- Signs of the Times for Tue, 14 Mar 2006 -

Editorial: The weight of demons - 9/11 hoax, phony Iraq war, poison media propaganda wind up justifying torture

By John Kaminski

We need to take the blame — now.

How many more lies do we need to hear that cost thousands of lives and take away our Constitutional rights? How much more poison do we need to have shoved down our throats by official government agencies? How many more friends do we need to see killed by government functionaries doing business as rabid dogs?

How few of us have looked into that deep dark place in ourselves and seen the connection that travels from the sweetest part of our own souls — you know, that stuff we give our families — to the little girl lying dead in the street in Baghdad. And a thousand other dusty towns turned bloody by the shadow that lurks in the hollow of our own wallets.

And don\'t forget the big new wall that circles the heart of Jerusalem with its shadow of fear, and spreads its crippled cancer into the minds of every human on this planet through toxic electronic fantasies better known as mass media. Already firmly constructed in your own mind from a lifetime of American public schools, that same wall is being constructed in your own town — in New Orleans, for instance, in a thousand places on this planet, at this moment. The war for human freedom is definitely on.

Just turn on the TV and see. Then turn it off quickly and hit the Web, where you can choose your path with care, function, and discernment. Try to ignore the recent news that half the American population can\'t read a simple sentence.

Those who can read may wish to take note of the top ten pieces of news reported on the Internet over the past four years:

• 9/11 was an inside job hoax, perpetrated by the very men you see on TV sending young boys off to war. Psychopathic brain entrainment that kindles mass hatred of strangers is used in all wars. Killing people and stealing their assets remains the most venerable human tradition. However, deliberately killing one\'s own people, as happened on 9/11, is a different matter. It too has a tradition — Lusitania, Pearl Harbor, Gulf of Tonkin, USS Liberty, Waco, OKC are only the well-known wounds the United States has inflicted on itself for the purpose of mass death profits.

For one thing, a willingness to kill one’s own people means that no one anywhere is safe. That is the situation in America today

The trail is clear for those with courage. The World Trade Center towers were not knocked down by airplanes, they were demolished professionally. Hundreds of websites can prove this. Hundreds of witnesses heard the pre-collapse explosions in the towers. Top theories converge around the time the towers took to fall as the chief piece of evidence proving official complicity.

They simply fell too fast. The buildings couldn’t have fallen in the way they did simply by being struck by airplanes. The stories told by government officials about what happened simply are not true.

But there are plenty of other pieces of evidence to choose from, beginning with impossible cell phone calls and ending in the constant and continuing litany of lies that spews forth from both the White House and its corporate spin machine.

Were the real facts of that sad day to become common knowledge, thousands of top leaders in the U.S., Britain and Israel and its financial overlords in Britain and Israel would face capital charges of treason, mass murder, and obstruction of justice.

But we know the system doesn’t work that way and never has.

Those who have the money make the rules. And woe to the rest of us.

Yet the inside job nature of the 9/11 caper is an established fact, hammered home by the following items.

Cell phone calls from 35,000 feet couldn\'t have been used on the fateful day because the technology had not been installed on planes at that time. Those great media heroes, in actuality, were contrived characters designed to deceive the public and mobilize opinion for an all-out war against the Islamic world.

There is no evidence that there were hijackers. Those CIA “cutouts” constructed for public consumption were ludicrous. Nine are still alive; nobody\'s sure of any of the names. The videos of them were fake, just like the videos of Osama bin Laden.

The string of lies, the phony investigation, and the destruction of the evidence were all blatant violations of U.S. Constitutional law, yet the combination of a corrupt judiciary and complicit media combined to anesthetize the American conscience, which has in its coma now accepted the disturbing normalcy of the practice of torturing other human beings for fun and profit.

Yet the time the towers took to fall — virtually free fall speed — and the countless videos of tiny white shape charge plumes that seem to pull the giant black monsters the Twin Towers became right down with them, remains the top piece of evidence. That WTC7 fell later in the day without having been struck by a plane is clear evidence of an obvious demolition.

Not a single Congressperson has ever contemplated breaking this coverup, all of them being paid by the very same people who perpetrated the crime, and now plunder the world.

Thus was 9/11 the trigger that has brought us to the nadir of the modern world, in which a tyrannical superpower bribes the whole world into its fantasy fetish and treats even its own people like cattle, a prescribed policy so chillingly described in certain of the world’s so-called holy books. Extinction for dozens of reasons is staring us in the face, and the wars for lies stretch out in front of us as the poison cola froths in our veins.

9/11 was the public moral justification for the United States and its killer allies to declare war on the whole world, and squeeze the life out anyone who doesn\'t play along. The basic Old Testament formula.

The carnage to human body and soul it has produced in its twisted implementation is truly a tragedy of profound proportion, a spreading stain on human consciousness that threatens to engulf us all in supporting senseless slaughter.

And as a result of the success of this colossal government psyop, Americans have lost their free speech, their right to a fair trial, and their right to object to being enslaved by this New World Order murder machine. Speaking of which ....

• The Iraq war is a totally phony deal. It\'s mass murder for maximum profits. Americans who abdicate their responsibility to speak honestly do not deserve the freedom they thought they had. All Americans are complicit in this folly that has already killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

The Downing Street memos proved for all to see that the war against Iraq by the U.S., Britain and Israel was a hoax more than cruel and beyond logic. President Bush, his lackey Powell admitted, fixed the facts around the policy. That’s called lying.

A half million deaths later, no single American politician possesses the courage to call him out, probably because most politicians voted for the war based on the paranoid and manipulative lies that have been told to all Americans.

• In a matter of days, some cyberwonks say, the U.S. is going to bomb Iran over this trumped-up charge of WANTING to build nuclear weapons. The magnitude to which the flames from this bogus provocation will spread will be interesting to observe. In a large part of the world, this means your house is at risk, and your life as well.

• The U.S. government, or maybe it’s the world government now, has begun a campaign to reduce the population of the planet.

Some of the ways this is being accomplished include:

• Mad cow or chronic wasting disease is a time bomb waiting to kill most of the earth’s human population in 20 years.

• Biotech food, which will not reproduce, makes mass starvation inevitable in certain areas of the world.

• Chemtrails drop blood-borne products container designer diseases on unsuspecting populations.

• Most medicines prescribed by doctors contain toxic compounds. This practice is now protected by law. Redress for victims is now prohibited.

• Depleted uranium ammunition, which is deliberately destroying the American army from within, guarantees lifelong battles with cancer and other more serious diseases to both the winner and the loser of wars fought with it.

• Slick school curricula and clever media manipulation have produced a population essentially incapable of asking questions to challenge the lies it has been told.

• The air you breathe, the food you eat and the water you drink are now deliberately hypercharged with disease-producing compounds.

And as the media-created politicians with proper bloodlines and unlimited cash deploy new ways to further torture all those deemed ineligible for membership in our new predator society, ordinary people can only sit and cry at the mutilated corpses of their loved ones, and the mangled hopes of their dearest dreams.

The weight of demons that makes us so afraid to challenge the lies we have been told guarantees that all these deceptions will continue until the last feeble whimper about the injustice of it all disappears for the last time.

Because we have done the same thing ourselves as we watched faraway people slaughtered for corporate profit, we will get no sympathy from anyone who hears us cry for our world, because we were the ones who created the problem in the first place.

Adieu, America. You have become a monster.

Show this story to a cop you know. His reaction to it will tell you if he’s your friend or somebody who may be the one who one day will come and kill you.


John Kaminski is a writer who lives on the Gulf Coast of Florida. His latest collection of Internet essays, “Recipe for Extinction,” is available at http://www.johnkaminski.com/

Comment on this Editorial

Editorial: Iran Blame Game: More Bush Lies

Kurt Nimmo
March 14th 2006

In an effort to stem increasingly vociferous criticism, Bush’s neocon handlers have provided him with a new script, basically the old script with new fantastic accusations. “Tehran has been responsible for at least some of the increasing lethality of anti-coalition attacks by providing Shia militia with the capability to build improvised explosive devices in Iraq,” Bush declared during an address at George Washington University, a claim bordering on the absurdity of the neocon lie that Saddam was in cahoots with Osama. “Asked about the linkage to Shiite forces, two US officials who declined to be named pointed to previously reported ties between the government of Iran and radical Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr.”

No doubt Muqtada al-Sadr has ties with Iran—his religious mentor is Kazem al-Haeri, a prominent Shia leader, exiled to Iran by Saddam Hussein in the 1970s. Of course, the real problem here is that al-Sadr and al-Haeri are advocates of an Islamic state in Iraq. Moreover, al-Sadr considers the current puppet government in Iraq illegitimate and demands an immediate end to the occupation.

Earlier this month, Richard Clarke, who famously stated in 1999 that Osama would “likely boogie to Baghdad” (as noted in the nine eleven whitewash commission’s tumescent fairy tale), kicked off the bogus Iranian IED campaign by stating “the evidence is strong that the Iranian government is making these IEDs, and the Iranian government is sending them across the border and they are killing U.S. troops once they get there…. I think it’s very hard to escape the conclusion that, in all probability, the Iranian government is knowingly killing U.S. troops.” Clarke provided no evidence of this, as he provided no evidence that Osama visited Saddam in Baghdad, a claim thoroughly discredited as wishful neocon thinking. Clarke, “counterterrorism tsar” during the Clinton and Bush Senior administrations, however, should know something about Osama bin Laden, since he gave the final OK to allow the Bin Laden family to fly out of the country in the wake of nine eleven, thus allowing them to avoid the sort of difficult questions asked of the families of criminal suspects.

It appears the Bush neocons are building a case against Iran based on accusations made by the Pentagon and amplified by Richard Clarke, although we are told there is no love lost between Clarke and the Bushites. “US military intelligence sources have said that increasingly powerful IEDs, with greater armor-piercing power and sophisticated triggers, have been traced to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, or to Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militia in Lebanon…. Bush said that there was evidence that some components in the most powerful IEDs came from Iran, and that coalition forces had ’seized IEDs and components that were clearly produced in Iran,’” a claim, naturally, minus any sort of evidence, as the Bush neocons in the Pentagon and the White House are in the habit of not providing corroboration, nor does the corporate media ask for any.

Since the Shia of Iraq are not attacking occupation forces, Bush’s claim is more than absurd—it is another calculated lie we are expected to believe, as too many of us believed previous lies about Iraqi WMD and easily discredited links between Saddam and Osama. Bush’s neocon handlers are simply recycling tactics, demonstrably effective, as until recently millions of Americans believed Saddam had something to do with the attacks of nine eleven, even though there was zip evidence of this and, in fact, the claim was so absurd as to be laughable. If the Shia are not attacking occupation forces with IEDs, as Bush claims, then the assumption must be Iran is providing the IEDs to the Sunni insurgency, a dubious claim considering the relationship between Iraq’s formerly Sunni dominated government and Iran (recall Iran and Iraq fought a bloody war for most of the 1980s, costing more than a million lives and around a trillion dollars U.S.).

Finally, Bush complained about Shia infiltration of the Iraqi police. “There have been some reports of infiltration of the national police by Shia militias. And so we’re taking a number of steps to correct this problem,” said Bush. “We are working with the Iraqi leaders to find and remove any leaders in the national police who show evidence of loyalties to militia.” It would appear the Iraqi police, set up and trained by the United States, is so porous both Shia and Sunni elements are able to infiltrate its ranks. According to the CFR, the premier globalist organization with a keen interest in pacifying Iraq, Sunni infiltration of the Iraqi police and military is “widespread” and compares this to “Vietcong subversion of the U.S.-backed South Vietnamese army,” an apt comparison since the U.S. occupation of Iraq will end up little different than the situation in Vietnam, with helicopters ferrying VIPs and their dependents out of the Green Zone, leaving behind the poor dupes who cooperated with Bush’s cronies to be slaughtered, as the Shah’s were in Iran a generation ago.

Comment on this Editorial

SAS soldier quits Army in disgust at 'illegal' American tactics in Iraq - Refuses to fight alongside Americans

By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
The Telegraph"
12 Mar 06

An SAS soldier has refused to fight in Iraq and has left the Army over the "illegal" tactics of United States troops and the policies of coalition forces.

After three months in Baghdad, Ben Griffin told his commander that he was no longer prepared to fight alongside American forces.
He said he had witnessed "dozens of illegal acts" by US troops, claiming they viewed all Iraqis as "untermenschen" - the Nazi term for races regarded as sub-human.

The decision marks the first time an SAS soldier has refused to go into combat and quit the Army on moral grounds.

It immediately brought to an end Mr Griffin's exemplary, eight-year career in which he also served with the Parachute Regiment, taking part in operations in Northern Ireland, Macedonia and Afghanistan.

But it will also embarrass the Government and have a potentially profound impact on cases of other soldiers who have refused to fight.

On Wednesday, the pre-trial hearing will begin into the court martial of Flt Lt Malcolm Kendall-Smith, a Royal Air Force doctor who has refused to return to Iraq for a third tour of duty on the grounds that the war is illegal. Mr Griffin's allegations came as the Foreign Office minister Kim Howells, visiting Basra yesterday, admitted that Iraq was now "a mess".

Mr Griffin, 28, who spent two years with the SAS, said the American military's "gung-ho and trigger happy mentality" and tactics had completely undermined any chance of winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi population. He added that many innocent civilians were arrested in night-time raids and interrogated by American soldiers, imprisoned in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, or handed over to the Iraqi authorities and "most probably" tortured.

Mr Griffin eventually told SAS commanders at Hereford that he could not take part in a war which he regarded as "illegal".

He added that he now believed that the Prime Minister and the Government had repeatedly "lied" over the war's conduct.

"I did not join the British Army to conduct American foreign policy," he said. He expected to be labelled a coward and to face a court martial and imprisonment after making what "the most difficult decision of my life" last March.

Instead, he was discharged with a testimonial describing him as a "balanced, honest, loyal and determined individual who possesses the strength of character to have the courage of his convictions".

Last night Patrick Mercer, the shadow minister for homeland security, said: "Trooper Griffin is a highly experienced soldier. This makes his decision particularly disturbing and his views and opinions must be listened to by the Government."

The MoD declined to comment.

© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2006

Comment on this Article

After four years, Iraq withdrawal elusive

11 Mar 06

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Words like "victory" and "mission accomplished" aren't heard much anymore as the United States enters its fourth year of war in Iraq.

The slogans now are "political process" and handing over "battle space" to Iraq's new army so that the Iraqis themselves can carry the fight to the insurgents and build their promised democracy.

All those plans are now under review in light of another ominous phrase - "civil war" - that has crept into the debate since the wave of sectarian violence set off by a Feb. 22 bombing at a Shiite Muslim mosque in Samarra.
The shift from the upbeat slogans of 2003 represents an acknowledgment by the U.S. command that the war against an insurgency dominated by Iraq's Sunni Arab minority cannot be won by U.S. arms alone.

Instead, the best chance for peace is to encourage the insurgents to lay down their arms and join the political process, while building up an Iraqi force capable of dealing with those who refuse.

But slogans obscure the complexities at play. The rising tensions between Sunnis and Shiites raise the new question of whether building up Iraq's army forces - the supposed solution - might instead set the stage for civil war.

How events play out in the coming months will determine how long U.S. troops remain in Iraq - and in what numbers. All signs point to a lengthy American commitment in Iraq, even if Washington draws down significant numbers of troops this year as expected.

At no time since the fall of Saddam Hussein have the words "Iraq stands at a crossroad" been truer. The next few months will determine whether Iraq stands at the threshold of recovery - or at the brink of disaster.

In the wind-swept plains of western Iraq, where the insurgents are strongest, American officers speak of 2006 as "a year of risk" that will determine whether the U.S. campaign for a stable, democratic Iraq succeeds or whether the war drags on for years - with or without Americans in the fight.

Despite major losses and defeats, Sunni insurgents are estimated to number about 15,000 to 20,000 - roughly the same as two years ago, according to the Brookings Institution. Roadside bombs, assassinations and scattered clashes occur with such regularity that they draw little attention.

As the fourth year of war approaches, the American strategy is moving along two tracks: encouraging a broad-based government of national unity that can win trust from all communities and transferring security responsibility to the new Iraqi army and police.

Both tracks are well under way, but fraught with risks.

The violence that swept Baghdad and other areas after the Samarra shrine attack suggests the Sunni-dominated insurgency could change into a full-scale civil war between the rival Muslim sects.

"The question is not whether there will be sectarian strife, but rather whether the central state can hold together and contain the violence," said Jeffrey A. VanDenBerg, director of Middle East studies at Drury University in Springfield, Mo.

In the March issue of Foreign Affairs, Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations argues that Washington should slow the expansion of Iraq's security forces - most of whom are Shiites and Kurds - until there is a "broad communal compromise."

For the time being, however, the process of placing an Iraqi face on the war is accelerating.

About 60 of Iraq's 102 battalions "control their own battle space," said Lt. Col. Michael J. Negard, a U.S. military spokesman. That means they plan and carry out military operations within their area of responsibility.

If all goes according to plan, by the end of the year all Iraqi battalions - expected by then to number 112 - will have that status.

Assuming the Iraqis prove up to the task, the U.S. military can begin sending thousands of soldiers home. The top commander in Iraq, Gen. George W. Casey Jr., is expected to recommend reductions in the 136,000-strong force beginning later this spring.

Casey refuses to talk publicly about numbers. But it is widely assumed U.S. troop strength in Iraq will fall below 100,000 by the end of the year or early 2007. Privately, American officers say that figure is reasonable.

Pentagon estimates have proven wrong before, however. In late 2003, the Pentagon predicted troop strength would drop to 105,000 by the next May. Instead, insurgent attacks forced an increase to nearly 140,000 in mid-2004.

U.S. officers also caution against inferring that a greater security role for Iraq's army will mean a total American withdrawal. U.S. troops will leave the cities, but be nearby in case of trouble. U.S. convoys will have to resupply Iraqi units, and American jets will provide air cover.

And the withdrawal timetable could get snagged if some Iraqi battalions cannot be trained and equipped in time.

"If a unit is not up to task or if equipment or personnel become an issue ... then we take the time needed," Negard said. "So we're very hesitant to put a mark on a calendar and say 10 months down the road the Iraqi army will control all its battle space."

U.S. officials have praised the performance of Iraqi soldiers. But the Americans were equally optimistic in 2004 until many Iraqi units fell apart in battle. The entire 5,000-member police force in Mosul deserted after an insurgent uprising in November 2004.

This time, the U.S. command insists training is better. Measures have been taken to build up a strong cadre of noncommissioned officers - a major weakness in 2004.

Privately, however, U.S. officers say desertions and absences still dog Iraqi units, especially in the volatile west where hundreds of soldiers have left their commands since a November offensive.

This is where the political track comes in. The December election raised the amount of Sunni Arab representation in the new parliament more than threefold. Talks are under way to put together a unity government with participation by Sunni Arabs, Shiite Muslims and Kurds.

At the same time, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has been reaching out to Sunni leaders in insurgent strongholds such as Ramadi. The process is continuing, despite the assassinations of local Sunnis willing to talk.

But success won't come quickly.

"Even if a broad inclusive national government emerges, there almost certainly will be a lag time before we see a dampening effect on the insurgency," the U.S. national intelligence chief, John Negroponte, a former ambassador in Iraq, told a Senate committee Feb. 2.

All that points to much work and sacrifice ahead.

"Because of the nature of counterinsurgency, it's often hard for people to define what victory is," Casey, the U.S. commander in Iraq, said recently. "It's not D-Day. There's not a big battle and it's all over. It's about people making choices, so it evolves over time. And that's exactly what you see here."

Comment on this Article

Old War Whores: Haig says U.S. repeating Vietnam mistake - Former Nixon adviser thinks forces in Iraq hamstrung by politicians

Associated Press
11 Mar 06

BOSTON - Former Nixon adviser Alexander Haig said military leaders in Iraq are repeating a mistake made in Vietnam by not applying the full force of the military to win the war.

"Every asset of the nation must be applied to the conflict to bring about a quick and successful outcome, or don't do it," Haig said. "We're in the midst of another struggle where it appears to me we haven't learned very much."

The comments by Haig, also a Secretary of State under President Reagan, came Saturday at a conference at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum examining the Vietnam War and the American Presidency.
The conference brought together advisers from the Nixon, Johnson and Kennedy administrations, and talk turned to Iraq where the panelists saw parallels with Vietnam.

Former Nixon Secretary of State Henry Kissinger made a rare appearance at the conference. He said he agreed to come out of admiration for the Kennedy family.

Kissinger was greeted outside by about 25 protesters who chanted "Kissinger should go to jail, no bail." He refused to directly respond to a question, submitted by the audience and read by a moderator, that asked if he wanted to apologize for policies that led to so many deaths in Vietnam.

"This is not the occasion," Kissinger said. "We have to start from the assumption that serious people were making serious decisions. So that's the sort of question that's highly inappropriate."

In another audience question, Kissinger was asked whether he agreed that the U.S. bombing of Cambodia led to the rise of the Khmer Rouge, and, if so, was he responsible for the two million people the Khmer Rouge killed?

"The premise that the bombing of a 5-mile strip led to the rise of Khmer Rouge and the murder of two million people is an example of masochism that is really inexcusable," he said.

Kissinger said that the Vietnam War "has fundamentally affected my life in the sense that the Nixon debate doesn't ever seem to end and for many I am the surviving symbol of the Nixon administration."

Kissinger also spoke about the war in Iraq, saying he supported the invasion.

"We have a jihadist radical situation," he said. "If the U.S. fails in Iraq, then the consequences will be that it motivates more to move toward the radical side. This is the challenge."

Former Johnson adviser Jack Valenti said that the lessons of Vietnam have been "forgotten or ignored" in Iraq.

"No president can win a war when public support for that war begins to decline and evaporate," he said.

Valenti, former head of the Motion Picture Association, added there was no such thing as a good war, saying "all wars are inhumane, brutal, callous and full of depravity."
© 2006 The Associated Press.

Comment on this Article

Iraq: The reckoning - What have we achieved three years on from Shock and Awe?

Raymond Whitaker
The Independent
12 Mar 06

President George Bush is about to embark on one of the toughest campaigns of his second term. Tomorrow, with the third anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq looming, he will make the first of a series of speeches to convince the American public, a sceptical world - and perhaps even himself - that things are going the right way in Iraq.

Signalling the start of this public relations offensive, Mr Bush said on Friday that Iraq had stepped back from "the abyss" of civil war. That is debatable - in the eyes of many Iraqis, civil war has already begun - but it shows how far expectations have sunk since the invasion was launched with such swaggering confidence 36 months ago.

Far from creating a stable, democratic and prosperous Iraq, whose benign influence would spread to the rest of the Middle East, the United States and its faithful ally, Britain, have created what Foreign Office minister Kim Howells yesterday called "a mess".
Iraq could no longer attack its neighbours or develop nuclear weapons, he said, adding: "So yes, it's a mess, but it's starting to look like the sort of mess that most of us live in."

To appreciate how ludicrous this statement would appear to the average Iraqi, it is necessary only to point out that Mr Howells was visiting Iraq to examine the oil industry. In December and January, daily oil production was around 1.1 million barrels a day, the lowest since May 2003, when President Bush declared major combat operations at an end. Before 2003, oil output was 2.5 million barrels a day. Ironically, revenue has risen to about $2.5bn a month, because world oil prices have shot up, at least partly because of the situation in Iraq.

But for all the efforts of the political establishments in the US and Britain to play down the problems, reality persists in breaking through. The latest example of this for Mr Bush, whose handling of Iraq is now supported by fewer than 40 per cent of Americans, is the death of a US hostage, Tom Fox, one of four kidnapped Christian peace activists who include the 74-year-old Briton Norman Kember. Rather than being the kind of bad news that masks quiet progress, it illuminates the daily threat to Iraqis.

Iraq is the most dangerous country in the world. And in many important ways, things are getting worse. Iraq Body Count, which has sought to do what the Pentagon and the Iraqi health ministry refuse to do - keep a tally of Iraqi civilians who die violently - estimates that even before the third year of occupation has ended, the toll is higher than in either of the previous two years.

According to IBC, which compiles figures for civilian deaths reported by at least two media outlets, 6,331 were killed between 1 May 2003 and the first anniversary of the invasion, and 11,312 in the second year of occupation. The toll for the period from the second anniversary of the invasion to the beginning of March, it says, was 12,617 - and that did not include most of the deaths in the upsurge of sectarian violence which followed the destruction of a major Shia shrine in Samarra last month.

Average violent deaths per day, IBC adds, went from 20 in year one of the occupation to 31 in year two and 36 in year three. When Iraqis are asked about the biggest change in their life since 2003, nearly all point to the danger of violent death. But IBC admits that with the increasing inability of journalists to move around and report freely, its method of monitoring civilian deaths is becoming increasingly inaccurate.

What evidence has emerged indicates that a widely ridiculed study published in The Lancet in autumn 2004, estimating that at least 100,000 civilians had died violently since the war began, might not be so inaccurate.

Apart from sectarian killings or the risk from trigger-happy coalition troops, ordinary Iraqis have most to fear from crime, which is why everyone is armed. Kidnapping is an industry, with children a frequent target, leading most well-off Iraqis to flee: hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have left for Jordan, Syria and Egypt. One banker who stayed was kidnapped when his seven bodyguards were murdered.

Many Iraqis supported the overthrow of Saddam Hussein because they wanted a return to a normal life. Sitting on some of the world's largest oil reserves, they did not see why they should not enjoy the same standard of living as Kuwaitis and Saudis. But if Saddam had led them to ruin and defeat, Iraqis have found that in many ways their lives have got worse without him. In the first year of occupation, some Iraqis comforted themselves with the thought that "the US cannot afford to fail". But the more time has passed, the greater the extent of the failure has become obvious. For all the billions of dollars in reconstruction money, there is not a single crane on the skyline in Baghdad, except a few rusting examples left over from Saddam's grandiose projects to build giant mosques. There are more cars in Baghdad, but there is also a permanent traffic jam because so many streets are blocked for security reasons.

Optimists can point to some improvements. Teachers now get $200 a month, compared to $2 three years ago, and many have returned to the profession. Some Iraqis have benefited from the influx of dollars. For the first time there are mobile phones and satellite TV, but the cost of living has soared and there is very high unemployment, perhaps 50 per cent. Most people survive on a state-subsidised ration, just as they did under Saddam. The most glaring failure is that the supply of drinking water and sewage disposal are both below pre-invasion levels, according to the US Government Accounting Office. Electricity output has just begun to exceed the Saddam-era figure of 4,600 megawatts. Overall, Iraqis have power only for 12 hours in 24.

People might have tolerated such difficulties if they were convinced the country was heading towards greater stability and self-government. Instead they are having to live with the consequences of the occupation authorities' early mistakes, born of ignorance and overconfidence. The best-known is the precipitate decision to disband the entire Iraqi army and sack every member of Saddam's Baath party, no matter how lowly. This not only fuelled an insurgency whose causes the US military have apparently only just begun to grasp, but gave Iran, Saddam's former enemy and the greatest threat to international peace, according to the Bush administration, undreamt-of influence in Iraq.

The US view of the insurgency as part of its "war on terror" led to more errors. First it insisted resistance came only from "foreign fighters" loyal to al-Qa'ida and its leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Later it was conceded that most insurgents might be Iraqis, though they were dismissed as disgruntled former army officers and Baathist "dead enders". Even more belatedly, US commanders have admitted to themselves that their attempt to suppress the insurgency has created more recruits for the resistance, most of whom are inspired by communal pride and lack of economic opportunities.

As for training an indigenous army to deal with this situation, the Iraqi military has been reconstituted on highly sectarian lines. It is badly equipped, because the US did not want to give it heavy weapons, and the procurement budget in 2003-2004 was largely stolen. But the main concern must be whether the army would stay together in the event of civil war. The Ministry of the Interior has 110,000 men under arms, mostly police, who are increasingly controlled by Shia militias; the paramilitary police commandos are seen by the Sunni community as death squads controlled by the main Shia militia.

Nearly three months after the Shia alliance won the election on 15 December, no government has been formed: the divisions between Shia, Sunni and the Kurds have proved too great. If a unity government is formed, it is likely to be too divided to take decisions.

President Bush is imprisoned by his own rhetoric on Iraq. Rather than the grand aims he proclaimed in his first term, he will be lucky if he can extricate himself without being seen as responsible for the worst US foreign policy disaster since Vietnam. It will be interesting to see what his speechwriters can make of this unpromising material.


Iraqis have gained freedom of speech, with many new newspapers and TV channels, but the secular middle classes increasingly fear Islamist militias. Hundreds of thousands of the better-off have fled the country.


"The future of Iraq belongs to the Iraqi people. After years of dictatorship, Iraq will soon be liberated. For the first time in decades, Iraqis will soon choose their own representative government. Coalition military operations are progressing and will succeed. We will eliminate the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, deliver humanitarian aid, and secure the freedom of the Iraqi people. We will create an environment where Iraqis can determine their own fate democratically and peacefully."

Joint statement by George Bush and Tony Blair, 8 April 2003


"Not only has the Iraqi government failed to provide minimal protection for its citizens, it has pursued a policy of rounding up and torturing innocent men and women. Its failure to punish those who have committed torture has added to the breakdown of the rule of law."

Amnesty International, 9 March 2006


14,000 prisoners still being held in Iraq by coalition forces at the end of November 2005.


It seemed a reasonable assumption that Iraq's oil industry, crippled by sanctions, could swiftly be revived after the invasion, but the insurgency has wrecked those hopes. Incompetence in the Coalition Provisional Authority and lack of security have also ruined reconstruction, with basic services almost all in a worse state than before the war, despite billions of dollars in investment.


"We reaffirm our commitment to protect Iraq's natural resources, as the patrimony of the people of Iraq, which should be used only for their benefit."

Blair and Bush, 8 April 2003

"Iraq, unlike Afghanistan, is a rather wealthy country. Iraq has tremendous resources that belong to the Iraqi people. And so there are a variety of means that Iraq has to be able to shoulder much of the burden for their own reconstruction."

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, 18 February 2003


"The US never intended to completely rebuild Iraq. This was just supposed to be a jump-start."

Brigadier General William McCoy, Army Corps of Engineers commander, January 2006


$9bn of US taxpayers' money unaccounted for in Iraq.


Fears of civil war are increasing as Iraqi politicians wrangle over the formation of a government nearly three months after the election. Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, detested by Sunni politicians because of his links to Shia militias, refuses to stand aside so that a unity government can be formed.


"Having liberated Iraq as promised, we will help that country to found a just and representative government, as promised. Our goal is a swift transition to Iraqi control of their own affairs. People of Iraq will be secure, and the people of Iraq will run their own country."

George Bush, 1 July 2003

"The Prime Minister and I have made our choice: Iraq will be free; Iraq will be independent; Iraq will be a peaceful nation; and we will not waver in the face of fear and intimidation."

Joint Bush and Blair statement, 16 April 2004


"Almost three years after the invasion, it is still not certain whether, or in what sense, Iraq is a nation. And after two elections and a referendum on the constitution, Iraq barely has a government."

Conservative US columnist George Will, March 2006


86 days since the Iraqi people voted on 15 December 2005, without a government being formed.


The coalition authorities admit that much of the insurgency is fuelled by a lack of economic opportunity. While the occupation has brought more money to some, mainly in Baghdad, life has been made more difficult for most by shortages of water and power, sky-high prices - and the ever-present danger of violent death.


"Our progress has been uneven but progress is being made. We are improving roads and schools and health clinics and working to improve basic services like sanitation, electricity and water. And together with our allies, we will help the new Iraqi government deliver a better life for its citizens."

George Bush, 27 June 2005


"The Iraqi people are suffering from a desperate lack of jobs, housing, health care and electricity ... If you compare this to the situation in the 1980s, you will see a major deterioration of the situation."

Barham Saleh (planning minister) in 'Living conditions in Iraq 2004', a survey by Iraqi authorities and UN

"Although a large percentage in Iraq is connected to water, electricity and sewage networks, the supply is too unstable to make a difference to their lives."

Staffan de Mistura, UNDP representative, May 2005


5.2 average number of hours of electricity in Baghdad homes


The new Iraqi army and police force is one of the most controversial and secretive aspects of the occupation. Apart from doubts about the loyalty and effectiveness of troops trained by the coalition, there are fears that police and paramilitaries are functioning as death squads.


"As the Iraqi security forces stand up, the confidence of the Iraqi people is growing - and Iraqis are providing the vital intelligence needed to track down the terrorists."

Bush at US naval academy, 30 November 2005


"Many cases of torture and ill-treatment of detainees held in facilities controlled by the Iraqi authorities have been reported since the handover of power in June 2004. Among other methods, victims have been subjected to electric shocks or have been beaten with plastic cable. The picture that is emerging is one in which the Iraqi authorities are systematically violating the rights of detainees in breach of guarantees contained both in Iraqi legislation and in international law and standards."

Amnesty International, March 2006


60 battalions in the reconstituted Iraqi army are Shia, outnumbering the 45 Sunni and three Kurdish battalions.


37,589 maximum number of civilian deaths since the Iraq invasion in 2003, according to Iraq Body Count, which bases its estimates on media reports. The minimum figure it gives for the same period is 33,489

100,000 the estimate of civilian deaths since the invasion, published in 'The Lancet' in the autumn of 2004, based on statistical analysis

2,306 US military deaths since the invasion

16,653 US military personnel wounded in action since the invasion

103 British military deaths since the invasion. Figures for British wounded are not available

103 other coalition military deaths since the invasion

1,110 highest monthly total of bodies brought into Baghdad mortuary during the past 12 months. The lowest figure was 780

100,000 estimate of civilian deaths since the invasion, published in the Lancet in the autumn of 2004, Based on statistical analysis


Raids nets eight terror suspects

Eight people suspected of kidnapping, manufacturing car bombs and financing terrorists were detained in raids by US and Iraqi forces in western Baghdad, including four at a mosque identified by the US military as a possible safe haven for al-Qa'ida.

A dozen others were captured in Tikrit, 80 miles north of Baghdad, the military said. They were believed to be part of a cell responsible for killing dozens of people after the destruction of one of Iraq's holiest Shia shrines on 22 February.


Police killed in funeral shooting

Three policemen were shot dead by rebel forces at a funeral procession in Iraq. A third was wounded as mourners gathered in Mosul to mark the death of three bomb victims, while north of Baghdad rebels blew up a main oil pipeline.


British firm wins big Iraq contract

Britain won its first big Iraqi rebuilding contract as a $500m project to help restore power supplies was handed to a joint venture 49 per cent owned by the engineering group Amec. Shares in the group rose 14.5p to 290.5p after the Pentagon said that it had handed the contract to FluorAmec. The British government had been lobbying Washington to give UK companies a fair share of the contracts, and the rules for the award of projects were changed.


'UK troops will join invasion'

Tony Blair took the political gamble of his life when he signalled that British forces would join an imminent US-led invasion to disarm Saddam Hussein, even if a majority of the UN Security Council fails to endorse such action in a second resolution.

He stressed that there was sufficient justification for war in UN resolution 1441, which was passed last November.Mr Blair made his decision to fight, even though it could prompt a wave of resignations from his Government.

Failure to win Security Council votes will leave Downing Street endorsing a war without solid Labour or public backing.

If the resolution is rejected, the US could invade Iraq as early as next week. If it goes through, an invasion would be delayed to give President Saddam time to comply.

Comment on this Article

Four men found hanged in Baghdad slum

The Sunday Times
14 Mar 06

POLICE found four hanged men dangling from electricity pylons in a Baghdad Shiite slum, hours after car bombs and mortars shells ripped through teeming market streets, killing at least 58 people and wounding more than 200.

The grim scene underscored fears yesterday's bloody assault on a stronghold of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr would plunge Iraq into another frenzy of sectarian killing.
Bomb blasts in Baghdad, Kirkuk and Tikrit - many of them targeting Iraqi police patrols - killed at least 10 more people Monday and wounded more than 30.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani said terrorists bent on igniting a civil war were taking advantage of a vacuum in authority caused by tangled negotiations to form a new government.

"The way in which this bloody act was conducted leaves us with no doubt that the terrorists have targeted this peaceful neighbourhood in order to ignite civil strife and stoke the fire of civil war," Mr Talabani said. "So, it is the duty of the political groups to accelerate efforts to form the government, and the armed forces and security bodies should act swiftly to eliminate such crimes.

Addressing reporters in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, the anti-American cleric al-Sadr avoided blaming Sunni Muslims for the attacks and appealed for unity.

He instead blamed feared terror group al-Qaeda in Iraq and US forces.

"Sunnis and Shiites are not responsible for such acts," al-Sadr said. "National unity is required."

Comment on this Article

Shia cleric blames US forces for Sunday massacre

Times of India
13 Mar 06

BAGHDAD: Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr held the US forces responsible on Monday for the bombings in Sadr city, one of the poorest districts of Baghdad, that claimed over 40 lives.

"I hold the occupying forces responsible for orchestrating this event," Muqtada told a press conference in Najaf.

He said terrorists carried out the bombing "under US air cover" arguing that the halt of telephone connections before the incident was proof of the cooperation between the terrorists and the occupier to "destabilise the security of this Shia region.
"I find Sunnis and Shias innocents of this act," he added.

Two car bombs and mortars in Sadr City late on Sunday killed some 40 and injured over 90 people.

Muqtada also mocked a statement of US Defence Secretary Ronald Rumsfeld, in which he said that US forces would not interfere if a civil war broke out in Iraq.

"This is a sheer lie," he remarked. "What is their duty if they do not protect the security of Iraq?"

Comment on this Article

Death squads found inside Iraqi government

By Matthew Schofield
Knight Ridder Newspapers
12 Mar 06

BAGHDAD - Senior Iraqi officials on Sunday confirmed for the first time that death squads composed of government employees had operated illegally from inside two government ministries.

"The death squads that we have captured are in the Defense and Interior ministries," Interior Minister Bayan Jabr said during a joint news conference with the minister of Defense. "There are people who have infiltrated the army and the interior."
Jabr said that investigations into death squads were ongoing in the Defense Ministry. He said the Interior Ministry had arrested 22 people, and subsequently released 18 as innocent after interrogation, detaining four for further questioning.

"Now we have sent them (the four) to the court because it hasn't been proven that all four were involved," Jabr said. "Although I did not have clear signs (of their guilt) I sent them to the Justice Ministry so that the law could be carried out."

Although Jabr appeared to confirm the existence of death squads, the scale of the operation uncovered would appear to be far smaller than critics had alleged.

Sunni Muslims have long complained about Shiite death squads that arrived wearing official uniforms and rode in official-looking vehicles to haul away victims.

Knight Ridder first reported the accusation of death squads in February 2005, and in June documented cases in which victims were taken away allegedly by men wearing Interior Ministry commando uniforms were later found handcuffed and killed execution-style.

The government had long denied the existence of such death squads. Sunnis had accused the Badr Organization, a Shiite militia supported by Iran, of being behind the killings, inside or outside of government ministries. Jabr is a senior leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a leading Shiite political party, and has close ties to the Badr Organization.

The investigation that led to Sunday's confirmation of government death squads came after American forces stopped a group of men who were passing through a checkpoint in late January.

The men wore official uniforms and said they were preparing to kill a Sunni man in their custody.

Copyright © 2006, azcentral.com. All rights reserved.

Comment on this Article

Iraq's president warns of civil war after bombings

By Ross Colvin and Mariam Karouny
13 Mar 06

BAGHDAD - Iraq's president pressed political parties on Monday to accelerate efforts to form a broad government to arrest a slide into civil war after bomb blasts in a Baghdad Shi'ite slum killed 52 people.

A government of national unity encompassing Kurds, Shi'ites and Sunnis is widely seen as the best way to bring stability to the country, but three months after elections political leaders are deadlocked over who should lead it.

"The terrorists, infidels and Saddam Hussein's followers are seeking to spread the spirit of separation and exploiting gaps left by any delay in the political process," President Jalal Talabani said in a statement.
In more violence on Monday, nine people were killed, including seven policemen, and 36 wounded across Iraq. The governor of Salahaddin province also survived a car bomb attack on his convoy in Saddam's hometown of Tikrit.

"It is the duty of the political blocs to intensify their efforts to form a government and establish a broad front to achieve security and stability," Talabani said.

Politicians said they would step up negotiations but doubted a deal would be possible by the time the parliament elected in December meets for its first session on Thursday.

"The meetings will be hours and hours long, all leaderships will meet at one table in order to agree," said Zafir al-Ani, a spokesman of the Sunni Accordance Front, the biggest Sunni political grouping.

"We wish we could reach a deal by Thursday but I think it is very difficult," he told Reuters.

After a lull in sectarian violence unleashed by the bombing of an important Shi'ite shrine on February 22, blasts ripped through the Baghdad stronghold of a major Shi'ite militia on Sunday. The U.S. military said 52 were killed and more than 200 wounded.

Talabani, a Kurd, said the bombings were meant to "inflame sectarian strife and fan the fires of civil war".

Officials, including the U.S. ambassador, have warned that another attack like the Samarra mosque bombing could spark all-out sectarian conflict in the bitterly divided country.

Radical Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said he would not order his militia to strike Sunni al Qaeda militants after Sunday's bombings, which hit his Sadr City stronghold.

"I could order the Mehdi Army to root out the terrorists and fundamentalists but this would lead us into civil war and we don't want that," the youthful Sadr told a news conference in the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf.

Police discovered the shot and tortured bodies of four Shi'ites in Sadr City on Monday. Next to the bodies was a sign bearing a single word: "Traitors".

The Mehdi Army was accused of leading reprisals on Sunni mosques and clerics after Samarra that killed hundreds in a few days. Sadr has denied the charge.

Police said up to six car bombs ripped through two markets in Sadr City on Sunday. Along with the dead at least 204 people were wounded, they said.

Mehdi Army militia manned checkpoints on roads into the sprawling east Baghdad slum, home to 2 million people, on Monday, searching cars for possible explosives and weapons.


Sunday's blasts erupted as political leaders, shepherded by U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, met yet again to discuss forming a unity government.

Sunnis, Kurds and secular leaders have been blocking accord with a demand that Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the Shi'ite who has led the interim government for the past year, be dropped as the Shi'ites' choice of premier for the new, four-year term.

The Shi'ite Alliance, the largest bloc in parliament, has insisted it will stick with Jaafari despite the pressure.

Sunni Arabs, who are seeking the post of speaker and Kurds the post of president for interim head of state Talabani, need the support of the Alliance for their candidates, which means parties need to compromise in order to get what they want.

The parliament session set for Thursday is expected to remain technically open for days, without adjourning, in order to give time for blocs meet a constitutional requirement to elect a speaker in the "first" session, officials said.

Iraq's politicians said they were determined to reach a deal as soon as possible but that it would take time.

"We intend to have continued meetings for days and nights," said Adnan Pachachi, a Sunni politician in the secular Iraqi List led by Shi'ite former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

Saddam's trial continued, with the judge who oversaw the trial of 148 Shi'ite men accused of plotting to assassinate the former Iraqi leader taking the stand.

Awad Hamed al-Bandar, former head of Iraq's Revolutionary Court, acknowledged he had issued a death warrant for the men and insisted it was legal.

Bandar is being tried along with Saddam and six others for crimes against humanity for the killings. Former Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan accused U.S. troops of torturing him in 2003 to get him to reveal where Saddam was hiding.

Comment on this Article

Troops from Iraq suffer the 'Vietnam effect' - Returning Home to Face a Hostile Public

The Scotsman

BRITISH veterans of the Iraq war are suffering a "Vietnam effect" after returning home to face a hostile public, according to one of Britain's foremost experts on post-traumatic stress disorder.

Dr Chris Freeman says the increasingly unpopular decision of the government to ignore public opinion and go to war has placed an additional burden on servicemen.

Freeman, who has treated nearly 20 Scottish veterans at his Edinburgh clinic, said: "Gulf War Two has changed society's attitude to soldiers. It has become our Vietnam. There have been no heroes in this war. Two-thirds of this country didn't want [Iraq] to happen and that has a massive effect on the men who come home."
Freeman, a consultant psychiatrist and psychotherapist, says that, unlike the Falklands and first Gulf War, veterans of the Iraq conflict - which began almost exactly three years ago - face additional pressures. "Servicemen know they have been involved in something deeply unpopular, which has spiralled out of control," he said. "That is another burden on them."

A study by the respected medical journal the Lancet suggests that more than 600 UK servicemen have been injured in the Iraq conflict - nearly three times more than the official figure of 230 issued by the Ministry of Defence.

So far, 103 British servicemen have died in Iraq. The military faced years of negative publicity over Gulf War syndrome and allegations that troops were poorly equipped for the first Iraq war. Now the first signs are emerging that Iraq war veterans feel they have been abandoned.

Toby Elliott, executive director of Combat Stress, a charity for veterans suffering mental health problems directly linked to their military service, said: "The troops have become part of the problem rather than the solution in Iraq."

Comment on this Article

Top commanders approved use of dogs at Abu Ghraib

By Josh White
The Washington Post/Seattle Times
13 Mar 06

WASHINGTON - When Army Sgt. Michael J. Smith faces a court-martial today on charges that he used his military working dog to harass and threaten detainees, one of the prime examples of that alleged misconduct will be a photograph of Smith holding the dog just inches from the face of a detainee. It is one of the notorious images to emerge from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Although officials characterized the other detainees who appeared in the photographs as common criminals and rioters, the detainee seen cowering before the dog was different.
Detainee No. 155148 was considered a high-value intelligence source suspected of having close ties to al-Qaida. According to interviews, sworn statements from soldiers and military documents obtained by The Washington Post, Ashraf Abdullah Ahsy was at the center of a military intelligence "special project" designed to break him down, and was considered important enough that his interrogation was mentioned in a briefing to high-ranking intelligence officials at the Pentagon.

Although Ahsy - also identified in documents by the tribal last name of al-Juhayshi - was described without his name in an Abu Ghraib military investigation as a "high-value" detainee, he has largely remained a mystery. Ahsy's story, and his months of intense interrogations, contrast with statements by U.S. officials that the images of abuse at Abu Ghraib depicted malfeasance of a few soldiers randomly selecting victims on the night shift.

Ahsy could become a central figure in Smith's trial because attorneys for the Abu Ghraib dog handlers have said military intelligence (MI) directed the soldiers to use their animals as part of an interrogation regimen, one that top officers approved in December 2003. Unlike others implicated, the dog handlers can point directly to approvals of the technique in question from top commanders.

In a Jan. 25 sworn statement to investigators after he was granted immunity, Col. Thomas Pappas, who ran the Abu Ghraib operation, said he approved the use of dogs for a few detainees in the days before the picture of Ahsy was taken, although he said he did not remember signing off on using dogs with Ahsy. Army officials confirmed Ahsy is the one in the photograph.

"The preponderance of the evidence suggests the photo was the only photo [depicting Abu Ghraib abuse] which had anything to do with interrogations because the detainee was considered a high-value detainee," an Army official said Friday in response to questions about the case. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter is part of an ongoing court-martial.

An effort lasting months

Ahsy was interrogated dozens of times by military intelligence soldiers, civilian contractors, and members of other government agencies (OGA), a common euphemism for the CIA, according to the documents. The newly discovered accounts reveal that the military working dog in the photograph was being used in conjunction with a coordinated effort to get Ahsy to talk, an effort that continued for months.

Smith, who has been charged with dereliction of duty and maltreatment of detainees, is to be tried at Fort Meade, Md., this week. He also is accused of using his dog to threaten two other detainees and of allegedly engaging in a contest to make detainees urinate and defecate out of fear. Smith's military attorney declined requests to comment.

Smith told abuse investigators in 2004 that military intelligence and military police requested Marco, his black Belgian shepherd, for use in interrogations and to control detainees, and that he complied.

"They use us for interrogations purposes," Smith said in a sworn statement in June 2004. He described the interrogators bringing detainees out of their cells and then having his dog get about 6 inches from their faces.

Pappas told investigators in January that generals urged him to use aggressive tactics on the detainees and that he approved the use of dogs in at least three cases.

Establishing control

"I thought I had the authority to approve the use of the dogs," he said, according to a 25-page unclassified transcript obtained by The Post. "In my view, it was to establish control."

Pappas said he forwarded 20 to 30 requests for use of severe tactics to Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, then commander of U.S. troops in Iraq.

"Now he did express some concerns to me about the intelligence we were obtaining and not using the full spectrum of tools and authority to obtain good intelligence," Pappas said of Sanchez, "but never did he say use dogs on any particular person or time."

Arrested aboard ship

Navy personnel arrested Ahsy on Dec. 9, 2003, aboard the merchant vessel Manar as it approached southern Iraq after sailing from a port in the United Arab Emirates, according to military documents.

Ahsy, then 23, told interrogators he was a Sunni Muslim originally from the al-Sowara neighborhood in Baghdad. He was a former soldier in the Iraqi military who had been living in the UAE, working as a driver for a sultan. He was captured with cars he said he was going to sell in Iraq. U.S. military officials said last week that some records showed he was Iraqi, while others listed him as Syrian.

Over the next three weeks, according to the logs, doctors evaluated Ahsy twice and each time recommended him for medical care, once for severe swelling in his feet. A soldier who worked at the prison said Ahsy's feet swelled because he was made to stand in "stress positions" for hours.

"People were always making a big deal about him, and I don't know why," said Sgt. Hydrue Joyner, who ran the day shift on Tier 1A. "Whenever we took him out of the cell, they made it seem like we had Hannibal Lecter with us. They thought he was important, and OGA and MI were paying a lot of attention to him."

Interrogation summaries show Ahsy was questioned regularly - 63 times through April 12, 2004 - and interrogators were frustrated by his lack of cooperation. He was threatened with being sent to a Saudi or Israeli prison, and interrogators tried to scare him with the possibility of sending him to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Ahsy was referred to as "al-Qaida" and "Ashy," and was "considered a big fish for a while," according to Pappas' statement.

Pappas said he received "several briefings on this particular detainee."

Military officials in Baghdad said Ahsy was released from custody in October 2004 - 10 months after his capture - but declined to provide details.

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

Comment on this Article

Friendly Fire: Another Crack UK Soldier Quits the Illegal War

by Chris Floyd
12 March 2006

Here's an important story that for some strange reason is not on the network news or splashed across the front pages of America's leading newspapers:

SAS soldier quits Army in disgust at 'illegal' American tactics in Iraq.

Excerpts, from the Daily Telegraph: An SAS soldier has refused to fight in Iraq and has left the Army over the "illegal" tactics of United States troops and the policies of coalition forces. After three months in Baghdad, Ben Griffin told his commander that he was no longer prepared to fight alongside American forces.
He said he had witnessed "dozens of illegal acts" by US troops, claiming they viewed all Iraqis as "untermenschen" - the Nazi term for races regarded as sub-human. The decision marks the first time an SAS soldier has refused to go into combat and quit the Army on moral grounds. It immediately brought to an end Mr Griffin's exemplary, eight-year career in which he also served with the Parachute Regiment, taking part in operations in Northern Ireland, Macedonia and Afghanistan.

Mr Griffin, 28, who spent two years with the SAS, said the American military's "gung-ho and trigger happy mentality" and tactics had completely undermined any chance of winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi population. He added that many innocent civilians were arrested in night-time raids and interrogated by American soldiers, imprisoned in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison, or handed over to the Iraqi authorities and "most probably" tortured.

Mr Griffin eventually told SAS commanders at Hereford that he could not take part in a war which he regarded as "illegal". He added that he now believed that the Prime Minister and the Government had repeatedly "lied" over the war's conduct.

"I did not join the British Army to conduct American foreign policy," he said. He expected to be labelled a coward and to face a court martial and imprisonment after making what "the most difficult decision of my life" last March. Instead, he was discharged with a testimonial describing him as a "balanced, honest, loyal and determined individual who possesses the strength of character to have the courage of his convictions". [End excerpt]

Oh, but wait until the rightwing war bloggers -- The Fightin' Anal Cyst Brigade -- get through with him. They'll soon have him turned into a craven, cowardly, pro-terrorist lunatic -- like Jack Murtha.

Meanwhile, "On Wednesday, the pre-trial hearing will begin into the court martial of Flt Lt Malcolm Kendall-Smith, a Royal Air Force doctor who has refused to return to Iraq for a third tour of duty on the grounds that the war is illegal." (Telegraph). And watch this space for more as the case develops. For background, see The Philosopher's Stone. Excerpt:

The flight lieutenant is no ordinary war protestor, and no shirker of combat - unlike, say, the pair of prissy cowards at the head of the Anglo-American "coalition." Kendall-Smith, who has dual New Zealand-British citizenship -- and dual university degrees in medicine and Kantian moral philosophy -- has served three tours at the front in Afghanistan and Iraq. He is not claiming any conscientious objections against war in general, nor do religious scruples play any part in his stance. It is based solely on the law.

Central to his case are the sinister backroom legal dealings between Washington and London in the last days before the invasion. Less than two weeks before the initial "Shock and Awe" bombings began slaughtering civilians across Iraq, Lord Goldsmith, the UK's attorney general, gave Prime Minister Tony Blair a detailed briefing full of doubts and equivocations about the legality of the coming war, adding that Britain's participation in an attack unsanctioned by the UN would "likely" lead to "close scrutiny" by the International Criminal Court for potential war crimes charges, the Observer reports.

But Blair and Goldsmith withheld this report from Parliament, the Cabinet and British military brass, who were demanding a clear-cut legal sanction for the impending action. Then, just three days before the bloodletting began, Goldsmith suddenly produced another paper, this time for public consumption: a brief, clear, unequivocal statement that the invasion would be legal. This statement was almost certainly crafted in Washington, where Goldsmith had recently been "tutored" by the Bush gang's consiglieres, including the legal advisers to Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice.

Leading this pack of war-baying legal beagles was George W. Bush's top counsel, Alberto Gonzales, who had overseen the White House's own efforts to weasel out of potential war crimes charges by declaring -- without any basis in Anglo-American jurisprudence or the U.S. Constitution -- that Bush was not bound by any law whatsoever in any military action he undertook: a blank check for aggression, murder and torture that Bush has gleefully cashed over and over. Alberto and the boys leaned hard on Goldsmith, who finally caved in and replicated the Americans' contorted and specious legal arguments for launching the attack.

Of course, Kendall-Smith knew none of this during his first two tours in Iraq: Goldsmith's Bush-induced backflip was only divulged in April 2005. Nor did he know then of the "Downing Street Memos," the "smoking gun" minutes that record Blair's inner circle dutifully lining up behind Bush's hellbent drive for war - as far back as 2002 - and their conspiracy with the Bush gang to manipulate their countries into war. The memos -- which emerged in May 2005 and have never been denied or repudiated by the UK government -- show Blair's slavish acquiescence in Bush's criminal scheme to "fix the facts and the intelligence around the policy" of unprovoked military aggression. Confronted with this newly revealed evidence -- and the revelations about the mountain of doubts and caveats expressed by American intelligence before the invasion but deliberately ignored by the Bushist war party -- Kendall-Smith took the only honorable course for a soldier who has been duped into serving an evil cause.

Comment on this Article

How Do We Fix the Mess In Iraq?

By Karen Kwiatkowski

This is an interesting question, and many people in and out of the American government are asking it.

In October of last year, Army General William Odom said "The invasion of Iraq was the "greatest strategic disaster in United States history." He said the invasion had alienated America's Middle East allies, making it harder to prosecute a war against terrorists."

Vietnam veteran John Murtha said last month: "we're not only not winning, we're spreading hatred towards the United States. Eighty percent of the people in Iraq want us out of there. Forty-seven percent of the people in Iraq say it's justified to kill Americans. Eighty percent of the people in the periphery of Iraq say that we'll be better off. Once we get out of there, it will be more stable in Iraq. "
Mother Jones Magazine ran a piece this week by James K. Gailbraith, economics professor at University of Texas, Austin's LBJ School of Public Affairs. Gailbraith's article is entitled "Withdrawal Symptoms: Quitting Iraq won't undo the real damage of the war." He details what is wrong in Iraq, and says: "But the reality is that the Iraq war could not be won by a force of any size or by an expenditure of any amount. Against determined opposition, occupations in the modern world cannot prevail."

Recent words of a modern conservative godfather, William F. Buckley, Jr., echo those of Odom, Murtha and Gailbraith. Buckley is receiving a lot of flak from the neoconservative movement he helped produce. Entitled simply: "It Didn't Work." Buckley boldly condemns American policy in Iraq. By "it," didn't work, he means the American "objective" was not achieved. Buckley writes:

"Our mission has failed because Iraqi animosities have proved uncontainable by an invading army of 130,000 Americans. The great human reserves that call for civil life haven't proved strong enough. No doubt they are latently there, but they have not been able to contend against the ice men who move about in the shadows with bombs and grenades and pistols."

Three of these men, and thousands of other men and women who have closely observed American foreign policy in the Cold War and post Cold War Era, are exactly on target. The occupation had an agenda of sorts, although this administration has been less than open about that agenda. In the future, whole books will be dedicated to trying to figure out the real reason that we invaded and attempted to occupy Iraq. Perhaps Rumsfeld, Cheney or even George W. Bush will grace us with a memoir.

The agenda seems – and I emphasize "seems" because we cannot truly know at this time – seems to have been to forcibly transform an oil rich country that was a socialist dictatorship – with Saddam Hussein playing a hostile Marshal Tito – into a kind of Israeli-modeled proportional parliamentary system; into an unarmed country filled with religious and ethnic tolerance; into a capitalistic country with a globally integrated economy; into a country that would reliably sell their massive quantities of petroleum for dollars, and not euros, nor gold, nor any other currency, but dollars; and into a country that would sell that oil freely to people we liked.

We flew the flag of democracy from our tank turrets, HUMVEE antennas, and our rifles in order to achieve the neo-conservative vision for this other country.

This agenda has not been completely implemented. There is a proportional parliamentary system in place, but it isn't tested, seems contrived, unpopular, and not able to ensure minority rights to the satisfaction all Iraqis. Iraq is a capitalistic country, but only in the sense that another capitalist country now manages and controls its primary export commodity and its banking system. Its economy is globally integrated, but only because the formerly state-owned industrial base has been sold to friendly international bidders who were part of the U.S. "coalition of the willing." Oil is now again traded on the dollar, as this change occurred via an Executive Order signed by George W. Bush in May 2003; however, less oil is being produced today than under the heavily sanctioned former government of Iraq.

The flag of democracy we waved to the Iraqi people from the turrets and tanks is now tattered.

Of course, the cynics among us may believe that what we have today in Iraq is exactly what we, or at least Washington neoconservatives, really wanted. Cynics suggest that our real agenda was simply to destroy the industrialized, unified, and proud country of Iraq, and create a kind of long-lasting chaos and societal breakdown that would serve our own purposes in the region, including the construction of massive Guantanamo-style fortresses we call megabases.

While General Odom, John Gailbraith, and John Murtha are correct about Iraq, William F. Buckley, Jr. is off base in his assessment of the situation. Of course, Bill Buckley understands that we must now admit defeat in Iraq. He concluded on February 24th of this year that, " … different plans have to be made. And the kernel here is the acknowledgment of defeat."

But Buckley gets it wrong in why we have been defeated. He believes we have lost against "killer insurgents" in Iraq and something he calls "the ice men who move about in the shadows with bombs and grenades and pistols."

Well, people, I have some good news and I have some bad news.

The good news is that the more intelligent and reasonable on the left, the right, the down low and the on high, and every other part of the political spectrum, are all reaching the same conclusion. Iraq is a mess, we have made it a mess, and we ought to do something. Most advocate a withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. Strangely, no one in government, media or academia wants to talk about our multi-billion dollar megabases, and what we should do with them. I can only imagine.

More good news is that the majority of Americans – we the people – are beginning to accept our own culpability for the Iraq mess. There is a growing sense of American responsibility for what our politicians, specifically our President, Vice President and our Congress have done not only to Iraq, but to our own American credibility, financial solvency, and to our preferred image of ourselves as the most law-abiding and simultaneously the most free country on earth.

Of course, a small minority of neo-conservatives in both major political parties are the ones who dreamed, designed, promoted, advocated and implemented this disastrous foreign policy in the Middle East. But it was our political system that allowed this neoconservative concoction to be sold to American citizens and to the world without warranty, without a list of active ingredients, and without a warning that dangerous side-effects were not only possible but very likely.

That political system, with a willing state media to communicate Washington's desires for this "drug," is still intact. It is being used today with great effectiveness to advocate American and Israeli military attacks on Iran. But we as a nation are now recognizing the problem, and are beginning to assign responsibility in all of the right places, not just a few of them. This is a good sign, and it is happening now.

Lastly, good news can be found in the real performance of the Iraqis themselves under our devastating occupation. We hear of imminent or ongoing civil war, we hear of ethnic and religious intolerance. We see the incredible efforts that real (versus American-appointed and American-recommended) Iraqi leaders have made to de-escalate passions in the face of recent violence and desecration of mosques by unknown persons. In the eyes of many Iraqis, violence of this type is probably the work of persons not of Iraqi origin, outsiders intent on stirring up sectarian strife.

25 million Iraqis, with all of their problems, have come to realize to a person, that overbearing, over-centralized, militaristic government fails. Such governments extract resources and waste them. Such governments constantly engage in organized war. Such governments lie. Such governments torture. Such governments deceive. Iraqis knew this well under Saddam Hussein, as subjects of dictatorships always understand. Iraqis understand this even more completely today, as they are subject to exactly the same thing under the American-dominated and enforced administration of Iraq today.

During the Cold War, Russians and other subjects of the Supreme Soviet understood the corruption of communism, decades before the final collapse of the Soviet Union. When we read Solzhenitsyn from the late 1960s and early 1970s, we understood that Russians already knew more about their own political flaws and problems, and had already considered and debated challenges of living and society and government more deeply than we ever could or would.

The Iraqi people have witnessed – and many have survived – the American occupation. They have seen incredible destruction of institutions and infrastructure. They have witnessed corruption beyond any they tolerated under Hussein, and watched as the United States built even more prisons in order to incarcerate ever-increasing numbers of Iraqis.

But there is indeed good news. The good news is that the Iraqis today have no remaining illusions about government. They increasingly cling together along the lines of things that truly matter – family, tradition, religion, and faith – and as one of the more educated and liberal of the Arab states in the 1980s and 1990s, they are privately generating many concrete and positive ideas on how to make their country great again. If only we would get out of the way and let them do it.

Leaving Iraq is indeed the first step, and for us, little else needs to be done, to fix that mess. Colin Powell and others often publicly invoke the so-called Pottery Barn rule, saying "We broke it, we buy it." The absolute arrogance of this faulty analogy should offend all Americans, as it surely must offend the Iraqis.

Do we really believe that we can break a people who have withstood occupations in any number of centuries in just a few years with a few hundred thousand American soldiers and Marines? Do we actually believe that Iraqis were broken by the years of sanctions and daily bombings by the US and UK that characterized the George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton regimes in Washington? Do we think that the destruction of Saddam's Republican Guard and hundreds of thousands of draftees and civilians in 1991 broke the Iraqis? Was Iraq destroyed by eight years of Saddam Hussein's insane war against Iran, a country three times its size and with far more resources? Do we actually think that our killing of over 300,000 Iraqis since 2003 – whether on purpose or as nameless, faceless collateral damage – has destroyed the country?

American political leaders – particularly those Republicans and Democrats who tentatively oppose the American occupation in Iraq – whimper under their breath about having to stay there because we "broke the country." These politicians are almost more arrogant and uninformed than the neo-conservatives who had planned to do precisely that.

Allow me to offer you a new analogy. It is one that every American can understand, including our congressional representatives. It is an analogy that applies well to Iraq today. When the supermarket announcement is made for "Cleanup in Aisle 3," do we not make every effort to contain our errant children and get them away from the mess, so that those truly responsible for the store's operation can do their job, a job they want to do, and which they are best qualified to do?

Naturally, the store owner would prefer that his property not be damaged and destroyed. Naturally the store owner would prefer that safety, sanitation and other customers not be put at risk. But the mother or father who unleashes her newly penitent, and perhaps chastened crowd of 3-year old ankle biters on the spilled applesauce in Aisle 3 will certainly be told by the store owners and employees, firm and confidently, "Indeed, your help here is not necessary. Thanks, but we'll take care of this ourselves."

George W. Bush has said that the best thing we can do in fighting his global war is to go shopping. The shopping experience we need to apply in Iraq today is not the Pottery Barn rule, but the more humble "Cleanup in Aisle 3" rule. And deep down, the vast majority of Americans already know this.

Now for the bad news.

Bill Buckley wrongly believes we failed in Iraq because "the ice men who move in shadows" in Iraq have defeated our glorious occupiers. Instead, we failed strategically because the ice men who move in shadows in Washington do not respect the rule of law or our own Constitution. The ice men in Washington do not understand real freedom and from whence it comes, and apparently, they slept through every history class they ever took. Buckley is a bit confused on this point. The ice men are not in Iraq. But they do exist and they are indeed the cause of this extreme and tragic failure of American foreign policy.

Leaving Iraq does nothing to solve the primary problem that plagues our national policy and financial stability. The ice men remain, and will remain, in Washington. The system that allows boutique wars of choice to be pursued at the whim of the President and his advisors is still in place. The government media system that manufactures lies, reports those lies to the people, and then charges truthtellers with being traitors and terrorists, is still in place in America. It is hard to believe, but this system is even more robust than it was three years ago.

Both the grassroots and the ivory tower embrace the idea that elections are useful and something called "voting" matters. Many naïvely expected that, once Iraqis voted and raised the purple finger, American troops would come home, having accomplished at least that small afterthought of the American agenda in Iraq.

But any dictator can have elections. Saddam held regular elections, as did the Soviets, as do we. Paper ballots or electronic signaling of our preferences may not, in the end, really matter.

But the image of Iraqis with purple index fingers raised does suggest a partial, yet intriguing, remedy to our own situation here at home.

We, the people, desperately need to raise more fingers in defiance of our pencil-necked, jack-booted government. My personal preference – and apparently that of George W. Bush – is the middle finger salute. But the index finger, when associated with "Just a minute, buster!" and "What are you doing to us, Congressman?" also works. We, the people, also need to give healthy thumbs-down to politicians corrupted by lobbies or love of power, and those who suffer chronic and willful ignorance of our Constitution.

How does giving the finger to our own government help fix Iraq? As anyone who watches Oprah or Dr. Phil, or even Judge Judy knows, when you have a troubled relationship with a significant other, you can't just fix the "other." All you can really do is be honestly aware of what you have become, and then listen and learn the truth about your partner's situation (and here's a great starting point). Finally, no matter what solutions present themselves, we understand that the only future we own, the only destiny we control, and the only change we can truly accomplish is our own.

We cannot "fix" Iraq. The Iraqis surely can, and the sooner they are able to get started, the better. We might lead by example, illustrating to the Iranian clerics, and the Turkish nationalists, and the Israeli adventurers that it is polite and proper to give a partner some space, to let them find their own way.

We might, as we have done in other emergency situations, offered favored nation trade benefits, use our soft power in the world to discourage our allies, like Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, from taking material advantage of Iraq during its necessary recovery. We might use our soft power and other influence to encourage our adversaries, like Iran, to focus on making its own country a good neighbor, and not seek to destabilize Iraq.

However – we must accept that any advice we have for the rest of the world is fundamentally discredited, as our own behavior in Iraq has, just as in the game of Monopoly, sent us to jail, and this time, we do not have a "get out of jail free" card. We will have to sit out the next round.

In addition to withdrawing our military troops, abandoning our military bases in Iraq, and our prisons, we might put some of our free trade rhetoric into practice. We should immediately and completely return the financial, energy and service sectors to local Iraqis, even to Iraqi regions and Iraqi municipalities. We insist upon ensuring a federal state, but we have no trusted strong man to manage it for us. As Sir Walter Scott wrote, "…Oh the tangled webs we weave, when we first practice to deceive." Or, if this is more understandable to the neoconservatives, the Rolling Stones used to sing, "You can't always get what you want, but you might just get what you need."

Perhaps – and I know this sounds like crazy talk – someday we might buy Iraqi oil, without constraints and conditions, just because they might someday produce it and we might someday want to use it, at a non-coerced, mutually agreed upon free market price?

If Oprah or Dr. Phil, or even Dr. Laura or Dr. Ruth were to make a recommendation on how to fix Iraq, the advice would be to start by fixing ourselves. Perhaps instead of "fix," they might use the word "heal" or "improve." Stop overt aggression in our actions and our language, cut out the holier-than-thou platitudes, they would say. Don't pick fights, start listening, stop labeling, refrain from theft and don't tell lies about what is really going on.

This advice, if taken, would clear out most of our current members of Congress, before or during the next election. It would put right-wing administration-apologist talk radio and TV completely out of business, and it would crush the emerging left-wing critics who want more government power in order to "fix" someone else. Imagine an America where centralized controls, fear-mongering government spokesmen, and mass-produced White House talking points are rare and unusual. Imagine a Congress that takes its Constitutional role seriously, and can distinguish between real and imaginary national security threats. Imagine political leaders who carefully moderate the coarser public tendencies, instead of exploiting and intensifying them.

Fix Iraq? We cannot do it, we should not do it, and we must not insist upon trying to do it. It's not our job, and we have no right. Sadly, it's not even our responsibility. Americans were told nothing but lies before the invasion of Iraq, and still can't get the truth out of the White House about this never-ending occupation. Neoconservative politicos can't even agree on why they wanted the war, and now they're dropping from the team like day-old houseflies over theoretical arguments and occupation reality.

Americans have only a single solemn responsibility – to end it.

In any case, Iraqis won't be fooled again. We ought to recognize this as an admirable quality, and adopt it ourselves. Instead of fixing Iraq, we ought to focus on fixing our own country.

God bless this country, and God bless our founders, who understood we would be faced with real governing challenges in the years that would follow. The founders fully expected that our government would not be completely guided nor constrained by the Constitution. They fully expected that our government would become corrupted, arbitrary, militaristic and unaccountable to the people.

Ben Franklin famously warned moments after signing the constitution when asked by a lady on the street "What have you given us, sir?" He answered, "A Republic, if you can keep it."

I want to close with comments made this week by Antiwar.com's editor, Justin Raimondo. He was referring to Iraq, and drums in Washington pounding ever more loudly for war with Iran. Raimondo says:

…One intervention leads us, ineluctably, to another, and – in the case of war with Iran – to far greater and more destructive conflict.

This is why the cautious proposals of a gradual drawdown proposed by some ostensibly pragmatic critics of the war are, in the end, eminently impractical. The accelerated tempo of the developing conflict will soon outpace such half-measures.

He goes on, saying,

Only a massive rebellion by the American people – an outpouring of militant antiwar sentiment – can stop the War Party.

Fixing Iraq is actually far easier for us than recovering our own innocence. But I believe that if we remember that we ARE the people, and that we only suffer the government that we ourselves consent to suffer, we can indeed fix the mess we have made, and certainly prevent future such disasters in our foreign policy. At least, I hope so.

Karen Kwiatkowski, Ph.D. [send her mail], a retired USAF lieutenant colonel, has written on defense issues with a libertarian perspective for militaryweek.com, hosts the call-in radio show American Forum on Saturday nights, and blogs occasionally for Huffingtonpost.com.

Copyright © 2006 LewRockwell.com

Comment on this Article

Electricity Hits Three-Year Low in Iraq

Tuesday March 14, 2006
Associated Press Writers

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Electricity output has dipped to its lowest point in three years in Iraq, where the desert sun is rising toward another broiling summer and U.S. engineers are winding down their rebuilding of the crippled power grid.

The Iraqis, in fact, may have to turn to neighboring Iran to help bail them out of their energy crisis - if not this summer, then in years to come.

The overstressed network is producing less than half the electricity needed to meet Iraq's exploding demand. American experts are working hard to shore up the system's weaknesses as 100-degree-plus temperatures approach beginning as early as May, driving up usage of air conditioning, electric fans and refrigeration.
If the summer is unusually hot, however, ``all bets are off,'' said Lt. Col. Otto Busher, an engineer with the U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division.

``We're living miserably,'' said housewife Su'ad Hassan, a mother of four and one of millions in Baghdad who have endured three years of mostly powerless days under U.S. occupation. Her family usually goes without hot water and machine washing, she said, and ``often my children have to do their homework in the dim light of oil lamps.''

Despite such hardships, Army Corps of Engineers officers regard their Restore Iraq Electricity project as one of the great feats in corps history, along with the building of the Panama Canal a century ago.

Their efforts and related programs, at a three-year cost of more than $4 billion and tens of thousands of man-hours, built or rehabilitated electric-generating capacity totaling just over 2,000 megawatts - equaling the output of America's Hoover Dam.

``It's not a disappointment, not in my opinion. We've added megawatts to the grid,'' said Kathye Johnson, reconstruction chief for the joint U.S. military-civilian project office in Baghdad.

For one thing, deprived areas outside the Iraqi capital are doing better, with a nationwide average of 10 to 11 hours of electricity daily, compared with three to five hours in Baghdad. That represents a reshuffling of priorities from prewar days, when the Baathist government diverted flows from northern and southern power plants to this central metropolis.

Although the U.S. effort helped boost Iraq's potential generating capacity to more than 7,000 megawatts, available capacity has never topped 5,400, held down by plant breakdowns and shutdowns for maintenance, fuel shortages and transmission disruptions caused by insurgent attacks, inefficient production, sabotage by extortionists, and other factors.

In the first week of February, a busy maintenance period, output dropped to 3,750 megawatts, reports the joint U.S. agency, the Gulf Region Division-Project Contracting Office. That's a new low since the period immediately after the 2003 U.S. invasion.

Now the U.S. reconstruction money is running out, the last generating project is undergoing startup testing in southern Iraq, and the Americans view 2006 as a year of transition to full Iraqi responsibility, aided by a U.S. budget for ``sustainability,'' including training and advisory services.

Even that long-term support may fall short, however. The reconstruction agency allotted $460 million for this purpose, but in a report to Congress on Jan. 30 the special inspector-general for Iraq reconstruction estimated $720 million would be needed.

The decline of Iraq's electrical system can be traced back at least to the 1991 Gulf War, when U.S. warplanes targeted the grid. The government rebuilt the system to produce 4,400 megawatts, still short of demand. But damage from the 2003 invasion - and particularly from looting that followed - knocked production down to 3,200 megawatts and wrecked transmission lines.

The Army engineers who rolled into Iraq in 2003 found power plants barely operating, lacking spare parts and suffering from years of neglect brought on by U.N. trade sanctions. They brought in contractors to upgrade installations, but the looting and sabotage went on. Insurgents attacked fuel pipelines. Other Iraqis toppled transmission towers to keep power in their own cities and away from Baghdad.

To battle the insurgency, U.S. authorities shifted more than $1 billion from power projects to security spending. Having planned to add or rehabilitate 3,400 megawatts' worth of power production, they settled instead for 2,000. The lack of security also slowed work: Fewer than half the 350 local power-distribution projects planned by the Americans had begun as of early this year, the inspector-general reported Jan. 30.

``It's problems, rather than mistakes,'' said Mohamoud al-Saadi, an Iraqi Electricity Ministry official, citing the sabotage and insurgency.

But some believe the Americans also made a critical mistake by installing gas-turbine generators rather than building or overhauling more of the oil-fueled, steam-run plants.

Iraq doesn't have pipelines to deliver natural gas from its oil fields, so plant operators resort to low-grade oil to run the gas-combustion engines, reducing power output by up to 50 percent and potentially damaging the machinery.

``Turbines don't run well on that, and that forces us into a maintenance cycle,'' said Tom Waters, deputy director for electricity in the U.S. reconstruction office.

Meanwhile, demand kept rising as Iraqis bought imported air conditioners, washer-driers, DVD players and other power-hungry appliances. To help fill the gap, households or neighborhood groups are buying diesel-run generators, stringing dangerous makeshift wiring around their homes.

Demand, almost 9,000 megawatts last summer, is expected to rise sharply this year, and the Army engineers responsible for Baghdad are worried.

``We're about 4,000 megawatts in the hole nationwide to meet our needs,'' Maj. Al Moff, 4th Infantry Division electricity specialist, noted at a recent internal briefing for division officers.

He said the system risked losing 300 megawatts more in hydroelectric power because the Tigris River was running extremely low. But a recent agreement by Turkey to release more upriver water appears to have lifted that threat.

One solution could be power from Iran: one Iraqi proposal is for a transmission line to import much more than the 100 megawatts of Iranian power Iraq now buys.

The U.S. Embassy won't talk about it, in view of Washington's animosity toward Tehran over its nuclear ambitions. But the reconstruction office's Waters said one of the U.S.-financed Iraqi substations under construction could handle more Iranian power.

``Completing an Iran transmission line could give them up to 1,500 megawatts,'' said Army engineer Moff.

The Iranian Embassy says Tehran has earmarked $1 billion in loans for Iraqi infrastructure, mostly for electrical power, the Iranian news agency reports.

Even if a major Iran linkup is built, however, other projects may stay in the blueprint stage unless more aid is forthcoming from Washington or other donors.

``We have a lot of unfinished projects because of a lack of government funding,'' said the Electricity Ministry's al-Saadi.

Reconstruction chief Johnson agrees with Iraq's five-year cost estimate. ``It's probably in the range of $16 to $20 billion to complete the infrastructure to provide 24/7 sustainable power to all the citizens of Iraq,'' she said.

In the long term, Johnson said, it's essential for Iraq to open its power industry to private investment. That would mean making it profitable by following the advice of the World Bank and others to raise rates; Iraqis now pay 50 cents to a dollar a month.

Can people afford more?

Hassan's family already cannot afford fuel for its small generator. ``Most of the time we can't use it,'' the Baghdad housewife said.

Whether she and others can afford higher rates, a classic ``chicken and egg'' problem confronts energy-short Iraq, said Moff.

``Before you can raise rates,'' he pointed out, ``you have to have power.''

Comment: Ah yes, "Freedom and Democracy", don't ya just love it?!

Comment on this Article

Decadent Elite Laugh At Torture During Gridiron Club Dinner - Russert dresses in drag, sings 'rendition' song

Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet.com
March 14 2006

The mainstream press is having a hearty chuckle about the capers and the chicanery witnessed at the annual Gridiron Club dinner, a get-together of media and government elites. The highlight was an "amusing" rendition of a torture song by a dragged-up Tim Russert.

I for one don't find it funny that a bunch of war criminals and their sycophantic collaborators are cackling and patting each other on the back about the 'hilarious shortcomings' of the administration.

Ahhh isn't Cheney cute for shooting a man in the face? Isn't it rollicking that those kids got raped and those Abu Ghraib prisoners were tortured to death?
Even the CIA controlled Washington Post had to admit it went too far.

"Tim Russert, making his first appearance as a new member, decked out in a blue dress and a shiny blond wig as one of the cable news bunnies. But there were also some true clunkers. Singing about torture, subbing "rendition" for "tradition" and borrowing the "Fiddler on the Roof" song was not funny at all. The chumminess of the politicos and the press corps can be cloying."

You would think these power whores would learn to act with a modicum of decorum, especially after last time's fiasco, when Bush caused worldwide anger by making a comedy routine about Iraq's missing WMD, an 'intelligence mistake' (or lie to rational thinking people) that has already cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and over 2,000 US troops.

George W. is so arrogant he even finds it funny that the people he supposedly represents support him in dwindling numbers.

"By the way, when Dick first heard my approval rating was 38 percent, he said, 'What's your secret?'," joked Bush.

Russert's womanly ways will come as no surprise for those in the know about Bohemian Grove, where the elite have a penchant for performing entire plays in drag, propositioning men for sexual favors and hiring homosexual porn stars to "service their needs." Why do you think former gay porn Internet prostitute turned reporter Jeff Gannon was given access to White House press briefings and Bush conferences without even being given a standard security clearance?

The elite are a sick and decadent bunch and once the alcohol flows and their comments are veiled by a 'jokey atmosphere' - the true depravity of their motivations becomes awfully clear.

Comment on this Article

Republican contenders agree: Let's cut spending - Starting With Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security - So We Can Buy More Bombs

By Adam Nagourney
The New York Times
MARCH 13, 2006

MEMPHIS, Tennessee As prospective Republican presidential candidates search for themes to distinguish their prospective campaigns, and distance themselves from the embattled incumbent in the White House, they appear to be in agreement on one central issue for 2008: Curbing the U.S. government spending that has soared under President George W. Bush.

For two days before an audience of Southern Republicans here, the party's potential candidates for 2008 called for cutting or slowing government spending across the board and retooling bedrock entitlement programs - Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security - that have become a drain on the Treasury.
They called for a presidential line- item veto and a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution. And with varying nuance, they attacked earmarking, the budget tactic some members of Congress use to channel money to favorite projects, outside the scrutiny of the normal budget process.

"Yes, these last five years, we've been hit with unexpected challenges: a recession, 9/11, homeland security, the war on terror, Katrina," said Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee, the majority leader, a likely candidate for 2008. "But they're not justification for a one-way ticket down a wayward path of wasteful Washington spending."

Senator John McCain of Arizona, another likely candidate, declared: "We need to pass a line-item veto. But we also should have the willpower to stop this. We have to stop this."

These attacks on the size of government, and the barely implicit criticisms of how Bush watched the books these past six years, are a direct appeal to fiscal conservatives who have long been distressed about the growth of spending under Bush and who are central to the party's presidential nominating process.

But the issue, if politically potent and revealing of what kind of policies these men might pursue in the White House, is not without risks, particularly for the four U.S. senators who are thinking of running.

Unlike the two soon-to-be former governors who are considering a run for president, these four senators face real-life tests of their commitment to attacking government spending, and, in the case of Frist, the ability to deliver a budget resolution that is acceptable to conservatives.

Not surprisingly, none of the potential candidates who talked about cutting spending to 2,000 Republicans at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference here offered much idea about what actually could be cut.

But back in Washington, where a new budget season has arrived, these senators are likely to find themselves voting on spending restraints in the months ahead that, if popular to this audience, may be politically problematic with a wider audience. Conservatives are pushing, for example, a budget proposal that would produce $650 billion in savings during the next five years, with much of the money coming out of Medicare and Medicaid.

As it is, a budget resolution scheduled to come to the floor of the Senate this week has been stripped of cuts in Medicare that had been pressed by the White House, a reflection of the conclusion by congressional leaders that they could not get enough votes to pass such a bill.

Indeed, last year, in a sign of just how hard it is to make any kind of cuts in spending, Republicans turned to Vice President Dick Cheney to break a tie in the Senate to enact a net $39 billion in cuts.

Frist's choice of words in talking about this issue, in the midst of calling for cutting the size of government and reducing entitlement spending, was revealing: "No more hidden earmarks," he said.

The other complication is the White House itself. The likely presidential candidates left little doubt about what at least some of them saw as Bush's complicity in the spending increases that took place during the first six years of his term.

"Our discretionary spending - taking out Iraq and mandatory spending - grew 49 percent in four years," said Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, a likely presidential candidate.

But they are not alone in seeing political benefit in returning to the spending issue.

A Republican close to the White House, who insisted on anonymity in exchange for talking about private discussions, said Bush's own menu of spending restraints, along with his call for Congress to pass a line-item veto, reflects in part a political decision to embrace this issue to steady his presidency, and to build his standing with the party's conservative base.

Bush's emphasis on the issue may also reflect an effort by the White House to help congressional Republicans. Some of them fear that the party's base, which is upset over the growth of government even with Republicans in control of the White House and Congress, may fail to turn out in sufficient numbers to counter an energized Democratic Party this November.

Comment on this Article

The U.S. has run amok; former CIA analyst

UPI Correspondent
9 Mar 06

WASHINGTON, March 9 (UPI) -- Corruption has run amok in intelligence circles and the president should be impeached, a former CIA analyst says.

Also, he said, the United States is undergoing a constitutional crisis.

"I do not wish to be associated, however remotely, with an agency engaged in torture," wrote Ray McGovern in a recent letter as he returned his Intelligence Commendation Award medallion to Congressman Pete Hoekstra, R-MI, and Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
At the time, McGovern was wearing an orange jump suit, similar to those worn at Guantanamo Bay, with a gag over his mouth on which was written the word, "torture." Along with 15 other individuals, dressed alike, he wandered the halls of Congress.

"It was simply a slow, dead man walking kind of thing," said McGovern, who said the reaction he received was interesting. "I had expected turbulence, the worst I experienced was people averting their eyes and the most common reaction was people looking at me, silence," he said.

He described the experience as having "a certain somberness and reverence."

There were more volunteers wanting to take part, he said, but "not enough jump suits."

A 27-year veteran of the CIA, spanning administrations from John F. Kennedy to George Herbert Walker Bush, the current president's father, McGovern has taken, in recent years, a vocal stand on several aspects of the current Bush administration's handling of the war in Iraq and ensuing events.

Returning his medal for "especially commendable service" took a lot of thought. "I had been thinking of ways I could disassociate myself from torture," he said, describing it as a response for his grandchildren who, he said, would ask him what role he played in current events.

"Pete Hoekstra was one of the few people in our government who would be able to stop this," said McGovern. But neither has he seen any action from Hoekstra in attempt to stop torture of prisoners at American hands, nor has he received any response from the return of his medal yet, he said.

"In my view, this is an order of magnitude different from my experiences in the past -- there has been torture before, but never before has it been ordered and openly 'justified'," he said.

Recent months have seen CIA Director Porter Goss and Vice President Dick Cheney unsuccessfully try to prevent Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. from his successful initiative to ensure there were legal restraints on torture.

Attorney General "Alberto Gonzalez in London was unwilling to say whether dogs were used in torture," said McGovern. "Even thought torture has always been conducted separosa, there should be a debate in this city," he said.

During his time at the CIA, McGovern at one point was responsible for daily briefings to the first President Bush. After retiring in 1990; he said he received a "wonderful letter from Bush, Sr. We do stay in touch periodically," but would not comment on the former president's opinions on McGovern's current activities.

Today, he spends his time writing and speaking around the world and abroad, mostly about the Iraq war, "trying to spread a little truth around," he said.

The alleged corruption of intelligence strikes a heavy chord with McGovern. The war in Iraq started, he said, because former CIA director George Tenet, was given no choice but to state the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

"Back in my day, I like to think we would have got up and walked out," if asked to force intelligence, he said. "Cooking intelligence is a cardinal sin in the intelligence world."

In a chapter in the new book, "Neo-Conned Again!" -- a compilation of condemnations of the war in Iraq -- McGovern referred to the New Testament passage carved into the marble entrance at CIA headquarters. "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

"This was the ethos of the intelligence analysis directorate during most of the 27 years I spent there," McGovern wrote.

"As outraged as we are by the politicization, some say prostitution, of intelligence procedures, we are upset by the undermining of the Constitution," he said, speaking for the anti-war group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, of which he is a founder.

Currently the group has 54 members who are former and some current intelligence professionals from all branches of the government. VIPS started in 2003 with five members -- all former agency analysts.

"If you're going to have an intelligence apparatus that tells the president what he wants to hear, you might as well just abolish the whole thing," and let the State Department run intelligence operations, said McGovern. The point of the CIA was to be accountable, he said. "We're supposed to tell the truth."

VIPS focuses on putting out memos to critique and comment official actions regarding controversial subjects related to the War on Terror. "People can and do come to us for the straight answers," McGovern said.

"When I speak frankly about the real reasons why we went into Iraq," he said, "I use the acronym OIL - Oil, Israel, Logistical bases." In recent months, the debate has turned to Iran.

McGovern refers to a former colleague at the CIA -- Paul Pillar, recently retired and now able to voice his perspectives on current situations.

McGovern quoted Pillar's words from a talk given at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington Tuesday, "It is important to bear in mind that we don't know if Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon."

His point, he said, was that one must not only analyze the historical facts that would lead to such a conclusion, but also provide hard evidence -- not corrupted evidence. He said he believed that, if not prevented now, another war will start in the next month or two.

"The American people need to wake up now, the evidence is all there," he said. "Our president and vice president have started a war of aggression defined by Nuremberg as a supreme international crime."

Describing members of Congress as tools of the White House, McGovern expressed a need for the people to take a different way. "Together with torture and clearly illegal wiretapping, we need to look for ways to stop all these crimes and indignities," he said.

McGovern also discussed the constitutional provision of impeachment. "I think impeachment proceedings should begin" against President Bush, he said.

© Copyright 2006 United Press International, Inc.

Comment on this Article

Flashback: How the Central Intelligence Agency Played Dirty Tricks With Our Culture

By Laurence Zuckerman
New York Times
18 Mar 02

Many people remember reading George Orwell's "Animal Farm" in high school or college, with its chilling finale in which the farm animals looked back and forth at the tyrannical pigs and the exploitative human farmers but found it "impossible to say which was which."

That ending was altered in the 1955 animated version, which removed the humans, leaving only the nasty pigs. Another example of Hollywood butchering great literature? Yes, but in this case the film's secret producer was the Central Intelligence Agency.
The C.I.A., it seems, was worried that the public might be too influenced by Orwell's pox-on-both-their-houses critique of the capitalist humans and Communist pigs. So after his death in 1950, agents were dispatched (by none other than E. Howard Hunt, later of Watergate fame) to buy the film rights to "Animal Farm" from his widow to make its message more overtly anti-Communist.

Rewriting the end of "Animal Farm" is just one example of the often absurd lengths to which the C.I.A. went, as recounted in a new book, "The Cultural Cold War: The C.I.A. and the World of Arts and Letters" (The New Press) by Frances Stonor Saunders, a British journalist. Published in Britain last summer, the book will appear here next month.

Much of what Ms. Stonor Saunders writes about, including the C.I.A.'s covert sponsorship of the Paris-based Congress for Cultural Freedom and the British opinion magazine Encounter, was exposed in the late 1960's, generating a wave of indignation. But by combing through archives and unpublished manuscripts and interviewing several of the principal actors, Ms. Stonor Saunders has uncovered many new details and gives the most comprehensive account yet of the agency's activities between 1947 and 1967.

This picture of the C.I.A.'s secret war of ideas has cameo appearances by scores of intellectual celebrities like the critics Dwight Macdonald and Lionel Trilling, the poets Ted Hughes and Derek Walcott and the novelists James Michener and Mary McCarthy, all of whom directly or indirectly benefited from the C.I.A.'s largesse. There are also bundles of cash that were funneled through C.I.A. fronts and several hilarious schemes that resemble a "Spy vs. Spy" cartoon more than a serious defense against Communism.

Traveling first class all the way, the C.I.A. and its counterparts in other Western European nations sponsored art exhibitions, intellectual conferences, concerts and magazines to press their larger anti-Soviet agenda. Ms. Stonor Saunders provides ample evidence, for example, that the editors at Encounter and other agency-sponsored magazines were ordered not to publish articles directly critical of Washington's foreign policy. She also shows how the C.I.A. bankrolled some of the earliest exhibitions of Abstract Expressionist painting outside of the United States to counter the Socialist Realism being advanced by Moscow.

In one memorable episode, the British Foreign Office subsidized the distribution of 50,000 copies of "Darkness at Noon," Arthur Koestler's anti-Communist classic. But at the same time, the French Communist Party ordered its operatives to buy up every copy of the book. Koestler received a windfall in royalties courtesy of his Communist adversaries.

As it turns out, "Animal Farm" was not the only instance of the C.I.A.'s dabbling in Hollywood. Ms. Stonor Saunders reports that one operative who was a producer and talent agent slipped affluent-looking African-Americans into several films as extras to try to counter Soviet criticism of the American race problem.

The agency also changed the ending of the movie version of "1984," disregarding Orwell's specific instructions that the story not be altered. In the book, the protagonist, Winston Smith, is entirely defeated by the nightmarish totalitarian regime. In the very last line, Orwell writes of Winston, "He loved Big Brother." In the movie, Winston and his lover, Julia, are gunned down after Winston defiantly shouts: "Down with Big Brother!"

Such changes came from the agency's obsession with snuffing out a notion then popular among many European intellectuals: that East and West were morally equivalent. But instead of illustrating the differences between the two competing systems by taking the high road, the agency justified its covert activities by referring to the unethical tactics of the Soviets.

"If the other side can use ideas that are camouflaged as being local rather than Soviet-supported or -stimulated, then we ought to be able to use ideas camouflaged as local ideas," Tom Braden, who ran the C.I.A.'s covert cultural division in the early 1950's, explained years later. (In one of the book's many amusing codas, Mr. Braden goes on in the 1980's to become the leftist foil to Patrick Buchanan on the CNN program "Crossfire.")

The cultural cold war began in postwar Europe, with the fraying of the wartime alliance between Washington and Moscow. Officials in the West believed they had to counter Soviet propaganda and undermine the wide sympathy for Communism in France and Italy.

An odd alliance was struck between the C.I.A. leaders, most of them wealthy Ivy League veterans of the wartime Office of Strategic Services and a corps of largely Jewish ex-Communists who had broken with Moscow to become virulently anti-Communist. Acting as intermediaries between the agency and the intellectual community were three colorful agents who included Vladimir Nabokov's much less talented cousin, Nicholas, a composer.

The C.I.A. recognized from the beginning that it could not openly sponsor artists and intellectuals in Europe because there was so much anti-American feeling there. Instead, it decided to woo intellectuals out of the Soviet orbit by secretly promoting a non-Communist left of democratic socialists disillusioned with Moscow.

Ms. Stonor Saunders describes how the C.I.A. cleverly skimmed hundreds of millions of dollars from the Marshall Plan to finance its activities, funneling the money through fake philanthropies it created or real ones like the Ford Foundation.

"We couldn't spend it all," Gilbert Greenway, a former C.I.A. agent, recalled. "There were no limits, and nobody had to account for it. It was amazing."

When some of the C.I.A.'s activities were exposed in the late 1960's, many artists and intellectuals claimed ignorance. But Ms. Stonor Saunders makes a strong case that several people, including the philosopher Isaiah Berlin and the poet Stephen Spender, who was co-editor of Encounter, knew about the C.I.A.'s role.

"She has made it very difficult now to deny that some of these things happened," said Norman Birnbaum, a professor at the Georgetown University Law School who was a university professor in Europe in the 1950's and early 1960's. "And she has placed a lot of people living and dead in embarrassing situations."

Still unresolved is what impact the campaign had and whether it was worth it. Some of the participants, like Arthur M.

Schlesinger Jr., who was in the O.S.S. and knew about some of the C.I.A.'s cultural activities, argue that the agency's role was benign, even necessary. Compared with the coups the C.I.A. sponsored in Guatemala, Iran and elsewhere, he said, its support of the arts was some of its best work. "It enabled people to publish what they already believed," he added. "It didn't change anyone's course of action or thought."

But Diana Josselson, whose husband, Michael, ran the Congress for Cultural Freedom, told Ms. Stonor Saunders that there were real human costs among those around the world who innocently cooperated with the agency's front organizations only to be tarred with a C.I.A. affiliation when the truth came out. The author and other critics argue that by using government money covertly to promote such American ideals as democracy and freedom of expression, the agency ultimately stepped on its own message.

"Obviously it was an error, and a rather serious error, to allow intellectuals to be subsidized by the government," said Alan Brinkley, a history professor at Columbia University. "And when it was revealed, it did undermine their credibility seriously."

Copyright 2000 The New York Times Company

Comment on this Article

Flashback: Zbigniew Brzezinski How the US provoked the Soviet Union into invading Afghanistan

First Published: Le Nouvel Observateur (France), Jan 15-21, 1998, p. 76
Translated from the French by William Blum

Question: The former director of the CIA, Robert Gates, stated in his memoirs [From the Shadows], that American intelligence services began to aid the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan six months before the Soviet intervention. In this period you were the national security adviser to President Carter. You therefore played a role in this affair. Is that correct?

Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, closely guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And that very day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained to him that in my opinion this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.
Question: Despite this risk, you were an advocate of this covert action. But perhaps you yourself desired this Soviet entry into war and looked to provoke it?

Brzezinski: It isn't quite that. We didn't push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would.

Question: When the Soviets justified their intervention by asserting that they intended to fight against secret involvement of the United States in Afghanistan, people didn't believe them. However, there was a basis of truth. You don't regret anything today?

Brzezinski: Regret what? That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, in substance: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.

Question: And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic fundamentalists, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?

Brzezinski: What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?**

Question: Some stirred-up Moslems? But it has been said and repeated: Islamic fundamentalism represents a world menace today.

Brzezinski: Nonsense! It is said that the West had a global policy in regard to Islam. That is stupid. There isn't a global Islam. Look at Islam in a rational manner and without demagoguery or emotion. It is the leading religion of the world with 1.5 billion followers. But what is there in common among Saudi Arabian fundamentalism, moderate Morocco, Pakistan militarism, Egyptian pro-Western or Central Asian secularism? Nothing more than what unites the Christian countries.

* There are at least two editions of this magazine; with the perhaps sole exception of the Library of Congress, the version sent to the United States is shorter than the French version, and the Brzezinski interview was not included in the shorter version.** It should be noted that there is no demonstrable connection between the Afghanistan war and the breakup of the Soviet Union and its satellites.

This interview was translated from the French by William Blum, Author of "Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II" and "Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower". Portions of the books can be read at: http://members.aol.com/superogue/homepage.htm (with a link to Killing Hope)

Comment on this Article

Video: The Secret Government - Part I - Bill Moyers, documents U.S. support of terrorist regimes and the brutality of Americas foreign policy.

Hosted ad Information Clearing House

Must Watch.

Comment on this Article

Video: Harper's Magazine Panel on Case Bush Impeachment

Broadcast 03/02/06 C-Span

Harper's Magazine hosts a panel "Is There a Case for Impeachment?", discussing President Bush and his policies. Forum speakers include Lewis H. Lapham, Editor of Harper's Magazine; Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Ranking Member of U.S. House Judiciary Committee; and Michael Ratner, President of Center for Constitutional Rights.

Comment on this Article

U.S. terror hunt targets animal activists

Toronto Star
13 Mar 06

Kevin Kjonaas set up a website with details about businesses that use animals for research information, and now he and five other activists have been convicted of inciting terrorism "This is just the starting gun," says David Martosko, research director of the Center for Consumer Freedom, an organization funded by the U.S. restaurant industry and a fierce opponent of animal rights.

He says the government should move against more mainstream organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or the Humane Society of the United States, which he calls "the farm teams for the eco-terror problem."

Curiously, for a case with such serious implications, none of those convicted in Trenton is alleged to have carried out any of the substantive crimes laid out in the indictment - from property damage to intimidation.
TRENTON, N.J.-Kevin Kjonaas is an unlikely casualty of George W. Bush's war against terror.

No one, including the U.S. government attorneys who just finished prosecuting him for so-called animal enterprise terrorism, says that the 28-year-old Minnesota native killed anyone - or even hurt anyone.

He's never planted a bomb or sent anthrax through the mail.

The government doesn't claim Kjonaas damaged property - or knowingly provided material assistance to anyone who did.

"I've been an ass," Kjonaas acknowledged days before a Trenton jury found him guilty of inciting terrorism. "Some of the things I've done have been just rude, and I wouldn't do them again. But am I legally responsible (for the crimes the government accused him of)? No."

However, earlier this month, Kjonaas and five others ranging in age from 27 to 31 became the first people convicted under a 1992 U.S. law - significantly beefed up after 9/11 - that defines as terrorists those who damage firms involved in the animal business.

Along with another case in Oregon, this one involving radical environmentalists, the New Jersey trial marks a significant step forward in the Bush administration's decision to bring the war on terror home for use against those it views as its new domestic enemies.

"This is just the starting gun," says David Martosko, research director of the Center for Consumer Freedom, an organization funded by the U.S. restaurant industry and a fierce opponent of animal rights.

He says the government should move against more mainstream organizations like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals or the Humane Society of the United States, which he calls "the farm teams for the eco-terror problem."

Curiously, for a case with such serious implications, none of those convicted in Trenton is alleged to have carried out any of the substantive crimes laid out in the indictment - from property damage to intimidation.

Prosecutors didn't provide evidence they knew the perpetrators or had ever communicated directly with them. Rather, the six were convicted of running an Internet site that allowed others access to information that could be used in crimes.

They call themselves the SHAC Six, after the acronym of their animal rights group - Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty.

They could be called the Internet Six.

Animals arouse strong and contradictory passions. We fuss over pet dogs and weep when, as happened in Toronto recently, a police horse is hit by a car.

Yet we support laws that legalize, and in some cases require, the killing of animals.

In both the U.S. and Canada, federal laws demand that virtually all new pharmaceuticals be tested on animals.

The active ingredients of household products, such as cleansers or cosmetics, are also routinely tested on animals, although in Canada at least there are no statutory requirements.

Usually, the animals are killed afterwards so that autopsies can be performed.

It's a big business. George Goodno, spokesman for the Washington-based Foundation for Medical Research - an organization set up to promote the virtues of animal testing - estimates the U.S. industry alone is worth hundreds of millions of dollars. "One (genetically modified) mouse can cost $10,000," he says.

And that's just on the testing side. The animal business also includes farmers, slaughterhouses, restaurants, furriers and ranchers.

All of which helps to explain the Animal Enterprise Protection Act, an otherwise inexplicable U.S. law that singles out property crimes against businesses that use animals and treats them more seriously than similar offences against other organizations.

Passed in 1992, the law was initially viewed as one of those quirky American statutes that make for good politics but difficult jurisprudence.

But then two things happened.

First, radical animal rights protestors changed their tactics. No longer content to liberate animals held in labs and mink farms, they mounted sophisticated public campaigns against firms involved in animal testing.

To the alarm of the animal industry, some of these campaigns were successful.

The second was 9/11. After September 2001, anything labelled terrorism was anathema in America.

In mid-2002, under industry pressure, Congress quietly strengthened the animal enterprise protection act. Without formally changing its name, legislators also began to refer to it routinely as the "animal enterprise terrorism act."

In 2004, a senior FBI official told a congressional subcommittee that animal rights and environmental militants had become "the most active criminal extremist elements in the United States."

Like much of the militant animal rights movement, SHAC started in England. Founded in 1999, it was aimed at Britain's biggest animal research firm, Huntingdon Life Sciences.

A video aired on television that showed some Huntingdon employees deliberately abusing test animals gave the campaign particular piquancy. By 2001, protestors had driven the firm almost to bankruptcy.

Not all of the militants' tactics were peaceful. In one celebrated instance, two men beat Huntingdon's managing director with baseball bats.

While SHAC denounced the attack, this beating - as well as instances of threats, vandalism and firebombing - added a disturbing aura of thuggery to its protest.

Far more damaging to Huntingdon, however, were SHAC's successful attempts to persuade other companies not to do business with the firm. Tactics ranged from boycott threats to protests staged outside the homes of employees.

By 2001, after losing its major bank lender, its broker and many of its customers, Huntingdon fled across the Atlantic.

SHAC followed too.

Kjonaas, already an animal activist, had come across the SHAC campaign while visiting England. On returning home, he and a few others set up SHAC-USA Inc. which, like its English parent, was remarkably successful in convincing firms and financiers not to do business with Huntingdon.

The protestors' biggest coup occurred last year when, at the last minute and without explanation, the New York Stock Exchange refused to list Huntingdon on its big board.

"It's become almost impossible to trade our shares," Mike Caulfield, general manager of Huntingdon's U.S. operations told the Star.

At the Trenton trial, witnesses testified that SHAC-USA neither organized nor controlled the anti-Huntingdon demonstrations. Rather it acted as an information clearing house.

Details of anti-Huntingdon protests were usually e-mailed to SHAC-USA which would put them on its website. Similarly, home addresses for corporate officers and other employees of target companies would be posted. Gleaned from public sources such as annual reports and phone books, they would include a disclaimer saying SHAC-USA advocated only legal protest.

Still, there were problems.

A legal home protest might involve a vanload of demonstrators arriving outside an employee's residence to scream insults and pass out leaflets accusing the target of killing puppies.

In some cases, the strategy involved targeting people with only the most roundabout relationship to animal testing.

Amy Hessler, a patent agent for a company that did business with Huntingdon, testified that until her home was picketed she had never heard of the firm.

"I was scared for my life," she said. At times, demonstrators would pound on her door and shout obscenities or phone her anonymously to ask why she abused animals.

And that was the second big problem for SHAC. Regardless of its website disclaimer, some people - never identified - did engage in acts that were clearly illegal. Most notable was the bombing in 2003 of a California drug firm that did business with Huntingdon. While it caused no injuries, there was considerable property damage.

To the Trenton jury, other examples raised in court may have been even more disturbing.

Insurance executive Sally Dillenback testified she received an anonymous email asking how she'd feel if her 7-year-old son were treated like a Huntington lab animal and had his stomach slit open to be filled with poison.

Eventually, Dillenback's company, Marsh USA, dropped Huntingdon as a client.

In person, Kevin Kjonaas seems quite unlike the fire-breathing radical described by prosecutors. Slight and soft-spoken, he remains unfailingly polite as a reporter quizzes him, over dinner, on the animal movement's tactics and his role in them.

"I still think residential picketing is a good idea," he says. "It's been done for ages. Look at Cindy Sheehan (the U.S. peace activist who held a vigil outside of Bush's ranch). But not all of it is appropriate right now and not all of it is savoury."

Recalling Dillenback's testimony, he sighs.

"If I had to do it over again, I'd censor more of those Web postings and be less aggressive and confrontational, so that no one could perceive us as a threat, only as an embarrassment.

"We want to put pressure on those people (involved in animal testing) but we don't want them to think their children are going to be abducted. That's ridiculous... The tone and tenor need to change, not just from a PR perspective but because we represent a noble cause...

"The American public supports violence at times," he goes on, picking at his vegetarian curry. "But the animal rights movement is not at the stage now where violence or the rhetoric of violence is appropriate... It's not even close."

Perhaps what is most puzzling about both this case and another getting underway in Oregon is the sheer amount of government energy expended.

True, animal and environmental radicals have claimed responsibility for actions that destroyed property worth tens of thousands of dollars.

The Foundation for Biomedical Research calculates illegal acts by animal and environmental extremists have increased 1,000 per cent over the past decade. But even so, the absolute numbers (82 incidents in 2005) remain miniscule.

FBI spokeswoman Cathy Milhoan says there have never been any deaths or injuries in the U.S. attributable to animal rights or environmental terrorism.

By comparison, radical right-wingers killed 168 people in the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Since then, according to a Southern Poverty Law Center report, police have uncovered 60 more right-wing plots, including plans to assassinate judges, bomb synagogues and destroy mosques.

In 2000, the head of Pittsburgh's tiny Free Market Party killed five and critically wounded a sixth. Three years later, a neo-Nazi videotaped himself firebombing a synagogue.

Yet in spite of this, as the Alabama-based law centre points out, the U.S. government has decided the radical right presents little or no threat.

And the FBI says illegal activities of the extreme right have been eclipsed by the "special interest terrorism" of the animal rights and environmental movements.

Meanwhile, Kjonaas and his fellow defendants await sentencing. The SHAC-USA websites have been shut down. A proposed law would make it easier for the FBI to electronically eavesdrop on animal and environmental groups, and more difficult for groups to mount campaigns against companies.

It's not clear what difference any of this makes.

Another organization, Win Animal Rights has taken over the anti-Huntingdon protests. "The train has left the station," says Pamelyn Ferdin, a Los Angeles animal rights activist recruited to formally run SHAC after Kjonaas was indicted.

"When activists see above ground people getting put in jail, they're just going to get mad."

Comment on this Article

Pa. seizes paper's computer hard disks

By John Shiffman
Philadelphia Inquirer

- The Attorney General's Office says they may show evidence of a felony: unauthorized use of a restricted Web site. "This is horrifying, an editor's worst nightmare," said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Washington. "For the government to actually physically have those hard drives from a newsroom is amazing. I'm just flabbergasted to hear of this."
In an unusual and little-known case, the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office has seized four computer hard drives from a Lancaster newspaper as part of a statewide grand-jury investigation into leaks to reporters.

The dispute pits the government's desire to solve an alleged felony - computer hacking - against the news media's fear that taking the computers circumvents the First Amendment and the state Shield Law.

The state Supreme Court declined last week to take the case, allowing agents to begin analyzing the data.

"This is horrifying, an editor's worst nightmare," said Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in Washington. "For the government to actually physically have those hard drives from a newsroom is amazing. I'm just flabbergasted to hear of this."

The grand jury is investigating whether the Lancaster County coroner gave reporters for the Lancaster Intelligencer Journal his password to a restricted law enforcement Web site. The site contained nonpublic details of local crimes. The newspaper allegedly used some of those details in articles.

If the reporters used the Web site without authorization, officials say, they may have committed a crime.

In interviews yesterday, the reporters' lawyer, William DeStefano, and the coroner, Gary Kirchner, disagreed over whether Kirchner had given them permission to access the site.

DeStefano said that although he didn't know whether any of the reporters used the Web site, "evidence has been presented to the attorney general which makes it clear that the county coroner, an elected official, invited and authorized the paper or reporters access to the restricted portion of the Web site... . If somebody is authorized to give me a password and does, it's not hacking."

The coroner said yesterday that he had not "to my knowledge" provided the password or permission to the reporters.

"Why would I do that?" Kirchner said yesterday. "I'm not sure how I got drawn into something as goofy as this."

State agents raided Kirchner's home outside Lancaster last month and took computers, he said. He said he had had no other contact with authorities since.

The morning Intelligencer Journal is owned by Lancaster Newspapers Inc., which also publishes the afternoon Lancaster New Era and the Sunday News.

The Intelligencer Journal's editor, Raymond Shaw, was compelled last month to testify before the grand jury, which is based in Harrisburg. Yesterday, he declined to comment on the case.

Grand-jury investigations are secret. But some details trickled out when a lower-court judge in Harrisburg, Barry Feudale, held hearings last month to consider the newspaper's motion to stop the state from enforcing its subpoena for the hard drives.

Officials said the Internet histories and cached Web-page content retained on the newspaper's computer hard drives could contain evidence of a crime - unauthorized use of a computer. To properly search the computers, state lawyers argued, they needed to haul them to a government lab in Harrisburg.

Senior Deputy Attorney General Jonelle Eshbach argued that this was not a case of a journalist's right to protect a source but an attempt to use the First Amendment to shield a crime.

"We know the source," she said. It is a password-protected Web site, she said, essentially "a bulletin board in a locked room, and it is getting into that locked room and seeing the bulletin board that makes this a crime."

At the hearing, another lawyer for the newspaper, Jayson Wolfgang, said the search was illegal, and troubling.

"The government simply doesn't have the ability or the right, nor should it, in a free democracy, to seize the work-product materials, source information, computer hard drives, folders with paper, cabinet drawers of a newspaper," he argued.

Feudale ruled Feb. 23 that the state could seize the computers but view only Internet data relevant to the case. The judge also ordered the agent who withdraws the data to show them to him first - before passing them to prosecutors - to ensure that the journalists' other confidential files are not compromised. The ruling was stayed pending appeal to the State Supreme Court.

In the newspaper's appeal, DeStefano argued that the ramifications of allowing government officials to have control over a newspaper's computers, no matter the restrictions imposed, are frightening.

"Permitting the attorney general to seize and search unfettered the workstations will result in the very chilling of information," DeStefano wrote. "Confidential tips, leads, and other forms of information will undoubtedly dry up once sources and potential sources learn that Lancaster Newspapers' workstations were taken out of its possession and turned over to investigations."

In response, the state argued that "the newspaper has not produced one shred of evidence that the computer hard drives contain information protected from disclosure."

In a one-page order dated Wednesday, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case on procedural grounds, freeing the state to examine the hard drives.

Comment on this Article

Preview of 'Vanity Fair' Article on Plamegate: Too Much of Nothing?

By Greg Mitchell
Editor & Publisher
March 11, 200

Actually, the only jolt for some readers will come nearly halfway through when they read that the writer of the piece, Marie Brenner, is a good friend of former New York Times reporter Judith Miller-and even helped organize a farewell dinner for her just before she went to jail last year. The article, no surprise, is sympathetic to Miller, and Robert Novak, too, and against prosecutors going after information gained by journalists.

With so little really new in the article, one thing that jumps out is the impact of blogs-principally The Huffington Post--on the Miller case.
NEW YORK A massive Vanity Affair review of the Plame/CIA case coming to newsstands on Tuesday is notable for the absence of major revelations. The article, "Lies and Consequences," covers all or parts of 17 pages but the money quote is merely a joke, from the normally bland Bob Woodward. He quips that while insiders argue the fine points of special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald's probe, those in the rest of the country "think Fitzgerald is the author of 'The Great Gatsby.'"

Actually, the only jolt for some readers will come nearly halfway through when they read that the writer of the piece, Marie Brenner, is a good friend of former New York Times reporter Judith Miller-and even helped organize a farewell dinner for her just before she went to jail last year. The article, no surprise, is sympathetic to Miller, and Robert Novak, too, and against prosecutors going after information gained by journalists.

With so little really new in the article, one thing that jumps out is the impact of blogs-principally The Huffington Post--on the Miller case.

One interesting exchange occurred when Bill Keller, New York Times executive editor, allegedly told Miller back in 2003 that she would have to quit reporting from Iraq because she had become "radioactive….You can see it on the blogs." Miller claims she replied, "Why do you give a shit about the blogs? They do not know anything." (Brenner relates that Keller disputes this, saying he's "pretty sure" he never said any such thing.)

Then Brenner quotes Miller complaining about the lack of editing on the blogs and that sometimes "slanderous" attacks on her appear there. But, actually, she is more "appalled" by her colleagues "who believed what they read on the blogs."

But as time passed, Miller could not escape the blogs, principally Huffington, even though her attorney Floyd Abrams says, "No one takes this stuff seriously, do they?" At another point he refers to "the defamation that was running on the blogs."

The article recounts a scene where another lawyer visits Miller in jail and hands her a clip from Huffington, saying, "You are going to be upset with this." In view of that attorney, Arianna Huffington and other bloggers were "passing off speculation as fact" or engaging in "pure character assassination." This was a problem because, as Brenner writes, Huffington's blog was "steadily gaining heft" and had "become must reading for the media."

This became particularly troubling when "people at the Times appeared to be talking to Huffington."

Brenner then quotes famed investigator Lowell Bergman as claiming that Huffington's idea that Miller was a White House collaborator "was a fantasy fed by the deep animosity of people toward Judy." For Brenner the question is, "Did partisan politics trump the First Amendment?"

Only Bob Woodward claims to be immune from blog fever. He tells Brenner he doesn't look at them at all--unless an assistant directs him to something specific.

Brenner's strongest new fact comes near the end when a Hearst Corp. attorney reveals that the company was served with 42 subpoenas relating to reporters in the last six months of 2005, eight times the number in the same period the year before. This is attributed to "Plamegate." Brenner then goes on to cite Judith Miller's reporter friends Lowell Bergman and David Barstow, who blame "Fitzgerald's mission and the agenda of the progressive left."

Comment on this Article

Injured by Cops: Sheehan Cancels Trip to Europe

Associated Press
13 Mar 06

PARIS - Peace activist Cindy Sheehan has canceled a trip to Paris and other European cities because of injuries she allegedly sustained a week ago while being arrested in New York, organizers said Monday.

"We had to cancel Cindy's trip because her doctor said she was not fit to travel," said Elsa Rassbach, of American Voices Abroad, one of the groups that organized the trip. She cited an arm injury and possible concussion.
Sheehan, who gained international attention when she camped outside President Bush's Texas ranch to protest the war in
Iraq, was to visit Paris on Monday, then travel to Strasbourg, France, to meet members of the European Parliament, and go on to two German cities.

A pacifist group in the United States, Women Say No to War, had claimed that Sheehan was physically assaulted by security officers during the March 6 arrests following a march to the U.S. mission of the
United Nations.

Photos showed officers dragging Sheehan, with her shirt yanked up. Police said four women were arrested for criminal trespassing and resisting arrest. They were among about a dozen activists trying to deliver a petition to the U.S. mission of the United Nations urging a withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq.

Sheehan has become the face of the anti-war movement in the United States following the death of her son in Iraq. She was to meet here with representatives of various French pacifist groups, said Arielle Denis, president of the Movement for Peace.

British and American soldiers who opposed the war in Iraq were to accompany Sheehan on her visit, Denis said.

Comment on this Article

Nigeria: The Next Quagmire?

By G. Pascal Zachary
March 14, 2006.

If U.S. troops go to Africa, it won't be for a humanitarian intervention; it will be to protect American oil interests in the troubled Niger Delta.
Africa's humanitarian needs -- today the pillage in Darfur, yesterday the famine in Niger -- dominate the headlines. Human suffering, from hunger to rape, also dominates the limited attention that Americans have for hearing about problems in the most troubled part of the world. Now that may be changing as an armed insurgency in oil-rich Nigeria threatens oil exports to the U.S. and raises the possibility that U.S. troops will dig into African soil in order to protect a resource deemed vital to American interests.

In short, Nigeria might be the next Iraq.

Putting American troops at risk in Africa would be a big change -- and speaks volumes about the new relationship between America and the sub-Saharan Africa. Ever since American troops were killed in Somalia early in the presidency of Bill Clinton, a firm rule of U.S. policy toward Africa has been to never put U.S. soldiers on African ground. For more than 10 years, American troops have studiously avoided intervening directly in African conflicts. This policy prevented the United States from trying to halt the genocide in Rwanda in the mid-1990s. More recently, this stance stopped the United States from using troops to restore order to Liberia. The policy may also stop the United States from sending troops to Nigeria.

But maybe not, because the purpose of an intervention in Nigeria would be to protect American oil -- not save lives in a humanitarian spirit. Oil drives American foreign policy as never before, and the Middle East isn't the only troubled oil-producing region. Nigeria is already one of the top-five largest exporters of oil to the United States, and the country's oil-producing region, the Niger Delta, is beset with insurgencies and criminality, some of which is directed by factions in Nigeria's own government. Two Nigerian rear admirals were court-martialed last year for their part in the attempted theft of thousands of tons of Nigerian oil by an international crime syndicate operating in Russia and eastern Europe.

Chevron and Shell, the two largest foreign oil companies operating in the Niger Delta, are targets of citizen rage, not the least because Nigeria's government has ignored social needs and political protest in the region for many years. Tensions are high, and disorder threatens to engulf the region. As the Council on Foreign Relations, a leading foreign policy group, observes in a new report, "The suppression of dissent in the [Niger] Delta, together with armed violence and the existence of armed militias, makes for a potentially explosive combination."

Kidnapping of American oil workers is common. So are protests by local residents who say their needs are neglected even as Chevron and Shell reap huge revenues from oil. Most local people lack electricity, running water, decent schools for their children and job opportunities. Tensions flare between families and between ethnic groups forced to scramble for crumbs tossed by the oil companies, which routinely try to undercut social unrest by making small donations to local communities and hiring men for make-work jobs "guarding" pipelines. Perhaps most galling to people living in the Niger Delta are the frequent gasoline shortages caused by the Nigerian government's failure to refine enough crude oil to meet its own domestic needs.

The simmering outrage felt by Delta Nigerians has deep roots. A decade ago, during a period of military dictatorship, protests against oil exploitation triggered a brutal government crackdown. The leaders of the protest were arrested and imprisoned. Some were executed, including Ken Saro-Wiwa, one of Nigeria's finest writers and a passionate advocate for social justice in the Niger Delta.

Raising the stakes

American dependence on Nigerian oil is anticipated to grow rapidly in the years ahead as new fields come online. In 2007, Nigeria expects to hold a presidential election. President Olusegun Obasanjo has not ruled out that he will run for office again, even though he has exhausted his two-term limit. U.S. officials have openly expressed dismay over the possibility of another Obansanjo election victory, saying he should abide by Nigeria's constitution and step down.

The tangling between the United States and Obasanjo, coupled with the instability in Nigeria's oil region, has prompted private discussions in Washington about the wisdom of sending U.S. troops to sort out the situation. So far the Bush administration has said nothing publicly, but a new report on the future of U.S.-Africa relations, by the influential Council on Foreign Relations, calls for the U.S. to launch a "pilot program for interdiction and to curb (oil) piracy." Such a program might involve ships and personnel from the U.S. Navy or Coast Guard.

Nigerians themselves are pondering whether they should invite U.S. intervention into the troubled Niger Delta. Late last month, Nigeria's vice president, Atiku Abubakar, told the Financial Times of London that the United States could provide more military assistance to his government. The Nigerian government is believed to want at least 200 patrol boats to guard the Delta against oil pirates and insurgents. The Financial Times has reported that the United States has provided only four old boats. In response, Nigeria has turned to China for military assistance. Last year, the Chinese, who have been scouring the globe for secure oil supplies, signed a deal to receive 30,000 barrels of oil a day from Nigeria.

Insurgent attacks on oil operations have reduced output by 20 percent, and the threat of further conflict has raised oil prices globally. Nigeria is the world's eighth-largest oil exporter and a significant factor on the world market. The Nigerian government insists it plans to impose order on the restive region, but it has failed to do so in the past. These repeated failures lend credence to the possibility of U.S. military assistance, and even American troops on the ground. One restraint on any U.S. intervention in Nigeria: concerns that American troops on the ground, or even an expanded military alliance, might merely assist corrupt factions in the Nigerian government.

There is also the danger that an American presence would provoke hostility from ordinary Nigerian citizens -- even if American soldiers were merely trying to rescue some of the American oil workers routinely taken hostage by Nigerian insurgents.

"There's widespread fear among local people in the Niger Delta that the U.S. government is preparing a military strike force to attack insurgents and release kidnapped oil workers," notes Ike Okonta, a research fellow at the Department of Politics and International Relations at Oxford University.

"This could turn out to be a disastrous venture," adds Okonta, who is the co-author of a book on oil conflict in Nigeria. "The Niger Delta is a vast and intricate maze of creeks and swamps, and the hostages could be secreted in any of these. Unless the U.S. military is able to pinpoint with accuracy where the hostages are being held, and are also able to mount a surprise rescue mission with speed and stealth, the insurgents could move the hostages to another location and, in retaliation, harm them."

Okonta warns that an American military intervention into Nigeria could get bogged down, turning into an "African Vietnam," in which U.S. troops are pitted against both a hostile local population and a highly difficult terrain.

Rather than a military move, the U.S. government should seek to broker a diplomatic bargain between the Nigerian government, oil companies and aggrieved residents of the oil-producing region. Such bargains are difficult to achieve, but the United States carries a big stick: the potential to make war in Nigeria to protect American oil sources.

G. Pascal Zachary writes regularly about Africa. He has visited Nigeria's oil-producing region for Amnesty International.

Comment on this Article

South Korea gets rare yellow snowfall

13 Mar 06

SEOUL - South Koreans were treated to a rare weather phenomenon on Monday when yellow snow fell in the capital and elsewhere across the country.

But the snow -- containing dust or sand from the desert regions of northern China -- could pose a health hazard, the country's meteorological office warned.

"It's tough to say whether it's yellow sand mixed in snow or if it's snow mixed in yellow sand," a met official told Reuters.

A high concentration of the dust particles prompted the weather bureau to issue a yellow dust warning for the second time in three days.

South Korea frequently gets sand or dust storms, but a yellow snow storm is very rare.

"I have never seen yellow snow falling before," the met official said.

The agency said the yellow snow was a health hazard and officials have warned that the pollutants in the flurries included heavy minerals.

Comment on this Article

Flashback: Creamy Pink Snow Covers Russian Region

13 Mar 06

Creamy pink snow has covered the northern regions of Russia's Maritime territory, news agencies reported Monday.

For some reason, the snow that fell in the densely populated northern regions after a powerful cyclone had acquired a pink color of varying tints.

Experts at the local meteorology centre said sand from neighboring Mongolia was to blame for this unusual natural phenomenon.

Before it arrived in Maritime, the cyclone passed Mongolia, where sand storms had been raging in the desert.

"The winds of the cyclone embraced dust particles that colored the fallouts," the experts said.

February's yellow snowfall with a strong odor and an oily texture was observed on Russia's Far East island of Sakhalin. The color, odor and texture of the snow may have been a result of environmental pollution caused by the island's oil and natural gas industry.

However, experts do not rule out this could be caused by volcanic activity.

Comment on this Article

Climate change 'irreversible' as Arctic sea ice fails to re-form

By Steve Connor, Science Editor
14 March 2006

Sea ice in the Arctic has failed to re-form for the second consecutive winter, raising fears that global warming may have tipped the polar regions in to irreversible climate change far sooner than predicted.

Satellite measurements of the area of the Arctic covered by sea ice show that for every month this winter, the ice failed to return even to its long-term average rate of decline. It is the second consecutive winter that the sea ice has not managed to re-form enough to compensate for the unprecedented melting seen during the past few summers.
Scientists are now convinced that Arctic sea ice is showing signs of both a winter and a summer decline that could indicate a major acceleration in its long-term rate of disappearance. The greatest fear is that an environmental "positive feedback" has kicked in, where global warming melts ice which in itself causes the seas to warm still further as more sunlight is absorbed by a dark ocean rather than being reflected by white ice.

Mark Serreze, a sea ice specialist at the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre in Colorado, said: "In September 2005, the Arctic sea ice cover was at its lowest extent since satellite monitoring began in 1979, and probably the lowest in the past 100 years. While we can't be certain, it looks like 2006 will be more of the same," Dr Serreze said.

"Unless conditions turn colder, we may be headed for another year of big sea ice losses, rivalling or perhaps even exceeding what we saw in September 2005. We are of course monitoring the situation closely ... Coupled with recent findings from Nasa that the Greenland ice sheet may be near a tipping point, it's pretty clear that the Arctic is starting to respond to global warming," he added.

Although sea levels are not affected by melting sea ice - which floats on the ocean - the Arctic ice cover is thought to be a key moderator of the northern hemisphere's climate. It helps to stabilise the massive land glaciers and ice sheets of Greenland which have the capacity to raise sea levels dramatically.

Dr Serreze said that some parts of the northern hemisphere experienced very low temperatures this winter, but the Arctic was much warmer than normal. "Even in January, when there were actually record low temperatures in Alaska and parts of Russia, it was still very warm over the Arctic Ocean," he said.

"The sea ice cover waxes and wanes with the seasons. It partly melts in spring and summer, then grows back in autumn and winter. It has not recovered well this past winter - ice extent for every month since September 2005 has been far below average. And it's been so warm in the Arctic that the ice that has grown this winter is probably rather thin," he explained.

Professor Peter Wadhams, of Cambridge University, who was the first Briton to monitor Arctic sea ice from nuclear submarines, said: "One of the big changes this winter is that a large area of the Barents Sea has remained ice-free for the first time. This is part of Europe's 'back yard'. Climate models did predict a retreat of sea ice in the Barents Sea but not for a few decades yet, so it is a sign that the changes that were predicted are indeed happening, but much faster than predicted."

Comment on this Article

Scientist Reading the Leaves to Predict Violent Weather

By Sara Goudarzi
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 13 March 2006

When meteorologist Edward Lorenz set up his computer to model the weather in 1960, he had no idea what a complex problem he was taking on. After a while, he realized that any small change in the starting conditions of his program had a huge impact on the outcome of his experiment and in predicting the weather.

Popularly called the butterfly effect, this aspect of chaos theory made Lorenz and others realize that predicting weather with pinpoint accuracy will never be possible.

But scientists are getting closer.

And just like the butterfly whose single flapping of a wing on one side of the world might help precipitate a tornado on the other side, a single leaf can have large consequences for the weather.

"How well we are able to represent one leaf in a weather forecast model can be a key to predicting thunderstorms," said Dev Niyogi, an assistant professor of agronomy and earth and atmospheric sciences at Purdue University. "The amount of moisture plants are emitting during photosynthesis may be considered the local trigger that trips fronts into violent weather."

Researchers in plant biology have long used models of photosynthesis to look at environmental changes. Photosynthesis is the process by which plants convert carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates using solar energy. But
weather simulators have never directly incorporated photosynthesis models for forecasting weather.

"We coupled a photosynthesis-based vegetation model to a weather forecast model and tested the improvement one could obtain by this for simulating severe weather situations," Niyogi told LiveScience.

This, combined with improved mapping of soil moisture, allows for better predictions of specific, local events.

"Our results showed that, while the current weather forecast and vegetation models do a fair job in simulating the weather, the results in terms of timing, location and intensity of local-scale thunderstorms can be improved by adopting more detailed photosynthesis transpiration models," Niyogi explained.

These improvements can improve forecasting of factors such as temperature and humidity anywhere from 5 to 50 percent.

"It certainly makes us think, what other factors may be important that we should be considering and how that may improve matters further," Niyogi said.

Comment on this Article

100 twisters across 5 states

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

SEDALIA, Missouri - The frozen chicken that Joy Rank had been thawing for dinner was still soaking the next morning in a sink full of water -- a meal abandoned when Rank watched a scene of terror unfold outside her kitchen window.

A tornado tore through the mobile home park she co-owns Sunday night, flipping over one of six occupied homes and killing a 39-year-old woman inside.

"There's not a lot of damage to the homes people live in," Rank said Monday, crying while sipping coffee in the dim candlelight of her kitchen. But "it really bothered me that a girl had to lose her life."

Early reports show more than 100 twisters touched down in a weekend wave that stretched across five states, from Oklahoma to Illinois. Nine of the ten dead were in Missouri.

"It's just amazing how devastating it is," said Mayor Tim Davlin of the Illinois capital of Springfield. "It looks like the pictures we saw a couple months ago after Katrina."

The violent weather was driven by a powerful low-pressure system over the Midwest that pulled warm air out of the Gulf of Mexico. The same phenomenon caused powerful winds that drove deadly wildfires across Texas over the weekend.
On Monday, a second line of storms raked the region, with rain, hail and fierce wind tearing up trees and homes from Kansas through Indiana.

The weekend storms left four people dead in Renick, a rural community about 30 miles north of Columbia, Missouri. The death toll also included a married couple killed when a twister hurled their pickup truck beneath a propane tank about 80 miles south of St. Louis.

Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt declared a state of emergency throughout Missouri, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich declared a disaster in seven counties, and three southern Indiana counties were under states of emergency.

Classes at the University of Kansas in Lawrence were canceled Monday because of the danger of falling debris. University Chancellor Robert Hemenway put the damage at $6 million. Classes were to be held as scheduled Tuesday, though one building was to remained closed and access restricted to three others.

Comment on this Article

Tornado Season Off to Roaring Start

By John O'Connor
Associated Press
posted: 13 March 2006

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -Swarms of tornadoes killed at least 10 people across the Midwest, shut down the University of Kansas and damaged so much of Springfield on Monday that the mayor said "every square inch'' of town suffered some effects.

The violent weather started during the weekend with a line of storms that spawned tornadoes and downpours from the southern Plains to the Ohio Valley.

On Monday, a second line of storms raked the region, with rain, hail and fierce wind tearing up trees and homes from Kansas through Indiana, and blizzards to the north cutting off power to thousands and shutting down schools in South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Illinois' capital was hit hard twice in 24 hours, first by a tornado and then strong wind early Monday that blew debris through the city. Power lines were down across Springfield, trees uprooted and windows blown out.

Mayor Tim Davlin said he expected "every square inch of Springfield'' will have suffered some effect from the storms.

"It's just unreal,'' Davlin told The (Springfield) State Journal Register early Monday from the city's Emergency Operations Center.

Most major roads into the city were closed, and one man was reported missing after his home was destroyed. The roof was torn off a Wal-Mart store, and police were searching damaged homes and businesses Monday for people who could be trapped, said city spokesman Ernie Slottag. At least 19 people were treated for minor injuries.

Most of Springfield was without power, and thousands of homes outside the city were blacked out elsewhere in Illinois.

The tornado that struck Springfield on Sunday had made a two-hour pass through central Illinois.

The Scott County, Ill., sheriff's department confirmed that a tornado touched down in Manchester, a town of about 300 people, although there were no immediate reports of injuries.

"It's a mess over there,'' Scott County sheriff's department dispatcher Rosann Lindsey said of Manchester. "A lot of buildings are down over there.''

The Chicago area also was struck by high wind, with gusts to 70 mph in suburban Tinley Park, and roofs were blown off apartment buildings in suburban Bridgeview. Localized flooding was reported in the Chicago and Quad Cities areas.

Missouri was hardest hit by the weekend storms, with at least nine people killed and hundreds of homes and businesses destroyed or damaged. Hail as big as softballs pounded parts of the state.

Bobby Ritcheson, 23, said he watched as a neighbor was killed south of Sedalia, Mo.

"The trailer came down right on top of her,'' Ritcheson said.

Homes were destroyed along a path of more than 20 miles south of St. Louis, officials said.

The vast weather system arose as moist air from the Gulf of Mexico collided with cold Canadian air, said Philip Schumacher of the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, S.D. The system dumped 20 inches of snow in parts of western South Dakota and knocked out power and closed schools as it moved into Minnesota and Wisconsin.

"It is a sign that spring is coming,'' said Schumacher. "You start getting stronger low-pressure systems, and they're able to bring in stronger south winds, which tend to bring up more moisture.''

At the University of Kansas, where 60 percent of the buildings were damaged by weekend storms, Provost David Shulenberger said classes were canceled Monday because of safety concerns about debris falling from roofs. The Lawrence campus was littered with trees, roof tiles and window glass.

Two trees fell through Rhonda Burns' mobile home in Lawrence early Sunday.

"If the wind had shifted that tree just a few inches, I wouldn't be talking to you,'' she said.

Tornadoes also destroyed dozens of homes Sunday in Oklahoma and Arkansas.

"It was over before you knew it,'' said Greg Kospar, 41, of Bentonville, Ark. "The house is gone.''

Missouri authorities reported nine people killed, including four whose bodies were found in the rubble of homes near the town of Renick.

Another storm victim was found in Indiana, where several people had to be rescued from cars stalled in rapidly rising water. Flood warnings were posted Monday for large areas of southern and central Indiana.

Comment on this Article

Freak Wind: 'It's a miracle no one got killed'

By Will Hoover and Rod Ohira
Advertiser Staff Writers

NANAKULI - A freak gust of wind sent 13 utility poles crashing onto Farrington Highway yesterday, trapping motorists under live power lines but causing no serious injuries.

The huge wooden poles splintered in two about 1 p.m., some crushing cars, and fell across all four lanes of the highway in what many said looked like a hurricane scene - or a disaster movie.

"This was a cross between 'War of the Worlds' and 'Earthquake,' " said Bernie Baker, contest director for the Triple Crown of Surfing who had been at the Buffalo's Big Board Surfing Classic in Makaha.
The incident closed a half-mile stretch of Farrington Highway between Haleakala Avenue and Lualualei Naval Road, cutting off access to the Wai'anae Coast until the Army opened Kolekole Pass to civilian traffic about 2 p.m. That bypass was to remain open until at least through today's morning rush hour, officials said.

Police said crews were also trying to open two town-bound lanes of Farrington Highway by this morning, but could not say exactly when that would happen. One cause for worry, police said, is that some poles left standing may have been weakened.

Police said 20 vehicles were damaged. Laurie Grace, emergency medical services supervisor for Nanakuli, said EMS did not take anyone to the hospital.

A pole flattened the roof of a Chevy Astro van down to the window sills, but the three people inside escaped with only a scrape to the shoulder of driver Dexter Li'i.

"The first thing I did was yell, 'Are you two OK?' " Li'i said of his passengers, La Aukai and Daryl Ching. "And they both said yeah. My door was already open and I got out and told everyone around me, 'I got two passengers in here' and right away a whole lot of people came and helped get them out."

Aukai, who was sitting in a back seat, said she saw the pole falling "and I screamed, 'It's coming!' "

Pointing to the occupants of the Astro, Grace said, "These guys have angels watching over them."

The poles carried power lines of 12,000 volts and 46,000 volts, Hawaiian Electric Co. spokesman Ben Obayashi said.

Police Lt. Farrell Sojot said police were concerned about keeping people away from the power lines because some wires were sparking.

"Initially the lines were still hot, so we couldn't even get to the people inside (the cars)," Wai'anae watch commander Lt. Frank Pugliese said. "We told everybody to stay in place. But then HECO cut the power."

Fire battalion chief Eric Adams said: "It's like a hurricane hit. It's amazing there are no injuries and with all the power lines down nobody got shocked. Two cars are crushed."

National Weather Service lead forecaster Roy Matsuda said radar spotted 45 mph trade winds coming from the east between 12:30 and 1 p.m., about one mile in altitude.

"When a 45 mph wind dips down from aloft, it can accelerate to higher speeds," Matsuda said. "It is freakish, out of the norm."

HECO spokeswoman Sharon Higa said, "It is a rare and unusual circumstance. Poles are designed to withstand 80 mph winds, which is near hurricane-type conditions. It's hard to say what factors caused the poles to fall. It is under investigation."

About 700 HECO customers lost power at the outset; about 225 customers remained without power at 8 last night, Higa said.

HECO had 36 repair workers at the scene last night, Higa said.

Adams said one severed pole looked like it had termite damage.

Rodney Amalza, 22, of Mililani, was driving home from Wai'anae in a Ford Expedition SUV with his 14-month-old daughter when the wind came up and knocked down a pole.

"After that, it was just like dominos," Amalza said. "Everything was going down; it was real fast. The second pole I saw go down landed on the roof of the car in front of me. The wires were coming down, the bucket on the poles and all the stuff were hitting cars.

"About five power lines landed on my car; there were two on the hood and some on the passenger-side mirror. It was spooky because I saw sparking."

He and his daughter stayed in the vehicle until he was told HECO had turned off the power.

Police said a fallen pole damaged a house at 87-2130 Farrington Highway. As the pole snapped, the broken end kicked back and hit the house, cracking a wooden wall.

Three witnesses told police that a "twister" came through from the mountains, Sojot said. "One witness said a tree got blown down and then the pole started coming down on Nanaikeola Street. There was a domino effect from there."

But EMS supervisor Grace said she saw the poles come down and "it wasn't a domino effect. They just all came down at once - whump!"

"It was crazy," said Darlene Aweau, who had been sitting in her Nissan pickup parked on the makai side of Farrington Highway. "The wind was shaking the truck and sand was just flying through the window. And the pole snapping made the biggest noise, like a tree breaking."

Of the 20 vehicles involved, three suffered major damage, police said.

Nanakuli resident Manu Afong said he saw blue flames shoot from electrical boxes after the poles crashed to the ground. Traffic was immediately gridlocked, he said.

"There's no way in or out," Afong said.

Large vehicles such as buses were not able to use the steep, winding Kolekole Pass emergency route. Oahu Transit Services bus route No. 40 to the Wai'anae Coast was taking riders in as far as it could on Farrington Highway. Passengers were then walking a ways to shuttle buses running on the Wai'anae side.

Kaiser Permanente's Nanaikeola Clinic at 87-2116 Farrington Highway will be closed today, spokeswoman Lynn Kenton said. Staff should report to the Waipio Clinic at 94-1480 Moaniani St. Patients may call 432-3500.

Nanakuli resident Fale Esekia was driving home from church with her mother when the poles fell, stranding them at Nanakuli Shopping Center. "This is worse than Hurricane Iniki," she said. "Wai'anae got hit hard by that storm, but it was nothing like this.

"It's a miracle that no one got killed."

Reach Will Hoover at whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com and Rod Ohira at rohira@honoluluadvertiser.com.

Comment on this Article

Shifting Wind Worries Texas Firefighters

Associated Press
14 Mar 06

Firefighters said they were making progress Tuesday against a string of wildfires ravaging the dry Texas grassland, but the good news was tempered by a threat of shifting winds and the distress of evacuees returning to charred homes.

Wind-blown flames have raced across more than 1,000 square miles since Sunday, killed 11 people and forced about 1,900 others to evacuate.
On Tuesday, firefighters were bracing for the possibility of a shift in wind direction and dropping humidity as they worked to strengthen the perimeters around the blazes, said Jan Fulkerson, a spokeswoman for the Texas Forest Service. The wind was near 20 mph mid-morning and there was no rain in sight.

The Department of Public Safety late Monday attributed four new deaths to the fires, bringing the death toll to 11. Nine firefighters have been injured.

"We share in the grief of those who have lost family members and loved ones, and we offer our prayers," Gov. Rick Perry said. "Throughout this wildfire season, communities in our state have shown strength and resolve that are uniquely Texan."

Eleven fires were burning across an estimated nearly 700,000 acres Monday, up from 663,000 over the weekend. State fire crews fought more than 160 blazes in one 24-hour period.

The size of the blackened area easily eclipsed the 455,000 acres that burned in December and January, when the governor declared a disaster.

Fire evacuee Jennifer Orand returned Monday to find her mobile home in the Hutchinson County community of Texroy burned to the ground.

"I just started crying," said Orand, 27, who lives with her husband, Shannon, about 40 miles northeast of Amarillo. "You hear all the time that people think it will never happen to you. I never thought I'd say that myself."

A series of rural fires stretching through Collinsworth, Wheeler, Carson, Hutchinson, Donley and Gray counties, charred some 652,000 acres by Monday night, and were still burning early Tuesday, the Texas Forest Service reported.

Another wildfire in Childress and Cottle counties reached 45,000 acres, the Texas Forest Service said.

In southeastern New Mexico, authorities contained a 92,000-acre fire that had charred tinder-dry brush, burned the McDonald post office and two homes, and forced about 200 people to evacuate. It appeared to have been started by an emergency flare at a natural gas plant, Lovington fire officials said.

Texas Department of Public Safety reported seven firefighters suffered minor injuries fighting the blazes in the Panhandle. One was hospitalized in stable condition Monday night after a wreck in his fire truck. A ranch hand assisting firefighters was hospitalized with second-degree burns.

About 3.5 million acres _ 2 percent of Texas land mass _ has burned since Dec. 26, said Rachael Novier, a spokeswoman for Perry.

Comment on this Article

Ready or Not, Bird Flu Is Coming to America - Officials Advise Stocking Up on Provisions -- and Warn That Infected Birds Cannot Be Prevented From Flying In

ABC News
13 Mar 06

In a remarkable speech over the weekend, Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt recommended that Americans start storing canned tuna and powdered milk under their beds as the prospect of a deadly bird flu outbreak approaches the United States.

Ready or not, here it comes.

It is being spread much faster than first predicted from one wild flock of birds to another, an airborne delivery system that no government can stop.
"There's no way you can protect the United States by building a big cage around it and preventing wild birds from flying in and out," U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Michael Johanns said.

U.S. spy satellites are tracking the infected flocks, which started in Asia and are now heading north to Siberia and Alaska, where they will soon mingle with flocks from the North American flyways.

"What we're watching in real time is evolution," said Laurie Garrett, a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations. "And it's a biological process, and it is, by definition, unpredictable."

Industry Precautions

America's poultry farms could become ground zero as infected flocks fly over. The industry says it is prepared for quick action.

"All the birds involved in it would be destroyed, and the area would be isolated and quarantined," said Richard Lobb of the National Chicken Council. "It would very much [look] like a sort of military operation if it came to that."

Extraordinary precautions are already being taken at the huge chicken farms in Lancaster County, Pa., the site of the last great outbreak of a similar bird flu 20 years ago.

Other than the farmers, everyone there has to dress as if it were a visit to a hospital operating room.

"Back in 1983-1984, we had to kill 17 million birds at a cost of $60 million," said Dr. Sherrill Davison, a veterinary medicine expert at the University of Pennsylvania.

Can It Be Stopped?

Even on a model farm, ABC News saw a pond just outside the protected barns attracting wild geese.

It is the droppings of infected waterfowl that carry the virus.

The bird flu virus, to date, is still not easily transmitted to humans. There have been lots of dead birds on three continents, but so far fewer than 100 reported human deaths.

But should that change, the spread could be rapid.

ABC News has obtained a mathematical projection prepared by federal scientists based on an initial outbreak on an East Coast chicken farm in which humans are infected. Within three months, with no vaccine, almost half of the country would have the flu.

That, of course, is a worst-case scenario - one that Lobb says the poultry industry is determined to prevent with an aggressive strategy to contain and destroy infected flocks and deny the virus the opportunity to mutate to a more dangerous form but one that experts say cannot be completely discounted.

The current bird flu strain has been around for at least 10 years and has taken surprising twists and turns - not the least of which is that it's now showing up in cats in Europe, where officials are advising owners to bring their cats inside. It's advice that might soon have to be considered here.

Comment on this Article

Chernobyl: A poisonous legacy

By Andy McSmith
14 March 2006

Twenty years after a blast in the nuclear plant at Chernobyl spread radioactive debris across Europe, it has been revealed that 375 farms in Britain, with 200,000 sheep, are still contaminated by fallout

After two decades, the legacy of the Chernobyl disaster is still casting its poisonous shadow over Britain's countryside. The Department of Health has admitted that more than 200,000 sheep are grazing on land contaminated by fallout from the explosion at the Ukrainian nuclear plant 1,500 miles away. Emergency orders still apply to 355 Welsh farms, 11 in Scotland and nine in England as a result of the catastrophe in April 1986.

The revelation - in a Commons written answer to the Labour MP Gordon Prentice - comes as Mr Blair prepares to make the case for nuclear power in a forthcoming government Energy Review. The Prime Minister argues that nuclear energy would allow the UK to achieve twin objectives of cutting C02 emissions and reducing dependency on imported natural gas supplies.

But, just last week a damning report from the Government's own advisory board on sustainable development identified five major disadvantages to any planned renewal of Britain's nuclear power programme, including the threat of terrorist attack and the danger of radiation exposure. The longevity of the "Chernobyl effect" in a region generation of nuclear power stations, and going through a consultation exercise to try to convince the public that this is a safe form of electricity generation, we shouldn't overlook the terrible consequences if something does go wrong,

"No one would now build a reactor as unsafe as those at Chernobyl, which were jerry built. Even so, I think a lot of people will be shocked to know that, as we approach the 20th anniversary of Chernobyl, hundreds of farming families are still living with the fallout."

Jean McSorley, Greenpeace's senior adviser on nuclear energy said: "Chernobyl was the worst nuclear accident the world has ever seen but it is by no means the worst that could happen. In Cumbria, where I come from, people who are old enough to remember still talk about it. It's quite moving to hear the stress that farming families were put through. I think the British public that all this distance from Chernobyl, 20 years later, so many families are still living with its impact day to day."

The Chernobyl disaster turned public opinion in Britain against civil nuclear power overnight. The land still poisoned by Chernobyl's radioactivity lies all along the Welsh hills between Bangor and Bala, much of it in the Snowdonia National park. There is also a large triangle of contaminated land in Cumbria, south of Buttermere - though the number of farms affected is smaller than in Wales.

Some of the Scottish hills are also still affected. No sheep can be moved out of any of these areas without a special licence, under Emergency Orders imposed in 1986. Sheep that have higher than the permitted level of radiation have to be marked with a special dye that does not wash off in the rain, and have to spend months grazing on uncontaminated grass before they are passed as fit to go into the food chain.

A National Farmers' Union spokesman said: "The paramount concern has to be the safety of the consumer, and consumer confidence in the meat supply, so exceptional care has to be taken to make sure no contaminated meat goes into the food chain."

Most of Britain's nuclear power stations have either ceased to produce electricity, or are nearing the end of their active life. The last is due for closure in 2035. The Government is now conducting an energy review, to be published in June, which is expected to announce a new nuclear programme.

Tony Blair signalled his support for the industry in a speech to Labour's conference last autumn, when he warned Britain is too reliant on "unstable" regimes for its energy supplies, and singled out nuclear power as an alternative.

But resistance to the idea has been growing, particularly with the publication last week of the report by the government's Sustainable Development Commission. The Commons Environmental Audit Committee will also report later this month. According to a committee member, their findings are expected to be "measured" but "certainly won't put a strong case for nuclear power".

On 23 March, leading specialists will hold a conference in London on the long term impact of Chernobyl. At the end of the month, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority will issue a revised figure for the cost of cleaning up the sites of disused publicly owned nuclear plants.

Their figure is expected to be substantially higher than their original estimate which was published last year, of £56bn.

David Ellwood, 49, farmer: 'Nobody can tell us when the radiation will pass'

By Geneviéve Roberts

David Ellwood has 700 sheep on his farm in Ulpha, near Broughton-in-Furness. His wife, Heather, 50, helps out on Baskell Farm, and they have four children.

"I remember the Chernobyl disaster 20 years ago. We were lambing in April and it was raining like hell. We got a letter from the ministry suggesting it would last about three weeks, but they were only guessing - it could go on for another 20 years.

"Every time we take sheep to auction, we must phone Defra, who check they are clear from contamination [from radioactive caesium]. They give us £1.30 for every sheep they monitor. We take them off the fell and put them in the fields for a couple of weeks before selling them, so readings are usually low. But the odd one gets a high reading if it comes straight in off the fell, and has to be slaughtered.

"Defra are here four or five times a year which is a hassle. At shearing time in July they monitor everything. If we are taking Cheviots to auction, we have to get them into a pen to take readings, which makes them mucky and bad for selling. Now we try to get them monitored three or four days before," said Mr Ellwood, 49. "We have been on this farm for 16 years, and owned the ground surrounding it before that, so have always been affected by Chernobyl. There is a lot of contaminated peat on our fell, so when the grass comes up in the summer that gets contaminated too. If our fell were rocky, I don't think it would be such a problem.

"I could get angry, but it is pointless, there is not a damn thing we can do and nobody seems to know when it will pass. I would be worried if more power stations were built. We were 1,500 miles from Chernobyl and still feel the effects."

Edwin Noble, 45, sheep farmer: 'I had no idea it could affect us so far away'

Edwin Noble and his family, who run a 2,500- acre farm close to Mount Snowden, live under emergency restrictions that they were told would apply for 30 days, but which are likely to continue for years.

Mr Noble, 45, was in his early twenties when he took charge of the family farm. On the night of 2 May 1986, he was disturbed by torrential rain and feared the river would burst its banks. What he did not know was that the radiation cloud from Chernobyl was passing invisibly overhead. The rain left huge deposits of radioceasium in the peaty soil, which is no direct threat to humans but works itself into the grass, contaminating his sheep.

"I had heard about Chernobyl on the news, but had no idea at all that [it] could affect us so far away," he said. "It's something we have had to live with ever since.

"Every time we move a sheep or lamb off our land it has got to be scanned. If it fails the monitoring, it ... cannot be sold. If you can get the sheep or lamb off the contaminated land, then the radiation comes out of them fairly quickly, but the whole of our farm is affected, so we rent grazing land 20 miles away. It means you constantly have to think ahead. If the lamb is fattened and ready to go to market, you can't have it sitting in a pen waiting to be monitored because it loses weight, so you've got to get the monitoring done ahead of time. When the market is volatile, it has cost us a sale.

"The experience has made me very opposed to nuclear power. It's not so much the inconvenience for farmers like us - but what if the explosion had been at the plant near here, at Trawfynydd? It doesn't seem worth the risk," he said.

Comment on this Article

Burst oil pipeline causes 'catastrophe' in Alaska

By Andrew Gumbel in Los Angeles
14 March 2006

A burst pipeline in Alaska's North Slope has caused the Arctic region's worst oil spill, spreading more than 250,000 gallons of crude oil over an area used by caribou herds and prompting environmentalists again to question the Bush administration's drive for more oil exploration there.

The leak was first spotted by a British Petroleum worker 11 days ago, and was reported to have been plugged a few days later. Initial hopes expressed by BP that the spill was limited to a few tens of thousands of gallons proved to be over-optimistic. Alaska's Department of Environmental Conservation has steadily increased its estimate of the size of the spill, the latest estimate putting it at around 265,000 gallons.
The leak, whose cause is unknown, occurred in a remote part of the most sparsely populated state in the United States, and it remains to be seen what damage, if any, it has done to ecosystems. It does, however, give grist to groups who have challenged Washington's assertion that oil can be prospected and shipped while leaving only the gentlest of "footprints" on the landscape.

"This historic oil spill is a catastrophe for the environment," Natalie Brandon, of the Alaska Wilderness League, said in a statement. "Tone-deaf politicians in Congress should now stop trying to push for more drilling through sneaky manoeuvres ... The fact that the oil spill occurred in a caribou crossing area in Prudhoe Bay is a painful reminder of the reality of unchecked oil and gas development across Alaska's North Slope."

The biggest battle has been over the fate of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, also on the North Slope, which the White House wants to open up. The initiative, championed from the moment the Bush administration took office in 2001, has been consistently blocked by Congress but is periodically revived.

A second battle, meanwhile, is taking place in a previously untouched corner of the National Petroleum Reserve on the North Slope. The Bush administration has allowed oil companies to prospect for oil and gas in an area covering 389,000 acres. Environmental groups have responded with a federal lawsuit, filed last Friday, in which they contend that the Department of the Interior has violated the Endangered Species Act and other laws in an area noted for its flocks of migratory geese.

It is not just environmentalists who oppose the administration's plans. Several prominent energy analysts, as well as Washington politicians, argue that the likely yield in unexplored areas of the North Slope is not large enough to justify the intrusion.

Alaskan politicians and industry lobby groups are heavily in favour of expanding exploration as it would bring jobs and other benefits to the state economy. The Bush administration, meanwhile, argues that further domestic exploration is essential if the United States wants to decrease its dependence on oil and gas from the Middle East.

Accidents and leaks have periodically occurred on the North Slope, and along the trans-Alaska pipeline that takes crude from Prudhoe Bay across two mountain ranges to the port of Valdez on the shores of the North Pacific. Saboteurs blew up a section of pipeline shortly after it opened in the 1970s, starting a major spillage. A hunter accidentally fired into the pipeline five years ago, causing $7m (£3.6m) worth of damage.

Comment on this Article

Survival Dance: How Humans Waltzed Through the Ice Age

By Heather Whipps
Special to LiveScience
posted: 10 March 2006

Some people are naturally graceful on the dance floor, while others seem burdened by two inept left feet. Blame it on the Ice Age.

According to new research, the ability to dance may have been a factor in survival for our prehistoric ancestors, who used their moves to bond and communicate with each other when times were tough.
A study published in a recent issue of the Public Library of Science's genetics journal, suggests that, as a result, today's creative dancers actually share two specific genes. Both genes are associated with a predisposition for being good social communicators.

Scientists believe this gave early humans who were well coordinated and rhythmic a distinct evolutionary advantage.

Dancing genes

"Dance, like music, is an activity dating to prehistoric times that is sometimes a sacred ritual, sometimes a form of communication, and sometimes an important social and courtship activity," wrote the researchers, who were psychologists based primarily out of universities in Jerusalem. "We hypothesized that there are differences among individuals in aptitude, propensity, and need for dancing that may partially be based on differences in common [genes]."

DNA was obtained from 85 elite dancers and their parents to compare with a group of people lacking any distinguishing characteristics, as well as a group of athletes. The genes studied don't control a specific physical ability, but they dictate two well-known social and behavioral chemicals in the body: serotonin and vasopressin.

As researchers suspected, both chemicals were found in much larger quantities among the dancers. In other words, while the elite dancers couldn't be put in a different physical category from everyone else, they all shared genes that made them more social.

The survival dance

This innate ability was crucial in prehistoric times, according to Steven J. Mithen, and archaeologist at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom.
"Cooperation would have been essential for survival during the last Ice Age and this would have been facilitated by the social bonds that develop through communal dancing and singing," Mithen told LiveScience.

In his new book "The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and Body" (Harvard University Press, 2006), Mithen contends that because of their communication powers, dance and music likely became an important tool of social interaction as soon as humans could walk and talk.

"It has been argued that the specific nature of human anatomy suggests that it evolved for endurance running as much as walking. As such it could have also been used for dancing, as bipedalism requires high degrees of muscle control, balance and flexibility," he said.

Dance like a Neanderthal

Mithen's research focuses on the Neanderthals-our prehistoric cousins-as opposed to Homo sapiens' direct ancestors. But he believes the importance of dance was widespread and probably practiced by early humans, too, as far back as 1.5 million years ago.

And, as it is on modern dance floors, their prehistoric moves had a lot to do with hooking up.

"In many societies today dancing is used as a form of display for attracting mate," Mithen points out. "Dancing is a means to show off one's physical fitness and co-ordination, qualities that would have been useful for survival in prehistoric hunter-gatherer societies."

Comment on this Article

Pakistan weekly spills 9/11 beans

The Telegraph (CIA, MI5 Infested Rag)

New Delhi, March 12: The Pakistan foreign office had paid tens of thousands of dollars to lobbyists in the US to get anti-Pakistan references dropped from the 9/11 inquiry commission report, The Friday Times has claimed.

The Pakistani weekly said its story is based on disclosures made by foreign service officials to the Public Accounts Committee at a secret meeting in Islamabad on Tuesday.

It claimed that some of the commission members were also bribed to prevent them from including damaging information about Pakistan.
The magazine said the PAC grilled officials in the presence of foreign secretary Riaz Mohammad Khan and special secretary Sher Afghan on the money paid to lobbyists.

"The disclosure sheds doubt on the integrity and honesty of the members of the 9/11 inquiry commission and, above all, the authenticity of the information in their final report," it said.

The report quoted an officer as saying that dramatic changes were made in the final draft of the inquiry commission after the lobbyists got to work. The panel was formed to probe the September 11 terror attack and make suggestions to fight terrorism.

After the commission tipped the lobbyists about the damaging revelations on Pakistan's role in 9/11, they contacted the panel members and asked them to go soft on the country. The Friday Times claimed that a lot of money was used to silence these members.

According to the report, the lobbyists also helped Pakistan win the sympathy of 75 US Congressmen as part of its strategy to guard Islamabad's interests in Washington. "US softened towards Pakistan only because of the efforts of the foreign office," an official was quoted as saying in the report.

The Pakistan foreign office defended the decision to hire the lobbyists, saying it was an established practice in the US.

An observer at the Islamabad meeting said money could play an important role in buying powerful people. The remark came in response to comments made by some US officials after 9/11 that "Pakistanis will sell their mothers for a dollar".

Pakistan had emerged as front-runner in the fight against terrorism unleashed by the US after the terror strikes. Washington pumped in billions of dollars to win President Pervez Musharraf's support in launching a crackdown on al Qaida network thriving on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Comment on this Article

September 11 trial halted amid witness coaching claims

From Tom Baldwin in Washington
London Times
13 Mar 06

The death penalty trial of a confessed al-Qaeda conspirator was unexpectedly halted today by a judge who criticised Government lawyers for violating Zacarias Moussaoui's constitutional rights by coaching witnesses.

Leonie Brinkema, the federal judge hearing the case, said: "In all the years I've been on the bench, I have never seen such an egregious violation of a rule on witnesses."

Her intervention represents a humiliating set-back for the US administration which has spent more than four years trying to bring someone to justice for the September 11 attacks on America.
Moussaoui, a 37-year-old French Moroccan, is the only person to be tried in a US courtroom for direct involvement in the attacks, even though at the time he was already under arrest for immigration violations.

The Justice Department says that he deserves to die through lethal execution because he lied to investigators about what he knew of al-Qaeda's plans to fly aeroplanes into buildings.

Today's development came after Carla Martin, a lawyer from the Federal Aviation Administration, admitted coaching at least four witnesses by showing them transcripts of evidence - a deliberate attempt to "shape their testimony", according to defence lawyers.

"This is the second significant error of the government affecting the constitutional rights of this defendant," Judge Brinkema said. "More importantly, it affects the integrity of the criminal justice system in the United States."

Last week, the judge ruled out of order a prosecution question that Moussaoui had a responsibility to tell the FBI about his terrorist links. In remarks which may be significant for the outcome of the trial, she warned the prosecution it was treading on shaky legal ground because there was no precedent for a defendant's failure to act resulting in the death penalty.

Edward MacMahon, the defence attorney, moved to have the case thrown out - saying "this is not going to be a fair trial" - or at at least have the FAA witnesses removed.

Even David Novak, the prosecutor, acknowledged that witness coaching was "horrendously wrong". But he said the case should be allowed to proceed after rigourous cross-examination of the witnesses. Judge Brinkema said she would need time to study what to do and adjourned the court until Wednesday.

Moussaoui has already pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in connection with attacks so, even if Judge Brinkema declares a mis-trial, he will still spend the rest of his life in prison.

His court-appointed lawyers, with whom he is not speaking, claim he is mentally unstable and was - at most - only a fringe character in al-Qaeda whose leaders regarded him as unreliable.

They are also attempting to highlight the the Government's negligence in failing to prevent the attacks despite being given a series of clues in the days leading up to September 11. They will suggest Moussaoui knew less about the plot than many US federal agents.

"You can't judge him to get revenge for 9/11," or for the failure of the US government to act on other leads, Mr MacMahon told the jury, "no one should be executed on such flimsy evidence, not even a member of Al Qaeda."

But the Government remains eager to use the trial as catharsis for both its own troubles and the anguish of victims' relatives. It has made special arrangements to accommodate family members in the court and around television screens at six locations elsewhere in the US.

While Moussaoui may not be an ideal proxy for the 19 suicide hijackers, he does at least proudly - and loudly - declare his membership of al-Qaeda, his hatred for the US and his willingness to kill innocent civilians.

Throughout the first week of the trial, Moussaoui sat quietly through proceedings clad in a green prison jumpsuit and a white knitted cap, frequently stroking his thick beard. But at the end of each session in Alexandria, Virginia, he has made a ritual of jumping up and shouting a declaration such as "God curse America," or "God bless bin Laden."

Comment on this Article

Sandra Day O'Connor: Dictatorship is the danger

Jonathan Raban
Monday March 13, 2006
The Guardian

Linking the words "America" and "dictatorship" is a daily staple of leftwing blogs, which thrive on the idea that Bush administration policies since 9/11 are taking the country ever closer to totalitarian rule. Liberal fears that democracy is endangered by Republicans in Congress are so widespread, so endemic to the jittery political climate in the US, that they hardly bear repeating. It'll surprise no one to learn that another voice was added to the chorus last Thursday, warning that recent attacks on the American judiciary were putting the democratic fabric in jeopardy and were the first steps down the treacherous path to dictatorship.

What is surprising - more than that, electrifying - is that the voice belonged to Sandra Day O'Connor, who retired a few weeks ago from the supreme court. O'Connor is a Republican and a Reagan nominee. Regarded as the "swing vote" on the court, she swung the presidential election to George Bush in 2000.
Equally surprising is that O'Connor's speech to an audience of lawyers at Georgetown University was attended by just one reporter, the diligent legal correspondent for National Public Radio, Nina Totenberg. No transcript or recording of the speech has been made available, so we have only Totenberg's notes to go on. But - assuming they are accurate - the notes are political dynamite.

O'Connor's voice was "dripping with sarcasm", according to Totenberg, as she "took aim at former House GOP [Republican] leader Tom DeLay. She didn't name him, but she quoted his attacks on the courts at a meeting of the conservative Christian group Justice Sunday last year when DeLay took out after the courts for rulings on abortions, prayer and the Terri Schiavo case.

"It gets worse, she said, noting that death threats against judges are increasing. It doesn't help, she said, when a high-profile senator suggests there may be a connection between violence against judges and decisions that the senator disagrees with."

Then she spoke the D-word. "I, said O'Connor, am against judicial reforms driven by nakedly partisan reasoning. Pointing to the experiences of developing countries and former communist countries where interference with an independent judiciary has allowed dictatorship to flourish, O'Connor said we must be ever-vigilant against those who would strong-arm the judiciary into adopting their preferred policies. It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, she said, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings."

Delivered by someone who was, until recently, one of the nine guardians of the US constitution, these are spine-chilling opinions, and you might have thought they'd have been all over the papers the next day. Not so. I happened to catch Totenberg's NPR report last Friday, and have been following up references to it. A cable TV talkshow and a handful of blogs have mentioned Totenberg's piece: otherwise there's been a disquieting silence, as if the former justice had laid an unsavoury egg and had best be politely ignored.

Why did O'Connor choose such a closed forum to air her thoughts? Why was Totenberg the only reporter present? The possibility that America is sliding toward dictatorship or an unprecedented form of corporate oligarchy ought to be a matter of world concern. And if O'Connor believes what she is reported to have said, surely she owes it to the world to make public the prepared text of her remarks, which so far have the dubious character of the scores of unverifiable leaks that have passed for news in the compulsively secretive world of the Bush administration. It's unsurprising that, say, Colin Powell chooses to leak rather than speak out, but when a supreme court justice prefers to whisper her fears to a coterie audience, it's hard to avoid the inference that the whisper itself speaks volumes about the imperilled democracy it purports to describe.

Death threats to judges figured importantly in O'Connor's speech, with good reason. Last year, an Illinois federal judge found her husband and mother murdered, and a Georgia state judge was shot dead in his courtroom. Within days, Senator John Cornyn of Texas mused: "I wonder whether there may be some connection between the perception in some quarters, on some occasions, where judges are making political decisions yet are unaccountable to the public, that it builds up and builds up and builds up to the point where some people engage in violence." DeLay, speaking of the judges who had ruled that Schiavo be allowed to die, said: "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behaviour."

These are peculiar times, and when Republican politicians appear to endorse the killing of judges who make rulings of which they disapprove, it's maybe understandable that a distinguished judge like Sandra Day O'Connor, expressing views calculated to enrage Republican politicians, might sensibly look to a small podium with a weak sound system for fear of being heard too clearly by the likes of Cornyn and DeLay.

Comment on this Article

Big Brother Is Listening

By James Bamford
The Atlantic
12 Mar 06

The NSA has the ability to eavesdrop on your communications, landlines, cell phones, e-mails, BlackBerry messages, Internet searches, and more?with ease. What happens when the technology of espionage outstrips the law?s ability to protect ordinary citizens from it?

On the first Saturday in April of 2002, the temperature in Washington, D.C., had taken a dive. Tourists were bundled up against the cold, and the cherry trees along the Tidal Basin were fast losing their blossoms to the biting winds. But a few miles to the south, in the Dowden Terrace neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, the chilly weather was not deterring Royce C. Lamberth, a bald and burly Texan, from mowing his lawn. He stopped only when four cars filled with FBI agents suddenly pulled up in front of his house. The agents were there not to arrest him but to request an emergency court hearing to obtain seven top-secret warrants to eavesdrop on Americans.

As the presiding justice of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, Lamberth had become accustomed to holding the secret hearings in his living room. ?My wife, Janis ? has to go upstairs because she doesn?t have a top-secret clearance,? he noted in a speech to a group of Texas lawyers. ?My beloved cocker spaniel, Taffy, however, remains at my side on the assumption that the surveillance targets cannot make her talk. The FBI knows Taffy well. They frequently play with her while I read some of those voluminous tomes at home.? FBI agents will even knock on the judge?s door in the middle of the night. ?On the night of the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Africa, I started the first emergency hearings in my living room at 3:00 a.m.,? recalled Lamberth. ?From the outset, the FBI suspected bin Laden, and the surveillances I approved that night and in the ensuing days and weeks all ended up being critical evidence at the trial in New York.

?The FISA court is probably the least-known court in Washington,? added Lamberth, who stepped down from it in 2002, at the end of his seven-year term, ?but it has become one of the most important.? Conceived in the aftermath of Watergate, the FISA court traces its origins to the mid-1970s, when the Senate?s Church Committee investigated the intelligence community and the Nixon White House. The panel, chaired by Idaho Democrat Frank Church, exposed a long pattern of abuse, and its work led to bipartisan legislation aimed at preventing a president from unilaterally directing the National Security Agency or the FBI to spy on American citizens. This legislation, the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, established the FISA court?made up of eleven judges handpicked by the chief justice of the United States?as a secret part of the federal judiciary. The court?s job is to decide whether to grant warrants requested by the NSA or the FBI to monitor communications of American citizens and legal residents. The law allows the government up to three days after it starts eavesdropping to ask for a warrant; every violation of FISA carries a penalty of up to five years in prison. Between May 18, 1979, when the court opened for business, until the end of 2004, it granted 18,742 NSA and FBI applications; it turned down only four outright.

Such facts worry Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor who worked for the NSA as an intern while in law school in the 1980s. The FISA ?courtroom,? hidden away on the top floor of the Justice Department building (because even its location is supposed to be secret), is actually a heavily protected, windowless, bug-proof installation known as a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF. ?When I first went into the FISA court as a lowly intern at the NSA, frankly, it started a lifetime of opposition for me to that court,? Turley recently told a group of House Democrats looking into the NSA?s domestic spying. ?I was shocked with what I saw. I was convinced that the judge in that SCIF would have signed anything that we put in front of him. And I wasn?t entirely sure that he had actually read what we put in front of him. But I remember going back to my supervisor at NSA and saying, ?That place scares the daylights out of me.??

Lamberth bristles at any suggestion that his court routinely did the administration?s bidding. ?Those who know me know the chief justice did not put me on this court because I would be a rubber stamp for whatever the executive branch was wanting to do,? he said in his speech. ?I ask questions. I get into the nitty-gritty. I know exactly what is going to be done and why. And my questions are answered, in every case, before I approve an application.?

It is true that the court has been getting tougher. From 1979 through 2000, it modified only two out of 13,087 warrant requests. But from the start of the Bush administration, in 2001, the number of modifications increased to 179 out of 5,645 requests. Most of those?173?involved what the court terms ?substantive modifications.?

This friction?and especially the requirement that the government show ?probable cause? that the American whose communications they are seeking to target is connected in some way to a terrorist group?induced the administration to begin circumventing the court. Concerned about preventing future 9/11-style attacks, President Bush secretly decided in the fall of 2001 that the NSA would no longer be bound by FISA. Although Judge Lamberth was informed of the president?s decision, he was ordered to tell no one about it?not even his clerks or his fellow FISA-court judges.

Why the NSA Might be Listening to YOU

Contrary to popular perception, the NSA does not engage in ?wiretapping?; it collects signals intelligence, or ?sigint.? In contrast to the image we have from movies and television of an FBI agent placing a listening device on a target?s phone line, the NSA intercepts entire streams of electronic communications containing millions of telephone calls and e-mails. It runs the intercepts through very powerful computers that screen them for particular names, telephone numbers, Internet addresses, and trigger words or phrases. Any communications containing flagged information are forwarded by the computer for further analysis.

The NSA?s task is to listen in on the world outside American shores. During the Cold War, the principal targets were the communications lines used by the Soviet government and military?navy captains calling their ports, fighter pilots getting landing instructions, army commanders out on maneuvers, and diplomats relaying messages to the Kremlin. But now the enemy is one that communicates very little and, when it does, uses the same telecommunications network as everyone else: a complex system of wires, radio signals, and light pulses encircling and crisscrossing the globe like yarn. Picking up just the right thread, and tracing it through the maze of strands, is difficult. Sometimes a thread leads back inside the United States. An internal agency report predicted a few years ago that the NSA?s worldwide sigint operation would demand a ?powerful and permanent presence? on the global telecommunications networks that carry ?protected American communications.? The prediction has come true, and the NSA now monitors not only purely ?foreign? communications but also ?international? ones, where one end of the conversation might be in the United States. As a result, the issue at hand since the revelation last December of the NSA?s warrantless spying on American citizens is not the agency?s access to the country?s communications network?it already has access?but whether the NSA must take legal steps in preparing to target the communications of an American citizen.

It used to be that before the NSA could place the name of an American on its watch list, it had to go before a FISA-court judge and show that it had probable cause?that the facts and circumstances were such that a prudent person would think the individual was somehow connected to terrorism?in order to get a warrant. But under the new procedures put into effect by Bush?s 2001 order, warrants do not always have to be obtained, and the critical decision about whether to put an American on a watch list is left to the vague and subjective ?reasonable belief? of an NSA shift supervisor. In charge of hundreds of people, the supervisor manages a wide range of sigint specialists, including signals-conversion analysts separating HBO television programs from cell-phone calls, traffic analysts sifting through massive telephone data streams looking for suspicious patterns, cryptanalysts attempting to read e-mail obscured by complex encryption algorithms, voice-language analysts translating the gist of a phone call from Dari into English, and cryptolinguists trying to unscramble a call on a secure telephone. Bypassing the FISA court has meant that the number of Americans targeted by the NSA has increased since 2001 from perhaps a dozen per year to as many as 5,000 over the last four years, knowledgeable sources told The Washington Post in February. If telephone records indicate that one of the NSA?s targets regularly dials a given telephone number, that number and any names associated with it are added to the watch lists and the communications on that line are screened by computer. Names and information on the watch lists are shared with the FBI, the CIA, the Department of Homeland Security, and foreign intelligence services. Once a person?s name is in the files, even if nothing incriminating ever turns up, it will likely remain there forever. There is no way to request removal, because there is no way to confirm that a name is on the list.

In December of 1997, in a small factory outside the southern French city of Toulouse, a salesman got caught in the NSA?s electronic web. Agents working for the NSA?s British partner, the Government Communications Headquarters, learned of a letter of credit, valued at more than $1.1 million, issued by Iran?s defense ministry to the French company Microturbo. According to NSA documents, both the NSA and the GCHQ concluded that Iran was attempting to secretly buy from Microturbo an engine for the embargoed C-802 anti-ship missile. Faxes zapping back and forth between Toulouse and Tehran were intercepted by the GCHQ, which sent them on not just to the NSA but also to the Canadian and Australian sigint agencies, as well as to Britain?s MI6. The NSA then sent the reports on the salesman making the Iranian deal to a number of CIA stations around the world, including those in Paris and Bonn, and to the U.S. Commerce Department and the Customs Service. Probably several hundred people in at least four countries were reading the company?s communications. The question, however, remained: Was Microturbo shipping a missile engine to Iran? In the end, at the insistence of the U.S. government, the French conducted a surprise inspection just before the ship carrying the mysterious crate was set to sail for Iran. Inside were legal generators, not illegal missile engines.

Such events are central to the current debate involving the potential harm caused by the NSA?s warrantless domestic eavesdropping operation. Even though the salesman did nothing wrong, his name made its way into the computers and onto the watch lists of intelligence, customs, and other secret and law-enforcement organizations around the world. Maybe nothing will come of it. Maybe the next time he tries to enter the United States or Britain he will be denied, without explanation. Maybe he will be arrested. As the domestic eavesdropping program continues to grow, such uncertainties may plague innocent Americans whose names are being run through the supercomputers even though the NSA has not met the established legal standard for a search warrant. It is only when such citizens are turned down while applying for a job with the federal government?or refused when seeking a Small Business Administration loan, or turned back by British customs agents when flying to London on vacation, or even placed on a ?no-fly? list?that they will realize that something is very wrong. But they will never learn why.

More than seventy-five years ago, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis envisioned a day when technology would overtake the law. He wrote:

Subtler and more far-reaching means of invading privacy have become available to the government ? The progress of science in furnishing the government with means of espionage is not likely to stop with wiretapping. Ways may some day be developed by which the Government, without removing papers from secret drawers, can reproduce them in court, and by which it will be enabled to expose to a jury the most intimate occurrences of the home ? Can it be that the Constitution affords no protection against such invasions of individual security?

Brandeis went on to answer his own question, quoting from an earlier Supreme Court decision, Boyd v. U.S. (1886): ?It is not the breaking of his doors, and the rummaging of his drawers that constitutes the essence of the offence; but it is the invasion of his indefeasible right of personal security, personal liberty, and private property.?

Eavesdropping in the Digital Age

oday, the NSA?s capability to eavesdrop is far beyond anything ever dreamed of by Justice Brandeis. With the digital revolution came an explosion in eavesdropping technology; the NSA today has the ability to scan tens of millions of electronic communications?e-mails, faxes, instant messages, Web searches, and phone calls?every hour. General Michael Hayden, director of the NSA from 1999 to 2005 and now principal deputy director of national intelligence, noted in 2002 that during the 1990s, e-communications ?surpassed traditional communications. That is the same decade when mobile cell phones increased from 16 million to 741 million?an increase of nearly 50 times. That is the same decade when Internet users went from about 4 million to 361 million?an increase of over 90 times. Half as many land lines were laid in the last six years of the 1990s as in the whole previous history of the world. In that same decade of the 1990s, international telephone traffic went from 38 billion minutes to over 100 billion. This year, the world?s population will spend over 180 billion minutes on the phone in international calls alone.?

Intercepting communications carried by satellite is fairly simple for the NSA. The key conduits are the thirty Intelsat satellites that ring the Earth, 22,300 miles above the equator. Many communications from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East to the eastern half of the United States, for example, are first uplinked to an Intelsat satellite and then downlinked to AT&T?s ground station in Etam, West Virginia. From there, phone calls, e-mails, and other communications travel on to various parts of the country. To listen in on that rich stream of information, the NSA built a listening post fifty miles away, near Sugar Grove, West Virginia. Consisting of a group of very large parabolic dishes, hidden in a heavily forested valley and surrounded by tall hills, the post can easily intercept the millions of calls and messages flowing every hour into the Etam station. On the West Coast, high on the edge of a bluff overlooking the Okanogan River, near Brewster, Washington, is the major commercial downlink for communications to and from Asia and the Pacific. Consisting of forty parabolic dishes, it is reportedly the largest satellite antenna farm in the Western Hemisphere. A hundred miles to the south, collecting every whisper, is the NSA?s western listening post, hidden away on a 324,000-acre Army base in Yakima, Washington. The NSA posts collect the international traffic beamed down from the Intelsat satellites over the Atlantic and Pacific. But each also has a number of dishes that appear to be directed at domestic telecommunications satellites.

ntil recently, most international telecommunications flowing into and out of the United States traveled by satellite. But faster, more reliable undersea fiber-optic cables have taken the lead, and the NSA has adapted. The agency taps into the cables that don?t reach our shores by using specially designed submarines, such as the USS Jimmy Carter, to attach a complex ?bug? to the cable itself. This is difficult, however, and undersea taps are short-lived because the batteries last only a limited time. The fiber-optic transmission cables that enter the United States from Europe and Asia can be tapped more easily at the landing stations where they come ashore. With the acquiescence of the telecommunications companies, it is possible for the NSA to attach monitoring equipment inside the landing station and then run a buried encrypted fiber-optic ?backhaul? line to NSA headquarters at Fort Meade, Maryland, where the river of data can be analyzed by supercomputers in near real time.

Tapping into the fiber-optic network that carries the nation?s Internet communications is even easier, as much of the information transits through just a few ?switches? (similar to the satellite downlinks). Among the busiest are MAE East (Metropolitan Area Ethernet), in Vienna, Virginia, and MAE West, in San Jose, California, both owned by Verizon. By accessing the switch, the NSA can see who?s e-mailing with whom over the Internet cables and can copy entire messages. Last September, the Federal Communications Commission further opened the door for the agency. The 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act required telephone companies to rewire their networks to provide the government with secret access. The FCC has now extended the act to cover ?any type of broadband Internet access service? and the new Internet phone services?and ordered company officials never to discuss any aspect of the program.

he NSA won?t divulge how many people it employs, but it is likely that more than 38,000 worldwide now work for the agency. Most of them are at Fort Meade. Nicknamed Crypto City, hidden from public view, and located halfway between Washington and Baltimore, the NSA?s own company town comprises more than fifty buildings?offices, warehouses, factories, laboratories, and a few barracks. Tens of thousands of people work there in absolute secrecy, and most never tell their spouses exactly what they do. Crypto City also houses the nation?s largest collection of powerful computers, advanced mathematicians, and skilled language experts.

The NSA maintains a very close and very confidential relationship with key executives in the telecommunications industry through their membership on the NSA?s advisory board. Created shortly after the agency?s formation, the board was intended to pull together a panel of science wizards from universities, corporate research labs, and think tanks to advise the agency. They keep the agency abreast of the industry?s plans and give NSA engineers a critical head start in finding ways to penetrate technologies still in the development phase.

One of the NSA?s strategies is to hire people away from the companies that make the critical components for telecommunications systems. Although it?s sometimes difficult for the agency to keep up with the tech sector?s pay scale, for many people the chance to deal with the ultimate in cutting-edge technology and aid national security makes working for the NSA irresistible. With the help of such workers, the agency reverse-engineers communication system components. For example, among the most crucial pieces of the Internet infrastructure are routers made by Cisco. ?Virtually all Internet traffic,? says one of the company?s television ads, ?travels across the systems of one company: Cisco Systems.? For the NSA, this is an opportunity. In 1999, Terry Thompson, then the NSA deputy director for services, said, ?[Y]ou can see down the road two or three or five years and say, ?Well, I only need this person to do reverse-engineering on Cisco routers (that?s a good example) for about three or five years, because I see Cisco going away as a key manufacturer for routers and so I don?t need that expertise. But I really need somebody today and for the next couple of years who knows Cisco routers inside and out and can help me understand how they?re being used in target networks.??

The Temptations of Secrecy

he National Security Agency was born in absolute secrecy. Unlike the CIA, which was created publicly by a congressional act, the NSA was brought to life by a top-secret memorandum signed by President Truman in 1952, consolidating the country?s various military sigint operations into a single agency. Even its name was secret, and only a few members of Congress were informed of its existence?and they received no information about some of its most important activities. Such secrecy has lent itself to abuse.

During the Vietnam War, for instance, the agency was heavily involved in spying on the domestic opposition to the government. Many of the Americans on the watch lists of that era were there solely for having protested against the war. Among the names in the NSA?s supercomputers were those of the folk singer Joan Baez, the pediatrician Benjamin Spock, the actress Jane Fonda, the civil-rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., and the newspaper editor David Kahn, whose standard history of cryptology, The Codebreakers, contained information the NSA viewed as classified. Even so much as writing about the NSA could land a person a place on a watch list. The NSA, on behalf of the FBI, was also targeting religious groups. ?When J. Edgar Hoover gives you a requirement for complete surveillance of all Quakers in the United States,? recalled Frank Raven, a former senior NSA official, ?and when Richard M. Nixon is a Quaker and he?s the president of the United States, it gets pretty funny.?

f course, such abuses are hardly the exclusive province of the NSA; history has repeatedly shown that simply having the ability to eavesdrop brings with it the temptation to use that ability?whatever the legal barriers against that use may be. For instance, during World War I, the government read and censored thousands of telegrams?the e-mail of the day?sent hourly by telegraph companies. Though the end of the war brought with it a reversion to the Radio Act of 1912, which guaranteed the secrecy of communications, the State and War Departments nevertheless joined together in May of 1919 to create America?s first civilian eavesdropping and code-breaking agency, nicknamed the Black Chamber. By arrangement, messengers visited the telegraph companies each morning and took bundles of hard-copy telegrams to the agency?s offices across town. These copies were returned before the close of business that day.

A similar tale followed the end of World War II. In August of 1945, President Truman ordered an end to censorship. That left the Signal Security Agency (the military successor to the Black Chamber, which was shut down in 1929) without its raw intelligence?the telegrams provided by the telegraph companies. The director of the SSA sought access to cable traffic through a secret arrangement with the heads of the three major telegraph companies. The companies agreed to turn all telegrams over to the SSA, under a plan code-named Operation Shamrock. It ran until the government?s domestic spying programs were publicly revealed, in the mid-1970s. The discovery of such abuses in the wake of the Watergate scandal led Congress to create select committees to conduct extensive investigations into the government?s domestic spying programs: their origin, extent, and effect on the public. The shocking findings turned up by the Church Committee finally led to the formation of permanent Senate and House intelligence committees, whose primary responsibility was to protect the public from future privacy abuses. They were to be the FISA court?s partner in providing checks and balances to the ever-expanding U.S. intelligence agencies. But it remains very much an open question whether these checks are up to the task at hand.

Who Watches the Watchmen?

Today, the NSA has access to more information than ever before. People express their most intimate thoughts in e-mails, send their tax returns over the Internet, satisfy their curiosity and desires with Google searches, let their hair down in chat rooms, discuss every event over cell phones, make appointments with their BlackBerrys, and do business by computer in WiFi hot spots.

NSA personnel, the customs inspectors of the information superhighway, have the ultimate goal of intercepting and reviewing every syllable and murmur zapping into, out of, or through the United States. They are close to achieving it. More than a dozen years ago, an NSA director gave an indication of the agency?s capability. ?Just one intelligence-collection system,? said Admiral William O. Studeman, referring to a listening post such as Sugar Grove, ?can generate a million inputs per half hour.? Today, with the secret cooperation of much of the telecommunications industry, massive dishes vacuuming the airwaves, and electronic ?packet sniffers,? software that monitors network traffic, diverting e-mail and other data from fiber-optic cables, the NSA?s hourly take is in the tens of millions of communications. One transatlantic fiber-optic cable alone has the capacity to handle close to 10 million simultaneous calls. While most communications flow through the NSA?s electronic net unheard and unread, those messages associated with persons on the agency?s watch lists?whether guilty or innocent?get kicked out for review.

As history has shown, the availability of such vast amounts of information is a temptation for an intelligence agency. The criteria for compiling watch lists and collecting information may be very strict at the beginning of such a program, but the reality?in a sort of bureaucratic law of expansion?is that it will draw in more and more people whose only offense was knowing the wrong person or protesting the wrong war.

Moreover, as Internet and wireless communications have grown exponentially, users have seen a corresponding decrease in the protections provided by the two institutions set up to shield the public from eavesdroppers. The first, the FISA court, has simply been shunted aside by the executive branch. The second, the congressional intelligence committees, have quite surprisingly abdicated any role. Created to be the watchdogs over the intelligence community, the committees have instead become its most enthusiastic cheerleaders. Rather than fighting for the public?s privacy rights, they are constantly battling for more money and more freedom for the spy agencies.

Last November, just a month before The New York Times broke the story of the NSA?s domestic spying, the American Bar Association publicly expressed concern over Congress?s oversight of FISA searches. ?The ABA is concerned that there is inadequate congressional oversight of government investigations undertaken pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act,? the group stated, ?to assure that such investigations do not violate the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments to the Constitution.? And while the administration did brief members of Congress on the decision to bypass FISA, the briefings were limited to a ?Gang of Eight??the majority and minority leaders of the House and Senate and the chairmen and ranking members of the two intelligence committees. None of the lawmakers insisted that the decision be debated by the joint committees, even though such hearings are closed.

Frank Church, the Idaho Democrat who led the first probe into the National Security Agency, warned in 1975 that the agency?s capabilities

could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such [is] the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn?t matter. There would be no place to hide. If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back, because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it is done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capacity of this technology.

It was those fears that caused Congress to enact the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act three years later. ?I don?t want to see this country ever go across the bridge,? Senator Church said. ?I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that [the National Security Agency] and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.?

Copyright © 2006 by The Atlantic Monthly Group

Comment on this Article

Deputies' Questions Unsettle University - 'Chilling effect' is feared after a Pomona College professor is queried on his links to Venezuela.

By Richard Winton and J. Michael Kennedy
Los Angeles Times
11 Mar 06

A Pomona College professor of Latin American history said Friday that he was questioned about his Venezuela connections by two Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies working for a federal task force and called the quizzing an intrusion on his academic freedom.

The college's president weighed in as well, saying he feared the "chilling effect" such visits could have on academia.
Professor Miguel Tinker-Salas said the deputies entered his office without an appointment Tuesday during hours normally set aside for student conferences. He said the deputies were there for about 25 minutes and asked him about the Venezuelan community and his relationship with it. They also told him he was not the subject of an investigation.

"They cast the Venezuelan community as a threat," said Tinker-Salas, an outspoken critic of U.S. policy in Latin America who was born in Venezuela. "They asked me if the Venezuelan government had influenced me one way or another. I think they were fishing to see if I had any information they could use."

Sheriff Lee Baca said Friday that his deputies were doing nothing more than gathering information on the political situation in Venezuela for a federal anti-terrorism task force coordinated by the FBI. But he said he would discourage workplace interviews in the future, especially with members of academia.

Venezuela has had strained relations with the United States for years. In recent months, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has broadened his criticism of the U.S. and touched American nerves by strengthening ties with Iran.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told Congress last month that the administration was pursuing an "inoculation strategy" in other Latin American countries to limit Venezuelan influence.

Tinker-Salas figured in a Christian Science Monitor story last month dealing with whether Iran and Venezuela could forge a political counterweight to U.S. power. He said the detectives questioned him on subjects that easily could have been answered elsewhere.

"They asked me about the Venezuelan community. Where do they congregate? Do they have a leadership?" he said. "They asked about the consulate and the embassy. They wanted to know if I had contact with the Venezuelan government."

Tinker-Salas said the deputies also questioned waiting students about him and examined cartoons on his office door.

"They asked them about my classes," he said. "My students were intimidated."

Pomona College President David Oxtoby said Friday that he was "extremely concerned about the chilling effect this kind of intrusive government interest could have on free scholarly and political discourse. I am also concerned about the negative message it sends to students who are considering the pursuit of important areas of international study, in which they may now feel exposed to unwarranted official scrutiny."

Oxtoby said the school, in Claremont, was consulting with legal advisors about the strongest way to protest Tinker-Salas' questioning. "He's a national expert," Oxtoby said. The deputies "could have called. They could have made an appointment."

The Venezuelan government weighed in as well Friday, issuing a statement that called the questioning "a violation of freedoms of expression, thought and academic inquiry," and said the government "views the move as a desperate attempt to link Venezuela to terrorism."

U.S. law enforcement officials said Friday that the concerns raised about the interview have only underscored the importance for federal agents - or others handling interviews - to follow accepted procedures.

"We're mindful of the need to be sensitive about these discussions, no matter how benign the subject may be," said one official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the controversy the incident has generated.

In a statement, the FBI said law enforcement officials should be mindful of the timing and location of an informational interview. As for the Pomona College meeting, the FBI said there was no intent "to place the professor, his students or Pomona College in an uncomfortable situation."

Baca, meanwhile, said the deputies were not working on any particular case. But he said he would have preferred it if the deputies had avoided the college grounds or at least called ahead.

"It is important not to go to college campuses and interview professors and students in such a way that leads to questions like, 'Why are they under suspicion?' " he said.

Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times

Comment on this Article

The Crime of Being a Muslim Charity

By Laila al-Marayati and Basil Abdelkarim
The Washington Post
12 Mar 06

The Treasury Department is playing target practice with American Muslim charities. On Feb. 19 Treasury seized the assets and froze the operations of KindHearts, a Toledo-based humanitarian organization, acting on the dubious allegation that it is financing terrorism. Someone from Treasury once told us, "There are folks here who look at you guys like notches on their belts . . . just waiting to take the next one out."
Unfortunately, those of us in the American Muslim community who want to give to legitimate causes in a lawful manner are getting mixed messages from the U.S. government. We are told that if we conduct due diligence and function transparently, we should be able to give to charities of our choice. Then the government closes most of these charities, using the weakest of evidence to support its actions and leading many American Muslims to believe that our government opposes efforts to help needy Muslims around the world. Moreover, the arbitrary freezing of assets ensures that the money will never reach the destination intended by the donors -- the truly indigent. The government has consistently denied requests to have the frozen funds released to reputable organizations (that are not on any lists) doing similar work so that the donors' intentions are honored.

Under the USA Patriot Act, the U.S. government is authorized to close down a charity while an investigation is going on. The government is under no obligation to reveal the evidence used to justify the seizure of assets and the designation of the charity as a "specially designated national," i.e. a bad guy on the list of suspected terrorists issued by the Treasury Department.

The organization can file an appeal, but as was noted in a recent paper titled "Muslim Charities and the War on Terror" by the organization OMBWatch, "appealing Treasury actions to the federal courts is relatively useless, as the court's scope of review is very limited."

Since Sept. 11, 2001, six American Muslim charities have been shuttered in this fashion. The government still doesn't have a single terrorism conviction against any of the employees or board members of any of those charities. Similarly, the government has never been able to document a bona fide trail showing how money from the charity got into the hands of actual terrorists. Never.

We believe it is possible to provide sustenance to people in need without supporting terrorism. But the message we are hearing is this: "All Muslims are suspected of supporting terrorism. Your charities are guilty of this crime until proven innocent. But don't bother trying to prove your innocence because you won't have the chance." The government has not taken action against a single non-Muslim charity that works in the same region helping to feed, educate and sustain people who had also received assistance from the Muslim charities accused of financing terrorism.

We are among those American Muslims who decided that because it is our right as Americans to fulfill our religious obligation to help the needy both here and abroad, we would start a new charity. We did so in 2002 and have experienced our fair share of government harassment as a result.

None of us is interested in engaging in illegal activity; it is immoral, unethical and un-Islamic, and it serves no useful purpose whatever. Our crime is that we care about what happens to the children of Palestine. Who knows what price we will have to pay for our hot-breakfast program for hungry kids in Gaza, for our playground project in the West Bank, for our psychosocial trauma center in Hebron.

Under former attorney general John Ashcroft, American Muslim charities were closed as part of the charade to make the American people believe the government was disrupting terrorist financing. Today, under Alberto Gonzales, the message is that Muslim Americans will be punished if they want to help Palestinians. Either way the assault on our charities is not about the safety and security of the American people but about politics.

The writers, both physicians, are board members of KinderUSA, a Muslim American nonprofit humanitarian organization.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

Comment on this Article

Expert Sez: US Profited From Mohammed Cartoons Scandal

28 Feb 06

The chief producer of the Arabic service of the Russia Today TV channel, Akram Husam, discusses who could be behind the Muhammad cartoons scandal and of Russia's controversial relations with Hamas.
Why, in your opinion, has a conflict developed with regard to the Muhammad cartoons? Who profits from this scandal?

I believe this scandal is of a political rather than religious nature. Certainly, there are Islamic organizations connected with certain forces in the West and their aim is to cause the Arab states to quarrel with Europe. It is known that after the September 11 events, millions of dollars were transferred from banks in the U.S. to Europe. And now there are forces interested in bringing this money back to the United States. Each country has used the cartoon scandal to solve its own problems. Both Iran and Syria have problems in relations with the world community. In Lebanon, society is split into pro-Syrian and anti-Syrian groups.

As is known, 'the Iran dossier' is being widely discussed now, and it is in the interests of Iran to see to it that this issue is absent from the agenda, on one hand, and that it becomes the center of the Islamic world, on the other. Besides, the UN Security Council will soon consider the situation around Lebanese ex-prime minister Rafik Hariri.

At the same time it is noteworthy that in Saudi Arabia, where radical Islamic organizations are principal players, there are no disturbances of such a scale as in these three countries.

'The cartoon' scandal is profitable to the U.S. who condemned the publication of the cartoons thus looking concerned for the image of the Muslims in the eyes of the public. But I do not understand why one would set the Danish and Norwegian embassies on fire, whereas the Islamic world should focus precisely on the United States as the country that has as much as occupied Iraq and Afghanistan, not just drew some cartoons or spoke bad of Islam.

I believe it will continue, since there are forces interested in keeping up this conflict. The only way out is to express protest, if any, only in a peaceful way.

Why did protesters in Lebanon deliver their main blow on Christians?

It was not aimed at Christians. Those who organized this action did know that the Danish embassy is located in a Christian quarter and, naturally, some sought to cause Christians to quarrel with Muslims. Thank God, it failed, otherwise a civil war would break out. Thank God, Christians did nothing in response.

Do you think the head of a state should apologize for the actions of an independent newspaper?

That there is freedom of speech in Europe is a fact for me, just as it is a fact that governments in European countries cannot interfere in the work of the mass media. I do not understand why many demand an apology from Denmark which does not bear any responsibility for the policy of a particular periodical. So, the way in which the Islamic world has reacted to the publication is a way of silencing the press and journalists, and it is very dangerous.

I would like to add however that, on one hand, I am for freedom of expression, but on the other, I cannot approve of involving religious symbols, especially because it is the Prophet Mohammed in this case.

What do you think of Russia's decision to invite Hamas leaders to Moscow?

It is a very important, and I would say, historic statement of the Russian president, especially when made against the background of Bush's administration's accusations of Hamas as a terrorist organization. In my opinion, the Russian initiative relieves the tension that has been created by the U.S. At the same time, Russia has shown the United State indirectly that there should be no double standards with regard to the elections in the Palestinian Authority. I suppose Russia will play a considerable role after the failure of the U.S. in the Middle East. The success of the Russian leadership's initiative will depend in many ways on whether they will be able to come to a compromise with Israel.

Comment on this Article

If Anyone's Satanic It's Pat Robertson - Hypocritical 'Christians' do Christianity no favors

Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet.com
March 14 2006

Pat Robertson is back on the news treadmill after telling his viewers that Islam wants to take over the world and is not a religion of peace, and that radical Muslims are "satanic." Robertson's past comments underscore the fact that nobody other than Robertson himself has done more to desert so-called Christian principles.

Firstly, no matter how idiotic, Robertson has a right to say whatever he likes under the 1st Amendment. This isn't a 'hate speech' issue. The issue is that Robertson is a complete hypocrite and he is aiding the downfall of Christianity in America by defaming every major tenet of the Bible.
In April 2001 Robertson supported China's brutal policy of forced abortion and said that the Communist country was "doing what they have to do" in keeping population numbers down. It is not Christian to advocate even voluntary abortion on the part of the mother, never mind such a tyrannical model of forced abortion as part of a wider eugenics agenda as is the case in China.

Whenever the subject of implantable chips has been raised on the 700 Club, Robertson has whitewashed the issue, saying that it doesn't represent the mark of the beast and that Christians should not be concerned about it. This directly contradicts the Bible and Revelations.

Last year Robertson caused waves when he advocated the assassination of Venezuelan populist president Hugo Chavez. In doing so Robertson is nailing his colors to the wall as a firm minion of the New World Order. Chavez has rallied against the Globalists at every turn, including his recent spat with Vincente Fox and his rejection of the FTAA.

Robertson has been caught on numerous occasions flashing El Diablo Satanic hand signals on his show (pictured above) and soft-peddling for the beast system by telling Christians not to worry about Big Brother surveillance and biometric scanning.

Robertson is pro Skull and Bones, Bohemian Grove Bush, pro war, and pro government. He is a modern day Judas Iscariot. How does this help an image of Christianity that has already been hijacked and soiled by evil men who veil themselves in religion to obscure mass criminality?

Atheists channel surfing reach the God Channel, CBN and Trinity Broadcasting Network and are confronted by maniacal drooling televangelists who bark like dogs and claim to have the power to save someone's life by touching them on the head. They see the ravings of these demented lunatics and immediately say to themselves, "if that's God I want nothing to do with it."

Texe Marrs has exposed these scribes and pharisees for who they are, most notably in his video The Blind and the Dead.

We have thousands of different sects nitpicking about whose bizarre interpretations of Biblical minutia is correct while ignoring the crystal clear fundamental basics of how to successfully live your life using the example of Jesus Christ.

A culture that drills into people's heads that being cool is about mindlessness and wearing the right trainers doesn't help either. Don't talk about politics or religion! Simon Cowell said something funny last night on American Idol, let's twitter on about that for hours while the house around us burns to the ground!

These factors have directly led to the near destruction of Christianity in Europe and replaced it with Hollywood fad driven faux 'spirituality' like Kabbahlah, which you can trace right back through Anton LaVey, Aleister Crowley and the origins of Satanism itself.

"The goal of Islam, ladies and gentlemen whether you like it or not, is world domination," says Robertson.

The only Muslim invasion taking place is on the immigration front and it's being promulgated and given safe passage by the very government's supposedly fighting radical extremists. The clash of civilizations is being deliberately engendered so the elite can swoop in and pick up the pieces after civil society and the economy go down in flames.

Pat Robertson is an agent of the Globalists and his controversial comments only serve to enhance their Satanic agenda of bringing true Christianity to its knees and forcibly replacing it with a Godless one world government where the only allegiance permitted is to the state itself.

Comment on this Article

Censorship of the Worst Kind - The Second Death of Rachel Corrie


I am urging the Royal Court Theatre to sue the New York Theatre Workshop for the cancellation of the production of "My Name Is Rachel Corrie". Not because I donated money for this production, which the Royal Court have been fundraising for--a target of 50,000 pounds, underwritten by Alan Rickman.

This is censorship of the worst kind. More awful even than that.It is black-listing a dead girl and her diaries.A very brave and exceptional girl who all citizens, whatever their faith or nationality, should be proud and grateful for her existence. They couldn't silence her voice while she lived, so she was killed. Her voice began to speak again as Alan Rickman read her diaries, and Megan Dodds became Rachel Corrie.Now the New York Theatre Workshop have silenced that dear voice.
I shall never forget the glimpse, at the close of Alan Rickman's production, of Rachel when 10 years old, shot on a little family movie camera, making her speech about world poverty and the urgent need to end the misery. The New York Theatre Workshop have silenced that little girl, as well as the girl who confronted the Israeli army Caterpillar bulldozer.

There has to be a court case on the sheer fact of the cancellation of this production. I suppose lawyers were consulted about the word "postponed". We in the theatre know however what cancelling a production means, whatever words are used. Megan Dodds, and a crew lose their jobs. The Royal Court Theatre lose a production that was a few weeks from opening in New York City.

For the Royal Court Theatre were producing "Rachel Corrie", with the New York Theatre Workshop, and putting up a lot of money--$100,000 dollars.

I hope that all theatre artists, writers, designers, actors, directors, independent producers and artists' representatives will make their protests known publicly as well as directly to the New York Theatre Workshop management. I hope that American Actors Equity will be asked to take up and support the Royal Court Theatre producer, Elyse Dodgson, the director, Alan Rickman, and the actress Megan Dodds.

If this cancellation is not transformed into a new production, somewhere in New York, immediately, we would be complicit, all of us, in a catastrophe that must not be allowed to take place. This play is not about taking sides. It is about protecting human beings.

In this case, Palestinian human beings who have no protection, for their families, their homes or their streets.

Rachel Corrie gave her life to protect a family. She didn't have or use a gun or bomb.

She had her huge humanity, and she gave that to save lives.

Comment on this Article

N.Korea army threatens pre-emptive attack

By Jon Herskovitz
14 Mar 06

SEOUL - North Korea has the right to launch a pre-emptive attack against U.S.-backed South Korean forces because the two Koreas are technically still at war, the communist state's official media said on Tuesday.

The comments came as North Korea shows its displeasure with annual joint South Korean-U.S. military exercises, which Pyongyang has said are a preparation for an invasion of its territory.
A spokesman for the North's Korea People's Army (KPA) said distrust is high between the United States and North Korea, and Pyongyang "will never remain a passive onlooker to the U.S. pre-emptive attack on the DPRK," its official news agency reported.

DPRK is short for North Korea's official name, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

"The KPA side is of the view that a pre-emptive attack is not (the) monopoly of the U.S. and the DPRK, too, has the right to pre-empt an attack as the most effective and positive act for self-defense in the light of the hard reality that the DPRK and the U.S. sides are still technically at war," the spokesman was cited as saying.

The 1950-1953 Korean War ended in a truce and not a peace treaty meaning that the two Koreas are technically still at war. The United States led U.N. forces in defense of South Korea and signed the armistice agreement in that capacity.

U.S. and South Korean forces will stage annual field exercises from March 25 to March 31 designed to coordinate defenses of the southern half of the peninsula.

"The KPA will follow with a high degree of vigilance the grave situation prevailing on the Korean peninsula due to the projected war maneuvers and keep itself fully ready to go into action to cope with any event on its own initiative," the spokesman said.

North Korea has said the joint drills are an impediment to progress in six-party talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear weapons programs.

The last round of the talks among the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States was held in November 2005.

The talks have hit a snag over Washington's decision to crack down on firms it suspects of helping North Korea in illicit activity such as counterfeiting.

North Korea has said it is unthinkable for it to return to the talks while Washington is trying to topple its leaders through the financial measures.

Washington, Seoul and others have said the crackdown is a matter for law enforcement and not related to the six-party talks.

In previous years, North Korea has placed its civil defense system on high alert at the time of the joint drills that have been taking place for four decades.

There are about 30,000 U.S. troops in South Korea in support of some 690,000 South Korean troops. The North has about 1.2 million troops.

Comment on this Article

Ami Ayalon: 'I've killed more Arabs than anyone'


Ami Ayalon, who is running on Labor ticket in upcoming elections, tells Sunday Times 'I killed many Arabs, probably more than Hamas fighters killed Jews, and more than anybody else, but all in order to secure Israeli lives'; adds that 'seventy percent of those who voted for Hamas were not Hamas believers but voted against the corruption in the Palestinian Authority

Former Shin Bet Chief Ami Ayalon said in a recent interview with the London-based Sunday Times "I killed many Arabs, probably more than Hamas fighters killed Jews, and more than anybody else, but all in order to secure Israeli lives."
Ayalon, who is running on the Labor party ticket in the upcoming general elections, said he wants a comprehensive peace settlement with the Palestinians even under a Hamas leadership.

"I'd be willing to negotiate with Hamas if the organization accepts the idea of a two-state solution," the Times quoted him as saying.

Ayalon told the newspaper that he believes Israel should establish an "axis of pragmatism" with the regional countries that have full diplomatic relations with Israel - Morocco, Egypt, Jordan and Turkey.

"This is the whole idea - to create this pragmatic axis which will be supported by the European Union and the international community," he said.

'Abbas is weak'

"Seventy percent of those who voted for Hamas were not Hamas believers but voted against the corruption in the Palestinian Authority," he said. "If we establish this axis it will break Hamas and we will see the pragmatist forces among the Palestinians."

Referring to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, Ayalon said "I like the music of Abbas, his words, but not his actions. I think he is a weak leader.

"He's unable to disarm Hamas and Islamic Jihad."

As to the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Ayalon said "When it comes to his best advice on the Palestine question, however, he admitted it was a family affair. "If I learnt something about the conflict with the Palestinians, it is what my wife understood 30 years ago and tried in vain to teach me: Jews will only be safe when Palestinians have hope."

Comment on this Article

Seven Palestinians, including five children killed this week

IMEMC & Agencies
10 March 2006

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reported that Israeli soldiers killed seven residents of the Gaza Strip, five of whom were children. Of the five children who were killed this week, three were killed during an extra-judicial execution gone wrong. The Israeli military also wounded eighteen civilians, including eight children in the reported period.
The Israeli military continued to shell areas of the Gaza Strip, and conducted twenty-nine incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank. Houses were raided and thirty-eight Palestinian civilians were arrested. At least one house was occupied by Israeli soldiers and turned into a military post.

The centre released its weekly report on Thursday and listed the military violations in the Occupied Territories during the week.

The report added that the Israeli military has continued to undertake a total siege of the Occupied Territories, especially in the West Bank. The Jordan Valley remains separated from the rest of the West Bank, and the occupied East Jerusalem continues to be isolated.

Palestinians under the age of forty-five have been denied access to the al-Aqsa mosque. Palestinian residents, including elected members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, have been prohibited from travelling from the Gaza Strip to the West Bank. The Israeli army arrested eight Palestinian civilians at checkpoints in the West Bank.

The Israeli military continued to construct the Separation Wall in the West Bank, and razed area of land in Hebron and Tulkarem. A house was demolished in Jerusalem, and dozens of families living in sixteen communities near Hebron were isolated by the wall. Force was used against Palestinian civilians demonstrating against the construction of the Wall.

Israeli settlers have continued to attack Palestinian civilians and property in the Occupied Territories. A Palestinian child was injured in an attack by Israeli settlers in Hebron, and the Israeli military demolished a house in Beit Eksa village.

The centre is calling on all signatories of the Fourth Geneva Convention (which includes the state of Israel) to protect the Palestinian people from these violations by Israel of the Convention, and asks those countries to take appropriate measures to ensure Israel's compliance with the Convention.

The centre also calls on the International Red Cross to increase its presence in the Occupied Palestinian Territories of the West Bank and Gaza, and to facilitate visitation of detainees by their parents. In addition, they have called on the international community to enforce the ruling of the International Court of Justice ruling declaring the Israeli Annexation Wall illegal.

The report concludes by saying that "any political settlement not based on international human rights law and humanitarian law cannot lead to a peaceful and just solution of the Palestinian question."

Comment on this Article

Palestinian Child's finger cut off during Israeli investigation

IMEMC & Agencies
13 March 2006

Qassam Abu Baker, 16, from Yabad village, near the West Bank city of Jenin, lost his finger during investigation in Israeli detention center of Salem.
Qassam's brother Rami said that Qassam was allowed a phone call with his father when he was in the hospital.

Qassam told his father that an officer, other than the interrogator, entered the interrogation room and yelled at him "You are Qassam Abu Baker? do we have another Qassam in Yabad?" said Rami.

Apparently, the soldier referred the home-made Qassam shells that the Palestinian resistance groups fire at Israeli targets from the Gaza Strip.

The boy added that when the officer left he intentionally pushed him at the door and strongly slammed the door, cutting off Qassam's finger which happened to be between the hinges of the door. He said the interrogator was quarreling with the other officer who chopped his finger and heard him saying, "this is wrong."

The boy was transferred to Affoula hospital in northern for treatment, and underwent a successful operation to reattach his finger.

Abu Baker was arrested earlier this month when the soldiers invaded the village and operated there; Abu Baker and another child identified as Murad Kilani were arrested.

The two children were transferred to Salem Israeli Prison for interrogation, and were transferred later on to Ofer prison.

The boy told a lawyer who visited him, that he is suffering sever pain because the clinic at Ofer prison lacks appropriate drugs.

The family expressed concerns over the health of their child saying that his rights have been violated, and called on human rights organizations to intervene to get him released.

Comment on this Article

Israeli Settlers attack Palestinian farmers; injure four, including one child

MEMC & Agencies
13 March 2006

A group of illegal Israeli settlers attacked several Palestinian residents of Sosia, located near the West Bank city of Yatta, south of Hebron, on Monday morning.
The Palestine News Network reported that the attack was carried out during a voluntary work session conducted by the Israeli organization Rabbis for Human Rights, who were planting olive trees in solidarity with the Palestinian farmers and cave dwellers of the area.

Four of the residents were injured by the Israeli settlers, who beat the Palestinians badly. The injured were identified as A'lya Salamah Al Nawaj'a,66, Sameeha Ali Nawaj'a 31, and Jamal Ismaiel Al Nawaj'a, 22. The fourth injured Palestinian is a ten year old child who has not yet been identified.

The Israeli army made no attempt to stop the settlers from attacking the Palestinians, although they were present at the scene. After the attack, the Army declared the area a military zone and pushed the remaining Palestinians and their Israeli supporters off their land. The army then barred the Palestinian residents from returning to their farmlands.

Comment on this Article

Raising Yousuf: a diary of a mother under occupation

By Laila El-Haddad
Location:Gaza City, Gaza Strip

This blog is about raising my son Yousuf in the occupied Gaza Strip while working as a journalist, and everything that entails from potty training to border crossings. Together, we endure a lot, and the personal becomes political. This is our story.

Comment on this Article

Why is peace a dirty word in Israel?

By Uri Avnery
12 March 2006

Uri Avnery asks why the word "peace" is not mentioned by any of the main political parties in the Israeli election campaign. His answer is that "the huge majority of Israeli Jews do not believe in peace". Instead, they want "a Jewish State, with as large a Jewish majority as possible" and with borders that are unilaterally fixed, "without speaking with those Palestinians".
In English, a "four-letter word" is a rude expletive. It is a vulgar description of a sexual act or organ, and an educated person will not use it.

Now it appears that in the Hebrew language, too, there is a four-letter word, which a decent person will not use, especially not in an election campaign. A (politically) correct person will avoid it at all costs.

That word is Peace (which in Hebrew consists of four letters).

This week, the election propaganda moved from the street to radio and TV. Israeli law accords every list of candidates a minimum of free broadcasting time (10 minutes on TV), with parties represented in the outgoing Knesset getting additional minutes according to their size. No other election broadcasts on TV or radio are allowed.

As a result, election propaganda has been taken out of the hands of the politicians and turned over to the "experts" - advertising people, copywriters and assorted "strategists". This is a cynical bunch. Like lawyers, most advertising people are mercenaries. They may serve a left-wing party today and sell their services to a right-wing one tomorrow. Their personal opinions do not count; business is business.

When an advertising expert plans an election campaign, his aim is not to explain the programme of the party that hired him, but to attract voters. He is more a circus juggler than a preacher.

Election propaganda is like a gown: it should emphasize the attractive features of its owner and hide the less attractive ones. The difference is that the advertising expert can invent limbs that do not exist and cut off limbs that do, according the demands of the market.

One of the major headaches of the propagandist is that his candidates may speak up, God forbid, and expose their real views, thus spoiling the show. As a well-known advertising expert told me: "Selling a politician is like selling toothpaste, with one important difference - toothpaste doesn't talk!"

As a result, the election propaganda does not say much about the real aims of the leaders and their parties. One can assume in advance that most of the content of the broadcasts is fraudulent. If a commercial enterprise distributed such a mendacious prospectus on the stock exchange, it would be indicted.

Does this mean that the election propaganda is not interesting? On the contrary, one can learn a lot from it. It does not reflect the real positions of the parties, but it does reflect public opinion. More precisely: public opinion as it appears to the experts, who conduct daily polls, listen to focus groups and such.

On this background, it is worthwhile to examine the broadcasts.

In one of his mysteries, Sherlock Holmes observed that the solution lay in the curious incident of the dog in the night. "But the dog did nothing in the night-time!" his assistant exclaimed. "That is the curious incident!" Sherlock replied.

The curious incident in the present election campaign is a word that does not appear at all: the word "peace".

A stranger will not understand its absence. After all, Israel is in a perpetual state of war. The broadcasts themselves are full of frightening Hamas parades. The fear of suicide bombings is stronger in Israel than any other fear. Logic says that a party that promises peace will reach the heights of popularity. Yet, wonder of wonders, no important party is claiming this crown for itself. More than that, no important party so much as mentions the word peace in its broadcasts.

Kadima speaks about Hope, Hope, Hope - without spelling out what kind of hope, hope for what. It speaks of "Might", and even of a "Chance for a Political Move". Peace? Nyet.

Kadima's masterpiece is a TV clip which harnesses to its cause the whole crew - Herzl, Ben-Gurion, Begin, Sharon and Rabin. It shows Herzl announcing the Zionist idea, Ben-Gurion founding the State of Israel, Begin making peace with Egypt, Sharon crossing the Suez Canal in the Yom-Kippur [Ramadan] war, and Rabin making peace with - King Hussein.

King Hussein? Wait a minute. Didn't Rabin sign an agreement with the Palestine Liberation Organization and shake hands with Yasser Arafat? Wasn't that the high point of his life? Wasn't he awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for that? Wasn't the peace with Hussein almost an afterthought, since Hussein had already been an unofficial ally of Israel for more than 40 years? But Kadima has decided that it must not show Arafat at any price. It could be accused, God forbid, of striving for peace with the Palestinians!

Amir Peretz of Labour might have been tempted to speak about peace, if his handlers had not shut him up in time. He feels much safer talking about children without food and oldsters without pensions.

Likud, of course, does not speak about peace. Binyamin Netanyahu is at his best when scaring people. For this purpose he went down to the junkyard and retrieved some used generals, who testify that Hamas and the Palestinian [National] Authority pose an existential threat to Israel, much as the frightful Iranian bomb. Only the Great Bibi [Netanyahu] knows how to deal with them. Peace? Don't make me laugh!

Most amusing is Meretz, the party headed by Yossi Beilin, originator of the Geneva Initiative. Its main broadcast shows men and women pushing slips of paper into the cracks of the Western Wall while voicing their most ardent wish. There is a woman yearning for an academic degree, a man who wants to marry another man, a grandpa who longs for money in order to buy a present for his grandson, a Christian woman who hankers for recognition as a Jewess, a mother who desires to send her son to kindergarten, a woman pining for a divorce. And what is the one thing nobody yearns for, longs for, pines for according to the Meretz propaganda people?

You guessed it: That four-letter word again.

What does all this say about the Israeli public, 2006?

It says that the huge majority of Israeli Jews do not believe in peace. Peace is being conceived as a dream, something that has nothing to do with reality. A party that speaks about peace brands itself as living in a fantasy world. Worse, it may be suspected of "Arab-loving". What could be more disastrous?

So what do Israelis believe in? They want a Jewish State, with as large a Jewish majority as possible. That is agreed among all the Jewish parties. They believe in fixing the final borders of Israel unilaterally, without speaking with those Palestinians. The Palestinians, as everybody knows, have just elected Hamas and want to throw us into the sea.

What borders? Ehud Olmert is gradually disclosing what he has in mind. His map will not surprise the readers of this column. His Greater Israel includes all the territory trapped between the Green Line and the Separation Wall; and in addition the Jordan Valley; Greater Jerusalem, which includes the Ma'aleh Adumim settlement and the territory between it and the city (but giving up some densely populated Arab neighbourhoods); the settlement blocs of Ariel, Alfei-Menasheh, Modi'in Illit and Gush Etzion; and "special security areas". He takes care not to draw an actual map, so there is no certainty about the borders of the settlement blocs. But he certainly aims at annexing more than half of the West Bank.

For Netanyahu, that is, of course, blatant treason, a shameful surrender to the Arabs. In his broadcasts, he denounces Olmert's borders as "borders inviting terrorism'. The Likud does actually draw a map, in which the Wall moves right to the centre of the West Bank.

Labour and Meretz agree in principle to the annexation of the settlement blocs, but they do not publish maps. They mention half-heartedly some undefined swaps of territory. No wonder, since they dream, almost visibly, of joining the coalition under Olmert that will probably be set up after the election. The map of the coalition is more important than the map of annexations.

And peace? Shhhhhhh

Comment on this Article

More Pro-Israel Than Israel

By leonard fein
March 3, 2006

In a letter to the editor of The New York Times last week, retired Israeli general Shlomo Gazit could not have been more clear: "This is not the time for politicians from your country or ours to offer knee-jerk counterproductive declarations or legislation to cater to their electorates."

Gazit is not your run-of-the-mill retired general. He was Israel's first coordinator of government operations in the Palestinian territories and served afterward as head of military intelligence. And he says: This is not a time for posturing. This is a time to "wait and see what unfolds within the Hamas-led Palestinian government."
Come Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Tom Lantos and offer a bill that was almost surely on Gazit's mind when he wrote, a bill that could be a poster-child for knee-jerk reaction. Ros-Lehtinen is chair of the Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia of the International Relations Committee of the House of Representatives, and Lantos is its ranking minority member.

What they have offered, and what at least 70 of their colleagues have by now endorsed, is a draconian measure that would forbid any and all contact between the American government and Hamas - and similarly, between the United States and any Palestinian government in which any member of Hamas has any part at all. According to the language of the bill, for example, if the Palestinian Authority were to employ a postman who is a member of Hamas, any and all relationship between any American government agency and the P.A. would have to cease. No contact.

The bill, as written, is a piece of meddlesome foolishness, but it's exactly the sort of thing that most members of Congress are reluctant to oppose for fear of seeming "anti-Israel." That's been the case in Congress for many years now, and the result has done Israel no service at all.

To be fair, not all those who support such bills do so out of fear. Some do it out of love, be it a love of Israel or a love of posturing. But fear predominates, and the proximate source of that fear is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which typically chooses to be the enforcer of precisely that kind of crude pro-Israelism.

In the case at hand, the endorsement of the Ros-Lehtinen-Lantos bill is reportedly the fulcrum of this year's annual Aipac conference and it will be the major agenda item as Aipac's delegates move from their conference to Capitol Hill to lobby their representatives.

Those who follow the news out of Israel closely may raise an eyebrow or two over this, since we now have a more authoritative voice than even Gazit's calling into question the notion that the way to make progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is to ignore such subtle changes in policy and behavior that may develop in the weeks and months ahead. I refer to the voice of the acting prime minister of Israel and the very probable winner of the prime ministership in his own right in Israel's March 28 elections.

Ehud Olmert is now on record as saying that Hamas does not pose a strategic threat to Israel. He has said that Israel will be resolute, tough in its dealings with a P.A. "contaminated" by terrorism - but that at the same time it will remain open to signs of change.

And we have also Amir Peretz, Labor's candidate for Israel's top job, who said after meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo last week, "We must not push the Palestinians into the arms of the extremists." He called for Israel to establish a "moderate axis" of countries intent on strengthening the moderate forces in the P.A.

The bill being put forward by Ros-Lehtinen and Lantos will have none of it. The change it demands before there can be any softening of the American position is comprehensive, across the board. It demands, for example, that the P.A. "publicly acknowledge[s] Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state," a condition that was not part of the Oslo agreements between Israel and the PLO nor of the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. To demand that before there can be talks, before there can even be contacts, the P.A. must endorse Zionism is to engage in make-believe, even farce. It is a recipe for stalemate.

Clarity is here required: Hamas has bathed in evil. It is an offense to Islam. Its charter is an abomination. It has cost Israel dear. Its most recent, post-election statements provide little or no assurance that it is prepared to moderate its fundamental (and fundamentalist) position regarding Israel. But: No one reliably knows about the real differences within Hamas, nor can anyone say with any confidence how the responsibilities of governing may affect its worldview.

Hamas includes fundamentalist clerics and may well include pragmatists also. No one knows what the outcome will be if the clerics and the pragmatists move in separate directions. Does not wisdom dictate that some doors be kept open, or at least ajar, for contacts with those in the Hamas camp who seem amenable to meaningful conversation?

Shlomo Gazit again, this in an OpEd piece last week in The Boston Globe: "All of us [Israel, the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia] should make it known that we are prepared to meet with any [P.A.] leadership that is ready to negotiate an Israeli-Palestinian agreement." That is also, Olmert has implied, Israel's position.

That is what Ros-Lehtinen and Lantos, with Aipac's full support, would prohibit the United States from doing. And that's pro-Israel?

Comment on this Article

Seek Justice, Only Justice - AIPAC consists almost exclusively of Zionists

By Paul Findley
Palestine Chronicle

Seek Justice, Only Justice - AIPAC consists almost exclusively of Zionists, activists whose behavior is actually disapproved by the majority of U.S. Jews. Because of the gross, longstanding bias in U.S. policy in the Middle East, the world teeters on the precipice of widening conflict focused -- sadly, unnecessarily, dangerously -- on religion: Christendom versus Islam. Those are strong words, frightening words, but they are the truth.

Since I found myself in the thicket of Middle East politics nearly forty years ago, I have done little else than seek justice for Arabs deeply aggrieved by our policy bias. This pro-justice endeavor is motivated mainly by my deep concern for America.

At 84, I sometimes feel old enough to have heard God's command to Moses, as recorded in Deuteronomy: "Seek justice, only justice." That command is my watchword. Despite the efforts of many brave people to bring about a just reform, the bias continues -- more flagrant and costly each year. The peril confronts all Americans. No one can escape.
In Middle East policy, America ignores injustice, because religion-based passions here at home override even vital national interests. Our bias is not controlled by government officials but by two peculiar, politically powerful religious communities -- fundamentalist Christianity, on one hand, and on the other an extreme element of Judaism.

Together, they burden our country year after year with an Israel-centric foreign policy that is disastrous to America's vital interests. Both groups have a deep-seated, passionate attachment to the State of Israel, no matter how outrageous its behavior becomes. Both are represented powerfully in Washington and exert a suffocating level of influence throughout America's political system, as well as in almost every other part of our society.

This influence is abetted unwittingly by suicide bombers, professed Muslims who engage in reprehensible violence mainly as a barbaric protest against foreign occupation of their land. In doing so, they defy the rules of Islam and Christianity by taking their lives and the lives of innocent people and thus frustrate the efforts of people who define Islam correctly as a generous, tolerant and peaceful religion.

Nearly one-half of the American people harbor false, ugly images of Islam and want the civil liberties of U.S. Muslims curtailed. Most Americans also seem oblivious to the peril before all of us. They are unaware of the flagrant bias in our policies and the price we pay for this bias.

Despite the wonders of the Information Age, few know the truth about how our flawed policies in the Middle East are put in place. Almost everyone who knows the truth is afraid to speak out. This unofficial but effective censorship is deadly. It has unwittingly has led us step by step into deep trouble, even war.

Of the two religious communities cited above, the older and more skillful one is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). The newer but much larger one is the fundamentalist Christian community that is guided by a controversial interpretation of the Bible's Book of Revelation.

AIPAC consists almost exclusively of Zionists, activists whose behavior is actually disapproved by the majority of U.S. Jews. My book, "They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel's Lobby", details the origin, history and tactics of AIPAC.

Ultra-Orthodox Zionists believe their messiah will not arrive until Greater Israel -- Biblical Israel -- comes into being. This means the incorporation of the entirety of the West Bank and East Jerusalem into Israel proper. In both Israel and the United States, such Zionists exert great political power. They receive U.S. financing, both public and private, and are the primary force that establishes and expands the illegal Jewish settlements that now consign Palestinians to isolated enclaves like those that once existed in apartheid South Africa.

Christian fundamentalists are not as tightly organized as AIPAC, but they consist of more than 50 million members. They are well disciplined on election days and have attained great political power in recent years. They were prominent in Bush's presidential campaigns.

The two communities make strange bedfellows. Judaic doctrine makes no mention of Jesus Christ. Fundamentalist Christian doctrine proclaims that when Christ returns to earth, all Jews will either be converted to Christianity or be destroyed. The two groups are bound tightly together today by an immediate interest -- the survival of a strong, expanding Israel as an essential precondition for the arrival on earth of their separate messiahs.

Together, the two communities control U.S. policy in the Middle East. They are so powerful that Congress dutifully approves massive aid to Israel every year with no debate whatever. No mention is made of Israel's continuing record of destroying Palestinian society through military conquest, assassinations and wholesale destruction of lives, homes and means of livelihood. On Capitol Hill, there is no mention of the grave harm this bias causes to U.S. national interests.

Year after year, our government enables Israel to defy the rules of international law and the UN Charter with impunity. Due to media bias, few Americans are aware of this scofflaw conduct, but most other people worldwide, especially Muslims, follow this abuse with mounting anti-American fury. The rage over recently published cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad is thought by many observers to be a spontaneous eruption of anger among Muslims toward the West. Some anger may be spontaneous, but most is grounded in the long-festering bitterness over U.S. complicity in the plight of mostly-Muslim Palestine. In President Bush's campaign against terrorism, he has failed to recognize that 9/11's real Ground Zero was never Manhattan or the Pentagon. It was always Palestine and remains so today.

What motivated the 9/11 assault against America? It was a grisly payback for America's complicity in Israel's bloody assault on Arabs years ago. In several televised statements, Osama bin Laden cited as motives for 9/11 U.S. complicity in Israel's 1982 bombing of Beirut, as well as our subsequent role in Israel's destruction of Palestinian society.

Using U.S.-supplied armor, bombs and bullets, Israel killed more than 18,000 innocent Arabs in Beirut. This provoked worldwide anti-American fury that intensified when Congress immediately voted funds to restore the inventory of munitions Israeli forces consumed in the massacre. I know. I was a Member of Congress when the vote occurred.

The 9/11 calamity and our costly, stumbling wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq are the ugly off-springs of our longstanding complicity. Worldwide resentment against Israel and the United States has deepened with each passing year. President Bush's failure to recognize and redress these Arab grievances is the main reason for the lethal insurgency now underway against our forces in Iraq. This failure quickens our fateful pace as we plunge toward the precipice of a widespread war over religion.

Our best way to pull back from the precipice is to pull U.S. military forces and contractors out of Iraq. Sadly, Bush shows no sign of changing course. Our peril deepened in the wake of 9/11 when Bush received bad advice from Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, my colleagues years ago in the House of Representatives. Overreacting to 9/11, they convinced the president that the assault made him all-powerful as commander-in-chief and that he had a free rein to ignore Congress and tradition and could change U.S. policies as he wished.

Bush immediately acted the part, proclaiming his right to commit acts of war any place he alone found a threat to our security. He scrapped national sovereignty, the bedrock of the nation state, rammed through a panicky Congress an unpatriotic Patriot Act and pledged to maintain U.S. forces and foreign bases at a level sufficient to police the world.

He initiated inconclusive, stumbling wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and now hints at an assault on Iran. Syria may be next.

I am not an isolationist. The world needs policing, but no single nation state should attempt that role. It is the proper job for a multinational organization which our government should be helping to create. I use plain language. Perhaps what I say troubles you deeply. In these perilous I must speak the truth as I believe it to be.

How did we get in this mess? How do the religious lobbies maintain this tight grip on U.S. policy?

They use America's political system with great skill. They vote. They take part in political campaigns. They contribute generously to candidates who do their bidding and against those who do not. Their most powerful instrument of intimidation is the reckless charge of anti- Semitism. I know the sting. It works. It makes people who know the truth about our complicity cower in silence.

Few Americans know -- but all should know -- of the silent but effective support of Israel that exists within our government bureaucracy. Almost every office in the executive branch and for congressional committees that has any role in Middle East policy formulation has at least one staff member who takes the personal responsibility of protecting the interests of Israel as each piece of paper passes through his or her desk. My book is replete with examples. Our government is truly Israeli-occupied territory, but few citizens are aware of this reality.

Today's bloody mess started a half-century ago on Capitol Hill when the lobby for Israel first promoted a heavy bias in U.S. policy in the Middle East. Its activities thoroughly intimidated our political institutions and effectively stifled debate. I know firsthand. I was a Member of Congress for 22 years and have watched developments closely ever since.

By silencing dissent, the pro-Israel lobby intimidates not just the Congress but the entire nation. Former Ambassador George W. Ball spoke accurately when he said that Congress behaves like trained poodles, jumping through hoops held by lobbyists for Israel. Senators Charles Percy and Adlai Stevenson and Representatives Paul "Pete" McCloskey, Cynthia McKinney, Earl Hilliard and myself are among those defeated at the polls by candidates heavily financed by pro-Israel forces. Only McKinney later returned to Congress.

Nationally, not just on Capitol Hill, the State of Israel is treated as sacrosanct. It is rare when a word critical of Israel is expressed even in private conversation. This is true in the media, academia, social circles and business communities. Almost everyone, afraid to speak out, has an excuse for silence. Lobby intimidation even suffocates free speech in houses of worship. It should surprise no one that Congress, with hardly a murmur of protest, recently approved resolutions saluting the prime minister of Israel for building high walls and fences that keep Palestinians penned up on their own land like cattle.

I believe 9/11 would not have occurred if the U.S. had refused to support Israel's humiliation and destruction of Palestinian society. Any president of the past 38 years could have brought peace to the Middle East by suspending all aid until Israel withdrew from Arab land it seized in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

Why did Bush order the invasion of Iraq? Israeli footprints are found every step of the way. U.S. General Anthony Zinni, once Bush's special emissary to the Middle East, spoke the truth recently when he said Israel and oil are the widely accepted reasons for the invasion. I will add that almost everyone knows that Israel was the stronger of the two reasons. The war in Iraq was for Israeli interests, not American. If we commit acts of war against Iran or Syria, these too will be mainly to help Israel.

The raging insurgency against U.S. forces in Iraq is linked directly to the plight of the Palestinians nearby. How can we expect Iraqis to trust our promise of freedom for them when a few miles away we maintain our abject, decades-long complicity in Israel's denial of freedom for Palestinians?

The best way to stop both the insurgency in Iraq and the gathering storm of Christendom versus Islam is to suspend all U.S. aid until Israel vacates illegal settlements it has established throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem and withdraws from Arab territory it has held illegally since June 1967.

In Iraq, we should announce plans for a total withdrawal of the U.S. military and contractor personnel by an early date, stating clearly that the only units exempt from withdrawal would be any that are expressly requested by the Iraqi government and the UN Security Council.

These two announcements would sweep away the dark clouds of religious war and quickly dampen the Iraqi insurgency. They would be greeted with worldwide rejoicing as heralding a dramatic return of U.S. policy to the high ground it once occupied.

Is the scene hopeless? Of course not. We are on the eve of a new election cycle. Every one of us has the opportunity -- yes, the responsibility -- to speak up at political gatherings, ask precise questions of candidates and demand precise answers. We can write letters to the editor and engage directly in partisan campaigns.

We must reject preemptive war as an instrument of public policy. Supporters of war turn to scripture for misleading inspiration. Let us take our inspiration from Deuteronomy, where God instructed Moses with these words: "Seek justice, only justice." The peril is immediate and great, but it is not too late for justice.

I am 84. I've been on the firing line for justice in U.S. policy in the Middle East for nearly half my life. I do not regret a minute of that long endeavor. I will never give up. Will you help?

-Paul Findley was a Member of Congress, 1961-83, and is the author of five books, the latest being "Silent No More: Confronting America's False Images of Islam". He resides in Jacksonville, Illinois.

Comment on this Article

Netanyahu: We need to fight Hamas - Israeli rightwing

13 Mar 06

Jerusalem - Likud, the right-wing party trailing ahead of a March 28 Israeli election, has rejected any Palestinian state led by Hamas.

Hamas, which won elections in January, unveiled a proposed government programme on Saturday that did not renounce its commitment to destroying Israel but said recognition of it was "a decision for the Palestinian people".

Speaking to the Yediot Aharonot daily, which on Sunday published an outline of the Likud campaign platform, party leader and former premier Benjamin Netanyahu asked: "Should I be talking about concessions when the Hamas government is in power?

At the moment there is nothing to be done and we need to fight Hamas. Our platform will be revised according to circumstances."
In the same vein, the Likud platform argued that the so-called roadmap peace plan, in which a Palestinian state would live alongside Israel in peace, was a non-starter.

"The continued outline of the roadmap is impossible in light of the absence of a legitimate partner," it said.

Hamas spokesperson Sami Abu Zuhari said Netanyahu's comments prove that "a war is being carried out against our people, and our programme is to resist to obtain our rights".

Israel, the United States and the European Union have all conditioned any dealings with a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority on its renouncing violence, recognising Israel and honouring past agreements with the Jewish state.

And so has moderate Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah party has so far refused to agree to join a coalition government.

With Abbas having given Hamas two more weeks to modify its programme and put together a new government, the group was to hold a final round of talks with the various parties, including Fatah, on Monday.

Farhat Assaad, a Hamas spokesperson, said the group would present its own government by next weekend if no deal is reached.

Comment on this Article

British Council offices set ablaze as Israel raids Jericho jail

By Jon Smith, PA
14 March 2006

Palestinian protestors set fire to the British Council offices in Gaza city today, after Britain was accused of colluding in an Israeli raid on a jail.

The angry demonstrators, chanting "death to the Americans, death to the British", set the Council office ablaze and stormed the EU Commission office.

The protests came after Israeli forces smashed their way into a prison in Jericho, following the withdrawal of British and American monitors from their posts.
Foreign Office sources said the UK had contacted the office of the Palestinian President four times since Friday to ask him to "allay our security concerns for the welfare of our monitors".

When the President's office failed to respond, the decision to withdraw the monitors was taken "because we have a duty of care for our monitors" , said the sources.

The monitors are there under an agreement brokered in 2002, to observe conditions in the jail, but the Foreign Office stressed the welfare and security of the prisoners was entirely a matter for the Palestinian Authority.

Those held in the prison include the leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Ahmed Saadat, said to be the mastermind behind the assassination of an Israeli cabinet minister in 2001.

Some prisoners were eventually marched out of the jail by Israeli forces, but others remained defiant inside, including Saadat.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said "the American and the British side bear full responsibility for any harm to the lives" of the prisoners.

He said the decision by the UK and US monitors to withdraw "is a grave violation of agreements reached in 2002".

As protesters rampaged through Gaza City, the Foreign Office also warned Britons to stay away from Jericho. Britons are already told not to travel to the Gaza Strip.

Israel said it mounted the raid because the foreign monitors had been withdrawn and blamed the Palestinians for breaching agreements about the prisoners' custody.

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "It has been confirmed that there are no local or UK staff in the British Council offices. They were escorted out much earlier."

As TV pictures showed flames within the building and gunmen outside, the spokesman added: "The Palestinian security forces are in attendance but the pictures speak for themselves."

The Foreign Office said that Britain repeatedly warned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that it would withdraw its monitors from the prison.

"It's quite clear that the security of that prison and the security of the monitors was the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority. We made clear to them what we expected them to do, we gave them a warning."

Mr Straw announced the decision to withdraw the monitors in a written Commons statement today.

He said: "The UK and the US have repeatedly raised our concerns over the security of our monitors with the Palestinian Authority and urged them to meet their obligations under the Ramallah agreement.

"Unfortunately, there has been no improvement. We therefore issued a joint US/UK letter to President Abbas on 8 March 2006.

"This letter said that we would have to terminate our involvement with the mission if the Palestinian Authority did not immediately either fully comply with the Ramallah Agreement (which sets out monitoring arrangements) and make substantive improvements to the security of the monitors or come to a new agreement with the Government of Israel.

"As required by the Ramallah Agreement we informed the Israeli Authorities that we were delivering a letter in these terms.

"The Palestinian Authority has consistently failed to meet its obligations under the Ramallah Agreement. Ultimately the safety of our personnel has to take precedence.

"It is with regret that I have to inform the House that these conditions have not been met and we have terminated our involvement with the mission today, March 14."

The Foreign Office also released the letter sent by the UK Consul General in Jerusalem, John Jenkins, and his US counterpart, Jake Walles, to President Abbas on 8 March.

The letter says the Palestinian Authority has "never fully complied" with the agreement which established the mission.

"While the six detainees - Fuad Shobaki, Ahmad Sa'adat, Iyad Gholmi, Hamdi Qur'an, Majdi Rimawi and Basel al-Asmar - are held in continuous custody at the Jericho prison, the Palestinian Authority has consistently failed to comply with core provisions of the Jericho monitoring arrangements regarding visitors, cell searches, telephone access and correspondence," it said.

"Furthermore, the Palestinian Authority has failed to provide secure conditions for the US and UK personnel working at the Jericho Prison.

"Repeated demarches by our governments to the highest levels of the Palestinian Authority have not resulted in improved compliance with the Jericho monitoring arrangements."

And in a reference to the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, the letter added: "The pending handover of governmental power to a political party that has repeatedly called for the release of the Jericho detainees also calls into question the political sustainability of the monitoring mission."

The letter adds that, if the mission is to continue, conditions at the prison must either be brought into line with the arrangements or the Palestinian Authority must establish a new arrangement on the detainees with the Israeli government.

If neither happens, "we will have to terminate our involvement with the Jericho monitoring arrangements and withdraw our monitors with immediate effect", the letter warns.

Sir David Green, director general of the British Council, said the building had been "very badly damaged".

"Mid-morning Gaza time a group of masked gunmen came into the building and started firing shots in our information centre," he said.

"We called military operations and within three minutes a large group from the presidential guard arrived to take charge of the situation and, in fact, get the situation under control.

"At which point all our staff vacated the building."

Sir David said on BBC Radio 4's World at One: "Then a larger number of demonstrators, many of them armed, arrived at the building as I understand it the presidential guard could not maintain control and the demonstrators started breaking up the building, set a car on fire and the whole building set on fire.

"And according to our centre manger both the ground floor and the second floor are completely burnt out."

Comment on this Article

Israel declares state of maximum alert

13 Mar 06

GAZA -- Israeli security bodies were put Sunday on maximum alert on reports of receiving 59 warnings on plans by Palestinian fighters to carry out attacks within Israel.

The Israeli police declared that it deployed thousands of policemen in the city centers and near the west bank borders, where it also boosted its presence along the main roads to prevent the infiltration of Palestinians.

The Israeli Maariv daily reported on its website that the Shin Bet (Israel Internal Security Service) affirmed that preparation have been taken to abort any possible Palestinian attack.

A siege was impose on the Palestinian lands on Saturday night ahead of the Israel Purim festival, where Israeli claimed it received 11 warnings on possible Palestinians attacks against Israeli targets.

The Israeli security body declared that it arrested last week in Tulkarem a Palestinian identified as Osama abu Zeina, who was accused of plotting an attack in Israel.

Comment on this Article

Israel avoids wrangling with Straw

Jerusalem Post
13 Mar 06

Israel will not make an issue over British Foreign Minister Jack Straw's statement last week that after the world deals with Iran's nuclear "threat," it will deal with Israel's.

Straw gave a lengthy television interview in Britain Thursday, following the decision to send Iran's nuclear dossier to the UN Security Council for possible sanctions. When asked about a "double standard" regarding Iran, Straw replied: "I want a nuclear-free Middle East. It's the policy of her majesty's government. We've been working to achieve that. We have ensured over the last few years that two of the four countries [in the Middle East] which posed a nuclear threat, Libya and Iraq, have had their nuclear weapons removed," he said.
He then added, "If you want to see a nuclear-free Middle East, you've got to remove that threat from Iran, including the rhetorical threat to wipe Israel off the face of the map... and once you've done that, then we can get on to work at, in respect of Israel."

Straw's remarks were analyzed carefully in Jerusalem, but it was decided not to make an issue of them because Straw made clear that Britain remained "on board" on the Iranian nuclear issue.

"That is the most important thing," one government official said, saying that Israel did not want to deflect from the Iranian issue by drawing attention to itself and creating a diplomatic issue over Straw's comments.

"This isn't the time to discuss this," he said. Besides, he added, Israel has also made it clear that it was in favor of a nuclear-free Middle East, but that discussions about this could only take place in the distant future, after Israel has concluded peace agreements with all the countries in the region.

That the Iranian nuclear issue would ultimately spotlight Israel was not something that has been unexpected, and Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has said that US President George Bush's famous letter of April 2004 included a line pledging US commitment to Israel's deterrence capacity.

That letter reads, "The United States reiterates its steadfast commitment to Israel's security, including secure, defensible borders, and to preserve and strengthen Israel's capability to deter and defend itself, by itself, against any threat or possible combination of threats."

Sharon interpreted this as a US promise to back Israel when there were attempts - which he believed would follow the international community's handling of the Iranian nuclear issue - to dismantle what he referred to as "Israel's deterrence ability."

Ironically, Straw's interview appeared the same night that a BBC Newsnight report appeared claiming that the UK supplied Israel with quantities of plutonium while Harold Wilson was prime minister in the 1960s.

Comment on this Article

Palestinian militants threaten Britain, US over Jericho

Khaleej Times
14 March 2006

GAZA CITY - Palestinian militants warned all British and US nationals to leave the territories "immediately" Tuesday after three British monitors withdrew from a West Bank prison minutes before an Israeli raid.

"We call on all British and US nationals to leave the Palestinian territories immediately on pain of unprecedented consequences," said a statement issued by the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades in Gaza City.
The group, an armed offshoot of the Palestinian leadership's mainstream Fatah movement, had earlier threatened a "powerful response" after the withdrawal of British-US supervision from the prison in the desert oasis town of Jericho.

"We will have a very powerful response not only for the Israelis but also for the British and Americans who withdrew their protection," it warned.

A British consulate spokeswoman insisted that the decision to withdraw the three-member team had been taken solely for the monitors' own safety and had been communicated to both Israel and the Palestinian days in advance.

But the move prompted protests across the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including the brief abduction of a US national rescued by Palestinian security forces.

Around 100 Palestinians were demonstrating outside the British Council offices in Gaza, firing into the air in anger, witnesses said.

In the West Bank town of Bethlehem, hundreds of schoolchildren left their classes to demonstrate.

The leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), whose leader Ahmed Saadat and three colleagues detained for the 2001 murder of far-right Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi were the focus of the Israeli assault, said it made a mockery of the British and US protection.

"This operation, which is a violation of international agreements, is a clear message to the world, and particularly the Americans and British who promised to provide adequate protection for the prison but turned out to be doing the (Israeli) enemy's work," charged the movement's Gaza leader, Jamil Majdalawi.

The Islamic militant group Hamas, which holds a majority in the parliament, earlier warned Israel against any attempt on the four detained militants' lives.

"This is a dangerous escalation. We warn against continuing such destructive actions, particularly against attempts on the lives of Saadat and his brothers," said Hamas prime minister-designate Ismail Haniya.

Comment on this Article

Recognising Israel 'is up to the [Palestinian] people'

By Ahmed Janabi
12 March 2006,

Hamas's draft government programme has left the question of recognising Israel to the Palestinian people - leaving the door open for a possible referendum.

Hamas published a draft of its government programme on its website on Saturday.

The fifth article in the programme says: "The question of recognising Israel is not the jurisdiction of one faction, nor the government, but a decision for the Palestinian people."
Handing the issue over to a popular referendum would neatly disengage Hamas from being labelled as a hardline movement that refuses to recognise Israel on ideological grounds.

The US and EU have repeatedly said they will cut financial aid to the Palestinian Authority if Hamas forms a government that does not recognise Israel.

But any referendum would leave the US and the EU with little choice but to resume funding the Palestinians, regardless of the outcome of a vote, because America and Europe have always pledged not to punish the Palestinian people.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a spokesman for Hamas, said on Sunday that the movement believes that the issue of recognising Israel is one between states and governments, not political parties.

"The recognition of a state should come from a government of a state not from a political, party, group or organisation," he said.

"Hamas in particular is not entitled, and it is not its mission, to determine whether Israel is a recognised state or not."

Likud Campaign

Likud, the right-wing party trailing in the run-up to an Israeli election on 28 March, has rejected any Palestinian state led by Hamas, which won elections in January.

Speaking to the Yediot Aharonot newspaper, which published an outline of the Likud campaign platform on Sunday, Benjamin Netanyahu, the party leader and former prime minister, asked: "Should I be talking about concessions when the Hamas government is in power?

"At the moment there is nothing to be done and we need to fight Hamas. As long as Hamas is in control, we will not return any territory to them, we will not transfer any money to them and we will not allow Palestinian workers to work in Israel. Our platform will be revised according to circumstances."

In the same vein, the Likud platform argues that the internationally drafted roadmap peace plan, in which a Palestinian state would live alongside Israel in peace, is a dead letter.

"The continued outline of the roadmap is impossible in light of the absence of a legitimate partner," it said.

Comment on this Article

Audio: Rabbi Goldstein gives a historic overview of Zionism.

Rabbi Goldstein

"...The Muslims people basically got involved in the fight against zionism when it started effecting them on a political bases which is 1917 for the Palestinians or afterwards for some of the other Arab countries, We [religious Jews] were in this fight from the 1890 roughly... As soon as it was founded [zionism], it was condemned - Jews came out and said this is atheistic, this is idol worship..."

Comment on this Article

Snow warns Congress: US government's cash running out

Agence France Presse
14 Mar 06

Treasury Secretary John Snow urged Congress to set aside partisan bickering and raise the US national debt ceiling this week, or face a disastrous cash crunch for the federal government.

In a speech here to a conference of regional bankers, Snow said it would be inconceivable for Congress not to pass legislation on the debt limit before it heads into a recess at the end of this week.

"I am urging members of Congress in the strongest possible terms to resist coupling an increase in the debt ceiling with other issues," Snow said.
"Rather, they should vote to raise the ceiling this week. It would be unthinkable for them not to take action," he said, warning that the "full faith and credit" of the US government was too precious to be compromised.

Snow has issued increasingly urgent warnings to Congress that the statutory debt limit of 8.184 trillion dollars will be hit this week, and that the government will then lose its borrowing power.

Once the US government reaches the ceiling, it comes under threat of defaulting on its debts and can lose the ability to raise future credit on the capital markets.

Last week, Snow said new issues of federal debt instruments would only raise enough cash to keep government operations financed until mid-March.

But Democratic members of Congress are said to be balking at increasing the debt limit unless the administration of President George W. Bush, which has overseen a huge rise in the US budget deficit, curbs its appetite for funds.

"We have to remember that current federal borrowing needs today are simply the product of past decisions," Snow said in his speech.

"While we always welcome a debate on budget priorities, swift action on the debt limit must still be taken this week.

"There should be no doubt over whether the government will be able to pay its bills on time, this time next week."

Comment on this Article

Hunger For Justice

By Mike Ferner
Information Clearing House
13 Mar 06

Washington -- Last Wednesday evening, the House Appropriations Committee voted to throw another $67,000,000,000 at the murderous work in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The killing will proceed as planned, with no congressional intervention, although chances are you heard absolutely zip about the 67 Billion Dollar Question, thanks to the Guardians of Reality who insured the news from that hearing was the Dubai Port deal, not the unimaginable sum of our money Congress voted for war, nor the voices raised against it.
That news must come from places like the internet site you're now reading, not the corporate press. And I'm here to tell you the story.

More than an hour before the start of the hearing on the "supplemental" spending bill for the war, five of us from Voices for Creative Nonviolence's "Winter of Our Discontent" campaign lined up outside the Appropriations Committee Hearing Room in the Rayburn House Office Building. Ed Kinane, Cynthia Banas, Lorie Blanding, Jeff Leys, and yours truly were prepared to shine a light of reality, however briefly, into one of Disneyland's darkest corners. Two of our crew had banners that said, "STOP THE KILLING," ready to open them when we began, in turn, to read names of U.S. soldiers and Iraqis killed in the war.

We'd been in line early enough to be among the first 15 people admitted, but by the time the hearing room was changed from it's assigned grand room to a much smaller venue, 60-plus representatives, their staffs, AND a few dozen lobbyist-regulars were shown in, the general public was shown an overflow room a few doors away.

Moments after entering the overflow, we realized we'd just been cut out of the actual hearings and would not be able to say what we had prepared. We regrouped in the hallway outside of where the hearing had just begun.

Three members of the D.C. Antiwar Network, Malachy Kilbride, Pete Perry, and David Barrows reacted to the switcheroo faster than we did. They barged into the hearing room, forcefully told the Members of Congress they all had the war's blood on their hands, and got promptly ejected by the Sergeant at Arms deputies.

Fortuitously, a couple minutes later, my hometown Congressperson and Appropriations Committee member from Toledo, Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), arrived. I greeted her and we chatted briefly, and then she asked if I was going to attend the hearing.

"No, it seems to be pretty filled up with staff and lobbyists," I replied.

Walking up to the Sergeant of Arms guarding the double doors, she informed him she wanted to find a seat for her constituent. What was I to do but go in and take what seemed to be the last chair in the room?

By then, Committee Chair Jerry (not the one they love in France) Lewis (R-CA), had opened the first agenda item, an amendment to prevent the administration from completing its plans to hand over operations at a strategically located Middle Eastern port to a Dubai-run company. Discussion was lively, including one comment from Rep. Jim Moran (D–VA), who, trying to slow the rush to snub Dubai, actually said, "If we want to Americanize and Westernize the Arab world," the U.S. needs to continue doing business with nations like Dubai that are "run by a staunchly pro-American, pro-business person."

At this time, a goodly number of reporters were attentively in attendance. I was, unfortunately, about to make a serious mistake in activist judgment.

As the only one of our merry band able to get into the hearing, I knew I'd be flying solo at my first Congressional testimony, and decided to wait until the hearing progressed beyond the amendments, to the $67 Billion war appropriation itself.

My heart sank as I watched half the reporters abandon ship right after the Dubai Port amendment sailed through. A second amendment quickly passed. A few more reporters left. Then Lewis announced a recess so members could return to the House floor for a series of votes.

Not wanting to relinquish my serendipitously-won seat, I stayed put, surprised in a few minutes as Ed Kinane slipped through the relaxed security at the door. We quickly exchanged notes, decided we'd stay until the committee reconvened, and then watched as a half-dozen Capitol Police appeared. The stage was set.

The committee returned about an hour later, sans TV cameras, photogs or any reporters as best I could tell. Luckily, the one cameraperson operating the video unit on a tripod was back at his post – for about 5 minutes – until he began breaking down his equipment. As innocuously as possible, I zipped over to what I learned was no less than the network pool camera operator, and whispered to him he may want to stick around a bit.

"Why, is there going to be a protest," he asked loudly enough for the immediate world to hear?

"Yes, there is," I replied, not knowing why I bothered whispering again.

"Well, we saw the one already," he returned, "and besides, the networks said we can call it a day."

Nothing else I said would deter him so I returned to my seat.

Hoping that C-Span might still record our protest, I sat for a short while longer near Ed who noted that his own representative, James Walsh (R-NY), had just risen to offer an amendment. Walsh wanted to shift some Veterans Administration funds from future hospital construction to ongoing operational needs. The Congressman who, like the vast majority of his colleagues consistently voted to fund the war, wanted to be sure the hospitals could keep up with the results.

No one wanted to oppose that idea, especially when it didn't require any new money. Walsh's amendment passed quickly. Although it looked like I'd be speaking only to those in the hearing room, there would never be better timing. I rose to my feet, wearing a Navy pea coat with my third class Petty Officer insignia, and my Veterans For Peace cap.

"My name is Mike Ferner, from Ohio. I served as a Navy Hospital Corpsman during the Viet Nam war," I began, "And if you really want to do something about the numbers of wounded and disabled veterans coming back to our VA hospitals, the best thing you can do is STOP THIS WAR!"

Introducing Ed as he scrambled to unfold the banner, I told a now-attentive Appropriations Committee that we were on day 22 of a 34-day fast against the war, and that "…speaking for the majority of Americans who are now against this war, we say, STOP THE KILLING!"

"Listen to just a few names of the victims of our government's war," I demanded, and was able to announce two Marines, Daniel Bubb, 19, and Christopher Poston, 20, and two Iraqi citizens, Ahmed Khalaf, and Hamza Khuzai, before two Capitol Police officers grabbed me and ripped the paper out of my hands.

Refusing to go quietly into the night as I was hustled from the chamber, I looked several representatives in the eye and said, "Those are the names of dead veterans from this war. You are violating international laws…you are committing war cri…" and then it was face down on the hallway floor.

Next came the traditional "up against the wall" routine for handcuffing, and we began the trip to the Capitol Police booking facility. On the way out of the Rayburn Building, we passed a couple very posh dinners held in different hearing rooms. As I nodded and said hello to the food service workers in the hallway, I was glad I'd asked my arresting officer to leave my VFP cap on my head.

We were charged with disrupting a Congressional committee hearing and cited into D.C. Superior Court on March 28. The Capitol cops relieved us of belts, money, I.D., shoelaces, everything in our pockets, and took us to D.C. city jail for electronic fingerprinting and face scanning. After those pleasantries, the D.C. cops drove us about four blocks from the police station to a corner somewhere in the district around 2:00 a.m.

I bummed 50 cents from a passing cop for a pay phone call so we could contact our support team, Carmelite Sister Maureen Foltz, and my wife, Sue Carter, who plucked the two of us off the street.

Ed and I were assigned a court date only eight days after the scheduled end of our fast on March 20, so we've decided not to incur the additional expense of going home to Syracuse and Toledo respectively, and stay in Washington.

And – you heard it here first – we also decided to extend the fast until March 28 for a total of 42 days.

But PLEASE do us a favor: if you're thinking of a "thank you" or some other gracious response, DON'T. We don't need your thanks. The Iraqi people and our soldiers need your action to stop this damnable war. Think about it and determine one big step you can take that's more than anything you've yet done. Do it right there, in your hometown, before Ed and I go to court on March 28. Before the full House and Senate vote $67,000,000,000 more for the war. Get your friends together and sit-in at your local congressional offices. Demand they STOP THE KILLING.

Then we can thank you.

In addition to fasting with Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Ferner is a freelance writer. His book based on trips to Iraq before and after the U.S. invasion, "Inside the Red Zone: A Veteran For Peace Reports from Iraq" is due out in August.

Comment on this Article

Peak Oil Propaganda: Saudi Arabia: the sands run out

By Michael T. Klare
Le Monde diplomatique
13 Mar 06

Last month's foiled attack on a Saudi Arabian oil installation demonstrated yet again the world's extreme vulnerability to any check on oil supplies. But what if the Saudi oilfields are running lower on untapped supplies than the kingdom, and the West, have estimated?
As concern rises in the United States and elsewhere over the future availability of oil, the global community of energy experts has split into two camps: the optimists believe that oil is abundant and will remain so for years to come, while the pessimists think supplies will become increasingly scarce. For both, Saudi Arabia, the world's leading oil producer, has a pivotal role. The optimists believe that it will continue to expand its output, thereby satisfying ever-increasing global demand; the pessimists contend that its oilfields will soon decline, eliminating any prospect of expanding the world's net oil supply. To reach any conclusions about world supply, we must first consider Saudi Arabia.

It is impossible to exaggerate Saudi Arabia's importance in the global oil-supply equation. Not only is it the leading producer and exporter of oil, but it is also the only major supplier with substantial spare capacity, allowing it to boost output quickly in times of crisis. This was of decisive importance in 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait and both countries' production was no longer on the market. By swiftly upping its own output, Saudi Arabia prevented another global oil shock like those after the Arab oil embargo of 1973-74 and the Iranian revolution of 1979.

Given its unique ability to increase output in times of crisis, Saudi Arabia has long been viewed in Washington as a vital part of US energy security. When the price of crude began its meteoric rise in spring 2005, the first thing President George Bush did was to invite Crown Prince (now King) Abdullah to his ranch in Crawford, Texas, to plead with him to boost Saudi output. "The crown prince understands that it is very important [to] make sure that the price is reasonable," Bush told reporters before the meeting (1).

After the meeting, a Bush aide announced that Abdullah had promised to increase Saudi output, and noted that this "can't help but have a positive downward effect" on oil prices (2). Although Abdullah's promises to increase Saudi output have yet to produce a marked decline in energy prices, Washington has continued to put pressure on Riyadh to expand its production.

The oil future
Even more important than its role as a swing producer in times of crisis is Saudi Arabia's expected contribution to future oil output. "With one-fourth of the world's proven oil reserves," the US department of energy (DoE) observed in 2004, "Saudi Arabia is likely to remain the world's largest net oil exporter for the foreseeable future" (3). Every assessment released by the DoE indicates that Saudi oil production will continue to grow and that it will play a critical role in satisfying the ever-increasing global demand for petroleum. The DoE predicts that Saudi Arabia will provide over one-quarter of all new oil added to global supplies between 2001 and 2025.

To appreciate fully Saudi Arabia's pivotal role, it is useful to consult the projections of future supply and demand released each year by the DoE. In 2004 it predicted that world oil demand would rise by 57% between 2001 and 2025, from 77m to 121m barrels per day (mbd). In response to this, Saudi oil output was expected to rise by 120% during this period, from 10.2mbd to 22.5mbd, a net increase of 12.3mbd. No other country or group of countries came close in anticipated growth rates. Russia and the former Soviet republics of the Caspian Sea region have a combined anticipated increase of 8.5mbd; Iran, Iraq, and Kuwait were jointly projected to achieve an increase of 7.6mbd; and Nigeria, the leading producer in Africa, was expected to gain only 1.6mbd. Most other regions were projected to experience declining or stagnant production, so Saudi Arabia's addition was deemed essential to satisfying anticipated demand (4). But is Saudi Arabia truly capable of increasing its oil output by 12.3mbd - or by any amount at all? This question has stirred up controversy among oil analysts.

The controversy began in February 2004, when the New York Times reported that a number of analysts had concluded that Saudi Arabia's major oil-fields had been more thoroughly depleted than was commonly thought, raising significant doubt about its ability to boost output beyond the then current rate of 9-10mbd. Although its production had kept pace with international demand in the past, said the Times, its "oil-fields now are in decline, prompting industry and government officials to raise serious questions about whether the kingdom will be able to satisfy the world's thirst for oil in coming years" (5).

Anger and alarm
This article provoked anger and alarm in Saudi Arabia. A few days later senior officials of Saudi Aramco, the state-owned oil company, told an audience in Washington that the company was fully capable of boosting its output in future. "We have the potential to add more oil than anyone else," said Mahmoud Abdul-Baqi, Aramco's vice-president for exploration. "We will continue to deliver for another 70 years at least" (6). The Saudi Arabian oil minister, Ali al-Naimi, was even more emphatic: If world demand continued to rise, "we're going to be ready to meet it" (7).

These assurances were reiterated by the US DoE, which generally assumes an optimistic stance in the debate over global petroleum availability. In the 2004 edition of its International Energy Outlook, the DoE reported that Saudi Arabian officials "are confident in their ability to sustain significantly higher levels of production capacity well into the middle of this century" (8).

This was not the final word. In May 2005 Houston banker Matthew Simmons published a bombshell of a book, Twilight in the Desert, in which he claimed that most major Saudi oil-fields are in decline and incapable of sustaining higher output: "There is only a small probability that Saudi Arabia will ever deliver the quantities of oil that are assigned to it in all the major forecasts of world oil production. Saudi Arabian production is at or very near its peak sustainable volume... and it is likely to go into decline in the very foreseeable future" (9).

Four main points
Simmons is not a militant environmentalist or an anti-oil partisan. He is the chairman and CEO of one of the world's leading oil-industry investment banks, Simmons & Company International. For decades he has been pouring billions of dollars into the energy business, financing the exploration and development of new oil reservoirs around the world. He has become a friend and associate of many top figures in the oil industry and the US government, including Bush and the vice president, Dick Cheney. He has also accumulated a storehouse of information about the status of major oil fields, making him one of the most knowledgeable figures in the field. That is why his dour assessment is so significant.

His argument boils down to these points:

most of Saudi Arabia's oil is extracted from four or five giant fields;

these were first developed 40-50 years ago, and have since given up must of their easily extracted petroleum;

to maintain high levels of production in these fields, the Saudis have increasingly come to rely on the use of water injection and other secondary recovery methods to compensate for the drop in natural field pressure;

in time, the ratio of water to oil in these underground fields will grow to the point where further oil extraction becomes difficult, if not impossible.

Twilight in the Desert is not easy to read. Most of it consists of a detailed account of Saudi Arabia's vast oil infrastructure, relying on technical papers written by Saudi oil engineers on aspects of production in particular fields. Much of this has to do with the ageing of Saudi oilfields and the use of water injection to maintain the pressure in underground reservoirs , which can result in the degradation of untapped supplies. By drawing on these technical studies, Simmons is able to demonstrate that Saudi Arabia's largest fields are rapidly approaching the end of their productive life.

The Saudis responded to these allegations with anger and alarm. At a conference in Washington, Naimi disputed the claims and insisted that his country was fully capable of raising its output as needed. "I want to assure you here today that Saudi Arabia's reserves are plentiful and that we stand ready to increase output as the market dictates," he declared on 17 May 2005. At a meeting in Paris, he announced plans to increase Saudi oil production from 10mbd to 12mbd by 2009 and indicated that it could rise to as much as 15mbd if demand continued to expand (10).

But this time there has been greater scepticism from experts. Many analysts have noted that the extra oil being pumped by Saudi Arabia is high in sulphur content, making it unusable for many refineries, and that the Saudis are not making great progress in efforts to increase output. Speaking of the encounter between Bush and Abdullah, Jason Schenker of the Wachovia Corporation said: "There will be no real change as a result of this meeting" (11).

The US changes its mind
The most striking indication of this change in outlook is the new assessment in the DoE's International Energy Outlook 2005, released last July. The 2004 edition gave that Saudi 12.3mbd increase we mentioned, but the new edition projected an increase of only 6.1mbd by 2025, less than half as much (12). No explanation was provided for this turnaround, but it can only be assumed that the analysis of Simmons and other sceptics has begun to influence official thinking in Washington.

It is likely that even the DoE's much-reduced projection will prove wildly optimistic. Not even Naimi, in his most expansive moments, has claimed that Saudi Arabia can push its oil output above 15mbd, and he has never explicitly promised that it will rise much above 12mbd. If Simmons is right, even that level may prove beyond the kingdom's reach.

None of this discussion has addressed the separate question of whether political conditions in Saudi Arabia will affect oil production. A major domestic upheaval, such as that in Iran after the overthrow of the shah in 1978-79, would almost certainly produce a downturn in production, possibly for many years. A powerful terrorist attack on Saudi oil facilities (such as almost happened last month) would have a similar result.

But even if conditions remain relatively stable, we should begin to plan for a world in which the global supply of oil will probably never satisfy the insatiable demand.

© 1997-2006 Le Monde diplomatique.

Comment on this Article

Nigeria Earns $2.9bn from Oil in Jan

From Chuks Akunna, Kunle Aderinokun in Abuja and Segun James in Warri
12 Mar 06

Buoyed by high prices in the international crude market, Nigeria earned $2.92 billion (N376.7 billion) from oil in January this year, representing about 64 percent of the total foreign inflow of $4.58bn netted by the country during the month.

The Federal Government has also begun a massive deployment of troops in the troubled oil-rich city of Warri, suggesting that negotiations between the government and the Niger Delta militants, holding three foreign oil workers hostage in the creeks, may have broken down.
The oil income, which showed a 33 percent increase over the receipts for the preceding month, also bolstered Nigeria's gross external rese-rves to $31.32 billion at the end of January 2006, representing an increase of 10.7 per cent over $28.28 billion accumulated as at December 2005.

Making these disclosures in its monthly report for January, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) said the level of reserves in the month under review could finance about 32.3 months of foreign exchange disbursements compared with 18.4 months in December 2005.

In the same month also, the total assets/liabilities of the 25 deposit money banks (DMBs) that emerged at the end of first phase of consolidation exercise amounted to N4.694 trillion in the review month.

The apex bank explained that "foreign exchange inflow and outflow through the CBN in January 2006 amounted to $3.1 billion and $0.92 billion respectively, representing a net inflow of $2.18 billion."

When compared with the levels of $2.7 billion and $1.49 billion in the preceding month, the bank added, inflow rose by 14.7 per cent, while outflow declined significantly by 38.2 per cent.

"Provisional data on aggregate foreign exchange flows through the economy in January 2006 indicated that total inflow increased by 9.4 per cent to $4.58 billion. Oil sector receipts, which accounted for 63.9 per cent of the total, increased by 33 per cent over the preceding month's level to $2.92 billion," said the CBN
Non-oil public sector inflows, according to the CBN report, however, fell by 65.1 percent to $0.2 billion and accounted for 3.8 per cent of the total, while autonomous inflow declined by $2.93 or 0.2 per cent to N1.48 billion from the level in the preceding and accounted for 32.3 per cent of the total.

It attributed the decline in autonomous inflow to the "reduction in the non-oil export earnings during the month under review."

The banking watchdog noted that at $0.97 billion, aggregate foreign exchange outflow from the economy fell by 36.8 per cent and attributed the "sharp fall" largely to the decline in the funding of the Dutch Auction System (DAS), drawing on letters of credits and other official payments by 75.9, 89.4 and 11.6 per cent respectively during the review month.

Analysis of non-oil export proceeds by top 100 exporters, according to the CBN, revealed that, their earnings in January slumped to $42.07 million, indicating a significant decline of 29.40 per cent from the preceding month's level.
"A breakdown of the proceeds by the top 100 exporters in January 2006 showed that non-oil export proceeds in respect of the agricultural, manufacturing sub-sector and others fell from $33 million, $20.85 million and $5.73 million in the preceding month to $20.26 million, $20.35 million and $1.46 million respectively.

"The decline was attributable largely to variations in the prices of some of the goods traded at the international commodities market during the review month. The shares of agricultural, manufacturing and others sub-sectors in total non-oil export proceeds were 48.1, 48.4 and 3.5 per cent compared with 55.4, 35 and 9.6 per cent respectively, in December 2005. The top of the 100 exporters accounted for 100 per cent of all the non-oil export proceeds in January 2006," the CBN said.

On sectoral utilization of foreign exchange, the Central Bank stated that the industrial sector accounted for the bulk (47.7 per cent) of total foreign exchange disbursed in January 2006, followed by general merchandise (16.7 per cent).

Other beneficiary sectors, in a descending order of importance included invisible (15.1 per cent), transport (10 per cent), food (15.1 per cent), agricultural products (0.4 per cent).

The CBN noted that at the foreign exchange market, the demand pressure moderated further in the review month as foreign exchange sales by the CBN to the end- users, through the authorized dealers, fell by 62.5 per cent.

According to the bank, under the DAS, the weighted exchange rate of the naira vis-a-vis the US dollar appreciated by 0.02 per cent to N129.06 per dollar in January 2006.
In the bureaux de change segment of the market, the rate depreciated from N141.73 per dollar in December 2005 to N144.09 per dollar in January 2006. Consequently, the premium between the official and bureaux de change rates widened from 9.9 per cent in December 2005 to 11.7 per cent in the month under review.

However, the CBN said the total assets/liabilities of the DMBs will be N5.029 trillion when the 14 banks in liquidation were included using their statutory returns rendered to the apex bank.

According to the apex bank, "both foreign assets and claims on private and Federal Government rose during the period which was sourced mainly from the increase in demand, time, savings and foreign currency deposits invested in the Federal Government securities, acquisition of unclassified assets as well as extension credit to the private sector."
It noted that at N2.135 trillion, credit to the domestic economy rose by N143.5 billion or 7.2 per cent over the preceding month's level, attributing the rise to the increase in claims on both public and private sectors during the period.

"Central Bank's credit to the DMBs, however, declined substantially by 56.8 per cent to N18.4 billion in January 2006 reflecting the decline in loans and advances from the CBN.

"Total specified liquid assets of the DMBs stood at N1.353 trillion representing 50.9 per cent of their total deposit liabilities. The level of assets was 10.1 percentage points above the stipulated minimum ratio of 40 per cent for fiscal 2006," the bank said.

For the discount houses, the CBN said their total assets/liabilities stood at N101.9 billion in January representing an increase of N2.5 billion or 2.6 per cent over the level in the preceding month. The increase in assets, the apex bank said was attributable largely to the "255.7 per cent increase in balances with other banks. On the other hand, the increase in was attributable to the increase in money at call and amount owing by N125.9 billion or 0.4 per cent and N5.2 billion or 13 per cent respectively, during the review month."

The bank added that discount houses investments in Federal Government securities of less than 91 days maturity amounted to N46.9 billion or 59.4 per cent of their total deposit liabilities. This level of investment was 3.5 and 0.6 per cent below the level in the preceding month and the prescribed minimum of 60 per cent for fiscal 2006 respectively.

"Total borrowing by discount houses was N45 billion, while their capital and reserves amounted to N13 billion resulting in a gearing ratio of 3:5:1 compared with the prescribed maximum target of 50:1 for the year.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government yesterday began a massive deployment of troops in the troubled oil-rich city of Warri, suggesting that negotiations between the government and the Niger Delta youth militants, holding three foreign oil workers hostage in the creeks, may have broken down.
The deployment of troops coincided with a visit by the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ganiyu Adekeye, to the Warri naval base, NNS Delta.

The number of troops now being deployed could, however, not be ascertained as the military did not use the Warri naval base which is in the town to make the deployment for security reasons.

But the President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Mr. Ledum Mitee, said yesterday in Abuja that war was not the answer and urged the Federal Government to be cautious.

Speaking with THISDAY, the Ogoni activist said the most enduring response would be a massive deployment of funds to the region for its rapid development in such a way that plenty of jobs that would take the militants off the gun would be created.

The Federal Government, however, appeared to have a different think as Adekeye on arriving Warri in a naval helicopter proceeded to address Naval officers an exercise which took several hours.

At the end of the briefing, Adekeye was evasive in his response to questions asked by newsmen and left hurriedly after answering only three queries.

Adekeye, who was accompanied by the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral John Kpokpogri, and the Commanding Officer, Warri Naval Base, Captain Mufutau Ajibade, told newsmen that a military option could not be ruled out in deciding the situation in the creeks, but made it clear that it would be the last option if all others fail.

THISDAY gathered, however, that the Chief of Naval staff might have decided to personally witness the deployment of the troops to the creeks, hence his presence in Warri at the Sunday deployment.

It was reliably gathered from impeccable security sources that there might be an ultimate show down at Okorenkoko between the military and the militants within the next few days, unless the hostages still in captivity were released. But Mitee said as long as the Federal Government continues to shy away from addressing the "genuine agitations' of the people of the Niger Delta, the killing of soldiers, taking of foreign oil workers hostage and bombing of oil installations by militia groups in the Niger Delta will not end. Apart from the killing of 13 Nigerian soldiers by militants last week, and the kidnap of nine expatriate oil workers last month, the activities of the militants have over the past months cut Nigeria's crude oil exports by as much as 458,000 barrels per day.

The MOSOP president blamed the activities of the militants on the failure of the Federal Government and oil companies to respond to the "genuine agitations" of the people of the region.

"These are things we all warned of before; that if we do not give peaceful advocacy a chance to succeed, then this sort of situation becomes inevitable," said Mitee, declaring, "it is unacceptable for communities to live in abject poverty and next door are oil workers living in opulence in these days of the Internet and GSM."

He identified the frustration suffered by the army of unemployed youths in the Niger Delta, "government rhetoric" on developing the region, and its failure to implement any of its white papers on the numerous crises in the region, as largely contributory to the current wave of militancy in the region.

He regretted that the Federal Government was spending so much to secure national security without realising that injustice was the greatest threat to national security.

According to him, "people are already getting a little bit frustrated and I think that the reactions of government have not helped matters. People feel as if government is not responding to their agitations. After almost every serious crisis in the Niger Delta, one committee is set up, after that, people go to sleep. They keep harping on national security perhaps without realising that the injustice remains the greatest threat to national security.

"There needs to be a dividing line between criminal elements and genuine agitations. Government has always treated both issues as if they are the same. Once you now move in and take the thing as a purely law and order thing, without dealing with the communities, then the communities now sit back and feel that government is actually not after the criminals, but after the champions of their agitations," he stated.

The activist said apart from the creation of at least 20, 000 jobs as a "shock measure" in each of the Niger Delta states, oil companies should also embark on the provision of social amenities such as electricity and potable water to the host communities, since, in his words "no flow station that has extended light to the villages has ever been reported shut because if you shut it you will be plunged into darkness."

Meanwhile, the Ijaw Reformation Council (IRC) has condemned the 10 point demand made by the captors of the hostages as ridiculous and amounted to asking for a break up of Nigeria.
The IRC at a press conference addressed by its President, Mr. Lucky Izoukumor, said the Niger Delta struggle could not be achieved by criminality.

Izoukumor said that from all indication, no government could fully implement the demands made by the captors, hence the need to be more realistic.

Besides, he regretted that religious dimension was being brought into the struggle following a claim by some persons that all those released were Muslims.

He said the time had come for the militants to release the hostages unconditionally in the interest of the Ijaw people and the Niger Delta, as the people would bear the brunt of any military action taken by the Federal Government.

Comment on this Article

Nigeria's militants highlight woes amid wealth

By Katharine Houreld, Warri, Nigeria
March 13, 2006

This is the Niger Delta, the heart of Africa's biggest oil producer. But despite the billions of dollars in oil wealth, this region - about 70,000 square kilometres - is home to some of the world's poorest people. Most of the fishermen in these creeks live in the same huts and use the same bark nets that their fathers did. More than 60 per cent of Nigeria's 128 million inhabitants scrape by, earning less than $1 a day, with no hope of employment or education.

In many places, the frustration with a government ranked by Transparency International as the third most corrupt in the world has spilled over into violence.
"We ARE not terrorists," screamed a black-masked militant brandishing an assault rifle. "We are freedom fighters!"

He had arrived minutes earlier in a motorboat bristling with machine-guns and rocket-propelled grenades held by fighters in camouflage body armour and balaclavas.

White flags, a tribute to their tribe's god of war, fluttered from the stern.

This is the Niger Delta, the heart of Africa's biggest oil producer. But despite the billions of dollars in oil wealth, this region - about 70,000 square kilometres - is home to some of the world's poorest people. Most of the fishermen in these creeks live in the same huts and use the same bark nets that their fathers did. More than 60 per cent of Nigeria's 128 million inhabitants scrape by, earning less than $1 a day, with no hope of employment or education.

In many places, the frustration with a government ranked by Transparency International as the third most corrupt in the world has spilled over into violence.

"We have no water to drink, no schools, no electricity, no jobs," complained one machine-gun-toting youth from the latest Delta-based insurgent group, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).

"Have you been to Abuja (the capital)? It is paradise there. Why can't we have that down here?"

MEND has masterminded a spate of attacks and two mass kidnappings in the past three months. The first abduction, in January, ended with all four foreigners released unharmed. But after the Nigerian military ordered retaliatory strikes on strategic targets or innocent villagers, depending on who you talk to, a second group of nine expatriate workers were seized last month. Six have been released, but the group still holds two Americans and a Briton.

Alex Vines, head of the African program at London's Royal Institute for International Affairs think tank, believes the attacks are linked to next year's elections. "This type of activity and violence happens during every electoral cycle. The surprise is not that it has happened but that is has happened so soon," he said.

The violence has shut down a fifth of Nigeria's production. The damage to Africa's biggest oil producer, which normally pumps 2.5 million barrels a day, is sending shockwaves through a market already jittery about instability in the Middle East.

The militias know that with 90 per cent of Nigeria's export earnings coming from oil, attacking oil installations is the quickest way to make the Government take notice of their demands. They want an inquiry into killings by the military, promises of development and the release of key tribal leaders.

One of those they want freed is Alhaji Dokubo Asari, whose threats of an all-out war on oil interests drove prices to record highs two years ago. Asari, on trial for treason, has said he was originally armed as a political enforcer to ensure the election of current Rivers State governor Peter Odili in 2003.

"Don't forget, most of these militants received their first weapon from the ruling party," local human rights activist Dimieari Von Kemedi said.

"When the elections were over, the guns melted into the swamps. Given the weapons now available in the Delta, any serious politician will be looking for bigger and better weapons for their own boys."

Twenty-year-old Akpoviri Igbeh, unemployed and looking for work around Warri's docks, approves of what MEND is doing. "They kidnap those foreigners so that people know what is going on here," he said. "We have the right to use force because nobody is listening. We are like the goose that laid the golden egg, but nobody cares for us."

Comment on this Article

Foreign owners tied to US fleet - Reliability during crisis questioned - Lack of American Owned Vessels

By Kevin Baron and Michael Kranish
March 12, 2006

WASHINGTON -- Three-fourths of the cargo ships in a special fleet carrying vital supplies to US military forces are owned by foreign companies, raising concerns about the lack of American-owned vessels to help the Pentagon in a global crisis, according to government records reviewed by the Globe.
The foreign ownership of cargo ships that deliver rocket launchers, attack helicopters, high-tech safety gear, and other equipment to US troops around the world has received relatively little notice. But the arrangement, under which each ship receives a $2.6 million annual subsidy, is coming under new scrutiny as a result of the furor over the now-canceled plan to have a Dubai-based company take over management of six US ports.

Representative Gene Taylor, a Mississippi Democrat whose district includes major shipbuilding facilities, said Pentagon officials offered assurances when the subsidy program began a decade ago that few of the cargo ships in the US Maritime Security Program would be foreign owned.

But with so many vessels in the program now under the control of four foreign companies, Taylor said he wants Congress to require all cargo ships that supply US military forces to be owned by US companies. Taylor said the military would be vulnerable to a cutoff of crucial supplies if a foreign-owned vessel suddenly pulled out of the program.

Similar qualms have been raised at past congressional hearings by officials including the former head of Transcom -- the Pentagon's transportation command -- and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Duncan Hunter, but the Defense Department has said it had little choice but to utilize foreign-owned ships because so many US owners have sold out to overseas conglomerates.

''First they said, 'No big deal, it is just a couple of foreign-owned ships,' " Taylor said, referring to how Pentagon officials, a decade ago, defended the program to him. ''It is a seduction by degrees of our national security . . . I am hoping that this Dubai ports deal will cause enough Americans to learn about this and put pressure" on their congressional representatives to require American ownership.

Under the program, budgeted at $1.7 billion over 10 years, the Defense Department pays the owners of 60 ships an annual subsidy of $2.6 million in exchange for the right to take over the operations of the cargo vessels at any time. After the ship owners receive the call from the Pentagon, the ships move as soon as possible to report for military duty. They fly American flags and are staffed by American crews.

Robert Johnson, a spokesman from the US Maritime Administration, which helps manage the program, said the government maintains strict oversight of the ships when they are carrying military supplies.

''The ships in the program fly the US flag, they are operated by US crews with a US captain, and, when they are activated, they are under US government control," Johnson said.

But Taylor and others worry that in a global emergency, a foreign owner could suddenly pull his ships from the program, leaving the Pentagon in the lurch. Although the ships are owned by countries in Europe and Asia that are considered US allies, the countries do not always support American military interventions.

It was fear of a similar situation that led to the creation of the subsidy -- called the Maritime Security Program -- in 1995. The initial program required that all ships be American owned, but made a special exception for five vessels.

By the third year of the program, however, the Maritime Administration allowed additional exceptions for foreign ownership, and takeovers of the two largest American companies in the program quickly led to the majority of the ships being owned by foreign companies.

Today, out of 60 ships in the program, 45 are controlled by conglomerates whose parent companies are headquartered in Singapore, Denmark, Germany, Norway, and Sweden. Most of the ships have been used to supply US forces during the Iraq war.

Recent decades have seen a precipitous decline in the American manufacture and registration of cargo vessels. While the US still makes naval vessels, the manufacture of large commercial ships has mostly gone overseas, as exemplified by the demise of facilities such as the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy. Foreign governments, meanwhile, have helped subsidize competing shipyards.

About 97 percent of US international trade is carried on foreign-flagged vessels, many of which register in nations with comparatively lax requirements and lower taxes, according to a government report on the national security implications of the nation's decline in commercial shipbuilding.

The 2001 report warned that the ''US commercial market for merchant vessels does not support the construction of the type of large sealift vessels needed in wartime."

That concerns some experts who worry that it gives foreign countries too much control over US commercial and military shipments.

''There is no doubt that America has outsourced its merchant marine," said Richard Gurnon, president of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, which trains civilians to operate merchant ships. ''We are the biggest importing nation in the world. What if foreign countries say, 'We aren't going to ship things to you any more; we don't like your foreign policy.' "

One of the US executives who fought for the subsidy program -- and then sold his company's ships to a foreign firm -- was John Snow, now the US secretary of the treasury.

In 1995, Snow was the chief executive of CSX, a large US transportation company that included Sea-Land, which had 15 ships in the Maritime Security Program. CSX and other ship owners, in a joint statement submitted that year to Congress, asked for the new subsidy program, saying, ''If we do nothing, American flag vessels and their American crews will fast become extinct in international liner trades. A fundamental part of our national sealift capability will be lost."

Subsequently, in 1999, CSX sold Sea-Land to a Danish firm, A.P. Moller-Maersk. Maersk had previously won approval for four of its own ships to participate in the program. Maersk initially operated the 15 additional ships acquired from Sea-Land through a US-owned company, but later received approval from the US Maritime Administration to take control of the vessels on its own, and added five more ships to the program through another acquisition.

Maersk spokeswoman Barbara Garrow said Maersk has a long and trusted track record with the Pentagon.

''The Department of Defense . . . has called us a 'true partner' in the war on terrorism. We are extremely proud of our decades of service to the United States and in the war on terrorism," Garrow said.

Garrow said the US subsidiary operates independently from the Danish headquarters, saying it is ''controlled by a board of directors comprised entirely of US citizens."

But the plan to allow the Maersk-owned ships to stay in the program had drawn opposition from US-owned shipping companies, who questioned whether a foreign company would cooperate in a global crisis.

''Maersk has financial interests and conducts business in many countries, some of which have strong policy conflicts with the United States," said Joseph T. Keegan, former president of U.S. Ship Management Inc., at a 2002 House Armed Services subcommittee hearing. ''Let's consider this hypothetical: If our government determines to deploy . . . ships to the Taiwan Straits. . . . my company will unhesitatingly do what's asked. However, please consider the factors which a company like Maersk, which does a huge amount of business with the People's Republic of China, would be forced to consider in the event of such a contingency."

At a hearing later that year, General Handy -- then head of the transportation command -- said, ''I certainly am more comfortable with a totally US-owned company. I mean, there is no question in my mind . . . I would be far more comfortable with a US company."

But he added that, due to the insufficient supply of US-owned ships, he would ''favor the flexibility of going on the market and being able to deal with both" foreign- and American-owned companies.

The hearing ended with members of Congress expressing concern about the lack of US-owned ships but taking no action.

In addition to CSX, companies representing more than a dozen other ships sold out to foreign companies. American President Lines, which had nine ships in the program, was acquired by Neptune Orient Lines, controlled by the Singapore government.

Comment on this Article

Arab central banks move assets out of dollar

By Philip Thornton, Economics Correspondent
14 March 2006

Middle Eastern anger over the decision by the US to block a Dubai company from buying five of its ports hit the dollar yesterday as a number of central banks said they were considering switching reserves into euros.

The United Arab Emirates, which includes Dubai, said it was looking to move one-tenth of its dollar reserves into euros, while the governor of the Saudi Arabian central bank condemned the US move as "discrimination".

Separately, Syria responded to US sanctions against two of its banks by confirming plans to use euros instead of dollars for its external transactions.

The remarks combined to knock the dollar, which fell against the euro, pound and yen yesterday as analysts warned other central banks might follow suit.
Last week the US caused dismay after political opposition to the takeover of P&O by Dubai Ports World forced DPW to agree to transfer P&O's US port management business to a "US entity" .

The governor of the UAE central bank, Sultan Nasser al-Suweidi, said the bank was looking to convert 10 per cent of its reserves, which stand at $23bn (£13.5bn), from dollars to euros. "They are contravening their own principles," he said. "Investors are going to take this into consideration [and] will look at investment opportunities through new binoculars."

Hamad Saud al-Sayyari, the governor of the Saudi Arabian monetary authority, said: "Is it protection or discrimination? Is it okay for US companies to buy everywhere but it is not okay for other companies to buy the US?"

Syria has switched the state's foreign currency transactions to euros from dollars, the head of the state-owned Commercial Bank of Syria, Duraid Durgham, said.

Last week the White House told US financial institutions to terminate all correspondent accounts involving the Commercial Bank of Syria because of money-laundering concerns. Mohammad al-Hussein, Syria's finance minister, said: "Syria affirms that this decision and its timing are fundamentally political."

The euro rose a quarter of one percentage point against the dollar to a one-week high of $1.1945, although it retreated in later trading.

Monica Fan, at RBC Capital Markets, said: "The issue is whether we will see similar attitudes taken by other Middle Eastern banks. It is a question of momentum."

Comment on this Article

EU Warns of Sanctions on U.S. Goods

Associated Press

GENEVA - The European Union advised the World Trade Organization on Tuesday that it would reintroduce trade sanctions against the United States in two months unless Washington complies with a WTO ruling condemning tax breaks for U.S. companies operating overseas.

The 25-nation EU said, however, that it is still offering the United States ways to end the long-standing dispute without having to incur sanctions on lists of targeted products, including everything from textiles and foodstuffs to automotive parts and steel.
The announcement comes 30 days after a WTO panel upheld a decision condemning the tax breaks, affirming previous judgments that the so- called Foreign Sales Corporation, or FSC, law breached global trade rules by giving illegal subsidies to some U.S. businesses.

The law gave tax exemptions on part of the income of more than 6,000 U.S. exporters, including companies such as Microsoft Corp., Boeing Co. and General Electric Co.

Last month's decision "made it absolutely clear that the U.S. has yet to come into full compliance with earlier rulings and recommendations," the EU told the WTO's dispute settlement body. The panel's ruling was officially adopted by the global commerce body at Tuesday's meeting.

EU legislation means the retaliatory measures, suspended in January will automatically go back into force in 60 days. But the EU noted its "utmost restraint in applying countermeasures" and called on the United States "to ensure full compliance with the applicable rulings and recommendations."

Brussels told the WTO body it was ready "to explore with the U.S. ways and means to put an end to this long-standing dispute," but rejected Washington's claims that the tax breaks were insignificant.

"We believe the remaining benefit to be over $750 million, and this is ... not insignificant," the EU said.

U.S. officials in Geneva were unavailable for comment, and the United States' statement to the dispute settlement body was not immediately circulated.

Washington has repealed the FSC law and claims it has fallen into line with previous WTO rulings, but the appeal body in February upheld that transitional provisions under the 2004 American Jobs Creation Act were still against the commerce body's rules because they allow tax exemptions to continue for a transition period through the end of this year and potentially longer.

In 2002, the WTO authorized $4 billion in sanctions by the EU, although Brussels decided to impose only $300 million and suspended them after Jan. 1, 2005.

The EU estimates the tax advantages from the jobs creation act will benefit airplane maker Boeing alone by at least $615 million over the next decade.

Comment on this Article

McClatchy to buy Knight-Ridder for $4.5 billion

Mar 13, 2006

The sale process underlined the difficulty of newspaper publishers fending off competition from Internet news sources, diminishing margins and a series of circulation scandals.
NEW YORK - Newspaper publisher McClatchy Co. (MNI.N: Quote, Profile, Research) on Monday said it would buy larger rival Knight-Ridder Inc. for $4.5 billion in cash and stock, ending a search that put a spotlight on the health of the struggling U.S. newspaper industry.

McClatchy will pay $40 cash and 0.5118 Class A shares for each Knight-Ridder share. The deal values Knight-Ridder at $67.25 per share, above its closing price of $65 on Friday.

The combined company will operate 32 daily newspapers and 50 nondailies after the sale of 12 Knight-Ridder papers, including some of its best known titles such as the Philadelphia Inquirer and the San Jose Mercury News.

The sale of the 12 papers will help pay down debt used to finance the deal and help minimize cost-saving measures, McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt said in an interview on cable TV network CNBC.

"We have no plans for layoffs at the newspapers," Pruitt said. "There will of course be some consolidation at corporate offices and some Internet operations. But we plan to maintain, sustain and further the journalism at these newspapers."

It will rank as the second-largest U.S. newspaper publisher based on a daily circulation of about 3.2 million people. McClatchy said it expected the deal to close within three to four months.

Key investors in Knight-Ridder began agitating for a sale in November, saying the company had failed to provide enough value for shareholders.

The sale process underlined the difficulty of newspaper publishers fending off competition from Internet news sources, diminishing margins and a series of circulation scandals.

A consortium consisting of Bain Capital, Hellman & Friedman, Texas Pacific Group and Thomas H. Lee Partners also placed a bid for Knight Ridder by Thursday's bid deadline, but it was unclear whether other potential suitors made formal offers.

McClatchy said it would retain Knight-Ridder newspapers serving its fastest-growing markets, including the Miami Herald, the Kansas City Star and the Charlotte Observer. The purchase also gives McClatchy a one-third stake in online job site CareerBuilder.com.

Despite newspaper struggles across the United States, McClatchy's Pruitt said that the company's local presence was key to its growth.

"Our local competitors have fragmented audiences. As a result, we're the last mass medium. We're holding onto that audience better than anybody else, albeit it's slipping slowly each year," Pruitt said on CNBC. "We're the leading local media company and our markets are growing 50 percent faster than the U.S. average."

McClatchy, whose own publications include the Sacramento Bee, said it would have had 2005 revenue of $2.83 billion and earnings of $754 million before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization if it had owned all the Knight-Ridder papers it planned to retain.

The company said it would assume about $2 billion in Knight-Ridder debt at closing and McClatchy will add two Knight Ridder directors to its board.

McClatchy said it expected the deal to reduce earnings per share in the mid-single-digit percentage range in the first year after closing, then add to profit by 2008.

© Reuters 2006.

Comment on this Article

War Pimp: Nuclear expert: Too late to stop Iran

13 March 2006

A former top UN and US arms inspector on Iraq has said it may be too late to stop a nuclear-weapons determined Iran, noting that there is no consensus on taking military action against Tehran.

"I'm afraid that we probably are past the point where there is any meaningful alternative other than military action to stop the Iranians if they are determined to go ahead. And I don't see that as a possibility," David Kay, who led the US search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq following the 2003 invasion, said on Sunday.
"My great fear is indeed we will have to learn to leave Iran, and all its terrorist connections, with the bomb," Kay told NBC television's Today Show while declining to say for certain that Iran is seeking nuclear weapons.

Kay ran the Iraq Survey Group that concluded that Iraq had no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, even as the White House continued to insist that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein had been a growing threat at the time of the US invasion.

Calling the Tehran regime "toxic", Kay said on Sunday that the tensions over Iran's nuclear power programme - which the US believes masks an intention to develop atomic weapons - differ from those which preceded the US attack on Iraq.

Multilateral coalition

"This time we have a far more united multilateral coalition against Iran and we actually have the International Atomic Energy Agency condemning Iran for 18 years of cheating on its non-proliferation obligations," Kay said.

However, he said, the coalition is far from agreed on the actions to take against an Iraq that has rejected pressures to shut down its uranium enrichment programme, which it claims is for peaceful purposes.

Kay said Europeans in the coalition were particularly bothered by aggressive statements from US leaders threatening tough UN sanctions or worse against Iran.

"When you've got in Tehran a regime that is toxic in the extreme, you really don't need to make the point that there are serious consequences. Everyone knows where we are moving," he said.

Kay, who was the chief UN weapons inspector from 1983 to 1992, would not say for certain that Iran was seeking to build nuclear weapons. "Intentions - that's always the weakest link in intelligence, and it certainly is in this case," he said.

"What you can say right now is Iran has taken a number of steps that are preparatory to having a nuclear weapon. You cannot say that in fact they definitively made that decision to go ahead with that weapons programme."

Comment on this Article

War Pimp McCain: If Iran Gets Nukes, U.S. 'In Trouble'

Carl Limbacher and NewsMax.com
11 Mar 06

Where Iran is concerned, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, believes President Bush was right in keeping military leverage on the table and considering U.N. sanctions.

"Iran may be the greatest single threat to America since the end of the Cold War,"McCain told an audience at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Memphis, Tenn. "If the Iranians acquire nuclear weapons, then my friends, we are in trouble."

As far as Iraq, McCain called for more training, the formation of a government and economic development, and he stated that the United States needs to pursue positive relationships in the Arab world.
"I believe the U.A.E. are good friends of ours," the senator said. "Our navy ships have made more than 700 hundred visits into the port of Dubai, more than any other ports outside of the U.S., they are serviced by U.A.E. personnel.

"There are missions being flown into Iraq as we speak out of Dubai," McCain continued. "There are two wars going on. One on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, the other is for the hearts and minds of the people of this country ... of the Arab world.

"I would at least have allowed the President the 45 day delay [on the Dubai Ports World deal] before we hammered him. The president deserved better, but it's over."

Comment on this Article

War Pimp: Iran builds a secret underground complex as nuclear tensions rise

By Philip Sherwell in Washington
The Telegraph (another CIA infiltrated rag)
12 Mar 06

Iran's leaders have built a secret underground emergency command centre in Teheran as they prepare for a confrontation with the West over their illicit nuclear programme, the Sunday Telegraph has been told.

The complex of rooms and offices beneath the Abbas Abad district in the north of the capital is designed to serve as a bolthole and headquarters for the country's rulers as military tensions mount.
The recently completed command centre is connected by tunnels to other government compounds near the Mossala prayer ground, one of the city's most important religious sites.

Offices of the state security forces, the energy department and the Organisation of Islamic Culture and Communications are all located in the same area.

The construction of the complex is part of the regime's plan to move more of its operations beneath ground. The Revolutionary Guard has overseen the development of subterranean chambers and tunnels - some more than half a mile long and an estimated 35ft high and wide - at sites across the country for research and development work on nuclear and rocket programmes.

The opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) learnt about the complex from its contacts within the regime. The same network revealed in 2002 that Iran had been operating a secret nuclear programme for 18 years.

The underground strategy is partly designed to hide activities from satellite view and international inspections but also reflects a growing belief in Teheran that its showdown with the international community could end in air strikes by America or Israel. "Iran's leaders are clearly preparing for a confrontation by going underground," said Alireza Jafarzadeh, the NCRI official who made the 2002 announcement.

America and Europe believe that Iran is secretly trying to acquire an atomic bomb, although the regime insists that its nuclear programme is for civilian energy purposes.

As the United Nations Security Council prepares to discuss Iran's nuclear operations this week, Teheran has been stepping up plans for confrontation. Its chief delegate on nuclear talks last week threatened that Iran would inflict "harm and pain" on America if censured by the Security Council.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the hardline president who has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map", also said that the West would "suffer" if it tried to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions. As the war of words intensified, President George W Bush said that Teheran represents a "grave national security concern" for America.

In Iraq, which Mr Ahmadinejad hopes will develop into a fellow Shia Islamic state, Iran is already using its proxy militia to attack British and American forces, often with Iranian-made bombs and weapons. As tensions grow, Teheran could order Hizbollah - the Lebanese-based terror faction that it created and arms - to attack targets in Israel.

The regime is also reviewing its contingency plans to attack tankers and American naval forces in the Persian Gulf and to mine the Strait of Hormuz, through which about 15 million barrels of oil (about 20 per cent of world production) passes each day. Any action in the Gulf would send oil prices soaring - a weapon that Iran has often threatened to wield.

The Pentagon's strategic planning is focused on the danger that Iran might try to mine the strait and deploy explosive-packed suicide boats against its warships. In May, American vessels in the Gulf will take part in the Arabian Gauntlet training exercise that deals with clearing mines from the strait, which has a navigable channel just two miles wide.

The naval wing of the Revolutionary Guard has in recent years practised "swarming" raids, using its flotilla of small rapid-attack boats to simulate assaults on commercial vessels and United States warships, according to Ken Timmerman, an American expert on Iran.

The Pentagon is particularly sensitive to the dangers of such attacks after al-Qaeda hit the USS Cole off the Yemen with a suicide boat in 2000, killing 17 American sailors. Last month the White House listed two foiled al-Qaeda plots to attack ships in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.

US intelligence believes that if Iranian nuclear facilities were attacked by either America or Israel, then Teheran would respond by trying to close the Strait of Hormuz with naval forces, mines and anti-ship cruise missiles.

"When these systems become fully operational, they will significantly enhance Iran's defensive capabilities and ability to deny access to the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz," Michael Maples, the director of the Defence Intelligence Agency testified before the Senate armed services committee last month.

A senior American intelligence officer said that the US navy would be able to reopen the strait but that it would be militarily costly. Hamid Reza Zakeri, a former Iranian intelligence officer, recently told Mr Timmerman that the Iranian navy's Strategic Studies Centre has produced an updated battle plan for the strait.

Its most devastating options would be to use its long-range Shahab-3 missiles to attack Israeli or American bases in the region or to deploy suicide bombers in Western cities under its strategy of "asymmetric" response.

"The price to the West for standing up to Iran is clear," Gen Moshe Ya'alon, the former Israeli defence chief said last month in Washington. "It includes terror attacks, economic hardship… and consequences resulting from fluctuations in Iranian oil production. Indeed, the regime believes that the West - including Israel - is afraid to deal with it."

Comment on this Article

Flashback: CBS Sez: No Bunker where U.S. Bombs Targeted Saddam

28 May 03

The Baghdad bunker which the United States said it bombed on the opening night of the Iraq war in a bid to kill Saddam Hussein never existed.

The network quoted a U.S. Army colonel in charge of inspecting key sites in Baghdad as saying no trace of a bunker or of bodies had been found at the site on the southern outskirts of the Iraqi capital, known as Dora Farms.

"When we came out here, the primary thing they were looking for was an underground facility, or bodies, forensics, and basically, what they saw was giant holes created. No underground facilities, no bodies," Col. Tim Madere said.

CBS, saying it was the first news organization to visit the site, reported that the CIA had searched it once and Col. Madere had searched it twice as part of efforts to find traces of DNA that could indicate if Saddam or his sons had been killed or wounded.

The network said the main palace in the compound remained standing despite the surrounding destruction. It quoted Madere as saying anyone who had been in the building could have survived the raid.

Shortly after the attack, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told reporters: "There's no question but that the strike on that leadership headquarters was successful. We have photographs of what took place. The question is, what was in there?"

The United States effectively acknowledged that the March 20 raid failed to kill Saddam when it launched a second air attack aimed at the Iraqi president on April 7.

The fate of Saddam and his sons Uday and Qusay is still unclear.

Rumsfeld said earlier this month, "If you don't have evidence he's dead, you've probably got to assume he's alive."

Comment on this Article

Israeli plan to attack Iranian nuclear reactors

Khaleej Times
13 March 2006

NAZARETH - The Israeli media was dominated by one story on Friday - comments made by Israel's former military chief of staff concerning Iran's nuclear programme. Speaking at the Hudson Institute in Washington, Moshe Ya'alon suggested that Israel is well-equipped to attack Iran and has the means to defend itself against possible missile attack.

He went into some detail about Israeli options, but did stress that first the world must try economic and diplomatic channels to pressure Teheran into not producing nuclear weapons. Such comments are highly irregular from senior Israeli figures. The story was broken by Israel's Channel 1 television, whose reporter happened to attend the address. Apparently Ya'alon was fully aware a journalist was present when he made his address.

Israel has a contingency and integrated plan for a crushing military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities. The revelation by a retired Israeli general has set off a political storm.
Moshe Ya'alon added that Israel has the ability to launch a pre-emptive strike that could set back Iran's nuclear programme for years. He said that a single attack would not be sufficient, and that Israel was not limited to air strikes, a possible reference to submarine-fired missiles.

Comment on this Article

Anti-Israel rabbis support Iran

12 March 2006

Members of an orthodox Jewish sect have met top Iranian officials in Tehran to show support for the Iranian president's call for the destruction of Israel, reports say.

Leading rabbis of Neturei Karta, an anti-Zionist group of ultra-Orthodox Jews who consider the existence of Israel an abomination, met with Gholamreza Aghazadeh, Iran's Vice President, the top-selling Yediot Aharonot reported.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said the Jewish state "must be wiped off the map" or moved as far away as Alaska - comments that have provoked anger in the West and condemnation from the UN Security Council.

Rabbi Dovid Weiss, the group's spokesman, was quoted as supporting Ahmadinejad's call during an interview on Iranian television last week.
Although all of the rabbis who visited Iran live in either New York or London, there are some 400 Neturei Karta families living in Jerusalem who refuse to recognise Israel's authority.

'Wish for calm'

The Iranian Fars News Agency reports that the group said in a statement that Ahmadinejad's call for a "world free from Zionism ... is nothing more than wishing for a better world dominated by peace and calm."

"This means a true hope for a peaceful life and coexistence between the Jewish and Muslim communities following the dismantlement of the Zionist regime," the group's statement added.

The group also said that it was "a dangerous deviation" to pretend that the Iranian president is an anti-Jewish or anti-Semitic personality since President Ahmadinejad, in fact, restated what the late founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Khomeini had frequently stated.

"That is, Zionism is different from Judaism and while the Zionist state of Israel must be disintegrated, the Jewish communities world wide and the religion of Judaism must be respected."


Following Ahmadinejad's claim that the Holocaust - the killing of an estimated six million Jews by the Nazis and their allies during World War II - was a myth used to justify the creation of Israel, the visiting rabbis agreed the mass killing had been hijacked by Zionists.

Weiss was quoted as saying: "The issue of the Holocaust has to do with the Zionist use ... The Zionists are using this issue. We, the Jews who were killed in the Holocaust, do not use the Holocaust as a tool for promoting our cause."

"Neturei Karta are well known for their hatred towards Israel," Yediot Aharonot wrote, "but it seems that this time they have crossed the line."

Comment on this Article

Of Lies and Men - Did Bush Lie Us into the Iraq War?

By Mike Hersh
Mar 12, 2006

People who defend Bush's rush to war - first demanding inspections, then demanding the inspectors leave Iraq to make way for the massive terror bombing and invasion - deny Bush lied about Iraq. I watched Rep. Dana Dana Rohrbacher, R-CA claim that Bush didn't lie about anything at a House International Relations Committee session. Bush lied several times about Iraq with the intent of inflaming the public in support of his plans to attack Iraq.

Sometimes people less fanatical than the overheated Rohrbacher try to claim Bush may not have known all these statements were false, therefore he "meant well" but was wrong - not lying. But Bush, Cheney and others were rigging the entire intelligence system to make sure they got the information they wanted, then they were relying on that to support misleading and highly provocative statements intended to drive the US into war.

As investigative reporter Seymour Hersh explained: "The point is not that the President and his senior aides were consciously lying. What was taking place was much more systematic - and potentially just as troublesome." He quoted "Kenneth Pollack, a former National Security Council expert on Iraq, whose book 'The Threatening Storm' generally supported the use of force to remove Saddam Hussein [who said] what the Bush people did was 'dismantle the existing filtering process that for fifty years had been preventing the policymakers from getting bad information. They created stovepipes to get the information they wanted directly to the top leadership."

In the process Pollack and Hersh describe, the Bush Administration believed the professional intelligence system was "deliberately and maliciously keeping information from them." Although, "They always had information to back up their public claims, but it was often very bad information," according to Pollack. It gets worse. The Administration was "forcing the intelligence community to defend its good information and good analysis so aggressively that the intelligence analysts didn't have the time or the energy to go after the bad information." As Hersh reports, "The Administration eventually got its way, a former C.I.A. official said. 'The analysts at the C.I.A. were beaten down defending their assessments.'"

See: THE STOVEPIPE by SEYMOUR M. HERSH, How conflicts between the Bush Administration and the intelligence community marred the reporting on Iraq's weapons. The New Yorker, 10-27-03: http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/?031027fa_fact

Bush lied with bad intent. No "meant well" defense possible.

There are many ways to lie. Someone can lie by saying something while knowing the statement is wrong, obviously. Knowingly implying certainty about a statement which is uncertain is also lying. Many of Bush's and his administration's statements fall into the latter category. Some fall into the first, such as their promise to exhaust every non-military approach before using military force against Iraq. That was a flat out lie.

The Downing Street Minutes and other evidence - Paul O'Neill's comments - establish clear, spoken intent to attack no Iraq matter what. Coercing people into making statements, or bullying them into silence, is not lying per se, but claiming "all evidence suggests" the favored conclusion after making sure none that doesn't gets notice becomes lying.

Bush made and had his administration make many specific and alarming claims which were not true and clearly intended to push us into war. Bush and his people were grossly negligent to the point of depraved disregard for the loss of life resulting from the war he (mis)led us into. Bush, Cheney et al knew or should have known - and often were on actual notice - that at least some of the key claims about Iraq were either false or not clearly supported by evidence.

"Intelligence" includes rumor, conjecture, and a lot of otherwise questionable information which is not "evidence" in any sense. Public statements relying on "intelligence" of this dubious value but presented as known facts - intended to whip the public into support of war - is dishonest at best. Overstating the accuracy of this "intelligence" is essentially lying.

Exaggerating this unverified information to further an objective is lying just like giving someone what you know is a $1 bill and calling it a ten is lying. The yellow cake from Africa claim in the State of the Union address of 2003 was just the most notorious example. Statements by Bush and Cheney at convictbushcheney.org are lies or misstatements of fact delivered with misleading sense of certitude: http://www.afterdowningstreet.org/?q=Bush-Cheney_Misleading

One can be wrong and well-meaning, but not when pretending certitude about matters of life and death (as in "I know this isn't poison, drink it. Oops, I was wrong.") There are no "well-meaning" mistakes about taking a nation to war this way. Either Bush is a liar, he's so depraved he doesn't care about innocent life, or he's a fool who isn't qualified to plan a bachelor party.

Saying Bush and his administration "meant well" when they killed well over 100,000 people means everyone the Bush Administration are amiable but dangerous dunces like Lennie Small from "Of Mice and Men". Not just Bush. All of them "mean well" but accidentally kill people. I don't believe that, but if that's what Bush's defenders assure us is true, then we must have grave concerns about such people in control of the nuclear button.

© Copyright 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 by MikeHersh.com and identified authors. MikeHersh.com invites you to broadcast any material at this site, provided you identify the source as MikeHersh.com. All Internet, email and other summaries, excerpts or other written reproductions must include this blurb and a link to http://www.MikeHersh.com.

Comment on this Article

Impeachment Talk Reaches the Mainstream - From the Wall Street Journal to MSNBC, talk of impeachment is no longer on the fringe.

By William Goodman
March 14, 2006.

The groundswell for President Bush's impeachment is growing, and last week the establishment media finally took notice.

The Wall Street Journal ran a story analyzing how a planned impeachment of President Bush will play out as an "election issue," including a helpful pie chart showing 51 percent of Americans support Congress in considering Bush's impeachment if he "didn't tell the truth about the reasons for the Iraq war."
The Washington Post published a commentary acknowledging that support for impeachment is now "reaching beyond the usual suspects," and the Associated Press covered the spike in pro-impeachment resolutions from local officials across the country. Resolutions recently passed in Vermont and California, and this weekend Democratic Party officials in Michigan voted to urge local officials to pass another. Meanwhile, 14 Democratic candidates for Congress have announced their support for impeachment.

These local efforts are beginning to advance impeachment at the national level. The resolution by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., to investigate impeachment is slowly but steadily gaining co-sponsors, including three this month. It now has 29 co-sponsors -- roughly one out of every seven Democrats in the U.S. House -- a promising start that ensures that the legislation attracts more votes when it reaches the floor.

These activist and legislative efforts helped finally push the "i-word" on to the notoriously conservative cable news last week. On Wednesday, Joe Scarborough aired an impeachment debate on MSNBC -- one of the first times the subject has been debated this year on cable. Scarborough's producers invited me to make the case for impeachment after learning of the new book I co-authored, "Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush."

Since impeachment rarely receives any consideration on television, I took the opportunity to explain our case, even if it meant going on Joe Scarborough's turf. Scarborough, a former Republican congressman who opposes impeaching President Bush, said during the show that he was "fascinated" by some arguments for impeachment. He accurately described the groundswell:

There's a movement out there right now calling for George W. Bush to be impeached. Just take a look at how many cities and towns across America have either drafted resolutions calling for the president's impeachment or are considering doing so. Not only that, but 11 candidates for the House of Representatives and three for the U.S. Senate are all running on the impeachment platform. Why do they want the president gone? Well, here are the common reasons cited. The war in Iraq, which they say Bush lied to get us into; warrantless eavesdropping, authorized by the president; the torturing of prisoners; and the president`s response to Hurricane Katrina.

It is significant that impeachment activists have received Scarborough's attention. When we debated the topic, Scarborough even conceded that the arguments for impeachment in our book were "intellectually honest." That's because it's easy to make an intellectually honest case for impeachment: President Bush has publicly admitted to breaking the law. Here is how I explained the clearest example of the president's multifaceted illegal conduct -- spying on Americans:

the fact is that the law provides a clear-cut way that the president has to do these things. He has to go to the FISA court. He knowingly violated that law. And the law says -- there are two laws, in fact, that say that when you do that, you are guilty of a crime. There it is. That is one of the high crimes and misdemeanors.

Pat Buchanan was quick to argue that even Senate Democrats weren't supporting impeachment. While many Washington Democrats appear to be spineless these days, a growing number of House Democrats are supporting a resolution to investigate impeachment. This debate is the start of many to come. Impeachment is finally out of the bottle, and it is not going away. C-SPAN plans to televise a discussion of our impeachment book, moderated by Amy Goodman in New York on March 28, and our attorneys are receiving more requests to explain the legal case for impeachment from grassroots groups and reporters.

This week the Senate will also consider censuring President Bush for illegal wiretapping, a rare move that shows even the conservative upper house may be realizing that President Bush is out of control. But we must remember that a censure resolution won't remove a single wiretap from Americans' phones. Congress and the American people must take real action to address President Bush's illegal policies in wiretapping, Iraq, torture and undermining the constitutional principle of separation of powers.

President Bush has repeatedly broken the law and brazenly promised to continue to betray his oath of office and our Constitution -- clear impeachable offenses. We must grow the impeachment movement across the country and in the halls of Congress to catalyze a substantive debate over illegal conduct, not politics.

William Goodman is the Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

Comment on this Article

Video: Feingold Will Introduce Resolution To Censure President Bush

Broadcast 03/12/06

Full transcript:

STEPHANOPOULOS: Tomorrow in the Senate you'll introduce a resolution to censure George W. Bush. Let me show it to our viewers. It says, Resolved: that the United States Senate does hereby censure George W. Bush, President of the United States, and does condemn his unlawful authorization of wiretaps of Americans. That is a big step. Why are you taking it now?

FEINGOLD: It's an unusual step. It's a big step, but what the President did by consciously and intentionally violating the constitutional laws of this country with this illegal wiretapping has to be answered. There can be debate about whether the law should be changed. There can be debate about how best to fight terrorism. We all believe that there should be wiretapping in appropriate cases. But the idea that the President can just make up a law in violation of his oath of office has to be answered.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But as you know, the President says he was acting on his inherent authority under the Constitution, and even your resolution acknowledges that no federal court has ruled that a president does not have that authority as Commander in Chief, so aren?t you jumping the gun?

FEINGOLD: Not at all. You know, we'?ve had a chance here for three months to look at whether there's any legal basis for this, and they're using shifting legal justifications. First they try to argue that somehow, under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, they can do this. Its pretty clear that they can't. Then there's the argument that somehow the military authorization for Afghanistan allowed this. This has basically been laughed out of the room in the Congress. So the last resort is to somehow say that the President has inherent authority to ignore the law of the United States of America, and that has the consequence that the President could even order the assassination of American citizens if that's the law. So there is no sort of independent inherent authority that allows the president to override the laws passed by the Congress of the United States.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So if you're so convinced that the President has broken the law, why not file an article of impeachment?

FEINGOLD: Well, you know, that's an option we could look at, if somebody thought that was a really good idea. There are other options out there. In fact, this conduct is right in the strike zone ? even though the Founding Fathers didn't have strike zones, they didn't have baseball ? but it is right in the strike zone of the concept of high crimes and misdemeanors. We have to consider, is it best for the country to start impeachment proceedings? Is it best for the country to consider removing the President? We?re not mandated to impeach a president who has broken the law, but I think we are required to do our job, to live up to our oath of office, and say, wait a minute, there has to be ? at least as a first step ? some accountability. Proper accountability is a censuring of the President, to say, ?Mr. President, acknowledge you broke the law, return to the law, return to our system of government.? That?s what I think we should do.

Comment on this Article

Feingold Draws Little Support for Censure

Local News Leader
13 Mar 06

WASHINGTON - Democrats distanced themselves Monday from Wisconsin Sen. Russell Feingold's effort to censure President Bush over domestic spying. Vice President Dick Cheney , visiting Feingold's state, called the resolution an "outrageous proposition."

"Don't hold back," Cheney said.

Asked at a press conference whether he would vote for the censure resolution, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada declined to endorse it and said he hadn't read it.

Sen. Joe Lieberman , D-Conn., said he had not read it either and wasn't inclined simply to scold the president.
Feingold, a possible contender for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, released a five-page censure resolution that accuses Bush of violating the Constitution and the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The resolution says censuring Bush also is warranted by "his failure to inform the full congressional intelligence committees as required by law, and his efforts to mislead the American people about the authorities relied upon by his administration to conduct wiretaps and about the legality of the program."

In 1999, Senate Republicans tried but failed to bring a censure resolution against President Clinton after he was acquitted by the Senate on House impeachment charges that he committed perjury and obstructed justice in the Monica Lewinsky affair.

"The outrageous proposition that we ought to protect our enemies' ability to communicate as it plots against America poses a key test of our Democratic leaders," he said. "Do they support the extreme and counterproductive antics of a few or do they support a lawful program vital to the security of this nation?

Feingold was the lone senator to oppose the 2001 Patriot Act. Two weeks ago, he was joined by only three other senators in opposing a renewal of the law with some new curbs on police powers. Feingold called the curbs meaningless.

Comment on this Article

Russ Feingold: Censure in the Wilderness

Kurt Nimmo
March 13th 2006

Senator Russ Feingold is one of a handful of Congress critters brave enough to oppose the Police State Act, otherwise known as the Patriot Act, and the NSA trampling of the Fourth Amendment as well. Now Feingold has introduced a proposal to "censure President George W. Bush for ordering domestic eavesdropping on U.S. citizens without a warrant," according to Reuters. Bush deserves nothing short of impeachment, and then an orange jumpsuit, and his Straussian neocon crew should be rounded up and prosecuted for treason-but none of this will happen, not now, next week, next year, or after the next president is elected, or appointed.
Feingold's "censure" (in essence, Congress critters issuing a "rebuke," or a mild slap on the wrist instead of indicting Bush for high crimes and misdemeanors) is a pathetic effort that will fail miserably because the whores of Congress are either onboard with the neocons or were long ago cowed into silence, as whores with closets filled with skeletons usually are.

Russ Feingold will soon enough become the poster child for Karl Rove's effort to portray Democrats as friends of "al-Qaeda" and Islamic terrorism. "We are a nation at war," declared Scott McClellan, even though we are not officially or legally a nation at war, and "if Democrats want to argue that we shouldn't be listening to al Qaeda communications, it's their right and we welcome the debate." Of course, the NSA snoop program has nothing to do with "al-Qaeda" phone calls. It has everything to do with snooping Americans in opposition to Bush and his neocon La Costra Nostra.

If we are to believe a poll released by the CIA's newspaper, the Washington Post, far too many "adults in the United States see nothing wrong with the domestic electronic surveillance program initiated by their federal government." 54% believe trashing the Bill of Rights is "acceptable," while a scant 32% are against reducing the Constitution to little more than "just a goddamned piece of paper," as our supreme leader, our Reichspräsident, Der Führer, declared not long ago. Such survey results, if we can trust them, demonstrate most Americans have flat brainwaves when it comes to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. But when it comes to naming Simpson cartoon characters, they are sharp as shiny new tacks.

Of course, all of this is moot, to say the least. The NSA has spied illegally on Americans for decades, as the Church Committee revealed in 1976. "In 1967, as part of a general concern within the intelligence community over civil disturbances and peace demonstrations, NSA responded to Defense Department requests by expanding its watch list program. Watch lists came to include the names of individuals, groups, and organizations involved in domestic antiwar and civil rights activities in an attempt to discover if there was 'foreign influence' on them," explains a supplementary staff report issued by the Select Committee to Study Government Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activity, otherwise known as the Church Committee. "In response to pressures from the White House, FBI, and Attorney General, the Department of the Army established a civil disturbance unit."

As Frank Morales documents, the response to "domestic antiwar and civil rights activities" resulted in Department of Defense Civil Disturbance Plan 55-2, code-named Operation Garden Plot. "By 1971, Senator Sam Ervin, later of Watergate renown, had convened his Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights which 'revealed that Military Intelligence had established an intricate surveillance system covering hundreds of thousands of American citizens. Committee staff members had seen a master plan-Garden Plot that gave an eagle eye view of the Army-National Guard-police strategy…. At first, the Garden Plot exercises focused primarily on racial conflict. But beginning in 1970, the scenarios took a different twist. The joint teams, made up of cops, soldiers and spies, began practicing battle with large groups of protesters. California, under the leadership of Ronald Reagan, was among the most enthusiastic participants in Garden Plot war games,'" Morales writes.

In 1975, the details of Garden Plot and an associated program, Lantern Spike, were revealed to journalist Ron Ridenhour. It should be noted that under proposed legislation by Sen. Mike DeWine and Sens. Olympia Snowe, Lindsey Graham, and Chuck Hagel, Ridenhour would now be locked up in prison for 15 years and fined a million dollars (see my Booking First & Fourth Amendment Fifth Columnists) for reporting such information. Following nine eleven, Garden Plot, going under the name Noble Eagle, was activated "to respond to major domestic civil disturbances within the United States," as Wikipedia summarizes.

In 1984, the feds launched Rex 84, short for Readiness Exercise 1984, an extension of Garden Plot, a plan to detain a large number of Americans to "fight subversive activities" and arrest "certain unidentified segments of the population," according to scholar Diana Reynolds. The FBI had meticulously collated a list of these "unidentified segments of the population" (dubbed the "ADEX" list, or in FBI parlance, the "Custodial Detention" list; see Frank Donner, The Age of Surveillance: The Aims & Methods of America's Political Intelligence System. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1980).

In addition to Noble Eagle, the Pentagon, under a program called Eagle Eyes, activated TALON (Threat and Local Observation Notice) and CIFA (Counterintelligence Field Activity) to deal with "domestic terrorist threats against the military" and report and collate into sprawling databases "suspicious activity," for instance a "peanut-butter protest [against the Houston headquarters of Halliburton]"regarded as a "potential threat to national security," according to Newsweek. In January, Dick Cheney called the CIFA program "vital" to the "country's defense against Al Qaeda," that is to say peanut butter sandwich wielding "al-Qaeda" operatives. Another Pentagon database, according to an "NBC Investigative Unit," including "nearly four dozen anti-war meetings or protests, including some that have taken place far from any military installation, post or recruitment center" and additional "documents obtained by NBC News show that the Defense Department is clearly increasing its domestic monitoring activities."

According to Christopher Pyle, a former Army intelligence officer who "blew the whistle on the Defense Department for monitoring and infiltrating anti-war and civil rights protests" in 1970, the documents revealed by NBC "tell me that military intelligence is back conducting investigations and maintaining records on civilian political activity. The military made promises that it would not do this again." Pyle worked as an investigator for the late Senator Sam Ervin's Judiciary Subcommittee on Constitutional Rights and later for the Church Committee, mentioned above.

NBC comments that the "public was outraged and a lengthy congressional investigation followed that revealed that the military had conducted investigations on at least 100,000 American citizens. Pyle got more than 100 military agents to testify that they had been ordered to spy on U.S. citizens-many of them anti-war protestors and civil rights advocates. In the wake of the investigations, Pyle helped Congress write a law placing new limits on military spying inside the U.S.," in other words the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, violated by Bush and his minions, and prompting Russ Feingold to introduce his ill-fated censure, "an appropriate and responsible step for Congress to take in response to the President's undermining of the separation of powers and ignoring the rule of law," as the Post Chronicle reports.

Indeed, in the mid-70s, the "public was outraged" over military snooping on citizens. But that was then and this is now-and now the public has bought the "al-Qaeda" fairy tale (a myth that "threatens to overthrow history," as Gore Vidal would have it) and the benighted masses believe the government when it promises the NSA snoop program is limited to phone calls placed from caves in Afghanistan or huts in the tribal area of Pakistan. Most Americans, afflicted with amnesia and intellectual incuriosity, are unaware of what the NSA has done since Truman wrote his October 24, 1952, memorandum establishing the National Security Agency and thus the National Security State. "58 years later, the National Security State has metastasized into a horror for the United States and the world," writes Sheldon Drobny.

Russ Feingold is a brave man to oppose all of this. Unfortunately, he is performing a certain bodily function in the face of a cyclone.

Comment on this Article

"He Shall Direct Thy Paths to the Weapons of Mass Destruction." The former U.N. inspector behind the "Saddam Tapes" says God revealed WMD sites to him.

Byron York
February 20, 2006

William Tierney, the former United Nations weapons inspector who unveiled the so-called "Saddam Tapes" at a conference in Arlington, Virginia, Saturday, told National Review Online that God directed him to weapons sites in Iraq and that his belief in the importance of one particular site was strengthened when a friend told him that she had a vision of the site in a dream.
In his presentation at the so-called "Intelligence Summit," Tierney, an Arabic speaker, described how he received the "Saddam Tapes" from federal authorities last year as part of his job as a contract translator. It was supposed to be a routine assignment, but Tierney said he soon realized the tapes had special significance and decided to make them public. Tierney said he believes other tapes, which have not yet been heard, will eventually reveal that Iraq was behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. Tierney also said that he believes Iraq orchestrated the 2001 anthrax attacks, with Saddam Hussein using American scientist Steven Hatfill as a "proxy" to carry out the mission.

Afterward, in a talk with NRO, Tierney addressed comments he made in February 2003 on "Coast to Coast AM," a radio program devoted to paranormal phenomena. On the program, hosted by George Noory, (who took over from predecessor Art Bell), Tierney discussed a possible nuclear-related facility in Iraq. A description of Tierney's remarks on the "Coast to Coast AM" website says:

Tierney's methods of ascertaining this location were rather unconventional. "I would ask God and just get a sense if something was valid or not, and then know if I needed to pursue it," he said. His assessments through prayer were then confirmed to him by a friend's clairvoyant dream, where he was able to find the location on a map. "Everything she said lined up. This place meets the criteria," Tierney said of the power generator plant near the Tigris River that he believes is actually a cover for a secret uranium facility.

Tierney told NRO that he appeared on the program because he wanted to reach a large audience. "I don't believe a lot of the stuff that goes on on 'Coast to Coast,'" he said. "It's a forum to speak to people who are searching for answers, and that's why I went on." But as far as what he said about the influence of his religious faith on his work as a weapons inspector, Tierney said he has no regrets: "I don't take back anything."

"I am a Christian - I would describe myself as an Acts Christian," Tierney told NRO. "If you look at the book of Acts for the early church, it's pretty exciting stuff. I mean, Christianity, you can do your hour-a-week thing in church, or you can skip the spiritual mountaintops. That's what I've been going for for years."

Tierney said he had originally planned to pursue a career as a classical guitarist when "God sort of grabbed me by the collar and said, 'I don't want you in that.'" He joined the military and eventually found himself working as an intelligence analyst.

In the job, Tierney was required to go through hundreds of reports of possible threats each day. "One of those might involve a nuclear attack against the United States," he said. "If you don't catch it, it could happen, because you, as the analyst, failed. So I'm sitting there going, 'Alright, God, I need help. Thank you for showing me which one of these things is important and which one is not."

Tierney also served as a United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq in the 1990s, and he said he remembers thinking about the book of Psalms as a kind of guiding construct for his work. He particularly recalled the 18th Psalm, verse two, which, in the King James version, says, "The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower."

The phrase "high tower" struck him deeply. "It talked about God is my fortress, God's horn is my salvation and my high tower," Tierney said. "In that context, it's not talking about protection. From a high tower, you can see the enemy coming. So God is my intel. And I took another verse [from Proverbs] that said, 'In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.' What I did was I sort of tweaked it a little bit - In all thy UNSCOM inspections, He shall direct thy paths to the weapons of mass destruction." (UNSCOM was the United Nations Special Commission, the agency originally charged with Iraqi weapons inspections.)

Tierney said he applied that inspiration to a particular site, a facility that might have been part of an Iraqi nuclear program. There was, he said, "a report, I don't want to get into too much of the details right now, but it ended up being a description of an underground uranium enrichment plant. It took me eight months to put the things together, but I came up with a location within a short distance of Tarmiyah where EMIS took place - electromagnetic isotope separation." Tarmiyah had been a site involved in an earlier Iraqi nuclear program, a program that was quite advanced when it was revealed by defectors after the first Gulf War in 1991.

But the people in charge of searching for WMD didn't take Tierney seriously. When he brought it up with his superiors, he said, "People basically rolled their eyes, they didn't follow up on it." After leaving his position as an inspector, he still had the information, and was still frustrated by his inability to get it out. "I'm in a position of what do I do with this?" Tierney said. "Do I go public? Because then I could get in trouble for revealing classified information....I wanted to get it to UNMOVIC so they could check it out, and I didn't know what to do." (UNMOVIC was the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspections Commission, the body that took over the work of UNSCOM.)

That's where his friend's dream came in. "I got on the phone with a good friend I haven't talked to in 15 years. And I just told her what was going on, and she cut me off and said, 'You know, I had a dream about two years ago.' And then she described a location. She didn't know what it was, she just knew it was important to somebody. She drew a picture of this, and it was the exact angle of this location, as a power generation station on the Tigris River. It had two inlets and two outlets, exactly in her picture, and she said, 'There was water flowing into this house, and there was something going on downstairs, and I was standing there and no one knew I was there' - this is in her dream - 'and there was a lot of activity going on, but they didn't know I was there.' And she had no idea, I didn't tell her anything. And right as I was trying to decide what to do with this, she gives me this."

In the end, it all seemed to fit a Biblical pattern. "So the dream - look in the Bible," Tierney said. "There were dreams." Tierney gave the information to UNMOVIC, which, he said, did not adequately pursue it.

Tierney's penchant for applying his religious beliefs to specific intelligence issues was quite controversial in the later stages of his career in government. In 2003, the publication Army Times reported that Tierney's career as a Chief Warrant Officer ended when "the Defense Intelligence Agency said Tierney, an Arabic-speaking analyst and former U.N. arms inspector, overstepped his bounds when he prayed with an Iraqi Christian defector shortly before the 1998 Desert Fox air strikes against Iraq." The DIA concluded that Tierney had "demonstrated an unwillingness to comply with routine intelligence procedures."

Tierney argued that he was being discriminated against because of his religious beliefs, and his congressman, Rep. Charles Canady of Florida, tried to have him reinstated. But in the end, Tierney left the military. Later, in 2002, he worked as a civilian interrogator at the American detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but Army Times reported that "after two months at Guantanamo, Tierney was dismissed when DIA officials once against felt he wasn't following established procedures."

Tierney wasn't the only controversial figure at the "Intelligence Summit." The president of the organization that staged the conference, former federal prosecutor John Loftus, has in the past drawn attention for writing that the Bush family won its wealth by supporting the Nazi regime in the 1930s. Loftus has also written about his theory linking the Enron scandal to the September 11 terrorist attacks, claiming that Vice President Dick Cheney forbade American intelligence from investigating ties between Enron, the Taliban, and al Qaeda in the months leading up to the attacks. "The Enron cover-up confirms that 9/11 was not an intelligence failure or a law enforcement failure (at least not entirely)," Loftus wrote. "Instead, it was a foreign policy failure of the highest order. If Congress ever combines its Enron investigation with 9/11, Cheney's whole house of cards will collapse."

Finally, there are questions surrounding the chief financial supporter of the "Intelligence Summit." Last week, the New York Sun reported that two former CIA directors, James Woolsey and John Deutch, had been scheduled to take part in the Summit, but pulled out at the last minute because of concerns over "new information they received regarding one of the Summit's biggest donors, Michael Cherney, an Israeli citizen who has been denied a visa to enter America because of his alleged ties to the Russian mafia." Cherney's organization, the Michael Cherney Foundation, is listed as the Summit's only "Platinum Sponsor," meaning Cherney contributed at least $100,000 to the event.

According to published reports, investigators for the House Intelligence Committee, working with government intelligence experts, have verified the Saddam Tapes as authentic. So in coming weeks, the controversy over them will be not about their authenticity but about how best to interpret them. And in that, the people associated with the Intelligence Summit start with a significant credibility disadvantage.

EDITOR'S NOTE: William Tierney responded to this article on Monday. His letter and Byron York's response are here.

- Byron York, NR's White House correspondent, is the author of The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy: The Untold Story of How Democratic Operatives, Eccentric Billionaires, Liberal Activists, and Assorted Celebrities Tried to Bring Down a President - and Why They'll Try Even Harder Next Time.

Comment on this Article

Bush's Roadblock at the Security Council

By Mike Whitney
Information Clearing House
13 Mar 06

Surveys were conducted months before the war on Iraq which showed that the American people would only support the conflict if there was a danger that Saddam was developing nuclear weapons. Other questions in the poll addressed the issues of humanitarian intervention, Saddam's abysmal human rights record, and the prospect that Iraq had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons.

None of these other potential threats mattered to the American people. The only issue that gained majority support for war was whether Saddam had nukes. It's obvious now that the findings of that poll became the cornerstone of the administration's public relations strategy.

Bottom line: The Bush-Cheney plans for shaping public opinion will continue to depend on bogus claims about nuclear weapons programs. This explains why the administration and their agents in the MSM are intentionally misleading the public about the true nature of Iran's nuclear program; it is the only way to elicit support for another war of aggression.
This also explains the furor over the Niger uranium fabrication which discredited the administration and resulted in the "outing" of Valerie Plame and the "swift-boating" of Joe Wilson. Cheney knew that the nuclear-link was crucial to hoodwinking the American people and could not allow Wilson to expose his lies.

The very same strategy is being used to demonize Iran. The IAEA has repeatedly said that there is "no evidence of a nuclear weapons program", and yet, the administration continues to mislead public without a shred of proof to the contrary.

In the last week, the United States has had at least two opportunities to resolve the standoff through peaceful means. Instead, they torpedoed both deals and intensified the belligerence.


It was astonishing to watch Condi Rice hit the panic-button as soon as Iran's foreign-minister offered to give up "industrial enrichment" of uranium if the IAEA would refrain from bringing the case before the Security Council. This was a "huge" concession on the part of Iran. They were giving up their legal rights under the treaty (NPT) and asking for nothing in return!

Condi's reaction?

She called IAEA chief ElBaradei straight away insisting that," The US cannot support this!"

Cannot support what? Negotiation? Deliberation? Peace?

The State Dept made no attempt to explore the Iranian offer or see whether it would lead to greater concessions. It was simply dismissed outright.

It's not hard to figure out what that means as far as the chances for peace.

The State Dept reacted the same way earlier in the week when Russia and Iran were working out the details for enriching uranium outside of the country as a "confidence building" measure. Once again, State Dept. officials immediately rejected the "good faith" offer without pursuing further negotiations.

The obvious implication is that Washington wants another war and will subvert any attempt at negotiation or diplomacy.

What else could it mean?

Today's headlines are reiterating the same hogwash: "Iran Spurns Russian Proposal" (SF Chronicle) or "Iran Ruling out Russia in Nuclear Plan" (CNN) or "Iran Rejects Russian offer to Diffuse Nuclear Dispute" (NY Times). This is how the media uses the corporate-bullhorn to create the impression that Iran is being "defiant".


True, Iran has maintained throughout that they will not concede their rights under the treaty (NPT) but they have limited their demands to small amounts of uranium in a research and development program to be overseen by the IAEA inspection team.

Who could object to that?

The media has deliberately misled the public about the Russian negotiations as well as who was responsible for their ultimate failure. The New York Times, however, summarizes it the best in their March 13 article by Nazila Fathi:

"Russia had offered to enrich uranium for Iran for use for energy purposes if Iran would refrain from doing so. It made a last minute face-saving offer to allow Iran to continue some enrichment for research purposes but withdrew the offer under Western pressure."

"Western pressure"?

What the Times means is that Russia "withdrew the offer under United States pressure", because Bush and company have no intention of allowing ANY settlement to take place no matter how conciliatory or personally-compromising.

But didn't Iran's foreign minister say that "The Russian deal is no longer on the agenda"?

Yes and no.

Iran said that it wants to see what the Security Council does before they make any more decisions. As for the precise statement by Iran's foreign minister:

"As for the Russian proposal, if it considers Iran's right to conduct research in Iran on its own soil, it can be a topic of negotiation, because the right to conduct research in Iran is the Islamic Republic's right that we neither want to give up nor will give up".

Hamid Reza Asefi's statement is a straightforward defense of the basic terms of the treaty (NPT) a treaty to which the United States is also a signatory and has clear obligations. Should Asefi simply toss the "internationally-approved" treaty on the burn-pile because it no longer fits within the Bush administration's foreign policy strategy?

Yes, according to Bush.

The media's role in demonizing Iran cannot be overstated, nor can we really appreciate the extent of US recalcitrance without following the minutia of daily statements and demands. The United States has elevated the issue of Iran's imaginary nuclear weapons program to crisis level. We must assume that its part of the broader scheme to incite violence and spread the Iraq war throughout the region.

Total war?

Isn't that where all this bluster and harassment is headed?

But will the Bush administration be able to win UN Security Council approval for their war plans? Will there be sanctions?

No! No sanctions and no resolution condemning Iran's program.

The New York Times reported on Friday that, "A draft document, which the Council members have indicated they hope to issue next week as a nonbinding presidential statement, says the Council continues to hope for a negotiated solution 'that guarantees Iran's nuclear program is for exclusively peaceful purposes."

"A nonbinding presidential statement"?

This is what we have been saying here for months and now the NY Times is reluctantly confirming it. There are no grounds for "punitive action" because Iran is not in "noncompliance". The entire matter has only reached this level of attention because the inordinate amount of raw power and arm-twisting the US can bring to bear in foreign affairs.

"A nonbinding presidential statement" is the equivalent of saying, "We have no proof that you are doing anything illegal, but we will scold you anyway".

It is an empty statement which has no legal precedent or authority and infers nothing about violations to the NPT. It is strictly a gratuitous proclamation designed to placate the war-mongering occupants of the Bush White House.

The Bush administration has no proof that Iran has violated the terms of its treaty.

The IAEA has no proof that Iran has violated the terms of its treaty.

The UN Security Council has no proof that Iran has violated the terms of its treaty.

The whole fiasco has been orchestrated to deceive the public and pave the way for war.

Comment on this Article

Milosevic said doctors were killing him

Mail & Guardian
13 March 2006

The death of Slobodan Milosevic was shrouded in mystery and deepening controversy on Sunday night as Dutch pathologists examined his corpse and it emerged that he had claimed he was being slowly killed by doctors.

Milosevic's body was removed from the detention centre at the war crimes tribunal in The Hague to The Netherlands forensic institute for a post-mortem examination and toxicological testing.

On Sunday night a preliminary post-mortem report said that he had died of heart failure. His remains were to be released to his family on Monday.
On Sunday the 64-year-old former Serbian and Yugoslav president's lawyer revealed a six-page letter -- dated last Friday, 24 hours before his death -- that Milosevic wrote to the Russian government alleging he was being deliberately administered the wrong drugs for his illnesses.

"Persons that are giving me the drug for the treatment of leprosy surely cannot be treating me. Especially those persons against whom I have defended my country in the war and who also have an interest in silencing me can likewise not be treating me," Milosevic said in a handwritten letter to the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov.

Milosevic had a long history of heart disease, hypertension and high blood pressure. He was also found to be ignoring Dutch medical advice while on trial for the past four years and to be taking drugs other than those prescribed. His family has a history of suicide; his parents and a favourite uncle killed themselves.

Carla Del Ponte, chief prosecutor in The Hague, said on Sunday that Milosevic, found dead in his cell on Saturday morning, might have killed himself. "According to our valuations, [the trial] would have ended with a verdict requesting he be shut away for life. Perhaps he wanted to avoid all that," Del Ponte told the Italian paper, la Repubblica. But tribunal sources said the most likely explanation for his death was natural causes.

While Milosevic claimed in his letter that he was being deliberately administered the wrong medicine, he also has a record of taking unprescribed drugs and refusing treatment advised by his Dutch doctors.

Eighteen months ago, during courtroom wrangles over whether he was fit enough to stand trial on 66 counts of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the judges in the case ordered two independent medical examinations.

They found that Milosevic was occasionally refusing to take the drugs prescribed for his condition, and taking other drugs he said he got from his "Serbian doctor". Last November, Milosevic staged an hour-long harangue in the court, arguing that the Del Ponte prosecution team was "the source of his ill-health" and that he was being "exposed to torture."

He demanded that he be released to receive medical treatment in Russia where his wife and son live. The court denied the request last month, ruling that medical treatment in The Netherlands was quite adequate. Ever since the November outburst, Mirko Klarin, a long-time observer of the trials in The Hague, has argued that Milosevic had no intention of seeing the trial through to its conclusion, which was expected in a few months. "This is his final revenge on the tribunal," said Klarin.

Serbian nationalists and Milosevic loyalists seized on the mystery to claim Milosevic was poisoned, though it is not clear who had anything to gain from his death.

On Sunday night a spokesperson for the war crimes tribunal, Alexandra Milenov, said the postmortem revealed Milosevic had been suffering from two heart conditions. She did not name the conditions, but said the doctors determined they might have caused the heart attack. She also said toxicological tests were still to be carried out.

Asked if poisoning could have caused the heart attack, Milenov said it was too early to draw conclusions.

She said that the inquiry into Milosevic's death, ordered by tribunal president Fausto Pocar, was continuing. "I think we should also wait for that until we come to any final conclusions," she said, adding that the final report was expected to be released in a matter of days. - Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006

Comment on this Article

UN war crimes tribunal denies request for Milosevic autopsy in Moscow

11 Mar 06

BRUSSELS -- The U.N. war crimes tribunal saidon Saturday it had denied a request by Slobodan Milosevic's lawyerto have the autopsy of the former Yugoslavia president conducted in Moscow instead of The Hague.

A tribunal official also declined to comment on a claim by Milosevic's lawyer that he had been poisoned while in jail.
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague on Saturday announced that Milosevic had been found dead on his bed in his cell at the UN detention unit in Scheveningen.

Milosevic, 64, has suffered from high blood pressure and heart problems.

On Feb. 24, the tribunal refused Milosevic's request to be temporarily released to Moscow in order to undergo medical treatment.

In a trial that started on Feb. 12, 2002, Milosevic faced 66 charges of war crimes, including

Comment on this Article

Lavrov: Russian Federation does not trust results of Milosevic's Autopsy

13 Mar 06

Today Russia's FM Sergey Lavrov demanded that a Russian team of medicians could conduct an additional autopsy of the corpse, a request that was already done by Milosevic's lawyers, but refused by the UN-tribunal until now:

"...Russia has the right not to trust to the results of the expertise concerning the reasons of death of the ex-President of Yugoslavia Slobodan Milosevic", the head of Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov stated on Monday.

He reminded that Russia was ready to guarantee, that Slobodan Milosevic would return to the Hague after the treatment on the Russian territory, but International Court considered these guarantees to be insufficient.

"In fact, they did not believe Russia... In the situation, when Russia was not trusted, we also have the right not to trust. We have already appealed to the tribunal with the request to let our specialists participate in the examination or, at least, let them study its results ", said the minister to journalists....

Comment on this Article

'Leprosy drug in Milosevic's blood'

The Scotsman
12 Mar 06

Traces of a drug used to treat leprosy and tuberculosis were found in a blood sample taken in recent months from former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, a news report has said.

The report came hours after Milosevic's legal adviser revealed a letter the late Serb leader wrote on Friday, one day before his body was discovered in prison, alleging that he was being poisoned.
In the report by state broadcaster NOS, a lawyer and commentator for the channel, Heikelina Verrijn Stuart, said she had confirmation that doctors first noticed the medicine in his blood in January.

Stuart said the drugs interfered with other medicine Milosevic was taking for high blood pressure and vascular disease.

"They were counterproductive," said Stuart, a lawyer who has closely followed the proceedings. "What we do know is that this is the cause of death and you can't say that it was really a case of natural death."

Stuart said the tribunal only learned of the presence of the drug in his blood last week, on March 7.

"It's naturally a riddle," she said.

Dutch doctors conducted a post mortem examination on Milosevic's remains on Sunday, but the results were not expected to be released until Monday.

A tribunal spokeswoman said she could not comment on the news report. "We don't have any information. We simply have to wait for the results" of the autopsy report, said Alexandra Milenov.

Doctors found traces of the drug when they were searching for an answer to why Milosevic's medication for high blood pressure was not working, the report said.

© Copyright Press Association Ltd 2006.

Comment on this Article

Why Milosevic Was Murdered- Tinpot dictator blew the whistle on the New World Order

Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet.com
March 13 2006

Slobodan Milosevic was a distasteful man with authoritarian Communist ideals. But the reasons for his obvious murder revolve around his evergreen willingness to blow the whistle on the global criminal masterminds who had made the mistake of giving 'Slobo' a speaking platform in the first place.

Just two days after Milosevic's death the evidence indicating murder has poured in.

- Milosevic wrote a letter one day before his death claiming he was being poisoned to death in jail. The lawyer who advised Milosevic during his trial, Azdenko Tomanovic (pictured below) , showed journalists a handwritten letter in which Milosevic wrote: "They would like to poison me. I'm seriously concerned and worried."

- Blood tests show that Milosevic's body contained a drug that rendered his usual medication for high blood pressure and his heart condition ineffective, causing the heart attack that led to his death.
The media has spun this to make out as if Milosevic deliberately took the wrong drug so he could seek specialist treatment in Moscow and delay his trial. This is frankly absurd. Milosevic only had access to the drugs provided to him by UN appointed doctors and took them under close surveillance. Are we to believe that Milosevic had managed to set up a secret drugs lab in his closely watched prison prison cell and then substituted the drugs while under constant monitoring?

- Milan Babic, a former Croatian Serb leader who testified against Milosevic was "suicided" just six days before Milosevic's death. According to the BBC, tribunal spokeswoman Alexandra Milenov said he had given no indication that he was contemplating suicide. "There was nothing unusual in his demeanor," she said. Another Hague detainee, Slavko Dokmanovic, supposedly killed himself in 1998.

- Allegations of suicide were dismissed by British lawyer, Steven Kay QC, who said Milosevic had told him before he was found dead: "I have not come all this way not to see it to the end."

- The Globalists have wanted to eliminate Milosevic for a long time. Former MI6 agent Richard Tomlinson said he saw documents in 1992 that discussed assassinating Milosevic by means of a staged car accident, where the driver would be blinded by a flash of light and remote controlled brake failure enacted to cause the crash. This exact same technique was utilized for real in the murder of Princess Diana.

Milosevic was a loose cannon with intimate knowledge of the criminality of the Globalists after the IMF/Bilderberg coup de 'tat in Serbia in the 1990's.

In March 2002, Milosevic presented the Hague tribunal with FBI documents proving that the United States government and NATO provided financial and military support for Al-Qaeda to aid the Kosovo Liberation Army in its war against Serbia.

This didn't go down too well at the Pentagon and the White House, who at the time were trying to sell a war on terror and gearing up to justify invading Iraq.

Milosevic made several speeches in which he discussed how a group of shadowy internationalists had caused the chaos in the Balkans because it was the next step on the road to a "new world order."

During a February 2000 Serbian Congressional speech, Milosevic stated,

"Small Serbia and people in it have demonstrated that resistance is possible. Applied at a broader level, it was organized primarily as a moral and political rebellion against tyranny, hegemony, monopolism, generating hatred, fear and new forms of violence and revenge against champions of freedom among nations and people, such a resistance would stop the escalation of modern time inquisition. Uranium bombs, computer manipulations, drug-addicted young assassins and bribed of blackmailed domestic thugs, promoted to the allies of the new world order, these are the instruments of inquisition which have surpassed, in their cruelty and cynicism, all previous forms of revengeful violence committed against the mankind in the past."

Milosevic was far from an angel, but evidence linking him to genocides like Srebrenica, in which 7,000 Muslims died, was continually proven to be fraudulent. In fact, Srebrenica was supposedly a 'UN safe zone', yet just like Rwanda, UN peacekeepers deliberately withdrew and allowed the massacre to unfold, then blamed Milosevic.

Milosevic's exposure of UN involvement in the Srebrenica massacre was another reason why tribunal transcripts were heavily edited and censored, and another contributing factor towards his murder.

Comment on this Article

Milosevic's Son Says Father Was 'Killed'

Associated Press
14 Mar 06

THE HAGUE, Netherlands - Slobodan Milosevic's son alleged Tuesday that his father had been "killed," while a U.N. war crimes tribunal official said the court had been told that the late Serb leader had regular access to unprescribed medication and alcohol smuggled into his prison cell.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the tribunal's strict confidentiality rules, told The Associated Press that the unit's prison warden had told the court that he could no longer guarantee Milosevic's health.
The official said prison authorities repeatedly found banned material in his cell, including alcohol and unprescribed drugs.

Warden Timothy McFadden refused interview requests and U.N. tribunal spokeswoman Alexandra Milenov said the court could not comment "because the investigation into Milosevic's death is ongoing."

The tribunal official, who has access to confidential documents on Milosevic's medication use, said two doctors concluded the former Serb leader was intentionally taking drugs that undermined the prescribed medication for his heart ailment.

Milosevic, who was defending himself against 66 counts of war crimes, was allowed to work in a private office where he could meet privately with witnesses and legal advisers, making it impossible to monitor material they may have smuggled in to him, the official said.

A Dutch toxicologist, Donald Uges, said Monday that blood tests he conducted on samples taken from Milosevic earlier this year uncovered traces of a drug used to treat leprosy or tuberculosis that would neutralize the effects of the beta-blockers he was taking to control his blood pressure.

The official said other doctors had found similar results in their tests.

U.N. prosecutors complained as early as 2004 that Milosevic was defying his regime of prescribed medication and taking other drugs to manipulate his health to his advantage during court proceedings. The trial was repeatedly interrupted at critical points because of the defendant's ill health.

Four Russian medical experts traveled Tuesday to the Netherlands to examine the results, saying they distrusted the findings and the care Milosevic received from U.N. authorities.

The former president's son, Marko Milosevic, flew to the Netherlands to claim his father's body.

"He got killed. He didn't die. He got killed. There's a murder," Marko Milosevic told AP Television News on arriving in Amsterdam for the short drive to The Hague, where his father's body has kept at the National Forensic Institute since his death was discovered Saturday.

Milosevic, the Serbian strongman who presided over four Balkan wars and the breakup of Yugoslavia that cost some 250,000 lives, died of a heart attack, according to preliminary autopsy findings.

The results of a toxicological examination during the autopsy were due to be released in the coming days, said tribunal spokeswoman Alexandra Milenov.

In Courtroom 1 at the tribunal building, meanwhile, the case against Milosevic was declared closed Tuesday.

Judge Patrick Robinson, who repeatedly clashed with the combative defendant over four years, said Milosevic's "untimely passing ... terminates these proceedings." A formal order closing the file would be issued shortly, he said.

The two-minute hearing brought an abrupt end to the most important war crimes trial in 60 years, in a case that was meant to establish political responsibility for the worst crimes known to man _ genocide.

It was still unclear where Milosevic would be taken for burial. The family requested a state funeral in Belgrade _ although a ceremony with state honors was unlikely to be granted since it could become a rallying point for nationalists and Milosevic loyalists.

A Belgrade court suspended an arrest warrant for Slobodan Milosevic's wife, leading to a possible Belgrade funeral.

The court said Mirjana Markovic "will remain free and will not be taken into custody" after her lawyers deposited a bond worth $17,000 guaranteeing she would appear in court at a hearing that has not yet been scheduled.

Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica told the Beta news agency that the suspension of the arrest warrant enables Milosevic's funeral to be held in Belgrade.

"A funeral is a civilized act that should be respected," Kostunica said, but he did not elaborate on whether it actually would be held in the Serb capital.

Markovic left Serbia in February 2003 to join Marko Milosevic in Russia, and an Interpol arrest warrant was issued against her the same month over a real estate scandal. It was briefly revoked and later reinstated after she failed to appear in court in September 2005.

But, the court said, "on her arrival in the country, the defendant's passport will be impounded."

Markovic has said she would return to Serbia only if the arrest warrant was lifted.

But she has also indicated in recent interviews with Belgrade media that she had plans to return to Russia after the burial. The impounding of her passport would prevent her from leaving Serbia.

On Monday, Marko Milosevic raised the possibility of a temporary burial in Russia if the Serb government banned a Belgrade funeral.

Milosevic was the sixth war crimes suspect from the Balkans to die at The Hague. A week earlier, convicted former Croatian Serb leader Milan Babic, a star prosecution witness against Milosevic, killed himself in the same prison.

Comment on this Article

NASA scientists have new mystery to solve - Some of the material brought back by Stardust probe 'kind of a shock'

Associated Press
March 13, 2006

NASA scientists have a new mystery to solve: How did materials formed by fire end up on the outermost reaches of the solar system, where temperatures are the coldest?

The materials were contained in dust samples captured when the robotic Stardust spacecraft flew past the comet Wild 2 in 2004. A 100-pound capsule tied to a parachute returned the samples to Earth in January.
The samples include minerals such as anorthite, which is made up of calcium, sodium, aluminum and silicate; and diopside, made of calcium magnesium and silicate. Such minerals only form in very high temperatures.

"That's a big surprise. People thought comets would just be cold stuff that formed out ... where things are very cold," said NASA curator Michael Zolensky. "It was kind of a shock to not just find one but several of these, which implies they are pretty common in the comet."

The discovery raises questions about where the materials in comets form, he added.

One theory is that particles from the outer reaches of the solar system slowly move toward the sun, where they are set ablaze and shot back out. A scientific model once suggested that might be a natural occurrence, but it wasn't accepted because materials tend to cluster in zones the farther they are from the sun, Zolensky said.

If the model were true, materials would mix more, the NASA scientist said.

"It raises a question of why we still see zoning in the asteroid belt. It is a big mystery now," Zolensky said. "It's kind of really exciting."

He said it is also possible that the comet particles could have been formed in another solar system and catapulted into our solar system.

To determine where the particles originated, scientists are now studying their isotopic makeup. About 150 scientists worldwide have been studying the dust since it arrived.

During the $212 million mission, the Stardust spacecraft looped around the sun three times to capture the interstellar and comet dust. The comet dust was captured in a silicone-based material contained in a tennis racket-sized collector mitt.

The mother ship, which has traveled nearly 3 billion miles, remains in permanent orbit around the sun. The next time it flies by Earth will be in January 2009.

Don Brownlee, a University of Washington astronomer who is the mission's principal scientist, said in a few weeks or months he and his colleagues hope to know more.

"It depends on whether the isotopic composition indicates these grains are from our solar system or from another star," he said. "It's a real exciting mystery story. So stay tuned."

Comment on this Article

Six blind men in a zoo: Aviation Week's mythical Blackstar

by Dwayne A. Day
March 13, 2006

The pages of Aviation Week were filled with breathless prose about an amazing new aircraft. According to a reporter writing for the magazine, a top secret, highly advanced high-speed aircraft was spotted in flight by multiple observers. There was no official confirmation of its existence, but it was clearly the kind of highly advanced airplane that the government would not want anybody to know about. The article was accompanied by an artist's illustration of a sleek, bizarre-looking craft.

Maybe you didn't read that article. It was published in Aviation Week in December 1958 ("Soviets Flight Testing Nuclear Bomber," December 1, 1958, p. 27) and referred to the Soviet atomic-powered bomber. Aviation Week (not yet "& Space Technology") ran both an editorial and an article about the supersecret airplane.
The article itself was extremely authoritative sounding: "A nuclear-powered bomber is being flight tested in the Soviet Union. Completed about six months ago, this aircraft has been flying in the Moscow area for at least two months. It has been observed both in flight and on the ground by a wide variety of foreign observers from Communist and non-Communist countries." The article continued: "The Soviet aircraft is a prototype of a design to perform a military mission as a continuous airborne alert warning system and missile launching platform."

But it turns out that the atomic-powered bomber never existed, and the plane was never "observed both in flight and on the ground by a wide variety of foreign observers." It was observed by nobody at all, but that did not prevent the magazine from reporting about it.

It is worth remembering that when you are reading about Aviation Week and Space Technology's latest report of a top secret aircraft known as the "Blackstar." According to three articles that appeared in the March 6 issue of the magazine, "Blackstar" is actually a two-stage-to-orbit system consisting of a large mothership aircraft and a small "transatmospheric vehicle" possibly capable of flying into orbit. Despite the fact that it is on the cover of a magazine, there is no reason to believe that Blackstar exists, at least not in the form that the author claims it does.

Like Fox Mulder of The X-Files, the author wants to believe, even when the evidence is lacking. Admittedly, Fox Mulder was actually right. But he was also a TV character.
Manta or myth?

Many people might instantly assume that this story is credible because it appeared in Aviation Week, a publication that has a well-deserved reputation for obtaining insider information on aviation and space projects. But what they should realize is that Aviation Week also has a well-deserved reputation for publishing poorly-researched articles about top secret aircraft programs that do not exist, such as the 1958 claims about a Soviet nuclear-powered bomber. In fact, the same author who wrote the Blackstar articles, William Scott, has written several previous articles about top secret aircraft that never existed. It is his specialty, and he repeats the same pattern in all of them.

In 1990 Scott wrote an article about so-called top secret, or "black," aircraft developed by the U.S. government in the 1980s ("Scientists' and Engineers' Dreams Taking to Skies as 'Black' Aircraft," December 24, 1990, p. 41). Scott speculated that the Air Force had developed a hypersonic bomber capable of carrying multiple nuclear warheads in vertical ejection racks. Sixteen years later, no such plane has ever been declassified, seen, or photographed.

In 1991 Scott was back, this time with an article about a top secret stealthy reconnaissance aircraft called the "TR-3 Manta" ("Triangular Recon Aircraft May be Supporting F-117A," June 10, 1991, p. 20). He wrote that "about 25–30 of the special reconnaissance aircraft-designated the TR-3A Black Manta-could be placed in service eventually, based at Holloman AFB, NM, and Tonapah, Nevada." He continued: "Several TR-3As are believed to have been deployed temporarily to Alaska, Britain, Panama and Okinawa. More recently, they are believed to have supported F-117A operations in the Persian Gulf War."

Nearly fifteen years have now passed since that article, and no such aircraft has entered operational service. No photographs of it have been produced, nor has anybody who worked on it stepped forward to discuss it, even anonymously. If a stealthy triangular-shaped aircraft ever existed, it certainly did not become operational or the government would have declassified its existence just as it has for other operational aircraft that start out as classified projects. If an aircraft becomes operational, sightings of it will increase. But the alleged rash of sightings of the "Manta" ended over a decade ago.

In the case of the "TR-3 Manta" it is easy to speculate what happened. At the time, the military was starting a project known as "Tier-3" (there was also a "Tier-2," which became the Global Hawk drone). Tier-3 was actually a follow-on project after the cancellation of a CIA airplane program to replace the SR-71 known as Quartz. Quartz was canceled in 1991 before any prototype was developed because it was obscenely expensive (for more, see Jeffrey Richelson's book The Wizards of Langley, pp. 225-226). Tier-3 was then created to be a much smaller stealthy subsonic drone that could fly inside denied airspace and loiter over a target. That project also got scaled back to become the "Tier-3 Minus," which ultimately produced some real hardware. Lockheed Martin and Boeing built an aircraft called the DarkStar, flew it once in early 1996, and then crashed it during its second flight. Tier-3 Minus was canceled in favor of less stealthy unmanned aerial vehicles like the Global Hawk and the Predator.

Obviously Scott heard part of this story. He misinterpreted "Tier-3" to be "TR-3," which seemed credible because the U-2 spyplane had been reborn in the 1970s as the "TR-1" aircraft. But Scott took rumors of a stealthy reconnaissance development project and speculated wildly, arriving at the conclusion that stealthy spyplanes were already in operation, and had even been used over Iraq.

The Manta story demonstrates a pattern that Scott repeats in all of his black airplane stories. Usually there is a small bit of real information about a classified aircraft project. Scott then connects alleged sightings of an unusual aircraft in flight to this bit of information. Then the article is padded out with a large amount of speculation, usually involving various studies and research projects conducted by various contractors. The characteristics are always the same, however: he never quotes anybody by name who has any direct connection to the alleged program, and he never even includes anonymous quotes of anybody who supposedly knows the big picture about the alleged program. All of the anonymous quotes of people who are supposedly involved are always clearly low-level worker bees who do not know what they are working on.

These articles also have several other characteristics. One is that virtually all of the sightings are anonymous. One could imagine an Air Force officer or a Boeing employee being nervous about having their name in print commenting about a secret airplane. But how come an average citizen standing on the ground who supposedly spots an unusual airplane does not want their name in print? Another characteristic is a bit of highly specific detail that has no source whatsoever, such as measurements, specific dates and times, or tail numbers of airplanes. The information is presented as fact, but the reader is required to take it entirely on faith. A final common characteristic is that the articles are padded out with large amounts of admitted speculation. If you take a magic marker and cross out every single paragraph in the articles that is admitted speculation, you end up with very few paragraphs that are supposedly based upon real information.
The mothership

In August 1992 Scott published another article in Aviation Week about an aircraft that had reportedly been spotted in Georgia and California ("Secret Aircraft Encompasses Qualities of High-Speed Launcher for Spacecraft," August 24, 1992, p. 25). This time he speculated that the aircraft carried a spaceplane on its back and launched it at Mach 6–8. "This concept, at present, has not been confirmed by any U.S. government agency or military service. However, aeronautics and space experts agreed the concept has considerable merit, particularly for orbiting payloads essential to national security."

After asserting that this large aircraft was spotted in Georgia and California, Scott does not say where, when, or by whom. The reader was told that a large airplane existed, but then was not presented with any proof.

The article quickly turned to the subject of the spaceplane and included another example of highly specific detail without any sourcing information. Scott wrote that a "long, slender aerodynamic shape with rounded chines was loaded into an Air Force C-5 transport at Lockheed's Burbank, California 'Skunk Works' facility on the night of January 6." The plane reportedly departed Burbank at 11:15 pm "and was cleared to Boeing Field near Seattle, Wash." But despite the precision of this sighting, many vital details are missing. Who spotted it? Did the reporter speak to that person directly? Nor did Scott explain why he believed that "an aerodynamic shape" being loaded into a C-5 transport was a "spaceplane."

The rest of the article was filled with speculation, such as a long discussion about the CIA's work on the D-21 TAGBOARD drone in the 1960s, and the alleged value of microsatellites. Cross out all of the speculation in the article and you are left with about two paragraphs, and no sources for the information. But it has now been nearly fourteen years, and one would presume that in that time, the author has been able to amass significant proof that this plane exists. Alas, that assumption would be wrong.
Skeptical reading

The cover story about the Blackstar in the March 6 issue included three articles: a main one ("Spaceplane Shelved?"), one on the small spaceplane known as "Speedy," or the "Experimental Orbital Vehicle" or "XOV" ("'Speedy' Damaged?"), and another on the carrier aircraft designated the "SR-3" ("Echoes of Valhalla").

Like many articles about intelligence matters, the articles rely upon anonymous sources. Many media outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post have rules for their reporters using such sources that generally boil down to: try to convince sources to go on the record, use anonymous sources only when they materially contribute to the story and there is no other option, obtaining corroboration whenever possible. Based upon these three articles in Aviation Week, it is clear that that publication does not operate via the same rules for anonymous sources.

Because Aviation Week does not appear to have rules governing the use of anonymous sources, the burden falls on the reader to be highly discriminating about the evidence. When approaching an article like this it is good to keep in mind several questions to ask:

* First, who are the named sources for information? Are they credible? Knowledgeable?
* Second, do the anonymous sources sound credible? Is there a credible reason for their anonymity? And are the anonymous sources quoted, or are they merely paraphrased?
* Third, does the article contain any information that you can actually check yourself using other sources?
* Fourth, is the logic of the article internally consistent? In other words, does any part of the article contradict or not fit well with other parts of the article?
* And finally, how does the logic of the article hold up? Does it make sense in light of what we know about the world?

One thing that is not mentioned in the articles is the fact that stories about a top secret supersonic "mothership" carrying a smaller aircraft have been around since the early 1990s. A simple Google search quickly demonstrates this. There is a Testor model kit of an "SR-75 Penetrator" mothership and its small baby aircraft. There are 3D models for computer flight simulators. And there are numerous websites with information on this rumored aircraft. For instance, Google the term "Brilliant Buzzard" and you will get a hit to a website last updated in 1997 that contains information on this rumored aircraft.

The fact that all these other sources mention such an aircraft does not mean that it exists-two false claims do not equal a positive. But what it does mean is that Aviation Week does not have an exclusive story, and that it may also be merely repeating lies and legends that have been passed around the Internet for over a decade.

But there is an even greater possibility that people who have read the earlier claims are being influenced by them. Just as a rash of UFO and abduction stories follow a popular report in the media, it is entirely possible that people who read about strange airplanes in the sky suddenly start seeing strange airplanes in the sky, even when they are not there.

That fact should inform your questions about the new Aviation Week articles-is it possible that Scott is merely repeating stories that have been bouncing around, and being embellished, for over a decade, without having any solid evidence to support his claims?


The main article is titled "Spaceplane Shelved?" and the warning signs start with the very first sentence. "U.S. intelligence agencies may have quietly mothballed a highly classified two-stage-to-orbit spaceplane system designed in the 1980s for reconnaissance satellite-insertion, and, possibly, weapons delivery."

Note the use of the word "may." That word gets a lot of use in the article. For instance, the next paragraph states "This two-vehicle 'Blackstar' carrier/orbiter system may have been declared operational during the 1990s." Other words that get used a lot are "could be" and "perhaps" and "is believed." These are qualifiers. They indicate uncertainty, and they are clearly warning signs. The problem is that they clash with other more authoritative-sounding language in the articles. After all, if Blackstar may have been declared operational, that also leaves open the possibility that it was not declared operational. It even leaves open the possibility that it never existed at all. And if that is the case, then why is it on the cover of the magazine?

In fact, the first five paragraphs of the article do not include any mention of evidence at all, merely speculation, such as the fact that "U.S. Air Force Space Command officers and contractors have been toying with similar spaceplane-operational concepts for years." But "toying" with a concept is not the same as flying an airplane.

It is not until the sixth paragraph of the main article that the author mentions that "observed spaceplane landings have been reported at Hurlburt AFB, Fla; Kadena AB, Okinawa; and Holloman AFB, NM." Observed by whom? The author never names any of the observers at these airbases, nor does he even indicate that he spoke to these eyewitnesses directly. In fact, the alleged Hurlburt sighting is never mentioned again in any of the articles-just like the California and Georgia sightings of the large mothership mentioned in Scott's 1992 article were mentioned and then quickly forgotten.

The article then authoritatively states that "the spaceplane is capable of carrying an advanced imaging suite that features 1-meter-aperture adaptive optics with an integral sodium-ion-sensing laser. By compensating in real-time for atmospheric turbulence-caused aberrations sensed by the laser, the system is capable of acquiring very detailed images of ground targets or in-space objects, according to industry officials familiar with the package." What "industry officials" and for what company? The author never names them. Furthermore, the characteristics of adaptive optics and laser guide stars are well known and have been used for ground-based telescopes for years. There are physical reasons why they will not work in the other direction.
Surprise overflight, Quartz, and ISINGLASS

The article is also based upon some long-standing misperceptions about the conduct of strategic reconnaissance. For instance, it states: "The manned orbiter's primary military advantage would be surprise overflight. There would be no forewarning of its presence, prior to the first orbit, allowing ground targets to be imaged before they could be hidden. In contrast, satellite orbits are predictable enough that activities having intelligence value can be scheduled to avoid overflights."

This statement was often made by spyplane buffs in the 1990s to explain the existence of the mythical "Aurora" spyplane, the hypersonic replacement for the SR-71 Blackbird. Those who believed in Aurora started from several false premises. One false assumption was that the SR-71 was such an amazingly useful airplane that the Air Force would not retire it unless they had something equally amazing to replace it. The other false assumption was that "surprise overflight" is an extremely useful capability. In actuality, both of these factors have some validity, but less than their advocates claim for them.

By the 1980s the SR-71 occupied a specific and well-defined niche in the imagery intelligence arsenal. It could not be flown over many targets like the Soviet Union or China because it would be shot down. It could also not be flown over many other targets because it would have to fly over hostile countries during the course of its mission-the Blackbird could not turn quickly to avoid hostile airspace. By the 1980s the SR-71 was restricted primarily to overflight missions over places like Cuba and Nicaragua and peripheral missions off the coast of more threatening nations. Simply put, the SR-71 cost a lot of money to operate and had limited use, and it was not as popular within the intelligence community as it was among airplane buffs.

But "surprise overflight" is actually the more important issue, because it is a real requirement, but not the highest priority requirement for reconnaissance.

There are many reconnaissance targets that cannot be hidden. Buildings, for instance. An Iraqi army about to invade Kuwait. Missile silos. Satellites in "predictable" orbits work just fine for these targets. But there are also some targets that can be hidden from predictable satellites. They have to be small and mobile, or they have to be the kinds of operations that occur over a short period of time. For instance, it has been widely reported that India successfully concealed its preparations for an atomic bomb test by timing them to occur between passes of American reconnaissance satellites. The important thing to consider is that these kinds of targets are clearly a small subset of the overall list of targets that intelligence collectors are interested in.

Clearly there is a well-defined niche for surprise reconnaissance. But one problem with using an aircraft to fill this niche is that you have to know when the adversary is doing something that you need to see and you have to know when he is doing it. Would the Blackstar have been useful at spotting the preparations of the Indian nuclear test? It would, but only if the United States had known that the Indians were preparing such a test at precisely that time and could schedule a flight to catch it while it was happening. In other words, before using this system to gather intelligence, it first has to be tipped off that something is happening. However, that kind of luck is exceedingly rare in the intelligence collection business.

We also know that the US intelligence community has sought to conduct surprise overflight in a different way-by making some of its satellites stealthy and therefore unpredictable. Reports of one or two stealthy imaging satellites have circulated for years, and in the past year the Washington Post reported on a controversy in Congress over the high costs of a follow-on stealth satellite system. So it is harder for an adversary to hide from a satellite that they do not know is overhead.

But more importantly, we know that ever since the early 1990s the intelligence community has pursued a new strategy toward collecting reconnaissance-continuous presence. The Global Hawk and Predator unmanned aerial vehicles are the best example of this. Rather than flying over a target at high speed and then leaving, they orbit over an area of interest for hours until they spot something happening, like a terrorist emerging from a house.

Blackstar would also be a bad choice for overflight reconnaissance for other reasons. It would be visible on radar by infrared sensors in space as soon as it launched. Another problem is that if it was used to overfly Russia it could easily be misinterpreted as a missile attack. In fact, this is one of the reasons why the intelligence community canceled the ISINGLASS spyplane in the 1960s (the name was always written in all-caps in official documents). Two decades before the CIA sought to develop Quartz, the Air Force tried to develop ISINGLASS as a successor to the SR-71. It was supposed to be air-dropped from a B-52, and fly a skip-glide trajectory over the USSR. Numerous technical problems plagued the development project, but many intelligence officials were uneasy about a reconnaissance system that to the Soviets would look a lot like a B-52 launching a missile aimed at the motherland. (I have collected dozens of declassified documents on ISINGLASS and plan on writing a history article in the near future.)

This raises an additional point: because of its speed, there is no way for Blackstar to be used that would not entail it flying over or relatively near Russia. That would be dangerous. But it also prompts the question of why the Russians have never revealed Blackstar's existence. Why don't they blow the cover of this supersecret American project?
Connecting mythical dots

The article is unclear on what the supposed Blackstar orbiter actually did. It mentions the one-meter optical telescope, but then lists a bunch of other possible missions: carrying specialized microsatellites to low Earth orbit, or carrying hypervelocity missiles to low Earth orbit (the "Rods from God" scenario). Clearly Scott never talked to anybody in a senior position in this alleged program.

The article states that "actual development and employment of a transatmospheric spaceplane have not been confirmed officially. However, many sightings of both an XB-70-like carrier and a spaceplane have been reported, primarily in the western U.S. Only once have they been seen together, though."

If "many" sightings have occurred, what are the names of the people who have made the sightings? How credible are they? It is also worth noting that "many sightings" of flying saucers have also occurred, and many people claim to have been abducted by aliens. But Aviation Week does not consider these sightings to be proof of extraterrestrials visiting Earth. Why is the magazine willing to accept unsubstantiated claims in one case but not in another?

Only two people are named in the articles as eyewitnesses to the vehicle. One is "James Petty," who is listed as the "President of JP Rocket Engine Co." Petty claims to have spotted the carrier aircraft and the spaceplane attached to its belly flying over Salt Lake City at 2:35 in the afternoon on October 4, 1998. Why a top secret aircraft would be flying over a major American city in broad daylight is unclear. Also unclear is why no other person reportedly saw this unusual plane in the middle of the day over a major metropolis.

In these articles, Scott claims that Petty is the only person who has seen the two aircraft connected to each other. But that raises an important question-if the two aircraft were only spotted together in 1998, why was Scott writing in 1992 about a "mothership" aircraft and its attached spaceplane? Clearly he had nothing to connect them together back then, but he speculated that they were connected.

Furthermore, the 1992 article claimed that the spaceplane was located on the top of the mothership. But based upon Petty's alleged sighting, Scott now claims that it is carried on the bottom of the mothership, which supposedly looks like a B-70 Valkyrie bomber. The artwork in the article depicts it stuck on the bottom of the carrier, giving the mothership a pregnant look. This is another example of the internal illogic of the stories, because the B-70 Valkyrie had its landing gear mounted in the lower triangular section, where it would be blocked by the spaceplane. In other words, if the planes looked like Aviation Week claims, the mothership would not be able to roll down a runway to take off.

Other supposed facts make no sense. For instance, the article states that on the spaceplane "air is directed to what is believed to be aerospike engines similar to those once planned for use on the NASA/Lockheed Martin X-33." There are several problems with this statement. For starters, aerospike engines are rocket engines. They are not jet engines and they do not use air, they use propellant and oxidizer. Equally important, the theoretical value of an aerospike engine is that it can work efficiently at both high and low altitude. But if the spaceplane is launched at 90,000 feet [27,400 meters], an aerospike engine is unnecessary.

The article is also filled with suppositions that are based upon no stated data. For instance, the carrier aircraft is capable of "operation at supersonic speeds and altitudes up to 90,000 feet." How does the author know about altitude and speed if the only hard data that he possesses are eyewitness accounts?

The main article states that "three oversized [C-5 Galaxy] transport aircraft were modified with 8-foot wide 'chipmunk cheek' extensions on each side of the cargo compartment aft of the nose hinge point; an extra six-wheel set of landing gear that partially retracts up against the after fuselage, forward of the ramp; a shortened upper deck, and two internal harness/cradle supports." But where are the photographs of these three odd-looking C-5s? C-5 Galaxies are so big that they cannot be parked indoors at airfields. They are always parked outside. Has anybody ever photographed one in flight or on a ramp at an airbase? Anybody at all?

The article also lists two tail numbers for the aircraft: 00503 and 00504. These "tail numbers" imply Fiscal Year Serial Numbers, which consist of six digits (not five), with the first two designating the year that the aircraft was ordered. So the likely candidates are 70-0503/4, 80-0503/4, or possibly 90-0503/4.

But none of those numbers actually assigned to C-5 Galaxies. We know that 70-0503/4 were numbers assigned to canceled F-4E Phantom interceptors. 80-0503/4 were assigned to F-16A Fighting Falcon fighters, and 90-0503/4 were assigned to AH-64A Apaches built for Egypt. If these are bogus serial numbers were actually painted on C-5s, then why has nobody photographed these planes with the fake numbers? There is a large planespotting community around the globe that loves to take photos of rare and unusual aircraft, tracking them by their serial numbers. Have they produced any photos of these planes? No. The article states that a third C-5 had a distinctive red "CL" on its tail "and supposedly was used by the Central Intelligence Agency." Are there any photos of this prize either? No. In fact, we know that there are two C-5C (Space Cargo Modified) Galaxies in operation. Their serial numbers are 68-0213 and 68-0216, and photographs of them have appeared on the Internet (Google "C-5C Galaxy").

The article also states that "all three C-5s may have been retired in recent years, according to a NASA contractor." When C-5s are retired they are sent to the "Boneyard" at Davis Monthan Air Force Base, and TV documentary crews and airplane buffs have toured the base and taken photographs of them. Commercial imaging satellites have also photographed the Boneyard. So where are the photos of these unusual C-5s? It is also worth noting that the Air Force has a website listing all of the C-5 aircraft that have been sent to the Boneyard. “Speedy” and the Valkyrie One of the three articles is devoted to the spaceplane. It states that “the two-vehicle Blackstar system’s spaceplane has been referred to as ‘Black Magic,’ ‘Speedy’ and ‘XOV’ (experimental orbital vehicle) over the years, but none of these monikers have been confirmed by high-level U.S. government representatives. Intelligence officials called it the XOV, and that designation seems to be the most accepted in ‘black world’ circles.” Once again the intelligence officials are unnamed. But also once again there is no indication, such as a direct quote, that would indicate that the author spoke to them directly. The spaceplane article contains the most detailed account of a sighting. It states that “A manned XOV was spotted at Holloman AFB, NM, in 1994 by an F-15 crew chief as he prepared a fighter for an early morning flight…” Supposedly the crew chief alerted his pilot, who used a pair of binoculars to watch the spaceplane. Once again, neither person is named. Around the same time there was reportedly an incident at Kadena Air Base at Okinawa where an “aircraft in distress” reportedly landed at the base and the base was locked down. “A civilian contractor who saw the spaceplane land was ‘debriefed’ and hustled off-base within hours.” But the author does not state that he himself talked to anybody involved, even if he was asked to keep their names anonymous. In fact, after providing what seems like two definitive accounts, the article ends with “Attempts to confirm both the Kadena-area and Holloman incidents have been unsuccessful.” Does that mean that the author heard these accounts second-hand and never talked to the alleged eyewitnesses himself? Or does it mean that he talked to the eyewitnesses, but could not find anybody else who would confirm that they were telling the truth? The eyewitness accounts mentioned in the article about the mothership aircraft are equally dubious. The XB-70 like aircraft has supposedly been spotted by persons a dozen times and the reports have “found their way to Aviation Week & Space Technology.” The latest report was from a “retired test pilot living in the southern U.S.” Again, the author does not provide a name, nor does he list any of the other supposed eyewitnesses. How can an outsider independently verify this claim? Besides Mr. Petty (the man who allegedly saw the mothership and spaceplane flying at low altitude over Salt Lake City) the other person named in the article is “Nancy Weitzman,” who lived in Doylestown, Pennsylvania and saw the mothership fly over her home in 1993. It was so close, Weitzman said, that she could actually see the pilot’s helmet. Doylestown is a rural area in the northern outskirts of Philadelphia and west of Trenton. Once again we are left to ask why a top secret aircraft is flying over a populated area, near a major metropolis, at low altitude and in broad daylight. Weitzman is labeled “an excellent, detail-oriented observer” because she is a “longtime birdwatcher” and was then a medical student (begging the question: was she a good birdwatcher?) But despite the fact that Weitzman admits to knowing nothing about aircraft, she spotted an unknown airplane in the sky and judged its altitude to be 2,500 feet [760 meters] and determined that it was 180–200 feet [55–60 meters] long. The article then included another statement that falls apart as soon as it is parsed: “Two XB-70-like spaceplane carriers may have been built. One might have crashed, and a second is stored at the USAF’s secret Groom Lake test site in Nevada, says an industry source.” Again, the source is unnamed. But how does one rectify such a clear declaration with words like “may” and “might”? How reliable is the source if the best information “might” be true? One thing that we have learned from past classified aircraft programs is that they are flown at isolated airbases at night until their existence is declassified and they are flown during daylight and based at less isolated facilities. The F-117 stealth fighter is a perfect example of this. Yet these various eyewitness sightings were all supposedly made during daylight hours at locations that are not isolated, such as Salt Lake City and the outskirts of Philadelphia. In fact, Holloman Air Force Base—the alleged location of the detailed sighting of the spaceplane—is a very bad place to operate a highly classified aircraft because it is not isolated from civilian observation. A civilian road passes close to the main runway, and airplane buffs with cameras and telephoto lenses regularly take pictures of the planes operating there. Two civilian astronomy observatories are located on peaks nearly a mile above the base, and at one of these observatories there are coin-operated telescopes mounted along a walkway: put a quarter in the machine and you can look straight down at the Holloman flightline, the same flightline where the top secret spaceplane was supposedly being unloaded during daylight hours. Flying into the void Collectively, the articles contain many examples of internal inconsistencies, such as the airbreathing aerospike engines and the spaceplane that blocks the landing gear of its carrier aircraft. But the articles also include claims that are externally illogical—that is, they make no sense compared to what we know about the world. For instance, take this statement: “Overall, a two-stage-to-orbit system wouldn’t have been technologically difficult to develop, according to aerospace veterans.” This of course raises an obvious question—if it was so easy to do, why hasn’t NASA or the Air Force done it? Why are we still stuck with expensive space shuttles and expensive Atlas and Delta rockets? Even small rockets like the Pegasus are relatively expensive, and in fact the very existence of small rockets undercuts the justification for Blackstar’s use as a satellite launcher. If Blackstar existed, why do we have the Pegasus and Minotaur small launch vehicles? Why has DARPA sponsored the FALCON rocket program? Why did NASA and the Air Force dabble in the X-43A hypersonic vehicle if an operational hypersonic spaceplane already existed? If Blackstar could have launched small satellites as part of a “responsive space” system, then why is the Air Force currently trying to develop that capability on its own? Certainly something like Blackstar would have been insanely expensive to build, so why would it have been kept classified rather than shared with the rest of the military research community that could benefit from its experience? Six blind men in a zoo After reading these articles with a skeptical eye, the reader cannot help but get the sense that the author is basing all of his information on hearsay—somebody told him that somebody else said something, but the author has not collected the information himself, or even tracked down the anonymous sources. In fact, many of the anonymous sources are so anonymous—not even a hint of what company they worked for or where they lived or how they knew something—that they go beyond anonymous; they become vaporous. Most of the information in the article, including the alleged eyewitness reports, sound like the kinds of stories told among UFO buffs, or spread around the Internet: indirect evidence, anonymous sources, inconsistent facts, and no firm dates or locations. One suspects that William Scott has a circle of mystery aircraft watchers who feed him stories and rumors that he is unable to corroborate himself. One also suspects that his research skills are poor, because the articles include factual mistakes about unclassified subjects, indicating that he is not carefully fact-checking the work. And the overriding impression that one gets from these articles is that Aviation Week has very low editorial standards and that the editors are not forcing Scott to prove anything by presenting them with tape recorded interviews or notes or documents. At no point does the reporter clearly indicate that he personally has been told anything substantive by a source that has direct knowledge of the program. At no point does he write “a CIA official told this author that…” or “an NRO official stated that…” or “a military officer who worked on the program said that…” or “this reporter has seen documents that clearly indicate that…” Because of this lack of specificity, of solidity, it seems probable that what the author has done is connected the dots between several disparate classified study projects, not an actual operational vehicle, retired or not. At several points the articles refer to anonymous industry sources who worked on a part of a secret program. None of these anonymous sources, however, provide information on the overall project. They worked on the wings of a classified plane, or they knew about an optical reconnaissance system, or a hypersonic research project. It was the author who connected them, not the people who supposedly worked on the alleged Blackstar. These stories sound somewhat like the parable of the six blind men describing an elephant—one feels the trunk, another a tail, another a foot, and so on, creating a description that makes no sense. But what is more likely here is that rather than six blind men describing an elephant, we have six blind men in a zoo, each describing a different part of a different animal, and a reporter assuming that these reports all refer to the same very strange beast. William Scott assumed that there was a mothership and a spaceplane back in 1992, six years before anybody reported seeing the two connected. For the next fourteen years he added more dots to the picture, even if they belonged to something else entirely. But although the Aviation Week articles are based on wild speculation, filled with holes, and do not demonstrate careful fact-checking, there is a possibility that some of the information might be based upon actual aircraft or even spaceplane research programs. Just as William Scott took “Tier-3” and morphed it into “TR-3” back in 1990, he may be taking legitimate but incomplete information, and speculating wildly about spaceplanes and motherships. A little bit of history regarding secret airplane projects is useful, however. For instance, the Air Force tested the Tacit Blue aircraft from 1982 to 1985. Rumors circulated of an aircraft that amateurs nicknamed “Shamu” for its weird shape. But it was not declassified until 1996 after sitting in storage for eleven years. Similarly, Boeing flew its Bird of Prey stealth demonstrator between 1996 and 1999, and it was not declassified until 2002. Aviation Week did not have stories about the flights of either aircraft, however, until after they were declassified. The F-117 stealth fighter was different. The first one flew in 1981. Rumors of its existence leaked out by the mid-1980s. But because it always flew at night, there were no credible eyewitness reports even though dozens of the aircraft were manufactured. It was not until the plane’s existence was declassified in the late 1980s that the public knew what it looked like. Compare these examples with the alleged Blackstar. If the Air Force was so effective at keeping Tacit Blue, the Bird of Prey, and the F-117 secret, why would it fly a much larger top secret aircraft during daylight hours over populated areas? Certainly the U.S. military has developed other classified aircraft programs that have not yet been declassified. But Aviation Week has had fourteen years to produce evidence that this huge mothership and its spaceplane exist. They have not provided that evidence. Then again, they still have not provided evidence of the Soviet nuclear-powered bomber either. Author’s note: The information on aircraft serial numbers is from the Skunk Works Digest listserve. Dwayne A. Day was the primary editor of Eye in the Sky, a history of early American satellite reconnaissance. He has written numerous articles on the origins of strategic reconnaissance and early satellite systems for books, journals and magazines. He has also written a book-length history of the Air Force Chief Scientist’s Office under contract to the US Air Force, and numerous articles on aviation for the official Centennial of Flight website. He can be reached at zirconic@earthlink.net.

Comment on this Article

Two-Stage-to-Orbit 'Blackstar' System Shelved at Groom Lake?

By William B. Scott
5 Mar 06


For 16 years, Aviation Week & Space Technology has investigated myriad sightings of a two-stage-to-orbit system that could place a small military spaceplane in orbit. Considerable evidence supports the existence of such a highly classified system, and top Pentagon officials have hinted that it's "out there," but iron-clad confirmation that meets AW&ST standards has remained elusive. Now facing the possibility that this innovative "Blackstar" system may have been shelved, we elected to share what we've learned about it with our readers, rather than let an intriguing technological breakthrough vanish into "black world" history, known to only a few insiders. U.S. intelligence agencies may have quietly mothballed a highly classified two-stage-to-orbit spaceplane system designed in the 1980s for reconnaissance, satellite-insertion and, possibly, weapons delivery. It could be a victim of shrinking federal budgets strained by war costs, or it may not have met performance or operational goals.
This two-vehicle "Blackstar" carrier/orbiter system may have been declared operational during the 1990s.

A large "mothership," closely resembling the U.S. Air Force's historic XB-70 supersonic bomber, carries the orbital component conformally under its fuselage, accelerating to supersonic speeds at high altitude before dropping the spaceplane. The orbiter's engines fire and boost the vehicle into space. If mission requirements dictate, the spaceplane can either reach low Earth orbit or remain suborbital.

The manned orbiter's primary military advantage would be surprise overflight. There would be no forewarning of its presence, prior to the first orbit, allowing ground targets to be imaged before they could be hidden. In contrast, satellite orbits are predictable enough that activities having intelligence value can be scheduled to avoid overflights.

Exactly what missions the Blackstar system may have been designed for and built to accomplish are as yet unconfirmed, but U.S. Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) officers and contractors have been toying with similar spaceplane-operational concepts for years. Besides reconnaissance, they call for inserting small satellites into orbit, and either retrieving or servicing other spacecraft. Conceivably, such a vehicle could serve as an anti-satellite or space-to-ground weapons-delivery platform, as well.

Once a Blackstar orbiter reenters the atmosphere, it can land horizontally at almost any location having a sufficiently long runway. So far, observed spaceplane landings have been reported at Hurlburt AFB, Fla.; Kadena AB, Okinawa; and Holloman AFB, N.M.

The spaceplane is capable of carrying an advanced imaging suite that features 1-meter-aperture adaptive optics with an integral sodium-ion-sensing laser. By compensating in real-time for atmospheric turbulence-caused aberrations sensed by the laser, the system is capable of acquiring very detailed images of ground targets or in-space objects, according to industry officials familiar with the package.

THE SPACEPLANE'S SMALL CARGO or "Q-bay" also could be configured to deliver specialized microsatellites to low Earth orbit or, perhaps, be fitted with no-warhead hypervelocity weapons--what military visionaries have called "rods from god." Launched from the fringes of space, these high-Mach weapons could destroy deeply buried bunkers and weapons facilities.

While frequently the subject of advanced studies, such as the Air Force's "Spacecast 2020," actual development and employment of a transatmospheric spaceplane have not been confirmed officially (AW&ST Sept. 5, 1994, p. 101). However, many sightings of both an XB-70-like carrier and a spaceplane have been reported, primarily in the western U.S. Only once have they been seen together, though.

On Oct. 4, 1998, the carrier aircraft was spotted flying over Salt Lake City at about 2:35 p.m. local time. James Petty, the president of JP Rocket Engine Co., saw a small, highly swept-winged vehicle nestled under the belly of the XB-70-like aircraft. The vehicle appeared to be climbing slowly on a west-southwest heading. The sky was clear enough to see both vehicles' leading edges, which Petty described as a dark gray or black color.

For whatever reason, top military space commanders apparently have never been "briefed-in"--never told of the Blackstar system's existence--even though these are the "warfighters" who might need to employ a spaceplane in combat. Consequently, the most likely user is an intelligence agency. The National Reconnaissance Office may have played a role in the program, but former senior NRO officials have denied any knowledge of it.

One Pentagon official suggests that the Blackstar system was "owned" and operated by a team of aerospace contractors, ensuring government leaders' plausible deniability. When asked about the system, they could honestly say, "we don't have anything like that."

Aerospace industry contractors suggest that a top secret Blackstar system could explain why Pentagon leaders readily offered the Air Force's nascent unclassified spaceplane project, the briefly resurrected SR-71 program and the Army's anti-satellite program for elimination from budgets in the late 1990s. At the time, an industry official said, "if we're flying a spaceplane, it makes sense to kill these cover programs and stop wasting money on things we can already do."

U.S. and European aerospace companies have pushed two-stage-to-orbit (TSTO) spaceplane concepts for decades. Most large U.S. airframe manufacturers designed spaceplane-type vehicles during the 1950s and '60s, and XB-70 program documents include a concept for carrying and launching a low-Earth orbiter. Two former test pilots and executives for North American Aviation (later, Rockwell) said the company had a technically viable plan for such a system in the 1950s (AW&ST Aug. 24, 1992, p. 25).

Boeing is believed to be one of several major aerospace companies involved in the Blackstar program. On Oct. 14, 1986, Boeing filed a U.S. patent application for an advanced two-stage space transportation system. Patent No. 4,802,639, awarded on Feb. 7, 1989, details how a small orbiter could be air-dropped from the belly of a large delta-winged carrier at Mach 3.3 and 103,800-ft. altitude. The spaceplane would be boosted into orbit by its own propulsion system, perform an intended mission, then glide back to a horizontal landing. Although drawings of aircraft planforms in the Boeing patent differ from those of the Blackstar vehicles spotted at several USAF bases, the concepts are strikingly similar.

One logical explanation given for why a Blackstar system is developed says that, after the shuttle Challenger disaster in January 1986, and a subsequent string of expendable-booster failures, Pentagon leaders were stunned to learn they no longer had "assured access to space." Suddenly, the U.S. needed a means to orbit satellites necessary to keep tabs on its Cold War adversaries.

A team of contractors apparently stepped forward, offering to build a quick-reaction TSTO system in record time. The system could ensure on-demand overflight reconnaissance/surveillance from low Earth orbit, and would require minimal development time. Tons of material--including long-lead structural items--for a third XB-70 Valkyrie had been stored in California warehouses years before, and a wealth of data from the X-20 DynaSoar military spaceplane program was readily available for application to a modern orbiter (see following articles).

DYNASOAR WAS TERMINATED shortly after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, after $430 million had been spent on the spaceplane's development. Political opposition and the fatal crash of XB-70 No. 2 on June 8, 1966, contributed to the bomber program's being canceled before Air Vehicle No. 3 could be built. However, at one time, there had been plans to mate the two vehicles.

In XB-70 Valkyrie: The Ride to Valhalla, Jeannette Remak and Joe Ventolo, Jr., wrote: "One version of the B-70 could have been used as a recoverable booster system to launch things into low-Earth orbit. . . . The DynaSoar program, the first effort by the [U.S.] to use a manned boost-glider to fly in near-orbital space and return, was considered in this context in November 1959. The B-70 was to carry the 10,000-lb. DynaSoar glider and a 40,000-lb. liquid rocket booster to 70,000 ft. and release them while traveling at Mach 3. With this lofty start, the booster could then push the glider into its final 300-mi. orbit."

The two-stage U.S. spaceplane concept apparently has undergone several iterations since then, but the basic idea remained--launch a manned boost-glide vehicle from an XB-70-like platform (AW&ST Dec. 24, 1990, p. 48; Sept. 24, 1990, p. 28). An aerospace industry source said the Air Force once used the "Blackstar" moniker, but others suggested the intelligence community referred to this TSTO combination as the "SR-3/XOV" system. The SR-3 is the large, XB-70-like carrier aircraft, while the small orbital vehicles drop-launched at high speed are called XOV-1, XOV-2 and so forth. At one time, the XOV designator meant "experimental orbital vehicle."

Based on information gleaned from multiple industry sources, the SR-3 features:

*A roughly 200-ft.-long, clipped-delta-winged planform resembling that of the North American Aviation XB-70 trisonic bomber. The forward fuselage is believed to be more oval-shaped than was depicted in a 1992 artist's rendering (AW&ST Aug. 24, 1992, p. 23).

*Canards that extend from the forward fuselage. These lifting surfaces may sweep both fore and aft to compensate for large center-of-gravity changes after dropping the spaceplane, based on multiple sighting reports.

*Large, outward-canted vertical tail surfaces at the clipped-delta's wingtips.

*At least four engine exhaust ports, grouped as two well-separated banks on either side of the aircraft centerline.

*Very loud engines. One other classified military aircraft may have used the same type of powerplant.

*Operation at supersonic speeds and altitudes up to 90,000 ft.

During the system's development cycle, two types of spaceplane orbiters may have been flown. Both were a blended wing/fuselage lifting-body design, but differed in size. The smaller version was about 60-65 ft. long and may have been unmanned or carried a crew of two, some say. Industry engineers said this technology demonstrator was "a very successful program."

The larger orbiter is reportedly 97.5 ft. long, has a highly swept, blended wing/body planform and a short vertical fin. This bulky fin apparently doubles as a buried pylon for conformal carriage of the spaceplane beneath the large SR-3. The "Q-bay" for transporting an optics-system pallet or other payloads may be located aft of the cockpit, with payload doors on top of the fuselage.

Outboard sections of the spaceplane's wing/body cant slightly downward, possibly for shock-wave control and compression lift at high speeds while in the atmosphere, whether on ascent or reentry. The only visible control surfaces are flap- or drag-type panels on the wing's trailing edge, one section on each side of the stubby vertical fin. A relatively large, spade-shaped section forward of the cockpit--which gives the orbiter a "shark-nose" appearance--may provide some pitch stability, as well.

The orbiter's belly appears to be contoured with channels, riblets or "strakelets" that direct airflow to engine inlets and help dissipate aerodynamic heating. These shallow channels may direct air to a complex system of internal, advanced composite-material ducts, according to an engineer who says he helped build one version of the orbiter in the early 1990s. Air is directed to what is believed to be aerospike engines similar to those once planned for use on the NASA/Lockheed Martin X-33.

A former Lockheed Skunk Works official once expressed confidence in the X-33 prototype orbiter's powerplants, noting that "they have history." Whether this implies the aerospikes had flown before, perhaps on an XOV, or simply referred to ground test-firings is unknown. The X-33 was a prototype of what was to be the single-stage-to-orbit Venture Star (AW&ST Nov. 10, 1997, p. 50).

Technicians who worked at a McDonnell Douglas plant in St. Louis in the late 1980s and early 1990s said much of the XOV's structure was made of advanced composite materials. Some wing skin panels measured 40 ft. long and 16 ft. wide, yet were only 3/8 in. to 1/2 in. thick.

"Two people could pick them up; they were very light," one said. These panels were stacked in a sandwich structure to obtain the required thickness, then machined to shape. Although much of the structure was honeycomb, it was "incredibly strong, and would handle very high temperatures," he noted. Inside skin surfaces "were ungodly complicated," though.

WORK ON THE ORBITER moved at a relatively slow pace until a "fuel breakthrough" was made, workers were told. Then, from 1990 through 1991, "we lived out there. It was a madhouse," a technician said. The new fuel was believed to be a boron-based gel having the consistency of toothpaste and high-energy characteristics, but occupying less volume than other fuels.

Regardless of where they land, spaceplane orbiters usually are retrieved by one or more "fat" C-5 Galaxy transports. Three of the oversized aircraft were modified with 8-ft.-wide "chipmunk cheek" extensions on each side of the cargo compartment aft of the nose hinge point; an extra six-wheel set of landing gear that partially retracts up against the aft fuselage, forward of the ramp; a shortened upper deck, and two internal harness/cradle supports. These alterations originally were made to enable carriage of dome-topped containers measuring 61.2 ft. long, 17.2 ft. wide (maximum) and 16.7 ft. tall at the highest point. The containers normally protected satellites during transit to launch sites.

In 1994, NASA sources confirmed that two of the C-5s (Tail Nos. 00503 and 00504) were listed on NASA's inventory--although the aircraft did not "officially" exist, according to the agency's public records. Both transports apparently were deployed only upon orders from the administrator's office. The third oversized C-5 once had a red "CL" on its tail, and supposedly was used by the Central Intelligence Agency. All three C-5s may have been retired in recent years, according to a NASA contractor.

CRITICS ARGUE that there was never enough money hidden in intelligence and military budgets to fund a small fleet of spaceplanes and carrier aircraft. However, those who worked on the system's development at several contractor sites say they charged time-and-materials costs to a number of well-funded programs. Lockheed was the lead contractor for Blackstar orbiters being fabricated at McDonnell Douglas in the early 1990s, and workers there typically logged their time against a specific Lockheed charge number associated with that project. But their time might also have been charged to the National Aero-Space Plane (NASP) and the Navy's A-12 fighter accounts, they say. Both multibillion-dollar programs were canceled with little but technology development gains to show for massive expenditures.

"At first, [supervisors] said we were working on NASP, but this thing never looked like anything the public was shown," a McDonnell Douglas technician who worked in the company's "black hole" facility said. "Later, we were just told, 'Clock it to NASP and don't ask questions.' We never did anything that was really NASP--and money was never a problem."

Whether the Blackstar system was ever declared operational or not is unknown, but several orbiters may have flown over the years. A former program manager at a major aerospace company once declared, "There's no question; Lockheed is flying a two-stage space vehicle."

Interestingly, after both Lockheed and Boeing pulled out of the NASP competition (or were "eliminated") in the 1980s, they may have collaborated to develop the two-stage-to-orbit Blackstar system under a highly classified "fast-track" program. However, many other contractors' "deep-black" teams probably also were involved in order to bring the nation's best expertise to bear on what must have been daunting technical challenges.

Comment on this Article

The Science Of Sexual Orientation

12 Mar 06

There are few issues as hotly contested - and as poorly understood - as the question of what makes a person gay or straight. It's not only a political, social, and religious question but also a scientific question, one that might someday have an actual, provable answer.

The handful of scientists who work in this under-funded and politically charged field will tell you: That answer is a long way off. But as Lesley Stahl reports, their efforts are already yielding tantalizing clues. One focus of their research is twins.
The bedrooms of 9-year-old twins Adam and Jared couldn't be more different. Jared's room is decked out with camouflage, airplanes, and military toys, while Adam's room sports a pastel canopy, stuffed animals, and white horses.

When Stahl came for a visit, Jared was eager to show her his G.I. Joe collection. "I have ones that say like Marine and SWAT. And then that's where I keep all the guns for 'em," he explained.

Adam was also proud to show off his toys. "This is one of my dolls. Bratz baby," he said.

Adam wears pinkish-purple nail polish, adorned with stars and diamonds.

Asked if he went to school like that, Adam says, "Uh-huh. I just showed them my nails, and they were like, 'Why did you do that?'"

Adam's behavior is called childhood gender nonconformity, meaning a child whose interests and behaviors are more typical of the opposite sex. Research shows that kids with extreme gender nonconformity usually grow up to be gay.

Danielle, Adam and Jared's mom, says she began to notice this difference in Adam when he was about 18 months old and began asking for a Barbie doll. Jared, meanwhile, was asking for fire trucks.

Not that much has changed. Jared's favorite game now is Battlefield 2, Special Forces. As for Adam, he says, "It's called Neopets: The Darkest Faerie."

Asked how he would describe himself to a stranger, Jared says, "I'm a kid who likes G.I. Joes and games and TV."

"I would say like a girl," Adam replied to the same question. When asked why he thinks that is, Adam shrugged.

"To me, cases like that really scream out, 'Hey, it's not out there. It's in here.' There's no indication that this mother is prone to raise very feminine boys because his twin is not that way," says Michael Bailey, a psychology professor at Northwestern University and a leading researcher in the field of sexual orientation.

Bailey says he doesn't think nurture is a plausible explanation.

Psychologists used to believe homosexuality was caused by nurture - namely overbearing mothers and distant fathers - but that theory has been disproved. Today, scientists are looking at genes, environment, brain structure and hormones. There is one area of consensus: that homosexuality involves more than just sexual behavior; it's physiological.

Bailey and his colleagues set up a series of experiments in his lab at Northwestern University. In one study, researcher Gerulf Rieger videotaped gay and straight people sitting in a chair, talking. He then reduced them visually to silent black and white outlined figures and asked volunteers to see if they could tell gay from straight. The idea was to find out if certain stereotypes were real and observable.

Based on physical movement and gestures of the figures, more often than not, the volunteers in the study could tell a difference.

"So, is the conclusion that gay people do in fact move differently?" Stahl asked Rieger.

"Yeah, absolutely," he replied.

It's not true 100 percent of the time; it is true on average. The researchers also studied the way gay and straight people talk, and they found differences on average there too.

This research is controversial. Some say it is reinforcing stereotypes. But to Bailey, the stereotypes suggest there's a feminizing of the brain in gay men, and masculinizing in lesbians. Ironically though, when it comes to their sex lives, he says gay and straight men actually have a lot in common.

"Straight men tend to be shallow in terms of focusing on looks. Gay men are shallow, too. Straight men are more interested than straight women in having casual, uncommitted sex. Gay men are like that, too," says Bailey.

"One has the impression that gay men are much more inclined toward casual sex than straight men," Stahl said.

"They're just more successful at it, because the people they're trying to have sex with are also interested in it," Bailey explained.

"But don't you find this interesting that the one big area where gay men are more like straight men is in sex? I mean, that is…both amusing and odd," Stahl said.

"It suggests that whatever causes a man to be gay doesn't make him feminine in every respect. There must be different parts of the brain that can be feminized independently from each other," Bailey replied.

But how and when does this feminizing occur? If the differences were already apparent in childhood, that would point to an early, perhaps even genetic origin - and that's what Bailey and Rieger are testing in a new study using childhood home movies.

In the study, volunteers were asked to rate each child's femininity or masculinity. Stahl took the test and rated two girls highly feminine.

When shown video of a toddler girl running a truck off of a table, Stahl observed, "She's really not girly. Isn't that interesting? She's not girly."

She also observed differences in two boys, one of whom would grow up to be straight, while the other is now gay.

If you can spot a child's future sexual orientation before the child even knows he or she has one, doesn't that prove it's genetic? Studies have shown that homosexuality runs in families. So genes must be the answer. But then the researchers tell you identical twins can have different sexual orientations.

60 Minutes found identical twins Steve and Greg Lofts in New York. They had the same upbringing, have the same DNA - and yet Greg is gay and Steve is straight.

When people meet the twins and find out one of them is gay, Greg says people have asked if he's sure, and how it can be. "Everyone is curious about that," he says.

There were signs, even when they were little kids. Their mother told Stahl that Steve loved sports and the outdoors while Greg liked helping out in the kitchen. But it wasn't until high school that Steve became convinced Greg was gay.

Asked if he said anything to his brother, Steve says, "I did actually. And I think the way I worded it was something like, 'You know, Greg, if you're gay, it's OK with me. And I'll still love you the same.' And he gave a very philosophical answer. He said something like, 'Well, I love the soul of a person and not the physical being.' And in my mind, I was like, 'Yep, he's gay.'"

"I wasn't ready just yet," Greg added.

Does this prove that it's not genetic?

"What it proves is it's not completely genetic. They have the same genes," says Bailey.

Asked if that brings us back to the mother and the father, Bailey says no.

"But that's environment," Stahl said.

"That's environment. But that's not the only environment. There's also the environment that happens to us while we're in the womb. And scientists are realizing that environment is much more important than we ever thought it was," Bailey explained.

A newborn rat pup in the lab of Dr. Marc Breedlove at Michigan State University, may, oddly enough, hold important clues to what happens in the womb.

Dr. Breedlove says he can take a male rat and make it behave like a female for the rest of its life, and vice versa for a female, just by altering the hormones it's exposed to at birth. Because rats are born underdeveloped, that's roughly the same as altering a third-trimester human fetus in the womb. But first, he said, Stahl would need a crash course in rat sex.

Dr. Breedlove explained that male rats, including one he showed Stahl called "Romeo," will mount any rat that comes their way. In the mating process, the female performs something called lordosis, where she lifts her head and rump.

If Romeo goes after a male, Dr. Breedlove says the male will seem profoundly indifferent.

But Breedlove says he can change all that. He gave a female rat a single shot of the male sex hormone testosterone at birth. Now grown up, she will never perform lordosis.

But a male rat did. He was castrated at birth, depriving him of testosterone.

"So you created a gay rat?" Stahl asked.

"I wouldn't say that these are gay rats. But I will say that these are genetic male rats who are showing much more feminine behavior," he explained.

So the answer may be that it's not genes but hormones.

"That's exactly the question that we're all wondering. This business of testosterone having such a profound influence. Does that have some relevance to humans?" Breedlove said.

While biologists look at hormones for answers about human sexuality, other scientists are looking for patterns in statistics. And hard as this is to believe, they have found something they call "the older brother effect."

"The more older brothers a man has, the greater that man's chance of being gay," says Bailey.

Asked if that's true, Bailey says, "That is absolutely true."

If this comes as a shock to you, you're not alone. But it turns out, it's one of the most solid findings in this field, demonstrated in study after study.

And the numbers are significant: for every older brother a man has, his chances of being gay increase by one third. Older sisters make no difference, and there's no corresponding effect for lesbians. A first-born son has about a 2 percent chance of being gay, and the numbers rise from there. The theory is it happens in the womb.

"Somehow, the mother's body is remembering how many boys she's carried before," says Breedlove. "The favorite hypothesis is that the mother may be making antibodies when she sees a boy the first time, and then affect subsequent boys when she carries them in utero."

"You mean, like she's carrying a foreign substance?" Stahl asked.

"And if you think about it, a woman who's carrying a son for the first time, she is carrying a foreign substance," Breedlove replied. "There are some proteins encoded on his Y chromosome that her body has never seen before and that her immune system would be expected to regard as 'invaders,'" he added.

It's still not a proven theory and it gets even stranger.

"One of the things we've only found out lately is that older brothers affect a boy only if the boy is right-handed," Breedlove said. "If the boy is left-handed, if his brain is organized in a left-handed fashion, it doesn't matter how many older brothers he has, his probability of being gay is just like the rest of the population."

You can give yourself a headache trying to apply all the theories to real people. Greg and Steve Lofts both are right-handed, and they do have an older brother, so maybe that's why Greg is gay. But they also have several gay relatives, which suggests it could be in the genes, except where does that leave Steve?

Adam and Jared, fraternal twins, have older brothers, but they're ambidextrous.

Then there's the question of how something in the womb could affect one twin but not the other. There are many more questions at this point than answers, but the scientists 60 Minutes spoke to are increasingly convinced that genes, hormones, or both - that something is happening to determine sexual orientation before birth. Adam has come up with his own theory.

"I was supposed to be a girl in my mom's stomach. But my mom wished for all boys. So, I turned into a boy," Adam explained.

Asked if he wished he was a girl, Adam nodded.

"Do you think there was anything that you could have done that would have changed Adam?" Stahl asked Adam and Jared's mom Danielle.

"I could have changed Adam on the outside to where he would have showed me the macho boy that I would want as a boy. But that would not change who he is inside. And I think that would have damaged him a lot more," she said.

Stahl asked both boys if they are proud of the way they are, and both boys gave her big nods.

"Yup," Adam replied.

Comment on this Article

Scientists and the UFO Phenomenon

Paul Kimball
12 Mar 06

Within the world of ufology there are more than a few people who rail at "science" and "scientists", as if they were the source of all evil.

This blinkered approach ignores all of the nuances within both "science", and "scientists". There is no one model, there is no one template, there is no one sterotype, that is completely accurate.
A useful basic typology of scientists can be found at pp. 258 - 260 of "Politicking and Paradigm Shifting: James E. McDonald and the UFO Case Study", a 1975 Phd. thesis by Paul McCarthy (doctor of philosophy in political science). It is, like Ann Druffel's Firestorm, a must-read for anyone interested in the serious scientific study of the UFO phenomenon in general, and McDonald in particular (it can be found online here, courtesy of Project 1947).

The relevant excerpt:


Let us begin by assuming that not all scientists are equally political. For purposes of discussion they can be differentiated on the basis of the amount of political behavior they engage in, the issues they study, and the political tactics they use. This will enable us to talk about different types of scientists, issues, and tactics. Although this conceptual breakdown is lacking in precise operational determinants, it nonetheless is useful in taking an initial look at the phenomenon I am calling the personal politics of science.

It is assumed that all practicing scientists are political and that the apolitical scientist is a myth. This does not mean that all scientists are as political as McDonald, but it does imply that each in his own way initiates behaviors which are not part of the scientific method and yet are intended to further the scientists' research activities. If we are to accept the apolitical scientist concept we must believe that scientists exist who do not consider the social implications of their research and do nothing to foster their own professional interests except their work -- trusting solely in the community of scholars to reward them on the basis of merit. Because this entire line of reasoning appears counterintuitive there is no further discussion of such hypothetical individuals here.


However, three different types of scientists are suggested. The first type engages in average amounts of political behavior. That is, he is the normal scientist who does not attempt to wheel and deal in his discipline or pursue revolutionary breakthroughs. [1] He does his research on normal issues and where necessary employs normal political tactics to achieve his ends.


The second type of scientist takes part in above-average amounts of political behavior. He is one of the prolific members of his discipline and/or a scientific statesman. The former requires that he always has a book or an article "in press" and the latter that he sits on and organizes associational panels in his discipline and functions on the editorial boards of journals. In either case he is constantly tending to his own upwardly mobile interests within the scientific community. This individual gravitates toward "fashionable" topics of research that exist on the periphery of paradigms but which do not threaten the assumptions of the paradigms themselves. In so doing he utilizes considerably more in the way of normal political tactics to achieve his ends than our Type I scientist.

Within this category there is a subgroup which because of my value orientations I will call the "reactionary extremists." They are successful Type II scientists who take it upon themselves to use extreme tactics to do battle with Type III scientists over potentially revolutionary issues.


The Type III scientist, "the progressive extremist," unable to obtain satisfaction through labor in the vineyards of "normal science," is attracted to potentially revolutionary research areas. He focuses an enormous amount of political behavior on these topics and does not hesitate to bring extreme tactics into play. For the sake of a breakthrough he will venture to the borderlands of science in the hope of returning with a new view of reality.

The scientists of both polar persuasions, then, share several characteristics which seem aberrant and justify the label of extremist. Both the "progressive" and the "reactionary" are attracted to borderland areas of research. The former as an active iconoclast and the latter as an upholder of authority. Each in his own way exhibits traits which Rokeach has called dogmatic. Lastly, both groups are willing to substitute political tactics for the process of verification."

James McDonald, clearly, was a "progressive" Type III scientist. So too are people like Colm Kelleher, Stan Friedman, and Jacques Vallee. Eventually, J. Allen Hynek moved from being a Type II scientist to a Type III.

Stan's old classmate Carl Sagan was a Type II scientist using this model. I think the SETI leaders could also be described in this way, as could scientists like Michio Kaku, Peter Sturrock (photo at left) and Stephen Hawking.

Edward Condon was a type II scientist, but of the "reactionary" sub-group identified by McCarthy.

The point is that "Science" is not the monolithic entity that some within ufology like to portray it as being. While the majority of scientists probably fall into the Type I category, there are still plenty of Type II and Type III scientists around from whom a core group dedicated to the serious scientific study of the UFO phenomenon could emerge - should a leader come forward with the vision of a James McDonald, the communications skills of a Carl Sagan, and the realism of a J. Allen Hynek. All three are needed in order to move forward.

Comment on this Article

UFO photo contest wants you to fake it

By Mark Hinson
Tallahassee DEMOCRAT
12 Mar 06

Have you seen the photo of an alien spacecraft hovering over the Capitol at high noon on the first day of Session?

The visitors from beyond the stars turned off their cloaking device for a split second, and some kid with a camera snapped the frame.

No, it's for real, dude.

Or ... probably not.
This month, The Center for Inquiry and The Tallahassee Skeptics are seeking creative photographers and computer artists who can concoct the most convincing UFO photo that uses a Tallahassee landmark or building as a backdrop. The winner will receive $250 in cash. The faux-UFO photo also will be published in the Tallahassee Democrat.

It's one contest that actually encourages faking it.

"Nowadays, with Photoshop and other computer programs, it's really pretty easy to come up with credible-looking photos that are completely fake," said Bruce Thyer, a Florida State University professor and member of the Center for Inquiry. "We want (the contest photos) to look seamless - not a couple of kids with a fishing pole and a hubcap."

The Tallahassee Center for Inquiry and the Tallahassee Skeptics are interlocking groups that seek to expose hoaxes, quackery and urban legends.

Thyer used the example of a photograph that circulated on the Internet almost immediately after Sept. 11, 2001. The image depicted a smiling, waving tourist on top of a World Trade Center Tower at the moment the hijacked jets were crashing. It later proved to be a Photoshop-ed sham.

"There was a whole story going around about how they found a camera in the ashes and processed the film," Thyer said. "It was very touching at the time but ... none of it was true."

The UFO competition is intended to be more lighthearted.

"I thought it could be a fun way for a Boy Scout troop or a fraternity to pick up a little extra money," Thyer said.

The deadline to submit an 8-by-10-inch copy of the bogus photo via the U.S. Postal Service is April 1.

"That date was deliberately chosen," Thyer said.

Contestants are asked to write and sign a letter explaining how they set up, carried out and manipulated the UFO photo.

For an entry form, e-mail bthyer@fsu.edu or visit www.centerforinquiry.net/tally/

Thyer recommends visiting www.csicop.org/si/2003-09/faking-ufo-photos.html for tips on fooling the viewer.

Comment on this Article

THE UFO THING Is Back! Strange-Shaped Craft Now In Hawaii - Photo

Tristan Giallani

This photo was taken in Hawaii on the Big Island somewhere between south point and Kona the exact location I don't know for sure but I will ask mom later. The pic totally blew me away when I saw it. The only other place I ever seen this type of craft was at rense.com. If I had not seen it before on rense I would not have had any idea what I was looking at.

Go to article link to see photo.

Comment on this Article

Up in Smoke: Marijuana Toasts Memory

By Robert Roy Britt
LiveScience Managing Editor
13 March 2006

If you can't remember the headline of this article or are already struggling to recall some of the words at the beginning of the story, try hard to recall how much pot you smoked in your youth.

A new study finds those who've used a lot of marijuana have worse memories and don't think as quickly.

It's not the first study to suggest pot hurts memory, but the findings are stark.
In one memory test, long-time uses remembered seven of 15 words, on average. Non-users remembered 12 of 15. On a decision-making test, those who had rarely smoked pot had impaired performance 8 percent of time, while long-term tokers had 70 percent impairment.

The results are detailed in the March 14 issue of the journal Neurology.

The study involved 64 people age 17 to 49 selected from a larger study group. They were split into three groups: those who had smoked four or more joints per week for more than 10 years; those who'd been smoking for five to 10 years; and those who had smoked at least once but not more than 20 times and not at all in the past two years.

The middle group consistently scored in between the other two.

"We found that the longer people used marijuana, the more deterioration they had in these cognitive abilities, especially in the ability to learn and remember new information," said Lambros Messinis of the Department of Neurology at the University Hospital of Patras in Patras, Greece.

A separate study in Neurology last year found higher blood flow velocity in the marijuana users even a month after they stopped smoking. Researchers said the change could help explain other studies that have revealed memory problems in pot smokers.

A Harvard Medical School study in 2003 found lasting memory impairment in people who had started smoking marijuana before age 17, when the brain is still forming.

And research published in November indicated that heavy marijuana use might put adolescents who are genetically predisposed to schizophrenia at greater risk of developing the brain disorder.

Some 3.1 million Americans age 12 and older use marijuana daily or almost daily, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. In 2004, 5.6 percent of 12th graders reported daily use of marijuana.

Comment on this Article

Web search blows CIA spooks' cover

Matt Chapman
14 Mar 2006

Agents' details just a fee and a click away

Personal details of thousands of CIA staff can be found online, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.

The information, which includes details of undercover operatives and 'secret' CIA facilities, can be purchased using internet services that search publicly available government information.

The Chicago Tribune claims to have uncovered more than 2,600 people who work for the CIA, and said that the security agency had confirmed that part of the list included details on covert agents.

This list included the names of CIA operatives assigned to US embassies throughout Europe. At the CIA's request the Chicago Tribune has not published this information.
The internet searches also identified CIA properties in Florida, Chicago, Ohio, northern Virginia, Pennsylvania, Utah and Washington state.

Some of the buildings are official premises under guard, while other addresses appear to be private residences.

"Cover is a complex issue that is more complex in the internet age," said Jennifer Dyck, a chief CIA spokeswoman. "There are things that worked previously that no longer work."

Dyck refused to comment on the actions that would be taken to remedy the security breach "since we don't want the bad guys to know what we're fixing".

Comment on this Article

Study in Psychopathy: Detectives 'spent decades as killers for the Mafia', court is told

By David Usborne in New York
14 March 2006

Two highly decorated former police detectives led double lives of heinous betrayal and corruption for decades, selling information to one of New York's most dangerous crime families and abetting no fewer than eight grizzly underworld murders, prosecutors told a packed courtroom in Brooklyn yesterday.

The allegations came in the opening statements of the long-awaited trial of Louis Eppolito, 57, and Stephen Caracappa, 64, who were arrested last March.

Already being billed as the most sensational police corruption case to be heard in the city for years, four books about it are in the works and rights have been sold for at least one Hollywood film - and that's even before the verdicts are in.
"The two men were not traditional mobsters," Mitra Hormozi, the New York prosecutor, told the jury. "They were better. They could get away with murder because these two men were New York City police detectives." Defence lawyers were expected to make their own statements later yesterday.

Ms Hormozi said that for a monthly stipend of $4,000 (£2,300), the men used their positions in the department to protect the Lucchese Mafia clan by selling it inside information about prospective police stings and investigations, and, more importantly, arranging the murders.

"Eppolito and Caracappa together were a perfect combination to gather and get information about the Mafia," she said.

The cases against both men are replete with dark ironies. Mr Caracappa helped create the department now dedicated to fighting mafia crime. Mr Eppolito, meanwhile, admitted late in his career that his father and grandfather were members of the Gambino crime family. He has even written an autobiography: Mafia Cop: The Story of an Honest Cop Whose Family Was the Mob.

Both men had retired to Las Vegas where they were arrested last year. Freed later, on bail of $5m each, they have come to trial insisting they are innocent.

The murders, prosecutors say, were committed at the bidding of Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso, a Lucchese family underboss currently serving a life sentence.

Allegedly, Casso paid them $75,000 for one hit and took to calling the pair his "crystal ball". Jurors will be told how they kidnapped one victim and delivered him personally to Casso for assassination. Another time they allegedly killed a mobster after pulling him over in their marked police car. They are also accused of giving the address of a victim tagged for assassination only to find the wrong man was killed.

Comment on this Article

Russia's Refusal to Recognize Katyn Massacre Shocks Polish Leaders

6 Mar 06

Spokesman for Polish President Lech Kaczynski Maciej Lopinski has said that the Russian chief Military Prosecutor's Office failure to recognize Katyn crime victims as victims of Stalinist's repression was "shocking", the Polish PAP news agency reported.

"This is all the more shocking that earlier the Russian chief military prosecutor's office maintained that the Katyn crime was not genocide but a simple homicide," Lopinski told journalists. He announced that Poland would not cease to bring the truth about Katyn to light.
Lopinski stressed that Poland was very interested in improving relations with Russia but that those relations had to be based on truth. "Truth on Katyn is paramount to our relations," the spokesman said.

The Sejm (Polish parliament) Speaker Marek Jurek also called the decision shocking, as, in his point of view, peace and security can be built only on the condemnation of evil.

He believes that the decision of the Russian prosecutor's office was a "very unpleasant moment in Polish-Russian relations" and added that the Russian authorities do not have to defend the Soviet policy as Russia was the first victim of communism.

Polish Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz said that the country would not give up its efforts to persuade all countries that the killing of Polish officers in 1940 was a genocide.

Jan Rokita of the Civic Platform PO said that the time when there were big chances to clear up issues related to the Katyn crime has been closed for many years.

Rokita believes that the only thing Poland may do now is to try to persuade Russians that their attitude was humiliating not only for Poland but also for their own Russian honor.

Sixty-five years ago, in April and May 1940, the Soviet secret police (NKVD) executed almost 22,000 Polish citizens, mostly Polish officers and policemen imprisoned in Kozyelsk, Ostashkov and Starobelsk as well as Poles imprisoned in the Western regions of Belarus and Ukraine in an "operation" known as the "Katyn massacre". Katyn is a location a few kilometers off Smolensk city where the burial site of one group of victims was first found.

On Friday, the head of the investigation department of the National Remembrance Institute, IPN, Prof Witold Kulesza, told PAP that the IPN had received from the Russian Military Prosecutor's Office a document in which the latter claimed it would not recognize Poles murdered in Katyn as victims of political repression.

The Russians said no proof had been found that Poles murdered in Katyn by Stalin's order had been brought to legal responsibility under the 1926 Russian penal code.

Comment on this Article

The Happy People Speak Out - My Night at the Oscars


The wedge issue that has split America in half like a jackhammered lemon is not race, nor class, nor religion. It is not political affiliation. It is a fundamental disagreement about the very nature of reality. For one half of America (a half comprised of approximately twenty percent of its citizens, mostly white, comprised of the very wealthy and clinical sociopaths, two groups that are largely interchangeable), everything is wonderful. We're skull-fucking the darkies and Jesus H. Christ is on his way. For the rest of us, for whom the Savior is not coming, for whom the preservation of the natural order on Earth is important, for whom such abstractions as peace and justice act as tangible safeguards, things kinda suck. It has come down to the Real World versus the Happy People. It is with no relish I confess to membership in the much-maligned reality-based half of this equation.
I just attended the 78th Academy Awards ceremony at the Kodak Theater in Hollywood, California. In a kilt. Commando, since you ask. Now in ordinary times I'm not particularly interested in these industry fetes, primarily because my chances of winning an Oscar are similar to my chances of being hit in the neck by a salad fork dropped from the International Space Station. But on this occasion my girlfriend (perfect in every regard except for miserable taste in men) happened to be nominated for one of these brassy little fellows, so bethought me I it would be in good taste to flash my nose about at the festivities.

We strode the red carpet, which for the record is not true red but Pantone 201 C. My knees got on Japanese television. The ratio of extremely famous people to trogs such as myself was approximately two-to-one, but because I have no idea who anybody is, it wasn't particularly intimidating. The women are tall and the men are short. For a few delirious hours, we were part of a select group of Happy People, the movie business's elite, admired by all. I could see the attraction in it, surrounded by security people facing the other direction, never having to open a door or pay for a drink. And I could see how, after extended exposure to this sort of treatment, one could lose one's grasp of what real life is about. When you're rich and famous, there are no rough edges. You start wondering what the commoners are bitching for.

She won the Oscar, by the way. That and (at the Vanity Fair party, naturally) the opportunity to congratulate Graydon Carter for keeping Christopher Hitchens from becoming homeless, were for your tragic little correspondent the highlights of a glittering evening. But reality, that endless queasy medium in which us ordinary folk are suspended like aphids in agar, rushed in by morning to claim us again. What has changed? Now my girlfriend can't get renter's insurance and there's this little gold man parked on her kitchen counter next to the microwave. Otherwise, nothing. We both went back to our respective jobs the next day, alcohol-poisoned but intact. My respect for Hollywood folk in general has increased, though. To live in that world all the time and still remain above-average in the social consciousness department (to the degree that they're hated by Washington) is no mean feat.

Meanwhile, for the Happy People, every day is Oscar day. They get into their fancy cars and drive in HEPA-filtered comfort from their attractive homes to their enjoyable activities, untouched by poverty, illness, bad schools, job insecurity, malnutrition, or a transmission that won't go into third. These are the people that are setting our national priorities. I quote from a February 27, 2006 letter to the Boston Globe written by one of the happiest of the Happy People, yclept Linda Gosselin:

"It would be difficult to consider yourself happy if you are convinced your country consists of imperialist occupiers trying to take over the world. But if you realize the true road to freedom happens when democracies lead to thriving societies, you're feeling pretty good right now."

See, this is what I'm talking about. It's as if somebody macerated a bunch of Republican talking points in a blender, then decanted the resulting ooze into a clyster and injected it in the author's right ear. Even Thomas Friedman couldn't garble a sentence that badly. Ms. Gosselin has never lived in a nation occupied by a foreign army, I suspect. Nor has she ever been investigated for sedition.

"We have a choice each morning we're lucky enough to open our eyes. We can look at our lives and society in a positive manner and work toward making a better world for our children or we can endlessly dwell on every negative aspect of life we've ever witnessed."

The key phrase here is 'look at', which I'm pretty sure is all Linda does with her life and society every day. Except maybe once a year writing a check to Unicef or sending some clothes down to the Salvation Army. And when she says, "a better world for our children", she means specifically her own children, Tiffany and Jack Henry, for whom life's main passage so far has been getting the braces off their teeth in time for the Homecoming Ball. And I'll bet Linda is white. I could be wrong-- she could be a poor black sharecropper working the tobacco fields of Braintree. But there's privilege in her remarks. She has never, I'm certain, had bad teeth or a bounced rent check or an itchy asshole because the water got turned off and she hasn't had a shower in four days. She has never left her kids with neighbors because she couldn't get out of work in time to put them to bed. For that matter, she has never watched her babies get eaten alive by rabbits, but this is happening less and less in all strata of American society since the barbaric practice of lettuce-baiting has ended.

"Could it be", Linda postulates in a reflective mood, "that we conservatives have a more positive world view? How about a more positive national view? A more positive view of religion? A more positive view of our careers? A more positive view of the future?"

These are excellent questions, to which the obvious answer is "no, you conservatives are living in a delusional bubble of smug self-congratulation, go fuck yourself". But this isn't positive thinking. It would be better to say, "yes, Linda, you conservatives have more positive views. Did you know your daughter is dating a black man?" But the real answer is this. Linda is right. If you're a real conservative, meaning wealthy (there are a lot of false conservatives that are actually minarchists, that is, persons interested in a small government the role of which is strictly to protect the rights of its citizens), life is pretty damn good. You can afford the best medical care, education, and organic food; you can (like 'President' Bush) afford to have a sustainable ranch with the latest in resource-efficiency technology, and you can afford to live where the common folk can't spread disease on you and there are no riots or liquor stores or homeless people.

I, too, would have a more positive worldview, like Linda, if I got the Oscar treatment every day. But I suppose I could be happy happy happy like her even if I wasn't rich and sheltered. After all, like she says, we have a choice each morning we're lucky enough to open our eyes. I question, however, whether her eyes have ever really been opened.

Ben Tripp is an independent filmmaker and all-around swine. His book, Square In The Nuts, may be purchased here, with other outlets to follow: http://www.lulu.com/Squareinthenuts. His favorite animal is the rhinoceros. Mr. Tripp may be reached at credel@earthlink.net.

Comment on this Article

Dan Brown grilled in Da Vinci Code copyright case

By Mike Collett-White
14 Mar 06

LONDON - The lawyer representing two historians who accuse Dan Brown of copying their work in his best-seller "The Da Vinci Code" told a British court on Tuesday he suspected the author had lied in his evidence.

Brown, in the witness box for a second day, was forced to defend his assertion that he had not read "The Holy Blood, and the Holy Grail" when he came up with the idea for his thriller.
Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, co-authors of the 1982 "Holy Blood" book, who are suing Brown's British publisher Random House, allege that he lifted their ideas wholesale.

Part of Brown's defense has been to say he wrote the synopsis for "The Da Vinci Code", one of the most successful novels with sales of around 40 million copies, before he became familiar with the "Holy Blood" book.

"You acquired a copy of 'Holy Blood, Holy Grail' before you accept in your evidence you did," said the historians' lawyer Jonathan Rayner James. "There are very few dates, let alone exact dates, in your witness statement."

Brown, 41, said neither he nor his wife, Blythe, who is also his assistant, had used ideas from the book for his synopsis.

There are seven books listed in the partial bibliography for "The Da Vinci Code" synopsis, written in January 2001, but "Holy Blood" is not among them.

"That is the clear piece of evidence to me that "Holy Blood, Holy Grail" was not around when I wrote the synopsis," said Brown, adding it would have been in his interest to add the work to his bibliography in order to impress his publisher.

Both books share the idea of Jesus marrying and having a child by Mary Magdalene and their bloodline being protected by the mysterious Priory of Sion, a theory greeted with outrage by some Roman Catholic leaders.


The publicity-shy author was forced to answer questions in the full glare of the world's media for a second day.

Unable to cope with the number of reporters and fans trying to watch Brown, court officials have asked journalists to reserve seats in the gallery. British courts normally work on a first-come, first-served basis.

When asked why his copy of "Holy Blood" was so heavily annotated, Brown said he used it for a "refresher course" he and his wife underwent after the publication of "The Da Vinci Code".

Brown joked that prior to "The Da Vinci Code" and the almost overnight fame it brought, he had been used to attending book signings where five people would turn up, three of whom would be book store employees who had taken pity on him.

Brown admits he used "Holy Blood" when he wrote "The Da Vinci Code", but that it was only one of several sources and he did not copy its "central themes".

"I have never been shy about saying 'Holy Blood, Holy Grail' is part of this," Brown said. "The whole Teabing section of the book -- those are the sorts of snippets of information that 'Holy Blood, Holy Grail' is very good on."

Leigh Teabing, a character in the novel, is an anagram of the claimants in the case, and the 1982 work is referred to in the narrative.

Brown is expected to give evidence again on Wednesday and the case is due to end on Monday. It could be weeks before judgment is pronounced.

Comment on this Article

Ark's Quantum Quirks

March 14, 2006


Quantum Observer Effect

Comment on this Article

Gandhi in California- The 2006 Latino Peace Pilgrimage to End the Iraq War

by David Howard
11th March 2006

Seventy-six years ago, on March 12, 1930, Mohandas Gandhi began the Salt Satyagraha, a seemingly quixotic journey of nonviolent protest against omnipotent empire, a march to the sea powered by what Gandhi called his "inner vision." Joined by thousands of ordinary Indians, Gandhi walked 400 kilometers (241 miles) from Ahmedabad to Dandi, Gujarat.

The British then held a monopoly on salt, and Gandhi knew that the proceeds of the salt tax helped finance the forces of empire at the expense of the impoverished masses-the campesinos.

When he arrived at Dandi on the Arabian Sea, Gandhi picked up a grain of salt and spoke prophetic truth to arrogant power: "With this, I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire."
The truth and beauty of Gandhian nonviolence resonated around the world. Here in the United States it inspired some of our greatest social justice heroes: Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks, American "untouchables" from the cotton-picking Deep South; César Chávez and Dolores Huerta, children of campesinos from the strawberry and lettuce fields of the Mexicano Southwest. Their simple acts of civil disobedience-refusing to sit in the back of the bus, demanding service at whites-only lunch counters, boycotting grapes-changed our world.

On March 12, 2006, the seventy-sixth anniversary of the Salt March, as the world suffers the intended and unintended consequences of a hideous war of aggression against Iraq, Latino conscientious objectors and parents of fallen soldiers begin their own two-week march of nonviolent protest.

Like Gandhi in India, they will walk 241 California miles between Tijuana on the Mexican border and the Pacific Bay city of San Francisco. Each stop on the march for peace and justice is important to the history of the Latino movimiento: la frontera, the border between North and South, privilege and poverty; La Paz, the burial site of César Chávez; Camp Pendleton, where generations of troops have trained for the killing fields of Southeast Asia, Afghanistan and Iraq. The march will end in San Francisco's Mission District on March 26-27, where participants will donate blood for both soldiers and civilians in Iraq.

The leaders of the march are Fernando Suárez del Solar, whose Marine Corps son was among the first US soldiers to die in the Iraq War; Pablo Paredes, the Navy seaman who was court-martialed for refusing to board an Iraq-bound ship; Camilo Mejía, who chose military prison over redeployment in Iraq; and Aidan Delgado, who was granted conscientious objector status while stationed at Abu Ghraib prison.

We in Ventura County, California will honor these peace marchers in the spirit of Gandhi, King, Parks, Chávez and Huerta. On Monday, March 20, we will house them in the sanctuary of Oxnard's Congregation for Peace. We will walk with them to teach our children at Oxnard High School. We will join them in protest in front of Oxnard's military recruitment office, and we will arrive together at the County Government Center to call upon attorneys, judges and elected officials to help us end the war.

No one knows when the Iraq War will end. No one knows who among the children at Oxnard High School will heed Gandhi's message and who will fall prey to a multi-billion dollar military propaganda program hell-bent on persuading them to fight.

But we do know that 75 years from now, our great grandchildren will remember our grain of salt. They will stand at our humble milestones and recall how we contributed our drop of blood, sweat and salt tears to help end an obscene war of immense cruelty and folly. They will remember not because our gestures are unique or grandiose, but because they reflect a perennial vision of peace transmitted across borders, cultures and religions. A vision worth a mere grain of salt; a vision that shakes the foundations of empire.

David Howard is co-chair of Ventura County Citizens for Peaceful Resolution/CPR.

Comment on this Article

Columbus mystery nearly solved 500 years after death

By Phil Stewart
10 Mar 06

ROME (Reuters) - Nearly 500 years after the death of Christopher Columbus, a team of genetic researchers are using DNA to solve two nagging mysteries: Where was the explorer really born? And where the devil are his bones?

Debate about origins and final resting place of Columbus has raged for over a century, with historians questioning the traditional theory that he hails from Genoa, Italy. Some say he was a Spanish Jew, a Greek, a Basque or Portuguese.

Even the location of his remains is the subject of controversy. The Dominican Republic and Spain both stake claims as the final resting place of Columbus, who died in May, 1506.
The Spanish-led research team, which includes Italians, Americans and Germans, sampled DNA from the known remains from Columbus' brother and son, and then compared them to fragments attributed to Columbus in Seville.

Although the official announcement is expected later this year, Italian researchers say they are confident based on the evidence gathered so far that Columbus' supposed remains in Seville are likely authentic.

"We have already started all of the analyses on a molecular level and we have good indications that the remains in Seville are effectively those of Christopher," said Olga Rickards, head of the team at Rome's Tor Vergata University laboratory.

If confirmed, it could lay to rest a dispute dating back to 1877, when Dominican workers found a lead casket buried behind the altar in Santo Domingo's cathedral containing a collection of bone fragments the country says belong to Columbus.

The bones should have left the island for Cuba in 1795 and then been sent along Spain a century later.

But the casket was inscribed with the words "Illustrious and distinguished male, Don Cristobal Colon" - the Spanish rendering of Christopher Columbus.

"Nobody knows (about the Dominican remains) ... because they haven't yet allowed DNA analysis," Rickards told Reuters.


Little is known about the early life of Columbus, the reputed son of a weaver in Genoa who would later change the world by accidentally stumbling upon the Americas in 1492.

With so many different theories about his origin, the DNA researchers hope to settle the matter once and for all by obtaining genetic samples from Europeans with the name Columbus.

In Italy, the researchers sent letters to modern-day "Colombo" men asking them to use cotton swabs to sample saliva from inside their mouths.

"We sent out 250 letters ... and we have already received 16 positive responses," Rickards told Reuters.

The Spanish had sampled less than 150 people, she said.

"If we're lucky, we might have a result by May, which is the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' death," she said.

Genoa's mayor, Giuseppe Pericu, joked to a newspaper that Columbus would wind up being "Genovese" -- one way or another.

"If it turns out that Columbus wasn't Genovese, we'll make him an honorary citizen," he said.

Comment on this Article

French plan would open iTunes to other devices

By Astrid Wendlandt
13 Mar 06

PARIS (Reuters) - France is pushing through a law that would force Apple Computer Inc to open its iTunes online music store and enable consumers to download songs onto devices other than the computer maker's popular iPod player.

Under a draft law expected to be voted in parliament on Thursday, consumers would be able to legally use software that converts digital content into any format.

It would no longer be illegal to crack digital rights management -- the codes that protect music, films and other content -- if it is to enable to the conversion from one format to another, said Christian Vanneste, Rapporteur, a senior parliamentarian who helps guide law in France.
"It will force some proprietary systems to be opened up ... You have to be able to download content and play it on any device," Vanneste told Reuters in a telephone interview on Monday.

Music downloaded from Apple's iTunes online music store currently can only be played on iPods.

The law, if enacted, could prompt Apple to shut its iTunes store in France, some industry observers say, to keep from making songs vulnerable to conversion outside France, too.

"The person who will have converted iTunes songs will be able to make it available elsewhere," Marc Guez, head of the French Collecting Society for Music Producers rights (SCPP) told Reuters.

Apple officials in France and Britain did not return calls seeking comment.

The law would also mean that other online French music retailers such as Fnac, part of PPR, would have to make iTunes songs available on their Web sites.


Vanneste said the draft law aimed to fight piracy, encourage the development of the online digital music market in France and benefit legal online music retailers.

Record sales tumbled 8 percent in France last year while digital music sales rose fivefold.

Digital sales comprised 5.3 percent, or 259 million euros ($309 million), of total 2005 revenue for Universal Music Group, the world's largest record company, which is owned by the French group Vivendi.

Under the latest version of the proposed law, people who download material illegally would be subject to a fine of 38 euros and those sharing illegally downloaded material with others would be subject to a fine of 150 euros.

People who make and sell software for illegal file-sharing and content downloading would remain subject to a maximum fine of 300,000 euros and prison sentences of up to three years.

Police agents can monitor music exchange Web sites and trace back the email address of beneficiaries by asking the Internet service provider for it through a court order.

The proposed law would also secure private copies of legally downloaded material, but the number of private copies could be limited and have yet to be determined. DVDs are expected to be excluded from the law, Vanneste said.

The new legislation is triggered by France's need to transpose the European directive on copyrights into its own body of law, which it failed to do by the December 2002 deadline.

Vanneste said France and Spain were the only two EU countries which had yet to make the move.

Guez, from the rights group, said the law would probably not come into force until June. It would still need approval by the Senate, the upper house.

An earlier amendment that would have legalized the use of peer-to-peer networks to download songs and films for a flat monthly fee of several euros has been shelved, Vanneste said.

That proposal was fiercely opposed by music artists, film production houses and record companies.

Some legalized versions of peer-to-peer networks are starting to crop up, however, including one expected to be launched in Germany by Warner Bros, part of Time Warner Inc.

Comment on this Article

Remember, we need your help to collect information on what is going on in your part of the world!
Send your article suggestions to: sott(at)signs-of-the-times.org