- Signs of the Times for Wed, 19 Apr 2006 -

Sections on today's Signs Page:

Signs Editorials

Editorial: Ponerology: The Science of Evil Now Available!

Preface to the book Political Ponerology: The Science of Evil Adjusted for Political Purposes by Laura Knight-Jadczyk

Political Ponerology may be the most important book you will ever read; in fact, it WILL be. No matter who you are, what your status in life, what your age or sex or nationality or ethnic background, you will, at some point in your life, feel the touch or relentless grip of the cold hand of Evil. Bad things happen to good people, that's a fact.

WHAT is evil? Historically, the question of evil has been a theological one. Generations of theological apologists have written entire libraries of books in an attempt to certify the existence of a Good God that created an imperfect world. Saint Augustine distinguished between two forms of evil: "moral evil", the evil humans do, by choice, knowing that they are doing wrong; and "natural evil", the bad things that just happen - the storm, the flood, volcanic eruptions, fatal disease.

And then, there is what Andrew Lobaczewski calls Macrosocial Evil: large scale evil that overtakes whole societies and nations, and has done so again and again since time immemorial. The history of mankind, when considered objectively, is a terrible thing.

Death and destruction come to all, both rich and poor, free and slave, young and old, good and evil, with an arbitrariness and insouciance that, when contemplated even momentarily, can destroy a normal person's ability to function.

Over and over again, man has seen his fields and cattle laid waste by drought and disease, his loved ones tormented and decimated by illness or human cruelty, his life's work reduced to nothing in an instant by events over which he has no control at all.

The study of history through its various disciplines offers a view of mankind that is almost insupportable. The rapacious movements of hungry tribes, invading and conquering and destroying in the darkness of prehistory; the barbarian invaders of the civilized world during medieval times, the bloodbaths of the crusades of Catholic Europe against the infidels of the Middle East and then the "infidels" who were their own brothers: the stalking noonday terror of the Inquisition where martyrs quenched the flames with their blood. Then, there is the raging holocaust of modern genocide; wars, famine, and pestilence striding across the globe in hundred league boots; and never more frightening than today.

All of these things produce an intolerable sense of indefensibility against what Mircea Eliade calls the Terror of History.

There are those who will say that NOW this is all past; mankind has entered a new phase; science and technology have brought us to the brink of ending all this suffering. Many people believe that man is evolving; society is evolving; and that we now have control over the arbitrary evil of our environment; or at least we will have it after George Bush and his Neocons have about 25 years to fight the Endless War against Terror. Anything that does not support this idea is reinterpreted or ignored.

Science has given us many wonderful gifts: the space program, laser, television, penicillin, sulfa-drugs, and a host of other useful developments which should make our lives more tolerable and fruitful. However, we can easily see that this is not the case. It it could be said that never before has man been so precariously poised on the brink of such total destruction.

On a personal level, our lives are steadily deteriorating. The air we breathe and the water we drink is polluted almost beyond endurance. Our foods are loaded with substances which contribute very little to nourishment, and may, in fact, be injurious to our health. Stress and tension have become an accepted part of life and can be shown to have killed more people than the cigarettes that some people still smoke to relieve it. We swallow endless quantities of pills to wake up, go to sleep, get the job done, calm our nerves and make us feel good. The inhabitants of the earth spend more money on recreational drugs than they spend on housing, clothing, food, education or any other product or service.

At the social level, hatred, envy, greed and strife multiply exponentially. Crime increases nine times faster than the population. Combined with wars, insurrections, and political purges, multiplied millions of people across the globe are without adequate food or shelter due to political actions.

And then, of course, drought, famine, plague and natural disasters still take an annual toll in lives and suffering. This, too, seems to be increasing.

When man contemplates history, AS IT IS, he is forced to realize that he is in the iron grip of an existence that seems to have no real care or concern for his pain and suffering. Over and over again, the same sufferings fall upon mankind multiplied millions upon millions of times over millennia. The totality of human suffering is a dreadful thing. I could write until the end of the world using oceans of ink and forests of paper, and never fully convey this Terror. The beast of arbitrary calamity has always been with us. For as long as human hearts have pumped hot blood through their too-fragile bodies and glowed with the inexpressible sweetness of life and yearning for all that is good and right and loving, the sneering, stalking, drooling and scheming beast of unconscious evil has licked its lips in anticipation of its next feast of terror and suffering. Since the beginning of time, this mystery of the estate of man, this Curse of Cain has existed. And, since the Ancient of Days, the cry has been: My punishment is greater than I can bear!

It is conjectured that, in ancient times, when man perceived this intolerable and incomprehensible condition in which he found his existence, that he created cosmogonies to justify all the cruelties, aberrations, and tragedies of history. It is true that, man, as a rule and in general, is powerless against cosmic and geological catastrophes, and it has long been said that the average man can't really do anything about military onslaughts, social injustice, personal and familial misfortunes, and a host of assaults against his existence too numerous to list.

This is about to change. Political Ponerology by Andrzej Lobaczewski is going to give you answers to many of the questions about Evil in our world. This book is not just about macrosocial evil, it is also about everyday evil because, in a very real sense, the two are inseparable. The long term accumulation of everyday evil always and inevitably leads to Grand Systemic Evil that destroys more innocent people than any other phenomenon on this planet.

Political Ponerology is also a survival guide. As I said above, this book will be the most important book you will ever read. Unless, of course, you are a psychopath.

"What does psychopathy have to do with personal or social evil?" you may ask.

Absolutely everything. Whether you know it or not, each and every day your life is touched by the effects of psychopathy on our world. You are about to learn that even if there isn't much we can do about geological and cosmological catastrophe, there is a lot we can do about social and macrosocial evil, and the very first thing to do is to learn about it. In the case of psychopathy and its effects on our world, what you don't know definitely can and will hurt you.

Nowadays the word "psychopath" generally evokes images of the barely restrained - yet surprisingly urbane - mad-dog serial killer, Dr. Hannibal Lecter of "Silence of the Lambs" fame. I will admit that this was the image that came to my mind whenever I heard the word; almost, that is. The big difference was that I never thought of a psychopath as possibly being so cultured or so capable of passing as "normal." But I was wrong, and I was to learn this lesson quite painfully by direct experience. The exact details are chronicled elsewhere; what is important is that this experience was probably one of the most painful and instructive episodes of my life and it enabled me to overcome a block in my awareness of the world around me and those who inhabit it.

Regarding blocks to awareness, I need to state for the record that I have spent 30 years studying psychology, history, culture, religion, myth and the so-called paranormal . I also have worked for many years with hypnotherapy - which gave me a very good mechanical knowledge of how the mind/brain of the human being operates at very deep levels. But even so, I was still operating with certain beliefs firmly in place that were shattered by my research into psychopathy. I realized that there was a certain set of ideas that I held about human beings that were sacrosanct - and false. I even wrote about this once in the following way:

...my work has shown me that the vast majority of people want to do good, to experience good things, think good thoughts, and make decisions with good results. And they try with all their might to do so! With the majority of people having this internal desire, why the Hell isn't it happening?

I was naïve, I admit. There were many things I did not know that I have learned since I penned those words. But even at that time I was aware of how our own minds can be used to deceive us.

Now, what beliefs did I hold that made me a victim of a psychopath? The first and most obvious one is that I truly believed that deep inside, all people are basically "good" and that they "want to do good, to experience good things, think good thoughts, and make decisions with good results. And they try with all their might to do so..."

As it happens, this is not true as I - and everyone involved in our research group - learned to our sorrow, as they say. But we also learned to our edification. In order to come to some understanding of exactly what kind of human being could do the things that were done to me (and others close to me), and why they might be motivated - even driven - to behave this way, we began to research the psychology literature for clues because we needed to understand for our own peace of mind.

If there is a psychological theory that can explain vicious and harmful behavior, it helps very much for the victim of such acts to have this information so that they do not have to spend all their time feeling hurt or angry. And certainly, if there is a psychological theory that helps a person to find what kind of words or deeds can bridge the chasm between people, to heal misunderstandings, that is also a worthy goal. It was from such a perspective that we began our extensive work on the subjects of narcissism which then led to the study of psychopathy.

Of course, we didn't start out with such any such "diagnosis" or label for what we were witnessing. We started out with observations and searched the literature for clues, for profiles, for anything that would help us to understand the inner world of a human being - actually a group of human beings - who seemed to be utterly depraved and unlike anything we had ever encountered before. We found that this kind of human is all too common and that, according to some of the latest research, they cause more damage in human society than any other single so-called "mental illness." Martha Stout, who has worked extensively with victims of psychopaths, writes:

Imagine - if you can - not having a conscience, none at all, no feelings of guilt or remorse no matter what you do, no limiting sense of concern for the well-being of strangers, friends, or even family members. Imagine no struggles with shame, not a single one in your whole life, no matter what kind of selfish, lazy, harmful, or immoral action you had taken.

And pretend that the concept of responsibility is unknown to you, except as a burden others seem to accept without question, like gullible fools.

Now add to this strange fantasy the ability to conceal from other people that your psychological makeup is radically different from theirs. Since everyone simply assumes that conscience is universal among human beings, hiding the fact that you are conscience-free is nearly effortless.

You are not held back from any of your desires by guilt or shame, and you are never confronted by others for your cold-bloodedness. The ice water in your veins is so bizarre, so completely outside of their personal experience, that they seldom even guess at your condition.

In other words, you are completely free of internal restraints, and your unhampered liberty to do just as you please, with no pangs of conscience, is conveniently invisible to the world.

You can do anything at all, and still your strange advantage over the majority of people, who are kept in line by their consciences will most likely remain undiscovered.

How will you live your life?

What will you do with your huge and secret advantage, and with the corresponding handicap of other people (conscience)?

The answer will depend largely on just what your desires happen to be, because people are not all the same. Even the profoundly unscrupulous are not all the same. Some people - whether they have a conscience or not - favor the ease of inertia, while others are filled with dreams and wild ambitions. Some human beings are brilliant and talented, some are dull-witted, and most, conscience or not, are somewhere in between. There are violent people and nonviolent ones, individuals who are motivated by blood lust and those who have no such appetites. [...]

Provided you are not forcibly stopped, you can do anything at all.

If you are born at the right time, with some access to family fortune, and you have a special talent for whipping up other people's hatred and sense of deprivation, you can arrange to kill large numbers of unsuspecting people. With enough money, you can accomplish this from far away, and you can sit back safely and watch in satisfaction. [...]

Crazy and frightening - and real, in about 4 percent of the population....

The prevalence rate for anorexic eating disorders is estimated a 3.43 percent, deemed to be nearly epidemic, and yet this figure is a fraction lower than the rate for antisocial personality. The high-profile disorders classed as schizophrenia occur in only about 1 percent of [the population] - a mere quarter of the rate of antisocial personality - and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that the rate of colon cancer in the United States, considered "alarmingly high," is about 40 per 100,000 - one hundred times lower than the rate of antisocial personality.

The high incidence of sociopathy in human society has a profound effect on the rest of us who must live on this planet, too, even those of us who have not been clinically traumatized. The individuals who constitute this 4 percent drain our relationships, our bank accounts, our accomplishments, our self-esteem, our very peace on earth.

Yet surprisingly, many people know nothing about this disorder, or if they do, they think only in terms of violent psychopathy - murderers, serial killers, mass murderers - people who have conspicuously broken the law many times over, and who, if caught, will be imprisoned, maybe even put to death by our legal system.

We are not commonly aware of, nor do we usually identify, the larger number of nonviolent sociopaths among us, people who often are not blatant lawbreakers, and against whom our formal legal system provides little defense.

Most of us would not imagine any correspondence between conceiving an ethnic genocide and, say, guiltlessly lying to one's boss about a coworker. But the psychological correspondence is not only there; it is chilling. Simple and profound, the link is the absence of the inner mechanism that beats up on us, emotionally speaking, when we make a choice we view as immoral, unethical, neglectful, or selfish.

Most of us feel mildly guilty if we eat the last piece of cake in the kitchen, let alone what we would feel if we intentionally and methodically set about to hurt another person.

Those who have no conscience at all are a group unto themselves, whether they be homicidal tyrants or merely ruthless social snipers.

The presence or absence of conscience is a deep human division, arguably more significant than intelligence, race, or even gender.

What differentiates a sociopath who lives off the labors of others from one who occasionally robs convenience stores, or from one who is a contemporary robber baron - or what makes the difference betwen an ordinary bully and a sociopathic murderer - is nothing more than social status, drive, intellect, blood lust, or simple opportunity.

What distinguishes all of these people from the rest of us is an utterly empty hole in the psyche, where there should be the most evolved of all humanizing functions.

We did not have the advantage of Dr. Stout's book at the beginning of our research project. We did, of course, have Robert Hare and Hervey Cleckley and Guggenbuhl-Craig and others. But they were only approaching the subject of the possibly large numbers of psychopaths that live among us who never get caught breaking laws, who don't murder - or if they do, they don't get caught - and who still do untold damage to the lives of family, acquaintances, and strangers.

Most mental health experts, for a very long time, have operated on the premise that psychopaths come from impoverished backgrounds and have experienced abuse of one sort or another in childhood, so it is easy to spot them, or at least, they certainly don't move in society except as interlopers. This idea seems to be coming under some serious revision lately. As Lobaczewski points out in this book, there is some confusion between Psychopathy and Antisocial Personality Disorder and Sociopathy. As Robert Hare points out, yes, there are many psychopaths who are also "anti-socials" but there seem to be far more of them that would never be classified as anti-social or sociopathic! In other words, they can be doctors, lawyers, judges, policemen, congressmen, presidents of corporations that rob from the poor to give to the rich, and even presidents.

In a recent paper, it is suggested that psychopathy may exist in ordinary society in even greater numbers than anyone has thus far considered:

"Psychopathy, as originally conceived by Cleckley (1941), is not limited to engagement in illegal activities, but rather encompasses such personality characteristics as manipulativeness, insincerity, egocentricity, and lack of guilt - characteristics clearly present in criminals but also in spouses, parents, bosses, attorneys, politicians, and CEOs, to name but a few. (Bursten, 1973; Stewart, 1991). Our own examination of the prevalence of psychopathy within a university population suggested that perhaps 5% or more of this sample might be deemed psychopathic, although the vast majority of those will be male (more than 1/10 males versus approximately 1?100 females).

"As such, psychopathy may be characterized ... as involving a tendency towards both dominance and coldness. Wiggins (1995) in summarizing numerous previous findings... indicates that such individuals are prone to anger and irritation and are willing to exploit others. They are arrogant, manipulative, cynical, exhibitionistic, sensation -seeking, Machiavellian, vindictive, and out for their own gain. With respect to their patterns of social exchange (Foa & Foa, 1974), they attribute love and status to themselves, seeing themselves as highly worthy and important, but prescribe neither love nor status to others, seeing them as unworthy and insignificant. This characterization is clearly consistent with the essence of psychopathy as commonly described.

"The present investigation sought to answer some basic questions regarding the construct of psychopathy in non forensic settings... In so doing we have returned to Cleckley's (1941) original emphasis on psychopathy as a personality style not only among criminals, but also among successful individuals within the community.

"What is clear from our findings is that (a) psychopathy measures have converged on a prototype of psychopathy that involves a combination of dominant and cold interpersonal characteristics; (b) psychopathy does occur in the community and at what might be a higher than expected rate; and (c) psychopathy appears to have little overlap with personality disorders aside from Antisocial Personality Disorder. ...

"Clearly, where much more work is needed is in understanding what factors differentiate the abiding (although perhaps not moral-abiding) psychopath from the law-breaking psychopath; such research surely needs to make greater use of non forensic samples than has been customary in the past."

Lobaczewski discusses the fact that there are different types of psychopaths. One type, in particular, is the most deadly of all: the Essential Psychopath. He doesn't give us a "checklist" but rather discusses what is inside the psychopath. His description meshes very well with items in the paper quoted above.

Martha Stout also discusses the fact that psychopaths, like anyone else, are born with different basic likes and dislikes and desires which is why some of them are doctors and presidents and others are petty thieves or rapists.

"Likeable," "Charming," "Intelligent," "Alert," "Impressive," "Confidence-inspiring," and "A great success with the ladies". This is how Hervey Cleckley described most of his subjects in "The Mask of Sanity." It seems that, in spite of the fact that their actions prove them to be "irresponsible," "self-destructive," psychopaths seem to have in abundance the very traits most desired by normal persons. The smooth self-assurance acts as an almost supernatural magnet to normal people who have to read self-help books or go to counseling to be able to interact with others in an untroubled way. The psychopath, on the contrary, never has any neuroses, no self-doubts, never experiences angst, and is what "normal" people seek to be. What's more, even if they aren't that attractive, they are "babe magnets."

Cleckley's seminal hypothesis is that the psychopath suffers from profound and incurable affective deficit. If he really feels anything at all, they are emotions of only the shallowest kind. He is able to do whatever he wants, based on whatever whim strikes him because consequences that would fill the ordinary man with shame, self-loathing, and embarrassment simply do not affect the psychopath at all. What to others would be a horror or a disaster is to him merely a fleeting inconvenience.

Cleckley posits that psychopathy is quite common in the community at large. His cases include examples of psychopaths who generally function normally in the community as businessmen, doctors, and even psychiatrists. Nowadays, some of the more astute researchers see criminal psychopathy - often referred to as anti-social personality disorder - as an extreme of a particular personality type. I think it is more helpful to characterize criminal psychopaths as "unsuccessful psychopaths."

One researcher, Alan Harrington goes so far as to say that the psychopath is the new man being produced by the evolutionary pressures of modern life.

Certainly, there have always been shysters and crooks, but past concern was focused on ferreting out incompetents rather than psychopaths. Unfortunately, all that has changed. We now need to fear the super-sophisticated modern crook who does know what he is doing ... and does it so well that no one else knows. Yes, psychopaths love the business world.

"Uninvolved with others, he coolly saw into their fears and desires, and maneuvered them as he wished. Such a man might not, after all, be doomed to a life of scrapes and escapades ending ignominiously in the jailhouse. Instead of murdering others, he might become a corporate raider and murder companies, firing people instead of killing them, and chopping up their functions rather than their bodies."

[T]he consequences to the average citizen from business crimes are staggering. As criminologist Georgette Bennett says, "They account for nearly 30% of case filings in U.S. District Courts - more than any other category of crime. The combined burglary, mugging and other property losses induced by the country's street punks come to about $4 billion a year. However, the seemingly upstanding citizens in our corporate board rooms and the humble clerks in our retail stores bilk us out of between $40 and $200 billion a year."

Concern here is that the costume for the new masked sanity of a psychopath is just as likely to be a three-piece suit as a ski mask and a gun. As Harrington says, "We also have the psychopath in respectable circles, no longer assumed to be a loser." He quotes William Krasner as saying, "They - psychopath and part psychopath - do well in the more unscrupulous types of sales work, because they take such delight in 'putting it over on them', getting away with it - and have so little conscience about defrauding their customers." Our society is fast becoming more materialistic, and success at any cost is the credo of many businessmen. The typical psychopath thrives in this kind of environment and is seen as a business "hero."

The study of "ambulatory" psychopaths - what we call "The Garden Variety Psychopath" - has, however, hardly begun. Very little is known about subcriminal psychopathy. Some researchers have begun to seriously consider the idea that it is important to study psychopathy not as a pathological category but as a general personality trait in the community at large. In other words, psychopathy is being recognized as a more or less a different type of human.

Hervey Cleckly actually comes very close to suggesting that psychopaths are human in every respect - but that they lack a soul. This lack of "soul quality" makes them very efficient "machines." They can write scholarly works, imitate the words of emotion, but over time, it becomes clear that their words do not match their actions. They are the type of person who can claim that they are devastated by grief who then attend a party "to forget." The problem is: they really DO forget.

Being very efficient machines, like a computer, they are able to execute very complex routines designed to elicit from others support for what they want. In this way, many psychopaths are able to reach very high positions in life. It is only over time that their associates become aware of the fact that their climb up the ladder of success is predicated on violating the rights of others. "Even when they are indifferent to the rights of their associates, they are often able to inspire feelings of trust and confidence."

The psychopath recognizes no flaw in his psyche, no need for change.

Andrew Lobaczewski addresses the problem of the psychopath and their extremely significant contribution to our macrosocial evils, their ability to act as the éminence grise behind the very structure of our society. It is very important to keep in mind that this influence comes from a relatively small segment of humanity. The other 90 some percent of human beings are not psychopaths.

But that 90 percent of normal people know that something is wrong! They just can't quite identify it; can't quite put their finger on it; and because they can't, they tend to think that there is nothing they can do about it, or maybe it is just God punishing people.

What is actually the case is that when that 90 some percent of human beings fall into a certain state, as Lobaczewski will describe, the psychopaths, like a virulent pathogen in a body, strike at the weaknesses and the entire society is plunged into conditions that always and inevitably lead to horror and tragedy on a very large scale.

The movie, "The Matrix," touched a deep chord in society because it exemplified this mechanistic trap in which so many people find their lives enmeshed, and from which they are unable to extricate themselves because they believe that everyone around them who "looks human" is, in fact, just like them - emotionally, spiritually, and otherwise.

To give an example of how psychopaths can directly affect society at large: the "legal argument" as explicated by Robert Canup in his work on the "Socially Adept Psychopath." The legal argument seems to be at the foundation of our society. We believe that the legal argument is an advanced system of justice. This is a very cunning trick that has been foisted on normal people by psychopaths in order to have an advantage over them. Just think about it for a moment: the legal argument amounts to little more than the one who is the slickest at using the structure for convincing a group of people of something, is the one who is believed. Because this "legal argument" system has been slowly installed as part of our culture, when it invades our personal lives, we normally do not recognize it immediately. But here's how it works.

Human beings have been accustomed to assume that other human beings are - at the very least - trying to "do right" and "be good" and fair and honest. And so, very often, we do not take the time to use due diligence in order to determine if a person who has entered our life is, in fact, a "good person." When a conflict ensues, we automatically fall into the legal argument assumption that in any conflict, one side is partly right one way, and the other is partly right the other, and that we can form opinions about which side is mostly right or wrong. Because of our exposure to the "legal argument" norms, when any dispute arises, we automatically think that the truth will lie somewhere between two extremes. In this case, application of a little mathematical logic to the problem of the legal argument might be helpful.

Let us assume that in a dispute, one side is innocent, honest, and tells the truth. It is obvious that lying does an innocent person no good; what lie can he tell? If he is innocent, the only lie he can tell is to falsely confess "I did it." But lying is nothing but good for the liar. He can declare that "I didn't do it," and accuse another of doing it, all the while the innocent person he has accused is saying "I didn't do it," and is actually telling the truth.

The truth - when twisted by good liars, can always make an innocent person look bad - especially if the innocent person is honest and admits his mistakes.

The basic assumption that the truth lies between the testimony of the two sides always shifts the advantage to the lying side and away from the side telling the truth. Under most circumstances, this shift put together with the fact that the truth is going to also be twisted in such a way as to bring detriment to the innocent person, results in the advantage always resting in the hands of liars - psychopaths. Even the simple act of giving testimony under oath is a useless farce. If a person is a liar, swearing an oath means nothing to that person. However, swearing an oath acts strongly on a serious, truthful witness. Again, the advantage is placed on the side of the liar.

It has often been noted that psychopaths have a distinct advantage over human beings with conscience and feelings because the psychopath does not have conscience and feelings. What seems to be so is that conscience and feelings are related to the abstract concepts of "future" and "others." It is "spatio-temporal." We can feel fear, sympathy, empathy, sadness, and so on because we can IMAGINE in an abstract way, the future based on our own experiences in the past, or even just "concepts of experiences" in myriad variations. We can "see ourselves" in them even though they are "out there" and this evokes feelings in us. We can't do something hurtful because we can imagine it being done to us and how it would feel. In other words, we can not only identify with others spatially - so to say - but also temporally - in time.

The psychopath does not seem to have this capacity.

They are unable to "imagine" in the sense of being able to really connect to images in a direct "self connecting to another self" sort of way.

Oh, indeed, they can imitate feelings, but the only real feelings they seem to have - the thing that drives them and causes them to act out different dramas for the effect - is a sort of "predatorial hunger" for what they want. That is to say, they "feel" need/want as love, and not having their needs/wants met is described by them as "not being loved". What is more, this "need/want" perspective posits that only the "hunger" of the psychopath is valid, and anything and everything "out there," outside of the psychopath, is not real except insofar as it has the capability of being assimilated to the psychopath as a sort of "food." "Can it be used or can it provide something?" is the only issue about which the psychopath seems to be concerned. All else - all activity - is subsumed to this drive.

In short, the psychopath is a predator. If we think about the interactions of predators with their prey in the animal kingdom, we can come to some idea of what is behind the "mask of sanity" of the psychopath. Just as an animal predator will adopt all kinds of stealthy functions in order to stalk their prey, cut them out of the herd, get close to them and reduce their resistance, so does the psychopath construct all kinds of elaborate camouflage composed of words and appearances - lies and manipulations - in order to "assimilate" their prey.

This leads us to an important question: what does the psychopath REALLY get from their victims? It's easy to see what they are after when they lie and manipulate for money or material goods or power. But in many instances, such as love relationships or faked friendships, it is not so easy to see what the psychopath is after. Without wandering too far afield into spiritual speculations - a problem Cleckley also faced - we can only say that it seems to be that the psychopath ENJOYS making others suffer. Just as normal humans enjoy seeing other people happy, or doing things that make other people smile, the psychopath enjoys the exact opposite.

Anyone who has ever observed a cat playing with a mouse before killing and eating it has probably explained to themselves that the cat is just "entertained" by the antics of the mouse and is unable to conceive of the terror and pain being experienced by the mouse, and the cat, therefore, is innocent of any evil intent. The mouse dies, the cat is fed, and that is nature. Psychopaths don't generally eat their victims.

Yes, in extreme cases of psychopathy, the entire cat and mouse dynamic is carried out. Cannibalism has a long history wherein it was assumed that certain powers of the victim could be assimilated by eating some particular part of them. But in ordinary life, psychopaths don't normally go all the way, so to say. This causes us to look at the cat and mouse scenario again with different eyes. Now we ask: is it too simplistic to think that the innocent cat is merely entertained by the mouse running about and frantically trying to escape? Is there something more to this dynamic than meets the eye? Is there something more than being "entertained" by the antics of the mouse trying to flee? After all, in terms of evolution, why would such behavior be hard-wired into the cat? Is the mouse tastier because of the chemicals of fear that flood his little body? Is a mouse frozen with terror more of a "gourmet" meal?

This suggests that we ought to revisit our ideas about psychopaths with a slightly different perspective. One thing we do know is this: many people who experience interactions with psychopaths and narcissists report feeling "drained" and confused and often subsequently experience deteriorating health. Does this mean that part of the dynamic, part of the explanation for why psychopaths will pursue "love relationships" and "friendships" that ostensibly can result in no observable material gain, is because there is an actual energy consumption?

We do not know the answer to this question. We observe, we theorize, we speculate and hypothesize. But in the end, only the individual victim can determine what they have lost in the dynamic - and it is often far more than material goods. In a certain sense, it seems that psychopaths are soul eaters or "Psychophagic."

In the past several years, there are many more psychologists and psychiatrists and other mental health workers beginning to look at these issues in new ways in response to the questions about the state of our world and the possibility that there is some essential difference between such individuals as George W. Bush and many so-called Neocons, and the rest of us.

Dr. Stout's book has one of the longest explanations as to why none of her examples resemble any actual persons that I have ever read. And then, in a very early chapter, she describes a "composite" case where the subject spent his childhood blowing up frogs with fire-crackers. It is widely known that George W. Bush did this, so one naturally wonders...

In any event, even without Dr. Stout's work, at the time we were studying the matter, we realized that what we were learning was very important to everyone because as the data was assembled, we saw that the clues, the profiles, revealed that the issues we were facing were faced by everyone at one time or another, to one extent or another. We also began to realize that the profiles that emerged also describe rather accurately many individuals who seek positions of power in fields of authority, most particularly politics and commerce. That's really not so surprising an idea, but it honestly hadn't occurred to us until we saw the patterns and recognized them in the behaviors of numerous historical figures, and lately including George W. Bush and members of his administration.

Current day statistics tell us that there are more psychologically sick people than healthy ones. If you take a sampling of individuals in any given field, you are likely to find that a significant number of them display pathological symptoms to one extent or another. Politics is no exception, and by its very nature, would tend to attract more of the pathological "dominator types" than other fields. That is only logical, and we began to realize that it was not only logical, it was horrifyingly accurate; horrifying because pathology among people in power can have disastrous effects on all of the people under the control of such pathological individuals. And so, we decided to write about this subject and publish it on the Internet.

As the material went up, letters from our readers began to come in thanking us for putting a name to what was happening to them in their personal lives as well as helping them to understand what was happening in a world that seems to have gone completely mad. We began to think that it was an epidemic and in a certain sense, we were right. If an individual with a highly contagious illness works in a job that puts them in contact with the public, an epidemic is the result. In the same way, if an individual in a position of political power is a psychopath, he or she can create an epidemic of psychopathology in people who are not, essentially, psychopathic. Our ideas along this line were soon to receive confirmation from an unexpected source: Andrew Lobaczewski, the author of the book you are about to read. I received an email as follows:
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen.

I have got your Special Research Project on psychopathy by my computer. You are doing a most important and valuable work for the future of nations.[...]

I am a very aged clinical psychologist. Forty years ago I took part in a secret investigation of the real nature and psychopathology of the macro-social phenomenon called "Communism". The other researchers were the scientists of the previous generation who are now passed away.

The profound study of the nature psychopathy, which played the essential and inspirational part in this macro-social psychopathologic phenomenon, and distinguishing it from other mental anomalies, appeared to be the necessary preparation for understanding the entire nature of the phenomenon.

The large part of the work, you are doing now, was done in those times. ...

I am able to provide you with a most valuable scientific document, useful for your purposes. It is my book "POLITICAL PONEROLOGY - A science on the nature of evil adjusted for political purposes". You may also find copy of this book in the Library of Congress and in some university and public libraries in the USA.

Be so kind and contact me so that I may mail a copy to you.

Very truly yours!

Andrew M. £obaczewski
I promptly wrote a reply saying yes, I would very much like to read his book. A couple of weeks later the manuscript arrived in the mail.

As I read, I realized that what I was holding in my hand was essentially a chronicle of a descent into hell, transformation, and triumphant return to the world with knowledge of that hell that was priceless for the rest of us, particularly in this day and time when it seems evident that a similar hell is enveloping the planet. The risks that were taken by the group of scientists that did the research on which this book is based are beyond the comprehension of most of us.

Many of them were young, just starting in their careers when the Nazis began to stride in their hundred league jackboots across Europe. These researchers lived through that, and then when the Nazis were driven out and replaced by the Communists under the heel of Stalin, they faced years of oppression the likes of which those of us today who are choosing to take a stand against the Bush Reich cannot even imagine. But, based on the syndrome that describes the onset of the disease, it seems that the United States, in particular, and perhaps the entire world, will soon enter into "bad times" of such horror and despair that the Holocaust of World War II will seem like just a practice run.

And so, since they were there, and they lived through it and brought back information to the rest of us, it may well save our lives to have a map to guide us in the falling darkness.

- Order your copy now! -

For more on Political Ponerology, don't miss our podcast entitled The 6% Solution!!
Comment on this Editorial

Editorial: 20 Basic Facts AboutThe Israeli Palestinian Problem


Did you know...

That, when the Palestine Problem was created by Britain in 1917, more than 90% of the population of Palestine was Arabs?. And that there were at that time no more than 56,000 Jews in Palestine?

THAT, more than half of the Jews living in Palestine at that time were recent immigrants, who had come to Palestine in the preceding decades in order to escape persecution in Europe?... And that less than 5% of the population of Palestine were native Palestinian Jews?

THAT, the Arabs of Palestine at that time owned 97.5% of the land, while Jews (native Palestinians and recent immigrants together) owned only 2.5% of the land?

THAT, during the thirty years of British occupation and rule, the Zionists were able to purchase only 3.5% of the land of Palestine, in spite of the encouragement of the British Government?... And that much of this land was transferred to Zionist bodies by the British Government directly, and was not sold by Arab owners?

THAT, therefore, when British passed the Palestine Problem to the United Nations in 1947, Zionists owned no more than 6% of the total land area of Palestine?

THAT, notwithstanding these facts, the General Assembly of the United Nations recommended that a "Jewish State" be established in Palestine?... And that the Assembly granted that proposed "State" about 54% of the total area of the country?

THAT, Israel immediately occupied (and still occupies) 80.48% of the total land area of Palestine?

THAT, this territorial expansion took place, for the most part, before 15 May 1948: i.e., before the formal end of the British forces from Palestine, before the entry of Arab armies to protect Palestinian Arabs, and before the the Arab-Israeli war?

THAT, the 1947 recommendation of the General Assembly in favor of the creation of a "Jewish State" was outside the competence of the Assembly under the Charter of the United Nations?

THAT, all attempts by the Arab States and other Asian countries to have the Assembly submit the question of "constitutionality" of its recommendation to the International Court of Justice for an "advisory opinion" by the Court were rejected or ignored by the Assembly?

THAT, when the Assembly began to experience "second thoughts" over the matter and convened for its second special session in 1948, it failed to reaffirm the 1947 recommendation for the partition of Palestine-thus destroying whatever dubious legality that recommendation for the establishment of a "Jewish State" had had?

THAT, the original 1947 recommendation to create a "Jewish State" in Palestine was approved, at the first vote, only by European, American and Australian States...for every Asian State, and every African State (with the exception of the Union of South Africa) voted against it?...And that, when the vote was cast in plenary session on 29 November 1947, urgent American pressures (which a member of the Truman cabinet described as "bordering onto scandal") had succeeded in prevailing only upon one African country (Liberia), both of which had special vulnerability to American pressures, to abandon their declared opposition?...And that, in other words, the "Jewish State" was planted at the point-of-intersection of Asia and Africa without the free approval of any Middle Eastern, Asian or African country except that Union of South Africa, itself ruled by an alien minority?

THAT, Israel remained, ever since its inception, a total stranger in the emerging world of Afro-Asia; and that Israel has been refused admission to any inter-state conference of Asian, African, Afro-Asian, or Non-Aligned States ever held?

THAT, since the General Armistice Agreements were signed in 1949, Israel has maintained an aggressive policy of waging military attacks across the Armistice Demarcation Lines, repeatedly invading the territories of the neighboring Arab States...And that Israel has been duly rebuked, censured, or condemned for these military attacks by the Security Council of the General Assembly of the United Nations on eleven occasions-five times by the Security Council and six times by the General Assembly?

THAT, no other country in the world, whether member of the United Nations or non-member, has been so frequently condemned by the United Nations?

THAT, no Arab State has ever been condemned by any organ of the United Nations for military attacks upon Israel( or any other State)?

THAT, besides expelling the bulk of the Arab inhabitants of Palestine, and besides constantly attacking the neighboring Arab States, Israel has also consistently harassed the United Nations observers and other personnel stationed along the Armistice Demarcation Lines: It has assassinated the first United Nations Mediator and his military aide; it has detained some truce observers; it has military occupied and illegally searched the Headquarters of United Nations personnel; and it has boycotted meetings of the Mixed Armistice Commissions?...

THAT, Israel has additionally imposed a system of apartheid upon the Arabs who stayed in their homeland?...More than 90% of these Arabs live in "security zones;" they alone live under martial law, restricting their freedom to travel from village to village or from town to town; their children are denied equal opportunities for education; and they are denied decent opportunities for work, and the right to receive "equal pay for equal work?"

THAT, notwithstanding the foregoing facts, Israel has always been, and still is, widely portrayed in the Western press as the "bastion of democracy" and the "champion of peace" in the Middle East?

THAT, the Western Powers have persisted in declaring their determination to ensure a so-called "arms balance" in the area, as between Israel, on the one hand, and the one-hundred million inhabitants of the thirteen Arab States, on the other hand?... And this unilateral Western doctrine of so-called "arms balance" is no more reasonable than the suggestion that, in the Cuba-U.S.A conflict, there should be "arms balance" as between Cuba and the United States... or that the whole Continent of Africa should not be allowed to acquire more arms than South Africa... or that Mainland China should not be permitted to have more arms than Taiwan... or that the military allowed to acquire more arms than South Africa... and that only thus can peace be safeguarded in the Western Hemisphere, in Africa, in Asia, or in Europe?...
Comment on this Editorial

Editorial: Bush: the Decider Dictator

Tuesday April 18th 2006, 6:17 pm
Kurt Nimmo
Another Day in the Empire

I recall months ago, when folks began first murmuring about booting Donald Rumsfeld, arriving at the obvious conclusion-Donald Rumsfeld is not going anywhere, not anymore than Cheney is (short of a heart attack). Rumsfeld and Cheney are integral to the Straussian neocon hold on both the Pentagon and the Oval Office. Bush may appoint Rob Portman to head the Office of Management and Budget, and Dan Senor (former AIPAC flunky, director of the US-Israel Business Exchange, and associate at the Carlyle Group) may replace Scott McClellan, but Cheney and Rumsfeld are like white on rice.

It's said Rumsfeld has to go because Iraq is a disaster. I beg to differ-things are going swimmingly for the Straussian neocons in Iraq. Bush never intended to bestow democracy on the Iraqi people, as claimed, and we all know about the weapons of mass destruction that never were (and a few of us said this in late 2002, as the Office of Special Plans began to circulate its propaganda and lies to the likes of Judith Miller at the New York Times). All of it was and is a smokescreen for the real deal-fomenting "civil war" and eventually breaking Iraq up into three pieces based along ethnic and religious lines (all the better to rule and divide-and steal oil, water, and other natural resources, not to mention turning millions of people into a pool of cheap labor, as the Israelis have done over the years to the Palestinians).

"I hear the voices and I read the front page and I know the speculation," Bush growled at the corporate media. "But I'm the decider and I decide what's best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense."

Translation: Bush is the dictator ("it would be a heck of a lot easier") decider increasingly unbound by the restraints of law and the Constitution. In ancient Rome, a dictator received absolute power on a temporary basis during times of emergency. It is said our emergency is the war on terror-terror documented to be an engineered fraud-but unlike the Romans before Sulla and Triumvir and the Princeps, Bush's dictatorial power is arbitrary and unaccountable, not subject to law and justification.

Bush's emerging dictatorship is the most dangerous kind-unlike the garden variety military dictatorship put in place through a coup d'état, primarily to keep a certain personality (invariably a knuckle-dragging thug) in power (usually representing a particular social or economic class), the Bush (or rather Straussian) dictatorship is extremely dangerous because it represents a totalitarian ideology-and thus akin to the totalitarian dictatorships of Hitler and Stalin. Our "decider" (or rather his handlers) have embraced the theology of state power and corporatism-or as Mussolini called it, fascism.

Donald Rumsfeld is crucial to this fascist ideology.

A bit of harping on the part of the corporate media-or factions therein squeamish over Straussian neocon tactics (shock and awe mass murder, institutionalized torture, mini-nuke braggadocio)-will not change the game plan, a stratagem devised by the neocons as far back as the first Bush administration (in the good old days, these guys were called the "crazies," and Colin Powell later added a colorful verb before this pejorative).

Nothing short of a military coup and tanks rolling up Pennsylvania Avenue will put an end to this madness.

On that fateful day, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Bush will resemble Hitler and his lieutenants hiding in their bunkers as the Russians stormed Berlin.

Either that or they will turn the planet into a living hell.

Comment on this Editorial

Editorial: The Day Of The Jackal

Barbra-renée Brighenti
April 7, 2006

You hypocrites; you know the jackal's name and dare not call it out. Then you ridicule any who do, to preserve your sanctioned seat at the banquet table and soothe yourself with the platitudes that you must compromise the truth to be an ally of the truth! And those that insist and will not compromise the truth, they will have won the prize behind the door — the sayan.

You say there is an elephant in the room; I say that it is the jackal returned. And it is dancing with our self-loathing and greed and vanity and goodness and ignorance and fear. History repeats itself; did you ever ask why? What common denominator stands in the shadows of time and makes a cameo appearance under a pen name and then silently withdraws down the memory hole, only to reappear again and again?

Can anyone today address the jackal’s return without becoming vaporized? And by not addressing it, we will become just another casualty of history; rewritten, cherry picked and hung out to dry. Think Germany, think Russia, and know that their obituaries have become illegal to even question. Scratch the history book a little, and try to read behind the victor’s rhetoric and hyperbole -- just take out the adjectives and adverbs and see what is left. Better yet, see who published it and who wrote it and what “think tank” they are affiliated with and you will know the agenda before turning to the first chapter. Take a step further back and watch the repeat performance ripple, new names, same game, same strategy. Who wrote “The Project for the New American Century” and then ask if the Iraq war was really for Americans? If so, then what was the prize? And don’t tell me about the chump change of thirteen silver pieces given to Halliburton. “Oil, water, Euros” chant the alternative media.” Terrorism and democracy” chant the mainstream guys. And our cousin intellects across the puddle cry “Empire Building”. Then I must ask…

How far can you bend over backwards? Can you see the jackal yet?

What is the Achilles heel that the jackal feeds upon? Open the Pandora’s Box of your psyche. What is your original face? Can you blow the dust off of the mirror to see yourself? Which bubbles and bangles do you feed yourself with to feel alive? To feel good? Which illusion is yours? Which one is your country’s? Do you ritualize, rationalize, and lubricate the hollow feelings of age, loneliness, financial despair?

Or is greed, pride, and envy your roulette wheel? Or perhaps honour and compassion your calling cards? Ready to compromise the here and now for the end result and join the horizontal relativism? How well do you slide and call it caring? Would you sell your soul to save face? From emperors to paupers we have constructed loopholes -- the lie we tell ourselves – to attain the illusions we have been given. Think advertising, media and education. And this throughout time has been the jackal’s banquet table. A seven-course meal prepared in a Hall of Mirrors. From Babylon thru Egypt, from Rome thru England, the jackal lives the creed: “By way of deception we will overcome”, and makes a cameo appearance under a welter of pen names, think Bolsheviks, Communists, Zionists, the Chosen Ones, the tribe of non-gentiles, and then silently withdraws back down the memory hole.

A rose is a rose and by any other name will smell as sweet? Is that how it goes?

And our heroes? The ones who have tracked the jackal to his lair? Usually they are unsung, vaporized. Think survivors of the USS Liberty or JFK. And as one venue after another closes for the naive writers and thinkers, (think of “The Israeli Lobby” research paper written by two distinguished scholars from two elite institutes of higher education), one slowly withdraws from academic debate or any debate and stumbles around this lair of the jackal, either as a hostage, or marginalized, or waiting for classes in political correctness. Occasionally a story, a book, a documentary gets out – a leader makes a stand- but most have been well fed at the banquet table or trapped in the hall of mirrors, and will fall back in line with a little prodding (think Michael Moore). The game is rigged from the start, “tails I win, heads you lose” as the argument is set within guidelines few know and fewer understand. Think Clash of Civilizations, Christians against Muslims -- and who is the winner?

The jackal.

The answer for many is to ignore that the jackal exists or to rename it one hundred times in one hundred different ways so as not to be scorned and shunned.

You hypocrites — you know the jackal's name and dare not call it out. Then you ridicule any who do, to preserve your sanctioned seat at the banquet table and soothe yourself with the platitudes that you must compromise the truth to be an ally of the truth! And if you insist and do not compromise the truth, you will win one of the prizes behind the door — death, intimidation, (think Mel Gibson) blackmail, bribery, or a sayan. For the handmaiden of the jackal is the sayan (plural: sayanim), a Pied Piper who can lead sheeple into any pen.

Are you a caring person, writing about the protection of woman? Guaranteed your sayan will be a damsel in distress.

Want to play even-handed and still talk of equality and justice for all? Then how the sayan will swarm and reward you for your humanity — till you drown in their signing sayanim sirens parade, all the while tainting your points of reference until you too are under the canopy of endless prattle.

Lonely, old, lacking money? No problem. They have special sayanim to take away your blues. And while they’re at it, they will destroy your reputation and ridicule any questionable mists of their history as anti-semitic conspiracies.

What is your Achilles heel, dear brother? If you cannot close your loopholes, you will be strangled by them.

And the future? The jackal is in the midst of a vanishing act. There is only one more scene left.

The alternative media appear to be our heroes of last resort (are they?) as they trumpet their investigative journalism skills without a face that we trust?

Take Rense.com, a great site for years and then slowly, as the serendipitous fingers of naive writers uncovered more and more of the jackal’s history and started to connect dots — what happened?

Remember the last year? First one writer is of the tribe of non-gentiles, than two, then three, then most. Many of the gentile writers are eliminated — why? Were we taken down the yellow brick road to gain our trust and then slid into a hall of mirrors? Take a long hard look at the sites you frequent. Does the jackal’s name ever appear? Or are there endless labyrinths through mazes, dotted with half truths and lies? Think Illuminati, Freemasons, NWO.

And the tribe writers? Let’s split hairs, let’s point fingers, and let’s deflect the argument. Let’s cause strife and confusion and endless debate, and at the very least let’s destroy faith and moral bearings. Think 911 planes/no planes distraction. Let’s twist and turn the facts and make the jackal out as a present-day victim — why not? The victim status is part of the tribe's media influence for six decades now.

From cradle to the coffin, we know the number of the uncountable 6 million and their privileged pedigree. So why not turn the screw today? Why not make it a profanity or illegal to question their teeth gnashing and cloth wrenching performance?

Why doesn’t Alex Jones mention Israel in the 911 mix? Or the film floating around “Loose Change 2”, hours and hours of great info — and not a word about the jackal. Impossible mathematically to pull that off, don’t you think? Let’s look everywhere else but where we know the pervs are, right?

And as the house of Bush is brought down, and the Christian Right disgraced (who owns the Scofield Bible? who rewrites it for our evangelist friends? and why don’t people know that Jerry Falwell is a non-gentile?) the jackal has hit a home run. The words American and Christian will be an embarrassment, and our brother Muslims will be slaughtered because of our ignorance and willful blindness. Get out the champagne, the jackal will have a feast tonight, three for the price of one!

Perhaps China will be the jackal’s next prey, or perhaps India the next one devoured, as Germany, Rome, Spain, Egypt, Portugal, England and Russia have all been devoured and faded away in a malevolent mist of rewritten history. But take a guess at who are still the money changers in these fallen mausoleums! And we, dear friends, as we see our history crumble, our values lost, and our horror of the killing machines we have unleashed return to haunt us (think DU)-- we will ask ourselves what happened?

The tribe writes of America’s disgrace. Even the tender video floating around, “No Bravery,” flashes on the death and destruction done by the straw man Bush and I ask myself — why after 58 years, does Palestine get no attention? Why not Sharon’s face fading in and out-soft focus? Why not the dancing Israelis? Why not the Bolshevik massacre of 60 million? Why not a few readings from the Talmud? Why Bush? You can’t believe him to be more than a puppet? Why stop there, why not go for the truth behind the figureheads that keep coming back to haunt us?

Why have we become the kindling that has set the world on fire? We were once beacons of hope -- now we can only debate torture. Why, as the tribe slides out the back door, do they wash their hands as the familiar Merchant of Venice does after receiving his pound of flesh and gold? Why do we stand as the ill fated Macbeth, trying to wash away the stain of blood that can never be erased? The jackal is in the media, the White House, the Congress, our universities are now overrun. Think Campus Watch.

Who wrote the curriculum for our children, who makes violence a god, and sex a report card? How many times in history have the non-gentiles changed their stripe? Too many to mention? Scratch the surface, scratch a little deeper. What did Freud do? Who is Marx? Or Metro Goldwyn Mayer? Or the New York Times? Or Sharon? Protecting the tribe, like a slow incessant drip that erodes the gentiles. What Golden Fleece was offered that made it OK to portray Muslims as an enemy? Hussein as the enemy? Iran as the enemy? Our religions as the enemy? Ourselves as the enemy?

And they are the eternal victims? And we dare not laugh at this absurdity? Is our alternative media just another myth set up to control the content, devalue all of us who don’t come on board to massage the message? The Chomskys and Zinns have taken a hit, but we have new Pogo figures from the tribe named Blankfort or Shamir to replace them.

Rows upon rows, layers upon layers, they have renamed deceit and call it truth.Happy Passover, all you luckless goyim aspiring to partake of this trough of swill they have convinced you tastes good. May you gorge yourself with a smile on your face and never know the poison you swallow.
Comment on this Editorial

Editorial: Forget the Middle East: North America Harbors the World's Most Dangerous Terrorists

Jason Miller

“After the explosion itself, anyone on the edge of the explosion (who were lucky enough to survive) would have melted flesh and severe burns, the skin would literally fall off the bone. Anyone who had seen the blast from such a distance would have permanent loss of vision.”

A little perspective, please

After years of living under the perpetual risk of the ultimate terrorist attack, most people have become acclimated to the distinct possibility of imminent extinction of life on Earth. Fortunately, humans tend to be highly adaptable beings, and most are able to go on with their daily tasks without dwelling on potential doomsday scenarios.

In fact, people have become so desensitized to the threat of nuclear holocaust that those who still believe American propaganda are more terrified of religious fanatics wielding box cutters than they are of an ICBM capable of annihilating millions.

According to the FBI, domestic terrorism is:

“the unlawful use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States or its territories without foreign direction committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

Given the knowledge that it is the United States which created and primarily wields the power to extinguish life on Earth, it is not a tremendous intellectual leap to classify the American government as the world’s most dangerous and most powerful terrorist.

America’s own domestic law enforcement entity has defined terrorism as “threatened use of force or violence”, intimidation, and coercion against governments or civilian populations for the “furtherance of political or social objectives”.

What could be more threatening or violent than a nuclear attack? What could be more coercive than the US imposition of its will, culture, and ruthless economic agenda on a global populace like a domineering father abusing his cowed children? Employing terrorist tools of intimidation, coercion and threats of violence, the United States consistently sets the political and social objectives for the rest of the world.

Remember, Iran, “All options are on the table.”

America is the Don Corleone of the world community. They make offers you can’t refuse. “Fat Man” and “Little Boy” delivered the Sicilian message that nations defying the United States would find many of their innocent civilians “sleeping with the fishes”. 200,000 dead Japanese showed the skeptics that the Godfather meant business.

Bearing in mind that the atomic bombs deployed in Japan were mere firecrackers relative to today’s nukes, the following puts a grim perspective on the situation:

“A single Hiroshima-size blast in downtown Los Angeles, according to a computer projection done several years ago by Physicians for Social Responsibility, would kill about 150,000 people immediately and 100,000 more from neutron and gamma radiation. An additional 800,000 people would be exposed to high-level radiation.”
(Seattle Times)

Evil begets evil

Not only did the United States let the nuclear genie out of the bottle and unleash it on humanity, through Operation Paperclip, it provided safe haven for Nazi war criminals. During and after World War II, the CIA altered the records of Nazi scientists so they could enter the United States and contribute to the evolution of America’s nuclear weapons program.

Needing an “enemy” for its indoctrinated citizens to fear, the United States began demonizing Communism in the 1950’s. As they created their “bogeyman” so they could manipulate the masses with psychological terror, America’s leaders pushed a nation with a much weaker economy into an insane scenario of Mutually Assured Destruction and an arms race. By 2004, Russia’s stockpile of warheads had the combined power of 120,000 of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima.

The combined nuclear capacity of the United States and Russia at the height of the nuclear arms race was enough to eradicate the Earth of life 1,500 times over.

When is enough, enough?

According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, in 2004 the United States had 10,000 nuclear warheads, 7,000 of which were operational. Yet existing in a realm of thought where logic ceases to exist, America's leaders are obsessed with “national security”. The United States accounts for half of the world’s military expenditures to protect 350 million of the 6.5 billion people on Earth.

With over 500 land-based ICBMs, the United States can incinerate any region of a 4.5 billion year old planet within a mere 35 minutes. The Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missiles are only one leg of America’s triad of doom. Submarine-based Trident nuclear missiles have the capacity to unleash Armageddon from the depths of the Earth’s tranquil oceans. Maintaining a fleet of B-1, B-2, and B-52 long-range bombers, the USAF can also rain nuclear hell upon millions of unsuspecting “units of collateral damage”.

Desperation and treachery are the parents of US nuclear invention

Realizing that the “Nuclear Club” is rapidly expanding, the United States is desperately seeking ways to circumvent treaties in which they have pledged to work toward the elimination of nuclear weapons. As they down-sized their nuclear stock-pile in the 1990’s by retiring ICBM’s like the Peacekeeper, America’s leadership found ways to avoid truly surrendering its tools of terror.

The United States began diverting substantial portions of its obscene defense budget to its Stockpile Stewardship Program to perpetuate and expand its nuclear capacities. Consider this 1996 statement by the Department of Energy:

"[n]ational security policies in the post-Cold War era require that all historical capabilities of the weapons laboratories, industrial plants, and NTS [the Nevada Test Site] be maintained," and that "denuclearisation... is not feasible based on current national security policy."

With the ethereal nuclear genie slipping further from its grasp, the United States is now focusing its resources and determined efforts toward ensuring nuclear proliferation to those it deems deserving. Israel, the US satellite in the Middle East, and India, a nation Uncle Sam is determined to lure into his bed, both qualify. Iran and North Korea are obviously not welcome at the nuclear party, whether they apply the technology for military purposes or not.

On the domestic front, America’s bellicose government is emphasizing the enhancement of existing nuclear weapons to give the appearance that it is not developing new ones. For example, the B61-11 is a modification of the B61, a “tactical nuke” which “only” has 2/3 the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. To neutralize nations which have developed weapons facilities deep underground, America created the B61-11 to burrow into rock before discharging its nuclear payload. America’s Neocons are itching to play with their new toys in Iran.

The Pentagon claims that these “bunker busters” would pose no threat to life outside of the underground targets. However, Dr. Robert Nelson of Princeton University offers a significantly differing opinion:

"No earth-burrowing missile can penetrate deep enough into the earth to contain an explosion with a nuclear yield even as small as 1 percent of the 15 kiloton Hiroshima weapon. "The explosion simply blows out a massive crater of radioactive dirt, which rains down on the local region with an especially intense and deadly fallout."

Dr. Nelson’s analysis is substantially more seaworthy than the stone the Pentagon tried to float when they proclaimed earth-burrowing “mini-nukes” to be “safe”.

A Messiah complex, severely stunted emotional intelligence and profound ignorance are the defining characteristics of the man capable of making nuclear holocaust a reality within minutes. In light of this, Osama bin Laden, box-cutters, and suicide bombers don’t seem quite so formidable or worrisome.

Jason Miller is a 39 year old sociopolitical essayist with a degree in liberal arts and an extensive self-education (derived from an insatiable appetite for reading). He is a member of Amnesty International and an avid supporter of Oxfam International and Human Rights Watch. He welcomes responses at willpowerful@hotmail.com or comments on his blog, Thomas Paine's Corner, at http://civillibertarian.blogspot.com/.
Comment on this Editorial

War Here

President Bush Now Caught In The Tangled Web He Spun

By Bill Gallagher

President George W. Bush's character is diseased. Serial lies spew from his forked tongue as the result of a damaged mind and personality that will not permit him to face the truth. He lies about leaks and leaks about lies.
Vice President Dick Cheney, Bush's shady and cynical servant, refuses to deal with the truth no matter how compelling and overwhelming the facts are. Cheney is the lord of the lies, the Bushevik Beelzebub, now hopelessly caught in his own deceptions and treachery.

We now know they both kept repeating a known lie -- that Iraq had secret trailers used as biological weapons labs -- long after a Pentagon-sponsored fact-finding group unanimously concluded the trailers had nothing whatsoever to do with weapons of any kind.

The report in the Washington Post caused White House spokesman Scott McClellan to fume. How could the Post, McClellan howled, give the impression "that the president was saying something he knew at the time not to be true." Matrons across America reached for their smelling salts, faint at the notion that someone might suggest that Dubya purposefully lied. Mercy me.

Bush and Cheney's lies are legion. They effectively used lies to scare the hell out of the American people and they still do. But now, they must manufacture more lies to fuel more fear to keep their mass-deception operation going. They are struggling to keep the old lies alive until the new ones roll off the assembly line.

Their base -- the corporate-military-religious right folks --is eager to carry the new canards to the faithful as soon as the marketing launch time is just right. The menace of Iran is the sure-bet product, with the usual suspects in the media anxious to sell it.

Iraq was sold as a threat and Saddam Hussein's horrible weapons were what we most had to fear. Biological and chemical weapons in Iraq were fearsome. Bush assured the United Nations the evil regime in Iraq had a "continued appetite" for nuclear bombs.

Saddam, Cheney solemnly warned us, was hankering to build some nukes. The first thing he would do would be to slip a few dirty bombs to his old pal and partner in terror, Osama bin Laden.

The Busheviks created the mythology, mounted on a tripod of smoking-gun "evidence." Saddam was attempting to buy uranium for nuclear weapons. He bought aluminum tubes that could "only be used" for nuclear weapons. He constructed and operated mobile biological labs in trailers to manufacture disease-bearing weapons. Slam-dunk. Or so they thought.

All lies. Pure lies. And as each of these lies became apparent and independent intelligence experts reported this information, the Busheviks kept parroting the lies that suited their political purposes.

The pattern is repeated and unmistakable. Bush, Cheney and company would keep spouting the lies that were the result, not of "intelligence failures," but were known to be lies. This was necessary to continue the grand deception used to sell the war in the first place and cloak the truth about the real reasons for the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Ambassador Joseph Wilson and European intelligence operatives knew the story that Iraq was trying to buy enriched uranium from Niger was false. An Italian newspaper revealed how a bunch of international scam artists used obviously forged documents to promote the hoax in a dizzying scheme to sell the lie.

Their motive was simple. They wanted to make money selling the fabricated information to intelligence services, long before the Busheviks had set their sights on Iraq. The French spotted the fraud right away, and so did the Italians.

But after Sept. 11, the fraud was revived with the help of one of outgoing Italian Prime Minister and Bush ally Silvio Berlusconi's magazines. The same forged documents were recycled. The British and the Busheviks drooled all over them.

Of course, those were the very governments looking for any claim -- true or not -- to make the case for war with Iraq. Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's private intelligence operatives in the Pentagon pounced on the bogus Niger story and made it one of the principal reasons for war. Bush even used it in a State of the Union address.

Joe Wilson knew the story had holes, and warned the CIA. When he told the truth -- that the White House knew it was peddling lies -- he had to pay a price. Bush and Cheney unleashed their political thugs Karl Rove and Scooter Libby to discredit, even destroy Wilson. Exposing his wife's undercover job as a CIA officer was just one weapon they used.

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald, who brought the indictment of Scooter Libby to a federal grand jury and is still investigating others in the White House, argued that the Busheviks were involved in a concerted effort to lash out against a critic.

In a legal filing in the case, Fitzgerald said leaks of classified information were used in a "concerted action" by "multiple people in the White House" involved in the plan to "discredit, punish or seek revenge against" Wilson.

Libby claimed he got the OK from Cheney, with Bush's authorization, to leak intelligence information to friendly reporters. It's about time Bush and Cheney released transcripts of their interviews with Fitzgerald. That would sure help clear the air or, more likely, fill the atmosphere with more lies -- criminal ones at that.

The "National Journal's" Murray Waas blew the lid off another example of the Busheviks' incessant use of a phony rationale for war long after experts have discredited it. That was Saddam's procurement of high-strength aluminum tubes for the purpose of developing nuclear weapons.

Waas reported that as early as October 2002, Bush and Cheney had reports from the Energy Department and the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research concluding that the tubes were "intended for conventional weapons."

That judgment -- which turned out to be the correct one -- was never shared with the Congress and certainly not with the American people. Condoleezza Rice, then the national security adviser, insisted the tubes were "only really suited for nuclear weapons." The Busheviks ignored all the expert reports that challenged Rice's false assertion.

"We have found the weapons of mass destruction," Bush proclaimed to a group of Polish television reporters when one of them dared to ask the president where they were.

Remember, the Poles sent troops to Iraq, and the nation's political leaders -- bribed with U.S. money -- told their people the young Poles were fighting to save the world from Saddam's illicit weapons arsenal.

Bush made his unequivocal proclamation on May 29, 2003. But the Washington Post reports that two days before Bush bragged about the phony find of weapons, a secret fact-finding mission "had already concluded that the trailers had nothing to do with biological weapons."

A prime source for these frightening tales was an Iraqi engineer who defected to Germany in 1999. German intelligence gave him the code name "Curveball" and he was in time to become the Busheviks' main man in providing information on Iraq's "secret labs."

The Germans had concluded, years before the Busheviks decided to go to war with Iraq, that "Curveball" was a fraud, a liar and a nut. But those credentials made him a perfect puppet-informant for Cheney and Rumsfeld. He was willing to say anything to confirm their suspicions that Saddam had an active biological-weapons program.

After Saddam's fall, the weapons Rumsfeld said he knew "exactly" where to find were elusive. No one could find any. So you can imagine how excited the warmongers were when they got word the military had captured two trailers possibly used for bioweapons production. Cheney and Rummy were toasting each other and swilling down single-malt scotches.

Anxious for the satisfaction and propaganda value of the moment, the Pentagon hurried a team of technical experts to Iraq to evaluate the trailers. The CIA already had a draft of a white paper describing the trailers as "the strongest evidence to date that Iraq was hiding a biological warfare program."

The technical team, the Post reported, included eight Americans and a Brit, "each with at least a decade of experience in one of the essential technical skills needed in bioweapons production."

The experts worked in the sweltering sun, checking vats and valves, taking hundreds of photographs. By the end of the day, there were different opinions about what the trailers were used for, but there was certainty about what they were not.

One team member whose identity was protected told the Post, "Within the first four hours, it was clear to everyone that these were not biological labs."

On May 27, the technical team transmitted their unanimous findings. Within a day, the CIA posted on its Web site the paper titled "Iraqi Mobile Biological Warfare Agent Production Plants." The next day, Bush proclaimed, "We have found the weapons of mass destruction." The lies lived. The truth was buried.

By late June, then-secretary of state Colin Powell said that the "confidence is increasing" that the trailers were meant to be used to produce biological weapons. In September, Cheney said the "mobile biological laboratories" could have been used to produce anthrax and smallpox. Lies, lies and more lies, and they knew it.

If we had a real Senate Intelligence Committee, instead of that horrible excuse for one run by that shameless White House whore, Sen. Pat Roberts, the panel would be demanding to know who got the technical team report on the trailers and what was done with it.

I'm sure Rumsfeld saw the report, since the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency assembled the technical team. Poor Rummy. All those generals are calling for his head.

What took them so long?

Rumsfeld is the worst defense secretary in American history and certainly one of the worst military strategists since the invention of gunpowder.

The very name Rumsfeld should mean an arrogant person bursting with incompetence. Bush is right to keep him on board. Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice are rats richly deserving to be with their captain on his sinking ship of state.

They deserve their fates. The tragedy is how many more Iraqis and Americans will die for their lies.

Comment on this Article

Millions of refugees are hidden victims of the West's war on terror, warns UN

19 April 2006
Andy McSmith and Anne Penketh
UK Independent

Refugees fleeing persecution or civil war are becoming the hidden victims of the West's obsession with combating terrorism, a UN report will warn today

Only a fraction of the world's 9.2 million refugees have the means to reach the industrialised world to seek asylum. Those who do are increasingly likely to be treated like criminals as rich countries put up the barriers to keep out terrorists and economic migrants.

"More and more, asylum-seekers are portrayed not as refugees fleeing persecution and entitled to sanctuary, but rather as illegal migrants, potential terrorists and criminals - or at a minimum, as 'bogus'," the report by the office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), warns.

The UNHCR singles out a Europe-wide initiative launched by Tony Blair in 2003 as an example of how the industrialised north is trying to make the developing world cope with more than its share of refugees. "Are affluent states about to outsource refugee protection to low-cost, no-frills countries? Some observers would affirm that this is already happening, with the deflection policies of the north leaving the south with a disproportionate share of the protection burden," the report says.

As an example, it cites an attempt by Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands to introduce a new policy under which some classes of asylum-seekers would be removed to centres outside Europe while their cases are processed. The move, backed by Tony Blair, was defeated by Germany, France and Sweden.

Antonio Guterres, the High Commissioner, is to launch the report,The State of the World's Refugees, with Hilary Benn, the International Development Secretary. It is the first major survey of its kind since 2000.

The good news is that the total number of refugees in the world is at its lowest level for 25 years. The number of asylum-seekers is also at its lowest for many years - in Britain, it has fallen to a 13-year low. The total number of migrants of all kinds around the world is about 175 million, barely one in 20 of whom is a refugee.

Millions of refugees have been repatriated or resettled over the past five years, including more than four million who have gone home to Afghanistan, and hundreds of thousands who have returned to Angola, Sierra Leone, Burundi and Liberia. But the total figure for refugees may mask the increasing difficulty the displaced are having finding any form of sanctuary, even in neighbouring countries. This is the "biggest failure" of world humanitarian efforts, Mr Guterres says. "People who would otherwise seek safety in neighbouring states are more frequently compelled to remain within the borders of their own country, most often in similar conditions as refugees," the report says. As of 2004, there were up to 25 million internally displaced people around the world, a big increase since era of the Cold War.

Another source of concern is the plight of refugees in protracted exile - 5.7 million people. But as the effects of globalisation have brought a surge in the number of people leaving their home countries for economic reasons, there are fears that the rights of genuine asylum-seekers and refugees may be undermined. The report says: "In the past few years, asylum issues and refugee protection have become inextricably linked with the question of international migration, particularly irregular migration."

The refugee should "not pay the price", Mr Guterres said yesterday.

Asked about the debate in Britain on the extent to which extremist parties such as the BNP could benefit in next month's local elections by a blurring of race and immigration issues, he replied: "There is a populist approach to politics, sometimes also in the media - not only in Britain. They try to mix everything - migration, asylum, refugees and security concerns with terrorism. It is absolutely essential that things are clarified. Refugees are not terrorists, they are the first victims of terror." He added: "Let's be frank, the majority of refugees are not in the developed world, they are in the developing world. And that large majority does not want to migrate to the developed world, they want to go home."

Comment on this Article

IRAQ: Ministry copes with rising numbers of orphaned children

18 Apr 2006

BAGHDAD - Orphans in Iraq, who often lack protection, food supplies and medical assistance, require urgent assistance, according to officials at the Orphans Houses Department at the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

"Orphaned children have become a very serious issue," said department director Abeer Mahdi al-Chalabi. "We have 23 orphanages with limited capacity, capable of housing only about 1,600 orphans."

Although there are seven orphanages in the capital, Baghdad, and another 16 in other provinces, "they aren't enough to provide assistance to all the orphans in the country", said al-Chalabi. She went on to point out that the increase in the number of orphans countrywide was an inevitable result of the bombings, assassinations and sectarian violence currently plaguing the country.

According to a 2005 report issued by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), there were some 5,000 orphans in the capital alone, many of whom have been ostracised by society and have little hope of finding education or shelter.

"My two brothers and I work with our uncle in the streets of Baghdad as peddlers," said Ahmed Chaloob, 10, whose parents were killed in a bomb attack two months ago. "I know nothing about orphanages, and I don't think my uncle would let us go because he needs us to work," added Chaloob, who currently lives in a small room with eight other relatives.

Orphans often live in the streets as beggars or drug addicts. Some are believed to have been used by terrorists to carry out attacks; others have reportedly been forced by criminal gangs to work as thieves, according to ministry officials.

Given the prevailing atmosphere of violence and confusion, there are no reliable statistics for the number of orphans in the country. "We don't have accurate numbers," said al-Chalabi. "Officially, there are 642 orphans registered in our orphanages," he added, estimating this number to represent a mere 10 percent of the total number nationwide.

"I've been here since 1996 with my brother, and I have two sisters living in [another] orphanage," said Mustafa Hameed, a 15 year-old orphan at Baghdad's al-Wazeriyah orphanage. "After our mother died in a car accident and our father remarried, we were taken here where we found care and love."

The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs provides some US $2,000 per month to each of the country's orphanages, and ministry officials hope to eventually increase this amount to cover the requirements of additional orphans in the future.

"Orphans are provided with food, social services, health care, psychological care, education and other activities, such as computer training and painting," said Abtesaam Rasheed, manager of the al-Wazeriyah orphanage. "But much more is required - we need support from the government and international NGOs to expand capacity and provide training for our social workers."

Comment: Does anyone think that Bush and Co. actually care about the orphaned Iraqi children, or their parents that the US military has been arbitrarily gunning down for the last 3 years? If they actually cared, does anyone think that there would be so many orphans? "By their fruits you shall know them".

Comment on this Article

Gallup: 57% Say U.S. Won't Win in Iraq

By E&P Staff
Published: April 17, 2006 11:05 AM ET

NEW YORK A report on a new Gallup poll released today shows that President Bush approval rating on his handling of Iraq is now at 32% -- tied for the lowest rating Gallup has measured.

The survey, taken April 7-9, also shows that 57% of Americans think the United States will not win in Iraq.
In a surprise, the new poll found that 44% of Republicans now back withdrawing some or all troops from Iraq. The number for all Americans, 64%, is higher, but the fact that better than 4 in 10 Republicans back this idea is notable. Indepedents are tracking much closer to Democrats on all issues related to Iraq.

In another finding, 57% of Americans say it was a mistake to send troops to Iraq, while 42% say it was not. Since December 2005, either a plurality or majority of Americans have said it was a mistake.

The breakdown on the troop pullout question is: 36% say to withdraw "some" troops, while 28% want to withdraw all troops.

Comment: Just what criteria would have to be met to be able to say "The US won the war in Iraq"? What would be the concrete outcome?

Comment on this Article

Robbery, not reconstruction, in Iraq

By Derrick Z. Jackson
Globe Columnist
Boston Globe

The great liberator of Iraq was actually the hyena that cleaned out the nation.

Piece by piece, Halliburton over here, a corrupt company over there, we have heard various individual cases of overcharging and fraud by American firms in the reconstruction of Iraq. Last weekend, a Globe story connected some of the dots of corruption. Of $20.7 billion in Iraqi bank accounts and oil revenues seized by the Coalition Provisional Authority in the US-led invasion of Iraq, $14 billion was given out for reconstruction but tens of millions of dollars were unaccounted for. A year ago, an audit by the inspector general found no evidence of work done or goods delivered on 154 of 198 contracts. Sixty cases of potential swindles are under investigation.

Halliburton and its hundreds of millions of dollars of overcharges or baseless costs are well known. But millions more were taken by companies that promised to build or restore libraries or police facilities, or deliver trucks and construction equipment. Money was given to the puppet government with no follow-up. US government investigators can account for only a third of the $1.5 billion given by the CPA to the interim government and it appears that a substantial portion of the $8 billion given to Iraqi ministries went to ''ghost employees.''
Because of the way the United States set things up after the invasion, contractors are immune from prosecution by Iraqis. And even when firms are prosecuted, the millions of dollars in fines go to the US Treasury, not the Iraqi people. It amounts to two invasions. First the bombs. Then the banks.

This is robbery, not reconstruction.

It also amounts to yet another slow-motion lie by the Bush administration. The magnitude of the corruption brings into sharper relief the claims made by then-Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz a month before the war.

The claims came from the same infamous testimony before the House Budget Committee where Wolfowitz said Army chief of staff Eric Shinseki was ''wildly off the mark'' for saying several hundred thousand troops would be needed to stabilize Iraq. Wolfowitz told the committee that the administration was ''doing everything possible in our planning now to make post-war recovery smoother and less expensive.''

Besides pooh-poohing Shinseki's estimates, Wolfowitz said a Washington Post story that quoted administration officials as saying the initial invasion would cost $60 billion to $95 billion was also way off the mark. Speaking about such administration officials, Wolfowitz said, ''I don't think he knows what he's talking - he or she knows what they're talking about. I mean, I think the idea that it's going to be eclipsed by these monstrous future costs ignores the nature of the country we're dealing with.''

''It's got already, I believe, on the order of $15 billion to $20 billion a year in oil exports, which can finally - might finally be turned to a good use instead of building Saddam's palaces. It has one of the most valuable undeveloped sources of natural resources in the world. And let me emphasize, if we liberate Iraq, those resources will belong to the Iraqi people, that they will be able to develop them and borrow against them.''

''It is a country that has somewhere between, I believe, over $10 billion -- let me not put a number on it - in an escrow account run by the United Nations. It's a country that has $10 billion to $20 billion in frozen assets from the Gulf War, and I don't know how many billions that are closeted away by Saddam and his henchmen. But there's a lot of money there and to assume that we're going to pay for it is just wrong.''

Wolfowitz was wrong on nearly every point, except for the idea that there was about $20 billion floating around Iraq to seize. It has been three years and all Iraq has become is a ''free-fraud zone,'' according to one of the attorneys for whistleblowers in Iraqi swindles. Recently, the Army found that Halliburton had $263 million of exaggerated or unexplainable costs on a $2.4 billion no-bid contract, yet still paid Halliburton $253 million of the $263 million.

Halliburton is in 103rd place in the Fortune 500 with $21 billion in revenues and just under $2.4 billion in profits. Halliburton gets its $2.4 billion no-bid contract nearly paid in full while the Iraqi people are out of much of their $21 billion. We liberated Iraq. The resources belong to American contractors.

Comment on this Article

The Ongoing War on Truth in Iraq

By Dahr Jamail

The people of England have been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honor. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information. The Baghdad communiqués are belated, insincere, incomplete. Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows ... We are today not far from a disaster.-- T.E. Lawrence (a.k.a. Lawrence of Arabia), The Sunday Times, August 1920
On Monday, April 17, my sources in Baghdad reported fierce fighting in the al-Adhamiya neighborhood of the capital city, as well as fighting in the al-Dora neighborhood. One source, who lives in the predominantly Sunni area of Adhamiya, had been telling me the situation was disintegrating for days leading up to this. There had been clashes every day for four days leading up to yesterday's huge clash there, with sporadic fighting between Sunni resistance fighters and members of the two largest Shia militias. The armed wing of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the Badr Organization, and Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi Army have been launching ongoing attacks against fighters in the neighborhood. There is a shorter version of this description.

Civil war.

Yet we don't hear it described as such in the corporate media, nor from the Cheney administration. Their propaganda insists that Iraq is not yet in a civil war.

But in Adhamiya, every night now for several weeks roads have been closed with tires, trunks of date palm trees and other objects to prevent "kidnappers and Shia death squads" from entering the area, according to one source, whom I'm keeping anonymous for security reasons.

His description of the fierce fighting in his neighborhood is quite different from the reporting of it in mainstream outlets.

"Sunday night at 12:30 a.m. clashes started just like on the four previous nights, but it was very heavy and from different directions. It was different from the other nights in quantity and quality; it was truly like the hell which I haven't seen even in the battles of the war between Iraq and Iran during the eighties," wrote my source. He added that mortars and rocket-propelled grenades were used, and so much ammunition that the sky was "glowing red." The situation went on until Monday morning. He said, "I usually have my cup of coffee in my small backyard to drink it in a good atmosphere, but the minute I opened the door someone from the interior ministry commandos shouted at me, telling me to get inside or he'd shoot me. Of course I stayed inside and the shooting continued in a very heavy way until 12:30 p.m., when the American forces came to start helping the militia's attack on al-Adhamiya after they were watching the scene from their helicopters."

He went on to state very clearly that "these were members of the Badr militia and Sadr's Mehdi Army who were raiding the neighborhood."

Another witness at the scene wrote, "Men in police uniforms attacked the neighbourhood. The Ministry of Interior claimed the uniformed men don't belong to the puppet [Iraqi government] forces, but local residents are quite sure they are special-forces from the Ministry of Interior, probably Badr brigades. The neighbourhood was sealed off and the mobile phone network was disconnected until 10:45 p.m. Electricity was cut off from 10 a.m. on."

Meanwhile, Reuters obediently parroted the US military by reporting that "Insurgents mount bold attack in Baghdad," and saying, "About 50 insurgents mounted a brazen attack on Iraqi forces in Baghdad on Monday, prompting U.S. troops to provide support in a battle that lasted seven hours, a U.S. military spokesman said. The guerrillas attacked Iraqi forces in the mostly Sunni Arab district of Adhamiya in northern Baghdad overnight. Five rebels were killed and one member of the Iraqi forces was wounded. There were no U.S. casualties, said the spokesman."

While this press report quoted an Iraqi police official as saying, "Adhamiya residents have taken up arms to prevent the Shi'ite militia from entering," and "Adhamiya residents said Shi'ite militiamen accompanied the Iraqi forces," it added that this could not be confirmed.

An Iraqi in Adhamiya confirmed this immediately after the clashes ended by writing, "When the uniformed forces entered the neighbourhood, the National Guards that are usually patrolling the streets left. Young armed men from the neighbourhood fought side by side with mujahedin against the attacking forces to protect Al-Adhamiya. Several residents have been killed in the streets, but there are currently no figures available. US troops also entered the neighbourhood. At first, they only stood by and watched; later on they, too, fired at the locals, who tried to repel the attacks. Later in the day, rumours circulated that another fierce attack of Al-Adhamiya is planned on Wednesday, but ... couldn't confirm this information."

Other news outlets directly contradict the aforementioned statement by the US military spokesman, when one reported that "gunmen clashed with residents in Baghdad's Aadhamiya district."

Of course, the military spokesman also failed to mention that on the same day, "Four gunmen attacked a Sunni mosque killing a guard in the Adhamiya district of the capital."

Instead, we hear reporting that "[US] Army officials said they had suffered no casualties, and plan to raid homes in search for the gunmen."

Disturbingly, this obvious US-backed Shia militia invasion of a Sunni neighborhood may well be a prelude to what the US military is calling a "second liberation of Baghdad" which they will carry out with the Iraqi army when a new government is installed.

The Sunday Times reports that US commanders both in Iraq and at an army base in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, are planning a "carrot-and-stick" approach by offering suffering populations "protection" from sectarian violence in exchange for "rooting out insurgent groups or Al-Qaeda."

Sound like mafia tactics to you?

The article states that "Sources close to the Pentagon said Iraqi forces would take the lead, supported by American air power, special operations, intelligence, embedded officers and back-up troops. Helicopters suitable for urban warfare, such as the manoeuvrable AH-6 "Little Birds" ... are likely to complement the ground attack."

This is disturbingly similar to what just occurred in al-Adhamiya.

Another glaring example of the Cheney administration/US military's ongoing war on truth in Iraq is the open wound which is Fallujah.

Heavy-handed assaults by the US military continue in Fallujah, where as recently as this Monday three Iraqi civilians were killed, along with 10 wounded in the Jebail district of the city. Of the 10 wounded, three were women and two were children. According to Mustafa Karim, with an Iraqi security force in the city, "US forces fired on houses in the district following confrontations with armed groups in the vicinity." Karim added that residents of Fallujah have been demanding an easing of the tight security procedures imposed by Iraqi and US armed forces on the region since November 2004, which have obstructed the passage of civilians into and out of the region, and "Fallujah has been recently witnessing a renewed escalation of armed confrontations between US forces and armed Iraqi groups."

In fact, fierce fighting in Fallujah has been ongoing since just a few months after the November 2004 US attack, which destroyed most buildings and homes in the city of 350,000 people.

But the US military doesn't want people to see that American soldiers are dying there on nearly a daily basis as of late. Rather than calling it Fallujah when soldiers die there, they prefer a sort of Bermuda Triangle approach and use "Al-Anbar Province" for the location of these deaths.

Let's have a brief glance at some soldiers killed recently in "Al-Anbar Province":

* April 17, Department of Defense (DOD) announced (hyperlink 'announced' with http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/2006/nr20060417-12834.html ) the death of a Marine who "died April 14 from a non-hostile motor vehicle accident in Al-Anbar province, Iraq."

* April 16, CENTCOM announced: "Camp Fallujah, Iraq - A Marine ... died due to enemy action while operating in al Anbar Province April 15."

* April 16, Camp Fallujah, Iraq - Multi-National Forces (MNF) Iraq announced: "Three Marines ... died due to enemy action while operating in al Anbar Province April 15."

* April 15, Camp Fallujah, Iraq - MNF Iraq announced: "Two Marines died and 22 were wounded due to enemy action while operating in al Anbar Province April 13 ... Ten wounded Marines ... were evacuated to a medical facility at Camp Fallujah."

* April 15, DOD announced: "four Marines died April 15 when their HMMWV struck an improvised explosive device during combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq."

* April 11, DOD announced: "Lance Cpl. Juana NavarroArellano, 24 ... died April 8 from wounds received while supporting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq."

* April 10, Camp Fallujah, Iraq - CENTCOM announced: "A soldier ... died from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in al Anbar Province April 8."

* April 10, Camp Fallujah, Iraq - CENTCOM announced: "Two soldiers ... died due to enemy action while operating in al Anbar Province April 9."

* April 8, Camp Fallujah, Iraq - MNF Iraq announced: "A Marine ... died from wounds sustained due to enemy action while operating in al Anbar Province April 7."

Note the clue that several of these are issued from "Camp Fallujah, Iraq."

This is hardly a complete list of US soldiers killed in Fallujah, and some of the aforementioned may not have actually been killed inside that city. However, military announcements of the deaths of soldiers in other places mention the name of specific cities, whether they occur in Samarra or Tal Afar or elsewhere.

Obviously the US military is being intentionally vague when it comes to their admittance of losing American soldiers within the city limits of Fallujah. An email I received Monday from one of my sources in Fallujah sheds much light as to why this is the case, not only in Fallujah, but throughout Iraq.

"Resistance [in Fallujah] is very active and all the destruction to the city by American soldiers did not succeed to stop them. You know the city was totally destroyed in the November attack and is still surrounded and closed for anyone other than citizens of the city. What is going on now is that the Americans are trying to conceal their failure here by not letting anybody in. There were at least five explosions today and more than one clash between resistance fighters and US soldiers. So all the military procedures, together with the thousands of casualties, were in vain. In short, the American Army seems to be losing control in this country and God knows what they will do in revenge. I expect the worst to come."

Comment on this Article

Teachers beheaded in Baghdad in front of students

April 19, 2006

BAGHDAD - Separate groups of gunmen entered two primary schools in Baghdad on Wednesday and beheaded two teachers in front of their students, the Ministry of State for National Security said.

"Two terrorist groups beheaded two teachers in front of their students in the Amna and Shaheed Hamdi primary schools in Shaab district in Baghdad," a ministry statement said.

A ministry official said he believed the attacks were aimed at: "intimidating pupils and disrupting learning."

Comment on this Article

Here's Donny! In His Defense, a Show Is Born

The New York Times
April 19, 2006

Summary: It has become a daily ritual, the defense of the defense secretary, complete with praise from serving generals, tributes from the president and, from the man on the spot, doses of charm, combativeness and even some humility.

A session on Tuesday was the third time in five days that Donald H. Rumsfeld had sought to make a public case to remain as defense secretary. [...]

Such extended repeated public displays of self-defense are not the norm in Washington, where beleaguered officeholders usually seek to maintain the pretense that criticism does not matter. Those who do respond most often use surrogates to extol their virtues.
WASHINGTON - It has become a daily ritual, the defense of the defense secretary, complete with praise from serving generals, tributes from the president and, from the man on the spot, doses of charm, combativeness and even some humility.

A session on Tuesday was the third time in five days that Donald H. Rumsfeld had sought to make a public case to remain as defense secretary.

"There are no indispensable men," Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters at the Pentagon.

But the Bush administration sought to drive home the message that Mr. Rumsfeld was not going anywhere, no matter what critics might desire.

Again, Gen. Peter Pace of the Marines, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was at Mr. Rumsfeld's side, a visual prop to counter the message from a half-dozen or so retired generals that Mr. Rumsfeld should step down.

President Bush, having defended Mr. Rumsfeld on Friday from Camp David, had appeared before the cameras hours earlier, to make the case in person.

"I'm the decider, and I decide what's best," Mr. Bush said in the Rose Garden. "And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense."

Such extended repeated public displays of self-defense are not the norm in Washington, where beleaguered officeholders usually seek to maintain the pretense that criticism does not matter. Those who do respond most often use surrogates to extol their virtues.

But the extraordinary parade of generals who have stepped forward to defend Mr. Rumsfeld includes a bevy of retired officers, including Gen. Richard B. Myers of the Air Force, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Gen. Tommy R. Franks of the Army, who commanded American troops in the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts.

On Tuesday, Mr. Rumsfeld summoned another group of retired officers for a closed meeting, ostensibly to brief them on Iraq, but clearly also to enlist their support when they appear on television.

Perhaps the most notable examples of damage control since the retired generals' complaints gathered force have come from Mr. Rumsfeld, who has appeared on Al Arabiya television, the Rush Limbaugh radio program and, twice, before television cameras at the Pentagon.

The appearances have been layered with the verbal flair, acerbic wit and defiant touches that Mr. Rumsfeld has made his trademark. But on Tuesday, there was also an uncharacteristic flash of humility - an olive twig, if not a branch - from a man better known for his combativeness.

Mr. Rumsfeld, who has said he offered to resign two times after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, said he was "not inclined to be instantaneously judgmental" about what his critics were now saying, a message that has included complaints that his headstrong style causes him to disregard much of what anyone in a uniform tells him.

"Because of the importance of these matters being discussed, I'd like to reflect on them a bit," Mr. Rumsfeld said.

Within minutes, though, he said the views of the six generals who had called for his resignation were hardly representative, noting that the nation's 6,000 or 7,000 retired generals and admirals were not "unanimous on anything."

At Mr. Rumsfeld's side, General Pace added that soldiers in Iraq showed no discernible dissatisfaction with Mr. Rumsfeld. General Pace said Gen. Michael W. Hagee, Marine Corps commandant, had just been there and reported that he "got exactly zero questions about the leadership in the department."

The calls for Mr. Rumsfeld's resignation have abated since last week, when Mr. Bush asserted his authority as commander in chief to declare that Mr. Rumsfeld "has my full support and deepest appreciation."

The group that has called for the resignation includes two retired major generals who commanded troops in Iraq and a retired three-star general who was director of operations on the Joint Staff. Their comments have been criticized by other retired generals, who have said the group risks politicizing the armed forces.

A danger for Mr. Rumsfeld is that Republicans running in the November election will decide that his continued presence in the cabinet could drag down their prospects and urge Mr. Bush to dump him.

A Senate Republican aide said that despite expressions of support for Mr. Rumsfeld by some Republican senators, many other members expressed deep concern privately.

"The nervousness here is with a figure as controversial as Rumsfeld at the head of a war that's declining in popularity, that becomes a real political problem for members who are up for re-election this fall," said the aide, who insisted on anonymity because he had been told not to discuss senators' private conversations.

With Congress in recess, the aide said, he knew of no organized effort among Senate Republicans to make their concerns public or to take them to the White House. But the aide said he expected discussions to intensify when senators returned next week.

There are signs that the efforts to keep Republicans from defecting are working. On Tuesday, Representative Duncan Hunter, the California Republican who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, issued a news release taking on Mr. Rumsfeld's critics point by point. The statement notes that the secretary had 273 meetings with senior commanders last year, illustrating "that Secretary Rumsfeld respects and relies on the judgment of the Pentagon's uniformed leadership."

After taking questions for a half-hour, Mr. Rumsfeld went to meet the retired military officers and civilian analysts. Many of those invited comment regularly on CNN, Fox News and other television and radio outlets and are part of the same community that is proving a problem for the secretary.

In past meetings with the group, Mr. Rumsfeld has opened with lengthy statements. This time he said he would go straight to questions, participants said. He was asked about the criticism, said Maj. Gen. Thomas L. Wilkerson, who retired from the Marines and who attended the meeting.

"He said it's a diversion, and that it's taken him away from the full-time focus on things he needs to do," he said. Mr. Rumsfeld "was not chastened. If anything, he looked like he was energized by it."

Comment: It sure is a show. The mainstream US media STILL are not talking about the recent revelation that Rummy was even "personally involved" in one Guantanmo Bay torture session - er, interrogation.

Comment on this Article

War There

Israeli Forces Storm Several West Bank Towns, Make Dozens of Arrests

JENIN, Palestine, April 18, 2006 (IPC + Agencies)

Israeli occupation forces stormed a number of cities and towns in the West Bank and conducted a number of search and arrest campaigns, resulting in dozens of detainees.
Security sources said that Israeli forces stormed the village of Al Arqa, west of Jenin province, and raided the house of Sameeh Hamad, father of Sami Hamad who carried out the Tel Aviv bombing attack on Monday.

The soldiers arrested Hamad and forcibly evicted the house, prior to demolishing it. The father, in his fifties, was then led to an undisclosed location.
In addition, Israeli troops arrested one of Sami's friends in the village, Emad Yehya, after raiding and thoroughly searching his home. The forces arrested six other citizens from the village, including a woman, raising the number of detainees to 12.

Furthermore, more than 30 Israeli military vehicles rolled into Jenin City amidst heavy gunfire and stun grenade firing, forcing bystanders to stand against the wall and take their clothes off, in spite of the cold weather.

In the meantime, eyewitnesses mentioned that Israeli forces invaded the city of Nablus with more than 80 military vehicles, and conducted a massive search-and-arrest campaign in different parts of the city last night, which resulted in 15 injuries and four arrests among the citizens.

The witnesses also stated that Israeli soldiers commandeered a number of houses in the city and set-up military watch points inside them, after herding the residents to small rooms within the houses.

Earlier, a group of armed Israeli settlers from the illegal settlement "Alon Moreh", northeast of Nablus, forcibly seized 32 sheep after raiding the nearby village of Deir El Hatab on Monday evening.

Local sources added that more 20 armed settlers raided the village and stacked the villagers and their properties.

In Tulkarem province, Israeli forces stormed the city of Tulkarem and its refugee camp early this morning, and arrested seven citizens and led them to an undisclosed location.

At the same context, Israeli forces closed all the entrances and exits of the city, preventing traffic into or outside the city.

Local sources said Israeli soldiers closed the Jbara and Annab military checkpoints, and set up a number of mobile roadblocks on the main roads and dirt paths leading into the city, while establishing patrols on the Bal'a Town junction and the roads leading to the villages of Sha'raweya and Deir El Ghosoon.

Comment on this Article

Israel's Policy: Starve the Palestinians

William Cook
International Middle East Media Center
March 24, 2006

Israel exists as a major military force in the world and a silent member of the nuclear club. Yet it cries wolf that Hamas threatens its existence.

On the third anniversary of America's invasion of Iraq broadcast in full shock and awe to the world via green TV screens that all might see the night devastation of the city, another invasion was underway in Gaza, a silent invasion of human rights that, in its barbarity, casts its own shock and awe, the starvation of the people of Gaza by closure of that prison's gates by Israeli IDF. David Shearer of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OCHA) stated, "What we were warning before was that stocks (of wheat) were getting low. Today we are saying stocks are gone, and the end point has been reached." Israel has closed Gaza's commercial lifeline, the Al-Minter Crossing, these past 50 days in peak harvest time, preventing the export of goods and stopping the import of bread supplies. 3,594 MT of wheat flour contracted to local mills did not enter. Now there is no bread and the 70% of Palestinians living below the poverty line have no food. This barbarity one does not expect from the people who cried for protection from fascist forces when they were under siege.
Perhaps as we watch the Israelis enter their voting booths on the 28th, we might hope that the branding of Israel as a genocidal nation might cause a twinge of moral outrage and put into office a government that would seek reconciliation with the Palestinians rather than devastation of them. Perhaps the world communities might get a chance to see behind the veil of silence that shrouds what takes place in Palestine and keeps the horror from the eyes of Americans and Europeans. Perhaps a new Israeli government would recognize that the election of Hamas is an opportunity for peace since it represents the views of the vast majority of Palestinians and not a threat to be discounted because it did not represent voters in Israel. Perhaps a free democratic election tells us something we don't want to admit: justice must be sought for all, not just those the Israelis want to appease because they do what Israelis want. Perhaps the Israeli wall of silence that makes the reality in Palestine invisible to all can be breached because of the democratic elections that have taken place in Palestine if the Israelis will match that effort.

The sower of deceit spreads his seed upon the fertile soil of ignorance, waters it with repetition, and covers it with silence. For five years, America and Israel, under Bush and Sharon, have spread seeds of deceit on minds made fertile to receive it by a controlled press, titillation news programs, and a disinterested public made lethargic by discomfort and fear. But in 2005 the seeds had germinated, broken through the soil and cast their evil smell over the lands, here and in Palestine. Now Bush and the American people await the disassembling of the Bush regime as the Libby lies, the Abramoff payoffs, the DeLay lobbying industry, the Rumsfeld Defense debacle, the torture scenes that never end, the Katrina catastrophe, the isolation of the United States by unilateral arrogance, the terror caused by our subservience to Sharon and his inhumane imprisonment of Palestinians, the ineluctable civil war that engulfs our liberated friends in Iraq, the impending repetition of Iraq in Iran, and death by debt once we are forced to disembark from Iraq's shores, tear apart the fabric of America.

And now, while we await the elections in Israel, we sense that it, too, will disassemble as the revelations of its spying on America cover the front pages and replace the titillation of our news broadcasts with real news. Witness what even our controlled press must contend with if it is not to remain a joke:

- Two convicted employees of AIPAC, the most powerful lobby in Washington, expose their traitorous behavior before the American people revealing just how "friendly" Israel is to the US thus reopening the gates to prior Israeli espionage that surfaced in 2001 on Fox news only to be silenced by the power of AIPAC.

- On its web site, AIPAC brags that it wrote the legislation that became the Syrian Accountability and Lebanon Restoration Act, thus pushing America into another confrontation in the mid-east as it had pushed America into the war against Iraq despite the lack of WMD or any means whatsoever of invading or destroying America;

- Another Israel support group, PNAC, that is under the control of the Neo-cons that have absconded with our government, declared now the source of the National Security Strategy Report that yokes the Bush administration to Israeli interests, a document that had its origins in 1992 and, in its revised form as a document prepared for Benjamin Netanyahu, "Securing the Realm," became our official foreign policy under Bush in September 2002;

- Repetition ad nauseam of silencing any criticism of Sharon's heinous government that has flaunted international law and the United Nations or any activity that represents the Palestinian reality like the stopping of the musical concert, "The Skies Are Weeping" and the play My Name Is Rachel using the ubiquitous "anti-Semitic" to force censorship;

- And, finally, in this litany of cancers inflicted on America by its purported friend, the disclosure that the American taxpayer contributes one third of its foreign aid budget to the 16th wealthiest nation on the planet, with a population that represents .001% of the world's population, supporting in the process the resettlement of thousands of immigrants from foreign lands to Israel, a foreign country, where they can reside in luxury town homes with lush grounds and pools, while our New Orleans residents, the majority classified African-American and living below the poverty line, remain scattered throughout the country unable to return to their homes.

Perhaps these disclosures will echo through the halls of Congress and the Senate, waking our representatives to their biased and bought support for Israel that has brought America such democratic values as pre-emptive strikes, extrajudicial execution, torture on demand, kidnapping to countries we condemn in public and pay off for torture in private (Syria of the Syrian Accountability Act), collective punishment including walling in innocent civilians in Iraq, disinformation to enable willing administration members to lie to the American people as they prepared us for unending war, hidden budget information that covered the reality of our support for the illegal occupation of Palestine, and, in all brazen hypocrisy, to place America before the world as a partner to the allegedly genocidal actions of Sharon's government as he strangled the Palestinians constituting a war crime of unfathomable dimensions.

To do it in my name I cannot condone, nor sit idly by as America becomes a rogue state that is seen world wide as the instigator of terror not the victim of it. Disassembling democracy demands dissent. I condemn both this government and that of Israel under Sharon because it is my duty as a citizen; I condemn as well the atrocities resulting from those who resort to violence against the civilian as their last expression of vengeance and despair since it, like oppression, fosters only greater evil, and I do so as a brother to all. Yet, having done so, I will be labeled an anti-Semite and anti-American. Neither is the case. Those who say nothing let silence shroud their judgment placing them in the phalanx of those who carry out the crimes.

Let it be said loud and clear, Israel alone can bring peace to the mid-east. Despite its protestations to the contrary, Israel exists as a major military force in the world, a silent member of the nuclear club, the only such in the mid-east. Yet it cries wolf to the world that Hamas threatens its existence even as Hamas stands imprisoned behind Israeli walls unable to leave by land, sea or water without Israeli IDF approval, unable to receive goods of any kind, including weapons of consequence with which to face the third largest military in the world. Thus does the oppressor become the victim.

That is the reality in Palestine and it has forced the people to elect an organization that has no obligations to the Israeli government or to the United States, only to them. They have nothing to lose but everything to gain. The United States extolled the virtues of democracy, the right of a people to choose their own government, especially in the mid-east, and they responded in a manner that puts the elections of 2000 and 2004 in this country to shame only to find that Bush didn't mean what he said nor did its erstwhile partner in democracy in the mid-east, Israel.

But this election is a victory for the Palestinian people; it is the catapult that can breach the Walls of the Israeli prison which has silenced the Palestinians so completely under the PLO, a hapless group made "irrelevant" by Sharon and Bush. And that reality Israel fears more than any army or terrorism Hamas can field against them; indeed, the continuation of terrorism benefits Israel because it supports their arguments for further lock downs and imprisonment and house demolitions and land confiscation. But if Hamas can invite Putin and Chirac and Chavez and diplomats from around the world to Ramallah, if the TV cameras arrive to put before the world the tangible humiliation that wraps the Palestinian people in the infectious disease of Israeli dominance in every facet of their day to day existence, then, perhaps, the devastating silence, the absolute muffling of their voice, the solitary confinement imposed by Israel on an entire people locked behind Walls of cement and steel, prevented from speaking out against this intolerable and illegal imprisonment, will be broken and the truth revealed to all the world.

That is what Israel and the Bush administration fear, the truth that exposes their lies, their absolute disregard for international law, the defiance of all UN resolutions that have condemned Israel for disregard of human rights, the theft of another people's land, the illegal imprisonment of 8000 without charge, the abandonment of due justice before the courts as IDF soldiers and settlers who kill at will go free, the infliction of hundreds of military check points throughout the West Bank, the acres upon acres of demolished homes that give the IDF freedom to incarcerate the inhabitants of Gaza, the collective punishment that Israel imposes on the Palestinian people by home demolition, the stealing of land, the destruction of their fields and produce, and by torture. This Israel rightly fears. This disassembling of their total control of what the world sees will be the battering ram that destroys the deceit that has made Hamas the fearsome enemy that can bring devastation to Israel and its people.

When this Wall of silence is breached, when the truth is made manifest, what the world will see and what Jews around the world will see, is that Sharon has destroyed the moral fiber of Judaism. What Jews suffered under the boots of Nazi Germany - the humiliation, torture, powerlessness, and fear - impressed on them by a racist nation arrogant in their superiority, the Israelis now inflict on the hapless people of Palestine. What Jews suffered in concentration camps, isolated from the world's communities that did not see their pain, existed because world leaders heeded only the voice of Hitler, tolerated the deceit that hid the reality, and accepted the truth of the oppressor not the truth of walls, and chain link fences, and barbed wire, and guard towers, and ID cards and symbols of identification that imprisoned the Jews in body, mind and spirit. What the Jews of the holocaust bequeathed to all humankind as a moral legacy must not be lost again; it is a legacy at once unique in its awareness of the sacredness of each living being and in its acceptance of the responsibility each has to each, a blessed union built on tolerance for all. Jews throughout the world have reacted against Sharon's savagery but have been as helpless to stop it as Americans have been to stop Bush from destroying America.

This silence, built like the four hundred miles of cement forms, barbed wire and steel that entombs the Palestinians as though it stood an eloquent testimonial of racism run rampant, Sharon's epitaph for his life of crime, begins now to unravel as the lies and deceit fall away and the sun's light rises above the debris left in its wake. The Palestinian quiet revolution, the election of a government by the people, of the people, and for the people, has the potential to let the sun shine in and open the door to peace, if only the world would treat that government with the respect it deserves. And that brings us back to the Israeli election this month, an election that can force its new government to move ineluctably toward real peace or to continue the violence that comes with spreading fear.

Israel can force America to sue for peace before the United Nations, to seek from that community of nations, from the community of Arab nations in particular, a Peace Force to stand along the green line while Israel recalls its forces back to the land it owns and returns to its rightful owners the land confiscated in the 1967 war, acceptance if you will of UN Resolution 242. It can return all stolen land, tear down the hideous monument to fear erected by Sharon, accept the internationally recognized right of return, and abjure violence against the Palestinians even as Hamas and the people of Palestine abjure all violence against the Israelis, all overseen in a new era of openness by the United Nations. It is the sower of peace and prosperity not the sower of discord and deceit that assures the harvest; it is in trust and tolerance not accusation and anger that accord can be reached; it is in recognition of right and justice for all not fanatical beliefs for those initiated that renders peace possible. That is the choice the Israelis bring to the election booth this month, and their choice will usher in a day of calm for all the world, or a day of chaos.

William Cook is a professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California and author of Tracking Depception: Bush's Mideast Policy. He is a regular contributor to Palestine Chronicle.com

Comment on this Article

Israeli forces attack boy at northern Bethlehem checkpoint

18 April 06
Palestine News Netowrk

Israeli soldiers occupying northern Bethlehem at the major checkpoint between Bethlehem and Jerusalem attacked a 16 year old Palestinian boy Tuesday afternoon.

Eyewitnesses report that Israeli soldiers threw the boy on the ground and intensely beat him using rifle butts and kicking. The boy is covered in cuts and bruises. However his whereabouts are now unknown as Israeli soldiers blindfolded him and took him to an unknown location.

An Israeli military spokesman claims the boy, whose identity remains unknown, had a knife at the Bethlehem checkpoint and attempted to stab a soldier.

Comment: The IDF, well known for their Nazi-like racist hatred of Palestinians, can easily claim that the boy tried to attack them, but many previous incidents show that no provocation is needed for IDF troops to abuse and murder innocent Palestinians.

Comment on this Article

Three Children Injured By Israeli Shelling In Gaza

IMEMC & Agencies
Tuesday, 18 April 2006

Three children were injured Tuesday morning in Beit Lahia, in the north of the Gaza Strip, due to the ongoing Israeli army shelling of the area.

Army tanks shelled residential areas and sewage treatment plants in the area. Damage to the sewage plants has brought the threat of contamination of the Gaza water supply with sewage, and potential environmental disaster if shelling continues.

The children were aged 14, 15 and 16, but their names were not released by the hospital at the time of this report.

Comment on this Article

Israel refuses to give Palestinian government a chance to achieve calm

Palestine News Network

Palestinian Legislative Council Spokesperson and Hamas political party member, Ghazi Hamad, says that Israel has yet to give them a chance. In a Tuesday declaration, Hamad said that Israel will not cease its attacks long enough for Palestinian parties and resistance factions to have a chance to even speak about another 'period of calm.'

Comment on this Article

Activists Describe Israeli Attacks On Palestinians

By Katherine Cox
Tuesday, April 18, 2006
The Stanford Daily

Two young human rights activists spoke last night about the Palestinian population of Tel Rumeida, Hebron, a West Bank neighborhood that also contains some of what were considered the most fanatical Israeli settlements. The event's sponsor, Stanford's Coalition for Justice in the Middle East (CJME), brought the co-founders of a fledgling human rights project stationed in Tel Rumeida, 24-year-old Chelli Stanley and 35-year-old John Harmer, to campus as the group observes Palestinian Awareness Month.

The lecture, entitled "Tel Rumeida: Life Under the Occupation," was the first in a series of related events extending into early May. Yesterday's lecture - which also featured footage captured by project volunteers in the neighborhood - precedes a second lecture on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. by Palestine's Deputy Ambassador to the U.N. Riyad Mansour in Cubberley Auditorium.

Stanley, originally from Maine, is a sociologist whose vision to establish the first permanent international presence in the neighborhood coincided with that of artist John Harmer. Harmer's previous work examined the military industrial complex through sculpture.

Yesterday's joint lecture, accompanied by a slide presentation, enumerated the ways in which the speakers said Palestinian residents of Tel Rumeida were terrorized - witnessed and documented by the speakers - by two bordering settler communities. The speakers related anecdotes of torture and abuse.

"One morning, a Palestinian boy was leaving to go to school and was surrounded by five adult male settlers, one of which put a battery operated power drill to his chest,"
Stanley said. "This is a tactic they've been using against the children in the neighborhood."

The boy survived and was not hospitalized, but the psychological impact of the act, Stanley suggested, breeds fear in the neighborhood's dwindling Palestinian population.

Another story detailed the abuse of a small child.

"A female Israeli settler used a rock to pry open a young Palestinian boy's mouth. She used the rock to grind down the child's molars," Stanley said.

The speakers named what they called the settlers' other staple methods of abuse. They allegedly included stoning, arson, beatings, destruction of property and violence inflicted by even young Israeli children.

"Israeli settlers have found a loophole in the law that states that no one under the age of 12 can be held responsible for their actions. The attacks that appear in the most visible areas are often initiated by very young boys and girls," Harmer said.

He explained that though many of the attacks are executed by children who are exempt from the law, violence perpetrated by adult men and women settlers is common and is in no way impeded by the local Israeli police and military.

In fact - the speakers suggested - the oppression Palestinians face in Tel Rumeida is exacerbated by the favoritism of the local Israeli military presence. The activist group reports that, though soldiers are bound by law to protect every individual in the neighborhood, violence against Palestinian residents is apparently openly tolerated.

To illustrate this point, Stanley related a tragedy in which a Palestinian woman lost two unborn twins during an attack by settlers. According to Stanley, the woman shouted repeatedly for help to nearby soldiers to no avail, and finally resorted to calling the Israeli police. Her son was attacked while the police refused to come to her home. Finally, after hearing the death threats screamed over the phone, the police arrived after a long delay. The woman later miscarried both of her twins and was forced to take a long detour around hostile settlements to reach a hospital.

Harmer claimed that the Israeli police in this area - who have come under fire from Israeli officials for their discrimination of Palestinians - often hang up on Arabic callers before their complaints or emergencies are relayed.

Both speakers began visiting Tel Rumeida in 2005, where they were immediately exposed to the daily life of local Palestinians. The speakers believed their observations warranted documenting, so throughout 2005 the activists filmed incidents of violence which will be compiled into a documentary in two to three months. Many of the clips are available on the Project's Web site, which allows viewers to download the materially freely.

During their stay in Tel Rumeida, Stanley, Harmer and other international human rights workers acted as human shields against assailants, accompanying Palestinians through the streets and attempting to ward off attacks.

"We get in between the settler and the person being attacked. We scream at them and videotape the attack. With these settlers we know that we're not going to stop the violence so we just try to redirect the attacks on ourselves," Stanley said.

Stanford was just one stop along a circuit of destinations for Stanley and Harmer, who are touring the United States to raise funds for the Tel Rumeida Project and recruit new volunteers. The project seeks to raise $20,000 in the United States, which will be matched by a human rights agency. Most of the funds will go toward buying new video cameras for the project.

Comment on this Article

Israeli Bomb Kills 16 Year Old Palestinian


An IDF artillery shell killed 16-year-old Palestinian Mahmoud Ovayed and wounded two others in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya on Monday, Palestinian medics said.

The youths were standing in an open field in the northern part of Beit Lahiya when they were hit by the shell. Ovayed was critically wounded and died of his wounds two hours later.

An IDF spokesman issued a statement expressing grief over any "damage inflicted upon civilians or their property," but stressed that "this is the inevitable result of the continuing Qassam rocket attacks, the responsibility for which falls upon the terrorist organizations and the Palestinian Authority which does nothing to stop them."

The IDF has been firing at areas where militants launch cross-border rocket attacks.

Ovayed is the second civilian killed in the northern Gaza Strip in less than a week. The last victim was a 12-year-old girl who was also killed by a shell.

Dozens of IDF soldiers and jeeps rolled into the West Bank city of Nablus on Monday afternoon, shortly after an Islamic Jihad suicide bomber killed nine people in the old central bus station in Tel Aviv.

The troops moved into the center of the city, where they began carrying out arrests.

The IDF has arrested 15 would-be suicide bombers in the West Bank over the past month.

Earlier Monday IDF soldiers holed up in a home in Nablus opened fire on a crowd of stone-throwing protesters outside the building, wounding two people, including a 13-year-old boy, Palestinian officials and witnesses said.

The soldiers took over the top floor of the home during a military operation early Monday, and protesters quickly gathered outside after discovering the forces. The crowd began throwing rocks toward the soldiers, who placed a door behind a window and responded with gunfire. Several crowd members also fired pistols toward troops during the exchange.

Palestinian hospital officials said the youth was shot in the neck and in moderate condition. A second person was lightly wounded, they said.

"When he was wounded in the neck, he ran toward me before collapsing and the blood gushed from his neck," said Ana Maria Espinoza, a pro-Palestinian volunteer from Chile. She said more than 100 protesting youths were gathered behind a wall about 100 meters (yards) from the house, which is located in a residential neighborhood near a school.

An armored AP jeep also was hit by Israeli gunfire, suffering minor damage. Nablus is a stronghold of Palestinian militants.

The army said its forces had come under fire in the area, but had no further details.

Comment on this Article

Dispatch from Gaza: The Earth is Closing in on Us


The shells keep falling. They've gotten inside my head, so that it's not just my house shaking but but my brain throbbing. It's like someone is banging a gong next to my ear every few minutes; sometimes fives times a minute, like last night. And just when I savor a few moments of silence, it starts again as if to say "you're not going to get away that easily."

We went to sleep to the rattling of our windows and invasive pounding and after-echo of the shells. We sleep as they fall.

We pray fajir, and they fall again. We wake, and they are still falling.

When they are closer, when they fall in Shija'iya east of Gaza City, they make my stomach drop.

And I want to hide, but I don't know where.

The Earth is closing in on us.
That's the thing about occupation-it invades even your most private of spaces. And while the shells were falling inside my head, they also killed little Hadil Ghabin today.

A shell landed on her home in Beit Lahiya, shattering her helpless body and injuring five members of her family, including Hadil's pregnant mother, Safia, and her 19-year-old sister.

My headeaches seem inconsequential when I think of little Hadil. Sometimes people here say they prefer death to this existence; you'll frequently here at funerals: "Irta'at"...she's

more comfortable now anyhow-what was there to live for here?

The Earth is squeezing us. I wish we were its wheat
so we could die and live again.

That has become our sad reality. Death provides relief.

Sometimes it feels like we are all in some collective torture room; who is playing God with us this night, I wonder? When I look up into the sky, and hear the shells, or see the faceless helicopter gunships cruising intently through the moonlit sky, I wonder, do they see me?

And when the shells start falling again, I can't help but imagine some beside-himself with boredom 18-year-old on the border, lighting a cig or SMSing his girlfriend back in Tel Aviv "just a few more rounds to go hon.....give it another whirl, Ron, its been 2 minutes already."

Sometimes, when I'm on edge, I might just yell out and wave my arms at them.

Do they hear me?

We decided to escape this evening to my father's farm in central Gaza, where we roasted potatoes and warmed tea on a small mangal, as we listened to thikr about the Prophet on the occasion of his mawlid from a nearby mosque, under the ominous roars of fighter jets, patrolling the otherwise lonely skies above.

"Where are you heading off to?" asked Osama, the shopkeeper downstairs.

"Off to the farm. We're suffocating," I replied, Yousuf tugging at my arm ...

"Mama...Yallah! Yallah!"

"Wallah Laila, we're not just suffocating...we're asphyxiating. I feel I can't breathe anymore. And my head is pounding and pounding. All I hear is BOOM boom now."

The Earth is closing in on us.

And little Hadil is dead.

Comment on this Article

Shock over Student Turned Bomber

By Khaled Amayreh
Palestine Chronicle

Meanwhile, the Hamas-led government apparently retreated from earlier statements condoning the bombing.

Friends and family are shocked to hear that Samir Hammad blew himself up and killed nine Israelis, yet most say the attack was provoked by Israel's deadly raids in the Palestinian territories.

Muhammed Hammad, a cousin of the bomber, said: "I never thought he would do such a thing. He didn't have the profile of suicide-bomber.

"I am shocked. It is difficult to believe it."
Samir Hammad, 21, a student at the al-Quds Open University, managed to evade Israel's ubiquitous army checkpoints on the West Bank and reached Tel Aviv where he carried out the bombing at a falafel sandwich stand on Monday.

The attack was claimed by the Islamic Jihad group, which did not sign to the Cairo-brokered truce in July last year. Hamas, which formed the new Palestinian cabinet last month, did.

Struggling Family

Hammad came from Burqa, a village near the northern West Bank town of Jenin where electricity is available only at night.

His father Samih, a 50-year-old municipal worker in Jenin, could hardly make ends meet to feed his nine children.

"It is the Israeli oppression," said the mother of five.

"We don't like to see innocent people, including Jews, killed. But when they kill our children on a daily basis, our hearts are hardened and we try to make them drink from the same cup they have been forcing us to drink from all these years," she said, reflecting a sentiment shared by most in Burqa.

"They are killing our people on a daily basis, starving us, preventing us from work, and turning our daily life into an unbearable hell. So how are we supposed to behave under such circumstances? What are we supposed to do, kill ourselves?

"I think Israel is making each and every Palestinian a potential human bomber."

More to Follow

In a video recorded before he set off for the attack, Hammad said he decided to carry out the bombing to avenge the "daily massacres Israel is perpetrating against our people".

He said 40 other martyr-bombers were following him.

Islamic Jihad blamed Israel for pushing the Palestinians to the edge of extermination.

A spokesman for the group told Al Jazeera.net: "If we have to die, we won't die alone."

Soon after it was known that the bomber had come from Burqa, Israeli troops stormed the village and placed it under curfew.

The troops arrested Hammad's father and another man.

It was not immediately clear if the army would destroy Hammad's house - a routine punishment meted out to the families of Palestinian fighters who have killed Israelis.

Last year the Israeli High court ordered the practice suspended, saying that home demolition had very limited deterrence and was morally reprehensible.

Israeli Retaliation

In the meantime, the acting Israeli government was due to discuss "a set of retaliatory measures" against the Palestinians.

According to Israel's public radio, the government was considering one or all of the following measures: targeting the Hamas-led Palestinian government, cutting off the northern West Bank from the rest of the occupied territory and stepping up incursions and arrests.

About 10,000 Palestinians have been arrested since the beginning of the second intifada in September 2000, many of them without charge or trial.

Hamas Reaction

Meanwhile, the Hamas-led government apparently retreated from earlier statements condoning the bombing.

Ahmed Yussuf, the government's spokesman, said that "the government was sorry for the loss of civilian lives," adding: "We hope that the cycle of bloodshed will come to an end."

Yussuf said: "Continued Israeli killing of Palestinians, as well as mounting oppression and starvation, are pushing Palestinians to the edge.

"Human beings have a limited ability to endure stress and oppression. Ultimately, either they commit suicide or become suicidal bombers."

Mahmoud al-Zahar, the Palestinian foreign minister, who arrived in Riyadh on Monday night, refused to comment on the bombing.

Earlier statements by Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, in which he called the bombing "an act of self-defence," were criticised by Israel and the United States.

Comment on this Article

Humanitarian Catastrophe In Palestine

Citizens for Fair Legislation
April 17, 2006

Citizens For Fair Legislation Alert: Ask Your Representatives To Stop The Humanitarian Catastrophe In Palestine.

The U.S., Israel, and the European Union have been punishing the Palestinian people since the democratic elections held last month. Sanctions have been placed against the Palestinians similar to those placed against Iraq that led to the death of over one million Iraqi children. Please take a moment and write to your representatives based on the talking points below or send our prewritten letter and ask your elected officials to put an end to these sanctions before Palestinian children suffer the same fate that Iraqi children did.

Education: Palestinian teachers have not been paid in over a month resulting in a work-strike this past weekend. Palestinian teachers already work under terrible conditions and deal with routine incursions by Israeli Occupation Forces into their schools. On April 12th, Israeli soldiers attacked the Anata secondary school in East Jerusalem while children were outside during their morning recess break. The headmaster was forced to lock students into the school after the Israelis began shelling the playground with rounds of rubber bullets, sound bombs and large volumes of tear gas.

Health: According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, the IOF have killed 36 health care workers and injured 447 health providers. Over 129 patients have died at Israeli checkpoints and over 67 women were forced to give birth at checkpoints which resulted in the death of 39 newborns. There have been 375 attacks on health care centers, 383 attacks on ambulances, with 38 ambulances destroyed altogether. Also, it is estimated that 81% of Palestinians will not be able to access their health clinics when construction of the apartheid wall is completed. A Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics (PCBS) survey also found that the harsh measures that the Israelis are applying against the Palestinians have resulted in over 66% of households decreasing their expenditures on health care.

Food: There has been a 73% decrease in the quantity and quality of food in the West Bank and Gaza. 83% of Palestinian families living in the West Bank have difficulties accessing their local markets to buy food because of the apartheid wall. The Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics is reporting that 86% of Palestinian households have been forced to decrease the amount of money that is being spent on food. According to the United Nations, 9% percent of Palestinian children under the age of 5 suffer from brain defects caused by malnutrition because of the occupation.

Comment on this Article

War Everywhere

Lock him away to stop the next war

Phillip Adams
April 18, 2006
The Australian

With his presidency reduced to a mess, George W. Bush may just decide to lash out wildly at Iran

We cannot wait any longer for the impeachment of George W. Bush. Far more efficient to have Bush certified. There is no need for further debate on his mental state. The US President is bonkers.

Having turned the White House into a madhouse, having taken more lunatic positions on more issues than any head of state since GeorgeIII (are they, perchance, related?). GWB needs a long rest and a change of medication. And it shouldn't be too hard to guide him into a padded cell. Just tell him it's the presidential bomb shelter.
Let's examine the symptoms of his mental decline. First, Bush convinced Americans that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11. This is something the poor fool might have believed, given a tenuous grasp of geography, history and political reality. He then began to hallucinate about weapons of mass destruction, despite the evidence of Hans Blix and a multitude of others that there weren't any. And he finally organised a tatty little alliance to join him in the silliest war since Vietnam, one guaranteed to recruit terrorists in unprecedented numbers.

Like Vietnam, the Iraq war was launched with presidential lies. Like Vietnam, the Iraq war descended into a moral and military quagmire. And if Iraq seems to be less of a stuff-up, consider this fact: it's taken just three years in Iraq for US deaths to equal the body count after six years in Vietnam.

Little wonder six retired senior generals have joined ranks with the American public in condemning the war, or that the guru of neo-conservatism, Francis Fukuyama, has broken ranks with the likes of Charles Krauthammer and William Kristol in denouncing it. Or that many in the Republican hierarchy have joined left-wing critics denouncing the invasion as a mistake and a failure, calling for immediate withdrawal.

When Bush was re-elected in 2004, this column suggested the President would go on to blast Iran or have the job done by Israeli surrogates. Both scenarios were dismissed as absurd and alarmist. Now journalist Seymour Hersh's revelations of a US plan to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities, perhaps with nuclear bunker-blasters, are causing national and international dismay. They've also provoked anger among the Pentagon's highest-ranking officers already enraged by Donald Rumsfeld's stewardship of the Iraq invasion and occupation. Given Rumsfeld's clear contempt for their opinions, they might well feel mutinous should he and the Commander-in-Chief show further signs of strategic insanity. But would that prevent air strikes by the Israelis? Given the sabre-rattling by that ratbag in Tehran, what could hold Israel back?

Bush is attempting to hose things down, but the world recalls his endlessly repeated mantra before the invasion of Iraq. Military intervention wasn't inevitable, just an option.

Now bleeding in the polls with mid-term elections looming, isn't it possible that Bush might go for broke? Double or nothing? A final, desperate throw of the dice?

Condoleezza Rice might join the Pentagon in trying to talk him down. So, one hopes, would Tony Blair and John Howard. But did Bush listen to reasoned argument last time? With a reckless, irrational President, you've the perfect set-up for the tail to wag the dog. As with 9/11, here's an opportunity for reality to follow a Hollywood script.

Last week I discussed this scenario with Fukuyama. His initial response was that Bush's political situation is too perilous for such a tactic, that the US public and its media wouldn't tolerate another Iraq. But bombing Iran's nuclear facilities could be characterised as surgical. It might not need troops on the ground and would certainly seem more relevant to the war on terror than the neo-con adventure in Iraq. Fukuyama conceded that such a strategy was possible.

And that possibility is more than enough. A lame-duck President with the eagle as his symbol once again takes the role of hawk. With his presidency a total mess, what's there to lose? So it's time to certify the President. Yes, you'd have to certify his equally deranged Vice-President as well. And toss in Rumsfeld to keep them company. Along with anyone else in the administration, the Congress, the Senate or the Australian parliament mad enough to think Iraq a sane decision.

Comment on this Article

Threat of world war builds, Israel warns

April 19, 2006
Sydney Morning Herald

Israel has warned the United Nations that a new "axis of terror" - Iran, Syria and the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority - is sowing the seeds of a new world war.

But the Palestinians accuse Israel of an escalating military campaign using indiscriminate force to kill civilians and entrench its occupation.

The Israeli and Palestinian envoys traded charges at an open Security Council meeting held on Monday in response to the recent surge in Israeli attacks in Gaza.
It took place on a day that a Palestinian suicide bomber struck a packed fast-food restaurant in Tel Aviv, killing nine people in the deadliest bombing in Israel in more than a year.

Recent statements by the Palestinian government, Iran and Syria, including one by Hamas on Monday defending the suicide bombing, "are clear declarations of war, and I urge each and every one of you to listen carefully and take them at face value," said Israel's ambassador to the UN, Dan Gillerman.

"A dark cloud is looming above our region, and it is metastasising as a result of the statements and actions by leaders of Iran, Syria, and the newly elected government of the Palestinian Authority," he said.

The Palestinian UN observer, Riyad Mansour, condemned the suicide bombing and the loss of innocent civilians on both sides, but attacked Israel for trying to portray its latest military escalation - which killed 21 Palestinians between April 7 and 9 - as a response to violence from the Palestinian territories.

"Israel, the occupying power has been relentless in its grave breaches of international law, including the wilful killing and injury of civilians and the practice of extrajudicial executions," he said.

Israeli aircraft retaliated for the attack on Monday night, firing missiles at a metal workshop in Gaza City, and yesterday morning Israeli troops raided a West Bank village near Jenin, arresting the father of the suicide bomber responsible for the attack.

Yet there is also pressure on the acting Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, who has yet to form a government following general elections late last month, to moderate his response lest it undermine US-led efforts to isolate the Hamas government diplomatically and financially unless it renounces violence and recognises Israel.

On Monday the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, called the escalating violence "very worrying" and urged both sides to avoid putting civilians at risk.

He also announced that the Middle East Quartet of peacemakers - the UN, the US, the European Union and Russia - would meet in New York on May 9 to discuss how to advance the stalled roadmap to peace.

Japan has announced that it would not extend new aid to the Palestinians via the Palestinian Authority until it becomes clear that Hamas is committed to the Middle East peace process, Foreign Affairs Ministry officials said yesterday.

Japan - which has given $US840 million ($1.1 billion) in aid to Palestinians since 1993 - will however continue to offer fresh humanitarian aid if the need arises, said a spokesman, Akira Chiba.

"Until we have a clearer picture ... there won't be a situation where new aid would be given."

Comment: "Sowing the seeds of a new world war"? Iran? Syria? Hardly. Who has illegaly stationed 130,000 troops in a foreign country? Who has been illegally occupying the lands of another people for 50 years? Let's get real here. Iran has never invaded another nation, neither had Syria nor any Palestinian army. If a world war breaks out, as it seems it surely must, then the only groups responsible wil be those currently stoking the fires of religious and ethnic hatred in the Middle East.

Comment on this Article

British foreign secretary sees signs Iran is responding to pressure

04:33:41 EDT Apr 19, 2006

LONDON (AP) - Iran is showing signs of responding to international pressure on its atomic program, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Wednesday, although he added that he doubts Tehran will meet the UN Security Council's deadline for ceasing uranium enrichment.
"They have responded more than I think people see," Straw told British Broadcasting Corp. radio from Saudi Arabia. "For example, they were threatening total withdrawal form the operation of the inspectors. That hasn't actually happened. I think Iran is feeling some of the pressure, as well as its president making belligerent statements," Straw said.

However, he said he believed that Iran would not meet the deadline set by the Security Council, and that the issue would return to the UN body.

"What we will wait for here is the report from Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, to see whether he says about Iran's compliance or noncompliance with the obligations imposed on it by the IAEA, and then consider the next steps that we will take," Straw said.

Comment on this Article

Lieberman: US could attack Iran's nukes

The Jerusalem Post
Apr. 18, 2006

The US is probably incapable of completely destroying the Iranian nuclear program, but as a last resort it could attempt to knock out "some of the components" in order to "delay and deter it," Senator Joe Lieberman, the former Democratic vice presidential candidate and a serving member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has told The Jerusalem Post.

Speaking at a time of almost daily declarations from Teheran concerning both progress in the nuclear program and hostility to Israel, Lieberman said he knew of no "set war plans" being drawn up by the Bush Administration and, "I don't think anyone's yearning for military action against Iran."
Nonetheless, he said, there was skepticism in Congress about the likelihood of the UN Security Council taking "economic or diplomatic action." As a next step, that left the option of an "economic coalition of the willing," outside the UN framework, to try and deter the Iranians. And failing that, the only two remaining courses of action were intensified efforts "to encourage the reformist and opposition elements in Iran" to the regime of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and a resort to military force, he said.

Military action was "probably the last choice, but it has to be there," stressed Lieberman, who has been visiting Israel over the Pessah festival. He said there was now "active discussion" of the options for such action.

Lieberman indicated that the US had learned a lesson, from both Osama bin Laden and from Adolf Hitler, to the effect that "sometimes when people say really extreme things, which at some level a lot of people don't want to even believe... they may actually mean it. They may intend to do it. So I do think that the statements of Ahmadinejad are taken very seriously, both with regard to [speaking of a world without] the US and with regard to Israel."

Asked what last-resort military option was available, Lieberman said: "I don't think anyone is thinking of this as a massive ground invasion, as in Iraq, to topple the government." Rather, he said, he envisaged "an attempt to hit some of the components of the nuclear program," primarily from the air, with some potential for covert ground assistance.

"I think the only justifiable use of military power would be an attempt to deter the development of their nuclear program if we felt there was no other way to do it," he said. "And I use the word 'deter' because I'm skeptical of our ability - because they've spread their nuclear program and some of it is underground - to knock it out completely."

The goal of such action, he continued, would be "to delay it, to deter it, hoping that you set the program off course, so that by the time they catch up back to where they were, there's been a change in the government. That's the limited objective that I would see."

The senator said the Armed Services Committee had not been briefed on plans for a strike, "but we keep hearing that the administration is considering these options."

Lieberman, who also sits on the Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, added, "The very fact that there is active discussion of the potential - this is not, you know, sort of set war plans, but the discussion of options - does say something. We've come some distance here with regard to Iran, fairly quickly, and I'm not saying that it says without doubt that there'll be military action, but there's been movement... We're taking this very seriously."

Lieberman also told the Post he did not intend to be part of another presidential campaign, but the fact that "Al Gore and I did get a half million more votes than the other ticket" demonstrated that "America is ready for somebody Jewish in national office, president or vice president."

Comment on this Article

Countdown Over Iran


It's both fascinating and dismaying watching the manufactured 'crisis' over Iran reach new intensity each week. Iran poses no real military threat to anyone, but listening to the Bush Administration or the US media one would think that that Tehran was about to unleash a nuclear holocaust on the world.
What we are seeing is a rerun of the administration's massive propaganda offensive that led to the invasion of Iraq. There is also no doubt that the Bush Administration has been planning a major air war against Iraq.

The highly respected American investigative journalist Seymour Hersh even claims the Bush Administration is considering the use of tactical nuclear weapons against Iran's underground nuclear facilities.

This writer reported last December that the US was preparing a massive air campaign against Iran and already probing Iranian air defenses and mounting special forces ground missions to both target high-value nuclear and strategic targets, and to stir up domestic unrest among Iran's ethnic minorities.

On the list for possible US - and likely Israeli - air and missile strikes: more than twenty Iranian nuclear facilities, including the Bushehr reactor; airfields, missile and naval bases; communications nodes; military and intelligence headquarters; military factories; power plants and oil terminals.

No major ground offensive by the US is planned, though its special forces will play an important role in any attack. The surest sign of an impending US attack will be the massing of US strike aircraft in the Gulf and possibly Pakistan and Central Asia, the arrival of additional US aircraft carriers in the Arabian Sea, concentration of US Navy minesweepers and shallow-water vessels around the Strait of Hormuz, and heightened activity at US bases in Turkey, Romania, Bulgaria, and, of course, Iraq.

Respected international experts say that it if Iran wanted to produce nuclear warheads, it would take 5-10 years. UN nuclear inspectors report no signs Iran is working on nuclear weapons.

But the Bush Administration has used Iran's gleefully announcement that it enriched uranium to 3.5% (83% is need for nuclear weapons), to generate a major US-Iranian crisis seven months before national mid-term elections. The administration clearly hopes its lurid claims that Iran is a nuclear threat to the world will whip gullible Americans back into war fever. A bombing campaign before elections would likely reverse the Republican's steep decline in the polls.

Much of the administration's anti-Iranian jihad has been orchestrated, like the attack on Iraq, by Vice President Dick Cheney, who increasingly emerges as the Rasputin of the Bush presidency. Cheney is very close to Israel's political far right. He is carrying out former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's command to the US that once it invaded Iraq, 'march immediately on Tehran.'

Cheney, and the pro-Israel neoconservatives around him, have long worked closely with Israel's rightists, Mossad intelligence service, and Israel's strategic planners. All agree that Iran, not Iraq, was the greater enemy of Israel, and one that had at all costs to be crushed before it could develop nuclear warheads and the means to deliver them.

Much of the current anti-Iranian hysteria campaign that is currently being trumpeted by the compliant US media and members of Congress is being orchestrated from Cheney's office. It is clear that in spite of the debacle in Iraq, the vice president intends to pursue his personal jihad against all Muslim regimes that are uncooperative and hostile to Israel.

Cheney has persistently frustrated efforts by the US State Department and CIA to improve relations with Tehran. America's mighty Israel lobby has become Cheney's personal army in this struggle, and is mounting a high-powered campaign to generate war fever against Iran. Jewish Americans have been panicked by false claims that Israel is in the direst nuclear peril.

For its part, Iran has played right into the hands of the war party in Washington. President Ahmadinejad's calls for Israel to be wiped out, his denial of the Jewish Holocaust, and the lavish song and dance spectacular he produced over nuclear enrichment delighted many ordinary Iranians. But abroad, Ahmadinejad's fiery pronouncements created an international firestorm of condemnation and made Iran look precisely what Israel's supporters claim: a rogue nation with a dangerous, erratic leadership that absolutely cannot be trusted with nuclear arms. In short, a Mideast North Korea.

Iranians may be forgiven for over-reacting to nuclear Viagra - Indians and Pakistanis responded the same way.
But Iran should have adopted a lower key approach to enrichment and invited UN and European observers to attend.

By flaunting its infant nuclear technology, Tehran provides the US and Israel with an excellent pretext to attack Iran. In such an event, Iran will have precious few sympathizers around the globe. Many will say, 'Iran got what it deserved.' One really wonders if Iran's leaders - many battle-scarred veterans of the frightfully bloody Iran-Iraq war - are daring the US to attack.

The Iranian leadership and the Bush Administration are feeding off one another, gaining domestic popularity with each now escalation but drawing their nations into a clash whose outcome could be dangerously unpredictable and would surely shake the entire Mideast and world oil markets.

Comment on this Article

U.S. Backs Israel's Defense, Urges Caution

AP Diplomatic Writer
April 19, 2006

WASHINGTON - Israel has a right to defend itself but should consider the effect on peace prospects as it weighs a response to a deadly suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, the State Department said Tuesday.

The mixed message, which is virtually identical to past statements by the Bush administration after terror attacks on Israel, was expressed by department spokesman Sean McCormack.

It reflects a long-standing position by President Bush that the Israeli government is entitled to use retaliatory force in defense of the Israeli people.
Past administrations have put an emphasis on appealing for restraint on all sides.

The bombing Monday in a restaurant killed nine people and the bomber. It was the deadliest attack on Israel in 20 months. Islamic Jihad, classified by the department as a terror organization, claimed responsibility.

The attack was called legitimate by the Hamas-led Palestinian government, which the United States, the
European Union and Canada are boycotting.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice telephoned condolences to Foriegn Minister Tzipi Livni and her wishes for a speedy recovery to the injured, McCormack said.

Asked whether the administration had urged Israel to be restrained in any retaliatory strike, the spokesman replied: "Our position is that the Israeli government has the right to defend the Israeli people."

McCormack added: "We, as always, ask them to consider the effect of their actions upon the future prospects for peace. That position is long-standing and unchanged."

Comment: Unfortunately, everything Israel does is viewed by the Bush administration as "defense".

Comment on this Article

Israel: Real Threat To World

April 18

New York - Iran's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Mohammad Javad Zarif Tuesday called for respect and support of the international community for the rights of the Palestinian people.

Addressing the audience and the Security Council's president, he said the Israeli decision to halt the transfer of taxes due to the Palestinians is considered to be blackmailing the Palestinian people for exercising their democratic rights, and the rest rictions applied by certain countries regarding the aids to the Palestinian authority amounts to punishment of the Palestinians for exercising their basic rights in choosing their own representatives.

In fact, by taking such inadmissible punitive measures against a nation, the principles of democracy and democratic choice of the people are abundantly breached by those who often pretend to preach them, he said.

Israel should disburse, without further delay, to the Palestinian authority the full amount of the monthly tax and custom revenue which rightfully belong to the Palestinians.

Besides, the international community should continue to provide financial and economic grants and assistance to the Palestinian authority, so as to avoid any dangerous repercussions on the day-to-day life of the Palestinian people.

The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has taken its share to assist financially the Palestinian authority in order to alleviate the humanitarian suffering of the Palestinian people which has deepened as a result of restrictions on aid applied by certain countries, he said.

In the context of Israel's defiance of the international community, particular reference should be made to the infamous Israeli nuclear weapons program, which is a showcase of five decades of concealment and deception and total disregard for the demand o f the international community, echoed in the NPT 2000 review conference, which by name called upon it to accede to the NPT immediately and without any condition.

Nuclear weapons in the hands of a regime with an unparalleled record of state terrorism and resort to aggression and the threat of force against other countries presents a real threat to regional and global peace and security and the non-proliferation re gime, Zarif said.

This threat needs to be urgently and decisively addressed by the international community and the initiative for the creation of a zone free from weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East should be actively pursued, he said.

Comment on this Article

US plans to open three military bases in Turkey


The United States will soon come up with a draft on creation of three military bases in Turkey, which will acquire the same legal status as the US-Turkish base Ingirlik dating the Cold War era, Turkish daily Gumhuriet said.

Two locations have been already set apart in the seaports of Iskenderun at the Mediterranean and Urla at the Aegean Sea. The third base will probably be situated in the seaport of Mordogan, near Izmir.

As it is the case with Ingirlik, the bases must include Turkish representatives. All issues linked to military facilities will be resolved with the local authorities.

Comment on this Article

Bush: 'All Options on the Table' With Iran

Wednesday April 19, 2006
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Bush said Tuesday that ''all options are on the table'' to prevent Iran from developing atomic weapons, but said he will continue to focus on the international diplomatic option to persuade Tehran to drop its nuclear ambitions.

"We want to solve this issue diplomatically and we're working hard to do so," Bush told reporters in the Rose Garden.

Bush also said there should be a unified effort involving countries "who recognize the danger of Iran having a nuclear weapon," and he noted that U.S. officials are working closely nations such as Great Britain, France and Germany on the issue."

"We will continue to work diplomatically," he said.

As Bush spoke, diplomats from six countries converged in Moscow to map out the next step toward solving the Iranian nuclear standoff. The United States and Britain say that if Iran does not comply with the U.N. Security Council's April 28 deadline to stop uranium enrichment, they will seek a resolution that would make the demand compulsory but Russia and China remain wary of sanctions.

Bush said he intends to call on Chinese President Hu Jintao to step up pressure on Iran when the two leaders meet Thursday at the White House.

Iran has so far refused to give up uranium enrichment, which the United States and some of its allies suspect is meant to produce weapons. Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

Bush was asked if his administration was planning for the possibility of a nuclear strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.

"All options are on the table," he said.

But, the president added: "We'll continue to work diplomatically to get this problem solved."

Comment: By now we can understand that Bush is a compulsive liar and the term "all options are on the table" is code for "we are planning an illegal and unjustified attack on Iran". In Bush's reality, war is peace, good is evil and freedom is slavery

Comment on this Article

Shame of the House of Saud: Shadows over Mecca

By Daniel Howden
19 April 2006
UK Independent

Previously unseen photographs reveal how religious zealots obsessed with idolatory have colluded with developers to destroy Islam's diverse heritage.

There is a growing shadow being cast over Islam's holiest site. Only a few metres from the walls of the Grand Mosque in Mecca skyscrapers are reaching further into the sky, slowly blocking out the light. These enormous and garish newcomers now dwarf the elegant black granite of the Kaaba, the focal point of the four million Muslims' annual Haj pilgrimage.

The tower blocks are the latest and largest evidence of the destruction of Islamic heritage that has wiped almost all of the historic city from the physical landscape. As revealed in The Independent last August,the historic cities of Mecca and Medina are under an unprecedented assault from religious zealots and their commercial backers.

Writing in response to the article, Prince Turki al-Faisal said that Saudi Arabia was spending more than $19bn (£11bn) preserving and maintaining these two holy sites. "[We are aware] how important the preservation of this heritage is, not just to us but to the millions of Muslims from around the world who visit the two holy mosques every year. It is hardly something we are going to allow to be destroyed."

This rebuttal sits at odds with a series of previously unseen photographs, published today, that document the demolition of key archaeological sites and their replacement with skyscrapers.

Saudi religious authorities have overseen a decades-long demolition campaign that has cleared the way for developers to embark on a building spree of multi-storey hotels, restaurants, shopping centres and luxury apartment blocks on a scale unseen outside Dubai. The driving force behind this historical demolition is Wahhabism ­ the austere state faith that the House of Saud brought with it when Ibn Saud conquered the Arabian peninsula in the 1920s.

The Wahhabis live in fanatical fear that places of historical or religious interest could give rise to alternative forms of pilgrimage or worship. Their obsession with combating idolatry has seen them flatten all evidence of a past that does not agree with their interpretation of Islam.

Irfan Ahmed al-Alawi, the chairman of the Islamic Heritage Foundation, set up to help protect the holy sites, says the case of the grave of Amina bint Wahb, the mother of the Prophet, found in 1998, is typical of what has happened. "It was bulldozed in Abwa and gasoline was poured on it. Even though thousands of petitions throughout the Muslim world were sent, nothing could stop this action."

Today there are fewer than 20 structures remaining in Mecca that date back to the time of the Prophet 1,400 years ago. The litany of this lost history includes the house of Khadijah, the wife of the Prophet, demolished to make way for public lavatories; the house of Abu Bakr, the Prophet's companion, now the site of the local Hilton hotel; the house of Ali-Oraid, the grandson of the Prophet, and the Mosque of abu-Qubais, now the location of the King's palace in Mecca.

Yet the same oil-rich dynasty that pumped money into the Taliban regime as they blew up the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan six years ago has so far avoided international criticism for similar acts of vandalism at home. Mai Yamani, author of The Cradle of Islam, said it was time for other Muslim governments to ignore the al-Sauds' oil wealth and clout and speak out. " What is alarming about this is that the world doesn't question the al-Sauds' custodianship of Islam's two holy places. These are the sites that are of such importance to over one billion Muslims and yet their destruction is being ignored," she said. "When the Prophet was insulted by Danish cartoonists thousands of people went into the streets to protest. The sites related to the Prophet are part of their heritage and religion but we see no concern from Muslims."

Lay people, and in some cases even US senators could be forgiven for thinking that the House of Saud has been the guardian of the two holy places for time immemorial. In fact, it is only 80 years since the tribal chieftain Ibn Saud occupied Mecca and Medina. The House of Saud has been bound to Wahhabism since the 18th century religious reformer Mohamed Ibn Abdul-Wahab signed a pact with Mohammed bin Saud in 1744. Wahab's warrior zealots helped to conquer a kingdom for the tribal chieftains. The House of Saud got its wealth and power, and the clerics got the vehicle of state they needed to spread their fundamentalist ideology around the world. The ruler of this fledgling kingdom needed the legitimacy afforded by declaring himself " custodian of the two holy places".

But that legitimacy has come at an enormous price for the diversity of Muslims who look to Mecca for guidance. Once in charge, the Wahhabists wasted little time in censoring the Haj. As early as 1929, Egyptian pilgrims were refused permission to celebrate the colourful Mahmal rites and more than 30 were killed. At the time Egypt severed diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia. Few governments have stood up to them since.

Instead, the homogenisation of Islam's holiest sites was allowed to accelerate into a demolition campaign that now threatens the birthplace of the Prophet itself. The site survived the early reign of Ibn Saud 50 years ago when the architect for the planned library persuaded the absolute ruler to allow him to preserve the remains under the new structure. Saudi authorities now plan to "update" the site with a car park that would mean concreting over the remains.

"The al-Sauds need to rein in the Wahhabists now," warns Dr Yamani. "Mecca used to be a symbol of Muslim diversity and it needs to be again." But with oil prices and profits, at record highs, there is little sign the House of Saud is listening.

Sami Angawi, a Hijazi architect who has devoted his life to a largely doomed effort to preserve what remains of the history of the world's greatest pilgrimage sites, said that the final farewell to Mecca was imminent. " What we are witnessing are the last days of Mecca and Medina."

Comment: As odd as it may sound, there are allegations, backed up by evidence, that the House of Saud have a Jewish/Zionist ancestry

Comment on this Article

Global Chessboard

Trouble splitting the bill

Tuesday April 18, 2006
Justin McCurry
The Guardian

The US and Japan rarely waste an opportunity to remind the world that their military alliance is the most important in the Asian-Pacific area.

But when it comes to hammering out details of the biggest reorganisation of US forces in Japan since the second world war, Tokyo and Washington are discovering, to their embarrassment, that money speaks as loudly as the best of diplomatic intentions.

That the world's two biggest economic powers are squabbling over who should pay the lion's share for removing thousands of marines from Japan and sending them back to the US is richly ironic, but as the past few days have illustrated, there is far more at stake than the bottom line.
Last October, the two countries agreed to transfer 8,000 marines from the southern Japanese island of Okinawa to Guam, a US territory located roughly midway between Japan and Australia.

For many residents of Okinawa, the removal of the marines and their dependents cannot come soon enough: the island makes up a fraction of Japan's total land area but is home to 75% of all US military installations in Japan and about half of the 50,000-strong US troop presence.

In attemping to reduce the US military footprint on its own soil, though, Japan is learning that friendship comes at a price.

The US estimates that it will cost about $10bn (£5.6bn) to move the marines to Guam, and is demanding that Japan foot 75% of the bill. So far Japan has agreed to pay only $3bn (£1.7bn) dollars, with a further US3 billion dollars to come in the form of easy loans.

Not for the first time, the administration of Junichiro Koizumi is having to juggle its responsibilities to the bilateral alliance with its duty to Japanese taxpayers who, according to opinion polls, do not want their government to spend a single dime on their guests' ticket home.

The two sides have already missed a March 31 deadline for finalising the marines' transfer, and two days of talks in Tokyo at the end of last week made little headway.

Positive noises from US negotiators about a deal being on the cards for the beginning of next month couldn't hide signs of what one described as a "significant" gap between the two countries.

Though it is not legally required to do so, Japan already pays about 235bn yen (£1.1bn) a year in host-nation support for the US bases - about 70% of the total cost.

Not surprisingly, many Japanese find the additional demands hard to stomach.

"The request sounds extraordinary," said the Japan Times in a vitriolic editorial. "Having a foreign host government pay for the cost of relocating a US military facility and its personnel to US territories is almost unheard of." Similar troop realignments in Germany will, the paper reported, be paid for by Washington.

Critics have also asked how it is possible for a project initially estimated at $4bn (£2.2bn) dollars to end up costing more than twice as much. The answer appears to be that Japan is not being asked to pay for the relocation alone, but to build housing and other facilities for their marines in their new home on Guam. If the Japanese relent, the Americans can consider themselves truly blessed: the move to Guam was after all already part and parcel of the Bush administration's efforts to strengthen the US military presence in the Pacific.

In an unedifying couple of weeks for US-Japan relations, the allies can at least claim to have made a breakthrough on the equally sensitive subject of Futenma marine corps air base, by some distance the most problematic US military installation on Okinawa.

In 1996, Japan and the US agreed to move the base to an offshore location in the Henoko district of Nago on Okinawa's north-east coast. The current base is situated in the heart of a heavily populated area which is clearly outgrowing the physical confines imposed by its military neighbour, and where residents fear the very real possibility of a catastrophic accident.

In a significant development, the mayor of Nago, Yoshikazu Shimabukuro, last week ditched his initial opposition to plans to incorporate Futenma's functions into Camp Schwab, a marine base near his town, after securing agreement that aircraft would not have to fly over residential areas.

But it is worth remembering why the Futenma relocation was deemed necessary in the first place. Aside from its inappropriate location, it came to be seen as a symbol of the increasingly testy relations between US servicemen based in Japan and their civilian neighbours.

Local resentment had peaked in 1995 when three US servicemen were found guilty of raping and kidnapping a local 15-year-old girl. Tens of thousands of Okinawans took to the streets in the biggest anti-base protests seen on the island in decades.

Subsequent protests have not captured the same palpable sense of outrage that gripped the island that summer, but opposition to the bases, in Okinawa and elsewhere in Japan, has been given a new lease of life.

Environmental protesters have already managed to frustrate plans to build the new Nago runway offshore, saying the facility would destroy local marine life and coral reefs. The alternative accepted by Mayor Shimabukuro - a V-shaped runway straddling the tip of Cape Henoko with separate strips for taking off and landing - would at least allow aircraft to operate without the need to fly over nearby towns and villages.

But his volte-face has not been replicated by residents, most of whom would prefer to see Futenma dismantled and rebuilt on the other side of the Pacific ocean.

As the locals grow restless and the Americans exasperated, it is almost possible to hear the sound of pride being swallowed by key player in Okinawan political life.

The island's governor, Kenichi Inamine, had opposed the new Henoko arrangement forged with Shimabukuro, only to announce days later that he would "respect" it.

It is safe to say that the Americans have the upper hand as they prepare for the next round of talks on Monday. As they have insisted from the start, the realignment is a package deal: without the Futenma relocation, there can be no marine transfer. The first obstacle - arguably the greater of the two - appears to have been overcome, at least verbally. All that remains is to dangle the prospect of 8,000 fewer marines on Okinawa to persuade the Japanese to part with their cash.

Comment on this Article

Trouble In Paradise: Foreign troops arrive in Solomons

BBC News

Australia troops are arriving in the Solomon Islands to help restore peace after rioting and looting in the capital, Honiara.

Hundreds of demonstrators marched on the government building on Wednesday, demanding the Prime Minister-elect, Snyder Rini, stand down.

Parts of Honiara are in ruins following rioting on Tuesday, and demonstrators have threatened more destruction.

Mr Rini denies claims he is corrupt and favours Chinese businessmen.
Much of Honiara's Chinatown area was razed overnight and some families were forced to jump from burning buildings. Police have imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on the city.

Mr Rini emerged from a meeting with advisers on Wednesday to appeal to Honiara residents to "remain calm", reported AFP news agency.

In an earlier statement he invited protesters to engage in dialogue with him, but did not respond to the demands that he should resign, said the agency. His swearing-in, originally set for Wednesday, has been postponed.

Troops arrive

Some 180 Australian soldiers and police have begun arriving in the country to try to impose order after a written request from the Solomons government. A smaller contingent of additional New Zealand peacekeepers are set to arrive on Thursday.

But the BBC's Phil Mercer says there are concerns that the presence of more foreign troops could inflame the situation in the troubled city.

About 280 Australian police were already in the country as part of a regional force sent to restore peace in 2003, after violence stirred up by local warlords left hundreds dead and 20,000 displaced.

Wednesday's rioting came after newly-elected MPs met in secret to elect a new prime minister.

'Chinese connections'

Mr Rini, 56, beat off two main rivals in Tuesday's secret ballot for the leadership - former Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare and Job Dudley Tausinga, leader of the new Rural Advancement Party.

Comment on this Article

Kyrgyzstan threatens to close U.S. airbase

www.chinaview.cn 2006-04-19 19:02:12

ALMA ATA, April 19 (Xinhua) -- Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev said on Wednesday he may close a U.S. military base in his country if Washington does not agree to a new contract by June 1.
Bakiyev said in a televised speech that Kyrgyzstan reserved the right to consider terminating a Dec. 4, 2001 accord on the use of the base, if talks on new financial terms of the contract failed to end successfully by June 1, 2006.

Bakiyev has long called on the United States to pay more rent for the Manas air base set up at the start of the war in Afghanistan in 2001 to support combat operations in the Central Asian country.

"I repeated that to top U.S. officials many times in the past months," Bakiyev said.

In February, the president said the United States should pay 100 times more, or 207 million U.S. dollars, for the use of the military base.

He said the new figure was in line with international practice and said the Americans could stay until neighbouring Afghanistan was entirely stable.

The Manas base has become increasingly important for Washington since neighboring Uzbekistan ordered the United States to vacate abase there last year.

Some 1,500 troops from the United States and other NATO member states as well as fighter planes are stationed at the Manas airport.

Comment on this Article

Terror raids net 11 suspects in France and Italy

Wed Apr 19, 5:01 AM ET

PARIS - Anti-terrorism police arrested 11 people in coordinated raids in France and Italy, as part of a probe into the financing of Islamic extremist groups, sources close to the investigation told AFP.

Five suspects were arrested by French police near the Mediterranean port city of Marseille, while Italian authorities arrested six others in the area around Naples in the south, the sources said.

France's DNAT anti-terrorism investigators and Italy's DIGOS anti-terrorism forces are investigating groups suspected of financing Islamic terror groups, via a range of criminal activities including forgery, the sources said.
Italian news agency Ansa reported that raids had also taken place in the southern town of Caserte, and in Milan in the north, targeting both Italian and Algerian nationals.

Investigators are trying to determine whether their activities benefited Islamic extremists, particularly Algeria's Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), according to a French diplomat in Rome.

The diplomat said the suspects -- who are all targeted by European arrest warrants -- are thought to be linked to illegal immigration activities.

Ansa reported that forged identity documents were being sent on an almost weekly basis from Naples to Marseille, on board tourist buses, to be sold in the French city.

Naples prosecutors have issued arrest warrants for two Italians and five Algerians, two of whom are already in jail, Ansa said.

France stepped up its level of anti-terrorist alert after last July's bombings in London, and ministers have warned repeatedly that the country is seen as a target by Islamist militants.

Investigators take seriously a threat from the GSPC -- a movement linked to Al-Qaeda -- which in September said in a statement that France was its "enemy number one".

Italy -- which has frequently received threats from extremist groups via the Internet for maintaining its 3,000-strong military contingent in Iraq -- also stepped up security in the wake of the London bombings.

Comment on this Article

Chirac due in Egypt, says Iran with atomic weapons is "unacceptable"

Wed Apr 19, 2:39 AM ET

CAIRO - French President Jacques Chirac, due here on a two-day visit, told Egyptian daily Al-Ahram that it was "unacceptable" for Iran to have nuclear weapons, and called for "necessary gestures" from Israel and the Palestinians for "real negotiations" to resume.

The Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be high on the agenda when Chirac meets Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday.

The Iranian leaders "must understand that, for the international community, the prospect of a militarily nuclearized Iran is unacceptable," Chirac said in an interview.
The French president insisted that the door remained open for a resumption of talks as soon as Iran went along with the requests of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the UN Security Council, stressing that "more than ever the choice is in the hands of the Iranian leaders."

Iran, suspected by the West of wanting to acquire the atomic bomb, has refused to suspend its uranium enrichment activities in spite of pressure by the big powers.

The Security Council has asked Iran to suspend those activities by April 28.

Major powers meeting in Moscow on Tuesday discussed the possibility of sanctions against Iran for its suspected nuclear weapons program but reached no agreement, the US State Department said.

Chirac is sticking to the diplomatic option to try and get Tehran to budge while US President George W. Bush has not excluded any option, including military action against Iran.

The French president reaffirmed Iran's "legitimate right" to civil nuclear energy, but on condition that the country give "objective guarantees on the peaceful nature of its program."

"The IAEA found that its nuclear activities had been carried out in an underhand way," he said. "Besides, Iran is pursuing a worrying missile program."

Egypt is calling for a diplomatic solution to the crisis but is also worried by the fact that Israel refuses to sign the nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Experts believe Israel has some 200 nuclear warheads.

Chirac is expected to share Mubarak's "conviction" that the setting up of a zone free from arms of mass destruction would bring progress for peace and stability in the Middle East.

The French leader called on the hardline Hamas-controlled Palestinian government and Israel to "make the necessary gestures" for a resumption of "real" peace negotiations.

"In the immediate future we call on Hamas to understand that the way of violence is pointless and to continue its transition toward political action, continuing to respect the truce and committing to a process of renouncing violence and recognizing Israel," Chirac said.

The interview was carried out before a suicide bombing Monday in Tel Aviv claimed nine lives apart from that of the bomber, the deadliest attack since August 2004. The Palestinian government refused to condemn the attack and said Israel bore responsibility for it.

Chirac continued: "But we also say to the Israelis that they must brush aside the temptation of unilateralism, end targeted killings and the pursuit of settlements."

In other remarks, Chirac defended the cautious reforms carried out by Egypt, including electoral changes, describing them as "fruitful."

He said France had "no hidden agenda concerning Syria", implicitly denying that Paris wanted a regime change in Damascus.

Comment: Israel continues to constantly threaten Palestine, and some estimates indicate that Israel possesses 200 nuclear warheads. Why does Iran have to disarm weapons that no one can even prove it has, and yet Israel can keep its nukes and threaten death and destruction as it pleases with the USA's backing in the UN?

Comment on this Article

UN torture panel presses US on detainees

By Stephanie Nebehay
Tue Apr 18, 1:00 PM ET

GENEVA - The United Nations committee against torture has demanded that the United States provide more information about its treatment of prisoners at home and foreign terrorism suspects held in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

In questions submitted to Washington, the panel also sought information about secret detention facilities and specifically whether the United States assumed responsibility for alleged acts of torture in them, U.N. officials said on Tuesday.

"It is the longest list of issues I have ever seen," Mercedes Morales, a U.N. human rights officer who serves as secretary to the U.N. Committee against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, told reporters.
Washington is expected to send a delegation of 30 officials to defend its record at a meeting next month in Geneva of the committee, composed of 10 independent human rights experts.

The debate, set for May 5 and May 8, will focus on a report filed a year ago by the United States on its compliance with the Convention against Torture, which bans all forms of torture.

Washington said at the time it was abiding by the treaty and that any abuses of detainees in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars were not systemic. Critics called the report a whitewash.

The U.N. committee has responded, asking firstly how memoranda from the U.S. Justice Department declaring that torture covers only extreme acts is compatible with the treaty.

It asked whether there had been any independent investigation into "the possible responsibility of high-ranking officials" for authorizing or consenting to acts of torture committed during interrogation of detainees.


It seeks details on how many people are detained in Iraq, Afghanistan and the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as well as their exact legal status.

On the
Abu Ghraib facility in Iraq -- where photographs of torture and sexual abuse of detainees by U.S. soldiers provoked outrage in 2004 -- the U.N. committee asked what measures had been taken to "identify and remedy problems" there.

The U.N. panel cited reports of secret detention facilities, including on ships, and demanded a list of all detention facilities where inmates are held under de facto U.S. control.

"Why have such secret detention facilities been established? Does the (United States) assume responsibility for alleged acts of torture perpetrated by its own public agents outside its territory but in territories under its jurisdiction or de facto control...?" the U.N. committee asked.

It also challenged some practices in U.S. domestic jails, such as imprisoning juveniles with adults, banned under U.S. law. It cited a report that "detained women are kept shackled during childbirth," while other detainees are chained in gangs.

"There is serious concern on the part of the committee at the situation of (U.S.) prisons, the system and the conditions of detention which can be tremendously severe," Morales said.

The U.N. panel, which meets twice a year, will also examine the records of Georgia, Guatemala, Peru, Qatar,
South Korea and Togo at its May 1-19 session.

Comment: The "longest list of issues" from a UN torture panel concerns the United States, the "beacon of freedom and democracy". Think about it.

Comment on this Article

Feeling Secure

Four dead after workplace shooting

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

ST. LOUIS, Missouri - A man killed the mother of his child Tuesday, then went to the catering company where he once worked and fatally shot two women and himself, police said.

One other woman was shot at Finninger's Catering Service and was in stable condition, police said.

Among the dead was an owner of the company, but her elderly husband and business partner may have been saved by a quick-thinking employee who hid him in a walk-in cooler as the rampage unfolded.
Police said Herbert Chalmers Jr. killed 53-year-old Sylvia Haynes at her apartment Tuesday morning. Hours later, he was overheard bragging about plans to kill his boss, then went to the catering company.

Chalmers and Haynes had a child together, but the state of their relationship was unclear Tuesday, police said.

One of the women killed was 79-year-old Cleo Finninger, who ran the company with her husband, Charles, said Susan Akscin, the woman's niece. The other was their adult daughter, 44-year-old Christine Politte, who oversaw payroll, authorities said. The company is on the northwest edge of St. Louis and employs about 50 people.

Both women were shot in a garage area, police said. The shooter killed himself in the parking lot.

Police and co-workers described Chalmers as a disgruntled former employee. Some workers said that he may have been angered after being told his wages would be garnisheed for child support, and that he may have been fired after failing to show up for work a day earlier.

Employee Colette Meissner said she was in the kitchen when she heard shots and the gunman screaming the names of people he intended to kill.

He shouted "Charlie," referring to Charles Finninger, Meissner said. The elderly owner was in a wheelchair, and Meissner pushed him into a walk-in cooler.

They huddled with another employee and listened as Chalmers kept shooting, Meissner said.

"I shut the door and we all stood in there and prayed," she said. "We were scared to death."

The employees who were killed were fleeing with other workers out the back of the shop, police said.

Chalmers was overheard in a Wal-Mart store bragging that he planned to shoot his boss, Brown said. Wal-Mart employees told police.

Shots were being fired at the catering company as police arrived about 1:30 p.m., Brown said. Chalmers was using a semiautomatic handgun, authorities said.

Employee Dawn Flowers, still wearing her red apron, cried as she recalled seeing Chalmers enter through a rear door carrying a duffel bag and a coat over his arm. She believed the coat was hiding the gun.

"I was hid; I was in the back cooking," Flowers said. "He came through the back door just past me."

Employee Martin Lee said Chalmers had worked at the business for a couple of years. "He seemed like a pretty nice guy," Lee said.

Comment on this Article

Chernobyl death toll will be much higher, Greenpeace says

Last Updated Tue, 18 Apr 2006 12:01:10 EDT
CBC News

More than 93,000 people could still die as a result of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident - a figure dramatically higher than previous international estimates, according to a report released Tuesday.

That will be on top of the estimated 200,000 deaths that have already occurred, the Greenpeace report says, calling the continuing fallout from Chernobyl a "general crisis."
Greenpeace is blunt in its criticism of an earlier report from the International Atomic Energy Agency that predicted 4,000 more deaths from the accident.

"It is appalling that the IAEA is whitewashing the impacts of the most serious nuclear accident in human history," Greenpeace anti-nuclear campaigner Ivan Blokov said in a statement.

"Denying the real implications is not only insulting to the thousands of victims but it also leads to dangerous recommendations and the relocation of people in contaminated areas," he said.

Greenpeace says there is an urgent need to provide more - and better - information to people who are still living in affected areas and still feeling the effects of the disaster.

"It will be the fate of many future generations to suffer the echoes of Chernobyl according to inexorable statistical and biological laws," the report says.

270,000 will develop cancer, researchers say

The explosion at Unit 4 of the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine on April 26, 1986, sent a plume of radioactive dust across the entire Northern Hemisphere.

The contamination drifted across Europe and affected the United States and Canada. The accumulation and the impact of the radioactivity released from the catastrophe poisoned land, air and animals.

The Greenpeace report is based on data gathered by the National Academy of Sciences in Belarus.

Researchers there believe that of the 2 billion people affected by Chernobyl disaster worldwide, an estimated 270,000 will develop cancer, and of them, 93,000 will die.

The report says that in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, the disaster has already triggered widespread death from medical conditions such as cardiovascular diseases linked to the disaster.

"Our problem is that there is no accepted methodology to calculate the numbers of people who might have died from such diseases," Greenpeace campaigner Jan van de Putte told Reuters.

Comment on this Article

Anti-nuclear activists remember Chernobyl

CHERBOURG, France, April 16, 2006 (AFP)

The United States and Europe have to change their energy-guzzling ways and develop renewable sources of electricity, anti-nuclear activists argued on the weekend after staging a big protest in western France.

More than 12,000 demonstrators filed through the town of Cherbourg Saturday in opposition to a new-generation nuclear reactor France is planning on building in the region.
The protest came just ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine, the world's worst civilian nuclear accident. On April 26, 1986, a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant north of Kiev exploded and sent a radioactive cloud across Europe.

Organisers of the rally in France said that catastrophe underlined the perils of nuclear energy, which they said would be better replaced by alternative methods.

Stéphane Lhomme, spokesman of the Sortir du Nucléaire (Get Out of Nuclear Energy) group representing 700 anti-nuclear associations, noted that more than half the reactors operational in the world today are to be shut down within two decades.

"Nuclear energy is dying, and we have to help it die in dignity, which means as fast as possible," he said.

But many activists were concerned that current sky-high oil prices and increasing energy demands in developing nations such as China and India were pushing countries to adopt nuclear power.

France remains a leader in nuclear energy production, which supplies three-quarters of its electricity output through 58 reactors dotted around the country.

The new-generation European Pressurized Reactor (EPR), a Franco-German designed plant which it plans to build in Flamanville, located in northwest Normandy, confirms its intention to further develop the industry.

Finland, too, is to build one, and several countries are already working on the next generation of reactors expected to come on line from 2030 with the goal of extending their life-spans and reducing nuclear waste.

Those taking part in the French protest warned that nuclear energy was no panacea, however, and that reduction in energy consumption was key.

"We present nuclear energy as an alternative to the problem of the greenhouse effect, but this just perpetuates the illusion that we can continue to consume (energy) like we are doing up to then," the former head of the Greens bloc in the European parliament, Paul Lannoye, said.

Lhomme agreed. "If we really want to give this planet a chance, we have to make big cuts to energy consumption, especially in the wealthy countries - the United States, western Europe and Japan. At the same time, we have to develop renewable energy sources."

Copyright AFP

Comment on this Article

Prominent U.S. Physicists Send Warning Letter to President Bush

By Newswise
via Information CLearing House

Thirteen of the nation's most prominent physicists have written a letter to President Bush, calling U.S. plans to reportedly use nuclear weapons against Iran "gravely irresponsible" and warning that such action would have "disastrous consequences for the security of the United States and the world."
Thirteen of the nation's most prominent physicists have written a letter to President Bush, calling U.S. plans to reportedly use nuclear weapons against Iran "gravely irresponsible" and warning that such action would have "disastrous consequences for the security of the United States and the world."

The physicists include five Nobel laureates, a recipient of the National Medal of Science and three past presidents of the American Physical Society, the nation's preeminent professional society for physicists.

Their letter was prompted by recent articles in the Washington Post, New Yorker and other publications that one of the options being considered by Pentagon planners and the White House in a military confrontation with Iran includes the use of nuclear bunker busters against underground facilities. These reports were neither confirmed nor denied by White House and Pentagon officials.

The letter was initiated by Jorge Hirsch, a professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego, who last fall put together a petition signed by more than 1,800 physicists that repudiated new U.S. nuclear weapons policies that include preemptive use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear adversaries (http://physics.ucsd.edu/petition/). Hirsch has also published 15 articles in recent months (http://antiwar.com/hirsch/) documenting the dangers associated with a potential U.S. nuclear strike on Iran.

"We are members of the profession that brought nuclear weapons into existence, and we feel strongly that it is our professional duty to contribute our efforts to prevent their misuse," says Hirsch. "Physicists know best about the devastating effects of the weapons they created, and these eminent physicists speak for thousands of our colleagues."

"The fact that the existence of this plan has not been denied by the Administration should be a cause of great alarm, even if it is only one of several plans being considered," he adds. "The public should join these eminent scientists in demanding that the Administration publicly renounces such a misbegotten option against a non-nuclear country like Iran."

The letter, which is available at http://physics.ucsd.edu/petition/physicistsletter.html, points out that "nuclear weapons are unique among weapons of mass destruction," and that nuclear weapons in today's arsenals have a total power of more than 200,000 times the explosive energy of the bomb that leveled Hiroshima, which caused the deaths of more than 100,000 people.

It notes that there are no sharp lines between small and large nuclear weapons, nor between nuclear weapons targeting facilities and those targeting armies or cities, and that the use by the United States of nuclear weapons after 60 years of non-use will make the use of nuclear weapons by others more likely.

"Once the U.S. uses a nuclear weapon again, it will heighten the probability that others will too," the physicists write. "In a world with many more nuclear nations and no longer a 'taboo' against the use of nuclear weapons, there will be a greatly enhanced risk that regional conflicts could expand into global nuclear war, with the potential to destroy our civilization."

The letter echoes the main objection of last fall's physicists' petition, stressing that the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty will be irreversibly damaged by the use or even the threat of use of nuclear weapons by a nuclear nation against a non-nuclear one, with disastrous consequences for the security of the United States and the world.

"It is gravely irresponsible for the U.S. as the greatest superpower to consider courses of action that could eventually lead to the widespread destruction of life on the planet. We urge the administration to announce publicly that it is taking the nuclear option off the table in the case of all non-nuclear adversaries, present or future, and we urge the American people to make their voices heard on this matter."

The 13 physicists who coauthored the letter are: Philip Anderson, professor of physics at Princeton University and Nobel Laureate in Physics; Michael Fisher, professor of physics at the Institute for Physical Science and Technology, University of Maryland and Wolf Laureate in Physics; David Gross, professor of theoretical physics and director of the Kavli Institute of Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara and Nobel Laureate in Physics; Jorge Hirsch, professor of physics at the University of California, San Diego; Leo Kadanoff, professor of physics and mathematics at the University of Chicago and recipient of the National Medal of Science; Joel Lebowitz, professor of mathematics and physics, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey and Boltzmann Medalist; Anthony Leggett, professor of physics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Nobel Laureate, Physics; Eugen Merzbacher, professor of physics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and former president, American Physical Society; Douglas Osheroff, professor of physics and applied physics, Stanford University and Nobel Laureate, Physics; Andrew Sessler, former director of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and former president, American Physical Society; George Trilling, professor of physics, University of California, Berkeley, and former president, American Physical Society; Frank Wilczek, professor of physics, MIT and Nobel Laureate, Physics; Edward Witten, professor of physics, Institute for Advanced Study and Fields Medalist.

The physicists are sending copies of their letter to their elected representatives, requesting that the issue be urgently addressed in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Comment on this Article

How Big Is Bush's Big Government?

by Mark Brandly
Tuesday, April 18, 2006

When teaching economics I sometimes find it beneficial to use government budget data to apply the lessons of economics to our current political circumstances. The students tend to be surprised at the size of our government, the amount of tax revenues that we "pay," and the amount of government debt. The following numbers get the point across.

We, in the United States, live under the rule of the largest civil government, measured in budgetary terms, in history. Federal spending alone in fiscal year 2006 is expected to be over $2.7 trillion, which means the federal government spends $7.4 billion a day or $5.1 million in every minute of the year. This is 815 times the level of federal spending in 1930.
Things have been getting worse recently. In the first five years of the Bush regime, federal spending increased 45%. Readers of Mises.org may remember that they were warned about Bush's fiscal irresponsibility before he took office. For comparison's sake, during the eight Clinton years nominal federal spending increased 32%, and under Bush I federal spending increased 23% in four years. In the 2000 election, Bush II promised to shovel money into all sorts of programs - and he's kept that promise.

Since 1930, in addition to the spending increases, the feds also drove prices up more than 1,100%, according to the Consumer Price Index. Also, we should suspect that these inflation numbers are low since government officials have an incentive to underestimate inflation.

If we adjust the spending numbers to account for this inflation, real federal spending is 65 times larger than it was in 1930. The US population has more than doubled since 1930 and if we take the population changes into account, real per capita spending is 27 times higher than in 1930.

In estimating real federal spending I'm not dismissing the effects of inflation, nor am I absolving the state of its complicity in driving prices up. These calculations are simply an attempt to give us some idea of the growth in government and the attendant loss of our liberties over the last several decades.

This $2.7 trillion in federal spending breaks down to $9,000 per capita or more than $36,000 for the average family of four. If we add in all state and local spending, then total government depredations (a term Murray Rothbard used to describe the greater of government spending and government receipts) are currently over $4.4 trillion or about $14,700 per person annually. Since 1959, government depredations, in real terms, have increased at an average annual rate of 4%. That kind of spending will buy a lot of votes.

A significant portion of this spending is being financed with government borrowing. In 1930, the per capita debt load was $140 per person. The current federal total debt level is $8.4 trillion, which works out to around $28,000 per person. In short, the per capita debt load is 200 times larger than it was in 1930. Adjusting for inflation, the real debt per capita is still over 16 times more than it was in 1930.

Federal government debt increased $553 billion in fiscal year 2005 alone. That's more than $1.5 billion of additional debt per day and over $1 million of borrowing per minute for every minute of the year. The interest on the debt in 2005 was $352 billion or more than $1,100 for every man, woman, and child in the country. These interest payments are roughly equal to 37% of federal income tax revenues.

Much of this debt is owed to the Federal Reserve. US taxpayers are on the hook for $758 billion of government securities that are held by the Fed. So on average, every person in the country owes the Fed about $2500.

Tax revenues and borrowing have financed all sorts of interventions. Since 1959, we have suffered from the Great Society, the war on poverty, price controls, increasingly burdensome environmental regulations, the establishment of the Department of Education and its increasing federal control over local schools, Federal Reserve created recessions, agricultural price supports, minimum wage laws, and energy policies that keep oil and gasoline prices high.

There's more. We've also had labor policies that increase the costs of hiring workers driving down their take-home pay, trade restrictions and trade agreements that give the feds control over our international trade, massive increases in the welfare state, the drug war, endless pork barrel spending, and the prosecution of businessmen for political gain. There have also been the wars to extend the US empire, from the Vietnam War to the Iraq War. A partial list of the other military interventions would include conflicts in Cambodia, Laos, Lebanon, Panama, the Gulf War, Somalia, Bosnia, and Afghanistan. I could go on, but you get the idea.

One way to see the harm of government intervention is to realize its effects on our standard of living. The depredations of the state reduce the incentives to be productive, destroy our capital base, and have a negative effect on economic growth. From 1959 to 2005, adjusting the numbers using the implicit price deflator, real Gross Domestic Product increased an average of 3.37% annually.

Consider the possibility that government interventions reduced real economic growth 1% annually during this time. If there had been an additional 1% per year economic growth since 1959 then real GDP would currently be 55% higher than it is. The 2005 GDP of $12,479 billion would have been $19,342 billion. The median family income is estimated to be $44,389. A proportionate increase in this statistic results in a median income of $68,800.

In this scenario, a worker with a salary of $44,389 who is losing 35% of his salary to taxes has a tax liability of $15,536. After paying the various types of taxes he gets to keep only $28,853 of his salary. With the extra 1% growth per year since 1959, if that worker represented the average, his gross salary would be $68,800 and he would get to keep all of it.

Higgs on the enemy: $19
It is conceivable that the $4.4 trillion of annual depredations could have caused more than 1% annual damage to our economic growth since 1959. What are the implications of a 2% negative impact on GDP? If the absence of interventions had added an additional 2% annual growth, this would have resulted in 141% more output today. The 2005 GDP would have been over $30 trillion and the median family income would now be $107,000. The worker described above with the $44,389 gross salary and the $28,850 of after tax pay, would have an income of $107,000. The depredations have reduced his net income by 73%.

The point here is that we cannot precisely know the magnitude of the damages that intervention has on the economy but we do know that those damages compound over time, resulting in significant negative effects on our prosperity.

Those of us making the case for liberty have logic, history, and morality on our side. Government intervention is immoral and should be stopped for that reason alone. However, the economic costs of the intervention are also important. Part of the appeal of freedom is that it leads to tremendously higher standards of living and these numbers show that government interventions that cause seemingly small amounts of harm, over time, impoverish a society.

Comment on this Article

Constant Seismic Activity Found Off Oregon Coast

Fox News
April 12, 2006

PORTLAND, Ore. - Using hand-me-down technology from the Cold War, scientists have discovered that the seafloor off the Pacific Northwest is a jumping kind of place, with thousands of small, swarming earthquakes and tectonic plates that are slowly rearranging themselves.

The findings could mean that a "Big One" earthquake may not be as severe as previously thought, the lead researcher said.
An article in the journal Geology by researcher Robert Dziak describes the findings. Dziak is an associate professor at Oregon State University who also works for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. He's stationed at OSU's Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport.

Dziak's article describes both new data and a record of earthquakes going back more than a decade.

Much of the data was collected using once-secret Cold War "hydrophones" the Navy uses to track submarine movements in the Pacific Ocean. Dziak said the Navy provides controls the system of seafloor microphones and relays the data to Newport.

Dziak says the evidence is that multiple tectonic plates off the Pacific Northwest appear to be rearranging themselves.

The plates have been slowly jamming into each other. Dziak said one boundary among them appears to be turning into a fault that's more like the San Andreas Fault to the south in California. Instead of ramming together, the plates are rubbing past each other, he said.

Emphasizing that the conclusions are tentative, Dziak said the consequence could be a shortening of the fault along the Pacific Northwest, so a major earthquake wouldn't be so extensive or severe.

The rearrangement could limit the potential for a magnitude 9 earthquake, he said.

"It would still ruin our day, but it wouldn't be quite so bad," he said.

Dziak also said that the hydrophone project has turned up evidence of intense earthquake activity, intense clusters of quakes that previously had gone undetected.

These are associated with underwater volcanic activity and are like the swarms of earthquakes that can precede volcanic eruptions such as that at Mount St. Helens.

The quakes were small, on the order of magnitudes 2-4, but numerous, Dziak said, with as many as a thousand of them in a three-week period.

Comment: FOX News says everything will be okay. Boy, we sure are relieved!

Comment on this Article

Ex-Floyd frontman switches Israel concert venue

Tue Apr 18 2006

JERUSALEM - Former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters has switched the venue for a concert in Israel from Tel Aviv to a mixed Arab-Jewish town after criticism from Palestinians.

The rock veteran had been due to perform at a park in central Tel Aviv in June but will now play at Neveh Shalom, close to Jerusalem, in an expression of support for co-existence.

In an open letter to Waters after the concert was first announced, dozens of Palestinian artists urged him to stay away "at a time when Israel continues unabated with its colonial and apartheid designs to further dispossess, oppress and ultimately ethnically cleanse Palestinians from their homeland."
Pink Floyd's Another Brick in the Wall has become something of an anthem of resistance to the massive barrier Israel is building across the
West Bank, although the lyrics have been adapted to read: "We don't need no occupation. We don't need no racist wall."

Waters himself has been unapologetic about playing in Israel, which is kept off most bands' touring schedule as a result of security fears.

"I would not rule out going to Israel because I disapprove of the foreign policy any more than I would refuse to play in the UK because I disapprove of (British Prime Minister)
Tony Blair's foreign policy," he told Britain's Guardian newspaper recently.

Waters split acrimoniously from Pink Floyd in the 1980s but rejoined the band for a one-off Live-8 concert last summer.

Comment on this Article

'No Child Left Behind Act' Raises School Segregation Fear

Associated Press
April 19, 2006

HARTFORD, Conn. - Betty Sternberg is in charge of two school systems. One, scattered throughout the state, is rich and white. The other, isolated in seven large towns, is poor and minority.

Sternberg is the state's education commissioner, and one of her jobs is to unite the two systems so Connecticut can move past its role as defendant in the nation's longest-running desegregation lawsuit. On paper, it wouldn't seem to be that difficult.

No one involved in the lawsuit disagrees with its contention that Connecticut hasn't always given its poor and minority students an education as good as it's given its rich and white students. No one thinks the gap between the two systems is a good thing. And no one wants the disparities to continue.
In the past, the main hurdle has been money. Bringing the inner-city schools up to par with the suburban schools will cost a lot. New schools have to be built, districts have to be paid for transferring students and special services have to be provided.

But now, Sternberg says, there's another hurdle: the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

"We've had a reluctance on the part of school districts to accept youngsters who come in with deficiencies because they're concerned that if they get enough of them ... they'll become labeled as failing schools," she says.

It's a problem that many experts believe is confounding an effort to eliminate the racial achievement gap on standardized annual tests. That's because the law requires schools to demonstrate that students in specific racial, social and economic groups are making annual progress. A school fails if even one group fails. The more groups in a school, the greater chance for failure.

So the odds favor predominantly white schools in places like Fairfield County, a wealthy bedroom community that's 75 percent white and has a median family income of more than $77,000. The odds do not favor predominantly minority schools in places like Hartford, which is 73 percent minority and has a median family income of $27,000.

Wedged in a poor, gritty immigrant neighborhood, Henry C. Dwight Elementary School near downtown Hartford, defies the odds. It harks back to an earlier era of learning. Its ceilings are high, there is a fireplace in the library and students wear uniforms as they dart between classrooms.

The oldest public school in one of the nation's oldest cities, Dwight finds itself at the center of a growing national debate over whether the nation's newest education experiment is - unexpectedly - encouraging school segregation.

Dwight's population is racially and economically diverse, making its future under the law uncertain even though it is currently meeting its goals. The law stresses getting students proficient in math and reading by 2014, the school's principal, Stacey McCann, says.

"They're (federal officials) not validating the incremental successes, but we are making great gains," says McCann, who supports the law. "I believe schools ... are making gains, but they might not make the mark that has been set."

Henry Johnson, the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education at the U.S.
Department of Education, said he understands the concerns but believes the accountability the new law imposes on schools will ultimately benefit all children.

And while Johnson praises the law's effort to remove the racial gap on tests, he also acknowledges the creation of groups "might generate concern. I don't want to dismiss that. But the reality is, that whoever shows up has to be taught. And the expectation is that they'll be taught well. ... Good instruction is good instruction."

The Associated Press reported Monday that states across the country are helping their public schools skirt the law's requirements by deliberately undercounting nearly 2 million mostly minority students' annual test scores in the required racial categories.

By reducing the number of scores, the schools are improving their chances of avoiding failure and the penalties that go with it. Another unintended solution, experts say, is for schools to become less diverse.

"The really rich and ritzy suburbs that don't participate in any form of integration, that turn their backs on all efforts to admit minority kids or low-income kids into their first-rate public schools, those districts aren't going to suffer at all," said Jonathan Kozol, an educator and author of several acclaimed books on race and education.

"They're going to be rewarded for their selfishness. They're going to be rewarded for their racial insularity because they're not admitting any kids who are at any academic risk. They're not admitting any kids who had been previously studying, for perhaps the first six years of school, in a rotten, overcrowded school."

Barbara Radner, director of DePaul University's Center for Urban Education, works with Chicago public schools and has heard some parents complain about the treatment of inner city children when they move to suburban schools.

"I have heard that there is a resentment toward those kids because they are dragging those schools down in the lists," Radner said.

When Congress passed the landmark law in 2001, Dwight was one of Hartford's worst-rated schools and exactly the type of multiracial, underperforming school the government intended to pressure to improve.

So far, Dwight has. It has met its annual goals under the law even though it has eight special groups it must report to the government and a student population that hails from 21 countries.

Elizabeth Horton Sheff, a Hartford City Council member who as a parent in 1989 filed the desegregation case against Connecticut, said there aren't enough inner city schools like Dwight that are succeeding with diverse populations.

"The big picture?" Horton Sheff asked. "Very little has changed. The progress has been far too slow.

"This nation is increasingly becoming more colored," she said. "If we don't treat our children in a manner that will help them grow, if we continue to offer them diminished destinies, then all America will go down. The quality of life for all America will decline."

April Winterson, Dwight's literacy director, hopes the No Child Left Behind Act won't put so much pressure on schools that they can't celebrate the small daily victories that fill the wide halls and small desks at her school.

"There needs to be the idea that no child can be left behind," she said. "I think sometimes people become lethargic and don't really fight those battles to make sure that every child succeeds.

"But that would be the only thing I'm nervous about, really, is moving to that direction of focusing on one group of children because they're the ones who are going to count the most. And you want to celebrate all successes. You want to celebrate all the children's successes."

Comment on this Article

Japan confirms 25th case of mad cow disease

www.chinaview.cn 2006-04-19 19:07:08

TOKYO, April 19 (Xinhua) -- Japan's health ministry confirmed on Wednesday that a dairy cow raised in western Japan has been tested positive for mad cow disease, according to Kyodo News.

The 6-year-old Holstein, raised at a farm in Nagi, Okayama Prefecture, is the 25th case of mad cow disease in Japan.

Comment on this Article

Free Speech

9/11 conspirator mentally ill, defence expert says

Last Updated Tue, 18 Apr 2006 17:03:38 EDT
CBC News

Zacarias Moussaoui is a paranoid schizophrenic with delusional beliefs, a defence psychologist told the trial of the convicted Sept. 11 conspirator.

Moussaoui, the only man charged in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, has already been convicted of conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism, commit aircraft piracy, destroy aircraft, murder government employees and destroy property.
On Tuesday, Xavier Amador, a defence psychologist, told a court in Alexandria, Va., how he diagnosed Massaouoi after observing his actions and writings since 2002.

Jurors are being asked to decide whether Moussaoui should be put to death or sentenced to life in prison.

Trained for attacks

Moussaoui has admitted he was trained to carry out a suicide attack against targets in the United States, like the 19 al-Qaeda members aboard the four hijacked jets that crashed that day.

He was in jail when the attacks took place, having been arrested in August 2001 for immigration violations.

Amador said he arrived at his diagnosis of Moussaoui after meeting with him a year ago in April 2005.

Amador recalled how, during the meeting, Moussaoui appeared to be talking to himself. And Amador said that when he refused to leave, Moussaoui repeatedly spit water on him.

Moussaoui also complained about guards using excessive force against him and said he believed that U.S. President George W. Bush would release him from prison.

Amador told the court that, in his opinion, Moussaoui's behaviour was very different from other al-Qaeda members who have gone on trial in the U.S. in the past for other crimes.

"What we see with this individual is unique to him," Amador said.

U.S. government experts are expected to challenge Amador's findings with other testimony later this week.

Comment on this Article

The 'American Inquisition'

By James Reston Jr.
USA Today

Through the mist of time, the Spanish Inquisition has come down to us as one of the most barbarous periods in all of history. Its viciousness peaked in the late 15th century, during the reign of the messianic "Catholic kings," Ferdinand and Isabella.

Paranoia gripped Spanish society as the Inquisition coincided with a Christian war against the Muslims of southern Spain. Clandestine trials, secret prisons, rampant eavesdropping, torture, desecration of Islam's holy books, and gruesome public executions created an atmosphere of pervasive terror. Suspects were assumed to be guilty, with no recourse to a defense, to a jury, or to a legitimate court.

In the chaos now roiling the Western world, does any of this sound familiar?

It is time to ask whether the United States, with some of these same touchstones, is entering a period of its own peculiar Inquisition. Of course, there are no burning places for heretics in America now. No Tomás de Torquemada presides over this period of internal anxiety and investigation.
But the word, inquisition, is not exclusive to Spain in the Middle Ages. It is a useful term for historians to characterize phases of history that are distinguished by religious intolerance, by Christian holy war and Islamic jihad, by racial profiling and xenophobia, by show trials, and by snooping of secret police.

Paranoia abounds

This country, too, is seized with collective paranoia. President Bush knows, as Ferdinand, Isabella and Torquemada knew, that constant warnings about secret terrorists are a powerful deterrent to dissent and a useful tool for consolidating political power.

Bush, like his Spanish precursors, presses for a unity of faith and a credo of purification. His faith mixes the secular and the spiritual. Its hallmarks are Jeffersonian democracy for all the world, unquestioning patriotism and revitalized Christianity. Unbelievers in this holy trinity are to be ferreted out. Not to subscribe to the methods in the war on terrorism is not so much dissent as heresy.

The American Inquisition began on Sept. 16, 2001, five days after the monstrous attack, when Bush proclaimed his "crusade." That was the defining moment for this era of U.S. history.

In the years since, Bush has demonstrated all the passion and single-mindedness of King Ferdinand. The American secret police force is not called the Holy Brotherhood as it was in 1492, for today's brotherhood is more electronic than human. On Capitol Hill, Cabinet members, past and present, call search warrants obsolete. Beware. We are all "mined" for our "data."

How different is this really from the spying that went on in the Spanish Inquisition? Suspect words or acts do not change that much with time. In Inquisitional Spain, neighbors were supposed to report a suspicious neighbor to the Holy Office. Now, symbolic words or actions are detected electronically.

In the past few months, Americans have been treated to the extraordinary spectacle of a U.S. president arguing for torture in the lofty staterooms of the U.S. government. Memos float around his Department of Defense, stressing that U.S. interrogators should cease their persecution if their victims come close to "organ failure." The world wants to know what is going on in the star chambers of secret U.S. prisons around the world. The U.S. administration scoffs. The Geneva Conventions are called quaint, and the court in The Hague, Netherlands, cannot touch us. Standards for war crimes and crimes against humanity are for non-Americans.

Forms of torture

For the historian, symbolic acts such as torture often define an era, and the American brand of torture has a particularly medieval quality. "Waterboarding," as it is called (as if it were a sport like surfboarding or skateboarding), uses cellophane instead of gauze with water to subject the suspect to near drowning and suffocation. So today this is called an "enhanced" technique of interrogation. But the pitcher and gauze were just as effective in the 15th century. The intent is really no different from that of Torquemada's interrogators: to make the subject talk even though that talk might be drivel.

It is not surprising that a leader, who believes that his Christian God chose him to be president at this moment in history and that his Almighty speaks directly to him, should preside over this American Inquisition. Bush's messianic bent came to light vividly in June 2003, when he announced that his God had inspired him to go fight those terrorists and to end the tyranny in Iraq. What, one wonders, is his God telling him now about the chaos?

This supposed pipeline to heaven is, of course, not new for kings and potentates. On his deathbed in 1516, King Ferdinand told his minions that he could not die yet: God had told him that he would move on from the conquest of Granada to lead a great crusade that would recapture Jerusalem. The messianic impulse is commonplace in history.

Now, we are just a few years into the Iraq era. The situation is getting worse, and there is no end in sight. When this nightmare ends, years of self-examination are sure to follow as happened after the Vietnam disaster. The Iraq syndrome will be lengthy. In the meantime, American Inquisition takes root. It is more hard-edged and mean-spirited than the Vietnam crackdown ... for one reason.

Though Bush's explanations for his wayward adventure may constantly change, though the enterprise may show itself to be a military and moral catastrophe of historic proportions, this American leader and his circle of illuminati are utterly convinced of their righteousness. Toward their detractors they misappropriate, like inquisitors before them, the verse of John 15:6:

"If any abide not in me, he should be cast forth as a branch and shall wither, and they shall gather him up and cast him into the fire, and he shall burn."

Comment on this Article

FBI Rebuffed on Reporter's Files

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 19, 2006; A06

The family of the late newspaper columnist Jack Anderson yesterday rejected a request by the FBI to turn over 50 years of files to agents who want to look for evidence in the prosecution of two pro-Israel lobbyists, as well as any classified documents Anderson had collected.

Kevin P. Anderson, son of the storied Washington-based writer, said the family is outraged at what it calls government overreaching and "a dangerous departure" from First Amendment press protections, a stance joined by academic and legal experts.
"After much discussion and due deliberation, the family has concluded that were Mr. Anderson alive today, he would not cooperate with the government on this matter," the family wrote in a letter sent by Washington lawyer Michael D. Sullivan to the FBI. "Instead, he would resist the government's efforts with all the energy he could muster."

Jack Anderson, who reported for and wrote the "Washington Merry-Go-Round" column for more than half a century, died in December at 83.

In targeting the journalist's files after his death, the government is widening its crackdown on leaks of sensitive information. That campaign already includes several FBI inquiries, a polygraph investigation inside the CIA and a Justice Department warning that it may seek to criminalize conversations about classified subjects by nongovernment officials such as journalists, researchers and think-tank analysts.

Kevin Anderson said FBI agents contacted the columnist's 78-year-old widow about a month after his death seeking access to his reporting materials. Agents subsequently contacted Mark Feldstein, an Anderson biographer who once worked for him and is now a George Washington University professor. Feldstein is helping to arrange the transfer of 188 cartons of material owned by the family from Brigham Young University to GWU.

Kevin Anderson, Sullivan and Feldstein said FBI agents assured them that they sought information related to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee case, adding only incidentally that if they came across classified materials they would have to seize them. But Anderson said the government agents would not specify what they were looking for, nor agree to allow anyone without a security clearance to review the files for them.

Kevin Anderson said agents were "duplicitous" about their "true objective . . . to whitewash Jack Anderson's papers and attempt to remove from history embarrassing documents."

The clash -- reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education yesterday -- escalates the controversy over the Justice Department prosecution of Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman. The two former lobbyists for AIPAC were indicted in August for receiving classified information in conversations with U.S. government officials and passing it on to journalists and Israeli Embassy officials.

Kevin Anderson said the time period U.S. prosecutors are examining came after his father was battling Parkinson's disease and was no longer reporting for the column.

FBI spokesman Bill Carter declined to comment on the AIPAC case, but said the bureau is seeking to remove all classified materials before Anderson's papers are opened to the public through a bequest to the GWU library.

"It has been determined that, among the papers, there are a number of U.S. government documents containing classified information," Carter said, such as information about sources and methods used to gather intelligence. "Under the law, no private person may possess classified documents that were illegally provided to them. There is no legal basis under which a third party could retain them as part of an estate. The documents remain the property of the U.S. government."

Experts said the case illustrates encroachment on press freedoms triggered by the AIPAC case. Defense lawyers say the indictment brought under the 1917 Espionage Act is unconstitutionally vague when applied to the oral receipt and transmission of national defense information by nongovernment civilians.

First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams noted "a disturbing logic" to government efforts first to target the receipt of information that journalists have historically discussed without any threat of sanction, and then to track down documents "which even the FBI under J. Edgar Hoover would not have taken steps to obtain from Anderson."

Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy, said the executive branch's increasingly aggressive effort to control publication even after documents have been disclosed "is a profoundly dangerous step."

"It is both ironic and somehow fitting that Jack Anderson should again be at the center of a controversy like this," Aftergood added. "What the FBI couldn't do during his lifetime, they're now seeking to do after his death, and I think many Americans will find that offensive."

The episode adds an unexpected epilogue to the career of Anderson, one of the nation's most widely published investigative columnists.

In 54 years at the column, Anderson broke stories about the Keating Five congressional ethics scandal; the Iran-contra scandal; the CIA-Mafia plot to kill Fidel Castro; allegations about a possible Bulgarian connection to the shooting of Pope John Paul II; and an Iranian link to the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.

Anderson made President Richard M. Nixon's "enemies list," and Nixon tried to smear him as a homosexual. The CIA was ordered to spy on him, and according to the Watergate tapes a Nixon aide ordered two associates to try to poison him. Anderson won the Pulitzer Prize in 1972 for reporting the U.S. government's shift away from India toward Pakistan.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company

Comment on this Article

Scientists condemn US as emissions of greenhouse gases hit record level

By Steve Connor, Science Editor
19 April 2006

The United States emitted more greenhouse gases in 2004 than at any time in history, confirming its status as the world's biggest polluter. Latest figures on the US contribution to global warming show that its carbon emissions have risen sharply despite international concerns over climate change.

The figures, which were quietly released on Easter Monday, reveal that net greenhouse gas emissions during 2004 increased by 1.7 per cent on the previous year, equivalent to a rise of 110 million tons of carbon dioxide.
This is the biggest annual increase since 2000 and means that in 2004 - the latest year that full data is available - the US released the equivalent of nearly 6,300 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Scientists in Britain condemned the increase, saying that it showed how the US was failing to take a lead in the international attempt to curb greenhouse gas emissions despite being the worst offender.

Professor David Read, the vice-president of the Royal Society, said that the US and Britain needed to take urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas levels in order to honour their commitments to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

"The figures published this week show not only that the US emissions are not decreasing, but that they are actually increasing on an annual basis," Professor Read said. "And while the UK appears to be doing slightly better, its carbon dioxide emissions have been rising annually for the past three years," he said. "The US and the UK are the two leading scientific nations in the world and are home to some of the best climate researchers.

"But in terms of fulfilling the commitment made by their signature to the UN convention to stabilise greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere, neither country is demonstrating leadership by reducing their emissions to the levels required," Professor Read said.

The US accounts for about a quarter of the total global emissions of man-made carbon dioxide or the other gases such as methane that can exacerbate the earth's greenhouse effect, which traps sunlight and heat.

Under the UN climate change convention, America is required to publish its net contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, which takes into account pollution sources, such as cars and industry, and "sinks", such as forests.

The figures show that the total US emissions have risen by 15.8 per cent from 1990 to 2004, mainly due to increased consumption of electricity generated by burning fossil fuel, a rise in energy demands caused by increased industrial production and a rise in petrol consumption due to increased travel. Fossil fuel combustion alone accounted for 94 per cent of the carbon dioxide emissions produced by the US during 2004, the figures show.

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are now a third higher than they were before the Industrial Revolution began in the 18th century, and probably higher than they have been for at least 10 million years.

Scientists have suggested that if the international community is to try to stabilise carbon dioxide levels at twice pre-industrial levels then countries such as the US and Britain need to reduce emissions by about 60 per cent by the middle of this century.

Professor Read said there was mounting evidence to suggest that rising temperatures caused by greenhouse gas emissions were beginning to cause serious climate effects, such as a drop in annual rainfall in east Africa because of rising water temperatures in the Indian Ocean.

"If emissions continue to rise, we can expect even more impacts across the world," Professor Read said. "The developing world will find it difficult to adapt to climate change and the industrialised countries, which are primarily responsible for the rise in greenhouse gas levels, should realise that they would also struggle to adapt to a world in which, for instance, sea levels are several metres higher," he said.

"The science justifies action now by all countries to both adapt to climate change and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Under the UN climate change convention, America is required to publish its net contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, which takes into account pollution sources, such as cars and industry, and "sinks", such as forests.

The figures show that the total US emissions have risen by 15.8 per cent from 1990 to 2004, mainly due to increased consumption of electricity generated by burning fossil fuel, a rise in energy demands caused by increased industrial production and a rise in petrol consumption due to increased travel. Fossil fuel combustion alone accounted for 94 per cent of the carbon dioxide emissions produced by the US during 2004, the figures show.

Carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are now a third higher than they were before the Industrial Revolution began in the 18th century, and probably higher than they have been for at least 10 million years.

Scientists have suggested that if the international community is to try to stabilise carbon dioxide levels at twice pre-industrial levels then countries such as the US and Britain need to reduce emissions by about 60 per cent by the middle of this century.

Professor Read said there was mounting evidence to suggest that rising temperatures caused by greenhouse gas emissions were beginning to cause serious climate effects, such as a drop in annual rainfall in east Africa because of rising water temperatures in the Indian Ocean.

"If emissions continue to rise, we can expect even more impacts across the world," Professor Read said. "The developing world will find it difficult to adapt to climate change and the industrialised countries, which are primarily responsible for the rise in greenhouse gas levels, should realise that they would also struggle to adapt to a world in which, for instance, sea levels are several metres higher," he said.

"The science justifies action now by all countries to both adapt to climate change and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Comment on this Article

Scientists say they're being gagged by Bush; White House monitors their media contacts

Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post
Sunday, April 16, 2006

Washington -- Scientists doing climate research for the federal government say the Bush administration has made it hard for them to speak forthrightly to the public about global warming. The result, the researchers say, is a danger that Americans are not getting the full story on how the climate is changing.

Employees and contractors working for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with a U.S. Geological Survey scientist working at an NOAA lab, said in interviews that over the past year administration officials have chastised them for speaking on policy questions; removed references to global warming from their reports, news releases and conference Web sites; investigated news leaks; and sometimes urged them to stop speaking to the media altogether. Their accounts indicate that the ideological battle over climate-change research, which first came to light at NASA, is being fought in other federal science agencies as well.

These scientists -- working nationwide in research centers in such places as Princeton, N.J., and Boulder, Colo. -- say they are required to clear all media requests with administration officials, something they did not have to do until the summer of 2004.
Before then, climate researchers -- unlike staff members in the Justice or State departments, which have long-standing policies restricting access to reporters -- were relatively free to discuss their findings without strict agency oversight.

"There has been a change in how we're expected to interact with the press," said Pieter Tans, who measures greenhouse gases linked to global warming and has worked at NOAA's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder for two decades. He said that although he often "ignores the rules" the administration has instituted, when it comes to his colleagues, "some people feel intimidated -- I see that."

Christopher Milly, a hydrologist at the U.S. Geological Survey, said he had problems twice while drafting news releases on scientific papers describing how climate change would affect the nation's water supply.

Once in 2002, Milly said, Interior officials declined to issue a news release on grounds that it would cause "great problems with the department." In November 2005, they agreed to issue a release on a different climate-related paper, Milly said, but "purged key words from the releases, including 'global warming,' 'warming climate' and 'climate change.' "

Administration officials said they are following long-standing policies that were not enforced in the past. Kent Laborde, a NOAA public affairs officer who flew to Boulder last month to monitor an interview Tans did with a film crew from the BBC, said he was helping facilitate meetings between scientists and journalists.

"We've always had the policy, it just hasn't been enforced," Laborde said. "It's important that the leadership knows something is coming out in the media, because it has a huge impact. The leadership needs to know the tenor or the tone of what we expect to be printed or broadcast."

Several times, however, agency officials have tried to alter what these scientists tell the media. When Tans was helping to organize the Seventh International Carbon Dioxide Conference near Boulder last fall, his lab director told him participants could not use the term "climate change" in conference paper's titles and abstracts. Tans and others disregarded that advice.

None of the scientists said political appointees had influenced their research on climate change or disciplined them for questioning the administration. Several researchers have received bigger budgets in recent years because President Bush has focused on studying global warming rather than curbing greenhouse gases. NOAA's budget for climate research and services is now $250 million, up from $241 million in 2004.

The assertion that climate scientists are being censored first surfaced in January when James Hansen, who directs NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, told the New York Times and the Washington Post that the administration sought to muzzle him after he gave a lecture in December calling for cuts in emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. (NASA Administrator Michael Griffin issued new rules recently that make clear that its scientists are free to talk to members of the media about their scientific findings, including personal interpretations.)

Two weeks later, Hansen suggested to an audience at the New School University in New York that his counterparts at NOAA were experiencing even more severe censorship. "It seems more like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union than the United States," he told the crowd.

NOAA Administrator Conrad Lautenbacher responded by sending an agency-wide e-mail that said he is "a strong believer in open, peer-reviewed science as well as the right and duty of scientists to seek the truth and to provide the best scientific advice possible."

"I encourage our scientists to speak freely and openly," he added. "We ask only that you specify when you are communicating personal views and when you are characterizing your work as part of your specific contribution to NOAA's mission."

NOAA scientists, however, cite repeated instances in which the administration played down the threat of climate change in their documents and news releases. Although Bush and his top advisers have said that Earth is warming and human activity has contributed to this, they have questioned some predictions and caution that mandatory limits on carbon dioxide could damage the nation's economy.

In 2002, NOAA agreed to draft a report with Australian researchers aimed at helping reef managers deal with widespread coral bleaching that stems from higher sea temperatures. A March 2004 draft report had several references to global warming, including "Mass bleaching ... affects reefs at regional to global scales, and has incontrovertibly linked to increases in sea temperature associated with global change."

A later version, dated July 2005, drops those references and several others mentioning climate change.

NOAA has yet to release the coral bleaching report. James Mahoney, assistant secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, said he decided in late 2004 to delay the report because "its scientific basis was so inadequate." Now that it is revised, he said, he is waiting for the Australian Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority to approve it. "I just did not think it was ready for prime time," Mahoney said. "It was not just about climate change -- there were a lot of things."

On other occasions, Mahoney and other NOAA officials have told researchers not to give their opinions on policy matters. Konrad Steffen directs the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder, a joint NOAA-university institute with a $40 million annual budget. Steffen studies the Greenland ice sheet, and when his work was cited last spring in a major international report on climate change in the Arctic, he and another NOAA lab director from Alaska received a call from Mahoney in which he told them not to give reporters their opinions on global warming.

Steffen said that he told him that although Mahoney has considerable leverage as "the person in command for all research money in NOAA ... I was not backing down."

Mahoney said he had "no recollection" of the conversation, which took place in a conference call. "It's virtually inconceivable that I would have called him about this," Mahoney said, though he added: "For those who are government employees, our position is they should not typically render a policy view."

The need for clearance from Washington, several NOAA scientists said, amounts to a "pocket veto" allowing administration officials to block interviews by not giving permission in time for journalists' deadlines.

Ronald Stouffer, a climate research scientist at NOAA's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory in Princeton, estimated his media requests have dropped in half because it took so long to get clearance to talk from NOAA headquarters. Thomas Delworth, one of Stouffer's colleagues, said the policy means Americans have only "a partial sense" of what government scientists have learned about climate change.

"American taxpayers are paying the bill, and they have a right to know what we're doing," he said.

Comment: Ask yourself why the Bush administration would want to hide climate change data.

Comment on this Article

Germany backs open Holocaust records

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

WASHINGTON - Germany said Tuesday it would help clear the way for opening records on 17 million Jews and other victims of the Nazis, a major step toward ending a long battle over access to a vast and detailed look into the Holocaust.

German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries said her country would work with the United States to assure the opening of the archives, which are held in the German town of Bad Arolsen, and allow historians and survivors access to some 30 million to 50 million documents.

Until now, Germany had resisted providing access to the archives, citing privacy concerns.
The dramatic announcement, made at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, came after a 20-year effort by the museum and some other countries to get the archives opened.

Negotiations intensified in the past four or five years and took on even greater momentum in the past two years, said Arthur Berger, spokesman for the museum.

In a meeting Tuesday with museum director Sarah Bloomfield, Zypries said Germany had changed its position and would immediately seek revision of an 11-nation accord governing the archives. The 10 other countries must also formally agree if the records are to be opened, a process she said would take no more than six months.

Edward B. O'Donnell Jr., the State Department's special envoy for Holocaust issues, said he was encouraged, but he added, "We still have negotiations to do."

The next step is a meeting in Luxembourg on May 15, when all 11 countries would have to reach a consensus agreement. In some instances, parliaments would have to approve of the archives' opening as well.

Opening the archives would enable many survivors and families of victims of the Nazis to find out with more certainty than ever before what happened to their relatives.

"We are losing the survivors, and anti-Semitism is on the rise, so this move could not be more timely," Bloomfield said in an interview.

She said the move was "something of moral and historical importance in a critical time."

"Overall, it makes it possible to learn a lot more about the fate of individuals and to learn a lot more about the Holocaust itself -- concentration camps, deportations, slave-enforced labor and displaced persons," Paul Shapiro, director of the museum's center for advanced holocaust studies, said in a separate interview.

Speaking in German, Zypries said, "We now agree to open the data in Bad Arolsen in Germany. We now assume the data will be safeguarded by those countries that copy the material and use it, and now that we have made this decision we want to move forward." Her remarks were translated into English for reporters.

Germany's privacy law is one of the most restrictive among the 11 countries, Shapiro said. Remaining safeguards, he said, might limit duplicating a document or prevent using the name of someone cited without the person's permission, he said.

Dissemination through the Internet also may be tightly restrained. However, privacy laws of the other countries will now prevail, he said. Most are less restrictive than Germany's.

Bloomfield called the decision "a great step, a really important step." She said, "I will be completely thrilled when I get the material in the archives."

For 60 years, the International Red Cross has used the archived documents to trace missing and dead Jews and forced laborers, who were systematically persecuted by Nazi Germany and its confederates across central and eastern Europe before and during World War II.

But the archives have remained off-limits to historians and the public.

The International Red Cross Committee's Antonella Notari said that body is not on the 11-member decision-making panel and is not against opening the archives, but believes personal information needs to be treated carefully. The international body opened its own archives a decade ago, she said.

"It should definitely be open for historical research and there are ways to do that with respect for personal data," said Notari, chief spokeswoman of the ICRC in Geneva.

Besides Germany and the United States, the other countries involved are Belgium, Britain, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Poland.

Comment on this Article

Jewish lobby? What Jewish lobby?

Israel: The Dead Roach in America's Salad

Charley Reese

The Israeli lobby pushing America to fight yet another war for Israel reminds me of what the French ambassador to Great Britain said at a party: "Why does the world allow this (expletive deleted) little country to cause so much trouble?"
The Israeli lobby and the neoconservatives are beating the drums for war with Iran. I hope the president is not that dangerously stupid. The betting on whether he is that stupid is about even.

The neocons - who, being self-centered, seemingly have no concept of human nature - are advancing the premise that a military attack on Iran will cause the people to lose faith in their government and result in regime change.

A military attack on Iran will have the opposite effect. The people will rally to their government, and any hope of regime change will be dead. That people will rally around their existing leaders in the face of an attack by a foreign power is as certain as sunrise. Neither Israel nor the U.S. could do a greater favor for the ruling mullahs and Iran's president than to launch an attack. It would cement their hold on power.

The neocons' fallacious premise has already been disproved. In the first Gulf War, the first Bush administration confidently incited the Shiites and the Kurds to rebel after Saddam Hussein's forces were expelled from Kuwait. The administration thought that Saddam, embarrassed by a crushing military defeat, would fall from power in Iraq easily. Instead, he rallied his forces and crushed both the Shiites in the south and the Kurds in the north. Oops.

In the first place, it is not embarrassing for a Third World country with obsolete equipment to be defeated by the world's No. 1 military superpower. In the second place, the Sunnis, however much they might have disliked Saddam, disliked even more the thought of being ruled by Kurds or Shiites. In the third place, by President George H.W. Bush's decision to not go to Baghdad, Saddam could say he duked it out with the world's superpower and was still standing after the fight. That, in most eyes, could be counted as a victory.

Some months ago, an Iranian human-rights advocate pleaded with the current Bush administration to cease its rhetorical attacks on the Iranian government. She said, quite accurately, that such attacks make life impossible for Iranian reformers. Needless to say, the blockheads in Washington ignored her.

What did we do when the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked? We rallied behind George W. Bush - Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives. That's the natural reaction of normal human beings, and the Iranians are normal human beings. Attack their country and they will rally round the flag.

The Iranians still insist they are not seeking nuclear weapons, and there's not a scrap of evidence to contradict that claim. They still adhere to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. They have often called for a nuclear-free Middle East.

Once again, the dead roach in America's salad is Israel. The U.S. hypocritically opposes a nuclear-free Middle East because Israel has nuclear weapons. We hypocritically claim the Iranians are in violation of international law when, in fact, it is Israel that refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and refuses international inspections. Given our craven obedience to Israel, we have exactly zero credibility in the Arab and Muslim world.

As I have said before, I don't care if the Iranians do develop nuclear weapons. My whole adult life was lived with 30,000 Soviet nuclear weapons aimed at me. I can certainly live with the six or seven Iran might be able to scrape together in the next five to 10 years. In the meantime, the U.S. government should kick the Israeli lobby out of the country and support Iran and the Arab League in pushing for a nuclear-free Middle East.

The Israeli lobby pushing America to fight yet another war for Israel reminds me of what the French ambassador to Great Britain said at a party: "Why does the world allow this (expletive deleted) little country to cause so much trouble?"

Why indeed? You should ask your politicians that question.

Comment on this Article

A Lobby, Not a Conspiracy

Published: April 19, 2006

IN its March 23rd issue the London Review of Books, a respected British journal, published an essay titled "The Israel Lobby." The authors are two distinguished American academics (Stephen Walt of Harvard and John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago) who posted a longer (83-page) version of their text on the Web site of Harvard's Kennedy School.

As they must have anticipated, the essay has run into a firestorm of vituperation and refutation. Critics have charged that their scholarship is shoddy and that their claims are, in the words of the columnist Christopher Hitchens, "slightly but unmistakably smelly." The smell in question, of course, is that of anti-Semitism.
This somewhat hysterical response is regrettable. In spite of its provocative title, the essay draws on a wide variety of standard sources and is mostly uncontentious. But it makes two distinct and important claims. The first is that uncritical support for Israel across the decades has not served America's best interests. This is an assertion that can be debated on its merits. The authors' second claim is more controversial: American foreign policy choices, they write, have for years been distorted by one domestic pressure group, the "Israel Lobby."

Some would prefer, when explaining American actions overseas, to point a finger at the domestic "energy lobby." Others might blame the influence of Wilsonian idealism, or imperial practices left over from the cold war. But that a powerful Israel lobby exists could hardly be denied by anyone who knows how Washington works. Its core is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, its penumbra a variety of national Jewish organizations.

Does the Israel Lobby affect our foreign policy choices? Of course - that is one of its goals. And it has been rather successful: Israel is the largest recipient of American foreign aid and American responses to Israeli behavior have been overwhelmingly uncritical or supportive.

But does pressure to support Israel distort American decisions? That's a matter of judgment. Prominent Israeli leaders and their American supporters pressed very hard for the invasion of Iraq; but the United States would probably be in Iraq today even if there had been no Israel lobby. Is Israel, in Mearsheimer/Walt's words, "a liability in the war on terror and the broader effort to deal with rogue states?" I think it is; but that too is an issue for legitimate debate.

The essay and the issues it raises for American foreign policy have been prominently dissected and discussed overseas. In America, however, it's been another story: virtual silence in the mainstream media. Why? There are several plausible explanations. One is that a relatively obscure academic paper is of little concern to general-interest readers. Another is that claims about disproportionate Jewish public influence are hardly original - and debate over them inevitably attracts interest from the political extremes. And then there is the view that Washington is anyway awash in "lobbies" of this sort, pressuring policymakers and distorting their choices.

Each of these considerations might reasonably account for the mainstream press's initial indifference to the Mearsheimer-Walt essay. But they don't convincingly explain the continued silence even after the article aroused stormy debate in the academy, within the Jewish community, among the opinion magazines and Web sites, and in the rest of the world. I think there is another element in play: fear. Fear of being thought to legitimize talk of a "Jewish conspiracy"; fear of being thought anti-Israel; and thus, in the end, fear of licensing the expression of anti-Semitism.

The end result - a failure to consider a major issue in public policy - is a great pity. So what, you may ask, if Europeans debate this subject with such enthusiasm? Isn't Europe a hotbed of anti-Zionists (read anti-Semites) who will always relish the chance to attack Israel and her American friend? But it was David Aaronovitch, a Times of London columnist who, in the course of criticizing Mearsheimer and Walt, nonetheless conceded that "I sympathize with their desire for redress, since there has been a cock-eyed failure in the U.S. to understand the plight of the Palestinians."

And it was the German writer Christoph Bertram, a longstanding friend of America in a country where every public figure takes extraordinary care to tread carefully in such matters, who wrote in Die Zeit that "it is rare to find scholars with the desire and the courage to break taboos."

How are we to explain the fact that it is in Israel itself that the uncomfortable issues raised by Professors Mearsheimer and Walt have been most thoroughly aired? It was an Israeli columnist in the liberal daily Haaretz who described the American foreign policy advisers Richard Perle and Douglas Feith as "walking a fine line between their loyalty to American governments ...and Israeli interests." It was Israel's impeccably conservative Jerusalem Post that described Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy secretary of defense, as "devoutly pro-Israel." Are we to accuse Israelis, too, of "anti-Zionism"?

The damage that is done by America's fear of anti-Semitism when discussing Israel is threefold. It is bad for Jews: anti-Semitism is real enough (I know something about it, growing up Jewish in 1950's Britain), but for just that reason it should not be confused with political criticisms of Israel or its American supporters. It is bad for Israel: by guaranteeing it unconditional support, Americans encourage Israel to act heedless of consequences. The Israeli journalist Tom Segev described the Mearsheimer-Walt essay as "arrogant" but also acknowledged ruefully: "They are right. Had the United States saved Israel from itself, life today would be better ...the Israel Lobby in the United States harms Israel's true interests."

BUT above all, self-censorship is bad for the United States itself. Americans are denying themselves participation in a fast-moving international conversation. Daniel Levy (a former Israeli peace negotiator) wrote in Haaretz that the Mearsheimer-Walt essay should be a wake-up call, a reminder of the damage the Israel lobby is doing to both nations. But I would go further. I think this essay, by two "realist" political scientists with no interest whatsoever in the Palestinians, is a straw in the wind.

Looking back, we shall see the Iraq war and its catastrophic consequences as not the beginning of a new democratic age in the Middle East but rather as the end of an era that began in the wake of the 1967 war, a period during which American alignment with Israel was shaped by two imperatives: cold-war strategic calculations and a new-found domestic sensitivity to the memory of the Holocaust and the debt owed to its victims and survivors.

For the terms of strategic debate are shifting. East Asia grows daily in importance. Meanwhile our clumsy failure to re-cast the Middle East - and its enduring implications for our standing there - has come into sharp focus. American influence in that part of the world now rests almost exclusively on our power to make war: which means in the end that it is no influence at all. Above all, perhaps, the Holocaust is passing beyond living memory. In the eyes of a watching world, the fact that an Israeli soldier's great-grandmother died in Treblinka will not excuse his own misbehavior.

Thus it will not be self-evident to future generations of Americans why the imperial might and international reputation of the United States are so closely aligned with one small, controversial Mediterranean client state. It is already not at all self-evident to Europeans, Latin Americans, Africans or Asians. Why, they ask, has America chosen to lose touch with the rest of the international community on this issue? Americans may not like the implications of this question. But it is pressing. It bears directly on our international standing and influence; and it has nothing to do with anti-Semitism. We cannot ignore it.

Tony Judt is the director of the Remarque Institute at New York University and the author of "Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945."

Comment on this Article

US support for moving borders is just a charade

Gwynne Dyer
The Border Mail

"WE have a very tight timetable for drawing Israel's final borders, because we seek the support of the US administration and President Bush. It has to be done by November, 2008," Yoram Turbowicz said last week.

Turbowicz, who will be chief of staff to Ehud Olmert when the latter takes over as prime minister of Israel's new government, was only saying publicly what most members of the Kadima Party think in private, but it's interesting how foolish it looks when you see it in cold print.

Kadima was created only months ago by former prime minister Ariel Sharon, now in a coma due to a massive stroke, to seize control of the centre of Israeli politics and impose a permanent "peace" settlement on the Palestinians.

In Sharon's vision, Israel would decide which parts of the occupied territories to keep and draw the new borders unilaterally and the Bush administration would ratify the outcome and get the rest of the world to accept it.
Kadima emerged as the biggest party in last month's election, and Sharon's successor Olmert, who will lead the new coalition government once the usual deals are struck, imagines that he can then carry out Sharon's grand plan.

After all, he has President Bush's letter of last year to Sharon that drastically changed US policy, declaring that Israel could not be expected to return to its pre-1967 borders "in light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli population centres".

Since the US is the world's sole superpower, surely it can make everybody else accept that outcome, too.

Just get it all done in the next 32 months, as Yoram Turbowicz pointed out, before Bush leaves office at the end of 2008.

One of Turbowicz's assumptions is dead right: Israel cannot expect to have Washington's support for expanding its borders in such a dramatic way from any subsequent administration, whether Republican or Democratic.

But Turbowicz is dead wrong in assuming that US support will be enough to make the change in Israel's borders legal, permanent, and widely accepted.

The world does not work like that, and even if the US's power were as great as Olmert seems to think it is, Washington could not make other countries accept such a gross breach of international law.

The new international law, written into the United Nations Charter, states that territorial changes imposed by force will not be recognised by UN members.

Full stop.

It's about taking the profit out of war and thereby reducing the temptation to go to war, and over 60 years it is the one UN rule that has almost never been broken.

The US State Department knows the law and it applies it.

It is possible - though unlikely - that the Bush administration might yet browbeat the State Department into "recognising" not only Israel's annexation of East Jerusalem but the far greater expansion of Israel's borders that Olmert now has in mind.

But it is simply inconceivable that President Bush could persuade other countries to accept such a gross violation of international law.

He cannot deliver; the deadline is meaningless. Olmert's government can build walls, dig ditches, move settlers around, proclaim that Israel's eternal borders are now some distance to the east of where they were last week, maybe even get the Bush administration to agree to the change, but none of it will have any legal force.

The whole exercise will take up enormous amounts of time, effort and newsprint over the next few years, but it is in the end only a charade.

Comment on this Article

Dollars and Sense

Consumer prices rise in March, core up 0.3 pct

April 19, 2006

WASHINGTON - Soaring energy costs helped push U.S. consumer prices up a steep 0.4 percent last month, while rising apparel prices spurred core inflation more than expected, a government report showed on Wednesday.

The overall increase in the Labor Department's consumer price index for March matched expectations on Wall Street, but a 0.3 percent rise in prices excluding food and energy was a bit swifter than forecast.

The department pinned 70 percent of the gain in the core price index on rising costs for apparel and shelter, which is housing excluding utility and furniture costs.
Apparel prices, which had dropped 1 percent in February, moved 1 percent higher in March. Shelter costs, which account for nearly one-third of the overall CPI, rose a firm 0.4 percent for a second month in a row.

The report could raise some questions about whether the
Federal Reserve will call a halt to a cycle of interest rate increases after the next policy meeting in May, particularly with oil costs striking record highs in recent days.

Despite the sharper-than-anticipated increase in core prices, the 12-month change held steady at 2.1 percent. The 12-month rate of overall consumer price inflation decelerated to 3.4 percent from the 3.6 percent rise registered in the period through February.

Energy costs shot up 1.3 percent last month, reversing a 1.2 percent February drop. Gasoline prices increased 3.6 percent, while natural gas costs fell 4.3 percent. Gasoline prices have continued to move higher this month.

The rise in consumer prices ate into Americans' spending power, with inflation-adjusted earnings falling 0.3 percent in March.

Comment on this Article

Home loan demand down as rates hit new highs

By Julie Haviv
April 19, 2006

NEW YORK - Mortgage applications fell for a second consecutive week, led by a decline in demand for home purchase loans, as interest rates reached new multiyear highs, an industry trade group said on Wednesday.

The Mortgage Bankers Association said its seasonally adjusted index of mortgage application activity for the week ended April 14 decreased 1.7 percent to 569.6 from the previous week's 579.4.

Borrowing costs on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages, excluding fees, averaged 6.56 percent, up 0.06 percentage point from the previous week, its highest level since the week ended June 7, 2002 when it reached 6.65 percent.
The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, the industry benchmark, is also above last year's high of 6.33 percent, reached in the week of November 11 after climbing on and off from a 2005 low of 5.47 percent in June.

The MBA's seasonally adjusted purchase mortgage index fell 2.7 percent to 407.4 from the previous week's 417.7.

The index -- widely considered a timely gauge of U.S. home sales -- was also below its year-ago level of 466.7.

The group's seasonally adjusted index of refinancing applications decreased 0.4 percent to 1,526.1 compared to 1,532.4 the previous week. A year earlier the index stood at 1,870.0.

The refinance share of mortgage activity increased to 36.4 percent of total applications from 36.0 percent the previous week.

Fixed 15-year mortgage rates averaged 6.19 percent last week, up from 6.17 percent the previous week. Rates on one-year adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) increased to 6.00 percent from 5.97 percent.


Historically low mortgage rates have fueled a five-year housing boom, helping support the U.S. economy's recovery from recession despite uncertain business investment.

Analysts differ on whether or not there is a housing bubble, but most agree that the market is cooling off from its record run.

The MBA's soft data followed other reports this week that showed cooling in the U.S. housing sector.

The Commerce Department said on Tuesday the pace of U.S. housing construction slowed more than expected in March as both the rate of starts and permits declined to their lowest levels in a year.

Earlier in the week, the National Association of Home Builders said its influential index of U.S. home builder sentiment fell for a fourth consecutive month in April to its lowest level since November 2001.

The MBA's survey covers about 50 percent of all U.S. retail residential mortgage originations. Respondents include mortgage bankers, commercial banks and thrifts.

Comment: In other US financial news today, there were numerous reports of increasing corporate profits, which no doubt continue to fuel the illusion that there is nothing wrong with the US economy, and stories like this can just be ignored.

Comment on this Article

Why so high? Oil markets riding new currents.

By Ron Scherer | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
April 19, 2006

NEW YORK - Perhaps it's a sign of the times, but in some quarters oil has become investors' black gold.

By one estimate, some $125 billion has flowed into commodity index funds often heavily invested in energy. And with oil prices rising faster than the price of land in La Jolla, Calif., or New York's Hamptons, it may seem fashionable to own a piece of old Spindletop. Oil Tuesday hit a record intraday level of $70.88 a barrel in London.
But before investors pour the family fortune into the black goo, analysts are urging caution. Oil is a commodity whose price ultimately depends on supply and demand, they warn. Viewed from that perspective, oil prices already may be near their top - at least for now.

"I think we're due for a pause here," says Mark Routt, of Energy Security Analysis Inc. in Wakefield, Mass. "All the bad news you can think of is in the market, and here we are."

OPEC members have offered oil companies extra deliveries but have been turned down - an indication that there is plenty of crude oil available, Mr. Routt says. In addition, he points out that the current quarter is usually the low point in demand for crude oil. Refineries are busy conducting maintenance or shifting over to the summer blends of gasoline.

The current run-up in price, Routt contends, is more related to stresses in the phasing out of MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether), a fuel additive. It is being replaced by ethanol, which is in short supply.

"The price run-up is product-led," he says. "Once the refineries come back on stream, it should take some of the pressure off."

Role of investors is limited

Investors may play a role in short-term price swings.

"Almost everyday it seems some pension fund is dedicating a portion of its assets to invest in a commodity index," says John Kilduff, an oil trader at FIMAT, USA. "And, energy dominates most of these indexes."

Since 2004, Mr. Kilduff says some $125 billion has been directed into these funds. As the investment pool grows, the financial institutions running them buy futures contracts. "It causes more participation, it helps to push up prices," says Kilduff.

A clearer view of these new market participants has emerged, however, as some commodity exchanges have conducted studies of them, says John Felmy, chief economist at the American Petroleum Institute in Washington. "They don't seem be driving the market but following it," he says. "But they can have a transitory impact - the question is for how long."

Last week, the Energy Information Administration forecast peak gasoline prices in the mid-$2.70 a gallon level for the summer. Those levels have already been reached. According to GasPriceWatch.com, the national average is $2.76 a gallon.

Based on the current price of crude oil, Neil Gamson, an analyst at EIA, estimates the price of regular unleaded could "easily" rise another six to seven cents a gallon higher than anticipated. "There is some momentum to continue to rise over the next few weeks, but it might ease a little bit in the later half of the spring as the refining situation sorts itself out."

Consumers are likely to feel the impact in multiple ways, not just at the pump. Tuesday, the Labor Department reported the wholesale price of gasoline rose by 9.1 percent in March. This helped to push the Producer Price Index up by 0.5 percent in the month. Sometimes such spikes get passed on the form of surcharges or additional fees.

A view from the pump

In Boston, Tuesday, Robert Hill was filling up at a Shell station under a sign that posted "$2.69 9/10" for regular gas. "I just feel like it's unnecessary for the public to pay this amount of money," said the retired disabled Vietnam veteran. "I don't think we should be fighting this war. You're losing in two ways: the young men and women over there and at the pump."

Hill wasn't alone in blaming the high prices on America's foreign policy. Srini Prasad, a neurosurgeon, said the effects of the war were compounded by rising energy demand from China.

"Obviously I think it's expensive. It's exorbitant," said Mr. Prasad as he filled up his Mercedes sport-utility vehicle. "I'm kind of worried about the summer to be honest, because I think the prices are going to escalate."

Prasad acknowledged, however, that larger vehicles like his may be part of the problem.

"This car is four years old, so we didn't know how high the prices would be back then," he said. "The next car we bought was a hybrid."

School administrator Vince McKay of Newton, Mass., who was filling his late-model Saab at the same station, said he visited China a year and a half ago as part of an educational group.

"I saw first hand the worldwide demand. Why should we be surprised?" Mr. McKay asked. "This country has got to get serious about conservation and we've got to do it now."

But for McKay, getting "serious" about conservation may mean tough love for motorists like Prasad.

"Personally, I think the government should buy up all the SUVs and crush them," McKay said with a smile.

Comment on this Article

China's Rising Need for Oil Is High on U.S. Agenda

The New York Times
April 19, 2006

WASHINGTON - The competition for access to oil is emerging high on the agenda for President Hu Jintao's visit to the White House this week. President Bush has called China's growing demand for oil one reason for rising prices, and has warned Beijing against trying to "lock up" global supplies.

With crude oil selling for more than $70 a barrel and American motorists paying $3 a gallon for gasoline, American officials say the subject cannot be avoided at Thursday's meeting in the Oval Office, as it was sidestepped when Mr. Bush visited Beijing last fall.
China's appetite for oil also affects its stance on Iran, where a growing confrontation with the United States over nuclear programs has already unsettled oil markets. China has invested heavily in Iran, and as a permanent member of the Security Council, its position on the question of sanctions is crucial.

Even as Mr. Hu arrived in Seattle on Tuesday, Chinese and American negotiators were debating a proposal for the two presidents to announce a joint study of both nations' energy needs as a way to ward off conflict in coming decades, when China's rapidly expanding need for imported energy to sustain its growth may collide with the needs of the United States, Europe and Japan.

In 2004 China used some 6.5 million barrels of oil a day and overtook Japan as the world's second largest user of petroleum products. The largest, the United States, consumes about 20 million barrels a day.

The administration's focus on China's quest for oil was signaled when it published a revised National Security Strategy last month, approved by Mr. Bush, that contained a pointed new entry about China.

That country's leaders, the document declared, are "expanding trade, but acting as if they can somehow 'lock up' energy supplies around the world or seek to direct markets rather than opening them up, as if they can follow a mercantilism borrowed from a discredited era."

Mercantilism was a post-feudal doctrine of national economic health through protectionism, foreign trade and exports, but administration officials have repeatedly used it to describe China, just as they once used it in the 1980's to describe Japan's approach to global trade.

In the case of China, the term is increasingly employed to paint a picture of a 21st-century version of the Great Game, the 19th-century maneuvering for primacy in Central Asia, in which China's search for oil is merging with its desire for greater influence, from Africa to Latin America to the Middle East.

"They are buying long-term supplies wherever they find them, including in unsavory places like Sudan, Iran and Burma, where we won't buy," said Michael J. Green, a Georgetown University professor who directed policy on China at the National Security Council until late last year. "They say it is benign, because they don't interfere with the internal affairs of other nations. And we say it is anything but benign, because it finances these regimes' bad behavior."

The public discussion began in September, when the deputy secretary of state, Robert B. Zoellick, urged China to become a "responsible stakeholder" on the world stage. He suggested that China should rethink a policy of buying oil from the Burmese or the Sudanese simply because it could. "China's involvement with troublesome states indicates at best a blindness to consequences, and at worst something more ominous," Mr. Zoellick said at the time.

Nonetheless, Chinese officials said they liked much of his commentary because it suggested an equality between China as a rising power and the United States as an established one. So far, however, the officials have not responded to the administration's call to rethink their policy.

In an interview on Tuesday, Mr. Zoellick said that he did not mean to suggest that China was deliberately trying to funnel oil from world markets, but rather that its vast energy bureaucracy was racing along that path in response to commands to keep the economy growing.

During the visit of Mr. Hu, he said, "we are seeking to steer them from a narrow perspective to a recognition that together we need to expand sources of supply, including non-oil and gas, and increase efficiency."

The issue is likely to come to a particular head over Iran. Sinopec, China's state-owned oil giant, signed a $70 billion deal with the Iranians in November 2004 to develop the Yadavaran oil field. The United States Department of Energy believes the field could "eventually produce 300,000 barrels a day."

China's interest in keeping that investment healthy, officials say, is one reason it has refused to support sanctions against Iran for defying the Security Council over the country's enrichment of uranium.

A senior administration official, briefing reporters at the White House on Monday on the condition that he not be identified, said, "I think the Chinese have come around to a point of realizing that we need to stand firm on the issue of the Iranian nuclear program."

But two other officials expressed doubts, saying China's sensitivity about its own oil supplies was one reason President Bush had rejected any sanctions against Iran that would be aimed at its oil sector. "Getting the Chinese to come around on Iran," said one of the officials, who has been preparing for the meeting of the two leaders, "is going to be the great test of whether we're getting through on these issues."

Outside experts warn that the competition can be overblown.

"I sense that there is a diversity of views on this among the Chinese I speak to, and there are some who are questioning this mercantilist policy," said Elizabeth C. Economy, of the Council on Foreign Relations, and the author of "The River Runs Black," a study of the environmental impact of China's growth.

"If China has a prayer of continuing to grow at this rate, they have to move to far more efficient ways of using energy," she said, making a point that President Bush has made repeatedly in recent weeks.

Bates Gill, a China scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies here, warned recently that the United States had "thus far tended to over-exaggerate this issue of energy in our ever desperate search to find yet another major competitor with which to pick a fight."

With huge coal reserves, China imports only about 12 percent of its energy, Mr. Gill noted. It is rapidly expanding its use of nuclear power, though most experts believe it cannot meet its goals for the construction of new plants.

Mr. Bush's aides counter, however, that the growth in the Chinese automobile market is causing a surge in oil imports; the Energy Department estimates that China's demand will more than double, to 14.2 million barrels a day, by 2025. More than two-thirds of that will be imported, the department estimated last year. The United States currently imports about 60 percent of its daily 20 million barrels. Such figures led the White House to order a study last year of the potential political effects of that rise in demand.

Mr. Green, who left the National Security Council in December, recalled a visit from a senior Chinese official who tried to explain that China was only seeking business deals, and was not trying to influence countries where it was doing business.

"He used the example of Sudan and he said, 'Look, you know, we don't care about internal issues like genocide, we only care about the oil because we need the resources.' "

"And I said, 'Well look, that's mercantilism.' And the Chinese translator had trouble translating "mercantilism" and they had a big debate about it, and we figured it out. And then they had a big debate about whether I meant that as a good thing or a bad thing."

Comment on this Article

U.S. Ambassador unhappy about Japan's idea of East Asia FTA

www.chinaview.cn 2006-04-19 19:39:25

TOKYO, April 19 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Ambassador to Japan Thomas Schieffer expressed concern on Wednesday about Japan's idea to create a free trade zone in East Asia, claiming it could damage U.S. regional interests, Kyodo News reported.
Schieffer said the idea, which was proposed by Japanese Economy,Trade and Industry Minister Toshihiro Nikai earlier this month, is to "exclude the United States from Asia" and makes his country "uncomfortable."

"We believe as a Pacific nation, we have tremendous interests in Asia and we want to be a part of Asia," the Ambassador was quoted as addressing a lecture meeting in Tokyo.

Nikai proposed earlier this month that Japan should ask the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, China, South Korea,India, Australia and New Zealand to consider launching in 2008 regional FTA talks, whose aim is to establish an East Asian economic community, and planned to include the idea in the ministry's new global economic strategy.

Comment on this Article

$13,700 an Hour

The Nation
By Katrina Vanden Heuvel

The New York Times recently reported that--for the first time--a full-time worker earning minimum wage cannot afford a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in America at market rates. That means more and more people like Michelle Kennedy--a former Senate page and author of Without a Net: Middle Class and Homeless (With Kids) in America--are finding themselves homeless and living out of their cars.

At a town hall meeting in Ohio on April 2, Representative Sherrod Brown, a staunch advocate for social and economic rights (he and Bernie Sanders are the two best candidates running for Senate in 2006) railed against the economic hardship brought on by stagnant wages: "It is unacceptable that someone can work full-time--and work hard--and not be able to lift their family out of poverty." He blasted a system where a full-time minimum-wage worker earns $10,500 a year, while "last year the CEO of Wal-Mart earned $3,500 an hour. The CEO of Halliburton earned about $8,300 an hour. And the CEO of ExxonMobil earned about $13,700 an hour."

Robert Kuttner recently argued in the Boston Globe that while people are blaming undocumented workers for driving down wages, the real villains are "the people running the government, who have made sure that the lion's share of the productivity gains go to the richest 1 percent of Americans. With different tax, labor, health and housing policies, native-born workers and immigrants alike could get a fairer share of our productive economy." Kuttner points to Census data showing that "median household income fell 3.8 percent, or $1,700, from 1999 to 2004... during a period when average productivity rose 3 percent per year." And as income is falling, working people are increasingly squeezed. Costs for housing, healthcare, education and childcare rose 46 percent between 1991 and 2002, according to economist Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute.

And the situation is getting worse. Look at the Delphi Corporation's moves. The company asked a bankruptcy judge to void its union contracts so it could lower wages and benefits. CEO Steve Miller played the ever reliable global-competition card, saying in a recent Washington Post article, "At the end of the day, Delphi must be competitive in the global marketplace." But as Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University, makes clear, this new tactic will further erode labor's power in the workplace. "What in our laws and in our democracy gives a bankruptcy judge the right to take away freedom of association and collective bargaining?" Bronfenbrenner asks. "Bankruptcy judges should not have that power."

In the current climate--with tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans, a minimum wage frozen for eight years in a GOP-dominated Congress, deterioration of labor's power in the workplace and corporate-written free-trade agreements that exacerbate these trends--it is heartening to hear Sherrod Brown make the case that "a hard day's work should mean a fair day's pay."

The Democratic Party needs to find its moral compass, its heart and soul. Closing the gap between workers' pay and CEO compensation and raising the minimum wage (a movement that is under way in many states)--is what heart and soul are all about.

Comment on this Article

I Want to Believe!!!

Daughters of doomsday cult leader fight to save their 'loving' father

Justin McCurry in Tokyo
Wednesday April 19, 2006
The Guardian

He was behind the worst act of terrorism ever carried out on Japanese soil, but in the eyes of Kaori, his youngest daughter, Shoko Asahara was "a loving father" who taught her and her siblings to cherish all living things.

"I remember him as a very kind, very proud man," she told the Guardian in a rare interview, as her father's lawyers battled to save him from the gallows for masterminding the March 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in which 12 people died and thousands were injured. "For me there is a huge gap between my image of him and the image created by the media."
As leader of the doomsday cult Aum Supreme Truth, Asahara, 51, commanded the fanatical loyalty of 40,000 followers in Japan and Russia. Although its membership has since dropped to about 6,500, the perceived threat posed by the cult, now called Aleph, was underlined yesterday when 160 investigators raided its premises across Japan amid suspicions some cultists remain loyal to Asahara's violent teachings.

But the Asahara who languishes in prison is a shadow of his former self, incarceration having brought on a swift mental decline that has left him unable to speak or recognise his own children, his lawyers say. After more than 140 meetings in prison, lawyers say their client no longer understands what is happening to him and his trial should be halted. But their attempts to save him from the gallows have all but failed.

'Like a doll'

A court-appointed doctor said Asahara's apparent mental decline was simply an elaborate scam to escape execution. If so, he has managed to fool even members of his own family. "The first time I saw him he was just like a doll, he couldn't say a word," says Mayumi, his second daughter, who has visited him 28 times since August 2004.

His once long hair is now kept short and his beard has been replaced by greying stubble. Dressed in regulation grey prison uniform, the incontinent, nearly blind Asahara communicates with a series of indecipherable grunts, all meticulously recorded in his daughters' personal diaries. He can walk only with support and urinates and masturbates in front of his lawyers and daughters.

"I told him that my [two] brothers wanted to see him, that they had grown up and their voices had broken," said Kaori. "But he just sat there, rubbing his leg constantly. He didn't respond at all, even when I shouted."

The daughters' description of their father is far removed from the image Japanese have of the white-robed guru who drew thousands of disenchanted young men and women into his cult.

After a mammoth trial that ended with a death sentence in February 2004, Asahara's legal options appeared to have run out last month when the Tokyo high court threw out his appeal. His lawyers filed an objection to the ruling but it is not clear when a decision will be issued. If the petition is rejected Asahara could be led to his death at any time.

The daughters say they have spent the 11 years since their father's arrest living like fugitives. They have been denied housing and schooling, and are subjected to regular vilification in tabloid newspapers, which are convinced that they are under the malign influence of their father.

They refuse to meet the local media and only agreed to talk to the Guardian and two other foreign reporters provided they were not photographed and were referred to by aliases. During the interview, at the office of Asahara's lawyer, the daughters described how their lives had been blighted by their father's status as one of the most hated figures in Japanese criminal history.

Their elder sister had attempted suicide after being bullied at school and Mayumi was shunned when she asked the school principal for help. Their 11-year-old brother was recently denied admission to a junior high school, even though he had passed the entrance exam. Like Kaori, he has taken legal action to try and secure his right to an education. "Every move I make is reported, and none of it true," said Kaori, who was recently awarded 300,000 yen (£1,400) in damages from a university that refused to enroll her. "I don't trust the media any more. We just wish they'd forget about us."

Like other members of the cult, the daughters were given Aum identity numbers but say they have never been active members, either of Aum or its successor, Aleph, which says it has renounced violence. The women, now in their early 20s, live separately at secret addresses. They receive limited financial support from a guardian - a former Aum member who looked after them after their parents were arrested - but pay their way working part-time, moving jobs frequently after employers are tipped off about their identities.

Legal victory

Kaori's recent legal victory means she can now study at university, although she refuses to name which one. "By the time I started attending classes everyone knew who I was, but people have accepted me for who I am and I have made lots of friends," she said. Mayumi, who is studying for a law degree via correspondence, admits she doesn't have a single friend.

The sisters are reluctant to talk of the crimes for which their father is expected to hang. Kaori calls them a "big problem" but says she can't find the words to describe her feelings towards the victims. Asked if she thought her father capable of ordering such atrocities she said: "I would like to ask him directly."

Her physical resemblance to her father, and reports that as a child she had been anointed as his successor as head of the cult, has her constantly watching over her shoulder: on the day we meet she is wearing a wig. She says any semblance of a normal life will elude her as long as she remains in Japan, and she has loose plans to settle in Canada, where she spent a month studying English a few years ago.

"I was happy there because no one knew who I was," she said. "I could be myself, and I realised how much pressure comes with living in Japan. But I can't leave now. If I left and did nothing to help my father I would regret it forever."

Aum Supreme Truth: Dark and dangerous

Formed in the late 1980s, Aum Supreme Truth, with its secretive compound in the foothills of Mount Fuji, was seen as a weird, but harmless, group of yoga enthusiasts with an interest in spiritual development and ambitions for a modest role in party politics.

But there was a darker, hidden side to Asahara's most loyal disciples. While Aum's elite scientists set about developing chemical, biological and conventional weapons, Asahara convinced his followers - mainly disenchanted youths, among them graduates of Japan's best universities - that only unswerving faith in the cult's philosophy, a mix of conventional religions, the occult and yoga, would save them from a nuclear holocaust orchestrated by the US.

At about 8am on March 20 1995 several of Asahara's followers released sarin, a nerve gas developed by the Nazis, on several subway trains during the morning rush hour.

The cult was also responsible for a sarin attack on the town of Matsumoto in 1994 in which seven people died, and of killing Tsutsumi Sakamoto, an anti-cult lawyer, his wife and young son in 1989, among other crimes.

In 2000 the cult renamed itself Aleph, agreed to compensate victims and claimed it had renounced violence. The cult's headquarters in the Tokyo suburbs remain under constant surveillance. Police believe 1,650 members in Japan and 300 in Russia are still faithful to Asahara.

Comment on this Article

Spirits in the sky

18 apr 06

ACROSS Australia, people are looking to the skies for a saviour. Many people have seen objects in the sky that they could not identify, and many believe that we are not alone in the universe.

But there are also people who have built spiritual belief systems around the idea that aliens once came to Earth, and will return one day to take them away to a better place.
The Raelians, who had their "annual awakening seminar" earlier this month in Queensland, are a prominent group in Australia that believe aliens created them and will return.

These are most commonly referred to as UFO cults, the most infamous of which is Heaven's Gate, whose 39 members committed suicide in 1997 in the hope that their souls would catch a ride to the Kingdom of Heaven on a passing spaceship. But Monash University sociology professor Gary Bouma said religions based on UFOs are an "exceedingly tiny fraction" of religious groups.

Professor Bouma, an expert on religion and society, said they were "one of the absolute fringes of spirituality".

"It's simply a tiny little group pursuing an esoteric idea. Life has been full of them, they've come and gone," he said.

"They never stand up against the mainstream, for a whole variety of reasons."

But since space travel began in the 1950s, the idea of extraterrestrials has taken hold of people's imaginations.

Films like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and television series like The X-Files have made aliens and UFOs a part of popular culture.

There is even a predominant image of an alien - a small, grey creature with big, dark eyes.

And with new technology such as the internet, small groups can have a large and enduring presence.

The Raelians are one group that has used the internet to become a worldwide phenomenon. They have an international headquarters in Switzerland, and offices all over the world, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

They claim there are up to 70,000 Raelians worldwide, with about 500 in Australia. A registered non-profit organisation, their main aim is "to create peace on Earth".

The group was founded in 1973 by Rael, a French journalist formerly known as Claude Vorilhon.

He said he had met extraterrestrials who told him to build an embassy to await their return to Earth.

He claimed they had created humanity, and would return to elevate them to a higher evolutionary plane sometime before 2035. But members of many groups deny that the word "cult" applies to them, and would prefer to be called religions, if anything.

This is a complicated idea. The High Court of Australia defines religion as "a complex of beliefs and practices which point to a set of values and an understanding of the meaning of existence". By this definition, most groups with any organised spirituality should be referred to as religions.

The proliferation of magazines, books, and internet sites on the subjects suggests most groups referred to as "cults" are not just brainwashed followers of charismatic leaders, but diverse groups of people looking for spiritual guidance. The Raelians gained media exposure through their claims to have cloned humans, and they have also weighed into the Intelligent Design debate with their version of the origin of life. Roy Tyrrell is a "guide" with the Raelians - a position which he likens to being a priest.

He said the Raelians believe "that life . . . was a scientific creation".

"We believe that beings, whom we call the Elohim (which translates as 'those who come from the sky') came to the planet, and with the synthesis of DNA they were able to create life."

"They created man after their likeness, so we look like the Elohim," he said.

This theory of the origins of humanity is common in UFO cults and is often referred to as the Ancient Astronaut theory. Its most famous proponent was Erich Von Daniken, whose 1969 book Chariots of the Gods? Was God an Astronaut? was a bestseller.

Von Daniken argued that aliens were a hidden force behind the history of humankind, responsible for ancient civilisations. He suggests that, once upon a time, there was a war between two worlds, and the defeated race concealed themselves on Earth.

These astronaut refugees then contacted the "feeble hominids" (our ancestors) and decided to help them.

So they mated with the hunter-gatherers and produced a superior race of human beings.

VON Daniken offered proof of his theory in the form of cave drawings that he claimed looked like astronauts, complete with helmets and spacesuits.

Mr Tyrrell said Von Daniken has "provided evidence of the existence of extraterrestrials doing things on the planet in the past".

He said this supported the Raelians claim that the Elohim had been here.

Professor Bauma said that these extraterrestrial theories of the origins of life are "an interesting but trivial phenomenon", although for some people they are "a way of making sense of the world around them".

"Von Daniken said if you look at certain things a certain way they look a bit like astronauts," he said. "I can't imagine that he has any current credibility."

He said that some people "seem to be vulnerable to some kinds of charismatic leaders", and that people should be wary of people trying to convert them to unconventional religions.

Comment on this Article

A captive audience for salvation

By Jane Lampman | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor April 19, 2006

NASHVILLE, TENN. - America has the highest incarceration level in the world, and its prisons serve too consistently as revolving doors. Are faith-based programs in prisons the answer to these disturbing trends?

The largest private company running prisons and jails in the United States, Corrections Corporation of America, thinks so. CCA has embarked on a major initiative to expand such programs in all 63 facilities it operates under contract with local, state, and federal governments.
"These programs give inmates hope and prepare them to be different people," says John Lanz, CCA's director of industry and special programs.

While the ambitious approach wins kudos from some inmates, other people question its constitutionality.

Though not directly supported by President Bush's faith-based initiative, CCA's program poses the same questions about how to encourage positive change in people's lives without privileging one form of religion with taxpayer dollars. Some also see potential political ramifications.

CCA provides for a variety of religious services in each facility, as required by law. But in addition, it has formed partnerships with eight national Evangelical Christian ministries under which CCA provides annual financial contributions and sets up franchise-style operations within facilities.

"We had chaplains and religious services, but I saw we didn't take full advantage of resources these national ministries provided, and they were having [legal] difficulties in state and federal facilities," says Mr. Lanz. "As a private company, we could knock down the barriers."

Critics say those barriers shouldn't come down. Religious programming per se - which can benefit both prisoners and the prison environment - is not at issue, but showing preference for a particular religion is. The partnerships do that, they suggest, especially when they include residential "pods" where one faith message structures the living situation, and benefits are available that others don't get.

In a case unrelated to CCA, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State has challenged in court the Inner Change program run in an Iowa prison by Charles Colson's Prison Fellowship. Results of that trial are due any day.

CCA says funding groups using company profits makes it legal, but others argue that since CCA acts for the government in running facilities, it cannot support a particular religious message.

"In the corrections context, CCA would be treated as if it is a 'state actor,' " says Robert Tuttle, a law professor at George Washington University and an expert on faith-based program issues.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation of Madison, Wis., and its New Mexico members recently filed a federal lawsuit against the state and CCA over programming at the women's prison in Grants, N.M. FFRF says the Life Principles program in the "faith pod" there is fundamentalist Christian and teaches the women submission to male authority.

"This is a flagrant endorsement of religion," says Annie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. "We consider this a nationally significant lawsuit because they are the major private provider of prison services ... and have openly said they want to franchise this."

The company contends it's on safe ground because programs are voluntary and inmates don't have to convert; it developed a checklist for detention facilities to follow, which it says will ensure they are meeting First Amendment requirements.

Ms. Gaylor disagrees: "They are being told that the only way they can be rehabilitated is through Jesus Christ, so it's a mind game even if they say you don't have to convert."

Volunteering in prison is a complicated question, Professor Tuttle says. Do some make choices they think officials or parole boards favor?

Studies don't support program effectiveness

Along with issues of taxpayer funding of a religious message, there are questions of religious programs' efficacy in prison. Todd Clear, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, has conducted several evaluations. He says that empirical data have not shown a positive impact that can be traced to the programs themselves.

The studies show "fairly substantial differences in postrelease success of those involved and those not," he says, "but the differences disappear when you statistically control for the characteristics and background of the people."

Yet encouraged by Bush's faith-based initiative and by staff and inmate interest, CCA says that along with the vocational, educational, and antiaddiction programs offered, faith-based programs are crucial.

"While all programs are important, our company - and, hopefully, our nation - has recognized that changing the hearts of people leads to larger change of attitudes and behavior," says Dennis Bradby, CCA's vice president for inmate programs.

At the Metro-Davidson detention facility in Nashville, Tenn., inmates can apply to live in separate residential communities some have dubbed "God pods," where life is highly structured.

Chaplain Dennis Smith coordinates one faith pod in which 41 inmates study two programs: Life Principles - a character-building curriculum based on fundamentalist biblical teachings developed by the Institute for Life Principles, in Oak Brook, Ill., (a group controversial even among evangelicals); and the Bible study course of School for Christ International, of Beaumont, Texas. Local volunteer teachers receive training by national ministries, which provide the materials.

At a pod session during a recent visit, inmates listen to a televangelist-style message on DVD by the ministry leader, focused on religious doctrine, and then volunteer Ray Vick leads a discussion.

"The fact that I'm saved means I'm special to the Lord. Do you consider yourself a miracle?" Mr. Vick asks. "If it wasn't for Jesus, we couldn't be saved and become a new creation."

One inmate raises the importance of forgiveness, and Vick talks about his experience of forgiving an absent father. In his second term at the jail, David Elmore signed up for the pod and considers it one of his best decisions.

"The programs teach me that God is the head of my life whether I want Him to be or not, and if I yield to that, my life will be better - and I'm seeing that," he says in an interview. "We do anger resolution, the commands of Christ, and 170 lessons with DVDs and a text on what's expected of you as a Christian."

Mr. Elmore, who worked for a concrete company, says he played hard and did what he wanted, including alcohol and drugs. A divorced father who left home when his daughter was 4, he has also signed up with another of the ministries - Child Evangelism Fellowship - which encourages inmates to communicate with their children around Bible lessons.

"My daughter always wanted to know why I wasn't there," Elmore says. "She's 18, and this helps us build a relationship based on who we are now rather than on past mistakes."

Harold Harris, also a repeat offender, says, "Once you get into the program it will grab you. Doing time is hard.... This is the best place to be in the facility because there's more peace."

The other faith pod of 100 inmates is staffed directly by Men of Valor, a Nashville ministry founded by a former prisoner. It is committed to "winning men in prison to Jesus Christ and discipling them" so they can "reenter society as men of integrity." The staff of five shepherds the men through a 12-month curriculum, including goal setting and one-on-one mentoring by volunteers. The mentoring will continue for a year after the inmates' release, and includes support from a local church.

During the morning, the men spend time in group sessions on topics like marriage and family, financial management, and Christian qualities of manhood; an afternoon community meeting is for discussing issues and worship. Today, it's a rousing, high-energy event, with a cappella praise songs, clapping, and rap music with Christian lyrics written last night by "the Prayer Squad": "This is the new life/ set back wait I got something to tell/ remember my old life/ high speeding on my way to hell...."

Eugene Gregory used to write a different kind of rap music, but says "since I got in the program, it don't feel right" anymore. This is his fifth time in jail. He's only 25 and has five kids. Raised in a strict, churchgoing family, he got caught up in adventure, drugs, and the "Wild Boys" gang.

"I've learned something new every day - it's exciting," he says. Even if allowed out after a coming court date, he'd prefer "to leave a new man. I want to inspire somebody to wonder what happened to me."

Does it institutionalize Evangelical view?

Several in the pod say what's affected them most is the Bible study. "I used to read the Bible like any book, but they taught us to read one verse maybe a hundred times until you get the meaning," says Rodney Collier. "Now I know how to go to God."

Residential faith-based pods in prisons are a growing phenomenon in states, though controversial. Dr. Clear says Colson's Prison Fellowship (PF) has reorganized its programs to focus on reentry into the community.

In addition to the eight Evangelical ministries already under agreement, CCA has just signed with PF for a reentry program in Indiana. It's also developing a partnership with megachurch pastor Rick Warren's prison ministry.

Overall, "we're about 40-50 percent there in implementing these programs," Lanz says.

The all-out emphasis on Evangelical groups, including some fundamentalist ones, appears to involve deals with preferred religious groups for any structured programs beyond simple church services, raising questions about the choice inmates have. Some county jails are taking similar steps.

"This is now a systematic attempt by folks on the prison and Evangelical side to move this vision of evangelical transformation as a core part of what it means to prepare prisoners for reentry," Tuttle says.

Dr. Clear is also skeptical. "The potential downsides of a partisan, Evangelical alliance with a profit-making prison industry are alarming," he says.

Yet he is strongly in favor of religious programming that offers real choice and is widely available. Prisoners are positive about programs because they ameliorate the strains of being locked up, he says.

The challenge for those in the corrections business is to find the right constitutional mix of programs that allow prisoners free religious expression and a choice of opportunities for rehabilitation.

Comment on this Article

Scientists unveil world's oldest ice block

Tue Apr 18, 2006

TOKYO - A million-year-old ice sample drilled from 3 kilometres under the Antarctic and unveiled in Tokyo on Tuesday could yield vital clues on climate change, Japanese scientists said.

Researchers, showing off the cylindrical samples of what they said was the oldest ice ever to be retrieved, said studying air trapped inside "core" samples taken from various depths under ground could also help predict how the Earth's weather patterns will change in the future.
"The ice core is made up of snow that fell in the distant past," said project leader Hideaki Motoyama of the National Institute of Polar Research, dressed snugly in a parka after unveiling the gleaming ice in a room kept at minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 Fahrenheit).

"You can use it to examine changes in temperature, levels of carbon dioxide and methane over time, information that is only available from the core," he said.

Researchers at the Dome Fuji base in the eastern Antarctic spent more than two years on the delicate operation of drilling into the ice sheet, coming up with the million-year-old samples in January and shipping them to Japan on an icebreaker.

Research based on a previous study of Antarctic ice and published by Nature magazine last year said concentrations of carbon dioxide and methane were far higher now than at any time in the last 650,000 years.

The Japanese team will look farther into the past and are also hoping the ice samples will yield opportunities to study the evolution of tiny organisms trapped in the ice.

"The environment there is very harsh, with temperatures about minus 45 degrees, so we don't know if life can be sustained," Motoyama said. "But we believe we will find organisms."

The researchers believe they can dig about another 20 metres into the ice at the Antarctic site before reaching base rock.

Comment on this Article

Remember, we need your help to collect information on what is going on in your part of the world!
Send your article suggestions to: sott(at)signs-of-the-times.org