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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 naďve, 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 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.
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. Łobaczewski
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: The Destruction of the 911 Truth Movement
Signs of the Times
20 April 2006
Lately, it sure looks like the whole Alternative News and 911 Truth movement is being subjected to the Ponerization process (being twisted to become an agent for Evil), so perhaps now would be a good time to take a look at how that process develops. First, a little background.
There is a current discussion on our Forum that was begun by a certain Dimitris following the publication of an editorial about Jeff Rense. Dimitris declared, quite self-righteously, that publishing such an editorial identified us clearly as "agents of cointelpro." Here is the article that we published that aroused the ire of Dimitris:
As it happens, there are a LOT of questions that ought to be asked about Jeff Rense and Co and most of them are outlined in said forum discussion, so the reader might want to check it out for all the juicy details.
I have been looking at Rense's website for the last two years and gathered from Laura's research, that he most likely, whether consciously or not, is an asset of Cointelpro. The website gives the image of having no limits on what they will put up and yet there are some glaring omissions.
One of these omissions is in regards to birdflu. The site is like a birdflu central with daily updates on birdflu occurring all over the planet. There has NOT BEEN one article in respect to the likelihood that Birdflu is a HOAX.
ANOTHER omission is in regard to drastic climate changes, METEORS, the many recent meteor sightings and the many recent discoveries of impact crater from meteors around the world. The signs website has an excellent supplement on Meteors found here: http://www.cassiopaea.org/cass/site_map_qfg.htm
The last omission that I will mention here is in regard to the Signs website and the pentagon Strike video, which considering the fact that 500+million people have seen it, SHOULD feature on Rense's lefthand column as a permanent feature and a permanent link to the Producers thereof, namely SOTT.
One can look at this from the point of view of what is of paramount importance for the PTB, and what they donâ€™t want the populace to see. If indeed it is true, that rense is an arm of COINTELPRO, then the important things are the things omitted from the site, some of which I mentioned above. It follows, that NOTHING that appears on Rense is important at all. It is only for keeping the population distracted!
Facts are:1) the US is spending as if there is no tomorrow and as though they will never ever have to pay the money back.
2) The speed with which the US is implementing a world clamp down and a control on the populace is without parallel in modern history.
3) There is hardly an attempt at disguising their fascist march for world domination as though they know, that they will not be held accountable ever.
4) There is a lack of exposure of the lies of the US from OTHER NATIONS, who have intelligence services with satellite surveillance and who surely knows what is going on.
5) The US is using Depleted Uranium in the Middle East and other places indiscriminantly, as though the consequences of radiation of vast areas (including Europe and the US) is of no concern.
Talking to a friend about this, the question that was brought up was why don't they want the populace to ponder the possibility of cataclysmic earthchanges in the very near future, if they are happy to entertain the notion of perpetual war or economic megabust or whatever else is on Rense.
One answer that we came up with is this.
If the PTB have been given advance notice of an imminent comet strike (such as the cyclical comet strike with a cycle of 3600 years as mentioned by Laura), then it would be important for the PTB to vector the attention of the populace into all kinds of areas of no real importance.
WHY you might ask?
IF the populace knew that the world would be impacted by a massive cataclysm in say april year 2009 then
1) the populace would not be as easily controlled.
2) They would probably reevaluate their life and maybe not go to work.
3) The world economy would collapse, but in a NONLINEAR FASHION, in other words not when the PTB plans to pull it.
4) The people, from journalist to military officials might not continue to compromise their souls (if they have one) for their masters in order to pay their mortgage/lifestyle unless they are also promised salvation in an underground bunker, which is doubtful.
The PTB including other world leaders (The C's mentions that the world government has been a reality for a long time) would have been promised a safe haven, most likely in some deep underground bunker or a rapture for the religious minded. This would explain why they go about things as though never to be held accountable.
Building of underground cities requires massive amounts of money, tunnel workers and industries related to the building thereof. A collapse before time of the world economy would severely hamper the effort of the PTB in creating a safe haven. If not, then maybe an angry and cheated population whose attention were not distracted on bogus terrorists and like things, would hamper the PTB. Donald Hunt mentions the issue of crowd control and possible riots in todays economic report here http://signs-of-the-times.org/signs/edi ... entary.php
Dolan, as many others, mentions in a recent interview extensive tunneling going on in America. He mentions a quote from Rumsfeld of a black budget of 2.6 trillion dollars in 2001. The interview that I heard thanks to the Signs forum is found here: http://www.keyholepublishing.com/
Whether the above answer is THE ANSWER or just part of the answer is open for pondering, but the fact is that certain things are omitted from Rense and that in itself raises obvious questions. I would, as mentioned above, seriously doubt that any of the things mentioned on Rense is of any real importance, other than seeing where the PTB wants our attention directed.
The thing is, something really creepy is going on right before our eyes and we need to sit up and pay attention here!
First of all, notice this piece by a web pundit that goes by the nom de plume "Sartre":
A Fractured Conservative Movement
All that sounds very reasonable, doesn't it? But the fact is, it is so doctrinaire and simplistic and does NOT take into account the very REAL problem of REAL CoIntelPro as well as deviant psychology, that it is effectively an action in favor of same! You know the old rule: The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. Well, let's paraphrase that: "The only thing necessary for the takeover of the 911 Truth Movement by Fascist agents of CoIntelPro is for the members of that movement to NOT expose such agents when and if they spot them, and for the movement as a whole to utilize the most careful hygiene in keeping itself clean of pathological elements."
There is nothing new about rugged individualists disagreeing. In some respects such divergence is quite normal and appropriate. Whether there is anything that can be remotely labeled a patriot movement, to begin with is certainly a valid area of discussion. But what happens when supposed like- minded world views clash to the extent that eating one's own becomes an obsession?
By consistently targeting many of the named anti-establishment publishers for ridicule and savage attacks, the Victor-Lisa show resembles a Saturday Night skit more than serious journalism. Earning an honorable mention in their list of the unfaithful does not slant this assessment. Sure paranoid sites like Fintan Dunne's "The CIA Internet Fakes" lumps BATR with WING-TV as government disinformation projects. A careful inspection of this list indicated that BATR is included with some good company. If the Dunne goal is to damage the credibility of such sites, why does WING-TV resort to the same kind of tactics - guilt by association?
Attacking Jeff Rense and Alex Jones because both refuse to deal with WING-TV is hardly a persuasive argument. The claims and charges of censorship have been a long standing disagreement with Ms. Guliani. What she sees as an obligation to have her viewpoint echoed on other sites, we view as a privilege to earn the trust of another publisher. What WING-TV has done by their consistent and comprehensive smear vendetta is to destroy it's own credibility as a truth teller. Such devices of desperation are reflected without the trace of rational self-control or cogent wisdom. Read closely Mr. Thorns angry outburst and judge for yourselves:
Message to a Eunuch (Sartre: BATR) by Victor Thorn
'For once in your lives, stand up and do something. If you're men, start acting like it. Your feeble articles are not only boring beyond words (i.e. Sartre), but they're weak in spirit, weak in delivery, with an emotional void that leaves the reader so filled with ennui that it's no wonder our country is in the mess it's in. If you were around during the American Revolution, our nation would have lost miserably because each and every one of you would have turned coat and ran back to England to suck on the King's tit.'
This example typifies the conduct used against anyone who takes issue with the purity of vision that only exists in the mind of a self-proclaimed soaring eagle of the alternative media. BATR does not play this name game or sink to the level of crass verbiage. The publisher calls the shots and any editor worthy of the name is well within their right to exclude the rants of disinformation specialists. Likewise the reader is the sole arbitrator of who is worthy of their trust. Who is telling the absolute and definitive truth requires the honesty of the divine and surely none of us aspire to such lofty heights.
For this reason BREAKING ALL THE RULES has severed all relations with WING-TV. Regretfully this decision is based not only upon significant differences in strategy and tactics but mainly upon a profound loss of respect. It is the task of each individual to find the value in the work of any journalist or columnists. We urge you to recognize some of the factual contributions that have been published on WING-TV. However, Thoreau was right: 'If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.'
Take that to the bank.
There are quite a number of people, besided Dimitris, who "deplore" the so-called "infighting" of the 911 truth movement. Among them is a woman named Judy Andreas.
Now, this Judy Andreas is a strange phenomenon. Judy sort of "appeared" on the scene out of nowhere. She was dating John Kaminski all the while she was making "advances" toward Stan Hess who ended up marrying her though the marriage only lasted for two weeks, as I understand.
If you read some of the stuff on her site, linked above, and "read between the lines," you will perceive that she has made advances toward several people with internet radio shows/websites - generally those with well-known names. It's almost as though she is a sex bomb "working the circuit." From what several people who have interacted with her have told me, it seems to be her assignment to get these individuals she hooks up with to turn their 'thinking" around. Pretty clever feat for a sexy granny in her 60s, eh?
Andreas is a "regular columnist" on Rense, and we notice that Rense has dumped Kaminski... I guess because John was not manipulatable by Judy.
Now, notice on her webpage that she reproduces a "fan letter" from someone that says:
"I'm overwhelmed...there on the counter sat the package. Couldn't wait to
open it --- love the format for easy reading. It is impressive to have John foreword it and Cindy Sheehan with Jeff Rense- terrific! I like the piece by Pamela Icke. I
shall keep the book by the computer and pick it up to read (& savor) piece by
piece. I'll tell the universe to have a major publisher pick it up!
Thankyou! Arhata "
Aside from making the normal human being want to lose their cookies just reading it, what is interesting about this letter? Notice the reference to the inclusion of a piece by Pamela Icke.
http://www.enlighteneddating.com/softbi ... .php?id=21
As it happens, David Icke was recently assimilated by abovetopsecret.com as we have reported in previous posts here on the blog (see all of those relating to abovetopsecret.com and Project Serpo). Of course, since we reported it, it seems that there is some glitch... Icke doesn't seem to be coming forth with the goods. Oh well.
"Pamela Icke is the wife of one of the most popular regular guests on News
for the Soul -- David Icke -- and she too has quite the story to tell. And
find out about enlightened relationship from someone who is in one... Don't
miss this raveling hour of enlightening talk radio ..."
In any event, since we now have hard evidence that abovetopsecret.com is hooked up with Wayne Jaeschke and that they claim Morrison and Foerster as their legal reps, and Jaeschke has been implicated as participating in the creation of the "Project Serpo" hoax, (see previous posts here), this connection between Judy Andreas and the Icke people is highly suggestive.
I seem to recall that Rense and Icke were good buddies at one point and then either drifted apart or had a falling out. Since we have learned that this is a typical tactic, maybe that "falling out" was just for public consumption because Judy Andreas sure must like Icke and Rense likes Judy.
Coming back to our problem, one of the forum members brought to our attention an interesting comment from Wing TV regarding a phone conversation with Sartre referred as "Mr. X" (identified in another link: http://www.wingtv.net/thornarticles/2005awards.html (scroll down to #137)).
OPM: Other People's Money
So, it looks like Guliani and Thorn have definitely smelled a rat and stirred up a hornet's nest. Join the club Lisa and Victor! I reckon we can safely say that we are the most attacked, defamed, criticized, and marginalized group of researchers going in the alternative media field today. This crap has been going on for about 14 years. It ramped up in summer of 2001, more or less in preparation for 911 (as we can see in retrospect), and I've spent a small fortune on medical bills to deal with the stress. That is one of the reasons we are in France. After our address was published on an ADL type site with the suggestion that somebody find us and "take care" of us, my children were threatened, two of them injured, one ended up in the hospital on life support and nearly died, our dog was poisoned, and well... leaving seemed to be the right thing to do. It was the only way we could continue to work.
by Lisa Guliani
Several months ago I received a phone call from a journalist who happens to be a regular columnist for Jeff Rense. I'll call him Mr."X". We were discussing the whole "patriot/truth/9-11 movement" and he wanted to give me some advice on how he thinks Victor and I should be "playing the game".
When he asked how we finance WING TV, I told him we work day jobs. His response to this was hearty laughter, followed by the comment, "Listen, your problem lies in the fact that you guys don't have a racket. You need to get a racket."
My reply: "We're not interested in getting a racket."
Mr. "X": "Haven't you ever heard of OPM?"
Me: "OPM? No. What is OPM?"
Mr. "X": OPM is an acronym for 'Other People's Money'. "X" then went on to tell me how much easier it would be to run WING TV if we'd simply get other people to foot the bills for doing what we're doing. According to "X," that's how anybody who is successful is doing it. That's how the "big boys" like Jones and Rense are doing it. After all, you don't see them working day jobs, do you? The reason they're successful is because they understand how to play the game. And the name of the game is OPM.
I was pretty disgusted with this type of advice coming from someone who I'd presumed to be a person operating under honorable and ethical guidelines. I made it clear to "X" that we have no intention of playing their "OPM game". "X" said we're stupid if we don't do it because "everybody's doing it."
Everybody's doing it? No, not everybody. There are people like Thorn and me in the alternative media who are not feeding off the OPM free cash cow.
We ended the phone call, but this man's words have haunted me ever since.
Think about it. He's correct in saying that shysters atop the alternative media food chain are sucking money out of you like your pocket is a sieve, and that their shows and websites are breeding grounds to foment irrational fear and paranoia in the listening audience. And it works masterfully, because the most suggestible listeners dutifully pay up.
You don't see the "big boys" like Jones and Rense out there working for a living, do you? No. They don't have to, because they've got you doing all the work --- then forking over your hard-earned money to them.
Their websites are slick, polished, and highly suggestive that there is quite a bit of money behind them. So, where does the bulk of that money come from? It comes out of your pocket.
By buying their "end of the world" and "New Age" remedies, energized water, fake food (Ener-Food), toe fungus, British water filters, etc, you are enabling the OPM racket to flourish and thrive. You, the listener and consumer, are making it possible for these shysters to peddle their snake oil and propaganda on an ongoing basis. This makes it possible for the fear-mongers to sit back and watch the dollars roll in. With a scam like this, why should they go out and get a real job? The OPM racket is not a new one. We've all seen this before with unscrupulous televangelists. Peter Schaenk even compared these individuals to the huckster Elmer Ganty. You're their meal-ticket as long as you remain freaked out and sweating bullets. These men are fully capable of working (even part-time jobs) to pay their own bills. But y'see, they'd rather have you do that for them. That's why it's called a "racket".
In essence, you are paying them to bullshit you and feed you heavy doses of fear on a daily basis, and they hold themselves to be above questioning. The snake oil salesmen have no accountability because YOU don't hold them accountable. No wonder they're so smug.
Nice little racket, huh?
But back to what I want to talk about today: As I mentioned above, it sure looks like the whole Alternative News and 911 Truth movement is being subjected to the Ponerization process, so perhaps now would be a good time to take a look at how that process develops by a lengthy but, oh so worth reading, quote from Andrzej Lobaczewski's book.
This is why such groups USE other groups to achieve their goals. They infiltrate, find weak individuals to target, begin the process of moral degeneration, etc. That is to say, just because a group operates under the banner of "communism" or "socialism" or "democracy" or "conservatism" or "republicanism", doesn't mean that, in practice, their functions are anything close to the original ideology. As we can see in the present day, the republican party (and the democrats as well, they are just pretending to be different) have been taken over by what amounts to Nazis. These Nazis use the ideology of the political parties to motivate large masses of people who still believe that the rulership of the party is aligned with the original ideology.
We shall give the name "ponerogenic association" to any group of people characterized by ponerogenic processes of above-average social intensity, wherein the carriers of various pathological factors function as inspirers, spellbinders, and leaders, and where a proper pathological social structure generates.
Smaller, less permanent associations may be called "groups" or "unions".
Such an association gives birth to evil which hurts other people as well as its own members. We could list various names ascribed to such organizations by linguistic tradition: gangs, criminal mobs, mafias, cliques, and coteries, which cunningly avoid collision with the law while seeking to gain their own advantage. Such unions frequently aspire to political power in order to impose their expedient legislation upon societies in the name of a suitably prepared ideology, deriving advantages in the form of disproportionate prosperity and the satisfaction of their craving for power.
A description and classification of such associations with a view of their numbers, goals, officially promulgated ideologies, and internal organizations would of course be scientifically valuable. Such a description, effected by a perceptive observer, could help a ponerologist determine some of the properties of such unions, which cannot be determined by means of natural conceptual language.
A description of this kind, however, ought not to cloak the more factual phenomena and psychological dependencies operating within these unions. Failure to heed this warning can easily cause such a sociological description to indicate properties which are of secondary importance, or even made "for show" to impress the uninitiated, thereby overshadowing the actual phenomena which decide the quality, role, and fate of the union. Particularly if such a description is colorful literature, it can furnish merely illusory or ersatz knowledge, thus rendering a naturalistic perception and causative comprehension of phenomena more difficult.
One phenomenon all ponerogenic groups and associations have in common is the fact that their members lose (or have already lost) the capacity to perceive pathological individuals as such, interpreting their behavior in a fascinated, heroic, or melodramatic ways. The opinions, ideas, and judgments of people carrying various psychological deficits are endowed with an importance at least equal to that of outstanding individuals among normal people.
The atrophy of natural critical faculties with respect to pathological individuals becomes an opening to their activities, and, at the same time, a criterion for recognizing the association in concern as ponerogenic. Let us call this the first criterion of ponerogenesis.
Another phenomenon all ponerogenic associations have in common is their statistically high concentration of individuals with various psychological anomalies. Their qualitative composition is crucially important in the formation of the entire union's character, activities, development, or extinction.
Groups dominated by various kinds of characteropathic individuals will develop relatively primitive activities, proving rather easy for a society of normal people to break. However, things are quite different when such unions are inspired by psychopathic individuals. [...]
Two basic types of the above-mentioned unions should be differentiated: Primary ponerogenic and secondary ponerogenic. Let us describe as primarily ponerogenic a union whose abnormal members were active from the very beginning, playing the role of crystallizing catalysts as early as the process of creation of the group occurred. We shall call secondarily ponerogenic a union which was founded in the name of some idea with an independent social meaning, generally comprehensible within the categories of the natural world view, but which later succumbed to a certain moral degeneration. This in turn opened the door to infection and activation of the pathological factors within, and later to a ponerization of the group as a whole, or often of its fraction.
From the very outset, a primarily ponerogenic union is a foreign body within the organism of society, its character colliding with the moral values held or respected by the majority. The activities of such groups provoke opposition and disgust and are considered immoral; as a rule, therefore, such groups do not spread large, nor do they metastasize into numerous unions; they finally lose their battle with society.
The same is being done with alternative news and the 911 truth movement. It is being infiltrated and turned around because it is way too dangerous to the Nazis that have taken over the U.S. political scene under the guise of being republicans or democrats or neo-conservatives, or whatever names they have created to bamboozle the public.
In order to have a chance to develop into a large ponerogenic association, however, it suffices that some human organization, characterized by social or political goals and an ideology with some creative value, be accepted by a larger number of normal people before it succumbs to a process of ponerogenic malignancy. The primary tradition and ideological values of such a society may then, for a long time, protect a union which has succumbed to the ponerization process from the awareness of society, especially its less critical components.
When the ponerogenic process touches such a human organization, which originally emerged and acted in the name of political or social goals, and whose causes were conditioned in history and the social situation, the original group's primary values will nourish and protect such a union, in spite of the fact that those primary values succumb to characteristic degeneration, the practical function becoming completely different from the primary one, because the names and symbols are retained.
This is where the weaknesses of individual and social "common sense" are revealed.
That is why Sartre and Judy Andreas and others decrying the "name calling" in the 911 Truth Movement are either agents themselves or woefully naive and will never survive the nazification/ponerization of the movement. The so-called "commonsense" that they subscribe to is NO DEFENSE against psychological deviants! But such "commonsensical" sayings and motifs will be brought up and flung around with great abandon by agents seeking to put the more critical members of the public back to sleep.
Ponerogenic unions of the primary variety are mainly of interest to criminology; our main concern will be associations that succumb to a secondary process of poneric malignancy. First, however, let us sketch a few properties of such associations which have already surrendered to this process.
Within each ponerogenic union, a psychological structure is created which can be considered a counterpart or caricature of the normal structure of society or a normal societal organization. In a normal social organization, individuals with various psychological strengths and weaknesses complement each other's talents and characteristics. This structure is subjected to diachronic modification with regard to changes in the character of the association as whole. The same is true of a ponerogenic union. Individuals with various psychological aberrations also complement each other's talents and characteristics.
The earlier phase of a ponerogenic union's activity is usually dominated by characteropathic, particularly paranoid, individuals, who often play an inspirational or spellbinding role in the ponerization process. Recall here the power of the paranoid characteropath lies in the fact that they easily enslave less critical minds, e.g. people with other kinds of psychological deficiencies, or who have been victims of individuals with character disorders, and, in particular, a large segment of young people.
At this point in time, the union still exhibits certain romantic features and is not yet characterized by excessively brutal behavior. Soon, however, the more normal members are pushed into fringe functions and are excluded from organizational secrets; some of them thereupon leave such a union.
An example would be a paranoid character who believes himself to be a Robin Hood type character with a "mission" to "rob from the rich and give to the poor." This can easily transform to "rob from anyone to gain for the self" under the cover of "social injustice against us makes it right."
Note: From the Communist Manifesto: "By proletariat [is meant] the class of modern wage laborers, who, having no means of production of their own, are reduced to selling their labor-power in order to live."
Individuals with inherited deviations then progressively take over the inspirational and leadership positions. The role of essential psychopaths gradually grows, although they like to remain ostensibly in the shadows (e.g. directing small groups), setting the pace as an éminence grise.
In ponerogenic unions on the largest social scales, the leadership role is generally played by a different kind of individual, one more easily digestible and representative. Examples include frontal characteropathy, or some more discreet complex of lesser taints.
A spellbinder at first simultaneously plays the role of leader in a ponerogenic group. Later there appears another kind of "leadership talent", a more vital individual who often joined the organization later, once it has already succumbed to ponerization. The spellbinding individual, being weaker, is forced to come to terms with being shunted into the shadows and recognizing the new leader's "genius", or accept the threat of total failure. Roles are parceled out. The spellbinder needs support from the primitive but decisive leader, who in turn needs the spellbinder to uphold the association's ideology, so essential in maintaining the proper attitude on the part of those members of the rank and file who betray a tendency to criticism and doubt of the moral variety.
The spellbinder's job then becomes to repackage the ideology appropriately, sliding new contents in under old titles, so that it can continue fulfilling its propaganda function under ever-changing conditions. He also has to uphold the leader's mystique inside and outside the association. Complete trust cannot exist between the two, however, since the leader secretly has contempt for the spellbinder and his ideology, whereas the spellbinder despises the leader for being such a coarse individual. A showdown is always probable; whoever is weaker becomes the loser.
The structure of such a union undergoes further variegation and specialization.
A chasm opens between the somewhat more normal members and the elite initiates who are, as a rule, more pathological. This later subgroup becomes ever more dominated by hereditary pathological factors, the former by the after-effects of various diseases affecting the brain, less typically psychopathic individuals, and people whose malformed personalities were caused by early deprivation or brutal child-rearing methods on the part of pathological individuals.
It soon develops that there is less and less room for normal people in the group at all. The leaders' secrets and intentions are kept hidden from the union's proletariat; the products of the spellbinders' work must suffice for this segment.
An observer watching such a union's activities from the outside and using the natural psychological world view will always tend to overestimate the role of the leader and his allegedly autocratic function. The spellbinders and the propaganda apparatus are mobilized to maintain this erroneous outside opinion. The leader, however, is dependent upon the interests of the union, especially the elite initiates, to an extent greater than he himself knows. He wages a constant position-jockeying battle; he is an actor with a director. In macrosocial unions, this position is generally occupied by a more representative individual not deprived of certain critical faculties; initiating him into all those plans and criminal calculations would be counterproductive.
In conjunction with part of the elite, a group of psychopathic individuals hiding behind the scenes steers the leader, the way Borman and his clique steered Hitler. If the leader does not fulfill his assigned role, he generally knows that the clique representing the elite of the union is in a position to kill or otherwise remove him.
We have sketched the properties of unions in which the ponerogenic process has transformed their original generally benevolent content into a pathological counter-part thereof and modified its structure and its later changes, in a manner sufficiently wide-scale to encompass the greatest possible scope of this kind of phenomena, from the smallest to the largest social scale. The general rules governing those phenomena appear to be at least analogous, independent of the quantitative, social, and historical scale of such a phenomenon.
It is a common phenomenon for a ponerogenic association or group to contain a particular ideology which always justifies its activities and furnishes motivational propaganda. Even a small-time gang of hoodlums has its own melodramatic ideology and pathological romanticism. Human nature demands that vile matters be haloed by an over-compensatory mystique in order to silence one's conscience and to deceive consciousness and critical faculties, whether one's own or those of others.
If such a ponerogenic union could be stripped of its ideology, nothing would remain except psychological and moral pathology, naked and unattractive. Such stripping would of course provoke "moral outrage", and not only among the members of the union. The fact is, even normal people, who condemn this kind of union along with its ideologies, feel hurt and deprived of something constituting part of their own romanticism, their way of perceiving reality when a widely idealized group is exposed as little more than a gang of criminals. Perhaps even some of the readers of this book will resent the author's stripping evil so unceremoniously of all its literary motifs. The job of effecting such a "strip-tease" may thus turn out to be much more difficult and dangerous than expected.
A primary ponerogenic union is formed at the same time as its ideology, perhaps even somewhat earlier. A normal person perceives such ideology to be different from the world of human concepts, obviously suggestive, and even primitively comical to a degree.
An ideology of a secondarily ponerogenic association is formed by gradual adaptation of the primary ideology to functions and goals other than the original formative ones. A certain kind of layering or schizophrenia of ideology takes place during the ponerization process. The outer layer closest to the original content is used for the group's propaganda purposes, especially regarding the outside world, although it can in part also be used inside with regard to disbelieving lower-echelon members. The second layer presents the elite with no problems of comprehension: it is more hermetic, generally composed by slipping a different meaning into the same names. Since identical names signify different contents depending on the layer in question, understanding this "doubletalk" requires simultaneous fluency in both languages.
Average people succumb to the first layer's suggestive insinuations for a long time before they learn to understand the second one as well. Anyone with certain psychological deviations, especially if he is wearing the mask of normality with which we are already familiar, immediately perceives the second layer to be attractive and significant; after all, it was built by people like him. Comprehending this doubletalk is therefore a vexatious task, provoking quite understandable psychological resistance; this very duality of language, however, is a pathognomonic symptom indicating that the human union in question is touched by the ponerogenic process to an advanced degree.
The ideology of unions affected by such degeneration has certain constant factors regardless of their quality, quantity, or scope of action: namely, the motivations of a wronged group, radical righting of the wrong, and the higher values of the individuals who have joined the organization. These motivations facilitate sublimation of the feeling of being wronged and different, caused by one's own psychological failings, and appear to liberate the individual from the need to abide by uncomfortable moral principles.
In the world full of real injustice and human humiliation, making it conducive to the formation of an ideology containing the above elements, a union of its converts may easily succumb to degradation. When this happens, those people with a tendency to accept the better version of the ideology will tend to justify such ideological duality.
The ideology of the proletariat, which aimed at revolutionary restructuring of the world, was already contaminated by a schizoid deficit in the understanding of, and trust for, human nature; small wonder, then, that it easily succumbed to a process of typical degeneration in order to nourish and disguise a macrosocial phenomenon whose basic essence is completely different.
Additional note: Fascism seems to be the diametric opposite of Communism and Marxism, both in a philosophic and political sense, and also opposed democratic capitalist economics along with socialism and liberal democracy. It viewed the state as an organic entity in a positive light rather than as an institution designed to protect collective and individual rights, or as one that should be held in check.
Fascism is also typified by totalitarian attempts to impose state control over all aspects of life: political, social, cultural, and economic which accurately describes what was passed off under the name of Communism.
The fascist state regulates and controls (as opposed to nationalizing) the means of production. Fascism exalts the nation, state, or race as superior to the individuals, institutions, or groups composing it. Fascism uses explicit populist rhetoric; calls for a heroic mass effort to restore past greatness; and demands loyalty to a single leader, often to the point of a cult of personality. Again, we see that Fascism was passed off as Communism.
So, what actually seems to have happened is that the original ideals of the proletariat were cleverly subsumed to State corporatism. Most people in the west are not aware of this because of the Western propaganda against Communism.
The word "Fascist" has become a slur throughout the world since the stunning failure of the Axis powers in World War II. In contemporary political discourse, adherents of some political ideologies tend to associate fascism with their enemies, or define it as the opposite of their own views. There are no major self-described fascist parties or organizations anywhere in the world. However, at the present time, in the U.S., the system is far more Fascist than Democratic which probably explains the existence of the years of anti-Communist propaganda. That would demonstrate an early process of ponerization of Western democracy which, at present, has almost completed the transformation to full-blown Fascism.
This is the present danger to the 911 Truth Movement and Alternative Media. Such claims as those made by Sartre, Judy Andreas, Dimitris, etc, that weeding out the cointelpro factors amounts to "infighting" and "backstabbing" and "petty differences" and so on, amount to nothing more that simplistic and doctrinaire concepts that do not take into account the complexity of human nature and most especially the existence of deviant psychopathologies. In short, it just isn't realistic based on a reasonable observation of how things work in the real world, historically speaking.
For future reference, let us remember: ideologies do not need spellbinders. Spellbinders need ideologies in order to subject them to their own deviant goals.
On the other hand, the fact that some ideology degenerated along with its corollary social movement, later succumbing to this schizophrenia and serving goals which the originators of the ideology would have abhorred, does not prove that it was worthless, false, and fallacious from the start. Quite the contrary: it rather appears that under certain historical conditions, the ideology of any social movement, even if it is sacred truth, can yield to the ponerization process.
A given ideology may have contained weak spots, created by the errors of human thought and emotion within; or it may, during the course of its history, become infiltrated by more primitive foreign material which can contain ponerogenic factors. Such material destroys an ideology's internal homogeny. The source of such infection by foreign ideological material may be the ruling social system with its laws and customs based on a more primitive tradition, or an imperialistic system of rule. It may be, of course, simply another philosophical movement often contaminated by the eccentricities of its founder, who considers the facts to blame for not conforming to his dialectical construct.
The Roman Empire, including its legal system and paucity of psychological concepts, similarly contaminated the primary homogeneous idea of Christianity. Christianity had to adapt to coexistence with a social system wherein "dura lex sed lex" , rather than an understanding of human beings, decided a person's fate; this then led to the corruption of attempting to reach the goals of the "Kingdom of God" by means of Roman imperialistic methods.
The greater and truer the original ideology, the longer it may be capable of nourishing and disguising from human criticism that phenomenon which is the product of the specific degenerative process. In a great and valuable ideology, the danger for small minds is hidden; they can become the factors of such preliminary degeneration, which opens the door to invasion by pathological factors.
Thus, if we intend to understand the secondary ponerization process and the kinds of human associations which succumb to it, we must take great care to separate the original ideology from its counterpart, or even caricature, created by the ponerogenic process. Abstracting from any ideology, we must, by analogy, understand the essence of the process itself, which has its own etiological causes which are potentially present in every society, as well as characteristic developmental patho-dynamics.
The Ponerization Process
Observation of the ponerization processes of various human unions throughout history easily leads to the conclusion that the initial step is a moral warping of the group's ideational contents.
In analyzing the contamination of a group's ideology, we note first of all an infiltration of foreign, simplistic, and doctrinaire contents, thereby depriving it of any healthy support for, and trust in, the necessity of understanding of human nature. This opens the way for invasion by pathological factors and the ponerogenic role of their carriers.
So, are they "useful idiots" or conscious agents?
We don't know. What we can know is that taking their simplistic and doctrinaire paramoralisms as truth is setting a dangerous example.
The example of the Roman legal system vis a vis early Christianity mentioned above, is a case in point. The Roman imperial and legal civilization was overly attached to matter and law, and created a legal system that was too rigid to accommodate any real aspects of psychological and spiritual life. This "earthy" foreign element infiltrated Christianity resulting in the Catholic church adopting Imperial strategies to enforce its system on others by violence.
This fact could justify the conviction of moralists that maintaining a union's ethical discipline and ideational purity is sufficient protection against derailing or hurtling into an insufficiently comprehended world of error. Such a conviction strikes a ponerologist as a unilateral oversimplification of an eternal reality which is more complex. After all, the loosening of ethical and intellectual controls is sometimes a consequence of the direct or indirect influence of the omnipresent factors of the existence of deviants in any social group, along with some other non-pathological human weaknesses.
Sometime during life, every human organism undergoes periods during which physiological and psychological resistance declines, facilitating development of bacteriological infection within.
Similarly, a human association or social movement undergoes periods of crisis which weaken its ideational and moral cohesion. This may be caused by pressure on the part of other groups, a general spiritual crisis in the environment, or intensification of its hysterical condition. Just as more stringent sanitary measures are an obvious medical indication for a weakened organism, the development of conscious control over the activity of pathological factors is a ponerological indication. This is a crucial factor for prevention of tragedy during a society's periods of moral crisis.
For centuries, individuals exhibiting various psychological anomalies have had the tendency to participate in the activities of human unions. This is made possible on the one hand by such group's weaknesses, i.e. failure in adequate psychological knowledge; on the other hand, it deepens the moral failings and stifles the possibilities of utilizing healthy common sense and understanding matters objectively. In spite of the resulting tragedies and unhappiness, humanity has shown a certain progress, especially in the cognitive area; therefore, a ponerologist may be cautiously optimistic. After all, by detecting and describing these aspects of the ponerization process of human groups, which could not be understood until recently, we shall be able to counteract such processes earlier and more effectively. Again, depth and breadth of knowledge of human psychological variations is crucial.
Any human group affected by the process described herein is characterized by its increasing regression from natural common sense and the ability to perceive psychological reality. Someone considering this in terms of traditional categories might consider it an instance of "turning into half-wits" or the development of intellectual deficiencies and moral failings. A ponerological analysis of this process, however, indicates that pressure is being applied to the more normal part of the association by pathological factors present in certain individuals who have been allowed to participate in the group because the lack of good psychological knowledge has not madated their exclusion.
Thus, whenever we observe some group member being treated with no critical distance, although he betrays one of the psychological anomalies familiar to us, and his opinions being treated as at least equal to those of normal people, although they are based on a characteristically different view of human matters, we must derive the conclusion that this human group is affected by a ponerogenic process and if measures are not taken the process shall continue to its logical conclusion. We shall treat this in accordance with the above described first criterion of ponerology, which retains its validity regardless of the qualitative and quantitative features of such a union: the atrophy of natural critical faculties with respect to pathological individuals becomes an opening to their activities, and, at the same time, a criterion for recognizing the association in concern as ponerogenic.
Such a state of affairs simultaneously consists as a liminal (watershed) situation, whereupon further damage to people's healthy common sense and critical moral faculties becomes ever easier. Once a group has inhaled a sufficient dose of pathological material to give birth to the conviction that these not-quite-normal people are unique geniuses, it starts subjecting its more normal members to pressure characterized by corresponding paralogical and paramoral elements.
For many people, such pressure of collective opinion takes on attributes of a moral criterion; for others, it represents a kind of psychological terror ever more difficult to endure. The phenomenon of counter-selection thus occurs in this phase of ponerization: individuals with a more normal sense of psychological reality leave after entering into conflict with the newly modified group; simultaneously, individuals with various psychological anomalies join the group and easily find a way of life there. The former feel "pushed into counter-revolutionary positions", and the latter can afford to remove their masks of sanity ever more often.
People who have been thus thrown out of a ponerogenic association because they were too normal suffer bitterly; they are unable to understand their specific state. Their ideal, the reason they joined the group, which constituted a part of the meaning of life for them, has now been degraded, although they cannot find a rational basis for this fact. They feel wronged; they "fight against demons" they are not in a position to identify. The fact is their personalities have already been modified to a certain extent due to saturation by abnormal psychological material, especially psychopathic material. They easily fall into the opposite extreme in such cases, because unhealthy emotions rule their decisions. What they need is good psychological information in order to find the path of reason and measure. Based on a ponerologic understanding of their condition, psychotherapy could provide rapid positive results. However, if the union they left is succumbing to deep ponerization, a threat looms over them: they may become the objects of revenge, since they have "betrayed" a magnificent ideology.
This is the stormy period of a group's ponerization, followed by a certain stabilization in terms of contents, structure, and customs. Rigorous selective measures of a clearly psychological kind are applied to new members. So as to exclude the possibility of becoming sidetracked by defectors, people are observed and tested to eliminate those characterized by excessive mental independence or psychological normality. The new internal function created is something like a "psychologist", and it doubtless takes advantage of the above-described psychological knowledge collected by psychopaths.
It should be noted that certain of these exclusionary steps taken by a group in the process of ponerization, should have been taken against deviants by the ideological group in the beginning. So rigorous selective measures of a psychological kind taken by a group is not necessarily an indicator that the group is ponerogenic. Rather one should carefully examine what the psychological selection is based on. If any group seeks to avoid ponerization, it will want to exclude individuals with any psychological dependence on subjective beliefs, rites, rituals, drugs, and certainly those individuals that are incapable of objectively analyzing their own inner psychological content or who reject the process of Positive disintegration.
In a group in the process of ponerization, spellbinders take care of "ideological purity". The leader's position is relatively secure. Individuals manifesting doubt or criticism are subject to paramoral condemnation.
Maintaining the utmost dignity and style, leadership discusses opinions and intentions which are psychologically and morally pathological. Any intellectual connections which might reveal them as such are eliminated, thanks to the substitution of premises operating in the proper subconscious process on the basis of prior conditioned reflexes. An objective observer might wish to compare this state to one in which the inmates of an asylum take over the running of the institution. The association enters the state wherein the whole has donned the mask of ostensible normality. In the next chapter, we shall call such a state the "dissimulative phase" with regard to macrosocial ponerogenic phenomena.
Observing the appropriate state corresponding to the first ponerological criterion - the atrophy of natural critical faculties with respect to pathological individuals - requires skillful psychology and specific factual knowledge; the second, more stable phase can be perceived both by a person of average reason and by public opinion in most societies. The interpretation imposed, however, is unilaterally moralistic or sociological, simultaneously undergoing the characteristic feeling of deficiency as regards the possibility of both understanding the phenomenon and counteracting the spread of said evil.
However, in this phase a minority of social groups tend to consider such a ponerogenic association comprehensible within the categories of their own world view and the outer layer of diffusing ideology as a doctrine acceptable to them. The more primitive the society in question, and the further removed from direct contact to the union affected by this pathological state, the more numerous such minorities would be. This very period, during which the customs of the union become somewhat milder, often represents simultaneously its most intensive expansionist activity.
This period may last long, but not forever. Internally, the group is becoming progressively more pathological, finally showing its true qualitative colors again as its activities become ever clumsier. At this point, a society of normal people can easily threaten ponerologic associations, even at the macrosocial level.
Again: "The only thing necessary for the takeover of the 911 Truth Movement by Fascist agents of CoIntelPro is for the members of that movement to NOT expose such agents when and if they spot them, and for the movement as a whole to utilize the most careful hygiene in keeping itself clean of pathological elements."
This is NOT a game, people.
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Editorial: The Asian Development Bank warns of threatening monetary turmoil
18 April 2006
The oil trade is uneasy about the increasing impossibility of reinvesting the petrodollars they are accumulating, whereas the bank world is pondering over the dollar's real value. A downturn in trade has just begun on the stock exchanges of the Gulf, even as the Asian Development Bank was warning its members against a possible collapse of the US currency. What if the dollar was really no longer anything but fiat money?
For several months a lively debate has been developing within international financial circles: is the dollar so overvalued as to be at risk of a brutal collapse, on the order of 15 to 40% depending on the commentator? The controversy is kept alive by a disputed rumour whereby some oil contracts might be on the verge of being converted from dollars into euros. This, in turn, would spawn a depreciation of the US currency.
Until now, official statements on this issue seemed to belong to the realm of psychological warfare between rival powers. As such, they were subject to question. But suddenly, on March 28th, 2006, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) chose to put its credibility at stake among its members by issuing a memo advising them to be ready for a collapse of the dollar.
In the same note, the ADB specifies that there is a certain degree of uncertainty as to whether this might happen or not, but that the immediate consequences would be severe if it were to happen . The ADB is already in the process of working on the creation of a regional alternative to the dollar - the ACU, a basket of currencies modelled on the principles of the European ECU.
The ADB was founded as an institution by sixty-four national states. Contrary to what its name might otherwise suggest, its member states are not only countries from Asia and the Pacific Rim, but also countries from the South Sea Islands, North America and Europe (including France, Belgium and Switzerland). It is controlled in equal parts by Japan and the USA, owning 15% each. This makes the ADB's warning of an impending monetary turmoil all the more significant.
In spite of being located in Asia, the countries of the Persian Gulf are not members of the ADB. Six of them have preferred to set up their own regional organization, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). They are actively putting efforts into bringing their economies closer together with the aim of creating a single currency on the model of the euro. The project's aim is not to give in to the fads of our time; rather, it is a response to a particular need. These countries' oil reserves are declining  and, accordingly, there is no question of their reinvesting their petrodollars into the development and modernisation of their oil infrastructure - only maintenance needs to be taken care of. They only want to reinvest their dollars in the US, or to convert them into other currencies in order to reinvest them in other countries. In the latter case, the conversion of such large monetary assets would have dramatic consequences on the dollar and on the US economy.
Thus, everyone is looking for a solution to the problem that is agreeable to all parts involved. Yet, the US, which produces increasingly fewer consumer goods, is in need of extensive and highly lucrative investments in order to expand its imports of manufactured goods from China. This is why the Gulf states have resolved, on the one hand, to endow themselves with the world's most impressive air cargo fleet and, on the other hand, to buy and develop the six largest commercial ports in the US. This was a convenient solution for the Bush administration, which was already working together with the United Arab Emirate consortium Dubai Ports World, whose Jebel Ali shipping terminal serves as a hub for the flow of military cargo towards Afghanistan and Iraq.
Nevertheless, US congressmen, who believe in those Bush administration fairy tales that characterize all muslims as terrorists, have been frightened by the idea of surrendering their ports to Dubai Ports World. In the name of their national security phantasms, they have demanded that the consortium's assets be relinquished to a US group that would manage them on behalf of the Emirates - a scheme which, needless to say, was bound to be rejected by the latter, as they would stand to lose most of the return on their investment and perhaps even the whole of it at some point in the future.
Oil traders are increasingly reluctant to entrust investment funds with their money. They know that international accounting standards have been modified in such a manner that nowadays, both national states and multinational corporations have assets they do not own entered in their balance-sheets. The shares they hold are being posted in their accounting, not at the purchase price, but at the actual stock quotation. While this is of no consequence at times when markets are on the rise, it will prove fatal in the case of a stock market crash. From one day to the next, central banks and major corporations could find themselves completely ruined.
The Gulf countries, therefore, are trying as a matter of course to invest their money in Europe. This should lead them to converting their dollars into euros, to the USA's great detriment. In this context, Sultan Al Suweidi, the governor of the Central Bank of the United Arab Emirates, has announced on March 22nd, 2006 that he was considering the conversion into euros of 10% of the bank's dollar reserves, and his Saudi counterpart, Saud Al Sayyari, publicly condemned the decision of the US House of Representatives in the Dubai Ports World affair .
These decisions are being taken even as some of the oil-producing countries, with whom Washington has entered into a state of latent conflict, are in the process of diverting their capital flows to invest them outside of the dollar zone. This is the case of Syria, which has gradually been converting its reserves into euros during the past two years . It is also the case of the recent rapprochement between Venezuela and the Vatican Bank for the purpose of exchanging the oil-producing country's dollars, mainly into euros and Chinese yuan.
Above all, this could well be the case with Iran. As a matter of fact, rumours are multiplying that the Islamic Republic is about to open an oil exchange in euros . This project, announced for March, has not yet seen the light of day, and has been called propaganda by numerous commentators. We have attempted to verify its existence with the authorities in Tehran. At first, they refused to either confirm or deny the information, but later, special advisor to Iran's Oil Minister Mohammad Asemipur declared that the project would be brought to completion in spite of the typical delays when realizing this type of endeavour . The Oil Bourse in euros will be established on Kish, a small island in the Persian Gulf turned by Iran into a free trade zone. Oil corporations TotalFinaElf (France) et Agip (Italy) have already set up their regional headquarters on Kish.
Be that as it may, the Bourse will only handle a small portion of Iran's energy markets. Substantial contracts have already been signed between national states: with China for the sale of crude oil , and with Indonesia for oil refining .
To counter this activity, Washington is betting on natural gas, the role of which, as we all know, is bound to be strengthened by the growing scarcity of oil. The Bush administration has encouraged Qatar - which hosts CENTCOM, the US Central Command's Deployable Headquarters and which holds the world's third largest reserves of natural gas - to lay the foundations for a gigantic "Energy City". $2.6 bn. are to be invested for the purpose of attracting the energy market's global actors to a gas exchange in dollars . Microsoft has already offered to provide for the bourse's electronic brokerage infrastructure.
For his part, Norwegian Bourse director Sven Arild Andersen is studying the possibility of creating an oil exchange priced in euros in his country, which would compete advantageously with the City of London . As a matter of fact, as British oil production is slumping (minus 8% in 2005), the weight of the City's influence is appearing increasingly disproportionate.
The ADB warning of a pending monetary turmoil will undoubtedly bring about a hastening of all this large-scale scheming. Independent of the oil trade's reasoning with regard to the possibilities of reinvesting petrodollars, the banking sector is also concerned with the real value of today's dollar.
One might remember that the US were not able to finance their war effort in Vietnam for very long. Mired in a conflict without end, they resolved to let their allies bear the brunt of the situation, and, in 1971, they stopped guaranteeing their currency's gold convertibility. From then on, its value has only been resting on the confidence placed in it. The dollar is no longer supported by the economy of the issuing country, but by the economies of those utilizing dollar reserves; banks, however, are able to verify the currency's adequacy using the M-3, an annual indicator which establishes the volume of greenbacks in circulation.
Presently, the USA is bogged down in Iraq and is incapable of financing its military occupation there. The only way it can pay its suppliers is to keep the printing press running. The announcement, late in March 2006, that the publication of the M-3 indicator would be suspended, together with all the sub-indicators which could have made feasible its reconstruction by aggregates, means that the actual volume of dollars in circulation has become a secret that cannot be divulged. It is no longer possible to precisely evaluate the currency's real value.
Through a cascading effect, the US are also concealing the costs of their presence in Iraq in order to hide the size of the fraud they are committing.
Refusing to cover up for an escapist monetary policy which sooner or later is bound to lead to a catastrophe comparable to 1929, several senior officials of the FED, the US Federal Reserve, have tendered their resignations .
In an interview to the German weekly Der Spiegel, Nobel Prize Laureate in Economics Joseph Stiglitz has estimated the real budget of the US war effort in Iraq to be in range of $1 to $2 trillion over the first four years , in other words two to four times higher than the official figures. The hidden part of the war budget thus stands at $500 billion to $1.5 trillion. This sum, if it were to be publicly accounted for, would have to be added to the US public deficit, which is already soaring at over $400 billion per year. It is being absorbed by the printing of worthless paper dollars. In a true market economy, this use of the Mint would lead to a corresponding depreciation of the currency.
For the past three weeks, signs of a bear market have begun to make their appearance on the Gulf Bourses . From now on, any political crisis could trigger a panic on the international markets.
Read Original Here
 "Asia must prepare for dollar collapse", Al Jazeera with AFP, March 28, 2006.
 For further details on the "oil peak" phenomenon, see "The Power of Oil in the 21st Century", by Arthur Lepic and Jack Naffair, Voltaire, May 10, 2004.
 "UAE, Saudi considering to move reserves out of dollar", Middle East Forex News, March 22nd, 2006.
 "Syria switches from dollars to euros", Associated Press, February 14th, 2006.
 "L'Iran va lancer une place d'échanges pétroliers alternative... en euros", Voltaire, February 10th, 2005.
 "Iranian oil exchange is 'on hold' ", by Jim Willie, Kitco, March 21st, 2006.
 See in particular "Iran allies with China to face the United States", Voltaire, November 17th, 2004 and "The India-Iran Alliance", Voltaire, February 17th, 2005.
 "Indonesia, Iran to sign multi-billion-dollar investment deal in refinery", Xinhuanet via Tehran Times, March 14th, 2006.
 "Qatar to build 'Energy city'", Emirates News Agency, May 5th, 2005.
 "Norwegian Bourse Director wants oil bourse - priced in Euros", by Laila Bakken and Petter Halvorsen, NRK via Energy Bulletin, December 27th, 2005.
 "Is the federal reserve preparing for Iran?", by Robert McHugh, February 26th, 2006.
 "The War Is Bad for the Economy", Der Spiegel, April 5th, 2006.
 " Black Tuesday : Mideast stock markets nosedive ", Middle East Online, March 14th, 2006.
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U.S. Economy On The Verge
Beverly Hills gas reaches $4.049 a gallon
April 21, 2006
The price of full service high octane gas reaches $4.049 dollars per gallon Thursday, April 20, 2006, at a gas station in Beverly Hills, Calif. Oil prices held steady near record highs Thursday after weekly data showed a drop in U.S. gasoline stocks, raising worries that refiners don't have an adequate inventory cushion ahead of the peak summer driving season.
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Pumps go dry at some gas stations
By Harold Brubaker, Edward Colimore and Marc Schogol
Fri, Apr. 21, 2006
As if rising prices weren't enough, the tanks have run dry at some Philadelphia-area service stations in the last few days as the refining industry stumbles through a change in the formulation of gasoline.
Oil refiners are phasing out a petrochemical that makes gasoline burn cleaner but which also has been found to contaminate groundwater. Refiners are switching to corn-based ethanol.
The changeover is creating supply-chain bottlenecks because much work must be done at fuel terminals and service stations to handle ethanol.
The maintenance-related shutdown of one area refinery, production problems at another, and the change from winter-blend to summer-blend gasoline are exacerbating the problems.
"There is truly a dearth of supply in the Philly and New York markets today," Wayne Hummel, of Liberty Petroleum L.L.C., said yesterday. His firm supplies 40 stations in the Philadelphia region.
Hummel said four Liberty stations had run out of fuel the last two days, as tanker trucks drove from terminal to terminal, unable to find fuel. "It's ugly. It's very ugly," he said.
AAA Mid-Atlantic warned drivers yesterday that gasoline-supply disruptions could continue for the next few weeks and contribute to higher pump prices.
The group said the average gasoline price in Philadelphia and its Pennsylvania suburbs had climbed 52 cents a gallon - or 22 percent - to $2.85 since the most recent upturn began on March 7. In South Jersey, yesterday's average was $2.71 a gallon, an 18 percent increase from a month ago. A key benchmark price for crude oil on the New York Mercantile Exchange yesterday was $71.95 a barrel, up more than $10 from a month ago.
Catherine Rossi, spokeswoman for AAA, said she knew of eight stations in the region that were out of fuel yesterday.
Areas of Virginia and Texas, also going through the ethanol conversion, have experienced similar supply disruptions, said Jeff Lenard, spokesman for the National Association of Convenience Stores.
Locally, gas retailers said scheduled deliveries had been late - sometimes up to a day or more - causing them to turn customers away.
Lou Stiles' Sunoco service station in Mount Laurel ran out of gas at least four times this month. Yesterday afternoon, he ran out of regular and was waiting for a tanker.
"We're a 24-hour operation and pay two men to stay on when there's nothing to do but wait for a load of gas," said Stiles, who has operated the station at Route 38 and Hartford Road for 40 years.
As of 6:25 p.m., cones were blocking the gas lanes at the station.
Jai Kulkarni, owner of a Lukoil station and Kwik Farms convenience store on Route 23 in West Conshohocken, said he was out of gas for about four hours Wednesday. He kept the convenience store open, but he closed the pumps - at a cost of $200 an hour in lost sales.
At that station yesterday was Vinnie Zambuto, a 31-year-old graphic designer from Coatesville who said he had never seen a dry gas station before encountering one last week. Recalling the gas shortages of the 1970s that his "parents keep talking about," he said he hoped the new shortages were short-lived.
"I'm hoping it will work itself out."
The conversion to ethanol was prompted by the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005, which left refiners vulnerable to groundwater contamination suits and mandated greater use of renewable fuels. The use of ethanol forced gasoline retailers to clean their tanks, remove all water from them and install extremely fine filters on their pumps.
Ethanol is a solvent that picks up any gunk in tanks and readily blends with water. Those properties could ruin a 9,000-gallon tank of gasoline at a huge cost to a retailer.
It costs up to $1,500 to clean tanks, said Kevin S. Kan, president and chief executive officer of American Auto Wash Inc. in Malvern, which operates 18 stations in the region, including 13 BPs that have converted to the ethanol blend.
Ethanol is logistically more complicated than the petrochemical it replaced - MTBE, or methyl tertiary butyl ether. Refiners could blend MTBE into gasoline at the refinery and send the finished gasoline through pipelines to terminals.
But ethanol must be blended into gasoline at the terminal because it would mix with water if it were sent through pipelines, ruining the fuel. So, fuel terminals have to go through a similar process of cleaning tanks to store ethanol before it is blended.
They must also install blending equipment.
Independent gasoline distributors said few fuel terminals had gas yesterday. Those that did, such as the former Exxon terminal in South Philadelphia now owned by Pacific Energy Partners L.P., had trucks waiting four hours for fuel because the terminal was filling trucks in only two of the five lanes that they use normally. "We are doing our best to activate the others," said Jennifer Shigei, manager of investor relations for the Long Beach, Calif., company.
The three companies that operate refineries on the Delaware River - Sunoco Inc., Valero Energy Corp., and ConocoPhillips - declined to discuss the supply situation in much detail.
Valero spokeswoman Mary Rose Brown said the company's Paulsboro refinery began blending ethanol yesterday, but did not respond to a question about a disruption there this week.
Shannon Breuer, a spokeswoman for Sunoco, said the company was "focused on being a reliable supplier" and was confident that any problems would be short-term.
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Why a strong economy is no GOP asset
By Linda Feldmann
The Christian Science Monitor
April 21, 2006
WASHINGTON - Of all the problems Republicans face heading into the fall political season, one of the most exasperating is the economy.
In many ways, they say, these are the best of times: Unemployment is at 4.7 percent, lower than the averages of the 1970s, '80s, and '90s. The economy is showing strong, consistent growth, without significant inflation. And the stock market is roaring along.
Yet many Americans just aren't impressed. A majority tell pollsters they trust the Democrats more than the GOP to handle the economy. When asked in an open-ended question which is the most important problem facing the country today, respondents to a recent CBS News poll named "economy/jobs" second after the Iraq war - and ahead of immigration, terrorism, and healthcare.
"First, there's general concern about globalization and its effect on American manufacturing jobs," says GOP pollster Whit Ayres. "We see low unemployment, but the headlines are dominated by the thousands being laid off by General Motors and Ford."
Underlying that, he adds, is concern about healthcare and being able to afford and keep health insurance if something happens to one's job. The latest run-up in gasoline prices also doesn't help the Republican-led government in Washington, even if there's little it can do in the short term about that.
Independent pollster John Zogby sees the public's skepticism over the economy as part of a larger picture of overall concern over the direction of the nation and a president struggling to recapture Americans' confidence. "It's not just the economy," he says. "If we were at peace or the war was going well or there was confidence in other areas, then the economic news could be bolstered and people could begin to feel better."
In order to understand the full picture on public concerns about the economy, he says, a raft of "secondary indicators" must be factored in: health benefits, pensions, gasoline prices, as well as 401(k)s and stock portfolios.
Even though stocks are strong again, memories of a market dive in the not-too-distant past remain fresh. Mr. Zogby sees a 9/11 effect in people's thinking, not just about the stock market but about other factors close to home, such as safety and security - a concern that something terrible could happen again.
Iraq is also dragging down overall confidence, says Daniel Mitchell, an economist at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank in Washington. And he blames Republican politicians for "being so fiscally irresponsible" on the spending side of the budget. "Even if the tax cuts have helped, between the bridge to nowhere and now the railroad to nowhere people are probably figuring it's only a matter of time before the bills come due and this all falls apart," he says.
For months, the Republicans have held a losing hand on the array of issues facing the nation, and even on their strongest issue, terrorism, often the best they can do is muster a tie with the Democrats in polls. But on the economy, at least, the White House is hopeful that better use of the bully pulpit can boost public confidence.
"The advantage the White House has on this issue, which they don't on other issues, is the reality really is good," says Mr. Ayres. "The truth may not set them free, but it might improve public perception. So someone with an ability to articulate the good economic news in a compelling and memorable way day after day after day could have an effect on public perception."
In a roundtable discussion with a group of mostly small-business people Monday in Sterling, Va., President Bush acknowledged that "Americans need to keep hearing" his message on the economy. On that day, Tax Day, he stressed his push in Congress to make tax cuts permanent, and asked some at the table to reveal how much they had already saved from tax cuts.
Sitting nearby was Treasury Secretary John Snow, who reinforced the message. What remained unstated was the open secret that the White House is shopping around for a new Treasury secretary, someone who can bring a new voice to the economy-is-strong message - probably someone from the world of economics or finance.
Meanwhile, debate rages among Democrats over how best to take advantage of public disillusionment with Republican government, including the economy. Are bumper stickers saying "Had Enough?" enough, or does the party really need a multipart plan to persuade voters to toss out their incumbent Republican members of Congress? Various Democrats - from Sen. Hillary Rodman Clinton of New York to Clinton-era Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin - are launching strategies to spark debate.
In a recent speech in Chicago, Senator Clinton focused on the middle class, arguing that "tax cuts are not the cure-all for everything that ails the American economy." Secretary Rubin, in his newly launched initiative called the Hamilton Project, has centered concerns on growing income inequality in the US.
At a Monitor breakfast on Wednesday, Democratic National Committee chair Howard Dean said "the problem with the president's, with the Republicans' economy is that it's good for their base - 20 percent of the public - but it's not so good for 80 percent of the public."
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Dow ends at 6-year high, eBay hits Nasdaq
By Caroline Valetkevitch
April 20, 2006
NEW YORK - The Dow industrials ended at the highest level in six years on Thursday as encouraging quarterly reports from companies such as General Motors Corp. boosted optimism about earnings.
Tech shares slid and the Nasdaq fell after Web auctioneer eBay Inc. gave a disappointing revenue forecast.
The Dow is not far from its lifetime high of 11,750.28, which it hit on January 14, 2000. The Nasdaq and the Standard & Poor's 500 Index hit five-year intraday highs.
After the bell, Google shares jumped nearly 6 percent to $439 in electronic trading from a Nasdaq close at $415. Google Inc., the leading Web search company, reported its quarterly net income and revenue surged, driven by gains in market share against rivals such as Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp.
General Motors gave the biggest boost to the Dow after it reported a narrower-than-expected loss and said its turnaround was working. Shares of the world's largest automaker jumped 10.1 percent.
"Today, it can be summed up with GM, eBay and metals and mining stocks," said Jon Brorson, managing director of growth equities at Neuberger Berman. "It's all related to earnings, and it's a mixed bag."
The Dow Jones industrial average was up 64.12 points, or 0.57 percent, to end at 11,342.89. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index was up 1.53 points, or 0.12 percent, at 1,311.46. But the Nasdaq Composite Index was down 8.33 points, or 0.35 percent, at 2,362.55.
For the Dow, this was the highest close since January 20, 2000.
The final week of trading for April stock options typically creates volatility as traders adjust their positions.
Shares of eBay dropped 8.9 percent, or $3.58, to $36.77 after it gave a conservative forecast. The stock was the heaviest drag on both the Nasdaq and the S&P 500.
GM shot up 10.1 percent, or $2.07, to $22.64 on the
New York Stock Exchange in its biggest rise since billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian offered to double his stake in the company. It also gave the biggest lift to the Dow after it posted a narrower first-quarter net loss that beat expectations.
Shares of Altria Group Inc. rose 1.6 percent, or $1.08, to $70.04 after the Dow component and the parent of cigarette maker Philip Morris reported a profit that beat estimates by a penny.
Overall, earnings reports for the last quarter have been strong, Brorson said.
"Our forecast was for earnings to come in around 13 percent year-over-year growth, and they're on track to do it," Brorson said. "They are surprisingly better than expected, and outlooks have been good, generally speaking."
Shares of metals mining companies slid as gold and silver prices retreated from their highest levels since the early 1980s. Gold in New York had touched a 25-year peak of late, while silver hit a 23-year record. Both gold and silver have gone on dramatic runs in recent months, as have other metals and oil.
The CBOE Gold Index slid 6.6 percent, with all 11 components lower, while the broader Philadelphia Gold/Silver Index was off 6.1 percent.
Among the day's biggest percentage decliners was Rambus Inc., whose shares sank 17.4 percent, or $8.10, to $38.50 before a verdict in its closely watched patent infringement case against South Korea's Hynix Semiconductor.
In other earnings news, Bank of America Corp.'s (NYSE:BAC - news) profit beat estimates. Shares of the No. 2 U.S. bank rose 0.5 percent, or 23 cents, to $46.28.
Energy-related shares such as Exxon Mobil Corp. fell as U.S. crude oil for May delivery fell 22 cents to settle at $71.95 a barrel -- off a record high at $72.49 hit in electronic trading overnight. The May contract expired on Thursday at the close of NYMEX trading. Exxon Mobil shares fell 0.6 percent, or 38 cents, to $63.92.
Volume was heavy on the New York Stock Exchange, where about 1.78 billion shares changed hands, above last year's daily average of 1.61 billion. On Nasdaq, about 2.16 billion shares traded, above last year's daily average of 1.80 billion.
Declining stocks outpaced advancing ones on the NYSE by a ratio of about 9 to 8, while on the Nasdaq, about five stocks fell for every four that rose.
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IMF shake-up could reduce influence of UK
By Philip Thornton, Economics Correspondent in Washington
21 April 2006
Britain and other rich nations could be forced to surrender some of their power at the International Monetary Fund if plans to give China and its fellow Asian tiger economies a greater voice in the globalised economy go through, it emerged yesterday.
The head of the IMF, the world's financial watchdog, will unveil plans tomorrow for a major overhaul of its voting structure and board of directors.
Rodrigo de Rato, the IMF's managing director, also proposed setting up a multilateral forum to try to resolve the massive global financial imbalances it fears could trigger a recession.
This is certain to include the Bric economies - Brazil, Russia, India and China. Mr de Rato will chair a committee of key individuals today to try to help broker a deal.
Mr de Rato said he would propose changes to the voting shares on the fund's key International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC), which is chaired by Gordon Brown, on Saturday. "The emergence of strong new economies has to be recognised," Mr de Rato said. "It is not a regional issue but getting new legitimacy for the institution."
Power in the IMF stems from quotas, which are broadly linked to the size of a country's economy. However, these quotas are changed only every five years, with the next review due in 2008.
The US indicated this week it was prepared to give up part of its 17 per cent vote - but only on condition that the European Union, whose members have 44 per cent and seven seats on the 24-strong board, give up some of their share. It has proposed that individual European countries that have votes join under one European Union vote, a suggestion that has not gone down well with the European countries involved.
Mr Rato said: "I am very glad to see that the biggest shareholder in the fund has expressed its support for the agenda. It is not a question of losers and winners. This is about making the institution legitimate and representative of countries based on their places in the world economy. My proposals will be to increase [some countries' voting rights] and that means that countries will adapt to their actual size and there are clear examples of countries that have changed in the last 15 years."
There has been growing pressure for a shake-up of the IMF to reflect the changes in the economy since 1992, the date of the last major reform to voting powers.
Critics highlight Belgium has 2.16 per cent of the executive board vote, compared with China's 2.98 per cent, though Belgium's economy is only one-third the size of China's. Turkey, Mexico and Korea would look for higher shares.
Last week the Institute of International Finance, which represents 345 of the world's biggest financial institutions, called for Europe to accept a lower voting share. Charles Dallara, its managing director, said: "That would not only be in line with progress on European integration but also help increase the voice of emerging markets."
Mr de Rato declined to give details of his proposals for a multilateral forum, but said it would bring together "systemically important countries to work through the impact of global imbalances".
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$13,700 an Hour
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.
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Flashback: Millionaires Fill US Congress Halls
June 30, 2004
Agence France Presse
WASHINGTON - The US Congress, the domed bastion of democracy in the capital of capitalism, abounds with deep-pocketed politicians whose fortunes have made the legislative branch of government a millionaire's club.
In the 435-member House of Representatives, 123 elected officials earned at least one million dollars last year, according to recently released financial records made public each year.
Next door in the ornate Senate, whose blue-blooded pedigree includes a Kennedy and a Rockefeller, one in three people are millionaires.
By comparison, less than one percent of Americans make seven-figure incomes.
The American greenback is bipartisan, filling the pockets of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans without discrimination.
Liberal stalwart and Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy, brother of the late John Kennedy, disclosed that he has 45 million dollars in the bank. West Virginia Senator John Rockefeller, also a Democrat, reported to have earned 80 million dollars.
The Senate is also home to Democratic presidential hopeful John Kerry, whose wife Teresa Heinz inherited 500 million dollars when her previous husband, senator John Heinz, of the ketchup empire, died in a plane crash in 1991.
The Senate has always been home to the country's richest elements, and the rising cost of election campaigns has led both parties to encourage self-sufficient candidates to run for public office, boosting the number of wealthy elected officials, analysts say.
"There tend to be more rich people in the Senate," said Richard Baker, the Senate's historian. "It has always be the case."
Representatives and senators tend to hold lucrative jobs -- attorneys, doctors and company executives.
"Members of Congress are recruited not from (an) ordinary cross section of America occupations," said Thomas Mann, a Congress expert at the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
"There has been an increasing tendency for parties to seek out individuals who can self-finance at least part of their campaigns, and that has over time led to more wealthy people serving in Congress," Mann said.
For instance, New Jersey's Jon Corzine, a former chief executive of Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs, spent more than 60 million dollars, a record, in his successful senate bid in 2000.
The richest person in the House of Representatives is California Democrat Jane Harman, who reported assets worth more than 160 million dollars. Next in line is Amo Houghton, a New York Republican who reported 150 million dollars.
In the Senate, Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican and heart surgeon, unveiled a fortune worth 45 million dollars.
His Senate foe, Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, is among the "poorest" officials.
Daschle disclosed earnings of less than one million dollars in addition to his 171,900-dollar a year Senate salary. Lower ranked senators are paid 154,700 dollars a year.
In the House, Bill Thomas, the Republican chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, which has oversight of taxation (or the pockets of average Americans), has one of the most modest financial disclosures.
The California Republican reported no assets or investments, just his 157,000-dollar House salary and the value of his home.
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Russia's 100 richest worth $248 billion: Forbes
Thu Apr 20, 2006
By Guy Faulconbridge
MOSCOW - The 100 richest Russians have assets worth $248 billion or more than a quarter of Russia's nominal gross domestic product, according to the Russian version of Forbes magazine which hit news-stands on Thursday.
Roman Abramovich, 39, owner of English soccer club Chelsea, stayed at the top with a fortune of $18.3 billion, a gain of $3.6 billion on last year, said the magazine.
Collectively, the fortunes of Russia's richest who are often termed "oligarchs" grew by $107 billion over the past year.
"The rich are becoming richer because the Russian economy is becoming richer," Kirill Vishnepolsky, deputy chief editor of Forbes in Russia, told Reuters.
"The value of many Russian companies has risen faster than the economy over the past year as they were undervalued."
Russia now has 44 dollar billionaires. But their fortunes compare to average wages of $3,600 per year, according to official Russian statistics.
Many ordinary Russians view the oligarchs with a mixture of envy and resentment and are quick to accuse them of having made illicit gains.
Russia's richest amassed massive fortunes and influence in the chaotic privatizations that followed the fall of the Soviet Union.
They have bolstered their wealth in recent years in a wave of initial public offerings and attempts to present a more friendly face to foreign investors, who have been attracted back to Russia's sometimes turbulent markets since the 1998 crisis.
Still, Russia's economy remains reliant on commodities and economists say small and medium size businesses account for a much smaller part of the economy than in developed countries.
Vishnepolsky said the dominance of raw materials had declined in the list as other sectors grow.
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War Plans Continue Regardless
Brazil follows Iran's nuclear path, but without the fuss
By Peter Muello
Associated Press Writer
RESENDE, Brazil - As Iran faces international pressure over developing the raw material for nuclear weapons, Brazil is quietly preparing to open its own uranium-enrichment center, capable of producing exactly the same fuel.
Brazil - like Iran - has signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, and Brazil's constitution bans the military use of nuclear energy.
Also like Iran, Brazil has cloaked key aspects of its nuclear technology in secrecy while insisting the program is for peaceful purposes, claims nuclear weapons experts have debunked.
While Brazil is more cooperative than Iran on international inspections, some worry its new enrichment capability - which eventually will create more fuel than is needed for its two nuclear plants - suggests that South America's biggest nation may be rethinking its commitment to nonproliferation.
"Brazil is following a path very similar to Iran, but Iran is getting all the attention," said Marshall Eakin, a Brazil expert at Vanderbilt University. "In effect, Brazil is benefiting from Iran's problems."
While Iran leads a war of words against nuclear-armed Israel and has defied a U.N. Security Council request to stop all uranium enrichment, Brazil is peaceful and democratic. It doesn't have border disputes, is not in an arms race, and strives for good relations with all nations. Its last war ended in 1870.
''Brazil doesn't cheat on the Nonproliferation Treaty and it does not exist in an area of high tension,'' said David Albright, a former U.N. inspector who runs the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security.
The U.S. Embassy in the capital, Brasilia, referred all questions to the State Department in Washington, where spokesman Sean McCormack dismissed any parallel between Brazil's nuclear program and Iran's.
''My understanding is they have a peaceful nuclear program,'' he said Thursday.
Still, Brazil's enrichment program - and its reluctance to allow unlimited inspections - has raised suspicions abroad.
''Brazil is beginning to be perceived as a country apparently wanting to reevaluate its commitment to nonproliferation, and this is a big part of the problem,'' said Jon Wolfsthal, deputy director for nonproliferation at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
The government-run Industrias Nucleares do Brasil S.A. has been conducting final tests at the enrichment plant, built on a former coffee plantation in Resende, 90 miles west of Rio de Janeiro. When it opens this year, Brazil will join the world's nuclear elite.
Brazil has the world's sixth-largest uranium reserves, but until the plant becomes operational, it can't use the fuel for energy without shipping it to and from URENCO, the European enrichment consortium.
Brazil says its plant will be capable of enriching natural uranium to less than 5 percent uranium-235, an isotope needed to fuel its two reactors. Warheads need ore that has been enriched to 95 percent uranium-235, a material Brazil says it can't and won't produce.
''If you can enrich to 5 percent, you're decades away from enriching to 90 percent,'' Odair Dias Goncalves, president of the Brazilian Nuclear Energy Commission, told The Associated Press. ''You need a whole new technology that we don't have.''
But former U.N. inspector Albright said he worked with Goncalves at the Brazilian Physics Society on a project to show that the Brazilian centrifuges could be used to produce highly enriched uranium, even if that wasn't their intended use.
''Centrifuges are very flexible,'' he said. ''Reconfiguring the cascades or recycling the enriched uranium multiple times can allow for the production of weapons-grade uranium.''
Brazilian leaders insist the fuel will be used for the nation's $1 billion nuclear energy industry. Already Latin America's biggest nuclear power provider, Brazil plans up to seven new atomic plants to reduce its dependence on oil and hydroelectric power and plans to export enriched uranium to provide energy for other countries.
Brazil initially refused inspections by the International Atomic Energy Association, arguing that providing full access to its state-of-the-art, Brazilian-designed centrifuges would put it at risk of industrial espionage. Since then, IAEA inspectors have visited the plant many times, monitoring the uranium that comes in and out, but they're still prevented from seeing the actual centrifuges, which are covered with opaque screens.
The IAEA inspectors have said they're satisfied no material is being diverted. Brazilian physicist Jose Goldemberg said Brazil won't be able to produce enriched uranium for export until 2014.
Brazil had great nuclear ambitions during a 1964-85 military dictatorship, when it built the two nuclear energy plants, worked to develop a nuclear submarine and had secret plans to test an atomic bomb in a 1,000-foot-deep, concrete-and steel-lined hole in the Amazon jungle. That idea was formally scrapped in 1990, and former Secretary of State Colin Powell declared in 2004 that ''we know for sure that Brazil is not thinking about nuclear weapons in any sense.''
But Brazil's nuclear ambitions have been rekindled under leftist President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, in part, analysts say, because joining the nuclear club would boost Brazil's status internationally and possibly earn it a permanent seat on the Security Council.
What is really at stake in both Brazil and Iran is self-image, Goldemberg said. ''It's nationalism, pride. That's the real reason,'' he said.
Comment: Difference between Brazil and Iran? The state of Israel was not unlawfully founded in South America.
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US Intel Chief Says Iran Still Years Away From Having Nukes
Apr 21, 2006
Washington - US intelligence chief John Negroponte said Thursday Iran's resumption of uranium enrichment is "troublesome" but the country is still years away from having enough fissile material to make a nuclear weapon.
Negroponte expressed concern both about Iran's claim to have resumed uranium enrichment with a cascade of 164 centrifuges in Natanz and extreme statements made by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
"The developments in Iran -- clearly they're troublesome," he said in response to questions after a speech to the National Press Club.
"By the same token, our assessment at the moment is that even though we believe that Iran is determined to acquire or obtain a nuclear weapon, that we believe that it is still a number of years off before they are likely to have enough fissile material to assemble into, or to put into a nuclear weapon; perhaps into the next decade," he said.
"So I think it's important that this issue be kept in perspective," he said.
Negroponte is marking his first year in office as the director of national intelligence, a post created in the wake of the intelligence fiasco over Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
Critics have complained that the new intelligence directorate, which is supposed to coordinate the work of some 15 US intelligence agencies, is developing into another bloated bureaucracy with nearly 1,000 people reportedly working for it.
Negroponte denied that the reforms he is pursuing have been "a theory-based experiment or an exercise in bureaucratic bloat."
"Government programs require government officials to implement them," he said, adding that the last three embassies he led as an ambassador were larger than his intelligence directorate.
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US raises threat of 'coalition of the willing' against Iran
Apr 20, 2006
Washington - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says a 'coalition of the willing' may move ahead on tough measures against Iran for its nuclear programme if the UN Security Council does not.
Rice, speaking at a foreign-policy event in Chicago late Wednesday, said she remains confident that the crisis can be resolved with diplomacy - though not necessarily always via the UN.
'You know that there are states that have been saying that if we don't get meaningful measures inside the Security Council, perhaps a coalition of the willing will think about other financial or political measures that could be taken,' she told the audience.
Russia and China, both veto-holding members of the Security Council, are leading opposition US calls for UN sanctions on Iran. The differences played out this week in Moscow at talks on Iran involving those three powers and Britain, France and Germany.
Rice restated the US administration's standard position that all options are on the table in dealing with Iran, 'and we have always said that the right to self-defence does not necessarily require a UN Security Council resolution.'
But she contrasted Iran with Iraq, where a US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003.
'The issue here is to mobilize the international community, to unify the international community around the view that Iran cannot have a nuclear weapon,' Rice said.
'It's a very different situation,' she said. 'I believe we can make the diplomacy work.'
Iran says its uranium enrichment programme, which it kept secret for nearly two decades, is solely for civilian nuclear power. The US is building a diplomatic coalition for its view that Iran's real aim is nuclear weapons.
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Experts Warn Against Iran Sanctions
by Harbaksh Singh Nanda
Apr 21, 2006
Almaty, Kazakhstan - While Washington continues to solicit international support to slap sanctions against a defiant Iranian regime, experts at an international conference in Almaty Thursday suggested that the economic and other embargoes against Tehran may not prove effective.
"We have seen in the past that the economic sanctions against various states have proved to be counter effective," Vyacheslav Kuznetsov, Director of the Institute of Social and Political Research, said at the Fifth Annual Eurasian Media Forum.
Echoing similar views, Dr. Kenneth Courtis of Goldman Sachs said that the former dictator of Iraq was exporting more oil during the sanctions than the total oil being produced in Iraq today. "With Iran's geography and the oil reserves, no sanctions can work against it," Courtis opined at the opening session of the three-day event.
The media forum has attracted nearly 350 journalists, politicians, political commentators and bureaucrats and diplomatic envoys from all over the world to deliberate on various topical issues, including the Iran dilemma.
Richard Holbrooke, a former Clinton ambassador to the United Nations and former assistant secretary of state urged host Kazakhstan to exert political pressure on its two giant neighbors, China and Russia, to help Washington tighten the noose against nuclear aspirant Tehran.
Holbrooke said that Iran's nuclear plans have reached a stage of frenzied political concern in Washington and among the Bush administration. "The concern cannot be overstated," the former ambassador said, adding that he was not speaking for the Bush administration. "Today Iran tops the U.S. agenda. This will be a major issue during the upcoming G-8 summit in St. Petersburg and also during this week's summit between President Bush and visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao," Holbrooke said.
Landlocked Kazakhstan lies between Russia and China and is geographically close to Iran. Any military action against Tehran could seriously affect this former Soviet Republic. U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney is due to visit Kazakhstan in the next three weeks and Iran is likely to dominate bilateral talks.
Kuznetsov said that Moscow was definitely exerting pressure on Iran "but sometimes the pressures don't work."
But Holbrooke minced no words, saying, "The U.S. is upset at Russia's stance on Iran. I believe that Moscow should support Washington against Tehran."
He hailed Kazakhstan for giving up its nuclear arsenal back in 1994. "If Kazakhstan set such a fine example, Iran wants to go the other way," Holbrooke said.
Answering questions if the Iran issue would split the U.N. Security Council, the former Clinton administration official said that Bush administration has not had a smooth ride with the international body in seeking consensus.
Courtis, however, said that an Iran resolution lies in Moscow and Beijing. "If the U.S. fails to win China's support, the Iran issue will not be resolved," the managing director of Goldman Sachs said.
These comments come at a time when Chinese President Hu Jintao is visiting the United States for bilateral talks with President Bush.
Meanwhile, Russia on Thursday said it would continue supporting construction of a nuclear power plant in Iran, saying it poses no threat to the international non-proliferation regime. Russia's state atomic energy agency is contracted to help Iran build the $1 billion nuclear reactor.
"The construction of a nuclear power plant in Bushehr is being carried out in compliance with all international agreements," Russia's Federal Atomic Energy Agency head Sergei Kiriyenko told a news conference in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
In the United States, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Wednesday cautioned against assuming that the White House is keen on military intervention in Iran.
Although President Bush has repeatedly said that all options, including the use of force, are possible to stop Iran from producing nuclear warheads, Rice said in Chicago that diplomatic measures must first be exhausted.
Rice said that many "diplomatic tools" will be used and that she hoped Iran would get the message from a unified international community. The U.N. Security Council has given Iran until April 28 to halt uranium enrichment.
The Security Council is so far divided on the Iran issue. While Germany, France and Britain have said they would push for a diplomatic solution, Russia and China have both opposed any sanctions and a military solution.
The United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, discovered three years ago that Iran had carried out secret nuclear activities for 18 years in breach of its obligations under the non-proliferation treaty.
Iran says it has the right to enrich nuclear energy for civilian purposes, but the West believes Tehran is using the process to secretly and illegally build nuclear weapons. Iran denies the charge.
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Russia will deliver air defense systems to Iran - top general
19/ 04/ 2006
MOSCOW - The chief of the General Staff said Wednesday that Russia would honor its commitments on supplying military equipment to Iran.
"We discussed supplies of military equipment to Iran, including the Tor M1, in the framework of bilateral cooperation, but it does not fall into the category of strategic weapons," Army General Yury Baluyevsky said after talks in Moscow with NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe General James Jones.
"And I can assure you it will be delivered under the control of the relevant organizations," he said.
At the end of 2005, Russia concluded a $700-million contract on the delivery of 29 Tor M1 air defense systems to Iran.
The Tor-M1 is a fifth-generation integrated mobile air defense system designed for operation at medium, low and very low altitudes against fixed/rotary wing aircraft, UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicle), guided missiles and other high-precision weapons.
Despite strong criticism from the United States, Russia has maintained that the systems could be used only to protect Iran's air space.
Baluyevsky also said Russia's Armed Forces would not be involved in any military conflict in Iran.
"I do not think the conflict [in Iran] will turn into a war," he said. "Russia will not propose the use of its armed forces in a potential military conflict on either side."
Baluyevsky said he did not discuss the Iranian nuclear program with Jones, although the issue is "on everybody's mind."
Meanwhile, Iran's Defense Minister, Mostafa Mohammad-Najar, said Wednesday that his country would go ahead with its non-military nuclear research because it was a legitimate right of the Iranian people.
The Iranian official is currently on a three-day visit to the neighboring Central Asian republic of Azerbaijan to discuss bilateral cooperation in the defense sphere.
Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will attend a summit of Economic Cooperation Organization, a regional cooperation body, in the capital of Azerbaijan, Baku, on May 4-5.
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Russia toughens opposition to UN sanctions on Iran
Fri Apr 21, 2006
By Alireza Ronaghi
TEHRAN - Hardening its opposition to sanctions against Iran, Russia said on Friday only proof that the Islamic Republic was seeking atom bombs could justify consideration of such measures by the U.N. Security Council.
The council is awaiting a report on April 28 from the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on whether Tehran is meeting its demands for a halt to uranium enrichment and answers to queries about its nuclear program.
The United States, Britain and France want the Security Council to weigh sanctions if, as widely expected, IAEA director Mohamed ElBaradei concludes Iran has not met U.N. demands.
But Russia made clear that it would not view such non-compliance on its own as justifying punitive measures.
"We will only be able to talk about sanctions after we have concrete facts confirming that Iran is not exclusively involved in peaceful nuclear activities," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mikhail Kamynin said, Itar-Tass news agency reported.
Iran says its nuclear work aims only to produce electricity, not bombs. But it has hidden parts of its program in the past, and its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has heightened world concern by saying Israel should be "wiped off the map."
Senior cleric Ayatollah Mohammad Emami Kashani told Friday prayer worshippers ElBaradei and the IAEA had singled out Iran's quest for technology, while ignoring a nuclear-armed Israel.
"Israel has got nuclear warheads and it is proliferating them constantly and you do not ask them why," Kashani said.
He also criticized the Security Council for failing to live up to its name. "You are establishing security for the wolves and predators rather than for the sheep," the cleric declared.
Iran had said an IAEA team led by Olli Heinonen, deputy director-general for nuclear safeguards, would arrive on Friday, but diplomats said they had been told Heinonen would not go.
A Vienna-based EU diplomat said Iran had not responded to requests for more cooperation. There was no point in Heinonen going to Tehran "if he's just going to get stonewalled."
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Sen. Joseph Lieberman: I'd Support Iran Attack
Wednesday, April 19
Sen. Joseph Lieberman said Tuesday that he would back a U.S. airstrike on Iran's nuclear facilities if diplomatic options fail, becoming the first Democrat to announce his support for such a move.
"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," the former vice presidential candidate tells the Jerusalem Post.
Lieberman said he uses the word "deter" because it's doubtful that even an extensive air assault could eliminate all of Iran's nuclear facilities, many of which are buried underground.
The goal of such an attack, he explained, would be to "delay" Iran's nuclear program, hoping 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 use of military force against Iran was "probably the last choice," Lieberman said, before adding: "But it has to be there."
The Connecticut Democrat compared the rhetoric coming from Iranian President Mamoud Ahmadinejad, who threatened just last week to "annihilate" Israel, to declarations from both Osama bin Laden and Adolf Hitler, noting:
"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."
Lieberman told the Post that any U.S. strike against Iran would not involve ground troops, explaining: "I don't think anyone is thinking of this as a massive ground invasion, as in Iraq, to topple the government."
Comment: "Yay!" for the two party system in the US! "Yay!" for effect oppostion to the ruling party! Ya gotta love American Democracy!
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The Real First Casualty of War
By John Pilger
During the 1970s, I filmed secretly in Czechoslovakia, then a Stalinist dictatorship. The dissident novelist Zdenek Urbánek told me, "In one respect, we are more fortunate than you in the west. We believe nothing of what we read in the newspapers and watch on television, nothing of the official truth. Unlike you, we have learned to read between the lines, because real truth is always subversive."
This acute skepticism, this skill of reading between the lines, is urgently needed in supposedly free societies today. Take the reporting of state-sponsored war. The oldest cliché is that truth is the first casualty of war. I disagree. Journalism is the first casualty. Not only that: it has become a weapon of war, a virulent censorship that goes unrecognized in the United States, Britain, and other democracies; censorship by omission, whose power is such that, in war, it can mean the difference between life and death for people in faraway countries, such as Iraq.
As a journalist for more than 40 years, I have tried to understand how this works. In the aftermath of the U.S. war in Vietnam, which I reported, the policy in Washington was revenge, a word frequently used in private but never publicly. A medieval embargo was imposed on Vietnam and Cambodia; the Thatcher government cut off supplies of milk to the children of Vietnam. This assault on the very fabric of life in two of the world's most stricken societies was rarely reported; the consequence was mass suffering.
It was during this time that I made a series of documentaries about Cambodia. The first, in 1979, Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia, described the American bombing that had provided a catalyst for the rise of Pol Pot, and showed the shocking human effects of the embargo. Year Zero was broadcast in some 60 countries, but never in the United States. When I flew to Washington and offered it to the national public broadcaster, PBS, I received a curious reaction. PBS executives were shocked by the film, and spoke admiringly of it, even as they collectively shook their heads. One of them said: "John, we are disturbed that your film says the United States played such a destructive role, so we have decided to call in a journalistic adjudicator."
The term "journalistic adjudicator" was out of Orwell. PBS appointed one Richard Dudman, a reporter on the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and one of the few Westerners to have been invited by Pol Pot to visit Cambodia. His dispatches reflected none of the savagery then enveloping that country; he even praised his hosts. Not surprisingly, he gave my film the thumbs-down. One of the PBS executives confided to me: "These are difficult days under Ronald Reagan. Your film would have given us problems."
The lack of truth about what had really happened in southeast Asia - the media-promoted myth of a "blunder" and the suppression of the true scale of civilian casualties and of routine mass murder, even the word "invasion" - allowed Reagan to launch a second "noble cause" in central America. The target was another impoverished nation without resources: Nicaragua, whose "threat," like Vietnam's, was in trying to establish a model of development different from that of the colonial dictatorships backed by Washington. Nicaragua was crushed, thanks in no small part to leading American journalists, conservative and liberal, who suppressed the triumphs of the Sandinistas and encouraged a specious debate about a "threat."
The tragedy in Iraq is different, but, for journalists, there are haunting similarities. On Aug. 24 last year, a New York Times editorial declared: "If we had all known then what we know now, the invasion [of Iraq] would have been stopped by a popular outcry." This amazing admission was saying, in effect, that the invasion would never have happened if journalists had not betrayed the public by accepting and amplifying and echoing the lies of Bush and Blair, instead of challenging and exposing them.
We now know that the BBC and other British media were used by MI6, the secret intelligence service. In what was called "Operation Mass Appeal," MI6 agents planted stories about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction - such as weapons hidden in his palaces and in secret underground bunkers. All these stories were fake. But this is not the point. The point is that the dark deeds of MI6 were quite unnecessary. Recently, the BBC's director of news, Helen Boaden, was asked to explain how one of her "embedded" reporters in Iraq, having accepted U.S. denials of the use of chemical weapons against civilians, could possibly describe the aim of the Anglo-American invasion as to "bring democracy and human rights" to Iraq. She replied with quotations from Blair that this was indeed the aim, as if Blair's utterances and the truth were in any way related. On the third anniversary of the invasion, a BBC newsreader described this illegal, unprovoked act, based on lies, as a "miscalculation." Thus, to use Edward Herman's memorable phrase, the unthinkable was normalized.
Such servility to state power is hotly denied, yet routine. Almost the entire British media has omitted the true figure of Iraqi civilian casualties, willfully ignoring or attempting to discredit respectable studies. "Making conservative assumptions," wrote the researchers from the eminent Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, working with Iraqi scholars, "we think that about 100,000 excess deaths, or more, have happened since the 2003 invasion of Iraq ... which were primarily the result of military actions by coalition forces. Most of those killed by coalition forces were women and children...." That was Oct. 29, 2004. Today, the figure has doubled.
Language is perhaps the most crucial battleground. Noble words such as "democracy," "liberation," "freedom," and "reform" have been emptied of their true meaning and refilled by the enemies of those concepts. The counterfeits dominate the news, along with dishonest political labels, such as "left of center," a favorite given to warlords such as Blair and Bill Clinton; it means the opposite. "War on terror" is a fake metaphor that insults our intelligence. We are not at war. Instead, our troops are fighting insurrections in countries where our invasions have caused mayhem and grief, the evidence and images of which are suppressed. How many people know that, in revenge for 3,000 innocent lives taken on Sept. 11, 2001, up to 20,000 innocent people died in Afghanistan?
In reclaiming the honor of our craft, not to mention the truth, we journalists at least need to understand the historic task to which we are assigned - that is, to report the rest of humanity in terms of its usefulness, or otherwise, to "us," and to soften up the public for rapacious attacks on countries that are no threat to us. We soften them up by dehumanizing them, by writing about "regime change" in Iran as if that country were an abstraction, not a human society. Hugo Chávez's Venezuela is currently being softened up on both sides of the Atlantic. A few weeks ago, Channel 4 news carried a major item that might have been broadcast by the U.S. State Department. The reporter, Jonathan Rugman, the program's Washington correspondent, presented Chávez as a cartoon character, a sinister buffoon whose folksy Latin ways disguised a man "in danger of joining a rogues' gallery of dictators and despots - Washington's latest Latin nightmare." In contrast, Condoleezza Rice was given gravitas and Donald Rumsfeld was allowed to compare Chávez to Hitler.
Indeed, almost everything in this travesty of journalism was viewed from Washington, and only fragments of it from the barrios of Venezuela, where Chávez enjoys 80 percent popularity. That he had won nine democratic elections and referendums - a world record - was omitted. In crude Soviet flick style, he was shown with the likes of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, though these brief encounters had to do with OPEC and oil only. According to Rugman, Venezuela under Chávez is helping Iran develop nuclear weapons. No evidence was given for this absurdity. People watching would have no idea that Venezuela was the only oil-producing country in the world to use its oil revenue for the benefit of poor people. They would have no idea of spectacular developments in health, education, literacy; no idea that Venezuela has no political jails - unlike the United States.
So if the Bush administration moves to implement "Operation Bilbao," a contingency plan to overthrow the democratic government of Venezuela, who will care, because who will know? For we shall have only the media version; another demon will get what is coming to him. The poor of Venezuela, like the poor of Nicaragua, and the poor of Vietnam and countless other faraway places, whose dreams and lives are of no interest, will be invisible in their grief: a triumph of censorship by journalism.
It is said that the Internet offers an alternative, and what is wonderful about the rebellious spirits on the World Wide Web is that they often report as many journalists should. They are mavericks in the tradition of muckrakers such as Claud Cockburn, who said: "Never believe anything until it has been officially denied." But the Internet is still a kind of samizdat, an underground, and most of humanity does not log on, just as most of humanity does not own a mobile phone. And the right to know ought to be universal. That other great muckraker, Tom Paine, warned that if the majority of the people were being denied the truth and ideas of truth, it was time to storm what he called the "Bastille of words." That time is now.
This is an abridged version of an address, "Reporting War and Empire," by John Pilger at Columbia University, New York, in company with Seymour Hersh, Robert Fisk, and Charles Glass.
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A Lobby, Not a Conspiracy
By Tony Judt
New York Times
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.
A Lobby, Not a Conspiracy
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.
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Pacifist Japan To Rejoin US-Thai War Games
Apr 21, 2006
Bangkok - Officially pacifist Japan will again take part in the largest US war games in Asia, officials said Thursday. Indonesia and Singapore will also join the annual exercises, set to run in Thailand from May 15-26, which are to focus largely on training for multinational peacekeeping operations, Thai and US officials said.
"As we all know from our experience with the tsunami, multinational responses to regional crises are likely to be the norm in the future," Alexander Arvizu, the deputy chief of mission at the US embassy, told reporters.
"In order to better address tomorrow's disasters, future peacekeeping requirements, or contingencies, it is vital that our friends train together," he said.
Nearly 11,300 troops will take part in the exercises, dubbed the "Cobra Gold," the vast majority of them from Thailand and the United States.
Japan is sending 40 members of its so-called Self Defense Forces, but they will only join in computer simulations and observe in humanitarian projects.
Singapore is sending 96 troops, with another 15 from Indonesia.
The live-fire exercises, launched 25 years ago and originally limited to US and Thai troops, will include an anti-terror component for the fifth straight year.
Last year, the exercises focused on responses to natural disasters, after the December 2004 tsunami that killed 220,000 people in 12 countries.
This year's Cobra Gold exercises are much larger than last year's, when some 5,800 US, Thai, Japanese and Singaporean forces took part.
But they are still noticeably smaller than earlier years, when some 20,000 personnel were involved.
Nine other countries will observe this year's drills: Australia, China, France, Germany, Laos, Malaysia, South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam.
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Will The Lying Ever Stop?
How the U.S. Lost a Terror Deal
By WENDY MALLOY/TAMPA
April 19, 2006
Federal prosecutors are hailing Florida professor Sami Al-Arian's plea agreement as a victory in the war on terror. But as with so many triumphant government claims since 9/11, there's a lot less to celebrate than meets the eye.
When federal prosecutors earlier this week announced a plea deal that will ultimately deport the controversial former University of South Florida computer science professor Sami Al-Arian, they hailed it as a major achievement in the war on terror. As U.S. Attorney Paul Perez put it in a statement, "Because of the painstaking work of the prosecutors and agents who pursued this case, Al-Arian has now confessed to helping terrorists do their work from his base here in the United States - a base he is no longer able to maintain." But given all the buildup, the resolution of the Al-Arian case seems far from a clear-cut victory, and the government's triumphant tone speaks volumes about its less-than-stellar record in federal anti-terror cases.
After all, the U.S. government seemed to enjoy every advantage in the prosecution of Al-Arian - who was accused in 2003 of conspiring with the terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad. It had thousands of hours of taped phone calls, intercepted throughout a dozen years of surveillance; emotionally wrenching testimony from witnesses, including the father of an American girl murdered in Israel by a PIJ suicide bomber; and a jittery public anxious for convictions in the war on terror.
Still, in December, after a six-month trial, a skeptical Tampa jury delivered not one single guilty verdict from the 53-count indictment charging Al-Arian and three other men with terrorist activities. Al-Arian - whom the Bush Administration had even tagged as PIJ's North American leader - was acquitted on eight of 17 counts. The jury deadlocked on the remaining counts against him, but jurors later indicated to reporters that most of them had favored acquittal on those charges as well. The government, they said, simply wasn't able to establish a clear link between Al-Arian's constitutionally protected freedom to express support for the PIJ and the group's violent acts half a world away. It was one of the Justice Department's most embarrassing legal setbacks since 9/11.
Frustrated prosecutors, not surprisingly, weren't willing to admit defeat. So to spare his family the emotional havoc of a retrial, Al-Arian cut a deal. After months of negotiations, the Feds announced this week that the USF professor had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to provide services to the PIJ, such as immigration assistance to its members and lying about a former associate's affiliation with the terrorist group. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for May 1. But though guidelines call for 46 to 57 months in prison, Al-Arian, who was born in Kuwait and has some family in Egypt, will serve only a fraction of that time and then be deported to an as yet undetermined country.
Because it couldn't prove Al-Arian was "the most powerful man" in the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, as one prosecutor characterized him during the trial, or link him directly with any of the brutal killings perpetrated by PIJ, "this [was] a failed prosecution, period," Al-Arian attorney Linda Moreno tells TIME. "[Former Attorney General] John Ashcroft announced the indictment three years ago on the steps of the Justice Department. Three years later, we have the Department of Justice recommending that Dr. Al-Arian be sentenced to the lowest term possible and agreeing that this is not a crime of violence that he's pleading to. This is hardly a victory for the prosecution."
It's not really, however, a victory for Al-Arian either. For decades, he'd insisted that he rejected the PIJ. But both his plea and wiretap evidence brought out in his indictment and trial severely undercut his image as nothing more than an outspoken advocate for Palestinian rights, a First Amendment victim who had been made a handy political target for a government hungry for terrorism convictions.
Arthury Lowrie, a former longtime U.S. diplomat in the Middle East and adjunct professor of international studies at USF who worked closely with Al-Arian on U.S.-Muslim dialogue, told TIME after Al-Arian's acquittal late last year, "I think the disgraceful, overzealous way the U.S. pursued this case has hurt its credibility [in the Arab world]. But Sami lied to me and his colleagues, and all the progress we made feels like it's all gone down the drain." Which is where the Feds and Al-Arian have both apparently decided to let the matter lie.
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Family of 9/11 victims testify for Moussaoui defense
Wed Apr 19, 2006
By Deborah Charles
ALEXANDRIA, Virginia - Noble and generous, family members of September 11 victims overcame anger, rage and a thirst for vengeance before testifying for the defense on Wednesday in a trial that will determine if Zacarias Moussaoui will be executed.
Moussaoui, an admitted al Qaeda member, has pleaded guilty to conspiracy in connection with the airliner hijackings. The 12-person jury is hearing evidence before deciding whether he should be sentenced to death or get life in prison.
More than 40 witnesses have already testified about their loved ones killed on September 11 when planes crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.
But they were called to the stand by federal prosecutors who are trying to convince the jury that Moussaoui deserves death. Some were survivors who gave graphic descriptions of their struggle to escape the burning towers, while others were family members who spoke of the impact loved ones' violent deaths have had on their lives.
The latest group of family members, however, were testifying as part of the evidence being presented by the defense, which is trying to convince the jury to spare Moussaoui's life.
None of the witnesses on Wednesday said anything to the jury about how they thought Moussaoui should be sentenced.
But one of the witnesses, Marilynn Rosenthal, whose son Josh was killed, told reporters outside the courthouse that said she decided to testify for the defense because she felt it was her "patriotic duty."
"I don't know I did it for (Josh), I did it because I thought it was my duty, as an American in a democracy," she said after testifying. "Mr. Moussaoui is the wrong man to be ... on trial."
WHAT HAPPENED THAT DAY
Rosenthal, a medical sociologist, earlier told the jury she decided to learn as much as she could about al Qaeda and the hijacking plot to better understand what happened that day.
"Everybody ... wants something good and positive to come out of what happened," she said. "For me that meant finding out everything. I've spent the last four years doing research for a book that represents my understanding."
Comment: Note that one of the defendants is Marilynn Rosenthal. Mrs Rosenthal is currently writing a book which looks at the evidence for Bush and Co having advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks. Note that Mrs Rosenthal stated that "Mr. Moussaoui is the wrong man to be ... on trial." Note that the Reuters report left out the full text of her comment. The full text was:
"Moussaoui is the wrong person to be on trial. There are people in the custody of the US government who were central planners."
She has also stated that "9/11 could have been prevented"
Mrs Rosenthal is in fact 100% correct that Moussaoui's trial is a show trial, the only man ever to convicted for the 9/11 attacks and he is nothing but a side show, a patsy. Government officials have repeatedly stated that the will not bring the alleged al-Qaeda members in Gitmo before a court because they are too valuable for the intelligence information that they provide, or that can be "extracted" from them. Yet this assertion flies in the face of the facts, namely:
Most Guantanamo detainees are small fry, experts say
PARIS, April 20, 2006 (AFP) - Most of the 558 people named in a Pentagon list of inmates at the US base in Guantanamo, Cuba, are small fry, figures of little value in the international "war on terror", experts said on Thursday.
The names released on Thursday by the US Defence Department did not include a single senior figure from Al-Qaeda or other Islamic extremist groups, nor from Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime, experts stressed.
"It's nonsense. Guantanamo is a gigantic failure," charged the French analyst Olivier Roy, a leading specialist on central Asia.
"Even setting aside the question of international law, these guys don't know anything. Even for those who do know a little, after four years what can their information be worth?" he asked.
In an interview with the US weekly National Journal, Michael Scheuer, a former head of the CIA unit focused on Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden, said the Guantanamo detainees appeared at best to be foot-soldiers.
"They are going to know absolutely nothing about terrorism," he said, adding: "We absolutely got the wrong guys."
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Most Guantanamo detainees are small fry, experts say
April 20, 2006
Most of the 558 people named in a Pentagon list of inmates at the US base in Guantanamo, Cuba, are small fry, figures of little value in the international "war on terror", experts said on Thursday.
The names released on Thursday by the US Defence Department did not include a single senior figure from Al-Qaeda or other Islamic extremist groups, nor from Afghanistan's ousted Taliban regime, experts stressed.
"It's nonsense. Guantanamo is a gigantic failure," charged the French analyst Olivier Roy, a leading specialist on central Asia.
"Even setting aside the question of international law, these guys don't know anything. Even for those who do know a little, after four years what can their information be worth?" he asked.
In an interview with the US weekly National Journal, Michael Scheuer, a former head of the CIA unit focused on Al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden, said the Guantanamo detainees appeared at best to be foot-soldiers.
"They are going to know absolutely nothing about terrorism," he said, adding: "We absolutely got the wrong guys."
Of the 125 Afghans appearing on the list, for example, many are identified by a single name, such as "Hafizullah", "Nasibullah" or "Sharbat".
"Since many people share the same names in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, many people were arrested simply because they bore the same name as another guy," Roy argued.
"The Americans don't know who exactly they're holding at Guantanamo. Many were quite simply sold on to them -- the Pakistanis picked up foreigners at random, from all over the place."
"The Afghans did the same. Each time someone from the (anti-Taliban) Northern Alliance captured a foreigner, they handed him over saying: 'He's with Al-Qaeda'. And the Americans paid up 500 or 1,000 dollars."
"It became a national sport," Roy said.
For Tom Malinowski, of the Washington branch of Human Rights Watch, "the more that is learned about these prisoners, the more holes appear in (President George W. Bush's) narrative of a tough and triumphant fight against Al-Qaeda".
"Instead, when the full story is told, Guantanamo may come to stand as much for incompetence as it does for injustice."
"Fewer than half were caught on battlefields in Afghanistan or by US troops. A majority were turned over by Pakistan," Malinowski said.
"Few 'combatants' are even accused of having fought. Many are held simply because they were living in a house associated with the Taliban or working for a charity linked to the group."
Sandra Hodgkinson, deputy head of the US State Department's war crimes unit, told reporters in Paris on Thursday that the only way to identify the prisoners -- few of whom carried identity papers -- was interrogation.
"That's all we have -- so it's true that this list could be partly false."
She insisted however that, even if the detainees themselves were not big fish, "their interrogation allowed us to obtain good intelligence".
"We learned about Al-Qaeda's structures, its mechanisms for financing, recruitment and training, ts travel methods, its motives and the non-governmental organisations that support it," she told AFP.
Since the September 11, 2001, attacks, some 750 people have been held at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, of whom only 10 have been formally charged.
Most were captured after the US-led war that toppled the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in late 2001. The US government is still holding some 490 detainees at Guantanamo.
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Who's planting media lies about a possible civil war in Iraq?
The debate over whether Iraq is on the verge of a bloody civil war was fueled by recent remarks by UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and his Saudi counterpart during a conference in Riyadh.
On BBC news website, Sir Lawrence Freedman, Professor of War Studies at King's College London explained the historical precedents and why the argument over a possible outbreak of a civil war in Iraq matters. He discussed what causes a civil war, referring to historical examples like, civil war in Russia, Lebanese civil war.
Sir Lawrence Freedman suggested that once a broadly-based government is agreed, it might get a grip on the situation, and stop the almost daily sectarian killings and attacks in Iraq.
In an editorial published on AIM.org, the media is seen as a key element in instigating a civil war in Iraq.
Following the February 22 attack on one of the most revered Shia mosques in the Iraqi city of Samarra, all media reports were focusing on allegations that Iraq has swept up in a wave of retaliatory religious violence, and national news outlets in the U.S. continued for weeks to feed Americans with daily headlines, all affirming the bloody sectarian violence Iraq has fallen into.
90% of the main stream media was dedicated to painting a bleak image of the situation in Iraq, focusing on the between 90 and 200 Sunni mosques across Iraq that were attacked, burned or bombed.
Later on, numerous surveys were conducted, showing that the majority of Americans believe that Iraq will soon fall into an open civil war.
Last month, the Pentagon Chief, Donald H. Rumsfeld, speaking at a press conference expressed his anger over the media biased reporting, saying they all failed to present the true situation in Iraq a the moment.
"From what I've seen thus far, much of the reporting in the U.S. and abroad has exaggerated the situation, according to General Casey," said Rumsfeld. "The number of attacks on mosques, as he pointed out, had been exaggerated. The number of Iraqi deaths had been exaggerated. The behavior of the Iraqi security forces had been mischaracterized in some instances.
"Interestingly, all of the exaggerations seem to be on one side," said Rumsfeld.
"It isn't as though there simply have been a series of random errors on both sides of issues. On the contrary, the steady stream of errors all seem to be of a nature to inflame the situation and to give heart to the terrorists and to discourage those who hope for success in Iraq.
"And then I notice today that there's been a public opinion poll reporting that the readers of these exaggerations believe Iraq is in a civil war-a majority do, which I suppose is little wonder that the reports we've seen have had that effect on the American people."
On the other hand, experts suggest that the military's intentions are quite the opposite of that the Defense Secretary expressed or military officials claimed.
Who would benefit if a civil war broke out in Iraq and the entire Middle East region? Surely they're not the Iraqis or the Arabs and Muslims; it's the U.S. who has so far failed to achieve all its intended goals in Iraq and needs a reason for an extended military presence in the war-torn country.
Claims that Iraq is about or has already fallen into a civil war benefits the occupation hugely.
In a recent interview with Robert Fisk, one of the most experienced observers of the Middle East, Fisk said:
"I still go along and say what I said before - Iraq is not a sectarian society, but a tribal society. People are intermarried. Shia and Sunnis marry each other. It's not a question of having a huge block of people here called Shias and a huge block of people called Sunnis any more than you can do the same with the United States, saying Blacks are here and Protestants are here and so on. But certainly, somebody at the moment is trying to provoke a civil war in Iraq.
"Someone wants a civil war. Some form of militias and death squads want a civil war. There never has been a civil war in Iraq. The real question I ask myself is: who are these people who are trying to provoke the civil war? Now the Americans will say it's Al Qaeda, it's the Sunni insurgents. It is the death squads. Many of the death squads work for the Ministry of Interior. Who runs the Ministry of Interior in Baghdad? Who pays the Ministry of the Interior? Who pays the militia men who make up the death squads? We do, the occupation authorities. I'd like to know what the Americans are doing to get at the people who are trying to provoke the civil war. It seems to me not very much. We don't hear of any suicide bombers being stopped before they blow themselves up. We don't hear of anybody stopping a mosque getting blown up. We're not hearing of death squads all being arrested.
"Something is going very, very wrong in Baghdad. Something is going wrong with the Administration. Mr Bush says, "Oh, yes, sure, I talk to the Shias and I talk to the Sunnis." He's talking to a small bunch of people living behind American machine guns inside the so-called Green Zone, the former Republican palace of Saddam Hussein, which is surrounded by massive concrete walls like a crusader castle. These people do not and cannot even leave this crusader castle. If they want to leave to the airport, they're helicoptered to the airport. They can't even travel on the airport road. What we've got at the moment is a little nexus of people all of whom live under American protection and talk on the telephone to George W Bush who says, "I've been talking to them and they have to choose between chaos and unity." These people can't even control the roads 50 metres from the Green Zone in which they work."
So it seems that the U.S. is not intent or actually doesn't want to stop the violence going in Iraq, if not supporting and fueling it. A civil war and continuous violence, serves the U.S., it asserts what the U.S. claims that its "mission" has not finished in Iraq yet, and the that the occupation army is still needed in the country.
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Torture from the Top: Axis of Evil Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld Conduct Their Own Prison Experiment
by Lynne Glasner
April 20, 2006
As Rumsfeld gets battered from the ranks for his errant decision-making in military matters, we cannot forget the systemic practice of torture that has occurred, and is still ongoing, under his watch. Whether or not Bush and/or Cheney were directly involved in the planning or authorization of this egregious crime, it is obvious that neither has any interest in stopping it. After the President reluctantly signed the McCain Amendment banning torture practices, he basically nullified it by issuing a "Signing Statement" that gives him permission to override the law at his discretion. There would be no need for such a statement if the practice had been ceased, as was claimed; the Signing Statement gives Bush and the Administration legal cover. The President's original invocation of the axis of evil is ironic considering the evil perpetrated by the three most powerful men in the world: Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld.
Whether or not Rumsfeld will have to leave his post has not, so far, focused on his knowledge of, complicity in, and indeed his role in directing the torture procedures used at Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and other holding pens run by the U.S. in its long war on terror. The absurdity of the denial ("we do not torture") both from the White House and Rumsfeld in various reports to Congress and statements to the media defies the meaning of civil rights and human dignity, not to mention responsibility. It demonstrates an extreme corruption of power, stemming from a perceived need to control people, and a willingness to treat people with inordinate disregard and disrespect. You have to wonder what kind of people would intentionally set the stage for torture chambers, allowing themselves to become the very thing they claim to fear.
The use of torture perpetrated in the name of the United States has left a stain on the American psyche from which recovery will not be easy. How could the land of the free and the home of the brave be party to the kinds of heinous acts that we associate with the absolute cruelty of depraved dictators? The Administration had to acknowledge the truth of the matter - it was hard to spin those Abu Ghraib images in any other context - and yet, since the first batch of photos made their way into the media two years ago, the initial shock and outrage has been reduced to mostly silence and an ongoing denial if the subject is brought up.
Rumsfeld was quick to order that cameras be taken away from the GIs, as if that were the real problem. Whistleblowers were considered leakers and were punished accordingly so there may be no further graphic documentation of what is going on behind the bars of the expensive prisons we have built. The victims' stories would not be told but for the human rights organizations that keep asking questions and demanding answers. The few prisoners who have had access to the outside world and the few organizational workers who have had even limited access to visit the prison sites have not dropped their complaints; in fact, some of the victims' families are bringing civil lawsuits in an attempt to get victims released, and also to attempt to get the attention of the world. The Administration has been careful to ensure that the torture takes place outside of U.S. borders, and therefore outside of the legal reach of our own criminal laws. It's a gray area. But coupled with a disassociation from the World Court and a disregard for the UN Committee on Torture, the axis of torture has for now at least effectively built a wall around the secret practices. How this strategy stands up in either jurisdiction remains to be seen; how it fares in the court of world opinion may prove to be more troubling. So far, only civil cases have been able to penetrate the legal system at all. But the world is still shy about dealing with this issue; it's simply unfathomable that the leader of the free world, the model for democratic values, could be guilty of orchestrating such barbaric acts.
Incredulous as it is, it appears that the Abu Ghraib syndrome was part of a Machiavellian strategy to begin with. Criminologists and those in human rights communities know what happens when ordinary people are given extraordinary power, along with a common mission and a rationale for dishing out punishment. Perhaps it is part of the human psyche - no one can really answer that question. But we do know from well-documented studies of human behavior that given the right settings, these behaviors are quite predictable. Yes, in fact, the exact behaviors that we have seen documented in Abu Ghraib. This was a known known.
For over three decades Philip Zimbardo, emeritus professor at Stanford University and recently appointed professor at the Pacific Graduate School of Psychology, has studied questions of dehumanization in prison populations. His work shines a light on Abu Ghraib. It's hard to know whether the Bush axis of evil turned a blind eye or used his work as a basis for policy, the parallels are that startling.
In 1971, Zimbardo led a team of researchers in creating a mock prison in which to study behavior in a prison environment. The subjects were healthy male undergraduate volunteers who were divided into groups of "guards" and "prisoners." Within days, normal young men with no prior history of any kind of antisocial behavior or abnormal or even unusual psychological problems became abusers as they acted out their roles as "guards." To control their "prisoners," the student "guards" resorted to some creative techniques: they stripped them, put hoods over their heads, and forced them to simulate sodomy.
If all this sounds familiar, it should. Not because these young students were told how to deal with their wardens (they weren't); not because they had seen examples of this behavior before (they hadn't); not because they watched some TV show that demonstrated this type of situation prior to the experiments (they hadn't); but because, it seems, when the right conditions are at play, most people succumb to these baser instincts.
Speaking about his studies, Zimbardo explained that "any situation that makes you anonymous and gives permission for aggression will bring out the beast in most people. When you put that set of horrendous work conditions and external factors together, it creates an evil barrel." Harsh as that sounds, subsequent research and a look at prisons both in the U.S. and around the world, confirms the thesis.
Zimbardo explained the parallel:
"At Abu Ghraib you had the social modeling in which somebody takes the lead in doing something. You had the dehumanization, the use of labels of the other as inferior, as worthless. There was a diffusion of responsibility such that nobody was personally accountable. The Stanford prison study identified a whole set of principles, all of which you can see are totally applicable in this setting. ...When you put that set of horrendous work conditions and external factors together, it creates an evil barrel. You could put virtually anybody in it and you're going to get this kind of evil behavior."
It's not that the military was unaware of some esoteric academic study conducted 30 years ago. Zimbardo's work is renowned. In fact, military regulations for treatment of prisoners and procedures for reporting torture are part of standard military training, though not for the National Guard whose mission is historically different. These regulations are based on research that documents how ordinary people can all too easily get caught up in perpetrating abuse and torture. The Zimbardo studies are included in the body of research that the military uses as a basis to counter soldiers' instinct. However, this training was noticeably missing in the training given to the volunteers in Iraq. In fact, the Taguba Report, the investigative review conducted by the U.S. Army, "found no evidence that the Command, although aware of this deficiency [in training], ever requested specific corrections training."
Even the Schlessinger Report, the tepid Pentagon review of the Abu Ghraib scandal conducted after the photos were made public, states that the "Stanford Prison Experiment should have served as a forewarning to those running Abu Ghraib Prison of the potential dangers of excesses by guards in such settings."
What took place at Abu Ghraib and, what is reported to be an ongoing practice at other prison sites as well, was entirely predictable. The Abu Ghraib photos are eerily similar to the reports from Zimbardo's original studies. Can we add Abu Ghraib and its sister camps to the growing list of things "no one could have predicted"? For a President who seems bent on preemptive action, his track record for predictions is frightening.
Zimbardo was interviewed on several occasions after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, several stories relating his work to the prison scandal were published, and he penned a few op-eds at the time. But shortly after the buzz from the photos, the Nicolas Berg beheading took over the headlines, offering the public a rationale of revenge in defense of torture, alleviating collective guilt. The torture story lost its luster and it was back to the news headline du jour. From bogus findings of evidence of sarin gas in Iraq, to the handover of the Iraq government to the Iraqis, to election campaign issues, the torture scandal was put on the backburner. All of which served to quell Zimbardo's criticism of the Cheney and Rumsfeld characterization of Abu Ghraib behavior as a few "bad apples."
Zimbardo adamantly explained how that assessment is wrong on all counts:
"It's not the bad apples-it's the bad barrels that corrupt good people. Understanding the abuses at this Iraqi prison starts with an analysis of both the situational and systematic forces operating on those soldiers working the night shift in that 'little shop of horrors.'"
Firing Rumsfeld won't fix the problem. Rumsfeld is carrying out Bush policy. This Administration has sanctioned torture in the name of terror. The problem is systemic. Major changes from the top of the pecking order, including the Bush signing statement, must be instituted. After the removal of King George, it looks like we'll need a period of Reformation and Restoration. A good starting place would be the reinstallation of due process and apologies and restitution for those who have been harmed, both the victims of the torture and those who were tools of the policy.
The utter disregard and disrespect for all of those things that as Americans we are supposed to represent has served to empower those in power and weaken those who feel helpless in the face of terror. In the Administration's blatant imperialistic hubris, we may still have a military advantage in weaponry and economic wealth. But in the battle to "win the hearts and minds" we have lost our stature in the world and our national esteem. Ironic, then, that in the process of fighting for peace, justice, and what is right, we are loosing all of it.
Lynne Glasner is a freelance writer/editor based in New York City. She is the editor of Danny Schechter's book When News Lies (SelectBooks, Jan. 06). Her essays have appeared in Commondreams, MediaChannel.org as well as OpEd News. She may be contacted at email@example.com
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Sex and money bought Iraq contracts
By T. Christian Miller in Washington
A CONTRACTOR in Iraq has pleaded guilty to providing money, sex and designer watches to US officials in exchange for more than $US8 million ($10.8 million) in reconstruction contracts.
Philip Bloom faces up to 40 years in prison after admitting paying more than $US2 million in bribes to US officials with the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ruled Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003.
Bloom's guilty plea on bribery and money-laundering charges is the latest development in a widening corruption scandal centred on a network of US civilians and military officials who worked out of a coalition outpost in the south-central Iraqi town of Hillah.
Under the plea agreement, Bloom must pay $US3.6 million in restitution and forfeit $US3.6 million in assets. His guilty plea "sends a message to Iraqis that US oversight will track down, arrest and prosecute American citizens who committed crimes in Iraq involving Iraqi money", said Stuart Bowen, who heads the office of the Special Inspector-General for Iraq Reconstruction.
The scheme began in January 2004, when Bloom began paying bribes to Robert Stein, a civilian contractor who controlled $US82 million in reconstruction funds as the comptroller for the coalition's headquarters in Hillah.
Stein, who had a previous conviction for fraud when he was hired, pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in February. He funnelled money and favours from Bloom to other officials in Hillah, all of whom helped direct contracts to a group of companies controlled by Bloom, court documents say.
Two officers in the US Army Reserve, Lieutenant-Colonel Michael Wheeler and Lieutenant-Colonel Debra Harrison, have already been arrested in connection with the case and more arrests are expected, investigators said.
From January to June 2004, when the coalition government was replaced, Bloom provided Stein and officers with first-class air tickets, real estate lots, weapons, new four-wheel-drive vehicles, cigars, designer watches, alcohol, prostitutes at Bloom's Baghdad villa and cash bribes.
In return, Bloom's company, Global Business Group, received $US8.6 million in contracts to refurbish a police academy in Hillah, a library in Karbala and other reconstruction projects. In some cases the work was never done, and in others it was shoddy, audits by the inspector-general reveal.
The contracts were paid with Iraqi funds held in the Development Fund for Iraq, which has been at the centre of many of the corruption scandals in Iraq.
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Winston Churchill: Another View of a Paper God
April 19, 2006
The personality of Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill could very well be a subject of interest to an alienist who, by definition, is a physician who treats mental disorders. There is a saying that the world is governed with very little sense and there are times when one could add to this statement that it often has been governed by lunatics.
Churchill was born in 1874 and died in 1965. His father was Randolph Spencer-Churchill, a son of the Duke of Marlborough. The first Duke was John Churchill, one of England's most capable military commanders, who died without male issue in 1722 and the title was given to one of his nephews, a Spencer. As a courtesy, the Spencer family was allowed to add Churchill to its name, separated by a hyphen. Winston always wanted to believe that he was a gifted military leader in the mold of the first Duke but his efforts at generalship were always unqualified disasters that he generally blamed on other people. This chronic refusal to accept responsibility for his own incompetent actions is one of Churchill's less endearing qualities.
Randolph Churchill died early as the result of rampant syphilis that turned him from an interesting minor politician to a pathetic madman who had to be kept away from the public in the final years of his life. His mother was the former Jennie Jerome, an American. The Jerome family had seen better days when Jennie met Randolph. Her father, Leonard, was a stock-market manipulator who had lost his money and the marriage was more one of convenience than of affection.
The Jeromes were by background very typically American. On her father's side, Jennie was mostly Irish and on her mother's American Indian and Jewish. The union produced two children, Winston and Jack. The parents lived separate lives, both seeking the company of other men. Winston's psyche suffered accordingly and throughout his life, his frantic desire for attention obviously had its roots in his abandonment as a child.
As a member of the 4th (Queen's Own) Hussars, in 1896 Churchill became embroiled in a lawsuit wherein he was publicly accused of having engaged in the commission of "acts of gross immorality of the Oscar Wilde (homosexual) type." This case was duly settled out of court for a payment of money and the charges were withdrawn. Also a determinant factor was the interference by the Prince of Wales with whom his mother was having an affair.
In 1905, Churchill hired a young man, Edward Marsh (later Sir Edward) as his private secretary. His mother, always concerned about her son's political career, was concerned because Marsh was a very well known homosexual who later became one of Winston's most intimate lifelong friends. Personal correspondence of March, now in private hands, attests to the nature and duration of their friendship.
Churchill, as Asquith once said, was consumed with vanity and his belief that he was a brilliant military leader led him from the terrible disaster of Gallipoli through the campaigns of the Second World War. He meddled constantly in military matters to the despair and eventual fury of his professional military advisors but his political excursions were even more disastrous. Churchill was a man who was incapable of love but could certainly hate. He was viciously vindictive towards anyone who thwarted him and a number of these perceived enemies died sudden deaths during the war when such activities were much easier to order and conceal.
One of Churchill's less attractive personality traits, aside from his refusal to accept the responsibility for the failure of his actions, was his ability to change his opinions at a moment's notice.
Once anti-American, he did a complete about-face when confronted with a war he escalated and could not fight, and from a supporter of Hitler's rebuilding of Germany, he turned into a bitter enemy after a Jewish political action association composed of wealthy businessmen hired him to be their spokesman.
Churchill lavishly praised American President Franklin Roosevelt to his face and defamed him, with the ugliest of accusations, behind his back. The American President was a far more astute politician than Churchill and certainly far saner.
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Americans Have Had Enough
Cheney Gets Booed, Sheen Gets Applauded
Paul Joseph Watson
April 18 2006
But the media reports it the opposite way around.
An interesting contrast was provided last week with the American public's reaction to two very different high profile personalities, Charlie Sheen and Dick Cheney. Sheen appeared on a Friday night ABC talk show and Cheney threw the first pitch at a Washington Nationals baseball game.
Cheney was clearly booed by at least 80% of the attending fans at the RFK Memorial Stadium, yet the media reported a mixed reaction and the Washington Post went as far as to outright lie and claim the boos were a result of the bad pitch that bounced before the Nationals' Brian Schneider caught it, when in reality the cat-calls began as soon as Cheney's name was announced. The boos raged even though Cheney was accompanied by three injured US servicemen who had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. What would the percentage have been if Cheney had walked out on his own?
Charlie Sheen told a Hollywood audience that he felt "the only real validation that I needed [for speaking out on 9/11] was being a tax paying citizen that loves my country."
For that he received warm applause and the audience did not react negatively at any point when Sheen discussed his stance on 9/11. Watch the video and check it out for yourself.
Baffled we were therefore to witness the same establishment mouthpieces that had previously slammed Sheen after his first appearance on The Alex Jones Show continue to erroneously report that Sheen's comments provoked a negative reaction from the American people.
The Slashfilm website stated, "The public attacked Sheen after asking questions about 9/11 on a national radio show. The general viewpoint being that he was just an actor, what right does he have to make such accusations."
The public did no such thing. The only people who attacked Sheen were rabid Neo-Con armchair columnists who threw their toys out of the pram and spit out vitriolic junior high mentality gossip about his private life.
The CNN poll which finished at 83% in support of Sheen and the popular website Bravo Charlie 9/11 go to prove that the majority of the American people were behind Sheen, just as an every increasing majority are against the anti-American agenda of Bush and his big government cronies.
The New York Post insulted over half of their readers when they called Sheen a part of the "9/11 gone-bonkers brigade," a Zogby poll showed half of New Yorkers believed the government were complicit in the attacks and 66% called for a new investigation.
Cheney was booed and Sheen was applauded, but the lapdog ministry of truth would try and flip reality 180 degrees in an attempt to offset their crumbling architecture of control and credibility.
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04/20/06 FOX Poll: Bush Approval at New Low
By Dana Blanton
Thursday, April 20, 2006
NEW YORK - More Americans disapprove than approve of how George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and Congress are doing their jobs, while a majority approves of Condoleezza Rice. President Bush's approval hits a record low of 33 percent this week, clearly damaged by sinking support among Republicans.
Opinions are sharply divided on whether Rumsfeld should resign as secretary of defense. In addition, views on the economy are glum; most Americans rate the current economy negatively, and twice as many say it feels like the economy is getting worse rather than better. These are just some of the findings of the latest FOX News national poll.
President Bush's job approval rating slipped this week and stands at a new low of 33 percent approve, down from 36 percent two weeks ago and 39 percent in mid-March. A year ago this time, 47 percent approved and two years ago 50 percent approved (April 2004).
Approval among Republicans is below 70 percent for the first time of Bush's presidency. Two-thirds (66 percent) approve of Bush's job performance today, down almost 20 percentage points from this time last year when 84 percent of Republicans approved. Among Democrats, 11 percent approve today, while 14 percent approved last April.
"It seems clear that many Republicans, while they may still like and support George Bush, are growing uneasy with what may happen to their candidates - and the policies they support - in the November elections," comments Opinion Dynamics Chairman John Gorman.
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Bush Counsel May Be Next in Shake-Up
By ELISABETH BUMILLER and JIM RUTENBERG
The New York Times
April 21, 2006
WASHINGTON - Joshua B. Bolten, the new White House chief of staff, has raised the possibility of moving Harriet E. Miers from her job as President Bush's counsel as part of a continuing shake-up of the West Wing, an influential Republican with close ties to Mr. Bolten said Thursday.
The Republican, who was granted anonymity to talk openly about sensitive internal White House deliberations, said that Mr. Bolten had floated the idea among confidants, but that it was unclear whether he would follow through or if the move would be acceptable to Mr. Bush, who has a longtime personal bond with Ms. Miers.
"It's a reflection of Josh's thinking," the Republican said. "It's not a prediction that he's going to get it done."
A senior White House official denied that Mr. Bolten was considering such a step. "It's not the case," said the official, who was granted anonymity to get around the administration's policy of not commenting on personnel matters.
On another front, Republicans said that Tony Snow, a commentator for Fox News and a former speechwriter for Mr. Bush's father, was in negotiations for the job of White House press secretary. Mr. Snow would replace Scott McClellan, who announced Wednesday that he was resigning.
Mr. Bolten's thinking about Ms. Miers, however tentative, provided an insight into the scale of his ambitions for overhauling the White House staff and, should he proceed, could amount to a test of how far he would be able to go in bringing about change.
Ms. Miers, who was once Mr. Bush's personal lawyer, followed him from Texas to the White House. He nominated her to the Supreme Court last year, and brought her back into his inner circle when she withdrew after a brutal period of scrutiny and criticism.
Mr. Bolten is said by a number of Republicans in Washington to feel that Ms. Miers is indecisive, a weak manager and slow in moving vital paperwork through the system. She came to the White House in January 2001 as the staff secretary and then held one of Mr. Bolten's former jobs, deputy chief of staff for policy, before Mr. Bush appointed her as White House counsel in November 2004.
It was not clear whether Mr. Bolten was floating a trial balloon to gauge White House reaction to the idea, or whether he might have been intending to send a signal to Ms. Miers that he would like her to think about leaving on her own.
Moving Ms. Miers would be a strike at the heart of Mr. Bush's emotional bonds in the White House and would eliminate another Texan from the circle he has kept close to him in Washington. Republicans who talk regularly to senior West Wing advisers say the president has been unhappy and on edge about the staff changes that he nonetheless sees as necessary for revitalizing the West Wing.
Andrew H. Card Jr. stepped down as chief of staff last Friday. Karl Rove, the president's powerful political adviser who has been at his side since Mr. Bush entered politics, gave up day-to-day control over domestic policy on Wednesday, an announcement made shortly after Mr. McClellan stood next to Mr. Bush on the South Lawn and choked up as he announced his resignation.
Republicans close to the White House said Mr. Bush was the driver of the changes made so far, including the decision to ask Mr. Rove to focus primarily on the midterm elections.
"This is not Josh, this is Bush," said the Republican close to Mr. Bolten. "Bush is very good at using other people as a vehicle to get things done."
Republicans said Mr. Bolten has been focused on finding a new White House press secretary with good contacts in the Washington news media and a deep understanding of how they work.
Mr. Snow is the host of his own radio program and comes from the news operation that flashes from every television in the West Wing.
But before entering into job negotiations with the White House, Mr. Snow publicly joined other conservative critics of the administration.
In a column posted on his Web site that focused on the president's most recent State of the Union address, Mr. Snow in February called Mr. Bush's domestic policy agenda "listless" and portrayed his staff as burned out and unwilling to stand up to him.
"He inspires loyalty and confidence," Mr. Snow wrote in the column, titled "Thud!" that also included high praise for the president. "But over time, even the best burn out - or worse, lose their capacity to tell the boss, 'Sir, that idea stinks.' "
Associates of Mr. Snow, 50, said he has been weighing whether he and his family are up for the rigors of such a demanding job.
Mr. Snow had surgery for colon cancer last year and is awaiting an clearance from doctors before making a deal, according to people with knowledge of his deliberations who spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not want to upset private discussions at a sensitive time.
Mr. Snow's deliberations played out on Fox News on Thursday night, when be acknowledged the downside of the job. "You get a massive cut in pay," he said, adding that a press secretary can get treated "like a pińata," and that the job would cut into time with his children.
On the plus side, he said, "You become part of something that's very rare, which is an inner White House circle."
The White House has also been interested in a communications job for Dan Senor, the former spokesman for the United States in Iraq who is now a Republican consultant and Fox News analyst. But Republicans said Mr. Senor was cool to the idea and faced complications because of his wife, Campbell Brown, sometimes fills in as anchor of the "NBC Nightly News" and is the co-host of "Weekend Today."
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Minuteman leader pushes border fence
By ARTHUR H. ROTSTEIN
Associated Press Writer
Apr 20, 2006
TUCSON, Ariz. -- If the government doesn't build security fencing along the Mexico border, Minuteman border watch leader Chris Simcox says he and his supporters will.
Simcox, whose civilian watch group opposes illegal immigration, said Wednesday he was sending an ultimatum to President Bush to deploy military reserves to the Arizona border by May 25 or his supporters will break ground for their own building project.
"We're going to show the federal government how easy it is to build these security fences, how inexpensively they can be built when built by private people and free enterprise," Simcox said.
Congress has been debating immigration reform for several months. One bill, approved by the U.S. House in December, calls for nearly 700 miles of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. The fence proposal has angered Mexicans, with President Vicente Fox calling it "shameful."
Simcox said a half-dozen landowners along the Arizona-Mexico border have said they will allow fencing to be placed on their borderlands, and others in California, Texas and New Mexico have agreed to do so as well.
Surveyors and contractors have offered to help with the design and survey work, and Simcox said some have said they will provide heavy equipment for his Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. to build fencing.
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1000 Illegal Immigrants arrested in US
From Terry Frieden and Mike M. Ahlers
CNN Washington Bureau
Friday, April 21, 2006
WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration unveiled Thursday what it said is a new strategy aimed at companies employing illegal immigrants, illustrating it with a crackdown on the German-based firm IFCO Systems.
Law enforcement officials will "use all the tools we have, whether it be criminal enforcement or immigration laws to break the back" of businesses that exploit undocumented immigrants, said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff at a news conference.
Federal immigration authorities arrested nine people linked to IFCO Systems and rounded up more than 1,000 illegal immigrants in multistate raids, federal law enforcement officials said.
Among those arrested and charged in connection with the employment of immigrants are seven current and former managers and two lower-level employees of the company, said U.S. Attorney Glenn Suddaby.
IFCO is an industry leader in the manufacture of wooden pallets, crates and containers. The criminal complaint involving IFCO charges the seven managers with conspiracy to transport, harbor, and employ illegal immigrants for private gain.
Federal authorities checked a sample of 5,800 IFCO employee records last year and found that 53 percent had faulty Social Security numbers, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement official said.
"That is, they were using Social Security numbers of people that were dead, of children or just different individuals that did not work at IFCO," ICE chief Julie Myers told CNN.
"The Social Security Administration had written IFCO over 13 times and told them, 'Listen, You have a problem. You have over a thousand employees that have faulty Social Security numbers. And we consider that to be a big problem,'" said Myers. "And IFCO did not do anything about it."
A yearlong investigation revealed that IFCO managers had induced illegal aliens to work there, telling some to doctor W-2 tax forms and others that no documentation was needed at all, Myers said.
As public concern over illegal immigration has grown in recent months, federal law enforcement officials have sought to tighten enforcement of immigration laws, through criminal charges against those who employ illegal aliens. Those charges would include money laundering, alien harboring, illegal alien employment and wire fraud.
"We are turning away from focusing only on civil liability," Myers told CNN. "It used to be in these cases that they amounted mainly to a slap on the wrist or a small civil fine. We're now focusing on criminal cases and bringing as many criminal charges as we can when we find employers that blatantly violate worksite enforcement laws."
Asked if senior managers knew or should have known about the alleged violations, Myers said, "There's no allegation of that at this time. It's certainly an ongoing investigation. I will tell you, though, that we are troubled by some of the things that we've seen at IFCO."
She said the company is cooperating with the investigation.
At his press conference, Chertoff said that under the Secure Borders Initiative, law enforcement officials would detect and catch those who cross the border illegally; detain and return them to their home countries; and target those already in the United States. Of particular importance are illegal immigrant smuggling operations, which have become a multibillion dollar business.
In its 2007 budget request, the Department of Homeland Security is asking Congress for more money to expand its documentation verification system. The abuse of the Social Security system and its documents are a key challenge, Chertoff said.
Industries relating to critical infrastructure -- like transportation, nuclear power plants and national defense -- are among those being targeted, Chertoff said.
IFCO Systems, with more than 40 offices across the U.S., issued a statement late Wednesday acknowledging the federal action.
"IFCO Systems is proud to be an equal opportunity employer and is committed to creating a workplace free of discrimination," the company said. "It is our policy to comply with all federal and state employee requirements."
But the IFCO statement did not directly address the charges.
"Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials today conducted employee background checks at a number of IFCO facilities across the country. We are cooperating fully with representatives from ICE and hope to have this matter resolved as soon as possible," the statement said.
ICE officials said agents made more than a thousand arrests in nearly 40 locations including Houston; Cincinnati; Phoenix; and Albany, New York.
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A Plan to End the War: Dump the Democrats
Across the country opposition to the war in Iraq is fast setting in. The latest Bush job approval ratings are dismal, hovering around 35%, in large part due to peoples' wariness about the disorder and uncertainty engulfing Iraq. Two weeks ago 24 towns in Wisconsin passed antiwar resolutions. According to Institute for Policy Studies in Washington that pushes the total number of cities to pass similar referendums nationwide to 100. But as the sentiment against the war continues to mature, the most significant question still remains unanswered: What are all of us who want to bring our troops home now going to do to stop the war?
Getting off our lazy haunches and protesting in the streets is one thing, but until we are willing to voice our objections at the ballot box, nothing in Iraq will ever change. Marching through our Main Streets with anti-Bush placards in hand, no matter how refreshing and energizing it may seem, still doesn't hold all the hawks accountable for the war they have instigated. And I am not just talking about the Republican warmongers. On the other side of the isle the antiwar movement is faced with its principal challenge -- the Democratic Party.
It's more than a challenge. In fact antiwar allegiance to the pro-war Democrats may well be our biggest problem. Despite the mounting opposition across the US to the war in Iraq, not one major Democrat has endorsed an immediate unconditional withdrawal of troops from Iraq. A few have supported Rep. Murtha's "strategic redeployment" plea, which would sanction air strikes of Iraq as well as continued US military outposts throughout the region. But not one leading Democrat wants US troops home now. And what has the antiwar movement done to punish them? Nothing.
The Dems' complicity shouldn't come as too much of a shock. The majority of leading Democrats in the Senate voted for Bush's war as well as all of its boondoggle funding along the way. Sure, they may loft a few soft criticisms at the president for his handling of the botched crusade (it wasn't mismanaged, it was illegitimate from the very start), but now that we are there, they say, we have to support our troops' mission. Whatever that mission is (or was), I haven't a clue. It surely wasn't about democracy, WMDs or bin Laden. If anything, it was just a covert (overt if you ask me) expansion of US Empire. No Democrats will expose, let alone oppose, this gross underlying premise of the "war on terror". No Democrats will resist the State sanctioned torture or killing of innocent civilians if they aren't punished at the polls for supporting it.
The only way to compel the Democrats to oppose this mess they helped make is to oppose them until they understand they are part of the problem. Not the solution. I have no illusions the Democrats will ever come around to our side of reality, especially if we are only sauntering around in circles on our allotted day of dissent and not voting against those who support this war on Election Day.
Until this begins to happen the situation in Iraq will only get worse.
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5 Students Arrested in Alleged Threat
April 20, 2006
RIVERTON, Kan. - Five teenage boys accused of plotting a shooting rampage at their high school on the anniversary of the Columbine massacre were arrested Thursday after details of the alleged scheme appeared on the Web site MySpace.com.
Sheriff's deputies found guns, ammunition, knives and coded messages in the bedroom of one suspect, Sheriff Steve Norman said. Authorities also found documents about firearms in two suspects' school lockers.
"What the resounding theme is: They were actually going to do this," Norman said.
Norman said he would ask prosecutors to bring charges of conspiracy to commit murder against the teens, ages 16 to 18. He said the state attorney general would handle the prosecution.
Deputies' interviews with the suspects indicated they planned to wear black trench coats and disable the school's camera system before starting the attack between noon and 1 p.m. Thursday, Norman said. The suspects apparently had been plotting since the beginning of the school year.
Officials at Riverton High School began investigating on Tuesday after learning that a threatening message had been posted on MySpace.com, he said.
The message discussed the significance of April 20, which is Adolf Hitler's birthday and the anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School attack in Colorado, in which two students wearing trench coats killed 13 people and committed suicide, the sheriff said.
"The message, it was brief, but it stated that there was going to be a shooting at the Riverton school and that people should wear bulletproof vests and flak jackets," Norman said.
School officials identified the student who posted the message and talked to several of his friends, Norman said.
But Riverton school district Superintendent David Walters said the significance of the threat didn't become clear until Wednesday night, after a woman in North Carolina who had chatted with one of the suspects on Myspace.com received a list of about a dozen potential victims, including at least one staff member. She notified authorities in her state, who contacted the sheriff's department, Norman said.
Norman said that the potential victims were popular students and that the suspects may have been bullied.
"I think there was probably some bullying, name calling, chastising," he said.
About 900 students in all grades go to school on the campus.
Riverton is an unincorporated area of about 600 people along what once was the famed Route 66 in southeast Kansas, near the Oklahoma and Missouri borders.
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Earth on the Edge
Massive earthquake rocks Russia's Kamchatka peninsula, no fatalities
04.21.2006, 01:49 AM
VLADIVOSTOK, Russia (AFX) - A massive 7.9-magnitude earthquake rocked Russia's northeastern Kamchatka peninsula on the Bering Sea, the local emergency situations ministry officials said.
The quake partly destroyed a local school and a kindergarten, damaged houses and an airport, and in some places disrupted heating and electricity supplies in the village of Tilichiki and three other villages.
According to the officials, the tremor, which struck Friday at 12:25 pm was registered 70 km east of Tilichiki, with the epicenter some 40 km beneath the surface.
'So far no casualties were reported, but dozens of people got minor injuries,' officials said, adding that rescuers were on their way to restore heat and electricity in the damaged villages.
Comment: The area of this quake is directly across the beiring straits from Alaska and on the same "ring of fire" that connect to California's fault lines. As such, California's 21st century "big one" can't be far behind.
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Flash floods, landslide kill at least 23 in Indonesia
Thu Apr 20, 1:07 PM ET
JAKARTA - Flash floods and landslides triggered by monsoon rains in Indonesia's East Java have killed at least 23 people, the state Antara news agency said as mopping up operations got underway.
The disaster is the latest to strike on the island of Java, one of the most densely-populated in the world, where scores of people have been killed this year in rain-related catastrophes.
"Until noon (0500 GMT) we have registered 23 dead victims, with most killed in Bendungan subdistrict," the top government official in Trenggalek district, Soeharto, was quoted as saying Thursday.
In hilly Bendungan, 13 people were killed in a landslide that hit three hamlets there after two days of heavy rain, he said according to the report.
Hermanto, who heads operations at the East Java search and rescue agency, told AFP he did not yet have a toll but had sent a team to Trenggalek.
"We are also readying teams from the surrounding districts to help efforts in Trenggalek," Hermanto said.
Flows of water, mud, rocks and other debris swept through Trenggalek district early Thursday and cut the main road linking it to the nearby town of Ponorogo, district spokesman Joko Setiono said, according to Antara.
Setiono said the floods, which hit six subdistricts as well as the district town of Trenggalek, were subsiding. In some areas, the flood had risen as high as two metres (6.6 feet), he said.
Hundreds of houses along with schools and office buildings were hit by the floods after heavy rain swelled the Ngasinan River, Setiono said.
East Java Governor Imam Utomo and other officials toured the worst hit areas to express sympathy to the victims and see what assistance was needed, an official from the province's administration office said.
She said the governor was disbursing financial aid for the families of the dead as well as cash for local officials to buy aid including food.
Waters had already subsided in Trenggalek town by afternoon and the military as well as local officials and residents were busy cleaning up, another local official, Suwanto, told ElShinta radio.
The town's two-storey hospital was innundated, forcing 50 patients to be moved to the second floor, Suwanto said, adding that water had damaged most of the medical equipment.
Flash floods and landslides in Indonesia are not unusual, although monsoon rains typically hit a peak in January.
In February, at least 19 people were killed in Central Java by floods and landslides.
At least 12 people were killed in similar disasters in January on other islands in the archipelago nation, while more than 150 people were also killed on Java in two separate landslides.
Environmental activists have warned of more frequent disasters in Indonesia unless extensive areas are reforested on Java, which has been largely stripped of its original forests.
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More Recent Earthquakes
April 21, 2006
|DATE ||TIME (GMT) ||MAG ||COMMENTS |
|06/04/20||12:20:42 ||4.3 ||NORTH OF ANGUILLA, LEEWARD ISL. |
|06/04/20||17:50:43 ||5.5 ||NEAR S. COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN |
|06/04/20||23:25:05 ||7.7 ||KORYAKIA, RUSSIA |
|06/04/20||23:38:49 ||5.4 ||KORYAKIA, RUSSIA |
|06/04/21||00:06:13 ||5.1 ||NEAR E COAST OF KORYAKIA, RUSSIA |
|06/04/21||00:32:36 ||5.1 ||NEAR E COAST OF KORYAKIA, RUSSIA |
|06/04/21||00:39:45 ||4.5 ||KORYAKIA, RUSSIA |
|06/04/21||00:42:00 ||4.5 ||KORYAKIA, RUSSIA |
|06/04/21||00:51:12 ||5.2 ||KORYAKIA, RUSSIA |
|06/04/21||01:12:08 ||4.6 ||NEAR E COAST OF KORYAKIA, RUSSIA |
|06/04/21||01:30:05 ||4.9 ||NEAR E COAST OF KORYAKIA, RUSSIA |
|06/04/21||01:44:12 ||5.1 ||NEAR E COAST OF KORYAKIA, RUSSIA |
|06/04/21||04:32:45 ||6.1 ||NEAR E COAST OF KORYAKIA, RUSSIA |
|06/04/21||07:32:28 ||4.7 ||KORYAKIA, RUSSIA |
|06/04/21||07:40:05 ||5.0 ||NEAR E COAST OF KORYAKIA, RUSSIA |
|06/04/21||08:57:37 ||4.6 ||NEAR E COAST OF KORYAKIA, RUSSIA |
|06/04/21||09:46:15 ||4.8 ||EASTERN XIZANG |
|06/04/21||11:14:20 ||5.7 ||KORYAKIA, RUSSIA |
|06/04/21||11:19:50 ||5.2 ||KORYAKIA, RUSSIA |
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Southern Louisiana in a Severe Drought
By ALAN SAYRE
Thu Apr 20, 9:52 PM ET
NEW ORLEANS - Mother Nature has outdone herself with this cruel joke: Southern Louisiana, much of which was underwater not so long ago, is in the throes of a severe to extreme drought.
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita accounted for most of the rain the region has seen in more than a year, weather experts say. Southeastern Louisiana is on pace for its driest January-though-April ever.
According to the Lincoln, Neb.-based National Drought Mitigation Center, southern Louisiana is under conditions of either severe or extreme drought - with the extreme conditions closer to the coast.
State climatologist Jay Grymes said he believes the entire region may already be, or soon will be, under extreme conditions if there is no heavy rain.
The culprit is La Nina, an area of cool water in the equatorial Pacific Ocean that has pushed the jet stream and the typical west-to-east storm pattern north of southern Louisiana. It has also disrupted normal storm formation in the Gulf of Mexico.
Trouble already is starting for agriculture.
According to the LSU AgCenter, rice fields inundated with salt water from Rita's surge are not getting rinsed out because there hasn't been enough rain. The process had been projected to take at least 18 months even with normal rainfall.
If there is any positive news from the drought, it is in New Orleans, where the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is trying to repair levees before the June 1 start of the hurricane season.
"Weatherwise, we've done really well," said Corps spokeswoman Kim Gillespie.
To break the drought, Grymes said the state needs a long period of steady rain - not the inches-in-hours downpours that tropical storms and hurricanes bring. Most of that rain quickly washes off into ditches and bayous and does little good, he said.
The forecast into June, however, calls for a 70 to 75 percent chance of normal and below-normal rainfall.
"Normal rainfall is not what we need," Grymes said. "We need a wet spell."
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Spring Snow Brought Up to 5 Feet to Plains
Thu Apr 20, 10:35 PM ET
LEAD, S.D. - Residents of the northwestern Plains on Thursday started to dig out from this week's spring blizzard, which dumped up to 5 feet of snow, cut power and threatened to flood low-lying areas.
The heaviest snow was reported in the city of Lead in western South Dakota, near the Wyoming line, where the weather service reported 59.4 inches.
Crews struggling with the weight and volume of snow also had to find a place to put it after scooping it up, said Pat Milos, Lead's city administrator.
"There's nowhere to put it when there is this much of it," Milos said.
About 10 miles to the north in Spearfish, part of the roof at a Wal-Mart store collapsed Thursday afternoon, apparently under heavy snow. There were no reports of injuries.
Colder overnight temperatures, with lows in the high 20s to low 30s, could help lessen the flood threat by slowing the snow melt, said Col. Dan Mosteller, South Dakota Highway Patrol superintendent.
"It will give the snow a chance to soak in a little bit rather than running off," he said.
In southwestern North Dakota, the town of Bowman recorded about 18 inches of snow, the weather service said.
The potent storm in some areas knocked down trees and power poles. Wind gusting to 84 mph overturned a mobile home in the Nebraska Panhandle, and gusts to 71 mph were reported in eastern Montana, officials said.
The South Dakota Rural Electric Association reported about 2,000 power poles were downed, with trees knocked onto lines and many lines snapped.
More than 5,000 customers remained without power Thursday in the Dakotas.
State officials fully reopened Interstate 90 Thursday morning after clearing about 95 miles of the highway from Gillette, Wyo., to Spearfish, S.D. The road had been closed since early Wednesday.
Four deaths were blamed on the storm, including a utility worker who was electrocuted while working in near whiteout conditions Tuesday night in northwestern North Dakota, authorities said.
Ranchers were concerned about possible losses during calving and lambing season, said Kristi Turman, director of the South Dakota Office of Emergency Management.
"They're getting dug out and getting into their fields and checking their cattle," Turman said. "We don't have an exact number on losses."
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China Ready To Pull The Plug?
America meets the new superpower
By Clifford Coonan in Beijing
19 April 2006
The visit of President Hu to Washington underlines the inevitable loss of America's economic supremacy to China
When President Hu Jintao of China shakes hands with President George Bush in Washington tomorrow and gives one of his fixed grins for photographers, it will not be just another meeting between the leader of a large developing country and the chief executive of the richest nation on earth.
China is rising fast and is expected to eclipse the United States economically in the future - its gross domestic product is tipped to overtake that of America by 2045.
While Mr Bush has only given Mr Hu an hour of his time for a state lunch, the global balance of power is changing and in future meetings, the Chinese will set the timetable.
The rise of China is posing awkward questions for the US, along with the realisation that its days as the world's economic superpower are numbered.
Some analysts see America entering a period of "managed decline" not unlike that which Britain has experienced since the end of the Second World War and the end of empire.
Since the Chinese economy began to open up a quarter of a century ago, there are 400 million fewer desperately poor people in China. Now Beijing wants the remarkable domestic growth story to count for something in global terms. China has already overtaken Britain and France to become the world's fourth largest economy and Mr Hu's visit to Washington represents a culture clash on a global scale. China, the emerging Asian superpower, is ruled with an iron fist by the Communist Party, which has transformed a once centrally planned economy into a free market one, "socialist with Chinese characteristics".
What China repeatedly calls its "peaceful rise" represents a major challenge for the US economy, for its political position and for its role as global policeman.
China, with its endless supply of goods and its thirst for energy, has contributed more to global growth than America in recent years, and Beijing is well aware of this. Mr Hu's visit to America is about boosting China's prestige, earning respect for the world's fastest-growing major economy and matching some of that financial muscle with real political influence.
Japan remains the engine of the Asian economy but it is not registering anything like the double-digit growth rates that China is seeing every year. What makes the rise of China different from Japan's post-war emergence is that China can match its economic growth with a strong army. China is no defeated nation, struggling out of the ashes; instead it is a proud country which likes to remind others of its cultural achievements over thousands of years.
More than half of all industrial goods are made in its factories. The production and export of these goods, their prices kept low by Beijing's manipulation of the renminbi currency, has generated the cash behind China's growing economic power.
Mr Hu was all business at the start of his tour. Dinner at Bill Gates' house in Seattle, followed by a café latte with Howard Schultz, chairman of the Starbucks chain of coffee shops, then on to the Boeing plant, before moving to the east coast, with an itinerary that includes a speech at Mr Bush's alma mater, Yale.
But this opening has been undermined before Mr Hu even arrives. The Chinese leader is being given full military honours on arrival but Mr Hu's journey is not being labelled an official "state visit" as such, but something further down the chain.
Face matters in Asia, and some are reading this as a loss of face for Mr Hu. A dangerous move perhaps, given the shape of things to come. For the Bush administration, the key issue is a huge trade imbalance which is turning ever more political. Cheap Chinese exports are flooding the US market and costing American jobs.
And it is ideological too. China is not a democracy, its attitude on human rights leaves a lot to be desired and the Communist Party's treatment of organised religions angers the devoutly Christian Mr Bush. The feeling in Washington is that Beijing needs to do more to stave off the nuclear threat of North Korea and Iran, while China's courting of oil-rich, but politically suspect, countries in Africa and central Asia also rankles. A mixed bag of complaints, and the perceived absence of a clear line on China has angered some US lawmakers. The Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid, said that Mr Bush "still has no coherent strategy for managing this nation's relationship with China".
The war in Iraq or Iran's nuclear ambitions are side issues compared with the question about China's "peaceful rise" and what to do when it decides to flex its muscles. Keen to keep the spin positive, senior Chinese foreign affairs officials said Mr Hu's visit would "provide an opportunity for Americans to better understand China's policy of seeking sustainable development and peaceful growth".
The trip will also introduce Mr Hu to the world. He remains a bit of a mystery three years into his leadership and little is known about his personal life, beyond the fact that he is frugal with money, likes ballroom dancing and has a photographic memory. When Mr Bush came to China in November, the two leaders reportedly spoke quite frankly to each other but relations could hardly be described as warm.
In the run-up to Mr Hu's visit, the Chinese released a number of key political prisoners; offered an olive branch to Taiwan, albeit one that Taipei cannot accept; signalled better relations with the Vatican and offered hope that the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, may visit China.
Rise of an eastern superpower
* 1.3 billion
* World's fastest growing economy
* Economy has grown 9.5 per cent annually for 25 years
* GDP quadrupled from 1980 to 2000
* 400 million people have been lifted out of poverty in 25 years
* 30th largest US trading partner in 1977; now third
* World's second largest recipient of foreign direct investment
* US exports have grown five times faster than to rest of the world. US corporations have invested more than $50bn in China
* Worker earns 5-10 per cent of an American worker's wage
* 2004: Produced half of all digital cameras and 60 per cent of microwaves, photocopiers and DVD players in the world
* Has 16 of the world's 20 most polluted cities
* Half of the population has polluted water supply
* Produces 3.7 billion tons of sewage a day
* World's largest consumer of coal; second only to US for oil
* 2005: China says it spent $30bn on its military, the Pentagon says $90bn was spent
* 2000: Estimated size is 2.5 million personnel; 10,000 tanks; 400 nuclear warheads
* 2003: UN estimates 840,000 have HIV
* 17 per cent of people live on less than a $1 a day
* One-third of the world's cigarettes are smoked in China
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Hu expects stronger relations with US after summit
April 21, 2006
WASHINGTON - China's President Hu Jintao predicted stronger relations with the United States following a summit on Thursday with US leader George W. Bush, despite the lack of clear progress on major international problems and trade tensions between the powers.
After a carefully choreographed White House meeting -- marred by a demonstrator who shouted at the Chinese leader -- the two presidents pledged to work together to solve the
Iran and North Korean nuclear disputes, but gave little indication how this would be done.
Bush also failed to get a commitment over China's huge 201.6 billion dollar trade surplus with the United States that has become a major domestic concern.
But Hu said in a speech late Thursday that he expected a stronger relationship to develop from the summit and put across the message that China is not a strategic threat to the United States.
"I believe the meeting today was a very productive one and I look forward to a future China-US relationship that is more stable and more mature," he said in a speech.
The United States and China must "respect each other, treat each other as equals and view differences in a proper context and manage them properly," he added.
Concerns have been raised in Washington about China's growing military might and its economic clout in Latin America and Africa, as well as Asia.
But Hu said in the speech that China needs peace to pursue its own economic miracle.
"Let me tell you in explicit terms that China adheres to a path of peaceful development. And it's formally committed to promoting development domestically, and maintaining world peace and promoting common development internationally," he declared.
Hu will on Friday give another speech at Yale University in Connecticut before flying to Saudi Arabia on the second leg of his tour.
At the summit Bush and Hu agreed on the need to ease trade tensions and work together to keep the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea in check.
Bush said the two countries would deepen cooperation "in addressing threats to global security, including the nuclear ambitions of Iran, the genocide in Darfur, Sudan, the violence unleashed by terrorists and extremists and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."
Yet the the two produced no concrete sign of progress on a raft of issues separating their countries.
Bush raised the possibility of a tough UN action against Iran over its suspected nuclear arms program. He urged Beijing to use its "considerable influence" over North Korea to rein in Pyongyang's weapons activities.
But after the summit, Hu only stressed the need to "seek a peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue."
Hu also acknowledged the six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear arsenal had run into "difficulties" and called on all parties to display flexibility to allow the negotiations to resume.
On Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway province, Bush counseled China to avoid confrontation. Hu responded with a vow to oppose Taiwan's secession from the mainland "by any means."
Bush pressed US complaints about China's currency, market access and rampant piracy -- which critics say fuel the US trade deficit.
Hu acknowledged "frictions" over economic relations but promised only to "continue to advance the reform" of the exchange rate and to extend market opening measures and copyright protection.
Bush delivered another lecture on "the importance of respecting human rights and freedoms" in China but Hu was unapologetic when asked in the Oval Office whether there would be democracy in his country.
"I don't know what you mean by a democracy," he replied. "But what I can tell you is that we always believe in China that if there is no democracy, there will be no modernization."
Stephen Hadley, the US national security adviser, said later that Bush had presented a list of "about six people who are in detention in China that he hoped would be released."
The summit was carefully staged with an elaborate welcome that included a 21-gun salute on the White House lawn, a military band and an American Revolutionary-era fife and drum corps.
But Bush was visibly embarrassed when a protester from the Falungong spiritual movement, which is banned in China, heckled Hu as he spoke.
The woman, a reporter for the Falungong-founded newspaper Epoch Times, nearly drowned Hu out as he made remarks, before she was hauled away by
Secret Service agents.
She was charged with disorderly conduct and an obscure count of "willingly intimidating or disrupting a foreign official," a spokesman said.
Bush later expressed regret, telling Hu, "This is unfortunate, I'm sorry that this happened," according to the White House.
Outside, hundreds of Falungong supporters and pro-Taiwan and Tibet activists shouted for their causes. Pro-Beijing demonstrators hurled back their own slogans.
Analysts said that even if there had been no progress in major issues, the two leaders had at least deepened their understanding of each other.
"He tells me what he thinks, and I tell him what I think, and we do so with respect," Bush said.
For New York Times political analyst David Sanger, Hu's visit renewed an old predicament: "Just about every American president since
Richard Nixon has confronted the fact that his influence over China is far more limited than he once hoped.
"President Bush is now facing that reality midway through his second term, at a moment when the Chinese clearly sense his weakness."
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China heckler at White House prompts Bush apology
By Paul Eckert
Reuters Asia Correspondent
April 20, 2006
WASHINGTON - A heckler from the Falun Gong spiritual movement, who entered White House grounds as a reporter, interrupted a formal arrival ceremony for Chinese President Hu Jintao on Thursday, prompting President George W. Bush to apologize to his guest.
After being welcomed by Bush, the Chinese president was just beginning his response when a woman, who had been allowed into the press section, started shouting. She was escorted away by a uniformed U.S. guard.
"President Hu, your days are numbered. President Bush, make him stop persecuting Falun Gong," the woman yelled. U.S. officials later identified her as Wang Wenyi, 47, a reporter with The Epoch Times, an English-language publication strongly supportive of the meditation movement that is banned in China.
"This was unfortunate and I'm sorry this happened," Bush told Hu, according to Dennis Wilder, a senior official with the National Security Council.
The Secret Service charged Wang with disorderly conduct under local statutes. The U.S. Attorney's office was weighing federal charges of "willing intimidation or disruption of a foreign official," said Secret Service spokesman Eric Zahren.
Outside the White House, hundreds of yellow-clad Falun Gong disciples, Taiwanese nationalists, and Tibetan youth group members demonstrated against Hu and his government.
The protesters denounced China's human rights record, its missile build-up near Taiwan and its 55-year-long rule over the Himalayan Buddhist region of Tibet.
"Communist Party = Tyranny + Lies," read a yellow banner, carried by one female member of Falun Gong, which China outlawed and brutally crushed in 1999.
"Taiwan is not a part of China," read a placard hoisted by one of around 300 Taiwan activists, who reject China's claim of sovereignty over the island. Tibetans, mostly U.S.-based students, called for independence for their homeland.
A U.S. official said Hu's team was probably offended by the incident. "The hardliners on Hu's team are going to ask, why did it take so long for us to pick her up. It is not a good thing," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Zahren of the Secret Service said the woman had passed through "all appropriate levels of security," including a metal detector. She was allowed into the event under a temporary press pass.
Falun Gong, which thrives overseas despite being largely stamped out in China, alleges that government persecution of the group includes a vast system of concentration camps, where doctors harvest inmates' organs for transplants.
China has vehemently denied this, but a U.N. investigator is examining the allegation.
In remarks at Hu's arrival ceremony, Bush did not mention Falun Gong, but he said he would discuss human rights. He urged Hu to allow "the Chinese people the freedom to assemble, to speak freely and to worship."
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Bush, Hu show little progress in narrowing differences
April 20, 2006
WASHINGTON - US President George Bush and China's Hu Jintao pledged to boost economic and diplomatic cooperation but showed little progress in healing rifts dividing the two powers.
The two met for an hour and had lunch in a delicately choreographed summit marred by a noisy Chinese heckler whose protest on the White House lawn prompted an apology from Bush.
The leaders of the world's superpower and its budding Asian rival agreed on the need to ease trade tensions and work together to keep the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea in check.
Hu, making his first official visit to the United States, said he and Bush had "reached a broad and important agreement on China-US relations and regional and international issues of mutual interest."
"We agreed to maintain regular high-level exchanges and increase interactions at various levels," the Chinese leader said after the talks with the US president.
Bush said the two countries would "deepen our cooperation in addressing threats to global security, including the nuclear ambitions of Iran, the genocide in Darfur, Sudan, the violence unleashed by terrorists and extremists and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction."
Yet the summit, the leaders' first meeting since Bush's trip to Beijing in November, produced no concrete sign of progress on a raft of issues separating their countries.
Bush raised the possibility of a tough UN action against Iran for its suspected nuclear arms program. He urged Beijing to use its "considerable influence" over North Korea to rein in Pyongyang's weapons activities.
But in an implicit rebuff to the US refusal to take the option of military force off the table, Hu stressed the need to "seek a peaceful resolution of the Iranian nuclear issue."
Hu also acknowledged the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program had run into "difficulties" and called on all parties to display flexibility to allow the negotiations to resume.
On Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway province, Bush counseled the Chinese to avoid confrontation and unilateral action. Hu responded with a vow to oppose Taiwan's secession from the mainland "by any means."
Bush pressed US complaints about China's undervalued currency, tight market access and rampant piracy -- which critics say contribute to a 201.6 billion dollar US trade deficit.
Hu acknowledged there had been "frictions" over economic relations but offered no new prescription other than a promise to "continue to advance the reform" of the exchange rate.
Bush delivered another lecture on "the importance of respecting human rights and freedoms" in China but Hu was unapologetic when asked in the Oval office whether there would be democracy in his country.
"I don't know what you mean by a democracy," he replied. "But what I can tell you is that we always believe in China that if there is no democracy, there will be no modernization."
The visit came amid mounting concern here over China's growing military and economic clout and increasing influence in regions from Asia to Africa to Latin America.
The summit was carefully staged with an elaborate welcome that included a 21-gun salute on the White House lawn, a military band and an American Revolutionary-era fife and drum corps.
But Bush was left visibly embarrassed when the protester from the Falungong spiritual movement, which is banned in China, standing amid television cameras on the grounds, heckled Hu as he spoke.
The woman, identified as a reporter for the Falun Gong-founded newspaper Epoch Times, nearly drowned Hu out as he made his opening remarks before she was hauled away by uniformed Secret Service agent.
She was charged with disorderly conduct and an obscure count of "willingly intimidating or disrupting a foreign official," a spokesman for the Secret Service said.
Bush later expressed regret, telling Hu, "This is unfortunate, I'm sorry that this happened," according to Dennis Wilder, acting senior director for East Asian affairs at the National Security Council.
Outside the White House fence, hundreds of Falun Gong supporters and pro-Taiwan and Tibet activists shouted for their causes. Pro-Beijing demonstrators hurled back their own slogans.
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Sizing Up Chavez
The U.S. Now Planning A Fourth Attempt To Oust Hugo Chavez
By Stephen Lendman
This essay has a duel purpose. I began it initially to explain how sophisticated and effective the dominant corporate media is in programming the public mind to believe whatever message they deliver regardless of whether it's true which it rarely is. I chose the title Reeducation 101 - Defogging and Reversing the Corporate Media's Programming of the Public Mind which I'm now using as the heading of my introductory section. Along with that discussion, I then planned a detailed case study example of how they're doing it by demonizing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Frias with a building and resonating drumbeat of invective in advance of the US government's fourth attempt to oust him. That discussion follows my introductory section.
REEDUCATION 101 - DEFOGGING AND REVERSING THE CORPORATE MEDIA'S PROGRAMMING OF THE PUBLIC MIND
Does any reader of online progressive web sites still watch, listen to or read anything from the corporate media? If so, how do you stand it without having a good supply of stomach soothers and strong headache relief handy. I thought most everyone with enough smarts and common sense understood that this collective institutional juggernaut's mission is to sedate and seduce us - a sort of one, two punch. They mostly do it with diverting and distracting entertainment. Is that what it's called? You 'coulda fooled me with what's on all my 300 + cable channels I don't watch except when I go to bed and need something mind numbing to make me sleepy. The only reason I have them all is I live in a building that subscribes to the cable service, and everyone gets them, like it or not.
Except for three classical music channels without talk or commercials I love, everything in their lineup is a vast wasteland, especially what passes for so-called "news and information" by the on-air names you know well and I needn't list. They're all an assault on our sensibilities in their all out effort to fog our minds with round the clock propaganda, lies, distortion and sanitizing. What they do isn't journalism, it's stenography. And what they don't report is usually more important than what they do. They know, as does our government, that if all or enough of us understood what's really happening, not the rot and mush they fill our heads with, there'd be a revolution in the streets. How could the public with full knowledge of what our government is up to ever go along since all of it only benefits the rich and powerful and does it at our expense.
The mind manipulation and thought control comes at us from all directions in print and on the airwaves. In the US (and really the world) the newspaper known as the "Gray Lady" and referred to as "the newspaper of record" leads the way - the New York Times. I call them a US "Pravda." They're the closest thing we have in this country to an official ministry of information and propaganda. They've been going at it for over 150 years, and nobody does it better or with more influence. Remember Judith Miller and her daily WMD scare reports.....straight from the White House and Pentagon in final copy printable form. The Times calls this "all the news that's fit to print." You don't not want to hear what I call it, but this newspaper has clout around the world. Whatever lead stories they report get picked up and are spread almost everywhere. Especially here on TV where the state of our news, information and trumpeting punditry assault our nerve endings. Those who run it and report on it never met a piece ofstate propaganda they didn't love and want to tell us about ad nauseam - in between frequent 5 minute long commercial breaks trying to sell us everything we don't need and never knew we wanted until they told us.
A noted US media critic once said about them "they have everything to sell and nothing to tell." And I heard noted British journalist Robert Fisk say on air to an interviewer commenting on the dismal state of our corporate media that "you really have a problem in this country." He meant the dominant media is so corrupted and complicit with US policies hostile to the public interest and welfare here and abroad that we have a desperate need for an effective antidote to their poison. Amen.
There's even a flood of material on TV called "video news releases" or VNRs. Now get this. These are all government agency produced propaganda releases or corporate commercials disguised as real news - but you're not supposed to know it. What they all are is "fake news." There's a ton of this stuff all over the airwaves. The TV networks and local stations love 'em because they all come pre-packaged and free of charge, saving all that production time and cost. Then combine that with all the rest of TV news, information and punditry and it's enough to drive a teetotaler to drink or worse. You have to get away from this stuff, and I'll tell you how. It's not that hard - just turn off your TV and cancel your corporate owned newspaper and magazine subscriptions. Call a friend instead, visit a neighbor, talk to your wife or husband, spend time with your kids. You'll discover a whole new world. You may even get to love it. Also, spend more time online in the right places, like the web site you're now reding this on, and start to read a little - most important, the right things.
THE RIGHT PATH TO FOLLOW IS STRAIGHT AHEAD
My purpose in writing this column is to provide an antidote to those of you still victimized by and under the spell of the scourge of corporate media mind control (too many I know). You're in their prison of your own mind. I've got the key, and if you want your freedom back, follow me into the light of day and fresh air with an unnamed case study example of one of the victims who wrote to the editor of another noted and superb web site I write commentaries for. The editor asked me to respond, and I did. What follows below is that response reworked to apply to all others with similar views to the letter writer.
For those of you who want to come along and happen to be ex-smokers like I am (for the last 31 years), remember how much sweeter life became once you kicked the habit and could go a whole day without coughing and wheezing. And you no longer got short of breath every time you walked up a flight of stairs either. For me it was like being reborn. For the many of you unafflicted by the poison of the media giants, read on just for the fun of it. I'll respond to my case study victim and others like him and try to save them from themselves. I'll also cover what he addressed in his letter response - what the US may be up to in the ongoing very real soap opera pitting this country against Hugo Chavez.
A CASE STUDY - I'LL CALL MY SUBJECT MR. X
This response is for Mr. X and all the others who think like him. This man wrote a critical letter about Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to the web site editor I referred to above. In it he claimed he hadn't run across any reports about Chavez and Venezuela for a long time, but then went on to label him with a string of vicious and baseless epithets. In my response to him, I asked where was he getting his information other than from those reports he said he hadn't run across.
Of course, there's been a steady drumbeat of anti-Chavez rhetoric in the corporate media that even includes language comparing him to Hitler. When you hear that and lots more, you know things have gotten very serious and likely to be followed by big time mischief against the person named. I've quoted lots of anti-Chavez invective in other articles I've written from various high officials like Donald Rumsfeld. Now there's a credible source. Obviously Mr. X is getting this propaganda message and believes it. How else could he have become so opinionated about the man. But like all other victims of mind control he's got it all disturbingly wrong. The truth based on the facts, not propaganda and lies, is just the opposite of what he believes and is spouting. I suggested he listen up, and that truth really would set him free and all others who think like him.
Mr. X then went on to say Venezuela is insignificant to the US. I responded just like Iraq wasn't and Iran isn't? What does he think they do there? Just produce coffee and cocoa, have carnivals and hold parades? I asked him if he couldn't detect some common denominator among these three countries? Not that they're all non-English-speaking, are located on different continents from the US, are defenseless against a large-scale US military assault, and pose no military threat whatever to us or anyone else. All that's true I told him, and everyone with an unfogged mind knows it. I then asked if I really needed to spell out for him why they're important to us - I mean the most obvious reason (not the more complex ones) I literally heard a 10 year old explain right before our illegal aggression against Iraq -- IT'S THE CRUDE DUDE....O-I-L.....BLACK GOLD.....TEXAS "TEA".....THE VITAL OXYGEN THAT KEEPS THE COUNTRY AND WORLD RUNNING. Try driving to the market without it or taking the bus to work. Or growin all the food we eat either. These three countries are floating on an ocean of it, were and are governed by leaders who wouldn't and won't hand it all over to us so voila....... public enemies 1, 2 and 3.
I then explained that based on the best available estimates Venezuela ranks number one in the world in total oil reserves even ahead of Saudi Arabia if their extra-heavy reserves are added to their "light sweet" or conventional ones. The latter are easily refined while the former must be substantially upgraded before refining is possible. If both types are counted, the best estimates of total oil reserves in the world are: Venezuela - about 350 billion barrels (by some estimates it's much higher than that), Saudi Arabia - 262 billion, Canada - 179 billion (mostly extra-heavy), Iran - 126 billion (all "light sweet") and Iraq - 115 billion (also all the good stuff). I asked Mr. X if the fog was beginning to lift and if he really thought the US would ever settle for less than total control of those combined reserves and those of every other key oil producing country as well. It's called "resource wars", the stakes are very high, and we're playing for keeps including waging war on the world to get it. It' not about getting all the oil we need (as long as it lasts), it's about controlling it all to decide who else gets it, how much and at what price. Along with rising world tension, a big reason the price is high today (nearing $70 a barrel as I write) is because we want it to be high to enrich our big oil mafia buddies - you know, the Exxon-Mobils of the world. Unless you understand "the way things really are" you'll be victimized like Mr. X and believe everything you hear or read in the corporate media.
MR. X SWALLOWED THE PARTY LINE PROVING AGAIN YOU CAN FOOL SOME OF THE PEOPLE ALL OF THE TIME
Mr. X claimed Hugo Chavez is a "fearless, gutless little wimp of a dictator." And paranoid too. I informed him this FGWD paranoid was elected and reelected democratically by significant majorities and did it in the face of considerable US funding and support for the opposition and the fiercest, most vicious and hostile unrelenting dominant corporate media assault against him both times, beforehand, in between and still ongoing now and growing in intensity. It's so extreme in vitriol down there it makes our hostile corporate media almost look like pussy cats. It didn't work. Venezuelans aren't as uninformed as the somnambulant and mind-fogged US public. They support and voted for a man who promised them a better future and actually delivered it. Why would they ever want to give that up? Ever know a US politician who did that? A couple here or there who try, but NEVER one with any power or who could or did deliver.
There's a presidential election coming up in Venezuela at the end of this year. Now get this. A new poll was just conducted and here's how Chavez did against his potential or likely rivals. It was conducted by the Venezuelan Institute for Data Analysis (IVAD): the score was Chavez 82.7% and closest rival (at present) Julio Borges of the Primero Justicia (Justice First) party 8.9%. I used to do marketing research and some polling right out of graduate school 46 years ago as a newly minted MBA (before they got popular) and know something about it. Unless you do it properly, you can get some awfully unreliable results, so instead of the usual + or - 3 or 4% it could be two or three times that making the numbers worthless. But with these lopsided results, why bother with any poll. Anyone following what's happening in the country knows the people love Chavez and will never democratically elect someone else if he's running. Of course, the rich hate him because he's making them pay their fair share and is sing the country's oil wealth to help his people instead of handing it over to the big US oil mafia, other giant US transnationals and the Venezuelan elite. That's why the US hates him too and feels that way even more so for a bigger reason. He represents the greatest of all threats we know - a good example that may spread like a heavenly virus liberating the oppressed people of other countries in the region and beyond whose leaders sold them out to the US and our giant corporations.
So with the opposition knowing they haven't a chance in December, they've begun their latest anti-Chavez demonization campaign. They're trying to blame him for the kidnappings and brutal murders of three children of a wealthy Venezuelan/Canadian family and other social disturbances being hyped in the corporate controlled media to stir up the public, scare them and try to make them want a change in government to protect them better. It's just a new version of the same dirty business they've pulled before that failed. It won't work this time either. Chavez supporters (Chavistas) at least must suspect the US is orchestrating this mischief and has no compunction about carrying out kidnappings and brutal murders themselves or finding lots of local takers at the right price to do it for them. This isolated violence on the Venezuelan streets is just a minuscule version of what's going on now in Iraq under the US led and directed "Salvador death squad option" using Iraqi proxies to carry out car bombings, mosqe attacks and lots more to foment a civil war, try to divide the country and supposedly make it easier to rule. It won't work there either where the situation is out of control, the war is lost and we know it, and in British journalist Robert Fisk's words (who I quoted earlier above): the US "must leave, can't leave and will leave." Sooner or later, likely the latter after many tens of thousands more innocent Iraqi deaths and lives and families destroyed and the devastating physical and psychological toll on many or most of our demoralized and defeated forces there. I'm writing more about that in another article I'm now working on.
US authorities and the go-along corporate media in both countries also claim Chavez is responsible for the recent pelting of US ambassador William Brownfield's car with eggs and tomatoes. I wouldn't have wasted a rotten one of either on him even though the ambassador was provokingly and literally cruising for a bruising in a poor neighborhood he had no business being in. He may or may not have gotten it from US stooges sent in to do it. The poor there certainly had every reason to do it. This is a man who recognizes the opposition and not the legitimate Venezuelan government. Chavez has threatened to expel him from the country and has every right to do it if he keeps pulling these stunts. The ambassador has said he will (meaning deliberate provocation), so look for more fireworks ahead as things heat up more between Washington and Caracas. Of course, this unambassadorial man deserves whatever he gets and more, especially in light of the growing anti-Chavez vitriol coming from high level US officials s well as the current "military exercise" provocation ongoing close by offshore as well. Things are clearly coming to a head with a showdown possible and even likely before the year end election.
Let me spell out what's happening now as the US with 100% certainty is heading toward a fourth showdown confrontational attempt to oust Hugo Chavez and possibly try to assassinate him this time. For those of you, like Mr. X, who believe what they read in the (corporate) papers or see on the evening news, let me do a little defogging and lay the truth on you. I know the playbook very well. I should, I've seen it played out enough times before and watch it every day now in Iraq in its most extreme form. It's not Hugo Chavez or his supporters creating social unrest on the streets. This is classic CIA, National Endowment of Democracy (NED), USAID and IRI (International Republican Institute) mischief likely carried out by their complicit anti-Chavez Venezuelan proxies. These are the ones with the most to gain if Chavez is no longer president and one of their own is. I'm talking about the rich and well off, the same ones who tried it before and failed.
US attorney and author Eva Golinger closely monitors Bush administration activities to subvert the Chavez government. She uncovered top secret CIA documents obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests revealing US involvement through CIA, NED and USAID complicity to overthrow Hugo Chavez in the two day aborted 2002 coup. In an interview published by Ultimas Noticias on April 10 she revealed she now has documents proving the US bankrolls the Venezuelan opposition and has tried to work with Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Austria and Spain to form an anti-Chavez alliance. Her information comes from a report published April 5 by the US Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, an agency of the US Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs. The report details US efforts to fund and build Venezuelan opposition political parties. Golinger noted different strategies being planned to oust Hugo Chavez including by possible US military invasion and mentioned the presence of US military baes in the region where 40,000 troops are now stationed. She also uncovered increased US financial support for "supposed NGOs" and communications with opposition politicians on subjects like assassination and torture. Finally, Golinger explained there's a link between the FBI and police officials in the Caracas municipalities of Chacao and Baruta, both run by mayors opposed to Hugo Chavez.
In addition to Golinger's reports, there's credible evidence of Colombian paramilitaries elicitly entering Venezuela in provinces bordering the two countries to promote or commit violence and destabilize the Chavez government. All of this is serious and escalating mischief that's likely to get worse as the US moves ahead in its fourth attempt to forcibly remove Hugo Chavez from office by whatever means planned. At this point, we don't know if it will even get further off the ground, let alone succeed, because of Chavez's strong support among the people, his government allies and the Venezuelan military. We do know the US orchestrated anti-Chavez demonization campaign will likely fail as have other past attempts against him. Why? Because the Venezuelan people overwhelmingly support and will fight to keep him as the president who gave them extraordinary social programs that have improved their lives and given them a direct say through participatory democracy in how the government is run. Why would they ver risk giving that up or not do all in their power to prevent anyone from taking them away. So when the anti-Chavez propaganda campaign fails again, look for the mischief-makers to go back to the drawing board and try "plan two."
It may be and there's now talk the main opposition parties will pull out of the election in December and let Chavez run unchallenged - that is, if the fireworks haven't culminated before then. If it happens, it will be a replay of the December, 2005 legislative elections when those same parties quit the race because they knew they'd be embarrassed by the heavy vote against them. If there's a repeat performance this year, they'll blame it on President Chavez as they did last time using whatever concocted reasons they can come up with. But just like last December, it will again be sore looser talk, a weak-kneed effort to demonize the victor and a line of baloney the Venezuelan people won't buy. I'll give them the real reason, but they'll never use it. Chavez will win because the great majority love him and the wonderful social programs and participatory democracy he's brought them. They won't give them or him up and will fight to keep them and him to avoid returning to the past policies of everything fo the rich and powerful and nothing for the poor and desperate people. Hugo Chavez is their man, their savior, and they'll keep him as long as he wants the top job.
HOW'D YOU LIKE TO LIVE IN A FREE COUNTRY WITH A LEADER AND GOVERNMENT WORKING FOR THE PEOPLE
The great majority of the Venezuelan people would and here's why. Any idea what it's like to be impoverished, not know where your next meal is coming from, live in a shack for a home or not even have that much, and have no access to even minimum medical care or education? These people do. Ask them, they'll explain it to you. Hugo Chavez has given them what they never had before. Think they won't fight to keep it and him? Wouldn't you in their place if the alternative was desperate poverty? That's what 80% of them had before, they're still poor and deprived, but everyone gets free: first rate health and dental care and education through as high a level as they can attain. They also get subsidized food, the legal right they never had before to own the land their homes were built on and lots more. The result is a significant improvement in the lives and welfare of the Venezuelan poor that comprise the great majority of the population and Chavez's base of support. The population is healthier, no one eed go hungry, and Illiteracy in the country is almost nil. In the US it's around 20%, and millions more can barely read and write at a grammar school level.
Also in the US, our land of opportunity and richest country in the world, we have 46 million people with no health insurance, many millions more with too little and by conservative estimates 12 million American families, over 10% of all households, struggle to feed themselves and often go hungry. They can't afford the high price of insurance that keeps becoming more unaffordable or even to buy enough food for their families. They should be getting federal aid, but how can they when our government spends all it has and can borrow on imperial wars of conquest without end to enrich big corporations. The cupboard is bare for anything else, so we're all on our own, like it or not. If the country had a motto or slogan it might be you can have anything you want as long as you can pay for it. If not, you're on your own. It's called "the free market." Ask one of the millions of poor, single black mothers with young children how "free" it is and what it's like trying to figure out how to get the next meal on te table and pay the rent. She could only dream of the way things are in the land of the Bolivarian Revolution and a leader who really cares about all his people - if she knew about it.
I told Mr. X above and then reminded him again that the "US boggie man" he made light of has already tried three times and failed to oust President Chavez and is clearly now planning a fourth attempt that may include a military assault with depleted uranium (DU) weapons that would contaminate a vast area with toxic, deadly and irremediable radiation where they're used. They might even decide to up the ante and try out in real time their newest toy - so-called "bunker-buster mini nukes" that aren't mini but sure are nukes - anywhere from one third to two thirds as potent as a Hiroshima bomb. They've planning to test these new weapons in the Nevada desert shortly or are already doing it without telling us. When they do, I wouldn't want to be standing around in the next county or maybe even next state. And that's even without the devastating fallout that will contaminate a vast area beyond the test site. That's the kind of "boogie man" I'd be "paranoid" about. I'm already paranoid about it, and I live inthe heart of the beast and am one of the privileged. I also live downwind in both directions - from those bomb test sites and all the horrendous policies coming out of the Capitol.
HERE COME THE MARINES AND MAYBE A LITTLE "SHOCK AND AWE"
Want more evidence about what may be in the works. It's come to light that the US has plans called "Operation Bilbao" that look like, walk like and make sounds like a plan to forcibly overthrow the Chavez government. Want more? I briefly mentioned an ongoing close by US military exercise above. The US Navy sent an aircraft carrier strike group of four ships, 60 aircraft and 6,500 marines to the Caribbean and South American waters for a "major" training exercise. It's holding it now about 50 kilometers from Venezuelan territory (about 30 miles). All four ships are capable of launching cruise missiles that may be armed with nuclear warheads. I told Mr. X this is a deliberately provocative and hostile act and to imagine the reaction here if China or Russia were doing this 30 miles off the California coast. I added I could include more examples of how the US is stepping up its efforts against Hugo Chavez but hoped what I detailed above was enough. I also explained that I hope I've provided enough documnted proof that once again the US government is improperly and illegally acting to subvert a foreign leader and his government and, in this case, doing it to a twice democratically elected leader loved by the great majority of his people.
IT ALL GOES BACK TO THE POWER OF THE MESSAGE
Now let me bring this full circle and go back to my opening salvo against the dominant US corporate media. I told Mr. X that if he or anyone else relies on them for their news and information, they're guaranteed not to get any. That's not their job. Their job is to set you up, play you for a fool and make you a patsy (and a pretty dumb one at that) to believe even the most outrageous rot they put out. Like those "now you see 'em, now you don't" WMD or Saddam being linked to al Queda (he and bin Laden are mortal enemies and hate each other). I knew there weren't any WMD in the mid-90s. How? It was reported in the news most people didn't listen to or forgot that Saddam's trusted son-in-law who was in charge of all his weapons, including those WMD, defected to the West, was debriefed and spilled the beans that they were all destroyed around the time of the Gulf war. It was a tactical decision since they were useless anyway against the overwhelming US force Saddam was helpless to defend against. What aout Saddam knocking over the "twin towers." I like that one even more, but a legion of chumps called the gullible public will believe anything the corporate media feeds 'em - even the need to check under your bed every night 'cause Saddam (or Hugo) may be there ready to pounce as soon as you doze off. People will believe anything.
IT REALLY HAPPENED ONCE - A REAL LIFE CASE STUDY
Real life case in point. In 1938 a now famous science fiction radio program was broadcast in the US called War of the Worlds starring Orson Welles. There was no TV then so the effect it had was amazing even without the visuals the corporate media now know are so essential. It was about a Martian invasion of the earth that included a fake news bulletin that a "huge flaming object" landed on a farm near Grovers Mill, New Jersey. Orson Welles was a terrific actor and so weren't the others apparently. They were so good it created a mass panic among those listening who really believed the Martians had come and would do them in. People actually packed the roads, hid in cellars, got out their guns if they had any and even wrapped their heads in wet towels to protect themselves against "Martian poison gas." This now famous broadcast that also created a national scandal proved an important point. The very sophisticated folks who run the dominant media can even make a lot of seemingly intelligent people beliee almost anything made up out of whole cloth. That media and its PR cousins have honed their craft and are now so expert at it that if the best of their past counterparts were still alive, like Nazi Joseph Goebbels, he and they would be aghast to see how amateurish they were compared to the "geniuses" now doing it -- to Mr. X and all the others like him out there with their minds thoroughly fogged and programmed. He and they are all victims of sinister mind control, and I've been trying to remove the spell, bring you all into the light and deliver you into the glorious world of knowing the truth and being free at last from the poisonous and hypnotic power of the dominant and complicit corporate media.
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Chavez says US warships threaten Venezuela, Cuba
By Greg Brosnan
Tue Apr 18, 2006
CARACAS, Venezuela - President Hugo Chavez, who accuses Washington of planning to invade Venezuela, said on Tuesday recent deployment of U.S. warships in the Caribbean Sea threatened his country and its ally Cuba.
Four U.S. warships, including an aircraft carrier, and 6,500 sailors, are in a two-month deployment in the Caribbean Sea dubbed "Partnership of the Americas" by the
"They are doing maneuvers right here," Chavez told a student meeting in the country's west. "This is a threat, not just against us, against Venezuela, against Cuba."
Chavez has repeatedly accused the United States of trying to oust him. U.S. officials say the self-styled socialist revolutionary and friend of Cuban President
Fidel Castro threatens regional stability.
Chavez, who has created a civilian reserve to resist the assault he says Washington is planning, has threatened to repel U.S. forces with arrows coated with poison.
The United States, a leading buyer of oil from Venezuela, the world's No. 5 exporter, has dismissed his invasion talk as a ridiculous invention aimed at stirring up his supporters.
At least one warship has come as close to Venezuela as the Dutch island of Aruba, about 15 miles off its coast.
The Florida-based U.S. Southern Command has said the operations, which include visits to countries including Venezuela's neighboring U.S. ally Colombia, focus on threats such as "narco-terrorism and human-trafficking."
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Venezuela blasts US decision not to extradite bombing suspects
CARACAS - Venezuelan Foreign Minister Ali Rodriguez issued a statement on Tuesday criticizing the United States for not deporting two Venezuelans linked to 2003 bomb attacks on the Colombian and Spanish embassies in Caracas.
The decision not to extradite Jose Antonio Colina and German Varela, who were former Venezuelan national guard officers, showed that Washington believed "there is good terrorism and bad terrorism", Rodriguez said in the statement.
On April 12, a U.S. court declined to extradite Colina and Varela, currently held at a U.S. immigration center in Houston, in the U.S. state of Texas, saying that they might be persecuted or tortured.
Rodriguez said that the torture allegations were a "pretext", noting that there were no cases of torture under President Hugo Chavez's seven-year rule.
Caracas would demand that international and bilateral accords on extradition be observed and the two bombing suspects returned to Venezuela, said Rodriguez.
Colina and Valera fled in December 2003 to the United States and sought political asylum there after the Venezuelan attorney general charged them, alongside other officials, with the 2003 bombings.
Rodriguez added that U.S. courts had taken a similar line as in the case of Luis Posada Carriles, a Venezuelan citizen wanted for the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airline, which left all 73 aboard dead.
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Chavez Begins Training Civilian Militia
Tuesday April 18, 2006
By FABIOLA SANCHEZ
Associated Press Writer
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - President Hugo Chavez constantly warns Venezuelans a U.S. invasion is imminent.
Now he's begun training a civilian militia as well as the Venezuelan army to resist in the only way possible against a much better-equipped force: by taking to the hills and fighting a guerrilla war.
Supporters of the president, a former paratroop commander, are increasingly taking up his call. Chavez wants 1 million armed men and women in the army reserve, and 150,000 have already joined, surpassing the regular military's force of 100,000. Now Venezuelans are also organizing neighborhood-based militia units for Chavez's Territorial Guard.
Critics of Chavez say the real goal of the mobilization is to create the means to suppress internal dissent and defend Chavez's presidency at all costs. Thousands of Territorial Guard volunteers - housewives, students, construction workers - are undergoing training, earning $7.45 per session.
"'We're going to be a country of soldiers," declares Roberto Salazar, an unemployed 49-year-old, after scrambling under barbed wire, wading through a mud trench and skirting burning tires with other volunteers.
Venezuela's citizen-soldiers come mostly from the slums where Chavez draws his fiercest support. They train on weekends, learning how to handle assault rifles and run obstacle courses through clouds of tear gas.
"Venezuelans need to know how to be military people so that we can defend our fatherland and our president," Salazar says.
Chavez insists the plotters of a 2002 coup that briefly unseated him had Washington's blessing. The United States quickly recognized the interim leaders; U.S. intelligence documents indicate the CIA knew dissident military officers were plotting against Chavez.
Chavez now says all Venezuelans must be prepared for a ''war of resistance,'' and has noted that the hills around Caracas provide excellent cover.
U.S. troops would "bite the dust," he maintains, if they try to oust him and seize Venezuela's vast oil reserves. Top defense officials say Venezuela must prepare for "asymmetrical" war - military parlance for using non-conventional means against a traditional army.
Venezuela's army reserve has grown from 30,000 in 2004, says Gen. Alberto Muller Rojas, a top military adviser to Chavez.
The reservists are to be issued some of the army's older Belgian FAL assault rifles once Venezuela receives 100,000 new Kalashnikovs from Russia - approximately one for every regular soldier.
U.S. officials express concern that Chavez could be trying to export revolution. Chavez calls that an invention, and says the weapons will be needed for the 1 million Venezuelans he wants to arm. The civilian militias will not be issued firearms but their commanders say weapons would be made available in an emergency.
Critics also accuse Chavez of trying, Cuban-style, to consolidate power by assigning soldiers community tasks like serving as crossing guards and treating the poor in health clinics.
"The military devotion to Chavez is one of two keys to Chavez's survival. The other is the devotion of the poor," says Larry Birns of the Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs. "It's an act of desperation to form an armed civilian militia. He may have reached that point where he feels a faction of the military is untrustworthy."
Rather than trying to topple Chavez with an invasion, it's more likely Washington is trying to undermine him by courting potential rivals within the military, Birns says.
Chavez has in turn sought to reward loyalty, granting handsome pay raises throughout the military. He expelled a U.S. military attache in February, accusing him of espionage. Washington expelled a Venezuelan diplomat in retaliation and has denied any attempts to overthrow Chavez.
In a recent interview, U.S. Ambassador William Brownfield resisted making judgments about the reserve force.
It's up to Venezuela's government and people to decide ''how big a reserve force they want, what sort of chain of command they believe this reserve force should have, whether this reserve force should in fact be located in each and every block or town or village throughout the country,'' Brownfield said.
Chavez reminds his people the United States invaded Grenada and Panama to topple regimes it considered hostile. In both cases, resistance quickly crumbled.
Cuba's defeat of a CIA-trained force at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 is the model Chavez wants to follow.
Chavez marked that battle's 45th anniversary on Tuesday, appearing with Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque and describing the 2002 coup attempt as Venezuela's own Bay of Pigs. Chavez said his military had detected a U.S. aircraft carrier and submarines off the coast and U.S. planes and helicopters over land at the time. And he criticized U.S. naval exercises in the Caribbean this month as another threat to both Venezuela and Cuba.
"We aren't afraid of them, and if they decide to return we're going to defeat them,'' he said.
Chavez also recently said the National Guard has even enlisted an army of 500 Indians to defend the country with poison-tipped arrows. He added: "If they had to take a good shot at any invader, you'd be done for in 30 seconds, my dear gringo."
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They Know All There Is To Know About The...
Novak: Feds know who outed CIA agent
BY DAVE NEWBART
April 20, 2006
Robert Novak said Wednesday that special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald knows who outed a CIA agent to the Chicago Sun-Times columnist but hasn't acted on the information because Novak's source committed no crime.
Novak also hinted that he personally didn't rely on the Fifth Amendment -- which protects people from testifying against themselves -- in Fitzgerald's investigation. Fitzgerald is investigating who leaked CIA operative Valerie Plame's name to Novak and other reporters in an effort to discredit her husband, a critic of the Bush administration.
Novak made his remarks at the first of an occasional series of forums jointly sponsored by the Sun-Times and the University of Illinois at Chicago. Sun-Times political writer and Channel 5 reporter Carol Marin, who moderated the forum, immediately asked Novak what he could say about the Plame case.
Novak acknowledged the swirl of speculation regarding his actions in Fitzgerald's investigation of the leak, including whether he testified before a grand jury, revealed his source to Fitzgerald or made some sort of a plea bargain by fingering someone else so he could stay out of jail.
But he called the speculation "ridiculous," declining to reveal his actions.
"I'm not going to tell you because it's none of your damn business," he said.
To reveal more if probe ever ends
Still, he did say, "If I had gone before a grand jury and taken the Fifth Amendment, Mr. Fitzgerald would have that on the street in about two minutes."
Novak also claimed that investigators know who leaked the information, although he did not say how they know.
"The question is, does Mr. Fitzgerald know who the source was?" Novak asked. "Of course. He's known for years who the first source is. If he knows the source, why didn't he indict him? Because no crime was committed."
Novak said he doesn't believe his source violated laws forbidding the disclosure of a CIA agent's identity.
A spokesman for Fitzgerald declined to comment on Novak's remarks.
At an appearance in December, Novak said President Bush knows his source, too. On Wednesday, he called those remarks "indiscreet."
Novak said he would reveal more "in time, when this investigation, if it ever ends, ends."
On the midterm elections this November, Novak said it was "possible, not probable" that Democrats would retake control of the House of Representatives. But he said the Republicans and their leader are in trouble.
"The edge seems to be right now to the Democrats," Novak said. "...President Bush is not what I would call a skilled politician. He seems aloof, almost arrogant."
Despite the historically large gap between Republican and Democratic voters on whether they approve of the job Bush is doing or the war in Iraq, Lyn Ragsdale, head of UIC's political science department, agreed that "there is not going to be a huge seat swing in 2006."
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U.S. Intel chief says personnel number 100,000
4/20/2006, 7:27 p.m. ET
By KATHERINE SHRADER
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) - Nearly 100,000 Americans are working in intelligence in the U.S. and around the world, the nation's spy chief says, revealing the number for the first time.
In a speech at the National Press Club marking his first year on the job, National Intelligence Director John Negroponte indicated his willingness to make some normally classified information public.
"The United States intelligence community comprises almost 100,000 patriotic, talented and hardworking Americans in 16 federal departments and agencies," he said.
"To the extent that the requirements of secrecy permit," Negroponte added later, "the country should know what they are doing, why they are doing it, and how well they are doing it."
The figure means the total U.S. intelligence force is slightly smaller than the population of Green Bay, Wis. Secrecy expert Steven Aftergood of the Washington-based Federation of American Scientists welcomed the disclosure and said the government had no reason to keep the figure secret.
"If you think about all of the infrastructure needed to support that number of people, you start to get a sense of just how vast our intelligence system has become," Aftergood said. "Think about all the things going on that we don't know about."
The government has long protected details about the size and budget of its spy agencies, which include the CIA, National Security Agency, parts of the FBI and other lesser-known outfits, such as the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
But some classified morsels have gotten out.
For instance, Mary Margaret Graham, Negroponte's top deputy for intelligence collection, goofed in a speech last fall and said the overall U.S. intelligence budget is $44 billion - a number that open-government advocates have sued unsuccessfully to get.
It's not clear how far Negroponte is willing to go to provide more information to the public. On Thursday, he condemned leaks of classified information, but he also said, "Public understanding is important."
Negroponte's comments came as part of a speech summing up his first year as the nation's inaugural spy chief. The position was created to get intelligence agencies to work together after the mistakes of Sept. 11, 2001, and Iraq.
Without delving into details, Negroponte said he has used his powers to fix a satellite program that was on the wrong track.
He rejected the idea that his job overseeing intelligence reform is too burdensome to allow him to be among President Bush's top advisers on national security and attend the daily White House briefing.
And Negroponte challenged those who say his office has become another bureaucratic layer on top of an old one. One of his deputies last week said Negroponte has requested more than 1,500 people for his office next year. "Intelligence reform has not been a theory-based experiment or an exercise in bureaucratic bloat," Negroponte said.
In a wide-ranging question-and-answer session, Negroponte touched on other hot intelligence issues:
_Negroponte said Osama bin Laden's ability to operate has been diminished since 2001 and "his style has been cramped." He added: "It would of course be desirable that he be captured or killed at the earliest opportunity. ... And we wish that this might have happened sooner."
_He reiterated the U.S. assessment that Iran is determined to acquire a nuclear weapon, but remains years away from having enough fissile material - perhaps into the next decade. "It's important that this issue be kept in perspective," Negroponte said.
_The former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Negroponte called it "important and urgent" that Iraqis form a new government under the constitution approved last year. He said only when new senior officials take office will the government "be able to take on some of the serious challenges that are posed by the sectarian violence."
_Negroponte was asked if Russia shared wartime intelligence with Iraq in the run-up to the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, as some recently released documents suggested. The State Department has asked Russia to investigate. "I don't believe it's been confirmed that the government in Moscow itself was witting to any of the activities that took place, although - perhaps - the Russian ambassador in Baghdad was involved in some of these activities," he said.
_He said he has made it one of his highest priorities to improve U.S. intelligence analysis. He noted that his office has hired an ombudsman who will test the quality of reports and receive complaints. "We can't afford to repeat the mistakes that led to the WMD fiasco with respect to Iraq," he said, referring to the overblown estimates of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. No WMD were found.
_Negroponte said he planned to improve information sharing within the government. A written question from an audience member who claimed to have worked for the Defense Intelligence Agency asked Negroponte how he'd handle a stamp marked "Military Eyes Only," meaning the material couldn't go to the CIA and elsewhere.
Negroponte replied: "Take away the stamp."
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Russia says seminar in U.S. "urged new terrorist attacks"
MOSCOW - The Foreign Ministry summoned the U.S. ambassador in Moscow Tuesday to hand him a note of protest against a seminar in Washington which it said called for new terrorist attacks in Russia.
"The organization of such events in the United States contradicts the country's international obligations in the sphere of counter-terrorism," the ministry said.
A seminar entitled, Sadullaev's Caucasian Front: Prospects for the Next Nalchik, took place in Washington on April 14 under the aegis of Jamestown Foundation, an American non-governmental organization. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the floor had been given to speakers who called for new terrorist acts in Russia.
"Such concessions on the part of Washington to Chechen militants and separatists also run counter to the spirit of partner-based bilateral anti-terrorist cooperation, and damage bilateral relations," the Russian ministry said.
In October 2005, at least 150 militants attacked administrative buildings in the city of Nalchik, the capital of the North Caucasus republic of Kabardino-Balkaria. Russian officials say that during two days of fighting, 35 law-enforcement officers and 12 civilians were killed. A total of 92 militants were killed and dozens captured.
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Apple says online journalists are NOT "legitimate members of the press"
By Declan McCullagh
Friday , April 21 2006
A California court in San Jose on Thursday is scheduled to hear a case brought by Apple Computer that eventually could answer an unsettled legal question: Should online journalists receive the same rights as traditional reporters?
Apple claims they should not. Its lawyers say in court documents that Web scribes are not "legitimate members of the press" when they reveal details about forthcoming products that the company would prefer to keep confidential.
That argument has drawn stiff opposition from bloggers and traditional journalists. But it did seem to be sufficient to convince Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James P. Kleinberg, who ruled in March 2005 that Apple's attempt to subpoena the electronic records of an Apple news site could proceed.
"Unlike the whistleblower who discloses a health, safety or welfare hazard affecting all, or the government employee who reveals mismanagement or worse by our public officials, (the Macintosh news sites) are doing nothing more than feeding the public's insatiable desire for information," Kleinberg wrote at the time.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is representing the Apple news site PowerPage.org, is hoping the appeals court will pull the plug on a subpoena that could yield details about who leaked information about a FireWire audio interface for GarageBand that has been codenamed "Asteroid." The subpoena is on hold during the appeal.
"The California Court of Appeals has a long history of protecting freedom of the press," Kurt Opsahl, an EFF staff attorney who is arguing the case, said on Wednesday. "We're hopeful they'll continue to do so."
In the lawsuit, filed in late 2004, Apple is not suing the Mac news sites directly, but instead has focused on still-unnamed "John Doe" defendants. The subpoena has been sent to Nfox.com, PowerPage's e-mail provider, which says it will comply if legally permitted.
Even though the AppleInsider site also published information about the Asteroid device, it operated its own e-mail service and would have been able to raise a stronger First Amendment claim if it had been sent a subpoena. (In a separate case, Apple directly sued another enthusiast site, Think Secret, alleging that it infringed on Apple's trade secret in soliciting inside information.)
The types of articles about Apple that Jason O'Grady, PowerPage.org's creator, posts every few days don't seem that different from those that many news organizations produce. They include reports on Apple's patent disputes, benchmarks of software performance, reviews of software and news about upcoming products that have not officially been announced.
Being the first to publish news about forthcoming products--as long as the information is accurate--is generally regarded by journalists as a coup. CNET News.com was the first to report, for instance, that Apple was switching from PowerPC processors to Intel chips last year.
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After Job Law Fiasco, France Retreats on Smoking Ban
By Molly Moore
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, April 21, 2006
PARIS -- Julien Rey, a pack-a-day Camel smoker, should be content with his government. It has just retreated from an anti-smoking law that would have banned him from enjoying a cigarette with a mug of beer at his neighborhood bar.
Instead, Rey views his leaders as spineless and paralyzed by fear of public rejection.
"They're not going to do anything for a year, until the next elections," said Rey, 28, alternating between sips of beer and drags on a Camel at Aux Petits Tonneaux ("At the Little Barrels") bar in central Paris. "And that's too bad -- we need a lot of reforms."
In the nearly two weeks since French officials backed down from a controversial youth labor law under pressure from millions of protesters in the streets nationwide, the government has started retreating from laws -- large and small -- on subjects that include smoking, pollution and flea markets.
"The government leaders are so frightened they cannot move," said Claude Evin, a former French health minister who has spent years advocating smoking bans and other health-related initiatives. "They are startled by their own shadow. France is facing a terrible situation with such leaders."
Government officials had been set to initiate the law banning smoking in bars, restaurants and other public venues in a few weeks, sweeping away a national ritual of a cigarette and a cup of coffee in a cafe. Nonsmokers are usually assigned to the worst tables in the most cramped corners of restaurants.
At an April 12 breakfast meeting -- two days after Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin gave in to the pressures of the public, his party and his president in withdrawing the youth labor law -- Villepin and other government leaders decided to hold off on the smoking law.
"The government backed down because they already upset a lot of people lately and they don't need bartenders and clients to be mad as well," said Francois Attrazic, a restaurant owner in rural central France and vice president of the hotel, bar and restaurant association that represents about 80,000 French businesses and opposes a smoking ban.
At the same breakfast, according to the weekly newspaper Le Canard Enchaine, officials discussed weakening legislation that would make polluters -- including farmers -- responsible for paying to clean up rivers and lakes. That bill is scheduled for a parliamentary vote next month.
And this past Tuesday, Commerce Minister Renaud Dutreuil announced on RTL Radio that the government is considering loosening the rules of another new law regulating vendors at flea markets, where private citizens peddle their home castoffs side by side with professional antique dealers.
Under pressure from the professionals, the government last fall restricted the amateurs to markets in their home towns and villages. Mayors and others who support or profit from the broadly popular street markets -- a spring and summer fixture across the country -- loudly opposed the new limitations.
Villepin took up his position almost a year ago pledging to energize a lethargic government and reform a nation increasingly viewed as a sluggish competitor in the global economy. In recent months, he has watched his political standing and presidential ambitions plummet in the face of the massive demonstrations that forced him to backtrack on the youth labor law, which allowed employers to fire workers under age 26 anytime during their first two years on the job.
Now he is vilified and ridiculed almost daily in the French press. In a poll published on Thursday by the daily newspaper Le Figaro, only 6 percent of respondents said they would vote for Villepin for president. Six months ago, surveys placed him as the leading contender in the 2007 presidential election.
Thursday's poll showed Socialist Party presidential hopeful Segolene Royal as the beneficiary of the government's disarray, with 34 percent of those surveyed saying they would vote for her as president. Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, Villepin's main rival in the ruling Union for a Popular Movement party, was supported by 30 percent. His ambitions were sullied by last fall's arsons and violence in the poor suburbs where many immigrant families live.
Government critics say the retreat on the smoking ban is particularly symptomatic of the current administration's impotence as it enters its final year in office before next spring's presidential election. In a move certain to push the debate beyond the election, the government has asked Parliament to conduct yet another study on the ramifications of the law.
A recent survey by the IFOP polling group found that 78 percent of respondents supported a smoking ban.
Yves Bur, a legislator from Villepin's party who drafted the smoking law, said his main objective was to protect workers. "Passive smoking is very dangerous," he said. "Each year 3,000 to 5,000 people in France die as a result of passive smoking."
Mechiet Hamid, the 40-year-old Algerian proprietor of the Aux Petits Tonneaux bar and a former smoker, said he would welcome a prohibition on smoking in his small bar, where cigarette butts litter the wooden floor and the after-work crowd is enveloped in wisps of smoke.
"When you work eight to 10 hours in a bar, the smoke hurts your eyes, and you always itch," said Hamid, a stocky man with a beefy face and close-cropped hair who knows the tastes of many customers so well that he slides their favorite brand of beer to them before they ask. "When you don't smoke and you work in a place where people smoke, it's just like you're smoking."
But Attrazic, the restaurant association leader and bar owner, said that in addition to threatening the livelihoods of the owners of small rural bars and cafes, a smoking ban would strip the French of an important part of their culture.
"Is it shameful to smoke?" Attrazic asked. "I think that smoking a good cigar with a tasty Armagnac is part of our lifestyle."
Comment: Notice these two comments in the article:
"The government backed down because they already upset a lot of people lately and they don't need bartenders and clients to be mad as well,"And:
A recent survey by the IFOP polling group found that 78 percent of respondents supported a smoking ban.The government knows darn well that far more than 22% of the French people oppose the smoking ban.
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French far-right bolstered by riots in the suburbs: poll
April 21, 2006
PARIS - France's far-right appears to have been reinforced from last year's suburban riots, with one third of people saying it is in tune with the country's concerns, the authors of a new poll said Friday.
Thirty-four percent of respondents in the IFOP survey said the far-right was "close to the concerns of French people", while 35 percent said it "enriched" the national debate with its tough line on immigration and security.
IFOP's public opinion director Frédéric Dabi said the far-right "appeared to have been reinforced" by the riots in high-immigration suburbs last November, as well from this year's mass protests over an unpopular youth contract.
For 48 percent, the far-right is best embodied by Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the xenophobic National Front.
Le Pen sent shockwaves across Europe by making it to the second round of France's presidential elections in 2002, according to the poll of 1,009 people carried out on April 6-7.
Ten percent of voters intend to back Le Pen again in the first round of next year's election, making him the third candidate in line after the Socialist Ségolčne Royal, with 34 percent, and the centre-right Nicolas Sarkozy, with 30 percent, according to a TNS Sofres/Unilog survey published Thursday.
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Paris mayor defends France's wariness of U.S. tech
By Greg Sandoval
April 20, 2006
The mayors of San Francisco and Paris locked arms Thursday and pledged to bridge the digital divide together.
Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe joined San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in a round-table discussion at San Francisco's City Hall about how each city can help the other spur growth in their respective digital-media sectors. Also in attendance were representatives from local tech companies, including Lucasfilm, Dreamworks, the Orphanage and Wildbrain, as well as French technology leaders.
The meeting came as Franco-U.S. relations are supposed to be at an all-time low. Many Americans haven't forgiven France for declining to support the U.S. mission in Iraq.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the French are wary of U.S. control of the Internet.
The French National Assembly recently passed legislation that will try to force Apple Computer to make the songs it sells through its iTunes Music Store playable on competitors' devices, and not just on the iPod. The French government says Apple's tight grip on online music amounts to a monopoly. Apple has responded by calling France's decision "state-sponsored piracy."
Worried about a cultural invasion, French President Jacques Chirac has called for the creation of a French rival to Google. Standing alongside Newsom, Delanoe defended his country's position.
"I think it's totally normal that the U.S. wants to be strong and protect their people and technology," Delanoe said through a translator. "But the rules have to be the same for everybody...the rules can't favor one country."
Delanoe said his visit was prompted by San Francisco's success in promoting digital media companies. He also commended Newsom's plan to offer citizens free Wi-Fi access.
Delanoe "said Paris is hoping to be the second city to do free Wi-Fi," Newsom told reporters. "This is a big issue internationally, the possibility of giving people free access to information. Mayors around the world are paying attention to what S.F. is doing. This effort is a big part of bridging the digital divide."
Comment: Continuing to blame France for a war that started based on what everyone now knows was the Bush administration's lies is ridiculous. If we believe another's lies, WE are responsible for the consequences, as well as finding a solution to the whole mess. Real change starts within each of us, not by pointing the finger at some other nation whose people recognized Bush's BS.
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Around The World
$500K Seized; Strange Situation Reported At Nuclear Plant
April 19, 2006
SHIPPINGPORT, Pa. -- Two workers looking for tools set off a security situation at a Beaver County nuclear power plant that drew a response from police and federal investigators, WTAE Channel 4's Paul Van Osdol reported.
State police said the men drove up to the Beaver Valley Power Station in a tractor-trailer on Tuesday night to pick up two large containers of tools for a contractor for whom they worked.
Security guards stopped the men for a routine inspection, but they drove away, police said.
The guards became suspicious and called police, who pulled the truck over about a mile from the plant.
A state trooper got a warrant to search the vehicle and found a duffel bag, which he said contained $504,230 in mostly small bills.
The driver denied knowing anything about the money or who gave it to him, so the trooper seized it, police said.
A spokesman for the FBI confirmed that the Joint Terrorism Task Force responded to the situation in conjunction with state police, but he said they don't think terrorism is involved. He would not give any other details.
The men, who are from Houston, said they picked up the bag in Chicago and had no knowledge of its contents, according to police.
Investigators think the cash may have a drug connection. A police dog picked up the scent of drugs in the sleeper cab of the truck where the bag was found, police said.
Both men were detained and later released. No charges have been filed.
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Two dead, hundreds evacuated in Moscow university fire
Fri Apr 21, 4:33 AM ET
MOSCOW - Two people died and seven were injured when fire broke out on the 12th floor of Moscow State University's towering central building, prompting a mass evacuation, the Russian emergency situations ministry said.
The bodies of a man and a woman were found following the fire, which started at dawn, ITAR-TASS quoted the ministry as saying. Some 500 people had to flee the 26-floor building, a landmark Stalin-era construction overlooking central Moscow.
Seven people were taken to hospital, though only five needed treatment, ITAR-TASS quoted the ministry as saying.
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Abbas blocks Hamas security force plan
4/21/2006 9:47 AM ET
JERUSALEM - In their sharpest power dispute yet, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Friday blocked Hamas' plans to set up a shadow security force, which was to be made up of militants and to be headed by the No. 2 on Israel's wanted list.
Abbas issued a presidential decree vetoing the decisions made a day earlier by Interior Minister Said Siyam of Hamas. As president, Abbas wields considerable power and has the right to approve or reject key appointments.
Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas was to meet with his interior minister later Friday to weigh a response.
Siyam's decision Thursday to set up the new force and appoint Jamal Abu Samhadana as its commander was seen as a major provocation to Abbas, to Israel and to the international community.
Abu Samhadana, 43, was a founding member of a militant group suspected of a deadly attack on a U.S. diplomatic convoy and served a year in Palestinian jails for involvement in militant activity.
The new force was to be made up of militants from various factions. Under the current arrangement, the interior minister controls three branches of the security forces, while the president has direct command over three other groups. However, Abbas is also overall commander of the security forces.
Abbas and Hamas have been wrangling over authorities since the Islamic militant group won January parliament elections. After the Hamas victory, Abbas took control of the state-run media, the Palestinian Investment Fund and the authority controlling borders.
Hamas has complained it was largely left with paying salaries for some 165,000 government employees - a task it cannot meet because the West has cut off financial aid.
In a letter to Haniyeh on Friday, Abbas wrote that "we have learned through the media that the interior minister issued decisions violating the law. "
"All the officers, soldiers and security personnel are asked not to abide by these decisions and to consider them non-existent," Abbas said in a letter obtained by The Associated Press.
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Word-Vision Area Of Brain Confirmed
Apr 21, 2006
Washington, DC - Humans have an uncanny ability to skim through text, instantly recognizing words by their shape - even though writing developed only about 6000 years ago - long after humans evolved. Thus, neuroscientists have hotly debated whether an area of the cortex called the Visual Word Form Area (VWFA) is truly a specific and necessary area for recognizing words.
Functional MRI scans have shown that the area specifically activates when people read, as opposed to recognizing other objects, such as faces or houses. And people with lesions in the region lose the ability to recognize whole words - reduced to letter-by-letter reading. However, fMRI studies cannot demonstrate a causal role for the VWFA, and lesions involving the VWFA invariably involved other regions as well.
Now, a patient whose surgery to relieve epilepsy specifically disrupted the VWFA has given researchers, led by Laurent Cohen of the Hôpital de la Salpętričre, an opportunity to demonstrate that the region does indeed play a causal role in the ability to recognize words.
The researchers reported in the April 20, 2006, issue of Neuron the results of reading, language, and object recognition tests both before and after the surgery on the 46-year-old man. They found his reading capability before surgery to be normal. However, tests after surgery showed very different results.
"Although we studied reading more extensively than the perception of other types of visual stimuli, our patient presented a clear-cut reading impairment following surgery, while his performance remained flawless in object recognition and naming, face processing, and general language abilities," reported the researchers.
"Such selectivity may be difficult to observe in patients with more customary lesions resulting from strokes or tumors, which often affect a larger extent of cortex and white matter. The small size of the present lesion thus provides precious support to the idea of partial regional selectivity for word perception in the ventral cortex," they wrote.
Importantly, the researchers observed that before the surgery, the patient could recognize long words as quickly as short ones; but after the surgery, the recognition time increased linearly as a function of word length. Such findings indicated that the patient had been reduced to recognizing words letter by letter.
"How could there be a piece of neural tissue dedicated to a recently invented cognitive skill like word recognition?" wondered Alex Martin in a preview of the paper in the same issue of Neuron.
Nevertheless, Martin commented, Cohen and his colleagues "report a unique set of findings in favor of the existence of the VWFA that will surely add fuel to the debate." He concluded that "The single case study...provides compelling evidence that the VWFA plays a causal role in the chain of neural events that underlie normal reading."
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Operation To Correct ISS Orbit Fails
Apr 21, 2006
Moscow - An attempt by scientists to raise the orbit of the International Space Station (ISS) failed early Thursday, Russian space officials said.
"The lid on the correcting engine KD-2 did not fully open during the maneuver, so we decided to cancel the operation," an official in the mission control center near Moscow said as quoted by the ITAR-TASS news agency.
Experts were trying to establish what went wrong before attempting to re-start the operation on Friday, the official said.
The ISS crew, US astronaut Jeffrey Williams and Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov, "were not asleep when that happened, and it was they who noted the failure as the maneuver was being prepared for," the official added.
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