- Signs of the Times for Tue, 02 May 2006 -

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Editorial: Good Citizenship On Display

Mathew Kristin Kiel
May 1, 2006

What exquisite irony. The moral turpitude of the average, white, working class and middle class American, white males especially, is spelled out, highlighted and starkly illuminated by today's nationwide marches and the Grand Boycott. The solidarity and the stunning, massive Human Rights activism of brown, asian, black, Native and mestizo Americans, and a few white marchers too, many of them women, have shamed the white majority. To put it bluntly, today's tens of millions of brave and determined marchers, not all of them either immigrants or Hispanic by any means, are providing a sterling example of non-violent and dedicated Human Rights activism.

The Right's demagogues have been abusing them from every quarter. Radical Right, Christianist Right and White Power militia web sites and radio personalities have been threatening them for weeks, and openly calling for snipers and bombers to kill them while they march. But they march anyway, frightened though they surely are. They are being scorned, mocked and villified by the mainstream media and the dominant white male culture. The disparagement of the march and the marchers was heard from every channel, cable and network alike today, with a near absolute uniformity of viewpoint, all of it either openly racist or obviously propaganda, and usually both.

Yet the marchers are doing nothing more, nor less, than engaging in a direct and courageous, openly and purposefully confrontative opposition to the advancing forces of tyranny in the U.S. They are behaving like true and concerned citizens, struggling to wrest control of this nation back from the deeply entrenched, horrendously criminal and entirely Pathocratic Bush government. They are marching, petitioning, boycotting, striking, writing letters, unifying and supporting their own communities, registering voters and reaching out to all persons to join with them. They are behaving exactly in accordance with the long established principles and practices of non-violent activism and democratic protest.

Their movement's goal is not, contrary to the negative images of them painted by the Bush controlled media and press, simply to obtain an easy and permanent access to life in these United States for themselves and their families. It is the struggle of reasserting and reclaiming fundamental Human Rights for one and all in this nation. They are marching for our Civil Rights, our Constitutional Rights, our Bill of Rights, for our economic parity, for Justice, Fairness, Equality and truly representative Democracy for all of us in this nation. They are demanding that our own government respect and obey International Law, the Geneva Conventions, and the UN Charter.

They are not demonstrating for the right to swim the Rio Grande River, die in the remote deserts, climb over or tunnel under the urban barricades along the Mexican border with impunity, as the belittlement heaped upon them daily by the Pathocracy's propagandists in the media and press insinuate is their sole desire. The immigrants, citizens and non-citizens alike, marching from coast to coast today, are not marching for the right to violate the laws of this land. They are marching to demand that those laws be based upon equal rights, administered with due process and enforced with impartiality, for and to one and all in this country. In short, they are marching to demand a real democracy in these United States of America.

The immigrants and minority citizens of this nation do "get it" in ways and to degrees that seem utterly impossible for most average white American citizens to grasp. Our immigrants, legal and illegal alike, march in solidarity with all of us and all of the downtrodden peoples of the world. They are demanding a functioning, lawfully elected, fully democratic, just and Sane government for us all. They march so that all Human Beings might be given a just and impartial opportunity to prove their merits or their perfidy, whichever may be the individual case.

THE IMMIGRANTS ARE FIGHTING FOR DEMOCRACY IN THE UNITED STATES, WHILE THE MAJORITY OF THE BORN CITIZENS DO NOTHING to fight either for their own rights, or to resist the advancing strangle hold of the Bush Junta's dictatorship upon the nation and the world. While it is inarguable that the United States now meets the criteria of a Failed State, even worse is that within the primary causes of the failure of our own State was a deliberately betrayed and systematically ruined populist movement and a healthy, growing proto-democracy, destroyed for nothing of more lasting worth or value than to satisfy the insatiable Greed of the very few at the very top for their own material wealth, worldy power and self-aggrandizement.

The U.S. was never allowed to reach a functional, stable democratic flowering before the forces of Pathocracy destroyed it in its embryonic, post WW II state, using assassinations, information warfare and ever expanding political imprisonments, all disguised, as the "Cold War, the "War on Crime," the "War on Drugs," and now the "War on Terror," to subversively achieve today's dire status quo. The no longer clandestine Pathocracy has diligently and skillfully overthrown, dismantled and/or perverted to their purposes more than 100 years of ever more enlightened and ever more democratic policies and governance. Between 1964 and 2004, in just 40 short years, they have taken us from a budding neo-democracy with the Civil Rights Act as the newly enacted law of the land, in 1964, down into the depths of a racist, classist, militarist and nearly absolute Totalitarian dictatorship today.

Second only to the primary cause of the U.S. having become a Failed State is the incapacitation of our citizenry's ability to reason their rightful and necessary course of action. There has been a deliberate, pathological "dumbing down" of the U.S. populace, lower and middle class whites in particular, over the past 30 years. Most are no longer able to discern where their personal responsibilities for upholding our democracy lie nor to independently assume those responsibilites even when they have been clearly and repeatedly delineated. But today, they need flounder no longer. They need but join the Human Rights movement already in progress, right outside their own doors, right in the streets of their own cities, nationwide, and give their wholehearted support and efforts to it. If they do so, they will be going very much in the right direction. As of today, the example has been set, the movement is visible, easily reached and easily joined. After this day, "I don't know what to do, where to go, or how to help" is no longer an excuse.

Today, while the majority of white Americans still persist in hiding their heads in the sand, and praying that the Totalitarian Bush Junta won't get too bad, take a good look at the tens of millions of marchers out in the streets of cities across the country. While most white Americans just do not "get it," do not understand that doing nothing to actively and consistently oppose the Pathocracy and its aggressive, militant Totalitarian agenda, is the same as actively supporting it, these humble marchers, drawn from the lowliest ranks and places in our nation, do "get it." They refuse to give up, and will not give in to the intimidation and terrorization heaped upon them all of their lives by our collective, white, mainstream American culture's entrenched racism. They refuse to allow either themselves, or any and all of us who will humbly join with them, to be divided and conquered again.

Take a look at their mostly darker than caucasian skin tones, at the economic poverty writ plainly upon their careworn faces and calloused hands and displayed in the bent backs of the oldsters among their ranks, and know this: These people, this day, in their determination to march, are striving with all their might and main to save all of us from the fully Pathocracy. They are beating down the lethal walls of denial, apathy and confusion keeping most born, white American citizens in a condition of emotional dread and political paralysis.

These least respected and most oppressed people in this nation, in their attempts to fight for our rights, not just theirs, for our democracy, our justice and freedom and dignity, our nation, have made it their own this day. They have earned their citizenship. Isn't it time for the rest of America's citizens to do the same?
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Editorial: The Hariri File: The Book that Implicates Washington

Rachid Abbar with agencies

The direct implication of the United States as well as Israel in the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri is a strong possibility. The uprising of anti-Syrian Lebanese, which accelerated the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon after a twenty-year presence, serves above all to advance the strategic interests of these two eternal allies. In any case, so affirms Jurgen Cain Kulbel, a German journalist, in his recently published book.

Titled Mordakte Hariri. Unterdruckte Spuren im Libanon (The Hariri File: Silenced Evidence in Lebanon), the book severely criticises the undertakings of the UN investigation.

In his book, this independent journalist reproaches the Mission for focusing only on the Syrian hypothesis at the expense of other possible scenarios.

"There are other possibilities: they begin at the Lebanese civil war and finish in Washington, New York, and Jerusalem", he affirms. The author denounces "an ignoble plan": "the assassination of 'Mr Lebanon' (Hariri) was meant to be forever engraved in the minds of the Lebanese to make them the instruments of what would become the Cedar Revolution," he writes.

This pamphlet contains several crushing revelations for the UN Mission. He affirms, among other things, that the principal witnesses became millionaires after having made depositions that accuse the Syrian secret service. He adds that one of them "mysteriously disappeared in an accident, and that DNA traces of the 'so-called kamikaze' were never found on the site of the explosion in the centre of Beirut."

Jurgen Cain Kulbel doesn't directly accuse Washington and Tel Aviv of being behind the assassination, but he brings forward elements and documents that go in this direction.

For example, Jurgen Kulbel notes that the former Lebanese minister was included on a death list on the site of the "United States Committee for a Free Lebanon" up until his death. It is the site of the Lebanese "lobby" in the United States close to the neo-conservative milieu.

And in citing the American investigative journalist Wayne Madsen, the book reminds us that the former prime minister opposed the project for the construction of an important American military base in the north of Lebanon.

Among the people cited by the German journalist figures Moustafa Al-Nasser, a former advisor to Mr. Hariri, who said "The assassination of Hariri is the work of the Israeli secret services, Mossad, whose goal was to create political tensions in Lebanon."

But the major revelation in the book is the following: the static emitters of Mr Hariri's convoy, normally capable of preventing the activation of bombs at a distance, "totally failed". The journalist affirms, citing a Swiss expert, that the system could only be neutralized by its maker, which happens to be none other than an Israeli company founded by ex-Mossad agents.

Washington's determination to overthrow Damascus isn't new. According to a document that goes back to the fall of 1957, the existence of which was revealed by The Guardian in September 2005, the Central Intelligence Agency and its British homologue had already at that time agreed to put an end to the Syrian regime in making people believe that Damascus was the originator of plots and sabotage against neighbouring governments. According to the elements in Jurgen Kulbel's book, the assassination of Rafik Hariri could well be an American manoeuvre designed to destabilise the regime in Damascus.

Translation by Signs of the Times

For more on the assassination of Rafik Hariri, see: "Mossad Murders Former Lebanese PM in Carbon Copy of 1979 Assassination"
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Editorial: American Hostages...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Baghdad Burning

It was around the 10th or 11th of April, 2003. There had been no electricity in our area since the last days of March. The water was also cut off and most Iraqis still didn't have generators. We spent the days- and nights- listening to American and British war planes, listening for the tanks as they invaded the city, and praying. We also tried desperately to follow the news.

The state-controlled Iraqi channels had, seemingly, ceased to exist. Transmission had been bad since the war began- sometimes, we'd be able to access the channel clearly, and at other times, it was only a fuzzy blur of faces and scratchy national anthems. The official Iraqi radio station was no better- sometimes it seemed like they were transmitting from Mars- it was so far away. When we did get it clearly, none of it made sense: Sahhaf, the Minister of Information, would say, "There are no tanks in Baghdad!" and yet, explosions and the carcasses of burnt up cars with families still inside, said otherwise.

By the beginning of April, we had given up on getting any information from television and had to rely completely on the news we received through radio stations such as Monte Carlo, BBC and the Voice of America. VOA was nearly as useless as Sahhaf- we could never tell if the news they were broadcasting was real or if it was simply propaganda. In between news, VOA would broadcast the same songs over and over and over. I still can't hear Celine Dion's "A New Day Has Come" without shuddering because in my head I hear the sounds of war. "I was waiting for someone..." the roar of a plane overhead ... "For a miracle to come..." the BOOM of a missile... "My heart told me to be strong..." the rat-tat-tat of an AK-47... I hate that song today.

One television station that had been broadcasting since the beginning of the war was an Iranian station called "Al Alam". They had been broadcasting for the Iraqi public in Arabic with permission from the former government and they continued broadcasting even after the Iraqi stations stopped. Their coverage of the war was rather neutral. They gave facts and avoided unnecessary commentary or opinion and that, to a certain extent, made them trustworthy- especially since we really didn't have any other options.

We had heard about the statue being pulled down on one radio station or another, but none of us had seen it because we had no television due to a lack of electricity. Some Iraqis were taking old televisions and connecting them to an ordinary car battery which is what they did back in 1991. E. and the cousin managed to dig up a small, old, black and white television my aunt had managed to overlook during last years spring cleaning. They had it hooked up and working in a matter of twenty minutes (and after a thorough dusting). There was no longer an Iraqi television station. There was only the Iranian one, transmitting clearly. The tanks were rolling through Baghdad and bombing everything in their path. The Apaches were flying low and it seemed like every hour the gunfire and explosions were intensifying.

It was around 9 pm on the 11th of April when we finally saw the footage of Saddam's statue being pulled down by American troops- the American flag plastered on his face. We watched, stunned, as Baghdad was looted and burned by hordes of men, being watched and saluted by American soldiers in tanks. Looking back at it now, it is properly ironic that our first glimpses of the 'fall of Baghdad' and the occupation of Iraq came to us via Iran- through that Iranian channel.

We immediately began hearing about the Iranian revolutionary guard, and how they had formed a militia of Iraqis who had defected to Iran during the Iran-Iraq war. We heard how they were already inside of the country and were helping to loot and burn everything from governmental facilities to museums. The Hakims and Badr made their debut, followed by several other clerics with their personal guard and militias, all seeping in from Iran.

Today they rule the country. Over the duration of three years, and through the use of vicious militias, assassinations and abductions, they've managed to install themselves firmly in the Green Zone. We constantly hear our new puppets rant and rave against Syria, against Saudi Arabia, against Turkey, even against the country they have to thank for their rise to power- America... But no one dares to talk about the role Iran is planning in the country.

The last few days we've been hearing about Iranian attacks on northern Iraq- parts of Kurdistan that are on the Iranian border. Several sites were bombed and various news sources are reporting Iranian troops by the thousand standing ready at the Iraqi border. Prior to this, there has been talk of Iranian revolutionary guard infiltrating areas like Diyala and even parts of Baghdad.

Meanwhile, the new puppets (simply a rotation of the same OLD puppets), after taking several months to finally decide who gets to play the role of prime minister, are now wrangling and wrestling over the 'major' ministries and which political party should receive what ministry. The reason behind this is that as soon as a minister is named from, say, SCIRI, that minister brings in 'his people' to key positions- his relatives, his friends and cronies, and most importantly- his personal militia. As soon as Al-Maliki was made prime minister, he announced that armed militias would be made a part of the Iraqi army (which can only mean the Badrists and Sadr's goons).

A few days ago, we were watching one of several ceremonies they held after naming the new prime minister. Talbani stood in front of various politicians in a large room in the Green Zone and said, rather brazenly, that Iraq would not stand any 'tadakhul' or meddling by neighboring countries because Iraq was a 'sovereign country free of foreign influence'. The cousin almost fainted from laughter and E. was wiping his eyes and gasping for air... as Talbani pompously made his statement- all big belly and grins- smiling back at him was a group of American army commanders or generals and to his left was Khalilzad, patting him fondly on the arm and gazing at him like a father looking at his first-born!

So while Iraqis are dying by the hundreds, with corpses turning up everywhere (last week they found a dead man in the open area in front of my cousins daughters school), the Iraqi puppets are taking their time trying to decide who gets to do the most stealing and in which ministry. Embezzlement, after all, is not to be taken lightly- one must give it the proper amount of thought and debate- even if the country is coming unhinged.

As for news of the new Iraqi army, it isn't going as smoothly as Bush and his crew portray. Today we watched footage of Iraqi soldiers in Anbar graduating. The whole ceremony was quite ordinary up until nearly the end- their commander announced they would be deployed to various areas and suddenly it was chaos. The soldiers began stripping their fatigues and throwing them around, verbally attacking their seniors and yelling and shoving. They were promised, when they signed up for the army in their areas, that they would be deployed inside of their own areas- which does make sense. There is news that they are currently on strike- refusing to be deployed outside of their own provinces.

One can't help but wonder if the 'area' they were supposed to be deployed to was the north of Iraq? Especially with Iranian troops on the border... Talbani announced a few days ago that the protection of Kurdistan was the responsibility of Iraq and I completely agree for a change- because Kurdistan IS a part of Iraq. Before he made this statement, it was always understood that only the Peshmerga would protect Kurdistan- apparently, against Iran, they aren't nearly enough.

The big question is- what will the US do about Iran? There are the hints of the possibility of bombings, etc. While I hate the Iranian government, the people don't deserve the chaos and damage of air strikes and war. I don't really worry about that though, because if you live in Iraq- you know America's hands are tied. Just as soon as Washington makes a move against Tehran, American troops inside Iraq will come under attack. It's that simple- Washington has big guns and planes... But Iran has 150,000 American hostages.

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Preparing 'Armageddon' In The Middle East

Turkish Armed Forces Strike Kurdish Camps in North Iraq

Assyrian Int News Agency

Istanbul - The Turkish armed forces have launched their first military operation along the Iraqi border where Turkish troops have concentrated for days.

The Northern Iraqi cities of Amedi and Zaho, sheltering Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) militants, were hit with mortar attacks in "Operation Crescent."

First reports say that locations where militants were lodged in the regions of Geliye, Pisaxa, Pirbela, Sheshdara, Sheranish and Elanish were demolished.

The "Burgundy Beret" units performed a recognizance mission in the area a while ago as part of the Special Forces Command.

Troop deployment to the region from different parts of the country continues.

Along with the transfer of commandos, heavy construction equipment is also being brought to the border for use during a possible cross-border operation.

The Iranian military extended their operation 10 kilometers to maintain security along the border.

A security cordon has been established to ensure the safety of troops that check not only Mt. Cudi, but other passages and routes for safety.

There is also top-level security present en route to the Border Gate Habur-2.

In another development, Kurdish militias (Peshmergas) under the leadership of Massoud Barzani tightened security measures along the Northern Iraqi border.

On Thursday, a statement from Barzani called attention to a plea for cessation of external intervention in Iraq's domestic affairs. The need for agreement between officials from both Turkey and North Iraq was stressed.

Mehmet Gunes, a truck driver, said something interesting while on routine transit through the Border Gate Habur. "We are well accustomed to seeing such things. It's the media that magnifies what we consider normal, I think." Gunes also said that the truck drivers are not having any problem transiting border gates for the moment.

There is not any unusual military activity going on here against North Iraq, said Gunes, and some residents here are still unaware of the recent developments.

The Operation Crescent, a cross-border operation, is remarkable for one other thing: the exclusion of village guards from the operation.

Comment: Things are shaping up nicely for the pre-planned major war in the Middle East. On the scoresheet will be Turkey, Iraq's various factions, US military, Iranian military, Israeli military, Syrian military, Egyptian military, Lebanese forces, Hizb'alla, Jordanian forces Palestinian factions. Once started, many surrounding countries will also join in the fun, maybe Russia and some European countries too. Bet you can't wait.

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Destroying to Save - The Not so Hidden Agenda in Administration Policies

By Daniel Jordan and Neil Wollman

One infamous line from the Vietnam War was: "It became necessary to destroy the village to save it." The Bush Administration has carried this thinking to stratospheric heights. Here are some pointed examples.

Destroying Freedom To Save It:

The Orwellian absurdity of the Patriot Act, destroying freedom to save it from evildoers, goes unchallenged in American media and politics. Our government claims the right to infringe on any and all civil liberties; engage in warrantless wiretaps; peek at our email messages, book purchases and library withdrawals; and enter our homes all without even the minimal oversight from FISA. Spying on citizens is deemed "Homeland Security."

This Administration claims the right to imprison people without access to the outside world, family or counsel. Lest Americans think this applies only to foreign "bad guys" Halliburton's KBR subsidiary is building detention centers across the nation to hold tens of thousands of people. Bill Bennett has just blustered that the U.S. ought roll out the Espionage Act again and prosecute for treason reporters who criticize or expose facts about the Bush Administration. Our nation is being pushed beyond normal politics. Conservatives and liberals alike should be concerned. Critics (including these authors) are likely already on watch lists.

Destroying Iraq To Save It:

To save Iraqis from a tyrant whom we created we have destroyed their infrastructure and killed thousands of Iraqis whose lives we, and they, were told would improve. Post-invasion deaths attributable to the war have exceeded those from the ravages of Saddam. Their right to vote is overshadowed by daily miseries, fear, death via sectarian violence or U.S. military air strikes, sickness from devastated water and healthcares systems, and constant frustrations from lack of everyday resources.

One quintessential example of "destroying to save" is Fallujah. The US tried either to round up or kill the able-bodied men in Fallujah by bombing everyone out of the town, and then driving the men back into it so they could be bombed some more. We leveled Fallujah in 2004 and remain intent on rearranging the rubble.

Destroying Our Environment (And Future Economy) To Save It:

The Administration claims to be saving the environment while keeping our economy strong. But current policies will do neither. The Administration refuses to acknowledge the destruction of our environment, and proceeds gleefully with policies that will hasten the process. Using Global Warming as an example, it has not restricted carbon dioxide but put in limited voluntary measures that have done little, not supported the relevant Kyoto Protocols, disputed alarming research or called for further years of study when action was needed, and ousted or gagged scientists with opposing views. Figures released in mid-April place 2004 greenhouse gasses at their highest level ever recorded, with the U.S. being the principle culprit.

Thus we see Polar ice caps melting and glaciers receding. Alaskans are now concerned about forest fires. Greenland is no longer covered solidly in ice. Warming oceans are destroying marine ecosystems. Rising sea levels are forcing remote villagers to move to higher ground (if any exists).

Rising sea levels will destroy our climate, coastlines and economy. If remote villagers need to move, so will wealthy seaside resort residents in the U.S. What will our economy look like when our major cities, most along our coasts, are under water? We will see ever increasing post-disaster mass relocations like those following Hurricane Katrina.

We citizens share the blame, though, as these policies are partly driven by our daily decisions. Each of us drives the demand for oil that leads to a degraded ecosystem and a foreign policy that leads to seeking foreign oil control.

Readers willing to look honestly at events will find their own examples of our government destroying things in the name of saving them. If the current administration's philosophy carries into the future, expect the destruction of our social security and Medicare systems-for starters-allegedly to save them of course. Perhaps our only hope is that the Bush Administration will continue to stretch destructiveness to such an extent that even its supporters will begin to object.

The Neo-Con's vision of a "New American Century" has dragged us instead into an Anti-American Century in which our children will pay dearly for our mistakes. Destroying our country and others is not a form of salvation, but of mass suicide.

Daniel Jordan, Ph.D.; Research consultant and Dean, College of Social and Political Justice, International University for Graduate Studies, St. Kitts & Nevis, BWI; drdanj@adelphia.net

Neil Wollman; Ph.D.; Senior Fellow, Peace Studies Institute, Professor of Psychology; Manchester College, North Manchester, IN 46962; njwollman@manchester.edu;

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The Untold Story of Israel's Bomb

By Avner Cohen and William Burr
Washington Post

On Sept. 9, 1969, a big brown envelope was delivered to the Oval Office on behalf of CIA Director Richard M. Helms. On it he had written, "For and to be opened only by: The President, The White House." The precise contents of the envelope are still unknown, but it was the latest intelligence on one of Washington's most secretive foreign policy matters: Israel's nuclear program. The material was so sensitive that the nation's spymaster was unwilling to share it with anybody but President Richard M. Nixon himself.

The now-empty envelope is inside a two-folder set labeled "NSSM 40," held by the Nixon Presidential Materials Project at the National Archives. (NSSM is the acronym for National Security Study Memorandum, a series of policy studies produced by the national security bureaucracy for the Nixon White House.) The NSSM 40 files are almost bare because most of their documents remain classified.

With the aid of recently declassified documents, we now know that NSSM 40 was the Nixon administration's effort to grapple with the policy implications of a nuclear-armed Israel.

These documents offer unprecedented insight into the tense deliberations in the White House in 1969 -- a crucial time in which international ratification of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was uncertain and U.S. policymakers feared that a Middle Eastern conflagration could lead to superpower conflict. Nearly four decades later, as the world struggles with nuclear ambitions in Iran, India and elsewhere, the ramifications of this hidden history are still felt.

Israel's nuclear program began more than 10 years before Helms's envelope landed on Nixon's desk. In 1958, Israel secretly initiated work at what was to become the Dimona nuclear research site. Only about 15 years after the Holocaust, nuclear nonproliferation norms did not yet exist, and Israel's founders believed they had a compelling case for acquiring nuclear weapons. In 1961, the CIA estimated that Israel could produce nuclear weapons within the decade.

The discovery presented a difficult challenge for U.S. policymakers. From their perspective, Israel was a small, friendly state -- albeit one outside the boundaries of U.S. security guarantees -- surrounded by larger enemies vowing to destroy it. Yet government officials also saw the Israeli nuclear program as a potential threat to U.S. interests. President John F. Kennedy feared that without decisive international action to curb nuclear proliferation, a world of 20 to 30 nuclear-armed nations would be inevitable within a decade or two.

The Kennedy and Johnson administrations fashioned a complex scheme of annual visits to Dimona to ensure that Israel would not develop nuclear weapons. But the Israelis were adept at concealing their activities. By late 1966, Israel had reached the nuclear threshold, although it decided not to conduct an atomic test.

By the time Prime Minister Levi Eshkol visited President Lyndon B. Johnson in January 1968, the official State Department view was that despite Israel's growing nuclear weapons potential, it had "not embarked on a program to produce a nuclear weapon." That assessment, however, eroded in the months ahead. By the fall, Assistant Defense Secretary Paul C. Warnke concluded that Israel had already acquired the bomb when Israeli Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin explained to him how he interpreted Israel's pledge not to be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons into the region. According to Rabin, for nuclear weapons to be introduced, they needed to be tested and publicly declared. Implicitly, then, Israel could possess the bomb without "introducing" it.

The question of what to do about the Israeli bomb would fall to Nixon. Unlike his Democratic predecessors, he and his national security adviser, Henry A. Kissinger, were initially skeptical about the effectiveness of the NPT. And though they may have been inclined to accommodate Israel's nuclear ambitions, they would have to manage senior State Department and Pentagon officials whose perspectives differed. Documents prepared between February and April 1969 reveal a great sense of urgency and alarm among senior officials about Israel's nuclear progress.

As Defense Secretary Melvin R. Laird wrote in March 1969, these "developments were not in the United States' interests and should, if at all possible, be stopped." Above all, the Nixon administration was concerned that Israel would publicly display its nuclear capabilities.

Apparently prompted by those high-level concerns, Kissinger issued NSSM 40 -- titled Israeli Nuclear Weapons Program -- on April 11, 1969. In it he asked the national security bureaucracy for a review of policy options toward Israel's nuclear program. In the weeks that followed, the issue was taken up by a senior review group (SRG), chaired by Kissinger, that included Helms, Undersecretary of State Elliot Richardson, Deputy Defense Secretary David Packard and Joint Chiefs Chairman Earle Wheeler.

The one available report of an SRG meeting on NSSM 40 suggests that the bureaucracy was interested in pressuring Israel to halt its nuclear program. How much pressure to exert remained open. Kissinger wanted to "avoid direct confrontation," while Richardson was willing to apply pressure if an investigation to determine Israel's intentions showed that some key assurances would not be forthcoming. In such circumstances, the United States could tell the Israelis that scheduled deliveries of F-4 Phantom jets to Israel would have to be reconsidered.

By mid-July 1969, Nixon had let it be known that he was leery of using the Phantoms as leverage, so when Richardson and Packard summoned Rabin on July 29 to discuss the nuclear issue, the idea of a probe that involved pressure had been torpedoed. Although Richardson and Packard emphasized the seriousness with which they viewed the nuclear problem, they had no threat to back up their rhetoric.

Richardson posed three issues for Rabin to respond to: the status of Israel's NPT deliberations; assurances that "non-introduction" meant "non-possession" of nuclear weapons; and assurances that Israel would not produce or deploy the Jericho ballistic missile. Rabin, however, was unresponsive except to say that the NPT was still "under study."

Nixon and Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir would have to address the nuclear issue when they met in late September.

Perhaps the most fateful event of this tale was Nixon's one-on-one meeting with Meir in the Oval Office on Sept. 26, 1969.

In the days before Meir's visit, the State Department produced background papers suggesting that the horse was already out of the barn: "Israel might very well now have a nuclear bomb" and certainly "already had the technical ability and material resources to produce weapon-grade material for a number of weapons." If that was true, it meant that events had overtaken the NSSM 40 exercise.

In later years, Meir never discussed the substance of her private conversation with Nixon, saying only, "I could not quote him then, and I will not quote him now." Yet, according to declassified Israeli documents, since the early 1960s, Meir had been convinced that "Israel should tell the United States the truth [about the nuclear issue] and explain why."

Even without the record of this meeting, informed speculation is possible. It is likely that Nixon started with a plea for openness. Meir, in turn, probably acknowledged -- tacitly or explicitly -- that Israel had reached a weapons capability, but probably pledged extreme caution. (Years later, Nixon told CNN's Larry King that he knew for certain that Israel had the bomb, but he wouldn't reveal his source.) Meir may have assured Nixon that Israel thought of nuclear weapons as a last-resort option, a way to provide her Holocaust-haunted nation with a psychological sense of existential deterrence.

Subsequent memorandums from Kissinger to Nixon provide a limited sense of what the national security adviser understood happened at the meeting. Kissinger noted that the president had emphasized to Meir that "our primary concern was that the Israeli [government] make no visible introduction of nuclear weapons or undertake a nuclear test program." Thus, Israel would be committed to conducting its nuclear affairs cautiously and secretly; their status would remain uncertain and unannounced.

On Feb. 23, 1970, Rabin told Kissinger privately that he wanted the president to know that, in light of the Meir-Nixon conversation, "Israel has no intention to sign the NPT." Rabin, Kissinger wrote, "wanted also to make sure there was no misapprehension at the White House about Israel's current intentions."

Kissinger informed Nixon that he told Rabin that he would notify the president. And with that, the decade-long U.S. effort to curb Israel's nuclear program ended. That enterprise was replaced by understandings negotiated at the highest level, between the respective heads of state, that have governed Israel's nuclear conduct ever since.

That so little is known today about the tale of NSSM 40 is not surprising. Dealing with Israel's nuclear ambitions was thornier for the Nixon administration than for its predecessors because it was forced to deal with the problem at the critical time when Israel appeared to be crossing the nuclear threshold.

Yet, even as Nixon and Kissinger enabled Israel to flout the NPT, NSSM 40 allowed them to create a defensible record. As was his typical modus operandi, Kissinger used NSSM 40 to maintain control over key officials who wanted to take action on the problem.

Politically, the Nixon-Meir agreement allowed both leaders to continue with their old public policies without being forced to openly acknowledge the new reality. As long as Israel kept the bomb invisible -- no test, declaration, or any other act displaying nuclear capability -- the United States could live with it.

Over time, the tentative Nixon-Meir understanding became the foundation for a remarkable U.S.-Israeli deal, accompanied by a tacit but strict code of behavior to which both nations closely adhered. Even during its darkest hours in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, Israel was cautious not to make any public display of its nuclear capability.

Yet set against contemporary values of transparency and accountability, the Nixon-Meir deal of 1969 now stands as a striking and burdensome anomaly. Israel's nuclear posture is inconsistent with the tenets of a modern liberal democracy. The deal is also burdensome for the United States, provoking claims about double standards in U.S. nuclear nonproliferation policy.

It is especially striking to compare the Nixon administration's stance toward Israel in 1969 with the way Washington is trying to accommodate India in 2006. As problematic as the proposed nuclear pact with New Delhi is, it at least represents an effort to deal openly with the issue.

Unlike the case of Iran today -- where a nation is publicly violating its NPT obligations and where the United States and the international community are acting in the open -- the White House in 1969 addressed the Israeli weapons program in a highly secretive fashion. That kind of deal-making would be impossible now.

Without open acknowledgment of Israel's nuclear status, such ideas as a nuclear-free Middle East, or even the inclusion of Israel in an updated NPT regime, cannot be discussed properly. It is time for a new deal to replace the Nixon-Meir understandings of 1969, with Israel telling the truth and finally normalizing its nuclear affairs.

Avner Cohen is a senior research fellow at the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland and author of "Israel and the Bomb" (Columbia University Press). William Burr is a senior analyst at the National Security Archive at George Washington University. A longer version of this article appears in the May/June issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

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US And Japan Urge Action On Iran And NKorea

by Peter Mackler
May 02, 2006

The United States and Japan pledged Monday to work for concerted UN action to rein in Iran's nuclear activities and urged North Korea to unconditionally rejoin talks on its own atomic weapons program.

In a joint statement after talks between their foreign ministers and defense chiefs, the allies also called on China to be more open about a military buildup that has drawn growing concern here.

The focus of the meeting of US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso and defense chief Fukushiro Nukaga was an agreement on realignment of US forces in Japan.
But the two sides, meeting at the State Department, also vowed to work together to counter "new and emerging threats" in the world, including Tehran's suspected efforts to develop nuclear weapons.

"They committed to work closely on efforts to convince Iran to suspend all enrichment-related activities and cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency's investigation, and agreed on the need for concerted United Nations Security Council action," the statement said.

It was issued as the United States was pressing for UN sanctions against Iran but running into resistance from Russia and China, which both hold a veto on the 15-member Security Council.

The Japanese and US delegations renewed their appeal to Pyongyang to return to six-nation negotiations on its nuclear arms program that have bogged down since a declaration of principles was adopted last September.

Their statement "urged North Korea to return expeditiously to the talks without preconditions, to dismantle its nuclear programs in a complete, verifiable and irreversible manner, and to cease all illicit and proliferation activities."

Aso also reiterated that for Tokyo it was "indispensable" to resolve the problem of North Korea's abductions of Japanese civilians in the 1970s and early 1980s for conversion into spies.

China's growing military might was clearly on the minds of the world's superpower and its chief Asian ally, which called for "greater transparency on the modernization of military capabilities in the region."

The joint statement did not mention Beijing by name, but Nukaga was more direct in his own remarks. "Concerning China, along with the economic growth, we see the increase in their defense budget," he said.

"It is very important to work with them so that they will increase the transparency of military capabilities of China to ensure a sense of security among the neighbors," Nukaga said. "And I made this point during the meeting."

The ministers also adopted a roadmap for restructuring American military presence in Japan, which they said "will lead to a new phase in alliance cooperation and strengthened alliance capabilities" in the Asia-Pacific region.

The roadmap would set the pace for the relocation of a key US air base as well as troops from the southern Japanese island of Okinawa by 2014.

Japan is the top US ally in Asia and the two sides have since 2002 been negotiating details of the realignment, including giving Japan's military greater responsibility for security in the region.

The package, originally due to be finalised by the end of March, has been delayed by a dispute over sharing the cost of moving 8,000 US Marines from Okinawa to the US Pacific island of Guam.

Tokyo finally agreed to shoulder 59 percent of the 10.27 billion dollars for the relocation of the Marines and their 9,000 family members. Washington had initially demanded it pay 75 percent of the tab, which includes construction of housing.

The US troop changes are part of a sweeping reorganisation of US forces throughout East Asia. US military presence in Japan and on Okinawa began at the end of World War II.

The two countries recently resolved another sticking point by agreeing to move a sprawling US Marine Corps air base from an urban area in Okinawa to a beach on the island.

There are currently more than 40,000 US troops in Japan, more than half of them in the Okinawa chain where islanders have long demanded a reduction in the US presence.

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Palestinian official warns of humanitarian disaster with aid cutoff

www.chinaview.cn 2006-05-02 17:13:16

RAMALLAH, May 2 (Xinhua) -- A senior Palestinian official warned on Tuesday of a looming humanitarian disaster on the Palestinian territories as western countries cut off crucial aid.

Saeb Erekat, Palestinian chief negotiator and senior aide to President Mahmoud Abbas, said that the aid cut would lead to a grave humanitarian disaster for all the Palestinian people.
Erekat made the statements upon arrival in the West Bank city of Ramallah after accompanying Abbas on a tour with the aim to secure aid and persuade European donors to continue financial support.

"The question of continuing aid or cutting it off is political,rather than technical," Erekat added, urging donors to resume aid as soon as possible.

In addition, the senior Palestinian official also called upon the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), which took the reins of the Palestinian government in late March, to honor related international resolutions and abide by previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements in order to avoid international isolation.

The United States and the European Union have cut off direct aid to the Hamas government since Hamas refuses to renounce violence, recognize Israel's right to exist and honor previous Palestinian-Israeli agreements.

Israel has also halted the monthly transfer of about 50 million U.S. dollars of tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinians since Hamas' sweeping victory in the January Palestinian legislative polls.

The aid cut has led to a grave financial crisis to the Hamas government and the daily life of ordinary Palestinians, who have been largely dependent on aid.

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French plan for Palestinians surprises World Bank

May 1, 2006

WASHINGTON - The World Bank was not informed of a French plan to use the global lender as a conduit for funds to the Hamas-led Palestinian government, but is studying the option, an official said Monday.

"We learnt about it the way you learnt about it - through the news," said Dina El Naggar, the World Bank spokeswoman for the Middle East region, after French President Jacques Chirac unveiled his proposal on Friday.

Chirac said in talks with Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas that a World Bank account could be used to send donors' payments directly to 160,000 Palestinian civil servants, bypassing the Hamas-led government.
The Hamas administration is being boycotted by Western powers because of the militant group's opposition to peace with Israel and its support for violence.

"We are currently considering various options to deliver aid effectively to the Palestinian people, because we realize the complexity of the present situation," El Naggar said.

"The Chirac proposal is one of the options. It is certainly not the only option we are looking at at this point," she added.

A long-standing financial crisis in the Palestinian Authority has hit disaster level since Hamas took office last month, with Israel withholding customs duties and the European Union and United States suspending direct aid.

The Hamas administration has been unable to pay any salaries since March. Given the heavy burden of 'state' machinery in the Palestinian territories, that affects the livelihoods of one million people or a quarter of the population.

The Hamas government said Friday it had no problem in principle with the Chirac proposal, but warned it would not be frozen out of paying its employees.

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Iraq mission 'on the way' to completion, Bush administration says

Tuesday May 2, 2006

Three years after US President George W. Bush prematurely stood beneath a banner hailing "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq, his administration said the war-torn country was finally "on the way" toward ushering in stability and democracy.

"We are on the way to accomplishing the mission and achieving victory," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan, on the three-year anniversary of a speech in which the president, standing on the deck of the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln, pronounced major US combat operations over in Iraq.
Bush's overly-optimistic assessment that "major combat operations" were over in Iraq and the now-infamous "Mission Accomplished" banner have been the subject of much criticism ever since, with thousands of US forces and Iraqi civilians killed in escalating violence over the past three years.

The Pentagon said that as of last Friday, 2,401 US forces were killed in Iraq, including 1,886 since Bush's aircraft carrier speech.

Bush put the event behind him Monday, declaring that after months of sectarian strife, Iraq had turned a corner after selection of a unity government.

"(We) are going to work with the new leadership to strengthen our mutual efforts to achieve success, a victory in this war on terror," he said in brief remarks delivered on the White House lawn Monday.

But opposition Democrats, who long have considered the "Mission Accomplished" incident among the administration's most embarrassing gaffes, could not resist needling Bush about the administration's missteps in Iraq.

"In honor of today's 'Mission Accomplished' anniversary, allow me to remind the president of some of his 'accomplishments' in Iraq," US Representative Rahm Emanuel, a Democratic leader in the US House, wrote in a press release.

Emanuel enumerated a long list of administration mistakes, including predictions "that the Iraq conflict would take no more than five months" and "that our troops would be greeted as liberators."

Other members of the opposition party piled on, with top Senate Democrat Harry Reid calling Monday "a sad anniversary of a sorry public relations stunt."

Democratic US Senator Ted Kennedy used the milestone to slam the administration, while honoring the US war dead and their survivors.

"For them, their families and loved ones, the mission is far from accomplished," Kennedy said from the floor of the US Senate.

Bush however said Monday that while some "tough days" are ahead, the worst is likely over.

"We believe this is a turning point for the Iraqi citizens, and it's a new chapter in our partnership," said Bush, flanked by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, fresh from their surprise visit last week to Iraq.

The president had praise for Iraq's prime minister-designate Nuri al-Maliki, who has been under pressure from a power-sharing government to curb sectarian violence.

"This new government is going to represent a new start for the Iraqi people. It's a government that understands they've got serious challenges ahead of them," Bush said, describing the new Iraqi leadership as "optimistic people."

"They're full of energy and they're very eager to succeed," he said.

Bush reiterated his view that not just the Iraqis but the United States stands to benefit from a stable, self-sufficient Iraq.

"A new Iraqi government represents a strategic opportunity for America, and the whole world, for that matter. This nation of ours and our coalition partners are going to work with the new leadership to strengthen our mutual efforts to achieve success, a victory in this war on terror," he said.

Rumsfeld, Rice and the new Iraqi leadership covered numerous topics in their meetings last week, including "the need to establish control over the militias and other unauthorized armed groups and enforce the rule of law," Bush said.

"We will support them in these efforts to achieve that important objective," said Bush, who said discussions also addressed "the need to rebuild infrastructure and strengthen their economy."

A Pentagon report published Monday said the reconstruction of Iraq had made "significant progress" in recent months despite "shortfalls and deficiencies."

Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, said in a quarterly report that oil production remained below pre-war levels and that "Iraqis are not yet fully benefiting from their nation's enormous oil supply."

The report also says 67 percent of the 21 billion dollars for reconstruction had been spent, and only two billion dollars more need to be allocated.

"Although the story of Iraq reconstruction has been punctuated by shortfalls and deficiencies, the infrastructure overview ... presents a picture of significant progress achieved through a substantial US investment of time, talent, and tax dollars in Iraq's relief and reconstruction," the report said.

Comment: A Bush administration spokesman continued: "No, really - this time we mean it! The mission is REALLY REALLY close to being accomplished! And our statements have nothing to do with the fact that our ratings are in the toilet. Honestly. Would we lie to you?"

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Mission Accomplished Day

By Cindy Sheehan

May 1st, 2006 will be the 3rd Anniversary of the end of "major combat" in Iraq. It was a glorious day when George Bush flew onto the deck of the Abraham Lincoln and was hailed by the rapturous throngs of toadie "news" persons such as Chris Matthews ("And that's the president looking very much like a jet, you know, a high-flying jet star," Hardball, May 1, 2003) and Bob Schieffer ("As far as I'm concerned, that was one of the great pictures of all time. And if you're a political consultant, you can just see campaign commercial written all over the pictures of George Bush." Meet the Press, May 4, 2003). What a fast and clean war! G. Gordon Liddy was enthralled with the president's package ("all those women who say size doesn't count -- they're all liars." Hardball, May 7, 2003) and a new era free from terrorism was ushered in.
This is the faith based fable of what happened almost exactly three years ago. The reality based scenario goes something like this:

- Over 2400 American soldiers (including my son who was killed almost a year after Mission Accomplished Day) have come home in cardboard boxes in cargo areas of planes in the secrecy of the night.

- Thousands of our young people wounded, many grievously also bused into Walter Reed and other hospitals in the dark of the night.

- Tons of rubble upon rubble in Iraq with inconsistent electrical power still and not much clean water or chance of future power and clean water.

- Hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians are dead, being punished for the sins of a leader who was propped up, armed and supported by many US Regimes.

The Mission Accomplished Day (or, Operation Codpiece) public relations' dream for the presidential pelvic zone has turned into a frighteningly real nightmare for so many people around the world who have had sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and oftentimes entire families wiped out and devastated by the strutting and smirking terrorist who was feeling mighty "chipper" last night at the Washington Correspondent's annual dinner as the 2400 th soldier was being killed and as the 2400th Gold Star Mother was falling on the floor screaming for her child. There are hundreds of thousands of people on our planet who will have a hard time ever feeling chipper again because of George Bush, no matter how good he looks in a flight suit.

Now that BushCo has done such a fantastic job with the invasion and occupation of Iraq that never should have happened, but now that it has happened is extraordinarily evil in its scope and tactics, he is warning Iran that if it doesn't shape up the US is going to come and impose freedom and democracy on that country. The rah-rah, "yes, sir" Congress who has an easy job of approving everything that George Bush does, thereby eliminating critical thinking, debate, or any semblance of rational discussion has voted for sanctions that will lead to an attack on Iran which will be devastating for our troops in Iraq and for that poor region that had the unfortunate luck to be built upon tremendous oil and natural gas reserves.

Only 21 Congress people voted "nay" on the Iran Freedom Support Act which is incredible considering what happened when they voted "yea" to give George Bush the green light for every sanction against Iraq and to invade it. I ran into one of the "yea" voters on the Iran Freedom Support Act, Rep. Major Owens, and I asked him why he voted that way. He said it was because he hated the "evil" regime of Iran. I asked him about our own evil, irresponsible regime! The radical President of Iran says very irresponsible and inflammatory things, but by all accounts is over a decade away from a nuclear weapon and is reigned in by the mullahs and the young population of Iran that is very westernized. We are in trouble with our one party system of government, which is the War Party.

Before we the people need to be subjected to another swaggering spectacle from George after he has bombed Iran back into the stone ages and has made we the people of the United States of America even more hated around the world, it is time to rein him in ourselves. Congress won't do it and the media is falling into lockstep behind the murder again.

It is time to fire the warniks whose bloodlust cannot be slated and hire people who will finally use their wisdom, integrity, and non-violence to solve problems, and won't create imaginary problems out of smoke and mirrors. We need a Congress that will hold George accountable not one that is complicit in the war crimes.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said: "We must live together as brothers, or perish together as fools." God protect us from the fools that we elected to protect us!

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Calm at the Center of the Storm

Published: May 2, 2006

HERE in the hometown of Iraq's prime minister-designate, Nuri al-Maliki, people are understandably excited. And not just because a local boy has done well. Rather, they hope Mr. Maliki's ascension is a sign that Iraq as a whole may emulate their province's remarkable success in combating Iraq's two main security threats: Sunni Arab terrorism and the infiltration of Shiite militias into the state security forces.

Hilla is the capital of Babil Province, 900 square miles just south of Baghdad that could well turn out to be the country's crucial province. Babil's population of 1.6 million, like that of Arab Iraq in general, is mostly Shiite with a Sunni minority. The province borders not only the capital but also the Sunni heartland, Anbar Province, to the west and the Shiite holy places Najaf and Karbala to the south. In the east, Babil's neighboring provinces stretch to Iran and feel its influence heavily.
Babil's date palm plantations, flat alluvial landscape and almost infinitely divided lattice of irrigation canals give the place a timeless and emblematic feeling. It was home to Babylon - and the Tower of Babel. Thus it was here that Iraq gave the world the "confusion of languages": what should be the blessing of diversity, now cast as the curse of identity politics.

If everything goes to pieces in Iraq, we will not hear much more about Babil. In that case it will be Anbar, Basra, Kirkuk, Sadr City and the Green Zone in Baghdad that will symbolize pessimism and disaster. But if things go well, or at least better - if Iraq still exists five years from now, and continues to be more free than all of its neighbors except Turkey and less of a threat to them than it used to be - then Babil will have been a major reason for the success.

Comment: If Iraq still exists five years from now, then things will have gone "better"???? From "liberating" then country and imposing Western-style democracy, to the shouts and cheers of the Iraqi people, we are not looking at a hopefull scenario of Iraq still existing in five years???

What Iraqis care about above all else these days is security, and Babil - apart from the so-called Death Triangle around the towns of Latifiya, Mahmudiya and Yusufiya in the Sunni north - is a safe place. In the December national elections, voter turnout in Babil was nearly 70 percent without a single serious incident of violence.

During the Shiite festival of Ashura this year, marked by 10 days of pilgrimage to Najaf and Karbala, some half a million pilgrims walked and drove through the province without reports of a single insurgent attack. Of the 81 civil reconstruction projects undertaken in Babil outside the Death Triangle in the last year - most related to water and electricity - not one has been attacked by Sunni insurgents or Shiite militias, according to the executive officer of the American troops here, the First Squadron of the 10th Cavalry. He told me that his troops had experienced only eight cases of hostile contact, and not a single casualty, since arriving in December. (They are vacating the base now and will not be replaced.)

Order here is not of the same magnitude as that in the Kurdish north, where 15 years of freedom have allowed the development of a highly efficient police state. Nor is it the false quiet of the south, where the allied forces' ceding of the streets to Shiites militias has masked a situation in which Basra is more frightening to liberal Iraqis and to foreigners than is Baghdad. Order in Babil is real order, not gangster order.

Comment: Hmm, police state in the Kurdish north and gangster order inthe south. Sounds like real progress... from the gangster police state of Saddam.

What really makes Babil special is that it is a largely Shiite province in which the Shiite militias - the Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigades - have almost no foothold. But they are trying. All Iraq's police answer to the Interior Ministry, which is held by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, the main Iranian organ in the country. And the interior minister, Bayan Jabr, has repeatedly tried to replace Babil's independent-minded provincial police chief, Gen. Qais Hamza al-Maamony. Under heavy pressure from the Americans, however, the minister agreed in January to a moratorium on the replacement of senior police officers until after the formation of the new government.

Comment: So the dangerous "foreign influence" in Iraq is...Iran!!! Forget the US presence, it's those nasty Iranians!

Nonetheless, according to American officials in the province, General Maamony was recently forced to accept 700 candidates recommended by the ministry - that is, by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution - for the incoming class of the provincial police academy. The police chief, I'm told, plans to spread these recruits as thinly as possible around the province upon their graduation to lessen their impact on the force.

General Maamony and his 8,000 men - especially the provincial SWAT teams, which supply the muscle that the relatively poorly trained and lightly armed regular police often cannot or will not provide - are understandably unpopular with the council and its military wing, the Badr Brigades. And they are equally feared by the Mahdi Army of the rebel Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr. A member of one local SWAT team often wears a baseball hat with "Mahdi Militia Killer" inscribed on it.

One Iraqi-American living here told me that he saw an operation in which the SWAT team drove up to a Mahdi checkpoint in civilian cars and clothes one night last year and killed 38 of the militiamen. While this number may be an exaggeration, unquestionably the local police forces are taking on the militias.

Of course, the Shiite militias are not the only danger. Up in the Sunni north, the province's police commandos mount 40-man daylight patrols in support of the overwhelmed local police officers, bouncing down rural byways, swerving around holes in the main roads created by homemade bombs, pointing out to me the places where in recent weeks they have fought in gun battles that often lasted several hours.

AT night they conduct more focused missions, often in the company of American Special Forces operatives, to apprehend suspected insurgents. One Special Forces commander told me he had worked with local policemen in just about every hot spot around the world since 1980, and that the Iraqi commandos in Babil are "the best any of us have ever seen."

They are also worried, as are their colleagues among the regular police. When the current moratorium on firing nonpartisan police officials expires with the formation of the new government (Mr. Maliki has about three weeks to finish that task), a momentous drama will break out inside the Interior Ministry in Baghdad. If the ministry stays in the hands of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution, then the people of Babil might find their streets and markets patrolled by men with greater allegiance to the council than to the legitimate Iraqi government and the country's best interests.

Comment: What "legitimate Iraqi government"? The US puppet government? Held in place by 150,000 US troops? The same government that would be sending these new police into this oasis of heaven in Iraq? Either the government is legitimate, and its orders are legitimate or not.

Should this happen, the assault commander of the provincial police commandos told me, he and his men might have to retire together to a rural compound where they would be out of jobs and out of uniform, but they could try to keep one another safe.

Can the new government prevent this success story at the heart of Arab Iraq from becoming yet another stronghold of theocrats, thugs and meddling neighbors? Handicapping Iraqi politics is a fool's game, of course, but if anyone can, it might well be Mr. Maliki. While he spent some years of his exile in Iran, he was the leader of the pro-Arab, rather than the pro-Iranian, wing of his party, Dawa. He has a strongly Shiite identity, yet his acceptance in his new post by Kurdish and Sunni politicians has been on surprisingly warm terms.

Undoubtedly, Mr. Maliki is less of an Iranian stooge and a far more forceful character than his predecessor, Ibrahim al-Jaafari. He also has solid anti-insurgent credentials. As chairman of the Parliament's national security committee, he was the architect of the popular new law that, among other things, attacks the economic basis of domestic insurgent support by going after the property and wealth of those convicted of abetting terrorists.

The key for the incoming government will be to apply this law vigorously in the knowledge that nonsectarian and nonpartisan control of local security forces is the key to domestic order and, ultimately, reconstruction.

Babil shows that such a thing is possible. But if this province is to continue to provide an island of relative order in the heart of Arab Iraq, people like General Maamony need to keep their jobs. For now, in the blast-walled compounds of the Hilla police forces and commandos, the real sense of siege is not from the insurgents and militias they fight almost every day, but from the politicians in Baghdad.

Comment: Welcome to Fantasy Iraq, as delivered to the doorstep of the readers of the New York Times. Read this aticle in conjunction with the editorial by Riverbend and see which one paints the more accurate picture of the landscape in Iraq, flat, alluvial or other.

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Roadside Bombs Kill 3 People in Iraq

Associated Press
May 2, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Roadside bombs killed a U.S. Army soldier and two Iraqi civilians, and police found the bodies of four Iraqi men in Baghdad who apparently had been kidnapped and tortured, police said Tuesday.

The U.S. military also announced that Iraq's Central Criminal Court had convicted 12 suspected insurgents in April of crimes such as joining a terrorist group. They included two men who were given life sentences for joining al-Qaida in Iraq operations: Hassan Abdullah Muhsin and Mohammed Dhaher Ibrahim Yassen Jazzah.
The American casualty occurred Monday night about 40 miles south of Baghdad in the Sunni-dominated "Triangle of Death," a farming region rife with sectarian violence and the scene of numerous ambushes against U.S. and Iraqi troops.

The bombing raised to at least 2,406 the number of members of the U.S. military who have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

In Tuesday's violence, a roadside bomb missed a U.S. convoy in Waziriyah, northern Baghdad, but killed an Iraqi pedestrian, said police Cap. Ali al-Obeidi. A roadside bomb also missed an Iraqi police patrol, killing one civilian and wounding another in western Baghdad, said police 1st Lt. Maithem Abdel-Razaq.

Police also found the bodies of four Iraqi men on the streets of Kazimiyah, a Shiite neighborhood in northern Baghdad, police Lt. Col. Falah al-Mohammedawi said. The legs and hands of the men were bound with rope, and each had been shot in the head and chest before being dumped on a street, he said.

On Monday, at least 15 bullet-riddled bodies were found in the capital, Iraq's Interior Ministry said. The victims were men aged 20-40 years; all were handcuffed and blindfolded.

U.S. officials hope the new Iraqi government, expected to be finalized this month, will be able to calm sectarian tensions and lure many minority Sunni Arabs away from the insurgency so U.S. and other international troops can begin heading home.

President Jalal Talabani was quoted by his office as saying Sunday that he had met with representatives of seven armed groups and was optimistic they would agree to lay down their arms. However, an official in Talabani's office said Monday the president did not meet with the groups and that his security adviser, Lt. Gen. Wafiq al-Sammaraie, made the contacts.

Another Kurdish politician, Mahmoud Othman, also said Talabani had not met with any insurgent representatives but that al-Sammaraie was in contact with undisclosed groups not linked to Saddam Hussein loyalists or al-Qaida in Iraq.

In Washington, President Bush said Monday he was convinced Iraq's leadership is "more determined that ever to succeed" with formation of a new permanent government.

"We believe we've got partners to help the Iraqi people realize their dreams," Bush said after meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who visited Baghdad last week. "They need to know that we stand with them."

Also Monday, the director general of Japan's Defense Agency, Fukushiro Nukaga, told the United States that Japan would withdraw its 600 non-combat troops deployed in southern Iraq at the same time that British and Australian troops are pulled out, the Kyodo News agency reported Tuesday.

The Japanese government has said in the past that it would consult with Britain and Australia before making any decisions to withdraw troops from Iraq and would take into consideration the political and security situation there.

A Japanese Defense Ministry spokeswoman told The Associated Press that the policy had not changed. She spoke on condition of anonymity according to department policy.

Australia, which has a total 1,320 troops in and around Iraq, has said it will keep forces in the country until they are no longer needed. Britain, which has the second largest foreign force in Iraq after the United States, announced in March cuts of about 10 percent in its force of 8,000.

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Al Jazeera polishes its English for new spinoff

By Mimi Turner
Tuesday May 2, 2006

LONDON - Its glossy new London offices may not be fully completed, but anticipation is already building for the summer launch of an English-language version of Al Jazeera, the Arab broadcaster denounced by U.S. Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld as a "terror network,"

With broadcast centers in Qatar, Washington, London and Kuala Lumpur and distribution in almost 40 million homes, Al Jazeera International is planning to take on the likes of such international news heavyweights as CNN, BBC World and CNBC in the international news arena. (It has yet to sign a U.S distribution deal though.)
Far from aping the competition, Al Jazeera executives say they are setting out to be unashamedly different.

"We are launching at a time when the freedom of the broadcast media has never been under more pressure," says head of news Steve Clark, who spent 17 years at British commercial broadcaster ITV and two years at Middle Eastern broadcaster MBC before joining the Doha, Qatar based broadcaster.

"I look at the U.S. and get dismayed by the lack of critical analysis of the Bush administration. Our job is to report impartially and without any agenda."

Al Jazeera International will share resources and facilities with its Arabic sister channel and the two broadcasters will work together on relevant stories, says Clark.

The news channel, which is mostly targeting the 2 billion or so non-Arabic speaking Muslims around the world, will offer a different perspective, says managing director Nigel Parsons, a former director of Associated Press Television News.

"We'll report the same news, but we might report it differently," he says. "If we were reporting the war in Iraq we would call it an illegal invasion based on false information and without the sanction of the United Nations. During the war we would have called American soldiers invading forces and afterwards we would have called them occupying forces," he says.

Asked how a Palestinian suicide bombing in a crowded Israeli marketplace would be reported, Parsons remains adamant that different conventions would apply.

"We don't condone acts of terror, but we'd be very careful about labeling particular groups as terrorists. There are an awful lot of double standards and a lack of balance that is not coming from us."

Parsons' line on U.S media is similarly uncompromising.

"U.S. networks are mostly owned by big business interests and have come under tremendous pressure from this administration. They are akin to the Soviet media in the seventies."

Ever since Al Jazeera Arabic broadcast video tapes of Osama Bin Laden in the aftermath of 9/11, the network has been a target for political controversy. In addition to being criticized by Rumsfeld, it was also attacked by British Prime Minister Tony Blair for showing the bodies of British soldiers.

"Al Jazeera is one of the best-known news brands in the world," says Dr. Nasser Hadian, professor of political science at Tehran University. "It has spawned a lot of imitators, but it remains the most watched broadcaster in the region and outside."

The channel was originally born out of failed plans by the BBC in the late nineties to launch an Arabic-language news channel in the region. When the British public broadcaster backed out of the project, the politically progressive emir of the tiny Gulf state of Qatar stepped in to bankroll the operation instead.

Al Jazeera International has opted to broadcast its signal out of London and is governed by a broadcast license issued by British media regulator Ofcom, which has stringent guidelines on issues of impartiality, taste and decency.

Parsons and Clark have also hired a string of high-profile journalists to underpin its editorial credentials, including such luminaries as Sir David Frost, the BBC's Rageh Omaar, former CNN anchor Riz Khan, former CNBC Washington correspondent Rob Reynolds and Kimberly Halkett from Canada's Global National network.

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Provoking Iran

Israeli: World Has Means to Stop Iran

By LAURIE COPANS, Associated Press Writer
Tue May 2, 4:27 AM ET

JERUSALEM - The world has the military might to prevent
Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, Israel's military chief said in comments published Tuesday, after Iran pressed President Bush to rule out a nuclear strike against Tehran.

Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz also said that if Iran does obtain nuclear capability, it will constitute a threat to Israel's existence. When asked if the world can, militarily, stop Iran's nuclear program, Halutz told the Maariv newspaper: "The answer is yes."

Asked whether Israel would be involved in such a military operation against its top enemy, Halutz said, "We are part of the world."
Western nations have been considering tough sanctions - not yet including military action - against Iran if it continues with its program to enrich uranium, a process that can produce fuel for a nuclear reactor or fissile material for a bomb. Iran contends it has a right to enrich uranium as long as it does not attempt to use it for nuclear weapons.

Bush has refused to rule out military action in response to the Iranian nuclear standoff. When asked last month whether U.S. options regarding Iran "include the possibility of a nuclear strike" if Tehran refuses to halt uranium enrichment, Bush replied, "All options are on the table." He stressed, however, the United States will continue to focus on diplomacy.

In a letter to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan obtained by The Associated Press on Monday, Iran's U.N. Ambassador Javad Zarif called Bush's refusal to rule out a U.S. nuclear strike on Iran "illegal and insolent threats."

Zarif said the use of "false pretexts" by senior U.S. officials "to make public and illegal threats of resort to force against the Islamic Republic of Iran is continuing unabated in total contempt of international law and fundamental principles of the United Nations Charter."

The "U.S. aggressive policy" of contemplating the possible use of nuclear weapons also violates the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and other U.S. multilateral agreements, he said.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly spoken out against Israel and threatened to wipe it "off the map."

While Israeli government and military officials had been very vocal in calling for action against Iran, they have toned down their comments in recent weeks, wishing to take a low profile as the world proceeds in its efforts to stop the Iranian program.

Officials from the five permanent U.N. Security Council members gather Tuesday in Paris to discuss International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei's report to the council that Iran was in violation of the council's demand that Tehran stop enriching uranium. The report opened the way for the council to take punitive measures against Iran, but immediate action is not likely because Russia and China are opposed to sanctions.

Israel is convinced international efforts against the Iranian program can help persuade Tehran to back down, Halutz said.

Halutz told Maariv it is not clear if Iran will be able to achieve nuclear capability by the end of the decade, as Israeli officials had predicted earlier. But if Iran does one day possess a nuclear weapon, it would constitute a threat to Israel's existence, Halutz said.

"When the Iranians will have a nuclear, military capability, then we will be able to talk about an existential threat," Halutz said. "If they have a nuclear weapon and the rulers speak as they do today, this combination will be a dangerous combination for Israel."

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UN permanent members to mull Iranian nuclear issue in Paris

www.chinaview.cn 2006-05-02 18:53:26

PARIS, May 2 (Xinhua) -- The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, plus Germany, are to meet Tuesday in Paris after failing to reach agreement last month over the Iranian nuclear issue.

It is the first meeting at political director-level grouping Britain, China, France, Russia, the United States and Germany since the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced Friday that Iran hadn't cooperated nor suspended its nuclear program.
Teheran remained inflexible over its nuclear program despite a UN injunction giving it one month to suspend all uranium enrichment activities.

Iran said Monday that it had seen no reason to comply with and it has written to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to complain about the reported threat of a U.S. attack with or without UN approval.

The Western are seeking at the Paris meeting to a UN Security Council resolution that is expected to legally constrain Iran to obey to its obligations, diplomats said.

The closed-door talks will open the door for a foreign ministers' meeting of the six countries on May 9 in New York.

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Iran says Russia and China will not back sanctions

Tue May 2, 2006

TEHRAN - Iran's foreign minister was quoted on Tuesday as saying that Russia and China had officially informed Tehran they would not support sanctions or military action over the Islamic Republic's nuclear program.
U.N. ambassadors from the United States, Britain and France are expected to introduce a resolution this week to legally oblige Iran to comply with U.N. Security Council demands it halt all uranium enrichment work.

When asked how far Russia and China, veto-wielding permanent members of the council, would support Washington, Manouchehr Mottaki told the Kayhan newspaper:

"The thing these two countries have officially told us and expressed in diplomatic negotiations is their opposition to sanctions and military attacks."

"At the current juncture, I personally believe no sanctions or anything like that will be on the agenda of the Security Council," he said in the interview.

Western diplomats say China and Russia will probably back a U.N. resolution demanding a halt to Iran's fuel work, but are not yet ready to back moves toward sanctions.

Iran has been hauled before the U.N. Security Council after failing to convince the international community that its nuclear power station program is not a front for building an atom bomb.

China and Russia both have big energy interests in Iran, the world's fourth biggest oil exporter. In 2005, more than 11 percent of China's crude imports came from Iran. Russia's LUKOIL is exploring the Anaran oilfield in western Iran.

China is also planning a multi-billion-dollar deal to buy Iranian Liquefied Natural Gas when it comes onstream in return for an upstream stake in a huge southern Iranian oilfield.

Russia has been helping Iran build its first nuclear power station at the southern port of Bushehr, a $1 billion project, and Tehran has said it is keen for foreign firms, particularly Russian, to play a role in building more reactors.

However, both China and Russia also have strong trade ties with the United States and European Union whose positions on Iran are becoming increasingly united.

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US deceiving world on Iran nuclear program: official


The US is trying to deceive the world on Iran's nuclear program by making it appear that the program has objectives beyond civilian ones, said Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Mohammad-Javad Zarif today.

He told PBS TV that Washington's repetition of accusations on different occasions is intended to portray Iran as having objectives other than peaceful ones in its nuclear porogram, Zarif said.

He once again stressed that Tehran's nuclear activities were entirely for peaceful purposes adding "Iran has presented various proposals including technical, legal, political and supervisory mechanisms in order to prove its nuclear program is for civilian purposes."

He said "Our history proves that in the past 250 years we have not attacked any country but have been attacked by others .. Chemical weapons have been used against us and we just defended ourselves. We did not even used chemical weapons in retaliation."

On the other hand, the envoy said, Israel "has a track record of invading its neighbors, is known to possess a nuclear arsenal and continues to resist membership in the international treaty." "Can the US or Israel, following Iran, say under oath that they have not attacked or threatened any country and would not do so in the future?," he asked.

As for the previously announced Tehran-Washington talks, Zarif said Iran had "positively responded to the US call for bilateral talks on ways to help the Iraqi people achieve stability in their war-torn country," adding that the call had the support also of senior Iraqi officials.

Zarif, alluding to the cancellation of the talks, said it was not clear "why US had changed its approach after Tehran said it was ready to enter into talks with Washington on Iraq." "This will prove that they (US authorities) were not serious in their desire to hold talks as can be gleaned in their making the conditions difficult for negotiation," Zarif said.

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Iran complains to UN chief over threat of US nuclear attack

Mon May 1, 2006

TEHRAN - Iran complained to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan over what it perceives as the threat of a United States attack, as the regime continued to defy demands to halt its disputed nuclear drive.

In a letter forwarded to the United Nations chief by Iran's ambassador in New York, Mohammad Javad Zarif, the regime condemned "American officials for their illegitimate and open threats to use force against the Islamic republic of Iran".
"These are in obvious contravention of international rules and the principles of the United Nations," the letter was quoted as saying by the official news agency IRNA.

It said that "these rude threats have recently been publicised through some reports in US newspapers", and noted a report in The New Yorker magazine last month which said US military planners had even looked into using nuclear 'bunker-busters' to strike Iran's atomic facilities.

"These (threats) have entered a new stage, with the refusal of US officials to deny these reports," the letter said, calling for "serious attention" as well as "quick and firm action" from the world body.

The complaint came as diplomats from the five permanent Council members and Germany were to meet in Paris Tuesday and again at the foreign ministers level in New York on May 9, following up on an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report confirming Iran has not complied with demands to freeze uranium enrichment.

The United States and Europe are hoping a reluctant Russia and China will agree to a robust resolution that legally obliges Iran to halt the sensitive work -- which makes reactor fuel but can also be extended to make the core of an atom bomb.

But even if they succeed in reaching a consensus, Iran looked unlikely to back down.

"The struggle of the Iranian people against the United States is like the struggle between Moses and the pharaoh," commented Mohsen Rezai, the right-wing secretary of the country's top political arbitration body, the Expediency Council.

"For the Americans, it is not a nuclear issue but one of Iran progressing to become developed and powerful," he told the ISNA news agency, repeating the regime's view that the crisis is merely an extension of US ambitions to see the ouster of Iran's ruling clerics.

Iran's top national security official Ali Larijani also argued that there was "no sense" in the country returning to a suspension of enrichment.

"A suspension does not make any sense to us, because we do not think an atomic bomb can come out of a 164 centrifuge cascade," he was quoted as saying by the ISNA news agency.

Iran has installed 164 centrifuges at a pilot plant in Natanz, situated in the desert south of Tehran.

Iran argues it is so far only carrying out small-scale "research" work, and that it only wants to eventually make civilian reactor fuel. On Friday a UN Security Council deadline for the work to stop expired without Iranian compliance.

What Tehran wants is to continue enrichment and keep the case out of the Security Council, which unlike the IAEA has enforcement powers. Iran argues it only wants to generate electricity and that fuel cycle work is therefore a right enshrined by the NPT.

Iran has been seeking to split Council members by balancing threats of tough reprisals -- such as ending IAEA inspections -- if the pressure mounts and some concessions if it eases.

Russia and China are for the time being opposed to any sanctions, or a resolution invoking the UN Charter's Chapter 7 -- a reference which would open the door to political and economic sanctions and even, as a last resort, military action.

US President George W. Bush on Monday telephoned his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to discuss ways to block Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, White House spokesman Scott McClellan.

McClellan said the two leaders "committed to remaining in close contact on this important priority".

They also "reiterated their desire to conclude the US-Russia bilateral negotiations on Russia's accession to the WTO (World Trade Organization) soon," the spokesman said.

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Iranian cries in the wilderness

By Gareth Porter
May 2, 2006

WASHINGTON - Iranian leaders have been signaling to Washington since late last year that Iran wanted direct negotiations with the United States on Tehran's nuclear program and other outstanding issues between the two countries.

The campaign began with private talks between Iranian officials and foreign visitors in the country, and has included public suggestions by members of the Iranian parliament for US-Iranian talks. But last week, President Mahmud Ahmadinejad indicated for the first time that he was open to talks with Washington.
In an hour-long press conference on April 24, Ahmadinejad said Iran "is ready to talk to all world countries, but negotiation with anybody has its own conditions", and then specifically named the United States. "If these conditions are met, we will negotiate."

Ahmadinejad's remark, which was reported by the independent Paris-based Iran News Service, went unnoticed in the US media. However, the media did report the Iranian president's statement in the same press conference that talks with the US on Iraq were not necessary now that a government had been set up in Baghdad.

Although Ahmadinejad did not say what Iran's conditions for talks were, the Iranian response to the US proposal last November for bilateral talks on Iraq may be a good indication of what Tehran has in mind. When Iraqi President Jalal Talabani took the US proposal to Tehran on a visit in November, in which he met Ahmadinejad, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and other top leaders, he was told Iran would agree to talks on two conditions: they would remain private and they would involve all outstanding issues between the two countries.

Despite a common view in the media, reflecting official US views, that Ahmadinejad has taken Iranian policy in a much more radical direction since he took office last August, Iranian leaders, including those who have been critical of some of Ahmadinejad's public rhetoric, have publicly emphasized that Iran's nuclear policy is not determined by the president.

In late February and early March Hassan Rohani, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council for 16 years, stated on two different occasions that Iran's stance on the nuclear issue was decided by the state's top officials and not by the current government. "Iran's general policies do not change with new governments," he said on February 20.

Although it was the first time that Ahmadinejad had commented on the subject of talks with the US, his press-conference remark was not the first direct public indication by the Iranian government of interest in negotiations with the US on both the nuclear issue and other security questions.

On March 6, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said, "What we are saying is that if America abandons its threats and creates a positive atmosphere in which it does not seek to influence the process of negotiations by imposing preconditions, then there will be no impediment to negotiations."

These new public signals came against a background of a quiet diplomatic campaign by Iranian officials in recent months to communicate Iran's readiness to negotiate directly with the US on broad security issues. They have sent that message through both diplomats and other prominent figures who have met with them in Tehran.

A statement published in the International Herald Tribune by former foreign ministers of the US, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, France and Luxembourg said the five European members of the group had all "met with influential Iranian officials during the past few months and found a widespread interest among them in conducting a broad discussion with the United States on security issues".

The current campaign is not the first by Iran to interest Washington in direct negotiations on security issues. In early May 2003, the Swiss ambassador in Tehran, Tim Guldimann, who represented US interests in the country, forwarded to Washington a one-page Iranian proposal that offered to meet US concerns about the nuclear issue and Iranian support for Hezbollah and other anti-Israeli groups, in return for security guarantees and an end to economic sanctions.

That negotiating initiative, which was said to have the support of Supreme Leader Khamenei and the Supreme National Security Council, was also preceded by a quiet campaign of signals by Iranian officials through both official diplomatic channels and non-official channels of Iranian interest in such negotiations, according to Paul Pillar, who was then the United States' national intelligence officer on Iran.

The Iranians apparently believed the time was ripe for negotiations, because of the potential chaos that could engulf Iraq in the wake of the US invasion, and the US need for the cooperation of Iranian-sponsored Shi'ite political parties and military groups who were responsive to Iranian advice.

Bush administration officials had also begun in late 2002 to express alarm at the progress made in Iran's nuclear program and alleged Iranian plans to develop a nuclear weapons capability. "The Iranians expected and had plenty of reason to expect that this would be a good moment to approach the United States," said Pillar.

The George W Bush administration ignored the Iranian proposal in 2003 and has publicly rejected possible talks with Iran on the nuclear issue in recent months. However, Iran's announcement in early April that it had achieved a 3.6% level of enrichment of uranium - the first step toward having a level of enrichment necessary to make a nuclear weapon - has made a negotiated solution to the issue much more urgent.

After that announcement, the two top members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chairman Richard Lugar and ranking Democrat Joseph Biden, called for direct US talks with Iran.

Some analysts familiar with the thinking of Iranian national-security officials believe they have gone ahead with partial enrichment to position themselves for broader talks with the US going beyond the nuclear issue.

"Enrichment has become a big bargaining chip," said Iranian journalist Najmeh Bozorgmehr, who has had access to top Iranian leaders in off-the-record interviews for the past several years. "They are producing facts on the ground that would give them leverage in negotiations with the United States."

Bozorgmehr, now a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, said the Iranians hoped to get the removal of sanctions, security guarantees and guaranteed fuel supply in return for concessions on the fuel-enrichment issue.

Journalist Praful Bidwai reported for Inter Press Service last week that government officials and other experts in Tehran told him there was "fairly broad agreement" that a compromise proposal on the nuclear issue and security guarantees and normalization of US relations with Iran could be negotiated.

Gareth Porter is a historian and national security policy analyst. His latest book, Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam, was published last June.

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The case against sanctions on Iran

By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
May 2, 2006
Asia Times

As expected, the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, has issued a report citing Iran's non-compliance with the requests of both the IAEA's board of governors and the United Nations Security Council, and this has been widely interpreted as paving the way to UN sanctions on Iran in the near future. But has it?
Sanctions can be resorted to under Chapter VII of the UN Charter when considered by the Security Council to be absolutely necessary. To do so, the council would have to determine, under Article 39 of Chapter VII, the existence of any "threat to the

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peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression" caused by Iran's nuclear activities.

Yet, per the admission of ElBaradei in his report, all of Iran's nuclear activities "are covered by Agency Safeguard containment and surveillance measures". This, together with the important finding that all nuclear material has been accounted for, raises a serious questions from the prism of international law: On what basis can the Security Council invoke Chapter VII against Iran?

Surely, the IAEA's complaint of Iran's non-cooperation with its requests for "confidence-building measures" that are voluntary and non-legally binding cannot possibly suffice to grant the United States' wish for invoking Chapter VII, for to do so is to substitute superpower exigencies for international law.

Put simply, there is insufficient and/or non-existing evidence, the calculated disinformation aside, to support Western allegations of an Iranian weapons build up; these allegations, initially claiming clandestine activities, have now almost entirely focused on Iran's transparent nuclear activities without, however, being able to pin-point any discernable signs of military use via those activities.

The Israelis, however, are the sole exception. They told the London Sunday Times that they had evidence of hidden Iranian centrifuge facilities working overtime to cut the timeline for nuclear bombs shorter. Such alarmist news from Israel has been heard before aplenty, and distinctly reminds one of Israel's similar gambit with regard to Iraq in 2002-2003.

Here is the nub of the IAEA/Security Council dilemma: they have both called for "re-establishing full and sustained suspension of all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development". And yet, in light of the absence of any "smoking gun" lending validity to the allegations of Iran's nuclear-weapon "ambitions", as well as some 2,000 man-day inspections of civil and nuclear facilities during the past three years, the legal justification for a permanent suspension of Iran's enrichment-related activities under the terms of the non-proliferation regime is simply absent.

To insist on this demand based on hitherto unfounded fears of Iran's misuse of dual-purpose technology is to set up arbitrary red lines that would be tantamount to legal nihilism.

Ironically, ElBaradei writes that "transparency measures are not yet forthcoming", this when his own report contains Iran's April 27 letter to the IAEA pledging to set up a timetable within three weeks to resolve all outstanding questions. Either ElBaradei is interested in procuring more and more cooperation with Iran or he is not, for obvious political reasons, and if he is, then his claim that Iran's transparency measures are not forthcoming must be revised.

To open a parenthesis here, whereas ElBaradei's report confirms Iran's recent claim of having successfully enriched uranium, various Washington pundits such as Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies have dismissed Iran's claim as "vacuous political posturing". Clearly, Cordesman and other policy pundits listened to attentively by the US government and the big media need to check their sources before leveling such stupefying allegations against Iran.

The mere fact that, by ElBaradei's own admission, most of the outstanding questions, such as regarding the (foreign) sources of contamination of Iranian equipment with HEU (highly enriched uranium), have been successfully resolved in Iran's favor represents yet more cold water on the furnace of sanctions on Iran.

Indeed, the existence of small "gaps" in knowledge mentioned in ElBaradei's report hardly reinforces the momentum toward sanctions, in view of the fact that Iran is not alone and the IAEA's annual reports are filled with complaints of non-compliance by dozens of member states.

The issue is that Iran should not be subjected to punitive sanctions for exercising the same rights enjoyed by the Permanent Five members of the Security Council as well as Germany, Brazil and Japan. To do so would be to undermine the very legitimacy of the UN and its most powerful organ, which has yet to recover fully from the United States' Machiavellian manipulations with regard to Iraq three years ago.

Mindful of such a distinct possibility, Kofi Annan, the UN's secretary general, has on more than one occasion warned that the Iran crisis could be detrimental for the United Nations and that the issue should remain within the IAEA. Similarly, Russian officials have warned that the Security Council should not try to replace the IAEA.

Also, within the General Assembly, there is considerable opposition to the ill-advised recommendations for sanctions on Iran which, if implemented by the Security Council, may in effect negatively affect the UN's global image, as a surrogate of US power, and its ability to perform its functions with respect to peace and security in the Middle East and beyond.

Yet, US officials have yet to show any signs of grasping the potentially adverse consequences, for the UN as well as the future of the Middle East, if their meritless push for UN sanctions is adopted. Their current drive needs to be rethought in the light of a more sound grasp of the existing alternatives.

But assuming for a moment that the US and its European allies somehow manage to get Chapter VII invoked at the Security Council, which is bound to cause further ire in Iran and, indeed, the entire Muslim world and most if not all of the Non-Aligned Movement, then Iran's non-compliance with the initial token sanctions will put the council in serious jeopardy.

Either it will not escalate the pressure with tougher sanctions, in which case Iran's case will be yet another example of the council's impotence, or it will seek Iran's compliance by imposing more and more "smart" sanctions that will be, in effect, legally dumb and, as a result, accentuate the UN's perception as a superpower pawn. The members of the Permanent Five (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States) and Germany are due to meet this week to discuss what action to take.

Iran's enrichment knowledge is a fait accompli and Iranian centrifuges are spinning irrespective of the United States' wish to "stop even one centrifuge from rotating", to echo a US official at last year's nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) conference in New York. Henceforth, the world should accept to live with Iran's nuclear capability and do what is necessary to make sure that Iran's pledge of non-military diversion of its peaceful program is verified through the IAEA's instruments. It is noteworthy that last spring, French President Jacques Chirac, in his meeting with Iran's chief negotiator, fleetingly consented to Iran's enrichment right, only to buckle under external pressure.

Of course, the weaknesses of the US-EU's legal hand at the Security Council is the main reason there is a growing talk of sanctions "outside the UN" by a so-called "coalition of the willing". Again, any such sanctions would be contrary to international law and, most likely, incapable of garnering Iran's forfeiture of its NPT-based right to an independent fuel cycle, only causing commercial and financial setbacks for any country lured or coerced into this coalition.

The possibility that any of Iran's neighbors, including Turkey, which has burgeoning economic relations with Iran and cooperates with it within the multilateral framework of the Economic Cooperation Organization, would join such a coalition is rather remote.

As a result, the US and its European Union allies are about to take the "unnecessary" Iran crisis to the next level, portending first and foremost a diplomatic disaster for them, and for the well-spring of international laws and regimes.

A more prudent approach would be to use persuasive diplomacy with Iran, to put Iran's security anxieties to rest and induce greater and greater nuclear transparency in an atmosphere devoid of military threats. Only then can the outside world feel reasonably secure that Iran's nuclear-weapon potential will remain latent; otherwise, if the pattern of escalating pressures continues, then the most likely scenario will be one of "self-fulfilling prophecy" wherein a potential nuclear state sets aside its own declared antipathy to nuclear weapons and embraces them under unreasonable external pressures.

Kaveh L Afrasiabi, PhD, is the author of After Khomeini: New Directions in Iran's Foreign Policy (Westview Press) and co-author of "Negotiating Iran's Nuclear Populism", the Brown Journal of World Affairs, Volume XII, Issue 2, Summer 2005, with Mustafa Kibaroglu. He is also author of Iran's Nuclear Program: Debating Facts Versus Fiction.

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America - De Facto Dictatorship

You know you're living in a dictatorship when telling the truth becomes a crime - If that's not tyranny, what is?

by Len Hart
May 1, 2006

It's not bad enough that Bush has arrogated unto himself the power to modify statutes with so-called "signing statements". It's not bad enough that Bush has orchestrated an unprecedented crack down on dissent to include Soviet-style prosecutions of reporters on espionage charges; it's not enough that Busheviks have taken aim on the internet itself! Bush is now enforcing -as "law" - measures that have not even passed both houses of Congress. There is a phrase for this: rule by decree! Another word is "tyranny".
In response, Rep. John Conyers is taking the so-called "President" to court. Conyers, and a distinguished list of co-plaintiffs, will challenge in court the dictatorial and unconstitutional powers that Bush has arrogated unto himself. It would appear that the "third act" has already begun.
As some of you may be aware, according to the President and Congressional Republicans, a bill does not have to pass both the Senate and the House to become a law. Forget your sixth grade civics lesson, forget the book they give you when you visit Congress - "How Our Laws Are Made," and forget Schoolhouse Rock. These are checks and balances, Republican-style.
- Congressman John Conyers
At issue is the GOP budget bill that cuts funding for student loans and medicaid. According to Conyers, the bill struggled to make its way through Congress and House Republicans preferred not to make GOP members vote on it again. The GOP merely certified the measure was the same as a Senate bill and sent it to Bush for his signature. The measure, in fact, differed. Despite warnings, Bush signed it and will now enforce it as if it were the "...law of the land."
Several public interest groups have sought to stop some parts of the bill from being implemented, under the theory that the bill is unconstitutional. However, getting into the weeds a bit, they have lacked the ability to stop the entire bill. To seek this recourse, the person bringing the suit must have what is called "standing," that is they must show they were injured or deprived of some right. Because the budget bill covers so many areas of the law, it is difficult for one person to show they were harmed by the entire bill. Thus, many of these groups have only sought to stop part of it.
- Congressman Conyers
There is one group that is harmed by the measure as a whole: members of the House of Representatives. Conyers is going to court on behalf of the House!

Clearly this is a significant development in the ongoing effort to check Bush's dictatorial power grab. This is one branch of government going to court to check an unconstitutional power grab by another. How this bill fares in the courts will affect every U.S. citizen. Anyone with an interest in stopping the Bush dictatorship had best pay attention to the progress of this lawsuit.

Here's the irony: Bush's most egregious power grabs have occurred since falling from grace. His approval ratings were already in the 30's when he declared that he was "above the law" and did not need warrants to spy on American citizens. Since that time, Bush is now poised to prosecute those who dare to make public his program of widespread domestic surveillance.
... the Bush administration is exploring a more radical measure to protect information it says is vital to national security: the criminal prosecution of reporters under the espionage laws.
- White House could prosecute journalists in news leak stories
His NeoCon constituency puts forward a dubious "unitary executive" theory, citing Bush's "inherent powers" during a time of war. Nevermind that war was never declared, was not authorized by the U.N. Resolution that Bushies often point to, and is, in fact, a violation of the Nuremberg Principles. Nevermind that the attack and invasion itself is a crime against the peace. As such, it violates U.S. Criminal Codes, Section 2441.

In fact, Bush has made of the "Presidency" a totalitarian regime in which telling the truth about the regime has been made a crime by decree. If this is not tyranny, then what is? If truth is officially suppressed, then only lies are left. A regime premised upon a pack of lies is not legitimate.

Not surprisingly, the Busheviks are covering their tracks with Stalinist tactics: official secrets. "Official Secrets", of course, are whatever Bush says they are. As we write, the Bush dictatorship has ordered the reclassification of millions of documents to prevent them being seen by American citizens. Anyone citing, quoting, or making public these documents to reveal the truth about Bush's illegal, unconstitutional coup d'etat will be prosecuted. The charge: espionage!

The Bush administration is not a "Presidency", it is a criminal conspiracy. The GOP is not a political party, it's a crime syndicate.

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America's Hitler: Doing the Unthinkable - Comparing Bush and Hitler - Part 1 of 5

by Lonna Gooden VanHorn
May 1, 2006

Protestor's sign confiscated by German police during Bush's Feb. 2005, visit:

"We had our Hitler, now you have yours."

What follows is a comparison between Hitler's rise to dictatorial power in 1930's Germany and the Bush administration's rise to dictatorial power in America today, focusing on the role "religion" and "patriotism" played in both. It is based largely on the psychological study of Hitler commissioned by the United States government during WWII and undertaken by a team of people including psychologist Walter C. Langer in 1942-43. It was published in 1972 as a book titled "The Mind of Adolph Hitler" by Walter C. Langer.
(L.) indicates Langer's words, (H.) indicates Hitler's words.

It has been deemed unacceptable, even laughable to talk about or write about G.W. Bush's administration as being like that of Adolph Hitler. But now, with Bush's claims to extraordinary "war times" powers -- claims which have, alas, gone largely unchallenged by Congress and todays media -- coupled with his description of Iran's leader as being "like Hitler" and the fact that nearly identical measures are being used by this administration [parroted by a still largely stenographic press] to fear-monger America's people into war against Iran that were used to fear-monger the public into supporting war against Iraq, perhaps the public should be given a glimpse of how the good people of Germany allowed Hitler to become, over time, the monster he became.

It is interesting to note that many of the people who are most convinced of the truth of the premise that Bush is like Hitler and America is like Germany was in the 1930's are people who lived in Germany while Hitler was in power. Indeed, a gentleman who grew up in Germany under Hitler and emigrated to America following WWII moved back to Europe last year. He said he was leaving because what is going on now in America is what he had experienced in Germany when he was a kid and he could not bear to stay and see that sort of thing happen in America. He said he had been too young to be able to help try to stop Hitler in Germany, and he is too old to be able to help stop Bush's takeover in America. He said he would pray for us. link

I include here an excerpt of the writing of just one person who lived under Hitler during the Holocaust:

"So why, now, when I hear GWB's speeches, do I think of Hitler? Why have I drawn a parallel between the Nazis and the present administration? Just one small reason -the phrase 'Never forget'. Never let this happen again. It is better to question our government - because it really can happen here - than to ignore the possibility.

"So far, I've seen nothing to eliminate the possibility that Bush is on the same course as Hitler. And I've seen far too many analogies to dismiss the possibility. The propaganda. The lies. The rhetoric. The nationalism. The flag waving. The pretext of 'preventive war'. The flaunting of international law and international standards of justice. The disappearances of 'undesirable' aliens. The threats against protesters. The invasion of a non-threatening sovereign nation. The occupation of a hostile country. The promises of prosperity and security. The spying on ordinary citizens. The incitement to spy on one's neighbors -and report them to the government. The arrogant triumphant pride in military conquest. The honoring of soldiers. The tributes to 'fallen warriors. The diversion of money to the military. The demonization of government appointed 'enemies'. The establishment of 'Homeland Security'. The dehumanization of 'foreigners'. The total lack of interest in the victims of government policy. The incarceration of the poor and mentally ill. The growing prosperity from military ventures. The illusion of 'goodness' and primacy. The new einsatzgrupen forces. Assassination teams. Closed extralegal internment camps. The militarization of domestic police. Media blackout of non-approved issues. Blacklisting of protesters - including the no-fly lists and photographing dissenters at rallies..."link

Nevertheless, it is certainly true that George Bush is not Adolph Hitler. He has not built crematoriums to exterminate people (although his refusal to disallow torture and his hypocritical policy of "extraordinary rendition" comes uncomfortably close to the concept of deliberate extermination to me), the wars he has initiated have not (yet) been responsible for the deaths of anywhere near the fifty million people who died in World War II world-wide.

I am sure it is not, now, Bush's wish to commit murder in those kinds of numbers. But, he confided to many of his friends that he felt God wanted him to be president. He has also reportedly said both that God speaks to him and God speaks through him. And that God told him to "strike Saddam." He, like Hitler, has an absolute belief in what he perceives to be his "mission," and nothing, including whatever number of deaths that perceived "mission" might entail seems likely to deter him from wherever he believes his "path" leads him. He is "resolute." He will not be swayed from the path "God" has set him upon.

"Hitler's strongest point is, perhaps, his firm belief in his mission and, in public, the complete dedication of his life to its fulfillment." (L. 74.)

Hitler, too, believed God was behind him. "Hitler believes he has been sent to Germany by Providence and that he has a particular mission to perform...He has been chosen to redeem the German people and reshape Europe." (L. p. 35). "I carry out the commands that Providence has laid upon me." (H. p. 36). Hitler believed himself to be an "Immortal Hitler chosen by God to be the New Deliverer of Germany and the Founder of a new social order for the world." (L. p. 42.) "Providence had given him the "spark" that transformed him overnight. It was now his mission to transform the remainder of the German people by winning them to his view of life and the New Order." (L. p. 219.)

We know the desire of the neocons is absolute control of the Middle East, and the world. We know Iraq was only the first of many wars they believe might need to be fought in order to accomplish that goal. Indeed, in the "New Yorker" Sy Hersch has just written that Bush's real obsession is not Iraq, but Iran. In fact it is alleged in the recently released book Cobra II that Dick Cheney undermined security plans for Iraq utilizing the 300,000 strong Iraqi Army at least in part because he was intent on invading Iran as well as Syria once we had subdued Iraq. A strong Iraqi security force might have taken exception to yet more upheaval in the Middle East.

Even if it is not Bush's wish that war spread throughout the Middle East, by his illegal invasion of Iraq against the will of the overwhelming majority of the people of the world and against the advice of experts on that region exacerbated by the incompetence of the occupation of Iraq and even Afghanistan, Bush has fomented such hatred that his imperial goals notwithstanding, the war he initiated under false pretenses may be only the beginning of the violence. He may well have, unwittingly or otherwise, initiated a war destined to be only the beginning of multiple wars which will kill massive numbers of people and impoverish millions of others. And, because Bush has not dealt with Kim Jong Il, North Korea's megalomaniac, Kim could conceivably begin a nuclear war as well.

The idea of more or less never ending war is a Fascist idea. As Mussolini himself said, "And above all, Fascism, the more it considers and observes the future and the development of humanity quite apart from political considerations of the moment, believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace. . . . War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the people who have the courage to meet it."
Compare that to what a real Republican war hero, Dwight Eisenhower, said at a press conference in 1954: "I don't believe there is such a thing as a preventive war, and I would not seriously listen to anyone who came and talked to me about such a thing."

But in their quest for world control, the neocons may get more than they bargained for. Their pollyannish belief that the people of the countries involved would be willing to stand docilely by and cheerfully let America occupy their nations and steal their resources while they, themselves, were left destitute has proven to have been overly optimistic.

Had the Iraq War gone more smoothly, would American troops be fighting in Iran and Syria already?

It defies reason that while the neocons took advantage of the passions aroused by American nationalism after 9/11 to accomplish their agenda, they have not been able to understand that people in other countries when attacked will also respond with their own brand of nationalism. Hatred against the outside invader takes precedence over disagreements with any "inside" enemy, and various factions inside targeted countries will forget differences among themselves and join forces to fight the foreign enemy, even if they hate their rulers and would like a freer society. They do not want a government that will be shoved down their throat by Americans over the bodies of their children and the destruction of their cities. They will fight to prevent America dictating how they should live, just as we, in 1776, fought a revolution against England because we wanted the freedom to determine our own destiny. This has turned out to be true of Iraq, and will doubtless be true of Iran as well, just as Hal Crowther in his delightful piece "With Trembling Fingers" said it would be true of America under similar circumstances as well.

"If our presidential election fails to dislodge the crazy bastards who annexed Baghdad, many of us in this country would welcome regime change by any intervention, human or divine. But if, say, the Chinese came in to rescue us -- Operation American Freedom -- how long would any of us, left-wing or right, put up with an occupying army teaching us Chinese-style democracy? A guerrilla who opposes an invading army on his own soil is not a terrorist, he's a resistance fighter. In Iraq we're not fighting enemies but making enemies. As Richard Clarke and others have observed, every dollar, bullet and American life that we spend in Iraq is one that's not being spent in the war on terrorism. Every Iraqi, every Muslim we kill or torture or humiliate is a precious shot of adrenaline for Osama and al Qaeda."

America was attacked on 9/11. Relatively few people were killed and only several buildings were affected by the attack. Yet because of that attack, Americans wanted revenge and were willing to bomb one country. And because of that attack, and their need to feel "in charge" again, Americans were willing to support a war against another country - one not even involved in the 9/11 attack. However, because of the administration's deliberately misleading morphing of Osama bin Laden and Saudi Arabia into Saddam Hussein and Iraq, the lie of which our pathetic broadcast media did not bother to clarify, most Americans believed Hussein had something to do with 9/11 and ties with Al Qaeda, and many do to this day.

Imagine the resolve of people to fight back who have been or will be on the receiving end of the much greater destruction to their homes and countries brought about because of American bombs?! No other country can come close to matching the number or power of the weapons of mass destruction America possesses. Indeed, if any nations could legitimately claim the right to launch "preemptive" wars by claiming they were doing it to stave off attack, those nations would be the nations America threatens. And there would be no ambiguity about who is responsible for any massive bombings America initiates. America will not be blamed for something someone else did, as Hussein was blamed for what bin Laden did.

Consequently, Bush, in the fulfillment of his mission has the potential to kill an unthinkable number of people. Iraq is only a good start. He may be, as Nelson Mandela has said, a man of "little foresight" who "doesn't think properly, " But if the past four years have proven anything, they have proven he is "resolute." It is not likely that widespread death, which seems to be an abstraction to him - aided by the fact that he has never attended a soldier's funeral - would cause him to doubt the path Cheney, Wolfowitz, and Perls have set him upon. Not only did Bush say "Bring 'em on!" He also uses the term "stay the course." He may not believe as Henry Kissinger wrote that "Military men are just dumb, stupid animals," but he certainly believes the second part of that statement - that they are "to be used as pawns in foreign policy." General Zinni said the path Bush has set himself upon so resolutely leads us right over a cliff. But Bush, like Hitler, knows that frightened people like to be led by someone who is confident. Even if he is confident and wrong.

"I follow my course with the precision and security of a sleepwalker." (H. p. 31)

Let us also not forget, Bush is the president under whom torture has been deemed okay, and who is outsourcing torture to countries where even such methods as boiling people has been known to take place. He is the man who has placed convicted felons and known supporters of torture and death squads -- Negroponte, to name one -- in positions of power.

Additionally, Bush has a potential Hitler really did not have. He has the potential to virtually end life on earth. His power mad underlings, the ones former CIA agent Ray McGovern says were called "the Crazies" during the first President Bush's administration, talk about "limited" and "winnable" nuclear war. Bush himself, of course, has a "nukaler" bomb proof underground bunker. And Bush's virulent faith might convince him that God would rescue "God's country" and "good Christian" people from any devastation his acts might rain down on the "evil" people and the "evil" countries. Against, I might add, all historical evidence to the contrary. After all, fifty million people, the majority of them Christian people, died during WWII. And, while the Crusaders were certainly dedicated to their mission, on the whole they lost those early Christian wars.

Remember the "Axis of Evil?" Bush does not see those countries as areas of land made up of innocent people, most of whom are simply trying to live their lives as best they can, just as we all are . Instead, he sees them as part of an evil whole. Bush thinks in terms of black and white. Good versus evil. "Evil doers." "You're either with us, or you're with the terrorists."

In a word. BULLSHIT!!

In 1943 Langer wrote, "It was not only Hitler, the madman, who created German madness, but German madness that created Hitler. Having created him as its spokesman and leader, it has been carried along by his momentum, perhaps far beyond the point where it was originally prepared to go...The madness of the Fuehrer has become the madness of a nation...a reciprocal relationship exists between the Fuehrer and the people...the madness of the one stimulates and flows into the other and vice versa." (L. 154.)

--- to be continued

Bio: Lonna Gooden VanHorn was born and raised on a small farm in Minnesota. She is the mother of 6, a grandmother, and the wife of a Vietnam veteran. Formely a person who did not "get involved" in controversy, she has decided to become a trouble maker in her old age. Lonna has articles on many websites. Archives of some of her articles may be accessed here and here. Pictures of her "book on wheels" may be accessed here. Click on the thumbnails, and the pictures will enlarge so must of what is on the signs can be read. If you would like transcripts of the entire contents of her information truck, e-mail jvanhorn@peoplepc.com and she will send you her truck file as an attachment.

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Media touted Bush's routine at Correspondents' dinner, ignored Colbert's skewering

Mon, May 1, 2006 3:54pm EST
Media Matters

Summary: Following the White House Correspondents' dinner, numerous news outlets trumpeted President Bush's performance at the event, but entirely ignored the scathing routine delivered by the night's featured entertainer, Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert. In his act, Colbert mocked the White House's current woes, slammed a wide range of Bush administration policies, and lampooned the mainstream media.
Following the annual awards dinner of the White House Correspondents Association held on April 29, numerous news outlets trumpeted President Bush's performance at the event. But in turn, many outlets entirely ignored the scathing routine delivered by the night's featured entertainer, Stephen Colbert, host of Comedy Central's The Colbert Report. In his act, Colbert mocked the White House's current woes, slammed a wide range of Bush administration policies, and lampooned the mainstream media.

During his 20-minute routine at the April 29 dinner, Colbert appeared in character as the bombastic, Bush-supporting cable news host that he plays nightly on The Colbert Report. Colbert mimicked the administration's often over-the-top optimism, saying, "This administration is not sinking. This administration is soaring. If anything, they are re-arranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg!" He touted the numerous problems currently plaguing the White House and advised Bush on how to handle each of them. On Bush's dismal poll numbers, Colbert commented, "But guys like us, we don't pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in 'reality.' And reality has a well-known liberal bias." Referring to the rising criticism of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Colbert said, "I've got a theory about how to handle these retired generals causing all this trouble: don't let them retire! Come on, we've got a stop-loss program; let's use it on these guys."

As Editor & Publisher further reported:

Colbert also made biting cracks about missing WMDs, "photo ops" on aircraft carriers and at hurricane disasters, melting glaciers and Vice President [Dick] Cheney shooting people in the face. He advised the crowd, "if anybody needs anything at their tables, speak slowly and clearly into your table numbers and somebody from the N.S.A. will be right over with a cocktail."

Observing that Bush sticks to his principles, he said, "When the president decides something on Monday, he still believes it on Wednesday -- no matter what happened Tuesday."

Colbert also fired on the Washington press corps. "I am appalled to be surrounded by the liberal media who are destroying this country," Colbert said, "except for Fox News. Fox believes in presenting both sides of the story -- the president's side and the vice president's side." He expressed approval of the media's repeated failure to hold the administration accountable: "Over the last five years, you people were so good -- over tax cuts, WMD intelligence, the effect of global warming. We Americans didn't want to know, and you had the courtesy not to try to find out." Further, he urged the White House correspondents in attendance to "[w]rite that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know -- fiction!"

Colbert's performance was preceded by a routine in which Bush and presidential impersonator Steve Bridges stood side-by-side behind identical podiums and made light of Bush's rhetorical style, as well as mispronunciations and grammatical mistakes.

But in their subsequent coverage of the event, numerous news outlets focused only on Bush's light-hearted comedy, while omitting mention of Colbert's blistering performance. On the April 30 edition of ABC's This Week, host George Stephanopoulos played an excerpt of Bush's act and remarked that the dinner "gets more inventive every year." That same morning, on NBC's Sunday Today, co-host Lester Holt introduced clips of the Bush-Bridges routine by noting that the "relationship between the White House press corps and the president can be a contentious one, but last night it was all laughs." The footage of Bush's performance also aired on the April 30 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News.

On May 1, all three major networks played clips of Bush's routine on their morning shows, but ignored Colbert entirely. CNN's American Morning did the same.

Similarly, a May 1 New York Times article on the event -- "A New Set of Bush Twins Appear at Annual Correspondents' Dinner" -- by reporter Elisabeth Bumiller recounted Bush and Bridge's performance in detail and provided some background on how the routine was devised. The article reported, "With his approval ratings in the mid-30's and a White House beset by troubles, there is some evidence that Mr. Bush worked harder on his performance this year than in the past." But Bumiller omitted any mention of Colbert or the fact that he had highlighted the White House's current problems at the dinner.

Further, while C-SPAN broadcast the April 29 event live and aired the event in its entirety several times in the following 24 hours, the network also aired an abridged version of the dinner that featured only Bush's performance. Indeed, on May 30, C-SPAN broadcast a 25-minute segment (7:35 p.m. -- 8:00 p.m. ET), which featured approximately 10 minutes of footage of guests entering the event, followed by the full 15-minute Bush-Bridges routine.

These news outlets' failure to cover Colbert's lampooning of Bush stands in contrast to the media's coverage of a Correspondents' dinner during President Bill Clinton's first term. In 1996, radio host Don Imus was selected as the night's featured entertainer. During his act, Imus cast a harsh light on Clinton's problems at the time, including his supposed extramarital affairs, and raised questions concerning then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's financial dealings. But unlike much of the coverage of this year's event, news outlets such as the Times noted the uncomfortable response to Imus's barbs at the time:

Full video of Colbert's performance is available here (Part 1), here (Part 2) and here (Part 3).

From the April 30 edition of ABC's This Week:

STEPHANOPOULOS: And now a special edition of "The Sunday Funnies." President Bush and his mystery twin at last night's White House Correspondents' dinner.

[video clip]

BUSH: Members of the White House Correspondents Association, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

BRIDGES: Here I am. Here I am at another one of these dang press dinners. Could be home asleep, little Barney curled up at my feet. But, no, I've got to pretend I like being here.

BUSH: I'm absolutely delighted to be here, as is Laura.

BRIDGES: She's hot. Muy caliente.

BUSH: As you know, I always look forward to these dinners.

BRIDGES: It's just a bunch of media types, Hollywood liberals, Democrats like [Sen.] Joe Biden [D-DE]. Yeah, all the usual suspects. Speaking of suspects, where's the great white hunter?

BUSH: I'm sorry Vice President [Dick] Cheney couldn't be here tonight.

BRIDGES: I tell you, you reporters would go nuts if you knew the true story. He was as drunk as a skunk. On one beer. Light beer. Oh, people were ducking and diving for cover. I wish I could have been there. I saw him walking down the hallway the other day. I looked at him and said, "Don't shoot!"

[end video clip]

STEPHANOPOULOS: Gets more inventive every year. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. We'll see you next week.

From the April 30 edition of NBC's Sunday Today:

HOLT: The relationship between the White House press corps and the president can be a contentious one, but last night it was all laughs as President Bush had those attending the White House Correspondents' dinner doing a double take, literally. The president got a lesson in talking about nuclear weapons programs from an impersonator.

[video clip]

BUSH: So, I want to talk about some serious issues, such as --

BRIDGES: OK. Here it comes. Nuclear proliferation. Nuclear proliferation. Nuclear proliferation.

BUSH: Nukear proliberation.

BRIDGES: All right. All right. Maintain. Be cool. Let's give this a try. We must enhance noncompliance protocols, sanctioned not only at IAEA formal sessions, but through intercessional contact.

BUSH: We must enhance noncompliance protocols, sanctioned not only at E-I-E-I-O formal sessions, but through intersexual conduct.

[end video clip]

HOLT: Very funny stuff.

MELISSA STARK (co-host): So our -- our president has trouble with the English language. We know that.

HOLT: Well, apparently, he likes -- he likes to play fun at that sometimes. The president also had a chance to rib his number two, Vice President Dick Cheney. Watch this.

[video clip]

BUSH: I agree with the press that Dick was a little late reporting that hunting episode down in Texas. In fact, I didn't know a thing about it until I saw him on America's Most Wanted.

BRIDGES: Cheney, what a goofball! Shot the only trial lawyer in the country who's for me. I'll tell you, you reporters would go nuts if you knew the true story. He was a drunk as a skunk. On one beer. Lite beer. Oh, people were ducking and diving for cover. I wish I could have been there. I saw him walking down the hallway the other day. I looked at him and said, "Don't shoot!"

[end video clip]

STARK: If you can't have a good time, what's the point, right?

HOLT: Yeah. Tell me again the impersonator -- Bridges -- Steve Bridges is the impersonator's name. Very -- not only a great likeness, but he's got the --

STARK: Unbelievable.

HOLT: -- the chuckle down pat. But that's always a fun event, every year the White House Correspondents' dinner and --

STARK: Yeah. I went to one. It was great.

From the April 30 edition of NBC'S Nightly News:

JOHN SEIGENTHALER (host): We're going to end here tonight on a lighter note. A tradition that started when [former President] Calvin Coolidge attended the annual White House Correspondents' dinner. As is customary, the president uses the occasion to poke some fun at himself. Last night, President Bush brought along some help, impersonator Steve Bridges.

[video clip]

BUSH: Thank you, Mark. I'm absolutely delighted to be here, as is Laura.

BRIDGES: She's hot. Muy caliente.

BUSH: I want to talk about some serious issues, such as --

BRIDGES: OK. Here it comes. Nuclear proliferation. Nuclear proliferation. Nuclear proliferation.

BUSH: Nukear proliberation.

BRIDGES: All right. All right. Maintain. Be cool. Let's give this a try. We must enhance noncompliance protocols, sanctioned not only at IAEA formal sessions, but through intercessional contact.

BUSH: We must enhance noncompliance protocols, sanctioned not only at E-I-E-I-O formal sessions, but through intersexual conduct.

BRIDGES: Nailed it.

[end video clip]

SEIGENTHALER: Steve Bridges with President Bush at last night's White House Correspondents' dinner.

From the May 30 edition of NBC's Today:

MATT LAUER (co-host): Every year, our nation's presidents put their egos aside to poke a little fun at themselves at the White House Correspondents' dinner.

KATIE COURIC (co-host): And this weekend was no different. President Bush was seeing double with the help of presidential impersonator Steve Bridges. Take a look.

[video clip]

BUSH: Members of the White House Correspondents Association, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

BRIDGES: Here I am. Here I am at another one of these dang press dinners. Could be home asleep. ... But, no, I've got to pretend I like being here.

BUSH: I'm absolutely delighted to be here, as is Laura.

BRIDGES: She's hot. Muy caliente.

BUSH: You know it's good to see so many influential guests here tonight. Justice Scalia, Justice Alito.

BRIDGES: Speaking of suspects, where's the great white hunter?

BUSH: I am sorry Vice President Cheney couldn't be here tonight.

[end video clip]

LAUER: At least everybody has a good sense of humor about it.

COURIC: Yeah, sort of like the presidential version of pop-up videos.

LAUER: It's like Saturday Night Live comes to life.

From the May 1 edition of ABC's Good Morning America:

CHARLES GIBSON (co-host): Well, over the weekend, President Bush hosted the annual dinner for the White House press corps and the crowd wound up doing a double-take. Here he is with a presidential look-alike at the dinner. Now, this event is half stand-up, half roast. And this year, the president took a few swipes at himself. Here we are.

[video clip]

BUSH: You know it's good to see so many influential guests here tonight. Justice Scalia, Justice Alito.

BRIDGES: Hey, boys. Bet it feels good to be out from under those robes. Toga! Toga! Toga! Toga!

BUSH: I'm absolutely delighted to be here, as is Laura.

BRIDGES: She's hot. Muy caliente.

BUSH: I always look forward to these dinners.

BRIDGES: How come I can't have dinner with the 36 percent of people who like me. ... Where is the great white hunter?

BUSH: I am sorry Vice President Cheney couldn't be here tonight.

BRIDGES: Cheney, what a goofball. Shot the only trial lawyer in the country who's for me. ... Let's hit them with some rhetorical eloquence. Nuclear proliferation. Nuclear proliferation.

BUSH: Nukear proliberation.

[end video clip]

DIANE SAWYER (co-host): It is uncanny.

ROBIN ROBERTS (co-host): I know. Steve Bridges is the comedian. The laugh that he had down was so perfect.

GIBSON: That was Bridges on the right.

ROBERTS: Yeah, thanks a lot. Wasn't quite sure there for a minute.

SAWYER: Nukear.

ROBERTS: I like it.

From the May 1 edition of CBS' The Early Show:

RENE SYLER : And President Bush poked fun at himself at the White House Correspondents Association Dinner. He appeared side-by-side with impersonator Steve Bridges, who played the role of the president's inner voice. They joked about his mispronunciation of certain words.

[video clip]

BRIDGES: Nuclear proliferation. Nuclear proliferation.

BUSH: Nukear proliberation.

BRIDGES: IAEA formal sessions.

BUSH: E-I-E-I-O formal sessions.

BRIDGES: Through intersessional contact.

BUSH: Through intersexual conduct.

[end video clip]

SYLER: The president also said he is in good spirits because he survived the White House shake-up.

From the May 1 edition of CNN's American Morning:

MILES O'BRIEN (co-host): Pictures of the White House on this Morning. With rising gas prices and the war in Iraq, there's not a lot to laugh about inside that building, but President Bush was able to laugh at himself quite literally. At a fancy dinner for the White House press corps over the weekend, he poked fun at himself with the help of an alter ego, impersonator Steve Bridges.

[video clip]

BUSH: Members of the White House Correspondents Association, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

BRIDGES: Here I am.

BUSH: I'm absolutely delighted to be here. As is Laura.

BRIDGES: She's hot.

BUSH: As you know, I always look forward to these dinners.

BRIDGES: It's just a bunch of media types. Hollywood liberals. Democrats like Joe Biden. How come I can't have dinner with the 36 percent of the people who like me?

BUSH: It's good to see so many influential guests here tonight, Justice Scalia, Justice Alito.

BRIDGES: Yes, all the usual suspects. Speaking of suspects, where's the great white hunter?

BUSH: I am sorry Vice President Cheney couldn't be here tonight.

So, I want to talk about some serious issues, such as --

BRIDGES: OK. Here it comes. Nuclear proliferation. Nuclear proliferation. Nuclear proliferation.

BUSH: Nukear proliferation.

Ladies and gentlemen, that rugged good looking guy right there is Steve Bridges. And he's a fine talent. In fact, Steve did all my debates with Senator [John] Kerry [D-MA].

[end video clip]

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN (co-host): He's very good. I think Steve does a better president than the president himself.

ANDREW SERWER (CNN correspondent): I couldn't tell which one was which at first --

S. O'BRIEN: Really?

M. O'BRIEN: When I first looked at it, I was --

S. O'BRIEN: Yes, for a moment it was hard. That was pretty funny.

M. O'BRIEN: -- trying to figure out who it is. A very nice job. That was fun.

SERWER: It sure was.

-J.K. & S.S.M.

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Court Approved Wiretaps Rise in 2005

By DEVLIN BARRETT, Associated Press Writer Mon May 1, 7:14 PM ET

WASHINGTON - State judges approved a growing number of secret wiretaps in criminal investigations in 2005, while federal criminal wiretaps dropped 14 percent, according to court data released Monday.
Nationwide, court-approved wiretaps increased 4 percent to 1,773 in both state and federal investigations. Only one application was denied. The increase in 2005 was much smaller than the 2004 figures, which leapt 19 percent.

The Administrative Office of the United States Courts compiles the figures, which do not include ongoing investigations that spilled over into 2006. The
Department of Justice said that if those cases were included, they would actually show an increase in wiretaps.

Jesselyn McCurdy, an attorney for the
American Civil Liberties Union, said the figures do raise worries that judges aren't thoroughly scrutinizing eavesdropping applications.

"With only one application rejected, I hope they're not just becoming a rubber stamp of applications for wiretapping, at either the state or federal level," said McCurdy.

In state courts, the number of applications grew 17 percent to 1,148. Once again, four states led the way, accounting for four out of every five wiretaps in the nation.

New York prosecutors reported 391, California 235, New Jersey 218, and Florida 72 wiretap applications.

The most prolific single eavesdropper in 2004, Queens, N.Y. District Attorney Richard A. Brown, reported 18 fewer wiretaps in 2005, for a total of 118. Brown still claimed the longest-running wiretap investigation, a gambling probe lasting more than 18 months.

In 2005, the prosecutor with the largest number of wiretaps was New York City's special narcotics bureau, with 148.

The longest federal wiretap was also in New York, where Manhattan prosecutors ran a 287-day wiretap as part of a racketeering case.

Nine out of every ten wiretaps were for portable devices like cell phones, and eight out of ten wiretaps were part of drug investigations.

Organized crime investigations and homicide cases accounted for about 5 percent each of wiretaps.

Over the past 10 years, the number of wiretaps have jumped almost 70 percent.

The figures released Monday do not include court orders for terror-related investigations conducted under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act known as FISA, which reached a new record in 2005.

FISA warrants surged to 2,072 in 2005, a big boost from the past year's record of 1,754. That is more than twice as many as were issued in 2000, the last full year before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

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Forget the Internet during a pandemic

April 28, 2006
John Sugg

Two weeks ago, I wrote about an Atlanta conference on preparedness for a flu pandemic or a biological terrorist attack. The co-hosts were Georgia's favorite bad boy, Ted Turner, and former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn. Much of the talk at the Georgia Tech affair centered on the vulnerability of communications systems. The speakers were prophetic. Reuters reported April 27: "Telephone and Internet services could be overwhelmed and shut down in the early stages of a bird flu pandemic as people panic and try to work from home."

The report was based on a study by the management consulting firm of Booz Allen Hamilton. It concluded that businesses and government would urge people to stay home to avoid contact. The resulting traffic on the Internet and phone systems would result in massive communications failures.

Oh, by the way, my column on the Turner-Nunn event produced a good bit of back-chatter from readers. But, showing the paucity of intellect nowadays, a little more than half of the e-mails and phone calls railed against Ted Turner for his real or imagined offenses, rather than on the threat from an epidemic or bio-attack.

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O'Reilly claimed right wing doesn't "smear"

Fri, Apr 28, 2006 4:33pm EST

Summary: Bill O'Reilly asserted that while "on the left, it's all about the smear," "the propagandists on the right" are "not smear merchants"; "they're not trying to smear anybody." He also said, "[M]aybe I'm naïve," but "when I tune in to [the] programs [of Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Laura Ingraham], I hear ideology."
On the April 26 edition of The Radio Factor, host Bill O'Reilly asserted that while "on the left, it's all about the smear," "the propagandists on the right" are "not smear merchants"; "they're not trying to smear anybody." Later in the show, a caller challenged O'Reilly's assertion, asking why O'Reilly does not consider attacks on liberals by fellow Fox News host Sean Hannity and nationally syndicated radio hosts Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham to be "smear tactics." O'Reilly replied that "maybe I'm naïve," but "when I tune in to their programs, I hear ideology." O'Reilly explained that unlike liberal "smear merchants," the three conservative pundits "keep it in the issue area." Citing Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) as an example, O'Reilly stated that he's "not hearing" conservatives "try to tear him to pieces and injure him personally."

In fact, in addition to O'Reilly himself, who is no stranger to making personal attacks, Media Matters for America has compiled numerous examples of Limbaugh, Hannity, and Ingraham straying from "the issue area" to attack liberals, including Kennedy. Below are just a few examples.

Rush Limbaugh

Sean Hannity

Laura Ingraham

From the April 26 edition of Westwood One's The Radio Factor with Bill O'Reilly:

O'REILLY: You're going to have the propagandists on the right, primarily on the right -- now, they're not smear merchants. There's a difference. The propagandists on the right are just holding water for the oil companies, but they're not trying to smear anybody. But on the left, it's all about the smear. All about the smear, ladies and gentlemen, that's what it is.


O'REILLY: OK, we're talking about the appointment of Tony Snow. Of course, he was smeared immediately by the left-wing websites -- those despicable people who operate those. Harrisburg, PA, [caller], what say you?

CALLER: Well, I -- I'm just a little taken aback at what you're saying, Bill. Because I -- I -- it just -- you conveniently always omit the smear tactics of Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham, constantly. Why is that?

O'REILLY: Well, I don't see it the way you see it.

CALLER: They constantly smear the --

O'REILLY: Nah, I mean, look. I -- I see -- I hear those people all the time and I don't see any -- I don't -- I mean, look. Maybe I'm -- maybe I'm naïve. But here's my definition of a smear, [caller], so you can take it to the bank. OK?

It's taking a person like Tony Snow, who, across the board, is admired and respected, OK? Courageous guy -- wants to help this country, has a belief system that he does not make any bones about. And then you take a guy like Snow and you try to tear him to pieces. That -- that's smearing to me. OK?

Now, the three people that you mentioned are right-wing commentators, and they go after the left consistently and on a daily basis. OK. But I have to tell you, when I tune into their programs, I hear ideology. That's what I hear. And then I hear, you know, "This one's bad," but they keep it in the issue area most of the time. That's what I'm hearing. Maybe I'm missing it. But it's in the issue area.

It's not -- OK -- "Here, we have a new person for Ted Kennedy. Let's try to tear him to pieces and injure him personally." I'm not hearing that. There is one smear merchant on the right who does that and I despise him. But the rest seem to deal mostly in issues.


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Rumsfeld Has A Responsibility To Resign

by William S. Lind
May 01, 2006

Washington - On the surface, the question raised by seven -- at last count -- retired generals of whether U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld should resign has an obvious answer: of course he should.

Rumsfeld was a key man in the cabal that lied us into the war in Iraq, and he may have been the key man in losing that war. What happens to the COO of a major corporation who swindles his company into a risky deal, then blows the deal so the company faces bankruptcy? In today's business world he probably pops his golden parachute and leaves with $100 million. But at least he does leave. So should Rumsfeld.
At that point, the picture grows murkier. Who replaces him? Almost certainly, someone no different. He is, after all, the COO, and this company's problem is that it has a dunce for a CEO. Far from learning any lessons from the previous failed venture, he wants to repeat it, this time in Iran. A fish rots from the head, as the old Russian saying goes, and until there is change at the top, the rot will spread.

Then there is the question of why so many generals -- not all of them retired -- want Rummy gone. That varies general to general, but when Rumsfeld's defenders argue that some of his critics are dinosaurs who resent "Transformation" because it disrupts business as usual, they have a point.

As anyone who has dealt with the higher ranks of the U.S. military knows, they put the La Brea tar pits in California in the shade as a dinosaur graveyard. As wedded to old ways of doing things -- Second Generation war to be specific -- as any other group of senior Gosplan apparatchiki, or Soviet-era bureaucrats, they hate any hint of change.

Years ago, when an unconventional Air Force Chief of Staff had me give my Fourth Generations of Modern War talk to the Air Force's "Corona" gathering of three- and four-stars, I felt like Milton Friedman speaking to the Brezhnev Politburo.

But here too the story is not so simple. While Rumsfeldian "Transformation" represents change, it represents change in the wrong direction. Instead of attempting to move from the Second Generation of War to the Third Generation, much less the Fourth, Transformation retains the Second Generation's conception of war as putting firepower on targets while trying to replace people with technology. Its summa is the Death Star, where men and women in spiffy uniforms sit in air-conditioned comfort zapping enemies like bugs.

It is a vision of future war that appeals to technocrats and lines industry pockets, but has no connection to reality. The combination of this vision of war with an equally unrealistic vision of strategic objectives has given us the defeat in Iraq. Again, Rumsfeld lies at the heart of both. But, again, his removal and replacement contain no promise of improvement in either.

At least one of Rumsfeld's retired general critics, Greg Newbold, understands all this. I've known and respected Greg since he was a captain teaching at The Basic School, and many of us hoped he would be Commandant some day, the first Commandant since Gen. Al Gray who would try to move the Marine Corps beyond Second Generation war in more than its doctrine manuals.

But the Imperial Court gets what is wants, and what it wants are not generals like Greg Newbold. It wants senior "leaders" who are, above all, compliant, and it finds no shortage of candidates. They may growl about Rumsfeld in private, but in public they bow and scrape, not only to the SecDef and the catastrophic policies of a failed Presidency, but even more to "high tech" and its magical ability to expand defense budgets. At some point they will make a break, because the military does not want to wear the albatross of two lost wars. But not until they have extracted the uttermost farthing.

The play is titled, "No Exit." Unless, unless . . . Rumsfeld's head should not be the only one to roll.

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Lots Of Ways To Die

7 Killed in Crash on Arizona Interstate

May 2, 2006

MARANA, Ariz. - At least seven people were killed Monday night when a tractor-trailer collided with a pickup truck on a southern Arizona interstate, authorities said.

Both vehicles burst into flames and were completely incinerated, said state Department of Public Safety officer Jim Oien, who was at the scene of the grisly accident.
"There's seven confirmed dead. There could be more," he said. "We're in the process of recovering the bodies. There's definitely seven in the pickup truck."

Oien said the victims "appear to be adults and children" and their identifications likely would not be known until Tuesday at the earliest.

The 18-wheeler, which had out-of-state license plates, rear-ended the pickup and pushed it into the median of Interstate 10 near Pinal Air Park, Oien said.

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17 missing after toxic sludge buries village

Mon May 1, 2006

BEIJING - Seventeen people are missing after a landslide at a gold mine in northwest China engulfed their homes, Xinhua news agency reported.

It said five villagers were in hospital after a cascade of toxic gold tailings buried their homes following the collapse of a dam wall at the mine in Shaanxi province on Sunday.
"The local government has taken emergency measures to prevent the poisonous content in the tailings, including sodium cyanide, from polluting the environment," Xinhua said.

Workers were raising the height of the dam to increase its capacity when the accident took place.

Separately, the death toll from a coal mine blast on Saturday, also in Shaanxi, has risen to 30, Xinhua said. Another two miners were still missing.

China's mining industry is the world's deadliest. Official figures showed that in 2005 some 3,300 coal mine blasts, floods and other accidents killed nearly 6,000 people, while about 1,900 disasters at other types of mines claimed more than 2,300 lives.

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Mild form of avian flu found in New Jersey

Mon May 1, 2006

NEW YORK - Authorities have discovered a mild form of avian influenza at a live bird market in New Jersey, but it is not the deadly H5N1 strain governments around the world are trying to contain, the state's agriculture department said.

"The strain was found in a live bird market in Camden County. None of the birds in the market died from this virus, which is an indicator that the virus was low pathogenic and not harmful to humans," said a statement by New Jersey's Agriculture Secretary Charles Kuperus which was posted on Friday.
Details were not immediately available on precisely when the avian flu in Camden County was discovered.

The H5N1 strain of avian influenza not only kills chickens quickly, but can now infect people, and governments around the world are scrambling to contain its spread. Scientists fear that if the virus acquires the ability to pass easily from person to person, it could cause a pandemic that would kill millions.

The H5N1 avian flu strain has already infected 205 people and killed 113 since 2003. Its spread has forced several countries to ban poultry imports from nations where the disease has spread.

The H5N1 virus has spread from Asia to Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Kuperus said preliminary tests from the National Veterinary Services laboratory were negative for type N1 of the virus. More tests are pending at laboratories of the U.S. Agriculture Department in Ames, Iowa, to confirm the strain of the virus, he added.

"The market owner voluntarily depopulated his existing flock, and the market has undergone cleaning and disinfecting under New Jersey Department of Agriculture supervision," said Kuperus.

The market in Camden County will be inspected again by New Jersey's Division of Animal Health before being allowed to reopen.

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Quake rocks Japan

From correspondents in Tokyo
May 02, 2006

A MODERATE earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.6 jolted an area south of Tokyo today, the Japan Meteorological Agency said.

The quake was felt in Tokyo.

There were no immediate reports of damage and no tsunami warning was issued.
The focus of the tremor, which struck at 6:24pm (0924 GMT), was 20km below the ocean floor off the Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka prefecture, about 80km southwest of Tokyo, the agency said.

Some train services, including bullet trains in the area, were briefly halted as a precaution, NHK public broadcaster said.

Earthquakes are common in Japan, one of the world's most seismically active areas. The country accounts for about 20 per cent of the world's earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater.

In October 2004, an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8 struck the Niigata region in northern Japan, killing 40 people and injuring more than 3000.

That was the deadliest quake since a magnitude 7.3 tremor hit the city of Kobe in 1995, killing more than 6400.

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Indian bus plunges into creek, 28 dead

Tue May 2, 2006

MUMBAI - An overcrowded bus plunged into a shallow creek near India's commercial hub of Mumbai on Tuesday killing at least 28 people, police said.

The bus, carrying about 60 people, veered off a bridge after the driver lost control while trying to avoid a motorcyclist.

"Twenty eight people are confirmed dead," Archana Tyagi, a senior police officer, said, adding that another 33 passengers survived the crash.

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Updated list adds more threatened species

By Laura MacInnis
Tue May 2, 2006

GENEVA - Polar bears and hippos have joined the ranks of species threatened with extinction from climate change, unregulated hunting and other man-made dangers, a leading environmental agency said on Tuesday.

The World Conservation Union, or IUCN, said more than 16,000 species of animals and plants were at risk of disappearing, including one in four mammals and one in eight birds.

It added 530 species to its "Red List" of endangered species since the last version released two years ago.
China, Brazil, Australia and Mexico are home to large numbers of threatened species, said the IUCN, whose members include 81 governments, more than 850 non-governmental groups and some 10,000 scientists from around the world.

It said countries worldwide needed to boost efforts to preserve biodiversity through reduced emissions, tighter fishing and hunting controls, and other measures.

Without a reversal of global warming trends, it predicted polar bear populations would drop more than 30 percent in the next 45 years as melted ice caps deprive the animals of their habitat.

It classified the polar bear as a "vulnerable" species, one step down from "endangered" in its ranking of extinction risk. The polar bear was previously called a less-severe "conservation dependent" species.

The common hippo was also ranked as vulnerable, "primarily because of a catastrophic decline in the Democratic Republic of Congo," the IUCN said.

Unrestricted hunting has caused a 95 percent decline in the central African country's hippo population since 1994, it said. The animal has never before been listed as threatened.


Dama gazelles, once the most populous species of gazelle in the Sahara desert, are now "critically endangered" as a result of poaching, the report found.

More than half of the Mediterranean's 25 endemic species of freshwater fish were deemed to be at risk of extinction, along with one in four of East Africa's freshwater fish.

In Malawi, where freshwater fish account for 70 percent of the animal protein that humans eat, the numbers of lake trout in Lake Malawi have halved in the past decade.

"This could have major commercial and dietary consequences for the region," the IUCN said.

Ocean life was also cited as vulnerable. Of 547 species of sharks and rays assessed in the report, 20 percent were found to be at risk of extinction. Bottom-dwelling species also logged huge declines as fisheries have reached into ever-deeper waters.

"Populations are destined to decline in the absence of international catch limits," the report said, adding regulations on mesh size and non-fishing areas could help restore stocks.

World Conservation Union Director General Achim Steiner said resurgent populations of white-tailed eagles in Europe showed that protective measures can protect vulnerable species.

"Conservation measures are making a difference," Steiner said. "We should not be passive bystanders in the unfolding tragedy of biodiversity loss and species extinction."

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Politicians - The Bane Of Humanity

Berlusconi steps down, but Italy's political storm not over

May 2, 2006

ROME - Silvio Berlusconi's five-year stint as Italian prime minister was to end with his formal resignation, but few think they have seen or heard the last of the flamboyant media tycoon.

After a final cabinet meeting, he was to see President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, finally conceding victory to centre-left leader Romano Prodi more than three weeks after the general election and a bitter battle to hang on to office.
He was left with no choice but to quit after the new parliament on Saturday elected speakers for the lower and upper houses who are both from Prodi's centre-left coalition -- communist Fausto Bertinotti and Franco Marini of the centrist Margherita party.

Berlusconi occupied the prime minister's office for the longest continuous period for half a century. He was renowned, or infamous, for his verbal excesses, repeated brushes with the law, pro-Americanism, domination of the media and colossal wealth.

Italy's political transition is already under way, and the two speakers have made it clear they want dialogue between the parties that contested the April 9-10 general election, the closest in living memory.

Berlusconi, who contested the centre-left's razor-thin election victory -- by just 25,000 votes -- every step of the way, has now opened a new front in the continuing battle by challenging the legality of his adversaries' political timetable.

While the centre-left wants Ciampi, whose presidential term expires on May 18, to ask Prodi to form a government before seeking parliamentary approval, Berlusconi claims that is the task of the next president, whom parliament must elect.

Politicians locked horns on Monday over the issue, as Prodi huddled with coalition partners to fine-tune his government line-up.

The battle to replace the head of state -- who has the power to appoint the prime minister, dissolve parliament and call elections -- intensified amid media reports that Prodi's coalition favours former prime minister Massimo D'Alema of the Democrats of the Left (DS) party.

"They want to take everything," raged Il Giornale, a newspaper owned by Berlusconi's family, over the prospect that D'Alema would succeed Ciampi as president, after Prodi's candidates for the speakerships of both houses of parliament were approved.

"We represent 50 percent of the country, and so we can only talk about a president who will not come under the influence of the left," Berlusconi aides quoted him as saying, adding that the president should not be someone who would shore up the left wing if its unity starts to crumble, according to the daily La Repubblica.

D'Alema himself refused to comment, and Prodi did not confirm or deny that he would be the candidate.

But the leaders of the DS, the largest party in the Union, have told Prodi that they feel they deserve a major institutional post after the parliamentary speakerships went to other parties, Italian newspapers said on Monday.

In the event of a no-confidence vote -- a by no means impossible prospect given Prodi's wafer-thin majority -- it would be up to the president to decide whether to simply appoint the premier for a new term or call fresh elections.

Meanwhile Prodi, 66, has been meeting with leaders of the various parties in his broad coalition, ranging from communists to centrists, to discuss the formation of his government.

The former European Commission president said his cabinet line-up would be ready by the end of the week.

"My team is not yet ready because we have a few more days for discussion," he said Monday. "There are a lot of things we should talk about, and this should be done calmly and serenely."

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France opens debate on divisive immigration bill

By Tom Heneghan
May 2, 2006

PARIS - France heads into a highly divisive fight over immigration policy on Tuesday when Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy submits a bill in parliament to attract skilled newcomers while keeping poorer ones out.

His proposal, widely seen as part of his campaign for the presidential election next year, has attracted criticism from left-wing parties and church leaders and prompted the far-right to step up its stridently anti-immigrant line.

But it puts him at the center of attention at a time when Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin is seriously weakened by his recent climbdown over labor law reform and a growing scandal about an alleged smear campaign against Sarkozy.
Sarkozy, the son of a Hungarian immigrant, has had to defend himself against charges he is running a xenophobic drive to poach votes from far-right National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, who launched his presidential campaign on Monday.

"All democrats should welcome it if the National Front's score falls," Thierry Mariani, a deputy and Sarkozy ally, said on Monday. Le Pen shocked France in 2002 by finishing second to President Jacques Chirac in the first round of voting.

Sarkozy says the bill aims to attract a new generation of skilled workers who would embrace French values and traditions, thus easing the tense race relations that led to last autumn's suburban riots by youths mostly of immigrant origin.

It would create a three-year "skills and talents" residence permit to attract skilled workers. It would also make it harder for resident immigrants to bring family here, force newcomers to take French and civics lessons and end their automatic right to a long-term residence permit after 10 years in France.


Sarkozy says his bill would allow France to select its immigrants, as other industrialized countries do, rather than take anyone who comes. This should help reduce racism, he says.

Left-wing critics say the law will not work, will stigmatize foreigners, discriminate against the poor and undermine France's traditional role as a haven for the persecuted.

Sarkozy's own immigrant father might have failed to qualify for French nationality had his son's rules applied when he fled Communist-controlled Hungary in the late 1940s, they say.

More than 5,000 people marched through Paris on Saturday to protest against the bill.

Separately, Catholic Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard and Jean- Arnold Clermont, head of the French protestant federation, met Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin to express their concern about some measures in the draft law.

On the far right, Le Pen told a rally on Monday that the tougher line from Sarkozy and a far-right rival showed that his anti-immigrant views were gaining ground in France. Many held up a map of France with the slogan "Love it or leave it."

Le Pen's far-right rival Philippe de Villiers began his presidential campaign this month with blistering attacks on what he calls the Islamisation of France and a demand for an end to all mosque construction around the country.

Political analysts say Sarkozy is courting far-right voters after ensuring Paris climbed down this month over a labor law reform that sparked sometimes violent mass protests. His presidential prospects could suffer if disillusioned voters switch to far-right parties as a result.

The bill comes as Chirac and Villepin, both badly mauled by the crisis over the new law for young workers, are struggling to show they can still govern despite the setback.

Comment: "Sarkozy's own immigrant father might have failed to qualify for French nationality had his son's rules applied when he fled Communist-controlled Hungary in the late 1940s, they say." We get the feeling that all of this immigration madness in both the US and Europe is being created for a reason...

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LA feels migrant day of action

By Peter Bowes
BBC News, Los Angeles
Tuesday, 2 May 2006, 07:01 GMT 08:01 UK

The wholesale vegetable markets stood quiet. The perfectly manicured lawns of Los Angeles' rich and famous went untended. Traffic on the freeways was strangely quiet during the rush hour.

May Day is not an official holiday here, but it certainly felt like one. It was not "business as usual" in America's second-largest city.

The vast majority of large organisations, Hollywood studios and the court system all remained open. The city did not grind to a standstill, but the "day without immigrants" had a significant impact.
On some streets in LA's downtown, including the garment district, the shutters remained closed on every store.

Many small business owners opted to shut down for the day as gesture of support for their immigrant workforce.

Some posted a notice saying: "United in peace: out of respect for members of our community our stores are closed today, May 1."

'Forgotten contribution'

"Everybody forgets how much we contribute to the economy," said Vincente Amador, a small business owner who gave his staff of seven workers the day off to join the demonstration.

LA schools were officially open, but some reported truancy rates of up to 30%.

Others, in areas close to the demonstrations, chose to leave their gates chained for the day.

At a march and rally, protestors wearing white waved the American flag and chanted "Si se puede!" - Spanish for "Yes it can be done!"

Others carried banners urging the US Congress to grant citizenship to illegal immigrants.

"We as immigrants should unite and come together because my parents came here illegally," said Sal Diaz, one of the protestors.

"If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be where I am now, in college, graduated and all."

'Swamped by migrants'

A handful of people took to the streets to object to the assertion, by illegal immigrants, that they should be made citizens of the United States.

"They come here and swamp our social services," said Betty Jo Young. "Our country will be a Third World country if people don't stand up and say 'That's enough'."

Wiley Drake added: "The boycott as I understand it is to make illegal migrant workers legal in America. That's wrong, it's against the law and it's unprincipled."

The day of action did not receive universal support from immigrant workers.

The United Farm Workers' Union urged its members to take part in rallies after work, to avoid being fired.

The union supports a comprehensive immigration reform package and a measure that would legalise 1.5 million farm workers over the next five years.

Giev Kashkooli, an officer with the union, said if the US turned its back on the immigrant workforce, the consequences would be far-reaching:

"Americans would not be eating fresh fruit and produce, it's very, very simple.

"If they really could figure out a way to deport 10-12 million people the agricultural economy as we know it would totally collapse."

Future voters

A rallying call heard at immigration rallies around the country has been "Today we protest and tomorrow we vote".

Much has been made of the prospect of a rapidly emerging immigrant movement with political teeth. With millions taking to the streets, the rallies are reminiscent of the civil rights protests of the late 1960s.

"There's a whole lot of truth to that," said Abel Valenzuela, an associate professor of urban planning and Chicano studies, at the University of California.

"I think congressmen and women in Washington DC better be paying a whole lot of attention to that."

Much attention is being paid to the attitudes of young Hispanic Americans. They are said to be angry and motivated.

"Of the Latin population below 18, 86% of them are US-born and documented," said Prof Valenzuela.

"That group is becoming exposed to the power of organising, of politics, of marches and protest. And research shows they're more likely to vote.

"So in a few years you're going to see these people actually going out there and voting. I think in many ways what we're seeing on the streets today will, in fact, have an impact in the future."

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French PM says he will not resign over scandal

May 2, 2006

PARIS - French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin said on Tuesday he would not resign over an alleged smear campaign that involves top politicians.

"Nothing justifies a departure today," Villepin told Europe 1 radio. French media have been speculating for days that he might have to step down over the affair, which apparently aimed to discredit his rival, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

"I am ready to respond to all questions I could be asked," Villepin said, adding he had been shocked by the accusations made against him.
The affair began with anonymous charges in 2004 that Sarkozy and other politicians had accounts in a Luxembourg-based finance house, Clearstream, and linked them to a bribe-ridden sale of French frigates to Taiwan in 1991.

The list quickly proved bogus. A judicial inquiry has since concentrated on finding out who authored it and whether top government officials delayed clearing the accused left- and right-wing politicians' names as a way of discrediting them.

Villepin and President Jacques Chirac have denied any involvement in the scandal. Villepin and Sarkozy are in open competition for the nomination as the main conservative candidate in the 2007 presidential election.

Villepin on Tuesday ruled out holding early elections over the scandal.

The scandal gained steam last Friday, when Le Monde newspaper quoted a senior intelligence official who investigated the scandal as saying Villepin had told him that Chirac wanted the confidential probe to focus on Sarkozy.

The official, Philippe Rondot, denied the report on Tuesday.

"Villepin never asked me to get interested in politicians," Le Figaro newspaper quoted Rondot as saying.

Comment: One of the best ways to discredit your opponent is to leak false accusations about yourself. The accusations are then proven to be false, and all eyes are focused on your "evil nemesis".

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Tough on crime, to hell with the causes of crime if they make money

George Monbiot
Tuesday May 2, 2006
The Guardian

Research shows a direct link between junk food and violent behaviour. But governments are in cahoots with the industry
Does television cause crime? The idea that people copy the violence they watch is debated endlessly by criminologists. But this column concerns an odder and perhaps more interesting idea: if crime leaps out of the box, it is not the programmes that are responsible as much as the material in between. It proposes that violence emerges from those blissful images of family life, purged of all darkness, that we see in the advertisements.

Let me begin, in constructing this strange argument, with a paper published in the latest edition of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. It provides empirical support for the contention that children who watch more television eat more of the foods it advertises. "Each hour increase in television viewing," it found, "was associated with an additional 167 kilocalories per day." Most of these extra calories were contained in junk foods: fizzy drinks, crisps, biscuits, sweets, burgers and chicken nuggets. Watching television, the paper reported, "is also inversely associated with intake of fruit and vegetables".

There is no longer any serious debate about what a TV diet does to your body. A government survey published last month shows that the proportion of children in English secondary schools who are clinically obese has almost doubled in 10 years. Today, 27% of girls and 24% of boys between 11 and 15 years old suffer from this condition, which means they are far more likely to contract diabetes and to die before the age of 50. But the more interesting question is what this diet might do to your mind. There are now scores of studies suggesting that it hurts the brain as much as it hurts the heart and the pancreas. Among the many proposed associations is a link between bad food and violent or antisocial behaviour.

The most spectacular results were those reported in the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine in 1997. The researchers had conducted a double-blind, controlled experiment in a jail for chronic offenders aged between 13 and 17. Many of the boys there were deficient in certain nutrients. They consumed, on average, only 63% of the iron, 42% of the magnesium, 39% of the zinc, 39% of the vitamin B12 and 34% of the folate in the US government's recommended daily allowance. The researchers treated half the inmates with capsules containing the missing nutrients, and half with placebos. They also counselled all the prisoners in the trial about improving their diets. The number of violent incidents caused by inmates in the control group (those taking the placebos) fell by 56%, and in the experimental group by 80%. But among the inmates in the placebo group who refused to improve their diets, there was no reduction. The researchers also wired their subjects to an electroencephalograph to record brainwave patterns, and found a major decrease in abnormalities after 13 weeks on supplements.

A similar paper, published in 2002 in the British Journal of Psychiatry, found that among young adult prisoners given supplements of the vitamins, minerals and fatty acids in which they were deficient, disciplinary offences fell by 26% in the experimental group, and not at all in the control group. Researchers in Finland found that all 68 of the violent offenders they tested during another study suffered from reactive hypoglycaemia: an abnormal tolerance of glucose caused by an excessive consumption of sugar, carbohydrates and stimulants such as caffeine.

In March this year the lead author of the 2002 report, Bernard Gesch, told the Ecologist magazine that "having a bad diet is now a better predictor of future violence than past violent behaviour ... Likewise, a diagnosis of psychopathy, generally perceived as being a better predictor than a criminal past, is still miles behind what you can predict just from looking at what a person eats."

Why should a link between diet and behaviour be surprising? Quite aside from the physiological effects of eating too much sugar (apparent to anyone who has attended a children's party), the brain, whose function depends on precise biochemical processes, can't work properly with insufficient raw materials. The most important of these appear to be unsaturated fatty acids (especially the omega 3 types), zinc, magnesium, iron, folate and the B vitamins, which happen to be those in which the prisoners in the 1997 study were most deficient.

A report published at the end of last year by the pressure group Sustain explained what appear to be clear links between deteriorating diets and the growth of depression, behavioural problems, Alzheimer's and other forms of mental illness. Sixty per cent of the dry weight of the brain is fat, which is "unique in the body for being predominantly composed of highly unsaturated fatty acids". Zinc and magnesium affect both its metabolism of lipids and its production of neurotransmitters - the chemicals which permit the nerve cells to communicate with each other.

The more junk you eat, the less room you have for foods which contain the chemicals the brain needs. This is not to suggest that food advertisers are solely responsible for the decline in the nutrients we consume. As Graham Harvey's new book We Want Real Food shows, industrial farming, dependent on artificial fertilisers, has greatly reduced the mineral content of vegetables, while the quality of meat and milk has also declined. Nor do these findings suggest that a poor diet is the sole cause of crime and antisocial behaviour. But the studies I have read suggest that any government that claims to take crime seriously should start hitting the advertisers.

Instead, our government sits back while the television regulator, Ofcom, canoodles with the food industry. While drawing up its plans to control junk food adverts, Ofcom held 29 meetings with food producers and advertisers and just four with health and consumer groups. The results can be seen in the consultation document it published. It proposes to do nothing about adverts among programmes made for children over nine and nothing about the adverts the younger children watch most often. Which? reports that the most popular ITV programmes among two- to nine-year-olds are Dancing on Ice, Coronation Street and Emmerdale, but Ofcom plans to regulate only the programmes made specifically for the under-nines. It claims that tougher rules would cost the industry too much. To sustain the share values of the commercial broadcasters, Ofcom is prepared to sacrifice the physical and psychological wellbeing of our children.

At the European level, the collusion is even more obvious. Last week, Viviane Reding, the European media commissioner, spoke to a group of broadcasters about her plans to allow product placement in European TV programmes (this means that the advertisers would be allowed to promote their wares during, rather than just between, the programmes). She complained that her proposal had been attacked by the European parliament. "You have to fight if you want to keep it," she told the TV executives. "I would like to make it very clear that I need your support in this."

I spent much of last week trying to discover whether the Home Office is taking the research into the links between diet and crime seriously. In the past, it has insisted that further studies are needed, while failing to fund them. First my request was met with incredulity, then I was stonewalled. Tough on crime. To hell with the causes of crime.

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International No So Nicities

Bolivia seizes gas fields


EVO Morales, the Bolivian president, last night ordered his soldiers to occupy the country's natural gas fields immediately and threatened to evict foreign companies unless they sign new contracts within six months giving the state majority control over petroleum production.

Mr Morales said soldiers and engineers with Bolivia's state-owned oil company would be sent to installations operated by foreign petroleum companies.

Britain's BG Group and BP, as well as the US-based Exxon Mobil, are among those firms operating in Bolivia.

"The time has come, the awaited day, a historic day in which Bolivia retakes absolute control of our natural resources," Mr Morales said in a speech from the San Alberto petroleum field in southern Bolivia.

Bolivia has South America's second largest natural gas reserves after Venezuela. Within the next six months, all foreign companies must turn over most production control to Bolivia's cash-strapped, state-owned oil company, Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPBF), Mr Morales said.

Mr Morales, a strident leftist, had pledged to exert greater state control over the industry since he won the presidency in December in a landslide, becoming Bolivia's first indigenous president.

Multinational companies that produced 100 million cubic feet of natural gas daily last year in Bolivia will be able to retain only 18 per cent of their production, with the rest being given to YPFB, he said.


Evo Morales, the leftist Bolivian president, is renowned for a string of bizarre moves. Soon after taking power in January, Mr Morales, 46, cut his salary by more than half to a little over £1,000 per month. That meant a salary review for all public-sector staff, as no official can earn more than the president.

He then appointed a Marxist journalist to drive his energy policy and a street protest leader to lead the water ministry.

Mr Morales, a former llama herder and coca leaf farmer and Bolivia's first indigenous president, also promised to end American-financed schemes to eradicate the coca crop.

He endorsed comments by his foreign minister that coca leaves, from which cocaine is produced, have more calcium than milk and should be included on school breakfast menus.

In his first diplomatic spat with the United States, Mr Morales said he wanted the Bush administration to explain why it cancelled a visa for Senator Leonilda Zurita, who was planning a speaking tour.

Ms Zurita has led rallies with chants of "Long live coca!" and "Death to the Yankees!"
Neil Burrows, a spokesman for BP Group, told The Scotsman last night: "The government has made a decree and told us we have 180 days to respond to its proposals. But the proposal has not been forthcoming so until we look at it in detail, we cannot comment."

He added: "We have less than 100 British workers in the country. The safety and security situation seems to be stable."

A spokeswoman for BP declined to comment on the announcement, but said the company had no British employees in the country.

In the past, YPFB produced Bolivia's natural gas, but it was reduced to an administrative role in the mid-1990s after the country's gas exploration and production business was privatised. Experts have warned that the company is incapable of becoming a producer again without a massive infusion of cash.

Mr Morales has been called "America's worst nightmare" by the US State Department because of his promises to expel foreign firms and his support for farmers of the coca plant, the raw material for cocaine.

He has repeatedly said the country's natural resources have been "looted" by foreign companies and must be nationalised so that Bolivians can benefit from the profits that are being sent overseas.

But he has also said that nationalisation will not mean a complete state takeover, because Bolivia lacks the ability to tap all its natural gas on its own.

Bolivia exports most of its natural gas to Argentina and Brazil, with whom the government is negotiating higher prices.

Last week, Mr Morales told Brazil's Valor Economico newspaper that Bolivia would have to "set up a new battalion, a new army of oil and gas specialists to exert the property right" for a complete state takeover of petroleum production.

Mr Morales also said the state would retake majority control of Bolivian hydrocarbons companies that were partially privatised in the 1990s.

Mr Morales symbolically chose yesterday, 1 May - International Workers' Day - to announce the nationalisation plan. Afterwards, a soldier unfurled a Bolivian flag from atop the natural gas installation.

Comment: Notice the definition of Morales policies as "bizarre moves". How bizarre that a government leader would cut his salary to a reasonable level. How bizarre that he would appoint ordinary people as members of his administration. How bizarre that he would put a stop to US schemes to "eradicate" of the coca crop, schemes which, in reality are designed to give US interests a monoploy on cocaine production. Really, how weird, in this day and age of facism masquerading as democracy and dumbed-down populations who wouldn't know the truth if it came up and slapped them in the face.

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Spain "deeply worried" about Bolivian natural gas nationalization

www.chinaview.cn 2006-05-02 11:23:32

MADRID, May 1 (Xinhua) -- Spain is "deeply worried" by a decree signed by Bolivian President Evo Morales ordering total state control of the country's natural gas fields, a government statement said on Monday.

"The (Spanish) government hopes that during the time given to companies to regularize their current contracts, there will be a process of genuine negotiation and dialogue between the government and companies," said the statement released by the Foreign Ministry.
It also called for respect for the interests of each party to "avoid sending a negative signal to the international investor community which is following the developments closely."

Spain would continue to work with Bolivia and the two countries would maintain "intensely close" relations, so that a solution satisfying all parties can be reached, said the statement.

Spanish-Argentine energy company Repsol-YPF is one of the largest investors in Bolivia.

According to a decree signed by Morales earlier in the day, Bolivia's state oil company YPFB will control all natural gas fields and pay foreign companies for their services.

Some operators will get about 50 percent of the value of gas they extract, but two largest gas fields insist on giving their operators only 18 percent of the revenue of gas extracted there.

Bolivia has a reserve of about 48.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the second largest deposit in South America, which is being exploited by about 20 foreign firms.

Morales, who took office in January as Bolivia's first Indian president, has repeatedly said his country's natural resources must be nationalized so that Bolivians could benefit from the profits that were sent overseas.

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Former president Bush meets Chirac for chat

May 1, 2006

PARIS - French President Jacques Chirac met on Monday with George H.W. Bush, the former president and father of the current US leader, for discussions on matters of international concern, Chirac's office said.
Chirac and Bush "broadly discussed international issues of concern," spokesman Jérome Bonnafont said.

Bush, a Republican, served one term as president 1988 to 1992 before being beaten by Democrat Bill Clinton.

In his recently published memoir he described US relations with France as fundamentally strong, despite clashes between Paris and President George W. Bush's administration over the Iraq war.

Comment: The two "...broadly discussed international issues of concern." Something is afoot, wethinks.

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Military junta says Aung San Suu Kyi's party is "terrorist"

By Marwaan Macan-Markar
Republished from IPS News
Mon, 01 May 2006


"We are concerned with these developments, because this is a threat by the military regime to do something severe against the NLD, to dissolve it," Zaw Min, head of the foreign affairs committee of the Democratic Party for a New Society, a Burmese political group in exile, told IPS.

17 years since winning the Burmese elections, Aung San Suu Kyi remains a prisoner in her own home in a country called Myanmar. The repressive SLORC regime have since cosied up to China and India, while western governments have done nothing to make life difficult for the military dictatorship. Now, the National League for Democracy (NLD) are a proscribed 'terrorist' group and the stage looks set for a new wave of disappearances and repression.
In a clear rebuff to the views of its South-east Asian neighbours and Western governments, Burma's military regime is poised to deliver a lasting blow to hopes of political reform that could bring democracy to that country.

Among those being targeted is the party of pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, the National League for Democracy (NLD). And the junta is doing so by turning to a word that has gained new meaning in the post-Sep.11, 2001 world-'terrorism'.

"The government has enough evidence to declare the NLD as an unlawful association for its links with terrorist groups," Brig. Gen. Kywa Hsan, the junta's information minister, told reporters in Burma this week.

Those words come in the wake of Rangoon naming four groups as having committed "terrorist" acts in the capital. The four, which are in exile, are the National Coalition Government for the Union of Burma (NCGUB), the Federation of Trade Union for Burma (FTUB), the All Burma Students' Democratic Front (ABSDF) and the National League for Democracy - Liberated Area (NLD-LA).

The threat by the junta, which could force the NLD to dissolve due to laws such as the Illegal Association Act, has triggered widespread concern among Burmese political exiles, since they, like the other actors in the international community, are aware of how pivotal a player the NLD is to help Burma shed its tag of being a military dictatorship and become a member of the world's democracies.

That stems from the NLD having won 392 seats of Burma's 485-member parliament at a general election in May 1990, which the junta has refused to recognise. Rangoon's generals, who were humiliated by the people's verdict on the only election in decades, cracked down on the government that emerged from it, the NCGUB, forcing it into exile.

The latest moves by the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), as the junta is officially known, come on top of its attempts to silence Suu Kyi, a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, by keeping her under house arrest, the current phase of which began in May 2003. She has spent the last 10 of her 17 years as a prisoner of the junta.

And a regime that has gained notoriety for terrorising its people for decades through its harsh grip on power is still to offer a plausible reason-other than accusing the NLD and other exiled groups-about who was actually behind the five bomb blasts that rocked Rangoon's business district over a week ago. The Burmese capital also witnessed three bomb blasts in May last year, which killed 20 people and injured scores, unlike the recent explosions, which left no casualties.

"We are concerned with these developments, because this is a threat by the military regime to do something severe against the NLD, to dissolve it," Zaw Min, head of the foreign affairs committee of the Democratic Party for a New Society, a Burmese political group in exile, told IPS.

"They are shutting the door to political reform. The SPDC clearly does not want any reconciliation," added Zin Linn, a spokesman for the NCGUB, during an interview.

The political reform process in Burma has followed two tracks, both of which have ended in futility. One got underway in October 2000 when the United Nations appointed a former Malaysian diplomat, Razali Ismail, to be a special envoy to broker talks between the SPDC and the NLD leadership, aimed to move the country down the road towards a democracy. But the SPDC banned Razali from entering the country in March 2004, forcing him to quit his assignment months later.

The other was the junta's effort to draft a new constitution for the country as part of a seven-point road map to establish a democracy. But the NLD led opposition groups in a boycott of this constitutional drafting exercise, given the restrictive measures imposed on this political exercise-including a threat of being thrown into jail for those who opposed the SPDC's idea of governance and power sharing.

In March, the junta revealed its lack of interest in reform by booting out a Swiss conflict-resolution group that had played a major role in trying to bridge the political divide in the country. The same month, it rebuffed attempts by Malaysian Foreign Minister, Syed Hamid Albar, to meet Suu Kyi as part of his effort to assess the prospects for democracy in Burma.

The Malaysian minister's visit was the latest effort by the 10-member Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Burma is a member, to understand a regime that ASEAN has defended in the face of mounting criticism for its growing list of human rights violations. The abuses have included the use of rape as a weapon of war against women from the country's ethnic minorities, imprisoning over 1,300 political prisoners, forced labour that borders on slavery and having tens of thousands of child soldiers in its ranks.

The members of ASEAN-which include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam-have come to Burma's defence, disagreeing with the United States and the European Union, which have led the way in calling for and imposing economic sanctions and travel restrictions on Burma and its leaders.

"The timing and the motive of the SPDC's plans is revealing," Aung Naing Oo, a Burma analyst living in exile, told IPS. "The SPDC now realises that the geo-political conditions favour it enormously, since they know that ASEAN has no clout and international pressure from the U.S. will not be much stronger."

"The military regime feels that nobody can touch them now and they are forging new links with China, Russia and India," he added. "They want to effectively remove the only embarrassment and threat to their rule, the NLD."

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Economic Edgyness

Fuel Costs Prompt School Closings in Tenn.

Associated Press
Mon May 1, 2006

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. - The high price of diesel fuel for school buses meant children in one Tennessee school system got a holiday Monday - their second in a row.

Some 3,800 youngsters got Friday and Monday off because of the action taken by Dallas Smith, superintendent of Rhea County schools in east Tennessee, to ease transportation spending.

"That kind of situation is probably the most extreme I have heard," said Mike Martin, executive director of the National Association for Pupil Transportation, based in Albany, N.Y., and a spokesman for the Washington-based School Bus Information Council.
Martin described the price of diesel, which has risen above $2.80 in the East and to more than $3 a gallon on the West Coast, as a "huge problem for not only public sector but private sector operators as well."

No other Tennessee systems have canceled classes in response to fuel costs.

The Rhea County closings were not authorized by the state, said Department of Education spokeswoman Rachel Woods.

Smith, however, said state education officials had announced previously that extra snow days could be used if fuel prices rose.

School Board Chairman Harold McCawley said the two-day closing was justified.

"Rhea County is a long county, 34 miles from end to end," McCawley said. "It's just a huge savings of fuel."

Rhea County Finance Director Brad Harris said county schools spent $14,000 on fuel in March, compared to $7,800 in March 2005. He said fiscal year to-date-spending was up from $68,000 to $102,500.

Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue asked his state's public schools to close for two days in September to conserve fuel when Hurricane Rita threatened to shut down refineries. Perdue has "no regrets," spokeswoman Heather Hedrick said Friday.

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Social Security, Medicare Trust Funds Sink

AP Economics Writer
May 1, 2006

WASHINGTON - The trustees for the government's two biggest benefit programs said Monday that the trust fund for
Social Security will be depleted in 2040, a year earlier than expected, while Medicare will exhaust its trust fund just 12 years from now.

The annual report showed deterioration in the financial condition of both programs although the problems in Medicare were depicted as far more serious because of the skyrocketing costs for health care.
A year ago, the depletion of the Social Security trust fund had been projected to occur in 2041, one year later than the current estimate, and the Medicare hospital insurance fund had been forecast to last until 2020, two years longer than the current estimate.

The trustees, who include the head of the Social Security Administration and three members of President Bush's Cabinet, painted a sober assessment of the health of the two programs in advance of the looming retirements of 78 million baby boomers.

They stated that the projected long-term growth rates for both Social Security and Medicare are not "sustainable under current financing arrangements."

The trust funds contain the equivalent of government IOUs. To raise the actual cash to meet obligations, the government must borrow more money from the public by issuing marketable Treasury securities, raise taxes or cut spending in other programs.

Bush tried last year to overhaul Social Security with the introduction of private investment accounts for younger workers but the idea went nowhere in Congress. Democrats attacked the Bush program as a hidden effort to cut future benefits.

In this year's State of the Union address, Bush asked Congress to create a bipartisan commission to study entitlement reform. But even this modest proposal has not generated much interest, in part because lawmakers do not want to address entitlement reforms in a congressional election year.

Treasury Secretary John Snow, the chairman of the trustees group, said the new report depicted "a looming fiscal crisis as the baby boom generation moves into retirement" and he urged Congress to move forward.

"The serious concerns raised by the trustees' reports demand the attention of America's policy-makers and the public," Snow said.

But Democrats charged that the administration was using the trustees reports to try to create an air of crisis to make radical changes to the two benefit programs.

"There is no crisis," said Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif. "There remains plenty of time to mend rather than end Medicare."

While the depletion of the reserves built up over past years is projected to occur in just 12 years for Medicare and 34 years for Social Security, both programs will face financing issues much sooner at the point that the amount paid out each year exceeds the amount the government collects to fund them.

For Medicare, that occurred for the year of 2004. However, the program is projected to be in the black again this year before crossing over to paying out more than it takes in permanently in 2006 and the years following that.

For Social Security, the point at which the program will pay out more in benefits than it takes in will occur in 2017, the trustees projected, the same as in last year's report.

The one-year faster depletion of trust funds in the case of Social Security occurred because the government estimated a slightly lower average of 2.9 percent rather than 3 percent for the inflation-adjusted return for the trust fund's government bonds.

For Medicare, the faster exhaustion of the trust fund occurred because of rising prices for hospital care and greater utilization by sick people of the program.

The trustees estimated that in 2040 when the Social Security trust fund is depleted, it will be able to pay 74 percent of benefits from the taxes imposed on current workers.

The trustees estimated that the monthly Part B premium that Medicare beneficiaries must pay to cover insurance for doctor visits will have to rise by around 11 percent next year to $98.20 after an increase this year of 12 percent.

Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said in a statement that the projected increase for next year, if it comes about, would mark the fourth double-digit advance in Medicare premiums.

They said they would introduce legislation to cap future increases to the amount the Consumer Price Index rises in a given year. Last year, consumer prices rose 3.4 percent.

The trustees report reduced the estimate for the cost of the new drug prescription benefit in Medicare, which went into effect this year, by around 20 percent, attributing part of this reduction to the fact that people are signing up for less costly drug plans.

Democratic critics said the funding shortfalls for Social Security and Medicare should be viewed in the context of Bush's drive to make the tax cuts of his first term permanent.

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said that if Congress approved Bush's request to make his tax cuts permanent and enacted a permanent fix for the alternative minimum tax, which was designed to tax the wealthy but is falling on more middle-class tax payers, that would represent a cumulative revenue shortfall equal to 2 percent of the total economy over a 75-year period.

That is three times the shortfall estimated by the trustees for Social Security over the same period, Reed said.

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Fed stresses inflation hostility as prices rise

By Alister Bull
May 1, 2006

NASHVILLE - Federal Reserve leaders on Monday emphasized their determination to keep inflation under control after a key measure of prices rose last month, but hopes for a pause in policy tightening remain intact.

"Those measures of core inflation are about as high as I would like to see them go. I would not like to see them materially higher," Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta President Jack Guynn told reporters after a luncheon address to the Rotary Club of Nashville.

He was speaking after data showed that the U.S. central bank's preferred measure of inflation, the core PCE price index, rose 0.3 percent in March and 2 percent year-on-year.
But Guynn, a voter this year on the Fed's policy-setting committee, also reinforced expectations that the Fed will pause an almost 23 month-long rate hiking campaign at its next meeting, on May 10.

"If -- and I emphasize if -- my most likely forecast of sustainable output growth and modest inflation is right, then I am of the view that we are very close to having Fed policy properly calibrated for now," he said.

Markets believe the Fed will raise rates a quarter percentage point to 5 percent on May 10 and then go on hold for a period of time -- a view reinforced by congressional testimony last week by Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Bernanke said the Fed could hold rates steady while monitoring the cumulative impact of the increase in borrowing costs it has led since it began hiking from an ulta-low 1 percent in June 2004.

His remarks to U.S. lawmakers were interpreted by some people as being somewhat mild on inflation. But CNBC Television said that he told them on Saturday that this impression was incorrect.

A CNBC reporter said she had spoken with him during the White House Correspondents' Association dinner on Saturday.

"I asked him, 'Mr. Bernanke, did the markets and the media get it right last week in terms of its reaction to your congressional testimony?'," said Maria Bartiromo.

"And he said, 'no.' He said 'it's worrisome that people would look at me as dovish and not necessarily an aggressive inflation-fighter."'

Recent data show the U.S. economy is on a solid path, with growth of 4.8 percent in the first three months of the year and buoyant readings on forward-looking indicators signaling that this momentum was carried into the second quarter.

Chicago Federal Reserve President Michael Moskow provided further evidence the Fed is worried that pausing rate hikes just as data show the U.S. economy is growing strongly could send the wrong message on its determination to curb inflation.

"We worry about everything, but my own personal concern is that inflation is at the high end of my comfort zone. I'm talking about core inflation now; subtract oil, and subtract volatile food prices as well," Moskow separately told CNBC.

The Fed expects growth to moderate to a pace of around 3.5 percent after the first quarter as the once-rampant housing market cools. But there are risks to this forecast if housing either weakens more than expected, or if it fails to moderate.

"My best-guess forecast is that we will get some settling in growth to a level that is sustainable. Inflation pressures will stay just that -- pressures -- and won't get translated into cost increases," Guynn told reporters.

"So it is on that basis that I think that we about have policy where it needs to be. If as we begin to get additional readings on output or inflation, that picture changes, then clearly, my view of policy will change as well," he said.

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Up to 90,000 British civil servants could strike over job cuts

Mon May 1, 2006

LONDON - Up to 90,000 workers may start a 48-hour strike Tuesday in a dispute over job cuts as unrest grows in the British civil service.

Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) in the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) were due to walk out after the collapse of talks over controversial plans to abolish 30,000 posts.

The strike would affect job centres, welfare offices and pension centres as well as DWP offices.
The walk-out could provide another headache for Prime Minister Tony Blair's embattled Labour Party government ahead of Thursday's local elections.

The PCS is demanding a halt to job cuts and wants an assessment of how the 15,000 posts already abolished have affected the DWP.

Union leaders warned that workers in other government departments were losing confidence in the civil service, which could lead to further industrial action. Several disputes are simmering, involving over 100,000 public sector workers.

More than one million local government employees went on strike in March in a pensions dispute that closed schools and caused travel chaos in what unions called the biggest walk-out in 80 years.

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said: "Senior management can no longer continue to plough on regardless in cutting jobs.

"Rather than continually being in denial saying everything is fine, the department needs to halt the job cuts programme and jointly assess with PCS the adequate staffing levels needed."

He warned that the dispute would escalate unless the PCS's demands were met, with "hard hitting" action being planned.

A DWP spokesman said: "If we are going to meet our commitment to deliver the highest quality of service to our customers it is vital we push ahead with our modernisation programme.

"It is, therefore, disappointing that the PCS remain opposed to much of the change."

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Religions Old and New: But Where's The Truth?

Weeping Madonna Mystifies German Town

Spiegel Online
May 1, 2006

A devout Catholic woman in the southern German town of Traunstein has reported blood emerging from a 30 centimeter figurine of a praying Virgin Mary standing in her apartment. The town's newspaper has dispatched its newshounds and the local church is deeply skeptical.

The inhabitants of the Bavarian town of Traunstein have been perplexed by reports that tears of blood have been trickling from the eyes and limbs of a little statue of the Madonna standing in the apartment of a pensioner.
It has bled almost every day since Good Friday, the woman named only as Renate D. told the local press. "Somehow it's like a miracle but I can't explain it," she said.

She described herself as "pious but not fanatical" and said she wouldn't dream of making the story up or manipulating the figurine she bought 15 years ago for the equivalent of €40 during a visit to Catholic Poland.

She also claimed to have witnessed an apparition of the Virgin Mary, who instructed her to talk about the suffering in the world.

The local priest has visited the woman and came away saying it appeared to be an "individual religious experience" by a single person. The chair of the diocese has said it will launch an investigation if further checks warrant it.

Reporters from the local newspaper, the Traunsteiner Tagblatt, visited the flat and said the face, hands, feet and robe of the 30 centimeter white gipsum figure appeared to be smeared with blood.

The newspaper conducted forensic tests on the blood and found it to be human. Now the reporters claim to have solved the mystery but won't say who they think is behind it. They first want to compare the Madonna blood smears with blood from the people they suspect. The only problem is that their suspects are refusing to submit to blood tests.

On Monday, the mystery continued.

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A Site to Be Seen: Ancient Earthworks Electronically Rebuilt, Now to Travel

University of Cincinnati
May 1, 2006 at 07:22

Native American cultures that once flourished in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia constructed geometric and animal-shaped earth works that often rivaled Stonehenge in their astronomical accuracy.

A few are still extant - Serpent Mound in Adams County, Ohio, for example - but most of the region's ancient architecture was all but squandered. Earthworks, from as early as 600 BC that stretched over miles and rose to heights of 15 feet or more, were either gouged out or plowed under in the 19th century or paved over for development in the 20th.

But now, this lost heritage from the Adena, Hopewell and Fort Ancient cultures is returning in the form of a traveling exhibit that will include virtual reconstructions of earthworks from 39 sites.
The electronic recreations represent nearly ten years of work by an extensive team of architects, archaeologists, historians, technical experts and Native Americans. Project director is John Hancock, professor of architecture at the University of Cincinnati, working in partnership with the Center for the Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites (CERHAS) at the University of Cincinnati. The title of the project and the coming traveling exhibit is: "EarthWorks: Virtual Explorations of the Ancient Ohio Valley."

The "EarthWorks" reconstructions will be the centerpiece within a 500-square-foot traveling exhibit which will also include a graphic timeline wall with cross cultural comparisons; a giant map wall of the Ohio River Valley (from the approximate location of Pittsburgh to Louisville) indicating placement of Native American earthworks; panels with diagrams, photos and text; and 3-D topographic models of five earthwork sites. The exhibit opens June 20, 2006, at the Cincinnati Museum Center. It remains at the museum center till Sept. 7, 2006. Later venues include the Ohio Historical Center, Columbus, opening on Sept. 30, 2006. Discussion are now underway for later exhibits in the state and nation.

Set amid the physical elements of the exhibit, the 3-D virtual reconstructions by Hancock and his team recreate the earthworks for school children and scholars alike. The centerpiece of the exhibit is a large screen on which the 3-D explorations of "EarthWorks" by a user at the touch-screen computer can be shared with a larger audience. Virtual exploration of a gallery of period artifacts is also possible at two stand-alone kiosk stations.

The project is built upon archaeological data gleaned from such modern technology as sensing devices and aerial photography as well as frontier maps and other aids provided by archaeologists to re-establish the location, size, shape and appearance of many of the region's earthworks. Then, using architectural software and high-resolution computer modeling and animation, the UC-led team virtually rebuilt these massive structures and further created animated, interactive, narrated "tours" among them..

Funding for the traveling exhibit has been provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities. In all, the NEH has provided close to $500,000 for the project. Additional development support over the years has come from the Ohio Board of Regents, the Ohio Humanities Council, the Ohio Arts Council, the George Fund Foundation, and in-kind donations from the University of Cincinnati. Add up all funding and in-kind donations, and project support totals around $1.5 million.

Directing the project is John Hancock, UC professor of architecture, who collaborated with the Center for the Reconstruction of Historical and Archaeological Sites (CERHAS) at UC. "It's funny how I came to this project," Hancock recalled. "A graduate student came to me and said, 'I want to do my thesis on the ancient earthworks of Ohio.' I said, 'The what?' I'd been teaching ancient architecture here for 15 years, and I didn't know anything about the truly remarkable roadways and geometric ceremonial monuments built by brilliant native cultures that preceded us here. I literally said, 'I had no idea!' and they were right here under our feet."

Just so. The massive earthworks are a phenomenon, but remain mostly unknown even though estimates of their one-time numbers range from a few hundred to 10,000. They survived intact up to the 19th century, but, now, it's estimated that 80 percent of the once-extant "mounds" have been destroyed due to farming, looting, highways and sprawl. Made of earth, they were easy to alter or erase. And so, the extent, scope and power of these works - which may have included an ancient 60-mile highway stretching between Newark and Chillicothe in Ohio - has remained hidden.

Destruction of the mounds

In the early 19th century, the existence of these mammoth works served as a launching point for American archaeology and was the subject of the first volume published by America's newly founded Smithsonian Institution. That text, the Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley, was published in 1848 and recorded the abundance of earthworks across the region.

Even the earliest archaeologists contributed to the destruction of these prehistoric monuments. Nineteenth-century archaeologists gouged out earthworks, seeking the burial remains and artifacts (pottery, stone smoking pipes shaped like otters and ravens, headdresses with copper antlers and engraved tablets, as well as ornaments worked from copper, silver, translucent mica and stone) placed inside.

The mounds and their function

Even though some are so large that they rival the buildings of Mexico's empires, the "mounds" were a subtle form of architecture, according to Hancock. They first took shape as cones and ridges (the simplest forms) and evolved to more complicated structures: giant geometric outlines, symmetrical octagons, perfect squares and, eventually, snakes and possums.

It's thought that the earthworks were landscape markers and ceremonial centers tied to festivals (including marriage, death and burial), social and cosmological ideas of order, astronomical events and territorial agreements (likely tied to the emergence of planting and agriculture). In the case of hilltop enclosures, fortification may have been a minor or temporary - but by no means primary - motivation for construction.

The promises and pay-offs from the "virtual" rebuilding project

Given the challenge that most of the earthworks have been destroyed, how did Hancock and the team of UC students and faculty, scholars from around the country, archaeologists, graphic designers, artists, videographers and others piece the fragments together in order to rebuild and interpret these works? How could they begin even knowing where to site them, since most have been paved, trampled, plundered, cultivated or overgrown? First, there are the 19th-century historical records and maps. They also made use of aerial photographs and satellite images. Also, some ground-level remains enable them to mark and chart and make newly visible the till-now hidden ancient culture.

Explained Hancock, "In our interactive video environments, people can explore the sites as if they were newly created, when the river valleys of middle America were lined with these vast, precise earthworks. In the project, we've also placed related topics on life-ways of these peoples, their artistry, and practice of astronomy." He hopes UC's "EarthWorks" will emerge as the primary public resource on the ancient Ohio Valley cultures.

Hancock added, "Think of the cathedrals of medieval Europe or Machu Pichu or the pyramids of ancient Egypt. Ancient cultures need vivid, iconic, architectural images in order to hold a prominent place in the popular imagination. These computer renderings will enable the modern imagination to see and to understand what has been destroyed over the last 200 years."

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In Saudi Arabia, a Resurgence of Sufism

By Faiza Saleh Ambah
Special to The Washington Post
Tuesday, May 2, 2006; Page A13

JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia -- A hush came over the crowd as the young man sitting cross-legged on the floor picked up the microphone and sang, a cappella, a poem about Islam's prophet Muhammad. His eyes shut tight, his head covered by an orange-and-white turban, he crooned with barely contained ardor of how the world rejoiced and lights filled the skies the day the prophet was born.

The men attending the mawlid -- a celebration of the birth and life of Muhammad -- sat on colorful rugs, rocking gently back and forth, while the women, on the upper floor watching via a large projection screen, passed around boxes of tissues and wiped tears from their eyes.

The centuries-old mawlid, a mainstay of the more spiritual and often mystic Sufi Islam, was until recently viewed as heretical and banned by Saudi Arabia's official religious establishment, the ultraconservative Wahhabis. But a new atmosphere of increased religious tolerance has spurred a resurgence of Sufism and brought the once-underground Sufis and their rituals out in the open.
Analysts and some Sufis partly credit reaction to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States for the atmosphere that has made the changes possible. When it was discovered that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi, the kingdom's strict Wahhabi doctrine -- which had banned all other sects and schools of thought -- came under intense scrutiny from inside and outside the country. The newfound tolerance Sufis have come to enjoy is perhaps one of the most concrete outcomes of that shift.

"This is one of the blessings of September 11. It put the brakes on the [Wahhabi] practice of takfir , excommunicating everyone who didn't exactly follow their creed," said Sayed Habib Adnan, a 33-year-old Sufi teacher. The government "realized that maybe enforcing one religious belief over all others was not such a good idea."

When Adnan moved to Saudi Arabia from his native Yemen four years ago, Sufi gatherings were often clandestine, sometimes held in orchards outside the city, or in basements and without microphones, for fear of drawing attention. "I couldn't wear this," he said, pointing to his turban. "Or this," he said, pulling at his white cotton overcoat. "Or I would be branded a Sufi. You couldn't even say the word 'Sufi.' It was something underground, dangerous, like talking about drugs."

Sufis here say they are not a separate sect or followers of a separate religion, but adherents to a way of life based on the Muslim concept of ihsan . Muhammad explained ihsan to the angel Gabriel as "worshiping God as if you see Him. Because if you don't see Him, He sees you." Another Sufi characteristic is a strong belief in the power of blessings from the prophet, his close relatives and his companions.

Sufism had previously been predominant in Hejaz, the western region of Saudi Arabia, which includes Muhammad's birthplace, Mecca; Medina, where he is buried; and the Red Sea port city of Jiddah. Muslims prayed often at shrines where the prophet's daughter Fatima, his wife Khadija and his companions were buried. Mawlids were public affairs with entire cities decked out in lights, and parades and festivities commemorating the prophet's birthday and his ascension to Jerusalem.

When the al-Saud family that would later come to rule Saudi Arabia took over Hejaz in the 1920s, the Wahhabis banned mawlids as a form of heresy and destroyed the historic shrines of Khadija, Fatima and the prophet's companions, fearing they would lead to idolatry and polytheism.

Wahhabis, crucial allies in the Saud conquest of the disparate regions that became Saudi Arabia in 1932, were awarded control of religious affairs.

Discrimination against Sufis, among others, intensified after armed Wahhabi extremists took over Mecca's Grand Mosque in 1979, demanding that a more puritanical form of Islam be applied in the country. Though the government quelled the uprising and executed its leaders, authorities were shaken by the incident, and lest other Wahhabis defy them, they allowed them more rein.

Soon after, extremist clerics issued a religious edict, or fatwa, declaring Sufi's spiritual leader, Muhammad Alawi Malki, a nonbeliever. He was removed from his teaching position, banned from giving lessons at the Grand Mosque, where both his father and grandfather had taught, and interrogated by the religious police and the Interior Ministry. After Malki was later attacked by a throng of radicals incensed at his presence in the mosque, he could pray there only under armed guard.

Meanwhile, thousands of cassettes and booklets circulated calling Sufis "grave-lovers" and dangerous infidels who had to be stopped before they made a comeback. Their salons were raided, and those caught with Sufi literature were often arrested or jailed.

The tide finally turned in 2003, with the new atmosphere that took hold following the Sept. 11 attacks, when the future King Abdullah, then the crown prince, held a series of meetings to acknowledge the country's diverse sects and schools of thought. One of the guests was Sufi leader Malki. When he died the following year, Abdullah and the powerful defense and interior ministers attended his funeral. The rehabilitation of his legacy was almost complete.

"We were then upgraded from infidels, to people who are ignorant and practicing their religion wrong," said Wasif Kabli, a 59-year-old businessman.

But many Sufis complain that despite outward appearances, Wahhabis continue to destroy shrines in and around their holy places, their salons continue to be raided and their literature is still banned.

Wahhabis and Sufis view Islam from opposite directions. To Wahhabis, who emerged from the kingdom's stark, harsh desert, a believer's relationship can be only directly with God. To them, Sufis' celebrations of the prophet's life smack of idolatry, and supplications to him, his relatives and companions appear to replace or bypass the link with God.

Sufis answer that the prophet celebrated his own birthday by fasting on Mondays, that he himself offered to intervene with God on behalf of Muslims and that he could often be found in the evenings at the grave sites of his wives and companions.

Last month, on the occasion of the prophet's birthday, a crowd of more than 1,000 gathered to celebrate at a private residence. Sufi books, cassettes and DVDs were selling out in one corner of the large garden where the event was held. Adnan, the Sufi teacher, was one of four speakers who addressed the crowd. He asked: Why are we Sufis always on the defensive? "Nobody asks [soccer] fans for religious proof that sanctifies their gatherings at the stadium because of their devotion to their team," he said. "How come we are always asked for an explanation of our devotion to our beloved prophet?"

Muhammad Jastaniya, a 20-year-old economics major and part of a new wave of young Saudis who have embraced Sufism, said what drew him was the focus on God.

On a recent moonlit evening, Jastaniya sipped sugary mint tea with his friends on rugs spread on the rooftop of a Zawiya, or lodge where Sufis go to meditate, chant or sit in on lessons. The words 'God' and 'Muhammad' were written in green neon lights, and Islam's 99 names for God were stenciled in black paint around the wall. "To be a Sufi is to clear your heart of everything but God," he explained. "The Islam we were taught here is like a body without a soul. Sufism is the soul. It's not an alternative religion -- it can contain all Muslims."

That thought seems to be taking hold, even in faraway corners.

Salman al-Odah, the country's most popular puritanical cleric, who was jailed in the 1990s for opposing the presence of U.S. troops in the kingdom, accepted an invitation to visit Sufi cleric Abdallah Fadaaq's mawlid and lesson last week. The scene at Fadaaq's house was an obvious sign of conciliation.

Al-Odah sat with his hands neatly folded in his lap, wearing a red-and-white checkered headdress and clear wraparound glasses and sporting the short scraggly beard that indicates a conservative. Fadaaq, who at 39 is emerging as the new symbol of Hejazi Sufism, wore the white turban, the white overcoat and shawl typical of Sufis, wooden prayer beads resting on his lap. "It's true that there are differences between the way people practice their faith in this country, and this is an indication that people are using their minds and thinking, which is a good thing," Fadaaq said. "But what we should concentrate on are the expanses that bring us together, like the prophet. We must take advantage of what we have in common."

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Ark's Quantum Quirks

Signs of the Times
May 2, 2006


North Korea is ready

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Phony Terrorism In A Phony Democracy

Long Deliberations Seen to Favor Moussaoui

Associated Press
Mon May 1, 2006

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - More than a week has passed since jurors in the Zacarias Moussaoui trial began their deliberations. And with each passing day, the chances that the jury will impose a death sentence shrink, experts say.

The jury concluded a fifth day of deliberations Monday without reaching a decision on a sentence: death for Moussaoui, the only person in this country charged in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, or life in prison.
So far, in more than 28 hours of deliberating, the jurors have given few clues into their decision-making process. They have asked only one question - a request for a dictionary that was denied by the judge.

Experts warn against reading too much into the process, but generally agree that a prolonged deliberation is a sign that at least a few jurors are reluctant to vote for a death sentence.

Frank Salvato, a defense lawyer in Alexandria who has won acquittals in death-penalty trials at the federal courthouse where Moussaoui is on trial, said the jurors probably have spent much of their time making sense of the 42-page verdict form they will be required to fill out. It asks them to make findings on dozens of alleged aggravating and mitigating factors before reaching their ultimate conclusion.

Still, he said, "there has to be some type of split or dissension" within the jury.

If by Wednesday the jury still has not returned a verdict, Salvato said it would be a strong signal that reaching an unanimous death sentence will be difficult.

In this phase of the trial, a lack of unanimity clearly favors the defense, because jurors are not required to reach an unanimous decision. If they disagree on the punishment, Moussaoui will automatically be sentenced to life in prison.

The jurors have been told what occurs if they are not unanimous, and that also favors the defense because a lone juror can hold out for life and spoil any chance of a death sentence, said Arthur Patterson, a Florida-based jury consultant with trial consulting firm DecisionQuest Inc.

"It gives more power to the individual," Patterson said. "It's more like 12 individual juries."

Patterson said he suspects that the length of deliberations isn't a case of a meticulous jury and instead indicates some type of split.

Jeffrey Frederick, a jury consultant and director of jury research for National Legal Research Group in Charlottesville, also cautioned against reading the tea leaves too closely, though he agreed that longer deliberations tend to favor the defense.

"They can still deliberate a long time and come back with a death penalty," said Frederick, adding that jurors want to be methodical in a trial of this importance.

Patterson said that, if pushed to guess, the jurors are wrestling with the argument made by the defense: that executing Moussaoui will make him a martyr. During the trial, Moussaoui twice defied his court-appointed lawyers to testify on his own behalf and twice appeared to do himself more harm than good. He first claimed a direct role in the 9/11 plot after years of denials, then took the stand again to mock the gut-wrenching testimony of 9/11 victims and their families.

Trial testimony also indicated that Moussaoui had offered in the days leading up to trial to testify for prosecutors and told them that he didn't want to spend the rest of his life in prison.

"The jury has to decide not only whether the government has proved its case but also has to explore the implications of its decision," Patterson said. "The typical citizen juror just isn't equipped to evaluate concepts like martyrdom."

This jury previously found Moussaoui eligible for execution after more than 16 hours of deliberations in late March and early April. Although he was in jail on immigration violations on Sept. 11, the jury ruled that lies he told federal agents the month before the attacks kept them from identifying and stopping some of the hijackers.

Comment: If Moussaoui is not given the death sentence, what is to stop the Bush administration from secretly shipping him off to one of its now-famous "black" prisons where he would most likely be "disappeared"?

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Father Charged in U.S. Terror Probe Freed - For Now

Associated Press
Mon May 1, 2006

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - A man whose son was convicted of supporting terrorism by attending an al-Qaida camp in Pakistan was released Monday after nearly a year in federal custody.

Umer Hayat, a 48-year-old ice cream vendor, had been held since he and his son, Hamid, were arrested last June.

Umer Hayat was charged with two counts of lying to the
FBI about his son's attendance at the training camp, but his case ended in a mistrial last week after the jury said it was deadlocked.

Prosecutors and defense lawyers will return to court Friday to determine whether he should face a new trial.
Last week, a U.S. district judge lowered Umer Hayat's bail from $1.2 million to $390,000, paving the way for his release.

Hayat, a naturalized U.S. citizen, walked out of the federal courthouse with his lawyer, Johnny Griffin III. Shortly before his release, he learned that his father had died Saturday afternoon.

"We stand here with a very heavy heart right now," Griffin said. "It's a bittersweet moment right now. His father tried to hang on."

Griffin declined to let his client speak to reporters.

Umer Hayat will be under house arrest in the agricultural town of Lodi and was fitted with an electronic monitoring device.

A separate jury last week convicted Hamid Hayat, 23, of one count of providing material support to terrorists and three counts of lying to the FBI.

He faces a maximum of 39 years in prison when he is sentenced July 14. His attorney, Wazhma Mojaddidi, is seeking a new trial.

Both men had given videotaped confessions to FBI agents that were played to jurors. Defense lawyers said their clients gave the confessions after they were worn down by hours of questioning and were merely responding to leading questions by FBI agents.

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The War on Terror on the Lodi Front

May 1, 2006

Two juries in US District court in Sacramento issued verdicts last week on government prosecutions of supposed terrorists. One jury dealt a terrible injustice to a young Pakistani. The other jury split, thus--at least for now -- balking the FBI of its prey.

At the center of the trials were two Pakistanis living in Lodi, a small town south of Sacramento. One, 23-year-old Hamid Hayat, a cherry picker, stood accused of being a terrorist who trained at an Al Qaeda camp and returned to the U.S.A. to wreak havoc. The other, his 48-year-old father, Umer Hayat, was charged with lying to the FBI about his son's activities. Found guilty, the son now faces up to 39 years in prison . The jury deciding the father's fate split down the middle, unable to reach a decision. He could face another trial. The cases have been followed with apprehension by all Muslims here.
Their ordeal began last summer, when Hamid Hayat, fresh back from a two-year trip to Pakistan where he has spent half his life, was called in by the FBI and interrogated three times.

The California-born Hamid is evidently a simple fellow. At his first interview in the FBI he betrayed no alarm at the prospect of interrogation by men who believed they were on the verge of breaking a major terror ring in Lodi. He complimented one of the agents on the style of his shoes and in general made every effort to be helpful. So did his father, Umer whose job is driving an ice-cream truck. The FBI also grilled him intensively last June.

When the indictments came down, the news headlines were that Hamid had attended a terror-training camp in Pakistan, that there was a terror ring centered on Lodi. Both father and son had made full confessions.

What actually emerged in the trial, where both men were fortunate to have good lawyers, was the usual saga of FBI chicanery. It became very clear from videotapes of the FBI's questioning that the men have very poor English. Their native tongue is Pashto. They understood little of what they were being asked and were mostly concerned with pleasing their interrogators. In the words of one courtroom reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle, "they gave many answers that had been previously suggested by the agents--who did most of the talking."

The son, in his five-hour videotaped confession, described a camp located on a mountaintop outside Balakot in the Northwest Frontier province, where he said 35 to 200 Pakistani men fired guns and exercised. The young man gave five different answers when asked who ran the camp. He mentioned "big people ... taller than me, (more) educated than me"; a Pakistani group named Harakat-ul-Ansar that was first brought up by an FBI agent; al Qaeda); "maybe my uncle"; and "maybe my grandfather".

The father, who said he visited the camp later, in 2004, out of curiosity, said it was outside Rawalpindi in Punjab province.

The father delighted the agents at one point by identifying three other young men in Lodi as possible terrorists. The son named two different men--his cousins--as attending Pakistani camps.

According to the Chronicle reporter, "Other admissions didn't seem to make sense. He said he recognized that men had gone to the camp from around the world, and that some had come from his father-in-law's madrasa in Pakistan, even though they wore masks. 'I can recognize from the eyes, you know,' he said."

In contrast to his son's location of the camp on top of a mountain, the father said the one he visited was underground.

At this camp, said Hayat Sr, more than 1,000 men from around the world--including white Americans--fired high-powered rifles, swung curved swords, and learned to pole vault across bodies of water. "They got those stick, the long stick," Hayat said on the videotape. "You know ... when you want to jump something, they was trying to stick like here and jump maybe 16 feet over there."

"They used it like a vaulting pole," FBI Agent Timothy Harrison put in.

"Yes sir," Hayat said.

"There must have been very tall ceilings," Harrison said. "This is a very deep basement?"

"Very deep basement, yes," Hayat said. "Very, very deep basement, yes."

The reason that FBI had pulled in the Hayats was that the Bureau had established a tight professional relationship in Oregon with a sharp fellow of 32 called Naseem Khan. In Lodi he was a fast food worker, then traveled north a few hundred miles on the invitation of an Oregon woman who was impressed by him. He cooked for her family on weekends, and had a job in a fast food joint in Bend, central Oregon.

To his Oregon residence, in 2001, not long after the attacks of September 11, came FBI agents investigating a different case in which there was a suspect with the same name as Khan. The agents established to their satisfaction that this Khan wasn't the man they wanted. Fortune favors those who seize opportunity. Khan pointed to an image of Osama bin Laden's number 2, Ayman al-Zawahiri, that had come up on a newsclip on his TV and said he'd seen him in Lodi in 1999.

The FBI pounced on this disclosure, and soon Khan was on the Bureau's payroll at $50,000 a year as an undercover informer, charged with returning to Lodi and probing the terror ring. To date the Bureau has paid him $250,000.

In fact, it was a piece of great good luck that the defense lawyers were able to get Khan's claims to the Bureau into the court record. It came about because he was a crucial witness against the Hayats. In testimony he mentioned his claim of al-Zawahiri's presence in Lodi, and the prosecution then had to give the defense a redacted version of their file.

According to Khan, the quiet town of Lodi was a rendezvous for several of the most wanted men on the planet. He'd seen Ayman al-Zawahiri in Lodi in 1999. "Every time I would go to the mosque [al-Zawahiri] would be coming or going," Khan claimed. The vigilant Khan had also noted the regular presence at the mosque of Abdelkarim Hussein Mohamed al-Nasser, a suspect in the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers military housing complex in Saudi Arabia. And, to top it off, he said he had seen Ahmed Mohammed Hamed Ali, a suspect in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, in nearby Stockton in 1999.

According to the Chronicle, public disclosure of Khan's "observations" created quite a stir in Lodi. "The whole community is dumbfounded as to what's going on with this," said Nasim Khan, who was the Lodi mosque's leader from 1998 to 2000 and is no relation to the government's informant. "Everything that is coming out, there's no basis into it."

The locals told reporters that all three of the terror suspects, from Arab countries, would have stood out in the tight-knit Muslim community, which includes many Pakistanis and South Asians. The most prominent of the three, al-Zawahiri, is an Egyptian. "A majority of the congregation at the mosque is Pakistani," said Shoaib, the mosque leader. "There's only a half-dozen or so of Arab descent. If he came in on a regular basis, people would remember him. It's a ridiculous claim." One of the Pak-India spice store's cashiers summed up the feeling that many have aboutNaseem Khan. "If the FBI gave me half the money they gave him, I'd tell them all kinds of crazy stories, too,'' said Mumtaz Khan, 58.

For the prosecution, the problem regarding Khan's overall credibility was that the three terrorists identified by Khan as having been in Lodi on specific dates, were--according to U.S. government officials--not in the U.S.A. at those times.

Back in 2001, riding high as an FBI undercover informant, Khan, equipped with a secret recorder, made friends with the Hayats and did what such FBI provocateurs always do: sought to push young Hayat into self-incriminating statements and actions while urging the shy young fellow to be a man and do battle for Islam.

Khan's credibility took some heavy punishment, but that aside, the government, in the opinion of reporters covering the trial, did not seem to be making an overpowering case, even with the videotaped confessions the defense say were extorted from the befuddled and uncomprehending Hayats. Further hope was given the defense when, midway through the son's trial, a juror who was excused by the judge because she'd failed to disclose a brief relationship to a sheriff's deputy in 1996 told reporters she was unpersuaded by the government's case.

"Beyond a reasonable doubt--that hasn't been proven, in my opinion," said Andrea Clabaugh, a 39-year-old Carmichael resident who works as an accounting manager at a structural engineering firm in Sacramento.

"In my notes, I recall writing down something about the agents feeding him names. It didn't seem like Hamid actually volunteered anything. During those interrogations, it looked like he was being badgered. It felt to me that in some respects he was giving them information because they didn't believe him when he said he didn't know anything. He had to tell them something."

Too bad she was recused. In the end the son's jury accepted the government's case.

Aside from the prosecution of the Hayats, the government went after two Pakistani imams in Lodi who agreed to be deported on immigration violations after the government tried to link them to extremists. Obviously, if the government had anything on the imams they would have held them and prosecuted. Muslims fear a conviction of the Hayats would unleash further prejudice and harassment.

One star of the courtroom battles was Hamid Hayat's lawyer, Wazhma Mojaddidi, an Afghani immigrant and practising Muslim, only three years out of law school. This was her first criminal trial and her first federal challenge, and all agree she rose well to the challenge. She's married to a Pakistani immigrant, and has the advantage of speaking five languages including Pashto, Urdu, Farsi, English and French. After the3 verdicct she said there would be an appeal.

The cases in Lodi were only two of many terror trials launched by the U.S. Justice in the wake of the 9/11/2001 attacks. It's hard to find any that haven't left the prosecutors and the FBI looking bad. Here in CounterPunch we recently described at some length the farcical imbroglios that followed the Bureau's misidentification of a fingerprint taken from the bombing scene in Madrid and the efforts to put an innocent Portland lawyer in prison for a lengthy term. Eventually the case was thrown out after the Spanish police managed to make it clear that the finger print had absolutely to do with any finger on either of Brandon Mayfield's hands. It turned out that the bombers in Madrid had nothing to with Al Qaeda.

In a Detroit case involving the terror prosecutions and convictions of threeMuslims--a supposed terrorist "sleeper cell" -- in 2003, the sequel has been the release of the convicted men . A grand jury has now issued an indictment of Richard Convertino the lead prosecutor from the DoJ, along with Harry Raymond Smith, a security official from the U.S. embassy in Amman. They are charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice by making false statements.

In Florida the widely publicized Sami al-Arian case ended with his acquittal on all the most serious charges. On other charges he finally issued a guilty plea and has left the US. In the trial of Zacharias Moussoui in Virginia the prosecution were seconds from losing their case amid charges of witness tampering before the demented Frenchman made his bid for glory by alleging his target was the White House and his proclaimed accomplice Richard Reed, who was given a life sentence for boarding a plane with explosives in his shoes. At least the feds didn't screw that one up, though it was a flight attendant who cracked the case.

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