The planet is in a bad state, but some of the cures, such as that of killing off 90% of the population by ebola, are worse than the disease... or are in fact part of the disease.
Pretty much anyone who can see clearly and think straight is aware that the earth, be it human society or the environment, isn't in great shape. The list of problems we are facing is put forward in great detail each day on the Signs page. The question is, what to do about it?
There are two main poles around which solutions are being discussed: the first takes as its assumption that there is more than enough wealth and resources on the earth to feed, clothe, lodge and support the population. Therefore, the solution is a rearrangement of the production and distribution of that wealth, which should, by right, belong to everyone. The second solution begins by saying that the earth cannot support the current population and that there must be a drastic reduction (anywhere from 60%-90%) to create a viable, sustainable economy.
Our own take is that there are no solutions short of a change in the individuals that make up the population. Until each of us gets in touch with his or her higher centres and fuses the real 'I' that exists only in potential, we will continue to be buffeted by the conflicting voices of our many small 'I's, subject to the basic drives of sex, fear, and security, and the situation on the planet will express the conflict within.
We assign a high probability to the notion that the people who rule this world want to implement the second solution. It is the underlying drive for war in the Middle East, for the propaganda around the topic of "peak oil", for the so-called war on terror, for the growing loss of civil rights and the imposition of a fascist state in the US, and the other entropic lines of force we see. Obviously, those in power, speaking in strictly material terms, do not wish to relinquish power, they do not want to abandon their luxury and great wealth, their ability to consume at will. The first solution would necessitate such a change, and it isn't going to happen.
Now, if an argument was made that the population needed to be reduced by 60%-90% in order to maintain the rich and powerful in their riches and power, it wouldn't get too far among those who are excluded, so it is clear that other arguments need to be advanced to bring a certain portion of the population onside. One argument could be that the earth is running out of the necessities; there simply isn't enough to go around, and therefore, for the good of everyone -- because we don't want billions of people living in misery and starving to death, do we? -- we must reduce the population. This is the argument given by the proponents of the "peak oil" scam. They tell us that the reduction can be done through consultation with people like the Dalai Lama to ensure it is done in the best way possible.
Others think a reduction can be accomplished through growing social awareness of the problem. People will understand that we need to bring forth fewer children, only one per couple.
But what is being encouraged in all of these arguments is a linkage of the state of the planet with the need for population reduction, and the notion that population reduction is possible, even "humanely" possible.
The article "Meeting Dr. Doom" offers another path to reduction: killing off 90% of the population by unleashing the ebola virus. The article describes the warm reception, the applause and cheers, that greeted the exposition of this idea by Dr. Eric R. Pianka, known as The Lizard Man for his study of reptiles, recently in Texas. Are we to imagine that his audience of students and academics was filled with cold-hearted killers who were rising in anticipation of the idea of mass murder? Leaving aside the easy jokes that could be made about Texas and the village idiot who is now POTUS, we don't think the audience were Jeffrey Dalmer wannabees at all. But that is what is so frightening. Through the use of fear -- an accurate portrayal of the actual state of the world and where it is heading -- normal folks can be made to accept genocide. Of course, the underlying assumption on their part is that they will not be among those who will suffer the painful and horrible death that is ebola.
Wikipedia gives the description of the symptoms of ebola as follows:
Among humans, the virus is transmitted by direct contact with infected body fluids such as blood. The incubation period is 2 to 21 days. Symptoms are varied and often appear suddenly. Initial symptoms include: high fever (at least 38.8° C, 101° F), severe headache, muscle/joint/abdominal pain, severe weakness and exhaustion, sore throat, nausea, and dizziness. Before an epidemic is suspected, these early symptoms are easily mistaken for malaria, typhoid fever, dysentery, or various bacterial infections, which are all far more common. The secondary symptoms often involve bleeding both internally and externally from any opening in the body: Dark or bloody stools and diarrhea, vomiting blood, red eyes from swollen blood vessels, red spots on the skin from subcutaneous bleeding, and bleeding from the nose, mouth, rectum, genitals and needle puncture sites. Other secondary symptoms include low blood pressure (less than 90mm Hg) and a fast but weak pulse, eventual organ damage including the kidney and liver by co-localized necrosis, and proteinuria (the presence of proteins in urine). The span of time from onset of symptoms to death (from shock due to blood loss or organ failure) is usually between 7 and 14 days.
Nice way to die, isn't it? Of course, in three to five weeks, the "problem" of overpopulation could be eliminated! After all, someone else's agonising death is hardly a high price to pay for guaranteed sustainable living! And it won't kill all the poor, little animals; it'll ony kill those nasty humans!
And if you still need some reassuring before giving your assent, Wikipedia indicates that some of the horror stories may well be exaggerated:
Myth: The virus symptoms are horrifying beyond belief. Victims of Ebola suffer from squirting blood, liquifying flesh, zombie-like faces and dramatic projectile bloody vomiting.
Reality: Only a tiny fraction of Ebola victims have severe bleeding that would be even somewhat dramatic to witness. Most of the bleeding is subtle, occurring internally. Ebola symptoms are usually limited to extreme exhaustion, a high fever, headaches and body pains.
The following is an excerpt from Ed Regis's interview21 with Philippe Calain, M.D. Chief Epidemiologist, CDC Special Pathogens Branch, Kikwit 1995:
"At the end of the disease the patient does not look, from the outside, as horrible as you can read in some books. They are not melting. They are not full of blood. They're in shock, muscular shock. They are not unconscious, but you would say 'obtunded', dull, quiet, very tired. Very few were hemorrhaging. Hemorrhage is not the main symptom. Less than half of the patients had some kind of hemorrhage. But the ones that bled, died."
Keep in mind, however, that this part of the Wikipedia entry is "disputed". After 5.5 billion people are eliminated, perhaps those who are left will have assembled enough data to come to a final decision. We hope they remember to update Wikipedia.
Dare we say that any person with a conscience would find the entire idea of population reduction to be psychopathic? But if you check out the student evaluations on the website of Dr. Pianka, you'll find that his students by and large adore him. And the evaluations do indicate that he discusses ebola and population reduction in his class! He is a man in a position of power who is using his course to indoctrinate his students into the ultimate goal of the powers that be, using their awareness of the ecological disaster awaiting us to bring them "onside". That is, he is twisting the genuine and sincere desire of young minds for a different world into cannon fodder or the apocalypse.
Gold closed at 583.50 dollars an ounce on Friday, up 4.2% from $560.00 for the week. The dollar closed at 0.8252 euros on Friday, down 0.7% from 0.8308 euros at the end of the previous week. That put the euro at 1.2118 dollars, compared to 1.2036 the week before. Gold in euros would be 481.52 an ounce, up 3.5% from 465.27 for the week. Oil closed at 66.35 dollars a barrel on Friday, up 3.2% from $64.27 at the end of the previous week. Oil in euros would be 54.75 euros a barrel, up 2.5% from 53.40 the Friday before. The gold/oil ratio closed at 8.79, up 0.9% from 8.71 for the week. In U.S. stocks, the Dow closed at 11,109.32, down 1.5% from 11,279.97 the Friday before. The NASDAQ closed at 2,339.79 on Friday, up 1.2% 2,312.82 at the close of the week before. In U.S. interest rates, the yield on the ten-year U.S. Treasury note closed at 4.85%, up 19 basis points from 4.66 for the week.
Friday was the last day of the first quarter of 2006, so let's recap the year so far. Gold went from $519.70 an ounce to $583.50, a rise of 12.3% in three months. Oil went from 61.04 dollars a barrel to $66.35, an increase of 8.7% after having risen 40.5% in 2005. The yield on the ten-year U.S. Treasury note increased 46 basis points from 4.39 to 4.85 so far this year. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up for the quarter, going from 10,717.50 to 11,109.32, a rise of 3.7%. The NASDAQ rose 6.1%, from 2,205.32 to 2,339.79 in Q1 2006. Sounds like good news for the U.S. stock market, unless you compare stock prices to the price of oil or gold. The dollar fell 2.3% from 0.8440 to 0.8252 euros so far in 2006.
Here are some charts showing the numbers we have been following for the past five quarters:
The trends we saw in 2005 continued in the first quarter of 2006: sharp rises in gold and oil, increases in long-term and short-term U.S. interest rates, relative stagnation of stocks, and the dollar and euro trading within a limited range.
Given the complete disaster that the U.S. invasion of Iraq has turned out to be, given the collapse in political support and legitimacy for the neocon project domestically, and given the hatred and resentment engendered against the United States throughout the world by the neocon imperial project, it might be surprising that stocks and the U.S. dollar have not fallen further. U.S. stocks represent the profit-making ability of U.S. corporations, and the early stages, at least, of even disastrous wars offer plenty of opportunities for profit. War in Iraq and fears of a much wider war have driven oil prices up, but that only led to record profits for U.S. oil companies. Here are some examples from Britain of how it's done:
British companies draw huge profits from occupied Iraq
By Harvey Thompson
1 April 2006
According to the findings of a recent joint investigation by Corporate Watch, an independent watchdog, and the Independent,a total of 61 British companies are identified as benefiting from at least £1.1 billion of contracts and investment in occupied Iraq since the US-led invasion.
Corporate Watch believes that the real figure could be as much as five times higher, as many companies have undisclosed business dealings in Iraq and the value of several large contracts is unknown. The investigation was further muddied by the UK government's refusal to release the names of companies it has directly helped to win contracts in Iraq.
British firms include private security/military services, banks, PR consultancies, urban planning consortiums, oil companies, architects offices and energy advisory bodies.
The report acknowledges that although British corporations still lag behind the huge profits paid to US companies (the latest Halliburton/KBR military contract alone is worth about £2.85 billion), in two areas British firms are playing a central role. The Iraqi insurgency means private security companies (PSCs) or private military companies (PMCs) are in great demand, and it is the one area where British firms are on a par with their US equivalents. Corporate Watch estimates there are between 20,000 and 30,000 security personnel working in Iraq, half of whom are employed by companies run by retired senior British officers and at least two former defence ministers.
The biggest British outfit, Aegis - run by Tim Spicer, the former British army lieutenant colonel who founded the PMC Sandline - has a workforce the size of a military division and may rank as the largest corporate military group ever assembled, according to the report. It has made more than £246 million from a three-year contract with the US Pentagon to coordinate military and security companies across Iraq.
Other private security/military companies have sprung up almost overnight to protect British and American interests. Among the highest grossing UK corporations Iraq is the construction firm Amec, which has made an estimated £500 million from a series of contracts restoring electrical systems and maintaining power generation facilities since 2004. Another PMC, Erinys, has amassed more than £86 million, a substantial portion from the protection of oilfields.
Britain is also playing a critical role in advising on the creation of state institutions and the "business of government." PA Consulting, which has also received a contract for advising on the UK government's identity cards scheme, worth around £19 million, is now a key adviser in Iraq.
Loukas Christodoulou of Corporate Watch has been monitoring British business relations with Iraq since the March 2003 invasion. He says in his conclusion to the joint report: "The presence of these consultants in Iraq is arguably a part of the UK government's policy to push British firms as lead providers of privatisation support. The Department for International Development has positioned itself as a champion of privatisation in developing countries. The central part UK firms are playing in reshaping Iraq's economy and society lays the ground for a shift towards a corporate-dominated economy. This will have repercussions lasting decades."
In five years, the £1.1 billion official figure of contracts identified in the report will be dwarfed by what British and the US companies hope to reap from investments. In addition to this, highly lucrative oil contracts have yet to be handed out. The Anglo-Irish company Petrel Resources, an oil and gas exploration company, is seeking licences to run three existing oil wells, for example...
Clearly, then, it would be a mistake to equate the economic health of a country with that of its corporations. The Treasury has been looted for Bush's reckless wars and other giveaways to the rich. U.S. taxpayers will have to pay for these giveaways with both their taxes and with their pay and benefits. Will the United States public ever wake up enough to demand changes? The U.S. media's coverage of the labor protests in France asks that very question (from an unsympathetic point of view):
US media reacts to French protests with hatred and fear
By Jerry White
1 April 2006
The US media, not known for following the internal political developments of other countries too closely unless it has a direct impact upon the US, has provided an inordinate amount of ill-tempered commentary on the wave of protests and strikes in France against the introduction of a law that enables employers to fire young workers without cause.
The reaction of the media has been universally hostile, varying from denunciations by the right-wing press of "mob rule" to the more low-key perplexity expressed by the liberal media, which suggests that French are suffering from some type of collective dementia because they believe they have the right to such things as job security.
The headlines of several newspaper commentaries give a flavor of this contempt, from the Wall Street Journal's, "The Decline of France" (March 21) and "Casseurs" (or "Smashers," March 29); to the Washington Post's "French take to the Streets to Preserve their Economic Fantasy" (March 22) and "The French In Denial" (March 28); to the New York Times' "France's Misguided Protesters" (March 27).
In one way or another all of the commentaries suggest the protests are illegitimate. They declare that France's labor laws and social protections are outmoded and must be "reformed" if corporations are to thrive and create jobs. They suggest that "everyone" agrees with this, everyone, that is, except the millions of workers and young people marching on the streets of France. Echoing the infamous comments of British Prime Minister Tony Blair at the time of the invasion of Iraq, the US media suggests that the strength of a democracy is measured by the ability of political leaders to defy the will of the people and do "what's right."
As always, the Wall Street Journal leads the pack of reactionary voices. Having spared no provocative insult against Jacques Chirac and Dominique de Villepin for refusing to line up behind the US invasion of Iraq, the Journal now declares the French president and prime minister the champions of democracy. The French government is facing down "Jihadist" students, who, the newspaper claims, are resorting to violence to defend their "religion of job security." Writer Nidra Poller declares, "Democracies run on elections and legislation; mobs rule by fire and the sword," suggesting that state repression is needed to crush the protests and uphold "democracy."
Like the Wall Street Journal, the premise of liberal newspapers such as the Washington Post and the New York Times is that France's high unemployment rate is due to the unfair burden placed on employers by the social protections fought for by the working class and put in place after World War II. If corporations are given the unrestricted right to fire workers and exploit them like American workers, the story goes, this will entice companies to create new jobs.
While "those of you brainwashed by Anglo-American market capitalism" see the need for this type of "market flexibility" to increase employment, Post writer Steven Pearlstein declares cynically, "viewed through the dark prism of the French imagination, these aren't real jobs - they're 'garbage jobs' and 'slave contracts' meant to undermine the birthright of all Frenchmen to be shielded from all economic risk. Give in on this, and who knows what could go next? The 35-hour workweek? The six weeks of paid vacation? State-mandated profit sharing? Retirement at age 60?"
Oh, what horrors!
Posing as a defender of the unemployed, Pearlstein claims that the reason immigrant youth and many university students cannot find jobs is because a "shrinking pool of older, middle-class workers" enjoy the "full panoply of worker protections" and are "sucking the innovation and vitality from the economy." Expressing dismay over the fact that young people are demanding the same rights their parents achieved, Pearlstein complains, "rather than supporting the reforms that might generate more jobs and more income, the outsiders have bought into the nostalgic fantasy of a France that once was, but can never be again, making common cause with the very 'insiders' whose selfishness and pigheaded socialism have left them out in the cold."
Indeed it is the continuing influence of socialism and egalitarian ideals in France - in spite of the betrayals of Stalinism and social democracy - that most outrages Pearlstein and his cohorts in the media. The Post reporter disparagingly notes the results of a recent poll by the University of Maryland on international policy attitudes showing that only 36 percent of French respondents felt that "the free enterprise system and free market economy" is the best system. This was the lowest percentage of any of the 22 countries polled and compared with 59 percent in Italy, 65 percent in Germany, 66 percent in Britain and 71 percent in the United States.
Complaining that France sported "only" 14 billionaires, as compared to 24 in similarly sized Britain, Pearlstein concludes his column: "Indeed, when you ask French university students who is the Bill Gates of France, they look at you blankly. It's not simply that they can't name one. The bigger problem is that they can't imagine why it matters, or why that has anything to do with why they can't find a good job."
Nowhere does Pearlstein explain how the hoarding of vast fortunes by the super-rich and the gaping levels of social inequality have improved the lot of American workers. Instead, he, along with the other well-heeled pundits in the corporate-controlled news media take as given that US employers should wield dictatorial powers in the workplace and retain the unquestioned "right" to destroy thousands of jobs and slash wages and benefits. After all, Dr. Pangloss, this is the best of all possible worlds.
Pearlstein's fellow columnist at the Post, Robert J. Samuelson, argues that the protests in France point a "larger predicament" for Europe. "Hardly anyone wants to surrender the benefits and protections of today's generous welfare state, but the fierce attachment to these costly and self-defeating programs prevents Europe from preparing for a future that, though it may be deplored, is inevitable."
Samuelson then lets the cat out of the bag, acknowledging that the media's take on the French protests is bound up with political situation in the US and concerns over how American workers will respond to the unprecedented attacks now on the agenda of corporate America and both of its political parties. "The dilemma of advanced democracies," he says, "including the United States, is that they've made more promises than they can keep. Their political commitments outstrip the economy's capacity to deliver...To disavow past promises incites public furor; not to disavow them worsens the country's future problems."
This anxiety over possible "public furor" in the US was spelled out even more clearly in a USA Today editorial, entitled, "Before you scoff at the French, consider the U.S. connection." It begins by warning that the French protests demonstrate the "lengths that people will go to preserve guarantees and benefits" despite "harming their own long-term prospects and those of their children."
While the US should consider itself "fortunate" that it does not "endow its workers with the right not to be fired," the editorial says, "one can see counterproductive sentiments similar to those of the French protesters in the workers at companies such as General Motors. They demand preservation of generous pensions and lifetime health coverage from employers that might be driven out of business...
"On a larger scale, it's possible to see the French in the intractability of the Medicare and Social Security debates," the editorial continues. Claiming that longer life spans, the coming retirement of baby boomers and exploding health costs, were pushing the government and economy toward a "fiscal abyss," the newspaper complains that "those who receive these benefits, or are about to, have shown scant interest in reforms needed to avert a looming crisis..."
The editorial concludes: "The USA rarely has the strikes and street protests that France is almost as famous for as its cheeses. But it does suffer from some of the same unwillingness to consider the future."
Thus, the media's sudden interest in France reveals itself to be a concern that working class resistance could spread to the US itself, where the reactionary agenda of free market policies was initiated in the first place, before it spread to Britain and the rest of the world. With unrelenting attacks on workers by GM, Delphi, Northwest Airlines and other US corporations, as well as plans by the Bush administration to slash "entitlement" programs to pay for further tax cuts to the rich and the burgeoning costs of America's worldwide military adventures, there is no doubt that at least some establishment figures who are not too blind to see are considering the possibility that if mass opposition could explode in France, it could happen here too.
The arguments that society simply cannot afford to provide for the basic needs of working people are becoming increasingly threadbare, not only for French workers but for their American counterparts as well. Despite their efforts to reassure themselves about popular support for the profit system, the reality is that there are growing numbers of workers and youth in America who realize that the real problem is that society cannot afford to allow a tiny minority of the population to monopolize the wealth created by working people. Despite the insistent claims over the years about the death of the class struggle and the working class, the explosive events in France, as they so often have done throughout history, are a sign of what is coming throughout the world, and within the US itself.
If the ruling class in the United States really is afraid of its own people, then they may have to inflate the dollar even more to keep the U.S. public from mass bankruptcy. According to this scenario, the types of controls that have been working so well on the U.S. public are dependent for their efficacy on the general prosperity of the public. If, on the other hand, they are not afraid of the public, if they feel they have the situation well under control, then they may believe that their prospects of maintaining control will be even better under economic collapse. If that is the case, and I think it is, then we are in trouble.
Ron Jacobs, writing in Counterpunch about the differences between French and U.S. public opinion, identifies one of the best forms of control imposed on the U.S. public: the idea that no one can do anything to prevent corporate autocracy:
Where Capital is Not God
France Shows the Way
By Ron Jacobs
March 31, 2006
Back in the 1990s, when I was part of a union organizing effort at the University of Vermont, one of the assumptions expressed by the school's administration was the inevitability of the university's continuing corporatization. This assumption was also shared by many of the workers that we were attempting to organize. Furthermore, the assumption was not one specific to the university. Indeed, it was actually usually expressed as part of a larger reality that assumed that the world was going to continue down a path that would result in the ultimate supremacy of the world's largest corporations and banks running everything. Most of these businesses were naturally US- owned, even if they had their offices overseas.
Now, the aspect of this whole series of assumptions that irked me the most wasn't that the corporations (and, locally, the university's administration and trustees) told us that this was a good thing. Nor was it that they acted like this scenario was a natural thing, because, according to the laws of capitalist accumulation, it was. No, what irked me the most (and still irks me) is the attempt to portray this form of monopoly capitalism and corporate takeover of every part of our lives as something over which no one has any control. This portrayal is so complete that most workers, especially in the US (where capitalism reigns supreme) honestly believe that there is nothing they can do but submit. When your company tells you that they are gutting your pension plan, you submit. When your medical premiums increase three hundred percent, you submit. When your pay is reduced in the name of making a concession, you submit. It's as if these attacks on your livelihood are not mere attempts by the owners and their executives to maintain their profit levels, but are instead edicts from heaven that no one dare not obey.
This consciousness exists not only in our work lives. It is also omnipresent in our government, where we elect men and women who gut the minimal economic protections that existed for the least among us so that we can provide tax cuts for the wealthiest people in the world. In addition, we ignore the obvious attempts to legalize every form of graft and corruption while we excuse those politicians who happen to be busted committing crimes of corruption that have yet to be legalized. It's as if we as a people have given up our lives to some omnipotent god and that god not only controls our social beings, he controls our entire selves. The false consciousness of capitalism has so thoroughly taken over our minds that we no longer have anything even approaching souls. Anybody that dares to point this out is immediately branded as someone who is, at best, not a team player and, at worst, an anarchist or a criminal. Or maybe even (god forbid) a terrorist!
Corporations, set up by conscious design as psychopaths are the perfect tool for the pathocracy. They keep people occupied, make them atomized and hopeless, all the while funneling wealth to the pathocrats. Jacobs continues,
France Shows the Way
In a recent Newsweek column economist Robert Samuelson mocked the protests by French workers and youth against the proposed youth employment law known as the CPE or (what the protesters prefer to call) the Kleenex law. Samuelson, who seems to accept the aforementioned supremacy of the neoliberal marketplace (and its inevitable victory over all), wrote: "the student protesters in France think that if they march long enough...they can make the future go away. No such luck." He continued, enumerating the various global capitalist arguments against the so-called welfare state and its economic inviability in today's modern world. According to this mindset. the decision by many governments to dismantle their systems of national health care, public education, subsidized housing, and old age security is not a matter of choice, but one of necessity. If such cuts are not made, say the cuts' proponents, there will be no future.
Of course, this is simply not true. What this mindset's adherents really mean is that maintaining the current systems of health, education and general welfare for the general population would require bucking the system of international capitalist accumulation and profiteering. It would mean that all of that money being made by so very few corporations and banks would have to be put back into the various national economies from which it has been taken. The entire international economic system of the past sixty years would have to be re-examined and redesigned. In short, new choices would have to be made. Choices that put people, not profit first. Choices that would provide decent work for all of those wishing to work. This is what the French youth and workers are telling their government and the corporations that it kowtows to. This is what the last decade of protests against the WTO and the rest of the international economic system have been about. Poverty and war are not inevitable. Indeed, they are part of the reason why people leave their countries in the southern hemisphere to work in the northern one. On the other side of that coin, they are also underneath the reason nativist elements want to send immigrants back to their home countries and lock down the borders. The economics of neo-imperialism force the logic of the dollar on them all., causing the breakup of families and the growth of unreasonable fears. Fears that serve the interests of the financial masters behind it all. While immigration is certainly part of the natural evolution of human history, the economics of global capital have certainly forced many to leave the places they prefer to live. A system that pur people first would either leave those people alone or create good jobs where they live, not where capital goes.
The protests against the job law, the WTO and IMF, and totalitarian immigration laws are the results of conscious choices made by a relatively small number of the earth's inhabitants. The protests in France are a wake up call to all of us. It's time we started making our own choices. Because they are bound by their need for profit, the masters of capital have proven that they are incapable of doing so. A French student in Paris stated the situation quite clearly: "You can't treat people like slaves. Giving all the power to the bosses is going too far." (Reuters 3/28/06)
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Editorial: Another brick in the wall
By Robert Fisk
If I were an Israeli I would have built a wall, but not as a way of stealing land
We have been conned again. The Israeli elections, we are told, mean that the dream of "Greater Israel" has finally been abandoned. West Bank settlements will be closed down, just as the Jewish colonies were uprooted in Gaza last year. The Zionist claim to all of Biblical Israel has withered away. Likud, the nightmare party of Menachem Begin and Benjamin Netanyahu, has been smashed by the Gaullist figure of the dying Ariel Sharon, whose Kadima party now embraces Ehud Olmert and that decaying symbol of the Israeli left, Nobel prizewinner Shimon Peres. This, at least, is the narrative laid down by so many of our journalists, "analysts" and "commentators". But it is a lie.
Only in paragraph two - or three or four - of the grovelling news reports from the Middle East do we read that Olmert's not very impressive election victory will allow him to "redraw" the "frontiers" of Israel, a decision described as "controversial" - the usual get-out clause of newspapers that wish to avoid the truth: that Israel is about to grab more land and claim it to be part of the state of Israel. Yes, true, the smaller and more vulnerable Jewish colonies illegally built on Palestinian-owned land may be abandoned - stand by for more of the grief and tears which we witnessed in Gaza. But the rest - the great semi-circle of concrete that runs around east Jerusalem, for example - will not be depopulated.
Let's start with the wall. It will soon run from top to bottom of the occupied Palestinian West Bank - and it is going to stay. It is higher, in the long sectors where it has been completed - east of Jerusalem, for example - than the Berlin Wall. Yet journalists go on calling it a "security barrier" or a "fence" - because the as yet uncompleted sectors of the wall are still coils of barbed wire.
This is part of the dream world that editors and reporters have constructed for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It exists in the same Potemkin landscape that allows journalists to call the occupied Palestinian territory "disputed territory" - after then Secretary of State Colin Powell ordered his diplomats in the region to use this mendacious phrase - and to call Jewish colonies illegally built on Arab land "settlements" or - my favourites now - "Jewish neighbourhoods" or "outposts". It is the same stage set on which Israelis are killed by Palestinians - which they are - but on which Palestinians die in anonymous "clashes" (with whom - and killed by whom, exactly?)
And each of these little lies, of course, contains a kernel of truth. The occupied territories are "disputed" between Israelis and Palestinians, the first claiming that God gave them the land, the second producing land deeds to prove that the law entitles them to their own property. If illegal colonies such as Maale Adumim are built adjacent to Jerusalem - itself illegally annexed by Israel - then of course they are "neighbourhoods". And since the wall - which has gobbled up 10 per cent more Palestinian land for the Israelis - is to prevent suicide bombers (and has been fairly successful in doing so), it is a "security barrier". I seem to recall that the East Germans called the Berlin Wall - or "Berlin Fence" as I suppose we would have to call it if built by the Israelis - a "security barrier". Forget the illegality of occupation, then, and the illegality of stealing someone else's home and land, and the illegality of building a wall that thieves yet more property from the 22 per cent of mandate Palestine which the Palestinians are supposed to negotiate for.
Let me be frank: if I were an Israeli I too would have built a wall to prevent the suicide executioners of Islamic Jihad and, earlier, of Hamas. But I would have built it along the international frontier of Israel - not used the wall as a cheap method of stealing more land. Indeed, under UN Security Council Resolution 242, which is meant to be the foundation of any peace, the acquisition of land through war is stated to be illegal. The wall itself is illegal. The International Court also ruled it to be illegal. And Israel ignored this ruling. So, of course, did the US.
But now the burden of all this post-election theft is to be placed upon Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. This colourless, helpless man, who presided over the Palestinian Authority's continuing corruption, is supposed to persuade the new Hamas government to accept all of Israel's land-grabs, to pick up where the Oslo process left off (which still left Jerusalem in exclusively Israeli hands), and to abandon all violence - which means to surrender whenever Israeli troops raid refugee camps or cities in the West Bank.
The point is that Hamas members have been as assuredly elected representatives of the Palestinians as Mr Olmert and his forthcoming allies in government are representatives of Israelis. But this does not allow them to make any "controversial" plans to redraw their "border" with Israel, not even to insist that Israel withdraws - or redeploys - to its internationally recognised borders. (I'm talking about the pre-1967 frontier, not the 1948 one.) They cannot demand fulfilment of UN Resolution 242 because George Bush has already made it clear that the vast Jewish colonies east of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem itself, will remain in Israeli hands. Sure, 14 of the 24 Hamas ministers have been in Israeli prisons. But what are Palestinians supposed to think when they realise that 15 Israeli generals have been elected to the new Knesset, along with six secret service agents?
Yet even this is not the point. If the Israelis want Hamas to acknowledge the state of Israel, then Hamas should be expected to acknowledge the state of Israel that exists within its legal frontiers - not the illegal borders now being dreamt up by Olmert. We will have to abandon the idea that Ariel Sharon - an unindicted war criminal after his involvement in the 1982 Sabra and Chatila massacres - was really going to give up the major Jewish colonies built illegally on Arab land or the illegal annexation of Jerusalem. Certainly Olmert is not going to do that. He is going to create wider frontiers for Israel and steal - let's call a spade a spade - more Arab land in doing so. The US will go along with this next illegal land-grab. But will the EU? Will the UN? Will Russia? Will our own dear Tony Blair?
Israelis deserve peace and security as much as Palestinians. But "new" and expanded "controversial" Israeli frontiers will not bring peace or security to either.
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Dollars and (non)Cents
U.S. stocks close down on day, up on quarter
By Leslie Wines
4:31 PM ET Mar 31, 2006
NEW YORK -- U.S. stocks closed lower Friday, although the major indices all posted strong quarterly gains, with the S&P 500 scoring its strongest first-quarter gain in seven years, after new data pointed toward a resilient economy.
Friday's losses were linked to end-of-quarter portfolio and index adjustments and did not mark a departure from the bullish sentiment seen in most of the quarter. The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 1.03 point to 2.339.79. For the first quarter the Dow had its best first quarter since 2002, scoring a 3.7% quarterly gain. The Nasdaq Composite rose 6.1% during the priod, marking its best first quarter since 2000. The S&P 500 increased 3.7%, its best quarterly gain since the first quarter of 1999.
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GM to sell GMAC stake to Cerberus group
April 3, 2006
NEW YORK - General Motors Corp. on Monday said it had agreed to sell a 51 percent stake in its financing arm, General Motors Acceptance Corp., to a consortium led by hedge fund Cerberus Capital Management LP for $14 billion, payable over three years.
The Cerberus-led investor group, which includes the private equity unit of Citigroup and Japan's Aozora Bank Ltd., had been viewed as the front-runner for the GMAC stake in what has been a complicated and drawn-out bidding process.
GM said GMAC will continue to be managed by its existing executive management following the deal, which is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2006.
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Consortium launches its agreed $9 bln bid for VNU
By Nicola Leske
Mon Apr 3, 6:25 AM ET
AMSTERDAM - A group of six private equity firms has officially launched its 7.5 billion euro ($9.1 billion) bid agreed last month for market research firm VNU NV
The acceptance period for the offer lasts from April 4 to May 5, VNU said in a statement on Monday, although many analysts say the bid is too low and might fail.
The Valcon Acquisition BV consortium -- AlpInvest Partners, The Blackstone Group, The Carlyle Group, Hellman & Friedman, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and Thomas H. Lee Partners -- has bid 28.75 euros per share for the Netherlands-based company.
VNU's management has recommended that shareholders accept the offer, but several large stakeholders, including Fidelity International, have said that they will not accept any buyout offer at that price because it undervalues the company.
VNU began talking with interested buyers after it failed to convince shareholders Fidelity, Templeton Global Advisors and Knight Vinke -- which together control 40 percent -- of the merits of buying U.S. healthcare data firm IMS Health last year.
The offer is conditional on 95 percent approval and will be discussed on April 18 at the annual shareholders meeting. But Valcon can waive the 95 percent clause if less than 60 percent of shares are tendered and complete its purchase, according to the offer memorandum.
VNU said on March 8 it had considered selling the company in parts, which some investors still believe is the best option, but that it found no takers and that it would lose hundreds of millions of euros in tax benefits.
VNU reiterated in a letter to its shareholders, included in the memorandum, that no buyers were interested in its Media Measurement and Information unit or its Marketing Information division.
It said the price offered by the consortium was fair and cited two opinions written by VNU's financial advisers, investment banks Credit Suisse and Rothschild.
Credit Suisse values the firm at 29.60 euros per share on a stand-alone basis and between 25.90 and 29.35 euros in the case of a break-up. Rothschild sees a sum-of-the-parts valuation in a range of 26 to 29.50 euros and a range of 29.90 to 35.80 euros per share if VNU stays independent and restructures its units.
"The offer price exceeded both the high end of the range of the break-up private market analysis provided by NM Rothschild and the midpoint of the sum of the parts break-up analysis provided by Credit Suisse," VNU said.
However, Fidelity, which owns around 15 percent of VNU, and Knight Vinke, have said they would not support the consortium's offer at the proposed price.
Analysts say it is unlikely that shareholders will be persuaded to support the bid.
"The fairness opinion, in which Rothschild arrives at a value of 35.80 euros, will raise questions to what extent the 28.75 euro bid is fair," Sander van Oort at F. van Lanschot Bankiers said.
"We believe an increasing proportion of shareholders will not tender their shares," he said, adding that a management crisis may emerge.
Chief Financial Officer Rob Ruijter said last week that some board members were prepared to resign if a buyout offer for the market research company was rejected by its shareholders.
The company is already searching for a new chief executive after shareholders rebelled against plans to buy healthcare data provider IMS Health for $7 billion last year, triggering the resignation of CEO Rob van den Bergh.
Van den Bergh joined VNU in 1980 and was named CEO in 2000.
VNU's share price has more than halved since 2000 and was up 0.5 percent at 26.96 euros by 0844 GMT on Monday. The DJ Stoxx European media index was unchanged.
VNU, based in the Dutch city of Haarlem, has transformed itself over the last 40 years from a small Dutch newspaper and magazine publisher into a U.S.-focused business information company that mainly sells data about consumer habits.
Comment: So, the Carlyle Group wants to acquire a US-focused Dutch company that mainly sells data about consumer habits after the company's plans to buy a healthcare data provider flopped...
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Experts See Danger in Rising Oil Prices
By BRAD FOSS
AP Business Writer
Sat Apr 1, 8:50 AM ET
WASHINGTON - Oil prices appear headed back toward $70 a barrel, a level not seen since Hurricane Katrina battered the Gulf Coast and sporadic shortages sent gasoline at the pump above $3 a gallon nationwide.
While last summer's price spike triggered outrage in Congress and hurt sport utility vehicle sales, it caused only a hiccup in motor-fuel consumption. And for now, with demand back on the rise, the economy seems capable of absorbing uncomfortably high prices.
Analysts warn, however, that consumers and businesses could be just one major supply disruption away from more serious financial consequences.
Sherry Cooper, chief economist at BMO Nesbitt Burns, said the ramifications of $70 oil and $3-a-gallon gasoline would be "more mild" the second time around "because we're getting kind of used to it."
But while the gas-price sticker shock may be wearing off, Nomura Securities chief economist David Resler fears a more subtle fuel-related angst settling in among consumers.
"There is the pessimistic notion that this is not going to go away and that's going to have a more lasting impact on driving habits and behavior, I suspect, than we've seen so far," Resler said.
In that context, a hypothetical supply disruption that jolts oil prices to $80 or higher and keeps them there for an extended period - say, three months - could result in "a substantial falloff in discretionary spending" that snowballs into a serious slowdown.
Perhaps the top threat for the oil market is the standoff between the United Nations and Iran, OPEC's No. 2 producer, over Tehran's nuclear energy ambitions. Iran's foreign minister said Friday his country would not use oil as an economic weapon, and that helped ease prices, but analysts say they remain concerned about supplies from
Iraq, Russia, Venezuela and other places.
Unrest in Nigeria has taken more than 500,000 barrels per day of oil off the market, and more than 300,000 barrels per day of Gulf of Mexico output remains shut-in because of damage from last fall's hurricanes.
With global oil demand expected to average 85 million barrels per day in 2006, and excess production capacity limited to 2 million barrels per day, oil analyst Jamal Qureshi of PFC Energy in Washington said prices aren't likely to retreat anytime soon.
"The market is awakening to the scope of the risks," said Antoine Halff, director of global energy Fimat USA in New York.
Yet in spite of all the apprehension about oil supplies - or maybe because of it - U.S. inventories of crude are at a seven-year high of roughly 341 million barrels. That does not include the 685 million barrels in the country's strategic reserve, available in an emergency.
Some analysts point to this buildup of inventories as evidence the market is divorced from reality. IFR Energy Services' Tim Evans sees a "dangerous complacency about the downside potential for prices" - but many more say it is a reflection of unease about geopolitical uncertainties.
On Friday, light crude for May delivery settled at $66.63 a barrel, down 52 cents on the New York Mercantile Exchange. U.S. retail gasoline prices averaged $2.53 a gallon, or 37 cents higher than last year, according to Oil Price Information Service.
The potential exists for $3-a-gallon gasoline at some point this summer, analysts say, but that assumes out-of-the-ordinary disruptions to refining or distribution, or both. The Energy Department, meanwhile, is forecasting an average summertime price of $2.50.
Economists and oil-market experts say industry and homeowners may not like paying more for fuel but they are adapting, in large part because energy is a tiny piece of overall spending and, thanks to more efficient technology, an even smaller piece than it was during the energy crises of the 1970s.
The burden is most severe on low-income families and fuel-intensive businesses, though truckers, chemical manufacturers and, to a lesser extent, airlines have had success in passing along these costs.
Relatively low interest rates, which have made it easy to borrow money while helping to prop up the stock and housing markets, have reduced the impact of high oil prices on the economy.
Of course, the Federal Reserve has raised short-term rates 15 times since June 2004 to cool off the housing market and keep inflation in check, and this is likely to slow growth irrespective of energy prices.
BMO's Cooper said the Fed probably needs to raise interest rates again in May to slow economic growth because there are signs - rising airfares among them - that inflationary pressures are creeping up.
Brian Hicks, co-manager of US Global Investors' Global Resources Fund, a mutual fund heavily invested in energy, said a recession in the U.S. would likely reverberate across emerging-market economies and could quickly depress daily oil demand by 2 million barrels per day.
That dire scenario is not what Hicks or most other financial professionals are anticipating. Hicks forsees oil prices trading in a range of $55 to $65 through the end of the year, with consumption tapering off anywhere above $70 and the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries curtailing production at around $50.
James Cordier, president of Liberty Trading in Tampa, Fla., believes oil prices will climb as long as the economies of the U.S., China and India continue to grow and that prices may need to hit $75 before there is any significant demand response.
"We are going to find out at what price level we start rationing demand," Cordier said. "That is what we have to do."
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Chavez seeks to peg oil at $50 a barrel
Monday April 3, 2006
Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez is poised to launch a bid to transform the global politics of oil by seeking a deal with consumer countries which would lock in a price of $50 a barrel.
A long-term agreement at that price could allow Venezuela to count its huge deposits of heavy crude as part of its official reserves, which Caracas says would give it more oil than Saudi Arabia.
"We have the largest oil reserves in the world, we have oil for 200 years." Mr Chávez told the BBC's Newsnight programme in an interview to be broadcast tonight. "$50 a barrel - that's a fair price, not a high price."
The price proposed by Mr Chávez is about $15 a barrel below the current global level but a credible long-term agreement at about $50 a barrel could have huge implications for Venezuela's standing in the international oil community.
According to US sources, Venezuela holds 90% of the world's extra heavy crude oil - deposits which have to be turned into synthetic light crude before they can be refined and which only become economic to operate with the oil price at about $40 a barrel. Newsnight cites a report from the US Energy Information Administrator, Guy Caruso, suggesting Venezuela could have more than a trillion barrels of reserves.
A $50-a-barrel lock-in would open the way for Venezuela, already the world's fifth-largest oil exporter, to demand a huge increase in its official oil reserves - allowing it to demand a big increase in its production allowance within Opec.
Venezuela's oil minister Raphael Ramirez told Newsnight in a separate interview that his country plans to ask Opec to formally recognise the uprating of its reserves to 312bn barrels (compared to Saudi Arabia's 262bn) when Mr Chávez hosts a gathering of Opec delegates in Caracas next month.
Venezuela's ambitious strategy to boost its standing in the global pecking order of oil producers by increasing the extent of its officially recognised reserves is likely to face opposition. Some countries will oppose the idea of a fixed price for the global oil market at well below existing levels. Others are unlikely to be happy with any diminution of their influence over world oil prices in favour of Venezuela.
Caracas's hopes for an increase in its standing would be a far cry from the days when Mr Chávez came to power after years of quota-busting during which Venezuela helped to keep oil prices down. "Seven years ago Venezuela was a US oil colony," said Mr Chávez.
As he seeks to bolster his country's standing on the world stage, the Venezuelan president has also introduced radical changes to the domestic oil industry. Last Friday his government announced that 17 oil companies had agreed to changes which will see 32 operating agreements become 30 joint ventures that will give the government greater say over the country's oil industry.
The original deals were signed in the 1990s as part of a drive to attract more investment into the country's oil industry. However Mr Chávez said the deals gave foreign companies too much and the government too little. Under the new arrangements state-run Petroleos de Venezuela will hold 60% of the joint ventures. "Now we are associates and this commits us to much more ... it's no longer a contract for doing a service, it's a strategic alliance," Mr Chávez told the companies that signed up.
The new arrangements were not universally welcomed by the oil companies. Exxon Mobil and the Italian energy company Eni have refused to sign up to the new arrangements.
Mr Chávez, a former paratrooper who has survived several attempts to oust him and who faces re-election in December, regards Venezuela's oil revenues as crucial to his plans to fight poverty. Critics accuse him of squandering the country's oil wealth on improvised social programmes.
The Venezuelan president used the Newsnight interview to attack the role of the International Monetary Fund in Latin America, where it has a reputation for pushing market-based reforms as the price of its help to countries struggling with their finances.
The Chávez government has helped a number of countries, including buying Argentinian and Ecuadorean bonds, with Mr Chávez arguing that he would like to see the IMF replaced by an International Humanitarian Fund.
Hugo Chávez was born in 1954. The former paratroop colonel first came to prominence after a failed coup in 1992, for which he was jailed for two years. He was elected president of Venezuela in 1998, launching a social programme known as Bolivarianism, after the revolutionary Simón Bolívar, and reversing planned privatisations. In 2002 he survived a coup attempt and, two years later, a bid to unseat him in a referendum. He has close links with Cuba's Fidel Castro and has frequently clashed with the United States.
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Wolfowitz looks at opening World Bank Iraq office
By Lesley Wroughton
Sun Apr 2, 2006 04:23 PM ET
WASHINGTON - World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz is considering expanding bank operations in Iraq, which would put his agency at the center of rebuilding from a war he helped plan as the Pentagon's former No. 2 official.
Senior bank officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because no final decision had been made, said key donor countries including Britain, Japan, Germany and Denmark are pressuring Wolfowitz to establish a Baghdad office.
The development agency has not had a Iraq office since an August 19, 2003, bombing at U.N. headquarters in Iraq killed a bank employee. A consultant, with a staff of seven Iraqis, is paid by the World Bank looks after its affairs in Iraq.
No World Bank staff would be forced to accept an Iraq assignment, the officials said.
In recent weeks, Wolfowitz sent a fact-finding mission to Iraq, and he was now examining security matters and several reconstruction-related issues, officials said.
The possibility of a new World Bank office revives attention to Wolfowitz's role as an architect of the Iraq war. Many critics have accused the Bush administration and the Pentagon in particular of failing to plan for a post-invasion Iraq, as violence rages three years after Saddam Hussein's ouster.
Michael O'Hanlon, a reconstruction expert at Washington's Brookings Institute, said Wolfowitz's history with Iraq "complicates everything."
"He is a very smart man," O'Hanlon said, "but he is also obviously very controversial in his basic support of the Iraq invasion."
Wolfowitz's predecessor as World Bank president, Jim Wolfensohn, resisted pressure from U.S. lawmakers to return bank reconstruction experts to Iraq after the 2003 bombing.
Comment: No wonder Wolfy was shuffled into the World Bank position...
Since the attack, the World Bank has operated from an office in neighboring Amman, Jordan. However, Iraqi officials have complained about the burden of traveling to Amman to consult with the World Bank. In December, Barham Salah, a Kurdish leader, wrote to Wolfowitz urging the bank's full engagement in rebuilding.
"Reconstruction is an important part of the World Bank's mission -- from Bosnia and Afghanistan to Liberia and Iraq," a senior World Bank official told Reuters. "The objectivity the World Bank brings is greatly valued by donors from around the world, as well as host governments."
U.N. representatives recently met Wolfowitz and urged the bank to help with Iraq's major problems of financial management and civil-service reform.
"There has been a need for the bank to be in Iraq," said James Dobbins, director of the International Security and Defense Policy Center at Rand Corp.. He said, however, the violence in Iraq could limit bank activities.
Other analysts note that the U.S. State Department is winding down its $20 billion Iraq reconstruction program, which focused on large electricity and water projects that have failed to deliver desired results.
O'Hanlon said the bank could offer a "fresh set of eyes," act as an independent broker and generate much-needed employment for Iraqis.
Experts estimate the cost of resuming an expatriate mission in Baghdad at around $1 million a year. "It's not too soon to go into Iraq, but the security issue is extremely serious," a bank official working on reconstruction projects noted.
Others note that if the World Bank expands its presence in Iraq, more international agencies and donor countries would be encouraged to follow.
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France's Alcatel to buy Lucent for $13 bln
By Sudip Kar-Gupta and Michele Gershberg
April 2, 2006
PARIS/NEW YORK - French telecoms equipment group Alcatel said on Sunday it had finalized a deal to buy Lucent Technologies for around $13 billion to strengthen its position in a consolidating market.
The transaction, which will see Alcatel shareholders have the lion's share of the new company, comes amid a wave of consolidation in the telecoms industry and will create a company with combined revenues of around 21 billion euros ($25 billion).
The companies said the deal would result in a 10 percent reduction in their combined global workforce.
"This is an industry where size and scale matter," Patricia Russo, who will be chief executive of the new group, said on a conference call.
The Alcatel/Lucent tie-up had been partly complicated by Alcatel's plans to increase its stake in French defense electronics group Thales -- a politically sensitive issue that has involved the German and French governments.
Alcatel said it would continue talks with Thales over possibly increasing its shareholding in the group. Alcatel now has a stake of around 9.5 percent in Thales, while the French government holds around 30 percent of Thales.
Alcatel and Lucent said the deal was a "merger of equals."
However, Alcatel shareholders will own around 60 percent of the new company, with Lucent shareholders owning the rest.
As part of the deal, Lucent shareholders will receive 0.1952 of an ADS (American Depositary Share) representing ordinary shares of Alcatel for every common share of Lucent that they currently hold.
This values Alcatel's takeover of Lucent at around $13.4 billion.
Alcatel Chairman and Chief Executive Serge Tchuruk will be non-executive chairman of the new Paris-headquartered company.
A tie-up between Alcatel and Lucent strengthens the ability of both companies to negotiate prices with their telephone company customers, who have led consolidation in the telecoms sector.
Alcatel said it expected its acquisition of Lucent to be accretive to earnings per share (EPS) in the first year.
The transaction terms were thrashed out with the backdrop of a complex battle for French company Thales.
Alcatel said it remained keen on increasing its stake in Thales.
Defense industry sources have said Alcatel hopes to fold its satellite activities into Thales in exchange for a bigger stake in the company. However, European planemaker EADS is also keen for a stake in Thales.
EADS tried to grab control of Thales in 2004 and media reports said French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Angela Merkel backed a three-way deal between EADS, Thales and Alcatel to create a leading European satellite firm.
Lucent said it would create a separate and independent unit to oversee its sensitive contracts with the US government.
Retired workers of Lucent had said that the U.S. government should not approve of the deal with Alcatel, but Lucent said the merger was not contingent on their approval.
Alcatel shares closed down 1.5 percent at 12.77 euros on Friday, while Lucent ended down 1.3 percent at $3.05.
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US Defence Work To Be Taken Out Of Alcatel-Lucent Merger
Apr 03, 2006
Washington - Sensitive defence work carried out for the US Defence Department by Lucent Technologies will be put into a separate US-controlled entity following its merger with Alcatel of France, the two said. It is one of a series of notable details of the deal announced by the two on Sunday that will create a 33 billion dollar internet equipment and technology giant.
Presented as a merger of equals, the operation is in effect an Alcatel takeover of Lucent. The French firm will have 60 percent of the capital in the new group which will have its headquarters in France.
But the two companies also said in their statement that they will have the same number of seats on the new company board, and Lucent's chief executive officer Patricia Russo will take up the same post in the new entity.
The move to take Lucent's defence activities out of the merger comes amid rising protectionist sentiment in Congress over US enterprises linked to national security.
"We intend to form a separate, independent US subsidiary holding certain contracts with US government agencies," Russo told a press conference.
"This subsidiary would be separately managed by a board, to be composed of three US citizens who will be acceptable to the US government.
"This is a structure which is routinely used to protect certain government programmes in the course of mergers that involve a non-US parties," she added.
The activities are concentrated at Lucent's Bell Laboratories, the oldest American electronics research centre, which was set up in 1925.
Bell Labs will keep its headquarters in Murray Hill, New Jersey, also the site of the current Lucent head office, said Alcatel chairman and chief executive Serge Tchuruk.
Bell Labs carried out the first long distance transmission of a television programme in 1927 and aims to register at least two copyrights a day from its inventions.
The unit recently won an 11 million dollar contract from the US government to create a broadband communications network for the military.
Setting up the new entity around Bell Labs should mean the Lucent-Alcatel merger will get the green light from the US competition authorities -- and calm any criticism of the deal from Congress.
A law being considered by Congress would ban foreign government-controlled firms from taking stakes in US firms with activities in the US defence sector, unless those interests are put into separate US-controlled entities.
The law follows a major controversy after Dubai Ports World, which is controlled by the United Arab Emirates government, took over a British firm that manages terminal operations at six major US ports.
Alcatel's links with French defence equipment maker Thales could cause problems with the US authorities. Alcatel has a 9.5 percent stake in Thales, and the French state has 31.5 percent.
Thales is a major player in the European defence industry, with interests in systems for combat planes, warships and computer security.
Certain parts of the US media have recently been critical of the French government's opposition to moves to liberalise the European Union economy.
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O'Hare Set for Largest-Ever U.S. Expansion
By MIKE COLIAS
April 2, 2006
CHICAGO - After decades of debate and scrapped blueprints, crews are moving dirt and pouring concrete at O'Hare International Airport for the largest airport expansion in the nation's history.
The seven-year, $15 billion project is designed to eliminate most weather-related delays and erase O'Hare's reputation as the perennial knot in the nation's aviation system.
"It should make the intolerable delays a thing of the past," said Joseph Schwieterman, a transportation expert and economics professor at DePaul University.
Still, some aviation analysts question how quickly the plan will bring relief and whether it can live up to its billing when completed in 2013. Questions also loom over the project's financing, which relies partly on a shrinking pool of federal money and airlines that have been bleeding red ink for years.
And the project faces a fierce legal challenge by residents of two adjacent suburbs, where hundreds of homes and business are slated for removal and 1,300 graves are to be relocated.
"I can't imagine anything more sacrilegious than rolling pavement over pre-Civil War graves," said Bob Sell, a spokesman for St. Johannes Cemetery, where dozens of his relatives are buried.
Much of O'Hare's problem can be traced to its pretzel-like runway configuration, a remnant of its origin as a military airfield during the 1940s. The intersecting layout makes it tough to land planes in Chicago's frequent fog and wind.
"That airfield has probably the most complex geometry of any airfield in the United States ... and possibly the planet," said Mary Rose Loney, a Miami aviation consultant who was Chicago's aviation commissioner in the late 1990s.
Even in fair weather, the airport can be trouble. Since March 21, the Federal Aviation Administration has investigated three close calls on O'Hare's intersecting runways. In one, planes came within 100 feet of each other - the most serious near-crash on a U.S. runway in several years, the FAA said.
When visibility drops or wind gusts, air traffic controllers close one of the three arrival runways to eliminate the risk of collisions. The ensuing bottleneck means planeloads of passengers must wait on the ground in other cities for Chicago's weather to clear.
"O'Hare is so centrally located and has so much traffic that when things get out of whack, the whole system can be impeded very quickly," said Darryl Jenkins, a consultant to numerous airlines.
It's a phenomenon seen firsthand by Wayne Carpenter, a 37-year-old private-equity fund manager who has been flying out of O'Hare weekly since 1991.
"I avoid O'Hare at all costs when I'm flying across the country," he said. "It just seems like I don't see these kinds of delays anywhere else."
O'Hare ranked dead last in on-time performance among the busiest U.S. airports in 2004 - prompting the FAA to cap the number of landings there last year at 88 arrivals an hour between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., down from more than 120. That helped O'Hare's on-time performance a little, but it's only a temporary fix.
Work under way on the expansion's first phase is expected to cut delays by about two-thirds. The first step is a new runway on the airfield's northern edge that will keep three arrival runways open in bad weather. It's due to open at the end of 2008.
The project to untangle O'Hare will create a mostly parallel layout, rather than a crisscrossing tangle. The net result will be just one additional runway - eight instead of seven - but will greatly ease flight operations, planners say.
A new terminal and western access to the airport also are planned.
FAA officials say parallel runways are the ideal design. They point to the success of Dallas Fort-Worth and Denver airports, for example, which have the same number of runways as O'Hare but boast far better performance.
The average delay per aircraft at Dallas, for example, is about 10 minutes. At O'Hare, the average was approaching 20 minutes before limits in 2004, according to the FAA. O'Hare's expansion promises to chop that figure to 5 minutes.
But in the meantime, critics still have questions.
"Do you really have to tear up a lot of runways or do as grandiose a plan as is in play? I'm not sure you do," said Aaron Gellman, a professor at Northwestern University's Transportation Center.
Gellman says improvements to the region's air traffic control system, for example, could go a long way toward increasing O'Hare's capacity.
The project's well-organized, well-financed foes also argue the project will drive up prices for travelers and will not reduce delays because increased capacity will be absorbed with more flights.
"Be prepared for delays the likes of which you've never seen before, and be prepared to pay a whole lot more for your airline ticket," says Joe Karaganis, an attorney for the suburbs and cemetery.
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French PM admits error in handling CPE law
www.chinaview.cn 2006-04-02 06:32:49
PARIS, April 2 (Xinhua) -- French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said in a newspaper interview with the French weekend newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche published on Sunday that he made errors in his management of the controversial First Employment Contract (CPE) jo b law.
"We live at a time where there is a constant attempt to set some people against others. That is not my idea of politics and I refuse to get involved in this kind of game," he said.
"There is misunderstanding and incomprehension about the direction of my action. I profoundly regret it," he said.
He also said he did not feel he had been disavowed by French President Jacques Chirac and he was not "a man to give up".
On Friday Chirac signed the law and offered later two key modifications to the law: reducing a trial period from two years to one and requiring employers to provide an explanation in case of firing.
But the law was published Sunday in the Official Journal before it had any modified version.
French trade unions and student organizations rejected a compromise offered by Chirac and called for another round of national strikes and demonstrations for Tuesday.
The CPE law is aimed at reducing a high youth unemployment rate,which reaches as much as 23 percent among youths and up to 50 percent in some poor, heavily immigrant areas.
But opponents said it will erode hard-won labour rights and make it more difficult for youths to find long-term jobs and criticized that maneuver as "surrealistic" and "undemocratic".
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How to Start a World War
Government in secret talks about strike against Iran
By Sean Rayment, Defence Correspondent
The Government is to hold secret talks with defence chiefs tomorrow to discuss possible military strikes against Iran.
A high-level meeting will take place in the Ministry of Defence at which senior defence chiefs and government officials will consider the consequences of an attack on Iran.
It is believed that an American-led attack, designed to destroy Iran's ability to develop a nuclear bomb, is "inevitable" if Teheran's leaders fail to comply with United Nations demands to freeze their uranium enrichment programme.
Tomorrow's meeting will be attended by Gen Sir Michael Walker, the chief of the defence staff, Lt Gen Andrew Ridgway, the chief of defence intelligence and Maj Gen Bill Rollo, the assistant chief of the general staff, together with officials from the Foreign Office and Downing Street.
The International Atomic Energy Authority, the nuclear watchdog, believes that much of Iran's programme is now devoted to uranium enrichment and plutonium separation, technologies that could provide material for nuclear bombs to be developed in the next three years.
The United States government is hopeful that the military operation will be a multinational mission, but defence chiefs believe that the Bush administration is prepared to launch the attack on its own or with the assistance of Israel, if there is little international support. British military chiefs believe an attack would be limited to a series of air strikes against nuclear plants - a land assault is not being considered at the moment.
But confirmation that Britain has started contingency planning will undermine the claim last month by Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, that a military attack against Iran was "inconceivable".
Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, insisted, during a visit to Blackburn yesterday, that all negotiating options - including the use of force - remained open in an attempt to resolve the crisis.
Tactical Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from US navy ships and submarines in the Gulf would, it is believed, target Iran's air defence systems at the nuclear installations.
That would enable attacks by B2 stealth bombers equipped with eight 4,500lb enhanced BLU-28 satellite-guided bunker-busting bombs, flying from Diego Garcia, the isolated US Navy base in the Indian Ocean, RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire and Whiteman USAF base in Missouri.
It is understood that any direct British involvement in an attack would be limited but may extend to the use of the RAF's highly secret airborne early warning aircraft.
At the centre of the crisis is Washington's fear that an Iranian nuclear weapon could be used against Israel or US forces in the region, such as the American air base at Incirlik in Turkey.
The UN also believes that the production of a bomb could also lead to further destabilisation in the Middle East, which would result in Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia all developing nuclear weapons programmes.
A senior Foreign Office source said: "Monday's meeting will set out to address the consequences for Britain in the event of an attack against Iran. The CDS [chiefs of defence staff] will want to know what the impact will be on British interests in Iraq and Afghanistan which both border Iran. The CDS will then brief the Prime Minister and the Cabinet on their conclusions in the next few days.
"If Iran makes another strategic mistake, such as ignoring demands by the UN or future resolutions, then the thinking among the chiefs is that military action could be taken to bring an end to the crisis. The belief in some areas of Whitehall is that an attack is now all but inevitable.
There will be no invasion of Iran but the nuclear sites will be destroyed. This is not something that will happen imminently, maybe this year, maybe next year. Jack Straw is making exactly the same noises that the Government did in March 2003 when it spoke about the likelihood of a war in Iraq.
"Then the Government said the war was neither inevitable or imminent and then attacked."
The source said that the Israeli attack against Iraq's Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981 proved that a limited operation was the best military option.
The Israeli air force launched raids against the plant, which intelligence suggested was being used to develop a nuclear bomb for use against Israel.
Military chiefs also plan tomorrow to discuss fears that an attack within Iran will "unhinge" southern Iraq - where British troops are based - an area mainly populated by Shia Muslims who have strong political and religious links to Iran.
They are concerned that this could delay any withdrawal of troops this year or next. There could also be consequences for British and US troops in Afghanistan, which borders Iran.
The MoD meeting will address the economic issues that could arise if Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president - who became the subject of international condemnation last year when he called for Israel to be "wiped off the map" - cuts off oil supplies to the West in reprisal.
There are thought to be at least eight known sites within Iran involved in the production of nuclear materials, although it is generally accepted that there are many more secret installations.
Iran has successfully tested a Fajr-3 missile that can reach Israel, avoiding radar and hitting several targets using multiple warheads, its military has confirmed.
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Flashback: Who is the rogue state really?
By Asghar Bishbareh
Information Clearing House
20 Mar 06
A brief history of Iran since 16th century
Summary: Iran is one of the few countries in the world that has never become a colony of any of the imperialist powers. However, during the reign of Kajar dynasty from 1795 to 1925, Iran plunged into a deep crisis, and to some extent, colonial powers dominated Iran both economically and politically thanks to inept and corrupt monarchs. [...] In 1953, the U.S.'s CIA and UK's MI-6 staged the military coup and toppled Iran's democratically elected Prime Minister, Dr. Mossadegh's government, which by any Western standards was much more democratic than that of Americans under the Bush-Cheney administration. In fact, the anti-American revolution of 1979 was the direct consequences of US's policy of regime change in Iran in which US brought down the democratic government and restored the absolute monarchy.
In 1514, Ottoman Turks invaded Azerbaijan (northwest provinces of Iran) and by the treaty of Chaldran occupying some of the area until Nadir Shah expelled them in 18th century. In 1801, Rus-sians annexed Georgia. By the treaties of Gulistan (1813) and Turkomanchai (1828), Russia deprived Iran of its Caucasian provinces, including the territory north of the Aras River, together with a strip of land along the Caspian Sea that is now part of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Russian expansion into Central Asia continued, and finally, by the conquest of Transcaspia in 1884, Iran lost Bukhara, Khiva, and Merv.
In 1920, the Soviet Union invaded Gilan, the coastal province on the west of the Caspian Sea, and set up an independent pro Russian state. During the World War II, (1941) although Iran had stayed neutral, allied forces led by the British and the former Soviet Union) attacked Iran occupying the southern and northern provinces respectively. Subsequently, British removed Reza Shah, the foun-der of the Pahlavi dynasty from power and replaced him with his son, Mohammed Reza Shah.
In 1953, the U.S.'s CIA and UK's MI-6 staged the military coup and toppled Iran's democratically elected Prime Minister, Dr. Mossadegh's government, which by any Western standards was much more democratic than that of Americans under the Bush -Cheney administration. In fact, the anti-American revolution of 1979 was the direct consequences of US's policy of regime change in Iran in which US brought down the democratic government and restored the absolute monarchy.
In spite of that, Bush-Cheney administration frantically pursuing the policy of regime change advocated by Israel, who has been exerting intense pressure through its U.S. supporters to launch war of aggression against Iran under the false justification of Iran's nuclear weapons program.
In 1980, the US and England in conjunction with their supinely obedient rulers, kings, emirs, and sheiks in the Persian Gulf encouraged Saddam to invade Iran, financed Iraq's war machine, and supplied Saddam with technical, logistics, intelligence, chemical and biological weapons.
To safeguard the great nation's territorial integrity and its sovereignty, Iran had no choice but to rebuild and modernize its defense forces. Despite its military might in the region and the geostrate-gic importance of Iran in the world, which stretches from Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf, Iran has always played by the rule and abided by the international law and has never attempted to exploit or impose its will on the neighboring countries or any other sovereign nations for two centuries.
Iran even stayed away from reclaiming its lost territories, which was historically and legally part of the Persian Empire. For example, Bahrain Island is an archipelago consisting of about thirty-three islands situated midway in the Persian Gulf with historical connections to Iran. In the year 1521, the Portuguese colonial forces swept into the island ferociously beheading its king, and ruled the island up until 1602.
During the Safavids dynasty, in 1603, the Portuguese were expelled from the Persian Gulf, including Bahrain by the Iranians naval forces. As a part of Persian Empire, since then the island adminis-tered and governed by the Iranians until 1783, and subsequently, the island occupied and run by the British until 1971. Before the British's withdrawal from the Persian Gulf in 1971, Iranian parlia-ment in November 1957 unanimously passed a legislation decreeing Bahrain, as the 14th Province of Iran. However, because of the peaceful and non-confrontational manners of Iranians in nature, the issue was referred to the UN for peaceful solution.
The UN held a referendum in the island for independence or reunification with Iran. Since the out-come of the referendum favored independence, Iran accepted the outcome immediately. As a result, the UN decided to allow the Bahrainis to form an independent state. Based on the UN decision and backed by Iran, Bahrain, with 70% of Shiite population declared its independence on August 15, 1971.
Ironically, the same very island is now turned out to be a launching pad for the US Fifth Fleet Head-quarters. From whence they break into the neighboring countries terrorizing and attacking the sov-ereign nations based on the fabrication of lies and deceptions in order to steal their natural re-sources, which is the reminiscent of Hulagu Khan's Mongol forces in Baghada and Kublai Khan's armada in the Mediterranean Sea.
Even though British ended its physical presence in the Persian Gulf's sheikhdoms, its influence re-mained strong in the region. Nonetheless, right after the former protector's withdrawals, US took over the region and became the new protector of the states. In 1981, six Persian Gulf Arab states, which are comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emir-ates, created the Cooperation Council of the Arab States of the Gulf (CCG), formerly named Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC).
Qatar is the largest staging post for the U.S. imperial forces in the region, and became the Central Command Headquarters for the US military aggressions against the entire Middle East, and from whence they have already invaded two sovereign nations namely Afghanistan and Iraq based on the hit list, that Israeli mentor had handed Bush even before 9/11. It appears that, the hit list also in-cludes Iran and Syria for Bush-Blair future adventures.
In the recent meeting, the GCC Secretary-General Abdul Rahman Bin Hamad Al Attiyah hypocriti-cally expressed his concern over Iran's civilian nuclear program and declaring that it posed what he called a threat to member countries of the GCC, U.S., and NATO. This statement emanating from a council that has provided the colonial powers and foreign aggressors with the launching pad in their soils to destroy and occupy their Arab brothers homeland in Iraq in the past three years, and now, allowing foreign invaders to do the same to Iran.
UAE, which is another member of the GCC, who obtained the rights to self-governance from England just in 1971 (35 years ago), misleadingly, repeated his claims over the three Iranian islands in the Persian Gulf. Since they have never been masters of their own destinies in the past, therefore, it fol-lows that their foreign protectors need new bases in the region for possible unprovoked confrontation with Iran or as a part of their psychological warfare against Iran designed to destabilize the region. Moreover, in order to create tension in the region, US and England encouraging the states of the GCC to use a bogus name for the "Persian Gulf", which is the only common and internationally recognized term that accepted by the UN.
Election Process in Iran and the US & a tale of the two presidents
Had not been for the Supreme Court (his daddy's old friends') decision in Florida 2000 campaign, Bush would not be able to assume his dictatorial powers by rigging the 2004 election in Ohio in which, thousands of black voters were disfranchised, and foreign observers were barred from over-seeing the election process.
Ahmadinejad and Bush speak for the two different constituencies. While the neocons' cabal has backed Bush's rise to power to represent the corporations like Enron, WorldCom, Arthur Anderson, and Halliburton, on the contrary, working class, unemployed, the rural, urban, and religious poor voted for Dr. Ahmadinejad.
During the eight-year imposed war of Iraq against Iran, Ahmadinejad, the new president of Iran served voluntarily deep inside the enemy's territory. On the other hand, during the patriotic Viet-nam War, George W. Bush, joined the near home Champaign division of National Guards in Texas architected by his daddy and went AWOL for an entire year to escape the war. Furthermore, at the defining moment and at the time of needs, the self declared war president, along with his VP, Che-ney, who is the real president did not raise up from their nuclear proof bunkers for couple of days. 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina events were the examples.
Bush's media trying to portray Ahmadinejad as an absolute dictator, while in fact, he does not enjoy the same power as George W. Bush does. Ahmadinejad is not even the commander-in-chief. Meaning that he cannot declare war, and unlike the US weak Congress who made Bush an emperor by giving him carte blanche, the real power in Iran rests with the parliament (Majlis), the parliament that in the past, impeached one president and many cabinet ministers of governments.
Even Senator, Hillary Clinton, who has backed Iraqi invasion and now supporting Bush policy of confrontation with Iran, recently, said that Bush treated the Senate like a plantation. The strange thing is that the failure in Iraq is now apparent to a large majority of American people, yet the Con-gress is acquiescing to Bush's call for a needless and dangerous confrontation with Iran.
Ahmadinejad was struggling to have his cabinet ministers approved by the parliament. For example, his nominees for the ministry of oil were rejected twice by the parliament, and the process has al-ready begun to impeach his transportation minister over the crash of airplane. On the contrary, Bush has the absolute power to appoint anyone for any posts or offices he wants. He openly, by-passes the congress and the court. For example, John Bolton was appointed by Bush as the US Am-bassador to the UN without even the Congress approval. Simply he exercised his executive power.
John Bolton the one who once said that the UN did not exist without the US. Another way of describ-ing Bolton's comment is that the UN is nothing but the US rubber stamp. In fact, the UN and its subsidiaries like IAEA is a tool used by the US to advance its policy. He is now sitting in the UN and coercing the Security Council to issue a strongly worded "presidential statement against Iran provid-ing the US with a pretext for intervention if Iran continues to enrich uranium.
During the initial confirmation debate of John Bolton in the Senate in 2004, senior Sen. Joseph Bi-den said that sending Bolton to the UN was like sending a bull to the china market.
Bush's Patriot Act, which is now almost the law of the land is in fact, reversed the concept of pre-sumption of innocence into presumption of guilt in the US making Bush an absolute king empower-ing his modern inquisitors to invade the citizens' privacy arresting them even without search war-rants. The reason for this gross erosion of civil liberties is the security of state, which is a term that has been used by all dictators including Hitler. US needs an enemy, if does not exist, the ruling party can create even an imaginary one. During the Cold War, bogyman was the Soviet Union then Sad-dam, now Iran has become Bush's new bogyman.
Exercising his executive power, Bush authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to spy on Americans without warrants, ignoring the procedures of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Consequently, Civil rights leaders are now monitored. Antiwar groups are under surveil-lance. Domestic phones are tapped. Mails are opened and emails are monitored. The FBI is conduct-ing warrantless "black bag" break-ins of private residences and offices, while US government agen-cies have been barred from using persistent cookies since 2000 because of privacy concerns. Police are to be given sweeping powers to arrest people for every offence, including the minor traffic infrac-tions and misdemeanors.
In the first round of Iranian presidential elections in which 62 percent of the eligible voters cast their ballots for seven candidates with diverse political inclinations. The electoral process in Iran was much more democratic than that of the U.S. two-party system of presidential election of 2004 in which each candidate from either party won about 25% of the popular votes (the turn out was about 50% and that in the US, there is no run-off election). This means that about 75% of population did not vote for Bush's reelection. Yet, Bush and his neocons cabal call it democracy.
Therefore, Bush is in no position at this point in time, to question even the outcome of elections in banana republic however, on the eve of the election in Iran, he hypocritically said that the electoral process in Iran ignores the basic requirements of democracy.
Some pundits believe that the intellectually challenged president was cherry- picked and indoctri-nated into the doctrine of Hegelian Dialectic by the illuminati to establish the world new order. They led him to believe that Bush has a heavenly mandate to meddle in the business of every sovereign nation. And therefore, should any of the sovereign states dare not to acquiesces supinely to the US unilateralist and imperial global hegemony, Bush has the divine rights to invade and occupy them by force under the pretext of what he calls WMD, Human Rights abuse, and supporting terrorism.
Despite the fact that there is no a real and visible enemy armed with conventional or non-conventional weapons who wants to attack US and that according to their own investigations, no single state or country directly or indirectly involved in the 9/11 tragedy except, a dozen or few more stateless terrorists, who used the civilian aircrafts as the weapons. However, paranoid war president and the commander-in- chief, George. W. Bush, gripped with hysteria, like Don Quixote de la Man-cha, the hero character of Cervantes, imagines himself as a gallant warrior who is at war with ghosts and giants. Yet, the GOP calls him wartime president.
Bush and his war party keep comparing their wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with the World War II, in which Stalin defeated the army of the Third Reich. On the contrary, neither, Iraq nor Afghanistan had the real combat armies. The Iranians had almost destroyed the Iraqi army during the eight- years war, and the remnants of its military forces were decimated during the first Persian Gulf War. As for Afghanistan, its army was made of almost militia type forces with antiquated weapons lacking air force and mechanized ground forces. Yet, the occupation forces are bogged-down in both coun-tries. However, it is noteworthy that without Iran, the US could never have occupied Afghanistan and Iraq. They know that launching war of aggression against Iran would mean they would be driven out of those two countries."
Unlike the parliamentary democracy, the US president is not directly elected by the popular votes, rather based on the America's 18th century constitution; the powerful Electoral College elects the president. This flawed method of voting system opens the entire election process to all sorts of ir-regularities. When voters cast their ballots, they are actually electing the 538 members of the Elec-toral College, the ones who will really cast votes for the president.
States get one electoral vote for each of 100 senators and one electoral vote per US representative, which are 435, plus three electoral votes for the District of Columbia. It is noteworthy that the larg-est state like California with the population of about 36 million has two senators (the same number of senators for the smaller states), i.e., the state of Wyoming with a population of about half a million has two senators also.
Holy Warriors in the US & Secular Europe
In his first term, during an interview, Bush said that Iran had a history of brutality. Since he doesn't know the history and according to Michael Moore, he does not read the newspapers, or the books rather than the religious ones and so much so, he does not know even the difference between the myth and the recorded history, it follows that Bush's statement must come from the Book of Daniel. 9: 6, which says that Darius, the King of Persia arrested Daniel the Prophet and threw him into the pit of lions. Lumping Iran into the "axis of evil", he has also repeatedly marked Iran as a real threat to the Middle East. It seems that these statements emanating from the Book of Ezekiel 38:5-6, prophesizing that Iran and Armenia from far off lands in the north, are going to gather their forces to attack Israel.
According to the Guardian, a former Palestinian foreign minister Nabil Shaath recalled that Bush confessed, God, apparently addressing the president each time as "George", had told him, "Go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan. Go and end the tyranny in Iraq.
There is no shortage of modern Nostradamus, prophecy gurus, and end time specialists in and around the White House. Among the most flamboyant Armageddon experts and wizards are Hal Lindsey and Pat Robertson. The former claims that he has been in communication with God since he was a child. The latter declared that during the election times God spoke to him pledging that George W. Bush would win the election. Both neocons, are extremely far right fanatics and very in-fluential figures, who are umbilically connected to the White House, and usually, what they preach reflecting the Bush's administration viewpoints.
Pat Robertson, who lives like a king, has invested millions of dollars in stock markets; and according to the ABC News, some believe that he is running a questionable charity organization called Opera-tion Blessing. A super rich Social Darwinist who believes that under-privileged Americans have the liberty to live under the bridge. He also accepts as true that all Muslims are Arabs, including the Iranians. Advocating hatred against the other faiths and philosophies, Robertson, on his private TV show, issued a fatwa (religious edict) ordering CIA to assassinate the Venezuelan democratically elected and popular socialist President, Hugo Chavez who is a critic of Bush's foreign policy.
Recently, he also suggested that Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine punishment for pulling Israel out of Gaza. God considers this land to be his," Robertson said on his TV program The 700 Club. "You read the Bible and he says 'This is my land,' and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away, God says, 'No, this is mine.'" He also said, however, that in the Bible, the prophet Joel "makes it very clear that God has enmity against those who 'divide my land.'"
Bush's former grand inquisitor, John Ashcroft once claimed, "In America, there was no king but Je-sus"? And that the Pentagon's new special ops units' commanding officer, Lt. Gen. William Boykin claimed that "the US Army was the house of God and Muslims the agent of Satan".
According to the Independent, Tony Blair proclaimed that God would judge whether he was right to send British troops to Iraq, echoing statements from his ally, George W. Bush. Contradicting warn-ings from advisers not to mix politics and religion, the Prime Minister said that his interest in poli-tics sprang from his Christianity and its "values and philosophy" had guided him in public life.
The irony here is that Bush and his like-minded advisers and groupthink, which are entirely fanatic extremists, have launched the medieval times style crusade against the other religions' extremists.
It is not coincidence that the Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who is one of the Bush few exponents in Europe and his troops have already joined the Iraqi crusade, defended the far right- neo-conservative Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, who originally published 12 satirical and racist cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The cultural editor of the Danish newspaper is Flemming Rose who has a close ties with far right neocons circle in US, including Daniel Pipes, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson. The same paper that is now defending the freedom of press, refused to publish satirical cartoon of Christ in 2003.
The EU countries keep claiming that they are secular; however, their claim has proved to be other-wise as their national flags echoing the religious symbolism. Furthermore, the foundation of the EU is based on the Christian values. On November 1, 1993, which falls on All Saints Day, at Maastricht, the Netherlands, the 12 members of the formerly named EEC officially ratified and changed it to EC, and subsequently transformed into EU. The festival of All Saints, also sometimes known as "All Hallows," or "Hallowmas," is a feast celebrated in their honour. All Saints is also a Christian formula invoking all the faithful saints and martyrs, known or unknown. The Roman Catholic holiday (Festum omnium sanctorum) falls on November 1.
Crusaders in Iraq
As the Venezuelan writer, Fernando Baez eloquently articulates, what is happening in Iraq today is the largest cultural catastrophe since the Mongols forced entry into Baghdad in 13 century.
According to wikipedia.org, in 1258, the Mongols laid siege to the city and constructed a palisade and a ditch. Siege equipment was erected as well. The bombardment began on January, 1258 and by February 4, a breach was made. By february 5, the Mongols controlled a stretch of the wall. Al-Musta'sim tried to negotiate, but was refused.
On February 10, Baghdad surrendered, after the Caliph Al-Musta'sim came out of the city and gave himself up, at which point he was executed, by wrapping him in a rug and having him either "beaten to a pulp" or trampled by horses. The Mongols swept into the city on February 19, 1258, which began a week of massacre, looting, and fire.
Paradoxically, the brutal assault against the cradle of civilization this time around, planned and executed - not by the Mongols rather by the forces of American modern King George II who shame-lessly portrays himself as the great leader of the civilized world. The brutal invasion of Iraq took place on March 19, 2003, with indiscriminate carpet bombings. The occupation forces used bunker busters and "MOAB" bombs, which apparently, stands for "The Mother of All Bombs, aka the Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb."
However, the real hidden meaning of the "MOAB" goes far deeper than what the US military appar-ently illustrates it as "the mother of all bombs". MOAB is a symbolism and a biblical name repre-senting the Crusade. According to Genesis: 30-38, Moab was the son of Abraham's nephew Lot and the name of a place named after him (the land of "MOAB") in Jerusalem. When the Crudaders occupied the area, the castle they built to defend the eastern part of the Kingdom of Jerusalem was called Krak des Moabites. The name also signifying the covenant, and appears in the Scriptures many times (Genesis: 30-38; Deuteronomy 29:1; Ruth1:1, 22; 2 Kings 1:1; 2 Chronicles 20:22; Daniel 11:41).
The salvo of shock and awe inflicting bombs that went down in Baghdad resulted in mass destruc-tion and devastation of cultural and religious artifacts, which belong to the ancient Mesopotamian kingdoms of Sumer, Akkad, and Babylon where according to recorded history, is the birthplace of civilization.
According to Baez over one million books, 10 million documents, and 14,000 archaeological artifacts have been lost in the US-led invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. Among the world precious books that were burnt in the Baghdad National Library included the early editions of Arabian Nights, the treatises of the two Iran's great mathematician and astronomer, Omar Khayyam and philosopher, scientist, and medical writer, Avicena, aka Abu Ali Sina, and the dissertation of distin-guished Arab- Spanish philosopher, Averroes, aka Ibn Rushdi.
Prior to the invasion of Iraq, Rice said that before mushroom of cloud appeared on Washington DC, the US had to stop Iraq. At the same time, on the other side of Atlantic, notorious Tony "B.Liar" of England claimed that Saddam had capacity to nuke London within 48 hours.
England has the history of brutal colonial tactics of the "divide and rule", and its prime minister, Tony Blair who pursuing the same old dirty trick, claimed that if the occupation forces leave Iraq, there would be civil war, which is nothing but a shell game because the root cause of violence and insurgency in Iraq is the foreign occupation. It is noteworthy that in the 1920s when the British had installed her puppet king and prime minister like Faisal and Noori Said in Iraq whose regime would not last a day without the imperial forces bayonets, then British prime minister at the House of Commons was saying the same things as Blair does today.
American style liberty & freedom of press
Bush also considers himself as the flag bearer of democracy on the face of the planet who supports and disseminates freedom, and liberty. Therefore, any independent nation who disagrees with the Bush's foreign policy is subject to liberation and regime change. Just the way US liberated Guan-tanamo from Cuba and turned it into the concentration camps, which Amnesty International calls it Gulag of modern time. Just the way US liberated Iraqi oil pipelines. Just the way, the Bush – Che-ney's administration liberated the undemocratic Abu-Ghraib Prison from Saddam Hussein, the dic-tator, and turned it into a democratic torturing chamber, where, the insurgents are systematically tortured and abused democratically by the US occupation forces.
Like the Stalin's purges, the Republican presidents in the past, used the doctrine of McCarthyism to remove their critics or opposition groups from the offices, restricting the freedom of speech and erod-ing the civil liberties. During the WW II, American citizens of German and Japanese origins were rounded up and lucked up in the camps until the end of the war.
Despite its glamorous PR campaign and empty slogans designed targeting the international audi-ences, not only the US has never been interested in democracy, but also, it has used all its political and military might to bring down the democratic states and backing the brutal tyrants especially, in the Middle East and Latin America.
According to Robert Fisk, who is a distinguished journalist and an author, during the US invasion both in Iraq and Afghanistan, journalists were the prime targets, including the Western and Arab journalists i.e., Aljazeera offices were bombed twice in Baghdad. British newspaper The Daily Mirror reported that Bush told UK Prime Minister Tony Blair at a White House summit on 16 April 2004 that he wanted to bomb Aljazeera's headquarters in Qatar.
In response to the bribery scandal of Iraqis media by the US to write the favourable stories about the war in Iraq, War Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who speaks and acts like Joseph Goebbels, recently admitted that they were doing just the PR campaigns and claiming that they had every right to do so. Rumsfeld has also admitted that he "ghosted" a detainee, meaning that he made the decision to hold a prisoner without keeping any records of the fact.
According to Doug Thomson, the Publisher, Capitol Hill Blue, Pentagon orders soldiers to promote Iraq war while home on leave and hundreds of American military men and women returned to the
United States on holiday leave with orders to sell the Iraq war to a skeptical public. The program, coordinated through a Pentagon operation dubbed "Operation Home front", ordered military person-nel to give interviews to their hometown newspapers, television stations and other media outlets and praise the American war effort in Iraq.
During the election campaign in Lebanon, Bush proudly said, "Freedom is on the march in the Mid-dle East." On the contrary, some voters in northern Lebanon were reportedly bribed to cast their bal-lots for the U.S.-backed anti-Syrian faction.
Foreign nationals are being kidnapped and flown from country to country by the CIA planes under the false suspicion of so-called renditions. Recently, the head of a European investigation into alleged CIA secret prisons in Europe reported that there was evidence pointing to the existence of a system of "outsourcing" of torture by the United States, and that European governments were aware of it.
History of the US policy of regime change & snubbing international law
In 1953, the U.S.'s CIA staged the military coup and toppled Iran's democratically elected Prime Minister, Dr. Mossadegh's government and restored pro-American system of absolute monarchy.
In 1954, CIA ousted Jacobo Arbenz Guzmán in Guatemala. In 1961, the US-backed invasion of Bay of Pigs of Cuba but failed. The same year, CIA assassinated Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba of Congo, and eliminated Rafael Leónidas Trujillo, their former ally in the Dominican Republic, and subsequently, the CIA ousted Juan Bosch, the democratically elected leader of the Dominican Repub-lic. In 1963, CIA eliminated general Abdul Karim Qassim, president of Iraq, and toppled Jose Maria Velasco of Ibarra of Ecuador, and U.S. backed coup against South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem. In 1964, the CIA backed the overthrow of João Goulart in Brazil, and covertly supported the election of Eduardo Frei Montalva of Chile. In 1965, the US staged a bloody military coup toppling the democratically elected President, Sukarno in Indonesia, installing a brutal dictator, Suharto who killed over a million people in Indonesia during his reign of terror. Subsequently, the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia supplied their newly installed military tyrant with a list of 5,000 suspected communists given to them by the CIA to be executed. In addition, the CIA supported a military coup that brought Joseph Mobutu to power in the Congo in 1965. In 1967, the CIA supported Regime of the Colonels in Greece through a military coup. In the 1967, U.S. supported Israel Six-Day War, and CIA launched the military "Operation Condor" assassinating Che Guevara, the legendary hero and the icon of the socialist revolution in Bolivia.
On September 11,1973, which was the first 9/11, the US staged a bloody coup d'état in Chile in which Salvador Allende, who had come to power in 1970 by the democratic election campaign process was killed instantly. Subsequently, the notorious General Pinochet, who had the full US backing, seized the power and became an absolute military dictator. Consequently, thousands of Chileans were slaughtered, tortured, or sent to the detention centers, many more disappeared, and some of them are still missing.
Not to mention Granada, Panama, former Yugoslavia, and Afghanistan, in 1992, U.S.- and French staged a military coup against the most honest and democratic election campaign process in the his-tory of entire Arab world ever and annulled the election. The Arab's only democratic election was held in Algeria in 1992 in which the Islamic parties won the landslide victory. Now, the US and Is-rael are reportedly planning to destabilize the Palestinian government so that newly elected Hamas officials will fail and elections will be called. The goal is to starve the Palestinian Authority of cash and international connections forcing its President to call a new election, bringing back the corrupt Fatah groups in power again ignoring the fact that Hamas won the landslide victory in the democ-ratic election campaign. If the outcome of elections suits the US corporate interest, Bush calls it free and fair, if not, declares it bunk.
While 25% of the world pollution comes from US, Bush-Cheney administration yet, does not recog-nize the Kyoto protocols. US not only refuse to join the International Court of Criminal (ICC), but also have attempted to undermine it. The Hague Invasion Act, which was introduced and passed in August 2002 by the Congress, allows the US government to save US citizens from extradition to the ICC, and also authorizes any necessary action, including the miltary invasion to free U.S. soldiers and officials handed over to that Court. The stated purpose of the Act was to protect United States military personnel and other elected and appointed officials of the United States government against criminal prosecution by an international criminal court to which the United States is not party.
Although the United States is a signatory to the 1983 Convention that prohibits the use of White Phosphorus "against military targets within concentrations of civilians," it has not ratified Protocol III, which involves restrictions against the incendiary weapons.
The cultural devastation committed by the US and the coalition of idiots is the gross violation of the Hague Convention of 1954, which states that in times of war, cultural heritage must be protected by the occupation forces. As a pattern of behavior, this convention like many other internationally es-tablished protocols, are not yet recognized by Washington.
Iran's nuclear program
Initiated and backed by the US, the idea of Iran's nuclear program goes back to four decades. It kicked off in the 1960s, under auspices of the U.S. within the framework of bilateral agreements be-tween the two countries. In 1967, the Tehran Nuclear Research Center (TNRC) was built and run by the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI). The TNRC was equipped with a US supplied 5-megawatt nuclear research reactor. Iran signed and ratified the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968.
Westinghouse Corporation lobbied very hard to convince both Iran and the US governments to con-struct at least 23 nuclear reactors in Iran. In 1975 the U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, had signed National Security Decision Memorandum 292, titled "U.S.-Iran Nuclear Cooperation," for the sale of nuclear reactors to Iran projected to bring U.S. corporations more than $6 billion in revenue. That time the population of Iran was about 30 millions, however, was pumping as much as 6 million barrels of oil a day, with a domestic oil consummation of about ½ millions barrels a day. Today, Iran with a population of about 70 millions, consumes about two millions barrels a day domestically, whereas produces about 4 million barrels a day. Not to mention currently, Iran's refinery capacities are far shorter than those of the growing demands for domestic refined products i.e., gasoline, which are imported from abroad.
President Gerald R. Ford even signed a directive in 1976 offering Tehran the chance to buy and op-erate a U.S.-built reprocessing facility for extracting plutonium from nuclear reactor fuel. The deal was for a complete "nuclear fuel cycle. The notion behind Ford strategy was introduction of nuclear power would both provide for the growing needs of Iran's economy and free remaining oil reserves for export or conversion to petrochemicals.
In 1975, Kraftwerk-Union A.G. of Germany, a joint venture of Siemens AG and A.E.G Telefunken, signed a contract worth $4-$6 billions to build the nuclear power plant. Construction of the two nu-clear generating units was subcontracted to Thyssen Krupp AG, and was to have been completed in 1981. However, during the imposed war on Iran, the reactors were then damaged by Iraqi air strikes.
In 1995, Iran signed a contract with Russia to resume work on the half complete Bushehr plant. The construction is being done by the state-controlled company Atomstroyexport (Russian for Atomic Construction Export), which an arm of Russia's atomic energy ministry, Minatom.
As an industrializing nation, Iran's civilian nuclear power plant is crucial for rising demand for power supply and its growing population. In fact, Iran's population has more than doubled in 20 years, the country regularly imports gasoline and electricity, and that burning fossil fuel in large amounts harms Iran's environment drastically. Additionally, Iran questions why it should not be allowed to diversify its sources of energy, especially when there are fears of its oil fields eventually being depleted. Therefore, it is not sustainable for Iran to use its valuable non-renewable resources simply for electricity. Moreover, developing the excess capacity in oil industry would cost Iran about $40 billion, whereas, nuclear power costs a fraction of this, in view of the fact that Iran has abundant supplies of accessible uranium ore.
Furthermore, the nuclear situation in Iran is about more than the production of nuclear fuel. It is a national issue - it is about a country's independence, sovereignty, and national identity- it is about a country that have emerged from about two centuries of Western bullying and regime change (1953) - it is about a country that wants to master its own destiny. It is about a country that wants to be treated equally and with respect on the world stage. In a nutshell, it is about national pride.
When the sovereignty and independence of Iran is at stake, the nation has the final say. On Febru-ary 11, 2006, millions of Iranians poured into the streets and expressed their support for Iran's peaceful nuclear programs achieved by its indigenous young scientists. Their message was loud and clear. All speaking in one voice, they demanded that they would never forsake their inalienable legal right to the nuclear technology. People from all walks of life, including the religious, secular, poor, rich, reformist, conservative, young, old male, female, and intellectual were aligned behind their president honoring their scientific achievements and securing the nation's independence. Conse-quently, it is not for Bush, Blair, or Jacques Chirac to decide whether Iran needs the civilian nuclear plants or what type of reactors it should have. i.e. light water or heavy water.
While President Jacques Chirac trying to portray himself as a civilized and liberal democrat, on the other hand, talking like war lord and openly threatening to use its nuclear weapons against Iran, and subsequently, French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy bluntly accuses Iran of secretly making nuclear weapons without showing a shred of evidence. Why EU in general, France, and Eng-land in particular pursuing Bush's policy towards Iran?
The answer is, they all have one thing in common that is the economic interest that glues them to-gether. As the exclusive fuel, suppliers France and England are profiting millions of dollars annually from recycling the fuels for the other countries nuclear reactors, especially the German and Japanese plants. For both countries, recycling nuclear fuel is an uncontested business bonanza and economic windfall. To them, allowing Iran, which is an emerging and potential low-cost supplier of nuclear fuels to share their profits, is unacceptable. Therefore, they view Iran as a threat to their lucrative businesses. They cannot say this openly, but deceitfully and unfairly launched a smear campaign and making it look like Iran is building nuclear bombs.
While on the one hand, Western powers formally declare that Iran has the rights to nuclear energy, building image that they are logical and rational in order to fool the world. On the other hand, trying to force Iran to abandon its uranium enrichment program used for nuclear energy, however if, Iran outsources its nuclear fuels to Russia or Western suppliers, that will be okay with them. What kind of logic is that? That is nothing but the logic of neocolonialism.
The fact is, Western powers in general and US in particular view nuclear technology as their intel-lectual property. Legally speaking, they cannot patent the nuclear technology as their intellectual property simply because if they do, then the matter must be resolved by the World Trade Organiza-tion (WTO) meaning that the UN nuclear watchdog, IAEA will be irrelevant. However, they use eve-rything in their power, including the backroom dealings, or bribing and intimidating others to mo-nopolize it. Profiteering is the capitalists Achilles heel. They do everything they can at any cost in order to make the money. No matter how civilized or liberal democrat they are, money always comes first.
As for Bush administration, Iran's threat is not for its nuclear program, but their perceived threat is coming from Iran's mercantile exchange market, which is called oil bourse. Iran is planning to open its own oil bourse, a mercantile exchange, and potentially a futures market, where traders can buy and sell oil and gas in Euros, not dollars. If everything goes as planned it is scheduled to kick off in March 19 otherwise will take place sometimes later this year. However, even before the realization of the idea, Iran is being accused of making nuclear bombs and is being threatened with illegal sanc-tions or war of aggression.
In 2001, Venezuela wanted to switch to the Euro for all its oil sales. The following year, there was a coup attempt against Chavez, reportedly with assistance from the CIA. However, the military coup failed and Chavez who was democratically elected president escaped the assassination plot against his life unharmed. In November 2002, Saddam Hussein demanded Euros for his oil, in 2003; Iraq was invaded and occupied by the US.
Shifting from dollars to Euros is not good news for America's system of dollar hegemony, which its nominal value is backed by the world daily sales of oil . Some countries are already replacing their dollar reserves with Euro in silence. If the oil bourse does not trigger a blow to the US already trou-bled economy straight away, but it will take out the steam in the long- run. The economy that its to-tal federal debts is $8.2 trillion (60% owned by foreigners, i.e., EU, China, Japan, and S. Korea), with a current account deficit of $700 billion, and $500 billion of budget deficit, with zero savings and re-cord business and personal debts, cannot sustain further setback in the long haul.
The US Senate just approved to raise the government debt limit to nearly $9 trillion, with the new ceiling expected next year, the debt will represent $30 thousand for every US citizen. Bush's gov-ernment has already spent $350 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan so far, and asking for another $120 billion for the current year. US allocated $450 billion for its military budget, which is almost half of the entire world military spending, and trying to resolve its economic issues by the military forces.
The US's GDP which was always ranked first in the world, slid into second in 2004 after the EU. During the same period, its total exports ranked third after the EU and Germany respectively. EU's GDP was $12,865 trillion compared to US GDP of $11,734 trillion, Germany's total exports was $950 billion compared to the US total exports of $750 billion, and Germany's net exports exceeded $200 billion (source: IMF, Germany's Bundesbank, US Census Bureau). Thanks to Bush-Cheney inept and ham-fisted leadership.
Bush orchestrated media campaign against Iran, deliberately distorting Ahmadinejad's speeches, and fictitiously considering him a threat, whereas the truth of the matter is that he was quoting di-rectly from the founder of Iran's Islamic Revolution, which is a slogan that has been there since 1979, and surprisingly, never captured the US media attention up until now.
However, Ahmadinejad has also, said, "A nation which has culture, logic and civilization does not need nuclear weapons. The countries, which seek nuclear weapons, are those, which want to solve all problems by the use of force. Our nation does not need such weapons," which surprisingly, Bush & Co. media never reflected that.
Nevertheless, during the 26 years life of the revolution, Iran has never made any effort to wipe any country off the map. It is noteworthy that the Iranians indeed, are the liberators of Israelites. That was Cyrus the Great, the King of Persia, who liberated Israelites from slavery in Babylon 25 centu-ries ago. Additionally, the great king provided them with a free of charge means of transportation all the way to Jerusalem. Furthermore, the Iranians are not Arabs and consequently, there is no strate-gic ground for any animosity between Iran and Israel.
Bush illegal covert operations in Iran under the pretext of democracy
While US and England have destroyed and torn apart Iraq with their illegal occupation, on the other hand, ludicrously, accusing Iran of interfering in Iraq, and blaming it for their failure. In fact, the US media frenzy against Iran for what they claim, as "threat" is a smokescreen used to distract the world attention from Bush's miserable failure in Iraq.
According to the Financial Times, the US military has been studying ethnic and religious tensions in Iran as part of its preparations for war. The military wants to determine attitudes towards the cen-tral government and examine if Iran is prone to the same tensions that are tearing Iraq apart. As with the planning for the war in Iraq, the Pentagon has recruited exiles to help with its survey. A similar group of Iraqi exiles told the Bush administration that US soldiers would be welcome when they invaded, and fed them false information about weapons of mass destruction. Among the exile groups that surveyed by the military are the Kurdish Democratic Party, who support the occupation in Iraq; the followers of the deposed Iranian royal family, who hope a US invasion will restore the monarchy; and the former pro-Saddam militant opposition group.
Now the White House has asked the US Congress to make available $75 million to fund a round-the-clock radio and television from UAE broadcasting false news and propaganda campaign into Iran aimed at brainwashing for regime change.
There are also reports that the US has already funded and mobilized a number of the Iranian Chal-abies residing Beverly Hills, London, and Paris in order to cook the intelligence and fix the case against Iran to justify Bush's preemptive war. Among the groups are: the monarchists mainly oper-ating from the US; the leftist elements of exile groups, including the remnants and new militants of the old pro-Moscow Communist Party of Iran, aka the Tudeh Party, along with the other communist factions operating from England; and the militant opposition group operating from Iraq. Some of the exile groups who are on the payrolls of the CIA and the British MI6 and acting like the Trojan Horses, are now operating in the Persian Gulf states and carrying out the acts of sabotage and ter-rorism in order to destabilize Iran.
Iranian's security forces have already arrested the terrorists who planted bombs in the City of Ahvaz killing a number of innocent people. According to the Iranian officials, they have the concrete evi-dence that the Bush and Tony Blair's administrations had equipped and dispatched these terrorists from their launching pad in Basra.
Iran has become the new focal point of distorted and Goebbels style Western media's propaganda, despite the fact that it is evident that Iraq has become a mission impossible rather than the "mission accomplished" for Bush-Cheney, their controlled media deliberately ignoring the reality on the ground and dire situation in Iraq. The timing of this kind of cries of outrages that are coming from the Western media against Iran raises more questions than answers as it coincides with the Bush-Blair preparations for possible sanctions at the Security Council, and like Iraq's prewar WMD sce-nario, they are fixing the case against Iran.
Bush media also keep claiming that Iran has broken the seals, and trying to trick the world into be-lieve that Iran is violating the NPT, and therefore, is in non-compliance in order to justify the American corporate war against Iran who is in fact, neither a threat nor a strategic adversary to the US. The US corporate media knowingly ignoring the fact that Iran's Parliament had passed a law last year that required – in the event the IAEA Board reported Iran to the Security Council – the cessation of all voluntary cooperation with the IAEA above and beyond that required by Iran's Safe-guards Agreement. That includes the resumption of all Iranian Safeguarded nuclear programs that had been voluntarily suspended.
Since US will never be satisfied with partial submission and she wants the total capitulation. There-fore, There is security risk involved, if Iran agrees with the non binding terms in the presidential statement (UN Security Council), which contains a demand that Iran accept an additional protocol that gives IAEA inspectors exceptional access to plants and research laboratories as this was the case in Iraq before the war. For instance, Germany who apparently was against the Iraqi invasion, now reportedly confirmed that its foreign intelligence agency (BND) who worked in Iraq before the war, supplied U.S. occupation forces with Saddam defense information and helping them select bombing targets at the start of the Iraq war.
The US, England, and Israel who possess sufficient nuclear weapons to destroy the world, are the very countries that deceitfully cooked the case against Iraq, are now trying to do the same to Iran by demonizing it simply for having a civilian nuclear plants used for generating the electricity.
The US is the only country on the face of the planet that has used nuclear bombs against innocent civilians in Japan in 1945, and mustard and Agent Orange gases in Vietnam (WMD) after the WWII.
On the 60th anniversary of the U.S. nuclear attacks on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Na-gasaki, new questions are being asked about whether it was really necessary to use the atomic weapons?
About 80,000 people were killed in a split second in Hiroshima. Five months later, more than 70,000 others died from radiation and injuries. Three days after Hiroshima's attack, the U.S. dropped an-other nuclear bomb on Nagasaki, killing more than 70,000 people before the year-end. Since 1945, tens of thousands more citizens of both cities continue to suffer and die from radiation-induced can-cers, birth defects and stillbirths.
Couple of weeks ago, Tony Blair said that Britain needed to improve its nuclear capabilities, and ac-cording to the special report by The Guardian on Argentina dated Nov. 22,2005, Margaret Thatcher forced François Mitt errand to give her the codes to disable Argentina's deadly French-made missiles during the Falklands war by threatening to launch a nuclear warhead against Buenos Aires. Eng-land who is a world away from the Islas Malvinas (Falklands Islands) threatening to use its nuclear warheads killing millions of innocent people just to keep its colony there.
Recently, the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, a former High Court judge who fled Uganda for Brit-ain after it became clear that standing up to the dictator had placed his own life in jeopardy, is now, accusing Tony Blair of helping the US to run Idi Amin-style tactics in the war on terrorism.
Israel, who possesses illegally about 200-300 nuclear bombs in its arsenal, with technical assistance of US and England, openly disregards the international law and IAEA rules. It has constantly ig-nored almost all the UN resolutions, with the American veto in the Security Council and whose hu-man rights records is clearly questionable and has attacked all its neighbours plus Iraq's nuclear plant, and has repeatedly threatened to attack Iran with American bunker buster bombs and the German Dolphin type submarines, which acquired them almost free of charge.
Nuclear negotiations of the EU-3 with Iran
EU-3, including England, France, and Germany, who entered into the negotiations with Iran, played good cops to Bush's bad cop during the talks with Iran over the nuclear issues. However, in order for confidence building, Iran in good faith agreed to suspend its nuclear activities voluntarily allowing the IAEA to seal off its equipment until the negotiations end. Now that the negotiations ended with no results, and consequently, Iran is not deemed in non-compliance and has not violated its agree-ment with the EU-3 because the terms of the accord were based on non-binding and temporary con-ditions not permanent.
Iran, as a signatory to the NPT, plus the additional protocols has the legal right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. However, Israel, India, Pakistan, and N. Korea who developed nuclear weapons refused even to ratify the NPT. Despite the fact that there is no law or treaty banning peaceful nuclear research; to do uranium enrichment is legal and it simply violates the good will of Germany, France, and Britain, with which Iran negotiated a volun-tary deal about three years ago to abandon its uranium enrichment program.
Negotiations collapsed because no matter what concessions Iran made to the EU, at the end of the day, Iran would have nothing to gain. Iran has credible argument for refusing to rely on foreign countries for its energy because, in fact, Russia is not a reliable partner. Russia's game of natural gas roulette with Ukraine and Georgia is a perfect example. Moreover, the repeated delays by Russia to launch the Bushehr nuclear power plant shows that Moscow cannot be trusted as honest and de-pendable business partner.
Furthermore, Russia has the history of betrayals of its friends and allies. In 1915, during the Arme-nians and Turks conflict, Russia simply walked away. In 1938, Stalin pandered to Hitler in return for DM 200 millions of Germany's loan and let Poland to be divided between Germany and Russia. During the 1962 Cuban crisis, Nikita Khrushchev backed off. In the first Persian Gulf War, Gor-bachof approved the US orchestrated UN Security Council sanctions against Iraq. During the bom-bardments of the former Yugoslavia, the Russians did nothing and let their Slav brothers down. So much so, they simply let their former partner, Iraq to be occupied. Therefore, double-crossing Iran by Russia, which is Russia's one of a few partners and close friends left in the world, should not come as a surprise.
Contracting out Iran's nuclear fuel to Russia is bad for Iran and serendipity for Russia because the Russians want to build at least 20 nuclear plants for Iran in the near future each requiring enriched uranium fuel that will cost Iran about $40-50 millions for startup. Subsequently every two or three years, the nuclear plans need recycling again that will cost almost the same amount for each.
Iran cannot count on Russia's undertaking because after 12 years, they have not even been able to finish the Bushehr plant, which was half complete by the time they undertook in 1995 to complete it by 2001 or so. How they will be able to deliver the fuels to Iran on time for the future plants. While the Iranians are quite capable of recycling their own nuclear fuels domestically, then why should Iran outsource them to unreliable and unpredictable foreign suppliers in the first place?
The Bush administration initially did not want Mohamed ElBaradei to be the director of the Inter-national Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for another term, and when faced strong opposition from the other member states then rewarded him with the Noble Peace prize in order to get him on board. As for Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the UN, the US did other way around. First, they rewarded him with Noble Peace Prize when he declared that occupation of Iraq was illegal, right after that Bush and Blair produced evidence that allegedly Kofi Annan and his son had been involved in brib-ery scandal in the Food for Oil program in Iraq during Saddam regime. By contrast, both Blair and Bush administrations were to blame because they new exactly what was going on in the program from the very beginning.
It seems that the US's stick and carrot tactics is working for the UN and the IAEA as ElBaradei has now agreed to send Iran's dossier to the UN Security Council and its report sent to the 35 member states, ElBaradei said Iran has failed to answer crucial questions about its nuclear program after three years of an agency investigation.
Quite the opposite, Iran has not violated the NPT, does not have a nuclear weapons program, and poses no threat to its neighbors or the United States. ElBaradei hypocritically praised the US recent nuclear deal with pariah state like India, who ignores the IAEA's rules, on the contrary, denounced Iran, who plays by the rule, meaning they are pandering to the lawbreakers, and chastising those who obey the law. This conspicuous double standard makes a mockery of the IAEA and US long-standing advocacy of the NPT. Why should Iran be treated differently from Israel, India, and Paki-stan, all of which have their own nuclear fuel recycling production?
Despite the US and EU's propaganda machine that accusing Iran of enriching uranium to make nu-clear bombs, Iran is now operating only a 10-15-centrifuge cascade putting uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas into centrifuges, which distill out enriched uranium at its pilot enrichment plant in Natanz. Iran had not yet even fired up the whole 164-centrifuge cascade at the plant. The US and the IAEA recognize that it is nowhere near getting a bomb with 164- centrifuge cascades, as it re-quires industrial-scale enrichment facilities with thousands of centrifuges, which could produce enough highly enriched uranium for atomic bombs.
Bush administration has abandoned Non-Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT) by helping India to boost its nuclear weapons. Unlike nuclear- armed India, Pakistan, and Israel, who did not sign up the NPT, Iran is the signatory to the NPT, plus the Additional Protocols. Mockingly, the IAEA, EU, and US while are penalizing Iran for playing by the rules, on the other hand, rewarding the coun-tries that illegally possess nuclear weapons and refused to sign the Non-proliferation Treaty.
It seems like some countries have sovereignty while others are subject to the US political whim. Unlike the US who has broken the international laws and protocols, Iran is not guilty of abdicating or reneging on its obligations as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT). Under the terms of that treaty, Iran has an inalienable right to develop research, production, and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination. Nuclear technology is neither a patent nor the patented property nor the intellectual property of the US or EU or anybody else to monopo-lize it, and whether they like it or not, they have to live with nuclear-powered Iran.
Asghar Bishbareh can be reached at: email@example.com
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U.S. attack on Iran may prompt terror
By Dana Priest
The Washington Post
April 2, 2006
Experts say strikes on nuclear facilities could spark worldwide retaliation
As tensions increase between the United States and Iran, U.S. intelligence and terrorism experts say they believe Iran would respond to U.S. military strikes on its nuclear sites by deploying its intelligence operatives and Hezbollah teams to carry out terrorist attacks worldwide.
Iran would mount attacks against U.S. targets inside Iraq, where Iranian intelligence agents are already plentiful, predicted these experts. There is also a growing consensus that Iran's agents would target civilians in the United States, Europe and elsewhere, they said.
U.S. officials would not discuss what evidence they have indicating Iran would undertake terrorist action, but the matter "is consuming a lot of time" throughout the U.S. intelligence apparatus, one senior official said. "It's a huge issue," another said.
Citing prohibitions against discussing classified information, U.S. intelligence officials declined to say whether they have detected preparatory measures, such as increased surveillance, counter-surveillance or message traffic, on the part of Iran's foreign-based intelligence operatives.
Bigger threat than al-Qaeda?
But terrorism experts considered Iranian-backed or controlled groups -- namely the country's Ministry of Intelligence and Security operatives, its Revolutionary Guards and the Lebanon-based Hezbollah -- to be better organized, trained and equipped than the al-Qaeda network that carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The Iranian government views the Islamic Jihad, the name of Hezbollah's terrorist organization, "as an extension of their state. . . . operational teams could be deployed without a long period of preparation," said Ambassador Henry A. Crumpton, the State Department's coordinator for counterterrorism.
The possibility of a military confrontation has been raised only obliquely in recent months by President Bush and Iran's government. Bush says he is pursuing a diplomatic solution to the crisis, but he has added that all options are on the table for stopping Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons.
Speaking in Vienna last month, Javad Vaeedi, a senior Iranian nuclear negotiator, warned the United States that "it may have the power to cause harm and pain, but it is also susceptible to harm and pain. So if the United States wants to pursue that path, let the ball roll," although he did not specify what type of harm he was talking about.
Rise in tension raises stakes
Government officials said their interest in Iran's intelligence services is not an indication that a military confrontation is imminent or likely, but rather a reflection of a decades-long adversarial relationship in which Iran's agents have worked secretly against U.S. interests, most recently in Iraq and Pakistan. As confrontation over Iran's nuclear program has escalated, so has the effort to assess the threat from Iran's covert operatives.
U.N. Security Council members continue to debate how best to pressure Iran to prove that its nuclear program is not meant for weapons. The United States, Britain and France want the Security Council to threaten Iran with economic sanctions if it does not end its uranium enrichment activities. Russia and China, however, have declined to endorse such action and insist on continued negotiations. Security Council diplomats are meeting this weekend to try to break the impasse. Iran says it seeks nuclear power but not nuclear weapons.
Former CIA terrorism analyst Paul R. Pillar said that any U.S. or Israeli airstrike on Iranian territory "would be regarded as an act of war" by Tehran, and that Iran would strike back with its terrorist groups. "There's no doubt in my mind about that. . . . Whether it's overseas at the hands of Hezbollah, in Iraq or possibly Europe, within the regime there would be pressure to take violent action."
History of reprisals
Before Sept. 11, the armed wing of Hezbollah, often working on behalf of Iran, was responsible for more American deaths than in any other terrorist attacks. In 1983 Hezbollah truck-bombed the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241, and in 1996 truck-bombed Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, killing 19 U.S. service members.
Iran's intelligence service, operating out of its embassies around the world, assassinated dozens of monarchists and political dissidents in Europe, Pakistan, Turkey and the Middle East in the two decades after the 1979 Iranian revolution, which brought to power a religious Shiite government. Argentine officials also believe Iranian agents bombed a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires in 1994, killing 86 people. Iran has denied involvement in that attack.
Iran's intelligence services "are well trained, fairly sophisticated and have been doing this for decades," said Crumpton, a former deputy of operations at the CIA's Counterterrorist Center. "They are still very capable. I don't see their capabilities as having diminished."
Both sides have increased their activities against the other. The Bush administration is spending $75 million to step up pressure on the Iranian government, including funding non-governmental organizations and alternative media broadcasts. Iran's parliament then approved $13.6 million to counter what it calls "plots and acts of meddling" by the United States.
"Given the uptick in interest in Iran" on the part of the United States, "it would be a very logical assumption that we have both ratcheted up [intelligence] collection, absolutely," said Fred Barton, a former counterterrorism official who is now vice president of counterterrorism for Stratfor, a security consulting and forecasting firm. "It would be a more fevered pitch on the Iranian side because they have fewer options."
Agencies mum on true threat
The office of the director of national intelligence, which recently began to manage the U.S. intelligence agencies, declined to allow its analysts to discuss their assessment of Iran's intelligence services and Hezbollah and their capabilities to retaliate against U.S. interests.
"We are unable to address your questions in an unclassified manner," a spokesman for the office, Carl Kropf, wrote in response to a Washington Post query.
The current state of Iran's intelligence apparatus is the subject of debate among experts. Some experts who spent their careers tracking the intelligence ministry's operatives describe them as deployed worldwide and easier to monitor than Hezbollah cells because they operate out of embassies and behave more like a traditional spy service such as the Soviet KGB.
Other experts believe the Iranian service has become bogged down in intense, regional concerns: attacks on Shiites in Pakistan, the Iraq war and efforts to combat drug trafficking in Iran.
As a result, said Bahman Baktiari, an Iran expert at the University of Maine, the intelligence service has downsized its operations in Europe and the United States. But, said Baktiari, "I think the U.S. government doesn't have a handle on this."
Facilities make difficult targets
Because Iran's nuclear facilities are scattered around the country, some military specialists doubt a strike could effectively end the program and would require hundreds of strikes beforehand to disable Iran's vast air defenses. They say airstrikes would most likely inflame the Muslim world, alienate reformers within Iran and could serve to unite Hezbollah and al-Qaeda, which have only limited contact currently.
A report by the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks cited al-Qaeda's long-standing cooperation with the Iranian-back Hezbollah on certain operations and said Osama bin Laden may have had a previously undisclosed role in the Khobar attack. Several al-Qaeda figures are reportedly under house arrest in Iran.
Others in the law enforcement and intelligence circles have been more dubious about cooperation between al-Qaeda and Hezbollah, largely because of the rivalries between Shiite and Sunni Muslims. Al-Qaeda adherents are Sunni Muslims; Hezbollah's are Shiites.
Iran "certainly wants to remind governments that they can create a lot of difficulty if strikes were to occur," said a senior European counterterrorism official interviewed recently. "That they might react with all means, Hezbollah inside Lebanon and outside Lebanon, this is certain. Al-Qaeda could become a tactical alliance."
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US not to resolve Iran nuke issue by force: ambassador to UN
www.chinaview.cn 2006-04-03 13:00:21
KUWAIT CITY, April 2 (Xinhua) -- U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, on Sunday dismissed the allegation that Washington would solve the Iran nuclear issue by force, saying that his country was seeking a peaceful settlement, according reports from the Qatari capital of Doha.
Washington had no plans to take the same action in Iran as it had in neighboring Iraq, Bolton said during his visit to Qatar, which followed the meeting of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council and Germany in Berlin on Thursday.
The ambassador explained he had come to listen to the opinions and concerns of Qatari leaders over the Iran nuclear issue. He stressed the importance and influence of Qatar on regional issues as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.
The United States was making efforts to solve the Iran issue peacefully, and was aimed at stopping Tehran from breaching the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Bolton said.
He added that the Iran nuclear issue had been referred to the UN Security Council for discussion, and he hoped Tehran would understand the situation and make the same decision as Libya had to abandon the bid for weapons of mass destruction.
After the Thursday meeting in Berlin, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council nations and Germany urged Iran to suspend all its enrichment activities and return to negotiations.
The talks came one day after the UN Security Council unanimously adopted a presidential statement calling on Iran to resume suspension of all uranium enrichment-related activities within 30 days.
Comment: We are, how shall we put it, a little sceptical of Bolton's word's. Neo-con speaks with forked tongue.
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Iran test-fires high-speed underwater missile
Sun Apr 2, 3:59 PM ET
TEHRAN - Iran successfully test-fired a new high-speed underwater missile capable of destroying huge warships and submarines, a top military commander announced.
"Today we have successfully test-fired a high-speed underwater missile with a speed of 100 meters per second, which is able to overcome the enemy's sonar and radar," Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, the deputy commander of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards naval force, told state television.
Fadavi claimed the underwater missile was the fastest in the world, with the exception of a missile developed in another country. He did not provide the other nation's name.
The commander said that even if the missile is detected by a ship's defense systems, "with its high speed, the warships and submarines cannot escape it."
He touted the missile's capabilities.
"Its powerful warhead is capable of destroying large warships and submarines, and the missile itself can be launched from any launching pad," he said.
On Friday, Iran announced it had successfully test-fired a new missile capable of avoiding radar detection and striking a number of targets simultaneously.
The new weapons were tested during a week-long military exercises in the Gulf.
Iran already has medium-range Shahab-3 missiles with a range of 2,000 kilometers (1,280 miles), putting arch-enemy
Israel and US bases in the Middle East within reach.
Thousands of Iranian troops are conducting war games in the Gulf to prepare the country's armed forces for warding off "threats" amid increasing tensions with the West over Tehran's nuclear program.
The maneuvers are to involve the Revolutionary Guards Corps navy and air force, Iran's regular army and navy, the volunteer Basij militia, and the Iranian police.
They are set to run from March 31 to April 6 in the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman.
Comment: With the US breathing down its neck, Iran seems to be doing everything possible to provoke the Beast... For more information on high speed torpedos and the technology behind them, listen to our podcasts with Jean-Pierre Petit.
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Bush Offers Quake Assistance to Iran
By GEORGE GEDDA
Fri Mar 31, 4:35 PM ET
WASHINGTON - Setting aside political differences, the United States offered Iran temporary shelter to house up to 100,000 earthquake victims, the State Department said Friday.
The offer came after President Bush said in Cancun, Mexico, that the administration was willing to send assistance despite the differences with Iran's Islamic government on its nuclear program and other issues.
Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns telephoned Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said.
In addition to shelter, the offer includes blankets, plastic sheeting, hygienic goods and water units, Ereli said. As part of the package, $150,000 in cash assistance would be sent, to be distributed through private voluntary groups, Ereli said.
Burns told the ambassador the assistance could be delivered within 48 hours. The envoy promised a reply after conferring with his government.
The U.S. military provided aid after a devastating quake in southern Iran in 2003. U.S. help was offered after another earthquake in Iran in 2005 but it was not accepted.
Bush said in Mexico, "We obviously have our differences with the Iranian government, but we do care about the suffering of Iranian people."
Three strong earthquakes and several aftershocks struck Thursday and Friday near two industrial centers about 210 miles southwest of Tehran. Officials said at least 66 people were killed and 1,200 others were injured.
Bush emphasized opposition to Iran's nuclear program and said the world was united with Washington.
"There is common agreement that the Iranians should not have a nuclear weapon, the capacity to make a nuclear weapon or the knowledge to make a nuclear weapon," the president said.
"And the reason there's common agreement is because the Iranian government with such a weapon, as it's now constituted, would pose a serious threat to world security," Bush added.
He declined to say whether the United States would seek sanctions against Iran. Bush did note that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Europe trying to build a consensus with allies on the next steps.
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Australia And China Poised To Sign Uranium Deal
Apr 03, 2006
Perth, Australia - China is poised to sign a safeguards agreement paving the way for uranium exports from Australia, Premier Wen Jiabao said Sunday as Canberra insisted it was not granting the Asian powerhouse special privileges.
Wen, in Perth on the first leg of a four-day tour of Australia, confirmed the two nations would sign the agreement in Canberra on Monday -- the first step in helping energy-hungry China satisfy the needs of its rapidly expanding nuclear power industry.
He said the agreement would ensure uranium was used for peaceful purposes.
"In our bilateral cooperation we should establish a long-term, stable and fundamental institutional and systematic safeguard," Wen said through an interpreter.
"Our energy and resources cooperation is ensured by such a safeguard and during my visit to Australia this time the two governments are going to sign the agreement for peaceful use of nuclear energy and safeguards of nuclear energy."
The Chinese number two also hinted that uranium exports could be subject to price-capping after Asian steelmakers were last year hit by soaring prices of iron ore imports.
"We are also going to set up a price formulation mechanism that is up to international norms and I believe this will provide a long-term benefit to our two countries," Wen said.
Speaking on commercial television, Australian Prime Minister John Howard said that Canberra would ensure the safeguards were strict but there would also be an element of trust.
"The safeguards that we have adopted are very rigorous and unless we are going to declare to the world that we're not going to deal with anybody, then... in relation to uranium we have to assume a certain degree of good faith," he said.
But he stressed that any Chinese investment in uranium projects in Australia, which has some 40 percent of the world's known uranium, would be subject to the same constraints as other foreign investment.
"We're not talking about having a special deal for Chinese acquisitions in Australia," he said.
"I'm not going to telegraph in advance, it would be improper to do that, I simply would say to our Chinese friends, as I do to our Japanese and American and British friends, if any of your companies ... want to buy assets in Australia, they're subject to the foreign investment policy of this country."
Resources Minister Ian Macfarlane, who met Wen early Sunday, said it could still be years before the first shipments arrive in China, with commercial negotiations to be completed and the need to expand uranium mining to meet China's demands.
"There have been no discussions in regard to contracts and tonnages and I think there has been an unrealistic expectation that with tomorrow's signing of the safeguard agreement we will see a situation where tonnages will be exported the next day," he told reporters.
"We are some distance away from exporting uranium to China. The safeguard agreement is obviously the first step that has to be signed."
Macfarlane would not put a timeframe on exports but said China's short-term demands could be met in part by the expansion of the Olympic Dam mine and the "imminent" opening of the Honeymoon site, both in South Australia.
"But in reality there will need to be a substantial expansion of the Australian uranium industry if we are to satisfy part of China's 20,000 tonnes per annum of demand in uranium," he said.
Macfarlane said pricing would be determined by the market.
Leading environmental group, the Australian Conservation Foundation, said the sale of uranium could lead to regional insecurity.
"No matter how strong and how valid the assurances that China or any other country gives us, once we export uranium it's outside of our control, so we're making the world a dirtier and more dangerous place by exporting uranium," president Ian Lowe told ABC radio.
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Japanese Nuclear Plant Starts Tests
by Harumi Ozawa
Apr 03, 2006
Tokyo - Japan's first plant to extract plutonium and uranium from spent nuclear fuel started test runs Friday in hopes of providing much-needed energy despite protests from residents and environmentalists.
The 17-month test is expected to lead to full-fledged production next year in the northern village of Rokkasho, providing a new form of energy to one of the world's biggest oil importers.
"Everything went smoothly without any obstruction," said Kazuhiko Shimada, a spokesman for the plant's operator, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd.
The company raced Friday to sign last-minute agreements with surrounding communities pledging safety before beginning the long-delayed tests.
The plant will eventually produce uranium-plutonium mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, which would boost the electricity generated by existing reactors through recycling. More than 30 MOX reactors now operate in Europe.
Concerned residents and environmentalists of the only country attacked with atomic bombs have held periodic protests against the plant, which theoretically could also process weapons-grade plutonium to produce energy.
About 100 protestors gathered at the front gate Friday to protest the launch of the tests at the Rokkasho plant which lies on the northern tip of Japan's main island of Honshu.
"I really feel frustrated and sad," said Keiko Kikukawa, 57, a local farmer who has protested the project for years.
"I've worked for such a long time to stop this test run, which is not necessary at all," she told AFP by telephone.
Protesters have pointed out that even though the plant would create the new type of fuel, Japan does not yet have any reactors that can operate on it.
The city of Genkai in southern Japan on Sunday accepted a plan by regional power utility Kyushu Electric Power Co. to begin using MOX fuel at one of its reactors.
But the Genkai reactor would not be able to process MOX fuel until the business year to March 2011 at the earliest and lies more than 1,200 kilometers (750 miles) from Rokkasho, in Aomori prefecture, raising further concerns about safety.
The Japanese electric industry has planned to use the plutonium and uranium extraction method since 1997 and had set a plan to operate 16 to 18 nuclear reactors by the year to March 2011. But the goal has been stalled by a series of accidents and scandals.
Construction of the Rokkasho facility began in 1993 but the start of operations was delayed by problems including a design flaw.
"I believe this reprocessing plant will contribute a lot to the nation's energy policies," Aomori governor Shingo Mimura said Tuesday.
Japan counts on nuclear energy for 30 percent of its electricity but is almost entirely dependent on imports for its oil.
Greenpeace complained about the waste that would be generated by the plant and the potential military link.
"Reprocessing is a daily nuclear accident due to the massive discharges of nuclear waste authorized by government agencies, which have no regard for public health or the wider environment," the group's Shaun Burnie said.
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Severe Storms Leave 14 Dead in Midwest
April 3, 2006
DYERSBURG, Tenn. - Severe storms swept across the Midwest on Sunday, killing at least 14 people in Tennessee, Missouri and Illinois, officials said.
Local emergency officials reported eight deaths in west Tennessee's Dyer County, and three in neighboring Gibson County, said Kurt Pickering, spokesman for the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency. Details on the deaths weren't immediately available.
"This is a high fatality count," Pickering said. "The extent of the damage and the severity will probably not be very clear until we get the sun in the morning."
The storms, which also injured dozens across the Midwest, spawned at least a half-dozen tornadoes in northeast Arkansas, dropped large, damaging hail and sent thousands of concertgoers in Indianapolis scrambling for cover.
In Missouri, strong winds were blamed for at least two deaths. A 42-year-old man was killed when winds knocked over his mobile home near Circle City, Stoddard County Sheriff Carl Hefner said.
Another man was killed when a tree fell on him as he walked along a trail in Castlewood State Park near Ballwin in St. Louis County, a spokeswoman for St. Louis County police told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
A state of emergency was declared in the southeast Missouri city of Caruthersville after a tornado caused heavy damage there. Details of the damage weren't available.
In Illinois, a 54-year-old man was killed when a clothing store in Fairview Heights, east of St. Louis, collapsed in high winds, police Capt. Nick Gailius said.
Emergency crews were searching the rubble for any additional victims, their progress slowed by a gas leak, Gailius said. Others were injured in the collapse, he said.
The storm also uprooted trees, downed power lines, tipped over semitrailer trucks and caused motorists to lose control of their vehicles, Gailius said.
In Tennessee, the National Weather Service reported that tornadoes were spotted in five counties in Tennessee's northwest corner, and officials said the storms caused extensive damage to buildings.
Softball-sized hail was reported in Arkansas, where half a dozen tornadoes were reported.
A tornado near the northeastern Arkansas town of Marmaduke sent at least 45 people to Arkansas Methodist Medical Center at Paragould, said a spokesman who added that many of the injuries were minor. Authorities closed off all access to Marmaduke, where damage was reportedly very heavy.
Severe thunderstorms also struck Indianapolis as thousands of fans departed a free John Mellencamp concert that was part of the NCAA's Final Four weekend.
Concertgoers scrambled for cover as tornado sirens sounded and sheets of heavy rain lashed the sidewalks and streets, according to television reports.
Weather service radar tracked the powerful thunderstorm with a possible tornado through downtown Indianapolis, meteorologists said. No major injuries were reported.
In Kentucky, tornadoes likely touched down in five counties, according to the National Weather Service. Cars were overturned in Lewisburg, a mobile home flipped near Owensboro and lights were blown off utility poles, officials said.
"It's going to be a mess," said Mike Callahan, a hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Louisville.
No deaths or major injuries were reported in the state.
Power also was knocked out to more than 300,000 customers in Illinois, Missouri and Indiana.
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Strong Storms Leave 1 Dead in North Dakota
By JAMES MacPHERSON
Sat Apr 1, 4:30 AM ET
FARGO, N.D. - Heavy rains combined with snowmelt around the Red River sparked flooding that endangered homes, washed out roadways and killed at least one woman, officials said. In Indiana, storms dropped golfball-sized hail and residents reported seeing tornadoes.
The rain in North Dakota on Friday was part of a lines of thunderstorms and tornadoes that tore up buildings, knocked down power lines and injured several people as it moved across the Midwest a day earlier.
At least 35 bridges and more than 25 county roads were closed because of flooding in Richland County, south of Fargo, said Tim Schulte, the county's highway engineer. He warned people not to drive around barriers.
"Just because you think the road's there - it might not be," he said.
A 57-year-old woman was found face down in a water-filled ditch along Interstate 29 in Grand Forks County early Friday. She apparently fell into the water after attempting to walk home when her vehicle got stuck on the flooded road, Sheriff's Major Mike Fonder said.
In Indiana, authorities were trying to determine if tornadoes were responsible for damaging homes and businesses Friday night. Storms dropped golfball-sized hail and downed trees and utility poles, authorities said.
The storm damaged several warehouses and outbuildings in the Indianapolis suburb of Greenwood, where downed trees and utility poles cause many power outages, city police Lt. Robert Dine said.
"We've got witnesses who did see a funnel cloud drop out of the sky and do the damage to the houses with roof damage and a lot of damage to the industrial area," he said.
Charlie Mascheck and his family had to dash to safety when the storm tore a wall from their home, exposing a second-floor bedroom and a bathroom.
"All of a sudden we just heard that sound that everybody tells you about," he said. "Realized we were right in the middle of it and everybody ran to the middle of the stairwell and got on top of each other and rode it out. It only lasted maybe a few seconds."
In North Dakota, the rising Red River brought back memories of high water in 1997 that swamped Grand Forks, and caused heavy damage from southern North Dakota to Canada.
The weather service predicted major flooding for the Grand Forks area, saying the river could rise to about 47 feet by next Friday. Flood stage in Grand Forks is 28 feet, but residents are protected by a huge dike project begun after the 1997 disaster.
Residents were being asked to volunteer for sandbag duty to help protect homes threatened by the rising Red River in Fargo.
Dennis Walaker, the city's public works director, said he expected "at least the football team" to join the Saturday's effort to help residents hold back the water.
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Record-Breaking Rainy Month in Hawaii Ends
By TARA GODVIN
April 2, 2006
HONOLULU - Hawaii residents awoke to sun this weekend after more than 40 days of downpours that left a wake of havoc across the islands and broke records for rain at the wettest place on Earth.
Nearly 92 inches - or about 7 1/2 feet - of rain were recorded during March at Mount Waialeale, considered the rainiest spot on the planet. The previous record was about 90 inches in April 1971, according to the National Weather Service.
Even the normally dry Honolulu Airport received more rain in the first three months of 2006 than in all of 2005.
The near biblical downfall left the islands disheveled with debris, flooded homes, and led to a sewage spill in the water off Waikiki.
The largest toll was taken on Kauai, where seven died when a century-old earthen dam strained by the heavy rains burst March 14 sending a wall of water crashing through homes to the sea.
Last week, a sewer line broke when it was overwhelmed by heavy rain and sent some 48 million gallons of raw sewage into the ocean.
But the beaches of Waikiki were open again Saturday, with only a hint of suntan lotion lingering in the air and crowds back on the sand - though fewer than usual in the water.
Sitting on towels with three friends at Waikiki, Susan Orr, of Colby, Kan., said she came to Hawaii in honor of her 50th birthday. It was the last day of their vacation, and the first decent day of sun.
"Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose," she said.
Honolulu was still cleaning up after a massive downpour Friday that sent mud sliding down hills and turned streets into gushing rapids of brown churning water.
Along with flooding homes, the rain sent merchandise floating at Kahala Mall, where waters rushed into a movie theater and inundated 90 shops with more than a foot of water.
Larry Leopardi, division chief of road maintenance for Honolulu, said the spate of rain that began on Feb. 19 has been like living in a hurricane.
"It's one of those storms that keeps giving," said Leopardi, whose crew have been working around the clock seven days a week.
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Floods force evacuation of thousands in Central Europe
April 2, 2006
PRAGUE - Swollen rivers and floodwaters forced thousands of people across Central Europe to leave their homes and there were fears melting snow could make matter worse.
In the Czech Republic the death toll from the floods rose to at least four after police announced Sunday they had found the body of a drowned pensioner in the centre of the country. A further two people have lost their lives in neighbouring Slovakia.
A fifth of the historic city of Olomouc, in the east of the Czech Republic, was inundated when an embankment holding back the raging Morava gave way during the early hours of Sunday.
In Hungary, Budapest's mayor urged the government to declare a state of emergency for those parts of the city most threatened by the Danube and ban traffic on the river.
Olomouc city council ordered the evacuation of a further 2,000 people Sunday afternoon although the danger to the city of 100,000 inhabitants appeared to be subsiding with the embankment repaired and the river level stabilising.
In the south-east, the South Moravian governor ordered 4,000 people to quit a handful of villages menaced by a 500-hectare (1,235 acre) lake on Sunday afternoon.
The lake, fed by local rivers, has been developing on low lying farmland over the last days.
In the north of the country, streams and rivers continued to swell the Elbe which climbed to 8.46 metres (28 feet), more than four times its normal level, by noon Sunday with no respite expected before Monday.
The regional authority declared a state of emergency for the entire length of the river from 40 kilometres north of Prague to the German border on Saturday.
Flood emergency situations had been announced by half of the country's 14 regional authorities by the end of Saturday.
Authorities warned that higher temperatures, thawing snow which still carpets mountains across the country, could dramatically worsen the situation. Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek was cautious on Sunday.
"Everything depends on weather conditions and here there is still a lot of uncertainty," he told public television.
In Hungary, the highest level flood alerts were in force on 600 kilometres (370 miles) of river in the country on Sunday with the number of evacuees mounting to 3,704, according to the national disaster prevention authority.
The worst affected areas were in the north of the country, bordering Slovakia. Road and rail transport across the country was disrupted.
In Slovakia, river levels remained critical although the risk appeared to be easing. A state of emergency was declared Saturday at Trtice in the south-west of the country after the Cierna Voda reached a dangerous level.
In Austria, the level of the Danube and of many rivers in the north of the country remained at a critical situation over the weekend without, however, requiring people to flee their homes.
The Czech Cabinet was due to hold an emergency meeting to assess the flood risk and what new measures could be taken to help stricken areas.
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Rain Worsens Risk Of Disease In Drought-Stricken Ethiopia
Apr 03, 2006
Geneva - Ethiopian children are facing a new threat after two years of drought because recent rainfall has increased the risk of lethal disease, the United Nations children's aid agency UNICEF said Friday.
Damien Personnaz, a UNICEF spokesman, said that rain in parts of the Oromia region had raised the spectre of diarrhea and malaria, which can be deadly among already vulnerable populations.
There is a "cruel irony" in the situation, he told reporters.
The brief showers have not been enough to undo the damage of two failed rainy seasons in the parched lowland region on the southern border with Kenya.
Malnutrition rates there are "alarming", with 56,000 youngsters aged under five at risk, and livestock deaths continue to climb, said Personnaz.
But there has still been enough rain to form shallow pools near villages, which are potential breeding grounds for malaria.
Rain water is also washing through piles of dead animals near many communities, and flowing on to pollute the few remaining water sources, said UNICEF in a statement.
Anyone drinking from the pools and the polluted sources risks catching waterborne diseases such as diarrhea, which is often relatively mild in wealthy countries but potentially fatal when it strikes a malnourished population with very little access to health facilities.
An estimated 1.7 million Ethiopians are struggling to survive the drought which is affecting the whole Horn of Africa including Kenya, Somalia and Djibouti.
Despite the recent showers, forecasters say that the April rainy season is again expected to fail.
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Cartoon: Global Warming Denial
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Thousands Of Iran Quake Victims Seek Shelter
by Atta Kenare
Apr 03, 2006
Brujerd, Iran - Iranian authorities were battling Saturday to provide shelter and aid for thousands of people left homeless by a 6.0 magnitude earthquake in the west of the country that killed 70 people.
Amid fears of aftershocks, survivors of Friday's pre-dawn earthquake in the west of Lorestan province -- which also injured at least 1,265 -- spent the night in the cold open air as they awaited the distribution of relief items.
"The search and rescue operation is over, and we have started to house the survivors in the tents. Some 70 percent of the families have got their tents, and the rest will receive theirs by nightfall," Iranian deputy interior ministry Mohammad Baqir Zolqadr told state television.
Most of the parks in Brujerd and the provincial capital, Khoramabad were packed with people who had dragged blankets and other necessities with them in the expectation of enduring more aftershocks.
The Iranian Red Crescent announced that it has handed out 10,000 tents and another 15,000 are needed which will delivered by nightfall.
Local women were seen sitting in a circle, crying as they wailed for the loss of their loved ones, covering their heads with mud, and scratching their nails into their tear-stained faces.
Such mourning ceremonies are unique to the area.
"I wish I were killed with my sheep and cows," shouted the wailing Hossein Mousivand, 60, from a village close to the city of Burjerd.
According to local officials, the areas hit most by the quakes were villages between Brujerd and Doroud, which have a population of around 200,000 people. About 330 villages suffered 40 to 100 percent damage, according to officials.
"I lost all my livelihood, I had 140 sheep and cows, now I am left with a destroyed farm and only 50 animals," Mousivand, hitting his head against the only standing pillar in his ravaged farm, told an AFP photographer.
Zolqadr said that the people's most urgent needs were "food and sanitation" with Iran's volunteer Basij militia distributing bread, bottled mineral water, and conserved food.
He said there was as yet no sign of a risk of epidemic from the death of domestic animals: "We are disinfecting the area where animal carcasses have been found."
According to a local agriculture official in Brujerd more than a thousand sheep, cows and goats have been killed in the quake in his area.
Around 500 people from villages under the city of Brujerd's jurisdiction protested in front of the city's governor office, demanding blankets, tents and food, state news agency IRNA reported.
Zolqadr also said that 15,000 homes were affected in the area and they have planed to furnish all of them with tents.
The quake struck at 4:47 am (0117 GMT) following two others measuring 4.7 and 5.1, Iranian television quoted the National Seismological Institute as saying.
According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Iranian Red Crescent has sent 100 rescue teams, or a total of around 300 people, to the affected areas.
Interior ministry public relations director Mojtaba Mir-Abdollahi told AFP hours after the quake that survivors were in urgent need of food, blankets and medical supplies, but he added that there was "no need" for international aid.
Despite acute tension over Tehran's nuclear program and neighboring Iraq, US President George W. Bush made a point of offering sympathy and assistance.
"We obviously have differences with the Iranian government but we do care about the suffering of Iranian people," he said while at a North American summit in Mexico.
Iran sits astride several major faults in the earth's crust, and is prone to frequent earthquakes, many of them devastating.
The worst quake in recent times hit Bam in the south of the country in December 2003, killing 31,000 people, about a quarter of the city's population, and destroying the city's ancient mud-built citadel.
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Five Whales Wash Ashore in Fla.
Fri Mar 31, 7:28 PM ET
HUTCHINSON ISLAND, Fla. - The body of a melon-headed whale, rarely found in Florida waters, washed ashore this week hours after four others were found dead or had to be euthanized because scientists determined they were too sick to be saved.
The first was found dead Wednesday morning at Vero Beach. The others were discovered on Hutchinson Island later that day, said Steven McCulloch, executive director of marine mammal research and conservation at Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution.
"It's been kind of a wild goose chase, and we're not sure it's over yet," McCulloch said.
All of the melon-headed whales, also known as electra dolphins, were about 7 to 9 feet long and appeared thin and malnourished, said Greg Bossart, director of marine mammal research and conservation at Harbor Branch, a research facility north of Fort Pierce.
Necropsies showed that the animals had ulcers in their stomachs, a sign of stress, and had not eaten for weeks.
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Hybrids aren't so green after all
By Richard J. Newman
US News and World Report
Trying to decide if you should buy a hybrid to do your bit for the environment? The decision just got more complicated.
A new study shows that over the lifetime of a vehicle-from the moment it is conceptualized at a design studio until it ends up in the scrap heap-hybrids actually consume a lot more energy than even big SUVs. One reason is that hybrids contain more moving parts than conventional vehicles, which require more energy to manufacture and process. In addition to an internal combustion engine, for instance, hybrids also have an electric motor and a sizable battery pack. That adds to disposal costs, too, once the car has run its last mile-especially for the lead-acid batteries.
The study, by consulting firm CNW Marketing Research in Bandon, Ore., analyzed hundreds of variables that contribute to energy costs-including the fuel they burn while being driven–into an index that measures the energy cost per mile for more than 300 vehicles. All five hybrids on the list-the Toyota Prius, the Honda Accord and Civic hybrids, the Honda Insight, and the Ford Escape hybrid–perform below average. For all vehicles, the average was $2.28 of energy consumption per mile. The Prius hybrid came in at $3.25 per mile, even though it is one of the highest-mileage cars in the world, getting about 45 miles per gallon in real-world driving. The Honda Accord hybrid consumed $3.30 of energy per mile, about the same as the hulking Ford Excursion SUV. The conventional Accord came in at just $2.18 per mile.
The data don't change anything about the equation an average buyer faces when deciding whether a hybrid makes financial sense. Hybrids typically cost about $2,000 to $3,000 more than similarly equipped conventional models. They get better mileage, but in normal driving it takes about seven years before the savings at the pump offset the higher price.
But for car buyers concerned about the overall environmental implications of the car they choose to drive, the CNW study should cause some rethinking. There's not a single hybrid among the 10 most energy-efficient cars, for instance. But the Scion xB, at the top of the list, requires just 48 cents of energy per mile-about one seventh as costly as a Prius–and the Ford Escort, at No. 2, just 57 cents. At the other end of the list, there are few surprises. The $380,000 Maybach ultraluxe chariot is the least energy-efficient vehicle, requiring $11.58 worth of energy per mile.
The top and bottom 10:
Most energy efficient Cost per mile Scion xB $0.48 Ford Escort $0.57 Jeep Wrangler $0.60 Chevrolet Tracker $0.69 Toyota Echo $0.70 Saturn Ion $0.71 Hyundai Elantra $0.72 Dodge Neon $0.73 Toyota Corolla $0.73 Scion xA $0.74
Least energy efficient Cost per mile Maybach $11.58 VW Phaeton $11.21 Rolls-Royce $10.66 Bentley $10.56 Audi Allroad Quattro $5.60 Audi A8 $4.96 Audi A6 $4.96 Lexus LS 430 $4.73 Porsche Carrera GT $4.53 Acura NSX $4.45
Source: CNW Marketing Research
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Watergate figure returns from the 'dark side' to condemn Bush
Fri Mar 31, 6:37 PM ET
WASHINGTON - John Dean, a key figure in the Watergate scandal who helped bring down then-president Richard Nixon, told a Senate hearing that President George W. Bush's domestic spying programme was a worse abuse of power.
"I think it is important that the committee sometimes hear from the 'dark side'," the former special counsel to Nixon told a hearing on a Senate censure motion made against Bush.
"No president that I can find in the history of our country has really ever adopted a policy of expanding presidential powers for the sake of expanding presidential powers.
"I think that is what we have going on in this presidency."
Senator Russell Feingold, a Democrat, startled the US establishment three weeks ago by laying the censure motion against Bush after it was revealed that the president had allowed the interception of domestic phone calls and email messages without a special warrant.
The Bush administration has insisted the measures were needed after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
But Dean said Congress had to protect its "institutional pride" against what he called a growing tendency "to let the president do what he wants and to have virtually no oversight".
Freedom to manouevre is important, he added. "They take note of that when they are not called to the mat. They push the envelope as far as they can."
Dean said that Nixon had also defended himself by saying he was acting for the security of the United States.
Dean took part in White House attempts to cover up the Watergate scandal before giving evidence against Nixon and serving 127 days in prison.
While many Republicans have cast doubt on Dean's credibility, his testimony was supported by Bruce Fein, a counsel under former president Ronald Reagan who said the Bush administration was assuming "wartime powers that have no ending".
Feingold's censure motion has excited the Democrats grassroots base but stands no chance. Three other legal experts told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the president had broken no law.
Robert Turner, a specialist on national security law at the University of Virginia, said that "every wartime president, even every wartime leader going back to George Washington, when he authorized the opening of British mail coming into the United States during the American Revolution, has done this kind of behavior."
A storm of controversy erupted after the New York Times reported in December that Bush had authorised the secret wiretaps without going to a special court that gives warrants for such actions.
While not supporting a censure, many Republicans have backed moves to pass legislation on the eavesdropping.
The administration has insisted that the spying was legal, only on communications between the United States and abroad and only concerned Al-Qaeda suspects.
It has said Congress gave authorisation for such tactics when it passed a resolution allowing the use of force after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
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Former US general says Rumsfeld should quit over Iraq
Sun Apr 2, 3:24 PM ET
WASHINGTON - A former senior US military commander, Anthony Zinni, called for the dismissal of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over critical mistakes made in the
Zinni, who headed the US Central Command from 1997 to 2000, was asked if anyone should lose their job over how Washington has managed its Iraq policy.
"Secretary of defense to begin with," he told NBC's "Meet the Press" program.
"Integrity and getting on with the mission and doing it right is more important than loyalty. Both are great traits, but integrity, honesty and performance and competence have to outweigh, in this business, loyalty," the former Marine Corps general said.
Zinni has called for a high-level shake-up at the
Pentagon since late 2003, the same year the United States invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein.
"There's a series of disastrous mistakes. We just heard the secretary of state say these were tactical mistakes. They were not tactical mistakes. These were strategic mistakes, mistakes of policies made back here," he said.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said over the weekend that "thousands" of tactical mistakes had been made with regard to Iraq, a statement she later backed away from.
Some 2,333 US troops have been killed in Iraq, according to an AFP count based on Pentagon figures.
Comment: Bush's approval ratings are rock bottom, the people are unhappy with him, and members of his administration come out and effectively blame the military for thousands of "tactical mistakes"??
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US 'intoxicated' by power: Gorbachev
April 2, 2006
WASHINGTON - Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who triggered the demise of the Soviet Union's Communist empire, said in an interview that the United States was "intoxicated" by its power and should not impose its will on others.
"This talk of pre-emptive strikes, of ignoring the UN Security Council and international legal obligations -- all this is leading toward a dark night," Gorbachev told Time magazine.
"I think some people may be pushing president Bush in the wrong direction," he said of the US leader.
"America is intoxicated by its position as the world's only superpower. It wants to impose its will.
"But America needs to get over that. It has responsibilities as well as power. I say this as a good friend of America," said Gorbachev Sunday, who considered his US contemporary, president Ronald Reagan, a friend as well, and attended his funeral.
The former Soviet president, 75, was in the United States last week to promote his book on the history of his government's reforms.
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U.N. Creates New Watchdog Over U.S. Opposition
UNITED NATIONS, Mar 15 (IPS)
A running gag at the United Nations is that whenever the United States takes a defiant stand against an overwhelming majority of the 191 member states, there are only three countries that predictably vote with Washington most of the time -- whether it is right or dead wrong.
As expected, this incongruous voting pattern was repeated Wednesday when the three loyal U.S. allies -- Israel and the two tiny Pacific Island nations of Palau and the Marshall Islands -- were the only member states to stand in unison with the United States when it rejected a resolution calling for the creation of a new Human Rights Council.
The vote in the General Assembly was 170 in favour and four against (United States, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau), with three abstentions (Venezuela, Iran and Belarus).
Seven member states -- Chad, Cote d'Ivoire, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Papua New Guinea and Seychelles --were deprived of their votes because they had not paid their dues to the world body.
Since the United States has no veto in the General Assembly, the resolution was adopted by an overwhelming majority. The U.S. opposition couldn't block the establishment of the new Human Rights Council.
"With the exception of the usual additions of two tiny dependent island-states, the United States and Israel stand alone in defying virtually the entire world's support for the new Human Rights Council," says Phyllis Bennis, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies.
As the work of selecting the first group of members for the new Council begins, each candidate state must agree to being vetted before membership as well as being examined fully at some point during its three-year term, she said.
"The United States, despite its opposition to the Council, has claimed it will 'work with' the Council, and we can anticipate it will expect to win a seat in the first term," Bennis told IPS.
But such an effort should be rejected, she said, as countries evaluating human rights records keep in mind the continuing patterns of U.S. human rights violations both within the United States itself and internationally, where U.S. military or political officials are in power.
"No country with such a record of torture, secret detentions, 'extraordinary renditions,' rejection of the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC), denial of due process and generations of capital punishment, even for minors and the mentally disabled -- all as a matter of official policy -- should be allowed to serve on the new Human Rights Council," said Bennis, author of "Challenging Empire: How People, Governments and the U.N. Defy U.S."
If the General Assembly does indeed allow the United States a seat, she argued, special care should be taken to insure that the mandatory human rights evaluation carried out of all members be taken very seriously when it comes to the U.S., so that the claim that the so-called "indispensable nation" should be somehow exempt from human rights scrutiny will be rejected.
The proposed new Council will have 47 members compared with 53 in the outgoing Human Rights Commission, which has been criticised for accommodating "habitual human rights abusers" as some of its members.
The membership in the new Council shall be based on equitable geographic distribution and seats shall be distributed among regional groups: 13 for the African Group; 13 for the Asian Group; eight for the Latin American and Caribbean group; six for the Eastern European Group; and seven for the Western European and Other States Group.
All members, who will have term limits, will serve for three years but will not be eligible for immediate re-election after two consecutive terms.
The General Assembly, by a two-thirds majority of the members present and voting, may suspend the rights of membership in the Council of a member of the Human Rights Council that commits gross and systematic violations of human rights.
Since a two-thirds majority for membership was opposed by an overwhelming majority of states, General Assembly President Jan Eliasson, who crafted the draft resolution, opted for a compromise: an "absolute majority" -- meaning 96 votes in a 191-member General Assembly.
After the voting in the Assembly, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said that too many countries sought membership in the outgoing Commission primarily "to protect themselves against criticism, or to criticise others".
He agreed with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who had initially proposed that the new Council be elected by a two-thirds majority.
"That would have made it harder for countries not committed to human rights, to win seats on the new body. The United States had also proposed exclusive criteria to keep gross human rights abusers off the Council, to exclude the worst violators," he added..
Sadly, Bolton said, those suggestions had not been included in the text. The resolution merely required member states "to take into account" a country's human rights record when voting.
"And suspension of a member required a two-thirds vote, a standard higher than that required when electing new members," he added.
Bolton also said the real test would be the quality of membership that emerged on the Council -- "and whether that would include countries like the Sudan, Cuba, Iran, Belarus and Burma, to name a few".
In a statement released Wednesday, Annan said: "This is only the first step in a process of change." In the coming weeks, he said, states wishing to be elected to the new Council will put forward their pledges and commitments to protect and promote human rights.
"It will be up to their fellow member states to evaluate these promises, and to hold the successful candidates to them. The General Assembly will vote on all candidates, and thereafter will have the responsibility to suspend any of the Council's members that commit gross and systematic violations of human rights," Annan said.
He also said that the universal review mechanism will allow the Council to hold all member states to their human rights obligations fairly and equally, without selectivity or double standards.
The Council will meet regularly throughout the year, and can hold special sessions when needed. This should enable it to deal with human rights crises immediately, whenever they arise, Annan added.
The creation of the new Council was also hailed by virtually all human rights organisations.
Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said the new council should be a great improvement over the old Commission on Human Rights.
"Today's resolution marks an historic step towards enhanced human rights protection within the U.N. system," he added.
"The challenge now is to make the Human Rights Council function effectively, so human rights victims around the world will gain the forum they urgently need to seek relief from abuses," Roth said, in a statement released Wednesday.
Yvonne Terlingen, U.N. representative for Amnesty International, said her organisation welcomes "the overwhelming vote" by the General Assembly in favour of establishing a new Human Rights Council.
She said the U.S. government's decision to vote against the resolution was "regrettable". However the result, 170 in favour, four opposed and three abstaining, demonstrates unambiguous international support for the Council.
Although the hard work is only just beginning, she said, it is encouraging to hear that, despite voting against the resolution, the U.S. government will cooperate with the Council and support it.
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9/11 - Eliminating The Impossible
By Sheila Samples
31 March, 2006
"It is always better to say right out what you think without trying to prove anything much: for all our proofs are only variations of our opinions,and the contrary-minded listen neither to one nor the other."
~~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I said I'd never do it -- say what I think about that terrible morning of September 11, 2001. I've seen what happens to those who question the elaborate, tangled explanations the Bush administration offers about what happened, how it happened, who did it, and why they did it. It doesn't matter if those who dare speak truth to the lies are professors, investigative reporters, eyewitnesses, scientists -- "conspiracy theorist" is immediately tattooed on their foreheads. They are jeered at, ridiculed, spat upon and swift-boated right out of the room. They are banished to the outskirts of civilized society.
But my friend Bernie says we're way beyond asking questions about 9-11 and, since nobody listens to me anyway, I might as well get it off my chest. "Besides," Bernie said, "George Bush never shuts up about 9-11. He's obsessed with it. No matter what anybody asks him, he spouts September the 11th. Bush never says September 11; he never says 9-11," Bernie groaned, "he just keeps chanting over and over -- September the 11th, September the 11th, September the 11th, Sep--"
"I get the picture!" I interrupted, shuddering at the loathsome image of Bush cavorting around September "the" 11th, pointing to it in every public appearance with masturbatory delight, reveling in the knowledge that "history will show" they got away with it. "You know, Bernie," I sighed, "it's like he's bragging about a grand accomplishment. You'd almost think it was an inside job."
"Of course it was an inside job," Bernie snorted. "Anyone who can connect even two dots without ramming one up his nose and the other into his forehead knows that. And anyone who's ever flown a Cessna 172 is roaring with laughter at the thought of those Muslim guys Bush fingered emerging from a dusty Florida airport, climbing into the cockpit of a Boeing 757, looking at the flashing lights, bells and whistles on its control panel, and know which button to push to even talk to the passengers, let alone get that 100-ton beast in the air. HAW HAW...
"We know they did it," Bernie said, suddenly sober. "Every single one of us. We know it now -- and we knew it then." He rose and started toward the door -- "All you gotta remember is...if something is something, it can't be anything else but that something. No matter how they dress it up, no matter how much lipstick they smear on it, it's still that something. It ain't never something else. Everything that's happened in the last five years, and everything that'll happen in the next five," Bernie said, "is a result of that one day Bush keeps throwing in our faces -- September the 11th."
I sat there, trying to wrap my mind around Bernie's string of "somethings," when it suddenly occurred to me. Of course! Bernie instinctively hit upon the universal law called dharma, a simple principle that brings order to chaos -- things are what they are, and a thing cannot be other than what it is. Universal laws cannot be broken, even by the genocidal warmongers running rampant within this administration, no matter how hard they try. Knowing Bernie, however, I suspect he was channeling Sherlock Holmes who skillfully used the critical dharma tool Sir Arthur Conan Doyle gave him to solve crime -- "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."
For four and a half years, questions about 9-11 have swirled through the Internet with tornadic force, yet caused scarcely a breeze within the mainstream media. The sheer number of heroic questioners helped to keep the door of truth open just a crack in spite of a relentless effort of the Bush men, the media and the Congress to force it shut. It hasn't been easy. Americans' psyches were shattered on 9-11 when, with no warning, they suddenly came face-to-face with raw, fiendish evil. They were incapable of handling the truth.
Americans are waking up. They have been told one -- or one hundred -- too many lies. They instinctively know there are only three areas of questions about 9-11 whose answers, however improbable, reveal the truth.
One -- Who, or what, flew the four hijacked planes on 9-11? Certainly not the inexperienced, box-cutter-armed bunch of rag-tag Saudis -- most of whom are still alive -- whose photographs the FBI plastered on our TV screens and in our minds immediately after the attack. There were no Arabs in the air on the morning of 9-11, performing astonishing feats of acrobatic maneuvering -- spinning and snap-rolling and pulling 180's (scroll down to see flight paths) into the World Trade Center and Pentagon -- nor were any listed on the manifests of the four flights. The only proof of their presence is the passport of one Salem Suqami that fluttered through the chaos of explosions, a raging inferno and collapse of buildings and landed, undamaged, on the sidewalk below.
Actually, we need go no further into the 9-11 morass than the planes. What we witnessed on that ghastly morning was a carefully planned, perfectly orchestrated PSYOPS attack on a citizenry by its own government. The first victim of this brutal assault was possibly the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), which was juggling a minimum of five training exercises that morning and, at any one time its radar screens showed up to 22 hijacked aircraft. Much has been written about NORAD "standing down" on 9-11. I don't buy that for one minute.
But NORAD is guilty. It is guilty of assuming the mass confusion was a result of multiple war games it was playing that morning of crashing planes into buildings. It is guilty of trying to cover its ass when it realized the destruction was real-world. According to an in-depth report by retired theologian Dr. David Ray Griffin, who also wrote "The New Pearl Harbor" and "The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions," both General Richard Myers, then acting chair of the Joint Chiefs, and Mike Snyder, NORAD spokesman, reported that "no military jets were sent up until after the strike on the Pentagon."
Griffin says when this admission started raising eyebrows, a second story appeared on Sept. 14 that "contrary to early reports, jets were scrambled while the attacks were underway, but they arrived too late to prevent them." Four days later, NORAD released a timeline so jumbled it failed to pass muster in any venue. Finally, unable to get out of the hole, both the FAA and NORAD stopped digging. The FAA destroyed the tapes of activity that morning, to include conversations between the hijacked planes and air traffic control personnel, said, "oopsie, sorry about that," then just shut up and took its licks.
Two -- Nothing reveals the truth of 9-11 as clearly as the in-your-face controlled demolition of the World Trade Center's twin towers and building 7. They all fell down. According to a NYC fireman on the scene, they fell -- "just like that -- boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom-boom" -- In 10 seconds flat. Well, that's not exactly true, because it took the 47-story No. 7 only 6.6 seconds to pancake into its own footprints. But if ever there was a classic case of "don't believe your lying eyes," it is the deliberate destruction of these three WTC buildings.
Nothing reveals the truth as clearly as the breathless, on-the-scene initial reaction by network and cable TV -- "There are explosions going off everywhere!" ... "We just heard another huge explosion!" ... "A huge explosion, raining debris on all of us...we need to get out of here!" ... "This almost looks like a -- a controlled demolition..." CNN's Pentagon correspondent, Jamie McEntyre, blurted this "Breaking News" item -- "There's no evidence that a plane crashed into the Pentagon or anywhere near it and in fact, the only pieces left were small enough that you could pick them up in your hands --and no large sections -- tail sections, fuselage sections..."
By the next morning, the media monkeys had come to their senses and were dutifully droning administration talking points while ominously reminding Americans that questioning what happened was nothing short of criticism of the president, or how unpatriotic can we be at a time when we all need to hang together. However, defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld apparently agreed with McEntyre and conspiracy theorists when he told Parade Magazine on Oct. 13, "Here we're talking about plastic knives, and using an American Airlines flight filled with our citizens, and the missile to damage this building, and similar (inaudible) that damaged the WTC."
Nothing reveals the truth more clearly than the implosion of No. 7, which was not hit by a plane. WTC owner Larry Silverstein publicly acknowledged that they "pulled" No. 7 and, although he made out like a bandit on the whole 9-11 holocaust, he did not explain nor did the media ask him when the explosives needed to "pull" the 47 stories were put in place. Interestingly, the 9-11 Commission did not think it important enough to question either Silverstein or the fire department about the No. 7 collapse, nor did it even mention the building in its bogus report.
Three -- The truth is what it is. As Bernie says, it ain't never something else. A search for the truth about 9-11 is much easier if all that cannot be true is tossed out. Why waste time considering the impossible?
For example, if you're reading Michael Chertoff's massive May 2002 FEMA investigation into 9-11, "World Trade Center Building Performance Study," you need go no further into its 262 pages than this conclusion -- "...as each aircraft impacted a building, jet fuel on board ignited. Part of this fuel immediately burned off in the large fireballs that erupted at the impact floors. Remaining fuel flowed across the floors and down elevator and utility shafts, igniting intense fires throughout upper portions of the buildings. As these fires spread, they further weakened the steel-framed structures, eventually leading to total collapse."
Toss it, as well as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) report, which uses its 292 pages to "describe how the aircraft impacts and subsequent fires led to the collapses (sic) of the towers after terrorists flew jet fuel laden commercial airliners into the buildings..."
While you're at it, you can trash the March 2005 Popular Mechanics hit piece -- a regurgitation of FEMA's fantastical explanation, to wit --"Once each tower began to collapse, the weight of all the floors above the collapsed zone bore down with pulverizing force on the highest intact floor. Unable to absorb the massive energy, that floor would fail, transmitting the forces to the floor below, allowing the collapse to progress downward through the building in a chain reaction."
And the Pentagon? PM had that all figured out too. It quotes Mete Sozen, a professor of structural engineering at Purdue University as shrugging aside the nagging conspiracy that a Boeing 757 did not hit the Pentagon, ". . .one wing hit the ground; the other was sheared off by the force of the impact with the Pentagon's load-bearing columns," Sozen said. "What was left of the plane flowed into the structure in a state closer to a liquid than a solid mass."
I could be wrong, but I doubt even the zany, fun-loving Rumsfeld would try to run THAT one by us. The PM piece is little more than an attack on those who question the events of that dreadful morning, and is replete with unattributed "facts." It is the work of Michael Chertoff's cousin, 25-year-old Benjamin Chertoff, who was given free reign after a shock-and-awe coup at the magazine wherein PM editor-in-chief Joe Oldham was given 90 minutes to clean out his desk. Other staff members, including the creative director, were also fired.
The 9-11 Commission Report should be discarded as well. And set afire. It differs from the above attempts to cover up a government's attack on its own people only in length and breadth. Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton entered into a "contract" with the American people; they swore to get to the bottom of the tragedy; inventory its causes and put the blame where it rightfully belonged. They betrayed us. And they charged us only ten bucks a copy.
In his hard-hitting article in Harper's Magazine, Benjamin DeMott writes that the Report is "a shrewdly conceived and sustained equity-of-blame argument that becomes the fulcrum of the entire document and has a single principle at its center -- any blame that might be apportioned to the behavior of the sitting administration is easily counterbalanced by the behavior of preceding authorities -- and by historical 'fact' as interpreted in accordance with current presidential and commissarial need."
Bush made clear that his "presidential need" was to not have a Commission blaming him for what happened. When an investigation was forced on him, Bush undercut it, underfunded it and agreed to meet with Commission members only in the Oval Office, only if Dick Cheney was there, only if he was not under oath, only if his remarks were not recorded and only if no notes were taken. DeMott tells us that the more than 600-page document was nothing more than "a weapon in a major domestic conflict: the war on incisive, sometimes rudely disruptive thought -- thought that distinguishes the democratic citizen from the idolatrous fool, the sucker, the clueless consumer, the ad person's delight."
Rather than tell the people the truth as promised about 9-11, Kean and Hamilton used their Report as a PSYOPS weapon against them. Bill Clinton is to blame. With the FAA riding shotgun. Shut up and move on.
After eliminating the impossible, we are left with ghastly images of death and suffering. With brutal malice aforethought, on 9-11 this administration murdered 2,823 human beings. Only 1,102 victims have been identified, although 19,500 body parts were "collected." More than 100 Americans were pulverized in the explosions, their remains mingling with tons and tons of cement into fine dust, and just disappeared into the air, perhaps into the lungs of those working feverishly at Ground Zero to save them. Each of us with any connection to reality knows that the only explanation for 9-11 is that the entire holocaust was a deliberately planned, orchestrated, controlled demolition of our way of life.
If you want to know what happened on 9-11, watch Korey Rove, Dylan Avery and Jason Bermas' critical film, "Loose Change, 2nd Edition." Surely the Truth is worth 1 hour, 21 minutes and 50 seconds of our lives..
If you want to know why 9-11 happened, read the Project for the New American Century (PNAC)2000 report, Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century," which calls for a "new Pearl Harbor" to establish US military preeminence throughout the world as well as unending war to seize and control the world's resources. It's only 90 pages, and should take even less than 1 hour, 21 minutes and 50 seconds to peruse.
If you want to know the truth about the attack on this country, watch and read the above as if your life depended upon it. Because it does.
We have the crime. We have the criminals. The time has come to indict them. Try them. Convict them. Punish them. Then, and only then, can we move on.
That's what I think.
Sheila Samples is an Oklahoma writer and a former civilian US Army Public Information Officer. She is a regular contributor for a variety of Internet sites. Contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Art Of War For The Anti-War Movement
By Scott Ritter
01 April, 2006
In the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq by a US-led coalition, and for three years since, I have spent many hours speaking to numerous anti-war forums across the country and around the world. I have always been struck by the sincerity of the vast majority of those who call themselves anti-war, and impressed by their willingness to give so much of themselves in the service of such a noble cause.
Whether participating in demonstrations, organizing a vigil, conducting town-hall meetings, or writing letters to their elected officials and the media, the participants in the anti-war movement have exhibited an energy and integrity that would make anyone proud. For myself, I have been vociferous in my defense of the actions of the majority of the anti-war movement, noting that the expression of their views is not only consistent with their rights afforded by the Constitution of the United States, but also that their engagement in the process of citizenship is a stellar example of the ideals and values set forth in that document, and as such representative of the highest form of patriotism in keeping with service to a document that begins, "We the People."
Lately I have noticed a growing despondency among many of those who call themselves the anti-war movement. With the United States now entering its fourth year of illegal war in and illegitimate occupation of Iraq, and the pro-war movement moving inexorably towards yet another disastrous conflict with Iran, there is an increasing awareness that the cause of the anti-war movement, no matter how noble and worthy, is in fact a losing cause as currently executed. Despite all of the well-meaning and patriotic work of the millions of activists and citizens who comprise the anti-war movement, America still remains very much a nation not only engaged in waging and planning wars of aggression, but has also become a nation which increasingly identifies itself through its military and the wars it fights. This is a sad manifestation of the fact that the American people seem to be addicted to war and violence, rather than the ideals of human rights, individual liberty, and freedom and justice for all that should define our nation.
In short, the anti-war movement has come face to face with the reality that in the ongoing war of ideologies that is being waged in America today, their cause is not just losing, but is in fact on the verge of complete collapse. Many in the anti-war movement would take exception to such a characterization of the situation, given the fact that there seems to be a growing change in the mood among Americans against the ongoing war in Iraq. But one only has to scratch at the surface of this public discontent to realize how shallow and superficial it is. Americans aren't against the war in Iraq because it is wrong; they are against it because we are losing.
Take the example of Congressman Jack Murtha. A vocal supporter of President Bush's decision to invade Iraq, last fall Mr. Murtha went public with his dramatic change of position, suddenly rejecting the war as un-winnable, and demanding the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. While laudable, I have serious problems with Jack Murtha's thought process here. At what point did the American invasion of Iraq become a bad war? When we suffered 2,000 dead? After two years of fruitless struggle? Once we spent $100 billion?
While vocalizing his current opposition against the Iraq War, Congressman Murtha and others who voted for the war but now question its merits have never retracted their original pro-war stance. Nor have they criticized their role in abrogating the Constitutional processes for bringing our country into conflict when they voted for a war before the President had publicly committed to going to war (we now know the President had committed to the invasion of Iraq by the summer of 2002, and that all his representations to the American people and Congress about 'war as a matter of last resort' and 'seeking a diplomatic solution' were bold face lies). The Iraq War was wrong the moment we started bombing Iraq. Getting rid of Saddam Hussein is no excuse, and does not pardon America's collective sin of brooking and tolerating an illegal war of aggression.
The reality is, had our military prevailed in this struggle, the American people for the most part would not even blink at the moral and legal arguments against this war. This underlying reality is reflected in the fact that despite our ongoing disaster in Iraq, America is propelled down a course of action that leads us toward conflict with Iran. President Bush recently re-affirmed his embrace of the principles of pre-emptive war when he signed off on the 2006 version of the National Security Strategy of the United States, which highlights Iran as a threat worthy of confrontation. This event has gone virtually unmentioned by the American mainstream media, un-remarked by a Congress that remains complicit in the war-mongering policies of the Bush administration, and un-noticed by the majority of Americans. America is pre-programmed for war, and unless the anti-war movement dramatically changes the manner in which it conducts its struggle, America will become a nation of war, for war, and defined by war, and as such a nation that will ultimately be consumed by war.
It is high time for the anti-war movement to take a collective look in the mirror, and be honest about what they see. A poorly organized, chaotic, and indeed often anarchic conglomeration of egos, pet projects and idealism that barely constitutes a "movement," let alone a winning cause. I have yet to observe an anti-war demonstration that has a focus on anti-war. It often seemed that every left-wing cause took advantage of the event to promote its own particular agenda, so that "No War in Iraq" shared the stage with the environment, ecology, animal rights, pro-choice, and numerous other causes which not only diluted the anti-war message which was supposed to be sent, but also guaranteed that the demonstration itself would be seen as something hijacked by the left, inclusive of only progressive ideologues, and exclusive of the vast majority of moderate (and even conservative) Americans who might have wanted to share the stage with their fellow Americans from the left when it comes to opposing war with Iraq (or even Iran), but do not want to be associated with any other theme.
The anti-war movement, first and foremost, needs to develop a laser-like focus on being nothing more or less than anti-war.
The anti-war movement lacks any notion of strategic thinking, operational planning, or sense of sound tactics. So much energy is wasted because of this failure to centrally plan and organize. As a result, when the anti-war movement does get it right (and on occasion it does), the success is frittered away by a failure to have planned effective follow-up efforts, failure to have implemented any supporting operations, an inability to recognize opportunities as they emerge and a lack of resources to exploit such opportunities if in fact they were recognized to begin with. In short, the anti-war movement is little more than a walk-on squad of high school football players drawing plays in the sand, taking on the National Football League Super Bowl Champions.
In order to even have a chance of prevailing with the American people, the anti-war movement is going to need much more than just good ideals and values. It needs to start thinking like a warrior would, in full recognition that we as a nation are engaged in a life-or-death struggle of competing ideologies with those who promote war as an American value and virtue.
The anti-war movement needs to study the philosophies of those who have mastered the art of conflict, from Caesar to Napoleon, from Sun Tzu to Clausewitz. It needs to study the "enemy" learning to understand the pro-war movement as well as it understands itself. It needs to comprehend the art of campaigning, of waging battles only when necessary, and having the ability to wage a struggle on several fronts simultaneously, synchronizing each struggle so that a synergy is created which maximizes whatever energy is being expended. The anti-war movement needs to understand the pro-war movement's center of gravity, and design measures to defeat this. It needs to grasp the pro-war movement's decision-making cycle, then undertake a comprehensive course of action that learns to pre-empt this cycle, getting 'inside' the pro-war system of making decisions, and thereby forcing the pro-war movement to react to the anti-war agenda, instead of vice versa.
There is an old adage in the military that "intelligence drives operations." The anti-war movement needs to develop a centralized intelligence operation, not a spy organization, but rather a think-tank that produces sound analysis based upon fact that can be used to empower those who are waging the struggle against war. Far too often the anti-war movement dilutes its effectiveness by either being unable to produce facts during a debate, or when it does, producing facts that are inaccurate, incomplete, or both. The mainstream media treats the anti-war movement as a joke because many times that is exactly what the anti-war movement, through its lack of preparation and grasp of the facts, allows itself to become.
The anti-war movement lacks organization. There is no central leadership, or mechanism to effectively muster and control resources. The anti-war movement takes pride in its "democratic" composition, but in fact it operates as little more than controlled chaos, creating ample opportunity for the pro-war movement to effectively execute a "divide and conquer" strategy to minimize and nullify whatever good the anti-war movement achieves through its efforts. The anti-war movement would do well to take a page from the fire service and implement a version of the Incident Command System (ICS) that firefighters use when fighting complex fires involving the integration of several departments, organizations and jurisdictions. The anti-war movement needs to develop its own "ICS for the anti-war" that is universally applied throughout the movement, so that an anti-war effort in Seattle, Washington operates the same as an anti-war effort in New York City, and as such can be coordinated and controlled by an overall command staff operating from Denver, Colorado.
Complex problems, such as faced by the anti-war movement, require complex solutions, which in turn dictate a flexible control mechanism that can coordinate and synchronize every effort to achieve the desired result at a time and place of the anti-war movement's choosing, and then be prepared to follow up on successes as they occur and sustain the movement over an extended period of time. It is not enough to win a battle against the pro-war movement; the anti-war movement needs to win the war of ideologies. As such it must not only prepare to win a particular fight, but to exploit that victory, massing its forces against any developed weakness, and drive the pro-movement into the ground and off the American political map once and for all.
I have indicated my willingness to apply my training and experience as a warrior in a manner which helps teach the principles of the art of war to those who call themselves part of the anti-war movement. There seems to be not only a need for this sort of training, but also a desire among the myriad of individuals and groups who comprise the anti-war movement for an overall coordinated strategic direction, operational planning, and tactical execution of agreed upon mission objectives. One can be certain that the pro-war movement is conducting itself in full accordance with these very same organizational principles and methodologies. And let there be no doubt: the pro-war movement in America is prevailing. In order to gain the upper hand politically, and actually position itself to stop not only those wars already being fought (Iraq), but also prevent those being planned (Iran), the anti-war movement will need to re-examine in totality the way it does business. I for one am ready to assist. However, in writing this essay, I am constantly reminded of the old saying, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink." One can only hope that the anti-war movement is thirsty.
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US Struggling To Find New Disaster Chief
by Staff Writers
Apr 03, 2006
Washington - The administration of US President George W. Bush is struggling ahead of the looming hurricane season to recruit a new federal disaster management chief after several candidates turned the job down, The New York Times reported Sunday.
"Seven of these candidates for director or another top FEMA job said in interviews that they had pulled themselves out of the running," the Times said.
The administration is scrambling to find a new disaster chief to head up the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) before the June-September storm season hits, after its last chief was ousted in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
Former FEMA director Michael Brown was forced from office over the administration's lackluster response to Katrina which devastated New Orleans and large swathes of the US Gulf coast, killing over 1,000 people.
But seven months after Katrina, the government has still to find a new FEMA chief, the Times reported.
It said those canvassed for the job so far were "unconvinced that the administration is serious about fixing the Federal Emergency Management Agency or that there is enough time actually to get it done before president Bush's second term ends" in early 2009.
"You don't take the fire chief job after someone has burned down the city unless you are going to be able to do it in the right fashion," Ellis M. Stanley, a general manager of emergency planning in Los Angeles and one of those called by the administration, told the Times.
The report said Bush is now likely to nominate R. David Paulison, a former fire official who has been filling in for the past seven months, to take the job permanently.
"To a lot of people that would be an insult," said Craig Fugate, the top emergency management official in Florida, who said he also had been interviewed but then withdrew his name.
"They have been publicly out looking at how many different names and everyone turned it down and they come back and ask you?" Fugate told the Times.
With much of New Orleans and the Gulf coast still to be rebuild and widespread criticism of the government's slow response to Katrina last year, the White House is looking for a seasoned disaster official.
Brown, who resigned in September, was criticised for his lack of experience. He was previously a commissioner of the International Arabian Horse Association.
And Bush's first FEMA director, Joe Allbaugh, was a Bush campaign manager during the 2000 election.
Several emergency managers, including those who were considered for the job, said they were confident, however, that Paulison was up to the task, even if he had not yet had an opportunity to offer a vision for the agency.
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Documentary makers decry Smithsonian deal
Last Updated Sat, 01 Apr 2006 16:29:45 EST
Two well-known American documentary filmmakers have come out against a recent agreement between the Smithsonian Institution and Showtime Networks Inc.
The New York Times reports Ken Burns, who directed The Civil War, Jazz and Baseball documentary series, called the deal "terrifying." Burns said the agreement means he would have been prohibited from making some of his documentaries that rely on archival material from the institution.
The agreement, cemented in early March, restricts film and television shows which are using Smithsonian materials from offering their work to public television or other non-Showtime broadcast outlets, unless they first offer it to Smithsonian on Demand, the institute's new broadcast outlet, or Showtime.
Burns told the newspaper the Smithsonian has "essentially optioned America's attic to one company."
Filmmaker Laurie Kahn-Leavitt said she had been told that her film Tupperware! - a historical recreation of the rise of the food-storage containers - would have fallen under the deal. The documentary was shown on PBS.
Kahn-Leavitt said a public archive should not be used on "an exclusive basis to anyone," reported the New York Times.
Jeanny Kim, vice president of media services for Smithsonian Business Ventures, said the agreement would affect a small number of works - ones that draw heavily on archival material.
Kim said documentaries using a few minutes of pictures or elements of the Smithsonian collection would be outside of the agreement.
Details of the contract have been left hidden. Smithsonian officials said they would not release it publicly and said outlines of the agreement have been left deliberately vague to allow the institution to consider projects on a case-by-case basis.
Margaret Drain from WGBH, the Boston public TV station, said programs such as Nova and American Experience would suffer under such restrictions. Drain said she was "outraged" by the deal.
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400 Chinese students hospitalized with unknown flu
Sun Apr 2, 8:37 AM ET
BEIJING - Over 400 students at a university in central China's Henan province were hospitalized with high fevers linked to an unknown flu virus, state press and a school official have said.
The outbreak began on March 26 when 22 students were hospitalized with high fevers, Xinhua news agency said.
The next day the number of sick students at the Henan University of Science and Technology in Luoyang city rose to 88, and on March 28 there were 208 sick students in the university's infirmary, it said.
"There were over 400 students that became feverish with the flu," a university official who declined to be named told AFP when contacted by phone.
He refused to detail what type of flu it was or how the outbreak had succeeded in infecting so many students.
Local health officials were currently trying to identify the flu strain, Xinhua said.
The temperatures of some of the students reached 39.6 degrees celsius (103.3 degrees Fahrenheit), it said.
The sick students were quarantined while school officials, under directions from provincial health authorities, cancelled classes and began disinfecting the university's 2,000 dormitory rooms, dining halls and classrooms, it said.
Most students were only hospitalized for about three days and released, the report said, adding that only several dozen students remained hospitalized as of Sunday.
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Mumps Cases Reach Epidemic Level in Iowa
By MELANIE S. WELTE
Associated Press Writer
April 1, 2006
DES MOINES, Iowa -- A mumps epidemic is sweeping across Iowa in the nation's biggest outbreak in at least 17 years, baffling health officials and worrying parents.
As of Thursday, 245 confirmed, probable or suspected cases of mumps had been reported to the Iowa Department of Public Health since mid-January.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it is the nation's only outbreak, which the CDC defines as five or more cases in a concentrated area.
"We are calling this an epidemic," said Iowa state epidemiologist Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, explaining that mumps has spread to more than one-third of the state and does not appear to be confined to certain age groups or other sectors of the population.
Quinlisk said Iowa has had about five cases of mumps a year in recent years, and this is its first large outbreak in nearly 20 years.
"We're trying to figure out why is it happening, why is it happening in Iowa and why is it happening right now. We don't know," she said.
CDC spokeswoman Lola Russell said the federal agency has no answers yet. But Quinlisk said one theory is that the infection was brought over from England - perhaps by a college student - because the strain seen in Iowa has been identified by the CDC as the same one that has caused tens of thousands of cases of the mumps in a major outbreak in Britain over the past two years.
"It may have been a college student, since we did see the first activities on college campuses, but we can't prove that," Quinlisk said. The Public Health Department said 23 percent of the 245 reported patients are in college.
The CDC said it is the nation's biggest epidemic of mumps since 269 cases were reported in Douglas County, Kan., from October 1988 to April 1989.
Mumps is a viral infection of the salivary glands. Symptoms include fever, headache, muscle aches and swelling of the glands close to the jaw. It can cause serious complications, including meningitis, damage to the testicles and deafness.
A mumps vaccine was introduced in 1967. Iowa law requires schoolchildren to be vaccinated against measles and rubella, and the mumps vaccine is included in the same shot. The state's last major outbreak was in 1987, when 476 people were infected.
Of the 245 patients this year, at least 66 percent had had the recommended two-shot vaccination, while 14 percent had received one dose, the Public Health Department said.
"The vaccine is working," Quinlisk said. "The vaccine certainly was made to cover this particular strain, because it's a fairly common strain of mumps." Quinlisk said the vaccine overall is considered about 95 percent effective.
Quinlisk said the mumps outbreak started in eastern Iowa and is spreading statewide and possibly into the neighboring states of Illinois, Minnesota and Nebraska. Those states may have one or two cases, she said.
When 11-year-old Will Hean of Davenport starting feeling sick in mid-January, his family thought he had a bad case of the flu. But his face and throat swelled and his temperature climbed to 103. His parents took him to the doctor, and he was diagnosed to their surprise with full-blown mumps.
About two weeks later, the Heans' daughter, Kate, 21, came down with the mumps, too.
Both children had gotten the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, or MMR. So had their other son, 13-year-old Jimmy, who did not get the mumps.
"He had all the shots and everything. You don't think you're going to get the mumps after you've been inoculated," said Will's father, Wayne Hean.
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Health Assembly Must Stop Dangerous Smallpox Experiments
3 April 2006
Non-governmental organizations are calling for the 59th World Health Assembly (WHA), which begins on May 22nd, to stop dangerous smallpox research, including genetic engineering experiments, and to quickly bring about the destruction of all remaining smallpox virus stocks. Discussions on a draft WHA resolution will begin at an intergovernmental working group that meets in Geneva on April 5th.
Third World Network and the Sunshine Project are calling on the WHA to adopt a resolution to dramatically reduce risky research with the smallpox virus and to replace a failed oversight committee with a more balanced successor. What is urgently needed is a body that will control smallpox virus research and restrict experiments to only those which are essential, thus quickly paving the way for final destruction of smallpox virus stocks.
On smallpox research, the NGOs are asking the WHA to:
* Stop all distribution of smallpox DNA except that necessary for maintaining diagnostic labs, and to prohibit genetic engineering of smallpox, as both create unnecessary and unacceptable biosafety and security risks;
* Withdraw the temporary authorization it granted to retain smallpox virus stocks for genetic sequencing, diagnostic tests and vaccine research, as there is broad agreement that live virus is not needed for these purposes;
* Withdraw temporary authorization for experiments to infect monkeys with the smallpox virus in favor of a safer approach that does not utilize smallpox virus, and;
* Stop temporarily authorized research (that uses smallpox virus) into antiviral drugs in less than two years.
To strengthen international oversight, the NGOs are asking the WHA to:
* Terminate the WHO Advisory Committee on Variola Virus Research which, in over six years of existence, has not developed rigorous oversight and review procedures, has not adequately tracked distribution of smallpox DNA, and has broadly failed to uphold the WHA's mandate to control smallpox research, and;
* Replace the disbanded committee with an oversight body that is geographically and scientifically balanced, that is transparent, and which will reassert international control until the virus stocks are destroyed.
At the 2005 WHA meeting, many governments expressed concerns and objections to US and Russian experiments proposed for approval by the committee, including the genetic engineering of smallpox and the splicing of smallpox genes into related viruses. (A report on the WHA discussion in 2005 is available at www.smallpoxbiosafety.org)
Although the proposal to put smallpox genes in other poxviruses has been withdrawn, a number of dangerous experiments remain on the table. This could take place if the WHA does not act to stop them this year.
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Bird flu: the secret Cabinet document
Bodies would be stockpiled and buired en masse
The death toll from a bird flu pandemic in Britain could be more than 700,000, according to a confidential government report seen by The Scotsman.
The figure - far higher than previously stated - is contained in a Cabinet Office briefing paper prepared for emergency planning officials, which warns that the virus could strike the country in multiple "waves".
It also says the armed forces may not be available to help in an emergency because of Britain's extensive international military deployments.
Although ministers promised to order enough vaccine for the entire UK population, the document says that effective drugs "would not be available until at least four to six months after a pandemic had struck, which could be well after the first wave of illness in the UK".
Key health workers would be guaranteed the vaccine, but "other sectors should not assume priority access to pandemic vaccine", it warns.
The Cabinet Office paper has been circulated only to "Category 1 responders" - emergency services chiefs, local authorities, NHS officials and others responsible for drawing up contingency plans. It details the preparations under way for a flu pandemic arising in a number of ways, including the mutation of the H5N1 virus among birds.
The document warns that, once such an infection arrives in Britain, it could take only two weeks to become widespread. Issued in late February, it contains the latest updated projections for the spread of a "novel" form of the common flu virus to which people would have no immunity.
One of its central themes is the possibility that the virus could mutate again after an initial widespread infection, producing further pandemic waves. Those projections include a "reasonable worst-case scenario" in which multiple waves of the virus infect a total of 50 per cent of the population. At worst, the disease would be as powerful as the strain that caused the 1918 global pandemic, killing 2.5 per cent of those infected.
"This combination would give rise to an estimated 709,300 excess deaths in the UK across the whole period of the pandemic, spread across one or more waves," the Cabinet Office paper concludes.
However, that death toll is at the extreme of the scenarios considered by government scientists. The "base case", which experts believe most likely, is for an estimated 53,700 excess deaths from a multi-wave pandemic.
According to the Cabinet Office's civil contingencies secretariat, a flu pandemic is one of the greatest current threats to the UK. A mutated strain of the H5N1 avian flu virus is one possible source of such an infection, but however the new strain arises, it is projected to spread rapidly.
"Scientific modelling suggests that it may only take 2-3 weeks from the virus first entering the UK to its being widespread," the Cabinet Office paper states.
Some disaster scenarios constructed by independent experts foresee troops being called in to help manage a mass flu infection. But the Cabinet Office warns there can be no guarantee that the armed forces will be able to help.
"Planning for an influenza pandemic should take into account that military support may not be available if local units are deployed on operations," the paper says. "Nor should it be assumed that local units have personnel available with either the skill or equipment to undertake specialist tasks."
That could leave local councils having to cope with problems such as disposing of thousands of extra corpses that would overwhelm normal mortuary capacity and result in bodies being stockpiled before mass burials.
"A key point for local planning is likely to be the identification of potential sites for the location of facilities for the temporary storage of bodies, prior to funerals taking place," the document says.
The possibility of responding with mass burials is raised in a second leaked document, this one prepared by the Home Office.
It uses a "prudent worst-case" death toll of 320,000.
In such an event, Home Office planners estimate that bodies could be stored for up to 18 weeks before being buried.
The paper accepts that the prospect of mass burial may cause public anxiety and says: "Common burial stirs up images of the burial pits used in the great plague of 1665 - where in London 70,000 people died."
In fact, the mass burials envisaged would more closely resemble temporary sites used after major wars. The dead would be consigned to individual coffins and buried in discreet graves, with names clearly marked, in unconsecrated fields.
After the pandemic had passed, the coffins could then be disinterred and reburied in formal ceremonies elsewhere.
Government departments yesterday declined to comment on the leaked documents, but the Home Office issued a statement about emergency planning.
"The government is taking seriously the possible threat of an influenza pandemic in the light of the global situation and the possibility that a novel strain of the influenza virus could emerge," it said.
"Prudent precautionary planning is under way across all elements of the response, including the health service, other essential services and local authorities."
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Allergies reach epidemic levels in Europe: experts
Fri Mar 31, 8:28 AM ET
BERLIN - Allergies such as hay fever are reaching epidemic proportions in Europe and a failure to treat them properly is creating a mounting bill for society and the healthcare system, experts said on Friday.
Around one third of the European population has some kind of allergy, while one in two children in Britain will have allergies by 2015, costing millions of euros in medical bills, lost work days and even impaired concentration in school pupils.
Experts say various factors such as air pollution, animal fur and dust mites could act as triggers for allergies but that the levels of allergic reaction vary from country to country.
"There is an epidemic of allergic disease in Europe and elsewhere in the world," Peter Burney, vice president of research at the Global Allergy and Asthma European Network (GALEN), told reporters on Friday.
Allergies were most prevalent in Britain and Ireland, as well as other English speaking countries like Canada, Australia and the United States, Burney said, adding they were also becoming more widespread in new
European Union member states.
"It's not a problem which is going to go away soon," he added, noting that as allergy sufferers get older the complications resulting from their condition tend to get worse.
"We have data showing that up to the age of 55, people do not lose their allergies, but that the complications are greater," he said. "This is a serious problem."
Failure to treat allergies could also increase the risk of patients developing asthma later in life, GALEN's general secretary Torsten Zuberbier said, calling for early diagnosis and treatment of sufferers.
"We have valid data that one third of European Union people have allergies but only 10 percent of these millions of people are treated well," Zuberbier said, adding that around 40 percent of children with untreated hay fever will develop asthma.
"We need early treatment in children and we can avoid the large burden of social and economic costs," he said.
The GALEN network has established standard practice across Europe in diagnosing allergies and it has now begun to draw up guidelines on how best to treat the conditions.
Comment: It is most curious that allergy problems are the worst in English-speaking nations around the world...
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Technology Terror And Viagra Could Warp Sex And Relationships
by Glenn Chapman
Apr 03, 2006
San Francisco - Cyber-sex, war, and erection-inducing drugs are a recipe for a more socially inept, violent culture, according to a panel of top US sex experts. The concern was raised as researchers discussed "The Future of Sex" at an unprecedented summit near Santa Fe, New Mexico, late last week.
"The de-interaction of sex is something I worry about," said Julia Heiman, director of the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction.
"If we go too much in the direction of virtual sex, what's left out? How you get along in a personal sphere is getting short shrift," Heiman said in a conference call with reporters.
While cyber-sex fueled by drugs such as Viagra might be tempting, it is "built for disappointment" because real life can seldom compete with fantasies, panelists said.
"The breakneck speed of technology development allows one to create one's own erotic ideal and a multi-sensory experience of virtual sex," said Heiman.
"If young people are learning in this fashion, what about the very personal aspect of sex in which you have to interact with the other person?"
A compounding factor will likely be pharmaceutical companies eagerly expanding the array of drugs that enhance sexual activity, Heiman said.
Erection-stimulating drugs such as Viagra could exacerbate the "individualization" of sex, said professor John Gagnon of the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
"The other part of the couple may not be consenting to the erection," Gagnon said. "The assumption is the woman will be happy if the fellow arrives with one."
Technology and Viagra-type medicine combine to push people out of social relationships and reduce their capacity to relate to each other, according to Gagnon.
"Like one simulates a bombing run," Gagnon said. "It distances you from the person being hit by the bomb."
Another potentially disturbing ingredient in the mix is that the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States and ensuing "war on terror" are inuring society to violence, Heiman said.
"The tolerance of violence may be making a comeback," Heiman said. "And when that happens, sexual violence will be tolerated."
Technology is pushing people apart just as online dating services bring others together, according to panelists.
The Internet is increasingly a place for people with shared interests to form online communities and for people to seek dates or mates, said Pepper Schwartz, a professor of sociology at the University of Washington.
"Every country, no matter how undeveloped, has dating sites," Schwartz said. "My experience is people want to get offline as quick as possible. People are looking for partners, looking for love."
The Internet could also serve as a trove of information dispelling misconceptions about sexual lifestyles, health and trends, according to panelists.
The researchers, who joined about 100 peers for the three-day conference, hoped the coming decade would see more research into the roles of race, medicine, age, technology and political conservatism on sexuality.
"When one gets into the predicting the future business," Gagnon said jokingly. "One gets into a situation where you are mostly wrong."
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Obese Americans get super-size ambulances
By Rupert Cornwell
31 March 2006
Las Vegas's local authority has become the latest in the US to put into service a new super-size ambulance, specially equipped to handle massively overweight and morbidly obese patients.
The $250,000 (£144,000) vehicle, developed by the American Medical Response group, looks like a standard ambulance. But it is wider, with a specially large wheeled stretcher trolley. The vehicle, called a Bariatric Unit, also has a special ramp and a winch that can handle loads of 1,600lb (114 stone), and be operated by just one crew member.
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The Weird and Wacky
Brazilian plane carrying 19 disappears
Sat Apr 1, 3:24 AM ET
RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - An airplane carrying 19 people went missing on Friday en route to Rio de Janeiro from the nearby city of Macae, aviation authorities said.
The plane, an LET 410 with 17 passenger and two crew members, belongs to the airline Team. It took off from Macae, the base for offshore oil operations in Rio de Janeiro state, at 5:19 p.m. (2019 GMT) It was due to arrive at 18:02 p.m. at Rio de Janeiro's Santos Dumont airport, the aviation authority Infraero said.
Officials later told the TV station TV Globo around 11:30 p.m. that search operations had been suspended.
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Crafty Sea Lion Befuddles Fish Biologists
By JOSEPH B. FRAZIER
Fri Mar 31, 5:15 PM ET
CASCADE LOCKS, Ore. - In his way, C404 is kind of cute, with those sea-lion whiskers, soft brown eyes and furry little head. But to many he is a sea lion either from hell - or from Harvard.
C404 has driven the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Bonneville Dam to near distraction as he and his ilk sit at the base and munch salmon gathered to continue upriver to spawn.
Numerous sea lions head for the dam each spring, but C404 is in a class by himself.
He has figured out how to get into fish ladders that help fish past the dam - where endangered salmon and other fish become his easy prey.
The engineers have used everything legal to get rid of the California sea lion, who may weigh 1,000 pounds or more. They have installed grated exclusion gates and tried huge firecackers, rockets, rubber bullets, and noises sea lions don't like.
But C404 has given them the flipper.
He and a handful of cohorts already are waiting for the spring run of chinook salmon, which starts in earnest in April.
Then C404, named because of a brand applied by a state and federal program, will personify a larger problem, as 100 or more of his buddies join him.
Last year they ate about 3.5 percent of the migrating run at a time when salmon numbers were down and demand was up. This year's commercial salmon season may be cancelled because of river problems elsewhere. The loss percentage is climbing.
Robert Stansell, a fish biologist at Bonneville with the Corps of Engineers, knows the lively and alert C404 all too well.
"If he were in a litter of puppies, he's the one you would pick," he said.
He said C404 has been showing up each year since at least 2003 and has learned to rub it in. Last year he appeared in a window where fish counters keep track of salmon migrating upstream. The data helps predict the size of future runs.
"He even rolled over a little so we could get a look at his brand," Stansell said.
Other marine mammals haven't learned to pull that trick off.
Stansell says the sea lions are intelligent and can be taught. He would rather they not be taught by C404.
But he said the animals are showing up earlier and in greater numbers, and they are staying later. Now they have begun crawling onto the rocks to rest.
"They're becoming comfortable here," he said.
The run peaks in about September, but the sea lions head back to southern California breeding grounds around late May when the water temperature in the river rises.
They'll be back next year with their friends, and maybe their friends' friends too.
The animals have always been in the river. But now that the fish mass at the base of the dam, they provide a quick and easy meal for the sea lions.
C404 and his kind aren't endangered, but they are protected under the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act and can't be killed.
Incorrigibles can be singled out for "lethal removal," a long, complicated process, Stansell said.
He said that nearly happened at the Ballard Locks in Seattle, where sea lions that nearly wiped out a winter steelhead run in the 1990s were marked for death.
But the Humane Society sued and then-President Clinton urged clemency. The worst of the miscreants were packed off to Sea World in Orlando, Fla.
Then-Vice President Al Gore called Sea World to say thanks.
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Some scientists think humans descended from Martian microbes
By Stacey Singer
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 03, 2006
[...] A few scientists think there's evidence that humans actually descended from Martian microbes, not exactly what the author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus had in mind.
But it merits further study, said chemist Steven Benner, who has founded a new institute in Gainesville, the Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology, which aims to bridge chemistry and biology, with evolution as its guide.
"If you really want to find a place to get life started, it's Mars, and if you want to get a place to get life to flourish, it's Earth," Benner said.
While at the University of Florida a few years ago, Benner's team collaborated with scientists at The Scripps Research Institute to explore what kind of chemistry is necessary to support life.
In the process of trying to synthesize a living, evolving molecule in his lab, Benner seized upon minerals containing the element boron, the substance that makes some fireworks glow green.
Was boron the ingredient that enabled the Earth to go green as well?
Benner found that boron, with calcium at hand, had the talent of helping hold together the chain of carbon needed to stabilize a ribose sugar, the backbone of ribonucleic acid, the scaffolding for our genes. Without boron and calcium, heat, water and lightning would cause ribose to disintegrate into a tarlike mess, unable to support genes.
For geologic reasons, Benner's boron finding points directly to Mars as a likely source for Earth life, said Cal Tech geobiologist Joseph L. Kirschvink.
"When Steve told me of his work on ribosynthesis with boron, I said, 'Steve you've just proven to me that we're Martians.' "
That's because the boron needed to make ribose must come as calcium borate, a mineral that's soluble in water, Kirschvink believes.
A few places on Earth, including Death Valley, have a good supply of calcium borate, but they were under water at the time the first evidence of microbes appears on Earth, Kirschvink said. That was not the case on Earth's nearest neighbor, Mars, which was sending off bits of rock and dust in the Earth's general direction every time it took a hit from a meteorite.
"We know we have about a ton of Martian rock coming in a year," Kirschvink said. "And it wouldn't take more than a few spores to seed the Earth with life."
Could Mars possibly have had spores?
Space exploration and powerful telescopes have revealed that the red planet has polar ice, just like our own planet. In 2004, NASA's Opportunity rover found evidence that it once had liquid water running across its surface.
And 3 billion or 4 billion years ago, at the time when the Earth apparently was covered with water, Mars may have had a warmer atmosphere and abundant microbial life.
"It's entirely reasonable that there was life on Mars, but maybe long extinct," said Gerald Joyce, a professor at Scripps in La Jolla, Calif., who has collaborated with Benner. "The way to find it is to go there, drill down a bit, bring back samples to Earth and look at them."
Unfortunately, a plan to do just that has fallen victim to NASA budget cuts.
"It's very sad," Joyce said.
Plus, President Bush's budget request to Congress for next year proposes slashing funding for astrobiology research in half.
Kirschvink fears religious sentiment may be playing a role in the money cuts.
"There are fundamentalists who don't like the idea that their creator put life anywhere other than Earth," he said.
In the meantime, Joyce and other scientists are going as far as they possibly can with their science here on Earth.
In the journal Chemistry & Biology, Joyce's lab describes using evolutionary principles to convert RNA into DNA and keep its chemical activity intact.
Such conversion may have been necessary for more advanced life to evolve. It's one more clue as to how life might have assembled, Joyce said.
Meanwhile, the Marsophiles are excited about a new paper from Martin Fisk, a University of Oregon marine geologist. Fisk has studied several pieces of Martian meteorite, including one called Nakhla, donated from the Smithsonian Institution. In the journal Astrobiology, Fisk describes finding tunnels etched into the Martian rock - tunnels just like ones he has seen in Earth rock. On Earth, only microbes cause those types of tunnels.
"They are not known to be made by any other process that we know of," Fisk said.
It's a controversial notion, one that has been debated since 1996, when another bit of Martian meteorite stored at NASA labs near Houston was found to contain organic material and what appeared to be fossilized microbes.
At the time, critics shot down the idea, insisting that inorganic activity might have made the marks in the rock.
Fisk notes that his samples contained no DNA, the code for life.
Benner thinks it's not a deal-breaker.
"The failure to find DNA in the Martian rock is assumed to argue against Martian life. But this logic is coherent only if Martian life must use the same type of DNA as Earth life uses," Benner said.
Kirschvink agreed. "DNA would not survive 4 billion years, even on Mars," he said. "It barely survives in frozen mammoths that are only 12,000 years old."
For now, there are more skeptics of Mars' seeding life on Earth than there are advocates.
Conel Alexander, a geochemist with the Carnegie Institution of Washington, suspects life arose organically on Earth.
"The worry is nobody really understands how well microbes would survive the shock that is required to put something into orbit. To knock it off Mars, how would it survive the radiation? That's one of the many questions," Alexander said.
"Nonsense," retorts Kirschvink. "The European Space Agency demonstrated more than five-year survival to space conditions, and some of the Martian meteorites get here within one year of a major impact on Mars."
Matt Schrenk, a geobiologist at the Carnegie Institution, favors the deep-sea vent theory, although he's not ruling anything out yet.
"The simplest explanation is that life started here," Schrenk said. "This is the one place where we know life does exist on Earth. But I think as evidenced by this Stardust mission, there's plenty of organic material coming in constantly from space. That must have played some role in the origin of life on Earth."
Comment: The scientific establishment is more of a joke than an etablishment, kind of like Disney Land where anything is possible, just as long as the owners allow it. Today's scientists give the impression that they are actually doing anything useful for human evolution when in fact they are simply allowing themselves to be led by the nose by those groups that have a vested interest in controlling the level of knowledge that is made available to the humanity. For several years now we have been observing the almost torturously slow path towards "revelation" that "we are not alone", even if our nearest neighbors (at least at this stage) are teeny tiny mirobes on Mars or Saturn, that is being followed by the scientific world. How much longer will it take? Who know, perhaps another two or three years, with periodic "discoveries" that strengthen the argument that there is "life on Mars". Once the "revelation" is made public, there will be a period of adjustment before the possible opening up of the entire UFO enigma and maybe even a visit from out ancient "space brothers", who are in fact humanities' real scientists, or should that be 'geneticists'?
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Senate Told Canadian Trash Security Threat To America
by Pamela Hess
UPI Pentagon Correspondent
Apr 03, 2006
Washington - Tons of Canadian trash is shipped to the United States every day but it is not screened for security threats, according to a newly released government report.
A bipartisan Senate report issued Thursday calls for the suspension of trash shipments until U.S. Customs and Border Patrol can insure the containers do not pose a security threat, among other reforms in port security.
A January Homeland Security Department inspector general report found that Customs "does not have an effective method to screen and inspect the 350 truckloads of municipal solid waste that enter the U.S. daily through the Detroit and Port Huron ports of entry."
X-rays cannot penetrate the dense trash containers to reveal whether weapons or terrorists or other dangerous cargo is secreted inside, according to the Senate report "An Assessment of U.S. Efforts to Secure the Global Supply Chain."
Toronto, Canada, shipped approximately 100,000 containers of trash across U.S. borders into Michigan in 2004 alone, according to the DHS report. It has been exporting waste to Michigan since 1998. Mexico also ships solid waste to the United States.
The DHS inspector general report was issued in January but marked "for official use only." The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs subcommittee on investigations released it publicly Thursday after its second hearing on the precarious state of port security
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the ranking member of the subcommittee, is also calling for Congress to adopt provisions approved by the Senate to impose a fee on Canadian trash shipments to cover the cost of a more rigorous inspection regime.
Canadian trash is just one of the many problems the Senate committee investigation found with port security, according to the report.
The Congressional Budget Office put a price tag on the potential economic cost of not securing a port from terrorist attack or contamination. If the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach -- the two largest -- were attacked and shut down, it would cost the United States $150 million a day in lost gross domestic product, or $70 billion a year.
"The economic impact of closing the ports could be comparable to both the attacks of 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina," said Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., chairman of the Senate subcommittee that conducted the three-year investigation underpinning the report. "We cannot afford the devastation these findings imply. We must secure our supply chain before we pay the high price of an attack."
Despite major legislation and an overhaul of port security undertaken in 2002, the U.S. supply chain of consumer goods "remains vulnerable to the proverbial Trojan Horse" to smuggle weapons of mass destruction or even terrorists into the country.
The United States stepped up its global port security efforts after the Sept. 11 attacks, putting in place a number of programs. Among them was the "container security initiative," in which the Customs agency identifies high-risk containers when they are still overseas and inspects them. Just 5 percent of all containers are physically inspected overseas, which represents just 17.5 percent of cargo designated high-risk by U.S. Customs.
U.S. Customs agents generally are not the ones inspecting the containers overseas. That is left to foreign shipping companies and government officials, who in some cases decline to inspect designated containers or do not have the manpower to carry out the inspections, the report said. Moreover, no minimum standards for inspections exist.
The United States also has a program of benefits to induce shipping companies to implement best security practices in their terminals and on their vessels. However, only 27 percent of those companies receiving benefits under the Customs/Trade Partnership Against Terrorism have actually been inspected to see if their security practices comply with program standards. Benefits are conferred upon agreement, rather than after the security practices are verified.
Two incidents in 2005 illustrate that participation in CSI and C/TPAT does not guarantee good security. Twice in 2005 containers full of illegal Chinese immigrants were shipped through a CSI and C/TPAT-protected port and shipping company in Hong Kong to the port of Los Angeles without being detected until they arrived and were unloaded.
The failure to detect the stowaways may be due to the unreliable data that Customs uses to determine which containers qualify as high risk. According to the Senate report, the targeting methodology has never been tested or validated.
Fewer than 40 percent of cargo containers entering the United States are screened for nuclear or radiological materials, largely because less than a third of the planned radiation monitors have been fielded by the Homeland Security Department.
The Senate report points to a few encouraging areas: the Homeland Security Department has created the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office to provide a single point for the distribution and management of radiation detectors which will ease some of the problems with fielding the devices.
There is also a pilot program ongoing at the Port of Hong Kong -- the busiest port in the world -- that uses a combination of imaging machines, radiation scanners and a system to identify containers to screen 100 percent of containers. The program's performance so far suggests it may be possible to significantly boost the number of containers screened as they come into the United States without slowing the supply chain.
Comment: Well, you just knew it was coming: terrorists may be hiding in the world's garbage, just waiting for a chance to jump out and kill everyone!! Run for your lives!!!
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Pouring Ketchup: The full technical explanation
Are you one of those people who taps at the bottom of an inverted ketchup bottle, waiting in frustration for the sauce to pour? I am speaking of traditional ketchup bottles, not squeeze tubes, wide-mouth jars, or bottles designed to stand on their heads. Have you ever wondered if there is a right way to do it – a way that works, and makes scientific sense?
Yes, folks, there is a right way to do it, and it does make sense. Here is how, and why:
First, let's look at the most common wrong way to do it. Remember the old "anticipation" commercials from the 1970s? The bottle is held upside down, then the hungry diner waits... and waits. Most people I know attempt to improve on this by tapping the bottom (that is, the upper end when the bottle is upside-down). That may help, but not necessarily for the reasons you imagine.
Ketchup can be regarded as a highly viscous liquid, or a thixotropic (flows under pressure) solid. Neither term is exactly correct, but the problem is not what to call it. The problem is how to get the ketchup out of the bottle, in measured quantities, without making a mess.
In order for the ketchup to emerge, air must enter the bottle. With an ordinary liquid such as water, a very narrow (dropper) neck would prevent the displacement of water by, air, but even a ketchup bottle has a neck that is much too thick to prevent water escaping, and air rising in, when the bottle is inverted. In the case of ketchup, however, the sauce is thick enough that the gravitational pull on the ketchup does not suffice.
Ketchup will certainly fall, of its own accord. In the case of a partly empty bottle, tapping the base can expel some ketchup without the need for air to enter. This is because the air that is already inside the bottle can slightly de-pressurize. Tapping the inverted base may slightly liquify the ketchup, enough for some to drop out even though no air is taken in. But in a full bottle, the ketchup must move to the side so that the air can rise through the neck at the same time that the ketchup escapes. The weight of ketchup is not great enough for this to happen in most circumstances.
So, in the case of the full ketchup bottle, the problem can be divided into two issues: (1) How can I get the ketchup to move aside, so that air can enter on the opposite side? (2) How can I give the ketchup "extra weight," so that it will be pulled out of the bottle faster?
The first issue is solved by holding the bottle sideways, with a slight downward tilt, rather than upside-down. In this position, the ketchup naturally is pulled to the lower side of the neck, and the air naturally will channel along the higher side of the neck. Anyone who pours an ordinary liquid from a bottle knows this. Yet it is amazing how the experience is forgotten when it comes to ketchup.
Merely holding the bottle in the correct position is not very effective. It is necessary to "increase the weight" of the ketchup by applying some G-force. This can be done by making a fist, and tapping the bottle downwards against the fist, to bring the bottle to an abrupt halt. Don't hurt yourself! If your hands are delicate, you may try some other method of applying an abrupt stop to the bottle, provided that the stop is not rigid or fragile, and that you mind where the ketchup is going to emerge. Striking the bottle at the upper side of the neck is much less effective, since it applies the G-force in the wrong direction.
Tapping the inverted bottom of a full bottle – the customary way – is counterproductive. If you do that, most of the G-force will tend to keep the ketchup in the bottle. But now you know the right way, thanks to the amazing power of the Internet to unleash this kind of information. Of course, it would be possible to print instructions on the side of the ketchup bottle, but you wouldn't read them if they were there, now would you?
Comment: Click story title for original article with images.
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Ark's Quantum Quirks
Signs of the Times
April 3, 2006
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Jewish lobby? What Jewish lobby?
Heard the one about the racist black comedian?
Published: 22 March 2006
Dieudonné's one-man show is all the rage in Paris but his act is virulently anti-semitic, exploiting the anger that exploded among young Arabs and blacks in the suburbs last autumn. Now he is talking about running for the Presidency.
Stand-up comedy, or "le one-man-show", is all the rage in Paris these days. (Riots are not the only show in town.) One of the most talented, and popular, French comedians of his generation, Dieudonné, is launching a new season at his cosy, scruffy little theatre, the Théatre de la Main-d'Or, near the Bastille.
When the curtain rises, he is greeted with roars and whoops by a packed, multi-racial audience, which is young, trendy, intellectual and left-wing. Many of them have come straight from the latest demonstration against the government's new jobs law for the young.
Much of Dieudonné's show - "Le Depot du Bilan" (The Bankruptcy) - is surreally funny. A bored bureaucrat from a government welfare agency for threatened animal species is interviewing a distraught rhinoceros. "Wouldn't you consider getting rid of that horn? Horns don't go down so well these days. You have to adapt to survive..." Eventually, the rhinoceros falls through the floor.
All through the show, however, something else intrudes, something darker and more sinister. Dieudonné is obsessed with Jews. All races, even his own mixed black and white origins, get a gentle mickey-taking in his show. When Jews are mentioned - and they are mentioned over and over again - the tone becomes more aggressive, even violent.
In one skit, Bernard-Henri Lévy, the Jewish-French philosopher, haggles with a street potato seller. Dieudonné/Lévy says: "How can you ask me to pay so much when six million of us died in the Holocaust?" Roars of delight from the audience. There is also a Hitler-in-his-bunker sketch which is moderately funny until the closing line: "You will see, in the future, people will come to realise that I, Adolf Hitler, was really a moderate."
Until a couple of years ago, Dieudonné - his full name is Dieudonné M'bala M'bala - was a kind of French Lenny Henry. His stand-up comedy was corrosive, satirical but fundamentally good humoured. And funny.
There was a social or political message in many of his skits but he bashed all ethnic groups and prejudices equally. He was an anti-racist, who believed in universal values. He was a black man who refused, as he said, "to dance the calypso with a banana stuck up my arse". He appeared in popular films, such as Asterix and Cleopatra.
Since 2002, and intensively since 2004, Dieudonné has become a kind of French Louis Farrakhan, the anti-Semitic leader of the Nation of Islam in the US. His critics (including former friends) say that he is no longer a comedian interested in politics but a politician, who uses comedy to further extremist political ambitions. Sometimes directly, sometimes by coded, or scarcely coded references, he presents the Jews as the main source of black misery; or he suggests that the obsession with the suffering of the Jews soaks up too much of the fund of guilt and shame that would be better spent on black people.
Earlier this month, he was found guilty of "incitement to racial hatred" by a French court for saying in a newspaper interview that his Jewish critics were "slave traders, who had converted to banking".
In recent days, he has been accused by a former friend, the leading Socialist (and Jewish) politician Julien Dray, of being partly to blame for the horrific torture and murder of a young Jewish man, Ilan Halimi, by a suburban gang last month.
Dieudonné, 40, of Cameroonian and Breton middle-class origins, has announced that he plans to run for the presidency next year. He says that he "sees himself" in the second round run-off, which is exceedingly unlikely. Nonetheless, he is not a figure to dismiss lightly.
An utterly unscientific, phone-in opinion poll was conducted recently by Skyrock, a French radio station popular with the urban and suburban young. The two politicians who scored the most votes were the veteran far-right xenophobe, Jean-Marie Le Pen (29 per cent), and Dieudonné (26 per cent).
Dieudonné brings together, and plays on, many of the most poisonous issues in French politics and society: the contempt of many young people for main-stream politics, seen again in the intensity of the mobilisation against the new labour contracts for the under-26s; the shattering of the French political consensus into tribal extremes of right and left; the racial and social exclusion and suppressed violence of the multi-racial suburbs (where he was himself born).
Most of all, however, Dieudonné has come to symbolise - and some say foment - the rise of a "new anti-Semitism" among Arab and black youths and on the "white" far left.
Race was not a direct issue in the suburban riots which shook France last autumn. The young, black, brown and some white kids who belong to suburban youth gangs are not racist among themselves. There is one huge exception, however. They have a gut hatred of the "feujs" (backward slang for juifs or Jews).
This anti-Semitism, often based on lurid fantasies of Jewish wealth and power, was not invented by Dieudonné. It began with the sympathy of young people of Arab origin for Palestinian kids throwing stones at Israeli troops.
Dieudonné stands accused, however, of making this new anti-Semitism of the French under classes - and increasingly of the French far left - more respectable and spreading it to French people of African or West Indian origin.
Mr Dray is the official spokesman of France's main opposition, Socialist party and a founder of SOS-Racisme (an organisation once supported by Dieudonné, now dismissed by him as a "Zionist" front). M. Dray said: "[Ilan Halimi's] murder must be seen against the background of the social climate in France. Dieudonné is not responsible for his death but he shares the blame for the rise in anti-Semitism [in the suburbs]."
Youssouf Fofana, the alleged leader of the kidnap gang which abducted, tortured and murdered M. Halimi (a mobile phone salesman from a modest background), explained his choice of victim to his fellow gang-members in starkly racial terms.
According to statements to police, he said: "The Jews are kings, because they eat up all the state's money, but I'm black and treated by the state like a slave." This is a garbled version of the "Jews rule-black suffer" message popularised in the suburbs by Dieudonné in the past two or three years.
Off-stage, or off his political soap-box, Dieudonné is a gentle, soft-spoken man. He was so loved by showbusiness friends - including his original double-act partner, the Jewish comedian, Elie Semoun - that they defended his initial lurches towards anti-Semitism. A comedian had the right to satirise even the most sacred of taboos, they said. As Dieudonné plunged further into politics, and outright Jew-baiting, his entertainment friends dropped him one by one.
In an interview with The Independent, the comedian-politician rejected suggestions that he was anti-Semitic. "I am anti-Zionist and I oppose the power of the Zionist lobby in France," he said. "France is meant to be a secular Republic which treats all races equally but the power of Zionism has perverted that.
"I remain as profoundly anti-racist as I ever was. It is the Jews, or Zionists, who have created racism by forming such an effective lobby for one ethnic group and for the state of Israel, which illegally occupies the land of another people.
"The Holocaust was a terrible, appalling thing but there has been other suffering in history and there is other suffering today in a world cursed by the power of money. The Zionists have perverted the values of the Republic so that only the suffering of the Jews is recognised officially, not, for instance, the suffering of blacks through the slave trade."
Dieudonné proceeds by the kind of nudge-nudge, coded provocation that has long been the stock in trade of the anti-Semitic far right in France. He had been prosecuted 17 times for inciting racial hatred, or denying the Holocaust, but had won every case before his recent condemnation.
If you put a few of his comments together, however, the Dieudonné message becomes pretty clear.
On Beur FM, a radio station directed at young people of North African origin, he said in March last year: "In my children's school books, I ripped out the pages on the Shoah. I will continue to do so as long as our pain is not recognised."
In December 2003, he appeared on a French chat and comedy show dressed as an Israeli West Bank colonist and ended his skit with a Nazi salute and shouted: "Israel-heil". In his statement announcing his intention to run for the presidency, he launched an attack on the French Jewish association CRIF (Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France). It was, he said, a "Zionist organisation of the extreme right that gathers all our leaders at the beginning of the year to share with them a roadmap or an agenda for the year ahead".
Even the anti-Semitic paranoia of Jean-Marie Le Pen does not go that far - in public, at least. But why? Why insist that it was Jews that ran the slave trade, when they did not? Leaving aside distaste for Israeli policy (which is shared by many people), why the obsession that Jews secretly run the world and that Jews deliberately soak up all the world's natural resources of pity?
Eric Marty, a professor of contemporary literature at Paris-VII university, links the Dieudonné phenomenon to the similar savage hatred of Jews among some American black radicals, which began in the 1960s. He says it is a question of transfer of anger from real causes of black suffering - white slave masters, white prejudice - to a rival victim "someone who is identified ... as more of a victim than yourself".
Politically, also, it is easier to goad young blacks or Arabs into hating Jews than into hating a white society whose symbols of success they crave.
Anne-Sophie Mercier, a TV journalist who published a book on Dieudonnné last year (La verité sur Dieudonné), which he tried to block, believes that the comedian's lurch into outright anti-Semitism in the past two years is part of a deliberate strategy.
If you really want to address the problems of young blacks, she suggests, there are plenty of topics to choose: the prejudice of employers; poor schools; broken families; drugs; the many self-defeating jealousies between different black communities in France. Jews, objectively, would not figure high on the list.
If, however, you want to leap-frog into a position of influence as a potential leader of all black people in France, especially young black people, you need a short cut. Stoking up anti-Semitism and presenting yourself as a victim, someone with the courage to speak out, offers a potential route.
"Dieudonné is no longer a comic," says Mme Mercier. "He is a politician. He is trying the unite the different black communities ... and to build something it always helps if you can persuade people to be against someone else."
A question remains open: "Is Dieudonné still a one-man show?" Or is he being used by others? Mme Mercier, in her book, tracks Dieudonné's connections and supporters to an eclectic range of extremist movements, from Islamists, to black radical separatists, to the French representative of Louis Farrakhan, to the shadowy figures on the French ultra-Left who promote the theory that the US attacked itself on 11 September, 2001.
However, she finds no conclusive evidence that Dieudonné is controlled or funded by any of these people.
Dieudonné himself rejected suggestions that he has become a politician or a tool for political forces. "First and foremost I am a performer, a comic," he said. "But I travel around France and around Africa and I see the great suffering caused by the power of money and ultra-capitalism, the wiping away of human values. As a human being, I cannot remain indifferent to that."
His former showbusiness friends suggest that, at some time in past three years, Dieudonné underwent a dramatic change. Some believe that he is just a naïve tool for others. Others says that Dieudonné is driven by himself alone and by a belief that he can become a kind of black political Messiah. Either way, they suggest, Dieudonné is "not funny any more".
The real danger may be, however, that Dieudonné is funny and very talented.
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A War for Israel
When Malaysian Prime Minister Mathahir Mohammed declared at an international Islamic Conference in Kuala Lumpur in mid-October, 2003 that "today the Jews rule the world by proxy [and] They get others to fight and die for them, the reactions in the U.S. and the West were predictable.
It was "a speech that was taken right out of the Protocols of Zion," according to one Israeli commentator, and Mathahir would be accused of imitating Hitler and insuring that "Muslims around the world are similarly being fed a regular diet of classic big lies about Jewish power.
Big lies? Given Israel's unchecked dominion over the Palestinians and its Arab neighbors over the past half century, supported in every way possible by the United States, one can assume that Muslims, not to mention intelligent non-Muslims, have no need for additional instruction as to the extent of Jewish power. As further proof of its existence, if such were needed, there would be no attempt to measure the Malaysian prime minister's words against the reality of the times to determine if there was anything accurate in his assessment.
If Mathahir could be accused of anything, it would be of being sloppy historically and using too broad a brush. The Jews, as such, control nothing. A segment of American Jewry, however, has been able, with few exceptions, to shape U.S. Middle East policy since the mid-Sixties. Given America's position as a major world power, and now its only superpower, that is not a small achievement.
Over the years, that segment, the organized American Jewish community - in short, the Israel lobby - has amassed unparalleled political power through skillfully combining the wealth of its members with its extraordinary organizational skills to achieve what amounts to a corporate takeover of the U.S. Congress and virtual veto power over the presidency.
There is virtually no sector of the American body politic that has been immune to the lobby's penetration. That its primary goal has not been to improve the security and well-being of the United States or the American people, but to advance the interests of a foreign country, namely Israel, may be debated, but it was acknowledged, in part, more than a dozen years ago by Sen. Howard Metzenbaum (D-Ohio), who complained to an annual conference of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council that "There's only one issue members [of Congress] think is important to American Jews - Israel."
It was no secret that Israel had long been interested in eliminating the regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq and redrawing the map of the Middle East to enhance its power in the region. Initiating that undertaking became a task for key individuals in and around the White House with deep roots in right-wing Israeli politics. The attack on the World Trade Center supplied the opportunity. That Iraq had nothing to do with it was immaterial. The lobby's propaganda apparatus would make the American people believe otherwise.
The first step has been completed. Saddam Hussein has been removed, not by Israel, but by the U.S. and its "coalition of the willing." From the perspective of the Israelis and, one must assume, the lobby, it is better that American and foreign soldiers do the shedding of blood, Iraqi and their own, rather than those of Israel, the world's fourth ranked military power. Such an accusation will most assuredly draw cries of "blood libel" from the likes of the Anti-Defamation League, but it is a conclusion that one can readily draw from the facts. The degree to which the present Iraq situation, as well as the first Gulf War, can be attributed to efforts of key individuals and the major Jewish organizations that constitute the lobby is what this article will examine.*
*The lobby¹s existence and power well predate its alliance with what may be called its Christian fundamentalist auxiliary, which has given it unprecedented influence over both Congress and the White House.
On March 13th, 2003, during a House appro-priations subcommittee hearing on foreign aid, of which Israel has long been the dominant recipient , Secretary of State Colin Powell took the extraordinary step of assuring members of Congress that a "small cabal" of pro-Israeli American Jews was not orchestrating President George W. Bush's drive toward war.
"The strategy with respect to Iraq has derived from our interest in the region and our support of U.N. resolutions over time," Powell said, in response to a question from the subcommittee's Republican chairman, Arizona Rep. Jim Kolbe.
"It is not driven by any small cabal that is buried away somewhere, that is telling President Bush or me or Vice President Cheney or [National Security Adviser Condoleeza] Rice or other members of the administration what our policies should be."
In fact, there is a cabal that has been driving U.S. foreign policy under the Bush administration, and some of its members; notably, Elliot Abrams and Michael Ledeeen, were part of the last cabal that operated in Washington under the Reagan administration, the one that brought us the Iran-Contra scandal. This one, however, is not nearly as secretive. Ironically, Powell has been and remains one of its favorite targets, and his frequent public humiliations at the cabal's hands have led seasoned observers to wonder why he hasn't resigned.
On this occasion, as he had on others, Powell played the loyal soldier, joining in what Ha'aretz's Nathan Guttman described as the Bush Administration's "Every effort to play down Israel's role in the future military conflict... to remove any suspicion that the decision to go to war with Iraq is a pro-Israeli... step. But, as hard as the administration tries," he wrote, "the voices linking Israel to the war are getting louder and louder. It is claimed the desire to help Israel is the major reason for President George Bush sending American soldiers to a superfluous war in the Gulf." 
The loudest among them may have been the free-swinging, old-line "conservative," Pat Buchanan, who charged, "That a cabal of polemicists and public officials seek, to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America's interests... What these neo-conservatives seek is to conscript American blood to make the world safe for Israel," Buchanan wrote in the March 24 issue of the magazine he edits, the American Conservative. Because of his history of advocating right-wing causes, his comments were largely ignored by the forces mobilizing against the war.
Another of those voices was syndicated columnist's Robert Novak, who several months earlier had written that "In private conversation with... members of Congress, the former general [Sharon] leaves no doubt that the greatest U.S. assistance to Israel would be to overthrow Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime. That view is widely shared inside the Bush administration, and is a major reason why U.S. forces today are assembling for war."10
Support for a U.S. attack on Iraq was not limited to Sharon or his Likud Party: in a September 12 dialogue with Rabbi William Berkowitz at the Center for Jewish History, former Israeli Labor prime minister and then foreign minister Shimon Peres was asked what he thought of the administration's response to Iraq. Peres, likening the situation to the next world war, replied:
Why speak about an attack when you are defending freedom as you did in World War I, World War II and now in [World War] III? ... I don't think this is a campaign against Iraq, neither their people nor the land, but against a terrible killer, a dictator who already initiated two aggressive wars - one against Muslim Iran for seven years at a cost of 1 million [lives] and against an Arab Kuwait... Who saved Kuwait? The Arab League? You gave Japan an improved Japan, and you gave Germany a better Germany and the Marshall Plan. I believe the strength of freedom is equal to the strength of the United States. I don't see anybody doing the job.[...] So I justify the American position fully. The president speaks loud and clear.
One may speculate whether Powell would have raised the issue had he not been asked, but apparently he felt the need to clear the air following an uproar that occurred ten days earlier when Virginia Democratic Congressman Jim Moran claimed that: "If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we wouldn't be doing this."
As could be expected, his comment was condemned by the White House and congressional Democratic leaders, including Senate Minority leader Tom Daschle and Democratic House Whip Nancy Pelosi, two long-time loyal devotees of the Israeli cause. Six local rabbis and Washington Post columnist Marc Fisher called on him to resign, with the latter comparing the congressman's remarks to a speech Adolf Hitler delivered to the German parliament in 1939, accusing "Jewish financiers" of plunging Europe into a world war.
"Moran is symptomatic of a problem that we have been watching for several weeks and months," lamented Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), "and that is that the charge that the Jews are instigators and advocators of military action has moved from the extreme into the mainstream," This shift, he added, is emboldening people such as Moran to "have the chutzpah to say such things."
"It's out there and therefore we are concerned," Foxman said. "If, God forbid, the war is not successful and the body bags come back, who's to blame?"
Fueling such anxieties, the Jewish weekly Forward noted, was "the increasing media focus on the White House's concern with protecting Israel and the views of Jewish hawks within the administration."
While the mainstream press condemned Moran's remarks, columnist Michael Kinsley pointed out that "The thunderous rush of politicians of all stripes to denounce Moran's remarks as complete nonsense might suggest to the suspicious mind that they are not complete nonsense," and that Jewish organizations were being hypocritical since they were posting comments on their own web sites lauding the Israel lobby's ability to get things done. Wrote Kinsley:
...Moran is not the only one publicly exaggerating the power and influence of the Zionist lobby these days. It is my sad duty to report that this form of anti-Semitism seems to have infected one of the most prominent and respected - one might even say influential - organizations in Washington. This organization claims that "America's pro-Israel lobby" - and we all know what "pro-Israel" is a euphemism for - has tentacles at every level of government and society.
On its web site, this organization paints a lurid picture of Zionists spreading their party line and even indoctrinating children. And yes, this organization claims that the influence of the Zionist lobby is essential to explaining the pro-Israel tilt of U.S. policy in the Middle East. It asserts that the top item on the Zionist "agenda" is curbing the power of Saddam Hussein. (emphasis added) The Web site also contains a shocking collection of Moran-type remarks from leading American politicians.
The site he was referring to is that of AIPAC, the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, Israel's official Washington lobbying arm, which, in testament to its power, is generally referred to in the halls of Congress simply as "the lobby."
From a one-man office when it was founded 50 years ago, AIPAC has grown into an organization of 85,000 members, with activists in every Jewish community in the United States. Each Spring it holds a national three-day conference in Washington. "It's climatic Congressional Dinner attracts hundreds of congress members and dozens of foreign ambassadors," writes Forward editor J.J. Goldberg, "all of them eager to curry good will with AIPAC and the Jewish community. Lest the point be lost, the dinner chairperson always reads a ëroll call' naming every senator, every representative, and ambassador present in the hall... followed by private receptions by lawmakers courting Jewish campaign support." The organization does not contribute money to candidates directly but advises numerous Jewish PACs and wealthy Jewish donors as to the campaigns where their money might be the most useful to Israel.
AIPAC holds similar conferences, but on a smaller scale, around the country in the winter, with local officials from the respective regions being honored as invited guests.
It so happened that AIPAC's annual conference last year followed the Iraq invasion by a week. Since "AIPAC is wont to support whatever is good for Israel, and so long as Israel supports the war," wrote Ha'aretz's Guttmann, "so too do the thousands of the AIPAC lobbyists who convened in the American capital."
The Washington Post's Dana Milbank did not go quite that far, but noted that the meeting put a spotlight on the Bush administration's "delicate dance with Israel and the Jewish state's friends over the attack on Iraq." While, "officially," he wrote, AIPAC had no position on the merits of a war against Iraq before it started, as delegates were heading to town the group put a headline on its web site proclaiming: "Israeli Weapons Utilized By Coalition Forces Against Iraq." The item featured a photograph of a drone with the caption saying the "Israeli-made Hunter Unmanned Aerial Vehicle" is being used "by U.S. soldiers in Iraq."
A parade of Israeli as well as top Bush administration officials - Powell, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, political director Kenneth Mehlman, Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton, one of the rare non-Jewish neo-cons, and Assistant Secretary of State William Burns - appeared before the AIPAC audience. The meeting - attended by about 5,000 people, according to Milbank, including half the Senate and a third of the House - was reportedly planned long before it became clear it would coincide with hostilities in Iraq. "This is not about Iraq," AIPAC spokesman Josh Block insisted. "This is about going to Congress and lobbying for the Israeli aid package."
House Whip Pelosi, who had reversed her early tepid opposition to the war and was now on the bandwagon, made a point of condemning anyone who sought "to place responsibility for this conflict on the American-Jewish community." In her speech to AIPAC, she expressed America's "unshakable bond" with Israel in a variety of ways at least a dozen times. Echoing the neocon agenda, she condemned "Syria's and Iran's bankrolling of terror and the development of weapons of mass destruction," which she declared to be "a clear and present danger."
There was déja vu atmosphere about the AIPAC gathering. A dozen years earlier, following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, AIPAC leaders acknowledged that the lobby "had worked in tandem with the [first] Bush administration to win passage of a resolution authorizing the president to commit U.S. troops to combat." A Wall Street Journal article at the time noted that the "behind-the-scenes campaign avoided AIPAC's customary high profile in the Capitol and relied on activists - calling sometimes from Israel itself - to contact lawmakers and build on public endorsements by major Jewish organizations."
"Yes, we were active," AIPAC's director Tom Dine, told the paper. "These are the great issues of our time. If you sit on the sidelines you have no voice."
And, to be sure, money had its role with Democrats who had benefited from large contributions from pro-Israel PACs being among the swing votes. Having "pro-Israel liberals behind the resolution made it easier to hold moderate Republicans as well."
While the U.S. Congress was divided over going to war in 1990, "there is one place in the world which is longing for war," said retired Major General Matti Peled, a former Knesset Member and, before his death, a leader of the Israeli peace camp, "and that is Israel... Every commentator finds it his duty to join the party of the war-mongers. Arrogant statements about the slowness of the Americans are heard every day."
Anti-war activists paid no attention to such statements or to the activities of the Israel lobby then, nor have they since. While they chanted, "No Blood for Oil!," in national protests on October 25th, Kinsley, a mainstream liberal, described the situation as "the proverbial elephant in the room... Everybody sees it, no one mentions it."
A month before the war, the Forward's Ami Eden, commenting on Kinsley's piece, noted that what was "once only whispered in back rooms... [was] lately splashed in bold characters across the mainstream media, over Jewish and Israeli influence in shaping American foreign policy."
"In recent weeks," he wrote, "the Israeli-Jewish elephant has been on a rampage, trampling across the airwaves and front pages of respected media outlets, including the Washington Post, The New York Times, the American Prospect, the Washington Times, the Economist, the New York Review of Books, CNN and MSNBC.
"For its encore," he added, "the proverbial pachyderm plopped itself... smack in the middle of "Meet the Press," NBC's top-rated Sunday morning news program."
It occurred on February 23, when host Tim Russert read from a February 14 column by veteran journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave, editor at large of the Washington Times, who argued that the "strategic objective" of senior Bush administration officials was to secure Israel's borders by launching a crusade against its enemies in the Arab world.
One of Russert's guests was Richard Perle, at the time chairman of the Defense Policy Board, a key advisory panel to the Pentagon, as well as a fellow of the influential pro-Israel American Enterprise Institute. Of, perhaps, even more significance, Perle had been a founder of JINSA, the Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs, a little known neo-con think tank that will be examined later in the article.
Russert turned to Perle and addressed the question: "Can you assure American viewers across our country that we're in this situation against Saddam Hussein and his removal for American security interests?" And then came the bombshell: "And what would be the link in terms of Israel?"
Both Perle and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who has family in Israel, have been routinely described in the press as the "architects" of the war on Iraq, so the question was addressed to the right person.
Clearly Perle was not prepared. Squirming slightly he replied: "Well, first of all, the answer is absolutely yes. Those of us who believe that we should take this action if Saddam doesn't disarm - and I doubt that he's going to - believe it's in the best interests of the United States. I don't see what would be wrong with surrounding Israel with democracies; indeed, if the whole world were democratic, we'd live in a much safer international security system because democracies do not wage aggressive wars."
I'll leave that contradiction for another time and note, as did the Forward's Eden, that:
... it was a startling question, especially when directed at Perle, the poster boy - along with Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith - for anti-semitic critics who insist the United States is being pulled into war by pro-Likud Jewish advisers, on orders from Jerusalem.
But Russert is no David Duke, nor even a Patrick Buchanan. If Russert is asking the question on national television, then the toothpaste is out of the tube: The question has entered the discourse in elite Washington circles and is now a legitimate query to be floated in polite company. 
In a lengthy front page story, the Washington Post's Robert Kaiser described what appeared to be an unprecedented political partnership between Ariel Sharon and George W. Bush, headlined, "Bush and Sharon Nearly Identical On Mideast Policy."
"Over the past dozen years or more," Kaiser wrote, "supporters of Sharon's Likud Party have moved into leadership roles in most of the American-Jewish organizations that provide financial and political support for Israel."
The leadership does not necessarily reflect overall Jewish opinion. A poll to gauge Jewish opinions on the war - conducted a month before it broke out - found that 56 percent of Jews were supportive of the war which corresponded to that of the general public. The rate was said to be even higher immediately afterward, corresponding to increased support for the war among the American populace in general.
Concern about appearances, however, had earlier led members of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish-American Organizations, a Jewish umbrella group with 52 member organizations, to refrain from taking a bellicose stand.
"Just as we have not issued a public statement, we do not think it's the right time for the Presidents Conference to issue a public statement either," American Jewish Committee executive director David Harris told the Forward in October of 2002. "Our interest here is to not be out ahead of the administration." (Emphasis added)
In contrast, the liberal American Jewish Congress had no such reservations. "The final statement ought to be crystal clear in backing the president, having to take unilateral action if necessary against Iraq to eliminate weapons of mass destruction," Jack Rosen, president of the American Jewish Congress, told the paper. The AJCongress had already issued its own position supporting the "U.S. administration in its stated position to intervene in Iraq to ensure that Iraq is no longer a threat."
But already, in March of 2002, Mortimer Zuckerman, the chair of the Jewish President's conference and editor-publisher of U.S. News and World Report and the N.Y. Daily News, had made his position clear, He was supporting the administration's budding plan to remove Saddam:
The next target in the war's phase, clearly, will be Iraq. The West's lackluster efforts at non-proliferation have done little more than delay the inevitable - a Baghdad with nuclear weapons... The United States is prepared to take the risks, and is right to do so, in forcing a change in Iraq.
By late October, he was eager to get it on:
The only way to force Iraq to get rid of its terrible weapons is to rid the country of the regime that builds them. Washington must not pause... in its push to depose Saddam... We are in a war against terrorism, and we must fight that war in a time and place of our choosing. The war's next phase, clearly, is Iraq.
Zuckerman would write six more editorials in the weeks leading up to the war, each more emphatic than the one before in calling for Saddam's head. If Zuckerman's opinions carried unusual weight, it was because the Conference of Presidents is the Jewish body whose task it is to lobby the White House and the Executive branch while AIPAC focuses on Congress.
As could be expected, accusations that Israel and its supporters within the government were orchestrating U.S. policy towards Iraq led to accusations of anti-semitism and raised questions as to what extent criticism of Israel, American Jews and Jewish officials working in the White House would be tolerated.
Lawrence Kaplan, senior editor of the New Republic, declared that references to Jewish and Israeli pro-war pressure were reminiscent of Buchanan's claims in 1990 that only soldiers with non-Jewish names would be killed in a war being pushed solely by Israel and its American "amen corner."
The ADL's Foxman told the Forward that while it was legitimate to raise questions concerning the pro-Israel leanings of certain administration officials, it was obligatory to note that not all the hawks were Jewish and it was most definitely not kosher to portray these individuals and Jewish organizations as composing "a shadowy Jewish conspiracy that controls American foreign policy."
"It is an old canard that Jews control America and American foreign policy," Foxman said. "During both world wars, anti-semites said that Jews manipulated America into war. So when you begin to hear it again, there is good reason for us to be aware of it and sensitive to it." Foxman was correct regarding the world wars but this time there seems to be more than enough proof that a significant number of Jewish aficionados of Israel played a decisive part in getting the U.S. to invade and occupy Iraq.
Retired General Anthony Zinni, former head of the military's Central Command, which includes the Middle East, appeared to be on the same page as Mathahir. Zinni first raised questions about attacking Iraq in 1998, suggesting that a "fragmented, chaotic Iraq... could happen if this isn't done carefully [which] is more dangerous in the long run than a contained Saddam is now," a warning that caused Wolfowitz, then a dean at Johns Hopkins but active behind the scenes, to attack him in print.
Zinni was simply reiterating what had been the policy of the first Bush administration and that, prior to the attack on Saddam, had been repeated not only by former members of the elder Bush's cabinet such as Secretary of State James Baker, and National Security Advisor Brent Snowcroft, but by the elder Bush himself. (This is worth noting because the first Bush and members of his administration had strong ties to the oil-producing countries as well as the industry, and had this truly been "a war for oil" they could have been expected to support it. As it happened, those who insisted that it was about oil ignored this apparent flaw in their argument.)
As the Washington Post reported, "The more he listened to Wolfowitz and other administration officials talk about Iraq, the more Zinni became convinced that interventionist "neo-conservative" ideologues were plunging the nation into a war in a part of the world they didn't understand.
I think the American people were conned into this... I don't know where the neo-cons came from - that wasn't the platform they ran on... Somehow, the neo-cons captured the president. They captured the vice-president.
Zinni is a harder target for the U.S. media than Mathahir, so most of the pro-war shills in the mainstream media chose to ignore him. Not, however, Joel Mowbray, a right-wing ideologue from the National Review, whose attack on Zinni appeared on line:
Discussing the Iraq war with the Washington Post last week, former General Anthony Zinni took the path chosen by so many anti-semites: he blamed it on the Jews...
Technically, the former head of the Central Command in the Middle East didn't say "Jews." He instead used a term that has become a new favorite for anti-semites: "neo-conservatives." As the name implies, "neo-conservative" was originally meant to denote someone who is a newcomer to the right. In the 90's, many people self-identified themselves as "neocons," but today that term has become synonymous with "Jews."
Despite Mowbray's assertion that to criticize the neo-cons is thinly disguised anti-semitism, he is correct in noting that the term has become synonymous with a certain group of Jews. The miniscule handful that are not, such as former CIA chief James Woolsey, long-time Washington insider Frank Gaffney, former Congressman Newt Gingrich and Undersecretary of State John Bolton, are unabashed Israeliophiles.
Russian-born Max Boot, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a contributing editor to the Weekly Standard, a veritable neo-con house organ, did not wait for Zinni's comments to realize that the inevitable criticism of the neo-cons' role in producing the Iraq quagmire had to be stopped.
It is a "malicious myth" that the "Bush administration is pursuing a neo-conservative foreign policy." Boot wrote in Foreign Affairs, "If only it were true!" Showing contempt for the intelligence of his readers, he trotted out one of the weaker argument the neo-cons have used in their defense, that while their numbers in the Bush administration, "seems impressive, it also reveals that the neo-cons have no representatives in the administration's top tier." (Bush advisor Karl Rove is technically not there either, but no one would argue that he carries no clout with the president).
"The contention that the neo-con faction gained the upper hand in the White House has a superficial plausibility," wrote Boot, "because the Bush administration toppled Saddam Hussein and embraced democracy promotion [sic] in the Middle East," but these policies, he would have us believe, are not the result of neo-con cajoling, but rather an outgrowth of the September 11 attacks and the decision by Bush that the U.S. "no longer could afford a ëhumble' foreign policy." That's their spin. Let's see how well it holds up in the light of the facts.
The neo-con movement arose during the early 1970s among a small group of disgruntled liberals and former Trotskyists, some of whom had studied under Professor Leo Strauss at the University of Chicago. The group was almost exclusively Jewish, and was defined by "their attachment to Israel [and to] the Reaganite right's hard-line anti-communism, commitment to American military strength, and willingness to intervene politically and militarily in the affairs of other nations to promote democratic [sic] values (and American interests)," all of which "would guarantee Israel's security."
They were opposed as well to the Nixon administration's policy of dÈtente and the easing of tensions with the Soviet Union which meant U.S. acquiescence to its influence over the East Bloc states. The neo-cons wanted to challenge the Soviets through a massive build-up of this country's military strength and a willingness to use American power to further America's hegemonic interests, not dissimilar, as we shall see, to the agenda of the Project for a New American Century.
The neo-cons became in effect the intellectual arm of the Reagan administration... [Elliot] Abrams, as undersecretary of state for Latin American affairs, was a key figure in the effort to counter the Sandinistas in Nicaragua... ; Perle... spearheaded the drive to deploy Pershing missiles in Western Europe [and] the overall guru formulating these policies was Paul Wolfowitz.
Well, the same team is back guiding the decisions of the Bush administration in its war against terrorism and in challenging Iraq to give up its weapons of mass destruction. Judging by his past record, Abrams can be expected to be a strong advocate for linking Israel's war against terrorism to America's war, in muscular terms made familiar by the neo-cons.
Quite a different appraisal than that offered by Boot.
There is probably no more appropriate place to begin our probe of the neo-cons than with Perle who came to be known as "The Prince of Darkness" while serving as Deputy Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration, and who has been described by Joshua Micah Marshall as the neo-cons' eminence grise," whose "acolytes... are also Jewish, passionately pro-Israel, and pro-Likud. And all are united by a shared idea: that America should be unafraid to use its military power early and often to advance its interest and values."
Since the invasion of Iraq, Perle has been involved in several scandals, including a conflict of interest situation which caused him to resign as chair of the Defense Policy Board, but remain as a member. I will, however, limit this article to examining his role in fomenting the present war in Iraq.
To do so, we need to go back to 1975 and the administration of Gerald Ford. In that year, Ford, like Richard Nixon before him, tried his hand at achieving a Middle East peace settlement and was confronted with an intransigent Israeli Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin, then in his first tour of office.
In March of that year, exasperated with Israel's behavior, Ford had made a speech calling for a "reassessment" of U.S. policy towards Israel On the advice of his secretary of state, none other than Henry Kissinger, Ford "conspicuously delayed delivery of weapons to Israel, including the F-15 fighter plane [and] suspended negotiations for pending financial and military aid to Israel"
Within White House circles, a consensus for a peace plan was emerging which "looked very much like UN Resolution 242 and the Rogers Plan" that would have required Israel to return to its pre-1967 borders, with provisions that its security would be guaranteed. The idea was for President Ford to make a major speech, spelling out America's basic interests in the Middle East, and those interests required Israel's withdrawal.
It was not to be. As J.J. Goldberg noted in his book, Jewish Power, "Rabin and his aides entered the Kissinger negotiations as hard bargainers with a clear sense of the bottom line... And one of the most potent weapons at their disposal was the American Jewish community... "
Two years before, after the end of what the Israelis describe as the Yom Kippur War, with an Arab oil embargo causing gasoline shortages and widespread resentment around the country, the General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations voted to launch an emergency public-relations campaign in behalf of Israel. It would be endowed with a $3 million emergency public-relations fund and administered by a special task force on Israel. The campaign would combine the "national clout and know-how of the major [Jewish] agencies with the local resources of the federations and community-relations councils" 
As Goldberg describes it, "President Ford was the first to taste its power, when he spoke about his ëreassessment' of U.S.-Israel relations. Within six weeks, Ford gave up the idea after 76 senators signed a letter, drafted by AIPAC, demanding that he "back off."47 The letter's key paragraph put the president on notice that:
... within the next several weeks, the Congress expects to receive your foreign aid requests for fiscal year 1976. We trust that your recommendations will be responsive to Israel's urgent military and economic needs. We urge you to make it clear, as we do, that the United States acting in its own national interests stands firmly with Israel in searching for peace in future negotiations, and that this premise is the basis of the current reassessment of U.S. policy in the Middle East. 
Senator Charles Mathias, (R-MD) acknowledged that, due to lobbying pressure, "Seventy-six of us promptly affixed our signatures although no hearings had been held, no debate conducted, nor had the administration been invited to present its views. Mathias added that "as a result of the activities of the [Israel[ lobby, congressional conviction has been measurably reinforced by the knowledge that political sanctions will be applied by any who fail to deliver."
Despite their victory in this situation, certain Jewish supporters of Israel in Washington were determined that such a potential crisis in U.S.-Israel relations would not to be allowed to happen again. Enter Perle and JINSA, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.
As a staffer for Democratic Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson in 1972, Perle had been working with others in Washington to draft a law linking U.S.-Soviet trade relations to the right of Jews to emigrate from the Soviet Union.
Much to the displeasure of President Nixon and Secretary of State Kissinger, who saw the resulting Jackson-Vanik amendment as interference in the president's ability to determine foreign policy, their effort would ultimately prove successful. Now, in 1976, it appears that Perle had a larger goal: to insure that the maintenance of the military power and security of Israel would become an integral part of U.S. foreign policy.
JINSA's actual origins are as murky as the activities it carries out, but the organization that Perle established together with Max Kampelman, "an arms control negotiator whose old law firm is a U.S. agent for Israeli government military interests," was the precursor of the more well-known Project for a New American Century and the well from which has emerged the collection of Jewish neo-cons and their fellow travelers, whose signatures and thumb prints are all over America's current adventure in Iraq, as well as its threats against Syria and Iran.
According to its web site, JINSA has a two-fold mandate:
1. To educate the American public about the importance of an effective defense capability so that our vital interests as Americans can be safeguarded and
2. To inform the American defense and foreign affairs community about the important role Israel can and does play in bolstering democratic interests in the Mediterranean and the Middle East.
Its activities in behalf of the first mandate it has done out of the public's view. Other than the Wall Street Journal article in 1992, JINSA's existence was virtually unknown even to the political left until an article by Jason Vest appeared in the Nation in September, 2002.
It is JINSA's second mandate that demands our attention. "Under a program called ëSend a General to Israel,' hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax-deductible contributions bankroll an annual tour of Israel by retired U.S. generals and admirals." Judging from a look at JINSA's board of advisers, at least 25 of these ex-generals and retired admirals have subsequently been recruited into the organization, as have executives from a number of the major arms manufacturers. Consequently, it was no surprise when a JINSA protÈgÈ, former General Jay Garner, was named the first U.S. pro-consul in Iraq following the fall of the regime.
As Vest noted:
Almost every retired officer who sits on JINSA's board of advisers or has participated in its Israel trips or signed a JINSA letter works or has worked with military contractors who do business with the Pentagon and Israel. While some keep a low profile as self-employed "consultants" and avoid mention of their clients, others are less shy about their associations.
In other words, what JINSA represents can best be described as the Military-Industrial-Israeli complex.
Sitting on its board, in addition, are such public figures as former UN ambassador Jean Kirkpatrick, former CIA chief James Woolsey , former Congressman Jack Kemp, Michael Ledeen, an un-indicted co-conspirator in the Iran-Contra affair, and former Congressman Stephen Solarz, a very important player whom we will look at later in the article, and, of course, Perle. Of all those recruited into the ranks of JINSA, none would be prove to be more important than Dick Cheney, the former congressman who served as Secretary of Defense in the first Bush administration.
Looking towards the future, JINSA makes sure it is not just generals and admirals who get the grand tour. It also provides a study program in Israel for cadets and midshipmen from the Naval Academy, West Point and the Air Force Academy, from whose ranks will come the next generation of generals and admirals.
It should be noted that both of these programs are in keeping with the practice of Jewish organizations and federations across the country that routinely send public officials, such as mayors, supervisors, city councilors, police chiefs, etc. - the pool from which future members of Congress are likely to arise - on all-expense paid trips to Israel, thereby virtually assuring their support for the Jewish state in the future. No base is left uncovered.
JINSA has been "industrious and persistent," writes Vest, and has "managed to weave a number of issues - support for national missile defense, opposition to arms control treaties, championing of wasteful weapons systems, arms aid to Turkey and American unilateralism in general - into a hard line, with support for the Israeli right at its core."
On no issue, he points out, is the organization's "hard line more evident than in its relentless campaign for war - not just with Iraq, but ëtotal war,' as Ledeen, one of the most influential JINSAns in Washington, put it [in 2001]. For this crew, ëregime change' by any means necessary, in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority, is an urgent imperative."
Interviewed for David Horowitz's Front Page web site at the year's end Ledeen's message had not changed.
When asked about the Israel-Palestine conflict, Ledeen disingenuously replied:
I don't follow it, as you know," then added that "I don't think it is possible for anyone to do anything meaningful about it until we have defeated the terror masters in Tehran, Damascus and Riyadh, because the terrorism against Israel gets a lot of support from those evil people. In other words, you can't solve it in situ, it's part of a regional war. Maybe, once we have liberated the Middle East and the peoples have a chance to make their own decisions, it will be easier.
Those in government who dissent and who insist that differences may exist between the security interests of the United States and those of Israel can expect to be publicly trashed and called on the carpet by an Israeli-friendly Congressional committee - whether it is Powell or someone from the State Department, from the CIA or the military, or ex-military as in the case of General Zinni.
If there was a single "smoking gun" that led to accusations against the neo-cons that the attack on Iraq was a war for Israel, it was the revelation that, in 1996, Perle directed a task force that included two other high ranking American-Jewish neo-cons, current Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, and David Wurmser, senior adviser to John Bolton, Under-Secretary for Arms Control and International Security, that produced a white paper for then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It was entitled, "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm," and the name referred to putting an end to Israel's negotiating with the Palestinians, and the concept of trading land for peace.
The paper, which might have been lifted from JINSA's web site, advocated the overthrow by Israel of Saddam Hussein as the beginning of an Israeli policy to redraw the map of the Middle East in Israel's favor, a task that is now, apparently, being carried out by U.S. soldiers in Israel's behalf. This effort, it said, "can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq... Iraq's future could affect the strategic balance in the Middle East profoundly."
"Whoever inherits Iraq dominates the entire Levant strategically," said the paper, which was commissioned by the Jerusalem-based Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies (IASPS), where Wurmser was working at the time. Presumably Israel was to have a say as to who would do the dominating.
Well before 9-11 and before the junior Bush could even formulate the thought, the paper called for "re-establishing the principle of preemption."
It didn't stop there. "Israel can shape its strategic environment... by weakening, containing and even rolling back Syria by sponsoring proxy attacks in Lebanon and striking at selected targets in Syria. "Given the nature of the regime in Damascus," the paper argued, "it is both natural and moral that Israel abandon the slogan ëcomprehensive peace' and move to contain Syria, drawing attention to its weapons of mass destruction program, and rejecting ëland for peace' deals on the Golan Heights."
But what surely must raise the question of "dual loyalties," a charge which quickly subjects the questioner to accusations of "anti-semitism" from Jewish organizations, are statements such as this that appear in the text:
We have for four years pursued peace based on a New Middle East. We in Israel cannot play innocents abroad in a world that is not innocent. Peace depends on the character and behavior of our foes. We live in a dangerous neighborhood, with fragile states and bitter rivalries. Displaying moral ambivalence between the effort to build a Jewish state and the desire to annihilate it by trading "land for peace" will not secure "peace now." Our claim to the land - to which we have clung for hope for 2000 years - is legitimate and noble. It is not within our own power, no matter how much we concede, to make peace unilaterally. Only the unconditional acceptance by Arabs of our rights, especially in their territorial dimension, "peace for peace," is a solid basis for the future. (Emphasis in original) 
In 1999, Wurmser would publish a book (with a foreword by Perle) called Tyranny's Ally: America's Failure to Defeat Saddam Hussein. It provides a detailed description of a dramatically improved Middle East, from the hawk point of view, after regime change in Iraq.
With the invasion of Iraq, it became apparent to some in Israel, that the U.S. had adopted the Clean Break crew's agenda. Within a week of the invasion, former Israeli Chief of Staff Shaul Mofaz, now his country's Defense Minister, was calling for the U.S. to neutralize all those countries in the region with whom Israel had not signed a peace treaty.
Two weeks later, Mofaz was still singing that tune, as Ha'aretz's Brad Burston wrote:
That while Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld took on Syria in an oratorical shock and awe campaign this week, Israel gave signs of what it would like to see Washington do to bring Damascus to heel, and what the Jewish state could gain from the effort. The Americans have taken out a "yellow card" on them, and were right to do so.
Mofaz was referring to a soccer referee's warning card for players who have broken the rules of the game, and, if infractions continue, may be expelled.
According to Burston, Mofaz "set out a long list of demands he said the [U.S.] administration would be asked to press on Syria."
Mofaz's statements attracted the attention of the Financial Times of London, which reported that even: "Before the war against Iraq was launched, members of Israel's rightwing government had been open in expressing their hope that the U.S. would next turn its attention to Syria, saying it harbors anti-Israeli militant groups, and also to Iran, for providing weapons and military support to such groups."
The article quoted from an interview that Mofaz had given to the Israeli daily Maariv in which he said, "We have a long list of issues that we are thinking of demanding of the Syrians and it is proper that it should be done through the Americans." [... ] "It starts from removing the Hezbollah threat from southern Lebanon," and for "an end to Iranian aid to Hezbollah through Syrian ports."
The headlines in the Israeli press made no effort to hide the government's agenda, nor the Sharon government's arrogance in expressing it.
Mofaz was not just speaking for himself. Less than a month into the invasion of Iraq, beneath the headline, "Israel to U.S.: Now deal with Syria and Iran," Ha'aretz's Aluf Benn, wrote:
Two of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's senior aides will go to Washington for separate talks this week and suggest that the United States also take care of Iran and Syria because of their support for terror and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.
They must have been buoyed when, in the week following the invasion, Secretary of State Powell announced to delegates at AIPAC's annual conference that Syria and Iran are "supporting terror groups" and will have to "face the consequences."
Was it any wonder then that Israel's first air raid on Syria in 30 years was greeted sympathetically by both the president and members of Congress? While "ostensibly, it was retaliation for an atrocious Palestinian suicide bombing," in journalist David Hirst's view, "it was also a blatant attempt by Israel to recast itself as an operational ally of the U.S. in ëreshaping' the region, and in punishing an autocratic regime in Damascus that, in the neo-cons' view, was next for treatment."
So it is hardly a surprise that 2004 dawned with Syria in Washington's cross-hairs. In what can only be described as a Pavlovian response to Israel's wish list, both houses of Congress last year approved the Orwellian Syrian Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act.
While technically calling for the Bush administration to apply sanctions against Syria if it does not cease support for what Israel and Washington consider to be terrorist organizations, eliminate what they allege to be its weapons of mass destruction, and end its occupation of part of Lebanon, the act essentially gives both Israel and the administration the go-ahead to do whatever either government wants to a country that has never attacked or ever posed a threat to the U.S. The votes, 389-4 in the House, and 89-4 in the Senate, should be
an embarrassment to any country that pretends to be a democracy. And yet in the climate of an American election season, the significance of those votes has been almost completely ignored.
Not only did passage of this act represent another major victory for the neo-cons, it also served notice that their agenda had been adopted by the leading American Jewish organizations. Those that had any questions about it were content to keep them within the community.
Without the presence of Cheney in the White House, the neo-cons' road to power would have been far more difficult, and this is where his recruitment into JINSA paid off.
In 1991, the organization had given him its "Distinguished Service Award" and he was declared to be "excellent" on issues of U.S.-Israeli security cooperation, according to JINSA's director of special projects Shoshana Bryen.
If he was a neo-con at the time, he failed to show it, telling the Senate Budget Committee in February of 1990, "America should continue to anchor its strategy to the still-valid doctrines of flexible response, forward defense [and] security alliances... Even the extraordinary events of 1989 do not mean that America should abandon this strategic foundation," certainly a statement more Powell than Perle.
By the time he became the VP, however, he was firmly on board and feeling impregnable. News of Wurmser's participation in the Clean Break project, and questions raised in the press, didn't stop Cheney from adding him to his security staff last September, joining a team led by another Jewish neo-con, national security adviser, Lewis "Scooter" Libby.
Wurmser, described in the Forward as "a neo-conservative scholar known for his close ties to the Israeli right... boasts a complex network of relationships to a variety of pro-Likud think tanks and activist groups
[and] has frequently written articles arguing for a joint American-Israeli effort to undermine the Syrian regime."
"The vice president undoubtedly chooses staff whose views are compatible with the policies of the administration," wrote Judith Kipper, a Middle East scholar with the Council on Foreign Relations, in an e-mail to the Forward. "The question is, how does the vice president's [national security staff] function in relation to the president's national security staff, and how important policy decisions are made in the White House. While the vice president has a critical role to play, the secrecy surrounding his unusually large foreign-policy staff raises many questions which the American public needs answered."
To this date, they haven't been.
Not only did Cheney bring Wurmser as well as Feith into the administration, "It was Cheney's choices [as opposed to Powell's] that prevailed in the appointment of both cabinet and sub-cabinet national-security officials," as Jim Lobe has pointed out, including securing the Deputy Defense Secretary position for "his own protÈgÈ, Paul Wolfowitz."
Libby, "a Wolfowitz protÈgÈ, is considered a far more skilled and experienced bureaucratic and political operator than [Condaleeza]Rice," writes Lobe. "With several of his political allies on Rice's own staff - including deputy national security adviser Stephen Hadley and Middle East director Elliott Abrams - Libby "is able to run circles around Condi," according to a former NSC official cited by Lobe.
As former CIA agents Bill and Kathy Christison summed it up:
The Bush administration... is peppered with people who have long records of activism on behalf of Israel in the United States, of policy advocacy in Israel, and of promoting an agenda for Israel often at odds with existing U.S. policy. These people, who can fairly be called Israeli loyalists, are now at all levels of government, from desk officers at the Defense Department to the deputy secretary level at both State and Defense, as well as on the National Security Council staff and in the vice president's office.
As noted earlier, Israel loyalists, outfitted as lobbyists, worked behind the scenes to drum up public and Congressional support for the first Gulf War and were happy when the U.S. started bombing Iraq in 1991. They weren't pleased with the results. Like their friends in Jerusalem, they had wanted Saddam taken out completely, and the sanctions did not meet their standard of what was required. They did not spend their time writing letters to the editor.
He has been called "Wolfowitz of Arabia" in jest by the New York Times' Maureen Dowd, and, with respect, "the intellectual godfather of the war... its heart and soul," by Time's Mark Thompson. If the war on Iraq is anybody's war it is Paul Wolfowitz's.
Wolfowitz is also no stranger to Israel or to Israelis. As a teenager he lived briefly in Israel, his sister is married to an Israeli, and "he is friendly with Israel's generals and diplomats." He is also "something of a hero to the heavily Jewish neo-conservative movement" and a close friend of Perle's.
In 1992, as Under Secretary of Defense for policy in the Clinton administration, he supervised the drafting of the Defense Policy Guidance document. Having objected to what he considered the premature ending of the war, his new document, contained plans for further intervention in Iraq as an action necessary to assure "access to vital raw material, primarily Persian Gulf oil," and to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and threats from terrorism.
It called for pre-emptive attacks and, since "collective action cannot be orchestrated," the U.S. should be ready to act alone. The primary goal of U.S. policy would be to prevent the rise of any nation that could challenge U.S. supremacy. The document was leaked to the New York Times, which condemned it as extreme, and it was supposed to have been rewritten. As we will see, the original concepts are now part of the current National Security Strategy.
In 1996, as noted above, the scene shifted to Israel and we had Perle, Feith and Wurmser preparing the Clean Break paper for Netanyahu, when Bush Junior was four years from arriving in office.
Then in September of 2002, during the buildup to the invasion, the Glasgow Sunday Herald reported that it had discovered "A secret blueprint for U.S. global domination [which] reveals that President Bush and his cabinet were planning a premeditated attack on Iraq to secure regime change even before he took power in January 2001." What it was describing was the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), and it even had a web site which spelled out its plans until they were subsequently removed. That it was discovered by a Scottish newspaper was another telling commentary on the state of American journalism.
Founded in June of 1997, following the Clean Break by a year, part of PNAC's plan was for the U.S. to take control of the Gulf region with overwhelming and deadly military force. "While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification," the PNAC document explains, "the need for a substantial American force-presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein." (My emphasis) 
As information about PNAC made its way slowly into the mainstream media, ABC Nightline's Ted Koppel could no longer avoid it. On March 5th, he told his audience, that "Back in 1997, a group of Washington heavyweights, almost all of them neo-conservatives, formed an organization called the Project for the New American Century.
They did what former government officials and politicians frequently do when they're out of power, they began formulating a strategy, in this case, a foreign policy strategy, that might bring influence to bear on the administration then in power, headed by President Clinton. Or failing that, on a new administration that might someday come to power.
They were pushing for the elimination of Saddam Hussein. And proposing the establishment of a strong U.S. military presence in the Persian Gulf, linked to a willingness to use force to protect vital American interests in the Gulf.
All of that might be of purely academic interest were it not for the fact that among the men behind that campaign were such names as, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz. What was, back in 1997, merely a theory, is now, in 2003, U.S. policy. Hardly a conspiracy, the proposal was out there for anyone to see. But certainly an interesting case study of how columnists, commentators, and think-tank intellectuals can, with time and the election of a sympathetic president, change the course of American foreign policy."(My emphasis)
There was something different about this operation, however. Politicians out of power may plot how to return to power, but this group was more than that. It had been organized and was largely being run by the Jewish neo-cons whose activities we have been following, plus neo-con journalists and neo-con think-tank members with a long history of connections to the Israeli right wing and whose faces and opinions dominate the TV screens when issues of U.S foreign policy are under discussion. And as indicated above, it had the support of the leading American-Jewish lobbying organizations.
Heading up PNAC was William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, the leading journal of the neo-cons, and Robert Kagan, a columnist for the magazine as well as for the Washington Post, whose columns in the Post and whose joint columns with Kristol in the Weekly Standard have maintained a steady drumbeat for Washington to send more U.S. troops to Iraq and keep to its original unilateralist position.
Asked by Koppel if "part of the larger vision that you and your colleagues had, or have to this day, is the removal, either by force or otherwise, of the current power structure in Iran?," Kristol replied
I think that would be great. I hope we can do it otherwise. And I think we can do it otherwise than by force. I think getting rid of Saddam would help there. But, no, we will have to leave American troops in that region, I think in Iraq, for quite a while... It's a good investment. I think it helps keep stability in the area. And it helps strengthen the forces of freedom in the area...
In February of 1998, PNAC wanted to let President Clinton and the American public know its position on Iraq, but since, despite Koppel's statement to the contrary, the group and its plans had not yet come to the public's attention, it used the letterhead of the Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf, a largely paper organization that had been put together in 1990 "to support President Bush's policy of expelling Saddam Hussein from Kuwait." It read, in part:
Seven years later, Saddam Hussein is still in power in Baghdad. And despite his defeat in the Gulf War, continuing sanctions, and the determined effort of UN inspectors to fetter out and destroy his weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein has been able to develop biological and chemical munitions. To underscore the threat posed by these deadly devices, the Secretaries of State and Defense have said that these weapons could be used against our own people. And you have said that this issue is about "the challenges of the 21st Century."
Iraq's position is unacceptable. While Iraq is not unique in possessing these weapons, it is the only country which has used them - not just against its enemies, but its own people as well. We must assume that Saddam is prepared to use them again. This poses a danger to our friends, our allies, and to our nation.
It is clear that this danger cannot be eliminated as long as our objective is simply "containment," and the means of achieving it are limited to sanctions and exhortations... Saddam must be overpowered; he will not be brought down by a coup d'etat... 
The letter called on the president to "recognize a provisional government of Iraq based on the principles and leaders of the Iraqi National Congress (INC) that is representative of all the peoples of Iraq" (presumably incorporated in the person of their favorite, Ahmed Chalabi)... and providing it with the "logistical support to succeed."
The signatories acknowledged that:
In the present climate in Washington, some may misunderstand and misinterpret strong American action against Iraq as having ulterior political motives. [My emphasis]. We believe, on the contrary, that strong American action against Saddam is overwhelmingly in the national interest, that it must be supported, and that it must succeed... We urge you to provide the leadership necessary to save ourselves and the world from the scourge of Saddam and the weapons of mass destruction that he refuses to relinquish.
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Most favored nation
By Geoffrey Wheatcroft | April 2, 2006
In all the controversy over a recent Kennedy School paper on 'the Israel lobby,' perhaps the most interesting question has gone largely unasked: Has the closeness of the US-Israel alliance been good for Israel?
BEFORE LONG, A NEW coalition government will be formed in Israel, after the wrangling that always follows an election there. In Tel Aviv a few years ago, Shimon Peres said to me with great vehemence that the elaborately proportional electoral system ''is the worst thing that ever happened to our country," and that he would much prefer the Westminster or Capitol Hill model. But that's another story.
In America over the past week, a different story again has very nearly overshadowed that election, though it is related, as it concerns the question of Israeli political influence in Washington. ''The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy," a working paper by professors John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government, first posted on the Kennedy School's website and then published in abbreviated form in The London Review of Books, has detonated an explosion all its own.
In The New York Sun, where it was a front-page story over several days, and elsewhere, numerous commentators have joined in attacking the authors with a vociferousness that reminded me of Peres's phrase: They seemed to regard this academic paper as the worst thing that ever happened to Israel. Faulted for defective methodology and inaccuracy, Mearsheimer and Walt have been criticized more-in-sorrow by David Gergen in US News and World Report, and more-in-anger by Jeff Jacoby in the Globe (twice over). In Slate, Christopher Hitchens says the paper is ''smelly," Max Boot in The Los Angeles Times calls it McCarthyite, and Alan Dershowitz-never one to be outdone in lurid language-compares it with ''The Protocols of the Elders of Zion." In The New Republic, Martin Peretz calls the paper ''the labor of obsessives with dark and conspiratorial minds."
One of Mearsheimer and Walt's claims is that a pro-Israel lobby-with the formidable AIPAC (America Israel Public Affairs Committee) to the forefront-has powerfully influenced American policy in the Mideast. But that in itself is not really controversial: After all, AIPAC likes to boast of its own influence.
What makes the paper more stinging is the fact that Mearsheimer and Walt write not from the doctrinaire left or the crackpot right but from the ''realist" foreign-policy establishment, and that they are on the faculty of highly respectable institutions. That, and their suggestion that America's ''unwavering support" for Israel, notably the $3 billion a year in direct aid, has no strategic or moral rationale anymore, if it ever had, and has among other things made America more, not less, vulnerable to terrorism. The clear implication is that loosening those ties with Israel would be in the American national interest.
'The lobby': Post and ripostes...
Message Board YOUR VIEW: The nature of US support for Israel?
If Mearsheimer and Walt had wanted to show that they were saying the unsayable, then they appear to have made their point-the ferocious response suggests a taboo being broken. And yet the American reaction is puzzling to Europeans: This question is yet another illustration of the great transatlantic rift. On the eastern side of the Atlantic, it has long been recognized that there is an intimate connection between the United States and Israel, in which AIPAC clearly plays a major role. The degree to which this has affected American policy, up to and including the war in Iraq, has been discussed calmly by sane British commentators-though also, to be sure, played up maliciously by bigots.
In America, by contrast, there has been an unmistakable tendency to shy away from this subject. As Michael Kinsley wrote in Slate in the autumn of 2002, both supporters and opponents of the coming war did not want to invoke classic anti-Semitic images of cabals, arcane conspiracies, and malign courtiers whispering into the prince's ear. Such motives are honorable, and yet there is always a danger when something is wilfully ignored. As Kinsley said, the connection between the invasion of Iraq and Israeli interests had become ''the proverbial elephant in the room. Everybody sees it, no one mentions it." Until now, at any rate.
It has been plausibly argued that no ''Israel lobby" is needed to sway the American people, who are bound to Israel by deeper ties of sentiment. That may be so, but it may also be that the really sensitive nerve that Mearsheimer and Walt have touched isn't ''the lobby" as such. They have raised a graver question: Is unconditional American support for Israel-whatever its motives or origins-actually in the truest interests of both countries?
Maybe the first lobbyist on behalf of the land of Israel was Theodor Herzl. He published his book ''The Jewish State" in 1896, and organized the first Zionist Congress in Basel the following year, but he believed, as was characteristic of his age, that a political cause could best be advanced through the influence of the mighty. He duly lobbied in person the kaiser, the pope, British Cabinet ministers, and just about anyone else who would see him.
A generation later, Chaim Weizmann, who his friend Sir Isaiah Berlin called ''an irresistible political seducer," exercised his considerable charm on a number of important men in London. In 1917 he persuaded the British government to issue what became the Balfour Declaration, which favored ''the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."
Not all of those people approved of either these methods or their ends. One reason Mearsheimer and Walt have caused such anger is surely because to discuss the ''Israel lobby" is to raise the age-old question of ''dual loyalty": Does an intense attachment to the cause of Israel compromise an American citizen's first national allegiance? And although Mearsheimer and Walt do not claim that many American Jews have a higher loyalty to Israel, undisguised anti-Semites like David Duke-who has praised the paper-do just that.
In Herzl's time, although dual loyalty was a very live issue, it was one raised by Jews, not their enemies. For thorough-going anti-Semites, the problem didn't exist, since they believed no Jew could have any true allegiance to France, England, or Austria in the first place. When the French army officer Alfred Dreyfus was accused of treason, the proto-fascist Charles Maurras said derisively that ''in order to betray one's country it is first necessary to have one." The same thing was said, only more sardonically, by a fictional character. Dreyfus ''would have committed a crime if he had betrayed Judaea, but what has that to do with France?" asks Proust's monstrous Charlus. ''Dreyfus might rather be convicted of a breach of the laws of hospitality."
That sneer was just what appalled so many Jews, who felt their national allegiance impugned. When Herzl first tried to float his Zionist idea to an elite Jewish dining club in London, its members strongly objected, as he recorded, on the ground of ''English patriotism." Their loyalty was owed to the country of which they were citizens; they were ''Englishmen of Hebrew faith," in the phrase of the age.
It should not be forgotten (though it often is) that most Jews in Herzl's day were either indifferent to Zionism or bitterly hostile to it, on religious or political grounds or because they saw it as a threat to their own position. That was true not least in the United States, where very many would have agreed with the rabbi who said that ''America is our Zion."
When Weizmann secured his goal in 1917, some of the eminences of British Jewry were horrified. David Alexander and Claude Montefiore, presidents respectively of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and of the Anglo-Jewish Association, thought the Balfour Declaration ''a veritable calamity for the whole Jewish people," which must ''have the effect throughout the world of stamping the Jews as strangers in their native lands, and of undermining their hard-won position as citizens and nationals of those lands."
No one needed Mearsheimer and Walt to expose the work of lobbyists on behalf of Israel today. So far from hiding itself away in dark corners, AIPAC glories in its power and influence. Its own website proudly quotes Bill Clinton's description of AIPAC as ''stunningly effective" and John McCain's praise of its ''instrumental and absolutely vital role" in protecting the interest of Israel. Perhaps Mearsheimer and Walt would have done better to confine themselves to that website as their source.
Just as Herzl and Weizmann angered many of their Jewish contemporaries, so there are doubtless a good many Jewish Americans who (even if they resent the charges made by Mearsheimer and Walt) are at the least uneasy about the work of AIPAC and its associates. Thomas L. Friedman of The New York Times is understandably dismayed when an apparently civilized and educated Arab tells him ''that the Jews control the US government." But then elsewhere, Friedman admits that only the White House could ever have restrained Israel from what he calls its ''insane" settlement policies, but that President Bush will never do so since that ''would inevitably force a clash with US Jews, whose votes and donations he needs to protect his GOP majority in the House." When is a distinction a difference?
For that matter, the respected foreign policy analyst Anatol Lieven of the New America Foundation in Washington has been writing about this for some time (and without igniting a media firestorm). In his view, the alliance with Israel, so far from being a source of strength, is a grave source of weakness for the United States, in dealing with the Muslim world and in combatting terrorism.
Mearsheimer and Walt are far from alone in looking at the relationship between America and Israel, even if some of what they say about the lobby is clumsy. But their paper, and the angry response to it, have generated more heat than light. AIPAC and those ''votes and donations" have without doubt influenced American policy in the Middle East, and supposedly done so in Israel's interests. A much more interesting question is what the ultimate objective effect has been.
Whether the American-Israeli alliance stems from sentiment, political realism, or the machinations of the lobby, has it been a success-in its own terms? When Mearsheimer and Walt ask if there are really strategic imperatives on the American side for ''unwavering support" of Israel, that is at least worth discussing as a hypothesis. But it's scarcely more fascinating than the question of whether such support has been to the long-term benefit of Israel.
Bolstered by American aid, successive Israeli governments tried to strengthen their settlements on the West Bank and in Gaza, the policy Friedman calls insane. Ariel Sharon at last gave up the dream of a Greater Israel, including his promise to remain in Gaza ''for Zionist reasons." And now Ehud Olmert, when he has formed his new government, will withdraw from most of the West Bank. Might not much blood and treasure have been saved if Israel had been obliged to make those choices years ago?
In one of their most contentious passages, Mearsheimer and Walt suggest that ''Israel was becoming a strategic burden" by the time of the first Gulf War. Then in 2003, history repeated itself, they say, as ''Israel was eager for the US to attack Iraq. ...The Israeli government and pro-Israel groups in the United States have worked together to shape the administration's policy towards Iraq, Syria, and Iran, as well as its grand scheme for reordering the Middle East."
Whatever view is taken of that analysis, it is no secret that prominent members of the Bush administration who were ardent supporters of Israel were also strong advocates of invading Iraq to destroy Saddam Hussein. Supposing, then, for the purest sake of argument, that the war was fought in some manner to help Israel, did it do so? Ask an Israeli.
Not long ago, Yuval Diskin, head of the Shin Bet security service, spoke to a group of army draftees. The meeting was in private, but he was recorded and his words broadcast on television. (As is often said, Israel is a free an open society!) It could be that they would come to regret the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Diskin said. Horrible as his rule was, it might have been less dangerous for Israel than the chaos which had succeeded him. Said Diskin: ''I'm not sure we won't miss Saddam."
Geoffrey Wheatcroft is an English journalist and author. His books include ''The Controversy of Zion," which won a National Jewish Book Award, and, most recently, ''The Strange Death of Tory England."
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Keeping It Quiet: The Israel Lobby's Crushing of Dissent
by Charley Reese
April 1, 2006
The first weapon of choice for the Israeli lobby when someone with prestige publishes a soundly researched paper or book critical of Israel or its powerful lobby is silence. If it's a book, it rarely gets reviewed; its author doesn't get interviewed. If it's a paper, there are no news stories in the big corporate press, no interviews with the authors, no television appearances.
For the average American who depends on the press to tell him what's going on, it's as if the criticism never existed. The second weapon is, of course, to launch vicious personal attacks.
Both methods are being used against an astounding paper titled "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy." It was written by two renowned academics, John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. So far as I've been able to determine with the help of Google, while the paper and talk about it are all over the Internet, they are missing from the big corporate press as of this writing. It was published in the London Review of Books, and you can read it or download an edited version at www.lrb.co.uk. There was one news story about it in the Christian Science Monitor and an attack on it by David Gergen in U.S. News & World Report. Gergen is editor at large of the magazine, which is owned by an ardent Zionist, Mortimer Zuckerman. Gergen is a professional spinmeister who has always served the people who have the butter for his bread.
The essence of the paper, which is thoroughly footnoted, is that Israel's lobby has so skewed American foreign policy in the Middle East that the U.S. places the security of Israel ahead of security for the United States. "This situation has no equal in American history," the authors state. The Anti-Defamation League was quoted in a Jewish publication as saying that if the paper gained the attention of the mainstream media, then a "more vigorous attack" would be launched. So far, it has not, though in the Christian Science Monitor story one of the attack dogs of the Israel lobby branded these two esteemed academics from prestigious universities as "incompetents." This paper isn't the first to criticize the Israeli lobby. There have been lots of papers and books written by distinguished individuals, none of which you've probably ever heard of. They Dare to Speak Out, by former Rep. Paul Findley, and The Passionate Attachment, by George W. Ball, one of America's most distinguished diplomats, are two that come to mind. It was the late Sen. William J. Fulbright who first called Congress "Israeli-occupied territory."
What the authors of the current paper hope to do is start a sensible public debate about the Israeli lobby and America's policy in the Middle East. Of course, avoiding an honest debate is one of the primary objectives of the lobby. That's why it uses silence and, if that doesn't work, vicious personal attacks. It has certainly buffaloed Congress and most of America's news media. Another author given the silent treatment as well as vicious personal attacks is Norman Finkelstein, a professor at DePaul University. He's written three outstanding books you've probably not heard of: The Holocaust Industry, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, and his latest, which got not a line of review, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History. Finkelstein, by the way, is Jewish and the son of Holocaust survivors.
This is a most serious issue and deserves an honest public debate. Whether you agree with any of the above authors and academics, you should read what they have to say and not be deterred by cheap ad hominem attacks. You've heard the same message from me, of course, but I'm only a country boy turned journalist with no fancy degrees. If you're impressed with credentials, Finkelstein, Findley, Walt, Mearsheimer and Ball have them up to their armpits.
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KSG: End of Walt's Term 'Completely Unrelated' To Uproar Over Israel Remarks
By PARAS D. BHAYANI
Crimson Staff Writer
Academic dean to step down in June, but will remain a tenured professor
Kennedy School of Government Academic Dean Stephen M. Walt-who is facing criticism from some colleagues after co-authoring a paper assailing the United States' pro-Israel policies-will step down from his administrative post this June, but school officials say that his move was long-planned and is not related to the controversy sparked by Walt's paper.
Walt will remain a tenured professor at the Kennedy School, but the announcement that he will leave the position of academic dean means that Walt will no longer be in charge of the school's teaching and research at a time when his own scholarship is under attack.
Kennedy School Dean David T. Ellwood '75 said in a statement that Walt "had been due to depart last June after the normal three-year cycle, but had agreed, at my request, to stay on for one more year."
"His departure is completely unrelated to the current discussion surrounding the article he co-authored with John Mearsheimer," Ellwood said in the statement.
Ellwood said that he sent an e-mail to Kennedy School faculty members on Feb. 21-before the uproar over the article-informing them that Walt would end his term as academic dean in June. Ellwood said he also asked professors for recommendations regarding the search for the next academic dean.
When asked to provide the Feb. 21 e-mail to The Crimson, Kennedy School spokeswoman Melodie Jackson declined to do so.
Walt and Mearsheimer, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, argue in their paper that "unquestioned support" for Israel does not serve U.S. strategic objectives and fosters anti-American sentiment in the Arab world and beyond. The paper was posted on the Kennedy School's website last month, and an abridged version of it was published in the London Review of Books.
They professors argue that the "Israel Lobby"-a "loose coalition of individuals and organizations" including national Jewish leaders, Christian evangelicals like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson, Republican congressmen, and columnists for the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post-has pushed the U.S. to adopt excessively pro-Israel stances.
Rep. Jerold Nadler, D-N.Y., blasted the paper as a "dishonest piece of crap" in an interview with The New York Sun, and Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., called the paper "anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist drivel." Harvard's Frankfurter professor of law, Alan M. Dershowitz, told The Crimson that Walt and Mearsheimer are "liars" and "bigots."
Dershowitz, who publicly challenged Walt and Mearsheimer to a debate last week, said that Mearsheimer had been scheduled to debate him on the BBC at 10:30 p.m Eastern time Thursday. But Dershowitz said that he received a call at 10:35 p.m. saying that Mearsheimer had cancelled the debate.
In a statement to The Crimson, Dershowitz said that Mearsheimer and Walt "make outrageous and unsupportable claims; they invoke academic freedom in the marketplace of ideas, but then they refuse to participate in the marketplace of ideas by declining reasonable debate about their position."
"I renew my challenge to debate either or both of them at the Kennedy School," Dershowitz added.
Mearsheimer and Walt did not return phone calls to their offices seeking comment this past week.
Dershowitz is preparing a rebuttal to the Mearsheimer and Walt article that will be posted on the Kennedy School's website. The Boston Globe first reported Friday that Ellwood would amend the rules of the school's "working paper" series to allow for rebuttals by other full-time Harvard faculty members.
Walt's term as academic dean will be one year shorter than that of his predecessor, Frederick Schauer, who held the post from 1997 to 2002.
Though Ellwood's statement made reference to a "normal three-year cycle" of academic deans, three-year terms have not been the norm for administrators who have held that post in recent years.
Ellwood himself held the post for a year before joining the Clinton administration in 1993, and he returned to the school in 1995 to serve a two-year term as academic dean. Alan A. Altshuler held the post for two years during Ellwood's absence. And before that, Albert Carnesale was the school's academic dean for a decade.
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Diary: Iraq is splitting into three different parts
Iraq is splitting into three different parts. Everywhere there are fault lines opening up between Sunni, Shia and Kurd. In the days immediately following the attack on the Shia shrine in Samarra on 22 February, some 1300 bodies, mostly Sunni, were found in and around Baghdad. The Shia-controlled Interior Ministry, whose police commandos operate as death squads, asked the Health Ministry to release lower figures. A friend of mine, a normally pacific man living in a middle-class Sunni district in west Baghdad, rang me. 'I am not leaving my home,' he said. 'The police commandos arrested 15 people from here last night including the local baker. I am sitting here in my house with a Kalashnikov and 60 bullets and if they come for me I am going to open fire.'
It is strange to hear George Bush and John Reid deny that a civil war is going on, given that so many bodies – all strangled, shot or hanged solely because of their religious allegiance – are being discovered every day. Car bombs exploded in the markets in the great Shia slum of Sadr City in early March. Several days later a group of children playing football in a field noticed a powerful stench. Police opened up a pit which contained the bodies of 27 men, probably all Sunni, stripped to their underpants; they had all been tortured and then shot in the head. Two and a half years ago, when the first suicide bomb targeting the Shias killed 85 people outside the shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf, there was no Shia retaliation. They were held back by Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and the hope of gaining power through legal elections. Since the Samarra bomb this restraint has definitively ended: the Shia militias and death squads slaughter Sunnis in tit-for-tat killings every time a Shia is killed.
Iraqis often deceive themselves about the depth of the sectarian divisions in their country. They say, rightly, that there are many intermarriages between Sunni and Shia and claim the sectarian divide is less extreme than it is in Belfast, where Roman Catholic and Protestant seldom marry. But such marriages are most common among the educated middle class in Baghdad and, in any case, they have become less common since 2003, when sectarian differences widened after Sunnis rebelled against the occupation and the Shia community did not. My Shia and Kurdish friends, who see themselves as wholly non-sectarian, sincerely believe that the three-year-old Sunni rebellion is the work of a few jobless Baathist officials making common cause with Islamic fanatics imported from Saudi Arabia. 'They are not real Iraqis,' they say. They refuse to accept that the guerrillas are supported by most of the five-million-strong Sunni community, despite the evidence of opinion polls. The Sunnis and the Kurds, for their part, see the Shia leaders as puppets manipulated by Iranian intelligence. They will not take on board that the 15 or 16 million Shias, who make up 60 per cent of the population, will not give up their bid for power after centuries of marginalisation. Kurdish hostility to Arabs is equally underestimated by both Shia and Sunni. While I was in Arbil, the Kurdish capital, two Sunni friends emailed to say they planned to drive from Baghdad to see me. They didn't realise that they were as likely to spend the night in jail as in a hotel, because Kurds regard all Arabs visiting from the rest of Iraq with deep suspicion.
The differences between Shia and Kurd explain why Iraq still doesn't have a new government three months after last December's elections. The current government is the one that took office in January 2005; based on a Kurdish-Shia alliance, it's headed by Ibrahim al-Jaafari of the Shia Dawa Party. Over the past year, Kurdish leaders have come to detest him and are refusing to agree to a new government with him at its head. They were enraged when he made a surprise visit to Turkey in early March in order (they feared) to enlist Turkish support in his bid to rob them of their quasi-independence within Iraq. Above all, the Kurdish leaders fear that Jaafari is manoeuvring to avoid implementing an agreement under which they would gain permanent control of the oil province of Kirkuk, which they captured at the start of the war.
Kirkuk, beneath which lie ten billion barrels of oil reserves, is a prize well worth fighting for. It is also, even by Iraqi standards, a depressing and dangerous city. It sits on the plain 150 miles north of Baghdad, overlooked by a citadel whose ancient houses were wrecked by Saddam Hussein after the failed Kurdish uprising of 1991. There are heaps of rubbish everywhere. Despite the oil reserves, there are mile-long queues of vehicles waiting to get petrol. Shops are small and mean. In the centre of the city a cluster of dilapidated market stalls sell fruit and bread. 'Kirkuk is a ruin, it is the most ruined city in Iraq,' a Kurdish official said, with bitter pride, as we drove through the city. Over the past fifty years the Kurds have been systematically expelled from Kirkuk. After 1991, a full-scale programme of ethnic cleansing began: between 120,000 and 200,000 Kurds and Turkomans were forced from their homes by Saddam. Almost all the small towns and villages in the province were bulldozed to reduce the Kurdish population and to prevent the buildings being used by guerrillas. The Iraqi constitution, along with the Shia-Kurdish agreement, promised to remove Arab settlers and return Kurds to Kirkuk. Grim place though it is, undisputed possession of the province and its oilfields is vital to the Kurds if they are to get close to self-determination.
Under the new constitution, the fate of Kirkuk will be decided by 31 December 2007. If Kirkuk joins the Kurdish region, the Kurds will have first rights to new oil discoveries. Saddam had not only denied them a share in oil revenues: any Kurd found working in the oil industry was sacked. 'Of the 9000 employees working for the Northern Oil Company in 2003, only 18 were Kurds, and they were mostly servants,' said Rezgar Ali Hamajan, the chief of Kirkuk's provincial council. Now the Kurds are intent on having their own oil. Given that the need to share oil income is almost the only thing holding Iraq together, the secession of Kirkuk to join the Kurdish Regional Government could be the decisive moment in the dissolution of the country.
Inhabited by Kurds, Turkomans and Arabs, Kirkuk is a good if unnerving place in which to observe the growing hatred between Iraq's ethnic communities. The Kurds won five out of nine parliamentary seats in the parliamentary election in December. 'Security is not as bad as in Baghdad,' said Rezgar Ali, a chain-smoking former land surveyor who was for years a Peshmerga commander in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), while admitting that this is not saying a great deal. He complained that the media exaggerate the violence in the city. 'One day a rich Kurdish lady was kidnapped,' he said. 'They claimed she was a female Kurdish leader. In fact it was just an ordinary kidnapping.' He conceded that many Arab police officers were probably collaborating with the insurgents and that several Arab police chiefs had been arrested. Like many Kurdish officials in Kirkuk, he wears a pistol in his belt and has a submachine-gun always close to hand. Whatever happens, he said, the Kurds 'won't leave Kirkuk. Even if we had only two thousand Peshmerga we would not leave here.'
But one recent development has shocked even Rezgar Ali. In the centre of Kirkuk there is a building that seems quite imposing compared to the ramshackle houses all around: this is the Republican Hospital. It is here that most of the casualties from gun battles, bombings and assassinations are taken. In 2005, some 1500 people were killed or injured in Kirkuk province. Large numbers of those taken to the hospital died, and there turned out to be an extraordinary reason for this. Some time earlier, the hospital had recruited an enthusiastic young doctor called Louay, who was always willing to help. What the other doctors didn't know was that Louay, an Arab, was a member of an insurgent cell of the Ansar al-Sunna group. He used his position to make sure that soldiers, policemen and government officials died of their injuries. A police inquiry found Dr Louay guilty of killing 43 patients. He doesn't seem to have found this very difficult. Many of the injured were bleeding when they reached the hospital and, according to Colonel Yadgar Shukir Abdullah Jaff, a senior policeman, 'Louay would inject patients he wanted to kill with a high dose of a medicine that made them bleed more.'
Given that Iraqi hospitals are invariably short-staffed and there is little time for autopsies, Dr Louay might have been able to carry on his killings indefinitely. But earlier this year Kurdish security in Sulaimaniyah arrested the leader of his cell. Abu Muhijiz, whose real name is Malla Yassin, confessed that Louay was a member of his group and detailed the grisly work that he had carried out.
In Kirkuk, the most effective military and police units are Kurdish. The same is true in Mosul, the mainly Sunni city on the Tigris further to the west. Nominally, there are 12,000 police in Mosul province, drawn mainly from the Jabour tribe. But according to Saadi Pire, the former PUK leader in Mosul, 'they are policemen only by day and terrorists at night.' The Sunni in Mosul, for their part, see what the US claims is a war against insurgents as an American-Kurdish attack on their community.
Across Iraq, the community-based allegiances of members of army and police units are sapping the power of the state. As sectarian and ethnic war escalates, people want militiamen from their own community defending their street, regardless of whether or not they belong in theory to the army or the police. In Sunni areas, the only people well enough armed to organise a defence are the resistance fighters, and the fear of Shia death squads swells their ranks. In Shia areas, sectarian bombings and shootings lead to greater reliance on the Mehdi Army of the nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Meanwhile, the number of American casualties has decreased to about one a day, compared to two or three a day last year. The insurgents believe that the Americans are going to leave whatever happens, as support for the war diminishes in the US, and that attacks against US troops are therefore less urgent. But in the Sunni heartlands north of Baghdad, resistance is as strong as it has ever been. On 21 March, a hundred fighters armed with automatic rifles, rocket-propelled grenade-launchers and mortars captured a police headquarters and stormed a jail in Muqdadiyah, sixty miles north of Baghdad. By the time they withdrew they had killed 19 policemen, freed 33 prisoners and captured enough radio equipment to make the rest of the police network insecure. Provincial authorities claim the Muqdadiyah police chief was a resistance double-agent.
Solidarity within each community – Kurdish, Shia and Sunni – is strong. But none is monolithic. Iraqis in general are highly cynical about the honesty and competence of their own leaders. The four to five million Kurds have a strong sense of national identity and are well organised. Nevertheless, on 16 March thousands of Kurds marching in Halabja to commemorate the deaths of the 5000 people killed in the 1988 poison gas attack on the town burned down their own brand-new monument. It was a curious, circular building outside the city boundaries which housed a museum; from the distance it looked like a strange mosque. Opened by Colin Powell in 2003, it contained lifesize wax models intended to represent the dead and dying, and photographs of the dead. For two years, Kurdish officials had taken foreign officials to the monument as a symbol of Kurdish suffering under Saddam. People in Halabja, however, had watched the visitors with growing rage. Few of them travelled one mile further, into the town itself, to see the sufferings of the present-day inhabitants – for whom little had been done since 1988. Funds sent from abroad to help the survivors of Saddam Hussein's most famous atrocity never seemed to arrive.
I reached Halabja after the riot had subsided. The guards at the monument were still looking shaken. The building itself had been gutted by fire: long strips of plastic hung from one of the ceilings and several small fires were still burning. Kana Tewfiq, one of the Peshmerga guards, who'd been hit in the spine by a stone thrown from the crowd, said that protesters had taken 'gasoline and oil from the museum generator to get the fire going'. A second group of Peshmerga had arrived and fired into the crowd, killing a 17-year-old demonstrator and wounding half a dozen others. Shako Mohammed, the PUK leader and government representative in the Halabja region, came with a couple of carloads of bodyguards to survey the damage. He said he had begged people not to demonstrate while he took their demands to the PUK government in Sulaimaniyah. He suspected that the crowd had been infiltrated by members of the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan, which once controlled the region.
In the local hospital, a 29-year-old man called Othman Ali Gaffur was lying in a bed with a bullet through his leg. His injuries looked serious: he was missing part of his left hand and had only one eye. But these turned out to be the result of ordnance detonating when he was playing with it as a child. Othman worked as a journalist on the magazine put out by the handicapped people's association in Halabja, to which five thousand people belong. He said the first aim of the demonstration had been to keep government officials away. 'They were always promising us help but the help never came. There are no roads, no streets here, only mud. They only took people to see the monument to the dead and never to see the living. That's why it became a target.' Another man, Omar Ali, said he was against violence, but 'if we don't do something they won't listen.'
At this point several Peshmerga entered the ward and told me to leave. I refused to go, and they seemed divided on what to do. When I did leave they surrounded the car and said I should stay where I was while they rang their headquarters. When they finally got through, they were told to let me go. Later the PUK claimed that Islamic fundamentalists and shadowy pro-Iranian groups had fomented the riots. The next day in Kirkuk, a senior PUK official admitted that this was nonsense. 'What happened in Halabja could happen anywhere in Iraq because people look at what has happened to them and don't think their leaders are any good.'
Iraq is divided and the insurgency is strong, but the real reason for the collapse of Iraq is the weakness of the state. Ali Allawi, the finance minister, told me that corruption had reached Nigerian levels and that the government is just a parasitic entity living on oil revenues. It's not merely that a percentage of spending disappears into official pockets: entire budgets vanish. The US and Britain are trying to push Iyad Allawi forward as a sort of super-minister in charge of security. But while he was prime minister in 2004-5, the whole $1.3 billion defence procurement budget disappeared. Millions more were spent on a contract to protect the vital Kirkuk-Baiji oil pipeline but the money was embezzled. The few men hired to guard the pipeline usually turned out to be the same men who were blowing it up. Ali Allawi says the insurgency is largely financed by oil smuggling, and 40 to 50 per cent of the vast profits go to the resistance.
The moment when Iraq could be held together as a truly unified state has probably passed. But a weak Iraq suits many inside and outside the country and it will still remain a name on the map. American power is steadily ebbing and the British forces are largely confined to their camps around Basra. A 'national unity government' may be established but it will not be national, will certainly be disunited and may govern very little. 'The government could end up being a few buildings in the Green Zone,' one minister said. The army and police are already split along sectarian and ethnic lines. The Iranians have been the main winners in the struggle for the country. The US has turned out to be militarily and politically weaker than anybody expected. The real question now is whether Iraq will break up with or without an all-out civil war.
Most probably war is coming, but it will not be fought in all parts of Iraq. It will essentially be a battle for Baghdad between Sunni and Shia Arabs. 'The army will disintegrate in the first moments of the fighting,' a Kurdish leader told me. 'The soldiers obey whatever orders they receive from their own communities.' The parts of the country with a homogeneous population, whether Shia, Sunni or Kurdish, may well stay quiet. But in greater Baghdad, sectarian cleansing is already taking place. The place bears an ever closer resemblance to Beirut thirty years ago. The Shia Arabs have the advantage because they are the majority in the capital, but the Sunni should be able to cling on to their strongholds in the west and south of the city. The new balance of power in Iraq may be decided not by negotiations, but by militiamen fighting street by street.
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Rice says next Iraqi prime minister must be strong, unifying force
05:06:19 EDT Apr 3, 2006
BAGHDAD (AP) - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Monday that the next Iraqi prime minister must be a "strong leader" capable of unifying the people of this fractured country.
Rice made the remarks at a news conference on the second day of a trip to Iraq with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw - a visit aimed at pressing the Iraqis to complete formation of a national unity government following the Dec. 15 election. Both Rice and Straw emphasized that it was up to the Iraqis to decide on their new prime minister.
Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the nominee of the Shiite bloc, has been widely criticized by Sunni and Kurdish politicians whom the Shiites need as partners to govern.
"It is not my responsibility to determine who is going to be the prime minister of Iraq," Rice said. "That can only be determined by the Iraqis."
But she said the next prime minister "needs to be a strong leader, who's a unifying force, and someone who can bring stability and face the challenges of the Iraqi people."
Rice said the Iraqi people and the international community "need to see that process of government formation come to an end."
Both Rice and Straw spoke of the need for the next government to curb the power of sectarian militias alleged to have been behind the wave of reprisal killings of Shiites and Sunnis.
"You have to have the state with a monopoly of power," Rice said. "We have sent very strong messages" that there must be "a reining in of militias."
Comment: We think this headline, written by AP, pretty well sums up the situation. It is "force" that will be the next leader in Iraq.
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US says 2 pilots dead after chopper lost in Iraq
Sun Apr 2, 9:18 PM ET
LONDON - The U.S. military confirmed on Monday that two of its pilots died after their helicopter crashed in
The fate of the pair had been unclear although they were presumed dead after their helicopter went down southwest of Baghdad on Saturday. The U.S. military said the aircraft was probably shot down by insurgents.
"The soldiers' remains were recovered following aircraft recovery operations at the crash site of their AH-64D Apache Longbow, which went down due to possible hostile fire west of Yousifiyah," the U.S. military's Central Command said in a statement.
"The names of the soldiers are being withheld pending notification of next of kin. The incident is under investigation," it said.
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Iraq terror backlash in UK 'for years'
The Sunday Times
April 02, 2006
SPY chiefs have warned Tony Blair that the war in Iraq has made Britain the target of a terror campaign by Al-Qaeda that will last "for many years to come."
A leaked top-secret memo from the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) says the war in Iraq has "exacerbated" the threat by radicalising British Muslims and attracting new recruits to anti-western terror attacks.
The four-page memo, entitled International Terrorism: Impact of Iraq, contradicts Blair's public assurances by concluding that the invasion of Iraq has fomented a jihad or holy war against Britain.
It states: "It has reinforced the determination of terrorists who were already committed to attacking the West and motivated others who were not."
It adds: "Iraq is likely to be an important motivating factor for some time to come in the radicalisation of British Muslims and for those extremists who view attacks against the UK as legitimate."
The memo was approved by Eliza Manningham-Buller, the head of MI5, John Scarlett, the chief of MI6, and Sir David Pepper, head of GCHQ, the government's eavesdropping centre.
The leak of the JIC's official assessment - marked "top secret" - will alarm Blair as it appears to be directed at undermining the public statements in which he has denied that the war in Iraq has increased the terror threat from Al-Qaeda.
In a speech shortly after the London bombings last July, Blair blamed an "evil ideology", not the war, for motivating the suicide bombers. He said: "If it is Iraq that motivates them, why is the same ideology killing Iraqis by terror in defiance of an elected government?" In a separate speech he dismissed claims that the London attacks were sparked by Iraq, saying: "What they want us to do is to turn round and say, 'Oh it's all our fault'."
He added: "The people who are responsible for terrorist attacks are terrorists."
At the same time Charles Clarke, the home secretary, accused those who said that the attacks were caused by the war of "serious intellectual flabbiness".
The JIC report contradicts these ministerial statements. It says: "There is a clear consensus within the UK extremist community that Iraq is a legitimate jihad and should be supported. Iraq has re-energised and refocused a wide range of networks in the UK."
Written in April last year and circulated to Blair and other senior ministers before the July attacks, it says: "We judge that the conflict in Iraq has exacerbated the threat from international terrorism and will continue to have an impact in the long term. It has reinforced the determination of terrorists who were already committed to attacking the West and motivated others who were not."
The document says the war is providing an "additional motivation for attacks" against Britain; is "increasing Al-Qaeda's potential"; and "energising" terrorist networks engaged in holy war. Equally worrying, Iraq is being used as a "training ground and base" for terrorists to return to carry out attacks in Britain and elsewhere.
The JIC is the senior intelligence body in Britain and is responsible for issuing assessments of the gravity of threats to Britain's national security.
It says that while attacks outside Iraq since the war began in 2003 have not been motivated by the war alone, "in some cases we judge that it has been a major additional motivation". It cited the example of the 2004 Madrid bombings in which 201 people died, even though, in a speech two months later, Blair denied that those attacks had been sparked by Iraq.
The intelligence committee named Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, as a key figure behind the growing threat. It describes him as an "increasingly iconic figure" who is fast becoming the "new [Osama] Bin Laden". It warns that Zarqawi is seeking to use his status in Iraq to co-ordinate attacks against other countries, including those in Europe.
The JIC analysis presents a disturbing picture of the growth of the terrorist threat and suggests that there is a regular flow of terrorists to and from Britain and Iraq.
"Some jihadists who leave Iraq will play leading roles in recruiting and organising terrorist networks, sharing their skills and possibly conducting attacks. It is inevitable that some will come to the UK," it says.
A government report, compiled by a senior civil servant using intelligence from the security services and due to be published in the next few weeks, is also expected to recognise that the July 7 bombers were motivated by the invasion of Iraq.
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Isn't Technology Wonderful?
Swedish researchers find link between cell phones and brain tumors
3/31/2006 12:02:08 PM, by Nate Anderson
Be afraid. Be very afraid. That's the message from the Swedish National Institute for Working Life, which has just completed a massive study on the cancer risks from cell phone use. Their results, which appear in the International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health (one of my favorite sources of light reading), suggests that heavy cell phone users do in fact raise their risk for tumors, especially on the side of the head they use most often.
The study looked at 2,200 cancer patients and the same number of healthy ones to see if any sort of connection could be drawn between specific cancers and heavy mobile phone usage. The answer was yes.
Kjell Mild, who led the study, said the figures meant that heavy users of mobile phones had a 240 percent increased risk of a malignant tumor on the side of the head the phone is used.
Now, before you reach behind your right ear and start probing yourself for lumps, there are a couple of things to remember. The first is that a 240 percent increase, while significant, still means that the chance of coming down with a tumor is rather low. The second thing is that "heavy usage" of cell phones is defined by the study as anything above 2,000 hours of use, which works out to one hour a day, every day, for almost six years. That's a lot of talking-but certainly not beyond the range of modern road warriors.
The study's authors suggest, as usual, that the best way to reduce your risk (short of ditching your phone altogether) is to use a hands-free system. One wonders, though, whether buying a headset and then shoving the phone in your pocket isn't likely to cause other, ahem, problems of equal severity.
It's also worth pointing out that research on the link between cancer and mobile phones is ambiguous. A recent British study found no such link only a few months ago, though a 2004 study came to the opposite conclusion. The Swedish team points out that their study is the largest done to date, though, so it may carry more authority than the rest.
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Nortel to test "Wireless Mesh" in Israel
April 3, 2006
JERUSALEM - Nortel Networks said on Monday it received Israeli government approval to perform a test of its "Wireless Mesh" network in the Jewish settlement town of Ariel in the West Bank.
Wireless Mesh networks have a far larger coverage range than typical Wi-Fi wireless Internet hot spots found in many cities, Nortel said.
In Ariel, the network will help with municipal law enforcement, provide video surveillance to limit vandalism, read water meters remotely, allow for wireless data and voice communications between municipal workers and employees at the local university, and enable wireless Internet for residents.
The network is expected to be up and running within a month and the test should be concluded in one year. Costs were not disclosed.
"This test is another step in the wireless communications revolution through the first demonstration in Israel of wireless coverage in open urban areas as well as advanced wireless services aimed at improving the public's quality of life," said Sorine Lupu, president of Nortel Israel and markets in eastern Europe, in a statement.
The test in Ariel for Wireless Mesh -- which links together multiple access points without the need for cables into a wireless network -- comes after Taipei selected Nortel to provide high-speed wireless broadband access in the Taiwan capital.
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America's war on the web
02 April 2006
While the US remains committed to hunting down al-Qaeda operatives, it is now taking the battle to new fronts. Deep within the Pentagon, technologies are being deployed to wage the war on terror on the internet, in newspapers and even through mobile phones.
IMAGINE a world where wars are fought over the internet; where TV broadcasts and newspaper reports are designed by the military to confuse the population; and where a foreign armed power can shut down your computer, phone, radio or TV at will.
In 2006, we are just about to enter such a world. This is the age of information warfare, and details of how this new military doctrine will affect everyone on the planet are contained in a report, entitled The Information Operations Roadmap, commissioned and approved by US secretary of defence Donald Rumsfeld and seen by the Sunday Herald.
The Pentagon has already signed off $383 million to force through the document's recommendations by 2009. Military and intelligence sources in the US talk of "a revolution in the concept of warfare". The report orders three new developments in America's approach to warfare:
lFirstly, the Pentagon says it will wage war against the internet in order to dominate the realm of communications, prevent digital attacks on the US and its allies, and to have the upper hand when launching cyber-attacks against enemies.
lSecondly, psychological military operations, known as psyops, will be at the heart of future military action. Psyops involve using any media – from newspapers, books and posters to the internet, music, Blackberrys and personal digital assistants (PDAs) – to put out black propaganda to assist government and military strategy. Psyops involve the dissemination of lies and fake stories and releasing information to wrong-foot the enemy.
lThirdly, the US wants to take control of the Earth's electromagnetic spectrum, allowing US war planners to dominate mobile phones, PDAs, the web, radio, TV and other forms of modern communication. That could see entire countries denied access to telecommunications at the flick of a switch by America.
Freedom of speech advocates are horrified at this new doctrine, but military planners and members of the intelligence community embrace the idea as a necessary development in modern combat.
Human rights lawyer John Scott, who chairs the Scottish Centre for Human Rights, said: "This is an unwelcome but natural development of what we have seen. I find what is said in this document to be frightening, and it needs serious parliamentary scrutiny."
Crispin Black – who has worked for the Joint Intelligence Committee, and has been an Army lieutenant colonel, a military intelligence officer, a member of the Defence Intelligence Staff and a Cabinet Office intelligence analyst who briefed Number 10 – said he broadly supported the report as it tallied with the Pentagon's over-arching vision for "full spectrum dominance" in all military matters.
"I'm all for taking down al-Qaeda websites. Shutting down enemy propaganda is a reasonable course of action. Al-Qaeda is very good at [information warfare on the internet], so we need to catch up. The US needs to lift its game," he said.
This revolution in information warfare is merely an extension of the politics of the "neoconservative" Bush White House. Even before getting into power, key players in Team Bush were planning total military and political domination of the globe. In September 2000, the now notorious document Rebuilding America's Defences – written by the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a think-tank staffed by some of the Bush presidency's leading lights – said that America needed a "blueprint for maintaining US global pre-eminence, precluding the rise of a great power-rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests".
The PNAC was founded by Dick Cheney, the vice-president; Donald Rumsfeld, the defence secretary; Bush's younger brother, Jeb; Paul Wolfowitz, once Rumsfeld's deputy and now head of the World Bank; and Lewis Libby, Cheney's former chief of staff, now indicted for perjury in America.
Rebuilding America's Defences also spoke of taking control of the internet. A heavily censored version of the document was released under Freedom of Information legislation to the National Security Archive at George Washington University in the US.
The report admits the US is vulnerable to electronic warfare. "Networks are growing faster than we can defend them," the report notes. "The sophistication and capability of … nation states to degrade system and network operations are rapidly increasing."
T he report says the US military's first priority is that the "department [of defence] must be prepared to 'fight the net'". The internet is seen in much the same way as an enemy state by the Pentagon because of the way it can be used to propagandise, organise and mount electronic attacks on crucial US targets. Under the heading "offensive cyber operations", two pages outlining possible operations are blacked out.
Next, the Pentagon focuses on electronic warfare, saying it must be elevated to the heart of US military war planning. It will "provide maximum control of the electromagnetic spectrum, denying, degrading, disrupting or destroying the full spectrum of communications equipment … it is increasingly important that our forces dominate the electromagnetic spectrum with attack capabilities". Put simply, this means US forces having the power to knock out any or all forms of telecommunications on the planet.
After electronic warfare, the US war planners turn their attention to psychological operations: "Military forces must be better prepared to use psyops in support of military operations." The State Department, which carries out US diplomatic functions, is known to be worried that the rise of such operations could undermine American diplomacy if uncovered by foreign states. Other examples of information war listed in the report include the creation of "Truth Squads" to provide public information when negative publicity, such as the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, hits US operations, and the establishment of "Humanitarian Road Shows", which will talk up American support for democracy and freedom.
The Pentagon also wants to target a "broader set of select foreign media and audiences", with $161m set aside to help place pro-US articles in overseas media.
Comment: Sorry buddy. The war over information on the Internet has been going on for years! Just look at all the disinfo sites out there.
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Accidents and Violence
C-5 Cargo Plane Crashes at Dover Air Base
By RANDALL CHASE
April 3, 2006
DOVER, Del. - A huge military cargo plane developed problems after takeoff and crashed attempting to return to Dover Air Force Base on Monday, breaking apart short of the runway, officials said. All 17 people aboard survived, though several were injured.
The C-5 Galaxy, the military's largest plane, broke in two just behind the cockpit, leaving the cockpit at a right angle to the fuselage. The tail assembly ended up several hundred yards from the plane, and one of the engines was thrown forward by the impact, but there was no evidence of fire.
Fourteen people from the plane were taken to Kent General Hospital in Dover, none with life threatening injuries, officials said. Three others were taken to Christiana Care in Newark, said hospital spokeswoman Sharon Justice.
The C-5 was being flown by a reserve crew from the 512th Airlift Wing, said Capt. John Sheets of the Air Mobility Command at Scott Air Force Base in Illinois.
According to initial reports, the plane had just taken off and had some indications of a problem, said Col. Ellen Haddock, spokeswoman at the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs of Staff. It turned back to land and fell short of the runway, she said. It wasn't immediately clear if the plane was carrying cargo when it went down.
Emergency crews, some in hazardous materials suits, examined the wreckage Monday morning in light rain and under overcast skies.
Lisa Barrentine, who lives near the crash site, said she was in bed when she heard a rumbling.
"You could hear the windows shaking," Barrentine said. She said planes normally fly over her property, which lies at the southern end of the runway between the base and the Atlantic coast.
The C-5 Galaxy, made by Lockheed, is one of the largest aircraft in the world. It was first delivered to the military in 1970. Even with a payload of 263,200 pounds, the latest version can fly non-stop for 2,500 miles at jet speeds, according to Lockheed Martin Corp.
Dover is home to the 436th Airlift Wing, with more than 4,000 active-duty military and civilian employees, and operates the largest and busiest air freight terminal in the Defense Department. The base is also home to the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs, which processes bodies from the nation's wars.
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At least 57 dead in Bahrain sinking
Friday March 31, 2006
Twelve Britons and three people with dual nationality were among 57 people who died when a boat capsized overnight in the Gulf off the Bahrain coast, a Foreign Office spokesman confirmed today.
About 70 people were rescued after the two-deck Arabic dhow carrying 137 passengers overturned, possibly from overcrowding.
The Foreign Office spokesman said: "There are still other people unaccounted for, who may include British people." Officials have said the death toll could rise.
The boat, the al-Dana, was carrying a mix of Bahrainis, other Gulf Arab nationals and westerners, who were celebrating the completion of a construction project.
Witnesses said the boat had been overcrowded with passengers and that it had "rocked badly and tilted over" after hitting a wave.
Khalil Mirza, a Bahraini survivor, said: "People were scared in the water. They were fighting with each other and screaming."
At daylight, only the upturned hull of the dhow was visible in the water, with empty orange lifejackets bobbing alongside. Bahrain TV showed pictures of rescue workers using pickaxes to try to break through the hull of the vessel. No one had been found in the upturned boat.
Scores of officials and relatives waited at the harbour watching the rescue operation, which saw bodies being brought to shore covered with white sheets. Hospital workers took the bodies to waiting ambulances.
Survivors, still wet and in shock, squatted on the floor of a hospital. Several wept uncontrollably as friends and relatives tried to calm them.
Steve Harrison, the acting UK ambassador in Bahrain, told BBC news a number of "walking wounded" British and other nationalities had been brought ashore. He described the mood in the embassy as "sombre".
A Foreign Office rapid deployment team is on its way to the island state to support embassy staff and to offer help to survivors and their relatives.
The foreign secretary, Jack Straw, said he was "shocked" by the tragedy.
Abdullan al-Qubaisi, of the al-Dana company that owns the boat, told state television: "It has a capacity of 200, but it is allowed to carry only 100 passengers. They loaded the boat with more than its capacity. The captain refused to sail but they forced him to leave."
The coast guard commander, Youssef al-Katem, said 13 people were still missing. It was possible some people had tried to swim ashore, as the boat capsized less than a mile from the coast.
In addition to the Britons, the Bahrain interior ministry spokesman, Colonel Tarik al-Hassan, said earlier today, the dead included 17 Indian citizens, five from Pakistan, four from South Africa, three from the Philippines, two from Singapore and one from Germany. An Irish man is also among those killed in the accident, the department of foreign affairs in Dublin confirmed. The remaining dead had not been identified.
Murray and Roberts, the South African construction company that organised the boat party to celebrate the completion of part of the Bahrain World Trade Centre building, said 15 of its staff were safe but 10 had died in the sinking. They were four South Africans, three Britons, two Indian nationals and one Pakistani.
The chief executive, Brian Bruce, said the company had 25 employees in Bahrain, including 11 Britons. "We are deeply shocked by this tragedy. Our sympathy and condolences go out to all those who have been affected," he said.
Two other expat firms, WS Atkins and Nass, involved in the building of the World Trade Centre had staff involved in the disaster.
Atkins said five members of its Bahrain-based staff and three partners or relations had been confirmed dead. One staff member and a relative are still missing.
A worker at Delmon Readymix confirmed that its staff were also involved but did not give any additional details.
The Bahraini coastguard chief, Youssef al-Katem, said the guests had attended a dinner party aboard the ferry. They dined while the boat was still docked, and it then set sail. Up to 20 people disembarked before it left the dock, he said.
The boat capsized at about 9.45pm (1845pm GMT), less than a mile from shore.
Mr al-Katem said a survivor first alerted authorities to the accident via his mobile phone.
Raymond Austin, an employee of Delmon Readymix from Kent, told the BBC he had disembarked before the boat set sail. His daughter said he and two colleagues had decided to take the employees off the boat because the number of people aboard had made them fear for their safety. Mr Austin was "shaken up and distraught" after hearing the boat had sunk.
A Bahraini health ministry official, Nabeel al-Ansari, told Reuters most of those admitted to hospital had already been discharged. "Initially there were 33 brought by rescue teams; 31 were discharged and two have been admitted, both Indian," he said. "One Indian has a serious brain injury."
Bahrain's interior ministry said three Egyptians, three Bahrainis and an American were among the survivors.
Commander Jeff Breslau, a spokesman for the US fifth fleet, told the BBC they had been nearby when the boat capsized. "It happened one mile east of where we're headquartered, so as soon as we got the call we immediately started to move our people and our boats to that area - probably within about 15 or 20 minutes."
US and Bahraini officials said there was no indication the sinking was the result of an attack. "Up to this moment, it appears totally unlikely," the information minister, Mohammed Abdul-Ghaffar Abdullah, told Reuters.
An interior ministry spokesman said the ship's captain, who is not a Bahrani citizen, was being investigated.
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At least 28 killed in factory explosions in China
April 2, 2006
BEIJING - At least 28 workers were killed and 10 missing in China after separate blasts ripped through two plants dealing with dangerous explosives.
At least 20 workers were killed, two injuered and nine missing after an explosion at the Yantai Zhaoyuan 761 Company in eastern China's Shandong province late Saturday, Xinhua news agency reported Sunday.
The plant handled the packing of explosives, it said.
Rescue workers were still searching for the nine missing employees, the report said.
Local officials in Xiadian township, where the factory was located, refused to comment on the blast, while phone calls to the company went unanswered.
Investigations into the cause of the explosion were ongoing, the report said.
In a separate report, Xinhua said that eight workers were killed and one other was reported missing after a explosion rocked the Wannianhong firecracker factory in northern China's Shanxi province on Saturday.
The cause of the accident was under investigation, it said.
Work safety standards are at notoriously low levels in many Chinese industries as companies try to keep up with rising demand caused by rapid economic growth.
According to the work safety administration, 15,396 people died in 12,800 industrial, mining and commercial accidents last year.
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Man dies in coffee shop 'wall of flames'
April 3, 2006
TORONTO, Ontario -- A man was killed in a "wall of flames" in a downtown Toronto coffee shop on Sunday, after a device exploded inside a washroom, according to police and eyewitnesses.
Eyewitness Jenny Phillips said she heard bangs -- like pops from a firecracker -- and a scream "that will haunt me forever" as she left the washroom area in the Tim Hortons shop, an iconic Canadian coffee and doughnut chain recently spun off from parent company Wendy's International Inc.
She smelled burned powder, and saw there was a "wall of flames" inside the men's washroom before staff herded some two dozen customers outside. "I thought the roof was caving in. People were screaming," she told Reuters.
Toronto police chief Bill Blair told reporters that a device in the washroom had caused a flash fire, and the unidentified male victim had suffered severe burns.
"It appears that there has been a very hot and intense fire in the enclosed area within the washroom," Blair said. "We are still very preliminary in our investigation to determine the cause of this fire, and we are still determining whether or not this was a purposeful act or an accident."
Police closed off a busy block close to one of Toronto's main shopping districts for a large part of the day as they investigated the cause of the fire.
They used a robot to trigger a controlled explosion after finding a suspicious package near the coffee shop, but that package was harmless.
"It appears there was a device, but we don't know whether the person brought it in with him, or it he was an innocent party, or if he was a suicide, we just don't know," Staff Sergeant Don Cole said of the device inside the restaurant.
"It's not something that just blew up by itself, it was some device."
Police also evacuated a second Tim Hortons further away from Toronto's downtown core after a suspicious package was reported, but Cole said that seemed to be merely a precaution.
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Motorist opens fire on Hell's Angels bikers, killing one
Monday, April 3, 2006
WEST HAVEN, Connecticut (AP) -- A motorist opened fire on a group of Hell's Angels motorcyclists along Interstate 95 on Sunday, killing one and injuring another, police said.
The bikers were traveling near West Haven around 3:30 p.m. when they were shot, said State Police spokesman Sgt. J. Paul Vance.
Police were considering a number of possible motives including road rage, and were searching for a sport utility vehicle with Florida license plates, Vance said.
Roger Mariani, 61, of Stratford, pulled over before realizing he had been shot in the upper torso, Vance said. He later died at the Yale-New Haven Hospital.
Paul Carrol, 37, of Bridgeport, who was grazed by a bullet, was treated at the hospital and released, Vance said.
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Three Men Charged in 'Dungeon' Castration
Apr 01 3:53 PM US/Eastern
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Three men have been arrested on charges of performing castrations on apparently willing participants in a sadomasochistic "dungeon" in a rural house, authorities said Friday.
"It's extremely bizarre," District Attorney Michael Bonfoey said in a telephone interview. "It's incredible the amount of ways that people can find to run afoul of the law."
Sheriff's investigators said Richard Sciara, 61, Danny Reeves, 49, and Michael Mendez, 60, admitted performing at least eight surgeries, including castrations and testicle replacements, on six consenting clients over the past year. None of the three is licensed to practice medicine, officials said.
The suspects, all residents of the house in Haywood County, in western North Carolina, where the surgeries were allegedly performed, were arrested Thursday. They were being held on $150,000 bond each and could make their first court appearances Monday, Bonfoey said.
The sheriff's office had investigated reports of sadomasochistic acts at the house in 2004, but concluded there was nothing illegal going on because the participants appeared to be willing adults.
Renewed scrutiny, prompted by a citizen who made "strange statements" to Bonfoey, revealed that illegal surgeries were taking place, the prosecutor said.
Detectives who searched the home Wednesday found medical supplies that included scalpels, sutures, bandages, anesthetic and artificial replacement testicles, sheriff's officials said.
Also seized were videotaping equipment, and video recordings of the surgeries, sheriff's officials said. Photos and videos made at the "dungeon" were apparently featured on a locally produced sadomasochistic Web site, officials said.
"This right here beats anything I have ever seen," Sheriff Tom Alexander told the Asheville Citizen-Times, which reported that victims may have come from as far away as South America.
Each man faces 10 felony counts _ five each of castration without malice and conspiracy to commit castration without malice _ as well as eight misdemeanor counts of performing medical acts without a license. Each felony carries a maximum three years and three months in prison, Bonfoey said.
"Assuming that the victims consented to this _ and we don't know that for sure yet _ that doesn't make it a defense," Bonfoey said. "We can't have people who are not medical doctors lopping off limbs and other body parts."
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Odds n Ends
Final Declaration Holds Diluted View of Water as a "Right"
MEXICO CITY, Mar 22 (IPS) - The assertion that access to water is a human right was not included in the ministerial declaration adopted at the Fourth World Water Forum, which ended in Mexico on Wednesday, World Water Day.
Although all of the delegates said they agreed with the principle, some argued that it was not feasible to include it in the final declaration, because it could generate legal problems at the national and international level.
That stance was criticised by activists, who said the refusal to include the assertion was "a clear indication" that transnational corporations and rich countries do not want to budge an inch in their aim to "commodify" water, to which 1.1 billion people in the world do not have access.
Water is a "guarantee of life for all of the world's people" was the compromise formula agreed by the government delegates taking part in the Mar. 16-22 Forum.
The delegates of the 148 participating countries agreed to sign the (non-binding) document, in which the governments pledged to work towards the goal of universal access to sanitation and safe water, after negotiating the inclusion of an annex that expresses a dissenting view held by several governments.
In the appendix, Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela expressed a stance in line with the positions set forth by the activists taking part in a parallel civil society forum, stating unequivocally that access to water is a fundamental human right.
The three Latin American countries, which are governed by leftist leaders, also expressed "deep concern" over the possible negative impacts that international instruments like free trade and investment agreements could have on water resources.
By contrast to the final declaration, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) also declared Wednesday in Mexico that access to water is a fundamental human right.
UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura said nations that are signatories to U.N. treaties have a "moral obligation" to consider water a human right.
According to the activists who took part in the Mar. 17-19 International Forum in Defence of Water, a civil society gathering that produced an alternative declaration, the dissent expressed at the Forum showed that the organisers were only interested in turning water management into a business opportunity.
"We didn't expect anything different or better to emerge from the Water Forum, we knew this would happen," Claudia Campero, spokeswoman for the Coalition of Mexican Organisations for the Right to Water (COMDA) - which organised the alternative events held parallel to the World Water Forum - told IPS.
The Forum itself was convened by the World Water Council, an international think tank founded in 1996 that deals with water policy and is made up of 300 representatives of business, government ministries, academic centres, multilateral financial institutions, U.N. agencies and local governments.
Because the founders of the Council included executives from multinational water companies like Suez in France, activists argue that the World Water Forums only represent and express the interests of transnational corporations and industrialised countries..
According to the "Joint Declaration of Movements in Defence of Water", which was adopted by last week's civil society meeting and signed by around 300 non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from 40 countries, water is a "common good" and access to water is an essential and inalienable right.
The "Joint Declaration" states that water is not merchandise, which is why the NGOs reject all forms of privatisation, even public-private partnerships, which "have proven to be a complete failure around the world."
Argentine Environment Secretary Atilio Armando Sabino argued that the exclusion from the final declaration of the assertion that the right to water is a human right did not tarnish the consensus achieved by the governments that sent delegates to the World Water Forum.
Underscoring that water is a "guarantee of life" for humanity demonstrated sincere concern over the issue on the part of all governments, he maintained.
It was "a bit difficult" to include the right to water in the ministerial declaration because it would have committed many countries to modifying their legislation and would have forced international bodies to create new legal instruments, explained the official.
The document declares that water and sanitation services must be considered top priority in development policies, and that continued efforts and follow-up are necessary to meet the goal of reducing the proportion of people worldwide without access to these crucial services.
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) agreed by the U.N. member countries in 2000 include a target of halving the proportion of people without safe drinking water, by 2015.
Eugenio Barrios, an activist with the global environmental conservation organisation WWF (formerly known as the World Wildlife Fund), described the Fourth World Water Forum as "disappointing."
"We were hoping for advances and for the ministerial declaration to be much more forceful, and to propose practical measures in favour of access to water. We are sorry that did not happen," Barrios told IPS.
WWF took part in the Forum through several conferences as well as meetings with delegates.
The privatisation of water supplies, which according to some activists was the ultimate goal of the Forum, was not a central issue in the debates, and the stance that water is a public good was also advocated, said Barrios.
David Boys, with the France-based Public Services International, a global trade union federation made up of more than 600 public sector unions from 140 countries, agreed with that view. "Even the World Bank acknowledged here that the privatisation of water has been a failure, which was something new that was not heard at the previous forums," he told IPS.
But the final declaration was "very weak," said Boys, whose organisation has urged the World Water Council not to invite government ministers in the future, since the Forum is neither organised by the United Nations nor by governments.
"It is the United Nations that should organise international conferences on water, not a private body," said the trade unionist.
More than 13,000 delegates of private companies, governments and U.N. agencies, as well as a limited number of activists, took part in the Forum, paying registration fees that ranged from 240 to 600 dollars.
Although the World Water Forum is not an official intergovernmental meeting, it is considered the main platform for the global debate on water resources. The Fifth World Water Forum will be held in Istanbul in 2009.
The last day of the Fourth World Water Forum coincided with World Water Day, which is commemorated every year on Mar. 22.
In a statement released in New York, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan declared that despite its importance, water continues to be "wasted and degraded all over the world." He also pointed out that 6,000 people, mainly children, die every day from water-related causes.
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New York City Losing Blacks, Census Shows
By SAM ROBERTS
The New York Times
April 3, 2006
An accelerating exodus of American-born blacks, coupled with slight declines in birthrates and a slowing influx of Caribbean and African immigrants, have produced a decline in New York City's black population for the first time since the draft riots during the Civil War, according to preliminary census estimates.
An analysis of the latest figures, which show the city with 30,000 fewer black residents in 2004 than in 2000, also revealed stark contrasts in the migration patterns of blacks and whites.
While white New Yorkers are still more likely than blacks to leave the city, they are also more likely to relocate to the nearby suburbs (which is where half the whites move) or elsewhere in the Northeast, or to scatter to other cities and retirement communities across the country. Moreover, New York remains a magnet for whites from most other states.
In contrast, 7 in 10 black people who are moving leave the region altogether. And, unlike black migrants from Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit, most of them go to the South, especially to Florida, the Carolinas and Georgia. The rest move to states like California, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan with large black populations.
Also, New York has a net loss of blacks to all but five states, and those net gains are minuscule.
"This suggests that the black movement out of New York City is much more of an evacuation than the movement for whites," said William Frey, a demographer for the Brookings Institution, who analyzed migration patterns for The New York Times.
The implications for a city of 8.2 million people could be profound. If the trend continues, not only will the black share of New York's population, which dipped below 25 percent in 2000, continue to decline, particularly if the overall population grows, but a higher proportion of black New Yorkers will be foreign-born or the children of immigrants.
Many blacks are leaving for economic reasons. Jacqueline Dowdell moved to North Carolina last year from Hamilton Heights in Upper Manhattan in search of a lower cost of living. Once an editor at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, she now works as a communications coordinator for a health care company in Chapel Hill.
"It was a difficult decision, but it was a financial decision," said Ms. Dowdell, 39, adding that the move also gave her time to research her family's roots in Virginia.
"I just continued to spend so much money trying to live without thinking about the future," she said. "I was focused on surviving, and I wanted to make a commitment to more quality of life."
The analysis of migration from 1995 to 2000 also suggests that many blacks, already struggling with high housing costs in New York City, are being priced out of nearby suburbs, too.
Among black married couples with children, only about one in three who left the city moved to nearby suburbs, compared with two in three white married couples with children. More black married couples with children moved to the South than to the suburbs.
Over all, more black residents who left New York City moved to Florida than to New Jersey.
But black residents who left the city were more likely to remain in the region if they had higher incomes and were college educated. And while black migrants to the South include some aspiring professionals, a larger share were lower income, less educated and elderly.
"All this suggests that New York City out-migration of blacks is unique in its scope - net losses to most states - and pattern - especially destined to the South," Dr. Frey said.
Reversing a tide from the South who altered the complexion of the city earlier in the 20th century, the number of American-born blacks leaving the city has exceeded the number arriving since at least the late 1970's.
"You have older people who leave the North just to go back to a place that is kind of slower, or where they grew up or went on vacation when they were younger - and when you retire, your money doesn't go very far in New York," said Sylviane A. Diouf, a historian and researcher at the Schomburg Center and co-author of a study of black migration. "You also have young college-educated people who find that the South has lots of economic potential and a lower cost of living."
The slower pace appealed to Gladys Favours, who worked for a city councilwoman from Brooklyn and moved from East New York seven years ago to a town of fewer than 1,000 people near Charlotte, N.C, after she was unable to find another job.
"I lived in New York for almost 50 years and loved what it offered in schools, entertainment and convenience, but I lost my job and finding one at my age would pay half of what I was making," she said. "I was divorced and moved here with my 11-year-old - I was afraid of the crime, and black boys don't fare too well in New York."
Her son is now in college and she is working for the county emergency services department.
"I'm 60 now," she said. "I think I was ready for the quietness."
While residential segregation persists, racial and ethnic minorities, including immigrants, have become more mobile, with lower-skilled workers lured to growing cities in the South and West for construction, retail and service jobs and professionals applying for the same opportunities that had been previously open mainly to whites.
"Some foreign-born blacks are moving out, too - to the suburbs as well as to other parts of the country, particularly South Florida," said Nancy Foner, a distinguished professor of sociology at Hunter College.
Andrew Hacker, a political scientist at Queens College, cited other factors. "After 15 or 20 years with, say the Postal Service or U.P.S., employees can put in for transfers to other parts of the country," he said. "As a result, more than a few middle-class black New Yorkers have been moving back to states like North Carolina and Georgia, where they have family ties, living costs are lower, neighborhoods are safer, schools are often better and life is less hectic."
In 1997, Christine Wiggins retired as an assistant bank manager after 25 years. She left Queens Village and followed her brother, who worked for New York City Transit, to the Poconos.
"It was hard for him, he had to commute," she said. "But we wanted to get away from the city."
The East Stroudsburg, Pa., area, where radio advertisements lured first-time homebuyers, was among the 15 top destinations for black residents leaving New York City. More black New Yorkers moved to Monroe County in the Poconos than to either the Rockland or Orange County suburbs of New York.
Over all, the city's black population grew by 115,000 in the 1990's, a 6.2 percent increase. (New Yorkers in the armed forces or who are institutionalized are not counted as residents.)
Those early estimates of the 30,000 drop in black population since 2000, a 1.5 percent decline, suggest that among blacks, the arrival of newcomers from abroad and higher birthrates among immigrants were not keeping pace with the outflow.
Last year, a study by the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research group, found that while the gush of immigrants continued into the 21st century, it appeared to have slowed somewhat.
A net loss of black residents, even between censuses, would apparently be the first since the Civil War. In 1863, after mobs attacked blacks during the draft riots, many fled New York City. "By 1865," Leslie M. Harris wrote in "In the Shadow of Slavery," the city's "black population had plummeted to just under 10,000, its lowest since 1820."
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Israel's Sharon to be declared 'permanently incapacitated': report
04:59:20 EDT Apr 3, 2006
JERUSALEM (AP) - Israel's cabinet will declare Prime Minister Ariel Sharon "permanently incapacitated" at its meeting next week, the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot reported Monday.
Israel's attorney general declared Sharon temporarily incapacitated after the prime minister suffered a massive stroke on Jan. 4. At the time, Ehud Olmert, the vice-premier, was declared acting prime minister. The cabinet vote next Sunday - which will go into effect April 14 - will bump Olmert from acting prime minister to premier, Yediot reported, but noted that his authorities will remain the same.
Sharon has been comatose since a stroke in January. Olmert's centrist Kadima Party - established by Sharon weeks before the stroke - won last week's general election, and he is expected to become the next prime minister.
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Surprise "no" vote rattles Thai PM
By Darren Schuettler
April 3, 2006
BANGKOK - Thais gave Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra a major slap in the face on Monday with a strong protest "no vote" in a snap election intended to scotch an anti-corruption street campaign to kick him out.
Telecoms billionaire Thaksin appeared to acknowledge the election he called three years early had failed to resolve months of political turmoil, saying he was open to all suggestions.
"If the media give me an option that could reconcile all sides, I don't necessarily need to be the prime minister. But this doesn't mean that I will continue to be or I won't be the prime minister," he told reporters.
An opposition boycott of Sunday's poll, billed by Thaksin as a referendum on his leadership, triggered constitutional chaos, with the Election Commission (EC) saying the vote failed to return MPs in 38 of 400 constituencies.
A government cannot be formed without a full parliament, and the EC said it would hold by-elections in the empty seats, all of which are in opposition-dominated south.
However, there is no guarantee that second-time-round candidates from Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party will manage to cross the 20 percent of eligible votes needed to record a victory in uncontested seats.
Nationwide tallies trickled out more slowly than after a general election in February 2005, but results for Bangkok showed that while TRT party won all 36 seats, it lost to the "no" vote by 50.1 percent to 45.9.
A year ago, it won 32 constituencies in the capital, now the center of the street campaign to remove him from office.
Thaksin, who promised to quit if "no votes" outnumbered TRT votes nationwide, expected to pick up support as results came in from his rural strongholds in the north and northeast.
"I believe my supporting votes will be more than half although in the past there was no prime minister who would have more than half of the votes," he said.
But some analysts said it might be a close-run thing.
"If it's half of votes cast, it's going to be real touch-and-go," said Thaksin biographer Chris Baker, who had collated partial results in the absence of any official tally from either the EC or television stations.
OFFICIAL RESULTS LATER
The early "no vote" trend sparked fresh speculation Thaksin would hand over to a deputy to defuse political tension, manage political reform and then make a comeback.
He responded: "Haven't thought about that."
Final results were expected only late on Monday, with the Election Commission reporting slow counting upcountry, where Thaksin draws his main support due mainly to the provision of cheap healthcare and credit to farmers.
The crisis has taken its toll on the economy, paralyzing business decision-making and sapping the stock market, Southeast Asia's second-worst performer this year after Malaysia.
Bangkok's bourse did rise slightly as foreign investors saw a chance to buy cheaply, but the baht inched lower as the lack of a clear resolution emerged and Thaksin hinted his patience might snap if street protesters failed to accept the results.
"It's time to bring law and order," he told reporters after voting with his children, whose tax-free $1.9 billion sale of the telecoms empire he founded galvanized the street campaign in January.
Analysts say a post-election break before street protests resume on Friday could provide a cooling-off period for talks between Thaksin and his opponents, an ad hoc coalition called the People's Alliance for Democracy.
Some voters in Bangkok disagreed. "Most people don't trust elections any more," said businessman Ponganan Limprajikul, 32. "I think there will be more protests. More people will come out to join the protests and they could become more emotional."
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Insect Activities Worth 57Bn In US Alone
Apr 03, 2006
Ithaca NY - Think twice before you blithely swat, stomp, curse or ignore insects, says Cornell University entomologist John Losey, who co-authored a study that shows the dollar value of some of those insect services is more than $57 billion in the United States annually. The research appears in the journal BioScience today (April 1).
"Most insects tirelessly perform functions that improve our environment and lives in ways that scientists are only beginning to understand," Losey says. "Don't let the insects' small stature fool you - these minute marvels provide valuable services."
The study found that native insects are food for wildlife that supports a $50 billion recreation industry, provide more than $4.5 billion in pest control, pollinate $3 billion in crops and clean up grazing lands, which saves ranchers some $380 million a year.
And these are "very conservative" estimates that probably represent only a fraction of the true value, reports Losey, associate professor of entomology at Cornell.
This analysis of the economic value of these insect services is the first analysis of its type, said Losey, who co-authored the study with Mace Vaughan, Cornell M.S. '99, conservation director of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation in Portland, Ore., which works to protect native insect habitats through education and research.
Insects are an integral part of a complex web of interactions that helps put food on our tables and remove our wastes. Humans - and probably most life on earth - would perish without insects, Vaughan said.
Losey and Vaughan's study focused on the economic value of four particular services -wildlife nutrition, pest control, pollination and dung burial - selected because robust data were available for an analysis.
"A lot of value is added to the economy by insects, but most people just don't realize it," said Losey. "When considering the allocation of conservation resources, or the management of natural habitat, we must think about this value to make sure that insects can continue to do their beneficial work.
"We know how to repair roads and other components of our physical infrastructure, but our biological infrastructure is vulnerable to degradation too," said Losey, an applied insect ecologist. "If we do not take care of it, it will break down and could seriously impact the economy."
"In fact in many places - crop pollination, for example - the cracks in the infrastructure are already showing," says Vaughn.
Using published data, Losey and Vaughan compared the values of each service at current levels of function to theoretical levels if these serves were absent. For wildlife nutrition, the researchers used census data on how much is spent annually on observing or hunting wildlife, and what proportion of the animals in those categories depend on insects for nutrition. For pest control, they looked at the amount of damage now incurred by pests, and, knowing that 65 percent of pests are controlled by other insects, calculated the losses if predators or parasites weren't going after their prey.
For pollination, they looked at the value of the crops known to be insect pollinated and subtracted the value of those pollinated by domesticated honeybees. For dung burial, they estimated the losses if dung beetles did not clean nearby plants and cattle environments, which would deter cattle from eating the plants and attract more flies and parasites that would have to be controlled. They also calculated how much fertilizer would be needed to compensate for the nitrogen not being returned to the soil so promptly by the beetles.
The analysis did not include such important insect services as decomposing carcasses, garbage and trees (thereby decreasing the likelihood of forest fires); producing honey, shellac, dyes and other products; being used in medicine or as a source of food for animals other than those used in hunting, fishing and birding; and providing a direct source of food for humans.
Based on their analysis, Losey and Vaughan call for greater investment in research on the ecological functions of insects so that the services they provide can be conserved or even enhanced.
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Catholics call for John Paul's sainthood, 1 year after death
Last Updated Sun, 02 Apr 2006 09:35:02 EDT
Roman Catholics around the world marked the one-year anniversary of the death of John Paul II with prayers and renewed calls for the former pope to be named a saint.
Pope Benedict XVI paid homage to his predecessor in an evening vigil at the landmark St. Peter's Square at the Vatican on Sunday.
Benedict recited a prayer at 9:37 p.m. local time, the exact time of John Paul's death a year earlier on April 2, 2005.
Selections from the late pontiff's writings were also read.
The service was also broadcast live via videolink in Krakow, Poland, where John Paul was once archbishop.
People in the Polish city said they were saddened by the remembrance of the pontiff's death, but hopeful about his elevation to sainthood in the church.
"We were depressed then, but today we rejoice in his sainthood even though it has not been officially announced," Krystyna Samborska, a 32-year-old nurse, told the Associated Press in Krakow.
John Paul was also remembered in prayers during masses at Catholic churches across Canada.
In Mexico City, tens of thousands packed the Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
In the former pope's hometown of Wadowice in southern Poland, an open-air mass drew an estimated 8,000 people.
In his weekly address to thousands of people at St. Peter's Square earlier in the day, Benedict praised John Paul's work and legacy.
"John Paul II died as he always lived, moved by an indomitable courage of faith, abandoning himself to God."
Benedict recalled how John Paul fulfilled his role even as he suffered from a range of physical ailments in the last years of his life.
"When he could no longer travel, then no longer walk and, in the end, no longer speak, his gesture ... was reduced to the essential: a gift of himself to the last instant," he said.
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