to pursue dangerous nuclear fuel-making technologies-as others may do in future unless creative solutions are found to deflect them-that could be abused for weapons-making. This week America and others were insisting at the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran not be allowed to bend the anti-nuclear rules out of shape to further what are assumed to be its weapons ambitions (see article). So why does Mr Bush propose doing just that for already nuclear-armed India?

Not just old thinking

You have to deal with the world as it is, comes the reply. India needs to import nuclear fuel and technology, hitherto denied it by a combination of the NPT, the informal rules of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) and by American law, to support its fast-growing energy needs. And India is not Iran or North Korea. They signed the NPT and cheated. Like Pakistan and Israel, India never joined the treaty and its weapons-making breaks no laws. India is also a responsible democracy; it does not support terrorist groups or threaten to wipe neighbours off the map, as Iran did recently with Israel. Meanwhile, in return for America's bending the rules of nuclear trade, India will put more civilian nuclear reactors under international safeguards, and stiffen its anti-proliferation resolve.

Leave aside whether nuclear power best serves Indians' needs-that is India's choice, made knowing the anti-nuclear rules it was up against. And while India's nukes broke no laws, in practice it got its start in the weapons business, rather as North Korea and Iran did, by misusing technologies and materials provided for civilian purposes. Mr Bush is nonetheless right that no one expects India to give up its weapons now.

But it is one thing to have as broad and close a friendship with a nuclear India as the anti-nuclear rules allow. That is already in both countries' interests. It is quite another to knock aside the rules for India's sake. To be sure, Mr Bush is not proposing that other nuclear dabblers be given a welcome if they are persistent enough to succeed-though that will be the message Iran prefers to hear this week. Rather, he wants democratic, friendly, law-abiding India to be treated as an exception by Congress, which must first amend America's own laws if the deal is to go through, and by others in the NSG.

The problem here is that India could instead prove the exception that fatally weakens the rules. The devil is both in the deal's troubling detail, and in its likely knock-on effects.

India may not have signed the NPT, but America has. In doing so, it promised not to help other countries with their nuclear-weapons tinkering. It also pioneered the reinforcing principle that only countries that have all their nuclear facilities under international safeguards (India doesn't now and won't in future) should benefit from trade in civilian nuclear technology. If countries were going to sign the NPT and renounce nuclear weapons themselves, they needed assurance that as many others as possible would follow suit. To encourage them, treaty rights-help in enjoying the benefits of civilian nuclear power-were withheld from those that shrugged off or ignored its obligations.

Allowing nuclear trade with India breaks that bargain in a particularly damaging way. The rules had started to bite: India was running short of supplies of uranium for both civilian and military purposes. By allowing it to import nuclear fuel for its civilian reactors, America will be directly easing the bottlenecks in its weapons programme (bizarrely, also agreeing to keep up fuel supplies even if India breaks America's other anti-proliferation laws, as some of its companies have in the past). Worse, India's experimental fast-breeder reactor programme, ideally suited to produce plutonium for warheads though previously claimed to be for civilian purposes, is to be exempted from all safeguards. That will allow India in future to produce scores of weapons a year, not just a handful.

Then add insult to injury. Not only is nuclear-armed India being offered all of the civilian benefits available to countries that have accepted the NPT's anti-nuclear restrictions. It has also accepted few, if any, of the real obligations of the five official nuclear powers recognised by the treaty, America, Russia, China, Britain and France. All at least signed the treaty banning all nuclear tests; India declined. All have ended the production of plutonium and highly enriched uranium for weapons purposes (only China has yet to say so publicly); India flatly refused America's request to do likewise.
A cascade of problems

Rule-bending for India is bound to encourage some other countries to rethink their nuclear options too. But less damage might have been done if the non-proliferation gains had been real ones. In particular, India should have been pressed to stop making fissile material as a condition of any bargain. Pakistan, already signalling interest, could have joined such a moratorium. With China-India's preferred measure of its nuclear prowess-having stopped producing the stuff too, there was a good opportunity to try to spin a wider web of restraint.

Both South Asia and East Asia urgently need to explore such ambitious confidence-building measures to take the sting out of dangerous regional rivalries. This one could have acted as a catalyst in the Middle East too. Israel in the past has had a stronger claim than most for its deterrent, surrounded for much of its short history by large neighbours aiming to drive it in to the sea. Yet its nuclear edge is fast eroding. With an American nudge, shutting down its Dimona reactor (it no longer needs its plutonium) could spark new thinking about a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free Middle East that could someday help finesse the Iran problem too.

Instead of a virtuous anti-nuclear cycle, there is now more likely to be a vicious nuclear one. China can be expected to insist on doing for proliferation-prone Pakistan what America wants to do for India, adding to a regional arms race that has led to a cascade of proliferation in the past. Giving India a freer ride is also likely to embolden Iran and North Korea in their defiance, with potential repercussions for the security of all their neighbours, from Saudi Arabia and Egypt to Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

No one doubts that the world's richest democracy and its largest one have lots to offer each other as friends and partners. But assisting India's nuclear weapons ambitions ought not to be in Mr Bush's gift. When Congress is asked to change America's anti-proliferation laws, it should say no.

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Reuters Claims US Military to Blame for Killing of Reporters - Not Reported in US Media

9 Mar 06

Reuters, Associate Press (AP), and UPI (United Press International) are the three main English language newswire services used by almost all major media outlets. You will often see them credited in newspapers under the headlines of national and international stories. The global managing editor of Reuters just recently stated that "the US military is entirely to blame for the deaths of three of its employees in Iraq." Though the major Australian newspapers have all reported this huge news, not surprisingly the US press hasn't touched it. The below article is from Australia's ABC network (see link below). Please help to build a better world by spreading this important information.
The global managing editor of news provider Reuters says the US military is entirely to blame for the deaths of three of its employees in Iraq since the start of the war there in March 2003.

"All of them were killed by the American army," Reuters chief David Schlesinger told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in the southern Portuguese resort of Vilamoura, national news agency Lusa reported.

"There is no understanding on the part of the US military regarding the exercise of journalism," the agency quoted him as saying.

"We can't run the risk that journalists will become targets [in Iraq]. We must learn the lessons from these tragic cases."

Two Reuters photographers and a cameraman are among the more than 60 war-related deaths of media workers recorded in Iraq.

The most recent death occurred in the Iraqi city of Ramadi on November 1.

The US military says a cameraman killed there while on assignment for Reuters died in a gun battle between marines and insurgents.

But the Iraqi man's colleagues and family have said they believe he was shot by a US sniper.

Another Reuters cameraman, a Ukrainian citizen, was killed in April 2003 when a US Army tank fired on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad.

A cameraman from Spain's Telecinco television network was also killed in the strike, which injured three other reporters.

In October 2003, a Palestinian cameraman for Reuters was killed near Abu Ghraib prison during a shootout.

The US military has denied direct responsibility for those deaths as well.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told the conference via satellite from Washington that those types of incidents were inevitable in a war.

"Media coverage in places of conflict is always dangerous," Lusa quoted him as saying.

He put the blame for the two deaths at the Palestine Hotel on Iraqi troops resisting the US invasion.

He accused the Iraqi troops of using civilian structures for military purposes, leading to confusion about what is a legitimate target.

Journalists at the Palestine Hotel, including many working for US-based organisations, had informed US military authorities that they were using the hotel as a base.

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The White Rose: A Lesson in Dissent

by Jacob G. Hornberger

The date was February 22, 1943. Hans Scholl and his sister Sophie, along with their best friend, Christoph Probst, were scheduled to be executed by Nazi officials that afternoon. The prison guards were so impressed with the calm and bravery of the prisoners in the face of impending death that they violated regulations by permitting them to meet together one last time. Hans, a medical student at the University of Munich, was 24. Sophie, a student, was 21. Christoph, a medical student, was 22.
This is the story of The White Rose. It is a lesson in dissent. It is a tale of courage – of principle – of honor. It is detailed in three books: The White Rose (1970) by Inge Scholl, A Noble Treason (1979) by Richard Hanser, and An Honourable Defeat (1994) by Anton Gill.

Hans and Sophie Scholl were German teenagers in the 1930s. Like other young Germans, they enthusiastically joined the Hitler Youth. They believed that Adolf Hitler was leading Germany and the German people back to greatness.

Their parents were not so enthusiastic. Their father – Robert Scholl – told his children that Hitler and the Nazis were leading Germany down a road of destruction. Later – in 1942 – he would serve time in a Nazi prison for telling his secretary: "The war! It is already lost. This Hitler is God's scourge on mankind, and if the war doesn't end soon the Russians will be sitting in Berlin."

Gradually, Hans and Sophie began realizing that their father was right. They concluded that, in the name of freedom and the greater good of the German nation, Hitler and the Nazis were enslaving and destroying the German people.

They also knew that open dissent was impossible in Nazi Germany, especially after the start of World War II. Most Germans took the traditional position – that once war breaks out, it is the duty of the citizen to support the troops by supporting the government.

But Hans and Sophie Scholl believed differently. They believed that it was the duty of a citizen, even in times of war, to stand up against an evil regime, especially when it is sending hundreds of thousands of its citizens to their deaths.

The Scholl siblings began sharing their feelings with a few of their friends – Christoph Probst, Alexander Schmorell, Willi Graf – as well as with Kurt Huber, their psychology and philosophy professor.

One day in 1942, copies of a leaflet entitled "The White Rose" suddenly appeared at the University of Munich. The leaflet contained an anonymous essay that said that the Nazi system had slowly imprisoned the German people and was now destroying them. The Nazi regime had turned evil. It was time, the essay said, for Germans to rise up and resist the tyranny of their own government. At the bottom of the essay, the following request appeared: "Please make as many copies of this leaflet as you can and distribute them."

The leaflet caused a tremendous stir among the student body. It was the first time that internal dissent against the Nazi regime had surfaced in Germany. The essay had been secretly written and distributed by Hans Scholl and his friends.

Another leaflet appeared soon afterward. And then another. And another. Ultimately, there were six leaflets published and distributed by Hans and Sophie Scholl and their friends – four under the title "The White Rose" and two under the title "Leaflets of the Resistance." Their publication took place periodically between 1942 and 1943 – interrupted for a few months when Hans and his friends were temporarily sent to the Eastern Front to fight against the Russians.

The members of The White Rose, of course, had to act cautiously. The Nazi regime maintained an iron grip over German society. Internal dissent was quickly and efficiently smashed by the Gestapo. Hans and Sophie Scholl and their friends knew what would happen to them if they were caught.

People began receiving copies of the leaflets in the mail. Students at the University of Hamburg began copying and distributing them. Copies began turning up in different parts of Germany and Austria.

Moreover, as Hanser points out, the members of The White Rose did not limit themselves to leaflets. Graffiti began appearing in large letters on streets and buildings all over Munich: "Down with Hitler! . . . Hitler the Mass Murderer!" and "freiheit!

. . . freiheit! . . . Freedom! . . . Freedom!"

The Gestapo was driven into a frenzy. It knew that the authors were having to procure large quantities of paper, envelopes, and postage. It knew that they were using a duplicating machine. But despite the Gestapo's best efforts, it was unable to catch the perpetrators.

One day – February 18, 1943 – Hans' and Sophie's luck ran out. They were caught leaving pamphlets at the University of Munich and were arrested. A search disclosed evidence of Christoph Probst's participation, and he too was soon arrested. The three of them were indicted for treason.

On February 22 – four days after their arrest – their trial began. The presiding judge, Roland Freisler, chief justice of the People's Court of the Greater German Reich, had been sent from Berlin. Hanser writes:

"He conducted the trial as if the future of the Reich were indeed at stake. He roared denunciations of the accused as if he were not the judge but the prosecutor. He behaved alternately like an actor ranting through an overwritten role in an implausible melodrama and a Grand Inquisitor calling down eternal damnation on the heads of the three irredeemable heretics before him. . . . No witnesses were called, since the defendants had admitted everything. The proceedings consisted almost entirely of Roland Freisler's denunciation and abuse, punctuated from time to time by half-hearted offerings from the court-appointed defense attorneys, one of whom summed up his case with the observation, "I can only say fiat justitia. Let justice be done." By which he meant: Let the accused get what they deserve.

Freisler and the other accusers could not understand what had happened to these German youths. After all, they all came from nice German families. They all had attended German schools. They had been members of the Hitler Youth. How could they have turned out to be traitors? What had so twisted and warped their minds?

Sophie Scholl shocked everyone in the courtroom when she remarked to Freisler: "Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just don't dare to express themselves as we did." Later in the proceedings, she said to him: "You know the war is lost. Why don't you have the courage to face it?"

In the middle of the trial, Robert and Magdalene Scholl tried to enter the courtroom. Magdalene said to the guard: "But I'm the mother of two of the accused." The guard responded: "You should have brought them up better." Robert Scholl forced his way into the courtroom and told the court that he was there to defend his children. He was seized and forcibly escorted outside. The entire courtroom heard him shout: "One day there will be another kind of justice! One day they will go down in history!"

Roland Freisler pronounced his judgment on the three defendants: Guilty of treason. Their sentence: Death.

They were escorted back to Stadelheim prison, where the guards permitted Hans and Sophie to have one last visit with their parents. Hans met with them first, and then Sophie. Hansen writes:

"His eyes were clear and steady and he showed no sign of dejection or despair. He thanked his parents again for the love and warmth they had given him and he asked them to convey his affection and regard to a number of friends, whom he named. Here, for a moment, tears threatened, and he turned away to spare his parents the pain of seeing them. Facing them again, his shoulders were back and he smiled. . . .

"Then a woman prison guard brought in Sophie. . . . Her mother tentatively offered her some candy, which Hans had declined. "Gladly," said Sophie, taking it. "After all, I haven't had any lunch!" She, too, looked somehow smaller, as if drawn together, but her face was clear and her smile was fresh and unforced, with something in it that her parents read as triumph. "Sophie, Sophie," her mother murmured, as if to herself. "To think you'll never be coming through the door again!" Sophie's smile was gentle. "Ah, Mother," she said. "Those few little years. . . ." Sophie Scholl looked at her parents and was strong in her pride and certainty. "We took everything upon ourselves," she said. "What we did will cause waves." Her mother spoke again: "Sophie," she said softly, "Remember Jesus." "Yes," replied Sophie earnestly, almost commandingly, "but you, too." She left them, her parents, Robert and Magdalene Scholl, with her face still lit by the smile they loved so well and would never see again. She was perfectly composed as she was led away. Robert Mohr [a Gestapo official], who had come out to the prison on business of his own, saw her in her cell immediately afterwards, and she was crying. It was the first time Robert Mohr had seen her in tears, and she apologized. "I have just said good-bye to my parents," she said. "You understand . . ." She had not cried before her parents. For them she had smiled."

No relatives visited Christoph Probst. His wife, who had just had their third child, was in the hospital. Neither she nor any members of his family even knew that he was on trial or that he had been sentenced to death. While his faith in God had always been deep and unwavering, he had never committed to a certain faith. On the eve of his death, a Catholic priest admitted him into the church in articulo mortis – at the point of death. "Now," he said, "my death will be easy and joyful."

That afternoon, the prison guards permitted Hans, Sophie, and Christoph to have one last visit together. Sophie was then led to the guillotine. One observer described her as she walked to her death: "Without turning a hair, without flinching." Christoph Probst was next. Hans Scholl was last; just before he was beheaded, Hans cried out:

"Long live freedom!"

Unfortunately, they were not the last to die. The Gestapo's investigation was relentless. Later tried and executed were Alex Schmorell (age 25), Willi Graf (age 25), and Kurt Huber (age 49). Students at the University of Hamburg were either executed or sent to concentration camps.

Today, every German knows the story of The White Rose. A square at the University of Munich is named after Hans and Sophie Scholl. And there are streets, squares, and schools all over Germany named for the members of The White Rose. The German movie The White Rose is now found in video stores in Germany and the United States.

Richard Hansen sums up the story of The White Rose:

"In the vogue words of the time, the Scholls and their friends represented the "other" Germany, the land of poets and thinkers, in contrast to the Germany that was reverting to barbarism and trying to take the world with it. What they were and what they did would have been "other" in any society at any time. What they did transcended the easy division of good-German/bad-German and lifted them above the nationalism of time-bound events. Their actions made them enduring symbols of the struggle, universal and timeless, for the freedom of the human spirit wherever and whenever it is threatened. "

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation.

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O'Connor Decries Republican Attacks on Courts

By Nina Totenberg
11 Mar 06

Newly retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor took on conservative Republican critics of the courts in a speech Thursday. She told an audience at Georgetown University that Republican proposals, and their sometimes uncivil tone, pose a danger to the independence of the judiciary, and the freedoms of all Americans.

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Scholars for 9/11 Truth - A Boeing 757 did not hit the Pentagon

by Michael Meyer, Mechanical Engineer

To the members of the Scientific Panel Investigating Nine-Eleven:

I would like to give you my input as to the events on September 11, and why it is a physically provable fact that some of the damage done to the Pentagon could not have occurred from a Boeing 757 impact, and therefore the 9/11 Commission report is not complete and arguably a cover-up. I will not speculate about what may have been covered up, I will only speak from my professional opinion. But I will explain why I do not believe the Pentagon was hit by a Boeing 757.
I am a Mechanical Engineer who spent many years in Aerospace, including structural design, and in the design, and use of shaped charge explosives (like those that would be used in missile warheads).

The structural design of a large aircraft like a 757 is based around managing the structural loads of a pressurized vessel, the cabin, to near-atmospheric conditions while at the lower pressure region of cruising altitudes, and to handle the structural and aerodynamic loads of the wings, control surfaces, and the fuel load. It is made as light as possible, and is certainly not made to handle impact loads of any kind.

If a 757 were to strike a reinforced concrete wall, the energy from the speed and weight of the aircraft will be transferred, in part into the wall, and to the structural failure of the aircraft. It is not too far of an analogy as if you had an empty aluminum can, traveling at high speed hitting a reinforced concrete wall. The aluminum can would crumple (the proper engineering term is buckle) and, depending on the structural integrity of the wall, crack, crumble or fail completely. The wall failure would not be a neat little hole, as the energy of the impact would be spread throughout the wall by the reinforcing steel.

This is difficult to model accurately, as any high speed, high energy, impact of a complex structure like an aircraft, into a discontinuous wall with windows etc. is difficult. What is known is that nearly all of the energy from this event would be dissipated in the initial impact, and subsequent buckling of the aircraft.

We are lead to believe that not only did the 757 penetrate the outer wall, but continued on to penetrate separate internal walls totaling 9 feet of reinforced concrete. The final breach of concrete was a nearly perfectly cut circular hole (see below) in a reinforced concrete wall, with no subsequent damage to the rest of the wall. (If we are to believe that somehow this aluminum aircraft did in fact reach this sixth final wall.)


American Airlines Flight 77, a Boeing 757, is alleged to have punched through 6 blast-resistant concrete walls‹a total of nine feet of reinforced concrete‹before exiting through this hole.

It is physically impossible for the wall to have failed in a neat clean cut circle, period. When I first saw this hole, a chill went down my spine because I knew it was not possible to have a reinforced concrete wall fail in this manner, it should have caved in, in some fashion.

How do you create a nice clean hole in a reinforced concrete wall? with an explosive shaped charge. An explosive shaped charge, or cutting charge is used in various military warhead devices. You design the geometry of the explosive charge so that you create a focused line of energy. You essentially focus nearly all of the explosive energy in what is referred to as a jet. You use this jet to cut and penetrate armor on a tank, or the walls of a bunker. The signature is clear and unmistakable. In a missile, the explosive charge is circular to allow the payload behind the initial shaped charge to enter whatever has been penetrated.

I do not know what happened on 9/11, I do not know how politics works in this country, I can not explain why the mainstream media does not report on the problems with the 9/11 Commission. But I am an engineer, and I know what happens in high speed impacts, and how shaped charges are used to "cut" through materials.

I have not addressed several other major gaps in the Pentagon/757 incident. The fact that this aircraft somehow ripped several light towers clean out of the ground without any damage to the aircraft (which I also feel is impossible), the fact that the two main engines were never recovered from the wreckage, and the fact that our government has direct video coverage of the flight path, and impact, from at least a gas station and hotel, which they have refused to release.

You can call me a "tin hat", crazy, conspiracy theory, etc, but I can say from my expertise that the damage at the Pentagon was not caused by a Boeing 757.

Michael Meyer

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Important for 9/11 Research: Brain Blindness

by James Eagan and Emily Hager
9 Mar 06

We all know that seeing something emotional can distract us, but researchers say that it might even blind us... not in our eyes, but in our brains. This ScienCentral news video explains.

Driving Blind

It's hard not to look when you pass an accident on the road, but doing so can be dangerous. Vanderbilt University psychologist David Zald says "emotional" images - like car accidents, a gruesome murder scene, or a bit of pornography - can briefly blind us to everything else around us, limiting our senses and potentially putting us at risk.

"Something that's emotional not only captures our attention, but it does it to such an extent that it's blocking information that comes in after. We're no longer even looking at that image," says Zald.
As reported in Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, Zald and his colleagues trained twenty-one people to spot a neutral target image out of a series flying by at ten pictures per second, and then state whether it was rotated to the left or the right. The volunteers performed well except when either a gory or erotic image - more graphic than can be shown here - appeared before the target image. Co-author Steven Most, from Yale University, says in those cases participants were far more likely to miss the target.

"When an emotional picture appears, it seems to short-circuit that processing in the brain that will then help you construct a visual conscious perception," Most explains.

Zald says these emotional blindings happen all the time in our daily lives, but are probably most important for drivers, since a lapse in attention of less than a second is enough to cause an accident.

"A ball that's suddenly come out on the road, a child who's suddenly stepped into the street… Anything that could happen very quickly, we could easily miss it," says Zald.

In a separate interview, Zald gave an example of how this phenomenon plays a role in personal safety. If someone is suddenly shot on the street, witnesses will stop reading their newspapers, take cover, and stare at the victim as he or she falls to the ground. But witnesses may not be able to transfer their attention quickly enough to also determine if the shooter is targeting them next. "The problem is that there's also a cost to it," says Zald, "which is that we don't tend to other information when we see something that's emotional."

The research team also found that some people are more easily distracted than others. "[People who] have the lowest amounts of anxiety are sort of able to override this distraction," Most says. But they have not yet found any other trends.

Illinois University psychologist Daniel J. Simons says the study is "a really neat finding," because it documents how we may be distracted by things beyond our focused attention. He adds however, that whether seeing a car accident, or a racy billboard on the road causes this blindness, has yet to be confirmed. "We don't know if it has that [specific] consequence yet."

In order to conclusively document what happens when we're driving, Simons says researchers would need to design studies that use driving simulators to test peoples' on-the-road reactions to graphic stimuli. His own research however has shown that people often fail to see things even with their eyes wide open. "Looking out the window," he warns, "doesn't guarantee that you will see [everything in front of you]."

Elizabeth Phelps, a psychologist at New York University, also agrees that under certain circumstances some people may be able to suppress this emotionally induced blindness. For example, she says doctors who regularly deal with bloody injuries or people who work in the pornography industry may have become desensitized to graphic images because they are exposed to them on a regular basis. However, she says that in these situations, these professionals are not facing any immediate danger themselves. "With no consequence, is that going to extinguish their emotional response?" Phelps asks."I think so." In other less professional and more everyday settings, she says almost everyone is susceptible to these lapses in attention.

Zald, Most and their colleagues are planning additional studies to see what is happening in the brain when this emotional blindness occurs.

This work was reported in the November 2005 issue of Psychonomic Bulletin and Review and was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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Chickenhawk: Bush Goes on Offensive To Explain War Strategy - Speeches to Combat Public Pessimism

By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 11, 2006; A03

President Bush plans to begin a series of speeches next week again explaining the administration's strategy for winning the war in Iraq, as the White House returns to a familiar tactic to allay growing public pessimism about the war that has helped keep the president's approval rating near its historic low.

After previewing the upcoming speech in his radio address today, the president is scheduled to make remarks on the war at George Washington University on Monday. The appearance, which will be followed weekly by as many as four other speeches, marks the start of the White House's latest effort to convince skeptical Americans that it has a coherent plan for victory as the war nears its third anniversary later this month.
The president hopes to give "better depth, understanding and context for how the strategy in Iraq is unfolding," a senior White House official said of the planned speeches. Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other Cabinet members will be making speeches on Iraq in advance of the anniversary of the U.S. invasion.

The public relations offensive is being launched amid intense concern in the White House about polls showing that a growing majority of Americans disapprove of Bush's handling of the war and harbor growing doubts about the prospects for success. A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found that four in five Americans believe that the ongoing sectarian violence in Iraq will mushroom into civil war. Also, more than half of those surveyed believe the United States should begin withdrawing troops from Iraq, the poll found.

Meanwhile, the president's approval rating remains at 41 percent, virtually unchanged since January and among the lowest in his presidency.

The initiative is modeled on a similar effort the White House rolled out in November and December, when Bush gave four speeches, acknowledging setbacks, pointing out how the military had adapted its strategy and highlighting the administration's plans for victory. That effort, coupled with the success of another round of elections in Iraq, helped the president's approval rating to rebound a little, before it fell again amid the latest wave of violence.

Bush's planned speeches on Iraq come as that nation's fledgling democracy is struggling to put together a unity government against a backdrop of intense sectarian violence. The bombing of a revered Shiite shrine in Samarra on Feb. 22 ignited a series of attacks and counterattacks that have killed hundreds and brought the nation to the brink of civil war.

"There are some who are trying to, obviously, sow the seeds of sectarian strife," Bush said, during remarks to a group of community newspaper publishers yesterday. "They fear the advancement of a democracy. They blow up shrines in order to cause this Iraqi democracy that is emerging to go backwards, to not emerge."

Bush praised Iraqis for so far not escalating the ongoing crisis into a full-fledged civil war. "As I said earlier, there was -- no question there was violence and killing, the society took a step back from the abyss," Bush said. "And people took a sober reflection about what a civil war would mean."

He also waved away concern about his low poll numbers, saying that they will not cause him to lose sight of his core beliefs. "I understand some of the things I've done are unpopular. But that's what comes with the territory," he said. "If you're afraid to make decisions and you only worried about, you know, whether or not people in the classroom are going to say nice things about you, you're not leading."

As he did during his last round of speeches, Bush will attempt to focus on specific elements of his Iraq strategy in hopes of rallying public support for the war. His speech Monday will focus on the efforts being made by Iraqi security forces to tamp down the ongoing violence. Another address will focus on the military's evolving strategy for detecting and defusing roadside bombs. A third address is likely to be a case study of an Iraqi city or town, which the White House hopes will illustrate its plans for clearing insurgents from parts of Iraq, installing Iraqi security forces then rebuilding.

The ideas is to bring the view "from 30,000 feet down to eye level," the senior White House official said.

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Bush says his beliefs unshaken by poor poll numbers

10 Mar 06

WASHINGTON - Down in public opinion polls, President George W. Bush said on Friday he realizes he has made some unpopular decisions but that it "comes with the territory" and he will stand by his beliefs.

"I know some would like me to change, but you can't be a good decision-maker if you're trying to please people. You've got to stand on what you believe, that's what you've got to do, if you're going to make decisions that are solid and sound," he said.
During a question-and-answer session with a national newspaper group, Bush became his most animated when talking about the way he handles his job.

A year into his second term, Bush is beset with a job approval rating below 40 percent, with Americans disapproving of his handling of the Iraq war and the U.S. economy.

His support for an Arab company's attempt to take over management of six U.S. seaports, a plan that caused a rebellion among Republicans worried about a security threat, has also caused him to suffer in the polls.

Bush got started on the topic when asked about a Colorado teacher who had been suspended for criticizing his State of the Union speech in January as "Hitleresque."

"Yes, I think people should be allowed to criticize me all they want -- and they do," Bush said to laughter.

He said polls will not cause him to abandon his core beliefs.

"I understand some of the things I've done are unpopular. But that's what comes with the territory. If you're afraid to make decisions and you only worried about, you know, whether or not people in the classroom are going to say nice things about you, you're not leading," he said.

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By Robert Sanchez and Kieran Nicholson
Denver Post Staff Writers

An Aurora social studies teacher accused of giving a biased lecture that sparked national debate over academic freedom was reinstated Friday after assuring administrators he would give balanced viewpoints in all classroom discussions.

Jay Bennish will return Monday to his teaching duties at Overland High School, less than two weeks after Cherry Creek School District administrators placed the 28-year-old on paid administrative leave.

Speaking after a meeting with administrators Friday, Bennish said that he was "excited to be back in the classroom" and that he would continue to use his job as a way to "encourage democratic values in our society" and to "promote social justice, just as I have always attempted to do."
"I continue trying to improve myself as a teacher," he said, adding he would still seek to make his students "think critically."

Disciplinary action was taken against the teacher, though Superintendent Monte Moses declined to provide details. Bennish did not lose any of his salary, his attorney said.

In his lecture during a geography class last month - which student Sean Allen recorded and then made public - Bennish compared President Bush to Adolf Hitler, criticized U.S. foreign policy and said capitalism is "at odds with human rights."

Allen, who appeared Friday on the Dan Caplis and Craig Silverman radio show on KHOW- AM 630, said he was satisfied with the outcome.

"I never wanted him fired," Allen said. "I just wanted him to go back to teaching geography. Hopefully, he won't be teaching the things he previously taught."

Moses said the lecture - which the superintendent thought did not present both sides of the arguments - was a "breach" of district policy. The incident, Moses said, would be discussed among principals and teachers throughout the district.

Some think Mr. Bennish should be fired. Others think he should be praised," Moses said. "In my judgment, the answer is neither. Jay Bennish has promise as a teacher, but his practice and deportment need growth and refinement."

The recording made both Bennish and Allen targets of threats and Internet fodder for liberals and conservatives nationwide over the freedoms that teachers should have in their classrooms. The debate dominated airwaves on talk-radio stations and on cable news.

Even the president weighed in.

At a news conference Friday, President Bush said he thought "people should be allowed to criticize me all they want, and they do."

"Look, there are some certain basic freedoms that we've got to protect," the president said. "The freedom of people to express themselves must be protected."

But teachers in public schools have much less freedom to express their opinions than do university teachers.

A federal appeals court concluded in a 1991 case that teachers do not have a constitutional right to academic freedom. And because teachers are viewed as agents of their school districts, district officials have discretion to decide how far teachers can go with controversial topics.

Since making the classroom recording public, Allen has not returned to his school, though Bennish said Friday that he would "love to have him back in my class."

Allen said he would not return to Overland and planned to enroll at Cherry Creek High School.

Allen and his parents contended that they never wanted Bennish to lose his job over the lecture. During his radio interview, Allen said he was "confident that the decision ... has been investigated for all sides and is the right decision."

News of Bennish's reinstatement raced through Overland via cellphone calls and text messages. Many students said they were happy that Bennish would be back in his classroom. "What makes him cool is exactly what you hear on that recording," said Nerov Rovner, a sophomore who had one of Bennish's geography classes last year. " He says things that will make you think."

Sophomore Noah Perlmutter, who also had Bennish's class last semester, said he was happy other students could experience a class with the teacher.

"It's good to know he'll be able to influence incoming students like he did me," he said.

Inside Overland, science teacher Marilyn Kemp said she trusted the district's decision about her co-worker.

"I'm sure they made the fairest decision they could," she said. "I'm glad to have him back."

For his part, Allen said he would continue to "feel the consequences, both negative and positive, for a long, long time."

Still, he said: "I would do it a million times over. It was the right thing to do."

Comment: Notice that the psychopathic little coward that started the whole thing isn't going back to school... That suggests that a lot more people supported the teacher than the snitch...

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Externalizing the Cost of War

By Charles Sullivan
Information Clearing House
10 Mar 06

It must seem odd to the world that while our nation is coming apart at the seams, and every last shred of decency is being severed from the cloth of conscience, all we can do is watch American Idol and Survivor. According to author Mike Green (The Whole Truth about the U.S. War on Terror), there are one hundred and ninety-two recognized nations on earth, and the U.S. has troops stationed in one hundred and thirty-five of them. In total, we have in excess of four hundred thousand troops occupying a substantial majority of the world. The nation with the second largest number of troops deployed is Great Britain with thirty-five thousand, followed by France with twenty-three thousand. Apparently, bringing democracy to the world requires an extensive presence and lots of weapons. If only that were what this is about. It is really about hegemony, domination, global empire.
Perhaps America's insatiable demand for entertainment is in fact a form of self medication whose delivery mechanism is television, rather than the hypodermic needle. Mind-numbing, irrelevant, sensory-depriving entertainment is a method to kill the pain of a truth that laves ceaselessly upon the shores of our eroded conscience-a truth so painful that we must suppress it at all cost. It is American Idol, a program whose mass appeal I have never understood, that keeps the white noise of reality at bay and allows so many to ignore the world's pain and misery.

Reality television does many things. But one thing I am quite certain that it does not do is portray reality. Cheap and shallow entertainment only dulls the senses, like imbibing alcohol in excess to keep us comfortably numb, safely insulated from the reality that our nation is foisting upon the world. For many of the world's people, America has reduced their reality to piles of broken rubble; lonely hours of endless terror called Shock and Awe; the filth and stench of secret gulags where torture is implemented on a scale known only to the CIA. The disquieting loss of life and its impact upon families is beyond the pale of comprehension. Genocide and ethnic cleansing are not democracy and they never will be.

The cries of anguish can barely be heard above the din of our own personal struggles in a society that values profits above people. Better turn up the volume on the television to drown out the screams of The New World Order's democracy. We wouldn't want to feel uncomfortable about what the president is doing in our name. The suffering and anguish of faceless, nameless people of other nationalities is a small price to pay for the level of comfort we enjoy. As long as we do not allow reality to come rushing at us all at once, we can manage to live with ourselves. There is safety in ignorance-the refuge of all self-loathing cowardice. Thank God, we are a Christian nation steeped in a tradition of puritanical religion, with only the blood of the native peoples on our grasping white hands. Let us pray.

Ask no questions and you will receive no answers. Ask the wrong questions and you will get the wrong answers. But with the right questions everything comes into clear focus and understanding becomes possible. Be warned, however, that if you choose to know truth that it will frequently repulse you and make you sick to your stomach. But truth alone will set us free-so know it we must.

The fact that our government spends so many of our tax dollars on the implements of death, on militarism and weaponry, and so little on humanitarian causes tells the story of America. Fifty two cents of every tax dollar finds its way into the coffers of the Pentagon in some form. The consequences are visible both at home and abroad. This explains why America is seen as the Great Satan in the Middle East and beyond. How would you feel if you and your kin were the recipient of American democracy, delivered through the sites of an AK-47 or a carpet bomb?

No matter how hard we try we cannot escape the truth and its consequences. America is still the greatest purveyor of violence on earth. We neglect our own poor even as we impoverish the rest of the world, subjecting them to imperial rule and colonialism. We are the only nation to have used the atomic bomb. If this is democracy, the world can stand no more of it. So let us party as if there were no tomorrow. Let us dance and have a good time as we ignore the ice bergs that drift through the darkness in silence and pretend that our Titanic is not sinking. We'll have a wonderful time-right up until the cold dark waves wash over us and carry us into the void.

Reality has been so altered here that speaking truth is akin to living in an insane asylum. Behind the walls of empire speaking truth equates to treason-an act of sedition. Either the inmates do not realize they are out of their minds, or they pretend that insanity is healthy and normal. Irrationality makes perfect sense to them in their state of dementia and denial. Dwelling among the mad is itself maddening for those who remain rational and intelligent, and caring of the needs of others. It would be easy, even rational, to leave them to their own self-destructive devices. But this is our home and we have a moral obligation to set things right. We owe it to the world to try.

We must cease to invest in death and destruction. A bad tree will never bear good fruit. Let us invest in hope and life. Our military should not be the iron fist of oppression acting at the behest of capitalism and empire. It should exist purely for defensive purposes. Let other people empower governments of their own choosing. Our chief export should not be terrorism and militarism-it should be our humanity and our reverence for life. The evil and corrupt cabal at the head of this government is not representative of the great majority of the American people.

Those who choose to serve in the military should only do so as conscientious objectors. They should refuse to take up arms against other people who pose no threat to them or their country, people with whom in fact they share much in common. Let us send the chicken hawks-Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice and the other cheer leaders for war-to assume their rightful place on the front lines of the armed conflict they foment. Let their final resting place be in the Arlington National Cemetery, where they have sent so many others. When it is the blood of the ruling class that flows, rather than the working class, there will be an abrupt end to war. No person of conscience should serve empire in any capacity. It is easy to spill the blood of other people; it is easy to borrow other people's courage when you have none of your own; however, when your own blood is involved, war is no longer an abstraction. It becomes personal and costly, as well as sobering. Externalizing the cost of war upon others is an unforgivable act of moral cowardice. Let them do their own damned fighting!

We should be able to live in such a way that we do not feel compelled to apologize for being American. Most of us are good and decent people who do not believe in world domination or the subjugation of others. Many of us realize that we have more in common with the average world citizen-the Iraqi, the Iranian, the Chinese, the Brazilian and the Russian, than we have with our own political leaders. It is the rulers who send their servants to do horrible things to people who have never done us harm-people with the same needs and desires that we have. Working people should not wage war with other working people. We should wage war with the plutocrats that have hijacked our country. If the rulers want war, let them have it; but let them be the ones to do the fighting and the dying. War making is easy for those who are insulated from its consequences. We must make war as costly for our leaders as it is for us. To internalize the cost of war upon those who wage it is to end war.

Charles Sullivan is a photographer, social activist and free lance writer living in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia. He can be contacted at earthdog@highstream.net

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Former Top Bush Aide Accused of Md. Thefts - Refund Scam Netted Grifter $5,000, Police Say

By Ernesto Londoño and Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, March 11, 2006

Claude A. Allen, who resigned last month as President Bush's top domestic policy adviser, was arrested this week in Montgomery County for allegedly swindling Target and Hecht's stores out of more than $5,000 in a refund scheme, police said.

Allen, 45, of Gaithersburg, has been released on his own recognizance and is awaiting trial on two charges, felony theft scheme and theft over $500, said Lt. Eric Burnett, a police spokesman. Each charge is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Allen could not be reached for comment last night.

His attorney, Mallon Snyder, said last night that his client denies wrongdoing. The lawyer disputed the police account of Allen's actions. "It's his reputation. Obviously, he's very concerned about it," Snyder said.

Snyder said he feels confident that Allen will be able to prove that the incidents were "a series of misunderstandings."

Allen, a former deputy secretary in the Department of Health and Human Services, was nominated in 2003 to a federal appeals court seat. He was appointed the president's top domestic policy adviser last year at the start of Bush's second term. That made him the highest-ranking African American on the White House staff.

Working out of a small office on the second floor of the West Wing, Allen shaped administration policy on such issues as health care, space exploration, housing and education.

He came to the attention of Montgomery police after a manager at a Gaithersburg Target store called the department about an incident Jan. 2. Montgomery detectives were able to document other alleged crimes from Oct. 29 to Jan. 2, some of which were captured on camera, Burnett said.

Allen resigned from the White House on Feb. 9, saying he wanted to spend more time with his family

In a statement that day, Bush said: "Claude is a good and compassionate man, and he has my deep respect and gratitude. I thank him for his many years of principled and dedicated service to our country."

Burnett said Montgomery police contacted the White House to verify Allen's identity after the Jan. 2 incident. He said that was the extent of their communication with the administration. He said he could not immediately determine the date of that contact, or whether police informed the White House that Allen had been charged Jan. 2 and was still under investigation.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said last night that if the allegation is true, "no one would be more disappointed, shocked and outraged" than the president. McClellan said Allen had told White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. and White House counsel Harriet Miers that the matter was a misunderstanding.

This is what police said happened Jan. 2:

Employees at the Target store at 25 Grand Corner Ave. in Gaithersburg spotted Allen putting merchandise in a shopping bag. He then walked over to the guest services desk, produced a receipt and received a refund for the items.

After getting the refund, Allen left the store without paying for additional merchandise in his shopping cart.

A store employee stopped him, and police were called to the store. Officers issued a citation charging him with theft under $500 but did not arrest him. Court records show prosecutors dropped the misdemeanor charge, which is not unusual in cases in which detectives are considering filing more serious charges.

Detectives from the county's retail crime unit soon learned that the incident was not an isolated event, Burnett said.

He said investigators were able to document 25 fraudulent refunds for items including a Bose home theater system, stereo equipment, clothes, a photo printer and items worth as little as $2.50.

Allen would purchase an item, take it to his car, return to the store, select the same item, take it to the counter and get a refund based on the receipt for the merchandise in his car, Burnett said. "He would get the money back or the credit" on his credit cards.

Allen's arrest was first reported yesterday afternoon by the online magazine Slate.

At the time of his resignation, Allen denied reports that he was leaving to protest military guidelines that required chaplains to perform only nondenominational services.

As Bush's top domestic policy aide, he frequently briefed the president and traveled with him on Air Force One, and he sat in first lady Laura Bush's box during the president's State of the Union address Jan. 31. Two days, later he traveled with the president to Minnesota, briefing reporters about Bush's education and alternative energy proposals.

At the Department of Health and Human Services, where he became a strong advocate for abstinence-only AIDS prevention programs, Allen focused on homeless issues and racial health disparities.

Democrats in Congress blocked his nomination to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in 2003, citing his relative lack of legal experience. The court, based in Richmond, covers Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Allen, a native of Philadelphia, spent much of his childhood in a working-class section of Northwest Washington, attending Archbishop Carroll High School. He later attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke Law School.

Allen is a self-described born-again Christian who got his start in politics working for Jesse Helms (R), the conservative former North Carolina senator.

Allen stirred controversy as Helms's campaign spokesman in 1984 by telling a reporter that then-Gov. James B. Hunt Jr. -- Helms's opponent -- was politically vulnerable because of his links to the "queers." He later explained that he used the word not to denigrate anyone but as a synonym for "odd and unusual."

Before that, Allen worked for the Virginia state attorney general's office and as state health and human resources secretary. In that job, he earned a reputation as a staunch conservative; once he kept Medicaid funds from an impoverished rape victim who wanted an abortion.

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Despite Another $67 Billion, Our Army is Broke and Badly Depleted

Rep. John Murtha

This morning I spoke at a gathering of the National Newspaper Association regarding my strategy to redeploy our troops from Iraq on a scheduled timetable as soon as practicable. Iraq continues to be mischaracterized by the President as the center for the Global War on Terrorism. It is estimated that there are less than 1,000 Al Qaeda in Iraq. What is happening in Iraq is a civil war. It is Iraqis killing Iraqis and our troops are also targets.
We are depleting our resources in Iraq. Last night the House Appropriations Committee passed the President's supplemental request, providing an additional $67 billion for the continued military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. With this supplemental, Congress will have appropriated nearly $450 billion for the war, running our federal deficit higher and higher while this country had a surplus when President George W. Bush took office.

The latest reports show that the war in Iraq has badly depleted essential equipment. I am particularly concerned about the National Guard, who have only a third of the equipment they need to respond to a catastrophic event in our own homeland, and much of that equipment is antiquated and worn out. If something were to happen domestically in the near future -- and it's not an "if", it's a "when" -- the Guard will be severely hampered. I have said before that our army is broke, hollow, and stretched thin. I am not talking about the soldiers; they are well trained and have accomplished their mission. I say this in regards to the equipment and my particular concern regarding the National Guard.

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Lawmakers: Wal-Mart threatens US payment system

By Kristin Roberts
11 Mar 06

WASHINGTON - A group of lawmakers on Friday said an industrial bank owned by Wal-Mart (WMT.N: Quote, Profile, Research), the world's largest retailer, could threaten the stability of the U.S. financial system and drive community banks out of business.

In a highly critical letter to the acting chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., obtained by Reuters, a group of more than 30 Congress members asked the bank regulator to reject Wal-Mart's application to open a bank in Utah.

"Wal-Mart's plan, to have its bank process hundreds of billions in transactions for its own stores, could threaten the stability of the nation's payments system," the lawmakers wrote.
"Given Wal-Mart's massive scope and international dealings, it is not possible to rule out a financial crisis within the company that could damage the bank and severely disrupt the flow of payments throughout the financial system."

The congressmen said the losses to the FDIC, which insures deposits at banks and thrift institutions, could be staggering if Wal-Mart begins to have financial troubles that bleed into its bank's business.

"Consider the consequences if Enron or WorldCom had owned a bank," the group said.

The group included Ohio Democrats Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones and Rep. Tim Ryan, Hawaii Democrat Rep. Neil Abercrombie and California Democrat Rep. Loretta Sanchez. A complete list of signatures was not immediately available.

Wal-Mart is trying to open an industrial bank to handle electronic payment processing.

Industrial banks are state-chartered and state-regulated, and fall under the supervision of the FDIC. Commercial companies may own them because federal laws that bar non-financial companies from engaging in banking activities do not classify them as banks.

But as "industrial loan companies" owned by non-financial companies, they escape a level of federal bank regulation.

Wal-Mart's application has attracted heightened attention in Washington from some members of Congress, consumer groups and banks that fear competing with the retail giant.

Some lobbyists and analysts, however, say the opposition is not surprising, given's Wal-Mart's size and the criticism it regularly receives from labor unions and other groups. Those sources say that if the FDIC follows statute, there is little reason why Wal-Mart's application should be denied when rival Target Corp. (TGT.N: Quote, Profile, Research) succeeded.

The Wal-Mart bid generated a record number of public comments and calls from Capitol Hill for the regulator to slow down its review. The FDIC, under Acting Chairman Martin Gruenberg, has agreed to hold public hearings on the application -- the agency's first formal public hearings on a bank application ever.

Wal-Mart has said it welcomes the public hearings.

Some groups, particularly banks, fear Wal-Mart will use its industrial bank as a base to offer a wider array of services in its branches.

Others who oppose Wal-Mart's application say the bank would violate the historic separation in the United States between banks and enterprises that do not engage primarily in finance. Still, other corporations have already set up industrial banks, such as General Electric and General Motors.

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The Fed Officially Kicks Off the Next Recession

by Robert McHugh

It is official. A recession is coming. How do I know? Because this week new Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke gave an official warning to bankers about commercial real estate loans. That is always the kickoff to a recession. It is the starter's gun, the national anthem before a ballgame, the opening hymn at a church service. Here is how it works. The Fed has three official tools to control the money supply: Setting reserve requirements (telling banks how much of their deposits they cannot lend. The higher the reserve requirements, the less loans, the less money creation by the economy). The second tool is open market operations. Here they set the amount of money in the system by buying or selling securities. Third is setting the discount rate, the rate of interest banks must pay to borrow money at the Fed. Theoretically, the higher the rate, the less money banks will borrow, the less they have to lend, and the less money that is created by the banking system.
However, there is a fourth tool, a stealth tool, which has more power and impact than the other three. It is called the Federal Reserve Bank examiner. He/she is the person who goes into a bank about once a year and decides which loans are good and which are bad. Based upon their holy edict, a loan is classified in one of several categories which determines how much money the banks must set aside from earnings to reserve for possible losses. It is completely an estimation game. So the rules can and do change, based upon the whims of the examiner, taking his marching orders from the Fed Chairman. If the Fed wants the money supply to expand, then Fed examiners come in with reasonable standards for review of loans, and classify those loans with a general leaning that they will be repaid according to terms. Thus banks do not have to reserve as much for possible estimated losses and are in effect not discouraged from making more loans. When the Fed wants money supply to grow, aggressive lending standards often get passing grades. That's when you business people will see your friendly bank commercial lender more often, jawing you into that expansion project you've been thinking about, inviting you to golf outings and ball games. They want more loans. They need your expansion project.

However, once the Fed Chair sounds the alarm about commercial real estate loans, it starts an entire chain of events that ultimately and unequivocally leads to economic recession. Here's what happens. Out of the blue (that seems to be a favorite modus operandi for all Fed operations) those friendly back-slapping Federal Reserve examiners (not really, they are never overly nice -- okay I've met two or three out of a pool of three hundred -- Mike, Eddie, Eric, you know who you are and I know you read my stuff) show up with a scowl that droops like the golden arch. They ask for the files, a table, an outlet, a coffee pot, and the key to the little boys and girls room. About two days after they arrive, the banker knows something has changed, something serious, and he gets this knot in the pit of his stomach that will last for about three years. Examiner Margo asks for a meeting with banker Joe. She brings her supervisor to raise the fear level of the meeting. The Bank's President, Joe, brings his top commercial lender for protection of his fanny, and that lender brings his junior lender who will ultimately be the sacrificial lamb and get the ax should things blow up.

Bottom line: Margo feels that a good commercial real estate loan, paying on time, plenty of collateral, doesn't quite throw off enough cashflow on its financial statements in file, and is now suddenly rated below satisfactory. Not quite doubtful. What this means is the banker now has to set aside 20 percent of the loan in reserves for possible losses. That reduces income, and he has a big one-time hit coming to earnings this quarter. The banker defends the loan with dexterity -- he has to fight back, but cannot tick them off too much as they hold all the cards -- but the discussion is going nowhere. Finally Margo's supervisor, Lead Examiner Harry, whose head hasn't moved an inch -- just his eyes, rolling back and forth from speaker to speaker -- drones out, "This loan is less than satisfactory," then gets up and goes back to his room full of tables, laptops, and loan files. This goes on for days. Toward the end of the examination, about a month later, they bring out the heavy artillery. More senior examiners from the regional office arrive and the meetings get larger and longer as satisfactory loans have now been declared doubtful, and doubtful loans are now downgraded to total loss. They especially target commercial real estate loans. First ones to go. Again, nothing regarding the loan itself has changed, the game is one of judging the subjective quality of the loans, and for no apparent reason, the subjective quality of myriad loans has remarkably deteriorated. The banker is left with a list of suddenly crappy loans in his portfolio, and a required loan loss reserve that is about 80 percent higher than he has on the books. He is then told in a wrap-up meeting that because of this "loan quality problem" in his bank, his bank's overall rating has been dropped from a 1 to a 2 or a 2 to a 3 (banks are rated 1 to 5 with 1 being the best. Ratings below "2" get bank presidents fired. Ratings below 3 get the Chairman of the Board of Directors removed, with lots of fearful warnings to the Board of Directors of the bank about Director liability and civil money penalties). This rating is confidential, with criminal prosecution should the banker reveal it. In fact everything in the examination report is confidential, with criminal penalties should he reveal its contents. There is no appeals process.

Needless to say, after the examiners pack up their newspapers, laptops, and locked suitcases, the banker and his crew of commercial real estate lenders are left in shock. The Board of Directors gets a visit about a month later from the Head examiner and the top Regulatory folks at the regional Fed office. If they bring someone from "Washington D.C.," then the bank President and Senior Lender are toast. The Board of Directors politely listen as the Head Examiner and his boss cite every blemish and foul found in the place with smiles intermittently flashed with icy stares, a game of intimidation. Warnings are given, then the Fed folks get up, make sure they shake everybody's hand in the room as if its "business, not personal," and leave.

At the end of the day, a junior lender gets canned, the Board steps up the heat on the President to do something about this, and banker Joe and his senior lender immediately decide to stop making commercial real estate loans.

For the economy, this means a credit crunch has started. Expansion stops. Willing buyers can no longer obtain financing to buy properties. This reduces demand for properties at the exact same time bankers are encouraging these suddenly classified borrowers on their books to sell their properties and pay back the loans. This increases the supply of properties for sale at the exact wrong time, lowering prices.

But the black hole is just getting started -- just beginning to suck the economy into the abyss. What I outlined above is merely round one.

About six month later, property values have dropped from this excess of supply and lack of demand due to the curtailing of bank commercial real estate loans. This means the collateral values of the loans on the bank's books have declined.

Another Fed examination is scheduled, they are back in, and with the battle well under way, it is time for these public servants to start shooting the wounded. They are fully aware that property values have dropped, and -- ignoring the fact that they caused them to drop -- they march to the file room, grab their favorite previously classified loans, and get to work. They assign the most experienced examiners to review the classified loans while they send the rookies to find potential problems among the previously good loans. But the action is with the classified bad boys.

That loan they rated less than satisfactory because of cashflow problems the last time they were in has now deteriorated to doubtful because of the compounded affect of collateral undervaluation. That means instead of setting aside 20 percent of the loan amount into the reserve for possible losses, banker Joe must now set aside 50 percent, another big hit to earnings. He had promised the Board of Directors that last year's one-time hit for potential loan losses would be a one-time occurrence. He realizes that is not the case, and begins to wish he had become a UPS delivery man.

At the end of the day, the bank's rating has dropped, the Board is scared about Director liability, and Joe is pulling out every political favor he's accumulated among a majority of the Board to keep him around for one more year. He agrees to sacrifice the bank's Senior Lending officer, who has served as a shield the past year, not making loans, but sitting in his office, ready to be ejected for the good of banker Joe's considerable stock options portfolio and other bennies that come with holding on to a bank presidency for a decade or so. The senior lender is replaced by a credit hack, someone with no people skills, adept at strong-arming bank borrowers into paying back the money. The goal is to shrink the loan portfolio by not making new ones, using the normal cashflow from payments to reduce outstandings, and to sell at a discount or coerce partial payments from existing loan customers who were rated unsatisfactory by the Federal Reserve's finest. This means lawyers get involved, lots of lawyers, skilled at scaring borrowers into "working out" loan repayments with this new nasty bank lender. This means less money is available for potential buyers of property in the economy, more distressed sale supply hits the market, and real estate values fall even further.

It is about now that everyone recognizes a recession is well underway, led by a real estate collapse. The truth of the matter is, the rules were changed by the Fed and nobody was told until it was too late, and the economy plunges. Voters scream, a few politicians get tossed, and the phrase "credit crunch" becomes a darling of the media. It takes action by the President of the United States to haul in the Federal Reserve Chairman, and explain to him the reality of the reappointment process every four years. Suddenly, at the next bank exam, a new friendlier, examination teams shows up, drinks more coffee, has a few extra newspapers tucked next to their laptops, are asking for fewer files, complain they have to rush to another job in two weeks so won't be there as long as the last time, and leave with little fanfare. The bankers are told in the wrap-up meeting, that they've improved their loan quality, the bank's rating is boosted one grade, and all is well with the world -- end of recession.

On March 8th, 2006, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke announced at the Independent Community Bankers of America conference, "The rapid growth in commercial real estate exposures relative to capital and assets raises the possibility that risk-management practices in community banks may not have kept pace with growing concentrations and may be due for upgrades." Fed examiners are warming up their laptops. The barbarians are headed for the gates.

The Fed announced again on March 9th, with no palatable explanation, that they will no longer publish M-3 as of March 23rd. While they claim that M-3 is useless, in the blurb on their website, the fact is banks are still reporting all the data on their Call Reports used to calculate M-3. The Fed has not eliminated the unique M-3 components from the Bank Call Reports.

Why don't they want to be transparent with the most important statistic, the very measure of why they were established by a minority of Congress during a late night session back in 1913? Because they cannot wait to pump money to high heaven like some sort of fiat tower of Babel.

M-3 was increased by $28.3 billion last week, a 14.2 percent annualized rate of growth. Over the past 2 weeks, M-3 was boosted an amazing $81.9 billion, for an annualized rate of growth of 20.7 percent! Over the past 8 weeks, M-3 is up 129.6 billion, an 8.2 percent rate of growth, and is up a whopping $249.7 billion over the past 12 weeks, a 10.7 percent annualized rate of growth, a $1.0 trillion annual expansion.

What is happening here? How does this reconcile with the Bernanke announcement that bank commercial real estate lending will be curtailed?

There are two ways for the money supply to grow. First is through the bank lending function. The more lending, the more spending, the more bank deposits, which is at the core of the money supply definition. The Fed has apparently decided to slow the velocity of money creation by slowing or shutting down lending. However, the Fed knows it needs money to buy financial markets and monetize our debt. The lending function is too much out of the direct control of the Fed. In other words, money is created that way, however the Fed doesn't get to decide where that money goes. It is going to businesses for expansion and jobs, etc... No, the Fed wants to decide where money goes. So it will replace money created through the lending function with money created from thin air by the Fed itself. The way for that electronic money to enter the economy will be from the Fed directly buying something, or lending money to someone. In effect, the Master Planners will decide where fresh money goes. They will control more of the spending. But they cannot let us know this. Because it would be too easy to prove they are doing this if M-3 remains transparent. You would simply compare commercial and consumer loan data to the M-3 figures. If we saw debt declining but M-3 rising, voila, we would clearly see the Fed is directly pumping and funneling that money someplace, which would beg the tough question, where? You can bet most honest, patriotic, free-market Americans would not appreciate the answer.

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