- Signs of the Times for Wed, 15 Mar 2006 -

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Oh What a Lovely War

Joe Quinn
Signs of the Times

I thought I'd share an email that is apparently doing the rounds among all right-thinking Patriotic Americans (i.e. not pinko Commie, Islamo-liberal-terrorists).

Here's the text:

Talk about being left in the dark by our so-called unbiased press.

Did you know that 47 countries have re-established their embassies in Iraq?

Did you know that the Iraqi current government employs 12 million Iraqi people?

Did you know that 3100 schools have been renovated, 364 schools are under rehabilitation, 263 schools are now under construction and 38 new schools have been built in Iraq?

Did you know that Iraq's higher educational structure consists of 20 Universities, 46 Institutes or colleges and 4 research centers, all currently operating?

Did you know that 25 Iraq students departed for the United States in January 2005 for the re-established Fulbright program?

Did you know that the Iraqi Navy is operational?! They have 5-100-foot patrol craft, 34 smaller vessels and a navel infantry regiment.

Did you know that Iraq's Air Force consists of three operational squadrons, which includes 9 reconnaissance and 3 US C-130 transport aircraft (under Iraqi operational control) which operate day and night, and will soon add 16 UH-1 helicopters and 4 bell jet rangers?

Did you know that Iraq has a counter-terrorist unit and a Commando Battalion?

Did you know that the Iraqi Police Service has over 55,000 fully trained and equipped police officers?

Did you know that there are 5 Police Academies ! in Iraq that produce over 3500 new officers each 8 weeks?

Did you know there are more than 1100 building projects going on in Iraq?

They include 364 schools, 67 public clinics, 15 hospitals, 83 railroad stations, 22 oil facilities, 93 water facilities and 69 electrical facilities.

Did you know that 96% of Iraqi children under the age of 5 have received the first 2 series of polio vaccinations?

Did you know that 4.3 million Iraqi children were enrolled in primary school by mid October?

Did you know that there are 1,192,000 cell phone subscribers in Iraq and phone use has gone up 158%?

Did you know that Iraq has an independent media that consist of 75 radio stations, 180 newspapers and 10 television stations?

Did you know that the Baghdad Stock Exchange opened in June of 2004?

Did you know that 2 candidates in the Iraqi presidential election had a recent televised debate?




Instead of reflecting our love for our country, we get photos of flag burning incidents at Abu Ghraib and people throwing snowballs at presidential motorcades and Sheheen protesting the war. The lack of accentuating the positive in Iraq serves two purposes.

1. It is intended to undermine the world's perception of the United States thus minimizing consequent support, and
2. it is intended to discourage American Citizens.

Above facts are verifiable on the Department of Defense web site.

Pass it on!

Once I had recovered from being overwhelmed with patriotic pride and dried away the tears of joy that spontaneously came to my eyes at the very idea that such a force of good as the U.S. government could actually exist in the world, I thought a bit more about these alleged facts. Having done so, I couldn't resist a quick response to each point made, which I include below:

Did you know that 47 countries have re-established their embassies in Iraq?

Of course they have, they all want a piece of the pie, mind you, they are all nestled within that heavily-guarded Baghdad "green zone" under the watchful and trigger-happy eye of the U.S. military. I wonder why...

Did you know that the Iraqi current government employs 12 million Iraqi people?

Eh.., I think that figure should be 1.2 million. In any case, the fact that the Iraqi government is essentially a puppet regime with no real power, most specifically no power to ask the U.S. military to leave, as current interim Iraqi Prime Minister al-Jafari stated, which is what a majority of Iraqis want, means that these 1.2 million people are all working for Uncle Sam.

Did you know that 3100 schools have been renovated, 364 schools are under rehabilitation, 263 schools are now under construction and 38 new schools have been built in Iraq?

Nice try, but no credit can be given to the U.S. government for rebuilding schools that they destroyed. Do you think they have a plan for rebuilding the Iraqi children that were crushed when their school collapsed on them?

Did you know that Iraq's higher educational structure consists of 20 Universities, 46 Institutes or colleges and 4 research centers, all currently operating?

Wow! Sadly, with so many university professors having been murdered by U.S.-sanctioned death squads, there won't be many professors left to take up positions. Most of those that are left will be reluctant to teach the U.S.-approved curriculum, which involves the teaching of a history that never happened. Most Iraqi educators are also aware that in new "Free and Democratic" Iraq, attempts to teach the truth often result in a premature exit from Iraqi society. I hear that an an inside joke among Iraqi professors these days is, when asked if they want a job, the correct sarcastic reponse is "I need a job like I need a hole in the head".

Did you know that 25 Iraq students departed for the United States in January 2005 for the re-established Fulbright program?

Wow! 25 out of millions. Now that IS progress!

Did you know that the Iraqi Navy is operational?! They have 5-100-foot patrol craft, 34 smaller vessels and a navel infantry regiment.

Yes indeedy! Really "war ready" eh? Ready to take on the U.S. invaders perhaps?

Did you know that Iraq's Air Force consists of three operational squadrons, which includes 9 reconnaissance and 3 US C-130 transport aircraft (under Iraqi operational control) which operate day and night, and will soon add 16 UH-1 helicopters and 4 bell jet rangers?

Operate day and night? Doing what? Picking up dead bodies? Can they engage in operations to attack the military positions of the invading U.S. military? Would Rumsfeld allow U.S. C-130's to be put to such a use?

Did you know that Iraq has a counter-terrorist unit and a Commando Battalion?

Of course! Everyone knows that! They're the guys who are being paid by the U.S. to take out those Iraqis who have been stupidly trying to jump the gun with the whole "freedom" thing and have been publicly demanding real Iraqi independence and the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Big mistake, eh?

Did you know that the Iraqi Police Service has over 55,000 fully trained and equipped police officers?

Sure! Although we are not sure that figure is correct at the time of going to press. Some have recently been blown up in a MI5 sponsored "suicide bombing".

Did you know that there are 5 Police Academies in Iraq that produce over 3500 new officers each 8 weeks?

Yeah, and they're gonna have to keep churnin 'em out, what with the bombings and the desertions and all...

Did you know there are more than 1100 building projects going on in Iraq?

They include 364 schools, 67 public clinics, 15 hospitals, 83 railroad stations, 22 oil facilities, 93 water facilities and 69 electrical facilities.

Yeah, we hear the population of Fallujah (or what's left of them) are eager for the U.S. military to rebuild their city after they destroyed it during two assaults over the last 2 years. They would also like the U.S. military to rebuild the ir melted husbands, wifes, sons and daughters who were silly enough to stay in their homes when the U.S. military commanders, on word from Donald Rumsfeld, figured it was a good time to start using White Phosphorus.

Did you know that 96% of Iraqi children under the age of 5 have received the first 2 series of polio vaccinations?

With all the DU in the air, we figure some iodine tablets would be more helpful. After all, we don't think it is much of a consolation for Iraqis to be polio free, when they are dying from DU-related cancer or trying to nurse a horribly deformed child.

Did you know that 4.3 million Iraqi children were enrolled in primary school by mid October?

Yes, we hear that, under the new Iraqi curriculum, they are all chomping at the bit to learn all about wonderful Uncle Sam and how he really did bring "freedom and democracy" to Iraq. When the children go back home however, their mothers have a harder time explaining to them where their daddies and brothers are - mainly because the mothers don't know either. "One day, when one of those nice U.S. patrols came by the house, your daddy just went with them for a little chat".

Did you know that there are 1,192,000 cell phone subscribers in Iraq and phone use has gone up 158%?

Indeed, and the U.S. companies that are providing this service are overjoyed at this development, as are their shareholders. But then, was that not one of the reasons for the invasion of Iraq and the destruction of it's infrastructure? So that it could be replaced with an American owned one? But I admit, this new, improved American service will certainly be useful for Iraqis who want to stay in close communication with their loved ones, or to find out if it was one of their loved ones that was blown to pieces by the daily car bombings or assassinations carried out by the aforementioned U.S.-sanctioned Iraqi government death squads. Freedom comes with a price, after all.

Did you know that Iraq has an independent media that consist of 75 radio stations, 180 newspapers and 10 television stations?

Sure, and what with Christian Bailey and his gang of US-funded journalists inserting false stories into these "independent" media outlets, the Iraqi people will soon be as dumbed-down as most Americans.

Did you know that the Baghdad Stock Exchange opened in June of 2004?

Sure! And what does it trade in? Why oil of course! And where does the revenue from that oil go? Well, it was last seen heading westwards into the offshore bank account of a bunch of Western government officials who wished to remain anonymous because they realised that, by right, they should be hung, drawn and quartered.

Did you know that 2 candidates in the Iraqi presidential election had a recent televised debate?

WOW! That's great news! We actually watched that one. Both candidates were arguing over how best to prevent the civil war that the U.S. has unleashed on Iraq. Both were of the opinion that the first thing to do was kick out the occupying force.




Instead of reflecting our love for our country, we get photos of flag burning incidents at Abu Ghraib and people throwing snowballs at presidential motorcades and Sheheen protesting the war.

The lack of accentuating the positive in Iraq serves two purposes.

1. It is intended to undermine the world's perception of the United States thus minimizing consequent support, and
2. it is intended to discourage American Citizens.

Yeah! That evil mainstream media! How dare they show even the merest hint of what the U.S. government and military is actually doing in Iraq and the greater Middle East without at the same muddying the water a little with distorted facts from the government's own DOD website! I wonder, has the author of this email ever thought that the reason that none of the above points are being made in U.S., or any other, media outlets is simply because none of it is true and that even the MSM has limits as to the obviousness of the BS that is prints. But of course, for this author and millions like him to do so would involve the contemplation of the idea that a government would ever lie to its citizenry, and everyone knows that has never happened, and indeed never could. By and large, the mainstream media disseminates the government's lies and propaganda, so there can be no beef with them. Web sites like this one on the other hand...

Above facts are verifiable on the Department of Defense web site.

Indeed, that bastion of truth and honesty - the DOD. All of the facts I supplied in my 'begging to differ' above are also verifiable, and by many more sources than one U.S. government web site. So who's telling the truth? Perhaps we'll let former U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson have the final word. He is quoted as having said:

"It is easy to imagine an infinite number of situations... where government officials might quite legitimately have reasons to give false information out. It's an unfortunate reality that the issuance of incomplete information and even misinformation by government may sometimes be perceived as necessary to protect vital interests."

Pass it on!

Indeed, send this discussion far and wide! In the immortal words of the smirking monkey man, "bring it on!"

Comment on this Editorial

Editorial: DynCorp May Replace Cops in St. Bernard Parish

Tuesday March 14th 2006
Kurt Nimmo
It’s a good thing I don’t live in St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana. If I did, I’d refuse to accept the authority of DynCorp, the renta-cop and mercenary corporation that may soon replace the police in the storm-ravaged parish. Chances are I’d end up injured or dead at a checkpoint because DynCorp, a for-profit private military contractor, has a reputation “for brutality and recklessness,” according to Jeremy Scahill, writing for the Nation magazine. “DynCorp has even been rebuked by the U.S. State Department for its ‘aggressive behavior’ in interactions with European diplomats, NATO forces and journalists. A BBC News correspondent even witnessed one of the guards slapping an Afghan government minister.” If DynCorp thugs slap around Afghan ministers, imagine what they would do to a non-cooperative American commoner.

Not long ago, citizens elected police chiefs, or they were appointed by elected city and county officials, and police chiefs went about hiring qualified police officers, usually from the community. Not anymore. Now law enforcement is increasingly militarized and military duties are jobbed out to the likes of DynCorp and Blackwater. “These guys run loose in this country [Iraq] and do stupid stuff. There’s no authority over them, so you can’t come down on them hard when they escalate force,” Brigadier General Karl Horst, deputy commander of the Third Infantry Division in charge of security in Baghdad, complained in September, 2005. “They shoot people, and someone else has to deal with the aftermath. It happens all over the place.” If you don’t think likewise may happen in St. Bernard Parish, think again. If DynCorp does not answer to the Pentagon, why should they answer to a sheriff in Louisiana?

DynCorp’s track record is abysmal. Its bodyguards working for interim president Boniface Alexandre in Haiti “beat at least two journalists trying to cover a presidential event” and other DynCorp employees were friendly with several feared Tonton Macoutes leaders (Tonton Macoute, Haitian Creole for bogeymen, is a secret police modeled after the Italian fascist Blackshirts, known for killing and torturing the dictator “Papa Doc” François Duvalier’s opponents, on occasion publicly hanging corpses as gruesome warnings). “DynCorp has always functioned as a cut-out for Pentagon and CIA covert operations,” especially in Haiti, explain Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn. It is a nightmare to consider these Pentagon and CIA “cut-outs” may be directing traffic and arresting pot dealers in America soon.

DynCorp’s record is worse than abysmal—it comes in near the bottom of the criminal food chain. According to the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization Act (RICO) lawsuit filed in Texas on behalf of a former DynCorp aircraft mechanic, writes Kelly Patricia O Meara for Insight magazine, “in the latter part of 1999 [Ben Johnston, DynCorp whistleblower] learned that employees and supervisors from DynCorp were engaging in perverse, illegal and inhumane behavior [and] were purchasing illegal weapons, women, forged passports and [participating in] other immoral acts [in Bosnia]. Johnston witnessed coworkers and supervisors literally buying and selling women for their own personal enjoyment, and employees would brag about the various ages and talents of the individual slaves they had purchased.”

It appears a number of DynCorp employees were in cahoots with United Nations officers who set up a flourishing sex trade in the Balkans. According to Amnesty International, the United Nations and NATO “peacekeepers” (or pimps) “trafficked women and girls for sex” in Kosovo, the BBC reported on May 6, 2004. The Amnesty International “report includes harrowing testimonies of abduction, deprivation of liberty and denial of freedom of movement, torture and ill-treatment, including psychological threats, beatings and rape” of women from Moldova, Bulgaria, and the Ukraine.

“DynCorp employees in Bosnia, where the company plays a major policing role, have engaged in organized sex-slave trading with girls as young as 12, and DynCorp’s Bosnia site supervisor was filmed raping a woman,” Scahill responded after Stephen J. Cannon, president and CEO of DynCorp International, wrote a letter to the Nation complaining about a Scahill article describing the behavior of “DynCorp, Intercon, American Security Group, Blackhawk, Wackenhut and an Israeli company called Instinctive Shooting International” in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. “The company’s initial response was to fire the whistleblowers,” Scahill adds. “The employees involved in the sex ring were transferred out of the country. Some were eventually fired, although none were ever criminally prosecuted. One of the whistleblowers told Congress, ‘DynCorp is the worst diplomat our country could ever want overseas.’” No doubt it will the worst possible cop in St. Bernard Parish, as well.

DynCorp is also in trouble for spraying “toxic herbicides over 14 percent of the entire land mass of the nation of Colombia, purportedly to eliminate coca crops,” writes Al Giordano for Narco News. “Although DynCorp’s taxpayer-sponsored biological warfare [dubbed Plan Colombia] has not made a dent in the cocaine trade, it has caused more than 1,100 documented cases of illness among citizens, destroyed untold acres of food crops, displaced tens of thousands of peasant farmers, and harmed the fragile Amazon ecosystem.” In addition to poisoning South Americans, DynCorp, according to Giordano, “has also been exposed for contracting mercenary soldiers-of-fortune for the covert activities of the US-imposed ‘Plan Colombia,’” a direct and illegal intervention in the low intensity conflict in Colombia, a civil war going back to 1948. In other words, as in Haiti, DynCorp rubs elbows with vicious paramilitary thugs in Colombia, described by Adam Weiss as “among the most brutal human rights violators in the world today.”

In the first paragraph of the Washington Post article announcing the possibility of DynCorp renta-cops (or in the case of Bosnia, renta-whore-mongers) patrolling St. Bernard Parish, we are told this is necessary because “hundreds of stark white trailers soon to be inhabited by Hurricane Katrina evacuees” will “hide criminals and become an incubator for crime” and pose “another test” for the “cash-strapped sheriff’s department” of the parish. “The FBI has warned that gangs such as Mara Salvatrucha, also known as MS-13, could come attached to construction crews and establish operations, prompting the department to establish a strike team that has already arrested eight alleged members,” police officials told the Post, never mind that the Border Patrol in McAllen, Texas, is having difficulty preventing Mara Salvatrucha from crossing the wide-open border. “Stretched thin, the department is ready to turn to private contractors to head off what it fears will be an increase in crime as construction in the parish booms and residents adjust to life in cramped trailers,” or what will essentially become a concentration camp patrolled by for-profit mercenaries.

It would seem the idea to unleash a tarnished DynCorp on the residents of St. Bernard Parish was suggested by FEMA. “The department did not hold a competition before recommending DynCorp for the work but would consider other contactors if FEMA recommended it,” Maj. Pete Tufaro, head of the sheriff’s department, told the Post. “The department thinks DynCorp is the cheapest alternative, noting that it would charge less than $700 per day, compared with the $950 a day charged by Blackwater, he said.” In short, no matter how you look at it, the people of St. Bernard Parish will be under privatized martial law. “Under the plan, DynCorp employees working for the sheriff’s department would take over security at several FEMA trailer sites and establish three highway checkpoints.” Exactly why the residents of Louisiana need security and checkpoints is not explained. Maybe it has something to do with Mara Salvatrucha, but then again it more likely has something to do with incubating a police state.

No doubt, as the economy implodes and a “prospective increase in the budget deficit” places at risk the “living standards of our country,” as new central banker head honcho Ben “Helicopter” Bernanke responded to questions posed by a concerned Congress critter recently, the services of DynCorp and Blackwater will be required to contain food riots and mass panic. Our nation, thanks to Bush and the long-running fiat money polices of Bernanke’s ilk, faces an economic Katrina, a typhoon poised to swamp and wash away the lives of millions of people. Sooner before later, “stark white trailers” will be needed to house the dispossessed, and the checkpoints and concentration camp perimeters will be patrolled by the likes of DynCorp.

Come the economic disaster or the next terrorist “event,” it may be a good idea to lock up your 12-year old daughter.

Kurt Nimmo
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Editorial: The Politics of Language, Escalation or "Retaliation" - Israeli Attacks on Palestinians

James Petras
December 26, 2005
Thus what appears as objective reportage on two sets of military actions, is in fact an arbitrary selection of time frames which lays the basis for a highly biased interpretive framework. The pro-Israeli tilt, evident in the chosen time sequence, and the framework, are derived from the general ideological argument which portrays Israel as a democracy, defending itself from Arab-Muslim terrorists and not an expansionist colonial power engaged in violent ethnic cleansing and large-scale long-term forced population expulsion.

What is absent from the reportage of the prestigious "news" accounts is the sequence of events preceding the Palestinian attacks. Here we are likely to find a series of Israeli military incursions, bombings and killing of non-combatants, summary executions of political prisoners, as well as arbitrary arrests, home demolitions and illegal (even by colonial standards) land seizures.

An examination of readily available, well-documented weekly reports by Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR), throws a wholly different light on the context and framework for understanding the sequence of events and, equally important, the nature and goals of the Israeli state.

For the week of December 8-14, 2005, the PCHR recorded:
- 10 Palestinians killed by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) of which 7 of victims were extra-judicially executed by the IOF in the Gaza Strip.
- 34 Palestinian civilians, including 17 children were wounded by the IOF.
- IOF attacked civilian targets in the Gaza Strip
- IOF conducted 40 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank
- Houses were raided and 91 Palestinian civilians; including, university professors, parliamentary candidates and 4 children were arrested.
- The closure of the Moslem Youth Association in Hebron for 2 years
- A Palestinian house was seized, its occupants evicted and it was transformed into an IOF military site.
- IOF continued a total siege on the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and imposed severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians in the West Bank.
- IOF arrested 12 Palestinian civilians, including 6 children, at various checkpoints in the West Bank.
- IOF used rubber-coated metal bullets to disperse peaceful demonstrations protesting the Annexation Wall wounding a child and 6 demonstrators.
- Israeli settlers continued to attack Palestinian civilians and property in the OPT, while the IOF confiscated land from several Palestinian villages, near Bethlehem, Hebron and Jerusalem evicting 30 Palestinian families.

In this context Palestinian military actions are clearly defensive of community, family and livelihood.

A survey of previous reports covering 2005, indicates that the data for the week of December 8-14, 2005 was fairly representative of Israeli activity. If we were to multiply the weekly findings by years: 52 X 5 X military assaults???? We would capture the magnitude of Israeli offensive military action. The overwhelming evidence, both in terms of scale, scope and time frame of Israeli military attacks clearly points to persistent Israeli offensive activities linked to territorial expansion, colonial oppression and ethnic cleansing.

The indiscriminant attacks on civilians and children, the systematic destruction and blockage of essential transportation and travel routes, and the vigorous application of policies of collective guilt (arresting family members of suspected guerrillas, the blowing up of family homes of suspects) have everything to do with destroying the basis of economic activity, the social fabric of civil society and family networks.

The empirical evidence provides the basis for concluding that Israeli military attacks on Palestinians, by their systematic and continuous nature, are not retaliatory; they are clearly detonators of Palestinian military responses. Israelis are not victims rather victimizers, as it evident from a multiplicity of actions: seizing homes, land, prisoners, transport routes etc. The initiative and design of the Israeli actions are directed at intimidating and impoverishing Palestinians and ultimately forcing them to abandon their country to achieve the goal of a "pure Jewish state" based on rabbinically approved "blood ties" not dissimilar from previous racialist clerical regimes.

The respectable media's constant reiteration of the colonialist "retaliatory" rhetoric can be seen as a propaganda weapon designed to obfuscate Israeli ethnic cleansing and its military expansion, and the underlying racialist-clerical underpinnings of its strategic goal of a pure Jewish state. The media's choice of works – adjectives and verbs – is part of a cultural war, which is embedded in the structural hegemony of pro-Israeli followers and supporters.
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Israel - Killing Peace

Israel captures jailed Palestinians

Wednesday 15 March 2006

Six Palestinian fighters inside a West Bank prison in Jericho have surrendered to Israeli forces, almost 10 hours after Israeli troops laid siege to the compound.

Among those who surrendered was Ahmad Saadat, leader of a PLO faction and mastermind of the 2001 assassination of an Israeli cabinet minister, the Israeli military announced on Tuesday.

The main targets of the raid were Saadat and four accomplices in the killing of Rehavam Zeevi, the Israeli tourism minister in 2001.

In addition, Israeli forces seized Fuad Shubaki, the mastermind of an "illegal" weapons shipment to the Palestinian Authority several years ago.

Israel's West Bank commander, Major-General Yair Naveh, said 15 others were also arrested.

Earlier, Israeli troops took control of the prison compound in an operation to arrest jailed Palestinian resistance leaders.

Gunfire rang out and explosions rocked the area as Israeli forces launched their raid on Tuesday.

Bulldozers pulled down the compound as Israeli troops called through loudspeakers on Ahmad Saadat, the leader of the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and his comrades to surrender.

Saadat and three other PFLP members have been jailed in Jericho, a prison under US and British supervision, since August 2002 after his faction claimed the killing of Zeevi the Israeli minister.
But at least 150 Palestinian prisoners and guards gave themselves up, Israeli military sources said.

Gideon Ezra, Israeli public security minister, confirmed that troops were on a mission to arrest the four PFLP members almost a week after Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, reiterated that he was ready to free Saadat.

The slain guard was named by a Palestinian security source as Ibrahim Abu al-Amin. He was shot dead inside the compound by Israeli gunfire.


The agreement that kept six Palestinian prisoners under foreign watch in a Jericho jail was forged in an effort to end the Israeli siege of then-Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's headquarters in the West Bank City of Ram Allah four years ago.

Israeli troops had surrounded the compound during Operation Defensive Shield in April 2002, demanding Arafat should turn over the six men who had sought refuge inside.

George Bush, the US president, negotiatedd the deal with Ariel Sharon, then the Israeli prime minister, that sent the six men to a Palestinian prison in Jericho. In return, Israeli soldiers pulled back from Arafat's compound.

After winning Palestinian parliamentary elections on 25 January, Hamas leaders said they wanted to release Saadat.

In a lecture at a women's gathering in West Bank on 7 March, Abbas said he would not mind releasing Saadat if PFLP sent him a written promise saying the movement would not hold the PA responsible for anything that might happen to Saadat after his release.

US and British officials sent a letter to Abbas last week, accusing the Palestinians of repeatedly violating the agreement and saying the security situation at the prison needed to be improved immediately or the monitors would leave.

The Israeli operation on Tuesday drew a furious response from Ismail Haniya, Hamas' prime minister-designate, who criticised the "dangerous escalation" and warned Israel against any attempt on the life of Saadat and his comrades.

For his part, the Israeli public security minister told public radio: "This operation was ordered by the prime minister in the fight against terrorism. We are committed to the murderers of minister Rehavam Zeevi remaining behind bars."

A spokesman for the Palestinian interior ministry in Gaza City said the British and the Americans had left the premises shortly before the operation began.

"We have information that the British and Americans left the prison this morning," Tawfiq Abu Khussa told AFP.

Israel warned

"The Americans and British left 15 minutes before the operation started. The Israelis asked the police and security forces to drop their weapons and not resist. If they refused, they said they would assault the compound," Abu Khussa said.

"We warn Israel against any incursion in the prison because it is under American and British control by international agreement."

Aljazeera's correspondent in Palestine Walid al-Umari quoted witnesses as saying that about 20 Israeli military vehicles on Tuesday surrounded the Palestinian presidential office and the Jericho prison.

The jail housed leftist Palestinian
politician Ahmad Saadat (file)

The forces imposed a curfew on the area adjacent to the prison amid intense shootings.

"We have been informed that gunfire was heard in the area, but no information whether the raid was targeting Saadat or surrounding the headquarters where many Palestinian activists are present," al-Umari said.

Mosques across Jericho called on citizens over loudspeakers to flock to the muqataa to protect the soldiers and prisoners inside the compound.

There were also demonstrations across the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Hamas leader-in-exile Khalid Mishaal warned Israel against harming Saadat, saying it would be responsible for the consequences of its raid on the prison.

Mishaal's statement

Speaking to Aljazeera, Mishaal also called on Palestinians to rally around the Jericho jail, being bombarded by Israeli troops.

"We condemn this Israeli crime and hold Israel responsible for any consequences arising from this crime and warn them against harming Ahmed Saadat ... and all the prisoners in Jericho," said Mishaal.

"I call on our people in Jericho to throng around the Jericho prison," he added.

Mishaal called on the UN, Muslim and Arab countries and the international community to "take urgent measures to stop this crime".

Comment: Note that the prison was under British and US control. It is indeed very interesting (if that is the correct term) that Israel (and the US and Britain) can feel justified in ordering the arrest of a Palestinian leader for murdering an Israeli leader yet the Israeli politicians that have given the green light to the assassination of Palestinian leaders (and civilians) over the years feel they are should not suffer the same fate. Behind this line of thinking is that Palestinian leaders are terrorists who will not live peacefully with Israel and want its destruction, yet we see that the fact suggest that the oppostite is true - it is Israel that wants to wipe Palestine from the face of the earth and is committed to never negotiating any peace settlement with Palestinians. At the heart of this is enedmic racism within the Israeli elite, a racism which is shared by members of the British and American elite.

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Israel Vows to Keep Large West Bank Settlement Blocs

By Jim Teeple
14 March 2006

Israel's acting prime minister on Tuesday vowed to include a large West Bank settlement in his plan to unilaterally draw Israel's border with Palestinians. The comments come just two weeks before Israelis vote in general elections on March 28.

Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told residents of the settlement of Ariel that he plans to include the settlement town inside Israel, as part of his plan to draw Israel's final borders with the Palestinians by 2010.

Mr. Olmert says the Ariel settlement is part of Israel and will remain so forever. He says he hopes he will be able to insure that Ariel's territorial contiguity with Israel will be formalized in a border agreement by the year 2010.

At the same time Mr. Olmert says he intends to pursue negotiations based on the "road map peace plan," which calls on Israelis and Palestinians to reach a negotiated settlement towards a two-state solution.

Ariel which is about 60 kilometers north of Jerusalem lies in the heart of the West Bank. In recent days Mr. Olmert has said he intends to evacuate some West Bank settlements and move settlers who live in those settlements, to three large settlement blocs in the West Bank, including Ariel.

Akiva Aldar, a columnist with the daily Ha'aretz newspaper says the plan is popular with some Israelis who like the idea of unilaterally withdrawing from some Palestinian territory, and who do not see Palestinians as a reliable negotiating partners.

"I think you have all kinds of possible scenarios here that will be based on a platform that is suggesting interim arrangements and agreements and unilateralism, and the same kind of disengagement that does not require difficult decisions such as final status settlements, refugees and especially Jerusalem," he said.

Mr. Olmert says he has briefed U.S. officials about his plan to unilaterally draw Israel's final borders. The Israeli prime minister has said that since the militant group Hamas won Palestinian parliamentary elections Israel does not have a Palestinian partner to negotiate with. However, in a sign that Mr. Olmert may be softening his position, a key ally of Mr. Olmert, former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, held talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Sunday in Jordan.

U.S. officials, including President Bush, say they believe Israel will hold onto some settlement blocs in any agreement with the Palestinians, but that Israel should halt any further settlement construction in the West Bank, including construction that links large settlement blocs like Ariel to Israeli territory.

Comment: The fact that this act amounts to a crime against humanity and is in direction contravention to several international laws and conventions seems to be insignificant, both for the Israeli government and the international community. Where will it all lead? Wait and see, but it is not going to be pretty and will surely involve the massacreing of hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

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Israel had advance word monitors would leave jail

Tue Mar 14, 2006

JERUSALEM - Israel received advance word from the United States that foreign monitors were preparing to withdraw from a West Bank prison which Israeli forces raided on Tuesday to seize Palestinian militants, U.S. officials said.

Militants and the Arab League have accused the United States and Britain of colluding with Israel by withdrawing the monitors from the Jericho prison to clear the way for the capture of Ahmed Saadat and five other militants jailed there.

The United States said it was not part of any plot. But U.S. officials told Reuters Washington had given Israel a copy of a March 8 letter it sent to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas saying monitors could be withdrawn at once unless security conditions were met.

Israel launched its surprise raid on the prison minutes after U.S. and British monitors abandoned the building.

A day-long Israeli siege resulted in the capture of Saadat and sparked attacks on U.S. and British buildings by angry Palestinians and several kidnappings of foreigners.

Israeli Major-General Yair Naveh said there had been no coordination with the United States and Britain, but that Israeli forces began preparing for the raid weeks ago, after learning that international monitors planned to leave.

Naveh said Israel conducted observation missions and pre-positioned enough forces in the area to mount the raid at short notice.

In the March 8 letter, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, the United States and Britain told Abbas that the monitors would be withdrawn "with immediate effect" unless the Palestinian Authority addressed their concerns.

They also expressed concern that Hamas Islamic militants, who won Palestinian elections in January, would free Saadat and the other prisoners after forming a new government. Abbas had also said publicly he would be prepared to free Saadat.

"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 said.

Saadat was the leader of a Palestinian faction accused of killing an Israeli cabinet minister in 2001.

He was jailed in Jericho in 2002 under a U.S.-brokered deal between Israel and the Palestinian Authority that called for the United States and British to monitor them.

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Palestinians grind to halt, three foreigners kidnapped

Wed Mar 15, 5:14 AM ET

GAZA CITY - The Palestinian territories ground to a halt under a general strike to protest against an Israeli army raid of a West Bank prison, as the authorities braced for further violence.

Three foreign journalists remained hostages of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine for the second day in the Gaza Strip, as thousands of Israeli troops deployed on high alert for possible revenge attacks.

Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas was en route home after cutting short a tour of key European cities to manage the crisis sparked by Israel's capture of PFLP leader Ahmed Saadat and five other wanted militants in Jericho.
Businesses remained shuttered and schools closed across the Gaza Strip and West Bank after all Palestinian factions united to order a strike late Tuesday.

Palestinian security forces, ordered to respond with live fire to attacks against Western interests, remained on high alert after the Israeli operation sparked an unprecedented wave of security anarchy.

Two Palestinian security guards were killed and 26 others wounded, five of them critically, in the Israeli assault that ended with its aim: the capture of Saadat, four other PFLP cohorts and wanted Fatah member Fuad Shubaki.

The Israeli government strenuously denied that the raid -- less than a fortnight before a general election -- was motivated by political considerations, but kept security forces on high alert.

"Thousands of police officers, border guards and volunteers have been mobilised in sensitive areas of Israeli territory," police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld told AFP.

Security was also beefed up around foreign interests, notably British and American offices, after Anglo-US targets suffered the brunt of unrest that inflamed the Palestinian territories on Tuesday.

A senior Palestinian official said that Abbas, in Jordan for talks with Prime Minister Maaruf Bakhit, would demand Israel hand Saadat and his colleagues back to their former custody arrangements immediately.

"We will ask the Israeli side to hand back Ahmed Saadat and his colleagues immediately," chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said.

Saadat and three other PFLP members had been kept in Jericho under US and British supervision, since August 2002 after his militant faction claimed the 2001 killing of Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Zeevi.

"When Abu Mazen returns he will meet with the Palestinian leadership to discuss what happened yesterday at all levels and how the Palestinian Authority will conduct their policy after the Israeli attack on Jericho," Erakat said.

Although at least 10 foreigners were kidnapped in a wave of attacks to protest against the raid and perceived British collusion, just two French journalists and a South Korean television correspondent remained in captivity.

The PFLP said the three were still being held "because the Palestinian Authority had not managed to protect Ahmed Saadat". The leftist faction earlier vowed that their leader's capture would not pass without retaliation.

The French hostages were named as Caroline Laurent, a correspondent for Elle magazine, and SIPA agency photographer Alfred Yacobzadeh, who was also kidnapped in Beirut during the 1975-90 Lebanese civil war.

Seoul named their missing national as Yong Tae-young, 41, a correspondent for public broadcaster KBS, as the Korean government rushed to send an envoy to the Gaza Strip in a bid to secure his release.

Washington and the United States called for calm as Israel defended the operation amid mounting questions over why three British monitors at the prison were removed just minutes before the raid began.

Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was quoted as telling a Russian-language newspaper that he "did not expedite the actions of the IDF (army)" when ordering the storming of the prison.

Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz insisted that Israel had no alterative as he claimed the Palestinian Authority was on the verge of freeing those suspected of being behind Zeevi's assassination.

"We have not been operating in Jericho for electoral reasons ... We had no choice but to intervene as no responsible state could allow the murderers of one of its ministers to be at liberty," Mofaz told Israeli public radio.

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Three remaining foreign hostages in Gaza freed

Wed Mar 15, 2006

GAZA - Three remaining foreign hostages kidnapped during a wave of violence in the Gaza Strip were freed on Wednesday, Palestinian militants said.

Militants angered at an Israeli raid on a West Bank jail seized the two French nationals and a South Korean on Tuesday. The three, all journalists, were among nine foreigners snatched in Gaza and the West Bank. The others were freed shortly after their capture.

Comment: But how can this be?! Don't all terrorists chop the heads of their hostages, especially if those hostages could in some way be beneficial to the terrorits? Maybe Palestinian militants are not terrorits after all, and maybe the real terrorists have US and Israeli flags tattooed on their arms.

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Israel/Occupied Territories: Palestinian prisoners at risk of being killed by Israeli forces

Amnesty International Press Release
14 March 2006

Amnesty International is deeply concerned about the safety of Palestinian detainees in Jericho Prison. The prison is currently surrounded by Israeli forces who have threatened to kill detainees who refuse to surrender to them.

The detainees most at risk are Ahmad Saadat, leader of the Palestinian Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), and four other Palestinians who have been detained at Jericho Prison since 2002 despite a court decision ordering their release. While detained under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Ahmad Saadat and his four co-detainees have been held under the supervision of guards provided by the UK and US in accordance with an agreement reached between these states and Israel and the PA. They, together with a sixth Palestinian detainee, Fuad Shubaki, wanted by Israel on charges of smuggling weapons, are the principal targets of today's Israeli military action and are particularly at risk of being killed by Israeli forces.
This morning, after US and UK guards withdrew from Jericho Prison, Israeli forces moved in and surrounded the prison. They demolished its walls with armoured bulldozers and, using megaphones, called on the inmates to surrender. There are reports that one Palestinian guard and one Palestinian prisoner were killed as the Israeli forces moved in. Israeli officials say they took action in order to arrest Ahmad Saadat and his co-detainees because the PA was intending to release them.

The UK and US contributed to perpetuating an extra-legal arrangement over the past four years during which Ahmad Saadat and his co-detainees were held arbitrarily by the PA. The sudden departure of the US and UK guards today contributed to the escalation of the situation that we are currently witnessing.

Amnesty International holds the Israeli authorities responsible for the safety of the detainees and staff in Jericho Prison. The organization reiterates its call on the Israeli authorities to end their policy of assassinations and excessive use of lethal force.

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Arab League head accuses UK, US in Jericho raid

Tue Mar 14, 2006

DUBAI- Arab League chief Amr Moussa said on Tuesday Israel had coordinated its attempt to capture a jailed Palestinian militant with Britain and the United States, who withdrew monitors from the West Bank jail ahead of the raid.

"Clearly, there is some sort of coordination," he told Al Jazeera television by phone. "This (withdrawal of U.S. and British monitors) raises obvious question marks."

Moussa said he was in touch with Arab and international leaders, including U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, to "bring a swift and complete end to this dangerous and strange (Israeli) intervention".

"This is a dangerous indicator about Israel's future policies," he added.

Israeli forces blasted their way into the West Bank prison to try to seize Ahmed Saadat, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), storming in after U.S. and British monitors withdrew

Comment: So what was the real raeson for the deadly fiasco at teh Jericho jail?...

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Election provocation in Jericho to exacerbate the conflict.

Gush Shalom Press release

At this moment in Jericho, the main elections gimmick of the Kadima Party and its leader Ehud Olmert is taking place with hundreds of Israeli soldiers and Palestinian prisoners drafted to serve as extras. This gimmick, designed to draw extreme right votes in the March 28 elections, shows Kadima as an adventurist and irresponsible party in whose hands it is dangerous to entrust the helm of state" says Gush Shalom (The Israeli Peace Bloc).

In cooperation with the governments of the US and Britain, whose removal of their observers from the Jericho Prison proves them utterly incapable of any mediation role between Israelis and Palestinians, PM Olmert and Defence Minister Mofaz are carrying out a provocation which will only exacerbate the conflict and hatred. Theirs will be the full responsibility for bloodshed of Israelis and Palestinians, in the course of the Jericho provocation itself and in the cycle of retaliation upon retaliation which may follow.

It should be noted that the people which the army was sent to Jericho to capture or kill are marked out because, when taking revenge for the targeted killing of their own leader, they did not kill innocent civilians. They selected Rehav'am Ze'evi, a general turned politician who was the foremost of Israeli racists and who built a political career upon crude hate propaganda. A targeted killing…"

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UK govt urges British to leave Palestinian territories after Israel raid

LONDON (AFX) - The British foreign ministry has urged all British nationals who do not have proper security to leave the Palestinian territories amid rising tension in the region.

"We urge all British nationals who do not have adequate and continuous professional close security protection to leave the Occupied Territories," said a statement from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

The latest call escalates an appeal earlier today which advised British nationals against all travel to the Palestinian territories following what it said were "serious threats" against British and US nationals, according to the Jerusalem consulate.

"We are advising against all travel to the occupied territories following serious threats against UK and US nationals," a consulate spokeswoman said.
Britain had previously advised against non-essential travel to all the territories except for the West Bank town of Ramallah but the British cultural centre there was ransacked by hundreds of angry protestors.

The anger followed Britain's withdrawal of three monitors from a prison run with Anglo-US supervision in the West Bank town of Jericho just minutes before a massive Israeli assault.

Around 180 Palestinians were taken into Israeli custody during the raid on the prison compound in Jericho, a military spokesman said.

"We have detained around 180 people at this point. I stress that right now they're not officially under arrest," he told Agence France-Presse.

Israeli troops backed by tanks and helicopters stormed the prison compound to seize militants held over the assassination of an Israeli minister in 2001.

"We haven't arrested any of those we've come to arrest yet," the army spokesman added.

The raid sparked a wave of violent demonstrations against British and US targets in Gaza City and the West Bank town of Ramallah as well as the British consulate in the Gaza Strip and a branch of Britain's HSBC bank in Ramallah.

Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas has appealed for calm and urged Palestinians to refrain from attacking foreign and EU interests in the Palestinian territories.

"President Abbas calls on all Palestinian people not to turn the protest against the Israeli attack on the Jericho prison into violent action against cultural centres of the European Union or any other country," a statement said.

Abbas "regretted the violence in Gaza and warned against exploiting feelings of anger", the statement added, saying that the Palestinian Authority took all responsibility for protecting the foreign buildings.

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American Fascism

Judge deals blow in Moussaoui trial

Tue Mar 14, 2006
By Deborah Charles

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia - In a sharp blow to the U.S. government's only case connected to the September 11 hijackings, a federal judge on Tuesday said sentencing for Zacarias Moussaoui could go ahead but without critical aviation-related testimony and evidence.

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema had considered throwing out the death penalty case after discovering that a government lawyer had improperly shared information with witnesses.

After a day-long hearing, she decided to resume on Monday the trial that will determine if Moussaoui, who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy in connection with the hijacked airliner attacks, will be executed.

But Brinkema said the Federal Aviation Administration and Transportation Security Administration witnesses who had been contacted by government lawyer Carla Martin would not be able to testify and evidence from them would not be allowed.

"I am removing from this case any and all witnesses and evidence dealing with the aviation component," Brinkema said.

"What we have in this case ... is that six witnesses -- two for the government and four potential defense witnesses, were tainted," she said.

Aviation-related testimony was expected to deal with how much information the FAA had about possible threats to airlines and also discuss pre-September 11 security measures. The prosecution had argued the witnesses were vital, with the aviation portion of the government's argument representing about half of the evidence of Moussaoui's guilt.

The government is trying to prove that if Moussaoui had not lied to the FBI when he was arrested three weeks before September 11, the FAA would been able to thwart the attacks through increased security measures on airplanes.

Brinkema's ruling was greeted with dismay by relatives of people who died on September 11.

"I felt like my heart had been ripped out. I felt like my husband had been killed again," said Rosemary Dillard, whose husband Eddie was killed when a plane smashed into the Pentagon. "I felt like the government has let me down once again."

Comment: What's the problem? The guy's Muslim and he looks a little scary in that photo, so he obviously guilty!

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Flashback: Webmaster cleared of promoting terrorism (after US Gov ruins his life)

By John Leyden
Friday 11th June 2004

First Amendment defence wins through

A US jury yesterday cleared a Saudi graduate student of running websites that allegedly fostered terrorism.

Sami Omar Al-Hussayen, 34, a computer science student at the University of Idaho, was accused of running websites used to recruit terrorists, raise money and spread inflammatory rhetoric. The Islamic Assembly of North America websites were used by Al-Hussayen to run religious edicts defending suicide bombing and to solicit money for the militant Palestinian group Hamas, prosecutors alleged. The defence said Al-Hussayen was only a volunteer webmaster.

Al-Hussayen was charged with three terrorism-related charges as well as immigration and visa fraud offences. The closely-watched case was seen as a test of the newly-enacted Patriot Act.

But during the seven-week case the prosecution failed to convince a jury that Al-Hussayen had used his technical expertise to support terrorist activity. After seven days of deliberation, the jury found him not guilty of the three terrorism-related charges and three immigration offences. The jury failed to reach a verdict on a further eight counts of immigration and visa fraud. A mistrial was declared on those charges, which may become the subject of a second court case.

David Nevin, Al-Hussayen's lawyer, told AP that his client had "little to do with creating the material posted", which he said was protected by First Amendment rights to freedom of expression.

Al-Hussayen, who has been imprisoned since his February 2003 arrest, still faces deportation. The son of a prominent Riyadh family, Al-Hussayen worked on his doctorate in prison while his wife and three children returned to Saudi Arabia earlier this year, rather than contest deportation.

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Justice Department looks at lawyers

Mark Sherman
Associated Press

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department is investigating its lawyers' conduct in sending terrorism suspects to jail when there was insufficient evidence to charge them with a crime.

At issue is the material witness law that Congress passed in 1984 to allow for the arrest and detention of witnesses who might flee before testifying in criminal cases.

The investigation began after a report by two civil liberties groups said the Bush administration had used the law to detain at least 70 people since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The disclosure came from the inspector general, Glenn Fine, in a semiannual report required by the Patriot Act.

The department's Office of Professional Responsibility, which reviews allegations of misconduct, is looking into the cases of 13 individuals and one group of eight people who were detained together, Fine said.

They were not further identified. The group appears to be the eight Egyptian men from Evansville, Ind., who were held for about a week in 2001 on material witness warrants when one of their wives falsely accused them of planning a suicide attack.

The government has apologized to them and to at least five other people detained under that law.

At least 30 of the 70 prisoners were never called to testify before a court or grand jury, the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch reported in June.

Only 28 people were charged with a crime and most of those charges were unrelated to terrorism, the groups said. Seven were charged with providing material support to terrorist organizations.

Fine's report also catalogs potential violations by the FBI of laws and regulations relating to national security investigations. The bureau reported 108 instances in the past two years of tapping the wrong telephone number, intercepting the wrong e-mail, continuing to listen in on communications even though the warrant had expired and other problems.

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FBI Spied on Pittsburgh Pacifists, Papers Show

March 14, 2006

PITTSBURGH (Reuters) - FBI anti-terrorism agents spied on a peace group simply because it opposed the Iraq war, part of an "unprecedented campaign" to spy on innocent citizens, the American Civil Liberties Union said on Tuesday.

FBI documents acquired under the Freedom of Information Act and provided to reporters show the FBI conducted surveillance of the Pittsburgh-based Thomas Merton Center for Peace & Justice at anti-war demonstrations and leaflet distributions in 2002 and 2003.

One of the FBI documents, unveiled at a news conference by the two groups, carried the headline ``International Terrorism Matters'' and referred to the FBI's work with an anti-terrorism task force that includes several agencies.

Another FBI document said the Pittsburgh Joint Terrorism Task Force had learned that ``The Thomas Merton Center ... has been determined to be an organization which is opposed to the United States' war with Iraq.''

A separate document noted, ``One female leaflet distributor who appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent, inquired if (confidential source's name withheld) was an FBI agent. No other TMC participants appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent.''

FBI officials in Pittsburgh said the bureau was engaged in legitimate investigations, and in one case dropped the probe upon determining a person photographed at one demonstration was not whom they were looking for.

``We had a legitimate purpose for being there,'' FBI special agent Bill Crowley said, referring to a November 2002 protest.

The ACLU said the spying fit a pattern of federal abuse following the September 11 attacks. U.S. President George W. Bush has generally received high marks from the public for taking a strong hand in security matters.

``From the FBI to the Pentagon to the National Security Agency, this administration has embarked on an unprecedented campaign to spy on innocent Americans,'' Ann Beeson, associate legal director of the ACLU, said in a statement.


An FBI memo dated November 2002 said the Merton Center ''holds daily leaflet distribution activities in downtown Pittsburgh and is currently focused on its opposition to the potential war in Iraq.'' The war began in March 2003.

The memo called the Merton Center ``a left-wing organization advocating, among many political causes, pacifism.''

The FBI acknowledged the report sounded as if it were reporting on the activities of an anti-war group, but said ''such a characterization would be factually misleading.''

The agent was pursuing leads ``from another source possibly establishing a link between an ongoing investigation and the group engaging in anti-war protests. Finding no such link, he terminated his surveillance,'' the FBI said in a statement.

Although previously disclosed documents showed the FBI was retaining files on anti-war groups, the ACLU said these documents were the first to show conclusively that the FBI targeted the Merton Center because of its pacifism.

``We know that this surveillance is about the political views of the Thomas Merton Center because that's what the documents say,'' said Mary Catherine Roper, an attorney with the Pittsburgh ACLU.

Merton Center director Jim Kleissler said his group filed the request for FBI documents because its members believed they were being spied on by the FBI in 2002 and 2003 while they protested against the imminent war in Iraq.

Kleissler said he was not particularly surprised to find that his group was being investigated by the FBI "but we were surprised that it was so closely tied to terrorism."

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Web search blows CIA spooks' cover

Matt Chapman
14 Mar 2006

Personal details of thousands of CIA staff can be found online, according to a report in the Chicago

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".

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Biometric Data Keeps Captured Terrorists Behind Bars

by Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Mar 15, 2006

Washington DC - A high-tech Defense Department identification system has linked some captured terrorists to previous crimes and prevented their release from overseas detention facilities, senior defense officials said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing here March 10.

"I understand that the (defense) department is collecting biometric information from individuals detained in Iraq and for forensic investigations of (improvised explosive device) attacks," Texas Sen. John Cornyn, chairman of the SASC's emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee, said to Paul McHale, assistant secretary of defense for homeland security.
"Consistent with applicable law, we are aggressively using biometrics for the purposes that you described, Senator," McHale answered. DoD established standard procedures for collecting biometrics information about a year and a half ago and provided that system to overseas U.S. combatant commands, McHale said.

Biometrics is defined as measurable physical or behavioral characteristics that can be used to identify people. Terrorists in Iraq often employ IEDs, or roadside bombs, against U.S., coalition, and Iraqi military forces and civilians.

Cornyn also asked McHale if DoD was sharing its detainee biometrics information with the U.S. Departments of Justice, State or Homeland Security, so that detainees who might escape could be prevented from entering the United States to do mischief.

McHale responded that DoD's detainee biometrics information databank is collocated with the FBI and is also shared with the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies.

The biometrics program used for identifying detainees "is an extraordinary success story," McHale said. In many instances, he added, that biometric data has kept dangerous detainees safely under lock and key.

"We have linked that data to specific individuals and in specific cases have kept them in custody under circumstances, where but for that biometric data, they might have been released," McHale said.

Similar systems are being used to improve force protection at U.S. military bases in Iraq. During a demonstration conducted in the Washington, D.C., area in May 2005, officials showed how biographical data, facial photographs, fingerprints and iris scans can be employed to develop ID cards that can't be counterfeited, ideal for use by Iraqis and other non-U.S. citizens who work on U.S. bases in Iraq.

The need for a better way to screen people coming onto U.S. bases in Iraq was illustrated by the Dec. 21, 2004, bombing of a military dining facility in Mosul. That blast killed 22 people, including 14 U.S. soldiers, and wounded at least 50. It was first thought the dining hall had been hit by a rocket attack.

Further investigation of the Mosul bombing pointed to the likelihood that a suicide bomber had infiltrated the base - one non-U.S. person killed couldn't be identified - and set off the explosion.

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Muslim students condemn UK newspaper spy ploy

London, March 14

The umbrella organization of Muslim student groups Tuesday condemned a British weekly newspaper for reportedly offering cash to students to spy on Islamic Society meetings.

The Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) in the UK and Eire said that the action of the Mail on Sunday will do nothing to help alleviate the concerns of Muslim students.

"This comes at a time when Muslim students are already feeling threatened on university campuses, having been banned from wearing the veil at Imperial College, London, and from forming an Islamic Society at Matthew Boulton College, Birmingham," Fosis said.

In a recent expose, the newspaper was caught offering student reporters at the London Student Newspaper cash in return for infiltrating Islamic Society meetings in an attempt to report claims of Islamic radicals being active on campuses.

"We condemn the Mail on Sunday for further attempting to perpetuate the myth that University campuses are breeding grounds for radicalism and extremism," Wakkas Khan, Fosis president, said.

"If allegations of extremism were really as widespread as is often claimed, then there would be no need to resort to such measures," he said.

The University of London Union said last week it was considering banning the sale of the Daily Mail following reports that its sister paper has been trying to bribe students to spy on their Muslim colleagues.

Fosis, which represents over 90,000 Muslim students in the UK, said that Islamic Societies play a "highly pivotal role in bridging the gap between Muslim Students and the wider student body."

"It is important the media recognize the importance of such institutions on campus and promotes them within the positive light which they deserve. The students they represent are a far cry from the enemy within," Khan said.

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U.S. Exclusive: Moazzam Begg Describes Abuse at Bagram and Guantanamo and Witnessing the Killing of Two Fellow Detainees

Tuesday, March 14th, 2006
Democracy Now!

[...] former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg was imprisoned for three years without charge by the United States at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan and Guanatanmo Bay in Cuba.

DN broadcasts his first comments in this country since the publication of his book in Britain, "Enemy Combatant: A British Muslim's Journey to Guantanamo and Back." [includes rush transcript] The Associated Press yesterday sued the Defense Department for the release of records identifying all past and current detainees at the US-run prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The AP's suit was filed after the Pentagon failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the AP in January. Last month, the military was ordered to turn over uncensored copies of transcripts from hearings for detainees held at Guantanamo. The transcripts were released, however they were censored, and names and other key details were blacked out.

As international calls grow for the closure of the US-run prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, today we bring you a voice rarely heard in the US media, that of a former Guantanamo prisoner. In a Democracy Now broadcast exclusive, today we hear Moazzam Begg in his own words.

Moazzam is a British citizen born and raised in Birmingham. The story of his ordeal begins in mid-2001 when he moved to Afghanistan with his wife and three young children to work as an aid worker in education and water projects. After September 11th and the subsequent U.S. bombing of Afghanistan, he relocated to Pakistan.

In February 2002, Moazzam was seized by the CIA in Islamabad. No reasons were given for his arrest. He was hooded, shackled and cuffed and flown to the U.S. detention facility at Kandahar, then to Bagram airbase where he was held for approximately a year before being transferred to Guantanamo Bay. The U.S. government labeled him an "enemy combatant." He was never charged with a crime.

In all, Moazzam spent three years in prison, much of it in solitary confinement. He was subjected to over three hundred interrogations as well as death threats and torture. At Bagram, he witnessed the killing of two fellow detainees.

In January 2005, he was finally released from Guantanamo along with three other British citizens. He received no apology or compensation for his imprisonment.

Moazzam Begg has written a book about his experience that has just been published in the UK titled "Enemy Combatant: A British Muslim's Journey to Guantanamo and Back." It is the first book known to be published by a former Guantanamo Bay prisoner. The book is co-written by Victoria Brittain, a former associate foreign editor of the Guardian newspaper.

Last week, Victoria Brittain and Moazzam Begg held a public conversation and Q&A at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in central London. Democracy Now was there to cover the story. In this U.S. national broadcast exclusive, we bring you Moazzam's first comments to air in this country since he wrote his book. At the event, I had the chance to ask Moazzam about the abuse he suffered while in prison.

AMY GOODMAN: Last week, Victoria Brittain and Moazzam Begg held a public conversation at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in Central London. Democracy Now! was there to cover the story. In this national broadcast exclusive, we bring you Moazzam's first comments to air in this country since he wrote his book. After he and Victoria Brittain spoke, I had a chance to ask Moazzam about the abuse he suffered while he was in prison.

AMY GOODMAN: Moazzam, though you are almost synonymous with Guantanamo, when people think about it, in your book you describe being tortured at Bagram. And I was wondering if you could talk about what happened to you there, who tortured and interrogated you, and if you saw other people or knew of other people at Bagram who were killed or abused.

MOAZZAM BEGG: Yeah. I think it's important also to note that when we are talking about Guantanamo Bay, in a sense, or in fact, it's not as bad as Bagram at all. People know about Guantanamo Bay, because it's in the news every day. You hear about it. You think it's this terrible place, and it is, because of the absence of the law. But what's worst than Guantanamo Bay are places like these black holes of detention, where you don't know what's going on, where there is no access to media, where the media doesn't know what's going on, and neither does anybody else, including the relatives and so forth. There is no communication. And it is a place that's – it's a military base, but the C.I.A. has complete and utter control of what takes place there. And no wonder in places like Bagram people are killed, and no wonder in Guantanamo Bay we haven't heard of any deaths yet, because in places like Bagram, they can try and justify themselves by the proximity, as they call it, towards the war zone.

While I was held in Bagram, it was probably one of the hardest periods of the whole of the incarceration. One particular month in May, I was subjected to some extremely harsh interrogation techniques, which included being -- or having my hands tied behind my back to my legs like an animal, as they call in America "hogtied," with a hood placed over my head so I was in a suffocating position, kicked and beaten and sworn at and spat at, left to rot in this position for hours and hours on end and taken again into interrogation, and this lasted over a period of over a month.

That wasn't the worst of it, of course. The worst of it, for me, was the psychological part, because all of this time I had no communication with my family at all. I didn't know what happened to my wife or my children. For all I knew, they could have done terrible things to them. And that was the biggest fear.

And I met the International Committee of the Red Cross, and they allowed me to write letters, but, of course, all of these letters had to be passed through the U.S. military censorship, and they must have read all of the letters, and in them I expressed my deep anguish about the state of asking where my wife was to my parents. In one of the interrogations, I remember quite clearly, they had this -- I heard the sounds of a woman screaming. And at the back of my mind, I thought, no, it can't be what I truly think it is. And as the screaming got worse and worse and the shouting to this woman got worse, my heart rate went up, and I started imagining the unimaginable. And certainly they were playing on this. It was, I believe, to this day it probably written on my file: if you want to get to this guy, do it through his family. And so, that was definitely one of the hardest parts. Many detainees, even, in fact, afterwards, when I was removed from that isolation unit, said that, you know, we were praying to God that it's not your wife. Well, thankfully, it wasn't.

And the worst situation, I think, that I saw there was the deaths of the detainees. I mean, you can see -- you can deal with your own abuse to some degree. What you can't do is to see somebody else's and then sit by and let it happen, and yet I was in such a impotent position that I saw a person who had been chained with his hands above his head like this, which is what they'd often do, which would often happen to me if I was just talking to the person next door to me, which was deemed punishable. This person was left suspended like this for hours, and eventually guards came and they beat him, dragged him upstairs, and we never saw or heard of him again.

A year-and-a-half later, internal investigators from the military came and asked me if I would look at a picture. They showed me a picture, and it was a man's body, and they said that he had been killed, could I describe any of the details that I had saw in Bagram at that time, and I described to them what I saw. And then they brought photographs of the people that they said were responsible – could be responsible from the military units, the M.P.s, and I pointed out to the people who I believed had done it. And then, ironically, this was a time when I was in solitary confinement, also worried about facing a possible military commission by President Bush's order, they said, "Would you be ready to stand up as a witness in a trial against these perpetrators?" That was so ironic.

AMY GOODMAN: Who did it to you?

MOAZZAM BEGG: Oh, the interrogators at the time? Yes, it was a whole group of them. There were C.I.A., F.B.I., and Military Intelligence. Those were at least the three groups that were there during that interrogation.

AMY GOODMAN: Moazzam, you talked about one of the men who was killed at Bagram, and you described the guard at Guantanamo who talked about killing another. How did he kill that person?

MOAZZAM BEGG: What had happened, I think the detainee's number was 284, as I recall. This was said to be an escape attempt at the backs of the cells in Guantanamo -- in Bagram. They were all common [inaudible]. There was about seven or eight people in each cell. At the back of the cell was this barrel that they had cut in half, which was, you know, the toilet. That was surrounded by some barbed wire. He apparently had pushed the barbed wire through, pushed the barrel and tried to escape. The guards caught him, jumped on him and, in essence, threw Thai boxing-style strikes at him, as this guy told me. And I saw them dragging his body across the cell where I was held, in cell 6, into the medical room, right in front where we were. At that point, I wasn't sure whether he was dead, but he looked completely battered and bruised, and all the dust that was on him. A while after that, after all the medics and the officers were running around this area, his body was carried out on a stretcher with the sheet covering his head.

AMY GOODMAN: And the sexual abuse at Guantanamo and at Bagram?


VICTORIA BRITTAIN: I don't think you need to go into that.

MOAZZAM BEGG: I would rather just not answer that here.

VICTORIA BRITTAIN: I think we'll leave that.

AMY GOODMAN: Moazzam Begg, speaking last week in London at the Institute of Contemporary Art, just after the British release of his book, Enemy Combatant. It's coming to this country in the fall. These are his first national broadcast comments in this country. Imprisoned at Bagram Air Base, and then Guantanamo for over three years. When we come back we talk to his co-writer of the book, Victoria Brittain, the former Associate Editor of the Guardian, and we will also speak with his attorney, Gareth Peirce.

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Trial by spin machine

Victoria Brittain
Tuesday March 14, 2006
The Guardian

The innocence of British Muslims released from Guantánamo is a story no official wants told

The coincidental release of Michael Winterbottom's prize-winning film about the young men from Tipton, Road to Guantánamo, and Moazzam Begg's book, Enemy Combatant, predictably brought the US and British spin machines into full swing last week - so that anyone reading the book or seeing the film would have got the idea that these men may have been badly treated, but they certainly were not innocent.

Last week the Daily Telegraph flagged an exclusive on its front page. "Begg told FBI he trained with al-Qaeda," was the headline over a full-page article by Con Coughlin, the paper's security correspondent, using an FBI report which, as Begg's book explains, was written by two FBI agents. After Begg had been tortured, threatened with death, offered a job undercover by the CIA, and come to believe he would never see his family again, he signed the "confession", confident that it was so illiterate and inconsistent that no court of law would accept it as having been written by an educated man such as himself. Coughlin had a copy of the book from the publishers, so - assuming he read it - knew all this as he prepared his piece, which has so damaged Begg.

Meanwhile, Colleen Graffy, the US deputy assistant secretary of state for public diplomacy, was in London last week on a propaganda offensive. Ms Graffy had visited Guantánamo and witnessed no unpleasant interrogation, no torture and plenty of sports facilities, she told Jeremy Vine on Radio 2. The imperturbable Vine was speechless when she drew from her bag a sample tube used for force-feeding prisoners and explained to him that it had no metal edges and was therefore humane.

The force-feeding at Guantánamo has been strongly condemned in a letter signed by 250 doctors in The Lancet. However, wider British audiences will have read not that, but "How Innocent is Moazzam Begg?" over Andrew Gilligan's interview in the Evening Standard, while in the Daily Mail a rant from Richard Littlejohn linked Begg and the Tiptons, claiming their stories don't stand up to "close scrutiny".

Five years ago, in the British Journalism Review, David Leigh reported on cases of intelligence services using journalists. One was the 1995 Sunday Telegraph story about the son of Libya's Colonel Gadafy and his alleged connection to a currency-counterfeiting plan. The story was written by Mr Coughlin, the paper's then chief foreign correspondent, and was originally attributed to a "British banking official". In fact - as emerged in a libel case brought by Gadafy's son - it had been given to him by an MI6 officer, who, it transpired, had been a regular contact for years.

Whatever the intentions of Coughlin and other journalists, the innocence of Begg, the Tipton Three and the other British detainees who have come home is a part of the story of Guantánamo that no official wants people to hear. Like all major miscarriages of justice finally overturned, the officials concerned will never apologise for breaking these men's lives, no one in authority will lose their jobs, and sections of the media will continue to question their innocence. The denial of justice for these British Muslims - not to speak of the 490 men, including nine UK residents, still in Guantánamo with no legal rights - will corrode the social fabric of this country far into the future.

But the horror of Bagram, Guantánamo and other secret American detention and torture centres for Muslims, in which the UK government is scandalously complicit, is now so well known throughout the world that no propaganda offensive by western officials and their friends has any prospect of lasting success.

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Workin' in a Coal Mine

Firm Blames Lightning for Sago Mine Blast

Associated Press
Wed Mar 15, 3:21 AM ET

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Within hours of the Jan. 2 explosion at the Sago Mine that trapped and killed 12 men, some already believed lightning was the likely cause.

Powerful bolts had peppered nearby Buckhannon that morning, some striking close to the underground coal mine where two 13-man crews were just starting the day shift.

Two-and-a-half months later, the mine's owner said Tuesday it has evidence to prove the theory. Although it cannot fully explain how, International Coal Group Inc. officials said they believe electricity from above found some conduit into the earth, sparking methane gas that had accumulated in a worked-out, sealed-off chamber.
It was "unpredictable and highly unusual" and ordinarily hard to prove, said CEO Ben Hatfield.

ICG's investigation of the blast found what Hatfield believes is compelling evidence from three different clocks in three different locations.

At 6:26 a.m., professional weather watchers confirmed an unusually large lightning strike near the mine, he said. Some 70 miles away in Morgantown, a U.S. Geological Survey station confirmed a seismic event at Sago. And deep inside the mine, atmospheric alarms sounded, signaling the carbon monoxide that comes with fires and explosions.

One crew escaped the blast, but another was trapped some 260 feet underground for more than 41 hours. By the time rescue teams reached them, all but one had perished in the poisoned air. Survivor Randal L. McCloy Jr. is still recovering from brain damage, but was well enough Tuesday to leave his Morgantown rehabilitation hospital for a trip to his home in Simpson, where he spent three hours visiting with family.

Hatfield said ICG's investigation is not the final word on the explosion, but that he is confident a joint federal-state investigation also being undertaken will reach a similar conclusion.

Gov. Joe Manchin, a constant presence during the disaster, did not immediately weigh in on the company's findings and a spokeswoman said it would be premature to discuss them until the state-federal probe is finished.

Tony Oppegard, a former MSHA official, said he also wants to see the final ruling from federal investigators.

"If, in fact, that is the cause, that doesn't end the inquiry in terms of the company's liability," said Oppegard, now a Kentucky lawyer who represents coal miners in injury cases. "It's a frequent refrain when there's an accident to call it an act of God."

Hatfield said ICG does not claim to have all the answers yet.

He said his investigators found no power source in the sealed area and no track or conveyor belt from the active parts of the mine extended into it. Steel mesh that had once lined the roof of the worked-out section had been removed, and there was no energized electrical equipment in the area.

One of the confirmed lightning strikes that morning was 300 feet from a utility pole that supplied power to the mine. ICG said it is possible an electrical charge entered the mine that way, perhaps traveling along a conveyor belt frame.

LuluBelle Jones, whose son Jesse died at Sago, said she is not surprised to hear lightning was the likely cause. "It's what we thought," she said.

Although the Mine Safety and Health Administration had cited the mine for 208 violations in the months leading up to the accident, Hatfield said the company's findings show that none of those violations was related to the blast.

The explosion took place behind 40-inch-thick seals designed to withstand 20 pounds per square inch of pressure. The seals were pulverized by forces the company believes were at least three times that.

Hatfield told The Associated Press late Tuesday that ICG will no longer install seals at Sago and will ventilate existing sealed areas with boreholes to the surface. In time, the company hopes to adopt a technology used in some other mining countries - pumping nitrogen into the abandoned areas to make the gases inert.

"We will not be constructing seals until we can be absolutely certain that an explosive environment is not being created," he said.

ICG bought the Sago Mine near Buckhannon from bankrupt Anker West Virginia Mining Co. last March. The operation has been producing coal since September 1999 and had 145 employees at the time of the accident.

Comment: Well, it's nice to see that a scientific approach is being taken in explaining the cause of the mine blast. "Yeah, it was lightning, which, uh, somehow made it through the ground and ignited some, uh... methane gas? Yup, that's it..."

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Flashback: Crews Rush to Reach Trapped W.Va. Miners

3 Jan 2006

TALLMANSVILLE, W.Va. - A coal mine explosion that may have been sparked by lightning trapped 13 miners 260 feet below ground Monday, and rescuers went in to find them after waiting almost 12 agonizing hours for dangerous gases to clear.
The condition of the miners was not immediately known. Four co-workers tried to reach them but stopped because of contaminated air, and the blast knocked out the mine's communication equipment, preventing authorities from contacting the miners.

It was not known how much air they had or how big a space they were in. The miners had air-purifying equipment but no oxygen tanks, a co- worker said.

"You just have to hope that the explosions weren't of the magnitude that was horrific from the beginning," Joe Manchin, governor of the nation's No. 2 coal-producing state, told CNN. He added: "There's always that hope and chance that they were able to go to part of the mine that still had safe air."

The first of eight search-and-rescue teams entered the Sago Mine, more than 11 hours after the blast trapped the miners and reported making steady progress. Rescue crews were kept out of the mine for most of the day while dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide _ a byproduct of combustion _ were vented through holes drilled into the ground, authorities said.

Company officials believe the miners were about two miles inside the mine, about 260 feet under the ground. The crew entered the mine on foot for fear of sparking another explosion.

Roger Nicholson, general counsel for the mine's owner, International Coal Group, said late Monday that mine officials had not heard from the trapped miners since the explosion 16 hours earlier.

Officials refused to estimate how long it would take to reach the miners. The company was drilling a six-inch hole at the explosion site that would allow it to monitor air inside the mine and drop a listening device. They expected to need four to six hours to complete the drilling.

Gene Kitts, a senior vice president at ICG, described the rescue effort as "a very slow, very careful, methodical process."

The federal Mine Safety and Health Administration sent a rescue robot to the mine, about 100 miles northeast of Charleston.

Some 200 co-workers and relatives of those trapped gathered at the Sago Baptist Church, across the road from the mine.

Anna McCloy said her husband, Randall, 27, was among those missing. She said he had worked at the mine for three years "but was looking to get out. It was too dangerous."

Coal mine explosions are typically caused by buildups of naturally occurring methane gas, and the danger increases in the winter months, when the barometric pressure can release the odorless, colorless and highly flammable gas.

Lara Ramsburg, a spokeswoman for the governor, said the blast may have been sparked by lightning from severe thunderstorms.

Nicholson, general counsel for ICG, said that it was not clear what caused the blast and that there was no indication it was methane- related.

The mine had been idle over the weekend for the New Year's holiday, and two groups of miners were to resume production on Monday. A "fire boss" went into the mine before the first group entered the mine at 5:51 a.m. and declared it safe.

"That just adds to the mystery of what happened when the production crew went underground," Kitts said.

The second group of miners entered at 6:30 a.m., just before the explosion knocked out power in the mine. The second group withdrew.

The mine has a single entrance, and the shaft winds its way for miles underground. The miners were supposed to be working about 160 feet below the surface, said the wife of one of the trapped men.

But it was unclear how far into the shaft they had gone when the blast struck.

Kitts said if the miners reached the section where they were headed, they would be 10,000 feet from the mine's entrance.

"If the miners are barricaded, as we hope they are, they would prepare themselves for rescue by rationing," Kitts said. The miners would probably have only their lunches and water on hand.

"These miners are experienced, they are well-trained," Kitts said. "We are just praying they had an opportunity to put their training to use."

The miners had three to 30 years of experience working in the mining industry, Kitts said. The company declined to release their names.

Samantha Lewis, whose 28-year-old husband, David, was among those trapped, said he worked the mines so that he could be home every night to take care of their three daughters while she worked on a master's degree in health care administration.

"This was a good way to make a living until we could find something else," said Lewis, whose father, grandfather and stepfather also worked in the mines. "It's just a way of life. Unless you're a coal miner or you have a college degree, you don't make any money."

Miners who work in the mine carry individual air purifying systems that would give them up to seven hours of clean air, said Tim McGee, who works at the mine and was among those at the church. They do not carry oxygen tanks, he said.

"What I want to hear is he is alive, but they can't tell me that," said Loretta Ables, whose fiancee, 59-year-old Fred Ware Jr., was one of the trapped miners. "He's worked in this mine for six years. He said that's the way he's gonna go _ in the mines."

Another trapped miner, 61-year-old Jim Bennett, planned to retire this year, said his son-in-law Daniel Merideth.

"Every day he would come home and pray for who was going in," said Merideth, who stood outside the mining complex. "Right now, he is probably in there witnessing to people. He would be organizing and praying."

ICG acquired the Sago Mine (pronounced SAY-goh) last March when it bought Anker West Virginia Mining Co., which had been in bankruptcy. In 2004, the latest year for which figures are available, the Sago Mine produced about 397,000 tons of coal.

Federal inspectors cited the mine for 46 alleged violations of federal mine health and safety rules during an 11-week review that ended Dec. 22, according to records.

The more serious alleged violations, resulting in proposed penalties of at least $250 each, involved steps for safeguarding against roof collapses, and the mine's plan to control methane and breathable dust. The mine received 208 citations from MSHA during 2005, up from 68 citations in 2004.

The state Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training issued 144 notices of violation against the mine in 2005, up from 74 the year before.

West Virginia ended 2005 with three mining deaths, the lowest since 2000.

Last year, 22 coal miners were killed on the job in the United States, a record low, according to Suzy Bohnert, spokeswoman for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration. The previous record low was 27 in 2002.

In February 2003, three contract workers were killed by a methane explosion while drilling an air shaft at a Consol Energy coal mine near Cameron.

In September 2001, 13 coal miners were killed in a series of explosions at a mine in Broached, Ala. That was the nation's worst mining accident since 1984, when fire killed 27 coal miners near Orangeville, Utah.

In July 2002, nine coal miners were rescued after being trapped for 77 hours in a mine near Somerset, Pa.

The deadliest coal mining disaster in U.S. history was an explosion in 1907 in Monongah, W.Va., that killed 362 people.

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Flashback: Roof Collapses at Ky. Mine, Killing One

Tue Jan 10, 10:11 PM ET

PIKEVILLE, Ky. - Part of the roof collapsed Tuesday at a coal mine in eastern Kentucky, killing one miner, a state official said.
The rock fall occurred about 900 feet inside the Maverick Mining Co. LLC mine in Pikeville, near the Virginia line, said Chuck Wolfe, spokesman for the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing.

Wolfe said that Cornelius Yates, 44, was the only miner harmed. Yates was operating a roof bolting machine at the time, according to the state Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet. The fallen roof section measured approximately 20 feet wide, 4 1/2 feet thick and 10 feet long.

Suzy Bohnert, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, said federal officials were on the scene.

Wolfe said a nine-person rescue crew was sent to the mine when the accident was reported shortly after 3 p.m. EST.

A person who answered the phone at Maverick Mining in Pikeville declined comment.

Last week, 12 miners died after an explosion in a coal mine in West Virginia.

Comment: And don't forget the other mine accident that happened just a few days ago in West Virginia...

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Flashback: Two W.Va. Miners Missing After Fire

Associated Press Writer
January 20, 2006

MELVILLE, W.Va. - Rescue teams searched Friday for two miners who were unable to escape after a fire broke out in an underground coal mine. Nineteen miners were able to flee the blaze, state officials said.

The fire started Thursday evening on a conveyor belt at the Alma No. 1 Mine operated by Massey Energy subsidiary Aracoma Coal, about 60 miles southwest of Charleston, officials said.
Twelve miners had gone into the mine to start their shift when a carbon monoxide monitor sounded an alarm around 5:36 p.m., said Doug Conaway, director of the state Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training. The monitor was located about 10,000 feet inside the mine and about 900 feet underground, he said.

The miners encountered smoke, put on breathing gear and rushed out of the mine, he said, but two were separated from the group. Nine others in another part of the mine also escaped.

The fire came less than three weeks after an explosion at the International Coal Group's Sago Mine in Upshur County killed 12 miners. The disaster's sole survivor, Randal McCloy Jr., 26, remained hospitalized in a light coma Friday.

Gov. Joe Manchin arrived at the scene, and miners' families gathered to wait at the Brightstar Freewill Baptist Church, about a mile away. Four rescue teams were searching the mine, two were on standby and others were traveling to the mine.

There are six miles of tunnels in the section where the fire occurred, according to a map. By 6:30 a.m. Friday, two rescue teams had moved past the fire, which was smoldering, and were trying to reach the mine car the miners took to get into the section.

Air samples from an existing hole near the fire showed elevated levels of carbon monoxide, although not as severe as levels at the Sago mine. At one point, rescue teams were in the mine without breathing gear, Conaway said.

"We're very hopeful," Manchin said. "It's a different scenario. Sago is very fresh in everybody's mind but this is a different scenario."

Haskell Sheppard, 29, works the overnight shift as a repairman on the main conveyor belt that brings the coal out. He said the line where the fire broke out had problems in the past, but nothing as serious as this time. Officials did not know how the fire started.

"Things are bound to tear up every once in a while," he said.

According to the Mine Safety and Health Administration's Web site, the Alma mine received 95 citations from MSHA inspectors during 2005. The most recent were issued on Dec. 20, when the mine was cited with seven violations ranging from controlling coal dust and other combustible materials to its ventilation plan.

The mine was assessed $28,268 in penalties last year and it has paid nearly $13,000.

It has not had a fatal accident since 1995. The mine had a better-than-average accident rate between 2001 and 2004, but it increased last year when 16 workers and one contractor were injured.

Comment: Another mine accident?

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Flashback: Canadian miners safely above ground after fire

By Amran Abocar
January 30, 2006

TORONTO - A group of Canadian miners, trapped by a fire in a potash mine for 24 hours in central Canada, were finally brought to the surface after the mine was cleared of fire and smoke, a mine official said on Monday.

The fire, which broke out at 3 a.m. Central Standard Time early on Sunday at the mine in Esterhazy, Saskatchewan, had forced 70 miners to rush to safety in emergency refuge rooms.
It was unclear whether all 70 miners had been brought to the surface or just the first group.

The mine is owned by Minnesota-based Mosaic Co and is near the provincial border with Manitoba. The company will hold a press conference shortly to discuss the incident.

"They're up," said a Mosaic official, manning the company's hotline in Esterhazy. "The ones that there was originally no communication with have come to the surface."

Mine officials had originally said they had lost radio contact with 30 of the miners but later found them safe in a refuge room.

Miners at the site reported smoke almost a little more than a half mile underground early Sunday morning.

The miners had been pinned in several safe rooms as firefighters battled the blaze and then focused on clearing the smoke from the mine so the workers could be safely evacuated.

Company spokesman Marshall Hamilton said a rescue team had reached the refuge rooms, seen the miners and sealed them back in the safe rooms until the fire was being extinguished.

The fire was finally put out and rescuers began the task of ventilating the mine, a process made slower by the size of the mine, about 18.6 miles by 12 miles.

Hamilton said the miners were trained to seek safety in the refuge stations, specifically built and designed for such incidents.

"In those refuge stations, the workers can seal themselves in and be safe with enough oxygen, food and water to be comfortable for 36 hours at the least," he said, adding that the families of the trapped miners had been kept informed.

The mine scare raised memories of a fatal explosion in a West Virginia coal mine earlier this month. Twelve miners were killed and one injured in the blast.

The Canadian mine is the main employer in the small Saskatchewan town. It produces potash, a mineral used in the production of fertilizer.

Comment: Another mine accident...

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Flashback: Two More Coal Miners Killed in State


Charleston, WEST VIRGINIA - The deaths of two coal miners in separate incidents in Boone County Wednesday is prompting Governor Joe Manchin to call for an immediate mine safety stand down at mines throughout West Virginia.
"I am calling on the industry to cease production activities immediately and go into a mine safety stand down," said the Governor in a Wednesday afternoon press conference announcing the two coal mining fatalities. "Mine companies, supervisors and the miners themselves are to engage in a thorough review before any work or production is to continue."

The Governor says the stand down is an order for workers to step back from the mine face for however long it takes for a safety inspection. Additional federal Mine Safety and Health Administration officials have also been called in to help with more thorough reviews in the coming days.

The Governor's announcement followed three separate mine incidents in a span of a couple of hours Wednesday afternoon at three separate mine sites in West Virginia, two in Boone County.

A coal miner was killed at Massey Energy's Black Castle Mine, a surface mine when a natural gas line was hit sparking a fire above ground.

In a state, officials with Massey Energy said the following: "We are saddened to report that the accident resulted in the fatality of a Black Castle surface miner."

At Long Branch Energy's Number 18 Mine near Danville, a coal miner working underground was killed in a rib fall incident.

The third incident reported was a roof fall at a separate mine site in another part of the state.

The two miners killed were not being identified late Wednesday.

The stand down was just one of the changes the Governor reported after the 15th and 16th mining fatalities in the state so far this year.

He also bumped up the mine inspection scheduled from three month intervals to immediately. "We will immediately begin the process of inspecting every mine in the state and their equipment, conditions, engineering, engineering plans, safety procedures and safe work practices immediately."

The Manchin Administration was also working Wednesday night to implement emergency rules that would put the new mine safety and mine rescue measures passed last week in the State Legislature into effect on a faster time schedule.

"While the last month has been more trying for the state than anyone could ever imagine and than, certainly, I could ever imagine, West Virginia remains committed to putting the safety of each and every one of our miners first and foremost."

"Our hearts and prayers and the hearts and prayers of every West Virginia, every West Virginian, goes out to two families who have lost their loved ones in the mines," says Governor Manchin who was scheduled to visit those families on Thursday.

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Flashback: Mexican coal mine explosion traps 65 workers

Sun Feb 19, 4:55 PM ET

MEXICO CITY - At least 65 miners were trapped inside a coal mine after an explosion in northern Mexico, authorities said, describing the situation as "critical."
Fifteen other miners were rescued from the pit and eight of them were undergoing surgery to treat injuries, said a spokesman for public security in San Juan de Sabinas, a town in Coahuila state where the mine is located.

The early morning explosion triggered an avalanche of earth and rocks that blocked the mine's exits.

"The situation is critical," the spokesman said by telephone. Dozens of troops, police and medical workers were contributing to the rescue effort, he said.

The miners' relatives have rushed to the scene of the accident, the spokesman said.

"There's a lot of people, anxious women, crying and asking about their husbands and brothers," he said.

About 95 percent of Mexico's coal reserves are in Coahuila state.

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The Big Blue Marble

Greenhouse Theory Smashed By Biggest Stone

by Staff Writers
Mar 15, 2006

Leicester UK - A new theory to explain global warming was revealed at a meeting at the University of Leicester and is being considered for publication in the journal "Science First Hand". The controversial theory has nothing to do with burning fossil fuels and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels.

According to Vladimir Shaidurov of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the apparent rise in average global temperature recorded by scientists over the last hundred years or so could be due to atmospheric changes that are not connected to human emissions of carbon dioxide from the burning of natural gas and oil.
Shaidurov explained how changes in the amount of ice crystals at high altitude could damage the layer of thin, high altitude clouds found in the mesosphere that reduce the amount of warming solar radiation reaching the earth's surface.

Shaidurov has used a detailed analysis of the mean temperature change by year for the last 140 years and explains that there was a slight decrease in temperature until the early twentieth century. This flies in the face of current global warming theories that blame a rise in temperature on rising carbon dioxide emissions since the start of the industrial revolution.

Shaidurov, however, suggests that the rise, which began between 1906 and 1909, could have had a very different cause, which he believes was the massive Tunguska Event, which rocked a remote part of Siberia, northwest of Lake Baikal on the 30th June 1908.

The Tunguska Event, sometimes known as the Tungus Meteorite is thought to have resulted from an asteroid or comet entering the earth's atmosphere and exploding. The event released as much energy as fifteen one-megaton atomic bombs.

As well as blasting an enormous amount of dust into the atmosphere, felling 60 million trees over an area of more than 2000 square kilometres. Shaidurov suggests that this explosion would have caused "considerable stirring of the high layers of atmosphere and change its structure." Such meteoric disruption was the trigger for the subsequent rise in global temperatures.

Global warming is thought to be caused by the "greenhouse effect". Energy from the sun reaches the earth's surface and warms it, without the greenhouse effect most of this energy is then lost as the heat radiates back into space. However, the presence of so-called greenhouse gases at high altitude absorb much of this energy and then radiate a proportion back towards the earth's surface. Causing temperatures to rise.

Many natural gases and some of those released by conventional power stations, vehicle and aircraft exhausts act as greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide, natural gas, or methane, and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are all potent greenhouse gases.

Carbon dioxide and methane are found naturally in the atmosphere, but it is the gradual rise in levels of these gases since the industrial revolution, and in particular the beginning of the twentieth century, that scientists have blamed for the gradual rise in recorded global temperature. Attempts to reverse global warming, such as the Kyoto Protocol, have centred on controlling and even reducing CO2 emissions.

However, the most potent greenhouse gas is water, explains Shaidurov and it is this compound on which his study focuses. According to Shaidurov, only small changes in the atmospheric levels of water, in the form of vapour and ice crystals can contribute to significant changes to the temperature of the earth's surface, which far outweighs the effects of carbon dioxide and other gases released by human activities. Just a rise of 1% of water vapour could raise the global average temperature of Earth's surface more then 4 degrees Celsius.

The role of water vapour in controlling our planet's temperature was hinted at almost 150 years ago by Irish scientist John Tyndall. Tyndall, who also provided an explanation as to why the sky is blue, explained the problem: "The strongest radiant heat absorber, is the most important gas controlling Earth's temperature.

"Without water vapour, he wrote, the Earth's surface would be 'held fast in the iron grip of frost'." Thin clouds at high altitude allow sunlight to reach the earth's surface, but reflect back radiated heat, acting as an insulating greenhouse layer.

Water vapour levels are even less within our control than CO2 levels. According to Andrew E. Dessler of the Texas A & M University writing in 'The Science and Politics of Global Climate Change', "Human activities do not control all greenhouse gases, however.

The most powerful greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is water vapour, he says, "Human activities have little direct control over its atmospheric abundance, which is controlled instead by the worldwide balance between evaporation from the oceans and precipitation."

As such, Shaidurov has concluded that only an enormous natural phenomenon, such as an asteroid or comet impact or airburst, could seriously disturb atmospheric water levels, destroying persistent so-called 'silver', or noctilucent, clouds composed of ice crystals in the high altitude mesosphere (50 to 85km).

The Tunguska Event was just such an event, and coincides with the period of time during which global temperatures appear to have been rising the most steadily - the twentieth century. There are many hypothetical mechanisms of how this mesosphere catastrophe might have occurred, and future research is needed to provide a definitive answer.

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Canada records a warm "un-Canadian" winter

Tue Mar 14, 4:46 AM ET

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Canada has recorded its warmest winter in nearly six decades of record-keeping, with temperatures that a veteran forecaster said on Monday were almost "un-Canadian."

Environment Canada said temperatures averaged 3.9 degrees Celsius (7 degrees Fahrenheit) warmer than normal from the end of November 2005 to the start of March 2006, and broke the previous record for the country's warmest winter by almost a full degree.

"The entire country was into this balminess. This kind of benign winter, said David Phillips, Environment Canada's senior climatologist in Toronto.
Alberta, Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories basked in temperatures that were more than 6 degrees Celsius above norm.

"We are known as the second coldest country in the world and it was anything but that. It was really quite un-Canadian," Phillips said.

Canada began keeping national weather records, including records from the Far North, in 1948.

While the warmer winter might be good news for homeowners worried about heating bills, it was bad for communities in the Far North that depend on seasonal ice roads across rivers or lakes for the delivery of heavy supplies.

Phillips said while temperatures add to the circumstantial evidence of global warming, he cautioned against reading too much into the findings from a relatively short period of time.

"This is chaotic nature of the atmosphere that it can turn on you. And that cold pole could sit us over next year and we'll end up in the freezing-in-the-dark type of situation," he said.

But Phillips also noted the warm winter follows three unusually warm seasons in 2005, and seasonal temperatures have been above normal for the past eight years.

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Patagonian glacier collapses


BUENOS AIRES – A vast Patagonian glacier shed a 60-meter wall of ice with a roar during the night,

sending debris plunging into a lake in southern Argentina as hundreds of tourists struggled to watch in the dark. About 400 tourists were on hand when the Perito Moreno ice bridge collapsed, a phenomenon that has been repeated every few years. This time, cameras were unable to capture the final crack.

Carlos Corvalan, supervisor at Los Glaciares National Park, said a section of ice had been showing signs it was ready to fall for three days before it gave way at 10:55 p.m.
Corvalan told the independent Diarios y Noticias news agency that many spectators had been keeping a round-the-clock vigil, sleeping in their cars at an overlook. Although it was a cloudy night with visibility obscured, he said the booming sound of cracking ice could be heard for miles.

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Earthen Dam in Hawaii Bursts, Killing One

Associated Press
March 15, 2006

KILAUEA, Hawaii - An 1890s-era plantation dam failed in the rugged hills above northern Kauai, sending water and mud surging through two homes and wiping out the only highway. Searchers found one person dead and were looking for at least seven others, some of them children who hadn't been seen since the deluge.

The continuing rain was hampering the search and road-clearing efforts, and officials were worried that other old earthen dams in the area may have been catastrophically weakened by days of heavy rain, state Sen. Gary L. Hooser said.
One dam in particular was in imminent danger of collapsing, Hooser told ABC's "Good Morning America." He said workers were trying to drain off the water behind it.

"It's still raining. I don't think it's over with. The entire island is kind of flooding in different parts," Hooser said Wednesday. "We're just hoping and praying for the rain to pass and the skies to clear and get on with the work of rebuilding the community."

The water cut off access to and from thousands of rural houses and luxury condominiums along Kauai's north shore.

"Sounded like a 747 jet crashing here in the valley, all the trees popping and snapping and everything," said John Hawthorne. "It was just a horrendous sound, and it never quit."

Search crews recovered the body of an unidentified man, and area residents said one family whose home was swept away was missing several children.

"To my knowledge, there was no warning whatsoever," Hooser said. "We're still hopeful that we'll find some of the missing."

Gov. Linda Lingle, who planned to tour the area Wednesday, extended state disaster programs and services Tuesday to the residents affected by recent rains and flooding. She also made loans available to people whose homes or businesses were damaged and authorized the use of National Guard troops to help with disaster relief.

State officials were assessing the safety of other dams in the island's steep hills. Ed Teixeira, state vice director of civil defense, said officials were worried about erosion.

"I would characterize this as a growing crisis on Kauai," he said.

Nearly all of Hawaii's dams were built early in the past century before federal standards existed or the advent of the state's program for assessing dam and levee safety, according to Edwin Matsuda, an engineer who heads the state's safety programs.

The 40-foot-high Kaloko Reservoir dam, which captured runoff from small streams, gave way about an hour before dawn Tuesday. Authorities estimated that about 1,400 acre-feet of water poured out of the reservoir, enough water to cover 1,400 acres a foot deep, or more than 60 million cubic feet.

"You could hear a roar and trees breaking. It was nuts. It was totally loud," said Brendan O'Connor, who was awakened by the thunderous sound of rushing water.

Officials feared Morita Reservoir's dam, located downstream from Kaloko, might also fail.

"Everybody's on edge," resident Victoria Stamper said.

Late Tuesday, road crews began clearing mud, trees and other debris from the highway by the truckload until work was stopped so water could be released from Morita Reservoir, state transportation spokesman Scott Ishikawa said.

One lifelong north shore resident, Be Chandler, waited patiently in her pickup truck in hopes her mother, who was stranded on the other side of the Kuhio Highway, would be allowed through. Her 74-year-old mother is in a wheelchair and requires dialysis three times a week.

"Somehow, we have to get her over," said Chandler. "I'm just praying to see my mom."

Roy Matsuda, lead forecaster at the Honolulu office of the
National Weather Service, said Tuesday that a storm had dumped 5 to 6 inches of rain on Kauai in 24 hours.

An exhausted Katie Carlin, of San Mateo, Calif., arrived Monday night with her husband and two young children only to find they were unable to reach their hotel room in Hanalei because of a flooded bridge.

"We're trapped," she said. "It's small potatoes to what's going on here, but I just don't want to spend another night in the car."

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Scientists study "mushroom cloud" volcano plume

March 14 (UPI)

CHAMPAIGN, Ill.- Photographs of a recent volcanic eruption in Ecuador show a plume unlike any previously documented, and hint at a newly recognized hazard.

The usual volcanic plume resembles the mushroom of an atom bomb blast, said University of Illinois Geology Professor Susan Kieffer. "But the umbrella on this plume was wavy, like the shell of a scallop."
Kieffer, UI Professor Gustavo Gioia, and graduate student Pinaki Chakraborty believe they know what caused the unusual cloud.

The volcano erupted Nov. 3, 2002, sending ash down nearby valleys, heating the surrounding air, which then rose in a volcanic plume.

"A volcanic plume rises until the atmosphere becomes so thin that the mixture of air and ash loses buoyancy and starts to spread laterally, forming an umbrella," Gioia said.

But the Reventador eruption appears to have been laden with fairly cool ash, preventing the umbrella from spreading. It rapidly became a heavy mixture of air, steam and ash hovering over the lighter air below.

"Turbulence magnifies the wavelength," Chakraborty, the paper's lead author, said. "It gave the Reventador umbrella its distinctive scallops, which were hundreds of meters in wavelength."

Comment: A warning to the world perhaps?

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Experimental weather modification bill - fast tracking - for passage in US Senate and House of Representatives

by Rosalind Peterson
March 11, 2006

U.S. Senate Bill 517 and U.S. House Bill 2995, a bill that would allow experimental weather modification by artificial methods and implement a national weather modification policy, does not include agriculture or public oversight, is on the "fast track" to be passed early in 2006.

This bill is designed to implement experimental weather modification. The appointed Board of Directors established by this bill does not include any agricultural, water, EPA, or public representatives, and has no provisions for Congressional, State, County, or public oversight of their actions or expenditures.

Weather Modification may adversely impact agricultural crops and water supplies. If the weather is changed in one state, region or county it may have severe consequences in another region, state or county. And who is going to decide the type of weather modification experimentation and who it will benefit or adversely impact?
This experimental weather modification bill will impact residents across the United States not just in California. Many current and ongoing weather modification programs (47 listed by NOAA in 2005), including the one in Wyoming that is designed to increase the snowpack, may be diverting rainwater away from Oklahoma and Texas, two states that are currently fighting fires caused by a lack of rainfall. We have no idea what the unintended consequences of the Wyoming action or other experimental weather modification programs might be now or in the future.

In addition to the experimental weather modification programs listed by NOAA, there are both private and ongoing government sponsored atmospheric testing and heating programs underway in Alaska and across the United States. Alaska Senator Stevens recently received $50 million in funding for Alaska's atmospheric heating program.

All of these unregulated, private, government, and public weather modification programs, may also have unintended synergistic effects. Senate Bill 517 does not address these issues but intends to implement more experimental weather modification programs without a national debate or public oversight.

Artificial weather modification can impact all of us by reducing water supplies, changing agricultural crop production cycles, reducing crop production, and water availability. Since most experimental weather modification programs use chemicals released into the atmosphere the public could be subjected increasingly toxic or unknown substances that could adversely impact agricultural crops and trees.

Trimethyl Aluminum (TMA) and barium are just two of the toxic chemicals used in recent atmospheric heating and testing programs according to NASA. The Alaska H.A.A.R.P. atmospheric heating program may have the capability of changing the Jet Stream which could also change our weather.

Many private weather modification companies admit that precipitation effects may be positive or negative. Fog dispersal programs, using dry ice, liquid nitrogen, liquid propane or silver iodide may improve visibility while adversely impacting Redwood Trees along the California coast by depriving them of needed water they derive from the fog.

The increasing use of varied chemicals like aluminum (coupled with increasing air pollution), can severely impact tree health by depriving trees of water and nutrients normally absorbed through their root systems.

The December 2005 Popular Science Magazine discussed a plan to use an oil slick to stop hurricanes without noting the adverse environmental impacts of the oil used to cover the ocean.

Popular Science also noted that a private company, Dyn-O-Mat, plans to purchase jets to drop thousands of pounds of a water absorbing chemical powder (unknown substance), into hurricanes to absorb moisture that may dissipate hurricanes. There is no agriculture oversight or public hearings to determine the consequences of this and other actions or to monitor or prevent adverse impacts of this chemical once it falls on the surface of the ocean or on land.

Alaska and other areas across the United States are beginning to feel the impacts of climate change. Enormous changes are being seen in the declining health of native plant and tree communities in many areas across the United States.

NASA noted in an October 2005 newsletter that increasingly persistent contrails are "…trapping warmth in the atmosphere and exacerbating global warming…" NASA goes on to note that: "…Any increase in global cloud cover will contribute to long-term changes in Earth's climate. Likewise, any change in Earth's climate may have effects on natural resources…"

Global dimming and the persistent contrails, that produce man-made clouds, may have serious impacts on crop production. A recent corn crop study in Illinois shows that cloud cover reduces corn crop production while direct sunlight increases production. In addition, increasing man-made clouds may reduce the effectiveness of solar panels.

Gil Smolin, an Avian Bird Flu expert, noted on the Ron Owens Show on KGO Radio (January 5, 2006), that the flu was spread more quickly in the winter when there was a "lack of sunlight". Would man-made clouds be contributing to the lack of sunlight which might cause the Avian Bird flu to spread more quickly at other times of the year? Experimental weather modification programs could also exacerbate this problem by changing climate patterns, increasing man-made cloud cover, and changing our weather and climate patterns.

Senate Bill 517 does not address any of these important issues. Its sole purpose is to establish an experimental weather modification policy without any agriculture or public oversight of private, military, and government programs. Without oversight or public hearings agriculture, our natural resources, and watersheds may be negatively impacted. And who will be responsible to determine the synergistic effects of these programs or pay for unintended disasters created by this experimentation. If these programs change growing seasons and interrupt the pollination process crop losses could be substantial exacerbating economic losses.

Please contact all of your elected local, state and federal officials to stop this bill in its present form. This bill needs to have appropriate agriculture and public oversight, with public hearings included, prior to any more experimental projects. We need a national dialogue on this subject before more experimentation takes place.

Venus Project

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Flu fears prompts calls for masks

By Julie Robotham, Medical Editor
The Sydney Morning Herald
March 15, 2006

PEOPLE who suspect they may have flu are being urged to wear surgical-type masks this winter, as NSW health officials try to build the public's familiarity with infection control measures that may be needed in the event of a bird flu pandemic.

The Health Department's director of communicable disease, Dr Jeremy McAnulty, said those who went to a GP or emergency department because they thought they might have flu should consider wearing a mask.
Flu spread through water droplets from coughs and sneezes that could typically travel one metre, Dr McAnulty said. "Masks catch the droplets … we are advocating it for people who have got the flu when they are visiting the doctor, who may be in a crowded waiting room with other people who are already sick."

In some Asian cities mask use was so routine "that people look at you askance if you have a respiratory illness and you don't have a mask". But there was no evidence to back their use by healthy people who wished to avoid infection.

A public health specialist, Ron Penny, said people with coughs and fever should wear masks on public transport and in crowded places. Professor Penny said advocating masks now was similar to promoting condom use in the 1980s to prevent HIV/AIDS.

"I think we should socialise masks as a means of minimising what is a much more prevalent problem," he said. People with flu needed to be aware that it could kill children, elderly or sick people and take responsibility for avoiding its spread. "It's not a big ask."

Dr Ian Barr, the deputy director of the World Health Organisation's Collaborating Centre for Reference and Research on Influenza, in Melbourne, said the use of masks could cause needless fear. "It is something a little foreign to Australians. I'd be concerned about frightening people."

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America - Killing Hope In Iraq

US postwar Iraq strategy a mess, Blair was told

Ewen MacAskill, diplomatic editor
Tuesday March 14, 2006
The Guardian

Senior British diplomatic and military staff gave Tony Blair explicit warnings three years ago that the US was disastrously mishandling the occupation of Iraq, according to leaked memos.

John Sawers, Mr Blair's envoy in Baghdad in the aftermath of the invasion, sent a series of confidential memos to Downing Street in May and June 2003 cataloguing US failures. With unusual frankness, he described the US postwar administration, led by the retired general Jay Garner, as "an unbelievable mess" and said "Garner and his top team of 60-year-old retired generals" were "well-meaning but out of their depth".

That assessment is reinforced by Major General Albert Whitley, the most senior British officer with the US land forces. Gen Whitley, in another memo later that summer, expressed alarm that the US-British coalition was in danger of losing the peace. "We may have been seduced into something we might be inclined to regret. Is strategic failure a possibility? The answer has to be 'yes'," he concluded.
The memos were obtained by Michael Gordon, author, along with General Bernard Trainor, of Cobra II: the Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq, published to coincide with the third anniversary of the invasion.

The British memos identified a series of US failures that contained the seeds of the present insurgency and anarchy.

The mistakes include:

· A lack of interest by the US commander, General Tommy Franks, in the post-invasion phase.

· The presence in the capital of the US Third Infantry Division, which took a heavyhanded approach to security.

· Squandering the initial sympathy of Iraqis.

· Bechtel, the main US civilian contractor, moving too slowly to reconnect basic services, such as electricity and water.

· Failure to deal with health hazards, such as 40% of Baghdad's sewage pouring into the Tigris and rubbish piling up in the streets.

· Sacking of many of Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath party, even though many of them held relatively junior posts.

Mr Sawers, in a memo titled Iraq: What's Going Wrong, written on May 11, four days after he had arrived in Baghdad, is uncompromising about the US administration in Baghdad. He wrote: "No leadership, no strategy, no coordination, no structure and inaccessible to ordinary Iraqis."

He said the US needed to take action in Baghdad urgently. "The clock is ticking." Both Mr Sawers, who is now political director at the Foreign Office, and Gen Whitley see as one of the biggest errors a decision by Donald Rumsfeld, the US defence secretary, and General Tommy Franks, the overall US commander, to cut troops after the invasion.

Mr Sawers advocated sending a British battalion, the 16th Air Assault Brigade, to Baghdad to help fill the gap. Although the US supported the plan, Downing Street rejected it weeks later.

The British diplomat is particularly scathing about the US Third Infantry Division, which he describes as "a big part of the problem" in Baghdad. He accused its troops of being reluctant to leave their heavily armoured vehicles to carry out policing and cites an incident in which British Paras saw them fire three tank rounds into a building in response to harmless rifle fire.

Mr Sawers, who had been British ambassador to Egypt before being sent to Iraq and is at present on a shortlist to be the next ambassador to Washington, sent the memo to Mr Blair's key advisers, including Jonathan Powell, the No 10 chief of staff, and Alastair Campbell, head of the Downing Street press operation at the time.

Mr Sawers, in later memos, welcomed the replacement of Gen Garner with Paul Bremer, a US diplomat. But in a memo written in June 25, Mr Sawyer concluded that, despite Mr Bremer's arrival, the situation was getting worse.

In that memo, Mr Sawers expressed opposition to further troop reductions. "Bremer's main concern is that we must keep in-country sufficient military capability to ensure a security blanket across the country. He has twice said to President Bush that he is concerned that the drawdown of US/UK troops had gone too far, and we cannot afford further reductions," Mr Sawers said.

Throughout his time in Iraq, however, Mr Sawers remained optimistic Mr Bremer would make a difference.

His views in the memo are echoed in a note by Gen Whitley, who says that while Gen Franks took credit for the fall of Baghdad, he showed little interest in the postwar period. "I am quite sure Franks did not want to take ownership of Phase IV," Gen Whitley wrote.

He added that Phase IV "did not work well" because the concentration was on the invasion. "There was a blind faith that Phase IV would work. There was a failure to anticipate the extent of the backlash or mood of Iraqi society."

Comment: It would appear that all those involved in the Iraq invasion knew long ago that such an invasion would lead to a destruction of Iraqi society and infrastructure and the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, yet rather than letting this stop them it seems that their reaction was to simply subvert this truth and present it as completely the opposite - that an invasion of Iraq would bring "freedom and democracy" to the Iraqi people. Raving Psychopaths anyone?

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Saddam never planned insurgency: US military study


Ousted president Saddam Hussein did not plan the insurgency in Iraq because he thought the United States would never invade the country, a US military history has concluded.

Even with US armored columns 100 miles (161 kilometers) from Baghdad about to make their final push, Saddam apparently believed the war was going Iraq's way, according to the history, called "The Iraqi Perspectives Project."

"As far as can be determined from the interviews and records reviewed so far, there were no national plans to embark on a guerrilla war in the event of military defeat," it said.

"Nor did the regime appear to cobble together such plans as its world crumbled around it," it said.

"Buoyed by his earlier conviction that the Americans would never dare enter Baghdad, Saddam hoped to the very last minute that he could stay in power," it said.

Excerpts of the partially de-classified study for the US Joint Forces Command are being published in the May/June edition of Foreign Affairs, the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations. The study was written by Kevin Woods, James Lacey and Williamson Murray.

The history, an attempt to reconstruct the war from the Iraqi perspective, drew on interviews with dozens of captured senior Iraqi leaders and politicians and hundreds of thousands of official Iraqi documents.

It concluded, as others have, that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, but that he maintained ambiguity on the issue for fear that otherwise Israel might be encouraged to attack Iraq.

The magazine said that US intelligence in 2002 misinterpreted internal Iraqi messages about weapons of mass destruction, thinking they were being hidden when in fact the messages were about complying with UN inspections.

One message about removing the term "nerve agents" from "wireless instructions" was cited by former US secretary of state Colin Powell in his February 5, 2003 statement to the UN Security Council as an example of Iraq's bad faith, said the magazine.

Another misread Iraqi message also from 2002 referred to instructions to "search the area surrounding the headquarters camp and (the unit) for any chemical agents, make sure the area is free of chemical containers, and write a report on it."

"US analysts viewed this information through the prism of a decade of prior deceit. They had no way of knowing that this time the information reflected the regime's attempt to ensure it was in compliance with UN resolutions," said the article.

In late 2002, Saddam tilted toward trying to persuade the international community that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.

"But after years of purposeful obfuscation, it was difficult to convince anyone that Iraq was not once again being economical with the truth," the study said.

Saddam was convinced that France and Russia would prevent an invasion of Iraq to protect their economic interests, the study said, citing former Prime Minister Tareq Aziz.

Ibrahim Ahmad Abd al-Sattar, the Iraqi army and armed forces chief of staff, claimed that Saddam believed that even if the United States did launch a ground invasion, Washington would rapidly bow to international pressure to halt the war, the study said.

When the invasion did come, Saddam clung to the belief that it would end short of regime change, as the 1991 Gulf War had, it said.

"No Iraqi leaders had believed coalition forces would ever reach Baghdad," Sattar was quoted as saying.

Comment: So it seems that even the "evil Saddam" could not fathom the depths of depravity that the minds of people like Sharon, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Blair, Wolfowitz and the rest of the Zionist Neocons are capable of.

The claim made by the abovementioned US military study that Saddam was expecting to hang on to power until the very last minute is contradicted by press reports leading up to the illegal Iraq invasion:

Flashback: Iraqi Commander Swears he saw USAF fly Saddam out of Baghdad

Bill Dash
Alamo Christian Ministries Online

Film will soon be made public of an Iraqi Army officer describing how he saw a US Air Force transport fly Saddam Hussein out of Baghdad. The explosive eyewitness testimony was shot by independent filmmaker Patrick Dillon, who recently returned from a risky one-man odyssey in Iraq. In the film, the officer, who told Dillon that he commanded a special combat unit during the battle for Baghdad airport and whose identity is temporarily being withheld, explains in detail how he watched as the Iraqi dictator and members of his inner circle were evacuated from Iraq's capital by what he emphatically insists were United States Air Force cargo planes. [...]

Dillon says his film lends major support to what many have believed for years: that Saddam was little more than an american tool, a stage-managed "evildoer", just one in a long line of useful villains bought and paid for by the United States in order to better manipulate international politics and commerce. [...]

See this link for more on the fantastical farce that was the capture and trial of "Saddam Hussein".

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Saddam Only Ever Dreamt About WMDs

by Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Mar 15, 2006

Washington - A major new report extracted in Foreign Affairs confirms that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction before the 2003 Iraq war began. The report also documents Saddam's remarkable incompetence and unreality as his almost quarter century-long tyranny collapsed around him.

The report, entitled "Saddam's Delusions: The View from the Inside," was produced by the Pentagon's Iraq's Perspectives Project and written by Kevin Woods, James Lacey and Williamson Murray. It was commissioned by the U.S. Joint Forces Command, or USJFCOM, and it is based on previously inaccessible primary sources, Foreign Affairs magazine said. Extracts from the report are being published in an 8,500 word article in the May-June issue of Foreign Affairs.
The USJFCOM documents that even as U.S.-led coalition forces massed on Iraq's borders in early 2003, Saddam remained convinced there would be no invasion -- and he believed that even if there were, he and his regime would survive.

"Saddam believed that the United States was a paper tiger and that France and Russia would protect him," Foreign Affairs wrote.

"Ignorant of military history, logistics, and technology, Saddam lived in a bubble due to the atmosphere of fear he had had instilled throughout his civil and military bureaucracies," the magazine said. Therefore, "once the war actually began, its ultimate result was a foregone conclusion."

The article confirms recent assessments that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction before he was toppled, but it says that he wanted others to suspect he might. "In the last months before the war he realized that it was too dangerous to continue playing this double game and finally decided to cooperate fully with international inspectors. But at that point his track record of repeatedly lying meant that no one believed him," Foreign Affairs said.

Even on the brink of the war that would topple him and shatter his power, Saddam's greatest concern remained "preventing a coup," Foreign Affairs said.

"This allowed him to stay in power, but it meant that his armed forces were almost completely ineffective at dealing with actual military operations against a competent foreign enemy," it said.

"Every senior commander interviewed after the start of hostilities emphasized the psychological costs of being forced to constantly look over his shoulder," the report wrote.

The report also rejected the widespread view in many Bush administration and neo-conservative circles in Washington that Saddam deliberately planned the current insurgency in Iraq.

"No. He thought the United States would never attack, and was confident that even if it did, the resulting war would follow essentially the same script as the first Gulf War in 1991, without a full-scale invasion all the way to Baghdad," Foreign Affairs wrote, describing the report.

"He did pre-position a lot of military materiel around the country before the war started, but only to disperse it and keep it safe, so that it would be available either in the later stages of a long and drawn-out campaign against the coalition, or to reestablish control at home afterwards (as he did in 1991, when the Kurds and Shia revolted).

"As far as can be determined from the interviews and records reviewed so far, there were no national plans to embark on a guerrilla war in the event of military defeat. Nor did the regime appear to cobble together such plans as its world crumbled around it," the report said.

"The regime ordered the (prewar) distribution of ammunition (around the country) in order to preserve it for a prolonged war with coalition forces," it said.

The report concludes that Saddam was so out of touch with events in the totalitarian bubble that he was convinced the war was still going brilliantly well when everything was collapsing all around him.

"How did Saddam think the war was going? Swimmingly. Because everyone knew that Saddam severely punished anybody who told him unpleasant truths, the entire regime was built on lies. During wartime, this meant that junior officers told senior officers that everything was going well, they reported it up the chain of command, and Saddam himself remained a prisoner of his delusions," Foreign Affairs said.

"As late as the end of March 2003, Saddam apparently still believed the war to be going the way he had expected. If Iraq was not actually winning it, neither was it losing -- or, at least, so it seemed to the dictator," the report said. "...The evidence now clearly shows that Saddam and those around him believed virtually every word issued by their own propaganda machine."

That was why, the report, said, on March 30, "Saddam's principal secretary directed the Iraqi foreign minister to tell the French and Russian governments that Baghdad would accept only an 'unconditional withdrawal' of U.S. forces because 'Iraq is now winning and ... the United States has sunk in the mud of defeat.' At that moment, U.S. tanks were a hundred miles south of Baghdad, refueling and rearming for the final push."

The report looks unlikely to trigger any sea-change in American popular perceptions of the war. But it may make it even more difficult for the White House and the Republican Party to counter the steady slide in the president's popular standing since the delayed and botched responses to Hurricane Katrina last summer.

Comment: Given the current trial of "Saddam", the truly important information in this report is the admission by US officials that the real Saddam never had any WMD's - and therefore Bush's case for war was a lie - and that the administration's assertions that Saddam was behind the insurgency are completely false.

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Blame rests on a bad idea, no matter how much spin lays it elsewhere

March 14, 2006
Hugh White
Sydney Morning Herald

The US and its allies are trapped in Iraq with little hope of a dignified way out, writes Hugh White.

WHEN he sent our forces to help invade Iraq, John Howard was sure they would not be there long: months, not years, he said. Last week his new Defence Minister, Brendan Nelson, was visiting the troops still in Iraq three years after the invasion. And he made it clear he expected them to stay a lot longer.

I'm sure Nelson is right. So how and why was Howard so wrong?

The conventional view is that a brilliantly successful invasion was followed by a hopelessly ill-planned and mismanaged occupation.

The US-led forces didn't stop the looting after Saddam Hussein fell, they didn't restore power and water, they didn't crack down early and hard on the insurgency, they didn't have enough troops in the country. If only these errors had been avoided, Iraq would now be well on the way to stability and democracy, and our troops would be safely on their way home, the argument goes. I don't buy it.

The failure in Iraq is not a failure of execution; it's a failure of conception. The occupation and political reconstruction of Iraq was not a good idea badly implemented. It was a bad idea that no amount of administrative skill, political savvy, cultural sensitivity or military firepower could have made work.
You can see why political leaders might prefer to see the problems in Iraq as failures of execution. That shifts the blame from those who thought of the idea to those who had to carry it out. But if we are to learn by our mistakes it is important to understand what those mistakes were, and who made them.

We need to face squarely the mistakes of our leaders. We can all be glad that Saddam no longer rules Iraq. But we all know that none of the leaders who conceived and drove the invasion would have done so had they been able to foresee how things stand in Iraq today. Howard was more careful than the others, but he lent his weight - and Australia's - to their arguments.

These leaders misunderstood the costs and risks they were running in setting out to reshape Iraq. And that is what they were about. One thing the flood of instant history has made clear is that, while Howard, George Bush and Tony Blair undoubtedly believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, that was not why the invasion went ahead.

It went ahead to destroy the Baath regime and replace it with something more congenial, something more aligned with our interests and, they stressed, our values.

The conception at the heart of this enterprise was that if a fully functioning liberal democratic Iraq did not spring spontaneously from the ashes of Saddam's dictatorship, it could be speedily and efficiently conjured by the application of US power. Especially military power; the whole project was, after all, a Pentagon initiative.

This misconception was powered by a misunderstanding of the nature and limits of armed force. Armies are very good at fighting other armies, but they are of very limited use for anything else. The contrary view is the beguiling illusion that military force can be used to achieve political goals and promote values, rather than secure purely military objectives.

It is an idea that not even the Vietnam War could quite kill off. The invasion of Iraq three years ago was a product of its resurgence. The situation in Iraq today is yet another demonstration of its fallacy. A force of 180,000 troops - and the expenditure of billions of dollars a month - gives the coalition very little influence over what happens in Iraq today, or over the shape of its future.

There is still a faint chance that Iraq's ill-matched factions will find a way to work together in some semblance of national government. But whether they do or not is out of our hands.

We had the power to destroy Saddam's regime, but not to build a new one. Only the Iraqis can do that. Only they can make the compromises, build the trust, contain their fears and curb their rage enough to generate the sense of shared interests necessary to make Iraq work as a democratic political entity. All we can do is watch.

From the coalition's point of view - and especially Washington's - to leave now would be a disastrous political and strategic defeat, with unpredictable consequences.

It might come to that anyway, but in the meantime our leaders just hang on and hope that even if we have failed, the Iraqis will somehow make something work. It's a forlorn hope, but better than certain humiliation.

And for Australia? We are there, above all, to support our ally. As an exercise in alliance management, that is probably justified.

But the fact that we find ourselves in this predicament, compelled to sustain a largely futile symbolic presence in a land in which we can achieve so little, is a testament to the failure of Howard's initial conception.

We need to remember this the next time someone tries to argue that we should send our new "hardened and networked army" to promote Australia's values far away.

Hugh White is a visiting fellow at the Lowy Institute and professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University.

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Lessons of Iraq War start with U.S. history

By Howard Zinn
March 8, 2006

On the third anniversary of President Bush's Iraq debacle, it's important to consider why the administration so easily fooled so many people into supporting the war.

I believe there are two reasons, which go deep into our national culture.

One is an absence of historical perspective. The other is an inability to think outside the boundaries of nationalism.

If we don't know history, then we are ready meat for carnivorous politicians and the intellectuals and journalists who supply the carving knives. But if we know some history, if we know how many times presidents have lied to us, we will not be fooled again.

President Polk lied to the nation about the reason for going to war with Mexico in 1846. It wasn't that Mexico "shed American blood upon the American soil" but that Polk, and the slave-owning aristocracy, coveted half of Mexico.
President McKinley lied in 1898 about the reason for invading Cuba, saying we wanted to liberate the Cubans from Spanish control, but the truth is that he really wanted Spain out of Cuba so that the island could be open to United Fruit and other American corporations. He also lied about the reasons for our war in the Philippines, claiming we only wanted to "civilize" the Filipinos, while the real reason was to own a valuable piece of real estate in the far Pacific, even if we had to kill hundreds of thousands of Filipinos to accomplish that.

President Wilson lied about the reasons for entering the First World War, saying it was a war to "make the world safe for democracy," when it was really a war to make the world safe for the rising American power.

President Truman lied when he said the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima because it was "a military target."

And everyone lied about Vietnam -- President Kennedy about the extent of our involvement, President Johnson about the Gulf of Tonkin and President Nixon about the secret bombing of Cambodia. They all claimed the war was to keep South Vietnam free of communism, but really wanted to keep South Vietnam as an American outpost at the edge of the Asian continent.

President Reagan lied about the invasion of Grenada, claiming falsely that it was a threat to the United States.

The elder Bush lied about the invasion of Panama, leading to the death of thousands of ordinary citizens in that country. And he lied again about the reason for attacking Iraq in 1991 -- hardly to defend the integrity of Kuwait, rather to assert U.S. power in the oil-rich Middle East.

There is an even bigger lie: the arrogant idea that this country is the center of the universe, exceptionally virtuous, admirable, superior.

If our starting point for evaluating the world around us is the firm belief that this nation is somehow endowed by Providence with unique qualities that make it morally superior to every other nation on Earth, then we are not likely to question the president when he says we are sending our troops here or there, or bombing this or that, in order to spread our values -- democracy, liberty, and let's not forget free enterprise -- to some God-forsaken (literally) place in the world.

But we must face some facts that disturb the idea of a uniquely virtuous nation.

We must face our long history of ethnic cleansing, in which the U.S. government drove millions of Indians off their land by means of massacres and forced evacuations.

We must face our long history, still not behind us, of slavery, segregation and racism.

And we must face the lingering memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It is not a history of which we can be proud.

Our leaders have taken it for granted, and planted the belief in the minds of many people that we are entitled, because of our moral superiority, to dominate the world. Both the Republican and Democratic Parties have embraced this notion.

But what is the idea of our moral superiority based on?

A more honest estimate of ourselves as a nation would prepare us all for the next barrage of lies that will accompany the next proposal to inflict our power on some other part of the world.

It might also inspire us to create a different history for ourselves, by taking our country away from the liars who govern it, and by rejecting nationalist arrogance, so that we can join people around the world in the common cause of peace and justice.

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Iraq: Permanent US Colon

By Dahr Jamail
Tuesday 14 March 2006

Why does the Bush Administration refuse to discuss withdrawing occupation
forces from Iraq? Why is Halliburton, who landed the no-bid contracts to construct
and maintain US military bases in Iraq, posting higher profits than ever before
in its 86-year history?

Why do these bases in Iraq resemble self-contained cities as much as military

Why are we hearing such ludicrous and outrageous statements from the highest
ranking military general in the United States, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff General Peter Pace, who when
asked how things were going in Iraq on March 9th
in an interview on "Meet
the Press" said, "I'd say they're going well. I wouldn't put a great
big smiley face on it, but I would say they're going very, very well from everything
you look at."

I wonder if there is a training school, or at least talking point memos for
these Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, because Pace's predecessor, Gen.
Richard Myers, told Senator John McCain last September that "In a sense,
things are going well [in Iraq]."

General Pace also praised the Iraqi military, saying, "Now there are
over 100 [Iraqi] battalions in the field."

Wow! General Pace must have waved his magic wand and materialized all these
99 new Iraqi battalions that are diligently keeping things safe and secure
in occupied Iraq. Because according to the top US general in Iraq, General
George Casey, not long ago there was only one Iraqi battalion (about 500-600
soldiers) capable of fighting on its own in Iraq.

During a late-September 2005 Senate
Armed Services Committee hearing
, Casey acknowledged that the Pentagon
estimate of three Iraqi battalions last June had shrunk to one in September.
That is less than six months ago.

I thought it would be a good idea to find someone who is qualified to discuss
how feasible it would be to train 99 Iraqi battalions in less than six months,
as Pace now claims has occurred.

I decided that someone who was in the US Army for 26 years and who worked
in eight conflict areas, starting in Vietnam and ending with Haiti, would be
qualified. If he had served in two parachute infantry units, three Ranger units,
two Special Forces Groups and in Delta Force that would be helpful as well.
And just to make sure, if he taught tactics at the Jungle Operations Training
Center in Panama and Military Science at the United States Military Academy
at West Point, thus knowing a thing or two about training soldiers, that would
be a bonus.

That person is Stan Goff.

"This is utter bullshit," was Goff's remark about the Pace claim
of having 100 Iraqi battalions when I asked him to comment, "He must be
counting the resistance among his forces."

Goff adds, "That dip-shit [Pace] is saying he has 60,000 trained and
disciplined people under arms ... 65,000 with all the staffs ... and almost
100,000 with the support units they would require. To train and oversee them
would require thousands of American advisors. It must suck for a career Marine
to be used so blatantly as a PR flak."

Goff mentioned that Pace "and everyone else" knows that the Iraqi
forces, "however many there are," are heavily cross-infiltrated.

"He [Pace] is saying that the Bush administration is going to empower
a pro-Iranian government with 100 ready battalions, when this administration
was handed this particular government as the booby prize in exchange for Sistani
pulling their cookies out of the fire during the joint rebellions in Najaf
and Fallujah," added Goff.

Further discrediting the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Goff said, "To
train 99 [battalions] since last September is a claim only the average American
might swallow. The right question to ask is, where are they? Where are they
headquartered, and where are they in operation? Claiming operations security
doesn't count, unless they believe they can hide 100 units of 600 people each
in Iraq ... from other Iraqis ... who are often related to them."

He concludes, "These guys have become accustomed to saying any damn
thing, then counting on ignorance and apathy at home - along with hundreds
of Democrats who need spine transplants - to get away with it. You can quote
me on any of that."

There's a good reason why Pace and others are busy spewing smoke - it's to
hide the fact that there are no plans to leave Iraq.

While we're addressing propaganda, we mustn't leave out our brilliant military
strategist and warrior for protecting human rights, the illustrious Secretary
of State Condoleezza Rice.

On March 8th, Rice delivered the opening remarks on the release of her Department's "2005
Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

The introduction to the report says: "In Iraq, 2005 was a year of major
progress for democracy, democratic rights and freedom. There was a steady growth
of NGOs and other civil society associations that promote human rights."

Uh, right.

This report is submitted to Congress by the State Department. I've often
wondered if our politicians are just this ignorant, or simply horrifically
misinformed like so many Americans. This report, perhaps, answers the latter.

My point is, if there is a concerted effort by high-ranking officials of
the Bush administration to portray things in Iraq as going well, then why are
there permanent bases being constructed in Iraq?

This media smokescreen from the likes of Pace, Rice and even "sharp-shooter" Cheney,
who recently said things in Iraq are "improving steadily," conveniently
leads the American people toward believing there will eventually be a withdrawal
of American soldiers.

But the problem with smokescreens is that pesky thing called "reality."

And in Iraq, the reality is that people like Pace, Rice, Cheney and their
ever-eloquent front man aren't telling the American public about their true
plans for Iraq.

One example that provides some insight into their agenda is the US "Embassy" which
is under construction in the infamous "Green Zone."

As you read this, a controversial Kuwait-based construction firm is building
a $592 million US embassy in
Baghdad. When the dust settles, this compound will be the largest and most
secure diplomatic compound in the world.

The headquarters, I mean "Embassy," will be a self-sustaining cluster
of 21 buildings reinforced 2.5 times the usual standards, with some walls to
be as thick as 15 feet.

Plans are for over 1,000 US "government officials" to staff and
reside there. Lucky for them, they will have access to the gym, swimming pool,
barber and beauty shops, food court and commissary. There will also be a large-scale
barracks for troops, a school, locker rooms, a warehouse, a vehicle maintenance
garage, and six apartment buildings with a total of 619 one-bedroom units.
And luckily for the "government officials," their water, electricity
and sewage treatment plants will all be independent from Baghdad's city utilities.
The total site will be two-thirds the area of the National Mall in Washington,

I wonder if any liberated Iraqis will have access to their swimming pool?

And unlike the Iraqi infrastructure, which is in total shambles and functioning
below pre-invasion levels in nearly every area, the US "Embassy" is
being constructed right on time. The US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee recently
called this an "impressive" feat, considering the construction is
taking place in one of the most violent and volatile spots on the planet.

Then there are the permanent military bases.

To give you an idea of what these look like in Iraq, let's start with Camp
Anaconda, near Balad. Occupying 15 square miles of Iraq, the base boasts two
swimming pools (not the plastic inflatable type), a gym, mini-golf course and
first-run movie theater.

The 20,000 soldiers who live at the Balad
Air Base
, less than 1,000 of whom ever leave the base, can inspect new
iPod accessories in one of the two base exchanges, which have piles of the
latest electronics and racks of CDs to choose from. One of the PX managers
recently boasted that every day he was selling 15 televisions to soldiers.

At Camp Anaconda, located in al-Anbar province where resistance is fierce,
the occupation forces live in air-conditioned units where plans are being drawn
up to run internet, cable television and overseas telephone access to them.

The thousands of civilian contractors live at the base in a section called "KBR-land," and
there is a hospital where doctors carry out 400 surgeries every month on wounded

Air Force officials on the base claim the runway there is one of the busiest
in the world, where unmanned Predator drones take off carrying their Hellfire
missiles, along with F-16's, C-130's, helicopters, and countless others, as
the bases houses over 250 aircraft.

If troops aren't up for the rather lavish dinners served by "Third Country
Nationals" from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh who work for slave
wages, they can visit the Burger King, Pizza Hut, Popeye's or Subway, then
wash it down with a mocha from the Starbucks.

There are several other gigantic bases in Iraq besides camp Anaconda, such
as Camp Victory near Baghdad Airport, which - according to a reporter for Mother
Jones magazine - when complete will be twice the size of Camp Bondsteel in
Kosovo. The Kosovo base is currently one of the largest overseas bases built
since the war in Vietnam.

Camp Liberty is adjacent to Camp Victory - where soldiers even compete in
their own triathlons. "The course, longer than 140 total miles, spanned
several bases in the greater Camp Victory area in west Baghdad," says
a news
article on a DOD web site

Mr. Bush refuses
to set a timetable for withdrawal
from Iraq because he doesn't intend
to withdraw. He doesn't intend to because he's following a larger plan for
the US in the Middle East.

Less than two weeks after the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003, US
military officials
announced the intention to maintain at least four
large bases in Iraq that could be used in the future.

These are located near Baghdad International Airport (where the triathlon
was), Tallil (near Nasiriyah, in the south), one in the Kurdish north at either
Irbil or Qayyarah (they are only 50 kilometers apart) and one in western al-Anbar
province at Al-Asad. Of course, let's not forget the aforementioned Camp Anaconda
in Balad.

More recently, on May 22 of last year, US
military commanders
announced that they would consolidate troops into
four large air bases. It was announced at this time that while buildings
were being made of concrete instead of the usual metal trailers and tin-sheathed
buildings, military officers working on the plan "said the consolidation
plan was not meant to establish a permanent US military presence in Iraq."


The US has at least four of these massive bases in Iraq. Billions of dollars
have been spent in their construction, and they are in about the same locations
where they were mentioned they would be by military planners back before Mr.
Bush declared that major
combat operations were over
in Iraq.

It appears as though "mission
" in Iraq was not necessarily referring to guarding
the Ministry of Oil and occupying the country indefinitely (or finding WMDs,
disrupting al-Qaeda, or liberating Iraqis, blah-blah-blah), but to having
a military beach-head in the heart of the Middle East.

Note that while US officials don't dare say the word "permanent" when
referring to military bases in Iraq, they will say "permanent access." An
article entitled "Pentagon Expects Long-Term Access to Four Key Bases
in Iraq," which was a front-page story in the New York Times on April
19, 2003, reads: "There will probably never be an announcement of permanent
stationing of troops. Not permanent basing, but permanent access is all that
is required, officials say."

Why all of this? Why these obviously permanent bases? Why the beach-head?

A quick glance at US government military strategy documents is even more

"Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries
from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the
power of the United States," reads the 2002
National Security Strategy

To accomplish this, the US will "require bases and stations within and
beyond Western Europe and Northeast Asia."

Another interesting document is "Joint Vision 2020" from the Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose "vision" is "Dedicated individuals
and innovative organizations transforming the joint force of the 21st Century
to achieve full spectrum dominance [bold type theirs]: persuasive in peace,
decisive in war, preeminent in any form of conflict [italics theirs]."

US policymakers have replaced the Cold War with the Long War for Global Empire
and Unchallenged Military Hegemony. This is the lens through which we must
view Iraq to better understand why there are permanent US bases there.

In the Quadrennial Defense Review Report released on February 6, 2006, there
is a stated ambition to fight "multiple, overlapping wars" and to "ensure
that all major and emerging powers are integrated as constructive actors and
stakeholders into the international system." The report goes on to say
that the US will "also seek to ensure that no foreign power can dictate
terms of regional or global security. It will attempt to dissuade any military
competitor from developing disruptive or other capabilities that could enable
regional hegemony or hostile action against the United States or other friendly
countries, and it will seek to deter aggression or coercion. Should deterrence
fail, the United States would deny a hostile power its strategic and operational

In sum, what is the purpose of permanent US military garrisons in Iraq and
the implicit goals of these government documents?

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The Weird and Wondrous

Bizarre events linked to sleeping pills in US

By Kim Dixon
Tue Mar 14, 7:55 PM ET

CHICAGO - Strange behavior by insomniacs taking prescription drugs, ranging from binge eating to having sex while asleep, have raised safety questions about anti-insomnia medications like Sanofi-Aventis' Ambien.

Researchers in Minnesota are studying cases where insomniacs taking Ambien got up in the middle of the night, binged uncontrollably, then remembered nothing of their actions. The researchers expect to publish data shortly.
Such sleep-induced side effects while on the medications have been around for years, but the incidence is rising because of an explosion in the drugs' use, specialists said.

About 30 million people in the United States take sleep medications, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. By some counts that is a 50 percent jump since the beginning of the decade.

Some of the most serious side effects are short-term memory loss, and accidents involving patients who drive the next day while still feeling drugged.

"Patients who may have engaged in this unusual behavior at night -- it's relatively rare and bizarre," said Donna Arand, president of the American Insomnia Association.

"The daytime sleepiness -- that drugged feeling that people may have -- is probably the most worrisome because of the (vehicular) accidents that can occur."

Other insomnia medications are Lunesta from Sepracor Inc. and Sonata made by King Pharmaceuticals Inc.. In the $2 billion U.S. market for the drugs, market leader Ambien boasts 12 billion nights of patient use.

Increased use of the drugs is spurred in part by heavy advertising and patients may be using the drugs for longer periods than they are intended, experts said.

Consumer group Public Citizen warned that Ambien should only be used on a limited basis because it causes temporary amnesia, according to pharmacist Larry Sasich.

Because the Food and Drug Administration's reporting system is voluntary and anecdotal, "we don't know how big a problem it is ... we have no way to accurately to assess the prevalence," said Sasich a consultant for Public Citizen.

Sanofi-Aventis said sleepwalking is a rare side effect listed on Ambien's label and that it reports all events to the FDA. Still, it had no statistics about the prevalence of sleepwalking.

Ken Sassower, a staff neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston said a colleague who had taken one of the sleep drugs could not recall advising residents on rounds the next morning.

"The memory issue may be an infrequent side effect, but when it occurs it can be pretty significant ... certainly that needs to be looked at in a more rigorous way," he said.

Doctors recommended against abruptly stopping the drugs, which can cause withdrawal symptoms including seizures.

"The risk was always there; we are seeing it more now because so many more people are using the drugs," said Merrill Mitler, program director at the sleep disorder unit at the National Institutes of Health.

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Mystery Booms Continue To Baffle Everyone

March 14, 2006
By Dan Tilkin
and KATU.com Web Staff

PORTLAND, Ore. - The source of those mysterious rumblings over the weekend that caught the attention of so many continues to be a mystery, although there is a focus on a potential answer.

The focus is on F-15s at the Portland Air Base, which KATU News was originally told were on the ground, but we later learned were not.

It turns out a group of F-15s were launched from the Portland International Airport Saturday night as part of three days of intensive training.

Within an hour of their departure, people started hearing things and feeling some rumblings. That is when the 911 calls began.

Even the commander of the F-15 squadron heard the strange noise from his home in Lake Oswego.

The logical explanation seemed to be that the fighter jets set off a sonic boom, but the Air National Guard says it does not make sense that so many people, from Longview to the Oregon coast, would hear the same sonic booms at the same time. A much smaller range of 10 to 20 miles is more likely.

With so many wondering what happened, the Air National Guard is continuing its investigation.

That leaves others to speculate about meteors and to do comparisons with a similar unexplained phenomenon in Florida last year and in Maine just last month.

Others speculate it is a secret government plane, code-named Aurora, which supposedly flies out of Area 51 in Nevada.

For years, unusually intense sonic booms rocked Los Angeles, with many believing it was Aurora passing by at four times the speed of sound.

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Professor challenges Mayan calendar opinion

Education Writer
News Journal Online

The end of the world will come on Dec. 21, 2012. Or not.

While some New Age authors and teachers are touting that date as an apocalypse, a Stetson University professor is challenging the reasoning behind it.

At a public lecture at the Volusia County Library Center on City Island today, Robert Sitler plans to discuss "The 2012 Phenomenon: A New Age Appropriation of an Ancient Mayan Calendar," an article he wrote last month for Nova Religio, the Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions.

Sitler, an associate professor of Spanish language and literature, has been studying and teaching Mayan culture since arriving at Stetson in 1994. He contends the Mayan calendar has long been the subject of "gross misinterpretation" on several hundred Web sites and in a continuous stream of books.

Those postings and printings are evidence of a growing public interest in the Mayan Long Count calendar, which had fallen out of use by the Mayans of Guatemala, Mexico and Belize, long before the Spanish conquerors had arrived.

The 2012 date is the last day of the current "b'aktun" cycle, or period of 144,000 days, and the final day of an even longer period consisting of 13 such cycles. No one knows why the calendar is arranged with an end date, Sitler said. But the Mayans were known for their accurate knowledge of astronomy.

"It's a weird concept to many because the calendar seems to have a preordained ending date," said Jeremy Puma, a Seattle resident and St. Augustine native who writes Fantastic Planet, a "gnostic" blog. He noted in an e-mail interview that the Mayans used the calendar for planting crops and other purposes, but the New Age movement "seems to have glommed onto the calendar's more mythological aspects."

First and foremost, Sitler and Puma agree, is New Age author Jose Arguelles, most famed for his declaration of a "Harmonic Convergence" in August 1987. The Harmonic Convergence, Arguelles said, was the "exponential acceleration of the wave harmonic of history as it phases into a moment of unprecedented synchronization," and "a shift point into the last 25 years of the galactic beam."

Sitler says Arguelles' approach is Mayan culture with "creative abandon," and when challenged, will note that his version of a 260-day Mayan ritual calendar, which differs significantly from the actual calendar used by some Maya even today, is a version of the "Galactic Maya," rather than the indigenous Maya.

"Arguelles is merely the best-known teacher in an ever-expanding international group that includes dozens of highly inventive and often eccentric individuals reaching out to the New Age public with their ideas concerning 2012," Sitler said. He notes the existence of a Web site that features a running clock until Dec. 21, 2012, with links to another selling T-shirts bearing the 2012 date and featuring several pop-up ads.

Despite the blatant commercialism, there remains a lot of interest in the subject, said Jeff Dorian, director of the MetaScience Research Forum, a local group that meets monthly at the Edgewater Public Library. Dorian said he has long wanted to land an expert in the Mayan calendar to speak to his group.

"There is a percentage of people who believe the end of the Mayan calendar will be the end of everything," Dorian said. "There's about as many interpretations of the Mayan calendar as there are experts."

Inside an Ormond Beach New Age shop, the Crystal Connection, a thumping of drums, soft whistle of a flute and screech of an unidentifiable rainforest avian greets visitors. Books line the shelves, carrying titles such as, "The Fourth Dimension," "The Book of Thoth," and "Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma." Also available: pyramids, amethysts from Uruguay, angels and fairies (spelled "faeries", presumably to seem more Gaelic).

Roger Hollander, owner of the shop, said he doesn't believe 2012 will bring the end of the world. But, he adds: "There are many people that believe this. Some believe this strongly."

Hollander, who also owns similar shops in Indian Rocks Beach and St. Augustine, believes a change could be coming in 2012.

"The world will have a better, a deeper sense of consciousness. By then, (people) should be worn out doing it how they're doing it now. We'll either be here or we won't; we'll just have to experience it."

Sitler predicts the Mayans' culture could lend 2012 "an attractive power that may eventually even outstrip" Y2K, the hype surrounding the year 2000.

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How do animals migrate without getting lost?

Sanjida O'Connell
15 March 2006
UK Independent

Is it by smell, sight - or via a cosmic 'elastic band'?

The tiny Arctic tern flies 14,000 miles from the Farne Islands to Australia when it is three months old. In the course of its life, a Manx shearwater will travel 5,000,000 miles. A baby turtle will cross the Atlantic and end up in the same spot off Florida 10 years later. But how do these migrating creatures navigate?

Harry Marshall, producer of Paranormal Pigeons, due to be screened on Five in May, says pigeons are "the key to unlocking this mystery". They are able to return to their lofts even when they've been released in an unfamiliar location hundreds of miles away, yet scientists have failed to agree on a reason why.

Dr Tim Guilford of Oxford University thinks they do it by using visual landmarks. Guilford, himself a champion paraglider, says: "When you're flying you realise that what is normally a three dimensional landscape becomes very two dimensional, almost map-like.I think that's the way birds see the world."

He and his colleagues have attached GPS devices to pigeons that log their flight. Using Ordnance Survey maps it appears that pigeons do seem to follow major routes, like roads, back home. When they've been released in an unfamiliar location, the pigeons circle, before flying to an obvious landmark like a church and picking up their normal route again.

Even though Guilford's findings back up this suggestion, more than 30 years ago it was shown that pigeons wearing opaque contact lenses could still find their way home. Nor does it explain how birds like the Arctic tern can circumnavigate the globe without ever having been to the place they're headed for.

Professor Wolfgang and Dr Roswitha Wiltschko of Frankfurt University believe it's down to magnetism. They claim that pigeons have a compass in their eye and a magnetometer in their beak to measure the intensity of the earth's magnetic field, and thus whether they are north or south of home. Roswitha says: "You know when you are standing upright and I think it's something similar to that."

The pair could be on to something. In Science, Dr Kenneth Lohmann, from the University of North Carolina, published evidence that suggested baby turtles navigate through the Sargasso Sea using a magnetic map. He exposed loggerhead turtles to a magnetic field generated by an electric coil that mimicked the earth's magnetic field at three key locations along their route. When the turtles were exposed to a field like the one that occurs near Portugal, the turtles paddled south, which is what they would have done had they really been swimming in the area.

A third theory comes from Dr Anna Gagliardo, who believes that pigeons navigate by smell. Gagliardo, from the University of Pisa, claims the birds follow scents blown in on the winds. Harry Marshall agrees. "It's not about following a scent trail," he says. "Each landscape has its own olfactory signature. The birds then remember where these lie in relation to each other, like a patchwork of odours."

Gagliardo has some convincing evidence to back up her claims. She raised two groups of pigeons in sheds made of chicken wire, one of which had glass put round it so that any wind blowing in had to come in through the top. The pigeons in the open roost experienced breezes with distinct regional scents attached; those encased in glass had wind and smells, but did not know which scent had come from which direction. Gagliardo then released the pigeons over a lake so that they would not have any landmarks to use as guides. The pigeons who had been in the glass-enclosed shed were not able to find their way home, but those who had been in the other shed were able to.

But one man disagrees with all these theories. Dr Rupert Sheldrake believes that animals use what he calls "morphic resonance". He thinks that there is a memory in nature, and that objects resonate with it, so that pigeons will return to their loft as if attached by an invisible elastic band that stretches through the cosmos. In a cunning experiment, the Paranormal Pigeon team set out to test his hypothesis. With the help of Ragsy, a pigeon fancier, pigeons were raised in a shed in Sharpness Docks in Gloucestershire. The loft was floated a few miles up and down the canal, showing the pigeons that their home could move - not something that they would ever have come across. Then the loft, minus its inhabitants, was towed out to sea and the pigeons were released from Sharpness. Ragsy waited by the shed, growing increasingly seasick. Eventually the floating shed was towed back. The pigeons were sitting waiting, 55 hours later, when their home reappeared. The cosmic elastic band seemed to have snapped.

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Birds Fall Mysteriously From Texas Sky


West, Tx- The mystery remains over why some birds fell from the sky dead Sunday evening.

We first told you about the birds Sunday night, and that some nearby residents were so worried they locked themselves inside their home. They told us they found about a dozen dead black birds littering the small community of West.

We spent much of the day in West talking to police and Department of Wildlife agents, who are trying to figure out why the birds mysteriously died.

Overnight, residents reported black birds falling out of the sky.

David Coleman a resident of West said, "We thought it was kind of weird, he just fell out of the sky and there was a bunch of them flying over."

Even on Monday, we found the remains of birds throughout the city, and that made some people think the worst.

"You think about the bird flu that's been mentioned recently that was my first thought, that this bird was sick, and we were kind of scared about that," Coleman said.

The good news is it's not the bird flu, according to the Texas Department of Wildlife. But officials say as a precaution, the dead birds should not be handled.

The west police department is also looking into the deaths. And Wildlife experts admit they still don't know what killed the birds, but they're running tests on some of the carcasses they collected. And in the meantime, they warn this could happen again.

The state department of wildlife tells us it's actually common to see bird deaths this time of year. Most of the dead birds in this case were discovered in a four square block area of west near downtown.

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'UFO sighting really took my breath away'

By Carron Taylor
Borough News UK

Was it a bird? Was it a plane? No, it was a shining silver pyramid, according to two colleagues who spotted a UFO in the skies of Putney last week.

Michelle Medhat was sitting at her office desk last Wednesday morning when she glanced out of the window and spotted a glimmering silver object in the sky.

"I thought what the hell is that?' There were no clouds in the sky at all and 100 per cent visibility.

"The sun was hitting the object and you could see it was turning very slowly.

"I did get a feeling there was something strange about the thing," she said.

Entranced, Michelle signalled to her colleague Peter Gardiner, 53, to take a look.

He said: "At first I thought it was a big piece of rubbish or a clear tarpaulin sheet.

"But then it glistened and it was shiny. It had a strange pattern of movement. It was a significant size, possibly the size of a roof or even a house."
The pair watched it for a couple of minutes, rotating in the distance and heading towards Wandsworth Town. Then, as soon as it had appeared it vanished.

Michelle said if it was a piece of rubbish it would have caused severe damage when it came down, because of its size and density.

"I can't explain it and therefore I'm calling it a UFO. It took my breath away. It did feel weird.

"The more I looked at it I realised there was something not quite right. It wasn't moving like anything I've ever seen before," she said.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said it had not been notified of any sighting of the pyramid.

"The MoD does not have any expertise or role in respect of UFO/flying saucer' matters or to the question of the existence or otherwise of extraterrestrial lifeforms, about which it remains totally open-minded."

He said it examined the reports of UFO sightings it received solely to establish whether what was seen might have some defence significance, namely whether there was any evidence the UK's airspace might have been compromised by hostile or unauthorised air activity.

Michelle and Peter said there has been a lot of activity in the skies over Putney recently.

Michelle said they had seen several Chinook helicopters over the past week and believes something must be happening.

Chinooks are used to transport troops, artillery, supplies and equipment, but also used for operations such as medical evacuation, disaster relief and search and rescue.

When travelling to Putney, our reporter saw what looked to be three Apache helicopters travelling east.

A spokesman for the MoD said the helicopters were probably part of general aviation traffic over London and there was no specific activity or event they were involved in. He added such movements were "not unusual".

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Ark's Quantum Quirks

March 15, 2006


Quantum Jump in Torino

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International Insanity

Thai polls in doubt after hundreds banned

Wed Mar 15, 3:31 AM ET

BANGKOK - Next month's Thailand election have been thrown into doubt after hundreds of candidates were banned from standing, as the country's embattled premier said he would consider stepping aside temporarily.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra called the April 2 poll early in hopes of ending weeks of political turmoil that have seen mass protests in the streets calling for his resignation.

But after a boycott left nearly one-third of the candidates for parliament running unopposed, an election commission official said that about the same number had also been barred from standing.
The official told AFP that around 326 of the 941 candidates would not be allowed, most because they had not belonged to their parties for at least 90 days before election day, as mandated by Thai law.

"After we received reports from the provincial election officials, many candidates were disqualified," the official said, adding that officials were meeting Wednesday to finalize the list and approve the election date.

The announcement cast further doubt on the polls, which Thaksin called to quell the furor after his family sold its 1.9 billion dollar stake in a telecoms firm he founded.

The revised election line-up left Thaksin's party unchallenged in about 70 percent of constituencies, with most of those disqualified from tiny opposition parties largely unknown to the public.

Under Thai law, candidates running for uncontested seats must win votes from 20 percent of the registered voters in their district or run in a by-election.

If voters decide to stay home and leave a large number of seats empty, the new parliament could be hamstrung and unable to confirm Thaksin as prime minister, pushing Thailand into uncharted political territory.

With worries over the vote dominating Thai media, Thaksin said he was willing to consider a proposal to step aside long enough to allow for constitutional reforms sought by the opposition.

"I am open to considering every solution," the premier said when asked about the proposal while he was campaigning in the northeastern town of Buriram.

"I still have to decide what to do. I will make the best decision when the time comes," Thaksin said.

"If there is anyone who could work instead of me, I would not cling to my position," he said.

Thaksin's remarks came one day after some 70,000 protesters blockaded his office, in the latest mass protest to demand he step down over allegations of corruption.

Some 2,000 protesters were still camped outside his office Wednesday, vowing to remain until he agreed to resign.

Thaksin appeared to be reassessing his options after the protest, which police said was the largest since the demonstrations began February 4.

In one of his frequent cabinet reshuffles Tuesday, he promoted his top security official, Chidchai Vanasatidya, to become his first deputy.

Chidchai tried to downplay speculation that he was now next in line to lead the government should Thaksin leave office, saying: "I am not politically ambitious, and other people are more ready than me."

Thaksin also suffered a slight from military leaders Tuesday, who publicly contradicted his warning about declaring a state of emergency should the protest turn violent. The military leaders insisted such a move was unwarranted.

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Prodi on top in first TV election debate with Berlusconi

Wed Mar 15, 1:20 AM ET

ROME - Former European Commission president Romano Prodi appeared the clear winner over Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in their first prime-time TV debate ahead of next month's legislative elections.

As the two coalition leaders went head-to-head under the studio lights on Tuesday, commentators were generally agreed that Prodi came over as serene and confident while Berlusconi appeared to be on the defensive, flicking nervous smiles at the camera.
With 24 percent of voters still undecided, according to a poll in the Correiere della Sera newspaper, media tycoon turned politician Berlusconi and erstwhile EU executive president Prodi had both prepared carefully.

Polls have consistently pointed to victory for Prodi's centre-left coalition at the April 9-10 legislative elections, but a final outcome cannot be taken for granted, political analyst Renato Mannheimer said.

In their 90-minutes of televised jousting there were no new slogans or major insights but Prodi dominated in style and content.

Berlusconi, who heads the ruling centre-right coalition, often appeared on the defensive and was called to order several times by the debate mediator for over-running his alloted speaking time.

In his final comments, Berlusconi complained that the debate rules were "very strict" and had prevented him from replying in a "direct manner" or to properly explain his political agenda.

He nonetheless claimed to have won the debate.

Prodi came over as more relaxed and launched several barbs at his old political rival.

"After five years in government, you talk as if you are the opposition," he charged, after the prime minister had attacked the legacy of the leftist government he succeeded to power in 2001.

"What have you done during five years in government? Only those things that were in your interest?" he asked.

Shortly after that he took exception when Berlusconi called him "a front man for a divided coalition".

During the 1996 campaign, Berlusconi and Prodi appeared twice in televised debates, and both times Prodi emerged dominant -- helping his Olive Tree coalition to roll on to victory on polling day.

"Prodi showed himself to be more effective," opined political commentator Renato Mannheimer.

"Prodi chose to keep it simple and managed to joke about government spending while Berlusconi repeated his attacks against the left," he added.

Prodi spoke like a future prime minister "presenting his projects and above all his working methods while Berlusconi spoke like someone on the way out, defending his record with a flurry of figures," said Paolo Gentiloni, head of the Rai state television's monitoring group.

A second TV debate is scheduled for April 3 on Rai.

Every move and expression of the two protagonists was minutely scrutinised. Prodi waved his hands to illustrate his points while Berlusconi doodle geometric patterns on a piece of paper in front of him.

Berlusconi is in a position of some weakness after he was indicted Friday in Milan on corruption charges, and distanced himself from Francesco Storace who quit as health minister amidst a political espionage scandal.

Berlusconi also lost his cool on Sunday when he stomped out of a TV studio before the end of a recorded interview, accusing the journalist who was grilling him of being a left-winger who wouldn't let him answer questions.

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One dead in booby-trapped car in Paris suburb

March 15, 2006

PARIS - A man was killed and another wounded when a bomb went off in a booby-trapped car that was being driven in the northern Paris suburbs, police said Wednesday.
The bomb, which was placed under the seat of the driver, went off at around 12:00 noon (1100 GMT) on a slip-road of the A1 motorway in the suburb of La Courneuve.

The passenger was taken to hospital.

The car belonged to a man in his 70s known to the police for his financial affairs, and the most likely theory was a settling of accounts in the criminal underworld, police said.

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Canada, Get Out of Afghanistan

By Eric Margolis

PARIS – Scattered across South Africa's windswept veldt are the forgotten graves of 266 Canadian soldiers killed from 1899–1902 fighting to impose British Imperial rule on fiercely resisting Boer farmers.

A century later, Canadian troops have again been sent to fight as auxiliaries in another remote war – this time Afghanistan.

Since time immemorial, when great emperors went to war, they summoned contingents of their vassals and tributaries to their standards. So it was in Afghanistan, and then Iraq, when the U.S. decided to invade those nations and demand its allies join the so-called "war on terrorism."

Under irresistible pressure from Washington to aid its highly unpopular military expeditions in either Iraq or Afghanistan, America's allies and NATO partners opted for the lesser evil, Afghanistan.

That is why 2,100 Canadian troops have ended up in a nation in which Canada has absolutely no strategic, commercial, cultural or emotional interests.

Now, as the number of Canadian military casualties rises, the dismayed public rightly asks, "What are we doing there? We thought it was another peacekeeping mission."

Thank Ottawa and Canada's media for misinforming the public. There was no significant debate in Parliament. The media indulged in flag-waving instead of warning Canadians they were walking into a small, but real, war.

Canadians are not peacekeeping in Kandahar: There is no peace to keep. They are there to help impose U.S. rule over Afghanistan, and safeguard routes for planned oil pipelines.

Canadian soldiers are on a war-fighting mission, auxiliaries in the U.S.-led military occupation of Afghanistan. In the southern heartland of the nation's largest tribe, the famously warlike and xenophobic Pashtun, U.S. forces and their allies are seen as foreign occupiers and enemies of Islam. Pashtun are slow to act but ferocious, and they never forget a wrong.

For some reason, Ottawa agreed to put its little garrison into Afghanistan's most dangerous area, Kandahar, in the centre of Pashtun territory and the heartland of the Taliban. Afghans do not differentiate between Americans and Canadians.

Fierce tribes

Afghan tribes are taking up arms against their foreign occupiers. I saw this happen during the 1980s, when growing hatred of Soviet occupation forces ignited a national uprising.

Today, in the eyes of many Afghans, the U.S. has merely replaced the Soviets. All past occupiers, starting with Alexander the Great, were driven out by the fierce Afghan tribes.

Canucks are prime targets. They lack effective liaison with circling U.S. warplanes that normally bomb and rocket any attackers within 2–3 minutes of an assault. Such deadly instant response by U.S. air power forced the resistance to resort to roadside explosives and car bombs, as in Iraq.

National resistance is growing. The U.S.-installed Karzai regime in Kabul would not last a day without foreign bayonets.

The former Taliban regime almost totally suppressed the heroin trade. Today, Afghanistan is a narcostate. It supplies 90% of the world's heroin – the economy runs on drug money. This is the "democratic" régime Canadian troops are defending with their lives.

Parliament, media, and all Canadians have got to begin debating what their soldiers are doing in this war that lacks any foreseeable political resolution. Forget all the cheery propaganda fed to the gullible press: Afghanistan is a dangerous mess and Canadians are right in the middle of it.

When more body bags come home from Kandahar, as they likely will, Canada's politicians are going to have to start explaining to the public what, exactly, its soldiers are dying for in Afghanistan.

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Iran - Bring It On!

Bush blames Iran for some bombs in Iraq

Mon, 13 Mar 2006
CBC News

He told an audience in Washington that his administration has proof that Iran is producing lethal, improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that have been found in Iraq.

"Coalition forces have seized IEDs and components that were clearly produced in Iran," the president said.
Bush's administration has been critical of Iran, accusing Tehran of trying to build nuclear weapons.

It has been threatening to bring the issue to the United Nations Security Council to seek possible sanctions.

Iran, whose hardline Islamic government fought a bitter war against Iraq in the 1980s, says it has a right to develop a peaceful nuclear program aimed at generating power.

Bush on new PR offensive

Bush's speech was billed as the first in a series intended to rebuild public support for the U.S. military's presence in Iraq, in the wake of an AP-Ipsos poll last week that showed the president's approval rating had dipped to an all-time low.

The poll suggested only 39 per cent of Americans support Bush's handling of the situation in Iraq, where 133,000 U.S. troops are currently stationed.

"We will not lose our nerve," Bush said in Monday's speech, pledging that the United States would continue to face off against militants in Iraq.

"I wish I could tell you that the violence is waning and that the road ahead will be smooth. It will not. There will be more tough fighting and more days of struggle, and we will see more images of chaos and carnage in the days and months to come."
U.S. President George W. Bush gives the speech at George Washington University in Washington on March 13, 2006. (AP photo)

Bush said the militants were trying to shake Americans' resolve and force a retreat, but he vowed not to let them succeed.

"The battle lines in Iraq are clearly drawn for the world to see and there is no middle ground. The enemy will emerge from Iraq one of two ways: emboldened or defeated."

1 in 10 of British troops leaving

On a related note, Britain said Monday that it intends to decrease the number of troops it maintains in Iraq by 10 per cent, amounting to 800 soldiers.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been Bush's strongest ally in the international coalition that has been trying to maintain order in Iraq in the three years since a U.S.-led invasion ousted former leader Saddam Hussein.

"Our commitment to the coalition remains certain," Defence Secretary John Reid said in a speech to the British House of Commons.

Britain is reducing its contingent of troops because Iraqi security forces are ready to take a greater role in policing the country, Reid said.

Comment: A blatant lie? Seems like it...

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US general says no proof Iran behind Iraq arms

Tue Mar 14, 2006
By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON - The United States does not have proof that Iran's government is responsible for the presence of Iranian weapons and military personnel in Iraq, the top U.S. military officer said on Tuesday.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also said the United States may slightly increase its troops in Iraq from the current 133,000 to provide more security for an upcoming Shi'ite pilgrimage amid worry about further sectarian violence.

President George W. Bush said on Monday components from Iran were being used in powerful roadside bombs used in Iraq, and Rumsfeld said last week that Iranian Revolutionary Guard personnel had been inside Iraq to stir up trouble.

Asked whether the United States has proof that Iran's government was behind these developments, Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon briefing, "I do not, sir."

Rumsfeld said that there was evidence, which he did not specify, that Revolutionary Guard troops "have been and/or are in Iraq," and that it would be reasonable to suggest Iran's government was responsible.

"It's entirely possible there are rogue elements and they're just there on their own or they're pilgrims. Not likely," Rumsfeld added.

U.S. charges about Iranian weapons and personnel in Iraq have added to tensions between the United States and Iran over Tehran's nuclear ambitions.


Rumsfeld said it was difficult to prove Iranian government involvement.

"As to equipment, unless you physically see it coming in a government-sponsored vehicle or with government-sponsored troops, you can't know it," Rumsfeld said. "All you know is that you find equipment, weapons, explosives, whatever, in a country that came from the neighboring country."

"With respect to people, it's very difficult to tie a thread precisely to the government of Iran," Rumsfeld added.

Comment: So with no evidence of a Iran having Nuclear weapons and no evidence of Iranian interference in Iraq, what reason is there to attack Iran? Well, you see, that's there thing, there is no reason, other than Israel wants to be top dog in the Middle East, and Israel is willing to make the sacrifice of thousands of Iranian and US military lives to achieve that goal.

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Activists in Iran say U.S. strategy hurts their work

March 14, 2006
By Karl Vick and David Finkel
The Washington Post

TEHRAN, Iran - Prominent activists inside Iran say President Bush's plan to spend tens of millions of dollars to promote democracy here is the kind of help they don't need.

In a case that advocates fear is directly linked to Bush's announcement, the government has jailed two Iranians who traveled outside the country to attend what was billed as workshops on human rights.

Two others who attended were interrogated for three days.

The workshops, conducted by U.S.-based groups, were held in April. But Iranian investigators did not summon participants until last month, about the time the Bush administration announced plans to spend $85 million "to support the cause of freedom in Iran this year."

"We are under pressure here both from hard-liners in the judiciary and that stupid George Bush," activist Emad Baghi said as he waited for his wife and daughter to emerge from interrogation last week.

The fallout illustrates the challenge facing Washington as it seeks a role in a country where U.S. influence is unwelcome even by many who share the same goal.

"Unfortunately, I've got to say it has a negative effect, not a positive one," said Abdolfattah Soltani, a human-rights lawyer recently released from seven months in prison.

After writing in a newspaper that his clients were beaten while in jail, Soltani was charged with offenses that included spying for the United States.

"This is something we all know, that a way of dealing with human-rights activists is to claim they have secret relations with foreign powers," said Soltani, who co-founded a human-rights defense group with Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi. "This very much limits our actions. It is very dangerous to our society."

Activists said the Bush initiative demonstrates the chasm that often separates those working inside Iran for greater freedoms - carefully calibrating their actions to nudge incremental changes in a hostile system - and the more strident approach of many Iranian exiles who often have the ear of Washington.

"Our society is very complicated," said Vahid Pourostad, editor of National Trust, a reform newspaper. "Generally speaking, it is impossible to impose something from outside.

"It seems to me the United States is not studying the history of Iran very carefully," Pourostad said. "Whenever they came and supported an idea publicly, the public has done the opposite."

Russia, China resist pressuring Iran

UNITED NATIONS - Russia and China have rejected proposals from the United States and other veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council for a statement demanding Iran clear up suspicions about its nuclear program, diplomats said Monday.

The dispute raises the threat of an impasse in the Security Council and means that the U.S., Britain and France may not get their wish for strong action by the powerful U.N. body.

They believe such a text could further isolate Iran and help force it to abandon uranium enrichment, a process that can make fuel for a civilian nuclear reactor or fissile material for an atomic bomb.

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Iran: Where do we go from here?

By Mike Whitney

The Bush administration has run into a rock wall at the Security Council. Neither Russia nor China will agree to any resolution that condemns Iran for "noncompliance" with its treaty obligations. In fact, there is general agreement that Iran has not violated the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) so the point is moot. This eliminates any chance that punitive action will be taken against Iran or that sanctions will be applied.

So why did the Bush administration take the case this far if they knew that there was no possibility for consensus on the main issue?

The administration knew from the beginning that the world body would not support sanctions or military action. The intention was simply to increase suspicion about Iran's nuclear programs and mobilize public support for a war.

In fact, the United States is not at all concerned with Iran's nuclear programs. It is merely a hoax that is being used to conceal Washington's war plans.
Presently, the administration is trying to coerce the Security Council to issue a strongly-worded "presidential statement" laying out what Iran needs to do to ease concerns that it is using its civilian programs to hide a nuclear weapons program.

Since there is "no evidence" of such programs (according to the UN watchdog agency IAEA) the Security Council should not become involved in a process that can only strengthen the administrations plans to attack Iran.

The "presidential statement" does not have the power of a Security Council "resolution". It cannot be used to apply sanctions or to take military action. It is purely a formal reprimand that makes constructive suggestions for changing behavior. It is designed to allay fears that Iran may be secretly building nukes. Unfortunately, the statement is utterly meaningless since Iran has already allowed the most extensive inspection regime to rummage through every aspect of its nuclear program for 2 years without producing any proof of wrongdoing.

The Bush administration would never waste its time on diplomatic maneuvering unless it had a goal in mind. The strategy for using the presidential statement as a pretext for war is evident in the way the wording is being negotiated. Rather than simply saying that the Security Council hopes that Iran will guarantee that its program is "exclusively peaceful purposes"; the US wants to add that, "continued enrichment-related activity would add to the importance and urgency of further action by the Council".

This phrasing provides the US with a pretext for intervention if Iran continues to enrich uranium.

The statement also contains a demand that Iran accept an "additional protocol" that gives IAEA inspectors "exceptional access to plants". It asks for "additional 'transparency measures,' including access to individuals, documents, and research laboratories".

In essence, the statement insists that Iran forgo its "inalienable right" to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes and accept an intrusive inspection-regime that can ferret through every armory, barracks, conventional-weapons site, communications facility, ammunition-dump, palace, and research laboratory in the country. This is the same rule that was applied to Saddam before the war in Iraq.

But, why should Iran agree to this public humiliation if it has done nothing wrong? Should they sacrifice their sovereign rights just to placate Washington?

Iran will never accept these conditions nor would the United States if the situation was reversed. Iran must continue to defend its right to enrich uranium and, thus, vindicate the principle that underscores international treaties. The Bush administration has no authority to repeal treaties nor does it have the right to create the conditions whereby the terms of those treaties are rescinded.

The "presidential statement" will be used in the media to demonize Iran for its alleged "defiance" and to convince the public that there is universal agreement on Iran's imaginary nuclear weapons programs. Although the statement does not authorize the US to take unilateral action, it will be used to do just that. John Bolton has already admitted that if the Security Council does not meet the administrations expectations, the US may act on its own and look for partners in applying sanctions or taking military action.

So, where do we go from here?

There's a good chance that the logistical groundwork for war with Iran has already been laid. This would explain the earnestness of American diplomats at the State Dept. and the UN.

The Security Council needs to realize the gravity of the situation and take positive steps to diffuse the crisis. The Council should forgo the issuing of the "presidential statement" and buttress Iran's rights under the NPT to enrich uranium under the strict supervision of the IAEA. They should also condemn any unilateral action by member states as a violation to the UN Charter which confers sole authority to the UN Security Council for sanctions or military action.

Most of all, the United Nations must defend its own credibility as a viable institution for world peace by ensuring that it is not used to mask the war-mongering objectives of other nations.

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China, Russia Blocking U.S. Bid to Pressure Iran

March 13 2006

China and Russia are blocking agreement on a U.S.-backed statement by the United Nations Security Council that Iran must suspend uranium enrichment activities, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said.

Envoys from China, France, Russia, the U.K. and U.S., the council's five permanent members, ended a third round of talks today on a draft statement that also asks the UN's nuclear watchdog agency to report on Iran's response to the suspension demand. Another meeting is scheduled for tomorrow in New York.

``We've been trying to get this issue into the Security Council for close to four years and other countries, including other permanent members, haven't had that view, so it's no surprise that different views remain,'' Bolton told reporters at the UN.
U.K. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said Britain, France and the U.S. want a statement supporting the International Atomic Energy Agency's demand for greater cooperation by Iran, urging Iran to comply and seeking an IAEA report on the response.

Iran, holder of the world's second-largest reserves of oil and gas, said it has the right to produce enriched uranium, which can be used in nuclear reactors and bombs. The IAEA can't ``conclude that there are no undeclared nuclear materials or activities in Iran,'' Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said in a report send to the Security Council's 15-member governments last week.


Iran announced that it would resume uranium enrichment after talks with the France, Germany and the U.K. broke down.

Chinese and Russian envoys have said they don't want to go beyond an expression of support for the IAEA in the Security Council. Sanctions on Iran aren't being considered.

Jones Parry said the U.S., U.K. and France would circulate a text to the Security Council's 10 elected members as early as tomorrow, regardless of whether agreement is reached with China and Russia. He said there is agreement among the permanent members on very basic goals.

``On strategic goals there is absolutely no disagreement,'' he said. ``Our aim is to avoid proliferation of nuclear weapons, encourage Iran to come into compliance with what the governing board of the IAEA has asked. We are discussing the best means by which we can apply pressure to encourage Iran and demonstrate support for the board.''

Bolton said the U.S., U.K. and France might submit their text as a resolution that would be voted on by the Security Council, and which China and Russia could veto. Their initial plan was for a statement adopted by consensus, without a vote.

In Washington, President George W. Bush today extended economic sanctions against Iran that have been in effect since March 1995. The routine annual notice, which prevents trade between the U.S. and Iran, keeps the sanctions from expiring on March 15.

The ``crisis'' between the U.S. and Iran ``has not been resolved,'' Bush's notice to Congress says. Iran's policies are ``contrary to the interests of the United States in the region and pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy and economy of the United States,'' the statement says.

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US proposes global civilian nuclear partnership

Wed Mar 15, 4:10 AM ET

MOSCOW - US Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman proposed a new global "partnership" overseen by the UN nuclear watchdog to improve access to civilian nuclear power in developing countries.

"We have the choice of a game of catch up or to initiate a more secure approach to the world. The program is at a very early stage but the initial consultations with France, Russia, China are encouraging," Bodman said at a press conference ahead of a Group of Eight energy meeting he is attending in Moscow.

The partnership would be overseen by the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, he said.

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Global Bully USA

Russian state-controlled TV revives allegation of secret CIA prison in Ukraine

13 March 2006

MOSCOW - Russian state television revived an allegation that Ukraine hosted a secret CIA prison for terrorist suspects, a move Kiev allegedly made to prove its loyalty to the United States.

The alleged prison was located in a former nuclear weapons storage base in a military garrison in the Kiev region, an investigative reporter for Rossiya television said in a broadcast late Sunday. He said the prisoners were probably transferred to Ukraine from Poland and Romania.

"In the opinion of many foreign experts, Ukraine served as a buffer," the reporter, Arkady Mamontov, said. "When information about the location of secret prisons on the territory of East European states, first of all Poland, came out and the scandal started, they remembered the Ukrainian variant."

The Russian state television allegations come just two weeks before Ukraine's parliamentary elections, in which one of the top issues will be whether Kiev's top foreign policy priority should be Russia or the West. President Viktor Yushchenko aspires for Ukraine to join NATO. The party that is currently ahead in the polls, led by former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, favors closer ties with Moscow.

Ukrainian officials vehemently denied allegations of a secret prison when they were first printed in a Swiss newspaper in January.

"There are no secret detention facilities or secret bases run by foreign governments on Ukrainian soil," Ukrainian State Security agency spokeswoman Maryna Ostapenko said at the time.

Mamontov last made a splash in Russia with his report on British spies allegedly sending and receiving intelligence through transmitters hidden in a rock in a Moscow park and funding non-governmental organizations. The footage for that broadcast came from Russia's intelligence service.

Mamontov did not divulge his sources for the Ukraine prison report, saying only that he got most of his information "practically from a firsthand source." He also spoke with an employee of a company that performed a renovation at the base and with soldiers who described underground storehouses.

The allegations of secret CIA prisons in Europe were first reported by The Washington Post in November. The New York-based Human Rights Watch group identified Romania and Poland as possible hosts of secret U.S.-run detention facilities; both denied involvement. Clandestine detention centers and secret flights to countries where suspects could face torture would violate European human rights treaties.

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US Want Full Access to Bulgarian Military Bases

14 March 2006
Sofia News agency

The United States demand that Bulgaria grants them unlimited access to Bulgaria's military bases and equipment, and Bulgaria does not agree.

Negotiations concerning US military bases here still haven't been concluded, Angel Naydenov, head of the Parliamentary Defence Committee explained for private Nova television. Three negotiation stages have been so far completed since October 2005, and Bulgaria is currently very close to the finish, he said.
However, major disagreements arise around the conditions of access to the bases. While Bulgaria wants guarantees that these facilities would not be used without its consent, the US demand full access. They also want to apply their own jurisdiction and laws when an American violates the law on Bulgarian territory. Bulgarians do not agree on that point and this has stalled the negotiations for a while, the MP added.

Should both sides reach an agreement, the US would pay for the use and maintenance of the facilities and invest in military infrastructure, but all bases will be under a Bulgarian flag. There is no guarantee that such an agreement would be reached at all, Naydenov warned, and added that no specific deadlines have been set for concluding the negotiations.

There is a bog difference between Bulgaria and Romania's negotiations with the US, Naydenov said. While Romania has met all the demands put forth by the Americans, Bulgaria is trying to protect its national interests.

The US has asked to be given access to a third military base in central Bulgaria, though negotiations have been so far focused on two sites alone - Bezmer airfield and Novo Selo shooting range. An airfield at Graf Ignatievo, near the second largest Bulgarian city of Plovdiv, is said to match all of the Pentagon's requirements.

Comment: "Give us access to all of your military bases or we will unleash our band of "mulsim terrorists" to prove that you support terrorism, after which we will bomb the crap out of your country."

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US to vote against new UN human rights council: report

Wed Mar 15, 3:32 AM ET

NEW YORK - The United States will call for a vote in the UN General Assembly on a proposed new Human Rights Council, but will then vote against the measure, The New York Times reported.

The 191-member assembly has been unable to agree on a replacement for the current UN Human Rights Commission, which is criticised for including among its 53 members notorious human rights abusers such as China, Cuba, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

The United States, however, is opposed to a draft proposal for a council with 47 members that would be elected by absolute majority of the General Assembly, insisting instead on a smaller body whose members would be elected by a two-thirds majority.
"We tried very hard to see if we could support this, but in the end we just didn't think this initiative met the very high bar we set for an effective council," US undersecretary of state for political affairs Nicholas Burns told the daily.

"The UN needs a stronger body to fight human rights abuses in places like Darfur and Burma," he added.

By voting against the council, said the daily, the US would not block passage of the resolution, which is backed by a majority of assembly members. However, it could open it to debilitating amendments from countries opposed to tightening the UN human rights system.

Washington has said it would prefer more discussions and negotiations on a new human rights council, even if they should take months, in the hope a better agreement could be reached.

It was unclear whether the current Human Rights Commission session would kick off again formally from March 20 if the General Assembly failed to strike a deal on its replacement.

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US Anti-Crop Bioweapons Plan Advances

Sunshine Project
News Release
15 March 2006

US House Votes to Advance Offensive Biological Weapons Plan

In an titanic fit of myopia, the US House of Representatives has passed a bill that advances a US plan to wage biological warfare against Colombia and other countries where illicit narcotics are produced. If passed by the US Senate, the bill (HR 2829) will require the US Drug Czar to quickly formulate a plan to field test biological weapons designed to eradicate illicit crops.

The Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) prohibits all biological warfare, including attacks on crops. The BWC has no exemptions - not for the Drug War, nor for the US Congress. The US eradication project thus violates the BWC's Article I, which prohibits development and stockpiling of biological weapons.

The Sunshine Project will call upon the BWC to prevent violation of the treaty by the United States. In April, the Sunshine Project will distribute an Agent Green dossier to governments attending a preparatory meeting for the BWC's upcoming 6th Review Conference. If the US bill is signed into law, the Sunshine Project will press for multilateral action by the BWC 6th Review Conference itself, when it meets in November.
Opposition in South America, the primary target of the plan, spans the political spectrum. When first confronted by US biowarfare pressure in 1999-2000, the Colombian government decided against testing and use of biological agents to eradicate illicit crops. Other Andean countries also oppose the plan, as do many environmental and peace NGOs. So do indigenous peoples who grow coca for cultural purposes unrelated to the drug trade, a constituency that includes Evo Morales, the recently-elected President of Bolivia.

Speaking to the Colombian daily El Tiempo on Monday, former Colombian President Andrés Pastrana, now Bogotá's Ambassador in Washington, emphatically reiterated Colombia's opposition to the plan, telling the paper, "During my government we opposed it. And Colombia's position, now under President Álvaro Uribe, has not changed."

The main biological weapons agents under US consideration are strains of the fungus Fusarium oxysporum that attack coca and other illicit crops. With its serious human health and environmental risks, F. oxysporum has been dubbed "Agent Green" by civil society opponents, who liken it to the defoliant Agent Orange that was used by the US in Vietnam. In the US conception, huge amounts of specially-formulated Fusarium would be sprayed from large military aircraft to blanket large portions of Colombia and, potentially, other countries.

The HR 2829 provision does not specifically mention Colombia or Fusarium, although it does specify that the testing plan should be for a "major drug producing nation". This opens the possibility that the tests could be conducted elsewhere, such as Central Asia, where the US has supported development of biological weapons for use against opium poppy. Given past events, however, the bill's language is widely interpreted to refer to Colombia.

The Sunshine Project hopes that the US Senate will catch this egregious mistake and that the provision will be struck from any related bill that it considers. With US fear about a biological weapons attack and spending on biodefense both at unprecedented levels, it is difficult to envision a more unwise US policy than for it to field test biological weapons and to seek to perpetrate a biological attack on other countries.

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Monstrous Money Mismanagement

US Army: Peak Oil and the Army's future

Energy Bulletin
by Adam Fenderson and Bart Anderson

"The days of inexpensive, convenient, abundant energy sources are quickly drawing to a close," according to a recently released US Army strategic report. The report posits that a peak in global oil production looks likely to be imminent, with wide reaching implications for the US Army and society in general.

The report was sent to Energy Bulletin by a reader, and does not appear to be available elsewhere on the internet. However it is marked as unclassified and approved for public release.

[ UPDATE: Since we wrote those words several hours ago we've been informed that a reference to the document now appears on a Google search, including a link to the full PDF on a .mil server. "Somebody must be watching you guys!" writes reader SG. Before we wrote this report we sent out copies of the abbreviated report to several associates including PeakOil.net who published it on their website. So who knows? I've updated the links to the report in this article to the location on the government servers. -AF]

The report, Energy Trends and Their Implications for U.S. Army Installations (PDF – 1.2mb), was conducted by the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and is dated September 2005.

Author Eileen Westervelt, PE, CEM, is a mechanical engineer at the Engineer Research and Development Center (US Army Corps of Engineers) in Champaign, Ill. Author Donald Fournier is a senior research specialist at the University of Illinois' Building Research Council and has worked with the Corps in the past.

Westervelt and Fournier give special credence to the work of independent energy experts, such as the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas (ASPO) and the Oil Depletion Analysis Center (ODAC). They seem to place very little credibility on the more optimistic oil production forecasts of the international energy agencies. They reproduce ASPO graphs and quote ASPO member Jean Laherrere on why the US Geological Survey (USGS) future oil availability estimates are clearly overly optimistic:

The USGS estimate implies a five-fold increase in discovery rate and reserve addition, for which no evidence is presented. Such an improvement in performance is in fact utterly implausible, given the great technological achievements of the industry over the past twenty years, the worldwide search, and the deliberate effort to find the largest remaining prospects.

The authors warn that in order to sustain its mission, "the Army must insulate itself from the economic and logistical energy-related problems coming in the near to mid future. This requires a transition to modern, secure, and efficient energy systems, and to building technologies that are safe and environmental friendly." The best energy options they conclude are "energy efficiency and renewable sources." However, "currently, there is no viable substitute for petroleum."

They do not expect that any transition will be easy: "energy consumption is indispensable to our standard of living and a necessity for the Army to carry out its mission. However, current trends are not sustainable. The impact of excessive, unsustainable energy consumption may undermine the very culture and activities it supports. There is no perfect energy source; all are used at a cost."

The report includes what looks like a solid overview of the pros and cons of all major renewable and non-renewable energy options. They consider problems associated with hydrogen, shale oil, biofuels and tar sands. On nuclear energy they note that "our current throw-away nuclear cycle uses up the world reserve of low-cost uranium in about 20 years." They hold more hope for certain solar technologies and wind turbines, however, "renewables tend to be a more local or regional commodity and except for a few instances, not necessarily a global resource that is traded between nations."

Overall this is surprisingly green sounding advice, and one might think out of left field for one of the most environmentally destructive and energy consuming institutions on the planet. And yet the report does not seem to be at odds with the Army's new Energy Strategy which sets out five major initiatives:

1. Eliminate energy waste in existing facilities
2. Increase energy efficiency in new construction and renovations
3. Reduce dependence on fossil fuels
4. Conserve water resources
5. Improve energy security

(See: hqda-energypolicy.pnl.gov/programs/plan.asp)

Westervelt and Fournier assert that changes must be made with urgency. However they express concerns that "we have a large and robust energy system with tremendous inertia, both from a policy perspective and a great resistance to change." In light of this, "the Army needs to present its perspective to higher authorities and be prepared to proceed regardless of the national measures that are taken."

Westervelt and Fournier suggest "it is time to think strategically about energy and how the Army
should respond to the global and national energy picture. A path of enlightened self-interest is encouraged." As we approach Peak Oil, what is ecologically sound and what is perceived to be to in an institution's practical benefit might tend to converge, at least in some respects - even those of an institution such as the US Army.

Comment: How conincidental that the US army is now backing up the claims of people like the duplicituous Mike Ruppert, formerly of 9/11 Truth fame.

If, it is true, as the report says that:

"The days of inexpensive, convenient, abundant energy sources are quickly drawing to a close and that a peak in global oil production looks likely to be imminent, with wide reaching implications for the US Army and society in general."

then given that oil has always been used to control and manipulate the world's economy and population, we see no reason to believe why such a "drying up" of oil reserves would not simply be the next stage in the very same attempts at manipulation and control of the world.

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Senate gives Bush his defense budget request

Tue Mar 14, 2006
By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Senate on Tuesday agreed to give President George W. Bush the money he wanted for the Pentagon next year and narrowly defeated a measure that could have scuttled permanent extensions of his tax cuts.

The Senate was trying to wrap up work by Friday on a nearly $2.8-trillion budget blueprint for fiscal 2007, which starts on October 1. While the budget bill is nonbinding, it does influence lawmakers' decisions later in the year on federal spending.
Still to come is a Senate fight over whether to scrap a controversial budget provision aimed at opening Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

In debate on Tuesday, the Senate agreed to put back $3 billion into Pentagon accounts that was taken out of Bush's budget request by the Senate Budget Committee. The higher funding would be offset by reducing travel and administrative accounts of several agencies, including the Pentagon's.

Bush had requested $439.3 billion in his defense budget for next year. That does not include $67 billion in emergency funds for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to approve this week.

The Republican-backed budget plan would cap spending next year at $873 billion on "discretionary" programs that Congress must renew each year. That's about $30 billion above this year. But the measure does nothing in this congressional election year to rein in the rapid growth of popular "mandatory" programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid.

Robert Reischauer, a former director of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office who now heads the Urban Institute think tank, said of the Republican budget, "We're treading water for a year."


By a vote of 50-50, the Senate defeated a budget discipline "pay-go" amendment that all 45 Democrats and five Republicans supported.

The measure would have resurrected a 1990s budget rule that helped Congress write more disciplined fiscal plans. Under the amendment by North Dakota Sen. Kent Conrad, a Democrat, any spending increases to major federal programs like Medicare or Medicaid would have been offset elsewhere in the budget.

Similarly, the cost of lost revenues to the Treasury from tax cuts would have to be offset by spending cuts or other tax increases.

Comment: Ah yes, the pathetic, obsequious Senate, is there no limit to the extent they will prostitute themselves to the Bush government?

How interesting that this year's Pentagon budget blueprint is am unimaginable $2.8 TRILLION. That figure is very close to the $2.6 TRILLION that the Pentagon was unable to account for back in 2001, just before the 9/11 attacks. In this DOD Testimony before the House Appropriations Committee, Rumsfeld dropped that bombshell and then laughed about it. So where did that $2.6 Trillion go? And what will be done with this year's $2.8 trillion? Interesting questions that will probably never be answered.

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UAE turns back on dollar in foreign reserves shake-up

By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

The United Arab Emirates is planning to switch 10pc of its foreign reserves from dollars to euros in the first sign of fall-out from Washington's snub to Dubai Ports World last week.

Sultan bin Nasser Al Suwaidi, the governor of UAE's central bank, said the plan was designed to achieve a better balance in the $19.1bn reserves of the oil-rich Gulf federation, almost entirely held in dollars.

"This policy initiative has nothing to do with the controversy over DP World's bid for P&O operations in the US," he said. In the same breath, however, he denounced the move by the US Congress to block the Dubai group from taking control of six American ports on security grounds, warning it would drive capital away.

"It is against the principles of international trade. People will look at investment opportunities in the US through new binoculars," he said.

The UAE has been a close ally of Washington in the fight against terrorism, so the shrill tone on Capitol Hill - bordering on anti-Arab hysteria - has been deeply wounding. There are fears it could lead to a withdrawal of petrodollar funds from the US, much like the Saudi-driven capital flight after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

"Dubai's difficulties are going to cause Arab countries to invest less in the United States," said Mohab Kamel, a trader at Kara Energy in Geneva. "The kick in the teeth by Washington is not reassuring for Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, which have a more fundamentalist attitude," he said.

The next move could be a decision by Emirates Airlines - the region's top carrier - to opt for Europe's Airbus A350 in a $7.5bn order for passenger jets expected next month instead of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner.

The IMF forecasts that the Gulf region will rack up a current account surplus of $275bn in 2006, giving it huge clout in the global capital markets.

By some estimates, the recycling of petrodollars has eclipsed the Asian central banks as the chief source of foreign financing for the US deficit, now over 7pc of GDP. Exact figures are elusive as Middle East holdings of US Treasury bonds are mostly disguised through purchases in London and the Caribbean.

David Lubin, an economist at HSBC and author of a report on Gulf petrodollars, said Washington could prove to be the victim of its recourse to "asset protectionism".

"It has been a particularly unpleasant incident and it may well have longer-term consequences since the US relies on foreign inflows to fund its current account deficit. This sort of move will make it even more dependent on easily-reversible portfolio flows," he said.

The IMF's Middle East director, Mohsin Khan, said that central banks in the Gulf region play a secondary role in recycling petrodollars.

What really matters is the investment strategy of the giant oil funds, such as the secretive Abu Dhabi Investment Trust now worth well over $200bn.

"They are still going into US-denominated assets, and the proportion of the assets held in dollars is not changing much - Gulf investors are not dumping dollars," he told the Middle East Economic Digest.

The moment they do, however, the long-awaited slide in the US dollar could start with a vengeance.

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Politics as Usual

Bush Reaffirms Ties With Leading Neocons

by Jim Lobe

If the medium is the message, then U.S. President George W. Bush's choice of forum to launch a new public campaign to defend his beleaguered Iraq policy should be troubling to those, particularly in Europe, who had hoped that his administration was moving toward a more evenhanded stance in the Arab-Israeli conflict.

The staunchly neoconservative Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), one of the most hawkish groups on the "war on terror" since it was created two days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against New York and the Pentagon, has often taken strident positions against Arab and European allies whose cooperation has been sought by the administration itself.
Part of an interlocking network of neoconservative-dominated groups that include the American Enterprise Institute, the Center for Security Policy, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, and the Committee on the Present Danger, which it founded, FDD has also tried to build support here for "regime change" in Syria and Iran.

Bush's speech, which broke little new ground, is the first of a series scheduled this week aimed at bolstering badly sagging public support for the U.S. occupation and reassuring voters that Iraq is not descending into civil war despite the widespread sectarian violence that followed the bombing of Samarra's Golden Mosque late last month.

"The Iraqi people made their choice," he said. "They looked into the abyss and did not like what they saw," he said. "By their response over the last two weeks, Iraqis have shown the world they want a future of freedom and peace and they will oppose a violent minority."

His speech comes amid a growing consensus among independent analysts here that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has successfully displaced Vice President Dick Cheney and the neoconservatives who clustered around him as the dominant influence on Bush's foreign policy.

Rice's rise and the eclipse of the neoconservatives, many of whom have had close ties to Israel's right-wing Likud Party, have, in this view, made Washington more modest about its ability to "transform" the Middle East by effecting "regime change" against governments that are perceived as actively hostile to the U.S. and Israel.

Similarly, Washington is now seen as far more eager to repair relations with European and Arab allies that were badly frayed during Bush's first term as a result of the unilateralist trajectory on which Cheney and the neoconservatives took U.S. policy.

In that sense, the White House's choice of the FDD as an appropriate forum would appear somewhat anomalous, given the prominence of neoconservatives in their leadership and the stridency of its views.

Among its board of advisers are Center for Security Policy president Frank Gaffney, who has attacked Bush for supporting Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's Gaza disengagement plan; Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol; former CIA director James Woolsey, one of the most ubiquitous advocates of the notion that Saddam Hussein played a role in the 9/11 attacks in the run-up to the Iraq war; and the American Enterprise Institute's Richard Perle, the former ultra-hawkish chairman of the Defense Policy Board who reportedly suggested in a debate at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (that was also addressed by Cheney) that 12 B-2 bombers could solve the ongoing crisis with Iran over its nuclear program.

The group, which is headed by Clifford May, a former New York Times reporter and communications director for the Republican National Committee, originally evolved from another organization called Emet: An Educational Initiative, Inc.

It was created in early 2001 by a number of wealthy Jewish philanthropists, including Dalck Feith, the father of Bush's former undersecretary of defense for policy and Perle protégé, Douglas Feith.

Its purpose, according to a 2003 article in The American Conservative, was to bolster Israel's image among U.S. university students and faculty in the face of the Palestinian Intifada. After 9/11, Emet was transformed into FDD with May at its helm and a former Israeli embassy official, Nir Boms, as its vice president.

"Although FDD's mission statement makes no mention of Israel, FDD's public statements and operations mostly concern Israel," according to the Right Web Web site, which profiles neoconservative and other right-wing organizations.

Indeed, the group first came to public notice in the spring of 2002, when Boms produced a 30-second television spot that played repeatedly on cable news stations in Washington called "The Suicide Strategy." The spot, whose main message was that there was no difference between Palestinian suicide bombings and the Sept. 11 skyjackings, depicted successive images of Yassir Arafat, Osama bin Laden, and Saddam Hussein against scenes of violence and mayhem.

"The suicide strategy threatens all of us – all those who are hated as 'infidels,'" the voice-over intones. "If we appease terrorism, we'll get more terrorism. Our way of life is threatened."

In the run-up to the Iraq war, FDD and May, a regular guest on right-wing radio and Fox News, gave voice to many of the same arguments in favor of preventive war that were issued by the administration and its neoconservative supporters, including the assertion that Hussein and al-Qaeda had a long history of cooperation. They also assailed Western European governments and the United Nations for failing to support the U.S.

Indeed, the UN, which neoconservatives have long attacked as anti-Israel and anti-Semitic, became a major target of FDD when it hired former Wall Street Journal writer Claudia Rosett to investigate the UN's "Oil-for-Food" scandal.

With the help of the Journal editorial page, the Weekly Standard, and other neoconservative publications, Rosett eventually published more than 50 feature articles, testified against the UN before Congress on several occasions and, in the words of FDD itself, took the "scandal from a footnote to the front page."

In 2004, FDD, which had by then begun receiving government funds for training students and activists in the Middle East in addition to private contributions, submitted a brief to the International Court of Justice in support of Israel's construction on Palestinian land of the wall sealing off Israel and major Israeli settlement from the rest of the West Bank on the grounds that "it can benefit the Palestinians."

In the same year, it also helped found Committee on the Present Danger (CPD) and recruited former Secretary of State George Shultz and Democratic Sen. Joe Lieberman, and former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar to its board. FDD and CPD have run a number of joint conferences "targeted at the Washington policy community," particularly regarding Syria and Iran, and espousing the view that Washington faces "World War IV" in its battle with "Islamofascism."

That Iran poses a major threat to the U.S. is perhaps the most prominent current theme of the groups' work. After the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections in January, May wrote that its "leaders have long taken direction from the Militant Islamists of Tehran and will continue to do so no matter how much money we throw at them."

In his most recent Web posting just last week, May quoted another Perle protégé, the American Enterprise Institute's Michael Ledeen, as identifying Iran as the terrorist puppet master that "now exercises effective control over groups ranging from Hezbollah, Ansar al-Islam, al-Qaeda, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Jaish-e-Mahdi, and Jaish-e-Huti (Yemen) to the Joint Shi'ite Army of Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, and part of Saudi Arabia, as well as Islamic movements in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia."

At another FDD/CPD forum in the Capitol building last month, Center for Security Policy's Gaffney warned that Iran's missile program was designed to detonate a nuclear weapon "in space high above the United States, unleashing an immensely powerful electromagnetic pulse (EMP) [that] could reduce the United States to a pre-industrial society in the blink of an eye."

"The Foundation is making a difference across the world," Bush said Monday, "and I appreciate the difference you're making."

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Impeach Bush! Sign the Petition!


Demand the Creation of a Congressional Special Committee to Investigate Impeachable Offenses

This administration must be held accountable for its misdeeds. We have considerable work to do and I am going to need your help to make this effort successful. Join me in sending the message to the President, the media, and the American people that we are not going to stand for an imperial presidency any longer.

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The Right's Man - John McCain

By Paul Krugman
The New York Times

It's time for some straight talk about John McCain. He isn't a moderate. He's much less of a maverick than you'd think. And he isn't the straight talker he claims to be.

Mr. McCain's reputation as a moderate may be based on his former opposition to the Bush tax cuts. In 2001 he declared, "I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us."
But now - at a time of huge budget deficits and an expensive war, when the case against tax cuts for the rich is even stronger - Mr. McCain is happy to shower benefits on the most fortunate. He recently voted to extend tax cuts on dividends and capital gains, an action that will worsen the budget deficit while mainly benefiting people with very high incomes.

When it comes to foreign policy, Mr. McCain was never moderate. During the 2000 campaign he called for a policy of "rogue state rollback," anticipating the "Bush doctrine" of pre-emptive war unveiled two years later. Mr. McCain called for a systematic effort to overthrow nasty regimes even if they posed no imminent threat to the United States; he singled out Iraq, Libya and North Korea. Mr. McCain's aggressive views on foreign policy, and his expressed willingness, almost eagerness, to commit U.S. ground forces overseas, explain why he, not George W. Bush, was the favored candidate of neoconservative pundits such as William Kristol of The Weekly Standard.

Would Mr. McCain, like Mr. Bush, have found some pretext for invading Iraq? We'll never know. But Mr. McCain still thinks the war was a good idea, and he rejects any attempt to extricate ourselves from the quagmire. "If success requires an increase in American troop levels in 2006," he wrote last year, "then we must increase our numbers there." He didn't explain where the overstretched U.S. military is supposed to find these troops.

When it comes to social issues, Mr. McCain, who once called Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell "agents of intolerance," met with Mr. Falwell late last year. Perhaps as a result, he is now taking positions friendly to the religious right. Most notably, Mr. McCain's spokesperson says that he would have signed South Dakota's extremist new anti-abortion law.

The spokesperson went on to say that the senator would have taken "the appropriate steps under state law" to ensure that cases of rape and incest were excluded. But that attempt at qualification makes no sense: the South Dakota law has produced national shockwaves precisely because it prohibits abortions even for victims of rape or incest.

The bottom line is that Mr. McCain isn't a moderate; he's a man of the hard right. How far right? A statistical analysis of Mr. McCain's recent voting record, available at www.voteview.com, ranks him as the Senate's third most conservative member.

What about Mr. McCain's reputation as a maverick? This comes from the fact that every now and then he seems to declare his independence from the Bush administration, as he did in pushing through his anti-torture bill.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Guantánamo. President Bush, when signing the bill, appended a statement that in effect said that he was free to disregard the law whenever he chose. Mr. McCain protested, but there are apparently no hard feelings: at the recent Southern Republican Leadership Conference he effusively praised Mr. Bush.

And I'm sorry to say that this is typical of Mr. McCain. Every once in a while he makes headlines by apparently defying Mr. Bush, but he always returns to the fold, even if the abuses he railed against continue unabated.

So here's what you need to know about John McCain.

He isn't a straight talker. His flip-flopping on tax cuts, his call to send troops we don't have to Iraq and his endorsement of the South Dakota anti-abortion legislation even while claiming that he would find a way around that legislation's central provision show that he's a politician as slippery and evasive as, well, George W. Bush.

He isn't a moderate. Mr. McCain's policy positions and Senate votes don't just place him at the right end of America's political spectrum; they place him in the right wing of the Republican Party.

And he isn't a maverick, at least not when it counts. When the cameras are rolling, Mr. McCain can sometimes be seen striking a brave pose of opposition to the White House. But when it matters, when the Bush administration's ability to do whatever it wants is at stake, Mr. McCain always toes the party line.

It's worth recalling that during the 2000 election campaign George W. Bush was widely portrayed by the news media both as a moderate and as a straight-shooter. As Mr. Bush has said, "Fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - you can't get fooled again."

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Let Go and Let God

The Parasites of God

By Charles Sullivan

Let me state at the outset that I am not a Christian; nor do I have any desire to be a Christian. I have my own religious beliefs that guide my moral behavior. "Neither do I harbor any ill will toward the Christian faith or its sincere practitioners." Indeed, I have the utmost respect for them. The trouble is that in America most people cannot tell the difference between real Christians, those who do the work of God, and those who use religion as a tool for evil. In this short essay, I have some harsh truth to convey. I will endeavor to be as gentle as I can in doing so. I pray that I do not step on any innocent toes.

Far too much latitude is given in professions of faith in this country. Undue weight is given to rhetoric and too little is conceded to action-how a person lives her or his life. Declarations of faith are not evidence of faith. Going to a garage does not make a person a car. Neither does going to church make one a Christian. Meeting an apostle of God, no matter which religion one ascribes to, is a memorable event. You will know when you stand in divine presence. Such meetings, however, are very rare, which suggests that the genuine article is not easily manufactured. Cheap imitations, the counterfeit, are quite common because they can be easily produced. But we should not accept imitations as the real thing.

Tom Fox, a member of the non-missionary Christian Peacekeeping Team, was the genuine article. We know this beyond all doubt by the way Tom Fox lived his life; by his long devotion to the causes that mattered to him. Being Christian amid a sea of impostors cannot be easy. It is dangerous work. As in the case of Christ himself, it may lead to crucifixion. Real Christians, as exemplified by the CPT, will always find themselves in formal opposition to U.S. policies of global domination and empire. But the apostles of wealth and empire, those who merely claim to be Christian, will sanction these same polices and proclaim they are the work of God. They are not.

Mr. Fox was executed by his captors in Iraq. His body turned up late last week with bullets to the head and chest. The fate of his fellow captives remains unknown. Execution, accentuated by possible torture, was a fate that Tom Fox did not deserve; but he, as a man of faith, willingly incurred the risk of doing God's work amid so much godlessness and ruin. But this is where the rubber meets the road, so to speak.

By all accounts, Tom Fox lived a life exemplified by his gentle soul, a generosity of spirit and strength that endeared him to his peers-traits of character that led him to a life of service not to his country, but to his God. Religion does not recognize, nor is it constrained by nationality or geopolitical boundaries. Unfortunately, that is rarely how it is taught here.

Tom Fox's beliefs were stated in the CPT's statement of Conviction: "We reject the use of violent force to save our lives should we be kidnapped, held hostage, or caught in the middle of a violent conflict situation. We also reject violence to punish anyone who harms us. We ask for equal justice in the arrest and trial of anyone, soldier or civilian, who commits an act of violence, and we ask that there be no retaliation on their relatives or property. We forgive those who consider us their enemies. Therefore, any penalty should be in the spirit of restorative justice, rather than in the form of violent retribution." Love thy neighbor. Tom lived and died by this biblical credo.

Contrast this mission statement, signed by Tom Fox, with the actions of George Bush. Consider the scale of the horror and bloodshed this man has wrought on hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Ponder, if you can, the unspeakable horror he has visited upon countless thousands of families, under the fallacious moral authority of a stolen Christianity he neither owns nor comprehends. It is plain to see who the Christian is and who is the impostor.

In a piece called "Fight or Flight?" written on November 30, 2005, Tom Fox made an important distinction between real Christians and the much more common impostors who misuse religion to serve empire and material conquest. He wrote, "The French theologian Rene Girard has a very powerful vision of Satan that speaks to me: Satan sustains himself as a parasite on what God creates by imitating God in a manner that is jealous, grotesque, perverse and as contrary as possible to the loving and obedient imitation of Jesus."

How could any words define George Bush and his followers more perfectly or succinctly? What must Tom Fox have thought of this evil little man? No doubt, his reaction was not one of malice or hatred; but of pity and forgiveness. It requires inner strength and a generous spirit to forgive such malicious behavior-strength of character that I find sadly lacking in myself most of the time. Tom Fox was a far better man than I.

The astute observations of Rene Girard that so impressed Tom Fox defines exactly what George Bush, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Falwell are. They are parasites of God masquerading as men of God for evil purposes. They imitate God in order to fool their sheepish cohorts into following what are in essence satanic policies. Their motives are betrayed by their hateful rhetoric, by acts of unprovoked violence against innocent civilians and the systematic killing of hope. Their allegiance is to Satan, not to God, as they profess.

Have we become so indoctrinated by the language of empire that we can no longer see the disconnect between these acts of terror and the non-violent teachings of Christ? Why are so many who call themselves Christians worshiping the parasites of god and empire, while shunning and betraying the genuine article?

George Bush, Pat Robertson, Falwell and the rest, have not so cleverly donned the garments of Christianity in order to deliberately mislead their helpless flocks, to press them into the service of Satan, while convincing them they are doing the will of God. Bush, just as he did when he appeared on the deck of that air craft carrier years ago wearing a leather flight jacket, betrays his ignorance about what the wearing of such garments entails. Donning an air force flight jacket does not make one a warrior, although it may make them look like one. Neither does donning the robes of Christianity make a man Christian, a servant of god.

Tom Fox understood the kind of devotion and service to humanity, particularly to the poor and the oppressed, that wearing the garments of Christianity required. Bush, a man born of wealth and privilege has no conception about what it means to labor, to sacrifice and to serve others. He is all about serving those of his kind-the enemies of peace, the violent oppressors of the poor and the just. Bush, like his predecessors, is taking from the poor and giving to the rich; he is fomenting violence and death all over the world-his actions, his life, cannot be reconciled in any way with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Bush is an apostle of class elitism, of wealth and empire, not of god.

Just as when he donned that flight jacket years ago-a jacket he did not earn the right to wear with honor by service-Bush dishonored all of those who genuinely earned theirs'. Similarly, he dishonors true Christians, men like Tom Fox, each time he dons the mere garments of Christianity and uses them in the service of Satan and empire building. Tom Fox devoted his life to the service of his god by intervening on behalf of the oppressed and the traumatized-the victims of George Bush's military machine. A man cannot serve two masters.

It is difficult to fathom how easily people of faith can allow themselves to be deceived by the cheap imitations embodied by George Bush and his followers. We must learn the difference between the parasites of God and the servants of God-the two bear no resemblance to one another. It requires not only gross ignorance to brazenly don the garments of religion, without the years of service and self sacrifice they require of their wearer-it requires enormous hubris and contempt for integrity and honor. Balls without brains and conscience is a pitiful and grotesque sight.

Beware of any man who relies upon tricks and illusions to persuade people to follow him. That man is without substance-without heart and soul. Truth and justice are his enemies. He will go to great lengths to destroy them because they are all that keep him afloat upon the sea of lies he has created around himself. Such men sneak and cower and operate in secrecy. They must cloak their sinister purposes in euphemistic language to keep their crimes hidden from humanity. They are not what they appear to be. They don the garments of religion, the clothes of human decency, to conceal who they really are. Judge them not by what they say, by the clothes they wear; but by what they do and whom they serve. Follow the money trail and you will know who they are. They are fattened camels expecting to pass through the eye of a needle.

It is not hard to tell the real Christians from the parasites of God. Contrast the lives of Tom Fox and George Bush. Nothing in the personal history of George Bush suggests anything other than a parasitic connection to God. Hubris, sadism, the exploitation and abuse of others, are not characteristics of a man of god. They are a contradiction of God, an abomination. The president is a pathetic little stooge in pursuit of wealth and temporary power. History will not remember him kindly. By contrast, Tom Fox was a man of God who willingly gave his life trying to undo the damage caused by Bush and his followers. God will not confuse them and neither should we.

In fact, Mr. Bush lacks the grounding in reality to know the difference between playing soldier and being a soldier. Likewise, he believes that donning the mere robes of Christianity, without doing the often painful work required of Christianity makes him an apostle of Jesus. Only in America could such a pathetic, shallow, moronic imbecile become president. One wonders when this comic tragedy will end and how many will be dead when it does.

Charles Sullivan is a photographer, social activist and free lance writer living in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia. He can be reached at earthdog@highstream.net.

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Intact monk's corpse seen as 'sign of God'

March 14 2006

Church authorities in Lamia, central Greece, have described the body of an Orthodox monk that has remained intact 15 years after its burial as a "sign of God" as medical experts fail to come up with a scientific explanation to the alleged phenomenon.

"From the start I believed that this is a sign of God," said Bishop Nikolaos from the prefecture of Fthiotida.

"We are not rushing to make him a saint... and are not calling on pilgrims to worship it," he added.

Despite attempts by Church officials to play down the incident, media coverage of the deceased monk, Vissarion Korkoliakos, has led thousands of people to flock to the site where the body is kept.

Church authorities had summoned four local doctors and an Athens coroner to explain the alleged phenomenon. However, experts could only describe the case as unique.

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Cultural Warmongers

by Patrick J. Buchanan

Picking a fight with a faith 1.3 billion strong

If you wish to get along with a man, you do not insult his faith. And if you seek to persuade devout Muslims that al-Qaeda is our enemy, not Islam, you do not condone with silence insults to the faith of a billion people.

Understanding this, President Bush ceased to call the war on terror a "crusade." Visiting a mosque, he removed his shoes. He has hosted White House gatherings for the breaking of the fast at the end of Ramadan. He sent Karen Hughes to the State Department to improve our dismal image in the Islamic world. He has declared more times than many of us care to recall, "Islam is a religion of peace."

President Bush knows we are in a struggle for the hearts and minds of Islamic peoples, and if we are to win this struggle we must separate the Muslim monsters from the masses. For as that great American military mind Col. John Boyd defined it, strategy is the appending to oneself of as many centers of power as possible and isolating your enemy from as many centers of power as possible.

This is what makes the Mohammed cartoons so stupid and self-destructive. They have given Islamic extremists visible proof to show pious Muslims that the West relishes mocking what they hold most sacred: the prophet. They have united Muslim moderates with militants in common rage against us. They have added to the hatred of the West in the Islamic world as friends like King Abdullah of Jordan, Presidents Mubarak of Egypt and Karzai of Afghanistan, and Prime Minister Erdogan of Turkey warned us they would.

One wonders. Did the cynical Europeans learn nothing from the Salman Rushdie episode? Did they learn nothing from the firestorm that erupted in the Islamic world when Christian ministers in the United States, post-9/11, called Mohammed a "terrorist"?

Why then did they do this? Why did the Danish paper Jyllands-Posten publish cartoons it knew to be so blasphemous to Muslims? Why did Le Monde, France Soir, Die Welt, El Pais, Il Stampa republish them-on their front pages? If a European newsman was oblivious to the probable effect among Muslims of plastering a cartoon of Mohammed with a bomb in his turban on page one, he is too stupid to be an editor. But if he did know the near-certain effect of such an in-your-face provocation, why would he do it? Is this the reflexive secularist hostility of the Europress to all religious faiths on display here or something else?

And so we come to the heart of the matter. Why? What was the motive here? What is the game that is afoot? The rationale of the imams who ensured that all Muslims knew of the cartoons and their contents and called for demonstrations and assaults on Western consulates and embassies is evident. They hate us, and they wish to drive us out of the Middle East. But what propelled our own ideologues to prod U.S. editors to republish the cartoons in "solidarity" with the Europeans? Who pushed George W. Bush and Condi Rice not to condemn the cartoons but to "stand up" for the freedom to publish and defy any "intimidation" by the Islamic world?

Answer: our cultural warmongers, who seek the same goal as their cultural warmongers-to ignite a war of civilizations. Both want the "long war" of which the Pentagon speaks, the "World War IV" against "Islamofascism" that is the dream of neoconservatives and the nightmare of their countrymen.

As has been evident for some time, bin Laden and the neocons both seek the same thing: a fight to the finish, no matter how long, no matter how many invasions it takes, no matter how many lives are lost. For if peace were reached between the Islamic world and the West, even a cold peace with Iran and Syria, what would they do then?

As the provocations of Ahmadinejad are music to the ears of neocons, for they rule out dialogue and diplomacy, the escalation of the cartoon wars into an all-out culture war between Islam and the West has made their day. But it has also wiped out much of the goodwill that George W. Bush has sought to rebuild in the region.

As one explores the arguments of the provocateurs in the West for what they are doing, on inspection all appear hollow. "We believe in the First Amendment!" comes the blustery reply of journalists when asked why they published the cartoons. The First Amendment protected the right of Trent Lott to toast Strom Thurmond. But that did not save Lott from the savagery of the neocons who demanded and got his ouster as Senate majority leader. Yet which is the more egregious offense? To pay a birthday tribute to a century-old man who was once a segregationist or to insult deliberately the most revered figure in the faith of a billion people?

Daily, U.S. editors decline to publish ethnic slurs and obscene remarks and cartoons that might offend a race or religion. This is not censorship. It is editorial judgment. The motto of the New York Times, which declined to publish the offending cartoons, is "All the News That's Fit to Print."

Conservatives contend that Islamic nations tolerate cartoons and TV shows far more viciously anti-Semitic than these cartoons were anti-Islamic. They are right. But Western newspapers never publish such cartoons, first, because they are outrageous, second, because publication would cost them advertisers, readers, and maybe their jobs. Insulting Muslims and Mohammed is a less risky and less expensive hobby than insulting Judaism or Jews. Indeed, if you insult Islam, you can make out credentials as a moral hero.

Though State initially condemned the cartoons-"Inciting religious or ethnic hatreds in this manner is unacceptable"-the neocons rapidly re-seized control of the message. In hours, State was in retreat: "While we share the offense that Muslims have taken at these images, we at the same time vigorously defend the right of individuals to express points of view." Of course we do. But do we believe freedom of the press was responsibly exercised when these idiot editors used it to incite a religious war?

And when it comes to press freedom, Europeans are world-class hypocrites. British historian David Irving has spent months in a prison in Vienna awaiting trial for two speeches he made 15 years ago. In Europe, skeptics and deniers of the Holocaust are fined and imprisoned with the enthusiastic endorsement of the press.

Unfortunately, Bush let slip an opportunity to show respect for the Islamic world and faith and, instead, let himself be intimidated into silently condoning an insult to both. Standing beside the King of Jordan, Bush denounced the violence the cartoons had ignited but declined to condemn the cartoons. Condi Rice denounced Iran and Syria for exploiting the rage over the cartoons but did not condemn the cause of that rage. If there is a double standard here, Bush is the guilty party. He rightly denounced Iran's president for mocking the Holocaust but would not denounce the European press for mocking the prophet.

If Bush and Rice cannot muster the moral courage to condemn the insulting content of the cartoons, as well as the violence being promoted by anti-Western agitators and demagogues, our wars for democracy in the Middle East are in vain. For we can never win the friendship of these people if they believe our words of respect for their religion cover up a sneering contempt.

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