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Editorial: Is The Capitol Building Next, Or Do The Tunnels Go Deeper?

Signs of the Times

In light of the 'insider' fingerprints left all over the 9/11 attacks, a few recent stories made us sit up and take notice.

On Monday, the U.S. Capitol building (seat of the great American Democracy inaction) expericend a 'power out' that caused an evacuation for about an hour. Strangely enough, a spokeswoman for Potomac Electric Power Co., said the electricity shut off automatically after there was "a momentary drop in voltage due to customer operations up the lines" away from the Capitol.

"The protective equipment sensed the significant change in voltage and tripped," she said.

U.S. Capitol police however said a power spike that affected much of the metropolitan area "knocked out power to the Capitol building and caused lights and cable TV reception to flicker throughout the Capitol complex." In response, police evacuated the building and investigated, along with architect of the Capitol and fire officials.

Normally, this apparently innocuous event would not be interesting, except for the fact that, on the weekend prior to the 9/11 attacks, power to the WTC complex was also shut off, allowing, as is now expected, the conspirators to enter the complex and 'prep' the buildings for the very obvious demolition that occured just a few days later.

Added to that, we have the following very interesting story from "The Hill", a newspaper "for and about the U.S. Congress":

Some officers are trained to patrol tunnels, police say

A select group of U.S. Capitol Police have undergone special training to access the miles of utility tunnels underneath the Capitol complex, according to a police spokeswoman.

The spokeswoman, however, would not provide further detail about how the tunnels are protected because of national-security concerns.

“Specific information regarding our capabilities in this area cannot be discussed, as this is a security-related matter,” said the spokeswoman, Sgt. Kimberly Schneider.

The Washington, D.C., fire department, which serves the Capitol campus, also says it is equipped to respond to any emergency involving the tunnels. Alan Etter, a spokesman for the department, said firefighters possess the training and equipment necessary should they need to enter the tunnel system.

“We have just completed training involving the large underground steam tunnels that run throughout the city,” he said. "We have had limited exposure to the tunnels under the Capitol; however, they are the same as the [General Services Administration] tunnels."

The comments came in response to questions about what the U.S. Capitol Police are doing to secure the tunnels.

Ten Architect of the Capitol employees who work in the Capitol Power Plant tunnels asserted that there is no police presence in the underground tunnels in a letter sent to four members of Congress nearly two weeks ago.

The tunnels provide steam to heat and cool the Capitol campus and run from the Capitol Power Plant to the House and Senate office buildings, the Capitol and other, surrounding buildings.

The letter contends that the police are not permitted to patrol the tunnels because of their dangerous conditions, which include crumbling concrete that could fall at any time and large amounts of carcinogenic asbestos.

“The United States Capitol Police has made the entire tunnel system off limits to their staff because of the safety conditions as well as the lack of communication because phones and radios do not work in the tunnels,” the workers wrote.

When asked about the concerns raised in the letter, the police spokeswoman said only that some members of the force have undergone special training and that the training allows them to access the tunnel system. Rank-and-file officers, however, are forbidden from entering utility tunnels because of the hazardous conditions.

In the letter, the workers said that the police policy presents a security problem.

“This should be a real concern to the Congress and Senate as all buildings on the complex can be entered through the steam tunnels,” they wrote. “Realize that it is on a regular basis [that] we see people in the tunnels that we don’t know why they are down there.”

Citing documents received from the police, the letter adds: “The Capitol police not only won’t go down there [but] they stated ‘We won’t let our dogs down.’”

Safety precautions regarding the tunnels have been taken in the past for special events, according to Eva Malecki, a spokeswoman for the Architect of the Capitol (AoC), the office responsible for managing the buildings and utilities on the Capitol campus. To prepare for inaugurations or State of the Union speeches, manholes are sealed to prevent unauthorized entry.

“After Sept. 11, 2001, there was more emphasis on securing [the tunnels] for security purposes,” Malecki said. “The AoC has started replacing the old hatches with new ones that have emergency-release features that secure the hatches from the outside, but allow egress from inside the tunnels in an emergency.”

D.C. firefighters already use self-contained breathing apparatuses, or breathing masks, that protect them from asbestos and other particles.

Did you know that there are miles of tunnels underneath the Capitol complex?

Is it really believeable that these tunnels have been left in such a poor state of repair that they could collapse at any minute?

Is it really believeable that the Washington Police Department cannot obtain phones or walkie talkies that would work in these tunnels?

Is the claim that only select teams of officers can patrol these tunnels because of the health threats really believeable when D.C. firefighters already have self-contained breathing masks that protect them from asbestos and other particles?

After this news report, we tend to conclude that if there ever was a plan to detonate a nuke in these tunnels and take out all of Congress and lots of DC citizens and open the path to an overt political coup by way of the Continuity of Government group , then these plans have now been shelved. What is perhaps even more interesting is the other possible reasons why no one is allowed to go down into these tunnels.

After all, it's not like the U.S. is a stranger to burrowing into other people's business.

And just in case you are dismissing all of this as "secret government conspiracy nonsense", then understand that to hold such a view you will also have to accept the fact that the mainstream press and government is in on this little plot along with us, which brings you to the startling conclusion that it's all one big conspiracy to try and make you, the ordinary person, think that conspiracies exist! How's that for conspiratorial?
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Editorial: Feigned Emotion

Henry See
Signs of the Times
6 April 2006

"One of the great things about America, one of the beauties of our country, is that when we see a young, innocent child blown up by an IED, we cry." - George W. Bush, Mar. 29

" All judgements of value and emotional appraisals are sane and appropriate when the Psychopath is tested in verbal examinations.

"Only very slowly and by a complex estimation or judgment based on multitudinous small impressions does the conviction come upon us that, despite these intact rational processes, these normal emotional affirmations, and their consistent application in all directions, we are dealing here not with a complete man at all but with something that suggests a subtly constructed reflex machine which can mimic the human personality perfectly.

"This smoothly operating psychic apparatus reproduces consistently not only specimens of good human reasoning but also appropriate simulations of normal human emotion in response to nearly all the varied stimuli of life.

"So perfect is this reproduction of a whole and normal man that no one who examines him in a clinical setting can point out in scientific or objective terms why, or how, he is not real.

"And yet we eventually come to know or feel we know that reality, in the sense of full, healthy experiencing of life, is not here." - Hervey Cleckley, The Mask of Sanity

After five years of his oh-so fake John Wayne strutting and his obviously oh-so genuine "I've pulled one over on you this time" smirk, his equally genuine mangling of the English language, and his determination to maintain his course like a compulsive-obsessive Energizer bunny no matter the arguments thrown in his way, I thought I was inured to the verbal expressions of the vacuity of George W. Bush's inner life. George's reflex machine seems to be malfunctioning and his ability to mimic real emotion is slipping.

We know that George places the United States of America far above the rest of the world. Did he not say, in the days following the self-inflicted wound of September 11, about the need for the US to wage war against terrorism no matter what others might say: "At some point, we may be the only ones left. That's okay with me. We are America"? (Cited by Rodrique Tremblay in The New American Empire, p. 46) So what are we to think of his tears over children blown apart by bombs that would not be there if the US had not invaded Afghanistan or Iraq? If he is willing to sacrifice the rest of the world in some crazed effort to render "America" secure, how much does he care about this child or any other child? How much does he care about the sons and daughters who are in the US military?

Implicit in his statement at the top of the page is the idea that "Americans" alone are capable of tears at the sight of a shattered and dismembered body. Perhaps the US media isn't showing the images in prime time in order to spare the sensitive followers of the Commander-in-Chief from daily bouts of crying.

How thoughtful.

Bush's double-standard is one area where he is consistent. Here is his comment on what Tremblay calls "the relationship between his religious morality and American military power": "The best way to fight evil is to do some good. Let me qualify that--the best way to fight evil at home is to do some good. The best way to fight them abroad is to unleash the military". However, Bush, like the rest of the chickenhawks in his administration, didn't want any part of "fighting evil" themselves. They all found ways of avoiding military service altogether or of going AWOL from the National Guard.

You don't need to be a rocket scientist to see through the mask of sanity worn by Bush. More and more of his concitizens are doing just that; yet there remain the staunch supporters, the ones who think Jesus is going to be returning in their lifetime to escort them through the pearly gates. If you buy that, I suppose taking Bush at his word is less difficult. But, then, these statements are for public consumption only, and the Straussian stringpullers behind Bush don't believe at word of it. As an example, we can look at Bush's statements, oft repeated, that "they hate us because of our freedoms". Whenever someone makes the case that "they" hate "us" because of US politics in the Middle East, its one-sided support of Israel in the genocide of the Palestinians, its encouraging Israel's attacks on the Palestinians while denouncing the Palestinians as "terrorists", its rape and pillage of Iraq, and the other items on the long list of US crimes in the Middle East, Latin America, and anywhere it has set its jackboot, the right-wing pundits bring out the tar and feathers. Again, for public consumption.

What do the people committing these crimes think? A report entitled "Strategic Energy Policy Challenges for the 21st Century", published in April 2001, that is, before 9/11, and written by a group composed of energy industry people, including Ken Lay of Enron, who had advised Dick Cheney, had this to say:

"Bitter perceptions in the Arab world that the United States has not been evenhanded in brokering peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have exacerbated these pressures on Saudia Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and given political leverage to Iraq's Saddam Hussein to lobby for support among the Arab world's populations." (Tremblay, p. 81.)

Clear, isn't it? The leaders know full well that anger against the United States is founded in actions and not some vague opposition to "freedom", but these reports are not published in USA Today or discussed on Fox News. The two-layer media system in the US ensures that those who need to know have the data they need while keeping the population at large in ignorance, the better to be led by the nose via their emotional reactions to false flag terrorist attacks and the right-wing hatemongers so prominent in the mainstream media. The strategy is part of the Straussian textbook, along with the promotion of religion as a means of controlling the population. What is happening in the United States is not an accident; it is the result of a decades old plan on the part of the neo-conservatives, and, most likely the neo-conservative bid is part of an even older plan, one that goes back centuries or millennia. But, then, it is easier to believe in 19 Arabs led by a caveman pulling off 9/11 than it is to consider the possibility of such an idea.
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Editorial: Another Shrine Bombing, More Conflicting Reports

Signs of the Times

What kind of people would deliberately massacre dozens of people attending their place of worship? Are these agents of MI5 and the Mossad human at all? Because let's face it, it is absolutely clear that the only beneficiaries of the spate of shrine bombings in Iraq are the ones currently illegally occupying that country - Britain America and Israel.

Today, there was another attack. at least 50 dead and 130 injured, and like the previous bombings, there are again conflicting reports that suggest that this was NOT a "suicide bombing". The BBC reports that:

"there was initial confusion after the blasts, with first reports suggesting the explosions were caused by mortar fire, but police then said they believed three suicide bombers were responsible."

The Associated Press tells us how they knew that suicide bombers and not mortars were involved:

The Associated Press reported that at least 30 people were killed in the blast in northern Baghdad today. Police officials had originally described the incident as a mortar attack, but later found shrapnel inside the shrine that indicated a suicide bomber, the news service said.

Yet what does "shrapnel" have to do with 3 suicide bombers walking in to a mosque? The presence of shrapnel would suggest a car bomb rather than suicide bombers walking into the building. Of course, none of this will be analysed by the mainstream press. They are not interested in the truth. Thankfully, we have past evidence of British involvement in fake "suicide bombings" to prove that the push towards civil war in Iraq is part of the American, British and Israeli strategy to divide and conquer the greater Middle East.

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Editorial: The Real Iraq News

By Rory O'Connor
April 7, 2006

Reporters from across the spectrum gathered to answer the question: 'Is the Media Telling the True Story?'

It's good news, bad news time. Again.

By now the pattern is blatantly obvious: As the war in Iraq worsens, so too does the war on journalists. While still clinging to the tired canard that most reporters are too liberal to tell the truth -- the "real" story -- about Iraq, the Bush administration and its allied conservative commentators also impugn the journalists' motives and question their patriotism.

"It begins to look like you're invested in America's defeat," says radio talk show host Laura Ingraham, in a typical distillation of the meme. You've heard before -- and you'll hear again and again -- the armchair analysts' claim that reporters in Iraq (where Ingraham has spent a total of eight days) deliberately ignore positive stories -- the "good news" of nation building, democratization and development -- and relentlessly focus on the "bad news" of death and destruction.

Our leading newspapers have already issued mea culpas apologizing for their inaccurate cheerleading for the war, and our network news presidents are on record as having "failed the American people" with their blind acceptance of the false rationales offered for starting it.

So it's a sad reflection on our highly partisan, shoot-first-and-ask-no-questions-later media environment that there's still even a debate over claims that reporters are biased against the war. Yet last month, with violence in the country reaching new levels, a new round of whack-a-media began, reaching its nadir with personal attacks on Christian Science Monitor correspondent (and recently freed hostage) Jill Carroll.

Have the media declared war on the war? Or have the Bush administration and its support team of pontificating pundits instead declared war on the media? Is the U.S. media biased against the war, or too supportive of it? Had the press reported different facts, would the war have unfolded differently? These and related questions were the subjects of a recent, regrettably all-male (some things never change!) Reuters Newsmakers panel discussion entitled, "Iraq: Is the Media Telling the True Story?"

James Taranto, editor of the Wall Street Journal's OpinionJournal.com site, commenced by proclaiming that "the culture of the American newsroom grew out of Vietnam and Watergate." In their Iraq reporting, "journalists always fight the last war and are following the Vietnam script," he added, and see their role as "exposing foolishness and knavery." (Instead, Taranto posited, they should be exploring Cindy Sheehan's "fringe political beliefs.") New York Times "International Writer-at-Large" Roger Cohen countered by pointing out that "errors have landed the U.S. in a very bad situation, and you don't need to have an ax to grind to point that out." Cohen also decried America's polarized politics, saying that, as a result, "The problems of 26 million Iraqis get lost in the war over the war in the U.S."

Lt. Col. Steven A. Boylan, former director of the Combined Press Information Center in Iraq, surprisingly said that in his view there are very few journalists reporting from Iraq with a "specific agenda" and that the "good news, bad news" debate was really "opinion-based." Still, Boylan said, "the complete story isn't being told." To the lieutenant colonel, the complete story would include more reporting on schools and water purification plants that are being built -- but he also noted that drastic cutbacks in the number of reporters in Iraq have had a dramatic effect, as the media is "forced to do more with less."

Iraqi journalist Ghaith Abdul-Ahad offered a different perspective: We're not being told the "complete story" about the war because that story is "so bad now" with "daily massacres and a civil war raging," that the full truth about the horrors of the U.S. occupation is actually being downplayed by the media. "It's not about water plants!" he concluded in exasperation.

The other representative of the Arab media, Al Hayat political editor Zaki Chehab, echoed those comments. "You can't drink the water, there's little electricity, the roads are worse than ever," Chehab said. "So what kind of good news should I talk about?"

Each panelist who had actually set foot in Iraq (Taranto was the sole exception) agreed with Chehab's conclusion that "security is the most important issue above all else," and that the situation has deteriorated to the point where it is difficult to perform even the most basic and routine journalistic endeavors. Reuters Iraq Bureau Chief Alistair MacDonald, who oversees a staff of 70, cited the frequent death threats his staff has received and admitted that the "risk is now so large I don't even want to send people out." Abdul-Ahad added, "No one likes journalists in Iraq at the moment -- not the insurgents, not the government -- and surely not the Americans!"

And equally surely not the likes of right wingnuts like Ingraham, John Podhoretz, Hugh Hewitt, and Don Imus, who, from the insulated safety of their plush perches, insult and assault practicing journalists who are literally risking their lives on the ground in Iraq -- a fact alluded to by Times man Cohen, who noted the "lack of nuance" among critics of the media reporting from Iraq, saying it may be due to the fact that "they've never set foot there." Nuance, said Cohen, comes from "putting your feet on the ground -- otherwise there is no intelligent debate possible."

Ultimately, of course, America's armchair analysts have as little interest in intelligent debate as they do in reporting "the real news" or "complete story" from Iraq. They serve only as polemicists and partisan political operatives, willing to say or do almost anything to advance a political agenda at the expense of all else -- including, apparently, basic decency and truth. The "complete story" of Iraq, as one Iraqi blogger at the Reuters panel pointed out, would inevitably include the perspectives of the vast majority of Iraqis (87 percent in the latest poll) who feel that ending the U.S. occupation of their country would remove a major cause of the conflict there -- as well as those of the majority of Americans who now agree with them.

So it's good news, bad news time again, I'm afraid. First, the good news: The U.S. occupation of Iraq will end one day. Then the bad: That day may sadly be far in the distance, after not just two thousand but tens of thousands of Americans (and literally countless Iraqis) have perished needlessly, and with the Green Zone being hastily evacuated just before being overrun by onrushing insurgents, and our ambassador clinging desperately to the skids of the last helicopter out of Baghdad.

How's that for fighting the last war?

This and other articles by Rory O'Connor are available on his blog.

[ Read Original

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Editorial: Word Control Part 2

Mathew Kristin Kiel
15 March, 2006

Let us again open with a Word on words from a brilliant scholar.

"Words are means by which Human Beings communicate and we call it a language. In order to communicate, you have to have an understanding of the words you use and that is where the problem arises.

The meanings of most of the words we use were learned in context with other words, and we assume from this that we know the meaning of the word. When you do this, and your understanding of a word is the same as its real meaning, no problem arises. However, when what you assume the meaning of a word is does NOT agree with the true meaning of the word, then misunderstanding is the result.

It is most rewarding to understand the words; by understanding, the true meaning of the word is meant. The best sources for obtaining this information are dictionaries, encyclopedias and dictionaries in OTHER languages." [Karl von Eckartshausen, Principles of Higher Knowledge, 1788

Before we go to the latest survey of the politically shifting word definitions found in U.S. dictionaries, there is news on adult literacy in America that is very directly related to this subject, and at the most fundamental levels.

The most recent U.S. adult literacy studies, conducted nationwide in 2003, have revealed that only 31% of the 19,000 college graduates tested in the survey were able to read, comprehend and extrapolate information from a complex text or book. Participation was voluntary, and as clinical psychologists know well it suggests that the respondents who agreed to take the tests would have been those people most likely to be sure that they would pass with flying colors. The figures disclose a precipitous 10% decline in this group's overall literacy levels in just the past 10 years.

On another interesting note, these new findings were not released to the public until late last December. So far, the only source where the information has appeared in the mainstream U.S. press and media was the print edition of the Christmas Day, 2005, Washington Post, on page A12, rather well buried from view and given no other coverage until very recently. We owe a debt of gratitude to the person who scanned it from the print page into a computer and posted it this month at www.dumbingdown.com or we'd still not have had these crucial facts to guide our Seeing.

The tests used included reading and then accurately following directions to perform a task correctly, understanding what is sought and then correctly providing the information that is being requested on a form, working "word problems" in basic math, and accurately reading and following a standard prescription label's instructions. This is not the stuff of rocket science and quantum physics.

Worse still, only 41% of post graduate students, a term that includes masters and doctoral degree candidates and recipients who participated, could pass these basic tests. Again one must add the "volunteer factor" to this equation. The operant premise is that the situation for all college graduates and post graduates will be even worse than the results shown in the test groups.

That at least 69% of U.S. college graduates, and 59% of post graduates cannot read well enough to accurately follow the instructions on a prescription bottle's label or correctly fill out an employment application form, is a death sentence for the next generation's intellectual and cognitive development. A full 10% drop in the tested levels of functional literacy, afflicting the intellectual creme de la creme in the U.S., and transpiring in only 10 years time is catastrophic.

If this abysmal state of semi-literacy exists among college graduates and post graduates, then just how bad is it among average Americans? Those who've completed only the standard public school educational requirements would logically be expected to fare even worse, since, as a general rule, it is those who are in the top 50% or higher in high school academic achievements who go on to attend college. If 69% of the best cannot dependably read and write with sufficient comprehension to accurately complete simple tasks, what does this say of the rest?

Last week I received a new dictionary, the 2005 edition of the New International Webster's Concise Dictionary of the English Language. Shall we See now what has become of those shifting definitions we took note of in the first critique, back in January of 2005? A link to the previous article is available by clicking on the Signs of the Times daily news page's Site Map link, then, in the Quantum Future Group's page, in the left hand column, is a link for the first article, "Word Control, Thought Control, World Control."

The test words we closely examined back then and found to be undergoing decidedly political shifts were CULT, CONSERVATIVE, TERRORIST, and TERRORISM. The dictionaries consulted also showed a progessive impoverishment in the concepts and language used for the wordings of the definitions, over the 30 years they spanned, having been published in 1975, 1984 and 1994. Here that span is updated by another decade. This theft of words and concepts, systematically stolen from the American people over the past several decades, is in fact related to why so many just do not and cannot "get it."

The dictionaries consulted for this study are intended for quick reference use by the most educated of Americans. All four have a general literacy rating of 14 years plus. These are not dictionaries aimed at grammar and high school students or marketed to less educated readers on supermarket and Wal-Mart shelves, most of which have ratings of 9 to 12 years. All four of the dictionaries used for these articles were marketed to and sold through various university and college bookstores across the country in addition to other book retailers.

The dictionary examinations certainly indicate that the dismal state of semi-literacy among U.S. graduates has been achieved by the processes, and with the specific consequences and goals, that were well explained and illuminated by George Orwell, both in his prophetic book 1984 and in his lectures, essays and other Works. When the overwhelming proof of massive reductions to functional literacy and numeracy in the vast majority of Americans is considered in conjunction with observable changes in the definitions of politically loaded words provided by a series of dictionaries compiled and published in the U.S. over the course of the past 40 years, the Big Picture gets much clearer, and quite terrible to See.

One of the words we most carefully examined before was CULT. It is necessary to again stress the severity of the U.S public's verbal, thus conceptual and intellectual impoverishment. There is no failing to spot the fact of iti when one compares the definitions provided for the word CULT in the oldest dictionary, 1975, with those now found in the newest. It is a stunning change, beyond description except by making direct comparison. (Those who would like to review the intermediate definitions and the internet one will find them in the first article.)

This time it is imperative to emphasize the damages done by the alterations found in this particular word's new definitions. The direction of the shift clearly suits Pathocratic political purposes, and the changes are a matter of concern to all who Seek Truth.

Between 1975 and 2005, the alteration of the definitions given for the word CULT, and of the very words used to define it, is staggering. Note the stark differences in difficulty, quantity and richness of conceptual and informational content; note the reduced numbers of syllables. Major changes have now been achieved, and the word CULT does not mean what it did before, not in America at least, not any more.

The Random House College Dictionary, 1975:

cult: n. 1. A particular system of religious worship, esp. with reference to its rites and ceremonies. 2. An instance of great veneration of a person, ideal, or thing, esp. as manifested by a body of admirers; a cult of Napoleon. 3. The object of such devotion. 4. A group or sect bound together by devotion to or veneration of the same thing, person, ideal, etc. 5. Sociology. A group having a sacred ideology and a set of rites centering around their sacred symbols. 6. A religion that is considered to be false or unorthodox, or its members.

The New International Webster's Concise Dictionary of the English Language, 2005.

cult: n. 1. a system of religious observances. 2. extravagant devotion to a person, cause or thing. 3. the object of such devotion. 4. a group of persons having an excessive interest in something.

Regarding that last, italicized for emphasis, brand new and wide open "definition," note that it does not define any recognizable structural, social, or other characteristics whatsoever that are in fact associated with the real and historical definitions of a cult. Nor do any of these new "definitions" provide any context in which to consider the merits of a group as to whether it may, or may not, be a cult. These definitions have been stripped of nearly all meaningful and definitive content. Do not neglect to note the glaring absence of the last two definitions from 1975, numbers 5 and 6. That too is significant, because one of those two residuals, 5, held the last traces of the oldest meanings of the word CULT as it was known throughout most of Human history.

Except for the first of the new definitions, which does vaguely refer to a religious component to a cult, all of these new context and content purged "definitions" could potentially be used to describe any group of devotees to any specific ideas or pursuits, especially under definition number 4. From teenagers in a garage band living for their music, to a group of scientists dedicated to investigating a particularly intriguing theoretical question, to, indeed, esotericists and Truth Seekers, no closely knit group with a shared and avid "excessive interest in something" is excludable under the new definition. There is in fact no solid, factual definition at all, which means there are no limitations imposed upon the spurious and "off the cuff" interpretations that can be made of the word CULT.

Without the last definition provided in 1975 too, it is no longer necessary for the ideas or behaviours of a group to be in any way outside of mainstream society's points of view or practices, nor for it to be in any way associated with religion for the label of "cult" to be applied. It is probable that this is why that definition vanished. Both the religious context and that of being at odds with mainstream views and practices in society were weakened but still present back in 1994, but they are now gone. Considering the advances made by the Pathocracy in exactly these last 10 years, both in the U.S. and globally, it defies logic to think there is no connection.

The definitional changes in CULT present a significant danger. The new definitions can easily be extended to bring the label of "cult," and possibly the fate of Waco's Branch Davidians, down upon the heads any group of closely associated and like minded individuals who share an avid field of interest(s). Let's remember too that new definitions appear at the bottom, but in the political shiftings noted previously they move upward over time. If this holds true, then the "excessive interest in something" definition now introduced will, in the not so far future, likely become secondary, and possibly even primary. It would be a good bet, based on the previous shifts noted, that it is headed in that direction, likely on a "fast track" to the top.

The last new definition means that so long as there are accusers, such as were the Holy Inquisitors of the Roman Catholic Church for over 400 years, or as was the Cult Awareness Network at Waco, who are vested with sufficient credibility, power and tacit or even legal sanctions from government and/or other presiding enforcement authorities, then any persons engaging in group activities focused around a central set of ideas, in which all of the group's members have and share an avid and abiding, "excessive interest in something" are, by right of these very terms, a "cult."

What "something?" "Excessive" by whose judgment? The only limits are what the accusers choose to say and what they are allowed to get away with. There are no guidelines, no logical criteria, no restraints at all in the new definition. It is wide open to every possible abuse, and all upon the whims, say so and opinions of the accusers and/or society at large.

Seekers beware, for in every real way this does include us all. It means anyone who particpates in any group at all against whom the finger of official oppression may now choose to level the accusation of being a "cult" as redefined. No exaggeration was made in saying that the changes over the past 10 years are straight from George Orwell's visions of a totalitarian hell on Earth. This change in definitions can readily become the enablement of officially sanctioned attacks upon any interest groups who are disliked by their rulers. Naturally: That is the most probable purpose in making such changes.

The evidence of this would not be so solid, and one might dismiss it as just being evidence of a "bad" new dictionary, if not for the ability to track this change taking place in very specific increments in the three earlier volumes. The changes in both political direction and concept removal are consistent, not only in one edition of one dictionary bought anew as each updated volume was released, but through four different volumes, from four different publishers, spanning four different decades. The 1975 volume actually would have been researched and compiled between 1964 and 1974, the 1984 from 1974 to 1984, and so on. Thus each dictionary displays the official Knowing on Words from the entire previous decade.

Those dependent upon these new definitions for comprehension of the word CULT will at best have an extremely vague idea of what characteristics might be found in the behvaiour and structure of a real cult. The intellectually stumbling, semi-literate and ever more over-stressed average American is left without any descriptive guidance to give the slightest protection from those who are indeed members of real cults, especially not if they may be among officially encouraged and sanctioned, politically and ponerologically expedient religious groups.

Having little to no means to learn about or develop a firm grasp of the historical and factual attributes of real cults either, the public will be even more easily persuaded that any group the authorities might label as a "cult" really must then be one. In the final analysis, this is exactly how the Pathocracy got away with the Branch Davidian massacre. The public was already too confused and too intellectually incapacitated by that time to really "get it." Bear in mind that literacy levels fell by 10% these last 10 years, meaning that the problem of the U.S. public's loss of cognitive capacity would have already been at a 59% minimum at the time of the tragic events in Waco, Texas. That some significant changes in the definitions and thus the meanings of the word CULT had already been achieved by then is not unrelated.

The redefining of words is a two edged sword of Deceit and a weapon of enormous political, social, religious and worldly power, made entirely of Words. Word control IS thought control, in the Truest sense of that term, and here we can See an example of it's direct use in the pursuit of Pathocratic world control.

Next, from the oldest to the newest, we'll examine the definitions given for CONSERVATIVE. We spotted some troubling shifts and weightings of that set of definitions before. Now we can see how it has progressed.

The Random House College Dictionary, 1975:

conservative - adj. 1. Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., and to resist change. 2. Cautious, moderate: a
conservative estimate. 3. Traditional in style or manner; avoiding showiness: a suit of conservative cut. 4. (cap.) Of or pertaining to the Conservative party. 5. Of or pertaining to political
conservatism. 6. Having the power or tendency to conserve; preservative. 7. Of or pertaining to Conservative Judaism or Conservative Jews. - n. 8. A person who is conservative in principles, actions, habits, etc. 9. A member of a conservative political party. 10. A preservative.

The New International Webster's Concise Dictionary of the English Language, 2005:

conservative - adj. 1. Adhering to and tending to preserve the existing order of things; opposed to change. 2. Often cap. Of, pertaining to, or characterizing a political party or philosophy that favors the preservation of the status quo and is critical of proposals for change. 3. Conserving; preservative. 4. Moderate; cautious: a conservative estimate or statement. -- n 1. A conservative person. 2. Often cap. A member of a conservative political party.

There are some notable alterations here too, although not as obvious at first glance. What is most apparent is the shifting in the orders of the definitions, and, again, the severe reduction in overall informational and verbal content. What was the secondary definition in 1975 is now down to fourth place, and, since it is conceptually ad odds with the observable characteristics and behaviours of the radically totalitarian Pathocracy calling itself "conservative", it will likely be gone by the next round of verbal deconstructions, just as two of the most essential concepts and definitions for CULT were removed after dropping to last place gradually.

Although the tertiary definition is largely unchanged, except for its much poorer descriptive content, further indication that the political shift in this word's definitions is still under way is that all mention of religious conservatism, via the example of Conservative Judaism and Jews is gone. A most germaine concept has been deleted, considering how closely tied the U.S. Pathocracy is to a "conservative" form of Christian religion and to the type of Zionist Judaism that also masquerades as conservative.

Now for the word TERRORISM, and also TERRORIST, if present. Since these words are possibly the most dominant ones in the socio-political discourses we read and hear daily, and in the geo-politcal nightmares we are witnessing as the global Pathocracy pursues its final goals, one would think that these words would logically have become much better and more clearly defined and in the last 10 years. Seeing what has actually transpired is most illuminating.

The Random House College Dictionary, 1975:

terrorist: 1. A person who uses or favors terrorizing methods. 2. {formerly} a member of a political group in Russia aiming at the demoralization of the government by terror. 3. An agent or partisan of the revolutionary tribunal during the Reign of Terror in France.

As a point of fact, by definition number one, George W. Bush's policies and actions, domestically and abroad, do indeed define him as a terrorist. Apologies for not having made note of this in the first article.

The New International Webster's Concise Dictionary of the English Language, 2005:

No entry for terrorist. per se.

It does now seem rather conclusive that the elimination of the word TERRORIST was and is deliberate. One possible motive is to allow, just as has been done with CULT, for the broadest and most vague extensions of it being used to cover the greatest numbers of people. That it is simply gone from three out of four good American dictionaries, the three newest ones, covering the years from the midpoint of the Reagan administration and onward, turns the idea of coincidence, in view of all that has since transpired and is happening this very day, into an impossibility.

So what does our New International Webster's tell us about TERRORISM?

terrorism: n The act or practice of terrorizing, esp. by violence committed for political purposes, as by a government seeking to intimidate a populace or by revolutionaries seeking to overthrow a government, compel the release of prisoners, etc. -- terrorist, n; terroristic, adj.

The continuing shift is toward defining terrorism solely or primarily in terms of acts of violence. To do so is leaving wide the door to denying that psychologcial, emotional and economic brutalization, threats and intimidation of all kinds are also forms of terrorism. Of major importance is that the word threat is gone from the latest definition altogether, and the clearest implication of the new definition's wording is that intimidation is also conducted through violent acts.

The previous article's earlier intermediate source, the Webster's New World Dictionary had not yet, as of 1984, eliminated the specific mention of threats as acts of terrorism, retained the political basis of terrorism, and still included the concept of subjugation, showing for its entry:

terrorism. 1. The act of terrorizing; use of force or threats to demoralize, intimidate or subjugate, esp. such use as a political weapon or policy. 2. The demoralization or intimidation produced in this way.

By 1994, the Webster II New Riverside University Dictionary had only the briefest definition from which the word threat had been removed and the shift of emphasis to terrorism by violence only had taken place:

terrorism n. Systematic use of violence, terror and intimidation to achieve an end.

Let's go back now to the old Random House Collegiate Dictionary of 1975 and check what that one said about TERRORISM. Since it did actually also contain a definition of TERRORIST, maybe it gives a somewhat more complete view of the companion word too.

terrorism: n 1. the use of terrorizing methods. 2. the state of fear and submission so produced. 3. a terroristic way of governing or of resisting a government.

Neither of the older sets of definitions allow as well for bending meanings, but the "wiggle room" to distort and manipulate the word and its core concepts has been progressively increased by the two newer ones. Most telling here is the elimination of the definition that includes the induced state of fear, subjugation and submission in a populace. Thus there will be no access to the fact that the daily growing fear and submission present in many Americans is the direct result of their living in and under a growing and deliberate terrorization being done to them by their own government.

The necessary definitions to inform them of their own terrorization are long and truly gone, as is, for the majority of them, the very literacy and congnition required for them to understand the definitions. Again, this beggars the idea of coincidence in light of recent history and current events.

What we have here is factual evidence that a state of ideational, intellectual and verbal impoverishment has been deliberately inflicted upon a sizable majority of the U.S. populace, depriving them of operational literacy and inflicting upon them all of those injuries such loss includes in terms of active and significant congitive, interactive and interpretive deficits. These losses have been induced in them over the course of the past 40 to 60 years, and have now been demonstrated, in part, by a 40 years long body of evidence found in the presence of specific, directionally consistent, politically consistent, and conceptually consistent changes in the definitions provided by a series of college level dictionaries published in the U.S. during that time.

Here is a "smoking gun" of induced cognitive incapacitation, and a set of politicaly expedient changes in word definitions, being inflicted upon the populace of the most heavily armed and aggressive nation on Earth. Again, it beggars all suggestions of coincidence.

As an integral, coordinated part of this process, one of the most basic of all reference sources, the dictionary, has been made into a subtle and effective weapon of Pathocratic, Orwellian mind control. Dictionaries have always been the single most trusted quick, general reference sources for information about what any word means and for the most basic description and concept of what something is or does. Many an argument over what something is, or is not, has been ended by consulting the nearest dictionary, with whatever its definitions say being accepted as valid without question. Destroying the reliability and factual accuracy of the dictionaries we've all been conditioned to consult first and most for our basic grasp of words is an appallingly Evil and terribly cunning Deceit that is almost unimaginable in its scope.

Bear in mind too that our public libraries and schools "update" the dictionaries they provide for the use of their patrons and students regularly, and the old volumes are not kept. The fact once was the case, and is still believed to be so, that the new dictionary is of course a better source of more and improved information. A logical conclusion from the research done for these two articles is that the two youngest generations of now adult Americans, those currently under 40 years of age, have never had access to the old and true definitions at all. For them there weren't any such to be learned.

Not the least of the concerns raised by these dictionary investigations is that each new dictionary has had fewer words in it than the one before, and in the same oldest to newest, most to least progression as is shown for the verbal and conceptual changes. There are more than 25,000 words less in the newest volume than in the oldest. Exactly which 25,000 words do Americans no longer have any need to know? Who decided this and why? Had the word counts been randomly lower or higher from edition to edition basically averaging out over time, fine. But again a progressive loss of words, from four equivalent volumes, having four different publishers, and spanning four decades, simply defies chance as the explanation.

My sincerest advice to those who intend to continue to Learn and Grow in Knowing, and not only Americans but all who place the highest of personal values upon the quality of the information they permit to occupy their Minds, is that they begin haunting yard sales, estate sales, rummage sales, public auctions, public library book sales and used book stores in search of the oldest and most comprehensive dictionaries they can find. Buy them, cherish them, rebind them, mend their torn pages, use them often and share their contents with those you encounter who also Seek Knowledge. This now seems an imperative task for those younger English speaking Seekers, Americans especially, who are reading the Works of modern and historical esotericists, alchemists, mystics and gnostics.

It is almost certain that the definitions learned by those who are 40 and under, the younger the more so, the basic word meanings that they have been taught, have probably been altered and at the very least partially deprived of their original meanings or twisted deceitfully away from the objective or original definitions. What has been proved True for the few words examined here is undoubtedly also True for a vast array of other words, from the simplest to the most complex, whose deepest and fullest understandings is essential to a study of crucial esoteric and scientific subjects.

This is no doubt precisely why the Glossary available at the Signs web sites has been attacked, as have the other, related, information rich web sites working hard to maintain a high degree of accuracy in their content. Accuracy is now as Politically Incorrect as it can get. Being highly accurate is now far more unaccepatable than being liberal, and possibly far more dangerous. It is a downright radical and not at all tolerable behaviour in a Pathocratic world.

In Truth the ability to do such Truth Seeking as we do here is likely to have been a part of what the entire program of "dumbing down" was and is intended to prevent and defeat. It in fact likely that this is also in progress in other countries and societies. Truth Seekers living in the rest of the developed and western nations, regardless of their languages, might do well to begin checking their own oldest and newest dictionaries to See for themselves what is happening in their own "neighbourhoods." The available data strongly point to a conclusion that the Global Pathocracy, and its hidden Bosses, want to impose the same foul "dumbing down" upon all of Humanity.

In every nation where relatively high levels of literacy among the general populace have become prevalent, it is logical to assume that they will induce the loss of functional literacy by the vast majority through all possible avenues of attack. An ignorant populace is a far more easily manipulated, deceived and controlled populace. The systematic diminishment of Americans' verbal skills and thus of their Minds is a done deal here, but it may not yet be quite so done elsewhere. Let us all hope not, fervently.

In the U.S. we See the end stage of the process. The War on Human Minds was launched in the U.S. immediately after World War II ended. To expose the entire, ugly Reality, we need to take a look the history of U.S. public education, while bearing in mind that this destruction of public education is not limited only to schools in the U.S., not at all. There are discernible indicators of its utilization throughout western society. Those living outside the U.S. would be prudent to check what has happened with literacy levels among public school and university graduates in their own countries over the past 3 to 4 decades. Finding the answer to that question may also provide a clue as to how far into Pathocracy their own "neighbourhood" may have already descended.

It is necessary to now use a bit of anecdotal evidence, but please bear with it. It illustrates the Objective Reality more prescisely than is otherwise possible.

My parents married late in life, so I didn't arrive until they were in their 40s. My father was born in 1905 and my mother in 1910. An important point here is that they were solid working class poor, throughout their lives. Thus, what educational benefits they received were precisely the minumum available to all U.S. children at that time.

My father's education ended with his completion of the eighth grade, all the education that the public schools in his area provided for free, and all that was federally mandated back then. Yet he read for pleasure on subjects ranging from philosophy, political science and horitculture to theoretical physics, to engineering manuals, science fiction, and anything to do with electricity, electronics, aviation and, toward the end of his life, space exploration. He could and did "grok" Einstein, Tesla and anything else he chose to explore, from Kant, to Marx, to Plato, Voltaire, Heinlein and Clarke. He was not all that exceptional for his generation and society. Most of the men I have met from his generation were very much like him.

My mother made it through the tenth grade, in an area where high school was free. Her hereditary visual impairment became legal blindness that year, after a serious eye infection, and it ended her formal education in 1926. Retaining sight in only one eye and able to read only with a thick magnifying glass and in very bright light for the rest of her life, still she read, and read and read. Histories of ancient Greece and Rome, Egypt, England and anywhere else on Earth, and the works of the great poets from Homer and Virgil to Shakespeare and Whittier filled our house. Again, she was not all that exceptional for a woman of her generation. I have met many of them who had those tastes and read as avidly.

I ask readers to now consider what they may have been told about pre-World War II public education by their own parents, grandparents and others, for as far back as they can go with their older family members and others. Pay especially close attention to their demonstrated levels of literacy, their abilities to think, to reason and figure out new or unusual things independently, and to the continued processes of learning throughout their lifetimes that they might have displayed. Their reading for pleasure no matter what kind of reading, their participation in hobbies, their pursuing of technical skills such as playing a musical instrument, gardening, doing carpentry and so forth all count a great deal in that fundamental characteristic of an active Mind, lifelong learning.

The next points cannot be more important to understanding the full dynamics of the American public's dreadful inability to "get it."

The standarized U.S. Department of Education adult literacy tests are possibly the only aspect of education in this country that has not been changed in the past 60 years. Until after World War II, basic literacy and numeracy were considered a done deal by the fourth grade. My mother's younger sister was certainly living proof of that. She didn't finish all of the fourth grade, but she was as wide ranging and literate a reader as anyone I've ever met. Again, I have met others from her generation who also went no further than the fourth grade and were equally literate and numerate.

THIS IS WHAT HAS BEEN DESTROYED. This is the educational quality and the capacity of Mind that has been taken away from this nation's ordinary citizens, its poor, working class, and middle class people. This nation's educational history shows that a fourth grade, bare bones, U.S. public school education provided literacy and numeracy to every child who attended school long enough to obtain it, barring those few who had developmental or learning disabilities making reading beyond their grasp.

An eighth grade education completed in 1920 was demonstrably better than what has now been proved to be true for an early 21st century college or higher education.

Reason says that only deliberate and extremely careful design and implementation could and would account for such results.

Education in the first half of the 20th century was virtually unchanged from previous formal education throughout the known history of western civilization. In the schools of ancient Greece and Rome the teaching methods and student practices that would become the foundation of all subsequent, western, formal educational systems were first established. They proved themselves most effective for many centuries, and would be used until the mid 20th century almost unchanged.

The next real change in education came throughout America, Britain and most of Europe in the 17th through early 20th centuries, when basic education for all children, as nearly as possible, became ever more broadly implemented. For the first time in history, the masses, rather than the elite only, were provided with the skills of basic literacy and numeracy, mostly in response to the demands of the technolgical and societal changes brought about by the Industrial Revolution and also facilitated by ever more efficient and numerous printing presses.

Public education in the U.S. truly "got it together" shortly after the Civil War, with the result that adult literacy and numeracy among the general populace all went up, decade after decade, nationwide, among all graduates from the fourth grade to the Ph.D., with a stable, residual incidence of incomplete literacy and numeracy among graduates of just under 10%, for the next hundred years.

Beginning in 1946 and onward, public high school, university and college courses and requirements were changed significantly, ostensibly to meet the "less traditional" educational needs of the thousands of returning WW II veterans who began taking advantage of the new GI Bill's educational benefits. It was the beginning of the elimination of the most ancient components of a higher education, those studies essential to teaching and honing the ability to systematically and logically comprehend and utilize language and numbers, words and reason, to the highest degree.

The traditionally manadatory high school and college educational requirements in the "classics," Latin, Greek, foreign languages, ancient and modern history, political science, fine art, music, literature, basic chemistry and phsyics, advanced mathematics, an entire body of previously mandatory studies, fundamental General Knowledge courses that one and all had to pass if they wanted to graduate, were pared down, or waived, or dropped entirely in short order.

In U.S. colleges, the final remnants of required liberal arts, fine arts and basic maths and sciences, those ancient Gerenal Knowledge courses, have been almost completely removed in the past 2 decades, and again, especially in the past 10 years when the technical requirements of specific careeers or trades have taken over most college course work.

The first drastic, "inexplicable" drop in the overall U.S. adult literacy levels among high school graduates and above showed up in 1975's nationwide tests. The first catastrophic drop had arrived. It came after exactly the right span of years for the testing of that first generation of graduates to have been entirely educated by teachers who had received revised, post WW II college educations, and the first generation of students to "benefit" from several "reforms" in public school methods and courses, such as the introduction of the new "Dick and Jane" types of basic reading courses and the "new math" instruction innovations of the late 1950s and early to mid 1960s.

When reports on the findings of that decade's testing were released early in 1976, they raised a public furor. After that report the purveyors of "education reform" had carte blanche, and they went into high gear. For the past 30 years, U.S. public education has been thrown into an endlessly repeating loop of "reforms" and "improvements" which have successfully delivered a remarkably reduced, steadily dropping capacity for literacy, numeracy and Thought to U.S. public school and college graduates.

But, in the elite, private, residential primary and secondary schools for the scions of the wealthiest, guess which subjects are still mandatory? Yes indeed, those old liberal arts, fine arts and basic maths and sciences must still be completed if a student wants to graduate from one of the upper crust, private preparatory schools. Some of the most exclusive even retain the requirement for either Latin or Greek to be studied.

Simple logic does indeed tell us that, had all of the "reforms" done and the "innovations" introduced to public education since the end of WW II even been entirely random, half of them would have been beneficial to the learning processes of students, and the results would have been a balancing off of losses in some areas with an equal set of gains in others. None such has happened. The results have been a steady downhill slide in the abilities to read, write, speak, utilize basic math, learn and think among graduates of the "improved" educational system.

The unavoidable conclusion is that the last 10 years are the end and intended results of a deliberate, progressive, systematic destruction of the minds of a majority of Americans over the preceding 60 years. Between creeping Pathocracy, television's mind control bombardment, subliminals galore, and the deconstruction of both educational and informational content, the average American of today had little chance. Since WW II, each generation has become less literate than the previous one, thus less able to discern let alone correct what was wrong, less able to teach adequate skills to the next generation, and so on.

Welcome to the world of New Speak and New Think. WE ARE THERE.

The simple reality looming behind surveys over the last ten years consistently showing that some 70% of all Americans get their news information from television alone may well be that reading a newspaper and really understanding what it says is beyond them now and has been for a while. That 70% figure is suspiciously close to the 69% of college graduates who are not functionally literate, isn't it? If a Pathocratic government can effectively ensure that 70% or more of its populace is intellectually incapacitated, the other 30% will be hard put to overcome the surrounding ignorance and incomprehension of the majority well enough to engender significant levels of sustained opposition.

We must never forget that an ingnorant, gullible, easily manipulable and controllable populace is the goal of Pathocratic "educational" systems. The full presence and good use of Mind is what they cannot withstand and will do everything to stop.

When their lack of access to accurate information, even in dictionaries, is laid side by side with the deliberate destruction of their literacy, their numeracy and their cognitive capacities, the American public suddenly makes sense, totally heartbreaking, terrible sense. Orwell's dystopian realm is, unfortunately, present here and now, and, for those of us born and living in the U.S, it is the place we call Home.

Knowing how much has been stolen from the majority of Americans, let us, in their behalf, be sure to list the destruction of their precious, sacred Human Minds among the greatest and cruelest of the Pathocracy's countless crimes against Humanity when we Name the final tally of all those Crimes and demand a full reckoning.
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Freedom, Bush Style

Guantanamo defendant calls tribunals a con

By Jane Sutton
Thu Apr 6, 7:45 PM ET

GUANTANAMO BAY U.S. NAVAL BASE, Cuba - An Ethiopian prisoner called his Guantanamo war crimes tribunal a con on Thursday and said that after four years of interrogations, the U.S. military had not even managed to learn the correct spelling of his name.
The defendant, a 27-year-old British resident, is identified in the charge documents as Binyam Muhammad but he said his surname is Mohammad. He is accused of conspiring with al Qaeda to commit war crimes, including plotting to set off a radioactive bomb, and would face life in prison if convicted.

There is no uniform system of transliteration of Arabic names into English, and so either Muhammad or Mohammad could be correct.

Mohammad, as he said he prefers to be called, has proclaimed his innocence and has stated in court documents that he made false confessions after being extrajudicially transferred to a Moroccan prison where he was beaten, strung up by his arms and cut on the chest and penis with scalpels.

"This is four years of interrogation, highly intensive ... torture, and you still don't have the right name," he told the tribunal's presiding officer, Marine Col. Ralph Kohlmann. "The man you are looking for is not here."

The defendant compared Kohlmann to Adolf Hitler and prosecutors to vampire slayers. He calmly criticized the tribunals as "crap" that set a bad example for the world and poked fun at their formal name, commissions.

"This is not a commission. It's a con mission. It's a mission to con the world," he said.

Kohlmann let him speak at first, then ordered him to stop using profanity, put down a handwritten sign reading "conn-mission" and conduct himself politely.

Mohammad refused to enter a plea and the presiding officer entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.


The military charges say the defendant joined al Qaeda in 2001 and got weapons and explosives training at the group's camps and guest houses in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

He was arrested trying to leave Pakistan in 2002 and his lawyer said he was sent to a Moroccan prison via extraordinary rendition, the practice of secretly transferring terrorist suspects between countries, outside normal legal channels.

Mohammad was held in Morocco for 18 months and gave false confessions including that he plotted with al Qaeda and U.S. citizen Jose Padilla to set off a radioactive "dirty bomb" in the United States, according to his civilian lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith.

Padilla was held at a U.S. military brig for three years but was never charged in a radioactive plot. He has since been charged in a civilian court with being part of a cell that supported terrorists overseas.

Mohammad was sent from Morocco to a secret facility known as the "Dark Prison" in Afghanistan and then brought to Guantanamo, his lawyer says. He is the first British resident to appear before the tribunals President George W. Bush created after the September 11 attacks to try foreigners for terrorism. British citizens held at Guantanamo were all sent home.

Defendants at the tribunals wear civilian clothes provided by their lawyers. Mohammad's lawyers brought him a bright orange shirt and trousers, reminiscent of the infamous orange jumpsuits Guantanamo detainees wore during the early days of the prison camp. He also asked to wear shackles to court but the request was denied, his lawyer said.

Human rights groups and legal scholars have harshly criticized the U.S. decision to indefinitely hold foreign prisoners at Guantanamo without the protections of the Geneva Conventions or the rights afforded in U.S. courts.

The Bush administration has defended the detention and interrogation of detainees as critical to national security in the war against terrorism.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the legitimacy of the tribunals by the end of June.

Mohammad is one of 10 Guantanamo detainees facing war crimes charges and one of four appearing at pretrial hearings this week. The camp holds about 490 prisoners.

Comment: Feel safer now? What if instead of Binyam Mohammad, it was you or your child that was detained, tortured, and tried in a kangaroo court? If the American people continue to remain too silent about the highly illegal actions of the Bush admiminstration, it will be you or your child. You can take that to the bank.

And if you think that being a US citizen will protect you, see the following flashback.

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Flashback: Court backs Bush over US terror suspects

03 Apr 2006
Financial Times

The Bush dictatorship won a significant legal victory in the "war on terror" on Monday when the US Supreme Court refused to question the government's power to hold US citizens indefinitely as enemy combatants, even those captured on US soil.
The justices voted 6-3 not to review the case of Jose Padilla, one of the most high-profile cases testing the administration's anti-terrorism powers in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Mr Padilla, a US citizen captured in Chicago, was held in military detention without charges for three years before the government decided to try him in the civilian court system.

The shift to try Mr Padilla as a civilian was widely criticised as an attempt by the administration to avoid a Supreme Court review of the case, and the tactic appears to have worked.

Three justices who held the balance of power in the case - Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice John Paul Stevens - took the unusual step of issuing an opinion to justify their refusal to hear the case, focusing on the fact that Mr Padilla is no longer being held as an enemy combatant.

"Any consideration of what rights he might be able to assert if he were returned to military custody would be hypothetical, and to no effect, at this stage of the proceedings," Justice Kennedy wrote for the three men, noting that civilian custody was "part of the relief he sought, and that its lawfulness is uncontested".

"It's a shame that the Supreme Court didn't use this opportunity to address the claim of the United States that it can pick up anybody on US soil in connection with the war on terror," said Jennifer Daskal, director of advocacy for Human Rights Watch.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, one of three justices who voted to hear the case, said Mr Padilla risked being transferred back into military custody at the end of his civilian trial.

Justice Kennedy acknowledged that Mr Padilla "has a continuing concern" that he might be reclassified as an enemy combatant but said that concern "can be addressed if the necessity arises". But he also issued a veiled warning to the government not to return Mr Padilla to the military, and invited him to bring his appeal straight back to the Supreme Court if they did so. At the moment, no US citizens are being held as enemy combatants.

The case appears to have been an extraordinarily difficult one for the justices, who discussed it at eight separate private meetings before Monday's ruling.

The decision highlights the central role that Justice Kennedy, a moderate conservative, is likely to play when the court rules on another terrorism case that tests the constitutionality of the military tribunals set up to try detainees. A ruling in that case, which involves the detention of Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's former driver, is expected by June or July.

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Teens charged under terror law

April 6, 2006

Four accused of plotting to kill classmates at South Jersey high school

CAMDEN -- Four teenagers accused of plotting to kill about 25 people in a lunch-period massacre at Winslow Township High School were charged today with terrorism, a crime no one has ever been convicted of in New Jersey.

The boys, between the ages of 14 and 16, were arrested Wednesday after police heard about the alleged plot from administrators at the school, where three of the teens are students. Authorities did not release their names because of their ages.
The boys initially were charged only with low-level crimes and were not eligible to be moved to adult court.

Authorities said the teens planned to target students, and teachers and others.

The terrorism charge and other charges added Thursday -- two counts each of conspiracy to attempt murder -- are serious enough that prosecutors could ask a judge to move the case from family court to adult criminal court, where the penalties could be much stiffer.

Prosecutors have 30 days to consider whether to request moving the case; no decision on that was made by Thursday afternoon.

The four boys -- including a 15-year-old from Hammonton whose arrest Wednesday night had not been announced -- appeared together in family court. Superior Court Judge Angelo DiCamillo ordered them held until the state Department of Human Services could complete thorough psychological and psychiatric evaluations.

DiCamillo said the court counselors who had interviewed the teens Wednesday recommended they not be released to their parents' care until a full picture of their mental conditions could be learned.

Public defenders for the teens argued that they should have been able to go home with their parents. "My client is rather frail and vulnerable," public defender Ruth Ann Mandell, who was representing a 14-year-old, told the judge. "No one was hurt in this case."

Authorities said the boys did not have any weapons to carry out the alleged plot. But one law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the teens attempted to buy a handgun.

DiCamillo on Thursday also disclosed that some of the teens charged have had brushes with the law in the past. Two of them were charged with fighting while they were still in elementary school; both cases were diverted out of the court system.

Comment: Elementary school kids were fighting! Imagine that!! Golly, they MUST be terrorists!

The 14-year-old was charged Wednesday with grabbing a girl by the neck and threatening to kill her.

The father of one of the 15-year-old boys said after the hearing Thursday that the charges were a mistake. "I think it's just kids hanging out together and having a little wild time, that's all," he said.

State judiciary spokeswoman Winnie Comfort said no one in New Jersey has been convicted of terrorism, a charge lawmakers created four years ago in response to the Sept. 11 attacks. Under the statute, people convicted of the crime in adult court must be sentenced to at least 30 years in prison and are not eligible for parole for 30 years.

Prison sentences that long would be far steeper than those meted out to three teenagers in another Camden County town, Oaklyn, after they pleaded guilty in a case in which they were caught with guns, ammunition and swords in 2003. Each of them received a prison sentence between four and 10 years.

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USA won't pursue seat on U.N. Human Rights Council

USA Today
4/7/2006 7:26 AM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The United States decided to forgo a seat on the new U.N. Human Rights Council this year rather than risk a losing battle for a panel it considers deeply flawed. But 42 countries announced their candidacy, including Cuba and Iran.

The United States was alone among the five veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council to avoid the 47-nation human rights body. Russia, China, Britain and France all applied for a seat.
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Thursday the United States would not be a candidate in the May 9 election, though it will support and finance the new council and likely seek a seat next year.

"The United States will actively campaign on behalf of candidates genuinely committed to the promotion and protection of human rights and ... will also actively campaign against states that systematically abuse human rights," he said.

The United States was virtually alone in voting against establishing the council to replace the highly politicized and often criticized Human Rights Commission, arguing that the new body was only marginally better and wouldn't keep rights-abusing countries from winning seats.

The 53-member commission was discredited in recent years because some countries with terrible human rights records used their membership to protect one another from condemnation. Members in recent years have included Sudan, Libya, Zimbabwe and Cuba.

A key sticking point during the negotiations was U.S. insistence that members be elected by two-thirds of the 191-nation General Assembly - a step aimed at keeping out rights abusers. The U.S. effort failed, and members of the new council must be elected by an absolute majority - 96 member states.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said the United States concluded that since the council has "fundamental flaws" Washington would skip this year's election and concentrate on other priorities, including the overhaul of U.N. management. But he indicated the United States was also concerned about whether it could win a contested election.

President Bush's administration has been strongly criticized in many countries for invading Iraq and for the U.S. treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay and the Abu Ghraib prison.

During a U.S. National Security Council meeting earlier this week, U.S. officials raised the possibility of U.S. defeat, according to a person who was at the meeting and spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the closed session.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Bolton recalled the U.S. defeat for a seat on the Human Rights Commission in 2001 and said the United States would face another contested election if it ran this year.

"I think that a decision by us to run had to be a decision that we were going to win, and that would mean either defeating other Western candidates or getting some of the rest of them to withdraw," Bolton said.

Some human rights groups and members of the U.S. Congress were dismayed at the U.S. decision.

Rep. Tom Lantos, the ranking Democrat on the House International Relations Committee, called it "a major retrenchment in America's long struggle to advance the cause of human rights around the world."

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said "it's unfortunate that the Bush administration's disturbing human rights record means that the United States would hardly have been a shoe-in for election to the council."

The new council was endorsed by key human rights groups, a dozen Nobel Peace Prize laureates including former president Jimmy Carter, and 170 countries that voted "yes" on the resolution - including a surprise approval by Cuba.

Under the rules for the new council, any U.N. member can announce its candidacy any time until the vote is completed. Countries can serve a maximum of two three-year terms and must leave the council before running again.

To ensure global representation, Africa and Asia would have 13 seats each; Latin America and the Caribbean eight; Western nations, seven; and Eastern Europe, six.

In a statement appealing for support for its candidacy, Cuba said it has "tremendous achievements" in human rights, most importantly in exercising the right of self-determination against "the unilateral policy of hostility, aggression and blockade imposed on it by the superpower."

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Poll: Bush, GOP hit new lows in public opinion

April 7, 2006

'These numbers are scary,' GOP pollster says as Democrats eye opportunity

WASHINGTON - President Bush's approval ratings hit a series of new lows in an AP-Ipsos poll that also shows Republicans surrendering their advantage on national security - grim election-year news for a party struggling to stay in power.

Democratic leaders predicted they will seize control of one or both chambers of Congress in November. Republicans said they feared the worst unless the political landscape quickly changes.
"These numbers are scary. We've lost every advantage we've ever had," GOP pollster Tony Fabrizio said. "The good news is Democrats don't have much of a plan. The bad news is they may not need one."

There is more at stake than the careers of GOP lawmakers. A Democratic-led Congress could bury the last vestiges of Bush's legislative agenda and subject the administration to high-profile investigations of the Iraq war, the CIA leak case, warrantless eavesdropping and other matters.

In the past two congressional elections, Republicans gained seats on the strength of Bush's popularity and a perception among voters that the GOP was stronger on national security than Democrats.

Those advantages are gone, according to a survey of 1,003 adults conducted this week for The Associated Press by Ipsos, an international polling firm.
* Just 36 percent of the public approves of Bush's job performance, his lowest-ever rating in AP-Ipsos polling. By contrast, the president's job approval rating was 47 percent among likely voters just before Election Day 2004 and a whopping 64 percent among registered voters in October 2002.

* Only 40 percent of the public approves of Bush's performance on foreign policy and the war on terror, another low-water mark for his presidency. That's down 9 points from a year ago. Just before the 2002 election, 64 percent of registered voters backed Bush on terror and foreign policy.

* Just 35 percent of the public approves of Bush's handling of Iraq, his lowest in AP-Ipsos polling.
"He's in over his head," said Diane Heller, 65, a Pleasant Valley, N.Y., real estate broker and independent voter.

Troubled Congress

As bad as Bush's numbers may be, Congress' are worse.

Just 30 percent of the public approves of the GOP-led Congress' job performance, and Republicans seem to be shouldering the blame.

By a 49-33 margin, the public favors Democrats over Republicans when asked which party should control Congress.

That 16-point Democratic advantage is the largest the party has enjoyed in AP-Ipsos polling.

On an issue the GOP has dominated for decades, Republicans are now locked in a tie with Democrats - 41 percent each - on the question of which party people trust to protect the country. Democrats made their biggest national security gains among young men, according to the AP-Ipsos poll, which had a 3 percentage point margin of error.

The public gives Democrats a slight edge on what party would best handle Iraq, a reversal from Election Day 2004.

"We're in an exceptionally challenging electoral environment," said Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma, a former GOP strategist. "We start off on a battlefield today that is tilted in their direction, and that's when you have to use the advantages you have."

Those include the presidential "bully pulpit" and the "structural, tactical advantages" built into the system, Cole said.

One of those advantages is a political map that is gerrymandered to put House incumbents in relatively safe districts, meaning Democrats have relatively few opportunities to pick up the 15 seats they need to gain control.

For Dems, raised expectations

In the Senate, the Democrats need to pick up six seats.

"I think we will win the Congress," Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean said, breaking the unwritten rule against raising expectations.

"Everything is moving in our direction. If it keeps moving in our direction, it's very reasonable to say there will be a Democratic Senate and House," said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

Strategists in both parties say it would take an extraordinary set of circumstances for Democrats to seize control of Congress.

First, the elections would need to be nationalized. Democrats hope to do that with a burgeoning ethics scandal focused on relationships between GOP lobbyists and lawmakers.

Secondly, the public would need to be in a throw-the-bums-out mood. It's unclear whether that is the case, but 69 percent of Americans believes the nation is headed in the wrong direction - the largest percentage during the Bush presidency and up 13 points from a year ago.

Third, staunch GOP voters would need to stay home. Nobody can predict whether that will happen, but a growing number of Republicans disagree with their leaders in Washington about immigration, federal spending and other issues.

Bush's approval rating is down 12 points among Republicans since a year ago. Six-in-10 Republicans said they disapproved of the GOP-led Congress.

"I'd just as soon they shut (Congress) down for a few years," said Robert Hirsch, 72, a Republican-leaning voter in Chicago. "All they do is keep passing laws and figuring out ways to spend our money."

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Standing For Something

by P. Anthony Farruggio
April 6, 2006

They arrive, once a week, like clockwork. From the back seat of each car, or trunk, they unload their signs. Each sign states another aspect of what they are all about. Some signs declare the immorality or illegality of this war on Iraq. Others demand that our soldiers come home now. Others state how many young Americans have already been killed. There are signs calling for impeachment. Signs asking " Honk for Peace". Statements for Medicare for All Americans. Protest signs on the $ 400 billion spent for this unnecessary attack and occupation of Iraq, or asking what really might have happened on 9/11. There are signs alerting the public to the Downing Street Minutes. All in all, a vast array of signs and statements in dissent of this President, Vice President and their neo con allies.
Who stands each week on those corners in Port Orange, Daytona Beach and Ormond? Are these campus radicals or anarchists? No, those who stand are our neighbors, folks who study history and current events and see beyond the mainstream claptrap news . A blend of retired teachers, librarians, union organizers and working nurses (Rita, Frances, Walt, Bernice and Mona). . Former and present educators, store managers, landscapers, even a " Ph D." (Jack, Sue, Rod, Rene, and John D). Retired government employees, working professors, county officials, veterans (Robert, Ruth, Barbara, Jamie, Don). In Daytona we see a CPA, working moms with two jobs (Phil, Kathy, Doreen) regularly standing together in earnest. In Ormond, outside of Wal-Mart, of all places, a single mom schoolteacher, a banker and an infirmed Viet Nam veteran (Marge, Donna and Pete). Little by little, more are joining them on those street corners each Tuesday at 5 pm, Thursday at 6 pm and Saturday at 10 am. Students, postal workers, small business owners, all kinds of regular folks seeking change. Making a statement before even that becomes forbidden in this fragile republic of ours.

Cars whiz by, as cars always whiz by at rush hour in any town. For 19 months, the Port Orange group has watched and waved, and yes, debated issues of war, health care, corruption, cronyism and wasted life. All on that very same corner, at the very same time and day, in a very ordinary town in Florida. Strange occurrence lately, though. More and more of the folks in those cars are beginning to get it. A symphony of honks and waves and thumbs up sent forth to the demonstrators. Some even heed the most imperative sign displayed: " WE NEED YOU ... PLEASE PARK AND JOIN US! " And, as the line of sign holders grows from the original eight per week, to now well over 30, hope does spring eternal. Yet, in Ormond this Saturday, the three aforementioned stalwarts stood alone. And, as the "bully loves the vulnerable", so too does this trio meet the most terrible assortment of sneers and ****. If only their numbers could increase, would then the cowards and hypocrites shrink from view.

When change and sanity finally come to America, and we have a Congress and White House that puts people before politics, remember those street corner protesters. Remember the street corners throughout America, and those who stand there, week after week. Not the twice a year events that draw the crowds but never the consistency. It seems it's always the dedicated and selfless who bring about a better world. Confucius said it best: "You succeeded because you tried again!!" Perhaps more Americans need to stand for something, now don't they?

P. Anthony Farruggio is a progressive talk radio host in Port Orange Florida

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Sarandon: 'This is 1984'


Movie star Susan Sarandon is terrified US society is mirroring George Orwell's chilling book 1984 - because individual rights are being trampled on.

The Thelma & Louise star was stunned by the "fraudulent" 2000 election of George W Bush - and is keen for the country's next election to be closely monitored, according to website The Scoop.

She says: "I believe our next election should be monitored by international entities, just like it happened in Haiti and Iraq.

"The last one was an embarrassment. Everybody knew there was fraud, but nothing was done about it. In some states there were more votes than people able to vote.

"I think we've never been as close to George Orwell's 1984 as before.

"We live in a society where individual rights and legality are definitely threatened and that's scary."

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German inquiry to probe Iraq war, CIA links

By Mark Trevelyan, Security Correspondent
Fri Apr 7, 2006 06:33 AM ET

BERLIN - Germany's parliament gave the green light on Friday for a parliamentary inquiry into whether German spies in Baghdad helped the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 at a time when the government was publicly opposed to the war.

Lawmakers voted to approve the probe, which will examine various sensitive aspects of the security services' work and their cooperation with the United States.

It will also look into the Central Intelligence Agency's alleged abduction of a German national and secret transfer of at least one terrorist suspect via Germany.
The government of conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel had previously argued in vain that the investigation would be a time-wasting distraction that would stir up anti-American feeling at a time when Berlin is trying to repair U.S. ties.

But the three opposition parties teamed up to force the inquiry after a spate of media reports alleging that two German agents in Baghdad helped the United States launch its invasion, including by picking out bombing targets.

Questions for the inquiry include whether ministers or officials knew and approved of the handing of information to the Americans, and of the details that were passed on.

Among those who may face pressure are Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who at the time was chief of staff and intelligence coordinator under Merkel's predecessor, Social Democrat Gerhard Schroeder.


The issue is controversial in Germany because public opinion strongly opposed the Iraq war.

Schroeder, won an election in 2002 on the back of his public opposition to any military "adventure" in Iraq.

Merkel's conservative-Social Democrat coalition government has acknowledged that some intelligence from the two agents was passed on to the United States, including information on the Iraqi police and military presence in Baghdad.

But it says they played no role in selecting bombing targets, except to warn the Americans against hitting civilian sites such as hospitals.

Merkel herself is not under fire because her party was in opposition at the time. But by keeping the Iraq war in the headlines, the inquiry could hinder her efforts to turn over a new leaf in relations with Washington, which were badly strained by Schroeder's opposition to the invasion.

Comment: Gee, we're so shocked that Merkel was against the investigation!

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'Two B-2s could take out Iran's nuclear assets'

Wednesday, April 05, 2006
By Khalid Hasan

WASHINGTON: Iran's nuclear weapons ambitions will be history by the time US President George W Bush leaves office, said a report published here.

Veteran foreign correspondent Arnaud de Borchgrave, writing for the United Press International, quotes a "prominent neo-con" with good White House and Department of Defence contacts, as the source of the assertion. Asked what would the US do if sanctions did not make Iran turn away from its nuclear target, the source replied, "B-2s. Two of them could do the job in a single strike against multiple targets."
De Borchgrave writes in an amused vein, "So we looked up B-2s. The US Air Force only has 21 of them. Perhaps price had something to do with it. They came in at $2.2 billion a copy. But they can carry enough ordnance to make Iranians nostalgic for the Shah and his role as the free world's gendarme in charge of the West's oil supplies in the Gulf. These stealthy bombers have one major drawback in the Persian magic carpet mode. They can only attack 16 targets simultaneously; one short of the 17 underground nuclear facilities pinned red on Mossad's target-rich PowerPoint presentations to the political leadership. Presumably, that's why two B-2s would be required."

De Borchgrave points out that most of Iran's secret nuclear installations are not only underground, but also close to population centres. "The first pictures of a B-2 raid would be dead women and children on al-Jazeera television newscasts, now as globally ubiquitous as CNN and FOX. The collateral damage would then rival Abu Ghraib's devastating impact on America's good name. The perceived American indifference over the loss of Arab lives would now be seen as spreading to another Muslim country," he writes. The neo-con informant told the correspondent that there is "absolutely no way" Bush will accommodate to an Iranian nuke or two, the way he blinked first with North Korea. Bush uncompromising view of the Iranian nuclear danger and his determination to prevent it by force of two B-2s if necessary is "as solid as his resolve to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein," he said.

According to de Borchgrave, "This is also the British assessment of Bush's intentions against Iran, a power whose president has vowed to wipe Israel off the map. Today (April 3, 2006), senior British officials met with defence and intelligence chiefs to assess the consequences of air strikes against Iran - as well as European and global repercussions. Neo-cons are unfazed by the fact that Iran is an ancient civilisation of 70 million people with retaliatory assets that range from a choke-hold on the world's most important oil route in the Strait of Hormuz, to an anti-US Shiite coalition in Iraq with two private militias, funded and armed by Iran, to terrorist groups throughout the Middle East that have a global reach. Iran is also a power that not only resisted an Iraqi invasion, but fought Saddam Hussein's legions to a standstill in an eight-year-war of attrition that killed about 1 million soldiers on both sides. If, as Bush has indicated, US troops were still in Iraq in 2009 under the next president, Tehran, in retaliatory animus, would pull out all the stops to ensure a Vietnam-like send-off for remaining US forces in Iraq. For the time being, Tehran is delighted to keep US troops in Iraq as protective cover for Iran as it consolidates its influence throughout 60 percent of the country."

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Iranian crisis - the inevitable result of Israel's US-backed WMD monopoly in the region

David Hirst
Tuesday April 4, 2006
The Guardian

The Iranian crisis can only be understood as the inevitable result of Israel's US-backed WMD monopoly in the region

There is widespread international agreement that Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons is an alarming prospect, but very little attention is paid to the most obvious, immediate reason why: that there is already a Middle Eastern nuclear power, Israel, insistent on preserving its monopoly.

So the crisis has been foreseeable for decades; it would be automatically triggered by the emergence of a second nuclear power, friendly or unfriendly to the west. Iran is the unfriendliest possible, encouraging the widespread assumption that it alone is responsible for creating the crisis - and settling it. But is it?

It certainly isn't blameless. First, its nuclear arming would deal a major blow to an already fraying international non-proliferation regime. Second, it would involve a huge deceit. Third, the US divides actual or potential nuclear powers into responsible and irresponsible ones. Iran would be irresponsible, being already the worst of "rogue states".

Typically, a "rogue state", as well as being oppressive, ideologically repugnant and anti-American, unites an aggressive nature with disproportionate military strength, thereby posing a constant, exceptional threat to an established regional order. What could now more emphatically consign Iran to such company than its new president, with his calls to "wipe Israel off the map"?

Yet, in nuclear terms in the Middle East, Israel is the original sinner. Non- proliferation must be universal: if, in any zone of potential conflict, one party goes nuclear, its adversaries can't be expected not to. No matter how long ago it was, by violating that principle Israel would always bear a responsibility for whatever happened later. Second, its deceit was no less than Iran's, though, there being no non-proliferation treaty at the time, it was only the US it deceived. Mindful of what Israel's mendacity portended, the CIA warned in 1963 that, by enhancing its sense of security, nuclear capacity would make Israel less, not more, conciliatory to the Arabs; it would exploit its new "psychological advantages" to "intimidate" them.

Which, thirdly, points to the irresponsible use Israel has indeed made of it. Sure, it always justified it as its "Samson option", its last recourse against neighbours bent on destroying it. There is no such threat now; but if there was once, or will be again, the question is why.

A major part of the answer is that on most counts except hostility to the US Israel has always behaved like a "rogue state". It came into being as a massive disrupter of the established Middle East order, through violence and ethnic cleansing. Such a settler-state could only achieve true legitimacy, true integration into a still-to-be-completed new order, by restoring the Palestinian rights it violated in its creation and growth.

That, at bottom, is what the everlasting "peace process" is about. The world has a broad definition of the settlement lying at the end of it. It doesn't involve the full emancipation of an indigenous people that has been the norm in European decolonisation; only a compromise vastly more onerous for the defeated Palestinians than the Israelis.

But settlement never comes, because Israel resists even that compromise. Its nuclear power, on top of its already overwhelming conventional superiority, ensures that. Such irresponsible use of it is what Shimon Peres was alluding to when he said that "acquiring a superior weapons system would mean the possibility of using it for compellent purposes - that is, forcing the other side to accept Israeli political demands". Or what Moshe Sneh, a leading Israeli strategist, meant when he said: "I don't want the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to be held under the shadow of an Iranian nuclear bomb." As if the Arabs haven't had to negotiate under the shadow of an Israeli bomb these past four decades.

There are three ways the crisis can go. The first is that Israel insists on, and achieves, the unchallenged perpetuation of its "original sin". For it isn't so much "the world", as President Bush keeps saying, that finds a nuclear Iran so intolerable, but the world on Israel's behalf; not the risk that Iran will attack Israel that makes the crisis so dangerous, but that Israel will attack Iran - or that the US will take on the job itself. In effect, Israel's nuclear arsenal, or the protection of it, has become a diplomatic instrument against its benefactor.

t is a legacy of America's own "original sin", that first, reluctant acquiescence in a nuclear Israel, subsequently turned into uninhibited endorsement of it by seemingly ever more pro-Israeli administrations. So here is a superpower, wrote the US strategic analyst Mark Gaffney, so "blind and stupid" as to let "another state, ie Israel, control its foreign policy". And, in a brilliant study, he warned that a US assault on Iran could end in a catastrophe comparable to the massacre of Roman legions at Cannae by Hannibal's much inferior army. For in one field of military technology, anti-ship missiles, Russia is streets ahead of the US. And Iran's possession of the fearsome 3M-82 Moskit could turn the Persian Gulf into a death trap for the US fleet. And sure enough, from the Bush administration itself, the first hints have been coming that, given the regional havoc Iran could indeed wreak, there may be nothing the US can do to stop it going nuclear.

This points to a second way the crisis could go - with Israel obliged to renounce its monopoly and the Middle East entering a cold-war-style "balance of terror". It could be a stable one. Clearly, like Israel, the mullahs would make irresponsible, political use of their nukes. But, like Israel's, Iran's nuclear quest is essentially defensive, even if not in quite the same fundamentally "existential" sense. Nothing could have more convinced it of the need for an unconventional deterrent than the fate of that other "rogue state", Saddam's Iraq, which the US had no qualms about attacking because it didn't have one.

The third way - Iran's abandonment of its nuclear ambitions - would stand its best chance of being accomplished if Israel were induced to do likewise; not just because reciprocity is the essence of disarmament, but because it would signify a fundamental change in America's whole approach to the region.

And that might have positive effects beyond the nuclear. "There is only one way," said the Israeli military analyst Ze'ev Schiff, "to avoid a nuclear balance of terror: to use the time left, while we still have a monopoly in this field, to make peace ... In the framework of peace, a nuclear-free zone can be established." But that is the wrong way round.

To make peace, as the CIA foresaw, Israel doesn't need the intransigence that absolute security brings, but the spirit of compromise that a judicious dose of insecurity might. A utopian notion perhaps, with the world now so focused on the villainy of Iran - yet better than a US onslaught that would add so thick a layer to an already mountainous deposit of anti-western feeling that Israel could barely hope ever to win acceptance in the region.

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War Pimp Bolton: Look Past Security Council on Iran

AP Diplomatic Writer
Thu Apr 6, 4:04 PM ET

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration is considering diplomatic and economic options to deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons if diplomacy at the United Nations fails, and it envisions sanctions if Tehran won't back down, U.N. Ambassador John Bolton said Thursday.

"It would be, I think, simply prudent to be looking at other options," Bolton said at a breakfast meeting of the State Department Correspondents Association.
He said the United States could suspend import allowances for Iranian rugs and pistachios, which were relaxed years ago in hopes of stimulating small business in Iran, and consider a crackdown on alleged financial crimes similar to U.S. pursuit of alleged fraud by North Korea. There are steps other governments could take as well, Bolton said, including financial and travel restrictions.

The United States has had no diplomatic and few economic ties with Iran since the 1979 storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Bolton dangled the possibility, however, that Iran could improve its relations with the U.S. if it ended its alleged drive for weapons of mass destruction.

"The Iranian government ... can get out of the trap they've put themselves in by reversing the strategic decision to seek nuclear weapons, and the example that's out there of what lies in store for them is the case of Libya," Bolton said.

He said Libya three years ago made a "hardhearted, national interest calculation" that it would gain more by forswearing further nuclear weapons development and thereby "opened the possibility of substantially different relations with the United States and other countries."

If Iran followed the Libya model, "we'd be prepared to consider a new relationship with them, too," Bolton said. U.S. officials said last year they planned to re-establish full diplomatic relations with Libya by the end of 2005, but the plans stalled.

Bolton's Iranian counterpart, Ambassador Javad Zarif, contended in a New York Times op-ed piece Thursday that Iran is committed to nuclear nonproliferation and eager for talks.

"Pressure and threats do not resolve problems," the Iranian diplomat wrote. "Finding solutions requires political will and a readiness to engage in serious negotiations. Iran is ready. We hope the rest of the world will join us."

The United States accuses Iran of pursuing nuclear weapons under the cover of a legitimate civilian energy program, and has long favored using the punitive deterrent powers of the Security Council to bring international pressure to bear on the clerical regime.

The Iran case is now finally before the Security Council but Bolton did not sound confident the strategy will work.

He said the "obvious difficulty" represented by the three-week delay and hefty diplomatic muscle required to win a first, mild rebuke to Iran from the Security Council last month "says something about the difficulty of the road ahead."

Iran allies Russia and China opposed a tougher stance sought by Bolton and European diplomats but eventually signed on to a written demand that Iran comply with previous U.N. nuclear watchdog requirements for its disputed nuclear program. Russian and China are also on record opposing punitive sanctions for Tehran if it does not comply, although U.S. officials say they do not rule out getting some kind of sanctions approved in the future.

Bolton laid out what he called a "calibrated, gradual and reversible approach," that ratchets up diplomatic pressure on Iran at the Security Council.

Last month's "presidential statement" gives Iran 30 days to comply with directives from the International Atomic Energy Agency. If Iran refuses, the next step would be a Security Council resolution saying the same thing, but which Bolton said would be legally binding on Iran. It would probably carry another grace period for Iran to comply, he said.

If that failed, "then we will consider the next step, which could well be a ... resolution that imposes sanctions of some kind," Bolton said.

It is unclear whether Russia and China, permanent members of the Security Council that hold veto power, would agree to either resolution.

Iran denies it is building a bomb, but insists it must retain control of sensitive aspects of nuclear development that can be used either for energy or weaponry.

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Iran's Nukes: Are the U.S. and Europe Out of Sync?

Thursday, Apr. 06, 2006

The international community is united, as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says, in demanding that Iran refrain from building nuclear weapons. But behind the statements of common purpose, there is not nearly as much agreement on how to achieve that end as the U.S. would like to admit. That's because the Europeans, who are running the diplomatic process, are not only talking about threatening greater penalties, but also offering Iran more incentives, particularly security guarantees .

This carrot and stick approach may be standard diplomatic practice, but it raises an awkward question for an administration whose own de-facto Iran policy veers towards regime change. Almost every nation that backs the U.S. against Iran going nuclear would be equally adamant against any U.S. effort to force a change of regime in Tehran. The Europeans believe that regime change, although desirable, must occur as a result of internal pressure, because - as the nuclear standoff has shown - any external threat rallies even opponents of the mullahs behind their regime, and any attack on Iran would create chaos in the region.
Thus, while Secretary Rice was telling British audiences last week that military action "is not what is on the agenda now" but that President Bush "never takes any option off the table," her host and British counterpart Jack Straw has repeatedly and strenuously made clear that military action is "inconceivable."

Until now, the Bush administration and the Europeans have done their best to paper over the inherent conflicts in their respective positions. But that is fast becoming untenable: Security guarantees, after all, involve giving Tehran cast-iron promises that it will not be attacked and working to normalize relations with the regime, in order to remove any incentive it might have for creating a nuclear deterrent. The conflict in strategies was visible this week when administration officials rebuffed the suggestion by Germany, backed by Britain, that Washington hold direct talks with Tehran to break the nuclear deadlock.

The dynamic with Iran, in fact, is starting to look a lot like the diplomatic wrangling over that other notorious member of the "Axis of Evil," North Korea. In that on-again, off-again six-party negotiating process, which includes North Korea, South Korea, Russia, China, the U.S. and Japan, the consensus among everyone but the U.S. is that walking Pyongyang back across the nuclear threshold requires offering it security guarantees and direct talks with the U.S. Washington hawks have long balked at those conditions, but the agreement of principles concluded last September does, in fact, include a security guarantee from the U.S. in exchange for North Korea renouncing nuclear weapons. Those talks have remained deadlocked since last fall, but the suspicion that Washington is seeking the collapse of the regime in Pyongyang has resulted in an increasingly open split between the U.S. and South Korea, the democracy whose protection is the reason U.S. still has troops on the Korean peninsula.

Long before the current nuclear standoff heated up, this preference for regime change has caused the White House to duck opportunities for dialogue with Tehran. Lawrence Wilkerson, chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, says an Iranian offer of talks to address all U.S. concerns was rebuffed in 2003 at the behest of the regime-change faction of the Bush administration. Former Bush National Security Council official Flynt Leverett has confirmed this account, and warns that the administration lacks a serious Iran policy by virtue of President Bush's refusal to engage with a regime he considers fundamentally illegitimate. Everett notes: "Because of the administration's deliberate decision to rule out serious strategically grounded diplomacy with Iran on this issue, [Security Council action and a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities] are the only two options they've got, and neither is going to work."

The Europeans know that, which is why in the coming months they will insist, ever so delicately, that Iran be offered expanded incentives along with the threatened penalties. The really bad news for Washington hawks is that the only incentives that matter are those that can be offered by, you guessed it, the U.S. And if Washington balks at offering Tehran what most of the international community would regard as reasonable security guarantees, it won't only be Iran that finds itself isolated.

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Shocking Diebold conflict of interest revelations from secretary of state further taint Ohio's electoral credibility

By Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman
Online Journal Guest Writers
Apr 6, 2006

Ohio is reeling with a mixture of outrage and hilarity as Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell has revealed that he has owned stock in the Diebold voting machine company, to which Blackwell tried to award no-bid contracts worth millions while allowing its operators to steal Ohio elections. A top Republican election official also says a Diebold operative told him he made a $50,000 donation to Blackwell's "political interests."

A veritable army of attorneys on all sides of Ohio's political spectrum will soon report whether Blackwell has violated the law. But in any event, the revelations could have a huge impact on the state whose dubiously counted electoral votes gave George W. Bush a second term. Diebold's GEMS election software was used in about half of Ohio counties in the 2004 election. Because of Blackwell's effort, 41 counties used Diebold machines in Ohio's highly dubious 2005 election, and now 47 counties will use Diebold touch screen voting machines in the May 2006 primary, and in the fall election that will decide who will be the state's new governor.
Blackwell is the frontrunner for Ohio's Republican nomination for governor. The first African-American to hold statewide office, the former mayor of Cincinnati made millions in deals involving extreme right-wing "religious" radio stations.

As part of his campaign filings he has been required to divulge the contents of his various stock portfolios. Blackwell says that in the process he was "surprised" to learn he owned Diebold shares. According to central Ohio's biggest daily, the conservative Republican "Columbus Dispatch," Blackwell claims his multi-million-dollar portfolio has been handled "by a financial manager without his advice or review."

Blackwell says he gave verbal instructions to a previous fund manager about which stocks not to buy, but failed to do so when he brought in a replacement. He claims the new manager bought 178 Diebold shares in January 2005 for $53.67/share. He says 95 shares were sold sometime last year, and that the remainder were sold this week after Blackwell conducted an annual review of his portfolio. He says both sales resulted in losses.

Prior to the 2004 election, Blackwell tried to award a $100 million no-bid contract to Diebold for electronic voting machines. A storm of public outrage and a series of lawsuits forced him to cancel the deal. But a substantial percentage of Ohio's 2004 votes were counted by Diebold software and Diebold Opti-scan machines which frequently malfunctioned in the Democratic stronghold of Toledo. Many believe they played a key role in allowing Blackwell to steal Ohio's 20 electoral votes -- and thus the presidential election -- for Bush. Walden O'Dell, then the Diebold CEO, had pledged to "deliver" Ohio's electoral votes to Bush.

Blackwell has since continued to bring in Diebold machines under other multi-million dollar contracts. In 2005, while he owned Diebold stock, Blackwell converted nearly half Ohio's counties to Diebold equipment.

Those machines have been plagued by a wide range of problems, casting further doubt on the integrity of the Ohio vote count. A number of county boards of elections are trying to reject Diebold equipment. Two statewide referendum issues on electoral reform were defeated in 2005 in a vote tally that was a virtual statistical impossibility. The deciding votes were cast and counted on Diebold equipment.

In recent months, Blackwell has ordered all 88 county boards of elections to send into his office the memory cards that will be used in the primary election, in which Blackwell expects to win the gubernatorial race. There is no effective statewide monitoring system to protect those cards from being rigged.

Matt Damschroder, the Republican chair of the Franklin County (Columbus) Board of Elections, has also reported that a key Diebold operative told Damschroder he made a $50,000 contribution to Blackwell's "political interests" while Blackwell was evaluating Diebold's bids for state purchasing contracts. Blackwell denies the contribution was made to him.

Damschroder is former chair of the Franklin County GOP. He says former Diebold contractor Pasquale "Patsy" Gallina boasted of making the contribution to Blackwell. Damschroder himself has publicly admitted to personally accepting a $10,000 check from Pasquale, made out to the Franklin County GOP. That contribution was made while Damschroder was involved in evaluating Diebold bids for county contracts.

Damschroder was censured but not removed from office. On Election Day 2004, Franklin County voting officials told the Free Press that Blackwell and Damschroder were meeting with George W. Bush in Columbus. AP accounts place both Bush and Karl Rove unexpectedly in Columbus on Election Day. Damschroder has denied that he met personally with Bush, but refuses to clarify whether or not he was at GOP meetings with Bush in attendance on Election Day.

An eyewitness ally of Blackwell told a small gathering of Bush supporters, with a Free Press reporter present, that Blackwell was in a frenzy on Election Day, writing percentages and vote totals on maps of rural Republican counties, attempting to figure out how many votes, real or manufactured, Bush would need to overcome the exit poll results in Cleveland and Columbus.

Meanwhile Blackwell has run one of the most vicious primary campaigns ever seen in Ohio politics. A series of expensive television ads have assaulted Blackwell's GOP opponent, Attorney General Jim Petro, vehemently charging him with extreme corruption and dishonesty. GOP operatives fear Blackwell's attacks could shatter the party.

Now Blackwell's Diebold revelations have both Petro and the state's extremely feeble Democrats jumping for joy. Petro, who has a large portfolio of his own, says he will pursue the question of whether Blackwell has broken the law. "Considering Ken Blackwell's history with Diebold, I think this warrants further investigation to remove any hint of impropriety," says Petro campaign manager Bob Paduchik.

Democratic candidate Ted Strickland has reported no stock portfolio at all. "If [Blackwell] doesn't know what's going on with his own checkbook, why in the world would voters want him to be in charge of the checkbook as governor?" asks Democratic spokesperson Brian Rothenberg.

The common statewide wisdom is that "Ken Blackwell will never lose an election in which he is in charge of the vote count."

But Ohio Democrats never seriously questioned Blackwell's rigged 2004 vote count that put Bush back in the White House. They've mounted no serious campaign challenging Blackwell's handling of the tally in 2005. They've presented no plan for guaranteeing the integrity of the upcoming 2006 November election, which will again be run by Blackwell, even though he may be the GOP nominee.

Attorney-General Petro has become Blackwell's sworn enemy. A rugged campaigner with extensive statewide connections, it's not likely Petro would quietly accept an election being stolen from him. That might explain Blackwell's vehement attacks on his fellow Republican.

But having accused his cohort of widespread corruption, and with a long history of scornful contempt for all those who challenge him, Blackwell's own Diebold revelations have opened a Pandora's Box. What comes flying out could affect state and national politics for years to come.
Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of "How the GOP Stole America's 2004 Election and Is Rigging 2008". They are co-editors, with Steve Rosenfeld, of "What Happened in Ohio?" soon to be published by The New Press.

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Girl, 5, Forced To Apologize For Hugging Classmate

7:59 pm EDT April 5, 2006

MAYNARD, Mass. -- A family in Maynard is outraged after their 5-year-old daughter was forced to write a letter denouncing hugging after a classmate embraced her.

NewsCenter 5's Amalia Barreda reported that Brenda Brier and Michael Marino pulled their daughter, Savannah, out of school early Wednesday. The couple was angry after a meeting with officials at the Greenmeadow Elementary School in Maynard, where Savannah is in kindergarten.
At issue is a hug Savannah said she got on the playground from a friend named Sophie. Savannah hugged Sophie back. The hugs resulted in Savannah having to write a letter, complete with teacher corrections, that read, "I touch Sophie because she touch me and I didn't like it because she was hugging me. I didn't like when she hugged me."

"She said, 'I'm really sad that I got in trouble for hugging,'" Brier said.

"I can understand if boys are playing rough or kids are pulling each other around -- that's one thing. But when kids are being affectionate, I mean hugging, hey, they shouldn't be disciplined over it and they shouldn't be lying in letters making the kid say the opposite that they don't like to hug," Marino said.

School Superintendent Mark Masterson told NewsCenter 5 there was a "dispute of the facts between a hug and a lifting of a child off the floor." The superintendent said the school reported "one girl bear hugged another girl and lifted her off the ground. The aide who was monitoring told the teacher. The teacher asked several students to write a note to their parents and describe what happened."

Savannah said she did not lift her classmate off the ground.

"They're trying to accuse her now, basically," Brier said.

Savannah's parents said it should have never gone this far, and want an apology from the school. The family said they are so upset they'll start looking for a new school for their daughter to attend.

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Outsourcing US Missile Technology to China: The Saga of Magnequench

April 7, 2006

Magnequench is an Indianapolis-based company. It specializes in the obscure field of sintered magnetics. Essentially, it makes tiny, high-tech magnets from rare-earth minerals ground down into a fine powder. The magnets are highly prized by electronics and aviation companies. But Magnequench's biggest client has been the Pentagon.

The neodymium-iron-boron magnets made by Magnequench are a crucial component in the guidance system of cruise missiles and the Joint Direct Attack Munition or JDAM bomb, which is made by Boeing and had a starring role in the spring bombing of Baghdad. Indeed, Magnequench enjoys a near monopoly on this market niche, supplying 85 percent of the rare-earth magnets that are used in the servo motors of these guided missiles and bombs.

But the Pentagon may soon be sending its orders for these parts to China, instead of Indiana.
On September 15, 2004 Magnequench shuttered its last plant in Indiana, fired its 450 workers and began shipping its machine tools to a new plant in China. "We're handing over to the Chinese both our defense technology and our jobs in the midst of a deep recession," says Rep. Peter Visclosky, a Democrat from northern Indiana.

It gets stranger. Magnequench is not only moving its defense plants to China, it's actually owned by Chinese companies with close ties to the Chinese government.

Magnequench began its corporate life back in 1986 as a subsidiary of General Motors. Using Pentagon grants, GM had developed a new kind of permanent magnet material in the early 1980s. It began manufacturing the magnets in 1987 at the Magnequench factory in Anderson, Indiana.

In 1995, Magnequench was purchased from GM by Sextant Group, an investment company headed by Archibald Cox, Jr-the son of the Watergate prosecutor. After the takeover, Cox was named CEO. What few knew at the time was that Sextant was largely a front for two Chinese companies, San Huan New Material and the China National Non-Ferrous Metals Import and Export Corporation. Both of these companies have close ties to the Chinese government. Indeed, the ties were so intimate that the heads of both companies were in-laws of the late Chinese premier Deng Xiaopeng.

At the time of the takeover, Cox pledged to the workers that Magnequench was in it for the long haul, intending to invest money in the plants and committed to keeping the production line going for at least a decade.

Three years later Cox shut down the Anderson plant and shipped its assembly line to China. Now Cox is presiding over the closure of Magnequench's last factory in the US, the Valparaiso, Indiana plant that manufactures the magnets for the JDAM bomb. Most of the workers have already been fired.

"Archie Cox and his company are committing a criminal act," says Mike O'Brien, an organizer with the UAW in Indiana. "He's a traitor to his country."

It's clear that Cox and Sextant were acting as a front for some unsavory interests. For example, only months prior to the takeover of Magnequench San Huan New Materials was cited by US International Trade Commission for patent infringement and business espionage. The company was fined $1.5 million. Foreign investment in American high-tech and defense companies is regulated by the Committee on Foreign Investments in the United States (CFIUS). It is unlikely that CFIUS would have approved San Huan's purchase of Magnequench had it not been for the cover provided by Cox and his Sextant Group.

One of Magnequench's subsidiaries is a company called GA Powders, which manufactures the fine granules used in making the mini-magnets. GA Powders was originally a Department of Energy project created by scientists at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Lab. It was spun off to Magnequench in 1998, after Lockheed Martin took over the operations at INEEL.

In June 2000, Magnequench uprooted the production facilities for GA Powders from Idaho Falls to a newly constructed plant in Tianjin, China. This move followed the transfer to China of high-tech computer equipment from Magnequench's shuttered Anderson plant. According to a report in Insight magazine, these computers could be used to facilitate the enrichment of uranium for nuclear warheads.

GA Powders isn't the only business venture between a Department of Energy operation and Magnequench. According to a news letter produced by the Sandia Labs in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Sandia is working on a joint project with Magnequench involving "the development of advanced electronic controls and new magnet technology".

Dr. Peter Leitner is an advisor to the Pentagon on matters involving trade in strategic materials. He says that the Chinese targeted Magnequench in order to advance their development of long-range Cruise missiles. China now holds a monopoly on the rare-earth minerals used in the manufacturing of the missile magnets. The only operating rare-earth mine is located in Batou, China.

"By controlling access to the magnets and the raw materials they are composed of, US industry can be held hostage to Chinese blackmail and extortion," Leitner told Insight magazine last year. "This highly concentrated control-one country, one government-will be the sole source of something critical to the US military and industrial base."

Visclosky and Senator Evan Bayh asked the Bush administration to intervene using the Exon-Florio Amendment to the 1988 Defense Appropriation Act to pry the Chinese money out of the company and force Magnequench to keep its factories in Indiana.

There was precedent for just such a presidential move. In 1990, George H.W. Bush ordered the state-owned China National Aerospace and Export Company to divest its interest in Mamco Manufacturing of Seattle, reportedly because of concern that the Chinese firm could have use Mamco to acquire jet fighter engine technology. The directive came from Bush three months after CATIC had seized control of Mamco. When after six months the Chinese company refused to relinquish its interest in Mamco, Bush ordered the Treasury Department to place the company in receivership and barred the Chinese officials from having any access to its facilities.

Unlike his father, Bush 2 declined to respond to the pleas from Visclosky and Bayh. The Treasury Department, which could have intervened to stop the move, also refused to act. Visclosky says that he also contacted the Pentagon. Its procurement officials admitted to him that Magnequench was the only domestic supplier of the smart bomb magnets (Hitachi holds the other contract), but that it had no idea that company was owned by the Chinese or that it was packing up for Tianjin.

As the doors closed on its Valparaiso plant, a memo came from Magnequench executives advising that its HQ will be soon be relocated from Indianapolis to Singapore. No word on yet whether Cox is moving too.

And yes, when the Republicans made a mountain out of what turned out in the end to be a pretty small molehill concerning transfers of satellite technology to China in Clinton time, they said it might be grounds for impeachment. William Safire wrote lots of columns on the matter. Not a bleat from Safire now.

This article is excerpted from Jeffrey St. Clair's new book, Grand Theft Pentagon.

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Missing Candidate Baffles Police

ABC News
April 6, 2006

A massive search is under way for New Hampshire congressional candidate Gary Dodds, who disappeared without a trace following a single-car accident last night, New Hampshire state police officials told ABC News.

Dodds' wife, Cynthia, remained today at the scene of the accident, along the southbound side of New Hampshire's Spaulding turnpike, where state and local police and area fire departments have been searching with dogs, helicopters and marine patrol divers, senior campaign staffer Bonnie Winona said.

New Hampshire state police have issued a missing persons bulletin, a spokesman said.
The accident occurred near the Great Bay, an inland tidal estuary, Winona said.

Dodds, one of the Democratic challengers to U.S. Rep. Jeb Bradley, left a Democratic committee meeting in Somersworth, N.H., and was traveling to Portsmouth to meet with a campaign fiscal agent, with whom Dodds was to finish some federal election commission filings, Winona said.

"He never showed up for the [8:30 p.m.] meeting.

"Someone witnessed his car leaving Spaulding turnpike" and called Dover police, who showed up soon afterward but have still been unable to locate the congressional candidate, she said. "The weather conditions were not the best. It was a little slippery."

Winona ruled out the possibility that alcohol or drugs were involved in Dodds' disappearance.

"He is a totally clean-living guy," she said. "He doesn't drink or smoke or anything."

The candidate has pledged to walk the "entire [congressional] district to hear the concerns of the people that Jeb Bradley has forgotten about," according to Dodds' Web site.

Dodds is the chief financial officer of Accent Magazine and the vice chairman of the Rye, N.H., school board, according to his Web site. He and his wife have two daughters.

Dodds is described as 6 feet 3 inches tall, and weighing 180 pounds, with brown hair and blue eyes.

Anyone who witnessed the accident or has information about Dodds is asked to call New Hampshire state police at 603-679-3333.

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Bush picks former firefighter as FEMA chief

Thu Apr 6, 9:52 PM ET

WASHINGTON - President George W. Bush chose acting Federal Emergency Management Agency Director David Paulison on Thursday as permanent head of the embattled agency with hurricane season two months away.

Paulison, 59, a veteran firefighter, was named acting director of FEMA after Michael Brown resigned last September in the face of bitter complaints about the federal government's bungled response to Hurricane Katrina.
The nomination requires Senate confirmation.

At a news conference to introduce the nominee, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said a lot of people had been considered for the vacancy, but Paulison was the only one he wanted to recommend to Bush.

"I think it would be a mistake to suggest that there were people who were approached and asked to take the job and turned it down, because the decision about who I would recommend wasn't made until fairly recently," Chertoff told reporters.

The New York Times reported on Sunday that Bush was turning to Paulison after seven candidates for director or another top FEMA job pulled out of the running.

The candidates were said to be unconvinced the administration was serious about fixing FEMA or that there was enough time to get it done before Bush's second term ends in January 2009.

The Times said that of the 30 most senior jobs at FEMA, 11 were filled by officials appointed on an acting basis. It said Kentucky Republican Rep. Harold Rogers (news, bio, voting record), chairman of a House subcommittee that oversees the Homeland Security Department's budget, threatened last week to hold up action on the budget bill until the top jobs at FEMA were filled.

At the news conference, Chertoff announced three other senior FEMA appointments. He acknowledged "a number" of people were in jobs on an acting basis, but said he expected to fill those positions soon.

"We're on a path now to get about 95 percent of the vacancies filled in the department by June 1, which is kind of our target date," Chertoff said.

The hurricane season starts on June 1.

The agency faces heavy criticism for its rebuilding role after Katrina devastated New Orleans and killed more than 1,300 people.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said on Monday he would urge Chertoff to replace the FEMA team in charge of setting up travel-trailer villages that have sprung up to house residents whose homes were damaged.

The demand was sparked by a weekend fracas in which security guards threatened homeowners opposed to a temporary housing site.

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US Senate achieves breakthrough on immigration legislation

Fri Apr 7, 2:23 AM ET

WASHINGTON - The US Senate reached a breakthrough agreement on legislation that would grant legal residency status to millions of undocumented residents in the United States.

The 11th-hour legislation would allow many undocumented residents to remain in the United States, but would boot out hundreds of thousands of others.
"I'm pleased that Republicans and Democrats in the United States Senate are working together to get a comprehensive immigration bill," President George W. Bush said in a statement welcoming the accord.

At a press conference Thursday, Republican Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist also hailed the agreement, saying: "We've had a huge breakthrough ... that will lead us to the conclusion of passing a very important bill."

In a nod to conservatives concerned about security, the Senate bill also includes billions of dollars for new border patrol agents, and would slap tougher sanctions on employers who hire illegal workers, among other enforcement measures.

However, stalwart Republicans condemned the bill and vowed to defeat it.

"I do not believe a plan of this nature can pass the House," said Republican Representative Tom Tancredo, one of the most outspoken critics of immigration reform in Congress.

Tancredo called the Senate bill "miserable public policy."

Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, who also opposes the deal, said it defies logic to offer lenient immigration conditions to some undocumented workers and tougher terms to immigrants in the country for a shorter time who have committed the same infractions.

"Bifurcating how long you've broken the law, I don't think is the way to go," she said.

Other Republicans continued to denounce the bill as rewarding undocumented immigrants by providing them "amnesty," and vowed to try to change the legislation by amending it.

The measure crafted by Republican senators Chuck Hagel and Mel Martinez would allow undocumented residents who arrived in the United States five years ago or earlier to obtain legal status if they meet various requirements, including passing a criminal background check and having been employed in the United States for at least three of the previous five years.

Congressional officials estimate that about seven million people fall into this category.

Undocumented residents living in the United States for less than five years but more than two years could obtain a temporary work visa under the legislation, but they first must exit the country and would be fingerprinted and processed at a land port of entry.

These immigrants, numbering between 2.5 and 3.0 million, would be given priority in applying for US residency over future immigrants entering as temporary workers.

The between 1.0 and 1.5 million undocumented immigrants who have been in the United States for less than two years would be required to return to their countries of origin, and would receive no preferential treatment over other would-be emigrants to the United States.

Lawmakers said a vote on the Senate legislation could occur by late Friday -- just before Congress goes on a two-week break.

A fractured US legislature has debated immigration reform for weeks, while nationwide demonstrations have seen millions of people call for lenient reforms as Congress contends with how best to seal the lengthy southern border with Mexico and what to do with the estimated 11.5 million undocumented workers living in the United States.

Conservative Senator Sam Brownback called the roiling immigration debate "probably the most divisive issue in America today."

"I hope this compromise ends up bringing us together, and I believe it can," he said.

Before becoming law, the bill that the Senate is expected to approve must still be reconciled with a more draconian one passed by the US House of Representatives, which would have made it a felony to be an undocumented immigrant in the United States.

Many analysts said the debate goes to the heart of what it means to be an American in a country that has long prided itself on being a nation of immigrants.

The top Senate Democrat, Harry Reid, said the real breakthrough was for immigrants in his home state of Nevada and throughout the country who work low-wage jobs in pursuit of "the American dream."

"They're working in the kitchens in Las Vegas, cleaning the grease pits, they're parking cars," he said.

"These are jobs that they have wanted and wanted them badly enough to come to America, to leave their families, their homes, their churches, their schools, to come here and take a chance on the American dream."

Senators worked feverishly to reach a compromise before the two-week recess starts on April 7.

And although he hailed the accord, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said much work remains.

"We still have broken borders, ladies and gentlemen," he said. "The broken borders need to be fixed."

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Venezuela in Washington's Sights

by Salim Lamrani

Since early 2006, US officials have increased their verbal attacks against Venezuela. US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld compared President Hugo Chavez to Hitler in an insult that is not an isolated action and which was made following Pat Robertson's calls to assassinate the Venezuelan President. In the face of the left-oriented shift of Latin America's politics, the Bush administration seems to be determined to block the re-election of the Bolivarian president. It looks like the design of the FTAA, the dream of the White House, will only be a reality over the ashes of a Bolivarian counter-model that they need to destroy.
Washington's hostile policy towards the government of Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez gains increasingly worrying momentum. In a recent document, the Pentagon called the "resurgence of authoritarian and populist movement in some countries like Venezuela [a] source of political and economic instability". Such a statement is even more worrying, since the US Defence Department hardly ever cites countries in its strategic study (Quarterly Defence Review), published every four years; that department only limits itself to address general tendencies [1].

Some days before, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, had compared Hugo Chavez to Hitler before Washington's National Press Club: "In Venezuela, we have Chavez, who possesses lots of money that stem from oil. He was legally elected, as Hitler was. Then, he has consolidated his power and is now working along Fidel Castro, Mister Morales and others ", he said. [2]. "We have seen how some populist leaders have attracted the people in those countries, as well as elections such as that of Evo Morales in Bolivia, which are clearly worrying" he concluded [3].

Venezuela's response was not long awaited. Vice-president José Vicente Rangel strongly condemned Rumsfeld aggressive statements: "We are not willing to passively accept that our government [...] be attacked with impunity by people who are fully disqualified from the political, moral and ethical points of view, as the gang of the US Hitler, George Bush " [4].

In the same direction, the director of intelligence services John Negroponte, accused Venezuela of "launching a militant foreign policy in Latin America, which includes the supply of oil at preferential prices in exchange for allies". At the same time, he stigmatized the international TV channel Telesur, whose role is that of breaking the CNN supremacy in the continent. He told a senate committee that "Venezuela is the main challenge to security in the hemisphere" and that Washington's priority is to block at any price the re-election of Hugo Chavez in December, 2006. At last, he threatened Bolivia, which "continues to give ambiguous signs about its intentions" [5].

"The militant foreign policy" advocated by John Negroponte refers to Venezuela's solidarity cooperation, which allows many poor nations in the region to purchase fuel at preferential tariffs. The Prime Minister of Grenada, Keith Mitchell, signed an energy cooperation agreement with President Hugo Chávez, which stipulates the supply of 1,000 barrels of oil daily with a 50 percent discount over the market price. Venezuela has also send a group of military and civil engineers to Grenada in order to repair schools damaged by hurricanes. The integration model promoted by the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), fully contrary to the ultra-liberal and destruction-oriented Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), has strongly irritated the White House [6].

In the face of open threats by the Bush administration, Venezuela has decided to reinforce its defence capacity by purchasing fighter aircrafts in Spain. But, Washington has prohibited the José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero to sell Venezuela the military equipment, outfitted with US technology, since the total sale calculated in 2 billion dollars could "contribute to the destabilization of Latin America", according to Sean McCormack, spokesperson of the US State Department [7]. Also in that same direction, Brazil rejected the US prohibition by stating that it would proceed to sell 20 planes to Venezuela [8].

According to Washington, the sale of weapons to Venezuela would imply the risk of regional destabilization. McCormark explains that the "concerns focus on what we consider an exaggerated militarization of Venezuela" [9].
Meanwhile, the US company Lockheed Martin has just released several F-16 planes to Chile and it expects to send another eight of those planes to that country this year. Chile now possesses the most modern aircraft fleet in Latin America with that posing no inconvenience for the Bush administration, which is only obsessed about the progressive reforms undertaken by Caracas [10].

Along with the significant purchase of necessary weapons for the defence of his nation (100,000 infantry guns and 15 helicopters purchased in Russia), President Chávez has decided to create an army with one million volunteers in order to face and eventual US military invasion of Venezuela. The Bolivarian government has decided to follow the Cuban example in terms of its preparation for war. "Why did the gringos invade half of the world except Cuba? In Cuba all the people [are ready] and trained to defend each corner of their national territory and the Cuban Revolution", said Chávez [11].

The United States have also launched a campaign of espionage and promotion of internal subversion by using its embassy in Caracas, with the aim of destabilizing the country, which has increasingly experienced social advancements achieved by the Chávez government. "Some low-ranking officers used to provide the Pentagon with information", said the Venezuelan Vice-president. US military attaché John Correa, who had made contact with those officers to conspire against Venezuelan authorities, was expelled from the country [12]. As to the Venezuelan military, they were all tried for having cooperated with a foreign power [13].

In retaliation, Washington declared Jenny Figueredo Frias, head of the cabinet of Venezuelan ambassador to Washington Bernardo Alvarez, person non grata and, at the same time, admitted that it was an arbitrary measure: "This decision is in response to the expelling by Venezuela of Commander John Correa, naval attaché at the US embassy in Caracas", said the spokesperson of the US State Department [14].

Tony Blair, a loyal and unconditional ally of the Bush administration proved his full subordination to Washington during a weekly session of the British Parliament. Labor party parliamentarian Colin Burgon faced the Prime Minister: "I am sure that your share the satisfaction many labor party lawmakers feel about the left-oriented shift of Latin America [with the coming to power of ] governments that fight for the interests of the majority and not for the interests of a minority". Later, he asked Blair: "Would you agree that it would be bad for us to admit that our policy towards those countries, especially nations like Venezuela, be drawn up by the rightist republican agenda of the US government?" [15].

In a surprising way, Anthony Blair replied: "Up to certain extent", in an attempt to justify his statement by affirming that it was "important that the Venezuelan government should understand that if it wants the respect of the international community, it must abide by the rules of the international community". Evidently, we have to understand that "international community" here means "the United States", whose "rules" must be enforced with no discussion at all. For Prime Minister Blair, the sovereignty of Britain ends where US interests begin [16].

Washington's concern is currently based on Hugo Chávez, since he symbolizes Latin America's political renovation by using national resources in the benefit of less favoured social classes. The Venezuelan government has just approved an impressing salary increase for public officials, which ranges from + 34 percent to + 61,8 percent and that stands for a 47 percent average increase. The Venezuelan government also raised minimum salaries for private employees up to 15 percent. Since the year 2000, the minimum salary in Venezuela has been raised each year from 20 to 30 percent. All the population has been benefited with incomes stemming from the country's economic growth, which went up to 9,4 percent in 2005 [17].
In contrast, in France, the fifth World power with a highly praised social model, the salaries of public officials was only raised by 1 percent in 2005. Private sector wages registered a 0,6 percent increase in real terms (2,8 pecent increase minus 2,2 percent inflation). "21st Century socialism", promoted by President Chávez is not to be applied soon in France, where the government has undertaken a merciless anti-social policy since 2002 [18].
In the same way, one billion bolivares (Venezuelan currency) was destined to the "Barrio Adentro III" mission, a government-led free-of-charge and universal medical program. The money will allow the purchase of 30,932 medical equipment (ambulances and others). The fund, which stems from an oil surplus, is directly invested in the social sector [19].
The only-of-its-kind public health system developed in Venezuela thanks, among other factors to the assistance given by 15,000 Cuban doctors, has allowed for 163 million medical consultations; that is, 8 consultations per person. The "Barrio Adentro I" mission has saved 31,186 lives thanks to the setting up of 1,012 popular medical offices in the poorest regions, which will be joined by another 20, 359 similar facilities. The "Barrio Adentro II" mission has created 100 integral diagnosis centers, which provide comprehensive medical assistance; while another 500 similar centres are being built throughout the country. At last, with the implementation of the "Miracle Mission" led by Cuba, more than 176,000 Venezuelans who had lost their sight as a consequence of cataracts, were submitted to free-of-charge eye surgery by Cuban specialists [20].

Unemployment has continue to decrease in Venezuela from 13,2 percent in June 2005 down to 11,4 percent in December that year. The efficient government policy has allowed 367,199 people to find a job [21].

UNESCO recognized the outstanding social achievements of the Bolivarian Revolution by awarding President Hugo Chávez the José Martí International Prize. The distinction stresses the efforts made by Chávez in favour of Latin American and Caribbean unity, as well as the preservation of regional identities, traditions and cultures [22]. In effect, Venezuela provides its neighbors with oil at preferential tariffs, as well as some US zones, such as Vermont, Maine and Rhode Island. Inhabitants of those regions, abadonmed by the Bush administration, will be able to purchase fuel at 40-percent subsidized tariffs by Venezuela's Citgo subsidiary. "That will translate into the saving of some million dollars for the people of Vermont", said Erin Campbell, spokesman of Vermont [23].

On February 6, the Bush administration released its budget project for 2007, which includes significant increase in funds for the defence, internal security and foreign affairs. The US defence budget surpasses all records with a total of 439,3 billion dollars; that translates into a 6,9-percent rise respect to last year. At the same time, the budgets dedicated to health, justice, education and other sectors were drastically decreased. For instance, 141 social programs will undergo reductions or be interrupted. A 65-billion-dollar reduction is expected to affect the Medicare program, which provides medical attention to the elderly or physically impaired people. Pensions are also be deeply affected. Two contrary models of society face each other, the one in Caracas and the other in Washington. In the first the wellbeing of the population is at the center of the national program, while in the other, the development of the military industrial complex continues to be the absolute prioritiy [24].

While the Bush administration is willing to do just anything in order to avoid a new electoral victory by Hugo Chávez on December 3, 2006, Venezuela continues to implement reforms aimed at further improving the standard of living of the population. Its prestige in the continent is proportionally direct to the twilight of US influence in the region. The reason for that is quite simple: while Venezuela has destined 28 billion dollars in terms of external assistance for its neighbors for a seven-year term-an annual average of 3,6 billion dollars-, the United States has announced a massive decrease of its contribution for the year 2007, with a 28,5-percent fall in the assistance for the development of Latin America and the Caribbean, a 10-percent fall in medical assistance and an 11-pecent decrease of its financial contribution to the Organization of American States (OAS). Messages also opposed each other in this area: Caracas contributes 3,6 billion dollars annually as part of its assistance for Latin America, while Washington expects to decrease its 1,2 billion-dollar economic support [25].

The Bolivarian government successfully challenges the neo-liberal doctrine, which is unsustainable in social, economic and political terms and that explains the anger of the White House. Despite several aggressions and threats coming from the U.S., President Chávez launched signs of opening to Washington by saying: "If they change that attitude, we will respond in the same way. Everything can be improved [...] if they show respect for our sovereignty, respect for our decisions". However, is not very probable that reason and dialog lie in the heart of the belligerent Bush administration [26].

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Around the World

Hundreds more arrested in Nepal protests

Fri Apr 7, 4:27 AM ET

KATHMANDU - Hundreds more protesters have been arrested in Nepal on the second day of a general strike amid violent demonstrations demanding King Gyanendra restore democracy.

"At least 100 people from Nepali Congress and 100 from the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) were arrested Friday morning" in the capital, said Nepali Congress Party secretary Shovarkar Parajuli.

He vowed the protests, which have seen several hundred people arrested over the past two days, would go on.
A demonstration in Patan, which adjoins Kathmandu, turned violent Friday with more than 100 protesters throwing stones and bricks at police who responded with tear gas and baton charges.

Some protesters were badly beaten as they were arrested, AFP reporters at the scene said.

The streets of the capital were deserted again Friday apart from the heavy security presence and sporadic protests usually by small numbers of people.

Defying a ban on public meetings, opposition parties have called a four-day general strike against King Gyanendra's power grab over a year ago and have paralysed the Himalayan kingdom.

The royal government has locked up dozens of political leaders and arrested hundreds of people this week for breaking the ban.

"This is the final push of the movement. The days of the king are numbered," said Sova Sapkota, an activist with the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) as she prepared to take part in a protest in the capital.

"We will continue to defy the ban order," she said.

Newspapers issued ominous warnings about the government crackdown.

"The present aggressive course of the government is certain to escalate conflict and deepen instability further. Sooner or later the government will have to agree to a political solution," the Himalayan Times said in a Friday editorial.

International criticism of the government has mounted, with the United States, the European Union, India and Japan all expressing concern and urging the government to release those detained.

A major protest was set for the capital Kathmandu on Saturday amid rising anger over the deteriorating situation since the king seized absolute power in February 2005.

The action was called by sidelined opposition parties and has the support of rebel Maoists who have formed a loose alliance with political leaders to restore democracy.

King Gyanendra took over saying the politicians had failed to tackle a Maoist insurgency which has raged since 1996 and left around 12,500 people dead.

Police said late Thursday that some 200 people had been arrested at several demonstrations during the day, but political activists said that at least 300 had been detained while a UN rights body put the tally at 160.

"Our teams... have not been able to cover all demonstrations and all arrests. We can verify from our own monitoring over 160 arrests on Thursday," said Kieran Dwyer of the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Despite the tough stance taken by authorities -- demonstrators said one protester died in southeast Nepal Thursday after being beaten by police, who said the man had died of a heart attack -- the strike and protests are set to continue.

"Our movement will not stop until complete democracy is restored in the country and we are confident that people will actively participate in our protests," said Parajuli of the Nepali Congress Party.

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Suicide blast at Afghan British base, 2 hurt: police

April 7, 2006

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - A suicide car-bomber rammed a vehicle leaving a British military base in Afghanistan on Friday in the first suicide attack aimed at British forces stationed in the volatile south, police said.

Provincial police chief Abdur Rahman said two British soldiers were wounded in the blast just outside the base in Lashkar Ghar, capital of the southern province of Helmand, said

The suicide bomber was killed, he said.
A British military spokesman said he could not confirm that two soldiers had been wounded and referred questions to the U.S. military. The U.S. military said it would be releasing a statement shortly.

Taliban insurgents fighting to expel foreign troops and overthrow the Western-backed government have unleashed a wave of violence in recent weeks, including attacks on military bases, ambushes and roadside and suicide bombings.

British forces are spearheading an expansion of a
NATO-led peacekeeping force into the Afghan south, as the United States prepares to trim its force in Afghanistan and hand over responsibilities to fellow NATO members.

British soldiers have been arriving in Lashkar Ghar over recent weeks to prepare for a full deployment of 3,300 troops in the province, which is also Afghanistan's main opium-growing region.

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Russia buys water cannon to battle G8 protesters

Fri Apr 7, 3:53 AM ET

MOSCOW - Russia has bought a fleet of Israeli water cannon to douse anti-globalization protesters when second city St Petersburg hosts the Group of Eight summit this summer, a newspaper reported on Friday.

Restrictions on foreigners traveling to Russia and tight security at the July 15-17 summit make it unlikely there will be a repeat of the noisy protests seen at previous G8 gatherings. But Russian police are taking no chances.
"A consignment of these vehicles has been bought on the eve of the ... St Petersburg G8 summit," Nezavisimaya Gazeta quoted Vladimir Golubyev, deputy head of the city's riot police, as saying.

"Vehicles like these are already used in Europe, for example against anti-globalization protesters during mass disturbances," he said. "It is a very effective piece of kit."

He did not say how many water cannon had been bought or how much they cost.

President Bush will lead a roster of world leaders arriving in Russia for the summit. Russia is chairing the group of wealthy nations for the first time.

The summit is a matter of personal prestige for Russian President
Vladimir Putin. He is a St Petersburg native and has lavished state funds on sprucing up his hometown.

Authorities said last month they would for the first time in Russia be deploying unmanned drones to patrol the airspace over the city during the summit.

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Hong Kong customs continue investigation of seized MiG-29

06/ 04/ 2006
RIA Novosti

XIANGANG, Hong Kong - Customs officials in Hong Kong said Thursday they are continuing to investigate a Russian-made MiG-29 fighter plane allegedly being shipped by a Ukrainian firm to a U.S. company.

"We do not have evidence so far indicating that the fighter was being smuggled," a customs official told RIA Novosti.

The official said the plane - missing engines, ammunition, and "some other parts" - was discovered among containers and goods during a routine customs check on board a ship traveling from Ukraine to the United States.
The ship's owners had failed to include the aircraft in a special import license, the official said, and the Hong Kong authorities have impounded it pending completion of an investigation.

Ukraine's defense ministry earlier denied any connection with the aircraft.

Ukrspetsexport, Ukraine's sole weapons exporter, said it had sold the MiG-29 to a U.S. company as a museum exhibit or for scrap.

"This plane was sold in 2005 as a museum exhibit," a spokesperson said. "That is why it has been stripped of all weaponry and cannot be used as a combat aircraft."

The seizure is not the first time Soviet- and Russian-made military aircraft have been confiscated in Hong Kong, a special administrative region that enjoys a relatively large degree of autonomy.

In 2000, five Russian fighters being sent to the China Aviation Industry Supply and Marketing Corporation were confiscated over incorrect paperwork.

Under Hong Kong legislation, the maximum punishment for violation of customs regulations is a fine of 500,000 Hong Kong dollars (about $62,000) and a two-year prison term.

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France seeks exit strategy as youth job law talks wind up

April 7, 2006

PARIS - France's ruling party held a final day of talks with unions on Friday over a divisive youth jobs reform, as business leaders called for a rapid end to the crisis to avoid harming the French economy.

Unions and student groups - in a position of strength after two months of demonstrations that have drawn millions into the street - have threatened more mass protests unless the measure is abrogated by the end of next week.
President Jacques Chirac has already effectively suspended the contested First Employment Contract (CPE), asking the ruling Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) to draw up a new law after consulting leaders of the protest movement.

Several commentators said Chirac's government appeared to have all but given up on the youth contract, which makes it easier to fire under-26 year-olds, but was looking for a way to repeal it without losing face.

"How to come up with a measure that looks, tastes and acts like an abrogation, but is not called an abrogation?" summed up an editorial in the left-wing Liberation newspaper.

UMP lawmakers were Friday wrapping up three days of meetings with unions and student groups, as well as the MEDEF employers' association and the CGPME small business federation, before deciding on the contents of the new law.

One union, Solidaires, said after meeting the UMP that the party "understood the urgency" of the situation, but that no announcement would be made before Monday.

MEDEF head Laurence Parisot warned Friday that the protest movement - in which students have targeted transport and industry - risked harming the French economy.

"We must do everything to quickly end this crisis, which is costing our country dearly," Parisot told France 2 television. "It is time to end this colossal disruption, which harms not only our image but our very social fabric."

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin's authority has been badly undermined by the labour conflict, and his chances as a presidential candidate all but destroyed, although on Thursday he ruled out resigning over the crisis.

Humiliatingly for Villepin, responsibility for negotiating a way out of the crisis has been handed to his powerful rival, UMP chief and Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

Commentators say that many supporters of Sarkozy in the UMP are angry at Villepin's handling of the reform and feel little attachment to the CPE.

On Friday, former minister Roselyne Bachelot - a Sarkozy ally and senior UMP official - became the latest party figure to call openly for the CPE to be scrapped.

"Speaking in my own name, I want an abrogation, so that we can put this behind us," she said on Canal Plus television.

Conceived as a tool against youth unemployment, which runs at 22 percent in France, the CPE is a contract for under 26-year-olds that can be terminated by the employer without explanation during a two-year trial period.

It provoked a massive backlash, with Villepin accused of trampling on hard-won labour rights, and a sometimes violent protest movement in which more than 3,500 people have been arrested.

Students have been staging wildcat protests to keep up the pressure on the government - blocking two factories belonging to the aircraft manufacturer Airbus on Thursday - but there were signs of the movement fizzling out.

Friday marks the start of the academic holidays in around a third of the country, with other regions to follow, and there are mounting calls for work to resume at disrupted schools and universities in time for end-of-year exams.

Wildcat protests continued in some areas, however, such as in Nantes in the west, students blocked bus and tramway depots for several hours.

In Le Havre in the north, around 400 students occupied the offices of a UMP deputy before heading to the courtroom and city hall to press their demands.

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Driver rams car into protesting French students

April 7, 2006

PARIS - A driver rammed into a group of French students protesting in central Paris against the government's youth jobs law on Friday, injuring nine people, police said.

Four students were knocked down and one of them was dragged along several metres, according to an AFP photographer at the scene.
The protestors were crossing Boulevard Saint Germain, south of the River Seine, after staging a rally outside the Sorbonne University in protest at the government's unpopular youth job reform.

Police chased and stopped the driver, ordering him out of his car, which was immediately set upon and overturned by angry students.

Students have been carrying out blockades of roads, rail traffic and industrial sites across France to force the government to repeal its First Employment Contract, which makes it easier to fire under-26-year-olds.

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Mother Nature Strikes Back

Wildfires Scorch 27,000 Acres in Texas

Associated Press
Fri Apr 7, 3:49 AM ET

AMARILLO, Texas - The parched Texas Panhandle apparently survived another wildfire scare, but forecasters predicted dangerous conditions in other parts of the state Friday.

Wildfires fueled by steady 40 mph winds scorched 27,000 acres Thursday and destroyed at least nine homes while forcing the evacuation of two small towns about 65 miles east of Amarillo.
The roughly 600 residents of Lefors and Bowers City were allowed to return home in the evening and lighter winds helped firefighters contain most of the more than two dozen blazes, officials said.

No injuries were reported.

"You can call that a bullet dodged," said Texas Department of Public Safety spokesman Wayne Beighle.

Higher humidity and slightly calmer winds were forecast for the Panhandle as a cold front moves in Friday. But the fire danger was expected to shift as windy, dry conditions move into a large circular area from the Dallas-Fort Worth area to western Texas and back toward San Antonio, the Texas Forest Service said.

"With the fire weather we're expecting again, people just need to avoid any activity that could ignite a wildfire," said Paul Hannemann of the Forest Service.

Fires also burned Thursday in the western Texas counties of Crane, Upton, Glasscock and Howard, near the Big Spring and Midland-Odessa areas. But Panhandle residents still skittish from March fires that burned nearly a million acres and killed 11 people faced the biggest threats again.

The largest blaze - on about 14,000 acres north of Amarillo - threatened but ultimately did not damage a natural gas plant, Texas Forest Service spokeswoman Traci Weaver said.

Officials temporarily closed several roads because high winds were blowing dust and smoke. A wind gust of 70 mph toppled an 18-wheeler on a rural highway, Beighle said.

Winds also blew ash left by last month's fires, said Matthew Kramar, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Amarillo.

One fire that started in the Texas Panhandle burned across the state line and reached a sparsely populated area in western Oklahoma, officials said.

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4.2 earthquake rattles San Luis Obispo County

Cicero A. Estrella
Thursday, April 6, 2006

A 4.2-magnitude earthquake rolled through San Luis Obispo County on Thursday but didn't appear to cause significant damage.

The temblor occurred at 6:06 p.m. at a depth of 5.5 miles and was centered about 8 miles northeast of San Simeon and 12 miles north of Cambria, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

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Strong earthquake near Fiji


An earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale shook the Pacific Ocean seabed near Fiji Friday, but there were no report of damage or injuries and no tsunami warning issued.

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Emergency declared as floodwaters threaten outback

April 7, 2006

CANBERRA - A state of emergency was declared in parts of Australia's remote Northern Territory on Friday where floodwaters forced the evacuation of hundreds in the outback town of Katherine.

About a quarter of the town of about 2,000 people was inundated, with water lapping at the rooftops of some homes.

"Due to the extent of flooding throughout the region, extraordinary measures are required in order to allow police and counter-disaster authorities to do their job as effectively as possible," Northern Territory Police Minister Paul Henderson told reporters.

The emergency powers, in place for at least the next two days, allow authorities to force the evacuation of those in danger and to take over government and private resources.
Officials later said that the floodwaters of the Katherine River might soon recede after threatening to peak more than 19 meters (62 feet) above the riverbed after days of monsoon rains.

"We don't know what we are going to face when the river does back down," Henderson said.

About 600 people were evacuated to two schools in Katherine on Thursday, while another 200 residents of the nearby Jilkminggan community were also evacuated by boat.

Katherine is about 300 km (185 miles) south of the tropical city of Darwin.

"We've been very lucky that there have been no injuries or deaths," emergency official Kate Vanderlaan told reporters in Katherine.

Among the luckiest were three boys rescued in Katherine late on Thursday after being stuck up a tree.

The boys had yelled for help for most of Thursday afternoon before they were rescued by townspeople in boats using shovels as paddles.

One of the boys, an unidentified 16-year-old, required treatment for minor lacerations to his shoulder after he was bitten by a freshwater crocodile.

"During the rescue it had a bit of a nibble," Vanderlaan said.

In 1998, the Katherine River burst its banks when it reached a record peak above 20 meters (66 feet), forcing half of the town's population to flee their homes, after Cyclone Les dumped more than 600mm (24 inches) of rain.

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3 Die After Falling Into Volcanic Fissure

April 7, 2006

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. - Three members of a ski patrol were killed when two plunged into a volcanic fissure at the Mammoth Mountain resort and the third fell trying to rescue them, a resort official said.

Four other would-be rescuers were hospitalized for exposure to carbon dioxide and were doing well late Thursday, said Rusty Gregory, chief executive officer of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area.
The Mono County coroner has not determined whether the ski patrol members died from the 21-foot fall or from inhaling toxic fumes.

The victims were part of a four-man team inspecting the mountain after heavy snowstorms and fencing off the rock's gap, Gregory said. The snow collapsed under two patrollers and they fell into the fissure on the 11,053-foot peak in the Eastern Sierra.

"It's likely the heat from the gas vent eroded the snow and didn't support the weight of the patrollers working on the fence," he said.

The other two patrollers saw their colleagues fall and came to help, but one of them also fell in, Gregory said.

The fourth person used a rope to lower himself into the hole and was overcome by gas, but three other responders pulled him out, he said. That patroller survived.

The three who died had multiple years of experience, the most senior with more than 20 years, and they were working carefully because of the heavy snow, Gregory said.

"It's not like they were out there cowboying," he said.

The resort and local officials did not release names of the victims.

One of the dead, however, was identified as Walter Rosenthal, a researcher at the University of California, Santa Barbara, who jumped in to help his fellow patrollers, said UCSB spokesman Paul Desruisseaux.

Rosenthal, who was in his 40s, worked at the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Laboratory in Mammoth Lakes and was an expert in snow hydrology and remote sensing of snow. He was also identified as the snow and avalanche analyst for Mammoth Mountain.

The role that gas might have played in the deaths was uncertain, but Mammoth Lakes Mayor Rick Wood said a police detective told him that "the level of carbon monoxide inside this cavity was extremely high."

Gregory said there were no recent increases in gas release.

The mountain, about a six-hour drive north of Los Angeles, is popular with skiers from Southern California. The peak towers over a dramatic landscape in a volcanically active region, but the region has been quiet for six years, said Dave Hill, a scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park.

The accident was not related to any volcanic activity, he said.

It was the latest in a string of accidents at Mammoth, where four skiers have died in a season marked by a record 52 feet of snowfall since October. The latest deaths quickly became the talk of the slopes and around this close-knit community of 7,600 residents.

"It's just guys doing a job and it's just an accident," said Shon Eastridge, a gas station clerk. "They were just trying to protect other people's lives and they lose their own."

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No more Hurricane Katrinas

By Eliott C. McLaughlin
Friday, April 7, 2006

After a 2005 hurricane season that ravaged the Caribbean and the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, five storm names were retired Thursday -- but don't expect to see their jerseys in the rafters they left strewn across Cuba, Mexico, Texas, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana.

It is a far more dubious distinction.

"Unfortunately, you need a storm to hit and cause a considerable amount of destruction for it to be retired," said Chris Vaccaro, a spokesman with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The names Dennis, Katrina, Rita, Stan and Wilma will never grace a hurricane again, according to a committee of the World Meteorological Organization, which retires storm names out of sensitivity to the victims, and for historical, scientific and legal purposes as well.

Hurricane names are recycled every six years. Replacing Katrina and the other retirees in 2011 will be Don, Katia, Rina, Sean and Whitney, according to an NOAA news release.

When a storm causes widespread destruction or loss of life, its name is retired, not only to avoid reminding the victims of the horrors they experienced but also to keep the record straight.

It's not likely that a weak storm that swirls harmlessly in the Atlantic before fizzling will be referenced in the future, but once a large storm ravages a coast, its name becomes infamous, Vaccaro said.

"There will be only one Hurricane Andrew," he said, referring to the Category 5 storm that slammed into south Florida in 1992, causing $26.5 billion in damage and killing 26 people in the United States and Bahamas.

The retirement of five storm names speaks to the severity of the 2005 hurricane season, which saw an unprecedented 27 named storms and 15 hurricanes. Never have five storm names been retired in one season, Vaccaro said.

Since 1953, when tropical cyclones were first assigned monikers, 67 storm names have been retired. Thirteen percent of those have come in the last two seasons.

Four storm names were retired in 1955, 1995 and 2004, Vaccaro said, noting that Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne earned the distinction last year.

The 2005 season fell one shy of witnessing the most major hurricanes, classified as having winds of more than 111 mph, Vaccaro said. That was behind the 1950 season, which had eight major hurricanes, according to the NOAA.

But the storm doesn't necessarily have to be a major one to have its name retired, Vaccaro said. Tropical Storm Allison, which never reached hurricane status, had its name retired after it dumped more than 3 feet of rain on the port of Houston, Texas, over five days in 2001.

Here's a look at this year's retirees:

-Hurricane Dennis crossed Cuba in early July with winds of about 140 mph. It made landfall on Santa Rosa Island, Florida, on July 10 with winds estimated at 120 mph. At least 54 deaths have been attributed to Dennis, including 15 in the United States.

-Katrina is considered one of the deadliest and costliest hurricanes in U.S. history, with damages exceeding $50 billion and about 1,300 deaths. (In 1900, a hurricane in Galveston, Texas, killed 8,000; and in 1928, a hurricane hit Lake Okeechobee in Florida and killed 1,836, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.) Katrina first struck near Miami, Florida, on August 24 before making landfall in Buras, Louisiana, five days later with top winds of 125 mph.

-Rita struck southwestern Louisiana near the Texas border with winds of 115 mph on September 24. It had weakened significantly since being measured as a Category 5, with 180 mph winds, as it made its way between Cuba and the Florida Keys to the Louisiana coast. Nonetheless, its storm surge -- joined by heavy wind, rain and tornadoes -- left a swath of destruction from east Texas to Alabama.

-Stan dumped torrential rains on Central America and Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula, killing as many as 2,000 people. Stan was a tropical storm when it hit the peninsula, but had escalated into a Category 1 by the time it made landfall October 4 about 90 miles southeast of Veracruz, Mexico.

-Wilma turned into a Category 5 storm, with 185 mph winds, over the Caribbean Sea, registering the lowest-ever recorded central pressure of any storm in the Atlantic. Though it dwindled to a Category 4, it still devastated the Yucatan Peninsula and later raced ashore October 24 in Cape Romano, Florida, with winds estimated at 120 mph.

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Online Tour Of 1906 San Francisco Earthquake Launched

Apr 07, 2006

San Francisco - A computer-generated recreation of the seismic pounding taken by San Francisco during the devastating 1906 earthquake was launched online Thursday by the US Geological Survey.

Simulations of earth shaking and tectonic plate shifting were put on display along with images of the damage inflicted on the city by the historic temblor that struck one hundred years ago this month.
The virtual tour used geographic mapping by Google Earth to start with a view from space and swoop in on the 300-mile (483-kilometer) rupture along the San Andreas Fault that caused the 1906 earthquake.

"You watch it on a screen and zoom along on a map," said Leslie Gordon of the survey. "We are using the centennial to remind people they live in earthquake country and need to be prepared."

"Some people can be told, or read it and it doesn't sink in until they visualize it."

There was a 62 percent chance of another major earthquake occurring in the San Francisco area within the next 30 years, according to Gordon.

"It is all lessons learned for today," Gordon said of the presentation viewable online here.

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Provoking War With Palestine

Hamas ready to live 'side by side' with neighbours

By Nasser Abu Bakr
MIddle East Online

Palestinian FM sends letter to Annan referring to 'two state solution' which consequently recognizes Israel.

The Hamas-led Palestinian government is ready to live "side by side" with all its neighbours, the foreign minister said in a letter to the UN Secretary General Tuesday.

The letter from Mahmud al-Zahar also referred to a "two state solution" for the Middle East conflict, an outcome that would require recognition of Israel, a state which the radical Islamist group denies has a right to exist.

"We are looking for freedom and independence side by side with our neighbours and we are ready for serious discussions with the quartet," said a copy of the letter to UN chief Kofi Annan.

The quartet of the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and the United States, are the sponsors of the stalled Middle East peace process and the drafters of the roadmap seeking to create a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

"We look forward to living in peace and security, as all countries in the world, and that our people enjoy freedom and independence side-by-side with all our neighbours in this holy place," the text added.

Islamist movement Hamas, whose first government was sworn in last week, has carried out scores of suicide bombings in Israel and is officially committed to armed struggle to end Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Its charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state and the establishment of a Palestine on land today incorporated in modern Israel.

Yet the copy of the letter referred to the "two-state solution" to the Middle East conflict and said the Hamas-led government was committed to opening peace talks with the international community.

"Israeli procedures in the occupied territories will put an end to all hopes to reach a final settlement based on the two-state solution," it said.

An official in Zahar's office in Gaza City, where the Hamas leader is based, denied that the letter included any sense of recognising the Jewish state or its right to exist.

"Zahar sent a letter to Annan but he did not recognise Israel or make any mention of anything related to Israel's right to exist," he said.

Zahar's letter reiterated previous calls from Hamas for peace talks with the international community, although the radical Islamist faction has refused to renounce violence, explicitly recognise Israel or previous peace agreements.

"Our government is serious about working with the quartet," it said.

"Our government is ready for serious discussions and to work with the United Nations and with the entire international community to strengthen security, sovereignty, peace and independence in our region based on just resolutions.

Comment: So there ya have it, over and done with. Hamas is ready to seek peace, to recognise Israel, so no need to alienate them and push them back towards violence, right?...

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EU suspends aid to Hamas, Palestinians

BBC News

Hamas, and its PM Ismail Haniya, took office last month
The European Commission has temporarily halted direct aid payments to the Palestinian government, which is now led by militant group Hamas.

European Union foreign ministers are due to meet next week to discuss what to do about future aid.

The EU is the largest donor to the Palestinian Authority, which is reliant on foreign aid.

The EU has been threatening to cut off payments unless Hamas renounces violence and recognises Israel.

See how the EU and US fund the Palestinians

A spokesman for the Hamas government said the decision to suspend aid was a form of "blackmail" that would harm the Palestinian people.

A European Commission spokeswoman, Emma Udwin, told reporters in Brussels that Hamas had not yet met the international community's conditions.

She said the Commission was adopting "a policy of maximum prudence" so as not to pre-judge the European ministers' discussions in Luxembourg on Monday.

Cash-strapped government

Hamas, which took office last week under Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, has already said it would turn to the Islamic world to make up any shortfall in funding from the West.

The Palestinian Authority has received about $600m (500m euros; £340m) a year in aid from the EU since its foundation in 1994, with another $400m coming from the US.

Ms Udwin said some $36.9m in aid from the European Commission was at stake in the immediate future.

The suspension of payments does not affect humanitarian aid sent to non-governmental organisations or to United Nations relief agencies.

The EU's yearly contributions include $262m in donations from individual member states. That money is not affected by Friday's announcement.

The BBC's diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says the decision by the European Commission represents a clear warning to Hamas of the consequences of its failure to abide by the demands of the international community.

The PA is already facing a financial crisis. Mr Haniya said earlier this week that his government had inherited a finance ministry that had no money left, yet had mounting debts.

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Israeli soldier murdered Briton

Thursday 06 April 2006

An award-winning British cameraman shot dead in Gaza by an Israeli soldier was murdered, a London inquest has found.

James Miller was shot by a member of the Israeli Defence Forces in May 2003 in the Rafah refugee camp while making a documentary about Palestinian children caught up in fighting with Israel.

On Thursday, the jury spokeswoman told St Pancras Coroner's Court in London: "Based on the evidence laid before us, we, the jury, unanimously agree that this was an unlawful shooting with the intention of killing James Miller. Therefore we can come to no other conclusion than that Miller was indeed murdered.

"It is a fact that from day one of this inquest, the Israeli authorities have not been forthcoming in the investigation into the circumstances surrounding Miller's death."
Unlawful killing

Andrew Reid, the coroner, had told the jury that the only verdict it could return was one of unlawful killing, but that it had to determine whether Miller was murdered or the victim of manslaughter.

Witnesses had told the inquest that Israeli troops shot Miller at close range even though he wore journalist insignia and waved a white flag.

Last April the Israeli army cleared an officer, identified only as Lieutenant H, of any wrongdoing in Miller's death, drawing an official protest from the British government.

In a statement, the Israeli embassy in London said it regretted Miller's death.

The statement said: "After a very thorough investigation using laboratories in Israel and abroad and after reviewing all the available evidence, it was not possible to reach a reliable conclusion that could provide a basis for proceedings under criminal law."


Miller's film Death in Gaza, completed by colleagues after his killing, shows the 34-year-old approaching an armoured vehicle in the dark before the fatal shots sounded.

Miller had been trying to ask the soldiers if it was safe to leave the area when he was shot in the neck.

In a statement after the verdict, the family said their efforts to investigate Miller's death had "finally been vindicated" by the jury's verdict, after a three-year struggle.

The family, critical of the authorities' efforts in investigating the death, had launched a private investigation, hiring a home office pathologist and an independent military expert to gather evidence.

Death in Gaza won three Emmy awards in 2005. Beneath the Veil, a documentary about life under Afghanistan's Taliban, which Miller made with journalist Shaira Shah, also won an Emmy.

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Film crew 'begged Israeli soldiers to save colleague'

By Matthew Beard
04 April 2006

A television producer has told an inquest into the death of a British cameraman killed in Gaza how he begged the Israeli soldiers who shot his colleague to help save his life.

James Miller, 34, was shot through the neck as he and his documentary crew retreated after filming bulldozers razing Palestinian homes at the Rafah refugee camp on 2 May 2003.

The producer, Daniel Edge, said the documentary crew - himself, Mr Miller, a reporter, Saira Shah, and an interpreter, Abdul Rahman Abdullah - had finished filming when they left the danger area and walked towards an armoured personnel carrier (APC) of the Israeli Bedouin Desert Reconnaissance Battalion.

Night-time footage, replayed at St Pancras coroner's court in London yesterday, showed Mr Miller clearly identifying himself as a television journalist and shining a torch at a white flag to indicate his crew were non-combatants. But the soldiers opened fire.

Mr Edge said: "I heard Abdul shouting, it seemed like he was crying in pain - I thought he had been shot. I heard Saira shouting, 'he is injured, he is injured, please don't shoot' and then I heard Abdul shouting 'he is injured'. It was at that point I realised that James had been shot, that he was possibly badly injured, because he was silent."

Mr Edge said he and the two other crew members found Mr Miller alive, but with a bullet wound to his neck. They tried to lift him, but were thwarted by the muddy conditions.

The producer said that after repeated cries for help, the APC moved towards them and a stretcher was tossed down. "It was very muddy, we couldn't carry the stretcher. We dropped it and James fell off - it was terrible. At this stage, one of the soldiers did jump down and lifted the stretcher up on to the APC."

Earlier yesterday, Mr Miller's widow, Sophy, 35, accused the Israeli army of a cover-up and named the soldier who shot her husband as "First Lieutenant Haib", the commander of the Reconnaissance Battalion. He admitted to the shooting at an Israeli army inquest in April last year, which decided the shooting was "reasonable" considering the conditions. He was cleared.

Mr Miller's widow and family accused the Israelis of blaming the Palestinians, destroying incriminating evidence and casting doubt on the professionalism of Mr Miller, a veteran of many conflict zones.

"The thing that is the hardest is that we were given assurances by the Israelis and the [British] Government that it was being fully investigated,'' said his widow, who is bringing up the couple's two children in north Devon.

"Yet it's our family that's done all the work to bring any justice. We had the distinct impression they would like us to leave it. You can understand that in some cases if you didn't have such a strong family, you would.''

A statement by the Israeli army immediately after the shooting said Mr Miller had been caught in crossfire and was probably killed by a Palestinian bullet. An Israeli doctor then wrongly claimed there was a bullet hole in the back, not the front, of his neck. A "field'' investigation failed to gather any witness statements and a day after the killing the scene was bulldozed on the orders of First Lieutenant Haib.

One of Mr Miller's sisters, Anne Waddington, complained that the families had been put under pressure by the Israelis and the British Foreign Office to accept an autopsy on Israeli terms within 24 hours.

She also said radio communications between the APC and its divisional command centre recorded that Mr Miller had been injured "probably from our fire".

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Isreali gunboats stop Palestinians from fishing

By Stephen Farrell

Isreali gunboats stop Palestinians from fishing as a communal punishment or to prevent attacks

His nets empty and his fibreglass hull perforated by machinegun bullets, Omar sits glumly on the shoreline contemplating the looming demise of the Gaza fishing industry.

Unable to afford the rising prices of lamb, beef and flour in their sealed-off coastal strip, Palestinians crowd their markets in search of fish. Now that poultry supplies are depleted by the threat of bird flu, the clamour for fish is even greater.

But, confronted by Israeli gunboats in fishing grounds they consider their own, the impoverished fishermen are unable to meet the demand.

The heart of the issue is the continued Israeli control of Gaza's borders, airspace and waters, more than six months after it claimed to have ended its military rule of Gaza by evacuating 8,000 Jewish settlers and all its military bases.

A study by the United Nations' World Food Programme (WFP), released this week, identifies Israeli restrictions on fishing boats as a key factor in the decline of an industry that, it says, could be finished by October 2007.
"While the Oslo accord agreed for fishing grounds extending to 20 nautical miles west of Gaza, the occupying power currently limits Palestinian fishing boats to 6 nautical miles," the report says.

"A serious problem is that this shallow area close to the shore is where the fish come in to spawn."

Yesterday the UN confirmed that half a million chickens in Gaza must be slaughtered because of exposure to bird flu, damaging the incomes of at least 200,000 poultry workers and their families. The added pressure of avian flu has, it said, "highlighted and enlarged an already critical situation faced by the fishing industry".

Under the 1994 Oslo agreement, the 20 nautical miles should apply to all the Gaza coast bar two closed areas adjoining Israeli and Egyptian waters. Israel confirms that Palestinians are not allowed to fish the full 20 miles, citing security concerns over weapons smuggling and suicide bombers.

But officials insist that they are permitted out to ten nautical miles, and sometimes beyond, and accuse the fishermen of repeatedly trying to breach the mile-wide no-go areas. "In the last few years we have had several attempted suicide bombings against our patrol boats, and several times they have tried to go by sea to populated Israeli areas to try to carry out terror acts," one Israeli naval officer said.

"There are a lot of attempts to smuggle weapons and explosives and the threat is still there. Just three months ago we stopped three attempts like this. These events happen on a day-to-day basis."

The WFP report does not absolve the Palestinians from blame, identifying pollution from a heavy use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers as another cause of the industry's problems. It also says that heavy nets damage the seabed, destroying young fish, crabs and other spawning species.

In Gaza City fishermen deny involvement in weapons smuggling, saying that Israel is using it as a pretext to punish the Palestinians for the five-year intifada, and for voting Hamas into power. Omar Salmi, 46, said that before 1987 - the first outbreak of serious violence - he regularly sailed as far as Port Said, in Egypt, and would spend up to eight days at sea, returning with groaning nets.

Now, he says, Israeli gunboats do not permit them to fish south of Deir al-Balah, halfway along the Gaza coast and, after major suicide bombings in Israel, have even blockaded the harbour. "It depends on the political situation," he said, pointing to crudely patched bullet-sized holes in his hull.

"If things are calm, they will turn a blind eye and we can go even to seven or eight miles," Omar said. "If they aren't, they shoot at the fish to scare them, or shoot at us and arrest us.

"If an Israeli gets killed they will not let us out. As if we are the ones who killed him."

When pressed, his friends concede that in the old days they smuggled from Egypt, finding it more lucrative than fishing. Denials that they ferried weapons are met with scorn by Israeli officials.

"In December 2005 we got into a battle with smugglers. . . we destroyed one boat loaded with explosives and weapons," one naval officer said.

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Israel launches air raids on Gaza

Friday, 7 April 2006

Israeli helicopters have attacked several targets in the Gaza Strip, including offices of the armed wing of the Fatah movement.

There were no reports of casualties after the three overnight air raids.

They followed rocket attacks on Israeli towns, which Israel blamed on the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades, the armed offshoot of Fatah.
Meanwhile, a Palestinian man was killed overnight by Israeli troops in the West Bank town of Nablus.

Israeli military sources said soldiers exchanged fire with gunmen during an overnight raid to arrest wanted militants in the town, adding that two Israeli soldiers were wounded.

Palestinian witnesses said the dead man was not known to be linked to any militant group, according to the Associated Press news agency.

Gaza City strikes

Two of the Israeli air raids targeted offices of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades in Gaza City. The third raid was against a helicopter launch pad.

The Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades are the armed wing of the Fatah movement of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

Israel blamed the group for firing several rockets at Israeli towns on Thursday.

One of the rockets hit a factory near the town of Ashkelon, setting it ablaze.

Another landed in the town of Sderot, but causing no injuries, the Israeli army said.

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Voodoo Economics

Trillion Dollar War: "The War Is Bad for the Economy"

By Frank Hornig and Georg Mascolo

Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, 63, discusses the true $1 trillion cost of the Iraq conflict, its impact on the oil market and the questions of whether the West can afford to impose sanctions on Iran.
Professor Stiglitz, at the beginning of the Iraq war, the United States administration was hoping to almost break even in terms of the costs ...

Stiglitz: ... they truly believed the Iraqi people could use their oil revenues to pay for reconstruction.

SPIEGEL: And now you are estimating the cost of war at levels between $1 trillion and $2 trillion. How do you explain this difference?

Stiglitz: First, the war was much more difficult than President Bush and his government expected. They thought they were going to walk in, everybody would say thank you, and they would set up a democratic government and leave. Now that this war is lasting so much longer, they constantly have to adapt their budget. It rose from $50 billion to $250 billion. Today, the Congressional Budget Office talks about $500 billion or more for this adventure.

SPIEGEL: That's still by far lower than your own calculations.

Stiglitz: The reported numbers do not even include the full budgetary costs to the government. And the budgetary costs are but a fraction of the costs to the economy as a whole. And compare this to Gulf War number one, where America almost made a profit!

SPIEGEL: Because Germany paid for it?

Stiglitz: Because Germans paid, because everybody paid. We got our allies to pay full price for used equipment, and we got to refurbish our military. This time, most of the other countries were not willing to do so again.

SPIEGEL: Did Bush just miscalculate, or was he misleading the public about the true costs of war?

Stiglitz: I think it was both. He wanted to believe it was not going to be expensive, he wanted to believe it would be easy. But there's also enormous evidence now that information channels into the White House were distorted. Bush wanted only certain information, and that's mostly what they supplied him with. Larry Lindsey ...

SPIEGEL: ... the White House's former top economic adviser ...

Stiglitz: ... gave -- back in 2002 -- a number of up to $200 billion. I think that was the most accurate inside information at the time. He was dismissed. They didn't want to hear it.

SPIEGEL: In the US, the financial costs of war are seldom discussed. It used to be considered a sacrifice to achieve common goals. Why is it different today?

Stiglitz: This is not like a world war where you're attacked. We were attacked in Pearl Harbor, we had to respond. This time, we had a choice, we had to decide how and who we are going to attack ...

SPIEGEL: ... and if you can afford it.

Stiglitz: Well, we can afford it, that's not the issue. The issue is: $1 trillion or $2 trillion is a lot of money. If our objective is to have stability in the Middle East, secure oil, or extend democracy, you can do a lot of democracy buying for this sum. To put it in context: The whole world spends $50 billion a year on foreign aid. So what we're talking about is multiplying the foreign aid budget 20-fold. Wouldn't you say this could do more for peace and stability and security?

SPIEGEL: Bush would argue it's worth spending that much to decrease the probability of a major terrorist attack on the US.

Stiglitz: Nobody takes that seriously. Instead, most people think the Iraq war has increased the probability of an attack. However, it's difficult to put this aspect into financial terms.

SPIEGEL: How did you calculate the costs of the war?

Stiglitz: The official figures are only the tip of an enormous iceberg. For instance, one of the costs of the war is that soldiers today get very seriously injured but stay alive, and we can keep them alive but at an enormous price.

SPIEGEL: Is this the biggest item in your calculations?

Stiglitz: It's very important. The Bush administration has been doing everything it can to hide the huge number of returning veterans who are severely wounded -- 17,000 so far including roughly 20 percent with serious brain and head injuries. Even the estimate of $500 billion ignores the lifetime disability and healthcare costs that taxpayers will have to spend for years to come. And the administration isn't even generous with veterans, widows and their kids.

SPIEGEL: What does that mean?

Stiglitz: If you're injured in an automobile accident, and you sue the driver, you get much more for your injury than if you're fighting for your country. There's a double standard here. If you happen to put your life at risk fighting for your country, you get a little. If you walk across the street and get injured, you get a lot more. Similarly, payments for a dead soldier amount to only $500,000, which is far less than standard estimates of the lifetime economic cost of a death. This statistical value of a life in the US amounts to circa $6.5 million.

SPIEGEL: How much will a severely brain-damaged soldier cost the US government?

Stiglitz: My moderate estimate is about $4 million. For this group alone there will be a total cost of $35 billion that nobody is talking about. But look at the broader picture: The Veterans Administration originally projected that roughly 23,000 veterans returning from Iraq would seek medical care last year. But in June 2005, it revised this number to an estimated 103,000. No wonder the Veterans Administration had to appeal Congress for emergency funding of $1.5 billion last year.

SPIEGEL: If this is a $1 trillion war, why couldn't the US provide its soldiers with safer body armor and better protected vehicles?

Stiglitz: Obviously, the US can afford to pay for body armor. Rumsfeld, our Secretary of Defense, said you have to fight with the armor you have, but that's unconscionable. The military is focusing only on the short run costs. If they don't provide appropriate body armor, they save some money today, but the healthcare cost is going to be the future for some other president down the line. I view that as both fiscally and morally irresponsible.

SPIEGEL: This war could have been both safer for the troops and cheaper for the country?

Stiglitz: Exactly.

SPIEGEL: Is war no longer affordable even for countries as rich as the United States?

Stiglitz: You have to remember we are an economy of $13 trillion a year. The issue is not whether you can afford it but whether this is the way you want to spend your money. In using the limited resources that we have for fighting this war, we have less resources to do other things. You saw on your TV what happened in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The Reserves or National Guard are usually the people we use for those national emergencies. They weren't here, they were over in Iraq, and so we were less protected.

SPIEGEL: Before the invasion of Iraq, the US administration said the best way to keep oil prices in check is a short and successful war. A barrel was at $25 at that time, and now it's over $60. What of this increase is due to Iraq?

Stiglitz: In our analysis about the cost of war, we only assumed a modest $5 to $10 caused by the war. We wanted to keep our study conservative, so no one would dispute our numbers, and no one did. But I believe that's a vast underestimation of the true cost.

SPIEGEL: But why? China and India are increasing their demand, real global growth has been going on. This is driving the prices.

Stiglitz: When demand rises so does supply -- that's how markets usually work. Now we're seeing that demand for oil is rising but we're not getting a commensurate increase in supply. And there's a simple answer, it's Iraq. But it's not just because it production has been down.

SPIEGEL: Why else?

Stiglitz: The Middle East is the lowest cost producer in the world. They can produce oil for $10, $15 or $20 a barrel. Now we have the technology to produce oil elsewhere for $35 to $45. But who wants to develop fields or invest in new technologies elsewhere if they know that in five years' time, the Middle East may be supplying oil at previous prices?

SPIEGEL: In other words, were peace and stability re-established in the Middle East, the oil price would be back to maybe $25, despite the huge global hunger for energy?

Stiglitz: Yes. By the way that's the price level oil traders were speculating on in futures trading before the outbreak of war.

SPIEGEL: There should be huge economic pressure on Bush to end this conflict.

Stiglitz: The only people benefiting in this war are Bush's friends in the oil industry. He has done the American economy and the global economy an enormous disfavor, but his Texan friends couldn't be happier. The price of oil is up, and they make money when the price of oil goes up. Their profits are at record levels.

SPIEGEL: You don't like this president very much.

Stiglitz: Oh, it's nothing personal. It's all about his politics.

SPIEGEL: There is an old saying: War is good for the economy.

Stiglitz: Listen, World War II was really unusual, because America was in the Great Depression before. So the war did help the US economy to get securely out of this decline. This time, the war is bad for the economy in both the short and long run. We could have spent trillions in research or education instead. This would have led to future productivity increases.

SPIEGEL: So is the economical mess of the Iraq war even bigger than the political?

Stiglitz: Well, we are so rich, we are able to withstand even this level. Crowding out other investments, weakening the economy in the future, that's not a crisis yet. But it's an erosion. It becomes an issue for our legislators. And don't forget the serious issues of nuclear proliferation in Iran and North Korea. We used up our ability to deal with something serious by dealing with something that was less serious.

SPIEGEL: What's your economic view on Iran?

Stiglitz: We are helping the people that Bush says are evil. Teheran couldn't be happier about the high oil prices resulting from the Iraq war.

SPIEGEL: If the UN Security Council votes for sanctions over Iran and its oil exports, what would that mean for the world economy?

Stiglitz: It would mean an enormous disruption, as oil prices might rise over $100. You can increase the price from $25 to $40, and people can absorb it. If the price rises above $60, they become unhappy. They start to adjust, they move to smaller cars, drive a little bit less. At $100 or $120, there are major changes in lifestyle. The sales of cars will plummet. Poor people will be facing real problems of heat versus food.

SPIEGEL: The world can't afford sanctions at this time?

Stiglitz: We talk about not allowing their officials to get visas to visit our countries.

SPIEGEL: That's not a harsh measure.

Stiglitz: It's no sanction. So the answer is, yes, we have no effective sanctions.

SPIEGEL: Professor Stiglitz, thank you for this interview.

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Stocks fall as rate worries overtake data gains

By Ellis Mnyandu
Friday April 7, 10:42 PM

NEW YORK - U.S. stocks fell on Friday as interest-rate worries outweighed expectations that stronger-than-expected jobs creation and tame wage inflation in March would lead to growing profits.

Stocks began to lose steam after U.S. Treasury long-term debt yields rose to their highest in more than three years on expectations the Federal Reserve will continue raising interest rates following the employment report.
The Dow Jones industrial average was down 26.66 points, or 0.24 percent, at 11,189.84. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index fell 4.89 points, or 0.37 percent, at 1,304.15. The Nasdaq Composite Index was down 6.94 points, or 0.29 percent, at 2,354.23.

"What we're having lately is a lot of volatility in the market. There's a fixation with the Fed," said Larry Peruzzi, senior equity trader at The Boston Company Asset Management, a Mellon subsidiary.

U.S. employers added 211,000 nonfarm jobs in March, outpacing estimates for a 190,000 jobs, the Labor Department said. The unemployment rate fell unexpectedly to 4.7 percent from 4.8 percent.

Benchmark 10-year notes fell for a yield of 4.94 percent -- its highest level since June 2002 -- compared with 4.90 percent late on Thursday.

Shares of oil companies fell after a drop in crude oil prices on hopes lost Nigerian output could be restored.

Crude for May delivery fell 69 cents to $67.25 a barrel. Exxon Mobil fell 0.3 percent to $61.89.

Expectations for robust earnings growth boosted shares early in the session, with industrial and transport stocks leading the advance as their profits are more reliant on a growing economy.

The transport index rose to a record high, gaining 0.4 percent.

Shares of Alcoa Inc. , the world's largest aluminum producer, which will kick off the first-quarter earnings reporting season on Monday, rose 1.6 percent to $32.70 on the New York Stock Exchange.

On Nasdaq, shares of Starbucks Corp., hit a record high, rising 3.4 percent to $38.77, a day after the company posted better-than-expected growth in March same-store sales.

But shares of Research In Motion Ltd. , proved the biggest drag on the Nasdaq, off 5.4 percent to $79.87, a day after the maker of the Blackberry wireless e-mail device forecast a shortfall in first-quarter results and subscriber growth.

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Gold spot price storms to 25-year high near $600

By Chikafumi Hodo
Fri Apr 7, 3:05 AM ET

TOKYO - Spot gold hovered just shy of the landmark $600 an ounce level on Friday as investment funds took a breather, awaiting important U.S. jobs data.

Spot gold rose as high as $598, surpassing the previous 25-year high of $596.50 reached the previous day, but the market was careful about chasing it strongly before U.S. jobs data due later in the day.

Gold has surged about 5 percent in the past week and more than 15 percent since the start of the year.
"A lot of short-term funds have been shifting heavily into gold and other commodities since the start of the new quarter," said Akira Doi, director at Daiichi Commodities Co. Ltd.

"Recent rises have been a bit overdone with gold having no factor of its own. The spot price could go over $600 at any moment but at that point we're likely to see heavy profit-taking."

At 0634 GMT, gold was trading at $596.50/597.40, up from $594.80/595.70 in late New York.

On Thursday, U.S. benchmark gold futures for June delivery on the New York Mercantile Exchange's COMEX division rose as high as $601.90, the highest since January 1981.

Fund operators who invest over the short term have been flocking into gold given the dollar's recent fall against the euro and as oil extended this week's big gains to close in on last year's record above $70 per barrel.

Spot gold could rise toward $635.50, the high reached in December 1980, should it decisively break through $600.

Still, near-term technical charts show that gold was being overbought as it was about 4 percent above its 14-day moving average (MA) of $574 and nearly 7 percent above its 50-day MA of $560.

A weaker dollar makes gold cheaper for holders of other currencies and boosts demand, while the metal is traditionally seen as a hedge against inflation when energy prices rise.

The market focus has turned to the U.S. monthly payrolls report due later in the day to determine trends in the currency and precious metals markets.

Nonfarm U.S. jobs for March are forecast to have risen by 190,000, compared with a rise in the previous payrolls report of 243,000.

"Commodities in general are in a bullish phase as investors are showing interest in buying gold when the market is focusing on inflation concerns," said a senior manager at a European investment bank in Tokyo.

"But we all think that recent gains, especially in the base metal and precious metals markets, have been a bit too rapid."

Clinging wariness over geopolitical issues prompted short-term fund operators to buy gold, especially after
Iran said on Tuesday it had successfully tested a "flying boat" and the land-to-sea Kowsar missile.

In Japan, gold futures on the Tokyo Commodity Exchange rose, tracking gains in spot gold.

The benchmark most-distant February contract on the Tokyo Commodity Exchange reached a fresh 18-year high of 2,294 yen per gram, but backed off on profit-taking.

Key TOCOM gold closed at 2,286 yen, up 23 yen or 1.02 percent from Thursday.

Silver advanced to $12.16/12.19 an ounce from $12.04/12.07 in New York.

Silver has been buoyant on hopes for a launch of the first exchange-traded fund.

Platinum eased to $1,080/1,084 an ounce from $1,082/1,086 in New York.

Palladium fell to $350/354 an ounce from $353/357 in New York.

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Oil Prices Move Toward $68 a Barrel

Associated Press
Thu Apr 6, 1:55 PM ET

VIENNA, Austria - Oil and gasoline futures rose Thursday, continuing to rally on U.S. government data released the day before showing a decline in domestic supplies of motor fuel.

Although crude stocks increased, tension between the West and
Iran, violence in Nigeria and Venezuelan state pressure on major foreign oil companies added to bullish market sentiment.
Light, sweet crude for May delivery rose 53 cents to $67.60 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Gasoline futures rose 3.69 cents to $1.984 a gallon while heating oil prices increased by nearly 2 cents to $1.8860 a gallon. Natural gas rose by more than 10 cents to $7.140 per 1,000 cubic feet.

May Brent crude at London's ICE Futures exchange rose 69 cents to $67.79 a barrel.

The U.S. Energy Department said in its weekly report Wednesday that domestic inventories of gasoline shrank by 4.4 million barrels last week to 211.8 million barrels, or roughly in line with year-ago levels. The nation's supply of distillate, which includes diesel and heating oil, fell by 2.6 million barrels to 121.6 million barrels, or 16 percent more than last year.

The decline in refined products comes as refineries temporarily shut down operations for maintenance. Vienna's PVM Oil Associates said production output was 120,000 barrels a day lower than the week before.

These so-called turnarounds at refineries also temporarily reduce the demand for oil and, as a result, U.S. crude oil inventories increased by 2.1 million barrels last week to 342.8 million barrels, or almost 8 percent above year-ago levels.

However, the outlook for crude supplies remains uncertain in key producing countries.

The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously last week to demand that Iran suspend nuclear enrichment but Iran has remained defiant, saying its enrichment plans are "irreversible." The standoff has ratcheted up tension over Iran's nuclear program.

Also of concern to the market is Nigeria, where about 27 percent of output has been knocked out by ethnic rebel attacks in the Niger Delta region. Militants have pledged more attacks to get southerners a bigger cut of the oil revenues held by the federal government. The country usually produces 2.4 million barrels a day.

In Vienna, PVM said uncertainties in Nigeria and Venezuela - the largest non-Middle East OPEC producer - will likely result in total OPEC output falling to 29.45 million barrels a day for the first quarter of the year. That's down about 500,000 barrels a day.

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Consumer Confidence in Economy Improves

AP Economics Writer
April 7, 2006

WASHINGTON - Consumer confidence in the economy's prospects improved in early April even as gasoline prices and borrowing costs marched higher.

The RBC CASH (Consumer Attitudes and Spending by Household) Index, based on results from the international polling firm Ipsos, showed confidence at 89.4 in early April, up from March's 86.2. The new reading also was better than a year ago, when consumer confidence clocked in at 84.5.
"It's a positive sign," said Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group.

Overall, consumers are in a generally good frame of mind, economists said.

"I think we can take heart in the fact that even with all the worries - about energy prices, higher interest rates and a slowing housing market - confidence moved higher," said economist Ken Mayland, president of ClearView Economics.

Analysts track consumer confidence for clues about consumers' willingness to spend, an important force shaping the country's economic health.

The confidence index is benchmarked to a reading of 100 on January 2002, when Ipsos started the gauge.

One of the things consumers feel really good about is the jobs climate, the Ipsos results suggested.

A measure tracking consumers' sentiments on this front jumped in early April to 124.5, the highest on record. In March consumers' feelings about jobs came in at 118.5, a buoyant reading. A year ago, this gauge stood at 116.2.

Employers boosted payrolls by a sizable 211,000 jobs in March, helping to push the nation's unemployment rate down to 4.7 percent, the Labor Department said in a report Friday that suggested the jobs market is on solid footing.

Analysts believe the economy emerged from an end-of-year funk and grew at an annual rate of 4.5 percent or higher in the just ended January-to-March quarter. The government's estimate of first-quarter economic growth will be released at the end of April.

In the current April-to-June quarter, economists believe the economic growth will probably be in the range of 3 percent, a slower but still healthy pace. That moderation is based in part on the expectation that consumers will turn a bit cautious in the second quarter as energy prices stay high and the housing market slows.

The record-breaking housing market over the last five years and escalating home values have made consumers feel wealthy and thus inclined to spend. They've taken cash out of their homes, which has helped to support brisk spending.

A cooling housing market and slower growth in home values probably would weigh on consumer spending, economists said. But an improving jobs market, on the other hand, would help to blunt some of that negative force, analysts said.

Concerns about the direction of the housing market - along with rising gasoline prices, which are $2.59 a gallon on average nationwide - probably played a role in consumers' assessment of current economic conditions, analysts said.

A measure of current conditions dropped to 98 in early April, from 103.9 in March. A year ago, this measure stood at 92.7.

Another gauge tracking consumers' feelings about making a purchase, saving and other investment decisions was 86.7 in early April. That marked a deterioration from March's reading of 98.6. Last year, the investment measure was 87.4.

The Federal Reserve on March 28 boosted a key interest rate to a five-year high to fend off inflation. That action pushed up other borrowing costs, including banks' prime lending rate, which is used for certain credit cards, home equity lines of credit and other loans.

Mortgage rates are rising, too.

Rates on 30-year mortgages averaged 6.43 percent this week, the highest in 2 1/2 years, Freddie Mac, the mortgage giant, reported Thursday.

A measure looking at consumers' expectations over the next six months, including conditions where they live or work and their own financial positions, rose to 56.9 in early April. That marked an improvement from March's 40.7 and was better than 51.3 registered in April last year. Yet it is still at a level indicating some wariness among consumers, analysts said.

The RBC consumer confidence index was based on results of 1,003 adults surveyed Monday through Wednesday about their attitudes on personal finance and the economy. Results of the survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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Audit: Money From Abroad for Katrina Lost

Associated Press
Thu Apr 6, 9:50 PM ET

WASHINGTON - Federal auditors on Thursday laid out a scenario of omissions, missteps and bureaucratic nightmares that caused a loss of money and other donations sent from abroad to help victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Lawmakers at a congressional hearing on the subject reacted harshly to a Government Accountability Office report that attributed the errors, which involved as many as eight government agencies, to the United States' lack of experience as a recipient of huge amounts of aid from others.
Rep. Henry Waxman, the House Government Reform Committee's top Democrat, said, "This is bureaucracy at its worse, and the citizens of the Gulf Coast are suffering for it."

The GAO said in remarks prepared for delivery before the committee, "Given that the U.S. government had never before received such substantial amounts of international disaster assistance, ad hoc procedures were developed to manage the acceptance and distribution of the cash and in-kind assistance."

"It is understandable that not all procedures would be in place at the outset."

Rep. Tom Davis, the Republican chairman of the committee, said that it "appears that policies and procedures were lacking, simply because no one in the federal government anticipated needing or receiving this assistance."

The GAO said that $126 million in cash came in from 36 countries after the Aug. 29 hurricane devastated New Orleans, Louisiana and Mississippi along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

With plans lacking for dealing with such a large-scale influx, legal restrictions kicked in that required almost half the cash to be held in accounts that paid no interest, resulting in a loss of almost $1 million and diminished buying power for eventual hurricane relief.

Because $400 million more has been pledged but not yet received, the GAO is urging that instructions be put in place quickly to handle the money.

Davis said, "It does no good to be offered money, or water, or food, or potentially lifesaving medical supplies if we don't get those donations into the hands of the people who need them."

Money was not the only shortcoming of the response to one of the nation's most costly and deadly natural disasters, which killed almost 1,100 in Louisiana alone and hundreds more elsewhere. At least 1,900 people are listed as missing.

Typical of the misadventures was the failure to enlist government quality-control experts from the Agriculture Department and the Food and Drug Administration.

This resulted in importation of medical items and military food packages that should not have been allowed into the country; because they were, the government had to pay for storing them. The auditors were told of one shipment of military meals-ready-to-eat, however, that was delivered directly to a U.S. base whose personnel distributed the unknowingly banned MREs to hurricane victims.

The report, which will be published later, is the latest of a series of papers that have documented widespread mistakes and incompetence at all levels of government in the response to Katrina.

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I Spy

Libby Says Bush Authorized Leaks

National Journal
By Murray Waas

Vice President Dick Cheney's former chief of staff has testified that President Bush authorized him to disclose the contents of a highly classified intelligence assessment to the media to defend the Bush administration's decision to go to war with Iraq, according to papers filed in federal court on Wednesday by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor in the CIA leak case.
I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby testified to a federal grand jury that he had received "approval from the President through the Vice President" to divulge portions of a National Intelligence Estimate regarding Saddam Hussein's purported efforts to develop nuclear weapons, according to the court papers. Libby was said to have testified that such presidential authorization to disclose classified information was "unique in his recollection," the court papers further said.

Libby also testified that an administration lawyer told him that Bush, by authorizing the disclosure of classified information, had in effect declassified the information. Legal experts disagree on whether the president has the authority to declassify information on his own.

The White House had no immediate reaction to the court filing.

Although not reflected in the court papers, two senior government officials said in interviews with National Journal in recent days that Libby has also asserted that Cheney authorized him to leak classified information to a number of journalists during the run-up to war with Iraq. In some instances, the information leaked was directly discussed with the Vice President, while in other instances Libby believed he had broad authority to release information that would make the case to go to war.

In yet another instance, Libby had claimed that President Bush authorized Libby to speak to and provide classified information to Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward for "Plan of Attack," a book written by Woodward about the run-up to the Iraqi war.

Bush and Cheney authorized the release of the information regarding the NIE in the summer of 2003, according to court documents, as part of a damage-control effort undertaken only days after former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV alleged in an op-ed in The New York Times that claims by Bush that Saddam Hussein had attempted to procure uranium from the African nation of Niger were most likely a hoax.

According to the court papers, "At some point after the publication of the July 6 Op Ed by Mr. Wilson, Vice President Cheney, [Libby's] immediate supervisor, expressed concerns to [Libby] regarding whether Mr. Wilson's trip was legitimate or whether it was in effect a junket set up by Mr. Wilson's wife."

Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a covert CIA officer at the time, and Cheney, Libby, and other Bush administration officials believed that Wilson's allegations could be discredited if it could be shown that Plame had suggested that her husband be sent on the CIA-sponsored mission to Niger.

Two days after Wilson's op-ed, Libby met with then-New York Times reporter Judith Miller and not only disclosed portions of the NIE, but also Plame's CIA employment and potential role in her husband's trip.

Regarding that meeting, Libby "testified that he was specifically authorized in advance... to disclose the key judgments of the classified NIE to Miller" because Vice President Cheney believed it to be "very important" to do so, the court papers filed Wednesday said. The New York Sun reported the court filing on its Web site early Thursday.

Libby "further testified that he at first advised the Vice President that he could not have this conversation with reporter Miller because of the classified nature of the NIE," the court papers said. Libby "testified that the Vice President had advised [Libby] that the President had authorized [Libby] to disclose relevant portions of the NIE."

Additionally, Libby "testified that he also spoke to David Addington, then counsel to the Vice President, whom [Libby] considered to be an expert in national security law, and Mr. Addington opined that Presidential authorization to publicly disclose a document amounted to a declassification of the document."

Addington succeeded Libby as Cheney's chief of staff after Libby was indicted by a federal grand jury on Oct. 28, 2005 on five counts of making false statements, perjury, and obstruction of justice in attempting to conceal his role in outing Plame as an undercover CIA operative.

Four days after the meeting with Miller, on July 12, 2003, Libby spoke again to Miller, and also for the first time with Time magazine correspondent Matthew Cooper, during which Libby spoke to both journalists about Plame's CIA employment and her possible role in sending her husband to Niger.

Regarding those conversations, Libby understood that the Vice President specifically selected him to "speak to the press in place of Cathie Martin (then the communications person for the Vice President) regarding the NIE and Wilson," the court papers said. Libby also testified, Fitzgerald asserted in the court papers, that "at the time of his conversations with Miller and Cooper, he understood that only three people -- the President, the Vice President and [Libby] -- knew that the key judgments of the NIE had been declassified.

"[Libby] testified in the grand jury that he understood that even in the days following his conversation with Ms. Miller, other key officials-including Cabinet level officials-were not made aware of the earlier declassification even as those officials were pressed to carry out a declassification of the NIE, the report about Wilson's trip and another classified document dated January 24, 2003." It is unclear from the court papers what the January 24, 2003 document might be.

During those very same conversations with the press that day Libby "discussed Ms. Wilson's CIA employment with both Matthew Cooper (for the first time) and Judith Miller (for the third time)," the court papers further said.

Although the special prosecutor's grand jury investigation has not uncovered any evidence that the Vice President encouraged Libby to release information about Plame's covert CIA status, the court papers said that Cheney had "expressed concerns to [Libby] regarding whether Mr. Wilson's trip was legitimate or whether it was in effect a junket set up by Mr. Wilson's wife."

Cheney told investigators that he had learned of Plame's employment by the CIA and her potential role in her husband being sent to Niger by then-CIA director George Tenet, according to people familiar with Cheney's interviews with the special prosecutor.

Tenet has told investigators that he had no specific recollection of discussing Plame or her role in her husband's trip with Cheney, according to people with familiar with his statement to investigators.

Two senior government officials said that Tenet did recall, however, that he made inquiries regarding the veracity of the Niger intelligence information as a result of inquires from both Cheney and Libby. As a result of those inquiries, Tenet then had the CIA conduct a new review of its Niger intelligence, and concluded that there was no evidence that Saddam Hussein had in fact attempted to purchase uranium from Niger or other African nations. Tenet and other CIA officials then informed Cheney, other administration officials, and the congressional intelligence committees of the new findings, the sources said.

Six days after Libby's conversation with Cooper and Miller regarding Plame, on July 18, 2003, the Bush administration formally declassified portions of the NIE on Iraqi weapons programs in an effort to further blunt the damage of Wilson's allegations that the Bush administration misused the faulty Niger intelligence information to make the case to go to war. It is unclear whether the information that Bush and Cheney were said to authorize Libby to disclose was the same information that was formally declassified.

One former senior government official said that both the president and Cheney, in directing Libby to disclose classified information to defend the administration's case to go to war with Iraq and in formally declassifying portions of the NIE later, were misusing the classification process for political reasons.

The official said that while the administration declassified portions of the NIE that would appear exculpatory to the White House, it insisted that a one-page summary of the NIE which would have suggested that the President mischaracterized other intelligence information to go to war remain classified.

As National Journal recently disclosed, the one-page summary of the NIE told Bush that although "most agencies judge" that an Iraqi procurement of aluminum tubes was "related to a uranium enrichment effort", the State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the Energy Department's branch "believe that the tubes more likely are intended for conventional weapons."

Despite receiving that assessment, the president stated without qualification in his January 28, 2003, State of the Union address: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production."

The former senior official said in an interview that he believed that the attempt to conceal the contents of the one-page summary were intertwined with the efforts to declassify portions of the NIE and to leak information to the media regarding Plame: "It was part and parcel of the same effort, but people don't see it in that context yet."

Although the court papers filed Wednesday revealed that Libby had testified that Bush and Cheney had authorized him to disclose details of the NIE, two other senior government officials said in interviews that Libby had asserted that Cheney had more broadly authorized him to leak classified information to a number of journalists during the run-up to war with Iraq as part of an administration effort to make the case to go to war.

In another instance, Libby had claimed that Bush authorized Libby to speak to and provide classified information to Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward for "Plan of Attack."

Other former senior government officials said that Bush directed people to assist Woodward in the book's preparation: "There were people on the Seventh Floor [of the CIA] who were told by Tenet to cooperate because the President wanted it done. There were calls to people to by [White House communication director] Dan Bartlett that the President wanted it done, if you were not co-operating. And sometimes the President himself told people that they should co-operate," said one former government official.

It is unclear whether Libby will argue during his upcoming trial that these other authorizations by both the President and Vice President show that he did not engage in misconduct by disclosing Plame's CIA status to reporters, or that he considered these other authorizations giving him broad authority to make other disclosures.

Fitzgerald has apparently avoided questioning Libby, other government officials, and journalists about other potential leaks of classified information to the media, according to attorneys who have represented witnesses to the special prosecutor's probe. Outside legal experts said this might be due to the fact that other authorized leaks might aid Libby's defense, and because Fitzgerald did not want to question reporters about other contacts with Libby because of First Amendment concerns.

In a Feb. 17, 2006 letter to John D. Negroponte, the Director of National Intelligence, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., wrote that he believed that disclosures in Woodward's book damaged national security. "According to [Woodward's} account, he was provided information related to sources and methods, extremely sensitive covert actions, and foreign intelligence liaison services."

Woodward's book contains, for example, a detailed account of a January 25, 2003 briefing that Libby provided to senior White House staff to make the case that Saddam Hussein had aggressive programs underway to develop chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons.

Two former government officials said in interviews that the account provided sensitive intelligence information that had not been cleared for release. The book referred to intercepts by the National Security Agency of Iraqi officials that purportedly showed that Iraq was engaging in weapons of mass destruction program.

Much of the information presented by Libby at the senior White House staff meeting was later discarded by then-Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and then-CIA Director George Tenet as unreliable, and would not have either otherwise been made public.

One former senior official said: "They [the leakers] might have tipped people to our eavesdropping capacities, and other serious sources and methods issues. But to what end? The information was never presented to the public because it was bunk in the first place."

In the letter to Negroponte, Sen. Rockefeller complained: "I [previously] wrote both former Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) George Tenet and Acting DCI John McLaughlin seeking to determine what steps were being taken to address the appalling disclosures in [Woodward's book]. The only response that I received was to indicate that the leaks had been authorized by the Administration

© National Journal Group Inc.

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Google aims to track users with wi-fi

By Chris Nuttall and Kevin Allison in San Francisco
8:43 p.m. ET April 6, 2006

Google aims to be able to track its users to within 100-200 feet of their location through new wireless networks in order to serve them with relevant advertising from local businesses.

The leading internet search company, which depends on advertising for 99 per cent of its revenues, was selected on Wednesday by San Francisco as its preferred bidder to provide a basic free wi-fi internet service covering the entire city.
It had partnered in its bid with the internet service provider Earthlink, which intends to charge a fee for a faster internet connection.

Google and Earthlink will now enter final contract negotiations with the city. There were five other bidders including a non-profit group backed by Cisco Systems and IBM.

The company hopes to defray the costs of offering a free service through contextual advertising. Analysts have speculated that the San Francisco bid could be a prelude to Google seeking to extend its reach into localities nationwide.

It is already planning a free wi-fi network by the summer covering the city of Mountain View, where its headquarters is based, and the San Francisco service may be up and running by the end of the year.

Google says users linking up with wi-fi transmitters placed around cities can be located to within a couple of blocks. This would open up a new level of advertising opportunities for the company, allowing it to serve tightly focused ads on its web pages from small businesses in the immediate area.

The bid to blanket-cover San Francisco with cheap internet access is part of a broader move towards municipal wireless networks by big US cities.

Philadelphia became the first major US city to begin construction of a citywide wireless network when it signed a deal with Earthlink earlier this year.

Other big cities such as Chicago, Boston and Austin have announced their own wireless network plans.

Experts have warned, however, that the free wireless model remains unproven and may not offer the best solution for smaller cities and towns addressing the "digital divide" to promote economic development.

In a separate development, Google has launched a local listings service for real estate.

Typing "real estate" or "homes for sale" in its search box prompts users to enter their postal codes and see a map showing properties and their details in their area. The "mash-up" combines Google Maps with its Google Base classifieds service.

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Flashback: Google Goes K Street

By David Donnelly, AlterNet. Posted March 31, 2006.

The web giant has gone to great lengths to keep the internet open to all, but by teaming up with Republican lobbyists, it's politics as usual.
Google is setting up a political operation in Washington and collecting big-name lobbyists with Republican connections faster than you can search the Web for Jack Abramoff.

At first, I thought it was another of those famed Google April Fools' Day jokes, just a week early. They may have pioneered a new business model, but they're apparently relying on politics-as-usual. The question is, why do they have to?

Google argues that it has to play the game to maintain the ability of all Internet users to get quality, high-speed access to the Web. If the Internet service providers -- Comcast, TimeWarner and others -- are able to charge for transmitting information over the pipes, the Internet could become segregated into haves and have-nots. This is why Network neutrality -- or Net neutrality -- is important, and it is a good thing that Google is opposing the ISPs on this.

Google wants "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible." But what doesn't make sense is the choice to abandon unconventional ways. Google appears to have embraced the rules of the so-called K Street Project. For a decade or more, Republicans in Congress have used the K Street Project to strong-arm businesses to hire only Republican lobbyists and to make donations only to GOP candidates.

Google has hired Washington powerhouse lobbying firm Podesta Mattoon. Though known as a bipartisan firm, Podesta Mattoon will probably hand this account to Lauren Maddox, a former staffer for Newt Gingrich. And Google has retained public relations flak Stuart Roy, recently of indicted Texas Republican Rep. Tom DeLay's staff, to direct its political PR and strategy. They are also setting up a D.C. office and have hired old Republican hand Harry W. Clark, who claims the company will soon hire a political director with ties to Republicans.

And it won't end with hires: "The folks I've talked to," Clark told The New York Times, "everybody recognizes that the employee contributions were weighted heavily toward Democrats, and they're waiting to see a course correction." (Since 2001, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Google employees have donated $361,294 to federal candidates, parties and political action committees, with all but roughly $10,000 going to Democrats or their allies.)

But is a course correction the right move? Is there a better way to conduct politics, perhaps found within Google's own business model?

What would a true Google approach to politics look like? It probably wouldn't wear a suit, charge $500 an hour or perpetuate an exclusive campaign finance system in which a few well-connected corporations, interest groups and wealthy donors win out while the rest of us get left behind. Google has retained public relations flak Stuart Roy, recently of indicted Texas Republican Rep. Tom DeLay's staff, to direct its political PR and strategy.

Take the Net neutrality debate. Instead of obeying consultants in Washington who will urge Google executives to give more to Republicans (or to Democrats if they take back Congress), what if Google worked to hand the Net neutrality issue over to the people? Instead of setting up an office in Washington, what about setting up a virtual campaign center on the Web?

Let's make this debate about what is right about democracy in America by engaging citizens and asking them to join the fray. Americans don't need a clash of the corporate titans, with both sides claiming to be pro-consumer. We don't want to be spoken for. If Net neutrality is won with an insider strategy without engaging real people, it will be fought all over again next year.

It's time for some new, citizen-focused paradigms in politics, in how campaigns are run -- like the Clean Elections bill moving through the California state legislature -- and in how people relate to elected officials on important issues. It is already happening all around us with open-source approaches to politics like CivicSpace and Colorado-based ProgressNow, the political blogosphere with sites like DailyKos, and online fundraising. Why would Google place its bets on K Street rather than nurturing, pioneering and accelerating this innovation and change?

"Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one," company founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin said when they announced the innovative IPO auction almost two years ago.

So, Google, what shall it be? A complete political upgrade? Or politics as usual?

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AT&T Forwards ALL Internet Traffic Into NSA Says EFF

Thursday, April 06 2006
General News San Francisco

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on Wednesday filed the legal briefs and evidence supporting its motion for a preliminary injunction in its class-action lawsuit against AT&T. After asking EFF to hold back the documents so that it could review them, the Department of Justice consented to EFF's filing them under seal - a well-established procedure that prohibits public access and permits only the judge and the litigants to see the evidence. While not a party to the case, the government was concerned that even this procedure would not provide sufficient security and has represented to the Court that it is "presently considering whether and, if so, how it will participate in this case."

"The evidence that we are filing supports our claim that AT&T is diverting Internet traffic into the hands of the NSA wholesale,
in violation of federal wiretapping laws and the Fourth Amendment," said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "More than just threatening individuals' privacy, AT&T's apparent choice to give the government secret, direct access to millions of ordinary Americans' Internet communications is a threat to the Constitution itself. We are asking the Court to put a stop to it now."
EFF's evidence regarding AT&T's dragnet surveillance of its networks includes a declaration by Mark Klein, a retired AT&T telecommunications technician, and several internal AT&T documents. This evidence was bolstered and explained by the expert opinion of J. Scott Marcus, who served as Senior Technical Advisor for Internet Technology to the Federal Communications Commission from July 2001 until July 2005.

The internal AT&T documents and portions of the supporting declarations have been submitted to the Court under a tentative seal, a procedure that allows AT&T five court days to explain to the Court why the information should be kept from the public.

"The public deserves to know about AT&T's illegal program," said EFF Legal Director Cindy Cohn. "In an abundance of caution, we are providing AT&T with an opportunity to explain itself before this material goes on the public docket, but we believe that justice will ultimately require full disclosure."

The NSA program came to light in December, when the New York Times reported that the President had authorized the agency to intercept telephone and Internet communications inside the United States without the authorization of any court. Over the ensuing weeks, it became clear that the NSA program has been intercepting and analyzing millions of Americans' communications, with the help of the country's largest phone and Internet companies, including AT&T.

"Mark Klein is a true American hero," said EFF Staff Attorney Kurt Opsahl. "He has bravely come forward with information critical for proving AT&T's involvement with the government's invasive surveillance program."

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Warrantless Wiretaps Possible in U.S.

By Dan Eggen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 7, 2006

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales left open the possibility yesterday that President Bush could order warrantless wiretaps on telephone calls occurring solely within the United States -- a move that would dramatically expand the reach of a controversial National Security Agency surveillance program.

In response to a question from Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) during an appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, Gonzales suggested that the administration could decide it was legal to listen in on a domestic call without supervision if it were related to al-Qaeda.

In the past, Gonzales and other officials refused to say whether they had the legal authority to conduct warrantless eavesdropping on domestic calls, and have stressed that the NSA eavesdropping program is focused only on international communications.

Gonzales previously testified in the Senate that Bush had considered including purely domestic communications in the NSA spying program, but he said the idea was rejected in part because of fears of a public outcry. He also testified at the time that the Justice Department had not fully analyzed the legal issues of such a move.

In yesterday's testimony, Gonzales reiterated earlier hints that there may be another facet to the NSA program that has not been revealed publicly, or even another program that has prompted dissension within the government. While acknowledging disagreements among officials over the monitoring efforts, Gonzales disputed published reports that have detailed the arguments.

"They did not relate to the program the president disclosed," Gonzales testified. "They related to something else, and I can't get into that."

Justice spokeswoman Tasia Scolinos played down Gonzales's remarks, saying he "did not say anything new" about the NSA program.

"The Attorney General's comments today should not be interpreted to suggest the existence or non-existence of a domestic program or whether any such program would be lawful under the existing legal analysis," Scolinos said in a statement.

The NSA program, which was first revealed publicly in media reports in December, has been the focus of sharp criticism from lawmakers of both parties and prompted a recent call by Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) to formally censure Bush for violation of federal surveillance laws.

The criticism from both parties continued yesterday. At one point during Gonzales's testimony, Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (Wis.), the committee's Republican chairman, accused the attorney general of "stonewalling" for refusing to discuss how the NSA program was authorized.

"I think that saying that how the review was done and who did the review is classified is stonewalling," Sensenbrenner said. "And if we're properly to determine whether or not the program was legal and funded -- because that's Congress's responsibility -- we need to have answers, and we're not getting them."

Administration officials have acknowledged that Bush issued an order in October 2001 authorizing the NSA to intercept phone calls and e-mails between the United States and overseas in which one of the parties was suspected of some link to al-Qaeda. Gonzales and the Justice Department have argued that the program is constitutional and was effectively authorized by Congress when it approved the use of force against al-Qaeda after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Many Democrats and some Republicans say that Congress did not intend any such authorization, and that the program violates the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which created a special court to oversee clandestine surveillance within the United States. Lawmakers are considering several proposals to legalize the program in some way, whether by incorporating it within FISA or authorizing it separately.

In a news release, Schiff, a former federal prosecutor, called Gonzales's testimony about intercepting domestic calls "disturbing." He said it "represents a wholly unprecedented assertion of executive power."

"No one in Congress would deny the need to tap certain calls under court order, but if the administration believes it can tap purely domestic phone calls between Americans without court approval, there is no limit to executive power," he said.

During his testimony, Gonzales said he was constrained in what he could disclose about the highly classified program. "I do not think we are thumbing our nose at the Congress or the courts," he said.

Comment: As an example of the contempt with which the Bush administration regards the American people and their idea of justice and accountable government; remember a months back when the whole illegal wiretapping deal was revealed? Remember that Bush had given the green light for wiretapping American citizens if they were making international calls to potential "terrorists"? Remember how everyone was saying that this was illegal? Well, guess what Bush and Cos response is? That's right, they are now planning to wiretap your calls even when they are internal to the US. But it doesn't end there. Big American business is doinge everything it can to help the US government in its illegal activities.

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The tethered goat strategy

Sidney Blumenthal
Thursday April 6, 2006
The Guardian

Since the Iraqi elections in January, US foreign service officers at the Baghdad embassy have been writing a steady stream of disturbing cables describing drastically worsening conditions. Violence from incipient communal civil war is rapidly rising. Last month there were eight times as many assassinations committed by Shia militias as terrorist murders by Sunni insurgents. The insurgency, according to the reports, also continues to mutate. Meanwhile, President Bush's strategy of training Iraqi police and army to take over from coalition forces - "when they stand up, we'll stand down" - is perversely and portentously accelerating the strife. State department officials in the field are reporting that Shia militias use training as cover to infiltrate key positions. Thus the strategy to create institutions of order and security is fuelling civil war.
Rather than being received as invaluable intelligence, the messages are discarded or, worse, considered signs of disloyalty. Rejecting the facts on the ground apparently requires blaming the messengers. So far, two top attaches at the embassy have been reassigned elsewhere for producing factual reports that are too upsetting.

The Bush administration's preferred response to increasing disintegration is to act as if it has a strategy that is succeeding. "More delusion as a solution in the absence of a solution," said a senior state department official. Under the pretence that Iraq is being pacified, the military is partially withdrawing from hostile towns in the countryside and parts of Baghdad. By reducing the number of soldiers, the administration can claim its policy is working going into the midterm elections. But the jobs the military doesn't want to perform are being sloughed off on state department "provisional reconstruction teams" (PRTs) led by foreign service officers. The rationale is that they will win Iraqi hearts-and-minds by organising civil functions.

The Pentagon has informed the state department it will not provide security for these officials and that mercenaries should be hired for protection instead. Internal state department documents listing the PRT jobs, dated March 30, reveal that the vast majority of them remain unfilled by volunteers. So the professionals are being forced to take the assignments in which "they can't do what they are being asked to do", as a senior department official told me.

Foreign service officers, as a rule, are self-abnegating in serving any administration. The state department's Intelligence and Research Bureau was correct in its scepticism before the war about Saddam Hussein's possession of WMDs, but was ignored. The department was correct in its assessment in its 17-volume Future of Iraq project about the immense effort required for reconstruction after the war, but it was disregarded. Now its reports from Iraq are correct, but their authors are being punished. Foreign service officers are to be sent out like tethered goats to the killing fields. When these misbegotten projects inevitably fail, the department will be blamed. Passive resistance to these assignments reflects anticipation of impending disaster, including the likely murder of diplomats.

Amid this internal crisis of credibility, the secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, has washed her hands of her department. Her management skills are minimal. Now she has left coercing people to fill the PRTs to her counsellor, Philip Zelikow, who, by doing the dirty work, is trying to keep her reputation clean.

While the state department was racked last week by collapsing morale, Rice travelled to England to visit the constituency of Jack Straw. She declared that though the Bush administration had committed "tactical errors, thousands of them" in Iraq, it is right on the strategy. Then she and Straw took a magic carpet to Baghdad to try to overthrow Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafaari in favour of a more pliable character.

"Did you ever imagine in your wildest dreams that after Vietnam we'd be doing this again?" one top state department official remarked to another last week. Inside the department, people wonder about the next "strategy" after the hearts-and-minds gambit of sending diplomats unprotected to secure victory turns into a squalid fiasco. "Helicopters on the roof?" asked an official.

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How Massacres Become the Norm

By Dahr Jamail
Tuesday 04 April 2006

US soldiers killing innocent civilians in Iraq is not news. Just as it was not news that US soldiers slaughtered countless innocent civilians in Vietnam. However, when some rare reportage of this non news from Iraq does seep through the cracks of the corporate media, albeit briefly, the American public seems shocked. Private and public statements of denial and dismissal immediately start to fill the air. We hear, "American soldiers would never do such a thing," or "Who would make such a ridiculous claim?"

It amazes me that so many people in the US today somehow seriously believe that American soldiers would never kill civilians. Despite the fact that they are in a no-win guerrilla war in Iraq which, like any other guerrilla war, always generates more civilian casualties than combatant casualties on either side.
Robert J. Lifton is a prominent American psychiatrist who lobbied for the inclusion of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders after his work with US veterans from Vietnam. His studies on the behavior of those who have committed war crimes led him to believe it does not require an unusual level of mental illness or of personal evil to carry out such crimes. Rather, these crimes are nearly guaranteed to occur in what Lifton refers to as "atrocity-producing situations."

Several of his books, like The Nazi Doctors: Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide, examine how abnormal conditions work on normal minds, enabling them to commit the most horrendous crimes imaginable.

Iraq today is most certainly an "atrocity-producing situation," as it has been from the very beginning of the occupation.

The latest reported war crime, a US military raid on the al-Mustafa Shia mosque in Baghdad on March 26th, which killed at least 16 people, is only one instance of the phenomena that Lifton has spoken of.

An AP video of the scene shows male bodies tangled together in a bloody mass on the floor of the Imams' living quarters - all of them with shotgun wounds and other bullet holes. The tape also shows shell casings of the caliber used by the US military scattered about on the floor. An official from the al-Sadr political bloc reported that American forces had surrounded the hospital where the wounded were taken for treatment after the massacre.

The slaughter was followed by an instant and predictable disinformation blitz by the US military. The second ranking US commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, told reporters "someone went in and made the scene look different from what it was."

On March 15th, 11 Iraqis, mostly women and children, were massacred by US troops in Balad. Witnesses told reporters that US helicopters landed near a home, which was then stormed by US troops. Everyone visible was rounded up and taken inside the house where they were killed. The victims' ages ranged from six months to 75 years.

The US military acknowledged the raid, but claimed to have captured a resistance fighter and insisted that only four people had been killed. Their claim would have held good but for the discrepancies that the available evidence presents. For one, the photographs that the AP reporter took of the scene reveal a collapsed roof, three destroyed cars and two dead cows. The other indictment comes from the detailed report of the incident prepared by Iraq Police. It matches witness accounts and accuses the American troops of murdering Iraqi civilians.

"The American forces gathered the family members in one room and executed 11 persons, including five children, four women and two men. Then they bombed the house, burned three vehicles and killed the animals." The report includes the observation of local medics that all of the bodies had bullet wounds in the head.

Ahmed Khalaf, the nephew of one of the victims said, "The killed family was not part of the resistance, they were women and children. The Americans have promised us a better life, but we get only death." AP photos of the aftermath showed the bodies of five children, two men and four others covered in blankets being driven to a nearby hospital.

Reminiscent of Vietnam?

Another appalling example of the effect of an "atrocity-producing situation" was experienced last November 19th in Haditha. American troops, in retaliation against a roadside bomb attack, stormed nearby homes and shot dead 15 members of two families, including a three-year-old girl.

US military response? All 15 civilians were killed by the blast of the roadside bomb.

In this case, reality refuted their claim when a student of journalism from Haditha showed up with a video tape of the dead, still in their nightclothes.

Killing Iraqis in their homes and while they are in bed is not news either, for during the aftermath of the November 2004 assault on Fallujah, scores of Iraqis were killed by US soldiers in this manner.

Neither is it news that the US military regularly targets ambulances and medical infrastructure. Khaled Ahmed Rsayef, whose brother and six other relatives were killed by the troops, vividly described the blind frustration of the American soldiers and their impulsive revenge at losing one of their own. "American troops immediately cordoned off the area and raided two nearby houses, shooting at everyone inside. It was a massacre in every sense of the word," said Rasayef. While he was not present at the scene, his 15-year-old niece was and her story was corroborated by other residents of the area who witnessed the carnage.

A quick scan of some Arab media reportage for last month exposes further atrocities carried out by US forces in Iraq which find no mention in the corporate media.

March 20, the Daily Dar Al-Salam reported: "US forces destroyed houses in Hasibah and displaced the inhabitants. Also, a source at Abu Ghurayb Secondary School said that US forces raided the school for the third time and arrested the guard."

In December 2003, I personally witnessed US soldiers raid a secondary school in the al-Amiriyah district of Baghdad and detain 16 children.

March 19, Al-Arabia reported: "In another development, seven people, including a woman, were killed in a raid carried out by joint American-Iraqi forces in Al-Dulu'iyah at dawn today. The US Army has so far not confirmed this information."

March 9, Al Sharqiyah Television reported: "US troops opened fire at a civilian vehicle as it passed by Al-Hadba district in the western part of Mosul, northern Iraq. The three occupants of the vehicle were martyred in the incident."

Throughout the three-year history of the US-led catastrophe that is the occupation of Iraq, we have had one instance after another of brutality meted out to innocent Iraqis, by way of direct executions or bombings from the air, or both.

During an attack on a wedding party in May 2004, US troops killed over 40 people, mostly women and children, in a desert village on the Syrian border of Iraq.

APTN footage showed fragments of musical instruments, blood stains, the headless body of a child, other dead children and clumps of women's hair in a destroyed house that was bombed by US warplanes. Other photographs showed dead women and children, and an AP reporter identified at least 10 of the bodies as those of children. Relatives who gathered at a cemetery outside of Ramadi, where all the bodies were buried, told reporters that each of the 28 fresh graves contained between one and three bodies.

The few survivors of the massacre later recounted how in the middle of the night long after the wedding feast had ended, US jets began raining bombs on their tents and houses.

Mrs. Shihab, a 30-year-old woman who survived the massacre, told the Guardian, "We went out of the house and the American soldiers started to shoot us. They were shooting low on the ground and targeting us one by one." She added that she ran with her two little boys before they were all shot, including herself in the leg. "I left them because they were dead," she said of her two little boys, one of whom was decapitated by a shell. "I fell into the mud and an American soldier came and kicked me. I pretended to be dead so he wouldn't kill me."

Thereafter, armored military vehicles entered the village, shooting at all the other houses and the people who were starting to assemble in the open. Following these, two Chinook helicopters offloaded several dozen troops, some of who set explosives in one of the homes and a building next to it. Both exploded into rubble as the helicopters lifted off.

Mr. Nawaf, one of the survivors, said, "I saw something that nobody ever saw in this world. There were children's bodies cut into pieces, women cut into pieces, men cut into pieces. The Americans call these people foreign fighters. It is a lie. I just want one piece of evidence of what they are saying."

Hamdi Noor al-Alusi, the manager of al-Qa'im general hospital, the nearest medical facility to the scene of the slaughter, said that of the 42 killed, 14 were children and 11 women. "I want to know why the Americans targeted this small village," he said, "These people are my patients. I know each one of them. What has caused this disaster?"

As usual, the US military ran a disinformation campaign saying the target was a "suspected safe-house" for foreign fighters and denied that any children were killed. The ever pliant US Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt told reporters that the troops who reported back from the operation "told us they did not shoot women and children."

Topping his ridiculous claim was the statement of Maj. Gen. James Mattis, commander of the 1st Marine Division. "How many people go to the middle of the desert ... to hold a wedding 80 miles (130km) from the nearest civilization?"

Perhaps someone should have informed him that these farmers and nomads often "go to the middle of the desert" because they happen to live there.

"These were more than two dozen military-age males. Let's not be naïve," Mattis stated before being asked by a reporter to comment on the footage on Arabic television which showed a child's body being lowered into a grave. His brilliant response was: "I have not seen the pictures but bad things happen in wars. I don't have to apologize for the conduct of my men."

If the US were a member of the International Criminal Court, Maj. Gen. Mattis may well have been in The Hague right now being tried for aiding and abetting war crimes. How can someone holding an official position like Mattis publicly sanction atrocities?

It is about unnatural responses such as these that Dr. Lifton has written extensively. In a piece he wrote for the New England Journal of Medicine in July 2004, Lifton addressed the issue of US doctors being complicit in torturing Iraqis in Abu Ghraib. This article sheds much light on the situation in Iraq. If we substitute "doctors" with "soldiers" it is easy to understand why American soldiers are regularly committing the excesses that we hear of.

Lifton writes, "American doctors at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere have undoubtedly been aware of their medical responsibility to document injuries and raise questions about their possible source in abuse. But those doctors and other medical personnel were part of a command structure that permitted, encouraged, and sometimes orchestrated torture to a degree that it became the norm - with which they were expected to comply - in the immediate prison environment."

He continues, "The doctors thus brought a medical component to what I call an "atrocity-producing situation" - one so structured, psychologically and militarily, that ordinary people can readily engage in atrocities. Even without directly participating in the abuse, doctors may have become socialized to an environment of torture and by virtue of their medical authority helped sustain it. In studying various forms of medical abuse, I have found that the participation of doctors can confer an aura of legitimacy and can even create an illusion of therapy and healing."

I have personally experienced this. Standing with US soldiers at checkpoints and perimeters of operations in Iraq, I have seen them curse and kick Iraqis, heard them threatening to kill even women and children and then look at me as if they had merely said hello to them. My status of journalist did not deter them because they saw no need for checks.

Having stood with soldiers anticipating that each moving car would turn into a bomb and each passerby into a suicide bomber, I have tasted the stress and fear these soldiers live with on a daily basis. When one of their fellow soldiers is killed by a roadside bomb, the need for revenge may be directed at anything. And repeated often enough, the process gets socialized.

It's about this attitude brought on by the normalization of the abnormal under "atrocity-producing situations" that Dr. Lifton speaks. Unless of course we consider Mattis and others like him to be rare sociopaths who are able to participate in atrocities without suffering lasting emotional harm.

And it is this attitude that is responsible for the incessant replication of wanton slaughter and madness in Iraq today.

Back in November of 2004, I wrote about 12-year-old Fatima Harouz. She lay dazed in a crowded room in Yarmouk Hospital in Bahgdad, feebly waving her bruised arm at flies. Her shins had been shattered by bullets from US soldiers when they fired through the front door of her home in Latifiya, a small city just south of Baghdad. Small plastic drainage bags filled with red fluid sat upon her abdomen, where she took shrapnel from another bullet.

Her mother, who was standing with us, said, "They attacked our home and there weren't even any resistance fighters in our area." Her brother had been shot and killed, and his wife was wounded as their home was ransacked by soldiers. "Before they left, they killed all of our chickens," she added, her eyes a mixture of fear, shock and rage.

On hearing the story, a doctor looked at me sternly and asked, "This is the freedom ... in their Disney Land are there kids just like this?"

Another wounded young woman in a nearby hospital bed, Rana Obeidy, had been walking home with her brother. She assumed the soldiers shot her and her brother because he was carrying a bottle of soda. This happened in Baghdad. She had a chest wound where a bullet had grazed her, unlike her little brother, whom the bullets had killed.

There exist many more such cases. Amnesty International has documented scores of human rights violations committed by US troops in Iraq during the first six months of the occupation. To mention but a few:

US troops shot dead and injured scores of Iraqi demonstrators in several incidents. For example, seven people were reportedly shot dead and dozens injured in Mosul on 15 April.

At least 15 people, including children, were shot dead and more than 70 injured in Fallujah on 29 April.

Two demonstrators were shot dead outside the Republican Palace in Baghdad on 18 June.

On 14 May, two US armed vehicles broke through the perimeter wall of the home of Sa'adi Suleiman Ibrahim al-'Ubaydi in Ramadi. Soldiers beat him with rifle butts and then shot him dead as he tried to flee.

US forces shot 12-year-old Mohammad al-Kubaisi as they carried out search operations around his house in the Hay al-Jihad area in Baghdad on 26 June. He was carrying the family bedding to the roof of his house when he was shot. Neighbors tried to rush him to the nearby hospital by car, but US soldiers stopped them and ordered them to go back. By the time they returned to his home, Mohammad al-Kubaisi was dead.

On 17 September, a 14-year-old boy was killed and six people were injured when US troops opened fire at a wedding party in Fallujah.

On 23 September, three farmers, 'Ali Khalaf, Sa'adi Faqri and Salem Khalil, were killed and three others injured when US troops opened a barrage of gunfire reportedly lasting for at least an hour in the village of al-Jisr near Fallujah. A US military official stated that this happened when the troops came under attack but this was vehemently denied by relatives of the dead. Later that day, US military officials reportedly went to the farmhouse, took photographs and apologized to the family.

This last incident ended in a way similar to the one I covered in Ramadi in November, 2003. On the 23rd of that month during Ramadan, US soldiers raided a home where a family was just sitting down together to break their fast.

Three men of the family had their hands tied behind them with plastic ties and were laid on the ground face down while the women and children were made to stand inside a nearby storage closet.

Khalil Ahmed, 30 years old, the brother of two of the victims and cousin with a third, wept when he described to me how after executing the three men the soldiers completely destroyed the home, using Humvees with machine guns, small tanks, and gunfire from the many troops on foot and helicopters.

"We don't know the reason why the soldiers came here. They didn't tell us the reason. We don't know why they killed our family members." Khalil seemed to demand an answer from me. "There are no weapons in this house, there are no resistance fighters. So why did these people have to die? Why?"

Khalil told me that the day after the executions took place, soldiers returned to apologize. They handed him a cake saying they were sorry that they had been given wrong information by someone that told them there were resistance fighters in their house.

This is only a very small sampling. The only way to prevent any of this from being repeated ad infinitum is to remove US soldiers from their "atrocity-producing situation" in Iraq. For it is clearer than ever that the longer the failed, illegal occupation persists, the larger will be the numbers of Iraqis slaughtered by the occupation forces.

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Yawn--Oops, Wrong Title. Go to the End of the Article

by Missy Comley Beattie
April 6, 2006

I hope someone counted the number of times George W. Bush said 9/11 and Iraq in the same sentence during his speech today in North Carolina. I couldn't because I was unwilling to watch the entire performance. Enough is enough is enough. It's the same old push, the tired words that fewer and fewer believe.

This much I did hear:

"We must defeat the enemy overseas so we won't face them here."

The people of Iraq were not the enemy, although many most certainly are now, since we've dropped white phosphorous, a chemical banned by international law, leveled their cities, and killed thousands of civilians, including children. Collateral damage.
"Iraq is the front in the war on terror. The enemy has made it so."

Actually, the United States opened the borders to foreign terrorists when we invaded Iraq. Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were enemies.

"I saw a threat in Iraq."

Hans Blix reported a month before the invasion that: "We have conducted more than 400 inspections covering more than 300 sites..." In a previous report, Blix said that access was provided to all sites.

"We value human life whether it be abroad or here at home."

Just ask the victims of Katrina how much they're valued. And ask the survivors of our attacks on houses where our intelligence has indicated terrorist presence in Iraq. Talk with the women of Iraq who have seen their children bloodied by our weapons. If Bush valued human life, he'd have chosen peace. No Child Left Behind wouldn't be a failure. All of us would have health care. And the gap between the rich and poor wouldn't be growing.

"Putting those kids in harm's way is a tough, difficult decision. So I went with diplomacy."

Lie, lie, lie. So many documents and memos have surfaced providing irrefutable proof that Bush was determined to go to war in Iraq regardless of the advice from experts about WMD-regardless of what was revealed by weapons inspectors. The president has shown a callousness towards our troops that is criminal. Sending them to fight an illegal, unnecessary war is one atrocity. Sending an insufficient number of troops once the horrendous decision was made is another. But don't forget the insufficient armor and the statement by Rumsfeld: "As you know, you go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you want." This is reprehensible. Because when Rummy and Rice go to Iraq unannounced, they are in vehicles impregnable to powerful weapons and they are transported to the safety of the Green Zone. Now, about those diplomatic efforts. Does Bush think we're stupid? George has a diplomacy deficit.

"My biggest job is to protect the American people."

We have only to look at the mayhem during and after Katrina to disprove this assertion. Plus, we know the findings of the 9/11 Commission that gave the administration so many failing grades on security. Our borders are porous and our ports are vulnerable.

"September 11. I've never forgotten that day."

But he's forgotten Osama. And he continues to stroke the Saudis. Remember that most of the hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. Not one was from Iraq.

I really don't need to go on. We've heard all this before. Nothing new. Yawn. Surely, this speech won't bolster support for a war that even William Buckley is calling a failure.

What I do need to write is this: I'm sorry. This article is a yawner. Bush has said all this time and again. And I've written the same rebuttals to his worn out pronouncements before. Yawn.

I'm awake! I've just been told that L. "Scooter" Libby has revealed that George Bush authorized the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame.

Gold Star Families for Peace are demanding the resignations of George Bush, Dick Cheney, and every person in the administration whose lies resulted in the unnecessary deaths of our loved ones.

Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She's written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she's a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a novel last year, but since the death of her nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, in Iraq on August 6,'05, she has been writing political articles.

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New Today Show Co-Host an Anti-War Protester: "War Built on Lies"

Cyber Alert
Vol. Eleven; No. 56
Thursday April 6, 2006

Meredith Vieira, the replacement for Katie Couric as co-host of NBC's Today this fall -- Wednesday's New York Times reported that "NBC has nearly concluded an agreement with Meredith Vieira of ABC to replace Ms. Couric as co-host of the Today morning show" -- marched in an anti-Iraq war protest back in August of 2004.

On the Monday, August 30, 2004 edition of the ABC daytime show she quad-hosts, The View, the former CBS 60 Minutes reporter told viewers that she attended the anti-Bush protest held in New York City on the Sunday before the Republican convention opened, insisting: "I didn't go anti-Bush or pro-Kerry. I'm still so upset about this war and I'm so proud I live in a country where you can protest." She showed a photo of herself marching with her pre-teen daughter and her husband, Richard, who was the senior political producer at CBS News for most of the 1980s. Behind her in the photo: A protest sign featuring a "W," for George W. Bush, with a slash through it.

Earlier in 2004, she declared of the Iraq war: "Everything's been built on lies. Everything! I mean the entire pre-text for war." And, with war impending in March of 2003, Vieira argued that anti-war protests "should be consistent and repeated every day, I believe."
On other episodes of The View Vieira has also made clear her opposition to the death penalty and when guest Ann Coulter charged that "liberals hate America," Vieira called that "stupid" and became defensive: "But some people wrap themselves in the flag -- I mean, that's what some liberals are against." Then she charged: "Just like McCarthy: 'I'm just being patriotic.'"

[This item was posted, with two 2004 video clips, Wednesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org. The video and audio clips will be added to the posting of this CyberAlert item, but in the meantime you can watch or listen by going to: newsbusters.org ]

[UPDATE, 11:40am EDT Thursday, April 6: On today's The View Vieira, who also hosts the syndicated Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? game show, made it official, confirming her agreement with NBC to co-host Today.]

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40 killed in Iraq mosque attack

The Guardian
Friday April 7, 2006

At least 40 people have died in a suicide bombing attack on a Shia mosque in Baghdad, Iraqi police said today.

Two suicide bombers blew themselves up at the Buratha mosque in the north of the capital, one inside the building and the other outside, Reuters reported.
Sky News said at least 47 people had been killed in the blast. Reports suggested between 35 and 40 people had been wounded in the attack.

The mosque belongs to the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the most powerful party in the country's ruling Shia Alliance.

Police Major Falah al-Mohammedawi said at least 30 people had been injured, based on casualty figures from three hospitals.

Officials said shrapnel found at the scene suggested the blasts could have been caused by an explosive vest. However, some reports suggested the attack could have been a combination of mortar fire and a stationary bomb.

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For Your Health

Scientists confirm worst fears - this was H5N1

By Steve Connor, Science Editor
The Independent
07 April 2006

Government vets yesterday resisted calls for a nationwide ban on keeping free-range poultry outdoors, as scientists confirmed that a swan in Scotland had died of the H5N1 strain of bird flu.
Veterinary officials ordered all free-range birds within a three kilometre zone of the dead mute swan to be brought indoors, but they insisted that a wider ban on keeping domestic poultry outside was not yet necessary.

Instead, they asked poultry farmers within a 2,500 square kilometre "wild bird risk" area in Scotland - containing 3.1 million birds of which 260,000 are free range - to voluntarily bring their birds under cover, wherever possible.

There are fears the bird contracted the virus in Britain, since mute swans are non-migratory. Yesterday dead swans found in Glasgow's Richmond Park, and at Portglenone and Moira in Northern Ireland, were being tested for avian flu.

Health officials tried to calm public fears, saying that the risk to humans was minimal and that it was only possible to catch bird flu by close contact with living birds or their droppings.

There is a bigger risk of infected wild birds passing on avian flu to free-range chickens, geese and turkeys, but officials believe that a nationwide ban on keeping poultry outside would at this stage be too draconian.

"On the basis of a preliminary risk assessment it has been concluded that a nationwide poultry housing requirement would be disproportionate," said a joint statement from the UK and Scottish chief veterinary officers.

"We are urgently considering whether there is a need for any regional measures in addition to those that have already been put in place."

The mute swan died at least five days ago near Cellardyke in Fife and was badly decomposed by the time it was tested for the H5N1 strain of avian flu by scientists at the Government's Veterinary Laboratories Agency in Surrey.

Some countries, such as the Netherlands, have already ordered all domestic birds indoors and Bob McCracken, past president of the British Veterinary Association, said that the day of a national ban on keeping birds outside was getting closer.

"The order of the day is to minimise contact between wild birds that may be infected, and domestic birds. The most simple way of doing that is to remove them indoors," he said.

"There is no doubt whatsoever that we're getting much closer to the day when moving birds indoors will become necessary.

"If I were a poultry keeper, no matter how big or small, I would wherever possible be moving my birds indoors before it becomes mandatory to do so," he said.

Experts assume that other wild birds in Britain are already infected with the H5N1 strain of bird flu. "I find it very difficult to accept that we could have a single bird anywhere in the UK infected with this virus and not to have passed it on to some other birds in its immediate vicinity," Mr McCracken said.

"I would start from the assumption that there is a small pool of birds in the Fife area that are infected, and that they could pass the virus on to other birds," he added.

Other species are also at risk of bird flu, such as domestic pigs and pets, and scientists warned members of the public to keep dogs on leads and cats indoors.

Alan Hay, director of the Medical Research Council's World Influenza Centre at Mill Hill in London, claimed that cats could become infected by wild birds and pass on the virus to their owners. "The area of concern at the moment is to understand the extent of infection in birds and the likelihood that a cat might eat an infected bird and become infected, and then be a source of potential infection for the family," Dr Hay said.

There is also a risk of avian flu being transmitted to domestic pigs, which are known to be capable of being simultaneously infected with avian and human strains of influenza.

"There have been a number of cases in Asia where pigs have been shown to be infected by the virus but to date there has been no evidence that the infection has established itself by spreading from one pig to another. It is a major concern to us given the possible scenario that such an animal could provide an intermediate host for the emergence of a virus with a greater capacity to infect people," Dr Hay said.

The greatest fear is that H5N1, which globally has killed about half of the nearly 200 people it has infected, could mutate into a more transmissible virus.

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France's no-smoking laws 'badly applied'; Public Smoking Ban Coming

April 6, 2006

PARIS - The French government is studying the feasibility of a total ban on smoking in public spaces after an official report concluded that existing restrictions are not functioning properly, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said Thursday.

"The dossier is on the table," Villepin said at his monthly press conference.
"We are going to study the various hypotheses with those concerned. I am anxious to protect the health of our fellow citizens but also to draw the lessons of experience and do everything with the greatest possible consensus," he said.

Last month France's Social Affairs Inspectorate (IGAS) concluded that the 1991 Evin Law which obliges restaurants and other public places to have separate smoking areas is being "badly applied," and recommended it be superseded by an outright ban.

Health Minister Xavier Bertrand said at the time that "today's status quo cannot hold."

A poll last week showed that 78 percent of the French are in favour of a total ban on smoking in public places.

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Odds n Ends

EU opens doors to online domain for all

Friday April 7, 9:58 PM

The European Union opened the doors to its own new domain name, taking applications from anyone wanting .eu as their online identity tag.

Four months after public bodies were allowed to bid for .eu addresses, followed by businesses in February, private individuals can now set up websites using the 25-nation bloc's signature suffix.
"Today, Europes competitive knowledge society becomes very visible to the world on the internet," said Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding.

"Europe and its citizens can now project their own web identity, protected by EU rules," she said, adding that she expected thousands to rush to make ".eu a powerful domain name on equal footing with .com."

The .eu tag is not intended to replace the national identifiers used by the EU's member states such as Britain's .uk, France's .fr or Germany's .de, or indeed wider identifiers such as .com or .org.

During the first, four-month "sunrise" period of registrations, some 320,000 businesses and institutions applied to use the .eu tag to give a distinctive European flavour to their websites or email addresses.

Perhaps tellingly, the list of most popular domain names so far claimed is headed by "sex.eu," followed by other money-spinning business addresses as "realestate.eu" and "hotel.eu."

Some critics complained that the first two phases of the .eu application process were a bit complicated, but EURid insists it is clearer and simpler for individuals bidding for names in the "landrush" of applications from Friday.

Individuals can apply at one of some 1,500 registration centres, which will then pass the information on to EURid itself. Applications are not limited to Europeans, but applicants must be able to prove European residence.

The cost varies -- between 12 and 100 euros -- depending on where you register. A list of registrars is available on this website.

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Ark's Quantum Quirks

Signs of the Times
April 7, 2006


I'm telling you...

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