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Editorial: Signs Economic Commentary
Signs of the Times
March 27, 2006
Gold closed at 560.00 dollars an ounce on Friday, up 1.0% from $554.70 for the week. The dollar closed at 0.8308 euros on Friday, up 1.3% from 0.8203 euros at the end of the previous week. That put the euro at 1.2036 dollars compared to $1.2190 the week before. Gold in euros would be 465.27 euros an ounce, up 2.2% from 455.05 euros for the week. Oil closed at 64.27 dollars a barrel on Friday, up 2.2% from $62.89 at the end of the previous week. Oil in euros would be 53.40 euros a barrel, up 3.5% from 51.59 euros a barrel the Friday before. The gold/oil ratio closed at 8.71 on Friday, down 1.3% from 8.82 the week before. In U.S. stocks, the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed at 11,279.97 on Friday, virtually unchanged from 11,279.65 at the close of the previous week. The NASDAQ closed at 2,312.82, up 0.3% from 2,306.48 the week before. In U.S. interest rates the yield on the ten-year U.S. Treasury note closed at 4.66% down one basis point from 4.67 at the end of the previous week.
Oil prices rose last week, which is not surprising given the news out of the Middle East. According to Greg Palast, that is no accident:
Yes, Bush went in for the oil -- not to get MORE of Iraq's oil, but to prevent Iraq producing TOO MUCH of it.
You must keep in mind who paid for George's ranch and Dick's bunker: Big Oil. And Big Oil -- and their buck-buddies, the Saudis -- don't make money from pumping more oil, but from pumping LESS of it. The lower the supply, the higher the price.
It's Economics 101. The oil industry is run by a cartel, OPEC, and what economists call an "oligopoly" -- a tiny handful of operators who make more money when there's less oil, not more of it. So, every time the "insurgents" blow up a pipeline in Basra, every time Mad Mahmoud in Tehran threatens to cut supply, the price of oil leaps. And Dick and George just LOVE it.
Dick and George didn't want more oil from Iraq, they wanted less. I know some of you, no matter what I write, insist that our President and his Veep are on the hunt for more crude so you can cheaply fill your family Hummer; that somehow, these two oil-patch babies are concerned that the price of gas in the USA is bumping up to $3 a gallon.
Not so, gentle souls. Three bucks a gallon in the States (and a quid a litre in Britain) means colossal profits for Big Oil, and that makes Dick's ticker go pitty-pat with joy. The top oily-gopolists, the five largest oil companies, pulled in $113 billion in profit in 2005 -- compared to a piddly $34 billion in 2002 before Operation Iraqi Liberation. In other words, it's been a good war for Big Oil.
The question then becomes: are we really running out of energy if so much effort is being spent to prevent more oil from reaching the market, or is it in someone's interest to pretend that we are?
Evidence of the collapse of the housing bubble in the United States continued to accumulate last week.
U.S. Economy: New Home Sales Fell Most in Nine Years
March 24 (Bloomberg) -- Sales of new U.S. homes slumped by the most in nine years and demand for business equipment declined last month, prompting some economists to lower their growth forecasts.
Home purchases fell 10.5 percent to an annual rate of 1.08 million, causing prices to fall and leaving more houses on the market, the Commerce Department said in Washington. Orders for durable goods excluding transportation equipment fell 1.3 percent, the most since July, the department also said.
"The new home sales report is in an indication of what we'll see in the remainder of 2006 for housing, and that unequivocally points to a slowdown," said Brian Bethune, an economist at Global Insight, a forecasting firm in Lexington, Massachusetts. At the same time, he said, "this will be more of an average quarter for business investment, not a stellar quarter."
The drop in durable goods orders caused economists at Morgan Stanley to mark down their first-quarter growth estimate to 4.2 percent from 4.6 percent. U.S. Treasury securities rose on speculation less business investment and slower home sales will limit the number of Federal Reserve interest-rate increases.
The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note fell 6 basis points to 4.67 percent at 4:04 p.m. in New York. A basis point is 0.01 percentage point. The dollar fell to $1.2039 per euro, the first drop in five days, from $1.1973 late yesterday.
February's decline in home sales was the biggest since April 1997. Economists expected new home sales to fall to a 1.2 million rate from January's originally reported 1.233 million, according to the median of 61 forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey. Estimates ranged from 1.17 million to 1.275 million.
"Consumers are a little more cautious," J. Larry Sorsby, chief financial officer of Hovnanian Enterprises Inc., New Jersey's largest homebuilder, said in an interview. "You can't open a newspaper these days without seeing someone saying the housing market is softening."
The report comes a day after the National Association of Realtors said sales of previously owned homes rose 5.2 percent last month to an annual rate of 6.91 million. Purchases of new homes are considered a leading indicator of housing because they are based on contract signings, which typically occur at least a month before the closing. The rise in February sales of existing homes may have reflected purchase decisions made in January, when record-warm temperatures brought out buyers.
The median selling price of a new home last month fell 2.9 percent from February 2005, to $230,400, the first decrease since December 2003 and the biggest year-over-year decline since January 2003.
The number of homes for sale rose to a record 548,000 from January's 525,000. At the current sales pace, there were enough new homes on the market to satisfy demand for the next 6.3 months, the largest amount in more than a decade.
Rising mortgage rates are making new homes less affordable. The average rate on a 30-year mortgage rose to 6.25 percent in February from 6.15 percent the month before, according to Freddie Mac.
Sales fell in two of four regions. They declined 29 percent in the West and 6.4 percent in the South. Sales rose 12.7 percent in the Northeast and 5.2 percent in the Midwest.
Facing imminent bankruptcy, the inhabitants of the United States (we can no longer call them "citizens") have let their leaders take away hard-won labor rights of the last century and, the political rights fought for for more than three centuries.
France, at least, still has inhabitants worthy of being called citizens. Some of our American readers may wonder what all the fuss is now in France. Over a million young people and other workers have turned out to protest a new policy that would allow employers to fire workers during their first two year contract. Since most workers in the United States are treated that way for their entire careers, some may be puzzled at the French worker's militancy. What the French understand, having watched what neoliberalism has done in the United States and elsewhere, is that if you give an inch, they will take a mile. Better to put up a fight for that first inch.
Compare what the French, through united action have been able to prevent to what the U.S. labor movement agrees to:
GM, Delphi, US autoworkers' union agree to massive job-cutting program
By Jerry White
23 March 2006
The United Auto Workers (UAW) union has concluded a deal with General Motors and its former parts company Delphi Corporation that paves the way for a major contraction in the US auto industry and the permanent elimination of tens of thousands of jobs.
The "Special Attrition Program" announced Wednesday provides retirement incentives and buyouts aimed at moving out of the plants an older generation of autoworkers who have attained wage levels, benefits and working conditions that Wall Street and the auto executives consider luxurious and uncompetitive. The goal of the corporations and their financial advisors is to create a much smaller, younger and more highly exploited workforce that will be paid lower wages, enjoy no job security at all and lack any guarantee of a pension or medical benefits upon retirement.
The deal is aimed at accelerating GM's previously announced plans to shut down 12 factories and eliminate 30,000 jobs across North America by the end of 2008, including 25,000 of its 105,000 US hourly workers. Auto parts maker Delphi filed for bankruptcy in October 2005 claiming the labor agreements it had inherited from GM made it impossible to do business in North America. The firm wants to shut several plants of its own and wipe out more than two-thirds of its 34,000 US hourly workers' jobs over the next three years.
As a result of the massive downsizing, GM - which once sold one out of every two cars in America - will be reduced to a much smaller operation, and cede its position as the world's largest automaker to Toyota. With these job cuts and others being demanded by billionaire investor and major GM stockholder Kirk Kerkorian, the auto company could soon have as few as 50,000 hourly workers in the US. In 1978, GM employed 466,000 hourly workers, and as late as 1993 had 233,000 blue-collar employees.
Under the three-way agreement GM will offer hourly workers various buyouts or early retirement incentives, starting with a $35,000 payout to some 36,000 workers already eligible to retire because they have 30 years or more of service with GM or are at least 65 years old. Another 27,000 workers within a few years of retirement would receive no payout, but would be credited with 30 years.
According to the Wall Street Journal, GM employees with at least 10 years seniority will have the option of a one-time $140,000 buyout to "sever all ties to GM and Delphi, including health care and other post-retirement benefits." Employees with less than 10 years seniority can choose a onetime payment of $70,000 under the same conditions.
Under the terms of a previous agreement GM is obligated to pay benefits to some Delphi employees and retirees who worked for the automaker before the unit was spun off in 1999.
Delphi will offer cash payments of $35,000 to 13,000 workers, slightly more than half the 24,000 hourly workers represented by the UAW, while it negotiates similar buyouts with unions representing the remaining workers. Delphi said GM had agreed to pay the cost of the lump-sum buyouts and cover the cost of their retirement benefits.
The union and management claim these higher seniority workers will receive their full pension and retiree medical benefits. The idea that retiree benefits are somehow inviolable, however, is a fantasy. Last year the UAW bureaucracy negotiated an unprecedented cut in medical benefits - including the imposition of hundreds of dollars in co-pays each for 500,000 former GM workers and their families - and then got the deal narrowly ratified by barring retirees from voting on it.
...Delphi, GM and the union bureaucracy are using the pressures and threats workers confront - talk of a possible GM bankruptcy, the unrelenting downsizing of the auto industry and the uncertainty of getting any pension or medical benefits at all - to push through the severance deals. Workers will have up to 52 days to decide whether to take buyouts once they learn details in plant meetings.
UAW leaders have been pressuring Delphi workers to uproot their families and move hundreds of miles to take jobs at GM plants that no GM worker wants. According to the Detroit Free Press, UAW Vice President Richard Shoemaker told workers if they refused to take these jobs, they would be sent to the bottom of the list of workers waiting to transfer to GM in the future and might never get a job. (See: "US autoworkers union pressures Delphi workers to accept concessions deal")
It goes almost without saying that the UAW bureaucracy excludes any struggle against the destruction of tens of thousands of jobs. The union has an unbroken record in recent decades of labor-management collaboration and imposing the downsizing and cost-cutting demands of the auto bosses. But the present deal goes further.
The New York Times noted, "The agreement marks unprecedented cooperation by the union, which has been put in the position of convincing its members to give up jobs that the UAW has fought for decades to protect." For a period of time, the strategy of the UAW bureaucracy was to defend the jobs - therefore the revenue flow from membership dues - of a core number of older workers at the Big Three auto companies - GM, Ford and Chrysler - while membership of the UAW overall fell from 1.53 million members in 1979 to 650,000 today.
By accepting this new round of corporate restructuring - which also includes Ford's plans to eliminate 30,000 North American jobs - the union bureaucracy hopes that it can retain its perks and privileges by collaborating in a unprecedented rollback in the living standards and working conditions of the much reduced number of workers who remain in the auto industry. The benchmark for what future Big Three autoworkers will face is being set by Delphi, which is demanding a 60 percent wage cut from its remaining workers, from $27 an hour to as low as $12.50.
...Expressing the general the contempt of America's wealthy elite towards the working class, one "labor expert" quoted by the New York Times, suggested that the biggest problem the auto industry faced was the outlandish belief of workers that they had a right to a secure job and decent pay. "They almost see their job as a property right," complained Gary N. Chaison, professor of labor relations in Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.
Related to these labor right rollbacks is the rollback in centuries-old constitutional rights of U.S. and British citizens:
Democratic rights and the attack on constitutionalism
By Richard Hoffman
23 March 2006
...The current state of affairs in the United States concerning constitutional government and law is a profound expression of a social and political system in an advanced stage of disintegration. Indeed, it reflects the decay of liberal capitalism as a world historical system in a country which did once represent the apogee of democratic government, grounded in the most noble ideas of human culture and emancipation.
I think it worthwhile to remind ourselves, as we appraise the political culture and attitude of America's ruling elite today, of the ideas and political culture that guided the founders of the American Republic, for in these ideas is distilled the cultural and intellectual outlook of the most advanced elements of a social class in the ascent. Such a review reveals as much about their outlook as it does about the present leadership of the United States.
Lying on his deathbed in 1826, Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, between 1801 and 1809, wrote his last letter, declining for reasons of poor health an invitation to attend the 50th Independence Day celebrations in Washington. He apologised for being unable to attend and continued:
"I should, indeed, with peculiar delight, have met and exchanged there congratulations personally with the small band, the remnant of that host of worthies, who joined with us on that day, in the bold and doubtful election we were to make for our country, between submission or the sword; and to have enjoyed with them the consolatory fact, that our fellow citizens, after half a century of experience and prosperity, continue to approve the choice we made.
"May it be to the world, what I believe it will be (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all), the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings and security of self-government.
"That form which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favoured few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them."
...The seventeenth century crisis and the origins of democratic government
It is possible to find parallels in the 1930s with the present economic context. But in terms of the current attack on the constitutional system by the Bush administration, I think to find an equal historical parallel in the English speaking world one is truly forced to go back to the time of the Stuarts in the seventeenth century, and their violent attempt to exert the prerogatives of the Crown, resulting in the English Revolution and the Civil War, which laid the foundations of bourgeois democracy.
The Bush administration is attempting to destroy these centuries-old democratic foundations and establish a form of dictatorial rule freed from the constraints of law.
...Permit me to quote from a scholarly work on the development of political theory during the seventeenth century crisis:
"During the years between the accession of James I and the outbreak of the English Civil War, in spite of the momentous issues at stake there was a poverty of ideas in both the Royal and Parliamentary camps. However, once the civil war broke out, political and constitutional thought was to flourish in England as never before and to furnish herself with a stock of ideas, many of which continue to be the currency of constitutional discussion today" (M.A. Judson, The Crisis of the Constitution, an essay in Constitutional and Political Thought in England, 1603-1645, New Brunswick, Rutgers University Press, 1949).
Liberal democracy as it emerged in its relatively finished form in the United States was the product of three great revolutions and accompanying civil wars: the English Revolution and Civil War, the American Revolution (1776-1781) and the American Civil War (1861-1865). The constitution itself was the product of six years of flourishing political and intellectual debate between 1781 and 1787, in which attention was frequently directed back to the English Revolution - particularly by the radical Whigs, who believed that government in Britain had been corrupted over the past century and who were determined to ensure that the peoples' rights would be secure and inalienable forever.
This system of government and rights, developed through a long and extraordinary struggle for liberty, is being stripped from the American people - and in other countries such as Australia and Britain - with barely a murmur in the political establishment. This is a startling expression of the general erosion of democratic consciousness within the population as a whole and in particular in the middle classes, which have historically formed the social basis of bourgeois democracy. Ultimately, this is the product of decades of social and cultural decay under the pressure of American capitalism and everything it stands for: exploitation, aggression, possessive individualism, misogyny and backwardness.
... Unlike the English bourgeoisie in the seventeenth century, the American ruling class no longer embraces a system based on laws implemented by courts - it does not feel that such a system sufficiently enables it to pursue its interests unhindered.
Guantánamo Bay, in terms of what it represents in the exercise of executive power, is perhaps the most extraordinary development in English law in centuries. It is difficult to find any precedent for it.
The Magna Carta, which guaranteed habeas corpus, was extracted from King John almost 800 years ago in 1215 precisely to stop him from throwing a man in a dungeon and leaving him there to rot without a trial. Yet that is precisely what George W. Bush and his henchman are doing - and proclaim openly, to the whole world, the right to do.
Of course, it is true that America has committed war crimes in the past. But the executive always denied knowledge of them. It has never previously renounced the Geneva Convention.
..All the fundamental principles of the constitutional system have been attacked by the Bush administration; habeas corpus, so significant in the seventeenth century conflict, has been denied. The powers of arrest, imprisonment, spying and torture, all of which were fundamental in the struggle with the monarchy, have been restored to the centre of executive power...
Why has this situation of virtual lawlessness in government come about?
Fundamentally the reason for the collapse of American democracy - for the destruction of the constitutional system - is because of the ruthless domination of private interests in the political system of the United States.
This has taken place with spectacular speed over the last twenty years. A layer comprised of the financial and industrial oligarchy now holds complete sway over the processes of government in the United States. The social, cultural and moral character of this milieu is, not to put too fine a point on it, very ugly, and probably more appropriately the domain of novelists and playwrights, serious ones at least, rather than political analysts. But the political culture within it is vicious, crude and reactionary in the extreme.
...Democracy is incompatible with the degree of social inequality that has developed in the United States and with the character of its ruling elites. The disintegration of the democratic system and the resort to openly authoritarian rule are hallmarks of the collapse of the liberal capitalist system. These processes express not the strength of the system, but its demise...
Classical economics, which one empowered liberal democracy, has now been turned against it. Neo-classical economics now serves the interests of a predatory oligarchy opposed to the individual liberties of classic liberalism. That explains the strange disconnect one feels reading economists today.
Here's Jay Hanson of DieOff.org on University Trained Liars:
We have seen how America was specifically designed to be a "special interest" government -- a government by, for, and of the rich. The role of the social scientist in America is simply to prevent the public from discovering how American politics actually works -- to provide an "umbrella of protection"  over the rich.
Ever since the Physiocrats, economists have begun with the political claim that "the market" is the best means to manage society and have spent over 200 years working backwards trying to prove it. They have failed. The bizarre result of 200 years spent reverse-engineering is a theory that must only reference itself to be even moderately coherent. In other words, economic theory is about economic theory -- it's a monstrous circular argument. This is typical:
"Economists assume people that people make 'rational' decisions but abstain from testing that assumption. Instead of testing, economists invoke 'revealed preferences theory' which states that choices are rational because they are based on preferences that are known through the choices that are made. In other words, economists resort to meaningless, circular arguments and mathematical conjuring tricks to justify their political program." 
Those free marketers, who bother to rationalize their arguments, base them on three deliberate lies:
DELIBERATE LIE #1. "Wants" are the identical to "needs". This is the foundational lie that sets one up to swallow the other two lies. Right wingers (it is boilerplate economic theory) deliberately lie about this because they want you to believe that Donald Trump "needs" another million dollar painting on the wall of one of his mansions just as badly as a welfare mother "needs" health care for her children. This amounts to a license for the rich to hog limited resources (on a spherical planet, all resources are "limited") and serves as the Vaseline for the rest of the lies.
DELIBERATE LIE #2. People are "rational utility maximizers". Although even economists admit this is a lie, it is still boilerplate economic theory. Economists MUST lie about this because if people are being manipulated by marketing, then the so-called "free market" obviously requires government intervention.
In a Liberal Democracy, tax payers are ultimately responsible for a individual if that individual becomes destitute or a criminal. Economists use the "rational utility maximizer" lie to prevent government intervention in markets when intervention would serve the common good. For example, a rational government would intervene in markets to prevent con artists from peddling their worthless shit to an unsuspecting public. (We have all seen those suckers dumping their last dollar in a slot machine.)
Economists argue that government can not possibly know what an individual "needs". If people are manipulated by advertisers, flashing lights, and sex symbols, then government has a good reason to intervene in the market for an individual's welfare because these causalities are dumped on government to care for after the con artists have cleaned them out. For example, a federal law could be passed that would limit legalized gambling to high net worth individuals (it's now done with options and futures trading).
By having university-trained liars (economists) convince the victims that they alone are responsible for their own actions (instead of a team of best-professionals-money-can-buy who were hired to exploit the public), the rich evade responsibility for their actions. Thus, "the market" repeats the basic motif of American politics and illustrates what makes it so clever: the rich manipulate unsuspecting citizens for fun and profit, deplete common resources, externalize social costs onto the tax payer, and blame the victims themselves or the elected screwups and their cronies for social problems. It's brilliant!!!
DELIBERATE LIE #3. The market is "efficient". This is central to economic theory, but it's also a deliberate lie (actually an "idiosyncratic redefinition" of terms). Economists know that people who do not have economic training are going to assume that "efficient" is used in the same way that engineers use the word: acting or producing effectively with a minimum of waste, expense, or unnecessary effort.
But for economists, "efficient" means "efficient distribution" of resources: the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The reason economists use idiosyncratic redefinitions instead of coining new terms (like every other discipline) is to make them better liars!
Idiosyncratic redefinition allows economists can stand in front of your local Rotary Club and appear to HONESTLY use words that mean one thing to them, while Club members think they mean something completely different. This is how economists evade our innate ability to spot liars.
Far from being "efficient", the so-called "free market" is the MOST INEFFICIENT aspect of our society. A back-of-the-envelope calculation by Tom Wayburn suggests that the so-called "free market" WASTES 90% of our natural resources. In other words, we could be self-sufficient in oil (and bring our troops home) by ending "the market" and reorganizing into a new type of "common interest" government instead of the "special interest" government we have had since inception (see http://www.faithfact.com/thefoundingofamerica.htm).
On a spherical planet, governed by the laws of thermodynamics, "the market" WILL end -- sooner-or-later, one-way-or-another.
 LUNATIC POLITICS, 1998 http://www.dieoff.com/page141.htm
In another essay, Hanson zeroes in on the fundamental weakness of neoclassical economics: its complete dependence on linear analysis:
Our understanding of the world in which we live is inherently imperfect. This creates difficulties for the social sciences from which the natural sciences are exempt. Scientific method has discovered universally valid generalizations that can explain and predict events in the natural world. To make such generalizations possible, the events must be independent of statements that relate to them.
But in society, participants must make decisions about events that are contingent on their decisions. The separation between statements and facts, a characteristic of science, is lacking. Participants are obliged to act on the basis of imperfect understanding, bringing biases to bear, with unfortunate consequences for the social sciences. Participants' thinking introduces an element of indeterminacy missing from the natural sciences.
Economic theory has sought to imitate l9th-century physics by introducing the concept of equilibrium. The postulate of a long-run equilibrium is indispensable to turning economics into a hard science. Unfortunately, the participants' bias can wreak havoc with equilibrium, particularly in financial markets. The participants' bias can influence the future that the markets are supposed to discount.
Sometimes the interaction between the participants' thinking and the actual state of affairs sets off a self-reinforcing process that doesn't leave the underlying reality unaffected. The absence of equilibrium deprives economics of its claim to being a hard science and also deprives laissez faire ideology of its scientific underpinnings. Outcomes do not necessarily correspond to expectations, and actions have unintended consequences.
Standard economics not only fails to incorporate non-linear feedback mechanisms into its analysis, but it also cannot deal with singularities, major confluences of event that have not happened before - catastrophes, in other words. Surely the climatological and ecological limits that seven billion, high energy consuming humans on this planet are careening towards constitutes such a singularity. We need to ask ourselves, are these weaknesses of economics deliberate? In other words, as Hanson suggests, are those weaknesses there to fool the rest of us? Does the oligarchy have some kind of better, more effective economics that they keep to themselves?
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Editorial: U.S. Military Murders 11 Iraqi Civilans (WARNING: Graphic Photos)
On the afternoon of March 14, Fayiz Harrat, 27 years, and his sister Fayiza,
35 years, were together in their home. Both were teachers in the only school
in al-Siffa village near Samara. Fayiza and her two kids Usama Yousif, 6 yeas,
and Asma, 5 years, live with Fyiz after the Americans killed her husband last
summer. Fayiz and his wife Sumaya had three kids Hawra, 4 yaers, Aysha 2 years
and Husam 4 months. Their granmother lived with them. On the same day, they
had two guests Aziz Khalil, the cousin of Fayiz, and his fiancée Nidhal
who were arranging the preparation of their wedding on March 16..
Sometime after midnight, their house was beseiged. American Humvees, tanks,
helicopters and dozens of American soldiers rushed into the house serching
and shooting, after a while the helicopter missiled the house.
The American official communiqué said that they raided a house harbored
terrorists and they killed some of them and the collateral damage was 4 civilians..
Yet the truth according to the people of the village, the kids of the school
and the relatives is that the 4 women, 6 children and Fayiz were killed. 11
civilians in all.
The photos are very painful, but you should see the truth; these are the real
I am not asking your tears; I am asking your efforts..
Say NO to Bush the terrorist. Ask your congressmen and your conscience to
define the word "terrorism". Is targeting and killing children terrorism?
The answer depends on your humanity.
Below are photographs of the result of the actions of 'liberating' American
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Editorial: Journalists blackmailed by Israeli embassy
Albawaba and Signs of the Times < /br>
Recent reports claim that Israel's embassy in Mauritania is operating under directives from the Israeli secret security agency, the Mossad, in an attempt to recruit Mauritanian agents to work for Israel using blackmail and other threats.
According to a leading Saudi newspaper, Israel's ambassador to Mauritania, Boaz Bismut, was instructed to apply pressure on local Mauritanian journalists to provide information and work towards changing Mauritanian public opinion regarding Israel.
Bismut was quoted as saying, "The Mauritanian nation will not accept normalization with Israel unless Mauritanian journalists do so first."
To do so, the paper said, Israel has applied pressure to coerce Mauritanian journalists into undertaking the task of changing local public opinion about Israeli-Mauritanian relations.
Journalists were reportedly lured with tempting offers, including sexual relations with foreign women, bribe money, and promises of support in securing prominent job positions in return for their help in the Israeli endeavor.
The newspaper even revealed the whereabouts of three luxury apartments used by Mauritanian journalists for secret rendezvous with the foreign women. Unbeknownst to the journalists, the sexual encounters were then recorded, later to be used to blackmail the journalists by the Israeli embassy.
The Saudi paper explained that the Israeli ambassador would later approach the journalists, threatening to release the videotapes if they did not cooperate with Israel.
Bismut was also reportedly interested in finding out which Mauritanian politician held the most popularity locally, so that he could be recruited for Israel's undercover public relations effort.
The accusations were reportedly confirmed by several Mauritanian journalists with whom the paper spoke that claimed to have fallen into the Israeli trap. In the past, the journalists said, Bismut had also offered journalists huge sums of money to gain their favor.
Ever since the opening of the Israeli embassy in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott, many have called for its closure.
Mauritania, a member of the Arab League, had close ties with Israel under former leader, Maaouya Sid'Ahmed Taya, who was overthrown in a 2005 coup. Taya's warm relations with Israel angered many and alienated Muslim countries worldwide.
Following the 2005 coup, Bismut told reporters, according to Al Jazeera, "This is an Arab league country that was by our side through the Intifada,"
"Clearly, there are those who are not interested in this connection," he added, "But the connection with the government, the president and the Mauritanian people is very important."
According to Al Sharq Al Awsat, the United States in 1993 put pressure on Mauritania "to normalize relations with Israel and accept the Middle East peace process."
Mauritanian later became the only Arab state not to withdraw its ambassador from Israel after the eruption of the Al Aqsa Intifadah.
We have included this article today as an editorial because it is instructive as to the way in which the state of Israel manipulates the governments and media of foreign nations into blind obedience to the Israeli agenda, specifically:
"lured with tempting offers, including sexual relations with foreign women, bribe money, and promises of support in securing prominent job positions in return for their help in the Israeli endeavor"
Unbeknownst to the journalists (and politicians), the sexual encounters were then recorded, later to be used to blackmail the journalists (and poilticians) by the Israeli embassy.
The Saudi paper explained that the Israeli ambassador would later approach the journalists (and politicians), threatening to release the videotapes if they did not cooperate with Israel.
These tactics have been used for decades by Israeli agencies within the U.S. to such an extent that, today, all branches of the American government have been entirely co-opted by Israel. The aforementioned Israeli agenda, by the way, is an eternal racist war in the Middle East until the Arab populations therein have been exterminated or completely subdued (most likely the former).
Of course, the end result of such a campaign will very likely include the dstruction of the state of Israel itself along with the Jewish populations that live there. Then again, given that the Semitic Jews of the Middle East are, from a genetic point of view, almost identical to their Semitic, Arab Muslim brothers, it is probably more correct to say that the goal of Israeli leaders, who themselves are not of Semitic origin, is the destruction of all Semitic peoples of the Middle East.
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Editorial: Quote Of The Week
Signs of the Times
Speaking on CNN's 'Late Edition' Republican Senator and apologist for the phony war on terror, Pat Roberts discussed the NSA warrantless wiretapping.
In justifying the wiretapping Roberts said:
"I'm an old newspaper guy. I worry about them, but you don't Have Civil Liberties if You're Dead"
Note carefully the implication here. Roberts is saying that Americans must accept the eradication of their civil liberties or they will be killed in some undefined way, supposedly by 'terrorists'. Given that the terrorists are, in part, a fabrication of agencies of the US government itself, we understand therefore that the US government is threatening the lives of its citizens if they do not accept a totalitarian form of government.
See this link for more of our comments on Roberts and his part in facilitating the 9/11 cover up and the lies that led to the illegal invasion of Iraq and the ongoing murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women and children.
Courtesy of 'Crooks and Liars'
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Iraqi residents say bodies in video from US raid
By Ali al-Mashhadani
Tue Mar 21 2006
HADITHA, Iraq (Reuters) - A video of civilians who may have been killed by U.S. Marines in an Iraqi town in November showed residents describing a rampage by U.S. soldiers that left a trail of bullet-riddled bodies and destruction.
A copy of the video, given to Reuters by Iraq's Hammurabi Organization for Monitoring Human Rights and Democracy, showed corpses lined up at the Haditha morgue. The chief doctor at Haditha's hospital, Waleed al-Obaidi, said the victims had bullet wounds in the head and chest.
Most residents interviewed by Reuters in Haditha on Tuesday echoed accusations by residents in the video that U.S. Marines attacked houses after their patrol was hit by a roadside bomb.
They said the Marines opened fire on houses. "I saw a soldier standing outside a house and he opened fire on the house," said one resident, who did not want to be identified.
Time magazine published allegations on Monday that U.S. Marines killed civilians in Haditha after one of their comrades was killed by a roadside bomb. It published detailed accounts by people in the town, west of Baghdad.
A criminal inquiry into those deaths was launched last week. Time said the main question facing the probe was whether the "Marines killing of 15 non-combatants was an act of legitimate self-defense or negligent homicide."
Haditha, 200 km (125 miles) northwest of Baghdad, is in Anbar province, an area that has seen much activity by Sunni Arab insurgents whose campaign to topple the Iraqi government has killed thousands of U.S. and Iraqi forces and civilians.
On November 20, U.S. Marines spokesman Captain Jeffrey Pool issued a statement saying that, on the previous day, a roadside bomb had killed 15 civilians and a Marine. In a later gunbattle, U.S. and Iraqi troops had killed eight insurgents, he added.
U.S. military officials have since confirmed to Reuters that that version of the events of November 19 was wrong and that the 15 civilians were not killed by the blast but were shot dead.
TRUCK PILED WITH CORPSES
Time magazine said this week the video of the corpses it provided to the military in January had prompted the revision.
Accusations that American soldiers often kill innocent people have fueled anger at the occupation among Iraqis over the past three years.
The video given to Reuters shows bodies piled in the back of a white pickup truck outside the morgue. Among them was a girl who appeared to be about three years old.
One man wept and leaned against a wall as he identified a relative and other residents inspected bodies in the morgue. One man's face had been torn apart by bullets, while a blackened corpse was missing legs and forearms.
The video also showed houses with bullet holes in the walls, pieces of human flesh, pools of blood and clothes and pots scattered across floors.
In one home, a young boy wept as he sat beside a corpse and said: "My father. My father."
Some residents blamed U.S.
President George W. Bush, former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and President Jalal Talabani. "Is this the democracy Allawi, Talabani and Bush are talking about?" one resident asked.
Abdel Rahman al-Mashhadani, head of Hammurabi, said U.S. Marines had killed 15 people in Haditha after the roadside bomb attack. The group's Haditha branch said it got the video from a local man.
Mashhadani said he had brought the case to the attention of the
United Nations office in Baghdad. "These violations of human rights happen every day in Iraq," he told Reuters.
On Tuesday, residents of Haditha had similar accounts to those on the video.
"This room had a family of eight inside, children and their father and mother," one man said of his relatives who were killed in their home. Another resident confirmed his account, saying one of the children was three years old.
"They are all gone," he said.
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Children Continue To Be Main Victims Of U.S. Occupation
By Dr. César Chelala
New York - One of the most tragic consequenes of the Iraq war has been its effect on children. The war continues to claim them among its main victims, while the health of the majority of the population also continues to deteriorate. In the 1980s, Iraq had one of the best health care systems in the region. Following the 2003 invasion by the coalition forces, an ongoing cycle of insurgent violence and occupation forces' counter-attacks have significantly damaged the basic health infrastructure in the country. As a result, Iraq's health system cannot respond to the most basic health needs of the population.
In 1991, there were in Iraq 1,800 health care centers. A decade and a half later, that number is almost half and almost a third of these require major rehabilitation. This is paralleled by the country's fall in the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) Human Development Index from 96 to 127, one of the most dramatic declines in human welfare in recent history.
According to Jean Ziegler, the U.N. Human Rights Commission's special expert on the right to food, the rate of malnutrition among Iraqi children has almost doubled since Saddam Hussein's ouster in April 2003. Today, at 7.7 percent, Iraq's child acute malnutrition rate is roughly equal to that of Burundi, an African nation ravaged by more than a decade of war. It is far higher than the rates in Ugand and Haiti, countries also devastated by unrelenting violence.
The population health problems are dramatically different than those facing young Iraqis a generation ago, when obesity was one of the main nutrition-related public health concerns. High rates of malnutrition started in the 1990s as a result of the U.N.-imposed sanctions to punish the Saddam Hussein regime for invading Kuwait in 1990.
Lack of dependable electricity and shortages of potable water throughout the country have led to the deterioration of the population's health, resulting in outbreaks of typhoid fever, particularly in southern Iraq. The collapse of the water and sewage systems is probably the cause of outbreaks of hepatitis particularly lethal to pregnant women. According to the Iraq Living Conditions Survey of 22,000 households, a joint effort of the Iraq government and UNDP (United Nations Development Programme,) some 47% of urban households and only 3% of rural households have a sewage connection.
Presently, thousands of children born after the war have none of their required vaccinations, and routine immunization services in major areas of the country are all but disrupted. In addition, the destruction of the refrigeration sytems needed to store vaccines have rendered vaccine supplies virtually useless.
Even antibiotics of minimal cost are in short supply, increasing the population's risk of dying from common infections. Hospitals are overcrowded and many hospitals go dark at night for lack of lighting fixtures. The Iraqi Minister of Health claims that 100 percent of the hospitals in Iraq need rehabilitation. As a result of all these public health failures, Iraq is the country that has least progressed in reducing child mortality since the 1990s.
There are increasing number of orphans, many of whom have become homeless and have had to resort to prostitution to survive. Although the Iraqi Ministry of Labor has created programs to eliminate this problem, its efforts have not been successful.
War has affected the psychilogical well-being of adults and children alike, many of whom present serious symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. It is estimated that less than one hundred psychiatrists remain in Iraq (approximately one for every 300,000 Iraqis) and none of them specializes in child psychiatry.
That children continue to suffer the terrible consequences of the war indicates that new ways have to be found to protect them better. An independent international medical commission should investigate children's health status, and suggest measures for its improvement. Iraqi children should urgently be provided with basic nutrition, immunization and psychological care to alleviate the tremendous damage brought by a war that has taken a brutal toll on their health and quality of life.
Dr. César Chelala, an international public health consultant, is a co-winner of an Overseas Press Club of America award for an article on human rights.
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US soldiers kill 22 in attack on Baghdad mosque
US forces killed 22 people and wounded eight at a mosque in east Baghdad in an incident likely to lead to increased tensions with the Shia community. Police said the US troops had retaliated after coming under fire.
Videotape showed a heap of male bodies with gunshot wounds on the floor of the Imam's living quarters in what was said to be the Al Mustafa mosque. There were 5.56mm shell casings on the floor, which is the type of ammunition used by US soldiers. A weeping man in white Arab robes is shown stepping among the bodies.
Police Lt Hassan said some of the casualties were at the office Dawa, the party of the Prime Minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Haidar al-Obaidi, a senior Dawa official, said: "The lives of Iraqis are not cheap. If the American blood is valuable to them, the Iraqi blood is valuable to us."
The US military would neither confirm not deny the incident but the US army in Iraq has been strongly criticised over the past week for killing Iraqi civilians and falsely claiming that they were insurgents or caught in cross fire.
The shooting took place in a neighbourhood dominated by the Mehdi Army militia of the nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and some of those who died may have belonged to his movement. Salam al-Maliki, an official of the Sadr bloc, said that a hospital to which the wounded had been taken was later surrounded by US troops.
Hazin al-Araji, an aide to Mr Sadr, claimed: "The American forces went into the Mustafa mosque at prayers and killed more than 20 worshippers. They tied them up and shot them."
The killings may mark another step in the deteriorating relations between the US and Iraq's Shia community, 60 per cent of the population. Shia leaders fear that the US is trying to rob them of the fruits of their success in the election on 15 December when the Shia coalition won 130 out of 275 seats. Another US military move likely to be resented was a raid yesterday on a building of the Interior Ministry, controlled by Shias, in the mistaken belief that it was a torture centre. It turned out to contain 17 Sudanese legally detained for breach of residency laws who had not been mistreated.
The US is desperately seeking to pressure Iraqi politicians into forming a national unity government to reverse the country's slide into sectarian civil war. The US ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, asked the Iraqi leadership to "overcome the strife that threatens to rip apart Iraq" . Forty, bodies, some beheaded, were found yesterday in Baghdad and Baquba. The prolonged failure to form a government underlines the deep fissures dividing the Shia, Sunni and Kurdish communities and make it unlikely that national unity government would be effective. Even before last night's events the Shia coalition resented the campaign by President Jalal Talabani, supported by the US and UK, to get rid of Mr Jaafari as Prime Minister. The US and UK want Sunni politicians, as well as Iyad Allawi, to be members of a new administration.
"The US and UK were shocked that the Shia coalition did so well," said a participant in the negotiations to form a government. "Since then they hoped it would split. But the Shia parties have stuck behind Jaafari ... Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and the Hawza [Shia religious hierarchy] are for Shia unity and the Iranians want the coalition to stay together."
The present government, formed following the election on 30 January last year, is a Shia-Kurdish alliance. One Kurdish observer said: "For the Kurds it would be suicidal to side with the Sunni and Iyad Allawi because they would alienate 60 per cent of the population."
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60 Minutes joins the propaganda war
By Mike Whitney
Two weeks ago, CBS 60 Minutes ran a segment called "Tal Afar: Al Qaida's Town". The story focused on an Iraqi city on the Syrian border that was allegedly "taken over by Al Qaida" and turned into a terrorist "base to train insurgents and launch attacks around Iraq". (60 Minute's transcript)
According to"America's most popular news magazine", the city of 200,000 was controlled by a few hundred "terrorists" who kept the townspeople imprisoned in their own homes until American forces invaded the city and set them free.
60 Minute's anchor, Lara Logan, interviewed Colonel H.R. McMaster for the piece; quizzing him on the situation before and after the American siege.
When they first arrived at Tal Afar, Colonel McMaster said, "Life was horrible in the city. They (the terrorists) fired mortars indiscriminately into playgrounds, into school yards, across the marketplace to kill innocent civilians….They would leave headless bodies in the street. They kidnapped a young child on one occasion, killed the child, put a booby trap inside of his body and waited for the father to come claim the body to kill the parent".
None of what McMaster says can be verified nor is it consistent with reports that appeared on the Internet during the siege.
"Masked gunman led by Al Qaida roamed the streets of Tal Afar at will, publicly executing and kidnapping people," the Colonel said. "They had kidnapping and murder classes that were attended by people on the best techniques."
"Murder classes"? Does any of this seem even remotely believable?
Colonel McMaster continued, "The enemy showed the people who they really are. These are mass murderers. These are people who don't respect human life."
Time Magazine's Michael Ware accompanied McMaster during the invasion and gives a graphic account of the fighting:
"Tal Afar was so dangerous that the soldiers had to run for cover the moment their boots hit the ground. You couldn't even sit inside your tank without being shot."
"The troops I was with were what you would loosely call the 'tip of the spear'. They were men who were selected to do the worst of the worst. They were to drive the stake into the dark heart of the Al Qaida stronghold".
Ware recounts how the Marines surrounded Al Qaida fighters in the Sarai district of the city and were so close "you could throw a stone and hit them". He added, "When we woke the next morning-poof---they were gone…Where an entire al Qaida society had existed, the troops found one body."
Poof… total baloney.
The real story of Tal Afar is vastly different than Ware's account and does not reflect his high-regard for American troops battling a civilian population.
The siege of Tal Afar began on September 2, 2005. It was the largest military offensive since the assault on Falluja a year earlier. In 2004 the US military attempted to take over the city but was rebuffed by heavy fighting. After that, the guerilla movement inside the city intensified anticipating a future attack. If there were foreign fighters, their numbers were small.
Approximately, 5,000 American and Iraqi troops sealed off the city, enclosing it behind a massive wall of sand with intermittent military checkpoints. The city's people were forced to evacuate leaving them to fend for themselves. The Red Cross was overwhelmed by the magnitude of the exodus and was unable to provide shelter, water, or food for many of those who fled. Regrettably, thousands of people chose to stay and withstand the withering assault rather than expose themselves to the Shiite death squads that were operating in conjunction with American forces.
The city was then relentlessly pounded for more than a week by Abrams tanks, F-16s, helicopter gun-ships, and heavy artillery. At least four mosques were bombed and the Sarai area was hammered persistently with 500 and 1000 lb bombs. The Iraqi newspaper Azzaman reported, "Eyewitnesses spoke of 'scores of casualties due to indiscriminate bombing".
The pattern of assault on Tal Afar has been repeated throughout the Sunni triangle. Presently, Samarra is undergoing the same style of attack; a wall of sand has formed around the city, water and power have been cut off, and more than half of the people have fled. The siege of Falluja has become the model for "pacification" throughout the Sunni heartland although the level of destruction has decreased significantly. The application of overwhelming force is still at the very heart of the military strategy for victory in Iraq.
The siege was executed according to the normal protocols of massive round-ups and detentions, snipers deployed to the tops of buildings, and widespread bombing wherever resistance appeared.
The incessant battering of the city continued despite appeals from human rights groups, member states in the UN, and religious leaders from the Sunni community.
The widely-respected Council of Nineveh issued a statement from the Brussels Tribunal that was ignored by the western media but is worth reiterating:
"The truth of what is happening in Tal Afar of the extreme use of force and the use of internationally forbidden weapons of poison gases, cluster, microwave, and napalm bombs, we demand that autopsies be carried out on the corpses of our sons who fell in the barbaric aggression to verify the inhuman practices carried out by the American forces and the (Iraqi) militias that participated in the massacre of Tal Afar."
The use of banned weapons in Tal Afar was later corroborated by the Red Cross although it never appeared in the western media. They reported that "170 people had been made sick from "inhaling gases" and "curious poisons".
Clearly, 60 Minutes did not feel that the use of napalm or other "chemical weapons" fit with their reverential tale of American bravery and liberation.
The idea that Tal Afar was an Al Qaida stronghold is patently absurd. The attack was part of a broader "scorched-earth" policy directed at pacifying Sunni cities. The allegations that there were hundreds of terrorists cannot be substantiated; suggesting it's merely a public relations scam. Amazingly, "NOT ONE FOREIGN FIGHTER WAS CAPTURED in the siege despite claims that the city was a haven for foreign terrorists." (Linda Heard)
Jonathan Finer of the Washington Post clarified what really took place in Tal Afar:
"Tal Afar was 70% Sunni Turkmen and 30% Shiite Turkmen. The Sunni Turkmen had thrown in with Saddam, and more recently to radical Islam. The Shiite Turkmen lived in fear of their lives.
So Kurds and Shiite are beating up on Sunni Turkmen allies of Sunnis Arabs. …It's mainly about punishing the Sunni Turkmen for allying with the Sunni Arab guerrillas."
As Finer points out, the real motive behind the siege was to root out sympathizers of the Iraqi resistance. That means that the US military was simply promoting greater sectarian violence to suppress the opposition. This is a vastly different explanation than the official version of a pitched battle with Al Qaida.
So, who should we believe; Jonathan Finer or 60 Minutes?
We already know that the Pentagon is committed to the policies of deception and misinformation. Their unwavering support for the planting of stories in the Iraqi press further demonstrates their belief that lies are vital to their overall strategy. We must assume that the 60 Minutes fits into this paradigm of psy-ops (psychological operations) directed at the American public to shore up support for the war.
The fact that 60 Minutes would stake its reputation on such a pathetic example of state propaganda illustrates the desperation that's spreading like wildfire through the political establishment to their colleagues in the corporate media.
The American people have already turned the corner on Bush's bloody war. It will take more than a few fairy tales from 60 Minutes to win them back.
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U.S. soldiers kill two civilians at check point at Al-Ratba:
Ahmed al-Kobaisy, a doctor at al-Ratba hospital said the three victims were shot at when their car approached the site of a US army base on the road. They were admitted to the hospital after which two of them died of their wounds.
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Soldier who killed Iraqi girl in 2004 discharged; no criminal charges filed
The Army has discharged without criminal charges a Schofield Barracks soldier who was involved in the 2004 killing of a 13-year-old girl and wounding of her sister and mother in Iraq.
A criminal investigation was opened and evidence was reviewed before the decision by Maj. Gen. Benjamin R. Mixon, the commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division, to approve the discharge of Sgt. Jeffrey D. Waruch, 28, officials said.
"In this case, a review of the investigation determined that no further evidence was likely to be found that would result in the case going to trial," Schofield Barracks said in a statement.
The investigation found that Waruch, who was with the 1st Battalion, 27th Infantry Regiment, did not act in a negligent or unlawful manner in the Feb. 18, 2004 shootings and that there was insufficient evidence to prosecute, the Army said.
The news is troubling for Edward Richmond Sr., the father of another Schofield Barracks soldier.
The Louisiana man's son, Edward Richmond Jr., is serving a three-year sentence in the military stockade at Fort Sill, Okla., for shooting an Iraqi cowherd 10 days after the girl's death.
A criminal investigation of the shooting that Richmond was involved in started immediately after the incident, according to the Dayton (Ohio) Daily News. Army criminal investigators did not begin a formal investigation of the earlier incident until more than a year after the shootings.
Edward Richmond Sr. said this week that he doesn't know why criminal proceedings were initiated at different times.
"I wish I could look (the battalion commander) dead in the eyes and be standing face to face, and I'd ask him that myself," Richmond Sr. said. "That's a question I've had the whole time."
He suggested, however, that his son was cast, in part, as a scapegoat "because the villagers were mad as hell because the second incident happened." Richmond Sr. noted that the mother and two daughters shot were family of the tribal elders in the village.
In that case, as the three ran from a roadside bomb attack on a U.S. convoy, 13-year-old Intisar Saleh was shot in the head from a distance of about 200 feet. Her mother was hit and lost a leg, and Intisar's 15-year-old sister was shot in the leg.
Waruch said in a statement that he shot the three Iraqis after they ignored repeated warnings in English and Arabic to stop, suspicious movements were made, and one appeared to have "something long" that he believed could have been a weapon.
A review conducted by Maj. Samuel Schubert found that two in the group of fleeing civilians were surrendering, and that Waruch fired at one of the females because the civilians made "sudden movements."
Schubert said in his report: "Under these facts, the soldier's certainty that he was about to be fired upon was not reasonable," and there was no weapon. He added, "The soldier did not observe hostile intent.
"The engagement was not in" accordance with rules of engagement, Schubert noted, underlining the word "not."
Schubert also said it was "important to note" that the soldiers were new to the theater and were reacting to one of their first combat situations.
The Dayton Daily News reported that the family of the slain Iraqi girl agreed on Jan. 24 to meet with military criminal investigators. Waruch was discharged three days later.
Although Waruch was allowed to leave the Army, if additional evidence comes to light, he can be tried by the Department of Justice under the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act, the Army said.
On Feb. 28, 2004, Waruch was the only other soldier present when then 20-year-old Pfc. Edward Richmond Jr. shot Iraqi cowherd Muhamad Husain Kadir in the back of the head as Waruch handcuffed the man. Richmond Jr. has said he shot the Iraqi when the man lunged at Waruch.
Photographs showed the dead man with his hands flex-cuffed behind his back.
Waruch had told Richmond to "put the gun on his head and shoot him" if he moved, according to an appeal filed in the case. Richmond's father said his son did what he was supposed to do as a soldier.
In August 2004 Richmond Jr. was convicted of voluntary manslaughter. A clemency hearing is scheduled for April 6.
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US Military faces Iraqi accusations on deadly night raid
By Paul Schemm - BAGHDAD
The US military insisted Monday Iraqi special forces carried out a raid on an insurgent hide-out that killed over a dozen people, rejecting accusations American troops had launched a deadly attack on civilians in a mosque.
Amid a swirl of conflicting versions of the events late Sunday, the US military said Iraqi special forces raided a meeting hall in northeast Baghdad being used by an insurgent cell and killed 16 people and detained 18 others.
Iraqi television on Sunday night showed pictures of blood spattered corpses inside what they called the Mustafa mosque. Many of the dead were elderly and their identity proclaimed them to be members of prominent political parties.
The Imam Ali hospital, in nearby Sadr City, reported 17 dead and five wounded in an incident that risks further inflaming sectarian tensions in Iraq.
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Hired guns unaccountable
March 24, 2006
About 6,000 non-Iraqi security contractors are operating in Iraq. During nine months in 2004-05, contractors reported firing into 61 civilian vehicles; no one was ever prosecuted. Security analysts say it is likely that such incidents are vastly underreported.
Security contractors supporting the U.S. effort in Iraq regularly shoot into civilian cars with little accountability, according to a News & Observer analysis of more than 400 reports contractors filed with the government.
In the documents, which cover nine months of the three-year-old war, contractors reported shooting into 61 vehicles they believed were threatening them. In just seven cases were Iraqis clearly attacking -- showing guns, shooting at contractors or detonating explosives.
There was no way to tell how many civilians were hurt, or how many were innocent: In most cases, the contractors drove away. No contractors have been prosecuted for a mistaken shooting in Iraq.
"What you've done is privatize the fog of war," said Peter W. Singer, an expert on military contracting with the Brookings Institution in Washington.
There are thought to be about 20,000 non-Iraqi civilian contractors supporting a range of U.S. efforts, including about 6,000 security contractors. According to Department of Labor statistics, more than 400 U.S. civilians have died there.
One of the biggest security contractors is Blackwater Security Consulting of Moyock, N.C. The News & Observer began reporting on the industry after four Blackwater men were killed and mutilated in Fallujah in 2004. At least 22 Blackwater contractors have died in Iraq, most in ambushes.
The activities of security contractors have been difficult to quantify, though they are a major force on the ever-changing battlefield. Until now, only a few of their "serious incident reports" to U.S. authorities had been released. The nearly 800 pages that The N&O received this week are the first extensive sampling of contractors' accounts of Iraq's chaos.
The documents include stories of a contractor team shooting at a car in the morning and another in the evening, U.S. forces firing at contractors and contractors shooting at one other.
The government released reports only for nine months ending last April. They detail more than 80 attacks against security contractors that resulted in 48 contractor injuries and 14 deaths. The Pentagon removed the names of the contractors and companies, citing security concerns.
Contractors use standard rules of escalating force for dealing with threats on Iraq's jammed roads:
A gunner in the rearmost vehicle gestures for cars behind him to stop and stay back. If one moves closer, he waves it back again, then points a flashlight. If it keeps coming, warning shots are fired over the top of the suspect vehicle, then into the engine. If that doesn't work, he can shoot to kill.
Here's the narrative from a typical shooting report:
"1 warning shot fired in a safe direction at a black OPEL that refused to adhere to the [private security detail] signals [big torch and hand signals] to stay back. After 1st warning shot car accelerate. When he accelerate we made another 2 warning shots, no reaction from driver we had to open fire directly in to that car using AK[-47 assault rifle] and PKM [machine gun]. The car was stop after we made 23 shots from PKM and 9 shots from AK. Driver ... survived."
Because the reports are voluntary, experts say they probably represent only a fraction of such incidents, and cases in which contractors broke laws or rules are unlikely to be reported.
"If you've got 60 cases where contractors shot into cars, there are probably 600," said James Yeager, a Camden, Tenn., arms trainer whose team shot at cars half a dozen times during his 11 months as a security contractor.
But Doug Brooks, head of the International Peace Operations Association industry group, said he thinks attacks are underreported by perhaps 50 percent.
Whatever the number of shootings, it's likely fewer than similar shootings by U.S. troops. Stars and Stripes reported last week that a military study of an eight-week period late this winter indicated that soldiers killed about 30 Iraqis who drove too close to checkpoints or military convoys.
Hundreds of soldiers in Iraq have been prosecuted under military justice for offenses ranging from drinking to murder. No contractors have been prosecuted for any crimes, Singer and Brooks said.
The advent of civilian security contractors and insurgents who look like civilians has made it hard for anyone on the battlefield to figure out who's who.
The reports paint a picture of such threats as ambushes, suicide car bombers maneuvering to get close, roadside bombs and the possibility of being shot by U.S. troops.
About half the reports involve security contractors. The rest detail incidents involving construction contractors working on projects such as power, water and sewer plants and schools. These list more than 60 kidnappings and 25 murders of Iraqi workers by insurgents trying to stop reconstruction projects.
The difference between living and dying -- for contractors, their clients, insurgents and innocent civilians -- can hinge on decisions that security contractors make in seconds.
"On one side, you've got insurgents who are melting into the civilian population, so you don't know you're being attacked until the actual point of the attack," said Singer, the Brookings expert. "The flip side is, the contractors are often not very well marked, and for the local civilian driving along, sometimes it's very clear they're coming into a contractor convoy; other times it's not."
None of the reports released indicate the rules of escalating force were broken. "You're not going to see those reports," said Yeager, the former contractor. "No one is going to file them."
Yeager said all shootings that he knew of were justified. "The Iraqis knew exactly what cars not to drive up to," he said. "If a guy breaks away from the pack and keeps coming, he knows what's going to happen, and he's either going to try to detonate a bomb, or rake us with gunfire."
Brooks said contracting industry groups are commissioning a radio and newspaper advertising campaign to reinforce to Iraqis what they should do when they see a civilian convoy. The U.S. military is planning a similar campaign, Stars and Stripes reported.
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Bush: U.S. troops will still be in Iraq after my presidency ends in 2009
President George W. Bush said in a press conference on March 21, 2006 that U.S. troops will still be in Iraq after his presidency ends in 2009. Asked when all U.S. forces would finally pull out of Iraq, Bush told a White House news conference: "That will be decided by future Presidents and future governments of Iraq." Bush's term ends in January 2009.
The silence from Congress in reaction to this pledge was deafening.
While the President was pledging occupation until 2009, polls are showing that opposition to the war is growing. The latest CBS poll on Iraq showed that 70% think the occupation is not worth the costs. Even 42%, of Republican voters feel that way as do 90% of Democrats and 72% of Independent voters. This is consistent with a CNN/USA Today/Gallup Poll which found that only 37% of Americans believe the invasion of Iraq was worth it, 54% believe we should withdraw within a year, and only 22% believe the U.S. is sure to win (down from 79% in 2003).
Another poll conducted by ICR Research for VotersForPeace may make incumbents who have supported the war even more nervous. This poll found that a near majority of voters are ready to pledge to vote against candidates who continue to support the war. If the Iraq occupation continues to go poorly there could be a strong reaction at the polls in November.
The view of voters will be strengthened as they realize that even U.S. troops are saying no to the commander in chief. These polls come on the heels of poll by Le Moyne College and Zogby of veterans showing 72 percent favor withdrawal from Iraq within a year. Thus, voters who want to support the troops may realize the best way to do so is to bring them home.
The disconnect between the views of American voters about the occupation and with the President and the leaders of both parties is becoming more evident. Bush minimized the concerns of Congress describing them as election year jitters, saying: "There is a certain unease when you go into an election year." But, unease may be greatly understating the risk to candidates.
Democrats need to realize that not only does three-quarters of their base strongly oppose the war – but their base is ready to pledge not to vote for pro-war candidates! The Iraq war could be the issue that robs Democrats of their chance to regain majority status in either House. The Democrat base may stay home or vote independent because of the leaderships failure to call for an end to the war. Party leaders like Senators Joe Biden, Hilary Clinton, Joe Lieberman and Representatives Rahm Emanuel and Steny Hoyer who have held the party back from opposing the war are potentially sending the Democrats over a political cliff by alienating their base which includes the large, emerging peace vote.
But, it is not all bad news for Democrats. If the Democrats clearly oppose the war by supporting Rep. Murtha's call for redeployment, the VotersForPeace poll shows this will lead them to majority party status. By taking a stand against the war Democrats will attract Independent and Republican voters who are fed up with the failed quagmire.
A near majority of Republican registered voters are also getting tired of the war and a significant percentage, 25.7% would consider signing the VotersForePeace pledge – and 5.5% strongly agree with the pledge. If the Republicans lose these voters to the Democrats they will find themselves in an electoral loss of historic proportions. Support for the war is made more risky for the Republicans because the fastest growing group of voters, Independents, strongly oppose the war and support the pledge. Thus, anti-Iraq war voters could cost Republicans their majority party status.
Republican incumbents need to side with the people and put some distance between themselves and the President's ongoing occupation of Iraq. They need some clear votes showing that they do not agree with the President's 'stay the course' strategy.
The Iraq occupation may be the best news to the growing independent political movement. Independent voters are already the fastest growing group of voters. And, the failure of either Party to strongly oppose the war provides an opportunity for alternatives to the Democrats and Republicans as anti-war voters look for an anti-war alternative. This new anti-war voting bloc is emerging at a time of unprecedented unpopularity for the two parties – polls showing both parties with higher negative ratings then positive ratings for the first time in polling history.
The ongoing Iraq occupation – with President Bush's promise to stay the course and mostly silence from the Congress – is increasing the likelihood of an angry electorate that says it is time for change and votes out the incumbents.
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Iraq recruitment centre blast kills 40
Monday 27 March 2006
At least 40 people are reported killed and 20 others wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up among candidates waiting at an army recruitment centre in northwest Iraq.
An Iraqi Interior Ministry official said the explosion occurred on Monday at an Iraqi army centre called Tamarat, located near the town of Tal Afar, which is close to the restive city of Mosul.
"Forty people have died and 20 were wounded when a suicide bomber blew himself up in the midst of candidates waiting at a recruitment centre for Iraq defence forces," the official said.
Earlier, an official with the Nineveh governorate of which Mosul is the capital had also confirmed that the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber.
The US military said there were no American casualties.
The latest attack is one of the bloodiest in the last four months after the November suicide bombing on a police recruitment centre in Ramadi which left 70 dead.
Comment: You want to know the truth of this and so many other alleged "suicide bombings" in Iraq and in other countries in the Middle East?
On May 11 2005, an Iraqi man named Imad Khadduri posted a "warning to car drivers" on www.albasrah.net. The report contained some alarming information:
"A few days ago, an American manned check point confiscated the driver license of a driver and told him to report to an American military camp near Baghdad airport for interrogation and in order to retrieve his license. The next day, the driver did visit the camp and he was allowed in the camp with his car. He was admitted to a room for an interrogation that lasted half an hour. At the end of the session, the American interrogator told him: 'OK, there is nothing against you, but you do know that Iraq is now sovereign and is in charge of its own affairs. Hence, we have forwarded your papers and license to al-Kadhimia police station for processing. Therefore, go there with this clearance to reclaim your license. At the police station, ask for Lt. Hussain Mohammed, who is waiting for you now. Go there now quickly, before he leaves his shift work'.
The driver did leave in a hurry, but was soon alarmed with a feeling that his car was driving as if carrying a heavy load, and he also became suspicious of a low flying helicopter that kept hovering overhead, as if trailing him. He stopped the car and inspected it carefully. He found nearly 100 kilograms of explosives hidden in the back seat and along the two back doors.
In an incident that appeared to corroborate the idea that US and British forces were involved in covert bomb attacks on Iraqi civilians, in September 2005 two British SAS agents were arrested driving a car full of explosives. The men had been shooting at Iraqi civilians and wore full Arab dress.
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Bush's Requests for Iraqi Base Funding Mean US Troops Will Be There For Decades
By Peter Spiegel, Times Staff Writer
March 24, 2006
WASHINGTON - Even as military planners look to withdraw significant numbers of American troops from Iraq in the coming year, the Bush administration continues to request hundreds of millions of dollars for large bases there, raising concerns over whether they are intended as permanent sites for U.S. forces.
Questions on Capitol Hill about the future of the bases have been prompted by the new emergency spending bill for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives last week with $67.6 billion in funding for the war effort, including the base money.
Although the House approved the measure, lawmakers are demanding that the Pentagon explain its plans for the bases, and they unanimously passed a provision blocking the use of funds for base agreements with the Iraqi government.
"It's the kind of thing that incites terrorism," Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said of long-term or permanent U.S. bases in countries such as Iraq.
Paul, a critic of the war, is co-sponsoring a bipartisan bill that would make it official policy not to maintain such bases in Iraq. He noted that Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden cited U.S. military bases in Saudi Arabia as grounds for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The debate in Congress comes as concerns grow over how long the U.S. intends to keep forces in Iraq, a worry amplified when President Bush earlier this week said that a complete withdrawal of troops from Iraq would not occur during his term.
Long-term U.S. bases in Iraq would also be problematic in the Middle East, where they could lend credence to charges that the U.S. motive for the invasion was to seize land and oil. And they could also feed debate about the appropriate U.S. relationship with Iraq after Baghdad's new government fully assumes control.
State Department and Pentagon officials have insisted that the bases being constructed in Iraq will eventually be handed over to the Iraqi government.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to Baghdad, said on Iraqi television last week that the U.S. had "no goal of establishing permanent bases in Iraq."
And Pentagon spokesman Army Lt. Col. Barry Venable said, "We're building permanent bases in Iraq for Iraqis."
But the seemingly definitive administration statements mask a semantic distinction: Although officials say they are not building permanent U.S. bases, they decline to say whether they will seek a deal with the new Iraqi government to allow long-term troop deployments.
Asked at a congressional hearing last week whether he could "make an unequivocal commitment" that the U.S. officials would not seek to establish permanent bases in Iraq, Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, the commander in charge of all U.S. forces in the Middle East and Central Asia, replied, "The policy on long-term presence in Iraq hasn't been formulated." Venable, the Pentagon spokesman, said it was "premature and speculative" to discuss long-term base agreements before the permanent Iraqi government had been put in place.
All told, the United States has set up 110 forward operating bases in Iraq, and the Pentagon says about 34 of them already have been turned over to the Iraqi government, part of an ongoing effort to gradually strengthen Iraqi security forces.
Bush is under political pressure to reduce the number of U.S. troops before midterm congressional elections, and the Pentagon is expected to decide soon whether the next major deployment will reflect a significant reduction in forces.
But despite the potential force reductions and the base handovers, the spending has continued.
Dov Zakheim, who oversaw the Pentagon's emergency spending requests as the department's budget chief until 2004, said critics might be reading too much into the costly emergency spending, needed to protect U.S. forces from insurgent attacks and provide better conditions for deployed troops.
The spending "doesn't necessarily connote permanence," Zakheim said. "God knows it's a tough enough environment anyway."
The bulk of the Pentagon's emergency spending for military construction over the last three years in Iraq has focused on three or four large-scale air and logistics bases that dot the center of the country.
The administration is seeking $348 million for base construction as part of its 2006 emergency war funding bill. The Senate has not yet acted on the request.
By far the most funding has gone to a mammoth facility north of Baghdad in Balad, which includes an air base and a logistics center. The U.S. Central Command said it intended to use the base as the military's primary hub in the region as it gradually hands off Baghdad airport to civilian authorities.
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Elaborate American air bases worry Iraqis
Charles J. Hanley – Associated Press March 22, 2006
The chief Air Force engineer here, Lt. Col. Scott Hoover, is also overseeing two crucial projects to add to Balad's longevity: equipping the two runways with new permanent lighting, and replacing a weak 3,500-foot section of one runway.
Once that's fixed, "we're good for as long as we need to run it," Hoover said.
Ten years? he was asked. "I'd say so."
BALAD AIR BASE, IRAQ - The concrete goes on forever, vanishing into the noonday glare, 2 million cubic feet of it, a mile-long slab that's now the home of as many as 120 U.S. helicopters, a ''heli-park'' as good as any back in the States.
At another giant base, al-Asad in Iraq's western desert, the 17,000 troops and workers come and go in a kind of bustling American town, with a Burger King, Pizza Hut and a car dealership, stop signs, traffic regulations and young bikers clogging the roads.
At a third hub down south, Tallil, they're planning a new mess hall, one that will seat 6,000 hungry airmen and soldiers for chow.
Are the Americans here to stay? Air Force mechanic Josh Remy is sure of it as he looks around Balad.
''I think we'll be here forever,'' the 19-year-old airman from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., told a visitor to his base.
The Iraqi people suspect the same. Strong majorities tell pollsters they'd like to see a timetable for U.S. troops to leave, but believe Washington plans to keep military bases in their country.
The question of America's future in Iraq looms larger as the U.S. military enters the fourth year of its war here, waged first to oust President Saddam Hussein, and now to crush an Iraqi insurgency.
Ibrahim al-Jaafari, interim prime minister, has said he opposes permanent foreign bases. A wide range of American opinion is against them as well.
Such bases would be a ''stupid'' provocation, said Gen. Anthony Zinni, former U.S. Mideast commander and a critic of the U.S. invasion.
But events, in explosive situations like Iraq's, can turn ''no'' into ''maybe'' and even ''yes.''
The Shiite Muslims, ascendant in Baghdad, might decide they need long-term U.S. protection against insurgent Sunni Muslims. Washington might take the political risks to gain a strategic edge -- in its confrontation with next-door Iran, for example.
The U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, and other U.S. officials disavow any desire for permanent bases. But long-term access, as at other U.S. bases abroad, is different from ''permanent,'' and the official U.S. position is carefully worded.
Lt. Cmdr. Joe Carpenter, a Pentagon spokesman on international security, told the Associated Press it would be inappropriate to discuss future basing until a new Iraqi government is in place, expected in coming weeks.
Less formally, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, when asked about ''permanent duty stations'' by a Marine during an Iraq visit in December, said it was ''an interesting question.'' He said it would have to be raised by the incoming Baghdad government, if ''they have an interest in our assisting them for some period over time.''
In Washington, Iraq scholar Phebe Marr finds the language intriguing. ''If they aren't planning for bases, they ought to say so,'' she said. ''I would expect to hear, 'No bases.' ''
Right now what is heard is the pouring of concrete.
In 2005-06, Washington has authorized or proposed almost $1 billion for U.S. military construction in Iraq, as American forces consolidate at Balad (known as Anaconda) and a handful of other installations, big bases under the old regime.
They have already pulled out of 34 of the 110 bases they were holding last March, said Maj. Lee English of the U.S. command's Base Working Group, which is planning the consolidation.
'The coalition forces are moving outside the cities while continuing to provide security support to the Iraqi security forces,'' English said.
Lower profile for troops
The move away from cities, perhaps eventually accompanied by U.S. force reductions, will lower the profile of U.S. troops, frequent targets of roadside bombs on city streets. Officers at Al-Asad Air Base, 10 desert miles from the nearest town, say it hasn't been hit by insurgent fire since October.
Al-Asad will become even more isolated. The proposed 2006 supplemental budget for Iraq operations would provide $7.4 million to extend the no-man's-land and build security fencing around the base, which at 19 square miles is so large that many assigned there take the bus to get around the base, or buy bicycles at a PX jammed with customers.
At Tallil, besides the new $14 million dining facility, Ali Air Base is to get, for $22 million, a double perimeter fence with high-tech gate controls, guard towers and a moat -- in military parlance, a ''vehicle entrapment ditch with berm.''
At Balad, the former Iraqi air force academy 40 miles north of Baghdad, the two 12,000-foot runways have become the logistics hub for all U.S. military operations in Iraq, and major upgrades began last year.
Army engineers say 31,000 truckloads of sand and gravel fed nine concrete-mixing plants on Balad, as contractors laid a $16 million ramp to park the Air Force's huge C-5 cargo planes; an $18 million ramp for workhorse C-130 transports; and the vast, $28 million main helicopter ramp.
Turkish builders are pouring tons more concrete for a fourth ramp beside the runways, for medical-evacuation and other aircraft on alert. And $25 million was approved for other ''pavement projects,'' from a special road for munitions trucks to a compound for special forces.
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Iraq on its own to rebuild, U.S. says
By Thomas Frank
March 24, 2006
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The head of the U.S.-led program to rebuild Iraq said Thursday that the Iraqi government can no longer count on U.S. funds and must rely on its own revenues and other foreign aid, particularly from Persian Gulf nations.
"The Iraqi government needs to build up its capability to do its own capital budget investment," Daniel Speckhard, director of the U.S. Iraq Reconstruction Management Office, said.
The burden of paying for reconstruction poses an extraordinary challenge for a country that needs tens of billions of dollars for repairing its infrastructure at the same time it's struggling to pay its bills.
Iraq's deputy finance minister, Kamal Field al-Basri, said it was "reasonable" for the United States to sharply cut back its reconstruction efforts after spending about $21 billion.
"We should be very much dependent on ourselves," al-Basri said. Anthony Cordesman, a Middle East expert at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, called the U.S. reconstruction effort "a dismal failure. It hasn't met any of its goals. It's left a legacy of half-built projects, built to U.S. standards, which Iraq doesn't have the capability to maintain."
Al-Basri said Iraq needs to increase its capacity to produce oil, which generates 93 percent of government's revenues.
The total rebuilding cost is now $70 billion to $100 billion -- up from a $60 billion World Bank estimate in 2003, Speckhard said.
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One Step Closer To Facism
FBI, police spying is rising, groups allege:
Christian Science Monitor
The ACLU has filed Freedom of Information requests for more than 150 groups and individuals.
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Flashback: Army 'psyops' at CNN - News giant employed military 'psychological operations' personnel
By Geoff Metcalf
CNN employed active duty U.S. Army psychological operations personnel last year, WorldNetDaily has confirmed through several sources at Fort Bragg and elsewhere.
Maj. Thomas Collins, U.S. Information Service has confirmed that "psyops" (psychological operations) personnel, soldiers and officers, have worked in the CNN headquarters in Atlanta. The lend/lease exercise was part of an Army program called "Training With Industry." According to Collins, the soldiers and officers, "... worked as regular employees of CNN. Conceivably, they would have worked on stories during the Kosovo war. They helped in the production of news."
When asked if the introduction of military personnel into a civilian news organization was standard operating procedure, one source said, "That question is above my pay grade ... but I hope so. It's what we do."
The CNN military personnel were members of the Airmobile Fourth Psychological Operations Group, stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. One of the main tasks of this group of almost 1200 soldiers and officers is to spread 'selected information.' Critics say that means dissemination of propaganda.
Cable News Network suffered a major embarrassment in the wake of the 'Tailwind' story it aired, alleging the U.S. government used lethal sarin gas to kill suspected defectors during the Vietnam war. After WorldNetDaily was the first news organization to expose the fraudulent news production, two CNN producers were fired and, eventually, CNN veteran reporter Peter Arnett also was ousted. In that case, Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Perry Smith quit his long-time job as a military adviser to CNN.
What about now? Has the U.S. military been in a position to have influenced directly CNN's news reports about the crisis in Kosovo?
Collins claims a "handful" of military assets were assigned to CNN for weeks "to get to know the company and to broaden their horizons." The Major asserts "they didn't work under the control of the army."
Several sources have confirmed the temporary outplacement of U.S. Army psyops personnel started two or three years ago, and they have been integrated into "various sectors of society." The assignment durations have been short-term up to one full year, depending on the mission. When asked, "What were the missions?" responses to WND varied from "No comment.", "... need to know," to smiles, and, in one case, an obscene recommendation.
CNN is the most watched and widely viewed news outlet in the world. During Operation Desert Storm, Saddam Hussein regularly watched CNN for battlefield intelligence. The symbiotic, intimate relationship between CNN and army psyops specialists has raised many eyebrows, with critics saying it raises doubts about CNN's journalistic integrity and independence.
The Fourth Psyop Group has been involved in the Gulf War, the Bosnian War and the Kosovo crisis. American psyops troops attempt to influence media and public opinion in armed conflicts in which American state interests are said to be at stake.
News coverage of the war in Kosovo, by CNN and other media, has been criticized as "one-sided, overly emotional, over-simplified and relying too heavily on NATO officials," observed a report from the Netherlands.
CNN has not thus far commented officially on the allegations. Megan Mahoney, a CNN spokeswoman recently said, "I don't believe that we would employ military personnel; it doesn't seem like something we would normally do." However, now that the U.S. Army Information Service has confirmed the news, Mahoney said she would have to contact CNN's senior officials.
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Bush shuns Patriot Act requirement:
When President Bush signed the reauthorization of the USA Patriot Act this month, he included an addendum saying that he did not feel obliged to obey requirements that he inform Congress about how the FBI was using the act's expanded police powers.
The bill contained several oversight provisions intended to make sure the FBI did not abuse the special terrorism-related powers to search homes and secretly seize papers. The provisions require Justice Department officials to keep closer track of how often the FBI uses the new powers and in what type of situations. Under the law, the administration would have to provide the information to Congress by certain dates.
Bush signed the bill with fanfare at a White House ceremony March 9, calling it ''a piece of legislation that's vital to win the war on terror and to protect the American people." But after the reporters and guests had left, the White House quietly issued a ''signing statement," an official document in which a president lays out his interpretation of a new law.
In the statement, Bush said that he did not consider himself bound to tell Congress how the Patriot Act powers were being used and that, despite the law's requirements, he could withhold the information if he decided that disclosure would ''impair foreign relations, national security, the deliberative process of the executive, or the performance of the executive's constitutional duties."
Bush wrote: ''The executive branch shall construe the provisions . . . that call for furnishing information to entities outside the executive branch . . . in a manner consistent with the president's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch and to withhold information . . . "
The statement represented the latest in a string of high-profile instances in which Bush has cited his constitutional authority to bypass a law.
After The New York Times disclosed in December that Bush had authorized the military to conduct electronic surveillance of Americans' international phone calls and e-mails without obtaining warrants, as required by law, Bush said his wartime powers gave him the right to ignore the warrant law.
And when Congress passed a law forbidding the torture of any detainee in US custody, Bush signed the bill but issued a signing statement declaring that he could bypass the law if he believed using harsh interrogation techniques was necessary to protect national security.
Past presidents occasionally used such signing statements to describe their interpretations of laws, but Bush has expanded the practice. He has also been more assertive in claiming the authority to override provisions he thinks intrude on his power, legal scholars said.
Bush's expansive claims of the power to bypass laws have provoked increased grumbling in Congress. Members of both parties have pointed out that the Constitution gives the legislative branch the power to write the laws and the executive branch the duty to ''faithfully execute" them.
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Homeland security group to meet away from public eye
By Anne Broache
March 24, 2006
A new advisory committee in the Homeland Security Department is free to disregard a law designed to keep meetings open and proceedings public, according to a departmental notice.
The newly created Critical Infrastructure Partnership Advisory Council is charged with sharing information aimed at protecting the nation's infrastructure, cybercomponents included. Michael Chertoff, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary, cited security reasons when he signed off on exempting the council from the Federal Advisory Committee Act, or FACA.
The decision, which many private-sector players had strongly recommended, was released in a departmental notice published Friday.
The council, which plans to meet at least quarterly, will bring together various federal agency employees and private-sector representatives to discuss the Department of Homeland Security's infrastructure protection plan, which remains in draft form. The fields represented range from agriculture and energy to information technology and telecommunications. Participants include the U.S. Telecom Association, the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association and Internet infrastructure services provider VeriSign.
If those participants are required to comply with FACA, it could leave them seriously hindered in sharing "sensitive homeland security information," the department said.
The 1972 law generally requires such groups to meet in open sessions, make written meeting materials publicly available, and deliver a 15-day notice of any decision to close a meeting to the public. The last is a particular point of concern for Homeland Security officials, who anticipate that private emergency meetings may need to be scheduled on short notice.
The private sector, fearing that sensitive data will get to the wrong hands, has continued to resist sharing important information with the feds, the Department of Homeland Security said, citing government auditors' findings from late 2003.
Making the meetings public would amount to "giving our nation's enemies information they could use to most effectively attack a particular infrastructure and cause cascading consequences across multiple infrastructures," another departmental advisory council warned in August.
One privacy advocate said he didn't buy the excuses. "The public has an extremely strong interest in knowing whether DHS and the relevant industries are doing enough to protect facilities, and whether there might be company negligence that contributes to any possible security vulnerabilities," David Sobel, a general counsel at the Electronic Privacy Information Center, wrote in an e-mail interview.
Michael Aisenberg, government relations director for VeriSign, dismissed such worries, saying he predicted only a limited number of the council's meetings would actually be closed to the public.
"But there are families of data and information that are much more appropriately handled in confidence, at least in the early phases of an exploit or event," he said, praising the exemption as highly valuable and long overdue. "There were no tools in place to allow DHS or any other agency to have meetings with collective groups of government and industry that would not be covered by the FACA."
Homeland Security said in Friday's notice that it recognized "the important principle of transparency as a foundation for public confidence in government" and planned to make the council's meetings public whenever "feasibly consistent with security objectives." It said it also planned to issue public notices of all meetings, closed and open alike, "unless exigent circumstances arise" and that it would maintain a publicly available Web site with meeting agendas and periodic reports.
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Murder of Virginia Doctor Raises Concern At Police Tactics
By Matthew Davis
BBC News, Washington
The recent killing of an unarmed Virginia doctor has raised concerns about what some say is an explosion in the use of military-style police Swat teams in the United States.
Armed with assault rifles, stun grenades - even armoured personnel carriers - units once used only in highly volatile situations are increasingly being deployed on more routine police missions.
Dr Salvatore Culosi Jr had come out of his townhouse to meet an undercover policeman when he was shot through the chest by a Special Weapons and Tactics force.
It was about 2135 on a chilly January evening. The 37-year-old optometrist was unarmed, he had no history of violence and displayed no threatening behaviour.
But he had been under investigation for illegal gambling and in line with a local police policy on "organised crime" raids, the heavily armed team was there to serve a search warrant.
Dr Salvatore Culosi (family's picture)
Dr Salvatore Culosi was unarmed when he was accidentally shot
As officers approached with their weapons drawn, tragedy struck. A handgun was accidentally discharged, fatally wounding Dr Culosi.
Two months on, investigations into the incident are still continuing, a delay which Dr Culosi's family says is compounding the "horror and burden of it all".
Salvatore Culosi Sr, the dead man's father, told the BBC: "I never knew him to carry so much as a pocket knife so it bewilders me how a detective could spend three months investigating my son and not know he is a pussy cat.
"If anything comes out of this it must be that another family does not experience this pain and anguish for absolutely no reason.
"Policy needs to change so these kinds of accidents never occur again."
Professor Peter Kraska, an expert on police militarisation from Eastern Kentucky University, says that in the 1980s there were about 3,000 Swat team deployments annually across the US, but says now there are at least 40,000 per year
"I have no problem with using these paramilitary style squads to go after known violent, armed criminals, but it is an extreme tactic to use against other sorts of suspects," he said.
Dr Kraska believes there has been an explosion of units in smaller towns and cities, where training and operational standards may not be as high as large cities - a growth he attributes to "the hysteria" of the country's war on drugs.
"I get several calls a month from people asking about local incidents - wrong address raids, excessive use of force, wrongful shootings - this stuff is happening all the time," he adds.
Every wrongful death of a civilian, or criminal killing of a police officer, fuels the complex and emotive argument over the way the United States is policed.
Those who reject criticism of the use of Swat teams argue that the presence of the units actually prevents violence through the credible threat of overwhelming force.
John Gnagey, executive director of the National Tactical Officers Association, told the BBC: "What we find is that when Swat teams go out, shootings go down.
"We don't see it as escalating anything. We see it as reducing violence."
The NTOA rejects Dr Kraska's figures and says the actual number of deployments is far lower, but says there is a need for national training standards.
An NTOA study of 759 Swat team deployments across the US, found half were for warrant service and a third for incidents where suspects had barricaded themselves in a building - 50 were for hostage situations.
When criminology professor David Klinger looked at 12 years of data on Swat teams in 1998, he also found the most common reason for calling out teams was serving warrants, but that the units used deadly force during warrant service only 0.4% of the time.
Last year the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) commissioned music video director JC Barros to make them a 10-minute film - To Protect and Serve - that would "get young men and women excited" about a career with the force.
More action film than recruitment video, it follows two LAPD officers who - in one day - capture a robbery suspect, are first on the scene when a gun-toting man takes a woman hostage, mediate a fight, and help to find a young kidnap victim.
Along the way they are supported by colleagues from bike patrol, K-9 dog teams, air support and, of course, the Swat team.
But Dr Kraska sees such initiatives as reflecting a changing culture of police work.
"These elite units are highly culturally appealing to certain sections of the police community. They like it, they enjoy it," he says.
"The chance to strap on a vest, grab a semi-automatic weapon and go out on a mission is for some people an exciting reason to join - even if policing as a profession can - and should - be boring for much of the time.
"The problem is that when you talk about the war on this and the war on that, and police officers see themselves as soldiers, then the civilian becomes the enemy."
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83% of CNN Pollsters Agree With Charlie Sheen On 9/11
Despite the best efforts of the now whimpering attack poodles of the mainstream media, an online CNN poll shows that over four-fifths, or 82 per cent, agree with actor Charlie Sheen that the U.S. government covered up the real events of the 9/11 attacks.
Every establishment media mouthpiece aside from CNN tried to hang Sheen on his own words but it simply didn't work because those same questions are firing the synapses in the heads of millions upon millions of other taxpaying American citizens.
We are now in the majority and the cynics are beginning to feel the breeze of fear as they desperately cling to ignorant dogmas spoon fed to them by an empire in descent, while in the back of their mind and in their soul knowing that they have sided with the wrong team and the wrong side of history.
As of Friday morning you can still vote in the poll and I encourage you to do so by clicking here. A.J. Hammer and CNN Showbiz Tonight need to be given their due as the only mainstream television news show to give balanced coverage of serious 9/11 questions.
This is a watershed moment in the struggle to create a powerful, educated and active contingent of individuals with no hierarchical structure but with a unified cause.
Charlie Sheen is the forerunner of the third wave of 9/11 skeptics to go public.
The first wave was concerned and informed American and worldwide citizens who educated themselves and formed action groups and organizations to inform others.
The second wave was former government officials and people of high office risking their political reputation to voice their doubts on 9/11, people like Paul Craig Roberts, Professor Steven Jones, Michael Meacher and Andreas von Buelow.
The third wave is high profile individuals who already have a substantial media platform from which to speak the truth, Hollywood stars and cultural icons. Charlie Sheen must be commended for risking his entire career for the sake of the truth and the future of America.
The fourth and final wave will be people who were in government at the time of 9/11 or those employed by the Bush administration at the time of 9/11, such as secret service officials and others close to the administration, going public with what they know. By this I don't mean watered down shills like Richard Clarke but individuals with hardcore information that could be the catalyst for impeachment.
At that point the call for a new independent investigation of 9/11 will be deafening and impossible to ignore any further.
Our efforts in stalling these control freaks is really beginning to pay dividends. Our patience for freedom will outlast their lust for power and the human spirit will triumph over evil.
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Death in the Afternoon
by R.A. Lucas
24 March 2006
I have purloined the title from Hemingway, but that has nothing to do with him or bullfighting. It does have to do with America and its penchant for using a gun to solve every problem.
In case you missed it a teenager was shot and killed in Union Township, Ohio when he made the mistake of walking across a neighbour's lawn last Sunday afternoon. The man who owns the lawn used a .410 shotgun. Witnesses said he fired two shots. The first one brought the young man down, at which point the shooter walked calmly up to his victim and fired the second blast at short range. He then went inside his house and called the cops.
Startled? Probably not if you're reading this south of the Canadian border. The article I read went on to list some truly frightening statistics. Frightening, that is, for us normally law-abiding, non-gun-packing, easily scared Northern folk who don't have a Constitution that enshrines the right to arm yourself to the teeth and turn the Bible's admonishment to Love Thy Neighbour into Slay Thy Neighbour.
Let's start with this. Forty percent of US households own guns and some 80 Americans are shot dead in non-combat gunfire each and every day of the year. As for children, like the poor kid who was rushing home to pick up a video game and who was described in the Associated Press article as "a popular, hard-working and clever student," he became 1 of nearly 1000 children under the age of 19 who are shot dead every year. That's about 1 every 3 hours.
Doesn't this make you wonder just a little bit why anyone would want to visit the USA? I know you risk your life crossing the street in any big city, but in the nether regions of Northern America it becomes a real threat because the shooter, in this case, had every legal right to have the shotgun he used. The State of Ohio, which has as its motto With God All Things Are Possible, does not require anyone buying a firearm to obtain a permit. You get the impression the place is run by undertakers desperate for more business. If you're headed to Disney World, a fitting icon for the state's governor come to think if it, you should know that Florida passed legislation just last year giving Floridians the right to "stand their ground." That gets translated into the right to open fire, even in crowded public places, if they feel threatened for one reason or another. The powerful gun lobby is trying to get Florida to adopt a bill that would give workers the right to tote their arms into the office even if the company they work for says you can't bring your arsenal to work. This gives a whole new meaning to Going Postal.
Imagine you're on vacation, maybe someplace like South Beach. You hang out for a few days and really relax spending as much time on the beach as in the trendy bars. Maybe you even forget to shave for a couple of days and then remember you promised the kids back home you'd send a postcard. So you stroll into the nearest post office, reach into your cutoffs for a pen and, being a little unkempt and suspicious looking, you're dropped in a hail of bullets that could rival the gunfire at the O.K. Corral. Luckily you're just winged but two unsuspecting bystanders are dead and everyone tells the cops it was your fault because the workers felt threatened by the way your reached for your pen.
If it's legal to carry a gun, any gun, I wonder if it's legal to wear a flack jacket on the streets of America? Probably not. The cops might think you're up to no good if you try to protect yourself in the most violent nation on earth.
Heading south? Ask yourself... Why?
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L.A. Investigating Alleged Patient Dumping
Mar 24 8:29 AM US/Eastern
By GREG RISLING
Associated Press Writer
Los Angeles - Authorities are examining a surveillance tape that shows an elderly woman wandering Skid Row in a hospital gown and slippers as they investigate the practice of hospitals and police agencies dumping homeless people downtown.
Carol Ann Reyes, 63, of Gardena, was taken from a Kaiser Permanente hospital in Bellflower on Monday to the downtown area known as Skid Row, authorities said.
A surveillance camera outside the Union Rescue Mission showed Reyes walking from the direction of a taxi that had just driven away. She wandered the street for about three minutes before a mission staff member brought her inside.
City officials have been looking into the alleged dumping of homeless people in Skid Row, a ramshackle area downtown.
Several hospitals have acknowledged that they put some discharged indigent patients with nowhere else to go into taxicabs headed to the area because it offers a chance for getting services and shelter. Los Angeles police also are investigating whether other law enforcement agencies dump people without anywhere else to go downtown.
"We have been looking into homeless dumping for some time, and this (tape) gives us another example of what has been going on," said Frank Mateljan, a spokesman for the city attorney's office.
Diana Bonta, vice president of public affairs for Kaiser Southern California, said the hospital attempted to find a shelter for Reyes, but when that failed, it was determined that she would be taken to the Union Rescue Mission. Hospital officials are trying to find out why Reyes, who was in the hospital after suffering a bad fall, was left on the street still wearing her hospital gown and slippers.
The incident violated hospital policy and will not occur again, she said.
"We have a policy of treating our patients with compassion and care," Bonta said. "This should not have happened."
Andy Bales, president the Union Rescue Mission, where Reyes remained, said the incident was the third in the past week in which security cameras caught taxis dropping people in the area. The problem will continue until a coordinated discharge plan between hospitals and shelters is created, he said.
"We just can't drop people off like baggage," he said. "We can't have a society where these people have nowhere to turn when they need care."
State Sen. Gil Cedillo of Los Angeles, a Democrat, has introduced a bill that would prohibit any arresting agency from taking people who need drug treatment, mental health services or shelter outside their jurisdiction.
Los Angeles County officials are also considering establishing five regional homeless centers in an attempt to reduce dumping, the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.
The regional homeless centers plan would spread the responsibility of caring for the homeless to suburbs instead of concentrating it downtown, the newspaper said. Each 30-bed center would operate 24- hours a day and would accept people from hospitals, police and care providers. The goal would be to find the resident permanent housing and services such as mental health and substance abuse treatment, officials said.
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Surveillance for the Common Man: A Global Infrastructure for Mass Surveillance
by Nolan K. Anderson
March 24, 2006
We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark. The real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light. - Plato
Today's news is made up in large part by media hysteria in which the media can enhance their ratings or readership by choosing some random subject with a plethora of potential "talking heads" without doing any substantive research into newsworthy topics. An example of one of today's media subjects is the mass hysteria generated by president (sic) Bush's admission that he authorized illegal wiretaps of American citizens inside the United States. On the surface, this appears to be a subject of concern; and certainly it is a subject of Constitutional concern. However, this invasion of American privacy is certainly not a "first". In fact, this spying on Americans is so common as to hardly be deserving of special mention. The only thing unique about today's "news" is that a whistleblower opened today's government's activities to public scrutiny.
But even the Rush Limbaugh's of the airwaves know virtually nothing of the subject of global mass surveillance and certainly have no interest in assigning their research "experts" to exploring a subject that would jeopardize their propaganda role in the eyes of their "dear leader". Even for the very few with the time, fortitude and interest in the subject of legal and illegal surveillance of the global community by cooperating governments, the subject has been made very, very difficult to penetrate by the cloak of secrecy constructed by the consortium of governments involved.
The first part of this article will further explore and explain the alarming characteristics of mass surveillance programs; the latter part of the article will examine the "not so obvious dangers" the programs pose to the civil rights of American and foreign citizens by further detailing the type programs that have thus far been uncovered and the type information being collected on the individual as well as the inherent abuses of this power.
This article by necessity will fall on the deaf ears of our Congress
(because Congress has no other type ears) and hopefully will be ignored by the intelligence and Gestapo agencies of our government. The target of this information would normally be the American people with their power to influence their political representatives to demand increased civil rights oversight. But today, Americans apparently have little desire to avoid the inevitable calamity that lack of concern, apathy and a carefully nurtured ignorance foster. Americans are getting the government they deserve. So, there is no target audience for this report. It should be read exclusively for its entertainment value.
Changing Reasons for Spy Systems and Programs.
Present day spy systems were conceived during World War II. The end of the war brought the danger of funding and personnel cuts to the various spy systems that had been developed through the cooperation of the "allies" during the war. The onset of the Cold War became the answer to the "spooks" most fervent prayer. Not only were personnel and funding cuts avoided, but budgets became inflated past the "spooks" wildest dreams; as budgets were inflated, oversight by any outside agency dwindled according the their wildest dreams. If there were accidental glimpses into the spy industry's workings and half-hearted objections raised, agency goals were shifted to meet the challenge of exposure. Military objectives were changed or were expanded to include "justified" commercial targets. Spying for "commercial" reasons were rationalized with many justifications. The results, in many cases, turned out to be oriented for the benefit of corporations that, by coincidence, turned out to be contributors to the "deaf and dumb" political entities who should have been overseeing the "spook" transgressions against the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. So, everyone one was happy - the American citizen because he was blissfully ignorant of what was being done to his freedoms, the spook agencies because their budgets and staffing were growing exponentially and the politicians were happy because of the "corporate political contribution manna" falling from heaven.
If the Cold War provided a steroid-type growth stimulus to the spy industry, 9/11 brought about a further undreamed of growth pattern. Not only could budgets and staffing be mestasized, but new surveillance program contracts could be given to favored defense contractors; even the miniscule oversight by Congress of pre 9/11 spy agency programs could be further curtailed without a whimper from Congress. The hysteria created by the government created vision of Bin Laden hiding in a cave with his "super magic" cell phone directing a world-wide network of terrorists was enough to engender a Homeland Security spy apparatus replete with an intelligence czar and virtually unlimited powers, no oversight and a limitless budget. (Of course it has never occurred to Joe Citizen or to our Congress to question how the "will-of-the-wisp Bin Laden could direct such a network from a cave in Afghanistan even with a "super magic" satellite cell phone. Even more to the point, the following sections may cause the reader to question how any Bin Laden communications could possibly escape the detection and locating capabilities of the ECHELON program. However it should be noted that, asking such questions could well earn one the label of terrorist sympathizer).
Programs of Mass Surveillance and Their Characteristics.
1. The ECHELON Program.
"The existence and expansion of ECHELON is a foreboding omen regarding the future of our Constitutional liberties. If a government agency can willingly violate the most basic components of the Bill of Rights without so much as Congressional oversight and approval, we have reverted from a republican form of government to tyranny."  The breeding ground for ECHELON was laid in 1947 between the US and four partners - the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Since then additional partners have been drawn into the system so that at present, within Europe, all email, telephone and fax communications are routinely intercepted by the United States National Security Agency, transferring all target information from the European mainland . . . to Fort Meade in Maryland . . . Additionally, space-based electronic communications "vacuum cleaners" pick up radio, microwave and cell phone traffic on the ground. The program is administered by the National Security Agency (NSA) and boasts the most enviable array of intelligence equipment and personnel in the world. "The NSA is the largest global employer of mathematicians, featuring the best teams of codemakers and codebreakers ever assembled." With this "land-based system of intercept stations, intelligence ships sailing the seven seas and top-secret satellites . . . very few signals escape the system's electronic grasp. Having divided the world up among the UKUSA parties, each agency directs its electronic "vacuum-cleaner" equipment towards the heavens and the ground to search for the most minute communications signals that traverse the system's immense path".  Additionally, at least three major domestic fiber-optic telephone trunk lines - each capable of carrying 100,000 calls simultaneously - were discovered (in 1997) to be wired through the British equivalent of Fort Mead -Menwith Hill. This allows the NSA to tap into the very heart of the British Telecomm network. This scope of surveillance capability and sophistication is duplicated with each of the other NSA spying partners so there is virtually no communication signal generated on the planet that is not within the grasp of these giant signal "vacuum cleaners".
Even this technical sophistication does not fully explain the power of this program. The true power comes through the combination of the mechanical and electronic components allowing the interception of global communication signals with the software that allows the intercepted communications to be properly separated by category, origination/destination, subject matter, priority, etc. for most effective analysis in terms of tracking trends and "hot spots". This surveillance program is an extremely powerful tool in the hands of any government or agency and is very, very effective as a political tool/weapon or as commercial espionage weapon. The program is capable of intercepting an individual cell phone signal and, through voice recognition programs, recognize and categorize the call for trend analysis or individual content.
In short, "the extraordinary ability of ECHELON to intercept most of the communications traffic in the world is breathtaking in its scope. These programs and computers transcend state-of-the-art; in many cases, they are well into the future. Processing millions of messages every hour, the ECHELON systems churn away 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, looking for targeted keyword series, phone and fax numbers, and specified voiceprints". 
1. Resistance to "Snooping on the Snoops".
There is concerted resistance by intelligence heads, law enforcement agencies and political representatives for oversight and control of surveillance activities such as those of ECHELON. All sorts of convoluted, complex legal arguments are raised to defend the activities of ECHELON, protect power kingdoms and avoid shining the light of public scrutiny and oversight on these and all other spying activities. The Oklahoma City bombing, 9/11 and the embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania are all persuasive arguments presented to justify the status quo and further unrestricted growth of the programs. The argument for "security" always triumphs over common sense and concerns for civil rights violations. Additionally those in government who attempt to pry too closely into the workings of ECHELON with civil rights concerns have frequently been warned off after finding themselves targeted for investigation by the intelligence "system".
. . . "But despite the real threats and dangers to the peace and protection of American citizens at home and abroad, our Constitution is quite explicit in limiting the scope and powers of government. A fundamental foundation of free societies is that when controversies arise over the assumption of power by the state, power never defaults to the government, nor are powers granted without an extraordinary, explicit and compelling public interest".
As the late Supreme Court Justice William Brennan pointed out: The concept of military necessity is seductively broad, and has a dangerous plasticity. Because they invariably have the visage of overriding importance, there is always a temptation to invoke security "necessities" to justify an encroachment upon civil liberties. For that reason, the military-security argument must be approached with a healthy skepticism: Its very gravity counsels that courts be cautious when military necessity is invoked by the Government to justify a trespass on [Constitutional] rights". 
2. Abuses of our System of Government by the System(s) of Surveillance.
The systems of espionage, in all their forms, beg for abuse by those wishing to maintain their positions of power and influence. The mushrooming range of espionage used by the surveillance system(s) oversteps the threshold of abuse by a wide margin. The systems have been used to spy on political opponents and label as subversives those who expose the excesses of corrupt government activity, disregard for human rights, corporate pollution and even the promoters of the gospel of Christ. That the intelligence powers of the United States should be arrayed against peaceful organizations both within and without the country in the name of "security" is blasphemy against our Constitution and demonstrative of our government's desire not to monitor, but to control.
Although economic spying is probably one of the least offensive parts of the government's surveillance programs, it bears mentioning because its exposure shows the versatility of the programs and the "tailoring" efforts of monitored information to uses other than strictly interpreted national "security" matters. Economic spying has reached such a level that there have even been departments created within the government whose mandate is that of passing ECHELON gathered information to various US companies for exploitation against foreign industrial competitors. While this may be interpreted as a beneficial by-product of the system, its use is a double-edged sword because foreign partner governments and economic competitors can use the same information in the same manner against the United States.
The incestuous relationship between the companies producing the ECHELON technology and the intelligence agencies is one that may not meet the strict interpretation of "conflict of interest", but at the very least represents an improper use of taxpayer funds.
It should be noted that: "while the UKUSA is a product of Cold War political and military tensions, ECHELON is purely a product of the 20th Century - the century of statism. The modern drive toward the assumption of state power has turned legitimate national security agencies and apparati into relationship pawns in a manipulative game where the stakes are no less than the survival of the Constitution. The systems developed prior to ECHELON were designed to confront the expansionist goals of the Soviet Empire - something the West was forced out of necessity to do. But as Glyn Ford, European Parliament representative for Manchester, England, and the driving force behind the European investigation of ECHELON, has pointed out: "The difficulty is that the technology has now become so elaborate that what was originally a small client list has become the whole world."
It must be remembered that although the sophistication and capabilities of ECHELON is futuristic and would seem to be all encompassing, it is only one of many similar programs in use and on the drawing boards of our government. The total spy and surveillance capability of the United States and its allies is truly beyond comprehension - and apparently beyond control. Journalists have been working for 40 years to penetrate even the fringes of ECHELON capabilities. There are unknown numbers of programs in their infancy that are just as powerful in their own ways as ECHELON. Put together and working against Americans, other nations and the "global" individual with no oversight from the American government or any other government, the possibilities of a New World Order are terrifyingly close to the grasp of our more unscrupulous politicians. If one considers the evolution of the automobile since the end of World War II and compares that evolution to that of the spy and surveillance programs our government has constructed, then we may get a "feel" for the present state of the black art of espionage as it exists today. If we consider the history of the totalitarian governments of Russia and Germany since 1930, we can see the absolute dedication of tyranny to its own survival and growth at any cost. Today, if we can tear our attention away from the latest "Survivor" epic, we can see face to face the evil that is being prepared for those who adhere to the tenants of our Constitution. The gulags of today hold an assortment of Muslims and Arabs that our government says wishes to do us harm. Tomorrow they may hold an assortment of Americans who our government "says" wishes to do "it" harm.
, , , , , , ,  from ECHELON: America's Secret Global Surveillance Network Copyright 1999/2000 Patrick S. Poole
Nolan K. Anderson is a retired engineer and a veteran of Korea who was once a "conservative" until he found there was nothing left to conserve and as a veteran hates to see a tour in Korea go to waste. (He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org ).
See also http://home.hiwaay.net/~pspoole/echres.html
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Slavish Republican lawmakers roll (bend) over for Bush
By Steve Chapman
March 20, 2006
CHICAGO - Sen. Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat, thinks President Bush broke the law with his secret program to eavesdrop on Americans, and he wants Congress to censure Mr. Bush. He's right about the lawbreaking but wrong to think censure is the answer. That might give Americans the impression that Congress is something more than a supine slave of partisan interests. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Republicans on Capitol Hill, presented with the censure resolution, practically trampled each other to prove their slobbering devotion to the president. Sen. John W. Warner of Virginia assailed the proposal as "the worst type of political grandstanding." Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee accused Mr. Feingold of giving hope and encouragement to al-Qaida: "The signal that it sends, that there is in any way a lack of support for our commander in chief who is leading us with a bold vision in a way that is making our homeland safer, is wrong."
I had the impression that indicating a lack of support for our commander in chief was a constitutional right and sometimes a patriotic duty. But never mind that. It would be a waste of time to censure Mr. Bush because censure would not compel him to do anything he doesn't want to do, such as obey the 1978 law governing domestic wiretapping.
The only thing worth doing is to stop the president from carrying out such eavesdropping without genuine oversight by the courts. And that is one option our incumbent lawmakers wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole.
Republicans, after all, control both the Senate and the House, and they are far more intent on protecting their party than upholding their prerogatives as a co-equal branch of government. Recently, Senate GOP leaders offered to bless the program without even investigating first to find out what, exactly, they are blessing.
Under this plan, the National Security Agency could listen in on the international phone calls of Americans if there is "probable cause to believe that one party to the communication is a member, affiliate or working in support of a terrorist group or organization." But no court would review whether "probable cause" exists. That assessment would be entirely up to Mr. Bush and his subordinates.
Vice President Dick Cheney, in a speech in Chicago last week, explained the equally rigorous process that the president has to go through to renew his surveillance effort: "Before he reauthorizes the program, the intelligence community has to certify that the threats still exist and recommend that the program be renewed. The secretary of defense has to sign off on it. The attorney general of the United States ... has to certify that it is compliant with the laws and Constitution of the United States. Then the president reauthorizes the program." What a relief it is to know that the administration can't renew the program without the approval of the administration.
This is an absurd parody of the checks and balances our system is supposed to provide. If the framers of the Constitution had thought a single branch of government could police itself, they would not have created three branches.
The idea was that each branch would jealously guard its powers against the others. But in this case, Congress passed a law, the president ignored it, and Congress applauded him for doing so.
What the framers didn't anticipate was the rise of political parties, allegiances to which now override every other consideration. This episode makes clear that the best government is divided government - where the party that occupies the White House does not control Congress. Only then can we rely on lawmakers to provide a meaningful check on presidential power. With the GOP dominant at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, the president can treat Congress as an obsolete irrelevancy.
Sen. Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, defending the GOP proposal against critics who say it's pathetically weak, said he resented being called a "lap dog of the administration." That label certainly is unfair. Even lap dogs will bite if they're kicked often enough, which is more than you can say for congressional Republicans.
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America On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown
Some thoughts about Jesus, the Church, my Country and the War
Wharton County Junior College psychologist Doug Soderstrom, Ph.D. writes: Likely the most controversial individual in the history of the world is Jesus, known by many to be The Christ. And no doubt everyone, young and old, rich or poor, liberals, conservatives, those who are religious, atheists, agnostics; nearly everyone is likely to have an opinion of Jesus.
One poll, celebrating the beginning of the second millennium, pointed out that Jesus Christ, more than anyone else, is responsible for how people in the Western World think.
Without a doubt this fellow from the city of Nazareth in an area known as Galilee has provided us with much to think about. Although the man is regarded to be a prophet by each and every one of the great religions of the world, we appear to be on the verge of killing each other for no other reason than our inability to agree on who this man is, what he stood for, and how it is that he would like for us to conduct our lives!
Quite obviously, just as yours, my first concern has always been that of trying to figure out just exactly who Jesus is.
And, believe me, if I knew for sure, I would tell you, but like so many who have gone before, I am left with questions.
Is Jesus Christ the Son of God … a God of judgment and wrath or one of mercy and forgiveness?
What was Jesus' mission, to show us how to live a good life and/or to save us from eternal damnation?
Did he die only to rise from the grave?
Is Jesus the one and only Savior of the world, the one in whom every human being must believe or spend an eternity of agonizing pain in the fiery flames of Hell?
Alas, even though I have spent at least five decades trying to figure out who this man is, I am sorry to report that I am yet confused ... but, not to give up, I plan to spend the remaining years of my life interrogating God, all in order to better understand who Jesus is.
On the other hand, there seems to be little question as to what Jesus taught. In order to clear away the vast amount of deadwood, the utter complexity of the Jewish faith, Jesus reduced religion to its most essential elements, that we love God, our neighbor, as well as that of our enemy.
Assuming that this was Jesus' mission on Earth, to show us how to live such a life, allow me to share with you what such means to me within the context of the world in which we live.
Now, within the context of those with whom I have lived my life, I have found the teachings of Jesus to be my best guide. I have discovered that when I chose to violate such teaching by treating others in an unkind manner, nothing but harm has come to me. Believe me, it has been so terribly easy for me to love those of my friends, but so horribly difficult to learn how to forgive those who have harmed me. But in aging, I am convinced that love is a far better thing than hate.
As I look back upon my life, often have I deplored that which I have done while angry, but never once have I regretted having made amends, having forgiven, having made an effort to love my enemy.
But what about the church, Christians who claim to know the truth of God, those who claim to know everything about this man they call the Son of God, those who claim to know exactly how Jesus would deal with the critical issues of our day; homosexuality, capital punishment, abortion, cloning, poverty, and war?
However, as a psychologist, I am quite sure that such pronouncements are often nothing more than rather well rehearsed attempts to justify, that is, to rationalize, the apparent correctness of their views, unconscious maneuvers, permitting them to believe that God has spoken, revealed his truth, to them.
One might wish that church doctrine was, in fact, a spiritual matter, but alas such may be nothing more than canonical attempts to appease the appetite of those who happen to pay the bills of the church.
Add to this the rather mean spirited history of the church (the Spanish Inquisition, the rape of the Indian culture during the westward expansion, the brutalization of black slaves, the New England torture of witches, and the church's longstanding support of America's military-industrial complex) and you have a misguided church that apparently has very little to offer the world.
As James Hillman wrote in his book, A Terrible Love of War: "Western Christianity's god comes front and center when war is in the air. War brings its god to life." Consequently, I can no longer, in good conscience, claim to be a Christian. Rather, I have chosen to accept the teachings of Jesus as well as those of other religions that tend to support the categorical imperative of Jesus' command that we love God, our neighbor, and that of our enemy.
And then there is the mess of our own country (USA) ... I have often wondered how Jesus might feel about this so-called "land of the free."
However, since we will likely never know, the best I can do is to suggest what appears to have taken hold of the American mind.
The verdict: sex, money, an avaricious appetite to acquire more and more things, power, prestige, a jingoistic attachment to that of "the fatherland," and civil religion, and, in all probability, in that particular order.
Added to this there is the undeniable reality of our country's longstanding desire to dominate the world, and all of such supported by a people who have, with no fight whatsoever, allowed themselves to have been brainwashed into believing that our country has been assigned the divine responsibility of carrying out the righteous will of God.
All of such leading to a ridiculously wicked claim that our country can do no wrong!
And finally ... this thing about war. There can be no misunderstanding that Jesus' mandate to love is uncompromisingly opposed to the mass slaughter that defines the character of war. However, because so many have successfully distorted the teachings of Jesus, our country has been allowed to launch a decades-long campaign of death and destruction formulated to destroy all who refuse to play "the game" according to our rules (vis-a-vis the upcoming invasion of Iran).
As William Blum in his book, 'Killing Hope,' so tellingly describes, "It's not that [the leaders of our nation] take pleasure in causing so much death and suffering. It's that they just don't [seem to care] ... as long as death and suffering advance the agenda of the empire, as long as the right people and the right corporations gain wealth and power and privilege and prestige, as long as death and suffering aren't happening to them or people close to them ... they just don't [seem to care]."
As a result of such actions millions of people have been killed, the rest having been condemned to a life of poverty, misery and despair. And of course, all of such through the rather loosely coordinated efforts of the government, the corporate community, mass media, the church, and that of our own public schools who have collectively decided that it would be in our best interests if we, the people, remained uniformly uninformed in regards to the ugly realities of our nation's rather sordid past.
Accordingly, I must admit that I am terribly ashamed to have become associated with so much of what so many Americans have claimed to be so very proud.
And I am convinced that if our country is to once again become a beacon of light for the rest of the world to see, a strong and resilient democracy capable of standing up for that which is right and good, then the citizenry of our nation must reverse what has become a slow yet determined decline into a morass of ignorance and sloth, an abject unwillingness to face the fact that our country is under attack (not from without, but rather from within) by that of a rising tide of fascism threatening to consume everything that we, as a nation, once held dear, a neoconservative campaign eerily similar to that which occurred in Germany as Adolph Hitler rose to power.
In the meantime, however, I ask but one thing ... that God bestow upon us the wisdom to realize that time may be short, and that if we are to reclaim our nation, we have no choice but to recognize our constitutional right, our responsibility, and most importantly our duty...
...to throw aside, even to abolish, any body politic that might threaten to destroy a government created of the people, by the people, and...
Thank God for every one of the people of our country, the United States of America.
Doug Soderstrom, Ph.D.
Wharton County Junior College
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Jerry Falwell: Jews Can't Go To Heaven Without Being Converted To Jesus Christ
Robert Paul Reyes
March 20, 2006
"Earlier today, reports began circulating across the globe that I have recently stated that Jews can go to heaven without being converted to Jesus Christ. This is categorically untrue." - Jerry Falwell
This is a statement posted on falwell.com March 1, 2006.
Jerry Falwell vehemently denied a report in the Jerusalem Post that he believes in a "dual covenant" which posits that Jews can enter the kingdom of God without undergoing a born again experience.
Jerry sets things straight right away, Jews will be going straight to hell. Never mind that the founder of Christianity as well as all of the 12 apostles were Jews, they are still going to burn forever in the lake of fire.
Jerry didn't waste any time denying the Jerusalem Post story, because in the fundamentalist world, being soft on Jews is almost as bad as being soft on communism.
Evangelicals may publicly proclaim that Jews are "God's chosen people", but inwardly fundamentalists regard them as money-hungry Christ-killers who control Hollywood, Wall Street and the White House.
But never let it be said that Jerry's god is not compassionate, Jews can still go to heaven -- if they deny their culture, religion and ethnicity. According to Jerry's insane theology, Jews can be saved, but only if they become born again Christians, and thereby turn their backs on their Jewish roots.
If you hear reports that Jerry Falwell has turned over a new leaf, and is now a compassionate man of God, don't believe it; those stories are categorically untrue.
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By Howard Zinn
April 2006 Issue
Now that most Americans no longer believe in the war, now that they no longer trust Bush and his Administration, now that the evidence of deception has become overwhelming (so overwhelming that even the major media, always late, have begun to register indignation), we might ask: How come so many people were so easily fooled?
The question is important because it might help us understand why Americans-members of the media as well as the ordinary citizen-rushed to declare their support as the President was sending troops halfway around the world to Iraq.
A small example of the innocence (or obsequiousness, to be more exact) of the press is the way it reacted to Colin Powell's presentation in February 2003 to the Security Council, a month before the invasion, a speech which may have set a record for the number of falsehoods told in one talk. In it, Powell confidently rattled off his "evidence": satellite photographs, audio records, reports from informants, with precise statistics on how many gallons of this and that existed for chemical warfare. The New York Times was breathless with admiration. The Washington Post editorial was titled "Irrefutable" and declared that after Powell's talk "it is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction."
It seems to me there are two reasons, which go deep into our national culture, and which help explain the vulnerability of the press and of the citizenry to outrageous lies whose consequences bring death to tens of thousands of people. If we can understand those reasons, we can guard ourselves better against being deceived.
One is in the dimension of time, that is, an absence of historical perspective. The other is in the dimension of space, that is, an inability to think outside the boundaries of nationalism. We are penned in by the arrogant idea that this country is the center of the universe, exceptionally virtuous, admirable, superior.
If we don't know history, then we are ready meat for carnivorous politicians and the intellectuals and journalists who supply the carving knives. I am not speaking of the history we learned in school, a history subservient to our political leaders, from the much-admired Founding Fathers to the Presidents of recent years. I mean a history which is honest about the past. If we don't know that history, then any President can stand up to the battery of microphones, declare that we must go to war, and we will have no basis for challenging him. He will say that the nation is in danger, that democracy and liberty are at stake, and that we must therefore send ships and planes to destroy our new enemy, and we will have no reason to disbelieve him.
But if we know some history, if we know how many times Presidents have made similar declarations to the country, and how they turned out to be lies, we will not be fooled. Although some of us may pride ourselves that we were never fooled, we still might accept as our civic duty the responsibility to buttress our fellow citizens against the mendacity of our high officials.
We would remind whoever we can that 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.
We would point out that 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 we 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 Woodrow Wilson-so often characterized in our history books as an "idealist"-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 Western imperial powers.
Harry Truman lied when he said the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima because it was "a military target."
Everyone lied about Vietnam-Kennedy about the extent of our involvement, Johnson about the Gulf of Tonkin, Nixon about the secret bombing of Cambodia, all of them claiming it was to keep South Vietnam free of communism, but really wanting to keep South Vietnam as an American outpost at the edge of the Asian continent.
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 (can one imagine Bush heartstricken over Iraq's taking of
Kuwait?), rather to assert U.S. power in the oil-rich Middle East.
Given the overwhelming record of lies told to justify wars, how could anyone listening to the younger Bush believe him as he laid out the reasons for invading Iraq? Would we not instinctively rebel against the sacrifice of lives for oil?
A careful reading of history might give us another safeguard against being deceived. It would make clear that there has always been, and is today, a profound conflict of interest between the government and the people of the United States. This thought startles most people, because it goes against everything we have been taught.
We have been led to believe that, from the beginning, as our Founding Fathers put it in the Preamble to the Constitution, it was "we the people" who established the new government after the Revolution. When the eminent historian Charles Beard suggested, a hundred years ago, that the Constitution represented not the working people, not the slaves, but the slaveholders, the merchants, the bondholders, he became the object of an indignant editorial in The New York Times.
Our culture demands, in its very language, that we accept a commonality of interest binding all of us to one another. We mustn't talk about classes. Only Marxists do that, although James Madison, "Father of the Constitution," said, thirty years before Marx was born that there was an inevitable conflict in society between those who had property and those who did not.
Our present leaders are not so candid. They bombard us with phrases like "national interest," "national security," and "national defense" as if all of these concepts applied equally to all of us, colored or white, rich or poor, as if General Motors and Halliburton have the same interests as the rest of us, as if George Bush has the same interest as the young man or woman he sends to war.
Surely, in the history of lies told to the population, this is the biggest lie. In the history of secrets, withheld from the American people, this is the biggest secret: that there are classes with different interests in this country. To ignore that-not to know that the history of our country is a history of slaveowner against slave, landlord against tenant, corporation against worker, rich against poor-is to render us helpless before all the lesser lies told to us by people in power.
If we as citizens start out with an understanding that these people up there-the President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, all those institutions pretending to be "checks and balances"-do not have our interests at heart, we are on a course towards the truth. Not to know that is to make us helpless before determined liars.
The deeply ingrained belief-no, not from birth but from the educational system and from our culture in general-that the United States is an especially virtuous nation makes us especially vulnerable to government deception. It starts early, in the first grade, when we are compelled to "pledge allegiance" (before we even know what that means), forced to proclaim that we are a nation with "liberty and justice for all."
And then come the countless ceremonies, whether at the ballpark or elsewhere, where we are expected to stand and bow our heads during the singing of the "Star-Spangled Banner," announcing that we are "the land of the free and the home of the brave." There is also the unofficial national anthem "God Bless America," and you are looked on with suspicion if you ask why we would expect God to single out this one nation-just 5 percent of the world's population-for his or her blessing.
If your starting point for evaluating the world around you 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 you 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.
It becomes necessary then, if we are going to protect ourselves and our fellow citizens against policies that will be disastrous not only for other people but for Americans too, that we face some facts that disturb the idea of a uniquely virtuous nation.
These facts are embarrassing, but must be faced if we are to be honest. We must face our long history of ethnic cleansing, in which millions of Indians were driven off their land by means of massacres and forced evacuations. And our long history, still not behind us, of slavery, segregation, and racism. We must face our record of imperial conquest, in the Caribbean and in the Pacific, our shameful wars against small countries a tenth our size: Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq. And 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 that belief in the minds of many people, that we are entitled, because of our moral superiority, to dominate the world. At the end of World War II, Henry Luce, with an arrogance appropriate to the owner of Time, Life, and Fortune, pronounced this "the American century," saying that victory in the war gave the United States the right "to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit."
Both the Republican and Democratic parties have embraced this notion. George Bush, in his Inaugural Address on January 20, 2005, said that spreading liberty around the world was "the calling of our time." Years before that, in 1993, President Bill Clinton, speaking at a West Point commencement, declared: "The values you learned here . . . will be able to spread throughout this country and throughout the world and give other people the opportunity to live as you have lived, to fulfill your God-given capacities."
What is the idea of our moral superiority based on? Surely not on our behavior toward people in other parts of the world. Is it based on how well people in the United States live? The World Health Organization in 2000 ranked countries in terms of overall health performance, and the United States was thirty-seventh on the list, though it spends more per capita for health care than any other nation. One of five children in this, the richest country in the world, is born in poverty. There are more than forty countries that have better records on infant mortality. Cuba does better. And there is a sure sign of sickness in society when we lead the world in the number of people in prison-more than two million.
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 and killers who govern it, and by rejecting nationalist arrogance, so that we can join the rest of the human race in the common cause of peace and justice.
Comment: We think that there are one or two other ideas that are even more subversive than the idea that there are classes and class interest in the United States, but just making that point might open some people's eyes to other issues, such as 9/11 and US and Israeli involvement.
From there to an openness to ponder a question such as "Are we someone else's experiment?", we might wait awhile.
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Rice faces anti-war protests on British visit
Mon Mar 27, 2006
LONDON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will face protests against the Iraq war when British counterpart Jack Straw takes her on a tour of his northern English constituency on Saturday, organizers said.
Rice, repaying an October visit by Straw to her home state of Alabama, will speak in the former cotton town of Blackburn before viewing an industrial site and meeting religious leaders, including representatives of the 20 percent Muslim population.
A spokeswoman for the Stop the War Coalition, which has helped organize large anti-war protests in London, said Rice would also be greeted by protests in Liverpool on Friday.
"Everywhere she goes during her trip, we will be there to protest," said a coalition spokeswoman said.
Britain, the United States' chief ally in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, has about 8,500 troops stationed largely in the south of the country. The war has become increasingly unpopular here and there is public pressure for withdrawal of British forces.
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US gunman massacres six partygoers
Sunday March 26, 2006
An all-night party in America turned into a scene of mass murder when a gunman shot dead six young revellers before turning the gun on himself.
Partygoers - some with faces painted and hair dyed for the occasion - ran for their lives from a rented house in a Seattle suburb. One staggered out of the house with a bullet wound, pursued by a man dressed in black who was carrying a sawn-off shotgun.
When a police officer standing in the street told the gunman to put the weapon down, the attacker put the barrel in his mouth and fired. He had also been carrying a handgun and ammunition.
In a further twist, detectives were investigating reports that the mystery killer left messages in orange spray paint around the neighbourhood. The steps of one house two doors away had been spray painted. Police kept reporters away, however, and what was written could not be confirmed.
The six partygoers killed were all in their teens or twenties. Two other people were taken to hospital with gunshot wounds, one of them in a life-threatening condition. The Seattle police chief Gil Kerlikowske said: 'It's one of the largest crime scenes the city has ever had.'
William Lowe, 59, who lives across the street from the party, said he heard six shots fired shortly after his alarm went off at 7am. He looked through a peephole of his front door to see people scattering from the home.
Police found four people dead in various rooms and another on the porch. Sergeant Deanna Nollette said 15 other people at the house witnessed the shooting. The suspected gunman appeared to have left the party, then returned and started firing.
Police said they did not know if drugs or alcohol were a factor, but Nollette added that several of the occupants had come from another party
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Murder-Suicide Shocks Seattle Community
Monday March 27, 2006
By NANCY ROBERTS TROTT
Associated Press Writer
SEATTLE (AP) - Aaron Kyle Huff lived with his twin brother and delivered pizzas since he moved to Seattle from Montana. An apartment manager said Huff and his brother were ideal tenants, calling them "twin teddy bears." Others who knew him expressed shock when they learned he was suspected of opening fire in a house full of partygoers dressed like zombies in dark clothing and pale makeup, killing six of them and injuring two. He then turned the gun on himself.
"It's a total shock," said Regina Gray, manager of Town & Country Apartments, where the Huff brothers lived. "He and his twin brother are the kindest, sweetest, gentlest people."
It was a sharp contrast to the man police spokesman Sean Whitcomb described Sunday as "extremely dangerous" who "approached the house shooting and didn't stop shooting."
Police say the victims met Huff, 28, at a rave called "Better Off Undead" Friday night and invited him back to an after-party at their rental home on Capitol Hill.
Some 500 people attended the rave - parties that attract young people to dance to thumping, bass-laden electronic music. People often dress up in Halloween-like outfits and paint their faces.
Huff left the after-party at about 7 a.m. and returned wearing bandoliers of ammunition and carrying a 12-gauge pistol-grip shotgun and a handgun. He fired on the 30 young partygoers gathered in the house before walking out and killing himself when confronted by a police officer.
Police also found an assault rifle, multiple "banana clips" carrying 30 bullets each, a machete and several hundred more rounds of ammunition in Huff's pickup truck. He said it was fortunate there weren't more victims.
Whitcomb said police were still working on a motive.
"This would have been so far out of character," said Jim Pickett, the assistant manager of the Town & Country Apartments.
Pickett described the brothers as "very polite. Very respectful. 'Yessir. Yes ma'am. Can I help ya. How am I doing today?' ... You don't find two boys as respectful as these two always were."
The brothers moved into the third-floor apartment 4 years ago after leaving their family home in Whitefish, Mont., apartment managers said. Police officials say Huff was commonly known as Kyle.
Pickett said he never saw either of the brothers with weapons, but he said he did see police carry three rifles out of the apartment after they searched it Saturday.
Pickett said he saw Huff's brother as police were conducting the search.
"He gave a look to me like 'I don't know what's going on,"' Pickett said.
Lt. Dave Leib, of the Flathead County sheriff's office in Montana, confirmed Huff's identity Sunday afternoon. He informed Huff's mother Sunday afternoon that her son was dead and was a suspect in the shootings.
Seattle officials didn't release the gunman's identity Sunday, saying only the medical examiner could give an official confirmation on Monday.
Leib said Huff was charged with felony criminal mischief in 2000 after shooting a statue of a moose with a shotgun at an art exhibit in Whitefish.
Pickett described the brothers as private and good tenants. One of the brothers played drums, but was very careful not to disturb neighbors.
"He was really getting pretty good. He would practice at a respectful hour between 4 and 6 and would stop at 6," Pickett said.
Kyle Huff delivered pizzas in the area and did odd jobs, Gray said. She added that he would go home to Montana to do some work for his mother from time to time.
Authorities have not released the victim's identities, but relatives and friends of three victims, Jason Travers, 32, Jeremy Martin, 26, and Christopher Williamson, 21, confirmed that they were among the dead.
Several ravers gathered at a makeshift memorial near the crime scene Sunday morning, including Travis Webb, an area rave promoter who attended the rave that preceded the fatal party.
Webb said he and other ravers are fearful that officials would use the shooting as an excuse to shut down the parties. Police said alcohol and marijuana were found at the murder scene, but they had not linked them to the crime.
"It's almost a double punishment," Webb said. "You lose six people that are so close, and then you might lose the community that brought you all together in the first place."
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Blair: anti-Americanism is madness
Matthew Tempest and agencies
Monday March 27, 2006
Tony Blair today described anti-Americanism across Europe as "madness", although admitted the US could be a "difficult friend to have".
In a speech in the Australian parliament overshadowed by his remarks about making a "mistake" in announcing his retirement early, the prime minister paid tribute to the Australians for joining in the "global struggle" against terror, likening it to their joining the war against the Nazis.
Mr Blair told the Australian House of Representatives: "I do not always agree with the US. Sometimes they can be difficult friends to have.
"But the strain of, frankly, anti-American feeling in parts of European and world politics is madness when set against the long-term interests of the world we believe in.
"The danger with America today is not that they are too much involved. The danger is they decide to pull up the drawbridge and disengage. We need them involved. We want them engaged."
Mr Blair staunchly defended his policy on Iraq - which Australia's conservative PM John Howard supported - saying: "If the going gets tough, we tough it out."
And he repeated his call for a global struggle of ideas and values against the worldwide threat of Islamic terrorism, stressing the importance of international alliances. He also used the speech to signal a fresh bid to revive the Middle East peace process after the Israeli elections on April 9 - an issue he is expected to tackle in America next month.
"The reality is that none of the problems that press in on us can be resolved or even contemplated without them.
"Our task is to ensure that with them we do not limit the agenda to security. If our security lies in our values, and our values are about justice and fairness as well as freedom from fear, then the agenda must be more than security and the alliance include more than America."
He added: "Once the Israeli election has taken place, we must redouble our efforts to find a way to the only solution that works - a secure state of Israel and a viable, independent Palestinian state."
Mr Blair again stressed his belief that democracy and human rights should not be assigned as western values, saying: "To win we have to win the battle of valued as much as arms, we have to show these are not western still less American or Anglo-Saxon values, but values in the common ownership of humanity, universal values that should be the right of the global citizen - this is the challenge.
"Ranged against us are the people who hate us, but beyond them are many more who don't hate us but question our motives, our good faith, our even-handedness, who could support our values but believe we support them selectively.
"These are the people we have to persuade.
"They have to know this is about justice and fairness as well as security and prosperity. And in truth, there is no prosperity without security and no security without justice.
"That is the consequence of an interconnected world - that is why we cannot say we are an open society and close our markets to the trade justice the poorest of the world demand."
On Iraq, Mr Blair told the parliament: "I know the Iraq war split this nation as it did mine, and I have never disrespected those who disagreed with me over it."
But he warned: "We must not hesitate in the face of a battle utterly decisive in whether the values we believe in triumph or fail.
"If the going is tough, we tough it out. This is not a time to walk away. This is a time for the courage to see it through."
Before addressing the parliament, Mr Blair was welcomed to the Australian capital with a 19-gun salute and inspected a guard of honour outside the legislature.
Later, the prime minister, accompanied by Mr Howard, was going on to lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier and visit an exhibition commemorating the Australian contribution to the world wars.
Tomorrow he will have official talks with Mr Howard, before the two host a joint press conference.
Comment: What can we say but... speak for yourself Tony, you obsequious little boot-licker.
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Pill-Popping Society Fouling Our Water, Official Says
March 24, 2006
by CBC News
Birth control pills, cancer drugs and a host of other pharmaceuticals that people flush down the drain every day are showing up in our drinking water, says Gord Miller, Ontario's environmental commissioner.
"We need to do a better job of keeping drugs out of lakes, rivers and drinking water," Miller told the Kitchener-Waterloo Record on Wednesday.
Although the drugs are not considered a threat to human health, there is evidence that they can harm wildlife.
"There is no health hazard in drinking water now that has been detected in Canada, but we have detected substances in drinking water," he said, adding that the problem is likely to get worse rather than better as the population grows.
"Our society loves to pop pills," Miller said. "If you were designing the perfect pollutant it would probably look like a pill."
Miller was sworn in as environmental commissioner six years ago to oversee the implementation of Ontario's Environmental Bill of Rights. He is an independent officer of Queen's Park, where he reports on government compliance with environmental rules.
In his last annual report, Miller said contraceptives, painkillers, antibiotics, anti-cancer drugs and blood-pressure drugs are showing up in lakes and rivers, while anti-inflammatory and anti-cholesterol drugs and antidepressants are ending up in drinking water.
Experiments in northern Ontario have shown that exposure to these waste drugs has led to the feminization of male fish, delayed reproduction in female fish and damage to kidneys and livers of both sexes, the report said.
Independent studies by the Environmental Protection Agency in the United States and by environmental bodies in England have turned up similar evidence.
Miller said pharmaceuticals are getting into drinking water in several ways. Unused drugs are thrown into domestic garbage, which end up in landfill sites and eventually into the groundwater.
Drugs are taken orally and flushed down toilets as human excrement. And unused drugs are washed down the sink or flushed down the toilet directly into domestic sewers.
Many drugs pass right through the sewage and water treatment plants, back into the drinking water.
"Sewage treatment plants aren't designed to remove them," Miller said.
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U.S. security officials train with the pros
Israelis demonstrate tools, tactics in fight against terrorism
Matthew Kalman, Chronicle Foreign Service
Friday, March 24, 2006
Nes Ziona, Israel -- A young Israeli firefighter tore the shirt off his back and insisted San Francisco Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White take it home as a memento of a biochemical terror training drill she had just observed.
"I read about you on the Internet," said the Israeli, still breathless after spending an hour inside an orange biochemical protection suit under the blazing sun during a mock chemical attack on a school. "You're the first woman fire chief in San Francisco. You're my hero!"
Hayes-White was observing the exercise as part of a four-day conference on counterterrorism that attracted 130 U.S. law enforcement, emergency services and homeland security officials, the largest such delegation ever hosted by Israel. Other officials in the 23-member California delegation included San Francisco Deputy Police Chief Greg Suhr, Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton and Erroll Southers, deputy director of the California Office of Homeland Security.
At Wednesday's chemical attack drill, simulating a poison-gas attack on a school, first on the scene were an ambulance and a police cruiser. As the "victims" collapsed, rescue personnel donned protective gear in different colors to distinguish between those securing the scene and those helping victims. Arriving firefighters were responsible for isolating the toxic material, while a police helicopter overhead kept an eye out for escaping terrorists and monitored traffic flow.
Within minutes, more than 50 security and rescue personnel were on the scene, under the command of the senior police officer. The senior medic performed triage, tagging all victims according to the seriousness of their injuries -- and within 20 minutes all were on their way to a hospital. Finally, all the suited emergency officers were washed down in special showers connected to fire trucks.
"That's smart," said a sheriff's officer from California. "Back home, we'd have to find a hydrant to get those showers going. We never thought to hook them up to the fire trucks."
"It was truly impressive," Hayes-White said of the exercise as she packed away the shirt to take home for her 12-year-old son.
"Our whole world changed after 9/11. It is something that we plan for now, but we have very little expertise in it. We've studied it, but we haven't really lived it. To come to a place like this, really you're learning from the true experts," she said.
On Tuesday, the Americans thought the day's exercise had started early when they arrived at the national headquarters of the Israeli Border Police in Jerusalem and saw a series of roadblocks set up and emergency vehicles screaming out of the gates, sirens wailing.
But this was no drill. They were caught in the middle of the real thing.
Israeli Police Chief Moshe Karadi welcomed his guests with the news that a Palestinian suicide bomber was loose in the city.
"They brought us in and gave us a step-by-step playback of the events as they were unfolding," said Hayes-White.
An hour later, after they were briefed about a dramatic helicopter and motorcycle chase through police roadblocks on the main Jerusalem-Tel Aviv highway, Hayes-White and the U.S. delegates were told the suicide bomber had been captured, together with 15 pounds of explosives packed with nails and shrapnel. A suicide attack had been prevented, thanks to accurate intelligence and swift police reaction.
It was a real-time introduction to the pressures of security in Israel for participants in the four-day conference, hosted by the Border Police and the Israeli Foreign Ministry. Participants attended intelligence briefings, counterterror drills, medical exercises and lectures from security, police and emergency services officials.
The Americans toured police surveillance facilities in the Old City of Jerusalem, visited a suicide-bomber exhibition at police headquarters and observed a full-blown counterterror exercise simulating a biochemical attack on a school, followed by emergency treatment of the mock victims at the Assaf Harofeh Medical Center.
At Ben-Gurion Airport and the control center for Israel Railways, the officials viewed state-of-the-art closed-circuit TV facilities with what the Israelis call behavioral video -- computer software that triggers an alarm when an unusual incident appears on the monitor.
Paul MacMillan, deputy chief of Boston's transit police, said the Massachusetts Bay Transport Authority had been considering the installation of behavioral video. After seeing the Israeli system, he said he planned to recommend it: "We've been looking at it ... but we've never really seen it in actual operation."
The aim of the conference was to encourage cooperation in sharing information and training, and before the sessions ended, several U.S. officials were already planning joint training seminars with the Israelis for U.S. law enforcement officials.
Southers said he planned to hold a similar conference for state homeland security employees in conjunction with the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles. MacMillan said he would like to send his bomb-disposal teams to train in Israel, where police receive 200,000 alerts of suspicious packages every year.
"This country has excelled in safety and public security," Southers said of Israel. "What really strikes me here is that preparedness and security is a culture. It's something that we don't understand in the U.S. There are people in California who have zero resolve when it comes to this issue."
Suhr, the San Francisco deputy chief, said the trip had been "hugely useful." He said the analysis of mass-casualty incidents offered by lecturers were the best he had ever heard, and he intended to take them back home for training purposes.
"I've been doing this for 25 years, and I usually don't write anything. I just take the material they hand out," said Suhr. "This week, I've taken pages of notes because the things they say just strike you."
After four 16-hour days, the participants were joking grimly about graduating from the Israeli boot camp.
"The Israelis have kept us out of trouble," said one bleary-eyed participant. "I haven't even had time to buy gifts for my kids."
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One Racist Nation
By Gideon Levy
Contrary to appearances, the elections this week are important, because they will expose the true face of Israeli society and its hidden ambitions. More than 100 elected candidates will be sent to the Knesset on the basis of one ticket - the racism ticket. If we used to think that every two Israelis have three opinions, now it will be evident that nearly every Israeli has one opinion - racism. Elections 2006 will make this much clearer than ever before. An absolute majority of the MKs in the 17th Knesset will hold a position based on a lie: that Israel does not have a partner for peace. An absolute majority of MKs in the next Knesset do not believe in peace, nor do they even want it - just like their voters - and worse than that, don't regard Palestinians as equal human beings. Racism has never had so many open supporters. It's the real hit of this election campaign.
One does not have to be Avigdor Lieberman to be a racist. The "peace" proposed by Ehud Olmert is no less racist. Lieberman wants to distance them from our borders, Olmert and his ilk want to distance them from out consciousness. Nobody is speaking about peace with them, nobody really wants it. Only one ambition unites everyone - to get rid of them, one way or another. Transfer or wall, "disengagement" or "convergence" – the point is that they should get out of our sight. The only game in town, the 'unilateral arrangement," is not only based on the lie that there is no partner, is not only based exclusively on our "needs" because of a sense of superiority, but also leads to a dangerous pattern of behavior that totally ignores the existence of the other nation.
The problem is that this feeling is based entirely on an illusory assumption. The Palestinians are here, just like us. They will, therefore, be forced to continue to remind us of their existence in the one way they and we both know, through violence and terror.
This gloomy chapter in the history of Israel began at Camp David, when Ehud Barak succeeded in planting the untruth that there is nobody to talk to on the Palestinian side, that we offered them the sky and they responded with violence. Then came the major terror attacks and Israeli society withdrew into a sickness of apathy never before known to it. While it used to demonstrate complete indifference toward Palestinian suffering, that apathy spread and intensified to include weak Israelis - Arabs, the poor, the ailing. From that aspect the current election campaign, more boring than ever, seems almost like an expression of the state of public caring. Nothing can awaken the Israelis from their coma - not the imprisonment of the nation next door, not the killing and destruction that we sow in their society and not the suffering of the weak among us.
Who would have believed that in Israel of 2006, the killing of an 8-year-old girl at short range, as happened last week in Yamoun, would barely be mentioned; that the ruthless attempt to expel an Ethiopian with AIDS who is married to an Israeli, just because he is not Jewish, would not raise hue and cry; and that the results of a poll showing that a majority of Israelis - 68 percent - don't want to live next to an Arab, did not raise a stink. If in 1981, tomatoes were being thrown at Shimon Peres and in 1995, there was incitement against Yitzhak Rabin, now there are no tomatoes, no incitement and not even any election rallies.
Nothing can get the Israelis out to the streets, nothing can enrage them. An election without involvement and interest is more dangerous to democracy than any tomato. It is a demonstration of apathy and indifference, which the regime can exploit to do whatever it wants. The fact that there are no real differences between the three main parties, with this one saying nearly the entire country is mine, and that one saying nearly the entire country is mine, is bad news for democracy. The coming elections have been decided already. A massive majority will cast its vote for the racist arrangement that ignores the Palestinians, as proposed by Kadima, Likud and, to a large extent, Labor. None of them tried to propose a just peace; their leaders never said a word about the war crimes and suffering caused by Israel. They'll be joined by the extreme right and the ultra-Orthodox, and there you have it: a nation in which racism is the real common denominator uniting us all. Nearly everyone will say no to peace, yes to the continuing occupation (even if it is in new camouflage) and yes to the total focusing on ourselves.
Morality has become a dirty work, and the worst corruption in the country's history, the occupation, was never mentioned. Only one-sided maps, similar to one another, all including the humongous "settlement blocs," a withdrawal based on "our needs," with a separation wall and the frightening air of indifference hovering above it all.
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Flashback: Economist tallies swelling cost of Israel to US
By David R. Francis
Christian Science Monitor
Since 1973, Israel has cost the United States about $1.6 trillion. If divided by today's population, that is more than $5,700 per person.
This is an estimate by Thomas Stauffer, a consulting economist in Washington. For decades, his analyses of the Middle East scene have made him a frequent thorn in the side of the Israel lobby.
Is U.S backing of Israel worth it?
For the first time in many years, Mr. Stauffer has tallied the total cost to the US of its backing of Israel in its drawn-out, violent dispute with the Palestinians. So far, he figures, the bill adds up to more than twice the cost of the Vietnam War.
And now Israel wants more.
In a meeting at the White House late last month, Israeli officials made a pitch for $4 billion in additional military aid to defray the rising costs of dealing with the intifada and suicide bombings. They also asked for more than $8 billion in loan guarantees to help the country's recession-bound economy.
Considering Israel's deep economic troubles, Stauffer doubts the Israel bonds covered by the loan guarantees will ever be repaid. The bonds are likely to be structured so they don't pay interest until they reach maturity. If Stauffer is right, the US would end up paying both principal and interest, perhaps 10 years out.
Israel's request could be part of a supplemental spending bill that's likely to be passed early next year, perhaps wrapped in with the cost of a war with Iraq.
Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign aid. It is already due to get $2.04 billion in military assistance and $720 million in economic aid in fiscal 2003. It has been getting $3 billion a year for years.
Adjusting the official aid to 2001 dollars in purchasing power, Israel has been given $240 billion since 1973, Stauffer reckons. In addition, the US has given Egypt $117 billion and Jordan $22 billion in foreign aid in return for signing peace treaties with Israel.
"Consequently, politically, if not administratively, those outlays are part of the total package of support for Israel," argues Stauffer in a lecture on the total costs of US Middle East policy, commissioned by the US Army War College, for a recent conference at the University of Maine.
These foreign-aid costs are well known. Many Americans would probably say it is money well spent to support a beleagured democracy of some strategic interest. But Stauffer wonders if Americans are aware of the full bill for supporting Israel since some costs, if not hidden, are little known.
One huge cost is not secret. It is the higher cost of oil and other economic damage to the US after Israel-Arab wars.
In 1973, for instance, Arab nations attacked Israel in an attempt to win back territories Israel had conquered in the 1967 war. President Nixon resupplied Israel with US arms, triggering the Arab oil embargo against the US.
That shortfall in oil deliveries kicked off a deep recession. The US lost $420 billion (in 2001 dollars) of output as a result, Stauffer calculates. And a boost in oil prices cost another $450 billion.
Afraid that Arab nations might use their oil clout again, the US set up a Strategic Petroleum Reserve. That has since cost, conservatively, $134 billion, Stauffer reckons.
Other US help includes:
• US Jewish charities and organizations have remitted grants or bought Israel bonds worth $50 billion to $60 billion. Though private in origin, the money is "a net drain" on the United States economy, says Stauffer.
• The US has already guaranteed $10 billion in commercial loans to Israel, and $600 million in "housing loans." (See editor's note below.) Stauffer expects the US Treasury to cover these.
• The US has given $2.5 billion to support Israel's Lavi fighter and Arrow missile projects.
• Israel buys discounted, serviceable "excess" US military equipment. Stauffer says these discounts amount to "several billion dollars" over recent years.
• Israel uses roughly 40 percent of its $1.8 billion per year in military aid, ostensibly earmarked for purchase of US weapons, to buy Israeli-made hardware. It also has won the right to require the Defense Department or US defense contractors to buy Israeli-made equipment or subsystems, paying 50 to 60 cents on every defense dollar the US gives to Israel.
US help, financial and technical, has enabled Israel to become a major weapons supplier. Weapons make up almost half of Israel's manufactured exports. US defense contractors often resent the buy-Israel requirements and the extra competition subsidized by US taxpayers.
• US policy and trade sanctions reduce US exports to the Middle East about $5 billion a year, costing 70,000 or so American jobs, Stauffer estimates. Not requiring Israel to use its US aid to buy American goods, as is usual in foreign aid, costs another 125,000 jobs.
• Israel has blocked some major US arms sales, such as F-15 fighter aircraft to Saudi Arabia in the mid-1980s. That cost $40 billion over 10 years, says Stauffer.
Stauffer's list will be controversial. He's been assisted in this research by a number of mostly retired military or diplomatic officials who do not go public for fear of being labeled anti-Semitic if they criticize America's policies toward Israel.
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After the rhapsody, the bitter legacy of Israel and the left
Friday March 24, 2006
Liberals were once happy to overlook the country's crimes, seeing only a model democratic state
With the bizarre, not to say unique, events in Jericho last week - surely the first case of a jailbreak intended to keep the prisoners inside - Israel has again shown an impressive indifference to outside opinion. "The whole world is against us," says an endlessly popular Israeli song, and many Israelis would add the chant of Millwall fans: "No one likes us, we don't care."
There has, indeed, been a dramatic turn in opinion. It's very hard to recall the esteem and goodwill in which Israel once basked, not least on the broad liberal left, where there is now a received view that Israel has deserved this change in affections: that Israel and Zionism are vicious now, having been virtuous once. The view may be almost universal - but is it true?
You can hear echoes of the shift in these pages. It might be a columnist recalling the early 1960s, when progressive young friends (mine too) would go from London to spend the summer on a kibbutz in that heroic land. Or it might be Sir Gerald Kaufman bitterly denouncing the present Israeli government by comparison with "the beautiful democratic Israel" that he first knew in the 1950s.
In the age of Jenin, and now Jericho, of "targeted killings" and F-16s blasting refugee camps, that turn in Israel's reputation might seem natural enough. And yet there is a contrary case to be made, that Israel has in some ways been criticised too harshly over the past 20 years, having been judged too leniently in its first 20.
It is really very hard to explain to anyone under the age of 50 just how popular Israel once was, notably among European social democrats and our own Labour party. In the 50s, newspapers such as the Manchester Guardian and the Observer (for all the trauma of Suez) accepted axiomatically that Zionism was a force for good, and David Ben-Gurion, Israel's founding prime minister, would be profiled in the New Statesman in what were frankly rhapsodic terms.
There were several reasons for this, from traditional liberal philosemitism to horror and shame at the fate of the European Jews. Besides that, in the nearly three decades after 1948, when Israel was run by Labour, it was widely, if myopically, seen as a model social democracy. The change began with the 1967 war, when Israel's former admirers began to condemn the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, and was accelerated when Likud took over as the dominant party.
And yet those admirers missed some salient truths. That beautiful democratic Israel of 50 years ago was founded on ethnic cleansing. The later expansion of Israel was actually less brutal: after 1967 a number of Palestinians were uprooted, but there was nothing to compare with the wholesale expulsion of three-quarters of a million Palestinians in 1948 - an event to which the right-thinking liberal west closed its eyes at the time.
Even the settlements in the occupied territories, which Israel almost light-heartedly (and in the end hubristically) began in the 1970s, were often set up on empty land, a contrast indeed to the settling of Palestine in earlier generations. "Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages," Moshe Dayan briskly admitted about the creation of his country: "There is not one single place that did not have a former Arab population."
In Dayan's words you hear something else, the greater candour more often found among Israelis themselves than among their western supporters - and also the candour of the Israeli right, which was much less given to evasion and denial than the Labour establishment. In those long years of Labour supremacy, the right was not merely out of office, but was anathematised and scorned. Very few people in the west really knew much about Zionism, certainly not about a rightwing revisionist tradition "of greater intellectual distinction" than Labour Zionism; the phrase is Perry Anderson's in the New Left Review, a tribute from an unlikely source, but perfectly correct.
The revisionist movement was founded in the early 1920s and led, until his death in 1940, by Vladimir Jabotinsky, perhaps the one man of genius to have been produced by Zionism. Not only of greater intellectual distinction, Jabotinsky was marked by his greater intellectual honesty. He argued that if the Zionist project was justifiable at all, then it had to accept that the Palestinian Arabs were not going to surrender their land without a fight - why should they? - and that force would be necessary.
Paradoxically, his honesty may have made it possible for Labour to appear enlightened and moderate by comparison, although there were always some Israelis who saw that claim as an imposture. The late Israel Shahak, an advanced radical and "non-Zionist Israeli", used to insist not only that he himself had always been treated better by conservatives than by the official left, but also that Labour simply did not enjoy its reputation for comparative decency, and that the state Labour had created was in many ways neither democratic not beautiful.
By now, the older political distinctions have anyway largely been eroded. As the sociologist Uri Ram has said (with a touch of ethnic sarcasm): "The major players in the socio-political drama taking place in Israel today are of the right: the socio-economic liberal right of the capitalist upper classes - called in Israel 'the left' - and the ethno-religious fundamentalist right of the labouring lower classes - called in Israel 'the people'."
It is the latter right that seems certain to win the election this month, and continue its intransigent policies. One ironical outcome will be to further encourage the historically obtuse view of the conflict that liberals have long nurtured.
· Geoffrey Wheatcroft is the author of The Controversy of Zion: Jewish Nationalism, the Jewish State and the Unresolved Jewish Dilemma, which won an American National Jewish Book Award
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Washing Israel's hands clean in U.S. eyes
28/29 March 2006
By: Remi Kanazi
On July 18, 2005 14 year old Ragheb al-Masri sat in the back of a taxi with his parents at the Abo Holi checkpoint. An Israeli bullet penetrated his back and cracked open his chest. His mother screamed as his body lay lifeless. Have you heard his name? I wouldn't expect that you have because CNN, The New York Times, and The Washington Post didn't report the killing online. If they had quoted his parents, their readers would have been able to feel their tears and envision the heartbreak.
Ultimately, no Israeli soldier was arrested or even reprimanded.
Every time a a human bomber strikes Israel, mass coverage of the tragedy begins instantly. Whether landing on the front page of The New York Times or taking up the headline block on CNN.com, the pain Israeli people endure is shown endlessly. Israelis do suffer. Bomb attacks are horrific. Nevertheless, Palestinian pain occurs far more frequently, and yet often overlooked by the mainstream American media.
Since the uprising in September of 2000, more than 3800 Palestinians have been killed in the Occupied Territories as a result of the conflict. Most Americans are unaware of the toll because it is not properly reported. In 2004, If Americans Knew-an American organization that exposes and examines the facts of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict-reported that 808 Palestinian conflict deaths occurred while 107 Israelis conflict deaths occurred.
The study, however, found that The New York Times covered Israeli deaths in the headline or the first paragraph in 159 articles-meaning in some cases they covered the same death numerous times. In contrast, The New York Times only covered about 40 percent of Palestinian deaths-334 of 808-in the headline or in the first paragraph of the articles. Nearly eight Palestinians died for every one Israeli.
Disturbingly The New York Times is considered the quintessential "liberal" newspaper of the U.S.
When Palestinian deaths occur, especially fighters' deaths, the Israeli Government's version of the story is taken as fact in the mainstream U.S. media. In most cases, articles covering the death of Palestinians only include large Israeli quotes, without citing Palestinian witnesses and other credible nongovernmental organization sources. This continues to be the case after human rights groups have released reports stating Israel has indiscriminately shot at civilians, even using them as human shields. In as early as 2001, Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated, "At least 470 Palestinians have been killed, most of them unlawfully by Israeli security forces when their lives [Israeli Security Forces] and the lives of others were not in danger." Since the AI/HRW report, more than 3350 Palestinians have been killed. It is remarkable how so many can accept Israeli Government as the sole, objective source when it forcibly occupies the Palestinian territories.
On August 25, 2005 the headline on CNN.com read, "Israel: Five Militants Shot in Raid." The article claims the fighters were suspected of being involved in a bomb attack; they were armed and exchanged fire with the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF), and five Palestinians were shot. The report also mentions the town Netanya, where the bombing referenced in the article took place, was a frequent sight for bomb attacks by Palestinians. No Palestinian quote, no witnesses giving an alternative perspective, and no mention that three of the victims shot were under the age of 18.
The Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, covered the same event including Palestinian quotes and some Palestinian claims. The paper reported that the IOF killed five Palestinians on August 25, three of whom Palestinian sources say are between the ages of 14 and 17 with no known links to any armed groups. Four of the victims died at the scene, while one of the young victims died later that night.
Varying Palestinian reporters cited witnesses claiming all five Palestinians were unarmed, including the two fighters killed. This was the first fatal attack since the "disengagement" of the Gaza Strip.
The contrast in coverage between CNN and Haaretz is staggering. The CNN headline was written in absolutes: "5 militants shot in raid." The CNN article continues by stating only the Israeli claim that five "militants" were killed, making the headline biased and misleading. The Haaretz headline read: "U.S. urges restraint after IDF raid that killed 5 Palestinians." This headline refers to the people who were shot as Palestinians and not solely fighters. The Haaretz article covers conflicting Israeli and Palestinian claims, which made it impossible to determine whether or not all five killed were "militants" or civilians.
On September 7 the findings of a probe, conducted by Haaretz and the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem, found that three of the five Palestinians killed in the assault on August 25 were under the age of 18 and did not have any links to known armed groups. Their investigation also found that the two fighters killed were low ranking operatives who were not armed at the time. This repudiates the Israeli claim that IOF soldiers were in the area involved in an operation against leaders of Palestinian armed groups and a "ticking bomb" with connection to bomb attacks in Israel.
"Ticking bombs" are characterized as individuals that are an imminent physical threat to the state of Israel or people holding information that imminently threaten the security of the state of Israel. In most cases, "ticking bombs" are referred to as would be human bombers or those holding valuable information on individuals carrying out those bombing.
Israel used the "ticking bomb" scenario in the past as an excuse to torture Palestinians with impunity. In a 1998 study on the "ticking bomb" scenario, B'Tselem found Israel's claim that it is necessary to use torture against "ticking bombs" was in most cases "totally unsubstantiated." The recent findings of Haaretz and B'Tselem deeply call into question the reliability of the state of Israel on affairs in the Occupied Territories and reaffirm the notion that using Israel as the sole source is careless and unacceptable.
Israel professes it doesn't have the death penalty, but it has in the past and "maintains the right" in the future, to carry out extrajudicial assassinations of "wanted" Palestinians. Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz admitted on August 26 that Israel invaded and fired first in the incident that killed five Palestinians, while maintaining the notion that the fighters-meaning all five killed-were armed. Again, Israel, the occupying force, reserves the "right" to play God with the lives of the Palestinian people. There are many examples of unarmed children and disabled Palestinians being injured or killed by Israeli forces. More than 875 women and children have died since the start of the conflict under the guise of security. Nearly 25 percent of the children killed were under the age of 12.
Coincidence or Collusion?
Why are "left wing" media outlets such as The New York Times and CNN not reporting the Palestinian side of the story? Well the simple answer is The New York Times and CNN are not liberal, nor honest. They cover injustices only when there is no risk of backlash from readers and advertisers. The media moguls are only "aware" and objective when it pays them to be. CNN and The New York Times must vet their content, so as not to be viewed as "pro-Palestinian," in fear that advertisers will pull their ads or commercials, leading to a loss in revenue.
Israel solidified itself as the strategic ally of the U.S. in the Middle East after its victory in the Six Day War (1967 Arab/Israeli War). Israel was taken under the wing of the U.S.-which saw its potential as a strategic, military, and political force.
The rise of religious Zionism after 1967 and the subsequent call for the preservation of the Jewish homeland became relevant in America with the Jewish elite as well with Christian conservatives. Jewish historian, Norman Finkelstein, recalls in his book The Holocaust Industry,
"Accordingly, American Jewish elites suddenly discovered Israel. After the 1967 war, Israel's military élan could be celebrated because its guns point in the right direction-against America's enemies."
Finkelstein continued to state, "Now they [The Jewish elite] could pose as the natural interlocutors for America's newest strategic asset. From bit players, they could advance to top billing in the Cold War drama. Thus for American Jewry, as well as the United States, Israel became a strategic asset."
The effectiveness of the pro-Israeli lobby hinges on the willingness of the U.S. government to support Israel. According to the strongly pro-Israeli website the Jewish Virtual Library, the U.S. has given Israel nearly 50 billion dollars in aid from 1974 to 1997. If the U.S. government didn't have significant interests in backing Israel, the pro-Israeli lobby would be less of a factor much like the Palestinian lobby. Interestingly, the Jewish Lobby only supported Israel when it was in their interests to do so.
The convergence of American and Israeli support found success in delegitimizing the Palestinian cause. This consequently washed Israel's hands clean in U.S. eyes of the atrocities committed throughout the Middle East-i.e. the invasion and indiscriminate bombing of Beirut in 1982-and more directly to the Palestinian people through dispossession and occupation. Strikingly, the American media refuses to differentiate between the past suffering of the Jewish people and the suffering Israelis endure due to inept Israeli policy which has besieged the Palestinian people for 58 years.
Consider the backlash professors at Colombia received because they were accused of promoting anti-Semitism. In reality Joseph Massad, one of the accused professors, and others simply critiqued the Israeli government. As a result, pro-Israeli groups like the David Project and Campus Watch tried to silence their right to free speech. Just as questioning the war in Iraq is "un-American," the idea of questioning Israeli actions is "anti-Semitic." Ridiculous assertions such as equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism is a way in which the pro-Israeli lobby restricts the media from criticizing Israel or fairly reporting matters.
In a post-9/11 world, it has been much easier to side with mostly European Israelis, who look more like Americans, who love capitalism like Americans, and who are fighting "Arab terror" like Americans.
Unfortunately for the Palestinians, the media doesn't like to diverge from mainstream political correctness. If objectivity was the top priority of the media, they would not have dropped the ball in the coverage leading up to the war in Iraq. Even Bob Woodward of the "liberal" Washington Post admitted, "We did our job but we didn't do enough, and I blame myself mightily for not pushing harder.
But who would really push the American/Israeli agenda, besides those fearing backlash? The neoconservatives and Christian coalitions in support for Israel. The Pat Robertsons and the Billy Grahams. Neoconservative talk radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Best selling authors Alan Dershowitz and Thomas Friedman. Lobbying groups like AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and the ADL (Anti-Defamation League), and attack dogs such as Daniel Pipes and his cronies in Campus Watch. The fortune 500 companies such as Caterpillar, McDonalds, Disney and Starbucks to name a few. But most damningly, it's the "liberals," that complete the majority support. Hilary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi, the honest broker himself Bill Clinton, the heads of The New York Times, CNN and the rest of the "left wing" media that won't stand up for what's morally right. These people are too selfish or too weak to do what's right, and off with the heads of those who do.
The dilemma of the "free press" in America is that it isn't free. The media hinges on the support of the people, newspaper subscriptions, television viewership, advertisements, and the bottom line of their companies. We live in a capitalistic society run by corporate profits and essential year over year growth.
I understand why The New York Times and CNN reports the way it does. They are media hacks run by the corporate dollar. Injustice is injustice. Murder is murder. While Palestinian suffering goes on unreported children like Ragheb Al-Masri remain dead and forgotten, and the American press remains biased and forgiven.
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Iran, Syria warn against Israeli nuclear threat
Iranian and Syrian officials warned Saturday against the threat posed by Israel's controversial nuclear programme.
Israel neither confirms nor denies having nuclear weapons. But many international experts have raised concern over the Jewish state's presence on the world's list of nuclear powers.
Israel's nuclear capability could be considered the most secretive weapons of mass destruction programme in the world.
Visiting Syrian First Vice President Farouq Al Shara, who arrived in Tehran on Friday, and Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that "the nuclear arms of the Quds occupier regime (Israel) and the fact that it does not join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is a real threat in the Middle East", state television said.
Iran, a signatory of the signed the NPT, responsible for ensuring global peaceful use of nuclear energy, has been facing mounting international pressure, headed by the United States, which claims it's using it's civilian nuclear programme as a guise for disgraceful preparations for a nuclear weapons program. Accusations that have been repetitively rejected by Tehran.
Also discussed during the Iran-Syrian talks, was the deteriorating situation in Iraq. The two officials urged foreign ministers of Iraq's neighbours to hold an immediate meeting to discuss ways to help restore security and stability in the war-devastated country.
Al-Shara delivered a message from the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Al Shara's visit follows Nejad's trip to Damascus last January.
• Israel's nukes
Israel continuously refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty , aimed at preventing the spread of nuclear weapons which would endanger global security.
Thus Israel's nuclear sites were never subject to inspections and the threat of sanctions by the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Israel's Atomic Energy Commission was formed in 1952 and began working closely with the Israeli military.
By 1953, according to the BBC, a process for extracting uranium found in the Negev desert was completed and scientists invented a new method of producing heavy water - giving Israel great capability to produce some of the most important nuclear materials.
Israel sought and received the assistance of France.
According to Washington-based website GlobalSecurity.org, a secret agreement between the two states resulted in the construction of the Dimona plant in the late 1950s.
U.S. inspectors visited Israel's Dimona reactor several times in 1960s, however, they failed to obtain an accurate picture of the activities going on there, due to the fact that, according to GlobalSecurity.org, Israelis installed false control room panels and brick over elevators and hallways that accessed certain areas of the facility.
However, inspectors were able to report that they saw no scientific research or civilian nuclear power programme that could justify such a huger reactor.
A U.S. Central Intelligence Agency report in 1968 found that Israel had begun to produce nuclear weapons.
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Israel pollutes and overexploits Palestinian water
"The route of the wall matches that of water resources."
"With the wall, the Israelis clearly sought to commandeer water resources," says Hind Khury, a former Palestinian cabinet minister responsible for Jerusalem and now the government's representative in Paris. "Without water, there is no life. Israeli policy has always been to push Palestinians into the desert."
Khury's accusations echo previous statements by several Palestinian officials and human right activists, who charge that Israel designed the route of the separation barrier to ensure that it controls water resources in the arid northern West Bank.
The Palestinians also say that Israel, which claim that the barrier is needed for its security, deliberately built the "apartheid wall" to grab more of the lands they need for a future state and impose a border without waiting for a peace agreement. They charge that the route of the barrier was dictated by demographic considerations to ensure a Jewish majority in the disputed city of Jerusalem. Israel's acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert confirmed these views when he announced last month that the barrier will largely follow Israel's final borders.
According to Israel's Information Centre for Human Rights, the separation barrier will negatively affect around half a million Palestinians. More than 14 Palestinian towns and villages, with more than 24,000 Palestinians, will be cut off by the wall from the rest of the West Bank. The wall will also surround 53 towns and villages, inhabited by at least 230,000 Palestinians, and isolate 18 Palestinian towns and villages in East Jerusalem, where 220,000 Palestinians live.
In the agriculture-dependent Palestinian territories, surrounded by Jewish settlements, the lack of resources causes massive losses for Palestinian farmers, while pollution and inadequate water disposal create manifold sanitation and health problems.
A recent UN report on the humanitarian impacts of the illegal barrier stated that the wall is hurting Palestinian farmers, who are banned by Israel from reaching farmland. The report also warned that the Palestinian agriculture land may eventually be confiscated by Israel if not cultivated. UN official Allegra Pacheco says the illegal barrier is causing a gruesome economic impact on the Palestinians who live close to it. "Our biggest concern is that farmers are increasingly not being allowed access to their farmland," she said.
According to an article on AFP, Israel controls about 75 percent of the Palestinian water resources in the northern West Bank, where rainfall is rare and water is a strategic asset. "The route of the wall matches that of water resources, the latter being conveniently located on the Israeli side," said Elisabeth Sime, director of aid organization CARE International, in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
While agriculture makes up almost a third of Palestinian gross domestic product, only five percent of Palestinian land is irrigated. On the other hand, 70 percent of Israeli and Jewish settlement land is watered, even if agriculture accounts for only two percent of Israeli GDP.
In the northern West Bank town of Nazlet Isa, Israel's giant network of fences and concrete barricades has left six homes stranded on the Israeli side along with the rich underground aquifer. Although the Israeli government allowed a special system of pipes to access the water, immediate access and control still lies in its hands.
Abdul Rahman Tamimi, director of the non-governmental Palestinian Hydrology Group (PHG), said that Israel deliberately designed the route of the barrier to siphon off with the region's aquifers. "The wall cuts some communities off from their only source of water, prevents tanker trucks from getting around and puts up prices," he said.
Tamimi, moreover, said that at least 20 wells, or 30 percent of water resources in the northern West Bank town of Qalqilya, were lost because of the wall. "The fact that Israel confiscates and overexploits water affects every sector of Palestinian economic life and causes problems for the chances of development in the region and therefore chances of peace," he said.
According to Palestinian officials, more than 320,000 Palestinians living in the West Bank are not connected to mains water. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are therefore forced to buy water from trucks, an expense many cannot afford, to supplement local supplies that often fall short of demands.
"I can't go on like this. My land is parched and I'm ruined," says 76-year-old Nazmi Abdul Ghani, who buys expensive water tankers to irrigate his lands in the northern West Bank village of Saida. "The Israelis stole our land and took our water," he added.
Three leading medical organizations, Medicins du Monde, the Palestinian Red Crescent Society and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, said that the barrier is preventing the access of 10,000 chronically ill Palestinians to hospitals, and that it can also affect more than 100,000 pregnant Palestinian women who are denied access to healthcare.
"The wall has put Palestinian healthcare at risk, both for patients and medical staff that have difficulties accessing or are denied access to hospitals," said Medicins Du Monde president Francois Jeanson.
Ruchama Marton, a psychiatrist who heads Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, also stressed the negative psychological impact of the barrier on both Israelis and Palestinians.
Moreover, about a third of the local drinking water in the West Bank is contaminated by sewage and pesticides, creating some chronic health problems for Palestinian residents.
"The quality of water is getting worse and worse," said CARE's Sime. "A high proportion of new-born babies die of water-born infections. In the long run, Israelis will be affected by the pollution of water in the Palestinian territories."
According to Dr Hossam Madi, most Palestinian children suffer from darrhoea, gastroenteritis, fever, kidney failure, infection and dermatological problems. These diseases can also infect Palestinian adults because of poor water supplies.
"I often get stomach ache. I throw up. It's the same for all the children here," nine-year-old Fatima said.
The waste of Israeli settlers is another problem. In small West Bank villages, such as Jalbun, household, agricultural and industrial waste from Israeli settlements speed up the process of water pollution.
Moreover, some Israeli businessmen and settlers dump toxic waste on Palestinian land in an act of "environmental terrorism", Tamimi says.
The Israeli government defied the international community and a 2004 World Court ruling when it decided to go ahead with the construction of the barrier which poses a humanitarian catastrophe that creates a population of prisoners in their own land.
It seems that Israel is doing everything in its power to prevent a Palestinian state from emerging, and will continue to do so as long as it depends on its powerful allies and an abundant popular indifference.
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Bush Proposed Assassinating Hussein to Provoke War With Iraq: Memo
By DON VAN NATTA Jr.
March 27, 2006
LONDON - In the weeks before the United States-led invasion of Iraq, as the United States and Britain pressed for a second United Nations resolution condemning Iraq, President Bush's public ultimatum to Saddam Hussein was blunt: Disarm or face war.
But behind closed doors, the president was certain that war was inevitable. During a private two-hour meeting in the Oval Office on Jan. 31, 2003, he made clear to Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain that he was determined to invade Iraq without the second resolution, or even if international arms inspectors failed to find unconventional weapons, said a confidential memo about the meeting written by Mr. Blair's top foreign policy adviser and reviewed by The New York Times.
"Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning," David Manning, Mr. Blair's chief foreign policy adviser at the time, wrote in the memo that summarized the discussion between Mr. Bush, Mr. Blair and six of their top aides.
"The start date for the military campaign was now penciled in for 10 March," Mr. Manning wrote, paraphrasing the president. "This was when the bombing would begin."
The timetable came at an important diplomatic moment. Five days after the Bush-Blair meeting, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was scheduled to appear before the United Nations to present the American evidence that Iraq posed a threat to world security by hiding unconventional weapons.
Although the United States and Britain aggressively sought a second United Nations resolution against Iraq - which they failed to obtain - the president said repeatedly that he did not believe he needed it for an invasion.
Stamped "extremely sensitive," the five-page memorandum, which was circulated among a handful of Mr. Blair's most senior aides, had not been made public. Several highlights were first published in January in the book "Lawless World," which was written by a British lawyer and international law professor, Philippe Sands. In early February, Channel 4 in London first broadcast several excerpts from the memo.
Since then, The New York Times has reviewed the five-page memo in its entirety. While the president's sentiments about invading Iraq were known at the time, the previously unreported material offers an unfiltered view of two leaders on the brink of war, yet supremely confident.
The memo indicates the two leaders envisioned a quick victory and a transition to a new Iraqi government that would be complicated, but manageable. Mr. Bush predicted that it was "unlikely there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups." Mr. Blair agreed with that assessment.
The memo also shows that the president and the prime minister acknowledged that no unconventional weapons had been found inside Iraq. Faced with the possibility of not finding any before the planned invasion, Mr. Bush talked about several ways to provoke a confrontation, including a proposal to paint a United States surveillance plane in the colors of the United Nations in hopes of drawing fire, or assassinating Mr. Hussein.
Those proposals were first reported last month in the British press, but the memo does not make clear whether they reflected Mr. Bush's extemporaneous suggestions, or were elements of the government's plan.
Two senior British officials confirmed the authenticity of the memo, but declined to talk further about it, citing Britain's Official Secrets Act, which made it illegal to divulge classified information. But one of them said, "In all of this discussion during the run-up to the Iraq war, it is obvious that viewing a snapshot at a certain point in time gives only a partial view of the decision-making process."
On Sunday, Frederick Jones, the spokesman for the National Security Council, said the president's public comments were consistent with his private remarks made to Mr. Blair. "While the use of force was a last option, we recognized that it might be necessary and were planning accordingly," Mr. Jones said.
"The public record at the time, including numerous statements by the President, makes clear that the administration was continuing to pursue a diplomatic solution into 2003," he said. "Saddam Hussein was given every opportunity to comply, but he chose continued defiance, even after being given one final opportunity to comply or face serious consequences. Our public and private comments are fully consistent."
The January 2003 memo is the latest in a series of secret memos produced by top aides to Mr. Blair that summarize private discussions between the president and the prime minister. Another group of British memos, including the so-called Downing Street memo written in July 2002, showed that some senior British officials had been concerned that the United States was determined to invade Iraq, and that the "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" by the Bush administration to fit its desire to go to war.
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"Jewish lobby? I don't see any Jewish lobby."
Harvard School Distances Itself from Dean's Paper On Israels Influnce On American Foreign Policy
By MEGHAN CLYNE - Staff Reporter of the Sun
March 23, 2006
The changes appear to be a sign that the university is distancing itself from the document in the face of a furor from faculty members, Jewish leaders, and a congressman who say it fails to meet academic standards and promotes anti-Semitic myths.
WASHINGTON - Harvard's Kennedy School of Government is removing its logo from a paper about the "Israel lobby" that was co-authored by its academic dean.
The new version of the paper also has a more prominent disclaimer warning that the paper's views belong only to its authors.
The changes appear to be a sign that the university is distancing itself from the document in the face of a furor from faculty members, Jewish leaders, and a congressman who say it fails to meet academic standards and promotes anti-Semitic myths.
The paper, "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," was written by the Kennedy School's Stephen Walt and a political science professor and the codirector of the Program on International Security Policy at the University of Chicago, John Mearsheimer, and published by the Kennedy School.
In the 83-page "working paper," the professors allege that a vast network of journalists, think tanks, lobbyists, and largely Jewish officials have seized the foreign policy debate and manipulated America to invade Iraq.
Components of or influenced by the purported network include major publications, "Christian evangelicals," top-ranking officials in the Bush administration, and scholars at prominent think tanks. The paper has won praise from Islamist groups and white supremacist and anti-Semite David Duke.
It also has drawn sharp criticism from prominent Harvard faculty, including Kennedy School lecturer Marvin Kalb, literature professor Ruth Wisse, and law professor Alan Dershowitz; Harvard students, and Rep. Eliot Engel, a Democrat of New York. Many critics have called for Harvard to withdraw the paper until it can be brought up to acceptable standards of scholarship, alleging that the document is riddled with factual inaccuracies and suffers from bias and faulty research.
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New Study Criticizes Power of Israeli Lobby in Washington
Friday, March 24th, 2006
And a dean at Harvard University and a professor at the University of Chicago are coming under intense criticism for publishing an academic critique of the pro-Israeli lobby in Washington.
The paper charges that the United States has willingly set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of Israel. In addition the study accuses the pro-Israeli lobby, particularly AIPAC - the American Israel Public Affairs Committee - of manipulating the U.S. media, policing academia and silencing critics of Israel by labeling them as anti-Semitic. The study also examines the role played by pro-Israeli neo-conservatives in the lead-up to the U.S. invasion of iraq.
The authors of the study, Stephen Walt, a dean at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and John Mearsheimer of University of Chicago are now themselves being accused of anti-Semitism.
In Washington, Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel of New York described the professors as "dishonest so-called intellectuals" and "anti-Semites." Harvard professor, Ruth Wisse called for the paper to be withdrawn. Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz described the study as trash that could have been written by Neo-Nazi David Duke. The New York Sun reported Harvard has received several calls from 'pro-Israel donors' expressing concern about the paper. Harvard has already taken steps to distance itself from the report. Earlier this week it removed the logo of the Kennedy School of Government from the paper and added a new disclaimer to the study. The 81-page report was originally published on Harvard's website and an edited version appeared in the London Review of Books. The controversy comes less than a year after Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz attempted to block the publication of Norman Finkelstein's book "Beyond Chutzpah: On The Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History."
Comment: Democracy Now! is yet another of the many gatekeepers on the US left. They have this short article on the Jewish lobby paper, but cite nothing from the paper and give space to the denunciations of it by supporters of Israel. This is what passes for a progressive voice in the United States.
No wonder they don't ever talk about what really happened on 9/11.
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So pro-Israel that it hurts
By Daniel Levy
The new John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt study of "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" should serve as a wake-up call, on both sides of the ocean. The most obvious and eye-catching reflection is the fact that it is authored by two respected academics and carries the imprimatur of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government.
The tone of the report is harsh. It is jarring for a self-critical Israeli, too. It lacks finesse and nuance when it looks at the alphabet soup of the American-Jewish organizational world and how the Lobby interacts with both the Israeli establishment and the wider right-wing echo chamber.
Their case is a potent one: that identification of American with Israeli interests can be principally explained via the impact of the Lobby in Washington, and in limiting the parameters of public debate, rather than by virtue of Israel being a vital strategic asset or having a uniquely compelling moral case for support (beyond, as the authors point out, the right to exist, which is anyway not in jeopardy). The study is at its most devastating when it describes how the Lobby "stifles debate by intimidation" and at its most current when it details how America's interests (and ultimately Israel's, too) are ill-served by following the Lobby's agenda.
The bottom line might read as follows: that defending the occupation has done to the American pro-Israel community what living as an occupier has done to Israel - muddied both its moral compass and its rational self-interest compass.
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The New 'Protocols'?
By: Editorial Board
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
The infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which purports to be a blueprint for a Jewish takeover of the world, is now recognized as the forgery it is most everywhere these days, except perhaps in the Arab world, As is now being reported, an 83-page "study" by a dean at Harvard and a professor at the University of Chicago, claims that the pro-Israel lobby in America has caused the United States to bend its Middle East policy in favor of Israel at the expense of its own national interest.
The paper argues that U.S. support for Israel makes the war on terror more difficult:
Israel is in fact a liability in the war on terror and the broader effort to del with rogue states... The United States has a terrorism problem in good part because it is so closely allied with Israel, not the other way around.
The two professors also claim that the powerful pro-Israel lobby in the U.S., particularly the American Israel Public Afairs Committee (AIPAC) "manipulates the media" and "polices academia" in order to make sure the U.S. maintains a pro-Israel stance. They also assert that AIPAC regularly employs the claim of anti-Semitism as "the great silencer" to staunch any criticism of Israel.
And of course, it is claimed that pro-Israel officials early on in the Bush administration, who just happen to be Jewish – Paul Wolfowitz, Douglas Feith and David Wurmser – were behind the push for war in Iraq within the Bush Administration and the pro-Israel lobby worked Congress and the public towards the same end.
A look at the document shows it to be replete with enough factual errors as to make it fundamentally a work of fiction. And the "analysis" of events and conclusions offered end up being largely assertions about things the authors don't like. Indeed, no less an authority than David Duke, while hailing the study's circulation, offered the critique that it generally reiterated what he and his anti-Jewish colleagues have been saying for years.
Comment: What exactly are the so-called "factual errors" of the document? The editors of Jewish Press don't go there. They prefer to dirty the authors by comparing them to David Duke and the, wait for it, protocols of the Elders of Zion!
When slander is so effective, why descend to rational argument?
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A silent, crippling fear
Thursday, March 23 2006 @ 11:17 AM PST
By Paul Woodward
The War in Context
The prospect of American ports being run by an Arab company ignited a firestorm in the blogosphere -- and the mainstream media and Congress. Now two of America's leading political scientists allege that U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East is being skewed away from U.S.
The prospect of American ports being run by an Arab company ignited a firestorm in the blogosphere -- and the mainstream media and Congress. Now two of America's leading political scientists allege that U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East is being skewed away from U.S. national interests by a "loose coalition of individuals and organisations who actively work to steer U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction." You'd imagine this would provoke, at the very least, a strong reaction.
So far, the response to The Israel Lobby [hereafter TIL], by John J. Mearsheimer (professor of political science, University of Chicago) and Stephen M. Walt (academic dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard), has been predictable scorn from the Pro-Israel Right (typified by Power Line and The American Thinker), with little more than murmurings from the Left (such as these postings out in the quiet backwaters of Daily Kos and TPM Cafe).
Even while leftwing bloggers seem hesitant to discuss the issues raised here, the noteworthiness of the Mearsheimer-Walt paper is evident in mainstream media coverage from UPI and Christian Science Monitor. And at Harvard, law professor, Alan M. Dershowitz (identified in TIL as an "apologist" for Israel) is ready to "debate" against Mearsheimer and Walt who he describes as "liars" and "bigots," while Walt's colleague Marvin Kalb knows how to cut an academic to the quick -- accuse him of engaging in second-rate journalism.
In its opening paragraphs TIL asserts:
Other special-interest groups have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that U.S. interests and those of the other country -- in this case, Israel -- are essentially identical.
There have been times when such a claim would not garner much attention from domestically preoccupied Americans, but right now you'd have to be comatose not to recognize the grave implications as America and Israel speak with one voice on the threat from Iran.
Only yesterday, President Bush confirmed that the U.S. will use military force to defend Israel from Iranian threats, yet neither the administration nor Congress acknowledge that Israel's own nuclear arsenal, its occupation and colonization of Palestinian territories, or its treatment of its own Arab citizens, are critical factors exacerbating Middle East tensions.
It has thus never been more vital to open up debate on where U.S. and Israeli interests truly intersect and where they do not, yet so far the message from the Left is, we'd rather not talk about this sensitive issue.
To understand why the American Left is now largely mute on this subject, I recommend reading The Israel Lobby and the Left: Uneasy Questions, by Jeffrey Blankfort. His article, published in May, 2003, begins:
It was 1991 and Noam Chomsky had just finished a lecture in Berkeley on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and was taking questions from the audience. An Arab-American asked him to explain his position regarding the influence of America's Israel lobby.
Chomsky replied that its reputation was generally exaggerated and, like other lobbies, it only appears to be powerful when its position lines up with that of the "elites" who determine policy in Washington. Earlier in the evening, he had asserted that Israel received support from the United States as a reward for the services it provides as the U.S.'s "cop-on-the-beat" in the Middle East.
Chomsky's response drew a warm round of applause from members of the audience who were no doubt pleased to have American Jews absolved from any blame for Israel's oppression of the Palestinians, then in the fourth year of their first Intifada.
Blankfort then points out that:
What is noteworthy is that Chomsky's explanation for the financial and political support that the U.S. has provided Israel over the years is shared by what is generically known as the Israel lobby, and almost no one else.
Well, not quite "almost no one." Among the exceptions are the overwhelming majority of both houses of Congress and the mainstream media and, what is equally noteworthy, virtually the entire American Left, both ideological and idealistic, including the organizations ostensibly in the forefront of the fight for Palestinian rights.
That there is a meeting of the minds on this issue between supporters of Israel and the Left may help explain why the Palestine support movement within the United States has been an utter failure.
A new campaign to silence debate about the Israel Lobby is already following a predictable course. Efforts are being made to marginalize the issue by drawing attention to the fact that TIL has received praise from white supremicist David Duke along with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood. Nevertheless, Mearsheimer and Walt's effort to push the question of the Lobby's influence into mainstream political discourse is only one of several recent attempts.
One such came from Michael Massing, writing in The Nation, in 2002. Several more came from Michael Lind, writing in The Prospect in April 2002, Newsweek the same month, and again The Prospect in October 2002.
If the participation of the Dean of the Kennedy School of Government can't open up and legitimize this debate, it's hard to imagine what it might take to stir faint-hearted liberals into action -- but this is no time to remain silent.
In recent years, the slogan, "What did you do in the war?", has been used to good effect by many antiwar campaigners, yet as the U.S. and Israel continue gearing up to take on Iran, how many of those same campaigners if asked, "What did you do to challenge the influence of the Israel Lobby?" would now have nothing to say?
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The Belfer Declaration
New York Sun Editorial
March 23, 2006
For those covering the effort of anti-Israel academics to demonize the Jewish state in the American academy, things don't get more dramatic than the scandal at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. It turns out that the Kennedy School's academic dean, Stephen Walt, whose shoddiness and biases in a paper he co-wrote called "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" ignited the scandal, holds a chair called the Robert and Renee Belfer professorship in international affairs. When we called Mr. Belfer to get his reaction, he clammed up tighter than a conch in a mudslide. But the skivvy around New York, where Mr. Belfer lives, is that the billionaire former Enron director, who has been generous to Jewish causes, was so infuriated and mortified by what Dean Walt was doing that he asked that Dean Walt not use the title of the Belfer professorship in promoting the article. As our Meghan Clyne reports elsewhere on the page, the Harvard and Kennedy School logos were promptly removed from the version of the paper that is posted on the university's Web site.
Call it the Belfer Declaration. It may not be much in and of itself, but if it turns out to be the start of an honest investigation into what is happening at the Kennedy School and at Harvard, it will be an important step indeed. Nor was it the only step in recent days. On Monday, Marvin Kalb of the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy, who we had feared was too reticent, issued a blunt statement making clear Dean Walt's paper isn't up to the Kennedy School's standards for scholarship, a statement that was all the more courageous for the fact that the Shorenstein Center is part of the Kennedy School at which Dean Walt presides. Alan Dershowitz of the Law School and Ruth Wisse of Harvard's faculty of arts and sciences have shown similar forthrightness, as has Mortimer Zuckerman, who is a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and who funds the Zuckerman Fellows at the Kennedy School. He voiced his own horror at Dean Walt's demagoguery.
Another donor who is on the spot is Leslie Wexner, the Ohio-based billionaire whose empire includes the Victoria's Secret chain. If this editorial weren't headlined "The Belfer Declaration" it might have been headlined "Where's Wexner?" For Mr. Wexner is a member of the Kennedy School visiting committee, a formal oversight body, and he funds fellowships for up to ten Israeli students a year at the Kennedy School. If he wants to send Israelis to a school where the academic dean asserts that "Viewed objectively, Israel's past and present conduct offers no moral basis for privileging it over the Palestinians," he could save himself some money and simply bus the Israeli graduate students over to Ramallah to attend Bir Zeit University, which is dominated by Hamas. Unlike Mr. Zuckerman, however, Mr. Wexner hasn't come forth with a public statement.
Also on the spot at the moment are members of Congress, which the Robert and Renee Belfer professor of international relations has said is subject to the "stranglehold" of the "Israel Lobby." Rep. Eliot Engel, a Democrat who represents the Bronx and who was accused in the dean's paper of acting on the lobby's behalf in pursuing a free Lebanon and Syria, rose to the occasion, denouncing the paper as "anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist drivel." But where is Senator Kennedy, the Democrat of Massachusetts for whose brother the late president the Kennedy School of Government is named? No profile in courage from him. He's been declining to comment on the matter for days, since we first asked him about it last week. And to judge from his remarks on the war in Iraq in recent months, he may already be lost to the cause of democracy and American ideals in the Middle East.
It's enough to make one wonder whether Harvard just ought to change the name to the Joseph P. Kennedy School of Government, after the 35th president's father, who, as FDR's envoy in London, plumped for appeasing Hitler. It is certainly true that the more one looks into the matter, the more the problems at the Kennedy School appear to reach well beyond a logo on one working paper or even one daffy dean with an exaggerated view of the influence of Jewish influence in Washington. There were warnings, including an article issued in May 2005 in the student newspaper at the Kennedy School, the Citizen. Its writer, Robert Berman, said that the school's Middle East Initiative "has been sponsoring and promoting numerous events at KSG that are highly biased, factually inaccurate, and inflammatory." He noted that the initiative's director, Hilary Rantisi, was listed as a participant on a panel organized by the Palestinian Solidarity Committee to "discuss" the decision to divest from Israel.
Ms. Rantisi is quoted in a press release from Dubai welcoming the minister of finance of the United Arab Emirates, Khalfan Bin khirbash, to a Kennedy School advisory committee. If America doesn't trust the UAE - a nation that Israelis are formally banned from entering - to operate its ports, why should its government officials be trusted to advise Harvard's Kennedy School? The Kennedy School is running an executive education program for UAE officials; the school's Web site says "the Kennedy School has developed a relationship with the federal government of the United Arab Emirates to train its mid and senior level officials on issues of innovation, leadership, efficiency, and effectiveness in the public sector." What's the Kennedy School doing, teaching UAE bureaucrats to be more efficient in barring Israeli passport holders from entering their country? Where are Senators Clinton and Schumer and the rest of the anti-Dubai crowd?
Ms. Rantisi, who, bear in mind, is the director of the Kennedy School's Middle East Initiative, is co-editor of a book, "Our Story: The Palestinians," published under the auspices of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. Sabeel, according to the Non-Governmental Organizations Monitor of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, "is active in promoting an extreme anti-Israel agenda." It further notes that Sabeel, where Ms. Rantisi used to work, "employs classical antisemitic theological themes," citing a Jews-Killed-Jesus-type message that the organization issued for Easter, saying, "It seems to many of us that Jesus is on the cross again with thousands of crucified Palestinians operating around him. The Israeli government crucifixion system is operating daily."
In other words, the problem at the Kennedy School extends far beyond the Belfer professor. It will require a sustained effort by Harvard's donors, students, alumni and faculty to turn this situation around. Columbia University has become known derisively as Bir Zeit on the Hudson. For a while it looked like Harvard might avoid a Columbia-scale scandal, partly because Lawrence Summers chose early in his tenure as president of Harvard to confront actions that he stated were anti-Semitic if not in intent then at least in effect. Since then, of course, Mr. Summers has been driven from office, at least partly, we believe, in retribution for that stand, and today it must be said that the outcome of the struggle at Harvard is by no means assured. If those like the Belfers, Mr. Wexner, Senators Kennedy and Schumer, and scores of others with roots or a stake at Harvard aren't careful, the Kennedy School will become known as Bir Zeit on the Charles.
Comment: Repeat after me: "The Jewish lobby doesn't exist. The Jewish lobby doesn't exist. The Jewish lobby doesn't exist."
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Why Jews Must Speak Out on Palestine
By Jonathan Tasini
Yesterday, I spoke at an event in New York City called Rachel's Words. Two years ago, Rachel Corrie, a human rights activist, was crushed to death by an Israeli Army bulldozer as she tried to protect the home of a Palestinian pharmacist from demolition in Rafah, Gaza Strip. She was 23. A play based on her writing, "My Name is Rachel Corrie" was scheduled to open yesterday in New York City but it's debut was postponed indefinitely, in all likelihood because of the controversy it would cause in a city with such a large Jewish audience.
As a Jew who lived in Israel for seven years and whose family still lives there and has deep roots going back more than 80 years, it breaks my heart that there is a refusal to grapple with an almost untouchable topic in our country: why does the United States have such a one-sided policy in the Israel-Palestine conflict? And it's the reason I agreed to speak at the event which honored Rachel's life and her beliefs.
The event took place at the historic Riverside Church. I stood in the pulpit in the very same place that Dr. Martin Luther King stood almost 40 years ago. And that's where I began my remarks:
Almost 40 years ago, in 1967, Dr. King spoke in this very place about the need to speak up against a great purveyor of violence: his own government. He said, "If America's soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read Vietnam...So it is that those of us who are yet determined that "America will be" are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land."
Dr. King also said that he was speaking on behalf "of the people who have been living under the curse of war for almost three continuous decades now. I think of them too because it is clear to me that there will be no meaningful solution there until some attempt is made to know them and hear their broken cries."
"I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The great initiative in this war is ours. The initiative to stop it must be ours."
How those words, sadly, have so much meaning for us today.
Those of us who stand opposed to the war in Iraq do so as patriotic people who love our country and our communities but, because it is our country, we demand that it live up to high moral standards of peace, justice, democracy and human rights.
We speak and stand up and oppose the war in Iraq for the same reason that we speak and stand up and say the occupation of the Palestinian people is wrong, morally and legally, and must end with a negotiated, just, and peaceful solution between the lawfully elected governments of the Palestinian people and Israel.
To be honest, I don't think most Jews -- and certainly this is true of most Americans -- understand the brutality of the occupation, the violations of international law and our role in perpetuating that occupation. Most Jews have never been to the area and so they either have no idea what goes on or choose to ignore the awful reality. Their perceptions are framed by the MSM and pandering politicians.
If you raise a criticism of Israel or our country's policy towards the conflict, you immediately are targeted, within the Jewish community, as being either disloyal (if you are Jewish) or anti-Semitic (if you are not Jewish). This is nonsense and has got to stop.
In fact, those politicians who pander to our worst instincts of fear and hatred, who praise policies that violate international law, they are the ones who are hurting Israel's long-term security and the security of all the people in the area.
So, let me state clearly: I believe unequivocally in a secure, prosperous Israel. But I also believe with the same passion that the occupation is draining the moral and economic strength of Israel and that there will only be a just peace agreement when a Palestinian state -- a strong, vibrant, prosperous, independent state, able to provide jobs and a good life for its people -- thrives alongside Israel.
Taking away the liberty, the humanity and the dignity of the Palestinian people takes away from the security from Israel. Targeting civilians, killing innocent men, women and children is evil -- no matter who is doing it. Killing civilians is a "grave breach" of international humanitarian law. Whatever the circumstances, such acts are unjustifiable. We have to end the violence on both sides and support the peacemakers in both Israel and among the Palestinian people.
Opposition to the occupation is showing enormous love for Israel and for the Palestinian people. For the sake of Israel and for the sake of all people in that region who are fed up with three decades of war and occupation, we have to have an honest, open discussion.
There is a physical embodiment of the occupation that we must speak up against now: the separation barrier that is being built in the occupied territories, slicing through Palestinian communities, with the support of the U.S. government. Yes, Israel has a right to protect it citizens. But last night I asked:
How does peace come one day closer when we do not speak out against a wall that not only violates international law but, more important, embitters thousands of people for generations to come because it cuts off neighborhoods, separates families from each other, farmers from their land, the sick from hospitals, children from the schools and saps the economic vitality from an already impoverished people?
We have politicians who claim to be for the rule of law and stand before the Wall (as Hillary Clinton has done) and praise it -- even though it violates international law.
For us in the United States, the question becomes what is our government's role in perpetuating this conflict. As I said:
For too long, under both Democratic and Republican administrations, our government has had a counterproductive, one-sided policy that too often ignores democracy, human rights, and respect for international law.
Let's get this debate going. Begin to raise it among your friends and do so with the same love and commitment that you do for our country that leads you to vigorously oppose the Iraq war.
As Dr. King said in 1967, "Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now."
Jonathan Tasini is running for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate in New York. For the past 25 years, Jonathan has been a union leader and organizer, a social activist, and a commentator and writer on work, labor and the economy.
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Rockin' and Rollin' - Earth On The Edge
Strong quake hits south Iran
Sat Mar 25, 2006
TEHRAN - An earthquake of magnitude 6.0 and a series of aftershocks struck the southern Iranian province of Hormuzgan on Saturday, causing minor damage, officials said.
There were no immediate reports of casualties.
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4.6 earthquake shakes Humboldt County (California)
Sat Mar. 25, 2006
PETROLIA, Calif. - An earthquake with a preliminary-magnitude of 4.6 struck just off the Humboldt County coast Saturday evening, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
The quake, which struck at 5:56 p.m., occurred on the Mendocino fault and was centered about 6 miles southwest of Petrolia and 180 miles north of San Francisco, the USGS said.
The temblor struck an extremely rural part of the state and was felt as far as the town of Blue Lake, about 50 miles north of the epicenter.
The Humboldt County Sheriff's Department said that no injuries or property damage were immediately reported.
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California fault line primed for big earthquake, experts predict
Sunday, March 26, 2006
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
It could hit 2 million near Bay area with magnitude 6.7, more
New cracks appear in Elke DeMuynck's ceiling every few weeks, zigzagging across her living room. Month after month, year after year, she patches, paints and waits.
"It definitely lets you know your house is constantly shifting," DeMuynck said. So do the gate outside that swings uselessly 21/2 inches from its latch, the bulges in the street and the geology students who make pilgrimages to her cul-de-sac.
DeMuynck could throw her paint brush from her front stoop and hit the Hayward Fault, which geologists consider the most dangerous in the San Francisco Bay Area, if not the nation.
Several faults lurk beneath the region, including the San Andreas Fault on the west side of the Bay area, but geologists say that the parallel Hayward on the Bay's east side is the most likely to snap next.
"It is locked and loaded and ready to fire at any time," said Tom Brocher, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.
The Hayward Fault runs through one of the country's most densely populated areas; experts said that 2 million people live close enough to be strongly shaken by a big quake.
It slices the earth's crust along a 50-mile swath of suburbia east of San Francisco, from hilltop manors overlooking the bay to Hayward's humble flatlands. It snakes beneath bridges, strip malls and nursing facilities, and it splits the uprights of the football stadium at the University of California at Berkeley.
"A lot of these structures are going to come down," said David P. Schwartz, the chief of the USGS's Bay Area Earthquake Hazards Project.
The last great quake on the Hayward Fault was the Great Quake of 1868, a magnitude 6.9 rumbler that killed five people. Severe quakes have happened on the Hayward every 151 years, give or take 23 years, meaning that it is now into the danger zone.
Experts say that the next big one will be in the potentially lethal 6.7 to 7.0 range. The Association of Bay Area Governments estimates that it would wipe out about 155,000 housing units, 37,000 in San Francisco alone.
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Strong earthquake shakes Fiji islands
Fri, Mar. 24, 2006
SUVA, Fiji - A strong earthquake shook Fiji early Saturday, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. There were no immediate reports of damage or injury.
The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue a tsunami warning.
The magnitude-6 quake was centered 270 miles west-northwest of the Fiji capital, Suva, USGS said.
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Broken Comet On Its Way
By Tony Phillips
24 March 2006
In 1995, Comet 73P/Schwassmann-Wachmann 3 did something unexpected: it fell apart.
For no apparent reason, the comet's nucleus split into at least three "mini-comets" flying single file through space. Astronomers watched with interest, but the view was blurry even through large telescopes. The comet was a hundred and fifty million miles away.
We're about to get a much closer look. In May 2006 the fragments are going to fly past Earth closer than any comet has come in almost eighty years.
"This is a rare opportunity to watch a comet in its death throes-from very close range," says Don Yeomans, head of NASA's Near Earth Object Program at JPL.
There's no danger of a collision. "Goodness, no," says Yeomans. "The closest fragment will be about six million miles away--or twenty-five times farther than the Moon." That's close without actually being scary.
The flyby is a big deal. "The Hubble Space Telescope will be watching," says Yeomans. "Also, the giant Arecibo radar in Puerto Rico will 'ping' the fragments to determine their shape and spin."
Even backyard astronomers will be able to take pictures as the mini-comets file through the constellations Cygnus and Pegasus on May 12, 13 and 14.
Ironically, despite being so close, these comets will not be very bright. The largest fragments are expected to glow like 3rd or 4th magnitude stars, which are only dimly visible to the unaided eye.
"Remember," says Yeomans, "these are mini-comets."
They're not like the Great Comets Hayutake and Hale-Bopp of 1996 and 1997. Those could be seen with the naked eye from light-polluted cities. The fragments of 73P, on the other hand, are best viewed from the countryside-and don't forget your binoculars.
The number of fragments is constantly changing. When the breakup began in 1995 there were only three: A, B and C. Astronomers now count at least eight: big fragments B and C plus smaller fragments G, H, J, L, M and N.
"It looks as though some of the fragments are themselves forming their own sub-fragments," says Yeomans, which means the number could multiply further as 73P approaches. No knows how long the "string of pearls" will be when it finally arrives.
This is very uncertain; indeed, forecasters consider it unlikely. But an expanding cloud of dust from the 1995 break-up of the comet could brush past Earth in May 2006 producing a display of meteors.
"We believe the cloud is expanding too slowly to reach Earth only eleven years after the break-up," said astronomer Paul Wiegert at the University of Western Ontario. "but it all depends on what caused the comet to fly apart-and that we don't know.
"The most likely explanation is thermal stress, with the icy nucleus cracking like an ice cube dropped into hot soup: the comet broke apart as it approached the Sun after a long sojourn the frigid outer solar system," he explains. "If this is truly what happened, then the debris cloud should be expanding slowly, and there will be no strong meteor shower."
On the other hand, what if "the comet was shattered by a hit from a small interplanetary boulder?" A violent collision could produce faster-moving debris that would reach Earth in 2006.
Wiegert expects to see nothing, but he encourages sky watchers to be alert. It wouldn't be the first time a dying comet produced a meteor shower:
"One outstanding example is comet Biela, which was seen to split in 1846, and had completely broken apart by 1872," he says. "At least three very intense meteor showers (3000-15000 meteors per hour) were produced by this dying comet in 1872, 1885 and 1892."
Assuming a thermal breakup for 73P, Wiegert and colleagues have calculated the most likely trajectory of its dust cloud. Their results: dust should reach Earth in 2022, "producing a minor meteor shower--nothing spectacular. However," he adds, "the ongoing splitting of the comet means new meteoroids are being sent in new directions, so a future strong meteor shower from 73P remains a real possibility."
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Polar Meltdown Near: Seas Could Rise 3 Feet Per Century
By Ker Than
LiveScience Staff Writer
posted: 23 March 2006
02:19 pm ET
About 130,000 years ago, an ice age ended and there was a period of few centuries before the next one began. During this lull, Earth's temperature warmed, glaciers retreated and ice sheets melted. Sea levels rose by up to 20 feet.
Scientists warn that this could happen again-and soon. But while the last great thaw was the result of a natural tilt in the Earth's axis towards the Sun, the next one will be caused by humans, some scientists argue.
If global warming continues at its current pace, by 2100 Earth could be up to 8 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than it is today. If steps are not taken soon to reduce greenhouse emissions, the Arctic will be as warm as it was 130,000 years ago and similar rises in sea level will occur, according to two new studies released today.
"Although the focus of our work is polar, the implications are global," said Bette Otto-Bliesner from the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Colorado, who was involved in both studies. "These ice sheets melted before and sea levels rose. The warmth needed isn't that much above present conditions."
The studies are the first to definitively link Antarctica to the sea level rises that occurred between the last two ice ages, the researchers say.
Called the Last Interglaciation, this period lasted from about 129,000 to 116,000 years ago. Scientists had previously known that meltwater from Greenland and other Arctic ice sheets were important factors in sea level rises during this period, but it was unclear what Antarctica's contribution was.
The new results, which draw upon a combination of computer simulations and paleoclimate records, suggests that Arctic melting caused sea levels to rise by up to 11 feet during the Last Interglaciation.
This in turn triggered melting in Antarctica, causing sea levels to rise further.
The researchers combined a computer climate prediction model, the NCAR-based Community Climate System Model (CCSM), with ice sheet simulations to estimate what the Earth's climate was like 130,000 years ago.
They crosschecked the computer's estimates with data from natural records of ancient climate change such as sediments, fossils and ice cores.
All the methods indicated similar warming. However, the computer model showed meltwater from Greenland and other Arctic sources raising sea levels by only about 11 feet, while coral records indicate that the sea level actually rose up to 20 feet.
The researchers think this discrepancy can be explained by meltwater from Antarctica, which could have caused sea levels to rise by another 6 to 10 feet.
Rising seas from Arctic meltwater would have destabilized ice shelves in Antarctica, causing them to melt or break apart and fall into the ocean.
"It's just like throwing a bunch of ice cubes into a full glass of water and watching the water spill over the top," said Jonathon Overpeck of the University of Arizona, who was also involved in both studies.
This hypothesis is consistent with earlier studies based on fossilized microscopic marine organisms, which showed that parts of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet disappeared at some point over the last several hundred thousand years.
3 feet per century
Once the researchers were confident that their computer model could accurately simulate past climate conditions, they used it to predict future climate change.
"Getting the past climate change correct in these models gives us more confidence in their ability to predict future climate change," Otto-Bliesner said.
The researchers concluded that if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed and we continue with "business as usual," Arctic temperatures will become at least as warm as it was during the Last Interglacial.
If this happens, humanity will be committing the planet to a sea level rise as drastic as, or worse than, the 20-foot increase that occurred 130,000 years ago, Overpeck said.
"Paleoclimatic data shows that we could get 3 feet of sea level rise per century," he told LiveScience. "That's what we would be triggering later in the century. We'd be committing to a sea level rise of that magnitude."
Currently, global sea level rises at a rate of about an inch per decade.
Not too late
Scientists warn that if the warming seen 130,000 years ago occurred today, it would be accelerated by global warming and other human activities.
"The ocean is the vehicle by which this heat is getting to the edges of the ice sheets, so if you increase the rate at which you're putting heat into the ocean, then it would further accelerate the melting," said Robert Bindschadler, a glaciologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center who was not involved in the study by Otto-Bliesner and Overpeck.
Bindschadler is the author of another study, also published in this week's issue of Science, which shows how glaciers can be melted from below by pockets of warm water.
The pace of Arctic melting would also quicken because of pollution-darkened snow, scientists say, which absorbs more sunlight and melts faster than regular snow.
The process will become irreversible sometime in the second half of the 21st century unless steps are taken in the next few decades to curb greenhouse gas emissions, Overpeck said.
"We need to start serious measures to reduce greenhouse gases within the next decade. If we don't do something soon, we're committed to four-to-six meters (13 to 20 feet) of sea level rise in the future."
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Iran In The Cross Hairs
Give Iran The Bomb:
The black commentator
The United States gives India, already a nuclear power, greater nuclear capability, but threatens war, death, the destruction of Iran's oil supply, and a world wide financial catastrophe if Iran dares to want the same thing.
On August 6, 1945 the United States killed over 100,000 men, women and children at Hiroshima, Japan with the newly invented atomic bomb. Three days later a second bomb was dropped on the city of Nagasaki. Some victims were incinerated into thin air, others fled in agony with their skin hanging from their bodies. Thousands more died in the weeks, months and years that followed.
The justification for this horror is the usual one for blood thirsty behavior. We killed people in order to help them, a convenient explanation for the perpetrators.
In fact, large numbers of civilian casualties were not an incentive for the Japanese to surrender. The napalm fire bombing of Tokyo and other cities created similar numbers of casualties but the Japanese didn't surrender after those human catastrophes. More than likely the Soviet Union's declaration of war against Japan motivated the raising of the white flag. The mass murder of thousands served only as a test for a new weapon, a horrific experiment in mass murder.
The United States is still the only nation to use an atomic weapon on human beings. Keep that fact in mind when we are whipped into a frenzy of fear regarding the possibility of Iran developing a nuclear weapon.
Every impartial observer of Iran's nuclear program agrees that it is at least five to ten years away from attaining a nuclear weapons capability. You wouldn't know it to hear members of Congress, the lapdog press and the Israeli government.
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinajed already had a bulls eye on his head when he quoted the Ayatollah Khomeini's decades old call to "wipe Israel off the map." Cooler heads know that Israel, unlike Iran, already has a nuclear capability. Estimates range from 75 nuclear warheads to 300. A country without nukes can't harm a country that has at least 75.
The numbers are only estimates because Israel has never acknowledged the existence of its nuclear weapons and has never submitted to the same international inspections that it demands of Iran. Iran is a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Israel is not. Iran, without nukes, is called a threat to Israel, which is armed to the teeth with them.
While we are being propagandized into creating another human rights and foreign relations nightmare, it is the United States that has single handedly killed nuclear non-proliferation with its recent deal to boost India's nuclear capability. India may keep China in check so India gets the nuclear goodies.
The United States gives India, already a nuclear power, greater nuclear capability, but threatens war, death, the destruction of Iran's oil supply, and a world wide financial catastrophe if Iran dares to want the same thing. The United States created the nuclear world and now sustains it through rank cynicism.
Politicians and the press constantly make the case for war by declaring that Iran is run by "crazies." As usual, a history lesson is in order. The Iranians elected a secular democratic government in the early 1950s. Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh made the mistake of getting a little too uppity and had the gall to think he could nationalize oil production in his own country. The British and American governments weren't having any of it. They overthrew Mossadegh and installed the Shah.
On July 3, 1988 the U.S. navy shot down, accidentally we are told, an Iranian passenger jet, killing 290 people. When Bush the elder became president he awarded the Legion of Merit for "exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of an outstanding service" to the commander who ordered the shot fired. Whose country is crazy?
The United States let the nuclear genie out of the bottle 60 years ago. The United States encourages the non-nuclear world to want to join the club. The lesson of the now three year old occupation of Iraq is simple. Get the bomb and the Americans will leave you alone.
The Iranians deny wanting to use their nuclear technology for military means. They may be lying about their intentions but it hardly matters. The reality is that Iran won't threaten Israel, or the United States either. They won't give a bomb to Hamas. They are not crazy.
Politicians who say that the military option can't be taken off the table or Iran must not be allowed to get the bomb, either believe what they say and are insane, or know there is no threat but cynically go along to get elected. Death and destruction are always political winners in America.
It would be wonderful to have a non-nuclear planet, but the nuclear have nots are being rational when they want to change sides. North Korea may be called a "crazy" nation but it is a nuclear nation and gets a little more respect. North Korea moved ahead with its nuclear plans even as its citizens were starving to death. North Korea concluded that starvation was a small price to pay in order to join the killer elite.
When you watch John McCain or a Democratic presidential hopeful foam at the mouth about the prospect of a nuclear Iran, don't fear the Iranians. Fear your own government instead. Its plans are always crazy.
Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BC. Ms. Kimberley is a freelance writer living in New York City. She can be reached via e-Mail at email@example.com. You can read more of Ms. Kimberley's writings at freedomrider.blogspot.com.
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No more stalling on Iran: Rice
Thu Mar 23, 6:59 PM ET
WASHINGTON - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, displaying impatience with slow UN talks on Iran's nuclear activities, warned "there can't be any stalling" in dealing with the potential threat.
"There is no time for delay in taking on this issue," Rice said of the discussions on a draft UN Security Council statement on Iran that have been snagged by objections from Russia and China.
"There can't be any stalling. The international community has got to act," the chief US diplomat told reporters after talks here with Greek Foreign Minister Theodora Bakoyannis.
Citing what she called an "erosion of confidence" in Iranian statements that its nuclear program was strictly peaceful, Rice again called for a united front to press Tehran to give up suspected plans to build a nuclear bomb.
"People are looking to the international community to show that this can indeed be dealt with diplomatically," she said. "We are committed to a diplomatic solution, but it has to be dealt with."
Her tone contrasted with her remarks a day earlier while on a trip to the Bahamas, where she expressed confidence the UN Security Council would eventually agree on the language of a statement on Iran.
"We will come up with a vehicle (for addressing the Iranians), I am quite certain of it," she had told a news conference. "If it takes a little longer, I'm really not concerned about that."
A Western diplomat reported Thursday that the UN Security Council would not reach agreement this week on a Franco-British statement demanding that Iran suspend all uranium-enrichment activities.
The diplomat, who asked not to be named, said the council's five veto-wielding permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- were too far apart for a deal to be sealed this week.
The talks among the so-called P-5 have been bogged down by Russian and Chinese opposition to any hint of punitive measures, including sanctions, in the Franco-British statement.
The United States' UN ambassador, John Bolton, told reporters in New York that the P-5 ambassadors were awaiting the outcome of conversations at the ministerial level before deciding their next move.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said: "There are discussions going on, and clearly we haven't reached a final agreement on a text, so we're going to have to continue with our diplomacy."
He said Rice in recent days had spoken to her British counterpart Jack Straw on several occasions but did not report any other contacts.
"We believe it's moving in the right direction," McCormack said, adding that "right now, our focus is on a presidential (non-binding) statement" that requires unanimity by the 15-member council.
Washington and its European allies have been pressing Tehran to suspend its uranium-enrichment activities and return to negotiations on economic and other incentives for abandoning any nuclear weapons aspirations.
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Iraq's Militia Problem: Go Blame Iran
Sunday March 26th 2006
If you listen to PNAC conspirator and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad,
more “Iraqis are dying from the militia violence than from the terrorists.” However,
this time last year the CIA’s National Intelligence Council informed
us Iraq was a training ground “for the next generation of ‘professionalized’ terrorists,” as
the CIA’s favorite newspaper, the Washington
Post, characterized the situation.
NIC Chairman Robert L. Hutchings described
Iraq as “a magnet for international terrorist activity.” Last October,
in a speech billed by the White House as a major policy address delivered at
the NED (the National Endowment for Democracy, a neoliberal “democratization” NGO
that is not an NGO but a front supported and funded by neocon reactionaries) Bush told
us if the U.S. left Iraq the “insurgents” would “use the
vacuum created by an American retreat to gain control of a country, a base
from which to launch attacks and conduct their war against nonradical Muslim
Prior the invasion, Bush’s neocon handlers went all out to convince
us that Saddam had trained “al-Qaeda” terrorists and after the
invasion the rationale for invading morphed into an effort to fight terrorists
there instead of here. Once again, through Zalmay Khalilzad, the excuses for
the invasion and occupation of Iraq have changed and the violence no longer
comes from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and “al-Qaeda in Iraq” but from
No mention here of the fact the CIA promised to spend $3 billion over three
years, beginning in early 2004, to recruit and train “Iraqi exile groups,
Kurdish and Shi’ite forces” and “former mukhabarat agents” to “quell
the insurgency,” according to the UK Telegraph.
Obviously, so long as CIA fostered “militia groups” were “patrolling
cities and towns in many areas of Iraq” and engaging in “an increasing
number of extra-judicial killings of prominent former Ba’athists,” there
was no problem for Khalilzad and the neocons. However, the predictable (and
in fact engineered by the neocons) internecine violence must now be portrayed
as out of control and a threat to the entire “democracy” project
in Iraq—more of a threat, if we are to believe Zalmay Khalilzad, than
the “insurgency” itself. It is relatively easy to see where all
of this is going.
“Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Friday the United States—probably
Khalilzad—will talk to Iran about Washington’s accusations of Iranian
destabilization of Iraq, in the first public acceptance of an Iranian offer
to meet,” writes Nick Olivari for Reuters.
Naturally, any “talk” with Iran is designed to fail and portray
the evil mullahs as intransigent, yet another building block pretext for an
ultimate shock and awe campaign.
Last June, “several top U.S. officials” accused “Iranian
intelligence agents” of fomenting violence in Iraq. One such “official” is
Iran-Contra figure, “universal fascist,” and neocon éminence
grise Michael Ledeen, a “scholar” at the criminal American Enterprise
Institute. “We are drowning in information about Iranian activities in
Iraq,” Ledeen told NewsMax. “After
the battles of Fallujah and Hilla, we found names of Iranian contacts, locations
of safe houses, telephone numbers, and photographs that document Iranian activities.” According
the United States has obsessed over the alleged “al Qaeda and/or Zarqawi” connection
in Iraq and has thus missed “the full context,” in other words
the involvement of Iran and Hezbollah. It appears Zalmay Khalilzad and the
Bush neocons are now taking Ledeen’s appraisal to heart. Iran remains
firmly in the crosshairs of the Straussian neocons.
Earlier this month, Matt
Sherman, writing for the New York Times, explained how “the followers
of the young anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr” have “gained
significant influence over police and governors in the south of the country.” According
to the Voice
of America, dubbed the official broadcasting service (or propaganda organ)
of the United States government, “Moqtada al-Sadr is linked both to
terrorist groups and to one of the leading state sponsors of terrorism, Iran.” In
short, through a complaisant al-Sadr, the Iranian mullahs are not only calling
the shots in Iraq but also exact “significant influence over police
and governors in the south of the country.”
Get ready for a sustained propaganda campaign against Iran that will rival
the one used against Iraq and Saddam Hussein. “Like a roomful of Energizer
bunnies,” writes Andrew
I. Killgore, the neocons “just keep going and going and going,” marching
with determination toward conflict with “axis of evil” Iran, the
next target on the neocon hit list. Zalmay Khalilzad is in essence announcing
a new sustained propaganda campaign against Iran as the Straussian neocons
prepare to sabotage any “talks” with Iran over “how to stabilize
neighboring Iraq,” billed as “high-level meetings,” according
to the Associated
Press, approved by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran’s
supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Of course, these “talks” will fail and fail spectacularly, as
the Straussian neocons do not intend to resolve political issues in the Middle
East through negotiation. ‘’We announced that we do negotiate with
the U.S. on Iraq regarding the interests of all Iraqis and the world of Islam,'’ Ahmadinejad
said. However, once again, Ahmadinejad will serve as a useful idiot and the
Iranians will be demonized as intransigent terrorists, determined to engage
in suicidal attacks against Israel and U.S. proxies in Iraq—and according
to Michael Ledeen, the United Stagtes proper. In the meantime, no deviations
from the Straussian neocon script for total war in the Islamic and Arab Middle
East will be tolerated.
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Terrorism victims seek redress from museums
By Michael E. Ross
Updated: 11:47 a.m. ET March 23, 2006
In two lawsuits with implications for museum collections across the nation, a group of Americans is suing Iran, hoping to seize antiquities to satisfy a judgment against Tehran for allegedly sponsoring a deadly terrorist attack.
On Wednesday a judge in U.S. District Court in Chicago extended the period of oversight on museums that have custody of Iranian historical artifacts. In early April, the judge will rule on whether the Americans are entitled to take the artifacts as compensation for the injuries they suffered in a bomb blast in Israel in 1997.
It's the latest chapter in a drama pitting Americans against a foreign country - as well as their own government. The case has also put the spotlight on the controversial origins of some priceless collections in American museums.
Deadly 1997 bombing
On Sept. 4, 1997, three bombs packed with nails, screws and glass ripped through a pedestrian mall in Jerusalem, killing five people and injuring nearly 200 others. The militant Palestinian group Hamas claimed responsibility for the suicide bombings.
Eight Americans who were "severely and permanently injured" in the carnage filed two suits, Diana Campuzano v. the Islamic Republic of Iran et al, and Jenny Rubin et al. v. the Islamic Republic of Iran, et al. Their target was Iran because it is widely believed to fund Hamas.
Represented by Rhode Island attorney David J. Strachman, the victims sued the Iranian government and three top Iranian officials in federal court.
When none of the defendants appeared, the Americans won a default judgment in September 2003. Ruling that Hamas "has a close relationship with Iran," and that the bombing "would not have occurred without Iranian sponsorship," U.S. District Judge Ricardo M. Urbina ordered Iran to pay $423.5 million in damages to the eight plaintiffs.
Realizing it would be impossible to collect from the Iranian government, Strachman set his sights on Iranian antiquities, arguing that museums illegally removed historical artifacts from sites in Iran during the 1930s, making them a legitimate form of compensation for his clients.
Since then Strachman has been pursuing artifacts from several institutions, including the University of Chicago; the University of Michigan; the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which has an ancient Near Eastern collection with artifacts from Iran, Iraq and other points in the Middle East; and the Detroit Institute of Arts, which has an Islamic art collection dating from the 1100's.
Despite the court victory, the plaintiffs still face another hurdle: the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976, which has provisions for excluding some foreign property from seizure. The federal government says museum collections fall into that category.
In 1996 Congress amended the law to permit suits against countries considered sponsors of terrorism, including Iran. The American hostages released by Iran after the 1979 hostage crisis sued and won a judgment in 2001.
But the Bush administration decided the suit violated the Algiers Accords, the January 1981 agreement that secured the hostages' release after 444 days in captivity, and under which the United States pledges "not to intervene directly or indirectly, politically or militarily in Iran's internal affairs."
Old battle grinds on
A judge threw out the hostages' lawsuit in 2002, and the Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal in 2004. The Washington Post reported recently that the hostages have not given up and are appealing to Congress for help.
But after more than a quarter century, their progress has been meager, in large part because of diplomatic and political exigencies, and their case could be instructive for the Hamas victims.
Making the government's case in the Hamas bombings, U.S. attorney, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, now special counsel in the CIA leak investigation, said that only the foreign property of another country that is used for "commercial purposes" can be seized for compensation and that museum artifacts don't fall into that category.
Strachman continues to maintain that many artifacts are really the property of the current Iranian government. "The [U.S.] government is making a specious argument," he told MSNBC.com. "The State Department has consistently opposed efforts to compensate victims of terrorism, and has interfered in all these cases. ... What kind of message does that send to Iran? What does it say when our own government seems intent on hurting us?"
Strachman has had experience with such suits before. In July 2004 he won a $116 million judgment against the Palestine Liberation Organization in connection with the shooting deaths of an American couple in the West Bank in June 1996. He's still trying to collect on that judgment.
Museums keeping tabs
Museums are closely watching the antiquities lawsuits. Joseph Brennan, general counsel and vice president of Chicago's Field Museum, whose collection of Iranian antiquities may be targeted, rejected the idea that artifacts obtained in the last century are subject to current laws.
"If you can impose modern standards on acquisition methods of a hundred years ago, I'm going to be in the business of litigating permanently," Brennan told the Chicago Tribune on March 13.
Since then, the museum has refused to comment, other than to commiserate with the victims. "We are very sympathetic," Brennan said, "but we don't think that this is what those laws are for."
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Most Iranians not anti-Semitic
Faye F. Farhang
The extremist Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has called for Israel to be wiped off the map and recently denied the Holocaust, thus propelling the militant mullahs of Iran to the pinnacle of anti-Semitism.
In the midst of Ahmadinejad's unwarranted statements, however, it is the average Iranian who suffers yet another blow. While the ugly hatred of a self-elected group of Iranian leaders is exposed, where does this leave the Iranian people?
For the majority of Iranians, whose opinions convey unswerving opposition to the militant regime, it may be an opportunity for them to set themselves apart.
Early anti-Semitism in Europe resulted in the expulsion of Jews from Spain and other countries; the latest hatred led to the annihilation of 6 million innocent lives during World War II. In Iran, however, anti-Semitism came about as an essential import of early Arab invaders who pillaged Iranian cities. Their reliance on harsh enactments of Islamic law in order to discriminate against and degrade Iranian Jews, in addition to the majority Zoroastrian population, was an attempt to force religious conversion.
To this day, remnants of those treatments, largely excised by the late shah of Iran, survive as insults. These insults are derogatory terms implying "unclean" in Farsi. They exist in the language of the ignorant and the vengeful, and take form in the anti-Semitic policies of Ahmadinejad's government.
But to say that this ignorance spreads to the whole of the Iranian population both is false and an inadequate analysis of the Iranian psyche.
Iranian Judaica is intertwined with Iranian culture - whether Iranians are Jews or non-Jews. Iran remains the land of Queen Esther, Mordechai and Daniel, bearing their traditions, their stories and their triumphs. On Friday Shabbat, in one of the oldest Iranian cities, Isfahan, when Iranian Muslims light candles, they light them in memory of their Jewish ancestors. So even if they are sincere converts today, living their lives as secular or practicing Muslims, they have not forgotten their Jewish past nor the traditions of their ancestors.
Further emphasizing Iranian connectivity is the long-standing and considerable Jewish population - before 1979, it was between 80,000 and 150,000; and today, even with the presence of a hostile government and the migration of thousands to the United States and Israel, the population survives at around 35,000.
Despite the meddling throughout history to destroy it, Iranian Jewry is more than 2,000 years old, nearly as old as the Iranian civilization itself - and inherently connected to it.
Even though Ahmadinejad's government and his position toward Jews fail to represent the Iranian people, the situation should be of caution to the average Iranian. For the Iranian regime is not only in a position of high disdain toward the international community, it reflects a theocracy that seeks eventual destruction of the very traditions that have made Iran great throughout its history.
For the individual Iranian who not only may feel solidarity with the Jews of his homeland but also carry the ancestry of a 2,000-year-old practice, condemning the regime's anti-Semitic language and acts of hatred quietly, out of fear, may no longer suffice.
This time, the regime's complete disregard is personal - it insults a tradition that has contributed fundamentally to Iranian customs and culture, and should be confronted loudly and without compromise. In doing so, Iranians may not only bolster the country's Jewish community, but continue to prove that the Iranian majority stands apart from the present extremist regime, and remains innately connected as a people through tradition.
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Odds n Ends
US-China trade war looms
Senators' protectionist anger over $200bn trade gap puts pressure on Beijing and risks damaging future strategic relations
American senators could vote this week to slap tariffs of 27.5 per cent on all Chinese goods, amid a rising clamour of protectionist anger on Capitol Hill.
The sponsors of the so-called Schumer-Graham Bill were in Beijing last week - Chuck Schumer's first official trip overseas in 25 years - to press home the message that China's cheap currency gives it an unfair advantage over the Americans. Schumer, a Democrat who represents New York, and his Republican co-sponsor, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, have been promised a vote on the measure by the end of March.
Beijing announced a revaluation of the yuan last year, but so far it has only been allowed to appreciate against the dollar within tight limits - too slowly for Schumer, who said in Shanghai on Friday: 'We are not going to give up until we've seen a plan [from China].'
The US ran a trade deficit of more than $200bn with China last year, as shoppers sucked in low-cost consumer goods from the fast-growing economy. Like Japan in the Eighties, China is the target of protectionist rhetoric.
'There's a growing antipathy to free trade in Congress, and the Bush administration is fully on board,' says Dan Ikenson of free market think-tank the Cato Institute. Treasury Secretary John Snow has repeatedly pressed the case for the Chinese to float their currency.
Schumer and Graham will hold talks with colleagues in Congress to decide whether to press their bill to a vote. 'The jury's out,' Schumer said. 'We're going to make a decision next week. We're not saying yes, we're not saying no.'
A third Senator, Iowan Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, has suggested he could table a compromise bill that would call for harsher scrutiny of the Chinese by the US administration, without imposing tariffs immediately.
Ikenson predicted that the senators would back away from making a move this week and await the outcome of a state visit by Chinese president Hu Jintao in April, but with many other anti-China bills also tabled in Congress, the pressure for action is mounting. He compared the rhetoric in Washington to furious objections to the takeover of US ports by Dubai Ports World last month. 'I look at the Dubai Ports situation - Congress turned into a mob. Everyone wanted to be seen as doing something about it. I think the same dynamic could take hold on the trade issue.'
Some analysts have compared the bill with the infamous 'Smoot-Hawley' tariffs of 1930, which kicked off a tit-for-tat transatlantic trade war and helped turn the stock market crash of 1929 into the Great Depression. Phillip Swagel of the American Enterprise Institute said that unless Schumer drew back from the brink this week, he could become known as the Smoot of the 21st century: 'He would go down in history as the man who crashed the US economy.' He said the anti-China senators were likely to 'declare victory', having delivered their message to the Chinese in person.
But Stephen Roach, chief economist at Morgan Stanley, who met the senators - and Beijing officials - in China last week, said the rhetoric on Capitol Hill was already damaging a fruitful trading relationship. 'China is deeply troubled over the outright hostility from an increasingly xenophobic US Congress,' he said.
He said the trade deficit was the flipside of America's insatiable demand for foreign goods and its lack of savings. The US consumes more than it earns and borrows the difference, much of it from Asian central banks, including China's.
'The danger is that the United States views China with a growing sense of distrust - poisoning the chances for strategic co-operation and squandering one of the greatest opportunities of globalisation,' Roach warned.
Chinese premier Wen Jiabao made it clear that he has no intention of acceding to US politicians' demands. 'It is unfair to make China a scapegoat for structural problems facing the US economy,' he said. China has repeatedly said that it plans to float its currency eventually, but it fears the impact of 'big bang' flotation on its fragile financial sector.
Ikenson warned that by threatening punitive sanctions, America would exhaust Beijing's goodwill, which it might need for tougher geopolitical issues in the future: 'If we continue to hound them about their currency, we're not going to have enough left to push them on issues that really matter.'
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Workers On The Slag Heap Of History
By DAVID SIROTA
Today, in America, the richest country on earth, the gates of many towns welcome visitors with abandoned factories. And the communities these factories flank tell you more about what's really destroying America than any Wall Street analyst or Washington policy wonk ever could.
Since leaving the Philadelphia area, I've learned firsthand that these Anytown, USAs are everywhere - not just on the East Coast. One of them can be found by driving north through the shimmering cattle pastures on Montana Route 12, right near where I now live. There, you'll be welcomed to East Helena by two defunct gray smokestacks rising from giant black mounds of what looks like spent coffee grounds, but is in reality industrial slag.
The towers, piercing an otherwise pristine Rocky Mountain vista, tell a story being told throughout America - a story not just of abandonment but of legalized theft afflicting both urban centers, and yes, small-town outposts.
East Helena's plant was once a lead smelter, owned by Asarco.
In 1999, the company was bought by Grupo Mexico. That international conglomerate is headed by Larrea Mota-Velasco, listed as a billionaire by Forbes magazine's "The World's Richest People" in 2001. Within two years of the takeover, Grupo Mexico shut the smelter down, costing East Helena more than 200 jobs.
If the story ended there, it would be just another tale about the brutal consequences of globalization on blue-collar America. But what happened after is what should instill fear in millions of workers, urban or rural, blue or white collar.
In 2003, the company hiked health-care premiums for retirees. Executives claimed the company was under financial duress and that it thus "reserves the right to amend or terminate the plans at any time for any reason... even after you retire."
Retirees were forced to accept the increases while a lawsuit dragged into 2004. That was the same year Asarco's corporate parent reported more than a quarter-billion in profits in the fourth quarter alone - yet the company refused to back down.
Last year and this year, it has been more of the same. The company began delaying disability checks to retirees, property tax payments to the budget-strapped East Helena schools and cleanup operations at the smelter.
Meanwhile, according to the Associated Press, the company pressed a three-year wage freeze and reductions in pension and medical benefits for its workers in Arizona. These moves came as Grupo Mexico reported profits of more than $1 billion in 2005.
"The community worked really hard to understand and deal with the layoffs," said Bob Pyfer, 56, who grew up in East Helena. "But when you hear about those profits and the company's treatment of its retirees, it just makes you angry."
Pyfer's grandfather came to East Helena from Slovenia in the 1920s for a job at the smelter, where he worked for 40 years. Pyfer grew up working summers at the smelter, too. Now a lawyer, he sees a disturbing trend that goes way beyond one hamlet.
"These workers, like others all over, gave their lives to their company and they incurred serious health risks along the way," he said. "That means, at the very least, these companies shouldn't be able to use bankruptcy or reorganization to get out of what it owes to their workers." Being allowed to do that, he said, is "a serious concern whether you live in East Helena or not."
These reverse Robin Hood tactics are everywhere. At both Delphi and United Airlines, executives have used bankruptcy to enact massive cuts in wages and pensions - while cementing millions of dollars worth of new bonuses for themselves.
AND GM and Ford are demanding wage and benefit cuts. But, as BusinessWeek reported in June 2005, as "both GM and Ford still pay a dividend, GM CEO G. Richard Wagoner Jr. got a $2.5 million bonus for 2004 on top of his $2.2 million in salary" and "both companies have huge cash hoards - $20 billion at GM and $23 billion at Ford."
True, these companies have problems. But they are using those problems as an excuse to bilk workers and enrich themselves - and our government is doing nothing to stop them.
In the 1980s, audiences watching Oliver Stone's "Wall Street" often cheered Michael Douglas' famous "Greed is good" speech. After Enron, we stopped cheering, and lawmakers promised to stop corporate abuse. We now know those promises were lies.
Congress passed class-action "reform" limiting citizens' capacity to fight back against corporate abuse in court, budgets cutting services for displaced workers and a bankruptcy bill allowing courts to rubber-stamp companies' rip-off schemes. Meanwhile, in a recent Wall Street Journal story about pension cuts, the Labor Department said retirees "aren't our constituents anymore."
So, while East Helena, its rotting Asarco plant and its mistreated retirees may seem far away or isolated, the town's tale is not as distant as you think.
Unless our government starts outlawing these heists and forcing profitable multinationals to fulfill their promises to workers, East Helena's story may soon be coming to a community near you.
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Gulf 'ghost ship' search fails to unlock mystery
Customs officers have not been able to find many clues about how an unmanned ship came to be drifting in the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Customs spokesman, Matt Wardell, says they boarded the abandoned tanker this morning, south-west of Weipa.
Mr Wardell says they have been able to identify the 80-metre long boat as the Jian Seng, but have not discovered its nationality or port of registry.
He says a broken tow-rope is hanging from its bow.
"Our boarding party, following a search of the vessel, has speculated that the vessel was inoperable and under tow when the tow-rope broke and it was subsequently abandoned and has drifted into its current position in Australian waters," he said.
He says they will continue to monitor the boat until they decide what to do with it.
"I should say there's no suggestion there's been anybody on board recently or that the vessel's been used in any people smuggling activity," he said.
"There's also no indication that the crew left the vessel in any haste or in any distress.
"One of the things we have found on board is a large quantity of rice and we believe that the vessel may have been used to resupply fishing boats with food and fuel in waters outside Australia's exclusive economic zone."
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is sending a tug boat to retrieve the ship.
AMSA's Tracey Jiggins says they have arranged a salvor to bring the boat to Weipa.
"Due to the remote location of the vessel and the need to relocate salvage crews from the east coast, it's anticipated that just one tug will arrive on scene early on Monday the 27th of March," she said.
"But in the interim period before the salvors can reach the vessel, AMSA's working closely with other agencies, including Maritime Safety Queensland to minimise any risk of damage to the environment."
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Scientists may have found 'missing link' in Ethiopia
Last Updated Sun, 26 Mar 2006 00:02:36 EST
Scientists in northeastern Ethiopia have discovered the skull of a small human ancestor that could be a missing link between the extinct Homo erectus and modern man.
The hominid cranium was found in two pieces last month near the town of Gawis in the Afar region of northeastern Ethiopia.
It is believed to be between 250,000 and 500,000 years old, a very significant period in the history of mankind.
The face and cranium of the fossil are recognizably different from that of modern humans but they bear unmistakable anatomical evidence that they are ancient humans.
"The Gawis cranium provides us with the opportunity to look at the face of one of our ancestors," Sileshi Semaw, director of the Gona Paleoanthropological Research Project in Ethiopia, said in a statement. "This fossil links us with the past by showing a face that is recognizably different and more primitive than ours."
Sileshi, an Ethiopian paleoanthropologist based at Indiana University, said most fossil hominids are found in pieces, but a near-complete skull, a rare find, provides a wealth of information.
Homo erectus, which many believe was an ancestor of modern Homo sapiens, is thought to have died out 100,000 to 200,000 years ago.
The cranium dates to a time about which little is known, the transition from African Homo erectus to modern humans. The fossil record from Africa for this period is sparse and most of the specimens poorly dated, project archeologists said.
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Turks fear possible earthquake following upcoming solar eclipse
24 March 2006
ANKARA, Turkey - Residents in a small quake-prone central Turkish town have set up tents in streets and gardens in fear of a possible earthquake following the March 29 solar eclipse, a report said on Friday.
Northwestern Turkey was struck by a devastating earthquake in August 1999 that killed some 17,000 people just six days after another solar eclipse, and some believe the temblor was triggered by the phenomenon.
Although scientists have appeared on television to reassure the public that there is no evidence of any link between an eclipse and earthquakes, many still fear that next week's eclipse could cause a new disaster.
In the town of Niksar and surrounding villages, some 400 kilometers (250 miles) east of Ankara, residents have set up tents equipped with TV sets, the Sabah newspaper said.
Niksar was devastated by two earthquakes in 1939 and 1942, the newspaper said.
A solar eclipse occurs when the moon crosses between the Earth and sun. On March 29, the eclipse will be visible across a track stretching from Brazil, crossing through much of Africa, into Turkey and ending in Mongolia.
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Ark's Quantum Quirks
Signs of the Times
March 27, 2006
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