- Signs of the Times for Wed, 12 Apr 2006 -



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Editorial: More Patsies Take a Fall For Israeli, British and American Terrorism

Joe Quinn
Signs of the Times
12/04/2006

Today, in an example of the joke that the Western 'justice' system has become, a Spanish judge passed down sentences on 29 Moroccon patsies for their alleged yet wholly uncorroborated part in the Madrid Train bombings:
Judge charges 29 over Madrid train bombing

A Spanish judge has launched one of Europe's largest terrorism prosecutions, charging 29 people in connection with the 2004 Madrid train bombings.

After a two-year investigation, Judge Juan Del Olmo charged five people, all Moroccan nationals, with 191 counts of murder and 1,755 attempted murders, when they blew up three commuter trains in the Spanish capital. Another 23 were charged with collaboration.

Rather than waste time in attempting to argue the case myself, I will simply present evidence from mainstream news sources which show that today's charges can only be an attempt to close the case on the Madrid bombings using the time-honored tactics of locking up a bunch of patsies.

Spanish prosecutor wants Sept 11 conviction quashed

Feb 16, 2006 - MADRID (Reuters)

Spain's public prosecutor urged a court on Thursday to overturn an alleged al Qaeda leader's conviction for conspiring with the September 11 plotters, calling the evidence weak and unconvincing.

If the Supreme Court agrees with the prosecutor, it would mean that a high-profile trial of 24 alleged al Qaeda members in Spain last year had failed to convict anyone in connection with the September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. cities.

From today's article on the convictions:

Mr Bouchar was arrested in Serbia a year later, while carrying false Iraqi papers, and extradited to Spain. Both Mr Zougam and Mr Bouchar and the three others named in the indictment had links to the Moroccan Islamic Fighters' Group (GICM), which carried out the Casablanca bombings in May 2003.

Britons held over Casablanca bombings

A Briton is being held in Morocco in connection with the May bombings in Casablanca that killed 44 people.

A second Briton is also being held by authorities in the north African country, but a Foreign Office spokeswoman refused to confirm if he is suspected of terrorism.

Morocco bomb suspect is 'French spy'

Monday 08 September 2003 Aljazeera.net

A French national on trial in Morocco for allegedly leading a Muslim group suspected of the May bombing attacks in Casablanca has told the court he worked for French intelligence.

Pierre Robert told the Rabat court that he infiltrated Muslim groups and carried out investigations on behalf of the French intelligence services, the DST.

Spain suspects 'were Police informants'

The Spanish interior ministry says it is investigating reports that two suspects in the 11 March Madrid train bombings were police informants.

French accuse MI5 of failing to help terror hunt

By Kim Willsher in Paris and David Bamber 15/09/2002

French intelligence personnel have accused Britain of failing to cooperate with European partners in the war against Islamic terrorist groups. The allegations, made by senior French officials, have angered MI5 officers. Legal & General

France's security services claim that their British counterparts are refusing to share information, work with them or act against known British-based terrorist suspects.

A senior French intelligence official who reports directly to the President's office said that while there had been a "slight" improvement in cooperation immediately after September 11 last year, "things are now worse than they were before; that is to say, the British just don't appear to be doing anything. It's a pity because Britain has excellent intelligence but your people simply won't cooperate with us."

The anti-terrorist official also said that the French were certain that MI5 was sheltering Abu Qatada, a militant cleric, while officially denying knowledge of his whereabouts.

Special Branch to track Muslims across UK

Vikram Dodd Wednesday July 20, 2005 The Guardian

Special intelligence units are being planned across Britain to monitor Muslims so the authorities can collect "community by community" knowledge of where extremism is building up.

The Guardian has learned that the special squads, to be known as Muslim Contact Units and staffed by Special Branch officers, will be established in areas including Yorkshire, north-west England and parts of the Midlands.

Another quote from today's article about the Madrid bombing charges:

But Vicente Martin Pujalte, of the conservative opposition party, said they were still unconvinced by the "insufficient conclusion". He said: "To say this is an autonomous cell who simply decided [to carry out the bombing] one morning seems a weak argument." He described the accused as "secondary actors" in the conspiracy.

So the question remains: who are the "primary actors"?

Spain's "Terrorists" Not Devout Muslims

Xympohora - March 18-19, 2004

You can see how absurdly easy it is to create a fake 'al-Qaeda' terrorist attack. Take one petty criminal from Madrid of plausible ethnicity and pay him some money to hang out with some people who the authorities can associate with al-Qaeda. After the bomb attack, either plant a bag of unexploded bombs or find a real dud bag and, while it is in the police station, put a phone and a phone card from the shop of the petty criminal in the bag. The criminal is instantly turned into Lee Harvey Oswald, and the bombing attack is instantly turned into an act of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism.

1. The main suspect, Jamal Zougam appears to have been a petty scammer and fence who dealt in stolen telephones and credit cards brought to him by a ring of pickpockets in Madrid. One business associate who had visited him just before the attack said:

"I know what he is accused of, but this is not the Jamal we know." Mahabur al-Farhon, who owns a boutique close to Zougam's shop, said:

"When we had a beer together he never talked about religion. He was more interested in making money."

Zougam is tied into the bombings by a phonecard said to have come from his shop which was found in the one bag of bombs which did not explode. The reason it did not explode is supposedly because the trigger for the explosion, a phone call to a disposable cell phone in the bag, was not made. The reason the call was not made? Because the terrorists forgot (or because they set the clock on one detonator for 19:40 rather than 7:40)! The famous bag itself was found (2) in a police station, where it supposedly had been taken by the police along with other luggage found at the scene of the bombing. The Spanish authorities don't seem comfortable with witness statements that Zougam was on the train, so the fact one of his phones and phonecards were used really doesn't prove anything except that someone involved may have bought them from him.

2. A group of radical Muslims had moved into Zougam's neighborhood recently, but Zougam was never seen in their company. He liked to go to nightclubs, was interested in sporting the latest fashions, and had boasted about his many girlfriends. In other words, he was just like Mohamed Atta, another 'Islamic fundamentalist' with decidedly un-fundamentalist choices in lifestyle!

3. Moroccan authorities have identified (3) the three arrested Moroccans as Jamal Zugam, 30, an office worker, Muhammad Bekkali, 31, a mechanic and Muhammad Chaui, 34, a factory worker. They are not known to be connected to terrorism (and the Moroccans appear to be on top of such things). This is eerily reminiscent of the stolen identities used in the 9-11 attack.

4. The Abu Hafs al Masri Brigade, which took credit for the bombings, may not actually exist (4).

5. Of the five arrested men, three are said to be Moroccans and two are supposed to be from India. Although it may be a translation problem, they were described as being of 'Hindu' (5) origin, odd members for al-Qaeda! It is interesting that initially the men of 'Hindu' origin were simply being questioned and were not expected (6) to be arrested.

6. There were no suicide bombers.

If 'Jamal Zougam' (if that is his real name) was involved, and that is certainly not proven, it seems likely he did it for money rather than for religious ideals. If so, anyone could have hired him. The complete absence of any timely claim to have done the act from any known terrorist group makes it highly unlikely that it was a terrorist act in the traditional sense (I don't see any of the late claims of responsibility as being credible). The weavers of stories have already started their work of tying 'Jamal Zougam' into the web of international Islamic terrorism. Don't believe the hype!


Comment on this Editorial


Editorial: An Environmental 9/11

By Mathew K. Kiel
9 April, 2006
Signs of the Times

PART 1:

A 911 Call On Facing Global Pollution


The massive and exponentially increasing amount of smog we are breathing, globally, but especially in the U.S., has grown to be an environmental "911 call" of enormous urgency for all of us. In the U.S., we have a president, administration and both bodies of the Congress all determined to utterly pollute our air, water and land without restraint. The EPA has simply been deconstructed, defunded, disempowered and deregulated to the point of nearly complete irrelevance and dysfunction since January of 2001.

Most Americans now live downwind or downwater, no matter in how seemingly rural, remote and pristine an environment, from a major source of toxic levels of air and/or water pollution that is directly and adversely affecting their physical health. These pollution levels were nowhere near so life threatening just a bit more than five short years ago, back when the EPA was still alive, well, and enforcing the clean air and clean water standards. But over five years of deliberately unleashing almost unrestrained environmental pollution from all sources have rendered almost every last square mile of the continental U.S. a hazardous wasteland filled with toxic particulates, vapors and soups.

It is impossible to overstate the negative impact of this new Free License to Pollute from the Bush administration on everyone's health. These last five years have seen the nationwide statistics for lung cancers, respiratory diseases and cancers of all kinds, in everyone from infants to the elderly and in every part of the country, rural and urban alike, soar upward at rates never seen before. But we aren't hearing about this from the media, the press or the government, and many of the newest environmental health impact studies are vanishing from U.S. government web sites almost as fast as they are published by the various federal health agencies still collecting the data.

Pollutants of all kinds are again being produced and released with pitifully few attempts either made or allowed to ameliorate the wholesale contamination spewing into the environment. After all, most of that toxic, radioactive and otherwise deadly pollution is coming from power plants, industries, refineries, mines, automobiles and plastics owned or produced by the same wealthy individuals and/or corporations who have paid a lot of money to put Bush into the White House and have him get rid of the EPA, enforcement, regulations and all.

The Pathocratic Elite's wealthy owners and corporations have always resented any demands that they clean up their toxic wastes. Since the dawning days of the American public's environmental awarness and the government's moves toward environmental sanity, from the mid 60s and early 70s onward, they have slavered with just as much ferocity, to first block and avoid then later to get rid of all environmental protections and restraints, as they have to do away with Social Security, and for exactly the same reasons: It interferes with the unbridled pursuit of their greed and of their lusts for power, privilege and prestige.

As one example of the new trend, the flood waters from New Orleans were pumped straight into Lake Ponchartrain without any filtration, and without any testing being done to see just how bad it was, and just exactly what all was in a toxic sludge so deadly that stray dogs were seen to be killed by less than 30 minutes exposure to it. That is a huge lake, in an environmentally sensitive and ecologically unique wetland, and it is also the primary aquifer for all of lower Louisiana and the surrounding bayou habitats of adjoining states. There were multiple millions of gallons of lethally toxic goo pumped into it for weeks, and those toxic substances and pollutants will eventually leach out into the Gulf of Mexico as well. There is literally no limit to how far the poison can and will be spread from Lake Ponchartrain over time. This is an environmental crime, a pure crime against the Earth and all living things, including all human beings, a crime that will cause sickness and death in countless ways for decades, if not centuries to come. Not one serious voice of protest was heard about it when it was being done.

The Bush EPA did the same thing to New Yorkers, declaring the post September 11, 2001 air quality to be "good" and "safe." To this day the people of the New York City area have not been officially informed of the simple facts by their government, neither federal nor state. The fallout from the demolitions of the two WTC towers and WTC Building 7 contained megatons of silicates, metals, heavy metals, such as mercury - from thermostats, light switches, dental fillings and vapour lamps, plastics, tons of asbestos, the toxic ashes of synthetic fibres from rayon, dacron, nylon and polyester onward, bacterial and organic compounds from incinerated or pulverized human bodies, airborne PVC fumes and particulates, and radioactive particulates and gases from thousands of incinerated and pulverized smoke detectors and other commonplace alarm devices containing radioactive sensor elements. Of course, there were also fuel vapors, soot and actual uncombusted fuel from the jets that crashed into the towers. As horrific as this list is, it is the tip of the iceberg of toxins present in the air of New York City and adjacent areas of New Jersey for at least ten days to two weeks after 9/11/2001.

But the bodies of New Yorkers, and especially their lungs, are telling them the horrid Truth of it these days. The death rates for those New Yorkers who were exposed to the fallout from 9/11 have also soared. If there were any serious federal or state environmental studies of their health problems being allowed, rather than prevented, it would be abundantly clear that many thousands more Americans were sentenced to slow, lingering and brutal deaths by the Bush EPA's lies as to the air quality on and after 9/11/2001. Many more emergency responders, and even their K9 rescue dogs, have now died from respiratory diseases caused by the airborne contaminants. More people from every walk of life, in New York City and also in those areas of New Jersey that were directly downwind of the initial ash and vapor clouds from the WTC, and the smoke of the burning that continued for the next two weeks, have since died from the toxic fallout, fumes and smoke released on and after 9/11 than from the attacks themselves.

An environmental crisis of the 9/11 aftermath's proportions now afflicts even the most remote boondocks of America. From the Smoky Mountain highlands, to the Blue Ridge valleys of North Carolina, to the Bayous of Louisiana, the foothills of Middle Tennessee, the Green Mountains of Vermont and the high plateaus of the Intermountain West, toxic air and water pollution have arrived like an incoming tide with no lines of retreat and are devastating the environment nationwide. There is no safe place left for anyone, "from the mountains, to the valleys, to the oceans white with foam", America is healthy no more.

We will look to the scenic, pastoral, world renowned summer vacation paradise of lower Michigan's 6 southwestern Lakeshore counties and their 6 adjacent inland counties for but one example. This strip, roughly 60 miles wide and 80 miles long was, and still should and could be, nearly pristine land, with much of it having now lain fallow to all uses for at least 25 years, ever since the collapse of Michigan's industrial and automotive generated economy, never to return again, in the mid 1970s to early 1980s.

So dire has the chronic air pollution exposure become for the residents of the area that they now have one of the highest incidences of respiratory diseases of all kinds, anywhere, and most pertinently of asthma, chronic obstructive airways disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, emphysema and lung cancers of all kinds. That is a short list of those respiratroy ailments and diseases nearly always referred to in medical literature published since 1980 as "smoking related" diseases. However, that region of Michigan has had a historically lower than average number of smokers due to the strong cultural influences and strict religious beliefs of the Dutch Christian Reformed Church members who became a majority of the earliest European settlers in the area. A large percentage of the surnames in area phone books are Dutch to this day, and Holland, Michigan, with its annual tulip festival, real Dutch windmill and skilled Klompen dancers, is but one of the shoreline communites suffocating in a thick layer of smog not of its own making.

The area's residents are also abnormally high, among the highest in the world again, for other cancers of all kinds, all of which show a strong statistical correlation with exposure to airborne pollutants from exhaust fumes and/or exposure to the toxins from plastics production or combustion and emissions from oil refineries. All of those polllutants and more are produced, in abundance, in and around the heavily urbanized belt of cities that extend from Portage and Gary, Indiana, to Chicago and Waukegan, Illinois, and on northward to above Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The area of Michigan in question, on the other hand, makes its claims to fame as the "Fruit Basket of America," and as the "Blueberry Capital of the World." Not exactly two of the most air pollution producing of all "industries." So just why are these counties of rural southwestern Michigan among the highest in the nation and the world in the statistical incidences of what are always labeled as smoking-related lung diseases and cancers of all kinds? The area is dotted with some of the most picturesque, isolated, rural towns and villages in the country.
A careful study of the National Weather Service air quality reports reveals that the prevailing winds are from the W, WSW, to SSW directions for the entire center of the U.S. The winds blow from the prevailing directions for over 300 days each year, on average, in the southwestern quadrant of lower Michigan. In the past 5 years only when the winds have shifted to any other direction does the National Weather Service record a day for the area, as recorded in reports for one inland city, Grand Rapids, now and then, when the air quality is GOOD. The rest of the time, MODERATE or worse is the best it gets.

An area producing little to no pollution in its own right, in a state with some of the harshest anti-smoking taxes and bans in the nation, all widely and enthusiastically embraced by a vast majority of the citizens, is suffocating to death from the smog exported to it by a band of heavily polluting cities far away. Across the lower half of Lake Michigan no less, which has a significant "scrubbing" effect on the air that traverses its open waters, Chicago and surrounding cities that are up to two hundred miles away are exporting their pollution and killing the residents of small farming villages in rural Michigan. No pastoral locale, no matter how remote or insulated it may seem, is any longer far enough away from the sources or effects of pollution to be considered safe or protected now that the regulation and enforcement of environmental protections for air and water quality standards are gone.

Many of this nation's aging and frighteningly dilapidated nuclear power plants are leaking radioactivity into our ground water. In the case of southwestern lower Michigan, this too is a factor the residents live with. There are a number of nuclear power plants distributed around Michigan, but by far the most worrisome one, and the oldest, is the Pallisades Nuclear Power Plant, built in 1971 by Consumers Power Company. It emits its radioactive seepage directly into the waters of Lake Michigan, having been set up on the very shore of the Lake, just north of Benton Harbor, at Hagar Shores. It was in fact designed to draw the water used to cool its thermonuclear pile directly from the Lake, and so it does.

If ever there was a deliberate act of insanity, this is it: To set up a nuclear power plant on the actual shore of one of the Great Lakes. The Great Lakes, of which Lake Michgan is the second largest, are the sole and total aquifer for the entire north central North American continent. All of the land, both Canadian and U.S., that lies between the Rocky Mountains on the west and the Smoky, Appalachian, BlueRidge, Cumberland, Green Ridge, et al chain on the east, and is north of the southern tip of Lake Michigan has the Great Lakes as its primary aquifer.

The Great Lakes contain more than one fifth of the sum total of our global fresh water supply. To deliberately build and operate into its total, company admitted obsolesence, a nuclear power plant directly on the sandy, southeastern shore of Lake Michgan has got to take some kind an of all time prize for idiocy. Or else for pure maliciousness.

A new Poster at the Signs of the Times Forum raised some crucial points, and they appear in the numbered segments below. I have shortened the writer's comments and somewhat rephrased them, for the sake of brevity and emphasis. But Honor says that even someone who wished to be anonymous should not be robbed, and this Poster is entirely right: More than most things, these demonstrate the heart of the matter. I am grateful for the contribution, and it could not have been more welcome or timely.

1. The EPA has now taken to violating the Clean Air Act in its own right. Part of the federal response to the damage hurricane Katrina did to oil refineries along the Gulf Coast was to temporarily remove the pollution control standards for those refineries hit by the storm.

(The measure received so little media or press coverage, that it is doubtful, even today, whether most Americans have any idea this was done.)

2. A few days later, after the initial removal of EPA controls from Gulf Coast refineries received no widespread complaints or notice, they removed ALL pollution controls from ALL fuel refineries, nationwide.

(This, of course, includes the ones surrounding Chicago. The 12 county area of Michigan mentioned above has not had less than a yellow alert on smog for any day of W, WSW to SSW winds since last fall. In all past years, there had been a break from the worst of the pollution for the winter months.)

3. The waivers initially issued by the EPA were supposed to expire on September 15, 2005, but since it obviously saved the oil-industry a ton of money in refining costs, they have decided to go against the Clean Air Act and make the waivers permanent. The link for the information contained in items 1, 2, and 3 is: http://www.environmentaldefense.org/pre & entID=2498

4. In Sept. 2004 the National Institute of Environmental Health Science issued this statement: "Children who live in polluted communities are five times more likely to have clinically low lung function--less than 80 percent of the lung function expected for their age. New data from the Children's Health Study suggests that pollutants from vehicle emissions and fossil fuels hinder lung development and limit breathing capacity for a lifetime." http://www.niehs.nih.gov/o c/news/airpoll.htm

5. In January 2005 they issued this statement. "Among U.S. residents, 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will develop cancer at some point in their lifetimes. Research shows that environmental factors trigger diseases like cancer, especially when someone has a family history,[...]" http://www.niehs.nih.gov/oc/news/canceragents.htm

6. One division of our government (NIEHS) is willing to acknowledge and advise the American people of the amount of lung function and capacity we are losing due to airborne pollutants, while another division of our government, a so-called protection agency, intentionally makes the problem worse.

Now, let us think the above through and ask the obvious: How can this all be done without the public seeming to either notice or care?

Easily. With extensive enough and deep enough brainwashing and emotional conditioning, Mind Control in every real and pratical regard, the whole problem simply vanishes from the public's awareness, over and over, year after year, for sicker, and sicker, and sicker still, until all of us die from pollution.

There is a long standing, tried and true, public blindness and hysteria-inducing, nearly perfect programme of Mind Control in place, designed and implemented years ago to hide and deny the entire environmental holocaust being wrought and planned by the global PTB. It is comprised first and foremost of a False Belief System, grounded in a set of false "knowns" and "facts" that we have swallowed hook, line and sinker almost universally.

I am not ashamed to admit right here that I myself had absolutely believed that the "facts known" about the dangers of both smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke were all true, all real, and all solidly proved beyond a reasonable doubt, until about a year ago.

Please, for those of you who feel a powerful, knee-jerk reflex against this, maybe even an overwhelming desire to throw the computer out the window because of the turn this article has just taken, and for those who might now really crave to paste me square in the teeth for having pulled this "dirty" trick, please know that I have profound respect and sincere empathy for what you are feeling. That is exactly how I first reacted to the whole idea. Please stay with me now. Please have a cup of coffee, or a glass of milk, or heck, pour a sip of wine and let the steam back off for a bit. I know that's what I had to do. (The coffee was my choice.)

I have now been humbled deeply on this subject by months of research spent seeking the facts about it. I would never have questioned the subject at all except for some of the commentaries and other writings encountered through this web site. I initially set about to find out for myself, rather than to take their word for it, whether or not the Signs of the Times commentators were mistaken in their strong doubts about the actual dangers of smoking itself. While their arguments were certainly logical, I just could NOT accept the premise without a lot of solid proof found by my own efforts.

I had almost lifelong habits of questioning every voice of authority, every source of facts, and in taking no one's word for anything, no matter how persuasive it seemed, when I came up against this challenge. How odd it is then that not once, before encountering the Signs web site's commentaries and other writings on the issue, not once had I ever even thought to check out the facts about smoking and second-hand smoking for myself. That says just how totally and how deeply the conditioning is implanted in us and just how hardcore and set in is the brainwashing we have all received on this subject. I am appalled that this Programme had indeed taken me in, put me under its spell and kept me obliviously accepting its False Beliefs for almost 40 years.

Since the first U.S. Surgeon General's report on smoking was released in 1964, my utter acceptance of its validity, and that of every subsequent report, was instant and unthinking. As I said, I have been HUMBLED by the results of my research, not the least of all at the new found awareness of my own susceptibility to this Programme for all those years.

The Programme is an incredibly artful construct, with a nearly absolute mastery of distraction, deflection, disinformation and scapegoating in place, and it is and has always been, from its beginning, brilliantly orchestrated and disseminated by and through the mainstream, corporate media and press. It has insinuated itself into the mental fabric of nearly all of humanity. It was gradually built up, ever so carefully, incrementally and persuasively at every step, and it has long since been firmly, deeply embedded in our minds and in our emotional reflexes. So far, it has worked almost perfectly, for going on 40 years, as the global PTB's "cure" for the exponentially rising and spreading toxic effects of global environmental degradation and pollution of every kind, air pollution and radioactive contamination most and worst of all.

The global PTB, starting in the United States before spreading the anti- smoking Progammming around the world, always at an ever accelerating pace and an ever escalating emotional tenor, have been succeeding in completely hiding from the public's awareness, from all of us, the Real causes, which are toxic pollution of the environment, in all areas, and all ways, and all kinds, for the ever increasing cancers, respiratory, neurological and other life and health destroying ills that now afflict us. The Global Lords of Illusion have achieved this masterpiece of mass delusion and deception through the use of a most literal smoke screen.

Only the results of almost a year's worth of deep digging online and through the public library's reference services has finally brought the whole, ugly Pathocratic Reality into sharp focus. What I have lost is massive denial and the blindness it brought. What I have gained is a much broader portion of the Truth. It was time well spent. If you have the courage to risk the pain of parting with some very deeply implanted illusions, read on. If not, stop here.



PART 2:

The Great Anti-Smoking Smoke Screen



We are now going to expose a conspiracy that is, in its own way, every bit as strange and chilling as that exposed in the Pentagon Strike video. Nothing could be any more appropriate than to now quote the quietly spoken but Earth-shaking phrase heard at the mid point of that Work:

"Welcome to the Objective Reality. Please stay focused."

Despite the overwhleming and all pervasive prevalence of the claims, almost universally believed to be "well established facts," telling us second-hand exposure to tobacco smoke is the same, "life-threatening" danger as smoking itself, there is a serious body of evidence to, at the least, soundly dispute, if not outright disprove, such assertions. In fact, though seldom questioned, the truth is that the proof of the dangers of smoking itself, far from being conclusive, is not at all certain, and even less certain are the proofs of the dangers of second-hand smoking.

In putting aside all of the previous, pat conclusions, then taking a close and logical look at the issue, one must ask some very basic questions. How were these conclusions drawn and from what sources? Where, when and by whom were the scientific, double blind, objective, large scale, independently verified and long term studies done to conclusively prove such claims? What and where are the hard data and the solid, factual evidence to support them, aside from that found in government conducted, funded or connected studies? How were the studies designed and who were the test subjects?

Going in search of answers to those questions has been a very revealing experience. I invite others do so for their own enlightenment. The inquirer will find that there were government "fingers" in the conducting, the mixing and the results of the few and closely related original studies and reports villifying smoking itself. In fact, most subsequent studies have drawn from the originals so heavily as to be virtual reiterations thereof, thinly disguised and presented as "new" when in fact the only things new about them were the dates of their compilations and completions and the names of some of the patients and doctors paricipating in them, but not even all the names changed. Since this body of evidence has been used to both terrify the populace about smoking and to villify and demonise smokers, it seems that a great deal of sweeping assertions have been made upon the basis of a very thin icing of "proofs."

Subsequent, truly independent studies have not been able to consistently reproduce the same results and to support the same conclusions. Others, the numerical majority of all such studies to be sure, have indeed supported the original conslusions, but have done so by largely being precise, deliberate repetitions designed to duplicate the original tests, results and all, and run by the same "laboratories" and other government controlled sources, among them the AMA, CDC, NIH, VA and many federally funded public medical facilities, hospitals, and public universities.

How any question is asked will inevitably have a great bearing upon what answer is received in response to it. In no area is that fact more significant than in the testing and surveys done to prove the case against tobacco, and cigarette smoking in particular. It is not inaccurate to say that the body of works upon which the entire anti-smoking mythos has been based and subsequently reinforced appears to be a pool of very limited and derivative types and sources of research, and that the original studies were weighted and conducted so as to reach the predetermined conclusion of smoking's universally harmful effects.

After examining the sources of the original conclusions regarding the ills of smoking and likewise the dangers of second-hand smoking, the very next set of searches proved most informative. Web searches on the topics of "U.S. Air Pollution Reports", "UN Air Pollution Reports", "Environmental Pollution Reports 1970 to 2000" and "Earth's Most Polluted Areas" yielded some fascinating and dreadful results. Note especially, in the official reports that pop out, the years when the first major reports and data about global atmospheric pollution were released by the WHO, and when the first studies for U.S. atmospheric pollution data came out from the brand new EPA.

The "coincidences" are striking between the years when the anti-smoking hype began or got ratcheted up another notch each time, and when the sounding of alarms came from environmental researchers about the severe threats to human health posed by the degradation of the global environment and the toxic levels of air pollution that had been reached in most urban areas worldwide.

The original U.S. Surgeon General's report condemning cigarette smoking itself, the one that got this whole Programme started, came out in 1964. One must not miss the precise correlation between that first report and the original furor that had just then arisen over Rachel Carson's landmark 1962 book, SILENT SPRING. She had sounded the first and loud wake up call about DDT and other pesticides poisoning and launched environmental awareness onto the world's stage singlehandedly, especially in the U.S., Canada and the UK. Suddenly, after the Surgeon General's report, the media and press dropped all coverage of the increasing public concerns related to the environmental revelations brought to light by SILENT SPRING, and the uproar over the dangers of smoking had begun.

This has been a precise, "repeat as needed to quell environmental concerns" pattern ever since. With a mere 3 to 6 months of objective observation, being Mindful that there IS a pattern, those who are reading this and doubting it cannot fail to see it for themselves if they will but look for it.

The punitive taxation, the anti-smoking legislation and the ongoing, utterly one-sided media hype and frenzy over the subject, in the U.S., didn't get ratcheted up to the long since customary roar until 1972 however, more than 8 years after that pivotal Surgeon General's report. Not until 1977 were cigarette commercials banned entirely from U.S. broadcast airwaves, and as late as 1988, smoking was still allowed in the very rooms of hospital patients nationwide so long as they were neither using oxygen nor in an specialized intensive care unit. How interesting that the launches, then the subsequent, incremental increases of the anti-smoking vendettas, have so precisely matched the releases of the first several waves of dismal reports and their soundings of serious alarms about the prevalence and dire health consequences of rapidly spreading and growing levels of toxic, global pollution.

Extensive digging revealed that the warnings about the perils of second-hand tobacco smoke had the same types of studies used as the foundational smoking studies, and the very same sources entirely produced several of the major U.S. studies on second-hand smoking. They again were done by and for the U.S. federal government, using the same government owned or controlled labs and the same list of federal health agencies. That alone makes their results and conclusions rather suspect. Another series of them were done by labs underwritten by the health insurance industry, again not exactly a neutral agency without major ties to the government.

In one key example of how the anti-smoking data has been skewed, the AMA, CDC, NIH, VA and all other public health agency studies have asked ONLY about patients' and test subjects' smoking and/or exposure to others' tobacco smoke. There are no questions asked as to whether a patient has been also exposed to other air born particulates, or to such things as gasoline or kerosene fumes, vehicle exhausts, solvents, paints, pesticides, household and industrial cleaning chemicals, aerosol sprays, dusts, moulds, pollens and other irritants and allergens, etc., but only whether and how much there has been of exposure to tobacco smoke.

It is very easy to assign the blame for the continuously rising incidences of respiratory diseases of all kinds, globally, upon one, and only one cause, smoking, when no other potential culprit, no other and even more prevalent exposure to possible toxins is included in the tests. Using the same type of testing, one could in fact "prove conclusively" that lung cancer is caused by drinking well water, and in heavily polluted areas it very well may be. But that question has not been asked of those patients suffering from respiratory diseases and being profiled by any part of the mainstream medical community and government testing establishments.

In VA hospital surveys done among veterans suffering from respiratory ailment, over the past 40 years, veterans who logically had to have also been exposed to many other dangerous, air born contaminants, from Agent Orange to Depleted Uranium, gunpowder residue, asbestos, vehicle and aircraft exhaust fumes, to ship engine exhausts, fuel and solvent fumes and many other air pollutants, in addition to any tobacco smoke exposure they may have had, ONLY their exposure to tobacco smoke was asked about and tallied.

The VA studies essentially attributed all cases of pulmonary and respiratory diseases as being the effects of smoking and/or second-hand smoking each and every time that an individual had indicated either a history of smoking or of exposure to the tobacco smoke of others, without any regard for their exposure to other possible causes. If exposure to tobacco smoke was confirmed in a respiratory patient's medical history questionaire, no additional questions were asked, and tobacco smoke was listed as the causative agent in the respiratory disease process.

No studies have yet been done by the VA to effectively determine if other contaminants might possibly have been more causative of the veterans' respiratory ills than their use of or exposure to tobacco smoke. Alternative causes were sought only in those rare instances when a patient indicated no sustained or significant contact with tobacco smoke, ever, not even for a very short period in the course of his or her entire lifetime. Which is to say virtually never. This same rule, of asking only about a patient's exposure to tobacco smoke, has been, and is, used in gathering the statistics compiled about the "causative" relationships between tobacco smoke and all of the respiratory diseases now routinely labeled as "smoking related."

The simple truth is that public agency, medical association and other government affiliated and/or funded and controlled studies have never included other pollutants on an equal footing with tobacco smoke, nor, indeed, at all in the vast majority of sources from which their statistical data and thus their conclusions are drawn. The questions about exposure to other contaminants are not to be found on any of the standard "medical history" questionaires either. Just check the one your own physician uses if you doubt this. The question simply is not asked, not by mainstream medical practitioners, or by alternative ones for that matter, nor by any other sources involved with gathering the data on the dangers of smoking.

The WHO statistics, from their first, 1968 - 1970, surveys on global air pollution, found more lung cancer among non-smokers who were long term residents of polluted urban areas than among heavy smokers who were long term residents of pollution free rural areas. That information, however, has never yet been covered by the mainstream media and press, having been almost completely suppressed since shortly after its initial release in 1970. It takes a lot of digging to uncover its trail, even on the internet, but the data is there for those who go to the necessary lengths to uncover it. Start with a Google search on "World Health Organization Reports 1968" and go on from there, year by year up through 2000. The journey is quite an eye opener.

The kind of research used to demonize tobacco smoking would not have qualified as a reliable basis for drawing a definitive conclusion in the clinical psychology laboratory, in the chemistry lab or the physics lab, and it should not have been allowed to influence the entire course of human societal programming as it has done ever since. Had it not been used as the basis for draconian governmental measures, not to mention profiteering through punitive tobacco taxations galore, and had it not been touted far and wide by a media intent on promoting the government's propaganda on the subject, we might have gained much. Had there been any serious attempt to present a balanced investigation of the subject by the mainstream media and press, the status of smokers in today's world would likely not be so dreadful as it has become.

A significant number of smaller but more objective scientific studies have been done by independent researchers and laboratories around the world, most of them seeking to reproduce and verify the results of the government and/or other studies attesting to the ills of second-hand smoking. They have failed to find reliable, globally applicable, statistical correlations between exposure to others' tobacco smoke and an increased risk of respiratory ailments and/or lung cancers of all kinds in either adult nonsmokers or children. The independent results have shown that for every study which seems to prove the contention that second-hand tobacco smoke is harmful, there is another in which those harmful effects fail to appear, or else are related to environmental contaminants other than tobacco smoke. Legitimate studies do ask those other questions that the rest do not.

When the same challenges, tests and analyses are applied to data on the relationship between exposure to concentrations of air pollutants and environmental toxins and the incidence of respiratory ailments and cancers of all kinds, however, the precise one-to-one correlation is well established.

In nation after nation, in every culture and climate, in areas either downwind or downstream in the water table from large cities, nuclear power plants, coal fired power plants, ore extraction and other metal industries, and other known producers of airborne particulates and toxic pollutants, despite all other factors and variables from diet and exercise onward to age, the same relationship exists: The one factor that IS most determinant of the likelihood for development of lung cancers and respiratory ailments of all kinds is exposure to air born radioactive contaminants, airborne particulate matter, airborne toxins, vehicle exhaust fumes and ground level ozone, in other words, air pollution, smog.

The statistical correlation's between such infirmities and environmental pollution of all kinds grow more pronounced, more solidly proven with every new study. Funny how we seldom hear about those results in the mainstream, corporate press and media, isn't it? Yet the hysteria about second-hand smoking continues to grow, and the myth that smokers are a threat to the health of all gets more firmly entrenched in the public's awareness every year as the result. It is anything but coincidental that the first "proofs" of the perils of smoking, and then of exposure to second-hand smoking, hit the airwaves and received every form of global dissemination, far and wide, immediately after the releases of major early studies and reports on the devastating and growing ill effects to all of humanity from environmental pollution of every kind, especially air and water pollution.

When Christopher Reeves' wife, Dana, recently died of lung cancer, it was at once loudly and soundly attributed, by the corporate media's many eager and enthusiastic medical pundits, not to her having lived in the heavy smog zone of the Los Angeles basin for the past two decades, but to her occassional exposures to second-hand smoking as a nighclub singer when she was young, in a career that ended more than 15 years before she was diagnosed with lung cancer. It does not take much objective consideration to know that something is very wrong with that assertion.

Yet what we have all been taught to believe is the case is that any exposure to tobacco smoke, even if when we were infants, is bound to then be the inevitable cause of our developing any and every kind of horrible respiratory ailments and even fatal lung cancers several decades later. It just is not so, and the outrageous scare tactics involved in the anti- smoking Mind Control Programme become quite obvious after the first perceptions of its pattern become clear.

The process of deflection and scapegoating continues apace. An amazing example of it is currently displayed by what has happened to the information regarding the weekly increases now being measured in global atmospheric radioactivity. This lethal airborne radioactive material is being inflicted upon us all by the illegal and massive U.S. use of Depleted Uranium munitions in Iraq. It was but very recently swept under the rug by the media's focusing our attention upon and reporting to us instead about the new plethora of smoking bans going into effect around the world. Naturally the first wave of those bans began just when the facts about the globally measurable increases in atmospheric radioactive particulates from DU munitions almost began to gain some widespread public notice.

Immediately following the one and only BBC feature on the topic, exactly 48 hours later, the new wave of UK smoking bans proposals and debates, then passages, then enforcement methods and issues, distraction and deflections, scapegoating tactics one and all, started being a daily topic presented to us as of the highest importance for the good of our health, and they have continued in that vein ever since. Frankly, anyone who cannot reason this out well enough by now to figure out that thousands of metric tonnes of Depleted Uranium particulates and gases now being released into the Earth's atmosphere comprise a far greater and far deadlier risk, to the health and the very life of every living thing on this planet, than does all the tobacco smoking done and all the tobacco smoke released into the atmosphere since time began, needs at least a mental battery charge or even a replacement, because the bulb in that head is getting very dim.

This is far more than a slight misdirection. It is a global and carefully orchestrated Distraction Action. Whenever a new case of shocking, massive destruction to the health of an area's citizens by air and environmental pollution has been revealed, always caused by one Pathocratic corporate or government entity or another's callous disregard for humanity and the Earth, along comes a fresh media blitz further extolling the evils of tobacco smoke and the smokers who create it, and, of course, a fresh batch of anti-smoking laws, or tobacco litigations, or medical announcements of even more doom to all who get near to smokers and/or their smoke, and or more tabacco taxes and regulations, and on and on. The global airwaves, the mainstream press and thereby the public's consciousness are hijacked, every single time, and the revelation of yet more environmental devastation having been visited upon the lowly masses by the global Pathocracy gets lost again, and still.

It is made far more difficult, in regard to the allegations of the evils of smoking and second hand tobacco smoke, to speak Truth to the Lies, than in any other venue of public discourse. Many, if not in fact most, members of the movements and organizations standing most firmly in what they believe is complete opposition to the global PTB, among them anarchists, environmentalists, NGOs, many spiritual fellowships and communities, vegans, churches, support groups and so on, have swallowed the anti-smoking propaganda hook, line and sinker too. They unthinkingly, passively and with great gusto do the PTB's work of "divide and conquer" for it by demonizing and ostracizing smokers even more resolutely than do the governments whom they claim to oppose. It is hoped that at least some will have sufficiently strong resistance to the anti-smoking propaganda and programmes running in their heads to go to the nearest computer terminals and do the minimal searches suggested in this article so as to see for themselves what is really going on.

Before embracing any bias, one must always locate and consider the validity of its premises and especially examine its sources, then ask that necessary and fundamental question "Who benefits from it?"

In the global anti-smoking conditioning and propaganda, this is as necessary as in all of the other negative assumptions embedded in the "values" handed to us by mainstream society. No other product and practice has ever before been so demonized as smoking while still being treated as a fully legal, personal preference that citizens everywhere may freely choose to engage in without the threat of going to jail for doing so. Other substances that have thus been demonized have also been outlawed, such as narcotics, amphetamines, marijuana, LSD, ecstacy and many other euphorics and hallucinogens, but not so with tobacco. Surely it is long past the time to carefully and deeply question both why that is and just who benefits most from it?

Certainly, to date, there have been NO demonstrable benefits whatsoever to the public's health from all the anti-smoking measures combined. All of the diseases so long claimed to be "smoking related" have only increased with and in each and every year since the anti-smoking campaigns first began. In fact, the stricter and more punitive the anti-smoking programmes have become, the more universally present those dieaeses and cancer become, and the faster and worse the public's health has gone downhill. That fact alone is sufficient to tell us, loudly, that something is very WRONG with the whole anti-smoking agenda and all of the long touted "facts" supporting it.

The inescapable conclusion seems to be that the great anti-smoking agenda has always been a major "red herring." It was clearly designed to serve the purpose of distracting the public. It has very successfully kept the vast majority from becoming consciously and constantly aware of the real causes of the precipitously rising incidences of all kinds of respiratory ailments and lung cancers worldwide every year. Enormous suffering and destruction of health has stricken more and more people, each and every year, exactly as was predicted in the first comprehensive WHO and EPA environmental reports, released in 1971 and 1972, on the effects of global pollution on human health.

Since it began, and continuing to this very day, the anti-smoking crusade has been used to prevent and deflect the public's wrath and its inevitable feelings of loathing and violent rejection toward anyone and anything causing such severe and global harm. The toxic, public negativity which should rightfully have gone, and still must go, to and toward the polluters killing us all has instead been artfully shifted onto tobacco smokers. Smoking has been keeping the public's attention, awareness and most of all its wrath away from the increasing global pollution and the alarming rises in deadly illnesses being caused by it.

Meanwhile, the biggest polluters and their best enablers, all of them members of that global Pathocracy of a few, ultra wealthy, ultra powerful, largely clandestine families, the real rulers of Planet Earth, have continued with little to no obstruction to pollute the planet wholesale in their pursuit of obscene, endless profits and power for themselves and their friends. Thanks to the anti-smoking smoke screen and the conditioning it has imposed upon the minds of most people over the course of the last 40 years, they have grown ever more wealthy and powerful, literally at the cost of our lives and health and the lives and health of all future generations, if any there shall be as things currently stand.

The anti-smoking programme was designed to keep even the most astute and the least gullible among the people, those most dedicated to working against the PTB, blinded to the truth of who and what is really to blame for their wheezing children and their own cancerous lungs, skins and digestive tracts. What a stupendously devious "bait and switch" it truly has been, is, and will continue to be if we remain fogged in by anti-smoking propaganda. Their first step, convince everyone in the world that some realtively harmless but very addictive consumer product is totally toxic to everyone who gets near to it, so as to guarantee there will always be at least a few hopelessly addicted users of said product around to for scapegoats and patsies. Next, cook the medical data, doctor the medical books and records, set up tests that will guarantee you the statistics and all else you need to make this appear to be true, unless very closely examined with great attention to details galore. Lastly, bury as much of the contradicting evidence as can be buried, and then, every time you commit another environmental crime, and lots more people get sicker than ever or even die, point to that highly addictive consumer product that is relatively, maybe even entirely harmless and shout "THERE'S THE KILLER! THERE'S WHAT'S MAKING YOU SICK!" Have an army of your own, personal media and press people in place the then shout it so loudly and convincingly after that to assure that it is heard and repeated around the world each and every time.

In all of these years, not one voice has been raised in public to ask how it can be possible for cigarette smoking, and in particular second-hand exposure to cigarette smoking, to still be responsible for all of these exponentially increasing ills, especially not at this late date. Fewer people now smoke less tobacco than at any time since 1951, according to the latest U.S. government statistics. It simply doesn't add up: There is no possibility that smoking alone could now account for, nor ever did account for, the huge and growing plethora of ills that have been hidden by the literal smoke screen that has been made of it. But they even have an explanation for that: you either smoked, however briefly, or were exposed to noxious and toxic "second-hand smoke" when young.

Since the inventors and purveyors of the anti-smoking agenda, its policies and its attitudes were and are the servants and members of the global Pathocracy, that alone should give thinking people more than sufficient cause to reconsider the entire issue. Now that we begin to truly know them for what they are, everything they've ever assured us is true needs to become highly suspect, at best, and to be carefully examined and researched. Through the members and actions of the current ruling class and political lords of the U.S., and especially in the members of the Bush administration and its followers, the ugly reality of Pathocracy has finally come out of hiding and shown itself to us all in a full and Dark flowering.

The magnitude and quantity of ills and wrongs the Pathocrats foisted off onto the backs of, first, U.S. smokers, and now the entire global population of smokers, has turned smokers into the scapegoats and patsies for heinous and nearly infinite Pathocratic crimes. Even worse, these Lies have made social pariahs of a very many good and decent people who, in the Light of Truth, can now be seen to have done very little, if any, real harm to anyone, let alone to all of this Earth's inhabitants. Yet they have surely born the blame for the crimes of environmental destruction and pollution. It is impossible to read any advertisments, from job opportunities to apartments for rent and not see, in an endless and heartbreaking litany on every page, "NO Smokers" "Smokers Need Not Apply" "Non-smoking ONLY" and the like.

HOW COULD WE HAVE BEEN SO BLIND AS THIS?
BRAINWASHING. CONDITIONING. MIND CONTROL.

The Great Anti-Smoking Smoke Screen is a most literal case of Smoke and Mirrors that has, until now, been effectively used to Deceive us all and to hasten us on our ways to massive numbers of deaths most foul caused by massive amounts of global, toxic pollution and environmental destruction, not by our far less toxic, and far less frequent, far less constant exposures to tobacco smoke from whatever source.

As some final food for thought, please consider a last collection of a few simple facts. Even for those of us who have smoked, or who still do, we do NOT smoke when sleeping, for but one of many cases in point adding up to many hours of the day and night when we are not taking the contents of our tobacco smoke into our own lungs and bodies nor broadcasting it out into the world around us. But, for all of us on this Earth, the toxic, airborne pollutants are still being drawn into our lungs with every breath, for all of the minutes and hours of each and every day, for our entire lives, even in our sleep, without ceasing ever. As True for smokers as for all of us, the Pathocrats' Poisons are in the very air we must breathe in order to live, utterly inescapable, and far more intimately with us and within us than any amounts of tobacco smoke ever was or will be.

For those who do not smoke and/or who intensely dislike smoking, or who have allergic reactions from being exposed to tobacco smoke, you CAN always walk away from someone who is smoking. Or, if you ask politely, the smoker will usually put out the offending source; I always do, even when asked very impolitely. But go out and ask any Pathocrat on this Earth, politely or otherwise, to extinguish the pollution pouring out from a source he or she owns or controls, or to stop any other kind of environmental devastation being caused by his or her pursuits and enterprises. You will, as have many others who have already tried desperately to do just that, many times and in many ways, wind up serving a very unpleasant stay in a jail or even in prison.

So, having failed to get a Pathocrat to stop polluting and destroying your own and only Earth, try your very best then to walk away, run away or even fly away from the poisonous emissions raining upon you from pollution of every kind. It is impossible. Their toxic pollution is carried for hundreds of miles on the innocent winds. Their toxic pollution permeates every cubic centimeter of the air inside your house, and the air and water out in your yard, and in your town, and in your entire world. Their toxic pollution is constantly increasing its presence in every fibre and molecule of your very own body, even as you read these words.

We all CAN walk away from tobacco smoke. And the Truth IS that we always could have. Without any anti-smoking measures to have ever been taken by anyone, those who objected to smoking were always Free not to participate in it nor to be near it. But there is no longer any means left now for any of us to escape from the runaway, Pathocratic, global pollution and environmental destruction, thanks to the Great Anti-Smoking Smoke Screen that has kept us all blinded for the past 40 years.

Had we addressed pollution, and the Truth that it IS the Real source of our increasing and terrible sicknesses, of our increasingly early but so very lingering and painful deaths; had we invested ourselves and our efforts in stopping polluters and pollution with all of our vigour and resources over the entire course of the past 40 years; had we given ourselves over to prosecuting polluters and all who would protect or enable them in their polluting, in every way possible, and given ourselves over to enforcing an end to their polluting with exactly the same absolute beliefs in it being the totally and most right thing to do, and using exactly the same measures and fortitude societally as we have done in going after smokers and attempting to eradicate smoking instead, how might the world have now been very different for us all?

"WELCOME TO THE OBJECTIVE REALITY."


Partial Collection of Links

Depleted Uranium Education Project http://www.iacenter.org/depleted/du.htm

Gulf War Syndrome http://www.cfs-news.org/gulfwar.htm

From Vietnam to Iraq: Ignoring the Veteran Healthcare Crisis--pdf report http://americansforsharedsacrifice.org/VetCrisisReport4-HR.pdf

Depleted uranium issue goes way beyond statistics http://www.pstripes.com/jan01/ed011501d.html

GlobalResearch.ca

Cover-up: toxic waters 'will make New Orleans unsafe for a decade', Sunday, September 11, 2005 The Independent

Nuclear Reactors Found to Be Leaking Radioactive Water, March 17, 2006



US Media Censors Uranium Weapons Stories


DEPLETED URANIUM - A HIDDEN LOOMING WORLDWIDE CALAMITY by Stephen Lendman

IN DEFENSE OF SMOKERS by Lauren A. Colby PDF Download

Has California's Anti-Smoking Campaign Reduced Lung Cancer Rates?

The Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs
by Edward M. Brecher and the Editors of Consumer Reports Magazine, 1972
Chapter 26. Cigarettes --- and the 1964 Report of the Surgeon General's Advisory Committee
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Editorial: Iran Can Now Make glowing Mickey Mouse Watches

Juan Cole
Wednesday, April 12, 2006

- Bush and Ahmadinejad could be working together toward the Perfect Storm.-

Despite all the sloppy and inaccurate headlines about Iran "going nuclear," the fact is that all President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Tuesday was that it had enriched uranium to a measely 3.5 percent, using a bank of 180 centrifuges hooked up so that they "cascade."

The ability to slightly enrich uranium is not the same as the ability to build a bomb. For the latter, you need at least 80% enrichment, which in turn would require about 16,000 small centrifuges hooked up to cascade. Iran does not have 16,000 centrifuges. It seems to have 180. Iran is a good ten years away from having a bomb, and since its leaders, including Supreme Jurisprudent Ali Khamenei, say they do not want an atomic bomb because it is Islamically immoral, you have to wonder if they will ever have a bomb.

The crisis is not one of nuclear enrichment, a low-level attainment that does not necessarily lead to having a bomb. Even if Iran had a bomb, it is hard to see how they could be more dangerous than Communist China, which has lots of such bombs, and whose Walmart stores are a clever ruse to wipe out the middle class American family through funneling in cheaply made Chinese goods.

What is really going on here is a ratcheting war of rhetoric. The Iranian hard liners are down to a popularity rating in Iran of about 15%. They are using their challenge to the Bush administration over their perfectly legal civilian nuclear energy research program as a way of enhancing their nationalist credentials in Iran.

Likewise, Bush is trying to shore up his base, which is desperately unhappy with the Iraq situation, by rattling sabres at Iran. Bush's poll numbers are so low, often in the mid-30s, that he must have lost part of his base to produce this result. Iran is a great deus ex machina for Bush. Rally around the flag yet again.

If this international game of chicken goes wrong, then the whole Middle East and much of Western Europe could go up in flames. The real threat here is not unconventional war, which Iran cannot fight for the foreseeable future. It is the spread of Iraq-style instability to more countries in the region.

Bush and Ahmadinejad could be working together toward the Perfect Storm.

Click here for the original


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Editorial: A Markerless Grave in Vacaville

By Cindy Sheehan
t r u t h o u t
04/11/06

I am so tired of the Rovian, heartless, and ignorant smear machine attacking me and my family at every turn of my back.

The latest abomination in their scrutiny of my life is the fact that Casey has no "tombstone." As if it were anybody's business but Casey's family. I am sure every last person who has a problem with this has buried a child and they know what we are going through.

I am being smeared because I have a new car and I have "blown" through "$250,000.00" dollars of Casey's insurance money. I am sure that they have ready access to my bank accounts, too. I know I am writing this to compassionate people who would rather focus on an administration who lies, tortures, kills innocent people using conventional and chemical weapons, spies on its citizens without due process, and is treacherous in outing a CIA operative for petty high school-like revenge, thereby endangering her, her family, and her fellow CIA agents. If it weren't for these criminals, my son wouldn't need a tombstone.

I will tell the world why Casey has no marker yet. In the first place, does anyone who is attacking me know how Casey was brought home from Iraq? We picked him up in the United loading dock in a cardboard box and he was off-loaded into a hearse without one honor guard. We had to wait for about a half hour on a curb near the United freight area for his one escort, who rode from Dover Air Force Base in a seat, while Casey was treated as an over-sized piece of luggage. Has anybody held her other sobbing children who are sitting on a curb in San Francisco, waiting for the remains of their big brother to be carried over to the dock by a forklift?

Our so-called, illegitimate president has never attended a funeral, nor can families see the pictures of their loved ones as they are hauled like freight with flags on them from an immoral war zone. WE don't see them because Mama Bush doesn't want to "bother her pretty mind" with the images. America doesn't want to be bothered, either. We had a Casualty Officer who abandoned us when our mortuary refused to pay the cemetery and told us that the "government sent the money to the mortuary, so now it is your problem. You may have to sue the mortuary." Our government discards and dishonors its own.

My Casey wasn't always a soldier. He was a son and brother whose murder has left an aching hole in our lives worse than an amputation. Sooner or later, amputations heal and quit throbbing; this hole never will, or can, heal.

For the first year after Casey was killed, I didn't want to believe it. I didn't want to place a TOMBstone on my son's grave. I didn't want one more marble proof that my son was dead. I couldn't even call where he was buried a "cemetery," I had to call it "Casey's Park." I placed fresh flowers in the cup every week and journaled there almost on a daily basis, and often laid on it and fell asleep and dreamed of my needlessly killed son. Have any of these people who claim that I am pissing on my son's grave even visited him? Have they visited the grave of any soldier needlessly or senselessly killed in George's war of choice for oil and profit? Have they sobbed uncontrollably for my first born who shouldn't even need a gravestone? No, all they want to do is attack a mother who wants to prevent other people from having to bury their own child. They want to perpetuate a war that has already killed many thousands of our fellow human beings for absolutely nothing.

Casey's shell is buried in Vacaville, California, not his spirit. He lives with me and he is constantly with me as I travel the world so other families, Iraqi or American, do not have to bury their children. Casey lives in the hearts of everyone who wants peace and works for peace. He will never truly die.

There are many people whom the Bush regime has killed, either directly or indirectly, by their murderous policies: there are people buried under rubble of Iraq and who were buried under the rubble of the World Trade Towers, and if their families were lucky they could find small parts to bury, before their remains were carted away in the enormous trucks and barges; there are people still unaccounted-for in the swamps of New Orleans and in refrigerated trucks in Mississippi that will never even have graves, let alone gravestones. The Bush regime is good for business, all right; especially the funeral business.

I know these people are searching for proof that I am a horrible person, and it must be evidence that I didn't love Casey if he doesn't have a marker. I know that they can't support a criminal regime that is slipping into fascism, so they have to attack a mom for the "crime" of being broken-hearted and trying to save lives.

What they don't know is that they can't stop me from trying to save lives. No matter what they cook up next.

It is too important. No more needless gravestones. No more wasted lives.
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An Environmental 9/11


Nuclear Reactors Found to Be Leaking Radioactive Water

By Matthew L. Wald
The New York Times
Friday 17 March 2006

Washington - With power cleaner than coal and cheaper than natural gas, the nuclear industry, 20 years past its last meltdown, thinks it is ready for its second act: its first new reactor orders since the 1970's.


But there is a catch. The public's acceptance of new reactors depends in part on the performance of the old ones, and lately several of those have been discovered to be leaking radioactive water into the ground.

Near Braceville, Ill., the Braidwood Generating Station, owned by the Exelon Corporation, has leaked tritium into underground water that has shown up in the well of a family nearby. The company, which has bought out one property owner and is negotiating with others, has offered to help pay for a municipal water system for houses near the plant that have private wells.

In a survey of all 10 of its nuclear plants, Exelon found tritium in the ground at two others. On Tuesday, it said it had had another spill at Braidwood, about 60 miles southwest of Chicago, and on Thursday, the attorney general of Illinois announced she was filing a lawsuit against the company over that leak and five earlier ones, dating to 1996. The suit demands among other things that the utility provide substitute water supplies to residents.

In New York, at the Indian Point 2 reactor in Buchanan, workers digging a foundation adjacent to the plant's spent fuel pool found wet dirt, an indication that the pool was leaking. New monitoring wells are tracing the tritium's progress toward the Hudson River.

Indian Point officials say the quantities are tiny, compared with the amount of tritium that Indian Point is legally allowed to release into the river. Officials said they planned to find out how much was leaking and declare the leak a "monitored release pathway."

Nils J. Diaz, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said he would withhold judgment on the proposal until after it reached his agency, but he added, "They're going to have to fix it."

This month, workers at the Palo Verde plant in New Mexico found tritium in an underground pipe vault.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, which is critical of nuclear power safety arrangements, said recently that in the past 10 years, tritium had leaked from at least seven reactors. It called for a systematic program to ensure there were no more leaks.

Tami Branum, who lives close to the Braidwood reactor and owns property in the nearby village of Godley, said in a telephone interview, "It's just absolutely horrible, what we're trying to deal with here." Ms. Branum and her children, 17-year-old twin girls and a 7-year-old boy, drink only bottled water, she said, but use municipal water for everything else. "We're bathing in it, there's no way around it," she said.

Ms. Branum said that her property in Godley was worth about $50,000 and that she wanted to sell it, but that no property was changing hands now because of the spill.

A spokesman for Exelon, Craig Nesbit, said that neither Godley's water nor Braidwood's water system was threatened, but that the company had lost credibility when it did not publicly disclose a huge fuel oil spill and spills of tritium from 1996 to 2003. No well outside company property shows levels that exceed drinking water standards, he said.

Mr. Diaz of the regulatory agency, speaking to a gathering of about 1,800 industry executives and government regulators last week, said utilities were planning to apply for 11 reactor projects, with a total of 17 reactors. The Palo Verde reactor was the last one that was ordered, in October 1973, and actually built.

As the agency prepares to review license applications for the first time in decades, it is focusing on "materials degradation," a catch-all term for cracks, rust and other ills to which nuclear plants are susceptible. The old metal has to hold together, or be patched or replaced as required, for the industry to have a chance at building new plants, experts say.

Tritium, a form of hydrogen with two additional neutrons in its nucleus, is especially vexing. The atom is unstable and returns to stability by emitting a radioactive particle. Because the hydrogen is incorporated into a water molecule, it is almost impossible to filter out. The biological effect of the radiation is limited because, just like ordinary water, water that incorporates tritium does not stay in the body long.

But it is detectable in tiny quantities, and always makes its source look bad. The Energy Department closed a research reactor in New York at its Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, largely because of a tritium leak.

And it can catch up to a plant after death; demolition crews at the Connecticut Yankee reactor in Haddam Neck, Conn., are disposing of extra dirt that has been contaminated with tritium and other materials, as they tear the plant down.

After years of flat employment levels, the industry is preparing to hire hundreds of new engineers. Luis A. Reyes, the executive director for operations at the regulatory commission, told the industry gathering last week, "We'll take your resume in hard copy, online, whatever you can do," eliciting laughter from an audience heavy with executives of reactor operators and companies that want to build new ones.





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Cover-Up: Toxic Waters 'Will Make New Orleans Unsafe for a Decade'

Published on Sunday, September 11, 2005
lndependent/UK
by Geoffrey Lean

Toxic chemicals in the New Orleans flood waters will make the city unsafe for full human habitation for a decade, a US government official has told The Independent on Sunday. And, he added, the Bush administration is covering up the danger.


In an exclusive interview, Hugh Kaufman, an expert on toxic waste and responses to environmental disasters at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), said the way the polluted water was being pumped out was increasing the danger to health.

The pollution was far worse than had been admitted, he said, because his agency was failing to take enough samples and was refusing to make public the results of those it had analyzed."Inept political hacks" running the clean-up will imperil the health of low-income migrant workers by getting them to do the work.

His intervention came as President Bush's approval ratings fell below 40 per cent for the first time. Yesterday, Britain's Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, turned the screw by criticizing the US President's opposition to the Kyoto protocol on global warming. He compared New Orleans to island nations such as the Maldives, which are threatened by rising sea levels. Other US sources spelt out the extent of the danger from one of America's most polluted industrial areas, known locally as "Cancer Alley". The 66 chemical plants, refineries and petroleum storage depots churn out 600m lb of toxic waste each year. Other dangerous substances are in site storage tanks or at the port of New Orleans. No one knows how much pollution has escaped through damaged plants and leaking pipes into the "toxic gumbo" now drowning the city. Mr Kaufman says no one is trying to find out.

Few people are better qualified to judge the extent of the problem. Mr Kaufman, who has been with the EPA since it was founded 35 years ago, helped to set up its hazardous waste program. After serving as chief investigator to the EPA's ombudsman, he is now senior policy analyst in its Office of Solid Wastes and Emergency Response. He said the clean-up needed to be "the most massive public works exercise ever done", adding: "It will take 10 years to get everything up and running and safe."

Mr Kaufman claimed the Bush administration was playing down the need for a clean-up: the EPA has not been included in the core White House group tackling the crisis. "Its budget has been cut and inept political hacks have been put in key positions," Mr Kaufman said. "All the money for emergency response has gone to buy guns and cowboys - which don't do anything when a hurricane hits. We were less prepared for this than we would have been on 10 September 2001."

He said the water being pumped out of the city was not being tested for pollution and would damage Lake Pontchartrain and the Mississippi river, and endanger people using it downstream.

=A9 2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd.





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New Orleans waters cede foul, decrepit wasteland

Sat Sep 10, 4:56 PM ET

Vile yellow sewage pools in streets choked with the odor of sulphur, and a squad of soldiers turns back at the water's edge, after a dog staggers to dry land and dies.


This seedy block in New Orleans's Ninth Ward, adjacent to the tourist-trap French Quarter, was always one of the most deprived and decrepit corners of the city.

But receding floodwaters have left an appalling scene, foul brown rings where two-foot-high floods seeped away from homes and evidence of vandalism from the dangerous post-Hurricane Katrina days when looters ran riot.

This is just the kind of neighborhood city authorities seem to have in mind when they say Katrina rendered 160,000 homes unfit for habitation.

"Don't go out onto the water," says staff sergeant Jim Ellifrit of the Oregon National Guard, as his men syphon fuel out a boat left high and dry by receding floods, still tied to a lamppost.

"Things that go in there don't live very long. ... We just saw a dog come out of the water and he died within 30 minutes," Ellifrit said.

Bob Johannessen, spokesman for the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, agreed that the festering, waste-filled waters clogging New Orleans posed a serious health risk for both rescuers and survivors of Katrina.

"It is dangerous," he told AFP. Human waste contains a lot of harmful bacteria, and there is a lot of that in the water covering the city, he said, warning that survivors or rescue workers with open cuts or sores on their bodies were particularly vulnerable to sickness and disease if exposed to the reeking liquid.

To make matters worse, there are also a lot of chemicals that have spilled into it which have caused skin rashes among people in shelters who were exposed to it, he added.

In this dirty district, pigeons peck away at the sewage like winged rats, and a scrawny terrier sniffs at the carcass of another dog.

Many of the simple wooden homes here have hurricane or fire damage, windows smashed or debris on their front steps. Many are daubed in graffiti, much of which seems to have been penned after the storm hit.

"Take care of 1 another," says one slogan on the peeled white paint of a tatty home. "The fire next time," warns another.

On the grass verge between two lanes of traffic strewn with branches, garbage, burned metal and glass, someone has fashioned a cross out of empty beer bottles.

A team of dog catchers from the Albuquerque, New Mexico Department of Environmental Health cruises the streets, catching unfortunate strays, and takes them to a holding center for a wash.

"I guess we have pulled in about 15 this morning, just in these four blocks, said environmental health officer Martin Griego, holding a lasso-type device on a stick he uses to snare the frightened strays.

"We have been getting calls from owners, telling us, 'We don't care, break down the doors, get our dog.'"

The dogs largely have the street to themselves, as only four or five people from 12 blocks or so of tightly packed, run-down houses are still defying the call to abandon their homes, Ellifrit said.

Like many American cities, pockets of poverty and wealth are often just a few streets apart -- the fabled French Quarter, with its jazz dens and tourist bars is just down the road from this downtrodden district.

Nearby is the French Market, a cornucopia of cheeses, cold meats, fish, bread and spices, on the banks of the Mississippi.

But reminders of the New Orleans tragedy are everywhere. On the outer wall of the market, three soldiers stand over a decaying body wrapped in a sheet, lying under a slogan daubed on the wall reading "RIP ... F---(expletive) You Whore Katrina."

One soldier dons purple rubber gloves to turn over the body, looking for identification, as a shocked sergeant waves away watching journalists.





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Depleted Uranium - A Hidden Looming Worldwide Calamity

By Stephen Lendman
January 19, 2006:

Forget about Avian (bird) flu. The threat of it becoming a pandemic is more a political scare tactic and potential bonanza for drug company profits and its major shareholders' net worth (including Gilead Sciences, the developer of the Tamiflu drug and its former Chairman and major shareholder Donald Rumsfeld) than a likely public health crisis - unless you live around infected chickens or take an unproven safe immunization shot. There are much more other likely killer bacterial and viral threats than Avian that get little attention. Don't worry about possible or unlikely threats. Worry about real ones. Bacteria and viruses untreatable by anti-biotics are good examples. So is global warming and many others. But, there's possibly one threat that tops all others both in gravity and because it's been deliberately concealed from the public - never discussed, explained or had any action taken to remediate it. It's the global threat from the toxic effects of depleted uranium (DU), and like global warming, DU has the potential to destroy all planetary life. How can something so potentially destructive be hidden and ignored and why?


THE ARROGANCE OF DOMINANCE

There's little dispute that the U.S. today is the preeminent world power and unlike any that ever preceded it. It now admits to being an empire. In fact, it's the first ever world global empire. To expand its reach and influence, it now spends nearly as much on its military as all other nations combined and has built and maintains a military capacity no other nation dare challenge. It also reserves for itself the sole right to develop and use the most dangerous and destructive weapons, even those banned from use by international law or custom. Some of those now in charge at the highest levels believe they have a divine right to use them, even a duty. George Bush may be one of them. A self-proclaimed and so-called born-again Christian, he says he gets his direction from the Almighty. That's real arrogance, the supreme kind only an unchallengeable power and its leaders dare arrogate to itself.

Up to now, the U.S. has effectively used its power to dominate other nations either by persuasion, economic isolation or conquest. We claim to be a model democracy, but our policies and actions prove otherwise. At home we're a democracy for the few - the privileged and powerful. It's they who govern and run our institutions including the most dominant one of all - the giant transnational corporations whose interests all administrations serve including waging war for their benefit. Wars are good for business - as long as they're easily winnable, the public supports them, and they don't cause undo economic stresses that may disrupt the economy, in which case they're bad for business.

There's a striking term often used in the plural and in a business context that's also appropriate more broadly. The term is "externalities." In business it refers to the unfortunate side effects or consequences of a company's action that may have a detrimental affect on others. A typical example is an industrial plant that produces a dangerous substance as an unsalable byproduct from its production process. To avoid the cost of disposal, storage or treatment, the plant dumps it into waterways, unused land areas or through smokestacks. In so doing it harms the environment. Wars also have "externalities" - with far greater consequences. Overall, death, disease and destruction are the best examples. But so are the dangerous residues and their side effects from the use of weapons like toxic chemicals, biological agents and all types of nuclear munitions. We're all aware of the danger from the first two categories, although when used they only affect small areas and are not "weapons of mass destruction." We've also seen the destructive capability of a nuclear bomb and have heard of DU. But, the public has little or no knowledge about the real danger and threat from the use of any nuclear device or substance. That information has been willfully and deliberately suppressed because the potential harm is so great and irreversible. Even when there's clear evidence of widespread problems as there was in the case of the Agent Orange effects on Vietnam veterans and "Gulf war syndrome" on the military from that conflict, our government has denied any connection and stonewalled efforts to help those in need - until they no longer could hide the truth and had to act.

Depleted uranium (DU) is a "dense metal" that increases its ability as a weapon to penetrate a target, thus enhancing its destructive capability. Pentagon propaganda and disinformation falsely describe all DU weapons as only being coated. In fact, they are solid missiles, bombs, shells and bullets weighing up to 5,000 pounds in a single "bunker buster" bomb. All these weapons have solid DU projectiles or warheads in them, and their use in combat as the U.S. military has done in 4 wars and is now doing every day in Iraq is the "de facto" use of nuclear bombs. From Nagasaki in 1945 until the 1991 Gulf War, these weapons were effectively banned by common consent (and common sense) and never used (except for one time in the 1973 Yom Kippur war). No longer.

Above I asked why are these weapons used if they're so deadly and dangerous well beyond the areas they target? The answer's simple - because they work so well, and the enemy forces attacked don't have them and can't retaliate against us with them. The fact that we understand the danger from their use and the "externalities" left in their wake is someone else's problem to deal with. Just like a public corporation worries only about meeting Wall Street estimates of next quarter's earnings, our government and the military only worry about winning the next battle and next war - too bad if in the process we irradiate the planet and threaten all future life on it. That's someone else's problem later on. That's how big business thinks and also how our political and military leaders do as well.

OUR PRECIOUS PLANET AND HOW BADLY WE TREAT IT

Today we're threatened by many natural and "man-made" disasters we could act to prevent but don't. To the ones mentioned above add polluted air, water and soil. Include the unsafe food we eat from the chemical and other contaminants and unsafe additives in them. Don't ignore ozone layer damage, deforestation, the destruction of precious natural habits and endangered species, the reckless ways we develop and use our natural resources including wasteful overuse of a finite supply of fresh water that could run out and is irreplaceable. And don't forget wars that get more recklessly destructive as new technologies and weapons are developed to fight them and powerful nations having them show no restraint in their use.

In November, 2005 this nation lost a great man unfortunately unknown to most of the public. His name was Vine Deloria, Jr, a renowned Native American intellect, historian, author, scholar and activist. With great eloquence Deloria spoke and wrote about how for all its existence the planet was well preserved by those who lived on it - until about 200 years ago when western technological development began and changed everything. It was then transformed from being pristine to poisoned. He expressed such great wisdom in his writings and talks, it's worth quoting. Below are some examples:

"Progress is the absolute destruction of the real world in favor of a technology that creates a comfortable way of life for a few fortunatelysituated people. Within our lifetime the differences between the Indian use of the land and the white use of the land will become crystal clear. The Indian lived with his land. The white destroyed his land, he destroyed the planet earth."

Deloria once said that Christian missionaries had "fallen on their knees and prayed for the Indians" before rising to "fall on the Indians and prey on their land." He also claimed the destruction wrought by corporate values and its technology was so damag that a return to Native American tribal standards and culture could be viewed as salvation.

He viewed a corporate run predatory society, like the U.S., as an "Adolph Eichmann of the plains", whose soldiers were tools "not defending civilization; they were crushing another society."

Deloria wrote 20 books, edited others, and published his memoirs and a two-volume set of U.S. - Native American treaties, all of which are devastating accounts of U.S. duplicity. Every treaty made was broken or ignored to this day, and the rights of our Native Indians willfully violated and trampled over through lies, deception and deceit. Just the latest example of this is in one of the accusations in the ongoing Jack Abramoff political and financial corruption scandal now making daily headlines. Abramoff, his partner, and other well-known Republicans are accused of bilking Indian casino gambling interests out of an estimated $85 million. Further, in his now disclosed emails, he referred to Native Americans as "monkeys, troglodites (people with a sub-human like nature), and idiots."

Deloria also wrote that unlike African Americans, Native Indians did not want to be equals in U.S. society. They wanted no part of it. Vine Victor Deloria, Jr., historian, scholar, activist and much more was born March 26, 1933 and died November 13, 2005. He will be missed.

The Industrial Revolution and its single-minded pursuit of profit (what Veblen called "the maximization of pecuniary interests") was Deloria's point. It produced along with it a vast array of toxins that have done untold ecological damage. The alarm was prominently sounded in Rachel Carson's landmark book "Silent Spring" published in 1962 that forced the banning of DDT, influenced President Jack Kennedy and led to legislation affecting our air, water and soil. It also launched an environmental movement that's grown into many and diverse advocacy groups that lobby and fight for environmental sanity and justice. Since Carson's time we know much more about the dangers we face, and we have many more of them. But despite our knowledge and the influence of many concerned scientists and a public supporting the need for a healthy environment, our political leaders from both parties, in service to the dominant corporate interests they serve, pay little more than lip service to this most important of issues along with war and peace. Although the Congress passed more than a dozen major environmental statutes and laws since the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 including the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, CERCLA establishing the Superfund to pay for toxic cleanups, the Endangered Species Act and more, those statutes have since been weakened or ignored. As a result, conditions today are much worse than 40 years ago and the dangers from them threaten our survival.

In his 2003 published book - "Hegemony or Survival" - Noam Chomsky cited the reflections of eminent biologist Ernst Mayr. Mayr observed that other species were better able to survive than humans and that the average life of a species is about 100,000 years. It's generally believed the human species has now about reached that limit and may be near becoming extinct. If so, and in light of our more recent behavior, we may, as Chomsky notes, turn out to be the only species ever to destroy ourselves and much else along with us.

THE NUCLEAR AGE CHANGED EVERYTHING

Since the atom was first split in a Berlin laboratory in 1938, the world has never been the same. The great scientist Albert Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity was instrumental in the nuclear development that followed creating the atom bomb. But his greatest influence was the letter he sent to Franklin Roosevelt in 1939 urging him to build it. Einstein feared the Nazis might do it first with disastrous consequences. He later regretted his action and said: "I made one great mistake in my life....when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made...." He also said "our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived by those possessing the power to make great decisions for good and evil. The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe." If he were alive today, what might Einstein say about the threat from depleted uranium (DU) which when weaponized is possibly the ultimate weapon of mass destruction. But even if he said it, would the public be allowed to hear him? And most important, would his words change anything?

DEPLETED URANIUM (DU) - WHAT IT IS AND HOW IT'S USED

To use uranium as a fuel for commercial reactors or for nuclear weapons it must be enriched. The enrichment process is then followed by gaseous diffusion in two streams - one is enriched and the other depleted. Before a use was found for it, DU was just stored in vast amounts as a byproduct. However, when it was discovered that solid "dense metal" DU projectiles in all forms (missiles, bombs, shells and bullets) greatly increased their ability to penetrate and destroy a target, the Pentagon had a new technology it hoped to use in combat and now has for the past 15 years.

The first DU weapon system was developed for the Navy in 1968, and DU weapons were first given to Israel for use in the 1973 Yom Kippur war under U.S. supervision. These weapons were later sold to 29 countries but never used until the 1991 Gulf War when the U.S. broke an international taboo prohibiting them. Since then the U.S. has fought wars in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and again in Iraq. In all these conflicts, thousands of tons of solid DU weapons have been used causing far more devastation thus far from its radiation and chemical toxins than from the targets destroyed and those killed in target areas. Worst of all, the lingering and spreading affects from DU contamination never end, resulting in all those exposed to it and their loved ones with whom they have intimate contact and their offspring the likelihood of having one or more of virtually any illness, disease or disability imaginable often leading to early death or at the least a lifetime of pain, suffering and great expense. In Orwellian language, DU is the (deadly and unwelcome) gift that keeps on giving - and killing.

USING DU AS A WEAPON IS ILLEGAL UNDER INTERNATIONAL LAW

Poison gas in various forms was first used as a weapon in WW I by both sides. It's effects were deadly causing well over 1million total casualties and nearly 100,000 deaths. After the war, the revulsion over their use led to the 1925 Geneva Protocol and other succeeding Geneva Weapons Conventions that specifically outlawed the use of chemical and biological agents in any form for any reason in war. The 1925 Geneva Convention Gas Protocol specifically prohibits the use of poison gas weapons. Although no Geneva Convention or other treaty bans the use of radioactive uranium weapons, including DU weapons, these weapons are, in fact, illegal de facto and de jure when judged by the standard of the Hague Convention of 1907 which prohibits use of any "poison or poisoned weapons." DU weapons in all their forms and uses are radioactive and chemically toxic, and thus clearly fit the definition of poisonous weapons banned under the Hague Convention. The U.S. is a signatory to the Hague and Geneva Conventions (which are binding treaties under international law). In using DU weapons in combat or for any purpose, the U.S. has violated its sacred treaty obligations and is guilty of a war crime. Further, all DU weapons also meet the U.S. federal code definition of "weapons of mass destruction" (WMD) in 2 out of 3 categories:

[The US CODE, TITLE 50, CHAPTER 40, SECTION 2302 defines a Weapon of Mass Destruction as follows: "The term 'weapon of mass destruction' means any weapon or device that is intended, or has the capability, to cause death or serious bodily injury to a significant number of people through the release, dissemination, or impact of (A) toxic or poisonous chemicals or their precursors, (B) a disease organism, or (C) radiation or radioactivity." Because the U.S. is a signatory to the Hague and Geneva Conventions, the U.S. military is violating its own military code. By using depleted uranium (which is clearly a WMD and thus illegal) in combat in 4 wars, the U.S. is clearly guilty of the very crime we claimed our right to go to war against Iraq to prevent.

In addition, under various UN Conventions and Covenants that are binding international law for its signatories, the use of any weapons that cause harm after the battle including away from the battlefield, harm the environment, or kill, wound or cause harm inhumanely are illegal and banned. DU weapons are poisonous under international law and violate all the above conditions. Even the seminal Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is legally non-binding to its signatories, implies a moral duty never to use any weapons as potentially harmful as DU.

KNOWN EFFECTS FROM DU USE THUS FAR - AND THIS IS JUST THE BEGINNING, THE WORST IS YET TO COME

I'm very indebted to Leuren Moret for the data discussed throughohis article and below. Leuren is an independent scientist and internationally recognized expert on radiation, DU and public health. She's done extensive research on the environmental and public health effects of low level radiation from atmospheric testing fallout, nuclear power plants and DU weapons radiation in 42 countries, has written detailed reports and articles on her important findings, given testimony on the harmful affects of DU poisoning and is an outspoken critic of DU use. In an article she authored in July, 2004 she wrote: "The use of depleted uranium weaponry by the United States, defying all international treaties, will slowly annihilate all species on earth including the human species, and yet this country continues to do so with full knowledge of its destructive potential."

Leuren's work has revealed some shocking facts. Since the U.S. military first used DU weapons in the 1991 Gulf War, it has released the radioactive atomicity equivalent of 400,000 Nagasaki nuclear bombs into the global atmosphere (that's no misprint) causing permanent contamination with a half-life of 4.5 billion years. Furthermore, that DU radiation is 10 times the amount released by all atmospheric testing which in total equaled 40,000 Hiroshima bombs (again, no misprint). The 2 atom bombs used against the Japanese killed a likely 300,000 or more people from the initial blasts and subsequent radiation and chemical poisoning deaths. To this day, there are still reported deaths attributed to the bombings. Now imagine the potential threat to all planetary life from all the DU weapons used since 1991 and their continued use in Iraq and Afghanistan - the equivalent of 400,000 Nagasaki bombings and increasing daily as U.S. forces now are conducting 4 to 6 daily bombings of target sites in Iraq alone using DU bombs.

Leuren calls DU "The Trojan Horse of nuclear war - it keeps giving and keeps killing. There's no way to clean it up, and no way to turn it off because it continues to decay into other radioactive isotopes..." As it decays, it continues to release more radiation. DU when used as a weapon in war, as the U.S. has now done 4 times and continues to do so in Iraq and Afghanistan and intends to continue using, is Stanley Kubrick's fictional Doomsday Machine for real (from his 1964 film Dr. Strangelove). DU may be the ultimate weapon of mass annihilation. Unless there's a mass worldwide public awakening to this threat to demand an immediate end to its use for any purpose, we're left with little more than the message from the subtitle of the Kubrick film - stop worrying and love the bomb--and likely prepare to die.

The greatest damage from DU comes from the radiation residue after its use. When a DU weapon strikes a target, it penetrates deeply and aerosolizes into a fine spray which then contaminates the air and soil around the target area. The residue is permanent, and its microscopic and submicroscopic particles remain suspended in air or are swept into the air from the tainted soil and are carried by winds around the earth as a radioactive component of atmospheric dust. That dust falls to earth indiscriminately everywhere causing radiation contamination that affects every living thing and cannot be remediated. The contamination causes virtually every known illness and disease from severe headaches, muscle pain and general fatigue, to major birth defects, infection, depression, cardiovascular disease, many types of cancer and brain tumors. It also causes permanent disability and death. In June, 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO), without specific reference to DU, announced in a press release that global cancer rates will increase by 50% by 2020. WHO is usually conservative in its estimates. Might they believe things are potentially far worse? And are they closely examining the effects of DU to those in combat areas where these weapons are and have been used?

Those individuals (military and civilian) at or near target areas are most immediately affected by DU contamination, especially if they remain there for an extended time. During the 6 week 1991 Gulf war only 467 U.S. personnel were wounded and about 150 killed. Out of the 580,000 military personnel who served in that war, 325,000 were reported to be on permanent medical disability by the year 2000. It was also reported then the number was increasing by 43,000 each year. In fact, the annual increases were even greater, and by 2004 the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (the VA) reported over 518,000 Gulf-era veterans to be on medical disability. It also reported over 500,000 veterans were homeless. Studies were also done on veterans whose wives had normal babies before the war. It reported two-thirds of post-war births of those studied had severe birth defects, such as missing brains, eyes, legs and arms and blood diseases.

There are already scattered early reports of DU caused health problems from the current Iraq conflict (and probably Afghanistan) as well as an above normal rate of still active duty military and veteran suicide and family violence. As deployments in the current conflict are much longer than the short Gulf war and most serving go back for a second or even third tour of duty, it's easy to imagine a literal holocaust that will eventually devastate all military and other personnel who have or are now serving or will serve in Iraq and the region. And it likely will have a similar effect on the wives and husbands of veterans and their post-service offspring. Once again it must be emphasized. The U.S. government prior to 1991 had full knowledge of the devastating effects DU would cause and still used it, still does and still intends to keep using it. Beyond belief? You bet. If someone wrote this as a work of fiction or science fiction, no one would believe it, and probably no one would publish it.


DU USED AS WEAPONS - A WILLFUL ACT OF GENOCIDE

From its use already in 4 wars, the use of DU weapons is an act of insanity as well as possibly the greatest ever crime against humanity (and all other living species) and a war crime. Those responsible include 3 presidents, scores of high government officials and the Pentagon high command to include a lot of generals and admirals. These people are criminals. They're guilty of mass murder without end. They all should be made to answer for their crimes through indictment and trials both in our federal courts and at the International Criminal Court (ICC) at the Hague which was established in 2002 to try individuals for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. These people, or at least most of them, are guilty of all three crimes and should pay the highest price for them with no leniency. Their convictions should once and for all serve as a reminder to all future leaders that this type reckless behavior will never again be tolerated.

Nobel laureate Harold Pinter, a distinguished author and man of great honor, passion and eloquence, in his 2005 acceptance speech made these comments about the current Iraq war. Too ill with cancer, he was unable to travel to Oslo for the award ceremony and instead read his comments on videotape. Pinter is a sharp critic of the Iraq war and the U.S. and his U.K. government's role in it. In his Nobel award address he called the invasion of Iraq a "bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law." He stressed "the United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious......It quite simply doesn't give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant."

Pinter is right, and he said much more in his 46 minute acceptance speech. He also could have added the Bush administration since 9/11/01 has governed recklessly and arrogantly. With obsessive secrecy and contempt for the Constitution, the Congress, the courts and the U.S. public, George Bush has governed by Executive Order or Decree, a tool of tyrants when used to excess as this president has. He's done it to pursue a policy of permanent imperial war for U.S. global domination. The tragedy of 9/11 aside, the Bush administration created a fear-induced sham world terrorist threat to fight a so-called "global war on terrorism" for decades to come. It also created a near police state at home with baseless mass roundups, illegal detentions and deportations as part of a racist war against dark-skinned immigrants, illegal warrantless domestic spying and systemic use of torture of those detained and those held in offshore prisons and "renditioned" to mostly unnamed countries tolerating this practice. The Bush administration did all this based on a foundation of willful deception, deceit, and endless web of lies, and an utter contempt for political, economic and social justice at home and abroad and the rule of law.

Until recent months, Bush has gotten away with it all. Now with his poll numbers plummeting, the Iraq war a hopeless quagmire (despite the disinformation to the contrary), the possibility of further high level administration officials being indicted beside Lewis Libby along with the potentially huge political and financial Jack Abramoff corruption scandal, and the Democrats and some Republicans finally stirring and expressing their ire, the administration may be nearing its Waterloo. Like many other regimes in the past guilty of imperial arrogance and overreach (like the last one that tried - the Nazis - and thought they'd rule for 1000 years but only lasted 12) this administration and its reckless and heartless agenda may meet a similar fate.

Great thinkers and perceptive observers have ventured to guess what our fate may be as a result of our actions. Without predicting it, Noam Chomsky in a recent talk cited the worst of all possible outcomes - a nuclear holocaust, environmental destruction or the end of even nominal democracy.

Yale Senior Research Scholar Immanuel Wallerstein in his important 2003 book, The Decline of American Power, believes the U.S. "has been a fading global power since the 1970s, and the U.S. response to the (9/11) terrorist attacks has merely accelerated this decline." He goes on to say "the economic, political and military factors that contributed to U.S. hegemony are the same factors that will inexorably produce the coming U.S. decline." He later wrote he can't predict the outcome of "this chaotic crisis of our capitalist world system", but the U.S. attempt to stop it will fail. At best, they'll only delay it as they've been trying to do. Wallerstein sees a future that will go one of two ways (if we survive) - either one based on progressive values or something that's quite the opposite.

Retired professor Chalmers Johnson, in his important 2004 book, The Sorrows of Empire, also predicts the dissolution of the U.S. empire if its present path continues. Unlike imperial Rome that took hundreds of years before it fell, he sees U.S. sorrows arriving "with the speed of FedEx." He predicts 4 sorrows if the present trend continues that will create an ugly alternative to our present constitutional form of government: imperial overreach with a "state of perpetual war" leading to more terrorist retaliation against us; a loss of democracy and our constitutional rights; the end of truthfulness "replaced by a system of propaganda, disinformation, and glorification of war, power, and the military legions"; finally, he sees the nation going bankrupt from its inability to maintain ever more "grandiose military projects." The U.S. national debt now exceeds $8.2 trillion. It's growing unsustainably by over $400 billion annually as is the current account deficit that in 2006 may reach $1 trillion. Both deficits rely "on the kindness of strangers" (foreign governments and investors willing to keep buying our treasury securities and invest in our equity and fixed income markets) to sustain us. They'll do it only as long as they believe they're making sound investments. Johnson doesn't believe the present trend is irreversible. There's still time to change it, but so far he says we're not even trying. He thus believes the only hope for us and the planet is for the world community of nations to act together to "checkmate" us. If they don't or won't or can't, nuclear war may eventually ensue and "civilization will disappear."

To prevent the above scenarios from happening, the world community of nations must coalesce soon and go for "checkmate." And united they should demand that this kind of behavior will never again be tolerated by any nation. They should strengthen the international laws now in place enough to insure it, require every nation to be a signatory and force all nations to abide by these binding laws with the severest consequences for those who don't. But even if all this were to happen, the damage already done is overwhelming and spreading. It may already be too late. In the U.S. alone, 42 states are now contaminated with DU from its manufacture, testing and deployment. Also, the manufacture of millions of DU bombs and their deployment to U.S. military bases around the world continues.

Leuren Moret just learned from a declassified document a Hawaii based Quaker group obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that the U.S. military has 2.7 million DU bombs in U.S. still occupied South Korea (over 50 years after the end of the Korean War). She says it's little wonder North Korea wants nuclear weapons. She believes these bombs were moved there in the 1990s from U.S. still occupied (Japanese) Okinawa (60 years after WW II) because the Japanese (who abhor nuclear weapons) refused to domicile them any longer. And she speculates further that we very likely have many millions more DU bombs deployed in other countries where we have bases. That could include a great many more according to Chalmers Johnson. In The Sorrows of Empire, Johnson mentioned the existence of at least 725 known U.S. bases in 153 countries, besides hundreds more in this country. He also believes we have secret bases so the real total could be much higher and now likely is with all the new bases we're building in Iraq, Central Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and plans for Africa. Even without these weapons being used, imagine the potential danger we're placing the people of these countries in (and our own citizens as well) just because the weapons are there (and here). There could be accidents, the military engages in exercises where they likely test and use these weapons, and, of course, they could be stolen or even sold by rogue military or other personnel looking for a quick buck.

Imagine for a moment a reverse scenario. What if the U.K, France, Russia or China had bases in this country (bad enough) and additionally stored millions of DU bombs or other nuclear weapons on our soil. Would we citizens tolerate just the bases, let alone with DU bombs? Unlikely. Also imagine if the public here knew thousands or millions of these weapons were being stored on U.S. bases here, near where they lived.

They might also consider the 104 current operating commercial nuclear power plants in the U.S. They're all dangerous, but especially the aging ones. Every one is a potential unstable nuclear bomb and possible disaster waiting to happen, either from an inevitable accident or from sabotage. Responsible experts believe it's just a matter of time before a major nuclear disaster occurs somewhere in the world, possibly or even likely a full nuclear core meltdown - the worst possible kind of nuclear catastrophe other than a nuclear or thermonuclear explosion or widespread use of DU weapons.

If a core meltdown happened (or more likely when one happens), a vast area would be contaminated and made uninhabitable forever. Where I live in Chicago I'm surrounded by 11 nuclear power plants, many of them aging and all of them with histories of safety violations caused by aging and shoddy maintenance. Even without an accident, these facilities (and all others everywhere) discharge enough radiation daily in their normal operations to contaminate the food we eat (even organic food), the water we drink and the air we breathe into our lungs. If one of these plants had a core meltdown and metropolitan Chicago was downwind from the fallout, the city and suburbs alone would become uninhabitable forever and would have to be evacuated quickly with all possessions left behind and lost (including our homes) except for what we could carry in suitcases or in the trunks of our cars. Everyone should thus ask the obvious question - is this kind of insane "nuclear Russian roulette" risk worth taking? There are much cleaner, safer alternatives available or that can be developed, if we'd just be willing to invest heavily in alternative energy sources other than the nuclear option and fossil fuels. There are also common sense ways to practice conservation, without significantly impeding our western lifestyle.

Up to now, our leaders have been irresponsible and derelict in their duty to inform us of the risk and act responsibly to remove it to protect us from potential harm. They've also shown no restraint in their actions or respect for the people in countries we seek to dominate. Those countries are never the developed ones in the Global North with the power to respond. They're always weak, less developed and overexploited ones, usually with darker skinned people and a non Judeo-Christian faith. In this country, especially without a draft and with few good career opportunities for the poor and underprivileged, military service with the promise of education and other benefits (that most inductees never get) becomes the temporary career choice of expedience. The rich and well-off only wage the wars but don't fight in them. Instead they send the poor to fight and die for them to make them richer. When our Vietnam era military came home sick and dying from the toxic effects of Agent Orange (highly toxic dioxin), Henry Kissinger, a Nobel Peace prize recipient and accused war criminal, arrogantly insulted them all when he called them "just dumb stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy." Used, abused and discarded like worn out shoes. Kissinger's past has come back to haunt him. Before travelling abroad now, he must check with the State Department to be sure there are no warrants out for his arrest.

The world today is closer to the tipping point than ever before. We may, in fact, have passed it and it's already too late. The price we've paid for our technological advances has been an equal growth in the threat to our survival. Up to now we've found no way to end this destructive path. We're fast running out of time, and unless we do it and soon, we may not get another chance. The U.S. today is like a giant Gulliver Agonistes and the rest of the world like the Lilliputians - in Jonathan Swift's classic satire. Despite the mismatch, the Lilliputans (who stood 6 inches high) were able to tie down this giant and prevent him from wrecking their homes. In the end, they got Gulliver to leave and were able to go on with their lives. The lesson is clear. People everywhere need to understand the great peril we all face - our survival. Then, like the Lilliputians, we need to hog-tie this out-of-control predatory Gulliver to save ourselves.

Two final thoughts to consider - the first one from Dr. Helen Caldicott, president of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute, an expert on the medical hazards of nuclear energy, author, activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee from her 1978 book Nuclear Madness (updated in 1994): "As a physician, I contend nuclear technology (military and commercial) threatens life on our planet with extinction. If present trends continue (and they have and have gotten worse), the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink will soon be contaminated with enough radioactive pollutants to pose a potential health hazard far greater than any plague humanity has ever experienced."

The second is from the great British journalist, Robert Fisk from his year end London Independent column entitled War Without End: "Only justice, not bombs, can make our dangerous world a safer place."

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net





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US Media Censors Uranium Weapons Stories - Depleted Uranium Turns to Poison Gas

by Bob Nichols,
Project Censored Award Winner
Writers & Warriors Speakers Group
Saturday 28 May 2005

Dedication for the year 2120.

A Dedication in 2120 might say: Dedicated to the memory of the Iraqi people. Many people believe Iraq was the birthplace of civilization some 5,000 years ago. Iraq was destroyed and radioactively contaminated in an early 21st Century Oil War by a fascist world power, now extinguished.

Dedication to the Iraqi People in 2005.

Iraq is uninhabitable. The Wars in Central Asia all were nuclear wars fought with radiation dispersing American weapons.


None of the Bushista NeoCons running this miserable Genocide in Central Asia care one whit. In fact, it is what they ordered from the US Military's list of services. Mostly, the remaining 300 Million "good Americans" do not care, do not know and do not want to know.

Those Iraqis not yet radiologically contaminated must leave Iraq as soon as possible. Before they too get radiation poisoning, their genetic line is kaput, they die and become just so much radioactive sand in the deserts of Iraq.

The only hope of the US-UK Troopers in Iraq is that they get out before they take a fateful breath in the wrong place, at the wrong time. The not yet dead say there is a very slight metallic taste at the time.

Meanwhile the 140,000-pound A1M1 Death Machine Tanks keep dispensing Poison Uranium Oxide Gas that lasts forever in the Occupied Territories of Iraq, as per the Bushista NeoCons' Instructions.

That's the bottom line. The US Military, funded by the US taxpayer who borrowed up to 80% of the world's savings at one time, killed the Iraqi people. The Iraqis don't even know it yet. Most scientists and just plain people are afraid to look them in the eye and tell them the truth.

Censorship at Work

(America, Land of War Criminals) Radiation Poisoning is a miserable way to die. It means adult diapers, unbearable and unimaginable pain and Morphine as a Goddess, if you can get it. Poisonous, radioactive, ceramic uranium oxide gas colors everything else. There is no treatment and there is no cure.

Radiation Poisoning is a Death Sentence, courtesy of the US Political Class delivered on target and on time by the US Military, the most lethal military in the history of the world. .

See for yourself how people are faring in the shadowy world of Government Censorship, lies payola and grim everyday officially sanctioned propaganda. You and your family are subject to these NeoCon lies daily. If you are an American, chances are you believe them. You are wrong, dead wrong. You could not possibly be more wrong.

Google these phrases at www.google.com

"depleted Uranium" On May 14, 2005, it received 971,000 Internet page hits. Lie: "Depleted Uranium is really OK! After all, the Pentagon would not call it depleted if it wasn't, would they?"

"ceramic uranium oxide gas" + battlefield Truth: This stuff is deadly. It is Bad, Radioactive and Kills people - forever. It is not OK a year from now. It is not OK, ever. It use is always a War Crime. Only 19 Google Net page hits.

May 14, 2005, the Google count was a minuscule 19 Hits. It's on fewer than 19 web sites. Nineteen is hardly any at all. That's it! Total for the world as reflected by Google. But, still, I'm right and you are wrong.

Again, that's 971,000 vs 19 hits. That's a totally overwhelming advantage. Yet, the US Military and Intelligence Agencies keep investing more and more resources and money to counter the miserable little 19 stories, articles and references to the Genocidal Product "ceramic uranium oxide gas" used by the US Military in Bosnia, the former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq - In other words, Central Asia.

Why are they worried? In the world of "Big Media" what effect can a mere 19 articles have against the Tsunami of 971,000 page hits? Well, a lot, actually.

Now Google the phrase "Zyklon B" That is the poison gas the Nazis used to kill millions of Concentration Camp victims during the Holocaust of World War II. WW II lasted from 1939 to 1945.

You see, the United States Political Senior Class joyfully joined, 60 years later, the German Nazis of World War II in the decision to use Genocide as an Official Government Policy (OGP.) This was not done by mistake. No, these modern day butchers knew exactly what they were doing.

What's genocide? Dictionary.com reports - Genocide: The systematic and planned extermination of an entire national, racial, political, or ethnic group.

Weaponized Ceramic Uranium Oxide Gas betrays the motives of its users in the US Military and its advocates in politics, government and society. Just as surely as the Nazi's poisonous hydrogen cyanide gas does for an impartial war crimes investigator.

Genocide is the kind of international crime that has a big down side, if knowledge of it gets out of a tightly controlled orbit of enthusiastic and dedicated cult-like supporters. Of course, the CIA can easily control the big media to manage the spin. It's pretty simple, they do so every day. William Colby, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, once stated "The CIA owns anybody of consequence in the national media." It is obvious on its face.

Folks, the CIA cannot control you, though: Tell your neighbors about the US Military's Kill Everything Uranium Weapons.

It's known unofficially as the "Kill'em All Policy." also: "Waste Them," "Whack Them," and "Nuke 'em." Once set free in the political environment that is the kind of searing truth that burns out corruption: the infection, pus, and bloody raw wounds of a democracy turned fascist.

Currently in the deepest, darkest, blackest part of the fascist theocratic government in the United States the slavishly obedient US Military sees little reason to revolt and say "No!" to the well-known genocidal policies of the senior politicians. Even though poisonous Uranium Gas sickens and kills their own troops, the officer corps goes along with it as necessary because the civilian political leadership wants it that way.

It is also, as a practical matter, an efficient method eliminating ailing Vets that cost billions of dollars in budgetary appropriations for the Veterans Administration. They are just following the advice of US Foreign Policy guru Henry Kissinger.

In 1973 in General Alexander Haig's presence, Henry Kissinger, the National Security Advisor, referred pointedly to military men as "dumb, stupid animals to be used" as pawns for foreign policy.[10] Kissinger set the public stage for the war managers to sacrifice the gullible, but patriotic and "stupid" American Troopers to the use of weaponized uranium oxide gas. American General Norman Schwarzkopf from the First Gulf War stated they were not told anything about harmful uranium munitions.

As seen in the overwhelming comparison of 971,000 articles to 19 articles, the "depleted uranium" metal the US Military and Government actively encourages the meek and submissive academic sector to study is most often called "mildly radioactive." The same metal in most of the rest of the world is =93highly radioactive.=94

The "big media's talking heads" simply do as they are told, read what they are handed and collect their millions in payola bribes; and, of course, they smile - a lot.

In short, the lying big media have you and your family controlled perfectly. That makes the Professional Hairdo News Readers on your tube guilty of being an Accessory to Genocide and an Accessory to Mass Murder.

These media celebrities should utterly disgust everyday Americans, anywhere, anytime. Wait just a few minutes and everywhere in America, you will see their bright shiny faces on the boob tube. The men are strong, confident and well fed. The women look gaunt, anorexic and coping.

In the Ivy Covered Halls of Academia, the US Government has thousands of frightened scientists busy studying the wrong radioactive metal, on purpose. The War on Central Asia is a large well-organized industrial killing operation. God forbid the over educated, worthless clowns should study the poison uranium gas that is actually crippling and killing our own Troopers on the ground in Iraq and Iraqi men, women and children.

Yes, you see: poisonous radioactive ceramic uranium oxide gas and dust is all together different than the elemental uranium block of metal from which the more lethal version is derived.

This metal [uranium] humbly makes itself available for the having, by anyone with the gumption to dig it out of the ground and "process" it one time. No big deal, eh? Your watch dial might even glow with a cousin metal. It has a pretty, soft glow, doesn't it?

Guess what? Glowing watch dials have absolutely nothing to do with the lethal, crippling and killing radioactive uranium oxide gas used everywhere on American battlefields in the last fifteen years. And, that is the only place you will find this kind of uranium gas - in the air on American battlefields.

Killing is all it is good for. Killing for an eternity. The US Military uses millions of pounds of the weaponized version of it promiscuously in Iraq and Central Asia by order of senior American politicians.

That's a trick of the propagandists' art. See how easy you were to get off the track? Stay focused. These monsters are really good at diverting your attention. It's officially called "mis-direction" in propaganda classes. The real subject is "ceramic uranium oxide gas" + battlefields. Remember!

When you talk to your neighbors tell them that is what all the fuss is about. Guarantee you, when your neighbor Googles it, they are going to find one of the 19 articles. In this case, being right is not a consolation prize. It just means more threats and harassment for authors who dare to write and speak about it's use as a war crime.

Since 1943 American War Planners have known "The amount necessary to cause death to a person inhaling the material is extremely small. It has been estimated that one millionth of a gram accumulating in a person's body would be fatal. There are no known methods of treatment for such a casualty." [9] This is from a Declassified document from the secretive "Manhattan Project."

I invite you to try an experiment. Spend a while contemplating the following two questions. Write to me with your conclusions. Send them to: bobnichols@cox.net

Two Questions. 1. What kind of a person purposefully selects a Genocidal Weapon for use in Central Asia; then orders massive quantities of it used in battle.

2. What kind of person orders a government and military cover up of the resulting Slow Genocide?

The only statements throughout history that speak to the very issue we all face in the world today are these few sentences from the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal at the end of World War II.

"Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience... therefore have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring."

Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, 1950

Since the obliging and compliant Congress will not stand up to the President as they are supposed to, we have a serious problem in this country.

I would not want any weak-minded souls to think I do not respect the processes of Government created by the likes of Thomas Jefferson and his friends before 1776. Read all they wrote and said.

The Nuremberg statement is now international law and by extension, U.S. law. It is now the duty of all loyal American citizens. The fascist government controlling the United States and the US Military can no longer be allowed to exist; it must be replaced. The world and international law holds all Americans accountable, and the price to pay is dear.

As you think about the "problem" we have in the United States I send you this greeting "Welcome to hell."

The following sources were consulted for this article.

Listen to the former Director of the Pentagon's Depleted Uranium Project Dr Doug Rokke Ph.D., former Nuclear Weapons Lab Scientist Leuren Moret, former Army Sgt Dennis Kyne, human rights and war crimes lawyer Karen Parker, Canadian nuclear celebrity Susan Riordan, well-known nuke power plant investigator Russell Hoffman and Project Censored Award Winning Writer Bob Nichols discuss these thought provoking questions and more on the following recent World Wide Talk Radio Program:

Depleted Uranium: Cause and Effect 4 Hour Special on The =91X' Zone Radio Show and TalkStar Radio Network http://www.talkstarradio.com http://www.xzone-radio.com

1. Nichols - "There Are No Words" www.dissidentvoice.org/Mar04/Nichols0327.htm

2. Nichols - "My God! My Country Is Using Poison Gas In Iraq" www.dissidentvoice.org/Aug04/Nichols0807.htm

3. Russell Hoffman "Poison Fire, USA" www.animatedsoftware.com/poifu/poifu.swf

4. Moret - Depleted uranium: Dirty bombs, dirty missiles, dirty bullets www.sfbayview.com/081804/Depleteduranium081804.shtml

5. World Depleted Uranium Weapons Conference: www.uraniumweaponsconference.de/

6. International Criminal Tribunal for Afghanistan written opinion of Judge N. Bhagwat: also at www.traprockpeace.org/tokyo_trial_13march04.doc

7.Gsponer and Hurni "Fourth Generation Nuclear Weapons: The Physical Principles Of Thermonuclear Explosives, Inertial Confinement Fusion, And The Quest For Fourth Generation Nuclear Weapons" www.inesap.org/publ_tech01.htm

8.Ingri Cassel "An Interview with Amy Worthington" 5-15-2005, Rense.com www.rense.com/general65/amy.htm

9.Declassified documents, the Manhattan Project, 1943 Memo to Gen. Leslie Groves. http://www.mindfully.org/Nucs/Groves-Memo-Manhattan30oct43.htm

10. Kissinger's quote regarding military men comes from Chapter 14, which extensively discusses Al Haig, Kissinger and other Nixon staff advisors' negotiations and differences over national security issues during the 1969-1974 period. The exact, direct quote marks begin with the word 'dumb' and terminates after the word 'used'. SOURCE: Bob Woodward & Carl Bernstein, The Final Days, second Touchstone paperback edition (1994), Chapter 14, pp. 194-195.

Copyright by Bob Nichols. Credit the source and leave everything intact, including notes to re-publish. Bob Nichols is a Project Censored Award Winner and lives in Oklahoma where 20% of the people cannot read. He is a contributor to OnLineJournal.com, AxisofLogic.com, DissidentVoice.com other online publications and the "San Francisco Bay View" newspaper. Nichols is a former employee of the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant. Nichols can be reached by email at bob.bobnichols@gmail.com





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Has California's Anti-Smoking Campaign Reduced Lung Cancer Rates?

IN DEFENSE OF SMOKERS
1996, Lauren A. Colby. Version 2.3
Dec 2001 Addendum

California authorities have recently claimed that, as a result of their anti-smoking campaigns, there has been a marked reduction in lung cancer death rates (LCDRs) in California. No doubt, there's been a reduction, but I suggest that it's entirely unrelated to smoking!


The CDC website contains a massive amount of anti-smoking propaganda. Every so often, however, they slip up and post something that contradicts their own message.

On the site, there are some maps, showing lung cancer death rates for different parts of the country. There is a caveat attached, declaring that the maps will no longer be available after June 21, 2001. However, somebody evidently slipped up and failed to delete the maps, because, as of early December, 2001, they were still there.

The first map purports to show LCDR's for "white males" during the time period 1950-1969. The only other map posted for males is for Black males, which leads me to believe that any male who was not "Black" was classified as "White" (because, back in 1950, the government had not yet begun to classify people as "Asian", "Hispanic", "Native American", etc.).

What we see are the areas with high LCDR's shaded in red and those with the lowest LCDR's shaded in blue. Practically all of California is red or pink. All of Florida is red or pink. The area around New York City is deep red.

The next map shows LCDR's for "white males" for the years 1970-1994. Here it is:

Note that there has been a remarkable change! The parts of Florida around Miami have turned blue. The area around New York City has turned blue. The area around Los Angeles, CA (the smog capital of the world) has turned blue. Most of northeast Texas is red, but the areas along the border with Mexico are blue.

The CDC would have us believe that in the blue areas, fewer people are smoking cigarettes. There is, however, another explanation, which I believe to be more logical. All of the blue areas are areas where there has been a heavy Hispanic immigration.

It is well known that the lung cancer rate in American Indians is very low. Like Asians, they seem to possess a genetic resistance to the disease. The Hispanics who have immigrated into the blue areas are descendants of the same ancestors as our Native Americans. Thus, the changes in demographics more likely account for the changes in LCDR's than do any other single factor.





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Chapter 26. Cigarettes --- and the 1964 Report of the Surgeon General's Advisory Committee

The Consumers Union Report on Licit and Illicit Drugs
by Edward M. Brecher and the Editors of Consumer Reports Magazine, 1972

From 1492 to about 1910, tobacco was commonly smoked in cigars and pipes, inhaled as snuff, and chewed. Leaf-wrapped cigarettes--- miniature cigars--- were known to the American Indians before Columbus landed; and cigarettes with paper wrappers were available at least as early as the eighteenth century. But the cigarette as it is known today was first marketed in quantity toward the end of the nineteenth century. Not until the first quarter of the twentieth century did the cigarette become the most popular way of securing an hourly nicotine dose (see Figure 11).

Many factors contributed to this meteoric rise in popularity of the cigarette, including improved cigarette paper, automatic manufacturing machinery that lowered the price, and intensive nationwide advertising campaigns for the new cigarette brands. But the major factor was the appearance of a new type of tobacco--- known variously as "bright," "flue cured," or "Virginia"--- which made cigarette smoke more readily inhalable. Cigarettes made of the new tobacco were called mild ("not a cough in a carload") because the smoke could be drawn deep into the lungs. The size of the new cigarettes was also admirably adapted to the nicotine dose most people prefer. It was therefore easier for women and children to learn to smoke cigarettes; the likelihood of nicotine overdose among novices, with such acute toxic side effects as pallor, sweating, nausea, vomiting, and even loss of consciousness (fainting), was minimized.

The explosive increase in cigarette smoking after 1910 can also be attributed in part to the public-health campaigns of that era against the chewing of tobacco and its inevitable accompaniment, the cuspidor. The sputum of tobacco chewers, according to repeated public-health warnings, spreads tuberculosis and perhaps other diseases. Most of those who gave up tobacco chewing no doubt turned instead to cigarette smoking. The ashtray replaced the cuspidor, and lung cancer replaced tuberculosis as the major lung disease.

Perhaps because of their attractiveness to children and women, the new "mild" cigarettes aroused renewed hostility against nicotine. Beginning in the early 1900s, new anticigarette leagues, patterned on the politically potent antisaloon leagues, were founded and flourished both nationally and locally. Smoking by women and children was particularly assailed. This view was taken even by many confirmed pipe and cigar smokers--- including Thomas A. Edison, himself addicted to cigars. In 1914 Edison wrote a widely publicized letter to Henry Ford alleging that unlike cigar smoke, the smoke from a paper-wrapped cigarette "has a violent action in the nerve centers, producing degeneration of the cells of the brain, which is quite rapid among boys. Unlike most narcotics, this degeneration is permanent and uncontrollable. I employ no person who smokes cigarettes." 2

FIGURE 11. Production of Cigarettes, 1880 to 1968 2

Buttressed by such authoritative statements from respected public figures, the anticigarette campaigns were remarkably successful among lawmakers. By 1921--- the year after alcohol prohibition--- fourteen states had enacted cigarette prohibition, and ninety-two anticigarette bills were under consideration in twenty-eight state legislatures. The campaigns were not as effective, however, among cigarette smokers. Men, women, and children went right on smoking (as in the realms of the czar, the sultan, and the mikado centuries before), and in 1927 the last of the statewide cigarette prohibition laws was repealed. 3 Only laws against sales to minors remained.

Examples of these laws are cited below. All of these laws were in effect in the early 1960s, and some may indeed remain in effect today.

A Florida law made it illegal for anyone under the age of twenty-one to smoke cigarettes. It was also illegal in Florida to provide anyone under twenty-one with a cigarette, a cigarette wrapper, or a substitute; a twenty-year-old caught in possession of a cigarette could be hauled into court and compelled to testify concerning its source.

In Georgia, Kansas, West Virginia, and perhaps other states, the legal age for smoking was also twenty-one. In Idaho, incredible as it may seem, the minimum cigarette age for men was twenty-one, but girls could smoke at eighteen.

In Maine an offer to sell cigarettes to a minor was punishable. In Florida it was unlawful to advise or counsel anyone under twenty-one to smoke. In Massachusetts snuff and cigars were forbidden to young people under sixteen; the ban against cigarettes continued until eighteen. In North Dakota it was unlawful to permit minors to gather in a public place to use tobacco. In Pennsylvania, a minor who refused to divulge the source of cigarettes or cigarette paper could be fined, imprisoned, or certified to the juvenile court; refusal to serve as an informer against his cigarette supplier also made a child a criminal in South Carolina.

These laws led, of course, to ridicule and contempt on the part of law defying young people.

If the anticigarette laws had been effective, one might view them from a different perspective. But here are the cigarette production figures during the decades when anticigarette campaigns were at their height and anticigarette laws were mushrooming in the state legislatures:

YearsCigarettes per Year (Billions) a
1900-19094.2
1910-191924.3
1920-192980.0 5

a The comparable 1970 figure was 583 billion. 4

As we shall show in Parts VII and VIII, the laws and campaigns of the 1960s against LSD and marijuana helped to popularize those drugs. In retrospect, it seems reasonable to conclude that the anticigarette laws and campaigns earlier in the century were similarly among the significant factors popularizing the cigarette. The prohibition served as a lure.

Thomas Edison was no doubt wrong in alleging that cigarettes permanently damage the cells of the brain--- but he was right in his view that cigarettes are more damaging than pipes or cigars. In part at least, this is because cigarette smoke is usually inhaled deep into the lungs. Some cigarette smokers do not inhale the smoke, while some cigar and pipe smokers do inhale. In general, however, the conversion to cigarette smoking meant a phenomenal increase in smoke inhalation.

Evidence of the added hazard this introduced was soon forthcoming. In 1921, for example, Dr. Moses Barron reported that there had been only four cases of death from lung cancer found among 3,399 autopsies performed at the University of Minnesota from 1899 through 1918. Between 1919 and July 1921, in contrast, there were nine lung-cancer deaths in 1,033 autopsies--- an 800 percent increase. * 7 In 1927, Dr. F. E. Tylecote reported in the British medical journal Lancet that almost every patient with lung cancer he had seen was a regular smoker, usually of cigarettes. 8 Thereafter confirmatory evidence accumulated rapidly, and lung cancer among smokers reached epidemic proportions.

* By 1952, the rate at the University of Minnesota had risen to 264 lung-cancer deaths in 8,332 autopsies--- almost a 3,600 percent increase over the pre-1919 rate. 6

Conclusive evidence that cigarette-smoking is by far the most important cause of lung cancer, and is also a major factor in deaths from coronary heart disease, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and other diseases, was collected during the 1950s and 1960s in a brilliant series of large-scale studies conducted by Dr. E. Cuyler Hammond and his associates of the American Cancer Society. The ACS studies also revealed greatly increased illness rates among smokers and a notable shortening of life expectancy; cigarettes were more damaging in many of these respects than cigars or pipes. Finally, and of the utmost importance, the ACS studies established the fact that ex-smokers live longer than smokers, and that the longer they go without smoking, the closer their life expectancy approaches the life expectancy of those who have never smoked.

Recent studies have also shown that cigarette smoking during pregnancy adds to the hazards of the unborn baby. An English and in American researcher, C. M. Fletcher and Daniel Horn, summarized the evidence in a 1970 World Health Organization publication, "Smoking and Health":

There is now clear evidence from seven large independent surveys that the babies born to women who smoke during pregnancy are, on the average, 150-240 grams lighter than those of non-smokers and that smokers have two or three times as many premature babies [defined as babies weighing less than 2,500 grams]. By their first birthday, these small babies have caught up with and are as heavy as those of nonsmoking mothers.

Recent studies of over 8,000 pregnancies have, however, shown that the risk to the fetus from a mother's smoking may be more serious than this, for the babies of mothers who smoked during pregnancy were about twice as likely to be aborted, to be stillborn, or to die soon after birth as the babies of nonsmoking mothers. The risk to babies of mothers with pre-eclamptic toxemia was increased if the mother smoked. In one study it was calculated that one in five of babies lost would have been saved if their mothers had not smoked. 9

The data incriminating cigarette smoking as a health hazard were reviewed in a report of the Royal College of Physicians of London in 1962, and in the Consumers Union Report on Smoking and the Public Interest in 1963. These reports, however, reached only hundreds of thousands of people; publicity was relatively limited in the mass media.

On January 11, 1964, a turning point was reached. The Report of the Surgeon General's Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health, published amid unprecedented worldwide fanfare in the mass media, convinced even most smokers that cigarette smoking shortens human life, causes lung cancer and other forms of cancer, and exacerbates heart disease, emphysema, bronchitis, and a number of other illnesses--- gravely increasing the risk of dying of them.

For a brief few weeks, this report had a major nationwide impact. Within a few days after its publication, some chain supermarkets announced that cigarette sales had fallen 20 to 25 percent. In Iowa, where the impact of the report was most noticeable, tax officials reported that the number of taxed packages fell 31.7 percent in February 1964, the month after the report was issued. Nationally, the drop in taxed packages was between 15 and 20 percent. The true impact of the report was much greater than even these figures suggest. For casual smokers (of less than a pack a day) were more likely to stop smoking than heavy smokers (two packs or more a day). Thus a 20 percent decline in number of cigarettes smoked may have represented a 25 or even 30 percent decline in number of smokers still smoking. l0

But the curtailment was short-lived; what has been called "the Great Forswearing" of January and February 1964 was followed by the "Great Relapse" of March--- further evidence that in the twentieth century, as in the sixteenth, nicotine remained an addicting drug. Within a few months cigarette consumption was back almost to pre-1964 levels.

The failure of the Report of the Surgeon General's Advisory Committee to curtail cigarette smoking more than briefly was naturally a disappointment, but health agencies did not despair. The United States Public Health Service, the American Cancer Society, and countless other national and local agencies launched campaigns with three major and related goals: to inform people that cigarette smoking is dangerous, to persuade people to stop smoking, and to help those who were having trouble in stopping. The possibility that nicotine, for a large percentage of users, might be an addicting drug--- the possibility that many people might not be able to stop, even though they wanted to, decided to, and tried to was not given serious consideration. It was during the same years 19641970, it will be recalled, that the public was similarly being assured that heroin addiction is curable.

Judged by their effect on attitudes, the antismoking campaigns launched following the 1964 Report of the Surgeon General's Advisory Committee were notably successful. A survey conducted by the United States Public Health Service in 1966 revealed the following attitudes among a nationwide cross section of males who were current cigarette smokers: 11

71.3 percent agreed that smoking is harmful to health.

67.3 percent disagreed with the statement that cigarettes do more good to a person than harm.

59.5 percent hoped that their children would never smoke.

57.7 percent agreed that cigarette smoking is a cause of lung cancer.

56.3 percent disagreed with the statement: "The chances of getting lung cancer from smoking cigarettes are so small that it's foolish to worry about it."

54.6 percent agreed that smoking is a dirty habit.

44.9 percent agreed that there is something morally wrong with smoking cigarettes.

43.1 percent agreed that cigarette smoking is a cause of emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

33.4 percent agreed that cigarette smoking is a cause of coronary heart disease.

Among women who were currently smoking cigarettes, and among nonsmokers, the percentages decrying cigarettes were even higher on every one of those questions. *

* Also noteworthy was an increase in support for cigarette prohibition. In 1964 and again in 1966, only 23 percent of respondents in a National Clearinghouse for Smoking and Health survey agreed with the statement, "The selling of cigarettes should be stopped completely." In a 1970 survey, 38 percent of respondents agreed with this prohibitionist position. 12

These figures, clearly, are a tribute to the effectiveness of the antismoking campaigns. Even many confirmed cigarette smokers were persuaded by the campaigns that smoking is a dirty habit, harmful to health and morally reprehensible. But the prevalence of negative attitudes toward smoking among smokers, unfortunately, had little effect on their actual smoking. Here are the cigarette consumption figures. 13

YearNumber of cigarettes smoked (in billions)Daily per capita consumption (aged 18 and over)
1958
449.8
10.8 cigarettes
1959
467.4
11.2 cigarettes
1960
484.4
11.4 cigarettes
1961
502.7
11.7 cigarettes
1962
508.4
11.7 cigarettes
1963
523.9
11.9 cigarettes
1964
511.2
11.5 cigarettes
1965
528.7
11.7 cigarettes
1966
541.2
11.8 cigarettes
1967
549.2
11.7 cigarettes
1968
545.6
11.5 cigarettes
1969
528.9
10.8 cigarettes
1970
542.0
11.0 cigarettes

In short, the number of cigarettes consumed in 1970 was up 3.4 percent since 1963, while per capita consumption was down 7.6 percent.

The increase in cigarette consumption, moreover, occurred despite an increase of more than 40 percent in retail cigarette prices between 1964 and 1970. 14 Retail expenditures for cigarettes increased from an estimated $7.2 billion in 1964 to an estimated $10.5 billion in 1970. 15 Thus despite the anticigarette campaigns and despite the increased awareness of smoking hazards, Americans were spending 45 percent more for cigarettes in 1970 than in 1964.

The Report of the Surgeon General's Advisory Committee and the subsequent anticigarette campaigns did have one major effect, however. Vast numbers of smokers turned from plain to filter-tip cigarettes and from high-tar-high-nicotine to low-tar-low-nicotine brands. While the data are not conclusive, it seems probable that the increase in number of cigarettes smoked per smoker was related to this switch; some smokers no doubt increased their daily cigarette quota to compensate for the smaller amount of nicotine in each cigarette. Other smokers no doubt compensated by taking more puffs on each cigarette and leaving shorter butts.

In the eighteenth century, Charles Lamb described his own addiction to nicotine in striking language:

For thy sake, tobacco, I
Would do anything but die.

The current evidence indicates that Lamb seriously understated the case.

Meanwhile, what of the effects of current public health anticigarette campaigns on children and young people? A 1970 survey made for the American Cancer Society by Lieberman Research, Inc., shows that, as in the case of adults, the campaigns--- including the anticigarette TV commercials of 1968-1970--- were enormously effective in molding the attitudes of young people toward cigarettes.

The Lieberman study covered a nationwide cross section of young people aged thirteen through eighteen, both smokers and nonsmokers. More than two-thirds of these teenagers (70 percent of the nonsmokers and 66 percent of the smokers) recalled anticigarette presentations to which they had been exposed in school. 16 More than half had seen anticigarette educational films and posters. Almost all of them had seen the powerful anticigarette messages then being aired on television; indeed, the teenagers in the sample reported having seen an average of 8.9 anticigarette television spots during the previous four weeks. 17

The vast majority of these teenagers, moreover, were convinced by what they had seen and heard. When asked whether cigarette smoking causes cancer, for example, 86 percent of the teen-age nonsmokers and 65 percent of the teen-age smokers agreed that it did. 18 Similarly, 71 percent of the teen-age nonsmokers and 66 percent of the smokers agreed it was "definitely or probably true" that cigarette smoking triples the likelihood of a heart attack. 19

As in the case of adults, however, a firm conviction that smoking causes cancer and heart attacks had very little effect on teen-age smoking habits. "When children enter their teen-age years," the 1970 survey noted, "the rate of cigarette smoking is relatively low. By the time they reach the end of their teen-age years, the rate of cigarette smoking is not far from the rate for the general adult population." 20

Two surveys made for the National Clearinghouse for Smoking and Health, a unit of the United States Public Health Service, suggest that during the years from 1968 to 1970, the proportion of teenagers recruited to cigarette smoking was actually increasing* Here are the figures.

* The 1970 Lieberman Report also revealed that more than half of all teenagers who smoke had their first cigarettes by the age of twelve and 85 percent had smoked before the age of fifteen. 21

Age at First CigarettePercentage of Total Who Ever Had Smoked
8 years or under
14
9-10 years
14
11-12 years
27
13-14 years
30
15-16 years
12
17-18 years
2
Don't know or no answer
1
100


PERCENTAGE SMOKING
YearBoysGirls
196814.78.4
197018.511.9 22


Why do boys and girls convinced that cigarette smoking causes cancer and heart attacks nevertheless start smoking cigarettes? One answer fairly leaps from the pages of the Lieberman survey. The single most important fact about smoking has been kept a secret from them. They have not been told that nicotine is an addicting drug. As a result, most of them think that they will smoke for a while and then stop. Indeed, among the teen-age smokers in the Lieberman survey, only 21 percent thought it "very likely" that they would still be smoking five years hence; and an additional 27 percent thought it only "fairly likely." 23 The majority confidently expected to stop in five years or less.

The thought that many smokers can't stop seems not to have occurred to these teenagers. They believed not only the campaigns stressing smoking as a cause of cancer and heart attacks, but also the campaigns insisting that it is possible to stop smoking if you "make up your mind" to stop. So why not smoke for a few years and then swear off? That in effect was the majority view among the teenagers in the Lieberman sample.

The campaigns do not, of course, tell children that it is easy to stop smoking. They suggest that it requires considerable effort of will and perhaps some suffering. As noted in Part I, this is precisely the kind of challenge that attracts voting people. A majority of the teen-age smokers in the Lieberman sample envisioned themselves as confronting that challenge a few years hence, and winning.

The role of cigarette advertising in exacerbating the problem of nicotine addiction is difficult to evaluate. Smoking does not depend on advertising. In Italy, where all cigarette advertising has been banned, there has been little change in cigarette consumption. 24 People who already smoke go right on smoking, largely because they are addicted to nicotine.

But why do young people start smoking? Here the answer is more complex. Fifteen-year-olds start in part because their elders smoke and in part because other teenagers smoke. But it seems highly likely that cigarette advertising--- which associates smoking with youth and music and joy and sex--- is an auxiliary factor, perhaps a quite potent one.

For almost all of these children, of course, smoking was illegal; for many of them, smoking a cigarette was their first experience with an illicit drug.

It may be, of course, that a ban on all cigarette advertising would have little or no immediate effect on the recruiting of youthful new smokers; the other factors may be sufficient to maintain recruiting at present levels even in the absence of advertising. But no other methods of discouraging young people from beginning to smoke offer any likelihood of success so long as cigarette advertising remains licit.

The view here presented--- that cigarette smoking is an addiction to the drug nicotine, that the overwhelming majority of those who smoke more than a few cigarettes become addicted, and that relatively few addicts quit permanently--- seems to fly in the face of common sense. Some readers of this Report, for example, have no doubt quit smoking themselves perhaps with relatively little difficulty. Most readers no doubt know personally quite a few individuals who have quit. And most people, especially in 1970 and 1971, read repeated newspaper stories announcing that millions of cigarette smokers had quit smoking--- stories emanating in large part from the National Clearinghouse for Smoking and Health. Surely, some readers may feel, the case for the addicting nature of cigarette smoking is being exaggerated in this Consumers Union Report.

Since United States statistics concerning ex-smokers are currently in dispute, let us start with a British view.

"In the 10-year period 1958-68," Dr. Hamilton Russell of the Addiction Research Unit notes,

there was little change in smoking prevalence among men in the United Kingdom--- about 69 percent were smokers, 15 percent ex-smokers, and 16 percent had never smoked. In such a sample the ex-smokers form 18 percent of the smokers and ex-smokers combined. . . . Using the 1968 statistics for women, a similar figure is obtained. Thus some 18 percent of smokers have stopped smoking and become ex-smokers. This so-called natural discontinuance of smoking tends to occur after the age of 30 and rises further with increasing age. The average daily cigarette consumption also tends to drop quite sharply after the age of sixty. The ex-smoker status, however, is not a stable one and many relapse to regular smoking. This relapse rate is related to the duration of the ex-smoker status. Among ex-smokers [who have abstained for less than one year] 37 percent relapse within two years compared with 19 percent of those [who have abstained for one to two years] and 5 percent of those [who have abstained for more than two years]. There is therefore a sizeable turnover, with regular smokers discontinuing only to relapse later. The evidence suggests that in the present social climate of this country [Britain] it is unlikely that more than 15 percent of people who smoke regularly undergo natural discontinuance to permit non-smoking status before the age of 60. Furthermore, this situation has not changed appreciably over the past ten years. 25

This analysis of ex-smoker statistics should serve to warn against excessive optimism when superficially impressive figures are publicized. A headline announcing that a substantial percentage of all smokers have quit, for example, must be viewed with extreme caution. If the same percentage of all smokers had also quit ten years ago, the progress made against smoking is clearly nil.

Dr. Hamilton Russell's analysis also explains the instinctive commonsense error in judgment people make when they decide that the war against cigarettes must be going well because they see around them so many former smokers who have quit. If they had looked around them a decade ago, they would also have noted many ex-smokers.

Data concerning current smokers, nonsmokers, and ex-smokers in the United States are available from the National Center for Health Statistics, a unit in the United States Public Health Service.

Percentage
Percentage
Percentage
1955 *
1966 *
1968
Current smokers41.840.638.5
Never smoked50.947.648.0
Ex-smokers7.311.813.5 26

* There were minor changes in data-gathering methods between 1955 and 1966, but not enough to impair the comparability of the figures.

The above figures do not suggest a major victory over nicotine between 1955 and 1968. They are subject, however, to an important qualification. The surveys on which they are based asked each respondent to reply not only for himself but also for other members of the same household. It is easy for a respondent to report accurately who in his household smokes and who does not smoke; but in such a survey ex-smokers are sometimes reported as having "never smoked." Two 1970 surveys, one by the National Clearinghouse for Smoking and Health and the other by the Social Research Group of George Washington University, asked each respondent to report only for himself. As a result, the number of exsmokers is larger than in the statistics cited above, while the number of current smokers remains about the same.

Percentage
Percentage
National Clearinghouse for Smoking and Health, 1970Social Research Group, 1970
Current smokers36.238
Never smoked40.339
Ex-smokers23.5 2722 28

The "ex-smoker" figures in these two studies seem to offer a ray of hope. But this apparent increase in ex-smokers since 1955 is not balanced by a decrease in current smokers; the ex-smokers in the 1970 surveys seem to come mostly from the "never smoked" category in the earlier surveys. Little comfort can be drawn from the fact that the proportion of current smokers in the country has declined from 41 to 42 percent in 1955 to 36 or 38 percent in 1970.

Footnotes
Chapter 26


1. James L. Hedrick, Smoking, Tobacco and Health, prepared for National Clearinghouse for Smoking and Health, U.S. Department of Health, Education, fare, Public Ilea Service, March 1969 (revised), p. 4.

2. Jerome E. Brooks, The Mighty Leaf (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1952), p. 274.

3. Ibid., pp. 274-275.

4. Statistical Bulletin No. 467, "Annual Report on Tobacco Statistics 1970," U.S. Department of Agriculture, Consumer and Marketing Service, 1971, Table 16, p. 30.

5. James L. Hedrick, Smoking, Tobacco and Health, p. 3.

6. Ruth and Edward Brecher, Smoking--- The Great Dilemma, Public Affairs Pamphlet No. 361 (New York: Public Affairs Pamphlets, 1964), pp. 2, 3.

7. Moses Barron, reported to Minnesota State Medical Society, August 25, 1921, cited in Ruth arid Edward Brecher et al., The Consumers Union Report on Smoking arid the Public Interest (Mount Vernon, N.Y.: Consumers Union, 1963), pp. 13-14.

8. F. E. Tylecote in Lancet, cited in Ruth and Edward Brecher et al., The Consumers Union Report on Smoking and the Public Interest, p. 25.

9. C. M. Fletcher and Daniel Horn in WHO Chronicle, Geneva, Switzerland, 24 (1970): 345-370.





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Amerika


Database at Center of Immigration Reform

By LAURA WIDES-MUNOZ
Associated Press Writer
Apr 11 11:11 PM US/Eastern

MIAMI - At the heart of any immigration bill that makes it through the heated congressional debates is likely to be a computerized system that could help employers determine instantly whether someone can legally work in this country.

A voluntary version of the Internet-based system has been up and running on an experimental basis since 1996 and now includes more than 5,000 companies nationwide. Democrats and Republicans alike - including Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and Sen. John McCain, R- Ariz. - have included expanded versions in every bill now under serious consideration.

President Bush's budget request calls for adding $115 million to the program's current budget of $20 million to make it mandatory across the country. (The spending also includes a system that will eventually check the immigration status of applicants for driver's licenses and other benefits.)
Immigration expert Kevin Jernegan, who wrote a report last year on the pilot program for the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute, called such a system central to immigration reform. Under a 1986 federal law, employers can be punished for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants, but very few are penalized.

"Right now there's a loophole, because you have to show that employers knowingly hired an illegal worker, and how do you prove that without a reliable system?" Jernegan said.

Under the pilot program, employers can check the applicant's picture ID and Social Security card or work permit against federal databases with a few clicks of a mouse.

The system is linked to companies' records so employers cannot add employees to the payroll - be they janitors or CEOs - until the check is completed.

Department of Homeland Security employees conduct manual searches for applicants who are not automatically given the OK. Those still not cleared can contact the government to sort out the problem.

Alsco, a company that supplies uniforms and linens to the government, is among the businesses participating in the pilot program.

Tony Brown, head of human resources for Alsco's western Florida division, said before the company joined the program in 2004, staff members wasted a lot of time trying to verify the status of employees.

"We would contact the Social Security Administration, and either the numbers wouldn't match or the number matched 25 others," he said.

The pilot program allows his staff to verify the status of most prospective employees within minutes.

In the past two years, he said, his office ran 431 inquiries, 17 of which were flagged. Nearly half of those flagged eventually were cleared and hired.

Comment: Almost half the people flagged turned out to be false positives - sounds like a reliable system!


Brown said the use of the program _ which requires the company to post a sign alerting applicants it may run their names through Homeland Security databases _ has been accompanied by a slight decrease in applications.

"Once they see that you're about to put that through the program, they will say, 'Just stop' or that they want to withdraw their application," Brown said.

The idea of such a program has long been tossed around. But businesses and civil rights groups argued that it would be too cumbersome for employers and would violate the privacy of American citizens and legal immigrants. And some employers resent such screening, saying they need illegal immigrants to fill out their work forces.

Former Immigration Commissioner Doris Meissner said that sentiment is changing. When Congress first passed a law in 1986 holding employers responsible for checking whether their employees were documented, Americans were much more wary of any kind of electronic registration, she said.

"But now people use credit cards over the Internet and do banking online. Americans are much more accustomed with the things that would be needed today for the program," she said. Also, she said Sept. 11 has affected what kind of scrutiny Americans are willing to undergo.

The key challenge remains how to expand the pilot program to cover the country's roughly 7 million employers.

Currently the government contracts out the initial screening to Computer Sciences Corp., which charges up to 52 cents per inquiry. Five government staffers conduct the follow-up manual checks, with about 40 others pulled in as needed.

In the past six months, the program ran 662,000 inquiries, with about 21,000 requiring a second manual check, said Gerry Ratliff, who heads Homeland Security's status verification office.

If the program becomes mandatory, employers nationwide will probably run an estimated 57 million new hires a year through the system, she said.

Ratliff said her department is gearing up for an expansion. The department estimated it will need only 34 more status verifiers.

Some experts say that will not be nearly enough to run the program and enforce it. They worry that a lack of staff could hurt legal immigrants, whose visa status often changes faster than Homeland Security can update its databases and whose double surnames can trip up the system.

"It doesn't look like it's being taken seriously enough for the amount of resources you need to do it," Jernegan said.



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Archives OK'd Removing Records, Kept Quiet for Fear of Public Outcry

By RANDY HERSCHAFT and FRANK BASS
Associated Press
April 12, 2006

WASHINGTON - previously public intelligence documents, some more than 50 years old, have been sealed under a secret agreement between the National Archives and three federal agencies, according to records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

The 2002 agreement, obtained by The Associated Press and released by archivists this week, shows the agency agreed to keep quiet about U.S. intelligence's role in the deal that shut off access to thousands of previously unclassified
CIA and Pentagon documents.
The agreement, which the AP requested three years ago, shows archivists were concerned about reclassifying previously available documents but still agreed to keep mum about the arrangement.

The deal said the archives "will not acknowledge the role of (intelligence agencies) in the review of these documents or the withholding of any documents determined to need continued protection from unauthorized disclosure."

The agreement added that the archives "will not disclose the true reason for the presence of (intelligence) personnel at the archives, to include disclosure to persons within NARA who do not have a validated need-to-know."

National Archivist Allen Weinstein applauded the release of the agreement and said an internal agency review on how best to handle reclassification requests should be completed by the end of this month.

"It is an important first step in finding the balance between continuing to protect national security and protecting the right to know by the American public," Weinstein said.

Intelligence officials began reviewing documents for reclassification in 1999, The New York Times reported earlier this year. Fearing a potential public outcry, officials with the archives and another unnamed intelligence agency kept the deal quiet.

"It is in the interest of both (unnamed agency) and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to avoid the attention and researcher complaints that may arise from removing material that has already been available publicly from the open shelves for extended periods of time," the agreement said.

The number of documents that have been removed from public view has soared since President Bush took office in 2001 and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks occurred. The reclassified documents, which include 55,000 pages within 10,000 documents, deal with subjects ranging from information about 1948 anti-American riots in Colombia to a 1962 telegram containing a translation of a Belgrade news article about China's nuclear capabilities.

Weinstein announced a moratorium on the reclassification last month so his information security oversight office can audit the process. Historians and lawmakers, however, expressed concern about the secrecy in the reclassification agreement.

Rep. Christopher Shays, a Connecticut Republican who has led hearings into the resealing of records, described the deal as "the culture of secrecy as tragicomic opera. One government agency has to sneak into the files of another ... to reclassify material that may have been on the public record for a decade or more."

Steven Aftergood, director of the government secrecy project for the Federation of American Scientists, described the deal as "baffling. It's basically a covert action taking place at the National Archives."

The agreement named two of the agencies involved in the reclassification program - the Air Force and the CIA - but removed the name of a third, arguing it would compromise national security, reveal internal government deliberations and violate statutes against disclosure of specific information.

Archives officials said the agency has no power to redact documents, and that names were removed by the Air Force, which negotiated the deal. In congressional testimony last month, Matthew Aid, a historian working at the private National Security Archive who discovered the resealing effort, said the third agency was the Defense Intelligence Agency.

William Leonard, head of the National Archive's information security oversight office, told lawmakers that protecting agency secrets while providing information to the public requires delicate balancing.

"When information is improperly declassified, or is not classified in the first place although clearly warranted, our citizens, our democratic institutions, our homeland security and our interactions with foreign nations can be subject to potential harm," Leonard said.

"Conversely, too much classification ... or inappropriate reclassification, unnecessarily obstructs effective information sharing and impedes an informed citizenry, the hallmark of our democratic form of government."



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Fake News Is No Joke

By Danny Schechter
MediaChannel.org
April 12, 2006

By all means, lets support the campaign against "fake news" on TV. That's a reference to the undisclosed use by local news outlets of PR company-produced ads dressed up to look like news. A study by the Center for Media and Democracy found that 35 commercially driven news packages had been inserted in or run adjacent to 77 newscasts without attribution.

The practice involves Video News Releases, and it is wrong and it should be stopped. It's a form of disguised commercial posing as news story. It's deceptive, and probably violates FCC regulations.

But let's not stop there.

Fraudulent advertising is all over TV. All those ads urging us to "tell your" doctor to prescribe colorfully packaged pills, all those weight loss claims and phony credit card and debt consolidation spots. And then there is paid product placement in dramatic programming, and probably soon in the news.

In fact, how many advertisements could survive real truth tests? Most political ads fail, and I would guess that many commercial ads do as well.

We are even getting ads from people who are DEAD! Eonline.com carried a story on a "very important message" from Chris Farley -- from beyond the grave:

"Eight years after his fatal overdose, the late Saturday Night Live funnyman has been resurrected for a series of billboard advertisements plugging a new treatment for drug and alcohol abuse from Hythiam Inc."

Even worse, there are three times as many opinionizers on the air than journalists. PR firms pitch them guests and issues. Together, they insidiously dominate the public discourse often shaping the news agenda. All too often this accepted practice is not considered "fake news."

Faking it

Evan Derkacz of AlterNet reported on this latest media scandal this way in PEEK:

"They've been faking it.

"Clear Channel, News Corp./Fox Television, Viacom/CBS Corp., Tribune Co. and Sinclair Broadcast Group, among others, have all aired Video News Releases (VNR), corporate-sponsored ads masquerading as news, according a report from the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) and Free Press.

"I feel so cheated, so used, so so so ... betrayed. According to Tim Karr nearly half of the American public is reached by the stations implicated in the report and:

'Despite repeated claims from broadcasters that they do not air VNRs as news, the new report reveals just the tip of the iceberg. Instances of fake TV news documented by CMD likely represent less than 1 percent of VNRs distributed to local newsrooms since June 2005. Fraudulent news reports have likely been aired on hundreds of more local newscasts in the past year.'"

OK, wait a minute, this is bad, but is it the worst problem we have to contend with on TV news? No way. It's not the occasional concealed ads posing as news that we should worry about, but the deceptive information and usual drivel we see day after day and night after night that calls itself news.

Getting at the more serious problem

Shouldn't this campaign broaden its focus?

Some years back a group called Rocky Mountain Media Watch led by the late Paul Klite monitored local news. They studied what was on, and what wasn't. They looked at 41 cities during elections and found more ads than reporting. They looked at their hometown and found the city of Denver was being bombarded with news shows that were mostly missing one key ingredient: news itself.

That's right, they found a pervasive pattern of no-news local news shows.

They took the stations to court. Their claim: false advertisng! They documented the lack of news in the news. They asked: So how can they call this pabulum news? Call it what it is.

The court, in its wisdom, threw the case out on First Amendment grounds. They ruled you can't interfere with what media companies define as news. That defended the status quo in the name of freedom of the press, when more precisely, it was only freedom for those who own the press.

The media activists who brought the case may have lost in the law courts, but they won in the court of public opinion. Trust in local news took a dive in credibility.

Owning TV stations are licenses (which cost nothing for the corporations) to make money. News is a profit center in most local markets. (TV execs don't refer to serving their communities but their markets.) News is a commodity and is often -- not always, but all too often -- superficial and uninformative. Take any half hour newscast and strip it of gory crime stories, celebrity news, wacky features, weather and sports and what's left? It's not news.

Comical or a crime?

Alternet's article finds this latest "fake news" campaign comical, but for the fact that it isn't a far cry from accepting this kind of deception from accepting, uncritically, the words of those in power. And speaking of the damage corporate journalism wreaks on the American public, according to Karr, the report "draw[s] a clear line between media consolidation and the broadcast of deceptive, prepackaged propaganda. When all station owners care about is the bottom line, fake news can prove irresistible."

Yes, it's true, but what we need to examine, monitor, critique and contest is the news business as usual, the phoniness of the news itself, not just the occasional sleazy ads posing as news. We have to go after the meat, not the dressing.

We have to go further than focusing on some PR "packages" and begin questioning the whole package.

In 2000, the bipartisan Campaign for Better Elections found that local TV stations overcharged candidates and cluttered ads into unwatchable blocks. The practice was shameful. It was illegal. What was done? Nothing. It was a TV crime against democracy, but not one of you will see it on COPS or America's Most Wanted.

If TV crimes were ever prosecuted, Video News Releases would be misdemeanors compared to the calculated felonies than affect our electoral system and larger culture by dumbing it down and misleading the public.

Going after fake news these days demands challenging the news itself.

Danny Schechter writes a daily blog for MediaChannel.org. He is the author of "Embedded: Weapons of Mass Deception -- how the media failed to cover the war on Iraq" (Prometheus).





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Prosecutor in CIA Leak Case Corrects Part of Court Filing

Washington Post
Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The federal prosecutor overseeing the indictment of Vice President Cheney's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, yesterday corrected an assertion in an earlier court filing that Libby had misrepresented the significance placed by the CIA on allegations that Iraq attempted to buy uranium from Niger.
Last week, Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald wrote that, in conversation with former New York Times reporter Judith Miller, Libby described the uranium story as a "key judgment" of the CIA's 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq, a term of art indicating there was consensus within the intelligence community on that issue. In fact, the alleged effort to buy uranium was not among the estimate's key judgments and was listed further back in the 96-page, classified document.

In a letter to U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton, Fitzgerald wrote yesterday that he wanted to "correct" the sentence that dealt with the issue in a filing he submitted last Wednesday. That sentence said Libby "was to tell Miller, among other things, that a key judgment of the NIE held that Iraq was 'vigorously trying to procure' uranium."

Instead, the sentence should have conveyed that Libby was to tell Miller some of the key judgments of the NIE "and that the NIE stated that Iraq was 'vigorously trying to procure' uranium."

Libby is not charged with misportraying or leaking classified information. He was indicted last year for allegedly lying to the FBI and a grand jury about what he said to reporters. The indictment came as part of Fitzgerald's investigation into who leaked to the media the name of covert CIA operative Valerie Plame, whose husband became a public critic of the Bush administration's case for the Iraq war.



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Less international tourists coming to US

By Amy Yee in Washington
FT.com
April 12, 2006

US tourism industry leaders and top government officials on Tuesday urged collaboration between the public and private sectors to stem shrinking US market share of international visitors.

Michael Chertoff, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), told travel industry leaders at the Global Travel & Tourism Summit held in Washington that government is attempting to balance strong security with welcoming foreign tourists.
"We want to have a system that is secure and safe but welcoming to travel across the world," said Sec Chertoff. "Americans lose when we put up walls and keep people out."

Business leaders have voiced deep concerns over a decline in international visitors due partly to more bureaucratic US visa policies and a battered image overseas September 11, 2001.

US market share of international tourism is at an all-time low, dropping 35 per cent between 1992 and 2004, which translates into $286bn in lost revenue, according to the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA).

"We are using technology to reduce delays to legitimate travellers while raising the bar to keep out those who are not," said Sec Chertoff. "Pilot programmes already running demonstrate that it is possible to confirm the identity of visitors quickly and screen out potential threats."

The US State Department and the DHS in January announced a series of measures to streamline travel to the US, including reducing wait time for visas; and setting up a "redress" process to address travellers' complaints about their poor treatment at borders or consulates abroad.

Jay Rasulo, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts and chairman of TIA, called for an aggressive campaign to market the US as a destination to overseas tourists. TIA has approved $500,000 to put together a strategic plan by year end to tackle the issue of declining tourism.

While about 20 US states have overseas marketing campaigns, there has not been a unified US-themed one in 15 years. The issue has become urgent as countries such as Australia and Ireland market themselves aggressively and capture greater share of global tourism.

Mr Rasulo blamed the slow response from the US on lack of cohesiveness from the diverse travel industry, which broadly includes hotels, airlines, restaurants, car rental agencies, cruise lines and related businesses.

"The travel industry has not spoken with a single voice," said Mr Rasulo. "We hope we're changing the channel."

Travel industry leaders also voiced concern over controversial Congressional proposals to reform immigration laws.

"Some in Congress want to criminalise undocumented workers and their employers," said J.W. Marriott, chief executive of Marriott International, the world's largest hotel operator by revenue.

"Do you industry executives think of yourself as felons? But if we don't stand together and demand good, comprehensive immigration reform, we will be criminalised if we unknowingly employ illegal aliens."

The US hotels industry employed nearly 1.8m people in 2004, many of them immigrants. The sector will demand an additional 300,000 employees by 2014, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Mr Marriott added, "In our hotels, we can't get the work done without workers from other nations and we still have jobs to fill."



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Charges Dropped for Man Beaten by NOPD

By MARY FOSTER
Associated Press
Mon Apr 10, 6:50 PM ET

NEW ORLEANS - Prosecutors have dropped charges against a retired teacher who was beaten by New Orleans police during an arrest caught on videotape shortly after Hurricane Katrina, he and his lawyer said Monday.

Robert Davis, 64, had been charged with public intoxication, resisting arrest and battery on a police officer.
City prosecutors did not immediately return a call for comment.

The Oct. 8 beating by three police officers was captured on video by an Associated Press Television News crew covering the aftermath of the hurricane.

Davis had returned to New Orleans to check his property following the Aug. 29 storm. He said he was looking for a place to buy cigarettes in the French Quarter when police grabbed him.

"I haven't had a drink in 25 years," Davis said Monday. "I still don't know what started it or why it happened."

Two fired officers and one current officer have been charged in the beating.



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US says gas cost to hit record

By Tom Doggett
Reuters
Tue Apr 11, 11:42 AM ET

WASHINGTON - The price U.S. drivers will pay for gasoline this summer will average a record $2.62 a gallon, up 25 cents from last summer, and motor fuel demand will be 1.5 percent higher, the government's top energy forecasting agency said on Tuesday.

"Gasoline prices are expected to increase because of the higher cost of crude oil compared with last year and the increase in production and distribution costs associated with (low sulfur fuel requirements) and the phase-out of MTBE" by refiners for ethanol as the preferred fuel additive, the Energy Information Administration said in its summer forecast.
Gasoline prices in many parts of the country are already above the government's summer forecast, with the national pump cost soaring 9.5 cents in the past week to $2.68 a gallon.

EIA administrator Guy Caruso said the recent jump in wholesale fuel costs has not been completely passed on to consumers and retail gasoline prices should continue rising for the next few weeks by another 10 to 15 cents a gallon before peaking in May.

On a weekly basis, he said the national pump price this summer will not break the record $3.07 a gallon reached last year after Hurricane Katrina disrupted supplies.

Higher prices will not cut into gasoline demand, which the EIA forecasts will average 9.4 million barrels per day this summer, up 1.5 percent from last year's busy driving season.

Caruso said the strong U.S. economy has given consumers enough disposable income to handle the higher fuel costs and not have to significantly reduce their driving. "Apparently the price isn't high enough to curb non-discretionary travel," he said. Still, polls show expensive gasoline has affected consumers' spending habits.

The EIA's summer forecast covers the period from April through the end of September.

U.S. refineries will produce more gasoline to meet demand, with motor fuel output up 217,000 bpd during the April-August period compared with last year and 480,000 bpd higher in September, when hurricanes disrupted operations last year.

"The domestic refining industry is expected to be fully recovered from the damage by last year's hurricanes by midsummer," the EIA said.

Gasoline imports also usually help supply, but the EIA said foreign supplies "may be harder to obtain" due to new U.S. low sulfur requirements for motor fuel and the phasing out of the water-polluting fuel additive MTBE in favor of ethanol.

Edward Morse, executive adviser with Hess Energy Trading Co., said the perception among traders that there will be future scarcity in petroleum supplies was pushing the price of crude oil, and thus gasoline, higher.

"The lack of supply cushions that are built into the structure of this marketplace are the best indicator that we are on a price ramp that is continuing in the upward direction," Morse said at an EIA co-sponsored conference on the agency's forecast and the outlook for summer fuels.

The price of crude oil accounts for about half the cost of gasoline at the pump.

The average price truckers will pay for diesel was also expected to average a record $2.62 a gallon this summer, up 21 cents from last year, the EIA said.

Diesel fuel consumption is forecast to average 3.2 million bpd, up 3.2 percent from last summer, but slightly less than the 3.5 percent annual demand growth rate seen over the last 15 years, the EIA said.

New U.S. clean-air rules that will require diesel fuel to have a much lower sulfur content later this year may make it difficult for foreign refiners to make up for domestic supply disruptions, the agency said.

It warned that with the United States expected to have another active hurricane season, "news of any developing hurricanes and tropical storms with a potential to cause significant new (refinery) outages could add to volatility in near-term (gasoline and diesel) prices in the latter part of the summer."



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Parents Sue Soft Drink Cos. Over Benzene

By LIBBY QUAID
AP Food and Farm Writer
Apr 11 10:29 PM US/Eastern

WASHINGTON - Two soft-drink companies were sued Tuesday by parents complaining that there might be cancer-causing benzene in kids' drinks.

Attorneys filed class-action lawsuits against the companies in Suffolk Superior Court in Boston and Leon County Circuit Court in Tallahassee, Fla. They accused Polar Beverages Inc. and In Zone Brands Inc. of not taking steps to keep benzene from forming in their beverages.

Benzene, a chemical linked to leukemia, can form in soft drinks containing two ingredients: Vitamin C, also called ascorbic acid, and either sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate.
The presence of those ingredients doesn't mean benzene is present. Scientists say factors such as heat or light exposure can trigger a reaction that forms benzene in the beverages.

"It's impossible for parents to know which soft drinks are safe and which contain cancer-causing benzene," said Timothy Newell, one of the plaintiffs.

Atlanta-based In Zone makes BellyWashers, juice drinks that come in reusable bottles featuring Spiderman, Hello Kitty, Scooby Doo and dozens of other well-known characters. Worcester, Mass.-based Polar Beverages makes fruit-flavored sodas and seltzers as well as mixers.

The lawsuits allege that independent laboratory tests found benzene in the companies' drinks at levels above the federal drinking-water limit, which is 5 parts per billion.

Food and Drug Administration sampling from 1995 through 2001 found similar results in unidentified brands, and FDA is currently doing more tests. FDA officials maintain there is no safety concern and that levels are still relatively low compared with other sources of exposure to benzene.

Likewise, a soft drink industry group argues that the amount of soft drinks people consume is much less than the amount of tap water they are exposed to.

"Benzene is ubiquitous to the environment. It's in the air. It's in dozens of foods, including bananas, meat and eggs," said Kevin Keane, spokesman for the American Beverage Association, the industry group.

Keane called the lawsuit an attempt by trial lawyers to make money.

In a statement, Polar Beverages president and CEO Ralph D. Crowley Jr. said all of his company's products are safe.

"Polar is committed to ensuring the safety of our products through in- depth research and testing," Crowley said. Polar Beverages had an independent laboratory test its products as recently as February and no trace of benzene was found, he said.

The plaintiffs ask that companies be prohibited from selling drinks that may contain benzene in Massachusetts and Florida. They note that other companies have either removed one of the ingredients or added ingredients to keep benzene from forming.

Benzene forms naturally in forest fires, gasoline and cigarette smoke, among other things, and it's widely used industrially to make plastics, rubber, detergents, drugs and pesticides.



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Iran's Future


Situation in Iraq could not be worse

By Patrick Cockburn
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
04/11/06

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- A cruel and bloody civil war has started in Iraq, a country that President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair promised to free from fear and establish democracy. I have been visiting Iraq since 1978, but for the first time, I am becoming convinced that the country will not survive.
Three suicide bombers disguised themselves as women Friday and, with explosives hidden by long black cloaks, killed 79 people and wounded more than 160 when they blew themselves up in a Shiite mosque in the capital. One bomber came through the women's security checkpoint at the Buratha mosque in northern Baghdad and detonated explosives just as worshippers were leaving at the end of Friday prayers.

Two other bombers took advantage of the confusion to blow themselves up a few seconds later, killing the people who were trying to escape.

The savage attack, the worst in months, came almost exactly on the third anniversary of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein by American and British armies on April 9, 2003. The war was portrayed at the time as freeing Iraqis from fear, but Iraqi officials have told The Independent that at least 100 people are being killed in Baghdad every day.

The slaughter of Shiite Muslims in the Buratha mosque probably will lead to revenge attacks against Sunni Arabs whose community harbors the Salafi and Jihadi fanatics, who see the Shiites as heretics. Ever since the bombing of the al-Askari Shrine in Samara on Feb. 22, the Shiite militias have retaliated whenever Shiites are killed.

The bombing of the mosque, a religious complex linked to the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, pushes Iraq well down the road to outright civil war between Sunni and Shiite Arabs. Jalal Eddin al-Sagheer, the preacher in the Buratha mosque, declared: "The Shiite are the target and it's a sectarian act. There is nothing to justify this act but black sectarian hatred."

Men screamed in anger and fear as they rolled the bodies of the dead onto wooden carts so they could be loaded into ambulances. "This is a cowardly act. Every time I see these bloody scenes it tears apart my heart," said Jawwad Kathim, a fireman.

It was the worst sectarian bombing for four months. The day before a car bomb exploded near the Shiite shrine of Imam Ali in Najaf, killing 13 people.

"My house is opposite to the mosque and when we heard the first blast I ran to make sure that my father, who was praying there, was safe," Naba Mohsin said. "When I entered the mosque a second huge blast occurred and I saw a big blast with flames. I want to know if my father is alive."

I have been covering the war in Iraq ever since it began three years ago and I have never seen the situation so grim. More than a week ago, I was in the northern city of Mosul, protected by 3,000 Kurdish soldiers, but even so it was considered too dangerous to send out patrols in daytime. It is safer at night because of a curfew.

In March alone, the U.S. military said 1,313 people were killed in sectarian attacks. Many bodies, buried in pits or thrown in the rivers, are never found.

The real figure is probably twice as high. All over the country people are on the move as Sunnis and Shiites flee each other's areas.

I was in Lebanon at the start of the civil war in 1975. Baghdad today resembles Beirut then. People are being murdered solely because of their religious identity. A friend called to say he had a problem because his two half brothers had been born in Fallujah, the Sunni Muslim stronghold, and this was on their identity cards. If they were picked up by Shiite militiamen, a glance at their place of birth alone could get them killed.

Fleeing one danger in Baghdad, it is easy to become victim of another.

The friend had taken his mother and two sisters to the passport office in Baghdad so they could leave the country. While they were there, a bomb went off, killing 25 policemen outside and breaking his sister's leg.

Now the family cannot leave because his sister is in the hospital and his mother is too frightened to return to get a new passport.

Bush and Blair have for the past three years continually understated the gravity of what is taking place. It has been frustrating as a journalist to hear them claim that much of Iraq is peaceful when we could not prove them wrong without being killed or kidnapped. The capture of Saddam in 2003, the handover of sovereignty in 2004, the elections and new constitution in 2005 have all been oversold to the outside world as signs of progress.

The formation of a national unity government in Iraq is now being presented as an antidote to the violence. "Terrorists love a vacuum," said British Defense Secretary John Reid, citing his experience in Northern Ireland. But one Iraqi official remarked that the three main communities -- Sunni, Shiite and Kurds -- do not hate one another because they do not have a government, but rather they do not have a government because they already hate one another.

The coalition of Iraqi religious parties, the United Iraqi Alliance, won almost half the seats in the 275-member parliament in the election on Dec.15. They fear the United States and Britain are trying to break up the Shiite coalition. This is why they have resisted demands for Ibrahim al-Jaafari to stand down as prime minister. Even if a national unity government is formed, it will control very little. The army and police take their orders from the leaders of their own communities.

Three years ago, when Saddam's statue was toppled, Iraqis were promised their lives would get better. Instead Iraq has become the most dangerous place in the world.

Patrick Cockburn writes for The Independent in Britain.



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Iraqi interior minister admits 'death squads' exist

AFP
April 12, 2006

BAGHDAD - Iraq's interior minister has acknowledged the existence of so-called death squads within certain security forces but denied any link with his own ministry.

Bayan Jabr Solagh, in an interview with the BBC on Wednesday, pointed the finger at special security forces that provide protection for ministries and key installations, as well as the myriad private security companies in Iraq.

Asked if there were unofficial death squads operating within these security forces, he replied: "Sometimes, yes, I can tell you... with these security companies it is not right... you do not know what they are doing."
"We have to make clear that there are some forces out of order, not under our control and not under the control of the ministry of defence," he said.

"These forces are the FPS to protect the ministries," he said, referring to special security forces known as Force Protection for Site (FPS) which protect ministry buildings, power stations or oil pipelines.

"And their numbers are huge... there are 150,000," he said.

"Their uniform is like the police, their car is like the police, their weapons are like the police."

A recent upsurge of sectarian violence in Iraq that has left hundreds of dead is often blamed by Sunnis on militias wearing uniforms belonging to the security forces.

"Terrorists or someone who supports the terrorists... are using the clothes of the police or the military," Solagh said in comments published on the BBC website.

"Now you can go to the shop and buy it."



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Video: Falluja April 2004

Information Clearing House
April 12, 2006

"Director Toshikuni DOI exposes the side of the U.S. war in Iraq that Americans do not see or hear in mainstream media."

Warning: This film contains graphic images. Viewer discretion advised.

Click here to watch the video (.WMV, 41MB)




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'Our childhood is killed in Iraq. It is killed'

By Joan Chittister, OSB
NCR
04/11/06

Summary: The question to the group of women delegates from Iraq was "What would you like to see come out of this meeting?"

I was not prepared either for the answer or for its explanation: "What we need now," one of the Iraqi woman said, "is the end of the blood-letting. Women are very necessary to this operation. Fifty-five to 60 percent of Iraqis are women. The minority is ruling ... Women must interfere in the affairs of men. We should take over."

It was hardly a statement I expected to hear in this place from these women. But I couldn't forget it...

"And what is the first thing that must be done to rebuild the country?" we asked them. I sat with my hands over the keyboard, sure that the list would be long and varied. I was wrong. To a woman, the call was clear: "Take care of our children."
The question to the group of women delegates from Iraq was "What would you like to see come out of this meeting?"

I was not prepared either for the answer or for its explanation: "What we need now," one of the Iraqi woman said, "is the end of the blood-letting. Women are very necessary to this operation. Fifty-five to 60 percent of Iraqis are women. The minority is ruling ... Women must interfere in the affairs of men. We should take over."

It was hardly a statement I expected to hear in this place from these women. But I couldn't forget it.

"The minority is ruling." Right. And not too well, it seems, either here or there.

When men sit down to negotiate peace treaties -- when there's even someone to negotiate with, which, given al-Qaeda, is not a luxury we seem to have anymore -- they disband armies and guard borders and hold military tribunals and form new governments and punish old ones. But they put no faces on the victims.

When they tote up the cost of the war, they do not include the number of women raped, the number of families displaced, the number of schools bombed, or the number of babies without milk.

The victors take their spoils, monitor the guns, forget the defenseless and leave the people to clean up the rubble. War becomes the daily dirge of the anonymous victims.

But when you bring women together to discuss the effects of war, the things that need to be changed, the real problems of a war-torn society, the conversation takes a sudden turn.

At the first Iraqi-American dialogue convened by the Women's Global Peace Initiative in New York on March 29, the differences were plain. The women's first agenda did not concentrate on who did what or who profited or lost by the doing of it. "Take the oil. We don't care about the oil," one woman called across the room. "We never got any value from it anyway," she went on. "Never mind yesterday," another woman said in answer to the Sunni- Shi'ite tensions. "Forget who did what to whom. We must turn the page now. We must rebuild the country."

"And what is the first thing that must be done to rebuild the country?" we asked them. I sat with my hands over the keyboard, sure that the list would be long and varied. I was wrong. To a woman, the call was clear: "Take care of our children."

It was a sobering moment. Take care of our children. "Oh, them," I thought. "The tiny, the forgotten, targets of this war."

Take care of the ones who now carry within themselves the sour taste of fear that came as bombs dropped through the dark sky shaking their houses, destroying their streets. Take care of the children, the ones who went cold as stone at the loss of brothers and fathers and dead playmates.

Take care of the ones who felt the sweat of terror when the doors of the homes in which they were sure they were safe broke down in the middle of the night or the lights went out or their mothers wrapped their shawls around their heads and cried. Take care of the ones who went into psychic paralysis at the sight of blood and bodies. Take care of the ones who woke up one morning to find their lives completely disrupted for no apparent reason.

Take care of the ones to whom then Secretary of State Colin Powell was apparently referring when a reporter asked him how many Iraqis had been killed or injured at that point in the war and his answer was, "That is a number in which I have absolutely no interest whatsoever."

But maybe he and we should all rethink that answer. Because these children do not feel "liberated" by this war; in these children the seeds of the next war have already been planted.

The Iraqi women were very clear: the most injured of all in this war are the children of Iraq. "The war has made deep wounds that have become part of our souls," another woman said. "They can never be forgotten. The living conditions, the lack of security is affecting everything the children do. They cannot even deliver newspapers anymore."

Their schooling has been interrupted. Even if the school buildings still stand, there are no supplies for them. And there are few people in them anyway. Teachers are dead. Classmates are gone from the area -- refugees somewhere or dead themselves. Most of all, their parents are afraid to send them out of the house even if the schools are undamaged.

"Our childhood is killed in Iraq," a woman said. "It is killed."

The small jobs children once held to help with family expenses are gone now. No one buys flowers on the street now. No one drives a car whose windows they can wash.

Drugs are flooding the streets now and drugs are the best and quickest way to ease the pain.

The number of street children -- children whose parents are dead, whose extended families are fractured -- have multiplied beyond anything modern Iraq has ever known.

Orphans are a commodity now in Iraq but orphanages are not. "We are taking care of the orphans, trying to give them love," the woman said. "But they are traumatized. They don't speak."

Recreational programs are a thing of the past, so children are restless or rebellious or simply bored with life.

"Fifty percent of the bodies in the hospital are women and children," the doctor said. "We are afraid that a large number of children will be affected by the depression of their mothers and the loss of their fathers and the poverty of their families."

The future of Iraq is at stake. But it is not the banking system the women are concerned about. It is the treasure of the nation that is being squandered, they know. It is their future. It is their children.

The U.S. budget for fiscal year 2007, according to The National Priorities Project, earmarks 51 percent of all discretionary spending for military use. "Spending on the Iraq War in fiscal year 2006 alone will reach $96 billion," the Project reports. (www.nationalpriorities.org)

The Bush budget calls for the elimination or reduction of 141 domestic programs. Among other things, we cut the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children by $200 million and the department of education by 9 percent and eliminate vocational education. "Level funding" is provided for other domestic programs.

The overall cost of the war in Iraq for the United States is already being estimated at at least a trillion dollars. But so far not a penny of it is specified for the children. Neither theirs nor ours.

"We see the prisoners' rights," another delegate said sadly, "but where are the rights of the children."

From where I stand, I can't help but wonder that if we sold some of our weapons and used the money to buy crayons, food, houses and schools for Iraqi children, we could stop worrying about being terrorized ourselves. Indeed, the minority is ruling. Maybe the Iraqi woman's idea about what to do about it wouldn't be a bad one after all.

Editor's Note: From Where I Stand is normally posted to NCRonline.org Thursday afternoons, but Sr. Joan Chittister's heavier than usual schedule of speaking engagements in April has disrupted our posting routines. We are sorry for the delays and ask you patience.

A Benedictine Sister of Erie, Joan Chittister is a best-selling author and well-known international lecturer on topics of justice, peace, human rights, women's issues, and contemporary spirituality in the Church and in society. She presently serves as the co-chair of the Global Peace Initiative of Women, a partner organization of the United Nations, facilitating a worldwide network of women peace builders, especially in the Middle East. A speech communications theorist, Sister Joan's most recent books include The Way We Were (Orbis) and Called to Question (Sheed & Ward), a First Place CPA 2005 award winner. She is founder and executive director of Benetvision, a resource and research center for contemporary spirituality in Erie.



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Roadside bomb kills four people in Baghdad

Reuters
April 12, 2006

BAGHDAD - A roadside bomb targeting a police patrol killed three civilians and one policeman in Baghdad on Wednesday, police said.

The attack in the Waziriya district of the capital also wounded four people.




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Facing attacks, Shi'ite Muslims flee to south

10 Apr 2006
IRIN

BAGHDAD, 10 April (IRIN) - In the face of ongoing sectarian violence, hundreds of Shi'ite Muslim families have fled to the Shi'ite-dominated cities in the country's south seeking shelter with relatives, according to local officials.

"We managed to put up generators to ensure electricity for displaced families, and we're still providing them with blankets, beds, foodstuffs and cooking stoves," said Ali Abbas, a representative of the Ministry of Displacement and Migration.

Abbas added that, in Kut, some 160km south-east of Baghdad, 950 families have occupied a public amusement park after fleeing their homes in Baghdad, where they faced threats and intimidation from Sunni militants. "I lost about 30 of my cousins," said Fadhil Ali, 42, a Shi'ite who fled his home in the Abu Ghraib district of the capital along with seven family members. "We all know who are behind these killings, but government control in Abu Ghraib is completely absent."
According to Sabah Saied, head of the local Red Crescent Association in Amara province, some 290km south-east of Baghdad, 380 Shi'ite families were currently seeking shelter in an abandoned factory there. "There's no shortage at all, but we need to have at least one ambulance in case of emergency," Saied complained.

Hamdan Abdullah, a 58-year old Shi'ite coffee shop owner, said that his family fled the Latifiya area, 30km south of Baghdad, after receiving leaflets reading: "Tell your Shi'ite government to provide you with houses far away from ours."

A spate of sectarian violence erupted in the wake of the 22 February bombing of a revered Shi'ite shrine in Samarra, some 120km north of the capital. Since then, hundreds of people have been killed and dozens of mosques damaged or destroyed as a result of reprisal attacks between the country's two major Muslim denominations.

Comment: Sounds like Israel's three state plan for Iraq is coming along nicely. Kurds already in the North, Sunnis in the center, and now the Shi'ites are fleeing to the south.

"The only viable strategy, then, may be to correct (Iraq's) historical defect and move in stages toward a three-state solution: Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shiites in the south" -- Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations; from "Three-state Solution" NY Times 11-25-2003




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IRAQ: Doctors, NGOs warn of high infant mortality in Basra

11 Apr 2006
IRIN

BASRA - As a result of water-borne diseases and a lack of medical supplies, infants born in the southern city of Basra are subject to abnormally high mortality rates, say officials of an international NGO devoted to child health issues.

"For weeks, there were no I.V. fluids available in the hospitals of Basra," said Marie Fernandez, spokeswoman for European aid agency Saving Children from War. "As a consequence, many children, mainly under five-years old, died after suffering from extreme cases of diarrhoea."
Fernandez went on to cite a number of problems facing local hospitals in Basra, which is located some 550km south of the capital, Baghdad. "Hospitals have no ventilators to help prematurely-born babies breathe," Fernandez said. "And there are very few nurses available, so hospitals often must allow family members to care for patients."

Many doctors in the area say that the local health situation has deteriorated markedly since the US-led invasion of the country in 2003. "The mortality of children in Basra has increased by nearly 30 percent compared to the Saddam Hussein era," Dr Haydar Salah, a paediatrician at the Basra Children's Hospital, pointed out. "Children are dying daily, and no one is doing anything to help them."

Fernandez added that, for the last three years, the Maternity and Children's' hospital in Basra had not received any cancer drugs from the health ministry. "In all of Basra, a city with nearly two million inhabitants, there's no radiotherapy department available," Fernandez complained.

Khalid Ala'a, spokesman for local NGO Keeping Children Alive, said that Basra hospitals lacked many essential drugs and antibiotics used to treat infections common to the area. "We've asked for help from the Ministry of Health, but they only tell us they don't have money to supply hospitals," Ala'a said. "They tell us we must wait for investment, which could take months."

Health ministry officials, responding to the charges, point to the ongoing deadlock over the formation of a new government. "We depend on the central government for money," said senior ministry official Ahmed Salahdinne. "What we're receiving, we're distributing, according to our capacity, to all areas of Iraq."

According to doctors and NGOs, the primary causes of high infant mortality are unsafe water, diarrhoea, malnutrition, infectious diseases, maternal stress and poverty. In light of these grave circumstances, local NGOs and doctors have called on international aid agencies to help ease the situation.

Comment: Oh joy! "Freedom and Democracy" at its finest!

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War Drums


Sino-Russian military alliance turns the tables on Bush

4/11/2006
Al-Jazeerah

A Sino or Russian alliance with Iran would be a logical response to Bush's flawed ME policies

A program on the History Channel television last week profiled U.S. presidents from George Washington to George W. Bush. Every segment featured bullet point summaries of each president and ended with a theme of each presidential administration.

George W. Bush's condensed profile was the most unfavorable. The channel didn't make an ending theme for Bush because his presidential term isn't over. But an article on IRmep.org suggests that Bush's theme will be that of a president who was constantly surprised by many "predictable challenges" that were caused directly by his decisions.

According to the author, Grant F. Smith, Bush will be remembered as the president who was handed warnings of imminent attacks by al-Qaeda but chose not to act until it was too late. He is the president who wasn't willing to budget reinforcement of levies against the destructive consequences of predictable hurricanes, a mistake that led to the destruction of much of New Orleans. Bush is the president who declared an end to the Iraq War when it was just the beginning. He is the president who was surprised that American soldiers abused Iraqi detainees while he didn't ban such abuses. Bush is the president who was undermined by the criminal persecution of corrupt officials of the same political machine that brought him into power

But Bush's biggest surprise is yet to come. Like past foreseeable surprises, it is a direct reaction to his own actions. His fatally flawed Middle East policy may drive Russia or China to base nuclear missiles in Iran. Moscow and Beijing resist U.S. and EU efforts to impose UN sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. There is no surprise; both countries do not want to bully their friend. China has billions invested in Iran's oil/gas fields and Russia wants to make its own billions in reprocessing Iranian reactor fuel. Both sell millions in advanced weapons to Iran.

Moreover, Russia and China are moving closer to forming a strategic partnership. Their concerns about American global power, EU/NATO expansion, more Orange/Rose/Tulip revolutions and Japan's higher international profile, are encouraging the long-time rivals to give each other a second chance. Last summer, both countries conducted their first-ever joint military exercises. Russian and Chinese officials also meet annually for bilateral military and technical cooperation talks. Beijing recently bought strategic aircraft from Russia, and last week both countries signed a slew of energy deals. Moreover, China and Russia have been cooperating on foreign and military intelligence since the early 1990s, and both are growing counterintelligence problems for the U.S., Europe and Japan.

A Sino-Russian alliance poses a great threat to the United States, but it would present a greater danger if any of the two countries decided to base nuclear missiles in Iran. China may do it to ensure stable access to natural gas and oil reserves. Beijing didn't also forget Washington's rejection of its $18.5 billion bid to buy a U.S. petroleum company UNOCAL in 2005. Chinese missiles in Iran could also serve as a "strategic nuclear umbrella" in the region to counter the U.S.'s forward Pacific naval deployment and maneuvers, endless administration rhetoric about Taiwan, and pressure for not doing enough to reign in North Korea. This move could simultaneously reaffirm the sovereignty and legitimacy of Chinese national interests without creating a direct threat to the U.S. homeland.

On the other hand, Russia might want to create a "nuclear stockade" around territory it doesn't want to see turned into another Iraq or radioactive slag heap. "Why wouldn't Russia consider basing missiles in Iran by invitation to deter rivals or prevent Iran from becoming a chaotic cauldron of death and destruction like Iraq? Or a nuclear slag-heap like some neocons are predicting?", Grant F. Smith wonders in his article. By deploying short and intermediate-range missiles in Iran, Moscow could send a strong message that it won't tolerate another mayhem created in its back yard by the United States. Moreover, such a deployment would buttress a standoff with Israel's nuclear missiles, many of which are believed to target Russian cities. And of course, basing missiles in Iran could ensure Russia's future access to the Iranian market for engineering services and large scale construction projects as well as the protection of military exports. A Russian "sphere of influence" in Iran would counter and balance the expected permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq.

Russian or Chinese missiles deployment in Iran would lead to a global standoff over Iran's nuclear program. Such a move would also undermine the Bush Administration's plans for a "New World Order" and undercut its global interests on an unprecedented scale. A Sino or Russian military alliance with the Islamic Republic would be a logical response to the disastrous regional policies of neoconservative ideologues. But would it be the final failure of the aggressive, but nave, policies of an administration that has been constantly surprised by its own actions?



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Iran defies UN with nuclear breakthrough

AFP
Tue Apr 11, 9:53 PM ET

TEHRAN - Iran announced it had successfully enriched uranium to make nuclear fuel, a major breakthrough in its disputed atomic drive that defies a UN Security Council demand for the work to stop.

The Islamic regime's hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad also called for a no-holds-barred acceleration of enrichment work -- a process that can be extended to make the fissile core of an atom bomb.

The United States immediately warned Iran was "moving in the wrong direction." Iran now runs the risk of UN sanctions when a Security Council deadline expires on April 28.
"Our people, with the help of God, have successfully mastered nuclear technology. Iran has joined the nuclear states," Ahmadinejad said in a speech to top military and political leaders in the northeastern holy city of Mashhad.

"Iran's nuclear programme is purely peaceful," he added, calling on foreign governments to "recognise and respect Iran's rights."

He even called for "all nuclear officials to speed up their work so as to produce fuel for the country's (future) power stations."

The dramatic news was greeted by the audience with chants of "Allahu Akbar" ("God is Greatest").

Vice president and atomic energy chief Gholam Reza Aghazadeh said the milestone in Iran's programme was crossed on Monday -- at a pilot centrifuge plant in Natanz -- with the uranium enriched to 3.5 percent, or the purity required for civilian reactor fuel.

This, he asserted, "paves the way for enrichment on an industrial scale" using an enormous 110 tonnes of UF6 feedstock gas already produced.

He also said Iran was "determined" to complete work within three years on a heavy water reactor in Arak -- which critics say which could also produce plutonium for a nuclear weapon.

US President George W. Bush has rejected media reports that the United States is planning to attack Iran over the issue as "wild speculation," and said diplomacy was preferred to resolve the nuclear crisis.

US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld Tuesday also dismissed the reports as "fantasyland."

"It is just simply not useful to get into fantasyland," Rumsfeld said.

The New Yorker magazine reported over the weekend that the Bush administration was considering the use of bunker-busting tactical nuclear weapons against alleged Iranian underground nuclear sites.

"We have I do not know how many various contingency plans in this department," Rumsfeld said at a press conference with General Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"And the last thing I am going to do is to start telling you or anyone else in the press or the world at what point we refresh a plan or do not refresh a plan and why," he said. "It just is not useful.

"And I have responded with respect to Iran," he added. "We are on a diplomatic track. The president has said exactly what he wants said. And we support the president."

But White House spokesman Scott McClellan immediately responded to the latest challenge from Iran by saying its arch-enemy was "moving in the wrong direction."

It is also a blow to International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, who has been asked by the Security Council to report on Iranian compliance by April 28 and is also due to arrive in Tehran overnight Wednesday in a fresh bid to resolve tensions.

A foreign diplomat said Iran's announcement, if true, meant the country had made a "technological leap" and was advancing much quicker than previously thought.

"If it is true, it means that they are going faster than we expected. It represents a technological leap forward, because it's more important to master research and development than to go from RD to industrial enrichment," said the Tehran-based diplomat, who asked not to be named.

This means Iran could soon cross the so-called "point of no-return" -- a point where it has the technical know-how and the capacity to build a bomb.



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U.S. slams Iran's nuclear move

CNN
Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The United States has condemned Iran's announcement it has successfully enriched uranium for nuclear fuel, saying "once again they have chosen the pathway of defiance."

On Tuesday, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad confirmed Iran had produced low-grade enriched uranium to power nuclear plants, a move greeted with jubilation on the streets of Tehran.

But the West, led by the United States, believes that Iran plans to build nuclear weapons, and says the move only underscores why the global community has serious concerns about Tehran's nuclear ambitions.
"Once again they have chosen the pathway of defiance as opposed to the pathway of cooperation. And we would call upon the Iranian regime to reconsider the steps that it has taken," U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters in Washington.

That view was echoed by White House spokesman Scott McClellan, who said Iran should be taking steps to renew confidence in its nuclear intentions, instead of moving in the "wrong direction."

Iran's move would only result in further isolation, and the United States will have to consult with its allies on what the next step in the diplomatic standoff would be, McClellan said.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency is due to travel to Tehran on Wednesday, and Iran's ally Russia says it hopes Mohammed ElBaradei's visit will help settles questions about Iran's nuclear program.

Britain reiterated the U.N. Security Council's demand that Iran halt its enrichment program.

Tehran, for its part, says that the country has a right to produce nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes.

Talks between Iran and Britain, France and Germany stalled in January when Iran began small-scale uranium enrichment and ended its voluntary cooperation with the IAEA, which had been conducting surprise inspections.

IAEA inspectors are at a facility in Natanz, but it is unclear whether they witnessed the enrichment process, which took place on Sunday.

Earlier Tuesday, Gholamreza Aghazadeh, head of Iran's atomic energy agency, said Natanz had enriched uranium at 3.5 percent -- a low-grade level sufficient to run a power plant, but far below the 90 percent required for weapons.

Former President Hashemi Rafsanjani said ElBaradei would face "new circumstances" when he arrives but did not elaborate.

The attention given by the West had made Iran's nuclear program "extremely complicated," Rafsanjani said, adding that "Iran is very serious about defending its legal rights."

Bush administration officials say they are pursuing a diplomatic solution with Iran even as they have been fending off questions over a report in this week's issue of The New Yorker magazine that preparations for military strikes on Iran -- possibly including nuclear weapons -- have gone "beyond contingency planning."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed that report, written by journalist Seymour Hersh, as a trip to "fantasy land."

"Let me be clear: The department's policy is the president's policy," Rumsfeld said. "President Bush and America's allies are on a diplomatic track."

According to the IAEA, 31 nations have nuclear power plants, either in operation or under construction.



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Report: Israel pressuring U.S. over Iran attack

ynet news
09/06/2006

The Washington Post reports that despite fact U.S. intelligence sources believe that Iran needs another 10 years before having nuclear weapons, Israel believes critical breakthrough will happen within months, and is therefore pressuring the Americans

WASHINGTON - The U.S. government is continuing to aspire for a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear problem, but doubts for chances of success are growing, a Washington Post article published on Sunday said.

According to the paper, Israeli officials who visited Washington recently gave the Americans an urgent message regarding Iran: The Islamic Republic was closer to developing a nuclear bomb than Washington realizes, and the moment of decision is approaching quickly.

On Saturday, a New Yorker article said that the U.S. government is planning to massively bomb Iran, and even use nuclear bunker-busting bombs in order to destroy Iranian facilities and development sites containing nuclear weapons.
The Washington Post wrote that despite estimations by American officials that Iran would need another decade before having the bomb, Israel believes that the critical breakthrough could take place within a number of months. Israeli representatives told the Americans that Iran has begun the most advanced centrifugal experiments in a speedier manner than experts predicted in the past.

'Israel preparing its own attack'

The newspaper said that Israel recently leaked its own attack plans, if the United States does not act. The Israeli plan includes aerial attacks, commando raids, a possibility of a missile attack, and even bombs carried on the backs of dogs. The newspaper quotes Israeli newspapers which said that Israel constructed an exact replica of the Natanz nuclear development facility, but the United States does not believe that the operation can succeed without using nuclear weapons.

The newspaper said that the Bush administration is studying the options for a military attack in Iran, and is planning for this possibility in order to pressure Iran by letting it know that such an option is getting closer. Despite that, it does not appear that such an attack would take place in the short term future, and many experts within the administration and outside of it are highly doubtful of the effectiveness of a military operation.

The Post claims that the Pentagon and the CIA are examining the possible targets for the operation, such as the facility at Natanz and the facility for enriching uranium at Isfahan, although a ground operation is not being considered

Comment: Israel is lying, as usual. Iran is at least 10 years from having a nuclear bomb, and even if it did have a bomb it would pose not more threat to anyone that any of the other nuclear countries.

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Will the US attack Iran?....yes, it will sooner than later

By Yves Vincent
ICH
04/11/06

Regardless of the facade the US is giving the world about Iran's nuclear proliferation, the truth of the matter is that it is irrelevant what Iran is trying to do...whether it is trying to develop nuclear weapons or if it is planning to open a new bourse to sell oil in euros which would undermine the US control of the dollar in the world.

For those of you who have not done so yet, click this link, download the PNAC document and read it from beginning to end.

Once you read and understand PNAC, The Project for the New American Century document, it is easier to understand what the US is doing.
You will also understand better the dynamics of the mainstream media, shamelessly mouthing off neocons' countless diversions, misinformation's and disinformation's they bestow with great generosity on the unsuspecting, sleeping and sitcom-watching masses in America.

The plan has been laid out way before Bush became President and although President Bush appears to be a warmonger, he is simply implementing a plan drafted by the Establishment who put him in power (not the people) for world domination in all areas.

Will the US attack Iran?....yes, it will sooner than later. It will definitely start by disturbing its political stability in Teheran, using similar tactics it used when it de-stabilized Moussadeh's government over forty years ago, putting in place the CIA's puppet man, the Shah of Iran. If it destabilizes Iran to the point that it will mess up oil agreements Iran made with China and Russia, we better hold on and brace for conflicts that may escalade all the way to World War III. The two powers will not let the US take away what they need for their own economy to continue to expand ... OIL!

Will the US attack using the supposed "bunker blaster?" Has any one thought what would happen to a bunker filled with nuclear materials blasted open by a 700-ton bomb? Imagine such a bomb hitting one of our bunkers filled with nuclear materials! Imagine the nuclear disaster that would result in such an explosion! And what if there were bio-chemicals stored also in those bunkers? Well, you can make your own picture of the disaster it will create. And it would not be only a local disaster...the nuclear debris would cause irreparable damage to life on the whole planet.

Drastic population reduction would follow...and perhaps this is also what is expected.

Time will tell what the US government does with its apparent maniacal destructive tendencies but it is my sincere hope that it never gets that sick!

Almost every one in the Bush administration right now were part of the team which wrote multiple areas of the PNAC document, and that includes US VP Cheney, the Founder of the document. All of them are either members of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Trilateral Commission, or both. These are the two organizations which have controlled the US government for several decades and are at the source of the present US empiristic modus operandi.

Expect what the US has started through the 9-11 event (the new Pearl Harbor neocons needed so much to start the implementation of the plan) to continue with its empiristic power grab and illegal takeovers of sovereign countries regardless of world opposition they may encounter.

Whether we like it or not, it's part of the plan to secure, among other things, oil and other resources wherever they are. The US has been trying to do the same with Venezuela and thus far, they have been unsuccessful due to Hugo Chavez' strength. However, I believe it's only a matter of time until the US finds a way to disrupt his stronghold and for the takeover to succeed.

When you download the PNAC document, you will also read who are the originators of the document and what are their respective position in the Bush administration.

That's the way it looks from here.

Yves Vincent - yvesvincent@cox.net



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US shelved evidence discounting Iraq's WMD: report

Reuters
Wed Apr 12, 1:41 AM ET

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration publicly asserted that two trailers captured by U.S. troops in Iraq in May 2003 were mobile "biological laboratories" even after U.S. intelligence officials had evidence that it was not true, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

On May 29, 2003, President George W. Bush hailed the capture of the trailers, declaring "We have found the weapons of mass destruction."
But a Pentagon-sponsored fact-finding mission had already concluded that the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons, the Post reported, citing government officials and weapons experts who participated in the secret mission or had direct knowledge of it.

The Post said the group's unanimous findings had been sent to the Pentagon in a field report, two days before the president's statement.

Bush cited the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction as the prime justification for invading Iraq. No such weapons ever were found.

A U.S. intelligence official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity confirmed the existence of the field report but said it was a preliminary finding that had to be evaluated.

"You don't change a report that has been coordinated in the (intelligence) community based on a field report," the official said. "It's a preliminary report. No matter how strongly the individual may feel about the subject matter."

The three-page field report and a 122-page final report three weeks later were classified and shelved, The Washington Post reported. It added that for nearly a year after that, the Bush administration continued to public assert that the trailers were biological weapons factories.

The authors of the reports -- nine U.S. and British civilian experts -- were sent to Baghdad by the Defense Intelligence Agency, or DIA, the newspaper said.

A DIA spokesman told the paper that the team's findings were neither ignored nor suppressed, but were incorporated in the work of the Iraqi Survey Group, which led the official search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

The team's work remains classified. But the newspaper said interviews revealed that the team was unequivocal in its conclusion that the trailers were not intended to manufacture biological weapons.

"There was no connection to anything biological," one expert who studied the trailers was quoted as saying.

Comment: Yup, Bush lied about the WMD's in Iraq. The whole war was a lie. So what happens to Bush now? Well, one thing is certain: if ordinary Americans don't do anything, then absolutely nothing will happen to Bush, and he'll just keep on lyin'!

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Middle East Madness


UN unveils restrictive policy on contacts with Hamas government

AFP
Tue Apr 11, 3:56 PM ET

UNITED NATIONS - The United Nations announced a restrictive policy on dealing with the Hamas-led Palestinian government, saying political contacts would now be decided on a case-by-case basis.

"Working contacts with the new Palestinian government will continue," UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters. "But political contacts will be dealt with as they arise on a case-by-case basis."

The UN move coincided with an economic and diplomatic squeeze by the European Union and the United States to force Hamas to recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by peace agreements signed by previous Palestinian governments.
Dujarric, UN chief Kofi Annan's spokesman, said the UN was making sure that humanitarian aid and services are delivered to the Palestinian people.

"Working contacts on humanitarian issues will go on," he stressed.

But the Palestinian government lashed out at the UN move.

The new policy is "a bad decision that defies all logic, knowing that the United Nations is an international organisation which should not be using the same criteria followed by the United States and European Union," said Palestinian government spokesman Ghazi Hamad.

Dujarric dodged a question on whether the new guidelines amounted to a downgrading of the world body's contacts with the Palestinian government, but said the policy had been evolving since the Islamist party's January 25 landslide election victory.

"There has been a lot of confusion among UN officials on the ground" about what kind of contacts they can have with the new Palestinian government, Dujarric said.

Palestinian UN envoy Ryad Mansour said he was not aware of the new policy, but recalled Annan's earlier comments that the election outcome "should be respected" and that "the Palestinian people should not be punished".

Dujarric said Annan, currently in the Netherlands, had been working the phone with the United States, the European Union and Russia to try to set up a Middle East Quartet meeting to work out a joint policy on Hamas.

Hamas, behind dozens of suicide bombings in the course of a five-year uprising, has rejected the roadmap peace plan drawn up by the Quartet, which targets a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But last week Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmud al-Zahar sent a conciliatory letter to Annan stating that his new Islamist government was looking for peace and independence side-by-side with its neighbours while not specifically mentioning Israel.

Russia said Monday that Annan had proposed that the Quartet meet in New York at the end of April or the beginning of May.

Dujarric's comments Tuesday also came against a backdrop of escalating Israeli military pressure on the Palestinians which Ismail Haniya, prime minister of the new Hamas-led government, said aimed to bring the Palestinian people to their knees.

Sixteen Palestinians, including two children, have been killed since the weekend in airstrikes and shelling, with the Israeli government vowing no let-up until Palestinian militants stop firing rockets across the border.

The Israeli cabinet has also reaffirmed a determination to sever all contacts between Israel and the Hamas-led
Palestinian Authority.

In addition, Israel plans to boycott any foreign diplomat who chooses to meet with Hamas officials.

The Jewish state -- which, like the EU and Washington, regards Hamas as a terrorist organization -- has also stopped handing over customs duties that it traditionally collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, worth around 50 million dollars a month.

On Monday, EU foreign ministers formally backed plans for a temporary aid suspension to the Palestinian government while pledging their support for the Palestinian people.

The decision sparked a protest in Gaza City, and the Arab League has condemned the move as "reprehensible."

The EU gives about 500 million euros (600 million dollars) a year to the Palestinian Authority, about half of it collectively through Brussels and the rest from individual EU governments.

On Tuesday, Russia argued that denying aid to the Palestinians because of Hamas's participation in the government was a mistake.

"We are convinced that refusing help to the Palestinians due to the election of Hamas and the formation of a government from members of the movement is a mistake," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, quoted by the RIA-Novosti news agency.



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Palestinians Targeting Soldiers Not Terrorists: Israeli FM

Palestine Chronicle
11/04/2006

JERUSALEM - Palestinians who attack Israeli soldiers cannot be defined as terrorists, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said in an interview with US television network ABC broadcast on Tuesday, April 11.

"Somebody who is fighting against Israeli soldiers is an enemy and we will fight back, but I believe that this is not under the definition of terrorism, if the target is a soldier," Livni said, according to Agence France-Presse (AFP).


In a later interview with Israeli public radio, Livni, also the justice minister, said a distinction should be made between Palestinians who attack soldiers and those who target civilians.

"We must say to the international community that terrorists who take the lives of civilians are terrorists, that you cannot justify their motivations," she said.

Experts believe that the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, now in government after a landslide election victory, has changed resistance tactics, targeting only Israeli military targets within the territories occupied in 1967.

Intensifying Shelling

On the ground, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Tuesday his forces would intensify its bombardments of Gaza despite the recent deaths of two Palestinian children.

"Our operations are going to intensify," he vowed.

Sixteen Palestinians have been killed since Friday night, April 6, by Israeli strikes and tank shelling.

The latest victim was eight-year-old girl Hadil Ghaber who died on Monday, April 10, when an Israeli shell struck a house in Beit Lahiya.

A seven-year-old boy was also killed in an air strike on Friday.

The head of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees mission in Gaza, John Ging, expressed "great concern" over the situation after visiting UN-run schools which he feared could end up in the firing line.

"My reaction is to have an expression of very great concern. It is not at all acceptable that innocent lives are lost. I went to the schools (in Beit Hanun and Beit Lahiya) to see for myself the danger that the children are in from this shelling," he said.

Israel withdrew all its ground troops from the Gaza Strip last September and its bombardments of the territory have been either from the air or by tank shelling from across the border.

Livni acknowledged that such tactics could have tragic consequences as they target innocent civilians.

A unique and unprecedented 120-strong group of Israeli and Palestinian ex-fighters was launched Monday to campaign both against occupation and against violence as a means of achieving peace.

The number of Israeli reservists who refuse to do their military service in the occupied Palestinian territories is on the rise.

Twenty-seven reserve and active duty airmen signed a letter in September 2003, refusing to carry out "immoral and illegal" raids on Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In November 2003, four former heads of the Israeli Shin Beth interior security services warned of the "disastrous" consequences of Israel's continued occupation of the Palestinian territories.

Strangling Palestinians

Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya said the continued bombardment is designed to bring the Palestinian people to their knees.

"The bombardments in the north of the Gaza Strip and in (southern) Khan Yunis ... are part of a political and economic siege of the Palestinian people," he told the weekly cabinet meeting.

"This is an attempt to bring the Palestinian people to their knees and strangle the government which was democratically elected."

Haniya also blasted a decision by the EU decision on Monday to suspend aid payments to his government, which follows a similar move by Washington last week.

"We can see that this decision as a green light for Israel to continue its aggressions and as a collective punishment on the Palestinian people over its democratic choice."

Comment: The Israeli FM is correct in stating that attacks on Israeli soldiers is not terrorism but rather justified resistance to Israeli occupation of Palestine. He is also correct in describing those who kill civilians as the real terrorists. What he does not seem to realise however is that because the Israeli Military (and government) regularly kills Palestinian civilians in their alleged attacks on Palestinian fighters, Israeli forces, by this definition, are the terrorists.

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Saudi Arabian Crown Prince calls terrorism a "disease"

AFP
Tue Apr 11, 1:40 PM ET

SINGAPORE - Saudi Arabia will exert all efforts to fight terrorism and its financiers, the kingdom's crown prince said, calling it a "disease" that threatens the whole world.

Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz, who is also deputy prime minister and defence minister, said terrorist acts are contrary to the teachings of Islam.

Saudi Arabia "has emphasized its strong rejection and condemnation of all forms of terrorism," he said at a lecture in Singapore organized by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
"Terrorist actions are contradictory to the teachings and value of Islam," he told diplomats, government officials, academics and business executives.

"The kingdom has strongly expressed its determination to continue to exert all possible efforts in combating terrorism and whoever helps in financing or inciting terrorism.

"Terrorism... is a disease that threatens the whole world and our two friendly countries have agreed on the importance of fighting terrorism and terrorists."

Prince Abdul Aziz said that in his meeting with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Monday both agreed that relevant agencies in their respective governments should strengthen cooperation against terrorism.

Saudi Arabia has been battling a wave of terror by suspected Al-Qaeda militants since May 2003.

On February 24 it announced that it had thwarted a bid to blow up an oil processing plant, the world's largest, at Abqaiq in the oil-rich Eastern Province.

Security forces killed would-be suicide-bombers in two vehicles laden with explosives before they could penetrate the massive complex.

Singapore is a staunch US ally in Southeast Asia in the fight against militant groups blamed for a series of bloody bombings in the region.



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Saudi Arabia vows to help stabilize oil market as prices soar

AFP
Tue Apr 11, 1:37 PM ET

SINGAPORE - Saudi Arabia, the world's top crude exporter, will continue its role of stabilizing the oil market, Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz said as prices surged toward 70 dollars a barrel.

Speaking at a public lecture in Singapore, he said the kingdom "has worked constantly to fulfill her promises of stabilising the oil market in order to support the development of the world economy."

To this end, Saudi Arabia has embarked on a 50-billion dollar program to increase production capacity to 12.5 million barrels per day (bpd) by 2009, he said.
Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil producer with more than a quarter of global reserves, currently pumps around 9.5 million bpd and has a capacity of 11.3 million bpd.

The crown prince, who is on a visit to the city-state, was speaking to diplomats, academics, business executives and government officials at a public lecture organized by the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

His speech came amid a surge in oil prices to near record highs Tuesday.

Analysts said the market was rattled by media reports during the weekend that the United States may launch military strikes against nuclear facilities of major oil producer
Iran.

At 8:10 pm (1210 GMT), New York's light sweet crude for delivery in May was at 69.28 dollars a barrel, up 54 cents from its close of 68.74 dollars a barrel in the United States on Monday.

The all-time high for the benchmark futures contract was 70.85 dollars a barrel reached on August 30, 2005 after Hurricane Katrina savaged oil-producing facilities in the Gulf of Mexico region in the southern United States.

Another benchmark, Brent North Sea crude oil, reached an all-time high point of 69.70 dollars per barrel Tuesday.

Washington and its allies believe Iran is secretly trying to build a nuclear bomb, but Tehran has said its nuclear research was for peaceful purposes.

Traders ignored efforts by US President George W. Bush to play down the reports of a possible military strike.



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Chinese leader to visit as Saudi expands Asia ties

AFP
Tue Apr 11, 8:15 AM ET

RIYADH - A planned visit by China's president to Saudi Arabia, soon after a trip by the Saudi monarch to Beijing, underlines the oil-rich kingdom's quest to forge partnerships with Asia.

President Hu Jintao's April 22-24 visit will also come close on the heels of an Asian tour by the Saudi crown prince, confirming that Riyadh is increasingly looking eastwards for both export markets and the import of technology.

"With a persistent very high growth in GDP (gross domestic product), China needs energy to fuel its growth," said prominent Saudi economist Ihsan Bu Hulaiga.
But the relationship with Riyadh is also important to Beijing "for geopolitical reasons, given Saudi Arabia's weight in Arab, Gulf and Islamic circles", he told AFP.

Saudi Arabia in turn "needs the Chinese in a number of ways", chiefly as a market for its oil and a partner in energy and petrochemical ventures but also as a technology supplier, he said.

Both the Saudi government and private sector need to diversify the oil-based economy "and Chinese companies will be more than welcome to come here and help them do that", Bu Hulaiga said.

Hu, accompanied by the foreign affairs and commerce ministers and energy officials, will visit Riyadh and the eastern cities of Dammam and Dhahran, the kingdom's oil hub, a Chinese embassy spokesman said.

The Chinese foreign ministry said energy issues will be an important component of Hu's trip to Saudi Arabia and later Africa, but are "not the only domain" of cooperation.

King Abdullah oversaw the signing of five economic deals, including an energy agreement, during a landmark visit to China in January, the first by a Saudi monarch since diplomatic relations were established in 1990.

He went on to visit India, Malaysia and Pakistan. Crown Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz meanwhile was in Singapore Tuesday on the second leg of a tour which started in Japan.

Bandar al-Aiban, who chairs the foreign affairs committee of the appointed Shura (consultative) Council, attributed Saudi Arabia's drive to strike partnerships with Asian giants to several factors.

Asian countries are "an expanding market for Saudi oil and petrochemical products", he said.

Moreover, Riyadh is undergoing an economic growth comparable to what some of the Asian nations experienced and opening up its economy following its accession to the World Trade Organization, Aiban told AFP.

Saudi Arabia also hosts millions of Asian workers, "and it is normal that it should forge good relations with their home countries", he said.

But Saudi Arabia's growing Asian links should not be seen as a bid to spite traditional Western allies, who themselves are increasingly engaging with Asian powers, Aiban added.

A Western diplomat agreed it was only "normal" that a major economy such as Saudi Arabia, the world's top oil exporter, should "seek relations with other important economies".

But Bu Hulaiga said it had taken Japan "a very long time to figure that they have to establish a strategic relationship" with Riyadh, Tokyo's biggest oil supplier.

The Japanese "are interested in human resources development in Saudi Arabia, which is the biggest challenge this country faces", Bu Hulaiga said.

Prince Sultan said in Tokyo last week that Riyadh would pay for students to study in Japan, where only about 30 Saudi students are now known to be studying.

The kingdom shipped over 20 million tons of oil to China last year, amounting to 17 percent of Beijing's total crude imports.

China's Sinopec is drilling for gas in the Saudi desert and building a refinery with state oil firm Saudi Aramco in the Chinese province of Fujian. Another joint refinery venture is planned in Qingdao city.

The Chinese president is due to give a speech at the Shura Council, becoming only the second foreign leader to do so after French President Jacques Chirac, who addressed the advisory body in March.



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Pathocracy


Top general defends Rumsfeld

CNN
Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff defended Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld from new criticism by former Pentagon brass Tuesday, telling reporters that "nobody works harder than he does."

"He does his homework. He works weekends. He works nights," Gen. Peter Pace said. "People can question my judgment or his judgment, but they should never question the dedication, the patriotism and the work ethic of Secretary Rumsfeld."
Pace opened Tuesday's regular Pentagon briefing with a defense of the planning for the 2003 invasion of Iraq, where U.S. troops have been battling a persistent insurgency since the fall of Saddam Hussein's government.

In the past month, three former generals have accused Rumsfeld of bungling the occupation of Iraq by refusing to commit enough troops to secure the country after taking Baghdad.

In a Time magazine essay published this week, retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold said the war plan was "fundamentally flawed," and many senior officers "acted timidly when their voices urgently needed to be heard."

"When they knew the plan was flawed, saw intelligence distorted to justify a rationale for war, or witnessed arrogant micromanagement that at times crippled the military's effectiveness, many leaders who wore the uniform chose inaction," wrote Newbold, who was the operations chief for the Joint Chiefs of Staff before retiring.

Another retired Marine general, former U.S. Central Command chief Anthony Zinni, has called for Rumsfeld to resign over his management of the war. And in a New York Times op-ed piece in March, former Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton called Rumsfeld "incompetent."

Asked if the criticism was affecting his ability to do his job, Rumsfeld said, "No."

Newbold left the service in October 2002 -- in part, he said, because of his objections to the upcoming invasion.

"Until now, I have resisted speaking out in public. I've been silent long enough," he wrote in Time. "I am driven to action now by the missteps and misjudgments of the White House and the Pentagon, and by my many painful visits to our military hospitals."

Rumsfeld said Newbold "never raised an issue publicly or privately when he was here that I know of." Pace also said he was unaware of any objections Newbold raised.

Pace said plans for the invasion were significantly overhauled between the time Newbold retired and the day American troops crossed the Iraqi frontier in March 2003.

He said members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff signed on to the war plan presented by Gen. Tommy Franks, then-commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East, before it was presented to Rumsfeld and President Bush, and top officers had "every opportunity to speak our minds."

"And if we do not, shame on us, because the opportunity is there. It is elicited from us, and we're expected to," Pace said.

About 150,000 U.S. troops went into Iraq to topple Hussein, and about 130,000 remain there to provide security for Iraq's nascent government. But Zinni said estimates of the force needed for any invasion and occupation of Iraq during his 1997-2000 tenure as Central Command chief called for between 380,000 and 500,000 troops.

"The idea that you could control that country in the aftermath with those few troops was flawed," he told CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer" on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Newbold criticized the Pentagon's civilian leadership for launching the invasion, which he said was done "with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions -- or bury the results." And he criticized fellow officers for not standing up to those leaders, saying their silence meant "that a fundamentally flawed plan was executed for an invented war."

But Pace said "lots of concerns" were raised by both military and civilian leaders -- and Newbold was not one of them.

Comment: Isn't this great? Rummy is clearly linked to the lies about WMD's in Iraq, the torture and indefinite detainment of prisoners in the so-called "war on terror", and rendition - and yet the "debate" going on right now can be summarized as follows:
Big Tough Retired General: "Rummy, you're a bad man. You should have planned better so we could win in Iraq!"

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: "Don't badmouth Rummy! He works hard! Even evenings and weekends! How dare anyone question his patriotism!"

Reporter: "Mr. Rumsfeld, are you being affected in your job by this absolutely huge scandal?"

Rumsfeld: "No. Why would I be? This 'scandal' has taken the spotlight off the REAL crimes I've committed! [cackles like a madman]"


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Top officer defends Rumsfeld

Tue Apr 11, 2006
By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. military officer on Tuesday defended Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld against three retired generals demanding his ouster, and denied that the United States invaded Iraq without sufficiently weighing its plan.

Standing next to Rumsfeld at a Pentagon briefing, Marine Corps Gen. Pete Pace said critics could legitimately question the defense secretary's judgment but not his motives.

Retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton and Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni have recently separately called for Rumsfeld to be replaced. This comes as opinion polls show eroding public support for the 3-year-old war in which about 2,360 U.S. troops have died.

"I don't know how many generals there have been in the last five years that have served in the United States armed services -- hundreds and hundreds and hundreds," said Rumsfeld, whom critics have accused of bullying senior military officers and stifling dissent.

"And there are several who have opinions, and there's nothing wrong with people having opinions. And I think one ought to expect that when you're involved in something that's controversial as certainly this war is," he said.


Newbold, the military's top operations officer before the Iraq war, said he regretted not speaking up more forcefully against what he now regards as an unnecessary war and a diversion from "the real threat" posed by al Qaeda.

In a Time magazine opinion piece on Sunday, Newbold encouraged officers still in the military to voice any doubts they have about the war.

"My sincere view is that the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions -- or bury the results," Newbold wrote.

Newbold said he went public with the private encouragement of some still in positions of military leadership.

Pace, chairman of the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, questioned whether Newbold knew all the facts about the invasion plans, noting he retired in September 2002, six months before the invasion took place.



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Proposed Enron Settlement Would Seal Some Documents

By DAVID CAY JOHNSTON
The New York Times
April 11, 2006

The government is moving to bar public access permanently to most of the audiotapes, e-mail messages and other documents that show how Enron earned billions of dollars by manipulating electric power markets, according to one senator and others opposed to a proposed settlement with Enron.

Enron traders boasted of cheating unsuspecting customers, some of whom they mocked as "poor grandmothers" who would not understand that their pockets were being picked by Enron, according to transcripts of a small portion of the tapes that have been released.

The staff of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission wants to withdraw materials that are not formally in the public record, as part of a settlement with Enron on charges of market manipulation.

But critics say that would make the records unavailable to those who are suing Enron.
The plan was first reported Saturday in The Seattle Times.

Senator Maria Cantwell, Democrat of Washington, denounced the proposed settlement yesterday, saying it would benefit Enron and its creditors at the expense of electricity customers in the Pacific Northwest who saw their electric bills soar by more than half in 2000 and 2001.

"We expect federal regulators to stand up and do their job of protecting the public with just and reasonable rates," she said in an interview. Instead, she said, the regulators are helping Enron keep "unjust profits" earned "from fraudulent contracts."

She said that the proposed settlement would only encourage more fraud in energy markets because "if they don't stop this, then people continue to do it."

Bryan Lee, a commission spokesman, said he was mystified by the criticism by Senator Cantwell and others. "Nothing is being sealed," he said.

Commission staff documents said "thousands of e-mails, documents, etc." that are in the public record "will forever remain in the public record."

But Senator Cantwell said that only a minority of the audiotapes and documents were in the public record and the rest would be removed from any possible access by parties who thought that Enron cheated them.

"They are suppressing the facts," she said, adding that whether the verb was suppress, seal or withdraw, "it all amounts to the same thing."

Eric Christensen, deputy general counsel for the Snohomish County Public Utility District, which is trying to recover its share of more than $1 billion in profits that Enron made during the peak of the market manipulations, also criticized the commission.

The energy commission "is acting at Enron's behest and completely abdicating its responsibility to the public," he said.

In response, Mr. Lee, the commission spokesman, said the ability of the public utility district and others to get access to the tapes and documents would not be diminished by the proposed settlement. He noted that the materials were held by the Justice Department.

Commission records show that a relatively small number of Pacific Northwest electric customers bore most of the cost of inflated electric prices, in part because California had put a cap on retail electric rates. Enron earned $694 million in profits from retail customers in the Pacific Northwest in 2000 and 2001, and $347 million in California, Mr. Christensen said.

Under the proposed settlement, Enron would pay a fraction of a penny on each dollar of profit it earned in the Northwest.

Harlan Loeb, a spokesman for what he calls "the new team" that is running Enron, described the proposed settlement as "the best deal for creditors," which include the public utility district.



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Cheers, boos as Cheney opens U.S. baseball game

Reuters
Tue Apr 11, 2006 1:58pm ET

WASHINGTON - A loud mixture of cheers and boos greeted Vice President Dick Cheney on Tuesday as he threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Washington Nationals baseball game.

Cheney, wearing a red Nationals warmup jacket, tossed a pitch that reached Nationals catcher Brian Schneider on one bounce.

The vice president, whose popularity is slumping along with that of President Bush, walked out on the field to cheering and booing from the near-sellout crowd. The boos appeared to be little louder than the cheers at RFK Memorial Stadium.
On the field with him were three U.S. servicemen, two of whom had been wounded in Iraq and a third who was injured in Afghanistan.

Cheney was the eighth vice president to throw out a first pitch for Washington's baseball team on opening day at home. He was the first since 1968 when Hubert Humphrey tossed the first pitch when the team was the Washington Senators.

Before the game, Cheney visited the locker rooms of both the Nationals and the visiting New York Mets. Nationals manager Frank Robinson, who was taking the field for his 51st pro baseball season, escorted Cheney and introduced him to the players.



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U.S. Blind to Harbinger of Its Decline

By Ramzy Baroud
OMN
04/11/06

The first step for turnaround is to bring troops home

The miscalculated policies of the U.S. administration in the Middle East are quickly depleting the country's ability to sustain its once unchallenged global position. Winds of change are blowing everywhere, and there is little that Washington's ideologues can do to stop that.

The above claim is increasingly finding its way into the realm of mainstream thinking, despite all attempts to mute or relegate its import.
A recent speech by U.S. Republican congressman and chairman of the House of international relations committee, Henry Hyde was the focal point of analysis by Martin Jacques in The Guardian newspaper.

"Our power has the grave liability of rendering our theories about the world immune from failure. But by becoming deaf to easily discerned warning signs, we may ignore long-term costs that result from our actions and dismiss reverses that should lead to a re-examination of our goals and means," Hyde said.

In his poignant analysis -- decoding Hyde's deliberately implicit thoughts -- Jacques argued, "The Bush administration stands guilty of an extraordinary act of imperial overreach which has left the U.S. more internationally isolated than ever before, seriously stretched financially, and guilty of neglect in east Asia and elsewhere."

Ironically, the invasion of Iraq with its "thousands" of "tactical" mistakes -- as recently admitted by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice -- was meant to solidify and ensure the U.S.'s post Cold-War global dominance. According to Jacques, as inferred from Hyde's notable speech, "It may well prove to be a harbinger of its decline."

It can also be argued that the U.S. adventurism in Iraq has provided the coveted opportunity to other countries to further their national and regional interests without the constant fear of U.S. reprisals.

In a recent interview with Radio Havana, MIT professor Noam Chomsky -- known for his sharp critique of U.S. foreign policies, particularity in Indochina, Central and Latin America -- delineated a new global political reality that is being forged as the U.S. stubbornly insists on fighting a lost battle in Iraq.

"What's happening is something completely new in the history of the hemisphere. Since the Spanish conquest, the countries of Latin America have been pretty much separated from one another and oriented toward the imperial power. For the first time, they are beginning to integrate and in quite a few different ways."

That integration is evident, according to Chomsky, not only by examining the unbridled rise of the Left in these countries and the almost immediate alliances -- economic cooperation, for example -- that these populace governments have achieved. There is a simultaneous rise of the political relevance of the indigenous Indian population in Bolivia, and the opportunities it represents to the Indian population of Ecuador and Peru.

Moreover, there is a noteworthy South-South integration that is already breaking regional boundaries and significantly undermining the overpowering grip of the IMF, which has played the infamous role of the unfair middleman between the rich and hapless poor.

China and India, on the other hand, continue to achieve astounding economic growth with China's economic might and relevance to soon surpass that of the United States. In fact, there is an intense diplomatic clash underway between the U.S. and China, since the latter has dared to violate the understanding of the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, which gave the U.S. alone the right to manage its Latin American domains.

For the first time since then, says a BBC news analysis, a foreign country has challenged American influence in that region, and successfully so. Indeed, China is upgrading its economic relations with Brazil -- both increasingly formidable economic powers -- in ways that will eventually help Brazil break away from a domineering U.S. hold.

These are all part of the "warning signs" to which Hyde was refereeing in his speech. While there are indications that Washington is finally waking up to this grim reality, which it has helped create, there are no signs whatsoever that a fundamental change of course in U.S. foreign policies in the Middle East is taking place: the U.S. destructive war in Iraq rages on; the self-inflicting damage of unconditionally backing Israel in its endless colonial ambitions perpetuates; and the same detrimental policy line used with Iraq is employed, almost identically with Iran. U.S. policy planners seem as ever insistent on following the same destructive course that has compromised their nation's global standing like never before.

Instead of healing the many woes, which it helped to mold, the Bush administration is desperately trying to recover some of its Southeast Asia losses by signing a nuclear treaty with India, an action that reeks with hypocrisy and further miscalculations. Moreover, the administration has recently lifted the ban on sales of lethal arms to Indonesia in recognition of its "unique strategic role in Southeast Asia," despite outcries of major international human rights groups to maintain the ban.

Despite President Bush's recent "historic" trip to India and other top U.S. officials' hasty attempts to reassert U.S. global dominance, there should be no illusions that the United States' chief foreign policy debacle starts and ends with the Middle East, particularity its unwarranted, yet "special" relationship with Israel. While the latter has served the role of the client state since its establishment on ethnically cleansed Palestinian territories, this relationship was significantly altered in recent years, with the pro-Israeli lobby taking center stage, not simply by influencing U.S. foreign policies toward Israel, but eventually by directing that policy altogether in the region.

The rise of the neoconservatives (also known as the Likudists for their open support of, and direct involvement with Israel's right wing policies) helped create the false impression that the U.S. and Israeli policies are one and the same, including their mutual interests in maintaining Israel's military "edge" over its neighbors, which eventually led to the invasion of Iraq.

While the neocons are washing their hands from any responsibility in the deadly Middle East impasse, the U.S. administration's arrogance is stopping it from immediately withdrawing its troops from Iraq and seriously reassessing its relationship with Israel.

The world is changing, yet the U.S. government refuses to abandon its old ways: militaristic, self-defeating and overbearing. Indeed, the U.S. must remold, not only its policies in the Middle East, but also its hegemonic policies throughout the world. For once, the U.S. administration needs to tap into its sense of reason, and discern the "warning signs," that should lead to "the re-examination of [its] goals and means." A first step is to bring the troops home, and with them the entire doctrine that unrestrained violence and perpetual wars can further the cause of an already dishonored superpower.

Veteran Arab American journalist Ramzy Baroud teaches mass communication at Australia's Curtin University of Technology, Malaysia Campus.

His most recent book is entitled, "Writings on the Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle" (Pluto Press, London.) He is also the editor-in-chief of the Palestine Chronicle online newspaper.




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Even cowardice speaks

by James Parker
OpEdNews.com
April 10, 2006

When Molly Haglund and her college classmates were planting 1026 stakes in the campus quadrangle, they didn't expect that their act would wind up on the front page of the Boston Globe. That is what happened-with some help from vandals.

The Portland (OR) sophomore, her associate Sarah Fontaine and a group of two dozen students at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachusetts, had a simple goal: memorialize those who have been killed in Iraq and start campus dialogue about the war. They painted 26 stakes white, one for each 100 American soldiers killed, and 1000 green, one for each 100 Iraqi victims. (The toll of Iraqi deaths is hard to determine; the British medical journal, The Lancet, estimates the number at 100,000.) They hammered the stakes into the lawn with the permission of college administrators and after having taken full responsibility for the display in a campus-wide email.

"We chose the quadrangle in front of the cafeteria," says Molly, "because we wanted students to talk about the issue over a meal." Students did talk, in the cafeteria and in classes, but real dialogue didn't get going until 48 hours later, after campus police wakened Molly to report that vandals, covering their cowardice under nightfall, had uprooted the stakes. Not the white stakes, she discovered; just the green ones.
"What were they trying to say?" asks the Central Catholic High School graduate. "That Iraqi lives are less important than American lives?" Molly and Sarah decided to leave the green stakes strewn around the lawn. Another student, evidently disheartened by the vandalism and figuring that she could make an even more powerful symbol of the commonality of Americans and Iraqis in futile killing and death, uprooted the white stakes as well.

The women also arranged for a forum and a panel of students and professors to air issues. Molly reports, "The silence on campus about the war these last couple of years had been deafening. At the forum we asked why that is so and how in the future we can carry on dialogue about something so big as this war."

Molly's own opinion is that the silence had to do with the absence of a draft, the inability of the media to report the whole tragedy of chaos and death, and the fact that "we live in bubbles and behind gates, absorbed in our own little worlds."

Whatever the reason, at Holy Cross College dialogue is finally beginning. Molly and Sarah hope that the discussion, which has until now swirled about the display and how to foster civic and civil debate, will turn to questions about the war itself. It is just possible that their courageous deed, magnified ironically by an act of cowardice, might help spark national debate about the question Molly and Sarah hung over the display and posted on their email: "How many more?"



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EuroNews


Judge charges 29 over Madrid train bombing

By Jane Walker in Madrid
12 April 2006

A Spanish judge has launched one of Europe's largest terrorism prosecutions, charging 29 people in connection with the 2004 Madrid train bombings.

After a two-year investigation, Judge Juan Del Olmo charged five people, all Moroccan nationals, with 191 counts of murder and 1,755 attempted murders, when they blew up three commuter trains in the Spanish capital. Another 23 were charged with collaboration.
The indictment, which runs to almost 1,750 pages, concludes that the attacks were carried out by local radical Islamists who were inspired by, but not directly linked to, al-Qa'ida.

The 29th man charged over the bombings was Jose Emilio Suarez Trashorras, a former miner who provided the bombers with plastic explosives. He was charged with 192 murders, including the death of a policeman killed during a raid on suspected bombers a few weeks after the attacks.

The train bombings led to the downfall of the then conservative government of Jose Maria Aznar, who initially blamed the bombings on the Basque separatist group Eta.

Among the five Moroccan nationals charged with murder was Jamal Zougam, the first man arrested after the massacre. A holdall, found in the wreckage of one of the trains contained an unexploded bomb connected by wires to a mobile phone. Police were able to trace the SIM card to a phone shop owned by Mr Zougam. His fingerprints were also found in the house outside Madrid where the bombs were manufactured.

According to the indictment, another Moroccan, Abdelmajid Bouchar, was in the bomb-making apartment when a separate group of alleged attackers blew themselves up. He was downstairs when the apartment was surrounded by anti-terrorist police. He is accused of telephoning his associates to warn them of an impending raid by the police before escaping.

Mr Bouchar was arrested in Serbia a year later, while carrying false Iraqi papers, and extradited to Spain. Both Mr Zougam and Mr Bouchar and the three others named in the indictment had links to the Moroccan Islamic Fighters' Group (GICM), which carried out the Casablanca bombings in May 2003.

Mr Trashorras came into contact with the Islamic gang in jail while he was serving a sentence for drug dealing and the Moroccans were serving time for other non-terrorist crimes. He agreed to arrange the theft of the explosives from the mines where he had worked. His motivation was said to be purely financial.

Judge del Olmo said that he had investigated two separate networks - the first directly involved in the bombings and the second those who collaborated with the planning and helped the terrorists escape.

He concluded they had plotted the atrocity to coincide with the general election in Spain on 13 March and found no evidence linking the attacks to Eta.

But Vicente Martin Pujalte, of the conservative opposition party, said they were still unconvinced by the "insufficient conclusion". He said: "To say this is an autonomous cell who simply decided [to carry out the bombing] one morning seems a weak argument." He described the accused as "secondary actors" in the conspiracy.

A Spanish judge has launched one of Europe's largest terrorism prosecutions, charging 29 people in connection with the 2004 Madrid train bombings.

After a two-year investigation, Judge Juan Del Olmo charged five people, all Moroccan nationals, with 191 counts of murder and 1,755 attempted murders, when they blew up three commuter trains in the Spanish capital. Another 23 were charged with collaboration.

The indictment, which runs to almost 1,750 pages, concludes that the attacks were carried out by local radical Islamists who were inspired by, but not directly linked to, al-Qa'ida.

The 29th man charged over the bombings was Jose Emilio Suarez Trashorras, a former miner who provided the bombers with plastic explosives. He was charged with 192 murders, including the death of a policeman killed during a raid on suspected bombers a few weeks after the attacks.

The train bombings led to the downfall of the then conservative government of Jose Maria Aznar, who initially blamed the bombings on the Basque separatist group Eta.

Among the five Moroccan nationals charged with murder was Jamal Zougam, the first man arrested after the massacre. A holdall, found in the wreckage of one of the trains contained an unexploded bomb connected by wires to a mobile phone. Police were able to trace the SIM card to a phone shop owned by Mr Zougam. His fingerprints were also found in the house outside Madrid where the bombs were manufactured.

According to the indictment, another Moroccan, Abdelmajid Bouchar, was in the bomb-making apartment when a separate group of alleged attackers blew themselves up. He was downstairs when the apartment was surrounded by anti-terrorist police. He is accused of telephoning his associates to warn them of an impending raid by the police before escaping.

Mr Bouchar was arrested in Serbia a year later, while carrying false Iraqi papers, and extradited to Spain. Both Mr Zougam and Mr Bouchar and the three others named in the indictment had links to the Moroccan Islamic Fighters' Group (GICM), which carried out the Casablanca bombings in May 2003.

Mr Trashorras came into contact with the Islamic gang in jail while he was serving a sentence for drug dealing and the Moroccans were serving time for other non-terrorist crimes. He agreed to arrange the theft of the explosives from the mines where he had worked. His motivation was said to be purely financial.

Judge del Olmo said that he had investigated two separate networks - the first directly involved in the bombings and the second those who collaborated with the planning and helped the terrorists escape.

He concluded they had plotted the atrocity to coincide with the general election in Spain on 13 March and found no evidence linking the attacks to Eta.

But Vicente Martin Pujalte, of the conservative opposition party, said they were still unconvinced by the "insufficient conclusion". He said: "To say this is an autonomous cell who simply decided [to carry out the bombing] one morning seems a weak argument." He described the accused as "secondary actors" in the conspiracy.

Comment: See today's editorial on this story for further analysis and commentary.

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Prodi vows to form new Italian govt as Berlusconi pulls a Bush

AFP
Wed Apr 12, 1:11 AM ET

ROME - Italian centre-left leader Romano Prodi held firm to his disputed election victory Wednesday despite Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's refusal to step aside due to allegations of "irregularities".

"We cannot recognise the outcome of a vote until there is a definitive clear judgement. Until that day, no one can say they have won," the billionaire prime minister told a packed news conference in Rome on Tuesday.

Berlusconi raised the prospect of declaring invalid the pivotal votes for six seats chosen by Italians living abroad. That vote had swung the election to Prodi's centre-left alliance, with four of the six seats going their way.
"On the foreign vote there were a great many irregularities," he said.

"It cannot be excluded that this vote can be declared invalid," said Berlusconi, who fought a vitriolic campaign to extend his five-year reign -- the longest since World War II.

He even offered the image of a German-style "grand coalition" in case a recount eventually ended with each side taking one house -- a divided parliament.

"I think maybe we should follow the example of some other European countries, like Germany, to see if there is a case for joining forces and governing together," he said.

Each chamber in the Italian parliament has equal power, meaning both the lower house Chamber of Deputies and upper house Senate must be secured for a government to rule effectively.

But Prodi quashed the idea of setting up government with Berlusconi's camp.

"We came into this election with a set coalition, and the electoral law has alloted us a number of seats in the Chamber (of Deputies) and in the Senate which will allow us to govern," he told journalists Tuesday outside his campaign headquarters in Rome.

Still, Berlusconi's declarations raised the spectre of a Florida-style recount debacle akin to the situation that brought his close ally US
President George W. Bush to power in 2000.

Only minutes earlier, full results showed Prodi's Union alliance had snatched the elections from the conservative House of Freedoms coalition, after a campaign that had attacked the prime minister relentlessly over Italy's weak economy.

Prodi's centre-left bloc took control of the Senate, which had been hanging in the balance, the interior ministry said. A full count had already shown him as the winner in the lower chamber.

"Whoever wins, wins, that's the beauty of democracy," the sober 66-year-old economist, nicknamed "Il Professore", said earlier in the day.

But Berlusconi's own Forza Italia party had said it would press for a recount given the wafer-thin margin -- just 25,224 votes -- which separated the two sides in the lower house.

"There is a difference of 25,000 votes and there are 43,000 contested votes," Forza Italia's national coordinator Sandro Bondi said in a debate on Sky Italia television.

"For the moment, you have won nowhere: neither in the House, nor in the Senate," said Bondi.

The full results showed Prodi's team winning 158 seats of 315 seats up for grabs in the Senate, compared to 156 for Berlusconi.

The Prodi alliance also won 342 seats in the 630-seat lower house Chamber of Deputies compared to 281 for Berlusconi.

Among the first congratulations for the former European Commission president's election victory came from the current head of the European Union's executive, Jose Manuel Barroso.


Prodi had "actively promoted the general European interest" as commission chief and would "continue to work in this direction" as Italian premier, Barroso said in a statement, while also noting the "constructive and fruitful relationship" he had had with Berlusconi.

Outside Prodi's Rome headquarters supporters milled restlessly, awaiting a final, iron-clad confirmation he had won.

Gianni Marchetti, a 54-year-old biologist in Rome on holiday from northern Padua, said he hoped a "new Florida" could be avoided.

"It should have been such an easy victory," Marchetti said, ticking off Berlusconi's "notorious gaffes, his negative image overseas, his disastrous economic policies, the impoverishment of the people, Italy's decline on the world market..."

In the nearby Via del Corso, one of Rome's busiest shopping streets, Daniele Calicchia said he would not welcome a recount. "Berlusconi does his best to turn things his way. But that would not be good for Italy," said Calicchia, a volunteer raising money for a drug abuse program.

At a nearby clothing boutique, a saleswoman, Giusappina Vista, said she would not oppose a recount. "If there's a doubt, why not?"

Comment:
"It should have been such an easy victory," Marchetti said, ticking off Berlusconi's "notorious gaffes, his negative image overseas, his disastrous economic policies, the impoverishment of the people, Italy's decline on the world market..."
Of course it should have been an easy victory - but Berlusconi is no doubt taking a page from the playbook of his good friend George W. Bush in an attempt to thwart the democratic process and steal the election. In the run-up to the election, Berlusconi wasn't terribly worried about his "notorious gaffes", perhaps because he knew he couldn't lose. The only question now is: will the Italian people put up with his nonsense?



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Blair isolated on Iraq conflict as Berlusconi bows out

By Colin Brown and Jonathan Brown
The Independent
12 April 2006

The defeat of Silvio Berlusconi has left Tony Blair isolated in Europe as the last political leader supporting the war in Iraq.

Mr Berlusconi had been the only ally of Mr Blair and President George Bush in Europe after Jose Maria Aznar, the Spanish prime minister, was defeated in the aftermath of the Madrid bombings in March 2004. Mr Blair is likely to put a brave face on the defeat, although many will see it as a further nail in his own political coffin. However, he knows Mr Berlusconi's successor Romano Prodi from his time as the European Commission president.
The close relationship between Mr Blair and the Italian media mogul has mystified Labour MPs, who privately say the Blairs were dazzled by wealth. The election result is also likely to bring the curtain down on the free holidays the Blairs enjoyed at Mr Berlusconi's villa in Sardinia.

The Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera dubbed the Blairs "The Sultans of Bling" after Mr Blair declared receiving watches, earrings, a necklace, a ring and a bracelet from Mr Berlusconi.

However, it was David Mills, husband of the cabinet minister Tessa Jowell and a corporate lawyer who acted for Mr Berlusconi, who has caused Mr Blair most trouble. Mr Mills is still facing the possibility of charges with Mr Berlusconi over corruption, and Ms Jowell announced that she was separating from her husband as the calls for her resignation mounted.

Ms Jowell, one of Mr Blair's closest allies in the Cabinet, survived, but Mr Blair became mired with the sleaze allegations surrounding Mr Mills and Mr Berlusconi's financial deals.

For Mr Mills, who is accused of accepting a 350,000 bribe from the outgoing Italian Prime Minister, Mr Berlusconi's defeat will provide little comfort.

A judge is due to open a hearing in Milan in June to decide whether the case brought by prosecutors should proceed to trial. It is alleged that the British lawyer was paid in exchange for providing favourable testimony during two previous trials into Mr Berlusconi's business dealings. Both men deny the charges.

Much of Mr Berlusconi's time in office was spent passing laws limiting the time frame in which he could be prosecuted after an alleged offence to 10 years. There were suggestions last night, however, that a new government might seek to change the statute of limitations to enable the trial to reach a conclusion.

Mr Berlusconi and Mr Mills claim to have documents that prove the 350,000 was paid to Mr Mills by another client, Diego Attanasio, a Neapolitan shipowner. However, Mr Attanasio has said he that he was in prison at the time the money was paid.



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French trade deficit figures better than expected

AFP
April 11, 2006

PARIS - The French trade balance showed a sharply reduced deficit in February, official data showed on Tuesday.

But one analyst commented that the figures did not change an underlying trend towards a deepening imbalance, saying that France now had a structural trade deficit.
The adjusted data, from the customs service, showed a deficit of EUR 2.015 billion after a deficit of EUR 2.414 billion in January.

The figure was better than economists had expected since they had forecast broadly a deficit of EUR 2.3 billion.

The customs service also revised upwards slightly the deficit for January to 2.367 billion euros.

The customs service said that the data, which showed a slight fall in exports and imports, did not change a trend towards increased overall trade.

But at Natexis Banques Populaires, economist Marc Touati commented: "The evidence is clear: we are in the course of being satisfied with a French trade deficit which has become structural."

He said that the deficit would remain high if French exports remained weakly specialised by sector and by region of the world. In addition, the recent rise of the euro would weaken the competitive position of exports and increase the appetite for imported goods.

He said: "In this context, the French external deficit, having reached EUR 22.2 billion in 2005, is likely again to come close to EUR 20 billion this year, and also next year."

The customs service said that exports in February had fallen slightly to EUR 31.574 billion from EUR 31.735 billion in January, having risen strongly in the preceding three months.

Exports to the rest of the European Union, and particularly to Italy, remained strong, but exports to other countries, except in the Middle East, had fallen because fewer aircraft had been delivered.



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Australian PM faces grilling at Iraq bribes inquiry

AFP
April 12, 2006

SYDNEY - Australian Prime Minister John Howard has been summoned for questioning at an official inquiry into the payment of sanctions-busting bribes to Saddam Hussein's
Iraq.

Howard, who will be the first prime minister in almost a quarter of a century to appear before a commission of inquiry, said in a statement he was "happy" to comply.

The commission is probing the role of national wheat exporter AWB, formerly the government's Australian Wheat Board, in the corruption of the UN's oil-for-food programme in Iraq.
A UN-backed report last year said AWB paid 220 million US dollars in bribes to obtain 2.3 billion dollars in contracts from Baghdad in breach of sanctions against the former dictator's regime.

The commissioner, former judge Terence Cole, has heard evidence since the inquiry opened in January that the government was warned repeatedly that AWB was paying bribes to Baghdad.

Howard, a conservative ally of US President George W. Bush who sent Australian troops into Iraq to help topple Saddam in 2003, has publicly denied knowing that kickbacks were paid.

The prime minister follows his top lieutenants -- Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile, who is also trade minister, and Foreign Minister Alexander Downer -- into the witness box.

Vaile on Monday and Downer on Tuesday were asked what they knew of the bribes and when they knew it, and Howard is expected to face similar questions.

Both ministers have been ridiculed in the Australian media for saying they did not recall seeing more than 20 diplomatic cables over a period of years which warned of possible problems with AWB's Iraqi contracts.

The inquiry has heard that the bribes were funnelled to Baghdad through a Jordanian front company, Alia, as trucking fees, and were paid out of inflated prices claimed for the wheat through UN-run accounts.

The UN programme from 1996 to 2003 allowed Iraq to export oil to buy food and medicine aimed at lessening the suffering of civilians hit by the tough sanctions against Saddam's regime.

But last year's inquiry, headed by former US federal reserve banking chief Paul Volcker, found that some 2,000 companies worldwide were involved in a scheme designed by the former dictator to corrupt the programme, with AWB paying the biggest bribes.

While Howard and his ministers have put a brave face on being called before the commission, analysts say the spectacle of the country's leaders being grilled by lawyers will hurt the image of the government ahead of elections due next year.

The last serving Australian prime minister to appear before a royal commission was Bob Hawke, who was questioned over a spy scandal in 1983.

The opposition Labor Party has accused the government of turning a blind eye to the bribes, which it says helped fund Saddam's purchase of weapons that were later used against Australian troops.

Wheat is Australia's second biggest rural export, with annual sales around three billion dollars.

But the scandal has hurt exports, with Iraq refusing to buy any more wheat from AWB, which sold 650,000 tonnes to Baghdad in 2005 and 1.3 million tonnes in 2004.

The United States, Australia's main competitor in international wheat exports, has in turn won a greater share of the Iraqi market -- fuelling Australian government claims that the US was seeking commercial advantage from the AWB scandal.



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German sex industry 'gearing up' for World Cup

12/04/2006

The German sex industry is gearing up for the 2006 World Cup, with up to 60,000 women from eastern Europe to be trafficked to the country and forced into prostitution unless firm action is taken by the authorities, according to a report today.

A 3,000 square metre sex complex with 650 'service boxes' has been built near Berlin's Olympic Stadium, a new prostitution centre is being set up in Cologne, while in Dortmund prostitutes will be offering their services in drive-in facilities, said the report by the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly in Strasbourg.


The assembly, comprising several hundred national parliamentarians and senators from the Council of Europe's 46 member states, joined other organisations in calling on the German authorities to take a firm stance against traffickers in human beings and set up and publicise multilingual telephone helplines to allow women to request emergency assistance during the June 9-July 9 tournament.




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Around the World


Bomber Kills 41 at Pakistan Prayer Service

Tuesday April 11, 2006
By Zarar Khan
Associated Press Writer


KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) - A suicide attacker detonated a bomb during an outdoor Sunni Muslim prayer service Tuesday, killing at least 41 people and wounding dozens. In the mayhem that followed, angry mobs torched cars and hurled rocks at police, who fired warning shots in the air.

The attacker blew himself up near leaders of the Sunni Tehrik religious group, which helped organize the prayer service at a downtown Karachi park, police chief Niaz Siddiqui said.

The religious leaders were sitting near a stage erected in front of the thousands of Sunni Muslims marking the birth of Islam's Prophet Muhammad. Several leaders were killed.

"The bomber used about 5 kilograms (11 pounds) of explosives obtained locally, and we have collected his body parts," Siddiqui told The Associated Press.

Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao told the AP that at least 40 people were killed. Officials at three Karachi hospitals later said they received 41 bodies.

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf condemned the attack and ordered increased security at religious sites, adding that the culprits "will not go unpunished," according to a statement issued on Pakistan's state-run news agency.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the bombing, one of the deadliest ever in Pakistan, a key U.S. ally in the war on terrorism. Attacks in the past have been linked to simmering Shiite-Sunni Muslim tensions, and most have been blamed on outlawed extremist groups.

Mayhem erupted after the explosion. Scores of men wearing white, blood-splattered robes clambered onto the stage to assist victims, some apparently dead and others wounded and waving their arms for help.

"I saw body parts everywhere," Mohammed Asif said. "I saw people collecting body parts and putting them into ambulances."

Crowds of people ran frantically in different directions, many aiding and carrying the wounded to dozens of ambulances. Some waved green flags bearing Quranic scripture. Others wept openly. A thick cloud of white smoke from the blast hung above the park.

Police officers fired into the air to disperse crowds that massed at the scene.

Soon after the bombing, violence erupted in nearby areas as groups of youths burned a gas station, buses and several cars. Another mob pelted security forces with stones after the blast.

Television footage inside several Karachi hospitals showed scores of victims being treated in crowded wards. A screaming woman wailed over a person killed in the blast, the body covered by a white sheet on a hospital bed.

A young boy with burns on his face said he was praying in the park when the massive blast went off.

"I saw fire and smoke after the big explosion,'' the unidentified boy told Geo television.

Two prominent Sunni Muslim clerics were among the dead: Akram Qadri, a senior leader of the Sunni Tehrik group that organized the service, and Karachi Sheik Hanif Billu, government and hospital officials said.

"Whoever did this was not a Muslim,"
said another Tehrik leader, Tanveer Shafi.

Karachi has been the scene of several bombings and other attacks since Pakistan became a key U.S. ally after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Tuesday's explosion was Pakistan's deadliest since March 19, 2005, when a bomb killed 43 people at a Shiite shrine in the southwestern Baluchistan provincial town of Naseerabad.

On March 2, a suicide bomber who was blocked from driving into the U.S. Consulate instead slammed into an American diplomat's car, killing the envoy and three others just days before President Bush visited.


Comment: One question:

If witnesses reported seeing bodyparts everywhere, how did the police manage to identify the body parts of the "suicide bomber"?


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Nepal police arrest 25 journalists, five rights activists

AFP
April 12, 2006

KATHMANDU - Nepalese police have rounded up 25 journalists and five human rights activists who staged pro-democracy protests in the latest crackdown in the kingdom shaken by days of demonstrations.
"Around 25 journalists and five activists have been detained from two separate protests in the Kathmandu valley this morning for protesting in a restricted area," a police officer told AFP.

Nearly 1,500 people have been arrested in the past nine days since opposition parties launched the most intense spate of demonstrations to restore democracy since King Gyanendra seized power 14 months ago.

It was not immediately known whether the royal government would reimpose a curfew for a fifth day in a bid to head off more protests.

The opposition party alliance, spearheading the protest drive with the backing of Maoist rebels, said it planned to hold a rally later Wednesday to mark the deaths of three demonstrators shot dead by troops on the weekend.

"The seven-party alliance is holding a gathering to pay tribute to those martyrs who were killed in demonstrations," said Kashinath Adhikari, a protest leader from the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist)

Protests are banned in the area of the capital where the alliance planned to hold its meeting so the parties were bracing for more arrests and clashes.



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Nine poultry farmers commit suicide in flu-hit India

Reuters
April 12, 2006

MUMBAI - Nine poultry farmers in India have killed themselves and more are facing a grim future after bird flu slashed demand for chicken meat, an industry group said on Wednesday.

India has culled hundreds of thousands of birds to contain several outbreaks of the H5N1 avian flu virus in poultry since February, but the disease has continued to resurface, mostly in western Maharashtra state.

The scare has decimated the country's $7.8 billion poultry industry, which says losses in the past two months have reached $2.2 billion.
"Nine farmers across India have committed suicide after their businesses suffered huge losses," O.P. Singh, member of the National Egg Coordination Committee (NECC), told Reuters.

The suicides have been reported during the past 15 days from West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, the latter state being the epicenter of bird flu outbreaks in the country.

The committee said there were 123,000 poultry farmers in India and about 70 percent of them were in a "dire situation."

"Most small poultry owners start their business by selling off land and jewelry. And when they can't recover their costs, they are left with no choice," Singh said.

The Indian government and the poultry industry have been running awareness campaigns to encourage people to eat chicken and eggs, but there has been little response from the public.

Chicken is a staple for meat-eaters in India, where beef and pork are rarely eaten either for religious reasons or quality concerns.

The poultry industry says the wholesale price of chicken had fallen to about four rupees (9 U.S. cents) a kg. Before bird flu, wholesale prices were about 20 rupees, or about 50 cents, a kg.

"Sales are down by half, which is a slight improvement, but really it's still very grim," said Bharat Tandon, chairman of the Compound Livestock Feed Manufacturers' Association of India, one of the main lobby groups.

"We just pray there are no fresh outbreaks (of bird flu) and the media understands the need to not play this up."

Indian authorities have announced financial assistance for the farmers whose birds are being culled, but industry officials say the compensation is not enough.

"What about those whose birds are not being culled but who aren't able to sell their stocks?" asked Singh.

India's central bank has announced some relief for the poultry industry, including allowing a one-time reduction of 4 percentage points on bank loans and a moratorium of one year on loan repayments.



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Water leak at Japan nuclear plant

BBC
Wednesday, 12 April 2006

Radioactive water has leaked inside a Japanese nuclear reprocessing plant, according to reports.

Japan's Kyodo news agency said up to 40 litres of water containing plutonium leaked at the site, which had just opened for a test run.

The leak was contained within a compound and there were no injuries.
Nuclear installations, which supply much of Japan's power, have come under the spotlight in recent years after a string of accidents and mishaps.

The plant, in the village of Rokkasho, Aomori prefecture, was designed to be one of the country's new generation of nuclear processing plants.

It is one of Japan's first plants to be able to extract uranium and plutonium from spent nuclear fuel.

Local residents have protested against the plant in the light of Japan's shaky nuclear record.

In March the government ordered the closure of a plant north-west of Tokyo amid fears it would not survive and earthquake.

A fire in another plant in western Japan also caused concerns, while five people died in 2004 when a pipe burst at the Mihama reactor.



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Science and Quirks


Proposed 10th Planet Shrinks Under Hubble's Gaze

By Robert Roy Britt
SPACE.com
11 April 2006

An object called the 10th planet by some astronomers is not as big as previously thought.

The round world, officially catalogued as 2003 UB313, is about 1,490 miles wide with an uncertainty of 60 miles, according to new observations by the Hubble Space Telescope. Pluto is roughly 1,430 miles (2,300 kilometers) wide.

A study in February put the diameter of 2003 UB313 at roughly 1,860 miles (3,000 kilometers).
Nicknamed "Xena," 2003 UB313 was discovered last year. By many accounts it could be considered a planet. It is round and orbits the Sun.

But because several other objects meet those criteria and also approach Pluto's size, astronomers have been wrangling for months over how to define the word "planet." It is not known if or when the International Astronomical Union, which rules on such things, will issue a decision. Members of an advisory board weighing the issue can't even agree on the parameters of a definition.

Since 2003 UB313 is 10 billion miles away not even as wide as the United States, it showed up as just 1.5 pixels in Hubble's view. But that's enough to precisely make a size measurement, astronomers said.

The new size estimate suggests the object is brighter than had been thought. An object's brightness hints at its surface composition. In this case, a layer of methane frost might cover the world, astronomers speculated today.



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Ark's Quantum Quirks

Ark
Signs of the Times
April 12, 2006

Ark

Grandma's Cat




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